A promising beginning for Colt McCoy? ESPN doesn’t think so.

Going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is a tough task for any quarterback, but when you draw that challenge as the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns…and as your first NFL start…well, that’s nearly impossible. As such, ESPN has their doubts about Colt McCoy this week, not that you were thinking about starting him.

Colt McCoy (Cleveland Browns) Fantasy Point Projection of 2 on ESPN.com

I guess you could do worse in your first start...

With Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme injured (and, in Jake’s case, maybe even if he was healthy enough to take the field), McCoy is the best they’ve got. As a Longhorn, I’ll hope the best for the kid, but this debut might get ugly. Consider this your “McCoy’s potential as a starter in the NFL” open thread if you’d like to put your own opinion on record.

UPDATE: Since this screenshot was taken, ESPN has updated their projections to list Delhomme at 4 points, assuming he will get the start. McCoy has been downgraded to 0 points. Still, there’s a good chance this game falls on McCoy’s shoulders this weekend because Delhomme looked like half a man last week on his bum ankle.

Foolish Thoughts: My Beef with Fleaflicker’s Coach Rating

It’s one of the most frustrating occurrences in fantasy football.

It’s not a Baltimore fan complaining about the refs or John Carney missing three kicks when just one would have won the fantasy game you lost by a point.

No, the most sickening feeling in fantasy football hits you when you start the wrong guys. There’s nothing more infuriating than watching the points pile up on your bench only to flap in the breeze next to Percy Harvin’s or Justin Forsett’s stat line.

You can do your research. You can ask an expert. You can pray to the fantasy football gods and tweet the players themselves to ask them if you should start them.

At the end of the week, you’re still going to end up starting the wrong guys more than once in any given season. And if you could project exactly how a given football player was going to perform each week, why would you waste that skill on fantasy football? Vegas, son. Go to Vegas!

But there’s one thing that makes the “started the wrong guys” regret even worse: Fleaflicker’s Coach Rating.

While your self-loathing grows, the Fleaflicker Coach Rating judges you with a percentage based on how well you set your lineup. You only get 100 percent if you started every single one of your highest performing players at each position.

It’s one thing to lose because you set a bad lineup. It’s another thing for an automated computer system to mock you.

I don’t need your 75 percent rating thrown in my face, machine. Why don’t you just turn into the Terminator and kill me now? I need not your silly completion bar.

I can go outside right now, and I can talk to women. What can you do? Make charts? Graph things? Good. You do that. When I come back, I want you to explain to me when you earned the right to judge me in line graph form, and it better have something to do with fantasy games won.

*The rest of this column was written after fifteen minutes of listening to Enya

It’s fine. I’m used to automated mockery. It’s why I have friends anyway, right? Every fantasy football league is practically an automated mockery tool when you lose.

My real beef with Fleaflicker is that it doesn’t judge itself. Aren’t computers supposed to be self-aware, Skynet?

Sure, I sat Percy Harvin and Laurence Maroney. I regret that, but even your nice little projection system within Fleaflicker told me that Joseph Addai and Roddy White were better starts. Where’s your little 65 percent correct bar for that poor prediction?

Not that I would listen to you blindly. I did my research. I started the best lineup, and I don’t need your abuse. So take that, Fleaflicker mockery rating. I won’t have it anymore. From now on, I’m putting electrical tape over that part of the screen and never scrolling, and I’m giving myself a gold star for every starter I pick correctly.

Damage Done This Week

What is with you people? You talk about how few injuries have happened this season and now they’re piling up before Christmas like Santa’s toys.

Matt Ryan stubbed his wee little toe, and Jake Delhomme broke a finger. I’d say the NFC South lost half their quarterbacks, but let’s be honest. Drew Brees counts double, or even triple, the value of any other quarterback in the NFC South.

Atlanta fell off in a big way because they also lost Michael Turner, who returned from his ankle injury a bit too early and immediately went back on the shelf with Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, and Kurt Warner.

Big Ben sat out after all, but he should return in Week 13, just in time to concuss himself again before the fantasy playoffs. At least Cedric Benson will be back… Those are words you just don’t see yourself saying in the preseason.

For owners who were relying on his big fantasy booms, DeSean Jackson may sit out this week after sharing in the concuss party the NFL has been throwing. There’s no telling when you’ll get him back, so here’s to hoping that you’re already a lock for the playoffs.

Studs in Strange Places

Julius Jones sat another week and allowed Justin Forsett to score twice against the Rams. Jamaal Charles had another big week for the Chiefs alongside Chris Chambers. Looking ahead, I like Charles better than Forsett. That’s whether Jones returns this season or not. Charles just has too lovely a playoff schedule to turn down.

Larry Johnson became a part of the Bengals offense in Week 12 and shared the rock with Bernard Scott. L.J. Had 107 yards while Scott had just 87. Let’s all hope that this one game doesn’t mean that Benson will have to share with others when he returns. Cincy may not be sure, but fantasy owners sure would like to see Benson get all the work against the Lions in Week 13.

Vince Young reenacted the 2006 Rose Bowl on Matt Leinart’s face late against Arizona, much to my excitement as a Texas fan and Vince Young apologist, and Miles Austin found his way to 20+ fantasy points again. If you sold early on Austin based on the belief that he would be a fluke, well, sucks to be you, my friend. I bet the Fleaflicker Coach Rating tore you apart for that one.

Turn the Lights Out When You Go

This week is the last one to make a move and be relevant in the fantasy football playoffs. I hope you’re all playoff-bound (as a result of my sage advice, of course), but if not, do it up this week and see what you can make of your team. There’s always next season.

If you get the chance this week, do your best to ruin someone else’s chance at the playoffs. There’s nothing that makes me happier than making someone else sad. You have to try it. I find taking candy from babies to be a great way to practice.

On the Wire: Week 11 Pickups, Replacements Justin Forsett, Bernard Scott, and McCoy

So now begins our recovery from this great weekend of injuries. It’s all your fault, but I forgive you.

This week, we are left with the scraps of all the teams who lost one of their studs.

Hot Claims

Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks — Let’s be honest. Forsett already had a great shot of winning this starting job before Julius Jones was injured. Now that Jones is out of the way, even for just one game, Forsett could be the Seahawks’ starter for the rest of the season. He had 123 rushing yards and one touchdown on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, who until recently had been stout against the run.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles — Brian Westbrook went down again, which leaves the starting job in the hands of McCoy once again with a little help from Leonard Weaver. Westbrook could miss the rest of the season after suffering his second concussion in three weeks, but McCoy has few juicy matchups on the schedule. He faces the Giants, 49ers, and Broncos in the fantasy playoffs.

Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals — He finally took that step Sunday in scoring twice and leading the team in carries and rushing yards. If the Cardinals find it in their hearts to anoint him the starter and give Tim Hightower the backup role, Wells could be a fantasy stud in the final weeks of the season. He faces Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs, Weeks 15 and 16.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs — I’d assume he’s off your waiver wire by now, but if not, Charles finally had his good game on Sunday (103 yards and a touchdown), and he could have many more. Remember that playoffs schedule: Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati.

Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins — Another guy I highly doubt is on your waiver wire, but he’s worth mentioning with Ronnie Brown looking like a scratch this Thursday.

Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons — Michael Turner will be out for a few weeks while he recovers from a high ankle sprain. Jerious Norwood stands to get some of the work if he can get healthy, but for now, this is Snelling’s job, and he looked capable while notching 61 rushing yards, a touchdown, and 32 receiving yards in Turner’s absence on Sunday.

Ladell Betts, RB, Washington Redskins — Maybe the more rested legs of Betts are a welcome change for the Redskins. He should shoulder the carries until Clinton Portis returns, and Portis could probably use as much rest as he can get. Betts ran for more than 100 yards in the two weeks since he replaced Portis.

Fantasy Filler

Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — No one is certain how many games Cedric Benson will miss, but the Bengals are worried enough about their depth to consider adding Larry Johnson. It must be at least that bad. Scott should be the starter in Benson’s absence, and he would get the cupcake matchups of the Bengals’ schedule if Benson sits for several weeks — Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams — Nobody wants to start Avery. But his schedule does look nice, and he has actually found the end zone over the past five weeks. He might just be worth stashing as the fantasy playoffs.

Laveranues Coles, WR, Cincinnati Bengals — It appears he may have finally found his rhythm with Carson Palmer, but it’s still hard to trust the veteran receiver as long as Chad Ochocinco and Andre Caldwell are also on the field.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — Young seems to be finding his way in the Titans’ offense. The Titans are leaning on Chris Johnson to win game right now, but opposing teams will eventually learn how to shut down the speedster and force Young into action. He’s no great bet as a fantasy starter, but he carries on of the lowest price tags as a backup right now if you’re in need.

Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers — If you’re looking for upside, Delhomme is not it, but as a backup, he could be useful down the playoff stretch, especially with the outbreak of injuries that struck this week. He threw two touchdowns for the first time this season Sunday. Maybe he’ll turn his early failures around to end the season.

Long-term Investments

Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams — Gibson replaced Keenan Burton when Burton went down this week, and he finished the game with seven catches for 93 yards against the Saints. The Rams looked surprisingly alive against the NFC’s undefeated, but I wouldn’t be so sure they could ever put a game like this one together again. Technically, the Saints’ secondary was banged up. Still, Gibson’s a likely starter from here on out. If you’ve got the roster spot, you can stash the rookie to see if he can keep it up.

Maurice Stovall, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — In Antonio Bryant’s absence, Stovall is benefiting from the arm of Josh Freeman. He scored on Sunday, and that could become a trend. As long as Bryant sits out, Stovall could be worth holding onto down the stretch.

Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — He’s not the starter; in fact, we can’t even be sure at this point how far down the depth chart Larry Johnson will be come Sunday. Still, he is a Bengal, and he has the same schedule as Bernard Scott these next three weeks — Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit. If he can pick up the offense (and shut his mouth long enough), he could play enough to be worth owning. But Benson’s return should relegate him to cleanup duty at best.

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders – Sure, he had a great game, even with Darren McFadden back on the field. But I don’t want any piece of the Raiders. You shouldn’t either. If you are desperate for a running back, this one has a pulse, but the talent in Oakland never lives up to expectations.

Droppables

Julius Jones may never start again for the Seahawks. Justin Gage could be worth upgrading now that he’s out with a severe back injury. Willie Parker just doesn’t look like he’ll get his job back this year. Justin Fargas should lose touches to both Bush and McFadden down the stretch. In desperation, you could let Brian Westbrook go, but I’d try to trade him first. He may not play again this year.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Nine Moves to Make for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

At this point in the season, you might be more concerned with getting to the playoffs than succeeding once you get there. That’s okay. Take it one week at a time. I’ll wait…

But if you have the true heart of a champion, some good luck, and if you’ve been doing your research, you’ve probably go a nice spot on the mantel dusted and ready for this year’s fantasy football championship trophy. It’s okay if we block this photo of the in-laws, right?

In that case, it’s best to start planning for your future, and we’re not talking about your kids’ college funds or your financial plan to navigate this tough economy.

It’s even better. I give you a fantasy football roundtable of epic proportions. This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate was mine to rule, and I chose to look ahead at who might blow up or sink your battleship during Weeks 14-17.

By the way, if you have a playoff schedule that puts your championship game in Week 17, slap your commissioner, reschedule that game immediately, slap your commish again, and never, never speak of playing in Week 17 again. Week 17 isn’t NFL football. It’s just not right to win your league with Jim Sorgi. Not right at all.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate roundtable question:

Looking ahead at the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14-17), what one player would you want to own during those weeks and what one player would you want to unload before Week 14?

My answer:

Trade deadlines are approaching. Playoffs spots will be locked up soon. The chances to acquire players through “sell high” or “buy low” opportunities are few are far between. That being the case, I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of guys who might still be easily moved. You wouldn’t have to break the bank, and you might end up with a stud on your hands in Weeks 14 through 16.

First, I’d look to acquire Tim Hightower.

Kurt Warner has been fond of the check-down passes thus far this season, and Hightower has been the beneficiary. Even against tough rushing defenses, Hightower never fails to stay involved in the passing game and take advantage of short-yardage and goal line opportunities.

It’d be great to have both Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower on your roster to hedge your bets against any late-season shifts in Beanie’s favor, but I believe Hightower will remain the primary receiving back on passing plays, which the Cardinals should be running plenty of in the fantasy playoffs.

The Cardinals face San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Hightower ran just eight times for 15 yards, but he caught 12 passes for 121 yards. A similar performance in Week 14 wouldn’t surprise me, and, well, the Lions and Rams are what they are, great matchups for a team with a powerful offense. By the end of this season, one or both of those squads could have already given up for the year.

If you can’t get Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison aren’t bad substitutions. All have a chance to succeed late in the season, and they all carry a fairly low price tag at this point. Bargain bin!

And, for those of you playing at home, I would try to unload DeAngelo Williams before the fantasy playoffs.

Williams finished the year as the No. 1 fantasy running back after a slow start, and he’s once again been inconsistent to start the year in 2009. It’s not just Jonathan Stewart stealing time and touches from him. This year, Jake Delhomme has developed a bad habit of throwing to players in other jerseys.

While Williams is come on strong the past three weeks, he should hit a slump starting in Week 11 against Miami and continuing, outside of a brief practice session against the Bucs in Week 13, into the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, Williams faces the Patriots in New England, followed by the Vikings at home and the Giants in New York for the Giants’ last home game of the season.

If you’re a proud Williams owner, you should deal him away to the highest bidder this week or next before you get stuck in the dumps with him during the playoffs.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme says:

Every season, a grip of players step up during Weeks 14-16, while others shockingly disappoint. It’s a tough business predicting either, but I have come up with two names. I have talked a lot about running backs and wide receivers over the past few weeks, so this week I’m going to focus on quarterbacks.

One quarterback worth talking about before we even sniff Weeks 14-16 is Kurt Warner. The aging quarterback has been hit or miss this season, and he has thrown 7 interceptions over the past three games putting him at 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year. He has also fumbled the football twice over the last three weeks.

You’re probably guessing that Warner is my “unload” recommendation for Weeks 14-16, right? Wrong.

While I will admit that I have concerns about the aging quarterback staying healthy long enough to see Week 14, he has a fantastic fantasy playoff schedule. The Cardinals face the 49ers (28th) in Week 14, the Lions (29th) in Week 15 and Rams (24th) in Week 16. If healthy, Warner should have a fantastic finish to the fantasy season.

As for my top quarterback to unload before we hit Week 14, I have to go with Carson Palmer.

The Bengals passing schedule isn’t impossible, as they have two decent match-ups in Weeks 14 and 16 in the Vikings (23rd) and Chiefs (29th), but they do have a rough contest against the Chargers (6th) in Week 15. I know Palmer had a monster 5-touchdown performance before his Week 8 bye, where he completed 20-of-24 passes, but before that Week 7 outing, Palmer’s completion percentage was under 60 and he had almost as many interceptions (7) as he had touchdowns (8).

On the year, Palmer has yet to pass for over 300 yards. His Week 7 stats are making him look strong, but I’m predicting that he and the Bengals struggle down the stretch. I say unload Palmer now and take a lateral step into a quarterback with less risk.

Trade Palmer for a Ben Roethlisberger or a Matt Ryan. Both quarterbacks probably have similar perceived value, yet I like both better than Palmer down the stretch (especially in Weeks 14-16).

Junkyard Jake from Junkyard Jake says:

Glancing ahead to the fantasy playoff weeks this year, it appears that Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game could benefit from a very favorable set of defensive matchups. During Weeks 14 through 16, the Saints face Atlanta on the road and then Dallas and Tampa Bay at home.

As if Brees needed an additional advantage, all three of these games will be in a dome. Moreover, all three of these defenses currently rank in the bottom third of the league in terms of points allowed by opposing quarterbacks.

In contrast to Brees’s favorable playoff schedule, it looks like the Bears’ Matt Forte could have a tougher time. Forte is already having a slightly disappointing season, and it doesn’t appear that he will catch a break during the fantasy playoff Weeks of 14, 15 and 16 when he is slated to face Green Bay, Baltimore and then Minnesota.

Green Bay has been allowing only 91 rush yards per game, and they have yielded just 3 rushing touchdowns so far. Forte’s Week 15 opponent, Baltimore, has allowed just 79 yards per game on the ground. Forte then faces the Vikings in Week 16, a team that touts the No. 2 run defense in the league.

Hatty from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru says:

So essentially we are looking at a buy low/sell high for the playoff run. Having the right RB for the playoffs is a huge key to victory and health is a major consideration for playoff runs.

My sell high right now would be LaDainian Tomlinson. He is coming off a two-touchdown performance, but again is a huge injury concern. You just can’t afford to go into playoffs with one of your top running backs leaving due to injury.

The running back I would work hard to obtain for the playoffs would be a running back who receives a major workload on a team making a run for the playoffs. Cedric Benson helped me to win a fantasy championship in the past and is a stellar running back to go into playoffs with.  He is not prone to injury, doesn’t play in an RBBC situation and is on a team that has a solid chance at making the playoffs.

Ryan Lester from Lester’s Legends says:

Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, there are a couple of wide receivers that I would love to own and one that I want no part of.

The wide receivers that I love for the fantasy playoffs are Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Aside from being two of the best wide receivers in the game, there are some other reasons that make them so valuable when fantasy owners need them the most.

First of all, neither team is running away with their division meaning they will likely go full tilt the whole season as they vie for a playoff spot. While wide receivers like Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston are in the driver’s seat of their respective divisions, Fitz and A.J. are not. It’s conceivable that Wayne and Colston get a reduced workload in your league’s championship game. You don’t have to worry about that with Fitz or A.J.

They also have favorable schedules in the fantasy playoffs. Fitz plays at San Francisco, at Detroit and finishes at home against St. Louis. Week 14 could be tough for him, but the final two games could bring the monster performances you expected out of Fitz when you drafted him.

Andre Johnson’s schedule is also a breeze. He starts off at home against Seattle, travels to St. Louis and finishes at Miami. Obviously, I don’t like his championship opponent as much as Fitz, but if he leads you to the title game, you’re in the money anyway.

On the flip side, the player I don’t want on my team come fantasy playoffs time is Carolina’s Steve Smith.

The Panthers start off on the road at New England. Weather is very much a factor in New England in December, which doesn’t bode well for members of the passing game. Next up is Minnesota at home. The pressure that Jared Allen and company put on opposing quarterbacks could make for a long day. Finally, he finishes up against the Giants on the road in the swirling winds.

Smith faces three of the best teams in the league, two in what are likely to be bad-weather games, during the fantasy playoffs. Not to mention he plays in a run-first offense. If I were a Steve Smith owner and had championship aspirations, I’d try to move him now that he’s coming off a pair of good games.

Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor says:

One of the players I would like to own down the stretch is Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Fantasy football playoffs are tough because if you have a player who is on a team that is coasting into the playoffs, you just don’t know how much they are going to play. With the Falcons, they are three games behind the division lead already, but they are primed for a dogfight to take home the wild card.

In addition, the Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints (middle of the road in rushing defense), New York Jets (sans their big run stuffer, Kris Jenkins), the Buffalo Bills (currently allowing the most rushing yards per game in the league) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (need I say anymore).

That seems like the perfect set-up for a big way to close the season. He’s one of the best backs in the league, and if you are in a position to acquire him for the stretch drive, there is no reason to hesitate.

As for players to avoid, you almost have to look at the flip side: Which team appears to be ready to coast into the playoffs as well as having a tough schedule?

The Minnesota Vikings could be that team, as they have a lead in the division and have the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants on the schedule over the final four weeks. Three of those four teams are likely to be in contention for a playoff spot. The easiest game (Panthers) is on the road, as is the game in Chicago, so you don’t know what will happen there.

The likelihood is that the team focuses on the run, as they’ve already shown that they will do, meaning Brett Favre and the Vikings receivers may struggle down the stretch.

Paul Greco from Fantasy Pros 911 says:

I love looking ahead. Why you ask? Well, if I’m looking ahead to Weeks 14 through 17, that means I have a shot at the playoff. Yup, I’m about to make it rain in the Greco household.

The one player that I’d like to unload, not only during the Weeks 14 through 17, but right now, is Carolina Panther’s running back DeAngelo Williams. Coming off a huge game on the ground in Week 8, right now is the time to look to unload Williams.

Starting Week 11, Williams has the toughest Strength-of-Schedule (SOS) the rest of the season. With games against the Miami Dolphins (Week 11), New York Jets (Week 12), New England Patriots (Week 14) and the Minnesota Vikings (Week 15), all four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 for rush defense.

Cedric Benson, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, is a player you must look to add to your team now. C.B. has the easiest SOS of any running back starting Week 11.

With games against the Oakland Raiders (Week 11), Cleveland Browns (Week 12), Detroit Lions (Week 13), San Diego Chargers (Week 15) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16), all five teams give up an average of 117 rushing yards a game or worse.

C.B. has shown he can carry the load for the Bengals, so why not your team? Look to make a move for CB now, and enjoy big gains the rest of the season.

Bryce McRae from KFFL says:

My pickup for the playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs’ Kolby Smith (knee). He’s a deep sleeper, yes, but it shouldn’t cost much to get him, and he could pay huge dividends.

Starter Larry Johnson’s suspension ends after Week 9, but the team has given some thought to releasing him. At some point, they have to start looking toward the future.

Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick last year, is expected to shoulder most of the load this week. He’s more of a speedy change-of-pace back, however, and the Chiefs have utilized him as a rusher only 23 times this year. A lot of that has come out of passing downs, too.

This leads us to Smith; the third-year back has carried a full workload in the past (Weeks 12 through 16 in 2007: 100 carries for 387 yards and two scores), and he says he has confidence in his rehabilitated knee. Head coach Todd Haley says Smith is moving around well in practice, too. Smith has the bulk (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) that could help him hold up as a primary back over the speedier Charles.

Kansas City faces the Buffalo Bills (most rushing yards allowed per game to backs this year), the Cleveland Browns (third most) and the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 14 through 16, respectively. Cincy isn’t a great matchup, but Smith could be a beast during those two first games.

On the flip side, one player I’m looking to unload before the playoffs is the San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree. I don’t have much faith in Alex Smith behind center for the long term. I feel defenses might be able to shut down Crabtree, too, once they have more film on him and how the 49ers are using him. Remember: This is still a run-first offense.

Also, I don’t believe his value will be any higher after his first three games. Wait for him to burn the Tennessee Titans, a generous defense to this position, in Week 9 and then sell high on the former Texas Tech wideout.

The defenses Crabtree will face in the traditional playoffs weeks: the Detroit Lions (Week 14), the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) and the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 16). Philly’s D has been one of the top against this position all season while the other two have shown improvement in the last month. Plus, Detroit’s run D has been bad enough that San Fran might opt to pound the ball.

Kurt Turner from Top-Fantasy-Football says:

Strength of schedule is key when planning for the fantasy football playoffs. Teams like Arizona, San Diego and Miami all have juicy matchups. FFToolbox.com has a nice tool you can use found here that analyzes matchups by position for you.

Here are my picks to own and unload: Kurt Warner and Roddy White.

Snatch up Kurt Warner. He should be a beast in the playoffs. Trade for him now and don’t be afraid to overpay, especially if you’re hurting at quarterback.

A guy I don’t like for the playoffs is Roddy White. White faces some tough pass defenses weeks 14, 15 and 16. If you can get Warner for White (and some change) and still have some other good options at wide receiver, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Good Luck!

That’s all for this week’s Fourth & 1 Debate. While I am largely a fan of riding hot hands into the ground rather than trading them away because of perceived slumps on the horizon, preparing for the fantasy football playoffs is a necessity.

Oh, and if you have a championship game in Week 17, slap your commish again for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a player you’re concerned about for the fantasy playoffs? Would you like to add more names to the hat of players to add/drop? Leave a comment to let us know.

Week 8 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: L.T. is a zombie

At some point, we have to stop framing recommendations to start LaDainian Tomlinson with stats from his past performances. “For his career, L.T. averages 100+ yards and bazillion touchdowns against (fill in the blank).”

No crap. L.T. was a dominant fantasy force up until last season, but how much suck did L.T. average just last year? Or over the whole of his career? I’d say he’s averaging a fair amount of suckage right now, and that doesn’t fit in with the pretty little stat book on him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t average zero touchdowns against the Chiefs going into Week 7, but how many tries did he have only to fail? That, my friends, is not a back I want to start.

L.T. is out of luck and out of gas, and the guy who generated all those “stats” that are being quoted at you is dead and buried. In proper Halloween form, he’s bumbling around like a zombie out there for the Chargers.

Luckily, he gets the Raiders this week, which is fitting since Al Davis is practically a zombie himself.

I always have a hard time finding a Halloween costume. Mostly because I’m gigantic. The little costumes you can buy at the store don’t fit me. I just look like the big kid who stretched out his costume. It’s completely lame.

Two years ago, I was Shredder — yes, the baddie from Ninja Turtles. I modified a child-size gladiator costume with some tin foil and added a purple shirt and brown pants to the mix.

Perfect? No, of course not. It was terrible, but it worked for what I needed. I had four females walking around as the karate turtles, so no problems if I have a blasphemy of a Shredder costume.

But that night, while roaming to the next bar, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with a 12-year-old kid wearing a full bodysuit of purple cloth, accented by dark metal shoulder blades and cuffs.

His ninja skills were far superior. Not to mention, he had a whole platoon of Foot Clan lackeys behind him. He was shorter than all of his foot soldiers, but I have never felt so small…

So, hopefully, I can come up with a costume this year that doesn’t lead me to embarrassment. I can’t roll with Shredder again. Ever. But you can roll with these guys this week.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Chris Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Panthers
To continue our trend of going out on a limb with my “start of the week,” even though the Giants’ Steve Smith burned me a little last week, I’m taking Beanie Wells. A strong week against the Giants’ run defense leads Beanie into one of the softest matchups of the year. The Panthers are tenth in points allowed to running backs, and Jake Delhomme should have some sort of McNabb-puke-esque panic attack the second he steps out on the field against the team that made him what he is today, worthless.

Many screen caps will be made of Delhomme’s faces in this one. I can already predict that.

As scary as it is to trust a rookie who scored his first touchdown just last week, Beanie makes a very nice flex start. I might even give him RB2 status in a tough bye week. Looking ahead, that fantasy playoff schedule ain’t too shabby either.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Dolphins
Two rookie cornerbacks are starting? Yes, please! Even dropsies couldn’t ruin that fun, and Edwards handled himself pretty well in his last appearance against Miami. The return of Jerricho Cotchery should liven up this passing game for the Jets, and as long as Sanchez isn’t too busy eating hot dogs, I expect him to get Edwards involved once again. Show ‘em what you showed “friend of LeBron,” Edwards!

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Browns
If you own him, you’re starting him. That’s not a difficult decision. At least this week you can feel a little less self-loathing for drafting him. This is, of course, all dependent on him doing something of value against the Browns terrible run defense, but all the odds are in his favor.

Forte is a guy I really like, even though I was only able to draft him in one of my leagues. In the second half of the season, the weather should turn colder, and I could see Cutler handing it off quite a bit more. A superstar week against the Browns would go a long way in starting Forte’s return to relevance.

Donnie Avery, WR, Rams vs. Lions
If you don’t start him this week, when are you going to start him? Matchups don’t get better than this one unless you’re playing the Titans. Avery is the only Rams receiver of note other than an up-and-coming Danny Amendola. Bulger should, if he has anything left to give, find him in this one for at least one touchdown.

If Avery doesn’t show up here, I think astronauts will be able to hear the click of the “drop this player” button from space.

Lee Evans, WR, Bills vs. Texans
Ryan Fitzpatrick is locked in on Evans, and Evans has come back to life. Against the Texans, he should take advantage of that connection for a touchdown. You can feel safe starting Evans again, but T.O.? That’s still a no fly zone.

Zach Miller, TE, Raiders vs. Chargers
Always start your tight end against the Chargers. It may not work for Sean Ryan, but hey, is he really a tight end or just an extra offensive lineman that sometimes catches a touchdown pass from Matt Cassel?

I hate trusting a Raider, but Miller has been the only man in this offense that JaMarcus Russell can hit consistently. Miller’s not a terrible start this week.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers vs. Cardinals
In theory, this week would be a good one for DeAngelo. The Panthers are struggling to find a passing game, and Jake Delhomme is scarred for life after throwing enough picks to play out an NFL draft against Arizona in the playoffs.

You’d think they’d lean on the run, but the Cardinals have excelled at stopping the run this year. They’re tops at it. They’ll take DeAngelo and Jonathan Stewart out of this game as quickly as possible, putting this game in Delhomme’s hands.

And before you think about it, he won’t succeed.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans vs. Bills
Before I say anything, the disclaimer on this sit recommendation is that you must have someone with a better matchup. Don’t just pull in any old player to sub for the mighty, mighty A.J. That said, I don’t think the numbers are a lie when it comes to the Bills’ defense.

Andre Johnson already has a bruised lung to worry about. I can only imagine how much that stings, but the Texans (and A.J.) are saying that he will play this weekend against Buffalo. That’s a good sign for his toughness but a bad one for his fantasy owners. An unhealthy A.J. is hard to put your faith in during these critical weeks of the season.

Buffalo’s rookie safety has become an interception machine. I’m sure he’ll be keeping a close eye on Johnson this week. I could see Schaub having a great day, but I think it will come with the assistance of Owen Daniels, not so much Andre Johnson.

If you can sub out your stud wide receiver, do it. If you can’t, cross your fingers and hope for a significant yardage total.

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Colts
I know you got him off waivers this week, but the Colts murder all quarterbacks not named Peyton Manning. When you practice against Pey Pey, no one can measure up.

I do have a lot of confidence in Smith’s chances down the stretch, and I’m rooting for the guy. Just don’t root for him this week.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks vs. Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defense regained their pass-rushing prowess last week and took Matt Ryan down a notch. Against the Seahawks’ banged-up failure of an offensive line, we could see Hasselbeck leaving this one early again.

The Dallas secondary has been inconsistent to start the year, so there’s sleeper potential in the Seahawks’ passing game. But I’d put my faith in someone else at quarterback given the choice.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills vs. Texans
The Texans run defense is better than advertised. Just ask Cedric Benson. Even if Lynch finds room to run, the Bills will be forced to pass all day when the Texans get a big lead.

The numbers on the Texans’ run defense will point towards starting Lynch here, and in a better offense than the Bills’, I might agree. But with the Bills’ struggles and Houston’s recent success at stopping the run, I think the numbers are misleading. Assuming you’re not forced into starting Lynch due to bye weeks, go with another option.

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Jets
His look-what-I-can-still-do game against the Saints was impressive, but I don’t think that’s the Ricky you’ll get on a regular basis. The Jets are angry — very, very angry — about the embarrassment they suffered against the Dolphins just a few weeks ago. Rex Ryan will have them revved up and ready to kill. I wouldn’t rely on the No. 2 in the Wildcat to win it for you this week.

Ricky can only do well if a new wrinkle is added to the Wildcat to surprise the Jets. The Dolphins have been pretty good at creating those wrinkles thus far, but the creativity has to run out eventually.

Snoozer Sleeper Pick of the Week

Vince Young, QB, Titans vs. Jaguars
It wasn’t too long ago that Vince Young was a shot in the arm for an 0-5 Titans team. They’re in a tougher situation now, but the player is the same. As long as Vince can carry the locker room baggage, he’ll carry this team into better record — not hard to do with zero wins in the books.

Who wants to try to stop both Chris Johnson and Young in the same backfield? Not I. The Jaguars feel the same way. Don’t bet the farm, but if you had to take a flier on a quarterback this week to fill in for Tom Brady or Big Ben, not a bad choice. I still like sleepers like Marc Bulger a little more, but I’m a Young believer.

Song to Ease Your Pain While You Set Your Lineups

“This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Is it just me or does the monster under the stars look like Larry Johnson? He looks like a guy that would average 2 yards per carry. And that clown with the tear-away face is the spitting image of LenDale White circa 2008.

Don’t trust me? Try these on for size: Matthew Berry’s Week 8 Love/Hate (now featuring scary, sexy nurses), Fantasy Football Goat, Fantasy Football Xtreme, The FF Geek Blog and FF Toolbox’s starts and sits.

Foolish Thoughts: Magical phone refresh voodoo makes Vernon Davis score touchdowns

I got stuck watching the New England Patriots abuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers across the pond in London during the early games. I thought we sent this game overseas so that no one here would have to watch it?

While the action was riveting, oh, so riveting, I found myself checking my fantasy football scores on my phone. About halfway through the early games, I noticed Vernon Davis had scored me a touchdown. Nice work. I went against the stats in starting him, but, as ESPN pointed out, the tight ends who had been shut down by the Texans weren’t exactly in the elite class.

So happy in my good choices, I hit refresh, only to discover that Davis had another touchdown. Now, at this point, I had not seen any cutaways to the San Francisco game yet to show me what was happening in Houston. All I knew is that every time I refreshed my phone, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown.

Oh, this is getting good. I was mopping my opponent with my early starters, and I’d discovered a magical wishing well of fantasy points.

So I refreshed again, getting greedy this time. And once again, touchdown. Had I discovered a voodoo trick for fantasy football? Would it work on anyone else besides Vernon Davis?

I had no idea what I was doing, but I found myself hitting refresh again. But this time, nothing. My fantasy luck had run out. Game over.

But next week, I’m definitely refreshing my phone a few times during the San Francisco game to see if I can get it to work again.

Dear Patrick Crayton, I’d be the first one to tell you, so here goes: Miles Austin is legit. Your best chance of getting back in the starting lineup is by replacing Roy Williams. Sadly, that might not be that hard to do with as many key passes as Williams dropped on Sunday.

The Cowboys finally looked like the team that won 13 games in 2007 again on Sunday, but it’s not time for celebration just yet. It’s still hard to trust Tony Romo, who has one of the hardest schedules of any quarterback in the league the rest of the way. As long as Miles Austin keeps scoring two touchdowns per game, that view on Romo may change.

Donald Brown went out with a shoulder injury and left Joseph Addai to share the load with Chad Simpson. If Brown misses any length of time, it would increase Addai’s value since Simpson’s no threat to cut into Addai’s touches, but this injury was minor. Expect Brown to be back on the field and scaring Addai’s fantasy owner this week.

Ryan Grant finally went off with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Browns. Let me repeat that: Against the Browns. Green Bay won’t face pushover run defenses all season, but Grant abused this one when given the chance. The Packers remain a pass-first team, but Grant could see his usage rise as the weather turns colder. Don’t give up on him if you’ve holding onto him this long.

Steven Jackson had 134 rushing yards against the Colts. Maybe the Rams should just put him and the offensive line on the field together and run the flying V all day. Might make for some interesting football. The Rams certainly aren’t in their current incarnation.

What do Vernon Davis’ 93 yards and three touchdowns mean? It means he’s a legitimate every week starter. Davis has been a key part of this passing offense all year, and even with the addition of Michael Crabtree, he’ll get lots of looks. If nothing else, his chances at the goal line look very promising.

Speaking of Alex Smith, his three touchdowns and 206 yards in the second half seem to be more than just a lucky break off the bench. He faces the Colts this week, but moving forward, he’s go upside. Sometimes those bench-warming first-round draft picks pay off after all. Eh, Vince Young?

Owen Daniels. Best tight end in football? It’s possible.

Brett Favre loves him some Sidney Rice, proven by the 11 catches Rice took for 136 yards against the Steelers. Favre may not make many more big games out of these receivers, especially after his return-to-form breakdowns against Pittsburgh this week, but it’s never a bad idea to own his favorite target. Rice has definite talent, and skills the ability to hover five feet off the field until Favre can get him the ball.

The Steelers’ defense showed up late to the party against the Vikings, but at least they showed supreme mastery of the flying V in both their interception return and fumble return. If they can contain the beast inside of Adrian Peterson without run-stopper Aaron Smith, they can stop anyone. Feel confident if you have them as your defense at this point in the season. Very confident.

I think the league would be a better place if JaMarcus Russell were benched. I’d be interested to see two teams trade quarterbacks in a given week just to see whether it’s the quarterback or the team causing all the problems. Jason Campbell for Russell anyone? Jake Delhomme for Russell? Marc Bulger for Russell? That’s the kind of trade that could heat things up in a season where every team is great, very good or horrifyingly terrible.

Could the NFL just institute a takebacks trade option so that teams can exchange players for two weeks at a time? It’d be just like pickup football.

Andre Johnson has a lung contusion. I have no idea what that is, but I do know he spit up blood. Regardless, he doesn’t need lungs to play out of his mind against the Bills. The Buffalo secondary has been good, but top receivers can find a way. Jake Delhomme just gets paid to make secondaries like the Bills’ look good.

After losing Leon Washington for the season with a nasty broken fibula, the Jets put in Shonn Greene in garbage time to finish off the Raiders. That 144 yards and two touchdowns will likely draw a crowd on the waiver wire, but Greene probably won’t duplicate a performance like that until he starts to eat into Thomas Jones’ role as the lead back.

I’ve liked Greene all along this year. He’s big and hard-running, just like a little Marion Barber in the making, but the Jets have not sought to limit Jones or replace him with Greene just yet. For now, Greene is nothing more than an 8-10 carry guy to share the load with Jones and take garbage time. Still, he’s definitely worth stashing because of the strength of the Jets’ running game and the chance to eventually replace Jones if anything were to go down.

Carson Palmer looked like the Carson Palmer that dominated the league before his knee injury. Five touchdowns, two to Chad Ochocinco, have me hoping that he keeps that alive through the end of the season.

Palmer’s arm also opened things up for Cedric Benson, who took full advantage of the revenge bowl in Chicago with a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. If Palmer had jacked all the touchdowns, Benson could have had more. The Bears just looked like they though they were playing last year’s Bengals.

Despite Benson’s beating, Ricky Williams won the spite battle this week with three touchdowns and just 80 rushing yards against his former team, the Saints. It’s not like Ricky has any bad blood. I’m pretty sure with the amount of pot he’s smoked, he’s made peace with everybody, including dead people, but he certainly wanted to win against the Saints on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Saints took some 5-Hour Energy at halftime, woke up and realized they were behind. Then, Drew Brees went to work. The Saints defense returned two picks for touchdowns, again proving they are a legit fantasy defense as long as Darren Sharper is roaming around out there. I completely called Tracy Porter’s interception return at the end of the game, mostly because I needed it to win a fantasy football game this week, but you know.

Somehow I managed to make it through the entire Monday Night Football excitement of the Eagles and Redskins. In short, DeSean Jackson scored both rushing and receiving the football, and when he wasn’t in the game, neither was the Philadelphia offense. Brian Westbrook got knocked out. Chris Cooley broke his ankle and could be out for the season.

DeSean Jackson was scared he broke something, but after X-raying it, they determined that his only ailment was being awesome and unstoppable. Sometimes that feels like an injury when you play the Redskins I guess.

At what point do we consider farming the Redskins, Rams, Chiefs or Raiders out to the UFL?

Week 6 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: A Week Without Peyton Manning

I once heard that Peyton Manning can hear us think our own thoughts. In the huddle, he thinks so hard that the middle linebacker opposing him get headaches.

Headaches lead to fear; fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; and hate leads to Manning’s audible at the line that allows his laser-sighted, rocket arm to put one in the end zone…

But why are we even talking about that guy? He’s out this week. How will we survive? Now on to the Week 6 hotties…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots vs. Titans
It’s crazy, I know, to think that any of you wouldn’t be starting Tom Brady, but consider this your reminder that he’s going to get everything right this week — no missing Randy Moss in the end zone, no short throws at Wes Welker’s feet. This week, the Patriots face the Tennessee Titans, currently starting two nice old ladies and a talking garbage can in the secondary.

Brady should destroy all hope that the Titans could win a game before the bye week, and if he doesn’t, well, we can all slam our heads into an NFL-sized helmet…or a wall…that works for some people…

Alas, this is just me wishing that I had ever been cool enough to deserve the nickname “Beer Truck.” What does that even mean? Does that mean you drink a lot of beer or that you are always carrying beer? Like that tailgater that’s always walking around and never finds the party…?

On second thought, that nickname doesn’t sound so cool.

Also hotter than normal this week:

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals vs. Texans: Great googily-moogily. Benson is booming through defenses like boat parties in Cincinnati. I don’t understand it. They have Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, but the star of this offense is Benson bus. This guy is bruising, and he currently leads the league in rushing. He should continue to do so after four quarters against the Houston Texans, Australian for terrible.

That’s true by the way. I do speak Australian.

Willie Parker, RB, Steelers vs. Browns: I actually like Rashard Mendenhall, too, but you have to remember that Willie once had “Fast” before his name. That said, Mendy’s earned his touches after playing some great football in Parker’s absence. If the offensive line blocks anywhere close to the way they did for Mendenhall against the Chargers, both Mendenhall and Parker could be hitting some out of the park. Well, just as long as Mendenhall doesn’t have swine flu. The Browns are bad, stains on underpants bad.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Bills: Jerricho Cotchery will be out nursing his hamstring this week, and in his stead, Edwards is going to destroy the Bills just like he destroyed the Dolphins on Monday night. I’m not sure who he stole the hands he’s using from, but Randy Moss might just want to make sure everything’s still attached down there. Maybe all Edwards needed was some of those brighter Broadway lights. Thomas Jones shouldn’t disappoint against the shameful Buffalo run defense either.

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Vikings: I know the matchup doesn’t look good on paper, but call me a glass half-full. Rice plays a part in the passing game, and he could easily put up yardage and another receiving score against the Vikings if the Ravens get it together. I’m listing him here not to tell you to start him over a stud with a better matchup but simply to declare my undying belief that Ray Rice was the best pick I made in my drafts this year. He’s a good start on any given Sunday.

All your Packers vs. Lions: Sure, easy call, but sometimes people don’t think straight. It drives me mad to read comments from people who refuse to play their matchups in these situations because they have some crazy idea in their head. Okay, okay, I often have crazy ideas in my head, but not as bad as some people. This game is a lay-up, and we may already know who’s catching the Packers first pass when the offense takes the field Sunday.

Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers vs. Bucs: It’s Tampa. What do you want from me? I don’t love the guy, but I could stand starting him in a bind this week.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Broncos
Oh, the mighty have fallen, and they fell so hard it created a vortex of suck on their way down. I don’t really care that the Chargers are coming off of a bye. The Broncos just shut down the Patriots and proved they were worth the praise they’ve been getting, and Josh McDaniels is going to fist pump all over the Chargers.

Mike Nolan’s revitalizing his career by making game plans that just frustrate the holy hell out of other teams, and he should have no trouble making sure the slightly less effective running back of the Chargers stays that way.

It’s also pretty likely that the Broncos run the ball like crazy down through the Chargers defensive line considering how well that worked for the Steelers a few weeks ago. Since losing their nose tackle, San Diego’s been starting a matador in the middle of their line, and he’s waving everyone through. There might even be hope for Larry Johnson to score on this defensive line, so there’s something to look forward to next week. An early lead for the Broncos will force the Chargers to pass and LaDainian all nice and agitated on the sidelines.

Who else should you not touch in any way considered fantasy football-like this week? Well, I’ll tell you…

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs vs. Redskins: The Redskins, while miserable as ever on offense, have been rather stout on defense. They’re in the top 10 among points allowed to a receiver. The only way he earns his paycheck in this one is if he scores a touchdown, which I wouldn’t rule out.

Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks vs. Cardinals: Believe it or not, the Cardinals have been great against the run this year. This game will largely be fought through the air like the best episodes of SWAT Cats. Whatever happened to that show? And more importantly, how and why did cats ever want to fly? They don’t like it. I’ve seen it on the YouTubes.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Saints: There’s just too much pointing to the Giants wanting to keep this one conservative, which means they’ll limit Manning early. Eli’s a little banged up. The Saints are coming off a bye with two weeks to prepare. The game is in New Orleans. Drew Brees, Drew Brees and, oh, Drew Brees. While I think it could soon get out of hand for the Giants, forcing the lesser Manning into throwing situations, that’s when the Saints defense has been the most deadly. New Orleans is third best in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. I assume you have a better matchup.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans vs. Patriots: It’s a bold move. I know. But unless things break just right for Johnson — wait, Sunday isn’t opposite day, is it? — the Titans will be playing from behind against the Patriots. They haven’t involved Johnson in the passing game when trailing enough for me to sign off on him this week. You’ll probably still have to start him because the opportunity is there, and he is one of the most explosive backs in the league. But doesn’t it make you feel better to know that I’m hating myself for having to start him as well? Let’s hope for a touchdown. It worked with Braylon Edwards.

Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins vs. Chiefs: No one likes a tight end that has to spend all his time blocking.

Sleeper of the Week

Cadillac Williams, RB, Bucs vs. Panthers
Caddy should do some dirty things to the Panthers defense this week if Tampa Bay can keep pace long enough to utilize the running game. Josh Johnson’s keeping this offense effective through a terrible run of losses. Derrick Ward’s injury gave Caddy just enough room to take a lead in the RBBC, and Cadillac should prove his worthy of the starting job by getting a touchdown against the poor Panthers rushing defense.

Heaven forbid that the Bucs actually keep the lead in this one and allow Caddy to run all over the Panthers defense all day.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Your Lineups

You’ll Get Bit… Ya BIT! – DJ Steve Porter Community Remix

I hear Community is a very funny show, but I’ve only gotten a chance to watch it a handful of times. Watching this remix video makes me want to set aside some more time for it…and surprisingly, learn more Spanish words. My high school education is limiting my budding rap potential. Ya BIT!

Want more?

Get more for what ails your lineup at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, Fantasy Football Goat, FF Toolbox’s starts and sits, Matthew Berry’s love/hate (this week, with facts!), ESPN’s rankings (sometimes a better take than their projections) and Fantasy Joe.

As always, comments are yours. I make no promises about answering comments before Sunday this week because on Saturday, Oklahoma comes to town to take on my Longhorns. Lives could be ruined this weekend. Lives.

A Fool and His Money – Week 2

Editor’s Note: Yes, we’re a little late with this one, and yes, it’s probably better if you don’t listen to Nick’s picks anyway. We’ll post them now just so we can still hold him accountable for his mistakes.

Texans (+7) over TITANS
I want to choose the Titans in this one, but for some reason this is always a close game so I’m going to take the points. And the Texans can’t be nearly as bad as they appeared in Week 1…I hope.

Cardinals (+3) over JAGUARS
I’m ignoring the curse of West Coast teams that play 1PM ET games. The Cardinals have to realize how much they need this game.

Vikings (-9.5) over LIONS
Did you know that Adrian Peterson’s base salary is only $755,000? Brett Favre gets paid over $12,000,000 in base salary. No wonder A.D. runs like he’s angry.

Panthers (+6) over FALCONS
I love this pick. Everybody’s expectation for Jake Delhomme is so low that he can only overachieve. I believe he’ll play decent against an untested Falcons’ secondary.

REDSKINS (-10) over Rams
I know the Redskin lost last week, but the Rams were shutout by the Seahawks! It’s going to be a very long season in St. Louis.

Seahawks (+1.5) over 49ERS
I said last week that I was picking the Seahawks to win the NFC West, and they didn’t disappoint. Neither did the 49ers in there upset win over the Cardinals, but I’m sticking with my preseason prediction at this point.

Browns (+3) over BRONCOS
Kyle Orton looked awful in his Bronco debut despite the win. Something in my gut says they won’t get a miracle 87-yard touchdown pass to win the game this week.

Giants (+2.5) over COWBOYS
I thought the Giants would be favored in this game. That makes this a pretty easy pick from my standpoint. Brandon Jacobs is going to punish the Cowboys’ defenders in this game.

PACKERS (-9) over Bengals
I think everyone knew the Packers had the talent, but last week’s win will finally let the Packers themselves believe in it. Does that make sense? It does to me.

Steelers (-3) over BEARS
Big Ben looked great against the Titans, and I thought the Bears could not have had a worse debut. This game will be a blowout. You heard it here first.

Patriots (-3.5) over JETS
The Jets looked hungry last week at Houston. The Pats struggled to beat the might Bills. But a certain Mr. Brady found his mojo at the end of the game, and that makes all the difference to me.

Colts (-3) over DOLPHINS
This isn’t so much a vote of confidence in the Colts as it is doubt in the Dolphins. They had an easy schedule last year, but things are different this year.

Raiders (+3) over CHIEFS
I’ll admit it: I was a little impressed by how the Raiders looked against the Chargers on Monday night. It’s a shame they didn’t keep Jeff Garcia around instead of JaMarcus Russell because he will undoubtedly lose several games for them.

BILLS (-5) over Bucs
Trent Edwards looked decent despite not getting T.O. the ball much in Week 1, but that just makes me like him more. The Bucs defense also looked porous gave up three touchdown bombs of more than 60 yards.

CHARGERS (-3) over Ravens
The Ravens covered the spread last week by unconventionally going for the touchdown instead of the field goal while already up one score with 50 seconds left. That made their win look more impressive than it actually was. The Chargers didn’t look impressive, but I’m going to give that up to being rusty…and the fact that I have L.T. on several fantasy teams and need him to have a successful season.

Foolish Thoughts: They aren’t who we thought they were

Oh, Week 1, you cruel, cruel mistress. Just when we think we have it all figured out, the perfect team, the perfect season, you bring us back to reality.

Yes, this week we had football — real NFL football. Football that counted! But we also saw how the offseason, that tricky devil that fills in the gap between the Super Bowl and the next weekend we care about, deceives us. Those positive, uplifting stories melt away when Jake Delhomme throws more picks than Aerosmith, and the St. Louis Rams fail to notch a single point against an NFC West opponent.

It’s sobering, if sober is your thing, to see your team come back down to earth. Well, back down to earth if you weren’t starting Drew Brees. If you have Brees, you get to look like a genius this week. And we all hate you. Oh, and you too, Adrian Peterson owners. No one liked that you got the first pick anyway, and now, they get to build on that grudge when A.P. blows up in the first week.

There are only a few people who can tell you exactly how they are going to beat you and then do it right before your eyes — Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs come to mind. None of them are football players. At the end of the day, any team could stop one individual player from playing their game in a given week. It just so happens that giving your opponent an entire offseason to prepare tends to really give them a great game plan against your offensive stars.

But such is fantasy football. If knowing what you were doing allowed you to draft a perfect team every time, for every week, the game wouldn’t allow trades, and trades are really where you make your name in fantasy football. After Week 1 scores are recorded, the real men — and real women — assess their teams, hedge their offseason bets and acquire some new talent if the opportunity arises. We now know how things have changed, and we’re not in hot water just yet.

And yes, I know you’re not scared yet if you own Brees or Adrian Peterson, but you’ll see other teams catch you unaware if you let a Week 1 victory convince you that your team is perfect. Your bench is rarely perfect, but you can make it better a little bit at a time every week.

Jay Cutler obviously watched too much Jake Delhomme game film this week. He tried to do too much, but I think his picks were more an indication of how well-prepared Green Bay’s defense was, even having changed schemes this offseason. The Packers don’t look like they’re still learning, and they lost the “sleeper defense” tag that some had put on them this preseason.

Aaron Rodgers, for all the offensive success the Packers had this preseason, was also a surprisingly disappointing fantasy start this week. If not for those late game moves, he would have been a killer. But I guess only Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub were killers this week.

As a side story to Brees’ touchdown-machine performance, Reggie Bush couldn’t hold onto the ball against the Lions, even after the most work he’s ever done in the offseason. Bad sign for Bush owners.

Steven Jackson had me going for a bit with his whole Web series about how he is the greatest running back ever to touch the ground. Apparently, the camera adds 10 yards, and there were only six cameras on him in the Seattle game. Maybe he’ll fare better when he’s not facing what some say is “the best linebacking corps in the NFL,” but after disliking him this offseason, he isn’t helping his case.

There would be no quarterback controversy in Philadelphia as long as Donovan McNabb stayed healthy, but he cracked a rib against Carolina just in time to cause a scare. If he can’t get back on the field or gets injured again early this season, the Vick chants in Philadelphia might get louder.

It was almost too predictable that Anthony Gonzalez, the player who might have gathered the most “nice pick” comments in your fantasy draft this season, got injured in his Week 1 start against Jacksonville. He’ll sit out at least the next two weeks, but he could miss up to six weeks with his strained knee ligament.

Only two of my fantasy teams ran away with it this Sunday. I have two on the fence going into Monday night, and one that is going to need some overhaul this week. It’s good to have you back, football, and now the real fun begins.

Stay tuned for more this week as we’ll try to fix your Week 1 woes. Tonight, we get to see the Patriots, Bills, Chargers and Raiders take the field. Best of luck if you’re on the Monday night bubble. I’m looking for a nice night for Randy Moss.

Random ESPN Mock Draft: Results May Vary

Last week, in the process of participating in a mock draft with several other fantasy football writers from the Interwebs, I got stuck inside of a random ESPN draft outside of the one we were using for the official mock draft. After the first couple of picks, which I made as quick reactions since I was simultaneously participating in another draft, I had to set it over to ESPN’s autodraft feature and let it ride. Several of the other drafters had to do the same. Here’s what I ended up with when it was all over.

Starting Lineup
QB Kurt Warner
RB Adrian Peterson
RB Ryan Grant
RB/WR Willie Parker
WR Steve Smith (CAR)
WR Santana Moss
TE Kevin Boss
D/ST Miami Dolphins
K Neil Rackers

Bench
QB Matt Schaub
QB Eli Manning
QB Matt Hasselbeck
RB Marshawn Lynch
RB Fred Taylor
RB Tim Hightower
WR Eddie Royal

First reactions
Wow, ESPN’s autodraft bot is really overreacting to the quarterback injuries from last season. Four quarterbacks? Really? This bot must have drafted Tom Brady last season.

Some huge value and tradebait in having guys like Schaub and Hasselbeck on the bench, but this drafted roster would likely force me into making an early-season trade for some more wide receiver depth.

Speaking of wide receivers, receiver is the one position where I feel this draft was the weakest. Steve Smith is a great foundation, but Santana Moss, even after his stellar run last season, can’t be depended on to produce WR2 numbers. On the bench, I only have Eddie Royal, who may or may not benefit from the change to Kyle Orton at quarterback in Denver. That’s just dangerous.

At running back, Peterson/Grant at running back should be a useful duo. Willie Parker and post-suspension Lynch should also add some punch to the roster if Grant disappoints. Fred Taylor has some spot-duty, emergency running back value, but Hightower is almost a waste of a pick unless he turns into the LenDale White to Chris Wells’ Chris Johnson. I have a feeling Hightower is more likely to become the Brandon Jackson to Chris Wells’ Ryan Grant though.

Tight end could be stronger and so could defense, but for an autodraft, it’s hard to complain about those positions when the overloading of quarterbacks is such an issue.

The full, unabridged mock draft is below with analysis on each round for those of you who are interested. I was drafting under the team name “Power Down” because at the time, I was trying to exit this mock draft … before it started with me still logged into it.

Feel free to share your observations below. The comments are yours.

The Entire Draft

**- Represent my picks

Round: 1
** (1) Power Down – Adrian Peterson RB
(2) The Team To Beat – Chris Johnson RB
(3) Bruno Boys.net – Michael Turner RB
(4) Team McGill – Matt Forte RB
(5) Team Harmelink – Larry Fitzgerald WR
(6) Team hoyos – Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(7) Team g – Andre Johnson WR
(8) Team Hogg – Steven Jackson RB
(9) Team Johnson – LaDainian Tomlinson RB
(10) Team O – Frank Gore RB

I went A.P. with the No. 1 pick because it was easy. Personally, I don’t like the guy, but I’d gladly take him if someone will trade me a Forte or Gore and some parts for him before Game 1 of the season. Someone REALLY likes Chris Johnson and took him as the No. 2. I don’t feel that strongly about him, but he is a worthy first round pick if he’s your guy.

Fitz makes an appearance as the No. 1 wide receiver off the board at the No. 5 pick, which is a little high to go with a WR in my opinion. Andre Johnson went No. 7, which also seems high for a 10-team league. Jackson, Tomlinson and Gore round out the first round as expected.

Round: 2
(11) Team O – DeAngelo Williams RB
(12) Team Johnson – Brandon Jacobs RB
(13) Team Hogg – Drew Brees QB
(14) Team g – Calvin Johnson WR
(15) Team hoyos – Randy Moss WR
(16) Team Harmelink – Steve Slaton RB
(17) Team McGill – Peyton Manning QB
(18) Bruno Boys.net – Clinton Portis RB
(19) The Team To Beat – Tom Brady QB
** (20) Power Down – Ryan Grant RB

The top running back from 2008 kicks off the second round — still too high for my tastes with Jonathan Stewart breathing even closer down his neck this season. The league was operating under standard scoring with 4-point passing touchdowns, so Brees going early second round makes sense. Does the pick of Calvin Johnson over Randy Moss signify some doubt in Tom Brady or just a Detroit fan?

I went with Ryan Grant over Marion Barber to end the round because I believe he’ll be much improved in Aaron Rodgers second season and fully recovered from his groin injury.

Round: 3
** (21) Power Down – Steve Smith WR
(22) The Team To Beat – Marion Barber RB
(23) Bruno Boys.net – Greg Jennings WR
(24) Team McGill – Brian Westbrook RB
(25) Team Harmelink – Roddy White WR
(26) Team hoyos – Reggie Wayne WR
(27) Team g – Kevin Smith RB
(28) Team Hogg – Ronnie Brown RB
(29) Team Johnson – Anquan Boldin WR
(30) Team O – Thomas Jones RB

The autodraft took over at this point and took Steve Smith for me at the top of the third round. I would have liked to take Barber and really lock up my running backs, but hey, the bot thought differently. Taking Barber would have also limited me to receivers like Housh and Roy E. Williams on the next turn.

The general run was on wide receivers by this point. No one really jumps out as being out of place. Look how far Reggie Wayne is falling — lack of confidence in Indy without the coaching staff they have had these past seasons? The Colts lost a little of their fantasy luster when Peyton Manning struggled last year.

Round: 4
(31) Team O – Brandon Marshall WR
(32) Team Johnson – Marques Colston WR
(33) Team Hogg – Terrell Owens WR
(34) Team g – Pierre Thomas RB
(35) Team hoyos – Jason Witten TE
(36) Team Harmelink – Jonathan Stewart RB
(37) Team McGill – Wes Welker WR
(38) Bruno Boys.net – Dwayne Bowe WR
(39) The Team To Beat – Derrick Ward RB
** (40) Power Down – Marshawn Lynch RB

Brandon Marshall before Colston? Do people remember that Kyle Orton is now the quarterback in Denver? Terrell Owens apparently has no doubters either as he goes off the board among the second/third tier despite being in Buffalo and competing for catches with Lee Evans.

Notice that not just Pierre Thomas but also Jonathan Stewart, Derrick Ward and Marshawn Lynch are coming off the board before Reggie Bush. Round 4 is still too rich for a tight end in my mind, but if you want to get Witten, you might have to go there.

Round: 5
** (41) Power Down – Kurt Warner QB
(42) The Team To Beat – T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR
(43) Bruno Boys.net – Philip Rivers QB
(44) Team McGill – Reggie Bush RB
(45) Team Harmelink – Tony Romo QB
(46) Team hoyos – Aaron Rodgers QB
(47) Team g – Matt Ryan QB
(48) Team Hogg – Roy E. Williams WR
(49) Team Johnson – Darren McFadden RB
(50) Team O – Tony Gonzalez TE

Kurt Warner in the fifth round? I’ll take it. (I guess my bot isn’t so confident with this decision judging from the number of backup QBs he drafted for me after this pick.) Housh would have been a solid pick here now that he’s the No. 1 guy in Seattle.

Romo’s going in the fifth as well and before Aaron Rodgers, closely followed by his main target, Roy E. Williams.

Round: 6
(51) Team O – Braylon Edwards WR
(52) Team Johnson – Larry Johnson RB
(53) Team Hogg – Joseph Addai RB
(54) Team g – Chad Ochocinco WR
(55) Team hoyos – LenDale White RB
(56) Team Harmelink – Vincent Jackson WR
(57) Team McGill – Antonio Gates TE
(58) Bruno Boys.net – Antonio Bryant WR
(59) The Team To Beat – Dallas Clark TE
** (60) Power Down – Willie Parker RB

Parker and Addai were first round picks at one point. I’d take Addai as late as you can have him this season. Donald Brown doesn’t scare me off of a guy who gets to score touchdowns for Peyton Manning and has starting duties.

Willie Parker, while recovering this offseason, is still going to work hard for the Steelers. I don’t think he’ll lose his starting job in training camp to any of the other backs, and one should never forget that the Steelers like to run.

Round: 7
** (61) Power Down – Matt Schaub QB
(62) The Team To Beat – DeSean Jackson WR
(63) Bruno Boys.net – Knowshon Moreno RB
(64) Team McGill – Jamal Lewis RB
(65) Team Harmelink – Greg Olsen TE
(66) Team hoyos – Bernard Berrian WR
(67) Team g – Kellen Winslow TE
(68) Team Hogg – Donovan McNabb QB
(69) Team Johnson – Matt Cassel QB
(70) Team O – Lee Evans WR

Schaub is a great backup this season and a borderline starter, so I don’t mind getting him on the turn into the seventh round.

Apparently, the move to Tampa Bay hasn’t scared enough people away from Kellen Winslow for him to fall much from last year’s draft stock.

Round: 8
(71) Team O – Le’Ron McClain RB
(72) Team Johnson – Owen Daniels TE
(73) Team Hogg – Ahmad Bradshaw RB
(74) Team g – Darren Sproles RB
(75) Team hoyos – Kevin Walter WR
(76) Team Harmelink – Hines Ward WR
(77) Team McGill – Jay Cutler QB
(78) Bruno Boys.net – Anthony Gonzalez WR
(79) The Team To Beat – Steelers D/ST D/ST
** (80) Power Down – Santana Moss WR

Consider Kevin Walter noticed. He goes off the board before Ward, Gonzalez and Moss. People always think Houston is bound to have a big year because they finish every season strong. Will this year be the season they finally keep it together?

Santana Moss is a sketchy WR2, so I’d like to have more depth at receiver behind him. The bot thinks differently.

Round: 9
** (81) Power Down – Eddie Royal WR
(82) The Team To Beat – Ted Ginn Jr. WR
(83) Bruno Boys.net – Chris Wells RB
(84) Team McGill – Jerricho Cotchery WR
(85) Team Harmelink – Cedric Benson RB
(86) Team hoyos – Giants D/ST D/ST
(87) Team g – Santonio Holmes WR
(88) Team Hogg – Chris Cooley TE
(89) Team Johnson – Ben Roethlisberger QB
(90) Team O – Willis McGahee RB

Eddie Royal seems like a silly pick by the bot with Holmes still on the board. I don’t love Holmes, but it’s not like Royal’s going to have the chance to reproduce the same numbers with Cutler now in Chicago. Royal’s not terrible, but he’s not going to be the same guy as last season.

The Giants defense goes off the board in the ninth round, even though they weren’t a great fantasy defense last season. I’m not sure they’ll be too great this year either playing tough teams like the Cowboys and Eagles with their star defensive coordinator coaching in St. Louis.

Willis McGahee’s obviously not the starter in Baltimore anymore, so I’m surprised to see him go here rather than three rounds later when someone will finally take Ray Rice, who I’d definitely take a chance on this season considering how much Baltimore runs.

Round: 10
(91) Team O – Carson Palmer QB
(92) Team Johnson – Donald Driver WR
(93) Team Hogg – Earnest Graham RB
(94) Team g – Torry Holt WR
(95) Team hoyos – Donald Brown RB
(96) Team Harmelink – Laveranues Coles WR
(97) Team McGill – Felix Jones RB
(98) Bruno Boys.net – John Carlson TE
(99) The Team To Beat – Lance Moore WR
** (100) Power Down – Fred Taylor RB

I have to hope that the bot was going to get me Lance Moore before he went off the board one pick earlier. Everyone will forget the Lance Moores and Kevin Walters of the world in the draft this year. Make sure you don’t. Fred Taylor is a decent backup, but I hate to draft any players in New England’s backfield.

Carson Palmer in the tenth round could be a huge steal if he ends up returning to glory this season.

Round: 11
** (101) Power Down – Eli Manning QB
(102) The Team To Beat – Ravens D/ST D/ST
(103) Bruno Boys.net – Kyle Orton QB
(104) Team McGill – Titans D/ST D/ST
(105) Team Harmelink – Michael Crabtree WR
(106) Team hoyos – Fred Jackson RB
(107) Team g – Julius Jones RB
(108) Team Hogg – Steve Breaston WR
(109) Team Johnson – Derrick Mason WR
(110) Team O – Donnie Avery WR

Eli Manning? Was that really necessary Mr. ESPN bot? I would have much rather had Devin Hester, Derrick Mason (if he doesn’t retire after all) or even Julius Jones. Apparently, I have met my quota for running backs and wide receivers for now though.

Some great upside bargains at receiver in this round as some people start to look at defense early. Orton as a backup quarterback is a sneaky pick. He may not be as flashy as Cutler, but he could be more efficient.

Round: 12
(111) Team O – Devin Hester WR
(112) Team Johnson – Chester Taylor RB
(113) Team Hogg – Zach Miller TE
(114) Team g – David Garrard QB
(115) Team hoyos – Sammy Morris RB
(116) Team Harmelink – LeSean McCoy RB
(117) Team McGill – Domenik Hixon WR
(118) Bruno Boys.net – Ray Rice RB
(119) The Team To Beat – Percy Harvin WR
** (120) Power Down – Tim Hightower RB

I think Hightower could end up going undrafted in many drafts, so I’m not too happy with the bot making this one for me. All the tight ends with good upside have jumped off the board here now that Zach Miller is gone, which leaves me with slim pickings late in the draft.

Look at how late David Garrard finally goes off the board. The guy had a Swiss cheese line last season and still surprised people with his finish among the top 12. This year he has Torry Holt and some other new blood at receiver. Anyone think we may be selling him a little short?

Round: 13
** (121) Power Down – Matt Hasselbeck QB
(122) The Team To Beat – Stephen Gostkowski K
(123) Bruno Boys.net – Vikings D/ST D/ST
(124) Team McGill – Chris Chambers WR
(125) Team Harmelink – Bobby Engram WR
(126) Team hoyos – Leon Washington RB
(127) Team g – Eagles D/ST D/ST
(128) Team Hogg – Kevin Curtis WR
(129) Team Johnson – Patrick Crayton WR
(130) Team O – Rashard Mendenhall RB

Hey bot, how bout another quarterback? Sure, buddy. No problem … *sigh* So unnecessary.

Do you really need the best kicker in fantasy? No, they all work. Someone out there wants to make sure they don’t miss getting the top one. It’s worth considering that if New England turns back into the touchdown pinball machine they were in 2007, Gostkowski will be a glorified extra point machine.

Chris Chambers might be the steal of this round if he can still contribute in San Diego. He had to go down last season before Vincent Jackson finally emerged.

Round: 14
(131) Team O – Ricky Williams RB
(132) Team Johnson – Trent Edwards QB
(133) Team Hogg – Jerious Norwood RB
(134) Team g – Jets D/ST D/ST
(135) Team hoyos – Michael Bush RB
(136) Team Harmelink – Muhsin Muhammad WR
(137) Team McGill – Justin Gage WR
(138) Bruno Boys.net – Mark Clayton WR
(139) The Team To Beat – Dustin Keller TE
** (140) Power Down – Dolphins D/ST D/ST

Mostly backups and upside in this round. I like Trent Edwards this late and Norwood. Mark Clayton is the starter in Baltimore if Derrick Mason does retire. Keller could increase his stock this season if he becomes a security blanket for Mark Sanchez.

And look at the clever bot, snagging the Miami defense. At least I can agree that they come at a good price in this round.

Round: 15
** (141) Power Down – Kevin Boss TE
(142) The Team To Beat – Jake Delhomme QB
(143) Bruno Boys.net – Tony Scheffler TE
(144) Team McGill – Laurence Maroney RB
(145) Team Harmelink – Panthers D/ST D/ST
(146) Team hoyos – Nate Kaeding K
(147) Team g – Patriots D/ST D/ST
(148) Team Hogg – Ryan Longwell K
(149) Team Johnson – David Akers K
(150) Team O – Mason Crosby K

It’s kicker time … so my bot takes a tight end at last.

Delhomme gets no respect these days. Scheffler gets even less. For all the hurt that Josh McDaniels has brought to Denver, the Broncos still have plenty of nice things to say about one of the most underrated pass-catching tight ends in the game. (Yes, I would rather have him than Kevin Boss.)

If Maroney does anything, I guess his selection in this round is a good deal, but I find it hard to believe that he’ll live up to expectations this season with Brady back under center.

Round: 16
(151) Team O – Redskins D/ST D/ST
(152) Team Johnson – Bears D/ST D/ST
(153) Team Hogg – Packers D/ST D/ST
(154) Team g – Jason Elam K
(155) Team hoyos – Joey Galloway WR
(156) Team Harmelink – Rob Bironas K
(157) Team McGill – John Kasay K
(158) Bruno Boys.net – Nick Folk K
(159) The Team To Beat – Shaun Hill QB
** (160) Power Down – Neil Rackers K

Packers and Bears defense in the final round? Not too shabby. We know Green Bay is rebuilding, but they have some of the key parts in place to do good things if they grip the system.

Remember how high Donte Stallworth was drafted when he was a Patriot. Look at Joey Galloway. He’s the No. 2 receiver in New England — with Wes Welker playing the slot — and he may do great things flying down the side of the field across from Randy Moss. He’s a little less likely to disappear than Donte Stallworth was and an interesting last-round selection.

Shaun Hill brought some life back to San Francisco when he came under center. Getting him in the last round is a daring way to backup your quarterback, but he’s not a terrible bye week fill. Just hope Alex Smith doesn’t return from the great beyond to take his job back.

Of course, my bot hooks me up with Neil Rackers. Thanks, bud.