Week 10 Starts and Sits: Chris Johnson lives! Maybe. Sort of.

Even if Chris Johnson will only have one more good game this season, this is the game to start him. The Jaguars owe us that.

And Matt Forte could be in for a big game of his own if Matchups is correct that Trestman will lean on the run to protect a possibly not 100 percent Jay Cutler.

Is DeMarco Murray a safe bet the rest of the way? Keepers will take that chance. Continue reading

Roger Goodell as Vince McMahon GIF

Monday Night Football Golden Tainted by Replacement Refs, Twitter Explodes and NFL Players React

So this happened. In case you somehow haven’t heard already, the replacement refs blew the call at the end of Monday Night Football by awarding a touchdown to Golden Tate in place of a Green Bay interception. Even Jon Gruden’s disgusted.

The play in question (or is it still in question?), courtesy of KSK:

http://youtu.be/x-qiGyB6HzE

And the player reactions rolled in all night long.

WARNING: Some NSFW. Especially T.J. Lang. Work is NOT a place for T.J. Lang tweets.

NFL Players React to Golden Tainted Monday Night Football

As the replacement refs botched the call on the final play of Monday Night Football, NFL players from around the league weighed in with their take or their call to get the regular refs back. Some of the most heated criticism came from the Green Bay Packers players themselves.

Storified by Fantasy Football Fools· Tue, Sep 25 2012 17:22:28

Green Bay Packers React to Loss

Greg Jennings was probably the most composed Packer talking about the calls after the game. And it shows in his tweet.

#NFL C’MON MAN! Can’t even be upset anymore. All I can do is laugh. Laugh at the #NFL for allowing America’s game to come this. WOW!Greg Jennings
@NFL Cheap ass hell!! Get us some NFL REFS! Not PEE WEE league refs! But it’s all Abt the Saints!Jermichael Finley
Come on @NFL this shit is getting out of Control. Caused us a DAMN game. Horrible!Jermichael Finley
T.J. Lang was not so composed…
Got fucked by the refs.. Embarrassing. Thanks nflTJ Lang
Maybe that’s a strategy… RT @TomPelissero: This is awesome. RT @TJLang70: F–k it NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.
Any player/coach in Seattle that really thinks they won that game has zero integrity as a man and should be embarrassed.TJ Lang
No comprendo. :(Marshall Newhouse
Golden tate is full of shit too. Saying he clearly caught that is embarrassing! Fucking jokers!josh sitton
The nfl needs to come to gb and apologize to us for fucking us! These refs r bums!josh sitton
That was bullshit. This is getting ridiculous! The NFL needs to get the refs back bfr we strike and they make no money!josh sitton
Mike McCarthy: "I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years of football." #MNF #NFL

NFL Players Weigh In On Monday Night Football’s Blown Call

Drew Brees is one of the more outspoken players in the league on the ref issue, and he had some very well put tweets after the call was made.
I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to representDrew Brees
Ironic that our league punishes those based on conduct detrimental. Whose CONDUCT is DETRIMENTAL now?Drew Brees
A fake Frank Gore account jumped into the spotlight as Monday Night Football took over Twitter, but at least this jokester’s 15 minutes left us with some good tweets…
If Golden Tate was still on ND, and me on the U, I’d go play safety and deck Lil’ Tate’s ass, ya know this! #49ersNot Frank Gore
NFL can fine me, too. I’ll wipe my butt with the money first! #RogerGoodellNot Frank Gore
There are a range of emotions in the rest of the NFL player tweets. Many were upset by the call. Some had no opinion or laughed it off rather than risk getting on the NFL’s bad side.
Man PLEASE tell me y’all heard Golden Tate’s interview?? When asked if he pushed off, Tate simply replied, "Idk what ur talking about" LMAO!Donte’ Stallworth
Lol… Dont affect me either way. Got love for my old teammates and homies, boys work hard out there but these refs are sad. PointblankTarvaris Jackson
I’ve been saying give the refs a break but that TD call was ridicules. How do you miss that? Pop Warner refs would have gotten that right.Tony Gonzalez
Drama. Great for business. Godspeed, Ed Hochuli.Arian Foster
Wow wow wow, crazy !!NickBarnett
I’ve been a football fan/player my entire life and never seen anything like this scene. #MNFGeoff Schwartz
Yeeeee! Score 1 for the Good Guys. Way to Go Stripes! Always good seeing a fellow WR get credit for a TD…….ON A INTERCEPTION. YesssStevie Johnson
Seattle u can’t feel good about tht win… Because y’all really lost… The refs give y’all the game…Nick Collins
I agree 100% RT @DavidNelson86: So much to say.. So little room in the pocketbook. #GoodnightKirk Morrison
Are you serious?Kirk Morrison
This is what the NFL has come down to, &yet they tell you to respect the shield! Lol. But they’ll try to fine us for everything thing we do.DARNELL DOCKETT
I mean damn! http://lockerz.com/s/247487166DARNELL DOCKETT
Wow. Smh!!!D.J. Williams
I just emailed the commissioner to say I am embarrass to be a former nfl player, after that @GaryEllerson @1250WSSPleroy butler
Wow. I don’t even know what to say right now. One ref signals Touchback and the other ref signals Touchdown?!Chase Daniel
That ish cray..Mark Ingram
I think the @NFL will bring back officials after @ESPNMondayNight #EmbarrassingThomas Morstead
Is the refs workin for the buffalo wild wings commercial?Perrish Cox
Looked like an interception to me.Sean Weatherspoon
Com’on can we please get the real refs back. Destroying the game that we all grew to love. WOW!!!!!!Patrick Peterson
Well we knew this was bound to happen but on Monday night football? Come on the replacement zebras aren’t fit for this zoo! LolDeAngelo Williams
How dare this not be rectified.. too much is at stake to have holes in such an elite leagueVisanthe Shiancoe
Geez. Why can’t they review that?Brent Celek
Oh wow. Can’t wait to see the backlash hereBrent Celek
Speechless after that…Robert Griffin III
I’m woke… WOW!Brandon Marshall
The regular referees are definitely cheering. #Leverage #BamBrandon Marshall
These refs gotta go I’m sorryReggie Bush
Refs single handedly blew this one…Reggie Bush
#Speechless….David Nelson
Former Cowboy Troy Aikman brought the hammer with just 5 words.
These games are a joke.Troy Aikman

The Aftermath of The Immaculate Deception

The official NFL account’s immediate reaction was not ideal…
Wow RT @Schottey: RT @njh287: Did the @NFL just re-tweet a tweet mocking their league’s officiating? http://twitpic.com/ay4167. Yes, they did.FantasyFootballFools
Since the game, the opinions around the NFL have solidified. The replacement refs got it wrong.
Golden Tate blatantly pushed off and M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass, according to two well-placed sources: my left and right eye.Adam Schefter
Rachel Nichols summed it up pretty well.
If there was ever an official photo of this whole replacement ref debacle, this is it http://pic.twitter.com/5eIGjRdRRachel Nichols
I mean when theyre showing snaps of it on the the weather channel u know something has to b doneVisanthe Shiancoe
Wait, Seahawks were the blue jerseys? #oopsNFL Replacement Ref
Lol! Funny http://lockerz.com/s/247659415Reggie Bush
This is your iconic moment, in which one official signals touchdown and the other, no touchdown http://30fram.es/QuKk3QTimothy Burke
As a footnote, even some NBA personalities weighed on Monday night…
Not gonna watch another nfl game until real refs r back. What a farceDirk Nowitzki
I would love to see what my reaction would be if a Mavs game ended like #MNF. #Expensive #NBAtimeMark Cuban

And thanks to BeyondTheBets.com, we get to see inside the sportsbooks as the final play went down. So much celebration…so many broken dreams.

The reaction on Twitter was obviously pretty incredible. Timothy Burke shared a video of the replacement ref conversation via Mocksession.com.

The NFL probably had no idea what to do with all the angry tweets, but they might have tried to get in on the conversation without thinking it through. Twitter followers captured this retweet from the official NFL Twitter account mocking the officiating.

Oh, NFL, where will we go from here?

Roger Goodell as Vince McMahon GIF

The GIF of the theme of the night, Roger Goodell as Vince McMahon, via Texans Talk

Believe it or not, Scoring Leaders for Week 11: If you don’t have multiples, you’re just not trying hard enough

Your fantasy studs only scored once? Well, that’s just child’s play. The real studs scored twice or more on Sunday, and they should easily do the same a time or two before the fantasy football playoffs are over. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 275 passing yards and 3 TDs, 55 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Raiders

Much like a high school girl at her prom, Big Ben hates it when other teams dress up like the Steelers. The Raiders have been wearing black and putting teams away with a running game and a defense. That just won’t fly. So I guess Big Ben was trying to make a point when he exposed them on Sunday.

The Steelers walked all over the Raiders all day long. Roethlisberger benefited from the absence of Nnamdi Asomugha. When this offense is firing on all cylinders, as it seems to be now, they’re hard to stop.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: 7 catches for 152 yards and 3 TDs vs. Vikings

Aaron Rodgers reminded all Jennings’ owners why they drafted him: He’s the No. 1 wide receiver on a highly explosive offense. They got rolling against the Vikings in a blowout, and Jennings was doing damage in both big and small chunks.

It was good to see him targeted in the red zone in addition to his targets from long-range. He should continue to produce down the stretch since he is Rodgers’ most reliable target for now.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: 8 catches for 137 yards, 3 TDs vs. Bengals

I thought this Bills passing game would have cooled off by now, but just when you think they’re done, they come roaring back. Steve Johnson absolutely destroyed the Bengals in the second half.

Johnson’s probably going to end up being the waiver wire pickup of the year. He’s scored in almost every game he’s played in with Fitzpatrick under center. Those numbers are going to be hard to beat as long as this passing game stays red-hot throughout the playoffs, even as Buffalo freezes over.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 301 passing yards and 4 TDs, 21 rushing yards vs. Vikings

A big fantasy day for Jennings means a big fantasy day for Rodgers, but you know this. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in fantasy. This stat line is what you expected out of him in easy matchups when you drafted him. He poured it on the Vikings, led by the man he replaced, Favre.

This game was like watching a little kid jump up and down on Brett Favre’s sandcastle, all while Brett had to watch his creation go to pieces. I kind of enjoyed it.

Without a doubt, we can say that the Packers made the right call in moving on from Favre to Rodgers when they did. No team that’s tried to make it work with Favre has succeeded.

The Packers have turned into a very scary team just at the right time as fantasy playoffs (and the real NFL playoffs) approach.

Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys: 147 passing yards and 3 TDs, 40 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Lions

I played it safe this week by starting Shaun Hill out of fear that the Cowboys would concentrate on their running game after establishing an early lead. They didn’t, unless you count that late rushing score by Kitna as the running game. Jason Garrett’s perfectly comfortable calling passing plays the whole game, and that works for Kitna’s fantasy owners.

Kitna ended the day without much yardage, but he scored a ton, making him the better play over Shaun Hill. It seems they’ll both be great plays down the stretch, as both the Cowboys and Lions love to throw the ball.

Kitna should be owned in all leagues and has a great schedule in Weeks 15 and 16 of the fantasy playoffs as long as Romo doesn’t return.

This part is the place where I would list Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but I’ll skip them. I assume you know the drill when it comes to those guys.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: 316 passing yards and 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 11 rushing yards vs. Bengals

What looked like a quiet performance turned into a fantasy explosion late when the Bills mounted a comeback. I don’t know whether to be impressed with how overpowering the Bills were in this one or to just acknowledge how absolutely horrid the Bengals are. No one wants to win badly enough in Cincy. Too bad.

Fitzpatrick has had a few rough patches along the way, but if he keeps playing this aggressively, it’s hard to say he won’t produce another fantasy day or two like this one in the next few weeks.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets: 7 catches for 126 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

Another week, another come-from-behind victory capped off by a Holmes touchdown pass from Sanchez. The Jets’ unpredictable performance in winnable games has become predictable again. And you can count on Holmes to remain the focus in the passing game from here on out.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 116 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 3 catches for 13 yards vs. Bengals

Even Jackson got in on the fantasy field day to be had against the Bengals. His schedule isn’t so easy, and he faces the Steelers this week after they just completely stuffed Darren McFadden…but if you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, Jackson has a game like this left in him.

He still has matchups against the Vikings and Patriots on the schedule, and I’m not too worried about C.J. Spiller cutting into his production when he returns later this season.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: 315 passing yards and 3 TDs, 1 INT, 22 rushing yards vs. Texans

The Texans are horrible, and Sanchez took advantage. Moral of the story: Always start the quarterback playing the Texans. Enough said.

A note on D/STs that did well…

If you were looking for an impressive D/ST performance, you got it out of the Browns and Ravens. If they’re not owned, the Browns make for an intriguing play the rest of the way, and they face the Panthers this week.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 109 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cardinals

Okay, okay. I keep saying he’s going to fade down the stretch, and yet, here we are with another huge fantasy day and multiple touchdowns for Bowe. I guess you have to start him until he cools off. That’s not such a bad problem to have, is it?

Believe it or not: Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel teammates benefit and More Scoring Leaders from Week 6

Each week, “Believe it or not” highlights those fantasy football studs (or mistakes) who score over 20 points in ESPN standard scoring and whether we can trust them to ever do it again.

The Kansas City Chiefs might have contributed more this week to the fantasy football community than they will all year, but it was nice that knowing how to properly spell Cassel’s last name finally paid off.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles: 326 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Falcons

And Michael Vick is still the starter when he gets back? I think that’s not as clear cut as it used to be, Mr. Reid. It just might be time for another emergency press conference in Philly.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: 7 catches for 159 yards, 2 TDs vs. Falcons

Kolb was so good on Sunday, he made his receiver one of the top scorers as well, and Maclin was just one of the two wide receivers he hit twice for touchdowns. Like I said, is it time to think twice about sitting Kolb and going back to a probably-not-100-percent Michael Vick? QB-by-rotation maybe? You know you’re thinking about it, Andy.

Let’s play a little game of “One of these things is not like the others.”

Drew Brees, QB, Saints: 263 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Bucs
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: 220 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Vikings
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 257 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Browns
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 201 yards, 3 TDs vs. Texans
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: 305 yards, 2 TDs,  vs. Chiefs
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 313 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD vs. Dolphins
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: 285 yards, 2 TDs vs. Patriots
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: 307 yards, 2 TDs vs. Redskins

Most of these quarterbacks are current or sometimes members of the elite–Brees, Romo, Big Ben (elite lady skills!), Schaub, Rodgers, and Manning. The real shocker isn’t how they produced this week but who ended up among them, Matt Cassel. The rightfully mocked Chiefs quarterback actually took advantage of the soft Texans matchup…but that only means people will believe in him enough to start him in Week 7 against the Jaguars.

I have my doubts Cassel will ever do it again, but if he is going to, it will be against the Jaguars, who have been the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde of the NFL this season.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 108 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

If given a quarterback, Bowe showed us in Week 6 that he still knows where the scoring happens (in the end zone). He made the Texans look bad, but they do a pretty good job of that each week with their passing defense. His fantasy value lives and dies by Cassel’s ability to get him the ball. You might take advantage of a big Week 5 (and possibly Week 6 against Jacksonville) to shop Bowe for someone a little more consistent. In other words, sell high.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: 100 yards, 2 TDs vs. Colts

I shed a silent tear Sunday night as I watched Torain rampage all over the Colts defense. I chose to start Michael Bush over him. Thanks again, Jason Campbell, for ruining the few things that were pure and good about that Oakland offense this week. Torain is the man in Washington, probably even after Clinton Portis returns from injury (if he ever does, that is). But feel free to sell high if you made out like a champ by snagging him on the waiver wire.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 71 yards, 2 TDs vs. Chiefs

Oh, and Foster’s back at it even with Derrick Ward taking a score of his own. I think it’s safe to say he’s going to keep doing this. He’s only had one truly bad week and that came against the Giants revitalized defense.

Believe it or not: Austin Collie, Peyton Hillis, Lance Moore and More Top Scores from Week 3

Austin Collie, WR, Colts: 12 catches for 171 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: This was not the stat line Reggie Wayne owners wanted to see, but without Pierre Garcon, Peyton Manning locked onto Collie while Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne got most of the attention from the Denver defense. I don’t expect Collie to get this lucky every week, but with two strong games under his belt, he should be owned in all leagues.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: 455 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Believe It: The 400+ passing yards countered Rivers’ two interceptions, and that’s the kind of game he’ll have to have as long as the Chargers’ special teams continues to give up two touchdowns each game.

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: 262 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It (in Matchups): Flacco finally had a good performance, thanks to Anquan Boldin and the Browns’ defense. Now that we know what he’s capable of, we will have to see if he can keep up this level of production. I don’t see him living up to the QB1-hype surrounding him this offseason, but he’ll make a decent matchup play the rest of this year.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: 256 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It (in Matchups): Sanchez had another three touchdown performance on Sunday…so is it horrible of me to still not buy it? He’s a promising young quarterback, but he’s still a matchup play in my book. I doubt L.T. would have signed for a team that just planned to become a pass-first offense like the Chargers were without him. If you have Sanchez as a QB2, congrats. He looks good to go in that role or as part of a QB-by-committee.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 250 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Not Buying It: Cassel showed up big in Week 3 for the Chiefs, but I can’t take it as a sign of things to come just yet. He’s still not a very good quarterback, and his success Sunday might have been more about the complete and utter failure of the 49ers.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints: 6 catches for 149 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: I immediately regret my decision to wait on picking up Moore after Reggie Bush was injured. Moore should be on the field more often now and showed what he can do with that playing time against the Falcons Sunday. Drew Brees trusts him, and I do, too.

Seattle Seahawks D/ST: 2 INTs, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs

Believe It (At Home): “The 12th Man” lives again in Seattle. They may be garbage on the road, but in Seattle with Leon Washington returning kicks, the Seahawks D/ST appears to be unstoppable. They’ve produced double-digit fantasy points in both their home games thus far this season.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 144 rushing yards, 1 TD, 7 catches for 36 yards

Believe It: I thought Hillis might make a decent sleeper at the beginning of the season. It looks like he’s woken up now. Keep in mind that this performance was against the Ravens. It’s not like the Browns have a lot going on in their offense to distract a defensive unit like the Ravens, so there’s a chance Hillis could do even more with what he’s given against a lesser defense.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: 105 rushing yards, 1 TD, 2 catches for 17 yards

Believe It: Even with Michael Bush available, McFadden continued to get the majority of the carries. I still don’t think McFadden keeps this job all year. Injury or Bush’s improving health will force the Raiders to take some of his carries away, but if you have him, you should continue to ride the lightning while you can.

Roy E. Williams, WR, Cowboys: 5 catches for 117 yards, 2 TDs

Not Buying It (Entirely): Williams finally earned that contract he got when he first arrived in Dallas. His second touchdown was late in the game when the Texans D/ST has all but quit, but whether he earned it or not, it’s good to see him producing and to know that the Dallas offense will continue to involve him, especially in a game that mattered so much. He makes for a decent sleeper wide receiver — sad that a starter on a high-powered passing attack is a sleeper, but what are you gonna do? — moving forward since he could keep his role as a starter all year long, even with all the excitement for Dez Bryant.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos: 6 catches for 169 yards, 1 TD

Not Buying It: The Broncos have said that they will have a different top receiver every week, and it certainly seems that way. The only two I’d rely on are Demaryius Thomas and Jabar Gaffney, and I don’t even trust them a whole lot right now. Lloyd’s nice, but without a cemented role, I just don’t think you can ever start him with confidence.

Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers: 3 catches for 100 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: Another sleeper awakened this weekend. No more “buy lows” here. Wallace should get even better once Big Ben returns.

Dustin Keller, TE, Jets: 6 catches for 98 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: Sanchez won’t throw three touchdowns every week, but it’s telling that he threw the first two to Keller. Clearly, he trusts Keller at the goal line. That will go a long way in making Keller a legit fantasy tight end this season.

Not worth mentioning here, but for those of you keeping score at home, the obvious ones for this week were Michael Vick, Anquan Boldin, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Chris Johnson.

Brett Favre’s 2010 Vikings: You aren’t who we thought you were, yet

In this business, nothing goes as planned. If it did, why would be play? (The wins, of course, but I digress…)

We got our first taste of reality one week ago on Thursday night. The Vikings hoped to avenge their playoff loss to the Super Bowl Champion Saints on the NFL’s biggest Week 1 stage.

It goes without saying that the game didn’t go the way we had planned. High-scoring? I don’t know about you, but a 14-9 victory still seems like the under, not the over. Revenge game? Only if the Vikings left flaming bags of poo in the visiting locker room on their way out of the Superdome.

Adrian Peterson may have exposed some weaknesses in the Saints’ run defense, but I certainly didn’t see it in the fantasy points column. AP gave me just 9 points going into the weekend. Thanks for leaving me hanging there, buddy.

But one week ago we learned some things. We confirmed that Drew Brees is going to spread the ball around like last season. We learned Lance Moore is back and relevant in fantasy once again. We saw a glimpse of Devery Henderson as a reliable fantasy wide receiver, but I’ll stop myself from fully endorsing him until I see it again…and again. I still think Robert Meachem may be the better fantasy target, and he cold swap places with Henderson from week to week.

We also learned that Brett Favre is an old man. I know it was probably obvious to the casual, outside observer, but we all forgot that this offseason during the “will he or won’t he” drama. Even I did. And I don’t even like Favre.

In the second half, when we expected Favre to come out firing like a man on a mission, when we expected him to have settled into the Saints defensive attacks and lead a rally, he just seemed tired. He seemed like a man who wasn’t capable of carrying…anything.

Granted it was only Week 1 and a guy who missed all of training camp while recovering from surgery is going to have some rust, but I don’t think Favre can carry the Vikings this season like he did last season–not without Sidney Rice and not against a secondary like the Saints’ crew. The excitement of his return to football and the Vikings’ excitement about finally having a quarterback better equipped to run the offense than Tarvaris Jackson gave the team an emotional boost last year. It won’t this year.

And Favre isn’t going to get any healthier. It was obviously a more difficult decision to make the call this year about whether to play or not, and whether that’s more telling of his ankle injury or an indication that it took him longer to rediscover that passion for the game, that is not a good sign.

More than likely, it will fall on Adrian Peterson’s shoulders. This season could be All Day’s time to shine, but he hasn’t turned the spark on yet. Was the destruction of Touchdown Jesus a sign of things to come? Doubtful. But I believe he’ll need Brett Favre to find enough energy to give the Vikings at least half the passing game they had last season in order to be successful.

So as we go into Week 2, I have my eye on the Vikings. I may have doubted Favre’s ability to repeat his 2009 season, but I am going to have serious concerns about the offense moving forward if they can’t get Favre and his remaining receivers on track at home against Miami.

If Brett Favre won’t get enough out of his 40-year-old body to make the Vikings relevant this season, holding a spot for Sidney Rice on your roster will be futile.

How to Win Your Fantasy Football League on Draft Day – vers. 2010

When it comes to fantasy football draft strategy, I’ve tried almost everything. RB-RB? Of course. Draft a quarterback in the first round? Sure. WR-WR? Most definitely. But all this trial and error has paid off.

After hammering out what I think is my best strategy to date last season in the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy and deciding how to play the first round, I think I’ve finally refined the best way to win your league on draft day this season.

And I’m going to share it with you.

What you need to win

Traditionally, we all took running backs because they were scarce. Not every team had a workhorse running back, and in a 12-team league, we needed to start at least 24 of them.

But now, there are 50+ running backs available since every team in the NFL has a time share. So after the five elite running backs are off the board — Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore — we don’t have to use a first-round pick on a running back.

Not to say that you don’t need a decent running back. You just don’t have to pay a first-round price for one. It’s always nice to have a promising guy like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Shonn Greene, Ryan Mathews, Ryan Grant, or Cedric Benson on your roster. But you can make do if you miss out on them.

You’ll notice I didn’t list Steven Jackson or Rashard Mendenhall on that list. I did that on purpose. They are on the cusp of what I would consider the top, reliable running backs, but they scare me more than they excite me this season. And much like the ladies, that’s not going to work for me when it comes to running backs.

Quarterbacks, while valuable, aren’t as scarce as running backs because each team only needs one. I love me some quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong, but only a select few — Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady — are worth taking in the first three rounds. If you miss out on them, you should wait. (But DON’T miss out on them. More on this later.)

That leaves wide receivers. If you’re following me so far, you understand that wide receivers are the new running backs. Receivers have become more reliable and valuable as the NFL becomes more and more passer-friendly. The top receivers are worth building a team around and can give you an advantage if you know how to draft your running backs late.

Guys like Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings are more consistent than the rest of the pack you’ll be able to draft later. My list of elites for this season also includes Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin, Roddy White, DeSean Jackson, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, and Sidney Rice with Larry Fitzgerald right on the edge of greatness. (I’m not a fan of Matt Leinart at quarterback this season.)

So draft your elite wide receivers early and often, and you’ll have an advantage.

Every team needs at least one of these top wideouts to “win” their draft, but you’re even better off if you can nab two of them to fill your starting roster. Of course, that’s assuming that you start two wide receivers. If you start three wide receivers, I’d still limit myself to taking two elites early because you can wait on the third just to make sure you don’t miss out entirely on running back value.

I’ll explain the strategy I recommend to make this happen, but before I do that, a side note.

Plans: Made to be broken

No draft ever goes exactly to plan. You can’t know whom the rest of your league is going to draft. Several teams could draft quarterbacks in the first round, or no one could draft a quarterback for three rounds. We really don’t know. So you have to be able to adjust to what your league is giving you. That’s why I recommend the tiered draft cheatsheets, and that’s why I can’t tell you exactly how to draft each position.

So much like my first round strategy from last season, this strategy is just a starting point. Deviate from it as you have to in order to draft the best team possible.

Strategy on draft day

In 2010, I believe a championship team needs one of the elite quarterbacks and at least two of the elite wide receivers. If you get a reliable running back, more power to you.

And it’s all about how you play the first three rounds.

If you have a shot, go with one of the elite five running backs. You can build a solid team around a guy that is highly involved in the offense. While you might miss out on an elite quarterback because you’ll have to look at wide receivers in the second and third rounds, you can recover from that.

If you don’t get a shot at one of the elite running backs, you have you’re pick of WR-WR-QB, WR-QB-WR, or QB-WR-WR in the first three rounds. I like these sequences this season, and I think they maximize the value you get in the first three rounds.

Don’t use QB-WR-WR unless you really want Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning this season and your league scores passing touchdowns at six points. I don’t think any of the other elite quarterbacks should be considered until the second round.

In the fourth round, when it comes time to draft running backs, try to take the two best guys on the board right away. More than likely, other members of your league have moved on to drafting what’s left of the wide receivers and quarterbacks. You’ll have your pick of a good group of mid-level running backs who have the potential for greatness.

As you enter the chewy center of your draft, I’d suggest using the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy principles. Draft value and aim for sleepers rather than “safe” and “dependable” guys. You got your safe picks at the top of draft. For example, I’d rather have Jamaal Charles than Joseph Addai. I’d rather have Beanie Wells than Clinton Portis or Ricky Williams.

Make a special effort to get a lot of running backs. Since you didn’t draft them high, you’ll best protect yourself by drafting more of them. You want to load your roster with as many guys as possible who have the potential to be a top performer even if they’re currently a backup on their NFL roster.

You can also draft a few sleeper wide receivers later in the draft to compliment your studs. These wide receivers could become trade bait or free you up to trade your studs for one of the elite RBs you missed out on earlier in the draft. You can find a few good ones in Chris Harris’ article on “moneyball” wide receivers at ESPN.

With this strategy, you’ll “win” your draft just like I won mine.

Foolish Thoughts on 2009 Season: So why didn’t we all draft Chris Johnson?

It’s insanity. That’s what fantasy football is when it comes to the playoffs. Jonathan Stewart and Jerome Harrison become huge fantasy steals in the final two games, and studs that you’ve depending on all season like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers clam up and shut down early, even in blowout wins. At least Chris Johnson has continued to be magical every week.

I forget how bizarre it really becomes until it’s this time of year again.

Now Harrison will likely compel some fantasy footballers to draft him as an RB3 or maybe even an RB2 next season. Jamaal Charles could be right up there with him. We can only hope that neither is next year’s Steve Slaton or Pierre Thomas, hot in the playoffs but average or inconsistent the following season when given the full responsibility and trust of fantasy owners.

In Charles’ case, I think he’s got a real chance to thrive in the Kansas City offense as long as the current coaching staff stays intact. He’s a great receiving back, and even if the Chiefs decide that they need to bring in a bigger runner to take some of the carries and compliment Charles in the offseason — LenDale White is available, or so I hear — Charles should get plenty of chances to put up big numbers as part of the explosive offense Todd Haley is trying to create.

Out of the five fantasy football leagues I played in this season, I made the playoffs in three and had the chance to play for three championships this week. Of those, I won two and lost one by just a single point (as long as current calculations hold up) after Peterson racked up those two short-yardage touchdowns last night. It was incredibly frustrating, but I can’t be completely unhappy with the results. Even losing that one championship game out of three, this year has been my best season so far.

And next season, I want to focus even more on the leagues that were truly competitive. I’ve reduced the number of leagues I played in over the past two seasons. This year, I was down to five, and next season, I’ll probably take it down another league or two until I find the sweet spot for managing leagues, writing fantasy football analysis, and enjoying the game.

Here are some questions you can answer in the comments below: How many leagues do you play in? Do you find it more fun to play in a small number of leagues or as many as possible? These are the decisions I always debate this time of year.

I think I’m one of the few fantasy football fans out there, especially among fantasy football bloggers, who cares more about their real team winning (in my case, the Cowboys) than their fantasy team. It excited me to no end when the Cowboys shutout the Redskins last night and secured a playoff spot.

I wasn’t nearly as pumped when my fantasy football teams made the playoffs. Satisfied? Yes, but excited? Not off-the-wall excited. That said, it wasn’t a close call for any of them either. I knew weeks in advance that I was bound for the playoffs.

I’d hope we’re all fans of the game and the action-packed saga that is the NFL. If not for it, we wouldn’t have fantasy football.

So even if you lost your league, even if you got shot down in the championship game, even if your league dues were wasted as soon as you drafted Brian Westbrook and Matt Forte, I hope you’ll sit down and watch a few more games next week and deep into the playoffs.

Playoff football is a treat that only comes around once each year, much like the holiday season that just passed. Our presents? The Super Bowl, one of the most extravagant and exciting sporting events in all the land.

If you truly want to win in fantasy football, I think you first have to love the game because you have to understand how to translate what you watch and get excited about on the field into what works on your fantasy roster. So sit down, crack open a cold one (or a nice, frosty beverage of a less alcoholic persuasion if that’s your thing), and enjoy some football over the next month.

Of course, it’d be nice to know you’re all doing it with a championship trophy on your mantel, like me, but if you didn’t win, there’s no shame in cheering your fantasy studs on to a Super Bowl as you start to prep for next season.

And don’t feel like the fantasy season has to end. I’ll still be posting to Fantasy Football Fools because we have to start looking ahead to 2010 and because I still have some prizes to give to you, my dear readers. If you need help with Week 17 decisions (for those terrible, terrible leagues that go into the dreaded final week of the regular season), drop me a line on Twitter or in the comments.

Thanks again for reading Fantasy Football Fools this season and being part of the foolish community. Stay tuned for more over the coming days. Even if you didn’t win your championship, you deserve to take home some prizes.

On the Wire: Week 16 Pickups That You Certainly Don’t Need This Week

It’s championship week. There’s not time for taking chances, looking for sleepers, or playing around with your roster.

You know who your studs are, but these select few players could sub in if you have an absolute beast of a opponent, and if you are daring enough to bench a player you’ve trusted to get you to the one game that matters for a new name off the waiver wire.

Your call, I guess. Personally, I’m heading into three championship games this weekend, and I don’t think I’d start any of these players over the guys that got me there.

As usual, the FF Librarian starts off the week with a nice set of readings to recap Week 15 and start the prep for Week 16’s championship showdowns. Stop by FF Geeks for a big list of names as well.

FF Toolbox hits most of the big names, but many have been hot waiver wire recommendations for weeks now, including the several San Francisco names who get to play the Detroit Lions in Week 16.

Lester’s Legends does a good job of calming your nerves about a lot of the Week 15 starlets, but his recommendations for Jerome Harrison, Maurice Morris, and Michael Bush are still a little optimistic for my holiday spirits.

Harrison was certainly the surprise stud of Week 15, but he could easily be muffled by the Raiders in Week 16 or replaced by Chris Jennings because Eric Mangini hates fantasy owners. If it was my roster, I wouldn’t throw Harrison in there. I’d keep the guy that got me to the championship locked in and ready to go.

The same goes for Michael Bush, who is muddled in a similar deep Oakland backfield, and Morris, who despite his running against the Cardinals on Sunday would surprise me if he found room and time to run against the 49ers now that Alex Smith is playing just for the chance to remain the starter in 2010.

If Jeremy Shockey sits again in Week 15, it’s conceivable that you might take a chance with David Thomas, also plugged by Fantasy Joe. Drew Brees would throw to a random fan in the stands if it would get him his next first down, and that’s just the honest truth.

If you can predict which Saints players will have a hot game, you must be the defensive coordinator for the Bucs this week. But that’s Raheem Morris, so it’s safe to say he doesn’t know. He’s not a defensive coordinator, just a head coach who plays one on TV.

Fantasy Fanhouse gives Vince Young a mention, but I’d hope he’s no longer available considering what I said about him before the fantasy football playoffs began.

Vince Young continued to lead teams towards a fantasy football championship with a three-touchdown performance on Sunday, but he gets the Chargers this week. Can he keep it up?

I think you have to start him if he’s your best play, but don’t expect him to win this one through the air. The draw plays could do some damage against the nose-less San Diego defensive line.

I do like Fanhouse’s and Razzball‘s mention of Josh Morgan and could see him as a risky grab if you need a plug at WR3 this week, but don’t count on him to get as many targets as he did against the Eagles.

The Lions will leave everyone with room to run in Week 16, and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will certainly make their marks.

The sleeper discussion is swirling around Larry Johnson this week as he faces his former team, the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately, the Bengals have asked almost nothing of him since Cedric Benson’s return from injury.

Will they step aside this week to let him have his revenge game? Hard to see that coming ahead of the Bengals’ playoff push and playing in memory of Chris Henry. This team has no emotional room left to consider revenge. Benson will likely play most of this one unless the Bengals put away the game early and let Larry Johnson clean up.

And on the negative side of things, the Vikings seem to be cracking under a creaky, old Brett Favre, who refuses to go out of the game, even at his coach’s request.

I’d agree with the sentiment out there that Brad Childress has let Favre get far too powerful in the locker room, and I’m not sure what that means about Favre’s Monday night trip to Chicago. It could be the game that gets them back on track, or it could be another slumping performance from the veteran gunslinger.

Hedge your bets on Favre in the championship game if you plan on starting him this week.