Martz be crazy: Why you should draft your Bears this season

As we await the Chicago Bears debut tonight in preseason action, I can’t wait to see if their little offseason experiment worked.

When it comes to offense, Mike Martz is a kamikaze. His “leap of faith” system is as likely to blow up on a game-by-game basis as it is to succeed. While respected at first for his work in St. Louis, in recent years, NFL coaches seem to feel that bringing him in to run an offense is the equivalent of waving a white flag, a last-ditch effort to get their teams on the scoreboard.

Still, Martz’s system shows results. He built the “Greatest Show on Turf,” revived the Detroit Lions passing attack with Jon Kitna, and made J.T. O’ Sullivan fantasy relevant for a time in San Francisco. But one thing he hasn’t had to work with since his days with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger in St. Louis is a true franchise quarterback.

Why, hello there Jay Cutler. Whatever you think of the shruggy Vanderbilt product, Cutler has an arm, and he’s shown the characteristics of a franchise quarterback in Denver. Granted, he no longer has a true No. 1 receiver like Brandon Marshall to throw to now that he’s in Chicago, but don’t count out Devin Hester and Johnny Knox just yet.

Quick receivers who can get to their spots on time are all an offense like Martz’s really needs, and if you believe in the third year breakout for wide receivers and Hester’s quotes, Hester’s ready to make it big. But you don’t have to take his word for it.

Cutler has bought into Martz’s quarterback-friendly system. So even though we can’t expect Cutler’s interceptions to be drastically reduced when he starts firing passes before receivers are even in place, he should do some serious damage in the passing game–the good kind of damage.

Cutler threw a career high 26 interceptions last season pre-Martz, but he also threw a career high 27 touchdowns. His offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors last year either.

With Martz and a new offensive line coach in Mike Tice, Cutler may excel in the W column and fantasy point columns again just like he did in Denver.

So when it comes to drafting Cutler, I’m all for it. He’s currently going early in the seventh round as the No. 9 overall quarterback, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. While I’m okay with him there as a late starting QB1, I think I’d really love him as a QB2 behind an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tony Romo.

If he has a huge season, you can start him and trade away your elite guy or just trade Cutler for a high-performing running back to make your championship run.

And without having to rely on him completely as your QB1, you can play the ups and downs that are likely to strike the Bears this season. I expect there will be some growing pains in learning Martz’s system and putting it into action each week.

As for the wide receivers, there’s plenty of speculation out there about how to value them. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu, and Earl Bennett could all see time on the field.

This offseason, the early favorite has been Devin Aromashodu, the tallest Bears wide receiver who came on strong at the end of 2009 and scored four touchdowns. But Aromashodu’s sleeper hype has him overvalued now. He’s being drafted before both Hester and Knox, and that just doesn’t make sense.

I’d much rather draft Hester, the forgotten man in this offense who was holding down the No. 1 role until late in 2009, or Knox, the rookie who picked up the offense and caught Cutler’s eye last season.

Hester worked in the offseason with Isaac Bruce to learn what he could from the Martz-made veteran wide receiver, and I think he’ll be ready to play come Week 1 like a top wideout, rather than just as a converted special teamer.

Now don’t get me wrong, Aromashodu shouldn’t be overlooked. He could play a big part in the red zone, but I just don’t think he’s worth a pick in the eighth round when you can get Hester in the tenth.

Martz isn’t really known for increasing the role of the running back in his offenses, but he has two skilled pass catchers in Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Forte seems more like his old self now that he’s recovered from 2009’s injuries. Maybe we all just expected too much of him when we launched him into the first round rankings last season.

With injuries, a new quarterback, and a questionable offensive line, it was hard to live up to the hype around his impressive rookie season. This season, he could turn things around, especially if Martz makes him a big part of the offense. Even though Martz isn’t known for making running backs better, he certainly doesn’t neglect them.

Chester Taylor will take some of the work out of Forte’s hands, but that could be a good thing. Forte wore down late in his rookie season when he was carrying the full load, and as long as he gets to take the carries near the goal line, sharing might be caring for Forte. I can learn to love a timeshare that allows Forte to go full speed all season and keeps him free of injuries.

So think about Forte in the fourth round before you start looking at running backs who have the lesser half of a timeshare situation.

The one position we can’t predict with Martz is tight end. Greg Olsen is a star at the position, but Martz has traditionally left tight ends to block at the line while the receivers steal the show. Time will tell if Olsen can sway him. I am not taking that chance in my drafts right now.

So in short, don’t overlook your Bears this season. I expect to see some significant improvements in the passing game, and as late as Jay Cutler and Hester are being drafted, they’re definitely worth a look.

Top 15 Fantasy Football Storylines You Missed Since the Super Bowl

Congratulations on escaping from that rock you’ve been trapped under for all those long months since the Super Bowl. Hopefully, you weren’t trapped in this thing. After you get a good, warm meal inside of you, I’m sure you’ll be wondering what happened in the world since you departed.

Or if you, like me, took a little break from the world of football between the Super Bowl and the NFL draft, you might just need to get a quick overview of what’s happened in the NFL since you started caring about other sports like March Madness college basketball and NBA playoffs. What? Hockey? Well, let’s just get back to football, shall we?

1. Donovan McNabb is a Washington Redskin. In one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb to the NFC East rival Redskins. The Eagles have decided to put their trust, and their future, in Kevin Kolb. The fantasy impact won’t necessarily be felt by McNabb on this one, but it will boost his Redskin teammates, especially Chris Cooley as a fantasy tight end. But don’t go thinking that the Redskins have all become fantasy elites. The Eagles, on the other hand, will take a bit of a step back with Kevin Kolb learning the ropes. They may run more with Mike Bell and LeSean McCoy to take the pressure off Kolb, which could inflate their fantasy values, but I see them keeping the passing game lively. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Kevin Kolb might be a fantasy phenom trio in just a few years.

2. Brandon Marshall is a Miami Dolphin. “Baby T.O.” just didn’t like his situation in Denver. His off-the-field issues almost got him benched last season with Josh McDaniels, and with his contract coming to an end, McDaniels, who must hate everything not put together by Bill Belichick, sent him off to Miami so that the Dolphins could make him “the highest-paid receiver in the league” for at least one season. His fantasy stock should remain at a high level. The Dolphins have desperately needed a No. 1 receiver for years, and now they have Marshall and a great supporting cast of receiving talent around him. Chad Henne will benefit from having a receiver he can feed the ball to every week, and Ronnie Brown should get a little relief now that teams have to worry about covering deep. Marshall leaves behind a mess in Denver. Eddie Royal will be expected to takeover as the No. 1 and is plenty talented enough to hold it down if he someone can get the ball to him, but Kyle Orton may not be able to carry the torch at QB without a receiver of Marshall’s abilities. Royal isn’t as much of a go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver, lacking Marshall’s dominant size. So we might even see Brady Quinn get a chance this year. Oh, and I guess this quiets that Patrick Turner talk.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson is a New York Jet. The running back of fantasy legend was released by the Chargers only to sign with the New York Jets. There’s talk of him getting up to 15 carries per game, which would seriously piss off a lot of Shonn Greene owners. Personally, I think his ship has sailed, and his fantasy value with it. L.T. will be a mid-round pick in many a league just by reputation, and I think that might be a mistake.

4. Thomas Jones is a Kansas City Chief. Before L.T. showed up in town, Thomas Jones was let go by the Jets. I guess he just wasn’t the veteran running back they desired, but he set up shop in Kansas City rather quickly. That puts a bit of a damper on the Jamaal Charles hype that was building this offseason, but he’s probably still going to be one of the more electric backs in 2010. Just look at what Chris Johnson was able to do in his rookie season while still sharing the rock with LenDale White.

5. Tony Scheffler is a Detroit Lion, and the Broncos hate themselves. Josh McDaniels just wants to get rid of all the talent in Denver. It must be a team-building exercise. I just don’t know when he’s actually going to start building the team. Scheffler was one of the more dynamic threats in the Broncos’ arsenal, especially without Brandon Marshall. Now he’ll be helping Matt Stafford mature as an NFL passer and working alongside Brandon Pettigrew. The trade could mean that the Lions fear Pettigrew may not be at 100 percent to start the season as he recovers from his ACL injury, but it’s more likely they just realize they need every weapon they can get to free up Calvin Johnson this season.

6. Santonio Holmes is a Jet…and suspended for the first four games. Screw up once, shame on you. Screw up twice, shame on us. Screw up three times, get off our roster. Holmes screwed up, he got suspended for four games, and the Steelers just wanted to be done with it. They traded him for a fifth-round pick, and now Holmes will try to find a role (most likely out of the slot) for the Jets when he gets on the field in Week 5. This trade hurts his fantasy value, as he is probably not going to establish himself as the No. 1 in New York. But it also threatens Braylon Edwards. He’ll now have to compete with Holmes throughout the season in hopes of keeping his job. At least Mike Wallace is happy.

7. Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first six games…or maybe just four. If you’re an NFL quarterback, it’s probably best that you just avoid hanging out in small-town nightclubs with throngs of drunk girls. That’s all I’ll say about that. But if you do, you’ll probably get suspended for shaming the NFL shield like Roethlisberger has. The Steelers have brought back Byron Leftwich to fill in while Big Ben on his shame suspension, but that’s probably not going to scare anyone but Charlie Batch.

8. The Rams have released Marc Bulger. I guess Sam Bradford’s pro day was so good that Bulger just didn’t want to be around anymore. That, or he just decided he’d need a whole offseason to find a new home. Still waiting on that one. Unlike Jake Delhomme, now in Cleveland after being cut by Carolina, Bulger has no home. Happy Birthday, Bulger!

9. Charlie Whitehurst will get a chance to start in Seattle over Matt Hasselbeck. So the job may not be as secure as Hasselbeck would hope it is. Granted, Whitehurst doesn’t have a long NFL resume just yet, but he may be able to push Hasselbeck more than Seneca Wallace did in recent years. We’ll see.

10. The Jets defense is looking really scary. They have Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis at corner, and now Jason Taylor, you know, just for line depth. If all the bets the Jets made this offseason pay out, we could be looking at one of this year’s premiere fantasy defenses.

11. Ted Ginn Jr. is a San Francisco 49er. They watched game tape of this guy’s hands first, right? Ginn adds a certain explosiveness in the kick returning game, but he’s most likely nothing more than a slot receiver when the offense takes the field. Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Josh Morgan should all keep their spots as the 49ers’ top targets.

12. Alge Crumpler and Torry Holt are now Patriots. As they do every offseason, the Patriots are collecting a set of veterans and trying to plug them into their system. Holt didn’t pan out as a Jaguar, but he might do better than Joey Galloway as a Patriot. He can at least lend a hand until Wes Welker is back up to speed.  Crumpler gives the Patriots a solid tight end now that they are without Chris Baker and Benjamin Watson.

13. Flozell Adams released. The Cowboys LT got a fond farewell on his way out of Dallas, but when it came down to it, he just wasn’t worth the cost. The Cowboys could lose a little bit of their production in the running game as a result depending on whether Doug Free fills in adequately as a LT or if they take someone else in the draft.

14. Ryan Torain is now a Redskin. Normally, a backup RB move like this wouldn’t be big news, but it is when Mike Shanahan praises him as much as he has Torain since drafting Torain as coach of the Denver Broncos. This move most likely means that the old boys’ club of Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis, and Willie Parker that currently makes up the Washington Redskins running back corps will probably see one or two of its membership leave Washington before Week 1.

15. Rex Ryan lost 40 pounds. Yes, that’s big news. 40 pounds? That’s like…a whole little Ryan bear cub. I’m concerned. Will we even recognize him on the sidelines? Besides, you don’t really want to hear that Neil Rackers is a Texan and likely the new starting kicker, right? That’s just kicker talk. No one likes kicker talk.

If you were not trapped under a rock so far this offseason, feel free to throw your own input into the mix. I probably missed at least two moves involving Rex Grossman and David Carr…on purpose.

Foolish Thoughts: Forsett, Snelling, Scott, and McCoy offer instant gratification

When one of your fantasy football studs gets injured, fantasy owners usually face a tough decision. Should you go get that backup, the one who hasn’t seen more than five touches in any game this year? Or should you just find another running back or wide receiver on the waiver wire who’ll get it done until your stud returns?

Especially early in the fantasy season, I’ve often avoided taking the backups and gone the other way. Why? Well, I like instant gratification.

In rare cases, NFL backups outperform the former starter as Steve Slaton did last season, and it’s not easy to expect them to match the production of the starter they replace. Most of the time, backups need a week or two to get accustomed to their new role in the offense and to gain the trust of the rest of the team.

But in Week 11, you didn’t have to wait.

Ricky Williams, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Bernard Scott, and LeSean McCoy all went off for the owners of Julius Jones, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, and Brian Westbrook who were able to find some help on the waiver wire.

Even those who started desperation-play Jamaal Charles against the Steelers or Beanie Wells as a good-on-paper start against St. Louis were rewarded.

The only bad replacements this week were Chris Simms, who was pulled for a still-injured Kyle Orton after failing to score on the Chargers, and Ladell Betts, who tore both his ACL and PCL against the Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season.

In the case of Forsett and McCoy, this week could be a changing of the guard. Julius Jones has never lived up to expectations since signing with the Seahawks, and Westbrook might never see the field again this season after suffering his second concussion.

For Charles’ and Wells’ fantasy owners, this sets up a nice looking playoff picture.

Williams seems like he’ll be okay without his Wildcat partner Ronnie Brown as he secured the top spot for running backs in most fantasy scoring formats. His performance should serve as a reminder of how much you can benefit from stocking your bench with guys who are just one small injury away from a lucrative starting job.

Scott rushed for 119 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards against the Oakland Raiders defense in a loss, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get a shot against the Browns and the Lions since Benson could return.

Snelling’s in the same spot. Despite scoring twice and coming in second in fantasy scoring for running backs, Snelling could see Jerious Norwood cut into his carries if Norwood’s healthier in Week 12. There’s also a chance that Michael Turner could make an early return.

But you can’t be disappointed with this kind of late-season “early bloomers.”

Maybe it’s a good sign for those owners who suffered more injuries this week.

Kurt Warner bowed out at halftime after suffering a couple of blows to the head. With that playoff schedule, Matt Leinart would be in high demand if Warner misses a game.

Big Ben “fall down, go boom” in overtime against the Chiefs with a hit to his noggin, and soon after, backup quarterback Charlie Batch injured his wrist enough to keep him out the rest of the regular season. That leaves Dennis Dixon sitting in the quarterback seat unless Big Ben is healthy enough to start on Sunday.

With Betts out, Rock Cartwright ran for 67 rushing yards and had seven catches for 73 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins might soon regret not taking a shot at Larry Johnson. Without the services of Portis, Washington may be forced to go get Shaun Alexander as depth at running back.

Heaven forbid you were counting on Marc Bulger for your team, but he’ll miss the rest of the fantasy regular season with a fractured tibia. Kyle Boller takes over, which could be a blessing or a curse for Steven Jackson’s owners.

Just for the sake of noting a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound…Terrell Owens caught nine for 197 yards and a touchdown, most of that on one long touchdown strike. You leave that guy open and he’s dangerous.

But how often will the opposing team make that mistake against the Bills?

In what might qualify as a charity game, Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn had multi-touchdown days. Stafford threw for five touchdowns; Quinn had four. It must have seemed just like practice for them to play against such terrible defense. At least leading receivers Calvin Johnson and Mohamed Massaquoi had a good time with it.

Week 11 Hot Hand and Cold Shoulders: Twilight Edward vs. Jacob, who ya got?

I know nothing of Twilight. I like it that way, but this debate that’s been raging across all my television channels, including my sports channels, has annoyed me to no end, especially because they used my name.

From what I can gather, my namesake Jacob is a werewolf who is loyal and the complete “nice guy.” Figures.

Edward, on the other hand (and correct me if I am wrong), is a total douche of a vampire who’s the “dangerous” one. Also typical.

I have no allegiance to either camp; in fact, I’d love if this book series, or “saga” as the TV loves to call it, disappeared off the planet, along with “So You Think You Can Dance” and the like.

Still, I can draw a parallel to fantasy football (because that’s what you least expected).

You see, Jacob is dependable, honest, and trustworthy. He’s your Thomas Jones. Through the good and the bad, he gets his yards and does the best he can to score. He may not be exceptional, but you have to love that schedule down the stretch.

While Edward, jackass that he is, is Beanie Wells. He’s risky and exciting, and ladies probably love him for his burst. I would even guess that Wells turns to crystal in the sunlight because that makes absolutely no sense in vampire lore. THEY DIE IN THE SUN, YOU IDIOTS; otherwise, why would they not take over the world by now?

So you can pick your poison with these Twilight guys. Dangerous or dependable? I like both of them, Jones and Wells, enough to start them this week, but we’ll see which one turns to crystal in the sun.

And while we’re at it (and done talking about Twilight), here are a few more mythical creatures that I would consider starting.

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Panthers — Ricky Williams comes into Carolina with a 50/50 chance of 100+ yards against the Panthers based on his previous performances. With running mate Ronnie Brown out for the year, I’d say the odds are even better for him. Carolina’s run defense has not been cutting it all season.

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Colts — Rice has been top-notch in his last seven games. Against the Colts weakened run defense, he should make it eight. But be warned, that playoffs schedule looks rough.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Eagles — It’s been a rough few weeks, but Philly’s secondary is weakened just enough by injuries and suspensions for this to work.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Broncos – So I guess he’s not completely dead. I knew that San Diego needed new blood to get their running game going. I didn’t expect that new blood to be a baby on the way for L.T. and Mrs. L.T. The Broncos should have some trouble stopping him this week, but do not go into this expecting another blowout affair. You can only get pregnant once…every nine months…as far as I’m aware.

Reggie Bush, RB, Saints vs. Bucs – Since when is Bush a goal line back? Insanity, but the Saints like using him on those dive-into-the-end-zone plays. He makes a solid start against Tampa Bay as long as the trend continues, and I think it will. The Bucs can’t stop any running back on defense.

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks vs. Vikings — You may have picked him on waivers this week, but you won’t be seeing much production. Minnesota has allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season. Forsett won’t get the third. He has some talent in the receiving game, but I see the Vikings putting plenty of pressure on Matt Hasselbeck.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins vs. Cowboys — It’s easy to single out a guy like Moss, but he’s actually being recommended as a start against the Cowboys this week in several places. I don’t like him. The Cowboys secondary and pass rush has kept wide receivers under wraps in recent weeks. The Redskins anemic offense shouldn’t break that trend.

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons vs. Giants — The Giants are coming off a bye with plenty of time to prep for the struggling Atlanta passing game. The expected return of Aaron Ross to the secondary shouldn’t hurt either.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Steelers — Charles finally got his touchdown, and he has a beauty of a schedule down the stretch. This week is not part of that. The Steelers should look to squash him out as the Chiefs’ main offensive weapon now that Dwayne Bowe will sit for four weeks, and Pittsburgh should limit his chances in the passing game enough to make him a flex start at best, even in PPR leagues.

Randy Moss, WR, Patriots vs. Jets — Mark this down under “you’re not going to listen to me but…” Darrelle Revis shut down Moss last time the Pats faced the Jets, and though Tom Brady has stepped his game up since then, Moss should be due for a second quiet week. I’m still starting him, as you should if you have him, but be don’t expect one of those blowout performances he’s been putting up.

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals vs. Raiders — I was torn on my sleeper pick this week. Nate Washington has a great chance of putting up numbers if Houston gets out to an early lead. Vince Young travels home to play the Texans. Josh Freeman faces a banged-up Saints secondary that allowed Marc Bulger to look like a quarterback, and Brandon Jacobs might finally get it back on track.

But in the end, I had to go with Scott, who is likely to see more than the usual amount of carries this week against the Raiders defense even if Cedric Benson starts. Scott, rather than Larry Johnson, knows the offense, and I believe he’s got a shot at 100+ yards even if he can’t get a score flying solo or sharing with an injured Benson.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Muse — Time Is Running Out

http://youtu.be/ChR8PAEA_RM

Muse did have a song on the Twilight soundtrack, but I won’t hold that against them. “Time Is Running Out” is a perfect fit for this week as the trade deadline approaches and many of you are scrounging to put together a few more wins and lock up a playoff spot.

Best of luck to you all, and remember that vampires should never turn to crystal. It’s just not right.

Fore more start and sit advice, compare notes with Fantasy Joe, FF Xtreme, and FF Toolbox.

On the Wire: Week 9 Pickups and Must-Claims

There’s nothing glamorous about pickups at this point in the season. You’re either struggling to find meaning in your season after falling desperately behind the rest of the teams in your league or fortifying and defending your team by building a stronger bench with these free agents.

But the picks are especially un-sexy this week. Pick ‘em if you gotta.

Hot Claims

Ryan Moats, RB, Houston Texans: While Steve Slaton warmed the bench and thought about what he had done (fumbled), Moats ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills. And don’t forget about his 25 yards receiving. As a part of the Texans’ offense, Moats is very Slaton-like, but he also saw most of the goal line work on Sunday.

While we’d all like to hum ourselves to sleep and believe Slaton will be the unquestioned starter again heading into Week 9 against the Colts, Coach Kubiak won’t give us that comfort. He’s saying that all three backs, Slaton, Moats and Chris Brown, could play on Sunday, which leaves it up in the air whether Slaton can get his job back.

Whether you have the room or not, all smart Slaton owners will have to pick up Moats this week or risk missing the boat on the Texans’ running game. Those who don’t own Slaton could look at Moats as a speculation grab. If Houston elects to keep him as a starter, we might just have to learn to love him like our own top-drafted Texans running back.

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers: Chris Chambers’ release is a vote of confidence in Floyd, who has shined in a limited role for the Chargers since last season, when injuries forced him into starting duty. Now that he’s on the field as the No. 2 every week, he’s a must-claim in all formats.

The Chargers are a passing team, and Floyd’s big frame is a weapon in the end zone. As Vincent Jackson draws coverage, Floyd will find success.

Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets: The young tight end played a big part in the offense on Sunday. If this one-game performance suggests he’ll be more involved in the future, he’s worth adding.

Mark Sanchez hasn’t been the most exciting quarterback to watch, but playing from behind forced him to include Keller and unleash the full offense on Miami. The Jets’ receivers and Keller can only get better and more in-sync with Sanchez over the bye week.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Larry Johnson slurred his way off the field with a two-week suspension and left the much more promising Charles at the top of the depth chart. He may not hold up to every-down running, but he’s explosive enough to make a play when called upon.

His chance has come at a good time. The matchups are in his favor as he faces Jacksonville and Oakland with the Browns and Bills still on the schedule for the fantasy playoffs.

If you have the bench room to stash Charles, do it, but he’s a risky start until we see how Kansas City will use him as the feature back.

Fantasy Filler

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans: He didn’t blow us out of the water with 125 yards and a score on Sunday, but he didn’t disappoint either. His stats could improve as he gains confidence in this starting role, and his legs will bump his fantasy points when the passing yards aren’t there.

Young is worth adding if you need a backup quarterback or want to take a chance with a third quarterback on your roster.

Justin Fargas, RB, Oakland Raiders: Still productive when needed and when the matchup is right. Still a Raider.

Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions: Much like Moats, Morris showed up in place of Kevin Smith in the Detroit’s “Showdown of Champions” against the Rams on Sunday. Smith went out with an injury, but he claims he could have played more if called upon.

Now, talk suggests Morris could share time in a RBBC with Smith going forward, but Smith will be working to prove he’s everything he’s cracked up to be the rest of this season. In a pinch, you can grab Morris, but how much can half the Lions’ run game really help you?

Joel Dreessen, TE, Houston Texans: With Owen Daniels out for the season, we’d like to see what Swiss-Army-knife-of-the-gridiron James Casey could do. Unfortunately, we won’t. Instead, we get Joel Dreessen. Schaub will make him a target, but Dreessen is no Owen Daniels. Look elsewhere (Benjamin Watson, Fred Davis, Kevin Boss, Dustin Keller) if you can.

Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants: Eli Manning had to target Boss as the Eagles attacked him on Sunday, and Manning gave him his best game of the season. I don’t see seventy yards and a touchdown happening every week, especially if the Giants can’t get their offense (and Eli Manning) back on track.

Eli just hasn’t utilized the tight end much this year, but   he might change that against the Chargers in Week 9. Boss did suffer a small injury on Sunday, but he was able to return. It doesn’t seem like a concern.

LenDale White, RB, Tennessee Titans: He didn’t do much of anything on Sunday, but his role could expand if the Titans become more of a running team under Vince Young than they were with Kerry Collins. Having a lead to protect will help on that front.

If you’re desperate for a running back, White is an option to add in deeper leagues.

Leonard Weaver, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: The big man took carries behind LeSean McCoy on Sunday for some big numbers, but Brian Westbrook’s return should mean the end of his fantasy usefulness.

Droppables

Don’t just drop these players because they are listed here (unless it’s Marc Bulger), but if you have more promising candidates to add to your roster, these players can all be let go to make room.

Marc Bulger. Marc Bulger. Marc Bulger. Fred Jackson. Derek Anderson. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Larry Johnson. Owen Daniels. Chris Chambers (if you don’t want to see where he lands next). Julius Jones. Donnie Avery.

Think I’m too foolish for your tastes? More great waiver wire picks from Fantasy Joe, FF Toolbox, Fantasy Football Librarian and The Hazean.

Foolish Thoughts: Marc Bulger and Sunday Night Sadness

Baseball stole our Sunday Night Football. How is that fair? Give it back, World Series. I demand it.

I’m fine with baseball as long as I don’t have to sit through an entire game. In my opinion, it should be played in highlight form, jumping to the major parts and leaving out all the rest.

Pitching change? No, sir. You should only be able to make a change between innings. You play yourself out of your own mess, pitcher.

We could also probably speed things up by not using a third baseman. If you get past second, you have to beat the catcher to home plate or get caught trying.

Yeah, yeah, I know that ruins all that “for the love of the game” stuff, but baseball hasn’t done it for me for several years now. I am all for going to a game in person, but watching a game on TV is just…not the same.

And besides, the first minute baseball interferes with my football, it violates my rights. I think it’s fair to hold a grudge. I was forced to watch the Favre-Favre-Favre-fest in Green Bay, and then it was just over. Done.

But at least they put on National Treasure.

Fantasy Football Fools has a new enemy.

Patrick Crayton gets a pass this week. He’s settled in nicely to his role as the slot receiver and returner for the Cowboys.

No, the new bane of my existence is one Marc Bulger, quarterback of the St. Louis Rams and the only human incapable of throwing a touchdown pass against the Lions.

It was a bit of a sleeper pick — okay, a lot of a sleeper pick — to toss him into my starting lineups this week, but it was out of necessity in one league.

Believe it or not, the blogger league I am in was smart enough to stock up on quarterbacks this year. I got hosed in the draft at quarterback and ended up with only Carson Palmer and Trent Edwards. Edwards has since been dropped for bench depth and pure worthlessness.

Palmer’s bye week in Week 8 left me wanting, so I went to the waiver wire only to find that Bulger was the best it had to offer. I almost pulled off the victory, even with Bulger’s pathetic 5.3-point performance, but the Saints defense butchered me in the end.

In the Buffalo Wild Wings All-Star Blogger league, I went with Bulger over Mark Sanchez, mostly due to a fear that Sanchez would do just enough to win. Surely, Marc Bulger, facing the defenseless Detroit Lions, could put up a touchdown, maybe even two touchdowns.

How could I be so foolish…

Luckily, I pulled off the win without Bulger in the BWW league thanks to a clutch performance from Tony Gonzalez and a low-scoring week for my opponent, but Bulger is still not to be trusted.

It’s not like you own him in any leagues, but Bulger is all that is wrong with mankind. When the time arises to do what is necessary, he fails miserably, even with the odds in his favor. Bulger is Mr. Glass to everyone else’s unbreakable Bruce Willis. He’s the even more obscure movie reference to that movie reference.

To his credit, he’s not getting a lot of help out there from his offensive line, but he does have Steven Jackson fighting like a champ for extra yards on every play.

In short, he’s not going to be on my team come Week 9, and I’ll be a better man for it.

Okay, okay. I agree that starting Beanie Wells wasn’t the smartest move. But if the Cardinals hadn’t been forced to pass after going down early — what happened to that run defense? — we might have seen a completely different outcome for Beanie.

As it happened, Andre Johnson was definitely the stronger start, but neither player blew anybody out of the water this week. The Texans were slowed by the Buffalo Bills’ passing defense, but the Bills’ run defense was pathetic, just as advertised.

Ryan Moats, most known for being abused by police, took over the running duties after Steve Slaton was benched for fumbling, and Moats tried his best to earn a larger portion of the duties moving forward. He scored three touchdowns, and if you own Slaton, he probably caused you a minor aneurysm.

The best part? It’s anybody’s guess what this means for Slaton and Moats going forward. Moats could be in line for the starting job. Slaton owners better just try to lock up both backs while they can.

Slaton’s been disappointing enough, but there’s no sense allowing the Houston running game to slip from your grasp by ignoring Moats’ big day.

Apparently, we shouldn’t have been so worried about LaDainian Tomlinson, but for a two-touchdown day, the yardage wasn’t there. Just 56 yards and not a single reception? That doesn’t have me screaming “He’s back” in the street anytime soon.

I loved Matt Forte last season. He was my best pick in the draft last year, and I rode his consistency all the way into the fantasy playoffs. But he’s just not getting the job done this year.

The offensive line isn’t helping him in the running game, and Jay Cutler has the ability to make plays through the air when the game is close rather than checking down to Forte like Kyle Orton was fond of doing last year.

Without those check-down passes, Forte suffers against tough run defenses. He has only shown up against the Lions and this week against the Browns.

If you have the opportunity, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade him, but try to get the greatest value you can for a guy who was drafted with a top-five pick this year.

Is the AFC East the most unpredictable division in football? Just when you think that you know how a game is going to turn out, they spin it on you.

I lucked into starting the Miami defense in one league, but how we were to expect the Dolphins would beat the Jets again? And this time off the returning skills of Ted Ginn?

The Patriots need to get back to form to make everything normal again.

Steven Jackson finally scored a touchdown. The world shook. The seas parted, and it’ll probably never happen again in 2009. Single tear. He deserves many more for the way he’s been running this year, but the schedule is not in his favor.

Week 8 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: L.T. is a zombie

At some point, we have to stop framing recommendations to start LaDainian Tomlinson with stats from his past performances. “For his career, L.T. averages 100+ yards and bazillion touchdowns against (fill in the blank).”

No crap. L.T. was a dominant fantasy force up until last season, but how much suck did L.T. average just last year? Or over the whole of his career? I’d say he’s averaging a fair amount of suckage right now, and that doesn’t fit in with the pretty little stat book on him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t average zero touchdowns against the Chiefs going into Week 7, but how many tries did he have only to fail? That, my friends, is not a back I want to start.

L.T. is out of luck and out of gas, and the guy who generated all those “stats” that are being quoted at you is dead and buried. In proper Halloween form, he’s bumbling around like a zombie out there for the Chargers.

Luckily, he gets the Raiders this week, which is fitting since Al Davis is practically a zombie himself.

I always have a hard time finding a Halloween costume. Mostly because I’m gigantic. The little costumes you can buy at the store don’t fit me. I just look like the big kid who stretched out his costume. It’s completely lame.

Two years ago, I was Shredder — yes, the baddie from Ninja Turtles. I modified a child-size gladiator costume with some tin foil and added a purple shirt and brown pants to the mix.

Perfect? No, of course not. It was terrible, but it worked for what I needed. I had four females walking around as the karate turtles, so no problems if I have a blasphemy of a Shredder costume.

But that night, while roaming to the next bar, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with a 12-year-old kid wearing a full bodysuit of purple cloth, accented by dark metal shoulder blades and cuffs.

His ninja skills were far superior. Not to mention, he had a whole platoon of Foot Clan lackeys behind him. He was shorter than all of his foot soldiers, but I have never felt so small…

So, hopefully, I can come up with a costume this year that doesn’t lead me to embarrassment. I can’t roll with Shredder again. Ever. But you can roll with these guys this week.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Chris Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Panthers
To continue our trend of going out on a limb with my “start of the week,” even though the Giants’ Steve Smith burned me a little last week, I’m taking Beanie Wells. A strong week against the Giants’ run defense leads Beanie into one of the softest matchups of the year. The Panthers are tenth in points allowed to running backs, and Jake Delhomme should have some sort of McNabb-puke-esque panic attack the second he steps out on the field against the team that made him what he is today, worthless.

Many screen caps will be made of Delhomme’s faces in this one. I can already predict that.

As scary as it is to trust a rookie who scored his first touchdown just last week, Beanie makes a very nice flex start. I might even give him RB2 status in a tough bye week. Looking ahead, that fantasy playoff schedule ain’t too shabby either.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Dolphins
Two rookie cornerbacks are starting? Yes, please! Even dropsies couldn’t ruin that fun, and Edwards handled himself pretty well in his last appearance against Miami. The return of Jerricho Cotchery should liven up this passing game for the Jets, and as long as Sanchez isn’t too busy eating hot dogs, I expect him to get Edwards involved once again. Show ‘em what you showed “friend of LeBron,” Edwards!

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Browns
If you own him, you’re starting him. That’s not a difficult decision. At least this week you can feel a little less self-loathing for drafting him. This is, of course, all dependent on him doing something of value against the Browns terrible run defense, but all the odds are in his favor.

Forte is a guy I really like, even though I was only able to draft him in one of my leagues. In the second half of the season, the weather should turn colder, and I could see Cutler handing it off quite a bit more. A superstar week against the Browns would go a long way in starting Forte’s return to relevance.

Donnie Avery, WR, Rams vs. Lions
If you don’t start him this week, when are you going to start him? Matchups don’t get better than this one unless you’re playing the Titans. Avery is the only Rams receiver of note other than an up-and-coming Danny Amendola. Bulger should, if he has anything left to give, find him in this one for at least one touchdown.

If Avery doesn’t show up here, I think astronauts will be able to hear the click of the “drop this player” button from space.

Lee Evans, WR, Bills vs. Texans
Ryan Fitzpatrick is locked in on Evans, and Evans has come back to life. Against the Texans, he should take advantage of that connection for a touchdown. You can feel safe starting Evans again, but T.O.? That’s still a no fly zone.

Zach Miller, TE, Raiders vs. Chargers
Always start your tight end against the Chargers. It may not work for Sean Ryan, but hey, is he really a tight end or just an extra offensive lineman that sometimes catches a touchdown pass from Matt Cassel?

I hate trusting a Raider, but Miller has been the only man in this offense that JaMarcus Russell can hit consistently. Miller’s not a terrible start this week.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers vs. Cardinals
In theory, this week would be a good one for DeAngelo. The Panthers are struggling to find a passing game, and Jake Delhomme is scarred for life after throwing enough picks to play out an NFL draft against Arizona in the playoffs.

You’d think they’d lean on the run, but the Cardinals have excelled at stopping the run this year. They’re tops at it. They’ll take DeAngelo and Jonathan Stewart out of this game as quickly as possible, putting this game in Delhomme’s hands.

And before you think about it, he won’t succeed.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans vs. Bills
Before I say anything, the disclaimer on this sit recommendation is that you must have someone with a better matchup. Don’t just pull in any old player to sub for the mighty, mighty A.J. That said, I don’t think the numbers are a lie when it comes to the Bills’ defense.

Andre Johnson already has a bruised lung to worry about. I can only imagine how much that stings, but the Texans (and A.J.) are saying that he will play this weekend against Buffalo. That’s a good sign for his toughness but a bad one for his fantasy owners. An unhealthy A.J. is hard to put your faith in during these critical weeks of the season.

Buffalo’s rookie safety has become an interception machine. I’m sure he’ll be keeping a close eye on Johnson this week. I could see Schaub having a great day, but I think it will come with the assistance of Owen Daniels, not so much Andre Johnson.

If you can sub out your stud wide receiver, do it. If you can’t, cross your fingers and hope for a significant yardage total.

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Colts
I know you got him off waivers this week, but the Colts murder all quarterbacks not named Peyton Manning. When you practice against Pey Pey, no one can measure up.

I do have a lot of confidence in Smith’s chances down the stretch, and I’m rooting for the guy. Just don’t root for him this week.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks vs. Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defense regained their pass-rushing prowess last week and took Matt Ryan down a notch. Against the Seahawks’ banged-up failure of an offensive line, we could see Hasselbeck leaving this one early again.

The Dallas secondary has been inconsistent to start the year, so there’s sleeper potential in the Seahawks’ passing game. But I’d put my faith in someone else at quarterback given the choice.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills vs. Texans
The Texans run defense is better than advertised. Just ask Cedric Benson. Even if Lynch finds room to run, the Bills will be forced to pass all day when the Texans get a big lead.

The numbers on the Texans’ run defense will point towards starting Lynch here, and in a better offense than the Bills’, I might agree. But with the Bills’ struggles and Houston’s recent success at stopping the run, I think the numbers are misleading. Assuming you’re not forced into starting Lynch due to bye weeks, go with another option.

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Jets
His look-what-I-can-still-do game against the Saints was impressive, but I don’t think that’s the Ricky you’ll get on a regular basis. The Jets are angry — very, very angry — about the embarrassment they suffered against the Dolphins just a few weeks ago. Rex Ryan will have them revved up and ready to kill. I wouldn’t rely on the No. 2 in the Wildcat to win it for you this week.

Ricky can only do well if a new wrinkle is added to the Wildcat to surprise the Jets. The Dolphins have been pretty good at creating those wrinkles thus far, but the creativity has to run out eventually.

Snoozer Sleeper Pick of the Week

Vince Young, QB, Titans vs. Jaguars
It wasn’t too long ago that Vince Young was a shot in the arm for an 0-5 Titans team. They’re in a tougher situation now, but the player is the same. As long as Vince can carry the locker room baggage, he’ll carry this team into better record — not hard to do with zero wins in the books.

Who wants to try to stop both Chris Johnson and Young in the same backfield? Not I. The Jaguars feel the same way. Don’t bet the farm, but if you had to take a flier on a quarterback this week to fill in for Tom Brady or Big Ben, not a bad choice. I still like sleepers like Marc Bulger a little more, but I’m a Young believer.

Song to Ease Your Pain While You Set Your Lineups

“This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Is it just me or does the monster under the stars look like Larry Johnson? He looks like a guy that would average 2 yards per carry. And that clown with the tear-away face is the spitting image of LenDale White circa 2008.

Don’t trust me? Try these on for size: Matthew Berry’s Week 8 Love/Hate (now featuring scary, sexy nurses), Fantasy Football Goat, Fantasy Football Xtreme, The FF Geek Blog and FF Toolbox’s starts and sits.

Foolish Thoughts: Magical phone refresh voodoo makes Vernon Davis score touchdowns

I got stuck watching the New England Patriots abuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers across the pond in London during the early games. I thought we sent this game overseas so that no one here would have to watch it?

While the action was riveting, oh, so riveting, I found myself checking my fantasy football scores on my phone. About halfway through the early games, I noticed Vernon Davis had scored me a touchdown. Nice work. I went against the stats in starting him, but, as ESPN pointed out, the tight ends who had been shut down by the Texans weren’t exactly in the elite class.

So happy in my good choices, I hit refresh, only to discover that Davis had another touchdown. Now, at this point, I had not seen any cutaways to the San Francisco game yet to show me what was happening in Houston. All I knew is that every time I refreshed my phone, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown.

Oh, this is getting good. I was mopping my opponent with my early starters, and I’d discovered a magical wishing well of fantasy points.

So I refreshed again, getting greedy this time. And once again, touchdown. Had I discovered a voodoo trick for fantasy football? Would it work on anyone else besides Vernon Davis?

I had no idea what I was doing, but I found myself hitting refresh again. But this time, nothing. My fantasy luck had run out. Game over.

But next week, I’m definitely refreshing my phone a few times during the San Francisco game to see if I can get it to work again.

Dear Patrick Crayton, I’d be the first one to tell you, so here goes: Miles Austin is legit. Your best chance of getting back in the starting lineup is by replacing Roy Williams. Sadly, that might not be that hard to do with as many key passes as Williams dropped on Sunday.

The Cowboys finally looked like the team that won 13 games in 2007 again on Sunday, but it’s not time for celebration just yet. It’s still hard to trust Tony Romo, who has one of the hardest schedules of any quarterback in the league the rest of the way. As long as Miles Austin keeps scoring two touchdowns per game, that view on Romo may change.

Donald Brown went out with a shoulder injury and left Joseph Addai to share the load with Chad Simpson. If Brown misses any length of time, it would increase Addai’s value since Simpson’s no threat to cut into Addai’s touches, but this injury was minor. Expect Brown to be back on the field and scaring Addai’s fantasy owner this week.

Ryan Grant finally went off with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Browns. Let me repeat that: Against the Browns. Green Bay won’t face pushover run defenses all season, but Grant abused this one when given the chance. The Packers remain a pass-first team, but Grant could see his usage rise as the weather turns colder. Don’t give up on him if you’ve holding onto him this long.

Steven Jackson had 134 rushing yards against the Colts. Maybe the Rams should just put him and the offensive line on the field together and run the flying V all day. Might make for some interesting football. The Rams certainly aren’t in their current incarnation.

What do Vernon Davis’ 93 yards and three touchdowns mean? It means he’s a legitimate every week starter. Davis has been a key part of this passing offense all year, and even with the addition of Michael Crabtree, he’ll get lots of looks. If nothing else, his chances at the goal line look very promising.

Speaking of Alex Smith, his three touchdowns and 206 yards in the second half seem to be more than just a lucky break off the bench. He faces the Colts this week, but moving forward, he’s go upside. Sometimes those bench-warming first-round draft picks pay off after all. Eh, Vince Young?

Owen Daniels. Best tight end in football? It’s possible.

Brett Favre loves him some Sidney Rice, proven by the 11 catches Rice took for 136 yards against the Steelers. Favre may not make many more big games out of these receivers, especially after his return-to-form breakdowns against Pittsburgh this week, but it’s never a bad idea to own his favorite target. Rice has definite talent, and skills the ability to hover five feet off the field until Favre can get him the ball.

The Steelers’ defense showed up late to the party against the Vikings, but at least they showed supreme mastery of the flying V in both their interception return and fumble return. If they can contain the beast inside of Adrian Peterson without run-stopper Aaron Smith, they can stop anyone. Feel confident if you have them as your defense at this point in the season. Very confident.

I think the league would be a better place if JaMarcus Russell were benched. I’d be interested to see two teams trade quarterbacks in a given week just to see whether it’s the quarterback or the team causing all the problems. Jason Campbell for Russell anyone? Jake Delhomme for Russell? Marc Bulger for Russell? That’s the kind of trade that could heat things up in a season where every team is great, very good or horrifyingly terrible.

Could the NFL just institute a takebacks trade option so that teams can exchange players for two weeks at a time? It’d be just like pickup football.

Andre Johnson has a lung contusion. I have no idea what that is, but I do know he spit up blood. Regardless, he doesn’t need lungs to play out of his mind against the Bills. The Buffalo secondary has been good, but top receivers can find a way. Jake Delhomme just gets paid to make secondaries like the Bills’ look good.

After losing Leon Washington for the season with a nasty broken fibula, the Jets put in Shonn Greene in garbage time to finish off the Raiders. That 144 yards and two touchdowns will likely draw a crowd on the waiver wire, but Greene probably won’t duplicate a performance like that until he starts to eat into Thomas Jones’ role as the lead back.

I’ve liked Greene all along this year. He’s big and hard-running, just like a little Marion Barber in the making, but the Jets have not sought to limit Jones or replace him with Greene just yet. For now, Greene is nothing more than an 8-10 carry guy to share the load with Jones and take garbage time. Still, he’s definitely worth stashing because of the strength of the Jets’ running game and the chance to eventually replace Jones if anything were to go down.

Carson Palmer looked like the Carson Palmer that dominated the league before his knee injury. Five touchdowns, two to Chad Ochocinco, have me hoping that he keeps that alive through the end of the season.

Palmer’s arm also opened things up for Cedric Benson, who took full advantage of the revenge bowl in Chicago with a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. If Palmer had jacked all the touchdowns, Benson could have had more. The Bears just looked like they though they were playing last year’s Bengals.

Despite Benson’s beating, Ricky Williams won the spite battle this week with three touchdowns and just 80 rushing yards against his former team, the Saints. It’s not like Ricky has any bad blood. I’m pretty sure with the amount of pot he’s smoked, he’s made peace with everybody, including dead people, but he certainly wanted to win against the Saints on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Saints took some 5-Hour Energy at halftime, woke up and realized they were behind. Then, Drew Brees went to work. The Saints defense returned two picks for touchdowns, again proving they are a legit fantasy defense as long as Darren Sharper is roaming around out there. I completely called Tracy Porter’s interception return at the end of the game, mostly because I needed it to win a fantasy football game this week, but you know.

Somehow I managed to make it through the entire Monday Night Football excitement of the Eagles and Redskins. In short, DeSean Jackson scored both rushing and receiving the football, and when he wasn’t in the game, neither was the Philadelphia offense. Brian Westbrook got knocked out. Chris Cooley broke his ankle and could be out for the season.

DeSean Jackson was scared he broke something, but after X-raying it, they determined that his only ailment was being awesome and unstoppable. Sometimes that feels like an injury when you play the Redskins I guess.

At what point do we consider farming the Redskins, Rams, Chiefs or Raiders out to the UFL?

On the Wire: Week 7 Pickups, Drops and Names to Know by Now

In what was largely a return to form for the fantasy football community, several names you probably already know popped back on the scene. Some we’ve talked about before, some we’ve neglected to mention since the preseason.

Regardless, if they’ve been dropped or otherwise abandoned to the free agent pool, these guys are worth a look.

Hot Claims

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints: I’d hope that most owners didn’t give up on Moore as he struggled to get back on the field for the Saints. If anyone did release him, he’s now worth owning again. He was targeted almost as much as Marques Colston.

Steve Breaston, WR, Arizona Cardinals: I highly doubt that a guy as productive as Breaston has been throughout the first part of the season is unclaimed in most leagues, but Anquan Boldin’s injury opens the door for an expanded role. He doesn’t need the opening to be worthy of starting in leagues that start three wide receivers or during bye-week troubles. The extra targets could move him up to WR2 status.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings: We’ve mentioned him before, but if you’ve been avoiding taking a chance on this magical third-year wide receiver who can hover in space and time while Brett Favre hurls rocket passes of molten leather at him (and how could you with a description like that?), you shouldn’t wait any longer. This kid’s growing into his NFL shoes, and his connection with Favre doesn’t seem to be fading. Rice may end up being the best receiver to own in the Vikings offense by season’s end. Hopefully, Brett Favre’s still throwing well at that point.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: If by some miracle of the fantasy gods, no one in your league decided it was worth it to stash Miles Austin during the Cowboys’ bye week after his 250-yard performance, you’re in luck. He’s now been named a starter, which makes it more likely he could repeat that performance. Austin is still hard to trust as an every week starter, especially given the Cowboys’ tough schedule, but as a guy who has been rooting for Austin for several years now, I’m inclined to believe he has at least one or two more impact performances in him this season.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Just a reminder that the unanimous “great pick” of many a football draft could soon be returning to the Colts lineup. Those who held onto him can only hope that he resumes his position as the No. 2 and doesn’t get worked into some kind of incredibly unfortunate rotation due to the production of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie in his absence.

Solid Performers

Laurence Maroney, RB, New England Patriots: I thought he was done. I really did. But here we are in Week 7 without Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor, which leaves Maroney as the next in line. The Patriots have a very easy schedule to end the season. That makes Maroney worth owning even if you don’t plan on starting him right away. Perhaps he’s just fallen into a career saving season.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers: As if we need another tight end to add to the depth at the position, Green Bay has a budding star in Finely who could see his role expand. The Packers, as usual, look like one of the most productive passing offenses this season, and Finley should be a big part of that, especially if the Packers fail to involve Greg Jennings more than they have during the first six weeks of the season.

Justin Fargas, RB, Oakland Raiders: As inadvisable as it is to rely on an Oakland Raider in fantasy, Fargas earned some tough yards against the Eagles’ defense without Robert Gallery on the offensive line. Gallery’s upcoming return should allow the Raiders to get more action in the running game, and Fargas might hold onto the starting role if he continues to be the most productive back until Darren McFadden comes back from his injury. Michael Bush was largely ignored in this game as they let Fargas carry the load, but we’ll have to see if that continues.

Chaz Schilens, WR, Oakland Raiders: Yes, the Raiders are questionable in the passing game, but that doesn’t mean the return of their former No. 1 receiver won’t turn things around. Just look at JaMarcus Russell, full of that spin move spunk this week. If you are desperate for a receiver to finish out the season, Schilens might be worth sitting on for a few weeks. Just don’t let JaMarcus sit on him because that could kill him.

Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders: Due to the depth at tight end this season, I’d only take a chance on Zach Miller as a backup tight end right now. He hasn’t been the most reliable fantasy player because of the Raiders offensive woes, but his big reception on Sunday for a touchdown could be the start of something special. He’s worth keeping an eye on in smaller leagues.

Long-term Investments

Chester Taylor, RB, Minnesota Vikings: There was a bit of an injury scare on Sunday when Adrian Peterson came up a little gimpy late in the game. A.P. returned to finish the game, but if Peterson misses time in practice this week, Taylor is the back you want to own. If nothing else, you can hold him over the A.P. owner as a bargaining chip for a trade if this scare causes them to regret not stashing Taylor on their own roster.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers: I’ve heard conflicting reports that Crabtree would get a few snaps in the slot and that he would instantly become a starter this week against Houston. Whatever happens to be true, Crabtree is an interesting stash. Despite Josh Morgan’s promising stats thus far, Crabtree might be able to make more of his touches in the 49ers offense if he’s all he’s cracked up to be at the NFL level. Keep your eye on this situation.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills: Trent Edwards got his annual head injury yesterday. That leaves Fitzpatrick in line to start if Edwards has to miss time or trails off after the concussion the same way he did last season. Keep your eye on this situation. Just like Edwards, Fitzpatrick would have a chance to be a part of an explosive offense, but it remains to be seen whether any of the Bills quarterbacks can put it to good use.

Dropsies

Fanhouse throws out a few reminders about players who can be cut. I disagree on Morgan, at least until we know how this Crabtree starting situation shakes out, but the rest can be removed from your roster if a more promising candidate is available.

Other players who could be let go: Kerry Collins, Titans; Jason Campbell, Redskins; Trent Edwards, Bills; Marc Bulger, Rams.

Want More?

Get more waiver wire picks at Fantasy Football Librarian, Fanhouse, FF Toolbox, Lester’s Legends, KFFL, The Hazean and The Fantasy Football Geek Blog.

On the Wire: Week 4 Pickups and Sleepers [Insert Coffee Joke Here]

Ah, I just love the sweet smell of bacon in the morning. What? You thought I was going to say coffee, as in Glen Coffee? That would be silly. Silly like little kids who talk like big people.

Now, get your Coffee while it’s hot. Burn!

Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco 49ers: With Frank Gore set to miss about three weeks, Coffee should get most of the work against the Rams and the Falcons before the 49ers go on bye in Week 6. If you’re lucky, Coffee could see more work than usual against the Texans and Colts post-bye. I’ll take a double shot of that.

Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys: He took over the Dallas run game on Monday night. If Felix Jones’ knee keeps him from hitting the field in Week 4, Choice could be the lone back for the Cowboys until Marion Barber returns, and he can handle that job. Dallas faces Denver and Kansas City before their bye in Week 6.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts: The French name with another the solid game, Garcon has stepped it up in Anthony Gonzalez’s absence. Peyton Manning trusts him, and until Gonzalez returns, you can, too.

Nate Burleson, WR, Seattle Seahawks: Burleson has been posting decent stats while T.J. Houshmandzadeh runs his mouth and fails to impress with his bad back. Maybe T.J., as I’ve felt all along, is just average. Burleson’s worth a look as a WR3 even without Hasselbeck under center.

Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: He’s getting plenty of looks in this offense, especially with Kevin Kolb doing the passing.

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers: Two touchdowns? Now that’s almost enough to convince me that he’ll stick around. Incubate him for a game or two unless you’re desperate at tight end and see what develops. Unlike many of the most targeted players this week, Davis came down with the majority of the passes thrown his way. That’s promising.

Fred Taylor, RB, New England Patriots: Brady was saved by his ground game in this one, and Taylor is that ground game. He’s got plenty left in the tank, but just when we start to trust him, the Patriots will mix in someone else out of that backfield and throw the ball 60-plus times each game. Taylor adds good depth as we head into the bye weeks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos: He’s fighting every week to get his yards even if Knowshon Moreno keeps the hype and the goal line touches.

Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions: We might see more Morris if Kevin Smith misses time with his injury. Smith can’t heal that fast, but don’t expect the same production you get from Smith out of Morris.

Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams: Maybe without competition from Laurent Robinson, who is now out for the season, Avery will finally step his game up. He’d probably have better luck if Kyle Boller takes over at quarterback.

Josh Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As we’ve seen from the Byron Leftwich appearances this season, the Bucs are bad, and they are going to be throwing often. Johnson has the potential to be better than Leftwich, and he’s certainly faster and more agile. I broke down some of his background in this week’s Foolish Thoughts. If you’re desperate or digging for trade bait, grab him while he’s an unknown.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins: Same first name, different starting Miami quarterback. Sadly, this injury may be the end for Pennington. Due to Pennington’s bionic shoulder capsule explosion in the game this week, Henne takes over a tad early and tries to right this Dolphin ship in 2009. Please, sir, may we have a deep ball?

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns: I wouldn’t suggest that he’s better than your current benched players, but if Jamal Lewis stays out, Harrison could be in line for a big game or two when Cleveland faces weak run defenses. There aren’t many of those on the schedule, but maybe you just have a bench spot that’s completely empty and in need of a warm body. Yeah, you can slot Harrison there.

Denver Broncos D/ST: Who knew? The Broncos have a defense. Leave it to Josh McDaniels to teach them how to repel people. I’m still not sure I believe.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Maybe he will break out after all? Only if Favre keeps passing like he did on Sunday, but I’m a fan of Rice’s potential.

Bryant Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: It was Bryant, not Calvin Johnson, that had the important touchdown catch against the Washington Redskins this week. If Megatron gets shut down, look for Bryant to reap the benefits. He’s been on my watch list since he left the Arizona Cardinals, but he’s never produced consistently. This year may finally be his time if he can stay healthy.

Guys from Week 3’s On the Wire that should be owned in all leagues by now (but I’ll list them here anyway just to drive home the point):

  • LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Without Westbrook, he’s just as good and maybe even more explosive.
  • Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: He is David Garrard’s favorite target, and the Jags are going to put the ball in the air this season.

For more waiver wire grabs, talk to the geeks at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, get the list from Fanhouse, sweat it out with Lester’s Legends, get the pickups of the week at FF Toolbox, add Coffee to your list at USA Today’s Fantasy Joe, see through the haze at The Hazean, and check out both the first and second collection from Fantasy Football Librarian this week.

Get out there and make your team better this week. Try toying with some handcuffs and consider the rises and falls of Sunday at Fanhouse, prepare for the bye weeks as noted by The Fantasy Football Geek Blog , sell off a few high-performing pretenders at FF Toolbox and cut the dead weight with the Bruno Boys.

As always, the comments are yours. I’ll be answering questions all week if you don’t know who to claim and who to drop on your waiver wire. Just leave a message below.

Manning, Colts D on Fire as Cards Misfire