On the Wire: Week 12 Pickups, Playoff Prep, and Matt Leinart

Is there anything sadder than two coaches from the worst teams in the league arguing about who cheated? There are sad clown faces, and then there are SAD CLOWN FACES, people.

I’m pretty sure half the NFL wishes that this game wasn’t even televised. It might fool some people into believing that the Browns and the Lions are good teams.

Despite their big fantasy days Sunday, the downward-trending Browns and unfortunate Lions are not fantasy starters. They only get to play each other once this year.

Obviously, last week’s running back pickups look like fantastic grabs this week if your league neglected to snatch them up. Look to get Jason Snelling, Beanie Wells, and Jamaal Charles before anyone else on this list, but here are a few additional notes on some of the guys from last week and some new names.

No long-term investments this week as we approach the end of the fantasy season.

Hot Claims

Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks — The receiving game made him a stud last week, and now he gets to face the Rams. I still don’t love his situation, but he makes a solid starter for your lineups this week.

Chris Chambers, WR, Kansas City Chiefs — He’s filling in adequately for Dwayne Bowe and would be a great receiver to add for depth if you are making a push for the playoffs.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — While it seemed optimistic at first to consider him a dark horse stud for the fantasy playoffs, it’s looking more realistic than optimistic now. His consistent production and the confidence he showed in Houston have compelled me to rate him as a solid backup quarterback if you’re current starter doesn’t have a kind schedule in Weeks 14-16.

Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants — Eli Manning just realized how to use Boss again this season, and he’s making up for lost time. If your tight end hasn’t lived up to expectations, it might be time to show him who’s the Boss.

Rock Cartwright, RB, Washington Redskins — He gets to start in Washington by process of elimination. Portis won’t return in Week 12, and Betts is out for the season. Look for Washington to bring in some veteran depth as support, but for now, Cartwright is your starter against the Eagles.

Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — He impressed against the Raiders, and this week, he gets the Browns. Best hope Cedric Benson sits one more week.

And if you’re really having trouble filling up that roster…

Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals — If Warner were out for the rest of the season, I’d say you must own Leinart. Right now, Warner might not even miss a game, and that’s a good thing considering how terrible Leinart looked replacing Warner at the end of the game against the Rams. And yes, let me repeat that was against the RAMS. I shudder to think what Leinart could do to ruin the fantasy playoff plans of many a Larry Fitzgerald owner if Arizona is forced to start him for a few weeks.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills — Marshawn Lynch injured his shoulder Sunday. Lynch could be ready to go in Week 12, but there’s a chance Jackson gets to carry the full load. During Lynch’s suspension, Jackson was a beast, but he’ll face the Dolphins on Sunday and Jets (in Canada) next Thursday if he gets the call.

Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints — He’s suddenly become a reliable red zone target for the Saints and for fantasy teams. That’s worth stashing on your bench if you’re prepping for a playoff run.

Danny Ware, RB, New York Giants — His value increases if Brandon Jacobs sits, but it looks like that won’t happen. Just keep an eye on this situation.

Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — Johnson didn’t shoulder much of the load on Sunday, but he could take on more of the offense in the coming weeks against the Browns and the Lions. I think Scott would have to show some inexperience or an inability to make the play for the Bengals in order for L.J. to take over as the starter during Cedric Benson’s absence.

Daunte Culpepper, QB, Detroit Lions — Looks like he’ll be facing the Packers since Matthew Stafford injured his shoulder against the Browns on Sunday, but something tells me you won’t be thankful for his performance on Turkey Day.

Kyle Boller, QB, St. Louis Rams — Matchups are good, but Boller is not. He will have to prove himself for me to trust him, and I am just hoping that he doesn’t cut into Steven Jackson’s value.

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints — Pierre Thomas just can’t win. With Reggie Bush out, the Saints let Mike Bell get two touchdowns while Thomas was held scoreless. While he’ll never be a lock for any points, Bell could vulture more touchdowns down the stretch as the Saints have one of the weaker schedules against the run.

Jason Avant, WR, Philadelphia Eagles — He’s not the first or second receiver on the depth chart, but the Eagles throw enough to keep him productive. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t trust him to keep it up when it counts.

Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns — Massaquoi can certainly tear up the Lions’ secondary, but unless you’re desperate for a starter during one of his two easy-as-cake matchups in the fantasy playoffs, you might find better use for a roster spot than a Browns receiver.

Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams — He’s getting a lot of targets, and St. Louis has some favorable matchups down the stretch. But don’t forget that he’s still a Ram. Kyle Boller also takes over as the starter this week.

A Note on Fantasy Defenses for the Playoffs

If you’re in the hunt, David Dorey of TheHuddle.com put together an excellent preview of how defenses should perform in the fantasy playoffs. If you, like me, took a chance on picking up the New Orleans Saints and hanging onto them all year in Week 5, you should be pretty happy with his top four: New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Green Bay.

Owners of the Jets’ defense probably won’t like the read as much.

For more waiver wire action, compare notes with The FF Geek Blog, Fanhouse, and Fantasy Joe.

Foolish Thoughts: California Dreams and NFL at 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least we can still hope for 1-15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Wire: Week 8 Pickups, Sleepers, Sadness and Fantasy Basketball

Another critical bye week hits us right where it hurts, in the middle of the season. At least this week provides us with a few more players that have value from now until the end of the season.

If anyone was silly enough not to pick up Miles Austin after I talked about him for the past two weeks and recommended him as a sleeper start this past week, well, there’s always fantasy basketball, right?

Kidding, of course. Don’t do that to yourself.

I played fantasy basketball for one season a couple of years ago, and after several weeks of setting lineups only to discover I was simply filling in active players into slots based on their game schedule, I spent an afternoon setting my roster through the end of the season. I made no pickups, no drops, and no changes for the entire second half.

I finished third.

I’m sure there are more competitive leagues out there with better scoring systems, different lineups and interesting rules, but it just hasn’t caught my eye yet. Sorry, guys.

The fact that fantasy basketball overlaps with fantasy football pretty much rules me out of ever being able to really get into it. I plan on dominating my opponents deep into the NFL season on my way to a championship, there’s no time to check on whether Blake Griffin is back from his injury.

Guys I’ve mentioned before who we won’t get into today but who also might still be on the waiver wire in no particular order: Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys; Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings; Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles; Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders; Andre Caldwell, WR, Bengals; Mike Bell, RB, Saints; Donnie Avery, WR, Rams; Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts; Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos. (If you want to talk about these fools, drop me a line in the comments.)

Hot Claims

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets

Greene wins the top spot because he has the potential to dominate in a nice offense. His yardage and two touchdowns were in mop-up duty in Oakland. He’ll get a few carries to spell Thomas Jones now that Leon Washington is out for the season, but their running styles are so similar that it would take an injury, fall from grace or a   Larry-Johnson-esque Twitter blow up for Jones to give a significant portion of his carries to Greene.

I do like him though when he gets his chance. This rookie has that drive that makes players successful in the NFL. Being gigantisaurus behind one of the best run-blocking lines in football doesn’t hurt either.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

You know, two years ago, a guy in one of my fantasy leagues said that Alex Smith was going to the Super Bowl when he drafted him as his starting quarterback in the late rounds.

It was right off the heels of Frank Gore’s massive season, and this guy, who shall remain nameless, always has a knack for making outrageous claims during fantasy football drafts. Needless to say, he didn’t finish the season with Alex Smith under center.

But Smith looked like a total badass against the Texans on Sunday in leading the 49ers to three scores, all to Vernon Davis. True, he didn’t get the win, but he did win the starting job in San Francisco. Give him a week or two to feel comfortable in the role, and Alex Smith might just live up to expectations. This week’s matchup against the Colts will test his ability to make a play when it counts.

He’s got the weapons with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan. Maybe revival is in the cards for this former first-round pick.

Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Is this Beanie finally awakening to the speed of the NFL? The Cardinals looked to Beanie Wells over Tim Hightower to carry the run game against the Giants this week, and he did. He even notched himself his first NFL score.

It may be a mix of these backs from week to week, but Wells is certainly the most talented in Arizona.

If Beanie can build upon this success, he could be a great add for the second half of the season. The Cardinals have been winning through their defense, and a control-the-clock running game would compliment that very nicely.

Potential Contributors

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Pure potential again here, but with Larry Johnson blowing up about his coach’s experience on Twitter and general habit of getting himself (and the ladies) into trouble, I think it’s a good bet we see more of Charles in the coming weeks.

From his time at Texas, I can tell you that he’s no specialist at holding onto the ball, nor is he built to be an every-down back. But what he does have is some blazing speed and moves in the open field. If the Chiefs start featuring him, they’ll probably try and go the Darren Sproles route with him.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Call it a slow build, but the diva looks worthy of ownership by season’s end. He could have a nice finish, like a great wine but with an idiot for an agent.

Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Snelling is filling in while Jerious Norwood sits out with more injuries. He showed some burst against the Cowboys, but Michael Turner is still the workhorse of this offense. Snelling’s not really someone I’d want to depend on in any given week, but he’s a warm body if you have a hole to fill this week.

Sigh, that’s what she said.

Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins

Chris Cooley might be out of the year with that ankle injury, and in his stead, Davis caught the passes and a touchdown. Cooley has been the leading receiver for the Redskins so far this year, and Davis would pick up that torch easily. He’s not much of a blocker, so expect the Redskins to look deeper on the roster to fill that void left by Cooley at the line. Davis will be all about the passing game.

If you’ve been hurting for a tight end thus far, now’s your chance to snag one who could be in line for a starting role. But then again, he’s still on the Redskins.

Donald Lee, TE, Green Bay Packers

Jermichael Finley’s knee injury should keep him out for at least a few weeks. That leaves Lee alone in the starting role, and he should take advantage as the passing game in Green Bay lights up opponents these next few weeks.

If Cooley’s out for the year, Davis is the better long-term grab, but Lee could definitely have the bigger games for the next few weeks.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

I don’t know how they do it, but even banged-up and missing key players, this defense has created turnovers. The secondary is making up for this defenses weakness in stopping the run, and they just might be worth hanging onto in your league if you used them as a fill this week against Carolina.

Right now, they’re a top-10 fantasy defense.

Names I Keep Mentioning

Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

As I said before, Wallace has designed plays coming his way every week in this newly christened Steelers’ passing offense. He should be a reliable fill-in when needed even if he can’t reproduce his yardage and touchdown from Week 7 every week you need him.

New Orleans Saints D/ST

Darren Sharper is the man, and as long the Saints keep the lead, this defense is going to create turnovers all day long. Even trap games like this week against Miami turn into decent performances thanks to Sharper’s ability to find the end zone when he gets the ball in his hands.

Denver Broncos D/ST

Coming off a bye week, don’t forget about the surprise defense of the year. Mike Nolan is making adjustments that win games, and the Broncos are getting to the quarterback. If no one else has taken a chance on them this year, maybe you should.

For more waiver wire pickups, visit The Hazean, Fanhouse, Fantasy Joe, Lester’s Legends, Fantasy Football Librarian, The FF Geek Blog and FF Toolbox.

As always, the comments are yours. Discuss. Refute. Deny. Bring the funny.

Foolish Thoughts: Magical phone refresh voodoo makes Vernon Davis score touchdowns

I got stuck watching the New England Patriots abuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers across the pond in London during the early games. I thought we sent this game overseas so that no one here would have to watch it?

While the action was riveting, oh, so riveting, I found myself checking my fantasy football scores on my phone. About halfway through the early games, I noticed Vernon Davis had scored me a touchdown. Nice work. I went against the stats in starting him, but, as ESPN pointed out, the tight ends who had been shut down by the Texans weren’t exactly in the elite class.

So happy in my good choices, I hit refresh, only to discover that Davis had another touchdown. Now, at this point, I had not seen any cutaways to the San Francisco game yet to show me what was happening in Houston. All I knew is that every time I refreshed my phone, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown.

Oh, this is getting good. I was mopping my opponent with my early starters, and I’d discovered a magical wishing well of fantasy points.

So I refreshed again, getting greedy this time. And once again, touchdown. Had I discovered a voodoo trick for fantasy football? Would it work on anyone else besides Vernon Davis?

I had no idea what I was doing, but I found myself hitting refresh again. But this time, nothing. My fantasy luck had run out. Game over.

But next week, I’m definitely refreshing my phone a few times during the San Francisco game to see if I can get it to work again.

Dear Patrick Crayton, I’d be the first one to tell you, so here goes: Miles Austin is legit. Your best chance of getting back in the starting lineup is by replacing Roy Williams. Sadly, that might not be that hard to do with as many key passes as Williams dropped on Sunday.

The Cowboys finally looked like the team that won 13 games in 2007 again on Sunday, but it’s not time for celebration just yet. It’s still hard to trust Tony Romo, who has one of the hardest schedules of any quarterback in the league the rest of the way. As long as Miles Austin keeps scoring two touchdowns per game, that view on Romo may change.

Donald Brown went out with a shoulder injury and left Joseph Addai to share the load with Chad Simpson. If Brown misses any length of time, it would increase Addai’s value since Simpson’s no threat to cut into Addai’s touches, but this injury was minor. Expect Brown to be back on the field and scaring Addai’s fantasy owner this week.

Ryan Grant finally went off with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Browns. Let me repeat that: Against the Browns. Green Bay won’t face pushover run defenses all season, but Grant abused this one when given the chance. The Packers remain a pass-first team, but Grant could see his usage rise as the weather turns colder. Don’t give up on him if you’ve holding onto him this long.

Steven Jackson had 134 rushing yards against the Colts. Maybe the Rams should just put him and the offensive line on the field together and run the flying V all day. Might make for some interesting football. The Rams certainly aren’t in their current incarnation.

What do Vernon Davis’ 93 yards and three touchdowns mean? It means he’s a legitimate every week starter. Davis has been a key part of this passing offense all year, and even with the addition of Michael Crabtree, he’ll get lots of looks. If nothing else, his chances at the goal line look very promising.

Speaking of Alex Smith, his three touchdowns and 206 yards in the second half seem to be more than just a lucky break off the bench. He faces the Colts this week, but moving forward, he’s go upside. Sometimes those bench-warming first-round draft picks pay off after all. Eh, Vince Young?

Owen Daniels. Best tight end in football? It’s possible.

Brett Favre loves him some Sidney Rice, proven by the 11 catches Rice took for 136 yards against the Steelers. Favre may not make many more big games out of these receivers, especially after his return-to-form breakdowns against Pittsburgh this week, but it’s never a bad idea to own his favorite target. Rice has definite talent, and skills the ability to hover five feet off the field until Favre can get him the ball.

The Steelers’ defense showed up late to the party against the Vikings, but at least they showed supreme mastery of the flying V in both their interception return and fumble return. If they can contain the beast inside of Adrian Peterson without run-stopper Aaron Smith, they can stop anyone. Feel confident if you have them as your defense at this point in the season. Very confident.

I think the league would be a better place if JaMarcus Russell were benched. I’d be interested to see two teams trade quarterbacks in a given week just to see whether it’s the quarterback or the team causing all the problems. Jason Campbell for Russell anyone? Jake Delhomme for Russell? Marc Bulger for Russell? That’s the kind of trade that could heat things up in a season where every team is great, very good or horrifyingly terrible.

Could the NFL just institute a takebacks trade option so that teams can exchange players for two weeks at a time? It’d be just like pickup football.

Andre Johnson has a lung contusion. I have no idea what that is, but I do know he spit up blood. Regardless, he doesn’t need lungs to play out of his mind against the Bills. The Buffalo secondary has been good, but top receivers can find a way. Jake Delhomme just gets paid to make secondaries like the Bills’ look good.

After losing Leon Washington for the season with a nasty broken fibula, the Jets put in Shonn Greene in garbage time to finish off the Raiders. That 144 yards and two touchdowns will likely draw a crowd on the waiver wire, but Greene probably won’t duplicate a performance like that until he starts to eat into Thomas Jones’ role as the lead back.

I’ve liked Greene all along this year. He’s big and hard-running, just like a little Marion Barber in the making, but the Jets have not sought to limit Jones or replace him with Greene just yet. For now, Greene is nothing more than an 8-10 carry guy to share the load with Jones and take garbage time. Still, he’s definitely worth stashing because of the strength of the Jets’ running game and the chance to eventually replace Jones if anything were to go down.

Carson Palmer looked like the Carson Palmer that dominated the league before his knee injury. Five touchdowns, two to Chad Ochocinco, have me hoping that he keeps that alive through the end of the season.

Palmer’s arm also opened things up for Cedric Benson, who took full advantage of the revenge bowl in Chicago with a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. If Palmer had jacked all the touchdowns, Benson could have had more. The Bears just looked like they though they were playing last year’s Bengals.

Despite Benson’s beating, Ricky Williams won the spite battle this week with three touchdowns and just 80 rushing yards against his former team, the Saints. It’s not like Ricky has any bad blood. I’m pretty sure with the amount of pot he’s smoked, he’s made peace with everybody, including dead people, but he certainly wanted to win against the Saints on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Saints took some 5-Hour Energy at halftime, woke up and realized they were behind. Then, Drew Brees went to work. The Saints defense returned two picks for touchdowns, again proving they are a legit fantasy defense as long as Darren Sharper is roaming around out there. I completely called Tracy Porter’s interception return at the end of the game, mostly because I needed it to win a fantasy football game this week, but you know.

Somehow I managed to make it through the entire Monday Night Football excitement of the Eagles and Redskins. In short, DeSean Jackson scored both rushing and receiving the football, and when he wasn’t in the game, neither was the Philadelphia offense. Brian Westbrook got knocked out. Chris Cooley broke his ankle and could be out for the season.

DeSean Jackson was scared he broke something, but after X-raying it, they determined that his only ailment was being awesome and unstoppable. Sometimes that feels like an injury when you play the Redskins I guess.

At what point do we consider farming the Redskins, Rams, Chiefs or Raiders out to the UFL?

Fourth & 1 Debate: Two running backs worth stashing

Last week’s Fourth & 1 fantasy football roundtable debate asked, “Which two players are you stashing for the second half? Why?”

I selected LeSean McCoy and Mike Bell as my stashes for the reasons outlined below in my entry for the roundtable. After seeing Brian Westbrook suffer a concussion in Monday Night Football tonight, I think my McCoy pick rings true. Mike Bell is more of a long-term grab that may or may not pay off before the end of the season.

For the second half, I’m stashing LeSean McCoy from the Philadelphia Eagles. While running back Brian Westbrook is back and healthy right now, it wouldn’t surprise many of his fantasy owners to see him miss another game or two down the road. In his absence, McCoy showed that he could be just as dynamic as a receiver out of the backfield and running back for the Eagles. In the short-term, his impressive play while Westbrook was recovering from injury has earned McCoy a committee share in the running game, which makes him a decent bye-week fill or desperation play through the rest of the season even if Westbrook doesn’t get hurt again.

The Eagles face some tough defenses down the stretch and in the fantasy playoffs, but stashes like McCoy are what fantasy championship teams are all about. If things break right, he could be a huge factor late in the season.

I’m also stashing the New Orleans Saints’ Mike Bell. It’s unclear how exactly Bell and Pierre Thomas will split the touches in New Orleans, but regardless of how they are used, all fantasy owners should want a piece of the action. The Saints have one of the easiest rushing schedules in the league from here on out. With a stout defense finally making plays and quarterback Drew Brees to keep defenses more than honest, the Saints running backs could lead the league in rushing, or at least fantasy points at running back, from here on out. Not to mention, the Saints high-powered offense gets them in the red zone at will.

Both Thomas and Bell have shown the ability to excel as a part of this offense. Thomas has the top spot at the moment and is in line for a nice second half of the season, but if he were to be injured or if Bell earns a larger portion of the carries, Bell would benefit from the easy schedule and powerful offense.

If you have the room to pack him away, Bell’s a great stash at this point in the season while things in New Orleans are still unclear.

I felt McCoy and Bell could be impact stashes, especially because running back saviors are so hard to find on the waiver wire at this point in the season. Maybe they’re out there on your waiver wires right now as teams adjust for bye weeks and fortify their benches.

If not, there are plenty more where they came from to hide away on your bench and hope for the best. To read up on whom else my fellow roundtable members selected as stashes, take a look at the full Fourth & 1 debate at KFFL. [Sadly, KFFL has removed this content from their site.]

If you have additional suggestions on players to stash at this point in the season, please drop them in the comments.

Foolish Thoughts: Eagles pigeon-holed, Titans Patrionized and Saints crush Giants

When things get back to normal, they also have to get weird. In the same week that Drew Brees blows apart the Giants like they read their defensive playbook to him as a bedtime story, Tom Brady returns to dominance in a frozen tundra that kept the Titans quarterbacks, both of them, for throwing for positive yardage.

I’d like to think that we have Brady back for good — mostly because I traded for him earlier this season in one league while he was struggling. But there’s no guarantee that this temporary return to form for many of the leagues top fantasy prospects sticks around. After all, the Raiders beat the Eagles this week…

Pigeon trumps Eagle. A lot of things didn’t go the Eagles way on Sunday. They lost Jason Peters. The forgot they had a running game, and obviously, the forces of nature of a higher power turned against them as an innocent-seeming pigeon became the Raiders twelfth man on special teams.

That is a winged sign of bad things to come to say the least.

The bird was all over that contain, and the Raiders didn’t even need him to bottle up the Eagles in this one.

Will this Raiders squad we saw on Sunday play the rest of their games this season? I doubt it. It seems they came together as one and played like the games mattered again, but in another week, they could lose that spark. At least they get Chaz Schilens back this week.

The New England Patriots marched out into the cold against “the best 0-5 team in football” and killed it. They spanked the Titans all over the field like Tennessee didn’t even have a secondary out there, and to be honest, they didn’t. Both starting corners missed this one with injuries.

The Patriots looks like the 2007 incarnation that fantasy owners know and love.

I think we all know why they’re back. Tom Brady has obviously sold his soul to the devil for powers unmatched by any mere mortal quarterback. The truth is out. He’s going to hell.

Tough, I know, but Belichick does ask a lot of his players.

Now the one question remains: To whom did Drew Brees sell his soul?

In weeks like these, you have to question your strategy. Did you play the right guy based on matchups or did you go with your studs? In truth, it’s always a hard call.

If you sat Matt Schaub to play Donovan McNabb or put Ray Rice on your bench against the Vikings, you may be regretting your decision. I did the former but not the latter, which allowed Rice to make up those points I lost by starting McNabb.

Take me back to Sunday morning, and I’d still make the same call. McNabb was the smart play. He just didn’t play smart on Sunday.

This week I also had to watch Matt Forte just ruin his night against the Falcons. He made me regret starting him over Cadillac Williams. Going into Monday night’s game with just the Denver defense, I had all but given up. There was no hope for a victory with 17 points to make up with just a defense in the Blogger League.

But then Eddie Royal happened. I gained a lot of respect for the Denver defense tonight, even more than I had given them up to this point. The Patriots seemed vulnerable when they got beat by Denver in overtime. The Cowboys seemed to attack the Broncos with the wrong strategy — why throw to Champ Bailey? Why?

The Chargers did everything they could to win against the Broncos in a game they needed to win to get back on track, but the Broncos didn’t let them do anything. With a sack-counting defense, a stifling run defense, one of the best corners in the game and now a threat in the return game, the Broncos might just be the best fantasy defense on the board when the season is over. How insane is that?

In the NFL, things can get weird.

On the Wire: Week 5 Pickups, Drops and Bye Week Filler

I wanted to make a switch this past weekend at defense to sub in the New Orleans Saints D/ST for the Green Bay Packers D/ST.

Considering they had the same bye week and with some doubt in the Saints’ newly discovered fantasy worthiness, I was slow to make that change. I thought the Packers D/ST might somehow know how to beat Brett Favre.

On Sunday, ESPN’s server login problems kept me from reconsidering. Today, looking at a 10-point loss and a big three points from Green Bay’s defense, I very much regret that decision.

But it’s a lesson. Just goes to show you that you should always be aggressive. This week, with bye weeks hitting your team now or in the near future, it’s important to clear that dead weight from your roster.

That loss is going to sting for a good while. But now, let’s get to making things better for all involved. This week’s waiver wire pickups are in priority order, but your preference may vary depending on your own team needs. If you have any trouble choosing between these pickups or debating whom to drop from your current roster, leave a question in the comments to open it up to discussion.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
As long as Willie Parker stays down and out and as long as the Steelers face defensive lines like the Chargers’ weak one, Mendenhall is showing a lot of promise. Maybe the Steelers have a running game after all? In Sunday night’s game, Mendenhall rushed at will for 165 yards with 26 receiving yards and two touchdowns against San Diego. His next two games are against Detroit and Cleveland. Go get him while you can.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
Now that the Browns have some kind of offense, it’s worth keeping tabs on their primary running back. James Davis is now on IR, which leaves Harrison as the best warm body behind the injured Jamal Lewis. Harrison rushed for 121 yards and caught 31 yards in the Browns loss to the Bengals. In PPR leagues, that makes for some decent bench depth. In non-PPR leagues, there’s a chance the Browns could show signs of life enough to make Harrison worthy of a play during bye weeks.

New Orleans Saints D/ST
I’ve now learned from my mistake and fully endorse this defense. At last check, they were second in the NFL in blitzing behind only the New York Jets. Add that to the play of Darren Sharper and the potential of Reggie Bush on special teams, and this unit looks to be reliable throughout 2009. If someone in your league drops them while they are on bye, make sure you are the one who picks them up by Week 6. Besides the Giants (Week 6) and Patriots (Week 12), the Saints have a schedule full of very winnable games the rest of this season.

San Francisco 49ers D/ST
The 49ers D/ST is also very legit this season and not on bye this week. Bonus!

David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
More than likely, he’s owned in your league, but in case you haven’t noticed, he’s looking like more than just a reliable bye week fill. The Jaguars can throw the ball–one year after I had to draft Garrard as part of a quarterback by committee in 2008.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Five catches for 70 yards and as touchdown. Sounds like he’s ready for that breakout year we’ve been expecting just as long as Brett Favre will accommodate. That late throw by Favre down the sidelines seems to suggest he won’t remain a game manager much longer.

Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns
Just like his running back counterpart, Massaquoi had a pulse in the Browns game this week. His eight catches for 148 yards to Braylon Edwards zero catches may suggest that Edwards has fallen out of favor. Add to that accusations that Edwards punched a friend of LeBron James, an offense punishable by death in Cleveland, and I’m seeing stars align for Massaquoi to be the big-play threat of the Browns’ passing game. Sure, that’s not a big threat, but it’s something.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans
If the Titans keep digging a hole early in games, Washington should see even more targets. He’s a more elusive wide receiver than Justin Gage with the ball in his hands, and he could be a decent bye week fill against the Colts and Patriots these next two weeks.

Josh Morgan, WR, San Francisco 49ers
He came out against the Rams and should have had two scores. He’s the best receiver the 49ers have on their current roster, and the 49ers may look to throw more regularly as long as Gore remains out. All good reasons to have Morgan on your team if someone else gave up on him.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Finley’s 128 yards and one touchdown performance was the breakout game we were all waiting for this season, and Donald Lee’s critical drop may have the Packers turning to Finley for an even larger role after their bye week. He’s certainly one of, if not the most promising tight end to own as a TE2 at this point in the season. Pick him up if you have the roster space or have a need at tight end. Otherwise, wait to see how he does after the bye.

Josh Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I told you that I liked this kid. Coach Raheem Morris does, too. But don’t throw him in there against the Philadelphia Eagles, coming off of a bye, this week. Let him incubate.

Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland Browns
The Browns are alive in the hands of Anderson. As long as you can live with his mistakes, he has a nice matchup against the Bills this week.

Seneca Wallace, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Wallace could make for reliable bye-week filler against the Jaguars this week, but he’s a dangerous choice since Hasselbeck could return this week. Watch the practice reports before you go get him.

And now the ones you should just keep an eye on…

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
As the passing game comes alive, so does Lewis, but don’t jump on him unless you are desperate for him after his 76-yard, one touchdown performance this week.

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets
He didn’t get a significant number of carries on Sunday, but he saw the field. This showing wasn’t enough to say he’s taking a role in the offense, but we could see him takeover if Thomas Jones continues to decline in comparison to Leon Washington. By season’s end, it could be Greene and Washington splitting time, and that would certainly make him worth owning. He’s a stash in deeper leagues.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos
Hillis could be in line for more carries if Correll Buckhalter misses this week’s game with a sprained ankle. Against the Patriots, Hillis might be productive, but he’d likely split time with Knowshon Moreno and LaMont Jordan. If you’re looking to long shot, he’s not a terrible one this week.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins didn’t put the game in his hands on Sunday, but he looked promising against the Bills. His schedule gets brutal for the next three to four weeks, but look for him to show what he can offer starting in Week 9. His playoff schedule could make him a sneaky play.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
He’s not a must-have just yet, but Nicks showed why he was drafted this week with that quick stop-and-go at the goal line for his first NFL touchdown. Mario Manningham took a back seat in this one, and that might be the trend going forward. But don’t get any ideas. Steve Smith is still the No. 1 receiver in New York, and he’s a solid fantasy option for the rest of the season.

Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans
He isn’t getting enough playing time early in games to justify owning him in most leagues, but Britt could be in line for more catches as the third receiver in the Titans offense when they face the Colts this week. Britt had 105 receiving yards this week against the Jaguars.

Guys you should already own by now: Vernon Davis, 49ers; Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars; Tashard Choice, Cowboys; Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers.

Guys you can drop if you so choose: Chris Henry, Bengals; Darren McFadden, Raiders; Michael Bush, Raiders; Zach Miller, Raiders (especially now that he’s concussed); anyone else, Raiders; James Davis, Browns (He’s on IR, silly, and should only be kept in dynasty leagues at this point.); Earnest Graham, Buccaneers; Mike Bell, Saints, Jason Campbell, Redskins.

As an addendum to this week’s On the Wire, see which players I picked as the best “buy low” and “sell high” candidates in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate roundtable, hosted by Top Fantasy Football.

For more waiver wire grabs, check out Fantasy Football Librarian’s two collections, Fanhouse, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and FF Toolbox’s deep league and standard league pickups.

As always, the comments are yours. Ask us a question. We love to answer them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The smart bet is on the miserable side of things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News…

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

Injury Concerns: Are Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook worth your draft pick?

Brian Westbrook convinced the world that a smaller, shifty back could make it work in the NFL. In recent years, he’s become a fantasy points factory, churning out production each season, but he’s also never been one to rely on for all 16 weeks of your fantasy season.

With Westbrook’s production come injuries. Someone who moves as well and as uniquely as Westbrook is bound to get caught or banged up by the end of the season when a team leans on him as much as the Eagles have over the years. His injuries have landed Westbrook on some fantasy blacklists when it comes time to draft. Owners would just rather not deal with his questionable status every Sunday and one or two zeroes in the weekly fantasy point column for the games he misses.

When Reggie Bush entered the NFL as a rookie, he was one of the most hyped fantasy prospects of the season. NFL analysts projected he would be an impact player at running back despite his shifty, “dancing” ways, but, much like Westbrook, he’s also proven that it was going to be difficult for him to stay on the field for 16 games in a row.

Bush and Westbrook 2009 Outlook

Bush and Westbrook are truly two of the most unique players in the NFL. If either is in the game for their respective teams, they change what their team can do on the field.

The Eagles without Westbrook have lacked that explosion out of the backfield. Correll Buckhalter was a fine stand-in last season, but he couldn’t do all the things that Westbrook could do. Defenses don’t fear him as much, and he can’t make everyone miss.

This season, Westbrook finally has a backup who is worthy of carrying his torch, rookie LeSean McCoy. McCoy should cut into a few of Westbrook’s carries, but the coaching staff still promises that this is Westbrook’s job.

When available to the Saints, Reggie Bush found a role as a gimmick back last season. He took short passes out of the backfield, running back carries up the middle or to the outside and sometimes he even split out wide just like a receiver. This dynamic play earned him plenty of fantasy points…right up until he went down with an injury.

He’s been training this offseason, and beat writers have claimed this year is the most committed he’s been to the game since he first came in as a rookie. Bush knows this is a make-or-break year for his career. If he can’t prove that he can stay healthy and contribute, his role — and contracts — will be limited in the future.

Bush and Westbrook Fantasy Football Value

When it comes to these two backs, owners question every year whether they are worth drafting.

Brian Westbrook

With Westbrook, the answer is certainly a “yes,” but there is some qualification. Westbrook is still not back on the field from offseason injuries, but that doesn’t worry me about the impact he will have in this year’s improved Eagles’ offensive attack. He’s a safe pick in the second round, where he’s currently fallen due to injury concerns and age, but be sure to draft his backup and rookie standout LeSean McCoy if you get Westbrook on your roster.

Westbrook is bound to miss games, but McCoy looks good enough to jump in without missing a beat in this offense. McCoy’s average draft position (ADP) has him going in the eighth round of most drafts, so it should not be difficult to secure him a tad early with your pick in the seventh round.

If he warms your bench all season, you may feel a little upset, but Westbrook will have proven a lot of doubters wrong for your fantasy team.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush is a bit of a different story. Outside of points-per-reception leagues, he’s not as much of a beast as Westbrook. Pierre Thomas is looking like the primary back out of the Saints’ backfield this season, which would further limit Bush’s potential.

Bush worked on becoming a better football player this entire offseason, and he will attempt to return from his injuries this weekend against Oakland. That’s promising. Then again, he’s also rumored to be getting back together with another famous back, Kim Kardashian. We’ll see how that works out.

While he’s still worth drafting, he’s only worth drafting in the sixth round or later and after more promising young backs like Felix Jones are off the board. If Bush pays off, you’ll be glad to have him aboard. If he’s bothered by injury, you won’t have paid a significant price to get him.

In PPR leagues, he could be a stud, and you may feel better about taking him earlier in your draft when the payout is higher. That said, there’s just too much risk to make him a star on your fantasy team. Have a contingency plan for Bush if he goes down.

Pairing Darren McFadden and Bush together by taking them in your draft and rotating them based on health could make a deadly combo.

This year is a turning point for both these players. While Bush and Westbrook are both worthy of drafting at the right values, they are also full of risks. Prepare accordingly if you take that chance.

As always, the comments are yours. Would you draft Westbrook or Bush this season?