Forget Them Not: Ten Dynasty Running Backs for Keepers and Sleepers

We covered the quarterbacks and the wide receivers, but the position you really should watch closely heading into this year’s draft is running back. These runners have worked their way into the favor of their current coaching staffs and may stand a much greater chance of seeing the field than that guy that gets taken in the second or third round this year. Are there any Ray Rice hype machine victims in the audience? Moving on…

Jalen Parmele – Baltimore Ravens
Taken by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, Parmele didn’t have a lot of press despite his productive junior and senior seasons. The Ravens plucked him off the Dolphins’ practice squad to support their running attack in the last game of the regular season against Jacksonville, and he remains with the team entering 2009. He’s comparable to Tashard Choice, who tore it up in huge games down the stretch for the Cowboys. If the RB situation in Baltimore changes and Parmele gets pack of backs, you might hear his name again in 2009.

Ryan Moats – Houston Texans
Moats grabbed headlines this offseason for his incident with a certain overly-demanding police officer, but he could be in the spotlight once again if he lands a role with the Texans running game in 2009. Steve Slaton need someone to keep him durable during the regular season, and veteran journeyman Chris Brown is more fragile and injury-prone than Slaton. Moats could see some time if injuries come into play, and he wasn’t too shabby in 2008 when needed.

Mike Hart – Indianapolis Colts
Hart didn’t have much of a debut this season as he was quickly injured once he got his chance to play for the Colts, but he still ranks very high on a lot of dynasty lists. His production at Michigan may lead some to doubt how much he has left in the tank, but his intangibles and heart for the game have led many to stand behind him. With Dominic Rhodes out of the picture, Hart could have a real shot at stepping into a big role with the Colts this season and sharing time with Joseph Addai.

Chris Henry – Tennessee Titans
Though Chris Johnson has largely stolen his thunder–or lightning, as the case may be since LenDale White owns the copyright on “thunder”–Henry still has a chance to play a part for the Titans. If anything were to happen to White, he’s the likely candidate to step into Tennessee’s potent running attack, and he may have more chances this season if the Titans move to more of a three-back system to keep Johnson fresh and injury-free for the playoffs. Without a healthy Johnson, the Titans just didn’t look the same.

Jacob Hester – San Diego Chargers
With LaDainian Tomlinson approaching his golden years, many folks are looking for the Chargers to draft a running back this season to help Darren Sproles. But do they really need someone else? Given the production of fullbacks turned running backs like Peyton Hillis, Hester might be an adequate partner in the running game to support Sproles and Tomlinson as L.T. approaches the end of his career. We’ll see if the Chargers think he is enough come draft day.

Danny Ware – New York Giants
With a stall of running backs that could dominate any team in the league, you’d think that the Giants would be willing to sell off some of their surplus at the position, but surprisingly, the Giants have been very protective of Ware. If the team who was okay letting Ryan Grant walk and Derrick Ward sign elsewhere likes this guy, dynasty owners have to agree. He sits just behind Jacobs on the depth chart, and he might become part of the new Earth, Wind and Fire if Jacobs needs help in the run game.

Lorenzo Booker – Philadelphia Eagles
When he was traded to the Eagles from the Dolphins, Booker was touted as the likely backup to Brian Westbrook, but despite Booker’s comparable skills, he didn’t ever find his way onto the field last season. With Westbrook’s contract extended and Correll Buckhalter going over to the Broncos in free agency, Booker could be the guy we thought he was going to be in 2009. Then again, the Eagles could get greedy and take another running back in the draft to support Westbrook.

Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks drafted Forsett in the seventh round of the draft only to waive him early in the 2008 season. After a short stay with the Indianapolis Colts, Forsett was again waived and returned to the Seahawks practice squad to sign as the punt specialist. Considering the lack of depth at running back on Seattle’s current roster, he could play a larger role than expected this season if the injury plague in Seattle moves from the wide receivers to the running backs. Forsett scored 15 touchdowns in his final season at Cal after sitting behind J.J. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch for most of his time there.

Kregg Lumpkin – Green Bay Packers
With a name like that, what else could you be but a running back? Lumpkin started to gain some ground on the Green Bay depth chart just before he injured his hamstring early last season. With Ryan Grant looking more human and less like the hero he was in 2007, it’s possible the Packers give guys like Lumpkin and Brandon Jackson more opportunities in 2009. I don’t expect Grant to lose his job, but if Lumpkin gave it his all, he might jump over Jackson on the depth chart.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis – New England Patriots
The man we so lovingly called “Law Firm” in 2008 is likely to find himself back on the sidelines as we enter the 2009 season, but while he may be gone, he should not be forgotten. Green-Ellis, like many other Patriot backs, was successful when given the opportunity. If Laurence Maroney fails again this season, which is likely, Green-Ellis might even get another chance to work his way into the rotation for Bill Belichick.

Five Backups Worth Owning in the Playoffs

If you’re in the playoffs, your team should be pretty strong, but injuries and/or a Week 17 championship game might soon leave you hurting for some unlikely names.

Backups who haven’t seen any action this season are much more important, and you might find yourself saving your season or winning in Week 17 by getting some backups on your roster now. Here are a few backups that could be big factors in these final weeks.

Byron Leftwich, QB Pittsburgh Steelers (@BAL, @TEN, CLE)
Ben Roethlisberger has taken a lot of hits this year, and he gets to end the season against two of the toughest defenses in the league. Since his offensive line a stinky pile of worthlessness, it’s not unlikely that Big Ben takes the big hit that knocks him out for a game or two.

Leftwich has shown he can be effective in the Steelers offense coming in for Big Ben this season, and he could do some damage against a done-for-the-season Cleveland if he were to get the call in Week 17.

Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals (MIN, @NE, SEA)
Kurt Warner has been amazing this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s invincible. He’s been known to get injured, and even if he’s mostly healthy, he might get benched quite a bit the last couple of weeks of the season since the Cardinals have their playoff spot locked up already.

If the Vikings deal him a big blow this week, Leinart should have good games against a poor New England secondary and a finished Seattle secondary. Hey, how can you do badly with a pretty boy face and one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL?

Darren Sproles, San Diego Chargers (@KC, @TB, DEN)
LaDainian Tomlinson has had a terrible season, and the Chargers are out of the playoff hunt. Even though L.T. faces two of the weaker defenses in the league and a questionable Bucs squad in the final weeks, Sproles could play a larger role as the coaches let L.T. rest and see more out of their younger back.

Brandon Jackson, Green Bay Packers (@JAX, @CHI, DET)
Ryan Grant has struggled this season. With no reason to push Grant and the incentives of his contract, the Packers might rather see more of Brandon Jackson in the final games of the season.

Whether Grant sits or not, playing Detroit in Week 17 could allow for both running backs to have big days. Keep your eye on how much Grant is used against Jacksonville to see whether the carries begin to shift into Jackson’s hand.

Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts (DET, @JAX, TEN)
This one is sort of a gimme. With Joseph Addai banged up, Rhodes has already seen some work this season, and it’s likely that he starts this week against the Lions.

Obviously, he’d make a good start against Jacksonville as well and, as much as the Colts score when they’re at full speed, a half decent play for the Titans in Week 17 since the Titans will already have the division secured. Rhodes should be owned in all leagues, and he’s already a good start for this week.

If you have questionable starters or don’t know how to utilize your last few bench spots in these crucial playoff weeks, you should consider getting yourself some backups. If nothing else, you can block your opponents from rebuilding their team if they suffer some injuries in these final weeks.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 11: There’s no tying in football

There’s no tying in football. None. You only get one sudden death overtime, and if no team can manage to score a single point, you’re done.

It’s bad enough that Andy Reid and the Eagles have a hard time managing the clock, but before taking the field to come away even with one of the worst teams in the NFL, did no one on the sidelines discuss that the game would be over at the end of the first overtime? You know, a tie?

I think knowing that they only had a few precious minutes to score would have come in handy when the Eagles were letting the time tick by, but maybe Andy Reid was just as tired of watching the miserable performance as we were.

Left guard Todd Herremans said hearing the referee declare the game a tie was an odd experience.

“I’ve never tied before. Definitely a strange feeling,” Herremans said. “Empty. It feels like the game’s unfinished. Neither team is happy with a tie.”

I’ll tell you what made me feel empty and strange, watching Brian Westbrook collect just 60 rushing yards against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Please tell me why the Eagles would suddenly decide that their passing game was the answer against a team that is top-10 against the pass and in the bottom 10 against the run?

I should have spent the afternoon learning how to play the theremin.

Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t doing it for the Vikings during the first two weeks of the season and saw the bench so that the Vikings could give an older, wiser, smarter quarterback, Gus Frerotte, a shot.

Now that we’re halfway through the season with ol’ Gus, maybe they should go back to Tarvaris. Frerotte’s scoring in the end zone, but he’s still not a fantasy-worthy QB with nine picks in his last five games. Those Super Bowl predictions for the Vikings before this season were terribly misguided.

Why wasn’t anyone talking about the Cardinals instead? Oh yeah.

While you guys were busy salivating over Tyler Thigpen, Shaun Hill made his run at being the best backup quarterback to come in for the second half of the season. He made a pretty good case for himself with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown against the Rams…in the first half.

Thiggy and Hill could save several fantasy teams here at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Both will probably be passing quite a bit in Weeks 14, 15 and 16.

The top quarterbacks from Week 11 are Matt Cassel, Shaun Hill and Kerry Collins. How messed up is that? Very.

Kurt Warner and Jay Cutler were supposed to amaze this week, but both QBs found other ways to win while having mediocre fantasy days. Thanks, jerks.

Even worse than the QB ranks for this week, the wide receiver ranks feature Justin Gage as the leading scorer. If every team tries to take away the Titans running game from here on out, the fantasy production on that team could flip to the passing game.

I’m not saying that I would pick up any of the Titans receivers, but it might be worth watching if you are sitting on a bunch of deadbeats at receiver.

Email I just received from Joseph Addai:

Well, hello there, everyone. Just wanted to let you know that I am back. Hope you enjoyed watching me go crazy on the Texans. You better not have benched me to wait and see what I would do! The rushing schedule from here looks fantastic.

Email I received minutes later from Ryan Grant:

What he said. Me, too. kthxbai.

Peyton Hillis got two touchdowns in his first appearance as the primary back for Denver. If you have to bet on a horse out of the Broncos’ stables of misfortune, he looks like the one to take.

Tatum Bell was seen eyeing Hillis’ bags after the game but decided to steal all of Selvin Young’s underwear instead.

The real story of the week was the kid drafted in the sixth round out of Arizona, Spencer Larsen, who goes both ways.

No, really, he started on both offense and defense as Denver’s middle linebacker and fullback. What did you think I was saying?

In fact, he started on special teams as well, so I guess that means that he went three ways. No comment.

The Dallas Cowboys at least have a little fire in them now that Romo has returned, but Marion Barber is the real gear that turned to get them a win in Washington last night. Going forward, they’ll have to develop the passing game, but owners of Tony Romo and Terrell Owens are going to have to wait a little longer.

If you own the Steelers defense, you’re probably really pissed that the forward pass penalty nullified the last-second fumble recovery for a touchdown. The refs are now saying it should have counted, but even if the NFL changes the score, will your fantasy system/site update the Steelers D/ST points?

Sometimes these things get left “as is” for fantasy owners if a change isn’t made until after Monday night. I expect some controversy to come out of this one, and I want my six points!

Looking ahead at Monday night, I only have one question. Which QB will look the worst: Miss Brady Quinn or Trent “Too Smart for His Own Consciousness” Edwards?

Can’t wait to find out.

Week 10 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

The triumphant return of Thursday Night Football! I always thought the Thursday night games were stretching it. We already have college games on Tuesday and Thursday if you are really feigning — granted they aren’t the most interesting games, but there is a football on a green field with guys in helmets going after it. Why do we need the NFL crowding up in our grill for three nights out of the week?

In reality, it’s all just an elaborate scheme to trick people into not setting their fantasy football rosters on time. The NFL figures right about now is when winning teams might get a little cocky and switch into autopilot. Well, here’s a Thursday game to screw you, buddy.

There are several very good things about the NFL on Thursday nights that I have to admit. For one, you have an excuse to be a lazy bum and sit at home with a sixer on a Thursday night. Leave the going out to the Brady Quinns and Matt Leinarts of the world — don’t people understand that we’re tired from reading all that fantasy football analysis?

Second, if one of your players scores big on Thursday, you get to hang it over your opponent’s head for almost a full five days if he is unfortunate enough to still has a chance going into the Monday night game. It’s so glorious that you might run out of trash talk and one-liners before Sunday morning — start prepping now.

And C (because who likes numbers that much anyway), if you go up big on Thursday, you know you can sleep late on Sunday with no concerns about who takes the early lead. You have the lead, and thus, you get to sleep through the headache and just watch your opponent try to creep up on you Sunday afternoon. Now, isn’t that nice? I guess Thursday games might be awesome after all.

There are a lot of players worth starting this week. Byes are ending, and most of your studs are back for a full tour of duty. I’ll run down a few matchup plays, but if you got a good thing going on, don’t let me screw it up, fool. Do what you have been doing. For example, start Kurt Warner until he dies (or gets injured).

Hot Hands

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Lions — I won’t bore you with lots of details. He plays the Lions, he can run and the Jags have him throwing the ball like a big-boy version of Carson Palmer these days.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Raiders — Steve Smith might be smothered by Asomugyourguy (that’s his name, I swear), but Delhomme should have free reign over the rest of the field now that DeAngelo Hall is on the streets. Oakland is just ditching people to save money at this point, and the secondary was suspect even with Hall on the field. I expect Steve to slip away for at least one big play, and after that, Delhomme will have to put on the guise that they’re still trying to mix the run and the pass against a team that all but forfeits each week.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Broncos — It’s a short week and a rough-around-the-edges, new starting quarterback against a defense that cannot stop the run. No math required. As long as Quinn doesn’t grease up the ball with his hair gel and Brute and create turnovers, Lewis will go off for a few.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. ColtsFRIDAY UPDATE: PARKER OUT SUNDAY. ESPN is reporting that Willie Parker will be out Sunday with a shoulder injury. Mewelde Moore will get the start again. Moore has shown he is capable of handling the job in place of Parker so expect about the same production from him. Here is what I said about Parker before this news: The Colts’ run defense is still a little suspect, even with the return of Bob Sanders, and the Steelers’ offense, even under the command of Byron Leftwich, can get the ball down the field. I like Parker to have a score in this one.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Patriots — That terrible Patriots secondary keeps putting it together, but the Bills are desperate for this win now that they have lost the winning pace they had to begin the season. Evans should get his just like Donnie Avery did against the Pats in Week 8.

Derrick Mason, WR Ravens vs. Texans — Flacco loves to target this guy (almost double-digit throws per game), and the Texans’ secondary is likely to let him take one to the house.

Greg Camarillo, WR Dolphins vs. Seahawks — The Seahawks are flying across three time zones and the entire United States to face a hard-hitting Miami team. Assuming he sees the 11 targets that he had last week or close to it, Camarillo makes a borderline No. 2 receiver who could easily go for 100+ yards or a score this week.

Kevin Boss, TE Giants vs. Eagles — He has scored in each of the Giants’ last two games, and the Eagles have admitted to having a problem with stopping opposing tight ends.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Seahawks — Behind Camarillo, Fasano should may see his fair share of targets as well, and last week, he managed to separate himself from David Martin by catching two passes to Martin’s zero. In fact, Martin wasn’t even targeted in Week 9. Moving forward, Fasano could develop into a starting fantasy TE (as some thought he would early in the season), but this week, he’s at least a great matchups play.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Seahawks — Joey Porter is a sack monster, and the Seahawks haven’t been able to get the ball moving without Hasselbeck. Next.

Bubble Boys

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Titans — He’s definitely a questionable start this week, so you might want to consider looking elsewhere, but he’s been too reliable against tougher run defenses in the past this season. One has to think that they might lean on Forte more than Grossman in this one, no? And anyone if given enough carries — say 50 — can produce against the Titans.

Ryan Torain, RB Broncos vs. Browns — Reports say he will have his first start this week with Selvin Young’s hamstring still bothering him, but how much can you trust a rookie that got just one yard on three carries last week? I believe he could be a solid back for the Broncos in the future, but I’m not sure he’s this season’s Ryan Grant just yet. Starting him this week isn’t necessarily something I wouldn’t do, but I would do a LOT of things if given the chance.

Billy Miller, TE Saints vs. Falcons — How much does Jeremy Shockey eat into Miller’s value? Shockey had the buy to rest up, but much like Colston came along slowly in his return from injury, Shockey might do the same. Miller could still be a borderline TE start this week, especially considering how productive he’s been through this Shockey-less stretch.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Browns — Even if he returns this week, it’s questionable where he now ranks in the offense. Prior to his injury, the argument could made that he was the No. 2 target and a prime red zone threat, but Eddie Royal may have passed him up in his absence. Either way, I’d sit him again this week in a not-so-great matchup to see how he does, but I don’t blame you for putting him in your lineup if you’ve been waiting on him.

Cold Shoulders

Marc Bulger, QB Rams vs. Jets – While they’ve been torched in the past, I have serious doubts about whether the Rams’ line can protect Bulger enough for him to attack the Jets secondary. If the Rams are without Steven Jackson and Antonio Pittman this week, the Rams are starting Kenneth Darby at RB, formerly of the Atlanta practice squad. I’d doubt he’ll fare well against the Jets run defense, and that should allow the Jets and possibly the most dominant nose tackle in the NFL right now, Kris Jenkins, to put pressure on Bulger all day.

Rex Grossman, QB Bears vs. Titans — It scares me if you are contemplating this start. Grossman will have a hard time making waves against the Titans pass defense even though the secondary has been exposed a bit over the last couple of weeks (Colts and Packers). Grossman makes bad decisions too frequently, and it’s a stretch to think his decision-making skills have improved on the bench this season. He’ll either play conservatively in this one or play terribly, so even if you picked him up, you’d be smart to let him ride the bench for a week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Vikings — A tough run defense and his own weak performance makes me doubt he’ll be productive in this one. The most owners can hope for is a short-yardage score, but it’s hard to say whether that will happen with Rodgers throwing into the Vikings’ secondary. There are worse risks you could take this week, but I wouldn’t put money on Grant.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Dolphins — With Morris back from injury, the two RBs in Seattle are now scrounging for carries. Jones is on the losing end and going up against a top-10 run defense after flying through three time zones. Yup, he’s a sit.

Justin Fargas, RB Raiders vs. Panthers — The Oakland rushing attack has fallen on hard times. While Carolina isn’t a top-10 run defense in the league, it’s hard to see Oakland sticking to their running game if Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme put a lead on them early. Fargas is a risky flex play, and I’d let him sit until he shows that the completely terrible Week 9 performance isn’t what to expect from here on out. At least you have Week 12 to look forward to for Fargas.

Rashied Davis, WR Bears vs. Titans — I’d be worried to start any Bears’ receivers with the change to Rex Grossman, and the Titans’ defense shouldn’t make it any easier for the backup to succeed. I’d sit all the Bears receivers if it came down to a close call, but if forced, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are the only two worth taking chances with this week.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Giants — Last week’s two catches for 20 yards is sign of what’s to come. With Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown back in the lineup, Jackson slides back into his rookie role as the No. 3 wide receiver. You have to figure Westbrook into that, and if Brent Celek starts at TE, he might get looks ahead of Jackson. That makes him the No. 5 receiving option overall. He’s likely to have a quiet day unless he makes something happen, but the Giants could always forget he is on the field. New York’s pass rush won’t let McNabb sit back to let a long play develop. Is he all you have got?

Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs. Packers — You may have been starting the Vikings every week outside of their bye after drafting them as the assumed No. 1 defense. While they’ve had their big days, this game shouldn’t be one of them against a Green Bay passing attack that put up numbers against the Titans secondary. They could be without Jared Allen as well, which downgrades their pass rush a bit. You might not be carrying two defenses, but it might be in your best interest to seek out a matchups play for Week 10.

Sleepers

Shaun Hill, QB 49ers vs. Cardinals — It’s no secret that the Cardinals allow you to score through the air, and the 49ers have had two weeks to prepare. Plus, in the three games he played last season, Hill was very smart with the football and minimized turnovers. After two lost fumbles in his first game, Hill had just one INT and one fumble that was recovered in his final two.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Chiefs vs. Chargers — The Chargers are another QB-friendly team, and Thigpen is on a hot streak. If he can link up with Dwayne Bowe or Tony Gonzalez, he’ll be able to give the Chargers a run just like he gave the Bucs; however, I’d worry what might be up the new San Diego defensive coordinator’s sleeve…

Peyton Hillis, RB/FB Broncos vs. Browns — With Shanny, you never know. Even though Ryan Torain is getting his first start (supposedly), we know from past experience that “starting” for Shanahan doesn’t always mean you’re the best back to play in fantasy. Hillis could easily take third-down snaps, and that might allow him to run some passes into the end zone. It’s a dangerous play, but isn’t that what you use a sleeper for?

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

One of my fantasy football teams has done remarkably well through the first half of the season. After starting 5-0, I traded away some of my starters for underperforming stars that I believed would lead me to victory in the second half.

As of this week, I have assembled what I would call the Pro Bowl of fantasy teams. Surviving my bye weeks, this is my starting lineup for Week 9: QB Peyton Manning (but David Garrard might sneak in there); RBs Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans; TE Kellen Winslow; D/ST Arizona Cardinals; K Matt Prater.

And that’s in a 14-team league. I’m projected to score 144.5 points this weekend by the sometimes conservative, sometimes drunk with power ESPN projections.

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions — What? Orton is tied with Peyton Manning as the No. 10 fantasy quarterback right now, and he could finish as one of the top-six QBs? I feel sick. He plays the Lions this week and already posted his best performance of the season against them in Week 5 (300+ passing yards and two TDs). He could beat that. He’ll probably pass Peyton Manning, and then I’m probably going to punch myself in the face…twice.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Broncos — You would think that I would hate recommending guys like Pennington, but to tell you the truth, I love it. I love saying a guy is worth a start when everyone hates on him 24/7. Pennington, in my opinion, is not a bad dude. This week, he gets to play “score the most points” with Jay Cutler, but Pennington gets to throw against a defense that can’t stop the run and will be missing Champ Bailey, the only person who really stops the pass. If Ted Ginn Jr. looks good again, I still won’t believe it’s not a fluke — maybe after Week 10.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Bengals — You have to start Jones-Drew in this one, but even Taylor might get back to his old ways against the Bengals weak rushing defense (28th in the NFL). Expect David Garrard to continue to use the pass more than the Jags did last season, which should open it up when Jones-Drew and Taylor run. Unless he breaks one, Taylor should get some good yardage, but he’s more a bubble/sleeper pick than Jones-Drew at this point.

Earnest Graham, RB Bucs vs. Chiefs — “My turn, my turn, my turn!” If Warrick Dunn can’t go again because of his back, Graham should have his best performance of the season. If that doesn’t leave you satisfied and smiling, you have no soul.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Broncos — Expect him to make up for that piss-poor performance against the Bills. The Dolphins coaches held him back, not the Bills defense. The ‘Wildcat’ will return, baby!

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Vikings — The Vikings have a weak secondary, and Matt Schaub has been throwing the ball like a champ the last three weeks since returning from his illness. As long as Johnson is being shut down, Walter should reap the benefits of working against the abused, second corner of the Vikings secondary. Walter and Owen Daniels will have to substitute for a running game with short passes against the No. 2 rushing defense.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Cardinals — Maybe if Avery shotguns a beer, lights himself on fire and then blows through coverage to score from 40+ yards out, defensive coordinators will pay attention to him. For now, the Cardinals’ attention will be on Torry Holt, and Avery should impress in a home game against this weaker secondary.

John Carlson, TE Seahawks vs. Eagles — Carlson is the team’s leading receiver, and stopping the tight end has been a problem for Philly several times this season. Carlson should get back on pace after being forgotten in the stomping of the 49ers last week.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Patriots — Manning is on the bubble anytime he faces a well-put-together defense. While the Patriots aren’t quite that, they have been able to get to Manning even in his prime. Expect Belichick to try to take advantage of the tied-with-Kyle-Orton quarterback this week. He’ll produce even in a loss — as he did against the Titans — but if you have better, less bucketheaded options…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Browns — The Browns run defense has stopped the run when they were determined to do so (allowing 53 yards rushing for Jacksonville last week), but they still rank as one of the worst run defenses out there, despite using unorthodox methods like all those eye pokes they gave McGahee when they faced the Ravens in Week 3. McGahee has looked much better since coming off the injury report, but rookie Ray Rice is still on his heels and now getting carries. I am not sure which way this game is going to go, but the Ravens will run the ball. It’s just not as favorable a matchup as it appears on paper.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Vikings — The No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL against a rookie RB who was held down by the Bengals a little last week? There’s a chance he breaks the big play, but this matchup has bubble written all over it.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bills — Coles and Cotchery are more experienced receivers than Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Camarillo, but will the Bills corners still not be back in sync this week? Favre has looked like a rookie the last few weeks, and I don’t trust him unless I have to this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Titans — Jennings faces the Titans’ lockdown secondary this week, but the Titans will have their hands full. Jennings had his best game of the season against the Bucs tough defense in Week 4, so owners shouldn’t be scared of using him in this one. He might not build on his 18.5 yards per catch average, but he won’t be taken out of this game plan.

Roddy White, WR Falcons vs. Raiders — There’s some insider trading going on in this one. DeAngelo Hall used to work against White in practice, but that was back before White was such a dominating force in the receiving game. Do you think Hall will know how to get to White? On the other side of the field, Nnamdi Asomugha will be trying to make White’s life tough. So the question becomes, which DeAngelo Hall will we see this week when the Falcons are trying to get White out of Asomugha’s shadow? I like White’s chances.

Cold Shoulders

Marshawn Lynch, RB Bills vs. Jets — The Jets rank fourth in run defense, so Week 9 should be a hard week for Lynch. He’s had his performance limited by Fred Jackson, and he hasn’t hit 100 yards in single game yet. If you are strong at RB, it might be in your best interest sit Lynch this week rather than chance that he gets a touchdown.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Ravens — Homie don’t play that. The Ravens are going to keep Lewis down all day. It took Peyton Manning shredding their secondary for Dominic Rhodes to score a rushing touchdown, and Derek Anderson might not be capable of creating that kind of opportunity this week. If Lewis doesn’t score, his performance could make you curl up into the fetal position and cry.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Titans – If you’re clawing around for his breakout performance this season after he finally got a touchdown against the Colts, don’t. The Packers aren’t likely to try and run the ball on the Titans much, and Albert Haynesworth eats babies.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Steelers — I know you’re not going to sit him. I know. (I probably wouldn’t either.) But for the sake of conversation, let’s just talk for a minute. If I am the Steelers, I’m going to focus on stopping the run — as always — and try to get into Jason Campbell’s head, despite the futility of that since he hasn’t thrown an interception all season. If I’m the Redskins, I’m going to look to abuse the fact that their starting free safety and one starting cornerback are out. Every time they play Troy Polamalu close to the line to stop the run, I’m chunking a pass to Chris Cooley, exposed with plenty of room to run. Maybe Cooley will get another touchdown. He wants one. Now, knowing that game plan that I just made up in my head, Portis *might* not be such a good start, but his involvement in the passing game and the likelihood that you have no better makes this entire paragraph almost worthless.

Terrell Owens, WR Cowboys vs. Giants — He led the team in receptions last week but still didn’t even get 35 yards. Why would you take a chance with him against a team that’s even better at harassing the QB? Brad Johnson is not going to be able to make it happen for Owens this week…again.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Dolphins — It’s his first game back from injury, and the Dolphins have been very good about limiting tight ends. Besides, don’t you think Jay Cutler wants to show Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal how he perfected his throwing motion during the bye? Let Scheffler have the week off to prove his worth.

Sleepers

Steve Smith, WR Giants vs. Cowboys — If the Cowboys lock up Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith should play the open field and have above-average numbers. The Cowboys secondary is hurting too much to stop both WRs in the Giants passing attack. But Smith’s day will require “Playoffs Eli” to show up rather than the Eli Manning that’s been looking like garbage the past few weeks.

Donald Lee, TE Packers vs. Titans — Dallas Clark was able to expose the Titans in the middle of the field. If the Packers are smart, they’ll use a similar plan with Lee this week.

Week 7 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Technical difficulties with our Web host had us listed as questionable for Wednesday night, but as you saw Thursday, we showed up to play at game time. We aren’t wishy-washy like Wade Phillips.

If we come into the game to answer your questions on Sunday, consider it a bonus.

Hot Hands

Matt Schaub, QB Texans vs. Lions — Schaub has finally come into his own as the Texans’ starter after a rough beginning to the year. As long as he stays healthy, he’s going to produce with Andre Johnson making plays. Against the Lions this week…yeah, just start him.

Trent Edwards, QB Bills vs. Chargers — Last year, it would have been the worst idea ever to start your concussed QB against the Chargers pass rush — this year, not so much a concern. The Chargers do an opposing QB good (with the exception of Matt Cassel). Edwards’ newfound friendship with Lee Evans and the long ball should produce at least once.

Jeff Garcia, QB Buccaneers vs. Seahawks — Garcia has a nice match against a weakened Seattle, and I like his chances even more if Joey Galloway returns from injury. If you are looking for a bye-week superstar, look here.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Saints — You have to score against the Saints, and their run stopping has been stronger than you might think. Delhomme will have to make some plays, and he is very capable of putting up a decent to big day with Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Colts — Call me a sucker, but I am not putting Grant off as a one-year wonder just yet. He had 33 carries against the Seahawks without surpassing 100 yards, but he’s just gotten healthy off of that hamstring injury. At least we know the Packers don’t feel the need to spread the ball around. Matchups don’t get much better for running backs than facing the Colts.

Chris Johnson, RB Titans vs. Chiefs – Destruction, thy name is Chris Johnson. I think the young rookie could show you why you should have bought him low when you had the chance this week against the Chiefs.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Lions — He makes a good start, but don’t expect some explosive, gaudy point total if the Texans put up enough points through the air to keep the Lions winless.

Calvin Johnson, WR Lions vs. Texans — He has gotten his catches even with safety-himself Dan Orlovsky under center. With Roy Williams out of Detroit, he becomes the critical playmaker in this offense, and as long as the trend continues, the Lions should need him making plays if they ever want to win a game.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Chargers — The Chargers let opposing QBs put up points on them (see: Trent Edwards). Evans will be the main target this week and should have at least one long bomb touchdown.

Dustin Keller, TE Jets vs. Raiders — He should be open quite a bit. Considering how good the Raiders’ corners are “supposed” to be, Favre may look to the TE in this one…again.

Miami D/ST vs. Ravens — On paper, this matchup looks great. Miami has a very nice run defense against a team who relies heavily on the run, and the sacks they have had the last several weeks should come again against a rookie QB.

Bubble Boys

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Vikings — Orton’s the better QB in this battle. That’s not a bold statement; he’s never slammed his head into a wall and given himself a concussion. Orton could have a big day against a weak Minnesota secondary, or he could trudge along in a defensive battle. I like him, but I wouldn’t bench an every-week starter for him.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB Steelers vs. Bengals — Contrary to popular belief, the Bengals secondary is not terrible. Not great, but not terrible. Mewelde Moore might be the guy to have in this game.

Brad Johnson, QB Cowboys vs. Rams — If Romo doesn’t come in and start this game despite reports that he would be out for several weeks, consider it a BONUS!

Sammy Morris, RB Patriots vs. Broncos — Morris is the only reliable running back in the Patriots offense right now, and the Pats are going to have to get him going against the Broncos if they hope to make it competitive. If I were Bill Belichick, I’d go ‘Wildcat’ with Morris or Faulk and take the ball out of Cassel’s hands. I’d also wear a sweatshirt, no sleeves.

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Vikings — Forte gets the ball so much, and he’ll be catching the ball against the weak secondary, too. I think you have to start him despite the questionable matchup against one of the top run defenses. As long as he gets a touchdown, it’ll work out for the best.

Torry Holt, WR Rams vs. Cowboys – This matchup might the best chance Holt has to succeed all year. The Cowboys have lost two of their starting corners and a safety so far this season. I can’t honestly say he’s a “hot hand,” but if Holt produces here, we’ll know he has a pulse.

Roy Williams WR Cowboys vs. Rams — Don’t jump on him just yet. Remember how Chris Chambers started slow with the Chargers last year? I’d expect something like that.

Cold Shoulders

Matt Cassel, QB Patriots vs. Broncos — Last time I suggested Cassel as a “cold shoulder,” he had a decent outing. Take that as you will. The Broncos weakness is stopping the run, and the Denver corners are respectable. I think Cassel’s opportunities are limited, and I don’t really like his chances to make a big play or two against this team.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB 49ers vs. Giants — The Giants’ anger will take the luck out o’ the Irish.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Buccaneers — The Bucs run defense is performing at the top of its game this season. Don’t think that Julius Jones is one of those RBs that can defy the norm. Splitting time with Maurice Morris and/or T.J. Duckett shouldn’t help his chances.

Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs vs. Titans — It’s best not to get cute even if Larry Johnson is sitting out. The Titans are good at stopping RBs, and a backup RB has little hope for success.

Bills D/ST vs. Chargers — Don’t be silly. The Chargers will score, and the Bills are still missing some good corners. Give them the week off.

Who are you starting/sitting this week?

Foolish Thoughts on Week 6: Last-second nonsense

Who is the better Manning now? I think Peyton Manning put ex-lax in his brother’s Gatorade this week. It was time to shut up the critics. Peyton gets three touchdowns; Eli gets three picks. At least in fantasy, it looks like Peyton may have reclaimed his top spot on the Manning mantel for now.

And Eli has lost my respect (again) until he can tackle the lone man running down the sidelines.

Speaking of Peyton, who knew the Colts had a defense? I thought Bob Sanders was the only one making sure those defensive players punched their time cards. Without him, none of them were showing up to work. When the Colts take the lead, apparently the defense comes to play.

Baltimore better rethink that “Joe Flacco is our starter” thing for Week 7.

Could there have been a sloppier looking game than Detroit and Minnesota? Orlovsky’s safetying of himself ended up being the difference in this one. Is that really how the Vikings had to win? They’ve got to look better — same goes for the Cowboys. Adrian Peterson has to start pulling his fantasy weight out there. Bears, Texans and Packers may let him do that.

By the way, Bobby Wade = reliable, incredibly unsexy wide receiver option, but I’ll wait for Sidney Rice.

JaMarcus Russell was overwhelmed by the game plan on Sunday — that’s not exactly the line you want to be spreading to keep your job, Cable. Did you see what Al Davis did to the last guy? I hope you have a family. Otherwise, Davis might just mount you on his wall where no one can hear you scream.

If Brees could throw sniper bullets — which might be possible — the United States would never need an army. He’s throwing with a laser sight, and he should be even more lethal when Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey return.

Is anyone else starting to feel sorry for the Bengals? I mean, they have Ryan Fitzpatrick trying to do what a gimpy-elbowed Carson Palmer has been incapable of doing — win one. Their best chance in the immediate future to get a win is to sneak up on the Texans in Week 8, but the Texans should be ready for that.

I’d look into the kind of offers you can get for your Bengals this week — except for T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Housh could still produce while NFL defenses pay some attention to Chad Johnson.

Favre continues to be wishy-washy in the Jets passing game. Are the Jets going to run or pass next week? If I own Brett Favre, I might look to trade him after his next big day to a team with a more reliable starter. Besides, he’s still got the Madden curse…

Atlanta surprised the crap out of me this year with Matt Ryan. Michael Turner isn’t the only fantasy weapon there. Roddy White is an every-week starter, and Matt Ryan now warrants consideration when his matchup is good. Those scouting reports before the NFL draft that claimed he would be a risky franchise QB look like they were wrong now. In dynasty leagues, I’d try to obtain Roddy and Ryan. Besides, how can you not like a QB that jumps on his coach like a schoolboy after the kicker wins it?

Wha? What? Whaaaa? Carolina shuts out Kansas City and then almost gets shut out and blown away by Tampa Bay. The Panthers defense just became a pain to predict each week. Let’s see which one shows up in Week 7 against the Saints. For their sake, I hope it’s the good one (see: Drew Brees air-to-touchdown destruction tour).

Trap game, huh? The Rams finally won against the Redskins. Was there a curse on NFC East teams this week? (see: Redskins, Giants, Cowboys) I blame Andy Reid. I don’t think that was Haslett’s doing. I’m still very afraid of my Rams. They face the Romo-less Cowboys, Patriots and Cardinals in the next three weeks.

Should NFL coaches start interviewing college defensive coordinators on how to stop that ‘Wildcat’ offense? Ronnie Brown sure makes it look good. Will Patrick Cobbs do that again? (Drop your opinion in the comments.)

Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson look like they’re going to get it together this year. Will Houston fans stop calling for Sage now? I thought last week’s helicopter would silence that chant.

Maybe Daniel Graham hasn’t lost his TE skills, but I can’t wait for Tony Scheffler to get back on the field. Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal should be fine. This week was just a slow one due to injuries, and Stokley going out didn’t give Marshall much help. They just need to stop turning the ball over.

If that’s what Maurice Jones-Drew would be like as the starting back in Jacksonville, I’m all for it. Unfortunately, Fred Taylor should squash those dreams again when he gets back on the field.

David Garrard should be on an upswing after this week’s win. The Jags play the Browns, Bengals and Lions in the next three weeks.

Donovan McNabb, like Brees, doesn’t need his best receivers to make plays. Was that Buckhalter or Westbrook out there? I couldn’t tell.

Frank Gore just holds it down every week. Martz with a running game is a nice look. He just needs one more big receiver to come through besides Isaac Bruce. A healthy Bryant Johnson could do the trick — healthy being the key word there.

No one can stay healthy in Seattle. Even Julius Jones and Bobby Engram might suffer for a good while. Charlie Frye is one of those backups you don’t really want starting games for you.

Aaron Rodgers looks the guy that made Favre move on to another team. I’m saying it. I still believe that Ryan Grant will find his old self again soon. They aren’t afraid to run the ball; Grant had 33 carries but only racked up 90 yards. TDs would be nice.

The Arizona defense has looked both idiotic and unstoppable this season. Like Carolina, I don’t know where to place them yet, but they certainly tore apart the Cowboys and injured some key positions.

The Romo loss hurts, but the Cowboys haven’t brought it all together this season despite their talent. Maybe this four-game stint with Brad Johnson will shock them. Big ups to Marion Barber as he might see his workload go up significantly for several weeks.

I think Wade Phillips ate the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Larry Fitzgerald might be the best receiver in the NFL right now, and he certainly could be the best receiver in fantasy in 2008 as long as Kurt Warner stays at quarterback.

At the other end of the quarterback standings, Matt Cassel is a sad copycat of Tom Brady. He just can’t make the throws. Welker’s reliable but gives only meager stats, and Randy Moss is no better than Chad Johnson at this point.

The Chargers’ transition into a throw-first red zone team hurts LaDainian Tomlinson’s value. With his toe injury and limited yardage, he needs touchdowns to put up decent fantasy numbers. Philip Rivers is only good now because Tomlinson is bad. Keep that in mind as they head into the bye.

Congrats on hitting 11,000 career yards, L.T.

The Cleveland Browns are alive again. Was it the ‘Wildcat’ that did it?

Any foolish reader thoughts from Week 6? Post ‘em in the comments.

Week 6 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

It’s about time some of the fantasy studs broke out this year. This week has some matchups to watch. If you ‘bought low’ on guys like Ryan Grant and Maurice Jones-Drew, picked up Deuce McAllister or drafted Bernard Berrian for depth, this week should show you what they’re worth.

For those of you who may have missed the first few weeks of the start or sit breakdown here at the Fools, the “Hot Hands” are players you definitely want to start while “Cold Shoulders” are bums that should leave you hanging this week. The “Bubble Boys” classification points out guys that are somewhere in the middle. They may be (and usually are) good starts, but I still have some concerns about them this week. If you feel that they are your best option, go ahead and start them.

As usual, I’ll be answering sit/start questions in the comments up until the game time on Sunday. I should get to questions by Saturday night or Sunday morning — heading to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry (Texas vs. OU) and a wedding. Who gets married on OU weekend?

Hot Hands

Brett Favre, QB Jets vs. Bengals — He won’t throw six touchdowns, but I think it’s safe to say that Favre should take advantage of the Bengals secondary even if the Jets work on establishing the running game in this one.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Broncos — He’s had two good weeks and demonstrated that the Jags passing game can produce. He’ll have to show it again against the Broncos if they plan on winning this one.

Kyle Orton, QB Chicago vs. Falcons — Orton is getting more and more done in the passing game. I’d give him a start if you don’t have better options. This week, he gets to take on Atlanta after Rodgers just torched them for three TDs last week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Seahawks — He’s had a pretty miserable season thus far, but coming into camp late because of a holdout and then getting injured will do that to you. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry last week and is angry he hasn’t broken one long yet this season like he did all last year. This week against the Seahawks would be a great opportunity for him to return to form against and underperforming defense and control the clock for the Packers.

LeRon McClain, RB Ravens vs. Colts — The Colts can’t stop the run, and McGahee can’t stay healthy. McClain CAN take full advantage of that situation. Even if McGahee hits the field again, there should be plenty of running to go around. The Ravens will try to give Peyton Manning as little time on the field as possible.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Rams — Not that you would be sitting one of the best backs through the first five weeks, but I felt obligated to list him just so I could say again how terrible the Rams are. The only danger with Portis is that the passing game scores before he can. I think he’ll get his chances.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Texans — The ‘Wildcat’ has been ruining opposing defenses the last several weeks. The Dolphins will keep using the formation until someone can stop it. I don’t think that the Texans are that someone.

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Raiders — Reggie Bush had his big game last week, but Deuce is due. While Oakland’s cornerbacks may be slacking, they should be able to cut a few plays off short of the end zone. Deuce is the battering ram that will get those TDs. I like him to see touches this game with a defense soft on the run.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Dolphins — On the other side of the ball, Slaton should have a good day against Miami. The Dolphins have been surprisingly decent against the run this year, but the Texans should find a way to get the ball in his hands and involve him the passing game so that he still has a good day for fantasy owners. Schaub will want to ease back into the game slowly coming off his illness, and Slaton will be his crutch.

Bernard Berrian, WR Vikings vs. Lions — Berrian had his season highs in catches, yards and touchdowns last week against the Saints and went over 100 yards for the first time this season. He should continue to see plenty of looks against the Lions since Sidney Rice is still out for this one. This week should be the week to start him.

Santana Moss, WR Redskins vs. Rams — Again, the only concern you should have about starting Moss is whether or not Portis will break every other carry for a long touchdown. That’s a good concern to have.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bengals — Cotchery should be the stretch man for Favre in this one, and the Bengals won’t be shutting down Cotchery or Coles on passing plays. For the sake of padding stats, Favre’s gotta hit Cotchery for a score. Coles remains a good start as well.

Washington Redskins D/ST vs. Rams — We’re really picking on the Rams here. If you need a bye week fill for defense this week, the Redskins should be a top option facing one of the worst offenses in football. St. Louis shouldn’t put many points up on this unit that has been holding back the Eagles and Cowboys offensive powerhouses the last two weeks.

Bubble Boys

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB 49ers vs. Eagles — We’ve seen O’Sullivan take the hits and still make the plays, but this week, the hits might be too much for him. The Eagles should attack, attack and attack while keeping a lock on Isaac Bruce, O’Sullivan’s hottest target thus far. For O’Sullivan to have a good game, Bryant Johnson and other supporting cast members will have to step up.

Gus Frerotte, QB Vikings vs. Lions — Don’t get me wrong. Frerotte is still worth a start if you need him, and I think he will give Berrian a good day. I only put him on the bubble because you have to worry that Peterson will go off. I don’t think that the Vikings will abandon the run, so I would peg him for a conservatively good day.

Eli Manning, QB Giants vs. Browns — Eli has led one of the most powerful offenses in football this season, but I have some concerns this week. With Plax returning, will there be tension in the passing game? And will the Giants really get a chance to open up the passing game with all their powerful runners? I think Eli is still a solid start, but if you have another stud, you might consider them. Post a comment below if you are having a tough time making the call.

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Ravens — Both Manning brothers are bubble boys this week. While Peyton would normally be a lock as a start after his bye has passed, the Colts still seem like a struggling offense. The offensive line is holding them back severely. I’d still take a chance on Manning to do it all against the Ravens, but don’t be shocked if he posts another low week.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Broncos — On paper, this matchup looks great, but I’m still apprehensive about starting MJD after the Broncos held Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham relatively in check. I’d still start him in this one, but don’t demand a huge performance. The Jags may have to abandon the run to keep pace if Cutler and the Broncos explode.

Cold Shoulders

Derek Anderson, QB Browns vs. Giants — Anderson practiced being comfortable on his back this week because he’ll be taking a lot of hits here against the Giants. They’ll come at him all day long. I don’t think it’ll be pretty.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers vs. Buccaneers — Riding the hot hand with Williams this week? Don’t. The Bucs have a stout defense against the run, and they should keep the score low just like their game with the Broncos last week. While I am sure one team will have success running the ball, I can’t say which will win the day. I think you should be able to find a more definite start at RB. If not, I’d put Stewart ahead of Williams.

All Detroit Lions vs. Vikings — We’re not really sure who’s starting at quarterback for the Lions since Kitna may be out, and that uncertainty takes the Detroit passing game down several notches as Orlovsky and Drew Stanton still need to settle into the position before they’re worth a fantasy start. The run stoppers on Minnesota won’t let Kevin Smith or Rudi Johnson go anywhere. This week could be a lot of goose eggs for your Lions.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Giants — The Browns passing game isn’t doing enough this season to take pressure off of Lewis, and the Giants are going to go after Anderson all day. I don’t think Lewis gets many opportunities, and I don’t see him doing much with the ones he does get.

Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR Bengals vs. Jets — With Carson Palmer sitting this weekend, you really are taking a big chance starting either of these guys. While it might be a shootout, Fitzpatrick is more likely to turn the ball over than score when he goes long.

Martin Gramatica, K Saints vs. Raiders — Okay, this one is just a joke. Gramatica is on IR, but his injury is probably more to his pride and reputation than his leg. Looks like I was right in thinking he would be gone by Friday.

Not Starting Due to Injury

Note that the latest reports have Brian Westbrook, Carson Palmer, Reggie Brown, Deion Branch, Tony Scheffler and Anquan Boldin sitting out this week. Jon Kitna, Brian Griese, Matt Hasselbeck and Kellen Winslow might also miss. Keep your eye on injury reports Sunday morning.

Sleepers

Zach Miller, TE Raiders vs. Saints — Miller ended last season as JaMarcus Russell’s most trustworthy target. He’s looking like he might lead the team in receptions this season, so he’s worth taking a look at this week. Russell could look for him down the field when the Raiders need a score to match the Saints.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Texans — If all of the good defenses are taken, you could do much worse than the Dolphins. They’ve held up against the Chargers and Patriots. The Texans should have Schaub back under center, but that shouldn’t keep Miami from getting some sacks and turnovers to keep the score low in this one.

Having trouble setting your roster this week? Post your questions down below if you would like the Fools to help you out.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Grabs from Week 5

In 2006, I drafted Clinton Portis as my lead running back. I don’t even remember who my second running back was, but, in the late rounds, I picked myself up a rookie with too many names, Maurice Jones-Drew.

When Jones-Drew blew up with his big rookie season (1300+ yards and 15 TDs), I thought I was going to dominate with the Portis/Jones-Drew tandem until Portis broke his hand in Week 10 and killed my playoff chances. I had no viable replacement for Portis’ consistent point production because I had filled my bench with a few filler wide receivers and running backs that had poor schedules to end the season.

Fantasy owners who are sitting pretty right now have to start building for the playoffs. You want to balance your roster, strengthen your studs if you can by trading up and acquire a bench of players that, if nothing else, will have dominant performances in Weeks 14-16, when it matters most.

The waiver wire is critical from here on out because it can shift the power among the top teams and bring in the depth and talent that you need to win your league. Don’t think that you can become complacent now just because your team is sitting on top or sulking on the bottom.

Last year, in one of my veteran leagues, the playoff contenders were pretty evenly matched heading into the last part of the regular season until a team that was winning with the duo of Terrell Owens and Randy Moss picked up Kurt Warner and Ryan Grant off waivers.

Well, you can guess how that worked out for him. What a lucky jackass smart guy.

Here are a few potential fantasy free agents that could help you do that same in 2008.

Worth Claiming

Bobby Engram, WR Seattle Seahawks
If no one picked him up last week or if your league remains unimpressed by his eight catches for 61 yards against the Giants, make sure you put him on your roster this week. His schedule gets MUCH better, and if Branch is injured, that means even more balls coming his way — and that’s what she said. I prefer Engram to Branch, even when neither of them have foot pain. After Green Bay and the Bucs, Engram will open it up against the 49ers, Eagles, Dolphins, Cardinals…it keeps going from there. He’s just the kind of guy you want on your playoff team as well with matchups against the Rams and Jets in Week 15 and Week 16.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
Remember experimenting with him as a wide receiver? It’s happening now…and working. Without Brandon Lloyd, Hester is the homerun threat, and Orton is making him dangerous for opposing defenses. Enjoy him while the Bears go through the soft, chewy center of their schedule.

Greg Camarillo, WR Miami Dolphins
Some people just jump out on you when they finally get a touchdown. Pennington won’t open it up down the field that much, but he’s got to start throwing to someone other than his tight ends as he matures in the Dolphin’s offense.  Camarillo has 17 catches through four games, his bye has already passed and he’s got a sick playoff schedule with the 49ers and Kansas City in Weeks 15 and 16. If you currently have Ted Ginn, Jr. on your roster, first of all, slap yourself. Second, pick up Camarillo instead.

Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears
Tight ends are a big hit on the waiver wire this week. Olsen is the first one on the list. Other than Marty Booker and his “spider-sense” hands, Olsen is one of the best pass catchers the Bears have on their roster. He’s getting some big plays down the field and has been more productive in Brandon Lloyd’s absence. Matchups like this week against Atlanta shouldn’t hurt his chances to get a second TD either. Orton is targeting him rather than Desmond Clark these days, and as Orton goes, so goes Greg Olsen.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets
Brett Favre and Keller connected almost immediately this season, and Favre is throwing out touchdowns like candy in a parade. You want this guy on your roster. Say it with me now: I want this guy on my roster. If you don’t have a top tight end on your roster or Dustin Keller after reading that paragraph…well, then there is no hope for you, buddy. You’ll never improve your tight end situation, quit smoking or hypnotize yourself into losing weight. I give up.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Minnesota Vikings
I was hoping I wouldn’t have to mention this guy. His name is just so freaking hard to type. It’s like his parents named him by looking at a QWERTY keyboard and choosing letters that were really far apart. No, really, Shiancoes, I’m on to you. As long as Frerotte is starting, the Vikings will need a red zone target. Otherwise, every defense just stacks the box to keep Adrian Peterson out of the end zone when they are close. Shank-o is a red zone man. He’s got two TDs this season including the TD pass from Chester Taylor this past weekend. Since we’re so big on playoff schedules this week on the wire, how about Lions, Cardinals and Falcons?

Kyle Orton, QB Chicago Bears
If I mentioned two of his best options, I guess that means I have to mention him again…doesn’t it? Orton tied for the top spot at QB in Week 5. In Week 6, he faces Atlanta. It makes me sick to think of him as a fantasy-worthy QB as well, but I’m starting him this week. When is Orton going to get his first endorsement for Gilette or Norelco?

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He looked better than Earnest Graham in Week 5 against the Broncos. Graham should have had a field day on that defense. I’m worried if I am a Graham owner.

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders
Back at full health, he’s the starting running back for one of the best rushing offenses in football. McFadden might demand more touches at this point, but Fargas will still get some cred since he had the job first. It’s a rule of the workplace. Haven’t you ever had a steady corporate job with a ladder to nowhere?

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals
As I mentioned previously in my thoughts from Week 5, Chris Perry’s hold on the starting job in Cincy isn’t going to get much weaker than it is right now. Benson will obviously play a larger role in Week 6, but he could take over the reigns completely. I mean, what’s he got to beat? Averaging less three yards per carry and leading the league in fumbles? Even for Benson, that’s doable.

Ones to Watch

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars
Also revealed in my thoughts from Week 5, Walker is one of a handful of sleepers I had on a list to start the season. He hadn’t quite woken up yet and flirted with close to 50 yards in the Houston game, but he came alive against the Steelers with six passes for 107 yards. He’s worthy of putting on a roster at this point in the season. If he turns into a go-to possession and red zone receiver, Walker could become a staple of your starting lineup. He may have gotten a little torn up on Sunday night, so watch the reports before you make a grab. If healthy, I see nothing but upside, but he’s so small time as a Jacksonville WR that you might be able to wait on him.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles
I really want to see Kevin Curtis take the field this season, and he could be close to it. McNabb is stalling out a bit as of late, but he was firing away the first two weeks. I’m sure he’d get a boost throwing to Curtis alongside DeSean Jackson and Reggie Brown. Keep an eye on him.

Nate Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers
Washington fills a role similar to Devery Henderson on the Saints or Chansi Stuckey on the Jets. He’s the third WR who goes for a lot of big plays. He’s not always hit with lots of passes, but when he gets one, he can take it to the house. Washington has looked more solid than Santonio Holmes over the last several weeks, and he’s not a bad start when the Steelers are going to be passing frequently. Washington had 95 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville this past weekend.

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans
It pains me to only be able to list VY as a “one to watch,” but the Titans are on a bye. I know Young isn’t supposed to take back the reigns on the starting job, and more than likely, it won’t happen in Week 7, BUT (I like big buts…) I believe that his return to the starting lineup is inevitable. He’s too talented with too much invested in him for the Titans to pass it off to Kerry Collins. If VY returns and hits his stride in the NFL, he finishes up against the Jets, Lions, Browns and Texans before facing the Steelers in Week 16. In a free agent pool of substitute QBs, VY has the greatest upside. Don’t let that get away from you.

Correll Buckhalter, RB Philadelphia Eagles
He’s a sufficient Westbrook substitute, but just like Splenda, he’s nothing like the real thing. It’s just got that twang that makes you know it’s not the real stuff, you know? I believe Westbrook will go in Week 6 against the 49ers, but if they hold him back until after their Week 7 bye, Buckhalter is the guy you want to fill in for your roster.

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos
Mike Shanahan couldn’t stop raving about Torain before the season started, and then Torain got hurt and missed out on the season up until now. I’m going to start mentioning him as a watch for now, but he’s probably going to jump into the grab-worthy category once he is cleared to practice. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Shanahan never gave him a single carry after talking so much about him just to make fantasy owners waste a spot on their roster? < — Not a joke.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks
When he comes back from injury, he could challenge Julius Jones for carries or the starting role. That’s not the most valuable starting fantasy RB job in the NFL, but you might seriously be contemplating putting Cedric Benson on your team. Call me a Julius Jones hater, but I just like Morris better. Watch him.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans
Old bones is back in football pads. It’s sort of anticlimactic now that he isn’t even catching a whiff of the starting role, but Green is bound to be somewhat productive…until his next injury. He’s worth watching only if you need a bye week fill or if you just really like the Texans. Crickets? No one?

Flukes or Droppables

Hank Baskett, WR Philadelphia Eagles
Reggie Brown has stolen back his starting spot, so Baskett is back on the bench. At least he sort of, maybe, in gossip blog terms dated one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. Say goodbye to Kendra, Hank. Your fifteen minutes seconds are up.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens
I still hate LeRon McClain, but he totally sniped Rice’s job from him. Maybe he ate Ray Rice. Has anyone checked? Oh, God.

Andre Hall, RB Denver Broncos
Hall is about to be swallowed up by the Torain train and/or the black hole that is the running back depth chart in Denver. His injury just provides one more reason to let him go.

Chris Perry, RB Cincinnati Bengals
Don’t just ditch him on the side of the road. He’s still a starting running back for a *potentially* high-powered offense, but it’s very possible that he could lose his job just like his lost all the marbles over the last five games. I’d seek greener, better gripping pastures.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 4: Postgame reactions to the week that fantasy forgot

Where did that Carson Palmer injury come from on Sunday morning? I lucked out played against him this week, but I didn’t hear a word about it until I saw him putting up zero points heading into halftime. Enough with the quiet injuries already.

I’m still shocked there was an Ocho Cinco sighting without Palmer in the lineup.

Denver Broncos lose to the Kansas City Chiefs. That was unbelievable enough, but it just sounds silly when you consider that both Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall had big days. Unfortunately, they also fumbled. They’ll have to fix up that offense before Tampa Bay this week. I don’t think Larry Johnson is that good. Denver’s defense is that bad.

Royal had 100+ yards in the loss. I see him taking a Patrick Crayton of 2007 value. When Marshall has an average or less spectacular performance, Royal will have a big game, but when Marshall is out of this world, Royal is limited to something around 80 yards and a rare TD.

David Garrard might be hitting his stride. He’s getting back to being mobile to compensate for issues with the offensive line. Garrard is worth holding onto until after his bye. A Jags transition to a pass-first offense with Garrard threatening to run could make him increasingly more valuable in fantasy.

Is Matt Jones for real or is this just some residual effect of the drugs?

Matt Schaub woke up from his fantasy slumber in Week 4 as well. Was that Kevin Walter or Wes Welker out there? Either way, I want him on my fantasy roster.

By the way, Steve Slaton looks like he can do some big things. I’d make sure he’s on a roster this week if you’ve been ignoring my constant recommendation that you pick him up.

Brett Favre disappoints on Monday night and then fires back with six touchdowns this week — including one to the rookie TE Dustin Keller. (Get him.)

I can’t believe he took it up a notch with the Jets wide receivers so quickly. Coles is supposed to hate him for replacing his best friend, Chad Pennington, but I guess being mad at Favre is like ignoring a rocket-fast bullet flying into your chest. You just have to catch it.

Anquan Boldin certainly isn’t afraid to take a monster hit or run right into coverage. Glad he’s okay. There’s no way you should trade for him now when his value is at its peak, but if the owner gets scared of the injury or Boldin misses some time, make an offer. Boldin could win you several games down the stretch.

The Jets defense is becoming a potential fantasy play…but so is Kyle Orton.

J.T. O’Sullivan was underwhelming in this one, but he’s no Drew Brees. The 49ers will continue to develop a rhythm with their passing game should remain a fantasy threat on offense down the stretch. O’Sullivan’s a great QB2, but he’ll enter into a rough patch the next few weeks before he hits the next nice patch of matchups.

Atlanta corners are just bad — and especially bad against Steve Smith. Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith like being together in that offense. Delhomme likes them there, too.

When Tennessee plays Minnesota, you don’t expect to see 30 points on the board. Chris Johnson benefited from the LenDale White fumble and had a bigger game than anyone expected. Johnson’s basically become a must start in the Tennessee offense even though he splits time. More TDs would be nice though, Chris.

Greg Jennings finally scores a touchdown…and then another one. I know Aaron Rodgers got banged up and mistreated, but it was the Bucs defense. He’ll bounce back, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t start in Week 5 to torch the Atlanta corners (and get Greg Jennings another TD for this season).

Don’t sleep on Jordy Nelson. The rookie has talent and Rodgers’ trust.  As long as James Jones is out, Jordy Nelson is a borderline starter or WR3.

Where did Jerramy Stevens go this week? Jail?

Warrick Dunn is reducing Earnest Graham’s value. They are both being paid the same amount of green, and if you take away the two big runs that Graham has broken, he isn’t getting a lot of action. I think I’m worried if I am a Graham owner. Might be time to buy low on someone else. (Psst, Ryan Grant)

I am convinced that I have mind control after I commanded the Buffalo interception return for a touchdown and the long bomb to Lee Evans. Seriously, I was looking at my ESPN live scoring, and I asked myself why Buffalo had done nothing on defense…and why hadn’t Lee Evans gotten more than ONE throw. Prayers answered.

Trent Green is NOT a better quarterback than Marc Bulger, but maybe the Buffalo defense went a little easy on him since no one wanted a death on their hands if they sacked him into his last concussion.

What happened to the Cowboys on Sunday? Yes, being from Big D, I am a Cowboys fan. Loathe me.

I respected the Dallas corners, but this far into the season with no interceptions? Pacman really did just become just “Adam” this season. I no longer give them credit for their skills until the get an INT.

The Cowboys offense fell asleep in the second quarter — along with the corners — and Felix Jones has got to get at least one carry. Wade Phillips said the Cowboys have no plays designed for Jones in comeback situations. How about every game-changing run he’s had so far this season?

The Chargers really have given up a touchdown to a tight end every week this season. Even Zach Miller gets one for the Raiders. I’m starting Anthony Fasano if I have him this week against the Chargers. The TMR agrees.

JaMarcus Russell may still be young, but that guy can throw. Dynasty leaguers should note that potential.

DeSean Jackson finally gets his first TD in the NFL. I don’t think he let the ball go at all, but he caught this one in the end zone. Then, he fumbled a punt. Rookie.

Is Kyle Orton becoming a decent fantasy play? Someone pinch me…or slap me…or knock me out. This fantasy surge just can’t happen.

But Neckbeard has Detroit and Atlanta the next two weeks. Is it the mustache?

Can David Akers make field goals anymore? Rocca doesn’t like his chances. How close does he need to be these days?

If Westbrook had been in this game, he would have gotten that touchdown.

Joe Flacco can extend the play, hit his receivers and, like Russell, he’s got a gun. Unfortunately, he’s still a rookie. He’s going to fumble and make mistakes, and he did.

Where is Ray Rice? I hate you LeRon McClain and your last TD that cost me a match this week. That big boy might just be a waiver wire gem all season as long as McGahee can’t stay healthy.

Weeks like Week 4 are why projections can drive you crazy. Better lineups next week, and cheers and beers to all who started Brett Favre.