Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of the decade?

As we say goodbye to 2009, I'm seeing all kinds of all-decade lists popping up all over the place (Best movies? Best songs? Best TV themes?)

It got me thinking: Who were the best fantasy players of the 2000s? It'd be awfully hard to narrow it down to an all-decade team. For instance, Peyton Manning's probably the obvious choice at QB, but how do you deny Tom Brady's record-busting 2007 season? Or how do you narrow it down to 1 or 2 running backs - say, LaDainian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes - and leave out a Brian Westbrook or Adrian Peterson or Marshall Faulk?

Jay Clemons of actually figured out a better approach, ranking the top 10 fantasy seasons of the decade. Here's what they came up with in a nutshell:

1. Tom Brady, 2007
2. LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006
3. Peyton Manning, 2004
4. Randy Moss, 2007
5. Shaun Alexander, 2005
6. Daunte Culpepper, 2004
7. LaDainian Tomlinson, 2003
8. Marvin Harrison, 2002
9. Tony Gonzalez, 2004
10. Drew Brees, 2008

A few things jump out at me:

- How does Holmes not make the list? It's easy to forget that near the start of the decade he was every bit as dominating as Tomlinson in his prime and single-handedly won many leagues in the early 2000s. A tight end makes the list and Priest doesn't?

- Brady may have had the single most impressive fantasy season of the '00s, but as SI points out, the rest of his career belongs simply in the "good" category, from a fantasy standpoint.

- It's almost unfathomable that Culpepper, who can't even stay on the field for the Detroit Lions nowadays, was once the game's best fantasy QB. I owned him in 2004, his incredible 39-TD season, and loved every minute of it. I also drafted him the following year, the start of his long downward career spiral, and still haven't forgiven him.

Photo by The Associated Press

Monday, December 28, 2009

Finally, a championship

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have to brag a little bit:

I'm a fantasy football champion.

It's my first title in several years, and the first in four seasons playing in our Newsroom Fantasy League at the office. I'm the only member of our 10-team league to make the playoffs in all four years of its existence, but up until this year I hadn't won a playoff game. It's been a source of contention from time to time - "How come the guy who hasn't even won a title gets to write the fantasy blog?" My argument has been that playoff games (and a good part of fantasy football, really) are a crapshoot, and it's sustained competitiveness over the course of a long season that really proves one's fantasy worth.

But enough of that crap. I'm a champion.

It wasn't easy though. In each of the past three weeks I was losing my matchup entering the Monday Night Football game. Two Cardinals interceptions got me into the playoffs in the final week of the regular season. A Steve Smith TD against Washington gave me a victory in the semifinals. And Robbie Gould's kicking skills helped me overcome a 3-point deficit in the championship game.

Now, the Lembo Slayers can call themselves champions. Defending league champ John Lembo has officially been slayed. The fantasy blogger has a fantasy crown. All is right with the world.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hot Pickups: Week 16

FIVE STARS (Out of five)

I know, I know. I told you to pick up Harrison for Week 5, after he had just run for 129 yards, and he went on to do nothing special for the next 8 weeks. Then I told you to get him for Week 14, after he had just caught 2 TD passes, and he went out and had a 9-yard game. Now I'm telling you to get him one more time after his 286-yard, 3-TD blockbuster of a game. Third time's a charm? I guess we'll see.


Here's another former Hot Pickup making a return appearance. I suggested Snelling back in Week 11, and he rewarded my thought with 2 TDs against the Giants. But a subsequent stinker against the Bucs (4 carries, 8 yards) dropped him off a lot of people's radars. Snelling's carries have quietly increased, however, the past three weeks (10, 10, 16), and with Michael Turner still hobbled, Snelling seems ripe for a big day against Buffalo.


Bush has actually been quite effective when he gets a decent amount of work against bad teams (14 carries for 119 yards vs. K.C. in Week 10; 18 carries for 133 yards, TD vs. Denver last week). I'm not sure how many carries he'll get this wek - but I do know the Browns are a bad team. Feeling lucky?

- WR JOSH MORGAN, 49ers: This just in - Alex Smith isn't as terrible as we thought. The QB was actually looking pretty good up until last week in Philly, and his improved play helped boost the value of Morgan, who has 2 TD catches in his past three weeks. And it gets better - Morgan faces the Lions this week, and the Rams in Week 17.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Week 15 recap

Some random fantasy thoughts while savoring my first playoff victory in a few years (yes!) ...

- Just when we thought Jerome Harrison had been overtaken by Chris Jennings in the pecking order of Browns running backs, Harrison goes and busts out one of the greatest rushing performances the game's ever seen - 34 carries, 286 yards, 3 TDs against Kansas City. The shame of it is the chances of anyone actually starting Harrison in Week 15 are slim to none (let me know if you did). Harrison becomes perhaps the most unlikely must-start we've ever seen this week against Oakland. You'll also want Cedric Benson (and maybe even Larry Johnson as a flex) in your lineup against a downtrodden Chiefs D.

- DeAngelo Williams' early-game ankle injury was a killer, especially because Jonathan Stewart was able to rack up 109 yards and a TD on the ground against a tough Vikings D. We may have seen the last of Williams for this year, which at least would clear the way for Stewart

- Thank you, Roy Williams for the 1 catch and 14 yards in a critical week. Miles Austin was targeted a whopping 10 times more than our boy Roy.

- Hopefully you weren't scared off by all the "Randy Moss is a quitter" talk and benefited from his 5 catches, 70 yards and a TD on Sunday. The next two weeks against Jacksonville and Houston are looking very appealing for Mr. Moss.

- Beanie Wells is coming into his own at just the right time. He had his best day as a pro (110 yards, TD), and I'm expecting an encore against St. Louis.

- No TDs for Chris Johnson - what's up with that??? It's gotten to the point that 159 total yards is just not enough from this guy.

- Vincent Jackson picked the perfect time to shine (108 yards, 2 TDs) - the first time he's scored since Week 9. He could do some more damage on Christmas night against a Titans secondary that was getting torched with regularity not that long ago.

- Steven Jackson continued playing hurt, leading the team in rushing (82 yards) and receiving (41 yards), but I fear it's going to catch up to him against a Cardinals D that's typically pretty good at bottling up the run. It doesn't help that the Rams have almost no passing game to speak of.

- It will be tempting to start Michael Turner against the Bills' porous defense, but how can you insert him in your lineup in good conscience after Sunday's 1-carry, 7-yard disaster against the Jets?

- The Raiders decided to hand the ball off to Michael Bush 18 times on Sunday against Denver, and he rewarded them with 133 yards and a TD. That's surprising, not because Bush doesn't have the talent (he does), but because he had gotten only 22 carries in the past 5 games combined. Bush could repeat that feat or better it against the Browns if he gets a similar workload.

- DeSean Jackson continued his torrid play (6 catches, 140 yards, TD) and should be a staple of fantasy lineups at this point.

- That's the Aaron Rodgers we know and love (26-for-48, 383 yards, 3 TDs). Now do it again this week against the Seahawks, buddy.

- Speaking of the Seahawks, John Carlson caught his second TD in as many games and could do it again this week vs. Green Bay, if you trust a guy whose QB is Matt Hasselbeck (1 TD, 4 INTs, 45.2 passer rating Sunday).

- And speaking of tight ends, Todd Heap caught two TDs, his first trips to the end zone since Week 2. He's still a part of the Ravens' passing attack, so don't forget about him in Week 16.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 15

- RB MATT FORTE at Baltimore: Even if you've somehow managed to limp into the playoffs with Forte as one of your two starting RBs, you know that outside of a handful of games against the league's worst teams, he's been nothing more than average. And he'll be just average against a Ravens D that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 9. If you have a better alternative, bench the Bear.

- RB LeSEAN McCOY vs. San Francisco: Instead of being the second coming of Brian Westbrook, Shady has been darn near worthless the past few weeks. Besides, FB Leonard Weaver has been the bigger playmaker and gets the carries at the goal line for the Eagles. Don't expect much from McCoy against the league's fifth-ranked run defense.

- WR PERCY HARVIN at Carolina: The rookie sat out last week with migranes, and the trend (thankfully) in the NFL this year has been to be cautious with these kinds of ailments. Harvin was limited in practice Friday, and while the odds seem to favor him playing, he could end up a late scratch. With the Vikings playing the Sunday night game, that could wreck your plans this playoff weekend. Are you willing to take that risk?


- Beanie Wells surprised everybody with 15 carries for 79 yards and a TD, maybe surpassing Tim Hightower on the depth chart in the process.

- Steve Breaston had another 1-catch game. Warned you.

- Santana Moss had 4 catches for 58 yardszzzzzzzzz.

Start 'Em: Week 15

- QB KURT WARNER vs. Detroit: You may be considering benching Warner after last week's stinkbomb in San Fran. Don't. As reminds us, Warner suffered through a six-turnover game in Week 8, and he followed it up with a stretch of 12 TDs vs. 1 turnover in the following 4 games. Plus, it's the Lions. Don't overthink this.

- RB KNOWSHON MORENO vs. Oakland: The rookie's had 19, 21 and 23 carries in the past three weeks. With that type of workload, Moreno should repeat the kind of success he had against the Raiders earlier this year (90 yards, TD).

- WR ROBERT MEACHEM vs. Dallas: Don't let last week's so-so game (4 catches, 57 yards) dissuade you from starting him this week. Meachem's become an important part of the Saints' offense, and I don't think the Cowboys' secondary can keep him out of the end zone.


- Jamaal Charles had his best game of the year against Buffalo: 20 carries, 143 yards, TD; 7 catches, 38 yards.

- Ryan Grant had his second-best game of the year against Chicago: 20 carries, 137 yards, 2 TDs.

- Kenny Britt had 2 catches for 75 yards and no TDs. Can't win 'em all.
Photo by The Associated Press

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fired for playing fantasy football

Lots of us play fantasy football with our co-workers. It's our only way of breaking up the monotony of life in a poorly-lit cubicle or dulling the sting of layoffs, paycuts, furloughs and other unpleasantries.

But did you know you could get fired for it?

That's what happened to these four guys at Fidelity Investments in Texas. Turns out an inter-office communication about Trent Edwards' suckiness tipped off management to a $20 office league. An investigation ensued, and four league commissioners got canned for violating a company policy that prohibited gambling.

Seems like a pretty harsh overreaction to something that goes on in thousands, if not millions, of workplaces around the country. Shame on you, Fidelity.

Full disclosure: How my fantasy teams did

Since I spend a lot of my time giving readers fantasy advice, I know a lot of you are wondering how MY teams are doing this year.

So here goes.

First of all, I'm in three leagues. And in two of them, I failed to make the playoffs this year. It's sad, I know. And frustrating. But those are the breaks in this game. I feel like I know what I'm doing and put a good squad together in each of these leagues, but a few bad breaks, one or two mistakes and a little bad luck can leave you on the outside looking in come playoff time. Even if you're a fantasy expert.

Let's start with the league where I had the most success:

LEMBO SLAYERS (8-6 record, 3rd place, 2nd in points scored, 1st in points allowed, clinched playoffs)

SEASON RECAP: It's a 10-team league I'm in with a bunch of my co-workers, and I've made the playoffs in each of its three years of existence. With a win last week, I became the only member to clinch the playoffs in all four seasons, and I successfully dethroned two-time defending champ John Lembo, the inspiration for my team's name. As you can see, my record would probably be a lot better if it weren't for all the points scored against me - a whopping 971, almost 300 MORE than the team that finished in first place. But I digress. Bring on the playoffs.

BEST PICKS: When I drafted this team I was a little unsure about taking Chris Johnson with the sixth overall pick. He's been brilliant, probably fantasy's 2009 MVP, and he single-handedly helped me clinch a playoff spot last week. Taking Andre Johnson in the second round and Aaron Rodgers in the third were both tremendous moves. When you hit home runs with your first three picks, there's no reason not to make the playoffs. My choices of Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw and Devin Hester were also helpful at various points.

BEST PICKUPS: I got the Giants' Steve Smith in late September and the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles in early November, and both are starters for me down the stretch and in the playoffs.

WORST PICKS: I was worried about Roy Williams as my No. 2 WR, and rightfully so. He's been a bust. I expected huge things out of Chris Cooley, but he got hurt and they didn't happen. I wanted more from Kevin Smith. And I thought Matt Cassel would be better - luckily I only had to play him once.

SARASOTA SPARTANS (6-7, 8th place, 6th in points scored, 10th in points allowed, missed playoffs)

SEASON RECAP: As you can see I had incredible luck, getting the fewest points scored against me in the 10-team league. But I just didn't score enough on a weekly basis. We were all jumbled together in the middle of the standings - 5 teams finished 6-7 and missed the playoffs; the two teams went 7-6 and the one that went 6-6-1 made the playoffs.

BEST PICKS: Michael Turner (1st round) and Greg Jennings (3rd) were solid starters, though they didn't quite live up to my expectations. Philip Rivers (4th round) was a good choice at QB. Taking Rashard Mendenhall in the 12th round was good, even though I dropped him and picked him up again later.

BEST PICKUPS: Got Smith (Giants) and Charles again off waivers. Also picked up Heath Miller, Cadillac Williams and Austin Collie and used them to some effectiveness at various points. And I got Ray Rice in a four-player trade (Rice/Steve Breaston for DeSean Jackson/Donald Brown) that worked out pretty well.

WORST PICKS: Marion Barber (2nd round) didn't play like a second-rounder for me. LenDale White (6th round) did nothing for me. Got stuck with Roy Williams again as my No. 2 receiver. And Donald Brown, Ted Ginn and James Davis didn't materialize as breakout players for me, although I was basically taking fliers on them in the very late rounds.

ACE IN THE HOLE (6-7, 7th place, 9th in points scored, T-2nd in points allowed, missed playoffs)

SEASON RECAP: Another frustrating finish as I missed the playoffs by a game and had a ton of points scored against me every week. This is the big-money PPR league in which I share a team with my dad, and we've missed the playoffs the last 3 or 4 years. Injuries to Frank Gore, Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley really hurt us, as it's a pretty deep league and it costs $5 a transaction, so you can't just go dropping and adding guys as you please.

BEST PICKS: Taking the Eagles defense in the 10th round actually helped us out quite a bit. Tony Romo and Eli Manning both had big games from time to time (we just didn't always start the right guy). Same goes for Gore, Anquan Boldin and the Panthers' Steve Smith, although injuries to all those guys killed us throughout the season.

BEST PICKUPS: We thought getting Portis off waivers was a steal earlier in the season, and it did work out for about 1 game before he got hurt. Hakeem Nicks was a nice pickup. Jermichael Finley had a few decent weeks.

WORST PICKUPS: It's all about one man: Matt Forte with the third overall pick. We were completely disgusted with him and his team all year. I'll admit he was a bit of a stretch that high in the draft, especially with Maurice Jones-Drew available. But I never envisioned him being this mediocre. He's had about three fantasy-worthy games this year - against the Lions, Browns and Rams. That's unaccceptable for a first-round pick. He single-handedly sunk us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hot Pickups: Week 15

FIVE STARS (Out of five)

WR DWAYNE BOWE, Chiefs: Surprised? I could see that. But if you haven't been paying attention, Kansas City's budding (only?) star is back from a four-game suspension this week, just in time for a plum matchup with Cleveland. If he's on your waiver wire, help yourself.


RB CHRIS JENNINGS, Browns: A Cleveland back is one of my Hot Pickups for the second straight week. Jerome Harrison was supposed to have a big game last week against the Steelers, but he was sick and ineffective. In stepped Jennings (20 carries, 73 yards), who scored the first TD by a Browns running back this season. Let's consider this a do-over: Give Jennings a shot against the awful Chiefs defense.


RB QUINTON GANTHER, Redskins: The former practice-squadder enjoyed a career day against Oakland (14 carries, 50 yards, 2 TDs; 3 catches, 43 yards). He's easily moved past Rock Cartwright on the Skins' depth chart and faces a reeling Giants defense this week.

RB MAURICE MORRIS, Lions: Mo-Mo hasn't done much of anything all year, but with Kevin Smith shut down, he's in line to get a lot of work against a Cardinals run D that just got punished by Frank Gore.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Week 14 recap

- Thanks, Aaron Rodgers, for not throwing ONE STINKING TD PASS in a critical week for fantasy. Ryan Grant (20 carries, 137 yards, 2 TDs) did all the heavy lifting for the Packers against the Bears.

- Peyton Manning, on the other hand, didn't disappoint (4 TDs) and could have been even better if not for 3 INTs.

- Speaking of stepping up, how about that Brandon Marshall? A PPR player's dream: an NFL-record 23 receptions, including 2 TDs, and 200 receiving yards. The surprising part? It was only the second time he's had double-digit receptions all year.

- Give Andre Johnson (193 yards, 2 TDs) a game ball, too.

- And while we're at it, a round of applause for Chris Johnson (186 total yards, 3 TDs), a one-man fantasy wrecking ball all season.

- Pat yourself on the back for drafting/picking up/starting Jamaal Charles (143 rushing yards, TD, 7 catches for 38 yards). And rejoice in next week's date with the Browns.

- Cedric Benson was surprisingly effective against Minnesota's defense (96 yards on 16 carries), and the purported timeshare with Larry Johnson (3 carries, 4 yards) never materialized. Benson is a safe play next Sunday at San Diego.

- Rickey Williams enjoyed his fourth 100-yard rushing game in the past 5 weeks and scored his 11th TD of the year.

- Who is Quinton Ganther? A former practice-squad RB from Utah who scored 2 TDs for Washington, that's who. Expect to see more of him in the coming weeks as the Redskins' RB roulette continues.

- Another 'Skin deserves a look, too: It's TE Fred Davis, who has 4 TDs in his past three games and who next faces the Giants, who had no answer for Philly's Brent Celek (5 catches, 64 yards, TD) this week.

- Speaking of answers, Randy Moss owes each of his fantasy owners one after that "performance" (1 catch, 16 yards, fumble, general disinterest in playing football on Sunday).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 14

- RB BEANIE WELLS at San Francisco: The rookie's had a rough two weeks - he hasn't reached 30 yards on the ground in the past two games - and the Niners own a top-5 rush defense. Beanie's benched this week (but I'm licking my chops over the next two matchups with Detroit and St. Louis).

- WR STEVE BREASTON at San Francisco: I just can't trust him after last week's 1-catch disaster. He's always been worth a look as a flex player when he's hot, but he's ice cold right now.

- WR SANTANA MOSS at Oakland: He hasn't given us much to get excited about this year (only 1 game with more than 75 receiving yards), and he'll likely be blanketed by Pro Bowl corner Nnamdi Asomugha on Sunday. No thanks.


- Not only did Kurt Warner suit up despite recent concussion troubles, but he aired it out for 285 yards and 3 TDs in the Cardinals' surprising thrashing of the previously once-beaten Vikings. Couldn't have been more wrong.

- Brandon Jacobs was bottled up for 39 rushing yards on 13 carries as I expected. Only problem is he ran for a TD and scored another on a 74-yard catch on a screen pass nobody - including the Cowboys defense - expected. Wrong again.

- Willis McGahee vultured another TD to complete a trifecta of wrongness. He also had 4 carries for -4 yards.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 14

- RB JAMAAL CHARLES vs. Buffalo: Did you realize the Bills have allowed opposing running backs to run for 100 yards or score a TD in every game this year? I'm optimistic Charles can do both this week. He's scored in four straight weeks, and the trend should continue.

- RB RYAN GRANT at Chicago: Yeah, RG's last game was disappointing (41 yards on 16 carries), but the Ravens defense is actually still good. Chicago's is living off its reputation from a few years ago and is pretty ghastly nowadays. Grant had 61 yards and a TD against them in Week 1 and should easily duplicate, if not better, those numbers here.

- WR KENNY BRITT vs. St. Louis: The kid from Rutgerse has scored a TD in each of his past three games. Bet he does it again this week against a middle-of-the-road Rams secondary that just lost its best player, safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, for the season.


- Alex Smith threw for a season-high 310 yards and two more TDs in a win over the Jaguars.

- Knowshon Moreno racked up 86 yards and, more importantly, scored twice against K.C.

- Pierre Garcon caught 6 passes for a season-high (and career-high) 136 yards. Boo yah.
Photo by The Associated Press

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hot Pickups: Week 14

FOUR STARS (Out of five)

RB JEROME HARRISON, Browns: There was some thought in the preseason that Harrison might supplant Jamal Lewis as Cleveland's feature back, but he started the year hurt and wasn't much of a factor, outside of a 121-yard game in Week 4. That changed when Lewis suffered a serious season-ending concussion and Harrison totaled 97 yards from scrimmage last week and caught two TD passes. Pittsburgh's D doesn't look quite as dangerous anymore, and Harrison's involvement in the passing game is a good sign entering Thursday night's matchup.


FB LEONARD WEAVER, Eagles: It's not often you see a fantasy-relevant fullback, but Weaver is just that, especially since Brian Westbrook's concussion problem started. He's been popping off big plays, whether it was the 41-yard TD run the first time he faced the Giants this year, or a 63-yard catch-and-run in last week's drubbing of Atlanta, and could be worth a shot in the dark as your flex in this week's showdown with the G-Men.

WR DEVIN THOMAS, Redskins: Washington's been waiting for their second-year receiver to break out, and he finally did last week against the Saints (7 catches, 100 yards, 2 TDs). Surely Jason Campbell and Co. would like to see a sequel this week against the Raiders.

RB SAMMY MORRIS, Patriots: Just when you thought Laurence Maroney had become the Pats' unquestioned feature back, Morris snuck in with 9 carries (his second-most of the year) for 40 yards and 2 catches for 25 yards. I wouldn't be shocked to see him take a starring role against Carolina this Sunday.


QB BRUCE GRADKOWSKI, Raiders: Am I really advocating starting a Raiders quarterback at such a crucial juncture, against a Redskins D that's actually one of the league's best agaginst the pass? Not quite. But Bruuuuce has actually been productive the past three weeks (6 TDs), and while I don't particularly like him this week or next week on the road against Denver, I love his Week 16 matchup at Cleveland in what is the fantasy Super Bowl for most leagues. Just sayin' ...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 13

- QB KURT WARNER vs. Minnesota: The Cardinals are being cautious with their QB's concussion, and rightfully so. There's no need for them to play him, and even if they do, the Vikings defense could cause him even more headaches. It's not worth the risk, especially if he ends up being a late scratch again this week.

- RB BRANDON JACOBS vs. Dallas: There are a number of reasons not to like him this week - he hasn't topped 80 yards in a game since Week 8, he's scored only 3 times this year, and Dallas held him to 58 yards and no TDs in their first meeting. Plus, in the past, Jacobs has been at his best when he's used in tandem with another back, but second-stringer Ahmad Bradshaw has a bum ankle and third-stringer DJ Ware won't play. You're probably stuck with Jacobs as your No. 2 back regardless, but don't expect too much out of him.

- RB WILLIS McGAHEE at Green Bay: McGahee's had double-digit carries only one time since Week 2, and he's scored only once since Week 4 (although that TD happened to come last week). He's not getting enough reps to warrant a start, especially against the Packers' fourth-ranked rush defense.


- Michael Turner tried to make a go of it Sunday, but he managed just 33 yards on 12 carries before his ankle sprain gave out on him.

- Bernard Berrian made 6 catches for 74 yards but continued his streak of not scoring every other week like I mentioned.

- Austin Collie had 4 catches for 70 yards. Decent.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 13

- QB ALEX SMITH at Seattle: The kid's thrown for 459 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT in his past two games and faces the Seahawks' 25th-ranked passing D. If I'm fed up with my QB (Jay Cutler, Eli Manning ...) Smith is the guy I'm going to.

- RB KNOWSHON MORENO at Kansas City: Denver's rookie RB has topped 80 yards rushing in each of his past three games, and the Chiefs aren't exactly known as great run-stoppers.

- WR PIERRE GARCON vs. Tennessee: Indy's second-year receiver has scored a TD or topped 100 yards in each of his past three games, and the Titans aren't exactly known as great pass-defenders.


- Matt Hasselbeck was a bomb (14-for-25, 102 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) as RB Justin Forsett did all the heavy lifting. My apologies.

- Jason Snelling got only 4 carries for 8 yards as the Falcons decided to go with an ineffective Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood for the majority of the rushing attempts.

- Chris Chambers caught 7 passes for 70 yards and a TD, solidifying his status as the Chiefs' No. 1 receiver.

Hot Pickups: Week 13

FOUR STARS (Out of five)

RB FRED JACKSON, Bills: Freddie started the year off red hot but had been simply mediocre in recent weeks. That changed last Sunday against Miami when Jackson got 15 carries (his most in five weeks, and 12 more than teammate Marshawn Lynch) and scored his first two TDs of the season. I like Jackson on Thursday against the Jets, and I love him the following week at K.C.

WR KENNY BRITT, Titans: Think the rookie is happy with Tennessee's switch to Vince Young at QB? Britt caught his first two NFL TDs in the past two weeks and the best game of his young career on Sunday in Arizona (7 catches, 128 yards, game-winning TD). I like Britt on Sunday against Indy and I love him the following week against St. Louis.


WR JASON AVANT, Eagles: With DeSean Jackson likely to sit this week with a concussion, there could be a bunch of balls headed Avant's way. He'd already seen increased action in recent weeks, including 5 catches for 94 yards last Sunday, and the Falcons' secondary has shown some cracks recently.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Week 12 recap

Random thoughts from Week 12 while waking up from a turkey-induced coma ...

- Raise your hand if you got screwed by a quarterback this week. Whether it was a last-minute scratch (Kurt Warner), an early game injury (Matt Ryan) or just plain ineffectiveness, (Eli Manning, Tom Brady) in big games, a bunch of owners saw their Week 12 hopes go down the tubes because of their QB.

- Chris Redman held his own subbing for Ryan (243 yards, 2 TDs) and might not actually a bad play this week against the Eagles with Matty Ice still on the shelf.

- One QB you can't knock: Drew Brees (371 yards, 5 TDs). The guy's making fantasy stars left and right. Even someone named Darnell Dinkins caught a TD pass for the Saints on Monday night. Wasn't he the mayor of New York City?

- Two more TDs from Laurence Maroney, plus a fumble for the third straight game. Don't even dream about sitting him.

- I didn't think I'd be saying it again this year, but Terrell Owens is fantasy relevant. I'm not sure if it was the switch to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB or interim coach Perry Fewell realizing "Hey, maybe we should throw the ball deep to T.O.," but Owens is once again getting it done (96 yards, TD for the second straight game. The only problem is this Thursday he's matched up against Darrelle Revis and the Jets, who bottled Owens up (3 catches, 13 yards) in their Week 6 meeting.

- I also didn't think Larry Johnson would be relevant again, either (22 carries, 107 yards for Cincinnati). Of course, it did come against the Browns, and Bernard Scott didn't do too bad either (18 carries, 87 yards). Plus, there's a decent chance starter Cedric Benson will be back this week against Detroit, so that may be LJ's last big output, at least for this season.

- Big day for budding star Justin Forsett (22 carries, 130 yards, 2 TDs), but it sounds like the second-year back could return to his reserve role with the Seahawks this week if Julius Jones is healthy. It's still a name to know for 2010 and maybe keep on your bench if you have an extra spot.

- Please just go away, Jake Delhomme (14-for-34, 130 yards, 0 TDs, 4 INTs). I know Revis and the Jets secondary had a lot to do with it, but you're making Steve Smith (1 catch, 5 yards) absolutely worthless. I'm looking forward to seeing what Matt Moore can do if Delhomme (finger) sits against Tampa Bay this Sunday as expected.

- Two Chiefs skill players have become no-doubt fantasy starters, but instead of Johnson and Dwayne Bowe it's Jamaal Charles (147 total yards, TD) and Chris Chambers (7 catches, 70 yards, TD).

- I'm not convinced LaDainian Tomlinson is still what he once was (13 carries, 39 yards), but he did score two more TDs on Sunday. As long as the Chargers keep giving him carries inside the 5-yard line, we're all good.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 12

- RB MICHAEL TURNER vs. Tampa Bay: Looks like he'll be a game-time decision on Sunday thanks to that high-ankle sprain that forced him to sit out last week. You may be tempted to use him against the porous Bucs defense, but I question his effectiveness if he does indeed play - that injury usually requires a few weeks of rest.

- WR BERNARD BERRIAN vs. Chicago: Yes, he's been catching a TD every other game since Week 4, but he also hasn't had more than 3 receptions in a game since then, either. And if he holds true to form, he won't score this week since he did last week.

- WR AUSTIN COLLIE at Houston: The rookie's had some nice games this year, especially for PPR purposes, but there's too much risk after last week's 1-catch game. Plus, the Texans bottled him up for 2 catches and 26 yards in their Week 9 meeting.


- Jay Cutler managed 1 TD, 1 INT and only 171 yards against Philly last Sunday night. In case you're wondering, I don't like him this week on the road against Minnesota, either.

- Marion Barber had 102 total yards, most of them coming on two big plays (a 32-yard run and a 42-yard catch-and-run). He didn't score.

- Donnie Avery caught 4 balls for 65 yards but failed to score.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 12

- QB MATT HASSELBECK at St. Louis: The veteran's coming off a rough day in Minnesota (zero TDs, 1 INT in a 35-9 loss), but the Rams' secondary should be the perfect tonic.

- RB JASON SNELLING vs. Tampa Bay: The guy's scored three times in the past two games since starter Michael Turner got hurt, and he'll get the start again Sunday. You have to like the matchup, too, against a Bucs defense that's been torched by the likes of Pierre Thomas (92 yards), Rickey Williams (102 yards), Ronnie Brown (82 yards, TD) and Ryan Grant (96 yards, TD) in recent weeks.

- WR CHRIS CHAMBERS at San Diego: He's got 249 yards and two TDs in three games since becoming a Chief, and now he faces the team that cut him. I like it.


- Beanie Wells didn't quite have a career day against the Rams, but 74 yards and a TD will do the trick.

- Another rookie, LeSean McCoy, DID have a career day on the ground (99 yards, TD) in Chicago.

- Santonio Holmes caught 7 passes for 86 yards but, alas, didn't catch a TD as I predicted.

Hot Pickups: Week 12

FOUR STARS (Out of five)

RB ROCK CARTWRIGHT, Redskins: Somebody's got to run the ball for Washington, and with Ladell Betts out for the year and Clinton Portis still woozy, Cartwright's the man. He totaled 140 yards on 20 touches last week against Dallas, and though he'll be facing some challenging defenses, starting with Philly this week, he should at least be getting a heavy workload.

TE JERMICHAEL FINLEY, Packers: Finley got dropped in a lot of leagues after sitting out three games with injury, but he announced his return with 7 catches for 54 yards last week against the 49ers. He's sure to do some damage on Thanksgiving against the Lions' spotty pass defense, so pick him up if he's available and start him.


QB VINCE YOUNG, Titans: The numbers haven't been anything special, but he's been making plays and winning games since he got another opportunity to play. He's worth a shot if you're in a pinch at QB this week (vs. Arizona) or like his upside in some favorable matchups down the stretch (vs. St. Louis, Miami, San Diego, at Seattle in the season's final four weeks).


QB DAUNTE CULPEPPER, Lions: The former fantasy star is likely to start Thursday in place of Matthew Stafford, and we've seen some crazy performances on Turkey Day before, but I'm not sure you really want to go down this road unless you're desperate.

Photo by The Associated Press

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week 11 recap

- Laurence Maroney (77 yards, 2 TDs) continues to be an every-week starter. Keep riding with him.

- Jason Avant now has 3 TDs in his past two games. This week's matchup with Washington is tough, but he could be a sneaky play as a flex/No. 3 WR.

- Week 11 Hot Pickup Bernard Scott had 21 carries for 119 yards filling in for Cedric Benson. Put in a claim for him if he's still available in your league, because he'd certainly be worth a look against Cleveland this week if Benson can't go.

- Tim Hightower's career-high 110 yards against St. Louis could be a little deceiving. His previous best also came against the Rams last year, and he's still splitting time with Beanie Wells, who scored a TD Sunday. Hightower may best be left on your bench until he meets St. Louis again in Week 16, right around the time of most fantasy Super Bowls.

- Who's the imposter in the No. 81 Bills jersey? Surely that wasn't Terrell Owens (9 catches, 197 yards, TD) - that's like 3 T.O. games rolled into one! It seems like new Buffalo coach Perry Fewell is making a concerted effort to get Owens the ball - wise choice - and you may actually want to getcha popcorn ready and put him in your lineup this week against Miami.

- Kevin Boss (2 TDs) has now scored four times in his past three games and can still be found on many waiver wires (I picked him up and started him in one league this past week). He doesn't get quite as many looks as the upper-echelon TEs but he's as good a bet as any to score in any given week.

- Is Adrian Peterson actually being hurt by Brett Favre throwing all these TDs? All Day didn't get into the end zone despite the Vikings putting up 35 points, and he was held to under 100 rushing yards for the seventh time this season. Of course you never bench Peterson though, I'm just thinking out loud here.

- Jamaal Charles was limited to 58 yards rushing on 17 carries against the tough Steelers, but he scored on a 97-yard kick return and caught a 2-yard TD pass. Good to see him finding ways to get involved, an encouraging sign heading into this weekend's game against San Diego.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 11

- QB JAY CUTLER vs. Philadelphia: Let's face it, the kid's shaping up to be a fantasy bust this season, and while he's certain to bounce back from last week's 0-TD, 5-INT abomination, you've hopefully discovered a better option by now. This matchup just isn't in his favor.

- RB MARION BARBER vs. Washington: Bench the Barbarian? It's not that I don't like the matchup, it's just that the Cowboys aren't utilizing him the way they should, which means you're not getting the type of production you should be out of a No. 1 or 2 RB. The numbers are solid but they're not extraordinary. For instance, Barber's only topped 100 rushing yards once this year (in fact, he's only topped 80 once), back in Week 2 - which also happens to be the only game in which he got more than 15 carries. I'm just saying there might be more exciting options on your bench or on the waiver wire this week.

- WR DONNIE AVERY vs. Arizona: You may be inclined to start Avery in Week 11, given his 2-TD game last Sunday and the appeal of facing the Cardinals' pass defense (third-most passing yards allowed per game). But Avery's stats have been all over the place this year, and he's followed up just about every good performance with a 1-catch game this year. There's just too much risk involved in starting a Ram not named Steven Jackson unless you're really in a pinch.


- I didn't expect much from Julius Jones (2 carries, 10 yards), but I didn't foresee the bruised lung that would knock him out of the game.

- Carson Palmer totaled just 178 yards and didn't throw a TD pass in the Bengals' win over the Steelers. Boo yah.

- Just two catches and 24 yards for Torry Holt. Nailed it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 11

- RB BEANIE WELLS at St. Louis: The rookie has had an increased workload the past five weeks and has scored 3 TDs in his past four games. He could be in line for a career day against the Rams (118 rushing yards allowed per game) if the Cardinals continue to utilize him.

- RB LeSEAN McCOY at Chicago: There's more risk than you'd think, even with Eagles starter Brian Westbrook reeling from another concussion. Shady got just 6 total touches last week (3 carries, 3 receptions), but hopefully stubborn Andy Reid will give the kid the damn ball against the 21st-ranked Bears D that just isn't scary anymore.

- WR SANTONIO HOLMES at Kansas City:
Did you realize this dude hasn't scored since Week 1? How is that possible? Bold prediction: Holmes finally scores again this week against K.C.


- Laurence Maroney had just 31 rushing yards on 13 carries but scored for the fourth straight game.

- Derrick Mason caught 3 balls for 78 yards but didn't reach the end zone Monday night as the Ravens surprisingly didn't go off on the Browns, scoring just 1 offensive TD.

- Kellen Winslow caught 7 passes and matched his season high for yardage (102).

Photo by The Associated Press

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hot Pickups: Week 11

FOUR STARS (Out of five)

RB JUSTIN FORSETT, Seahawks: The second-year back had a career day (123 rushing yards, 5 catches for 26 yards, TD) when Julius Jones exited Sunday with what turned out to be a broken rib. Unfortunately he faces a tough D in the Vikings this week, but he's someone to grab and hold onto down the stretch.

RB JASON SNELLING, Falcons: Another backup running back here - sensing a trend? With Michael Turner nursing a high ankle sprain - an injury that usually takes at least a few weeks to heal - Snelling steps into a starting role. Snelling totaled 93 rushing and receiving yards last week and scored a TD with Turner on the sidelines, and now he faces the Giants and Bucs (22 total rushing TDs allowed in 2009) in successive weeks.

RB BERNARD SCOTT, Bengals: Yup, another second-stringer. Cedric Benson hurt his hip against the Steelers, so in stepped Scott. Though his numbers weren't particularly impresive (13 carries for 33 yards, 1 catch for 21 yards), keep in mind he was facing the Steelers, and he did show off his skills on a 96-yard kick return for the game's only TD. Scott would be a great play this week against Oakland if benson can't go.


WR NATE WASHINGTON, Titans: He's scored two TDs in the past three weeks since Vince Young took over at QB for Tennessee, and it's a decent bet he'll score another one on Monday night against Houston.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The sad saga of Larry Johnson

Remember when Larry Johnson was a fantasy star?

Remember the dude who ran for 1,750 yards and 20 TDs in 2005? And 1,789 and 17 TDs the next year?

That guy's gone forever.

LJ's injuries and an extreme number of carries (416 in 2006!) conspired to sap him of the quickness he once possessed, making him an incresingly ineffective runner in recent times. And his bad attitude and poor judgment sealed his fate, leading to his release from Kansas City.

Johnson got a second chance this week, signing with the Bengals as their fourth-string running back and an insurance policy for Cedric Benson, who's battling a hip injury. LJ, who turns 30 on Thursday, will essentially be a scout-team back for Cincinnati and isn't likely to see the field assuming Benson, the league's 6th-leading rusher, is healthy enough to suit up.

In other words, Johnson is no longer fantasy relevant.

I did have him ranked 27th among running backs this preseason, meaning he was worth drafting but didn't deserve to be one of your top two backs. Hopefully you're ready to move on - if you haven't already - and can send LJ packing. It was fun while it lasted.

Week 10 Recap

A few random fantasy musings while wondering how such a football genius (Bill Belichick) could make such a dumb call ...

- So Ladell Betts subs in for Clinton Portis and has the best day yet by a Redskins back this season (114 yards, TD). Told ya to pick him up - and I'll tell you to start him this week against Dallas, too.

- You figured the Saints skill players would have a field day against the Rams, but surprisingly it was Reggie Bush (two total TDs) and another of my Hot Pickups for the week, Robert Meachem (41-yard catch, 27-yard TD run) who did all the damage.

- Chris Johnson, Fantasy MVP? It's looking good after another absolute nuclear detonation of a game (132 rushing yards and two TDs, plus 100 receiving yards).

- Think Kellen Winslow (7 catches, 102 yards) is glad Tampa Bay finally made a switch at QB? He's the only dependable Buc in fantasy land.

- Vikings WR Sidney Rice (201 receiving yards) now has three monster games in his past four, and upcoming matchups Seattle and Chicago are looking mighty tasty right now.

- Sure, Maurice Jones-Drew's decision to take a knee at the 1-yard line to set up a game-winning FG attempt screwed over some fantasy owners. But it's hard to find a lot of fault with a guy who had 132 yards and a TD already and who leads the league in rushing scores (12).

- Not much to report from the Bengals-Steelers slugfest, fantasy-wise, unless you had Cincinnati's D/ST. The good news if you own guys on either of these teams is they have some favorable schedules coming up. I mean, really favorable - Bengals play the Raiders, Browns and Lions in the next three weeks, while the Steelers play the Chiefs and Raiders (with the Ravens sandwiched in between).

- Michael Turner was on his way to unleashing a superb fantasy day (111 yards on just 9 carries) before exiting with an ankle injury. Stay tuned for an update on his status and backup Jason Snelling's viability as a fantasy fill-in.

- Thank you, Jamaal Charles (18 carries, 103 yards, TD), for fulfilling your fantasy promise and helping the Chiefs become the NFL's final team to score a rushing TD this year. Now you face the Steelers. Good luck with that.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 10

- RB JULIUS JONES at Arizona: Yeah, he scored last week and racked up some yards on receptions (6 for 78), but this ain't Detroit - the Cards have the league's fourth-stingiest rush defense - and Jones posted a clunker when the Seahawks hosted Arizona last month (5 carries, 5 yards).

- QB CARSON PALMER at Pittsburgh: You can pretty much always pencil in Palmer for about 200 yards and a TD, but this doesn't look like a matchup where he can really do anything special, fantasy-wise. He had 183 yards and a TD when the teams met in Week 3 and should do about the same, so you may want to go with a better option at QB if you have one.

- WR TORRY HOLT at New York Jets: The old pro has caught only 6 balls for 54 yards combined in the past two weeks and hasn't found the end zone yet this season. Expect the No. 2-ranked Jets pass defense to put the clamps on him again.


- Matt Ryan was 17 for 24 for 135 yards, a TD and an INT against Washington as the Falcons leaned heavily on Michael Turner (just as I predicted).

- Tashard Choice had only 3 carries on Sunday night, but one of them happened to come out of the Wildcat formation at the goal line and went for a TD. Boo!

- Sam Aiken had 2 catches for 17 yards and was a fantasy nonfactor.

Photo by The Associated Press

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 10

- RB LAURENCE MARONEY at Indianapolis: Maroney had 20 carries last week against Miami - his most since December 2007 - and has scored a TD in three straight weeks. Of course the Pats could completely switch things up and throw the ball 55 times this week or decide to give Kevin Faulk 20 carries out of nowhere, but Maroney seems to be on a hot streak.

- WR DERRICK MASON at Cleveland: The veteran Ravens receiver had his best yardage total of the year in Week 3 against the Browns (5 catches, 118 yards, TD) and could do it again on Monday night.

- TE KELLEN WINSLOW at Miami: He seemed to show some chemistry with new Bucs QB Josh Freeman last week (4 catches, 57 yards, TD) and should again serve as his safety valve. The Dolphins have also had trouble defending tight ends this year.


- Joseph Addai caught a TD, ran for a TD and racked up 112 total yards against Houston.

- The Boom-or-bust DeSean Jackson decided to go bust again (2 catches, 29 yards) after three straight weeks of booming.

- Michael Crabtree only caught 3 balls for 30 yards, though he was targeted eight times. Niners QB Alex Smith decided to concentrate on throwing to Vernon Davis (10 catches) and Frank Gore (7 catches) and somebody named Jason Hill (2 TDs) and the other team (3 INTs).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hot Pickups: Week 10

FOUR STARS (Out of five)

RB LADELL BETTS, Redskins: Clinton Portis' understudy normally doesn't get a lot of touches, but with Portis knocked out last week, Betts carried the ball 15 times - his most since 2006 - for 70 yards and a TD. You may recall Betts had a dominating stretch of five straight 100-yard games at the end of the '06 season when he served as the Skins' feature back, so this isn't his first go-around. He's definitely worth a grab, and this week's matchup against Denver doesn't seem quite as tough after they let Rashard Mendenhall run wild.


WR CHRIS CHAMBERS, Chiefs: A perennial disappointment, Chambers got cut by the Chargers just a week ago, then goes out and scores not one but TWO TDs in his first game as a Chief. Both scores came in garbage time, mind you, but K.C. will continue to have a lot of that this year, and Matt Cassel definitely seems to have some kind of a connection with Chambers, so why not give him a shot?

WR ROBERT MEACHEM, Saints: I've been waiting for this kid to break out for about 3 years now, and maybe last Sunday's game (5 catches, 98 yards, TD) was what I've been looking for. Everyone who plays a skill position for New Orleans is worth some fantasy consideration, and Meachem might make a good flex play in the following two weeks against St. Louis and Tampa Bay.


QB JOSH FREEMAN, Bucs: There was plenty to like in Freeman's starting debut: the strong arm, the quick feet, the poise and the 3 TDs vs. 1 INT. Will there be bumps along the way? Of course. But keeper leagues and those that start two QBs have to take notice.

TE BRANDON PETTIGREW, Lions: The rookie from Oklahoma state had 7 catches for 70 yards - both career highs - and caught his first NFL TD in Week 9. He might be hard pressed to duplicate those stats again this season, but if you're in a deep league that carries two TEs per team he's certainly worth a shot.
Photo by The Associated Press

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Week 9 Recap

Some random fantasy thoughts while crafting a petition to the Bucs to wear their creamsicle uniforms every week ...

- Michael Turner topped 150 yards for the second straight game and extended his scoring streak to eight straight games (166, 2 TDs). He's looking like the top-3 back we thought he'd be.

- Turner's counterpart, Clinton Portis, was knocked out against Atlanta and is looking doubtful for what could have been a decent Week 10 matchup vs. Denver. Ladell Betts (15 carries, 70 yards, TD) wasn't bad in his stead and could soon be in a Hot Pickups blog post near you.

- Who needs Anquan Boldin? The disgruntled and disappointing Cardinals WR was scratched because of a nagging ankle injury and the field conditions in Chicago (and he was none too pleased with how he was informed of the benching) ... and Kurt Warner still threw 5 TDs.

- Do Matt Forte's 6 catches for 74 yards make up for his 5 carries for 33 yards? I say no.

- Of course Greg Olsen would catch 3 TDs after I benched him at the last minute Saturday night and subbed in Heath Miller (3 catches, 18 yards).

- I gotta give it to Cedric Benson for proving me wrong so far. He's exceeded all my expectations in Cincinnati (117 more yards and a TD vs. Baltimore) and has become a must-start, even Week 10 against Pittsburgh and beyond.

- Laurence Maroney got his biggest workload of the season (20 carries) and scored for the third straight week. Is he finally a dependable fantasy starter? I'd give him a serious look for this week's showdown with Indy.

- The Packers' James Jones now has 3 receiving TDs this year, or 1 more than teammate Greg Jennings. That ain't right.

- Do we have a new fantasy star in Bucs QB Josh Freeman (14-for-31, 205 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT)? Anything's possible, but let's see what happens after the rest of the league gets some actual film on him. Encouraging start, though.

- So Chris Chambers gets released by San Diego last week, picked up by the awful Chiefs this week, plays his first game for K.C. on Sunday and has his most productive day (70 yards, 2 TDs) since Week 2 of last year. Go figure.

- Twelve carries, 22 yards for LaDainian Tomlinson. How the mighty have fallen. Last time he played the Giants, in 2005, he busted them for 192 yards and 3 TDs. Those were the days.

- Alex Smith sure does love him some Vernon Davis (10 catches, 102 yards, both career highs).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 9

- QB MATT RYAN vs. Washington: Ryan's thrown 6 picks in his past 3 games (vs. 5 TDs), and the Redskins' defense actually isn't so bad (ranked second against the pass, giving up 164.9 yards per game with six TDs). The Falcons might be better served giving the ball to Michael Turner, who topped 150 rushing yards last week, than having Ryan throw a lot against former Falcon DeAngelo Hall and Co.

- RB TASHARD CHOICE at Philadelphia: With Marion Barber and Felix Jones back to near 100 percent, Choice is relegated to third-string duties, as evidenced by his past two games (a combined 4 carries for 11 yards). Don't expect much, if anything, out of him this week.

- WR SAM AIKEN vs. Miami: This guy was a popular pickup after a 54-yard TD catch made the highlight reels two weeks ago in London. That wasn't enough to warrant starting consideration.


- Eli Manning was even more atrocious than I imagined against the Eagles (222 yards, 2 INTs, 55.7 QB rating), although he did manage a TD pass.

- Darren Sproles carried the ball 5 times for 38 yards and caught an 8-yard pass. Nothin' special.

- Nate Washington only made 2 catches against the Jags, but one happened to be a TD.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 9

- RB JOSEPH ADDAI vs. Houston: Addai hasn't sniffed 100 rushing yards this season - in fact, he hasn't topped 64 - but he's scored in six of seven games (including last week's TD pass, above) so far and is getting just enough touches (and production) to make for a solid starter this week against a so-so Texans run defense.

- WR DeSEAN JACKSON vs. Dallas: The Eagles' second-year wideout has caught a 50-plus-yard TD bomb in each of the past two weeks. You can't afford to have the kid on your bench this week.

- WR MICHAEL CRABTREE vs. Tennessee: The rookie's caught 5 and 6 balls, respectively, in his first two NFL games and is already a big part of the Niners' offense. I can envision him scoring his first career TD this week against a Titans secondary that, despite last week's shut-down effort against Jacksonville, has had its share of issues, can't you?


- I predicted LaDainian Tomlinson would score a TD and have his best rushing total of the season against Oakland. His 56 yards didn't quite top his season high (70), but he scored TWO TDs, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

- Jeremy Shockey caught five passes for 72 yards but didn't hit the end zone against Atlanta.

- David Garrard was downright dreadful against the Titans (14 for 27, 139 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs). I apologize.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A fantasy football sitcom? Oh yeah.

You know fantasy football's really reached the mainstream when it's the subject of a TV sitcom.

Yup, that's right: last week FX debuted "The League," a scripted comedy that centers around a group of friends in a fantasy football league. It's gotten some good buzz and solid reviews so far. I completely forgot to DVR last Thursday's pilot episode - I had some other things on my mind, namely a whirlwind trip to New York to watch Game 2 of the World Series - so I haven't seen it yet.

You can check out a few clips on the show's official website, and you can catch episode 2 at 10:30 p.m. Thurday night on FX.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hot pickups: Week 9

FIVE STARS (Out of five)

We've liked Charles for a while now around these parts, and he finally has a chance to show you why this week. Larry Johnson (suspension) is out this week, and if Charles takes this opportunity and runs with it there's a possibility LJ's days as the Chiefs' starter are over. This week's matchup is certainly in Charles' favor, as the Jaguars were just gashed by Chris Johnson last week.


RB Ryan Moats, Texans: A 23-carry, 126-yard, 3-TD performance cannot be ignored, even if it comes against the Buffalo Bills. Starter Steve Slaton's fumbilitis finally sent him to the bench last week, and Moats filled in beautifully. He probably hasn't supplanted Slaton as the No. 1 back at this point, but he's at least earned a larger role in the Texans' offense and should get his fair share of work this week at Indianapolis.


TE Fred Davis, Redskins: Davis caught 8 passes for 78 yards and a TD two weeks ago against Philly with starter Chris Cooley on the sideline and is a decent replacement for those who've been rocked by injuries to Cooley or Owen Daniels of Houston.


WR Malcom Floyd, Chargers: San Diego's release of Chris Chambers opens up more playing time for Floyd, a 6-foot-6 playmaker in a pass-heavy offense. Intriguing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Week 8 Recap

Some random fantasy thoughts while tuning into the Fox Favre Cam ....

- Could be a great time to trade Brett Favre if you drafted him as your backup and have a capable No. 1 guy. I think his 4-TD game against his old team Sunday may end up being his high-water mark, stats-wise, this year, and he'll inevitably slow down and cool off as the season wears on.

- Hard to believe Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 177 yards and two TDs and wasn't the best running back on the field Sunday in Tennessee. Chris Johnson laid the hammer down with 228 rushing yards and two TDs of his own. Those who drafted Matt Forte ahead of either of these guys could only watch with tears in their eyes.

- Speaking of Forte, the Bears RB justified his presence on your roster for another week (90 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cleveland), but he'll be hard-pressed for an encore against the Cardinals' run D this week.

- Michael Turner has now scored in six straight games (8 TDs total). The streak will continue in Week 9 against Washington.

- Did Ryan Moats (126 yards, 3 TDs vs. Buffalo) just kill Steve Slaton's fantasy value? It's very possible ... see this week's Hot Pickups for more.

- Tony Romo (3 TDs) appears to have gotten back on track, mostly thanks to the emergence of Miles Austin as a fantasy star. The real litmus test for the boy wonder comes in the next two weeks on the road against Philly and Green Bay.

- Your allegiance to Steven Jackson hopefully paid off with 145 yards and his first rushing TD of the year Sunday against Detroit. Give the guy credit for playing hard and churning out the yardage despite the Rams' ineptitude.

- Joseph Addai threw more TD passes than Peyton Manning in Week 8. No need to worry about Peyton though - he's usually good for 1 or 2 of these TD-free games in a season, but you'll get more than your money's worth from him for the rest of the year. He could throw 4 against Houston this week.

- Eli Manning seems to be in one of his annual slumps, but he's probably worth sticking with as your No. 2 (he's thrown at least 1 TD every week) unless there's a more attractive free-agent option.

-Ray Rice has scored a TD or rushed for 100 yards in each of the past 5 weeks.

- DeAngelo Williams rushes for 158 yards, Jonathan Stewart scores two TDs. Can't have your cake and eat it too if you drafted a Panthers running back.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 8

- QB ELI MANNING at Philadelphia: Eli seems to be entering his usual second-half funk right on cue after two sub-par games. He's also been nothing special against the Eagles the past two seasons, accounting for 5 TDs and 5 INTs in his past five matchups against Philly, including last season's playoff loss.

- RB DARREN SPROLES vs. Oakland: You may be tempted to use the squirt just because the Raiders are so pathetic and were just gashed by the Jets' running game last week. But there's too much risk involved in starting a guy who has gotten just 11 total touches in his past three games combined.

- WR NATE WASHINGTON vs. Jacksonville: His string of three straight games with a TD seems like a distant memory after last week's stat line: 1 catch, -22 yards. That's right, NEGATIVE 22 YARDS. I can't in good conscious recommend starting Washington this week against Jacksonville after that gem, and the Titans' instability at the QB spot only further complicates the matter.


- Donovan McNabb was pretty average against Washington as I predicted: 156 yards, 1 TD.

- The Saints surprisingly put up 46 points on the Dolphins, but Pierre Thomas (8 carries for 30 yards) wasn't part of the fun.

- Percy Harvin registered just 3 catches for 42 yards at Pittsburgh, but he did return a kick for a TD, which is nice if your league credits you for individual special teams scores.

Photo by The Associated Press

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 8

LT2's looked like a shell of his former self as many (including yours truly) predicted in the preseason. He can't seem to get the tough yards anymore and hasn't cracked 71 in a game yet. Some of that has to do with his offensive line, of course, but here's betting they can get things going against an imploding Raiders team and Tomlinson busts through for at least a TD and his best rushing output to date in 2009.

-TE JEREMY SHOCKEY vs. Atlanta: The Shockster has caught at least 4 passes in every game so far and is coming off his best game, yardage-wise (105) so far this year. Now he faces a Falcons D that's been victimized by Jason Witten (5 for 53), Greg Olsen (5 for 57, TD), Vernon Davis (5 for 51), Chris Baker (2 for 42, TD) and Dante Rosario (3 for 31, TD) this year.

-QB DAVID GARRARD at Tennessee: Garrard had his best game of the season in Week 4 against the Titans (323 yards, 3 TDs), and Jeff Fisher's defense has yet to show any ability to stop an aerial attack.


- Frank Gore ran for a pitiful 32 yards on 13 carries against the Texans in his first game back from injury. Huge disappointment.

- Donald Brown was on his way to a great day (2 carries for 58 yards) in a rout of the Rams before hurting his shoulder. Tough break.

- Steve Breaston was another huge letdown (1 catch for 23 yards). Anquan Boldin did end up suiting up against the Giants and hauled in 3 passes for 75 yards, which hurt Breaston's production a bit, but it's still no excuse.

Photo by The Associated Press

Hot Pickups: Week 8

FOUR STARS (Out of five)

- RB SHONN GREENE, Jets: Leon Washington
's loss is Greene's gain, and the Jets have smartly morphed into a power rushing team before our eyes with a rookie QB running the offense. The rejuvenated Thomas Jones isn't going anywhere, but I think there's enough room for the two of them to be productive down the stretch (probably after this week's tough matchup against Miami).

- RB BEANIE WELLS, Cardinals: It was a bit of a mixed bag for the rookie Sunday night - he scored his first NFL TD but also lost another fumble, his third in 49 pro carries. Still, he outperformed Tim Hightower and might officially pass him on Arizona's depth chart with another good outing against Carolina.


In case you hadn't heard, Larry Johnson is at it again. Charles, one of my preseason sleepers, has been the more effective back this year again (5 yards a carry to LJ's 2.7), albeit in limited duty, and Johnson's latest antics may have finally forced K.C. into starting him after Week 8's bye. The Chiefs' line is awful, of course, but I still want to see what the little guy can do.

WR MIKE WALLACE, Steelers: The rookie from Ole Miss has made his fair share of big plays this year (17.5 yards a catch) and is coming off a big game against the Vikings (3 catches, 72 yards, TD). He's been kind of hit-or-miss, but he could be worth a start after this week's bye if you're in a pinch and rolling the dice on a TD.

QB ALEX SMITH, 49ers: It only took five years, but Smith may finally be fantasy relevant. A three-TD game coming off the bench will do that, and it's not as if there isn't talent around him (Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, who caught those three TDs). Grab him, watch how he fares against Indianapolis this week and then plug him in against Tennessee in Week 9 if you like what you see.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Week 7 recap

- Wow, nice game, Frank Gore (13 carries, 32 yards) - welcome back, guy. Here's hoping the switch to Alex Smith at QB will help the 49ers' offense really get rolling.

- I'm not sure what a lung contusion feels like, but I'm hoping it's not bad enough to keep Andre Johnson out of a juicy matchup against the Bills this week. Dude was on quite a roll before getting hurt Sunday.

- Big-time effort from Ryan Grant (27 carries, 148 yards, TD), even if it was against the Browns. Unfortunately, up next he's got the Vikings, who held him to 51 yards a few weeks ago.

- Keep rolling, Philip Rivers (268 yards, 3 TDs vs. Kansas City). Oakland's up next.

- Steven Jackson keeps piling up the rushing yardage (134) but has yet to hit paydirt this season. That should end at Detroit this week.

- Vikings WR Sidney Rice posted another huge output (10 catches for 136 yards) and is putting up the numbers Bernard Berrian was supposed to this year. Could be in line for a third straight big game against Green Bay.

- Laurence Maroney did end up with the lion's share of the carries again for the Patriots (13) but his 43 rushing yards didn't quite live up to last week's 123 or 7.7 average. He did score a TD, but then again, who hasn't against the Bucs?

- The season-ending broken leg suffered by Leon Washington is a shame, but it's actually good news for Thomas Jones (26 carries, 121 yards, TD) and Shonn Greene (19 carries, 144 yards, TD). And just when the Jets are morphing into a running machine, they slam headfirst into the Dolphins' run defense.

- Finally, a respectable game for the Panthers' Steve Smith (6 catches, 99 yards) - this despite Jake Delhomme's 3 INTs and 56.5 passer rating. Is a QB change in Carolina's future? And will it make a difference?

- It's official: Miles Austin (6 catches, 171 yards, 2 TDs) is everything Roy Williams was supposed to be for the Cowboys, and then some. Unfortunately if you still own Roy it's probably too late to make that roster move. If it's not - you should.

- Thanks for nothing, Matt Forte (49 total yards). Do something against Cleveland this week or consider yourself dropped.

- Ricky Williams, dependable fantasy starter? Sunday's stats (9 carries, 80 yards, 3 TDs) and his season totals say yes.

- Beanie Wells had his best outing of his rookie season against the Giants (14 carries, 67 yards, TD) and appears to have supplanted Tim Hightower (4 carries, 9 yards). But be careful here - he did fumble, too, and that's the reason the Cardinals have been reluctant to use him too much.

- Could Brian Westbrook's concussion be the opening LeSean McCoy needed for fantasy stardom? Possibly, but don't get too pumped if you've had Shady sitting on your bench. McCoy's averaging only 3.6 yards a carry so far, and it wouldn't shock me to see Westbrook facing the Giants this week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 7

- DONOVAN McNABB at Washington: Did you know Donovan has thrown 4 TDs in his past 4 games against the Redskins - and they all came in one game in 2007? He's also coming off a terrible game at Oakland (22 for 46, 269 yards, 0 TDs, 66.3 QB rating). May not be the best week to play him if you have a quality backup.

- PIERRE THOMAS at Miami: The Dolphins are allowing just 76 rushing yards a game, and Thomas, who's already stuck in a three-back rotation with Mike Bell and Reggie Bush, probably won't get enough touches to warrant a start this week.

- PERCY HARVIN at Pittsburgh: The rookie is questionable with a shoulder injury and is coming off a 2-catch, 10-yard game against Baltimore. I wouldn't expect much against the Steelers.


- LenDale White
had 6 carries for 15 yards and a fumble in Tennessee's debacle against New England last week before exiting in the first half with a knee injury. I think he's officially cemented his "bust" status for 2009, don't you?

- Speaking of busts, Terrell Owens caught 3 passes for 13 yards last Sunday, and his season is probably only going to get worse with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for the Bills. In fact, it might even be time to drop him.

- OK, I was wrong about Hakeem Nicks, who had the best game of his young career (5 catches, 114 yards, TD). He's now scored in three straight games and could keep that streak alive this week vs. Arizona.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Matt Forte is killing me

Matt Forte is killing me.

I had this guy pegged as my No. 3 overall pick entering this season, right behind Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner. Ahead of Chris Johnson. Ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew. Ahead of Steven Jackson. Ahead of DeAngelo Williams.

How's that looking? Check this out:


Adrian Peterson, 618, 7
Chris Johnson, 596, 2
Steven Jackson, 501, 0
Maurice Jones-Drew, 468, 8
DeAngelo Williams, 372, 4
Matt Forte, 294, 1

In other words, Forte's sucked.

This is a guy who rushed for 1,238 yards last year and 8 TDs. He also caught 63 balls for 477 yards and 4 more scores.

This year, he's caught only 18 balls, none for TDs.

You figured with strong-armed Jay Cutler in town, the Bears might rely a little less on the running game this year. I'll buy that. But didn't you figure Forte might be even more involved in the passing game? And even when they've run the ball with him, he hasn't been very effective - see his two fumbles on the goal line Sunday night against Atlanta.

Blame some of Forte's struggles on the Bears' schedule, which isn't getting any easier in the coming weeks. Five of Chicago's next six opponents rank in the upper-half of the league in run defense. We can only hope the Bears make a sustained effort to run the ball and Forte keeps getting carries and can somehow regain last year's form.

Photo by The Associated Press

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Start 'Em: Week 7

- RB FRANK GORE at Houston: We've missed Frankie a lot - remember the 207 yards and 2 TDs he dropped on the Seahawks in Week 2? Well, he's now back from an ankle injury and ready to roll over the Texans. Don't hesitate to use him, espeically on this six-team bye week.

- RB DONALD BROWN at St. Louis:
The Colts rookie has averaged 10 total touches a game this season. That should be enough work to do some damage against the Rams' 30th-ranked defense.

- WR STEVE BREASTON at N.Y. Giants: Breaston's always a decent flex option because he gets at least 4-5 targets a game in the Cardinals' pass-first offense. This week he could be more than that with No. 2 wideout Anquan Boldin nursing a high ankle sprain and the Giants' secondary still reeling from last week's spanking by the Saints.


- Thomas Jones rumbled for 220 yards on 22 carries (a Jets single-season rushing record) and a TD against the Bills. Patting myself on the back for that one.

- Jonathan Stewart had his best game of the season (17 carries, 110 yards, TD) against the Bucs, and now he faces the aforementioned Bills D. Play on, playa.

- Jermichael Finley had an OK showing against Detroit (5 catches, 54 yards) and should be at least decent again this week vs. Cleveland.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hot pickups: Week 7

FOUR STARS (Out of five)

- RB LAURENCE MARONEY, Patriots: People will look at his 133 yards and a TD in the snow last week against the Titans and sprint to the waiver wire to grab him. It's not a bad idea - he is playing the Bucs, who couldn't stop Laurence Olivier from running the ball down their throats at this point - but it wouldn't shock me if Benjarvus Green-Ellis or Kevin Faulk led the Pats in rushing this week, or they just threw the ball 70 times. It's what they do, so don't say I didn't warn you. But Maroney's still probably a smart play for at least one more week.

- WR SIDNEY RICE, Vikings: Rice is coming off his best game of his career (6 catches, 176 yards), and the Steelers defense has been somewhat susceptible to the pass this year (200 yards a game, 9 TDs), although a lot of that has to do with Troy Polamalu's absence. Still, it's worth gambling on a possible Brett Favre-to-Rice bomb or two this week.


- WR MICHAEL CRABTREE, 49ers: The rookie has already been elevated to starter status, replacing Josh Morgan in the Niners' lineup. There are almost always hiccups with rookie WRs, but it apprears Crabtree has been picking things up pretty quickly despite all the missed time, and he's ready to play a significant role in that offense. Temper your expectations, but he's definitely worth a look as a flex player this week against Houston.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 6 recap

Random thoughts from another week of gridiron goodness:

- Take a bow, Tom Brady (380 yards, 6 TDs). You've got to be licking your chops thinking about Sunday's game against the Bucs in London.

- Do Drew Brees' 4 TD passes make up for not him not throwing one in the two games before that? Probably. But it'd be nice to see a little more consistency.

- I knew Visanthe Shiancoe (5 TDs in 6 games) and Brett Favre would be a great team.

- Remember when Willis McGahee was a hot pickup? After three consecutive dreadful weeks (5 carries, 11 yards; 1 carry, -2 yards; 7 carries, 3 yards), I'm extremely glad I didn't jump on that bandwagon and stuck with Ray Rice (194 total yards, 2 TDs) as the Raven runner to own.

- I'm surprised Ben Roethlisberger has thrown the ball so much this year - at least 30 attempts in every game this season - but the results have been great the past few weeks. I'm afraid they might not be the next two weeks (vs. Minnesota, at Denver), however.

- Jake Delhomme (9-for-17, 65 yards) is killing Steve Smith's value. So is the Panthers' rejuvenated running game. But I still don't think I can resist starting Smith this week against Buffalo.

- Clinton Portis registered his first 100-yard rushing game of the year Sunday. Too bad his upcoming schedule (Philly, at Atlanta, Denver, at Dallas, at Philly, New Orleans) and the Redskins' offensive turmoil (in other words, they suck) will make it hard for him to repeat it any time soon.

- Good to see the Jaguars' coaching staff took Maurice Jones-Drew's (33 carries, 133 yards, 3 TDs, plus 45 receiving yards) complaints to heart. Now let's see the same thing against Tennessee and Kansas City, OK?

- Matt Schaub now has 4 outstanding fantasy performances and two busts. Hopefully the Texans will keep airing it out and Schaub can be penciled in as a no-doubt, every-week starter.

- Aaron Rodgers still put together a good day (358 yards, 2 TDs) despite getting sacked 5 times. You can do that against Detroit (and Cleveland next week), but the Packers' protection problems have me very nervous about Rodgers in some of the tougher matchups he'll face later on.

- So much for Matt Hasselback (10-for-29, 112 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) being back to fantasy starter status. That was painful.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sit 'Em: Week 6

-RB LENDALE WHITE at New England: Encouraged by big bad LenDale's 10 carries for 51 yards last week, his best output of the year? Don't be. A lot of those touches came late in the game after the Titans were already getting blown out. Tennessee's offense is very out of synch this year, and it appears even if things are going right they plan to give Chris Johnson the majority of the work. I'm not buying it.

- WR TERRELL OWENS at New York Jets: Sit the great T.O.? Ever think it'd come to this? Fact is, Owens has pretty much been a non-factor this year (no more than 4 catches or 60 yards receiving in any game; 1 TD), the Jets are stingy against the pass (fewer than 200 receiving yards a game and only 3 TDs allowed through the air), and T.O. will probably be blanketed by future All-Pro Darrelle Revis, who's already neutralized Randy Moss, Andre Johnson and Marques Colston this year. Bench him.

- WR HAKEEM NICKS at New Orleans: His two TDs in successive weeks make him awfully attractive this week, but remember the Saints' D is better than it used to be - only 3 passing TDs allowed - and Nicks is still behind Steve Smith and Mario Manningham on the Giants' depth chart. Nicks is defnitely a prospect to hold onto if you have room on your bench, but I'm not sure he's earned fantasy starter status yet.


- Eddie Royal (10 catches, 90 yards) finally broke out of his funk. My bad.

- Neither Justin Fargas (11 carries, 18 yards) nor Michael Bush (12 carries, 37 yards) were particularly effective against the Giants, although Bush did score on a 5-yard run after New York turned it over deep inside their own territory.

- Mark Sanchez was just 12-for-24 for 172 yards and a TD at Miami.

Start 'Em: Week 6

-RB THOMAS JONES vs. Buffalo: Sure, TJ hasn't cracked 100 yards rushing since Week 1, and he's averaging 3.7 yards a carry. However, he's got 3 TDs in the past two weeks, and Buffalo's defense is ranked 29th against the run.

-RB JONATHAN STEWART at Tampa Bay: Stewart finally came to life last week - his 10 carries were his most since Week 1, and he scored his first TD of the season. Maybe he's finally healthy and ready to make a serious contribution. The Bucs should help him in that cause.

-TE JERMICHAEL FINLEY vs. Detroit: We knew Finley had the size and the talent to be a fantasy force, but last Sunday's 6-catch, 128-yard, 1-TD showing against Minnesota officially signaled his breakout. Hopefully he'll have some more balls coming his way in the next four weeks against the Lions, Browns, Vikings (again) and Bucs.


-Tony Romo threw for 351 yards and two late TDs, including the OT game-winner to Miles Austin, against the Chiefs.

-Tim Hightower saw only 6 carries for 17 yards, but one of them was a 1-yard TD run. He also caught 5 passes for 30 yards, if that excites you.

-Seven catches, 85 yards and a TD for Hines Ward against Detroit. Money.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hot Pickups: Week 6

FIVE STARS (Out of five)

QB MATT HASSELBECK, Seahawks: Just in case someone in your league got impatient and dropped him, Hasselbeck reminded owners he can be a fantasy force when healthy with his 241-yard, four-TD effort Sunday against Jacksonville. He's definitely usable when he's got a favorable matchup, and there will be a bunch of those this year, including against Arizona this week and later in the year against St. Louis, Detroit, Houston and Arizona again.

WR MILES AUSTIN, Cowboys: Could Austin be that big-play, Terrell Owens-like receiver Tony Romo has missed all year? His monstrous 10-catch, 250-yard, 2-TD performance should be a resounding yes. There are a number of reasons to be pessimistic - Roy Williams was out; Austin had just 4 catches entering Week 5; the bulk of his yards came after the catch; and the Chiefs are god-awful. But if Wade Phillips has any interest in keeping his job (sometimes I'm not so sure), he'll find ways to keep getting Austin the ball following Week 6's bye. There's a lot of upside here.


WR JEREMY MACLIN, Eagles: If it weren't for Austin's outburst, we'd all be talking about Maclin's 6-catch, 142-yard, 2-TD day. He'd had a pretty quiet rookie campaign before Sunday, but let's just say the Bucs defense has been susceptible to the kind of long bombs Maclin was born to catch. I'm not sure how consistently Maclin will be targeted from here on out - Kevin Curtis (knee) had been ahead of Maclin on the depth chart, and teammate DeSean Jackson was coming off two huge games before catching just 1 pass Sunday - but the rookie could break off a big play or two against Oakland or Washington in the next two weeks.


TE BENJAMIN WATSON, Patriots: You know tight ends aren't consistently targeted in the Pats' offense, and Watson is no exception. However, he caught his third TD pass of the season Sunday (he had 2 in Week 1 against Buffalo), and he's going against the awful Titans and Bucs defenses in successive weeks. As long as the head injury he suffered Sunday doesn't turn out to be too serious, Watson could be worth the gamble if you're fishing for a TD.
Photo by The Associated Press