Week 3 Starts and Sits: Poor Browns, the Vikings will destroy you

Keepers has some nice suggestions this week, so I thought I’d share the full vid of Matt Ufford’s talents.

I do not agree with jumping off the Michael Vick train, though he had a rough night tonight. I’m still a believer. All aboard.

But can we all be done with Ryan Mathews now? Continue reading

Jamaal Charles owners: How to replace your stud running back

If you lost Jamaal Charles on Sunday, you don’t have a lot of options. He was your first round pick, and unless you play in a very small league, it’s unlikely you have someone else of Charles’ caliber on your roster to pick up the slack.

You also aren’t going to find many first-round quality players on the waiver wire. So at this point, you are left with the desperation options.

It’s time to beg, borrow, cheat, or steal.

One note before we start — you don’t have to do these in this order. Begging is for the worst off of the Charles’ owners, but all of us could benefit from “stealing,” even if we didn’t lose Charles. In fact, “stealing” is probably a good place to start for the majority of you. That’s why I put it at the end…

BEG

A trade is the fastest way to fix your roster when you face a catastrophic injury like losing Charles. You won’t ever have as strong a team as you had before, but just like getting burned on a bad investment, you have to take stock of what you have, package your assets, and sell off what you can to improve your net worth (in this case, your team).

Now I’m assuming you’re in dire straits without Charles. You might not have another running back capable of even RB2-quality production. Maybe you were rotating a stream of flex-level running backs in alongside Charles. Maybe the only other stud on your roster was your top-5 quarterback.

If you can field a respectable roster in Week 3 without Charles, hold off and move on to the less drastic strategies below. But if you’re rocking back and forth in the fetal position while screaming “Jamaaaaaal. WHY?!?,” stay with me here…

Hopefully, you drafted some good depth at at least one position. It’s probably safe to assume it’s not running back, so let’s pretend you have a little extra talent at quarterback or wide receiver.

It’s time to start talking to every owner in your league who has a hole at wide receiver or quarterback and a running back worth starting every week. Package what you have and shop it.

Start your negotiations by making a reasonable offer, but if that goes south, beg. Beg like you’re life depended on it. Play the pity card, and maybe someone will grant you a chance at their prize running back.

Target the owners of Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Arian Foster, and Shonn Greene, who may be disappointed in what they’ve brought to the box score so far. You don’t have the luxury of being disappointed in them. You just need high-ceiling starters.

Chris Johnson would be the first player I’d target. Foster or Jackson might come at a discount since they are currently injured, and Greene owners might be convinced that he won’t rise to the occasion this season either.

For the right price, I’d take a chance at Greene.

Float your starting-quality backup quarterback out there packaged alongside one of your WR2 or WR1-level wide receivers. If you feel good enough about your QB2, try offering your stud-level starter to the guy that drafted Peyton Manning.

It’s a great time to trade Matthew Stafford to the highest bidder if you smartly drafted a quality alternative in case Stafford didn’t make it a full 16 games. Maybe you’ll miss out on his breakout season, but you could end up with a fantasy stud to replace what you lost in Charles.

BORROW

If trading for a stud or potential stud doesn’t work, it’s time to look at the lesser options and “borrow.”

You’re not actually borrowing in this situation. You’re still trading, but you’re looking at the potential to upgrade this player down the road.

If left with no other options, go ahead and look at trading depth for depth. Maybe you could deal a backup tight end, WR3, or your backup quarterback to give yourself some more depth at running back.

Nabbing someone like Joseph Addai, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller, or Ryan Grant could still prove valuable. Don’t write anyone off. But don’t take any terrible deals either just to add a running back to your squad. You have to get a decent value for the package you put together. A bad trade would pretty much sink your season.

You might try to sneak a deal for a promising up-and-comer.

Make a play for Ben Tate whose owner may not need his opportunistic play for the next several weeks while Foster heals up as much as you could. Look for James Starks, who is rising in Green Bay. Maybe the rest of your league hasn’t noticed yet. Finally, it pays off to have a guy in your league who lives under a rock!

While getting a running back out of the deal would be preferred, it’s okay to consider a trade that upgrades your other positions. Anything that improves your team will help, and maybe that additional strength at quarterback or wide receiver could be turned into running back depth at a later date.

While you might not start these running backs right away or have no need for the additional depth at another position, these players are good to have. You can hold onto them for now, start them when they have decent matchups, and maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll have a big enough game for you to deal them again.

On that next trade, that’s when you might land a stud to replace Charles.

CHEAT

Okay, I realize most people don’t want to cheat. But some do. And I feel it’s my duty to cover this even if I don’t wholeheartedly endorse it. In fact, I’ll despise you if you pull it off. But hey, we’re in it to win it. So here goes…

This one’s the hard one. You might not have a chance at swindling an owner in your league, and even if you do, you might not get this trade past the rest of the owners in your league. But…rumors and misinformation might be a decent way to get a fantasy starter off another owner.

All it takes is a text, presumed to be a forward from Twitter, with “RT @AdamSchefter” in front, and you could have another owner thinking they need to sell high. (Kidding, of course. Who would do that?)

Haven’t you always wanted to be “that guy?”

You could make a play for Matt Forte by talking up Marion Barber’s upcoming return and his ability to vulture every touchdown from Forte the rest of the way. It is possible, even if it’s not probable. So it’s not a lie, MOM!

Sure, you still have to worry that it comes true, in some part, but Forte’s a decent recovery from losing Charles.

Steven Jackson owners might be willing to believe he’ll never be healthy again this season. He looked slow in the first game of the season, didn’t he? Might as well get a decent value for him rather than deal with his questionable status all season long.

Ryan Mathews certainly isn’t going to get enough touches to be worth anything in San Diego. So what if every analyst out there seems to believe he’s the better back. Tolbert is clearly the guy that’s going to get all the fantasy points, right?

Use rumors and speculation to your advantage, and you just might “negotiate” your way into a nice consolation prize.

But yes, if you pull this off, several people in your league will call you out for it. You’ll be cursed for the rest of the season, and you probably won’t even make it to the championship game due to karma. All wins have their price.

STEAL

There’s not going to be a lot on the waiver wire, but there’s enough. Now that you’ve lost Charles, it’s time to take everything you can and “steal” value for free off the wire.

First, your Kansas City replacements. Unfortunately, they’ll cost the most and probably produce the least.

Thomas Jones + Dexter McCluster + Le’Ron McClain

I covered this in this week’s waiver wire post, but Jones probably assumes the lead back duties here. He’s not exciting; in fact, he’s looked totally finished so far this season. But he’s the guy listed second on the depth chart, and he’s likely to get the goal line looks, at least initially.

Jones is the running back I’d try to pickup first, but don’t break the bank to get him. He’s not worth it, especially with how lackluster the Chiefs offense has been thus far. Thomas Jones is not going to spark anything for them.

Dexter McCluster’s been used as a gadget guy by the Chiefs and has gotten more touches than Jones so far this year up until Charles was injured. With his ability to act as a receiver or running back (not to mention his eligibility as both a WR and RB on some fantasy sites), McCluster may actually see the most productive touches in Charles’ absence. He’ll also come at a lower cost than Jones if you’re having to bid on McCluster in a FAAB.

The dark horse in this is Le’Ron McClain. We’ve seen him take more than his fair share of the work during his time in Baltimore, and now he’s in the mix in Kansas City.

Jones is old, and McCluster is undersized. So the bulk of the workload could easily land in McClain’s lap. Again, he’s not going to blow the doors off anyone, but he could be productive if the Chiefs pick themselves up off the floor.

Assuming you miss out on Jones and McCluster, stash McClain. You never know.

And here’s where the real stealing comes in. If you have the roster space, I’d claim every single decent handcuff back still on waivers that you can. That list includes Deji Karim in Jacksonville, Kendall Hunter in San Francisco, Delone Carter in Indy, and Michael Bush in Oakland.

Bush and Carter have carved a role of sorts on their offenses for now with the potential to do more, especially if there’s an injury. Hunter’s not getting a lot of touches, but he certainly looks like he could do plenty with them after leading the league in rushing during the preseason. And Karim will continue to protect Maurice Jones-Drew’s long-term health by taking a few touches each week until MJD suffers a setback or another injury.

If they’re out there, I’d go get Willis McGahee, who could end up winning John Fox’s favor if Moreno can’t stay healthy, and LaDainian Tomlinson, who still might be the most productive back on the Jets, first.

You’re goal with these backups is to be first in line to benefit when the next devastating injury hits fantasy owners. And in the meantime, you can tell your tale of woe over a campfire to the rest of your league to scare them into trading you for their own handcuff.

It’s not going to make you any friends, but this strategy is an act of desperation.

And if you can’t “steal” your way back into fantasy relevance, well…you better start trolling the waiver wire and maximizing every spot on your roster. You’re going to need every point you can get the rest of the way.

RIP Jamaal’s ACL. Pour some out for your homies’ knees. And fingers crossed this doesn’t happen to any other first-round picks this season.

http://youtu.be/dqHKf5NuVtg

And seriously, what’s going on in KC? Charles is their third ACL tear this season.

Overreaction Monday: Why Did I Draft Chris Johnson?

http://youtu.be/fjL-4nwnkkk

Chris Johnson. Steven Jackson. Adrian Peterson. THE COLTS! Why can’t we have nice things?!?

Green Bay is an unstoppable force of fantasy football goodness. I’m picking up the Packers’ ball boy on the waiver wire this week, and I fully expect him to get at least 10 touchdowns this season.

But the Saints defense is terrible. I will never trust them again. Look at how Aaron Rodgers tore them apart!

Ben Roethlisberger has lost his command of the offense. He’s no longer a QB1. Why did I listen to those experts recommending him as a bargain? I’d rather have Cam Newton!

The Ravens will bowl over everyone with the mighty power of Ray Rice, crusher of kittens and unstoppable engine of fantasy points. I have no doubt.

There’s something in the water in St. Louis. Sam Bradford…hurt. Steven Jackson…hurt. Danny Amendola…hurt. My fantasy stars are broken. Back to the waiver wire…

What happened to Matt Ryan? I thought he was supposed to ascend to the highest realm of fantasy quarterbacks this season. Instead, he was Ben Roethlisberger-ed. (It’s a verb.) Will Julio Jones be enough save him?

Why are the Steelers wearing those blue uniform…oh, it’s the Bears. How did we not see this coming? I know what happened — Big Ben got married this offseason while Jay Cutler called off his engagement. WEDDINGS RUIN FANTASY FOOTBALL!

Cedric Benson? He’s the man. Look at all that yardage and a touchdown. Glad I drafted him while he was in prison!

The Browns tight ends are bound for fantasy greatness. Colt McCoy will hit them anytime they are in the end zone … but the Browns still won’t win. CURSED!

Chris Johnson has more millions than yardage. I’m ruined. Why, oh, WHY did I take him the first round? Please accept my trade request: Chris Johnson for Mike Tolbert, straight up.

See, I told you Cam Newton would work out. HE’S THE BEST QUARTERBACK ON THE PLANET! (Peyton Manning is currently recovering from surgery on the moon.)

And Ryan Fitzpatrick is not in consideration because he went to Harvard.

Adrian Peterson … NO touchdowns? Donovan McNabb has ruined Peterson. Season over. Maybe I can deal him for C.J.┬áSpiller.

The 49ers defense cannot be stopped! Yes, Ted Ginn, you will return every ball you touch.

Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel are nothing without the greatness of Charlie Weis.

PLAXICO BURRESS IS BACK, BABY!

Rex Grossman will lead the Redskins straight to the Super Bowl!

Philip Rivers will take the Chargers all the way to the Super Bowl!

Matthew Stafford will lead the Lions straight to the Super Bowl!

Michael Vick will lead the Eagles straight to to the Super Bowl!

Tarvaris Jackson will lead the Seahawks…to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. (Sorry, the Seahawks are terrible.)

The Bucs will not make the leap! Josh Freeman is a fantasy failure.

The Jags don’t need Garrard. They have Luke McCown!

The Titans could use someone more like Luke McCown.

The Giants have found their David — the Redskins.

The Cardinals have finally found a quarterback again, but he’s not quite as good as the one who started his first game against them.

Mark Sanchez is a closer! Look at that poise.

Tony Romo is not a closer! He’ll never make it to the super Bowl. Fumbles are the antithesis of poise!

What’s happening here? The sky is not falling. Just having a little fun with the first weekend of NFL football and the owner overreactions we’re all guilty of after seeing our fantasy studs exceed or fail to meet expectations. It’s only one week.

Feel free to add your own overreactions in the comments.

…and can I just say again how glad I am that football is back? I missed you terribly, NFL.

My Much-Too-Late 2011 Fantasy Football Sleepers and Value Picks List

I’ve been a slacker this season when it comes to posting my sleepers and value picks. I tweeted about quite a few of them throughout the offseason and preseason, but if you weren’t following me there, you might have missed out.

On the plus side, the majority of my true sleepers are low on the draft board in 12-team leagues and quite possibly undrafted in 10-team leagues. You still have some time to make these moves, and if these sleepers continue to nap in Week 1, you might be able to buy low on them.

Early Value Picks

It’s probably too late to act on these recommendations, but consider this my not-so-bold predictions for this season. I expect these players to outplay their draft position.

Vincent Jackson

VJax is a highly ranked wide receiver on most boards, but I think he has as good a chance as any to be a top three fantasy wideout this season. I’ve targeted him as my WR1 or a high-level WR2 in all my drafts, and I really like his chemistry with Philip Rivers this preseason. This offense likes to throw the ball, and I expect Jackson to prove himself in another contract year.

As I tweeted…

Brandon Marshall

When you start to look at WR2-level receivers, I like Brandon Marshall quite a bit more this season. Henne held him back last season, but hopefully, Henne’s great ability to audible the offense and the Dolphins’ determination to put points on the board will help Marshall return to his 100+ catch standard this year. He’s got his head on straight, which should, if nothing else, keep him on the field as the Dolphins’ biggest weapon.

I expect him to bounce up the rankings from his current draft stock, and if everything breaks the way it could, he could produce more like a WR1 as a WR2 or WR3.

Mark Ingram

Yes, I buy the hype. I wasn’t even an Ingram fan when he was in college, but now that he’s in the NFL on a team that gets to the goal line as much as the Saints, it’s hard not to like his potential. He could have an early-career Marion Barber-type season of 20+ touchdowns, and the Saints have looked to him at the goal line all preseason.

Here’s to hoping the split between Ingram and Pierre Thomas ends up being slanted towards Ingram in a big way.

Extras: I also really like Darren McFadden to come close to last year’s numbers this season, and he’s falling into the second round in most drafts. I like Peyton Hillis more than most, but I think you should have a “Plan B” rookie to step in for him if he starts to wear down (Mark Ingram qualifies here).

Sleepers

Matthew Stafford

My favorite value pick this season, Stafford’s due for some good luck staying healthy, right? He’s being drafted late as a QB2 in most leagues, but I believe he has the potential to be a top-three quarterback if he stays healthy. His performance in the preseason only reinforced that belief. It’s safest to take him a QB2 and hope for the best, but I have taken him as a late QB1 in at least one league.

Austin Collie

Collie is risky. There’s no escaping the fact that he had some very severe concussions last season. One more could put his season in doubt. But, at least for now, he’s cleared to play, and his efficiency last season before his injury was off the charts.

Collie might miss Week 1 due to a foot injury, but you won’t want to play him Week 1 anyway without Peyton Manning in the lineup for the Colts. When Manning returns to the field, Collie should be a huge factor. While everyone else is considering drafting Sidney Rice, you can draft Collie and expect WR2 numbers at a middle to late round price.

Reggie Bush

This is Reggie Bush’s last real chance to be a lead back in the NFL. Rookie Daniel Thomas hasn’t wowed the coaching staff. Instead, they’ve been busy praising Bush’s work to be the feature back. He’s been effective when given the full load in New Orleans, even if he didn’t hold up all season. What you’re getting if you draft Bush is a quality flex/RB3 with the upside of being a RB2 some weeks.

I wouldn’t draft Bush in the early rounds, but a starting running back with upside on a team that’s determined to become more high-scoring sounds like a perfect bargain to me in the seventh round and on.

Lance Moore

He always had his best games when Bush was out of the lineup, and now Bush is out of New Orleans. An ailing Marques Colston just pushes me more in Moore’s direction. He could catch everything Drew Brees throws past Jimmy Graham.

Bernard Scott

I’m avoid Cedric Benson and drafting Scott this year because I think he’ll finally get his time to shine. Benson’s a workhorse and will probably carry most of the load for the Bengals this season, but led by a rookie quarterback throwing to a rookie wide receiver, the Bengals need as much running support as they can get.

Scott fits the West Coast system Jay Gruden brought to Cincinnati better than Benson, and he’s more explosive than Benson when give the ball. Whether he gets a chance to play over Benson this year or whether he’ll have to wait for Benson to wear down through the course of the season, Scott will see the field this season, and he’ll take advantage of that opportunity as best he can with little else going for the Bengals.

My two favorite true sleepers this season are actually tight ends, but hey, it’s that kind of that season.

Aaron Hernandez

The Patriots loved to use their tight ends last season after they traded away Randy Moss, and I don’t think Chad Ochocinco’s going to change that philosophy. Tom Brady’s going to throw to the open man, and the Patriots’ tight ends are two of their most difficult to cover receiving options. Rob Gronkowski will probably get more touchdowns than Aaron Hernandez, but not many.

Hernandez is a bargain as a late or not-even-drafted tight end. I’ve been bold enough to take him as my starter in one league, but I feel even better about him as a late-round TE2 or as a possible flex fill. He could produce like a WR3 or better.

Lance Kendricks

It’s hard to know what this guy even looks like because none of the fantasy football sites have his picture yet. He’s the St. Louis Rams rookie tight end, and he was a force in the preseason, especially around the end zone.

Josh McDaniels should use him just as the Patriot’s use their tight ends, and with few reliable pass catchers on the roster, the Rams could make him their leading receiver. If Sam Bradford takes the next step this season, it will be because of Lance Kendricks.

Best of all, he’s going undrafted in most leagues. Feel free to pick him up as a TE2 or just as a last-round sleeper. If the bet doesn’t pay off, he won’t cost you much. But I have a feeling it will.

Deep Sleepers

Here are a few you won’t see getting drafted often, but I’m a fan…

Delone Carter

The Colts newly named No. 2 running back could be a huge factor if Addai is injured this season — and possibly even if he’s not if Peyton Manning’s injury forces the Colts to lean on the running game. He’s become the favorite over Donald Brown and could vulture a few touchdowns in Indy this season. The Colts did let last season’s vulture, Javarris James, go in their recent roster cuts.

Danario Alexander

I’m a sucker for Danario. I loved his potential last season when he got a chance to start, and I think he’ll be able to make an impact as a deep threat on a Rams team that just let Donnie Avery walk. He would only be drafted in the deepest of leagues since he’s not even a starter for the Rams right now, but he’s definitely one I’ll have my eye on.

Denarius Moore

I still like Jacoby Ford this season, but Moore is his rookie twin. The coaches and team love him, and if he ends up a starter, I could see stashing him for those games the Raiders will open up the passing game. The offense there is, however, supposed to run through Darren McFadden this year. Derek Hagan‘s another to watch in Oakland if he ends up a starter. Hagan has made plays all preseason.

Victor Cruz

Last year’s preseason darling for the Giants has been quiet this year, but he’s healthy and probable to start in the slot for New York. Eli Manning hasn’t had a good preseason, but if he brings it together (or if there’s an injury to either of the Giants’ starting wideouts), Cruz would definitely be in line for some stellar performances. For now, he’s just one to watch or stash in deeper leagues.

Eric Decker

Decker is a big possession guy that made a lot of noise this preseason for the Broncos. Unfortunately, they’re move to a conservative John Fox offense probably means he’s not worth owning…for now.

Believe it or not: Bad franchises, big fantasy points with Peyton Hillis, Matthew Stafford, and Jacoby Ford as Week 9 Scoring Leaders

This week’s high scores include members of teams you wouldn’t expect to produce fantasy powerhouses. The Browns? The Lions? The Raiders? ┬áParity is the name of the game this season, as even these recently terrible franchises have produced fantasy gold.

Hillis looks like a top back the rest of the way. The Raiders continue to put up points no matter who has to catch the ball and clear the way for Darren McFadden. And the Lions continue to scare teams who don’t take them seriously.

If you had one of these scoring leaders on your roster, you should have won this week. If not…well, at least there’s hope for the future.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 184 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3 catches for 36 yards vs. Patriots

You have to wonder how former Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels felt watching Hillis destroy the Patriots on the ground for another former Patriots coordinator’s team. Eric Mangini certainly looks like he won on this trade. The Broncos have no running game, and the Browns are all running game with Hillis.

Now that he’s fully healthy after their bye and with Colt McCoy starting for the Browns, Hillis should continue to grind out these tough yards. As long as he can get in the end zone, he’ll produce at a high level. His schedule poses few challenges.

Next week he gets the Jets, and the only other two teams who might stand a chance at slowing him down are the Dolphins in Week 13 and the Ravens in Week 16. He also get the Steelers in Week 17 if you play your fantasy championships the last week of the year — but why, WHY are you doing that?

Green Bay Packers D/ST: 7 points against, 2 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs vs. Cowboys

The Cowboys gave up this game before the kickoff, and the Green Bay defense took advantage of Jon Kitna, who seemed like the only player other than Dez Bryant who had any interest in playing.

As many have stated throughout recent weeks, somehow the Packers manage to put together a great defensive game plan no matter how many players they lose to injury. But they hardly had to try against the Cowboys.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: 10 catches for 141 yards, 2 TDs vs. Steelers

The fact that T.O. is good this year still puzzles me. He stepped into a team with a proven wide receiver and replaced him entirely (and with more success). Those who drafted him will continue to benefit from Palmer’s force-feeding of the ball to T.O., especially late in games when the Bengals are down. That happens often.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: 218 passing yards and 1 TD, 74 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Colts

Those owners who held onto Vick throughout his injury should reap the rewards now. He stepped onto the field and right back into his previous form. Other than two matchups against the Giants, the Eagles schedule should be a big bag o’ fun for the Eagles.

Circle Week 13 if it’s the first week of your fantasy playoffs. The Eagles face the Texans very terrible defense at home in Philly.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: 240 passing yards and 2 TDs, 1 INT, 11 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Jets

Stafford surprised many by dismantling the Jets defense right up until he got hurt again. That’s right: Hurt. AGAIN. Stafford could have been a savior for many a fantasy team late in the season, and this showdown against the Jets only proved how talented he is (and how good he can make the Lions). But it looks like he’ll go back on ice for a few weeks.

Stafford’s fantasy owners have to hope that Shaun Hill is healthy enough to start Week 10. Drew Stanton just doesn’t cut it as a Stafford stand-in.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers: 4 catches for 111 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

Yeah, you try to say that. I’m glad I just have to type it. But Seyi Ajirotutu showed up big for those who took a chance on him as a sleeper.

After the Chargers bye, he’ll probably be relegated to a lesser role with Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Legedu Naanee likely to return to the field. Vincent Jackson will also soon be in the mix. But those who benefited from Ajirotutu’s big Week 9 should hold onto him if possible. Philip Rivers might not soon forget his big play potential.

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings: 446 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Cardinals

Does the old man still have it? I don’t think so. But he showed signs of life this week against the Cardinals in willing the Vikings to a win in overtime. The rest of his schedule shouldn’t be so kind — other than possibly the Bills. It’s hard to trust Favre as a fantasy quarterback down the stretch as the games matter more than ever.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders: 6 catches for 148 yards, 1 kickoff return TD vs. Chiefs

Jacoby Ford is proof of one thing: ANYONE is better than throwing to Darrius Heyward-Bey. With every receiving weapon for the Raiders out due to injury, DHB still managed to catch nothing.

On the other hand/side of the field, Ford emerged as a great deep weapon, which could mean he keeps the speedster role when Louis Murphy returns to the lineup. He’s on bye but worth a pickup this week, for sure. Other than against the Steelers in Week 11, the Raiders could make good use of Ford throughout the rest of their schedule.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers: 42 rushing yards and 1 TD, 4 catches for 26 yards and 1 TD vs. Cowboys

The Packers defense created so many turnovers that the Packers had to run the ball, and Jackson proved his worth in the short-yardage situations he was given. Those who paid a high price for him early in the season (as I did) can only hope that the Packers look to develop their ground game as the weather turns cold late in the season.

Clearly, Jackson will put points on the board when he’s given a chance, but this game against the Cowboys was not the norm. Let’s see what they do against a real opponent (if you can call the Vikings that) after their bye week.

Believe it or not: Jags, DHB, LeGarrette Blount come alive while Jamaal Charles, Foster, Lloyd showoff in Week 8

There are a few head-scratchers in this mix. So don’t get too excited on the waiver wire, but here are a few of the week’s top performers.

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: 260 yards, 4 TDs, 1 fumble, 2 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD vs. Cowboys

Unfortunately, you can’t trust Garrard. Ever. He’ll have a game like this against the now-quitting Cowboys and follow it up with a stinker against a pitiful defense. If this performance convinces any owner to pay a decent price for his services, SELL SELL SELL.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: 9 catches for 101 yards, 3 TDs vs. Redskins
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: 212 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT vs. Redskins

A huge fantasy day for these two young Lions’ stars made plenty of owners happy. The good news: Stafford should keep getting the ball to Megatron on a regular basis. Shaun Hill was putting up numbers like a top fantasy quarterback until he went down, and Stafford is more talented. Next week against the Jets, the Lions will face a greater challenge, but Stafford’s a clear must-own the rest of the way.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: 112 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch for 11 yards vs. Vikings

Just when we thought Danny Woodhead was the back you wanted to own in the Patriots’ offense, they change things up and go back to the “Law Firm” (BenJarvus Green-Ellis). It’s impossible to know what Belichick is thinking, but those in need can take a chance on Green-Ellis until the next Belichick tinkering hands off the ball to someone else.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: 177 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards (238 total) vs. Bills

He’s capable of much more if only he didn’t have to share the rock with Thomas Jones. Maybe this lack of opportunity is all to keep Charles fresh for the playoffs, but it’s got to be incredibly frustrating for Charles and his fantasy owners. He’s bound to see increased touches as the season goes on. Haley’s got to be thinking the same, right?

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos: 7 catches for 169 yards, 1 TD vs. 49ers

It’s always good to see your studs get back on track. Lloyd put together another amazing performance in this one after a couple of quiet weeks. Clearly, Orton only has eyes for Lloyd in this offense, and that’s a good thing for all the Lloyd owners out there.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 102 yards, 1 TD, 9 catches for 65 yards vs. Colts

Speaking of back on track, this stat line was not quite as amazing as Foster’s last performance against the Colts, but he didn’t disappoint any owners. Foster should keep on rolling unless he gets injured enough to give way to Derrick Ward.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Bucs: 120 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cardinals

I told you that you should grab him. Now, it’s probably too late. It looks like Blount will be the workhorse running back for the Bucs from here on out.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jags: 8 catches for 153 yards, 1 TD vs. Cowboys

With Garrard returning to the field, Sims-Walker returned to fantasy relevance. His owners have to hope this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship — between their Sims-Walker and the end zone. But keep in mind that Marcedes Lewis remains in the mix when the Jags get in the red zone, and he scored twice on Sunday against the Cowboys. His emergence as a touchdown machine will hurt Sims-Walker’s production all season long.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: 6 catches for 72 yards, 2 TDs vs. Bucs

Yes, he’s alive.

Dan Carpenter, K, Dolphins: 5/5 FGs, 1 XP vs. Bengals

A kicker among the scoring leaders? It seems to happen every week. The Dolphins’ Carpenter has a great leg, if you’re looking for that kind of thing. It’s just hard to get excited about fantasy kickers.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders: 5 catches for 105 yards, 1 TD vs. Seahawks

DHB was really the only Raiders’ receiving target left standing this week, and with no one to compete with for catches, he actually did something. His Week 8 performance showed us what he’s capable of if the stars align and if he catches the ball. More to come? To be determined. But he’s worth a grab as stash/sleeper play going into Week 9. The Raiders are likely to keep Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens out until after their bye week in Week 10.

On the Waiver Wire for Week 8: Matthew Stafford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jon Kitna are the quarterbacks you seek

The pain continues. We lost a lot of good men out there.

If you were already struggling to replace Jermichael Finley (like me) or fill the hole left by Dallas Clark (like me), I hope that you weren’t also relying on Tony Romo (again…like me) who is now out for the rest of the fantasy season. He may be back in time to play two games when most of us are in the fantasy playoffs, but that will only happen if — and that’s a big if — the Cowboys are in still in the running to make the playoffs. Plenty would have to break their way for that to happen.

Look at your quarterback’s schedule right now. If he fapicapces the Giants at any point this season, it’s time to strengthen your backup quarterback position. The New York Giants have already knocked five quarterbacks out of games this year after taking out Romo on Monday Night Football, and they’ll continue to attack.

Make sure you hang on to Kevin Kolb. Vick will face the Giants in Week 11.

If you a Favre owner, you might as well jump on the new quarterback bandwagon as well. Old Favre-ful hasn’t been putting up the numbers he did last season, and he looked terrible on Sunday night against his old team. His ankle can only get more fractured. Without a bye week in his future, I have to say it’s all downhill from here. Take a stab at adding one of these “Romo replacement” quarterbacks before the Romo owner does.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Detroit quarterbacks have been the unsung heroes of fantasy through the first part of the year. Until the Giants knocked Shaun Hill out, he was keeping up with the elite of the quarterback class. Stafford, in case you forgot him, is the starter in Detroit, which implies that he’s even better than Shaun Hill, the backup. This week, he gets to play the 31st ranked pass defense in Washington. This could be the beginning of a beautiful quarterback savior-ship.

Jon Kitna, QB, Dallas Cowboys
The most immediate gainer from Tony Romo’s injury, Kitna is now in control of the offensive weapons in Dallas. This group is the most talented that Kitna has ever had at his disposal, but he’s also probably past his prime as a quarterback. Time will tell what he’s able to do with Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones…and the less than stellar offensive line that the Cowboys have struggled to work behind this season. At least this week he gets the Jaguars, which shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. If you can’t get your hands on Stafford, go get Kitna as a safe alternative.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills
Fitzpatrick seems to have emerged as a consistent fantasy starter. He’s had 20 fantasy points or more (standard scoring with 6-point passing touchdowns) in his last three games, and he somehow managed to throw four touchdowns against the Ravens formidable pass defense — and two against the Jets. As long as the Bills continue to play from behind, Fitzpatrick will have value, and as I said in the Scoring Leaders post this week, he could rise to fantasy fame just like Tyler Thigpen did under Chan Gailey’s system in Kansas City not too long ago. But if you take a chance on Fitzpatrick, know that he’s a candidate to fall off a fantasy cliff at any moment, as the Bills are apt to do. He has his doubters. So while he’s doing well now (and you should ride it while you can), he’s a riskier pickup this week than someone like Kitna or Henne. I’d still take that chance. If you’re a gambler, you could even go with Fitz over Kitna.

Troy Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have passed over David Carr just like the fantasy gods did and named Troy Smith the starter for Week 8. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. As long as Alex Smith is held out with his separated shoulder (2-3 weeks) and maybe even after, Smith will be worth owning. And Singletary must have seen something he liked in Smith since they acquired him in order to jump him over Carr, the backup quarterback, to be the starter and to be bold enough to go into Week 8 with just two healthy quarterbacks, Carr and Smith, on the active roster. In the next four weeks, San Francisco faces Denver, a bye week, and then St. Louis and Tampa Bay. If Smith performs well in Week 8, the 49ers could adjust their offense over the bye and go into Week 10 with Troy Smith as the official starter, keeping the job even after Alex Smith is back to 100 percent. Just saying, it could happen. The 49ers have talented receiving weapons in Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore, who catches plenty of passes out of the backfield, and Alex Smith was putting up serviceable numbers before his injury.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins
Henne’s not going to come close to the elite most weeks, but he’s doing plenty of passing in Miami right now. He may not be on the waiver wire, but if he is available, I’d slot him behind Stafford, Fitzpatrick, and Kitna as a guy to target to replace Romo or Favre. And I think I’d rather start Henne than Matt Cassel, who just doesn’t inspire confidence in me yet.

Other Romo replacement considerations: Matt Cassel (QB-Chiefs), Josh Freeman (QB-Bucs), Sam Bradford (QB-Rams), and Matt Moore (QB-Panthers)

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blount got his fair share of carries this week against the Rams with Earnest Graham injured and Kareem Huggins out for the season, and he made good use of them. Tampa Bay’s coaches now say he’ll be splitting time with Cadillac Williams in the backfield, and he’s started to pick up the blitz well enough to protect Josh Freeman. Make sure you get your hands on him now before he takes over the entire Bucs rushing attack. Cadillac isn’t going to put up much of a fight with his age and past injuries weighing him down.

Danny Woodhead, RB, New England Patriots
I’ve mentioned him before, so why haven’t you gotten him yet? He’s now an integral part of the Patriots’ offense, and he’s worth owning, especially in PPR leagues. His slow day against the Chargers may have led owners to dump him, but I think he’ll get back on track.

James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
Donald Driver finally seems to be slowing down, and Jones is ready to take his role and run with it. Like the Colts, if you can get a piece of the Packers’ offense, you want it.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Reports of his “tweak” this weekend seem to be false, and all signs point to Gonzalez returning to the Colts roster this weekend, just in time to replace an injured Austin Collie. He should start ahead of Blair White if things go as planned, but be sure to check his status later in the week to make sure he’s playing. Without Dallas Clark, the Colts’ wide receivers should receive some extra attention from Peyton Manning for the rest of the season.

Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts
If Gonzalez doesn’t go, he’s your guy. Collie’s out, and White was able to jump straight into this offense as soon as he was signed from the practice squad. He should hold value until Austin Collie returns or Anthony Gonzalez unseats him. But this kid has staying power. As a walk-on in college, he eventually rose to team captain.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
If you believe in Ryan Fitzpatrick, believe in Steve Johnson. Other than Lee Evans, who had a huge week, Johnson has benefited the most from Buffalo’s rejuvenated passing attack. And he’s getting into the end zone consistently.

Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks
The big guy in Seattle has shown enough to be trusted after two games of 10+ points, and he’s got a nice schedule the rest of the way with Matt Hasselbeck.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers
What? The Packers are finally letting him run with it? So they are. If you’re still holding onto Jackson from earlier in the season, keep him. If someone in your league dumped him after his weak first half of the year, go get him. As the weather turns in Green Bay, he could turn into a reliable fantasy option to end the season. Just like I said about James Jones, if you can get a piece of this Packers offense, you want it.

David Gettis, WR, Carolina Panthers
The rookie wideout landed on a lot of fantasy radars this week with his two-touchdown performance and with Matt Moore returning under center. Steve Smith will continue to receive most of the defensive attention, which could open up the other side of the field for Gettis, but I’d like to see him do it one more time before I rely on him. He’s a stash with great potential now that this offense is moving with Moore.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Chris Chambers is out, and it seems McCluster is in. He’s finally being used in this offense, so it’s time to join the bandwagon. I don’t put much faith in Matt Cassel, but with the way the Chiefs are running the football and playing defense, surely he can manage a few plays in the passing game, especially with that nice schedule.

Chester Taylor, RB, Chicago Bears
I’m not too high on him, but he gets an upgrade this week with the Bears saying he’ll be handling goal-line duties moving forward. I agree with FF Toolbox that this probably doesn’t hurt Forte much. It just makes Taylor an interesting stash or wait-and-see guy when the Bears come out of their bye week.

Don’t forget about a few wait-and-see players I’ve named in past weeks: Danario Alexander (WR-Rams), James Starks (RB-Packers), and Arrelious Benn (WR-Bucs), just to name a few.

More waivering and wiring from around the fantasy football Web-u-verse…

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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