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.

Foolish Thoughts on 2009 Season: So why didn’t we all draft Chris Johnson?

It’s insanity. That’s what fantasy football is when it comes to the playoffs. Jonathan Stewart and Jerome Harrison become huge fantasy steals in the final two games, and studs that you’ve depending on all season like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers clam up and shut down early, even in blowout wins. At least Chris Johnson has continued to be magical every week.

I forget how bizarre it really becomes until it’s this time of year again.

Now Harrison will likely compel some fantasy footballers to draft him as an RB3 or maybe even an RB2 next season. Jamaal Charles could be right up there with him. We can only hope that neither is next year’s Steve Slaton or Pierre Thomas, hot in the playoffs but average or inconsistent the following season when given the full responsibility and trust of fantasy owners.

In Charles’ case, I think he’s got a real chance to thrive in the Kansas City offense as long as the current coaching staff stays intact. He’s a great receiving back, and even if the Chiefs decide that they need to bring in a bigger runner to take some of the carries and compliment Charles in the offseason — LenDale White is available, or so I hear — Charles should get plenty of chances to put up big numbers as part of the explosive offense Todd Haley is trying to create.

Out of the five fantasy football leagues I played in this season, I made the playoffs in three and had the chance to play for three championships this week. Of those, I won two and lost one by just a single point (as long as current calculations hold up) after Peterson racked up those two short-yardage touchdowns last night. It was incredibly frustrating, but I can’t be completely unhappy with the results. Even losing that one championship game out of three, this year has been my best season so far.

And next season, I want to focus even more on the leagues that were truly competitive. I’ve reduced the number of leagues I played in over the past two seasons. This year, I was down to five, and next season, I’ll probably take it down another league or two until I find the sweet spot for managing leagues, writing fantasy football analysis, and enjoying the game.

Here are some questions you can answer in the comments below: How many leagues do you play in? Do you find it more fun to play in a small number of leagues or as many as possible? These are the decisions I always debate this time of year.

I think I’m one of the few fantasy football fans out there, especially among fantasy football bloggers, who cares more about their real team winning (in my case, the Cowboys) than their fantasy team. It excited me to no end when the Cowboys shutout the Redskins last night and secured a playoff spot.

I wasn’t nearly as pumped when my fantasy football teams made the playoffs. Satisfied? Yes, but excited? Not off-the-wall excited. That said, it wasn’t a close call for any of them either. I knew weeks in advance that I was bound for the playoffs.

I’d hope we’re all fans of the game and the action-packed saga that is the NFL. If not for it, we wouldn’t have fantasy football.

So even if you lost your league, even if you got shot down in the championship game, even if your league dues were wasted as soon as you drafted Brian Westbrook and Matt Forte, I hope you’ll sit down and watch a few more games next week and deep into the playoffs.

Playoff football is a treat that only comes around once each year, much like the holiday season that just passed. Our presents? The Super Bowl, one of the most extravagant and exciting sporting events in all the land.

If you truly want to win in fantasy football, I think you first have to love the game because you have to understand how to translate what you watch and get excited about on the field into what works on your fantasy roster. So sit down, crack open a cold one (or a nice, frosty beverage of a less alcoholic persuasion if that’s your thing), and enjoy some football over the next month.

Of course, it’d be nice to know you’re all doing it with a championship trophy on your mantel, like me, but if you didn’t win, there’s no shame in cheering your fantasy studs on to a Super Bowl as you start to prep for next season.

And don’t feel like the fantasy season has to end. I’ll still be posting to Fantasy Football Fools because we have to start looking ahead to 2010 and because I still have some prizes to give to you, my dear readers. If you need help with Week 17 decisions (for those terrible, terrible leagues that go into the dreaded final week of the regular season), drop me a line on Twitter or in the comments.

Thanks again for reading Fantasy Football Fools this season and being part of the foolish community. Stay tuned for more over the coming days. Even if you didn’t win your championship, you deserve to take home some prizes.

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.

The Team That Knocked You Out of the Playoffs in Week 14

The playoffs are truly fickle. Just like your high school girlfriend (well, if you had a girlfriend), they tire of you after about two weeks.

If you lost in Week 14, you can probably identify a few names on your new hate list, updated daily while you rub lipstick on your face and cry, from the “Team of the Week” that the FF Geek Blog assembled.

At least they were big name guys. It’s not like you wouldn’t see Ray Rice or Chris Johnson coming. Well, you might not see Chris Johnson coming, but that’s only because he breaks the speed of light every now and then on his way to the end zone.

Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, and DeSean Jackson have all been phenomenal this season, and Dallas Clark is a fixture of the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. No unknowns there.

True to their form of yesteryear, the Titans won off their kicking game (Rob Bironas) and defense. That’s easy to do when you play St. Louis and have to sub Kerry Collins in for Vince Young mid “wrecking shop.”

No, the only two potential “surprises” that I can identify are Eli Manning and Ryan Grant. Grant because he has never quite regained the hype he had at the end of 2007 when he complemented Brett Favre deep into the playoffs, and Eli Manning because… well, he’s the dopey Manning brother we all love to hate, right? He’s not supposed to be the one pulling out all the stops in the passing game.

In truth, the defense of the week was San Francisco’s opportunistic performance against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, but that was after the FF Geeks put together their list. The Cardinals couldn’t hold onto the ball at all on the MNF stage. Something tells me that Arizona will no longer serve popcorn or any other butter products in the locker room.

But you have a good right to be mad if you lost to Quinton Ganther or Devin Aromashodu. They truly came out of nowhere in the final weeks of the season — and by nowhere, I mean the depths of the depth chart.

Ganther, a name that sounds about as horrible as you want it to be, was the “next name on the list” for the Redskins. He wasn’t even on the roster at the beginning of the season. Now, he probably ate your babies in Week 14 if one of your opponents took a chance on starting him. Two touchdowns in just his first NFL start? That burns. It really does. But remember, it was the Raiders.

Devin Aromashodu is not, as I learned today, a samurai warrior destined to roam the hills and valleys of the Windy City battling the power of scent. He is, in fact, the “other Devin” on the Bears roster.

And yes, I lied about not knowing who Aromashodu was for the sake of using that joke. I have no boundaries. I’m like Richie Incognito.

The “other Devin” is a big target the Bears haven’t been able to use thus far this season, but it looks like he might be worth keeping on the field. Against the Packers, Aromashodu racked up 76 yards and a touchdown. Just the kind of performance a desperation playoff opponent would have loved to supply, but it’s hardly likely that anyone in your league did it.

Ganther, though, we can all hate freely.

Along with these good days, there were a couple of notable bad performances: Aaron Rodgers and Randy Moss.

I was lucky enough to have a bye for the team on which I own them both — whew — but if you weren’t as lucky, you might not be in the playoff hunt any longer.

This week, I have to believe that both will get on track. Rodgers faces the Steelers spirit-less secondary, and Randy Moss gets the Bills. As long as the weather is not “kind of frightful” in Buffalo, I think there’s a good chance we see more of the Randy we’ve been used to in Patriot blue.

Foolish Thoughts: A Thank You Before the Playoffs

It’s over. Done. Finished.

After 13 weeks, we enter into the period of time most leagues block off as their fantasy playoffs. It seems like only yesterday we were drafting…

Sigh.

The fantasy regular season is no more, except in those barbaric leagues that still play a championship game in Week 17 or leagues with two-week playoffs that begin next week.

Either way, I hope many of you are sitting pretty awaiting your shot at a championship trophy.

For me, this week is a welcome break from the craziness of the past 13 weeks. All but one of my leagues just finished the regular season, and I’ll now get a week off from some of my leagues with a bye week as the No. 1 seed.

Sorry, I don’t mean to brag… okay, okay, I very much mean to brag … but it’s nice to have the week off to some extent.

For those of you who are still in the heat of things, the waiver wire and start/sit postings will continue in limited form this week, but as I’m sure you’ve realized in the past two weeks, there isn’t much left to grab off the waiver wire at this point in the season.

If you’ve lost out already, no longer needing fantasy advice this season, that’s okay, too. I’ll have a few prizes and contests this week and next to keep things interesting, and I’ll wrap up a few articles that I’ve been working on this season.

For those of you who read and took my advice this season, I thank you for continuing to support Fantasy Football Fools. This blog has become more of a commitment than I ever thought it would be, but I thoroughly enjoy talking fantasy football with you each and every week. I hope you feel the same.

I’m sure my coworkers, friends, and family thank you for sparing them from all the complaints about Brandon Jacob’s failures this season… until this week, of course, when no one wants to see him do well.

If you have any questions as you prepare for the playoffs, feel free to contact me directly, and best of luck to you all.

Vince Young: Playoff Pickup or Passable Projections?

Sports Data Hub recently investigated the usefulness [SDH no longer has this online] of Vince Young for the rest of the season, but that analysis was optimistically given before his come-from-behind fourth-quarter drive for the win against the Cardinals. Those last-second heroics capped off a fantasy day that had him throwing for almost 400 yards.

If you watched VY doin’ work against the Cardinals, you might just be a believer now.

I’ll make no claims to being unbiased about Young. I’m a Longhorn, and thus have a higher level of respect for him and his abilities than the average NFL fan. That said, I’ve done the research and looked into what he might do during the fantasy playoffs thanks to an email from a reader (just like you).

Originally, I was asked to compare the potential of Kyle Orton and Vince Young as a matchup play during the fantasy playoffs, filling in from a more promising fantasy starter during his bad weeks.

I’m not sure what to think of Orton on his way back from an ankle injury, but his schedule comparison side-by-side with Young’s puts Young’s upside in perspective.

Orton fell off the charts last season when an ankle injury struck, which makes me want to avoid him, but he has been a solid backup fantasy quarterback for many teams this year. Against the Giants, the Broncos got it done by leaning on Knowshon Moreno, and that could continue to be the way they win.

Orton’s upcoming schedule looks a little rough at first sight…and again at second sight. The number in parenthesis is the opponent’s rank in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks from FF Today. Obviously, the lower the number, the more points they give to fantasy quarterbacks.

Orton – Week 13: @KC (4), 14: @IND (25), 15: OAK (21), 16: @PHI (17), 17: KC (4).

Young’s schedule is better, but can we count on him to deliver like he did against the Cardinals even in these cupcake matchups?

Young – Week 13: @IND (25), 14: STL (12), 15: MIA (6), 16: SD (26), 17: SEA (9)

Let’s drop Week 17, assuming that you play your championship game in Week 16, and average those ranks during the fantasy playoffs, Weeks 14-16. In this case, the lower number would indicate be a more favorable schedule.

Orton: 21
VY: 15

That’s enough of a difference for me to project that Young would be the better start through Week 16. You could argue that Orton is a more traditional passer and a safer pick, but I just think the upside is there for Young to succeed.

No, I wouldn’t want to be forced to rely on Young in a pinch. But if your starter has a terrible matchup in the playoffs, or if you just lost Kurt Warner or Ben Roethlisberger for an unknown amount of time, Young wouldn’t be bad playoff insurance. He may even be worth spot-starting in Week 14 against the Rams.

So there you go. Detailed analysis with the Longhorn bias held back. Hook ‘em.

On the Wire: Week 13 Pickups, Vince Young, Fred Jackson, and Playoff Depth

Let’s not play games. I know you’re most likely looking for just one or two players to complete your fantasy football playoff dynasty before Week 13 or ignoring most of the free agents for a chance to ride out the season while looking nonchalant. Chicks dig nonchalant.

While it’s always admirable to fight to the bitter end, it is hard to find your motivation at this point in the season. That’s when being bitter and hardened by fury comes in handy. You have to encapsulate all that disappointment you experience throughout the season as your team loses and unleash it this week by making your team a one-week force to be reckoned with, purely for the sake of knocking someone out of the playoffs.

You may never look at the draft board from this season again. Maybe you did that poorly, but you can always tell Steve that you killed his chance at a championship in 2009. I imagine all losers are named Steve. Sorry, Steve! Not you, the other one. He’ll never forget that, not even when the dementia kicks in.

So play like a champion today. Treat your opponent like that dirty defensive end portrayed in The Blind Side and be the Michael Oher who takes him to the bus because it was time for him to leave.

I trust you will do some damage.

Now, on to the next harsh reality. There’s not a lot to go around right now in your fantasy league. I’m sure of it. By now, teams have been scrounging for a way to make it to the playoffs that any good picks are off the board.

There are only a few gems left to be plucked, mostly from this week’s action. For more potent waiver wire grabs, see the last few weeks of On the Wire. It was good stuff. Oh, those were the days.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — Young has been clutch for the Titans since taking over as the starter, and he has a sweet three-game home stretch during the fantasy playoffs. He’s not an impact starter if your team is bound for playoff glory, but picking him up as an insurance policy and backup is highly recommended, especially if your current starter has a tough game when VY faces the Rams.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills — I’m not sold on Jackson being back in business for the Bills. Marshawn Lynch may be banged-up, but he’s still the more talented runner in this backfield despite his recent lack of production. I’d blame the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line for that. Still, Jackson looks like he’s returning to his early-season form…for now, and he scored twice last week.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Not dead, apparently, and also very good at catching passes from Josh Freeman. Bryant became a fantasy stud at the end of last season, and if he’s completely healthy now, he could get back to it. The way the Bucs secondary gives away points right now, Freeman should be throwing it plenty for the rest of the season.

Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — If you own Cedric Benson, you might consider getting some insurance for him by picking up L.J. Once their playoff hopes are secure, Benson could see a reduced workload so that the Bengals can have him at full strength when they get to the playoffs, and that’s if Benson even returns to the starting lineup this week as expected.

Matt Moore, QB, Carolina Panthers — For those of you looking to play David to a playoff-hopeful’s Goliath this week, Moore could get the start if Jake Delhomme sits out with a broken finger. Playing the Bucs seems promising.

Jason Avant, WR, Philadelphia Eagles — I’m not a huge fan of any Eagles wide receiver. They spread the ball around too much, and just when you think they’ll have a huge day, the Eagles disappoint. But Avant should be a factor if DeSean Jackson misses any games. Besides, he’s gotten involved enough in recent weeks to provide wide receiver depth for your squad.

Chris Redman, QB, Atlanta Falcons — And standing in for Matt Ryan is another one-week play for the bitter hearts, but this one has to play the Eagles.

Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta Falcons — He looks like the better play than Jason Snelling right now based on how he was used when Turner got injured late in the game. I don’t love any of the fill-in Falcons against an aggressive Eagles defense pushing to make the playoffs, but Norwood has some explosive qualities that could do his fantasy point totals some good this week.

For more waiver wire claims, compare notes with The Talented Mr. Roto, Fantasy Joe, Fanhouse, The FF Geek Blog, FF Toolbox, and KFFL.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Waiver wire stashes for the fantasy playoffs

So you’re prepping your team for the final push, but you’re worried you need a couple more warm bodies? Well, that’s not a problem. That’s what a fantasy football roundtable is for.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate topic came from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru. He asked:

Waivers are about to close in some leagues for the playoffs; who should we be grabbing for the final push?

My entry to the fantasy football roundtable:

Two players that I’d grab for the final playoff push are Mike Bell and Mohamed Massaquoi. There are far better options out there if you’re making a playoff push, but I’m assuming that both of these players would be available in most leagues right now as free agents.

Bell has been vulturing touchdowns from Pierre Thomas throughout the season, and while I’d hate to rely on him in a critical playoff week, if you were forced to start him, I wouldn’t consider it the end of the world. Bell has a chance to score in every game the Saints play from now until the end of the season, and he’s been the closer for the Saints in games they put away early.

Massaquoi is part of one of the most miserable offenses in the NFL. Luckily, he gets to play two of the most miserable defenses in the NFL in Weeks 15-16, the Chiefs and the Raiders. If you need a desperation play wide receiver for Week 15 or 16 due to injuries, Massaquoi might just do the trick. In deeper leagues, he’s worth considering for a WR3 spot those two weeks.

For all this week’s entries to the Fourth & 1 Debate, check out the complete fantasy football roundtable at Hatty Waiver Wire Guru.

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.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Strategy adjustments for Thursday Night Football

Last week’s question for the Fourth & 1 Debate was an interesting one from Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor, and since I didn’t get a chance to share it last week, it’s worth sharing this week before our second Thursday Night Football game of the season. The question:

What adjustments do you make to your fantasy strategy in the second half with games now being played on Thursdays?

My answer:

Well, for starters, I set my lineups on Thursdays rather than Fridays or Saturdays. I find that helps.

But more to the point, by the time that Thursday play rolls around, my fantasy football roster has become almost set. Extra defenses and tight ends have been moved through trades or waivers because there’s no need to carry them. Starters and bench depth has been established, and I’m going with a pretty core group every week that’s performing at a high level.

There won’t be too many more waiver wire adds or trades to shake up my roster, so it makes it easy to have it set and ready to go on Wednesday or Thursday. My roster has been simplified.

Though having fantasy points accumulated on Friday morning does add some extra layers of strategy to the decisions I make on Fridays and Saturdays.

Say my Thursday night starter failed me completely. I may sub out a more reliable starter with little chance of a big day like Matt Forte for a more boom-bust guy who could save my week like Steve Slaton. It just depends on how deep I am in the hole.

It also works the other way. If Devin Hester locks up 30 points for me on Thursday, I may sub out Robert Meachem for a reliable guy like Muhsin Muhammed. Nothing flashy, but he gets the job done. It’s not as likely that I make a conservative play like this. Why show mercy? But I could see it as a possibility if I was just looking to make sure I had that 8-10 points of padding necessary to stay ahead of my opponent.

For the complete fantasy football roundtable, visit Rotoprofessor’s compilation post of the debate.

And if you missed the question from two weeks ago, when I asked what players to target for your playoff run, be sure to read up on those tips from the fantasy football roundtable as well.