Week 8 Pickups: Harry Douglas, Jarrett Boykin, and the attack of the injury fill-ins

Week 7 showed us that those with opportunity can produce. Jarrett Boykin filled in more than admirably for James Jones and Randall Cobb. Harry Douglas made the most of his opportunity to be the Falcons No. 1 wideout. But to top that off, we got a bunch of new injuries to send us scrambling to the wire.

Here’s who I’d go after. Obviously, if you have holes on your roster based on injuries to your star players, your priorities will differ.

For a little visual entertainment, I agree with most of Matt Ufford’s takes in yesterday’s SB Nation Daily Win.

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Why I Would Draft Jimmy Graham Over Rob Gronkowski

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably seen my running commentary on all of the ESPN Fantasy Football Roundtable discussions.

Many of ESPN’s Roundtables are pretty straightforward and were easy to discuss in just the 140 characters that Twitter allows, but a few are worthy of meatier discussion. That’s what I’d like to start today with this latest roundtable on tight end values at the top of the draft.


If you can’t see the embedded video, watch it here on ESPN.

Last season proved it was advantageous to own one of the truly elite tight ends, and Rob Gronkowski (1327 yds, 17 TDs + 1 rushing TD) and Jimmy Graham (1310 yds, 11 TDs) were SIGNIFICANTLY better than the rest of their counterparts at the tight end position. Gronkowski alone probably won many fantasy football championships last year.

These two provided such a nice edge last season and were so dominant that the fantasy football community was talking (and still is) about drafting Gronkowski and/or Graham in the first round this year.

There’s an argument to be made that their value justifies taking them that high, but there’s also plenty of depth at tight end for those who don’t feel comfortable with it.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s just assume you’re all in on these tight ends and don’t want to be left without a stud.

So if you want to go tight end early, many folks might be thinking Gronk is the unquestioned first choice. I disagree. Gronkowski was unstoppable last season, but if you want to spend a high pick on a tight end, I’d rather take Jimmy Graham. Why?

  1. The Patriots spent the offseason signing receivers and landed Brandon Lloyd as a new vertical threat in their offense. His presence should take away some of those vertical passes that made Gronkowski so great last year.
  2. New Orleans watched a target walk. Robert Meachem was no Jimmy Graham, and his loss could easily have no effect on Graham’s value. But having fewer targets to spread the ball around to can’t hurt Graham. That’s for sure.
  3. Rob Gronkowski’s points came largely from touchdowns, which are unreliable season to season. As defenses cover Gronk more closely or choose to take him out of a game, it’s less and less likely he’ll be able to reproduce those numbers, which would bring him a little closer to Graham statistically.
  4. The Saints offseason bounty scandal drama and suspension-fest should prevent them from making massive changes to the offensive game plans this year. Brees put up a fair amount of yards last year, so why change things?
  5. Meanwhile, the Patriots brought in a new offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels. While I’m sure he won’t do anything too drastic, he could easily make some changes in New England. And the Patriots have changed their system up in just one offseason in the past. There’s no guarantee they continue to make Gronk the most critical cog in the machine for 2012.

Maybe I’m just not as “Yo Soy Fiesta” as the next guy, but that’s why I’d shy away from taking Gronk as a high pick in my draft. I’d rather place my bet on Jimmy Graham. And honestly, I’d feel best if I could get one of them in the late second or third round rather than considering them in the first.

I wouldn’t be terribly upset if I ended up with Gronkowski on any of my fantasy teams this year, but I’d think long and hard before I took him as the first tight end off the board.

Pondering Christian Ponder: NFL Draft 2011 First Round Fantasy Football Gut Reactions

I don’t get excited about who “won” the draft. I get excited about who I’ll draft for  my fantasy football team.

When it comes to fantasy relevance, the first round didn’t overwhelm us. The 2011 draft set a record for defensive linemen taken in the first round with 12, but it’s hard to say that one defensive end or nose tackle will change the whole dynamic of a team defense. If you play IDP (Independent Defensive Players), those guys will matter to you, but the majority of fantasy players haven’t embraced IDP yet.

In the full list of draftees below, I’ve highlighted a few names in bold that I believe WILL have fantasy value sooner rather than later. Values may change as we (hopefully) enter into a free agency period and as teams decide how soon some of these “quarterbacks of the future” will start. Until then, I only have my gut reactions to the first round.

CAM NEWTON to CAROLINA

The Panthers desperately needed a quarterback that the team could get behind. Sorry, Jimmy Clausen. Cam Newton should get a chance to start soon, but he will have a hard time moving the ball through the air if Steve Smith forces a trade out of Carolina. Newton could start the year in a more limited role, perhaps even as a package quarterback running options and more Wildcat-style plays.

When he does get the chance to start, I could see Cam Newton having some fantasy relevance in 2011 alongside running back Jonathan Stewart, but I’d bank on Stewart carrying the load for this team with some help from Mike Goodson until Newton 1) masters the offense and 2) has some weapons around him in the passing game.

A.J. GREEN to CINCINNATI

Green was a huge get for the Bengals, who may or may not lose Chad Ochocinco this offseason in a trade. As the most talented receiver in his draft class, he’s destined to become an impact player for the Bengals, whether Carson Palmer sticks around or not. If Ochocinco  gets  traded, Green’s fantasy stock will obviously rise, but with the Bengals current roster, he’s worth drafting as a WR3 with WR2 upside.

That said, don’t forget about Jerome Simpson in Cincinnati.

JULIO JONES to ATLANTA

At first glance, you might say that Atlanta overpaid for this pick, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with you. But when you consider what Atlanta needed in this draft and their current roster, it makes sense. In an interview with ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitrioff pointed out how young the Falcons are as a team. They don’t need a bunch of new blood and roster turnover. They just need to fill some holes on defense and to get another playmaker alongside Roddy White on offense.

Obviously, if it works out, no one will complain, and I could see Jones having significant value in the Atlanta offense if they really give Matt Ryan the reigns. I’m a little concerned that Jones’ presence might prevent Roddy White from being the lock for 100 yards and a touchdown he was last season, but if White balances out any Reggie Wayne-like disappearing acts with multiple-touchdown games thanks to Jones, his fantasy owners won’t  complain.

JAKE LOCKER to TENNESSEE

While the Titans drafting Locker is surprising, we don’t yet know if Locker will start right away. Much like Newton, Locker might work behind a veteran quarterback this season while he learns the playbook and the masters the speed of the game at the NFL level. And if he does get a chance to start with a limited playbook, Chris Johnson won’t mind carrying the load for the Titans like he has the past two seasons.

So Locker’s fantasy value is largely dependent on whether he starts this year or not. I don’t see him as a must-draft this season unless you’re looking for a QB2 in a two-quarterback league, but he should be on your radar for 2012.

BLAINE GABBERT to JACKSONVILLE

Some experts say Gabbert will be the best quarterback in this class, but I don’t think we’ll see him on the field for a year, or maybe two, while he learns the Jacksonville offense. I believe it was on ESPN’s draft coverage that they said Jacksonville intended to take the Aaron Rodgers approach with him. I assume that doesn’t mean they’ll keep David Garrard around for a several more years and then trade him to the first team that promises Garrard ample opportunity to text genitalia to female reporters. What do you think?

Dynasty leaguers and keeper leagues might keep an eye on Gabbert, but I doubt he’ll have any fantasy value in 2011.

CHRISTIAN PONDER to MINNESOTA

A bit of a head scratcher, but Ponder will have to be the quarterback of the future now that he’s in Minnesota. They don’t have much else. There’s still some question about whether Sidney Rice will return to the Vikings, and that could greatly affect Ponder’s value.

Of all the rookie quarterbacks with the potential to start right away, Ponder would be last in my rankings. He’s also got Adrian Peterson in the backfield, so there’s no rush as long as he’s got a good hand off. Much like Locker, you might look at Ponder if you’re in a two-quarterback league, but he’d be very, very low on my list.

NICK FAIRLEY to DETROIT

In general, I try to stay away from saying one player will change the value of a team defense, but Detroit’s building on an area of strength by taking Fairley, who some considered to be the best player in this draft up until a few weeks ago. Next to Suh on the Detroit Lions defensive line, Fairley will put up some numbers. If the Lions offense holds up their end, and the defense gets to the quarterback with Suh and Fairley, they’ll be worth consideration as a team defense in 2011.

JONATHAN BALDWIN to KANSAS CITY

I don’t know a whole lot about Jonathan Baldwin, but I’ve seen mixed reactions to him being taken in the first round. According to some analysts, he’s not necessarily a perfect fit for what Kansas City does on offense. Bowe had a huge last half in the 2010 fantasy season, but Baldwin may not immediately share in the fantasy points there.

If you read any of my posts last season, you know I’m not a huge fan of Cassel. I’m probably selling Baldwin a little short just because I see Cassel regressing from his 2010 season. But if you’re looking to draft Baldwin, I’d take him as nothing more than a late-round stash with the potential to be a WR3.

MARK INGRAM to NEW ORLEANS

Depending on who you ask, Ingram will either be a fantasy stud or be just another fantasy dud. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are both still in New Orleans. Reggie Bush may or may not get a deal done to return to the Saints. That’s a lot of mouths to feed in an offense that ALSO likes to score points through the air from time to time.

Regardless, I think this eats into Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory’s value significantly. Only time will tell how the Saints adjust around Ingram, but he’s worth RB2 consideration and definitely worth drafting this season. I tend to believe the folks who say he might have RB1 upside. If you can get him for the right price in your fantasy draft, why not take the chance?

FIRST ROUND OF THE 2011 NFL DRAFT

  1. Carolina Panthers >> Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
  2. Denver Broncos >> Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
  3. Buffalo Bills >> Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
  4. Cincinnati Bengals >> A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  5. Arizona Cardinals >> Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
  6. Atlanta Falcons (from Cleveland) >> Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
  7. San Francisco 49ers >> Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
  8. Tennessee Titans >> Jake Locker, QB, Washington
  9. Dallas Cowboys >> Tyron Smith, OT, USC
  10. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Washington) >> Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
  11. Houston Texans >> J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
  12. Minnesota Vikings >> Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
  13. Detroit Lions >> Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
  14. St. Louis Rams >> Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
  15. Miami Dolphins >> Mike Pouncey, C/OG, Florida
  16. Washington Redskins (from Jacksonville) >> Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
  17. New England Patriots >> Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
  18. San Diego Chargers >> Corey Liuget, DE, Illinois
  19. New York Giants >> Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers >> Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
  21. Cleveland Browns (from Kansas City) >> Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
  22. Indianapolis Colts >> Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
  23. Philadelphia Eagles >> Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
  24. New Orleans Saints >> Cameron Jordan, DC, California
  25. Seattle Seahawks>> James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
  26. Baltimore Ravens >> Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
  27. Kansas City Chiefs (from Cleveland, previously Atlanta’s pick) >> Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
  28. New Orlean Saints (from New England) >> Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
  29. Chicago Bears >> Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
  30. New York Jets >> Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
  31. Pittsburgh Steelers >> Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
  32. Green Bay Packers >> Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

I’ll have another wrap after the entire draft. Consider this the tease. What do you think of the draft so far? What teams have changed their fantasy value the most in the first three rounds? Let me hear it in the comment below.

On the Wire: Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups to fix your Jermichael Finley, Mark Clayton and Aaron Rodgers woes

So Deion Branch is now a Patriot? That’s exciting for Bill Belichick and all — that man knows how to swing a three-way trade while moving up in the draft. But I don’t think the trade changes Branch’s fantasy value much.

Branch wasn’t that useful as a Seahawk, and they are hurting for playmakers. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will work their magic and integrate Branch into their system, but don’t expect Randy Moss-like numbers out of the Patriots’ new acquisition this year.

Oh, and did you hear that Brett Favre threw his 500th touchdown? And it was to his own team, no less.

Even less exciting, the presence of Branch in New England will muddy the fantasy waters for Brandon Tate, who was Week 5′s hot waiver wire pickup. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.

First, the guys you’ll need if you just lost Jermichael Finley this week:

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

You may not have noticed, but Lewis has become the only person David Garrard throws touchdowns to this year. I’ve heard a legend about a man named Mike Sims-Walker who used to be targeted more often, but that man could just be a ghost. He has been for at least two games this year. Meanwhile, Lewis has two games with two touchdowns and only one really miserable fantasy performance, 15 yards receiving and no touchdowns in Week 3 against the Eagles. He trails only Antonio Gates (so does everyone), Dustin Keller, and Zach Miller in total fantasy points this season among tight ends. Yes, I’d say it’s safe to bet on him to fill the void left by Finley if you just lost your starting tight end. It also might not be a bad play to trade him out for the guy you’re currently starting unless you have one of the elite.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Lewis may already be off the board, and in that case, Moeaki is not a bad consolation prize. He’s got great hands, and he’s one of Matt Cassel’s favorite (read: only) targets. He comes it as the No. 12 tight end in total points even after sitting out for his Week 4 bye. Don’t hesitate to rely on Moeaki.

Brandon Pettigrew and/or Tony Scheffler, TE, Detroit Lions

Both Lions tight ends have had off and on weeks throughout the season while without their starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but Shaun Hill has proven to be a strong replacement, if only we knew which tight end he liked in any given week. At this point in the season, we can’t tell, but if forced to choose, I’d take Pettigrew over Scheffler. Pettigrew currently ranks No. 10 in total tight end fantasy points while Scheffler comes in at No. 16. If Calvin Johnson’s shoulder injury keeps him out in Week 6, both of these tight ends would receive more attention than usual…as long as they’re not too busy blocking the Giants’ attack.

Wide receivers you should grab now before they go off big time:

Obvious ones to grab before these guys: Kenny Britt, WR, Titans and Danny Amendola, WR, Rams

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

A hot sleeper this preseason, McCluster hasn’t carved out a role in the Kansas City offense just yet. But Todd Haley finally came around on Jamaal Charles in Week 5 and gave Charles the majority of the carries in the running game. Surely, Haley will soon realize what he has in McCluster and find a way to get him on the field more frequently. Thus far, McCluster has just 7 catches this season, but he’s shown hints of his big play ability. You won’t be able to get him on the cheap if you wait for him to breakout.

Anthony Armstrong, WR, Washington Redskins

I almost listed Armstrong last week when he made a big catch downfield for McNabb, but I thought I should probably wait until he had more than one big catch in a game. Last week, he went out and got three of them, including one for a touchdown. So now he’s on a lot of fantasy radars. If you’re looking for a WR3, he just might be the guy you need. He could soon be the No. 2 receiver in Washington, replacing Joey Galloway, who turned 200 this preseason for those keeping a tally at home.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills

I wouldn’t call the Bills’ offense “good,” but when they do score, they’ve been looking Johnson’s way ever since he moved from the No. 2 receiver role to the slot position. Lee Evans may be the big play threat, but Johnson’s just in the right place at the right time. That has value. Take a chance on Johnson if you have the space on your roster.

Those who will benefit from trades and injuries:

Mike Hart, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Addai got hurt on Sunday and left the running duties to Hart, who filled in nicely. If Donald Brown can’t get back on the field in Week 6 and if Addai misses some time, Hart is the starter in Indy. Remember: you can never have enough starting running backs. Don’t be afraid to go after Hart this week, but check Brown’s status first.

Deon Butler and/or Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks

I care more about what the Deion Branch trade does to the Seahawks than how it affects the Patriots. Without Branch, the Seahawks will have more snaps for Butler and Tate. Golden Tate would appear to be more likely to take over as a starter since he’s the guy they drafted just this year to make an impact, but I can’t get over my sleeper love for Butler. Both have the potential to excel with more playing time, but if forced to choose, pick up Tate and just keep an eye on Butler.

UPDATE: Forget what I just said. Now I’m hearing that the starting job is Butler’s. I actually like him better than Golden Tate so make sure you go out and get him. He could be the big winner of the Deion Branch trade, and he has the speed that Mike Williams (SEA) lacks to make big plays in the passing game.

Laurent Robinson and/or Mardy Gilyard, WR, St. Louis Rams

Clayton’s injury comes at a bad time for the Rams. Robinson is still trying to come back from an injury, and Gilyard has been taking his time learning his way in the Rams’ offense. Both have a shot at the starting job and a chance to fill the void in targets that Clayton leaves behind. Brandon Gibson has sniffed the fantasy value charts this season, but I don’t see him becoming a dominant force anytime soon. Danny Amendola is one helluva pass-catcher (and he stands to gain the most from Clayton’s injury), but someone has to play Robin to his Batman. That leaves these two. Choose your own adventure! I loved Robinson before the Clayton trade (and before he got injured, which he seems to do pretty frequently), but time will tell whether he can make it back on the field at 100 percent. For now, I’d say the best bet to replace Clayton in the lineup is Gilyard.

Some speculative picks if you have some room for a stash:

Keiland Williams, RB, Washington Redskins

Williams rejoined the active roster after Portis went down with injury, and even though he’s only playing passing downs and half as many snaps as Ryan Torain, he’s one Shanahan-igan away from the starting lineup. Stash him now if you want to benefit for the few weeks (or snaps) that Williams remains Shanahan’s preferred running back in Washington.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I highlighted Benn in previous “On the Wire” items, but consider this your final reminder. He’s working his way into the Bucs’ offense, and they’re starting to impress in the passing game.

Defenses that might be an upgrade over your current squad:

New York Giants D/ST

At first they seemed like they’d fallen off the wagon, but the Giants D/ST has stepped up in the past two weeks. That’s enough for me to recommend you jump on them before the rest of your league. I wouldn’t say they’re an every-week start just yet, but as long as the matchup is right, the Giants will put pressure on the quarterback and fantasy points on the board. This week, they get the Lions.

Kansas City Chiefs D/ST

They somehow managed to slow down even the Colts’ offense. I believe. You should, too.

And some quarterbacks that might be available in your league for the bye week or if you are scared about starting Matt Flynn:

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Trust me, he’s better than David Carr. And this week, he gets to play Oakland, fun for the whole family.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are better than expected, and Freeman is a big reason why. Mike Williams (TB) is another. He’s not a bad fill for an injured quarterback or a quarterback on bye. This week, he faces the Saints, which may not seem as scary as it should after they dropped one to the Cardinals last week. Even if they do show up to play against the Bucs, we know that Freeman will have to throw it a ton to keep up with Drew Brees. Hopefully, that’ll make up for his mistakes.

Moves that don’t excite me: John Carney released by Saints to make Garrett Hartley (woohoo, a kicker!) their starter, and the Saints signing Julius Jones (depth at best)

More waiver wire wonders from around the Interwebs:

  • TMR wants to help you find the best hot dog ever. No, really.
  • Just in case they’re still on your waiver wire, FF Toolbox reminds you about Vince Young, Ryan Torain, Brandon Lloyd, and a few more guys
  • FF Librarian has compiled a linkfest of waiver wire love both here and here
  • Fanhouse highlights Mike Hart’s potential and a few players you may have left on the wire a bit too long: Floyd, Hill, Gaffney and Kolb just to name a few. They also chatted it out earlier this week.
  • Razzball hits on a few names for Week 6
  • Pro Football Focus has you covered, even if you’re looking for Finley’s backup’s backup this week to fill in at tight end
  • The Hazean picks three important adds
  • The FF Geek Blog spreadsheets it up
  • Sports Illustrated runs down the list of pickups a few starters in the hot seat

Brett Favre’s 2010 Vikings: You aren’t who we thought you were, yet

In this business, nothing goes as planned. If it did, why would be play? (The wins, of course, but I digress…)

We got our first taste of reality one week ago on Thursday night. The Vikings hoped to avenge their playoff loss to the Super Bowl Champion Saints on the NFL’s biggest Week 1 stage.

It goes without saying that the game didn’t go the way we had planned. High-scoring? I don’t know about you, but a 14-9 victory still seems like the under, not the over. Revenge game? Only if the Vikings left flaming bags of poo in the visiting locker room on their way out of the Superdome.

Adrian Peterson may have exposed some weaknesses in the Saints’ run defense, but I certainly didn’t see it in the fantasy points column. AP gave me just 9 points going into the weekend. Thanks for leaving me hanging there, buddy.

But one week ago we learned some things. We confirmed that Drew Brees is going to spread the ball around like last season. We learned Lance Moore is back and relevant in fantasy once again. We saw a glimpse of Devery Henderson as a reliable fantasy wide receiver, but I’ll stop myself from fully endorsing him until I see it again…and again. I still think Robert Meachem may be the better fantasy target, and he cold swap places with Henderson from week to week.

We also learned that Brett Favre is an old man. I know it was probably obvious to the casual, outside observer, but we all forgot that this offseason during the “will he or won’t he” drama. Even I did. And I don’t even like Favre.

In the second half, when we expected Favre to come out firing like a man on a mission, when we expected him to have settled into the Saints defensive attacks and lead a rally, he just seemed tired. He seemed like a man who wasn’t capable of carrying…anything.

Granted it was only Week 1 and a guy who missed all of training camp while recovering from surgery is going to have some rust, but I don’t think Favre can carry the Vikings this season like he did last season–not without Sidney Rice and not against a secondary like the Saints’ crew. The excitement of his return to football and the Vikings’ excitement about finally having a quarterback better equipped to run the offense than Tarvaris Jackson gave the team an emotional boost last year. It won’t this year.

And Favre isn’t going to get any healthier. It was obviously a more difficult decision to make the call this year about whether to play or not, and whether that’s more telling of his ankle injury or an indication that it took him longer to rediscover that passion for the game, that is not a good sign.

More than likely, it will fall on Adrian Peterson’s shoulders. This season could be All Day’s time to shine, but he hasn’t turned the spark on yet. Was the destruction of Touchdown Jesus a sign of things to come? Doubtful. But I believe he’ll need Brett Favre to find enough energy to give the Vikings at least half the passing game they had last season in order to be successful.

So as we go into Week 2, I have my eye on the Vikings. I may have doubted Favre’s ability to repeat his 2009 season, but I am going to have serious concerns about the offense moving forward if they can’t get Favre and his remaining receivers on track at home against Miami.

If Brett Favre won’t get enough out of his 40-year-old body to make the Vikings relevant this season, holding a spot for Sidney Rice on your roster will be futile.

Why the Colts Won’t Win the Super Bowl

I usually don’t write these kinds of posts, the ones that look at just one particular team’s chances in the NFL playoffs, but considering the fantasy season is winding to a close, I felt compelled to share my take on one of this week’s big storylines.

In the midst of a 15-10 third quarter with the Jets this week, the Colts, on the path to perfection, decided to sit their starters, Peyton Manning included, rather than push through to finish the game with a chance to go undefeated next week. The Colts had the lead at the time, but they by no means had the game locked up, especially not when their backup quarterback, rookie Curtis Painter, was ill-prepared to control the clock against a New York Jets team fighting to remain in the playoff hunt.

Coach Jim Caldwell had to know what would happen if he pulled his team out of the game with the score still so close.

The Colts lost in brutal fashion. First, Painter was stripped for a fumble that the Jets recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Painter would later be intercepted, and the Colts never scored again. The Jets just ran away with it, right in front of the Colts’ starters’ eyes as they watched from the bench.

All the while, the highly competitive Peyton Manning stood on the sidelines, helmet on, brooding over what might have been had he stayed in the game.

It’s one thing to sit your starters. It’s another to spit in the face of a record that’s almost impossible to reach.

Earlier this season, Michael Irvin said that he would trade all three Super Bowl rings and his Hall of Fame membership for one undefeated season, a notch on the belt that only one NFL team in the history of the game has ever had.

But the Colts, just a little more than five quarters away from being perfect through the regular season, decided it wasn’t worth another quarter of play. It wasn’t worth the risk of injury.

Without any consideration for the fact that when the Manning-led Colts won a Super Bowl, the Colts were coming off a regular season in which they didn’t rest starters and entered as a Wild Card, Caldwell opted to let his primary players take a breather for the big one.

I don’t think that players get rusty. Some NFL stars don’t practice much in the offseason and come in Week 1 ready to dominate, but there’s something to be said for playing it out all the way to the end, especially when you have something to accomplish. I think the teams that have the momentum on their side should keep that momentum by at least playing until a win is secured in their final games.

By giving up on a historic record, and doing so in such a brutal fashion by feeding a rookie quarterback to the wolves of an attacking defense, the Colts got their spirit broken, their dreams crushed, and no lollipop when it was finished.

Peyton Manning had to watch as a rookie quarterback blew apart his perfect season in just a little less than two quarters of play. In his entire career, Manning may never get another chance to do that.

So don’t tell me that all the players agreed it was the best idea, Caldwell. Don’t tell me that the record doesn’t matter, Colts. To your fans, to your players, and to the many NFL icons around the league, the Colts looked like an unstoppable force because they were undefeated, and now, they’ve become just another team.

Look at the Saints. One week after losing to the Cowboys, they lost to the miserable Bucs. Sure, they’re still the No.1 seed in the NFC, but the Saints are exposed. They’re no longer the monster they seemed to be weeks ago. They can lose. They can give up.

And for the Colts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lose again — maybe not against the Bills next week, but to Chargers in the playoffs? Yes. San Diego has far more hype than the Colts now that Indy doesn’t have an undefeated streak at their backs, and the Chargers have had the Colts’ number in the postseason.

Once you give up, even in a game that doesn’t matter, it’s easy to get caught doing it again. Maybe it will strike in the playoffs; maybe it hits them in the Super Bowl. It’s only a matter of time before this morale-killing loss catches up to the Colts.

If you want to win a Super Bowl ring, something that takes a no-quit attitude, you simply can’t quit — not in any game, not on any record. You have to keep the wind at your back. You have to keep the momentum in full swing.

And that’s why the Colts won’t win the Super Bowl, no matter what they say these next two weeks. They quit in the third quarter. They quit too early, and they can’t forgive themselves for doing that.

On the Wire: Week 16 Pickups That You Certainly Don’t Need This Week

It’s championship week. There’s not time for taking chances, looking for sleepers, or playing around with your roster.

You know who your studs are, but these select few players could sub in if you have an absolute beast of a opponent, and if you are daring enough to bench a player you’ve trusted to get you to the one game that matters for a new name off the waiver wire.

Your call, I guess. Personally, I’m heading into three championship games this weekend, and I don’t think I’d start any of these players over the guys that got me there.

As usual, the FF Librarian starts off the week with a nice set of readings to recap Week 15 and start the prep for Week 16′s championship showdowns. Stop by FF Geeks for a big list of names as well.

FF Toolbox hits most of the big names, but many have been hot waiver wire recommendations for weeks now, including the several San Francisco names who get to play the Detroit Lions in Week 16.

Lester’s Legends does a good job of calming your nerves about a lot of the Week 15 starlets, but his recommendations for Jerome Harrison, Maurice Morris, and Michael Bush are still a little optimistic for my holiday spirits.

Harrison was certainly the surprise stud of Week 15, but he could easily be muffled by the Raiders in Week 16 or replaced by Chris Jennings because Eric Mangini hates fantasy owners. If it was my roster, I wouldn’t throw Harrison in there. I’d keep the guy that got me to the championship locked in and ready to go.

The same goes for Michael Bush, who is muddled in a similar deep Oakland backfield, and Morris, who despite his running against the Cardinals on Sunday would surprise me if he found room and time to run against the 49ers now that Alex Smith is playing just for the chance to remain the starter in 2010.

If Jeremy Shockey sits again in Week 15, it’s conceivable that you might take a chance with David Thomas, also plugged by Fantasy Joe. Drew Brees would throw to a random fan in the stands if it would get him his next first down, and that’s just the honest truth.

If you can predict which Saints players will have a hot game, you must be the defensive coordinator for the Bucs this week. But that’s Raheem Morris, so it’s safe to say he doesn’t know. He’s not a defensive coordinator, just a head coach who plays one on TV.

Fantasy Fanhouse gives Vince Young a mention, but I’d hope he’s no longer available considering what I said about him before the fantasy football playoffs began.

Vince Young continued to lead teams towards a fantasy football championship with a three-touchdown performance on Sunday, but he gets the Chargers this week. Can he keep it up?

I think you have to start him if he’s your best play, but don’t expect him to win this one through the air. The draw plays could do some damage against the nose-less San Diego defensive line.

I do like Fanhouse’s and Razzball‘s mention of Josh Morgan and could see him as a risky grab if you need a plug at WR3 this week, but don’t count on him to get as many targets as he did against the Eagles.

The Lions will leave everyone with room to run in Week 16, and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will certainly make their marks.

The sleeper discussion is swirling around Larry Johnson this week as he faces his former team, the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately, the Bengals have asked almost nothing of him since Cedric Benson’s return from injury.

Will they step aside this week to let him have his revenge game? Hard to see that coming ahead of the Bengals’ playoff push and playing in memory of Chris Henry. This team has no emotional room left to consider revenge. Benson will likely play most of this one unless the Bengals put away the game early and let Larry Johnson clean up.

And on the negative side of things, the Vikings seem to be cracking under a creaky, old Brett Favre, who refuses to go out of the game, even at his coach’s request.

I’d agree with the sentiment out there that Brad Childress has let Favre get far too powerful in the locker room, and I’m not sure what that means about Favre’s Monday night trip to Chicago. It could be the game that gets them back on track, or it could be another slumping performance from the veteran gunslinger.

Hedge your bets on Favre in the championship game if you plan on starting him this week.

On the Wire: The Must-Haves, Week 14 Pickups for Fantasy Football Playoffs

There aren’t many names out there that I haven’t mentioned previously, but if you’re strengthening your roster for a playoff run, some favorable schedules make these players more lucrative grabs than others.

If you didn’t secure a quarterback with a favorable schedule during the fantasy playoffs, or if you are worried about your starter sitting down a few weeks early (Peyton Manning owners), becoming senile (Brett Favre owners), or being further concussed (Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger owners), there are still a few quarterbacks available that could fill that void.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
He won over the coaching staff and the team after replacing Shaun Hill midseason, but he’s won over fantasy owners in recent weeks after the 49ers installed a spread offense. In the spread, Smith has been deadly effective, and Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, and Michael Crabtree should continue to benefit. Best of all? In Week 16, he faces the Detroit Lions in what could be your fantasy Super Bowl. You can’t ask for a sweeter matchup.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans
As I showed with the stat analysis I did on VY last week, he’s got one of the best schedules in the NFL in Weeks 14-16, and he’s got a running back that will keep defenses from every shutting down the passing game. If you’re in desperate need of a reliable starter with the potential for greatness, VY is the guy.

Others you might consider in the order I would consider them (if I were you, hoping not to have to consider them): Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins; Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills; Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Oakland Raiders; Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns.

All have schedules that could give them a boost in these final weeks, but none of them are quarterbacks I would want to bet my season on unless I had lost all hope. Also note that Joe Flacco gets to play the Detroit Lions this week, if you’re in need of a miracle and able to acquire him.

This week’s bright spots are led by a few running backs you may have forgotten.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
He’s scoring his points through the air thanks to Brady Quinn’s renewed effectiveness. As long as that keeps up, and as long as Harrison keeps the majority of the workload at running back, he is in line for a few big days in the coming weeks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos
Now that he’s healthy, he’ll get to share a lot more carries with Knowshon Moreno. While Moreno got the scores against Kansas City, Buckhalter’s explosive runs and his ability to catch passes makes him a threat to take any given play to the house. Even without scoring, he’s putting up enough yardage to contribute if your current starter faces a tough stretch. Matt Forte, we’re still looking at you.

Chris Brown, RB, Houston Texans
He’s a big brute, but a brute who scores touchdowns is never worth complaining about. Things are murky in Houston’s backfield, but I prefer Brown to Ryan Moats. His playoff schedule could give him plenty of chances to line up at the goal line for a score.

And if you’re receivers have become garbage (Devin Hester owners) or suspended (Dwayne Bowe owners), there are a few young guns to add to your roster.

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins
Better than he seems in the stat line, Bess has been a PPR stud all year and finally got a chance to shine in the Miami passing frenzy that overwhelmed the Patriots. If it keeps up, Bess will, too.

Devin Thomas, WR, Washington Redskins
Okay, so the Redskins do have an offense. Jason Campbell found Thomas for two touchdowns this past week, and he could be in line for more down the stretch as Campbell fights to remain relevant in Washington (and the NFL in general) and while Thomas proves he’s no bust.

Josh Morgan, WR,  San Francisco 49ers
See Alex Smith. In the spread offense, Morgan has become a favorite target, and again, fantasy Super Bowl vs. Detroit. That’s worth a shot-in-the-dark start.

Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints
Last week, I had to make last-minute swaps to get Hartley in for John Carney when the Saints finally decided to switch back to their younger leg. But it paid off big. As TMR points out, he plays all but Week 17 indoors, where it is nice and cozy.

D/STs for the Playoff Run

Sports Data Hub pointed out how good the New Orleans Saints D/ST is looking for the fantasy playoffs. Hopefully, you, like me, were able to stash them in Week 5 and ride them all the way to the end of the season. Looks like the good times haven’t come to an end yet.

But if you didn’t listen then or had already missed your chance at owning Brees’ boys, The FF Geek Blog has a short list of defenses to plug into your lineup this week. Out of that list, Green Bay is another favorite to set and forget for your run at the championship, especially coming off their Monday night performance against Baltimore.

If you need more, compare notes with KFFL, ESPN’s Talented Mr. Roto, FF Toolbox, Fanhouse, The FF Geek Blog, Lester’s Legends, and Fantasy Joe.

For an extensive list of additional waiver wire resources, check out the linkage by the Fantasy Football Librarian.