Astrological Super Bowl Predictions: Who’s Dancing in the Bayou?

There are many ways to predict the outcome of an NFL game. Some sites bring out the animal mascots or flip coins. Some dig through the numbers. Some claim to be gut-instinct experts. So when we looked at how we might predict the winner of this year’s Super Bowl, we thought why not look to the stars?

Stephanie Potter constructed the below Super Bowl predictions on behalf of Hollywood Psychics as a guest contribution for Fantasy Football Fools. Enjoy the read (and the astrological knowledge) and best of luck in your fantasy playoff leagues.

Every football fan hates to rule their team out from bringing home that Lombardi trophy, but during this time of the year, only the strong survive. In predicting who will head to the Super Bowl, there’s no better place to start than looking at division leaders and wildcard contenders from both an on-field standpoint, as well as an astrological one.

AFC Championship Prediction

While it is always smart to include the New England Patriots in any post-season prediction, this year I firmly believe that this team has what exactly what it takes to take down the AFC and maybe even the Super Bowl.

Coach Bill Belichick, born under the cardinal, action-oriented fire sign of Aries, is renowned for his use of aggressive gridiron strategies. Led on the field by two time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, this Leo (yet another fire sign!) has the passion and drive to piece together another season for the record books. The Patriots failure last year has only made them hungrier to get back to old familiar territory yet again.

Nobody likes to win more than a fiery Leo or Aries. However, it may be more difficult for the Patriots to make it to the big game this year with Jupiter in retrograde. Both Aries and Leo are affected by Jupiter’s retrograde within the realm of a career, more than any other two signs. As evidenced by a failure to secure a first-round playoff bye with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the path to the Big Easy may be less than…well, easy.

I predict that the AFC will be represented in the Super Bowl this year by the young, upstart Houston Texans.

Unlike the Patriots, this is a team that has not seen success in recent years and looks far hungrier than many of the other post-season contenders. There is a very special relationship that has formed with two highly influential people on the side of the Texans. Head coach Gary Kubiak and wide receiver Andre Johnson have been together since the get-go and the astrological relationship between the two creates a match that is infinitely unbroken.

Kubiak is a Leo, and his lion-like determination to succeed has finally been proven throughout 2012. His star wide receiver is a dependable, adaptable Cancer. While Leo is adversely affected by Jupiter’s retrograde on the career path, Cancers feel its effects by working doubly-hard, on top of their already diligent nature.

Where Kubiak may be on the other side of the goal posts (astrologically speaking) this time, as always, Cancerian Johnson has his back as Kubiak’s secret weapon on the field. Johnson has stuck by Kubiak’s side through the ups and the downs, and both men are about ready to take that Super Bowl stroll to New Orleans.

NFC Championship Prediction

In the former gold-mining capital of the world, the San Francisco 49ers harvest a relationship that seems to be very tough to beat. Second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick bleeds all the characteristics of his Scorpio archetype. His calm demeanor mixed with his passionate bravado have left the 49ers atop the leaderboard in the NFC.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh’s dictatorial Capricorn characteristics tend to scare some people off, but his ambition to win is clearly seen in how his team plays on the field week in and week out.

Though this relationship was just recently made, Harbaugh has instilled trust within his young Scorpio. As is the case with many Scorpio-Capricorn partnerships, they are slow to fully bloom. While the Niners are a strong team and are poised to be a threat in the future, they will not likely make it to the Super Bowl this season.

The Falcons have seen excellent play this year and that shows through their record and statistical explosion on the offensive side of the ball. What many do not know is that there has been an influential relationship growing over the past four years, and this year, it has shown its maximum strength.

Quarterback Matt Ryan (Taurus) and veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez (Pisces) have proven to make a golden match. This astrological pairing works like a dream on the field, owing to Ryan’s steadfast Taurus nature and Gonzalez’s even, Piscean temperament. Ryan’s Taurus nature has reared itself this season as his dependable, hardworking attitude has placed him on a course for success. He has taken a bull-like approach to winning and finds support from his teammates, specifically Tony Gonzalez.

The harmonious team spirit (from both an on-field and astrological standpoint) will see the Falcons names engraved on a Super Bowl trophy in 2013.

As you can tell, there are plenty of options for who will come out on top this NFL season. Making predictions is tough, but one way to one up the rest of the crazy fans is to dig deep. Football is quite unpredictable, but when it comes to astrology all signs point to the future to tell us who will really emerge victorious.

My Predictions

AFC Champ: Houston Texans
NFC Champ: Atlanta Falcons
2013 Super Bowl Champion: Falcons

This guest article was written on behalf of Hollywood Psychics by Stephanie Potter.

Foolish Thoughts: My Beef with Fleaflicker’s Coach Rating

It’s one of the most frustrating occurrences in fantasy football.

It’s not a Baltimore fan complaining about the refs or John Carney missing three kicks when just one would have won the fantasy game you lost by a point.

No, the most sickening feeling in fantasy football hits you when you start the wrong guys. There’s nothing more infuriating than watching the points pile up on your bench only to flap in the breeze next to Percy Harvin’s or Justin Forsett’s stat line.

You can do your research. You can ask an expert. You can pray to the fantasy football gods and tweet the players themselves to ask them if you should start them.

At the end of the week, you’re still going to end up starting the wrong guys more than once in any given season. And if you could project exactly how a given football player was going to perform each week, why would you waste that skill on fantasy football? Vegas, son. Go to Vegas!

But there’s one thing that makes the “started the wrong guys” regret even worse: Fleaflicker’s Coach Rating.

While your self-loathing grows, the Fleaflicker Coach Rating judges you with a percentage based on how well you set your lineup. You only get 100 percent if you started every single one of your highest performing players at each position.

It’s one thing to lose because you set a bad lineup. It’s another thing for an automated computer system to mock you.

I don’t need your 75 percent rating thrown in my face, machine. Why don’t you just turn into the Terminator and kill me now? I need not your silly completion bar.

I can go outside right now, and I can talk to women. What can you do? Make charts? Graph things? Good. You do that. When I come back, I want you to explain to me when you earned the right to judge me in line graph form, and it better have something to do with fantasy games won.

*The rest of this column was written after fifteen minutes of listening to Enya

It’s fine. I’m used to automated mockery. It’s why I have friends anyway, right? Every fantasy football league is practically an automated mockery tool when you lose.

My real beef with Fleaflicker is that it doesn’t judge itself. Aren’t computers supposed to be self-aware, Skynet?

Sure, I sat Percy Harvin and Laurence Maroney. I regret that, but even your nice little projection system within Fleaflicker told me that Joseph Addai and Roddy White were better starts. Where’s your little 65 percent correct bar for that poor prediction?

Not that I would listen to you blindly. I did my research. I started the best lineup, and I don’t need your abuse. So take that, Fleaflicker mockery rating. I won’t have it anymore. From now on, I’m putting electrical tape over that part of the screen and never scrolling, and I’m giving myself a gold star for every starter I pick correctly.

Damage Done This Week

What is with you people? You talk about how few injuries have happened this season and now they’re piling up before Christmas like Santa’s toys.

Matt Ryan stubbed his wee little toe, and Jake Delhomme broke a finger. I’d say the NFC South lost half their quarterbacks, but let’s be honest. Drew Brees counts double, or even triple, the value of any other quarterback in the NFC South.

Atlanta fell off in a big way because they also lost Michael Turner, who returned from his ankle injury a bit too early and immediately went back on the shelf with Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, and Kurt Warner.

Big Ben sat out after all, but he should return in Week 13, just in time to concuss himself again before the fantasy playoffs. At least Cedric Benson will be back… Those are words you just don’t see yourself saying in the preseason.

For owners who were relying on his big fantasy booms, DeSean Jackson may sit out this week after sharing in the concuss party the NFL has been throwing. There’s no telling when you’ll get him back, so here’s to hoping that you’re already a lock for the playoffs.

Studs in Strange Places

Julius Jones sat another week and allowed Justin Forsett to score twice against the Rams. Jamaal Charles had another big week for the Chiefs alongside Chris Chambers. Looking ahead, I like Charles better than Forsett. That’s whether Jones returns this season or not. Charles just has too lovely a playoff schedule to turn down.

Larry Johnson became a part of the Bengals offense in Week 12 and shared the rock with Bernard Scott. L.J. Had 107 yards while Scott had just 87. Let’s all hope that this one game doesn’t mean that Benson will have to share with others when he returns. Cincy may not be sure, but fantasy owners sure would like to see Benson get all the work against the Lions in Week 13.

Vince Young reenacted the 2006 Rose Bowl on Matt Leinart’s face late against Arizona, much to my excitement as a Texas fan and Vince Young apologist, and Miles Austin found his way to 20+ fantasy points again. If you sold early on Austin based on the belief that he would be a fluke, well, sucks to be you, my friend. I bet the Fleaflicker Coach Rating tore you apart for that one.

Turn the Lights Out When You Go

This week is the last one to make a move and be relevant in the fantasy football playoffs. I hope you’re all playoff-bound (as a result of my sage advice, of course), but if not, do it up this week and see what you can make of your team. There’s always next season.

If you get the chance this week, do your best to ruin someone else’s chance at the playoffs. There’s nothing that makes me happier than making someone else sad. You have to try it. I find taking candy from babies to be a great way to practice.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

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

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

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Muse — Time Is Running Out

http://youtu.be/ChR8PAEA_RM

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

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

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

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: Darren McFadden is dead to me, make the Brett Favre stop and other tales of horror

Darren McFadden is the biggest fantasy football tease in America. If Keith Olbermann were still doing his “Worst Person in the NFL” segment, it would be Run DMC. McFadden is the flirt that no one ever dates, and the bane of many a fantasy football team.

Draft him his rookie season? Oh, yeah, about that Justin Fargas fella, he’ll still get most of the carries while McFadden tiptoes around on his turf toe injury.

Draft him in 2009 after all the talk about the Raiders making him a multidimensional threat, receiving and running, capable of bending space and time to his will? Well, you get goose eggs every week and fumbles that cancel out any fantasy points he may happen to score.

He’s terrible, but it’s not all his fault. It’s Oakland. Right now, nothing can rise out of the fantasy pit that is the black hole of California.

JaMarcus Russell and his inability to hit a receiver is killing the fantasy value of all the Raiders. He looked impressive enough to start the season against the Chargers, but since that loss, he’s fallen off a cliff.

Russell is a murderer of dreams. Every time he throws the ball, an angel loses its wings and slaps Al Davis back to life. I’d say that a puppy dies every time Russell catches a snap, but let’s not get into the Michael Vick drama.

Instead, let’s focus on the good things. At least the Raiders have a talented backfield with McFadden and Michael Bush…if ever the defense would be threatened enough by the Oakland passing game not to stack up eight or more men in the box.

For now, Darren McFadden should be benched in all leagues until further notice. He made sure of that by getting hurt. He should miss the next two to four weeks while recovering from surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee.

While I might hold onto him a few more weeks, it’s safe to consider dropping him in all but deep leagues. The Raiders face the Giants, Jets and Eagles over the next three weeks, which gives them plenty of time to become even more miserable or develop some sign of life in the passing game.

The smart bet is on the miserable side of things.

Wish I could find that pic of Philip Rivers with grass in his helmet
I heard several people on either side of the fence of my “pass” on Philip Rivers in my preseason “pick or pass” for quarterbacks, but I stand behind my statements that he will not live up to his draft stock this season.

Last year was an extraordinary one for him stat-wise, and you should not expect him to repeat. He didn’t look good against the Steelers until the final quarter, and he’s been alternating between decent 20+ fantasy point weeks and mediocre point totals in the teens.

Don’t expect him to be able to expose a defense with that many big plays in his games moving forward.

Mark Sanchez de-poised
It took four weeks, but the rookie who couldn’t be cracked finally lost his poise this week against the New Orleans Saints.

Now, rather than his poise that had stolen the headlines for weeks, all anyone can talk about are his turnovers.

Yes, on the season Mark Sanchez has five interceptions and five fumbles with three of those picks coming in Sunday’s game, but thus far, the Jets have been able to overcome his mistakes with solid defense.

Against the Saints, his turnovers cost them by giving away 14 points.

Despite his lack of poise (for once), Sanchez remains the rookie quarterback to own this season, especially now that Matthew Stafford is day-to-day with a knee injury.

He’s no Matt Ryan, but he’ll do if you need a backup.

Titans not so Titan-y
Four games into the season, the Titans are winless, and they’re looking worse in every contest. I can’t say that I’m not rooting for Kerry Collins to be replaced, but that said, he’s not the problem.

The Titans defense isn’t what it used to be, and the only explosive player on offense is Chris Johnson.

They’ll have to get Johnson more involved in the passing game if they’re going to be behind in games all season, but right now, he’s still a must-start fantasy stud.

In Other News…

  • Tom Brady felt like the real thing again in his fourth appearance, and the Randy Moss connection is still good to go. Me likey. Welcome back, Patriots.
  • In I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it news, the Cowboys aren’t looking too promising if they keep getting the play calling they did Sunday. Tony Romo owners around the nation agree. He’ll be boom or bust all season.
  • Jay Cutler is the next Tom Brady? No, really? I didn’t get that memo, but he is playing very well in his new uniform.
  • The Indianapolis Colts are looking just fine with Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. Both could have decent fantasy value moving forward, and Collie got his first NFL touchdown on Sunday.
  • Is anyone tired of hearing Brett Favre’s name tonight yet?

Guest Post: 2009 NFL preview from a fantasy outsider

This guest post comes to Fantasy Football Fools from Eric Amzallag of sports pick site UnlockedSports.com. Rather than stay in our fantasy bubble this season, I thought taking a look at the playoff picks from a relative fantasy outsider would be a nice jump start to the conversation — since, inevitably, my Super Bowl and playoff picks would be largely influenced by what players I have invested in this season.

I think Eric makes some interesting calls that should get us talking, but keep in mind that Eric sent these to us this offseason before much of the news had been made.

Feel free to share your own playoff predictions on this glorious Sunday of football in the comments. We’ll give greater cred to those who post before their picks destroy opponents in their opening game this week. Now on with the show…

Now that football season is quickly approaching, fans, poolers and bettors are eager to gather as much information as they can to make some informed sports picks in the upcoming season.

Every single year, we seem to come into the NFL season with all eyes on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win it all. There is nothing wrong with that. The Patriots always have a great team surrounding arguably the best quarterback of our time.

But times are a-changing, and this season we will see some new teams in the running for the Lombardi trophy. With a relatively painless offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to repeat and have a good chance to do so.

Don’t count out these playoff contenders from the AFC:

  • Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning! With Peyton behind center the Colts will always be contenders.
  • Oakland Raiders: The AFC West is the worst division in football right now, and the Raiders are the only team with promise and a good, young core of players. This year will be the season they break out of the funk.
  • Buffalo Bills: Although some people disagree, getting T.O. was huge for the Bills. Not only will their offense be hard to stop with two star receivers, a promising young quarterback and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, but they are well-coached and poised to have a breakout season.

The NFC is another beast altogether. The Arizona Cardinals will be good but not as good as they were last season. The Dallas Cowboys may have dropped some baggage, but this year will be a make-or-break season for Tony Romo.

In the NFC, watch for these teams to make an impact this season:

  • Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White! ‘Nuff said.
  • Dallas Cowboys: Do or die! If the Cowboys are going to stay in the title contender picture they will need to come together. This season will be the one that defines them, and I think they will come through.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Kind of a sleeper pick here, but I am sticking with it for one reason, Mike Singletary’s first full season.
  • Chicago Bears: Although the defense was suspect last season, this year everything is going to come together for Chicago. Not only will the defense get back to its stingy ways, but with Jay Cutler in the offense, this team could be scary!

So those are Eric’s picks, made right around the time of the NFL draft this offseason. Who do you think is going to win it all this year? You can check out more from Eric and UnlockedSports.com.

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.

Taking the Next Step: Matt Ryan Projections for 2009

Is Matt Ryan really all he’s cracked up to be this season?

I wasn’t much of a believer in the 2008 class of NFL quarterbacks. I even doubted that Matt Ryan would make it off the board among the top five picks, but I am sure the Falcons are glad they didn’t feel the same way. Ryan blossomed in his rookie season and drew comparisons to Peyton Manning by year’s end. Going into 2009, he’s got an enhanced set of weapons with Tony Gonzalez now in Atlanta and plenty of opportunity.

The obvious improvements in his game and the Falcons as a team have caused many fantasy football pros to raise him up as one of the future quarterback icons, and now drafters are taking him as a late QB1 selection — or sometimes far earlier than they should — expecting him to be a starting quality fantasy quarterback this year.

While there’s no denying that his rookie season was impressive, it’s hard for me to justify taking Matt Ryan as a starting fantasy quarterback with just one year under his belt and few multiple touchdown games to his name.

Tony Gonzalez’s late-season surge in Kansas City made him the top tight end in fantasy last season, but I don’t think he’ll carry that momentum right into his first season in Atlanta. The Falcons were a run-first team last year, and they’re not going to turn into Peyton Manning’s Colts just because they have a tight end who can catch. Atlanta will depend on Gonzalez’s blocking abilities to establish the run with Michael Turner before looking to pass with a mix of Roddy White, Gonzalez, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas and Jerious Norwood.

While Gonzalez will be the new “hot route” in Atlanta, a designation that made Roddy White one of the most targeted receivers in the NFL last season, the shift to Tony Gonzalez shouldn’t make the Atlanta offense significantly more productive in “hot route” situations. The move is more a knock to Roddy White’s value than anything else.

In 2008, Ryan was a marginal to poor fantasy starter. He made Roddy White look like a true fantasy stud, but Ryan’s 16 touchdowns throughout the season were not enough to keep him at the top of many lineups. The games in which he did score multiple touchdowns came against struggling defenses like the Packers, Raiders, Saints and Chargers, except for, surprisingly, one game against the Eagles where he had two touchdowns. In my mind, that makes him largely unproven facing the NFC and AFC East this season.

The one bit of reasoning that I can buy for being optimistic with Ryan’s projections is that Ryan could see a need to put more points on the board this season if the Atlanta defense, largely unspectacular last season, fails to keep games close. Turner’s power running might have to be put aside for more of a throw-happy, play-from-behind offense if that is the case, but that could also prove dangerous for Ryan and doesn’t promise that the offense will be successful.

In order to justify a QB1 role, Ryan would need to increase his touchdown totals and his yardage significantly. Despite his skills, Tony Gonzalez is unlikely to give Ryan the 75 yards and a touchdown he needs each game to do that. I see Matt Ryan finishing the year with just over 3000 yards and 20-25 touchdowns.

While Ryan makes for a promising and reliable QB2, I would not plan on taking him as your starting quarterback this season. He still has more to prove, and it would be unfair to him and his talent to expect it of him in just his second season.

Think Matt Ryan is the next big thing? As always, the comments are yours.