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.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Winnings from Week 8

There have been many injuries this season in the NFL. Unfortunately, that’s not really anything new to this sport. Some fans might call for increased player protection, more fines or more pads, but it’s hard to see that making any difference.

In truth, the waiver wire in fantasy football exists as a result of the casualties in football. More often than not, it’s the guys that aren’t on the field that open the door for new faces and stat lines.

In my moonlighting gig as the fantasy football community leader for Bleacher Report, I was sent one particular article on the rampant injuries this season, and I thought my comments on this article summed up my view of the game well enough to present here for my foolish Fools readers. Enjoy.

Injuries happen. Such is the NFL.

It may seem like there are more this year, but it’s not really that much different from last year…or the year before. Just last year, we had players like Trent Green, Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson, Cadillac Williams and Jeremy Shockey all go out with injuries.

Sadly, we don’t even notice when supporting cast members get hurt, but many more names we don’t know are cut or moved to IR everyday.

The NFL can fine players all they want, but accidents do happen. It’s a tough game to play. You can’t fine someone for every play that goes wrong. Sometimes freak things just happen and people get hurt.

For example, if you go to make a tackle on a QB at his waist and the RB (Sammy Morris) lurches onto your back, you’re going to sink down and hit the QB low (on Brady’s knee). It happens, but you can’t fine anyone for playing the game the way it is meant to be played.

You can strap bubble wrap and padding around every joint of a players body, but at the end of the day, they’re still going to be flying at each other at best-in-the-world speeds and trying to bring each other down. That’s the game. That’s how it’s played, and in a game like this, you’re going to have a player twist the wrong way, hit the wrong spot or just have a fluke fracture or sprain alone in the field.

To get even more deep on you, I think part of what makes football so electrifying, so inspiring and so breathtaking is that every game might be a player’s last.

Every time they step on that field, football players know they are going to leave it all out there. It’s why they are emotional when they leave the game and why they will have a finger removed just to stay out there.

We are watching the best in the business compete at their peak performance level every second of every quarter, and that’s what makes football so special.

Now, how about we see if you can get some of the best on your fantasy football team?

Worth Claiming

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — If you gave up on him earlier this season, you might want to reconsider as he heads back into the soft part of his schedule. Donnie Avery is his new love child.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins — He’s efficient, and he’s got playmakers around him at last. If Ted Ginn Jr. emerges as a legitimate deep threat, Pennington could find himself in the top end of fantasy QBs during the second half. He’s no Drew Brees, but he’s had at least 15 fantasy points the last four weeks and put up 250+ yards and at least one TD in the last three weeks.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — JTO oh no! Shaun Hill is now Mike Martz’s QB Voodoo doll, and he’ll take over things in Week 10 after the bye. He was decent in relief of Alex Smith last season with five touchdowns in that three game span, and Mike Singletary hopes he’ll be less of a turnover machine than JTO. Be cautious with him; JTO might be back sooner rather than later.

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos — He’s back on the field, and with Michael Pittman suffering from bruised ribs and Selvin Young/Andre Hall still banged up, he might see a significant amount of carries in Week 9. Leave it to Shanny to figure out how to screw you for picking him up down the line, but as the last man standing, Torain could actually be reliable for at least a few weeks.

Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — If Deuce McAllister misses any time because of this water pill controversy, Stecker and Thomas would share the load for New Orleans. Stecker was a stud filling in for Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister at the end of 2007, and I like him to be the power back if anything were to happen with Deuce. Both backs are seeing some limited touches with Reggie Bush out. The Saints are on bye in Week 9.

Kolby Smith, RB Kansas City Chiefs — If Larry Johnson doesn’t stop assaulting women, Smith might be the starter for the rest of the season. For this week at least, he’s the only RB that Kansas City has, but I wouldn’t expect him to do much.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — Kevin Faulk is seeing most of the work, but Green-Ellis is the short-yardage workhorse for the Patriots. He could vulture a touchdown or two but his value will be squashed when Sammy Morris and/or LaMont Jordan return.

Nate Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers — Santonio Holmes is back from his “high” time as an inactive player, so Washington is back to being the No. 3 man in Pittsburgh. He’s good for the occasional long score, which he’s gotten in each of the Steelers’ last three games. Take a chance on him if you need him when he faces a weaker secondary several times in the second half of the season.

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — He is practicing with the team this week, and while Matt Jones is suspended, Walker should reclaim a significant portion of the receptions for the Jags.

St. Louis Rams D/ST — In the last three weeks, the Rams have gotten more turnovers than any other team in the NFL, and they are getting to the quarterback as much as the top handful of teams. That’s fantasy value right there even if they do let teams get a lot of yardage on them. Just don’t start them this week against the Cardinals.

Quick fixes for this week:

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The best way to recover from a loss to the Cowboys is to run all over the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Earnest Graham and Dunn are bound to take turns running laps to the end zone in this one, and Dunn might even be able to get a score.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — If Ronnie Brown has another slow week, Williams could get to run the good runs against the Broncos, the silk curtain of run defenses.

Antonio Pittman, RB St. Louis Rams — He had 83 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving in Week 8 but only because Steven Jackson was injured. If you own Jackson, Pittman should probably make your roster for next week as the Rams head into a rushing-friendly portion of their schedule unless you’re deep at running back.

Guys you should probably have already picked up:

David Garrard, QB Jacksonville Jaguars — The Titans are going to win the division, and the Jags are passing. The world has flipped. If Garrard can tear it up against the Browns like no other QB has and set season highs in every category, he’s definitely going to be able to rip into the Bengals and Lions for the next two weeks. His playoff schedule guarantees that the Jags will have to put points on the board.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams — Eventually, teams are going to figure out that they need to cover Avery too instead of just swarming all over Torry Holt. Until that happens, he’s burning everyone with at least one long pass for 40+ yards.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans — How many times does he have to score two touchdowns in a game before you pick him up? How many times?!?

Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears — Anyone is nuts to drop this guy. Olsen has become one of the primary targets for the Bears, especially in the red zone. In the last two weeks, he’s had more targets than every Bear outside of the running backs; Forte is still a beast in the receiving game.

Ones to Watch

Leon Washington, RB New York Jets — He continues to make big plays for the Jets, but it’s hard to trust him to keep it up when he gets less than 10 carries per game. If he ever becomes more involved, he’s worth acquiring.

Chaz Schilens, WR Oakland Raiders — Since taking the starting job from Ronald Curry, Schilens has just been chizilen. He had his first big-sizzle game in Week 8 with one long 60-yard pass from JaMarcus Russell. We know JaMarcus can pass-izzle ‘em deep standing on his knees, so if Schilens becomes the deep threat in this unpredictable offense, he’s got our blessing, fo shizzle. I, for one, really hope he makes it big so I can keep saying his name.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — He scored! That’s the best way to get noticed in the Chiefs’ offense, and if Thigpen can hit him when Dwayne Bowe is getting doubled, the Chiefs might just make a fantasy player out of him. For now, he looks to be a developing deep league option at best.

Ignoring

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins — Okay, 175 yards. Where the hell did that come from? He’s come on strong these last few weeks with a good portion of the receptions, but I am not buying this fantasy candy you’re selling, Ted, until I see another performance like that. If you are hurting at WR, he’s worth getting now before some other rookie does, but I won’t hype him until I see him in the game plan for next week.

Droppables

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — I’m afraid the good days are gone for Benson. His only remaining game to circle on the schedule is a Week 14 game against the Colts, but is Benson really the best thing you have in the playoffs? He’s a starting running back, but he hasn’t proven to be very useful even in his easier matchups.

Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati Bengals — If your team is really hurting and you need the depth and “play now” guys, I think you are okay leaving Palmer on the wire. Obviously, he’s got huge upside, and it’s likely that some other team will stash him on the bench. But we don’t know when he’s going to play again right now. More than likely, you can find someone who’ll do enough for you now to make up for any value you lose down the road. Feel free to debate who to replace Palmer with in the comments if you are struggling with this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seattle Seahawks — Hasselbeck is an anchor of this offense, so Seattle’s struggles are to be expected without him. They still aren’t a terrible team. His schedule is very easy to end the year, but you probably won’t need him in the playoffs unless another quarterback can get you there while Hasselbeck is banged up. I’m going to go out on a limb and approve dropping him for now, but I’d actually try and hold onto him if you are a playoff-bound team.

Week 8 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

Hot Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Sneak Attacks from Week 7

It’s very likely that you have already tried to snag some of these guys. In fact, you might have had them on your roster, dropped them, picked them back up, dropped them again and let some other team roll with them for a week or two by now.

But maybe it’s time to pick them up again.

For the sake of repetition, we’ll repeat some of them from past “On the Wire” waiver wire suggestions — slowly this time. If these players are available now, you might have good reason to jump back on the bandwagon. The pickings will only get slimmer from here barring massive stud injuries.

Rather than sort by position, this week, I’m going to shuffle people up by upside. If these guys are at the top of the list, they’re probably the ones you want to scan the wire for first.

Worth Claiming

Deuce McAllister, RB New Orleans Saints — If no one got the memo that he was back (and seriously, who didn’t?), you should make sure you get him now. Without Reggie Bush dancing around every other play, Deuce will get some meaningful carries. His game against the Chargers this week should be a great chance for us to see how much he can do with the majority of the carries against a weak run defense. I assume the Chargers like to let opposing RBs run over them because L.T. does in practice.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams — It’s safe to put Rams on your roster again. Avery has had several solid performances, enough for me to say he’s no longer a potential fluke. The Rams’ schedule down the stretch is a nice one, especially for the last few weeks (otherwise known as the fantasy playoffs). They play home games against Seattle and San Francisco in Weeks 15 and 16.

Josh Morgan, WR San Francisco 49ers — I’m officially off the Bryant Johnson bandwagon. It was nice riding out the storms with you, B.J., but you just didn’t hold up your end of the bargain. Morgan was injured and infected to start the season. Now that he’s back to full health, he’s also back to outplaying Johnson, and Nolan named him the starter just before being fired. I don’t think Singletary will see it any differently. Top WRs in the Mike Martz offense have huge upside value, and I really like Morgan — more than Avery.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots –BenJarvus is the kind of guy that I hope never becomes a big fantasy star just because his name is such a pain to write out all the time. It’s almost impossible to make a nickname out of that — B.J.G.E.? Bulge? Hey, that might work. Regardless, Green-Ellis is helping out Sammy Morris throughout the rest of the season with Laurence Maroney on IR. We saw that Morris will take his licks occasionally, and this pickup is more of a stash than anything. Put him on your roster to see how his role changes in the game plans for Week 8 and Week 9.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles — Again, just a reminder that he is back and should be playing soon. Some people won’t realize he’s returned until he has a big performance, and you’ll want to make sure you get him on your roster before that happens. He could easily retake his spot as the No. 1 receiving option for Donovan McNabb.

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — He’s the best they got in Cincy right now, and his value gets a bump because he’s now the starter. Small number of soft running matchups left, but at least he’s “the guy” for an NFL team if you are slim at RB.

Steve Smith, WR New York Giants — The “other” Steve Smith could have some big days ahead when the Giants face strong run defenses like the Steelers, Eagles (twice), Ravens, Cardinals and Panthers. He’s clearly Eli’s safety blanket on third downs.

Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST — Here’s all you really need to know: post-bye, healed up and playing the Browns, Bengals and Lions. The Jags might be back for at least the next three weeks.

Washington Redskins D/ST – Redskins play the Lions this week. Despite their mediocre performances this season, this week could be a chance for a huge day.

Ones to Watch

Chansi Stuckey, WR New York Jets — I am sure you were disappointed Sunday if you are a Cotchery owner, but a leg injury might have played a part in preventing him from making an impact. The latest reports say Cotchery will be questionable going into this weekend against the Chiefs, and Stuckey would be the big winner if Cotchery sits.

Malcom Floyd, WR San Diego Chargers — He’s the Chris Chambers when Chris Chambers is out, but if Chambers returns this week, he’s not really worth much. I just have to mention him because he was such a stud in Week 7 as my bye week filler.

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — His knee got infected after being injured against the Steelers, but this WR was one of my big sleepers that I am watching these next couple of weeks. As soon as he is healthy, he is worth picking up. The Jags schedule couldn’t look much better these next three weeks — Browns, Bengals, Lions — and, with Jones suspended, Walker could easily become the most targeted receiver on the field once again.

Marty Booker, WR Chicago Bears – Bears are on bye this week, but the vet showed he still had moves in Week 7′s high-scoring showdown. If Lloyd continues to miss time and Hester is injured enough to be used sparingly, Booker is a nice play — especially Week 9 against the Lions.

Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith, RB Kansas City Chiefs — Kolby Smith may be getting the workload carries with Larry Johnson out, but Charles is the more intriguing back for fantasy since he breaks for more yards. Depending on how the Larry Johnson fiasco shakes out, they might be worth acquiring by Week 10 when the Chiefs have good running matchups.

Ignoring

Javon Walker, WR Oakland Raiders — Did you even realize that Walker was playing this season? Me either. He had one nice week, but I’d like to see it again before I grab him. He’s only worth keeping tabs on for now.

Droppables

Bryant Johnson, WR San Francisco 49ers – Losing his starting job for the 49ers is a big upside killer. He’s not worth keeping on your roster. Go get Josh Morgan.

Brad Johnson, QB Dallas Cowboys — He’s a starting quarterback, but the Bucs and the Giants looked like bad games from the start. He can’t keep the offense going against the Rams, and these next few weeks could be even worse. If you are keeping him on your roster, what else do you have at QB? (I really want to know — drop me a comment.)

Patrick Crayton, WR Dallas Cowboys — Obviously, his value isn’t nil just yet, but I don’t see him having much more impact than he did against he Rams on Sunday. Don’t drop him for nothing, but I think you can safely switch him out for someone of similar or better upside now.

Chris Perry, RB Cincinnati Bengals — He didn’t touch the ball this past week, and he might not ever again. We all know if he does get it, he’ll drop it anyway.

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens — One day, you’re fantasy gold; the next, no one wants to touch you. McGahee looked like the workhorse back against Miami even though he had to have his knee drained to play. McClain’s on a decline. If a back comes along with a better chance to succeed, I’d consider letting him off his leash.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers – I’m impressed if you are still hanging onto this guy. He hasn’t done anything since Week 1. Let it go.

Droppable Trade Bait

Kellen Winslow, TE Cleveland Browns — I’m not one to panic, but the trade request talks and staph infection have gotten Winslow in the coach’s dawghouse. (See what I did there?) You can’t drop him, but if you can get a premium value and a decent replacement TE (Zach Miller, Greg Olsen or maybe Dustin Keller), you might consider bailing here. Winslow’s been the only consistent part of the Browns offense, but he may decline if he becomes a sore on the Browns’ side…wait, or is that just the staph?

That’s it for this week. I have to go to the doctor to get the Browns checked out.

Questions about who to drop? Wondering what player you should have grabbed instead? Feel free to comment for more in-depth roster assistance. Our operators (me) are standing by now.

Week 13: Waiver wire replacements for your injuries, sir

Oh, you weren’t starting to settle into a nice little butt groove going into the last week before playoffs were you? I’m sorry. If you didn’t notice, several starters just fell apart this week leaving you in the position to grab up the next starter before you playoff opponents or in great need of grabbing your back ups if you didn’t handcuff.

This week we’ll combine the injury report and waiver wire.

Philip Rivers, QB SD
Keep your eye on Rivers. Even though he has been inconsistent, he could emerge as a promising starter for your playoff run if another owner has already given up on him.

Kolby Smith, RB KC
If no one picked him up last week, does 150+ yards and 2 TDs convince you? Of course, that was against Oakland, but Smith should get his yards as the focus of the Kansas City offense as long as Larry Johnson stays out.

Roddy White, WR ATL
Harrington is going to look to White when they make a play. He’s consistent if you have a hit or miss WR that might give you trouble in the playoffs.

Trent Edwards, QB BUF
If you are hurting–and I mean hurting–at QB, you are probably stuck with one of the Trents. Trent Edwards was not much more than a game manager during his previous stint as a starter in Buffalo. He needs to meet a guy name Lee Evans before he will make his mark fantasy-wise, but for the moment, he will start over J.P. Losman to end this season. If you just need a starter, he is breathing and starting for the moment for the Bills.

Trent Dilfer, QB SF
He’s the other Trent. With Alex Smith in recovery, Dilfer put up decent numbers–250+ yards and 2 TDs. It’s hard to say which Trent would be a better addition to your roster, but Dilfer does have the better match up this week with Cleveland.

Anthony Thomas, RB BUF
Marshawn Lynch looks to be out again this week, so as long as Thomas’ own injury from Sunday is minor, he should get the start. Considering the Buffalo Trent, Trent Edwards, is back as a starter for the first game in his new stint, look for them to give Thomas plenty of carries against Washington.

Adrian Peterson, RB CHI
Peterson is now the full-time starter with Cedric Benson ending his dismal season with injury on Sunday. Don’t expect big numbers because the Bears don’t have an easy street schedule to end the season, but Peterson can be a decent number 2 RB.

Andre Hall and/or Cecil Sapp, RB DEN
The value here is all about injuries. Travis Henry is out with his knee, and Selvin Young was hurt last week and sat out Sunday. Andre Hall tweaked his own ankle in the game Sunday but played through the injury. Depending upon who returns, Hall and Young could split carries or if everyone is hurt, Cecil Sapp could start for the Broncos. Shanny is unpredictable, and this call could all come down to a game time decision.

Patrick Cobbs, RB MIA
With Ricky Williams ending his NFL season with less than 20 yards and a fumble and Chatman going out again Monday night with a neck injury, the Dolphins might have to look at Cobbs for the remainder of the season or until Chatman gets back in shape. He’s a dangerous start, but he could be a factor against the Jets.

Reuben Droughns, RB NYG
He wasn’t completely dismal against the Vikings tough run D and unless Derrick Ward returns to start this week, look for Droughns to get the start again against the low-ranked Chicago run defense.

Tony Scheffler, TE DEN
Back from injury, Scheffler has become a factor with Jay Cutler in the second half of the season. Consider picking him up if you need a good back up TE for the playoffs or have an underperforming TE–even one like Greg Olsen or Owen Daniels.

LJ Smith, TE PHI
Some owners gave up on him as he struggled to get healthy at the beginning of the year, but LJ is now back to his usual in Philadelphia. I think Scheffler has the bigger upside, but Smith can be consistent as long as the Eagles QB situation doesn’t get too chaotic.

Sidney Rice, WR MIN
He’s hit or miss, but if you want a big play WR to help you out for this final week of glory or in your playoff run, Rice has big play ability.

And now, a funeral for Larry Johnson’s season

LJ profile

R.I.P. LJ’s 2007 Fantasy Season

He came in with such high hopes this season–heralded as one of the top RBs in fantasy and setting a franchise record with his latest contract with the Chiefs.

And then, he went and performed like a back up for the first four games of the season. I’ll hold that against him considering he was killing one of my fantasy teams by stinkin’ up the joint. Luckily, he came back to form in week 4 and exploded weeks 6 through week 9, when the Packers forced him to leave the game with an official undisclosed injury.

A now an moment of silence for LJ…

That’s all that has been coming out the Kansas City camp since his injury, but now, we finally get confirmation that he has a Lisfranc fracture similar to what Kevin Jones suffered from last season. Since they are being so quiet, and LJ vows to return, they may feel that his injury is not going to be that major, but considering that he sits this week against Oakland, the only good match up he has left is week 14 in Denver. After that game, he faces Tennessee for week 15–not helping you much in the playoffs–and then Detroit for most championships in week 16.

It seems unlikely that he will make it back by then–or even make it back in time to not share carries with Kolby Smith on his return, so for fantasy purposes, his season is probably done. Move on, nothing to see here. Just a undisclosed injury trying to keep your fantasy hopes alive. Give up the roster spot and pick up someone with a brighter future ahead unless you are in some kind of crazy keeper league. LJ might play again this year, but probably not best to hold out for it to be your team unless you are stacked at RB.

Week 12 Pick Ups: Still a few turkeys out there

I know it’s a holiday, but it’s also the best time to get a jump on the other teams by grabbing the best players off the waiver wire. If you don’t have any injuries–you must have signed that contract with Satan, but regardless, there is fresh blood and starters running around the NFL.

Here are the people worth taking.

Kolby Smith, RB Kansas City Chiefs
With no LJ and no Priest, Smith will have to carry this team for them to have a prayer.

Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel, RB New England Patriots
The Patriot running backs rotate weekly. With Maroney and Faulk going down with injuries last week, we could see the hand-offs going to Evans or Eckel this week. Keep an eye on the injury rep–wait, it’s the Patriots. Just guess…or play Eckel if you have to pick one to take a chance since he gets most of the garbage carries for TDs. General rule of thumb is not to trust Patriot RBs.

Matt Schaub, QB Houston Texans
If no one has him, you should. Schaub has a hot playoff schedule and his best receiving option–Andre Johnson–back to save his season.

Chris Brown, RB Tennessee Titans
Chris Henry has withdrawn his appeal to serve out a four-game suspension, so Brown will get the majority of the carries outside of LenDale White (which is a pretty small area) this season. He might not be the best play with more teams attacking the Titans run game, but if you need a RB, he might still be out there on the wire.

Ted Ginn, Jr., WR Miami Dolphins
New QB John Beck seems to like throwing to Ginn. If Ginn continues to perform, he might be worth snagging for a late playoff support. Watch how he does this week against a rough Pittsburgh team.

Ronald Curry, Oakland Raiders
Best game of the season in week 11. He could get better…or worse. Watch the QB situation and see if his trend continues upwards.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins
Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. He’s back from “on high” but Cameron is being tight-lipped about what role he will play. He is worth snagging if you have a roster spot and may split carries with Jesse Chatman against the Steelers. You have to think the Dolphins will at least want to show other teams what he can do so that they can deal him at the end of this season, but don’t expect him to be able to do much more than Chatman can with these Dolphins.

Vinny Testaverde, QB Carolina Panthers
This old guy just doesn’t quit. He won the starting job again this week from Carr–not hard–and has a nice match up against the Saints who just let Houston play shooting range on their secondary.

Andre Hall, RB Denver Broncos
It’s Shanny, he has been a fantasy column darling a few times already this year, he scored a long TD on Monday and Selvin Young might still be banged up. There’s your reasoning.

Maybe avoid these…

Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears
Grossman is still the starter. If you have ever won the lottery, take your chance with him, but remember he could always resort back to the bad decision maker he is deep inside–it’s his inner child. He plays the Denver Broncos, and they have some pretty good corners.

Reuben Droughns/Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants
Whoever fills in for Brandon Jacobs will at least be a starting RB, but they play the Vikings. Find a better sub if you got one.

Michael Pittman, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He exists somewhere behind Graham. Carries should increase, and you could bank on Graham getting injured if you are desperate. There are probably better options.

LJ Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles
He’s back and performing like his un-injured self, but his QB Donovan McNabb may be out for quite awhile. LJ might not be feelin’ Feeley and the potential for QB controversy to end the season with Kolb waiting in Eagles’ wings.

Joey Harrington, QB Atlanta Falcons
Yeah, he’s starting. So what? He’s JOEY HARRINGTON. He might lead them to a win, or he might blow it all away.

Have a great turkey day everybody! Enjoy watching Romo, Favre and Manning put on a gunslinger show while gorging yourself. Don’t worry about getting fat, fantasy football prowess will soon become a factor in good looks.