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

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate roundtable question:

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

My answer:

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

First, I’d look to acquire Tim Hightower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junkyard Jake from Junkyard Jake says:

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

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

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

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

Hatty from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru says:

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

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

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

Ryan Lester from Lester’s Legends says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Greco from Fantasy Pros 911 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryce McRae from KFFL says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurt Turner from Top-Fantasy-Football says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 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?

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.