Week 6 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: A Week Without Peyton Manning

I once heard that Peyton Manning can hear us think our own thoughts. In the huddle, he thinks so hard that the middle linebacker opposing him get headaches.

Headaches lead to fear; fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; and hate leads to Manning’s audible at the line that allows his laser-sighted, rocket arm to put one in the end zone…

But why are we even talking about that guy? He’s out this week. How will we survive? Now on to the Week 6 hotties…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots vs. Titans
It’s crazy, I know, to think that any of you wouldn’t be starting Tom Brady, but consider this your reminder that he’s going to get everything right this week — no missing Randy Moss in the end zone, no short throws at Wes Welker’s feet. This week, the Patriots face the Tennessee Titans, currently starting two nice old ladies and a talking garbage can in the secondary.

Brady should destroy all hope that the Titans could win a game before the bye week, and if he doesn’t, well, we can all slam our heads into an NFL-sized helmet…or a wall…that works for some people…

Alas, this is just me wishing that I had ever been cool enough to deserve the nickname “Beer Truck.” What does that even mean? Does that mean you drink a lot of beer or that you are always carrying beer? Like that tailgater that’s always walking around and never finds the party…?

On second thought, that nickname doesn’t sound so cool.

Also hotter than normal this week:

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals vs. Texans: Great googily-moogily. Benson is booming through defenses like boat parties in Cincinnati. I don’t understand it. They have Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, but the star of this offense is Benson bus. This guy is bruising, and he currently leads the league in rushing. He should continue to do so after four quarters against the Houston Texans, Australian for terrible.

That’s true by the way. I do speak Australian.

Willie Parker, RB, Steelers vs. Browns: I actually like Rashard Mendenhall, too, but you have to remember that Willie once had “Fast” before his name. That said, Mendy’s earned his touches after playing some great football in Parker’s absence. If the offensive line blocks anywhere close to the way they did for Mendenhall against the Chargers, both Mendenhall and Parker could be hitting some out of the park. Well, just as long as Mendenhall doesn’t have swine flu. The Browns are bad, stains on underpants bad.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Bills: Jerricho Cotchery will be out nursing his hamstring this week, and in his stead, Edwards is going to destroy the Bills just like he destroyed the Dolphins on Monday night. I’m not sure who he stole the hands he’s using from, but Randy Moss might just want to make sure everything’s still attached down there. Maybe all Edwards needed was some of those brighter Broadway lights. Thomas Jones shouldn’t disappoint against the shameful Buffalo run defense either.

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Vikings: I know the matchup doesn’t look good on paper, but call me a glass half-full. Rice plays a part in the passing game, and he could easily put up yardage and another receiving score against the Vikings if the Ravens get it together. I’m listing him here not to tell you to start him over a stud with a better matchup but simply to declare my undying belief that Ray Rice was the best pick I made in my drafts this year. He’s a good start on any given Sunday.

All your Packers vs. Lions: Sure, easy call, but sometimes people don’t think straight. It drives me mad to read comments from people who refuse to play their matchups in these situations because they have some crazy idea in their head. Okay, okay, I often have crazy ideas in my head, but not as bad as some people. This game is a lay-up, and we may already know who’s catching the Packers first pass when the offense takes the field Sunday.

Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers vs. Bucs: It’s Tampa. What do you want from me? I don’t love the guy, but I could stand starting him in a bind this week.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Broncos
Oh, the mighty have fallen, and they fell so hard it created a vortex of suck on their way down. I don’t really care that the Chargers are coming off of a bye. The Broncos just shut down the Patriots and proved they were worth the praise they’ve been getting, and Josh McDaniels is going to fist pump all over the Chargers.

Mike Nolan’s revitalizing his career by making game plans that just frustrate the holy hell out of other teams, and he should have no trouble making sure the slightly less effective running back of the Chargers stays that way.

It’s also pretty likely that the Broncos run the ball like crazy down through the Chargers defensive line considering how well that worked for the Steelers a few weeks ago. Since losing their nose tackle, San Diego’s been starting a matador in the middle of their line, and he’s waving everyone through. There might even be hope for Larry Johnson to score on this defensive line, so there’s something to look forward to next week. An early lead for the Broncos will force the Chargers to pass and LaDainian all nice and agitated on the sidelines.

Who else should you not touch in any way considered fantasy football-like this week? Well, I’ll tell you…

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs vs. Redskins: The Redskins, while miserable as ever on offense, have been rather stout on defense. They’re in the top 10 among points allowed to a receiver. The only way he earns his paycheck in this one is if he scores a touchdown, which I wouldn’t rule out.

Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks vs. Cardinals: Believe it or not, the Cardinals have been great against the run this year. This game will largely be fought through the air like the best episodes of SWAT Cats. Whatever happened to that show? And more importantly, how and why did cats ever want to fly? They don’t like it. I’ve seen it on the YouTubes.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Saints: There’s just too much pointing to the Giants wanting to keep this one conservative, which means they’ll limit Manning early. Eli’s a little banged up. The Saints are coming off a bye with two weeks to prepare. The game is in New Orleans. Drew Brees, Drew Brees and, oh, Drew Brees. While I think it could soon get out of hand for the Giants, forcing the lesser Manning into throwing situations, that’s when the Saints defense has been the most deadly. New Orleans is third best in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. I assume you have a better matchup.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans vs. Patriots: It’s a bold move. I know. But unless things break just right for Johnson — wait, Sunday isn’t opposite day, is it? — the Titans will be playing from behind against the Patriots. They haven’t involved Johnson in the passing game when trailing enough for me to sign off on him this week. You’ll probably still have to start him because the opportunity is there, and he is one of the most explosive backs in the league. But doesn’t it make you feel better to know that I’m hating myself for having to start him as well? Let’s hope for a touchdown. It worked with Braylon Edwards.

Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins vs. Chiefs: No one likes a tight end that has to spend all his time blocking.

Sleeper of the Week

Cadillac Williams, RB, Bucs vs. Panthers
Caddy should do some dirty things to the Panthers defense this week if Tampa Bay can keep pace long enough to utilize the running game. Josh Johnson’s keeping this offense effective through a terrible run of losses. Derrick Ward’s injury gave Caddy just enough room to take a lead in the RBBC, and Cadillac should prove his worthy of the starting job by getting a touchdown against the poor Panthers rushing defense.

Heaven forbid that the Bucs actually keep the lead in this one and allow Caddy to run all over the Panthers defense all day.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Your Lineups

You’ll Get Bit… Ya BIT! – DJ Steve Porter Community Remix

I hear Community is a very funny show, but I’ve only gotten a chance to watch it a handful of times. Watching this remix video makes me want to set aside some more time for it…and surprisingly, learn more Spanish words. My high school education is limiting my budding rap potential. Ya BIT!

Want more?

Get more for what ails your lineup at The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, Fantasy Football Goat, FF Toolbox’s starts and sits, Matthew Berry’s love/hate (this week, with facts!), ESPN’s rankings (sometimes a better take than their projections) and Fantasy Joe.

As always, comments are yours. I make no promises about answering comments before Sunday this week because on Saturday, Oklahoma comes to town to take on my Longhorns. Lives could be ruined this weekend. Lives.

Week 5 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Pretty please, Braylon. Pretty Please.

I watched the UFL game last night, and it wasn’t even like the accidentally-left-it-on-that-channel kind of watch. I actually watched it. It was far more interesting than watching Missouri spank Nebraska in the rain.

J.P. Losman led the Las Vegas Locomotives, an engine of destruction, I’m told, to a come-from-behind victory against the California Redwoods, who really should consider either 1) changing their name or 2) getting Big Ben to be their quarterback if they want to be taken seriously.

Losman looked pretty rough to start the game, but he pulled it together and finished the game 21 of 31 with 226 passing yards and two touchdowns. Imagine what that would look like if his receivers were T.O. and Lee Evans? Sorry, Buffalo fans, let’s get away from that kind of talk…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns
Did I mention that he’s back and that he got more receptions than Fred Jackson last week? That’s supposed to be Jackson’s expertise. If Lynch is encroaching on him there, I have to wonder how long Jackson can hold off Lynch from the majority of the touches.

Lynch has been successful against the Browns in the past, and the Browns are terrible this season against the run. The Bills would be smart to go easy on Trent Edwards in this one and lean on the running game since Edwards has done nothing but disappoint in his last two starts. While both are safer flex plays than starters, I like both Jackson and Lynch in this one.

Also receiving votes:

Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are terrible at defending the pass this week, and McNabb returns to a team that Kevin Kolb turned into one of the hottest passing offenses in the league in the two games before the bye week. I know, no brainer, but sometimes people are slow to move on these things when players return from injury. I don’t care if McNabb is wearing a flak jacket and full SWAT gear out there, he’s starting.

Kevin Walter, WR, Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals: In what could be a nice little shootout, Kevin Walter should have a nice enough day. He finished last season as one of the most targeted players in the red zone, and he could make strides this week against a weak Arizona pass defense.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans: Oui, oui. He’s good to go for another week and Peyton Manning, destroyer of all that is playing the Colts, should tear the Titans and new one even if their starting cornerbacks return. Sucks to be a Titan fan right now. It really does.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Seattle Seahawks: Don’t you dare sit anyone on the Jaguars with two last names. Homey don’t play that!

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills: Start all your backs in this one. Two of the leagues worst run defenses meet, and even if Mo Massaquoi has a less-than-impressive debut as the No. 1 for the Browns, Harrison should get plenty of catches and runs against the Bills. He’s got RB2 upside, but I’d like him better as a flex play. (Wouldn’t we all?)

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Steve Slaton, RB, Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s actually been pretty good against the run this season, and Slaton hasn’t been involved enough in the passing game thus far for me to endorse him in this matchup. That’s why I’d avoid putting him in your lineup this week.

You may have to play him because of byes or because you drafted him so highly. That’s okay. Just don’t look for him to blow this one out of the park, especially if Chris Brown is healthy enough to play and steal just enough to carries to reduce Slaton’s chances for a touchdown.

Also receiving votes:

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos: I have to admit, Brady is a scary start this week against the Broncos, who haven’t allowed a passing touchdown yet this year, but I give Randy Moss and Tom Brady the best shot of breaking that streak. If you don’t have an amazing QB2 matchup, I’d still start Brady, which I am in at least one league this week.

Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Philly had a whole bye week to rest up and prepare for Caddy and the Bucs. I’m actually concerned he might get his knee banged up in this one, especially with Derrick Ward already hurting. My guess is that this game gets out-of-hand early, and the Bucs are forced to go to the air to make something happen. Josh Johnson could have more rushing yards than Caddy. For that reason, I’m staying away if I have better options.

Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots: Those passes last week were ugly. Take away the pass that should have been intercepted by Anthony Spencer and Brandon Marshall’s hard work to get to the end zone with that last one, and Orton has no touchdowns last week. I know the same could be said for any quarterback when you take away both their touchdown passes, but that’s not the point. I’m making a point! Orton got very lucky. Bill Belichick does not allow lucky. In fact, he kills leprechauns. I heard Belichick wakes up every morning and stomps out a box of Lucky Charms like it killed his mother. That’s before he cuts off his sweatshirt sleeves and slaps himself in the face for 15 minutes to get a nice brood going before he starts the day.

Terrell Owens, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns: He’s going to go off now that I’ve listed him here, but Owens terrible start to the season isn’t giving me any confidence in him this week, even against the Browns. As I’ve said before, keep him on your bench until he does something, or expect only WR3 numbers from him in this one. If you’re forced to start him this week due to byes, good luck.

Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts: He’s getting passed up by fellow receivers Nate Washington and Kenny Britt. Also, Kerry Collins has never thrown a touchdown against the Colts. Bad sign, if you asked me.

Sleeper of the Week

Braylon Edwards, WR, New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
This is just selfish, completely and totally selfish. In one of my leagues, a nice trade opportunity forced me to acquire Braylon Edwards, and bye weeks will force me to start him this week against the Dolphins. I don’t know how long it will take Edwards to pick up the offense. Word is that he’s taking to it quickly, but that doesn’t mean the Jets will look to him early and often on Monday night.

Edwards has stepped his game up on Monday night in the past, so maybe, just maybe this sleeper pick will work out for me? All I need is WR3-level production out of the guy. Pretty please, Braylon?

Let’s hope it works out for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Who are you struggling with sitting or starting this week? Post it up, and let the foolish community give you some fantasy assistance.

For more fantasy starts and sits, check out the Fantasy Football Librarian link collections, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog, The Hazean, Fantasy Football Goat, FF Toolbox’s starts and sits, Fanhouse’s rankings and Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate this week.

Foolish Thoughts: Darren McFadden is dead to me, make the Brett Favre stop and other tales of horror

Darren McFadden is the biggest fantasy football tease in America. If Keith Olbermann were still doing his “Worst Person in the NFL” segment, it would be Run DMC. McFadden is the flirt that no one ever dates, and the bane of many a fantasy football team.

Draft him his rookie season? Oh, yeah, about that Justin Fargas fella, he’ll still get most of the carries while McFadden tiptoes around on his turf toe injury.

Draft him in 2009 after all the talk about the Raiders making him a multidimensional threat, receiving and running, capable of bending space and time to his will? Well, you get goose eggs every week and fumbles that cancel out any fantasy points he may happen to score.

He’s terrible, but it’s not all his fault. It’s Oakland. Right now, nothing can rise out of the fantasy pit that is the black hole of California.

JaMarcus Russell and his inability to hit a receiver is killing the fantasy value of all the Raiders. He looked impressive enough to start the season against the Chargers, but since that loss, he’s fallen off a cliff.

Russell is a murderer of dreams. Every time he throws the ball, an angel loses its wings and slaps Al Davis back to life. I’d say that a puppy dies every time Russell catches a snap, but let’s not get into the Michael Vick drama.

Instead, let’s focus on the good things. At least the Raiders have a talented backfield with McFadden and Michael Bush…if ever the defense would be threatened enough by the Oakland passing game not to stack up eight or more men in the box.

For now, Darren McFadden should be benched in all leagues until further notice. He made sure of that by getting hurt. He should miss the next two to four weeks while recovering from surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee.

While I might hold onto him a few more weeks, it’s safe to consider dropping him in all but deep leagues. The Raiders face the Giants, Jets and Eagles over the next three weeks, which gives them plenty of time to become even more miserable or develop some sign of life in the passing game.

The smart bet is on the miserable side of things.

Wish I could find that pic of Philip Rivers with grass in his helmet
I heard several people on either side of the fence of my “pass” on Philip Rivers in my preseason “pick or pass” for quarterbacks, but I stand behind my statements that he will not live up to his draft stock this season.

Last year was an extraordinary one for him stat-wise, and you should not expect him to repeat. He didn’t look good against the Steelers until the final quarter, and he’s been alternating between decent 20+ fantasy point weeks and mediocre point totals in the teens.

Don’t expect him to be able to expose a defense with that many big plays in his games moving forward.

Mark Sanchez de-poised
It took four weeks, but the rookie who couldn’t be cracked finally lost his poise this week against the New Orleans Saints.

Now, rather than his poise that had stolen the headlines for weeks, all anyone can talk about are his turnovers.

Yes, on the season Mark Sanchez has five interceptions and five fumbles with three of those picks coming in Sunday’s game, but thus far, the Jets have been able to overcome his mistakes with solid defense.

Against the Saints, his turnovers cost them by giving away 14 points.

Despite his lack of poise (for once), Sanchez remains the rookie quarterback to own this season, especially now that Matthew Stafford is day-to-day with a knee injury.

He’s no Matt Ryan, but he’ll do if you need a backup.

Titans not so Titan-y
Four games into the season, the Titans are winless, and they’re looking worse in every contest. I can’t say that I’m not rooting for Kerry Collins to be replaced, but that said, he’s not the problem.

The Titans defense isn’t what it used to be, and the only explosive player on offense is Chris Johnson.

They’ll have to get Johnson more involved in the passing game if they’re going to be behind in games all season, but right now, he’s still a must-start fantasy stud.

In Other News…

  • Tom Brady felt like the real thing again in his fourth appearance, and the Randy Moss connection is still good to go. Me likey. Welcome back, Patriots.
  • In I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it news, the Cowboys aren’t looking too promising if they keep getting the play calling they did Sunday. Tony Romo owners around the nation agree. He’ll be boom or bust all season.
  • Jay Cutler is the next Tom Brady? No, really? I didn’t get that memo, but he is playing very well in his new uniform.
  • The Indianapolis Colts are looking just fine with Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. Both could have decent fantasy value moving forward, and Collie got his first NFL touchdown on Sunday.
  • Is anyone tired of hearing Brett Favre’s name tonight yet?

Foolish Thoughts: Wherefore art thou Patriots?

These Patriots are clearly not the same team that we expected to see back on the field with Brady’s return.

When New England traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders, it proved one thing: Bill Belichick will do anything for a first round draft pick. Draft picks are like crack to him. Belichick cannot refuse. If you gave him enough first round picks, he’d probably give away Tom Brady and his own kidney. Maybe two kidneys.

While that 2011 pick looks delicious right now, the Patriots defense does not. Belichick couldn’t have planned on losing Jerod Mayo in the first game of the season, but he certainly knew that the defense would suffer without Mike Vrabel, traded to Kansas City, and Richard Seymour. The new blood on defense hasn’t found their rhythm yet this season, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez capitalized on their failings in Week 2.

Belichick seems to have an uncanny ability to find spare parts and plug them in as exact clones of the starters he has in place — *cough* Julian Edelman *cough* — but the team as a whole can’t get back to 2007 form.

Tom Brady hasn’t been getting the same zip on his passes, and the Jets’ Darrelle Revis was an absolute stud against Randy Moss, much like he was against Andre Johnson in Week 1. It might be time to sit your stud wide receiver when he faces the Jets.

Should you abandon your Patriots? No, of course not. As long as they aren’t playing the Jets defense, the Patriots offense should still create fantasy stars.

But if you drafted the New England defense with the expectation that they would enjoy a healthy dose of turnovers once Brady forced opponents into a throwing match, you might need to look for a second option.

Speaking of teams playing out of character
In the midst of the Titans-Texans score-a-thon, it was obvious to everyone watching that Chris Johnson is the Titan’s offense. The Titans rode the wave of that undefeated streak last year off the play of their excellent defense, which has lost the ability to generate a pass rush without Albert Haynesworth and exposed some holes in the secondary.

Maybe Kerry Collins is the problem. Maybe his time has come, or maybe I just give Vince Young too much credit. Without a doubt, the Titans are going to need some creativity on offense.

Maybe they can just direct snap to Chris Johnson and call it a day. My fantasy team would be completely cool with that. Completely.

One rib shy of the rack
Matt Hasselbeck took a big hit that knocked him out of his game this week, but it looks like he’ll be okay. It was just a broken rib, and it’s not like he has a history of injury or anything… Oh, wait, this could be a problem.

Discharged
The Chargers defense lost Shawne Merriman again at the end of yesterday’s game against the Ravens to a groin strain, but the bigger blow was the loss of Jamal Williams this week. Without him in the middle of the defense, the Chargers might run into some trouble.

Are things coming together in a perfect storm for Philip Rivers owners? He just might have to carry the Chargers for a few weeks.

The Wildcat comes to special teams
Maybe that’s why they list Sage Rosenfels as the third quarterback, eh? Sneaky Brad Childress…

Have you seen the Green Bay bomber?
Greg Jennings, where did you go? He checked out of the Bengals game Casper-style, but I don’t think Aaron Rodgers will let that happen again if the Packers want to keep that offense on the right track.

Breaking ankles
With this week’s sprained ankle for Brian Westbrook and last week’s sprained ankle for L.T., we could be looking at a season of Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy pretty soon. Waiver wire accordingly.

At the closing Bell
Mike Bell may have lost his hold on the running back job in New Orleans by spraining his own MCL Sunday. It was too good to be true, but we’ll have to wait until the final diagnosis to see if Bell was just a two-week waiver wire savior.

Pierre Thomas owners certainly wouldn’t mind Bell being removed from the competition.

Even after two weeks of play, we’re still not quite sure who some of these teams are. Are the Jags the worst team in football? Are the 49ers really going to smashmouth their way to an NFC West title? Is Cadillac Williams a member of the undead, come back to own the running game in Tampa Bay? I guess we’ll see.

As always, the comments are yours.

Guest Post: 2009 NFL preview from a fantasy outsider

This guest post comes to Fantasy Football Fools from Eric Amzallag of sports pick site UnlockedSports.com. Rather than stay in our fantasy bubble this season, I thought taking a look at the playoff picks from a relative fantasy outsider would be a nice jump start to the conversation — since, inevitably, my Super Bowl and playoff picks would be largely influenced by what players I have invested in this season.

I think Eric makes some interesting calls that should get us talking, but keep in mind that Eric sent these to us this offseason before much of the news had been made.

Feel free to share your own playoff predictions on this glorious Sunday of football in the comments. We’ll give greater cred to those who post before their picks destroy opponents in their opening game this week. Now on with the show…

Now that football season is quickly approaching, fans, poolers and bettors are eager to gather as much information as they can to make some informed sports picks in the upcoming season.

Every single year, we seem to come into the NFL season with all eyes on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win it all. There is nothing wrong with that. The Patriots always have a great team surrounding arguably the best quarterback of our time.

But times are a-changing, and this season we will see some new teams in the running for the Lombardi trophy. With a relatively painless offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to repeat and have a good chance to do so.

Don’t count out these playoff contenders from the AFC:

  • Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning! With Peyton behind center the Colts will always be contenders.
  • Oakland Raiders: The AFC West is the worst division in football right now, and the Raiders are the only team with promise and a good, young core of players. This year will be the season they break out of the funk.
  • Buffalo Bills: Although some people disagree, getting T.O. was huge for the Bills. Not only will their offense be hard to stop with two star receivers, a promising young quarterback and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, but they are well-coached and poised to have a breakout season.

The NFC is another beast altogether. The Arizona Cardinals will be good but not as good as they were last season. The Dallas Cowboys may have dropped some baggage, but this year will be a make-or-break season for Tony Romo.

In the NFC, watch for these teams to make an impact this season:

  • Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White! ‘Nuff said.
  • Dallas Cowboys: Do or die! If the Cowboys are going to stay in the title contender picture they will need to come together. This season will be the one that defines them, and I think they will come through.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Kind of a sleeper pick here, but I am sticking with it for one reason, Mike Singletary’s first full season.
  • Chicago Bears: Although the defense was suspect last season, this year everything is going to come together for Chicago. Not only will the defense get back to its stingy ways, but with Jay Cutler in the offense, this team could be scary!

So those are Eric’s picks, made right around the time of the NFL draft this offseason. Who do you think is going to win it all this year? You can check out more from Eric and UnlockedSports.com.

As always, the comments are yours.

A Fool and His Money – Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Season Record
Nick: 0-0-0

Foolish Thoughts: Foolish Fantasy Football Draft Kit

With most of you hunkering down to conduct your drafts this week, if you haven’t done them already, let me remind you about our handy rankings and strategy recommendations.

2009 Foolish Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Now that our “draft kit” of sorts is out of the way, let’s talk football, shall we?

A Kick and a Prayer

For starts, did you see Chad Ochocinco kicking field goals last week? The fantasy football world will never be the same…

The first time Ochocinco kicks it into a screen at Cowboys Stadium, there’s going to be hell to pay. I can’t believe all the fuss about a television screen. Yes, it can be raised out of the way, so why are we so concerned that it will change the game? The Titan’s punter was gunning for it. That’s my story.

Chad Ochocinco might be better on your fantasy team as a kicker this year. Chris Henry has looked sharp this preseason and was drawing compliments from Carson Palmer in the offseason workouts. For the second straight week, Chris Henry scored a touchdown, even with J.T. O’Sullivan throwing the ball.

There may be better sleepers out there, but Chris Henry is the only Bengals receiver I would want to own on my fantasy team this year. He’s in a contract year, which means he won’t disappoint, and with Palmer looking like he’s one more sack away from sitting out 2009, it’s good to see that Chris Henry can play nice with backup quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan.

Rusty Tom-bone

On the Patriots side of the ball, Tom Brady looked a bit off Thursday night. As I’ve warned in the past, he could be a slow starter this season, and I wouldn’t blow an early pick on him unless you’re in a passing touchdown or quarterback heavy league.

Jag Snag?

Can Troy Williamson be a legit receiver? That’s what the Jaguars are starting to think while Mike Walker is missing time.

Williamson was supposed to replace Randy Moss when Minnesota drafted him. He didn’t. Now he looks like he could be a deep threat. Then again, Williamson might just be putting on a show until the regular season starts so that he can disappear in a cloud of fantasy owner frustration.

I’m interested in what he has to offer this season for the moment, and you can probably look for him as a late-round flier in most drafts or simply keep an eye on him on the waiver wire.

Now About that Hot-lanta Run Game

Anyone who is worried that the Falcons won’t run as much with Michael Turner this season should have watched the Falcons game against the Rams. I’ll give you that it was the Rams, but Turner looked like he was in regular season form.

Contrary to Popular Belief

Willie Parker can still score touchdowns. He proved that this week. Rashard Mendenhall is great and all, but he’s just not spectacular enough to find his way on the field for many snaps this year unless something happens to Parker.

Packing It In?

The new-and-improved Packer defense doesn’t look half bad. Actually, they don’t look even one-third bad. If this continues, I’ll have to look to snag them as a sleeper team defense. They certainly have looked exceptional at causing turnovers in the preseason. The Baltimore Ravens are not too shabby in that category either.

Cutler 1, Neckbeard 0, Denver -1

And, for the record, Jay Cutler looks much better than Kyle Orton. Sorry, Broncos fans, you’ve been ruined this season by the neckbearded left hand bomb.

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks by ADP

We’ve analyzed the rankings for running backs, wide receivers and tight ends already this preseason and recommended who you should avoid when it’s your turn to pick. Now, it’s time to take on the quarterback position.

Most standard fantasy teams will only need two quarterbacks on the roster, one starter and one backup. What separates the starters from the backups is reliability. Starting fantasy quarterbacks can be counted on to get close to 20 points every week. Backups, well, they have a chance if everything breaks right for them in a given week.

This year, more so than in years past, I find it hard to trust any of the backup-level quarterbacks. I’d recommend doubling up on quarterbacks in the middle rounds unless you land one of the elite options.

As I have already done with the other skill positions, this “pick or pass” look at the top quarterbacks will help you decide who to avoid because players are either too risky or too inflated in value this season due to hype. Sometimes rankings just don’t cut it because some projected values don’t tell the whole story.

ADP values were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator and were current as of August 24, 2009.

Pick or Pass: Top 12 Quarterbacks as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Brees had a phenomenal season last year without his top target, Marques Colston. This season he faces a more difficult schedule, but he’s still likely to air it out more than most of the other quarterbacks in the game. His quick release should keep him productive. I worry about this high price tag because I’m not a fan of taking a quarterback early this year, but drafting Brees in the middle of the second round is not a wasted pick. As long as passing touchdowns are worth six points in your league, it’s safe to draft him in the middle of the second round. He’s one of the elite picks at quarterback.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots — ADP: 2.04 — PICK
Tom Brady was a fantasy tragedy last season, injured in the first quarter of his first game. But in 2007, he was the cream of the crop of fantasy. His 2007 Patriots swept fantasy boards with Randy Moss and Wes Welker setting receiving records left and right. This preseason, Brady has looked off-target, but I have no doubt he’ll be in sync with his targets by the fourth week of the season. That said, he’s being drafted far to high for my tastes this year. Conference opponents like the Dolphins and Jets have improved on defense since he played them in 2007, and new coaching could make all the difference in how Brady’s season plays out. I like him as one of the elite quarterbacks at the position, but I don’t feel as comfortable about him as I do Brees and Manning. While he’s hard to pass up, I’d sit on taking Brady as a pick until late in the second round or early in the third round. If he goes down again with a knee injury this season, you don’t want to be left without a highly drafted leg to stand on.

3. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts — ADP: 3.03 – PICK
Manning has always been the most trustworthy of the elite quarterbacks. Last season was a down year only because he was struggling to return from his knee surgery and limited by offensive line woes. This season looks to be a return to form. In the last preseason game, Manning connected with Reggie Wayne for a 76-yard touchdown pass. That’s the kind of play I expect to see more of this year. With Manning, you know what you are getting, and for the first time in a long time, you’ll probably be able to get him at a bargain rate. He’s a great pick anywhere in the third round.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — ADP: 3.11 – PICK
Rodgers is one of my favorite quarterback selections this year. He’s got arguably the most talented receiver corps in the NFL with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. On any other team, these receivers would all be starters. Jennings has made it his mission to reach Larry Fitzgerald’s level this year, and James Jones and Jordy Nelson should easily dominate any nickel corner they encounter when all four receivers take the field. The Packers defense has looked great this preseason, but with the scheme change this just offseason, they shouldn’t perform this well when the regular season rolls around. That means Rodgers will find himself playing from behind in enough games to air the ball out. I look forward to those. Rodgers is a great pick and usually still available in the fourth round. After Rodgers, there aren’t many elite options left.

- – – END OF THE ELITE QUARTERBACKS – – -

5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers — ADP: 4.07 — PASS
Philip Rivers has never been one of my favorite players, and so I take some pleasure in knocking him this offseason. Last year, he established himself as one of the premiere fantasy quarterbacks in the game, but the Chargers defense was also the worst it’s been in several years without Shawne Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson seemed like a shell of himself. Rivers statistics were a fluke and statistically impossible to replicate. Throwing the same number of passes as in previous years, Rivers managed to produce more touchdowns than ever before in his career and more yardage on each throw than the average quarterback. With L.T. returning this season in better shape and Darren Sproles hoping to land himself another contract with his play this year, I don’t see Rivers repeating those numbers. He should return to his former status, around the lower-end of fantasy starting quarterbacks, and I don’t want to waste a fourth or fifth round pick on that kind of production. I’d suggest you pass.

6. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals — ADP: 5.01 — PICK
Despite his numbers last season, Warner isn’t being drafted as highly as he should be because of concerns about his hip injury. Warner’s not going to be one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He still has the most talented receiver in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald, and two more elite options, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, to catch the ball. The addition of Beanie Wells doesn’t convince me that the Cardinals will stop throwing the ball. And so, even if Warner’s hip injury continues to nag him all year, I think he’ll be worth a pick. I do think drafting him at the top of the fifth round is a little pricey, but I’ve seen him available as late as the sixth or seventh rounds. That’s where I’d look to grab him. With Warner, just be sure to get a great backup — hint: someone else who appears on this list as a “pick.”

7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys — ADP: 5.07 — PICK
Tony Romo may have lost his prized receiver when Terrell Owens was cut this offseason, but that won’t necessarily slow his production. Camp reports have raved about second tight end Martellus Bennett and preseason standout Sam Hurd. Miles Austin, the Cowboys’ franchise player this year, looked to have explosive form last year in limited duty. If he sees the field enough to make an impact this year, he can replace some of the plays T.O. might have made. And I haven’t even mentioned the new No. 1 receiver, Roy Williams. He’s unproven with only one elite year in Detroit under his belt, but he’s back home in Texas and primed to show his value. I doubted Williams early this offseason, but he’s grown on me. With this wide receiver corps and favorite target Jason Witten, Romo should still be able to put up starting-quality numbers, and you can often get Romo as late as the seventh round in many drafts. He’s definitely a great pick there.

8. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles — ADP: 6.01 — PICK
McNabb has never had the benefit of the doubt — not even in Philadelphia. This year, he’s got more weapons on offense than ever before with DeSean Jackson, now a proven deep threat, and rookie Jeremy Maclin. Rookie runner LeSean McCoy should act as insurance for Brian Westbrook this season and guarantee that the Eagles offense won’t look like an entirely different animal if Westbrook gets hurt. With all these improvements, McNabb should be set for another good season. He finished the year just behind Peyton Manning last season as the seventh-highest-scoring quarterback, and he could do it again this year. Available as late as the eight round, he’s worth a pick. I’m not too worried about Michael Vick cutting into his playing time.

9. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans — ADP: 6.10 — PICK
The Texans look great every offseason, but they continue to disappoint fans on the field. In fantasy, they didn’t disappoint last season. Schaub missed five games, but when healthy, he was more likely to net you 20+ points with Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels as receiving options. Schaub’s bound to have at least one healthy season in him. Why not this year? With Sage Rosenfels now in Minnesota, Schaub may tough out an injury to stay on the field so that the team isn’t in the hands of Dan Orlovsky. I’d feel comfortable drafting Schaub as a starting quarterback, but owners would be wise to get a strong backup for him in case he does miss time.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons — ADP: 6.10 — PASS
Ryan is a hot pick to blow up in fantasy football this season. For my own safety, I tend to lean towards the side of caution. Tony Gonzalez adds a great receiving target for Ryan, but Ryan’s still just a second-year starter. We don’t know what to expect. While looking strong as a rookie, Ryan isn’t guaranteed to jump to Peyton Manning’s level with just one year under his belt. Michael Turner is still going to get a great deal of carries, and Ryan will make the smart plays. Ryan may have a few games where he is a worthy fantasy starter, but if you want to take this gamble, make sure you draft him as your backup quarterback, not your starter. At this ADP, I would have to pass on Ryan this season.

11. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals — ADP: 7.12 — PASS
Palmer hasn’t played a game since October, and after just one preseason showing against the Saints, he’s now sitting out again. Palmer has talented receivers in Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and contract-year sleeper Chris Henry, who is building hype this preseason, but Palmer hasn’t shown the ability to stay on the field. I’m still not convinced he’s the same guy as he was before his knee surgery in 2006. I worry that he’ll take a hit and miss more time this season, and that makes him an unreliable starter on which to hang your season. His draft stock is too high for my tastes, so I’d pass on Palmer as anything more than a late-round backup quarterback.

12. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears — ADP: 7.12 — PICK
Jay Cutler put on a show last year as the Broncos’ defense put the game in his hands almost every week. With Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal on either side of the field and Tony Scheffler at tight end in Denver, Cutler was one of the elite. Now in Chicago, Cutler has been downgraded to a high-end backup quarterback, but I think he still has the potential to rise beyond this draft stock. Devin Hester is an explosive breakaway wideout, and second-year receiver Earl Bennett was a former teammate of Cutler’s in college at Vanderbilt. Young tight end Greg Olsen, who has the best hands of all the Bears’ receiving targets, is fast becoming Cutler’s go-to guy. I wouldn’t be afraid to draft Cutler as a starter, but I’d feel even better about acquiring him as an elite backup. If he rises to the top of the fantasy charts, you’ll be able to trade off one of your quarterbacks for value. If not, at least you have one of the best backups available. Cutler’s a great value pick this season.

The Rest of the Pack

That concludes my look at the top quarterback options in the league. After this top-12 group, there are a select few candidates like David Garrard, Chad Pennington, Matt Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger who promise reliability but little else from week to week. I’d feel more comfortable drafting them as a backup than a starter, and obviously, you’d rather have one of these top options as a backup if you can get them.

Then, of course, there are a few gambles like Brett Favre, Matt Cassel and Trent Edwards. Favre’s not a guy to trust as a starter as he broke down last season for the Jets, but he does have more promise than Garrard or Pennington to put up starter-worthy scores when you need him.

I have my doubts about Cassel, dumped in Kansas City without the receivers and offensive line that aided him last season, and Edwards, running a no-huddle offense in the cold northern tundra. If Cassel stays healthy, he could make something out of targets like Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Engram, but I’d feel safer staying away from that little Todd Haley experiment. Edwards could start hot with Terrell Owens and Lee Evans only to fade late in the season as Buffalo gets colder — the weather and the fantasy value. I wouldn’t advise you to target any of the three as your backup quarterback, but in a pinch, I’d choose Edwards, then Favre and Cassel only if options were extremely limited.

Good luck drafting and make sure to get the best value possible with each of your picks. As always, the comments are yours.

First Round Fantasy Football Draft Strategy for 2009

You know that tough feeling when your heart is telling you one thing, but your mind is telling you something completely different?

It’s not love…or the cheese fries. It’s the first round of your fantasy football draft. Easily confused, for sure, but very, very different.

The first round is a Wild West again this season with no locked-in picks in the first round. Many consider Adrian Peterson the consensus first overall pick or the safest option at the top of the draft, but rebels out there will tell you that they prefer Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner or even Tom Brady, if they dare.

Just because A.P. is rated first overall, that doesn’t mean you have to draft him. Depending on the scoring rules, I might not. He’s just not my favorite guy.

In the first round, you should consider drafting a running back, a wide receiver or a quarterback — draft a kicker and someone will smack you — and there’s a strategy to taking each position.

Drafting a Running Back in the First Round

It’s not that it’s out of style to draft a running back. It’s just that it loses its shiny appeal after the first three to four picks are off the board. Once Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner and Matt Forte are off the board, the running back ranks get muddy.

Draft LaDainian Tomlinson? No, thanks. Steven Jackson? Yeah, but no. Kill me now.

The conventional wisdom is that taking a running back in the first round is the safest option and most valuable pick since true No. 1 running backs and running back depth is hard to come by in fantasy drafts, but much like 2008, this season offers up plenty of running back by committees, or RBBCs, which will do just fine for my fantasy purposes.

Even in the third round of a 12-team league, you’re still able to find quite a few running backs worth starting, and that allows you to have some freedom in the first round. Marion Barber (ADP: 3.01), Ryan Grant (ADP: 3.08) and Kevin Smith (ADP: 3.10), all third round picks according to Fantasy Football Calculator’s average draft positions, aren’t terrible options. They were close to first-round consideration if they weren’t drafted in the first round just last year.

If you have one of the top four to five picks in the draft, taking a dominant runner is a valid option — and probably your best strategy — but with backs like Frank Gore (ADP: 2.o2) and Clinton Ports (ADP: 2.11) still available in the second round, don’t force it.

Drafting a Quarterback in the First Round

You may be tempted by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, especially if you play in a league that awards six points for passing touchdowns, but don’t draft a quarterback in the first round just because they score the most points each week.

It was a hot trend last season, but the fantasy football community cooled off after Tom Brady made owners pay by going down in the first quarter of his first game. So much pain to think about…let’s move on…

By the nature of starting lineups, most leagues only require 24 quarterbacks to be drafted (12 starters, 12 backups), and only 12 of those players start each week unless you’re in a two-quarterback league.

Only starting one, there’s better value to be had waiting on your gunslinger. The signal callers of the fourth and fifth round aren’t far behind the first-round prospects and could always rise, much like Philip Rivers did last season, up to their level if you’re lucky.

Drew Brees and Tom Brady are great and all, but I’d rather take Tony Romo (ADP: 5.09) or Aaron Rodgers (ADP: 4.01) and have three or four stud running backs or wide receivers on my roster.

Current average draft positions show Brees (ADP: 2.03) and Brady (ADP: 2.03) finding their way back into the second round, and Peyton Manning (ADP: 3.03) might still be around in the third at a great bargain price.

If you find yourself at the tail end of the first round, you can consider drafting a quarterback, but I think the odds are in your favor if you wait on even the elite to fall into the second or third rounds. Some say taking a quarterback in the first three rounds is a waste. My sweet spot for quarterback value is the fourth and fifth rounds this season.

Drafting a Wide Receiver in the First Round

It’s hard to argue with Talented Mr. Roto Matthew Berry’s assessment that there are only seven top receivers to go around this season.

Some have more upside than others, but seriously, the difference between No. 8 on the list of wide receiver scoring leaders from last year (Antonio Bryant, 157 points) and No. 30 (DeSean Jackson, 110 points) works out to fewer than three points a game. So if everyone in a 10-team league started three receivers every week, outside of the elite, you’re basically getting a three-point advantage starting the best non-elite guy over the guy that’s barely better than waiver-wire fodder.

That stings when you put it that way, but it is so true. Receiver is the wise way to go with your first round pick this year if you miss out on the elite running backs. With questions surrounding a few of the top seven like Roddy White, Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson, there are even less sure-thing elite receivers to go around.

Taking a receiver in the first round may ruin a few of your fantasy diehards’ lunches, but the drop off from the late first-round backs to the second-round or even third-round backs is not as significant as the drop off from first-round receivers to second-round receivers. Not to mention, there is a wealth of talent at running back in the middle and late picks of the draft, especially if you like sleepers.

If I draft top receiver in the first round and more elite wideouts are available in the second, I might even draft another one. You can’t stop me!

The stats are there to show it’s the more valuable pick late in the first round. As long as you draft intelligently, the fifth round running backs should be there to save you.

So go crazy, got it? Now you just have to choose a draft strategy for the rest of your draft.

As always, the comments are yours.

Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger already on the sidelines

This is why we can’t have nice things. After just one week of preseason football, both Carson Palmer and Marc Bulger need to see some time on the shelf.

Palmer suffered a high ankle sprain on his left ankle in the team’s first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. The injury will keep Palmer out of tonight’s showdown with Tom Brady, another quarterback who missed the 2008 season.

After taking three sacks in the preseason opener against the New York Jets, Bulger managed to injure his wee little pinky in practice, which will put him down for at least two weeks.

Both Palmer and Bulger will be fine missing some work in the preseason. In fact, Bulger’s probably grateful to be out of the line of fire for a few weeks. But these injuries serve as a sign that these veteran quarterbacks shouldn’t be trusted this year. If you’re looking to snag Palmer or Bulger this season as a backup quarterback expecting them to shock and amaze by returning to form, don’t bet on it.

I question whether Palmer was even back at 100 percent at the start of this season after he sat out the majority of 2008 and chose not to undergo surgery this offseason. It might not take much of a hit for him to miss several weeks of the 2009 season.

Bulger, while productive when upright, doesn’t have the protection he needs to do much for the Rams this year. Bulger takes more sacks than any starting quarterback in the league — not counting David Carr, of course, since he’s now a backup. Without a reliable receiving target, Bulger could get caught trying to do too much early this season and go down in a hurry.

While you can hope for whatever you wish out of these two this season, I would recommend avoiding them both as fantasy quarterbacks. Palmer and Bulger’s best days may be behind them, and their future could be very frustrating.