How about that Rundown: Things you should have known before the 2009 NFL Draft

Unlike me, you may not have been following all the NFL news since the offseason began. Sometimes people have lives. That’s okay — so I am told. In order for you to keep your edge and get in the right state of mind now that football is only a few months away, you just might need a “rundown” of the news you may have missed or overlooked during your hiatus from the land of football.

The thing about Marshawn Lynch is…
Lynch received a suspension for three games due to his increasing talent of finding himself in bad situations at bad times (and somehow also avoiding any major legal consequences). The Bills will be without his services to start the season, but they have also acquired Dominic Rhodes to help them out while their workhorse running back pays his debt to society the NFL. Fred Jackson is still said to be the starter in Lynch’s absence, but Rhodes may win the hearts of the coaching staff before the end of camp. He’s got a pretty good talent for that.

The Jenny Craig Effect
Both Daunte Culpepper and David Garrard returned to their teams from the offseason a little lighter and a little more in shape. For Culpepper, claiming he was in the best shape of his life since he was a good quarterback might have led Detroit to believe they were safe with him under center in 2009. (Unfortunately for him, no such luck.) For Garrard, his lightened load could mean his ability to get out of the pocket and run is on the rise. If you remember his run in the playoffs against the Steelers, he can get up and going pretty quickly for a big guy, but with a little less weight, he might do it more often in 2009.

And then there’s the fat one…
On the other end of the weight shift, Adrian Peterson claims he wants to beef it up for 2009. Unfortunately for Peterson, that weight can’t all be added around his knees, which are almost ready for their next breakdown after he made it through 2009 mostly unscathed. The wrath cometh, no matter much bacon you pack on those bones, A.P.

Coles becomes a Bengal (pending felony conviction)
Yes, I know that most of the Bengals are trying to get the team’s reputation under control, but then they go out and sign Tank Johnson, and yeah, that’s not working so well. Laveranues Coles obviously didn’t want to wait around and see what one-armed batting practice machine became the man for the Jets in 2009, so he took a deal with the Bengals as somewhat of a replacement to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I wouldn’t exactly call him the perfect complement to Chad Johnson, but he’s got a pulse and no parole, unlike Chris Henry.

Matt Hasselbeck has a back again
Hasselbeck told us all he was healthy before the draft — mostly because he wanted to make sure he didn’t get a little punk like Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford drafted onto the Seahawks’ bench and waiting for him to injure his back again. It remains to be seen how much Hasselbeck will be able to do when the season starts after his injury-plagued 2008 season.

Well, I guess if Jay’s gone…
Tony Scheffler, the tight end companion of choice of Jay Cutler, may no longer have a home in Denver now that Josh McDaniels has arrived to kick everyone out of the party and start a math club that worships Belichick.

But was he the Right-wich?
The Bucs signed Byron Leftwich to be their quarterbacks of the now — or was it all just a clever smokescreen for their Josh Freeman pick? Leftwich is an upgrade over the quarterbacks currently developed in the Bucs’ stable, but they may still be overlooking what they have in Josh Johnson.

Sweed takes three
With the departure of Nate Washington to the Titans, Longhorn standout Limas Sweed moves up to the third wide receiver spot, and he might just have his head in the game this year. That’s a good sign for dynasty owners and Big Ben Roethlisberger.

Young no more in 2010?
Speaking of Longhorns, Vince Young may be on his way out of Tennessee in another season if he doesn’t find his game again. His contract isn’t going to make him any friends in 2010. If he’s going to prove he’s the quarterback of the future for the Titans, he better get back into that “hoopla” soon.

Laurent Robinson is a Ram
He was all the rage each preseason that the Falcons had him, and now, he’s one of a few receivers with a name we know and somewhat trust on the Rams roster. Don’t forget about Robinson when it comes time to make those last round selections in your fantasy draft. He might be all they got.

And Detroit quarterbacks will throw to Megatron AND…
Former Cardinal and former 49er Bryant Johnson signed a contract with the Lions this offseason. Assuming he hopes to find himself opposite Calvin Johnson on Sundays — and thereby form the unstoppable Johnson & Johnson duo — he should probably stop dislocating his fingers in practice. Johnson is one of those players who always looks like he improved his situation, i.e. moving to San Francisco last season, just before he disappears off the map. His main competition at receiver is former Raider Ronald Curry, who is expected to be the slot guy in Detroit.

Torry Holt makes final growl with the Jags
It’s no secret that Holt is old. He’s got the freaky fingers to prove he’s a veteran in this league, and he’s crafty. The Rams gave up on him in favor of getting younger, but the Jaguars will be giving him another chance. What could go wrong? Taking the old guy worked so well with Jerry Porter last season, didn’t it? Holt is the likely No. 1 in Jacksonville, but he might not hold that position all season if his skills and health fade.

Jeff Garcia on the Al Davis payroll
Garcia joined the Raiders before the draft to back up and help develop JaMarcus Russell. But how can someone so large learn anything from a man as tiny as Garcia? Time will tell whether the leadership and veteran instincts rub off on Russell, who has been looking very raw since taking the reins in Oakland.

Jake Delhomme fully extended
What’s the first thing you should do when your franchise quarterback throws more passes to the opposing team than his own to end your season? That’s right, contract extension — and a massive one at that. Carolina signed Delhomme to a 5-year deal that he will probably never see the end of as the starting quarterback. I am sure there is logic to it in saving the team a little money now, but Jake isn’t getting any younger. Maybe they’re resting their future on current backup Matt Moore’s Romo-like potential.

Matt Ryan gets his tight end
In a move that might have more impact than anything that happened in the draft, Kansas City traded veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta. Rather than spend a pick on Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons got Gonzalez at a good price, and they’ll have one of the more weapon-laden offenses in football next season with Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Gonzalez and Roddy White all threatening opposing defenses. The Gonzalez trade may prove to be exactly what Ryan needed to progress next season into a more fantasy-worthy quarterback.

Now, I think we’ve covered just about everything to get you back into sync with all the latest NFL news before the NFL draft. Drop your questions, discussion items and comments in our brand new commenting system down below and let the predictions for next season begin. I have just one question to start: What exactly is a “rundown” anyway?

Divisional Playoffs, Part 1: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Today’s matchups treat us to a battle of two defenses and a battle of two different styles of offense.

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans

This game is all about the defense. I wouldn’t want to bet on many of the offensive stars being a factor, but there are a few players who should have an impact. Though the Titans have faded down the stretch, they’ll come into this game healthy enough to compete and make Joe Flacco show his rookie colors.

The running backs should be grinding yardage in this game, which will likely come down to time of possession. I think the Titans have enough in the tank and the more powerful rushing attack to take it. Feel free to start running backs on both sides even though they won’t score a great deal.

Hot Hands: Chris Johnson, LeRon McClain, Titans D/ST, Baltimore D/ST

Bubble Boys: Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, LenDale White

Cold Shoulders: Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Kerry Collins, Justin Gage

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

In contrast to this afternoon’s game, tonight’s game pairs two of the more powerful offenses in the playoffs. The Cardinals are going to look to throw the ball even though they showed signs of a running game in the first round. The Panthers, on the other hand, will try to pound the ball and make their running backs take time off the clock.

Unlike the Cardinals, the Panthers have a more balanced attack with the abilities of Steve Smith in the passing game. That balanced attack will trump the Cardinals and end Arizona’s first trip to the playoffs in…well, ever.

If Anquan Boldin sits, there’s a very good chance that the Panthers are able to shut down the Cardinals offense. Since the Panthers will spend more time on offense, the running backs and Steve Smith are safer plays than the Cardinals.

Hot Hands: Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner, DeAngelo Williams

Bubble Boys: Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart, Panthers D/ST

Cold Shoulders: Edgerrin James, Tim Hightower, Arizona D/ST

A Fool and His Money in Week 13

While your fantasy season might be coming to an end, there are still plenty of spreads to be picked. Here’s how it’s going down this week…

Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions

Fools Take: Titans (-10.5) over LIONS

Nick says: How about a round of applause for the Tennessee Titans? Nobody expected an undefeated season, and it was a good run while it lasted. I made more money than I lost on the Titans, and I thank them for that. I’m rooting for them the rest of the way, even if I won’t be betting on them anymore. Hopefully, they get back to running the ball this week.

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

Fools Take: Seahawks (+13) over COWBOYS

Nick says: Yes, I’m a hater. I don’t expect the Seahawks to win, but I’m hoping they keep it within two touchdowns.

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles

Fools Take: Cardinals (+3) over EAGLES $

Nick says: Let me get this right. The Eagles play horribly, bench their starter, give him back his job and are now favored this week against a playoff bound team? Do people really believe in McNabb that much? I don’t think so. I’ll be taking the Cardinals straight up in this one.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

Fools Take: Ravens (-7) over BENGALS $

Nick says: I’m really enjoying the Ravens right now. They are destroying the spreads. Their defense doesn’t let opposing teams score garbage points in garbage time.

Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns

Fools Take: Colts (-5) over BROWNS

Nick says: I refuse to ever pick the Browns. That doesn’t really matter here since common sense would tell you that the Colts are going to spank the Browns.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins

Fools Take: Giants (-3.5) over REDSKINS $

Nick says: Another no-brainer. The Redskins have been struggling as of late and the Giants are just steamrolling their way through the NFC.

San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills

Fools Take: BILLS (-7) over 49ers

Nick says: Did the Bills find the spark they needed last week? Maybe. This spread is more of a pick against the 49ers than a pick for the Bills. The 49ers had a chance to show me something last week, and instead, they got exposed.

Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers

Fools Take: Falcons (+5) over CHARGERS

Nick says: I have officially let go of my expectations for the Chargers. They are no longer elite and don’t deserve to go to the playoffs. The Falcons keep getting it done. They are at least worthy of a pick with some points.

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders

Fools Take: RAIDERS (-3) over Chiefs

Nick says: No one cares about this game. I’m sorry I wasted your time even writing this line down.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

Fools Take: Steelers (+1.5) over PATRIOTS

Nick says: I like the new Patriots, but I’m not ready to put them as favorites against a proven contender this year.

New York Jets at Denver Broncos

Fools Take: JETS (-8) over Broncos $

Nick says: I hate the Broncos. They just keep sucking right when you think they might be turning a corner. It’s tough not to love the Jets at home in this one after they dismantled the Titans and after the Raiders dismantled the Broncos.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Fools Take: VIKINGS (-3.5) over Bears

Nick says: I don’t know what it is, but the Bears seem to have lost that midseason spark they had going. Orton’s injury ruined the rhythm and momentum of the offense. Has anyone seen Devin Hester this season?

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

Fools Take: TEXANS (-3.5) over Jaguars

Nick says: Possibly the worst Monday night game of the year. I’m going with the Texans, but there is a sincere note of apathy in this pick. The Texans were at least fun to watch when Matt Schaub was running the show. Sage just doesn’t get it going for me. Ed. Note: It’s the helicopter, isn’t it?

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fools Take: BUCS (-3.5) over Saints

Nick says: The Saints had a good game against the Packers, but I don’t expect it to carry over to an away game. The Bucs need to win this type of game to prove they are a legit contender in the NFC.

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers

Fools Take: PACKERS (-3) over Panthers

Nick says: Jake Delhomme has struggled some this year. The Packers secondary is one of the best in the league, and I expect them to rebound from their poor performance in New Orleans last week. I think this game comes down to Delhomme versus Aaron Rodgers, and I like Rodgers at home.

Miami Dolphins at St. Louis Rams

Fools Take: Dolphins (-8) over RAMS

Nick says: I was hoping this line would be a touchdown or less, but I still like Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown to run wild in this game. The Rams have done nothing this season outside of two mysterious weeks.

Last Week:

Nick: 9-6-1

Current Standings after Week 12:

Nick: 90-79-3
Nick’s Locks: 5-3

A Fool and His Money in Week 11

It’s go time. Once again, a ‘$’ marks all of Nick’s locks of the week while a ‘#’ marks all of Chadam’s locks.

Thursday Night Football: New York Jets at New England Patriots

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Jets (+3) over PATRIOTS
Nick Takes: PATRIOTS (-3) over Jets

In taking the Jets, Chadam says: I’ll admit, I’m sucked in to this Mangini-Belichick rivalry — if only Tom Brady were here to help run up the score. I like how the Jets sign Ty Law, who’s probably old enough to have a son that’s playing in the NFL, just to gain some knowledge of New England game plans. At least, they aren’t REALLY planning on starting Ty Law, right?

In taking the Patriots, Nick says: Brett Favre has not improved within the Jets system this year. Matt Cassel has improved within the Patriots system this year. I think this game will come down to Favre having to make some plays, and the Patriots defense will step up to stop him.

Detroit Lions at New England Patriots

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Lions (+14.5) over PANTHERS
Nick Takes: PANTHERS (-14.5) over Lions

In taking the Lions, Chadam says: I really like the Panthers, but that is one helluva spread. There’s no way the Lions win a game on the road, but it had better be a damn good team for me to lay more than two touchdowns. Carolina isn’t there for me… yet.

In taking the Panthers, Nick says: I hate giving up 14.5 points to anyone. I hate it. But there is no way I could possibly pick the Lions, who are playing Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton at QB. What am I supposed to do? Talk myself into them? I’ll go with this: Jake Delhomme and the Panthers played horribly last week, so we can expect a bounce back game in which they put up a ton of points. That is how I justify giving up 14.5 points.

Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: FALCONS (-5.5) over Broncos
Nick Takes: Broncos (+5.5) over FALCONS

In taking the Falcons, Chadam says: I miss the good old days when people thought the Falcons sucked. They would’ve been seven-point underdogs. This pick is a lot harder now. I’m betting the Falcons will get a few more stops than Denver does. We’ll see how that plays out.

In taking the Broncos, Nick says: I know the Falcons are undefeated at home and playing well, but something in my gut is telling me to take the Broncos in this one. I want to pick against the Broncos for what they did to me earlier this season, but at least they spoiled Miss Quinn’s debut last week.

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Texans (+8.5) over COLTS
Nick Takes: COLTS (-8.5) over Texans

In taking the Texans, Chadam says: At least with Sage behind center, we might suck hard enough to get a good draft pick. Sigh.

In taking the Colts, Nick says: This is an intriguing matchup. The Texans should have won earlier this year against the Colts, but Sage Rosenfels unraveled to give the game away. Sage is back to being a starter, but after last week’s performance, I doubt he has recovered from what happened in the last Colts game. Indy has been winning ugly the past few weeks, but I think this will be a breakout game for them.

Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Raiders (+10.5) over DOLPHINS
Nick Takes: DOLPHINS (-10.5) over Raiders

In taking the Raiders, Chadam says: I don’t really trust the Dolphin’s ability to cover big spreads. Besides, this feels like a week in which the Raiders will bust out their awesome defense and turn this game into a 10-7 contest that’s useless for fantasy purposes.

In taking the Dolphins, Nick says: What a dysfunctional organization. I’ll just stick with the usual: the Raiders suck, their owner sucks, their coach sucks, their top draft picks suck, and, last but not least, their fans suck. Go Ricky Williams and the Dolphins!

Minnesota Vikings at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: BUCS (-4) over Vikings
Nick Takes: Vikings (+4) over BUCS

In taking the Bucs, Chadam says: This is a coin-flip game, so I’ll go with the better defense.

In taking the Vikings, Nick says: I think the Vikings might have found something within themselves in the comeback win against the Packers last week. Let’s see if it carries over. It’s tough to pick against Purple Jesus.

New Orleans Saints at Kansas City Chiefs

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: CHIEFS (+5) over Saints
Nick Takes: Saints (-5) over CHIEFS

In taking the Chiefs, Chadam says: To think, one month ago, this would’ve been a no-brainer. While I think the Chiefs will play well at home, the Saints will roll if Reggie Bush plays.

In taking the Saints, Nick says: The Chiefs have remained surprisingly competitive the past few weeks and covered the spread the past three. With that said, I’m still taking the Saints. I told you to expect big games from Marques Colston because I traded him in fantasy football, and look what happened.

Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals

Fools Take: Eagles (-9.5) over BENGALS $

In taking the Eagles, Nick says: Did anyone else hear Ocho Cinco say he thinks the Bengals can finish 8-8? If he had a reality show I would watch it just to see if we are living on the same planet. Ryan Fitzpatrick may be from Harvard, but he is going to have a lot of trouble dealing with Jim Johnson and all his crazy blitzes. The Eagles need this one to stay in the playoff hunt.

Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: GIANTS (-6.5) over Ravens
Nick Takes: Ravens (+6.5) over GIANTS

In taking the Giants, Chadam says: This matchup will be the first game where I’m not sure the Giants are heavily favored. Now that the creampuff section of their schedule is over, I’m interested to see how they hold up against another great defense.

In taking the Ravens, Nick says: Both these teams are looking really good right now, but the Ravens have been destroying teams as of late. Both teams have solid defenses, potent running games and fearless quarterbacks, albeit one is fearless because he is a rookie and doesn’t know any better. This matchup is the type of game the Baltimore defense loves. I’m taking the points in this one.

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Fools Take: STEELERS (-4.5) over Chargers #

In taking the Steelers, Nick says: I don’t like either team in this game. The Steelers have lost two of their last three, and the Chargers are hanging on by the skin on their teeth. Normally, I would take the points in a game like this one, but I think the Steelers have the better defense and at least the ability to turn this game into a blow out.

In choosing the Steelers as a lock, Chadam says: If this was 2006, I might be more worried, but 2008’s Tomlinson and Co. does not scare me one bit.

Tennessee Titans over Jacksonville Jaguars

Fools Take: Titans (-3) over JAGS $ #

In taking the Titans, Nick says: The Titans are getting no respect from the odds makers. I know the Jags looked “good” last week against a Daunte Culpepper led Lions team, but come on. This is the same team that got beat by the Bengals two weeks ago. I haven’t forgotten that.

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Fools Take: Cardinals (-2.5) over SEAHAWKS #

In taking the Cardinals, Nick says: Will Hasselbeck make all the Seahawks’ problems disappear? I don’t think so. Kurt Warner, on the other hand, has made everyone forget that Matt Leinart is waiting in the wings. Warner is a passing machine in the Cardinals’ offense and will continue to be even more of a threat with Hightower catching out of the backfield.

St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers

Fools Take: 49ERS (-6) over Rams

In taking the 49ers, Nick says: The 49ers didn’t win last week, but they showed some fight. That’s good enough for me to take them over the Rams. Do you remember a few weeks ago when everybody was claiming Jim Haslett saved their season? They were wrong.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: PACKERS (-4) over Bears
Nick Takes: Bears (+4) over PACKERS

In taking the Packers, Chadam says: I still think that the Pack will win this division. Their defense is getting a little healthier — well, at least their secondary. Besides, betting on Rex Grossman is bad for your health. [Note from Jacob: Kyle Orton is currently listed as probable for this game.]

In taking the Bears, Nick says: It would be nice to know Orton’s status for this game. I’m going to assume he is playing. The Packers have struggled lately and the Bears have lost a few close games. I’m taking the points in what I expect to be a close, division rivalry game.

Sunday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Cowboys (-2) over REDSKINS
Nick Takes: REDSKINS (+2) over Cowboys

In taking the Cowboys, Chadam says: My fantasy hopes rest on Tony Romo, so I might as well double down, right?

In taking the Redskins, Nick says: I don’t care if Romo is back or not. The Redskins have already beaten them at Dallas, and I’m taking the Redskins with points in a no-brainer. Not quite a lock, but without a doubt, you have to take the Redskins at home with points.

Monday Night Football: Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Browns (+4.5) over BILLS
Nick Takes: BILLS (-4.5) over Browns

In taking the Browns, Chadam says: I’m torn between betting against Coach Romeo and betting against crappy Trent Edwards. Let’s take the points and see where that gets us.

In taking the Bills, Nick says: The Bills are unraveling like I said they would a few weeks ago, but the Browns… “I cannot play with them; I cannot win with them, cannot coach with them, can’t do it.” I hate Brady Quinn, and I hate Braylon Edwards after wasting my first round pick on him in fantasy football. Screw you, Cleveland.

Nick’s Lock ($): Eagles (-9.5) over BENGALS, Titans (-3) over JAGS

Chadam’s Locks (#): STEELERS (-4.5) over Chargers, Titans (-3) over JAGS, Cardinals (-2.5) over SEAHAWKS

Last Week:

Nick: 10-3

Current Standings after Week 10:

Nick: 76-62-2
Nick’s Locks: 2-1

Foolish Thoughts on Week 10: Enter the tight end zone

Do yourself a favor and forget everything that happened in the first half of the season. As we’ve seen from the past two weeks, not every team is going to bow out of the season quietly. The Chiefs, 49ers and Seahawks might surprise a few top contenders before they put a nail in the 2008 season’s coffin, and the Broncos aren’t ready to fade out.

Denver’s still got it

The ‘Welcome Back’ cards are in the mail to Denver for Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler and Eddie Royal this week. It appears the potent Denver fantasy offense isn’t quite dead.

As long as the Broncos pass the ball effectively, opposing teams will be forced to pass instead of wasting time running the ball. Maybe it won’t matter that the Broncos couldn’t stop a light breeze for less than five rushing yards.

Unfortunately, the ‘Welcome Back’ cards are probably going to be slowed by all the ‘Get Well Soon’ cards I also sent to Michael Pittman, Andre Hall, Ryan Torain and Selvin Young. Peyton Hillis is now the last man standing in Denver — except for that Tatum Bell character. Watch you luggage, Selvin!

Peyton Hillis is a threat as a receiver and a decent pass blocker, and I see him handling the do-everything back role well for the Broncos. If they keep with what we saw Thursday night, the Broncos might use him mostly as a pass blocker and outlet pass.

Selvin Young would obviously take over if his hamstring was healthy, but at the rate he’s going, that it might be playoffs before we see the former Longhorn take the field again.

If the Broncos want to make a run at the playoffs, they’ll need a running game. For now, I’ll settle for Cutler throwing for 500+ yards every game. I mean, I do have him on a roster or two.

49ers pantsed again

The 49ers, notorious for turning over the ball with JTO under center, turned the ball over just three times in Monday night’s showdown. Shaun Hill threw two interceptions and had one botched snap taken out by a bumbling guard.

Minimizing turnovers against a defense that is fierce at home, especially in this close showdown, is a good sign for the Shaun Hill era (and the Singletary era).

San Francisco is going to be competitive down the stretch with Shaun Hill, Josh Morgan and Frank Gore, so don’t blindly start your defense against them without reevaluating how they measure up.

This little Thiggy went to market

It looks like all that the Chiefs needed was Tyler Thigpen and Mark Bradley to save their season. There’s two names we never though we would need to know at the beginning of the season.

Here in the middle of the season, the Chiefs the chance to become a fantasy savior with Tyler Thigpen, Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley all worthy of starts, they could be as productive as the Houston Texans fantasy players were prior to the Matt Schaub injury.

The Chiefs have plenty of potential shootouts and pushovers left on the schedule with the Saints, Broncos, Chargers and Raiders still to come.

If Larry Johnson keeps his hands off the ladies and returns to this team, he might actually be effective. The passing game is just dangerous enough to keep defenses honest.

For once, Johnson wouldn’t be the main target of opposing defenses, but he will still be a major target for opposing lawsuits.

Seattle a light at the end of the tunnel

Wipe the slate clean for Seattle if Matt Hasselbeck comes back under center at 100 percent. At the beginning of the season, we had Hasselbeck minus his best receivers, then we had a banged up Hasselbeck with a few of his receivers and now, in Week 11, we might finally see a healthy Hasselbeck with his best weapons, Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, on the field.

A nice day against the division-leading Cardinals might be the perfect time for the Seahawks to remind them why they haven’t seen the playoffs in a long while. At least, it might be…

Tight end zones are so hot right now

So Todd Heap (of crap) is NOT dead. Heap recorded two touchdowns and 58 yards against the Texans in a trampling just like his tight end brethren, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow. Kevin Boss should have had two touchdowns if he could hold onto the ball.

Needless to say, it was a good week for tight ends — Bo Scaife and Dustin Keller agree.

While Tony, Kellen and Boss are the real thing, I’m not anointing Todd Heap just yet, even with Derrick Mason looking to miss time with a dislocated shoulder. Heap’s two touchdowns were late in the fourth quarter, and his name is just too good for nicknaming purposes.

In Thomas Jones We Trust

Okay, okay, if you held onto Thomas Jones through his suckfest, you’ve been mopping with him in the last five weeks. That’s all great, and I’m happy for you and your trash talking.

But…because I know you wanted a butt here…you have to think that Brett Favre’s going to get back in it eventually. Perhaps against a questionable Patriots secondary? Or a weak secondary like the 49ers, the injured Bills or the pathetic Seahawks? (Watch out! That’s fantasy playoffs.)

Tennessee and Baltimore are football teams

I thought they were just a track team, but on Sunday, the Titans showed they can pass the ball as well. I guess I finally have to respect Kerry Collins — just like every other NFL team.

To congratulate you on proving your worth, your bottle of scotch is in the mail, Collins. Enjoy it on me. It might be a good way to celebrate the end of the season because this Titans team, even with the appearance of a passing game, is likely to not survive the playoffs.

The Ravens proved they were a complete team on Sunday by mopping the floor with the Texans on both offense and defense and collecting a safety and four interceptions. It was a Sage-like performance typical of what we have seen of the Texans’ backup quarterback this season.

Is Flacco the Roethlisberger equivalent for Baltimore to make it to the Super Bowl this year? I doubt it. The Ravens could easily still finish the season 8-8 with very few guaranteed wins in the final half of their schedule.

Besides, the Ravens have become the new Broncos with their running back carousel. As a fantasy footballer, I must frown upon that.

Can we use the ball machine?

Unfortunately, due to league rules and the inability to find a properly fitting jersey — Shaun Rogers and LenDale White special order — the Lions are not going to be able to start a ball machine at quarterback in Week 11.

Calvin Johnson was the most upset as he enters into the toughest part of the Lions’ schedule with little hope of making big plays.

Parting one-offs

Brian Westbrook is fine.
Jake Delhomme is fine.
Steve Slaton is fine.
Aaron Rodgers is mostly fine.
Jessica Biel is mighty fine
.
LaDainian Tomlinson is questionable.
Marc Bulger is trying to remember the question. Trent Green is no help.
Willie Parker is NOT fine.
And JaMarcus Russell is hopeless.

Dear Andy Reid, does the game move slower in your head, or do you just make it seem that way? What’s with that Philly clock management? It’s not like I could have used a Westbrook touchdown or anything…

Week 10 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

The triumphant return of Thursday Night Football! I always thought the Thursday night games were stretching it. We already have college games on Tuesday and Thursday if you are really feigning — granted they aren’t the most interesting games, but there is a football on a green field with guys in helmets going after it. Why do we need the NFL crowding up in our grill for three nights out of the week?

In reality, it’s all just an elaborate scheme to trick people into not setting their fantasy football rosters on time. The NFL figures right about now is when winning teams might get a little cocky and switch into autopilot. Well, here’s a Thursday game to screw you, buddy.

There are several very good things about the NFL on Thursday nights that I have to admit. For one, you have an excuse to be a lazy bum and sit at home with a sixer on a Thursday night. Leave the going out to the Brady Quinns and Matt Leinarts of the world — don’t people understand that we’re tired from reading all that fantasy football analysis?

Second, if one of your players scores big on Thursday, you get to hang it over your opponent’s head for almost a full five days if he is unfortunate enough to still has a chance going into the Monday night game. It’s so glorious that you might run out of trash talk and one-liners before Sunday morning — start prepping now.

And C (because who likes numbers that much anyway), if you go up big on Thursday, you know you can sleep late on Sunday with no concerns about who takes the early lead. You have the lead, and thus, you get to sleep through the headache and just watch your opponent try to creep up on you Sunday afternoon. Now, isn’t that nice? I guess Thursday games might be awesome after all.

There are a lot of players worth starting this week. Byes are ending, and most of your studs are back for a full tour of duty. I’ll run down a few matchup plays, but if you got a good thing going on, don’t let me screw it up, fool. Do what you have been doing. For example, start Kurt Warner until he dies (or gets injured).

Hot Hands

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Lions — I won’t bore you with lots of details. He plays the Lions, he can run and the Jags have him throwing the ball like a big-boy version of Carson Palmer these days.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Raiders — Steve Smith might be smothered by Asomugyourguy (that’s his name, I swear), but Delhomme should have free reign over the rest of the field now that DeAngelo Hall is on the streets. Oakland is just ditching people to save money at this point, and the secondary was suspect even with Hall on the field. I expect Steve to slip away for at least one big play, and after that, Delhomme will have to put on the guise that they’re still trying to mix the run and the pass against a team that all but forfeits each week.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Broncos — It’s a short week and a rough-around-the-edges, new starting quarterback against a defense that cannot stop the run. No math required. As long as Quinn doesn’t grease up the ball with his hair gel and Brute and create turnovers, Lewis will go off for a few.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. ColtsFRIDAY UPDATE: PARKER OUT SUNDAY. ESPN is reporting that Willie Parker will be out Sunday with a shoulder injury. Mewelde Moore will get the start again. Moore has shown he is capable of handling the job in place of Parker so expect about the same production from him. Here is what I said about Parker before this news: The Colts’ run defense is still a little suspect, even with the return of Bob Sanders, and the Steelers’ offense, even under the command of Byron Leftwich, can get the ball down the field. I like Parker to have a score in this one.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Patriots — That terrible Patriots secondary keeps putting it together, but the Bills are desperate for this win now that they have lost the winning pace they had to begin the season. Evans should get his just like Donnie Avery did against the Pats in Week 8.

Derrick Mason, WR Ravens vs. Texans — Flacco loves to target this guy (almost double-digit throws per game), and the Texans’ secondary is likely to let him take one to the house.

Greg Camarillo, WR Dolphins vs. Seahawks — The Seahawks are flying across three time zones and the entire United States to face a hard-hitting Miami team. Assuming he sees the 11 targets that he had last week or close to it, Camarillo makes a borderline No. 2 receiver who could easily go for 100+ yards or a score this week.

Kevin Boss, TE Giants vs. Eagles — He has scored in each of the Giants’ last two games, and the Eagles have admitted to having a problem with stopping opposing tight ends.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Seahawks — Behind Camarillo, Fasano should may see his fair share of targets as well, and last week, he managed to separate himself from David Martin by catching two passes to Martin’s zero. In fact, Martin wasn’t even targeted in Week 9. Moving forward, Fasano could develop into a starting fantasy TE (as some thought he would early in the season), but this week, he’s at least a great matchups play.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Seahawks — Joey Porter is a sack monster, and the Seahawks haven’t been able to get the ball moving without Hasselbeck. Next.

Bubble Boys

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Titans — He’s definitely a questionable start this week, so you might want to consider looking elsewhere, but he’s been too reliable against tougher run defenses in the past this season. One has to think that they might lean on Forte more than Grossman in this one, no? And anyone if given enough carries — say 50 — can produce against the Titans.

Ryan Torain, RB Broncos vs. Browns — Reports say he will have his first start this week with Selvin Young’s hamstring still bothering him, but how much can you trust a rookie that got just one yard on three carries last week? I believe he could be a solid back for the Broncos in the future, but I’m not sure he’s this season’s Ryan Grant just yet. Starting him this week isn’t necessarily something I wouldn’t do, but I would do a LOT of things if given the chance.

Billy Miller, TE Saints vs. Falcons — How much does Jeremy Shockey eat into Miller’s value? Shockey had the buy to rest up, but much like Colston came along slowly in his return from injury, Shockey might do the same. Miller could still be a borderline TE start this week, especially considering how productive he’s been through this Shockey-less stretch.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Browns — Even if he returns this week, it’s questionable where he now ranks in the offense. Prior to his injury, the argument could made that he was the No. 2 target and a prime red zone threat, but Eddie Royal may have passed him up in his absence. Either way, I’d sit him again this week in a not-so-great matchup to see how he does, but I don’t blame you for putting him in your lineup if you’ve been waiting on him.

Cold Shoulders

Marc Bulger, QB Rams vs. Jets – While they’ve been torched in the past, I have serious doubts about whether the Rams’ line can protect Bulger enough for him to attack the Jets secondary. If the Rams are without Steven Jackson and Antonio Pittman this week, the Rams are starting Kenneth Darby at RB, formerly of the Atlanta practice squad. I’d doubt he’ll fare well against the Jets run defense, and that should allow the Jets and possibly the most dominant nose tackle in the NFL right now, Kris Jenkins, to put pressure on Bulger all day.

Rex Grossman, QB Bears vs. Titans — It scares me if you are contemplating this start. Grossman will have a hard time making waves against the Titans pass defense even though the secondary has been exposed a bit over the last couple of weeks (Colts and Packers). Grossman makes bad decisions too frequently, and it’s a stretch to think his decision-making skills have improved on the bench this season. He’ll either play conservatively in this one or play terribly, so even if you picked him up, you’d be smart to let him ride the bench for a week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Vikings — A tough run defense and his own weak performance makes me doubt he’ll be productive in this one. The most owners can hope for is a short-yardage score, but it’s hard to say whether that will happen with Rodgers throwing into the Vikings’ secondary. There are worse risks you could take this week, but I wouldn’t put money on Grant.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Dolphins — With Morris back from injury, the two RBs in Seattle are now scrounging for carries. Jones is on the losing end and going up against a top-10 run defense after flying through three time zones. Yup, he’s a sit.

Justin Fargas, RB Raiders vs. Panthers — The Oakland rushing attack has fallen on hard times. While Carolina isn’t a top-10 run defense in the league, it’s hard to see Oakland sticking to their running game if Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme put a lead on them early. Fargas is a risky flex play, and I’d let him sit until he shows that the completely terrible Week 9 performance isn’t what to expect from here on out. At least you have Week 12 to look forward to for Fargas.

Rashied Davis, WR Bears vs. Titans — I’d be worried to start any Bears’ receivers with the change to Rex Grossman, and the Titans’ defense shouldn’t make it any easier for the backup to succeed. I’d sit all the Bears receivers if it came down to a close call, but if forced, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are the only two worth taking chances with this week.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Giants — Last week’s two catches for 20 yards is sign of what’s to come. With Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown back in the lineup, Jackson slides back into his rookie role as the No. 3 wide receiver. You have to figure Westbrook into that, and if Brent Celek starts at TE, he might get looks ahead of Jackson. That makes him the No. 5 receiving option overall. He’s likely to have a quiet day unless he makes something happen, but the Giants could always forget he is on the field. New York’s pass rush won’t let McNabb sit back to let a long play develop. Is he all you have got?

Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs. Packers — You may have been starting the Vikings every week outside of their bye after drafting them as the assumed No. 1 defense. While they’ve had their big days, this game shouldn’t be one of them against a Green Bay passing attack that put up numbers against the Titans secondary. They could be without Jared Allen as well, which downgrades their pass rush a bit. You might not be carrying two defenses, but it might be in your best interest to seek out a matchups play for Week 10.

Sleepers

Shaun Hill, QB 49ers vs. Cardinals — It’s no secret that the Cardinals allow you to score through the air, and the 49ers have had two weeks to prepare. Plus, in the three games he played last season, Hill was very smart with the football and minimized turnovers. After two lost fumbles in his first game, Hill had just one INT and one fumble that was recovered in his final two.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Chiefs vs. Chargers — The Chargers are another QB-friendly team, and Thigpen is on a hot streak. If he can link up with Dwayne Bowe or Tony Gonzalez, he’ll be able to give the Chargers a run just like he gave the Bucs; however, I’d worry what might be up the new San Diego defensive coordinator’s sleeve…

Peyton Hillis, RB/FB Broncos vs. Browns — With Shanny, you never know. Even though Ryan Torain is getting his first start (supposedly), we know from past experience that “starting” for Shanahan doesn’t always mean you’re the best back to play in fantasy. Hillis could easily take third-down snaps, and that might allow him to run some passes into the end zone. It’s a dangerous play, but isn’t that what you use a sleeper for?

Week 8 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

There’s a lot of hotness this week, and many players not on a bye might have their best performance of the season for you. My favorite starts are Willis McGahee against Oakland and Chris Johnson against the Colts but even Cedric Benson might break 100 yards this week. Cedric Benson — let that sink in for a second.

As usual, these are just a few players you may not think about starting every week who are bound to do well (Hot Hands), have question marks (Bubble Boys) or fall short of expectations (Cold Shoulders). Start or sit your guys accordingly, and feel free to throw more detailed lineup questions in the comments.

I’ll have answers for all the comments on Saturday night.

Hot Hands

Jason Campbell, QB Redskins vs. Lions — Come on, he plays the Lions. That screams, “Insert giant fantasy week here.”

Donovan McNabb, QB Eagles vs. Falcons — Despite his struggles, he gets his favorite target from last year, Kevin Curtis, back this week to add to the firepower of DeSean Jackson and a gimpy but likely to play Reggie Brown. On the road, I wouldn’t doubt that the Falcons defense lets McNabb have a couple of scores.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Cardinals — Delhomme is back on track, and when Delhomme and Steve Smith are in sync, they are one of the most dangerous QB/WR duos in the game. At home, the Panthers should tear it up on both sides of the ball. Delhomme has five touchdowns in three career games against the Cardinals.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Browns — The Browns’ pass defense is better than expected, but Garrard was on a roll and comes back from a bye. His legs should keep him effective even if he is without his best receivers.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills vs. Dolphins — The Dolphins run defense should slow Marshawn Lynch. Luckily, Lee Evans likes to score touchdowns against the Dolphins, and Edwards should help him out with that.

Thomas Jones, RB Jets vs. Chiefs — It’s Jones’ turn to play “Red Rover” with the Chiefs (as long as he is not too tired from blowing apart Oakland last week). The Chiefs aren’t stopping anybody. Leon Washington could even fill a spot for you this week.

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Raiders — While the secondary is hit-or-miss this season, the Raiders run defense is consistent, consistently worthless. McGahee should build on his fantasy debut in Miami with a solid 2007-like week of destruction against Oakland.

Chris Johnson and LenDale White, RB Titans vs. Colts — The Colts can’t stop it even though they’re desperate for a win here. Forced to choose between the two, I’d start Johnson first.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Bengals — Ah, Bengals. Drool. Might be the last hoorah for Slaton owners though. After he has a big day, sell, sell, sell!

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Chargers — We get to see what the Deuce he can do without Reggie Bush acting as a distraction. While his carries won’t increase much, he should have more of an impact. The Chargers are terrible at stopping the pass this year, so while they are middle-of-the-road against the run, I’d expect McAllister to have a couple of chances to score a short-yardage touchdown.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Browns — Jags are coming off a bye and face the 26th-ranked run defense. Fred Taylor isn’t a bad bet to have a good week, but Jones-Drew could see more carries if Taylor is held back because of his concussion. Regardless, the Jags are sure to hit the 140+ yards that the Browns allow each game.

Cedric Benson, RB Bengals vs. Texans — Let’s get crazy. Benson could finally justify his place as the starter in Cincinnati if he can run through the Texans. It’ll be on him to provide enough of a distraction for Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to make the big plays.

Josh Morgan, WR 49ers vs. Seahawks — If you missed the waiver wire rec for this guy, correct that mistake. The fact that Morgan returned to put up great numbers against the Giants makes me giddy about the possibilities for him this week against the Seahawks. I’m already thinking up nicknames — suggestions accepted. Another big day here cements him ahead of Isaac Bruce as the guy to own in San Francisco. Obviously, he’s not the next Colston just yet, but as a WR3 or even WR2, Morgan has huge upside this late in the season. It doesn’t get much better than the 49ers passing schedule from here on out.

Marques Colston, WR Saints vs. Chargers — The British are just what Colston needs to get back on track. He was a little off in Week 7, but forgive him already. Unless conditions are terrible, the passing should go off in this overseas shootout, and Colston should shine like a beacon of fantasy goodness. The Chargers give up more than 250 yards through the air on average — worst in the NFL.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Patriots — The New England defense isn’t that great; in fact, their secondary has looked pretty terrible. The Broncos were just more terrible last Monday night. Avery should continue to be a deep threat.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Falcons — A big day for McNabb means a big day for Jackson. McNabb won’t forget about him just because Kevin Curtis is back.

Jeremy Shockey, TE Saints vs. Chargers — Even if he is cleared to play, I think Shockey might be limited again this week. Keep an eye on the injury reports. Start him if he’s your best option, but I might look elsewhere if he’s not at full speed.

Zach Miller, TE Raiders vs. Ravens — When JaMarcus Russell is running for his life against the Ravens blitz, Miller is the dump man. He puts that on his business card: “The Dump Man.”

New York Jets D/ST vs. Chiefs — There’s potential for a shutout in this one. The Jets are strong against the run, Larry Johnson is sitting, the Chiefs are down to Thigpen at QB and they are in the Jets’ house. Look away. This one could be brutal.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Titans — If this game was in Indianapolis, I might still consider playing Manning, but this game is NOT in Indianapolis. Manning is screwed. That’s pretty much the way it goes. He goes from suffering against Green Bay to facing the toughest defense in the NFL. I give him a bubble because…well, if the Colts want to get back on track, Manning has to win this one with his arm.

Brett Favre, QB Jets vs. Chiefs — Will there be anything left for Favre to do when Thomas Jones gets done?

Jeff Garcia, QB Bucs vs. Cowboys — It’s not like you’re starting him every week, but you might be considering Garcia for a second round after he helped you out last week by tearing up Seattle. Call me a homer, but I have several reasons to justify putting Garcia on the bubble: 1) The Cowboys are in back-against-the-wall mode and in danger of missing the playoffs. The pass rush could come to play and compensate for the terrible secondary. 2) If it goes the other way, Brad Johnson and Dallas’ broken offense could turn the ball over enough for pick-six scores to keep Garcia off the field. Tampa leads the league in picks. 3) Joey Galloway, if he does return, is not getting his old job at split-end back from Antonio Bryant. Therefore, no huge boost to the WR corps. 4) The Bucs are likely to be without foggy-headed Ike Hilliard. That’s not a huge blow, but he was a red zone target. 5) My gut — my Cowboy-loving gut just doesn’t like it. Take it or leave it.

Brian Westbrook, RB Eagles vs. Falcons — You can’t really give a guy like Westbrook the week off just to see how he’s coming back from that injury, but he could easily be splitting his value with Correll Buckhalter against the Falcons. If whatever you’ve been doing while Westbrook was out besides slapping yourself to feel whole again will work this week, I’d consider it. Still, if he comes off the injury report clean, he’s in my lineup.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Bills — The Dolphins will have to add another wrinkle to the ‘Wildcat’ to keep it going against the Bills.

Joey Galloway, WR Bucs vs. Cowboys — Oh, happy fun time! Galloway is finally back and ready to run on those 60-year-old legs of his. Before you get too giddy, here’s what I know: Galloway might not get his starting job back from Antonio Bryant and, therefore, could be playing the slot this week. That’s, of course, only if he is healthy enough to play. I’m not sure how he will be used, so I’m not sure I love him enough.

Chad Johnson, WR Bengals vs. Texans — The weak passing defense in Houston could allow Chad Johnson to find a hole. He scored against the Steelers. It feels like it might be one of those weeks where Ocho Cinco shows up, but I’d still only play him as a WR3 or low-end WR2.

Kevin Curtis, WR Eagles vs. Falcons — I know you are starting him if you just picked him up this week, but keep in mind that this game will be his first of the season. He’ll be rusty but possibly more awesome than any receiver you were going to start otherwise. Can you afford to have rust on your starting roster? Can you afford NOT to have rust?

Cold Shoulders

Matt Ryan, QB Falcons vs. Eagles – I’m not sure why you would be considering it, but Ryan may fall off the rookie rise this week when the Eagles blitz him like he’s coated in sugar. He’ll probably hit Roddy White, but I’d look to your usual starter this week unless their matchup is this dirty as well.

Brad Johnson, QB Cowboys vs. Bucs – I have my doubts about the Cowboys this week. I’d be surprised if an aging backup was able to do well against a defense that has stifled almost every QB in the league. I don’t expect good things from Johnson or the Cowboys’ passing game even though I will be rooting for them.

Eli Manning, QB Giants vs. Steelers — I don’t like his chances against the bruising Steeler defense (at home). I don’t feel confident enough in Eli to recommend starting his this week with his recent struggles.

All Oakland RBs (Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush), RB Raiders vs. Ravens — Not only should you sit all your Oakland RBs, you might want to trade them now. The Ravens have been taking RBs out left and right this season, and any one or all (see: Pittsburgh Steelers) of the Raiders backs could go down in this game if they have a bounty on their head.

Michael Turner, RB Falcons vs. Eagles — He hasn’t played well against tough run defenses. Guess what Philly is? And to make it worse, they are coming off a bye. It won’t be a good week, but at least you’ll know he tried.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Colts vs. Titans — The Titans do more than one thing well, but the one thing they really like to do best is stop the run. They’re in the top 10 of every defensive category and No. 1 in points allowed. Rhodes was a bright spot last week against the Packers, but he won’t be able to carry the Colts in this one.

Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore, RB Steelers vs. Giants — Even if Willie Parker returns, this matchup is not promising. It’s likely that Moore and Parker will still share time, and HALF of a bad day isn’t worth starting.

Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs vs. Jets — The Jets are fourth in the league against the run. The run is all that Kansas City really has on offense. Uh oh.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Chiefs — I don’t think he shows up for this game either. Nagging health issues make me want to steer clear, but he’s one you could take a chance on if you have nothing better.

Week 7 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Technical difficulties with our Web host had us listed as questionable for Wednesday night, but as you saw Thursday, we showed up to play at game time. We aren’t wishy-washy like Wade Phillips.

If we come into the game to answer your questions on Sunday, consider it a bonus.

Hot Hands

Matt Schaub, QB Texans vs. Lions — Schaub has finally come into his own as the Texans’ starter after a rough beginning to the year. As long as he stays healthy, he’s going to produce with Andre Johnson making plays. Against the Lions this week…yeah, just start him.

Trent Edwards, QB Bills vs. Chargers — Last year, it would have been the worst idea ever to start your concussed QB against the Chargers pass rush — this year, not so much a concern. The Chargers do an opposing QB good (with the exception of Matt Cassel). Edwards’ newfound friendship with Lee Evans and the long ball should produce at least once.

Jeff Garcia, QB Buccaneers vs. Seahawks — Garcia has a nice match against a weakened Seattle, and I like his chances even more if Joey Galloway returns from injury. If you are looking for a bye-week superstar, look here.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Saints — You have to score against the Saints, and their run stopping has been stronger than you might think. Delhomme will have to make some plays, and he is very capable of putting up a decent to big day with Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Colts — Call me a sucker, but I am not putting Grant off as a one-year wonder just yet. He had 33 carries against the Seahawks without surpassing 100 yards, but he’s just gotten healthy off of that hamstring injury. At least we know the Packers don’t feel the need to spread the ball around. Matchups don’t get much better for running backs than facing the Colts.

Chris Johnson, RB Titans vs. Chiefs – Destruction, thy name is Chris Johnson. I think the young rookie could show you why you should have bought him low when you had the chance this week against the Chiefs.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Lions — He makes a good start, but don’t expect some explosive, gaudy point total if the Texans put up enough points through the air to keep the Lions winless.

Calvin Johnson, WR Lions vs. Texans — He has gotten his catches even with safety-himself Dan Orlovsky under center. With Roy Williams out of Detroit, he becomes the critical playmaker in this offense, and as long as the trend continues, the Lions should need him making plays if they ever want to win a game.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Chargers — The Chargers let opposing QBs put up points on them (see: Trent Edwards). Evans will be the main target this week and should have at least one long bomb touchdown.

Dustin Keller, TE Jets vs. Raiders — He should be open quite a bit. Considering how good the Raiders’ corners are “supposed” to be, Favre may look to the TE in this one…again.

Miami D/ST vs. Ravens — On paper, this matchup looks great. Miami has a very nice run defense against a team who relies heavily on the run, and the sacks they have had the last several weeks should come again against a rookie QB.

Bubble Boys

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Vikings — Orton’s the better QB in this battle. That’s not a bold statement; he’s never slammed his head into a wall and given himself a concussion. Orton could have a big day against a weak Minnesota secondary, or he could trudge along in a defensive battle. I like him, but I wouldn’t bench an every-week starter for him.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB Steelers vs. Bengals — Contrary to popular belief, the Bengals secondary is not terrible. Not great, but not terrible. Mewelde Moore might be the guy to have in this game.

Brad Johnson, QB Cowboys vs. Rams — If Romo doesn’t come in and start this game despite reports that he would be out for several weeks, consider it a BONUS!

Sammy Morris, RB Patriots vs. Broncos — Morris is the only reliable running back in the Patriots offense right now, and the Pats are going to have to get him going against the Broncos if they hope to make it competitive. If I were Bill Belichick, I’d go ‘Wildcat’ with Morris or Faulk and take the ball out of Cassel’s hands. I’d also wear a sweatshirt, no sleeves.

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Vikings — Forte gets the ball so much, and he’ll be catching the ball against the weak secondary, too. I think you have to start him despite the questionable matchup against one of the top run defenses. As long as he gets a touchdown, it’ll work out for the best.

Torry Holt, WR Rams vs. Cowboys – This matchup might the best chance Holt has to succeed all year. The Cowboys have lost two of their starting corners and a safety so far this season. I can’t honestly say he’s a “hot hand,” but if Holt produces here, we’ll know he has a pulse.

Roy Williams WR Cowboys vs. Rams — Don’t jump on him just yet. Remember how Chris Chambers started slow with the Chargers last year? I’d expect something like that.

Cold Shoulders

Matt Cassel, QB Patriots vs. Broncos — Last time I suggested Cassel as a “cold shoulder,” he had a decent outing. Take that as you will. The Broncos weakness is stopping the run, and the Denver corners are respectable. I think Cassel’s opportunities are limited, and I don’t really like his chances to make a big play or two against this team.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB 49ers vs. Giants — The Giants’ anger will take the luck out o’ the Irish.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Buccaneers — The Bucs run defense is performing at the top of its game this season. Don’t think that Julius Jones is one of those RBs that can defy the norm. Splitting time with Maurice Morris and/or T.J. Duckett shouldn’t help his chances.

Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs vs. Titans — It’s best not to get cute even if Larry Johnson is sitting out. The Titans are good at stopping RBs, and a backup RB has little hope for success.

Bills D/ST vs. Chargers — Don’t be silly. The Chargers will score, and the Bills are still missing some good corners. Give them the week off.

Who are you starting/sitting this week?

Week 5 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I am not sure who won the VP debate last night. Both political parties seem to believe their candidate stepped up to the plate. The NFL is still pretty split in making a decision this election year. I do know that Al Davis likes Sarah Palin — mostly because he believes she’s youthful and has 4.3 speed.

Herm Edwards, on the other hand, really couldn’t make up his mind. He wants to like someone like Palin, who reminds him of a Brodie Croyle or even a Tyler Thigpen, but that’s just to keep up the front that the team is rebuilding. Voting for someone like Joe Biden, an experienced candidate best compared to Damon Huard, might give the impression that the American people can expect to be won back right now by a government that could do a few good things. That’s scary for Herm to think about.

The jury is still out for Bill Belichick. He just taped the whole thing to watch later, and rumor has it that the tapes came from practice runs that the candidates had on stage before the real debate started. That dude is weird.

This week, you are probably looking for a few spot starters to help you over the bye week hump. If your backup isn’t performing at a high level, you might want to take a chance on some of the guys that I point out here. Bubble guys become more worthwhile of consideration on a week like this week. Don’t expect them to put up the same numbers as your studs do each week, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do.

As always, leave a question in the comments if you are struggling with who should start in Week 5.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions
I know. I am insane, but the Detroit Lions are not hard to throw against. In fact, they encourage you to throw because if you aren’t passing, your running back is embarrassing them by blasting through the giant holes their defensive line can’t close. My guess is that the Bears let Orton cut loose a bit here. Matt Forte is still going to have a field day on the Lions defense, but Orton should have a few good plays through the air just to keep the defense honest. Why the hell not? It’s the Lions. Don’t bench Peyton Manning for him, but if you need a QB, this week Orton could be your man.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Chargers
It’s not often that you can recommend a man like Pennington. I like him, but for fantasy purposes, he doesn’t put a lot of numbers up unless he has a really nice matchup. This week, you’re in luck. San Diego is letting every quarterback run wild on them this season. Pennington won’t be shut down because San Diego’s defense will also have to worry about Ronnie Brown going into “Wildcat” mode like he did against the Patriots. We know the Chargers can put points on the board, and this game is going to be on Chad to win.

Brian Griese, QB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Despite Denver’s well-respected corners, the Broncos like shootouts this year. Their defense obliges by letting the opposing QBs pass for more yardage on them than all but a small number of teams in the NFL. Apparently, Griese is going to throw a great deal more than Jeff Garcia did last season, so look for the Bucs to have a big day through the air — as long as there is something left for them after Graham and Dunn tear apart the Broncos ground game.

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Lions
This game might be the hottest start he has all year. Forte’s averages more than 80 yards per game, and the Lions basically promise opposing running backs 200+ yards just for playing. Forte is an absolute MUST START this week.

Earnest Graham, RB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Denver can’t stop the run or the pass. If Larry Johnson can do something, I believe a coke machine — the drink machine, not Travis Henry or Matt Jones — with a football taped to the top can do it. You know, just like the one in those Reggie Bush commercials. Regardless of how many carries Warrick Dunn takes, Graham will have plenty to feed a hungry fantasy football team.

Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers vs. Chiefs
“The Daily Show” — my new favorite player nickname, by the way — should run over the Chiefs defense this week. Be wary of benching a stud for Stewart since he still splits time with Williams but a good game here could — fingers crossed — start to move him into the more dominant role in this offense.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Colts
I’m required by foolish fantasy law to mention every rookie in the NFL if I mention any of them. That’s a fact. You want another one? Indianapolis can’t stop the run without Bob Sanders.

Lance Moore, WR Saints vs. Vikings
Moore is seeing quite a few passes come his way with Shockey and Colston still missing. They’ll need to pass against a tough Vikings run defense this week, so look for Moore to dominate on targets again and make something out of them just like he did last week.

Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban, WR Cardinals vs. Bills
If Boldin doesn’t play this week, both of these WRs could see looks from Kurt Warner. Buffalo has a tough defense, but their weakness will be at corner this week. With Buffalo’s best corner out of commission, Breaston and Urban should face the Buffalo’s third corner and rookie Leodis McKelvin. Breaston’s a lock to see looks, but it could be Urban that steps up in this game since Breaston will most likely not be taken off the kick return duties. It’s in the air right now, but watch reports coming out of Arizona to see if the coaches leak the game plan.

Amani Toomer, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
Plax is out for this week because of his INSUBORDINATION, a word that must always be typed in uppercase. Toomer should see more looks his way, and the two younger Giants WRs, Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, will fill in the rest. Toomer is a big red zone threat and a better start than both the young ones.

Bobby Engram, WR Seahawks vs. Giants
He’s back. Hasselbeck will be giving him big hugs all day on Sunday, and he should see plenty of action as long as his shoulder is really good to go. Seattle is likely to fall behind, and Engram is the most trusted receiver they will have on the field to make critical plays.

Santana Moss, WR Redskins vs. Eagles
Don’t be afraid of the Eagles secondary. Did you see what Kyle Orton did to them last week? Yeah, and that was Kyle Orton. Moss will continue to get his points each game. The Redskins have been good about not turning the ball over, but Campbell won’t have to force it to Moss to keep Moss’s fantasy revitalization going strong this season.

Justin Gage, WR Titans vs. Ravens
Since the RBs will be slowed a bit by the Baltimore defense, Collins should be looking for Gage to pick up crucial yards in the air. Gage hasn’t put up a lot of TDs, but he gets consistent yardage as long as Collins is at QB. Expect the usual.
UPDATE: Gage is still struggling with a groin injury this week, and, right now, he is listed as ‘doubtful.’ Unless that changes, I’d suggest you go with a different option this week.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Chargers
The Chargers have given up a TD to a tight end every game this season. Pennington really likes throwing to his tight ends — probably because his WRs are nothing to write home about. Yup, that pretty much sums up my reasoning.

Bubble Boys

Carson Palmer, QB Bengals vs. Cowboys
Palmer might not even play this week, but if he does, he’ll face and Cowboys secondary that doesn’t punish you. Even with that glorious matchup, he’s a big risk. He could go right back out of this game or just look bad trying to play with an elbow injury limiting him.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Chiefs
He could probably throw if he wanted to throw, but he won’t have to against this horrible run defense. Decent start if you have to plug him in, but he might only put up one TD and yardage unless this one gets heated. If he’s your best option, use him.

Chris Johnson, RB Titans vs. Ravens
Oh no, it’s another tough defense. If you haven’t noticed, Johnson can score against tough run defenses. He’s just TOO fast, and he can get to the outside. Baltimore will try to stop him, but in my mind, he is entering into unsittable status after last week’s showing against Minnesota. Plus, you might as well use him this week. If Baltimore twists as many ankles and breaks as many bones as they did against Pittsburgh, then this game might be the last one of the season for Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Vikings
Wow, I’m sure you’re excited. You just picked up a power running back that *could* be featured in a high-powered offense as long as he stays healthy this season. Unfortunately, he faces Minnesota. The Vikings aren’t a total lock to keep him out of the end zone, but unless some Saints passing plays die one or two yards short, McAllister should have limited fantasy potential. Since he’s TD-dependent, I’d look elsewhere. Surely, there’s a guy on your roster that you drafted who has a better matchup this week. If not, start Deuce but limit your expectations.

Mewelde Moore, RB Steelers vs. Jaguars
Surprisingly, the Jaguars aren’t all that scary to run against this year, but the question is whether or not Moore will be featured as a RB or used sparingly. He’s the fourth in line for carries (or at least, he was before all the injuries last week), and the Steelers may opt to have Big Ben throw more this week rather than risk putting too much of the offense in the hands of a backup guy. If you need a RB, he’s not a bad spot start, but there’s the risk that he doesn’t get the same looks Mendenhall or Willie Parker would.

Bobby Wade, WR Vikings vs. Saints
The Vikings haven’t exactly shredded it through the skies this season, but Wade had 75 yards from seven catches last week while no one was watching. As long as Sidney Rice remains a little banged up, Wade should get the majority of the snaps against the Saints very bad secondary. Scoring is probably too much to ask, but Wade could be a decent spot starter in a WR3 position. Almost anyone involved in the Vikings vs. Saints game is worthy of fantasy consideration.

Cold Shoulders

Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers vs. Falcons
Even if he plays this week, he’s still hurt. I wouldn’t take a chance on him. The Packers game plan will probably involve a heavy dose of Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson to win this one.

Edgerrin James, RB Cardinals vs. Bills
The aging running back busted out a good game last week against the Jets, but the offense will come down a few notches when it’s the Buffalo defense on the other end of the field. James won’t put many two TD games together this year as long as Kurt Warner is under center. You can go ahead and scratch this one off the list.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, RB Jaguars vs. Steelers
Other than TDs, there’s not many ways for running backs to make fantasy points against the Steeler defense. Look elsewhere this week. The Jaguars just don’t have the line right now to push around the Steeler run stoppers.

Randy Moss, WR Patriots vs. 49ers
Sit Moss until further notice…and by further notice, I really mean until Tom Brady is back next season. Matt Cassel has got to prove me wrong, but I don’t see him getting the ball to Moss anytime soon even though, with the 49ers, it’s always a potential shootout.

Sleepers

Domenik Hixon, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
I like Hixon from the massive, three touchdown performance he had this preseason. With Plaxico Burress out for a game, Hixon might be able to fill his shoes or at least share snaps with Steve Smith. Hixon’s got that big play ability and has been under the tutelage of Toomer. The other Steve Smith is still the safe play here, but if you want a deep sleeper, Hixon might be just that.

Dallas Cowboys defense vs. Bengals
If Carson Palmer doesn’t start, I expect the Cowboys to get their first INT of the season. If not, this defense could be high risk, high reward. It’s still the Bengals, and who knows when they will put it together again.

A Fool and His Money on 2008 Futures [Win Totals and Over Unders]

Prior to the first snap this season, Chadam and Nick got together and picked a handful of teams that each compulsive gambler believed would perform above or below Vegas’ predicted win total. I locked these picks away in a vault, buried beneath the ground and protected by two very angry, alcoholic monkeys and a crafty ninja cat.

Now that the season is in Week 4, it’s probably safe for me to reveal their picks so that we can mock them as their predictions look like horrible calls later this season. If there is a tie, Nick and Chadam will face the monkeys in a death match with the ninja cat as referee.

Keep in mind that all these picks were made prior to the first snap in Week 1 — prior to Tom Brady’s injury, the Chargers’ 0-2 start, Peyton Manning’s rusty emergence and Seattle’s loss of three receivers. It seems like that was three years ago, but it’s only been three weeks.

Nick’s Futures for the 2008 NFL Season

I’ll admit that Chadam enjoys the future bets more than me, but I saw a few that looked too good to pass up. For those who don’t know, a future bet is when you pick “over” or “under” the win total that Vegas predicts they will have for the season.

Here’s my list of future picks for this season with the number of games Vegas thinks they will win this season and my opinion on how many wins that team will actually get:

San Francisco 49ers — 6 wins — UNDER

There is no way the 49ers get six wins this season. Their easy games against Buffalo and Miami are both on the road, they’ve written off Alex Smith and everybody there is feeling the heat. Great teams rise up under pressure; bad teams fold and hope for next year’s draft to save them.

Seattle Seahawks — 8.5 wins — OVER

Seattle is obviously past their Super Bowl prime of two years ago, but I believe Mike “The Walrus” Holmgren and Matt Hasselbeck still have enough in the tank to get nine wins. The Seahawks get at least five wins from their weak division alone plus games against Buffalo, Tampa Bay and both New Yorks. Throw in an upset of Philly or Washington, and BOOM! They just won me some money.

Denver Broncos — 7.5 wins — OVER

I was shocked to see Denver at 7.5 wins. I definitely think they will be a .500 team or better, even with San Diego in the division. They have a very winnable schedule, and their game at San Diego is the last game of the season when San Diego may not be playing starters as long as their playoff spot is locked up.

Minnesota Vikings — 8.5 wins — UNDER

I was hoping for this number to be higher since everybody seems to be so high on “Purple Jesus” Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and the up-and-coming Vikings. Yes, they are good in the trenches and have a stud running back, but what happens when Peterson gets injured and they have to count on their non-existent passing game. Also, their murderous schedule has games against the Colts, Titans, Saints, Houston and Jacksonville.

Carolina Panthers — 7.5 wins — OVER

I like these guys to rebound now that lovebirds Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith are back together, albeit starting in Week 3. I like their schedule and new RB Jonathan Stewart, and I just generally like to root for Steve Smith because he still gets nervous and throws up in a bucket before games.

That’s where Nick stands. The Seahawks and 49ers picks might come back to get him. Seeing where he feels the teams will fall this year, let’s see what Chadam has to offer.

Chadam’s Futures for the 2008 NFL Season

Minnesota Vikings — 8.5 games — UNDER

If I was Vegas, I would set this number at 5.5 games. The Vikings will be terrible because Tarvaris Jackson will play like Tarvaris Jackson, and those fantasy football managers who draft Peterson ahead of Westbrook will get what they deserve. Enjoy the top-three draft pick next year, Vikings fans.

Jacksonville Jaguars — 10 games — OVER

I swear I chose my over/unders before I read Bill Simmons’ NFL preview. Whatever. That dude got beat by his pregnant wife for two years in a row making picks. This division is murder row, but I really like the Jags’ game plan — tough D, explosive run game and a passing game strong enough to keep defenses honest. I think they’ll be a Wild Card shoo-in; unlike Bill, I don’t see them toppling the Colts just yet.

Seattle Seahawks — 8.5 games — UNDER

I guess someone has to win this division, right? They’ll win the NFC West with seven wins and get mauled in the first round. It sucks to be you if you had a late July or early August draft and chose Matt Hasselbeck as your starting QB in fantasy football. No receivers or offensive line, and Julius Jones as your strongest offensive threat? Thanks, but no thanks.

Green Bay Packers — 8.5 games — OVER

This is my dark horse Super Bowl choice. I don’t think they’ll drop off at all with Rodgers. The defense is in the top five, and that offense is littered with quality players. Besides, you can count on getting at least five wins from their six NFC North games, right?

Kansas City Chiefs — 5.5 games — UNDER

Has there ever been a top-10 RB that people hate to own more than Larry Johnson? This guy could get 350 carries for 700 yards and 3 TDs, and nobody would bat an eye. If you’re starting QB makes you pine for the days of Damon Huard, you might as well start looking forward to spring training.

New York Jets — 8 games — OVER

B-R-E-T-T! Brett! Brett! Brett! This team has probably been talked about too much. We all know about the QB and offensive line upgrades. Just because those reasons for improvement are overplayed doesn’t make them any less true though. They’ll get nine or ten wins and a Wild Card spot.

Chadam’s Jacksonville and Jets might prove to be his downfall, but we’ll see where things stand at the end of the season.

There you have it. Nick and Chadam’s future picks for 2008. Only time will tell who hits on all their futures. Stay tuned to the Fools. I’m going to try and squeeze past the drunken monkeys to put these picks back in the vault for safekeeping before they wake up bitter and hungover.