Foolish Thoughts on 2009 Season: So why didn’t we all draft Chris Johnson?

It’s insanity. That’s what fantasy football is when it comes to the playoffs. Jonathan Stewart and Jerome Harrison become huge fantasy steals in the final two games, and studs that you’ve depending on all season like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers clam up and shut down early, even in blowout wins. At least Chris Johnson has continued to be magical every week.

I forget how bizarre it really becomes until it’s this time of year again.

Now Harrison will likely compel some fantasy footballers to draft him as an RB3 or maybe even an RB2 next season. Jamaal Charles could be right up there with him. We can only hope that neither is next year’s Steve Slaton or Pierre Thomas, hot in the playoffs but average or inconsistent the following season when given the full responsibility and trust of fantasy owners.

In Charles’ case, I think he’s got a real chance to thrive in the Kansas City offense as long as the current coaching staff stays intact. He’s a great receiving back, and even if the Chiefs decide that they need to bring in a bigger runner to take some of the carries and compliment Charles in the offseason — LenDale White is available, or so I hear — Charles should get plenty of chances to put up big numbers as part of the explosive offense Todd Haley is trying to create.

Out of the five fantasy football leagues I played in this season, I made the playoffs in three and had the chance to play for three championships this week. Of those, I won two and lost one by just a single point (as long as current calculations hold up) after Peterson racked up those two short-yardage touchdowns last night. It was incredibly frustrating, but I can’t be completely unhappy with the results. Even losing that one championship game out of three, this year has been my best season so far.

And next season, I want to focus even more on the leagues that were truly competitive. I’ve reduced the number of leagues I played in over the past two seasons. This year, I was down to five, and next season, I’ll probably take it down another league or two until I find the sweet spot for managing leagues, writing fantasy football analysis, and enjoying the game.

Here are some questions you can answer in the comments below: How many leagues do you play in? Do you find it more fun to play in a small number of leagues or as many as possible? These are the decisions I always debate this time of year.

I think I’m one of the few fantasy football fans out there, especially among fantasy football bloggers, who cares more about their real team winning (in my case, the Cowboys) than their fantasy team. It excited me to no end when the Cowboys shutout the Redskins last night and secured a playoff spot.

I wasn’t nearly as pumped when my fantasy football teams made the playoffs. Satisfied? Yes, but excited? Not off-the-wall excited. That said, it wasn’t a close call for any of them either. I knew weeks in advance that I was bound for the playoffs.

I’d hope we’re all fans of the game and the action-packed saga that is the NFL. If not for it, we wouldn’t have fantasy football.

So even if you lost your league, even if you got shot down in the championship game, even if your league dues were wasted as soon as you drafted Brian Westbrook and Matt Forte, I hope you’ll sit down and watch a few more games next week and deep into the playoffs.

Playoff football is a treat that only comes around once each year, much like the holiday season that just passed. Our presents? The Super Bowl, one of the most extravagant and exciting sporting events in all the land.

If you truly want to win in fantasy football, I think you first have to love the game because you have to understand how to translate what you watch and get excited about on the field into what works on your fantasy roster. So sit down, crack open a cold one (or a nice, frosty beverage of a less alcoholic persuasion if that’s your thing), and enjoy some football over the next month.

Of course, it’d be nice to know you’re all doing it with a championship trophy on your mantel, like me, but if you didn’t win, there’s no shame in cheering your fantasy studs on to a Super Bowl as you start to prep for next season.

And don’t feel like the fantasy season has to end. I’ll still be posting to Fantasy Football Fools because we have to start looking ahead to 2010 and because I still have some prizes to give to you, my dear readers. If you need help with Week 17 decisions (for those terrible, terrible leagues that go into the dreaded final week of the regular season), drop me a line on Twitter or in the comments.

Thanks again for reading Fantasy Football Fools this season and being part of the foolish community. Stay tuned for more over the coming days. Even if you didn’t win your championship, you deserve to take home some prizes.

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: You Know Where This is Going

I thought we’d do things a little differently this week. By this point, I expect that most of you know who you are starting and sitting during these critical weeks of the fantasy playoffs. As such, I don’t think you’ll need as much help deciding which players to start and sit.

Trust is as important a factor as any, and you have to go with your trustworthy guys.

So rather than give you a few players with good games and a few players with bad games this week, we’d be better served just talking about what you can expect from those studs this week and what chances are worth taking for the playoffs.

For starters, the Fourth & 1 Debate fantasy football roundtable covered a few players who, while under the radar most of the season, could make a big splash in the fantasy playoffs. My pick is San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, but you’ll have to go and read the full debate to see my reasoning. It’s good. Promise.

And it’s especially good if you need a sub for Peyton Manning in Week 16, when he is likely to sit out the second half, denying you those fantasy points you need in the championship.

Fanhouse lays out a very strategic plan to attack the playoffs, and a nice set of players to help you do so. I agree with most of their adds, but don’t jump all over the young guns they recommend. Sure, they look good now, but will they really be trustworthy enough to start? I doubt it. Fantasy Joe’s Mike Gilbert doubts waiver wire studs Devin Thomas and Louis Murphy, too.

So if you need the depth or just want to keep them out of the hands of your opponent, go get ‘em. Otherwise, keep your most trusted fantasy cogs close at hand and on your roster.

As FF Toolbox points out, Joe Flacco gets the Lions, Mike Wallace may get a chance to start against the Browns tonight (Joy!), and Kevin Boss faces the tight-end-friendly Philadelphia Eagles defense. On the other hand, dark days look to continue for Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. I wouldn’t want to trust DeAngelo Williams if he plays this week either after what Michael Turner did to fantasy owners in his first game back (He immediately got hurt again, as if you didn’t know).

Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty cautions against Kevin Smith and Steven Jackson, and I would agree. As great as Jackson’s been on a bad, horrible, terrible, and atrocious St. Louis Rams (did I mention they were bad?), he may hit the wall this week with Kyle Boller at quarterback against the Titans.

Not a lot of surprises from Fantasy Joe in their start or sit recommendations this week. Among the names, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice look poised and ready to do some damage. I’m sure many of their fantasy owners would appreciate it in the first rounds of the playoffs, me included.

Also noted, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson would seem like good starts if it weren’t for Matt Cassel’s struggles and Jackson’s recent cooling off period. I’d hate to have to rely on them, but you may be forced to start them.

Unlike Fantasy Joe, I’m not as afraid of Donovan McNabb against the Giants. He may be able to put two good games together against them this year, especially if he gets top target DeSean Jackson back this week.

By the way, in one of my leagues, the owner of Chris Johnson didn’t make the playoffs… in a 10-team league in which six, and let me say that twice, SIX teams made the cut. Do you realize how bad you have to be to not make the playoffs with Chris Johnson? Bad. So very, very bad. Rams bad.

Davone Bess and Chris Brown are two intriguing names in the sleeper pool. I’d pass on starting them over someone who got you to the playoffs, but they aren’t bad flex plays this week. Brown more so than Bess. Fanhouse likes Bess as well.

The FF Geek Blog predicts some struggle for the Land Baron and some promising returns on Jamaal Charles as he goes in against Buffalo, but my favorite note thus far was their take on Antonio Bryant’s bad situation this week: “Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers vs NYJ — Darrelle Revis.” That pretty much says it all.

In keeping with the theme of starting the guys who got you there, ESPN’s rankings look pretty familiar. Fanhouse doesn’t stray from the path of the studly either.

If you’re current options are a little sketchy, Fantasy Joe recommends trying the Titans and Cardinals defenses over the Steelers this week, but I can’t fully support the Cardinals defense as an option when they are facing my pick to be an explosive fantasy force this week, Alex Smith. I’m just glad I have the Saints D/ST to set and forget.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Now, since I know you can’t set your rosters without musical accompaniment, I give you your very own “Choose Your Own Adventure” of songs to set your roster to this week.

If you’re awesome: Three Days Grace – Animal I Have Become

Rage? Yes. Awesomeness? Completely. Playoff-worthy? Most definitely.

But if you’re hurting and little worried about your game this week, I offer the more melodious but still awesome:  Kings of Leon – Use Somebody

If only your stud players were still showing up. Will that one waiver wire claim you picked up this week save your team? Alex Smith? Jamaal Charles? Only time will tell. Good luck with that one.

And with that, I leave you to your games this week. Best of luck to those of you in the playoffs, and sorry to hear about those of you who are not. If you have any questions, you know what to do. Hit us up in the comments or get in touch.

Week 13 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: The One that Matters Most with Miles Austin, Mendenhall, and Antonio Bryant

This week either means the world to you or doesn’t matter at all. It’s an interesting part of fantasy football. Few will panic over their lineup this week unless they are on the edge of a playoff seat. Those of you who have secured a playoff birth are probably just riding most of the same players you started last week. No tricks. No sleepers.

Those of you who are on the fence of being relevant next week are hunting through every article on the Interwebs, looking for that nugget that gives you the edge. I’ll try my best to contribute as much as my cold medicine inhibited brain can handle.

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers vs. Raiders — Mendenhall has proven that he is worth that first-round pick the Steelers used on him. The Raiders have proven that there is no reason to pass against them since they can’t stop the run. I could see the Steelers taking it easy on a recently concussed Big Ben this week and giving Mendenhall a lot of work.

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys vs. Giants — Last week, I was saddened by Austin’s explosive performance since I benched him as my WR3 against Oakland. Never again. You’re starting, Austin, and you’ll stay there. The Cowboys and Giants have had offensive showdowns in the past, and I see this week’s NFC East battle as another chance for Austin to shine.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Rams — Despite his terrible season thus far, a soft matchup against the Rams would be the perfect time for the Bears to work on fixing that running game they talked about so much this past week.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos vs. Chiefs — Moreno had a long week to prepare for the Chiefs after running over the Giants Thanksgiving night. Coming off a streak of solid performances, the extra prep probably wasn’t even necessary. Expect big things.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles vs. Falcons — Rounding out a list of starts with plenty of young running backs, McCoy seemed like an appropriate mention here. He’s been handling the starting job well since Brian Westbrook got his second concussion, and the Falcons have hit a slump. The Eagles won’t hesitate to get out to an early lead and then let McCoy protect it for the rest of the game.

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

Roddy White, WR, Falcons vs. Eagles — I am not a fan of any Falcons this week outside of Tony Gonzalez, and that’s only because the Eagles have been weak against tight ends this season.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills vs. Jets — Buffalo has become a confusing situation since Dick Jauron was fired. Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken over as quarterback, and the new coaching staff may now be starting Fred Jackson ahead of Marshawn Lynch, even after Lynch’s shoulder completely heals. In this critical week, I think you have to sit Lynch until he shows that he will get a significant amount of carries.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bills vs. Jets — Darrelle Revis should be making sure that T.O. isn’t able to continue his hot streak tonight.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Cowboys — With Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware injured, one would expect Jacobs to get more carries and glorious piles of fantasy points, but the Giants have lost their mojo in the running game. The Cowboys shutdown the Giants’ running game the last time these two teams met, and they shouldn’t have much trouble doing it again this time around.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions vs. Bengals — The Bengals have consistently locked down the No. 1 receiver on opposing offenses with their young cornerbacks. They should have no trouble keeping Megatron from the ball with no other legitimate threats to cover in the Lions’ passing game.

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

Antonio Bryant, WR, Bucs vs. Panthers — Bryant is back in action and posted 91 yards and a touchdown last week. This week, he faces the Panthers’ passing defense, which does its best to make up for the Panthers’ terrible run defense.

While the Bucs may opt to run all day, Bryant could also get involved this week if the Panthers score early against the Bucs struggling defense. He got hot at the end of last season, and last week’s strong performance may be the start of this year’s hot streak.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

The Doors — The End

Since this week is most likely the last week of your fantasy regular season, I thought “The End” would be an appropriate listening treat, especially featured in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.

Let that inspire you to do some damage this week and make those fantasy playoffs.

Still not sure who to start? Compare notes with Fantasy Joe, Fantasy Football Goat, FF Xtreme, The FF Geek Blog, and The Hazean.

Fourth & 1 Debate: How to avoid fantasy disappointments next season

Ah, the sadness comes in larger puddles of tears every week as we approach the fantasy playoffs. That first-round pick sure screwed you, didn’t he? But how, oh how, do you keep it from happening again next year? (Like it always does?)

Last week’s fantasy football roundtable covered that and covered it well. The question:

Thinking back to the players that you targeted in drafts at the beginning of the season, which one or two players have been the biggest disappointments? What kind of additional information do you think you could use to avoid selecting this type of underachieving player in 2010?

My answer:

The biggest two disappointments in my book are Matt Forte and Calvin Johnson. Both were drafted in among the top-three at their position, and both have been miserable for most of the season.

In Forte’s case, there was good reason to believe his role in the offense might be threatened. Chicago traded for Jay Cutler, bringing an arm to Chicago and taking away Kyle Orton’s compulsive checkdown passes. But that alone was not enough to scare off fantasy owners.

The decline of the Chicago defense, an unexpected factor this season, has also hurt Forte’s value. When the Bears get behind, they have put the game in Cutler’s hands and reduced Forte’s chances. Forte’s turned it around in recent weeks, but the damage has, for the most part, already been done to the owners who drafted him and their fantasy hopes.

Calvin Johnson was regarded as “quarterback-proof” coming into this season. No matter who was throwing the ball, he would get his yards and probably a score. He still ranked as one of the elite wide receivers in fantasy despite news that a rookie quarterback, Matthew Stafford would start for the Lions. With no legitimate threat on the other side of the field, defenses tried to take Megatron out of games, and a few times early in the season, they were successful. Even if you’re quarterback-proof, you can’t be “team-proof,” and the Lions were doing him no favors.

A knee injury prevented Johnson from seeing the field for several weeks. Now that he’s back to full health, he is contributing, but with only one touchdown and one 100+ yard game this season, it’s safe to say owners were hoping to get more out of him by this point in the season.

What info could prevent us from making these same drafting mistakes in the future? We must pay close attention to change in the offseason, and give special attention to teams with new quarterbacks. The quarterback runs the offense, and changes at that position can often mean big swings in fantasy. In their first year with a new team, quarterbacks must spend time learning the playbook and finding their rhythm with the receivers and running back. There are many variables in play there, and it creates risks in fantasy.

In Chicago’s case, Cutler brought that “gunslinger” mentality and a powerful arm to Chicago, which has allowed the passing game to be more of a focus on offense. He didn’t avoid using Forte, but Cutler had to understand how and when he could use Forte, which led to Forte’s slow start.

A rookie quarterback always has a big learning curve in coming to the NFL, and Matthew Stafford was no different. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco’s exceptional rookie seasons may have warmed fantasy football players up to the idea of starting rookies, but the Lions were not nearly as complete a team as the Falcons and Ravens were last season. Stafford’s rookie struggles have held Calvin Johnson back, and an unexpected knee injury did the rest.

It’s unfortunate that new quarterbacks impact a team so much. Avoiding them as a rule can prevent you from finding some real value in your fantasy football draft (see: Vikings receivers like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin), but taking a risk on teams with new signal callers can also cost you big, as we saw this year with Forte and Megatron.

The secret is to do your homework on them.

For the complete discussion and the rest of the debate’s answers, check out the full fantasy football roundtable on Junkyard Jake’s blog.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Strategy adjustments for Thursday Night Football

Last week’s question for the Fourth & 1 Debate was an interesting one from Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor, and since I didn’t get a chance to share it last week, it’s worth sharing this week before our second Thursday Night Football game of the season. The question:

What adjustments do you make to your fantasy strategy in the second half with games now being played on Thursdays?

My answer:

Well, for starters, I set my lineups on Thursdays rather than Fridays or Saturdays. I find that helps.

But more to the point, by the time that Thursday play rolls around, my fantasy football roster has become almost set. Extra defenses and tight ends have been moved through trades or waivers because there’s no need to carry them. Starters and bench depth has been established, and I’m going with a pretty core group every week that’s performing at a high level.

There won’t be too many more waiver wire adds or trades to shake up my roster, so it makes it easy to have it set and ready to go on Wednesday or Thursday. My roster has been simplified.

Though having fantasy points accumulated on Friday morning does add some extra layers of strategy to the decisions I make on Fridays and Saturdays.

Say my Thursday night starter failed me completely. I may sub out a more reliable starter with little chance of a big day like Matt Forte for a more boom-bust guy who could save my week like Steve Slaton. It just depends on how deep I am in the hole.

It also works the other way. If Devin Hester locks up 30 points for me on Thursday, I may sub out Robert Meachem for a reliable guy like Muhsin Muhammed. Nothing flashy, but he gets the job done. It’s not as likely that I make a conservative play like this. Why show mercy? But I could see it as a possibility if I was just looking to make sure I had that 8-10 points of padding necessary to stay ahead of my opponent.

For the complete fantasy football roundtable, visit Rotoprofessor’s compilation post of the debate.

And if you missed the question from two weeks ago, when I asked what players to target for your playoff run, be sure to read up on those tips from the fantasy football roundtable as well.

Foolish Thoughts: California Dreams and NFL at 10

It’s easy to pick on Brian Westbrook, but his surprise “inactivity” this week probably caught many fantasy owners off-guard. It caught me off-guard. All indications were that he would take the field, but some headaches on Friday conspired to keep him from playing.

That also prevented me from starting LeSean McCoy over Jamaal Charles. Would have been nice to know, you know, Westbrook?

I spent the past weekend and first half of this week in California for a conference. For some reason, I assumed that free Internet would be easily found and obtained around the state of California, land of tech and startups, but it was pretty lacking around the hotel. Not to mention, the hotel wanted to charge $13 per day to plug into the wall for Internet. What is this? The Dark Ages?

I hadn’t fully adjusted to the time change on Sunday at 10 a.m. when I realized the games were already starting. Football at 10 a.m.? That feels like college. I don’t like that.

The bye week served Tampa Bay well. Not only did they get Josh Freeman up to speed for his first start, but they also got the team excited enough to get after the Packers and get their first win of the season. Quite a way to start off a rookie season. Might be the only good game he has in him this year.

No 0-16 seasons this year. Three weeks ago it looked like it would be a race between the Titans and the Bucs, but now both teams have rediscovered their offenses thanks to quarterback changes and bye weeks. I guess that’s why they have the byes. I just thought the byes were intended to make fantasy football more difficult.

At least we can still hope for 1-15.

Kurt Warner’s having hot flashes. Never has the Warner boom-bust phenomenon been more obvious than his five-touchdown performance one week after his five-interception game.

On the other hand, Cedric Benson proved he’s the model of consistency. Baltimore looked angry last week, ready to destroy Cincinnati in their revenge game, but Benson put up 100+ yards on them again and added a score just to drive the point home.

Much to the delight of DeAngelo Williams’ owners, the Saints let the Panthers roll on them again in the first half. That run defense just can’t hold the line anymore with the injuries that have hit it in recent weeks, but they still come up with the big play.

This week, it was forced fumbles that created the Saints’ scoring opportunity on defense instead of Darren Sharper and that excellent secondary. Even though they let the scores get high, the Saints remain a valid fantasy option by scoring so much on defense.

I really expected the Patriots to exploit the young and inexperienced Miami secondary more than they did on Sunday. Randy Moss had a big day, but Brady didn’t do much more than that. Where’s the evil Belichick I know and love?

Jay Cutler proved that his favorite target is Greg Olsen by throwing him three touchdowns against the Cardinals.

Matt Forte barely remembers what the ball even looks like at this point. The Bears had to abandon the run so that Cutler could try to get them back in it. At this point, you can pretty much call Forte’s season “over.”

It took longer than expected, but Clinton Portis finally went out of a game with an injury this week as the Redskins got run over by Michael Turner. Portis has fallen off a cliff this year after being driven into the ground by Washington last year.

I don’t have many regrets from this week, but I wish I had started Joseph Addai. Here I was thinking that the Texans had finally fixed their problems on the ground, but short-yardage goal line situations are pretty common for the Colts. Addai capitalized.

Oh, hi there, Chris Chambers. Just when I thought you were dead…

Releasing Larry Johnson less than 100 yards before he becomes the team’s all-time leading rusher? Yeah…I’m pretty sure they had nothing against him.

By the way, now that I’m back to the land of the Internets, the waiver wire post from Tuesday has been updated and fleshed out. Feel free to peruse it’s newly formatted goodness all over again. It’s like going from standard definition to high definition.

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Any Given Sunday

I watched Any Given Sunday last night. Twice.

No matter how many times you watch that movie, it makes you want to run through a wall, and then a pack of linebackers, followed by another wall. Every. Time.

I didn’t even need to drink coffee this morning. I’d already run out of walls. (Okay, that’s a lie. I still drank my coffee, but I didn’t HAVE to drink it.)

Rather than give you some silly intro into this start or sit article, let me leave you with the immortal words of Coach Al Pacino. I yell this at my fantasy teams every time they lose.

How many Pantheon Cups do you want to win now?

Oh, and if you missed this week’s Fourth & 1 Debate due to yesterday’s incredibly lame and un-Pantheon-Cup server downtime, you should definitely read up. It’s a must-read for anyone bound for the fantasy football playoffs.

And if you’re a big fan of my work here on the starts and sits each week, show your gratitude by voting for Fantasy Football Fools in the Fantasy Football Librarian’s first annual Reader’s Choice Poll. I’m not sure what we win, but I will start planning a parade to rival the one the Yankees are getting this weekend.

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Bengals – I could not love this little running back more. Most of the time, the picks everyone likes in the preseason blow up in your face, but Rice has blown up on the field. I think Rice should have a good day — atypical when facing a top run defenses, but this is a perfect storm of fantasy goodness.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Chargers – They don’t have a nose tackle. That’s like a hole in the middle of your face. If Jacobs can’t run through that, it will only be because he is too big. After some devastating losses, the Giants better bring it, and Jacobs better be carrying the load.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants vs. Chargers – He came back to life against the Eagles last week in an abomination of a performance by the Giants. Now he gets one of the sweetest tight end matchups out there. Let’s hope Eli Manning remembers he still exists.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Jaguars – I have reasons to doubt Charles — fumbles, offensive line play, the Chiefs, for crying out loud — but it’s very likely that I’ll be forced to rely on his services in at least one league this week. Against the Jags run-friendly defense, that doesn’t seem so bad.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers vs. Bucs – At last. November is a good month for Jennings, and the Bucs can’t stop him. The Bucs also couldn’t stop me going out for a pass this week. You know, if I ever felt like running for one.

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens vs. Bengals - It’s creepy how good the Bengals have gotten at taking away the top receiver from their opponents. They’ll do it again against Mason this week. More reason to like Ray Rice.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Titans – Some will point to the Titans’ passing yard atrocities and claim this is a great week to play Crabtree; I’ll point to the Titans’ win last week against the Jaguars and say it is not as good as people may think.

While the Titans have been terrible — fantastically terrible — against the pass, they’re finally getting healthy in the secondary. Cortland Finnegan returned just last week, and the difference was noticeable.

I’d be concerned about taking the chance on starting Crabtree. He has the potential to do well with the number of targets he’s received the last two weeks, but I have to worry about him. If you start him, know what you’re getting into. This is not your early-season Titans’ secondary.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals vs. Ravens – Is anyone else worried that the Ravens will be better prepared and out for revenge in this one? No? Just me? Well, I certainly wouldn’t jump into this one expecting the same 100+ yard performance.

A good game for Benson is possible, but the Ravens looked more like themselves last week.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Cardinals - Hard to trust Forte against the Cardinals, even after Arizona has been torched by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The Bears’ offensive line might just not have enough to open holes for Forte in this one. But at least you got your points from him last week.

Devin Hester, WR, Bears vs. Cardinals – I love the matchup, but I hate the injury. Hester is supposed to be breaking ankles, not spraining his own.

Unlike Anquan Boldin, I am not sure he can still be effective while hobbling 30 yards down the field. Not worth benching unless you have another solid option.

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers vs. Giants – Now, let’s talk about this name for a second. Is there a second “L” in it or not? I see “Malcolm” on almost half the other sites out there, and yet, the Chargers’ official site has no “L.” Get your act together, people.

Unlike fantasy analysts, Floyd should have his act very together against the very vulnerable secondary of the Giants. The G-Men just don’t get a break, do they? Saints, Eagles, Chargers? Pains cometh, New York, and their names are Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Malcom “One-L” Floyd.

I almost refused to pick Floyd as my sleeper since he’s been pointed out by many others, but I plugged him so highly in the waiver wire post this week that I have to double down.

If you were lucky enough to snag him off the waiver wire, feel free to clear a spot on your roster. A score might be a little greedy, but there should be plenty of yards to go around this Sunday.

Song to Ease Your Pain While You Set Your Lineups

2 Unlimited – Twilight Zone from the soundtrack of Any Given Sunday.

Of course, this post has to stay with the Any Given Sunday theme.

Wow, that chorus is hot. It just makes you want to scream “MORTAL KOMBAT!” at the top of your lungs into fan blades. That’ll put hair on your chest. (Watch out, ladies!)

I’m out. It’s time for another cup of coffee. And maybe I can watch Any Given Sunday again while you leave happy little sit-start questions and comments below.

Don’t trust me? First of all, I’m hurt. Second, try out these fools for more fantasy starts and sits: The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, Fantasy Football Xtreme, FF Toolbox’s starts and sits, Matthew Berry’s sitting thyself love/hate, The Fifth Down, Fantasy Football Goat, Fantasy Joe and Fantasy Football Librarian.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Nine Moves to Make for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

At this point in the season, you might be more concerned with getting to the playoffs than succeeding once you get there. That’s okay. Take it one week at a time. I’ll wait…

But if you have the true heart of a champion, some good luck, and if you’ve been doing your research, you’ve probably go a nice spot on the mantel dusted and ready for this year’s fantasy football championship trophy. It’s okay if we block this photo of the in-laws, right?

In that case, it’s best to start planning for your future, and we’re not talking about your kids’ college funds or your financial plan to navigate this tough economy.

It’s even better. I give you a fantasy football roundtable of epic proportions. This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate was mine to rule, and I chose to look ahead at who might blow up or sink your battleship during Weeks 14-17.

By the way, if you have a playoff schedule that puts your championship game in Week 17, slap your commissioner, reschedule that game immediately, slap your commish again, and never, never speak of playing in Week 17 again. Week 17 isn’t NFL football. It’s just not right to win your league with Jim Sorgi. Not right at all.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate roundtable question:

Looking ahead at the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14-17), what one player would you want to own during those weeks and what one player would you want to unload before Week 14?

My answer:

Trade deadlines are approaching. Playoffs spots will be locked up soon. The chances to acquire players through “sell high” or “buy low” opportunities are few are far between. That being the case, I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of guys who might still be easily moved. You wouldn’t have to break the bank, and you might end up with a stud on your hands in Weeks 14 through 16.

First, I’d look to acquire Tim Hightower.

Kurt Warner has been fond of the check-down passes thus far this season, and Hightower has been the beneficiary. Even against tough rushing defenses, Hightower never fails to stay involved in the passing game and take advantage of short-yardage and goal line opportunities.

It’d be great to have both Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower on your roster to hedge your bets against any late-season shifts in Beanie’s favor, but I believe Hightower will remain the primary receiving back on passing plays, which the Cardinals should be running plenty of in the fantasy playoffs.

The Cardinals face San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Hightower ran just eight times for 15 yards, but he caught 12 passes for 121 yards. A similar performance in Week 14 wouldn’t surprise me, and, well, the Lions and Rams are what they are, great matchups for a team with a powerful offense. By the end of this season, one or both of those squads could have already given up for the year.

If you can’t get Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison aren’t bad substitutions. All have a chance to succeed late in the season, and they all carry a fairly low price tag at this point. Bargain bin!

And, for those of you playing at home, I would try to unload DeAngelo Williams before the fantasy playoffs.

Williams finished the year as the No. 1 fantasy running back after a slow start, and he’s once again been inconsistent to start the year in 2009. It’s not just Jonathan Stewart stealing time and touches from him. This year, Jake Delhomme has developed a bad habit of throwing to players in other jerseys.

While Williams is come on strong the past three weeks, he should hit a slump starting in Week 11 against Miami and continuing, outside of a brief practice session against the Bucs in Week 13, into the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, Williams faces the Patriots in New England, followed by the Vikings at home and the Giants in New York for the Giants’ last home game of the season.

If you’re a proud Williams owner, you should deal him away to the highest bidder this week or next before you get stuck in the dumps with him during the playoffs.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme says:

Every season, a grip of players step up during Weeks 14-16, while others shockingly disappoint. It’s a tough business predicting either, but I have come up with two names. I have talked a lot about running backs and wide receivers over the past few weeks, so this week I’m going to focus on quarterbacks.

One quarterback worth talking about before we even sniff Weeks 14-16 is Kurt Warner. The aging quarterback has been hit or miss this season, and he has thrown 7 interceptions over the past three games putting him at 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year. He has also fumbled the football twice over the last three weeks.

You’re probably guessing that Warner is my “unload” recommendation for Weeks 14-16, right? Wrong.

While I will admit that I have concerns about the aging quarterback staying healthy long enough to see Week 14, he has a fantastic fantasy playoff schedule. The Cardinals face the 49ers (28th) in Week 14, the Lions (29th) in Week 15 and Rams (24th) in Week 16. If healthy, Warner should have a fantastic finish to the fantasy season.

As for my top quarterback to unload before we hit Week 14, I have to go with Carson Palmer.

The Bengals passing schedule isn’t impossible, as they have two decent match-ups in Weeks 14 and 16 in the Vikings (23rd) and Chiefs (29th), but they do have a rough contest against the Chargers (6th) in Week 15. I know Palmer had a monster 5-touchdown performance before his Week 8 bye, where he completed 20-of-24 passes, but before that Week 7 outing, Palmer’s completion percentage was under 60 and he had almost as many interceptions (7) as he had touchdowns (8).

On the year, Palmer has yet to pass for over 300 yards. His Week 7 stats are making him look strong, but I’m predicting that he and the Bengals struggle down the stretch. I say unload Palmer now and take a lateral step into a quarterback with less risk.

Trade Palmer for a Ben Roethlisberger or a Matt Ryan. Both quarterbacks probably have similar perceived value, yet I like both better than Palmer down the stretch (especially in Weeks 14-16).

Junkyard Jake from Junkyard Jake says:

Glancing ahead to the fantasy playoff weeks this year, it appears that Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game could benefit from a very favorable set of defensive matchups. During Weeks 14 through 16, the Saints face Atlanta on the road and then Dallas and Tampa Bay at home.

As if Brees needed an additional advantage, all three of these games will be in a dome. Moreover, all three of these defenses currently rank in the bottom third of the league in terms of points allowed by opposing quarterbacks.

In contrast to Brees’s favorable playoff schedule, it looks like the Bears’ Matt Forte could have a tougher time. Forte is already having a slightly disappointing season, and it doesn’t appear that he will catch a break during the fantasy playoff Weeks of 14, 15 and 16 when he is slated to face Green Bay, Baltimore and then Minnesota.

Green Bay has been allowing only 91 rush yards per game, and they have yielded just 3 rushing touchdowns so far. Forte’s Week 15 opponent, Baltimore, has allowed just 79 yards per game on the ground. Forte then faces the Vikings in Week 16, a team that touts the No. 2 run defense in the league.

Hatty from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru says:

So essentially we are looking at a buy low/sell high for the playoff run. Having the right RB for the playoffs is a huge key to victory and health is a major consideration for playoff runs.

My sell high right now would be LaDainian Tomlinson. He is coming off a two-touchdown performance, but again is a huge injury concern. You just can’t afford to go into playoffs with one of your top running backs leaving due to injury.

The running back I would work hard to obtain for the playoffs would be a running back who receives a major workload on a team making a run for the playoffs. Cedric Benson helped me to win a fantasy championship in the past and is a stellar running back to go into playoffs with.  He is not prone to injury, doesn’t play in an RBBC situation and is on a team that has a solid chance at making the playoffs.

Ryan Lester from Lester’s Legends says:

Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, there are a couple of wide receivers that I would love to own and one that I want no part of.

The wide receivers that I love for the fantasy playoffs are Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Aside from being two of the best wide receivers in the game, there are some other reasons that make them so valuable when fantasy owners need them the most.

First of all, neither team is running away with their division meaning they will likely go full tilt the whole season as they vie for a playoff spot. While wide receivers like Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston are in the driver’s seat of their respective divisions, Fitz and A.J. are not. It’s conceivable that Wayne and Colston get a reduced workload in your league’s championship game. You don’t have to worry about that with Fitz or A.J.

They also have favorable schedules in the fantasy playoffs. Fitz plays at San Francisco, at Detroit and finishes at home against St. Louis. Week 14 could be tough for him, but the final two games could bring the monster performances you expected out of Fitz when you drafted him.

Andre Johnson’s schedule is also a breeze. He starts off at home against Seattle, travels to St. Louis and finishes at Miami. Obviously, I don’t like his championship opponent as much as Fitz, but if he leads you to the title game, you’re in the money anyway.

On the flip side, the player I don’t want on my team come fantasy playoffs time is Carolina’s Steve Smith.

The Panthers start off on the road at New England. Weather is very much a factor in New England in December, which doesn’t bode well for members of the passing game. Next up is Minnesota at home. The pressure that Jared Allen and company put on opposing quarterbacks could make for a long day. Finally, he finishes up against the Giants on the road in the swirling winds.

Smith faces three of the best teams in the league, two in what are likely to be bad-weather games, during the fantasy playoffs. Not to mention he plays in a run-first offense. If I were a Steve Smith owner and had championship aspirations, I’d try to move him now that he’s coming off a pair of good games.

Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor says:

One of the players I would like to own down the stretch is Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Fantasy football playoffs are tough because if you have a player who is on a team that is coasting into the playoffs, you just don’t know how much they are going to play. With the Falcons, they are three games behind the division lead already, but they are primed for a dogfight to take home the wild card.

In addition, the Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints (middle of the road in rushing defense), New York Jets (sans their big run stuffer, Kris Jenkins), the Buffalo Bills (currently allowing the most rushing yards per game in the league) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (need I say anymore).

That seems like the perfect set-up for a big way to close the season. He’s one of the best backs in the league, and if you are in a position to acquire him for the stretch drive, there is no reason to hesitate.

As for players to avoid, you almost have to look at the flip side: Which team appears to be ready to coast into the playoffs as well as having a tough schedule?

The Minnesota Vikings could be that team, as they have a lead in the division and have the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants on the schedule over the final four weeks. Three of those four teams are likely to be in contention for a playoff spot. The easiest game (Panthers) is on the road, as is the game in Chicago, so you don’t know what will happen there.

The likelihood is that the team focuses on the run, as they’ve already shown that they will do, meaning Brett Favre and the Vikings receivers may struggle down the stretch.

Paul Greco from Fantasy Pros 911 says:

I love looking ahead. Why you ask? Well, if I’m looking ahead to Weeks 14 through 17, that means I have a shot at the playoff. Yup, I’m about to make it rain in the Greco household.

The one player that I’d like to unload, not only during the Weeks 14 through 17, but right now, is Carolina Panther’s running back DeAngelo Williams. Coming off a huge game on the ground in Week 8, right now is the time to look to unload Williams.

Starting Week 11, Williams has the toughest Strength-of-Schedule (SOS) the rest of the season. With games against the Miami Dolphins (Week 11), New York Jets (Week 12), New England Patriots (Week 14) and the Minnesota Vikings (Week 15), all four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 for rush defense.

Cedric Benson, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, is a player you must look to add to your team now. C.B. has the easiest SOS of any running back starting Week 11.

With games against the Oakland Raiders (Week 11), Cleveland Browns (Week 12), Detroit Lions (Week 13), San Diego Chargers (Week 15) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16), all five teams give up an average of 117 rushing yards a game or worse.

C.B. has shown he can carry the load for the Bengals, so why not your team? Look to make a move for CB now, and enjoy big gains the rest of the season.

Bryce McRae from KFFL says:

My pickup for the playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs’ Kolby Smith (knee). He’s a deep sleeper, yes, but it shouldn’t cost much to get him, and he could pay huge dividends.

Starter Larry Johnson’s suspension ends after Week 9, but the team has given some thought to releasing him. At some point, they have to start looking toward the future.

Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick last year, is expected to shoulder most of the load this week. He’s more of a speedy change-of-pace back, however, and the Chiefs have utilized him as a rusher only 23 times this year. A lot of that has come out of passing downs, too.

This leads us to Smith; the third-year back has carried a full workload in the past (Weeks 12 through 16 in 2007: 100 carries for 387 yards and two scores), and he says he has confidence in his rehabilitated knee. Head coach Todd Haley says Smith is moving around well in practice, too. Smith has the bulk (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) that could help him hold up as a primary back over the speedier Charles.

Kansas City faces the Buffalo Bills (most rushing yards allowed per game to backs this year), the Cleveland Browns (third most) and the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 14 through 16, respectively. Cincy isn’t a great matchup, but Smith could be a beast during those two first games.

On the flip side, one player I’m looking to unload before the playoffs is the San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree. I don’t have much faith in Alex Smith behind center for the long term. I feel defenses might be able to shut down Crabtree, too, once they have more film on him and how the 49ers are using him. Remember: This is still a run-first offense.

Also, I don’t believe his value will be any higher after his first three games. Wait for him to burn the Tennessee Titans, a generous defense to this position, in Week 9 and then sell high on the former Texas Tech wideout.

The defenses Crabtree will face in the traditional playoffs weeks: the Detroit Lions (Week 14), the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) and the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 16). Philly’s D has been one of the top against this position all season while the other two have shown improvement in the last month. Plus, Detroit’s run D has been bad enough that San Fran might opt to pound the ball.

Kurt Turner from Top-Fantasy-Football says:

Strength of schedule is key when planning for the fantasy football playoffs. Teams like Arizona, San Diego and Miami all have juicy matchups. FFToolbox.com has a nice tool you can use found here that analyzes matchups by position for you.

Here are my picks to own and unload: Kurt Warner and Roddy White.

Snatch up Kurt Warner. He should be a beast in the playoffs. Trade for him now and don’t be afraid to overpay, especially if you’re hurting at quarterback.

A guy I don’t like for the playoffs is Roddy White. White faces some tough pass defenses weeks 14, 15 and 16. If you can get Warner for White (and some change) and still have some other good options at wide receiver, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Good Luck!

That’s all for this week’s Fourth & 1 Debate. While I am largely a fan of riding hot hands into the ground rather than trading them away because of perceived slumps on the horizon, preparing for the fantasy football playoffs is a necessity.

Oh, and if you have a championship game in Week 17, slap your commish again for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a player you’re concerned about for the fantasy playoffs? Would you like to add more names to the hat of players to add/drop? Leave a comment to let us know.

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.