Week 7 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: LenWhale fall down, go boom

Patrick Crayton just straight up offended me by complaining that he wasn’t told that he was being replaced in the starting lineup. Seriously? But seriously? But seriously? I guess he was the last to know. I knew two weeks ago.

Let’s just drop the act, Crayton. You saw Miles Austin have the best day of any Cowboys’ receiver two weeks ago. You saw it first hand unless — and I’m not ruling this out — you couldn’t see around the one corner that had you blanketed the whole game.

If you watch any game film of the rest of your career, I’m sure you’ll also see the key drop you had in the playoffs against the Giants. Yes, that was you. Would the coaches have had to explain to you why you were being replaced in the starting lineup that week?

And you’ll also notice plenty of other drops falling from your hands whenever you were open beside Terrell Owens, which made it impossible for Owens to duck any coverage in the passing game. Hey, we could practically blame the need to trade for Roy Williams midseason on you. You were not enough of a threat.

You’re upset that you lost your starting job so quickly, so unsuspectingly, but no one is really surprised here. You’re a better slot man than a second receiving option. Miles Austin has far more potential and the trust of Tony Romo. Just stop trying to be the T.O. that T.O. left behind.

Speaking of getting left behind, LenDale White had to be carted off the field this week. Luckily, they had a heavy-duty model to do the job.

I didn’t get to see the exact play where he injured himself, but I’m told it’s because he didn’t stick the landing on this one. Poor guy.

[For those of you reading this by email (and if not, subscribe to our free email updates today). There is a video here. This video, in fact.]

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Steve Smith, WR, Giants vs. Cardinals

Contrary to what you may start to think when looking at Hakeem Nicks’ or Mario Manningham’s touchdowns the last few weeks, Steve Smith is the No. 1 target in the Giants’ offense.

The Cardinals are almost dead last in the league against the pass, and that’s in a league that still includes the Tennessee Titans. The Giants, much like the Steelers, have become more comfortable passing the ball than running it lately.

Even if the weather is a little rough, I expect Eli Manning to hit Steve Smith with the critical passes and maybe even a score. Forget about that one in Carolina. This guy is the Steve Smith.

Other mighty men of bravery and startability this week…

Thomas Jones, RB, Jets vs. Raiders

This destruction shall be mighty. This man ran for 210 yards against the Bills last week, and unless they have two pigeons on their side this week, I see Jones turning the Raiders back to their poor-run-defense selves.

The Jets will want to go easy on Mark Sanchez after he was de-poised over the past two weeks. It may not be a career performance, but Jones is a strong choice at running back this week. He’ll do some damage. Leon Washington is a good play as well.

Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots vs. Bucs

Sammy Morris didn’t travel to London, and since I know he has a passport, that means he couldn’t play this week. So I guess Maroney is the man.

Tampa Bay has a terrible run defense, but they also have a terrible pass defense. It’s hard to say what to trust here, especially because Belichick is such a cranky mad scientist most of the time. Will he run or pass? He’ll probably just have Tom Brady QB sneak the whole game to screw us all.

Still, Maroney gets love for at least this week. He ran well against the Titans, but they looked like a fifth grade team that got lost on the way to the field. If Maroney doesn’t show up, at least we can all move on to liking BenJarvus Green-Ellis for his awesome nickname and starting role with the Patriots. “Law Firm,” simply awesome.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs vs. Chargers

Oh, he’s a sleeper! I actually like Cassel a little more this week. Not only does he have Sean Ryan — and you ALWAYS start your tight ends against the Chargers — but he also might have Antonio Cromartie out with a knee injury.

The Chargers secondary is a pretty big mess right now, and their pass rush is absentee in this ballot. Let’s go with Cassel this week. Maybe he’ll look more like that Patriot version of himself this week, but we’re not talking 59-0 here.

Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals vs. Giants

Here’s my theory: Hightower will be Kurt Warner’s outlet pass whenever the Giants bring the pain, and when they get near the goal line, Hightower’s bound to be asked to at least attempt a few goal line runs to keep this thing honest.

He’s not the best play of the week, but if you need a solid RB2 or a flex, I like his chances for a score and some yardage in this one. Definitely a safe play in PPR leagues due to the passes he’ll get.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders vs. Jets

I hate myself. I just puked. I feel sick again. I want to sit down. (I know it’s weird that I’m typing this while standing up, but I feel like it improves the circulation.)

That’s better… Oh, man, Fargas is still listed here as a start. Well, there are six teams on bye. The Raiders ran the ball well last week. And, well, Fargas might just be able to slip down the middle of the Jets’ defense now that Kris Jenkins, the big man in the middle, is out.

So you’re saying there is a chance? Sadly, yes. Even if the man talks to pigeons, there’s a chance Fargas succeeds for you this week. There’s also a chance that I won’t acknowledge I ever said this…

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins vs. Saints

Don’t get cute. You picked him up after the announcers went all “laser, rocket arm” on him against the Jets.

Tell you what, give him a week to do it again against a defense that has been truly legit against the run. Barring a new wrinkle in the Wildcat offense, which sure seems pretty wrinkly these days, I don’t see Henne succeeding in this game.

Brees and the Saints just put Eli Manning in his place, and he’s just slightly ahead of Henne’s learning curve.

Other worthless souls this week…

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Raiders

Just say “no” to Nnamdi Asomugha. And Mark Sanchez is positively poiseless right now. And Edwards is just a little injured. Give him a week off if you can afford it. Otherwise, lower your expectations. You’re used to that with Braylon Edwards anyway.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers vs. Bills

This guy has disappeared from his own offense. Let him disappear from your lineup this week. The Bills may be sad and pathetic right now, but their pass defense is strong as a buffalo. Did you see what I did there? Did you?

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings vs. Steelers

The ol’ “Silver Fox” is no match for a Steelers defense with Troy Polamalu back in the mix. Besides, other injuries on the Pittsburgh defense make running against them the most prudent strategy, and that is something else the Vikings are good at doing. It’s true. They don’t just allow announcers to gush over aging stars playing roles.

I relish any opportunity to use a word like prudent, but it just doesn’t sound right when we’re talking about Brett Favre.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Saints

You’ve met Drew Brees, haven’t you? Okay, good. I thought you were seriously going to start them. Funny guy.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Cardinals

I don’t see him catching a touchdown pass (that will, of course, be called back for a penalty), and this game is shaping up to be pass-happy as long as the weather allows.

It’s not because I think Ahmad Bradshaw is stealing his job. That’s not happening. I just don’t like Jacobs this week. This fat man won’t fit through the square hole that is this matchup against the Cardinals.

It’d be nice if he broke out with a big game, but it’s not coming anytime soon. I finally feel safe recommending benching him if you have a better option.

Sleeper of the Week

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys vs. Falcons

That’s right. Screw you, Patrick Crayton. I’m all in.

I’m giving Miles Austin every chance to prove himself here. Maybe that’s silly of me to bet on another nice performance right after his record-breaking day, but hey, I live on the edge — the edge of reality.

There is some upside behind this sleeper pick though. Atlanta just lost one of their starting cornerbacks, and assuming that they pay the most attention to the big guy, Roy Williams, the Falcons will have a not-so-good corner trying to contain Miles Austin. He already gets a lot of looks from Tony Romo. I say he gives him a few more after Austin saved all the Cowboys two weeks ago.

And if Miles Austin impresses, I’ll be the first one to tell Patrick Crayton. Pinky swear.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Your Lineups

Flight of the Conchords – I’m Not Crying

Flight of the Conchords is a great show. Maybe they can ease your pain during this six-team bye week sadness. I’m not crying… I just looked at my lineup while cutting an onion and thinking of my friend, who you don’t know, who is dying… of bye weeks.

I miss you already, Ray Rice.

For more, check your lineups against FF Toolbox starts and sits, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Goat, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate for Week 7 and Fantasy Joe.

As always, leave your sit and start issues in the comments. I’ll take care of them.

Guest Post: Three RBBCs to Avoid in Fantasy Football Drafts

This guest post comes to us all the way across the pond from Ross Mooring of Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth. If you enjoy his thoughts on RBBCs in the NFL, you can read more in his recent posts on the AFC and the NFC.

In the past five years, the landscape of fantasy football has changed in a difficult but interesting way. Gone are the days of a multitude of “bell cow” running backs to stack on your roster — run out of town by the rise of running-back-by-committees (RBBC) to the extent that the number of reliable weekly starters has decreased into the teens. In terms of formatting your roster, this shift means you will end up with three, if not four, backs on your team who share time.

The new environment requires more research for your average fantasy drafter. One has to pay lots of attention to training camp battles and keep an eye on pretty much every preseason game in order to make sure that running back “A” has not passed running back “B” on the depth chart, and even so far as to looking into what running back “C” is doing.

With this in mind, I’ve chosen the top three RBBCs to avoid in your fantasy draft.

Baltimore Ravens

A star running back in 2007, Willis McGahee started the Ravens’ camp on the PUP. During the offseason, big-boned LeRon McClain was talked down from his previous years’ short-yardage success and talked up concerning fullback duties, while rookie starlet Ray Rice was bigged up to improve in his sophomore year.

If he’s fit, McGahee, however, is the prototypical workhorse of the group, but remember that coach John Harbaugh seemingly picked his favorite week-to-week on a random basis last year. As a result, while someone has to run the ball in Baltimore and do it well, it’s a crapshoot at this point.

New England Patriots

If you think the Ravens’ backfield committee is a mess, try working out what’s going to happen in New England! Will former first-round pick Laurence Maroney finally fufill his potential? Will Bill Belichick become smitten with free agent grandpa Fred Taylor?

Will Sammy Morris steer clear of injuries and monopolize the carries? And will Kevin Faulk continue to eat into time on passing and third downs? If you can figure this backfield out, you’ll be rewarded. If not, join the rest of us and scratch your head.

New York Jets

Staying in the AFC East with this one, there’s another triple-headed monster to tackle with the added bonus of a potentially weak passing offense in need of a running game to take the pressure off. Thomas Jones surprised many with his 2008 return to form, and he should do so again this year, except in a different way.

Jones has contract issues, and these issues led the Jets to draft power back Shonn Greene out of Iowa. The other runner in the mix, Leon Washington, also wants more money and figures to get more time this year as well. Without Brett Favre and Laveranues Cole around to keep defenses honest, there is too much risk here.

Read more of Ross Mooring at Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth.

Disagree with Ross about these RBBCs? As always, the comments are yours.

On the Wire: Week 14 Pickups and Playoff Late Bloomers from Week 13

Now, don’t go quitting the waiver wire on me because you are in the playoffs. You know that fifth wide receiver of yours has terrible matchups from here on out, and it’d be nice to replace him with a guy who has upside.

Even if you don’t need players, now more than ever, it’s important to pick up a guy that might have a nice game in the next week or two to prevent your opponents from using him against you.

That said, there’s not a whole lot to go around this week, but we’ll worth with what we got. Again, no formal Worth Claiming, Ones to Watch or Ignoring format headers for the guys this week.

J.P. Losman, QB Buffalo Bills – Yes, at long last, the Lee Evans ball return has taken the field. Losman was forced to come in for a gimpy Trent Edwards, and it looks like he may get the call to start for several weeks with no timeline set for Edwards’ hamstring injury. If weather permits, he’s a boost to Lee Evans because you know that he likes to throw that deep ball, but he’s a bang-bust option for fantasy. Luckily, he doesn’t face a really scary secondary the rest of the way — Dolphins, Jets, Broncos and Patriots.

Ken Dorsey, QB Cleveland Browns — Maybe you need a backup. Maybe you hate yourself, but there is really no good reason to pick up Dorsey unless you truly, truly have nothing else at quarterback.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots — He’s back on the field and scoring touchdowns, and that means that the law offices of BenJarvus Green-Ellis are closed for now. Raiders in Week 15 anyone?

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys – If you own Marion Barber, you should own Choice. He’s probably not worth your time otherwise because his carries will be limited and against tough defenses. I think the Cowboys would be making some more moves at the running back position if they thought Barber might miss a game or two.

Domenik Hixon, WR New York Giants — Hixon is the new Plaxico Burress, minus the stupidity and the bullet in the leg. He’s a strong replacement, but there’s not a lot to love with his remaining matchups. Best of luck to you, Hixon.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — Another replacement, Bess seems to be keeping the receiver position alive for the Dolphins in Greg Camarillo’s absence. With the number of easy games coming down the pipe for Miami, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make Bess a permanent fixture on your bench. Pennington trusts him, and you might learn to as well.

Steve Heiden, TE Cleveland Browns — Kellen Winslow is sitting this one out. If you need a tight end this weekend, Heiden is actually not a terrible option. Dorsey, who is a terrible option, should at least be able to toss it to the tight end, and the Titans have allowed tight ends to make plays against them this season.

Garrett Hartley, K New Orleans Saints — If you haven’t noticed that the Saints have a new kicker, you probably aren’t interested in changing out your kicker for the playoffs anyway. Hartley has been perfect thus far, eight of eight on field goals in four games. Unless the Saints start scoring touchdowns left and right, Hartley should get plenty of opportunities. In fact, since taking over the kicker position for the Saints, Hartley has had more opportunities than almost all the kickers in the league.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST – Have you seen their schedule? The Bengals, Lions and Jaguars in Weeks 14-16 sounds like championship to me even if the Colts do have problems stopping the run.

You can drop: Deuce McAllister, Jonathan Stewart, Josh Morgan and, if you haven’t heard, Plaxico Burress. You should consider dropping anyone you don’t honestly see yourself considering for a start during the playoffs.

In addition to my recs, you can check out the video below with more details on pickups this week from a guy named Hatty. His name, roughly translated from the original Latin, means “wears hats.” He blogs and posts his videos at Hatty Waiver Wire Guru. Enjoy.

On the Wire: Week 12 Pickups and Waiver Wire Remains from Week 11

By now, you’re probably headed in one of two directions with your team: prepping for the playoffs or moping in a puddle of your own tears.

If you’ve got a legit shot at the playoff picture, you want to start fortifying your team with the backups to all your studs and some average players who are positioned to do well in Weeks 14, 15 and 16 — or Weeks 15, 16, 17 if you are in one of those backwards Week 17 championship leagues.

You should also know that the rest of us hate you.

If you’re out of the playoff picture, your team probably disgusts you. You probably kicked a stud or two to the curb in anger, and you are likely to be A) not watching football the rest of the season or B) wallowing in your own self-pity and a half liter of whiskey. While that’s fun and all, don’t do that.

Instead, you should be grasping like a dead man for every waiver wire gem out there and abandoning your garbage players even if it’s for no other reason than to torment the better teams out there who could really use the slight upgrade. Do you know how satisfying it is to steal a stud’s backup from the playoff-bound owner that just lost him? Very.

Exhibit A: Warrick Dunn. More on that later.

Of course, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, versus a traditional redraft league, you’ll want to start building your team for next year. Peruse the waiver wire for players like Josh Morgan and Donnie Avery if they’ve been dropped or never put on a roster. Injured studs like Tom Brady and Matt Schaub wouldn’t be bad to have around next season.

In short, never give up and never surrender. This is fantasy football. And that line is completely original.

Worth Claiming

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Earnest Graham is out. We have to assume that Warrick Dunn takes the starting carries despite is back pains, but the Bucs also have Cadillac Williams waiting in the wings — and now saying that he is good to start this week. You also can’t forget about B.J. Askew, the fullback. Askew could vulture touchdowns from the aging Dunn and the recovering Caddy. If you’re picking one of these guys up because you just lost Graham, I’d go after them in this order: 1) Warrick Dunn 2) Carnell “Cadillac” Williams 3) B.J. Askew.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots — If you had “Law Firm” on your roster, Morris is the guy you want to upgrade to now if he is a free agent in your league. Morris is the preferred touchdown back in New England as long as he is healthy, and despite his Thursday night performance, Cassel is not good enough to carry the team on his arm. He’s just not. The Patriots will run the ball in the final weeks of the season just like they did last year when the weather got frightful, and that makes Morris a top back when he resumes his full-time role in the offense.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — It’s clear that Deuce McAllister isn’t the guy anymore, and Thomas saw a great deal of the work in Week 11. Reggie Bush should return in Week 12, but when Deuce gets suspended, which is almost inevitable at this point, you’ll want Thomas on your roster. If you have McAllister or Reggie Bush or had Aaron Stecker, make the switch. Stecker and McAllister are both droppable at this point.

Ones to Watch

So you’re desperate to find running back help? There’s still a few more to watch for late in the season and/or grab for depth.

J.J. Arrington, RB Arizona Cardinals — If you’re fortifying your roster or just looking for potential talent at the end the season, Arrington should be at the top of your list. As an added bonus, he awkwardly tries to kiss his teammates without taking his helmet off. He’s the second back in Arizona behind Tim Hightower, but he saw all the red-zone carries last week. If he does well against the Giants this week (see: unlikely), some project he could challenge Hightower for the starting role. I have my doubts that he will be a starter, but Arrington definitely warrants a spot on your roster if you have Hightower right now or could use a touchdown vulture in a potent offense. Apparently, Arizona just doesn’t let their starting running back take the touchdowns. That would be unfair to fantasy owners.

Gary Russell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers — He’s a long shot, but if Willie Parker has a hard time running in the short-yardage situations, look for Russell to steal some carries. He’s definitely a deep sleeper, but he could produce in matchups just like Leon Washington this season. He won’t be of much use to you in the playoffs unless he gets a lot of touchdowns though — Ravens in Week 15, Titans in Week 16.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens — Don’t forget about the rookie if you are looking ahead to next season (dynasty or keeper) or if you are carrying Willis McGahee. Even if we don’t know which one of these two backs you’ll want to start each week, you’ll want to own both of them going into the playoffs if you plan on relying on the Baltimore running game. In all honesty, you might be better off looking elsewhere because the only great matchup remaining for the Ravens is the Bengals in Week 13.

Ignoring

Jerome Harrison, RB Cleveland Browns — Take away that sprint for 70+ yards, and Harrison would have had another quiet fantasy day. While Jamal Lewis is on the crap list in Cleveland for calling them all quitters, Harrison is not the guy you want to rely on in the fantasy playoffs. Pass.

Droppables

Deuce McAllister, RB New Orleans Saints — He’s losing his touches to Pierre Thomas while fighting a suspension and awaiting the return of Reggie Bush. He’s a depth option at best, and when the suspension comes down, you won’t want him on your roster anyway.

Dude… Steven Jackson

I usually try to stray from the obvious guys, but Jackson’s performance yesterday is too hard to ignore. Even rated as a top-five running back going into the season, Jackson had a lot of hate from fantasy analysts this preseason (including the Fools). He finally had his breakout day against…my Cowboys. *sigh*

While he may not have many more three-touchdown games this season, Jackson easily put the hurt on the Cowboys in Week 7 to earn the Rams more respect. The Rams looked miserable at the beginning of the season, but they’ve beaten two teams (Dallas and Washington) from the mighty NFC East in back-to-back weeks.

Jackson finished the day with 160 yards and three touchdowns to seal a 34-14 victory for the home crowd and take home the “Dude…” award for Week 7 from the Fools. He ran so hard that he pulled a quad. (Don’t panic. He’s still supposed to play Sunday against the Pats.)

Take a look at the highlights.

Since firing Scott Linehan and looking to Jim Haslett during the bye, the Rams have looked like a completely different team. Steven Jackson agrees.

http://youtu.be/jX-lzXYjLQo

Players falling just short of dude-ism:

  • Steve Smith, WR Panthers — 122 yards, TD
  • Calvin Johnson, WR Lions — 154 yards, TD
  • Randy Moss, WR Patriots — 69 yards, 2 TDs
  • Sammy Morris, RB Patriots — 138 yards, TD (in first half)
  • Adrian Peterson, RB Vikings — 121 yards, 2 TDs (and 9 receiving yards)
  • LenDale White, RB Titans — 149 yards, 3 TDs (Big Boy even broke a long one!)

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?

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Hardships from Week 6

As I listened to the end of the Texas-OU game while hunched over in a car on my way to a wedding this weekend, two things occurred to me: 1) people REALLY shouldn’t get married the same weekend as the Texas-OU game and 2) there could be a large amount of rookie quarterbacks coming into the NFL next year.

This season has been brutal to quarterbacks. It’s like they are the running backs this season — drafted highly by fantasy owners but very prone to season-ending injuries because of the abuse they take. Those fantasy footballers who drafted a quarterback high this year more often than not paid the price — yes, I’m looking at you Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Derek Anderson. At least we can all hate the guy that drafted Drew Brees.

On a brighter note, I thought I was going to be very clever in one of my pay leagues this past week in picking up Fred Taylor against a weak Denver run defense. Someone had dropped Taylor because of bye week issues. It was the perfect crime, but we all saw how that turned out.

Fine, waiver wire. You won that one by throwing me a curveball injury, tricky mistress, but there are a few “hardships” to be had this week.

From now until the end of the season, unfortunately, the best waiver wire grabs are starting to stem from surprise injuries, not exceptional or surprising play. It may pain you to pick some of these guys up, but it’s how you play the game. Players put in the same role/situation have equal opportunity to succeed — just look at Correll Buckhalter.

Worth Claiming

Jeff Garcia, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — He’s a valid spot start his week against Seattle and faces a Dallas secondary in Week 8 that should be starting two rookie corners. It’s only Kansas City in Week 9. Even for Garcia, those could be productive days with the exception of Dallas if the Cowboys come to play. If he can produce more than 10 points in those outings, he might be worth holding onto for short while. Hear that, Hasselbeck/Romo owners? If you wait out his bye and the Vikings, his next two decent starts come against the Lions and the Saints.

Brad Johnson, QB Dallas Cowboys — If Romo decides not to go it the Brett Favre way — hoorah — Johnson gets the call to manage the Dallas offense. With the addition of Roy Williams, he has a good chance to be successful as a pocket-passing statue. Sadly, after a warm, cuddly start against St. Louis this week, he faces Tampa Bay and the Giants. Romo owners, pad your roster with Johnson if you can, but you’ll probably want to look elsewhere after this week. Unless he dominates Week 7, there should be better options out there on your waiver wire.

Derek Anderson, QB Cleveland Browns — Was someone silly enough to drop a player like Anderson after his slow, pathetic start to the season? He had a coming out party in Week 6 — and no, Nick, I’m not talking about Brady Quinn. Anderson has five more games on his schedule that look like he could put up the gaudy numbers of last year, and if he can maintain his play against tough opponents with Braylon Edwards, you’re set. For now, you’ll want to bring him into a QB committee so that you don’t have to start him every week.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots — After all the carnage in the backfield in New England, Morris is “the guy” again for the moment. He might be bouncing around the wire with several other Patriot RBs since Belichick went all Shanahan this year, but he’s worth putting on a roster for his game against Denver, St. Louis and Indy these next three weeks. We all know it’s in Belichick’s best interest to run the ball rather than let Cassel attempt to throw — oops, I mean, underthrow. At least he’s not Dan Orlovsky.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts — Rhodes resumed his duty as the Colts RB in Week 6 after Addai injured his hamstring. Hamstrings don’t just go away, so expect Rhodes to get a start or at least get an increased workload in Week 7. The Packers have failed to stop the run lately, so he makes a good play here. If Rhodes can justify holding onto the workload as the season continues, he could be a nice guy to have around come playoffs — Bengals (W14), Lions (W15) and Jags (W16).

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos — If there was ever a time to take him, it’s probably now. Yes, you’re risking it. No, we have no idea if Shanahan will use him. Yes, he did talk a lot about him in the preseason, but no, I don’t trust a man that looks like an outlaw from a Clint Eastwood movie.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears – Hester has proven himself to be a legitimate receiver in the Bears offense. With his potential to get you a returning score as well, there’s a lot of upside to be had in starting him each week. Vikings may limit him before the Bears’ bye, but in Week 9, they get the Lions again.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles — He didn’t get back on the field this week, but he’s close. With DeSean Jackson there to take some heat of him in the passing game, he could retake his role as the No. 1 option in Philly. Make sure he’s on your roster if no one has him on their bench yet.

Marcedes Lewis, TE Jacksonville Jaguars — He scores touchdowns with Garrard and has one for each of his last two games. If he keeps it up against the Browns, Bengals and Lions, he could be deadly for a stretch here and a stretch in the fantasy playoffs. You could sleep on him a week though considering he is on bye unless someone else in your league will be after him.

Ones to Watch

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys — Felix Jones injured his hammy, which leaves Choice as the best “choice” to spell Marion Barber — I know that I am cheesy. Choice could get Jones’ carries for now, but don’t expect the big plays Jones has broken this season.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans — Steve Slaton is the guy to have in the Texans backfield, but Green is getting a share of the touches as well. He could share in the fantasy points against Detroit this week and/or carry some value in the Texans’ good running matchups in Weeks 10-14, but he’s more of a deep league option or depth if you own Slaton.

Kenny Watson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — Chris Perry can’t hold onto the ball, and Benson hasn’t done much better. Neither back has done anything to justify or hold a starting job. Watson was the guy to own in the Bengals backfield last year and could return to the lineup after he heals up. Unfortunately, I don’t think you really want to own any Bengals this year, but keep an eye on him or add him if you are looking for potential upside in deeper leagues.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams – Avery, the first WR taken in this year’s draft, had a big game for the Rams in Week 6 with four catches for 73 yards. If he remains involved in the offense when Drew Bennett returns from his injury, he might be a key element in improving the Rams’ record in the second half of 2008. The Rams end the season with some nice passing matchups — Seattle in Week 15 and San Fran in Week 16. Still, he’s not worth jumping on except in deeper leagues unless he can keep a hold on the starting job.

Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers — Six catches for 75 yards? A 57-yard bomb? Is this the Vernon Davis that every preseason analyst talks about? It’s unfortunate that it’s probably all a trick. Davis is a huge, athletic talent, but the 49ers just aren’t using him consistently enough to warrant a starting spot on any roster. All that could change if the other tight end in San Fran who had been showing Davis up in several games, Delanie Walker, has to move to fullback to replace the injured Zak Keasey, but unless Davis posts numbers against the Giants this week, I’m not buying.

Miami Dolphins D/ST — The Dolphins defense has quietly been showing signs of life since being thrashed by the Cardinals in Week 2. They are decent against the run, and Joey Porter has had a resurgence of sorts getting to the QB. They have a hard time against big, playmaking wide receivers (like Andre Johnson), but otherwise, they can put up some fantasy points for you. They have sleeper status going into this week against Baltimore, who just got destroyed by the Colts, and a nice playoff schedule with St. Louis and Kansas City in Weeks 15-16.

New Orleans Saints D/ST — The Saints streak of double-digit fantasy performances continue. As long as Brees keeps putting the ball in the air, he forces the opposing teams to take risks that give this defense opportunities to make big plays. They were even able to shut down the run against Adrian Peterson. Keep watching them as they go into a potential rough patch before their bye facing Carolina and San Diego. Their playoff schedule ain’t too shabby — Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit. All those offenses would have to take big risks to compete.

Ignoring

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Just a note here for all of you jumping on Dunn expecting him to be the dominant runner for the Bucs: The reason Dunn had so many yards was because Earnest Graham volunteered to fill in for the injured fullback, thus earning the praise of both Dunn and Jon Gruden. Barring Graham filling in for the fullback on a permanent basis, he’s still going to get half of the carries in Tampa Bay and a lot more praise. Don’t go after Dunn like he’s taking over, okay?

Patrick Cobbs, RB Miami Dolphins — What do you know, another wrinkle in the ‘Wildcat’ offense. I’m not completely blowing off his Week 6 performance, but Cobbs has done absolutely nothing up until now. He might be a worthy gamble play one of these days, but there’s no promise that this ever happens again.

Shaun Alexander, RB Washington Redskins — Woohoo! Alexander’s back, baby! Well, he’s also sitting behind one of the best backs in fantasy right now, Clinton Portis, and he only got a job because Ladell Betts sprained his knee. If it took Alexander this long to get signed by a team, I’m guessing he’s nothing more than a temporary handcuff to Portis. Do what you will, Portis owners.

You should have already picked up:

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos — He had a pretty nice week as the main guy in Denver. Who knows how long that will last with Ryan Torain on the horizon, but at least he gets goal line carries regardless.

Droppables

Laurence Maroney, RB New England Patriots — I’m sorry if you drafted this guy. Even Belichick may have forgotten who he is. Not sure his potential productivity with that many RBs in the mix makes him worth waiting on at this point.

Sage Rosenfels, QB Houston Texans – Schaub’s got this under control, okay? Thanks.

Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders — Bush almost got traded before the deadline, which means the Raiders don’t consider him a big part of their offense. As long as Fargas and Darren McFadden stay healthy enough to play, Bush shouldn’t see much action. The Raiders might not even have that much action in the running game if they try to pass the ball more often like they did in Week 6.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 5: And another three bite the dust?

These sudden, mysterious and largely unreported injuries have got to stop. Last week, Carson Palmer was a late scratch. This week, the victim was Matt Schaub, who was hit by a virus the night before the game.

I normally set lineups Saturday night and then let them run, but this sudden injury plague makes me want to start checking again five minutes before game time on Sunday…and then at four minutes, two minutes and one minute until kickoff.

Thanks to the virus, Matt Schaub turned over the reigns to Sage Rosenfels. He looked like he was the hero of the Texan-kind…until he decided to go airborne. When, as a quarterback (and a big one at that), do you EVER think to go airborne to make a play? It wasn’t even a necessary hurdle attempt.

Stay on the ground and slide, Sage. The air will only hurt you. You are NOT Reggie Bush.

Rosenfels ended the day with 246 yards and a TD but gave Texans fans two fumbles and an interception in the fourth quarter and more than enough reasons for Texans fans to stop whimpering that they would rather see Sage starting instead of Schaub. The not-so-wise Sage gave the game away in the fourth quarter in the home opener. That doesn’t win you hearts.

We saw three more QBs go down in the midst of games this week. Matt Hasselbeck (knee), Trent Edwards (concussion) and Brian Griese (shoulder) all got taken out of Sunday’s games, but they managed better than Damon Huard.

Huard owners WISH he had been taken out sooner to make the hurting stop. Daunte Culpepper was a better start than Huard this week.

Who thought there would ever be a week where J.P. Losman, Seneca Wallace, Jeff Garcia and Tyler Thigpen would all have to take over an offense? My hand is not raised.

Kyle Orton scored more fantasy points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler this week. In fact, he tied Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben for the best QB performance of the week. I am not saying that again.

He was playing Detroit, but do you realize that he’s scored more points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler over the last three weeks? I think I’m going to be sick.

When did the Packers get so easy to run on? Injuries and poor run stopping are making this unit very droppable.

Chargers couldn’t handle the single-wing, ‘Wildcat’ formation either. I guess the Dolphins have found something special, and Ronnie Brown is a big part of that. Pennington is like a David Garrard circa last year. He is not going to win your game, but he’s probably good for 12 points from time to time.

The Giants looked impressive against Seattle, but they’re also coming off a bye. No, they don’t need Plax to be successful. Domenik Hixon was a sufficient replacement with big play ability. Who took me up on that sleeper pick?

My thoughts on Jerheme Urban weren’t nearly as spot on, but Breaston didn’t impress either. In a blowout, Larry Fitzgerald was the man. That Tim Hightower kid is worth putting on a roster. You are almost a lock for six or more points with guys like that — vultures.

I think the Arizona defense was angry about getting embarrassed last week, and they took it out on Trent Edwards early. If Edwards is out for any length of time, it shouldn’t take anything away from Lee Evans. We know from Losman’s time under center that he likes to push the long ball to Evans, and he did. Losman may be a little sloppy at times, but there are far worse backup QBs in the NFL (see: Brad Johnson).

Washington just keeps shocking the NFC powerhouses. They were supposed to be the bottom of the barrel in the NFC East, not defeat the Cowboys and Eagles in back-to-back games. I don’t see them doing it twice. For once, Santana Moss was shut down by a defense this year, but Portis went off instead. That’ll take the Eagles down a few notches on run defense.

The Chiefs are miserable. Larry Johnson’s only going to be successful behind this line when the run defense is terrible. Maybe the ‘Wildcat’ formation should come to K.C.? I don’t think that will help — even though getting the ball out of Thigpen’s hands would be an improvement.

Watch out for Jamaal Charles. He might be the next Chris Perry. Oh, and the next Chris Perry might be Cedric Benson.

Kerry Collins made the best case to bring back Vince Young Sunday, and then he (sort of) made a case to keep his job there on the final drive against the Ravens. If Collins is going to throw just as many INTs and not play smart football, I don’t see why Vince Young doesn’t jump back in for the Titans. If they wanted to move away from VY as QB, they would have kept Chris Simms on the roster — unless spleens are really that important to functioning as an NFL quarterback.

Sitting a healthy Vince Young behind Kerry Collins will NOT improve his passer rating. I’ve seen experiments.

Marty Booker and Reggie Wayne are competing in a best hands competition. Next week, they are going to catch a ball with one finger. The “buy low” on Peyton Manning has already passed, but if you can get it, get it. I just have a feeling.

Without Griese, the Bucs look like the same boring team that got stomped in the playoffs last year. If the Broncos could stop the run, the score might have been even lower.

Oh, and Earnest Graham owners, this RB split looks like a full committee approach, and Dunn got the extra carry (11 of 21 total carries by the Bucs) on Sunday. He also had the better yardage per carry. Be afraid. Dunn is not done! (Had to say it. Under contract. Now, go buy the bumper sticker.)

That Matt Prater can really kick, can’t he? The rest of the Broncos kept it relatively quiet so as not to anger the Bucs’ big-pass-hunting defense.

The Bengals at Dallas was like a game of failures. I am not even sure if the Cowboys should have won. If not for a right place, right time grab by Crayton, they might not have. Romo will get the passing game together soon. It’s not like he’s having bad days in the meantime, but removing the interceptions and fumbles from his scoring would be nice.

By the way, I think it’s safe to say that Miles Austin has passed up Patrick Crayton. The missed TD pass to Austin was very symbolic if you want to think deeply about it. (Don’t hurt yourself; I’ll handle it.) Austin outproduced Crayton in Week 3 and Week 4, and the only pass Crayton caught this week was intended for Austin.

That Felix Jones can really run, can’t he? See, Cowboys? See how you use him?

Something tells me that Chris Perry loses his job to Cedric Benson in a few weeks. Perry can’t hold onto the ball or get it done when the Bengals passing game is suffering. Benson already looks like a better back, and he’s only been there one week.

Well, look at that. The Patriots figured out a way for Cassel to get the ball to Moss during the bye week. I’m going to guess DNA injection from Tom Brady in some dark laboratory while Bill Belichick laughed maniacally and rewound tape. Totally how it went down.

I’m still glad I don’t own any Patriot RBs. That’s like trying to guess which clown is going to pop out of the car first. Sammy Morris seems to be the only one with guaranteed touches, but now Faulk looks like he is going to be on the field more often with Matt Cassel. Faulk is the better blocker (see: Tom Brady’s knee).

J.T. O’Sullivan is going to get this 49ers passing game together, and when he does, Martz might just make a respectable fantasy quarterback out of him rather than just a matchups starter.

I would have appreciated a small note from Isaac Bruce before I started to move him in my fantasy leagues. That goose egg in Week 1 made me believe he was done, and now he has to become the No. 1 in San Fran. I wouldn’t have dropped you if I would have known that, Brucey.

Let’s see if Bryant Johnson pushes him for the big plays when he is fully healthy again. I still believe Johnson wants to blow us away and show us he would have been a starter anywhere but Arizona.

I have a short list of sleeper picks that haven’t woken up just yet. No. 1 on that list is Mike Walker. He was supposed to be a big target for Garrard this year, but the passing game has stalled because of the offensive line problems. Don’t be distracted by Jerry Porter. Keep your eye on this guy. If you’re in a league with me, EARMUFFS.

Hines Ward > Santonio Holmes. Ward is always around to make the smart play. Maybe even Nate Washington > Santonio Holmes, but Washington is still a little fluky.

The Vikings deserve to be 1-4, but by winning, they may have saved Childress’s job for a little bit longer.

You want to know why you shouldn’t have drafted Adrian Peterson No. 1 overall? Or even No. 2 overall? With a team like the Vikings, even the Saints defense can focus on the run and let Gus Frerotte beat them. It’ll be a lot of feast or famine for A.P. owners this season.

Gramatica should be replaced by Friday. I don’t care if he’s injured. He shouldn’t be starting for the Saints right now, and that is the bottom line. Reggie Bush was winning this game. Drew Brees was winning this game. Hell, even Devery Henderson was winning this game. Gramatica lost it.

At least the Vikings defense is finally looking like they want it.

Rough week for QBs, but many of the dinged up studs will be back under center by Sunday. Fingers crossed, of course.

Cheers and beers for anyone who started DeAngelo Williams and Kyle Orton, especially if you had them both. I would hope you won your Week 5 matchup. Just make sure you entertain all offers for DeAngelo now.

I’m not the first to propose this name, but if Jonathan Stewart is going to be “The Daily Show,” should we call DeAngelo Williams “The Colbert Report?”

Opinions are much appreciated in the comments. I plan to write the official Fantasy Football Nickname Registry once I have collected some feedback.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Saviors from Week 1

A disastrous and tragic Week 1 has left plenty of teams hurting for new talent. Was there a group shot on the cover of Madden this year?

Since Week 1 is always the best time to grab the waiver wire studs AND since this week was full of injuries and failures, this week’s waiver wire gems is pretty comprehensive. Next week, we’ll bring it down a notch. We’ll start things off at QB since I hear we lost one this week.

If these guys went undrafted in your league, make sure you correct that. Now.

Matt Cassel, QB New England Patriots

Jesus. If you don’t know why Cassel is going to be a top grab this week, GO BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK AND STAY THERE.

It’s possible if you are a Tom Brady owner — or former Brady owner, as the case may be — that you have other, better options than Cassel. In one league, for example, Delhomme is still out there somehow.

If you’re stuck choosing between a bunch of dangerous options, Cassel makes a nice replacement. At least, he has a great group of receivers to throw to this year even if his skill set is still in question.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills

It’s good to know that Edwards knows Lee Evans is on the team now. They must have had some sort of Kumbaya camping trip this offseason.

Edwards looked good in the offense, and I might lean on him over Cassel knowing he has the skills to get his receivers the scores. He had 215 yards and a TD in Week 1, but I think he can do better. In Week 2, he’ll have Jason Peters back on the offensive line — and so will Marshawn Lynch.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins

He has had fantasy success in the past — even last year when healthy — and he might have found a team in Miami that will come together around him.

With a strong Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown run game, Pennington looks like a QB2 and could contribute as part of a fantasy QB rotation.

He’s better than Damon Huard.

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans

Vince Young looks to be sidelined for a few weeks. If you need a stopgap, Collins could be your man. He’s very unlikely to be drafted by anyone in your league, but there is always the issue of who he will throw it to this season for the Titans…

If you can’t be picky, Collins could be a decent fill at QB for a few weeks.

Eddie Royal, WR Denver Broncos

Rookie sensation had THE BEST performance of any WR this week. Royal could be a slightly more productive version of Patrick Crayton last season, and he’ll always draw the weaker corner once Brandon Marshall returns in Week 2. He’s an excellent WR3 or more if he can keep catching Cutler’s eye once Marshall is back.

DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb spread the ball in Week 1, but he liked targeting the rookie. As long as Kevin Curtis remains banged up, Jackson should be on a roster — and maybe even after. As an added bonus, he might return a kick or two for some additional TD points.

Jackson’s six catches for 106 yards isn’t too shabby, and Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis might even be worth stashing as well if both continue to see looks from McNabb.

L.J. Smith, TE Philadelphia Eagles

If McNabb is firing, Smith should see end zone looks. McNabb knows Smith is attached to a couple of the most reliable hands he can throw at this season, so look for Smith to continue to have nice games in good matchups. In Week 1, he posted 39 yards a score. He’s worth a TE2 spot if you carry two of them, or he could be part of a nice TE rotation with one of breakout TEs of 2008.

Dante Rosario, TE Carolina Panthers

The deep TE ranks get even deeper as long as Rosario remains a reliable target for Delhomme. He came down with seven receptions for 96 yards and a TD in Week 1. Worth rostering if you have a weak TE or want to trade away your stud to take advantage of the depth here this year, but be cautious. We don’t know how Rosario will be affected by the return on Steve Smith in Week 3.

Robert Royal, TE Buffalo Bills

Again, TEs look deep this year. The new offense in Buffalo smiled favorably on Royal, who caught six passes for 52 yards and a score against Seattle. After Jacksonville, the Bills schedule gets easier. I like Rosario better than Royal, but Royal is likely to see his fair share of looks this season unless rookie James Hardy starts to steal his end zone opportunities as Hardy gets more playing time.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

We know Pennington doesn’t have a big arm (Girlish arm chant…Begin!), but he got his TEs involved early in the showdown against his former team, the Jets. Fasano practiced behind Jason Witten in Dallas, and look how Witten turned out. Fasano could be one of Pennington’s most reliable targets this season.

Matt Forte, RB Chicago Bears

Likely drafted in every league, Forte proved he could be a consistent fantasy starter in Week 1. He could put up a fight for offensive rookie of the year if he keeps it up. We know the Bears won’t have much on offense, so they’ll use their defense and Forte to control the game.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys

I feel like THIS Jones will be far more effective than Julius Jones was last year for the Cowboys. His performance in Week 1 was worthy of a FLEX play (or even a low-end starter) with 62 yards and a TD. Barber bruised his ribs late in the game, and even though he is still expected to play in Week 2, look for Felix Jones to see increased action along with Tashard Choice against the Eagles.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots

He’s the running back for the Patriots. I don’t care what the depth chart says. With Brady out, he could see an increased role in this offense. He’ll certainly be in the mix however the offense is rearranged to suit Cassel.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints

Thomas might make Deuce McAllister a ghost this season if he keeps stealing carries. He’s a must-grab for any McAllister owners and could be the workhorse back of the Saints offense this season.

Buffalo Bills D/ST

The Bills defense had a few shining moments last season, but being healthy this season and free agent additions (Marcus Stroud) have made them an emerging sleeper.

In Week 2, they get to play Jacksonville — suffering from a devastated offensive line. Their schedule gets pretty easy from there. Stash them now before the other teams in your league see them spark.

Ones to Watch

Carolina Panthers D/ST

I’m not entirely sold just yet, but the Panthers were on of my sleeper defensive units coming into 2008.

They kept L.T. tame in Week 1. That’s promising. Panthers face off against the Bears this week. I’m still a little worried about the 300+ yards that the Panthers gave up — Forte could tear them apart this week if he keeps his stud status. On the other hand, the Bears could look like…well, the Bears this week.

If you have a roster spot or lack confidence in your defense, it might be worth rostering Carolina this week to see where they go from this Week 1 performance.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

Yeah, it’s a bit of a reach, but he still has upside. He got the ball to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in Week 1, and he could expand on that in Week 2.

Hey, it’s Mike Martz, okay?

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons

Still a rookie QB, but obviously, he’s going to have his good weeks every now and then. Worth a chance? Let’s see his Week 2 unless you desperately need QB help this season. Turner looks like the focus of this offense.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals

I didn’t see Hightower taking the goal line carries from Edgerrin James once the regular season got started, but apparently, they’re still doing that in Arizona. Edge is turning 30, but he still looks productive this season. Hightower might be worth rostering if you have the room, but he’s little more than a TD vulture. Other than his score, he only had 34 total yards.

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans

Slaton had more carries than Ahman Green, but Green went out with an injury in this one. Wait a sec, that makes Slaton look even better.

Regardless of the depth chart, the starting RB job in Houston is Slaton’s to earn if he performs well this season. While Green is sidelined, Slaton will probably share carries with the platoon of backs in Houston (Chris Taylor and possibly Darius Walker), but he should continue to see more and more carries.

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The wily veteran’s role in this offense might be worth getting. He put up 54 yards in just nine carries in Week 1. He could play a larger role in future games.

Yes, I just wanted to use the word wily.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans

If the Texans get a potent passing game going, Walter could benefit from Andre Johnson pulling the better corner. He’s worth rostering in deep leagues and seeing how he pans out. Otherwise, keep an eye on how much he contributes to see if he could be worthy of your WR3 spot.

Ignoring, as in “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!”

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Let’s see where he goes when McGahee is back. My guess is somewhere behind Ray Rice. I don’t think he’s worth rostering unless he reappears in Week 2.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts

Probably going to be just as valuable as Kenton Keith last season. There are better options out there who will get more than yardage and a few scores. I think Addai comes back from his head injury in Week 1 with no problems.

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos

Yes, you scored two touchdowns. Congrats. Not sure I trust any Denver back this season. Pittman’s a TD vulture — feast or famine. Too risky to roster in my opinion.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Damon Huard in a pretty terrible offense in Kansas City. Plus, he’s only in there for a few weeks until Brodie Croyle returns. I think I’d rather have Kerry Collins. “The Bowe Show” is nice and all, but I don’t like the season premiere that much.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

They say dead people twitch sometimes.

See other waivers around the Internetz at Fantasy Football Goat, at The Hazean, at Yahoo! Sports, at Pancake Blocks, at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, at CBS Sportsline, at Fantasy Football Toolbox (also with upgrades for this week), at Pro Football Weekly, at Football Docs, at Bruno Boys, and at Fantasy Football Librarian.

Drafting Your Fantasy Running Backs: The Details to Consider in 2008

If breaking down the details for this year’s fantasy running backs doesn’t make you want to take LaDainian Tomlinson first overall in your re-draft league, I don’t know what will. Seriously, people.

When you’re talking fantasy running backs, what separates the vets from the noobs is consideration of a few minor factors beyond how high-powered a running back’s offense was last year and where the running back ranks on cheat sheets this season. Looking at the slight details like what defenses they face, contract lengths and ages can help you make the call between two closely-ranked RBs in your draft.

Let’s jump into how these factors will affect some top fantasy running backs this season with some good ol’ plus or minus analysis — and we go with negative first around these parts.

The Age Old Rule

First, let’s talk age. When you’re an old running back, you’re like a hot potato. No one wants to get stuck holding you when you crack.

Fantasy Football Toolbox told all with a list of all the running backs age 29 or older. There won’t be any pluses in this category, so we will have Big/Mini shades of Minus — a very scientific method, fingers crossed.

For fantasy’s sake, here’s who is getting to be old bones:

BIG Minus -

  • Warrick Dunn – Tampa Bay: I know you thought he was a spring chicken.
  • Ahman Green – Houston Texans: His knees show his age like the rings in a tree trunk.
  • LaMont Jordan – Oakland Raiders: Age and injury have punched Jordan’s ticket out of Oakland.
  • Thomas Jones – New York Jets: Things could go either way for Jones in 2008 with a new O-line.
  • Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: It’s hard to make a comeback with just a couple of years left in the tank.
  • Deuce McAllister – New Orleans Saints: Coming off injury AND old. Not pretty. “Little Deuce” Aaron Stecker (32) isn’t getting younger for the Saints either.
  • The New England Trio: Heath Evans, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris – New England Patriots: Most of New England’s backfield is over 30. The Patriots can get production out of the old guys, but these guys have got to be breaking down this year. Maybe they will remember that they have Laurence Maroney.

Mini Minus -

  • Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns: I think he was reborn when he became a Brown because he certainly did his owners right last year.
  • Fred Taylor – Jacksonville Jaguars: Everyone keeps calling for Maurice Jones-Drew, but Taylor seems to find gas in the tank.
  • Edgerrin James – Arizona Cardinals: Old with flashes of youth still left.
  • Brian Westbrook – Philadelphia Eagles: Only 28 but backup is Correll Buckhalter (29). No wonder the Eagles wanted Lorenzo Booker, a spry 24, from Miami.

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

NFL.com’s Michael Fabiano ranked the rushing schedules of fantasy running backs last week while we were just sitting around chatting about the free agents of 2009, which is the next section.

Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty also put together a strength of schedule analysis earlier this offseason, showing L.T. is the set to be at the top in 2008.

Pouring out a little link love for my homies, Fantasy Football Librarian noted that Fabiano’s breakdown makes Laurence Maroney look pretty favorable, and Football Jabber singled out the top and bottom five teams. Frank Gore has his work cut out for him, and no one in Houston’s backfield has it easy this year.

Here’s who’ll be hurting on and who’ll be hurting from run defenses this year:

Minus -

  • Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers: Even if he isn’t the focus of the offense, he will still be the focus of the defense. It’s not looking good. I might go Tom Brady over Gore in the first round, but I’m not totally quitting on him yet.
  • Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants: Long road back to the top against some of the best defenses out there at stopping the run. Giants will have to keep it dynamic in the run game to say ahead.
  • Edgerrin James – Arizona Cardinals: Notch Edge down another point for this one.
  • Ahman Green (and friends) – Houston Texans: No one will have an easy time running for Houston. With a pack of inconsistent backs, I’d avoid them all in your drafts this year.
  • Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns: Age AND a schedule full of stacked run defenses. That hurts.
  • Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks: Jones can’t improve his stock much in Seattle against the best in the biz of stopping him.
  • Marion Barber and Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys: A huge offense makes this a minor point. Does this stat mean they will throw more? PLUS to Romo if that’s the case.

Plus +

  • LaDainian Tomlinson – San Diego Chargers: You couldn’t really ask for much more than L.T. having the best schedule of any RB. For the most part, Tomlinson will be running against the bottom-of-the-barrel run defenses.
  • Laurence Maroney – New England Patriots: Will the Patriots use him with the easiest rushing defense schedule? I think they might just let Brady throw all day again, but he could run easy when they let him.
  • Thomas Jones – New York Jets: If his new O-line can block for him, Jones has it free and clear this season.
  • Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: Two bounce backs is possible. My money’s on Brown more than Ricky.
  • Travis Henry – Denver Broncos: Easy street should win him some points with Shanny.
  • Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints: The Saints offense is in line for a big year. Bush is the probably the better back to snag.
  • Marshawn Lynch – Buffalo Bills: The second-best rookie of 2008 gets forgotten at times, but he should have a nice 2008 season with an easy rushing schedule and an improved offense. I’m high on this kid and owned him last year.
  • Larry Johnson – Kansas City Chiefs: Rebounds abound? Maybe. Johnson has an easy schedule to redeem himself for last year.
  • Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons: All that postseason hype won’t weigh down Turner much in Atlanta when he faces mostly low-end or middle-of-the-pack run defenses. In an offense based off the run this year, Turner could be more productive than people think.

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

Who’s looking to bust a move? Running backs who have a payday coming are always more likely to impress, but those who just got paid can be slowed by their wallets.

Plus +

  • Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams: The big man might get money before the season, but if not, stay out of his way.
  • Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants: He’s got his work cut out for him, but boy, he wants to work.
  • Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins: The “Freebird” title of this section was purely unintentional — I promise. Ricky probably has to make enough money over the next two years to rebuild his straw hut in a foreign country and smoke away the pain…That might not be very much though.

Minus -

  • Marion Barber – Dallas Cowboys: Likely to have just signed a major deal by the time the season starts even though he is a free agent now. Hopefully, money won’t weigh him down like it did Shaun Alexander.

In Closing

When it’s all said and done, these three factors paint a picture for who looks better than they might have beforehand and worse now than ever before. Some older backs may make nice RB2s, but don’t fall for drafting them as RB1s again this season.

Ricky Williams is still risky, but he has a lot going in his favor. Ronnie Brown is the more dependable guy to have for Miami, but Ricky cold be a good value pick. On the other hand, Marion Barber might have two strikes against him going into the season. Jamal Lewis looks like a player to avoid in the worst way possible.

Take all these factors into your noggin this offseason and remember to factor them in when you are choosing between two running backs in your draft. Upside is hard to find with running backs since the RBBCs are forming everywhere in the league, but make sure you get the most out of your running back picks. Don’t get stuck making the wrong call. Some rookies with young legs might be worth betting on over solid veterans.

Let me echo this again: L.T. looks good overlooking the age effect. In my mind, these factors put him clearly up there in the No. 1 overall spot. Take him first in your re-draft leagues, and call me in the morning.

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.