It’s that time again. Time to dust off the old lineups and see what you’ve got for Week 2. Lucky for us, we now have one week of games to look at and make judgment calls, but it’s still pretty hard to tell whether the Bucs and Chiefs are good…or whether the Browns and Chargers are just that bad.
If you got your hands on Brandon Jackson this week off the waiver wire, you’re sitting pretty with his too tempting matchup with the Buffalo defense. Gotta love it. Start that hot hand.
And I’m giddy that Ahmad Bradshaw gets a chance to go up against the Indy run defense that just surrendered 3 TDs to Arian Foster in Week 1.
But it’s feeling pretty chilly in Miami for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, whose cold shoulders have to face the stout Minnesota Vikings D/ST.
Chad Henne doesn’t quite provide the same threat to pass as Drew Brees. Without a substantial threat, the Vikings will be able focus on stopping the run and keep Brown from unleashing the Wildcat in Week 2.
I really want to like Cadillac Williams like TMR does this week. I really do. But I’m having a hard time. Something about not scoring against the Browns just rubs me the wrong way, and this talk of getting the other running backs more involved from Bucs’ coach Raheem Morris doesn’t help.
It’s Week 2, but even though I own him in one league, I don’t see myself starting him (That’s what Brandon Jackson is for). I’d rather have more than 8-9 points out of my RB2.
Jabar Gaffney is another hot hand in Denver. He faces the Seattle Seahawks this week, and I’m not convinced that the Seahawks played the real 49ers in Week 1.
Strangely enough, I want to give the Chiefs D/ST a chance this week. That Monday night performance against the Chargers was miraculous. Dexter McCluster looks like a touchdown waiting to happen everytime he’s in the game. With him returning kicks, what’s not to like? I like it all, especially against the Browns.
KC’s defense might just outperform expectations as long as you have a sub for them when they visit the Colts and the Texans in back-to-back weeks. That won’t be pretty.
I am doubting the Vikings this week. As I said earlier in the week, they haven’t shown me anything in the passing game that excites me. I have no confidence in them.
So why am I going to start Brett Favre over Jay Cutler? I just fear the Dallas pass rush vs. a Mike Martz offense that much. Favre is the safe play, and I guess I am playing it safe. I hate it when I do that.
FFXtreme loves DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart while they be hating on Cedric Benson. I am not part of the DeAngelo Williams fan club, but there is a lot to like about anyone facing Tampa Bay’s run defense.
If you want to play the Williams and “The Daily Show” (Jonathan Stewart) game, this week is as good as any to play it. Fingers crossed the one you pick gets the TDs.
On the Benson front, I know he tore up the Ravens last season, but I think they’ll remember him for that. The Ravens weakness is in the secondary, where they are without Ed Reed and have suffered a lot of injuries this preseason. The front seven will have to compensate, and priority No. 1 of that compensation plan is accounting for Benson. Much like the Jets-Ravens game last week, this game will probably come down to who capitalizes on their possessions and takes care of the football. Look elsewhere if you have any more exciting options.
Fanhouse’s got some sleepers for you like Mike Bell and Seneca Wallace, and I’m seriously considering starting Legedu Naanee.
USA Today’s Fantasy Joe is one of the few places I see recommending Todd Heap. If he can stay healthy, I tend to agree with them.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a look from Sports Data Hub at the top fantasy performers at each position as of the beginning of December. [Update: Link no longer available]
We all wish we could go back to the draft and change something, whether we want to draft Miles Austin or not draft Matt Forte, but looking at the cold, raw numbers after almost an entire fantasy football season shows us many of our mistakes (and in bar graph form, which makes it slightly less depressing).
Where did we get surprised?
The big surprise at quarterback this year for me was Brett Favre, who not only joined the ranks late but also became a fantasy stud down the stretch. He may be fading now, but he still established himself among the top at the position for another year. As much as I loathe him, I’ll give him credit for that.
Jay Cutler, on the other hand, bottomed out more than expected. Clearly, the receiver situation in Chicago isn’t to his liking, and he’s not comfortable in that offense just yet.
Time will tell whether the team takes a new direction by getting a new offensive coordinator or makes a move to acquire a top talent at wide receiver like Anquan Boldin. The only problem with the latter solution is all the picks they gave away to get Cutler in the last offseason.
Cutler’s performance against the Vikings on Monday Night Football could be a good sign that they’re getting on track for 2010.
Chris Johnson was an iffy top running back prospect to start the year. Some took the chance and were greatly rewarded. Others warned that LenDale White would still steal all his scoring opportunities. It’s clear he’s become a fantasy force, one who will continue to be highly drafted. He’s probably the No. 1 overall pick in your draft next season.
But the big surprise was Ray Rice (even though I predicted he’d be good, I didn’t know he’d be this good). He jumped from a murky Baltimore running back situation to become one of the top backs in fantasy, and he’ll probably stay among the elite with Willis McGahee on his way out.
Ricky Williams and Thomas Jones certainly have more staying power than any of us realized. They’re still getting it done, even at their advanced age. Williams owes his scoring chances early in the year to Ronnie Brown, who made the Wildcat a legitimate threat at the goal line throughout his reign of terror until he was injured.
It’ll be interesting to see what Miami and New York do in the offseason. Ronnie Brown is likely to assume the starting duties again once he is healthy, but New York could part ways with Jones if they so choose, opting instead to ride Leon Washington and rookie pounder Shonn Greene.
In recent weeks, they’ve given Greene more than his usual number of carries to see what they have behind Jones for next season.
DeSean Jackson came up in the world in a big way as McNabb’s favorite target this season. Is it finally safe to start a Philadelphia receiver? It seems that way for 2010.
The hot names to add to the list of the elite are Miles Austin and Sidney Rice. Both were touted for their physical attributes and explosive talents, but neither had lived up to expectations, falling victim to injury or being buried on the depth chart the past two seasons.
Rice broke out this season as the Vikings’ biggest threat in the passing game, and he’ll only get better, regardless of who comes in to quarterback Minnesota once Favre finally leaves — but will that EVER happen?
Austin should continue to be one of Tony Romo’s favorite, most trusted targets, and that’s extremely valuable with a quarterback as determined to make a play as Romo is every down.
Vernon Davis, we hardly knew ye. He did it. He finally did it. All it took was a new coach and a new offense geared around his ability to separate from mismatches. Well done, sir.
Brent Celek also proved that the Eagles had really been missing L.J. Smith’s contributions in recent years when injury and ineffectiveness kept Smith from playing the part. Celek’s role at tight end in the Philadelphia offense only adds to the stockpile of weapons at Andy Reid’s disposal.
Ha, just kidding. Nothing’s drastically shifted here, but there was a lot of musical chairs being played around the league as certain kickers lost their leg and teams were forced to make a change.
This year has been a surprising one once again, at least for me. A lot of players that we’d looked forward to seeing finally made a show of themselves. It’s safe to say I wish all my leagues were keeper leagues. The young talent we’ve seen this year should be a factor in fantasy football for years to come.
So now, armed with the knowledge of what’s altered the fantasy landscape this season, what can we say? Better luck next year?
When one of your fantasy football studs gets injured, fantasy owners usually face a tough decision. Should you go get that backup, the one who hasn’t seen more than five touches in any game this year? Or should you just find another running back or wide receiver on the waiver wire who’ll get it done until your stud returns?
Especially early in the fantasy season, I’ve often avoided taking the backups and gone the other way. Why? Well, I like instant gratification.
In rare cases, NFL backups outperform the former starter as Steve Slaton did last season, and it’s not easy to expect them to match the production of the starter they replace. Most of the time, backups need a week or two to get accustomed to their new role in the offense and to gain the trust of the rest of the team.
But in Week 11, you didn’t have to wait.
Ricky Williams, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Bernard Scott, and LeSean McCoy all went off for the owners of Julius Jones, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, and Brian Westbrook who were able to find some help on the waiver wire.
Even those who started desperation-play Jamaal Charles against the Steelers or Beanie Wells as a good-on-paper start against St. Louis were rewarded.
The only bad replacements this week were Chris Simms, who was pulled for a still-injured Kyle Orton after failing to score on the Chargers, and Ladell Betts, who tore both his ACL and PCL against the Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season.
In the case of Forsett and McCoy, this week could be a changing of the guard. Julius Jones has never lived up to expectations since signing with the Seahawks, and Westbrook might never see the field again this season after suffering his second concussion.
For Charles’ and Wells’ fantasy owners, this sets up a nice looking playoff picture.
Williams seems like he’ll be okay without his Wildcat partner Ronnie Brown as he secured the top spot for running backs in most fantasy scoring formats. His performance should serve as a reminder of how much you can benefit from stocking your bench with guys who are just one small injury away from a lucrative starting job.
Scott rushed for 119 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards against the Oakland Raiders defense in a loss, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get a shot against the Browns and the Lions since Benson could return.
Snelling’s in the same spot. Despite scoring twice and coming in second in fantasy scoring for running backs, Snelling could see Jerious Norwood cut into his carries if Norwood’s healthier in Week 12. There’s also a chance that Michael Turner could make an early return.
But you can’t be disappointed with this kind of late-season “early bloomers.”
Maybe it’s a good sign for those owners who suffered more injuries this week.
Kurt Warner bowed out at halftime after suffering a couple of blows to the head. With that playoff schedule, Matt Leinart would be in high demand if Warner misses a game.
Big Ben “fall down, go boom” in overtime against the Chiefs with a hit to his noggin, and soon after, backup quarterback Charlie Batch injured his wrist enough to keep him out the rest of the regular season. That leaves Dennis Dixon sitting in the quarterback seat unless Big Ben is healthy enough to start on Sunday.
With Betts out, Rock Cartwright ran for 67 rushing yards and had seven catches for 73 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins might soon regret not taking a shot at Larry Johnson. Without the services of Portis, Washington may be forced to go get Shaun Alexander as depth at running back.
Heaven forbid you were counting on Marc Bulger for your team, but he’ll miss the rest of the fantasy regular season with a fractured tibia. Kyle Boller takes over, which could be a blessing or a curse for Steven Jackson’s owners.
Just for the sake of noting a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound…Terrell Owens caught nine for 197 yards and a touchdown, most of that on one long touchdown strike. You leave that guy open and he’s dangerous.
But how often will the opposing team make that mistake against the Bills?
In what might qualify as a charity game, Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn had multi-touchdown days. Stafford threw for five touchdowns; Quinn had four. It must have seemed just like practice for them to play against such terrible defense. At least leading receivers Calvin Johnson and Mohamed Massaquoi had a good time with it.
I know nothing of Twilight. I like it that way, but this debate that’s been raging across all my television channels, including my sports channels, has annoyed me to no end, especially because they used my name.
From what I can gather, my namesake Jacob is a werewolf who is loyal and the complete “nice guy.” Figures.
Edward, on the other hand (and correct me if I am wrong), is a total douche of a vampire who’s the “dangerous” one. Also typical.
I have no allegiance to either camp; in fact, I’d love if this book series, or “saga” as the TV loves to call it, disappeared off the planet, along with “So You Think You Can Dance” and the like.
Still, I can draw a parallel to fantasy football (because that’s what you least expected).
You see, Jacob is dependable, honest, and trustworthy. He’s your Thomas Jones. Through the good and the bad, he gets his yards and does the best he can to score. He may not be exceptional, but you have to love that schedule down the stretch.
While Edward, jackass that he is, is Beanie Wells. He’s risky and exciting, and ladies probably love him for his burst. I would even guess that Wells turns to crystal in the sunlight because that makes absolutely no sense in vampire lore. THEY DIE IN THE SUN, YOU IDIOTS; otherwise, why would they not take over the world by now?
So you can pick your poison with these Twilight guys. Dangerous or dependable? I like both of them, Jones and Wells, enough to start them this week, but we’ll see which one turns to crystal in the sun.
And while we’re at it (and done talking about Twilight), here are a few more mythical creatures that I would consider starting.
Hot Hands Starts of the Week
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Panthers — Ricky Williams comes into Carolina with a 50/50 chance of 100+ yards against the Panthers based on his previous performances. With running mate Ronnie Brown out for the year, I’d say the odds are even better for him. Carolina’s run defense has not been cutting it all season.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Colts — Rice has been top-notch in his last seven games. Against the Colts weakened run defense, he should make it eight. But be warned, that playoffs schedule looks rough.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Eagles — It’s been a rough few weeks, but Philly’s secondary is weakened just enough by injuries and suspensions for this to work.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Broncos – So I guess he’s not completely dead. I knew that San Diego needed new blood to get their running game going. I didn’t expect that new blood to be a baby on the way for L.T. and Mrs. L.T. The Broncos should have some trouble stopping him this week, but do not go into this expecting another blowout affair. You can only get pregnant once…every nine months…as far as I’m aware.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints vs. Bucs – Since when is Bush a goal line back? Insanity, but the Saints like using him on those dive-into-the-end-zone plays. He makes a solid start against Tampa Bay as long as the trend continues, and I think it will. The Bucs can’t stop any running back on defense.
Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week
Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks vs. Vikings — You may have picked him on waivers this week, but you won’t be seeing much production. Minnesota has allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season. Forsett won’t get the third. He has some talent in the receiving game, but I see the Vikings putting plenty of pressure on Matt Hasselbeck.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins vs. Cowboys — It’s easy to single out a guy like Moss, but he’s actually being recommended as a start against the Cowboys this week in several places. I don’t like him. The Cowboys secondary and pass rush has kept wide receivers under wraps in recent weeks. The Redskins anemic offense shouldn’t break that trend.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons vs. Giants — The Giants are coming off a bye with plenty of time to prep for the struggling Atlanta passing game. The expected return of Aaron Ross to the secondary shouldn’t hurt either.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Steelers — Charles finally got his touchdown, and he has a beauty of a schedule down the stretch. This week is not part of that. The Steelers should look to squash him out as the Chiefs’ main offensive weapon now that Dwayne Bowe will sit for four weeks, and Pittsburgh should limit his chances in the passing game enough to make him a flex start at best, even in PPR leagues.
Randy Moss, WR, Patriots vs. Jets — Mark this down under “you’re not going to listen to me but…” Darrelle Revis shut down Moss last time the Pats faced the Jets, and though Tom Brady has stepped his game up since then, Moss should be due for a second quiet week. I’m still starting him, as you should if you have him, but be don’t expect one of those blowout performances he’s been putting up.
Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week
Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals vs. Raiders — I was torn on my sleeper pick this week. Nate Washington has a great chance of putting up numbers if Houston gets out to an early lead. Vince Young travels home to play the Texans. Josh Freeman faces a banged-up Saints secondary that allowed Marc Bulger to look like a quarterback, and Brandon Jacobs might finally get it back on track.
But in the end, I had to go with Scott, who is likely to see more than the usual amount of carries this week against the Raiders defense even if Cedric Benson starts. Scott, rather than Larry Johnson, knows the offense, and I believe he’s got a shot at 100+ yards even if he can’t get a score flying solo or sharing with an injured Benson.
Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups
Muse — Time Is Running Out
Muse did have a song on the Twilight soundtrack, but I won’t hold that against them. “Time Is Running Out” is a perfect fit for this week as the trade deadline approaches and many of you are scrounging to put together a few more wins and lock up a playoff spot.
Best of luck to you all, and remember that vampires should never turn to crystal. It’s just not right.
The Miami Dolphins have placed Ronnie Brown on IR with a foot injury to end his season. Adam Schefter filed the story this afternoon, and ESPN now has the official word. Apparently, his foot injury was much more serious than we all feared.
What does this mean for the Miami Wildcat?
“Who knows? May not even run it,” a coy Sparano said. “Never know.”
Well, there’s always Ricky Williams, who now assumes the duties as starting running back. With increased carries, we can’t expect him to take over both Ronnie Brown’s and his own production, becoming some sort of “double your pleasure, double your fun” bargain back, but it’ll be something more than what he’s doing for owners right now.
Williams has already had his fair share of big days even while sharing with Brown, and for at least the next two weeks, he gets to run the ball against the Panthers and the Bills. No complaints there.
Even if the Miami offense takes a step back without Brown’s Wildcat wrinkles and burst, Williams should be an adequate replacement. Plus, there’s no frustration when the other part of the RBBC gets all the touchdowns, right?
Well, if that didn’t get you smiling, you probably didn’t get Williams as a handcuff or backup to Brown this season. It’s okay. I wouldn’t have done it either. But you got options, kid.
You do have the good fortune of losing your starting running back when a great deal of the best running backs in fantasy went down with injury and left replacements littering the waiver wire.
Bernard Scott would be the most lucrative grab of the multitude available out there, but only if Cedric Benson ends up missing time (and if Larry Johnson really does just ride the bench as depth). My gut feeling is that Benson misses at least one game.
The Bengals could at least do us a favor and hold him out a week for the sake of keeping him fresh. It’s only the Raiders after all, and then the Browns, and then the Lions…
Yeah, Scott’s a good grab.
And if you can’t get your hands on him for a one-week tour of duty, try to seek out Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles, or Jason Snelling. Wells and Charles, in particular, have two of the best playoffs schedules around.
So don’t punch your ticket to miss the playoffs…yet. Just remember the good times you had with Brown–two-touchdown days against the Colts, the Bills, and the Jets, and those fall days when he didn’t just walk beside you. He carried you.
So now begins our recovery from this great weekend of injuries. It’s all your fault, but I forgive you.
This week, we are left with the scraps of all the teams who lost one of their studs.
Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks — Let’s be honest. Forsett already had a great shot of winning this starting job before Julius Jones was injured. Now that Jones is out of the way, even for just one game, Forsett could be the Seahawks’ starter for the rest of the season. He had 123 rushing yards and one touchdown on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, who until recently had been stout against the run.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles — Brian Westbrook went down again, which leaves the starting job in the hands of McCoy once again with a little help from Leonard Weaver. Westbrook could miss the rest of the season after suffering his second concussion in three weeks, but McCoy has few juicy matchups on the schedule. He faces the Giants, 49ers, and Broncos in the fantasy playoffs.
Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals — He finally took that step Sunday in scoring twice and leading the team in carries and rushing yards. If the Cardinals find it in their hearts to anoint him the starter and give Tim Hightower the backup role, Wells could be a fantasy stud in the final weeks of the season. He faces Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs, Weeks 15 and 16.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs — I’d assume he’s off your waiver wire by now, but if not, Charles finally had his good game on Sunday (103 yards and a touchdown), and he could have many more. Remember that playoffs schedule: Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati.
Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins — Another guy I highly doubt is on your waiver wire, but he’s worth mentioning with Ronnie Brown looking like a scratch this Thursday.
Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons — Michael Turner will be out for a few weeks while he recovers from a high ankle sprain. Jerious Norwood stands to get some of the work if he can get healthy, but for now, this is Snelling’s job, and he looked capable while notching 61 rushing yards, a touchdown, and 32 receiving yards in Turner’s absence on Sunday.
Ladell Betts, RB, Washington Redskins — Maybe the more rested legs of Betts are a welcome change for the Redskins. He should shoulder the carries until Clinton Portis returns, and Portis could probably use as much rest as he can get. Betts ran for more than 100 yards in the two weeks since he replaced Portis.
Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — No one is certain how many games Cedric Benson will miss, but the Bengals are worried enough about their depth to consider adding Larry Johnson. It must be at least that bad. Scott should be the starter in Benson’s absence, and he would get the cupcake matchups of the Bengals’ schedule if Benson sits for several weeks — Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit.
Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams — Nobody wants to start Avery. But his schedule does look nice, and he has actually found the end zone over the past five weeks. He might just be worth stashing as the fantasy playoffs.
Laveranues Coles, WR, Cincinnati Bengals — It appears he may have finally found his rhythm with Carson Palmer, but it’s still hard to trust the veteran receiver as long as Chad Ochocinco and Andre Caldwell are also on the field.
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — Young seems to be finding his way in the Titans’ offense. The Titans are leaning on Chris Johnson to win game right now, but opposing teams will eventually learn how to shut down the speedster and force Young into action. He’s no great bet as a fantasy starter, but he carries on of the lowest price tags as a backup right now if you’re in need.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers — If you’re looking for upside, Delhomme is not it, but as a backup, he could be useful down the playoff stretch, especially with the outbreak of injuries that struck this week. He threw two touchdowns for the first time this season Sunday. Maybe he’ll turn his early failures around to end the season.
Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams — Gibson replaced Keenan Burton when Burton went down this week, and he finished the game with seven catches for 93 yards against the Saints. The Rams looked surprisingly alive against the NFC’s undefeated, but I wouldn’t be so sure they could ever put a game like this one together again. Technically, the Saints’ secondary was banged up. Still, Gibson’s a likely starter from here on out. If you’ve got the roster spot, you can stash the rookie to see if he can keep it up.
Maurice Stovall, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — In Antonio Bryant’s absence, Stovall is benefiting from the arm of Josh Freeman. He scored on Sunday, and that could become a trend. As long as Bryant sits out, Stovall could be worth holding onto down the stretch.
Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — He’s not the starter; in fact, we can’t even be sure at this point how far down the depth chart Larry Johnson will be come Sunday. Still, he is a Bengal, and he has the same schedule as Bernard Scott these next three weeks — Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit. If he can pick up the offense (and shut his mouth long enough), he could play enough to be worth owning. But Benson’s return should relegate him to cleanup duty at best.
Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders – Sure, he had a great game, even with Darren McFadden back on the field. But I don’t want any piece of the Raiders. You shouldn’t either. If you are desperate for a running back, this one has a pulse, but the talent in Oakland never lives up to expectations.
Julius Jones may never start again for the Seahawks. Justin Gage could be worth upgrading now that he’s out with a severe back injury. Willie Parker just doesn’t look like he’ll get his job back this year. Justin Fargas should lose touches to both Bush and McFadden down the stretch. In desperation, you could let Brian Westbrook go, but I’d try to trade him first. He may not play again this year.
It’s all your fault, you know. Yes, you, the one who pointed out how few injuries had struck fantasy owners thus far this season. You’re the reason we lost Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, Michael Turner, Julius Jones and Brian Westbrook (again).
You jinxed three of the top backs in fantasy…and Julius Jones just happened to go down the same week.
I would say you cost us Kyle Orton, too, but it seems he won’t even miss a game despite his ankle injury. His neckbeard can take a twist of the ankle and a crushing in stride. There’s something else that Orton and cockroaches have in common.
It’s hard to say who got it the worst. Westbrook owners have been dealing with this all season. Much like Jon and Kate of “plus eight” fame, no one expected this to last all season.
Benson owners got a bargain rate on him to begin with in the draft this year, which makes it hard for me to feel sorry for them. Give your fantasy gift-workhorse a breather. Stop being so needy.
While “Wildcatting” his way into the fantasy hearts of fantasy owners, Brown still shared carries this season with Ricky Williams. Owners could have locked Brown up as a second running back in the draft and might have even stashed Ricky Williams as a precautionary measure.
You may be in a bit of hot water if you were relying on Brown at this point in the season, but I’d expect you to have a backup plan.
Julius Jones? Well, is anyone missing him?
Is that crickets I hear?
Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Jones got injured. I wish the guy the best, but now we can all get a serious look at Justin Forsett, and that’s all we really wanted out of Seattle this season anyway.
But Turner owners, poor Turner owners, you just lost your first round pick. A high ankle sprain is no tiny injury, and it could be several weeks before Turner gets back on the field.
Sure, maybe you wore a tin foil hat all season and picked up Jason Snelling to hedge your bets, but if not, you’re probably looking for a solid replacement this week. Good luck to you.
For the savvy few who stocked up on young backs poised to break out at some point this year…and who stuck out the weeks upon weeks where they did next to nothing this season, this week also marked the emergence of several young backs that owners had been stockpiling all season.
Was Sunday some special holiday or rebirth and renewal? No, I’ll stick with the jinx hypothesis.
Jamaal Charles — Nice of you to finally come to the party. I only had to pick you as a solid start for two weeks in a row. I know 103 rushing yards, a touchdown, and four receptions for 14 receiving yards may come easy against the Raiders, but I’m looking forward to how this carries into next week. If you become reliable, I might even start you in the fantasy playoffs against Buffalo and Cleveland.
Beanie Wells — That’s the kind of game we’ve expected from you all season, scoring twice and looking like a real champ. You even got some work in the passing game. Are Tim Hightower’s days numbered? I’m not so sure. But I do know you are getting your fair share of the work from here on out. That’s promising.
Justin Forsett — In Julius Jones absence, you racked up 123 yards, a touchdown, and five receptions for 26 yards. I love surprises, but it sure would have been nice to know you were going to take over this week.
And just because the Raiders have to screw fantasy owners that find themselves relying on them when it matters most, it was Michael Bush, not Darren McFadden, running for more than 100 yards against the Chiefs. Oh, Al Davis, so old-persony cute and so very evil.
It may be frustratingly impossible to predict who gets the bulk of the Raiders’ running game now that all three are back in the fold. Most weeks, you shouldn’t touch them. Same rule applies to Al Davis.
I know the hot story out there is that Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at the end of the game rather than running it into the end zone. Some fantasy owners may be furious, but as a MJD owner and supporter, I’m not.
The guy already gave you a touchdown and over 100 yards. I think we can let him off the hook just this once for not getting two scores in a crucial time management situation. We should just be glad he’s not Michael Turner. If you owned him, you’d be much more angry.
Now back to watching the Browns circle the toilet bowl. I keep expecting their offense to take the field at some point, but it doesn’t seem like they have one. Just tragic.
At some point, we have to stop framing recommendations to start LaDainian Tomlinson with stats from his past performances. “For his career, L.T. averages 100+ yards and bazillion touchdowns against (fill in the blank).”
No crap. L.T. was a dominant fantasy force up until last season, but how much suck did L.T. average just last year? Or over the whole of his career? I’d say he’s averaging a fair amount of suckage right now, and that doesn’t fit in with the pretty little stat book on him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t average zero touchdowns against the Chiefs going into Week 7, but how many tries did he have only to fail? That, my friends, is not a back I want to start.
L.T. is out of luck and out of gas, and the guy who generated all those “stats” that are being quoted at you is dead and buried. In proper Halloween form, he’s bumbling around like a zombie out there for the Chargers.
Luckily, he gets the Raiders this week, which is fitting since Al Davis is practically a zombie himself.
I always have a hard time finding a Halloween costume. Mostly because I’m gigantic. The little costumes you can buy at the store don’t fit me. I just look like the big kid who stretched out his costume. It’s completely lame.
Two years ago, I was Shredder — yes, the baddie from Ninja Turtles. I modified a child-size gladiator costume with some tin foil and added a purple shirt and brown pants to the mix.
Perfect? No, of course not. It was terrible, but it worked for what I needed. I had four females walking around as the karate turtles, so no problems if I have a blasphemy of a Shredder costume.
But that night, while roaming to the next bar, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with a 12-year-old kid wearing a full bodysuit of purple cloth, accented by dark metal shoulder blades and cuffs.
His ninja skills were far superior. Not to mention, he had a whole platoon of Foot Clan lackeys behind him. He was shorter than all of his foot soldiers, but I have never felt so small…
So, hopefully, I can come up with a costume this year that doesn’t lead me to embarrassment. I can’t roll with Shredder again. Ever. But you can roll with these guys this week.
Hot Hands Start of the Week
Chris Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Panthers
To continue our trend of going out on a limb with my “start of the week,” even though the Giants’ Steve Smith burned me a little last week, I’m taking Beanie Wells. A strong week against the Giants’ run defense leads Beanie into one of the softest matchups of the year. The Panthers are tenth in points allowed to running backs, and Jake Delhomme should have some sort of McNabb-puke-esque panic attack the second he steps out on the field against the team that made him what he is today, worthless.
Many screen caps will be made of Delhomme’s faces in this one. I can already predict that.
As scary as it is to trust a rookie who scored his first touchdown just last week, Beanie makes a very nice flex start. I might even give him RB2 status in a tough bye week. Looking ahead, that fantasy playoff schedule ain’t too shabby either.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Dolphins
Two rookie cornerbacks are starting? Yes, please! Even dropsies couldn’t ruin that fun, and Edwards handled himself pretty well in his last appearance against Miami. The return of Jerricho Cotchery should liven up this passing game for the Jets, and as long as Sanchez isn’t too busy eating hot dogs, I expect him to get Edwards involved once again. Show ‘em what you showed “friend of LeBron,” Edwards!
Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Browns
If you own him, you’re starting him. That’s not a difficult decision. At least this week you can feel a little less self-loathing for drafting him. This is, of course, all dependent on him doing something of value against the Browns terrible run defense, but all the odds are in his favor.
Forte is a guy I really like, even though I was only able to draft him in one of my leagues. In the second half of the season, the weather should turn colder, and I could see Cutler handing it off quite a bit more. A superstar week against the Browns would go a long way in starting Forte’s return to relevance.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams vs. Lions
If you don’t start him this week, when are you going to start him? Matchups don’t get better than this one unless you’re playing the Titans. Avery is the only Rams receiver of note other than an up-and-coming Danny Amendola. Bulger should, if he has anything left to give, find him in this one for at least one touchdown.
If Avery doesn’t show up here, I think astronauts will be able to hear the click of the “drop this player” button from space.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills vs. Texans
Ryan Fitzpatrick is locked in on Evans, and Evans has come back to life. Against the Texans, he should take advantage of that connection for a touchdown. You can feel safe starting Evans again, but T.O.? That’s still a no fly zone.
Zach Miller, TE, Raiders vs. Chargers
Always start your tight end against the Chargers. It may not work for Sean Ryan, but hey, is he really a tight end or just an extra offensive lineman that sometimes catches a touchdown pass from Matt Cassel?
I hate trusting a Raider, but Miller has been the only man in this offense that JaMarcus Russell can hit consistently. Miller’s not a terrible start this week.
Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers vs. Cardinals
In theory, this week would be a good one for DeAngelo. The Panthers are struggling to find a passing game, and Jake Delhomme is scarred for life after throwing enough picks to play out an NFL draft against Arizona in the playoffs.
You’d think they’d lean on the run, but the Cardinals have excelled at stopping the run this year. They’re tops at it. They’ll take DeAngelo and Jonathan Stewart out of this game as quickly as possible, putting this game in Delhomme’s hands.
And before you think about it, he won’t succeed.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans vs. Bills
Before I say anything, the disclaimer on this sit recommendation is that you must have someone with a better matchup. Don’t just pull in any old player to sub for the mighty, mighty A.J. That said, I don’t think the numbers are a lie when it comes to the Bills’ defense.
Andre Johnson already has a bruised lung to worry about. I can only imagine how much that stings, but the Texans (and A.J.) are saying that he will play this weekend against Buffalo. That’s a good sign for his toughness but a bad one for his fantasy owners. An unhealthy A.J. is hard to put your faith in during these critical weeks of the season.
Buffalo’s rookie safety has become an interception machine. I’m sure he’ll be keeping a close eye on Johnson this week. I could see Schaub having a great day, but I think it will come with the assistance of Owen Daniels, not so much Andre Johnson.
If you can sub out your stud wide receiver, do it. If you can’t, cross your fingers and hope for a significant yardage total.
Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Colts
I know you got him off waivers this week, but the Colts murder all quarterbacks not named Peyton Manning. When you practice against Pey Pey, no one can measure up.
I do have a lot of confidence in Smith’s chances down the stretch, and I’m rooting for the guy. Just don’t root for him this week.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks vs. Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defense regained their pass-rushing prowess last week and took Matt Ryan down a notch. Against the Seahawks’ banged-up failure of an offensive line, we could see Hasselbeck leaving this one early again.
The Dallas secondary has been inconsistent to start the year, so there’s sleeper potential in the Seahawks’ passing game. But I’d put my faith in someone else at quarterback given the choice.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills vs. Texans The Texans run defense is better than advertised. Just ask Cedric Benson. Even if Lynch finds room to run, the Bills will be forced to pass all day when the Texans get a big lead.
The numbers on the Texans’ run defense will point towards starting Lynch here, and in a better offense than the Bills’, I might agree. But with the Bills’ struggles and Houston’s recent success at stopping the run, I think the numbers are misleading. Assuming you’re not forced into starting Lynch due to bye weeks, go with another option.
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Jets
His look-what-I-can-still-do game against the Saints was impressive, but I don’t think that’s the Ricky you’ll get on a regular basis. The Jets are angry — very, very angry — about the embarrassment they suffered against the Dolphins just a few weeks ago. Rex Ryan will have them revved up and ready to kill. I wouldn’t rely on the No. 2 in the Wildcat to win it for you this week.
Ricky can only do well if a new wrinkle is added to the Wildcat to surprise the Jets. The Dolphins have been pretty good at creating those wrinkles thus far, but the creativity has to run out eventually.
Snoozer Sleeper Pick of the Week
Vince Young, QB, Titans vs. Jaguars
It wasn’t too long ago that Vince Young was a shot in the arm for an 0-5 Titans team. They’re in a tougher situation now, but the player is the same. As long as Vince can carry the locker room baggage, he’ll carry this team into better record — not hard to do with zero wins in the books.
Who wants to try to stop both Chris Johnson and Young in the same backfield? Not I. The Jaguars feel the same way. Don’t bet the farm, but if you had to take a flier on a quarterback this week to fill in for Tom Brady or Big Ben, not a bad choice. I still like sleepers like Marc Bulger a little more, but I’m a Young believer.
Song to Ease Your Pain While You Set Your Lineups
“This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Is it just me or does the monster under the stars look like Larry Johnson? He looks like a guy that would average 2 yards per carry. And that clown with the tear-away face is the spitting image of LenDale White circa 2008.
I got stuck watching the New England Patriots abuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers across the pond in London during the early games. I thought we sent this game overseas so that no one here would have to watch it?
While the action was riveting, oh, so riveting, I found myself checking my fantasy football scores on my phone. About halfway through the early games, I noticed Vernon Davis had scored me a touchdown. Nice work. I went against the stats in starting him, but, as ESPN pointed out, the tight ends who had been shut down by the Texans weren’t exactly in the elite class.
So happy in my good choices, I hit refresh, only to discover that Davis had another touchdown. Now, at this point, I had not seen any cutaways to the San Francisco game yet to show me what was happening in Houston. All I knew is that every time I refreshed my phone, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown.
Oh, this is getting good. I was mopping my opponent with my early starters, and I’d discovered a magical wishing well of fantasy points.
So I refreshed again, getting greedy this time. And once again, touchdown. Had I discovered a voodoo trick for fantasy football? Would it work on anyone else besides Vernon Davis?
I had no idea what I was doing, but I found myself hitting refresh again. But this time, nothing. My fantasy luck had run out. Game over.
But next week, I’m definitely refreshing my phone a few times during the San Francisco game to see if I can get it to work again.
Dear Patrick Crayton, I’d be the first one to tell you, so here goes: Miles Austin is legit. Your best chance of getting back in the starting lineup is by replacing Roy Williams. Sadly, that might not be that hard to do with as many key passes as Williams dropped on Sunday.
The Cowboys finally looked like the team that won 13 games in 2007 again on Sunday, but it’s not time for celebration just yet. It’s still hard to trust Tony Romo, who has one of the hardest schedules of any quarterback in the league the rest of the way. As long as Miles Austin keeps scoring two touchdowns per game, that view on Romo may change.
Donald Brown went out with a shoulder injury and left Joseph Addai to share the load with Chad Simpson. If Brown misses any length of time, it would increase Addai’s value since Simpson’s no threat to cut into Addai’s touches, but this injury was minor. Expect Brown to be back on the field and scaring Addai’s fantasy owner this week.
Ryan Grant finally went off with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Browns. Let me repeat that: Against the Browns. Green Bay won’t face pushover run defenses all season, but Grant abused this one when given the chance. The Packers remain a pass-first team, but Grant could see his usage rise as the weather turns colder. Don’t give up on him if you’ve holding onto him this long.
Steven Jackson had 134 rushing yards against the Colts. Maybe the Rams should just put him and the offensive line on the field together and run the flying V all day. Might make for some interesting football. The Rams certainly aren’t in their current incarnation.
What do Vernon Davis’ 93 yards and three touchdowns mean? It means he’s a legitimate every week starter. Davis has been a key part of this passing offense all year, and even with the addition of Michael Crabtree, he’ll get lots of looks. If nothing else, his chances at the goal line look very promising.
Speaking of Alex Smith, his three touchdowns and 206 yards in the second half seem to be more than just a lucky break off the bench. He faces the Colts this week, but moving forward, he’s go upside. Sometimes those bench-warming first-round draft picks pay off after all. Eh, Vince Young?
Owen Daniels. Best tight end in football? It’s possible.
Brett Favre loves him some Sidney Rice, proven by the 11 catches Rice took for 136 yards against the Steelers. Favre may not make many more big games out of these receivers, especially after his return-to-form breakdowns against Pittsburgh this week, but it’s never a bad idea to own his favorite target. Rice has definite talent, and skills the ability to hover five feet off the field until Favre can get him the ball.
The Steelers’ defense showed up late to the party against the Vikings, but at least they showed supreme mastery of the flying V in both their interception return and fumble return. If they can contain the beast inside of Adrian Peterson without run-stopper Aaron Smith, they can stop anyone. Feel confident if you have them as your defense at this point in the season. Very confident.
I think the league would be a better place if JaMarcus Russell were benched. I’d be interested to see two teams trade quarterbacks in a given week just to see whether it’s the quarterback or the team causing all the problems. Jason Campbell for Russell anyone? Jake Delhomme for Russell? Marc Bulger for Russell? That’s the kind of trade that could heat things up in a season where every team is great, very good or horrifyingly terrible.
Could the NFL just institute a takebacks trade option so that teams can exchange players for two weeks at a time? It’d be just like pickup football.
Andre Johnson has a lung contusion. I have no idea what that is, but I do know he spit up blood. Regardless, he doesn’t need lungs to play out of his mind against the Bills. The Buffalo secondary has been good, but top receivers can find a way. Jake Delhomme just gets paid to make secondaries like the Bills’ look good.
After losing Leon Washington for the season with a nasty broken fibula, the Jets put in Shonn Greene in garbage time to finish off the Raiders. That 144 yards and two touchdowns will likely draw a crowd on the waiver wire, but Greene probably won’t duplicate a performance like that until he starts to eat into Thomas Jones’ role as the lead back.
I’ve liked Greene all along this year. He’s big and hard-running, just like a little Marion Barber in the making, but the Jets have not sought to limit Jones or replace him with Greene just yet. For now, Greene is nothing more than an 8-10 carry guy to share the load with Jones and take garbage time. Still, he’s definitely worth stashing because of the strength of the Jets’ running game and the chance to eventually replace Jones if anything were to go down.
Carson Palmer looked like the Carson Palmer that dominated the league before his knee injury. Five touchdowns, two to Chad Ochocinco, have me hoping that he keeps that alive through the end of the season.
Palmer’s arm also opened things up for Cedric Benson, who took full advantage of the revenge bowl in Chicago with a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. If Palmer had jacked all the touchdowns, Benson could have had more. The Bears just looked like they though they were playing last year’s Bengals.
Despite Benson’s beating, Ricky Williams won the spite battle this week with three touchdowns and just 80 rushing yards against his former team, the Saints. It’s not like Ricky has any bad blood. I’m pretty sure with the amount of pot he’s smoked, he’s made peace with everybody, including dead people, but he certainly wanted to win against the Saints on Sunday.
Unfortunately, the Saints took some 5-Hour Energy at halftime, woke up and realized they were behind. Then, Drew Brees went to work. The Saints defense returned two picks for touchdowns, again proving they are a legit fantasy defense as long as Darren Sharper is roaming around out there. I completely called Tracy Porter’s interception return at the end of the game, mostly because I needed it to win a fantasy football game this week, but you know.
Somehow I managed to make it through the entire Monday Night Football excitement of the Eagles and Redskins. In short, DeSean Jackson scored both rushing and receiving the football, and when he wasn’t in the game, neither was the Philadelphia offense. Brian Westbrook got knocked out. Chris Cooley broke his ankle and could be out for the season.
DeSean Jackson was scared he broke something, but after X-raying it, they determined that his only ailment was being awesome and unstoppable. Sometimes that feels like an injury when you play the Redskins I guess.
At what point do we consider farming the Redskins, Rams, Chiefs or Raiders out to the UFL?