And while you’re kicking yourself for not drafting these guys in the first place

Here’s a look from Sports Data Hub at the top fantasy performers at each position as of the beginning of December. [Update: Link no longer available]

We all wish we could go back to the draft and change something, whether we want to draft Miles Austin or not draft Matt Forte, but looking at the cold, raw numbers after almost an entire fantasy football season shows us many of our mistakes (and in bar graph form, which makes it slightly less depressing).

Where did we get surprised?

Quarterbacks

The big surprise at quarterback this year for me was Brett Favre, who not only joined the ranks late but also became a fantasy stud down the stretch. He may be fading now, but he still established himself among the top at the position for another year. As much as I loathe him, I’ll give him credit for that.

Jay Cutler, on the other hand, bottomed out more than expected. Clearly, the receiver situation in Chicago isn’t to his liking, and he’s not comfortable in that offense just yet.

Time will tell whether the team takes a new direction by getting a new offensive coordinator or makes a move to acquire a top talent at wide receiver like Anquan Boldin. The only problem with the latter solution is all the picks they gave away to get Cutler in the last offseason.

Cutler’s performance against the Vikings on Monday Night Football could be a good sign that they’re getting on track for 2010.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson was an iffy top running back prospect to start the year. Some took the chance and were greatly rewarded. Others warned that LenDale White would still steal all his scoring opportunities. It’s clear he’s become a fantasy force, one who will continue to be highly drafted. He’s probably the No. 1 overall pick in your draft next season.

But the big surprise was Ray Rice (even though I predicted he’d be good, I didn’t know he’d be this good). He jumped from a murky Baltimore running back situation to become one of the top backs in fantasy, and he’ll probably stay among the elite with Willis McGahee on his way out.

Ricky Williams and Thomas Jones certainly have more staying power than any of us realized. They’re still getting it done, even at their advanced age. Williams owes his scoring chances early in the year to Ronnie Brown, who made the Wildcat a legitimate threat at the goal line throughout his reign of terror until he was injured.

It’ll be interesting to see what Miami and New York do in the offseason. Ronnie Brown is likely to assume the starting duties again once he is healthy, but New York could part ways with Jones if they so choose, opting instead to ride Leon Washington and rookie pounder Shonn Greene.

In recent weeks, they’ve given Greene more than his usual number of carries to see what they have behind Jones for next season.

Wide Receivers

DeSean Jackson came up in the world in a big way as McNabb’s favorite target this season. Is it finally safe to start a Philadelphia receiver? It seems that way for 2010.

The hot names to add to the list of the elite are Miles Austin and Sidney Rice. Both were touted for their physical attributes and explosive talents, but neither had lived up to expectations, falling victim to injury or being buried on the depth chart the past two seasons.

Rice broke out this season as the Vikings’ biggest threat in the passing game, and he’ll only get better, regardless of who comes in to quarterback Minnesota once Favre finally leaves — but will that EVER happen?

Austin should continue to be one of Tony Romo’s favorite, most trusted targets, and that’s extremely valuable with a quarterback as determined to make a play as Romo is every down.

Tight Ends

Vernon Davis, we hardly knew ye. He did it. He finally did it. All it took was a new coach and a new offense geared around his ability to separate from mismatches. Well done, sir.

Brent Celek also proved that the Eagles had really been missing L.J. Smith’s contributions in recent years when injury and ineffectiveness kept Smith from playing the part. Celek’s role at tight end in the Philadelphia offense only adds to the stockpile of weapons at Andy Reid’s disposal.

Kickers

Ha, just kidding. Nothing’s drastically shifted here, but there was a lot of musical chairs being played around the league as certain kickers lost their leg and teams were forced to make a change.

This year has been a surprising one once again, at least for me. A lot of players that we’d looked forward to seeing finally made a show of themselves. It’s safe to say I wish all my leagues were keeper leagues. The young talent we’ve seen this year should be a factor in fantasy football for years to come.

So now, armed with the knowledge of what’s altered the fantasy landscape this season, what can we say? Better luck next year?

NFL Divisional Championships: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFC Championship

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC Championship

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Personally, I am not a fan of this matchup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineup Calls

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

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

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

Divisional Playoffs, Part 2: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

So the Cardinals have game — and a run game at that. Of course, who really needs a balanced attack when Larry Fitzgerald can do whatever he wants on the field and you benefit from more than five turnovers?

Looks like the Buzzsaw is bound for the next round, so who will get you there in the fantasy playoffs?

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Chargers come into Pittsburgh after finishing strong and knocking the Indianapolis Colts off in overtime with the legs of Darren Sproles, but the Steel Curtain closes this attack. Without LaDainian Tomlinson, I don’t see Sproles being able to carry the Chargers far against the Pittsburgh defense, and Philip Rivers cannot do it all with Troy Polamalu covering the field.

The Steelers offense is weakened with a concussed Ben Roethlisberger, but they can still pound the ball with Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore. The Chargers will make more mistakes, and the Steelers have enough to capitalize on them. Even though San Diego has been nice to opposing quarterbacks all season, it’s hard to put faith in the arm of a guy who got taken off in a stretcher just weeks ago. I’ll stick with the run game.

Try as he might, Rivers shouldn’t be able to take this one, but he can certainly try with Vincent Jackson and some help from Sproles.

Hot Hands: Willie Parker, Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles

Bubble Boys: Mewelde Moore, Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Antonio Gates, Nate Kaeding

Cold Shoulders: Heath Miller, LaDainian Tomlinson

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

The Eagles, much like the Chargers, had it all fall into their lap at the end of the season. They’re hot right now, and it’s hard to like the Giants more than the Eagles with the Giants cold finish to the regular season.

Despite the return of Brandon Jacobs, the Giants are likely to have a hard time running the ball against this Eagles squad, and the momentum is in the Eagles’ favor. The Giants will miss having Plaxico Burress as a playmaker. They either lose this game or take it in a nail-biter.

Calling it for Philadelphia, I like Brent Celek as a sleeper tight end. L.J. Smith is only going to see limited action, and Celek gets the start. For those of you trying to budget your roster for this week, Celek is a nice ‘buy low’ to go big at other positions.

Hot Hands: Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brent Celek, Brandon Jacobs, David Akers

Bubble Boys: Eli Manning, Kevin Boss, Domenik Hixon, Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward

Cold Shoulders: L.J. Smith, Amani Toomer

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 1

A disastrous and tragic Week 1 has left plenty of teams hurting for new talent. Was there a group shot on the cover of Madden this year?

Since Week 1 is always the best time to grab the waiver wire studs AND since this week was full of injuries and failures, this week’s waiver wire gems is pretty comprehensive. Next week, we’ll bring it down a notch. We’ll start things off at QB since I hear we lost one this week.

If these guys went undrafted in your league, make sure you correct that. Now.

Matt Cassel, QB New England Patriots

Jesus. If you don’t know why Cassel is going to be a top grab this week, GO BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK AND STAY THERE.

It’s possible if you are a Tom Brady owner — or former Brady owner, as the case may be — that you have other, better options than Cassel. In one league, for example, Delhomme is still out there somehow.

If you’re stuck choosing between a bunch of dangerous options, Cassel makes a nice replacement. At least, he has a great group of receivers to throw to this year even if his skill set is still in question.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills

It’s good to know that Edwards knows Lee Evans is on the team now. They must have had some sort of Kumbaya camping trip this offseason.

Edwards looked good in the offense, and I might lean on him over Cassel knowing he has the skills to get his receivers the scores. He had 215 yards and a TD in Week 1, but I think he can do better. In Week 2, he’ll have Jason Peters back on the offensive line — and so will Marshawn Lynch.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins

He has had fantasy success in the past — even last year when healthy — and he might have found a team in Miami that will come together around him.

With a strong Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown run game, Pennington looks like a QB2 and could contribute as part of a fantasy QB rotation.

He’s better than Damon Huard.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Vince Young looks to be sidelined for a few weeks. If you need a stopgap, Collins could be your man. He’s very unlikely to be drafted by anyone in your league, but there is always the issue of who he will throw it to this season for the Titans…

If you can’t be picky, Collins could be a decent fill at QB for a few weeks.

Eddie Royal, WR Denver Broncos

Rookie sensation had THE BEST performance of any WR this week. Royal could be a slightly more productive version of Patrick Crayton last season, and he’ll always draw the weaker corner once Brandon Marshall returns in Week 2. He’s an excellent WR3 or more if he can keep catching Cutler’s eye once Marshall is back.

DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb spread the ball in Week 1, but he liked targeting the rookie. As long as Kevin Curtis remains banged up, Jackson should be on a roster — and maybe even after. As an added bonus, he might return a kick or two for some additional TD points.

Jackson’s six catches for 106 yards isn’t too shabby, and Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis might even be worth stashing as well if both continue to see looks from McNabb.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

If McNabb is firing, Smith should see end zone looks. McNabb knows Smith is attached to a couple of the most reliable hands he can throw at this season, so look for Smith to continue to have nice games in good matchups. In Week 1, he posted 39 yards a score. He’s worth a TE2 spot if you carry two of them, or he could be part of a nice TE rotation with one of breakout TEs of 2008.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers

The deep TE ranks get even deeper as long as Rosario remains a reliable target for Delhomme. He came down with seven receptions for 96 yards and a TD in Week 1. Worth rostering if you have a weak TE or want to trade away your stud to take advantage of the depth here this year, but be cautious. We don’t know how Rosario will be affected by the return on Steve Smith in Week 3.

Robert Royal, TE Buffalo Bills

Again, TEs look deep this year. The new offense in Buffalo smiled favorably on Royal, who caught six passes for 52 yards and a score against Seattle. After Jacksonville, the Bills schedule gets easier. I like Rosario better than Royal, but Royal is likely to see his fair share of looks this season unless rookie James Hardy starts to steal his end zone opportunities as Hardy gets more playing time.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

We know Pennington doesn’t have a big arm (Girlish arm chant…Begin!), but he got his TEs involved early in the showdown against his former team, the Jets. Fasano practiced behind Jason Witten in Dallas, and look how Witten turned out. Fasano could be one of Pennington’s most reliable targets this season.

Matt Forte, RB Chicago Bears

Likely drafted in every league, Forte proved he could be a consistent fantasy starter in Week 1. He could put up a fight for offensive rookie of the year if he keeps it up. We know the Bears won’t have much on offense, so they’ll use their defense and Forte to control the game.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys

I feel like THIS Jones will be far more effective than Julius Jones was last year for the Cowboys. His performance in Week 1 was worthy of a FLEX play (or even a low-end starter) with 62 yards and a TD. Barber bruised his ribs late in the game, and even though he is still expected to play in Week 2, look for Felix Jones to see increased action along with Tashard Choice against the Eagles.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots

He’s the running back for the Patriots. I don’t care what the depth chart says. With Brady out, he could see an increased role in this offense. He’ll certainly be in the mix however the offense is rearranged to suit Cassel.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints

Thomas might make Deuce McAllister a ghost this season if he keeps stealing carries. He’s a must-grab for any McAllister owners and could be the workhorse back of the Saints offense this season.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

The Bills defense had a few shining moments last season, but being healthy this season and free agent additions (Marcus Stroud) have made them an emerging sleeper.

In Week 2, they get to play Jacksonville — suffering from a devastated offensive line. Their schedule gets pretty easy from there. Stash them now before the other teams in your league see them spark.

Ones to Watch

Carolina Panthers D/ST

I’m not entirely sold just yet, but the Panthers were on of my sleeper defensive units coming into 2008.

They kept L.T. tame in Week 1. That’s promising. Panthers face off against the Bears this week. I’m still a little worried about the 300+ yards that the Panthers gave up — Forte could tear them apart this week if he keeps his stud status. On the other hand, the Bears could look like…well, the Bears this week.

If you have a roster spot or lack confidence in your defense, it might be worth rostering Carolina this week to see where they go from this Week 1 performance.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

Yeah, it’s a bit of a reach, but he still has upside. He got the ball to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in Week 1, and he could expand on that in Week 2.

Hey, it’s Mike Martz, okay?

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons

Still a rookie QB, but obviously, he’s going to have his good weeks every now and then. Worth a chance? Let’s see his Week 2 unless you desperately need QB help this season. Turner looks like the focus of this offense.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I didn’t see Hightower taking the goal line carries from Edgerrin James once the regular season got started, but apparently, they’re still doing that in Arizona. Edge is turning 30, but he still looks productive this season. Hightower might be worth rostering if you have the room, but he’s little more than a TD vulture. Other than his score, he only had 34 total yards.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

Slaton had more carries than Ahman Green, but Green went out with an injury in this one. Wait a sec, that makes Slaton look even better.

Regardless of the depth chart, the starting RB job in Houston is Slaton’s to earn if he performs well this season. While Green is sidelined, Slaton will probably share carries with the platoon of backs in Houston (Chris Taylor and possibly Darius Walker), but he should continue to see more and more carries.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The wily veteran’s role in this offense might be worth getting. He put up 54 yards in just nine carries in Week 1. He could play a larger role in future games.

Yes, I just wanted to use the word wily.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans

If the Texans get a potent passing game going, Walter could benefit from Andre Johnson pulling the better corner. He’s worth rostering in deep leagues and seeing how he pans out. Otherwise, keep an eye on how much he contributes to see if he could be worthy of your WR3 spot.

Ignoring, as in “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!”

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Let’s see where he goes when McGahee is back. My guess is somewhere behind Ray Rice. I don’t think he’s worth rostering unless he reappears in Week 2.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts

Probably going to be just as valuable as Kenton Keith last season. There are better options out there who will get more than yardage and a few scores. I think Addai comes back from his head injury in Week 1 with no problems.

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos

Yes, you scored two touchdowns. Congrats. Not sure I trust any Denver back this season. Pittman’s a TD vulture — feast or famine. Too risky to roster in my opinion.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Damon Huard in a pretty terrible offense in Kansas City. Plus, he’s only in there for a few weeks until Brodie Croyle returns. I think I’d rather have Kerry Collins. “The Bowe Show” is nice and all, but I don’t like the season premiere that much.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

They say dead people twitch sometimes.

See other waivers around the Internetz at Fantasy Football Goat, at The Hazean, at Yahoo! Sports, at Pancake Blocks, at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, at CBS Sportsline, at Fantasy Football Toolbox (also with upgrades for this week), at Pro Football Weekly, at Football Docs, at Bruno Boys, and at Fantasy Football Librarian.

Hot 2008 Fantasy Football Offensive Free Agents

If the Patriots proved one thing this season, they proved it is absolutely required for top fantasy managers to track free agent movement. Don’t be distracted by rookies taken in the NFL draft. Besides a few impact first-rounders, you probably won’t see a lot of impact to your fantasy season by anyone in the draft until 2009 or even 2010 year.

This offseason, many critical fantasy players are up for new contracts. Football Jabber provides some analysis of some of the top offensive free agents [Link no longer available]–although I suspect many of the players he discusses will stay where they are besides Michael Turner–and Draft Daddy went in-depth to rank and track all the offensive free agents [Link no longer available]. Note that Draft Daddy pulls out the Key Restricted Free Agents from their rankings and lists them below each position.

Offensive free agents that I suggest you pay attention to in the offseason:

Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears
If someone else gives Grossman a chance, i.e. Atlanta, Baltimore or Miami, Grossman could become fantasy-relevant again. I like the guy even though he has never been solid. He might be worthy of a QB2 spot if given a different supporting cast.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
I know Hill has already signed an extension, but with Alex Smith on rocky terms with the coach, Hill could be the quarterback that Mike Martz gives his offense. Hill fits the mold a little better than Smith does, and Smith might not take kindly to returning from injury only to take part in an offense built around Frank Gore.

Chris Redman, QB Atlanta Hawks
I, for one, felt that he showed promise with the games he started for Atlanta. He might be on the same level as Grossman. If someone is willing to give him a chance–like Miami maybe–he could make a mark in the NFL and be fantasy-relevant. He certainly had his shining moments to end 2007.

Michael Turner, RB San Diego Chargers
Turner is where the big free agent money is aiming this offseason. He has been touted as a guy that can carry the full load for more than two season now. With no contract in hand, he is ready to take all offers and see what he can do outside of L.T.’s shadow. Big hopes and big money will be put on him in 2008 for whatever team gets him. The Houston Texans and the New York Jets are two teams that could benefit from a running back in free agency if not from the draft.

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have enough running backs. Fargas is most likely on his way out and might land a decent back up role somewhere. I don’t expect him to be carrying the full load anywhere even though he was solid for the Raiders in 2007. He could very well end up in a decent committee somewhere after this season though.

Derrick Ward, RB New York Giants
He’s in talks with the Giants already, but considering they don’t need him as bad as other teams do, you could see Ward popping over to another team. He filled in nicely for Jacobs this season and handled starting and taking a full load–until he got injured, that is.

Bernard Berrian, WR Chicago Bears
Berrian is the top receiver that has the potential to move. Most likely, the Bears will franchise him and keep him one more season, but I bet Berrian would love to escape Chicago’s QB problems to the Raiders and see what JaMarcus Russell can do with him.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles
Smith has been plagued by injuries lately. While he is most likely headed right back to the Philly locker room, he could test the waters. When healthy, L.J. Smith can be a critical receiving tight end, and plenty of teams could use more offensive production from their tight ends in 2008. Anyone else thinking Seattle?

Offensive linemen will be significant this offseason, and impact the offensive production more than you would think. I won’t break down each and every one, but watch who moves where to know how your quarterback and running back production could be impacted. Draft Daddy ranked all the top centers and linemen for your enjoyment [Link no longer available].

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.

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.

Week 11 Pickups: Keep your eye on QB swaps, injuries

nazi wire

I’ll make this week brief because, frankly, there aren’t too many players worth grabbing in leagues that aren’t probably already grabbed.  Here are a few notes gathered from suggestions around the Web.  If they are available, go after them, but don’t be too hopeful that they will be there in the free agent pool.

Kellen Clemens, QB New York Jets

I have talked about him before, but if he is still available, grab him now.  He is coming off a bye week of practice as the starting QB and should have a nice core of healthy receivers to throw to in Week 11.

JaMarcus Russell, QB Oakland Raiders
John Beck, QB Miami Dolphins

I’ll lump these two together because they are purely speculative.  If you are mopping it up in a dynasty league, you should definitely have one of these two on your roster as a QB of the future.  If you are hurting so bad at QB that you don’t have tears anymore, use a roster spot for Russell he could–emphasis on “could”–have a big impact with the Raiders when they finally decide to stop bruising McCown week after week.

Chester Taylor, RB Minnesota Vikings

With “All Day” AP finally making those preseason injury predictions a reality, Taylor could finally see some productive games and get some TDs, but Minnesota still has no QB to prevent defenses from piling up at him.

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders

Apparently, two talented RBs are not good enough for the Raiders.  Dominic Rhodes has barely seen the field since his arrival, and LaMont Jordan is out.  Fargas has been doing it all and could be a decent second RB to finish the season.

Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay Packers

I bet you feel like a genius if you picked up Ryan Grant.  Pat yourself on the back, and then smack yourself in the head.  He will be a productive back, but you aren’t that smart.  Just lucky.  No one say Grant breaking the Minnesota defense the way he did on Sunday, but if you keep the defense of the field, they are bound to give in eventually.  Grant should see some decent fantasy value late in the season as the Packers finally start a running game and keep defenses reeling with Favre’s remarkable arm.

LJ Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

LJ missed a lot of time with injury but had his first big game this week.  If you are hurting at TE, he is worth grabbing to secure you some supportive TE points to end the season.  Don’t give up an average back for him because he could still be inconsistent or get hurt again, but drop any TE not producing for you.

Chris Henry, WR Cincinnati Bengals

Apparently, Palmer remembers who Chris Henry is.  If you picked him up last week–or earlier–you deserve a cookie.