Foolish Thoughts on Week 10: Enter the tight end zone

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

Denver’s still got it

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

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

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

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

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

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

49ers pantsed again

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

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

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

This little Thiggy went to market

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle a light at the end of the tunnel

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

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

Tight end zones are so hot right now

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

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

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

In Thomas Jones We Trust

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

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

Tennessee and Baltimore are football teams

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

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

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

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

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

Can we use the ball machine?

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

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

Parting one-offs

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

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

Foolish Thoughts on Week 4: Postgame reactions to the week that fantasy forgot

Where did that Carson Palmer injury come from on Sunday morning? I lucked out played against him this week, but I didn’t hear a word about it until I saw him putting up zero points heading into halftime. Enough with the quiet injuries already.

I’m still shocked there was an Ocho Cinco sighting without Palmer in the lineup.

Denver Broncos lose to the Kansas City Chiefs. That was unbelievable enough, but it just sounds silly when you consider that both Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall had big days. Unfortunately, they also fumbled. They’ll have to fix up that offense before Tampa Bay this week. I don’t think Larry Johnson is that good. Denver’s defense is that bad.

Royal had 100+ yards in the loss. I see him taking a Patrick Crayton of 2007 value. When Marshall has an average or less spectacular performance, Royal will have a big game, but when Marshall is out of this world, Royal is limited to something around 80 yards and a rare TD.

David Garrard might be hitting his stride. He’s getting back to being mobile to compensate for issues with the offensive line. Garrard is worth holding onto until after his bye. A Jags transition to a pass-first offense with Garrard threatening to run could make him increasingly more valuable in fantasy.

Is Matt Jones for real or is this just some residual effect of the drugs?

Matt Schaub woke up from his fantasy slumber in Week 4 as well. Was that Kevin Walter or Wes Welker out there? Either way, I want him on my fantasy roster.

By the way, Steve Slaton looks like he can do some big things. I’d make sure he’s on a roster this week if you’ve been ignoring my constant recommendation that you pick him up.

Brett Favre disappoints on Monday night and then fires back with six touchdowns this week — including one to the rookie TE Dustin Keller. (Get him.)

I can’t believe he took it up a notch with the Jets wide receivers so quickly. Coles is supposed to hate him for replacing his best friend, Chad Pennington, but I guess being mad at Favre is like ignoring a rocket-fast bullet flying into your chest. You just have to catch it.

Anquan Boldin certainly isn’t afraid to take a monster hit or run right into coverage. Glad he’s okay. There’s no way you should trade for him now when his value is at its peak, but if the owner gets scared of the injury or Boldin misses some time, make an offer. Boldin could win you several games down the stretch.

The Jets defense is becoming a potential fantasy play…but so is Kyle Orton.

J.T. O’Sullivan was underwhelming in this one, but he’s no Drew Brees. The 49ers will continue to develop a rhythm with their passing game should remain a fantasy threat on offense down the stretch. O’Sullivan’s a great QB2, but he’ll enter into a rough patch the next few weeks before he hits the next nice patch of matchups.

Atlanta corners are just bad — and especially bad against Steve Smith. Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith like being together in that offense. Delhomme likes them there, too.

When Tennessee plays Minnesota, you don’t expect to see 30 points on the board. Chris Johnson benefited from the LenDale White fumble and had a bigger game than anyone expected. Johnson’s basically become a must start in the Tennessee offense even though he splits time. More TDs would be nice though, Chris.

Greg Jennings finally scores a touchdown…and then another one. I know Aaron Rodgers got banged up and mistreated, but it was the Bucs defense. He’ll bounce back, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t start in Week 5 to torch the Atlanta corners (and get Greg Jennings another TD for this season).

Don’t sleep on Jordy Nelson. The rookie has talent and Rodgers’ trust.  As long as James Jones is out, Jordy Nelson is a borderline starter or WR3.

Where did Jerramy Stevens go this week? Jail?

Warrick Dunn is reducing Earnest Graham’s value. They are both being paid the same amount of green, and if you take away the two big runs that Graham has broken, he isn’t getting a lot of action. I think I’m worried if I am a Graham owner. Might be time to buy low on someone else. (Psst, Ryan Grant)

I am convinced that I have mind control after I commanded the Buffalo interception return for a touchdown and the long bomb to Lee Evans. Seriously, I was looking at my ESPN live scoring, and I asked myself why Buffalo had done nothing on defense…and why hadn’t Lee Evans gotten more than ONE throw. Prayers answered.

Trent Green is NOT a better quarterback than Marc Bulger, but maybe the Buffalo defense went a little easy on him since no one wanted a death on their hands if they sacked him into his last concussion.

What happened to the Cowboys on Sunday? Yes, being from Big D, I am a Cowboys fan. Loathe me.

I respected the Dallas corners, but this far into the season with no interceptions? Pacman really did just become just “Adam” this season. I no longer give them credit for their skills until the get an INT.

The Cowboys offense fell asleep in the second quarter — along with the corners — and Felix Jones has got to get at least one carry. Wade Phillips said the Cowboys have no plays designed for Jones in comeback situations. How about every game-changing run he’s had so far this season?

The Chargers really have given up a touchdown to a tight end every week this season. Even Zach Miller gets one for the Raiders. I’m starting Anthony Fasano if I have him this week against the Chargers. The TMR agrees.

JaMarcus Russell may still be young, but that guy can throw. Dynasty leaguers should note that potential.

DeSean Jackson finally gets his first TD in the NFL. I don’t think he let the ball go at all, but he caught this one in the end zone. Then, he fumbled a punt. Rookie.

Is Kyle Orton becoming a decent fantasy play? Someone pinch me…or slap me…or knock me out. This fantasy surge just can’t happen.

But Neckbeard has Detroit and Atlanta the next two weeks. Is it the mustache?

Can David Akers make field goals anymore? Rocca doesn’t like his chances. How close does he need to be these days?

If Westbrook had been in this game, he would have gotten that touchdown.

Joe Flacco can extend the play, hit his receivers and, like Russell, he’s got a gun. Unfortunately, he’s still a rookie. He’s going to fumble and make mistakes, and he did.

Where is Ray Rice? I hate you LeRon McClain and your last TD that cost me a match this week. That big boy might just be a waiver wire gem all season as long as McGahee can’t stay healthy.

Weeks like Week 4 are why projections can drive you crazy. Better lineups next week, and cheers and beers to all who started Brett Favre.

A Fool and His Money in Week 4

Move over Kevin Garnett, we have a new No. 1 on Chadam’s “Most Hated Athlete for Gambling Purposes” list: Brett Favre.

Let me explain. I made a much larger wager than I should have last week given my gambling budget. I was bored and thinking about my upcoming trip to Vegas. These things happen. I made a three-team, 10-point teaser on these teams and lines: Panthers (+13.5), Bills (+0.5) and Jets (+18.5).

The Panthers came through for me, but the Bills almost screwed up my wager before the second slate of Sunday games even began. They were 9.5-point home favorites over the Raiders, so with my revised line, all they had to do was win the game. Easier said than done with JaMarcus Russell’s 84-yard bomb to some hick named Johnnie Lee Higgins nearly ruining my day. Thanks to Trent Edwards, the Bills were able to drill a last minute, game-winning field goal, and my bet remained intact. Everything was up to Favre and the Jets in the Monday night game.

I’m not going to lie. I was quietly confident that I would win. I felt pretty good heading into Monday night considering I shouldn’t have had a live wager in the first place, and I was getting 18.5 and Favre against a winless team with a banged up defense.

Yeah, I was wrong. Final score: Jets 29, Chargers 48.

Remember my spread? How about these “highlights” from the game:

  • There were six lead changes, and four of those were in the fourth quarter.
  • New York attempted three onside kicks and recovered one. The Chargers scored touchdowns on both the other attempts, in no small part because of the field position.
  • Brett Favre had FIVE chances to complete a two-point conversion that would have won my bet…and he went 0-5.
  • For the final two-point conversion attempt, the ball was placed six inches from the goal line due to multiple penalties. Tony Kornheiser and I were thinking the same thing: “Wow, six inches…you gotta run a quarterback sneak, right?” I almost died when Favre came out in the shotgun. Of course, the attempt failed.

This was definitely the most devastating gambling loss I have ever experienced. It wasn’t even about the money (though every time I remember the large payout slipping through my fingers, it’s salt in the wound). It was the fact that I was on an emotional rollercoaster for three hours straight while cheering for an enormous wager that I was extremely lucky to have in the first place given the first two games.

Not only will I hate Brett Favre from now until eternity, I am also officially off the Jets’ bandwagon. Screw gambling, I’m taking a break.

But one thing I’m not taking a break from is beating Nick like a rented mule as he collapsed with a 4-12 record in Week 3. I went a respectable 7-9 to tie the season records at 23-23-1 apiece.

Week 4 is the shortest week of the year since Hurricane Ike changed Houston and Baltimore’s bye. Buckle up. Here’s how it goes down Sunday.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Chadam Takes: Broncos (-9.5) over CHIEFS
The Broncos are going to run up the score early in this one. I know it’s still early, but it looks like Bowe is headed down the Andre Johnson career path: great receiver on a terrible offense with line issues.

Nick Takes: Broncos (-9.5) over CHIEFS
Last week was pretty tough on me. A lot of games were closer than I thought they would be, but does anybody actually believe KC has a chance in this game? They are on a 12-game losing streak from last season. This game has potential for a 10-point teaser.

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

Chadam Takes: BENGALS (-3.5) over Browns
I really just want to see the Browns give Quinn the reigns to see if Nick’s head explodes. Props are needed though. Nick was hating on Brady Quinn before hating on him was cool, before his Notre Dame days.

Nick Takes: BENGALS (-3.5) over Browns
I didn’t think the Browns would do well this year, but I didn’t expect them to be on a record-low pace for points scored in a season. With two teams this bad, I would normally take the points, but the Bengals at least showed signs of life last week in the overtime loss to the Giants.

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Chadam Takes: Texans (+7.5) over JAGUARS
My boy Steve Slaton! What a pimp. This guy pisses excellence in the morning. Thank God the Ahman Green era is almost over.

Nick Takes: Texans (+7.5) over JAGUARS
The Texans always play the Jags close for some reason. This game could easily be a blowout, but the Texans found a RB last weekend in Steve Slaton who should help take some pressure off Matt Schaub. The nagging injuries to Fred Taylor and MJD this week also make me uneasy of picking the Jags to cover.

Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets

Chadam Takes: Cardinals (+2) over JETS
I hate you, Favre.

Nick Takes: Cardinals (+2) over JETS
The Jets are not going to magically change from a 4-12 team into a solid playoff team just because Brett Favre was added to the mix. If they want a chance to be a playoff team, they need to beat teams like Arizona. I personally don’t see it happening though.

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

Chadam Takes: SAINTS (-6) over 49ers
News Flash: This won’t be a defensive battle. Don’t hurt yourself jumping off the J.T. O’Sullivan bandwagon after this week.

Nick Takes: 49ers (+6) over SAINTS
The Saints might as well be Seattle Junior the way they keep losing their best receivers. The 49ers look like they actually have some confidence and believe they can win. They haven’t had that since way before the failed Alex Smith experiment.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

Chadam Takes: PANTHERS (-7) over Falcons
I’m not sure Matt Ryan is ready for road games yet. This game is my litmus test for Michael Turner. A good game here will make me a believer.

Nick Takes: PANTHERS (-7) over Falcons
I like this Falcons team. I want them to win, but any team who plays the Lions and the Chiefs will have two wins. As a young team, you might expect the Falcons to have a chance to make a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter, but their inexperience will produce mistakes that turn the game into a blowout. It’s just part of the growing pains for young teams. I expect have the same pains against the Panthers. Count on it.

Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans

Chadam Takes: TITANS (-3) over Vikings
In a week where there aren’t a lot of lines that jump out at me, this game is my favorite game of the week. I think both teams have a similar blueprint, but Tennessee executes it better, especially at home.

Nick Takes: TITANS (-3) over Vikings
I’m tempted to pick the Vikings in this one because they are pretty good against the run, but the Titans defense has been sick so far this season. I’m not ready to congratulate Brad Childress on his brilliant move, starting Gus Frerotte. I still remember what my Dad told me.

Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chadam Takes: BUCCANEERS (-1) over Packers
This game is really testing my love for the Bucs, but I’ll roll with them here. I think Rodgers will have too much trouble with the underrated Bucs defense.

Nick Takes: Packers (+1) over BUCCANEERS
How many Bucs players can actually spell Buccaneers correctly without looking? Professional sports franchises shouldn’t have names that are hard to spell, even if they have a shorter nickname. Just use the nickname. Also, I don’t consider it a good thing when you need 60+ passes in one game. It just means you suck at running the ball.

Buffalo Bills at St. Louis Rams

Chadam Takes: Bills (-8) over RAMS
Last time I checked, Trent Green can’t pass block any better than Marc Bulger can. The Rams are taking a step sideways here, and since I have nothing else to add, I love how Anheuser-Busch’s impending sale to a European brewery created all of the unexpected backlash from people claiming that drinking Bud is now “anti-American.” Think that has anything to do with the release and heavy promotion of the new Budweiser “American Ale?”

Nick Takes: Bills (-8) over RAMS
Do you ever look back and wonder what you were thinking when you made a decision that is so obviously horrible? That’s how I feel about picking the Rams last week. Right now, I would pick a high school team to cover the spread against the Rams.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

Chadam Takes: DALLAS (-11.5) over Redskins
I’m nervous giving up this many points, but Dallas trounced the Packers. The Packers are better than the Redskins, so…

Nick Takes: Redskins (+11.5) over DALLAS
Dallas looks good. There is no doubt about it. But I’ve talked about how much I like Jason Campbell and this Redskins team all season long, and they are starting to back me up. They may not against Dallas, but I expect them to keep it within single digits.

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders

Chadam Takes: Chargers (-7) over RAIDERS
Welcome to the regular season, San Diego! You’re only two weeks late, and you’re just in time to show us how bad the Raiders really are.

Nick Takes: Chargers (-7) over RAIDERS
I hate everything about the Raiders from the owner to their uniform to their QB. They may have surprised everybody in the past two weeks, but they are the same old Raiders. The Chargers found their groove on Monday night, and I expect this game to get out of hand quickly.

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

Chadam Takes: Eagles (-3) over BEARS
The only reason Jon Gruden decided to throw 67 times on Chicago has to be that he saw something on tape, right? That guy loves to run the ball. You know Andy Reid will notice the same thing. With Westbrook at less than 100 percent, I’m wondering if Reid will call a single running play.

Nick Takes: Eagles (-3) over BEARS
Assuming McNabb stays healthy this entire game, I like the Eagles in this one. After dropping Big Ben nine times last week, I expect at least five sacks on Kyle Orton this week. The Bears impressed me in their opening game against the Colts but have looked much more mediocre the last two weeks.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Chadam Takes: Ravens (+7) over STEELERS
There might not be seven points scored in this game. A little change of pace considering the previous Monday nights, huh?

Nick Takes: Ravens (+7) over STEELERS
I like the Ravens in this one because the Steelers offense has struggled these past two weeks against the Browns and the Eagles. The Ravens defense is back to being straight up nasty. The strong running game will be enough to cover Joe Flacco in this one.

Last Week:

Nick: 4-12
Chadam: 7-9

Current Standings after Week 2:

Chadam: 23-23-1
Nick: 23-23-1
Bill Simmons: 23-23-1

Week 4 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

This week’s bye shouldn’t have caught you by surprise, but the characters you are left to start might. Strangely enough, many of the players that you might have drafted late or gotten on the cheap have great plays this week.

Make sure you don’t forget about these guys, and as always, any start-or-sit questions asked in the comments will be answered by Saturday night. If not, call someone! I’m missing or in Vegas.

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan vs. Saints — Another great week to start O’Sullivan. He’s got a difficult stretch after this week, but JTO should have a shootout against Drew Brees and the Saints.

Lee Evans vs. Rams — He’s a fluke-y player, but St. Louis’ defense is no fluke. It’s just bad. Lee Evans could have a big week against this horrible pass defense, and you know he wants one.

Trent Edwards vs. Rams — Well, if Lee Evans has a good week…

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Browns — The Browns defense has been pretty miserable, and Carson Palmer showed signs of life last week against the Giants. If you’ve been starting any of these guys the last three weeks, they should be in your lineup for Week 4.

Kerry Collins vs. Vikings — In a tough bye week, you may be out your star quarterback. Don’t expect explosions on the Titans offense, but Collins should put up decent numbers to keep Minnesota’s tough run defense off of LenDale White and Chris Johnson. He’s worth a start if you need a quarterback.

Jason Campbell, Santana Moss vs. Cowboys — Santana’s new thing is scoring touchdowns every game. Oh snap! He just scored another one. While I fear the Cowboys secondary, they haven’t recorded a single interception this season, and Campbell has been incredibly efficient with his passing. Both QB and RB are worth starting in what could be an Eagles-Cowboys style offensive contest.

Donald Lee vs. Buccaneers – He’s becoming more utilized in the Green Bay offense, and he just might see an increased role this week against a sometimes tough Tampa Bay secondary. If you are filling in someone for Dallas Clark, Anthony Fasano, Kevin Boss or John Carlson, Lee is a good option this week. Robert Royal isn’t bad either, but Jerramy Stevens might be better.

Bubble Boys

Jonathan Stewart vs. Falcons — He shares carries, but Stewart should dominate the Atlanta line. When it comes to short yardage (and touchdowns), it’s Stewart who should get the call. There’s always the chance that Atlanta lets Steve Smith run wild on them, but Stewart should have a decent week.

Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards vs. Bengals — They haven’t shown the chemistry they had last year, but if they get it going, it will be this week. Otherwise, it’s up to Braylon to find another lover in Brady Quinn.

Brett Favre vs. Cardinals — Even though they might not look it, the Cardinals are a top defense thus far. After the picks he threw against the Chargers, Favre might be uncertain and mistake-heavy against the Cards as well. You didn’t draft a Madden curse as a QB1, did you?

Matt Forte vs. Eagles — The Forte has been strong with this one. He’s put up points week after week. The Eagles are too tough a squad to let him get his usual 20 points, but if he can get a touchdown, he is worth playing. (Ed. Note: I’m still playing him this week, but it’ll be a judgment call between him and Westbrook for me. He’ll have his points, but don’t expect another 20-point outing.)

Bryant Johnson vs. Saints — Johnson showed little in Week 3’s stat books, but Gore had a big day. Against the Saints, they should mix it up a bit more, and Johnson could be the main target. Remember that, back in Arizona, the people keeping him off the field were Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Devery Henderson vs. 49ers — Some weeks, Henderson shows up to work and gets a few long bombs his way. Other weeks, you have to check the reports just to make sure he was active. The guy is too inconsistent for my tastes. Even in this potential shootout, he might play the part of Casper.

Cold Shoulders

Rashard Mendenhall vs. Ravens — Mendy was one text message away from being a “Bubble Boy” rather than a “Cold Shoulder.” He may talk a big game to fellow rookie Ray Rice, but Mendenhall faces one of the top defenses against the run. After his mediocre showings thus far, I don’t think he’ll blow this one out of the water. Baltimore will bring the pain like Philly did and try to shut the Steelers down.

Kyle Orton vs. Eagles — The Eagles defense has been tough against the run and fierce attacking the quarterback. That intensity doesn’t bode well for an offense that relies on a strong run game to set up a few passes. Orton should be bombarded and isn’t worth starting unless you have no better options.

Trent Green vs. Bills — I know you just picked him up if he’s on your roster, and I’m sure you’re excited to see his first start of the season, but did you see what Buffalo did against the Seattle offensive line in Week 1? Trent Green might be in for another season-ending concussion. I just hope Green doesn’t die on the field. That would be a total buzzkill.

Torry Holt vs. Bills — Trent Green might bring that extra rally to the offense…but not this week. The Bills will take the passing game out immediately and make Steven Jackson work for every run he gets. Holt remains a WR3-worthy option for only the VERY optimistic this week.

Sleeper Who Might Wake Up This Week

My Norwood and Michael Pittman sleeper picks last week didn’t hurt you. Norwood had plenty of yards as the Chiefs got run over, and Pittman got a TD — granted, two would have been better. This week, I’ll go a little bit further out there.

Jordy Nelson vs. Buccaneers — In a tough bye week, Nelson isn’t a bad start. Jordy assumes the third WR position with James Jones still hurting, and they showed in Week 3 that they are comfortable letting him get some targets in the red zone. If you are without a WR3, Nelson could fill that spot for you, and as the third receiving threat against the Bucs secondary, he just might see some increased action.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Gems from Week 3

Apparently, when you try and make things faster around here, it makes the Internet explode, and bad things happen. I’ll write that down, and, I guess, take it as a compliment that we’ve had such a large flow of traffic around at Fools lately.

I’ll try not to break anything else, okay?

The waiver wire starts to thin this week, but alas, here come the dreaded bye weeks. Every fantasy owner has probably seen how bad they can be, and they’ve fortified their teams to make up for it. Here are a few guys that might have slipped under the radar until now.

J.T. O’Sullivan, QB San Francisco 49ers

This guy needs a nickname. He just has too much punctuation in that name, so from now on, I dub thee JTO, Mr. O’Sullivan. If your league is sleeping on this guy, don’t. O’Sullivan is a Mike Martz quarterback. He’s going to take his hits, but he is also going to put up a 300+ yard game when he has a good matchup. If he has one of those during your current starting QBs bye week, he’s worth putting on your roster. His high risk, high reward play should pay off for fantasy owners hurting from Carson Palmer, Derek Anderson and Peyton Manning — oh, and that Tom Brady guy. This week, he faces off against the New Orleans Saints’ unimpressive secondary.

Brian Griese, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He threw a lot of balls for Tampa Bay on Sunday — no, that’s not what she said. I don’t think he puts up 407 yards and two touchdowns each week without overtime, but he’s worth getting on your roster now. If his plentiful passing attempts continue, he could be fantasy-worthy where Jeff Garcia was only a capable fantasy backup QB. Griese definitely takes on high-end backup status now with the potential to do more when you need him (against Detroit, Minnesota, New Orleans and Atlanta).

Jerramy Stevens, TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I’m not exactly sure how he got off parole long enough to leave Seattle, but his return from suspension in Tampa Bay showed his effectiveness. With Galloway out and healing slowly, Stevens could be a factor in the passing game. It’s not like the Bucs have a herd of big name receivers. Stevens is one of those physically imposing guys like Vernon Davis who promise a great deal as a tight end. Unlike Davis though, Stevens could be consistent with Brian Griese finding him when it counts like in Week 3. I mean, at least we know he gets his hands dirty.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets

Brett Favre likes the rookie tight end even though Keller has a veteran squad in Chris Baker and Bubba Franks ahead of him on the depth chart. Late in the San Diego game, Keller was getting open and brought in a late touchdown. If you are hurting at TE, Keller might be worth a look — especially when the Jets play strong passing defenses that will lock out Jerricho Cotchery and that touchdown-stealing Chansi Stuckey.

Anthony Fasano, TE Miami Dolphins

Don’t you….dun dun da dun dun…forget about him. He might be Ronnie Brown’s favorite target.

Domenik Hixon, Amani Toomer and Steve Smith, WR New York Giants

They have a bye this week, but in Week 5, the Giants will be without Plaxico Burress for his INSUBORDINATION. I’m not sure what Plaxico did for those two days that he missed practice, but insubordination is a great word. Look for Toomer and Steve Smith to step up, but Hixon, who had a three touchdown performance in the preseason, could go wild again in place of the absent receiver. A good game in Week 5 could earn Steve Smith and Hixon more looks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB Philadelphia Eagles

Go on! Be a vulture! Don’t you see the bird circling the Westbrook owner in your league? Westbrook is only listed as day-to-day, so there’s no guarantee that he won’t take the field. If you are seriously hurtin’ at RB or are playing against the Westbrook owner in your league this week, it might be worth stashing Buckhalter. Remember that the Eagles play the Bears this week though, so don’t expect a Thanksgiving turkey to just fall in your lap. Westbrook owners, get him if you can. On the bright side, I don’t think Westbrook will miss more than one game — if he misses any at all.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB Pittsburgh Steelers

The fantasy football gods are smiling on the folks who are hurting at RB this week. Mike Tomlin even did the fantasy football players a favor by letting us all know PRE-waivers that Willie Parker wouldn’t be going on Monday night. Mendenhall will get his first start, but he hasn’t just dominated like everyone thought he would coming into this season — and there’s that thing he has about fumbling. He’s worth putting on your roster if you have Parker or if your alternative is Ahman Green. Limit your expectation against Baltimore on Monday night. It could be another low-scoring, defensive affair for the Steelers.

Rudi Johnson, RB Detroit Lions

Oh boy, did you see that great game that Rudi had against the 49ers! Now, let me break down what I just said: Rudi had one great game against the 49ers. He’s still splitting time at RB even though he seems to have won some points with the coaching staff after his 131 total yards and a touchdown this week. Both teams were running the ball pretty well, and I’ll give you that Rudi has the hot hand. Still, I am not a true believer. When you get cut from an NFL franchise that is hurtin’ terribly for some movement on offense, you must have a defect besides your high bill.

You can pick him up if you are lacking at RB, but don’t go dropping anybody major (see: anyone with less fluke potential). It remains to be seen how much the Lions will even be able to run the ball this year when they give up 21 points just by starting the game clock. There’s always garbage time?

Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders

Role is not certain right now for Bush, but with Fargas hurt, he’s a must grab. I like him almost as much as I like McFadden, and Bush could end up being a big TD vulture to McFadden’s flashy runs similar to how LenDale White and Chris Johnson work.

Brandon Lloyd, WR Chicago Bears

Chicago is where receivers go to die, but maybe, Chicago just makes all wideouts the inverse. Stay with me here. If you were a good WR and went to Chicago, you got pretty bad, BUT if you were a bad WR or a “Wait, who?” wide receiver, now you have a chance.

Lloyd seems to be benefiting from when Kyle Orton, lacking in the neck beard department this season, throws one out there. He’s had five and six receptions respectively in the last two weeks with 124 yards and a score this past week. He just might be a decent WR3 option at this point when the Neckbeard, ahem, excuse me, Kyle Orton is passing the ball against weak defenses — they still probably won’t let him come out to play much against the good guys.

Matt Jones, WR Jacksonville Jaguars

Sigh…he’s made the jump. I really hoped I could ignore the coke fiend until he dropped off the map, but he really does seem like he can carry a role in the passing offense for Jacksonville this year. If what they are saying is true, the pass-first offense in Jacksonville that Garrard could lead after their bye week rest could utilize a guy like Jones-y. Pick him up if you need him; just don’t talk to me about him.

Bobby Engram and Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks

They are supposed to return Week 5, but Branch might be seen in Week 4. If they aren’t on a roster, make it so. Hasselbeck needs them like I need cake, and I NEED cake.

Ones to Watch — Guys to be cautious about, but get them if you need them

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

It’s Huard’s turn to try and right the ship for Kansas City. Thigpen didn’t “wow” with his INT-heavy performance last week. Huard is still an emergency or bye week option unless he has Dwayne Bowe on his fantasy team. You don’t really want to have Chiefs on your fantasy team unless you’re forced into it. My deepest condolences to all the Kansas City Chiefs’ mothers playing fantasy.

Trent Green, QB St. Louis Rams

Well, if you were impressed by what Bulger could do in this offense, wait until you see what Green can do. I think there’s already an over/under in Vegas for how many snaps he gets to take before his next — and possibly final — concussion. Green playing for the Rams might be the worst player decision (from a health standpoint) all season — including Merriman almost playing the entire season on a floating pile of knee.

Billy Miller, TE New Orleans Saints

Miller benefits from Shockey being injured, but he won’t do much for fantasy. He’s worth keeping an eye on while Shockey and Colston are down and out, you know, for kicks or something.

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens

Another “wait and see” sort of guy that you can jump on now if you need some RB help. He carried some of the load while McGahee was out, and he got another decent dose on Sunday when McGahee got cut (as in bleeding, not from the team). As long as the starting two RBs (McGahee and Ray Rice) don’t turn into big bleeders, McClain will probably drop back into a TD vulture or short yardage guy. We know that the Ravens are going to run the ball A LOT with Flacco under center, so he’s got some value in the range of Michael Pittman, which isn’t terrible at the moment. Two touchdowns is nothing to forget about.

Miles Austin, WR Dallas Cowboys

You guys know that I don’t think a ton of popcorn-fingers Patrick Crayton. Austin’s a speed guy and more likely to assume a complimentary role to Terrell Owens than Sam Hurd, who T.O. sort of took under his wing as his backup. Crayton won’t disappear, but Austin could take looks away from Crayton when the Cowboys put three receivers on the field. Miles racked up 152 yards and a score on just two receptions. His big play ability could earn him fantasy WR3 status.

Antonio Bryant, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers

His value is dependent upon Brian Griese throwing as much as he did and Galloway’s injury. Two factors against your potential make you watch-worthy rather than snag-worthy. He assumes Galloway’s value as long as he’s a starter — not too shabby the way Griese is throwing. Take him if you are a Galloway owner, but you might be able to wait otherwise. He did have 138 yards against Chicago.

Justin McCareins, WR Tennessee Titans

If he is healthy and Justin Gage remains out this week, he might be the best receiving option the Titans have, which makes him pretty far down the list but he runs out on the field and tries to catch the ball. If you have a bye week in a deep league, you might not be able to be picky.

Jordy Nelson, WR Green Bay Packers

I got my eye on you, kid. Show me what those big hands can do, and you just might make a squad as my WR3.

And because rumors make friends in fantasy football…

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns

If Derek Anderson can’t get it done against Cincinnati, it might be the final nail in his fluke coffin. Quinn might get his shot.

Dan Orlovsky or Drew Stanton, QB Detroit Lions

Kitna hurt his knee in the last game, and the Lions might actually start looking towards the future. Orlovsky is the next guy in line, but Stanton’s got that bold “I’m supposed to be your guy” quality that screams “rebuilding.” In the immediate future, Orlovsky probably gets the judgment call in this one and tries to make up the 21-point deficit for the Lions. If you are deep at QB with a roster spot to spare, stash and grab. Whoever starts in Detroit is worthy of fantasy consideration just because they have so much invested in their passing game.

No one’s really worth ignoring at this point, so let’s talk…

Guys you should have taken by now:

Steve Slaton, RB Houston Texans — could be the guy in Houston moving forward

Chris Perry, RB Cincinnati Bengals – getting most of the carries and scored against two tough defenses already this season

Guys you can consider dropping:

Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers — Where are those two TE sets of dominance Mike Martz? Vernon Davis is not a starting TE anymore. Two big games with no-show performances. Bench until further notice or replace.

Ted Ginn, Jr., WR Miami Dolphins — I don’t think he knows he plays. Maybe he is just outrunning Pennington’s arm? If you can do better on the wire, you should.

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans – As much as I like him, you can afford to let him hang in the wind a few weeks until the QB situation shakes out for the Titans

Justin Fargas, RB Oakland Raiders – Injury or no injury, he might never get back on the field with Bush/McFadden there to tear things up

Alge Crumpler, RE Tennessee Titans — If you can find him on your roster, you are doing better than the Titans. They can’t find him on the field.

Kenny Watson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — not really threatening Chris Perry much right now

Kevin Jones, RB Chicago Bears — all they know is Forte in Chicago

Courtney Taylor, WR Seattle Seahawks — you know what will happen when Engram and Branch return

Off-season Update: Running backs take focus this week, QBs and WRs stink it up [NFL News]

Everyone took pity on quarterbacks this week. Atlanta saw fit to bring back Joey Harrington after releasing him–even though we all know they will probably pick a QB up in the draft *cough* Matt Ryan *cough*. The Rams chose Trent Green to be the back up to Marc Bulger, but is it good practice to pick a concussion-prone quarterback as the best back up for an oft-injured Bulger? Me thinks the Rams will need a solid third quarterback on the roster if they plan to make it through the season.

Sadly, the New York Giants, not to be seen as uncharitable, decided they had enough money leftover from the Super Bowl blow parties to bring back the white-gloved wonder David Carr. I really thought we were going to get rid of him this year. Apparently, my gut feeling doubted the power of the gloves.

But enough about that. The real meat of this week’s free agent moves was in the running backs.

While the hot buzz item is Shaun Alexander‘s likely boot from Seattle after the signing of Julius Jones, Detroit made the big cut in axing Kevin Jones. Due to Jones’ brittle nature, Tatum Bell will finally get more carries in Detroit. Maybe Tatum can finally escape his “journeyman” label in a Detroit offense re-making the run game–Hashmarks sees his potential–but Detroit still has a long way to go. In short, Bell may be fantasy relevant this season, but he won’t be at the top of any lists.

With draft implications, Jesse Chatman of the one-win Miami of 2007 moved over to the New York Jets to act as a back up and potential change of pace back for Thomas Jones. Behind the offensive line that the Jets built this offseason, both RBs could see fantasy relevance, but it could be Darren McFadden replacing Jesse Chatman as the second man in that rotation after the draft.

Note: I don’t believe that the Jets will pass on McFadden if he falls to them. Jones is no astonishing talent, and McFadden could work miracles behind the O-line the Jets have put together.

The Houston Texans–who everyone thinks will also not be passing on any RBs in this year’s draft–seem to be set on taking free agent running backs from now on. Even though they are “really high” on this Chris Taylor kid who didn’t see a down due to injury in 2007, the Houston Texans went out and signed Chris Brown, formerly of the Titans. Depth charts are definitely uncertain in Houston now as they could still take one more RB left in the draft and then, hopefully, release a lot of their broken has-beens like Ahman Green and Ron Dayne. In addition, we now know that Chris Brown never likes to be the only Chris in his position on any team [see: Chris Henry of Titans].

Warrick Dunn found new life in Tampa Bay with their oodles of extra money this offseason. Even with rumors of Cadillac Williams not being able to return though, I can’t see Dunn being more than a back up or lightly used back behind Earnest Graham to start 2008.

The Bucs also saw fit to invest in Antonio Bryant, the troubled receiver that hasn’t found a place to call home since being shipped out of Dallas. He is likely to not be much of an impact.

Non-impact seemed to be a theme in any area besides running backs this week. Drew Carter signed with the Raiders after posting a fantasy footnote in Carolina last year. I expect him to be third behind Javon Walker and Ronald Curry, but he could surprise me if he ever lives up to his “burner” status. I just haven’t seen it.

One receiver that could be of use is Justin McCareins, back in Tennessee after his stint with the Jets last season. The Titans know how to use him, and he has to catch better than the core group of slippery-fingered banana-handlers they have now. I might actually look to snag Vince Young as my QB2 this year in a later round if they can rebuild the receiving game this offseason. A rookie WR in the draft could give it some edge.

With free agency winding down, look for a newly updated mock draft and more fantasy offseason list making than you could ever desire from a fantasy site coming in the next several days.