Random ESPN Mock Draft: Results May Vary

Last week, in the process of participating in a mock draft with several other fantasy football writers from the Interwebs, I got stuck inside of a random ESPN draft outside of the one we were using for the official mock draft. After the first couple of picks, which I made as quick reactions since I was simultaneously participating in another draft, I had to set it over to ESPN’s autodraft feature and let it ride. Several of the other drafters had to do the same. Here’s what I ended up with when it was all over.

Starting Lineup
QB Kurt Warner
RB Adrian Peterson
RB Ryan Grant
RB/WR Willie Parker
WR Steve Smith (CAR)
WR Santana Moss
TE Kevin Boss
D/ST Miami Dolphins
K Neil Rackers

Bench
QB Matt Schaub
QB Eli Manning
QB Matt Hasselbeck
RB Marshawn Lynch
RB Fred Taylor
RB Tim Hightower
WR Eddie Royal

First reactions
Wow, ESPN’s autodraft bot is really overreacting to the quarterback injuries from last season. Four quarterbacks? Really? This bot must have drafted Tom Brady last season.

Some huge value and tradebait in having guys like Schaub and Hasselbeck on the bench, but this drafted roster would likely force me into making an early-season trade for some more wide receiver depth.

Speaking of wide receivers, receiver is the one position where I feel this draft was the weakest. Steve Smith is a great foundation, but Santana Moss, even after his stellar run last season, can’t be depended on to produce WR2 numbers. On the bench, I only have Eddie Royal, who may or may not benefit from the change to Kyle Orton at quarterback in Denver. That’s just dangerous.

At running back, Peterson/Grant at running back should be a useful duo. Willie Parker and post-suspension Lynch should also add some punch to the roster if Grant disappoints. Fred Taylor has some spot-duty, emergency running back value, but Hightower is almost a waste of a pick unless he turns into the LenDale White to Chris Wells’ Chris Johnson. I have a feeling Hightower is more likely to become the Brandon Jackson to Chris Wells’ Ryan Grant though.

Tight end could be stronger and so could defense, but for an autodraft, it’s hard to complain about those positions when the overloading of quarterbacks is such an issue.

The full, unabridged mock draft is below with analysis on each round for those of you who are interested. I was drafting under the team name “Power Down” because at the time, I was trying to exit this mock draft … before it started with me still logged into it.

Feel free to share your observations below. The comments are yours.

The Entire Draft

**- Represent my picks

Round: 1
** (1) Power Down – Adrian Peterson RB
(2) The Team To Beat – Chris Johnson RB
(3) Bruno Boys.net – Michael Turner RB
(4) Team McGill – Matt Forte RB
(5) Team Harmelink – Larry Fitzgerald WR
(6) Team hoyos – Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(7) Team g – Andre Johnson WR
(8) Team Hogg – Steven Jackson RB
(9) Team Johnson – LaDainian Tomlinson RB
(10) Team O – Frank Gore RB

I went A.P. with the No. 1 pick because it was easy. Personally, I don’t like the guy, but I’d gladly take him if someone will trade me a Forte or Gore and some parts for him before Game 1 of the season. Someone REALLY likes Chris Johnson and took him as the No. 2. I don’t feel that strongly about him, but he is a worthy first round pick if he’s your guy.

Fitz makes an appearance as the No. 1 wide receiver off the board at the No. 5 pick, which is a little high to go with a WR in my opinion. Andre Johnson went No. 7, which also seems high for a 10-team league. Jackson, Tomlinson and Gore round out the first round as expected.

Round: 2
(11) Team O – DeAngelo Williams RB
(12) Team Johnson – Brandon Jacobs RB
(13) Team Hogg – Drew Brees QB
(14) Team g – Calvin Johnson WR
(15) Team hoyos – Randy Moss WR
(16) Team Harmelink – Steve Slaton RB
(17) Team McGill – Peyton Manning QB
(18) Bruno Boys.net – Clinton Portis RB
(19) The Team To Beat – Tom Brady QB
** (20) Power Down – Ryan Grant RB

The top running back from 2008 kicks off the second round — still too high for my tastes with Jonathan Stewart breathing even closer down his neck this season. The league was operating under standard scoring with 4-point passing touchdowns, so Brees going early second round makes sense. Does the pick of Calvin Johnson over Randy Moss signify some doubt in Tom Brady or just a Detroit fan?

I went with Ryan Grant over Marion Barber to end the round because I believe he’ll be much improved in Aaron Rodgers second season and fully recovered from his groin injury.

Round: 3
** (21) Power Down – Steve Smith WR
(22) The Team To Beat – Marion Barber RB
(23) Bruno Boys.net – Greg Jennings WR
(24) Team McGill – Brian Westbrook RB
(25) Team Harmelink – Roddy White WR
(26) Team hoyos – Reggie Wayne WR
(27) Team g – Kevin Smith RB
(28) Team Hogg – Ronnie Brown RB
(29) Team Johnson – Anquan Boldin WR
(30) Team O – Thomas Jones RB

The autodraft took over at this point and took Steve Smith for me at the top of the third round. I would have liked to take Barber and really lock up my running backs, but hey, the bot thought differently. Taking Barber would have also limited me to receivers like Housh and Roy E. Williams on the next turn.

The general run was on wide receivers by this point. No one really jumps out as being out of place. Look how far Reggie Wayne is falling — lack of confidence in Indy without the coaching staff they have had these past seasons? The Colts lost a little of their fantasy luster when Peyton Manning struggled last year.

Round: 4
(31) Team O – Brandon Marshall WR
(32) Team Johnson – Marques Colston WR
(33) Team Hogg – Terrell Owens WR
(34) Team g – Pierre Thomas RB
(35) Team hoyos – Jason Witten TE
(36) Team Harmelink – Jonathan Stewart RB
(37) Team McGill – Wes Welker WR
(38) Bruno Boys.net – Dwayne Bowe WR
(39) The Team To Beat – Derrick Ward RB
** (40) Power Down – Marshawn Lynch RB

Brandon Marshall before Colston? Do people remember that Kyle Orton is now the quarterback in Denver? Terrell Owens apparently has no doubters either as he goes off the board among the second/third tier despite being in Buffalo and competing for catches with Lee Evans.

Notice that not just Pierre Thomas but also Jonathan Stewart, Derrick Ward and Marshawn Lynch are coming off the board before Reggie Bush. Round 4 is still too rich for a tight end in my mind, but if you want to get Witten, you might have to go there.

Round: 5
** (41) Power Down – Kurt Warner QB
(42) The Team To Beat – T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR
(43) Bruno Boys.net – Philip Rivers QB
(44) Team McGill – Reggie Bush RB
(45) Team Harmelink – Tony Romo QB
(46) Team hoyos – Aaron Rodgers QB
(47) Team g – Matt Ryan QB
(48) Team Hogg – Roy E. Williams WR
(49) Team Johnson – Darren McFadden RB
(50) Team O – Tony Gonzalez TE

Kurt Warner in the fifth round? I’ll take it. (I guess my bot isn’t so confident with this decision judging from the number of backup QBs he drafted for me after this pick.) Housh would have been a solid pick here now that he’s the No. 1 guy in Seattle.

Romo’s going in the fifth as well and before Aaron Rodgers, closely followed by his main target, Roy E. Williams.

Round: 6
(51) Team O – Braylon Edwards WR
(52) Team Johnson – Larry Johnson RB
(53) Team Hogg – Joseph Addai RB
(54) Team g – Chad Ochocinco WR
(55) Team hoyos – LenDale White RB
(56) Team Harmelink – Vincent Jackson WR
(57) Team McGill – Antonio Gates TE
(58) Bruno Boys.net – Antonio Bryant WR
(59) The Team To Beat – Dallas Clark TE
** (60) Power Down – Willie Parker RB

Parker and Addai were first round picks at one point. I’d take Addai as late as you can have him this season. Donald Brown doesn’t scare me off of a guy who gets to score touchdowns for Peyton Manning and has starting duties.

Willie Parker, while recovering this offseason, is still going to work hard for the Steelers. I don’t think he’ll lose his starting job in training camp to any of the other backs, and one should never forget that the Steelers like to run.

Round: 7
** (61) Power Down – Matt Schaub QB
(62) The Team To Beat – DeSean Jackson WR
(63) Bruno Boys.net – Knowshon Moreno RB
(64) Team McGill – Jamal Lewis RB
(65) Team Harmelink – Greg Olsen TE
(66) Team hoyos – Bernard Berrian WR
(67) Team g – Kellen Winslow TE
(68) Team Hogg – Donovan McNabb QB
(69) Team Johnson – Matt Cassel QB
(70) Team O – Lee Evans WR

Schaub is a great backup this season and a borderline starter, so I don’t mind getting him on the turn into the seventh round.

Apparently, the move to Tampa Bay hasn’t scared enough people away from Kellen Winslow for him to fall much from last year’s draft stock.

Round: 8
(71) Team O – Le’Ron McClain RB
(72) Team Johnson – Owen Daniels TE
(73) Team Hogg – Ahmad Bradshaw RB
(74) Team g – Darren Sproles RB
(75) Team hoyos – Kevin Walter WR
(76) Team Harmelink – Hines Ward WR
(77) Team McGill – Jay Cutler QB
(78) Bruno Boys.net – Anthony Gonzalez WR
(79) The Team To Beat – Steelers D/ST D/ST
** (80) Power Down – Santana Moss WR

Consider Kevin Walter noticed. He goes off the board before Ward, Gonzalez and Moss. People always think Houston is bound to have a big year because they finish every season strong. Will this year be the season they finally keep it together?

Santana Moss is a sketchy WR2, so I’d like to have more depth at receiver behind him. The bot thinks differently.

Round: 9
** (81) Power Down – Eddie Royal WR
(82) The Team To Beat – Ted Ginn Jr. WR
(83) Bruno Boys.net – Chris Wells RB
(84) Team McGill – Jerricho Cotchery WR
(85) Team Harmelink – Cedric Benson RB
(86) Team hoyos – Giants D/ST D/ST
(87) Team g – Santonio Holmes WR
(88) Team Hogg – Chris Cooley TE
(89) Team Johnson – Ben Roethlisberger QB
(90) Team O – Willis McGahee RB

Eddie Royal seems like a silly pick by the bot with Holmes still on the board. I don’t love Holmes, but it’s not like Royal’s going to have the chance to reproduce the same numbers with Cutler now in Chicago. Royal’s not terrible, but he’s not going to be the same guy as last season.

The Giants defense goes off the board in the ninth round, even though they weren’t a great fantasy defense last season. I’m not sure they’ll be too great this year either playing tough teams like the Cowboys and Eagles with their star defensive coordinator coaching in St. Louis.

Willis McGahee’s obviously not the starter in Baltimore anymore, so I’m surprised to see him go here rather than three rounds later when someone will finally take Ray Rice, who I’d definitely take a chance on this season considering how much Baltimore runs.

Round: 10
(91) Team O – Carson Palmer QB
(92) Team Johnson – Donald Driver WR
(93) Team Hogg – Earnest Graham RB
(94) Team g – Torry Holt WR
(95) Team hoyos – Donald Brown RB
(96) Team Harmelink – Laveranues Coles WR
(97) Team McGill – Felix Jones RB
(98) Bruno Boys.net – John Carlson TE
(99) The Team To Beat – Lance Moore WR
** (100) Power Down – Fred Taylor RB

I have to hope that the bot was going to get me Lance Moore before he went off the board one pick earlier. Everyone will forget the Lance Moores and Kevin Walters of the world in the draft this year. Make sure you don’t. Fred Taylor is a decent backup, but I hate to draft any players in New England’s backfield.

Carson Palmer in the tenth round could be a huge steal if he ends up returning to glory this season.

Round: 11
** (101) Power Down – Eli Manning QB
(102) The Team To Beat – Ravens D/ST D/ST
(103) Bruno Boys.net – Kyle Orton QB
(104) Team McGill – Titans D/ST D/ST
(105) Team Harmelink – Michael Crabtree WR
(106) Team hoyos – Fred Jackson RB
(107) Team g – Julius Jones RB
(108) Team Hogg – Steve Breaston WR
(109) Team Johnson – Derrick Mason WR
(110) Team O – Donnie Avery WR

Eli Manning? Was that really necessary Mr. ESPN bot? I would have much rather had Devin Hester, Derrick Mason (if he doesn’t retire after all) or even Julius Jones. Apparently, I have met my quota for running backs and wide receivers for now though.

Some great upside bargains at receiver in this round as some people start to look at defense early. Orton as a backup quarterback is a sneaky pick. He may not be as flashy as Cutler, but he could be more efficient.

Round: 12
(111) Team O – Devin Hester WR
(112) Team Johnson – Chester Taylor RB
(113) Team Hogg – Zach Miller TE
(114) Team g – David Garrard QB
(115) Team hoyos – Sammy Morris RB
(116) Team Harmelink – LeSean McCoy RB
(117) Team McGill – Domenik Hixon WR
(118) Bruno Boys.net – Ray Rice RB
(119) The Team To Beat – Percy Harvin WR
** (120) Power Down – Tim Hightower RB

I think Hightower could end up going undrafted in many drafts, so I’m not too happy with the bot making this one for me. All the tight ends with good upside have jumped off the board here now that Zach Miller is gone, which leaves me with slim pickings late in the draft.

Look at how late David Garrard finally goes off the board. The guy had a Swiss cheese line last season and still surprised people with his finish among the top 12. This year he has Torry Holt and some other new blood at receiver. Anyone think we may be selling him a little short?

Round: 13
** (121) Power Down – Matt Hasselbeck QB
(122) The Team To Beat – Stephen Gostkowski K
(123) Bruno Boys.net – Vikings D/ST D/ST
(124) Team McGill – Chris Chambers WR
(125) Team Harmelink – Bobby Engram WR
(126) Team hoyos – Leon Washington RB
(127) Team g – Eagles D/ST D/ST
(128) Team Hogg – Kevin Curtis WR
(129) Team Johnson – Patrick Crayton WR
(130) Team O – Rashard Mendenhall RB

Hey bot, how bout another quarterback? Sure, buddy. No problem … *sigh* So unnecessary.

Do you really need the best kicker in fantasy? No, they all work. Someone out there wants to make sure they don’t miss getting the top one. It’s worth considering that if New England turns back into the touchdown pinball machine they were in 2007, Gostkowski will be a glorified extra point machine.

Chris Chambers might be the steal of this round if he can still contribute in San Diego. He had to go down last season before Vincent Jackson finally emerged.

Round: 14
(131) Team O – Ricky Williams RB
(132) Team Johnson – Trent Edwards QB
(133) Team Hogg – Jerious Norwood RB
(134) Team g – Jets D/ST D/ST
(135) Team hoyos – Michael Bush RB
(136) Team Harmelink – Muhsin Muhammad WR
(137) Team McGill – Justin Gage WR
(138) Bruno Boys.net – Mark Clayton WR
(139) The Team To Beat – Dustin Keller TE
** (140) Power Down – Dolphins D/ST D/ST

Mostly backups and upside in this round. I like Trent Edwards this late and Norwood. Mark Clayton is the starter in Baltimore if Derrick Mason does retire. Keller could increase his stock this season if he becomes a security blanket for Mark Sanchez.

And look at the clever bot, snagging the Miami defense. At least I can agree that they come at a good price in this round.

Round: 15
** (141) Power Down – Kevin Boss TE
(142) The Team To Beat – Jake Delhomme QB
(143) Bruno Boys.net – Tony Scheffler TE
(144) Team McGill – Laurence Maroney RB
(145) Team Harmelink – Panthers D/ST D/ST
(146) Team hoyos – Nate Kaeding K
(147) Team g – Patriots D/ST D/ST
(148) Team Hogg – Ryan Longwell K
(149) Team Johnson – David Akers K
(150) Team O – Mason Crosby K

It’s kicker time … so my bot takes a tight end at last.

Delhomme gets no respect these days. Scheffler gets even less. For all the hurt that Josh McDaniels has brought to Denver, the Broncos still have plenty of nice things to say about one of the most underrated pass-catching tight ends in the game. (Yes, I would rather have him than Kevin Boss.)

If Maroney does anything, I guess his selection in this round is a good deal, but I find it hard to believe that he’ll live up to expectations this season with Brady back under center.

Round: 16
(151) Team O – Redskins D/ST D/ST
(152) Team Johnson – Bears D/ST D/ST
(153) Team Hogg – Packers D/ST D/ST
(154) Team g – Jason Elam K
(155) Team hoyos – Joey Galloway WR
(156) Team Harmelink – Rob Bironas K
(157) Team McGill – John Kasay K
(158) Bruno Boys.net – Nick Folk K
(159) The Team To Beat – Shaun Hill QB
** (160) Power Down – Neil Rackers K

Packers and Bears defense in the final round? Not too shabby. We know Green Bay is rebuilding, but they have some of the key parts in place to do good things if they grip the system.

Remember how high Donte Stallworth was drafted when he was a Patriot. Look at Joey Galloway. He’s the No. 2 receiver in New England — with Wes Welker playing the slot — and he may do great things flying down the side of the field across from Randy Moss. He’s a little less likely to disappear than Donte Stallworth was and an interesting last-round selection.

Shaun Hill brought some life back to San Francisco when he came under center. Getting him in the last round is a daring way to backup your quarterback, but he’s not a terrible bye week fill. Just hope Alex Smith doesn’t return from the great beyond to take his job back.

Of course, my bot hooks me up with Neil Rackers. Thanks, bud.

Jay Cutler traded to Chicago Bears for Neckbeard. Set your Broncos free.

Jay Cutler is now on his way to The Windy City. For first-round picks in both 2009 and 2010, a third-round pick in 2009 and Kyle Orton — founder and president of the Neckbeard for Men Club, which just so happens to be moving its headquarters to Denver this summer — the Chicago Bears have acquired a Pro Bowl quarterback and an additional fifth-round pick in 2009.

Da Bears

While it’s certainly better than Detroit might have been for the promising young quarterback, this trade leaves Cutler’s status a little iffy. Other than Greg Olsen and the project that is Devin Hester, the Bears don’t offer a lot of talented receivers up as targets. Without Marty Booker, it’s hard to even rely on guys like Rashied Davis for a good circus catch.

Luckily, Jay Cutler’s arm happens to be bionic and stronger than three of John Elway’s arms acting in sync. It’s hard to doubt that he can make something out of the Bears with his arm and his legs, and he’s sure to bring the passing game up a notch across the board — lucky you, Hester and Olsen owners.

Matt Forte could certainly use a boost in the passing game to take the pressure off of him out of the box, but he could fade a bit in his production now that the Bears aren’t constantly feeding him the ball. This new offense is one you’ll want to watch come preseason because there’s no telling what Chicago will do now that they have a quarterback — and not a Rex Grossman. I’d still like Forte as a borderline RB1/RB2, but that could change.

Busted Broncos

As I tweeted earlier — excuse me — you can mark your calendars today as the day the Broncos started a downward slide. Brandon Marshall could soon potentially face another suspension for his continued off-the-field issues; Josh McDaniels is going to try to establish a new offense while running a season of The Apprentice to decide who’s going to carry the ball between J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain, Selvin Young and Andre Hall; but at least they have a savior in their new quarterback, Kyle Orton…

Orton is an extreme downgrade. Despite his phenom run last year — during which, he was keeping pace with Peyton Manning in the fantasy points department — he’s an inconsistent signal caller. He limits what the Broncos can do through the air and takes Brandon Marshall down a notch whenever Marshall does get a chance to return to the field.

Eddie Royal, sadly, might drop off the radar entirely unless Marshall is out for a prolonged period of time. It would seem that, at least in the short term, Josh McDaniels is content running the ball with 67 different running backs, so it’s hard to rely on him to keep the passing game up to the level it was at last season. Don’t even start looking to the tight ends. Tony Scheffler could be out of Denver sooner rather than later, and then it all goes to this very scary place where Daniel Graham might be the only one of the field.

In short, maybe it’s time you let your Broncos go. Orton’s worth a chance in 2009 just because of the talent around him — and his relative bargain value as a quarterback. Marshall can’t be passed on even with his potential problems, which could make him a value pick in 2009 anyway. But there’s no telling which running back emerges as the best option, and Eddie Royal could be decent or completely invisible in 2009.

Mark your calendars and thank Josh McDaniels. Today, the Broncos blew apart their fantasy goodness…just when I thought they had so much promise. Does anyone feel good about this new Broncos team?

Mark Schlereth, please explain how this happened.

On the Wire: Week 16 Pickups and Playoff One-offs

If you’re still playing fantasy football, your roster should be locked up pretty tight. Why are you even reading this article?

For the sake of those of you with injuries and/or in need of a weekly sub to blow away your heavily favored opponent, I guess I can still give you a few names that might be out there on your wire if your league is just very, very silly.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints
Obviously, he should be owned in all leagues by now, especially after posting his high score last week, but he’s worth mentioning since he plays the Lions this week.

Make sure he’s not sitting on the wire when you go into your games tonight. Do it for me, okay? For me.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s gotten back on the wagon these last few weeks and done some damage. Can you trust him in the playoffs? I think he might be worth a spot fill here or there when you need him, but it’s very likely you can do better, Mr. Playoffs. Cadillac benefits a bit because he plays two teams who are done for the season these next two weeks, the Chargers and the Raiders.

If you’re in the kind of keeper league that only requires you to rank waiver wire grabs as a 10th round or later selections, it might also be a sneaky play to snag Caddy in anticipation of his role next season. Fully healthy, Cadillac should reclaim the starting role from Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers
Foster is only a factor if Frank Gore sits again this week, but how nice would it be to have a running back going against the Rams?

He might trump your starter if you have someone like Marion Barber, banged up and facing a rough Baltimore defense.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts
I don’t love him this week with Joseph Addai likely to return against Jacksonville on Thursday night, but he’s definitely the preferred back for the scoring. The Colts, they like the scoring.

P.J. Pope, RB Denver Broncos
Shanahan strikes again! [Evil laugh] I wouldn’t want to touch Pope this week, but you might pick him up just for the sake of preventing your opponent taking a chance with him … and beating you.

Pope does play the Bills, who are pretty much done for the season now, and almost any back can productive when defenses have to focus on stopping Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Jay Cutler.

Note that since I didn’t mention him, Tatum Bell will dominate as the leading rusher on Sunday while Pope gets only a handful of carries — such is the Broncos backfield.

Tarvaris Jackson, QB Minnesota Vikings
So here’s the deal. Tarvaris came back on the scene last week as a suspect play against the Cardinals and absolutely blew the game out of the water with four touchdowns. Not a lot of yardage on the day, but really, you should quit complaining.

This week, the little project quarterback that could faces the Atlanta Falcons, who are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. Even with a weak secondary, the Falcons are probably going to step up to stop Jackson, but there’s always a chance…

Matt Schaub, QB Houston Texans
For a good while there, he was hurt. How many 300-yard games must he have before you take notice?

If Schaub is on your waiver wire, you need to have him on a roster. He gets the Raiders this week with the potential for rain, but if the skies are clear, Schaub could fill them with passes just as Matt Cassel did in Week 15 against the Raiders.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
Second only to picking up a running back that plays the Rams is grabbing yourself a quarterback that plays the Rams.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
Did everyone in your league give up on him during that stretch of worthlessness? He’s been pretty productive lately since Kyle Orton’s return, so I wouldn’t call you names for playing him this week against the Packers. No, really, I promise.

He might be better than the guy you’ve been starting at WR2 or WR3 like an unreliable Lee Evans.

Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks
Branch is another pickup/drop guy that’s been on and off teams all season.

If you find him “off” and in the free agent pool at the moment, you might want to at least plant him on a roster this weekend so that he doesn’t help your opponent’s team with some yardage or, heaven forbid, a score against the Jets.

For all other issues of replacement or swaps, ask and ye shall receive (in the comments).

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

You’re obviously starting your studs at this point. For many of you, it’s the playoffs. For others, it’s the last week before the playoffs (and you should hate that your championship game is in Week 17, where anything goes).

This week, whether you are in the playoffs are about to be, is a critical one. For the sake of consistent production, you’ll want to go with the guys that have been making your team a winner all season. The last thing you want to do is get beaten because you went out on a limb with your latest waiver wire claim.

As such, I’m not going to give you the normal start or sit list Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders. Instead, we’ll talk through some notes and concerns on players that you might be thinking about starting.

QUARTERBACKS

It’s a great week for quarterbacks, but you should be worried about Shaun Hill and Brett Favre. I think the Jets could easily win this game on the ground with Thomas Jones and that phenom run-blocking line. Favre will not have to do much at all, but I’d still start him if he is your top quarterback.

Hill, on the other hand, is a risky start because the Jets could very easily break the 49ers, and while Hill will be throwing all day, he might not have much success. I’d probably still start Hill over Favre.

Matt Cassel, even after his terrible Week 13, is a good start against Seattle. The Seahawks just aren’t good at stopping anything through the air, which is ironic I guess when you consider that they’re hawks. Despite his also dreadful performance, I’d also give Kyle Orton the nod but not over a Tony Romo or Tyler Thigpen. I’d give even Donovan McNabb the slight nod ahead of Kyle Orton simply because I think he’s on a hot streak and should fight hard against the Giants even if he doesn’t find success.

RUNNING BACKS

I’m very afraid of Tim Hightower this week despite the Golden Boy matchup against the Rams. This game could be the Kurt Warner show — and I expect it to be — so I don’t like the chances for Hightower, who’s been losing touches at the goal line to J.J. Arrington.

I also don’t really like DeAngelo Williams. He didn’t blow up against the Bucs last time he played them, and despite the fact that he was on a roll, with a lot of ground to makeup in the NFC South, Tampa Bay should come to play. I doubt many people have Williams as one of their top two backs this season since he was typically drafted around the middle and even below Jonathan Stewart.

Warrick Dunn makes me a little nervous in this one against the Panthers as well, but I’d start him before I started Williams. Don’t get me wrong. Williams is a chance I would take, but I don’t love him this week.

I do love love love Steve Slaton and Matt Forte, and I’m cautious about Marshawn Lynch. He has flashes of brilliance, but I think Lee Evans will be a larger factor in the Bills winning this game than Marshawn.

WIDE RECEIVERS

I would worry about Bernard Berrian because, regardless of the strong matchup, will the Vikings even bother to get him a score when Adrian Peterson can probably get four touchdowns in the first half?

I hate the fact that I traded Eddie Royal in a package for Brandon Marshall. I like Royal’s chances to outperform Baby T.O. In all fairness, Cutler, get back to sending the ball to Marshall and only Marshall.

Speaking of T.O., Terrell Owens could be a game changer this week, or he could be totally taken out of the game by the Steelers’ secondary. You have to start him regardless, but you can sit him if you have a gem of a matchup play. For example, I’d sit T.O. for Eddie Royal.

I’d tag Lee Evans as a must start this week with his history against Miami. Maybe he’ll actually get a score this time around with J.P. Losman going deep.

I love me some Lance Moore, even though I was slow to warm up to him this year while Colston was injured.

Mark Clayton, who seems to have turned in on late, is a daring choice to start if you are in a must-win playoff game. I don’t know how Joe Flacco keeps doing it, but I’d be nervous that Clayton falls off against a Washington secondary that has seen him come up big the past two weeks. Do you dare? I wouldn’t.

TIGHT ENDS

Start your stud, but my not-so-sleepy sleeper for this week would be Steve Heiden. Ken Dorsey could easily make him a stud in a tough matchup against the Titans, and I’m starting Heiden myself.

Good luck in your playoffs this week, and my apologies to anyone with a Week 17 championship. That hurts.

A Fool and His Money in Week 13

While your fantasy season might be coming to an end, there are still plenty of spreads to be picked. Here’s how it’s going down this week…

Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions

Fools Take: Titans (-10.5) over LIONS

Nick says: How about a round of applause for the Tennessee Titans? Nobody expected an undefeated season, and it was a good run while it lasted. I made more money than I lost on the Titans, and I thank them for that. I’m rooting for them the rest of the way, even if I won’t be betting on them anymore. Hopefully, they get back to running the ball this week.

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

Fools Take: Seahawks (+13) over COWBOYS

Nick says: Yes, I’m a hater. I don’t expect the Seahawks to win, but I’m hoping they keep it within two touchdowns.

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles

Fools Take: Cardinals (+3) over EAGLES $

Nick says: Let me get this right. The Eagles play horribly, bench their starter, give him back his job and are now favored this week against a playoff bound team? Do people really believe in McNabb that much? I don’t think so. I’ll be taking the Cardinals straight up in this one.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

Fools Take: Ravens (-7) over BENGALS $

Nick says: I’m really enjoying the Ravens right now. They are destroying the spreads. Their defense doesn’t let opposing teams score garbage points in garbage time.

Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns

Fools Take: Colts (-5) over BROWNS

Nick says: I refuse to ever pick the Browns. That doesn’t really matter here since common sense would tell you that the Colts are going to spank the Browns.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins

Fools Take: Giants (-3.5) over REDSKINS $

Nick says: Another no-brainer. The Redskins have been struggling as of late and the Giants are just steamrolling their way through the NFC.

San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills

Fools Take: BILLS (-7) over 49ers

Nick says: Did the Bills find the spark they needed last week? Maybe. This spread is more of a pick against the 49ers than a pick for the Bills. The 49ers had a chance to show me something last week, and instead, they got exposed.

Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers

Fools Take: Falcons (+5) over CHARGERS

Nick says: I have officially let go of my expectations for the Chargers. They are no longer elite and don’t deserve to go to the playoffs. The Falcons keep getting it done. They are at least worthy of a pick with some points.

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders

Fools Take: RAIDERS (-3) over Chiefs

Nick says: No one cares about this game. I’m sorry I wasted your time even writing this line down.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

Fools Take: Steelers (+1.5) over PATRIOTS

Nick says: I like the new Patriots, but I’m not ready to put them as favorites against a proven contender this year.

New York Jets at Denver Broncos

Fools Take: JETS (-8) over Broncos $

Nick says: I hate the Broncos. They just keep sucking right when you think they might be turning a corner. It’s tough not to love the Jets at home in this one after they dismantled the Titans and after the Raiders dismantled the Broncos.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Fools Take: VIKINGS (-3.5) over Bears

Nick says: I don’t know what it is, but the Bears seem to have lost that midseason spark they had going. Orton’s injury ruined the rhythm and momentum of the offense. Has anyone seen Devin Hester this season?

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

Fools Take: TEXANS (-3.5) over Jaguars

Nick says: Possibly the worst Monday night game of the year. I’m going with the Texans, but there is a sincere note of apathy in this pick. The Texans were at least fun to watch when Matt Schaub was running the show. Sage just doesn’t get it going for me. Ed. Note: It’s the helicopter, isn’t it?

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fools Take: BUCS (-3.5) over Saints

Nick says: The Saints had a good game against the Packers, but I don’t expect it to carry over to an away game. The Bucs need to win this type of game to prove they are a legit contender in the NFC.

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers

Fools Take: PACKERS (-3) over Panthers

Nick says: Jake Delhomme has struggled some this year. The Packers secondary is one of the best in the league, and I expect them to rebound from their poor performance in New Orleans last week. I think this game comes down to Delhomme versus Aaron Rodgers, and I like Rodgers at home.

Miami Dolphins at St. Louis Rams

Fools Take: Dolphins (-8) over RAMS

Nick says: I was hoping this line would be a touchdown or less, but I still like Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown to run wild in this game. The Rams have done nothing this season outside of two mysterious weeks.

Last Week:

Nick: 9-6-1

Current Standings after Week 12:

Nick: 90-79-3
Nick’s Locks: 5-3

Week 12 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I don’t even know why I am awake right now at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’m awake right now because I am infused with truck stop coffee, the kind of coffee that fills you with enough energy to punch a wall with your head … twice.

Needless to say, it’s been an eventful weekend, but more on that later. For now, let’s talk sit/start very quickly before I pass out to sleep.

It looks like a cold week for Brian Westbrook. Banged up and facing Baltimore, I am benching him this week for a matchup play with Jonathan Stewart.

I’d seriously consider all other options to sub in for your Eagles players this week. Coming off a beating by the Giants, the Baltimore defense could look to put a hurting on the Eagles early and often.

I like all the Bears this week, especially Orton and Forte as they find themselves getting back on track against a terrible Rams defense.

If Jamal Lewis is going to have a 100-yard game, this week is probably the one where he’ll do it.

I wouldn’t start a single Lion besides Calvin Johnson, but what else is new?

Lee Evans is a bubble start this week with Trent Edwards playing terrible and scared, but I think he’s worth starting with the chance he might rebound this week after last week’s scoreless effort.

I don’t think Ronnie Brown is going to Wildcat all over the Patriots’ faces this week, but he’s not as bad of a play as many think. If Thomas Jones can get 100+ yards against the Pats, I’ll bet Brown/Ricky Williams have a shot to do it as well.

Eddie Royal is a great play this week as the No. 2 versus Oakland, but I still like Brandon Marshall to make some things happen as well with his size.

Start your Colts from now until the end of the season. The schedule only gets easier, and this week, Peyton Manning faces a quarterback’s best friend, the San Diego Chargers.

And now, I … must … sleep.

A Fool and His Money in Week 12

We haven’t had a lot of fancy talk here at the top of “A Fool and His Money” these last few weeks, but that’s because, just like any NFL franchise, we focus during this part of the season. The games start to matter more, and we’re ready to get down to business.

Let’s not waste any time.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

Fools Take: STEELERS (-10.5) over Bengals

Nick says: Did the Bengals defense really hold the Eagles to 13 points in five quarters? The Steelers will win this game, and I’m guessing Cincinnati can’t even keep it close without Ocho Cinco in the lineup.

San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys

Fools Take: 49ers (+11) over COWBOYS

Nick says: Everything is hunky-dory now that Tony Romo is back in town, right? I’m not convinced he is the answer to all their problems. I expect a fired up San Francisco team to give the Cowboys all they can handle.

Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens

Fools Take: RAVENS (-1.5) over Eagles

Nick says: Neither of these teams looked impressive at all last week, and a 1.5 line means it’s virtually a toss up since the NFL doesn’t allow ties. Isn’t that right, Donovan McNabb? I like Ray Lewis and the Ravens to rebound at home against Andy Reid and company.

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans

Fools Take: TITANS (-5.5) over Jets

Nick says: The Titans just keep getting it done. I think this might be the game in which the cookie crumbles though. The Jets have a solid defense, good running game and a QB who can occasionally catch fire and go into another zone altogether. I would definitely understand if people put some money on the Jets to win this one, but I’m sticking with the Titans until they lose. Like I said before, they just keep getting it done.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Fools Take: CHIEFS (+3) over Bills

Nick says: Buffalo has lost four in a row and are, all of a sudden, .500. The Chiefs have been playing teams close lately, but they still only have one win on their record to show for it. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I like the Chiefs to win this one straight up.

Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars

Fools Take: Vikings (+2.5) over JAGS

Nick says: It appears there are no in-between spreads this week. All the spreads are either a field goal or more than eight points. That doesn’t make this very easy. My gut says to go with the Vikings, and the fact that I’m getting a few points just confirms what I think.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Fools Take: Patriots (+2) over DOLPHINS $

Nick says: If there is one thing I’ve learned about Belichick, it’s that he is a vindictive S.O.B. I would not be surprised if Matt Walsh wakes up one day with the head of a horse in his bed. Belichick definitely did not enjoy being embarrassed by the Dolphins and will look to return the favor this week down in Miami. If Cassel continues playing with confidence, watch out.

Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams

Fools Take: Bears (-8.5) over RAMS $

Nick says: Kyle Orton played last week, but he was not the Kyle Orton that we saw pre-injury. I picked up Robbie Gould last week for my fantasy team, and his lousy three points cost me the game. I can’t imagine the Bears not being able to easily beat the Rams though, especially with Steven Jackson out another week.

Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns

Fools Take: Texans (+3) over BROWNS

Nick says: I don’t care how bad Sage Rosenfels or this line is. I refuse to pick the Browns with Blumpkin Quinn leading their team. I know Steve Slaton is already overachieving, but if he could just step it up a little more this week, I would appreciate it. Thanks, Steve.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions

Fools Take: Bucs (-9) over LIONS

Nick says: I guess I need to face the facts eventually that the Bucs are a legit team. I’ll give them a shot this week against lowly Detroit. Don’t make me regret it, Jeff Garcia.

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Fools Take: BRONCOS (-9.5) over Raiders

Nick says: By now, everybody should know my feelings towards the Raiders. They are capable of covering spreads, just not on the road.

Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: SEAHAWKS (+3.5) over Redskins
Nick Takes: Redskins (-3.5) over SEAHAWKS

In taking the Redskins, Nick says: This matchup is one game that could get the Redskins back on track or reignite the Seattle Seahawks out of the puddle of misery they’ve been wallowing in lately. Both teams need this game. Unfortunately, I think the Redskins are more talented, and the twelfth man in Seattle is no longer what it used to be.

New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals

Fools Take: Giants (-3.5) over CARDINALS

Nick says: Quick, what is the Giants’ record this year? The answer is 9-1. That answer means the Giants are a pretty good football team. The Cardinals have not beaten a team with a record better than 6-4. The Cardinals may be good at beating the teams they are supposed to beat, but they have yet to beat a true playoff contender. They are going to have to prove it to me before they get a real vote of confidence. At least the game is in Arizona.

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Panthers (+1) over FALCONS
Nick Takes: FALCONS (-1) over Panthers

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

Fools Take: Colts (-3) over CHARGERS

Nick says: What happened to the Chargers this year? If the Chiefs had completed their two-point conversion two weeks ago, this team would be 3-7. Instead, they are in the weakest division in football and still have a chance to make the playoffs. They need this win to keep the dream alive, but the only problem is that Peyton Manning has started to heat up at the right time of the season. If we are lucky, we might get a few new commercials by the time the Super Bowl comes around.

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints

Fools Take: Packers (+2.5) over SAINTS $

Nick says: I thought last week was a statement game by the Packers. They destroyed the Bears. I like this team a lot more now that Ryan Grant is getting it going again.

Last Week:

Nick: 5-11 (Ouch!)

Current Standings after Week 11:

Nick: 81-73-2
Nick’s Locks: 3-2

Foolish Thoughts on Week 9: Cowboys in trouble, Raiders miss Kiffin and every bad start has his day

Foolish Thoughts is the weekly column of Jacob Sloan, Fantasy Football Fools’ editor-in-chief, that recaps significant news, notes and performances from the weekend of fantasy football and what it all means for fantasy owners. Foolish Thoughts goes live on Tuesdays at FantasyFootballFools.com and is now available with half the fat.

A Cowboys fan lives above me.

I know this because every interception the Cowboys QB-of-the-moment threw and even T.O.’s fumble was followed by a very angry stomping and a firm bang on a table. My digital TV signal on the game must have been just behind his broadcast, and it provided just a bit of companionship while I watched the Giants trounce my homeboys on Sunday.

It was almost better knowing to look away every time I heard the banging begin.

The Cowboys are just bad right now, but if you own a piece of the Dallas fantasy powerhouse, don’t go trading them away at bargain basement prices just yet.

For kicks, do you remember when everyone was suggesting you get a piece of the Cowboys after Tom Brady went down in Week 1? I bet you wish you had auctioned them off in a trade offer then.

Sorry, I had to bring it up.

The Cowboys have a bye week to work things out, but don’t expect your same old Cowboys to come out in Week 11. The offense is out-of-sync, and some of the blame goes to the offensive line that isn’t holding up to their big-wall-of-man-meat pedigree.

Tony Romo will be back at QB, but those offensive line problems are only minimized by Romo’s ability to get outside of the pocket and make a play. The line will still have to step up against the Steelers and the Giants later this season for Romo to have a chance at keeping the Cowboys in it.

If you want to be optimistic, Dallas has a good chance to be productive on offense after their bye. The Cowboys should have Roy Williams fully installed in the offense by Week 11, and his threat on the opposite side should free up Terrell Owens and make them both productive enough to start.

Just keep in mind that they’ll probably have good games like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin have good games — one gets 100 yards while the other gets two touchdowns.

Marion Barber will continue to be “The Barbarian,” and Jason Witten should heal up enough to work the middle routes.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the Cowboys defense won’t stop anything — at least for fantasy owners.

I am much less hopeful about the Raiders.

The Lane Kiffin firing has knocked the wind out of them, and Justin Fargas lacks that extra step he had last season. I never understood their reasoning in keeping Fargas by extending his contract this offseason, but then again, who understands Al Davis?

One of the top rushing offenses in football last season couldn’t even get 100 yards against an up-and-coming Atlanta defense that’s been torched on the ground and ranks better than just ten teams against the run (22 of 32). I think it’s only because I had to play against a team that started the Falcons D/ST this week. I like to think positive like that — you know, glass half full.

The Raiders just don’t know what they’re doing anymore, and the only player that might still have a few stud games left in him, Darren McFadden, is too banged up to see the field.

I’d keep Fargas and McFadden for depth, but I think I’d boot any other Raider not named Zach Miller from my fantasy team until they show signs of life.

Apparently, there were angels in the end zone all over the NFL in Week 9.

The Lions held onto a lead…until it mattered. The Chiefs pushed a good defense into an overtime shootout…but lost. But after a long wait, the Bengals won the lottery by hitting Jacksonville on a bad day.

Going into the late game Sunday, Tyler Thigpen was the fantasy scoring leader. That makes me sicker than Kyle Orton looking as good as Peyton Manning this season.

Thigpen was accompanied by surprise performances from Cedric Benson, Chad Johnson,   Jamaal Charles, Brent Celek, Dan Orlovsky, Ray Rice, Michael Jenkins and Kevin Smith. (You’ll probably see some of those names in the Dude… Awards for this week.)

When bad teams do well, a lot of bad starts suddenly burst out on the scene. It really is true that every dog has his day…unless you’re talking about the Browns.

Is Ocho Cinco back? I doubt it. Every year, he has a big day and follows it up with a bunch of stinkers. I’d trade him for someone more trustworthy now if anyone wants to ride that crazy, publicity-crazed wave.

Ray Rice, while he’s only seen limited action, could be the next big thing if McGahee stays out for any length of time. Cam Cameron could make me into a Pro Bowl rusher. Just give him a whole preseason to work with me…and give me a stunt double.

Surprising owners by not sucking is timeless

Both Derrick Mason and Donald Driver went for 130+ and a score despite all the doubters this week. You don’t have to be young to have moves. Torry Holt even (sort of) reclaimed the top spot in St. Louis from Donnie Avery by getting a TD this week.

Mason’s a good WR3 start every week, especially in PPR, as long as Joe Flacco keeps throwing everything in his direction.

How many people got burned by Willis McGahee?

I did. In TWO leagues, and I was only able to overcome it in one.

Anytime you dress a player and say you expect him to play, you must put him into the game for at least one carry. That’s fantasy law. You hear me, Harbaugh?

And for the record…

ESPN’s projections for my fantasy team were definitely a little overzealous. Granted, we couldn’t have seen how the games were going to go down this week, but for being the No. 1 projected player in fantasy, Lee Evans underperformed with only three points.

And because I like to dream…

Tennessee Titans in the ‘Wildcat’ offense. Think about it.

Snap the ball to Chris Johnson with LenDale White in the backfield and Vince Young split out as wide receiver. The defense would not be able to stop that, AND as an added bonus, I could stand to watch Titans games.

Kerry Collins is just too boring as a game manager when he’s not drinking. The ‘Wildcat’ style of offense is a package that Vince Young could rock. Young and Johnson running a reverse would be hard enough to follow, and if the Titans had any kind of a deep threat receiver, teams wouldn’t be able to spy them all day.

So what do you think, ‘Wildcat’ in Tennessee? Or is Fisher saving that for the Super Bowl?

The Colts will make the playoffs. Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai can get them there as long as 10 wins earns them a wild card spot.

Foolish live blogging still in beta

We live blogged the games on Sunday, and it seems like the viewers and commenters who dropped by it enjoyed it. If you liked/disliked it or the way we did it, be sure to post a comment.

We’ll try to adapt it and find a way to make it more awesome each week — just like everything else we do.

For one, we’ll probably reduce the amount of posts, so that reviewing the live blog after the games isn’t as overwhelming for those of you who didn’t swing by on Sunday.

Of course, you can always catch my thoughts here every week in Foolish Thoughts.

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

One of my fantasy football teams has done remarkably well through the first half of the season. After starting 5-0, I traded away some of my starters for underperforming stars that I believed would lead me to victory in the second half.

As of this week, I have assembled what I would call the Pro Bowl of fantasy teams. Surviving my bye weeks, this is my starting lineup for Week 9: QB Peyton Manning (but David Garrard might sneak in there); RBs Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans; TE Kellen Winslow; D/ST Arizona Cardinals; K Matt Prater.

And that’s in a 14-team league. I’m projected to score 144.5 points this weekend by the sometimes conservative, sometimes drunk with power ESPN projections.

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions — What? Orton is tied with Peyton Manning as the No. 10 fantasy quarterback right now, and he could finish as one of the top-six QBs? I feel sick. He plays the Lions this week and already posted his best performance of the season against them in Week 5 (300+ passing yards and two TDs). He could beat that. He’ll probably pass Peyton Manning, and then I’m probably going to punch myself in the face…twice.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Broncos — You would think that I would hate recommending guys like Pennington, but to tell you the truth, I love it. I love saying a guy is worth a start when everyone hates on him 24/7. Pennington, in my opinion, is not a bad dude. This week, he gets to play “score the most points” with Jay Cutler, but Pennington gets to throw against a defense that can’t stop the run and will be missing Champ Bailey, the only person who really stops the pass. If Ted Ginn Jr. looks good again, I still won’t believe it’s not a fluke — maybe after Week 10.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Bengals — You have to start Jones-Drew in this one, but even Taylor might get back to his old ways against the Bengals weak rushing defense (28th in the NFL). Expect David Garrard to continue to use the pass more than the Jags did last season, which should open it up when Jones-Drew and Taylor run. Unless he breaks one, Taylor should get some good yardage, but he’s more a bubble/sleeper pick than Jones-Drew at this point.

Earnest Graham, RB Bucs vs. Chiefs — “My turn, my turn, my turn!” If Warrick Dunn can’t go again because of his back, Graham should have his best performance of the season. If that doesn’t leave you satisfied and smiling, you have no soul.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Broncos — Expect him to make up for that piss-poor performance against the Bills. The Dolphins coaches held him back, not the Bills defense. The ‘Wildcat’ will return, baby!

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Vikings — The Vikings have a weak secondary, and Matt Schaub has been throwing the ball like a champ the last three weeks since returning from his illness. As long as Johnson is being shut down, Walter should reap the benefits of working against the abused, second corner of the Vikings secondary. Walter and Owen Daniels will have to substitute for a running game with short passes against the No. 2 rushing defense.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Cardinals — Maybe if Avery shotguns a beer, lights himself on fire and then blows through coverage to score from 40+ yards out, defensive coordinators will pay attention to him. For now, the Cardinals’ attention will be on Torry Holt, and Avery should impress in a home game against this weaker secondary.

John Carlson, TE Seahawks vs. Eagles — Carlson is the team’s leading receiver, and stopping the tight end has been a problem for Philly several times this season. Carlson should get back on pace after being forgotten in the stomping of the 49ers last week.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Patriots — Manning is on the bubble anytime he faces a well-put-together defense. While the Patriots aren’t quite that, they have been able to get to Manning even in his prime. Expect Belichick to try to take advantage of the tied-with-Kyle-Orton quarterback this week. He’ll produce even in a loss — as he did against the Titans — but if you have better, less bucketheaded options…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Browns — The Browns run defense has stopped the run when they were determined to do so (allowing 53 yards rushing for Jacksonville last week), but they still rank as one of the worst run defenses out there, despite using unorthodox methods like all those eye pokes they gave McGahee when they faced the Ravens in Week 3. McGahee has looked much better since coming off the injury report, but rookie Ray Rice is still on his heels and now getting carries. I am not sure which way this game is going to go, but the Ravens will run the ball. It’s just not as favorable a matchup as it appears on paper.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Vikings — The No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL against a rookie RB who was held down by the Bengals a little last week? There’s a chance he breaks the big play, but this matchup has bubble written all over it.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bills — Coles and Cotchery are more experienced receivers than Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Camarillo, but will the Bills corners still not be back in sync this week? Favre has looked like a rookie the last few weeks, and I don’t trust him unless I have to this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Titans — Jennings faces the Titans’ lockdown secondary this week, but the Titans will have their hands full. Jennings had his best game of the season against the Bucs tough defense in Week 4, so owners shouldn’t be scared of using him in this one. He might not build on his 18.5 yards per catch average, but he won’t be taken out of this game plan.

Roddy White, WR Falcons vs. Raiders — There’s some insider trading going on in this one. DeAngelo Hall used to work against White in practice, but that was back before White was such a dominating force in the receiving game. Do you think Hall will know how to get to White? On the other side of the field, Nnamdi Asomugha will be trying to make White’s life tough. So the question becomes, which DeAngelo Hall will we see this week when the Falcons are trying to get White out of Asomugha’s shadow? I like White’s chances.

Cold Shoulders

Marshawn Lynch, RB Bills vs. Jets — The Jets rank fourth in run defense, so Week 9 should be a hard week for Lynch. He’s had his performance limited by Fred Jackson, and he hasn’t hit 100 yards in single game yet. If you are strong at RB, it might be in your best interest sit Lynch this week rather than chance that he gets a touchdown.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Ravens — Homie don’t play that. The Ravens are going to keep Lewis down all day. It took Peyton Manning shredding their secondary for Dominic Rhodes to score a rushing touchdown, and Derek Anderson might not be capable of creating that kind of opportunity this week. If Lewis doesn’t score, his performance could make you curl up into the fetal position and cry.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Titans – If you’re clawing around for his breakout performance this season after he finally got a touchdown against the Colts, don’t. The Packers aren’t likely to try and run the ball on the Titans much, and Albert Haynesworth eats babies.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Steelers — I know you’re not going to sit him. I know. (I probably wouldn’t either.) But for the sake of conversation, let’s just talk for a minute. If I am the Steelers, I’m going to focus on stopping the run — as always — and try to get into Jason Campbell’s head, despite the futility of that since he hasn’t thrown an interception all season. If I’m the Redskins, I’m going to look to abuse the fact that their starting free safety and one starting cornerback are out. Every time they play Troy Polamalu close to the line to stop the run, I’m chunking a pass to Chris Cooley, exposed with plenty of room to run. Maybe Cooley will get another touchdown. He wants one. Now, knowing that game plan that I just made up in my head, Portis *might* not be such a good start, but his involvement in the passing game and the likelihood that you have no better makes this entire paragraph almost worthless.

Terrell Owens, WR Cowboys vs. Giants — He led the team in receptions last week but still didn’t even get 35 yards. Why would you take a chance with him against a team that’s even better at harassing the QB? Brad Johnson is not going to be able to make it happen for Owens this week…again.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Dolphins — It’s his first game back from injury, and the Dolphins have been very good about limiting tight ends. Besides, don’t you think Jay Cutler wants to show Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal how he perfected his throwing motion during the bye? Let Scheffler have the week off to prove his worth.

Sleepers

Steve Smith, WR Giants vs. Cowboys — If the Cowboys lock up Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith should play the open field and have above-average numbers. The Cowboys secondary is hurting too much to stop both WRs in the Giants passing attack. But Smith’s day will require “Playoffs Eli” to show up rather than the Eli Manning that’s been looking like garbage the past few weeks.

Donald Lee, TE Packers vs. Titans — Dallas Clark was able to expose the Titans in the middle of the field. If the Packers are smart, they’ll use a similar plan with Lee this week.

Week 7 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Technical difficulties with our Web host had us listed as questionable for Wednesday night, but as you saw Thursday, we showed up to play at game time. We aren’t wishy-washy like Wade Phillips.

If we come into the game to answer your questions on Sunday, consider it a bonus.

Hot Hands

Matt Schaub, QB Texans vs. Lions — Schaub has finally come into his own as the Texans’ starter after a rough beginning to the year. As long as he stays healthy, he’s going to produce with Andre Johnson making plays. Against the Lions this week…yeah, just start him.

Trent Edwards, QB Bills vs. Chargers — Last year, it would have been the worst idea ever to start your concussed QB against the Chargers pass rush — this year, not so much a concern. The Chargers do an opposing QB good (with the exception of Matt Cassel). Edwards’ newfound friendship with Lee Evans and the long ball should produce at least once.

Jeff Garcia, QB Buccaneers vs. Seahawks — Garcia has a nice match against a weakened Seattle, and I like his chances even more if Joey Galloway returns from injury. If you are looking for a bye-week superstar, look here.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Saints — You have to score against the Saints, and their run stopping has been stronger than you might think. Delhomme will have to make some plays, and he is very capable of putting up a decent to big day with Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Colts — Call me a sucker, but I am not putting Grant off as a one-year wonder just yet. He had 33 carries against the Seahawks without surpassing 100 yards, but he’s just gotten healthy off of that hamstring injury. At least we know the Packers don’t feel the need to spread the ball around. Matchups don’t get much better for running backs than facing the Colts.

Chris Johnson, RB Titans vs. Chiefs – Destruction, thy name is Chris Johnson. I think the young rookie could show you why you should have bought him low when you had the chance this week against the Chiefs.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Lions — He makes a good start, but don’t expect some explosive, gaudy point total if the Texans put up enough points through the air to keep the Lions winless.

Calvin Johnson, WR Lions vs. Texans — He has gotten his catches even with safety-himself Dan Orlovsky under center. With Roy Williams out of Detroit, he becomes the critical playmaker in this offense, and as long as the trend continues, the Lions should need him making plays if they ever want to win a game.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Chargers — The Chargers let opposing QBs put up points on them (see: Trent Edwards). Evans will be the main target this week and should have at least one long bomb touchdown.

Dustin Keller, TE Jets vs. Raiders — He should be open quite a bit. Considering how good the Raiders’ corners are “supposed” to be, Favre may look to the TE in this one…again.

Miami D/ST vs. Ravens — On paper, this matchup looks great. Miami has a very nice run defense against a team who relies heavily on the run, and the sacks they have had the last several weeks should come again against a rookie QB.

Bubble Boys

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Vikings — Orton’s the better QB in this battle. That’s not a bold statement; he’s never slammed his head into a wall and given himself a concussion. Orton could have a big day against a weak Minnesota secondary, or he could trudge along in a defensive battle. I like him, but I wouldn’t bench an every-week starter for him.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB Steelers vs. Bengals — Contrary to popular belief, the Bengals secondary is not terrible. Not great, but not terrible. Mewelde Moore might be the guy to have in this game.

Brad Johnson, QB Cowboys vs. Rams — If Romo doesn’t come in and start this game despite reports that he would be out for several weeks, consider it a BONUS!

Sammy Morris, RB Patriots vs. Broncos — Morris is the only reliable running back in the Patriots offense right now, and the Pats are going to have to get him going against the Broncos if they hope to make it competitive. If I were Bill Belichick, I’d go ‘Wildcat’ with Morris or Faulk and take the ball out of Cassel’s hands. I’d also wear a sweatshirt, no sleeves.

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Vikings — Forte gets the ball so much, and he’ll be catching the ball against the weak secondary, too. I think you have to start him despite the questionable matchup against one of the top run defenses. As long as he gets a touchdown, it’ll work out for the best.

Torry Holt, WR Rams vs. Cowboys – This matchup might the best chance Holt has to succeed all year. The Cowboys have lost two of their starting corners and a safety so far this season. I can’t honestly say he’s a “hot hand,” but if Holt produces here, we’ll know he has a pulse.

Roy Williams WR Cowboys vs. Rams — Don’t jump on him just yet. Remember how Chris Chambers started slow with the Chargers last year? I’d expect something like that.

Cold Shoulders

Matt Cassel, QB Patriots vs. Broncos — Last time I suggested Cassel as a “cold shoulder,” he had a decent outing. Take that as you will. The Broncos weakness is stopping the run, and the Denver corners are respectable. I think Cassel’s opportunities are limited, and I don’t really like his chances to make a big play or two against this team.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB 49ers vs. Giants — The Giants’ anger will take the luck out o’ the Irish.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Buccaneers — The Bucs run defense is performing at the top of its game this season. Don’t think that Julius Jones is one of those RBs that can defy the norm. Splitting time with Maurice Morris and/or T.J. Duckett shouldn’t help his chances.

Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs vs. Titans — It’s best not to get cute even if Larry Johnson is sitting out. The Titans are good at stopping RBs, and a backup RB has little hope for success.

Bills D/ST vs. Chargers — Don’t be silly. The Chargers will score, and the Bills are still missing some good corners. Give them the week off.

Who are you starting/sitting this week?