On the Wire: Week 8 Pickups, Sleepers, Sadness and Fantasy Basketball

Another critical bye week hits us right where it hurts, in the middle of the season. At least this week provides us with a few more players that have value from now until the end of the season.

If anyone was silly enough not to pick up Miles Austin after I talked about him for the past two weeks and recommended him as a sleeper start this past week, well, there’s always fantasy basketball, right?

Kidding, of course. Don’t do that to yourself.

I played fantasy basketball for one season a couple of years ago, and after several weeks of setting lineups only to discover I was simply filling in active players into slots based on their game schedule, I spent an afternoon setting my roster through the end of the season. I made no pickups, no drops, and no changes for the entire second half.

I finished third.

I’m sure there are more competitive leagues out there with better scoring systems, different lineups and interesting rules, but it just hasn’t caught my eye yet. Sorry, guys.

The fact that fantasy basketball overlaps with fantasy football pretty much rules me out of ever being able to really get into it. I plan on dominating my opponents deep into the NFL season on my way to a championship, there’s no time to check on whether Blake Griffin is back from his injury.

Guys I’ve mentioned before who we won’t get into today but who also might still be on the waiver wire in no particular order: Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys; Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings; Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles; Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders; Andre Caldwell, WR, Bengals; Mike Bell, RB, Saints; Donnie Avery, WR, Rams; Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts; Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos. (If you want to talk about these fools, drop me a line in the comments.)

Hot Claims

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets

Greene wins the top spot because he has the potential to dominate in a nice offense. His yardage and two touchdowns were in mop-up duty in Oakland. He’ll get a few carries to spell Thomas Jones now that Leon Washington is out for the season, but their running styles are so similar that it would take an injury, fall from grace or a   Larry-Johnson-esque Twitter blow up for Jones to give a significant portion of his carries to Greene.

I do like him though when he gets his chance. This rookie has that drive that makes players successful in the NFL. Being gigantisaurus behind one of the best run-blocking lines in football doesn’t hurt either.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

You know, two years ago, a guy in one of my fantasy leagues said that Alex Smith was going to the Super Bowl when he drafted him as his starting quarterback in the late rounds.

It was right off the heels of Frank Gore’s massive season, and this guy, who shall remain nameless, always has a knack for making outrageous claims during fantasy football drafts. Needless to say, he didn’t finish the season with Alex Smith under center.

But Smith looked like a total badass against the Texans on Sunday in leading the 49ers to three scores, all to Vernon Davis. True, he didn’t get the win, but he did win the starting job in San Francisco. Give him a week or two to feel comfortable in the role, and Alex Smith might just live up to expectations. This week’s matchup against the Colts will test his ability to make a play when it counts.

He’s got the weapons with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan. Maybe revival is in the cards for this former first-round pick.

Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Is this Beanie finally awakening to the speed of the NFL? The Cardinals looked to Beanie Wells over Tim Hightower to carry the run game against the Giants this week, and he did. He even notched himself his first NFL score.

It may be a mix of these backs from week to week, but Wells is certainly the most talented in Arizona.

If Beanie can build upon this success, he could be a great add for the second half of the season. The Cardinals have been winning through their defense, and a control-the-clock running game would compliment that very nicely.

Potential Contributors

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Pure potential again here, but with Larry Johnson blowing up about his coach’s experience on Twitter and general habit of getting himself (and the ladies) into trouble, I think it’s a good bet we see more of Charles in the coming weeks.

From his time at Texas, I can tell you that he’s no specialist at holding onto the ball, nor is he built to be an every-down back. But what he does have is some blazing speed and moves in the open field. If the Chiefs start featuring him, they’ll probably try and go the Darren Sproles route with him.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Call it a slow build, but the diva looks worthy of ownership by season’s end. He could have a nice finish, like a great wine but with an idiot for an agent.

Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Snelling is filling in while Jerious Norwood sits out with more injuries. He showed some burst against the Cowboys, but Michael Turner is still the workhorse of this offense. Snelling’s not really someone I’d want to depend on in any given week, but he’s a warm body if you have a hole to fill this week.

Sigh, that’s what she said.

Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins

Chris Cooley might be out of the year with that ankle injury, and in his stead, Davis caught the passes and a touchdown. Cooley has been the leading receiver for the Redskins so far this year, and Davis would pick up that torch easily. He’s not much of a blocker, so expect the Redskins to look deeper on the roster to fill that void left by Cooley at the line. Davis will be all about the passing game.

If you’ve been hurting for a tight end thus far, now’s your chance to snag one who could be in line for a starting role. But then again, he’s still on the Redskins.

Donald Lee, TE, Green Bay Packers

Jermichael Finley’s knee injury should keep him out for at least a few weeks. That leaves Lee alone in the starting role, and he should take advantage as the passing game in Green Bay lights up opponents these next few weeks.

If Cooley’s out for the year, Davis is the better long-term grab, but Lee could definitely have the bigger games for the next few weeks.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

I don’t know how they do it, but even banged-up and missing key players, this defense has created turnovers. The secondary is making up for this defenses weakness in stopping the run, and they just might be worth hanging onto in your league if you used them as a fill this week against Carolina.

Right now, they’re a top-10 fantasy defense.

Names I Keep Mentioning

Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

As I said before, Wallace has designed plays coming his way every week in this newly christened Steelers’ passing offense. He should be a reliable fill-in when needed even if he can’t reproduce his yardage and touchdown from Week 7 every week you need him.

New Orleans Saints D/ST

Darren Sharper is the man, and as long the Saints keep the lead, this defense is going to create turnovers all day long. Even trap games like this week against Miami turn into decent performances thanks to Sharper’s ability to find the end zone when he gets the ball in his hands.

Denver Broncos D/ST

Coming off a bye week, don’t forget about the surprise defense of the year. Mike Nolan is making adjustments that win games, and the Broncos are getting to the quarterback. If no one else has taken a chance on them this year, maybe you should.

For more waiver wire pickups, visit The Hazean, Fanhouse, Fantasy Joe, Lester’s Legends, Fantasy Football Librarian, The FF Geek Blog and FF Toolbox.

As always, the comments are yours. Discuss. Refute. Deny. Bring the funny.

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

One of my fantasy football teams has done remarkably well through the first half of the season. After starting 5-0, I traded away some of my starters for underperforming stars that I believed would lead me to victory in the second half.

As of this week, I have assembled what I would call the Pro Bowl of fantasy teams. Surviving my bye weeks, this is my starting lineup for Week 9: QB Peyton Manning (but David Garrard might sneak in there); RBs Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans; TE Kellen Winslow; D/ST Arizona Cardinals; K Matt Prater.

And that’s in a 14-team league. I’m projected to score 144.5 points this weekend by the sometimes conservative, sometimes drunk with power ESPN projections.

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions — What? Orton is tied with Peyton Manning as the No. 10 fantasy quarterback right now, and he could finish as one of the top-six QBs? I feel sick. He plays the Lions this week and already posted his best performance of the season against them in Week 5 (300+ passing yards and two TDs). He could beat that. He’ll probably pass Peyton Manning, and then I’m probably going to punch myself in the face…twice.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Broncos — You would think that I would hate recommending guys like Pennington, but to tell you the truth, I love it. I love saying a guy is worth a start when everyone hates on him 24/7. Pennington, in my opinion, is not a bad dude. This week, he gets to play “score the most points” with Jay Cutler, but Pennington gets to throw against a defense that can’t stop the run and will be missing Champ Bailey, the only person who really stops the pass. If Ted Ginn Jr. looks good again, I still won’t believe it’s not a fluke — maybe after Week 10.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Bengals — You have to start Jones-Drew in this one, but even Taylor might get back to his old ways against the Bengals weak rushing defense (28th in the NFL). Expect David Garrard to continue to use the pass more than the Jags did last season, which should open it up when Jones-Drew and Taylor run. Unless he breaks one, Taylor should get some good yardage, but he’s more a bubble/sleeper pick than Jones-Drew at this point.

Earnest Graham, RB Bucs vs. Chiefs — “My turn, my turn, my turn!” If Warrick Dunn can’t go again because of his back, Graham should have his best performance of the season. If that doesn’t leave you satisfied and smiling, you have no soul.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Broncos — Expect him to make up for that piss-poor performance against the Bills. The Dolphins coaches held him back, not the Bills defense. The ‘Wildcat’ will return, baby!

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Vikings — The Vikings have a weak secondary, and Matt Schaub has been throwing the ball like a champ the last three weeks since returning from his illness. As long as Johnson is being shut down, Walter should reap the benefits of working against the abused, second corner of the Vikings secondary. Walter and Owen Daniels will have to substitute for a running game with short passes against the No. 2 rushing defense.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Cardinals — Maybe if Avery shotguns a beer, lights himself on fire and then blows through coverage to score from 40+ yards out, defensive coordinators will pay attention to him. For now, the Cardinals’ attention will be on Torry Holt, and Avery should impress in a home game against this weaker secondary.

John Carlson, TE Seahawks vs. Eagles — Carlson is the team’s leading receiver, and stopping the tight end has been a problem for Philly several times this season. Carlson should get back on pace after being forgotten in the stomping of the 49ers last week.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Patriots — Manning is on the bubble anytime he faces a well-put-together defense. While the Patriots aren’t quite that, they have been able to get to Manning even in his prime. Expect Belichick to try to take advantage of the tied-with-Kyle-Orton quarterback this week. He’ll produce even in a loss — as he did against the Titans — but if you have better, less bucketheaded options…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Browns — The Browns run defense has stopped the run when they were determined to do so (allowing 53 yards rushing for Jacksonville last week), but they still rank as one of the worst run defenses out there, despite using unorthodox methods like all those eye pokes they gave McGahee when they faced the Ravens in Week 3. McGahee has looked much better since coming off the injury report, but rookie Ray Rice is still on his heels and now getting carries. I am not sure which way this game is going to go, but the Ravens will run the ball. It’s just not as favorable a matchup as it appears on paper.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Vikings — The No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL against a rookie RB who was held down by the Bengals a little last week? There’s a chance he breaks the big play, but this matchup has bubble written all over it.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bills — Coles and Cotchery are more experienced receivers than Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Camarillo, but will the Bills corners still not be back in sync this week? Favre has looked like a rookie the last few weeks, and I don’t trust him unless I have to this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Titans — Jennings faces the Titans’ lockdown secondary this week, but the Titans will have their hands full. Jennings had his best game of the season against the Bucs tough defense in Week 4, so owners shouldn’t be scared of using him in this one. He might not build on his 18.5 yards per catch average, but he won’t be taken out of this game plan.

Roddy White, WR Falcons vs. Raiders — There’s some insider trading going on in this one. DeAngelo Hall used to work against White in practice, but that was back before White was such a dominating force in the receiving game. Do you think Hall will know how to get to White? On the other side of the field, Nnamdi Asomugha will be trying to make White’s life tough. So the question becomes, which DeAngelo Hall will we see this week when the Falcons are trying to get White out of Asomugha’s shadow? I like White’s chances.

Cold Shoulders

Marshawn Lynch, RB Bills vs. Jets — The Jets rank fourth in run defense, so Week 9 should be a hard week for Lynch. He’s had his performance limited by Fred Jackson, and he hasn’t hit 100 yards in single game yet. If you are strong at RB, it might be in your best interest sit Lynch this week rather than chance that he gets a touchdown.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Ravens — Homie don’t play that. The Ravens are going to keep Lewis down all day. It took Peyton Manning shredding their secondary for Dominic Rhodes to score a rushing touchdown, and Derek Anderson might not be capable of creating that kind of opportunity this week. If Lewis doesn’t score, his performance could make you curl up into the fetal position and cry.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Titans – If you’re clawing around for his breakout performance this season after he finally got a touchdown against the Colts, don’t. The Packers aren’t likely to try and run the ball on the Titans much, and Albert Haynesworth eats babies.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Steelers — I know you’re not going to sit him. I know. (I probably wouldn’t either.) But for the sake of conversation, let’s just talk for a minute. If I am the Steelers, I’m going to focus on stopping the run — as always — and try to get into Jason Campbell’s head, despite the futility of that since he hasn’t thrown an interception all season. If I’m the Redskins, I’m going to look to abuse the fact that their starting free safety and one starting cornerback are out. Every time they play Troy Polamalu close to the line to stop the run, I’m chunking a pass to Chris Cooley, exposed with plenty of room to run. Maybe Cooley will get another touchdown. He wants one. Now, knowing that game plan that I just made up in my head, Portis *might* not be such a good start, but his involvement in the passing game and the likelihood that you have no better makes this entire paragraph almost worthless.

Terrell Owens, WR Cowboys vs. Giants — He led the team in receptions last week but still didn’t even get 35 yards. Why would you take a chance with him against a team that’s even better at harassing the QB? Brad Johnson is not going to be able to make it happen for Owens this week…again.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Dolphins — It’s his first game back from injury, and the Dolphins have been very good about limiting tight ends. Besides, don’t you think Jay Cutler wants to show Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal how he perfected his throwing motion during the bye? Let Scheffler have the week off to prove his worth.

Sleepers

Steve Smith, WR Giants vs. Cowboys — If the Cowboys lock up Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith should play the open field and have above-average numbers. The Cowboys secondary is hurting too much to stop both WRs in the Giants passing attack. But Smith’s day will require “Playoffs Eli” to show up rather than the Eli Manning that’s been looking like garbage the past few weeks.

Donald Lee, TE Packers vs. Titans — Dallas Clark was able to expose the Titans in the middle of the field. If the Packers are smart, they’ll use a similar plan with Lee this week.

Week 4 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

This week’s bye shouldn’t have caught you by surprise, but the characters you are left to start might. Strangely enough, many of the players that you might have drafted late or gotten on the cheap have great plays this week.

Make sure you don’t forget about these guys, and as always, any start-or-sit questions asked in the comments will be answered by Saturday night. If not, call someone! I’m missing or in Vegas.

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan vs. Saints — Another great week to start O’Sullivan. He’s got a difficult stretch after this week, but JTO should have a shootout against Drew Brees and the Saints.

Lee Evans vs. Rams — He’s a fluke-y player, but St. Louis’ defense is no fluke. It’s just bad. Lee Evans could have a big week against this horrible pass defense, and you know he wants one.

Trent Edwards vs. Rams — Well, if Lee Evans has a good week…

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Browns — The Browns defense has been pretty miserable, and Carson Palmer showed signs of life last week against the Giants. If you’ve been starting any of these guys the last three weeks, they should be in your lineup for Week 4.

Kerry Collins vs. Vikings — In a tough bye week, you may be out your star quarterback. Don’t expect explosions on the Titans offense, but Collins should put up decent numbers to keep Minnesota’s tough run defense off of LenDale White and Chris Johnson. He’s worth a start if you need a quarterback.

Jason Campbell, Santana Moss vs. Cowboys — Santana’s new thing is scoring touchdowns every game. Oh snap! He just scored another one. While I fear the Cowboys secondary, they haven’t recorded a single interception this season, and Campbell has been incredibly efficient with his passing. Both QB and RB are worth starting in what could be an Eagles-Cowboys style offensive contest.

Donald Lee vs. Buccaneers – He’s becoming more utilized in the Green Bay offense, and he just might see an increased role this week against a sometimes tough Tampa Bay secondary. If you are filling in someone for Dallas Clark, Anthony Fasano, Kevin Boss or John Carlson, Lee is a good option this week. Robert Royal isn’t bad either, but Jerramy Stevens might be better.

Bubble Boys

Jonathan Stewart vs. Falcons — He shares carries, but Stewart should dominate the Atlanta line. When it comes to short yardage (and touchdowns), it’s Stewart who should get the call. There’s always the chance that Atlanta lets Steve Smith run wild on them, but Stewart should have a decent week.

Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards vs. Bengals — They haven’t shown the chemistry they had last year, but if they get it going, it will be this week. Otherwise, it’s up to Braylon to find another lover in Brady Quinn.

Brett Favre vs. Cardinals — Even though they might not look it, the Cardinals are a top defense thus far. After the picks he threw against the Chargers, Favre might be uncertain and mistake-heavy against the Cards as well. You didn’t draft a Madden curse as a QB1, did you?

Matt Forte vs. Eagles — The Forte has been strong with this one. He’s put up points week after week. The Eagles are too tough a squad to let him get his usual 20 points, but if he can get a touchdown, he is worth playing. (Ed. Note: I’m still playing him this week, but it’ll be a judgment call between him and Westbrook for me. He’ll have his points, but don’t expect another 20-point outing.)

Bryant Johnson vs. Saints — Johnson showed little in Week 3′s stat books, but Gore had a big day. Against the Saints, they should mix it up a bit more, and Johnson could be the main target. Remember that, back in Arizona, the people keeping him off the field were Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Devery Henderson vs. 49ers — Some weeks, Henderson shows up to work and gets a few long bombs his way. Other weeks, you have to check the reports just to make sure he was active. The guy is too inconsistent for my tastes. Even in this potential shootout, he might play the part of Casper.

Cold Shoulders

Rashard Mendenhall vs. Ravens — Mendy was one text message away from being a “Bubble Boy” rather than a “Cold Shoulder.” He may talk a big game to fellow rookie Ray Rice, but Mendenhall faces one of the top defenses against the run. After his mediocre showings thus far, I don’t think he’ll blow this one out of the water. Baltimore will bring the pain like Philly did and try to shut the Steelers down.

Kyle Orton vs. Eagles — The Eagles defense has been tough against the run and fierce attacking the quarterback. That intensity doesn’t bode well for an offense that relies on a strong run game to set up a few passes. Orton should be bombarded and isn’t worth starting unless you have no better options.

Trent Green vs. Bills — I know you just picked him up if he’s on your roster, and I’m sure you’re excited to see his first start of the season, but did you see what Buffalo did against the Seattle offensive line in Week 1? Trent Green might be in for another season-ending concussion. I just hope Green doesn’t die on the field. That would be a total buzzkill.

Torry Holt vs. Bills — Trent Green might bring that extra rally to the offense…but not this week. The Bills will take the passing game out immediately and make Steven Jackson work for every run he gets. Holt remains a WR3-worthy option for only the VERY optimistic this week.

Sleeper Who Might Wake Up This Week

My Norwood and Michael Pittman sleeper picks last week didn’t hurt you. Norwood had plenty of yards as the Chiefs got run over, and Pittman got a TD — granted, two would have been better. This week, I’ll go a little bit further out there.

Jordy Nelson vs. Buccaneers — In a tough bye week, Nelson isn’t a bad start. Jordy assumes the third WR position with James Jones still hurting, and they showed in Week 3 that they are comfortable letting him get some targets in the red zone. If you are without a WR3, Nelson could fill that spot for you, and as the third receiving threat against the Bucs secondary, he just might see some increased action.

Week 2 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Don’t get all reactionary when you are setting your lineups this week. If your stud disappointed in his first showing — and there is no evidence supporting his failure, i.e. horrible line in Jacksonville and St. Louis — just forget Week 1 happened.

This week, we’ll move into more of a Q&A mode with the start-or-sit recommendations. No matter how many people I name, you will always have a call between two players that I don’t address. Here’s your chance.

If I don’t mention one of your tough calls, or you have a follow-up question, post it in the comments (or you can send me direct messages through Twitter.)

Hot Hands

Chris Johnson vs. Bengals: If you thought he looked good against Jacksonville…

Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Rams: Big Boy make ‘em pay. Eli and Plax should connect a few times just as McNabb did with everyone on his team last week.

Derek Anderson vs. Steelers: When these two teams play each other, the QBs have a habit of going off.

Ben Roethlisberger vs. Browns: Same as Derek Anderson.

Ryan Grant vs. Lions: Ryan Grant vs. Lions, Ryan Grant vs. Lions. I’m just going to keep repeating it. It’s the Lions. They let Michael Turner run through them like Red Rover. As long as Grant starts, he will look big in this one — injured hammy and all.

While I am at it…

All Your Packers vs. Lions: Again, IT’S DETROIT. Everyone but Donald Lee is worthy of throwing in your lineup unless you have studs that outrank them.

Brian Griese vs. Falcons: Because there’s talk that Jeff Garcia might be getting traded, because Atlanta corners don’t scare me, because if I was faster, I might be able to start at corner for Atlanta and because he was worthy of starting last year when he was with the Bears. The Bucs have a better receiver group.

Jerricho Cotchery vs. Patriots: Clearly, he’s a favorite target of Brett Favre, and he’s had success in New England. The Jets want to win this one and Cotchery will be a big part of it.

Bills defense vs. Jaguars: Looked creative and aggressive against Seattle. Marcus Stroud should be looking for a nice “reminder” game — as in, remind the Jags why they never should have let him go. I’m scared.

Felix Jones vs. Eagles: Marion Barber hurt his ribs in Week 1. Jones scored a TD in that one. I see him getting more chances this week.

Bubble Boys

Philip Rivers vs. Broncos: Yes, Rivers has a great record in Denver, but I don’t like him this week. LaDainian’s best buddy is probably going to watch L.T. blow through the Denver run defense so badly and limit Rivers’ opportunities. If San Diego gets down in this one like I believe they might, he could turn it on, but my gut feeling is that he has a TD and a few yards. Surely, you drafted him as a QB2, so you can probably bench him in favor of your stud QB as long as your stud has a great matchup as well.

Damon Huard vs. Raiders: I know Oakland gave up every yard that Jay Cutler wanted last week, but that was Jay Cutler. This is Damon Huard. The corners might redeem themselves, but if you lost Tom Brady or Vince Young, you might not have better options.

Jay Cutler vs. Chargers: Cutler hasn’t had a lot of good games against San Diego, but he looks stronger this year. Having Brandon Marshall back from suspension, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler won’t hurt either. If he’s your best guy this week, why not give him a chance?

Lee Evans vs. Jaguars: Evans should be a solid WR2 or WR3 this year. If the Buffalo offense keeps this up, he might even warrant WR1 status in bigger leagues. Unfortunately, Jacksonville knows that he is a weapon and will probably lock him down this week if they can. Start him as a WR3 if you must, but don’t count on a huge week.

Tony Scheffler vs. Chargers: I’m going to go out on a wild card here and say Tony Scheffler is an okay start this week. Cutler faces one of the toughest defenses (without their best defensive player) and Scheffler might see the red zone targets if Brandon Marshall doesn’t finish all his catches in the red zone.

Cold Shoulders

Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor vs. Ravens: The Texans looked miserable against the Steelers. Do you really think they change that against the Ravens? No. That’s the answer.

Any Rams not named Steven Jackson or Randy McMichael vs. Giants: Not worth starting until they have an offense. Randy McMichael is an exception since it looks like he will be the only productive thing on offense, and you know Marc Bulger is going to want to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid shattered ribs.

Eagles defense vs. Cowboys: It’s hard to get sacks against the Cowboys, and this one could be high scoring. While the Cowboys defense might weather the storm, I don’t think Philadelphia will fare as well.