On the Wire: Week 13 Pickups, Vince Young, Fred Jackson, and Playoff Depth

Let’s not play games. I know you’re most likely looking for just one or two players to complete your fantasy football playoff dynasty before Week 13 or ignoring most of the free agents for a chance to ride out the season while looking nonchalant. Chicks dig nonchalant.

While it’s always admirable to fight to the bitter end, it is hard to find your motivation at this point in the season. That’s when being bitter and hardened by fury comes in handy. You have to encapsulate all that disappointment you experience throughout the season as your team loses and unleash it this week by making your team a one-week force to be reckoned with, purely for the sake of knocking someone out of the playoffs.

You may never look at the draft board from this season again. Maybe you did that poorly, but you can always tell Steve that you killed his chance at a championship in 2009. I imagine all losers are named Steve. Sorry, Steve! Not you, the other one. He’ll never forget that, not even when the dementia kicks in.

So play like a champion today. Treat your opponent like that dirty defensive end portrayed in The Blind Side and be the Michael Oher who takes him to the bus because it was time for him to leave.

I trust you will do some damage.

Now, on to the next harsh reality. There’s not a lot to go around right now in your fantasy league. I’m sure of it. By now, teams have been scrounging for a way to make it to the playoffs that any good picks are off the board.

There are only a few gems left to be plucked, mostly from this week’s action. For more potent waiver wire grabs, see the last few weeks of On the Wire. It was good stuff. Oh, those were the days.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — Young has been clutch for the Titans since taking over as the starter, and he has a sweet three-game home stretch during the fantasy playoffs. He’s not an impact starter if your team is bound for playoff glory, but picking him up as an insurance policy and backup is highly recommended, especially if your current starter has a tough game when VY faces the Rams.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills — I’m not sold on Jackson being back in business for the Bills. Marshawn Lynch may be banged-up, but he’s still the more talented runner in this backfield despite his recent lack of production. I’d blame the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line for that. Still, Jackson looks like he’s returning to his early-season form…for now, and he scored twice last week.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Not dead, apparently, and also very good at catching passes from Josh Freeman. Bryant became a fantasy stud at the end of last season, and if he’s completely healthy now, he could get back to it. The way the Bucs secondary gives away points right now, Freeman should be throwing it plenty for the rest of the season.

Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — If you own Cedric Benson, you might consider getting some insurance for him by picking up L.J. Once their playoff hopes are secure, Benson could see a reduced workload so that the Bengals can have him at full strength when they get to the playoffs, and that’s if Benson even returns to the starting lineup this week as expected.

Matt Moore, QB, Carolina Panthers — For those of you looking to play David to a playoff-hopeful’s Goliath this week, Moore could get the start if Jake Delhomme sits out with a broken finger. Playing the Bucs seems promising.

Jason Avant, WR, Philadelphia Eagles — I’m not a huge fan of any Eagles wide receiver. They spread the ball around too much, and just when you think they’ll have a huge day, the Eagles disappoint. But Avant should be a factor if DeSean Jackson misses any games. Besides, he’s gotten involved enough in recent weeks to provide wide receiver depth for your squad.

Chris Redman, QB, Atlanta Falcons — And standing in for Matt Ryan is another one-week play for the bitter hearts, but this one has to play the Eagles.

Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta Falcons — He looks like the better play than Jason Snelling right now based on how he was used when Turner got injured late in the game. I don’t love any of the fill-in Falcons against an aggressive Eagles defense pushing to make the playoffs, but Norwood has some explosive qualities that could do his fantasy point totals some good this week.

For more waiver wire claims, compare notes with The Talented Mr. Roto, Fantasy Joe, Fanhouse, The FF Geek Blog, FF Toolbox, and KFFL.

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.

NFL Divisional Championships: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Once again, this weekend, we get a game that could very literally end with a final score of 3-0 and a game that could have a combined score of more than 70 points. Welcome the AFC and NFC championship games.

When I logged into the site to get geared up for this weekend, I got an extra treat. You want to know what the top search term of late leading people to Fantasy Football Fools is?

Booty. That’s right. I have a sneaking suspicion why that is, but it still doesn’t make it any less funny.

So with booty said, let’s get down to booty, er, business.

If you’re setting your salary cap playoff rosters this week, you’re probably locked in with them until the Super Bowl. There’s two ways to go here. You can either pick a collection of players from both teams that you expect to do well enough in this round and in the Super Bowl or you can suck it up and only pick players from the two teams you see making it all the way.

I’ll admit, I have the fear in me about being bold and only choosing players from my Super Bowl pick teams, but I’m so going there.

NFC Championship

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

I don’t know what to think of the Arizona Cardinals. Many analysts predicted they would match the Falcons in the Wild Card round after their strong final game of the season, but I doubted them when they went into Carolina. I thought their possession of a running game was just an oversight by the Falcons defense and that the defensive plays made the Wild Card round were fluky.

In Carolina, Arizona showed us that they have a defense that will make plays on the ball. Their secondary was outstanding. They complimented it with a little bit of a running game again, thanks to Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower, despite being able to get the ball into Larry Fitzgerald’s hands even if he was covered by a flock of Canadian geese — the kind that brings down planes.

Despite their success, it’s hard not to keep betting on their demise…they are the Buzzsaw after all.

Of course, there’s no overwhelming favorite on the other side of the field. The Eagles are practically the same team, only in the NFC East. The Eagles started off looking like one of the best in the division before they sank to the bottom of the barrel after a ferociously embarrassing tie with the Cincinnati Bengals when Donovan McNabb didn’t even know that ties were possible.

Thanks to the failings of many a team standing in their way, the Eagles got hot at the right moment and went on a streak to get into the playoffs. Donovan McNabb has looked great, and Brian Westbrook has been required to do only light lifting. The formula has been working to perfection.

On Thanksgiving, the Eagles began their winning streak against the Cardinals. Arizona was clobbered by the combined scoring power of Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb, but since that game, Brian Westbrook has virtually and literally disappeared from the field.

If the Eagles are going to win this one, the offense is going to need a big game from Brian Westbrook. Otherwise, it’s very possible that McNabb gets Delhomme-d and leaves his team fighting on the wrong side of a turnover battle if Arizona’s suddenly-dominant secondary shows up again.

I’m going with the Cardinals here. They’re at home with a newfound spirit in the playoffs. Maybe that’s crazy. Maybe I just don’t really want to see an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl, or maybe I hate part of myself. Maybe I just want an offensive team to get in the Super Bowl. Whatever the reason, I’m on the Buzzsaw bandwagon.

At least we know their going to put up some fantasy points this week.

Hot Hands: Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook (Q), David Akers

Bubble Boys: Tim Hightower, Anquan Boldin (Q), Neil Rackers, Arizona D/ST, Eagles D/ST, Brent Celek

Cold Shoulders: DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, L.J. Smith, Edgerrin James

AFC Championship

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Personally, I am not a fan of this matchup.

Watching these two teams slam into each other repeatedly for four hours with minimal points on the board just leaves me feeling unsatisfied — especially as a fantasy football fan. The team that makes the most mistakes is going to lose this one, and since I called it twice before, I have to continue my trend of calling on Joe Flacco’s rookie shortcomings to suddenly rise to the forefront.

If the Steelers can successfully take Derrick Mason out of this game, Flacco will become pretty ineffective. Without Flacco, the Ravens have LeRon McClain, who is already a little banged up, and some guy we used to know the name of named Willis McGahee. Sure, they could put something together with that running back committee. They even have Ray Rice, too, but not against the Steelers defense.

Ben Roethlisberger may be concussed, but maybe he plays better when he sees two or three of every receiver. His long ball and a healthy Willie Parker helped the Steelers run right over the Chargers last week, and it’ll help them put up enough of a fight against the Ravens.

If you’re looking for a kicker, I like Jeff Reed in this game. I know that the Cardinals and the Eagles are playing in a more offensively friendly matchup, but Jeff Reed is probably going to be one of the only players scoring points this Sunday night. You might as well get a piece of the action.

Hot Hands: Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Jeff Reed, Matt Stover, Steelers D/ST, Ravens D/ST

Bubble Boys: Willie Parker, Hines Ward, LeRon McClain, Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason

Cold Shoulders: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Heath Miller, Mark Clayton

Lineup Calls

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going to go all-in with the Cardinals and Steelers on my roster this weekend. At least if Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner end up sitting out the Super Bowl, I will know that I tried and failed brilliantly.

Sure, I could throw Brian Westbrook on my roster as a safety valve and capitalize if the Eagles were to make it into the Super Bowl, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, no matter what running back gets to the Super Bowl from the NFC, they’re not going to do much against the Baltimore Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So this weekend, I’m a Buzzsaw-lovin’ Arizona Cardinals fan. Maybe they’ll make it to their first Super Bowl, and that’s a story that might even spare us the press on T.O. and Brett Favre for a few days.

The Third-Year Breakout Wide Receiver Theory and Why It’s Coincidence

I don’t put much faith in the third-year breakout theory for wide receivers. It’s no perfect science but merely a common coincidence.

A wide receiver’s breakout year has more to do with when the receiver becomes comfortable in the offense than when they hit year 3 of their career.

Receivers–unless they fall into a good situation–usually don’t start their first year in the league. Some like Steve Smith (New York Giants) and Craig Davis (San Diego Chargers) may earn a role as a third receiver off and on throughout their rookie season, but overlooking exceptions like Marques Colston and Ted Ginn Jr. who start right away out of talent or necessity, a receiver’s second year is the first time most of them are hitting the field game after game.

By the third year, receivers actually feel comfortable in the NFL and should start to show their true talent. They get more playing time and, with fresh legs and some kind of NFL-worthy moves, they can shake cornerbacks better than the weak receiver or aging veteran they are replacing.

So there’s the average path of your third year “breakout.” The third year is simply when they see the field the most, know the plays and get a relationship with the quarterback.

If you look at a receiver that starts right away–Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe or Marques Colston–they might see their breakout year in the first or second year of their career.

Marques Colston had a huge rookie campaign and came up big again this year even with the Saint’s slow start. He can hardly be considered a breakout following traditional third-year rules. Greg Jennings, in just his second year, posted numbers any fantasy team manager would like. Calvin Johnson performed early on but didn’t finish well, but he might still be on target for a nice 2008 though with a new offensive coordinator.

You just can’t say that the third year for these already starting receivers will be any different or more “breakout” than this season.

While you should watch which young receivers are becoming comfortable in the offense they are running, I would never take a chance on someone expecting the third year to be a breakout season. At the same time, I would never overlook a younger second-year receiver because they haven’t reached that coveted third year mark.

That’s my take. Watch their comfort level and relationship with the quarterback.

Smitty at Fantasy Football Xtreme put together an analysis of the third-year receivers from 2007 and list of breakouts for 2008. As the stats show, only 2 out of 9 receivers in their third year really showed breakout stats this year–Braylon Edwards and Roddy White. D.J. Hackett probably would have been up there if he hadn’t been plagued by injury, but for the most part, the third year receivers of 2007 were only worthy of subbing when they had great match ups.

The top 5 breakouts for 2008 look very solid. I wouldn’t even call them breakouts for 2008 since they already showed both talent and stats in 2007–and for some, 2006.

Smitty’s 2008 Third-Year Breakout WRs

  1. Marques Colston (NO)
  2. Santonio Holmes (PIT)
  3. Greg Jennings (GB)
  4. Brandon Marshall (DEN)
  5. Lance Moore (NO)
  6. Ben Obomanu (SEA)
  7. Jeff Webb (KC)
  8. Sinorice Moss (NYG)
  9. Jason Avant (PHI)
  10. Demetrius Williams (BAL)
  11. Derek Hagan (MIA)
  12. Maurice Stovall (TB)
  13. Brad Smith (NYJ)
  14. Chad Jackson (NE)
  15. Travis Wilson (CLE)
  16. Bennie Brazell (CIN)

The rest of the list is a bit sketchy. If you put a lot of stock in the third-year theory then you might consider going after them late in the draft or putting them on your watch list for 2008 for a snag on the waiver wire.