Martz be crazy: Why you should draft your Bears this season

As we await the Chicago Bears debut tonight in preseason action, I can’t wait to see if their little offseason experiment worked.

When it comes to offense, Mike Martz is a kamikaze. His “leap of faith” system is as likely to blow up on a game-by-game basis as it is to succeed. While respected at first for his work in St. Louis, in recent years, NFL coaches seem to feel that bringing him in to run an offense is the equivalent of waving a white flag, a last-ditch effort to get their teams on the scoreboard.

Still, Martz’s system shows results. He built the “Greatest Show on Turf,” revived the Detroit Lions passing attack with Jon Kitna, and made J.T. O’ Sullivan fantasy relevant for a time in San Francisco. But one thing he hasn’t had to work with since his days with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger in St. Louis is a true franchise quarterback.

Why, hello there Jay Cutler. Whatever you think of the shruggy Vanderbilt product, Cutler has an arm, and he’s shown the characteristics of a franchise quarterback in Denver. Granted, he no longer has a true No. 1 receiver like Brandon Marshall to throw to now that he’s in Chicago, but don’t count out Devin Hester and Johnny Knox just yet.

Quick receivers who can get to their spots on time are all an offense like Martz’s really needs, and if you believe in the third year breakout for wide receivers and Hester’s quotes, Hester’s ready to make it big. But you don’t have to take his word for it.

Cutler has bought into Martz’s quarterback-friendly system. So even though we can’t expect Cutler’s interceptions to be drastically reduced when he starts firing passes before receivers are even in place, he should do some serious damage in the passing game–the good kind of damage.

Cutler threw a career high 26 interceptions last season pre-Martz, but he also threw a career high 27 touchdowns. His offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors last year either.

With Martz and a new offensive line coach in Mike Tice, Cutler may excel in the W column and fantasy point columns again just like he did in Denver.

So when it comes to drafting Cutler, I’m all for it. He’s currently going early in the seventh round as the No. 9 overall quarterback, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. While I’m okay with him there as a late starting QB1, I think I’d really love him as a QB2 behind an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tony Romo.

If he has a huge season, you can start him and trade away your elite guy or just trade Cutler for a high-performing running back to make your championship run.

And without having to rely on him completely as your QB1, you can play the ups and downs that are likely to strike the Bears this season. I expect there will be some growing pains in learning Martz’s system and putting it into action each week.

As for the wide receivers, there’s plenty of speculation out there about how to value them. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu, and Earl Bennett could all see time on the field.

This offseason, the early favorite has been Devin Aromashodu, the tallest Bears wide receiver who came on strong at the end of 2009 and scored four touchdowns. But Aromashodu’s sleeper hype has him overvalued now. He’s being drafted before both Hester and Knox, and that just doesn’t make sense.

I’d much rather draft Hester, the forgotten man in this offense who was holding down the No. 1 role until late in 2009, or Knox, the rookie who picked up the offense and caught Cutler’s eye last season.

Hester worked in the offseason with Isaac Bruce to learn what he could from the Martz-made veteran wide receiver, and I think he’ll be ready to play come Week 1 like a top wideout, rather than just as a converted special teamer.

Now don’t get me wrong, Aromashodu shouldn’t be overlooked. He could play a big part in the red zone, but I just don’t think he’s worth a pick in the eighth round when you can get Hester in the tenth.

Martz isn’t really known for increasing the role of the running back in his offenses, but he has two skilled pass catchers in Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Forte seems more like his old self now that he’s recovered from 2009’s injuries. Maybe we all just expected too much of him when we launched him into the first round rankings last season.

With injuries, a new quarterback, and a questionable offensive line, it was hard to live up to the hype around his impressive rookie season. This season, he could turn things around, especially if Martz makes him a big part of the offense. Even though Martz isn’t known for making running backs better, he certainly doesn’t neglect them.

Chester Taylor will take some of the work out of Forte’s hands, but that could be a good thing. Forte wore down late in his rookie season when he was carrying the full load, and as long as he gets to take the carries near the goal line, sharing might be caring for Forte. I can learn to love a timeshare that allows Forte to go full speed all season and keeps him free of injuries.

So think about Forte in the fourth round before you start looking at running backs who have the lesser half of a timeshare situation.

The one position we can’t predict with Martz is tight end. Greg Olsen is a star at the position, but Martz has traditionally left tight ends to block at the line while the receivers steal the show. Time will tell if Olsen can sway him. I am not taking that chance in my drafts right now.

So in short, don’t overlook your Bears this season. I expect to see some significant improvements in the passing game, and as late as Jay Cutler and Hester are being drafted, they’re definitely worth a look.

Michael Crabtree signs…and I don’t care [Fantasy Impact]

Michael Crabtree, who majored in diva-ology at Texas Tech, has finally signed with the San Francisco 49ers as of yesterday. Apparently, that whole “we can win without you” message got into his head, but he’ll certainly be upset that his own signing was upstaged by the Braylon Edwards trade, relegating Crabtree to just a footnote.

After weeks of speculation about why he was holding out and accusations that the New York Jets were tampering, which will still be investigated despite Crabtree’s signing, the wait is over.

Full of rookie potential and college hype, scouts expect Crabtree to become one of the truly dominating receivers in the NFL, a weapon that the 49ers could really use to make their offense more dynamic–or as dynamic as an offense can be with Shaun Hill at quarterback.

But don’t expect Crabtree to immediately jump into the 49ers offense and start diva-fying everything. The 49ers have no room for divas. They run the ball, and I don’t expect that to change just because Crabtree is now a member of the NFL club. He’s likely to spend most of the coming weeks learning the offense.

When the 49ers activate him, he could still be just the second option behind Josh Morgan, who hasn’t been terrible, or even the third option behind both Morgan and a surprisingly productive Vernon Davis.

I don’t hate Shaun Hill as a quarterback; in fact, I view him as a fairly decent QB2 option most weeks. But Hill’s been far more likely to throw to Davis and hand the ball off to Frank Gore or Glen Coffee in these early weeks of the season than he has to try something deep to Morgan or Isaac Bruce. I don’t think Crabtree will change that.

So if Crabtree is floating on your waiver wire, and you have the roster spot on your bench to spare, feel free to go out there and get him, but make sure you view it as an investment for the end of the season.

In redraft leagues, Crabtree may be nothing but a blip on the fantasy radar as a situational receiver for the 49ers down the stretch, but at least you’ll be first in line to benefit when he sees the field.

If you, like many owners, need that bench spot to survive the upcoming bye weeks, I think it’s safe to wait on the diva. He will mind, but I don’t care.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 6: Last-second nonsense

Who is the better Manning now? I think Peyton Manning put ex-lax in his brother’s Gatorade this week. It was time to shut up the critics. Peyton gets three touchdowns; Eli gets three picks. At least in fantasy, it looks like Peyton may have reclaimed his top spot on the Manning mantel for now.

And Eli has lost my respect (again) until he can tackle the lone man running down the sidelines.

Speaking of Peyton, who knew the Colts had a defense? I thought Bob Sanders was the only one making sure those defensive players punched their time cards. Without him, none of them were showing up to work. When the Colts take the lead, apparently the defense comes to play.

Baltimore better rethink that “Joe Flacco is our starter” thing for Week 7.

Could there have been a sloppier looking game than Detroit and Minnesota? Orlovsky’s safetying of himself ended up being the difference in this one. Is that really how the Vikings had to win? They’ve got to look better — same goes for the Cowboys. Adrian Peterson has to start pulling his fantasy weight out there. Bears, Texans and Packers may let him do that.

By the way, Bobby Wade = reliable, incredibly unsexy wide receiver option, but I’ll wait for Sidney Rice.

JaMarcus Russell was overwhelmed by the game plan on Sunday — that’s not exactly the line you want to be spreading to keep your job, Cable. Did you see what Al Davis did to the last guy? I hope you have a family. Otherwise, Davis might just mount you on his wall where no one can hear you scream.

If Brees could throw sniper bullets — which might be possible — the United States would never need an army. He’s throwing with a laser sight, and he should be even more lethal when Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey return.

Is anyone else starting to feel sorry for the Bengals? I mean, they have Ryan Fitzpatrick trying to do what a gimpy-elbowed Carson Palmer has been incapable of doing — win one. Their best chance in the immediate future to get a win is to sneak up on the Texans in Week 8, but the Texans should be ready for that.

I’d look into the kind of offers you can get for your Bengals this week — except for T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Housh could still produce while NFL defenses pay some attention to Chad Johnson.

Favre continues to be wishy-washy in the Jets passing game. Are the Jets going to run or pass next week? If I own Brett Favre, I might look to trade him after his next big day to a team with a more reliable starter. Besides, he’s still got the Madden curse…

Atlanta surprised the crap out of me this year with Matt Ryan. Michael Turner isn’t the only fantasy weapon there. Roddy White is an every-week starter, and Matt Ryan now warrants consideration when his matchup is good. Those scouting reports before the NFL draft that claimed he would be a risky franchise QB look like they were wrong now. In dynasty leagues, I’d try to obtain Roddy and Ryan. Besides, how can you not like a QB that jumps on his coach like a schoolboy after the kicker wins it?

Wha? What? Whaaaa? Carolina shuts out Kansas City and then almost gets shut out and blown away by Tampa Bay. The Panthers defense just became a pain to predict each week. Let’s see which one shows up in Week 7 against the Saints. For their sake, I hope it’s the good one (see: Drew Brees air-to-touchdown destruction tour).

Trap game, huh? The Rams finally won against the Redskins. Was there a curse on NFC East teams this week? (see: Redskins, Giants, Cowboys) I blame Andy Reid. I don’t think that was Haslett’s doing. I’m still very afraid of my Rams. They face the Romo-less Cowboys, Patriots and Cardinals in the next three weeks.

Should NFL coaches start interviewing college defensive coordinators on how to stop that ‘Wildcat’ offense? Ronnie Brown sure makes it look good. Will Patrick Cobbs do that again? (Drop your opinion in the comments.)

Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson look like they’re going to get it together this year. Will Houston fans stop calling for Sage now? I thought last week’s helicopter would silence that chant.

Maybe Daniel Graham hasn’t lost his TE skills, but I can’t wait for Tony Scheffler to get back on the field. Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal should be fine. This week was just a slow one due to injuries, and Stokley going out didn’t give Marshall much help. They just need to stop turning the ball over.

If that’s what Maurice Jones-Drew would be like as the starting back in Jacksonville, I’m all for it. Unfortunately, Fred Taylor should squash those dreams again when he gets back on the field.

David Garrard should be on an upswing after this week’s win. The Jags play the Browns, Bengals and Lions in the next three weeks.

Donovan McNabb, like Brees, doesn’t need his best receivers to make plays. Was that Buckhalter or Westbrook out there? I couldn’t tell.

Frank Gore just holds it down every week. Martz with a running game is a nice look. He just needs one more big receiver to come through besides Isaac Bruce. A healthy Bryant Johnson could do the trick — healthy being the key word there.

No one can stay healthy in Seattle. Even Julius Jones and Bobby Engram might suffer for a good while. Charlie Frye is one of those backups you don’t really want starting games for you.

Aaron Rodgers looks the guy that made Favre move on to another team. I’m saying it. I still believe that Ryan Grant will find his old self again soon. They aren’t afraid to run the ball; Grant had 33 carries but only racked up 90 yards. TDs would be nice.

The Arizona defense has looked both idiotic and unstoppable this season. Like Carolina, I don’t know where to place them yet, but they certainly tore apart the Cowboys and injured some key positions.

The Romo loss hurts, but the Cowboys haven’t brought it all together this season despite their talent. Maybe this four-game stint with Brad Johnson will shock them. Big ups to Marion Barber as he might see his workload go up significantly for several weeks.

I think Wade Phillips ate the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Larry Fitzgerald might be the best receiver in the NFL right now, and he certainly could be the best receiver in fantasy in 2008 as long as Kurt Warner stays at quarterback.

At the other end of the quarterback standings, Matt Cassel is a sad copycat of Tom Brady. He just can’t make the throws. Welker’s reliable but gives only meager stats, and Randy Moss is no better than Chad Johnson at this point.

The Chargers’ transition into a throw-first red zone team hurts LaDainian Tomlinson’s value. With his toe injury and limited yardage, he needs touchdowns to put up decent fantasy numbers. Philip Rivers is only good now because Tomlinson is bad. Keep that in mind as they head into the bye.

Congrats on hitting 11,000 career yards, L.T.

The Cleveland Browns are alive again. Was it the ‘Wildcat’ that did it?

Any foolish reader thoughts from Week 6? Post ‘em in the comments.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 5: And another three bite the dust?

These sudden, mysterious and largely unreported injuries have got to stop. Last week, Carson Palmer was a late scratch. This week, the victim was Matt Schaub, who was hit by a virus the night before the game.

I normally set lineups Saturday night and then let them run, but this sudden injury plague makes me want to start checking again five minutes before game time on Sunday…and then at four minutes, two minutes and one minute until kickoff.

Thanks to the virus, Matt Schaub turned over the reigns to Sage Rosenfels. He looked like he was the hero of the Texan-kind…until he decided to go airborne. When, as a quarterback (and a big one at that), do you EVER think to go airborne to make a play? It wasn’t even a necessary hurdle attempt.

Stay on the ground and slide, Sage. The air will only hurt you. You are NOT Reggie Bush.

Rosenfels ended the day with 246 yards and a TD but gave Texans fans two fumbles and an interception in the fourth quarter and more than enough reasons for Texans fans to stop whimpering that they would rather see Sage starting instead of Schaub. The not-so-wise Sage gave the game away in the fourth quarter in the home opener. That doesn’t win you hearts.

We saw three more QBs go down in the midst of games this week. Matt Hasselbeck (knee), Trent Edwards (concussion) and Brian Griese (shoulder) all got taken out of Sunday’s games, but they managed better than Damon Huard.

Huard owners WISH he had been taken out sooner to make the hurting stop. Daunte Culpepper was a better start than Huard this week.

Who thought there would ever be a week where J.P. Losman, Seneca Wallace, Jeff Garcia and Tyler Thigpen would all have to take over an offense? My hand is not raised.

Kyle Orton scored more fantasy points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler this week. In fact, he tied Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben for the best QB performance of the week. I am not saying that again.

He was playing Detroit, but do you realize that he’s scored more points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler over the last three weeks? I think I’m going to be sick.

When did the Packers get so easy to run on? Injuries and poor run stopping are making this unit very droppable.

Chargers couldn’t handle the single-wing, ‘Wildcat’ formation either. I guess the Dolphins have found something special, and Ronnie Brown is a big part of that. Pennington is like a David Garrard circa last year. He is not going to win your game, but he’s probably good for 12 points from time to time.

The Giants looked impressive against Seattle, but they’re also coming off a bye. No, they don’t need Plax to be successful. Domenik Hixon was a sufficient replacement with big play ability. Who took me up on that sleeper pick?

My thoughts on Jerheme Urban weren’t nearly as spot on, but Breaston didn’t impress either. In a blowout, Larry Fitzgerald was the man. That Tim Hightower kid is worth putting on a roster. You are almost a lock for six or more points with guys like that — vultures.

I think the Arizona defense was angry about getting embarrassed last week, and they took it out on Trent Edwards early. If Edwards is out for any length of time, it shouldn’t take anything away from Lee Evans. We know from Losman’s time under center that he likes to push the long ball to Evans, and he did. Losman may be a little sloppy at times, but there are far worse backup QBs in the NFL (see: Brad Johnson).

Washington just keeps shocking the NFC powerhouses. They were supposed to be the bottom of the barrel in the NFC East, not defeat the Cowboys and Eagles in back-to-back games. I don’t see them doing it twice. For once, Santana Moss was shut down by a defense this year, but Portis went off instead. That’ll take the Eagles down a few notches on run defense.

The Chiefs are miserable. Larry Johnson’s only going to be successful behind this line when the run defense is terrible. Maybe the ‘Wildcat’ formation should come to K.C.? I don’t think that will help — even though getting the ball out of Thigpen’s hands would be an improvement.

Watch out for Jamaal Charles. He might be the next Chris Perry. Oh, and the next Chris Perry might be Cedric Benson.

Kerry Collins made the best case to bring back Vince Young Sunday, and then he (sort of) made a case to keep his job there on the final drive against the Ravens. If Collins is going to throw just as many INTs and not play smart football, I don’t see why Vince Young doesn’t jump back in for the Titans. If they wanted to move away from VY as QB, they would have kept Chris Simms on the roster — unless spleens are really that important to functioning as an NFL quarterback.

Sitting a healthy Vince Young behind Kerry Collins will NOT improve his passer rating. I’ve seen experiments.

Marty Booker and Reggie Wayne are competing in a best hands competition. Next week, they are going to catch a ball with one finger. The “buy low” on Peyton Manning has already passed, but if you can get it, get it. I just have a feeling.

Without Griese, the Bucs look like the same boring team that got stomped in the playoffs last year. If the Broncos could stop the run, the score might have been even lower.

Oh, and Earnest Graham owners, this RB split looks like a full committee approach, and Dunn got the extra carry (11 of 21 total carries by the Bucs) on Sunday. He also had the better yardage per carry. Be afraid. Dunn is not done! (Had to say it. Under contract. Now, go buy the bumper sticker.)

That Matt Prater can really kick, can’t he? The rest of the Broncos kept it relatively quiet so as not to anger the Bucs’ big-pass-hunting defense.

The Bengals at Dallas was like a game of failures. I am not even sure if the Cowboys should have won. If not for a right place, right time grab by Crayton, they might not have. Romo will get the passing game together soon. It’s not like he’s having bad days in the meantime, but removing the interceptions and fumbles from his scoring would be nice.

By the way, I think it’s safe to say that Miles Austin has passed up Patrick Crayton. The missed TD pass to Austin was very symbolic if you want to think deeply about it. (Don’t hurt yourself; I’ll handle it.) Austin outproduced Crayton in Week 3 and Week 4, and the only pass Crayton caught this week was intended for Austin.

That Felix Jones can really run, can’t he? See, Cowboys? See how you use him?

Something tells me that Chris Perry loses his job to Cedric Benson in a few weeks. Perry can’t hold onto the ball or get it done when the Bengals passing game is suffering. Benson already looks like a better back, and he’s only been there one week.

Well, look at that. The Patriots figured out a way for Cassel to get the ball to Moss during the bye week. I’m going to guess DNA injection from Tom Brady in some dark laboratory while Bill Belichick laughed maniacally and rewound tape. Totally how it went down.

I’m still glad I don’t own any Patriot RBs. That’s like trying to guess which clown is going to pop out of the car first. Sammy Morris seems to be the only one with guaranteed touches, but now Faulk looks like he is going to be on the field more often with Matt Cassel. Faulk is the better blocker (see: Tom Brady’s knee).

J.T. O’Sullivan is going to get this 49ers passing game together, and when he does, Martz might just make a respectable fantasy quarterback out of him rather than just a matchups starter.

I would have appreciated a small note from Isaac Bruce before I started to move him in my fantasy leagues. That goose egg in Week 1 made me believe he was done, and now he has to become the No. 1 in San Fran. I wouldn’t have dropped you if I would have known that, Brucey.

Let’s see if Bryant Johnson pushes him for the big plays when he is fully healthy again. I still believe Johnson wants to blow us away and show us he would have been a starter anywhere but Arizona.

I have a short list of sleeper picks that haven’t woken up just yet. No. 1 on that list is Mike Walker. He was supposed to be a big target for Garrard this year, but the passing game has stalled because of the offensive line problems. Don’t be distracted by Jerry Porter. Keep your eye on this guy. If you’re in a league with me, EARMUFFS.

Hines Ward > Santonio Holmes. Ward is always around to make the smart play. Maybe even Nate Washington > Santonio Holmes, but Washington is still a little fluky.

The Vikings deserve to be 1-4, but by winning, they may have saved Childress’s job for a little bit longer.

You want to know why you shouldn’t have drafted Adrian Peterson No. 1 overall? Or even No. 2 overall? With a team like the Vikings, even the Saints defense can focus on the run and let Gus Frerotte beat them. It’ll be a lot of feast or famine for A.P. owners this season.

Gramatica should be replaced by Friday. I don’t care if he’s injured. He shouldn’t be starting for the Saints right now, and that is the bottom line. Reggie Bush was winning this game. Drew Brees was winning this game. Hell, even Devery Henderson was winning this game. Gramatica lost it.

At least the Vikings defense is finally looking like they want it.

Rough week for QBs, but many of the dinged up studs will be back under center by Sunday. Fingers crossed, of course.

Cheers and beers for anyone who started DeAngelo Williams and Kyle Orton, especially if you had them both. I would hope you won your Week 5 matchup. Just make sure you entertain all offers for DeAngelo now.

I’m not the first to propose this name, but if Jonathan Stewart is going to be “The Daily Show,” should we call DeAngelo Williams “The Colbert Report?”

Opinions are much appreciated in the comments. I plan to write the official Fantasy Football Nickname Registry once I have collected some feedback.

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

Hot Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Garrard vs. Colts: See above.

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

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

Sleeper candidates:

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

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

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

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

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 2

After Week 2’s performances, you should have a pretty good idea what your players are worth. Starting jobs are getting shuffled, and guys we thought might pay off are doing just that. If you didn’t capture one of the big performers of Week 2 on your fantasy team, let’s see what we can do for you.

Apologies for running a little late this week. I was trying out at wide receiver for Seattle.

QUARTERBACKS

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

I told you to watch him last week, and look what he did. Against the Seahawks, O’Sullivan passed for 321 yards and a TD. He even rushed for 32 more yards. While he’s no every week starter, O’Sullivan has some great matchups this season — including this week against Detroit — and he’ll continue to develop in the Mike Martz offense.

He’s going to get sacked a lot and have a few bust games where you won’t want to be starting him, but he’s also going to throw up 300+ yards every now and then. If you are hurting at QB or need someone to help you along until Hasselbeck gets a WR or two, O’Sullivan is not a bad pick. In fact, he’s a hot purchase.

Jason Campbell, QB Washington Redskins

Very doubtful that he’s on a wire anywhere near your league, but he’s worth mentioning since he seems to be putting it together as a decent fantasy QB2 in Jim Zorn’s offense. For the past two weeks, he’s thrown a score to Santana Moss. If you can work him into a rotation at QB (Brady-less sad face) or put him on your bench as a QB2, grab him — especially if he plays a weak defense during your starting QB’s bye.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Last week, he looked like just a temporary bye week fill, but now, according to Jeff Fisher, Collins is the starter in Tennessee until the Titans start losing. He’s dangerous — as in, not just his middle name, but his WHOLE name is “dangerous.” If you want to take a chance, he should hook Justin Gage up with some TD passes and maybe put some life back into Alge Crumpler.

Brian Griese, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Griese now has the starting job in Tampa, which makes him at least as valuable as Jeff Garcia…yeah, okay.

If Joey Galloway is out because of his foot injury, Griese might have to make it with Antonio Bryant and Ike Hilliard. Griese will still manage a TD pass or two in most games, and he could be a solid QB2 for any team in the market.

Is Gruden is trying to get everyone that had success with the Bucs on the roster again? (Warrick Dunn and Griese to the rescue!)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Koren Robinson, WR Seattle Seahawks

Robinson just signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks, who are hurting at receiver now that they’ve had six go down with injuries already this year. He’s worth putting on a roster, but who knows how long he’ll be around before the curse strikes him as well. Muwahahahaha…

Keary Colbert, WR Seattle Seahawks (formerly with Denver Broncos)

Colbert failed to earn his spot in the Broncos offense. Of course, he didn’t know when he signed on that they would be bringing in Eddie Royal. Failing to establish himself as the No. 2 opposite Brandon Marshall, Colbert was buried on the depth chart and got traded to Seattle this week before Hasselbeck started working out with grocery store employees anywhere within a 50 mile radius.

Obviously, since he failed to find traction with the Denver offense, Colbert’s upside might be limited, but again, if you are hurting at WR, Colbert is a new target in Seattle. Deion Branch and Bobby Engram won’t threaten him until Week 4 or Week 5.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR Indianapolis Colts

It’s clear that he is going to outperform Marvin Harrison this season. He’s probably taken in your league, but if not, make sure you get him on a roster. As long as Dallas Clark is out, Gonzalez benefits. He was a yardage monster in Week 2.

Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce, WR San Francisco 49ers

Hey, if J.T. O’Sullivan is worth putting on a roster, so are these two. Johnson looks like the guy with a chip on his shoulder after coming out of Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. He’s the one to own. If you can’t get him, Bruce actually got some passes his way in Week 2 and put up 153 yards. Bruce proved once again that he’s worth owning even if he doesn’t get the TDs.

Johnson is not quite an every week starter in 12-team league but he is if you are in a deeper leagues or start three WRs. Bruce is a bye week fill at this point or a low-end WR3. Easy passing schedules for a few weeks make them great snags off the wire right now.

Justin Gage, WR Tennessee Titans

I smell desperation. Are you so hurt at WR that you need to pick a Titan? As long as Collins is at QB, Gage isn’t that bad of a play. He’s the best that the Titans have to offer with reliable red zone hands, and Collins will go vertical more than Vince Young did. Wait, was that some obscure sexual reference…? Eh, moving on.

Gage might make for a reliable WR3 — at least for a short time.

Amani Toomer, WR New York Giants

While this is supposedly the year for Steve Smith to emerge, Amani Toomer is still holding it down as the No. 2 WR in New York. He’s worth putting on your roster to play anytime the Giants face anyone like the Rams (see: horrible), but he could also be a decent WR3 in deeper leagues. Toomer had 67 yards and a score in Week 2 against the Rams. The Bengals might not see him coming in Week 3 either.

RUNNING BACKS

Jonathan Stewart, RB Carolina Panthers

Racking up 77 yards and two TDs against the Bears this season is no easy task — especially in a RBBC. After his Week 2 showing, Stewart is already starting rumors that the top job is his to take. You might not have a chance to snag him off a wire, but you should have your eye on acquiring him now while the future is still uncertain. Unlike the Steelers drafting of Mendenhall, Carolina elected to take Jonathan Stewart in the first round, and they plan on using him.

Darren Sproles, RB San Diego Chargers

Sproles importance to the Charger offense gets a boost now that LaDainian Tomlinson’s foot injury looks a little more serious than we all expected. If Tomlinson is out for an extended period of time, look for Jacob Hester to play a part in the running game as well. For now, just make sure you have Sproles on your roster if you own L.T. or if you want an extra boost and potential starter for your RB corps.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

He has horrible matchups right now, but keep your eye on Slaton. Owners that have him might be willing to let him go after a weak start to the season, but the weak defenses are still to come for him. As long as Ahman Green doesn’t return to spoil the fun, Slaton should tear up some teams by midseason. If you have the room to spare, stow him away.

Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders

If Fargas’ injury is serious, Bush finally becomes fantasy relevant again. I believe that Bush and McFadden are the two most talented backs in Oakland right now, so Fargas missing some action may be damaging to his starting role. Look for Bush to get some short yardage looks at share time with McFadden if Fargas struggles to get back on the field. He’s worth stashing if you have the bench room, but be warned that Fargas could ghost him back to the bench if he can go Week 3.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I’m warming up to Hightower now that he seems to score in every Arizona game. If you are weak at RB or own Edgerrin James, maybe you should consider putting Tim Hightower on your roster. It couldn’t hurt to have a productive TD vulture around in a bye week pinch. He should be owned in deeper leagues.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It looks like Dunn will be sharing time with Earnest Graham. He won’t rack up the fantasy points, but if you are sitting on a bunch of prospects that didn’t pay out for you early in the season, it might be nice to trade them out for someone who sees the field at least a few carries each game.

TIGHT ENDS

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

Can you blame a guy for not being the second coming of Jason Witten every week? If owners leave him hanging after he returned to earth in Week 2, keep your eye or an empty bench spot on him. Tight ends are rarely as solid as the Winslows and Wittens, but Fasano’s got talent and will be used in this offense. The Arizona D just shut him down this week.

John Carlson, TE Seattle Seahawks

He’s emerging as a solid set of hands for Hasselbeck. Even with new blood at the WR position, that’s hard to come by for the Seahawks. He’s a TE you still want to play matchups on because he won’t put up big numbers each week, but Carlson definitely deserves a roster spot since he’ll see more throws his way than many tight ends this year. He could be a reliable starter in deeper leagues — especially if plenty of owners are carrying a couple of tight ends.

Ones to Watch

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City

Yeah, this guy. With Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard both damaged, Thigpen is the guy in Kansas City. He had some buzz going into the preseason, but he didn’t unseat Huard for the backup QB spot. In Week 2, he had 151 yards with a score and an interception. He is likely to get his first NFL start in Week 3 since Kansas City is going young these days.

“Every week is a new journey,” Herm Edwards said. Now that’s confidence!

Still, I could be wrong. He’s worth an eye this week if you are hurting at QB. I don’t think it would take much to unseat Brodie Croyle from the starting job, but he’d have to really step his game up. I have to doubt he’s this year’s Derek Anderson.

Laurent Robinson, WR Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons won’t do a lot of passing, but with Roddy White around, Matt Ryan is going to try to keep them involved. Robinson had won the WR2 job in Atlanta prior to falling on the depth chart when he got a little banged up in preseason. He could win it back if he keeps getting in on the snaps for the Falcons.

LaMont Jordan, RB New England Patriots

Jordan and Sammy Morris might both be worth picking up if New England continues to mix it up on offense, but Morris seems to be the preferred guy when they are within the five. Jordan might dominate yardage. You might want to let him stew a week and see if he shows up again in Week 3 before you clear a spot for him.

Brandon Jackson, RB Green Bay Packers

I’m not completely sold that Jackson is earning a spot in this offense. Sure, for the moment, he’s got Ryan Grant splitting carries with him, but once Grant is back to 100 percent, what becomes of Jackson? If you are a Ryan Grant owner, you need to pick him up if he is available as insurance, but if not, let him hang on the wire before you go dropping someone with a season-long starting role.

Fred Jackson, RB Buffalo Bills

What happened to Marshawn Lynch being out there all three downs? Apparently, not against the Jaguars. Jackson is seeing some touches for the moment, but when the easy running opponents come up to Buffalo, I wonder which RB gets to have all the fun?

Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants

He’s getting the looks while Big Boy (Brandon Jacobs) catches his breath on the sidelines. If Jacobs goes down again, he could have a big year, but if not, he’s just a decent bye week fill guy.

The Guy Sitting Next To You Right Now, WR Unsigned (soon to be Seahawk)

At the rate Seattle is going through WRs, it could be anyone next. Time to start considering write-ins if you have the room on your bench!

By the way, where is Chad Jackson? This week is a horrible time to stop checking your voicemail, Chad.

LA LA LA…Ignoring

Chansi Stuckey, WR New York Jets

Right now, Stuckey is on my hate list for catching the TD passes from Favre that should be going to a guy like Cotchery, who deserves them because I own him. He’s no Greg Jennings or James Jones. Stuckey just happened to catch a Favre heave in Week 1 and got a target in the end zone in Week 2. I’m not buying until he does it to me again.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

Call me a hater. I just don’t think he’s worth it. He’s just catching all these passes because he’s all hopped up and on a high…okay, bad joke.

Ryan Longwell, K Minnesota Vikings

I’m not saying he’s a bad kicker, but performances like his five field goals in Week 2 are flukes. I don’t expect the Vikings to get held out of the end zone that many times this season. Don’t drop an established, high-performing kicker because you think Longwell will start carrying your fantasy team.

Catch more insight on waiver wire grabs from The Hazean and Fantasy Football Goat. Check out who to sell high right now at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog.

Off-season Update: Quick hits at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback [NFL News]

Most of the moves made in the last several weeks have no immediate fantasy impact. Backups are still moving from team to team, but a few starters finally landed at wide receiver in the last couple of weeks.

FANTASY WATCH-WORTHY MOVES

The 49ers dropped Darrell Jackson after his disappointing 2007 and added Bryant Johnson. I would have liked to see Johnson end up in Buffalo where he might have been a compliment to Lee Evans, but he is daring and will take his chances in the new Mike Martz system.

He will get his chance to be a number 1 wide receiver. I don’t expect Isaac Bruce to make a Randy Moss-like revival out there, and Arnaz Battle can’t put up much of a fight.

Ben Utecht escaped the shadow of Dallas Clark to Cincinnati this week when the Colts decided not to match the Bengals offer. Utecht showed some ability with the Colts, and he will become a key target for Carson Palmer in 2008 especially if Ocho Cinco (Chad Johnson) keeps his act up and leaves.

D.J. Hackett finally found someone to answer his agent’s phone calls this offseason and signed with the Carolina Panthers. All the dynasty owners of Dwayne Jarrett just died inside.

Jarrett probably won’t hit the field for awhile now that Carolina has signed Muhsin Muhammad and Hackett unless this move scares him straight. Hackett and Muhammad should be able to open up the field for Steve Smith to make a comeback in production for 2008.

Kickers become fantasy-relevant for once outside of a close fantasy showdown now that Jason Elam has left the high altitude of Colorado to boot for the Falcons in 2008. It’s a tought loss for Denver since Elam won more games than any other single Bronco in 2007. While they search for a replacement, Elam will have to adjust to kicking in Southern humidity. I think he’ll be okay.

The DeAngelo Hall deal finally got done, so now he’s an overpaid Raider, too. The Raiders now have an even better secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha and Hall. Rumor was that they want to nickname the cornerback pair “Haul Ass-o” but Nnamdi won’t go for it.

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH BACKUPS

Quinn Gray signed on to be the second/third quarterback for the Houston Texans. This signing puts the wise Sage Rosenfels in danger of being traded if an offer comes the Texans’ way, or they just want to be VERY secure at the QB position if Matt Schaub goes down again in 2008.

Bubba Franks signed on to the Jets but will likely just provide veteran leadership behind Chris Baker and endless Bubba jokes for the locker room.

NEWS THAT MIGHT INTRIGUE YOU

Brandon Marshall got so upset after last week’s episode of Lost that he put his fist through a TV. He might be out for up to four months.

Just let that be a lesson to you to always pick up your McDonald’s slop after a late night Big Mac binge. I’m not too concerned. He’ll probably be back in shape for training camp and be in line for a breakout season as long as there is no lasting nerve damage.

The Patriots have been taking a look at Josh Johnson, the little known quarterback loved by many scouts and experts as a potential sleeper quarterback of the future. The theory is that the Patriots might try to convert him to a wide receiver if they draft him in a later.

What? They aren’t going to get rid of that Tom Brady guy? Maybe Josh can work the camera until he becomes Brady’s favorite target. He has the potential to be a QB in the NFL if someone puts the time into working him into it.

Bloodletting of veterans starts free agency with a bang [NFL News]

The days preceding free agency were full of contract re-negotiations, but the veterans who didn’t want to let their value be tossed aside found themselves tossed aside instead. Just before the opening bell of free agency, the blood flowed freely across the NFL’s older locker rooms. The most tragic loss, of course, being the one-glove wonder. David Carr might never even have a back up job again. Tragic.

I feel tears coming, so let’s move on.

With so many player released, the stage was set for a hot and fast free agency season. We had been tracking the rumors, but when the clock started this weekend, some teams came out strong to sign players early. Football Jabber broke down free agency aftermath from this weekend for each individual team, but we can shoot through a few quick notes with fantasy implications right here.

First, the big moves.

As expected, the big drama surrounding Randy Moss‘s free agency ended when he signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. Did anyone expect him to move? I certainly didn’t want to guess who would get custody of the love child between Moss, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady if Moss left town.

Also as expected, Oakland is still insane. I am more convinced everyday that the front office for the Raiders is run by helper monkeys.

Bernard Berrian settled down with Minnesota, so the pressure is on Tarvaris Jackson now to learn how to make good decisions on when to throw the long ball and, hopefully, not mature into the next Rex Grossman. If he fits in this offense, Minnesota could legitimately open the field up for both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson in 2008.

The highest bidder in the Asante Samuel lottery ended up being the Eagles. Samuel will now make sure the Eagles secondary is locked down for 2008.

Alge Crumpler officially signed on with the Titans to make Vince Young as productive a member of a quarterback-to-tight-end tandem as Michael Vick was in Atlanta.

Derek Anderson decided to stay with the Browns–as long as they paid him more than Brady Quinn. Donte’ Stallworth also signed with the Browns. Obviously prepping for a big Super Bowl run the same way as the Patriots, the Browns now officially have two receivers worth mentioning besides tight end Kellen Winslow.

Michael Turner, touted for years as an incredible beast of a running back but with doubters, took the check from the Atlanta Falcons–almost makes it a lock that Atlanta will take Matt Ryan of Boston College as the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Warrick Dunn was released, so Turner will likely be spelled by the break out running of Jerious Norwood through the ghostly shadow that Michael Vick left in Atlanta. Dunn might end up in Houston, but that’s exactly what the Texans need, another veteran running back.

Muhsin Muhammad is back in Carolina after being cut by the Bears. Note: Once again, Carr is gone. The people rejoice.

The consistent foot of Josh Brown will serve the Rams next year since Jeff Wilkins decided to retire.

Teams with large amounts of money to spend are gobbling up veterans.

The San Francisco 49ers may be planning on opening a museum in 2008. They started snapping up veterans as they were released from other teams. DeShaun Foster found a home with the 49ers–likely as Frank Gore‘s backup next year. Isaac Bruce, after being tossed aside by the Rams, got his own two-year deal with the 49ers, but Bruce only has a few more good routes in him to add to an already shallow wide receiver group in San Francisco–even if he already knows Martz’s ways.

The Jacksonville Jaguars went after better receivers to give David Garrard some targets (good move), but their choices were an aging Jerry Porter and the Vikings’ Troy Williamson, a burner with quick feet and slow, slippery hands (not so good move). Garrard still won’t have a big “sure thing” receiver in Jacksonville to make something happen unless Williamson starts catching and/or Porter returns to form as a number one or a valuable possession receiver. With Quinn Gray not re-signed, Jacksonville signed Cleo Lemon from Miami, who might forever be known for his game-winning pass in Miami’s 1-15 season.

The Buccaneers started spending hard and heavy by signing a couple of guys to strengthen their offensive line in Jeff Faine and John Gilmore. Devery Henderson might also find some of their money in his pocket. He is much younger than most of the Tampa Bay wide receiver corps. Not to be out-done by the 49ers after competing for Foster, the Bucs traded a draft pick for Brian Griese–the safest option the Bears had at QB. He will likely serve as a more legitimate backup for Jeff Garcia in 2008.

Bill Parcells is building a team of contributors to Miami with the signing of Ernest Wilford and Josh McCown along with his moves on the defensive side.

Some players with minor fantasy value in 2007 also chose to stay put.

Justin Gage will try to remain relevant in Tennessee as the Titans look to bring in greater wide receiver talent. D.J. Hackett, who played with the Seahawks last year, should be coming through soon along with a potential visit from Bryant Johnson, subbing in for Arizona’s starting receivers well in 2007. Both have significant upside when compared to the aging Gage, but he could find a place with them.

Andre Davis will return to Houston, and David Patten opted to stay with the Saints and count on Drew Brees to increase his fantasy value. Chris Redman also kept his return to the NFL going strong by re-signing for another year with the Falcons.

Despite all these moves and various trades–in only the FIRST weekend–rumors are still circulating about where more free agents will land.

The Dallas Cowboys might be interested in Tatum Bell as as backup to rest Marion Barber. The Cowboys are also leading the race to land Javon Walker since he was cut from the Denver Broncos. Their main rival for his services is the Philadelphia Eagles.

To track all the top players down to their height and weight, check out the SportingNews’ 99 Free Agent table [via Fantasy Football Librarian].