Week 10 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Thursday Night Football is for Lovers

It’s good that it only comes after bye weeks are over when rosters have, for the most part, been figured out. Otherwise, Thursday Night Football would be a real pain.

Instead, it’s just kind of a pain because you have to remember in the middle of the week, just after setting your waiver wire claims and receiving said claims on your team, that it’s time to set your roster again.

The NFL is just training us to watch professional football every night of the week. First came Sunday and Monday nights. They own those now. We will never have them back — not that anyone does besides crazy people and girlfriends.

Now, they’re encroaching on Thursday nights, setting up shop and planning to stay around.

What will they take from us next? Wednesday nights? Tuesday nights? Yes, please. And why not?

If there was any way an NFL game could kill Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance? I’m all for it. I don’t think I can dance, and I don’t care if the stars think they can either. The NFL is the only TV worth watching.

So thank your NFL overlords and set your lineups today.

As usual, we’ll cover a few players to start or sit who may or may not be on the fence of startability this week.

Hot Hands Starts of the Week

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Raiders – Oh, Charles, I just can’t quit you. Really, I wish I could. You made me look bad last week, but this week, you get the Raiders and complete job security knowing that Larry Johnson is off somewhere tweeting about how gay you are.

The Raiders are terrible against the run. They are second in points allowed to running backs behind only the Bills. The Raiders are also terrible against bees — they always get stung — and light bulbs. Oh, do light bulbs give them a hard time. Llamas could run for 100 yards against them.

You’re better than a llama, right, Charles?

One can only hope if you chose to start him again this week.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams vs. Saints – Sometimes people get cute against a high-powered offense and sit the dependable running backs who could get taken out of the game early. Don’t. Do. That.

Coming off a bye and two straight 100+ yard performances, Jackson should have plenty of room to run against the Saints defense, currently without run-stopper Sedrick Ellis. Running backs have been able to hurt them, which explains why the Saints have been so fond of getting behind in the first half of their games lately.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions vs. Vikings – Against a pass rush that wants to eat his lunch, Matthew Stafford would be well-served by passing the ball off to Brandon Pettigrew more than once in this game. Pettigrew reached the end zone last week, and the Vikings rank first in points allowed to tight ends.

The opportunity is there if the Lions can take advantage.

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Bears – Don’t get me wrong. Smith is not Kurt Warner. He will not throw for five touchdowns, but he should get his fair share against this Bears defense with receiving options like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.

This game is more important to the 49ers than the Bears. While the 49ers have fallen back just two games in their division, the Bears are almost completely out of the race. For that reason, I think the 49ers will take it as long as they can keep it close.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Jaguars – The Jags have laid down like kittens in road games this year, and the Jets are coming off a bye. Two signs that point to a big day on offense for the Jets. Edwards should get his fair share of targets, and he has a very good chance of scoring in this one.

Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Eagles – Dead to fantasy football until further notice.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars vs. Jets – He’s having such a nice season, but this week, he gets covered by The Darrelle Revis Effect. It’s like The Butterfly Effect, but you don’t wake up until the game’s over. And you didn’t change anything on the scoreboard.

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins vs. Broncos - So you’re walking along thinking “You know, I got that Betts guy this week off waivers. He’s replacing Clinton Portis while Portis recovers. I think that’s a pretty solid start.” You’re buddy says “I dunno, Bob.” (Your name is Bob. I assume these things.) You say “How could it go wrong? Washington’s got no one else, and Betts looked good against the Falcons last week. He even scored a touchdown.”

And then your friend tells you, as any responsible person would, that that’s the point, Bob. The Redskins have no one else. Even Jason Campbell got banged up last week. Don’t you think the Broncos will get after him? The Broncos may have given up yards to running backs against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but the Redskins are not on a roll in the running game like either of those teams. At this point, you stop listening, Bob, because you realize that your friend is a real talker.

As impactful and suspenseful as that little side story was, that’s how productive Betts will be this week against a motivated Broncos defense that knows the Redskins will pose a small threat to their dream-season hopes. The Broncos need to get back on track, and the Redskins are llama pathetic, in keeping with the theme.

Trent Edwards, QB, Bills vs. Titans – One quarterback who won’t take advantage of the Titans’ secondary? This guy. I just don’t see it happening, and I don’t have much confidence in any of the Bills this week.

Green Bay Packers D/ST – They fell apart against Tampa Bay, and I have a hard time imagining them doing any better against Miles Austin and the Cowboys. They might even be without Aaron Kampman, one of their best defenders, as he recovers from a concussion.

Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week

Zach Miller, TE, Raiders vs. Chiefs – One of those rare games in which JaMarcus Russell does not seem completely incompetent, only slightly. The Chiefs are actually pretty average against tight ends, but Miller is the only target Russell can hit with any consistency.

As a side note, I’m so glad I never have to clean a toilet that JaMarcus Russell uses. Can you imagine how bad his aim is in that arena?

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Hawthorne Heights – “Ohio Is For Lovers”

I know what you’re thinking. What does this screamy song have to do with fantasy football? Well, I like to imagine Ted Ginn Jr. singing this song to his own hands.

“And I can’t make it on my own…because my heart is in Ohio.”

“So cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight, or die. Because you kill me. You know you do. You kill me well. You like it, too, and I can tell.”

That’s practically out of Ted Ginn Jr.’s pregame diary. I feel like we violated him just by listening to it. He’s obviously convinced cutting off his hands is the only way for him to be happy again, but don’t do anything that drastic, Ginn. Just make them work for you in something other than kick returns.

At least you can take solace in not having Ted Ginn Jr. on your team this week.

More fantasy football goods…

Compare notes with Fantasy Football Goat, Fantasy Joe, Fantasy Football Xtreme and ESPN’s rankings.

Foolish Thoughts: Marc Bulger and Sunday Night Sadness

Baseball stole our Sunday Night Football. How is that fair? Give it back, World Series. I demand it.

I’m fine with baseball as long as I don’t have to sit through an entire game. In my opinion, it should be played in highlight form, jumping to the major parts and leaving out all the rest.

Pitching change? No, sir. You should only be able to make a change between innings. You play yourself out of your own mess, pitcher.

We could also probably speed things up by not using a third baseman. If you get past second, you have to beat the catcher to home plate or get caught trying.

Yeah, yeah, I know that ruins all that “for the love of the game” stuff, but baseball hasn’t done it for me for several years now. I am all for going to a game in person, but watching a game on TV is just…not the same.

And besides, the first minute baseball interferes with my football, it violates my rights. I think it’s fair to hold a grudge. I was forced to watch the Favre-Favre-Favre-fest in Green Bay, and then it was just over. Done.

But at least they put on National Treasure.

Fantasy Football Fools has a new enemy.

Patrick Crayton gets a pass this week. He’s settled in nicely to his role as the slot receiver and returner for the Cowboys.

No, the new bane of my existence is one Marc Bulger, quarterback of the St. Louis Rams and the only human incapable of throwing a touchdown pass against the Lions.

It was a bit of a sleeper pick — okay, a lot of a sleeper pick — to toss him into my starting lineups this week, but it was out of necessity in one league.

Believe it or not, the blogger league I am in was smart enough to stock up on quarterbacks this year. I got hosed in the draft at quarterback and ended up with only Carson Palmer and Trent Edwards. Edwards has since been dropped for bench depth and pure worthlessness.

Palmer’s bye week in Week 8 left me wanting, so I went to the waiver wire only to find that Bulger was the best it had to offer. I almost pulled off the victory, even with Bulger’s pathetic 5.3-point performance, but the Saints defense butchered me in the end.

In the Buffalo Wild Wings All-Star Blogger league, I went with Bulger over Mark Sanchez, mostly due to a fear that Sanchez would do just enough to win. Surely, Marc Bulger, facing the defenseless Detroit Lions, could put up a touchdown, maybe even two touchdowns.

How could I be so foolish…

Luckily, I pulled off the win without Bulger in the BWW league thanks to a clutch performance from Tony Gonzalez and a low-scoring week for my opponent, but Bulger is still not to be trusted.

It’s not like you own him in any leagues, but Bulger is all that is wrong with mankind. When the time arises to do what is necessary, he fails miserably, even with the odds in his favor. Bulger is Mr. Glass to everyone else’s unbreakable Bruce Willis. He’s the even more obscure movie reference to that movie reference.

To his credit, he’s not getting a lot of help out there from his offensive line, but he does have Steven Jackson fighting like a champ for extra yards on every play.

In short, he’s not going to be on my team come Week 9, and I’ll be a better man for it.

Okay, okay. I agree that starting Beanie Wells wasn’t the smartest move. But if the Cardinals hadn’t been forced to pass after going down early — what happened to that run defense? — we might have seen a completely different outcome for Beanie.

As it happened, Andre Johnson was definitely the stronger start, but neither player blew anybody out of the water this week. The Texans were slowed by the Buffalo Bills’ passing defense, but the Bills’ run defense was pathetic, just as advertised.

Ryan Moats, most known for being abused by police, took over the running duties after Steve Slaton was benched for fumbling, and Moats tried his best to earn a larger portion of the duties moving forward. He scored three touchdowns, and if you own Slaton, he probably caused you a minor aneurysm.

The best part? It’s anybody’s guess what this means for Slaton and Moats going forward. Moats could be in line for the starting job. Slaton owners better just try to lock up both backs while they can.

Slaton’s been disappointing enough, but there’s no sense allowing the Houston running game to slip from your grasp by ignoring Moats’ big day.

Apparently, we shouldn’t have been so worried about LaDainian Tomlinson, but for a two-touchdown day, the yardage wasn’t there. Just 56 yards and not a single reception? That doesn’t have me screaming “He’s back” in the street anytime soon.

I loved Matt Forte last season. He was my best pick in the draft last year, and I rode his consistency all the way into the fantasy playoffs. But he’s just not getting the job done this year.

The offensive line isn’t helping him in the running game, and Jay Cutler has the ability to make plays through the air when the game is close rather than checking down to Forte like Kyle Orton was fond of doing last year.

Without those check-down passes, Forte suffers against tough run defenses. He has only shown up against the Lions and this week against the Browns.

If you have the opportunity, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade him, but try to get the greatest value you can for a guy who was drafted with a top-five pick this year.

Is the AFC East the most unpredictable division in football? Just when you think that you know how a game is going to turn out, they spin it on you.

I lucked into starting the Miami defense in one league, but how we were to expect the Dolphins would beat the Jets again? And this time off the returning skills of Ted Ginn?

The Patriots need to get back to form to make everything normal again.

Steven Jackson finally scored a touchdown. The world shook. The seas parted, and it’ll probably never happen again in 2009. Single tear. He deserves many more for the way he’s been running this year, but the schedule is not in his favor.

On the Wire: Week 7 Pickups, Drops and Names to Know by Now

In what was largely a return to form for the fantasy football community, several names you probably already know popped back on the scene. Some we’ve talked about before, some we’ve neglected to mention since the preseason.

Regardless, if they’ve been dropped or otherwise abandoned to the free agent pool, these guys are worth a look.

Hot Claims

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints: I’d hope that most owners didn’t give up on Moore as he struggled to get back on the field for the Saints. If anyone did release him, he’s now worth owning again. He was targeted almost as much as Marques Colston.

Steve Breaston, WR, Arizona Cardinals: I highly doubt that a guy as productive as Breaston has been throughout the first part of the season is unclaimed in most leagues, but Anquan Boldin’s injury opens the door for an expanded role. He doesn’t need the opening to be worthy of starting in leagues that start three wide receivers or during bye-week troubles. The extra targets could move him up to WR2 status.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings: We’ve mentioned him before, but if you’ve been avoiding taking a chance on this magical third-year wide receiver who can hover in space and time while Brett Favre hurls rocket passes of molten leather at him (and how could you with a description like that?), you shouldn’t wait any longer. This kid’s growing into his NFL shoes, and his connection with Favre doesn’t seem to be fading. Rice may end up being the best receiver to own in the Vikings offense by season’s end. Hopefully, Brett Favre’s still throwing well at that point.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: If by some miracle of the fantasy gods, no one in your league decided it was worth it to stash Miles Austin during the Cowboys’ bye week after his 250-yard performance, you’re in luck. He’s now been named a starter, which makes it more likely he could repeat that performance. Austin is still hard to trust as an every week starter, especially given the Cowboys’ tough schedule, but as a guy who has been rooting for Austin for several years now, I’m inclined to believe he has at least one or two more impact performances in him this season.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Just a reminder that the unanimous “great pick” of many a football draft could soon be returning to the Colts lineup. Those who held onto him can only hope that he resumes his position as the No. 2 and doesn’t get worked into some kind of incredibly unfortunate rotation due to the production of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie in his absence.

Solid Performers

Laurence Maroney, RB, New England Patriots: I thought he was done. I really did. But here we are in Week 7 without Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor, which leaves Maroney as the next in line. The Patriots have a very easy schedule to end the season. That makes Maroney worth owning even if you don’t plan on starting him right away. Perhaps he’s just fallen into a career saving season.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers: As if we need another tight end to add to the depth at the position, Green Bay has a budding star in Finely who could see his role expand. The Packers, as usual, look like one of the most productive passing offenses this season, and Finley should be a big part of that, especially if the Packers fail to involve Greg Jennings more than they have during the first six weeks of the season.

Justin Fargas, RB, Oakland Raiders: As inadvisable as it is to rely on an Oakland Raider in fantasy, Fargas earned some tough yards against the Eagles’ defense without Robert Gallery on the offensive line. Gallery’s upcoming return should allow the Raiders to get more action in the running game, and Fargas might hold onto the starting role if he continues to be the most productive back until Darren McFadden comes back from his injury. Michael Bush was largely ignored in this game as they let Fargas carry the load, but we’ll have to see if that continues.

Chaz Schilens, WR, Oakland Raiders: Yes, the Raiders are questionable in the passing game, but that doesn’t mean the return of their former No. 1 receiver won’t turn things around. Just look at JaMarcus Russell, full of that spin move spunk this week. If you are desperate for a receiver to finish out the season, Schilens might be worth sitting on for a few weeks. Just don’t let JaMarcus sit on him because that could kill him.

Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders: Due to the depth at tight end this season, I’d only take a chance on Zach Miller as a backup tight end right now. He hasn’t been the most reliable fantasy player because of the Raiders offensive woes, but his big reception on Sunday for a touchdown could be the start of something special. He’s worth keeping an eye on in smaller leagues.

Long-term Investments

Chester Taylor, RB, Minnesota Vikings: There was a bit of an injury scare on Sunday when Adrian Peterson came up a little gimpy late in the game. A.P. returned to finish the game, but if Peterson misses time in practice this week, Taylor is the back you want to own. If nothing else, you can hold him over the A.P. owner as a bargaining chip for a trade if this scare causes them to regret not stashing Taylor on their own roster.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers: I’ve heard conflicting reports that Crabtree would get a few snaps in the slot and that he would instantly become a starter this week against Houston. Whatever happens to be true, Crabtree is an interesting stash. Despite Josh Morgan’s promising stats thus far, Crabtree might be able to make more of his touches in the 49ers offense if he’s all he’s cracked up to be at the NFL level. Keep your eye on this situation.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills: Trent Edwards got his annual head injury yesterday. That leaves Fitzpatrick in line to start if Edwards has to miss time or trails off after the concussion the same way he did last season. Keep your eye on this situation. Just like Edwards, Fitzpatrick would have a chance to be a part of an explosive offense, but it remains to be seen whether any of the Bills quarterbacks can put it to good use.

Dropsies

Fanhouse throws out a few reminders about players who can be cut. I disagree on Morgan, at least until we know how this Crabtree starting situation shakes out, but the rest can be removed from your roster if a more promising candidate is available.

Other players who could be let go: Kerry Collins, Titans; Jason Campbell, Redskins; Trent Edwards, Bills; Marc Bulger, Rams.

Want More?

Get more waiver wire picks at Fantasy Football Librarian, Fanhouse, FF Toolbox, Lester’s Legends, KFFL, The Hazean and The Fantasy Football Geek Blog.

The real concern with T.O.’s lack of production thus far

Some will say not to get rid of the superstar wide receiver, but Terrell Owens’ time to make an impact in Buffalo is running out. As the season goes on and the weather in Buffalo turns colder, the Bills’ passing game is at the mercy of the elements.

For the past two years, Lee Evans has seen his numbers decline in late November and December when the running game and Marshawn Lynch are far more effective than Trent Edwards, who turns into a pumpkin midseason.

Granted, Edwards hasn’t been concussed this season…yet, but Edwards hasn’t proven he can finish strong for the Bills either. This season, he hasn’t even started strong.

So if you’re a T.O. owner, things could get worse, much worse. T.O. could see the same drop Lee Evans has had as Buffalo looks to the running game at home, but I guess if you look at it on the bright side, there isn’t much of a drop for his numbers to take since Edwards has squandered the talent in the passing game thus far.

If T.O. can’t get productive this month — and by this month, I mean this week — the window is going to start closing fast for him to have any value this season.

Not to mention, as old as T.O. is, the cold may make him more prone to injury, slower to heal or otherwise limit his playmaking ability. T.O. takes care of himself. He’s a quick healer, but Owens has never played a full season for a cold weather team like Buffalo.

So that’s the real concern if you’re holding onto T.O. It’s not that he hasn’t produced so far; it’s that he might run out of time to produce at all if he doesn’t get going soon.

If you have any offers on the table to take T.O. off your hands, I’d take the best one. He may have a few spectacular games in him this year, but I’d rather not be tasked with determining when or if it will happen for him.

If you have no offers, you’re stuck with him. All you can do is hope that he gets it together sooner rather than later.

Foolish Thoughts: Terrible throwbacks and games to throw back

The NFL should really give all the bad teams the same bye week. Just wait until all the worst teams have shown what they are made of, take the bottom half of the league and give them a week off to heal their wounds. Hey, we could even give the Rams a whole season off. At least that would save us from weeks like these.

Sure, it’s great for fantasy teams. It was pretty easy to set rosters this week outside of any bye week issues, but most of the games were just terrible to watch. If not for a few close ones, I might have had to wash out my eyes with Red Bull and coffee.

The Close Ones

The most brutal of all the games had to be the “who will be fired first” bowl, the Browns facing the Bills. After watching the highlights of it, all three of them, I vote both coaches get the axe.

Derek Anderson led the Browns to a 6-3 victory by completing just two passes. Jamal Lewis returned from injury to run for 117 yards. No one scored a touchdown, and Trent Edwards proved once again that he cannot be expected to take advantage of any matchup, despite his many weapons on offense, unless the other team never takes the field.

Captain Checkdown is just begging you to release him to the free agent pool. He wants no part of your fantasy team. In fact, at the rate he’s going, he wants to be traded to the UFL.

The Cowboys also kept it unexpectedly tight in Kansas City, but in overtime, someone on the team, probably Matt Cassel, recognized that they were still the Chiefs, not the “Dallas Texans” as they pretended Sunday. Then the Chiefs let Miles Austin break every tackle they threw at him to get to the end zone for the win.

Austin even set a Cowboys’ record with his 250-yard, two-touchdown performance, which will make it hard for the Cowboys to slot him back to the third receiver role. Sorry, Patrick Crayton, but your time as the No. 2 in Dallas may have come to an end. (I couldn’t be happier.)

Cedric Benson continued his return-to-relevance tour by breaking the Baltimore Ravens streak of games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. His 120 yards and a touchdown would have been nice to have in the starting lineup rather than my bench, but who knew that it’d be Benson and the Bengals that made the Ravens look like pretenders this week? Not me.

I am still surprised that the Bengals are sitting atop their division with wins over the Steelers and Ravens. That’s crazy talk. If not for that miracle reception in Week 1, the Bengals would be the undefeated team everyone was talking about instead of the Broncos.

Speaking of Denver, the Broncos took it to overtime against New England, where Tom Brady has never lost, but the coin toss went in Denver’s favor.

I have to say that the Broncos are legit now that they have beaten two shaky but worthy opponents, the Patriots and the Cowboys. But those throwback uniforms are not legit.

Kyle Orton throws some ugly passes, but he had the benefit of those blinding uniforms. You couldn’t look at the players who had twisted their vertically striped socks without getting vertigo. Please burn those uniforms, Broncos, so that we never have to look upon them again. Never again.

I’m impressed with Josh McDaniels and his Hulk-scream celebration after the game while Bill Belichick looked like a lost puppy in the middle of the field, but I don’t expect this team to go undefeated much longer. They’re scraping by in too many games so far to keep it up.

Surprise, surprise

While Sunday had more than its fair share of amazing performances, they weren’t from the guys you would expect. That always makes fantasy owners happy.

The Lions lost the services of Calvin Johnson early against the Steelers, but Daunte Culpepper kept it close thanks to some help from Dennis Northcutt. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t come back for a win without their star weapon in the game and failed to make the plays that would have given them the lead. Thus, they restored the balance in the universe by not beating the Super Bowl champs.

Against Oakland, it was Ahmad Bradshaw, not Brandon Jacobs, pounding the Raiders for 110 yards and two touchdowns, which was great news for those of us who drafted Brandon Jacobs expecting him to be the engine of this offense.

Do they give Jacobs a snack break when they get close to the red zone? Does Ahmad Bradshaw hide his helmet on the sidelines? I do not understand what’s happening out there, but I do know that Jacobs hasn’t lived up to expectations yet.

In the Eagles’ air assault of the Bucs, it was Jeremy Maclin, not DeSean Jackson, getting the big plays. Maclin recorded 142 yards and two touchdowns, which probably didn’t benefit a single fantasy owner out there.

With McNabb back in the lineup, the Eagles may return to their I-can-pick-any-receiver-I-want ways, which makes it very dangerous for fantasy owners to trust DeSean Jackson every week. But if you’re going to trust any Eagles receiver, it’s Jackson. He’s looked unstoppable with the ball in his hands so far this season.

The Usual Returns

In his first big game of the season, Roddy White made the San Francisco 49ers defense look like the 49ers of old in torching them for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Turner finished the job by walking all over them for three more touchdowns. At least the 49ers should have Frank Gore back after their bye week.

Bucs’ tight end Kellen Winslow returned to his “soulja” ways by scoring twice against the Eagles, even though the game was put away early by Donovan McNabb and Jeremy Maclin’s two connections. Josh Johnson got Winslow involved but, sadly, also got Asante Samuel, who had two picks, far too involved.

Matt Hasselbeck started for the Seahawks after recovering from his rib injury and blew the Jacksonville Jaguars pass defense away with four touchdowns, two to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and two to Nate Burleson. Four touchdowns? Four? I didn’t think Hasselbeck had it in him, but he has a very pass-friendly schedule this season.

The Jaguars scratched their star weapon, Mike Sims-Walker, for violating team rules and paid the price. Without him, the Jags looked lost on offense and never got on the scoreboard against the Seahawks.

The Sinking of the Titanic

I know this is a shocker, but in case you didn’t know, the Titans are not going to the playoffs this year. They’re 0-5 and facing the Patriots for a chance to prevent 0-6, and I’m not sure that we can say they’re the best winless team anymore. They just don’t look like the same squad that went 10-0 to start the season in 2008.

On defense, the Titans have been dropping cornerbacks like flies, weakening their secondary beyond recovery, and their pass rush has disappeared without Albert Haynesworth. Without their defense creating stops, the offense can’t control the clock by running the ball.

Tennessee’s offense has become so predictable that even their opponents overthink it. A Wildcat play with Vince Young? Well, considering how successful the Dolphins were with it, that just might work, but the Titans did nothing more than hint at a Wildcat formation to keep the Colts on their toes.

This team has lost their identity. Now they’ll lose one more game before turning the offense over to Vince Young on the bye week to see what they have to look forward to next year and beyond. Tennessee fans and fantasy owners can only hope that Jeff Fisher gets more creative than he has these first five weeks of the season.

Shameless Plugging: Surprising Receivers and Disappointing Starts

While imagining the possibilities of Vince Young returning to his starting job — Hey, it could happen… Maybe? In special packages? — I contributed to a few other articles around the Web that I just wanted to share.

While a little outdated after Laurent Robinson’s injury this week, I participated in the Fourth & 1 Debate, a fantasy football roundtable debate, last week with several other fantasy football bloggers and experts around the Interwebs. In this debate, we discussed our favorite surprise receivers this season.

Spoiler Alert: I selected Laurent Robinson, Devery Henderson and Percy Harvin.

Laurent Robinson may have been the first victim of the Fourth & 1 curse, which I just invented after this debate. Let’s see if it becomes as deadly as the Madden curse before the end of this season…

In addition to last week’s roundtable, I also sent out an open letter to Trent Edwards on the Buffalo Wild Wings All-Star Bloggers League site.

I started Trent Edwards in just one league in Week 3 and put Fred Jackson in my lineup for many others. Let’s just say that I had plenty of reasons to be frustrated watching the Saints-Buffalo game turn into a defensive showdown while Edwards ran a clinic on failing to live up to expectations.

Some would say it’s a good thing that Edwards looks scared to throw the ball more than 10 yards for my fantasy teams stocked with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, but I was not too happy with his Week 3 fizzle.

Maybe he’ll soon remember that he plays offense, or maybe Buffalo is just doomed. He’s one player I wouldn’t be too upset about hitting with the Fourth & 1 curse.

Foolish Thoughts: The Brady Bench, Law of Averages and Josh Johnson

Since graduating college, I’ve occasionally had a dream that I was still taking finals. In the dream, I wake up and realize that I have a final that very day, but it’s for a class that I didn’t know I was taking and haven’t attended even one day that semester.

Right about the time that I start to try to cram for the test or figure out a way to drop the class at the last minute, I wake up. I still don’t even know what subject it is. I’m going to guess it’s something scary like basket weaving.

I like to imagine that dream is exactly how Brady Quinn feels when he hits the field, except for that whole wake up part.

In the preseason, Quinn barely edged out Derek Anderson for the starting job. Since then, he’s put on a clinic on how to lose said starting job. His conservative play and quick passes haven’t been able to overcome the failings of the Browns as a whole. Without Kellen Winslow, his short-passing ways have neutered the offense of its ability to generate big plays, and in Sunday’s brutalization by the Baltimore Ravens, Mangenius had finally had enough to pull Quinn and his 34 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception for Anderson in the second half.

But Anderson provided little relief for the Browns. He promptly fired three more interceptions into the Baltimore Ravens’ defense and called it a day. After this 34-3 loss, the Browns still have no answer at the quarterback position. And, of course, a harbinger of death over Mangini’s head for some reason.

Maybe it’s not so far-fetched to think that Brett Ratliff, who came over from Mangini’s former team when the Jets traded with the Browns in the 2009 NFL draft, could become Mangini’s guy in Cleveland.

Fantasy owners have no reason to be involved with this Browns offense right now. It’s not going to be pretty, and very few fantasy points are going to go around. Braylon Edwards is the only Brown worth waiting on this season. The rest are simply waiver wire fodder.

Truffle Shuffle in Tampa Bay
Byron Leftwich went from first to worst after Sunday’s deflation against the New York Giants. He’s now the third quarterback on the depth chart behind rookie and heir to the throne Josh Freeman and newly-named starter Josh Johnson.

So who is Josh Johnson? A bit of a sleeper at the position, Johnson was drafted by Jon Gruden to be Tampa’s quarterback of the future — among a pack of quarterbacks during Gruden’s time in Tampa Bay. He had a little hype coming out of college as a great athlete with a pass-first mentality, but the Bucs coaching staff felt he needed a little more work on his accuracy.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday, and Johnson was able to triple Byron Leftwich’s performance in just the final minutes of play against the Giants, which really only means that he has a pulse and moves without having to use the sonar moans of a whale.

Draftguys TV took a look at Josh Johnson before the 2008 draft to break down all his mechanics.

Henne Replaces Penny —   It’s finally that time, but don’t expect things to get better in Miami. Chad Pennington’s good decisions kept the Dolphins from turning the ball over last season, and Chad Henne may not be so lucky against the Dolphins’ tougher schedule now that Pennington is no longer an option.

Well, Once in Every 20 Games — The Lions finally defeated that monkey on their back — not Matt Millen, but the 19-game losing streak. Law of averages says it was bound to happen, but for the Redskins, this loss could be the beginning of the end for Jim Zorn.

Rated PG-13 — The 49ers should be without Frank Gore for the next three weeks while he recovers from a high ankle sprain he suffered early in Sunday’s game against the Vikings. That gives Glen Coffee a few weeks to shine for those who stashed him on their bench and gave ol’ “Silver Fox” just enough to take a victory on Sunday. Also of note, Vernon Davis came alive in this one, but we cannot confirm or deny if he’s on the rise. Such is the way of the elusive Vernon.

It Puts the O in T.O. — It won’t be long before T.O.’s breaking into other Buffalo Bills’ houses to look for all those passes he’s not getting. For the first time since 1997, T.O. didn’t catch a single pass. I’m pretty sure Trent Edwards forgot that Lee Evans and Terrell Owens are on the team. Someone send that kid a memo.

Is it over? — How bad were most of the early games this week? I found myself wanting to take a nap during Sunday’s afternoon games, when most of the players looked like they were down for the count themselves. When not even Drew Brees can save us, there’s a problem.

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Why worry?

You don’t want to be Mr. Worry. For one, that wrinkled forehead will be stuck that way forever. And two, he carries a purse.

So back down from that ledge there. Pause a second before you put on that lipstick and trace over the names of your fantasy studs turned duds. They turned on you, yes, but there’s still Week 3 when maybe (but probably not) things will settle back to the way we said they would go — you know, like Thanksgiving after all the yelling.

If you’re 0-2, stop worrying. Don’t get so desperate for a win that you find yourself dropping Anquan Boldin for Mario Manningham or Clinton Portis for Justin Forsett. It’s only Week 3. Things can get far worse than they are right now.

I had to do some traveling this week, and, boarding my return flight, I found myself staring at a guy in first class while I shuffled back to the rows where the “sorry people” were permitted to sit. Who was it you ask? Herschel Walker. Unfortunately, my survival instincts and prodding from other passengers prevented me from asking him about his new sport, but he looked like he could take a hit and give one or two in exchange. Hot hands? I think so.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Tim Hightower, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. Indianapolis Colts
I know I’m daring, but I wanted to go with a less obvious start this week. I really like Trent Edwards and Matt Forte as well, but I’ll give Hightower the nod because of what the Dolphins did against the Colts last week. If the Cardinals are going to beat Peyton Manning, they are going to have to take some time off the clock. With Beanie Wells fumbling every chance he gets, Hightower is the Cards’ most reliable runner.

Whether he gets his yardage and a score early or in garbage time, I think that Hightower could have a big day. Give him a second look unless you have some proven studs ready to go this week.

Others receiving votes:

  • Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints
    Don’t expect it to be a beautiful game for him, but Trent Edwards should be throwing all day against Drew Brees and the Saints if the Bills are going to stay in this one. Look for him to get a few touchdowns and a few interceptions, but I think it’ll balance out in his favor.
  • Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks
    This week isn’t the most encouraging matchup for Forte since the Seahawks do have some heavy linebackers, but he deserves a chance this week. With all the injuries to Seattle’s defense, I project this could be the beginning of his return to fantasy relevance. He’s faced the Packers and the Steelers so far this season, and I won’t fault him for that. Don’t give up on him just yet.
  • Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills
    Mike Bell is hurt. Pierre Thomas isn’t quite 100 percent. A perfect storm for Reggie Bush? Probably not. But I do expect to see Bush involved in this game, and against the Bills I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored at least once. He’s a good flex option, and I like him even better in PPR leagues. I’m not too worried about Lynell Hamilton.
  • Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins vs. Detroit Lions
    The bone spurs in his ankles aren’t good news, but this oh-too-sweet matchup against the Lions should have been a slaughter for Portis. I put him here only because I feel I have to plug every running back facing the Lions, but it’s acceptable for you to doubt him this week. If you have a better option, I wouldn’t blame you for taking it, but give Portis one more chance this week.
  • Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
    Hard to say why I hate myself so much, but this week (again) might be one of Rice’s best chances to score from 20 yards out before that jackass Willis McGahee comes in to vulture the touchdown.
  • Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs
    Kevin Kolb finds him hard to miss. No clue why. Great PPR play as long as Kolb starts.
  • Steve Smith, WR, New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Bucs don’t even know that opposing teams start wide receivers yet this season. Truth.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders
You might remember that Oakland has that corner named Not-gonna-catch-anything Nnamdi Asomugha. This week, he will be shadowing the once-great Brandon Marshall. Add to that Marshall’s lackluster start to the season, Kyle Orton’s short range and Josh McDaniels’ statements that Marshall is just part of the rotation since he hasn’t grasped the offense and what you have is a bad matchup.

Until further notice or proof that he’s still breathing, I don’t think you can trust Brandon Marshall this season. Start him only if you must, and make him prove his worth before returning him to your starting lineup.

Others receiving votes:

  • Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
    A tough game against a bitter rival isn’t the best place to put your fantasy hopes. Plus, you could die. For serious.
  • Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles
    Angry Eagles do not give up a lot of running yards, especially to a guy that only has 98 of them this year. Abort.
  • Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers
    The swine flu and the 49ers defense have me doubting Harvin continues his touchdown streak into Week 3. He’s a decent flex if you gotta.

Sleeper of the Week

Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers
Supposedly, Marion Barber is going to come to play this weekend, but even if he does, Choice could steal more touches than usual. The Cowboys currently lead the league in rushing yards, and the Panthers haven’t been able to stop any running backs this season. There should be plenty to go around for both Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.

Barber’s quad is still going to be bothering him, and the Cowboys trust Choice to carry the rock even in critical situations. I love Choice if Barber sits, but he’s a desperation play even if Barber takes the field. If the game gets away from the Panthers, Choice should have an even better day than expected.

For those of you who missed it, you can glean some fantasy nuggets from Trey Wingo’s latest chat from Buffalo Wild Wings. I’m going strong after Week 2 of the BWW All-Star Blogger League. Thanks, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.

For more fantasy football goodness, visit Fantasy Football Librarian’s weekly roundup, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Goat’s picks, FF Toolbox’s Week 3 starts and sits, The Fifth Down’s matchup breakdown and NFL.com’s recommendations.

As always, the comments are yours. Leave us your questions and concerns — and feel free to share your worries, Mr. Worry.

Week 2 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: And who plays the Lions this week again?

Ah, that was nice, wasn’t it? The start of the NFL season is just like taking a hot shower, and Week 1 is when someone flushes the toilet to give you that frigid, but refreshing, blast of unbearably cold water.

Once you’ve recovered from the shock, it’s lovely, just lovely.

This week, we’re looking for things to regress back to the mean — or for non-nerds, return to normal. I expect a few disappointments to bounce back, but we can’t always get what we want. Sorry, L.T. owners, but I think your ship is sinking.

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson was only supposed to fill time until Marshawn Lynch returned from his suspension, but he’s exploded out of the gates with a great game last week against New England’s rebuilding defensive line. Against the Tampa Bay defense, Jackson should have another good day.

Jackson’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him a dynamic threat in Buffalo’s no-huddle offense, and he should see his fair share of receptions in addition to all the carries he’ll receive as the focal point of this attack. I’m starting him in every league in which I own him, even if it means I have to sit names like Steven Jackson to do it.

Others receiving votes:

  • Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Bills should be firing on all cylinders this week as they take advantage of Ronde Barber and the Tampa Bay defense that just got lit up by Dallas in Week 1.
  • Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
    The 49ers have come together nicely this season, but the Seahawks still have many threats in the passing game. I see John Carlson sneaking lose a few times and allowing Hasselbeck to be a sneaky play this week.
  • Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
    A mouth-watering matchup for a team who just ran all over the Chargers. McFadden could have a big day against the struggling Chiefs, and Michael Bush could join in the fun as well.
  • Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans
    The Jets abused the Houston secondary last week. Maybe it’ll be Gage’s turn this week.
  • Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams
    I know, obvious, but some people questioned him after last week. The Rams, much to their disappointment, are not the Giants.
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
    I think shabby deserves one more chance…
  • Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
    What Favre likes, Favre hits. He tackled Harvin after his Week 1 touchdown. Harvin is an interesting flex option this week and is likely to get another score as the Vikings test him out against the Lions.

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
It’s a no-Bowe this week. What’s the guy’s name? Nani? Nadia? Not-gonna-let-Bowe-catch-any-passes, that’s what his name is. Nnamdi Asomugha has Bowe locked down. The Bowe Show has never had more than 100 yards or a touchdown against the Raiders.

If Matt Cassel returns this week, Richard Seymour should be giving his former teammate a few hugs throughout the game, and I don’t think the Chiefs offense will get off the ground.

Sure, Bowe might defy the odds. He might get out there and get himself a touchdown, but I don’t like betting on garbage-time scores and yardage. Best to sit Bowe if you have better options. At the very least, downgrade expectations. He rose above his expectations last week, but I doubt he’ll do it again.

Others receiving votes:

  • LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens
    Gasp! How could I? The LaDainian Tomlinson? But yes, he’s no good for you this week because the official word is that he is OUT. Not playing. E.T. no phone home. I’m not one to stand behind L.T. as a start, injury or no injury, but this week will be the start of a struggle for owners who need to decide when it’s appropriate to put him out to pasture.
  • Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins
    Avery has to prove that the Rams can do something on offense before I’ll give him a nod, but if he’s one of your best this week, he might surprise.
  • Laveranues Coles, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers
    The Packers defense and Coles’ Week 1 drops make Coles a must sit. Once he proves he has something left in the tank, feel free to return him to your roster.
  • Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles
    Against the Eagles, me no likey.
  • Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
    Not even the Browns are scared of this matchup. While good on paper, Orton shouldn’t be putting up gaudy numbers here, and you’re likely to have a better play.
  • Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
    You probably have to start him, but I’m a tad worried that he won’t get the touchdown required to make this matchup worthwhile. The Steelers should limit him, but Forte isn’t a dud this week.

And against my better judgment…

Sleeper of the Week

Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to recommend Hester against one of the most formidable passing defenses in the league and after his quarterback struggled with four interceptions in his first game, but Hester has some sleeper value this week. This game could come down to the final quarter, and I could imagine Hester being tasked with making a play by blowing by the Steelers and getting to the end zone.

The Titans were able to make plays through the air last week against the Steelers, and I think Jay Cutler and Hester are just as talented or more so than Kerry Collins and Justin Gage. If Hester pulls it off, he’s worth starting; if they completely shut him down…well, that’s why he’s a sleeper. Basically, all I’m saying here is that you aren’t completely done for if you find yourself needing to start Hester this week. We’ll see what happens.

For more start/sit recommendations this week…

As always, the comments are yours. If you want to talk about your roster, leave us a question below, and good luck this week.

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.