Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs by ADP

Many a fantasy football site will give you rankings. Most of the time, that’s enough for you to make your decisions when drafting a fantasy team, but I like to add a little depth to my rankings by incorporating the “players to avoid” tag.

You see, not every player is desirable, even if they are the No. 5-ranked running back on the board. Some bad situations may not compel experts to rank a player lower, and at times, there’s no logical reason behind disliking a player other than that icky feeling you get when he’s the next player in your rankings. Regardless, we still have every right to avoid a guy in the draft.

If I had only listened to that inner “pick or pass” feeling when it came time for me to make my first round selection in 2007, I might have never taken Larry Johnson with a mid-first-round pick … and that would have made all the difference.

For this first addition of “pick or pass,” I gathered the top 24 running backs ranked by average draft position (ADP) over at Fantasy Football Calculator to break down. The rankings were current as of July 15, 2009. If you have any more reservations about players that I don’t touch on here or just find yourself wanting to share your agreement, please tell me about your concerns and tips in the comments.

Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – ADP: 1.01 – PICK
So what if he is the unanimous No. 1 running back? Some guys still don’t love him first overall. No one says you have to take him — even if you league boos (and they will). Despite my personal distrust of Peterson, I would “pick” Peterson at the No. 1 because of his explosive potential and the huge tradebait he becomes if you want to do a little preseason maneuvering before the first game of the season. You can’t go wrong with the player everyone expects to be the best, right?

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
Everybody loves the bowling-ball receiving back from the Jacksonville Jaguars. While I dislike him here at the No. 2 spot, he’s still a “pick” for me somewhere in the top five. Unless the offensive line pulls another Humpty Dumpty routine, Jones-Drew should have all the chances in the world to put up RB1-worthy stats. Then again, if you’re not a Jacksonville fan … you may hold off on Jones-Drew at the No. 2 because we all know he’ll still share the rock with Greg Jones this season, even if it’s not as much as he shared it with Fred Taylor.

3. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
He’s just barely a “pick” because he’s such a safe choice. Yes, his schedule is tougher. Yes, he ran many, many times last season. Yes, his quarterback’s other weapons are improved this season, but look again at how many chances Michael Turner had near the goal line last year. Turner can only benefit from more movement up and down the field, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on him anywhere in the top five.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears –   ADP: 1.04 – PICK
The little rookie back that could last season, Forte was the definition of consistent. If he didn’t get a touchdown, he got 100+ yards — and he always got 100+ yards. Jay Cutler under center should shake things up, but much like Turner, making the weapons more dangerous only makes me like Forte more. He’s a “pick” anywhere in the top five as well.

5. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams – ADP: 1.06 – PASS
Ah, the first “pass” of the running back class rears its ugly head at No. 5. Steven Jackson is one of the most talented backs in the league, and the Rams plan to make him a workhorse this season. Still, I’m just not feeling his health and the team play in St. Louis. The Rams have very little receiver talent, a banged-up veteran at quarterback in Bulger and not much to make opposing defenses look at anyone but … you guessed it … Jackson. He may get plenty of carries and quite a few yards, but I’ll “pass.”

6. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers – ADP: 1.08 – PASS
Sermons have been written on why LaDainian Tomlinson faded last season and how much you need to believe in him this year, but they’re all blasphemy, my friend. If it looks like the end of his career and it talks like the end of his career, it’s probably a duck … and perhaps I missed something in the argument I was trying to make there. Here’s the point: he’s aging, Darren Sproles is franchise-tagged and looking to impress his way out of San Diego and the Chargers window for a Super Bowl victory is closing faster than Tom Brady can buy new flower boxes. If L.T. stays healthy for the entire season, he’s likely to put up numbers close to his old averages, but this high in the draft, I’d still “pass.”

7. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – ADP: 1.08 – PICK
The reason you’d pass on a guy like Steven Jackson or L.T. is right here at No. 7. Chris Johnson has the speed to burn you, and the team to grind you into the ground. I’m not scared of LenDale White unless I’m covered in donut glaze. Johnson is just the kind of young running back in a run-oriented offense that I would want to lead me into battle each week — fantasy battle, that is. I’d pick him before Jackson, L.T. or DeAngelo Williams.

8. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers – ADP: 1.11 – PASS
“Pass, pass, pass.” I went into more detail about how painful DeAngelo’s second season as a starter could be when I compared him to Michael Turner in Truth or Fiction. Here’s the short version: a better Jonathan Stewart means fewer carries to go around, a tougher schedule means it’ll be more difficult to score touchdowns and a weaker offensive line means less holes to run through. I’ll “pass” on Williams this season because he’s just not worth the risk.

9. Steve Slaton, Houston Texans – ADP: 1.11 – PICK
Slaton had a solid amount of carries close to the red zone just as Michael Turner did last season, but Slaton was basically the only running back left standing in Houston for most of the season. With bigger backs like Chris Brown and the new guy, Jeremiah Johnson, around, he may lose those touches, but he won’t lose that speed that kept him on the field last season. Slaton was one of the best surprises of 2008, and I’d “pick” him again in 2009.

10. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers – ADP: 2.01 – PICK
It’s all a bit of a toss up when it comes to the 49ers. All those words from the coaches about a running-based offense is great, but I want to make sure they’re actually going to put points on the board this season. Gore should tote the rock without too much sharing, and unlike the Rams and Steven Jackson, the 49ers should have enough other weapons to make Gore productive. I’d “pick” him.

11. Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles – ADP: 2.04 – PASS
Westy’s been an injury concern for several seasons, but this year, I might actually count that against him. His offseason surgeries and the addition of LeSean McCoy are just enough to make me want to hold off on him this year. I’d take him as a mid-range RB2, but I’ll “pass” here with bigger fish still left in the sea.

12. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants – ADP: 2.05 – PICK
If the word “pick” could sound more intimidating and bulky, I would use it here. Jacobs is a quality pick for the second round. Without Derrick Ward, he should have more yardage than he did last season. Regardless, we know he scores touchdowns. Without Plaxico Burress, one can only hope that the Giants forget how to do anything but run this season.

13. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins – ADP: 2.07 – PICK
Portis took his shots last season and still came out on the other side. I’m not exactly sure how he managed to play through all his injuries, but the man is consistent — one of the most consistent at his position over the years. I like him a tad less this season just because of his workload, even though I don’t think that it will slow his productivity. What does concern me is the team around him coming into this season. Jason Campbell is in his “make or break” year in Washington after all the trade talks this offseason, and there’s talk of Colt Brennan getting a shot before season’s end if Campbell can’t prove his worth. That spells a hard year for Portis, and it’s just enough to tempt me to take Barber instead. Portis still deserves a “pick.”

14. Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys – ADP: 2.11 – PICK
The touchdown machine in Dallas runs only for this man. Barber could be in line for more this season if the Cowboys move towards a more run-focused attack. Even if they don’t, the running game has always made Barber productive. Normally a first round back in the parts where I draft (Texas), I see no reason not to make him a “pick.”

15. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins – ADP: 3.04 – PASS
For being the quarterback in the Wildcat and the “starting” running back for Miami, I expected more from Ronnie Brown last season. By the end of 2008, he was practically worthless. Ricky Williams is still around to demand some carries, and now there is talk of letting Patrick Cobbs get more touches. I just don’t feel Brown here in the second/third round. I like my starting two running backs to be dependable. Sorry, Brown, I’ll “pass.”

16. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 3.06 – PICK
I’m surprised to see Thomas trending this high in ADP since most rankings project him as a fourth-round acquisition. He’s a quality running back and deserving of the ranking … but really? No. 16 at running back? With the scoreboard the Saints put together and the struggles of Reggie Bush, I don’t expect Thomas to disappoint. He’ll be worth this “pick.”

17. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers – ADP: 3.09 – PICK
Oh, how low the mighty have fallen. Grant was thought of as a top-10 with upside that could make him a top-five last season. Then injury struck. Grant’s still high on my list, and I’ll give him credit for finishing strong in 2008. I’ll “pick” him here and consider him better than the likes of Ronnie Brown.

18. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions – ADP: 3.11 – PASS
This is it! This is Kevin’s year to carry the rock. Can’t you hear the screams right this moment? If Matthew Stafford gets the nod, the Lions are definitely going to be running the ball this season, but I haven’t become a Smith believer just yet. That doesn’t mean he won’t blow up this year, but it does mean I’m willing to take my chances elsewhere. The move to a new style of running offense, away from what Smith is used to, doesn’t make me feel good about his chances this season. “Pass.”

19. Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills – ADP: 4.05 – PICK
Suspension or not, Lynch is one of the grinding backs in this league. No. 19 is still a little rich for my tastes with those games missed at the beginning of the season, and Fred Jackson has a great deal more upward mobility as the guy who will start those games and contribute all season. But Lynch is the guy in Buffalo, and with an improved offensive attack — even if their O-line has taken a step back — he’s worthy of a “pick.”

20. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 4.06 – PASS
He’s a better receiver than a running back, so unless you have a sucker who would trade you a real gem in a package for this circus show, I’d “pass” outside of PPR leagues. I am not convinced he can stay healthy enough to fill the role of a running back, and as a gimmick player, his value is limited. But if he falls into a bargain round, I can’t say I would still refuse him.

21. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos – ADP: 4.10 – PASS
I’m not a believer in the new Denver coach, and I’m not a fan of rookie running backs when they are accompanied by a real pack — and I do mean “pack” — of veterans. Even if Moreno wins the starting job, how much of it will he win? I’d rather take the “wait and see” approach with KnowMo. (Does anyone call him “KnowMo” now? Because I really want to now … I won’t pick him “KnowMo.”)

22. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – ADP: 4.12 – PICK
He didn’t get his shot last season with all the injury trouble and that dastardly Justin Fargas, but with a season under his belt, I’d “pick” him to earn his place among the high-performing rookies from last season. No one likes to fall behind, and McFadden has plenty of ground to make up.

23. Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – ADP: 5.02 – PICK
All alone in Tampa Bay with no “Earth” or “Fire” for his “Wind,” Ward should have plenty of opportunities to show why the Giants used him as much as they did last season. Ward is a “pick,” even if he ends up getting a “change of pace” tag and yields red zone chances to Earnest Graham. He’ll earn his time just like he did with Brandon Jacobs.

24. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 5.03 – PICK
From top-five to No. 24? Even with rookie Donald Brown breathing down his neck, I have no fear in taking Addai in the third round and beyond. The Colts’ offensive line was pretty terrible last season without Jeff Saturday. A healthy Peyton and a healthy Saturday make for a good Sunday for Addai. He’s a “pick” in my book.

Agree with my picks and passes or disagree? The comments are yours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

You’re obviously starting your studs at this point. For many of you, it’s the playoffs. For others, it’s the last week before the playoffs (and you should hate that your championship game is in Week 17, where anything goes).

This week, whether you are in the playoffs are about to be, is a critical one. For the sake of consistent production, you’ll want to go with the guys that have been making your team a winner all season. The last thing you want to do is get beaten because you went out on a limb with your latest waiver wire claim.

As such, I’m not going to give you the normal start or sit list Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders. Instead, we’ll talk through some notes and concerns on players that you might be thinking about starting.

QUARTERBACKS

It’s a great week for quarterbacks, but you should be worried about Shaun Hill and Brett Favre. I think the Jets could easily win this game on the ground with Thomas Jones and that phenom run-blocking line. Favre will not have to do much at all, but I’d still start him if he is your top quarterback.

Hill, on the other hand, is a risky start because the Jets could very easily break the 49ers, and while Hill will be throwing all day, he might not have much success. I’d probably still start Hill over Favre.

Matt Cassel, even after his terrible Week 13, is a good start against Seattle. The Seahawks just aren’t good at stopping anything through the air, which is ironic I guess when you consider that they’re hawks. Despite his also dreadful performance, I’d also give Kyle Orton the nod but not over a Tony Romo or Tyler Thigpen. I’d give even Donovan McNabb the slight nod ahead of Kyle Orton simply because I think he’s on a hot streak and should fight hard against the Giants even if he doesn’t find success.

RUNNING BACKS

I’m very afraid of Tim Hightower this week despite the Golden Boy matchup against the Rams. This game could be the Kurt Warner show — and I expect it to be — so I don’t like the chances for Hightower, who’s been losing touches at the goal line to J.J. Arrington.

I also don’t really like DeAngelo Williams. He didn’t blow up against the Bucs last time he played them, and despite the fact that he was on a roll, with a lot of ground to makeup in the NFC South, Tampa Bay should come to play. I doubt many people have Williams as one of their top two backs this season since he was typically drafted around the middle and even below Jonathan Stewart.

Warrick Dunn makes me a little nervous in this one against the Panthers as well, but I’d start him before I started Williams. Don’t get me wrong. Williams is a chance I would take, but I don’t love him this week.

I do love love love Steve Slaton and Matt Forte, and I’m cautious about Marshawn Lynch. He has flashes of brilliance, but I think Lee Evans will be a larger factor in the Bills winning this game than Marshawn.

WIDE RECEIVERS

I would worry about Bernard Berrian because, regardless of the strong matchup, will the Vikings even bother to get him a score when Adrian Peterson can probably get four touchdowns in the first half?

I hate the fact that I traded Eddie Royal in a package for Brandon Marshall. I like Royal’s chances to outperform Baby T.O. In all fairness, Cutler, get back to sending the ball to Marshall and only Marshall.

Speaking of T.O., Terrell Owens could be a game changer this week, or he could be totally taken out of the game by the Steelers’ secondary. You have to start him regardless, but you can sit him if you have a gem of a matchup play. For example, I’d sit T.O. for Eddie Royal.

I’d tag Lee Evans as a must start this week with his history against Miami. Maybe he’ll actually get a score this time around with J.P. Losman going deep.

I love me some Lance Moore, even though I was slow to warm up to him this year while Colston was injured.

Mark Clayton, who seems to have turned in on late, is a daring choice to start if you are in a must-win playoff game. I don’t know how Joe Flacco keeps doing it, but I’d be nervous that Clayton falls off against a Washington secondary that has seen him come up big the past two weeks. Do you dare? I wouldn’t.

TIGHT ENDS

Start your stud, but my not-so-sleepy sleeper for this week would be Steve Heiden. Ken Dorsey could easily make him a stud in a tough matchup against the Titans, and I’m starting Heiden myself.

Good luck in your playoffs this week, and my apologies to anyone with a Week 17 championship. That hurts.

A Fool and His Money in Week 12

We haven’t had a lot of fancy talk here at the top of “A Fool and His Money” these last few weeks, but that’s because, just like any NFL franchise, we focus during this part of the season. The games start to matter more, and we’re ready to get down to business.

Let’s not waste any time.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

Fools Take: STEELERS (-10.5) over Bengals

Nick says: Did the Bengals defense really hold the Eagles to 13 points in five quarters? The Steelers will win this game, and I’m guessing Cincinnati can’t even keep it close without Ocho Cinco in the lineup.

San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys

Fools Take: 49ers (+11) over COWBOYS

Nick says: Everything is hunky-dory now that Tony Romo is back in town, right? I’m not convinced he is the answer to all their problems. I expect a fired up San Francisco team to give the Cowboys all they can handle.

Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens

Fools Take: RAVENS (-1.5) over Eagles

Nick says: Neither of these teams looked impressive at all last week, and a 1.5 line means it’s virtually a toss up since the NFL doesn’t allow ties. Isn’t that right, Donovan McNabb? I like Ray Lewis and the Ravens to rebound at home against Andy Reid and company.

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans

Fools Take: TITANS (-5.5) over Jets

Nick says: The Titans just keep getting it done. I think this might be the game in which the cookie crumbles though. The Jets have a solid defense, good running game and a QB who can occasionally catch fire and go into another zone altogether. I would definitely understand if people put some money on the Jets to win this one, but I’m sticking with the Titans until they lose. Like I said before, they just keep getting it done.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Fools Take: CHIEFS (+3) over Bills

Nick says: Buffalo has lost four in a row and are, all of a sudden, .500. The Chiefs have been playing teams close lately, but they still only have one win on their record to show for it. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I like the Chiefs to win this one straight up.

Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars

Fools Take: Vikings (+2.5) over JAGS

Nick says: It appears there are no in-between spreads this week. All the spreads are either a field goal or more than eight points. That doesn’t make this very easy. My gut says to go with the Vikings, and the fact that I’m getting a few points just confirms what I think.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Fools Take: Patriots (+2) over DOLPHINS $

Nick says: If there is one thing I’ve learned about Belichick, it’s that he is a vindictive S.O.B. I would not be surprised if Matt Walsh wakes up one day with the head of a horse in his bed. Belichick definitely did not enjoy being embarrassed by the Dolphins and will look to return the favor this week down in Miami. If Cassel continues playing with confidence, watch out.

Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams

Fools Take: Bears (-8.5) over RAMS $

Nick says: Kyle Orton played last week, but he was not the Kyle Orton that we saw pre-injury. I picked up Robbie Gould last week for my fantasy team, and his lousy three points cost me the game. I can’t imagine the Bears not being able to easily beat the Rams though, especially with Steven Jackson out another week.

Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns

Fools Take: Texans (+3) over BROWNS

Nick says: I don’t care how bad Sage Rosenfels or this line is. I refuse to pick the Browns with Blumpkin Quinn leading their team. I know Steve Slaton is already overachieving, but if he could just step it up a little more this week, I would appreciate it. Thanks, Steve.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions

Fools Take: Bucs (-9) over LIONS

Nick says: I guess I need to face the facts eventually that the Bucs are a legit team. I’ll give them a shot this week against lowly Detroit. Don’t make me regret it, Jeff Garcia.

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Fools Take: BRONCOS (-9.5) over Raiders

Nick says: By now, everybody should know my feelings towards the Raiders. They are capable of covering spreads, just not on the road.

Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: SEAHAWKS (+3.5) over Redskins
Nick Takes: Redskins (-3.5) over SEAHAWKS

In taking the Redskins, Nick says: This matchup is one game that could get the Redskins back on track or reignite the Seattle Seahawks out of the puddle of misery they’ve been wallowing in lately. Both teams need this game. Unfortunately, I think the Redskins are more talented, and the twelfth man in Seattle is no longer what it used to be.

New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals

Fools Take: Giants (-3.5) over CARDINALS

Nick says: Quick, what is the Giants’ record this year? The answer is 9-1. That answer means the Giants are a pretty good football team. The Cardinals have not beaten a team with a record better than 6-4. The Cardinals may be good at beating the teams they are supposed to beat, but they have yet to beat a true playoff contender. They are going to have to prove it to me before they get a real vote of confidence. At least the game is in Arizona.

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Panthers (+1) over FALCONS
Nick Takes: FALCONS (-1) over Panthers

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

Fools Take: Colts (-3) over CHARGERS

Nick says: What happened to the Chargers this year? If the Chiefs had completed their two-point conversion two weeks ago, this team would be 3-7. Instead, they are in the weakest division in football and still have a chance to make the playoffs. They need this win to keep the dream alive, but the only problem is that Peyton Manning has started to heat up at the right time of the season. If we are lucky, we might get a few new commercials by the time the Super Bowl comes around.

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints

Fools Take: Packers (+2.5) over SAINTS $

Nick says: I thought last week was a statement game by the Packers. They destroyed the Bears. I like this team a lot more now that Ryan Grant is getting it going again.

Last Week:

Nick: 5-11 (Ouch!)

Current Standings after Week 11:

Nick: 81-73-2
Nick’s Locks: 3-2

Foolish Thoughts on Week 10: Enter the tight end zone

Do yourself a favor and forget everything that happened in the first half of the season. As we’ve seen from the past two weeks, not every team is going to bow out of the season quietly. The Chiefs, 49ers and Seahawks might surprise a few top contenders before they put a nail in the 2008 season’s coffin, and the Broncos aren’t ready to fade out.

Denver’s still got it

The ‘Welcome Back’ cards are in the mail to Denver for Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler and Eddie Royal this week. It appears the potent Denver fantasy offense isn’t quite dead.

As long as the Broncos pass the ball effectively, opposing teams will be forced to pass instead of wasting time running the ball. Maybe it won’t matter that the Broncos couldn’t stop a light breeze for less than five rushing yards.

Unfortunately, the ‘Welcome Back’ cards are probably going to be slowed by all the ‘Get Well Soon’ cards I also sent to Michael Pittman, Andre Hall, Ryan Torain and Selvin Young. Peyton Hillis is now the last man standing in Denver — except for that Tatum Bell character. Watch you luggage, Selvin!

Peyton Hillis is a threat as a receiver and a decent pass blocker, and I see him handling the do-everything back role well for the Broncos. If they keep with what we saw Thursday night, the Broncos might use him mostly as a pass blocker and outlet pass.

Selvin Young would obviously take over if his hamstring was healthy, but at the rate he’s going, that it might be playoffs before we see the former Longhorn take the field again.

If the Broncos want to make a run at the playoffs, they’ll need a running game. For now, I’ll settle for Cutler throwing for 500+ yards every game. I mean, I do have him on a roster or two.

49ers pantsed again

The 49ers, notorious for turning over the ball with JTO under center, turned the ball over just three times in Monday night’s showdown. Shaun Hill threw two interceptions and had one botched snap taken out by a bumbling guard.

Minimizing turnovers against a defense that is fierce at home, especially in this close showdown, is a good sign for the Shaun Hill era (and the Singletary era).

San Francisco is going to be competitive down the stretch with Shaun Hill, Josh Morgan and Frank Gore, so don’t blindly start your defense against them without reevaluating how they measure up.

This little Thiggy went to market

It looks like all that the Chiefs needed was Tyler Thigpen and Mark Bradley to save their season. There’s two names we never though we would need to know at the beginning of the season.

Here in the middle of the season, the Chiefs the chance to become a fantasy savior with Tyler Thigpen, Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley all worthy of starts, they could be as productive as the Houston Texans fantasy players were prior to the Matt Schaub injury.

The Chiefs have plenty of potential shootouts and pushovers left on the schedule with the Saints, Broncos, Chargers and Raiders still to come.

If Larry Johnson keeps his hands off the ladies and returns to this team, he might actually be effective. The passing game is just dangerous enough to keep defenses honest.

For once, Johnson wouldn’t be the main target of opposing defenses, but he will still be a major target for opposing lawsuits.

Seattle a light at the end of the tunnel

Wipe the slate clean for Seattle if Matt Hasselbeck comes back under center at 100 percent. At the beginning of the season, we had Hasselbeck minus his best receivers, then we had a banged up Hasselbeck with a few of his receivers and now, in Week 11, we might finally see a healthy Hasselbeck with his best weapons, Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, on the field.

A nice day against the division-leading Cardinals might be the perfect time for the Seahawks to remind them why they haven’t seen the playoffs in a long while. At least, it might be…

Tight end zones are so hot right now

So Todd Heap (of crap) is NOT dead. Heap recorded two touchdowns and 58 yards against the Texans in a trampling just like his tight end brethren, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow. Kevin Boss should have had two touchdowns if he could hold onto the ball.

Needless to say, it was a good week for tight ends — Bo Scaife and Dustin Keller agree.

While Tony, Kellen and Boss are the real thing, I’m not anointing Todd Heap just yet, even with Derrick Mason looking to miss time with a dislocated shoulder. Heap’s two touchdowns were late in the fourth quarter, and his name is just too good for nicknaming purposes.

In Thomas Jones We Trust

Okay, okay, if you held onto Thomas Jones through his suckfest, you’ve been mopping with him in the last five weeks. That’s all great, and I’m happy for you and your trash talking.

But…because I know you wanted a butt here…you have to think that Brett Favre’s going to get back in it eventually. Perhaps against a questionable Patriots secondary? Or a weak secondary like the 49ers, the injured Bills or the pathetic Seahawks? (Watch out! That’s fantasy playoffs.)

Tennessee and Baltimore are football teams

I thought they were just a track team, but on Sunday, the Titans showed they can pass the ball as well. I guess I finally have to respect Kerry Collins — just like every other NFL team.

To congratulate you on proving your worth, your bottle of scotch is in the mail, Collins. Enjoy it on me. It might be a good way to celebrate the end of the season because this Titans team, even with the appearance of a passing game, is likely to not survive the playoffs.

The Ravens proved they were a complete team on Sunday by mopping the floor with the Texans on both offense and defense and collecting a safety and four interceptions. It was a Sage-like performance typical of what we have seen of the Texans’ backup quarterback this season.

Is Flacco the Roethlisberger equivalent for Baltimore to make it to the Super Bowl this year? I doubt it. The Ravens could easily still finish the season 8-8 with very few guaranteed wins in the final half of their schedule.

Besides, the Ravens have become the new Broncos with their running back carousel. As a fantasy footballer, I must frown upon that.

Can we use the ball machine?

Unfortunately, due to league rules and the inability to find a properly fitting jersey — Shaun Rogers and LenDale White special order — the Lions are not going to be able to start a ball machine at quarterback in Week 11.

Calvin Johnson was the most upset as he enters into the toughest part of the Lions’ schedule with little hope of making big plays.

Parting one-offs

Brian Westbrook is fine.
Jake Delhomme is fine.
Steve Slaton is fine.
Aaron Rodgers is mostly fine.
Jessica Biel is mighty fine
.
LaDainian Tomlinson is questionable.
Marc Bulger is trying to remember the question. Trent Green is no help.
Willie Parker is NOT fine.
And JaMarcus Russell is hopeless.

Dear Andy Reid, does the game move slower in your head, or do you just make it seem that way? What’s with that Philly clock management? It’s not like I could have used a Westbrook touchdown or anything…

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleepers

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

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

Week 8 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

There’s a lot of hotness this week, and many players not on a bye might have their best performance of the season for you. My favorite starts are Willis McGahee against Oakland and Chris Johnson against the Colts but even Cedric Benson might break 100 yards this week. Cedric Benson — let that sink in for a second.

As usual, these are just a few players you may not think about starting every week who are bound to do well (Hot Hands), have question marks (Bubble Boys) or fall short of expectations (Cold Shoulders). Start or sit your guys accordingly, and feel free to throw more detailed lineup questions in the comments.

I’ll have answers for all the comments on Saturday night.

Hot Hands

Jason Campbell, QB Redskins vs. Lions — Come on, he plays the Lions. That screams, “Insert giant fantasy week here.”

Donovan McNabb, QB Eagles vs. Falcons — Despite his struggles, he gets his favorite target from last year, Kevin Curtis, back this week to add to the firepower of DeSean Jackson and a gimpy but likely to play Reggie Brown. On the road, I wouldn’t doubt that the Falcons defense lets McNabb have a couple of scores.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Cardinals — Delhomme is back on track, and when Delhomme and Steve Smith are in sync, they are one of the most dangerous QB/WR duos in the game. At home, the Panthers should tear it up on both sides of the ball. Delhomme has five touchdowns in three career games against the Cardinals.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Browns — The Browns’ pass defense is better than expected, but Garrard was on a roll and comes back from a bye. His legs should keep him effective even if he is without his best receivers.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills vs. Dolphins — The Dolphins run defense should slow Marshawn Lynch. Luckily, Lee Evans likes to score touchdowns against the Dolphins, and Edwards should help him out with that.

Thomas Jones, RB Jets vs. Chiefs — It’s Jones’ turn to play “Red Rover” with the Chiefs (as long as he is not too tired from blowing apart Oakland last week). The Chiefs aren’t stopping anybody. Leon Washington could even fill a spot for you this week.

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Raiders — While the secondary is hit-or-miss this season, the Raiders run defense is consistent, consistently worthless. McGahee should build on his fantasy debut in Miami with a solid 2007-like week of destruction against Oakland.

Chris Johnson and LenDale White, RB Titans vs. Colts — The Colts can’t stop it even though they’re desperate for a win here. Forced to choose between the two, I’d start Johnson first.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Bengals — Ah, Bengals. Drool. Might be the last hoorah for Slaton owners though. After he has a big day, sell, sell, sell!

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Chargers — We get to see what the Deuce he can do without Reggie Bush acting as a distraction. While his carries won’t increase much, he should have more of an impact. The Chargers are terrible at stopping the pass this year, so while they are middle-of-the-road against the run, I’d expect McAllister to have a couple of chances to score a short-yardage touchdown.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Browns — Jags are coming off a bye and face the 26th-ranked run defense. Fred Taylor isn’t a bad bet to have a good week, but Jones-Drew could see more carries if Taylor is held back because of his concussion. Regardless, the Jags are sure to hit the 140+ yards that the Browns allow each game.

Cedric Benson, RB Bengals vs. Texans — Let’s get crazy. Benson could finally justify his place as the starter in Cincinnati if he can run through the Texans. It’ll be on him to provide enough of a distraction for Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to make the big plays.

Josh Morgan, WR 49ers vs. Seahawks — If you missed the waiver wire rec for this guy, correct that mistake. The fact that Morgan returned to put up great numbers against the Giants makes me giddy about the possibilities for him this week against the Seahawks. I’m already thinking up nicknames — suggestions accepted. Another big day here cements him ahead of Isaac Bruce as the guy to own in San Francisco. Obviously, he’s not the next Colston just yet, but as a WR3 or even WR2, Morgan has huge upside this late in the season. It doesn’t get much better than the 49ers passing schedule from here on out.

Marques Colston, WR Saints vs. Chargers — The British are just what Colston needs to get back on track. He was a little off in Week 7, but forgive him already. Unless conditions are terrible, the passing should go off in this overseas shootout, and Colston should shine like a beacon of fantasy goodness. The Chargers give up more than 250 yards through the air on average — worst in the NFL.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Patriots — The New England defense isn’t that great; in fact, their secondary has looked pretty terrible. The Broncos were just more terrible last Monday night. Avery should continue to be a deep threat.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Falcons — A big day for McNabb means a big day for Jackson. McNabb won’t forget about him just because Kevin Curtis is back.

Jeremy Shockey, TE Saints vs. Chargers — Even if he is cleared to play, I think Shockey might be limited again this week. Keep an eye on the injury reports. Start him if he’s your best option, but I might look elsewhere if he’s not at full speed.

Zach Miller, TE Raiders vs. Ravens — When JaMarcus Russell is running for his life against the Ravens blitz, Miller is the dump man. He puts that on his business card: “The Dump Man.”

New York Jets D/ST vs. Chiefs — There’s potential for a shutout in this one. The Jets are strong against the run, Larry Johnson is sitting, the Chiefs are down to Thigpen at QB and they are in the Jets’ house. Look away. This one could be brutal.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Titans — If this game was in Indianapolis, I might still consider playing Manning, but this game is NOT in Indianapolis. Manning is screwed. That’s pretty much the way it goes. He goes from suffering against Green Bay to facing the toughest defense in the NFL. I give him a bubble because…well, if the Colts want to get back on track, Manning has to win this one with his arm.

Brett Favre, QB Jets vs. Chiefs — Will there be anything left for Favre to do when Thomas Jones gets done?

Jeff Garcia, QB Bucs vs. Cowboys — It’s not like you’re starting him every week, but you might be considering Garcia for a second round after he helped you out last week by tearing up Seattle. Call me a homer, but I have several reasons to justify putting Garcia on the bubble: 1) The Cowboys are in back-against-the-wall mode and in danger of missing the playoffs. The pass rush could come to play and compensate for the terrible secondary. 2) If it goes the other way, Brad Johnson and Dallas’ broken offense could turn the ball over enough for pick-six scores to keep Garcia off the field. Tampa leads the league in picks. 3) Joey Galloway, if he does return, is not getting his old job at split-end back from Antonio Bryant. Therefore, no huge boost to the WR corps. 4) The Bucs are likely to be without foggy-headed Ike Hilliard. That’s not a huge blow, but he was a red zone target. 5) My gut — my Cowboy-loving gut just doesn’t like it. Take it or leave it.

Brian Westbrook, RB Eagles vs. Falcons — You can’t really give a guy like Westbrook the week off just to see how he’s coming back from that injury, but he could easily be splitting his value with Correll Buckhalter against the Falcons. If whatever you’ve been doing while Westbrook was out besides slapping yourself to feel whole again will work this week, I’d consider it. Still, if he comes off the injury report clean, he’s in my lineup.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Bills — The Dolphins will have to add another wrinkle to the ‘Wildcat’ to keep it going against the Bills.

Joey Galloway, WR Bucs vs. Cowboys — Oh, happy fun time! Galloway is finally back and ready to run on those 60-year-old legs of his. Before you get too giddy, here’s what I know: Galloway might not get his starting job back from Antonio Bryant and, therefore, could be playing the slot this week. That’s, of course, only if he is healthy enough to play. I’m not sure how he will be used, so I’m not sure I love him enough.

Chad Johnson, WR Bengals vs. Texans — The weak passing defense in Houston could allow Chad Johnson to find a hole. He scored against the Steelers. It feels like it might be one of those weeks where Ocho Cinco shows up, but I’d still only play him as a WR3 or low-end WR2.

Kevin Curtis, WR Eagles vs. Falcons — I know you are starting him if you just picked him up this week, but keep in mind that this game will be his first of the season. He’ll be rusty but possibly more awesome than any receiver you were going to start otherwise. Can you afford to have rust on your starting roster? Can you afford NOT to have rust?

Cold Shoulders

Matt Ryan, QB Falcons vs. Eagles – I’m not sure why you would be considering it, but Ryan may fall off the rookie rise this week when the Eagles blitz him like he’s coated in sugar. He’ll probably hit Roddy White, but I’d look to your usual starter this week unless their matchup is this dirty as well.

Brad Johnson, QB Cowboys vs. Bucs – I have my doubts about the Cowboys this week. I’d be surprised if an aging backup was able to do well against a defense that has stifled almost every QB in the league. I don’t expect good things from Johnson or the Cowboys’ passing game even though I will be rooting for them.

Eli Manning, QB Giants vs. Steelers — I don’t like his chances against the bruising Steeler defense (at home). I don’t feel confident enough in Eli to recommend starting his this week with his recent struggles.

All Oakland RBs (Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush), RB Raiders vs. Ravens — Not only should you sit all your Oakland RBs, you might want to trade them now. The Ravens have been taking RBs out left and right this season, and any one or all (see: Pittsburgh Steelers) of the Raiders backs could go down in this game if they have a bounty on their head.

Michael Turner, RB Falcons vs. Eagles — He hasn’t played well against tough run defenses. Guess what Philly is? And to make it worse, they are coming off a bye. It won’t be a good week, but at least you’ll know he tried.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Colts vs. Titans — The Titans do more than one thing well, but the one thing they really like to do best is stop the run. They’re in the top 10 of every defensive category and No. 1 in points allowed. Rhodes was a bright spot last week against the Packers, but he won’t be able to carry the Colts in this one.

Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore, RB Steelers vs. Giants — Even if Willie Parker returns, this matchup is not promising. It’s likely that Moore and Parker will still share time, and HALF of a bad day isn’t worth starting.

Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs vs. Jets — The Jets are fourth in the league against the run. The run is all that Kansas City really has on offense. Uh oh.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Chiefs — I don’t think he shows up for this game either. Nagging health issues make me want to steer clear, but he’s one you could take a chance on if you have nothing better.

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?

Week 6 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

Hot Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Boys

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Starting Due to Injury

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

Sleepers

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

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

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

A Fool and His Money in Week 5

Chadam and Nick had a rough weekend. Nick was swamped last week trying to put together a fantasy lineup that could stop my crushing force of a team in our shared fantasy football league. Unfortunately for Nick, it looks like his efforts were in vain.

Chadam, on the other hand, spent the entire weekend crying uncontrollably because Chris Simms was cut from the Tennessee Titans roster. I’m not exactly sure if that was the reason, but he has a special place in his heart for the spleenless. If he has a better reason than that for why he was unable to get his picks into a cohesive article before Sunday, he’ll have to let you know in the comments.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Chadam Takes: Bears (-3.5) over LIONS
I think Forte runs for 500 yards, and that’s a conservative guess.

Nick Takes: Bears (-3.5) over LIONS
Does anybody know if Jon Kitna is back? Better question: Does anyone care? Will the Lions play better without Matt Millen there? It doesn’t matter. The Bears defense looks like it’s back to being healthy and dominating.

Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers

Chadam Takes: Falcons over PACKERS

Nick Takes: Falcons over PACKERS

Jacob’s Ed. Note: Both Nick and Chadam were unable to register a pick since the spread on this game was not set until late on Saturday. Apparently, Vegas wanted to find out whether Aaron Rodgers would be playing or not. We’ll have to count this pick as a “no contest” for the sake this battle of betting.

San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins

Chadam Takes: Chargers (-6.5) over DOLPHINS
I’m not sure what to think of these two teams. Both have been all over the place these last few weeks. L.T. hasn’t really looked like himself lately, but if there was ever a game for him to blow up, it’s this week’s game against the Dolphins.

Nick Takes: Chargers (-6.5) over DOLPHINS
The only reason I’m hesitant on this pick is because the Dolphins are at home and have had an extra week to prepare for this game, but the Chargers showed last week against the Raiders that they are capable of coming back against a team they shouldn’t be losing to in the first place.

Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants

Chadam Takes: GIANTS (-7) over Seahawks
Vegas really doesn’t make these Seahawks games hard to bet against. This game is one of my favorite lines of the week. Too bad Favre stomped on my heart and wallet. Otherwise, I’d probably bet on this game.

Nick Takes: GIANTS (-7) over Seahawks
The Seahawks are going to get better as Deion Branch and Bobby Engram get back in the mix but not this week. It will take some time for them to get back into a rhythm, and the Giants are at home after a bye.

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

Chadam Takes: EAGLES (-5.5) over Redskins
If the Redskins win here, I’m a believer.

Nick Takes: Redskins (+5.5) over EAGLES
Did Vegas not watch these two teams last week? Redskins knocked off everybody’s favorite team, and the Eagles looked dreadful losing to the Bears. Taking the points on this one is a no-brainer. I would also like to remind everyone that I bet on the Redskins to win straight up last week. Cha-ching!

Kansas City Chiefs at Carolina Panthers

Chadam Takes: PANTHERS (-9.5) over Chiefs
Yeah, there’s no chance the Chiefs surprise the Panthers after the Broncos got stomped last week.

Nick Takes: PANTHERS (-9.5) over Chiefs
I would like the Chiefs in this one if only they weren’t going against one of the best rush defenses in the NFL. The Chiefs could keep the score within double digits, but only if L.J. gets going. I’m saying that doesn’t happen.

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens

Chadam Takes: Titans (+2.5) over RAVENS
I’m officially driving this Titans bandwagon. They always seem to get really low spreads. This defense is for real, and I’ll be taking them until they don’t cover for a few weeks in a row.

Nick Takes: Titans (+2.5) over RAVENS
This pick is my equivalent of Chadam’s “rent money special.” I don’t care if this game is a trap bet by Vegas or not. Kerry Collins better be smart enough not to give the Ravens defense any points because the Ravens offense is definitely not going to see the end zone in this game.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

Chadam Takes: TEXANS (+3) over Colts
The Texans are going to rip off four straight wins on this homestand they have coming up. My man crush Steve Slaton looks primed for a big game against this punchless, Sanders-less defense.

Nick Takes: Colts (-3) at TEXANS
The Texans looked good in their loss last week, but the Colts just had their bye and come in with this game as a must-win to avoid starting 1-3. I like the Colts to rise up and take this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos

Chadam Takes: Buccaneers (+3) over BRONCOS
Nick got screwed by the Broncos last week on a teaser, and if there were enough asterisks in the world, I’d post his email rant on Cutler. Let’s just say I don’t think Mary Tyler Moore will be asking Nick to be a spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Nick Takes: Buccaneers (+3) at BRONCOS
I had a pretty big bet on a 10-point teaser last week, and all the Broncos had to do what beat the Chiefs straight up just like the 12 teams before them did. They let me down. The Broncos are in my doghouse until further notice. Anybody who loses to the Chiefs does not deserve to be favored in their next game.

Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys

Chadam Takes: COWBOYS (-17) over Bengals
Jacob’s Ed. Note: Chadam made this pick without even knowing the spread. Bold.

Nick Takes: COWBOYS (-17) over Bengals
I have several questions about this game. Is Carson Palmer going to play? Does that even matter? Are the Cowboys going to give the ball to Barber more or get the ball to T.O. even more? Is it possible to turn down 17 points in an NFL game? I did a little research, and there have been 17 games through the first four weeks that had blowouts of 17 or more points. I like it when the same number randomly repeats itself in some obscure context. Let the blowout begin!

Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals

Chadam Takes: CARDINALS (-1) over Bills
I’m throwing last week’s game against the Jets out the window since the Cardinals defense apparently took their bye week. All bets are off if the Cardinals crap the bed again this week.

Nick Takes: CARDINALS (-1) over Bills
I still haven’t gotten to watch the Bills play on television. Regardless, I’m picking the Cardinals to rebound from their embarrassing loss to the Jets and win this one for Kurt Warner. If they don’t, I’m guessing we will start seeing some drives led by boy band wannabe Matt Leinart. If there was an NFL version of ‘N Sync, who do you think would be in the group? Leinart would probably be Justin, and Brady Quinn would be Lance Bass for obvious reasons. After those two, I’m not sure who else would take part just as I’m unsure who the other members of ‘N Sync are. I’ll think about this NFL boy band and announce my NFL ‘N Sync team next week.

New England Patriots at San Francisco 49ers

Chadam Takes: 49ERS (+3) over Patriots
Whatever. It’s sad the Pats lost Brady because they really aren’t interesting without him.

Nick Takes: Patriots (-3) over 49ERS
I can’t accept that the Patriots are nothing more than a mediocre team without Tom Brady. Everybody has always wondered if the Patriots’ dynasty was more a result of the coaching of Belichick or the play of Brady. We will find out in the coming weeks. I’m curious to see how the coaching strategy changes after the bye week.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Chadam Takes: JAGUARS (-4) over Steelers
I’m giving this Jags team one more week before I dump them. They stole a win from my Texans, and that victory could inspire them to not suck so much.

Nick Takes: Steelers (+4) over JAGUARS
The Steelers are turning ugly wins into an art form. I think this one will be a close game, so I’m taking the points. There should also be some extra motivation for the Steelers to win after losing to the Jags in the playoffs last year.

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints

Chadam Takes: SAINTS (-3) over Vikings
Brees is going to throw for 300 yards, rain or shine. I’ll go with the home team for this MNF.

Nick Takes: SAINTS (-3) over Vikings
Deuce McAllister is back! I would love to see Reggie Bush in a locker room fight with another NFL player, especially a guy like Deuce. Reggie is jacked up out of his mind, but I get the impression that he is probably soft (for an NFL player) and from the suburbs of California. Deuce…well, first of all, his name is Deuce. That name immediately gives him street cred in my opinion. I’m guessing he has been in a street fight or two and probably while working as a bouncer for some house of ill repute. Deuce would never date a bimbo like Kim Kardashian. He would pimp a girl like Kim Kardashian. I’m picking the Saints because Deuce is back, and the Saints have had some wide receivers step up in the past few weeks to make up for the injured Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey.

Last Week:

Nick: 7-6
Chadam: 8-5

Current Standings after Week 4:

Chadam: 31-26-1
Nick: 30-27-1
Simmons: 31-26-1