On the Wire: Quick Week 1 Pickups and Sleepers

It’s time…

I’m almost giddy now that I can finally write up a few sleeper grabs that may have gone undrafted in your leagues this season. In less than 24 hours, the 2009 NFL season will be upon us. Are you ready? Probably not, but that’s why you’re doing your homework. Consider this your Week 1 bailout.

For the sake of being more easily absorbed in this 24/7, twittered news cycle, I’m tightening up the weekly “On the Wire” and making it a little more rapid fire — less bulky. If you don’t find what you crave in this handful of player mentions, leave a comment, and we’ll discuss. That’s what we’re here to do.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
If no one drafted Ray Rice in your league, you should go pick him up immediately. Actually, first, you should slap yourself, and then you can go get Ray Rice off that waiver wire. Rice was a popular sleeper pick in the offseason, but he’s been climbing up draft boards all preseason, especially now that he’s officially the Ravens’ starting running back.

Anyone who hasn’t either missed their chance to draft him or secured him on their team’s roster needs to dust off the fantasy cobwebs and wake up before he does — probably this weekend against an incredibly bad Kansas City defense.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
For three weeks, Jackson will be the feature back of the Buffalo Bills offense while Marshawn Lynch serves his suspension. The Bills let Dominic Rhodes go just days before the season and confirmed their confidence in Jackson’s abilities.

Whether you own Lynch or not, Jackson’s worthy of a roster spot until Week 4.

Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Another of my favorite sleepers this preseason, the troubled young wide receiver is back with the Bengals and seems to be on the right track legally. Henry caught touchdown bombs in all four weeks of the preseason, even while Carson Palmer was out. I’d say that’s a good sign of things to come with Palmer healthy — at least for now.

Get Henry on your team this week before he shows his skills against the Denver Broncos.

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints
If Pierre Thomas misses the Saints’ Week 1 showdown against the Detroit Lions, who has two thumbs and all the carries near the goal line? THIS GUY. (I’ll admit, that was bad, but you should try to do better.)

Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos
The other Peyton is a dark horse fantasy back in Denver this season. While Knowshon Moreno gets all the hype, the ladies and the knee injuries, Hillis is the guy who should end up running with the team in two-minute drills and when it counts.

He catches passes, he runs the ball effectively and he’s deceptively known as a fullback on the Broncos’ roster, but you should keep an eye or a roster spot on this rookie standout from 2008.

Shaun Hill, QB, San Francisco 49ers
If Matt Schaub or Kyle Orton is making you nervous, Hill could cure just what ails you. He was productive enough to deserve a few fantasy starts when he finished out the season for the 49ers.

Confirmed as the starting quarterback for 2009, he should take full advantage of all the opportunities exposed when defenses stack the box to stop Frank Gore. Expect Hill to step up this week against the potent Arizona attack.

That’s all for this week. No droppable players to discuss this week, but we’ll revisit next week once we’ve seen how disappointing our fantasy teams can be in real life.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a guy you’re thinking about adding to your roster? Need help at receiver or quarterback this week? Just ask.

How about that Rundown: Things you should have known before the 2009 NFL Draft

Unlike me, you may not have been following all the NFL news since the offseason began. Sometimes people have lives. That’s okay — so I am told. In order for you to keep your edge and get in the right state of mind now that football is only a few months away, you just might need a “rundown” of the news you may have missed or overlooked during your hiatus from the land of football.

The thing about Marshawn Lynch is…
Lynch received a suspension for three games due to his increasing talent of finding himself in bad situations at bad times (and somehow also avoiding any major legal consequences). The Bills will be without his services to start the season, but they have also acquired Dominic Rhodes to help them out while their workhorse running back pays his debt to society the NFL. Fred Jackson is still said to be the starter in Lynch’s absence, but Rhodes may win the hearts of the coaching staff before the end of camp. He’s got a pretty good talent for that.

The Jenny Craig Effect
Both Daunte Culpepper and David Garrard returned to their teams from the offseason a little lighter and a little more in shape. For Culpepper, claiming he was in the best shape of his life since he was a good quarterback might have led Detroit to believe they were safe with him under center in 2009. (Unfortunately for him, no such luck.) For Garrard, his lightened load could mean his ability to get out of the pocket and run is on the rise. If you remember his run in the playoffs against the Steelers, he can get up and going pretty quickly for a big guy, but with a little less weight, he might do it more often in 2009.

And then there’s the fat one…
On the other end of the weight shift, Adrian Peterson claims he wants to beef it up for 2009. Unfortunately for Peterson, that weight can’t all be added around his knees, which are almost ready for their next breakdown after he made it through 2009 mostly unscathed. The wrath cometh, no matter much bacon you pack on those bones, A.P.

Coles becomes a Bengal (pending felony conviction)
Yes, I know that most of the Bengals are trying to get the team’s reputation under control, but then they go out and sign Tank Johnson, and yeah, that’s not working so well. Laveranues Coles obviously didn’t want to wait around and see what one-armed batting practice machine became the man for the Jets in 2009, so he took a deal with the Bengals as somewhat of a replacement to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I wouldn’t exactly call him the perfect complement to Chad Johnson, but he’s got a pulse and no parole, unlike Chris Henry.

Matt Hasselbeck has a back again
Hasselbeck told us all he was healthy before the draft — mostly because he wanted to make sure he didn’t get a little punk like Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford drafted onto the Seahawks’ bench and waiting for him to injure his back again. It remains to be seen how much Hasselbeck will be able to do when the season starts after his injury-plagued 2008 season.

Well, I guess if Jay’s gone…
Tony Scheffler, the tight end companion of choice of Jay Cutler, may no longer have a home in Denver now that Josh McDaniels has arrived to kick everyone out of the party and start a math club that worships Belichick.

But was he the Right-wich?
The Bucs signed Byron Leftwich to be their quarterbacks of the now — or was it all just a clever smokescreen for their Josh Freeman pick? Leftwich is an upgrade over the quarterbacks currently developed in the Bucs’ stable, but they may still be overlooking what they have in Josh Johnson.

Sweed takes three
With the departure of Nate Washington to the Titans, Longhorn standout Limas Sweed moves up to the third wide receiver spot, and he might just have his head in the game this year. That’s a good sign for dynasty owners and Big Ben Roethlisberger.

Young no more in 2010?
Speaking of Longhorns, Vince Young may be on his way out of Tennessee in another season if he doesn’t find his game again. His contract isn’t going to make him any friends in 2010. If he’s going to prove he’s the quarterback of the future for the Titans, he better get back into that “hoopla” soon.

Laurent Robinson is a Ram
He was all the rage each preseason that the Falcons had him, and now, he’s one of a few receivers with a name we know and somewhat trust on the Rams roster. Don’t forget about Robinson when it comes time to make those last round selections in your fantasy draft. He might be all they got.

And Detroit quarterbacks will throw to Megatron AND…
Former Cardinal and former 49er Bryant Johnson signed a contract with the Lions this offseason. Assuming he hopes to find himself opposite Calvin Johnson on Sundays — and thereby form the unstoppable Johnson & Johnson duo — he should probably stop dislocating his fingers in practice. Johnson is one of those players who always looks like he improved his situation, i.e. moving to San Francisco last season, just before he disappears off the map. His main competition at receiver is former Raider Ronald Curry, who is expected to be the slot guy in Detroit.

Torry Holt makes final growl with the Jags
It’s no secret that Holt is old. He’s got the freaky fingers to prove he’s a veteran in this league, and he’s crafty. The Rams gave up on him in favor of getting younger, but the Jaguars will be giving him another chance. What could go wrong? Taking the old guy worked so well with Jerry Porter last season, didn’t it? Holt is the likely No. 1 in Jacksonville, but he might not hold that position all season if his skills and health fade.

Jeff Garcia on the Al Davis payroll
Garcia joined the Raiders before the draft to back up and help develop JaMarcus Russell. But how can someone so large learn anything from a man as tiny as Garcia? Time will tell whether the leadership and veteran instincts rub off on Russell, who has been looking very raw since taking the reins in Oakland.

Jake Delhomme fully extended
What’s the first thing you should do when your franchise quarterback throws more passes to the opposing team than his own to end your season? That’s right, contract extension — and a massive one at that. Carolina signed Delhomme to a 5-year deal that he will probably never see the end of as the starting quarterback. I am sure there is logic to it in saving the team a little money now, but Jake isn’t getting any younger. Maybe they’re resting their future on current backup Matt Moore’s Romo-like potential.

Matt Ryan gets his tight end
In a move that might have more impact than anything that happened in the draft, Kansas City traded veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta. Rather than spend a pick on Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons got Gonzalez at a good price, and they’ll have one of the more weapon-laden offenses in football next season with Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Gonzalez and Roddy White all threatening opposing defenses. The Gonzalez trade may prove to be exactly what Ryan needed to progress next season into a more fantasy-worthy quarterback.

Now, I think we’ve covered just about everything to get you back into sync with all the latest NFL news before the NFL draft. Drop your questions, discussion items and comments in our brand new commenting system down below and let the predictions for next season begin. I have just one question to start: What exactly is a “rundown” anyway?

Forget Them Not: Ten Dynasty Running Backs for Keepers and Sleepers

We covered the quarterbacks and the wide receivers, but the position you really should watch closely heading into this year’s draft is running back. These runners have worked their way into the favor of their current coaching staffs and may stand a much greater chance of seeing the field than that guy that gets taken in the second or third round this year. Are there any Ray Rice hype machine victims in the audience? Moving on…

Jalen Parmele – Baltimore Ravens
Taken by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, Parmele didn’t have a lot of press despite his productive junior and senior seasons. The Ravens plucked him off the Dolphins’ practice squad to support their running attack in the last game of the regular season against Jacksonville, and he remains with the team entering 2009. He’s comparable to Tashard Choice, who tore it up in huge games down the stretch for the Cowboys. If the RB situation in Baltimore changes and Parmele gets pack of backs, you might hear his name again in 2009.

Ryan Moats – Houston Texans
Moats grabbed headlines this offseason for his incident with a certain overly-demanding police officer, but he could be in the spotlight once again if he lands a role with the Texans running game in 2009. Steve Slaton need someone to keep him durable during the regular season, and veteran journeyman Chris Brown is more fragile and injury-prone than Slaton. Moats could see some time if injuries come into play, and he wasn’t too shabby in 2008 when needed.

Mike Hart – Indianapolis Colts
Hart didn’t have much of a debut this season as he was quickly injured once he got his chance to play for the Colts, but he still ranks very high on a lot of dynasty lists. His production at Michigan may lead some to doubt how much he has left in the tank, but his intangibles and heart for the game have led many to stand behind him. With Dominic Rhodes out of the picture, Hart could have a real shot at stepping into a big role with the Colts this season and sharing time with Joseph Addai.

Chris Henry – Tennessee Titans
Though Chris Johnson has largely stolen his thunder–or lightning, as the case may be since LenDale White owns the copyright on “thunder”–Henry still has a chance to play a part for the Titans. If anything were to happen to White, he’s the likely candidate to step into Tennessee’s potent running attack, and he may have more chances this season if the Titans move to more of a three-back system to keep Johnson fresh and injury-free for the playoffs. Without a healthy Johnson, the Titans just didn’t look the same.

Jacob Hester – San Diego Chargers
With LaDainian Tomlinson approaching his golden years, many folks are looking for the Chargers to draft a running back this season to help Darren Sproles. But do they really need someone else? Given the production of fullbacks turned running backs like Peyton Hillis, Hester might be an adequate partner in the running game to support Sproles and Tomlinson as L.T. approaches the end of his career. We’ll see if the Chargers think he is enough come draft day.

Danny Ware – New York Giants
With a stall of running backs that could dominate any team in the league, you’d think that the Giants would be willing to sell off some of their surplus at the position, but surprisingly, the Giants have been very protective of Ware. If the team who was okay letting Ryan Grant walk and Derrick Ward sign elsewhere likes this guy, dynasty owners have to agree. He sits just behind Jacobs on the depth chart, and he might become part of the new Earth, Wind and Fire if Jacobs needs help in the run game.

Lorenzo Booker – Philadelphia Eagles
When he was traded to the Eagles from the Dolphins, Booker was touted as the likely backup to Brian Westbrook, but despite Booker’s comparable skills, he didn’t ever find his way onto the field last season. With Westbrook’s contract extended and Correll Buckhalter going over to the Broncos in free agency, Booker could be the guy we thought he was going to be in 2009. Then again, the Eagles could get greedy and take another running back in the draft to support Westbrook.

Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks drafted Forsett in the seventh round of the draft only to waive him early in the 2008 season. After a short stay with the Indianapolis Colts, Forsett was again waived and returned to the Seahawks practice squad to sign as the punt specialist. Considering the lack of depth at running back on Seattle’s current roster, he could play a larger role than expected this season if the injury plague in Seattle moves from the wide receivers to the running backs. Forsett scored 15 touchdowns in his final season at Cal after sitting behind J.J. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch for most of his time there.

Kregg Lumpkin – Green Bay Packers
With a name like that, what else could you be but a running back? Lumpkin started to gain some ground on the Green Bay depth chart just before he injured his hamstring early last season. With Ryan Grant looking more human and less like the hero he was in 2007, it’s possible the Packers give guys like Lumpkin and Brandon Jackson more opportunities in 2009. I don’t expect Grant to lose his job, but if Lumpkin gave it his all, he might jump over Jackson on the depth chart.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis – New England Patriots
The man we so lovingly called “Law Firm” in 2008 is likely to find himself back on the sidelines as we enter the 2009 season, but while he may be gone, he should not be forgotten. Green-Ellis, like many other Patriot backs, was successful when given the opportunity. If Laurence Maroney fails again this season, which is likely, Green-Ellis might even get another chance to work his way into the rotation for Bill Belichick.

Wild Card Weekend, Part 1: Saturday’s Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Here we are in the postseason, and just because the regular season is over, that doesn’t mean your fantasy football season has to come to and end.

Before we dive into our offseason coverage on how to make you a better fantasy football player and more attractive to the opposite sex, we’ll be covering the playoffs “game preview” style and starting with this week’s Wild Card Weekend.

In fact, I’ll be playing the ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge just to satisfy the itch for a few more weeks. You have no idea how good a hit it is…

I’d offer prizes, but then I would have to give something away — and didn’t we just do enough of that this holiday season. As a worthy substitute, you could consider joining up with the Bruno Boys’ league and stealing some of their prized booty.

Now, on to the previews … that’s why you’re here anyway, not for the Booty.

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals

Holy crap! The Buzzsaw in the postseason IN Arizona — and they barely sold enough tickets. I am not sure who takes this game. I know the Cardinals have the horrible playoff reputation and the shaky games as of late, but if you don’t think that Anquan Boldin is going to be head slamming people to make a playoff win happen, then you just don’t respect your facial bones.

You have to love Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin here in what could be a high-scoring affair. Matt Ryan won’t be a slouch, but rookie quarterbacks don’t have a good record in the playoffs.

Michael Turner is the best lock there is in this game — and I’m starting him. If Atlanta does get the win, it will be because of Turner. The Cardinals could let him go off early in the game even if the Falcons don’t get to control the clock with a lead in the second half.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a risky situation at running back with Edgerrin James likely to get a start and Tim Hightower vulturing touchdowns. I’d take James if you need a yardage guy, but I’m not sure you can bet on the Cardinals scoring enough on the ground to make Hightower a good play.

If it came down to salary cap, I’d pay the price for Turner and Warner if you can afford it. More power to you if you can afford to grab Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald, but I dislike the probability that one goes off in spite of the other. They are two-headed receiving beast, and it’s hard to pick just one.

Roddy White makes a great bargain since we know he’ll be targeted quite a bit by the rookie QB and faces a Cardinals defense always ready to give up the big play — even to Tarvaris Jackson. White’s good for at least one score, and he’s more of a sure thing than the Arizona receivers.

I’m projecting this one ends up on the over rather than the under — currently set at an over/under of 51 points. If you can get your hands on any of these guys, I’d do it. There probably won’t be much kicking in this one, but Jason Elam and Neil Rackers should see a little short action when drives are stalled short of a score. I’d lean towards Elam.

And, obviously, I wouldn’t look to start either of these teams on defense this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

It’s actually a good thing that this game is away. Even though the Colts looked more at home in their new stadium late in the season, it’s not quite the comfort zone it should be yet, and they already beat the Chargers in San Diego once at h this year. Now, they just have to go back and do it again.

In the first matchup, it was a close contest decided by a game-ending kick from Adam Vinatieri. The Chargers just left too much time on the clock when they tied it up and gave the ball back to Peyton Manning. It’ll probably look a lot similar tonight.

The Chargers, a quarterback-friendly team this year, just don’t have enough on defense to stop Peyton Manning on a game-winning drive. His will should be the deciding factor.

That said, Peyton Manning is probably the best fantasy bet you can take this postseason with Rivers just slightly behind him. Both quarterbacks have gone off several times this season, but Manning has the Chargers defense in his favor and a hot streak on his way into the playoffs.

The Colts defense, while questionable, is pretty good against the pass, and they could at least encourage San Diego to take a different approach.

The Chargers will probably look to LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles to support their efforts and keep Manning off the field, so I like both of them. For salary cap purposes, I’d actually go with a bargain in Darren Sproles, who had two touchdowns to L.T.’s three in the season finale against the Broncos. Sproles’ explosiveness is worth betting on for the price he’ll run you.

UPDATE: With news breaking of L.T.’s injury, Sproles looks like an even better play. L.T. will still make a go of it, but it’s hard to say how much he will be able to do. Looks unlikely that he’ll be a big factor.

The Colts backs are not nearly as valuable. There are too many question marks around Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to trust them. Even when Addai starts, Rhodes sometimes gets the scores. I’d avoid them if you can.

As far as the receivers, I like Reggie Wayne, of course, and Vincent Jackson just a slight bit less. From there, it gets iffy. I’d rather have Dallas Clark than any other tight end in the playoffs at this point, even over Antonio Gates or Bo Scaife, once the Titans start playing.

Again, there’s not much to bet on with these two defenses. The Colts are questionable and the Chargers are not trustworthy. With such a selection of defenses playing tomorrow, it’d be better to choose between Miami or Baltimore in what should be a contest decided by who plays the most mistake-free football.

With an over/under of 50 in this game as well, it’s a safe bet to go with Colts and Chargers offensive studs when you can get your hands on them. Manning should be worth the price, and Rivers is a decent substitute if the commercial buckethead is out of your price range.

Adam Vinatieri is a good choice at kicker, but other options like David Akers and Ryan Longwell look good for tomorrow’s games as well. It is, as always, a toss up at kicker. Flip a coin, throw a dart at the board and then just pick one.

The good thing about salary caps in playoff fantasy football is that you can just use however much money you have left over for your kicker after you’ve put together your team. Easy call.

On the Wire: Week 16 Pickups and Playoff One-offs

If you’re still playing fantasy football, your roster should be locked up pretty tight. Why are you even reading this article?

For the sake of those of you with injuries and/or in need of a weekly sub to blow away your heavily favored opponent, I guess I can still give you a few names that might be out there on your wire if your league is just very, very silly.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints
Obviously, he should be owned in all leagues by now, especially after posting his high score last week, but he’s worth mentioning since he plays the Lions this week.

Make sure he’s not sitting on the wire when you go into your games tonight. Do it for me, okay? For me.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s gotten back on the wagon these last few weeks and done some damage. Can you trust him in the playoffs? I think he might be worth a spot fill here or there when you need him, but it’s very likely you can do better, Mr. Playoffs. Cadillac benefits a bit because he plays two teams who are done for the season these next two weeks, the Chargers and the Raiders.

If you’re in the kind of keeper league that only requires you to rank waiver wire grabs as a 10th round or later selections, it might also be a sneaky play to snag Caddy in anticipation of his role next season. Fully healthy, Cadillac should reclaim the starting role from Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers
Foster is only a factor if Frank Gore sits again this week, but how nice would it be to have a running back going against the Rams?

He might trump your starter if you have someone like Marion Barber, banged up and facing a rough Baltimore defense.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts
I don’t love him this week with Joseph Addai likely to return against Jacksonville on Thursday night, but he’s definitely the preferred back for the scoring. The Colts, they like the scoring.

P.J. Pope, RB Denver Broncos
Shanahan strikes again! [Evil laugh] I wouldn’t want to touch Pope this week, but you might pick him up just for the sake of preventing your opponent taking a chance with him … and beating you.

Pope does play the Bills, who are pretty much done for the season now, and almost any back can productive when defenses have to focus on stopping Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Jay Cutler.

Note that since I didn’t mention him, Tatum Bell will dominate as the leading rusher on Sunday while Pope gets only a handful of carries — such is the Broncos backfield.

Tarvaris Jackson, QB Minnesota Vikings
So here’s the deal. Tarvaris came back on the scene last week as a suspect play against the Cardinals and absolutely blew the game out of the water with four touchdowns. Not a lot of yardage on the day, but really, you should quit complaining.

This week, the little project quarterback that could faces the Atlanta Falcons, who are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. Even with a weak secondary, the Falcons are probably going to step up to stop Jackson, but there’s always a chance…

Matt Schaub, QB Houston Texans
For a good while there, he was hurt. How many 300-yard games must he have before you take notice?

If Schaub is on your waiver wire, you need to have him on a roster. He gets the Raiders this week with the potential for rain, but if the skies are clear, Schaub could fill them with passes just as Matt Cassel did in Week 15 against the Raiders.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
Second only to picking up a running back that plays the Rams is grabbing yourself a quarterback that plays the Rams.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
Did everyone in your league give up on him during that stretch of worthlessness? He’s been pretty productive lately since Kyle Orton’s return, so I wouldn’t call you names for playing him this week against the Packers. No, really, I promise.

He might be better than the guy you’ve been starting at WR2 or WR3 like an unreliable Lee Evans.

Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks
Branch is another pickup/drop guy that’s been on and off teams all season.

If you find him “off” and in the free agent pool at the moment, you might want to at least plant him on a roster this weekend so that he doesn’t help your opponent’s team with some yardage or, heaven forbid, a score against the Jets.

For all other issues of replacement or swaps, ask and ye shall receive (in the comments).

Foolish Thoughts on Week 15: I’m all out of love, so lost without you

It was hard to bring my thoughts together between fits of extreme sobbing after watching all the football games in a very serious, totally masculine way this weekend.

Yes, I lost at Nick’s hands this week, one game away from the championship … in a game where I was “projected” to win by 50 points.

Thank you, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans and Brian Westbrook for dropping the ball when I needed you most.

I could blame Peyton Manning for managing only one touchdown against the Lions or Matt Forte for being just gimpy enough after a slight injury to barely crack double digits, but I’m still too happy with both of them this season. Forte was the best pick I made in the draft this year, and Manning reclaimed the title of “The Better Manning” … and, therefore, shoved the lesser Elisha Manning back down a notch, where he belongs.

Going into Monday night’s Eagles-Browns showdown, I needed 35+ points from Brian Westbrook and no-name tight end Steve Heiden, backing up the injured Kellen Winslow for the Browns (and my fantasy team). If Westbrook could get another 30 points against the Browns, maybe Heiden could get me those last critical points by catching a garbage-time touchdown or catching a few escape passes from the not-so-Brady-Quinn-esque Ken Dorsey as he ran for his life. I mean, the Eagles do have a little problem covering tight ends. It’s possible.

Sadly, not only did Westbrook do a whole lot of nothing in this one because Andy Reid obviously reads things I say about him, but Heiden was carted off the field with an injury after catching zero passes for zero yards. As the cart went off the field, so did my season in my primary fantasy league (the one with the biggest trophy).

Losing when you are so close to the prize just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. As a guy, it’s sort of like hearing that some famous female celebrity is becoming one of those every-man’s-fantasy lesbians and then discovering that her hot hookup partner is this thing.

Now, that’s just disappointing.

But alas, it’s no shocker that the prohibitive favorite loses out in the playoffs. There’s always an Antonio Bryant, a Tarvaris Jackson or a Dominic Rhodes waiting in the wings to blow up the top seeds in the playoffs.

Just look at what the Giants did in the playoffs last season. If you knew who was going to win, we wouldn’t play them.

That’s actually why the NFL is considering canceling the rest of the Detroit Lions’ games. We all know how they are going to go.

Even though Peyton Manning was less than explosive against the Lions on Sunday, Dallas Clark had a huge game for his fantasy owners with 142 yards and a score. It looks like he’s ramping up for fantasy owners in the playoffs.

I guess he really is that awesome…

The one bright spot of this weekend was the Cowboys-Giants game, the drama unfolding on the big Sunday Night Football stage. Just like Plaxico Burress, it seems the Giants are shooting themselves in the leg this season when it matters most, and, as a true Cowboys fan, I was happy to see that the Cowboys showed up to play.

After a week of intense “what did Terrell Owens say now” stories plastered all over ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to flop. That didn’t happen and now their hot story of the week seems to have blown up in their hands.

I’m really no T.O. lover. I’m sort of indifferent to him until the press about a guy gets to a roaring buzz — so basically, the same way I feel about Brett Favre.

I think blaming him for any Cowboys loss, regardless of how politically correct his postgame interviews are, is getting old. Especially after the press tour he seems to have gone on to clear his name, it’s hard not to take his side.

Ed Werder doesn’t seem like the kind of journalist who would fabricate a story, but I wonder why he didn’t try to get a quote from T.O. about the words that were being put into the wide receiver’s mouth by an anonymous source before going public with the story.

When he does say something about his teammates or quarterback, T.O.’s never been one to cover it up.

At least the drama is coming to a close for now, and I think that T.O. and Ed Werder will make up.

T.O. reportedly sent Werder a famous Japanese foot massager as a peace offering.

On quarterbacks
Who would have thought that the leading scorers at quarterback in Week 15 would be Matt Cassel, Tarvaris Jackson, David Garrard and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That, my friends, is magical.

On “Freedom” running backs
Pierre Thomas is legit. Looks like the Saints will be chunking the Deuce this offseason for their hot, new French toy.

Thomas had his way with the Bears defense on Thursday night while the Bears’ running backs struggled to do anything against the Saints. I fear what he can do this week against the Lions.

His only competition is Reggie Bush, who can’t stay on the field for an entire NFL season due to badunkadunk. Besides, Bush’s only a pretend running back anyway.

Since that’s about all I have to say about the French, here’s a message from the “That’s a country?” video collection.

And yes, France is a country.

If you currently own Pierre Thomas, you might be smarter than a fifth grader.

On finding meaning this holiday season
James Jones going off against the Jaguars might be a sign — not for this week or next week but for next season as Donald Driver heads closer and closer to Marvin Harrison-ism.

On the other hand, Dennis Northcutt’s big game means nothing. It’s one of those warmest-body-on-the-field games.

Do you know who Johnnie Lee Higgins is? Big arm + playmaking wide receiver = potential. Keep an eye on a kid like this one in Oakland this offseason. Two big games this year leave the door open for a brighter tomorrow.

Maybe Al Davis will sell the team or give up overhead projector firings. You never know.

On Pro Bowl “picks”
First of all, the Pro Bowl rosters would make for one hell of a fantasy team. I salivated just reading the names of the backups, but Brett Favre? The pick master is one of the league’s best?

As much as I dislike him, where’s the Philip Rivers love? Even the Pro Bowl needs a crier.

Five Backups Worth Owning in the Playoffs

If you’re in the playoffs, your team should be pretty strong, but injuries and/or a Week 17 championship game might soon leave you hurting for some unlikely names.

Backups who haven’t seen any action this season are much more important, and you might find yourself saving your season or winning in Week 17 by getting some backups on your roster now. Here are a few backups that could be big factors in these final weeks.

Byron Leftwich, QB Pittsburgh Steelers (@BAL, @TEN, CLE)
Ben Roethlisberger has taken a lot of hits this year, and he gets to end the season against two of the toughest defenses in the league. Since his offensive line a stinky pile of worthlessness, it’s not unlikely that Big Ben takes the big hit that knocks him out for a game or two.

Leftwich has shown he can be effective in the Steelers offense coming in for Big Ben this season, and he could do some damage against a done-for-the-season Cleveland if he were to get the call in Week 17.

Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals (MIN, @NE, SEA)
Kurt Warner has been amazing this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s invincible. He’s been known to get injured, and even if he’s mostly healthy, he might get benched quite a bit the last couple of weeks of the season since the Cardinals have their playoff spot locked up already.

If the Vikings deal him a big blow this week, Leinart should have good games against a poor New England secondary and a finished Seattle secondary. Hey, how can you do badly with a pretty boy face and one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL?

Darren Sproles, San Diego Chargers (@KC, @TB, DEN)
LaDainian Tomlinson has had a terrible season, and the Chargers are out of the playoff hunt. Even though L.T. faces two of the weaker defenses in the league and a questionable Bucs squad in the final weeks, Sproles could play a larger role as the coaches let L.T. rest and see more out of their younger back.

Brandon Jackson, Green Bay Packers (@JAX, @CHI, DET)
Ryan Grant has struggled this season. With no reason to push Grant and the incentives of his contract, the Packers might rather see more of Brandon Jackson in the final games of the season.

Whether Grant sits or not, playing Detroit in Week 17 could allow for both running backs to have big days. Keep your eye on how much Grant is used against Jacksonville to see whether the carries begin to shift into Jackson’s hand.

Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts (DET, @JAX, TEN)
This one is sort of a gimme. With Joseph Addai banged up, Rhodes has already seen some work this season, and it’s likely that he starts this week against the Lions.

Obviously, he’d make a good start against Jacksonville as well and, as much as the Colts score when they’re at full speed, a half decent play for the Titans in Week 17 since the Titans will already have the division secured. Rhodes should be owned in all leagues, and he’s already a good start for this week.

If you have questionable starters or don’t know how to utilize your last few bench spots in these crucial playoff weeks, you should consider getting yourself some backups. If nothing else, you can block your opponents from rebuilding their team if they suffer some injuries in these final weeks.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 11: There’s no tying in football

There’s no tying in football. None. You only get one sudden death overtime, and if no team can manage to score a single point, you’re done.

It’s bad enough that Andy Reid and the Eagles have a hard time managing the clock, but before taking the field to come away even with one of the worst teams in the NFL, did no one on the sidelines discuss that the game would be over at the end of the first overtime? You know, a tie?

I think knowing that they only had a few precious minutes to score would have come in handy when the Eagles were letting the time tick by, but maybe Andy Reid was just as tired of watching the miserable performance as we were.

Left guard Todd Herremans said hearing the referee declare the game a tie was an odd experience.

“I’ve never tied before. Definitely a strange feeling,” Herremans said. “Empty. It feels like the game’s unfinished. Neither team is happy with a tie.”

I’ll tell you what made me feel empty and strange, watching Brian Westbrook collect just 60 rushing yards against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Please tell me why the Eagles would suddenly decide that their passing game was the answer against a team that is top-10 against the pass and in the bottom 10 against the run?

I should have spent the afternoon learning how to play the theremin.

Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t doing it for the Vikings during the first two weeks of the season and saw the bench so that the Vikings could give an older, wiser, smarter quarterback, Gus Frerotte, a shot.

Now that we’re halfway through the season with ol’ Gus, maybe they should go back to Tarvaris. Frerotte’s scoring in the end zone, but he’s still not a fantasy-worthy QB with nine picks in his last five games. Those Super Bowl predictions for the Vikings before this season were terribly misguided.

Why wasn’t anyone talking about the Cardinals instead? Oh yeah.

While you guys were busy salivating over Tyler Thigpen, Shaun Hill made his run at being the best backup quarterback to come in for the second half of the season. He made a pretty good case for himself with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown against the Rams…in the first half.

Thiggy and Hill could save several fantasy teams here at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Both will probably be passing quite a bit in Weeks 14, 15 and 16.

The top quarterbacks from Week 11 are Matt Cassel, Shaun Hill and Kerry Collins. How messed up is that? Very.

Kurt Warner and Jay Cutler were supposed to amaze this week, but both QBs found other ways to win while having mediocre fantasy days. Thanks, jerks.

Even worse than the QB ranks for this week, the wide receiver ranks feature Justin Gage as the leading scorer. If every team tries to take away the Titans running game from here on out, the fantasy production on that team could flip to the passing game.

I’m not saying that I would pick up any of the Titans receivers, but it might be worth watching if you are sitting on a bunch of deadbeats at receiver.

Email I just received from Joseph Addai:

Well, hello there, everyone. Just wanted to let you know that I am back. Hope you enjoyed watching me go crazy on the Texans. You better not have benched me to wait and see what I would do! The rushing schedule from here looks fantastic.

Email I received minutes later from Ryan Grant:

What he said. Me, too. kthxbai.

Peyton Hillis got two touchdowns in his first appearance as the primary back for Denver. If you have to bet on a horse out of the Broncos’ stables of misfortune, he looks like the one to take.

Tatum Bell was seen eyeing Hillis’ bags after the game but decided to steal all of Selvin Young’s underwear instead.

The real story of the week was the kid drafted in the sixth round out of Arizona, Spencer Larsen, who goes both ways.

No, really, he started on both offense and defense as Denver’s middle linebacker and fullback. What did you think I was saying?

In fact, he started on special teams as well, so I guess that means that he went three ways. No comment.

The Dallas Cowboys at least have a little fire in them now that Romo has returned, but Marion Barber is the real gear that turned to get them a win in Washington last night. Going forward, they’ll have to develop the passing game, but owners of Tony Romo and Terrell Owens are going to have to wait a little longer.

If you own the Steelers defense, you’re probably really pissed that the forward pass penalty nullified the last-second fumble recovery for a touchdown. The refs are now saying it should have counted, but even if the NFL changes the score, will your fantasy system/site update the Steelers D/ST points?

Sometimes these things get left “as is” for fantasy owners if a change isn’t made until after Monday night. I expect some controversy to come out of this one, and I want my six points!

Looking ahead at Monday night, I only have one question. Which QB will look the worst: Miss Brady Quinn or Trent “Too Smart for His Own Consciousness” Edwards?

Can’t wait to find out.

On the Wire: Week 11 Pickups and Waiver Wire Veterans from Week 10

By now, your season may be over, but there’s no reason to start cutting players like the Raiders unless they are still underperforming. Now is the time to grab up all those players the teams that beat up on you want to cripple them for their playoff run! That’s right. Bitterness breeds competition.

Of course, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, you should be a little more responsible, but for the re-drafters out there, let the bitter waves of hate flow.

Here’s a few guys that might help you in the playoffs or help you assist you in hoarding talent from your worthy adversaries.

Worth Claiming

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City Chiefs — Of all the backup quarterbacks starting this season, Thiggy might be the best of the bunch. He’s worth mentioning again. He has six touchdowns and 710 yards in his last three starts, and the Chiefs are running a large majority of plays from the shotgun. Is this still a running team?

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns — I’ve also mentioned Quinn previously, but if you passed on him in his first start, he proved himself with two touchdowns and no turnovers in his first start last Thursday. I don’t think he’ll win games for you down the stretch with a touch Week 13-15 schedule, but his efficient passing should beef up Kellen Winslow’s stats and keep him in the middle of the road as a fantasy quarterback.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — To prevent you from having to go back to last week’s “On the Wire,” we’ll just complete the trifecta of quarterback options after Week 10. Hill had two touchdowns, a pair of interceptions, a fumble and 217 passing yards in this debut, but his turnovers were not as bad as they seem. His two interceptions came when the Arizona defense intensified in fourth quarter at home, and the fumble was caused by a bad snap that was knocked loose by a bumbling guard behind the line. His ability to avoid sacks and make plays will keep him fantasy-worthy in the upcoming games in which the 49ers will have to pass to stay competitive.

Ladell Betts, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright, RB Washington Redskins — Don’t hate me now if you didn’t trade away Portis when I suggested he was an injury risk. It sounds like Clinton Portis has a painful MCL tear that is preventing him from even straightening his leg, so expect him to be limited or out against the Cowboys. Betts would be the favorite to fill in for Port, but he’s been banged up as well and might not be good enough to return despite what Jim Zorn is saying. If that were the case, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright would probably share the carries. If you’re a Portis owner, I’d snag Betts just to be cautious moving forward.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — “Law Firm” has overtaken the power back role in Sammy Morris’ absence with 100+ yards and a score in Week 10, and even with LaMont Jordan threatening to return, I see him having some flex value until Morris is ready to get back on the field. Add him if you need depth at running back, but you might not start him until fantasy playoffs (Jets, Dolphins, Steelers in next three weeks).

Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders — So Fargas is not completely dead, but the Raiders failing offense is going to limit his ceiling. He had 80+ yards in a garbage game against Carolina. Michael Bush has about the same value as the No. 2 back and getting about the same amount of yardage. Both of them make decent flex plays or low-end No. 2 options against weaker run defenses until Darren McFadden returns from injury.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — Riding the Thigpen train to success, we can safely say that Bradley is a legitimate No. 2 receiver beside Dwayne Bowe. He had nine catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers this past week. He may be the third read behind Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, but he has a touchdown in each of his last three games, even if he did throw one of them. The schedule looking forward makes him very claim-worthy (Saints, Bills, Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins).

Peyton Hillis and Tatum Bell, RB Denver Broncos — If you were, heaven forbid, starting a Denver running back, these two are the flavors of the week. Bell has just been signed but knows the system, and Hillis had 24 yards after Ryan Torain was injured Thursday night. No one knows how ol’ leather-faced Shanahan is going to handle this one, but I’d rather have Hillis than Bell at the moment because of his versatility.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs are excited about Williams’ return, and they should be. Both Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn are still licking wounds. If you can afford the bench room to hold on to him for this week against the Vikings, Williams is worth claiming to see how he factors into the Bucs’ running game. Only a Week 14 Panthers matchup stands in the way of a return to fantasy relevance in the final games of this season. (Note for the fantasy n00bs: “Cadillac” is also known as Carnell Williams.)

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants — A touchdown in each of his last three games is enough for me to be sold on the Shockey filler. Boss should have even had two touchdowns if he had caught the ball. Obviously, Manning is looking for him in the red zone, so you should, too.

Matt Spaeth, TE Pittsburgh Steelers — He’s merely a fill for an injured Heath Miller, but the Steelers haven’t been putting enough emphasis on utilizing the tight end position this season. This week gives him some added value as the Steelers face the tight-end-friendly Chargers, but I only endorse him as a one-week play or a sleeper grab.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets — Keller was hot to start the season and then fell off the map. If you held on to him, he finally had his biggest game of the season with six catches, 100+ yards and a score. We know how Brett Favre likes to use the tight ends, so a hot streak after this game wouldn’t surprise me.

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons — He’s doing well in just his first year and has a great schedule for passing to end the season.

Kevin Smith, RB Detroit Lions — Despite Rudi Johnson’s brief interruption, Kevin Smith is still the back you want from Detroit, even if the schedule is garbage for rushing until the fantasy playoffs. He collected 96 yards and a score against the Jaguars.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — Williams was actually the better back with 100+ yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks, but most of his yardage came off one big play run out of the Wildcat formation with Ronnie Brown. He’ll continue to see his fair share of looks in the easy matchups to come.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts — It appears that the Colts will continue to give Rhodes carries even with Joseph Addai in the lineup. He’s got some depth and flex value with the easy running matchups left on the Colts schedule. If it’s true that Addai reaggravated his injury, Rhodes could be huge in the coming weeks.

Lance Moore, WR New Orleans Saints — The third-year receiver continues to catches even with the return of Marques Colston and had 76 yards and a score against Atlanta this past week.

Malcom Floyd, WR San Diego Chargers — The backup that won’t go away! Floyd has had his days while Chris Chambers is out with injury. If Chambers remains out, he could be a favorite long-ball target for Philip Rivers (after the pass-hating Steelers this week, of course).

Josh Morgan, WR San Francisco 49ers — He got his second touchdown and some job security Monday night and is likely to see a lot of looks come his way as the 49ers enter a favorable passing schedule.

Ones to Watch

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans — The Titans’ strength is in the running game, but they proved that they could throw the ball as well with Collins in Week 10. If teams can stop the run like the Bears did, Collins is capable of having fantasy-worthy stats, and it’s likely that will happen against the Jets and possibly the Jags in the next two weeks. I’d rather have someone more dependable like Thigpen or Shaun Hill though.

Justin Gage and Brandon Jones, WR Tennessee Titans — Jones and Gage are completely dependent upon Collins, but they could be worth desperation grabs if you have no depth at wide receiver. Gage is the more reliable option, but Bo Scaife, as a tight end, still gets most of the receptions on this team.

Jason Hill, WR San Francisco 49ers — When backup quarterbacks get promoted to the starting squad, they don’t forget the second-string receivers they worked out with at the beginning of the year. Enter Jason Hill, who had seven catches for 84 yards on Monday night against the Cardinals and came just short of a touchdown. He’s more of a possession guy, but he’s definitely got chemistry with the new quarterback.

Mark Clayton, WR Baltimore Ravens — If Derrick Mason missed time, Clayton could step up into his shoes as a productive receiver for Joe Flacco.

Jerry Porter, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — Porter has his first touchdown in Week 10 and could stand to gain when Matt Jones is suspended, but is that every going to happen? He’ll have to prove he’s coming along in this offense in future weeks to be worthy of an add.

Shaun McDonald, WR Detroit Lions — McDonald inherited the starting role opposite Calvin Johnson when Roy Williams was traded, but it’s hard to do much with it without a reliable quarterback. He’s had his ups and downs. If the Lions get the passing game in order, McDonald could see more action since we know the Lions will be behind in the tough matchups to come.

Ignoring

Todd Heap, TE Baltimore Ravens — His two touchdowns both came in the fourth quarter of a blowout, and one even came from the backup quarterback, Troy Smith. I don’t rely on a guy like Heap unless he shows consistency, and this game was the only fantasy-worthy one he’s had all season. Do it again, you heap of…

Droppables

Don’t flush all your talent, but if you’re looking to trim the fat on your team, these guys might not be waiting on for you. Of course, you can always run drops by me in the comments if you can’t make the call between a new waiver wire gem and your current benchwarmer.

Jeremy Shockey, TE New Orleans Saints — Brees is not relying on Shockey when they need a play as long as Billy Miller is around, and Shockey doesn’t even look like the best tight end of his team. He can’t stay healthy, and unless you have no need at any other position, I wouldn’t even carry him as a backup tight end at this point.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys — He’s about to return from his hamstring injury, but he’s also one of those players who relies on the big play to produce in fantasy. If you have managed without him, I doubt you’ll need him with only two more starts that look promising (49ers, Seahawks).

Week 8 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

There’s a lot of hotness this week, and many players not on a bye might have their best performance of the season for you. My favorite starts are Willis McGahee against Oakland and Chris Johnson against the Colts but even Cedric Benson might break 100 yards this week. Cedric Benson — let that sink in for a second.

As usual, these are just a few players you may not think about starting every week who are bound to do well (Hot Hands), have question marks (Bubble Boys) or fall short of expectations (Cold Shoulders). Start or sit your guys accordingly, and feel free to throw more detailed lineup questions in the comments.

I’ll have answers for all the comments on Saturday night.

Hot Hands

Jason Campbell, QB Redskins vs. Lions — Come on, he plays the Lions. That screams, “Insert giant fantasy week here.”

Donovan McNabb, QB Eagles vs. Falcons — Despite his struggles, he gets his favorite target from last year, Kevin Curtis, back this week to add to the firepower of DeSean Jackson and a gimpy but likely to play Reggie Brown. On the road, I wouldn’t doubt that the Falcons defense lets McNabb have a couple of scores.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Cardinals — Delhomme is back on track, and when Delhomme and Steve Smith are in sync, they are one of the most dangerous QB/WR duos in the game. At home, the Panthers should tear it up on both sides of the ball. Delhomme has five touchdowns in three career games against the Cardinals.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Browns — The Browns’ pass defense is better than expected, but Garrard was on a roll and comes back from a bye. His legs should keep him effective even if he is without his best receivers.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills vs. Dolphins — The Dolphins run defense should slow Marshawn Lynch. Luckily, Lee Evans likes to score touchdowns against the Dolphins, and Edwards should help him out with that.

Thomas Jones, RB Jets vs. Chiefs — It’s Jones’ turn to play “Red Rover” with the Chiefs (as long as he is not too tired from blowing apart Oakland last week). The Chiefs aren’t stopping anybody. Leon Washington could even fill a spot for you this week.

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Raiders — While the secondary is hit-or-miss this season, the Raiders run defense is consistent, consistently worthless. McGahee should build on his fantasy debut in Miami with a solid 2007-like week of destruction against Oakland.

Chris Johnson and LenDale White, RB Titans vs. Colts — The Colts can’t stop it even though they’re desperate for a win here. Forced to choose between the two, I’d start Johnson first.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Bengals — Ah, Bengals. Drool. Might be the last hoorah for Slaton owners though. After he has a big day, sell, sell, sell!

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Chargers — We get to see what the Deuce he can do without Reggie Bush acting as a distraction. While his carries won’t increase much, he should have more of an impact. The Chargers are terrible at stopping the pass this year, so while they are middle-of-the-road against the run, I’d expect McAllister to have a couple of chances to score a short-yardage touchdown.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Browns — Jags are coming off a bye and face the 26th-ranked run defense. Fred Taylor isn’t a bad bet to have a good week, but Jones-Drew could see more carries if Taylor is held back because of his concussion. Regardless, the Jags are sure to hit the 140+ yards that the Browns allow each game.

Cedric Benson, RB Bengals vs. Texans — Let’s get crazy. Benson could finally justify his place as the starter in Cincinnati if he can run through the Texans. It’ll be on him to provide enough of a distraction for Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to make the big plays.

Josh Morgan, WR 49ers vs. Seahawks — If you missed the waiver wire rec for this guy, correct that mistake. The fact that Morgan returned to put up great numbers against the Giants makes me giddy about the possibilities for him this week against the Seahawks. I’m already thinking up nicknames — suggestions accepted. Another big day here cements him ahead of Isaac Bruce as the guy to own in San Francisco. Obviously, he’s not the next Colston just yet, but as a WR3 or even WR2, Morgan has huge upside this late in the season. It doesn’t get much better than the 49ers passing schedule from here on out.

Marques Colston, WR Saints vs. Chargers — The British are just what Colston needs to get back on track. He was a little off in Week 7, but forgive him already. Unless conditions are terrible, the passing should go off in this overseas shootout, and Colston should shine like a beacon of fantasy goodness. The Chargers give up more than 250 yards through the air on average — worst in the NFL.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Patriots — The New England defense isn’t that great; in fact, their secondary has looked pretty terrible. The Broncos were just more terrible last Monday night. Avery should continue to be a deep threat.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Falcons — A big day for McNabb means a big day for Jackson. McNabb won’t forget about him just because Kevin Curtis is back.

Jeremy Shockey, TE Saints vs. Chargers — Even if he is cleared to play, I think Shockey might be limited again this week. Keep an eye on the injury reports. Start him if he’s your best option, but I might look elsewhere if he’s not at full speed.

Zach Miller, TE Raiders vs. Ravens — When JaMarcus Russell is running for his life against the Ravens blitz, Miller is the dump man. He puts that on his business card: “The Dump Man.”

New York Jets D/ST vs. Chiefs — There’s potential for a shutout in this one. The Jets are strong against the run, Larry Johnson is sitting, the Chiefs are down to Thigpen at QB and they are in the Jets’ house. Look away. This one could be brutal.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Titans — If this game was in Indianapolis, I might still consider playing Manning, but this game is NOT in Indianapolis. Manning is screwed. That’s pretty much the way it goes. He goes from suffering against Green Bay to facing the toughest defense in the NFL. I give him a bubble because…well, if the Colts want to get back on track, Manning has to win this one with his arm.

Brett Favre, QB Jets vs. Chiefs — Will there be anything left for Favre to do when Thomas Jones gets done?

Jeff Garcia, QB Bucs vs. Cowboys — It’s not like you’re starting him every week, but you might be considering Garcia for a second round after he helped you out last week by tearing up Seattle. Call me a homer, but I have several reasons to justify putting Garcia on the bubble: 1) The Cowboys are in back-against-the-wall mode and in danger of missing the playoffs. The pass rush could come to play and compensate for the terrible secondary. 2) If it goes the other way, Brad Johnson and Dallas’ broken offense could turn the ball over enough for pick-six scores to keep Garcia off the field. Tampa leads the league in picks. 3) Joey Galloway, if he does return, is not getting his old job at split-end back from Antonio Bryant. Therefore, no huge boost to the WR corps. 4) The Bucs are likely to be without foggy-headed Ike Hilliard. That’s not a huge blow, but he was a red zone target. 5) My gut — my Cowboy-loving gut just doesn’t like it. Take it or leave it.

Brian Westbrook, RB Eagles vs. Falcons — You can’t really give a guy like Westbrook the week off just to see how he’s coming back from that injury, but he could easily be splitting his value with Correll Buckhalter against the Falcons. If whatever you’ve been doing while Westbrook was out besides slapping yourself to feel whole again will work this week, I’d consider it. Still, if he comes off the injury report clean, he’s in my lineup.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Bills — The Dolphins will have to add another wrinkle to the ‘Wildcat’ to keep it going against the Bills.

Joey Galloway, WR Bucs vs. Cowboys — Oh, happy fun time! Galloway is finally back and ready to run on those 60-year-old legs of his. Before you get too giddy, here’s what I know: Galloway might not get his starting job back from Antonio Bryant and, therefore, could be playing the slot this week. That’s, of course, only if he is healthy enough to play. I’m not sure how he will be used, so I’m not sure I love him enough.

Chad Johnson, WR Bengals vs. Texans — The weak passing defense in Houston could allow Chad Johnson to find a hole. He scored against the Steelers. It feels like it might be one of those weeks where Ocho Cinco shows up, but I’d still only play him as a WR3 or low-end WR2.

Kevin Curtis, WR Eagles vs. Falcons — I know you are starting him if you just picked him up this week, but keep in mind that this game will be his first of the season. He’ll be rusty but possibly more awesome than any receiver you were going to start otherwise. Can you afford to have rust on your starting roster? Can you afford NOT to have rust?

Cold Shoulders

Matt Ryan, QB Falcons vs. Eagles – I’m not sure why you would be considering it, but Ryan may fall off the rookie rise this week when the Eagles blitz him like he’s coated in sugar. He’ll probably hit Roddy White, but I’d look to your usual starter this week unless their matchup is this dirty as well.

Brad Johnson, QB Cowboys vs. Bucs – I have my doubts about the Cowboys this week. I’d be surprised if an aging backup was able to do well against a defense that has stifled almost every QB in the league. I don’t expect good things from Johnson or the Cowboys’ passing game even though I will be rooting for them.

Eli Manning, QB Giants vs. Steelers — I don’t like his chances against the bruising Steeler defense (at home). I don’t feel confident enough in Eli to recommend starting his this week with his recent struggles.

All Oakland RBs (Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush), RB Raiders vs. Ravens — Not only should you sit all your Oakland RBs, you might want to trade them now. The Ravens have been taking RBs out left and right this season, and any one or all (see: Pittsburgh Steelers) of the Raiders backs could go down in this game if they have a bounty on their head.

Michael Turner, RB Falcons vs. Eagles — He hasn’t played well against tough run defenses. Guess what Philly is? And to make it worse, they are coming off a bye. It won’t be a good week, but at least you’ll know he tried.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Colts vs. Titans — The Titans do more than one thing well, but the one thing they really like to do best is stop the run. They’re in the top 10 of every defensive category and No. 1 in points allowed. Rhodes was a bright spot last week against the Packers, but he won’t be able to carry the Colts in this one.

Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore, RB Steelers vs. Giants — Even if Willie Parker returns, this matchup is not promising. It’s likely that Moore and Parker will still share time, and HALF of a bad day isn’t worth starting.

Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs vs. Jets — The Jets are fourth in the league against the run. The run is all that Kansas City really has on offense. Uh oh.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Chiefs — I don’t think he shows up for this game either. Nagging health issues make me want to steer clear, but he’s one you could take a chance on if you have nothing better.