Foolish Thoughts on 2009 Season: So why didn’t we all draft Chris Johnson?

It’s insanity. That’s what fantasy football is when it comes to the playoffs. Jonathan Stewart and Jerome Harrison become huge fantasy steals in the final two games, and studs that you’ve depending on all season like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers clam up and shut down early, even in blowout wins. At least Chris Johnson has continued to be magical every week.

I forget how bizarre it really becomes until it’s this time of year again.

Now Harrison will likely compel some fantasy footballers to draft him as an RB3 or maybe even an RB2 next season. Jamaal Charles could be right up there with him. We can only hope that neither is next year’s Steve Slaton or Pierre Thomas, hot in the playoffs but average or inconsistent the following season when given the full responsibility and trust of fantasy owners.

In Charles’ case, I think he’s got a real chance to thrive in the Kansas City offense as long as the current coaching staff stays intact. He’s a great receiving back, and even if the Chiefs decide that they need to bring in a bigger runner to take some of the carries and compliment Charles in the offseason — LenDale White is available, or so I hear — Charles should get plenty of chances to put up big numbers as part of the explosive offense Todd Haley is trying to create.

Out of the five fantasy football leagues I played in this season, I made the playoffs in three and had the chance to play for three championships this week. Of those, I won two and lost one by just a single point (as long as current calculations hold up) after Peterson racked up those two short-yardage touchdowns last night. It was incredibly frustrating, but I can’t be completely unhappy with the results. Even losing that one championship game out of three, this year has been my best season so far.

And next season, I want to focus even more on the leagues that were truly competitive. I’ve reduced the number of leagues I played in over the past two seasons. This year, I was down to five, and next season, I’ll probably take it down another league or two until I find the sweet spot for managing leagues, writing fantasy football analysis, and enjoying the game.

Here are some questions you can answer in the comments below: How many leagues do you play in? Do you find it more fun to play in a small number of leagues or as many as possible? These are the decisions I always debate this time of year.

I think I’m one of the few fantasy football fans out there, especially among fantasy football bloggers, who cares more about their real team winning (in my case, the Cowboys) than their fantasy team. It excited me to no end when the Cowboys shutout the Redskins last night and secured a playoff spot.

I wasn’t nearly as pumped when my fantasy football teams made the playoffs. Satisfied? Yes, but excited? Not off-the-wall excited. That said, it wasn’t a close call for any of them either. I knew weeks in advance that I was bound for the playoffs.

I’d hope we’re all fans of the game and the action-packed saga that is the NFL. If not for it, we wouldn’t have fantasy football.

So even if you lost your league, even if you got shot down in the championship game, even if your league dues were wasted as soon as you drafted Brian Westbrook and Matt Forte, I hope you’ll sit down and watch a few more games next week and deep into the playoffs.

Playoff football is a treat that only comes around once each year, much like the holiday season that just passed. Our presents? The Super Bowl, one of the most extravagant and exciting sporting events in all the land.

If you truly want to win in fantasy football, I think you first have to love the game because you have to understand how to translate what you watch and get excited about on the field into what works on your fantasy roster. So sit down, crack open a cold one (or a nice, frosty beverage of a less alcoholic persuasion if that’s your thing), and enjoy some football over the next month.

Of course, it’d be nice to know you’re all doing it with a championship trophy on your mantel, like me, but if you didn’t win, there’s no shame in cheering your fantasy studs on to a Super Bowl as you start to prep for next season.

And don’t feel like the fantasy season has to end. I’ll still be posting to Fantasy Football Fools because we have to start looking ahead to 2010 and because I still have some prizes to give to you, my dear readers. If you need help with Week 17 decisions (for those terrible, terrible leagues that go into the dreaded final week of the regular season), drop me a line on Twitter or in the comments.

Thanks again for reading Fantasy Football Fools this season and being part of the foolish community. Stay tuned for more over the coming days. Even if you didn’t win your championship, you deserve to take home some prizes.

Week 16 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: All the marbles? But can’t I just keep at least one?

I really hope that the scoring change on Kurt Warner’s touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin didn’t burn you. That has to be the worst kind of pain in the world.

It’s exciting to pull out your semifinal game by just a few points, and it’s exciting to have a chance at the championship. Having that pulled out from under you by a scoring change on a Wednesday, two days after scores are supposed to be final, is rough. Too rough for most mortal fantasy footballers to handle.

So let’s move on and not dwell on it? Okay?

I’ve already said how I feel about starting studs and sleepers in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable. You can only reasonably take a chance on a sleeper if your stud is in a bad spot and if the sleeper has proven himself on more than one occasion in the recent past.

That’s when you do it. Otherwise, start your studs.

But I find myself in a situation this week — and no, not that kind of situation. I have Ray Rice and Steven Jackson at running back but could potentially play Jamaal Charles and/or Beanie Wells in their place. Considering Steven Jackson’s health and Ray Rice’s challenging matchup, I’m tempted to put Beanie Wells in for one of the two, probably Jackson. But it’s hard to put a guy I haven’t started all year in for the championship game.

I’ve watched Wells strengthen his role in the Cardinals offense late in the season, but…is he ready to be trusted in a championship game? Tell me what you would do in the comments.

For your more pressing playoff questions, you should read up at the FF Librarian for plenty of start or sit opinions. She’s got plenty of goods for you and your post-holiday needs.

Jason Snelling, Cedric Benson, and Jonathan Stewart are all looking good in Fantasy Joe’s studs and duds this week. I like Snelling’s chance to take advantage of a good matchup, and Benson should get back on track against the Chiefs. Even the Browns were able to do that.

KFFL offers some potential help on the waiver wire for you this week, but I’d only sub in Alex Smith and Mike Sims-Walker into your rosters if you’re in a critical playoff game. Both of them are likely to already be on a roster in your leagues this week unless someone gave up on Sims-Walker already or unless no one took any interest in Alex Smith’s schedule to end the season.

I like Alex Smith quite a bit this week. Actually, I like all the 49ers against the Lions. In this week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable, I selected Alex Smith as my sleeper.

My bust in that debate is a little more out there, Jerome Harrison. You’ll have to read my input in the debate to see why I doubt the Week 15 fantasy football superstar.

I know many of you may be afraid of your players sitting this week, especially your Colts, but Reggie Wayne is the only player I’m very worried about. He might sit at halftime if the Colts are able to put up a lead, and even when he is on the field, he’ll be blanketed by Darrelle Revis.

I’m considering starting Josh Morgan over Wayne, but I haven’t made the call just yet. Me thinks a half of Wayne facing Revis might still be better than taking a chance on the third receiving option in San Francisco, but I could be wrong. The aggressive player in me wants to make the switch.

The FF Geek Blog adds to be my reasoning behind benching Jamaal Charles this week in their Hits & Misses. They also hit on most of the other possible sits this week. Alongside ESPN’s rankings, they just might have me convinced the Steven Jackson is my best start.

But there’s still the matter of Beanie Wells. The TMR is a Beanie Wells lover this week, and it’s hard not to side with him against the St. Louis Rams.

So I’m still torn. I wish you all the best of luck this week as you set your lineups. Please feel free to weigh in on my dilemma in the comments below. Pick two: Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, or Beanie Wells?

As your set your rosters this week, you can enjoy the smooth jams of the holiday season: the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Canon Rock

I just like to say that name. I like to imagine they live in some sort of strange compound in Siberia, only emerging to play music at Christmas in large orchestral settings.

It makes every YouTube video of them so much more interesting to watch.

Week 15 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Who’s Going to Win Me My Championship

I hope this week matters to you. It certainly matters to me. I’ve made it this far in the playoffs, and I don’t plan to stop until I get a championship.

There’s a theme this week out there. I’ve noticed it. It’s Jamaal Charles love. Try and find someone who hates him this week. Other than a plug for the Browns’ defense on Fantasy Joe, there’s nada. I don’t know if that spells disaster or certain victory, but I’m starting the little speedster either way.

The Fifth Down hates on LaDainian Tomlinson and shares in the Jamaal Charles love. FF Xtreme picks Charles over Ryan Grant.

I’m starting him over Steven Jackson, per the advice at Fantasy Joe as well. Matt Pitzer’s got some nice names that could win it for you this week, including Anquan Boldin and Knowshon Moreno, but Roddy White and Chad Ochocinco owners won’t be as happy with his dud selections. Both wide receivers enter into tough matchups against Darrelle Revis and the San Diego Chargers’ corners, respectively.

I am not as worried about Randy Moss underwhelming this week after reading what Mr. NFL Films had to say about his efforts. If he says the game film shows him doing all the right things, I believe it. Moss doesn’t seem to have the same immaturity that hit him in Oakland and Minnesota. He knows the Pats have a good thing going, and I don’t think he’ll want to be the one that derails their chance at the playoffs this season.

He’s ripe for an in-your-face day in Buffalo, as long as the weather works out. The opponent isn’t great on paper since Buffalo has been an interception machine and kept receivers out of the end zone, but those receivers were not a motivated Randy Moss.

Can you trust your Colts tonight? At least for tonight’s game, The Hazean thinks so. I agree.

If you need sleepers, I’m sure you know my affection for Alex Smith and Vince Young. Both are questionable this week and have less favorable matchups than last week, but you can roll with them if you must. I like VY more than Smith as long as VY plays.

FF Toolbox is all over this week’s waiver wire grabs, but as I wrote earlier this week, I’m not feeling them. I think the Toolbox guys are right to be concerned about DeAngelo Williams and Vincent Jackson, as Williams faces a tough Minnesota run defense and Jackson faces the Bengals secondary, which has taken away their opponent’s top target each week.

And as usual, there are plenty more start or sit articles where these came from over at FF Librarian.

As you set your lineups this week, enjoy the musical stylings of one Michael Jackson. I think I’ve heard of him before. The song is appropriate: “This Is It”

Michael Jackson – This Is It

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: You Know Where This is Going

I thought we’d do things a little differently this week. By this point, I expect that most of you know who you are starting and sitting during these critical weeks of the fantasy playoffs. As such, I don’t think you’ll need as much help deciding which players to start and sit.

Trust is as important a factor as any, and you have to go with your trustworthy guys.

So rather than give you a few players with good games and a few players with bad games this week, we’d be better served just talking about what you can expect from those studs this week and what chances are worth taking for the playoffs.

For starters, the Fourth & 1 Debate fantasy football roundtable covered a few players who, while under the radar most of the season, could make a big splash in the fantasy playoffs. My pick is San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, but you’ll have to go and read the full debate to see my reasoning. It’s good. Promise.

And it’s especially good if you need a sub for Peyton Manning in Week 16, when he is likely to sit out the second half, denying you those fantasy points you need in the championship.

Fanhouse lays out a very strategic plan to attack the playoffs, and a nice set of players to help you do so. I agree with most of their adds, but don’t jump all over the young guns they recommend. Sure, they look good now, but will they really be trustworthy enough to start? I doubt it. Fantasy Joe’s Mike Gilbert doubts waiver wire studs Devin Thomas and Louis Murphy, too.

So if you need the depth or just want to keep them out of the hands of your opponent, go get ‘em. Otherwise, keep your most trusted fantasy cogs close at hand and on your roster.

As FF Toolbox points out, Joe Flacco gets the Lions, Mike Wallace may get a chance to start against the Browns tonight (Joy!), and Kevin Boss faces the tight-end-friendly Philadelphia Eagles defense. On the other hand, dark days look to continue for Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. I wouldn’t want to trust DeAngelo Williams if he plays this week either after what Michael Turner did to fantasy owners in his first game back (He immediately got hurt again, as if you didn’t know).

Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty cautions against Kevin Smith and Steven Jackson, and I would agree. As great as Jackson’s been on a bad, horrible, terrible, and atrocious St. Louis Rams (did I mention they were bad?), he may hit the wall this week with Kyle Boller at quarterback against the Titans.

Not a lot of surprises from Fantasy Joe in their start or sit recommendations this week. Among the names, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice look poised and ready to do some damage. I’m sure many of their fantasy owners would appreciate it in the first rounds of the playoffs, me included.

Also noted, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson would seem like good starts if it weren’t for Matt Cassel’s struggles and Jackson’s recent cooling off period. I’d hate to have to rely on them, but you may be forced to start them.

Unlike Fantasy Joe, I’m not as afraid of Donovan McNabb against the Giants. He may be able to put two good games together against them this year, especially if he gets top target DeSean Jackson back this week.

By the way, in one of my leagues, the owner of Chris Johnson didn’t make the playoffs… in a 10-team league in which six, and let me say that twice, SIX teams made the cut. Do you realize how bad you have to be to not make the playoffs with Chris Johnson? Bad. So very, very bad. Rams bad.

Davone Bess and Chris Brown are two intriguing names in the sleeper pool. I’d pass on starting them over someone who got you to the playoffs, but they aren’t bad flex plays this week. Brown more so than Bess. Fanhouse likes Bess as well.

The FF Geek Blog predicts some struggle for the Land Baron and some promising returns on Jamaal Charles as he goes in against Buffalo, but my favorite note thus far was their take on Antonio Bryant’s bad situation this week: “Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers vs NYJ — Darrelle Revis.” That pretty much says it all.

In keeping with the theme of starting the guys who got you there, ESPN’s rankings look pretty familiar. Fanhouse doesn’t stray from the path of the studly either.

If you’re current options are a little sketchy, Fantasy Joe recommends trying the Titans and Cardinals defenses over the Steelers this week, but I can’t fully support the Cardinals defense as an option when they are facing my pick to be an explosive fantasy force this week, Alex Smith. I’m just glad I have the Saints D/ST to set and forget.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Now, since I know you can’t set your rosters without musical accompaniment, I give you your very own “Choose Your Own Adventure” of songs to set your roster to this week.

If you’re awesome: Three Days Grace – Animal I Have Become

Rage? Yes. Awesomeness? Completely. Playoff-worthy? Most definitely.

But if you’re hurting and little worried about your game this week, I offer the more melodious but still awesome:  Kings of Leon – Use Somebody

If only your stud players were still showing up. Will that one waiver wire claim you picked up this week save your team? Alex Smith? Jamaal Charles? Only time will tell. Good luck with that one.

And with that, I leave you to your games this week. Best of luck to those of you in the playoffs, and sorry to hear about those of you who are not. If you have any questions, you know what to do. Hit us up in the comments or get in touch.

Foolish Thoughts: My Beef with Fleaflicker’s Coach Rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damage Done This Week

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

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

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

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

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

Studs in Strange Places

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

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

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

Turn the Lights Out When You Go

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

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

Week 12 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Carson Palmer, Michael Crabtree, Steve Smith, and Pilgrim’s Pride on Turkey Day

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. You should pause for a moment and think of all the players you have to thank for getting you where your fantasy team is today.

Thank you, Terrell Owens, for going off the week we finally gave up on starting you. Thanks so much for being worthless just long enough for others to drop you.

Thank you, JaMarcus Russell, for making the Raiders so terrible on offense that Darren McFadden couldn’t even be a fantasy stud this season. That draft pick would have been better spent on Julius Jones, and fantasy owners’ greatest memory of him this season will be the week he sat out and let Justin Forsett do it all.

I guess there are the good stories. I’m incredibly thankful for Ray Rice. He’s held it down for my fantasy team through the thick of the season, and he came at a bargain rate in the draft.

I also have to thank Miles Austin, who came off the waiver wire just in time to become a fantasy gold mine for me. He’s my WR3. Do you realize how great it feels to have Miles Austin as a lottery play every week at WR3? I hope you do.

But enough about my thanks. It’s your turn to give thanks. Maybe we should all send our fantasy players real thank you cards this Christmas, and not those cut-out-of-magazine, stalker cards we normally send to threaten them after they kill our chances at a playoff run, the real kind. The kind of cards that show we care.

No, you’re right. They wouldn’t be into that. Besides, cutting letters out of magazines is way more fun.

Now before you go off to bicker at relatives you may only see once this year and poke at mystery casseroles, it’s time to set your lineups.

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Chargers: I’ll admit that Jamaal Charles was not my favorite person when he was a Longhorn. He had some ball-security issues, and he never seemed to be able to get those yards when it counts. Lucky for him, he went to a team where the yards never really count, and he’s doing well. Woohoo for him.

This week, he faces the San Diego Chargers, who still, if you remember correctly, don’t really have strength at nose tackle after losing their best to injury at the beginning of the season. Considering that Charles is basically half the Chiefs offense alongside Chris Chambers now that Dwayne Bowe is a no-Bowe due to illegal Slimfast, I could see him doing just enough to put the points on the board that you need this week. Pencil him in as a starter if you need him to make plays.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts vs. Texans: I’ve been benching Addai occasionally for a better matchup in recent weeks, and every time I do it, he makes me pay. It’s like he hates me. Maybe he didn’t get my Christmas card last year?

No worries. Against the Texans, he’s back on my list. I like his chances at getting at least one, if not two, touchdowns since the Colts seem ready and able to get him in the red zone each week.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals vs. Browns: Here’s to hoping that Matthew Stafford’s five-touchdown performance against the Browns reminds Carson Palmer what it’s like to be young with two good knees again. Palmer’s got that surgical repaired one now, but I’m pretty sure it’s good enough to do some damage against the Browns.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Jags: He finally scored his first NFL touchdown last week against Green Bay. This week brings the Jaguars secondary to San Francisco, and I could see Crabtree doubling up quickly. The Jaguars have allowed the second most fantasy points to wide receivers, behind only the Titans, who have stepped their game up sine Cortland Finnegan’s return.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers vs. Lions: Mostly as a brief reminder that you should start every player wearing green in this one. The Lions let the Browns offense go nuts on them last week, and the Packers are looking for another offensive blowout to build some confidence for a playoff push. The Packers will make the Lions their turkeys.

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers vs. Jets: He’s getting the Darrelle Revis treatment (running out of catchy names for Revis’ effect on wide receivers), and unlike Randy Moss, I’m not sure you can count on Smith to score to compensate for his lack of yardage. Start him only if you must.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Vikings: While I like Devin Hester and Greg Olsen this week, it’s hard to bet on Cutler making all the right plays given his recent struggles. Interceptions will prevent him from capitalizing on what could have been a big fantasy day.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers vs. Ravens: Baltimore will take a special interest in shutting down Mendenhall and the run game, and putting the game into the hands of a slightly woozy Big Ben. I don’t know that this game is going to be very pretty.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys vs. Raiders: He hasn’t been nearly as effective this season. I expect him to play through his injury, but I don’t like his chances to even equal his normal production this season unless turkey has some special regenerative powers.

Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals: Beanie’s building momentum down the stretch, but it slows here. Tim Hightower will benefit from a lot of checkdown passes against the Titans, but Beanie just isn’t getting those yet. I expect a quiet night. Save him for those lovely playoff matchups.

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Jags: He’s dropped off the radar a bit since he first took over the starting job in San Francisco, but Smith has a great chance to blow people away against the Jags. I expect Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree to get open early and often. Smith will capitalize if you’re current starter has a dirty matchup this week.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Iron Maiden – Pilgrim

It’s the most fitting song of the season. I’m putting my belt around my hat as we speak. We all know there’s no reason for belts on pants today of all days.

Good luck to you all and Happy Turkey Day.

You can also give thanks and compare notes with The FF Geek Blog, The Hazean, Fantasy Joe and Matthew Berry’s love/hate.

On the Wire: Week 12 Pickups, Playoff Prep, and Matt Leinart

Is there anything sadder than two coaches from the worst teams in the league arguing about who cheated? There are sad clown faces, and then there are SAD CLOWN FACES, people.

I’m pretty sure half the NFL wishes that this game wasn’t even televised. It might fool some people into believing that the Browns and the Lions are good teams.

Despite their big fantasy days Sunday, the downward-trending Browns and unfortunate Lions are not fantasy starters. They only get to play each other once this year.

Obviously, last week’s running back pickups look like fantastic grabs this week if your league neglected to snatch them up. Look to get Jason Snelling, Beanie Wells, and Jamaal Charles before anyone else on this list, but here are a few additional notes on some of the guys from last week and some new names.

No long-term investments this week as we approach the end of the fantasy season.

Hot Claims

Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks — The receiving game made him a stud last week, and now he gets to face the Rams. I still don’t love his situation, but he makes a solid starter for your lineups this week.

Chris Chambers, WR, Kansas City Chiefs — He’s filling in adequately for Dwayne Bowe and would be a great receiver to add for depth if you are making a push for the playoffs.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — While it seemed optimistic at first to consider him a dark horse stud for the fantasy playoffs, it’s looking more realistic than optimistic now. His consistent production and the confidence he showed in Houston have compelled me to rate him as a solid backup quarterback if you’re current starter doesn’t have a kind schedule in Weeks 14-16.

Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants — Eli Manning just realized how to use Boss again this season, and he’s making up for lost time. If your tight end hasn’t lived up to expectations, it might be time to show him who’s the Boss.

Rock Cartwright, RB, Washington Redskins — He gets to start in Washington by process of elimination. Portis won’t return in Week 12, and Betts is out for the season. Look for Washington to bring in some veteran depth as support, but for now, Cartwright is your starter against the Eagles.

Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — He impressed against the Raiders, and this week, he gets the Browns. Best hope Cedric Benson sits one more week.

And if you’re really having trouble filling up that roster…

Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals — If Warner were out for the rest of the season, I’d say you must own Leinart. Right now, Warner might not even miss a game, and that’s a good thing considering how terrible Leinart looked replacing Warner at the end of the game against the Rams. And yes, let me repeat that was against the RAMS. I shudder to think what Leinart could do to ruin the fantasy playoff plans of many a Larry Fitzgerald owner if Arizona is forced to start him for a few weeks.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills — Marshawn Lynch injured his shoulder Sunday. Lynch could be ready to go in Week 12, but there’s a chance Jackson gets to carry the full load. During Lynch’s suspension, Jackson was a beast, but he’ll face the Dolphins on Sunday and Jets (in Canada) next Thursday if he gets the call.

Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints — He’s suddenly become a reliable red zone target for the Saints and for fantasy teams. That’s worth stashing on your bench if you’re prepping for a playoff run.

Danny Ware, RB, New York Giants — His value increases if Brandon Jacobs sits, but it looks like that won’t happen. Just keep an eye on this situation.

Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — Johnson didn’t shoulder much of the load on Sunday, but he could take on more of the offense in the coming weeks against the Browns and the Lions. I think Scott would have to show some inexperience or an inability to make the play for the Bengals in order for L.J. to take over as the starter during Cedric Benson’s absence.

Daunte Culpepper, QB, Detroit Lions — Looks like he’ll be facing the Packers since Matthew Stafford injured his shoulder against the Browns on Sunday, but something tells me you won’t be thankful for his performance on Turkey Day.

Kyle Boller, QB, St. Louis Rams — Matchups are good, but Boller is not. He will have to prove himself for me to trust him, and I am just hoping that he doesn’t cut into Steven Jackson’s value.

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints — Pierre Thomas just can’t win. With Reggie Bush out, the Saints let Mike Bell get two touchdowns while Thomas was held scoreless. While he’ll never be a lock for any points, Bell could vulture more touchdowns down the stretch as the Saints have one of the weaker schedules against the run.

Jason Avant, WR, Philadelphia Eagles — He’s not the first or second receiver on the depth chart, but the Eagles throw enough to keep him productive. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t trust him to keep it up when it counts.

Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns — Massaquoi can certainly tear up the Lions’ secondary, but unless you’re desperate for a starter during one of his two easy-as-cake matchups in the fantasy playoffs, you might find better use for a roster spot than a Browns receiver.

Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams — He’s getting a lot of targets, and St. Louis has some favorable matchups down the stretch. But don’t forget that he’s still a Ram. Kyle Boller also takes over as the starter this week.

A Note on Fantasy Defenses for the Playoffs

If you’re in the hunt, David Dorey of TheHuddle.com put together an excellent preview of how defenses should perform in the fantasy playoffs. If you, like me, took a chance on picking up the New Orleans Saints and hanging onto them all year in Week 5, you should be pretty happy with his top four: New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Green Bay.

Owners of the Jets’ defense probably won’t like the read as much.

For more waiver wire action, compare notes with The FF Geek Blog, Fanhouse, and Fantasy Joe.

Foolish Thoughts: Forsett, Snelling, Scott, and McCoy offer instant gratification

When one of your fantasy football studs gets injured, fantasy owners usually face a tough decision. Should you go get that backup, the one who hasn’t seen more than five touches in any game this year? Or should you just find another running back or wide receiver on the waiver wire who’ll get it done until your stud returns?

Especially early in the fantasy season, I’ve often avoided taking the backups and gone the other way. Why? Well, I like instant gratification.

In rare cases, NFL backups outperform the former starter as Steve Slaton did last season, and it’s not easy to expect them to match the production of the starter they replace. Most of the time, backups need a week or two to get accustomed to their new role in the offense and to gain the trust of the rest of the team.

But in Week 11, you didn’t have to wait.

Ricky Williams, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Bernard Scott, and LeSean McCoy all went off for the owners of Julius Jones, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, and Brian Westbrook who were able to find some help on the waiver wire.

Even those who started desperation-play Jamaal Charles against the Steelers or Beanie Wells as a good-on-paper start against St. Louis were rewarded.

The only bad replacements this week were Chris Simms, who was pulled for a still-injured Kyle Orton after failing to score on the Chargers, and Ladell Betts, who tore both his ACL and PCL against the Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season.

In the case of Forsett and McCoy, this week could be a changing of the guard. Julius Jones has never lived up to expectations since signing with the Seahawks, and Westbrook might never see the field again this season after suffering his second concussion.

For Charles’ and Wells’ fantasy owners, this sets up a nice looking playoff picture.

Williams seems like he’ll be okay without his Wildcat partner Ronnie Brown as he secured the top spot for running backs in most fantasy scoring formats. His performance should serve as a reminder of how much you can benefit from stocking your bench with guys who are just one small injury away from a lucrative starting job.

Scott rushed for 119 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards against the Oakland Raiders defense in a loss, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get a shot against the Browns and the Lions since Benson could return.

Snelling’s in the same spot. Despite scoring twice and coming in second in fantasy scoring for running backs, Snelling could see Jerious Norwood cut into his carries if Norwood’s healthier in Week 12. There’s also a chance that Michael Turner could make an early return.

But you can’t be disappointed with this kind of late-season “early bloomers.”

Maybe it’s a good sign for those owners who suffered more injuries this week.

Kurt Warner bowed out at halftime after suffering a couple of blows to the head. With that playoff schedule, Matt Leinart would be in high demand if Warner misses a game.

Big Ben “fall down, go boom” in overtime against the Chiefs with a hit to his noggin, and soon after, backup quarterback Charlie Batch injured his wrist enough to keep him out the rest of the regular season. That leaves Dennis Dixon sitting in the quarterback seat unless Big Ben is healthy enough to start on Sunday.

With Betts out, Rock Cartwright ran for 67 rushing yards and had seven catches for 73 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins might soon regret not taking a shot at Larry Johnson. Without the services of Portis, Washington may be forced to go get Shaun Alexander as depth at running back.

Heaven forbid you were counting on Marc Bulger for your team, but he’ll miss the rest of the fantasy regular season with a fractured tibia. Kyle Boller takes over, which could be a blessing or a curse for Steven Jackson’s owners.

Just for the sake of noting a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound…Terrell Owens caught nine for 197 yards and a touchdown, most of that on one long touchdown strike. You leave that guy open and he’s dangerous.

But how often will the opposing team make that mistake against the Bills?

In what might qualify as a charity game, Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn had multi-touchdown days. Stafford threw for five touchdowns; Quinn had four. It must have seemed just like practice for them to play against such terrible defense. At least leading receivers Calvin Johnson and Mohamed Massaquoi had a good time with it.

Week 11 Hot Hand and Cold Shoulders: Twilight Edward vs. Jacob, who ya got?

I know nothing of Twilight. I like it that way, but this debate that’s been raging across all my television channels, including my sports channels, has annoyed me to no end, especially because they used my name.

From what I can gather, my namesake Jacob is a werewolf who is loyal and the complete “nice guy.” Figures.

Edward, on the other hand (and correct me if I am wrong), is a total douche of a vampire who’s the “dangerous” one. Also typical.

I have no allegiance to either camp; in fact, I’d love if this book series, or “saga” as the TV loves to call it, disappeared off the planet, along with “So You Think You Can Dance” and the like.

Still, I can draw a parallel to fantasy football (because that’s what you least expected).

You see, Jacob is dependable, honest, and trustworthy. He’s your Thomas Jones. Through the good and the bad, he gets his yards and does the best he can to score. He may not be exceptional, but you have to love that schedule down the stretch.

While Edward, jackass that he is, is Beanie Wells. He’s risky and exciting, and ladies probably love him for his burst. I would even guess that Wells turns to crystal in the sunlight because that makes absolutely no sense in vampire lore. THEY DIE IN THE SUN, YOU IDIOTS; otherwise, why would they not take over the world by now?

So you can pick your poison with these Twilight guys. Dangerous or dependable? I like both of them, Jones and Wells, enough to start them this week, but we’ll see which one turns to crystal in the sun.

And while we’re at it (and done talking about Twilight), here are a few more mythical creatures that I would consider starting.

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Panthers — Ricky Williams comes into Carolina with a 50/50 chance of 100+ yards against the Panthers based on his previous performances. With running mate Ronnie Brown out for the year, I’d say the odds are even better for him. Carolina’s run defense has not been cutting it all season.

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Colts — Rice has been top-notch in his last seven games. Against the Colts weakened run defense, he should make it eight. But be warned, that playoffs schedule looks rough.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Eagles — It’s been a rough few weeks, but Philly’s secondary is weakened just enough by injuries and suspensions for this to work.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Broncos – So I guess he’s not completely dead. I knew that San Diego needed new blood to get their running game going. I didn’t expect that new blood to be a baby on the way for L.T. and Mrs. L.T. The Broncos should have some trouble stopping him this week, but do not go into this expecting another blowout affair. You can only get pregnant once…every nine months…as far as I’m aware.

Reggie Bush, RB, Saints vs. Bucs – Since when is Bush a goal line back? Insanity, but the Saints like using him on those dive-into-the-end-zone plays. He makes a solid start against Tampa Bay as long as the trend continues, and I think it will. The Bucs can’t stop any running back on defense.

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks vs. Vikings — You may have picked him on waivers this week, but you won’t be seeing much production. Minnesota has allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season. Forsett won’t get the third. He has some talent in the receiving game, but I see the Vikings putting plenty of pressure on Matt Hasselbeck.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins vs. Cowboys — It’s easy to single out a guy like Moss, but he’s actually being recommended as a start against the Cowboys this week in several places. I don’t like him. The Cowboys secondary and pass rush has kept wide receivers under wraps in recent weeks. The Redskins anemic offense shouldn’t break that trend.

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons vs. Giants — The Giants are coming off a bye with plenty of time to prep for the struggling Atlanta passing game. The expected return of Aaron Ross to the secondary shouldn’t hurt either.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Steelers — Charles finally got his touchdown, and he has a beauty of a schedule down the stretch. This week is not part of that. The Steelers should look to squash him out as the Chiefs’ main offensive weapon now that Dwayne Bowe will sit for four weeks, and Pittsburgh should limit his chances in the passing game enough to make him a flex start at best, even in PPR leagues.

Randy Moss, WR, Patriots vs. Jets — Mark this down under “you’re not going to listen to me but…” Darrelle Revis shut down Moss last time the Pats faced the Jets, and though Tom Brady has stepped his game up since then, Moss should be due for a second quiet week. I’m still starting him, as you should if you have him, but be don’t expect one of those blowout performances he’s been putting up.

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals vs. Raiders — I was torn on my sleeper pick this week. Nate Washington has a great chance of putting up numbers if Houston gets out to an early lead. Vince Young travels home to play the Texans. Josh Freeman faces a banged-up Saints secondary that allowed Marc Bulger to look like a quarterback, and Brandon Jacobs might finally get it back on track.

But in the end, I had to go with Scott, who is likely to see more than the usual amount of carries this week against the Raiders defense even if Cedric Benson starts. Scott, rather than Larry Johnson, knows the offense, and I believe he’s got a shot at 100+ yards even if he can’t get a score flying solo or sharing with an injured Benson.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Muse — Time Is Running Out

http://youtu.be/ChR8PAEA_RM

Muse did have a song on the Twilight soundtrack, but I won’t hold that against them. “Time Is Running Out” is a perfect fit for this week as the trade deadline approaches and many of you are scrounging to put together a few more wins and lock up a playoff spot.

Best of luck to you all, and remember that vampires should never turn to crystal. It’s just not right.

Fore more start and sit advice, compare notes with Fantasy Joe, FF Xtreme, and FF Toolbox.

Bye, Bye Ronnie Brown: Foot injury takes RB to IR

The Miami Dolphins have placed Ronnie Brown on IR with a foot injury to end his season. Adam Schefter filed the story this afternoon, and ESPN now has the official word. Apparently, his foot injury was much more serious than we all feared.

What does this mean for the Miami Wildcat?

“Who knows? May not even run it,” a coy Sparano said. “Never know.”

But don’t order your coffins yet, fantasy owners. There’s still hope, right? Even though this is most definitely now your fault.

Well, there’s always Ricky Williams, who now assumes the duties as starting running back. With increased carries, we can’t expect him to take over both Ronnie Brown’s and his own production, becoming some sort of “double your pleasure, double your fun” bargain back, but it’ll be something more than what he’s doing for owners right now.

Williams has already had his fair share of big days even while sharing with Brown, and for at least the next two weeks, he gets to run the ball against the Panthers and the Bills. No complaints there.

Even if the Miami offense takes a step back without Brown’s Wildcat wrinkles and burst, Williams should be an adequate replacement. Plus, there’s no frustration when the other part of the RBBC gets all the touchdowns, right?

Well, if that didn’t get you smiling, you probably didn’t get Williams as a handcuff or backup to Brown this season. It’s okay. I wouldn’t have done it either. But you got options, kid.

You do have the good fortune of losing your starting running back when a great deal of the best running backs in fantasy went down with injury and left replacements littering the waiver wire.

Bernard Scott would be the most lucrative grab of the multitude available out there, but only if Cedric Benson ends up missing time (and if Larry Johnson really does just ride the bench as depth). My gut feeling is that Benson misses at least one game.

The Bengals could at least do us a favor and hold him out a week for the sake of keeping him fresh. It’s only the Raiders after all, and then the Browns, and then the Lions…

Yeah, Scott’s a good grab.

And if you can’t get your hands on him for a one-week tour of duty, try to seek out Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles, or Jason Snelling. Wells and Charles, in particular, have two of the best playoffs schedules around.

So don’t punch your ticket to miss the playoffs…yet. Just remember the good times you had with Brown–two-touchdown days against the Colts, the Bills, and the Jets, and those fall days when he didn’t just walk beside you. He carried you.

I think I just got something in my eye.