5 Ways to Replace Monday Night Football During the NFL Lockout

The draft is over. The lockout continues. As of right now, we got no football. I’m getting cold sweats just thinking about it. But there’s another group that stands to lose if there’s no football this fall besides the coaches, players, and NFL fans — TV networks.

Without football, they’ll have to find someway to fill time on Sundays and Monday nights, and “Two and a Half Men” marathons just won’t cut it.

So where are our options? I dove into the talented depths of YouTube to find what could be our 2011 replacement for football. Here’s what you could expect to see on the airwaves instead of your beloved Week 1 matchup.

1. Sloths doing human things

I’ll admit, it doesn’t sound that interesting at first, but once you see a sloth holding an umbrella like it’s expecting rain and looking at you with those slothy sloth eyes, you get it. And they can follow it up with a “Real Sloths of Orange County” or “Real Sloths of Dallas” once the first season has run its course. People love watching animals do things that humans do.

2. Babies who fear normal human behavior

Blowing your nose can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience. I’ve almost launched a lung through my nose on at least one occasion. So I get this baby’s irrational fear of his mother’s nose-blowing. But they’re going to have to do better than that if they want to carry the 18-45 male demo in this time slot.

3. Extreme Cooking with Epic Meal Time

Speaking of that 18-45 male demographic, here’s your real winner. Take a little bit from the Iron Chef playbook, a little bit from the fat man’s guide to continuing to be fat, and alcohol, and you get Epic Meal Time, a YouTube experience that just reminds you of the way momma used to cook. You know, before she stopped drinking…

4. Slow-motion modeling

I think we can safely say that they wouldn’t lose any viewership replacing football with this. Female fans would easily be replaced by an influx of former NFL fans who felt that TV never showed the cheerleaders enough.

5. The UFL

While it is the most logical replacement for true, NFL football, would you be satisfied by the UFL? Would Daunte Culpepper and Brooks Bollinger excite you as much as a Tom Brady and Peyton Manning showdown?

We can only hope. Until the lockout is over, these are some of our best options from the world of entertainment. Could we build a fantasy game on top of these? Of course! And if it was fantasy extreme cooking, I’m taking bacon first overall ten out of ten times.

Pick your poison. Which of these options would you choose to replace our beloved NFL football this season?

On the Waiver Wire: Brian Westbrook LIVES, Week 13 Pickups, and a Massive Collection of Advice to Get Your Team Right for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

I hate handcuffing. I always feel like handcuffs are a waste of a roster spot, and I’d rather have a starting running back from another team than carry a guy who doesn’t play just in case my starter goes down. The backups are rarely as good or as big a part of the offense as their starting counterpart anyway. At least that’s what I told myself until this week.

Apparently, karma chose to teach me a lesson this season. My top picks in two leagues, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, were both hit with the injury bug this week just before I start my playoff runs in Week 14. I don’t own either handcuff.

Obviously, I drafted these two teams on Indian burial grounds. My two starting tight ends in these leagues were Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley.

Beyond snagging the fantasy fallout from these two studs’ injuries, waiver wire pickups for the rest of the season depend on matchups more than ever. You’d be surprised how many owners don’t look ahead and decide which players they should cut ties with and which ones they should stash for the playoffs. As we round out the regular season, you should fortify your roster for Weeks 14-16, assuming that’s your fantasy football playoff.

Regular season wins don’t matter anymore. It’s all about the playoffs.

I’ll hit the highlights on a few guys I like the most that are readily available this week. As a side note, this post will be our last traditional waiver wire post for the rest of the season. If you’re in the playoffs, I assume you’ve strengthened your roster. If not, look back the last few weeks of “On the Wire” posts.

If you’re not in the playoffs, I’m guessing you don’t want to hear anything more about players that could have made your team better, but you can look back at the archives all the same. It’s always nice to play spoiler at the end of the year, even if you have nothing to gain but pride and a new in-season rival. In-season rivals are the best.

Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers – He’s obviously the most high-priority add to come out of Week 12. With Frank Gore done for the year, Westbrook will become the engine of this offense. Troy Smith hasn’t been able to learn the full playbook since joining the 49ers, which has forced them to feed the ball to their running game. You’ll hear some warnings out there that Anthony Dixon has more value as the rookie with fresher legs to replace Gore, but I’m still choosing Westbrook over Dixon if given the choice. They went with Westy all night against the Cardinals until the game was out of reach, and I think they’ll continue to do more of the same. San Francisco would rather play it safe with Westbrook and his experience than hand the majority of their offense over to a rookie.

Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers — That said, Dixon isn’t a bad add if you miss out on Westbrook or get Westy and want to make sure you lock up the 49ers rushing attack. Dixon will at least see some goal line looks, and he’s the better North-South runner at this point. Westbrook, while impressive against the Cardinals, hasn’t seen much playing time and is injury prone late in his career. We’ll know more about how these two runners will split the carries after we see them face the Packers in Week 13, having had a full week to practice together and work on the game plan, but I’m betting Westbrook gets as much as he can handle before Dixon gets his chance.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings — He’s next on the list even though I don’t believe he’ll have much value. The last reports on Adrian Peterson’s ankle injury say it’s only a sprain and that the Vikings fully expect to have him Week 13 against the Bills. Gerhart might see more work to give A.P. a light workload his first game back, but by Week 14 and 15, you won’t want to be relying on a backup running back. If you own Peterson, Gerhart is a must add. Otherwise, put him behind all the other backs listed as a stash in case Peterson’s injury ends up being more serious than what we’ve heard so far.

Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys — Choice is the running back of “choice” in Dallas now that Marion Barber will be out for at least two weeks. Fantasy veterans will remember how he exploded late in 2008 when Felix Jones and Barber both missed time. While Felix hasn’t shown any signs of slowing, Choice has talent and could carve out a portion of the running game for himself even if Jones continues to start for the Cowboys. He’ll at least see the goal line looks for two weeks with Barber out, and that makes him worthy of being added to rosters this week. You might hit the jackpot if Barber has a setback and if Jones is injured in the next two weeks. The Cowboys’ schedule is inviting with Indy, Philly, Washington, and then the horrible, horrible defense of the Cardinals in Week 16.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers — Like a brokeback cowboy, I just can’t quit The Daily Show. Mike Goodson’s been an awakening for the Panthers are running back, but Stewart was more effective with his carries in Week 12. Maybe some of Goodson’s workmanship productivity will rub off on Stewart. He wasn’t able to do much of anything prior to his concussion, but The Daily Show should earn back more and more of the running game as the season winds down.

Goodson will stay involved and has some value since he’s been so productive during Stewart’s absence, but both Stewart and Goodson are interviewing for jobs next season. DeAngelo Williams will be gone, and it’s probably going to be a split backfield with Stewart taking the lead duties and Goodson providing a burst on third downs and catching passes out of the backfield like Williams used to do. The schedule isn’t too kind in Week 14 or Week 16 for either Carolina back, but you’ll definitely want to start either Stewart or Goodson in Week 15 against the Cardinals.

Chris Ivory, RB, Saints – People keep saying that the Saints touchdown vulture is about to fall off the fantasy value cliff, but he’s stuck around. Even with Reggie Bush back on Thanksgiving, he got the touchdowns where it counted and put up decent yardage. I’m sure he’s owned in most touchdown-heavy leagues, but I’d consider picking him up in standard leagues for the fantasy playoffs.

Pierre Thomas may come back in the next two weeks, but with Thomas’ injury taking so long to heal, I don’t think they’ll want to put him in harm’s way near the end zone when they have a proven weapon like Ivory, who hasn’t disappointed. The Saints’ remaining schedule through Week 16 has them facing the Bengals, Rams, Ravens, and Falcons. Those last two are tougher than most, but I’d snag Ivory for this week against the Bengals and next week against the Rams. If the Saints’ offense can deliver him to the goal line for multiple scores in those two, I might even consider giving him a chance in Week 15 against the Ravens as well.

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams — I went on and on about Alexander when he had his first breakout game earlier this season. I loved his potential, and I still do. In his first game back, he was the leading receiver, even though he was only playing 20 snaps. He added that spark the Rams have needed. Outside of PPR leagues, he’s the Rams wide receiver I want to start, and if you look ahead at his matchups (Cardinals, Saints, Chiefs, 49ers), he’s not looking so bad outside of that Week 14 in New Orleans.

Take Alexander’s schedule, add that the Rams like to throw the ball, that Bradford emerged for his first 300+ yard game in Week 12 (with Alexander leading in yards and tied with two other receivers for most targets), and that the tight end Bradford loved the most, Michael Hoomanawanui, is now out with a high ankle sprain, and you have a recipe for another fantasy breakout for the young Rams’ talent.

I’d play him this week against the Cardinals, but all that said, I do have to caution that he is playing on borrowed knees–literally. His injury risk is red on the advisory system, but I’ll still give him the green light if you need that extra something for the playoffs at wide receiver.

Earl Bennett, WR, Bears — When Jay Cutler first got traded to Chicago, Bennett received a lot of talk as a sleeper. They were teammates at Vanderbilt, and Cutler, in a way, made Bennett into a star. In the NFL, the two have not connected as often. Bennett has been the second or third wide receiver on the Bears’ depth chart for some time, but the passing game has never been reliable or explosive enough to make Bennett a fantasy star. It looked like it was getting there in Week 12 against the Eagles.

Mike Martz may have finally settled into a playbook that suits the Bears. All of their weapons, including Devin Hester and Greg Olsen, got involved. Bennett scored twice. If you look at the remaining schedule for the Bears (at the Lions, Patriots, at the Vikings, Jets), they have a nice road ahead until Week 16 against the Jets. And even in that game, Bennett is less likely to get shut down as the No. 3 guy in many sets. If I’m short a wide receiver for the playoffs, Bennett is my second choice after Alexander. Johnny Knox is more reliable, but Bennett should get his looks, too.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders — If no one picked up the speedster in Oakland, you should make a run at him this week. His playoff schedule is nice (Jaguars, Broncos, Colts), and he seems to be the only receiver who can inflict massive damage for the Raiders. As long as Jason Campbell looks his way in Week 13, I’d consider starting him in the playoffs as a WR3.

Blair White or Austin Collie, WR, Colts — Whichever one of these Colts’ receivers starts in any given week will have value. A very angry Peyton Manning will be suiting up against a decent but not formidable schedule in the fantasy playoffs (Titans, Jags, Raiders) and trying to destroy the world to get into Indy into the  real NFL playoffs. I wouldn’t want to stand  in his way. Both of these receivers have a nose for the end zone, and Manning will go to them without hesitation. The only issue I have with them is that they could just as easily have one catch for 7 yards and a touchdown as they could have five catches for 70 yards and three touchdowns.

Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins — Bess is very reliable as a PPR receiver as long as Chad Henne is the Dolphins’ quarterback, but his matchups are tougher than they look for the fantasy playoffs (Jets, Bills, Lions). I’d still consider starting him down the stretch if you need someone consistent, but as  a Marshall owner, I’m still hoping Marshall’s return will steal some of Bess’ thunder and production. Bess outperformed Marshall for a good part of this season, but the Dolphins best matchups in the playoffs (Bills, Lions) could become statement games for Marshall to prove trading for him was not a waste of the Dolphins’ draft picks–fingers crossed. Still, there could be scraps for Bess regardless of the matchup or Marshall’s contributions.

I dug deep for fantasy football advice all over the Web this week since I was trying to turn a dead but playoff-bound team (the one that just lost Frank Gore) into a fantasy zombie for Weeks 14-16. Now 21 waiver wire claims later, I feel pretty good about the team.

Below is my compiled list of waiver wire pickup recommendations, fantasy football playoff advice, and matchup analysis. It’s all worth a read if you have the time, but pay special attention the analysis previewing playoff potential and which players are getting hot at the right time, especially Fantasy O Matic’s look at defensive trends over the last five weeks, which I found especially interesting. H/T to FF Librarian for bringing it to my attention.

  • If you’re looking for something along the lines of an add/drop for the fantasy playoffs, SI’s Fire Sale column by Thomas Casale is it. It’s a great read, and you know I believe in Alexander’s and Bennett’s potential. It also may be time, as Casale notes, to give up on Vincent Jackson. He’ll miss two games, which puts him back to Week 15 as an effective start, and that’s assuming that his injury will heal right back to 100 percent. There are too many targets in San Diego, but if you have the room to keep him on your bench and wait, you might as well see what you have in him.
  • The FF Geek Blog hammers out another spreadsheet this week that lists more quarterbacks than most of the other waiver wire posts I’ve seen. If you’re in need of a playoff passer, take a look at their thoughts.
  • FF Toolbox touches on several of the big name adds, but I imagine most of these guys are taken in competitive leagues.
  • I think he sells a few of these guys short, but Lester’s Legends offers up his Get ‘em or Don’t Sweat ‘em for Week 13.
  • I like everyone Fanhouse and The Hazean tout as an add this week.
  • You’ll always find great links from the Fantasy Football Librarian.
  • NFL.com has some risky quarterback adds but, otherwise, presents a solid lineup of pickups.
  • Hatty Waiver Wire Guru talks through the week’s top pickups and players to watch if you’re still left wanting.
  • To think, last week I almost dropped Jay Cutler, and this week, he’s among the top adds on the waiver wire at Razzball. Glad I didn’t make that mistake.
  • I doubt most of SI’s “Decision Time” players for Week 13 are on the waiver wire, but a few like Jonathan Stewart might be available. Get them on your roster if you’re still trying to make the playoffs this week. SI’s waiver wire column also has some names to target.
  • Be aware that those “Points Against” rankings you’ve been looking at all season may not tell the whole picture. Fantasy O Matic broke down the defensive performances over the past five weeks and compared it to the season-long rankings to give a more accurate picture of who should flourish and who should suffer in the fantasy playoffs. It’s a must read for anyone playoff bound alongside their previous post on the best playoff matchups.
  • Rotoworld’s Chris Wesseling loves him some Westbrook this week and believes he’s capable of RB2 numbers the rest of the way. I missed out on Westbrook, so I’ll have to hope Dixon gets a piece of that.
  • The Fifth Down thinks Sam Bradford is ripe enough to start. I can’t really disagree with them this week as he faces the Cardinals.
  • Matthew Berry, ESPN’s TMR, pays tribute to Leslie Nielsen and plays back all the pickups he’s recommended over the last several weeks as well as the new guys like Westbrook and James Davis.
  • Pro Football Focus runs down all the hot prospects down to the sleepers and ones to watch the rest of this season.
  • The Scores Report may have covered every player that’s out there on waivers right now. Impressive.

Believe it or not, Scoring Leaders for Week 11: If you don’t have multiples, you’re just not trying hard enough

Your fantasy studs only scored once? Well, that’s just child’s play. The real studs scored twice or more on Sunday, and they should easily do the same a time or two before the fantasy football playoffs are over. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 275 passing yards and 3 TDs, 55 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Raiders

Much like a high school girl at her prom, Big Ben hates it when other teams dress up like the Steelers. The Raiders have been wearing black and putting teams away with a running game and a defense. That just won’t fly. So I guess Big Ben was trying to make a point when he exposed them on Sunday.

The Steelers walked all over the Raiders all day long. Roethlisberger benefited from the absence of Nnamdi Asomugha. When this offense is firing on all cylinders, as it seems to be now, they’re hard to stop.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: 7 catches for 152 yards and 3 TDs vs. Vikings

Aaron Rodgers reminded all Jennings’ owners why they drafted him: He’s the No. 1 wide receiver on a highly explosive offense. They got rolling against the Vikings in a blowout, and Jennings was doing damage in both big and small chunks.

It was good to see him targeted in the red zone in addition to his targets from long-range. He should continue to produce down the stretch since he is Rodgers’ most reliable target for now.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: 8 catches for 137 yards, 3 TDs vs. Bengals

I thought this Bills passing game would have cooled off by now, but just when you think they’re done, they come roaring back. Steve Johnson absolutely destroyed the Bengals in the second half.

Johnson’s probably going to end up being the waiver wire pickup of the year. He’s scored in almost every game he’s played in with Fitzpatrick under center. Those numbers are going to be hard to beat as long as this passing game stays red-hot throughout the playoffs, even as Buffalo freezes over.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 301 passing yards and 4 TDs, 21 rushing yards vs. Vikings

A big fantasy day for Jennings means a big fantasy day for Rodgers, but you know this. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in fantasy. This stat line is what you expected out of him in easy matchups when you drafted him. He poured it on the Vikings, led by the man he replaced, Favre.

This game was like watching a little kid jump up and down on Brett Favre’s sandcastle, all while Brett had to watch his creation go to pieces. I kind of enjoyed it.

Without a doubt, we can say that the Packers made the right call in moving on from Favre to Rodgers when they did. No team that’s tried to make it work with Favre has succeeded.

The Packers have turned into a very scary team just at the right time as fantasy playoffs (and the real NFL playoffs) approach.

Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys: 147 passing yards and 3 TDs, 40 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Lions

I played it safe this week by starting Shaun Hill out of fear that the Cowboys would concentrate on their running game after establishing an early lead. They didn’t, unless you count that late rushing score by Kitna as the running game. Jason Garrett’s perfectly comfortable calling passing plays the whole game, and that works for Kitna’s fantasy owners.

Kitna ended the day without much yardage, but he scored a ton, making him the better play over Shaun Hill. It seems they’ll both be great plays down the stretch, as both the Cowboys and Lions love to throw the ball.

Kitna should be owned in all leagues and has a great schedule in Weeks 15 and 16 of the fantasy playoffs as long as Romo doesn’t return.

This part is the place where I would list Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but I’ll skip them. I assume you know the drill when it comes to those guys.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: 316 passing yards and 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 11 rushing yards vs. Bengals

What looked like a quiet performance turned into a fantasy explosion late when the Bills mounted a comeback. I don’t know whether to be impressed with how overpowering the Bills were in this one or to just acknowledge how absolutely horrid the Bengals are. No one wants to win badly enough in Cincy. Too bad.

Fitzpatrick has had a few rough patches along the way, but if he keeps playing this aggressively, it’s hard to say he won’t produce another fantasy day or two like this one in the next few weeks.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets: 7 catches for 126 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

Another week, another come-from-behind victory capped off by a Holmes touchdown pass from Sanchez. The Jets’ unpredictable performance in winnable games has become predictable again. And you can count on Holmes to remain the focus in the passing game from here on out.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 116 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 3 catches for 13 yards vs. Bengals

Even Jackson got in on the fantasy field day to be had against the Bengals. His schedule isn’t so easy, and he faces the Steelers this week after they just completely stuffed Darren McFadden…but if you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, Jackson has a game like this left in him.

He still has matchups against the Vikings and Patriots on the schedule, and I’m not too worried about C.J. Spiller cutting into his production when he returns later this season.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: 315 passing yards and 3 TDs, 1 INT, 22 rushing yards vs. Texans

The Texans are horrible, and Sanchez took advantage. Moral of the story: Always start the quarterback playing the Texans. Enough said.

A note on D/STs that did well…

If you were looking for an impressive D/ST performance, you got it out of the Browns and Ravens. If they’re not owned, the Browns make for an intriguing play the rest of the way, and they face the Panthers this week.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 109 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cardinals

Okay, okay. I keep saying he’s going to fade down the stretch, and yet, here we are with another huge fantasy day and multiple touchdowns for Bowe. I guess you have to start him until he cools off. That’s not such a bad problem to have, is it?

Believe it or not: Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel teammates benefit and More Scoring Leaders from Week 6

Each week, “Believe it or not” highlights those fantasy football studs (or mistakes) who score over 20 points in ESPN standard scoring and whether we can trust them to ever do it again.

The Kansas City Chiefs might have contributed more this week to the fantasy football community than they will all year, but it was nice that knowing how to properly spell Cassel’s last name finally paid off.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles: 326 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Falcons

And Michael Vick is still the starter when he gets back? I think that’s not as clear cut as it used to be, Mr. Reid. It just might be time for another emergency press conference in Philly.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: 7 catches for 159 yards, 2 TDs vs. Falcons

Kolb was so good on Sunday, he made his receiver one of the top scorers as well, and Maclin was just one of the two wide receivers he hit twice for touchdowns. Like I said, is it time to think twice about sitting Kolb and going back to a probably-not-100-percent Michael Vick? QB-by-rotation maybe? You know you’re thinking about it, Andy.

Let’s play a little game of “One of these things is not like the others.”

Drew Brees, QB, Saints: 263 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Bucs
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: 220 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Vikings
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 257 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Browns
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 201 yards, 3 TDs vs. Texans
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: 305 yards, 2 TDs,  vs. Chiefs
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 313 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD vs. Dolphins
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: 285 yards, 2 TDs vs. Patriots
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: 307 yards, 2 TDs vs. Redskins

Most of these quarterbacks are current or sometimes members of the elite–Brees, Romo, Big Ben (elite lady skills!), Schaub, Rodgers, and Manning. The real shocker isn’t how they produced this week but who ended up among them, Matt Cassel. The rightfully mocked Chiefs quarterback actually took advantage of the soft Texans matchup…but that only means people will believe in him enough to start him in Week 7 against the Jaguars.

I have my doubts Cassel will ever do it again, but if he is going to, it will be against the Jaguars, who have been the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde of the NFL this season.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 108 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

If given a quarterback, Bowe showed us in Week 6 that he still knows where the scoring happens (in the end zone). He made the Texans look bad, but they do a pretty good job of that each week with their passing defense. His fantasy value lives and dies by Cassel’s ability to get him the ball. You might take advantage of a big Week 5 (and possibly Week 6 against Jacksonville) to shop Bowe for someone a little more consistent. In other words, sell high.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: 100 yards, 2 TDs vs. Colts

I shed a silent tear Sunday night as I watched Torain rampage all over the Colts defense. I chose to start Michael Bush over him. Thanks again, Jason Campbell, for ruining the few things that were pure and good about that Oakland offense this week. Torain is the man in Washington, probably even after Clinton Portis returns from injury (if he ever does, that is). But feel free to sell high if you made out like a champ by snagging him on the waiver wire.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 71 yards, 2 TDs vs. Chiefs

Oh, and Foster’s back at it even with Derrick Ward taking a score of his own. I think it’s safe to say he’s going to keep doing this. He’s only had one truly bad week and that came against the Giants revitalized defense.

Believe it or not: T.O., L.T. not done yet, Arian Foster only needs three quarters, and more Week 4 top scores

Last week’s top scores featured some pretty normal names. I thought this feature might be getting boring…so, of course, this week was full of surprises.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 131 rushing yards, 1 TD and 3 catches for 56 yards, 1 TD

Yeah…that guy again. Foster was benched for the entire first quarter for missing one team meeting and being late to another, and he still scored the most fantasy points on Sunday. If you’re a Foster owner, never complain about a loss. You have no excuse.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: 10 catches for 222 yards, 1 TD

Take away the long bomb that T.O. caught just as the corner covering him fell down and these numbers aren’t quite as impressive. T.O. benefits from playing opposite Chad Ochocinco, and Carson Palmer doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to turn back into the top quarterback he used to be.

I’m not saying that T.O. won’t keep producing these kinds of numbers. He is likely to rack up 100+ yards in a few more games this season, but I’m not in love with him long-term. He could just as easily disappear off the radar next week, never to be seen again.

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: 163 passing yards, 2 passing TDs and 44 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD

Even in the worst of times for the Jaguars, Garrard manages to put up stats against the Colts. This big day may make up for his team’s shortcomings the first three weeks, but don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a solid fantasy quarterback. You never know when he will show up and when he won’t. Garrard is a risky bye week fill right now and that’s it.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets: 133 yards, 2 TDs and 3 catches for 22 yards

There was a lot of excitement around L.T.’s numbers this Sunday, but keep in mind that these stats were against the Bills. While he’s holding his own as the No. 1 back in New York right now, I doubt L.T. will be able to sustain this kind of production all season long. He has gotten up there in age and carries, and this game was his first 100+ yarder in two years. If you can sell him high to the Shonn Greene owner, I would.

Shaun Hill, QB, Lions: 331 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs and 53 rushing yards

The Lions got behind big in this one, but they did fight back admirably. Hill’s numbers just show you how nice it is to have Calvin Johnson to catch passes for you. Lucky for Megatron and the Detroit Lions, Stafford should be back soon, and when he returns, these Lions’ quarterback numbers could get even better.

And the usual suspects who also showed up big for their owners this week: Antonio Gates, Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, and Maurice Jones-Drew.

By the way, if you saw Kyle Orton in the “usual suspects” just now and found that odd, let me just say that Kyle Orton is for real. He had another 300+ yards against the Titans, who were looking like a fairly stout passing defense this season. Orton is going to have to carry this team, especially with all the injuries in the running game. Look for him to remain a quality QB1 starter.

Believe it or not: Austin Collie, Peyton Hillis, Lance Moore and More Top Scores from Week 3

Austin Collie, WR, Colts: 12 catches for 171 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: This was not the stat line Reggie Wayne owners wanted to see, but without Pierre Garcon, Peyton Manning locked onto Collie while Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne got most of the attention from the Denver defense. I don’t expect Collie to get this lucky every week, but with two strong games under his belt, he should be owned in all leagues.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: 455 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Believe It: The 400+ passing yards countered Rivers’ two interceptions, and that’s the kind of game he’ll have to have as long as the Chargers’ special teams continues to give up two touchdowns each game.

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: 262 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It (in Matchups): Flacco finally had a good performance, thanks to Anquan Boldin and the Browns’ defense. Now that we know what he’s capable of, we will have to see if he can keep up this level of production. I don’t see him living up to the QB1-hype surrounding him this offseason, but he’ll make a decent matchup play the rest of this year.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: 256 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It (in Matchups): Sanchez had another three touchdown performance on Sunday…so is it horrible of me to still not buy it? He’s a promising young quarterback, but he’s still a matchup play in my book. I doubt L.T. would have signed for a team that just planned to become a pass-first offense like the Chargers were without him. If you have Sanchez as a QB2, congrats. He looks good to go in that role or as part of a QB-by-committee.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 250 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Not Buying It: Cassel showed up big in Week 3 for the Chiefs, but I can’t take it as a sign of things to come just yet. He’s still not a very good quarterback, and his success Sunday might have been more about the complete and utter failure of the 49ers.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints: 6 catches for 149 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: I immediately regret my decision to wait on picking up Moore after Reggie Bush was injured. Moore should be on the field more often now and showed what he can do with that playing time against the Falcons Sunday. Drew Brees trusts him, and I do, too.

Seattle Seahawks D/ST: 2 INTs, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs

Believe It (At Home): “The 12th Man” lives again in Seattle. They may be garbage on the road, but in Seattle with Leon Washington returning kicks, the Seahawks D/ST appears to be unstoppable. They’ve produced double-digit fantasy points in both their home games thus far this season.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 144 rushing yards, 1 TD, 7 catches for 36 yards

Believe It: I thought Hillis might make a decent sleeper at the beginning of the season. It looks like he’s woken up now. Keep in mind that this performance was against the Ravens. It’s not like the Browns have a lot going on in their offense to distract a defensive unit like the Ravens, so there’s a chance Hillis could do even more with what he’s given against a lesser defense.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: 105 rushing yards, 1 TD, 2 catches for 17 yards

Believe It: Even with Michael Bush available, McFadden continued to get the majority of the carries. I still don’t think McFadden keeps this job all year. Injury or Bush’s improving health will force the Raiders to take some of his carries away, but if you have him, you should continue to ride the lightning while you can.

Roy E. Williams, WR, Cowboys: 5 catches for 117 yards, 2 TDs

Not Buying It (Entirely): Williams finally earned that contract he got when he first arrived in Dallas. His second touchdown was late in the game when the Texans D/ST has all but quit, but whether he earned it or not, it’s good to see him producing and to know that the Dallas offense will continue to involve him, especially in a game that mattered so much. He makes for a decent sleeper wide receiver — sad that a starter on a high-powered passing attack is a sleeper, but what are you gonna do? — moving forward since he could keep his role as a starter all year long, even with all the excitement for Dez Bryant.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos: 6 catches for 169 yards, 1 TD

Not Buying It: The Broncos have said that they will have a different top receiver every week, and it certainly seems that way. The only two I’d rely on are Demaryius Thomas and Jabar Gaffney, and I don’t even trust them a whole lot right now. Lloyd’s nice, but without a cemented role, I just don’t think you can ever start him with confidence.

Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers: 3 catches for 100 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: Another sleeper awakened this weekend. No more “buy lows” here. Wallace should get even better once Big Ben returns.

Dustin Keller, TE, Jets: 6 catches for 98 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: Sanchez won’t throw three touchdowns every week, but it’s telling that he threw the first two to Keller. Clearly, he trusts Keller at the goal line. That will go a long way in making Keller a legit fantasy tight end this season.

Not worth mentioning here, but for those of you keeping score at home, the obvious ones for this week were Michael Vick, Anquan Boldin, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Chris Johnson.

Believe it or not: Jahvid “THE” Best, Jason Snelling, LeSean McCoy, Jay Cutler and More Top Scorers from Week 2

This week was not a good week to bench Jay Cutler or Jahvid Best. I have Jay Cutler as my QB1 in two leagues, but I chose to bench him in one of the two to “play it safe” with Favre. I hate it when I play it safe. I hate it even more when it backfires. Uh, needless to say, I won’t do that again.

We knew Jahvid Best was going to be good, but THIS good…against the Eagles. Surprise! Hate yourself for doubting him. I loathe myself because I was already high on the kid.

Here are the rest of the unusual top scorers from Week 2, a week that will haunt me for a lifetime.

Jahvid Best: 78 yards, 2 TDs, 9 catches for 154 yards, 1 TD

Believe It — Best was excellent, especially on the short pass from Shaun Hill that he turned into a 75-yard touchdown. Some were comparing him to Brian Westbrook and Chris Johnson going into this season, and this Week 2 performance certainly shows hints of that kind of ability. I don’t think you’re going to be able to “buy low” on him anymore this season, and I doubt you’ll really want to “sell high” on him either.

Best proved this week that he can score plenty of fantasy points against even the toughest of defenses and without his starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. That makes him a must-start in my book for the rest of the season, and we’ll see if we can confirm that next week when he faces Minnesota.

Jason Snelling: 129 yards, 2 TDs, 5 catches for 57 yards, 1 TD

Believe It (When He Plays) — We’ve never forgotten about Snelling’s abilities, and when Michael Turner went down with a groin injury in this one, Snelling jumped right into his role to reap the rewards. I don’t think the Cardinals put a defense on the field as they allowed the Falcons to run up 41 points. Ouch.

Unfortunately for Snelling, the Falcons have said that Michael Turner’s groin injury is not severe and that he could have gone back into the game if it was close. So while Snelling was awesome this week, it’ll be hard to predict when the Falcons will next have to rely on his talents. He will at least continue to spell Turner, but he really only has value when the full load is put on his back.

Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add him to your bench if you own Michael Turner. You’d definitely want a piece of this action if Turner were to reaggravate his injury later in the season.

LeSean McCoy: 120 yards, 3 TDs, 4 catches for 8 yards

Believe It — No Leonard Weaver and a banged-up Mike Bell makes McCoy a happy boy. Of course, this stat line was against the Lions, which really makes it like saying Neil Armstrong had a great vertical when he was jumping in zero gravity on the moon.

I am not a huge fan of McCoy, but he appears to have stumbled into more of a workload that I expected him to have this season. If he makes the best of it, he should be a solid stud. We’ll get another chance to see what he can do against a slightly more difficult defense next week when he faces Jacksonville.

Jay Cutler: 277 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It — Look at that stat line. No interceptions? None? Cutler put his critics on notice this week. It’s physically painful to me knowing that I sat Cutler in one league, but at least I started him in another to benefit from his huge day in Dallas.

Mike Martz has made this offense into a force to be reckoned with, and Cutler made all the right throws Sunday. Looks like those who counted on Cutler to put it all together this season in Chicago have hit it big. I believe in him going forward.

Mark Sanchez: 220 passing yards, 3 TDs

Not Buying It — “Sanchize” went from one of the worst games of his career to one of the best in just one week, but it’s hard to say he’ll do this on a regular basis. Sanchez may have the tools, but he’s still very young. He outplayed Tom Brady with the help of the Jets’ non-stop attacking defense.

New York will frequently rely on their running game and defense this season and allow Sanchez to do just enough not to lose. He’ll be better when Santonio Holmes gets on the field, but he won’t be matching Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s numbers every week.

Sanchez owners  should expect stats similar to what Matt Ryan has posted over the last couple of years.  Just be pleasantly surprised when he puts together a game like he did Sunday.

Shaun Hill: 335 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Not Buying It — Clearly, Hill can run the offense in Stafford’s absence, but he’s not going to create any quarterback controversy. Take away the 75-yard score by Jahvid Best, and this stat line reads 260 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, which is a little more ordinary.

Kyle Orton: 307 passing yards, 1 TD

Believe It — The Broncos are a passing team, and even though he didn’t take great advantage of that with passing touchdowns this week, Orton once again put up big yardage. Expect him to be a solid QB2 this season with QB1 upside depending on the matchup.

Mike Tolbert: 82 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch for 13 yards

Believe It — Mike Tolbert got the rock in Ryan Mathews absence, but unlike Snelling, he could be gunning for a larger share of the carries even when Mathews is healthy. Tolbert punched in 2 touchdowns and seemed adequate enough in the running game for San Diego. Meanwhile, Mathews seems to have a fumble problem.

The Chargers appear more apt to use Tolbert over Darren Sproles if Mathews were to miss any time or shows that he is too green to start at running back for a playoff contender. So take note of this stat line and waiver wire accordingly if you want to protect your Mathews investment or if you want to snipe a LeRon McClain-type talent to keep in reserve.

Kevin Walter: 11 catches for 144 yards, 1 TD

Not Buying It — The hype train is still rolling out of Jacoby Jones’ station. Jones also had a touchdown, but he didn’t rack up more than 100 yards like Water did. Expect these two to battle it out for a good while, similar to the way Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson seem to battle it out beside Marques Colston for the Saints.

It’s hard to predict who will be the most solid No. 2 fantasy wide receiver beside Andre Johnson on the Texans this season, but keep your eye on both Walter and Jones. Walter received a good amount of targets while Johnson was being attended to in the locker room, and I don’t believe his bigger game this Sunday means he’s won the competition.

Not mentioned for the sake of obviousness, Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Steelers D/ST, Peyton Manning, and Andre Johnson.

Believe it or not: Arian Foster, Hakeem Nicks and More Top Scorers from Week 1

If you played against Arian Foster this week, you lost. This rule applies to Peyton Manning. But what should we expect in Week 2?

Arian Foster: 231 yards, 3 TDs, 1 pass for 7 yards

Believe It – Foster came up big in Week 1 for the owners who jumped on his sleeper bandwagon. This week’s performance even makes drafting him as a No. 2 running back, and not the sleeper he was this offseason, reasonable. Will he repeat a performance like this? Maybe when he faces the Colts’ miserable run defense again in Week 8. But until then, expect him to hold down the RB2 spot on your team just fine.

If you want a Foster on your roster (yeah, I just said that), wait a few weeks. He faces the Redskins and the Cowboys in Week 2 and 3, which should chip away at his epic Week 1 performance and make his owner’s asking price a big more reasonable. The price won’t go down after Foster blows up the Raiders in Week 4, and there are a few more nice matchups for Foster in the chewy center of the Texans schedule.

Matt Forte: 50 yards, 7 passes for 151 yards and 2 TDs

Believe It – Another popular sleeper candidate makes the list this week. We spent all offseason trying to figure out which Bears’ receiver would benefit the most from the new offensive system by Mike Martz. Turns out, it was Forte in Week 1. It was worrisome that he had trouble punching one in on Sunday, but we’ll have to hope that improves. For now, just be glad he’s a big part of the passing game in this mad scientist system. Expect a few more weeks in which he looks like the Forte of old (2008) and makes for a very nice RB2.

David Garrard: 16-of-21 for 170 yards and 3 TDs

Not Buying It – It’s hard to believe that the Jags won through the air with Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield and when facing Champ Bailey and the Broncos…but they did. Garrard did throw primarily to his tight end Marcedes Lewis, who scored on both his touches.

Needless to say, when the Jaguars defense doesn’t get them the prime field position they benefited from against the Broncos, Garrard will have a more difficult time putting up these kinds of numbers, and Garrard doesn’t have many pushover secondaries on his schedule. Fool me twice before I believe in you, Garrard.

Marcedes Lewis: 2 passes for 31 yards and 2 TDs

Not Buying It - It certainly is efficient to score on both your touches in one game, but it doesn’t lead me to believe you’ll do it again. Lewis may have improved this offseason and may now be the red zone target in the Jaguars offense, but that still doesn’t mean his next 31 yards will get him into the end zone. Don’t jump on this bandwagon just yet. Plenty of talent at tight end this year anyway.

Hakeem Nicks: 4 passes for 75 yards and 3 TDs

Believe It – Nicks was supposed to be the guy that replaced Plaxico Burress in the Giants offense. In Week 1, he did. He wasn’t the most targeted receiver on the field (Steve Smith), and he didn’t get the most yardage (Mario Manningham). But he did get all the scores against a passing defense that kept a tight lid on wide receivers last season. Without Kevin Boss (injured Sunday) in the lineup, Nicks is the lone big man in the passing game.

I was a big fan of the Giants’ Steve Smith last season, but this season, all bets are off in the passing game as long as Nicks stays healthy. Eli Manning now has three excellent receivers to target, and Nicks could end up with the most points at the end of the day because he’s the easiest to hit in the end zone. Get him on your roster if you want to play the receiver lottery with the Giants this season. Eli Manning might just show us that last year wasn’t just a fluke.

Austin Collie: 10 passes for 131 yards and a TD

Not Buying It - Collie got most of his yardage on just one play for a touchdown, and even though I expect him to be a regular weapon in the Colts’ offense all season, I can’t fully buy his big Week 1 performance because it won’t be a lock to happen again. He’s a great weekly sub if you have an opening for an occasional WR3, but don’t rush out to grab him. You’ll be taking a chance every time you start him.

Darren McFadden: 95 yards, 6 passes for 55 yards and a TD

Not Buying It (Long-term) – Even a blind squirrel finds the end zone every now and then. McFadden had free reign in the running game this week against the Titans with Michael Bush still recovering from surgery on his hand, but I don’t expect him to get the majority of carries once Bush is back to full healthy. He does have a promising matchup against the Rams in Week 2, but as Bush works his way back on the field, McFadden is likely to work his way out of your heart. If his current owner is willing to sell him cheap, take that price and see what you can get out of him. But I think the better gamble is to “buy low” on Michael Bush while McFadden is getting all the attention.

Michael Vick: 16-for-24 for 175 yards and a TD, 103 rushing yards

Not Buying It (Long-term) – Whaaaa? Now that’s not a name you expected to see on the top of the pile Sunday, but when Kevin Kolb got concussed, Vick showed us why the Eagles coveted him the most this offseason of all the Eagles quarterbacks. He’s a nice security blanket for Kolb until the young guy finds his football legs, and Vick could start in Week 2 if Kolb is not cleared from his concussion.

Watch the latest updates (or follow me on Twitter) to see whether Vick gets his second chance to shine, but as long as Andy Reid insists there is no quarterback controversy, Vick is nothing more than a long-term gamble who might pay off if Kolb suffers another injury or struggles to get back on the field after this concussion. Still, you might entertain the idea of grabbing him if you have some room on your roster and no affiliation with PETA.

Notice a name I didn’t cover among the top scorers this Sunday? Feel free to spark up a conversation in the comments, but note that I assume you’ve heard of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Chris Johnson, Miles Austin, and Chad Ochocinco, which is why they weren’t listed here.

How to Win Your Fantasy Football League on Draft Day – vers. 2010

When it comes to fantasy football draft strategy, I’ve tried almost everything. RB-RB? Of course. Draft a quarterback in the first round? Sure. WR-WR? Most definitely. But all this trial and error has paid off.

After hammering out what I think is my best strategy to date last season in the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy and deciding how to play the first round, I think I’ve finally refined the best way to win your league on draft day this season.

And I’m going to share it with you.

What you need to win

Traditionally, we all took running backs because they were scarce. Not every team had a workhorse running back, and in a 12-team league, we needed to start at least 24 of them.

But now, there are 50+ running backs available since every team in the NFL has a time share. So after the five elite running backs are off the board — Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore — we don’t have to use a first-round pick on a running back.

Not to say that you don’t need a decent running back. You just don’t have to pay a first-round price for one. It’s always nice to have a promising guy like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Shonn Greene, Ryan Mathews, Ryan Grant, or Cedric Benson on your roster. But you can make do if you miss out on them.

You’ll notice I didn’t list Steven Jackson or Rashard Mendenhall on that list. I did that on purpose. They are on the cusp of what I would consider the top, reliable running backs, but they scare me more than they excite me this season. And much like the ladies, that’s not going to work for me when it comes to running backs.

Quarterbacks, while valuable, aren’t as scarce as running backs because each team only needs one. I love me some quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong, but only a select few — Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady — are worth taking in the first three rounds. If you miss out on them, you should wait. (But DON’T miss out on them. More on this later.)

That leaves wide receivers. If you’re following me so far, you understand that wide receivers are the new running backs. Receivers have become more reliable and valuable as the NFL becomes more and more passer-friendly. The top receivers are worth building a team around and can give you an advantage if you know how to draft your running backs late.

Guys like Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings are more consistent than the rest of the pack you’ll be able to draft later. My list of elites for this season also includes Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin, Roddy White, DeSean Jackson, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, and Sidney Rice with Larry Fitzgerald right on the edge of greatness. (I’m not a fan of Matt Leinart at quarterback this season.)

So draft your elite wide receivers early and often, and you’ll have an advantage.

Every team needs at least one of these top wideouts to “win” their draft, but you’re even better off if you can nab two of them to fill your starting roster. Of course, that’s assuming that you start two wide receivers. If you start three wide receivers, I’d still limit myself to taking two elites early because you can wait on the third just to make sure you don’t miss out entirely on running back value.

I’ll explain the strategy I recommend to make this happen, but before I do that, a side note.

Plans: Made to be broken

No draft ever goes exactly to plan. You can’t know whom the rest of your league is going to draft. Several teams could draft quarterbacks in the first round, or no one could draft a quarterback for three rounds. We really don’t know. So you have to be able to adjust to what your league is giving you. That’s why I recommend the tiered draft cheatsheets, and that’s why I can’t tell you exactly how to draft each position.

So much like my first round strategy from last season, this strategy is just a starting point. Deviate from it as you have to in order to draft the best team possible.

Strategy on draft day

In 2010, I believe a championship team needs one of the elite quarterbacks and at least two of the elite wide receivers. If you get a reliable running back, more power to you.

And it’s all about how you play the first three rounds.

If you have a shot, go with one of the elite five running backs. You can build a solid team around a guy that is highly involved in the offense. While you might miss out on an elite quarterback because you’ll have to look at wide receivers in the second and third rounds, you can recover from that.

If you don’t get a shot at one of the elite running backs, you have you’re pick of WR-WR-QB, WR-QB-WR, or QB-WR-WR in the first three rounds. I like these sequences this season, and I think they maximize the value you get in the first three rounds.

Don’t use QB-WR-WR unless you really want Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning this season and your league scores passing touchdowns at six points. I don’t think any of the other elite quarterbacks should be considered until the second round.

In the fourth round, when it comes time to draft running backs, try to take the two best guys on the board right away. More than likely, other members of your league have moved on to drafting what’s left of the wide receivers and quarterbacks. You’ll have your pick of a good group of mid-level running backs who have the potential for greatness.

As you enter the chewy center of your draft, I’d suggest using the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy principles. Draft value and aim for sleepers rather than “safe” and “dependable” guys. You got your safe picks at the top of draft. For example, I’d rather have Jamaal Charles than Joseph Addai. I’d rather have Beanie Wells than Clinton Portis or Ricky Williams.

Make a special effort to get a lot of running backs. Since you didn’t draft them high, you’ll best protect yourself by drafting more of them. You want to load your roster with as many guys as possible who have the potential to be a top performer even if they’re currently a backup on their NFL roster.

You can also draft a few sleeper wide receivers later in the draft to compliment your studs. These wide receivers could become trade bait or free you up to trade your studs for one of the elite RBs you missed out on earlier in the draft. You can find a few good ones in Chris Harris’ article on “moneyball” wide receivers at ESPN.

With this strategy, you’ll “win” your draft just like I won mine.

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.