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 7: Wade Phillips would make a great Mall Santa

I feel a bit like Mike Nolan this morning. A heart-wrenching, late pass to Eddie Royal caused me to lose by 0.10 points last night. A tenth of a point — seriously brutal.

My fantasy team chose Week 7 to look like the Cowboys — full of talent but not producing.

Speaking of Big D, I can’t tell the difference between the Cowboys and the Bengals anymore since they played each other.

Is there any kind of FTD (Football-ually Transmitted Disease) that could have jumped off Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer and into the Cowboys? I am sure Adam “Pacman” Jones could have contracted it…

Or perhaps Pacman was the carrier all along. He could have passed it on to Vince Young before leaving the Titans despite Vince’s best efforts to stay clean. There’s evidence.

The Bills are for real, and Kawika Mitchell was an extra in “The Beastmaster.” Believe me.

Sorry if you are Chargers fan, but Philip Rivers just can’t carry his team all season without the usual from a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson or a fully recovered Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates. He might not get either one.

The Bears-Vikings shootout serves as a great example of how unpredictable the NFL can be — especially when you try to predict the outcome of games on a weekly basis. I would have expected that score for the Cowboys-Rams game or Saints-Panthers game but not the Bears-Vikings game.

Of note, Jonathan Stewart had the score this week against a better-than-you-think-no-really Saints run defense. I think he’ll see his best games when DeAngelo Williams is slowed by stout run stoppage. The trend continues.

Ravens crushed that silly ‘Wildcat.’ FINALLY. Miami is going to have to dig deeper with that play.

The Lions are just terrible, but Calvin Johnson will make it up to his fantasy owners by getting one of those long bombs every now and then.

I’m shocked that Tennessee could run on Kansas City. Really, I am.

Okay, okay, I’m not really serious, but I am shocked that the big boy LenDale White was able to make it all the way to the end zone on that long scamper without being run down from behind. He’s not going to miss out on scoring opportunities even if Chris Johnson looks like the better back.

Make sure White’s on a roster as he goes into a fairly juicy piece of schedule.

So Peyton Manning isn’t quite back to normal production, but he’s not as terrible as this score makes it look. The receivers weren’t helping him out in Green Bay. Take away the two pick-six returns for touchdowns, and the final score would have only been 20-14.

Peyton and Eli just need to work on their tackling. That’ll be a great Thanksgiving for the Manning family.

Who called for a Browns resurgence? Yeah, not this week. Maybe the reason they have been sluggish to start the season is that nasty staph outbreak

WAIT, it just came to me. The FTD the Cowboys caught is a staph infection from playing the Browns in Week 1. It just took a few weeks to flare up.

Did anyone think it was hard to run on Cincinnati?

Just checking.

Seattle and Tampa Bay was one of the lamest performances on Sunday Night Football that I’ve seen in awhile. Seneca Wallace fumbling the snap when they finally had a chance to score was just fate hitting them in the mouth again. Did the Seahawks dump the lavatory over an Indian burial ground on their flight to Buffalo in Week 1?

Matt Cassel should thank Champ Bailey’s hamstring and Andre Hall’s horrible, fumble-fury hands for his successful Monday night. Cutler’s throwing strength was never right again after he slammed his finger into that helmet, and it’s hard to lead a gimpy comeback when every run play is a turnover.

Do you think Andre Hall will see a carry for the Broncos again?

I don’t. Bring on Ryan Torain!

I guess it’s a plus that the Broncos get to go into the bye and work out these kinks. The return of that Patriot-style offense would be nice, Cutler, but make sure it’s the Brady Patriots and not the Cassel Patriots. I know where you keep the insulin.

Beers and cheers to those of you starting Steven Jackson. I hate you…but only because I played against a team led by Steven Jackson and Clinton Portis this week. I guess you might look forward to that Week 15 and Week 16 performance from Jackson if you make it into the playoffs — WHICH I HOPE YOU DON’T.

I didn’t mean that. It’s the foolish anger talking…

Dude… Steven Jackson

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

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

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

Take a look at the highlights.

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

http://youtu.be/jX-lzXYjLQo

Players falling just short of dude-ism:

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

A Fool and His Money in Week 2

Well, my distrust in rookie QBs certainly worked out for me. I’m going back for more.

No picks for the Falcons or Ravens this week either. I’ve also noted which bet is my favorite of the week, and coincidentally for Week 2, it’s the first one on the slate.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

Chadam Takes: Packers (-3) over LIONS

This is my “Rent Money Special.” You guessed it — a spread so good I’m betting my rent money on it.

The Lions got mauled by a Falcons offense — even A.C. Green could score on Detroit. If this game was in Lambeau, I would take out a loan to wager on it.

Nick Takes: Packers (-3) over LIONS

Something is wrong with this line. It’s a crazy trap by Vegas. For some reason, they believe in the Lions and are trying to entice people to pick the Packers.

This gut feeling is the only thing keeping me from betting my entire month’s salary on this game.

Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals

Chadam Takes: Titans (+1) over BENGALS

Who the hell knows? The Bengals look like they’re a 53-person pickup team, and Kerry Collins’ corpse is starting for the Titans. My choice lies with the best defense, Tennessee.

Nick Takes: Titans (+1) over BENGALS

I think the Titans have a better defense then the Ravens. That’s bad news for the Bungholes who cost me a parlay last week. Young is out, but the Titans have had success with Kerry Collins filling in before.

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs

Chadam Takes: CHIEFS (-4) over Raiders

The Chiefs always play above their heads at Arrowhead, and they just got a huge upgrade at QB. (Anyone who owned Huard in 2006 knows what I’m talking about.)

Nick Takes: CHIEFS (-4) over Raiders

I can’t believe Chadam picked the Raiders last week. Haha. I hope he does it again.

I thought the Chiefs looked good in hanging with the Brady-less Pats. Larry Johnson looked healthy, and Jamaal Charles looked great as a change-of-pace back. This Chiefs squad is another team that doesn’t drop off much with its backup filling in at QB.

New Orleans Saints at Washington Redskins

Chadam Takes: Saints (-1) over REDSKINS

That Colston injury came out of nowhere, didn’t it? What a carnage-filled first week.

Anyways, I gotta go with the Saints considering how wacked out the Skins offense looked.

Nick Takes: Saints (-1) over REDSKINS

The Redskins betrayed me last week when I put my faith in Jason Campbell. If they want my trust back, they are going to have to earn it.

Will Drew Brees please throw the ball to my fantasy players Shockey or Colston?! Not that I need it since I was the highest score in the league last week. Suck on that, Jacob! (Ed. Note: I, Jacob, was the second highest scorer. I fear no one — especially now that your Colston is out for awhile.)

New York Giants at St. Louis Rams

Chadam Takes: RAMS (+9) over Giants

This week is the last time I am backing the Rams unless they cover here. If I was either an S-Jax or Holt owner, I would start to get very worried now. Sell for draft day value if you still can.

Nick Takes: Giants (-9) over RAMS

The Rams — another glorious pick by Chadam last week. The Rams are so bad they would have a losing record in the WNBA. If any team is going to change locations soon, it’s them.

I would also like to place a wager that Scott Linehan will be the first coach fired this season.

Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings

Chadam Takes: Colts (-2) over VIKINGS

Does anybody else agree with me when I say that Addai has gained the injury prone label?

He exited last year’s opener early and was a game-time decision half of the time last year. This season isn’t shaping up any differently. (Ed. Note: Nope, I won’t go there yet.)

Whatever. It’s the Vikings — not like the Colts were going to run the ball much anyway.

Nick Takes: Colts (-2) over VIKINGS

No way the Colts get beat two games in a row. Manning will have shaken off the rust by this week, and he will be ready to go.

I’m a little Jewish in thinking “Purple Jesus” is great but not the ultimate savior. The Vikings won’t make it to the playoffs with their schedule.

Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers

Chadam Takes: Bears (+3) over PANTHERS

This game would have been my “Rent Money Special” if it weren’t for that ridiculous Packers line.

Until Mike Brown (Bears’ safety) and Tommie Harris (Bears’ nose tackle) have their annual injuries, this defense will be ferocious. Da Bears.

Nick Takes: Bears (+3) over PANTHERS

Don’t act like you’re not impressed. The Bears just put a whooping on everybody’s Midwest favorite, the Colts. Believe me, I’m impressed.

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars

Chadam Takes: Bills (+5.5) over JAGUARS

I put a lot of weight into offensive lines, and the Jaguars only have two of their projected five starters left standing. Besides, the Bills looked downright nasty against the Seahawks.

Watch out for Marcus Stroud’s “revenge game.” He might steamroll the weak Jacksonville interior and actually eat David Garrard.

Nick Takes: Bills (+5.5) over JAGUARS

I still believe in the Jags, but the Bills have done enough to make me believe they can keep it close. The offensive line woes for the Jags will be a real test.

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Chadam Takes: 49ers (+7) over SEAHAWKS

Ugh, gimme the points. My pick for the Seahawks to win under 8.5 games is looking better by the second. If you have some spare time and live in the Seattle area, I here they’re looking for receivers.

Nick Takes: 49ers (+7) over SEAHAWKS

I wish I could have seen the Seattle-Buffalo game last week so I could have a better read on the Seahawks. The Seahawks are going to have a lot of trouble scoring, and that’s why I like the points in this game. I don’t trust any team that loses by 24 points…to the Bills.

Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals

Chadam Takes: CARDINALS (-6.5) over Dolphins

I like that Arizona offense, especially since they are utilizing Hightower correctly. People are too high on the Dolphins even though they haven’t done anything — and yes, I threw a crappy pun in there.

Nick Takes: CARDINALS (-6.5) over Dolphins

It’s a shame when a team plays better than they really are and still loses, but it wasn’t a fluke that the Dolphins only won one game last year. I like the Cardinals to bring the heat in the desert this Sunday.

New England Patriots at New York Jets

Chadam Takes: JETS (-1.5) over Patriots

Matt Cassel needs to prove himself before I wager on him. End of story. Also, my condolences go out to Wes Welker owners.

Nick Takes: Patriots (+1.5) over JETS

I love this bet. Chadam loves the Jets this year so, hopefully, he chose them to cover the spread. Bill Belichick would sell his firstborn son to beat Eric Mangini and the Jets. The fact that the Patriots aren’t favored to win this game will only inspire them to show no mercy and run up the score.

On a side note, does Matt Cassel not have the sweetest life in the world? He parlayed his high school career into a scholarship at USC. He spent all his time getting some major USC ass while doing nothing for the football team, but he still gets drafted by Patriots and gets a Super Bowl ring.

So he hasn’t started a football game in nine years, but Cassel has a Super Bowl ring and coed track record that would impress Wilt Chamberlain. Life is unfair.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chadam Takes: BUCS (-7.5) over Falcons

I’m really nervous about giving up that many points to the upstart Dirty Birds, but I’ll give one of my favorite sleepers another week before I change my mind on them.

Nick Takes: BUCS (-7.5) over Falcons

The Bucs are not the Lions. The Bucs will know how to treat a rookie QB. They will force Matt Ryan to beat them and will win the game easily. This game is going to be one of those “Welcome to the NFL” moments for Matt Ryan.

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans

Chadam Takes: TEXANS (-4.5) over Ravens

I’m gonna double down against Joe Flacco. If Mario Williams can get to Ben Roethlisberger, he might have six sacks on Sunday. If you need to roll the dice on a waiver wire D/ST, Houston might be an option this week.

Nick Takes: TEXANS (-4.5) over Ravens

The Texans need redemption badly. Super Mario is going to squash Joe Flacco like he is a goomba walking in the wrong direction. Karma is coming back on the rookie QBs this week, and it won’t be pretty.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

Chadam Takes: BRONCOS (+1.5) over Chargers

The Broncos looked phenomenal on the road against a great passing defense without Brandon Marshall; the Chargers lost a close game at home to a team that was missing their only receiving threat. Not only do I think Denver will win this game, I think they can blow it open. L.T. will tear up that soft Denver front line though.

Nick Takes: BRONCOS (+1.5) over Chargers

I don’t know why, but I have a good feeling about the Broncos all of a sudden. The Chargers didn’t do anything impressive until the fourth quarter, and while I expect them to play with inspiration this week, the Broncos truly believe they can beat anybody at home. That confidence will help them greatly in their quest to take back the AFC West division.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

Chadam Takes: Steelers (-6.5) over BROWNS

The Browns defense is on par with the Texans’ D, and look at what the Steelers did to them.

For those who have joined me in the Santonio Holmes Fan Club, here’s to hoping he’s not the third wheel again behind Parker and Ward. Maybe we’ll pool some cash and bribe Big Ben to loft one up the middle for Hines this week…

Nick Takes: Steelers (-6.5) at BROWNS

I loved Dallas in this same position last week. The only difference this week: I think the Steelers are better than the Cowboys. I’m betting a lot on this game even though I fear Braylon Edwards will have a solid bounce-back game. The brown is about to hit the fan in Cleveland.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Chadam Takes: COWBOYS (-7) over Eagles

This game was a tough pick because, in my opinion, these teams are the top two in the NFC. At the end of the day, Dallas is a better team, and they’re playing at home, so they get the nod.

Nick Takes: Eagles (+7) at COWBOYS

Both of these teams looked very good last week. Barber’s status is in question with his bruised ribs. These NFL players are straight up beasts. I can’t imagine how bad the bruising must be to keep a starting NFL RB out of a game. I’m pretty sure I would be eating out of a tube if I took the hits these guys take. I expect a close game, so I’m taking the points.

Current Standings after Week 1:

Chadam: 8-8-0
Nick: 8-8-0

Week 2 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Don’t get all reactionary when you are setting your lineups this week. If your stud disappointed in his first showing — and there is no evidence supporting his failure, i.e. horrible line in Jacksonville and St. Louis — just forget Week 1 happened.

This week, we’ll move into more of a Q&A mode with the start-or-sit recommendations. No matter how many people I name, you will always have a call between two players that I don’t address. Here’s your chance.

If I don’t mention one of your tough calls, or you have a follow-up question, post it in the comments (or you can send me direct messages through Twitter.)

Hot Hands

Chris Johnson vs. Bengals: If you thought he looked good against Jacksonville…

Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Rams: Big Boy make ‘em pay. Eli and Plax should connect a few times just as McNabb did with everyone on his team last week.

Derek Anderson vs. Steelers: When these two teams play each other, the QBs have a habit of going off.

Ben Roethlisberger vs. Browns: Same as Derek Anderson.

Ryan Grant vs. Lions: Ryan Grant vs. Lions, Ryan Grant vs. Lions. I’m just going to keep repeating it. It’s the Lions. They let Michael Turner run through them like Red Rover. As long as Grant starts, he will look big in this one — injured hammy and all.

While I am at it…

All Your Packers vs. Lions: Again, IT’S DETROIT. Everyone but Donald Lee is worthy of throwing in your lineup unless you have studs that outrank them.

Brian Griese vs. Falcons: Because there’s talk that Jeff Garcia might be getting traded, because Atlanta corners don’t scare me, because if I was faster, I might be able to start at corner for Atlanta and because he was worthy of starting last year when he was with the Bears. The Bucs have a better receiver group.

Jerricho Cotchery vs. Patriots: Clearly, he’s a favorite target of Brett Favre, and he’s had success in New England. The Jets want to win this one and Cotchery will be a big part of it.

Bills defense vs. Jaguars: Looked creative and aggressive against Seattle. Marcus Stroud should be looking for a nice “reminder” game — as in, remind the Jags why they never should have let him go. I’m scared.

Felix Jones vs. Eagles: Marion Barber hurt his ribs in Week 1. Jones scored a TD in that one. I see him getting more chances this week.

Bubble Boys

Philip Rivers vs. Broncos: Yes, Rivers has a great record in Denver, but I don’t like him this week. LaDainian’s best buddy is probably going to watch L.T. blow through the Denver run defense so badly and limit Rivers’ opportunities. If San Diego gets down in this one like I believe they might, he could turn it on, but my gut feeling is that he has a TD and a few yards. Surely, you drafted him as a QB2, so you can probably bench him in favor of your stud QB as long as your stud has a great matchup as well.

Damon Huard vs. Raiders: I know Oakland gave up every yard that Jay Cutler wanted last week, but that was Jay Cutler. This is Damon Huard. The corners might redeem themselves, but if you lost Tom Brady or Vince Young, you might not have better options.

Jay Cutler vs. Chargers: Cutler hasn’t had a lot of good games against San Diego, but he looks stronger this year. Having Brandon Marshall back from suspension, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler won’t hurt either. If he’s your best guy this week, why not give him a chance?

Lee Evans vs. Jaguars: Evans should be a solid WR2 or WR3 this year. If the Buffalo offense keeps this up, he might even warrant WR1 status in bigger leagues. Unfortunately, Jacksonville knows that he is a weapon and will probably lock him down this week if they can. Start him as a WR3 if you must, but don’t count on a huge week.

Tony Scheffler vs. Chargers: I’m going to go out on a wild card here and say Tony Scheffler is an okay start this week. Cutler faces one of the toughest defenses (without their best defensive player) and Scheffler might see the red zone targets if Brandon Marshall doesn’t finish all his catches in the red zone.

Cold Shoulders

Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor vs. Ravens: The Texans looked miserable against the Steelers. Do you really think they change that against the Ravens? No. That’s the answer.

Any Rams not named Steven Jackson or Randy McMichael vs. Giants: Not worth starting until they have an offense. Randy McMichael is an exception since it looks like he will be the only productive thing on offense, and you know Marc Bulger is going to want to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid shattered ribs.

Eagles defense vs. Cowboys: It’s hard to get sacks against the Cowboys, and this one could be high scoring. While the Cowboys defense might weather the storm, I don’t think Philadelphia will fare as well.

Fantasy Football Fools’ 2008 Average Joe Mock Draft

I know it’s a little late to be posting a mock draft. Believe me. I know you all drafted already — well, hopefully, you drafted already.

I wish I could have gotten this one edited sooner, but the rush of preseason football and real drafts took hold of me and delayed the posting. Next time, I’ll have to conduct the mock draft on a better system, NOT through tons and tons of ‘Reply All’ emails.

Regardless, I did put together a mock draft that, if nothing else, makes for a nice discussion piece here at the beginning of the season to compare to your real draft. The draft took place several weeks ago, and it really influenced my drafting over the weekend because many of the mock drafters were my league mates (with a couple of newbies sprinkled in there).

The explanations are the drafter’s own with a few editorial notes (Ed. Note!) from me.

– – – – –

You can read all the expert mock drafts you want before drafting, but how do you know how your buddies are going to draft? What about the administrative assistant at your office who won’t do any research besides printing out a ranking 10 minutes before the draft?

To aid in your quest for glory even outside of the hardcore, diehard fantasy league, I put together a 12-man team to draft like a normal, un-addicted fantasy team owners. We made it four rounds in before we had to stop and prepare for our real drafts and real lives.

They’re not much to look at, but here’s how it went down.

For this mock league, all touchdowns are worth six points (passing, receiving or rushing). Players get one point for every 25 yards passing and one point for every 10 yards rushing. No points per reception.

In this mock league, we’ll say you must start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 team defense (DEF) with a total roster of 16 players. (Therefore, you have seven bench spots)

Fantasy Football Fools’

“Average Joe” Mock Draft

1.01 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: LaDainian Tomlinson RB SD

It’s LaDainian’s world; we’re just living in it. (Ed. Note: This statement was too golden for me to ever consider taking it out. Golden. It shall live in infamy.)

In non-PPR leagues, the only other consideration for the No. 1 spot is Adrian Peterson. You take AP for the upside. If he goes for 2000 yards and 30 touchdowns, no one will be surprised. For me, questions surrounding his supporting cast and his ability to stay healthy bump him down a notch.

It comes down to how much you prefer taking risks, and while you can’t play it safe the entire draft, the first round is not where I’m taking chances.

With LT, you know what you’re getting: week-to-week excellence, durability (that MCL sprain seven months ago is nothing but a memory) and the ability to sleep easy at night knowing you have the player with the best chance to return top-10 overall production out of your first pick in the draft — if not more.

LT is my first pick because he has an excellent offensive line, a solid QB, receivers keeping opposing defenses honest, the guarantee of 25 touches per game that comes with being the focal point of the offense and a defense that will keep his team in the game (and running the ball).

1.02 Kansas City’s Finest: Adrian Peterson RB MIN

Remove brain. Insert hype. Draft pick = A.P.

(Ed. Note: Okay, okay. Just kidding. He didn’t really say that. After this pick, we lost this mock drafter to some boring, unnecessary travel plans or something, and I took over drafting this team as well as my own team, Favre’s Untruths)

1.03 A Chinese Okie: Brian Westbrook RB PHI

I would rather of had the No. 6 pick so I could have taken Brady, but Westbrook is too tempting to pass up. He can run, he can catch and he can score.

I predict he will go uninjured, play all 16 games, score 30 all-purpose TDs and tally up 2500 yards.

1.04 Captain Stabbins: Joseph Addai RB IND

Many may say this is a little early to pick up Addai, especially after the slump at the end of the 2007 season. This one is an easy pick for me.

Addai is a young running back with a low risk of injury, had 15 TDs in 2007, is part of a high-powered offense and has no hidden talent waiting on the bench to steal the show. Addai should pan out to be a stud in 2008.

1.05 Morgan Freeman: Steven Jackson RB STL

Fantasy Football Today told me to pick him. Plus, he went to Oregon State. (Ed. Note: I have no idea why he likes Oregon State. None.)

1.06 WAGhunters: Randy Moss WR NEP

I feel like there are a lot more quality RBs in this draft than there are quality WRs. The Patriots’ easy schedule raises Moss above Owens in my mind. I also have a lot more faith in Brady than in Tony Romo. After watching the champion of our league for the past two years dominate with good WRs and out-of-nowhere RBs, I’m convinced this strategy is the way to go.

1.07 King of Kings: Tom Brady QB NEP

With this pick, I not only get Tom Brady, the greatest player to ever grace the earth, but also a mastermind coach, the second greatest receiver in the league, enough motivation to last through the 2012 season AND this year’s eventual Super Bowl Champions. Excellent!

1.08 True Frattiness: Peyton Manning QB IND

My fav player (Ed. Note: Adrian Peterson is his favorite player. Silly Sooner.) is gone, and I really don’t like any of remaining running backs (Gore, Portis and the rest). I don’t want Gore because Mike Martz is their offensive coordinator, and for Portis, Washington O-line sucks.

I like Marion Barber, but I think he is going to share with Felix Jones. I also think I can get good receivers in later rounds, so I figure QB is the perfect way to go. Manning is the best QB available.

1.09 Waller Actuators: Reggie Wayne WR IND

Although convention dictates a RB as the first choice in a fantasy draft, the RBs left above Reggie Wayne disappointed me with either weak performance or injury trouble last year.

1.10 The Freshman 100: Marion Barber RB DAL

“Marion the Barbarian” was called the hardest running back in the NFL to bring down by the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see him as the primary back since he has split time since college.

The presence of Felix Jones behind him will keep him uncomfortable enough to keep him undomesticated. His better is better than your better. Enough said.

1.11 Favre’s Untruths: Clinton Portis RB WAS

Normally, I would agree with most of you that strong WRs and QBs are the way to win — in our typical 14-man, six-point passing TD league especially. At the same time, it’s hard to find a productive RB that takes the full load outside of the first two or three rounds. If you guys are going to pass them up, I’ll have to take them.

Portis is a fine “Port,” not nearly as aged as some of the other backs that top the rankings. Last year, he put up 11 TDs, and this year, new coach Jim Zorn won’t let him take himself out of games for a breather anymore and should make him a pillar of the new Washington offense.

Even though Clinton Portis screwed me once, I’ll take him. I figure he owes me, and besides, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…damn, you’re good.

1.12 QWERTY 3.0: Terrell Owens WR DAL

(Ed. Note: QWERTY is the winner of one of my leagues for the last two years straight. He’ll tell you…I’m sure.)

With the last pick of the first round, I’ll take the greatest player who has ever played the game, the man who puts the “I” in team, the touchdown king himself for two of the last three years, the magnificent T.O. With stats like his, how can you not pick him?

2.01 QWERTY 3.0: Steve Smith WR CAR

Stats are meaningless. With my second pick, I’ll take Steve Smith down there in Carolina. He might not have had a good year in 2007, but he was saving his skills for this year.

Prediction: 20+ touchdowns. Carolina is pissed about their performance last year; they will be the NFC Champions. (The 49ers will be the second best team in the NFC.)

I can taste that 3rd Championship already…

2.02 Favre’s Untruths: Marshawn Lynch RB BUF

Again, I’m tempted to take a WR here, but the RB talent is still of the stud variety. I’ll stock up while I can. It’s a tough call with Frank Gore and LJ still on the board, but I like Buffalo’s rushing schedule better.

As long as the defense has improved — and by improved, I mean finally gotten healthy — Buffalo should be able to control games by putting it in Lynch’s hands 300+ times this year. Besides, I just have to draft anyone who calls his game “Beast Mode.”

2.03 The Freshman 100: Drew Brees QB NO

The Saints are obviously not confident with his ability to hand the ball off as he had 652 pass attempts last year. This stat gives Brees, a very experienced and smart player, the opportunity to determine his own destiny.

After deep analysis of many different empirical models developed by NASA, I expect another strong hurricane (Ed. Note: Don’t think he predicted Gustav…or did he?) which leaves the Saints, Hornets and Weezy to rep New Orleans.

2.04 Waller Actuators: Frank Gore RB SF

I was kind of worried I wouldn’t get a decent running back after taking a wideout in the first round, but luckily for me, everyone else was thinking the same thing I was and left me with an opportunity to still pick up one of those “worrisome” RBs I had to pass on in Round 1. Let’s hope the 49ers DO have a good season, centered around my pick.

2.05 True Frattiness: Willis McGahee RB BAL

Willis McGahee rushed a lot last year, and it has been said that his carries will only increase this year. I need to get a good running back before they are all taken. McGahee is the guy.

2.06 King of Kings: Braylon Edwards WR CLE

Can the success Derek Anderson had last season carry over? I’m betting on it, especially since he has “The Golden Boy” [Insert Myoplex commercial here] nipping at his heels from the bench.

Whether Braylon is a true “soldier” like his teammate Kellen Winslow is debatable, but he is their go-to receiver. He should have a solid season.

I can hear the dog pound barking now!

2.07 WAGhunters: Tony Romo QB DAL

Personally, I hate everything about the Dallas Cowboys, but Tony Romo has big potential in Big D. Some sites even rank him above Peyton Manning. Hopefully, his poor play in the last three games of 2007 (1 TD and 5 INTs) will not carry over into this season.

He is a tier-one quarterback that I’m not going to have to worry about getting a backup for until his bye week comes up. I like that because it allows more bench spots for sleeper WRs and RBs. He also has one of the hottest WAGs in football right now.

2.08 Morgan Freeman: Carson Palmer QB CIN

Chad Johnson is in camp and making amends with CP, so no worries there. With T.J. ballin’ it up, Cincy has the best WR duo in the league. Palmer will average three TDs per game. Word.

2.09 Captain Stabbins: Marques Colston WR NO

This one was a tough pick because there are still some quality backs out there, and Larry Fitzgerald is out there, too. But Jeremy Shockey is a great addition to the Saints and will force the safeties to the middle to open up some big play potential for the seventh-round pick turned boss hog Marques Colston.

2.10 A Chinese Okie: Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI

Easy pick — top-tier wide receiver at the end of the second round. He has a good supporting cast with a fantasy football starter at RB, a fantasy football starter to complement him at WR and a fantasy football back up for QB. (Ed. Note: At the time, the QB was looking like Leinart.) I’m predicting 1200 yards and 10 TDs.

2.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Larry Johnson RB KC

Look at the team name. I have to draft either LJ or Dwayne Bowe to make it legit. Other than that, LJ is a late first type of talent, and I can’t believe he is here at the end of the second round.

While he had a rough start last year and went down hurt, Johnson still has it in him to be a top RB. I’m not scared about any carries that Jamaal Charles might take from him — even if he does spell his name with three As. Booby can spin, but LJ is going to be pounding the rock.

2.12 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Willie Parker RB PIT

How one year makes a difference…

Fast Willie was a top-five pick last year, and a flukey broken leg and low touchdown total (only 2 TDs last year) aren’t enough to convince me he’s fallen this far. The Steelers drafting Fat Rashard Mendenhall, who probably listens to Coldplay, doesn’t scare me away either. You know the yards will be there, and I think the touchdowns will soon follow. I predict 1400 yards and 8TDs for Fast Willie.

3.01 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Andre Johnson WR HOU

While I was seriously contemplating taking another RB here because everybody is passing them up, I couldn’t resist taking a Texan and a probable top-five receiver. (Ed. Note: Homer pick.) He was on par with Moss last year for per-game averages, and while health might be a concern, I think his upside outweighs the risk. I’m expecting a big season from Andre 3000, possibly 1300 yards and 13TDs. (Ed. Note: He likes 13s obviously.)

3.02 Kansas City’s Finest: Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAX

While I believe that I got some extreme RB value in the first two rounds, both have question marks going into 2008.

Adrian Peterson hasn’t carried the full load for a full season yet and could go down with an injury again. Larry Johnson could suffer from the same horrible offensive line woes as last year. Most of the elite WRs have been taken off the board and left behind a fairly strong group of low-end elite RBs.

To fortify my RB core and make sure I have trade bait if I get in a tough spot for WRs later in the draft, I will take a sure thing with Jones-Drew. He may not be the starter, but he certainly scores consistent fantasy points. If this season is the nail in the coffin for Fred Taylor, MJD obviously inflates a huge ceiling. I doubt that’ll happen, but he’ll still be good for consistent scores and a big showing every week or two.

3.03 A Chinese Okie: T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR CIN

Taking Housh gives me a solid pair of top receivers.

3.04 Captain Stabbins: Jamal Lewis RB CLE

1) He was the third leading rusher in the AFC last year. 2) If Derek Anderson can be the QB he was last year, the Browns could have one of the best offenses of the AFC as long as pretty boy Quinn sticks with the Myoplex commercials. 3) Not only is Jamal just huge and ugly, but as he breaks tackles, he shanks defenders in the kidney. If they do tackle him, he eats their children as payback. Who wouldn’t want this guy on their team? 4) He is pretty much the last RB left that won’t be sharing a lot of carries if he stays healthy.

3.05 Morgan Freeman: Chad Johnson WR CIN

He’s a risky gamble, but I’ll take it. He’s got class and character, and that’s what I look for in a player.

3.06 WAGhunters: Ronnie Brown RB MIA

I understand that this is a risky pick since Brown is coming back from injury, but Brown racks up the fantasy points when healthy. Since the Dolphins have no good QBs — they had Quincy Carter come in for a workout — and Bill Parcels, they will be a run-oriented offense. I know Ricky is in Miami as well, but there is no doubt who the feature back is.

3.07 King of Kings: Michael Turner RB ATL

Michael Turner is fresh and ready to prove that he is worth the big contract that Atlanta paid him this offseason. Atlanta will be using a run-based offense to take pressure off No. 3 draft pick Matt Ryan. Atlanta will also be going up against some low-ranked rushing defenses, which should only pump up Turner’s stats even more.

3.08 True Frattiness: Plaxico Burress WR NYG

Just look at Giants’ roster…who is Eli going to throw to? Amani Toomer is getting old, and Shockey is gone. Tyree, who made an amazing catch, is a special teams player. I predict 1200 yards and 14 TDs. Plaxico is the best receiver available.

3.09 Waller Actuators: Earnest Graham RB TB

With RBs pretty picked over and the QBs that warrant pre-RB and/or WR picks gone, Graham seems like a solid pick to get at the end of the third round. There are no stud WRs left really, and he’s a solid RB2 option.

3.10 The Freshman 100: Brandon Jacobs RB NYG

Good in the red zone. Beastly athlete. What’s not to love? Also, Jacobs is up for a new contract. Dolla dolla bills, ya’ll!

3.11 Favre’s Untruths: Roy Williams WR DET

It seems like I missed the elite WR pack in the last couple of rounds, but I’ll see if I can make up for it. Williams is looking for a paycheck, so even though he hasn’t played all 16 games in three out of the last four seasons, I’ll take a chance that he does it this year to impresses Detroit and/or his next team.

Mike Martz is out of town, but Williams has always been consistent in scoring TDs. Maybe a slightly improved running game will help take some pressure off Kitna and give the former Longhorn more opportunities as well. At least we know that Detroit will probably be playing from behind a lot. They will be forced to pass.

3.12 QWERTY 3.0: Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT

I can’t stand the guy; however, he will be a top-five QB this year. The Steelers, despite their reputation as running team, pass a lot and especially in the red zone. Willie Parker has probably forgotten what the end zone looks like. Big Ben just needs to stay away from motorcycles.

4.01 QWERTY 3.0: Antonio Gates TE SD

The MAN. A QWERTY veteran. This guy is like having a top-tier receiver on your team. The quality of TEs drops off pretty quickly after the top three or four, and if I may, Gates is the only consistently good TE around year after year.

By picking him, you can significantly boost your team’s scoring potential while simultaneously hurting your opponents by leaving them with greatly inferior TE choices. It’s a win-win situation.

4.02 Favre’s Untruths: Wes Welker WR NEP

I am in need of a WR, and lucky for me, Wes Welker has fallen into my lap. While he doesn’t always rack up touchdowns, Welker is good for consistent yardage. He’ll have his big games from time to time.

Then, there’s always the theory that the Giant’s Super Bowl defensive strategy will be used against the Patriots all season, shutting down Moss and leaving Wes Welker to run wild underneath. I like that idea.

4.03 The Freshman 100: Hines Ward WR PIT

I don’t care what they say about Santonio Holmes; Hines Ward is undeniable. Ward is off the injury report with Ben avoiding motorcycles and defenses concentrating on Holmes. That’s just what Hines Ward needed. Wooo half-Asian people! (Ed. Note: We got a half-Asian drafter here.)

4.04 Waller Actuators: Derek Anderson QB CLE

This was a tough choice. I needed a QB and a TE, and QBs draw more water on any given day. Taking Favre was tempting though, just to be THAT guy.

4.05 True Frattiness: Jason Witten TE DAL

4.06 King of Kings: Darren McFadden RB OAK

I don’t care if this is a huge stretch. Darren McFadden, a.k.a. Adrian Peterson 2.0, is going to run hog-wild for the Oakland Raiders this year. The offense will be based around McFadden and Fargas as it tries to set up for the former holdout JaMarcus Russell. Darren will also throw a few touchdowns this season just because he can.

If Adrian Peterson is Purple Jesus, I’m officially campaigning for McFadden to be Black Jesus. I think it has a nice ring to it. Don’t forget: you heard it hear first.

4.07 WAGhunters: Kellen Winslow, Jr. TE CLE

Why? Cause he’s a soldier. Just ask him. Last year, he had over 1100 yards and 5 TDs. Those are very solid WR numbers at the TE spot. There are only a small handful of TEs who put up this kind of numbers.

I wouldn’t take Jason Witten here (even if he were available) because A) He is not a soldier and B) I already have Tony Romo in this draft, and I don’t want put all my hopes with the Dallas Cowboys.

4.08 Morgan Freeman: Ryan Grant RB GB

4.09 Captain Stabbins: Santonio Holmes WR PIT

If Big Ben can avoid getting sacked over and over again this year, Santonio will be putting up some points. Hines Ward has past the peak of his career and will most likely not start all the games this season.

4.10 A Chinese Okie: LenDale White RB Ten

He’s quiet but he gets a ton of carries. Good value for the end of Round 4.

4.11 Kansas City’s Finest: Torry Holt WR STL

Holt is getting older, but he’s still a top man in St. Louis. As long as they improve just a bit, he should be in line for another good season. Taking him here gives me a pretty sick 3 RB core and 1 top WR at the end of our fourth round.

4.12 Houston Rockets Will Be 2009 Champions: Edgerrin James RB ARI

While I like Willie Parker, I really want to grab another RB in case he doesn’t pan out. I was contemplating taking Edge with my 3.01 pick but figured at least one of the RBs I liked would slip. I’m stoked that one fell this far.

Edge will be a solid RB2 this year with Fitz, Boldin, tight end sleeper Leonard Pope and Leinart/Warner deflecting attention from the running game out in the desert. I personally think Arizona will be a high scoring team that should battle for a playoff spot in the wide-open NFC West.

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

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

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

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

The Age Old Rule

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

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

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

BIG Minus –

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

Mini Minus –

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

Strength of Schedules: Running into Brick Walls

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

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

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

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

Minus –

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

Plus +

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

Freebirds in Free Agency of 2009

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

Plus +

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

Minus –

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

Agree, disagree or explode in the comments below.

NFL Free Agents of 2009: Play Me Before They Pay Me

Whether or not you put any stock in the third-year receiver theory, players on the last year of their contract always put up big numbers before a team shows them the Benjamins.

Players who have just been paid should be suspect the next year — like a Shaun Alexander — but the year they earn their keep is the year to have them. If a player is set to put on a show this season, you should make sure to target them in your fantasy draft.

While an extension could come between now and the coin flip of 2008 for these players, here are a few of the top players that will be looking to upgrade to a Bentley this season:

The Running Backs (RB)

Steven Jackson. St. Louis Rams.
The grinder of the offense is coming off injury and a horrible Rams showing in 2007. With his contract up, Jackson will be willing to put his team on his back and run with it. While I still consider SJax damaged goods, he might be worth a second look after mini-camps and training camps show back to true form. I don’t see any way St. Louis lets him leave, but for the moment, Jackson’s looking like a relatively safe bet.

Brandon Jacobs. New York Giants.
The Giants have a full stable of RBs, but Jacobs was the man for most of the season that led them to the Super Bowl. With that victory under his belt, Jacobs might be one of the few Giants who will fight the Super Bowl slump and earn his weight in gold — that’s no little pile of gold either. It’s tough to say he is a must grab since the ball is passed to so many hands in the Giants’ offense, but keep his contract year in mind if it comes down to picking between runners who share the ball. Jacobs should at least fight through any injuries this season to impress and keep the necessary, hefty amounts of food on the table.

Marion Barber. Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys current focus is on getting a long-term deal signed by this man. Barber should share time with rookie Felix Jones this year. He probably won’t Wow with huge games, but he is consistent and guaranteed to be a first rounder in your fantasy draft. His extension will likely come before the season starts, but if not, do not miss the chance to stamp your ticket for this train.

Ricky Williams. Miami Dolphins.
Ricky’s gotta eat. Coming off his one-game-wonder — if wonder is breaking yourself in a handful of downs — performance in the muck of Pittsburgh last year, Williams will have to improve on the field if he wants Bill Parcells to keep him employed. He’s likely to share carries with Ronnie Brown, but if Ricky can finally pull his head out of the clouds, he could be a factor running behind Jake Long and stick around for his NFL paycheck a little longer.

Note that this list doesn’t include the currently homeless and unemployed — Shaun Alexander and Kevin Jones. Both will likely find homes where they will be earning their keep day-to-day. Jones could come back from his injury to a decent situation, but I don’t expect much of Shaun.

The Wide Receivers (WR) and Tight Ends (TE)

The real value in this season’s contract players is at the WR spot.

Terrell Owens. Dallas Cowboys.
That’s right. The typically demanding T.O. has been uncharacteristically quiet this offseason looking at the final year of his deal with the Cowboys. In a recent interview, he even expressed his desire to retire as a Cowboy. Have Jerry Jones and the boys finally tamed the T.O. of old? Regardless, T.O. is already considered one of the top WRs going into 2008, so the added motivation of earning a new deal should keep him demanding the ball week after week. If you go WR early, go T.O. Randy Moss just got paid, and the Giants exposed the Patriots’ weakness. No, it’s not stealing their video camera batteries.

Lee Evans. Buffalo Bills.
He stung me last season, but Evans’ contract year couldn’t come at a better time. The under-hyped WR of Buffalo finally has a compliment in short-yardage target James Hardy. If Trent Edwards gets more comfortable in training camp, Evans can shame face a few corners in 2008. I can’t trust him right away since I am still in a sensitive emotional state after the empty points column he awarded me in 2007, but Evans is back on my radar. I just can’t quit you, Lee.

Roy Williams. Detroit Lions.
The inconsistent Roy Williams is rumored to be on the trading block this season, but if he makes it through training camps, look for him to try to show his skills. I am not sure what he can do in the Detroit offense no matter how many times Kitna guarantees 10 wins, but with Calvin Johnson to draw similar coverage and a new offensive coordinator, Roy could be back — at least for 2008.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Cincinnati Bengals.
Housh has got a mess up in Cincinnati this offseason while Chad Johnson demands a trade, but T.J. will still show up when it is time to play. Last year was a big season for him, so 2008 should be his time to shine. If he gets the Bengals’ No. 1 WR role, he is a must grab. Just make sure you say his name right so that you don’t embarrass us.

Amani Toomer. New York Giants.
Sad to say that I don’t think Toomer will be looking to have a huge year. His career is winding down, and a year more in New York might just be spent as a veteran mentor to Mario Manningham and the other Steve Smith. I think Toomer might be looking for a one-year extension, but don’t count on him fighting to go out on top.

Desmond Clark. Chicago Bears.
It’s hard for anyone to shine in the Bears offense unless your name is Devin Hester, but Clark will be pushing to stay employed despite the up-and-coming Greg Olsen. If he can maintain his playing time, Clark will use it to the best of his ability. It’s iffy which TE will be a better value for 2008 though. First, they need a QB. Clark will likely be looking to show other suitors what he can do.

Notable WR of circumstance:

Anquan Boldin. Arizona Cardinals.
Even though his contract is not up, Boldin looks to be playing for mo’ money this season since Larry Fitzgerald will be making almost 7x his paycheck in 2008. Neither Arizona WR is a raw deal, but Boldin’s got something to prove.

The Quarterbacks (QB)

Rex Grossman/Kyle Orton. Chicago Bears.
One of these two underwhelming QBs has to perform this year. There just has to be some law of probability that says that, right? The two have one-year deals to show it or pack their locker. These two may end up as a case study for the NFL that proves even you are playing for the big money and big contract, it doesn’t mean you can exceed expectations or take your game to a new, less mediocre level.

Jeff Garcia. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Garcia was the leader of a Tampa Bay team that made it to the playoffs last year minus starting RB Cadillac Williams, but Garcia’s value isn’t the best being as old as he is and with so many QBs behind him. While Chris Simms is likely gone (and maybe Jake Plummer if they still consider him on the team), Garcia might not land a big money deal with the Bucs. He is already pushing for Tampa Bay to show him the money, but his performance this season might just be to show another QB-hungry team that he can still play a few more years. Hey, it worked when he was an Eagle.

Kurt Warner. Arizona Cardinals.
Could he fight for the spotlight to stay in the NFL? There’s no telling what Warner could show us this year since he became part of a QB-by-committee system at Arizona last year. I expect that Matt Leinart will get the starts, but don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard the last from Warner.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know by posting a comment down south.

Week 10 Injury Watch: Injuries that might provide some hot waiver wire picks this week

The games aren’t even over, but already, there have been several injuries that could go on to help your team. On the injury side…

Brian Griese, QB Chicago Bears

Brian Griese was knocked out for the Bears this week, so Rex Grossman may or may not be returning top his fluctuating position as one of the most inconsistent and sometimes just plain bad starting QBs in the league.

Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings

Two running backs had season-changing events in the Packers/Vikings game. Adrian Peterson–the star (only existent member) of the Vikings offense–went down with an injury to his knee. Watch the injury reports but now might not be a bad time to make sure Chester Taylor isn’t available on you wire if you are in need of a solid running back. Don’t expect fantastic “All Day” AP numbers from Taylor, but if you remember the guy, he was good for a few fantasy points years back.

LenDale White, RB Tennessee Titans

LenDale White took a hit that left him carry-less the rest of the game this Sunday against Jacksonville. Since he didn’t return, the injury may keep him out a few weeks–in which case, it might be a good idea to look at Chris Henry or Chris Brown. Of the two, Chris Brown probably has the greatest value since Henry will soon be leaving the Titans on a substance abuse suspension for some prescription medication he took (not roids).

Reggie Bush, RB New Orleans Saints

Reggie Bush only had an injury scare, but it is worth mentioning. He made it back without even missing the remainder of a quarter, but the injury was to his already-braced knee. If Bush was to miss practice time this week or need more attention to this knee because of the twisting today, keep your eye on the rest of the Saints running back core like Pierre Thomas or Aaron Stecker. Thomas has not been as major a part of the offense as some predicted when Deuce McAllister was knocked out for the season but would still have a shot without Bush.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

Damon Huard had to leave the game, and, as is the trend in the NFL these days, Brodie Croyle may have stolen Huard’s starting job by playing reasonably well to finish the game. With a better running game–meaning getting Larry Johnson back from injury since Priest Holmes didn’t have much of a prayer this week–Croyle could be an effective starter for the Chiefs. Brodie Croyle had the hype coming into the season but was unable to take the starting job from Huard that many thought he deserved.

Marvin Harrison, WR Indianapolis Colts

Marvin Harrison will remain out this week for the Colts tonight. His injury must be more serious than first expected and/or the Colts are letting him get as much rest as he needs since they still have this guy named Peyton Manning who can throw to anyone. The receiving core is currently a little light with Anthony Gonzalez also sidelined with an injury to his hand he suffered last week, but Aaron Moorehead should fill in again and be a nice target behind Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark for Manning. (Update: Scratch that. Dallas Clark will be out with a concussion this week.)

Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills

As the other rookie running back in the NFL that deserves attention, Marshawn Lynch has been one of the more consistent options in the Buffalo offense.  Late in the game this week, he went out with an ankle injury.  It isn’t being portrayed as serious, but if you are in a league with few other options, Anthony Thomas would be the main man to replace Lynch if he missed time.

On another note, some players DO return from injuries within the same season it seems. Steven Jackson came back last week just to go down again, but it looks like the Jax has come back to the Rams to stay.

Steven Jackson, RB St. Louis Rams

On a happier note, Steven Jackson finally returned to rush a TD and throw one as well. The Rams finally got their first victory. He should be fairly solid through the rest of the season, so hopefully, you stayed in the playoff chase if you help on to him this long.