Foolish Games We Play: Win Fame and Fortune with Fantasy Football in Week 9

It’s been some time since we talked about the contest and competitions out there in the fantasy football world. If you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling for your current team, or if you’re so secure in your spot that you’ve grown tired of waiting for the playoffs, here are a few opportunities that might catch your eye.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ Football Challenge

Want to play in a game at Raymond James Stadium?

No, the Bucs aren’t having open tryouts — shocking, I know. Through a contest at Buffalo Wild Wings, fans can win a round-trip ticket to Tampa to play in a flag football game on Feb. 13. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful Valentine’s Day celebration? I think so.

Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg from ESPN will coach the flag football teams, and Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk will act as team captains.

Sounds like a pretty nice little Saturday. Much better than Pottery Barn, but here’s the kicker: You have to register in person by tomorrow, Nov. 8. So if you are reading this post, you need to head on over to your local Buffalo Wild Wings right now or tomorrow (to watch all the games, of course) to get registered.

Buffalo Wild Wings Coke CouponYou don’t even have to buy anything to get a chance in this contest. It’s free to anyone who registers at Buffalo Wild Wings.

As an added incentive, Buffalo Wild Wings is circulating a coupon for the month of November (at right, click to view larger, printable copy of the coupon) as if you needed another reason to go right now.

You know, I am a company man when it comes to Buffalo Wild Wings since I’m playing in their All-Star Blogger League this year — or, attempting to play, as my current record might indicate. But you have to appreciate all the love they’ve been giving fantasy football this season.

The official rules and more details are available on the Buffalo Wild Wings contest site.

Best Buy’s Weekly Fantasy Football Challenge

This one’s pretty simple. Best Buy is hosting a contest in which you pick a roster every week to go head-to-head with a celebrity’s team. For every point you beat the celebrity by, you get entered in weekly drawing for prizes. Pretty painless.

This week’s celebrity is Gavin DeGraw, and he’s left himself open for a challenger by choosing Eli Manning as his “bonus” player. You can beat that, people.

Win $50 Gift Card to NFL.com from the Fantasy Football Geeks

The Fantasy Football Geek Blog teamed up with Monster.com to promote the search for the new NFL Director of Fandemonium.

To get your chance at the $50 gift card to NFL.com, all you have to do is pick this week’s top quarterback.

I’d give you a hint of my pick, but I don’t want to taint the contest. Let’s just say I like a certain quarterback coming off a bye and playing a team from Florida, and it’s not Matt Cassel. Piece that cryptic puzzle together if you can.

FanDuel

Finally, Fantasy Football Goat had some nice things to say about his experience with FanDuel. I’ve never played there myself, but he likes it. How can you not trust the word of a goat?

If you take the Goat’s advice and give it a try, feel free to share your experience in the comments for our education.

That’s all I’ve got. Sorry for the late notice on some of these contests, but I thought they were worth sharing, even last minute.

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.

Week 7 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: LenWhale fall down, go boom

Patrick Crayton just straight up offended me by complaining that he wasn’t told that he was being replaced in the starting lineup. Seriously? But seriously? But seriously? I guess he was the last to know. I knew two weeks ago.

Let’s just drop the act, Crayton. You saw Miles Austin have the best day of any Cowboys’ receiver two weeks ago. You saw it first hand unless — and I’m not ruling this out — you couldn’t see around the one corner that had you blanketed the whole game.

If you watch any game film of the rest of your career, I’m sure you’ll also see the key drop you had in the playoffs against the Giants. Yes, that was you. Would the coaches have had to explain to you why you were being replaced in the starting lineup that week?

And you’ll also notice plenty of other drops falling from your hands whenever you were open beside Terrell Owens, which made it impossible for Owens to duck any coverage in the passing game. Hey, we could practically blame the need to trade for Roy Williams midseason on you. You were not enough of a threat.

You’re upset that you lost your starting job so quickly, so unsuspectingly, but no one is really surprised here. You’re a better slot man than a second receiving option. Miles Austin has far more potential and the trust of Tony Romo. Just stop trying to be the T.O. that T.O. left behind.

Speaking of getting left behind, LenDale White had to be carted off the field this week. Luckily, they had a heavy-duty model to do the job.

I didn’t get to see the exact play where he injured himself, but I’m told it’s because he didn’t stick the landing on this one. Poor guy.

[For those of you reading this by email (and if not, subscribe to our free email updates today). There is a video here. This video, in fact.]

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Steve Smith, WR, Giants vs. Cardinals

Contrary to what you may start to think when looking at Hakeem Nicks’ or Mario Manningham’s touchdowns the last few weeks, Steve Smith is the No. 1 target in the Giants’ offense.

The Cardinals are almost dead last in the league against the pass, and that’s in a league that still includes the Tennessee Titans. The Giants, much like the Steelers, have become more comfortable passing the ball than running it lately.

Even if the weather is a little rough, I expect Eli Manning to hit Steve Smith with the critical passes and maybe even a score. Forget about that one in Carolina. This guy is the Steve Smith.

Other mighty men of bravery and startability this week…

Thomas Jones, RB, Jets vs. Raiders

This destruction shall be mighty. This man ran for 210 yards against the Bills last week, and unless they have two pigeons on their side this week, I see Jones turning the Raiders back to their poor-run-defense selves.

The Jets will want to go easy on Mark Sanchez after he was de-poised over the past two weeks. It may not be a career performance, but Jones is a strong choice at running back this week. He’ll do some damage. Leon Washington is a good play as well.

Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots vs. Bucs

Sammy Morris didn’t travel to London, and since I know he has a passport, that means he couldn’t play this week. So I guess Maroney is the man.

Tampa Bay has a terrible run defense, but they also have a terrible pass defense. It’s hard to say what to trust here, especially because Belichick is such a cranky mad scientist most of the time. Will he run or pass? He’ll probably just have Tom Brady QB sneak the whole game to screw us all.

Still, Maroney gets love for at least this week. He ran well against the Titans, but they looked like a fifth grade team that got lost on the way to the field. If Maroney doesn’t show up, at least we can all move on to liking BenJarvus Green-Ellis for his awesome nickname and starting role with the Patriots. “Law Firm,” simply awesome.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs vs. Chargers

Oh, he’s a sleeper! I actually like Cassel a little more this week. Not only does he have Sean Ryan — and you ALWAYS start your tight ends against the Chargers — but he also might have Antonio Cromartie out with a knee injury.

The Chargers secondary is a pretty big mess right now, and their pass rush is absentee in this ballot. Let’s go with Cassel this week. Maybe he’ll look more like that Patriot version of himself this week, but we’re not talking 59-0 here.

Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals vs. Giants

Here’s my theory: Hightower will be Kurt Warner’s outlet pass whenever the Giants bring the pain, and when they get near the goal line, Hightower’s bound to be asked to at least attempt a few goal line runs to keep this thing honest.

He’s not the best play of the week, but if you need a solid RB2 or a flex, I like his chances for a score and some yardage in this one. Definitely a safe play in PPR leagues due to the passes he’ll get.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders vs. Jets

I hate myself. I just puked. I feel sick again. I want to sit down. (I know it’s weird that I’m typing this while standing up, but I feel like it improves the circulation.)

That’s better… Oh, man, Fargas is still listed here as a start. Well, there are six teams on bye. The Raiders ran the ball well last week. And, well, Fargas might just be able to slip down the middle of the Jets’ defense now that Kris Jenkins, the big man in the middle, is out.

So you’re saying there is a chance? Sadly, yes. Even if the man talks to pigeons, there’s a chance Fargas succeeds for you this week. There’s also a chance that I won’t acknowledge I ever said this…

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins vs. Saints

Don’t get cute. You picked him up after the announcers went all “laser, rocket arm” on him against the Jets.

Tell you what, give him a week to do it again against a defense that has been truly legit against the run. Barring a new wrinkle in the Wildcat offense, which sure seems pretty wrinkly these days, I don’t see Henne succeeding in this game.

Brees and the Saints just put Eli Manning in his place, and he’s just slightly ahead of Henne’s learning curve.

Other worthless souls this week…

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Raiders

Just say “no” to Nnamdi Asomugha. And Mark Sanchez is positively poiseless right now. And Edwards is just a little injured. Give him a week off if you can afford it. Otherwise, lower your expectations. You’re used to that with Braylon Edwards anyway.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers vs. Bills

This guy has disappeared from his own offense. Let him disappear from your lineup this week. The Bills may be sad and pathetic right now, but their pass defense is strong as a buffalo. Did you see what I did there? Did you?

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings vs. Steelers

The ol’ “Silver Fox” is no match for a Steelers defense with Troy Polamalu back in the mix. Besides, other injuries on the Pittsburgh defense make running against them the most prudent strategy, and that is something else the Vikings are good at doing. It’s true. They don’t just allow announcers to gush over aging stars playing roles.

I relish any opportunity to use a word like prudent, but it just doesn’t sound right when we’re talking about Brett Favre.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Saints

You’ve met Drew Brees, haven’t you? Okay, good. I thought you were seriously going to start them. Funny guy.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Cardinals

I don’t see him catching a touchdown pass (that will, of course, be called back for a penalty), and this game is shaping up to be pass-happy as long as the weather allows.

It’s not because I think Ahmad Bradshaw is stealing his job. That’s not happening. I just don’t like Jacobs this week. This fat man won’t fit through the square hole that is this matchup against the Cardinals.

It’d be nice if he broke out with a big game, but it’s not coming anytime soon. I finally feel safe recommending benching him if you have a better option.

Sleeper of the Week

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys vs. Falcons

That’s right. Screw you, Patrick Crayton. I’m all in.

I’m giving Miles Austin every chance to prove himself here. Maybe that’s silly of me to bet on another nice performance right after his record-breaking day, but hey, I live on the edge — the edge of reality.

There is some upside behind this sleeper pick though. Atlanta just lost one of their starting cornerbacks, and assuming that they pay the most attention to the big guy, Roy Williams, the Falcons will have a not-so-good corner trying to contain Miles Austin. He already gets a lot of looks from Tony Romo. I say he gives him a few more after Austin saved all the Cowboys two weeks ago.

And if Miles Austin impresses, I’ll be the first one to tell Patrick Crayton. Pinky swear.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Your Lineups

Flight of the Conchords – I’m Not Crying

Flight of the Conchords is a great show. Maybe they can ease your pain during this six-team bye week sadness. I’m not crying… I just looked at my lineup while cutting an onion and thinking of my friend, who you don’t know, who is dying… of bye weeks.

I miss you already, Ray Rice.

For more, check your lineups against FF Toolbox starts and sits, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Goat, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate for Week 7 and Fantasy Joe.

As always, leave your sit and start issues in the comments. I’ll take care of them.

How to Get Your 0-5 Team to 1-5

It happens to the best of us. Sometimes teams don’t work out. You draft Darren McFadden higher than you should have — grumble grumble. You put the hopes of your fantasy team on a sleeper like Matt Cassel, who hasn’t panned out yet.

Maybe your team is putting up mad amounts of points, but you just happen to be playing the highest scoring team every week. Lady Luck must hate you. If that’s the case, maybe you don’t need to do anything with your team in order for them to rock the rest of the season.

But some of you out there, you’re 0-5 or maybe 1-4, and it’s time to get tough. You’re a little far from the playoff picture, but all is not lost. You just need to reshape your team.

Last week, we discussed what to do if you were 1-3 or 2-2 in your league in the Week 5 Fourth & 1 debate, a fantasy football roundtable that I’ve been participating in every week. Last week’s debate was hosted by Fantasy Pros 911.

In addition to the excellent tips there on how to rebuild your roster and not panic too much, The Hazean gave some fantabulous advice on where to turn if you were 0-3. Most of that still applies.

Sadly, 0-5 or 1-4 is an even bigger beast. You need to make something happen, and it needs to happen fast.

So how do you save your fantasy hopes?

1. Drop any sleeper pick that hasn’t broken out yet.

I don’t care if he went to high school with you, married you or otherwise impressed you in the preseason. If the points aren’t on the board, you need to get them off your team.

You don’t have the time to wait around anymore. If he’s that great, you can fight for him on the waiver wire when he breaks out.

2. Shop your best player and take the best offer you get.

Yes, Chris Johnson is amazing. He could go off in any game, but if he isn’t enough to carry your team, he’s no use to you. I’ve seen many a team struggle through the season with a stud at running back or quarterback and refusing to trade even if it would allow them to have a more balanced team.

Take one stud and turn him into two lesser studs. If you get another owner to buy high on your studs while you buy low on a few of his that are performing nicely, you instantly get a better squad.

3. Replace your flukes with more responsible choices

Hines Ward isn’t flashy, but he gets yardage. DeSean Jackson could just as easily get you zero as he could 27. You need reliable starters from this point, so don’t be afraid to let your more daring team members serve you as trade bait.

If you start three wide receivers, you just want your WR3 to be a lock for 8-10 points every week. That’s all you need to stay consistent. If you can get a WR2 who puts up 10-15, that’ll serve to replace the Jeremy Maclin, Miles Austin or DeSean Jackson who was winning and losing battles for you on a weekly basis.

It’s always good to get the guys who you know will get carries (Jamal Lewis) or catches (Muhsin Muhammed) involved, even if they aren’t going to win you a game. Hopefully, you have enough strength at each position that putting up an average amount of points each week from here on out will get you a win…as long as you’re lucky.

Trust me, at this point, all you can hope for is lucky.

4. Practice voodoo.

Maybe you can curse your way into a championship?

Okay, not likely, but you might be able to will a bad game onto your opponent’s studs each week. Just stare at his or her players anytime they are in the game and root for a fumble or two. If you get really close to the TV, it will probably work better, and you’ll be so fun at all the pregame parties.

5. Work the waiver wire like you mean it.

I publish a waiver wire post every week. There’s always a player or two who jumps in value for two to three weeks or for the rest of the season. You need to have them all on your team. Always get better. Always work harder than the next guy.

You must own the waiver wire. You have the next two weeks to find players who haven’t been claimed yet and watch for the ones who break out. Maybe, just maybe, a stud like the 2007 incarnation of Ryan Grant will emerge from the pack to save your playoff hopes.

If not, there’s always the Sunday afternoon matinee, right?

Foolish Thoughts: Terrible throwbacks and games to throw back

The NFL should really give all the bad teams the same bye week. Just wait until all the worst teams have shown what they are made of, take the bottom half of the league and give them a week off to heal their wounds. Hey, we could even give the Rams a whole season off. At least that would save us from weeks like these.

Sure, it’s great for fantasy teams. It was pretty easy to set rosters this week outside of any bye week issues, but most of the games were just terrible to watch. If not for a few close ones, I might have had to wash out my eyes with Red Bull and coffee.

The Close Ones

The most brutal of all the games had to be the “who will be fired first” bowl, the Browns facing the Bills. After watching the highlights of it, all three of them, I vote both coaches get the axe.

Derek Anderson led the Browns to a 6-3 victory by completing just two passes. Jamal Lewis returned from injury to run for 117 yards. No one scored a touchdown, and Trent Edwards proved once again that he cannot be expected to take advantage of any matchup, despite his many weapons on offense, unless the other team never takes the field.

Captain Checkdown is just begging you to release him to the free agent pool. He wants no part of your fantasy team. In fact, at the rate he’s going, he wants to be traded to the UFL.

The Cowboys also kept it unexpectedly tight in Kansas City, but in overtime, someone on the team, probably Matt Cassel, recognized that they were still the Chiefs, not the “Dallas Texans” as they pretended Sunday. Then the Chiefs let Miles Austin break every tackle they threw at him to get to the end zone for the win.

Austin even set a Cowboys’ record with his 250-yard, two-touchdown performance, which will make it hard for the Cowboys to slot him back to the third receiver role. Sorry, Patrick Crayton, but your time as the No. 2 in Dallas may have come to an end. (I couldn’t be happier.)

Cedric Benson continued his return-to-relevance tour by breaking the Baltimore Ravens streak of games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. His 120 yards and a touchdown would have been nice to have in the starting lineup rather than my bench, but who knew that it’d be Benson and the Bengals that made the Ravens look like pretenders this week? Not me.

I am still surprised that the Bengals are sitting atop their division with wins over the Steelers and Ravens. That’s crazy talk. If not for that miracle reception in Week 1, the Bengals would be the undefeated team everyone was talking about instead of the Broncos.

Speaking of Denver, the Broncos took it to overtime against New England, where Tom Brady has never lost, but the coin toss went in Denver’s favor.

I have to say that the Broncos are legit now that they have beaten two shaky but worthy opponents, the Patriots and the Cowboys. But those throwback uniforms are not legit.

Kyle Orton throws some ugly passes, but he had the benefit of those blinding uniforms. You couldn’t look at the players who had twisted their vertically striped socks without getting vertigo. Please burn those uniforms, Broncos, so that we never have to look upon them again. Never again.

I’m impressed with Josh McDaniels and his Hulk-scream celebration after the game while Bill Belichick looked like a lost puppy in the middle of the field, but I don’t expect this team to go undefeated much longer. They’re scraping by in too many games so far to keep it up.

Surprise, surprise

While Sunday had more than its fair share of amazing performances, they weren’t from the guys you would expect. That always makes fantasy owners happy.

The Lions lost the services of Calvin Johnson early against the Steelers, but Daunte Culpepper kept it close thanks to some help from Dennis Northcutt. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t come back for a win without their star weapon in the game and failed to make the plays that would have given them the lead. Thus, they restored the balance in the universe by not beating the Super Bowl champs.

Against Oakland, it was Ahmad Bradshaw, not Brandon Jacobs, pounding the Raiders for 110 yards and two touchdowns, which was great news for those of us who drafted Brandon Jacobs expecting him to be the engine of this offense.

Do they give Jacobs a snack break when they get close to the red zone? Does Ahmad Bradshaw hide his helmet on the sidelines? I do not understand what’s happening out there, but I do know that Jacobs hasn’t lived up to expectations yet.

In the Eagles’ air assault of the Bucs, it was Jeremy Maclin, not DeSean Jackson, getting the big plays. Maclin recorded 142 yards and two touchdowns, which probably didn’t benefit a single fantasy owner out there.

With McNabb back in the lineup, the Eagles may return to their I-can-pick-any-receiver-I-want ways, which makes it very dangerous for fantasy owners to trust DeSean Jackson every week. But if you’re going to trust any Eagles receiver, it’s Jackson. He’s looked unstoppable with the ball in his hands so far this season.

The Usual Returns

In his first big game of the season, Roddy White made the San Francisco 49ers defense look like the 49ers of old in torching them for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Turner finished the job by walking all over them for three more touchdowns. At least the 49ers should have Frank Gore back after their bye week.

Bucs’ tight end Kellen Winslow returned to his “soulja” ways by scoring twice against the Eagles, even though the game was put away early by Donovan McNabb and Jeremy Maclin’s two connections. Josh Johnson got Winslow involved but, sadly, also got Asante Samuel, who had two picks, far too involved.

Matt Hasselbeck started for the Seahawks after recovering from his rib injury and blew the Jacksonville Jaguars pass defense away with four touchdowns, two to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and two to Nate Burleson. Four touchdowns? Four? I didn’t think Hasselbeck had it in him, but he has a very pass-friendly schedule this season.

The Jaguars scratched their star weapon, Mike Sims-Walker, for violating team rules and paid the price. Without him, the Jags looked lost on offense and never got on the scoreboard against the Seahawks.

The Sinking of the Titanic

I know this is a shocker, but in case you didn’t know, the Titans are not going to the playoffs this year. They’re 0-5 and facing the Patriots for a chance to prevent 0-6, and I’m not sure that we can say they’re the best winless team anymore. They just don’t look like the same squad that went 10-0 to start the season in 2008.

On defense, the Titans have been dropping cornerbacks like flies, weakening their secondary beyond recovery, and their pass rush has disappeared without Albert Haynesworth. Without their defense creating stops, the offense can’t control the clock by running the ball.

Tennessee’s offense has become so predictable that even their opponents overthink it. A Wildcat play with Vince Young? Well, considering how successful the Dolphins were with it, that just might work, but the Titans did nothing more than hint at a Wildcat formation to keep the Colts on their toes.

This team has lost their identity. Now they’ll lose one more game before turning the offense over to Vince Young on the bye week to see what they have to look forward to next year and beyond. Tennessee fans and fantasy owners can only hope that Jeff Fisher gets more creative than he has these first five weeks of the season.

Week 2 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: And who plays the Lions this week again?

Ah, that was nice, wasn’t it? The start of the NFL season is just like taking a hot shower, and Week 1 is when someone flushes the toilet to give you that frigid, but refreshing, blast of unbearably cold water.

Once you’ve recovered from the shock, it’s lovely, just lovely.

This week, we’re looking for things to regress back to the mean — or for non-nerds, return to normal. I expect a few disappointments to bounce back, but we can’t always get what we want. Sorry, L.T. owners, but I think your ship is sinking.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson was only supposed to fill time until Marshawn Lynch returned from his suspension, but he’s exploded out of the gates with a great game last week against New England’s rebuilding defensive line. Against the Tampa Bay defense, Jackson should have another good day.

Jackson’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him a dynamic threat in Buffalo’s no-huddle offense, and he should see his fair share of receptions in addition to all the carries he’ll receive as the focal point of this attack. I’m starting him in every league in which I own him, even if it means I have to sit names like Steven Jackson to do it.

Others receiving votes:

  • Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Bills should be firing on all cylinders this week as they take advantage of Ronde Barber and the Tampa Bay defense that just got lit up by Dallas in Week 1.
  • Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
    The 49ers have come together nicely this season, but the Seahawks still have many threats in the passing game. I see John Carlson sneaking lose a few times and allowing Hasselbeck to be a sneaky play this week.
  • Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
    A mouth-watering matchup for a team who just ran all over the Chargers. McFadden could have a big day against the struggling Chiefs, and Michael Bush could join in the fun as well.
  • Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans
    The Jets abused the Houston secondary last week. Maybe it’ll be Gage’s turn this week.
  • Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams
    I know, obvious, but some people questioned him after last week. The Rams, much to their disappointment, are not the Giants.
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
    I think shabby deserves one more chance…
  • Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
    What Favre likes, Favre hits. He tackled Harvin after his Week 1 touchdown. Harvin is an interesting flex option this week and is likely to get another score as the Vikings test him out against the Lions.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
It’s a no-Bowe this week. What’s the guy’s name? Nani? Nadia? Not-gonna-let-Bowe-catch-any-passes, that’s what his name is. Nnamdi Asomugha has Bowe locked down. The Bowe Show has never had more than 100 yards or a touchdown against the Raiders.

If Matt Cassel returns this week, Richard Seymour should be giving his former teammate a few hugs throughout the game, and I don’t think the Chiefs offense will get off the ground.

Sure, Bowe might defy the odds. He might get out there and get himself a touchdown, but I don’t like betting on garbage-time scores and yardage. Best to sit Bowe if you have better options. At the very least, downgrade expectations. He rose above his expectations last week, but I doubt he’ll do it again.

Others receiving votes:

  • LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens
    Gasp! How could I? The LaDainian Tomlinson? But yes, he’s no good for you this week because the official word is that he is OUT. Not playing. E.T. no phone home. I’m not one to stand behind L.T. as a start, injury or no injury, but this week will be the start of a struggle for owners who need to decide when it’s appropriate to put him out to pasture.
  • Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins
    Avery has to prove that the Rams can do something on offense before I’ll give him a nod, but if he’s one of your best this week, he might surprise.
  • Laveranues Coles, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers
    The Packers defense and Coles’ Week 1 drops make Coles a must sit. Once he proves he has something left in the tank, feel free to return him to your roster.
  • Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles
    Against the Eagles, me no likey.
  • Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
    Not even the Browns are scared of this matchup. While good on paper, Orton shouldn’t be putting up gaudy numbers here, and you’re likely to have a better play.
  • Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
    You probably have to start him, but I’m a tad worried that he won’t get the touchdown required to make this matchup worthwhile. The Steelers should limit him, but Forte isn’t a dud this week.

And against my better judgment…

Sleeper of the Week

Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to recommend Hester against one of the most formidable passing defenses in the league and after his quarterback struggled with four interceptions in his first game, but Hester has some sleeper value this week. This game could come down to the final quarter, and I could imagine Hester being tasked with making a play by blowing by the Steelers and getting to the end zone.

The Titans were able to make plays through the air last week against the Steelers, and I think Jay Cutler and Hester are just as talented or more so than Kerry Collins and Justin Gage. If Hester pulls it off, he’s worth starting; if they completely shut him down…well, that’s why he’s a sleeper. Basically, all I’m saying here is that you aren’t completely done for if you find yourself needing to start Hester this week. We’ll see what happens.

For more start/sit recommendations this week…

As always, the comments are yours. If you want to talk about your roster, leave us a question below, and good luck this week.

Week 1 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: The “Are we there yet?” Edition

The kickoff cometh! In just a few hours, the NFL will return to that magic box in my living room and all will be right with the world. In the meantime, it’s time to make sure you’ve got your best fantasy football roster forward.

Much like our waiver wire recommendations have been shortened up to get with the times, I’ve taken the liberty of consolidating our start or sit feature, Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders, into a more compact version of its 2008 self. I’m focusing on just a handful of players that you may be on the fence about starting each week.

If you have questions about other players on your roster or whether you should give these alternatives the nod over your current starter, submit your questions in the comments. Our shortened features should open the comments up for more discussion, more Q&A and, of course, more cowbell.

Now back to this week’s good-looking starters…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I might as well put my fantasy money where my roster spot mouth is. I have Rice on plenty of my teams this season, and rather than wait to see what you have in him this year, I’m all about jumping him into your starting lineup immediately. Kansas City won’t know what hit them.

Last season, the Ravens could run over any team in the NFL, and I expect them to do the same in this matchup. While LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee could be lurking in the wings to steal some touchdowns, the Chiefs’ defense should give Rice at least a handful of opportunities to break a big play.

Others receiving votes:

  • Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: Another sleeper with plenty to like this week in Palmer’s return
  • Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers had a weakness for tight ends last season
  • Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: I just doubt the Broncos defense this much
  • Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: He’s the guy for Buffalo until Lynch returns. How good can New England’s defense be after losing all those veterans?
  • Almost every Saint you can find vs. Detroit Lions: It’s a party, and all the fantasy players are invited

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to sit your first-round running back right after drafting him, but Johnson should be limited this week in the Titans’ debut against the defending Super Bowl champs. I like my running backs to have a shot at the end zone, especially a guy like “Every Coach’s Dream.” LenDale White should steal any short-yardage chances, and I don’t expect there to be many breakdowns in the Steelers’ defense.

The Super Bowl champs are rarely upset in their opening game, and I am sure the Steelers will control the clock. Unless you are lacking in the running back department — or you just like torturing yourself — try someone who has a bit more upside this week. Play Chris Johnson only if your alternative is Larry Johnson or Jamal Lewis.

Others receiving votes:

  • Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans: Much like Johnson, Holmes should be bottled up in a low-scoring contest
  • Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings: Very little chance he shows any more signs of life in this one…
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans vs. New York Jets: Glad you’re back to full health, now dodge Jets for four quarters! Schaub’s risky this week.
  • All your Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens: Until Matt Cassel is 100 percent, the Chiefs can only play at 25 percent. No likey.

For more start or sit recommendations this week, read up at FootballDocs, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Oasis (one of the more detailed out there), Fantasy Football Goat, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and Fanhouse’s Week 1 Wake-Up Call.

Also, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win free Dominator Service from Top Fantasy Football by commenting on yesterday’s post.

As always, the comments are yours.

Foolish Thoughts: Are you ready for some football?

The final weekend of the preseason might be the worst week as an NFL fan. Starters play only a few minutes while coaches get a look at the rest of the depth chart to make final cuts, and we all know that in just one more week the games will actually mean something. While the Labor Day weekend appeased us with some college football action, real NFL football is now just days away.

Hopefully, you had a good draft without falling victim to many common mistakes. It won’t be long before we see all those third-year wide receivers breaking out and all those high-workload running backs breaking down, or will they?

Big News This Week

In a surprise move, the Detroit Lions declared Matthew Stafford their starter against New Orleans. I expected Stafford to get the call eventually this year, but Daunte Culpepper had outplayed him in camp and in the preseason until his foot injury — oh, the dangers of carpet. Culpepper was expected to at least start the year under center before handing it off to Stafford.

With the golden boy taking the heat right away, don’t expect a Matt Ryan rookie season out of Stafford. He’s a young rookie, and there will be plenty of hard times this season to go along with all the good ones. He actually takes a bit away from Calvin Johnson in my mind since he’s likely to turnover the ball as many times as he gets it down the field.

Tampa Bay also shocked us this weekend. Not by firing their offensive coordinator — there are plenty of people doing that — but by naming Cadillac Williams, the man with the bionic knees, as their starter. Williams will still be splitting time with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham in some kind of sinful 2-2-1 RBBC combo, but on any given Sunday, he’ll get the first crack at the defense and the first chance to shine. That’s worth something.

Now that you’ve drafted

With your team assembled, this week’s a great time to take care of a few housekeeping issues. Have you checked out how well your backup quarterback fits your starter’s bye week? Have you looked at how your team stacks up for the fantasy playoffs?

These things are good to keep in mind heading into the season. Knowing you have a bad matchup in the playoffs will allow you to start shopping a player in the middle of the season and unload him for something of equal or greater value that can get you to the championship.

I am not too afraid of Green Bay’s tough road in the fantasy playoffs, but Washington looks more and more like a team to get rid of quickly this year.

Shots in the Dark

With the excitement of the preseason, bold statements come out of the woodwork. Unless you’re just looking at the facts and only the facts, you’re probably expecting one of the following predictions to come true. How good do you feel about it now that we enter into the first week of games that matter?

Well, we’ve read all about that. Now, we get to see what comes true. Look out for our starter recommendations and the rest of your weekly prep this week as we begin fantasy football season with a bang.

And so begins our fantasy football addiction…

[You can check in with Norm's latest struggles with fantasy addiction over at Global Sports Fraternity.]

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks by ADP

We’ve analyzed the rankings for running backs, wide receivers and tight ends already this preseason and recommended who you should avoid when it’s your turn to pick. Now, it’s time to take on the quarterback position.

Most standard fantasy teams will only need two quarterbacks on the roster, one starter and one backup. What separates the starters from the backups is reliability. Starting fantasy quarterbacks can be counted on to get close to 20 points every week. Backups, well, they have a chance if everything breaks right for them in a given week.

This year, more so than in years past, I find it hard to trust any of the backup-level quarterbacks. I’d recommend doubling up on quarterbacks in the middle rounds unless you land one of the elite options.

As I have already done with the other skill positions, this “pick or pass” look at the top quarterbacks will help you decide who to avoid because players are either too risky or too inflated in value this season due to hype. Sometimes rankings just don’t cut it because some projected values don’t tell the whole story.

ADP values were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator and were current as of August 24, 2009.

Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Brees had a phenomenal season last year without his top target, Marques Colston. This season he faces a more difficult schedule, but he’s still likely to air it out more than most of the other quarterbacks in the game. His quick release should keep him productive. I worry about this high price tag because I’m not a fan of taking a quarterback early this year, but drafting Brees in the middle of the second round is not a wasted pick. As long as passing touchdowns are worth six points in your league, it’s safe to draft him in the middle of the second round. He’s one of the elite picks at quarterback.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Tom Brady was a fantasy tragedy last season, injured in the first quarter of his first game. But in 2007, he was the cream of the crop of fantasy. His 2007 Patriots swept fantasy boards with Randy Moss and Wes Welker setting receiving records left and right. This preseason, Brady has looked off-target, but I have no doubt he’ll be in sync with his targets by the fourth week of the season. That said, he’s being drafted far to high for my tastes this year. Conference opponents like the Dolphins and Jets have improved on defense since he played them in 2007, and new coaching could make all the difference in how Brady’s season plays out. I like him as one of the elite quarterbacks at the position, but I don’t feel as comfortable about him as I do Brees and Manning. While he’s hard to pass up, I’d sit on taking Brady as a pick until late in the second round or early in the third round. If he goes down again with a knee injury this season, you don’t want to be left without a highly drafted leg to stand on.

3. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts — ADP: 3.03 – PICK
Manning has always been the most trustworthy of the elite quarterbacks. Last season was a down year only because he was struggling to return from his knee surgery and limited by offensive line woes. This season looks to be a return to form. In the last preseason game, Manning connected with Reggie Wayne for a 76-yard touchdown pass. That’s the kind of play I expect to see more of this year. With Manning, you know what you are getting, and for the first time in a long time, you’ll probably be able to get him at a bargain rate. He’s a great pick anywhere in the third round.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — ADP: 3.11 – PICK
Rodgers is one of my favorite quarterback selections this year. He’s got arguably the most talented receiver corps in the NFL with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. On any other team, these receivers would all be starters. Jennings has made it his mission to reach Larry Fitzgerald’s level this year, and James Jones and Jordy Nelson should easily dominate any nickel corner they encounter when all four receivers take the field. The Packers defense has looked great this preseason, but with the scheme change this just offseason, they shouldn’t perform this well when the regular season rolls around. That means Rodgers will find himself playing from behind in enough games to air the ball out. I look forward to those. Rodgers is a great pick and usually still available in the fourth round. After Rodgers, there aren’t many elite options left.

- – - END OF THE ELITE QUARTERBACKS – - -

5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers — ADP: 4.07 — PASS
Philip Rivers has never been one of my favorite players, and so I take some pleasure in knocking him this offseason. Last year, he established himself as one of the premiere fantasy quarterbacks in the game, but the Chargers defense was also the worst it’s been in several years without Shawne Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson seemed like a shell of himself. Rivers statistics were a fluke and statistically impossible to replicate. Throwing the same number of passes as in previous years, Rivers managed to produce more touchdowns than ever before in his career and more yardage on each throw than the average quarterback. With L.T. returning this season in better shape and Darren Sproles hoping to land himself another contract with his play this year, I don’t see Rivers repeating those numbers. He should return to his former status, around the lower-end of fantasy starting quarterbacks, and I don’t want to waste a fourth or fifth round pick on that kind of production. I’d suggest you pass.

6. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals — ADP: 5.01 — PICK
Despite his numbers last season, Warner isn’t being drafted as highly as he should be because of concerns about his hip injury. Warner’s not going to be one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He still has the most talented receiver in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald, and two more elite options, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, to catch the ball. The addition of Beanie Wells doesn’t convince me that the Cardinals will stop throwing the ball. And so, even if Warner’s hip injury continues to nag him all year, I think he’ll be worth a pick. I do think drafting him at the top of the fifth round is a little pricey, but I’ve seen him available as late as the sixth or seventh rounds. That’s where I’d look to grab him. With Warner, just be sure to get a great backup — hint: someone else who appears on this list as a “pick.”

7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys — ADP: 5.07 — PICK
Tony Romo may have lost his prized receiver when Terrell Owens was cut this offseason, but that won’t necessarily slow his production. Camp reports have raved about second tight end Martellus Bennett and preseason standout Sam Hurd. Miles Austin, the Cowboys’ franchise player this year, looked to have explosive form last year in limited duty. If he sees the field enough to make an impact this year, he can replace some of the plays T.O. might have made. And I haven’t even mentioned the new No. 1 receiver, Roy Williams. He’s unproven with only one elite year in Detroit under his belt, but he’s back home in Texas and primed to show his value. I doubted Williams early this offseason, but he’s grown on me. With this wide receiver corps and favorite target Jason Witten, Romo should still be able to put up starting-quality numbers, and you can often get Romo as late as the seventh round in many drafts. He’s definitely a great pick there.

8. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles — ADP: 6.01 — PICK
McNabb has never had the benefit of the doubt — not even in Philadelphia. This year, he’s got more weapons on offense than ever before with DeSean Jackson, now a proven deep threat, and rookie Jeremy Maclin. Rookie runner LeSean McCoy should act as insurance for Brian Westbrook this season and guarantee that the Eagles offense won’t look like an entirely different animal if Westbrook gets hurt. With all these improvements, McNabb should be set for another good season. He finished the year just behind Peyton Manning last season as the seventh-highest-scoring quarterback, and he could do it again this year. Available as late as the eight round, he’s worth a pick. I’m not too worried about Michael Vick cutting into his playing time.

9. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans — ADP: 6.10 — PICK
The Texans look great every offseason, but they continue to disappoint fans on the field. In fantasy, they didn’t disappoint last season. Schaub missed five games, but when healthy, he was more likely to net you 20+ points with Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels as receiving options. Schaub’s bound to have at least one healthy season in him. Why not this year? With Sage Rosenfels now in Minnesota, Schaub may tough out an injury to stay on the field so that the team isn’t in the hands of Dan Orlovsky. I’d feel comfortable drafting Schaub as a starting quarterback, but owners would be wise to get a strong backup for him in case he does miss time.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons — ADP: 6.10 — PASS
Ryan is a hot pick to blow up in fantasy football this season. For my own safety, I tend to lean towards the side of caution. Tony Gonzalez adds a great receiving target for Ryan, but Ryan’s still just a second-year starter. We don’t know what to expect. While looking strong as a rookie, Ryan isn’t guaranteed to jump to Peyton Manning’s level with just one year under his belt. Michael Turner is still going to get a great deal of carries, and Ryan will make the smart plays. Ryan may have a few games where he is a worthy fantasy starter, but if you want to take this gamble, make sure you draft him as your backup quarterback, not your starter. At this ADP, I would have to pass on Ryan this season.

11. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals — ADP: 7.12 — PASS
Palmer hasn’t played a game since October, and after just one preseason showing against the Saints, he’s now sitting out again. Palmer has talented receivers in Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and contract-year sleeper Chris Henry, who is building hype this preseason, but Palmer hasn’t shown the ability to stay on the field. I’m still not convinced he’s the same guy as he was before his knee surgery in 2006. I worry that he’ll take a hit and miss more time this season, and that makes him an unreliable starter on which to hang your season. His draft stock is too high for my tastes, so I’d pass on Palmer as anything more than a late-round backup quarterback.

12. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears — ADP: 7.12 — PICK
Jay Cutler put on a show last year as the Broncos’ defense put the game in his hands almost every week. With Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal on either side of the field and Tony Scheffler at tight end in Denver, Cutler was one of the elite. Now in Chicago, Cutler has been downgraded to a high-end backup quarterback, but I think he still has the potential to rise beyond this draft stock. Devin Hester is an explosive breakaway wideout, and second-year receiver Earl Bennett was a former teammate of Cutler’s in college at Vanderbilt. Young tight end Greg Olsen, who has the best hands of all the Bears’ receiving targets, is fast becoming Cutler’s go-to guy. I wouldn’t be afraid to draft Cutler as a starter, but I’d feel even better about acquiring him as an elite backup. If he rises to the top of the fantasy charts, you’ll be able to trade off one of your quarterbacks for value. If not, at least you have one of the best backups available. Cutler’s a great value pick this season.

The Rest of the Pack

That concludes my look at the top quarterback options in the league. After this top-12 group, there are a select few candidates like David Garrard, Chad Pennington, Matt Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger who promise reliability but little else from week to week. I’d feel more comfortable drafting them as a backup than a starter, and obviously, you’d rather have one of these top options as a backup if you can get them.

Then, of course, there are a few gambles like Brett Favre, Matt Cassel and Trent Edwards. Favre’s not a guy to trust as a starter as he broke down last season for the Jets, but he does have more promise than Garrard or Pennington to put up starter-worthy scores when you need him.

I have my doubts about Cassel, dumped in Kansas City without the receivers and offensive line that aided him last season, and Edwards, running a no-huddle offense in the cold northern tundra. If Cassel stays healthy, he could make something out of targets like Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Engram, but I’d feel safer staying away from that little Todd Haley experiment. Edwards could start hot with Terrell Owens and Lee Evans only to fade late in the season as Buffalo gets colder — the weather and the fantasy value. I wouldn’t advise you to target any of the three as your backup quarterback, but in a pinch, I’d choose Edwards, then Favre and Cassel only if options were extremely limited.

Good luck drafting and make sure to get the best value possible with each of your picks. As always, the comments are yours.

Foolish Thoughts: Broncos, Bills and Bears! Bowe, my!

Let’s be honest. You can’t believe anything you hear in the preseason.

Head coaches sound more like head cheerleaders. Rookies will all become superstars. Offensive coordinators experiment with plays that could radically change their offense for the better, and trainers expect everyone back at full speed by the first week of the regular season. It just doesn’t get any better.

By September, we’ll all forget we drank this much Kool-Aid, but after one week of the preseason, there are a few story lines worth following.

Jay Cutler finds targets in Chicago

Cutler’s move to Chicago this offseason took him down a few notches in the fantasy ranks due to a belief that the Bears just didn’t have the receivers to support his arm. Devin Hester is still a work-in-progress despite his nice season last year as the Bears’ leading receiver, and rookie Earl Bennett, now slated to start, hasn’t ever seen the field in the regular season.

Cutler certainly has the arm to do many things well for Chicago, things Neckbeard and Rexy could never do consistently, but this preseason will be important in determining how high he can climb up the quarterback ranks. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hester, Bennett and tight end Greg Olsen outperformed expectations, but they will have to prove it on the field.

As a former college teammate, Earl Bennett seems to be on the same page as Cutler this preseason, and Hester can get behind the defense in a hurry as long as Cutler can get him the ball.

Rusty in their first preseason appearance, in which Cutler put some of the blame for an interception on Hester, the Chicago Bears face the Giants this weekend. A good showing from Cutler could prove he is worth consideration as a starter this season.

Denver lost with Josh McDaniels

Left in the wake of the Cutler saga, Denver isn’t very happy with their new quarterback. Kyle Orton is basically just the consolation prize from Josh McDaniels’ botched talks with Jay Cutler this offseason. Neckbeard won’t get much slack if he can’t prove his ability in the Broncos’ new system.

Orton’s first showing could have gone much better, and it might not be long before we see Chris Simms getting a shot at the starting job.

The real story to watch here is the Broncos’ receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Marshall’s got plenty to prove on his own, but neither fantasy stud from last season can do much without a quarterback to get them the ball.

If the Broncos still don’t impress in their second game against the Seahawks, it’s time to get worried.

Bills don’t need no stinkin’ huddle

Trent Edwards is another quarterback who could make a jump into the starting-worthy category this season. The Buffalo Bills are experimenting with a no-huddle offense to take advantage of their two explosive receivers, Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, and minimize the problems associated with having no offensive line. Really, they got nothing there.

The new offense hadn’t quite come together when the Bills faced the Titans in the Hall of Fame game, but Edwards was perfect in his second game and completed all 10 of his passes for 79 yards. If that progress continues, he’s worth considering at the top of the backup quarterback pile — at least until it gets cold in Buffalo.

T.O. sat out the Bills’ second game with a bad toe, but if he can return and prove effective in this offense, he’ll remove many concerns about whether things will work this season in Buffalo.

Who’s Chief in Kansas City?

I generally don’t enjoy watching the Kansas City Chiefs play football, but with Todd Haley running the show, they could become a fantasy receiver factory.

The big story out of preseason is Dwayne Bowe’s demotion to the third team. He’s definitely in Haley’s doghouse for showing up this offseason out of shape, but he’s lost weight and was the best receiver on the field in the first preseason game. If he regains his role as the No. 1, he could be the most targeted receiver in the NFL this season.

I don’t love Matt Cassel or Dwayne Bowe because I fear that Kansas City will fall short of expectations this season on offense, but in a PPR league, Bowe could be a huge weapon. We’ll see the Chiefs try out their new offense against the Vikings this Friday, and perhaps Bowe will be back on top by then.

What are you looking for this preseason? As always, the comments are yours.