Thursday, November 13, 2008

Leave your fantasy prejudices behind

There’s no room for bias or prejudice in fantasy sports.

As much as I personally loathe the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook have been very, very good to my fantasy teams over the years. And as loyal as I am to the New York Giants as a third-generation fan, I realize Eli Manning isn’t always the wisest fantasy choice (although he’s been pretty good so far for the 8-1 G-Men).

Biases and prejudices in fantasy don’t just extend to your favorite football team and its rivals. Sometimes we hold onto unfair opinions about individual players and teams, even when they run contrary to the facts.

Case in point: Kurt Warner. The knock on him for years is that he’s old, injury prone, fumble prone, and his best years were a product of Mike Martz’s system in St. Louis. Maybe there’s some truth to that, and that’s why Warner was passed over on draft day for a multitude of other quarterbacks, including teammate Matt Leinart, who is younger and more party prone.

But if you’ve seen Warner’s Arizona Cardinals play this year or checked the stat sheet, you’d see they are fourth in the league in pass attempts a game (342) but 20th in sacks allowed (16), a formula that has allowed Warner to stay upright, utilize his talented receiving corps and put together an MVP-caliber performance.

Letting go of your preconceived notions and trusting Warner as your every-week starter would be a wise move. And while you’re at it, here are some other old prejudices that need to be erased:

g Any QB would look good throwing the ball to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.

Still not sold on Warner, huh? Having Boldin and Fitzgerald certainly helps, but he’s also made third receiver Steve Breaston (seven catches, 121 yards last week) a legit fantasy pickup and fourth receiver Jerheme Urban (18 catches, two TDs in his past six games) a deep sleeper. So there.

g The Atlanta Falcons stink.

That was the consensus entering this season, and it scared most of us away from anyone wearing black and red other than tailback Michael Turner. But while Turner’s been a stud, Matt Ryan and Roddy White have blossomed into one of the league’s deadliest pass-catch combos in Ryan’s rookie season. All three of those guys are must-starts at this point, particularly against the woeful Denver Broncos defense this week. Even backup running back Jerious Norwood (105 total yards, TD last week) is capable of busting a big play or two.

g The Kansas City Chiefs stink.

OK, maybe this one’s true. But that doesn’t mean quarterback Tyler Thigpen isn’t worth your time. Thigpen, who started the year as KC’s third quarterback, is coming off a three-TD performance against the San Diego Chargers and now faces a New Orleans Saints defense that’s susceptible to the pass. Thigpen has spread the ball around the Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley, plus he’ll have the services of Larry Johnson this week to help take the pressure off through the running game.

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