Roger Goodell as Vince McMahon GIF

Monday Night Football Golden Tainted by Replacement Refs, Twitter Explodes and NFL Players React

So this happened. In case you somehow haven’t heard already, the replacement refs blew the call at the end of Monday Night Football by awarding a touchdown to Golden Tate in place of a Green Bay interception. Even Jon Gruden’s disgusted.

The play in question (or is it still in question?), courtesy of KSK:

http://youtu.be/x-qiGyB6HzE

And the player reactions rolled in all night long.

WARNING: Some NSFW. Especially T.J. Lang. Work is NOT a place for T.J. Lang tweets.

NFL Players React to Golden Tainted Monday Night Football

As the replacement refs botched the call on the final play of Monday Night Football, NFL players from around the league weighed in with their take or their call to get the regular refs back. Some of the most heated criticism came from the Green Bay Packers players themselves.

Storified by Fantasy Football Fools· Tue, Sep 25 2012 17:22:28

Green Bay Packers React to Loss

Greg Jennings was probably the most composed Packer talking about the calls after the game. And it shows in his tweet.

#NFL C’MON MAN! Can’t even be upset anymore. All I can do is laugh. Laugh at the #NFL for allowing America’s game to come this. WOW!Greg Jennings
@NFL Cheap ass hell!! Get us some NFL REFS! Not PEE WEE league refs! But it’s all Abt the Saints!Jermichael Finley
Come on @NFL this shit is getting out of Control. Caused us a DAMN game. Horrible!Jermichael Finley
T.J. Lang was not so composed…
Got fucked by the refs.. Embarrassing. Thanks nflTJ Lang
Maybe that’s a strategy… RT @TomPelissero: This is awesome. RT @TJLang70: F–k it NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.
Any player/coach in Seattle that really thinks they won that game has zero integrity as a man and should be embarrassed.TJ Lang
No comprendo. :(Marshall Newhouse
Golden tate is full of shit too. Saying he clearly caught that is embarrassing! Fucking jokers!josh sitton
The nfl needs to come to gb and apologize to us for fucking us! These refs r bums!josh sitton
That was bullshit. This is getting ridiculous! The NFL needs to get the refs back bfr we strike and they make no money!josh sitton
Mike McCarthy: "I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years of football." #MNF #NFL

NFL Players Weigh In On Monday Night Football’s Blown Call

Drew Brees is one of the more outspoken players in the league on the ref issue, and he had some very well put tweets after the call was made.
I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to representDrew Brees
Ironic that our league punishes those based on conduct detrimental. Whose CONDUCT is DETRIMENTAL now?Drew Brees
A fake Frank Gore account jumped into the spotlight as Monday Night Football took over Twitter, but at least this jokester’s 15 minutes left us with some good tweets…
If Golden Tate was still on ND, and me on the U, I’d go play safety and deck Lil’ Tate’s ass, ya know this! #49ersNot Frank Gore
NFL can fine me, too. I’ll wipe my butt with the money first! #RogerGoodellNot Frank Gore
There are a range of emotions in the rest of the NFL player tweets. Many were upset by the call. Some had no opinion or laughed it off rather than risk getting on the NFL’s bad side.
Man PLEASE tell me y’all heard Golden Tate’s interview?? When asked if he pushed off, Tate simply replied, "Idk what ur talking about" LMAO!Donte’ Stallworth
Lol… Dont affect me either way. Got love for my old teammates and homies, boys work hard out there but these refs are sad. PointblankTarvaris Jackson
I’ve been saying give the refs a break but that TD call was ridicules. How do you miss that? Pop Warner refs would have gotten that right.Tony Gonzalez
Drama. Great for business. Godspeed, Ed Hochuli.Arian Foster
Wow wow wow, crazy !!NickBarnett
I’ve been a football fan/player my entire life and never seen anything like this scene. #MNFGeoff Schwartz
Yeeeee! Score 1 for the Good Guys. Way to Go Stripes! Always good seeing a fellow WR get credit for a TD…….ON A INTERCEPTION. YesssStevie Johnson
Seattle u can’t feel good about tht win… Because y’all really lost… The refs give y’all the game…Nick Collins
I agree 100% RT @DavidNelson86: So much to say.. So little room in the pocketbook. #GoodnightKirk Morrison
Are you serious?Kirk Morrison
This is what the NFL has come down to, &yet they tell you to respect the shield! Lol. But they’ll try to fine us for everything thing we do.DARNELL DOCKETT
I mean damn! http://lockerz.com/s/247487166DARNELL DOCKETT
Wow. Smh!!!D.J. Williams
I just emailed the commissioner to say I am embarrass to be a former nfl player, after that @GaryEllerson @1250WSSPleroy butler
Wow. I don’t even know what to say right now. One ref signals Touchback and the other ref signals Touchdown?!Chase Daniel
That ish cray..Mark Ingram
I think the @NFL will bring back officials after @ESPNMondayNight #EmbarrassingThomas Morstead
Is the refs workin for the buffalo wild wings commercial?Perrish Cox
Looked like an interception to me.Sean Weatherspoon
Com’on can we please get the real refs back. Destroying the game that we all grew to love. WOW!!!!!!Patrick Peterson
Well we knew this was bound to happen but on Monday night football? Come on the replacement zebras aren’t fit for this zoo! LolDeAngelo Williams
How dare this not be rectified.. too much is at stake to have holes in such an elite leagueVisanthe Shiancoe
Geez. Why can’t they review that?Brent Celek
Oh wow. Can’t wait to see the backlash hereBrent Celek
Speechless after that…Robert Griffin III
I’m woke… WOW!Brandon Marshall
The regular referees are definitely cheering. #Leverage #BamBrandon Marshall
These refs gotta go I’m sorryReggie Bush
Refs single handedly blew this one…Reggie Bush
#Speechless….David Nelson
Former Cowboy Troy Aikman brought the hammer with just 5 words.
These games are a joke.Troy Aikman

The Aftermath of The Immaculate Deception

The official NFL account’s immediate reaction was not ideal…
Wow RT @Schottey: RT @njh287: Did the @NFL just re-tweet a tweet mocking their league’s officiating? http://twitpic.com/ay4167. Yes, they did.FantasyFootballFools
Since the game, the opinions around the NFL have solidified. The replacement refs got it wrong.
Golden Tate blatantly pushed off and M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass, according to two well-placed sources: my left and right eye.Adam Schefter
Rachel Nichols summed it up pretty well.
If there was ever an official photo of this whole replacement ref debacle, this is it http://pic.twitter.com/5eIGjRdRRachel Nichols
I mean when theyre showing snaps of it on the the weather channel u know something has to b doneVisanthe Shiancoe
Wait, Seahawks were the blue jerseys? #oopsNFL Replacement Ref
Lol! Funny http://lockerz.com/s/247659415Reggie Bush
This is your iconic moment, in which one official signals touchdown and the other, no touchdown http://30fram.es/QuKk3QTimothy Burke
As a footnote, even some NBA personalities weighed on Monday night…
Not gonna watch another nfl game until real refs r back. What a farceDirk Nowitzki
I would love to see what my reaction would be if a Mavs game ended like #MNF. #Expensive #NBAtimeMark Cuban

And thanks to BeyondTheBets.com, we get to see inside the sportsbooks as the final play went down. So much celebration…so many broken dreams.

The reaction on Twitter was obviously pretty incredible. Timothy Burke shared a video of the replacement ref conversation via Mocksession.com.

The NFL probably had no idea what to do with all the angry tweets, but they might have tried to get in on the conversation without thinking it through. Twitter followers captured this retweet from the official NFL Twitter account mocking the officiating.

Oh, NFL, where will we go from here?

Roger Goodell as Vince McMahon GIF

The GIF of the theme of the night, Roger Goodell as Vince McMahon, via Texans Talk

If you’re looking for a bang-or-bust QB2 to stash behind an elite QB1, put a claim in on Russell Wilson. The Seattle offense may not be explosive, but Wilson showed his ability to produce big fantasy weeks this preseason. If he does surprise us all by Cam Newton-ing the first few weeks of the season, you’re going to want to have him on your roster.

As Fantasy Douche explained in his thinking on quarterbacks:

The thing about quarterbacks who will tuck the ball and run is that they’re like a waterbed. Push it down in one spot and it pops up in another. They’ll pass first if they can, but if their receivers are covered or if they’re unsure, they’ll just run and get a first down. It doesn’t take very long to rack up 40 rushing yards when the QB does this.

There’s a lot to like about the rookie quarterback no matter how the Seattle offense comes together. So even if you already have two quarterbacks on your roster, consider stashing Wilson for the first few weeks of the season.

5 Player Moves the NFL Owes Fantasy Football (And Me)

The first few days of NFL free agency are like sitting in Santa’s lap. You can ask for anything you want with the assumption that you’ll get it. And I do that every year.

Ask for things in free agency, that is. Not sit in Santa’s lap.

Since the NFL left us cold and alone for a whole offseason only to now bombard us all with free agency madness like we’re an ex-girlfriend waiting on-stage at Jerry Springer for a mystery announcement, it’s only fair that they see to it that these player moves happen just as I asked for them.

Some of these transactions require several planets and a few Belichicks to align in order for them to happen, but the NFL owes me, right? They can’t go Bad Santa on that.

1. Vince Young to Minnesota Vikings

I’ll admit that I’m a Longhorn. As such, I give VY more credit than he’s probably due. But he’s still a winning quarterback, and it doesn’t seem right for a winning quarterback to get cut loose by the team that drafted him and have a problem finding a reasonable starting gig with another franchise.

Minnesota has no quarterback right now. Rather than trade for McNabb and take their chances with a veteran who might fall apart too early for Christian Ponder, their rookie quarterback-of-the-future, to take the reins, why not put a player on the field that could really win a few games for you?

Young might even be able to fill in for more than one-year stint. Much like the Eagles did with Vick and Kolb, having a developed prospect waiting in the wings a little longer after he ripens isn’t so bad. Now Kolb’s some valuable trade bait.

Leslie Frazier seems like a reasonable coach, and there’s enough leadership in place to make sure that VY will be successful transitioning into his second starting job.

I can’t see VY in Minnesota being a bad fit, especially after hearing about VY and Adrian Peterson practicing together this offseason. During their college years, I always wondered what life would have been like if Adrian Peterson and Vince Young had ended up in the same backfield.

Now I’d like that dream to be made a reality.

2. Matt Leinart to Seattle Seahawks

I felt silly just typing that, and it’s not even that far-fetched since we’ve now heard that the Seahawks are chasing him. At this point, I have a strong feeling Leinart isn’t going to amount to anything unless Pete Carroll works some USC magic on him.

You’d think being paid to play football would be just another day at the office for Leinart, but apparently, he’s missing something else that he had in college. Perhaps it’s the hot tubs?

Maybe Carroll can get him back on track and make a decent No. 2 if not starter out of Leinart. If nothing else, Leinart would provide an interesting story line for Seahawks’ games besides “Can just give them Andrew Luck now?”

3. Braylon Edwards or Roy Williams to Chicago Bears

The Bears need a big receiver for Jay Cutler to make sweet, sweet aerial love to this season, and I don’t care too much about who that is.

Roy Williams will already be in play as soon as he’s released by the Cowboys. And he did have one great season in Martz’s offense during his time in Detroit. But Edwards has a similarly checkered past and need to prove himself.

Either big wideout would be a win for the Bears, and I’d like to see one of the two of them get a shot at being the No. 1 in Chicago. If that doesn’t work out, then I’ll take Malcom Floyd as a consolation prize.

Just give Cutler a shiny new toy. Is that so much to ask?

4. Steve Smith (CAR) to New England Patriots

Steve Smith has had it rough in Carolina these last few years. Since Delhomme, they haven’t been able to get any kind of stability at quarterback, and the Panthers are headed into a rebuilding phase with a new head coach and another new quarterback.

Smith deserves a chance to play for a contender again before he retires, and the Patriots could be that contender if they could work out a trade with Carolina. I have a feeling his passion for the game and desire for a championship would fit in perfectly within Bill Belichick’s organization.

And what new head coach wouldn’t take a piece or two of the Patriots’ draft pick war chest for a veteran they won’t have much longer? Smith’s not going to do them a lot of good while Carolina develops Cam Newton, and the Patriots could give the Panthers some draft picks to build the future wide receiver corps.

On the Patriots side, Smith would be an upgrade at wide receiver and a fighter–literally at times.

5. Kyle Orton to Miami Dolphins

Orton’s on the trading block already, and rumor has it that Miami is one of the teams looking to acquire him. I don’t think I have to sell too hard on this one.

In Miami, Orton would take the team in the right direction, whether Chad Henne ever develops or not. At least they’d be able to move forward as an offense. And Orton would be reunited with Brandon Marshall, who had success with Orton in Denver.

Orton’s got a little more left in the tank than a veteran like Hasselbeck, and he’s got plenty to prove after being ditched by both Chicago and Denver.

So Dear NFL Santa, let’s make these moves happen. If nothing else, they’ll make for a more exciting 2011 season.

If they don’t happen, I’ll have to pretend to hold a grudge against you when the season starts…and we both know I’m not going to be able to keep that up for long.

What free agent signings or trades do you still want to see happen? Sound off in the comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Wire: Brandon Jackson, Mike Williams(es), Legedu Naanee top list of free agents to claim after Week 1

BREAKING NEWS: See below for an update on Brandon Jackson, who is now the No. 1 guy to get on waivers this week.

So it seems the Seahawks are a little less helpless than we expected them to be at the start of the season. The 49ers D/ST was a hot defense to target in drafts this preseason, but the San Francisco unit was embarrassed by Matt Hasselbeck Sunday in a 31-6 beat down. And that was just one of the games that revealed a few undrafted gems this weekend.

Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck’s premiere target in the offense is now Mike Williams, who replaced T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the starting lineup after the Seahawks parted ways with the veteran wideout. While Williams didn’t score in the blowout victory Sunday, he played a significant role. Williams’ four catches for 64 yards led the team, and he was stopped just short of the goal on one of those four catches.

As long as the Seahawks can play like they did Sunday, Williams is a man worth owning. To keep the two fantasy relevant Mike Williams(es) straight, feel free to refer to the Seahawks’ Mike Williams as BMW, or Big Mike Williams. I’m told he’ll like that, but let’s be honest…I don’t care either way.

Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Drafted in many leagues after a productive preseason, this rookie wide receiver scored Sunday and could have had two if not for a high pass by Josh Freeman, still recovering from a broken thumb. He’ll see plenty of targets this season as Freeman matures/heals and as the Bucs, more than likely, play from behind. Go after him if his current owner doesn’t know what he has.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers

BREAKING NEWS: Fox Sports’  Jay Glazer is reporting that Ryan Grant’s injury will put him on season-ending IR, which leaves Brandon Jackson as the No. 1 back in Green Bay. While some conflicting reports are still out there, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has also confirmed that Grant will need surgery on his ankle and miss at least 10-12 weeks. I’m in agreement with Footballguys.com’s Sigmund Bloom that Brandon Jackson is now a must-have. Bid or prioritize him on the waiver wire accordingly. See what I said about him this morning below and GO GET HIM PEOPLE! GO! NOW! MOVE!

As long as Ryan Grant is out, Jackson is the man in Green Bay. He should be productive enough to fill in as a full-time Grant replacement while the Packers offense rolls without its starting running back. In fact, Jackson is better at catching passes than Grant, which makes him more valuable than Grant was in PPR leagues.

Several times since Grant’s breakout season, we’ve heard rumors that Jackson could take the starting job from him in Green Bay, but Jackson’s health and inexperience has kept him from claiming the top spot. This opportunity is his best chance to show what he can do. If he compliments the Packers potent passing attack well while Grant is out, he could keep the job. Just keep that in mind.

Legedu Naanee, WR, San Diego Chargers

If you watched the second matchup of the Monday Night Football marathon last night, you saw Legedu Naanee sneak out for a 59-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. That was luck, but Naanee is bound to have more of it.

Malcom Floyd is the No. 1 in Vincent Jackson’s absence, but Naanee is another tall and perhaps equally talented wide receiver who Philip Rivers is more than willing to get the football to as long as he is open. The Chargers didn’t look so hot in their first showing Week 1, but as this offense rights the ship and, hopefully, gets starting LT Marcus McNeill back on the field, Naanee will only get better.

His value does depend on Vincent Jackson’s absence, but I don’t see Jackson playing for the Chargers again this season…or ever. So there’s that.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns

As we feared, Jerome Harrison lost touches to Hillis against the Bucs on Sunday, and Hillis recorded the only rushing touchdown for the Browns, even after Harrison did the hard work to get them there with a big run. It looks like Harrison will have to play Eric Mangini’s running back “Cupid Shuffle” again this season. Hillis is a guy to keep on your roster in the meantime, especially if he ends up carrying the rock for the Browns near the red zone.

Mark Clayton, WR, St. Louis Rams

The Rams passed the ball quite a bit on Sunday, and Clayton took advantage of his opportunities and racked up 119 yards. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford also threw three picks on Sunday, which tells us they might not throw the ball as much in future contests, but for now, Clayton has immediately become a big part of this offense. He might not make it to the end zone often…or ever, but he could develop into a decent WR3, especially in PPR leagues.

Who else you got on the free agent wire? Give me names, and I’ll give you suggestions. You can also find plenty of waiver wire help at these fine establishments: Fantasy Football Librarian, The Hazean, The FF Geek Blog, Fanhouse, Razzball, FF Toolbox and a note on Michael Vick from KFFL.

Don’t sleep on Huggy, 7 more sleepers

In less than 48 hours, real, NFL football returns. Oh, how I have missed you.

I’m sure that you have your fantasy football team in tip-top shape, ready to go for the season, but before you call it the total package, I have some names for your watch list. I’m doing this in place of this week’s “On the Wire” waiver wire feature. These players are names that shouldn’t be left in the free agent pool long this year. So if you’re holding onto a backup tight end or defense as we enter Week 1, consider claiming these guys early.

Kareem Huggins, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No one puts Kareem Huggins in the corner. Ever since the Bucs cut Derrick Ward, Huggy’s fantasy star has been climbing, but he’s still not drafted in every league.

Cadillac Williams may have a deal with Father Time (or the father of knee injuries, if there is one), but unless he runs with a lot more speed and energy than he did last season, he’s not going to blow many defenses away. Instead, the Bucs may see fit to inject a little Huggy Bear in the offense. Keep him on your radar.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

There’s plenty about this converted running back that intrigues me. Sure, I mentioned him when I made fun of all the Wes Welker comparisons we’ve gotten this offseason, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think he could actually be a Wes Welker. At his small size, he’s probably capable of being a Darren Sproles clone as well.

The Chiefs clearly want to use him in every way possible. He’s practiced in almost every position on the field, and he’s been lined up as their Wildcat quarterback. The Chiefs may not score very many points this season, but McCluster could be on the field quite a bit when they do.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

He’s not the sexiest pick on the block, but Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup got a lot of attention when it was rumored MJD had gone under the knife this preseason. While he makes a great handcuff for MJD, it remains to be seen how much he’ll really do this season unless MJD goes down.

For now, I’ll keep my expectations low and only suggest you keep him on your watch list unless you’re relying heavily on MJD this year.

James Davis, RB, Cleveland Browns

Forgotten on the Browns roster, Davis had all the hype in the world last season as a rookie. Injury kept him from showing anything to us in 2009, and when the Browns drafted Montario Hardesty, everyone scratched James Davis off their sleeper lists.

Well, that may have been a bit too soon. With Hardesty out for the year, Davis will be the one waiting in the wings behind Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis. He had a strong preseason, and even though I feel that Hillis will see the field on a regular basis more than Davis, Davis is the long-term investment with the highest payout.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

I don’t know if you remember how Tom Brady used to throw to his tight end. Ben Watson trailed off in New England in recent years, and a platoon of veterans muddled the stat lines during the Randy Moss and Wes Welker era. But when he has a target on the field, Brady likes to use it.

Gronkowski is that new tight end target.  The rookie has had a great preseason, and if you waited to take a tight end, Gronkowski might just be the upgrade you’re looking for after Week 1.

Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Say what you will about Rashard Mendenhall’s chances to be a full-time back this season, but I’m worried. Mike Tomlin says Redman will be used in short-yardage, and I believe that.

I was already a bit of a Mendenhall doubter, and this news makes me feel even more uneasy about the young Steelers running back. While Redman’s not exactly a handcuff, I’d strongly consider snagging him on your roster if you’re also carrying Mendenhall just to cover all your bases until this shakes out.

Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks cut T.J. Houshmandzadeh and promoted Williams to the starting lineup. It seems this big (and I do mean big) wide receiver has finally lost the pounds and become a prospect worth keeping an eye on.

Seattle doesn’t boast the most potent offense in the land, but if Hasselbeck stays healthy, there’s a chance Pete Carroll could turn this former USC wideout into everything he was supposed to be coming out of college.

Deon Butler, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Along those same lines, you could see Butler emerge as a receiving threat this year if Hasselbeck stays upright. We don’t know how much he’ll see the field right now, but he’s a burner and could add an explosive element to this offense down the field. Since no one really knows who he is, you can probably just keep him on a watch list for now.

Now if that’s not enough for you, you’ll find more sleepers to pad your roster in David Sabino’s 11 fantasy sleepers at SI.com. I like his picks, but keep in mind that many of them are long shots — hence, sleepers.

So. Excited. For. Football.

A Fool and His Money – Week 2

Editor’s Note: Yes, we’re a little late with this one, and yes, it’s probably better if you don’t listen to Nick’s picks anyway. We’ll post them now just so we can still hold him accountable for his mistakes.

Texans (+7) over TITANS
I want to choose the Titans in this one, but for some reason this is always a close game so I’m going to take the points. And the Texans can’t be nearly as bad as they appeared in Week 1…I hope.

Cardinals (+3) over JAGUARS
I’m ignoring the curse of West Coast teams that play 1PM ET games. The Cardinals have to realize how much they need this game.

Vikings (-9.5) over LIONS
Did you know that Adrian Peterson’s base salary is only $755,000? Brett Favre gets paid over $12,000,000 in base salary. No wonder A.D. runs like he’s angry.

Panthers (+6) over FALCONS
I love this pick. Everybody’s expectation for Jake Delhomme is so low that he can only overachieve. I believe he’ll play decent against an untested Falcons’ secondary.

REDSKINS (-10) over Rams
I know the Redskin lost last week, but the Rams were shutout by the Seahawks! It’s going to be a very long season in St. Louis.

Seahawks (+1.5) over 49ERS
I said last week that I was picking the Seahawks to win the NFC West, and they didn’t disappoint. Neither did the 49ers in there upset win over the Cardinals, but I’m sticking with my preseason prediction at this point.

Browns (+3) over BRONCOS
Kyle Orton looked awful in his Bronco debut despite the win. Something in my gut says they won’t get a miracle 87-yard touchdown pass to win the game this week.

Giants (+2.5) over COWBOYS
I thought the Giants would be favored in this game. That makes this a pretty easy pick from my standpoint. Brandon Jacobs is going to punish the Cowboys’ defenders in this game.

PACKERS (-9) over Bengals
I think everyone knew the Packers had the talent, but last week’s win will finally let the Packers themselves believe in it. Does that make sense? It does to me.

Steelers (-3) over BEARS
Big Ben looked great against the Titans, and I thought the Bears could not have had a worse debut. This game will be a blowout. You heard it here first.

Patriots (-3.5) over JETS
The Jets looked hungry last week at Houston. The Pats struggled to beat the might Bills. But a certain Mr. Brady found his mojo at the end of the game, and that makes all the difference to me.

Colts (-3) over DOLPHINS
This isn’t so much a vote of confidence in the Colts as it is doubt in the Dolphins. They had an easy schedule last year, but things are different this year.

Raiders (+3) over CHIEFS
I’ll admit it: I was a little impressed by how the Raiders looked against the Chargers on Monday night. It’s a shame they didn’t keep Jeff Garcia around instead of JaMarcus Russell because he will undoubtedly lose several games for them.

BILLS (-5) over Bucs
Trent Edwards looked decent despite not getting T.O. the ball much in Week 1, but that just makes me like him more. The Bucs defense also looked porous gave up three touchdown bombs of more than 60 yards.

CHARGERS (-3) over Ravens
The Ravens covered the spread last week by unconventionally going for the touchdown instead of the field goal while already up one score with 50 seconds left. That made their win look more impressive than it actually was. The Chargers didn’t look impressive, but I’m going to give that up to being rusty…and the fact that I have L.T. on several fantasy teams and need him to have a successful season.

Foolish Thoughts: They aren’t who we thought they were

Oh, Week 1, you cruel, cruel mistress. Just when we think we have it all figured out, the perfect team, the perfect season, you bring us back to reality.

Yes, this week we had football — real NFL football. Football that counted! But we also saw how the offseason, that tricky devil that fills in the gap between the Super Bowl and the next weekend we care about, deceives us. Those positive, uplifting stories melt away when Jake Delhomme throws more picks than Aerosmith, and the St. Louis Rams fail to notch a single point against an NFC West opponent.

It’s sobering, if sober is your thing, to see your team come back down to earth. Well, back down to earth if you weren’t starting Drew Brees. If you have Brees, you get to look like a genius this week. And we all hate you. Oh, and you too, Adrian Peterson owners. No one liked that you got the first pick anyway, and now, they get to build on that grudge when A.P. blows up in the first week.

There are only a few people who can tell you exactly how they are going to beat you and then do it right before your eyes — Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs come to mind. None of them are football players. At the end of the day, any team could stop one individual player from playing their game in a given week. It just so happens that giving your opponent an entire offseason to prepare tends to really give them a great game plan against your offensive stars.

But such is fantasy football. If knowing what you were doing allowed you to draft a perfect team every time, for every week, the game wouldn’t allow trades, and trades are really where you make your name in fantasy football. After Week 1 scores are recorded, the real men — and real women — assess their teams, hedge their offseason bets and acquire some new talent if the opportunity arises. We now know how things have changed, and we’re not in hot water just yet.

And yes, I know you’re not scared yet if you own Brees or Adrian Peterson, but you’ll see other teams catch you unaware if you let a Week 1 victory convince you that your team is perfect. Your bench is rarely perfect, but you can make it better a little bit at a time every week.

Jay Cutler obviously watched too much Jake Delhomme game film this week. He tried to do too much, but I think his picks were more an indication of how well-prepared Green Bay’s defense was, even having changed schemes this offseason. The Packers don’t look like they’re still learning, and they lost the “sleeper defense” tag that some had put on them this preseason.

Aaron Rodgers, for all the offensive success the Packers had this preseason, was also a surprisingly disappointing fantasy start this week. If not for those late game moves, he would have been a killer. But I guess only Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub were killers this week.

As a side story to Brees’ touchdown-machine performance, Reggie Bush couldn’t hold onto the ball against the Lions, even after the most work he’s ever done in the offseason. Bad sign for Bush owners.

Steven Jackson had me going for a bit with his whole Web series about how he is the greatest running back ever to touch the ground. Apparently, the camera adds 10 yards, and there were only six cameras on him in the Seattle game. Maybe he’ll fare better when he’s not facing what some say is “the best linebacking corps in the NFL,” but after disliking him this offseason, he isn’t helping his case.

There would be no quarterback controversy in Philadelphia as long as Donovan McNabb stayed healthy, but he cracked a rib against Carolina just in time to cause a scare. If he can’t get back on the field or gets injured again early this season, the Vick chants in Philadelphia might get louder.

It was almost too predictable that Anthony Gonzalez, the player who might have gathered the most “nice pick” comments in your fantasy draft this season, got injured in his Week 1 start against Jacksonville. He’ll sit out at least the next two weeks, but he could miss up to six weeks with his strained knee ligament.

Only two of my fantasy teams ran away with it this Sunday. I have two on the fence going into Monday night, and one that is going to need some overhaul this week. It’s good to have you back, football, and now the real fun begins.

Stay tuned for more this week as we’ll try to fix your Week 1 woes. Tonight, we get to see the Patriots, Bills, Chargers and Raiders take the field. Best of luck if you’re on the Monday night bubble. I’m looking for a nice night for Randy Moss.

A Fool and His Money – Week 1

Week 1 is my favorite week to make bets. You get to trust your gut more than any other week of the season, and you feel extremely smug when your predictions come true.

But the first games are also full of questions. Which teams developed chemistry over the offseason? Who will exceed expectations, and who will disappoint? There is money to be made if you can answer these questions correctly.

STEELERS (-6) over Titans
Will the Titans’ defense be the same without Albert Haynesworth? I have no qualms with the Titans’ defense, but I do have problems with trusting Kerry Collins. I predict Vince Young will get his chance for redemption at some point in the season.

Cowboys (-6) over BUCS
Are the Cowboys serious NFC contenders this year? They need to stomp teams like Tampa Bay if they are.

Lions (+13) over SAINTS
Did Kevin Smith really guarantee the playoffs this year? Even Lions’ players and fans can be optimistic this time of year.

FALCONS (-4) over Dolphins
Which one of these teams will take a step back this year? My vote is for the one that loses this game.

TEXANS (-4.5) over Jets
Have you met Mario Williams yet? Rookie QB Mark Sanchez is about to meet him for first time. This is the year the Texans need to finish over .500. People have been talking about this team for a couple of seasons — now show us something!

BENGALS (-4) over Broncos
Does anybody know what to expect from either of these teams? I think the Bengals have more potential so I’m going with them.

PANTHERS (+1.5) over Eagles
Why isn’t anyone talking about the Panthers this year? They had the best fantasy player in the game last year and the best record in the NFC.

Jags (+7) over COLTS
Has any team been more consistent this past decade? No Bob Sanders or Marvin Harrison this season. I like the Colts to win, but seven points is just too much for me.

Vikings (-4) over BROWNS
Is Brady Quinn still a loser? The answer is always yes. This line seems suspiciously low to me, but I’m going to take the bait and pick the Vikings.

Chiefs (+13) over RAVENS
Who can turn down 13 points? Not me — at least not during the first week when we still have a lot to learn about teams.

Redskins (+6.5) over GIANTS
Is this Jason Campbell’s last chance? If he doesn’t step up this year, I think it’s time for the Redskins to start looking in a different direction.

SEAHAWKS (-8.5) over Rams
Was last year a fluke? Everyone knows these teams were decimated by injuries last year, but we need to see who will bounce back quicker. I personally expect an NFC West division title for the Seahawks.

49ers (+6.5) over CARDINALS
Who doesn’t love Mike Singletary? From his future Coors Light commercial quotes to his obsession with hills, I want to believe the 49ers can take a step forward this year.

PACKERS (-3.5) over Bears
Do you believe the hype? A lot of people are very high on both these teams in the NFC. I don’t forget which players and teams wronged me last year, and Jay Cutler is at the top of that list. I bet he hangs out with Brady Quinn in the offseason.

PATRIOTS (-10.5) over Bills
Is Brady back? Normally, I don’t like giving double-digit points in the first week, but I believe the Patriots will try and turn this into a statement game by running up the score.

Chargers (-9) over RAIDERS
Could anything the Raiders do surprise you at this point? Stupid draft picks, violent head coaches, dumb trades. I wish I could bet the over on L.T. getting more than 30 fantasy points this week.

Season Record
Nick: 0-0-0