Week 6 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

It’s about time some of the fantasy studs broke out this year. This week has some matchups to watch. If you ‘bought low’ on guys like Ryan Grant and Maurice Jones-Drew, picked up Deuce McAllister or drafted Bernard Berrian for depth, this week should show you what they’re worth.

For those of you who may have missed the first few weeks of the start or sit breakdown here at the Fools, the “Hot Hands” are players you definitely want to start while “Cold Shoulders” are bums that should leave you hanging this week. The “Bubble Boys” classification points out guys that are somewhere in the middle. They may be (and usually are) good starts, but I still have some concerns about them this week. If you feel that they are your best option, go ahead and start them.

As usual, I’ll be answering sit/start questions in the comments up until the game time on Sunday. I should get to questions by Saturday night or Sunday morning — heading to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry (Texas vs. OU) and a wedding. Who gets married on OU weekend?

Hot Hands

Brett Favre, QB Jets vs. Bengals — He won’t throw six touchdowns, but I think it’s safe to say that Favre should take advantage of the Bengals secondary even if the Jets work on establishing the running game in this one.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Broncos — He’s had two good weeks and demonstrated that the Jags passing game can produce. He’ll have to show it again against the Broncos if they plan on winning this one.

Kyle Orton, QB Chicago vs. Falcons — Orton is getting more and more done in the passing game. I’d give him a start if you don’t have better options. This week, he gets to take on Atlanta after Rodgers just torched them for three TDs last week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Seahawks — He’s had a pretty miserable season thus far, but coming into camp late because of a holdout and then getting injured will do that to you. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry last week and is angry he hasn’t broken one long yet this season like he did all last year. This week against the Seahawks would be a great opportunity for him to return to form against and underperforming defense and control the clock for the Packers.

LeRon McClain, RB Ravens vs. Colts — The Colts can’t stop the run, and McGahee can’t stay healthy. McClain CAN take full advantage of that situation. Even if McGahee hits the field again, there should be plenty of running to go around. The Ravens will try to give Peyton Manning as little time on the field as possible.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Rams — Not that you would be sitting one of the best backs through the first five weeks, but I felt obligated to list him just so I could say again how terrible the Rams are. The only danger with Portis is that the passing game scores before he can. I think he’ll get his chances.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Texans — The ‘Wildcat’ has been ruining opposing defenses the last several weeks. The Dolphins will keep using the formation until someone can stop it. I don’t think that the Texans are that someone.

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Raiders — Reggie Bush had his big game last week, but Deuce is due. While Oakland’s cornerbacks may be slacking, they should be able to cut a few plays off short of the end zone. Deuce is the battering ram that will get those TDs. I like him to see touches this game with a defense soft on the run.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Dolphins — On the other side of the ball, Slaton should have a good day against Miami. The Dolphins have been surprisingly decent against the run this year, but the Texans should find a way to get the ball in his hands and involve him the passing game so that he still has a good day for fantasy owners. Schaub will want to ease back into the game slowly coming off his illness, and Slaton will be his crutch.

Bernard Berrian, WR Vikings vs. Lions — Berrian had his season highs in catches, yards and touchdowns last week against the Saints and went over 100 yards for the first time this season. He should continue to see plenty of looks against the Lions since Sidney Rice is still out for this one. This week should be the week to start him.

Santana Moss, WR Redskins vs. Rams — Again, the only concern you should have about starting Moss is whether or not Portis will break every other carry for a long touchdown. That’s a good concern to have.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bengals — Cotchery should be the stretch man for Favre in this one, and the Bengals won’t be shutting down Cotchery or Coles on passing plays. For the sake of padding stats, Favre’s gotta hit Cotchery for a score. Coles remains a good start as well.

Washington Redskins D/ST vs. Rams — We’re really picking on the Rams here. If you need a bye week fill for defense this week, the Redskins should be a top option facing one of the worst offenses in football. St. Louis shouldn’t put many points up on this unit that has been holding back the Eagles and Cowboys offensive powerhouses the last two weeks.

Bubble Boys

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB 49ers vs. Eagles — We’ve seen O’Sullivan take the hits and still make the plays, but this week, the hits might be too much for him. The Eagles should attack, attack and attack while keeping a lock on Isaac Bruce, O’Sullivan’s hottest target thus far. For O’Sullivan to have a good game, Bryant Johnson and other supporting cast members will have to step up.

Gus Frerotte, QB Vikings vs. Lions — Don’t get me wrong. Frerotte is still worth a start if you need him, and I think he will give Berrian a good day. I only put him on the bubble because you have to worry that Peterson will go off. I don’t think that the Vikings will abandon the run, so I would peg him for a conservatively good day.

Eli Manning, QB Giants vs. Browns — Eli has led one of the most powerful offenses in football this season, but I have some concerns this week. With Plax returning, will there be tension in the passing game? And will the Giants really get a chance to open up the passing game with all their powerful runners? I think Eli is still a solid start, but if you have another stud, you might consider them. Post a comment below if you are having a tough time making the call.

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Ravens — Both Manning brothers are bubble boys this week. While Peyton would normally be a lock as a start after his bye has passed, the Colts still seem like a struggling offense. The offensive line is holding them back severely. I’d still take a chance on Manning to do it all against the Ravens, but don’t be shocked if he posts another low week.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Broncos — On paper, this matchup looks great, but I’m still apprehensive about starting MJD after the Broncos held Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham relatively in check. I’d still start him in this one, but don’t demand a huge performance. The Jags may have to abandon the run to keep pace if Cutler and the Broncos explode.

Cold Shoulders

Derek Anderson, QB Browns vs. Giants — Anderson practiced being comfortable on his back this week because he’ll be taking a lot of hits here against the Giants. They’ll come at him all day long. I don’t think it’ll be pretty.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers vs. Buccaneers — Riding the hot hand with Williams this week? Don’t. The Bucs have a stout defense against the run, and they should keep the score low just like their game with the Broncos last week. While I am sure one team will have success running the ball, I can’t say which will win the day. I think you should be able to find a more definite start at RB. If not, I’d put Stewart ahead of Williams.

All Detroit Lions vs. Vikings — We’re not really sure who’s starting at quarterback for the Lions since Kitna may be out, and that uncertainty takes the Detroit passing game down several notches as Orlovsky and Drew Stanton still need to settle into the position before they’re worth a fantasy start. The run stoppers on Minnesota won’t let Kevin Smith or Rudi Johnson go anywhere. This week could be a lot of goose eggs for your Lions.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Giants — The Browns passing game isn’t doing enough this season to take pressure off of Lewis, and the Giants are going to go after Anderson all day. I don’t think Lewis gets many opportunities, and I don’t see him doing much with the ones he does get.

Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR Bengals vs. Jets — With Carson Palmer sitting this weekend, you really are taking a big chance starting either of these guys. While it might be a shootout, Fitzpatrick is more likely to turn the ball over than score when he goes long.

Martin Gramatica, K Saints vs. Raiders — Okay, this one is just a joke. Gramatica is on IR, but his injury is probably more to his pride and reputation than his leg. Looks like I was right in thinking he would be gone by Friday.

Not Starting Due to Injury

Note that the latest reports have Brian Westbrook, Carson Palmer, Reggie Brown, Deion Branch, Tony Scheffler and Anquan Boldin sitting out this week. Jon Kitna, Brian Griese, Matt Hasselbeck and Kellen Winslow might also miss. Keep your eye on injury reports Sunday morning.

Sleepers

Zach Miller, TE Raiders vs. Saints — Miller ended last season as JaMarcus Russell’s most trustworthy target. He’s looking like he might lead the team in receptions this season, so he’s worth taking a look at this week. Russell could look for him down the field when the Raiders need a score to match the Saints.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Texans — If all of the good defenses are taken, you could do much worse than the Dolphins. They’ve held up against the Chargers and Patriots. The Texans should have Schaub back under center, but that shouldn’t keep Miami from getting some sacks and turnovers to keep the score low in this one.

Having trouble setting your roster this week? Post your questions down below if you would like the Fools to help you out.

A Fool and His Money in Week 5

Chadam and Nick had a rough weekend. Nick was swamped last week trying to put together a fantasy lineup that could stop my crushing force of a team in our shared fantasy football league. Unfortunately for Nick, it looks like his efforts were in vain.

Chadam, on the other hand, spent the entire weekend crying uncontrollably because Chris Simms was cut from the Tennessee Titans roster. I’m not exactly sure if that was the reason, but he has a special place in his heart for the spleenless. If he has a better reason than that for why he was unable to get his picks into a cohesive article before Sunday, he’ll have to let you know in the comments.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Chadam Takes: Bears (-3.5) over LIONS
I think Forte runs for 500 yards, and that’s a conservative guess.

Nick Takes: Bears (-3.5) over LIONS
Does anybody know if Jon Kitna is back? Better question: Does anyone care? Will the Lions play better without Matt Millen there? It doesn’t matter. The Bears defense looks like it’s back to being healthy and dominating.

Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers

Chadam Takes: Falcons over PACKERS

Nick Takes: Falcons over PACKERS

Jacob’s Ed. Note: Both Nick and Chadam were unable to register a pick since the spread on this game was not set until late on Saturday. Apparently, Vegas wanted to find out whether Aaron Rodgers would be playing or not. We’ll have to count this pick as a “no contest” for the sake this battle of betting.

San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins

Chadam Takes: Chargers (-6.5) over DOLPHINS
I’m not sure what to think of these two teams. Both have been all over the place these last few weeks. L.T. hasn’t really looked like himself lately, but if there was ever a game for him to blow up, it’s this week’s game against the Dolphins.

Nick Takes: Chargers (-6.5) over DOLPHINS
The only reason I’m hesitant on this pick is because the Dolphins are at home and have had an extra week to prepare for this game, but the Chargers showed last week against the Raiders that they are capable of coming back against a team they shouldn’t be losing to in the first place.

Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants

Chadam Takes: GIANTS (-7) over Seahawks
Vegas really doesn’t make these Seahawks games hard to bet against. This game is one of my favorite lines of the week. Too bad Favre stomped on my heart and wallet. Otherwise, I’d probably bet on this game.

Nick Takes: GIANTS (-7) over Seahawks
The Seahawks are going to get better as Deion Branch and Bobby Engram get back in the mix but not this week. It will take some time for them to get back into a rhythm, and the Giants are at home after a bye.

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

Chadam Takes: EAGLES (-5.5) over Redskins
If the Redskins win here, I’m a believer.

Nick Takes: Redskins (+5.5) over EAGLES
Did Vegas not watch these two teams last week? Redskins knocked off everybody’s favorite team, and the Eagles looked dreadful losing to the Bears. Taking the points on this one is a no-brainer. I would also like to remind everyone that I bet on the Redskins to win straight up last week. Cha-ching!

Kansas City Chiefs at Carolina Panthers

Chadam Takes: PANTHERS (-9.5) over Chiefs
Yeah, there’s no chance the Chiefs surprise the Panthers after the Broncos got stomped last week.

Nick Takes: PANTHERS (-9.5) over Chiefs
I would like the Chiefs in this one if only they weren’t going against one of the best rush defenses in the NFL. The Chiefs could keep the score within double digits, but only if L.J. gets going. I’m saying that doesn’t happen.

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens

Chadam Takes: Titans (+2.5) over RAVENS
I’m officially driving this Titans bandwagon. They always seem to get really low spreads. This defense is for real, and I’ll be taking them until they don’t cover for a few weeks in a row.

Nick Takes: Titans (+2.5) over RAVENS
This pick is my equivalent of Chadam’s “rent money special.” I don’t care if this game is a trap bet by Vegas or not. Kerry Collins better be smart enough not to give the Ravens defense any points because the Ravens offense is definitely not going to see the end zone in this game.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

Chadam Takes: TEXANS (+3) over Colts
The Texans are going to rip off four straight wins on this homestand they have coming up. My man crush Steve Slaton looks primed for a big game against this punchless, Sanders-less defense.

Nick Takes: Colts (-3) at TEXANS
The Texans looked good in their loss last week, but the Colts just had their bye and come in with this game as a must-win to avoid starting 1-3. I like the Colts to rise up and take this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos

Chadam Takes: Buccaneers (+3) over BRONCOS
Nick got screwed by the Broncos last week on a teaser, and if there were enough asterisks in the world, I’d post his email rant on Cutler. Let’s just say I don’t think Mary Tyler Moore will be asking Nick to be a spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Nick Takes: Buccaneers (+3) at BRONCOS
I had a pretty big bet on a 10-point teaser last week, and all the Broncos had to do what beat the Chiefs straight up just like the 12 teams before them did. They let me down. The Broncos are in my doghouse until further notice. Anybody who loses to the Chiefs does not deserve to be favored in their next game.

Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys

Chadam Takes: COWBOYS (-17) over Bengals
Jacob’s Ed. Note: Chadam made this pick without even knowing the spread. Bold.

Nick Takes: COWBOYS (-17) over Bengals
I have several questions about this game. Is Carson Palmer going to play? Does that even matter? Are the Cowboys going to give the ball to Barber more or get the ball to T.O. even more? Is it possible to turn down 17 points in an NFL game? I did a little research, and there have been 17 games through the first four weeks that had blowouts of 17 or more points. I like it when the same number randomly repeats itself in some obscure context. Let the blowout begin!

Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals

Chadam Takes: CARDINALS (-1) over Bills
I’m throwing last week’s game against the Jets out the window since the Cardinals defense apparently took their bye week. All bets are off if the Cardinals crap the bed again this week.

Nick Takes: CARDINALS (-1) over Bills
I still haven’t gotten to watch the Bills play on television. Regardless, I’m picking the Cardinals to rebound from their embarrassing loss to the Jets and win this one for Kurt Warner. If they don’t, I’m guessing we will start seeing some drives led by boy band wannabe Matt Leinart. If there was an NFL version of ‘N Sync, who do you think would be in the group? Leinart would probably be Justin, and Brady Quinn would be Lance Bass for obvious reasons. After those two, I’m not sure who else would take part just as I’m unsure who the other members of ‘N Sync are. I’ll think about this NFL boy band and announce my NFL ‘N Sync team next week.

New England Patriots at San Francisco 49ers

Chadam Takes: 49ERS (+3) over Patriots
Whatever. It’s sad the Pats lost Brady because they really aren’t interesting without him.

Nick Takes: Patriots (-3) over 49ERS
I can’t accept that the Patriots are nothing more than a mediocre team without Tom Brady. Everybody has always wondered if the Patriots’ dynasty was more a result of the coaching of Belichick or the play of Brady. We will find out in the coming weeks. I’m curious to see how the coaching strategy changes after the bye week.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Chadam Takes: JAGUARS (-4) over Steelers
I’m giving this Jags team one more week before I dump them. They stole a win from my Texans, and that victory could inspire them to not suck so much.

Nick Takes: Steelers (+4) over JAGUARS
The Steelers are turning ugly wins into an art form. I think this one will be a close game, so I’m taking the points. There should also be some extra motivation for the Steelers to win after losing to the Jags in the playoffs last year.

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints

Chadam Takes: SAINTS (-3) over Vikings
Brees is going to throw for 300 yards, rain or shine. I’ll go with the home team for this MNF.

Nick Takes: SAINTS (-3) over Vikings
Deuce McAllister is back! I would love to see Reggie Bush in a locker room fight with another NFL player, especially a guy like Deuce. Reggie is jacked up out of his mind, but I get the impression that he is probably soft (for an NFL player) and from the suburbs of California. Deuce…well, first of all, his name is Deuce. That name immediately gives him street cred in my opinion. I’m guessing he has been in a street fight or two and probably while working as a bouncer for some house of ill repute. Deuce would never date a bimbo like Kim Kardashian. He would pimp a girl like Kim Kardashian. I’m picking the Saints because Deuce is back, and the Saints have had some wide receivers step up in the past few weeks to make up for the injured Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey.

Last Week:

Nick: 7-6
Chadam: 8-5

Current Standings after Week 4:

Chadam: 31-26-1
Nick: 30-27-1
Simmons: 31-26-1

Week 5 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I am not sure who won the VP debate last night. Both political parties seem to believe their candidate stepped up to the plate. The NFL is still pretty split in making a decision this election year. I do know that Al Davis likes Sarah Palin — mostly because he believes she’s youthful and has 4.3 speed.

Herm Edwards, on the other hand, really couldn’t make up his mind. He wants to like someone like Palin, who reminds him of a Brodie Croyle or even a Tyler Thigpen, but that’s just to keep up the front that the team is rebuilding. Voting for someone like Joe Biden, an experienced candidate best compared to Damon Huard, might give the impression that the American people can expect to be won back right now by a government that could do a few good things. That’s scary for Herm to think about.

The jury is still out for Bill Belichick. He just taped the whole thing to watch later, and rumor has it that the tapes came from practice runs that the candidates had on stage before the real debate started. That dude is weird.

This week, you are probably looking for a few spot starters to help you over the bye week hump. If your backup isn’t performing at a high level, you might want to take a chance on some of the guys that I point out here. Bubble guys become more worthwhile of consideration on a week like this week. Don’t expect them to put up the same numbers as your studs do each week, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do.

As always, leave a question in the comments if you are struggling with who should start in Week 5.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions
I know. I am insane, but the Detroit Lions are not hard to throw against. In fact, they encourage you to throw because if you aren’t passing, your running back is embarrassing them by blasting through the giant holes their defensive line can’t close. My guess is that the Bears let Orton cut loose a bit here. Matt Forte is still going to have a field day on the Lions defense, but Orton should have a few good plays through the air just to keep the defense honest. Why the hell not? It’s the Lions. Don’t bench Peyton Manning for him, but if you need a QB, this week Orton could be your man.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Chargers
It’s not often that you can recommend a man like Pennington. I like him, but for fantasy purposes, he doesn’t put a lot of numbers up unless he has a really nice matchup. This week, you’re in luck. San Diego is letting every quarterback run wild on them this season. Pennington won’t be shut down because San Diego’s defense will also have to worry about Ronnie Brown going into “Wildcat” mode like he did against the Patriots. We know the Chargers can put points on the board, and this game is going to be on Chad to win.

Brian Griese, QB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Despite Denver’s well-respected corners, the Broncos like shootouts this year. Their defense obliges by letting the opposing QBs pass for more yardage on them than all but a small number of teams in the NFL. Apparently, Griese is going to throw a great deal more than Jeff Garcia did last season, so look for the Bucs to have a big day through the air — as long as there is something left for them after Graham and Dunn tear apart the Broncos ground game.

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Lions
This game might be the hottest start he has all year. Forte’s averages more than 80 yards per game, and the Lions basically promise opposing running backs 200+ yards just for playing. Forte is an absolute MUST START this week.

Earnest Graham, RB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Denver can’t stop the run or the pass. If Larry Johnson can do something, I believe a coke machine — the drink machine, not Travis Henry or Matt Jones — with a football taped to the top can do it. You know, just like the one in those Reggie Bush commercials. Regardless of how many carries Warrick Dunn takes, Graham will have plenty to feed a hungry fantasy football team.

Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers vs. Chiefs
“The Daily Show” — my new favorite player nickname, by the way — should run over the Chiefs defense this week. Be wary of benching a stud for Stewart since he still splits time with Williams but a good game here could — fingers crossed — start to move him into the more dominant role in this offense.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Colts
I’m required by foolish fantasy law to mention every rookie in the NFL if I mention any of them. That’s a fact. You want another one? Indianapolis can’t stop the run without Bob Sanders.

Lance Moore, WR Saints vs. Vikings
Moore is seeing quite a few passes come his way with Shockey and Colston still missing. They’ll need to pass against a tough Vikings run defense this week, so look for Moore to dominate on targets again and make something out of them just like he did last week.

Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban, WR Cardinals vs. Bills
If Boldin doesn’t play this week, both of these WRs could see looks from Kurt Warner. Buffalo has a tough defense, but their weakness will be at corner this week. With Buffalo’s best corner out of commission, Breaston and Urban should face the Buffalo’s third corner and rookie Leodis McKelvin. Breaston’s a lock to see looks, but it could be Urban that steps up in this game since Breaston will most likely not be taken off the kick return duties. It’s in the air right now, but watch reports coming out of Arizona to see if the coaches leak the game plan.

Amani Toomer, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
Plax is out for this week because of his INSUBORDINATION, a word that must always be typed in uppercase. Toomer should see more looks his way, and the two younger Giants WRs, Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, will fill in the rest. Toomer is a big red zone threat and a better start than both the young ones.

Bobby Engram, WR Seahawks vs. Giants
He’s back. Hasselbeck will be giving him big hugs all day on Sunday, and he should see plenty of action as long as his shoulder is really good to go. Seattle is likely to fall behind, and Engram is the most trusted receiver they will have on the field to make critical plays.

Santana Moss, WR Redskins vs. Eagles
Don’t be afraid of the Eagles secondary. Did you see what Kyle Orton did to them last week? Yeah, and that was Kyle Orton. Moss will continue to get his points each game. The Redskins have been good about not turning the ball over, but Campbell won’t have to force it to Moss to keep Moss’s fantasy revitalization going strong this season.

Justin Gage, WR Titans vs. Ravens
Since the RBs will be slowed a bit by the Baltimore defense, Collins should be looking for Gage to pick up crucial yards in the air. Gage hasn’t put up a lot of TDs, but he gets consistent yardage as long as Collins is at QB. Expect the usual.
UPDATE: Gage is still struggling with a groin injury this week, and, right now, he is listed as ‘doubtful.’ Unless that changes, I’d suggest you go with a different option this week.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Chargers
The Chargers have given up a TD to a tight end every game this season. Pennington really likes throwing to his tight ends — probably because his WRs are nothing to write home about. Yup, that pretty much sums up my reasoning.

Bubble Boys

Carson Palmer, QB Bengals vs. Cowboys
Palmer might not even play this week, but if he does, he’ll face and Cowboys secondary that doesn’t punish you. Even with that glorious matchup, he’s a big risk. He could go right back out of this game or just look bad trying to play with an elbow injury limiting him.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Chiefs
He could probably throw if he wanted to throw, but he won’t have to against this horrible run defense. Decent start if you have to plug him in, but he might only put up one TD and yardage unless this one gets heated. If he’s your best option, use him.

Chris Johnson, RB Titans vs. Ravens
Oh no, it’s another tough defense. If you haven’t noticed, Johnson can score against tough run defenses. He’s just TOO fast, and he can get to the outside. Baltimore will try to stop him, but in my mind, he is entering into unsittable status after last week’s showing against Minnesota. Plus, you might as well use him this week. If Baltimore twists as many ankles and breaks as many bones as they did against Pittsburgh, then this game might be the last one of the season for Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Vikings
Wow, I’m sure you’re excited. You just picked up a power running back that *could* be featured in a high-powered offense as long as he stays healthy this season. Unfortunately, he faces Minnesota. The Vikings aren’t a total lock to keep him out of the end zone, but unless some Saints passing plays die one or two yards short, McAllister should have limited fantasy potential. Since he’s TD-dependent, I’d look elsewhere. Surely, there’s a guy on your roster that you drafted who has a better matchup this week. If not, start Deuce but limit your expectations.

Mewelde Moore, RB Steelers vs. Jaguars
Surprisingly, the Jaguars aren’t all that scary to run against this year, but the question is whether or not Moore will be featured as a RB or used sparingly. He’s the fourth in line for carries (or at least, he was before all the injuries last week), and the Steelers may opt to have Big Ben throw more this week rather than risk putting too much of the offense in the hands of a backup guy. If you need a RB, he’s not a bad spot start, but there’s the risk that he doesn’t get the same looks Mendenhall or Willie Parker would.

Bobby Wade, WR Vikings vs. Saints
The Vikings haven’t exactly shredded it through the skies this season, but Wade had 75 yards from seven catches last week while no one was watching. As long as Sidney Rice remains a little banged up, Wade should get the majority of the snaps against the Saints very bad secondary. Scoring is probably too much to ask, but Wade could be a decent spot starter in a WR3 position. Almost anyone involved in the Vikings vs. Saints game is worthy of fantasy consideration.

Cold Shoulders

Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers vs. Falcons
Even if he plays this week, he’s still hurt. I wouldn’t take a chance on him. The Packers game plan will probably involve a heavy dose of Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson to win this one.

Edgerrin James, RB Cardinals vs. Bills
The aging running back busted out a good game last week against the Jets, but the offense will come down a few notches when it’s the Buffalo defense on the other end of the field. James won’t put many two TD games together this year as long as Kurt Warner is under center. You can go ahead and scratch this one off the list.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, RB Jaguars vs. Steelers
Other than TDs, there’s not many ways for running backs to make fantasy points against the Steeler defense. Look elsewhere this week. The Jaguars just don’t have the line right now to push around the Steeler run stoppers.

Randy Moss, WR Patriots vs. 49ers
Sit Moss until further notice…and by further notice, I really mean until Tom Brady is back next season. Matt Cassel has got to prove me wrong, but I don’t see him getting the ball to Moss anytime soon even though, with the 49ers, it’s always a potential shootout.

Sleepers

Domenik Hixon, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
I like Hixon from the massive, three touchdown performance he had this preseason. With Plaxico Burress out for a game, Hixon might be able to fill his shoes or at least share snaps with Steve Smith. Hixon’s got that big play ability and has been under the tutelage of Toomer. The other Steve Smith is still the safe play here, but if you want a deep sleeper, Hixon might be just that.

Dallas Cowboys defense vs. Bengals
If Carson Palmer doesn’t start, I expect the Cowboys to get their first INT of the season. If not, this defense could be high risk, high reward. It’s still the Bengals, and who knows when they will put it together again.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Super Snags from Week 4

Was 2008 the year to have the fifth pick in fantasy football?

So far this season, it would seem that the later draft picks have gone unscathed while the early drafters suffered some major blows to their studs. Owners have had to make due with their depth from the middle rounds, the true test of any fantasy football champion.

A handful of consensus top picks have already missed a game or been limited. LaDainian Tomlinson, slowed by his toe injury in Week 2, spooked some of his owners out of starting him in Week 3 even though he performed well. A.P. and Westbrook owners already have to play the “questionable or not” game each week, and Westbrook sat down in Week 4. Addai, who was banged up last season, isn’t inspiring confidence with his injury scares in just Week 1, and we all know what happened to Tom Brady.

All these injuries have already come up, and the Madden curse hasn’t even struck its cover boy yet. Is Brett Favre’s resilience strong enough to project the curse onto every other player in the NFL?

Marion Barber, Frank Gore and Clinton Portis owners may be sitting pretty for the moment, but owners that have made it through this rough patch for their stud with a winning record can feel good about their team going into Week 5.

If you haven’t been hit by injury, you are not safe yet. Karma can strike you down at any time. Now would be a great time to gather up some depth if you plan on making that playoff run, and if you haven’t gotten a win yet this season, maybe it’s time to completely drop all but your studs and start from scratch with waiver wire gems. As an alternative, you could just cry uncontrollably.

In addition to my take on who will make nice, happy point columns for your teams if you claim them this week, I’ll also start listing off a few guys worthy of being dropped (droppables) each week. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to let them go unless there is a much better option. If you like a guy, who am I to judge? (A genius.) I didn’t stay in a Holiday Express last night.

Worth Claiming

Deuce McAllister, RB New Orleans Saints
The Deuce is back. After not utilizing him for three weeks, McAllister finally got to show what he was made of and wrecked shop with 20 carries and a touchdown. He might not be as good as he was two years ago, but he might be good enough if you need a situational to low-end RB2. McAllister is the hottest pickup of the week. Sorry, Pierre Thomas, you didn’t get it done.

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens
It’s clear that Willis McGahee is not going to stay healthy. McClain is in control of the McGahee Voodoo doll, and he takes everything that opposing defenses give him — including a fantasy victory from me with that last TD Monday night. Out of anger, I’ll probably try to pick him up just so I can unceremoniously drop him Al Davis style.

Mewelde Moore, RB Pittsburgh Steelers
The Baltimore Ravens chewed up every running back that the Steelers sent at them on Monday night and left Moore, the fourth in line, as the last man standing. Do you think Willie Parker sat out just to save himself? Parker’s uncertain status means that Moore could be the starter in Steeler land for several weeks. Big Ben may rely more on the passing game, but Moore is worth snagging if you could use some bye week depth (or if you were counting on Willie Parker). The running game should still be effective for the Steelers.

Fred Jackson, RB Buffalo Bills
Another preseason lie: Marshawn Lynch will play all three downs. He’s not. Jackson’s in the mix, and he’s had nice fantasy outings throughout the early part of the season. Get him while he’s hot, and he’s a matchup start when the Bills face a weak defense.

Rudi Johnson, RB Detroit Lions
If no one has him yet, he’s worth getting if you need a RB since he has been named the starter. Kevin Smith is still not a guy worth dropping, and I don’t see the Lions running much when they are down by double digits.

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals
In a land of parole, the man with no charges is king. Benson finally found a home with the Bengals this week after being cleared of his boating/driving while intoxicated charges. The Bengals signed him for depth behind starter Chris Perry because they had to put DeDe Dorsey on IR, but we all know that a back can sneak up on you and take more prominent, shared role in the offense (see: Rudi Johnson).

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
Remember that guy who was the starter before there was McFadden? Now that McFadden is slowed by his injury, Fargas might just have a chance to get his job back when he returns during the bye, but everything is still a little up in the air since the Lane Kiffin firing. To think, we had all given up on him. You probably have the bye this week to think about how much you like Fargas, but it wouldn’t hurt to grab him before games start this week so you don’t risk losing him to some schmuck who has a higher waiver than you next week (because your totally going to dominate this week, right?).

Leon Washington, RB New York Jets
While he’s supposed to be the change of pace for Thomas Jones, Washington is starting to see more time on the field in the faster-moving packages. He could mature into a situational starter if Brett Favre takes the Jets into a land that needs no solid run game. I expect Jones to return to fantasy relevance at some point in the next few weeks, but Washington could be a nice fill for you if you are out of options at RB. You might even be able to fool an owner or two into buying him at the price of a more solid performer if he has a big day with Brett.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans
Moves like Wes Welker with better hands than Andre Johnson so far. Walter proved he was legit in Week 4. He’s even good at doing the “Hokey Pokey” with Matt Schaub. What a talent.

Bobby Engram, WR Seattle Seahawks
Returning this week from chipping his shoulder, Engram should be welcomed home by Matt Hasselbeck with open arms and lots of passes. Oh man, did he miss you, Engram.

Miles Austin, WR Dallas Cowboys
He’s worth it after another week (and another TD) if you have a spot for him. Austin’s likely to be more productive than Crayton this season, and he’s got that big play potential that you love to see in the No. 3 WR in an offense. The Cowboys are too powerful an offense for you to ignore Miles Austin, and outside of Crayton, his only competition for playing time is the hard-handed Sam Hurd.

Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, WR New York Giants
Without Plax for Week 5, Hixon and Smith both get upgraded in the passing game. If Hixon really does assume the Plax role for this game, I like him much more than Smith. The passing game should be firing on all cylinders, and I think Eli likes and trusts Hixon after the preseason bombs he got to him. Smith and Toomer should both see increased targets in this one. None of the Giants WRs are bad starts this week against Seattle.

Lance Moore and Robert Meachem, WR New Orleans Saints
Unlike Matt Hasselbeck, whatever runs out there for Drew Brees this season gets productive before it gets hurt. I like Moore better than Meachem because he has the more reliable hands for Brees, but Meachem has that big play ability that keeps flaring up like a bad case of…well, let’s not talk about me. Until Marques Colston and/or Jeremy Shockey come back (at least two more weeks away), these two WRs will have nice games for you in a pinch. Brees will need to throw this week against a tough Vikings run defense and could expose the Raiders defense in Week 6 just like Cutler did.

Muhsin Muhammad, WR Carolina Panthers
Muhammad really fits in Carolina with Steve Smith and Delhomme. He’s valuable when the Panthers face a weak secondary, and he’ll take the heat off of Steve Smith each week. Muhammad makes for a great WR3 or even WR2 when the game plan calls for lots of passing.

Jerheme Urban and Steve Breaston, WR Arizona Cardinals
Boldin is very unlikely to play in Week 4. Getting popped in the head and shooting blood from your nose and mouth will do that to you. In his absence, I think Urban steps into the No. 2 spot in the Arizona offense. Everyone will tell you Breaston…but I still like Urban better. Breaston may have gotten the 100-yard game in Week 4, but Urban got the touchdown.

Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans
He’s not injured anymore and showed it with almost 100 yards this past week, but what happens when/if Vince Young comes back? For now, he’s a pretty good WR3 or WR3 with limited upside.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins
If he is available, he’s a great spot fill this week. Any team playing San Diego is promised a TE touchdown so far this season, and Chad Pennington already likes throwing to his tight ends. David Martin might not even be a bad play this week, but I like Fasano more.

Matt Schaub, QB Houston Texans
When he’s at the top of his game, he’s one of the best QB2s around and sometimes worthy of QB1 status. It might be a QB1 sort of day against he Colts. I imagine they’ll be playing from behind.

Kyle Orton, QB Chicago Bears
What has the world come to these days? NECKBEARD just became a decent fantasy play? He’s thrown multiple touchdowns and close to 200 yards in his recent games. You have to accept some turnovers, but he’s better than a lot of other risky plays on the wire. This week, he faces off against Detroit with a matchup against Atlanta in Week 6. If you are hurting at QB, maybe Orton is the answer. Hooray?

Guys you should already own by now (but if you don’t, maybe you should):
Steve Slaton (last man standing and with talent), Dustin Keller (Favre-to-TE TD bandwagon), Warrick Dunn (stealing value from Graham by the second)

Ones to Watch

Jerious Norwood, RB Atlanta Falcons
Along the same lines as Leon Washington, Norwood has seen his role increase this season. Michael Turner is by far the more dominant back in this offense, but when the running game is emphasized, Norwood gets enough of a piece to put up fantasy numbers. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s running game doesn’t have many more sure things on the schedule. (Yes, it might be time to worry, Turner owners.)

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles
McNabb’s best target from last season should be back soon, but it might not be this week. Best skill: Running through the end zone before dropping the ball. Look for him to make an impact when he returns.

Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks
While Engram is back this week from his chipped shoulder, Branch is just getting back to the field coming off knee surgery. He probably won’t see much playing time in Week 5, and with Bobby Engram back in the lineup, he might be a Casper even if he gets out there. Engram is the guy to own in Seattle from now on, but Branch could make a triumphant fantasy return if he can get comfortable on his knee again. Hey, Ronnie Brown did it.

Sidney Rice, WR Minnesota Vikings
Sidney Rice is another guy returning from a knee injury, but if he sees more time this week against the Saints, he should show what he’s worth. His TD in Week 1 against the Green Bay secondary was a sign of things to come, and I like him more than I like Berrian and cake…but not as much as cheese fries.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
He dropped out of our fantasy minds and hearts with his rib injury, but if Kyle Orton becomes a potential fantasy play, Hester is right up there with him. Oh, and please prepare a way to clip wings off pigs. It’s going to happen next.

Chris Henry, WR Cincinnati Bengals
Coming off suspension, Chris Henry will be working out with the team this week. There’s no promise that he plays on Sunday — or even makes the roster if he’s out of shape. Wait for some news out of the Bengals camp or a fantasy sighting in Week 5 before you go out to grab him. The Bengals offense just doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders yet this season.

Zach Miller, TE Oakland Raiders
Miller had sleeper status coming into the year, but he was almost non-existent for the Raiders earlier in the season. The big day in Week 4 might have people talking, but take away his TD catch and he had a slightly better day than usual (32 yards from four catches). It might have just been his week facing the Chargers. Was Shawn Merriman in charge of covering tight ends? If the chemistry continues between Miller and JaMarcus Russell, he’s got the talent to be a starting fantasy tight end.

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants
He started slow but showed promise before heading into his bye week. Without Plax in Week 5, guys like Boss and Steve Smith might see more targets from Eli. If no one has him yet, keep your eye on him to see if he builds from that Week 3 performance, and if you’re tight end hasn’t performed yet, maybe you should switch it up and take a chance on Boss.

JaMarcus Russell, QB Oakland Raiders
The big boy out of LSU hasn’t blown up any stat lines in the NFL yet and just lost a head coach, but he’s still an interesting fantasy option. He’s got a cannon for the big play, and his ability to throw the ball across his body with just arm and some significant distance was impressive in Week 4 even when he was being swarmed. If you’re backup QB is lacking in the upside department, Russell could fill that role nicely. He looks like one of the most consistent options at QB even if his numbers aren’t spectacular. Upside is that he could come out of the bye week putting up better numbers, but you can probably wait to grab him until next week.

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams
Nothing much has changed, but Bulger has a new coach and his starting job back. He hasn’t done much yet this season to deserve a roster spot, but he could. He’s one of those “names” that people always give value in fantasy. That makes him worth consideration, but it’s still hard to pull the trigger. Wait until his first game back unless you really need him. The upside is there.

Carolina Panthers D/ST
The Panthers defense hasn’t exploded just yet, but they are keeping the running backs pinned down for low yardage. If they tighten up a bit more, they might just become an elite unit. They also have a nice stretch Weeks 10-12 against the Raiders, Lions and Falcons. Consider this your advance warning.

New York Jets D/ST
The Jets have quietly become a nice fantasy defense. Much like the Detroit Lions last year, you wouldn’t really think to consider them until they have a big week. Well, they had one this past week against Arizona, and after the bye this week, they face the Bengals, Raiders and Chiefs. None of those offenses make mistakes. Not ever. (Incredible sarcasm here as if you couldn’t tell.)

Flukes to Ignore or Droppables

Correll Buckhalter, RB Philadelphia Eagles
If you didn’t get him last week to fill in for your injured Westbrook, you probably missed your chance. Word is that Westbrook all but suited up on Sunday night, and I expect to see him take the field against Washington. Westbrook just missed his one game for this season, so if the trend holds true, Buckhalter has almost no value moving forward. His value stays put only if Westbrook sits again.

DeAngelo Williams, RB Carolina Panthers
If you have a guy with more upside, jump on him. Williams is on the losing end of a battle for carries since he doesn’t see the ball near the end zone. Unless you can unload him in a trade, it might be downhill from here. He’s still got value, but don’t hang onto him waiting for a miracle, okay? Promise me…

Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers
Mike Martz forgot he was on the roster after all that talk of TE passing sets, and it looks like he might even like the other guy better. Davis is not worth keeping on your roster until he proves something.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers
While he had a great day in Week 1, Rosario has seen less action since the return of Steve Smith. Now that Muhsin Muhammad is getting looks as well, it’s just time to move on to another hot waiver wire TE or the guy you drafted. (Please don’t say Vernon Davis.)

Joey Galloway, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is it worth it for you to hold onto him for the two to three game stints that he will play this season? Not if you can pick up someone who is doing well now and not burning a hole in your bench.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints
Too French to push through the piles like Deuce can. Thomas is now mixed in there somewhere but not anywhere fantasy relevant for now.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens
Obviously, we all missed a memo in thinking Cam Cameron was going to use this guy in place of Willis McGahee if McGahee stayed banged up. It was all a trick to hide the really BIG talent, LeRon McClain.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans
Really? Are you that much of a believer? Think about it. How desperate are you to have RB help down the road compared to what you can get right now? You should consider more immediate options. Green has likely lost his starting job and a significant role in the Houston offense this season. Deuce McAllister, LeRon McClain and Justin Fargas are all upgrades.

Javon Walker, WR Oakland Raiders
Wow, you are a believer.

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Obviously, things change in fantasy football. There’s no Tom Brady, and therefore, no Randy Moss. Offenses in Seattle, Cincinnati and Cleveland are in shambles. Jacksonville keeps turning it over, and the Denver Broncos might have the most explosive offense of 2008.

Shanny, we knew you had it in you. I won’t even say that I called it. (I CALLED IT), but it was right there in front of our noses. This year might be a competition between T.O. and Baby T.O. for the top wide receiver spot.

Who else is hot this week? (Well, besides the obvious.)

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan, Bryant Johnson, Isaac Bruce vs. Lions: We are starting bold. The 49ers face off against Mike Martz’s former home. I think Detroit probably knows a lot of Martz’s schemes, but Martz also knows how to exploit the Detroit defense — not like that information is really top secret. I like this one to be high scoring and crazy. If you have J.T. O’Sullivan on your roster, this week and next week against the Saints look like his best starts of the year.

Frank Gore vs. Lions: Detroit cannot stop the run. Gore will get some action.

Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson vs. 49ers: An explosive contest and a weak secondary make the interception-prone QB a nice play this week.

All Your Broncos vs. Saints: Jay Cutler and his boys manhandled the Chargers defense last week. They’ll do the same to the Saints. Brandon Marshall could break the record for most receptions in a game in this one. I like it. The only exception to this rule is Selvin Young, who might be only a yardage guy from here on out.

Chris Johnson vs. Texans: Fast Willie Parker had 3 TDs, and this kid is faster.

Reggie Bush vs. Broncos: He’ll be relied upon as a target against the corners in Denver. Bush will have to pull some big plays to win, and Darren Sproles made the Broncos look they were standing still a few times last week.

Steve Smith vs. Vikings: Just in case you forgot he was on your roster. If he’s not on your roster and you want to get crazy, send a trade offer to see if you can smuggle him away before he even sees the field. With Randy Moss gone, Steve Smith might be the only challenger to Terrell Owens and Baby T.O. for the top WR spot.

Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Bengals: Destroy, Brandon Jacobs! Destroy! Ahmad Bradshaw even makes a decent start since he’s forgotten what he learned in kindergarten and no longer plans on sharing touchdowns. What does Jacobs have to do for a touchdown? Run over TWO safeties. I think Jacobs gets his first score this week. The Bengals defensive players are only on the roster because they are trying out for the offense.

Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Bengals: Surely, Eli and Plax will join in on the fun as well. You can’t just let Brandon Jacobs run the ball all day.

Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Matt Cassel vs. Dolphins: This week, Moss wakes up. He still remembers what to do when the ball comes his way.

Buffalo Bills D/ST vs. Raiders: JaMarcus Russell against the aggressive, healthy Buffalo defense. *Salivating* If the Oakland cornerbacks come to play, this game could become a contest to control the clock. Buffalo’s schedule gets good from here.

Philip Rivers vs. Jets: With L.T. slowed by his injury, Rivers could look to find Chambers again. They’ll want to put plenty of points on the board to keep themselves out of trouble in this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, John Carlson vs. Rams: New wide receivers and an easy day against the Rams could be all that Hasselbeck needs to come alive again. He might be the slow-starting Brees of 2007. Even though Hasselbeck gets new hands this week, he just might be growing fond of Carlson’s. Look for the rookie TE to have a decent day against the Rams — who doesn’t?

Julius Jones vs. Rams: Jones could have a similar day to his 127 yards and a TD against San Francisco.

Bubble Boys

Michael Turner vs. Chiefs: Injury could hinder his performance, but if he’s 100 percent, Turner could tear the Chiefs run defense up just like Michael Bush and Darren McFadden did last week. Pop this bubble if you see him off the injury report come Friday.

Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings vs. Cowboys: If Rodgers wants to win this one, he’s probably going to have to air it to stay ahead of Romo. I respect the Dallas corners even if they have given up a lot of yardage. Rodgers isn’t going to have as big a week as he did against Detroit, but he should do something.

Randy McMichael vs. Seahawks: Seattle might be on the worst defenses that the Rams face all year, but they should still get after Bulger. McMichael could have another Week 1 performance where he reaps the benefit of Bulger’s rushed passing. It’s a risk I’m willing to take unless, of course, I have a better option.

Brett Favre vs. Chargers: Favre’s risky, vertical throwing could get him into trouble against this secondary. The Chargers are hungry for a win after they had the Broncos’ game stolen by ‘Roid Ref. You might consider giving Favre a week off, but then again, it’s Monday night. That Stuckey guy will probably nail a TD or two down. That guy’s my nemesis.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor vs. Colts: Matt Forte didn’t need that great of an offensive line to run on the Colts. The Jags line could come together to make these two productive again, but maybe the Colts go up by so much, they don’t get a chance. I remember when this Colts-Jaguars matchup used to be a heated showdown…those were the days.

Larry Johnson vs. Falcons: L.J. is losing carries to Jamaal Charles, and I hated Charles when he was a Longhorn. Charles is just a fast pair of legs with unsure hands, but L.J. is an unsure set of legs with fast hands. (That means he’s good at magic tricks like making a five-yard play into a one-yard gain.) If Johnson’s yards per carry decreases, it’s because he’s running backwards. Might be time to put Charles on your roster.

Cold Shoulders

Lee Evans vs. Raiders: I know Jay Cutler exposed the Raiders lazy cornerback play, but Evans will get blanketed by he who cannot be named, Nnamdi Asomugha. While Evans is back to fantasy relevance this year, he should have a quiet one this week.

Pierre Thomas, Deuce McAllister vs. Broncos: You can run on Denver, but who is doing the running? If Deuce really does get worked into this rotation, it just muddies the value of Thomas. Are they playing Denver or is this Shanahan coaching their run game too?

Earnest Graham vs. Bears: He had a nice score last week, but this week’s Bears defense won’t let him get loose. He’ll have yardage, but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.

Ryan Grant vs. Cowboys: Until he’s healthy, he’s not going to have a good game. Against the Cowboys defense, he’ll need a good hamstring to be effective.

Steve Slaton, Chris Taylor vs. Titans: The Titans eat running backs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t try. Just don’t.

Chad Pennington vs. Patriots: Lacking their star corner, the Patriots still make it tough to throw on them. It won’t matter if Pennington has a My Size Barbie arm. Putting the ball through the air is just going to be hard.

All Raiders besides Darren McFadden vs. Bills: Buffalo will attack JaMarcus Russell from all sides. This game should show everyone that Buffalo is worth carrying on your roster as a starting defense, and it doesn’t get bad for the rest of the season.

Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis vs. Ravens: One more week of pain.

David Garrard vs. Colts: See above.

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson/Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Giants: The New York RB wrecking crew controls the clock in this one and will require that the Bengals put something in the air to win, but Palmer just doesn’t have it right now. The Bengals passing game is bench-worthy until I see a spark.

Green Bay Packers D/ST vs. Cowboys: It’s just not a good idea to play your defense against the Cowboys this season.

Sleeper candidates:

I’ll take a few shots in the dark this week, and we’ll see how that works out for me.

Michael Pittman vs. Saints: When the Broncos get close, look for Pittman to punch them into the end zone all day. Don’t get too confident. The Saints might let Royal and Marshall finish every catch at the goal post, but Pittman could get you a score or two in this one if you are hurting at RB.

Jerious Norwood vs. Chiefs: If Turner is slowed, Norwood could have a big day. McFadden used his speed to torch the Chiefs last week, and Norwood has some speed of his own.

Post any sit/start questions in the comments for help setting your roster this week. I have to get back to practicing my route running with Matt Hasselbeck.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 1

A disastrous and tragic Week 1 has left plenty of teams hurting for new talent. Was there a group shot on the cover of Madden this year?

Since Week 1 is always the best time to grab the waiver wire studs AND since this week was full of injuries and failures, this week’s waiver wire gems is pretty comprehensive. Next week, we’ll bring it down a notch. We’ll start things off at QB since I hear we lost one this week.

If these guys went undrafted in your league, make sure you correct that. Now.

Matt Cassel, QB New England Patriots

Jesus. If you don’t know why Cassel is going to be a top grab this week, GO BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK AND STAY THERE.

It’s possible if you are a Tom Brady owner — or former Brady owner, as the case may be — that you have other, better options than Cassel. In one league, for example, Delhomme is still out there somehow.

If you’re stuck choosing between a bunch of dangerous options, Cassel makes a nice replacement. At least, he has a great group of receivers to throw to this year even if his skill set is still in question.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills

It’s good to know that Edwards knows Lee Evans is on the team now. They must have had some sort of Kumbaya camping trip this offseason.

Edwards looked good in the offense, and I might lean on him over Cassel knowing he has the skills to get his receivers the scores. He had 215 yards and a TD in Week 1, but I think he can do better. In Week 2, he’ll have Jason Peters back on the offensive line — and so will Marshawn Lynch.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins

He has had fantasy success in the past — even last year when healthy — and he might have found a team in Miami that will come together around him.

With a strong Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown run game, Pennington looks like a QB2 and could contribute as part of a fantasy QB rotation.

He’s better than Damon Huard.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Vince Young looks to be sidelined for a few weeks. If you need a stopgap, Collins could be your man. He’s very unlikely to be drafted by anyone in your league, but there is always the issue of who he will throw it to this season for the Titans…

If you can’t be picky, Collins could be a decent fill at QB for a few weeks.

Eddie Royal, WR Denver Broncos

Rookie sensation had THE BEST performance of any WR this week. Royal could be a slightly more productive version of Patrick Crayton last season, and he’ll always draw the weaker corner once Brandon Marshall returns in Week 2. He’s an excellent WR3 or more if he can keep catching Cutler’s eye once Marshall is back.

DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb spread the ball in Week 1, but he liked targeting the rookie. As long as Kevin Curtis remains banged up, Jackson should be on a roster — and maybe even after. As an added bonus, he might return a kick or two for some additional TD points.

Jackson’s six catches for 106 yards isn’t too shabby, and Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis might even be worth stashing as well if both continue to see looks from McNabb.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

If McNabb is firing, Smith should see end zone looks. McNabb knows Smith is attached to a couple of the most reliable hands he can throw at this season, so look for Smith to continue to have nice games in good matchups. In Week 1, he posted 39 yards a score. He’s worth a TE2 spot if you carry two of them, or he could be part of a nice TE rotation with one of breakout TEs of 2008.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers

The deep TE ranks get even deeper as long as Rosario remains a reliable target for Delhomme. He came down with seven receptions for 96 yards and a TD in Week 1. Worth rostering if you have a weak TE or want to trade away your stud to take advantage of the depth here this year, but be cautious. We don’t know how Rosario will be affected by the return on Steve Smith in Week 3.

Robert Royal, TE Buffalo Bills

Again, TEs look deep this year. The new offense in Buffalo smiled favorably on Royal, who caught six passes for 52 yards and a score against Seattle. After Jacksonville, the Bills schedule gets easier. I like Rosario better than Royal, but Royal is likely to see his fair share of looks this season unless rookie James Hardy starts to steal his end zone opportunities as Hardy gets more playing time.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

We know Pennington doesn’t have a big arm (Girlish arm chant…Begin!), but he got his TEs involved early in the showdown against his former team, the Jets. Fasano practiced behind Jason Witten in Dallas, and look how Witten turned out. Fasano could be one of Pennington’s most reliable targets this season.

Matt Forte, RB Chicago Bears

Likely drafted in every league, Forte proved he could be a consistent fantasy starter in Week 1. He could put up a fight for offensive rookie of the year if he keeps it up. We know the Bears won’t have much on offense, so they’ll use their defense and Forte to control the game.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys

I feel like THIS Jones will be far more effective than Julius Jones was last year for the Cowboys. His performance in Week 1 was worthy of a FLEX play (or even a low-end starter) with 62 yards and a TD. Barber bruised his ribs late in the game, and even though he is still expected to play in Week 2, look for Felix Jones to see increased action along with Tashard Choice against the Eagles.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots

He’s the running back for the Patriots. I don’t care what the depth chart says. With Brady out, he could see an increased role in this offense. He’ll certainly be in the mix however the offense is rearranged to suit Cassel.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints

Thomas might make Deuce McAllister a ghost this season if he keeps stealing carries. He’s a must-grab for any McAllister owners and could be the workhorse back of the Saints offense this season.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

The Bills defense had a few shining moments last season, but being healthy this season and free agent additions (Marcus Stroud) have made them an emerging sleeper.

In Week 2, they get to play Jacksonville — suffering from a devastated offensive line. Their schedule gets pretty easy from there. Stash them now before the other teams in your league see them spark.

Ones to Watch

Carolina Panthers D/ST

I’m not entirely sold just yet, but the Panthers were on of my sleeper defensive units coming into 2008.

They kept L.T. tame in Week 1. That’s promising. Panthers face off against the Bears this week. I’m still a little worried about the 300+ yards that the Panthers gave up — Forte could tear them apart this week if he keeps his stud status. On the other hand, the Bears could look like…well, the Bears this week.

If you have a roster spot or lack confidence in your defense, it might be worth rostering Carolina this week to see where they go from this Week 1 performance.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

Yeah, it’s a bit of a reach, but he still has upside. He got the ball to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in Week 1, and he could expand on that in Week 2.

Hey, it’s Mike Martz, okay?

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons

Still a rookie QB, but obviously, he’s going to have his good weeks every now and then. Worth a chance? Let’s see his Week 2 unless you desperately need QB help this season. Turner looks like the focus of this offense.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I didn’t see Hightower taking the goal line carries from Edgerrin James once the regular season got started, but apparently, they’re still doing that in Arizona. Edge is turning 30, but he still looks productive this season. Hightower might be worth rostering if you have the room, but he’s little more than a TD vulture. Other than his score, he only had 34 total yards.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

Slaton had more carries than Ahman Green, but Green went out with an injury in this one. Wait a sec, that makes Slaton look even better.

Regardless of the depth chart, the starting RB job in Houston is Slaton’s to earn if he performs well this season. While Green is sidelined, Slaton will probably share carries with the platoon of backs in Houston (Chris Taylor and possibly Darius Walker), but he should continue to see more and more carries.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The wily veteran’s role in this offense might be worth getting. He put up 54 yards in just nine carries in Week 1. He could play a larger role in future games.

Yes, I just wanted to use the word wily.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans

If the Texans get a potent passing game going, Walter could benefit from Andre Johnson pulling the better corner. He’s worth rostering in deep leagues and seeing how he pans out. Otherwise, keep an eye on how much he contributes to see if he could be worthy of your WR3 spot.

Ignoring, as in “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!”

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Let’s see where he goes when McGahee is back. My guess is somewhere behind Ray Rice. I don’t think he’s worth rostering unless he reappears in Week 2.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts

Probably going to be just as valuable as Kenton Keith last season. There are better options out there who will get more than yardage and a few scores. I think Addai comes back from his head injury in Week 1 with no problems.

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos

Yes, you scored two touchdowns. Congrats. Not sure I trust any Denver back this season. Pittman’s a TD vulture — feast or famine. Too risky to roster in my opinion.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Damon Huard in a pretty terrible offense in Kansas City. Plus, he’s only in there for a few weeks until Brodie Croyle returns. I think I’d rather have Kerry Collins. “The Bowe Show” is nice and all, but I don’t like the season premiere that much.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

They say dead people twitch sometimes.

See other waivers around the Internetz at Fantasy Football Goat, at The Hazean, at Yahoo! Sports, at Pancake Blocks, at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, at CBS Sportsline, at Fantasy Football Toolbox (also with upgrades for this week), at Pro Football Weekly, at Football Docs, at Bruno Boys, and at Fantasy Football Librarian.

Expert League Team Retrospective: Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League

Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League

About a month ago, I completed an expert draft with several fantasy football analysts and bloggers. The draft took almost the entire month of July because it was conducted with a 10-hour timer for each pick on MyFantasyLeague.com for those of us with day jobs. Psh, day jobs.

The results of this draft, although mentioned in passing, have yet to be fully explained for all you fools. I waited because the draft was so early in the offseason, and I thought it would be best to let my picks mature…like a fine wine.

Matured they have. Now that my roster has had some time to digest, I can safely brag about it.

You can view the draft in its entirety here, and you can also read about what Smitty, the very distinguished expert representative from Fantasy Football Xtreme, thought of the first seven rounds of the draft.

This 12-team league uses standard scoring with all touchdowns counting for six points. For those of you tracking stats in the audience, here is the complete scoring setup.

A starting lineup consists of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 team defense (D/ST), but we have nine bench spots to hold backup players. Don’t reach for a calculator. That means 18 players on our teams and an 18-round draft.

Now let’s talk through it.

You’ll notice that I went heavy on wide receivers because this draft is the one that convinced me that there is plenty of depth at running back this year.

I got shafted with the tenth overall pick in the expert draft — one of the more difficult spots to be in this year — but somehow managed to put together what I feel is a strong contender for this year.

1.10 Tom Brady QB New England Patriots

With the first pick, I really, really wanted to take a running back. Pinkie swear. Brady just fell into my lap.

At the tenth overall pick, Brady has some nice value. Someone is about to draft Randy Moss, and by taking Brady, I get credit for every single one of those Moss TD throws plus every other Patriot TD through the air.

For the record, I think Brady is best drafted in the ninth overall spot or later. Drafting him any earlier puts you in a bad spot to make up lost ground on running backs and wide receivers.

Note: I’ll disprove that statement about drafting Brady with another one of my upcoming draft breakdowns, but I’m not sure how I did it.

2.03 Ryan Grant RB Green Bay Packers

I was scheming for Marshawn Lynch to fall to me here.

Actually, part of my brilliant strategy in taking Brady in the first round was that I expected to catch Lynch, a potential first-round talent, here.

Unfortunately, JunkYard Jake spoiled my plan by taking Lynch at 2.02, just before me. The audacity.

I had to settle on Ryan Grant, which isn’t a bad “settle” considering he could end up being a top-five or at least top-10 running back this season. I am not worried about Aaron Rodgers affecting his production. Not at all.

3.10 Chad Johnson WR Cincinnati Bengals

When my pick came back around, I was hoping there would be some tiny morsel of a top wide receiver left for me to take since I was set back taking Brady in the first round.

I was nearly heartbroken when all the elite quarterbacks and the top receivers were flying off the board around the end of the second round and beginning of third round.

Luckily for me, most of the other experts didn’t want to touch Chad Johnson. This draft was taking place during his talky-too-much phase of the offseason. He fell all the way to 3.10, and that’s some insanely good value if he ends up producing his usual season totals or better.

I’d take Chad Johnson just before the fourth round any day.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme called this pick as “probably the steal of the entire draft.” Yes…I agree.

4.03 Brandon Marshall WR Denver Broncos

Keep in mind that this pick was pre-suspension. Some reports still thought he would get off with just a slap on the wrist for his offseason debauchery and flirtation with the law.

Now we know, of course, but at the time, I thought I might just be snagging two potential top-five receivers in the third and fourth round.

To be honest, I’d still take “Baby T.O.” in this spot even with the suspension. He should get lots of targets from Jay Cutler, and Cutler is looking like he is ready to show off this season.

5.10 Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers

Alright, I went a little receiver-crazy in the early rounds, but I was set on establishing one of the strongest receiver groups in this league.

By the fifth round, it was time to take another running back before they dropped off in value. Due to the hype surrounding his projected rise to the starting role and Carolina’s nice schedule for running, I liked Stewart a lot going into this draft.

I got screwed last year when the Panthers stuck with DeShaun Foster after all the “DeAngelo Williams’ time to shine” talk. In taking Stewart, I was counting on him to win the starting job. Still am.

It’s not completely out of the question that he gets to start this season (at some point), but it’s not looking good right now. DeAngelo Williams has looked impressive in preseason showings and is running hard.

Even before knowing what I know now, I knew I was taking a risk here with Stewart and planned on making sure I acquired Williams a few rounds later. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much other drafters were interested in him…

6.03 Jerricho Cotchery WR New York Jets

I was not too fond of any running backs at this point in the draft, and I thought it was too early to take DeAngelo Williams. I stuck with drafting receivers — you know, for my super, amazing receiving group.

I liked Cotchery as a WR3 before Favre, but I like him even more now.

Cotchery looks like he has already developed a nice relationship with the old gunslinger. Sorry, you must use “gunslinger” when referring to the man formerly known as a Packer — it’s a rule and much better than “Jet Favre.” Cotchery should benefit from Favre’s much more powerful arm this season.

This pick would have paid off without the Favre trade, but with it, Cotchery now looks like he can hold me off as a WR2 until Brandon Marshall returns in Week 3 or Week 4. With Brandon Marshall in my lineup, Cotchery should complete a fearsome three-receiver set for my team.

7.10 Santana Moss WR Washington Redskins

I wanted to take DeAngelo Williams here. Epic fail.

Phil from UltimateFFStrategy.com either sensed my plan or really liked Williams despite the Stewart hype and snagged Williams at the end of the sixth round.

After missing my chance to lock up the Carolina running game, I couldn’t even stand to look at any of other running backs available here.

Knowing Marshall was no lock to start every game because of his suspension concerns, I decided to pad my receiver corps.

Santana Moss hasn’t played up to his potential the last few seasons, but the new offense and Jim Zorn should give him some wind under the sails. Adding two rookie receivers behind him on the depth chart is what I call motivation.

Jason Campbell having another season under his belt doesn’t hurt Moss either. He’s worth packing onto my roster at this point in the seventh round. If he pays off big, he could be my best trade bait once Brandon Marshall returns.

8.03 Deuce McAllister RB New Orleans Saints

The running backs were about to drop off by this round, and I liked Deuce McAllister the best of the ones remaining. McAllister should — fingers crossed — return from his knee injury to once again be the center gear of the Saints’ high-powered scoring machine.

I expect solid production out of him once he gets back on the field. Reggie Bush dances. Deuce keeps the Saints moving forward. Not a bad back to acquire this late.

9.10 Nate Burleson WR Seattle Seahawks

I hadn’t abandoned receivers just yet. The good No. 1 options were mostly off the board, but the upside of receivers was about to drop off considerably.

I already had four wide receivers, but I wanted to make sure I stockpiled any receivers with big upside and the potential to be top fantasy studs in 2008. If nothing else, they become trade bait to fix my running back problems if I run into any.

At the time of this draft, Bobby Engram was still expected to be the pseudo-No. 1 receiving option for the Seattle Seahawks. I lucked out — another maturing pick on my part — when Engram injured his shoulder.

It looks like I now have the most experienced receiver the Seahawks have to start the season in Burleson. Here’s to you, Nate. Do me proud, and catch everything Hasselbeck throws to you.

10.03 Tony Scheffler TE Denver Broncos

Most of the top tight ends were off the board by this round, and I wanted to make sure I got someone solid.

Last year, I ran my teams off rotating sleeper tight ends. Tony Scheffler was one that stuck in my rosters, and I like him this season as more than a sleeper pick.

You know what other tight end is best buds with his quarterback? Jason Witten. That’s all I’m saying.

11.10 Ahman Green RB Houston Texans
12.03 Chris Brown RB Houston Texans

These two injury prone “starters” fell pretty far down from their preseason rankings. Since I failed to catch my DeAngelo Williams to lock up two solid running back starters, I decided to take the plunge. I knew that I could get them both with these two picks.

Green and Brown are last resorts to use as starting running backs on your roster since they both could end up losing their job to Steve Slaton before the year is out. Regardless, one of them is going to be the starter for at least a good part of the 2008 season.

I took them as my “safety net” starters. If both Deuce McAllister and Jonathan Stewart fail me as RB2s, I’ll flip a coin (Lovie Smith style) and throw one of these battered guys into my starting lineup.

13.10 Devin Hester KR/WR Chicago Bears

I don’t get points for kick returns, but Devin Hester is the only Chicago Bear likely to be making big plays on offense this year.

I took a chance he’d develop into a receiver that the coaches liked. He has thus far apparently.

I’m satisfied taking him late in Round 13 to add more receiver depth. If he starts looking like something special fantasy-wise, he gets a spot in my starting lineup or packaged in a trade. Big risk, big reward.

14.03 Warrick Dunn RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Earnest Graham was still holding out of camp, and Warrick Dunn was gaining ground and attention in Tampa Bay. I felt good taking him as another backup running back option at pick 159.

Judging by the size of Dunn’s contract, Tampa Bay brought Dunn in to do more than just backup the undrafted Graham. He should see action each week.

I’d much rather have Dunn, who could develop into a consistent but not spectacular fantasy option or drop-worthy dead weight, than lock up my bench with a one of my starters’ backups.

I had already missed out on Pierre Thomas (McAllister) and DeAngelo Williams (Stewart) if I was going to snag backups anyway. Brandon Jackson hadn’t and still hasn’t shown he’s worth rostering behind Ryan Grant just yet. There are too many backs there to confuse the situation if Grant was injured.

15.10 Tarvaris Jackson QB Minnesota Vikings

The majority of the starting quarterbacks were off the board at this point — even the retired and dramatic Brett Favre at pick 142.

I didn’t really need to put emphasis on a backup quarterback since I drafted Tom Brady. When you draft any quarterback in the first two rounds, you shouldn’t be looking to back him up until VERY late in your draft unless you run across some great value.

When I drafted Jackson, I knew several good things about him. Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t going to be replaced by Favre, the coaches love him and he seems to be improving with a nice supporting cast.

I know I took a chance on him here, but he could put up some solid numbers this year. I also know that I can replace him with someone off the waiver wire if need be for Week 4, Brady’s bye week.

Speaking of that, J.T. O’Sullivan doesn’t seem like a horrible free agent to pick up at this point. He faces New Orleans in Week 4.

Jackson’s opponent in Week 4 is Tennessee. As long as their run defense is as stout as last year, he’s going to be forced to make some plays or swing some passes out to Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. I’ll buy one ticket for that ride and see where it takes me.

16.03 Green Bay Packers D/ST

Green Bay coaches say they are going to play it more aggressive this year. They have the young defense to do it well. More sacks could mean more fantasy points, and they don’t face too many offensive powerhouses.

Green Bay is an up-and-coming defense that finished in the top 10 in 2007. Plus, they come cheap. I felt better about them than the Giants defense, facing tough NFC East foes all season, in the sixteenth round.

17.10 Mason Crosby K Green Bay Packers

Why not go Packer crazy?

Mason Crosby was the top kicker last season. Even though Green Bay may not be as high scoring as they were in 2007, I think they will move the ball well enough to get Crosby into range a few times a game.

I picked him to see if my prediction comes true. If they are inefficient at getting the ball to the end zone every time, I get all those field goal points.

18.03 Ben Utecht TE Cincinnati Bengals

I made a slight mistake here drafting a second tight end with the same bye week as my first, Week 8, but I’ll admit that I didn’t really care what his bye week was.

I am really interested to see what Ben Utecht will do as a starter and with Carson Palmer under center. Utecht looked ferocious getting that touchdown in the preseason game.

The bye week problem shouldn’t come back to bite me. I am hurting Week 8 anyway since many of my players share that same bye. I will probably free up some room on my roster through trades or add/drops by halfway through the season, and I won’t have to lose one of my tight ends to sub in a starting tight end that week.

Whichever tight end performs better between Tony Scheffler or Utecht will win my starting job. The other gets to be…did you guess it? Trade bait!

According to MyFantasyReport.com’s draft recap, I had the third best draft.

Coach Jacob had an excellent draft in the recent 2008 Fantasy Website Drunken Pirate Slapfight Expert League draft. Their FantasyFootballFools.com franchise came away with the number 3 ranked draft (out of 12) in the league based on analysis by MyFantasyLeague.com.

FantasyFootballFools.com made their best pick of the draft in round 1, selecting Tom Brady with the 10th pick of the draft, as compared to the 6th spot he should have been selected in, according to ADP rankings. “Brady should be in line for a great season even if it is not another monster one,” FantasyFootballFools.com coach Jacob said.

FantasyFootballFools.com made their worst pick of the draft in round 8, selecting Deuce McAllister with the 87th pick of the draft, as compared to the 125th spot he should have been selected in, according to ADP rankings. “I heard he got the bionic knee this time,” FantasyFootballFools.com coach Jacob said.

Starting in week 8, FantasyFootballFools.com won’t be able to submit a full lineup, due to having 2 tight ends on bye.

FantasyFootballFools.com nabbed Tom Brady in the 1st round, which reflects the fact that he was the number one ranked quarterback for the 2007 season, based on this league’s custom scoring rules.

FantasyFootballFools.com nabbed Mason Crosby in the 17th round, which reflects the fact that he was the number one ranked place kicker for the 2007 season, based on this league’s custom scoring rules.

With a little bit of work on the waiver wire this season, or a few strategic trades, coach Jacob should be able to turn their 3rd ranked draft effort into a championship fantasy team this year.

I might have altered the quotes there…

It seems that MyFantasyReport.com puts a lot of weight on the final 2007 rankings. The draft recap function is only in Beta, so what does it really know anyway?

Now that I’ve put my bleeding heart out here for you with my expert league draft (and first draft of this fantasy season), I am sure you want to tell me what you think of it. I see you there just bursting with a compliment.

What do you think? How does this team weigh in against the competition? Do you like or dislike my picks?

Berate or compliment profusely in the comments, and my trained monkey will respond.

I’m dead set on making the coveted drunken pirate trophy mine.

Jeremy Shockey traded to Saints, gets fantasy bump

The Jason Taylor trade that was rumored but always “danced around” by the Dolphins seemed like it was never going to happen until it did on Sunday. Little did we know yesterday that the bigger fantasy football news was still to come this week.

The other much-rumored trade of disgruntled New York Giant Jeremy Shockey to the New Orleans Saints is a done deal today. I guess Shockey has something against playing in any city considered “Old.”

According to ESPN, the same deal that the Saints had offered the Giants back before the draft, a draft pick in the second round and another in the fifth round, was good enough this time around to send Shockey to New Orleans. Apparently, a three-team trade involving Jason Taylor might have been in the works — and possibly ruined when the Washington Redskins went ahead and traded for Taylor themselves with Miami yesterday.

Regardless, the Giants must have decided they were better off without the unhappy tight end who sat out the Super Bowl run with a broken leg. New York will now put their faith behind Kevin Boss who showed promise filling in for Shockey late in the season and in the playoffs last year.

While Taylor improves a defense in Washington that wasn’t necessarily near the top of your fantasy rankings, Shockey comes into a much more lucrative fantasy football situation.

The Saints’ current starter Eric Johnson was nothing spectacular at tight end in 2007, and Drew Brees certainly could use as many decent hands as he can get. With Shockey, the Saints not only get a much better receiver and red zone target in the mix but also a seasoned and enthusiastic blocker to open holes for Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. If Shockey stays healthy, this trade means a bump for the running back value in New Orleans and possibly an increase in the number of TDs for Brees this season. Take that into consideration when you are drafting.

Don’t sleep on Shockey. If he can avoid injury, he could become the second or third receiving option behind Marques Colston and Reggie Bush. Shockey’s ceiling has just been raised. The trade to the Saints bumps him up a notch in fantasy rankings. He should probably be taken around the same spot as Chris Cooley, Todd Heap and Owen Daniels once again after he fell a little last season. A broken leg and bad attitude can do that to you.

The Difference Between a RB1 and RB2

When we talk about players as being RB1 or RB2 caliber, we are not trying to confuse you.

Okay. Okay. Well, maybe we are just a tiny bit, but that’s a small satisfaction of mine. I have to compensate for all the spammy emails I get from Russia that make me feel “small,” okay?

There exists in the fantasy football lexicon a set of definitions that helps in classifying your expectation for players. These definitions break down the projected performance of a player over the course of a season. “RB2″ is just one of many.

Associating these tags with players on your cheat sheet — maybe by tiering them off into RB1 and RB2 categories — you can better prepare for the kind of team you want to build and better evaluate potential trades.

Yes, you could always jump into a draft expecting to take the next stud available, but there comes a time in every fantasy football players life when they realize that they can’t just fill an entire team with studs of unending potential. You’ll run out. Some of us have more than 6 teams in our league.

You have to decide whether you want to go after a RB1 or take a stud at another position and take two RB2s when you get the chance. Now, that’s getting crazy, but sometimes crazy works. Just try it in a bar fight. No one messes with the crazy guy…

Notch this one on your fantasy football reference manual and clear a spot for your merit badge. These definitions are talking standard scoring (6 point TDs, 1 point for every 10 yards).

RUNNING BACK 1 (RB1)

The king of the “1” positions. RB1 is your workhorse and one of the most dependable (hopefully) players on your roster. Expectations can vary greatly, depending upon whether you have LaDainian Tomlinson or not, but you always want your RB1 to be a touchdown machine or a dependable yardage beast.

At the top, you can usually pray for 10+ touchdowns in a season and 1500-2000 yards. Not too many full-load running backs out there nowadays who can put that up though.

Usually, there are only about 10-12 true RB1s to even draft, and the number of stud RBs has been dropping ever since the dreaded running-back-by-committee system (RBBC) came into place — another dastardly effect of global warming…

Good examples: LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai
Weekly expectations: 100+ yards and at least 1 TD with occasional bonus TDs

RUNNING BACK 2 (RB2)

In contrast, your RB2 is a complimentary back — and the “all you got left” for picks near the end of a big league — here’s to you, picks 11 and 12.

These days, any running back scoring around 8+ touchdowns with around 500 yards or reaching 1000 yards with fewer TDs is pretty exceptional as a RB2. Many of the top RB2s are of the TD-vulture variety.

Any running back that finishes in the top 30 is obviously a pretty decent RB2. You want to collect a couple of these guys if you can to sub in and out on a weekly basis and play those match ups.

Good examples: Brandon Jacobs, Deuce McAllister, Chester Taylor, DeAngelo Williams
Weekly expectations: 100+ yard and, frequently but not always, a TD

RUNNING BACK 3 (RB3)

As a BONUS — aren’t you lucky? — let’s talk RB3s. If you are in a league that plays three, you are probably looking to snag quite a few running backs and get two RB2-caliber guys. Technically, RB2 guys are the last ones you want to start on a regular basis.

A RB3 would be someone you expect to keep on the bench for a stretch — a new rookie perhaps. If they end up making waves and parting seas to the endzone, you could move them into your starting lineup. Otherwise, they are there if you get in a bind and for potential big games a few times in the season.

Good examples: Jerious Norwood, Tatum Bell, Leon Washington
Weekly expectations: 50 yards and occasional TD unless “special sleeper powers” activated by alien meteor or starting running back injury

PARTING NOTE

There is always some room to play here with these projections. If the league suddenly gets flooded with Adrian Petersons — or more likely, nine or ten Travis Henry types with all the kids he is producing — the RB2 position expectations will fluctuate.

Having trouble classifying a running back for this upcoming season? Post the players in the comments if you want a foolish expert opinion.

Look forward to  more foolish differences explored for the QB and WR position as the offseason’s “Are we there yet?” period continues.

Drafting Your Fantasy Running Backs: The Details to Consider in 2008

If breaking down the details for this year’s fantasy running backs doesn’t make you want to take LaDainian Tomlinson first overall in your re-draft league, I don’t know what will. Seriously, people.

When you’re talking fantasy running backs, what separates the vets from the noobs is consideration of a few minor factors beyond how high-powered a running back’s offense was last year and where the running back ranks on cheat sheets this season. Looking at the slight details like what defenses they face, contract lengths and ages can help you make the call between two closely-ranked RBs in your draft.

Let’s jump into how these factors will affect some top fantasy running backs this season with some good ol’ plus or minus analysis — and we go with negative first around these parts.

The Age Old Rule

First, let’s talk age. When you’re an old running back, you’re like a hot potato. No one wants to get stuck holding you when you crack.

Fantasy Football Toolbox told all with a list of all the running backs age 29 or older. There won’t be any pluses in this category, so we will have Big/Mini shades of Minus — a very scientific method, fingers crossed.

For fantasy’s sake, here’s who is getting to be old bones:

BIG Minus –

  • Warrick Dunn – Tampa Bay: I know you thought he was a spring chicken.
  • Ahman Green – Houston Texans: His knees show his age like the rings in a tree trunk.
  • LaMont Jordan – Oakland Raiders: Age and injury have punched Jordan’s ticket out of Oakland.
  • Thomas Jones – New York Jets: Things could go either way for Jones in 2008 with a new O-line.
  • Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: It’s hard to make a comeback with just a couple of years left in the tank.
  • Deuce McAllister – New Orleans Saints: Coming off injury AND old. Not pretty. “Little Deuce” Aaron Stecker (32) isn’t getting younger for the Saints either.
  • The New England Trio: Heath Evans, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris – New England Patriots: Most of New England’s backfield is over 30. The Patriots can get production out of the old guys, but these guys have got to be breaking down this year. Maybe they will remember that they have Laurence Maroney.

Mini Minus –

  • Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns: I think he was reborn when he became a Brown because he certainly did his owners right last year.
  • Fred Taylor – Jacksonville Jaguars: Everyone keeps calling for Maurice Jones-Drew, but Taylor seems to find gas in the tank.
  • Edgerrin James – Arizona Cardinals: Old with flashes of youth still left.
  • Brian Westbrook – Philadelphia Eagles: Only 28 but backup is Correll Buckhalter (29). No wonder the Eagles wanted Lorenzo Booker, a spry 24, from Miami.

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

NFL.com’s Michael Fabiano ranked the rushing schedules of fantasy running backs last week while we were just sitting around chatting about the free agents of 2009, which is the next section.

Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty also put together a strength of schedule analysis earlier this offseason, showing L.T. is the set to be at the top in 2008.

Pouring out a little link love for my homies, Fantasy Football Librarian noted that Fabiano’s breakdown makes Laurence Maroney look pretty favorable, and Football Jabber singled out the top and bottom five teams. Frank Gore has his work cut out for him, and no one in Houston’s backfield has it easy this year.

Here’s who’ll be hurting on and who’ll be hurting from run defenses this year:

Minus –

  • Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers: Even if he isn’t the focus of the offense, he will still be the focus of the defense. It’s not looking good. I might go Tom Brady over Gore in the first round, but I’m not totally quitting on him yet.
  • Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants: Long road back to the top against some of the best defenses out there at stopping the run. Giants will have to keep it dynamic in the run game to say ahead.
  • Edgerrin James – Arizona Cardinals: Notch Edge down another point for this one.
  • Ahman Green (and friends) – Houston Texans: No one will have an easy time running for Houston. With a pack of inconsistent backs, I’d avoid them all in your drafts this year.
  • Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns: Age AND a schedule full of stacked run defenses. That hurts.
  • Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks: Jones can’t improve his stock much in Seattle against the best in the biz of stopping him.
  • Marion Barber and Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys: A huge offense makes this a minor point. Does this stat mean they will throw more? PLUS to Romo if that’s the case.

Plus +

  • LaDainian Tomlinson – San Diego Chargers: You couldn’t really ask for much more than L.T. having the best schedule of any RB. For the most part, Tomlinson will be running against the bottom-of-the-barrel run defenses.
  • Laurence Maroney – New England Patriots: Will the Patriots use him with the easiest rushing defense schedule? I think they might just let Brady throw all day again, but he could run easy when they let him.
  • Thomas Jones – New York Jets: If his new O-line can block for him, Jones has it free and clear this season.
  • Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: Two bounce backs is possible. My money’s on Brown more than Ricky.
  • Travis Henry – Denver Broncos: Easy street should win him some points with Shanny.
  • Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints: The Saints offense is in line for a big year. Bush is the probably the better back to snag.
  • Marshawn Lynch – Buffalo Bills: The second-best rookie of 2008 gets forgotten at times, but he should have a nice 2008 season with an easy rushing schedule and an improved offense. I’m high on this kid and owned him last year.
  • Larry Johnson – Kansas City Chiefs: Rebounds abound? Maybe. Johnson has an easy schedule to redeem himself for last year.
  • Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons: All that postseason hype won’t weigh down Turner much in Atlanta when he faces mostly low-end or middle-of-the-pack run defenses. In an offense based off the run this year, Turner could be more productive than people think.

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

Who’s looking to bust a move? Running backs who have a payday coming are always more likely to impress, but those who just got paid can be slowed by their wallets.

Plus +

  • Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams: The big man might get money before the season, but if not, stay out of his way.
  • Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants: He’s got his work cut out for him, but boy, he wants to work.
  • Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: The “Freebird” title of this section was purely unintentional — I promise. Ricky probably has to make enough money over the next two years to rebuild his straw hut in a foreign country and smoke away the pain…That might not be very much though.

Minus –

  • Marion Barber – Dallas Cowboys: Likely to have just signed a major deal by the time the season starts even though he is a free agent now. Hopefully, money won’t weigh him down like it did Shaun Alexander.

In Closing

When it’s all said and done, these three factors paint a picture for who looks better than they might have beforehand and worse now than ever before. Some older backs may make nice RB2s, but don’t fall for drafting them as RB1s again this season.

Ricky Williams is still risky, but he has a lot going in his favor. Ronnie Brown is the more dependable guy to have for Miami, but Ricky cold be a good value pick. On the other hand, Marion Barber might have two strikes against him going into the season. Jamal Lewis looks like a player to avoid in the worst way possible.

Take all these factors into your noggin this offseason and remember to factor them in when you are choosing between two running backs in your draft. Upside is hard to find with running backs since the RBBCs are forming everywhere in the league, but make sure you get the most out of your running back picks. Don’t get stuck making the wrong call. Some rookies with young legs might be worth betting on over solid veterans.

Let me echo this again: L.T. looks good overlooking the age effect. In my mind, these factors put him clearly up there in the No. 1 overall spot. Take him first in your re-draft leagues, and call me in the morning.

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.