Saving Your Season: How to replace that Tom Brady guy

Well, that just sucks. Thanks, Week 1. Today being Patriot Day just seems to be an even more depressing reminder of the losses in real life and our slightly much less important fantasy football losses.

Screen capture from ESPN.com of Patriot fan on Brady injury

Screen capture from ESPN.com of Patriot fan on Brady injury

If you were one of the lucky fantasy footballers who lost Tom Brady this past weekend, I assume I just caught you wallowing in your own self-pity, eating a cheeseburger off the floor between fits of crying, alcoholism and throwing Cheetos…

Don’t get up. I’ll squat down to your level.

You probably don’t even feel like waking up anymore. You thought you had this incredible season of fantasy football coming together — Tom Brady leading an UNSTOPPABLE fantasy force — but it’s all come crashing down. We should have known better when Bernard Pollard started dating Tonya Harding.

This Matt Cassel kid doesn’t exactly have the resume to jump right into replacing your first round fantasy draft pick, and you might have even missed out on him in your waiver wire this week. Have you looked at the waiver wire besides Cassel? Neckbeard (A.K.A Kyle Orton) and Damon Huard don’t exactly inspire confidence.

If you’re wire was full of guys like Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna or even Trent Edwards, you’re lucky and have earned the hatred of us all. Pick up a couple of them or pair one with a capable backup, and you’re not out of the hunt just yet.

For the rest of us, we may need to take a more desperate path. Even if you do snag Cassel off the wire, he’s no guarantee to make your fantasy season. I don’t care if he is throwing to Randy Moss.

The Free Agent Quarterbacks

Looking through the rest of this season’s matchups, I’ve identified a few QBs that are probably floating around as free agents that you can platoon — yes, platoon — to save your season.

By checking the waiver wires in my deepest leagues, I am guessing your options look something like this list: Matt Cassel, Chad Pennington, Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Ryan, Damon Huard (filling in temporarily for Brodie Croyle), Kerry Collins (filling in temporarily for Vince Young), Joe Flacco, J.T. O’Sullivan, JaMarcus Russell and…yes, I’m going to list Kyle Orton. You may be left to rely on Neckbeard.

The highest upside player is, of course, J.T. O’Sullivan. He COULD be the next Mike Martz QB — high risk, high reward — or he could remain a miserable fantasy failure just like Week 1. As a sign of hope, he did complete more than 70 percent of his passes, even if they were only to the tight ends and Frank Gore.

Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and JaMarcus Russell are all new blood at the QB position. They won’t have much flare for the spectacular, but they won’t bomb either. All there QBs value is dependent upon them gaining confidence and becoming a larger part of the game plans.

Damon Huard and Kerry Collins are both guys that can be counted on in a pinch, but they have timers hanging over their heads. Once their respective starters return, they go back to the bench, and you go back to the waiver wire to grab Brodie Croyle (Yikes!) or Vince Young, who might find his happy place while he is sitting the next few weeks.

Chad Pennington might have one of the lowest ceilings of this whole group, but he showed that he can put up fantasy points in Miami in Week 1. I thought he was worth a few starts last year, and I think he will be worth more this year now that he is fully healed with a coaching staff that respects him.

Kyle Orton and Tarvaris Jackson are not game changers. Each has a run game that will take the ball out of their hands, so unless you get points for handoffs, don’t plan on either one exploding each week. Orton is a game manager who might have weeks where he throws a touchdown or two followed by droughts of no TDs at all. Jackson, if he can improve his decision making, could be a decent sleeper several weeks out of the season with Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian, and his ceiling is obviously higher than Neckbeard’s.

Throw in this Matt Cassel kid, who could become a Philip Rivers-ish or Brodie Croyle-ish type of starter, and that’s a pretty good mix of potential — would have use the word talent here, but I am under contract not to use that word when Kyle Orton is involved.

Building Your Platoon

Now that Brady is done, I would assume that most of you have dropped him off your roster and picked up at least one of the QBs listed above (unless you are in a keeper league, which makes this even tougher).

Without Brady, you’ll still need two more spots for QBs. Assuming you have a backup — you drafted a backup for Tom Brady, right? — you’ll only need to drop one more guy from your bench to pickup another QB.

Obviously, don’t let one of your studs go, but if you have a guy that you were just waiting on to be productive, it might be time to give up hope. If you really don’t have anyone you can stand dropping, you might be able to wait this out — these guys aren’t flying onto rosters anytime soon unless they have a huge game. HUGE.

Try to vary your QB selections based upon their matchups. Pick three who work well together for the rest of the season. You’ll want a third QB to fill in the gaps when your first two have bad matchups or incredibly good running matchups.

Matchups to Target

These matchups are loosely based on team defense projections, cornerback ratings and Week 1 performances. Note that if one of these teams like St. Louis (unlikely), Miami, Kansas City, Oakland, Houston or Seattle rebound against the pass attacks, you might want to rethink your strategy going into that week.

Week 2: Flacco vs. Texans, Huard vs. Raiders, Russell vs. Chiefs, Collins vs. Cincinnati, O’Sullivan vs. Seahawks

Obviously, the best matchups in Week 2 are Flacco and Collins. O’Sullivan is a high-risk here, but he could payoff huge.

Week 3: Flacco vs. Browns, Huard vs. Falcons, Collins vs. Texans, Ryan vs. Chiefs, O’Sullivan vs. Detroit, Cassel vs Dolphins

Martz’s revenge game? If O’Sullivan shines, this week would be the week to do it. Huard against ATL corners is promising as is Collins. When the Titans play the Texans, it is usually a good show.

Week 4: Collins vs. Vikings, O’Sullivan vs. Saints

The matchup drought starts here for a few weeks. Flacco or Jackson might be the best options in your platoon to help you weather the storm.

Collins will have to pass against the strong Vikings run defense, so he makes the best pick here. O’Sullivan, if on a roll by now, could also light up the Saints in a high-scoring affair.

Week 5: Orton vs. Lions, Jackson vs. Saints, Cassel vs. 49ers

It’s the Lions. Even Neckbeard should put one up on the Detroit defense. Cassel against the 49ers is a smart play as well.

Week 6: Orton vs. Falcons, Jackson vs. Lions, Pennington vs. Texans

Pennington is my pick for this week, but it’s hard to say who has the better outlook since all three teams could end up just running the ball through these defenses all day.

Week 7: Flacco vs. Dolphins, Collins/Vince Young vs. Chiefs

If Vince Young returns to the starting role, despite his lack of valid WRs, I’d put him as one of the highest potential QBs from here on out. Clearly, 2008 is becoming a make or break year for his career, and sooner or later, the shine he had at Texas is going to prove he is star-worthy in the NFL. (Dear Vince, Don’t you go retiring just to make sausage now that I said that.)

Week 8: Flacco vs. Raiders, O’Sullivan vs. Seahawks, Cassel vs. Rams

O’Sullivan could be heaven-sent by now or out of work. Cassel will probably be able to score at will against the Rams while Flacco might not have the accuracy just yet to expose the Raiders slacking secondary.

Week 9: Flacco vs. Browns, Huard/Croyle vs. Buccaneers, Russell vs. Falcons, Ryan vs. Raiders, Orton vs. Lions, Jackson vs. Texans

By Week 9, we should see what we have in these prospect QBs. One of them might be a worthy starter. I like Russell against the Falcons and Jackson against the Texans.

Week 10: Pennington vs. Seahawks, Ryan vs. Saints

Pennington could be surprising folks with Miami by this point in the season, and Ryan might have found enough of a rapport with his receivers to open up the playbook. They’ll have to against the Saints.

Week 11: Russell vs. Dolphins, Collins/Young vs. Jaguars, O’Sullivan vs. Rams

Russell should slice up the Dolphins if he’s got his long ball locked in by Week 11, but Young and O’Sullivan present explosive options. I know Young faces the Jags, but it’ll probably be a competitive game since both might be struggling for top positions in the AFC. Young will have to make things happen through the air.

Week 12: Ryan vs. Panthers, Orton vs. Rams, Cassel vs. Dolphins

Can Neckbeard unleash his beast on the Rams? (That’s what she said.) Cassel against the Dolphins is my pick here, but Ryan and Orton are potential slam dunks as well.

Week 13: Flacco vs. Bengals, Croyle vs. Raiders, Russell vs. Chiefs, Pennington vs. Rams

Finally, someone gets to play the BENGALS. Croyle is not likely to lace it in there against the Raiders, but Pennington should blow apart the Rams in Week 13. I don’t care if he launches the football with a rubber band.

Week 14: Young vs. Browns, Ryan vs. Saints, Jackson vs. Lions, Cassel vs. Seahawks

Dear Lord. Did you consider what you would do if you make the playoffs with this save? First of all, if you get here, make all checks payable to me and send immediately. Thank you.

Jackson and Cassel look like golden boys, but Ryan and Young could both expose the defenses if they are at the top of their game. I like Young being able to make some moves in this one and get a lot of time on offense from Cleveland turnovers.

Week 15: Young vs. Texans, Orton vs. Saints, O’Sullivan vs. Dolphins, Pennington vs. 49ers, Cassel vs. Raiders

Lights out in Houston when Vince Young returns to town. Pennington and O’Sullivan should both go off, and Orton might HAVE to get called into duty to get something to Devin Hester against the Saints.

Week 16: Croyle vs. Dolphins, Russell vs. Texans, Ryan vs. Vikings, Jackson vs. Falcons, O’Sullivan vs. Rams, Pennington vs. Chiefs

Huge amount of nice matchups, and it could matter to you considering this might be your championship game. The Vikings might be fighting for a Wild Card, but Ryan could still light them up in the secondary. Jackson could do the same to the two high school corners on the Falcons. If Mike Martz makes a man out of O’Sullivan, might he destroy the Rams and bring you a trophy?

Week 17 (Heaven Forbid): Croyle vs. Bengals, Ryan vs. Rams, Orton vs. Texans, Pennington vs. Jets (Rematch!)

If your commish schedules your championship week in Week 17, slap him/her. Open fist. Just slap ‘em.

At least you have a few decent matchups with Ryan against the Rams and Pennington against the Jets. Pennington will still want to show the Jets what they gave away, and I am sure he wouldn’t mind knocking the Jets out of the playoffs and/or taking their morale down a notch right before they go into the playoffs.

Now that you feel better…

How about a video that RotoHog just sent me? (Note: It’s graphic for Tom Brady fans. Look away and earmuffs!)

Yeah, that’ll pretty much bring you back down to previous levels of depression. Bummer, but hey, I have to stop you from getting too giddy before you start getting excited at the thought of an Eli Manning injury that would allow you to start David Carr.

Why did you take Brady off the injury report Belichick? Why Belichick? WHY?!?!?

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 1

A disastrous and tragic Week 1 has left plenty of teams hurting for new talent. Was there a group shot on the cover of Madden this year?

Since Week 1 is always the best time to grab the waiver wire studs AND since this week was full of injuries and failures, this week’s waiver wire gems is pretty comprehensive. Next week, we’ll bring it down a notch. We’ll start things off at QB since I hear we lost one this week.

If these guys went undrafted in your league, make sure you correct that. Now.

Matt Cassel, QB New England Patriots

Jesus. If you don’t know why Cassel is going to be a top grab this week, GO BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK AND STAY THERE.

It’s possible if you are a Tom Brady owner — or former Brady owner, as the case may be — that you have other, better options than Cassel. In one league, for example, Delhomme is still out there somehow.

If you’re stuck choosing between a bunch of dangerous options, Cassel makes a nice replacement. At least, he has a great group of receivers to throw to this year even if his skill set is still in question.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills

It’s good to know that Edwards knows Lee Evans is on the team now. They must have had some sort of Kumbaya camping trip this offseason.

Edwards looked good in the offense, and I might lean on him over Cassel knowing he has the skills to get his receivers the scores. He had 215 yards and a TD in Week 1, but I think he can do better. In Week 2, he’ll have Jason Peters back on the offensive line — and so will Marshawn Lynch.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins

He has had fantasy success in the past — even last year when healthy — and he might have found a team in Miami that will come together around him.

With a strong Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown run game, Pennington looks like a QB2 and could contribute as part of a fantasy QB rotation.

He’s better than Damon Huard.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Vince Young looks to be sidelined for a few weeks. If you need a stopgap, Collins could be your man. He’s very unlikely to be drafted by anyone in your league, but there is always the issue of who he will throw it to this season for the Titans…

If you can’t be picky, Collins could be a decent fill at QB for a few weeks.

Eddie Royal, WR Denver Broncos

Rookie sensation had THE BEST performance of any WR this week. Royal could be a slightly more productive version of Patrick Crayton last season, and he’ll always draw the weaker corner once Brandon Marshall returns in Week 2. He’s an excellent WR3 or more if he can keep catching Cutler’s eye once Marshall is back.

DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb spread the ball in Week 1, but he liked targeting the rookie. As long as Kevin Curtis remains banged up, Jackson should be on a roster — and maybe even after. As an added bonus, he might return a kick or two for some additional TD points.

Jackson’s six catches for 106 yards isn’t too shabby, and Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis might even be worth stashing as well if both continue to see looks from McNabb.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

If McNabb is firing, Smith should see end zone looks. McNabb knows Smith is attached to a couple of the most reliable hands he can throw at this season, so look for Smith to continue to have nice games in good matchups. In Week 1, he posted 39 yards a score. He’s worth a TE2 spot if you carry two of them, or he could be part of a nice TE rotation with one of breakout TEs of 2008.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers

The deep TE ranks get even deeper as long as Rosario remains a reliable target for Delhomme. He came down with seven receptions for 96 yards and a TD in Week 1. Worth rostering if you have a weak TE or want to trade away your stud to take advantage of the depth here this year, but be cautious. We don’t know how Rosario will be affected by the return on Steve Smith in Week 3.

Robert Royal, TE Buffalo Bills

Again, TEs look deep this year. The new offense in Buffalo smiled favorably on Royal, who caught six passes for 52 yards and a score against Seattle. After Jacksonville, the Bills schedule gets easier. I like Rosario better than Royal, but Royal is likely to see his fair share of looks this season unless rookie James Hardy starts to steal his end zone opportunities as Hardy gets more playing time.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

We know Pennington doesn’t have a big arm (Girlish arm chant…Begin!), but he got his TEs involved early in the showdown against his former team, the Jets. Fasano practiced behind Jason Witten in Dallas, and look how Witten turned out. Fasano could be one of Pennington’s most reliable targets this season.

Matt Forte, RB Chicago Bears

Likely drafted in every league, Forte proved he could be a consistent fantasy starter in Week 1. He could put up a fight for offensive rookie of the year if he keeps it up. We know the Bears won’t have much on offense, so they’ll use their defense and Forte to control the game.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys

I feel like THIS Jones will be far more effective than Julius Jones was last year for the Cowboys. His performance in Week 1 was worthy of a FLEX play (or even a low-end starter) with 62 yards and a TD. Barber bruised his ribs late in the game, and even though he is still expected to play in Week 2, look for Felix Jones to see increased action along with Tashard Choice against the Eagles.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots

He’s the running back for the Patriots. I don’t care what the depth chart says. With Brady out, he could see an increased role in this offense. He’ll certainly be in the mix however the offense is rearranged to suit Cassel.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints

Thomas might make Deuce McAllister a ghost this season if he keeps stealing carries. He’s a must-grab for any McAllister owners and could be the workhorse back of the Saints offense this season.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

The Bills defense had a few shining moments last season, but being healthy this season and free agent additions (Marcus Stroud) have made them an emerging sleeper.

In Week 2, they get to play Jacksonville — suffering from a devastated offensive line. Their schedule gets pretty easy from there. Stash them now before the other teams in your league see them spark.

Ones to Watch

Carolina Panthers D/ST

I’m not entirely sold just yet, but the Panthers were on of my sleeper defensive units coming into 2008.

They kept L.T. tame in Week 1. That’s promising. Panthers face off against the Bears this week. I’m still a little worried about the 300+ yards that the Panthers gave up — Forte could tear them apart this week if he keeps his stud status. On the other hand, the Bears could look like…well, the Bears this week.

If you have a roster spot or lack confidence in your defense, it might be worth rostering Carolina this week to see where they go from this Week 1 performance.

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

Yeah, it’s a bit of a reach, but he still has upside. He got the ball to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in Week 1, and he could expand on that in Week 2.

Hey, it’s Mike Martz, okay?

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons

Still a rookie QB, but obviously, he’s going to have his good weeks every now and then. Worth a chance? Let’s see his Week 2 unless you desperately need QB help this season. Turner looks like the focus of this offense.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I didn’t see Hightower taking the goal line carries from Edgerrin James once the regular season got started, but apparently, they’re still doing that in Arizona. Edge is turning 30, but he still looks productive this season. Hightower might be worth rostering if you have the room, but he’s little more than a TD vulture. Other than his score, he only had 34 total yards.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

Slaton had more carries than Ahman Green, but Green went out with an injury in this one. Wait a sec, that makes Slaton look even better.

Regardless of the depth chart, the starting RB job in Houston is Slaton’s to earn if he performs well this season. While Green is sidelined, Slaton will probably share carries with the platoon of backs in Houston (Chris Taylor and possibly Darius Walker), but he should continue to see more and more carries.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The wily veteran’s role in this offense might be worth getting. He put up 54 yards in just nine carries in Week 1. He could play a larger role in future games.

Yes, I just wanted to use the word wily.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans

If the Texans get a potent passing game going, Walter could benefit from Andre Johnson pulling the better corner. He’s worth rostering in deep leagues and seeing how he pans out. Otherwise, keep an eye on how much he contributes to see if he could be worthy of your WR3 spot.

Ignoring, as in “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!”

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Let’s see where he goes when McGahee is back. My guess is somewhere behind Ray Rice. I don’t think he’s worth rostering unless he reappears in Week 2.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts

Probably going to be just as valuable as Kenton Keith last season. There are better options out there who will get more than yardage and a few scores. I think Addai comes back from his head injury in Week 1 with no problems.

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos

Yes, you scored two touchdowns. Congrats. Not sure I trust any Denver back this season. Pittman’s a TD vulture — feast or famine. Too risky to roster in my opinion.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Damon Huard in a pretty terrible offense in Kansas City. Plus, he’s only in there for a few weeks until Brodie Croyle returns. I think I’d rather have Kerry Collins. “The Bowe Show” is nice and all, but I don’t like the season premiere that much.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

They say dead people twitch sometimes.

See other waivers around the Internetz at Fantasy Football Goat, at The Hazean, at Yahoo! Sports, at Pancake Blocks, at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, at CBS Sportsline, at Fantasy Football Toolbox (also with upgrades for this week), at Pro Football Weekly, at Football Docs, at Bruno Boys, and at Fantasy Football Librarian.

Q&A QB: How to Draft First Overall in Nine-Team Division

Q&A QB is a new head-smacking, hard-hitting, name-taking question and answer series where Jacob assists readers and his Twitter followers in perfecting their draft strategy and winning their league. This post is the first run at it. Let Jacob know what you think in the comments, and if you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A QB post, send Jacob an email or tweet him, whatever that means.

This week in Q&A QB, we’ll take a look at several questions and a walkthrough for how to draft with the first overall pick in a nine-team division.

QUESTION: I have the first pick in the draft, and there are nine teams in a point-only division. What would your team look like?

Basically, you luck out with LaDainian Tomlinson then load up on wide receivers that score a lot and a top quarterback. Once you have found your top players in each category, snag a productive second running back and another receiver.

I suggest using this draft strategy: L.T., WR, WR, RB or QB, RB or QB, WR. Flesh out your roster from there.

After taking L.T. in the first, hopefully you will still be able to pick two out of Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards for your second and third round back-to-back picks. Lynch is hard to pass up if he is there, but he is more a yardage guy than a touchdown machine. Of course, one can always hope for change.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: I’m obviously going L.T. first, and since it’s a nine-team league, my next pick will be the 18th overall pick.

With the second and third round back-to-back picks, I was thinking Braylon Edwards then, if available, one of the top-10 QBs. Hoping Romo will slip and fall that far, but I’m doubting it. So most likely it will be Drew Brees or Matt Hasselbeck. That way, I at least have a top tier in each position and fill in from there.

On my next picks, I’m thinking players like Santonio Holmes will slip to me and maybe someone like LenDale White. What are your suggestions?

I’d target Braylon Edwards if you can get him in the second round. If not, take one of the top-10 WRs if there is still one on the board.

In your third round, I think you could go WR or QB. If Romo is still on the board, definitely take him. Brees is probably worth taking as well.

If a top WR like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still on the board, I might pass on Brees and take another WR hoping that an elite QB will fall to you.

I definitely would not use your third round pick on Hasselbeck. I’m avoiding him this season, and I don’t think he’s worth a high pick this year. His WRs are all banged up and the new RBBC could reduce Hasselbeck’s throwing attempts.

In the fourth round, I would look at the QB situation and decide what you want to do. There may still be one or two elite QBs here. This pick is close to where Ben Roethlisberger is being taken, but I think it’s a little high for him.

If you are worried you are going to miss out on all the top QBs, take one here with one of your picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. Otherwise, you could wait longer.

Here’s the strategy with waiting:

You could push your luck and hope that Derek Anderson falls to you in the sixth round. I think he’s got about as good a chance as Big Ben of being a strong QB this year. With just nine teams, you’ll only be about 54 picks in by the sixth round and just across the 60 pick mark when your pick comes up.

In standard scoring, that’s where Anderson, Hasselbeck (if you like him) and Jay Cutler are all going. You could take two of those guys back-to-back in the sixth and seventh rounds to have a strong QB tandem that could trade off every week.

Note: This advice was given before Anderson’s concussion against the Giants, but I still think he can be counted on this season.

It’s really up to you how you want to play the QB, but don’t reach for anyone. Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Jake Delhomme also make good backup QBs that you can probably get in the eighth round with just nine teams. Just depends on how many teams are in need of a QB by the time the sixth round rolls around.

Back to the fourth round, if you decide to pass on a QB there or have taken one already in the third round, you should look at Michael Turner, Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones or LenDale White here. All of them are 1) strong workhorse RBs that will get the majority of carries for their team and 2) not going to lose TD touches.

Turner and Edge are both going to get plenty of carries as their young QBs develop. Jones will have the running lanes open because of Favre. White gets so many chances to run the ball that gravity forces him to produce. If any of them are available, spend a pick on them and then another WR like Plaxico Burress, Torry Holt, Roy Williams or maybe Brandon Marshall if you don’t mind his two- or three-game suspension.

I like all of those guys better than Santonio Holmes. I have some concern that Big Ben is not going to throw the TDs as much this year, and when he does throw them, I think Holmes loses catches to Heath Miller and Hines Ward.

From there on out, look for value picks that get a lot of touches and targets in their offense.

Stick with guys that have huge upsides and little risk, and you should improve a lot this year. With a nine-man league, there will probably be plenty of waiver wire grabs to save your team by the middle of the season as well.