NFL Divisional Championships: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Once again, this weekend, we get a game that could very literally end with a final score of 3-0 and a game that could have a combined score of more than 70 points. Welcome the AFC and NFC championship games.

When I logged into the site to get geared up for this weekend, I got an extra treat. You want to know what the top search term of late leading people to Fantasy Football Fools is?

Booty. That’s right. I have a sneaking suspicion why that is, but it still doesn’t make it any less funny.

So with booty said, let’s get down to booty, er, business.

If you’re setting your salary cap playoff rosters this week, you’re probably locked in with them until the Super Bowl. There’s two ways to go here. You can either pick a collection of players from both teams that you expect to do well enough in this round and in the Super Bowl or you can suck it up and only pick players from the two teams you see making it all the way.

I’ll admit, I have the fear in me about being bold and only choosing players from my Super Bowl pick teams, but I’m so going there.

NFC Championship

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

I don’t know what to think of the Arizona Cardinals. Many analysts predicted they would match the Falcons in the Wild Card round after their strong final game of the season, but I doubted them when they went into Carolina. I thought their possession of a running game was just an oversight by the Falcons defense and that the defensive plays made the Wild Card round were fluky.

In Carolina, Arizona showed us that they have a defense that will make plays on the ball. Their secondary was outstanding. They complimented it with a little bit of a running game again, thanks to Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower, despite being able to get the ball into Larry Fitzgerald’s hands even if he was covered by a flock of Canadian geese — the kind that brings down planes.

Despite their success, it’s hard not to keep betting on their demise…they are the Buzzsaw after all.

Of course, there’s no overwhelming favorite on the other side of the field. The Eagles are practically the same team, only in the NFC East. The Eagles started off looking like one of the best in the division before they sank to the bottom of the barrel after a ferociously embarrassing tie with the Cincinnati Bengals when Donovan McNabb didn’t even know that ties were possible.

Thanks to the failings of many a team standing in their way, the Eagles got hot at the right moment and went on a streak to get into the playoffs. Donovan McNabb has looked great, and Brian Westbrook has been required to do only light lifting. The formula has been working to perfection.

On Thanksgiving, the Eagles began their winning streak against the Cardinals. Arizona was clobbered by the combined scoring power of Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb, but since that game, Brian Westbrook has virtually and literally disappeared from the field.

If the Eagles are going to win this one, the offense is going to need a big game from Brian Westbrook. Otherwise, it’s very possible that McNabb gets Delhomme-d and leaves his team fighting on the wrong side of a turnover battle if Arizona’s suddenly-dominant secondary shows up again.

I’m going with the Cardinals here. They’re at home with a newfound spirit in the playoffs. Maybe that’s crazy. Maybe I just don’t really want to see an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl, or maybe I hate part of myself. Maybe I just want an offensive team to get in the Super Bowl. Whatever the reason, I’m on the Buzzsaw bandwagon.

At least we know their going to put up some fantasy points this week.

Hot Hands: Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook (Q), David Akers

Bubble Boys: Tim Hightower, Anquan Boldin (Q), Neil Rackers, Arizona D/ST, Eagles D/ST, Brent Celek

Cold Shoulders: DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, L.J. Smith, Edgerrin James

AFC Championship

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Personally, I am not a fan of this matchup.

Watching these two teams slam into each other repeatedly for four hours with minimal points on the board just leaves me feeling unsatisfied — especially as a fantasy football fan. The team that makes the most mistakes is going to lose this one, and since I called it twice before, I have to continue my trend of calling on Joe Flacco’s rookie shortcomings to suddenly rise to the forefront.

If the Steelers can successfully take Derrick Mason out of this game, Flacco will become pretty ineffective. Without Flacco, the Ravens have LeRon McClain, who is already a little banged up, and some guy we used to know the name of named Willis McGahee. Sure, they could put something together with that running back committee. They even have Ray Rice, too, but not against the Steelers defense.

Ben Roethlisberger may be concussed, but maybe he plays better when he sees two or three of every receiver. His long ball and a healthy Willie Parker helped the Steelers run right over the Chargers last week, and it’ll help them put up enough of a fight against the Ravens.

If you’re looking for a kicker, I like Jeff Reed in this game. I know that the Cardinals and the Eagles are playing in a more offensively friendly matchup, but Jeff Reed is probably going to be one of the only players scoring points this Sunday night. You might as well get a piece of the action.

Hot Hands: Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Jeff Reed, Matt Stover, Steelers D/ST, Ravens D/ST

Bubble Boys: Willie Parker, Hines Ward, LeRon McClain, Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason

Cold Shoulders: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Heath Miller, Mark Clayton

Lineup Calls

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going to go all-in with the Cardinals and Steelers on my roster this weekend. At least if Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner end up sitting out the Super Bowl, I will know that I tried and failed brilliantly.

Sure, I could throw Brian Westbrook on my roster as a safety valve and capitalize if the Eagles were to make it into the Super Bowl, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, no matter what running back gets to the Super Bowl from the NFC, they’re not going to do much against the Baltimore Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So this weekend, I’m a Buzzsaw-lovin’ Arizona Cardinals fan. Maybe they’ll make it to their first Super Bowl, and that’s a story that might even spare us the press on T.O. and Brett Favre for a few days.

Wild Card Weekend, Part 2: Sunday’s Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

After a day’s worth of exciting, close games, Sunday is all about defense. The Ravens, Dolphins, Eagles and Vikings have all made a habit of getting after the quarterback and stopping the run.

In a playoff setting, I don’t think we see a lot of points today unless the Vikings or Eagles blow it open.

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

The Ravens ended on a hot streak, but Joe Flacco has done very little these past few weeks. In the playoffs, the Dolphins are going to shut down the run game, and I don’t think Flacco can compensate with a limited amount of turnovers coming his way from Chad Pennington’s excellent game management.

Miami should take care of the ball and get it done, and I think the star of the game is Chad Pennington. Davone Bess is a nice play as a possession receiver, but unless this game gets broken open, Ted Ginn Jr. should have only a few shots make it into his hands.

On the running side of the ball, it’s hard to like anyone. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, much like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, have been back and forth all season, but Brown is the better bet here. Baltimore’s running committee has only one name you need to know, McClain.

LeRon McClain runs hard enough to get his, but he won’t be breaking 70+ yard plays in this one like he did against the Cowboys. Other than him, you don’t want to rely on Willis McGahee to make an appearance or Ray Rice to get a chance.

Derrick Mason is probably the best chance of a “big play” receiver in this game, where defense should rule the day. Even though he is injured, he won’t sit out this playoff appearance. Flacco will be targeting him if they need to score.

You could take a flier on Anthony Fasano at tight end, but he and Todd Heap probably won’t be doing much more than blocking.

If you want to take a kicker in this one, I think Matt Stover is a safe bet because the Ravens are bound to find themselves in several long third down situations. And now that I said that, Stover will have one field goal and an extra point in this game.

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

Donovan McNabb and the Eagles are riding a hot streak, and it hasn’t been inspired by Brian Westbrook. That’s a good sign heading into a run-stopping defense like Minnesota. McNabb should play some inspired football and expose a weak Viking secondary. There’s no telling who his leading receivers will be, but I like   McNabb in this game.

The Vikings should lean on the run, but Adrian Peterson, struggling through injuries, should be able to do very little as long as the Eagles bring it like they did against the Cowboys. Brian Dawkins and the Eagles defense are ferocious when called upon.

I think this game gets pinned on Tarvaris Jackson, and he doesn’t have the tools to keep up with McNabb just yet.

For fantasy, I have to like McNabb and Bernard Berrian, simply because Berrian will be a big target in the Vikings offense when the run is stopped. Visanthe Shiancoe should show up to make some big plays, but in the end, I think you’re better off owning Eagles than Vikings.

This contest will probably be back and forth, but the Eagles start scoring on defense, they could run away with it. David Akers and Ryan Longwell are both decent kickers for this game.

On the Wire: Week 11 Pickups and Waiver Wire Veterans from Week 10

By now, your season may be over, but there’s no reason to start cutting players like the Raiders unless they are still underperforming. Now is the time to grab up all those players the teams that beat up on you want to cripple them for their playoff run! That’s right. Bitterness breeds competition.

Of course, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, you should be a little more responsible, but for the re-drafters out there, let the bitter waves of hate flow.

Here’s a few guys that might help you in the playoffs or help you assist you in hoarding talent from your worthy adversaries.

Worth Claiming

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City Chiefs — Of all the backup quarterbacks starting this season, Thiggy might be the best of the bunch. He’s worth mentioning again. He has six touchdowns and 710 yards in his last three starts, and the Chiefs are running a large majority of plays from the shotgun. Is this still a running team?

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns — I’ve also mentioned Quinn previously, but if you passed on him in his first start, he proved himself with two touchdowns and no turnovers in his first start last Thursday. I don’t think he’ll win games for you down the stretch with a touch Week 13-15 schedule, but his efficient passing should beef up Kellen Winslow’s stats and keep him in the middle of the road as a fantasy quarterback.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — To prevent you from having to go back to last week’s “On the Wire,” we’ll just complete the trifecta of quarterback options after Week 10. Hill had two touchdowns, a pair of interceptions, a fumble and 217 passing yards in this debut, but his turnovers were not as bad as they seem. His two interceptions came when the Arizona defense intensified in fourth quarter at home, and the fumble was caused by a bad snap that was knocked loose by a bumbling guard behind the line. His ability to avoid sacks and make plays will keep him fantasy-worthy in the upcoming games in which the 49ers will have to pass to stay competitive.

Ladell Betts, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright, RB Washington Redskins — Don’t hate me now if you didn’t trade away Portis when I suggested he was an injury risk. It sounds like Clinton Portis has a painful MCL tear that is preventing him from even straightening his leg, so expect him to be limited or out against the Cowboys. Betts would be the favorite to fill in for Port, but he’s been banged up as well and might not be good enough to return despite what Jim Zorn is saying. If that were the case, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright would probably share the carries. If you’re a Portis owner, I’d snag Betts just to be cautious moving forward.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — “Law Firm” has overtaken the power back role in Sammy Morris’ absence with 100+ yards and a score in Week 10, and even with LaMont Jordan threatening to return, I see him having some flex value until Morris is ready to get back on the field. Add him if you need depth at running back, but you might not start him until fantasy playoffs (Jets, Dolphins, Steelers in next three weeks).

Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders — So Fargas is not completely dead, but the Raiders failing offense is going to limit his ceiling. He had 80+ yards in a garbage game against Carolina. Michael Bush has about the same value as the No. 2 back and getting about the same amount of yardage. Both of them make decent flex plays or low-end No. 2 options against weaker run defenses until Darren McFadden returns from injury.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — Riding the Thigpen train to success, we can safely say that Bradley is a legitimate No. 2 receiver beside Dwayne Bowe. He had nine catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers this past week. He may be the third read behind Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, but he has a touchdown in each of his last three games, even if he did throw one of them. The schedule looking forward makes him very claim-worthy (Saints, Bills, Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins).

Peyton Hillis and Tatum Bell, RB Denver Broncos — If you were, heaven forbid, starting a Denver running back, these two are the flavors of the week. Bell has just been signed but knows the system, and Hillis had 24 yards after Ryan Torain was injured Thursday night. No one knows how ol’ leather-faced Shanahan is going to handle this one, but I’d rather have Hillis than Bell at the moment because of his versatility.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs are excited about Williams’ return, and they should be. Both Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn are still licking wounds. If you can afford the bench room to hold on to him for this week against the Vikings, Williams is worth claiming to see how he factors into the Bucs’ running game. Only a Week 14 Panthers matchup stands in the way of a return to fantasy relevance in the final games of this season. (Note for the fantasy n00bs: “Cadillac” is also known as Carnell Williams.)

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants — A touchdown in each of his last three games is enough for me to be sold on the Shockey filler. Boss should have even had two touchdowns if he had caught the ball. Obviously, Manning is looking for him in the red zone, so you should, too.

Matt Spaeth, TE Pittsburgh Steelers — He’s merely a fill for an injured Heath Miller, but the Steelers haven’t been putting enough emphasis on utilizing the tight end position this season. This week gives him some added value as the Steelers face the tight-end-friendly Chargers, but I only endorse him as a one-week play or a sleeper grab.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets — Keller was hot to start the season and then fell off the map. If you held on to him, he finally had his biggest game of the season with six catches, 100+ yards and a score. We know how Brett Favre likes to use the tight ends, so a hot streak after this game wouldn’t surprise me.

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons — He’s doing well in just his first year and has a great schedule for passing to end the season.

Kevin Smith, RB Detroit Lions — Despite Rudi Johnson’s brief interruption, Kevin Smith is still the back you want from Detroit, even if the schedule is garbage for rushing until the fantasy playoffs. He collected 96 yards and a score against the Jaguars.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — Williams was actually the better back with 100+ yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks, but most of his yardage came off one big play run out of the Wildcat formation with Ronnie Brown. He’ll continue to see his fair share of looks in the easy matchups to come.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts — It appears that the Colts will continue to give Rhodes carries even with Joseph Addai in the lineup. He’s got some depth and flex value with the easy running matchups left on the Colts schedule. If it’s true that Addai reaggravated his injury, Rhodes could be huge in the coming weeks.

Lance Moore, WR New Orleans Saints — The third-year receiver continues to catches even with the return of Marques Colston and had 76 yards and a score against Atlanta this past week.

Malcom Floyd, WR San Diego Chargers — The backup that won’t go away! Floyd has had his days while Chris Chambers is out with injury. If Chambers remains out, he could be a favorite long-ball target for Philip Rivers (after the pass-hating Steelers this week, of course).

Josh Morgan, WR San Francisco 49ers — He got his second touchdown and some job security Monday night and is likely to see a lot of looks come his way as the 49ers enter a favorable passing schedule.

Ones to Watch

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans — The Titans’ strength is in the running game, but they proved that they could throw the ball as well with Collins in Week 10. If teams can stop the run like the Bears did, Collins is capable of having fantasy-worthy stats, and it’s likely that will happen against the Jets and possibly the Jags in the next two weeks. I’d rather have someone more dependable like Thigpen or Shaun Hill though.

Justin Gage and Brandon Jones, WR Tennessee Titans — Jones and Gage are completely dependent upon Collins, but they could be worth desperation grabs if you have no depth at wide receiver. Gage is the more reliable option, but Bo Scaife, as a tight end, still gets most of the receptions on this team.

Jason Hill, WR San Francisco 49ers — When backup quarterbacks get promoted to the starting squad, they don’t forget the second-string receivers they worked out with at the beginning of the year. Enter Jason Hill, who had seven catches for 84 yards on Monday night against the Cardinals and came just short of a touchdown. He’s more of a possession guy, but he’s definitely got chemistry with the new quarterback.

Mark Clayton, WR Baltimore Ravens — If Derrick Mason missed time, Clayton could step up into his shoes as a productive receiver for Joe Flacco.

Jerry Porter, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — Porter has his first touchdown in Week 10 and could stand to gain when Matt Jones is suspended, but is that every going to happen? He’ll have to prove he’s coming along in this offense in future weeks to be worthy of an add.

Shaun McDonald, WR Detroit Lions — McDonald inherited the starting role opposite Calvin Johnson when Roy Williams was traded, but it’s hard to do much with it without a reliable quarterback. He’s had his ups and downs. If the Lions get the passing game in order, McDonald could see more action since we know the Lions will be behind in the tough matchups to come.

Ignoring

Todd Heap, TE Baltimore Ravens — His two touchdowns both came in the fourth quarter of a blowout, and one even came from the backup quarterback, Troy Smith. I don’t rely on a guy like Heap unless he shows consistency, and this game was the only fantasy-worthy one he’s had all season. Do it again, you heap of…

Droppables

Don’t flush all your talent, but if you’re looking to trim the fat on your team, these guys might not be waiting on for you. Of course, you can always run drops by me in the comments if you can’t make the call between a new waiver wire gem and your current benchwarmer.

Jeremy Shockey, TE New Orleans Saints — Brees is not relying on Shockey when they need a play as long as Billy Miller is around, and Shockey doesn’t even look like the best tight end of his team. He can’t stay healthy, and unless you have no need at any other position, I wouldn’t even carry him as a backup tight end at this point.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys — He’s about to return from his hamstring injury, but he’s also one of those players who relies on the big play to produce in fantasy. If you have managed without him, I doubt you’ll need him with only two more starts that look promising (49ers, Seahawks).

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…

Training Camp Uppers and Downers

It’s almost football season. Training camp battles are starting, Favre is reinstated and back as an active player (which means he is thinking about retiring) and coins are flipping in Chicago to decide who will throw the rock for 2008. Smell that fresh air? Behind that freshness, the little taint of grass and sweat is the smell of football season, baby!

I had to change my shirt last night after watching the Hall of Fame game because my drool of anticipation for fantasy football had completely soaked it. It wasn’t pretty, but now that I’ve stocked up on paper towels, let’s talk fantasy football.

It’s this time of year that I like to sit down and write out some nice text messages to the NFL studs and duds for the upcoming season. I let each player know which of them is bringing me down or raising their stock, and everyone communicates through text messages these days.

NFL players don’t even take phone calls anymore. Well, at least, none of them return my phone calls. In fact, they may have even blocked my text messages. For that reason, I’ll post them here just in case. I know eventually they will read them and hit me back.

Brandon Marshall – WR – UPPER

Normally, I’d say a suspension was a downer, but you somehow made it out of the grasp of Roger Goodell with just a three-game suspension. You can even reduce that down to two games if you put some time in with the counselors. That’s like a celebrity jail sentence. You still have to earn back my trust, but I have faith that ‘Baby T.O.’ is going to grow up this year and show his skills. If I can get you near the end of the top 20 receivers, I’ll take that. Now we just need to figure out a look for you that says “I just caught the ball, and I’m a badass.” The one you have now is pretty garbage.

Brett Favre – QB – DOWNER

It’s a downer that you are all over my TV every single day. Anyone who makes Paris Hilton and the celebrity drinking team go away is not making strides to win me over. Anyway, just wanted to see how you were doing now that no one really seems to want you around. You got reinstated, but now you are just causing more of a fuss for a team that doesn’t want to give you a job. It’s not you, Brett. It’s me…and Green Bay. I just think that Green Bay is going a different direction. You’re two different people. Someday she might realize that you guys had a good thing going there, but hey, you had your chance. Let someone else take a spin. If Aaron Rodgers drops the ball, maybe you can get a shot later in the season. If you’re around late in a draft, I’ll take you, Brett, but right now, it seems like you don’t know where you’re going (if anywhere) any more than we do.

LaMont Jordan – RB – UPPER

The dark side. I can’t believe you did it. I mean, you were only out of Oakland for 12 hours before you were signed. I bet you were planning your escape all along. Although, to tell you the truth, I have a hard time figuring out whether the dark side is Al Davis or Bill Belichick. I almost like you better than Laurence Maroney this year. Why, you ask? Well, it’s beceause you’re cheap, my friend. I can take you in almost the last round and (possibly) have the workhorse back on TDs for the Patriots this year. From what I hear, they score a lot of those.

Steve Smith – WR – DOWNER

Your mom says you got in a fight at school, I mean, training camp the other day. Wait, seriously, you beat up your own teammate? What did he say? “Stop being the only player that wins games for us this season, dude. You’re totally cramping my style.” Was that it? Real mature. I don’t believe you. Now you’re sitting out the first two games of the regular season, but some fool is just going to gloss over that fact and take you way early. I’m fine with that. I’ll just offer him up a trade in week 3 when you look a little rusty, and he’s hurting for help at WR.

Ryan Grant – RB – UPPER

Ryan, Ryan, Ryan…you had me so scared there for a while. I had you rated as a potential top five back to end the 2008 season. Did you know that? I bet you didn’t. Unfortunately, you had to play all Javon Walker with the Green Bay management this year and hold out for a new contract. I hope you’re happy with the $30 million, four-year contract you signed this weekend. You had me thinking Brandon Jackson might have a chance of taking some carries from you by the time you got back to camp. Don’t ever scare me like that again.

Terry Glenn – WR – DOWNER

It’s rough to see you let go, Glenn. I thought you might be a decent fantasy WR3 that no one would take until the very last rounds of the draft, but you decided to play hardball with Jerry Jones. You know who plays hardball with Jerry Jones? No one. That’s who. That bum knee of yours must really be serious if you were so insistent upon keeping your money if it went out on you again. Now you might find a home in Miami with good ol’ Papa Parcells, but until the Dolphin’s have a quarterback, you’re value is almost nil. Re-order some business cards that say ‘Glorified Wide Receiver Coach’ and look into installing a bionic knee.

Willis McGahee – RB – UPPER

So Cam Cameron thinks you can play three downs? That’s great news. If he can keep you on the field longer and make you look like Ronnie Brown this year, it would be a gift for all mankind. People forget that you’re around with that Cammy upside in fantasy drafts this year. Sometimes you don’t even go in the second round. Don’t feel bad though. If you’re around and a few other guys are off the board, I’ll take you there.

Kenny Irons – RB – DOWNER

I think your legs might be made of glass, Kenny. Did anyone ever check? You just can’t stay healthy since that 2007 preseason game where you blew your ACL. For your own sake, I hope you get that looked at and really rehab this year. If you get hurt again, I don’t think another team is going to kick you out, take you in and wait for you to put all the pieces of Humpty Dumpty back together again. You weren’t really on my fantasy radar for this year, but you could be someday…maybe…possibly. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you.

Devin Hester – KR/WR – UPPER

Good move, Hester. You know when to get into camp, and it paid off for you. Did you text Ryan Grant for me like I asked? Thanks. Now that you’re in camp with your nice, shiny new deal, you can start learning to be a wide receiver so that late round snag looks like a smart move on my part, okay? Route running is a little more than just bolting off the line, but you are really good at making people miss. If Chicago can fit a uniform over a ball machine and sneak it into a game at QB, you just might have a chance of taking a few to the house this year. If Rex Grossman ends up your QB, well…good luck with that one, bud.

Javon Walker – WR – DOWNER

Sorry I didn’t get back to you when you left that really depressing voicemail. You were ruining my buzz. What? You tried to retire last week? I mean, I knew you were torn up that night I bumped into you in Vegas and stole your wallet, but come on, retire? Well, I hope the fact that I was planning on avoiding you in my fantasy drafts doesn’t push you over the edge. You have some issues that need working out. Why don’t you relax a bit. Take it slow. Get a massage or something? Just DO NOT go back to Vegas…without me.

Justin Gage and Justin McCareins – WR – UPPER

Is it cool if I just copy/paste the same message for you guys? I mean, you’re both named Justin.

Well, look at you two. On any other team, you might not see the field more than a couple of times each game, but in Tennessee, you are the starters. Vince Young is going to need some decent targets, and hopefully, you guys have the hands to do it for him this year. While I wouldn’t trust either one of you to be much more than a backup or low-end WR3 for fantasy this year, someone else might if they really can’t get a WR. I’m one of the faithful who thinks that Vince has a phenom NFL season in him somewhere. If you give it to him, we’ll be cool for life.

Andre Johnson – WR – DOWNER

I thought you were all healed up. What’s this about a groin injury? Just a tweak? That’s no good, man. I was planning on taking you early, but now I keep having these horrible flashbacks to your injury last season. Are you going to leave me hanging Harrison-style? I’ll keep you as a top 10, potential top 5 WR, but just so you know, you’re scaring me.

Todd Heap – TE – DOWNER

Please talk to Kenny Irons. You guys might have the same doctors. This calf injury does not exactly inspire confidence, Todd. Give me a sign that you’re actually going to stay healthy this year. I’m tired of hearing all this talk that you are one of the top fantasy TEs when I never see you on the field. If you don’t show up this season, I am going to get creative with your last name on the signs I make at Baltimore games. You know where I’ll go with it.