Rashad Jennings is the new MJD in Week 8 Pickups

Maurice Jones-Drew
It’s horrible to watch your stud running back go down with an injury. It’s especially horrible when you don’t own his backup.

But it’s incredibly joyful for all of us surfing the waiver wire.

After DeMarco Murray went down last week and opened the door for two potential running back pickups Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner, Maurice Jones-Drew injured his foot this week.

Rashad Jennings, who steps into his place, should be the hottest pickup of the week.

So let’s drop the chatter and get right to the pickups.

I won’t go into all the guys we’ve recommended in the past, but feel free to browse through the past few weeks of waiver wire recs if you’re looking for more help in shallow leagues.

As always, FAAB percentages are guesstimated next to each player.

Week 8 Pickups

Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars (40% or more)
Maurice Jones-Drew will miss some time with his foot injury, which makes Jennings an automatic RB2 just because of the workload he inherits in Jacksonville. You might have to break the bank to get him, even though MJD’s injury doesn’t look as severe as it could have been. I set the FAAB at 40%, but that’s only because it’s about the minimum I expect Jennings to go for in leagues where he isn’t already owned.

Phillip Tanner, RB, Cowboys (10-15%)
With Felix Jones a little banged up after only one game, Tanner should be added and makes for a desperation start this week if Felix Jones still starts.

Ryan Broyles and Titus Young, WR, Lions (5-10%)
Nate Burleson broke his leg in Week 7 and opened the door for one of these young receivers to emerge. Young should slide into the starting role in Burleson’s place, but Broyles may have a better chance to contribute as a more refined receiver. Both guys are worth taking a chance on if you need a receiver to finish out the season, but I’d put my FAAB dollars down on Young first since he’s slotted to see the field more often.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers (5%)
If Stewart’s been dropped, it looks like he’s getting a chance to be the feature back for Carolina at long last. Might as well make sure you benefit if he finds a way to turn around the Panthers’ run game.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins (<5%)
It looks like Moss is the playmaker RGIII needs while Garcon continues to recover from his mysterious foot injury. But there’s a lot of competition in the Redskins’ wide receiver corps. Moss isn’t worth spending a lot of money or waiver picks on acquiring. So don’t get too excited.

Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns (<5%)
Hardesty could be the lead back if the Browns decide to sit Trent Richardson as he nurses his rib injury. Hardesty should be stashed until we hear how the Browns will handle Richardson this week.

Donald Brown, RB, Colts (<5%)
Probably won’t return until Week 9, but you could stash him this week to guarantee you have him when he gets back on the field.

Jake Locker, QB, Titans (<5%)
Don’t forget that he was promising before his injury. He’s a nice safety QB2 with QB1 upside.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Chiefs (0%)
Hillis returned to practice this week and could resume his role as Jamaal Charles’ hammer and the Chiefs’ touchdown maker. Considering his failures before getting injured, he shouldn’t cost you anything to stash in case he returns from the bye with some value.

Cam Newton after scoring a touchdown

Takeaways from the 2011 Fantasy Football Season

Cam Newton after scoring a touchdownI pity the fool that doesn’t learn from his past mistakes, and 2011 broke a few of the fantasy football molds.

No Peyton Manning. The Texans made the playoffs. Rex Grossman is good? Okay…for a few weeks, he was good. And let’s not forget Reggie Bush was a feature back, and Cam Newton was a viable QB1 in his rookie season.

So what are we to make of this?

1. Rookies CAN dominate.

We can no longer claim that a rookie skill player won’t be a factor in their first season. Whether quarterback, wide receiver, running back or tight end, we’ve now seen rookies not only play well but absolutely dominate.

Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and DeMarco Murray will convince fantasy managers to invest in rookies like Trent Richardson and Robert Griffin III this season, and we can’t say they’re foolish for doing so.

2. The Gronk Rule: Tight ends MIGHT not be deep anymore.

The tight end position was considered deep in recent years, and many experts advised you to ignore Antonio Gates and wait on the TE position in your fantasy football draft. Then Gronkowski happened. He was an absolutely unstoppable force for most NFL tacklers and set records at the tight end position across the board.

With Gronk and Jimmy Graham separating themselves from the rest of the tight end pack so significantly last season, it forces us to consider drafting one of those two in the early rounds to get a jump on the other team in our league out of the tight end spot. If you do, I’ve already covered which tight end I favor.

Some of you may draft a tight end and a quarterback this year before you even have a running back on the roster. That’s just how much the tight end values changed in 2011.

In fact, Gronk’s out of this world stats (as impossible to repeat as they may be) may impact NFL offenses just as the Wildcat did just a few years ago. We may see the mythical “Wes Welker-like receiver” NFL offenses (other than the Pats) have sought give way to the search for a “Gronk” as part of a tight end tandem.

3. To the Air.

Quarterbacks matter more than ever in the NFL today, and we saw in 2011 that fantasy teams built around an elite passer like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees could hang with any team in the league no matter who they were forced to start at running back.

Many fantasy footballers have experimented with drafting a quarterback in the first round with mixed results, but 2011 was the year that strategy paid off for a large portion of the fantasy community.

This year, you’ll have plenty of positions to consider in the first round, not just running back. But outside of the top three picks, you should definitely consider getting an elite passer.

I doubt we’ll see many teams make it to the fantasy football playoffs in 2012 without an elite fantasy quarterback on their roster.

4. Always Be Closing.

Despite a hot start, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson cooled off a bit at the end of the season. That’s not necessarily to say anything about their play in 2011 as much as it is to remind us all how important it is to constantly be looking for trade opportunities to help our team.

This year, I’m going to be a little more aggressive about trading players, regardless of status, when a deal comes together. And if the value is there, I may look to unload players who have particularly difficult late season schedules before I am forced to ride out their dry spell.

4. Darren McFadden is worth the risk

I’ve been too concerned about injury to consider Run DMC in drafts prior to 2011, but his performance up until his injury last season has changed my mind. The same might go for Ryan Mathews, even though he’s already hurt again.

As long as you fortify your roster with strong backups at running back, it’s worth considering taking the plunge on these injury risk studs.

5. Handcuffs are a worthy investment.

On that same note, I’ve often avoided guys who were stuck behind studs because I didn’t think it was very likely they’d see the field. I’ve always preferred players that were more likely to get a shot to shine or had a better chance of starting for me multiple weeks throughout the season.

Not so much anymore.

With the injuries last season, owners of Felix Jones, Michael Bush, and C.J. Spiller really reaped the rewards of holding onto  a handcuff all season long. When it comes to running backs, as long as the offensive line is solid, it’s worth investing in a handcuff here and there, whether you own the starter or not, in case we see injuries like we did in 2011.

6. Inconsistency kills.

It’s not necessarily a new lesson, but the Jacksons (Vincent and DeSean) had their ups and downs in 2011. Both were drafted as top receivers, but on any given Sunday, they were as likely to score 30 as they were to score 3 fantasy points.

It’s hard to win a league when you can’t put a solid week together. So even though VJax won me more than one game last season with his phenomenal performances, I’m looking at consistency in 2012 — at the players that give me a chance to win each and every week.

There is a lot of depth at the wide receiver position this year, but don’t fall in love with 2011 total points without considering what they really did each week of last year.

Jamaal Charles owners: How to replace your stud running back

If you lost Jamaal Charles on Sunday, you don’t have a lot of options. He was your first round pick, and unless you play in a very small league, it’s unlikely you have someone else of Charles’ caliber on your roster to pick up the slack.

You also aren’t going to find many first-round quality players on the waiver wire. So at this point, you are left with the desperation options.

It’s time to beg, borrow, cheat, or steal.

One note before we start — you don’t have to do these in this order. Begging is for the worst off of the Charles’ owners, but all of us could benefit from “stealing,” even if we didn’t lose Charles. In fact, “stealing” is probably a good place to start for the majority of you. That’s why I put it at the end…

BEG

A trade is the fastest way to fix your roster when you face a catastrophic injury like losing Charles. You won’t ever have as strong a team as you had before, but just like getting burned on a bad investment, you have to take stock of what you have, package your assets, and sell off what you can to improve your net worth (in this case, your team).

Now I’m assuming you’re in dire straits without Charles. You might not have another running back capable of even RB2-quality production. Maybe you were rotating a stream of flex-level running backs in alongside Charles. Maybe the only other stud on your roster was your top-5 quarterback.

If you can field a respectable roster in Week 3 without Charles, hold off and move on to the less drastic strategies below. But if you’re rocking back and forth in the fetal position while screaming “Jamaaaaaal. WHY?!?,” stay with me here…

Hopefully, you drafted some good depth at at least one position. It’s probably safe to assume it’s not running back, so let’s pretend you have a little extra talent at quarterback or wide receiver.

It’s time to start talking to every owner in your league who has a hole at wide receiver or quarterback and a running back worth starting every week. Package what you have and shop it.

Start your negotiations by making a reasonable offer, but if that goes south, beg. Beg like you’re life depended on it. Play the pity card, and maybe someone will grant you a chance at their prize running back.

Target the owners of Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Arian Foster, and Shonn Greene, who may be disappointed in what they’ve brought to the box score so far. You don’t have the luxury of being disappointed in them. You just need high-ceiling starters.

Chris Johnson would be the first player I’d target. Foster or Jackson might come at a discount since they are currently injured, and Greene owners might be convinced that he won’t rise to the occasion this season either.

For the right price, I’d take a chance at Greene.

Float your starting-quality backup quarterback out there packaged alongside one of your WR2 or WR1-level wide receivers. If you feel good enough about your QB2, try offering your stud-level starter to the guy that drafted Peyton Manning.

It’s a great time to trade Matthew Stafford to the highest bidder if you smartly drafted a quality alternative in case Stafford didn’t make it a full 16 games. Maybe you’ll miss out on his breakout season, but you could end up with a fantasy stud to replace what you lost in Charles.

BORROW

If trading for a stud or potential stud doesn’t work, it’s time to look at the lesser options and “borrow.”

You’re not actually borrowing in this situation. You’re still trading, but you’re looking at the potential to upgrade this player down the road.

If left with no other options, go ahead and look at trading depth for depth. Maybe you could deal a backup tight end, WR3, or your backup quarterback to give yourself some more depth at running back.

Nabbing someone like Joseph Addai, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller, or Ryan Grant could still prove valuable. Don’t write anyone off. But don’t take any terrible deals either just to add a running back to your squad. You have to get a decent value for the package you put together. A bad trade would pretty much sink your season.

You might try to sneak a deal for a promising up-and-comer.

Make a play for Ben Tate whose owner may not need his opportunistic play for the next several weeks while Foster heals up as much as you could. Look for James Starks, who is rising in Green Bay. Maybe the rest of your league hasn’t noticed yet. Finally, it pays off to have a guy in your league who lives under a rock!

While getting a running back out of the deal would be preferred, it’s okay to consider a trade that upgrades your other positions. Anything that improves your team will help, and maybe that additional strength at quarterback or wide receiver could be turned into running back depth at a later date.

While you might not start these running backs right away or have no need for the additional depth at another position, these players are good to have. You can hold onto them for now, start them when they have decent matchups, and maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll have a big enough game for you to deal them again.

On that next trade, that’s when you might land a stud to replace Charles.

CHEAT

Okay, I realize most people don’t want to cheat. But some do. And I feel it’s my duty to cover this even if I don’t wholeheartedly endorse it. In fact, I’ll despise you if you pull it off. But hey, we’re in it to win it. So here goes…

This one’s the hard one. You might not have a chance at swindling an owner in your league, and even if you do, you might not get this trade past the rest of the owners in your league. But…rumors and misinformation might be a decent way to get a fantasy starter off another owner.

All it takes is a text, presumed to be a forward from Twitter, with “RT @AdamSchefter” in front, and you could have another owner thinking they need to sell high. (Kidding, of course. Who would do that?)

Haven’t you always wanted to be “that guy?”

You could make a play for Matt Forte by talking up Marion Barber’s upcoming return and his ability to vulture every touchdown from Forte the rest of the way. It is possible, even if it’s not probable. So it’s not a lie, MOM!

Sure, you still have to worry that it comes true, in some part, but Forte’s a decent recovery from losing Charles.

Steven Jackson owners might be willing to believe he’ll never be healthy again this season. He looked slow in the first game of the season, didn’t he? Might as well get a decent value for him rather than deal with his questionable status all season long.

Ryan Mathews certainly isn’t going to get enough touches to be worth anything in San Diego. So what if every analyst out there seems to believe he’s the better back. Tolbert is clearly the guy that’s going to get all the fantasy points, right?

Use rumors and speculation to your advantage, and you just might “negotiate” your way into a nice consolation prize.

But yes, if you pull this off, several people in your league will call you out for it. You’ll be cursed for the rest of the season, and you probably won’t even make it to the championship game due to karma. All wins have their price.

STEAL

There’s not going to be a lot on the waiver wire, but there’s enough. Now that you’ve lost Charles, it’s time to take everything you can and “steal” value for free off the wire.

First, your Kansas City replacements. Unfortunately, they’ll cost the most and probably produce the least.

Thomas Jones + Dexter McCluster + Le’Ron McClain

I covered this in this week’s waiver wire post, but Jones probably assumes the lead back duties here. He’s not exciting; in fact, he’s looked totally finished so far this season. But he’s the guy listed second on the depth chart, and he’s likely to get the goal line looks, at least initially.

Jones is the running back I’d try to pickup first, but don’t break the bank to get him. He’s not worth it, especially with how lackluster the Chiefs offense has been thus far. Thomas Jones is not going to spark anything for them.

Dexter McCluster’s been used as a gadget guy by the Chiefs and has gotten more touches than Jones so far this year up until Charles was injured. With his ability to act as a receiver or running back (not to mention his eligibility as both a WR and RB on some fantasy sites), McCluster may actually see the most productive touches in Charles’ absence. He’ll also come at a lower cost than Jones if you’re having to bid on McCluster in a FAAB.

The dark horse in this is Le’Ron McClain. We’ve seen him take more than his fair share of the work during his time in Baltimore, and now he’s in the mix in Kansas City.

Jones is old, and McCluster is undersized. So the bulk of the workload could easily land in McClain’s lap. Again, he’s not going to blow the doors off anyone, but he could be productive if the Chiefs pick themselves up off the floor.

Assuming you miss out on Jones and McCluster, stash McClain. You never know.

And here’s where the real stealing comes in. If you have the roster space, I’d claim every single decent handcuff back still on waivers that you can. That list includes Deji Karim in Jacksonville, Kendall Hunter in San Francisco, Delone Carter in Indy, and Michael Bush in Oakland.

Bush and Carter have carved a role of sorts on their offenses for now with the potential to do more, especially if there’s an injury. Hunter’s not getting a lot of touches, but he certainly looks like he could do plenty with them after leading the league in rushing during the preseason. And Karim will continue to protect Maurice Jones-Drew’s long-term health by taking a few touches each week until MJD suffers a setback or another injury.

If they’re out there, I’d go get Willis McGahee, who could end up winning John Fox’s favor if Moreno can’t stay healthy, and LaDainian Tomlinson, who still might be the most productive back on the Jets, first.

You’re goal with these backups is to be first in line to benefit when the next devastating injury hits fantasy owners. And in the meantime, you can tell your tale of woe over a campfire to the rest of your league to scare them into trading you for their own handcuff.

It’s not going to make you any friends, but this strategy is an act of desperation.

And if you can’t “steal” your way back into fantasy relevance, well…you better start trolling the waiver wire and maximizing every spot on your roster. You’re going to need every point you can get the rest of the way.

RIP Jamaal’s ACL. Pour some out for your homies’ knees. And fingers crossed this doesn’t happen to any other first-round picks this season.

http://youtu.be/dqHKf5NuVtg

And seriously, what’s going on in KC? Charles is their third ACL tear this season.

Give me Denarius Moore like this Week 2 Waiver Wire

What happened this weekend? This happened. But more importantly, here’s a few ways to get your team back into shape.

Thomas Jones / Dexter McCluster / Le’Ron McClain

The situation in Kansas City doesn’t look great, but if Jamaal Charles gets the dreaded ACL diagnosis we all expect this week, he won’t be taking the field again. A committee of Jones and McCluster would try to fill the void, but it’s free agent signing Le’Ron McClain who might have the best chance to stand up to the abuse the only offensive threat on the Chiefs will receive in Charles’ absence. The downside of picking up any of the Chiefs’ backfield is that you’ll have to rely on the Chiefs to make something of themselves. They haven’t done it so far through two weeks. And will they even be able to run? Without Eric Berry on the defensive side of the ball, they’ll be playing from behind most of the season.

Thomas Jones is the most reliable pickup, but if your chances of getting him are slim, go after McCluster or McClain. Any or all of them could have value, small as it may be on this Chiefs’ offense. We’ll have to see how the Chiefs use them in Week 3.

Cam Newton

It’s safe to say he’s looking promising. After hanging 400 yards passing on the Packers, we can no longer sweep him under the rug as a fluke. Some of his success in Week 1 could be written off on the Arizona defense. In Week 2, we could assume the Packers weren’t expecting the Panthers to come out throwing at them. But it’s time to pickup Newton. His Week 2 performance, even with three picks and only one touchdown, made for a decent fantasy start. Keep your fingers crossed that you aren’t starting him the week he comes back down to earth. To his credit, he’ll be improving and getting more accustomed to NFL speed while the rest of the league tries to figure out how to stop him. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

Daniel Thomas

Much to my dismay, the rookie running back had 107 yards rushing and 10 yards receiving Sunday while Reggie Bush sat on the sideline. I don’t like his “emergence” since it puts a damper on my Reggie Bush sleeper pick. That said, the Dolphins still didn’t win on Sunday, so there’s a very good chance they decide they need more Bush on the field. Thomas gives them a runner powerful enough to go up the middle and wear down defenses late in games, but he hasn’t shown very much  game-changing,  playmaking ability yet. Still, better safe than sorry. If he wasn’t drafted, make sure you get him on a roster this week.

Eric Decker

Decker might not get to stay on the field as much once Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal (injured Sunday) return from injury, but his 113 yards and 2 touchdowns will get him noticed by your league. He was one of my sleepers, and he’s made big plays in both of the Broncos’ games this season. That trend should continue while he’s on the field. So even though his opportunity may be limited if the Broncos get healthy, hes’ worth stashing to see if John Fox keeps him on the field. Denver certainly isn’t going to win by dominating on defense, and they’ll keep the more effective passer Kyle Orton under center at least until the Tebow-chanting masses storm the field.

Denarius Moore

Moore racked up 146 yards and a touchdown in impressive fashion Sunday. He didn’t hesitate to go up and grab the football on his contested touchdown grab, and Jason Campbell wasn’t afraid to put it up there for him either. Prior to this season, Moore was the talk of Raiders camp, which is why I made him a sleeper this season, and he woke up a little early this week with injuries to Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Louis Murphy. If the coaches saw what we saw, they’ll find a way to keep Moore on the field once the Raiders’ wide receiver corps are back to 100 percent. Ford and Moore might be the two greatest offensive weapons the Raiders have besides Darren McFadden.

Fred Davis

Rushing himself back from offseason surgery, Chris Cooley isn’t getting the targets he used to. Instead, they’re going to Fred Davis, and Davis’s making the most of them with over 100 yards in Week 1 and a score in Week 2. As long as Rex Grossman stays under center, Davis looks like he’ll be reliable enough to be a TE1.

Scott Chandler

It’s time we admitted that Chandler was legit. He’s now scored in two consecutive Bills games. He’s nothing special other than being a big dude, and Chandler has bounced around the league as a result. But the Bills seem intent on keeping him involved in the offense. I’d pick up more reliable options like Fred Davis before going out to get Chandler, but Fitzpatrick clearly likes the Great Big Scott in the red zone.

Overreaction Monday: Why Did I Draft Chris Johnson?

http://youtu.be/fjL-4nwnkkk

Chris Johnson. Steven Jackson. Adrian Peterson. THE COLTS! Why can’t we have nice things?!?

Green Bay is an unstoppable force of fantasy football goodness. I’m picking up the Packers’ ball boy on the waiver wire this week, and I fully expect him to get at least 10 touchdowns this season.

But the Saints defense is terrible. I will never trust them again. Look at how Aaron Rodgers tore them apart!

Ben Roethlisberger has lost his command of the offense. He’s no longer a QB1. Why did I listen to those experts recommending him as a bargain? I’d rather have Cam Newton!

The Ravens will bowl over everyone with the mighty power of Ray Rice, crusher of kittens and unstoppable engine of fantasy points. I have no doubt.

There’s something in the water in St. Louis. Sam Bradford…hurt. Steven Jackson…hurt. Danny Amendola…hurt. My fantasy stars are broken. Back to the waiver wire…

What happened to Matt Ryan? I thought he was supposed to ascend to the highest realm of fantasy quarterbacks this season. Instead, he was Ben Roethlisberger-ed. (It’s a verb.) Will Julio Jones be enough save him?

Why are the Steelers wearing those blue uniform…oh, it’s the Bears. How did we not see this coming? I know what happened — Big Ben got married this offseason while Jay Cutler called off his engagement. WEDDINGS RUIN FANTASY FOOTBALL!

Cedric Benson? He’s the man. Look at all that yardage and a touchdown. Glad I drafted him while he was in prison!

The Browns tight ends are bound for fantasy greatness. Colt McCoy will hit them anytime they are in the end zone … but the Browns still won’t win. CURSED!

Chris Johnson has more millions than yardage. I’m ruined. Why, oh, WHY did I take him the first round? Please accept my trade request: Chris Johnson for Mike Tolbert, straight up.

See, I told you Cam Newton would work out. HE’S THE BEST QUARTERBACK ON THE PLANET! (Peyton Manning is currently recovering from surgery on the moon.)

And Ryan Fitzpatrick is not in consideration because he went to Harvard.

Adrian Peterson … NO touchdowns? Donovan McNabb has ruined Peterson. Season over. Maybe I can deal him for C.J. Spiller.

The 49ers defense cannot be stopped! Yes, Ted Ginn, you will return every ball you touch.

Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel are nothing without the greatness of Charlie Weis.

PLAXICO BURRESS IS BACK, BABY!

Rex Grossman will lead the Redskins straight to the Super Bowl!

Philip Rivers will take the Chargers all the way to the Super Bowl!

Matthew Stafford will lead the Lions straight to the Super Bowl!

Michael Vick will lead the Eagles straight to to the Super Bowl!

Tarvaris Jackson will lead the Seahawks…to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. (Sorry, the Seahawks are terrible.)

The Bucs will not make the leap! Josh Freeman is a fantasy failure.

The Jags don’t need Garrard. They have Luke McCown!

The Titans could use someone more like Luke McCown.

The Giants have found their David — the Redskins.

The Cardinals have finally found a quarterback again, but he’s not quite as good as the one who started his first game against them.

Mark Sanchez is a closer! Look at that poise.

Tony Romo is not a closer! He’ll never make it to the super Bowl. Fumbles are the antithesis of poise!

What’s happening here? The sky is not falling. Just having a little fun with the first weekend of NFL football and the owner overreactions we’re all guilty of after seeing our fantasy studs exceed or fail to meet expectations. It’s only one week.

Feel free to add your own overreactions in the comments.

…and can I just say again how glad I am that football is back? I missed you terribly, NFL.

On the Waiver Wire: Brian Westbrook LIVES, Week 13 Pickups, and a Massive Collection of Advice to Get Your Team Right for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

I hate handcuffing. I always feel like handcuffs are a waste of a roster spot, and I’d rather have a starting running back from another team than carry a guy who doesn’t play just in case my starter goes down. The backups are rarely as good or as big a part of the offense as their starting counterpart anyway. At least that’s what I told myself until this week.

Apparently, karma chose to teach me a lesson this season. My top picks in two leagues, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, were both hit with the injury bug this week just before I start my playoff runs in Week 14. I don’t own either handcuff.

Obviously, I drafted these two teams on Indian burial grounds. My two starting tight ends in these leagues were Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley.

Beyond snagging the fantasy fallout from these two studs’ injuries, waiver wire pickups for the rest of the season depend on matchups more than ever. You’d be surprised how many owners don’t look ahead and decide which players they should cut ties with and which ones they should stash for the playoffs. As we round out the regular season, you should fortify your roster for Weeks 14-16, assuming that’s your fantasy football playoff.

Regular season wins don’t matter anymore. It’s all about the playoffs.

I’ll hit the highlights on a few guys I like the most that are readily available this week. As a side note, this post will be our last traditional waiver wire post for the rest of the season. If you’re in the playoffs, I assume you’ve strengthened your roster. If not, look back the last few weeks of “On the Wire” posts.

If you’re not in the playoffs, I’m guessing you don’t want to hear anything more about players that could have made your team better, but you can look back at the archives all the same. It’s always nice to play spoiler at the end of the year, even if you have nothing to gain but pride and a new in-season rival. In-season rivals are the best.

Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers – He’s obviously the most high-priority add to come out of Week 12. With Frank Gore done for the year, Westbrook will become the engine of this offense. Troy Smith hasn’t been able to learn the full playbook since joining the 49ers, which has forced them to feed the ball to their running game. You’ll hear some warnings out there that Anthony Dixon has more value as the rookie with fresher legs to replace Gore, but I’m still choosing Westbrook over Dixon if given the choice. They went with Westy all night against the Cardinals until the game was out of reach, and I think they’ll continue to do more of the same. San Francisco would rather play it safe with Westbrook and his experience than hand the majority of their offense over to a rookie.

Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers — That said, Dixon isn’t a bad add if you miss out on Westbrook or get Westy and want to make sure you lock up the 49ers rushing attack. Dixon will at least see some goal line looks, and he’s the better North-South runner at this point. Westbrook, while impressive against the Cardinals, hasn’t seen much playing time and is injury prone late in his career. We’ll know more about how these two runners will split the carries after we see them face the Packers in Week 13, having had a full week to practice together and work on the game plan, but I’m betting Westbrook gets as much as he can handle before Dixon gets his chance.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings — He’s next on the list even though I don’t believe he’ll have much value. The last reports on Adrian Peterson’s ankle injury say it’s only a sprain and that the Vikings fully expect to have him Week 13 against the Bills. Gerhart might see more work to give A.P. a light workload his first game back, but by Week 14 and 15, you won’t want to be relying on a backup running back. If you own Peterson, Gerhart is a must add. Otherwise, put him behind all the other backs listed as a stash in case Peterson’s injury ends up being more serious than what we’ve heard so far.

Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys — Choice is the running back of “choice” in Dallas now that Marion Barber will be out for at least two weeks. Fantasy veterans will remember how he exploded late in 2008 when Felix Jones and Barber both missed time. While Felix hasn’t shown any signs of slowing, Choice has talent and could carve out a portion of the running game for himself even if Jones continues to start for the Cowboys. He’ll at least see the goal line looks for two weeks with Barber out, and that makes him worthy of being added to rosters this week. You might hit the jackpot if Barber has a setback and if Jones is injured in the next two weeks. The Cowboys’ schedule is inviting with Indy, Philly, Washington, and then the horrible, horrible defense of the Cardinals in Week 16.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers — Like a brokeback cowboy, I just can’t quit The Daily Show. Mike Goodson’s been an awakening for the Panthers are running back, but Stewart was more effective with his carries in Week 12. Maybe some of Goodson’s workmanship productivity will rub off on Stewart. He wasn’t able to do much of anything prior to his concussion, but The Daily Show should earn back more and more of the running game as the season winds down.

Goodson will stay involved and has some value since he’s been so productive during Stewart’s absence, but both Stewart and Goodson are interviewing for jobs next season. DeAngelo Williams will be gone, and it’s probably going to be a split backfield with Stewart taking the lead duties and Goodson providing a burst on third downs and catching passes out of the backfield like Williams used to do. The schedule isn’t too kind in Week 14 or Week 16 for either Carolina back, but you’ll definitely want to start either Stewart or Goodson in Week 15 against the Cardinals.

Chris Ivory, RB, Saints – People keep saying that the Saints touchdown vulture is about to fall off the fantasy value cliff, but he’s stuck around. Even with Reggie Bush back on Thanksgiving, he got the touchdowns where it counted and put up decent yardage. I’m sure he’s owned in most touchdown-heavy leagues, but I’d consider picking him up in standard leagues for the fantasy playoffs.

Pierre Thomas may come back in the next two weeks, but with Thomas’ injury taking so long to heal, I don’t think they’ll want to put him in harm’s way near the end zone when they have a proven weapon like Ivory, who hasn’t disappointed. The Saints’ remaining schedule through Week 16 has them facing the Bengals, Rams, Ravens, and Falcons. Those last two are tougher than most, but I’d snag Ivory for this week against the Bengals and next week against the Rams. If the Saints’ offense can deliver him to the goal line for multiple scores in those two, I might even consider giving him a chance in Week 15 against the Ravens as well.

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams — I went on and on about Alexander when he had his first breakout game earlier this season. I loved his potential, and I still do. In his first game back, he was the leading receiver, even though he was only playing 20 snaps. He added that spark the Rams have needed. Outside of PPR leagues, he’s the Rams wide receiver I want to start, and if you look ahead at his matchups (Cardinals, Saints, Chiefs, 49ers), he’s not looking so bad outside of that Week 14 in New Orleans.

Take Alexander’s schedule, add that the Rams like to throw the ball, that Bradford emerged for his first 300+ yard game in Week 12 (with Alexander leading in yards and tied with two other receivers for most targets), and that the tight end Bradford loved the most, Michael Hoomanawanui, is now out with a high ankle sprain, and you have a recipe for another fantasy breakout for the young Rams’ talent.

I’d play him this week against the Cardinals, but all that said, I do have to caution that he is playing on borrowed knees–literally. His injury risk is red on the advisory system, but I’ll still give him the green light if you need that extra something for the playoffs at wide receiver.

Earl Bennett, WR, Bears — When Jay Cutler first got traded to Chicago, Bennett received a lot of talk as a sleeper. They were teammates at Vanderbilt, and Cutler, in a way, made Bennett into a star. In the NFL, the two have not connected as often. Bennett has been the second or third wide receiver on the Bears’ depth chart for some time, but the passing game has never been reliable or explosive enough to make Bennett a fantasy star. It looked like it was getting there in Week 12 against the Eagles.

Mike Martz may have finally settled into a playbook that suits the Bears. All of their weapons, including Devin Hester and Greg Olsen, got involved. Bennett scored twice. If you look at the remaining schedule for the Bears (at the Lions, Patriots, at the Vikings, Jets), they have a nice road ahead until Week 16 against the Jets. And even in that game, Bennett is less likely to get shut down as the No. 3 guy in many sets. If I’m short a wide receiver for the playoffs, Bennett is my second choice after Alexander. Johnny Knox is more reliable, but Bennett should get his looks, too.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders — If no one picked up the speedster in Oakland, you should make a run at him this week. His playoff schedule is nice (Jaguars, Broncos, Colts), and he seems to be the only receiver who can inflict massive damage for the Raiders. As long as Jason Campbell looks his way in Week 13, I’d consider starting him in the playoffs as a WR3.

Blair White or Austin Collie, WR, Colts — Whichever one of these Colts’ receivers starts in any given week will have value. A very angry Peyton Manning will be suiting up against a decent but not formidable schedule in the fantasy playoffs (Titans, Jags, Raiders) and trying to destroy the world to get into Indy into the  real NFL playoffs. I wouldn’t want to stand  in his way. Both of these receivers have a nose for the end zone, and Manning will go to them without hesitation. The only issue I have with them is that they could just as easily have one catch for 7 yards and a touchdown as they could have five catches for 70 yards and three touchdowns.

Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins — Bess is very reliable as a PPR receiver as long as Chad Henne is the Dolphins’ quarterback, but his matchups are tougher than they look for the fantasy playoffs (Jets, Bills, Lions). I’d still consider starting him down the stretch if you need someone consistent, but as  a Marshall owner, I’m still hoping Marshall’s return will steal some of Bess’ thunder and production. Bess outperformed Marshall for a good part of this season, but the Dolphins best matchups in the playoffs (Bills, Lions) could become statement games for Marshall to prove trading for him was not a waste of the Dolphins’ draft picks–fingers crossed. Still, there could be scraps for Bess regardless of the matchup or Marshall’s contributions.

I dug deep for fantasy football advice all over the Web this week since I was trying to turn a dead but playoff-bound team (the one that just lost Frank Gore) into a fantasy zombie for Weeks 14-16. Now 21 waiver wire claims later, I feel pretty good about the team.

Below is my compiled list of waiver wire pickup recommendations, fantasy football playoff advice, and matchup analysis. It’s all worth a read if you have the time, but pay special attention the analysis previewing playoff potential and which players are getting hot at the right time, especially Fantasy O Matic’s look at defensive trends over the last five weeks, which I found especially interesting. H/T to FF Librarian for bringing it to my attention.

  • If you’re looking for something along the lines of an add/drop for the fantasy playoffs, SI’s Fire Sale column by Thomas Casale is it. It’s a great read, and you know I believe in Alexander’s and Bennett’s potential. It also may be time, as Casale notes, to give up on Vincent Jackson. He’ll miss two games, which puts him back to Week 15 as an effective start, and that’s assuming that his injury will heal right back to 100 percent. There are too many targets in San Diego, but if you have the room to keep him on your bench and wait, you might as well see what you have in him.
  • The FF Geek Blog hammers out another spreadsheet this week that lists more quarterbacks than most of the other waiver wire posts I’ve seen. If you’re in need of a playoff passer, take a look at their thoughts.
  • FF Toolbox touches on several of the big name adds, but I imagine most of these guys are taken in competitive leagues.
  • I think he sells a few of these guys short, but Lester’s Legends offers up his Get ‘em or Don’t Sweat ‘em for Week 13.
  • I like everyone Fanhouse and The Hazean tout as an add this week.
  • You’ll always find great links from the Fantasy Football Librarian.
  • NFL.com has some risky quarterback adds but, otherwise, presents a solid lineup of pickups.
  • Hatty Waiver Wire Guru talks through the week’s top pickups and players to watch if you’re still left wanting.
  • To think, last week I almost dropped Jay Cutler, and this week, he’s among the top adds on the waiver wire at Razzball. Glad I didn’t make that mistake.
  • I doubt most of SI’s “Decision Time” players for Week 13 are on the waiver wire, but a few like Jonathan Stewart might be available. Get them on your roster if you’re still trying to make the playoffs this week. SI’s waiver wire column also has some names to target.
  • Be aware that those “Points Against” rankings you’ve been looking at all season may not tell the whole picture. Fantasy O Matic broke down the defensive performances over the past five weeks and compared it to the season-long rankings to give a more accurate picture of who should flourish and who should suffer in the fantasy playoffs. It’s a must read for anyone playoff bound alongside their previous post on the best playoff matchups.
  • Rotoworld’s Chris Wesseling loves him some Westbrook this week and believes he’s capable of RB2 numbers the rest of the way. I missed out on Westbrook, so I’ll have to hope Dixon gets a piece of that.
  • The Fifth Down thinks Sam Bradford is ripe enough to start. I can’t really disagree with them this week as he faces the Cardinals.
  • Matthew Berry, ESPN’s TMR, pays tribute to Leslie Nielsen and plays back all the pickups he’s recommended over the last several weeks as well as the new guys like Westbrook and James Davis.
  • Pro Football Focus runs down all the hot prospects down to the sleepers and ones to watch the rest of this season.
  • The Scores Report may have covered every player that’s out there on waivers right now. Impressive.

Believe it or not: Jahvid “THE” Best, Jason Snelling, LeSean McCoy, Jay Cutler and More Top Scorers from Week 2

This week was not a good week to bench Jay Cutler or Jahvid Best. I have Jay Cutler as my QB1 in two leagues, but I chose to bench him in one of the two to “play it safe” with Favre. I hate it when I play it safe. I hate it even more when it backfires. Uh, needless to say, I won’t do that again.

We knew Jahvid Best was going to be good, but THIS good…against the Eagles. Surprise! Hate yourself for doubting him. I loathe myself because I was already high on the kid.

Here are the rest of the unusual top scorers from Week 2, a week that will haunt me for a lifetime.

Jahvid Best: 78 yards, 2 TDs, 9 catches for 154 yards, 1 TD

Believe It — Best was excellent, especially on the short pass from Shaun Hill that he turned into a 75-yard touchdown. Some were comparing him to Brian Westbrook and Chris Johnson going into this season, and this Week 2 performance certainly shows hints of that kind of ability. I don’t think you’re going to be able to “buy low” on him anymore this season, and I doubt you’ll really want to “sell high” on him either.

Best proved this week that he can score plenty of fantasy points against even the toughest of defenses and without his starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. That makes him a must-start in my book for the rest of the season, and we’ll see if we can confirm that next week when he faces Minnesota.

Jason Snelling: 129 yards, 2 TDs, 5 catches for 57 yards, 1 TD

Believe It (When He Plays) — We’ve never forgotten about Snelling’s abilities, and when Michael Turner went down with a groin injury in this one, Snelling jumped right into his role to reap the rewards. I don’t think the Cardinals put a defense on the field as they allowed the Falcons to run up 41 points. Ouch.

Unfortunately for Snelling, the Falcons have said that Michael Turner’s groin injury is not severe and that he could have gone back into the game if it was close. So while Snelling was awesome this week, it’ll be hard to predict when the Falcons will next have to rely on his talents. He will at least continue to spell Turner, but he really only has value when the full load is put on his back.

Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add him to your bench if you own Michael Turner. You’d definitely want a piece of this action if Turner were to reaggravate his injury later in the season.

LeSean McCoy: 120 yards, 3 TDs, 4 catches for 8 yards

Believe It — No Leonard Weaver and a banged-up Mike Bell makes McCoy a happy boy. Of course, this stat line was against the Lions, which really makes it like saying Neil Armstrong had a great vertical when he was jumping in zero gravity on the moon.

I am not a huge fan of McCoy, but he appears to have stumbled into more of a workload that I expected him to have this season. If he makes the best of it, he should be a solid stud. We’ll get another chance to see what he can do against a slightly more difficult defense next week when he faces Jacksonville.

Jay Cutler: 277 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It — Look at that stat line. No interceptions? None? Cutler put his critics on notice this week. It’s physically painful to me knowing that I sat Cutler in one league, but at least I started him in another to benefit from his huge day in Dallas.

Mike Martz has made this offense into a force to be reckoned with, and Cutler made all the right throws Sunday. Looks like those who counted on Cutler to put it all together this season in Chicago have hit it big. I believe in him going forward.

Mark Sanchez: 220 passing yards, 3 TDs

Not Buying It — “Sanchize” went from one of the worst games of his career to one of the best in just one week, but it’s hard to say he’ll do this on a regular basis. Sanchez may have the tools, but he’s still very young. He outplayed Tom Brady with the help of the Jets’ non-stop attacking defense.

New York will frequently rely on their running game and defense this season and allow Sanchez to do just enough not to lose. He’ll be better when Santonio Holmes gets on the field, but he won’t be matching Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s numbers every week.

Sanchez owners  should expect stats similar to what Matt Ryan has posted over the last couple of years.  Just be pleasantly surprised when he puts together a game like he did Sunday.

Shaun Hill: 335 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Not Buying It — Clearly, Hill can run the offense in Stafford’s absence, but he’s not going to create any quarterback controversy. Take away the 75-yard score by Jahvid Best, and this stat line reads 260 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, which is a little more ordinary.

Kyle Orton: 307 passing yards, 1 TD

Believe It — The Broncos are a passing team, and even though he didn’t take great advantage of that with passing touchdowns this week, Orton once again put up big yardage. Expect him to be a solid QB2 this season with QB1 upside depending on the matchup.

Mike Tolbert: 82 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch for 13 yards

Believe It — Mike Tolbert got the rock in Ryan Mathews absence, but unlike Snelling, he could be gunning for a larger share of the carries even when Mathews is healthy. Tolbert punched in 2 touchdowns and seemed adequate enough in the running game for San Diego. Meanwhile, Mathews seems to have a fumble problem.

The Chargers appear more apt to use Tolbert over Darren Sproles if Mathews were to miss any time or shows that he is too green to start at running back for a playoff contender. So take note of this stat line and waiver wire accordingly if you want to protect your Mathews investment or if you want to snipe a LeRon McClain-type talent to keep in reserve.

Kevin Walter: 11 catches for 144 yards, 1 TD

Not Buying It — The hype train is still rolling out of Jacoby Jones’ station. Jones also had a touchdown, but he didn’t rack up more than 100 yards like Water did. Expect these two to battle it out for a good while, similar to the way Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson seem to battle it out beside Marques Colston for the Saints.

It’s hard to predict who will be the most solid No. 2 fantasy wide receiver beside Andre Johnson on the Texans this season, but keep your eye on both Walter and Jones. Walter received a good amount of targets while Johnson was being attended to in the locker room, and I don’t believe his bigger game this Sunday means he’s won the competition.

Not mentioned for the sake of obviousness, Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Steelers D/ST, Peyton Manning, and Andre 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.

Friends don’t let friends draft Ben Tate

It happens in almost every draft. It’s the magazine curse. Some league member — let’s call him Pete — is convinced that Ben Tate is going to be the next superstar after they read a profile of him that was written in June. Pete is excited. Pete gets busy with other things until draft day. And then…the unspeakable happens.

It’s kind of like watching a slow-speed accident — like watching two cars back into each other in a parking lot. Nobody wants to see that, but it’s also impossible to stop.

Approaching the draft board, Pete pulls a player sticker and slaps it up on the wall. As he turn around, he’s a little confused that he didn’t hear the gasps and sighs of a thousand voices as he took a “steal” in the mid-rounds. He was sure everyone was waiting for Ben Tate to fall to their next pick, but instead of sighs and complaints, all he gets are a few shocked faces, laughter, and a hand to the forehead.

“Ben Tate is out for the year.” Someone had to say it. Then you just feel bad for Pete. Really bad. It’s hard to watch that happen.

Sometimes in life you can save a buddy from this kind of shame and humiliation. You can take him away from the dance floor when he’s starting to think every girl in the room is attractive. You can warn him not to take that class with the crazy dictator of a professor. You can tell him when he has spinach stuck in his teeth.

That is, you have the option if you so desire, not that you HAVE to take that road. You still have the ability to jump in there and take them out of that situation. But when it’s a missed draft pick? He’s screwed. He just burned a mid-round pick on a guy that won’t play a single down in 2010. With the exception of this being a keeper or dynasty league, he just wasted a pick.

Depending on your league, you may get a chance to make amends. They may let you pick again over that “Ben Tate” you just burned, but in all fairness, you really shouldn’t get another chance. You struck out. Just sit down.

So don’t be that guy. I witnessed it firsthand in my draft this past weekend, and it’s not cool for anyone involved.

Here’s a list of other IR players you don’t want on your team this season unless you’re tucking them away in a dynasty league.

  • Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans — Fractured right fibula AND torn right ankle ligaments, which sounds as serious as it is.
  • Sinorice Moss, WR, New York Giants — Groin injury
  • Jim Sorgi, QB, Indianapolis Colts — Apparently, patting Peyton/Eli Manning as they come off the field can get you a shoulder injury
  • Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams — Knee injury, and a general lack of the ability to stay on the field
  • Malcolm Kelly, WR, Washington Redskins — Hamstring injury from McNabb’s “Hell Week” will put him on IR, which, on the plus side for him, keeps him on the roster *technically* since he was on the bubble at the beginning of the preseason
  • Leigh Bodden, CB, New England Patriots — If you play IDP or if you were considering drafting the Patriots D/ST, which isn’t quite as good without its best corner

And some cautionary warnings…

  • Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings — Out for at least half the season with a hip injury. Draft accordingly.
  • Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers — Missing at least three games as of now and at least six if he doesn’t show up to sign and play by this Saturday
  • Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers — For generally being a creeper and getting himself suspended for four to six games to start 2010
  • Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos — Some reports have him suiting up; others have him nowhere close. Either way, he’s not going anywhere quick with a hamstring injury.
  • New York Jets D/ST — Without Darrelle Revis and without Calvin Pace to start the sesason, this defense may not be the No. 1 unit everyone thinks it’s cracked up to be. I am not on this bandwagon without those two.
  • Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings — You probably like him less already with an ankle injury and without Sidney Rice, but hearing that the Vikings are going to “manage the pain” on a bone spur they recently discovered as well makes Favre even less safe as a QB1 this season.

Consider yourself warned. Don’t be that guy.