Week 17 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Championship Edition?

First of all, why are you guys still having your championship in Week 17? That’s like playing a game of chess for hours only to bring in toddlers to play out the final three moves. Why would you do that? And where did you get chess-playing toddlers?

This week, I absolutely love everyone involved with the Denver and San Diego passing games. Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if Darren Sproles goes off for a long touchdown or if LaDainian Tomlinson gets some decent yardage and a score, but this game that will be decided by the arms of In Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers.

I am not sure who will step up this week, but I do like Denver a slight bit more than the Chargers. I think they have it in them to play all out for this last game.

I also love all the Falcons going up against a soft, soft St. Louis Rams that is just glad to not be the Lions these days. Michael Turner is already drooling over this one. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

In contrast, I hate everyone that will be on the field when Indianapolis takes on Tennessee. Both teams have no reason to play on Sunday, but rather than just let them forfeit, we have to watch them struggle to figure out who really cares.

My guess is that all starters are pulled before halftime, and I give the edge to Peyton Manning in the scoring department. A sneaky play from that one is Vince Young, likely to see plenty of time once old bones Kerry Collins heads to the bench.

I hate Maurice Jones-Drew this week against the Baltimore Ravens defense. Jacksonville’s passing game isn’t scary enough to keep the Ravens off of Jones-Drew at the line, and I, once again, must hate Brett Favre this week.

Even in Favre’s matchup against Miami, which would clearly favor the pass for most teams, I don’t like Favre. I think the Dolphins take care of business in the Meadowlands for a playoff spot and make Jets fans wonder what might have been if they had kept Chad Pennington around.

Of course, that won’t really stop the Patriots from steam-rolling the Bills. The Buffalo boys will keep it close enough to keep their respect, but the Patriots are going to be sure to win this one with the chance of it actually meaning something for the playoffs.

If the Pats make it anywhere close to the big show this season, people really will start to wonder what they are going to do with Matt Cassel this offseason.

In the Bengals-Chiefs game, I like all the Chiefs fantasy studs on your roster.

A Bengals team without Chad Johnson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is just going to try and run Cedric Benson all day and then call it quits at halftime with fingers crossed they have     Carson Palmer back next year.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, have some good reasons to play hard.

Larry Johnson needs to prove he still deserves to stay with the team despite his off-the-field issues, and Tyler Thigpen needs to continue to prove he can be effective as a quarterback in the NFL so that the Chiefs don’t forget about him this offseason. I am sure Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe would love to continue to get those stats up. Play your Chiefs.

And no, even though he looks like a better start than Eli Manning this week, I won’t recommend that you start David Carr. I just can’t go there.

Good luck.

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

You’re obviously starting your studs at this point. For many of you, it’s the playoffs. For others, it’s the last week before the playoffs (and you should hate that your championship game is in Week 17, where anything goes).

This week, whether you are in the playoffs are about to be, is a critical one. For the sake of consistent production, you’ll want to go with the guys that have been making your team a winner all season. The last thing you want to do is get beaten because you went out on a limb with your latest waiver wire claim.

As such, I’m not going to give you the normal start or sit list Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders. Instead, we’ll talk through some notes and concerns on players that you might be thinking about starting.

QUARTERBACKS

It’s a great week for quarterbacks, but you should be worried about Shaun Hill and Brett Favre. I think the Jets could easily win this game on the ground with Thomas Jones and that phenom run-blocking line. Favre will not have to do much at all, but I’d still start him if he is your top quarterback.

Hill, on the other hand, is a risky start because the Jets could very easily break the 49ers, and while Hill will be throwing all day, he might not have much success. I’d probably still start Hill over Favre.

Matt Cassel, even after his terrible Week 13, is a good start against Seattle. The Seahawks just aren’t good at stopping anything through the air, which is ironic I guess when you consider that they’re hawks. Despite his also dreadful performance, I’d also give Kyle Orton the nod but not over a Tony Romo or Tyler Thigpen. I’d give even Donovan McNabb the slight nod ahead of Kyle Orton simply because I think he’s on a hot streak and should fight hard against the Giants even if he doesn’t find success.

RUNNING BACKS

I’m very afraid of Tim Hightower this week despite the Golden Boy matchup against the Rams. This game could be the Kurt Warner show — and I expect it to be — so I don’t like the chances for Hightower, who’s been losing touches at the goal line to J.J. Arrington.

I also don’t really like DeAngelo Williams. He didn’t blow up against the Bucs last time he played them, and despite the fact that he was on a roll, with a lot of ground to makeup in the NFC South, Tampa Bay should come to play. I doubt many people have Williams as one of their top two backs this season since he was typically drafted around the middle and even below Jonathan Stewart.

Warrick Dunn makes me a little nervous in this one against the Panthers as well, but I’d start him before I started Williams. Don’t get me wrong. Williams is a chance I would take, but I don’t love him this week.

I do love love love Steve Slaton and Matt Forte, and I’m cautious about Marshawn Lynch. He has flashes of brilliance, but I think Lee Evans will be a larger factor in the Bills winning this game than Marshawn.

WIDE RECEIVERS

I would worry about Bernard Berrian because, regardless of the strong matchup, will the Vikings even bother to get him a score when Adrian Peterson can probably get four touchdowns in the first half?

I hate the fact that I traded Eddie Royal in a package for Brandon Marshall. I like Royal’s chances to outperform Baby T.O. In all fairness, Cutler, get back to sending the ball to Marshall and only Marshall.

Speaking of T.O., Terrell Owens could be a game changer this week, or he could be totally taken out of the game by the Steelers’ secondary. You have to start him regardless, but you can sit him if you have a gem of a matchup play. For example, I’d sit T.O. for Eddie Royal.

I’d tag Lee Evans as a must start this week with his history against Miami. Maybe he’ll actually get a score this time around with J.P. Losman going deep.

I love me some Lance Moore, even though I was slow to warm up to him this year while Colston was injured.

Mark Clayton, who seems to have turned in on late, is a daring choice to start if you are in a must-win playoff game. I don’t know how Joe Flacco keeps doing it, but I’d be nervous that Clayton falls off against a Washington secondary that has seen him come up big the past two weeks. Do you dare? I wouldn’t.

TIGHT ENDS

Start your stud, but my not-so-sleepy sleeper for this week would be Steve Heiden. Ken Dorsey could easily make him a stud in a tough matchup against the Titans, and I’m starting Heiden myself.

Good luck in your playoffs this week, and my apologies to anyone with a Week 17 championship. That hurts.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 12: What happened to my weekend

As you might have guessed, my weekend didn’t quite go as planned. You see, I got a new day job in Dallas — and no, it’s not as backup quarterback for the Cowboys despite the fact that Brad Johnson didn’t put up much of a fight.

If you’d rather skip the story and get straight to this week’s brief thoughts on fantasy football, click here to jump straight to the fantasy football content.

This weekend was supposed to be the big move. I had my things packed and ready to go, a UHAUL truck was reserved and the family was coming down to assist. As of Friday night, my plan was to load up the truck Saturday afternoon, make my Fools posts Saturday night for Week 12 and drive back Sunday morning with time to watch the Colts-Chargers game.

The rest of the games, sadly, would have to be watched as replays and on the DVR since every method I researched to watch live NFL football while driving a big UHAUL truck down the highway seemed too dangerous to do.

There was a slight detour in the plan when my mother called to tell me that my father wasn’t coming down to help me move as she drove down Saturday morning. He was still feeling a little under the weather, but I still thought the plan was going to work out. No big deal.

Of course, this backup plan now meant that I would be moving furniture with an aunt, my mother and my sister.

The plan was still on at this point to stay the night in Austin before departing for the Big D.

But then, to borrow a phrase from VH1’s Behind the Music, it all came crashing down … dun dun dun

As we were crashing out to sleep after loading most of the truck, my mom called my dad to find out that his condition has worsened. He wasn’t feeling good at all, and, in fact, he probably needed to head up to the emergency room on this late Saturday night to see a doctor.

My mother got packed up in a hurry, coordinated a team of relatives from both sides of the family to take my father to the emergency room and took off with my aunt to head back to Dallas in my aunt’s car just before midnight, and I was left to load the rest of the truck with my sister and take off a bit after them in the UHAUL for a caffeine-fueled, four-hour trip to Dallas.

I was tired, sweating out of every pore and pretty much ready to turn in when the plan got changed, so needless to say, the changed plan was looking pretty hopeless. Not only did I have to load the truck and take off to drive back, but I had to leave my car behind so that my sister and I could ride together and keep each other awake.

After loading the truck with my couch and bed, I purchased some Rockstar and some Mountain Dew, which I normally avoid, and we headed for Dallas to find out what was going on with my father.

Fortunately for my sister and me, I didn’t even come close to sleepy with some coffee-in-a-can Rockstar in my stomach and the butt-like aftertaste in my mouth. Pouring on the Mountain Dew and a big cup of highly-caffeinated truck stop coffee pretty much sealed the deal.

That coffee could wake the dead.

A little after 5 a.m. we finally got home, and I somehow managed to post a 6 a.m. start or sit for Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders before going into a coma Sunday. I felt like Pacman Jones returning from a night of making it rain.

(My dad was under a doctor’s care and going to be okay at this point, so don’t think I was blogging from the emergency room.)

With the moving, the sleep deprivation, starting a new job, a dad in the hospital and the caffeine withdrawals the last few days, I saw my weekend get zapped right out of my hands.

Despite the craziness, one good thing did come out of this weekend: at least I didn’t have to watch some of the Week 12 games like you guys did.

Unfortunately, following up on the games after the any given weekend festivities doesn’t make them much better.

Jay Cutler and Donovan McNabb are on my “don’t touch” list — right beside hot stoves and hookers. Cutler could easily come back strong, but I’m shaky about rolling into the playoffs with either. Tough games ahead could spell disaster. The Broncos look deflated, and the Eagles look like they are just trying to tie now that they realized they can do that.

It might be time to look at Shaun Hill, Tyler Thigpen or Chad Pennington if you haven’t already.

Brian Westbrook isn’t weathering the chunky, brown storm in Philly any better than McNabb. His performances the last few weeks clearly show he’s not healthy. I own him in one league, but I’ll be making contingency plans for him.

There are very few fantasy football rosters I would expect to see Deuce McAllister on after last week. He’s not getting the carries he used to get, and he’s bound to be suspended to end the season.

Even though he resurged this week, I still think Philip Rivers is a complete fantasy-fake douche. He’s going to fall flat at least once during Weeks 14-16 like he did in Week 11. A mistake there would cost you your playoffs. That’s it. He’s added to the list.

It was bound to happen, Tennessee fans. Eventually, some team was going to make the Titans receivers look like the players we thought they were.

The Jets had the perfect mix with a defensive line that could contain the run, and a group of corners that could play man-to-man on all the passing options, including Bo Scaife.

Kerry Collins didn’t have a chance to make a play, and a team like that isn’t going to make it far in the playoffs. Sorry, Titans. If they weren’t playing the Lions this weekend, I might dare to say they would start a downward spiral. How funny would it be if a deflated Titans team lost to the Lions to become the Lions’ first victory of the season?

Brett Favre has the Jets on pace for the playoffs, and it seems like he’s got that spark in the passing game. I still think the Jets will remain Thomas Jones’ team. Jones has some great matchups to end the season, which makes me wonder whether the Jets will even attempt to throw the ball.

Matt Cassel might be the real thing. He’s certainly better than Brad Johnson, but I have to believe he’s not a game-changing quarterback. Otherwise, why would he ride the bench since high school?

Will the Patriots pay for him? I doubt it, but you never know. If a team like Kansas City offers him a nice contract, he’s likely to take it for a starting job, but I still think he’s benefiting from a great situation. Without Wes Welker and Randy Moss making plays for him, Cassel’s not going to look nearly as Brady-like, even in a Pats uniform.

Welcome back to Darren McFadden and Terrell Owens. Nice to have you for the playoffs.

More impressions from the weekend? At this point, I think there’s a good feel for everyone you are starting, but post up a chat topic in the comments if you’d like to prognosticate about your chances in the fantasy playoffs.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 11: There’s no tying in football

There’s no tying in football. None. You only get one sudden death overtime, and if no team can manage to score a single point, you’re done.

It’s bad enough that Andy Reid and the Eagles have a hard time managing the clock, but before taking the field to come away even with one of the worst teams in the NFL, did no one on the sidelines discuss that the game would be over at the end of the first overtime? You know, a tie?

I think knowing that they only had a few precious minutes to score would have come in handy when the Eagles were letting the time tick by, but maybe Andy Reid was just as tired of watching the miserable performance as we were.

Left guard Todd Herremans said hearing the referee declare the game a tie was an odd experience.

“I’ve never tied before. Definitely a strange feeling,” Herremans said. “Empty. It feels like the game’s unfinished. Neither team is happy with a tie.”

I’ll tell you what made me feel empty and strange, watching Brian Westbrook collect just 60 rushing yards against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Please tell me why the Eagles would suddenly decide that their passing game was the answer against a team that is top-10 against the pass and in the bottom 10 against the run?

I should have spent the afternoon learning how to play the theremin.

Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t doing it for the Vikings during the first two weeks of the season and saw the bench so that the Vikings could give an older, wiser, smarter quarterback, Gus Frerotte, a shot.

Now that we’re halfway through the season with ol’ Gus, maybe they should go back to Tarvaris. Frerotte’s scoring in the end zone, but he’s still not a fantasy-worthy QB with nine picks in his last five games. Those Super Bowl predictions for the Vikings before this season were terribly misguided.

Why wasn’t anyone talking about the Cardinals instead? Oh yeah.

While you guys were busy salivating over Tyler Thigpen, Shaun Hill made his run at being the best backup quarterback to come in for the second half of the season. He made a pretty good case for himself with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown against the Rams…in the first half.

Thiggy and Hill could save several fantasy teams here at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Both will probably be passing quite a bit in Weeks 14, 15 and 16.

The top quarterbacks from Week 11 are Matt Cassel, Shaun Hill and Kerry Collins. How messed up is that? Very.

Kurt Warner and Jay Cutler were supposed to amaze this week, but both QBs found other ways to win while having mediocre fantasy days. Thanks, jerks.

Even worse than the QB ranks for this week, the wide receiver ranks feature Justin Gage as the leading scorer. If every team tries to take away the Titans running game from here on out, the fantasy production on that team could flip to the passing game.

I’m not saying that I would pick up any of the Titans receivers, but it might be worth watching if you are sitting on a bunch of deadbeats at receiver.

Email I just received from Joseph Addai:

Well, hello there, everyone. Just wanted to let you know that I am back. Hope you enjoyed watching me go crazy on the Texans. You better not have benched me to wait and see what I would do! The rushing schedule from here looks fantastic.

Email I received minutes later from Ryan Grant:

What he said. Me, too. kthxbai.

Peyton Hillis got two touchdowns in his first appearance as the primary back for Denver. If you have to bet on a horse out of the Broncos’ stables of misfortune, he looks like the one to take.

Tatum Bell was seen eyeing Hillis’ bags after the game but decided to steal all of Selvin Young’s underwear instead.

The real story of the week was the kid drafted in the sixth round out of Arizona, Spencer Larsen, who goes both ways.

No, really, he started on both offense and defense as Denver’s middle linebacker and fullback. What did you think I was saying?

In fact, he started on special teams as well, so I guess that means that he went three ways. No comment.

The Dallas Cowboys at least have a little fire in them now that Romo has returned, but Marion Barber is the real gear that turned to get them a win in Washington last night. Going forward, they’ll have to develop the passing game, but owners of Tony Romo and Terrell Owens are going to have to wait a little longer.

If you own the Steelers defense, you’re probably really pissed that the forward pass penalty nullified the last-second fumble recovery for a touchdown. The refs are now saying it should have counted, but even if the NFL changes the score, will your fantasy system/site update the Steelers D/ST points?

Sometimes these things get left “as is” for fantasy owners if a change isn’t made until after Monday night. I expect some controversy to come out of this one, and I want my six points!

Looking ahead at Monday night, I only have one question. Which QB will look the worst: Miss Brady Quinn or Trent “Too Smart for His Own Consciousness” Edwards?

Can’t wait to find out.

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

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

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

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

Worth Claiming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ones to Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignoring

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

Droppables

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

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

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

Foolish Thoughts on Week 10: Enter the tight end zone

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

Denver’s still got it

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

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

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

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

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

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

49ers pantsed again

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

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

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

This little Thiggy went to market

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle a light at the end of the tunnel

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

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

Tight end zones are so hot right now

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

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

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

In Thomas Jones We Trust

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

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

Tennessee and Baltimore are football teams

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

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

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

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

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

Can we use the ball machine?

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

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

Parting one-offs

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

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

Week 10 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

The triumphant return of Thursday Night Football! I always thought the Thursday night games were stretching it. We already have college games on Tuesday and Thursday if you are really feigning — granted they aren’t the most interesting games, but there is a football on a green field with guys in helmets going after it. Why do we need the NFL crowding up in our grill for three nights out of the week?

In reality, it’s all just an elaborate scheme to trick people into not setting their fantasy football rosters on time. The NFL figures right about now is when winning teams might get a little cocky and switch into autopilot. Well, here’s a Thursday game to screw you, buddy.

There are several very good things about the NFL on Thursday nights that I have to admit. For one, you have an excuse to be a lazy bum and sit at home with a sixer on a Thursday night. Leave the going out to the Brady Quinns and Matt Leinarts of the world — don’t people understand that we’re tired from reading all that fantasy football analysis?

Second, if one of your players scores big on Thursday, you get to hang it over your opponent’s head for almost a full five days if he is unfortunate enough to still has a chance going into the Monday night game. It’s so glorious that you might run out of trash talk and one-liners before Sunday morning — start prepping now.

And C (because who likes numbers that much anyway), if you go up big on Thursday, you know you can sleep late on Sunday with no concerns about who takes the early lead. You have the lead, and thus, you get to sleep through the headache and just watch your opponent try to creep up on you Sunday afternoon. Now, isn’t that nice? I guess Thursday games might be awesome after all.

There are a lot of players worth starting this week. Byes are ending, and most of your studs are back for a full tour of duty. I’ll run down a few matchup plays, but if you got a good thing going on, don’t let me screw it up, fool. Do what you have been doing. For example, start Kurt Warner until he dies (or gets injured).

Hot Hands

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Lions — I won’t bore you with lots of details. He plays the Lions, he can run and the Jags have him throwing the ball like a big-boy version of Carson Palmer these days.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Raiders — Steve Smith might be smothered by Asomugyourguy (that’s his name, I swear), but Delhomme should have free reign over the rest of the field now that DeAngelo Hall is on the streets. Oakland is just ditching people to save money at this point, and the secondary was suspect even with Hall on the field. I expect Steve to slip away for at least one big play, and after that, Delhomme will have to put on the guise that they’re still trying to mix the run and the pass against a team that all but forfeits each week.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Broncos — It’s a short week and a rough-around-the-edges, new starting quarterback against a defense that cannot stop the run. No math required. As long as Quinn doesn’t grease up the ball with his hair gel and Brute and create turnovers, Lewis will go off for a few.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. ColtsFRIDAY UPDATE: PARKER OUT SUNDAY. ESPN is reporting that Willie Parker will be out Sunday with a shoulder injury. Mewelde Moore will get the start again. Moore has shown he is capable of handling the job in place of Parker so expect about the same production from him. Here is what I said about Parker before this news: The Colts’ run defense is still a little suspect, even with the return of Bob Sanders, and the Steelers’ offense, even under the command of Byron Leftwich, can get the ball down the field. I like Parker to have a score in this one.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Patriots — That terrible Patriots secondary keeps putting it together, but the Bills are desperate for this win now that they have lost the winning pace they had to begin the season. Evans should get his just like Donnie Avery did against the Pats in Week 8.

Derrick Mason, WR Ravens vs. Texans — Flacco loves to target this guy (almost double-digit throws per game), and the Texans’ secondary is likely to let him take one to the house.

Greg Camarillo, WR Dolphins vs. Seahawks — The Seahawks are flying across three time zones and the entire United States to face a hard-hitting Miami team. Assuming he sees the 11 targets that he had last week or close to it, Camarillo makes a borderline No. 2 receiver who could easily go for 100+ yards or a score this week.

Kevin Boss, TE Giants vs. Eagles — He has scored in each of the Giants’ last two games, and the Eagles have admitted to having a problem with stopping opposing tight ends.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Seahawks — Behind Camarillo, Fasano should may see his fair share of targets as well, and last week, he managed to separate himself from David Martin by catching two passes to Martin’s zero. In fact, Martin wasn’t even targeted in Week 9. Moving forward, Fasano could develop into a starting fantasy TE (as some thought he would early in the season), but this week, he’s at least a great matchups play.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Seahawks — Joey Porter is a sack monster, and the Seahawks haven’t been able to get the ball moving without Hasselbeck. Next.

Bubble Boys

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Titans — He’s definitely a questionable start this week, so you might want to consider looking elsewhere, but he’s been too reliable against tougher run defenses in the past this season. One has to think that they might lean on Forte more than Grossman in this one, no? And anyone if given enough carries — say 50 — can produce against the Titans.

Ryan Torain, RB Broncos vs. Browns — Reports say he will have his first start this week with Selvin Young’s hamstring still bothering him, but how much can you trust a rookie that got just one yard on three carries last week? I believe he could be a solid back for the Broncos in the future, but I’m not sure he’s this season’s Ryan Grant just yet. Starting him this week isn’t necessarily something I wouldn’t do, but I would do a LOT of things if given the chance.

Billy Miller, TE Saints vs. Falcons — How much does Jeremy Shockey eat into Miller’s value? Shockey had the buy to rest up, but much like Colston came along slowly in his return from injury, Shockey might do the same. Miller could still be a borderline TE start this week, especially considering how productive he’s been through this Shockey-less stretch.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Browns — Even if he returns this week, it’s questionable where he now ranks in the offense. Prior to his injury, the argument could made that he was the No. 2 target and a prime red zone threat, but Eddie Royal may have passed him up in his absence. Either way, I’d sit him again this week in a not-so-great matchup to see how he does, but I don’t blame you for putting him in your lineup if you’ve been waiting on him.

Cold Shoulders

Marc Bulger, QB Rams vs. Jets – While they’ve been torched in the past, I have serious doubts about whether the Rams’ line can protect Bulger enough for him to attack the Jets secondary. If the Rams are without Steven Jackson and Antonio Pittman this week, the Rams are starting Kenneth Darby at RB, formerly of the Atlanta practice squad. I’d doubt he’ll fare well against the Jets run defense, and that should allow the Jets and possibly the most dominant nose tackle in the NFL right now, Kris Jenkins, to put pressure on Bulger all day.

Rex Grossman, QB Bears vs. Titans — It scares me if you are contemplating this start. Grossman will have a hard time making waves against the Titans pass defense even though the secondary has been exposed a bit over the last couple of weeks (Colts and Packers). Grossman makes bad decisions too frequently, and it’s a stretch to think his decision-making skills have improved on the bench this season. He’ll either play conservatively in this one or play terribly, so even if you picked him up, you’d be smart to let him ride the bench for a week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Vikings — A tough run defense and his own weak performance makes me doubt he’ll be productive in this one. The most owners can hope for is a short-yardage score, but it’s hard to say whether that will happen with Rodgers throwing into the Vikings’ secondary. There are worse risks you could take this week, but I wouldn’t put money on Grant.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Dolphins — With Morris back from injury, the two RBs in Seattle are now scrounging for carries. Jones is on the losing end and going up against a top-10 run defense after flying through three time zones. Yup, he’s a sit.

Justin Fargas, RB Raiders vs. Panthers — The Oakland rushing attack has fallen on hard times. While Carolina isn’t a top-10 run defense in the league, it’s hard to see Oakland sticking to their running game if Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme put a lead on them early. Fargas is a risky flex play, and I’d let him sit until he shows that the completely terrible Week 9 performance isn’t what to expect from here on out. At least you have Week 12 to look forward to for Fargas.

Rashied Davis, WR Bears vs. Titans — I’d be worried to start any Bears’ receivers with the change to Rex Grossman, and the Titans’ defense shouldn’t make it any easier for the backup to succeed. I’d sit all the Bears receivers if it came down to a close call, but if forced, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are the only two worth taking chances with this week.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Giants — Last week’s two catches for 20 yards is sign of what’s to come. With Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown back in the lineup, Jackson slides back into his rookie role as the No. 3 wide receiver. You have to figure Westbrook into that, and if Brent Celek starts at TE, he might get looks ahead of Jackson. That makes him the No. 5 receiving option overall. He’s likely to have a quiet day unless he makes something happen, but the Giants could always forget he is on the field. New York’s pass rush won’t let McNabb sit back to let a long play develop. Is he all you have got?

Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs. Packers — You may have been starting the Vikings every week outside of their bye after drafting them as the assumed No. 1 defense. While they’ve had their big days, this game shouldn’t be one of them against a Green Bay passing attack that put up numbers against the Titans secondary. They could be without Jared Allen as well, which downgrades their pass rush a bit. You might not be carrying two defenses, but it might be in your best interest to seek out a matchups play for Week 10.

Sleepers

Shaun Hill, QB 49ers vs. Cardinals — It’s no secret that the Cardinals allow you to score through the air, and the 49ers have had two weeks to prepare. Plus, in the three games he played last season, Hill was very smart with the football and minimized turnovers. After two lost fumbles in his first game, Hill had just one INT and one fumble that was recovered in his final two.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Chiefs vs. Chargers — The Chargers are another QB-friendly team, and Thigpen is on a hot streak. If he can link up with Dwayne Bowe or Tony Gonzalez, he’ll be able to give the Chargers a run just like he gave the Bucs; however, I’d worry what might be up the new San Diego defensive coordinator’s sleeve…

Peyton Hillis, RB/FB Broncos vs. Browns — With Shanny, you never know. Even though Ryan Torain is getting his first start (supposedly), we know from past experience that “starting” for Shanahan doesn’t always mean you’re the best back to play in fantasy. Hillis could easily take third-down snaps, and that might allow him to run some passes into the end zone. It’s a dangerous play, but isn’t that what you use a sleeper for?

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Free-for-all from Week 9

It’s time for change, America.

Bring me your injured, your underperforming, your studs gone duds. Together, we can reshape your fantasy team for the future into a team without injustice, without phantom starts (see: Willis McGahee) and without any of Shanahan’s running backs — well, maybe just one.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can. YES, WE CAN.

And on that very original campaign note, Fools in 2012.

I hope you all voted yesterday, but while you were busy at the polls, I was busy collecting a vast array of pickups that could help you make it to the playoffs. In fact, this might the largest waiver wire column I’ve ever written, and upon finishing it, I just wanted to call my friends in to look at it before I unleashed it on the world.

This week in fantasy football, we have another free-for-all on quarterbacks as injuries took the fantasy lives of several recent stars. Going with our theme of “change,” a handful of very bad teams had quarterbacks show promise this week, and there’s no pork in that.

With all the turnover and surprises, we’re going very, very in-depth with a long list of names and fantasy fortunes because, short of a few quick fixes, I wouldn’t expect many fantasy studs to emerge for your playoff run. Gather the depth you need and take a few chances if you can afford the roster space.

There are four more wins to be had, and these guys could be the ones to get you there and keep you there through Week 16 or 17.

It could happen in ’08, people. You can still write yourself in on that final fantasy playoff spot ballot — that is, unless you already lost Ohio.

Worth Claiming

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos – I said he might be the last man standing last week, but now he really is. Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were both placed on the IR after Week 9, so Selvin Young and whatever RB depth Shanahan finds in a back alley this week are Torain’s only competition.

Don’t be scared off by Torain’s one yard on Sunday in three carries. Shanahan wants to bring him along slowly, but if Selvin Young’s hamstring is still holding him back, Torain should get the start against the Browns this week.

Of course, after one series, Shanahan will probably make sure that 75 percent of the touches go to Peyton Hillis so that Hillis looks like the best fantasy back in Denver. Oh, how I hate you, Leatherface.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens — McGahee hasn’t been healthy all season, and after disappearing off the map, Rice exploded in Week 9 with 154 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving.

In Week 10 against the Texans, Harbaugh says that both McGahee and Rice will carry the football, but I’d bet Rice sees more looks. The schedule is unkind to Baltimore running backs after this week, but we know they’ll run the football until the very end.

Jamaal Charles, RB Kansas City Chiefs — Much like Torain, Charles is the one and only for the Chiefs…until Larry Johnson returns at least. Charles had 100+ yards against the Bucs, a very tough defense, on only 18 carries.

Johnson remains suspended for Week 10, so Charles could handle a majority of the load against the Chargers. While the Chargers are right in the middle — 16 out of 32 — as far as run defenses go, many a team has had a problem containing Charles. I saw him play at Texas, and when he’s making the right moves and holding onto the ball, he can be deadly — “Let Booby spin!”

When Johnson returns in Week 11, it’ll be interesting to see where the Chiefs want the carries to go, but the rock could stay in Charles hands for a good while with a strong showing this week. We know L.J. is lacking in the gold stars and brownie points.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — He’s a lock for a score at least once in every Patriots game until Sammy Morris’ or LaMont Jordan’s return. If both continue to sit, “Law Firm” is a decent option in week 10 against Buffalo.

After that, his production against the Jets, Dolphins and Steelers will probably trail off until Sammy Morris or LaMont Jordan make him irrelevant. For now, he’s a solid depth option, and he’s got such a cool nickname.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks — It’s a split, but I like his half better than Julius Jones’ half. A few good matchups still to come for the Seattle run game, and the passing game doesn’t provide much competition.

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins – He’s still not reliable enough to put all your hopes in after his low-scoring Week 9 performance — that’s why I ignored you last week, Ginn — but don’t take him off your radar just yet.

He doesn’t play a solid secondary for the rest of the season, so Chad Pennington might find him again and again and again. You’ll probably have to get him on your roster now to have him when he goes off again, so add him for some depth if you can or if you’re desperately seeking a WR to stay in the hunt.

Just try not to start him until he has another good game.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — Hill’s actually my top QB rec this week if you lost one or need a filler for a few more weeks. He’s a Mike Martz quarterback, and he faces the Cardinals, Rams, Cowboys and Bills before playoffs. Only two of those teams rank in the top half of passing defenses, and those same two (Cowboys and Bills) currently have banged up corners. In the fantasy playoffs, Hill faces the Jets, Dolphins and Rams again.

He showed good ball control last season in giving just one interception in three games, and with Martz backing him, he could more productive than he was last season. Maybe he can break the 200-yard mark more frequently, which he almost did in the last half of the game in Week 8.

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns — Yeah, so that happened. The Browns are making the switch to Brady. I am sure the Browns female fan base is excited, but frankly, I don’t like Quinn anymore than I like Derek Anderson. In fact, I might like him less.

Quinn looked iffy in the preseason, and I couldn’t quite form an opinion on him versus Derek Anderson. He’s not exactly a rookie with almost a full two seasons in the Browns system under his belt, but I expect him to make mistakes, force the ball to Braylon Edwards and maybe even lean on the tight end. Fortunately, the Browns have a pretty good one in Kellen Winslow.

Seems like this move is just one of those “okay, fans, we’re trying” efforts, and I don’t like it. Still, if you had Anderson on your roster, Quinn should produce similar numbers after overcoming growing pains in promising games against the Broncos, Bills, Texans and Colts.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City Chiefs — When you’re a young quarterback, you just have to hope you end up landing somewhere with a dependable tight end and a dominant wide receiver to target. Luckily for Thigpen, he’s got that, and it’s done him well the past two weeks.

He’s also got a few trick plays up his sleeves and some nice matchups over the next four weeks: Chargers, Saints, Bills and Raiders with fantasy playoffs against Broncos, Chargers and Dolphins.

It’s hard to recommend him with any certainty because he’s no lock to put up points, but he hasn’t turned over the ball and has Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. I think he’s a sleeper to keep it up through the end of the season, but at least you know that he won’t hurt you too badly if he falls in production.

And for some reason, it disgusts me less to recommend young Thigpen than it did to point out Kyle Orton’s success this season. Is it all in the neck beard? Only time will tell.

Sage Rosenfels, QB Houston Texans — Matt Schaub was knocked out for a month with a knee injury. Now Texans fans can finally get that Sage they’ve been looking for this season?

What? They don’t WANT him to start after he helicoptered his way back in the backup role against the Colts?

Rosenfels takes over one of the most potent offenses in fantasy football this weekend, but he also faces the Ravens, Colts, Browns and Jaguars before Schaub returns. That’s not exactly the stretch you want to see for a guy who is known to lead big drives only to end them with a fatal mistake.

It’ll be risky picking him up and expecting studs like Andre Johnson to produce for him in tougher games, but at least the Ravens secondary isn’t at full strength for Week 10.

Claim him if you have Schaub and don’t want to chance other options, but if you are already a lock for the playoffs, why not take chance on someone like Thigpen to produce for you? (Wow, now I’m cheerleading for the guy. Someone virtual-slap me.)

Daunte Culpepper and/or Drew Stanton, QB Detroit Lions — I think the best part of Dan Orlovsky’s current thumb injury is that he had “zero” doubt about playing in Week 10. Maybe Orlovsky’s struggles are due to his misunderstanding of math and percentages? Perhaps he thinks the Lions 0 percent win percentage is a good thing.

Regardless, a thumb injury has him out for Week 10 and possibly much longer. We don’t really know how long at this point.

Drew Stanton knows the system but doesn’t have the confidence of the coaching staff, which is probably why they signed Daunte Culpepper. But Culpepper, a week into the job and almost a year removed from playing football, will be a shaky start in Week 10 against the Jaguars. Marinelli expected him to pick up the offense quickly but not this quickly.

If I had to choose one, I’d take Culpepper for the possible start in Week 10 and the more likely start long-term. Culpepper could develop into a nice No. 2 QB during fantasy playoffs. He plays the Vikings, Colts and Saints, and he has “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson) to throw to each week.

Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears – See how that happens? All this outpouring of Kyle Orton love coming out before his game against the Lions, and then a fat Lion takes out his ankle.

With Orton out for four weeks, Grossman is your starter. He’s a shaky start against the Titans, Packers and resurgent Rams defense with his tendency to throw interceptions, but he’s not a bad desperation play.

At least he’ll be able to lean on Matt Forte outside of this week against the Titans.

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants — Two touchdowns in the past two games, and even though he’s a little banged up with a bad ankle, he faces a Philly defense in Week 10 that’s admitted to having a problem covering tight ends. How’s that sound?

Dan Carpenter, K Miami Dolphins — He’s not on many radars, but Carpenter has put up 29 fantasy points in the last two weeks with seven field goals made and four extra points in that span. The best fantasy sign is that the Dolphins are lining him up deep. Three of his attempts in Week 9 were more than 40 yards out, but he hasn’t been asked to kick one longer than 50.

If he continues to get this many long field goal chances or more extra points once the Dolphins’ offense starts scoring left and right against a bunch of weak fantasy defenses (Seahawks, Raiders, Patriots, Rams, Bills, 49ers, Chiefs), then he could be one of the best kickers to own in the second half.

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Minnesota Vikings — Three touchdowns in his past four games.

Derrick Mason, WR Baltimore Ravens — PPR monster with 130+ and a score in Week 9, but a rough schedule from here.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR Indianapolis Colts — Two TDs in Week 9.

Greg Camarillo, WR Miami Dolphins — More reliable than Ginn and 100+ yards in Week 9.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles – Finally showing up with 83 yards, but tough schedule the rest of the way.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals — Now starting and eating touchdowns for breakfast.

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons — Not blasting you out of your seat, but good QB2 production and getting better.

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — He’s sort of back and has an easier schedule in the second half.

Ones to Watch

Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker, RB New Orleans Saints — We’re getting close to Deuce McAllister’s appeal, so we’ll know soon enough whether he’ll be leaving the Saints’ services. If so, both are likely to produce numbers until the return of Reggie Bush, who might throw things out the window again.

Week 11, the Saints have the Chiefs followed by the Packers, and if for some reason Bush isn’t back by Week 14, then the Saints backs have Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit. Playing the Lions in the fantasy championship game? Check and mate.

Selvin Young, RB Denver Broncos — If he’s healthy, the starting could be his…or Peyton Hillis’…or it might belong to the guy that guy in a cubicle next to you. Regardless, he has value when healthy, and if someone was silly enough to drop him, he could fight for you in games against the Browns, Falcons, Raiders, Jets, Chiefs and Bills.

The playoff section of that run isn’t great, but his return in Week 11 could help you get there. Keep in mind that the Broncos are now a pass-first offense, and pick him up as you see fit.

J.J. Arrington, RB Arizona Cardinals — The speedy back has taken the No. 2 spot in the RB depth chart now that Tim Hightower is the starter. Edgerrin James is not likely to get more than handful of carries in any game, and on Sunday, Arrington was involved in 11 plays with 62 rushing yards and 57 receiving yards.

As long as he’s being used as the compliment to Hightower, Arrington could post similarly impressive numbers, but he’s boom or bust as a third-down, big-play back. Let’s see what he can do against the 49ers in Week 10 before he goes on a roster.

Sidney Rice, WR Minnesota Vikings — The Vikings have been more productive passing the ball, but Rice is just now returning from injury and might not have a chance to make an impact. Even though he caught a TD on Sunday, that was his only catch. Still, if you are preparing for the playoffs, he gets the Lions, Cardinals and Falcons in Weeks 14-16. That’s promising if he gets back in this offense by then.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — A former QB and emerging star in the Kansas City offense. He’s been a big part of Thigpen’s success and might be worth jumping on now if you can afford to chance it. Bowe and Tony Gonzalez can both pull double coverage at times to leave Bradley open for a play.

Byron Leftwich, QB Pittsburgh Steelers — If Roethlisberger misses any time with his bruised AC joint, Leftwich should be a capable filler QB in Week 10 against the Colts. Don’t underestimate the Colts passing defense, but to win, the Steelers might have to put some points on the board.

An even better matchup looms large in Week 11 against the Chargers, but I doubt fantasy owners can expect Big Ben to miss that much time. If you just can’t find a QB this week or want to take a chance, keep your eye on the QB situation in Pittsburgh.

Joe Flacco, QB Baltimore Ravens — If you need a quarterback, there are plenty of options this week (see above), but Flacco should be one of the best. He has put up a very good two weeks, and he faces the Texans.

After Week 10 though, he’s probably not worth a roster spot with an intimidating run against the Giants, Eagles, Bengals, Redskins, Steelers and Cowboys.

Yeah, if you don’t need him this week, just keep an eye on him in case miracle juice starts spraying out of his arm after Week 10.

Brent Celek, TE Philadelphia Eagles — So he’s more than just a backup…maybe? Celek, much like Billy Miller, now makes an intriguing fill as long as L.J. Smith is hurt. Smith is expected to make his return in Week 10, but he is currently still listed as questionable.

If he doesn’t go, Celek could get the start against the Giants, ranked second against the pass, and even if Smith is healthy, we’ll have to see how much the Week 9 franchise record-setting performance helped Celek’s stock with the Philly coaching staff.

Consistency is hard to find in the Philly offense, but Celek is worth keeping an eye on if you need depth at the tight end position.

Desmond Clark, TE Chicago Bears — Greg Olsen is to Kyle Orton as Desmond Clark is to Rex Grossman. Rexy just likes the big guy better, and word on the street is that the Chicago passing game might move back to using the tight ends more as short-range options.

Keep your eye on Clark to see how much he factors in. We know Rex will have to escape quite a bit against the Titans in Week 10 and the Vikings in Week 13 until Kyle Orton comes back under the helm.

But even if he finds success with Rex, Clark’s not a playoff depth option when Kyle Orton returns.

Derek Fine, TE Buffalo Bills — Fine is one “fine” tight end (Forgive me) if you just look at his 43-yard, one touchdown stat line from Week 9, but the rest of this season, he’s put up blanks.

If Buffalo involves him in the offense more frequently than the other TEs now that they are lacking a dependable No. 2 receiving threat, Fine could continue to be “fine.” (Sorry, again — they flow out like candy.) Keep your eye on him in Week 10 against the Patriots.

Defenses to watch for the fantasy playoffs:

Arizona Cardinals D/ST — STL, MIN, @NE for a defense that has been deadly at home.

Miami Dolphins D/ST — @BUF, SF, KC with a sack machine coming on strong and an improving secondary.

Ignoring

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — 100+ yards?!? And a score? The saddest part of Benson’s Week 9 performance was that it was only the third 100+ yard game of his career. THIRD. That’s just crazy.

Unfortunately, unless your playoff bound, he probably won’t ever do it again for you. He faces off against the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens after returning from a bye in Week 10. Sad but true.

The only good matchups remaining on his plate are the Colts in Week 14 (who just got back Bob Sanders) and the Browns in Week 16 — come on, you playing Benson for your championship game. If you have a Week 17 championship game though, he does face the Chiefs, and that could be a worthy start.

Unless you’re going to the playoffs, you can probably safely drop this one-week wonder or wait to see what happens against the Titans. Geesh.

Peyton Hillis, RB Denver Broncos — He caught a lot of passes in Week 9 (116 yards and a TD), but it’s hard to see that happening again this season.

Then again, I guess I said the same thing after Leonard Weaver had his day for Seattle. Shanahan could use his evil force powers on this one and make Hillis the feature back in Week 10, but I still stand by ignoring him as a waiver wire pickup.

If Shanahan makes him worth something, he’s likely to be gone as quickly as he came…I hope. Torain is the guy I would grab from Denver.

Koren Robinson, WR Seattle Seahawks — I think that was a miracle play for the Seahawks, and lightning is not likely strike twice in the same spot. That’s a fact.

Droppables

Rather than make this article cross any further into the 3000+ word realm, I’ll end here, but if you have any questions about who you should drop to get any of these guys, you know what to do!

Hint: Drop them in the comments!

Dude… Tyler Thigpen

Yeah, I said it. Tyler Thigpen. It was popular to hate on him when he first got the start in Kansas City. We all expected Daunte Culpepper to sign with the Chiefs and immediately take Thigpen’s job away.

Luckily for Thigpen, Culpepper knew he was going to be able to crush Dan Orlovsky’s thumb in a handshake to steal the starting job.

Throwing for 164 yards and a touchdown with 22 yards rushing, Thigpen wasn’t the most impressive stat line from this weekend, but he was helped by a 37-yard TD grab on a trick play to end up tied for the top score in fantasy with Kurt Warner and Chris Johnson. Who knew?

No, really. Who? I want names because this shouldn’t be happening.

To fill in for the announcers, Mark Bradley was, in fact, a quarterback in a past life. He played five positions in high school and threw 35 TDs as a senior.

Unfortunately, the Bucs came back to win it 30-27. The Bucs defense just doesn’t play the first half anymore.

Thigpen’s played solid football for the last two weeks, and he might actually be worth starting in fantasy football (in an emergency spot) if he can minimize mistakes. His schedule isn’t the most difficult one a QB has to face in the last half of the season.

For his talented catch and score, Thigpen takes home the Dude…Award for this week and a shiny penny to rub each time he wishes for the Chiefs not to draft a QB in the first round this offseason.

Players falling just short of dude-ism:

  • Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs — 106 yards rushing, but dude…his teammate showed him up this week.
  • Antonio Bryant, WR Buccaneers — 8 passes for 115 yards and a score, but dude…he almost lost to the Chiefs.
  • Tim Hightower, RB Cardinals — 109 yards rushing and a score, but dude…to quote the illustrious Pacman Jones, “It’s the Rams.”
  • Derrick Mason, WR Ravens — 9 passes for 136 yards and a score, but dude…he was second in the running but just didn’t make the cut. Try passing the ball as well next time, Mason.
  • Ray Rice, RB Ravens — 154 yards rushing, 3 passes for 22 yards receiving, but dude… Cam Cameron made him do it. He really did.
  • Donald Driver, WR Packers — 7 passes for 136 yards receiving and a score, but dude…old faithful’s day was more likely than Thigpen’s. Lightning striking me on my lunch break was more likely, too.
  • Chris Johnson, RB Titans — 89 yards rushing and score, 6 passes for 72 yards receiving, but dude…isn’t the rookie of the year enough to reward this kid? We saw this coming.
  • Matt Forte, RB Bears — 126 yards rushing, 1 pass for 5 yards, but dude…yardage just won’t cut it against the Lions.
  • Cedric Benson, RB Bengals — 104 yards and a score, 1 pass for 5 yards, but dude…he creeps me out with his scoring line eerily similar to Forte’s this week.
  • Owen Daniels, TE Texans — 11 passes for 133 yards, but dude…the Texans now have one of the most potent passing offenses in football. We expected it from you, Daniels.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 9: Cowboys in trouble, Raiders miss Kiffin and every bad start has his day

Foolish Thoughts is the weekly column of Jacob Sloan, Fantasy Football Fools’ editor-in-chief, that recaps significant news, notes and performances from the weekend of fantasy football and what it all means for fantasy owners. Foolish Thoughts goes live on Tuesdays at FantasyFootballFools.com and is now available with half the fat.

A Cowboys fan lives above me.

I know this because every interception the Cowboys QB-of-the-moment threw and even T.O.’s fumble was followed by a very angry stomping and a firm bang on a table. My digital TV signal on the game must have been just behind his broadcast, and it provided just a bit of companionship while I watched the Giants trounce my homeboys on Sunday.

It was almost better knowing to look away every time I heard the banging begin.

The Cowboys are just bad right now, but if you own a piece of the Dallas fantasy powerhouse, don’t go trading them away at bargain basement prices just yet.

For kicks, do you remember when everyone was suggesting you get a piece of the Cowboys after Tom Brady went down in Week 1? I bet you wish you had auctioned them off in a trade offer then.

Sorry, I had to bring it up.

The Cowboys have a bye week to work things out, but don’t expect your same old Cowboys to come out in Week 11. The offense is out-of-sync, and some of the blame goes to the offensive line that isn’t holding up to their big-wall-of-man-meat pedigree.

Tony Romo will be back at QB, but those offensive line problems are only minimized by Romo’s ability to get outside of the pocket and make a play. The line will still have to step up against the Steelers and the Giants later this season for Romo to have a chance at keeping the Cowboys in it.

If you want to be optimistic, Dallas has a good chance to be productive on offense after their bye. The Cowboys should have Roy Williams fully installed in the offense by Week 11, and his threat on the opposite side should free up Terrell Owens and make them both productive enough to start.

Just keep in mind that they’ll probably have good games like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin have good games — one gets 100 yards while the other gets two touchdowns.

Marion Barber will continue to be “The Barbarian,” and Jason Witten should heal up enough to work the middle routes.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the Cowboys defense won’t stop anything — at least for fantasy owners.

I am much less hopeful about the Raiders.

The Lane Kiffin firing has knocked the wind out of them, and Justin Fargas lacks that extra step he had last season. I never understood their reasoning in keeping Fargas by extending his contract this offseason, but then again, who understands Al Davis?

One of the top rushing offenses in football last season couldn’t even get 100 yards against an up-and-coming Atlanta defense that’s been torched on the ground and ranks better than just ten teams against the run (22 of 32). I think it’s only because I had to play against a team that started the Falcons D/ST this week. I like to think positive like that — you know, glass half full.

The Raiders just don’t know what they’re doing anymore, and the only player that might still have a few stud games left in him, Darren McFadden, is too banged up to see the field.

I’d keep Fargas and McFadden for depth, but I think I’d boot any other Raider not named Zach Miller from my fantasy team until they show signs of life.

Apparently, there were angels in the end zone all over the NFL in Week 9.

The Lions held onto a lead…until it mattered. The Chiefs pushed a good defense into an overtime shootout…but lost. But after a long wait, the Bengals won the lottery by hitting Jacksonville on a bad day.

Going into the late game Sunday, Tyler Thigpen was the fantasy scoring leader. That makes me sicker than Kyle Orton looking as good as Peyton Manning this season.

Thigpen was accompanied by surprise performances from Cedric Benson, Chad Johnson,   Jamaal Charles, Brent Celek, Dan Orlovsky, Ray Rice, Michael Jenkins and Kevin Smith. (You’ll probably see some of those names in the Dude… Awards for this week.)

When bad teams do well, a lot of bad starts suddenly burst out on the scene. It really is true that every dog has his day…unless you’re talking about the Browns.

Is Ocho Cinco back? I doubt it. Every year, he has a big day and follows it up with a bunch of stinkers. I’d trade him for someone more trustworthy now if anyone wants to ride that crazy, publicity-crazed wave.

Ray Rice, while he’s only seen limited action, could be the next big thing if McGahee stays out for any length of time. Cam Cameron could make me into a Pro Bowl rusher. Just give him a whole preseason to work with me…and give me a stunt double.

Surprising owners by not sucking is timeless

Both Derrick Mason and Donald Driver went for 130+ and a score despite all the doubters this week. You don’t have to be young to have moves. Torry Holt even (sort of) reclaimed the top spot in St. Louis from Donnie Avery by getting a TD this week.

Mason’s a good WR3 start every week, especially in PPR, as long as Joe Flacco keeps throwing everything in his direction.

How many people got burned by Willis McGahee?

I did. In TWO leagues, and I was only able to overcome it in one.

Anytime you dress a player and say you expect him to play, you must put him into the game for at least one carry. That’s fantasy law. You hear me, Harbaugh?

And for the record…

ESPN’s projections for my fantasy team were definitely a little overzealous. Granted, we couldn’t have seen how the games were going to go down this week, but for being the No. 1 projected player in fantasy, Lee Evans underperformed with only three points.

And because I like to dream…

Tennessee Titans in the ‘Wildcat’ offense. Think about it.

Snap the ball to Chris Johnson with LenDale White in the backfield and Vince Young split out as wide receiver. The defense would not be able to stop that, AND as an added bonus, I could stand to watch Titans games.

Kerry Collins is just too boring as a game manager when he’s not drinking. The ‘Wildcat’ style of offense is a package that Vince Young could rock. Young and Johnson running a reverse would be hard enough to follow, and if the Titans had any kind of a deep threat receiver, teams wouldn’t be able to spy them all day.

So what do you think, ‘Wildcat’ in Tennessee? Or is Fisher saving that for the Super Bowl?

The Colts will make the playoffs. Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai can get them there as long as 10 wins earns them a wild card spot.

Foolish live blogging still in beta

We live blogged the games on Sunday, and it seems like the viewers and commenters who dropped by it enjoyed it. If you liked/disliked it or the way we did it, be sure to post a comment.

We’ll try to adapt it and find a way to make it more awesome each week — just like everything else we do.

For one, we’ll probably reduce the amount of posts, so that reviewing the live blog after the games isn’t as overwhelming for those of you who didn’t swing by on Sunday.

Of course, you can always catch my thoughts here every week in Foolish Thoughts.