On the Waiver Wire for Week 8: Matthew Stafford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jon Kitna are the quarterbacks you seek

The pain continues. We lost a lot of good men out there.

If you were already struggling to replace Jermichael Finley (like me) or fill the hole left by Dallas Clark (like me), I hope that you weren’t also relying on Tony Romo (again…like me) who is now out for the rest of the fantasy season. He may be back in time to play two games when most of us are in the fantasy playoffs, but that will only happen if — and that’s a big if — the Cowboys are in still in the running to make the playoffs. Plenty would have to break their way for that to happen.

Look at your quarterback’s schedule right now. If he fapicapces the Giants at any point this season, it’s time to strengthen your backup quarterback position. The New York Giants have already knocked five quarterbacks out of games this year after taking out Romo on Monday Night Football, and they’ll continue to attack.

Make sure you hang on to Kevin Kolb. Vick will face the Giants in Week 11.

If you a Favre owner, you might as well jump on the new quarterback bandwagon as well. Old Favre-ful hasn’t been putting up the numbers he did last season, and he looked terrible on Sunday night against his old team. His ankle can only get more fractured. Without a bye week in his future, I have to say it’s all downhill from here. Take a stab at adding one of these “Romo replacement” quarterbacks before the Romo owner does.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Detroit quarterbacks have been the unsung heroes of fantasy through the first part of the year. Until the Giants knocked Shaun Hill out, he was keeping up with the elite of the quarterback class. Stafford, in case you forgot him, is the starter in Detroit, which implies that he’s even better than Shaun Hill, the backup. This week, he gets to play the 31st ranked pass defense in Washington. This could be the beginning of a beautiful quarterback savior-ship.

Jon Kitna, QB, Dallas Cowboys
The most immediate gainer from Tony Romo’s injury, Kitna is now in control of the offensive weapons in Dallas. This group is the most talented that Kitna has ever had at his disposal, but he’s also probably past his prime as a quarterback. Time will tell what he’s able to do with Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones…and the less than stellar offensive line that the Cowboys have struggled to work behind this season. At least this week he gets the Jaguars, which shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. If you can’t get your hands on Stafford, go get Kitna as a safe alternative.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills
Fitzpatrick seems to have emerged as a consistent fantasy starter. He’s had 20 fantasy points or more (standard scoring with 6-point passing touchdowns) in his last three games, and he somehow managed to throw four touchdowns against the Ravens formidable pass defense — and two against the Jets. As long as the Bills continue to play from behind, Fitzpatrick will have value, and as I said in the Scoring Leaders post this week, he could rise to fantasy fame just like Tyler Thigpen did under Chan Gailey’s system in Kansas City not too long ago. But if you take a chance on Fitzpatrick, know that he’s a candidate to fall off a fantasy cliff at any moment, as the Bills are apt to do. He has his doubters. So while he’s doing well now (and you should ride it while you can), he’s a riskier pickup this week than someone like Kitna or Henne. I’d still take that chance. If you’re a gambler, you could even go with Fitz over Kitna.

Troy Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have passed over David Carr just like the fantasy gods did and named Troy Smith the starter for Week 8. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. As long as Alex Smith is held out with his separated shoulder (2-3 weeks) and maybe even after, Smith will be worth owning. And Singletary must have seen something he liked in Smith since they acquired him in order to jump him over Carr, the backup quarterback, to be the starter and to be bold enough to go into Week 8 with just two healthy quarterbacks, Carr and Smith, on the active roster. In the next four weeks, San Francisco faces Denver, a bye week, and then St. Louis and Tampa Bay. If Smith performs well in Week 8, the 49ers could adjust their offense over the bye and go into Week 10 with Troy Smith as the official starter, keeping the job even after Alex Smith is back to 100 percent. Just saying, it could happen. The 49ers have talented receiving weapons in Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore, who catches plenty of passes out of the backfield, and Alex Smith was putting up serviceable numbers before his injury.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins
Henne’s not going to come close to the elite most weeks, but he’s doing plenty of passing in Miami right now. He may not be on the waiver wire, but if he is available, I’d slot him behind Stafford, Fitzpatrick, and Kitna as a guy to target to replace Romo or Favre. And I think I’d rather start Henne than Matt Cassel, who just doesn’t inspire confidence in me yet.

Other Romo replacement considerations: Matt Cassel (QB-Chiefs), Josh Freeman (QB-Bucs), Sam Bradford (QB-Rams), and Matt Moore (QB-Panthers)

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blount got his fair share of carries this week against the Rams with Earnest Graham injured and Kareem Huggins out for the season, and he made good use of them. Tampa Bay’s coaches now say he’ll be splitting time with Cadillac Williams in the backfield, and he’s started to pick up the blitz well enough to protect Josh Freeman. Make sure you get your hands on him now before he takes over the entire Bucs rushing attack. Cadillac isn’t going to put up much of a fight with his age and past injuries weighing him down.

Danny Woodhead, RB, New England Patriots
I’ve mentioned him before, so why haven’t you gotten him yet? He’s now an integral part of the Patriots’ offense, and he’s worth owning, especially in PPR leagues. His slow day against the Chargers may have led owners to dump him, but I think he’ll get back on track.

James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
Donald Driver finally seems to be slowing down, and Jones is ready to take his role and run with it. Like the Colts, if you can get a piece of the Packers’ offense, you want it.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Reports of his “tweak” this weekend seem to be false, and all signs point to Gonzalez returning to the Colts roster this weekend, just in time to replace an injured Austin Collie. He should start ahead of Blair White if things go as planned, but be sure to check his status later in the week to make sure he’s playing. Without Dallas Clark, the Colts’ wide receivers should receive some extra attention from Peyton Manning for the rest of the season.

Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts
If Gonzalez doesn’t go, he’s your guy. Collie’s out, and White was able to jump straight into this offense as soon as he was signed from the practice squad. He should hold value until Austin Collie returns or Anthony Gonzalez unseats him. But this kid has staying power. As a walk-on in college, he eventually rose to team captain.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
If you believe in Ryan Fitzpatrick, believe in Steve Johnson. Other than Lee Evans, who had a huge week, Johnson has benefited the most from Buffalo’s rejuvenated passing attack. And he’s getting into the end zone consistently.

Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks
The big guy in Seattle has shown enough to be trusted after two games of 10+ points, and he’s got a nice schedule the rest of the way with Matt Hasselbeck.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers
What? The Packers are finally letting him run with it? So they are. If you’re still holding onto Jackson from earlier in the season, keep him. If someone in your league dumped him after his weak first half of the year, go get him. As the weather turns in Green Bay, he could turn into a reliable fantasy option to end the season. Just like I said about James Jones, if you can get a piece of this Packers offense, you want it.

David Gettis, WR, Carolina Panthers
The rookie wideout landed on a lot of fantasy radars this week with his two-touchdown performance and with Matt Moore returning under center. Steve Smith will continue to receive most of the defensive attention, which could open up the other side of the field for Gettis, but I’d like to see him do it one more time before I rely on him. He’s a stash with great potential now that this offense is moving with Moore.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Chris Chambers is out, and it seems McCluster is in. He’s finally being used in this offense, so it’s time to join the bandwagon. I don’t put much faith in Matt Cassel, but with the way the Chiefs are running the football and playing defense, surely he can manage a few plays in the passing game, especially with that nice schedule.

Chester Taylor, RB, Chicago Bears
I’m not too high on him, but he gets an upgrade this week with the Bears saying he’ll be handling goal-line duties moving forward. I agree with FF Toolbox that this probably doesn’t hurt Forte much. It just makes Taylor an interesting stash or wait-and-see guy when the Bears come out of their bye week.

Don’t forget about a few wait-and-see players I’ve named in past weeks: Danario Alexander (WR-Rams), James Starks (RB-Packers), and Arrelious Benn (WR-Bucs), just to name a few.

More waivering and wiring from around the fantasy football Web-u-verse…

On the Wire in Week 4: Lance Moore, Arrelious Benn and More Waiver Wire Wide Receivers Stepping It Up

Now that I’ve given you my list of running backs worth stashing off the waiver wire this week, it’s time to talk wide receivers.

When it comes to receivers, you might not have the room to “stash” them on your bench. Instead, there are guys you might like to add to your fantasy receiver rotation right away. Lucky for you, many of them have already had an impact, especially the first guy on my list.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints

Well, he certainly snapped right back into his 2008 form this week. Moore had two touchdowns and a huge day against the Falcons. If you remember back in 2008, Moore went off in Reggie Bush’s absence. It looks like he’s doing it again here in 2010.

I should credit Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com for pointing that out on The Audible podcast last week. It almost made me go grab Moore out of the free agent pool before Week 3′s games, but I decided to give it one more week…now I’m out of luck. If you can get him this week or have him already, expect Moore to produce fantasy WR3 numbers as long as Reggie Bush is out with the upside to do what he did on Sunday again whenever Drew Brees locks onto him.

Playing with the Saints receivers may be a bit of a shell game, but Moore is probably the most reliable option beside Marques Colston, who hasn’t been much more than a glorified possession receiver in the first three weeks of this season.

Roy E. Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Everyone wanted to write off Williams this season. He’s disappointed since coming to Cowboys via trade, and the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant to challenge Williams for his starting job this year.

So far, it looks like Williams is going to be keeping that, and dare I say, he might even excel in it. Williams had the biggest game of his Cowboy career Sunday with two scores against the Texans. If he can make it happen again, he just might start to win back the fans in Dallas.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Carbonell of  RotoExperts.com had a  great piece about Dexter McCluster this week as part of his slot receiver series at Fantasy Joe.

He had a nice game in Week 3, but, as is the case with Jamaal Charles, the Kansas City coaches haven’t shown a commitment to getting their best, most explosive playmakers on the field with any consistency. You’d think that’d go hand-in-hand with winning, but alas, it does not.

McCluster should, hopefully, be a larger part of what the Chiefs do moving forward. There was no life in the passing game until Week 3, but McCluster helped liven things up with his big play ability. He’s worth a stash now because if and when the Chiefs do understand how best to use him in the offense, he could put up the kind of numbers that Percy Harvin did in 2009.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Benn was touted as the more talented receiver than Mike Williams (TB) when they were both drafted this year, but until now, he wasn’t getting on the field.

News out of Tampa Bay this week reveals that they will be working him into the offense as the starting flanker over the bye, which makes him an interesting stash for this week. We’ve seen what the Bucs could do with Mike Williams, a rookie who scored in each of his first two games and had a strong performance against a tough Steelers secondary.

With Benn in the mix on a team that has to play from behind as much as the Bucs do, Benn could get his as well. Feel free to take a chance on the rookie as I stand behind my belief that they will continue to look to their young playmakers this season.

And since he’s more or less a wide receiver playing tight end…

Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots

Aaron Hernandez may not be the tight end that Tom Brady targets in the red zone — that’s Rob Gronkowski — but he does have a big role to play in this offense. He’s made big play after big play as the Patriots go down the field, and he should continue to be a factor there.

If you need a tight end or have the option of playing a tight end in a flex spot, consider using Hernandez from time to time or just saving him for a rainy day. Maybe he’ll even do you a favor and make it to the end zone sometime soon. Right now, he’s producing borderline WR3 numbers.

More waiver wire goodness:  FF Librarian, The FF Geek Blog,  FF Toolbox,  The Hazean,  Football Jabber,  TMR,  The Big Lead,Razzball,  Sports Illustrated, and  Fanhouse.

On the Wire in Week 4: LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Torain Headline Best of Waiver Wire Running Backs to Stash

It’s been three weeks. Time to take a long hard look at your team and the “sleepers” you chose on draft day. If they haven’t woken up yet, chances are that they aren’t going to wake up anytime soon.

On the waiver this week, there are several running backs to take a chance on, but here are a few I think could have some real long-term value. Let these be your new sleepers.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you want a shot at another starting running back, Blount is my pick this week. He’s big, he’s young, and he’s got burst. Those are three things that the Bucs’ current starter, Cadillac Williams no longer has. Blount is my favorite player on this list.

Blount started the season with the Titans running behind Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer, and there was talk of them keeping him on the team for the regular season. But when it came time to cut down the roster, he didn’t make it and, instead, ended up in Tampa Bay. We can only hope whatever he picked up from the Titans running attack came with him.

We know he came with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. You may have heard of him already because he kind of decked a guy in the face back in college at Oregon. So he gets a B- in discipline, but that checkered past could motivate him to prove that he can handle a starting role in the NFL and that those who overlooked him on draft day made a mistake.

The Bucs are saying all the things a fantasy owner wants to hear. Coach Raheem Morris has said that the team planned on using him more in Week 3 and that Blount has earned the short-yardage and goal-line back role on the Bucs. The team wants to work more running backs into the mix besides Cadillac. That all adds up to more carries for Blount and more chances to earn a larger role.

Kareem Huggins got all the preseason hype, and there was enough confidence in him as a runner for the Bucs to let Derrick Ward go this preseason. But a hamstring injury has kept Huggy sidelined all season. He’s also a smaller runner, not immediately seen as someone who could carry a full load for a team like the Bucs, a team that must run the ball with power in order to keep more explosive, experienced offenses off the field.

I am not one to immediately write a guy off for being a small running back, but just given the current state of the run game in Tampa, I’d rather bet on Blount than Huggy going forward. Blount is healthy and ready to contribute. Plus, he’s got one nice showing against the Steelers defense under his belt going into a bye week.

Earnest Graham can take carries here and there, and Cadillac won’t fade into the night. But the Bucs want to get younger at every position with a young quarterback and two rookie receivers. They’ll get young at running back, too, and right now, Blount is their best option.

Stash him on your bench now, and hope for the best when the Bucs come back from their bye Week 5 to take on the Bengals.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns

I mentioned him earlier this season on the waiver wire, and he makes this list today after having a historical performance, 100+ yards against the Ravens.

We heard about the Browns offensive line this offseason, but Jerome Harrison wasn’t able to take advantage of their skills during the early part of this season. Without him in the mix, Hillis proved he could.

He’s run well during his time and in Denver, and his skills as a rusher and pass-catcher have come to be appreciate in Cleveland as well.

No one can say for sure, but Hillis might have just earned himself the job as the No. 1 back in Cleveland for the rest of the season. That may not be a huge value, but a starter is a starter in this league.

Ryan Torain, RB, Washington Redskins

Shanahan’s prized, “prodigal son” prospect has returned to him, and he’s actually getting playing time.

In Denver, Torain showed promise in several games before a knee injury landed him on IR and then off the roster post-Shanahan. Lost in the shuffle of the 2005 All-Star backfield Shanahan brought together in Washington, Torain was cut alongside Willie Parker before the regular season, but now he’s back.

Rumor has it that the Redskins have more confidence in Torain carrying the full load than Keiland Williams, who was backing up Clinton Portis since the Redskins cut Larry Johnson. And the Redskins last-minute sign-and-play of Torain in Week 3 seems to suggest that the rumor is true.

Keep in mind that Shanahan is Shanahan, so this backfield won’t be reliable each week. But for now, it looks like Torain is the guy you want. He’ll be in demand on the waiver wire.

For the record, I haven’t given up on Keiland Williams either. So if you miss out on Torain this week and want to play the Shanny sweepstakes, Williams ain’t a bad bet either. He was, after all, important enough to stay on the roster when Torain got cut to start the year.

One thing I know for sure: Anyone could be the next big rushing star when Shanahan’s running things.

Other backs who could have an impact later this year:

Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Benson’s backup should be more than that this season. The Bengals want to work him in more as a larger part of the offense and a speedy complement to Benson’s pounding style. Benson hasn’t been the dominating back he was last season, but don’t expect Scott to take the job over full-time unless Benson is injured.

Javon Ringer, RB, Tennesee Titans: The Titans have admitted that they need to get Ringer more involved in the offense so that Chris Johnson can remain healthy, happy and dominating all season long and for many years to come. It remains to be seen how many carries he’ll get, but in the right matchup, Ringer could be a flex play. For now, he’s simply a handcuff to Johnson and a long-term investment for the rest of the season.

Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens: He’s no spring chicken, but McGahee’s been getting touches even while Ray Rice was healthy. No that Rice has banged up his knee, McGahee could have an expanded role, especially short-term but possibly long-term as the Ravens try to keep Rice healthy for the playoffs and maximize the stable of running backs they have on the roster, also including LeRon McClain.

If you’re hard up for a running back who could become a “smelling of rich mahogany” big deal by year’s end, these backs are my current picks. Stash ‘em now. Thank me later.

More waiver wire goodness:  FF Librarian,  The FF Geek Blog,  FF Toolbox,  The Hazean,  Football Jabber,  TMR,  The Big Lead,Razzball,  Sports Illustrated, and  Fanhouse.

THERE IS FOOTBALL TONIGHT

I’VE BEEN TYPING IN ALL CAPS FOR THE LAST 12 HOURS. I CAN’T STOP. TONIGHT IS FOOTBALL. THE NFL IS BACK…BACK, BABY!

OH, THERE IS A BUTTON TO TURN THIS OFF? Ahhhh, well,  that is better. I just thought it was an adrenaline thing.

Welcome to Week 1. Tonight, the Saints and the Vikings play for the honor of being the first explosive, on-top-of-it-all team and battle the letdown of being the first surprising loser of the season. I don’t think the Vikings will appreciate being the first team to disappoint.

As a fantasy GM, I’m sure you’re sweating who you’re going to start, so let’s have a mini-”Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders” huddle up.

You can start your studs. That’s perfectly acceptable; in fact, I highly recommend it.

Even though Ray Rice and Michael Turner don’t have the best matchups on paper, I have a hard time  benching either one of them. You used a first round pick to get these guys, so one would assume they are the best you have.

Look at the positive side. Rice is fairly matchup-proof with his involvement in the passing game, which is why you drafted him, and Turner could, at the very least, get to the goal line for you. That’d be sweet of him.

But if you are one of the lucky few who drafted a stacked team, which you are because you followed my advice, and you have a phenomenal matchup on your bench this week, don’t be afraid to take it.

Cadillac Williams is this week’s golden boy. He faces an unproven Cleveland defense with his young quarterback, Josh Freeman, nursing a broken thumb. I’m guessing the passing game might suffer as a result. If Freeman does pass, expect the fact that he threw less than 10 passes this preseason to show a little bit.

All of this makes Week 1 a perfect week to test the Cadillac experience. Get the leather interior. Worth it.

On the sleeper side of things, Arian Foster gets to start his breakout campaign against the Colts poor run defense, and Ryan Mathews sees the Chiefs, who won’t hold him back much this week as one of the worst defenses in the league. These two were high on plenty of radars during the peak of fantasy football drafting, so I’d expect that you drafted them to start if you got ‘em.

I really dislike Shonn Greene and Pierre Thomas more than I dislike Turner and Rice this week. Baltimore and Minnesota’s run defenses are stingy. Since Greene and Thomas may not have been first-round picks for you, you may not feel as risky starting Cadillac/Foster over them to see what your bench depth can do. I’d take that chance this week.

It also might be nice to give Greene and Pierre a chance to show you how they are going to split up the carries in New York and New Orleans. L.T. is old, but he could touch the ball far more than he needs to if Rex Ryan allows it.

Other than Rice, I’m not a big fan of the Baltimore offense this week. Revis Island and the rest of the Jets’ defense is no place to go for broke passing the ball, which will keep the Joe Flacco “sleeper” train in the station for one more week. They may open things up, but not enough for me to embrace him as a good start. He’s definitely a cold shoulder. And that means Housh, Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin will start quietly as well.

Chicago gets to play Detroit. You know what that means. They’re all superstars. No matter how good the Detroit offense has become, their defense still has a lot to prove.

If you’re really digging deep, there are  sleepers out there. But come on, are you really going to go digging for a starting roster in Week 1? Not a good sign if you are. Not a good sign.

For the most part, I’d stick with the studs who you drafted this week. Have faith that you built a good team, and enjoy the fact that FOOTBALL IS BACK TONIGHT.

NOW I NEED ONE ORDER OF WINGS AND A TV REMOTE. STAT!

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.

Martz be crazy: Why you should draft your Bears this season

As we await the Chicago Bears debut tonight in preseason action, I can’t wait to see if their little offseason experiment worked.

When it comes to offense, Mike Martz is a kamikaze. His “leap of faith” system is as likely to blow up on a game-by-game basis as it is to succeed. While respected at first for his work in St. Louis, in recent years, NFL coaches seem to feel that bringing him in to run an offense is the equivalent of waving a white flag, a last-ditch effort to get their teams on the scoreboard.

Still, Martz’s system shows results. He built the “Greatest Show on Turf,” revived the Detroit Lions passing attack with Jon Kitna, and made J.T. O’ Sullivan fantasy relevant for a time in San Francisco. But one thing he hasn’t had to work with since his days with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger in St. Louis is a true franchise quarterback.

Why, hello there Jay Cutler. Whatever you think of the shruggy Vanderbilt product, Cutler has an arm, and he’s shown the characteristics of a franchise quarterback in Denver. Granted, he no longer has a true No. 1 receiver like Brandon Marshall to throw to now that he’s in Chicago, but don’t count out Devin Hester and Johnny Knox just yet.

Quick receivers who can get to their spots on time are all an offense like Martz’s really needs, and if you believe in the third year breakout for wide receivers and Hester’s quotes, Hester’s ready to make it big. But you don’t have to take his word for it.

Cutler has bought into Martz’s quarterback-friendly system. So even though we can’t expect Cutler’s interceptions to be drastically reduced when he starts firing passes before receivers are even in place, he should do some serious damage in the passing game–the good kind of damage.

Cutler threw a career high 26 interceptions last season pre-Martz, but he also threw a career high 27 touchdowns. His offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors last year either.

With Martz and a new offensive line coach in Mike Tice, Cutler may excel in the W column and fantasy point columns again just like he did in Denver.

So when it comes to drafting Cutler, I’m all for it. He’s currently going early in the seventh round as the No. 9 overall quarterback, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. While I’m okay with him there as a late starting QB1, I think I’d really love him as a QB2 behind an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tony Romo.

If he has a huge season, you can start him and trade away your elite guy or just trade Cutler for a high-performing running back to make your championship run.

And without having to rely on him completely as your QB1, you can play the ups and downs that are likely to strike the Bears this season. I expect there will be some growing pains in learning Martz’s system and putting it into action each week.

As for the wide receivers, there’s plenty of speculation out there about how to value them. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu, and Earl Bennett could all see time on the field.

This offseason, the early favorite has been Devin Aromashodu, the tallest Bears wide receiver who came on strong at the end of 2009 and scored four touchdowns. But Aromashodu’s sleeper hype has him overvalued now. He’s being drafted before both Hester and Knox, and that just doesn’t make sense.

I’d much rather draft Hester, the forgotten man in this offense who was holding down the No. 1 role until late in 2009, or Knox, the rookie who picked up the offense and caught Cutler’s eye last season.

Hester worked in the offseason with Isaac Bruce to learn what he could from the Martz-made veteran wide receiver, and I think he’ll be ready to play come Week 1 like a top wideout, rather than just as a converted special teamer.

Now don’t get me wrong, Aromashodu shouldn’t be overlooked. He could play a big part in the red zone, but I just don’t think he’s worth a pick in the eighth round when you can get Hester in the tenth.

Martz isn’t really known for increasing the role of the running back in his offenses, but he has two skilled pass catchers in Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Forte seems more like his old self now that he’s recovered from 2009′s injuries. Maybe we all just expected too much of him when we launched him into the first round rankings last season.

With injuries, a new quarterback, and a questionable offensive line, it was hard to live up to the hype around his impressive rookie season. This season, he could turn things around, especially if Martz makes him a big part of the offense. Even though Martz isn’t known for making running backs better, he certainly doesn’t neglect them.

Chester Taylor will take some of the work out of Forte’s hands, but that could be a good thing. Forte wore down late in his rookie season when he was carrying the full load, and as long as he gets to take the carries near the goal line, sharing might be caring for Forte. I can learn to love a timeshare that allows Forte to go full speed all season and keeps him free of injuries.

So think about Forte in the fourth round before you start looking at running backs who have the lesser half of a timeshare situation.

The one position we can’t predict with Martz is tight end. Greg Olsen is a star at the position, but Martz has traditionally left tight ends to block at the line while the receivers steal the show. Time will tell if Olsen can sway him. I am not taking that chance in my drafts right now.

So in short, don’t overlook your Bears this season. I expect to see some significant improvements in the passing game, and as late as Jay Cutler and Hester are being drafted, they’re definitely worth a look.

Week 16 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: All the marbles? But can’t I just keep at least one?

I really hope that the scoring change on Kurt Warner’s touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin didn’t burn you. That has to be the worst kind of pain in the world.

It’s exciting to pull out your semifinal game by just a few points, and it’s exciting to have a chance at the championship. Having that pulled out from under you by a scoring change on a Wednesday, two days after scores are supposed to be final, is rough. Too rough for most mortal fantasy footballers to handle.

So let’s move on and not dwell on it? Okay?

I’ve already said how I feel about starting studs and sleepers in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable. You can only reasonably take a chance on a sleeper if your stud is in a bad spot and if the sleeper has proven himself on more than one occasion in the recent past.

That’s when you do it. Otherwise, start your studs.

But I find myself in a situation this week — and no, not that kind of situation. I have Ray Rice and Steven Jackson at running back but could potentially play Jamaal Charles and/or Beanie Wells in their place. Considering Steven Jackson’s health and Ray Rice’s challenging matchup, I’m tempted to put Beanie Wells in for one of the two, probably Jackson. But it’s hard to put a guy I haven’t started all year in for the championship game.

I’ve watched Wells strengthen his role in the Cardinals offense late in the season, but…is he ready to be trusted in a championship game? Tell me what you would do in the comments.

For your more pressing playoff questions, you should read up at the FF Librarian for plenty of start or sit opinions. She’s got plenty of goods for you and your post-holiday needs.

Jason Snelling, Cedric Benson, and Jonathan Stewart are all looking good in Fantasy Joe’s studs and duds this week. I like Snelling’s chance to take advantage of a good matchup, and Benson should get back on track against the Chiefs. Even the Browns were able to do that.

KFFL offers some potential help on the waiver wire for you this week, but I’d only sub in Alex Smith and Mike Sims-Walker into your rosters if you’re in a critical playoff game. Both of them are likely to already be on a roster in your leagues this week unless someone gave up on Sims-Walker already or unless no one took any interest in Alex Smith’s schedule to end the season.

I like Alex Smith quite a bit this week. Actually, I like all the 49ers against the Lions. In this week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable, I selected Alex Smith as my sleeper.

My bust in that debate is a little more out there, Jerome Harrison. You’ll have to read my input in the debate to see why I doubt the Week 15 fantasy football superstar.

I know many of you may be afraid of your players sitting this week, especially your Colts, but Reggie Wayne is the only player I’m very worried about. He might sit at halftime if the Colts are able to put up a lead, and even when he is on the field, he’ll be blanketed by Darrelle Revis.

I’m considering starting Josh Morgan over Wayne, but I haven’t made the call just yet. Me thinks a half of Wayne facing Revis might still be better than taking a chance on the third receiving option in San Francisco, but I could be wrong. The aggressive player in me wants to make the switch.

The FF Geek Blog adds to be my reasoning behind benching Jamaal Charles this week in their Hits & Misses. They also hit on most of the other possible sits this week. Alongside ESPN’s rankings, they just might have me convinced the Steven Jackson is my best start.

But there’s still the matter of Beanie Wells. The TMR is a Beanie Wells lover this week, and it’s hard not to side with him against the St. Louis Rams.

So I’m still torn. I wish you all the best of luck this week as you set your lineups. Please feel free to weigh in on my dilemma in the comments below. Pick two: Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, or Beanie Wells?

As your set your rosters this week, you can enjoy the smooth jams of the holiday season: the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Canon Rock

I just like to say that name. I like to imagine they live in some sort of strange compound in Siberia, only emerging to play music at Christmas in large orchestral settings.

It makes every YouTube video of them so much more interesting to watch.

Week 15 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Who’s Going to Win Me My Championship

I hope this week matters to you. It certainly matters to me. I’ve made it this far in the playoffs, and I don’t plan to stop until I get a championship.

There’s a theme this week out there. I’ve noticed it. It’s Jamaal Charles love. Try and find someone who hates him this week. Other than a plug for the Browns’ defense on Fantasy Joe, there’s nada. I don’t know if that spells disaster or certain victory, but I’m starting the little speedster either way.

The Fifth Down hates on LaDainian Tomlinson and shares in the Jamaal Charles love. FF Xtreme picks Charles over Ryan Grant.

I’m starting him over Steven Jackson, per the advice at Fantasy Joe as well. Matt Pitzer’s got some nice names that could win it for you this week, including Anquan Boldin and Knowshon Moreno, but Roddy White and Chad Ochocinco owners won’t be as happy with his dud selections. Both wide receivers enter into tough matchups against Darrelle Revis and the San Diego Chargers’ corners, respectively.

I am not as worried about Randy Moss underwhelming this week after reading what Mr. NFL Films had to say about his efforts. If he says the game film shows him doing all the right things, I believe it. Moss doesn’t seem to have the same immaturity that hit him in Oakland and Minnesota. He knows the Pats have a good thing going, and I don’t think he’ll want to be the one that derails their chance at the playoffs this season.

He’s ripe for an in-your-face day in Buffalo, as long as the weather works out. The opponent isn’t great on paper since Buffalo has been an interception machine and kept receivers out of the end zone, but those receivers were not a motivated Randy Moss.

Can you trust your Colts tonight? At least for tonight’s game, The Hazean thinks so. I agree.

If you need sleepers, I’m sure you know my affection for Alex Smith and Vince Young. Both are questionable this week and have less favorable matchups than last week, but you can roll with them if you must. I like VY more than Smith as long as VY plays.

FF Toolbox is all over this week’s waiver wire grabs, but as I wrote earlier this week, I’m not feeling them. I think the Toolbox guys are right to be concerned about DeAngelo Williams and Vincent Jackson, as Williams faces a tough Minnesota run defense and Jackson faces the Bengals secondary, which has taken away their opponent’s top target each week.

And as usual, there are plenty more start or sit articles where these came from over at FF Librarian.

As you set your lineups this week, enjoy the musical stylings of one Michael Jackson. I think I’ve heard of him before. The song is appropriate: “This Is It”

Michael Jackson – This Is It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ganther, though, we can all hate freely.

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

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

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

On the Wire: Playoff Week 15 Pickups to Block From Your Opponents (If You Dare)

It’s once again a weak waiver wire week, but you’ll have to deal with it. By now, your team should be well-equipped to weather the playoff storm. If not, how did you make it this far? Bribes? Trickery? Bribery and trickery?

If you’re looking for talent, the FF Librarian is holding it down with plenty of waiver wire links all around the Interwebs, and the FF Geek Blog covers every single base. I think I even saw my grandmother and kitchen sink on there!

But let’s walk through a few of my personal favorites.

The Browns continue to confuse their running back situation. Even though there’s talk of Josh Cribbs taking over, Chris Jennings and Jerome Harrison could touch the ball enough to prevent him from cleaning up against the rest of the Browns meager schedule. In my opinion, it’s not worth taking a chance on any of them in the fantasy football playoffs, but you could always stash any of the three to prevent your opponent from benefiting. The Browns schedule is nice  as The Hazean pointed out.

My pick would be Chris Jennings if you’re going to take any of the Brown running backs this week, but as an added bonus, some of you might be able to play Josh Cribbs as a wide receiver, making him an intriguing WR3 or flex option this week if he does get a larger share of the running game against the Chiefs.

I don’t understand all the love that Quinton Ganther is getting this week. Sure, he had two scores against the Raiders, but that’s exactly the point. It was the Raiders.

This week, he faces the Giants, followed by the Cowboys in Week 16. It’s hard to believe that the Giants, surging for a chance to make the playoffs will allow him, the same unspectacular running back who was unemployed before injuries to Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, to do much of anything.

I might pick Ganther up to block my opponent from getting him — crafty, I know — but that’s about the extent of my love for Ganther this week against a tough NFC East opponent.

I’d have to agree with Fanhouse that Willis McGahee is not worth worrying your pretty little head over this week, and it’s hard to trust anyone in the Houston backfield.

Arian Foster may be the hot start of the moment, but he could easily lose touches to Chris Brown or Ryan Moats if he fumbles, sputters, or coughs at the wrong time. How can you put that in your starting roster in this critical week? I can’t do it, not even against the Rams.

Again, you could block your opponent from getting him as the TMR advises, if you have the space on the roster to spare, but don’t put all your hopes in Foster’s basket unless you are really, really in a tough situation.

I’d hate to have to look to Maurice Morris, or anyone in the Detroit backfield for that matter, to support my fantasy football team at this point in the season, but FF Toolbox does provide a few comments on this week’s running backs and highlights two very hot tight ends, Fred Davis and Jermichael Finley, who might, for some unknown reason you can explain in the comments, still be on your league’s waiver wire.

These two tight ends have been showing off for a few weeks now, but some people fear change.

And sadly, even though I’d love to end on a happy note (for those of you who must, I give you the Hot or Not of kittens), I’ll say that it doesn’t look good for those of you holding onto Colts as you enter the championship rounds. Fantasy Joe argues that it’s not worth grabbing at the second helpings Indianapolis will put on the field when they start resting starters. That stings.

Good luck with your lineup decisions this week.