It’s never fun when you lose your stud quarterback — or any stud for that matter — this close to the playoffs. It hurts.
But those unfortunate enough to lose Aaron Rodgers to injury can take solace in the wealth of quarterback options that have emerged to take his place. If you aren’t in one of those horrible deep bench leagues, you probably have a shot at making a run without your main mustachioed man.
I normally try to add notes about FAAB, or free agent acquisition budget, spending limits for each player, but this week, it’s really up to you.
There aren’t too many more weeks for you to play it conservative. It’s time to go big…or stay home while someone else goes to the fantasy football playoffs. I’ll suggest the minimum amount you probably need to acquire a player, but you can spend your whole bank if you have the conviction. Don’t let your favorite players end up on another roster. It’ll be doubly bad to see them started against you in these final, critical weeks.
So thishappened. In case you somehow haven’t heard already, the replacement refs blew the call at the end of Monday Night Football by awarding a touchdown to Golden Tate in place of a Green Bay interception. Even Jon Gruden’s disgusted.
The play in question (or is it still in question?), courtesy of KSK:
And the player reactions rolled in all night long.
WARNING: Some NSFW. Especially T.J. Lang. Work is NOT a place for T.J. Lang tweets.
NFL Players React to Golden Tainted Monday Night Football
As the replacement refs botched the call on the final play of Monday Night Football, NFL players from around the league weighed in with their take or their call to get the regular refs back. Some of the most heated criticism came from the Green Bay Packers players themselves.
The NFL probably had no idea what to do with all the angry tweets, but they might have tried to get in on the conversation without thinking it through. Twitter followers captured this retweet from the official NFL Twitter account mocking the officiating.
This week’s high scores include members of teams you wouldn’t expect to produce fantasy powerhouses. The Browns? The Lions? The Raiders? Parity is the name of the game this season, as even these recently terrible franchises have produced fantasy gold.
Hillis looks like a top back the rest of the way. The Raiders continue to put up points no matter who has to catch the ball and clear the way for Darren McFadden. And the Lions continue to scare teams who don’t take them seriously.
If you had one of these scoring leaders on your roster, you should have won this week. If not…well, at least there’s hope for the future.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 184 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3 catches for 36 yards vs. Patriots
You have to wonder how former Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels felt watching Hillis destroy the Patriots on the ground for another former Patriots coordinator’s team. Eric Mangini certainly looks like he won on this trade. The Broncos have no running game, and the Browns are all running game with Hillis.
Now that he’s fully healthy after their bye and with Colt McCoy starting for the Browns, Hillis should continue to grind out these tough yards. As long as he can get in the end zone, he’ll produce at a high level. His schedule poses few challenges.
Next week he gets the Jets, and the only other two teams who might stand a chance at slowing him down are the Dolphins in Week 13 and the Ravens in Week 16. He also get the Steelers in Week 17 if you play your fantasy championships the last week of the year — but why, WHY are you doing that?
Green Bay Packers D/ST: 7 points against, 2 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs vs. Cowboys
The Cowboys gave up this game before the kickoff, and the Green Bay defense took advantage of Jon Kitna, who seemed like the only player other than Dez Bryant who had any interest in playing.
As many have stated throughout recent weeks, somehow the Packers manage to put together a great defensive game plan no matter how many players they lose to injury. But they hardly had to try against the Cowboys.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: 10 catches for 141 yards, 2 TDs vs. Steelers
The fact that T.O. is good this year still puzzles me. He stepped into a team with a proven wide receiver and replaced him entirely (and with more success). Those who drafted him will continue to benefit from Palmer’s force-feeding of the ball to T.O., especially late in games when the Bengals are down. That happens often.
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: 218 passing yards and 1 TD, 74 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Colts
Those owners who held onto Vick throughout his injury should reap the rewards now. He stepped onto the field and right back into his previous form. Other than two matchups against the Giants, the Eagles schedule should be a big bag o’ fun for the Eagles.
Circle Week 13 if it’s the first week of your fantasy playoffs. The Eagles face the Texans very terrible defense at home in Philly.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: 240 passing yards and 2 TDs, 1 INT, 11 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Jets
Stafford surprised many by dismantling the Jets defense right up until he got hurt again. That’s right: Hurt. AGAIN. Stafford could have been a savior for many a fantasy team late in the season, and this showdown against the Jets only proved how talented he is (and how good he can make the Lions). But it looks like he’ll go back on ice for a few weeks.
Stafford’s fantasy owners have to hope that Shaun Hill is healthy enough to start Week 10. Drew Stanton just doesn’t cut it as a Stafford stand-in.
Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers: 4 catches for 111 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans
Yeah, you try to say that. I’m glad I just have to type it. But Seyi Ajirotutu showed up big for those who took a chance on him as a sleeper.
After the Chargers bye, he’ll probably be relegated to a lesser role with Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Legedu Naanee likely to return to the field. Vincent Jackson will also soon be in the mix. But those who benefited from Ajirotutu’s big Week 9 should hold onto him if possible. Philip Rivers might not soon forget his big play potential.
Does the old man still have it? I don’t think so. But he showed signs of life this week against the Cardinals in willing the Vikings to a win in overtime. The rest of his schedule shouldn’t be so kind — other than possibly the Bills. It’s hard to trust Favre as a fantasy quarterback down the stretch as the games matter more than ever.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders: 6 catches for 148 yards, 1 kickoff return TD vs. Chiefs
Jacoby Ford is proof of one thing: ANYONE is better than throwing to Darrius Heyward-Bey. With every receiving weapon for the Raiders out due to injury, DHB still managed to catch nothing.
On the other hand/side of the field, Ford emerged as a great deep weapon, which could mean he keeps the speedster role when Louis Murphy returns to the lineup. He’s on bye but worth a pickup this week, for sure. Other than against the Steelers in Week 11, the Raiders could make good use of Ford throughout the rest of their schedule.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers: 42 rushing yards and 1 TD, 4 catches for 26 yards and 1 TD vs. Cowboys
The Packers defense created so many turnovers that the Packers had to run the ball, and Jackson proved his worth in the short-yardage situations he was given. Those who paid a high price for him early in the season (as I did) can only hope that the Packers look to develop their ground game as the weather turns cold late in the season.
Clearly, Jackson will put points on the board when he’s given a chance, but this game against the Cowboys was not the norm. Let’s see what they do against a real opponent (if you can call the Vikings that) after their bye week.
So Deion Branch is now a Patriot? That’s exciting for Bill Belichick and all — that man knows how to swing a three-way trade while moving up in the draft. But I don’t think the trade changes Branch’s fantasy value much.
Branch wasn’t that useful as a Seahawk, and they are hurting for playmakers. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will work their magic and integrate Branch into their system, but don’t expect Randy Moss-like numbers out of the Patriots’ new acquisition this year.
Even less exciting, the presence of Branch in New England will muddy the fantasy waters for Brandon Tate, who was Week 5’s hot waiver wire pickup. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.
First, the guys you’ll need if you just lost Jermichael Finley this week:
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
You may not have noticed, but Lewis has become the only person David Garrard throws touchdowns to this year. I’ve heard a legend about a man named Mike Sims-Walker who used to be targeted more often, but that man could just be a ghost. He has been for at least two games this year. Meanwhile, Lewis has two games with two touchdowns and only one really miserable fantasy performance, 15 yards receiving and no touchdowns in Week 3 against the Eagles. He trails only Antonio Gates (so does everyone), Dustin Keller, and Zach Miller in total fantasy points this season among tight ends. Yes, I’d say it’s safe to bet on him to fill the void left by Finley if you just lost your starting tight end. It also might not be a bad play to trade him out for the guy you’re currently starting unless you have one of the elite.
Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Lewis may already be off the board, and in that case, Moeaki is not a bad consolation prize. He’s got great hands, and he’s one of Matt Cassel’s favorite (read: only) targets. He comes it as the No. 12 tight end in total points even after sitting out for his Week 4 bye. Don’t hesitate to rely on Moeaki.
Brandon Pettigrew and/or Tony Scheffler, TE, Detroit Lions
Both Lions tight ends have had off and on weeks throughout the season while without their starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but Shaun Hill has proven to be a strong replacement, if only we knew which tight end he liked in any given week. At this point in the season, we can’t tell, but if forced to choose, I’d take Pettigrew over Scheffler. Pettigrew currently ranks No. 10 in total tight end fantasy points while Scheffler comes in at No. 16. If Calvin Johnson’s shoulder injury keeps him out in Week 6, both of these tight ends would receive more attention than usual…as long as they’re not too busy blocking the Giants’ attack.
Wide receivers you should grab now before they go off big time:
Obvious ones to grab before these guys: Kenny Britt, WR, Titans and Danny Amendola, WR, Rams
Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
A hot sleeper this preseason, McCluster hasn’t carved out a role in the Kansas City offense just yet. But Todd Haley finally came around on Jamaal Charles in Week 5 and gave Charles the majority of the carries in the running game. Surely, Haley will soon realize what he has in McCluster and find a way to get him on the field more frequently. Thus far, McCluster has just 7 catches this season, but he’s shown hints of his big play ability. You won’t be able to get him on the cheap if you wait for him to breakout.
Anthony Armstrong, WR, Washington Redskins
I almost listed Armstrong last week when he made a big catch downfield for McNabb, but I thought I should probably wait until he had more than one big catch in a game. Last week, he went out and got three of them, including one for a touchdown. So now he’s on a lot of fantasy radars. If you’re looking for a WR3, he just might be the guy you need. He could soon be the No. 2 receiver in Washington, replacing Joey Galloway, who turned 200 this preseason for those keeping a tally at home.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
I wouldn’t call the Bills’ offense “good,” but when they do score, they’ve been looking Johnson’s way ever since he moved from the No. 2 receiver role to the slot position. Lee Evans may be the big play threat, but Johnson’s just in the right place at the right time. That has value. Take a chance on Johnson if you have the space on your roster.
Those who will benefit from trades and injuries:
Mike Hart, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Addai got hurt on Sunday and left the running duties to Hart, who filled in nicely. If Donald Brown can’t get back on the field in Week 6 and if Addai misses some time, Hart is the starter in Indy. Remember: you can never have enough starting running backs. Don’t be afraid to go after Hart this week, but check Brown’s status first.
Deon Butler and/or Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks
I care more about what the Deion Branch trade does to the Seahawks than how it affects the Patriots. Without Branch, the Seahawks will have more snaps for Butler and Tate. Golden Tate would appear to be more likely to take over as a starter since he’s the guy they drafted just this year to make an impact, but I can’t get over my sleeper love for Butler. Both have the potential to excel with more playing time, but if forced to choose, pick up Tate and just keep an eye on Butler.
UPDATE: Forget what I just said. Now I’m hearing that the starting job is Butler’s. I actually like him better than Golden Tate so make sure you go out and get him. He could be the big winner of the Deion Branch trade, and he has the speed that Mike Williams (SEA) lacks to make big plays in the passing game.
Laurent Robinson and/or Mardy Gilyard, WR, St. Louis Rams
Clayton’s injury comes at a bad time for the Rams. Robinson is still trying to come back from an injury, and Gilyard has been taking his time learning his way in the Rams’ offense. Both have a shot at the starting job and a chance to fill the void in targets that Clayton leaves behind. Brandon Gibson has sniffed the fantasy value charts this season, but I don’t see him becoming a dominant force anytime soon. Danny Amendola is one helluva pass-catcher (and he stands to gain the most from Clayton’s injury), but someone has to play Robin to his Batman. That leaves these two. Choose your own adventure! I loved Robinson before the Clayton trade (and before he got injured, which he seems to do pretty frequently), but time will tell whether he can make it back on the field at 100 percent. For now, I’d say the best bet to replace Clayton in the lineup is Gilyard.
Some speculative picks if you have some room for a stash:
Keiland Williams, RB, Washington Redskins
Williams rejoined the active roster after Portis went down with injury, and even though he’s only playing passing downs and half as many snaps as Ryan Torain, he’s one Shanahan-igan away from the starting lineup. Stash him now if you want to benefit for the few weeks (or snaps) that Williams remains Shanahan’s preferred running back in Washington.
Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I highlighted Benn in previous “On the Wire” items, but consider this your final reminder. He’s working his way into the Bucs’ offense, and they’re starting to impress in the passing game.
Defenses that might be an upgrade over your current squad:
New York Giants D/ST
At first they seemed like they’d fallen off the wagon, but the Giants D/ST has stepped up in the past two weeks. That’s enough for me to recommend you jump on them before the rest of your league. I wouldn’t say they’re an every-week start just yet, but as long as the matchup is right, the Giants will put pressure on the quarterback and fantasy points on the board. This week, they get the Lions.
Kansas City Chiefs D/ST
They somehow managed to slow down even the Colts’ offense. I believe. You should, too.
And some quarterbacks that might be available in your league for the bye week or if you are scared about starting Matt Flynn:
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Trust me, he’s better than David Carr. And this week, he gets to play Oakland, fun for the whole family.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are better than expected, and Freeman is a big reason why. Mike Williams (TB) is another. He’s not a bad fill for an injured quarterback or a quarterback on bye. This week, he faces the Saints, which may not seem as scary as it should after they dropped one to the Cardinals last week. Even if they do show up to play against the Bucs, we know that Freeman will have to throw it a ton to keep up with Drew Brees. Hopefully, that’ll make up for his mistakes.
BREAKING NEWS: See below for an update on Brandon Jackson, who is now the No. 1 guy to get on waivers this week.
So it seems the Seahawks are a little less helpless than we expected them to be at the start of the season. The 49ers D/ST was a hot defense to target in drafts this preseason, but the San Francisco unit was embarrassed by Matt Hasselbeck Sunday in a 31-6 beat down. And that was just one of the games that revealed a few undrafted gems this weekend.
Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Matt Hasselbeck’s premiere target in the offense is now Mike Williams, who replaced T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the starting lineup after the Seahawks parted ways with the veteran wideout. While Williams didn’t score in the blowout victory Sunday, he played a significant role. Williams’ four catches for 64 yards led the team, and he was stopped just short of the goal on one of those four catches.
As long as the Seahawks can play like they did Sunday, Williams is a man worth owning. To keep the two fantasy relevant Mike Williams(es) straight, feel free to refer to the Seahawks’ Mike Williams as BMW, or Big Mike Williams. I’m told he’ll like that, but let’s be honest…I don’t care either way.
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Drafted in many leagues after a productive preseason, this rookie wide receiver scored Sunday and could have had two if not for a high pass by Josh Freeman, still recovering from a broken thumb. He’ll see plenty of targets this season as Freeman matures/heals and as the Bucs, more than likely, play from behind. Go after him if his current owner doesn’t know what he has.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers
BREAKING NEWS: Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer is reporting that Ryan Grant’s injury will put him on season-ending IR, which leaves Brandon Jackson as the No. 1 back in Green Bay. While some conflicting reports are still out there, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has also confirmed that Grant will need surgery on his ankle and miss at least 10-12 weeks. I’m in agreement with Footballguys.com’s Sigmund Bloom that Brandon Jackson is now a must-have. Bid or prioritize him on the waiver wire accordingly. See what I said about him this morning below and GO GET HIM PEOPLE! GO! NOW! MOVE!
As long as Ryan Grant is out, Jackson is the man in Green Bay. He should be productive enough to fill in as a full-time Grant replacement while the Packers offense rolls without its starting running back. In fact, Jackson is better at catching passes than Grant, which makes him more valuable than Grant was in PPR leagues.
Several times since Grant’s breakout season, we’ve heard rumors that Jackson could take the starting job from him in Green Bay, but Jackson’s health and inexperience has kept him from claiming the top spot. This opportunity is his best chance to show what he can do. If he compliments the Packers potent passing attack well while Grant is out, he could keep the job. Just keep that in mind.
Legedu Naanee, WR, San Diego Chargers
If you watched the second matchup of the Monday Night Football marathon last night, you saw Legedu Naanee sneak out for a 59-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. That was luck, but Naanee is bound to have more of it.
Malcom Floyd is the No. 1 in Vincent Jackson’s absence, but Naanee is another tall and perhaps equally talented wide receiver who Philip Rivers is more than willing to get the football to as long as he is open. The Chargers didn’t look so hot in their first showing Week 1, but as this offense rights the ship and, hopefully, gets starting LT Marcus McNeill back on the field, Naanee will only get better.
His value does depend on Vincent Jackson’s absence, but I don’t see Jackson playing for the Chargers again this season…or ever. So there’s that.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
As we feared, Jerome Harrison lost touches to Hillis against the Bucs on Sunday, and Hillis recorded the only rushing touchdown for the Browns, even after Harrison did the hard work to get them there with a big run. It looks like Harrison will have to play Eric Mangini’s running back “Cupid Shuffle” again this season. Hillis is a guy to keep on your roster in the meantime, especially if he ends up carrying the rock for the Browns near the red zone.
Mark Clayton, WR, St. Louis Rams
The Rams passed the ball quite a bit on Sunday, and Clayton took advantage of his opportunities and racked up 119 yards. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford also threw three picks on Sunday, which tells us they might not throw the ball as much in future contests, but for now, Clayton has immediately become a big part of this offense. He might not make it to the end zone often…or ever, but he could develop into a decent WR3, especially in PPR leagues.
After the Saints won the Super Bowl, I wanted to take a little more time off than usual from blogging this offseason. So I decided to wait until Brett Favre had officially let his inner child back out of the bag and committed to one more season with the Vikings before I got back on the horse. Easy, right?
Sure, I caved rightaroundthe draft for a bit, but I held strong. I wanted to ramp up right after Old Man Winter let the news slip. Surely, he can’t drive us insane all offseason again.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like Favre’s presence in the NFL shakes up my rankings or my draft strategy. It doesn’t. It’s safe to assume he should be ranked, and I wouldn’t want to draft him for any of my teams no matter how good — or old — he looks on paper. I just thought it’d be nice to know that it was settled…that the Favre mess that happens every offseason was out of the picture.
I didn’t make it…and I’m blaming Favre.
It’s not like it’s a secret. Was that ankle injury really enough to end his career? No. We know it. He knows it. We all suspect he’s milking this injury for all that it’s worth so that he can stay out of training camp.
Favre’s turned into your grandpa who always moans and groans about his war wound…or his erectile dysfunction. Oh, it’ll never be the same. That’s life, pops. You play football. Talk to grandma or a medical professional about that. Let’s move on.
We all know Favre gets a special childlike pleasure out of beating the Green Bay Packers every year — so much so that he’d probably play for the Detroit Lions on one good leg as long as he got to see the Packers twice a season. There’s no way he’s going to leave unfinished business on the table, especially after tasting the playoffs last season.
So I beg of you, Mr. Fav-rah, suck it up. The rest of your team is fighting for a roster spot or coming to terms with your last-minute airdrop on the Vikings a year ago. Just stop practicing with high school kids in your Wranglers and commit already. Go to camp. I’m sure you can get out of the drills you don’t want to do or even sit camp out altogether. You’re an “exception” on your team.
Regardless, you won’t stop. You can’t. We know it. You’re all about the football. You’re addicted to this stuff.
But…I guess I’m the one who’s truly addicted here. I couldn’t wait it out with you. This blogging thing is half of what I live for every NFL season. Hell, I’d blog for the Detroit Lions with one leg as long as I get to keep going. So you win this one.
Here we go. 2010. Buckle up. (I always wanted to say that at some pivotal moment. “Buckle up.” Typing it…not so much the same.)
There aren’t many names out there that I haven’t mentioned previously, but if you’re strengthening your roster for a playoff run, some favorable schedules make these players more lucrative grabs than others.
If you didn’t secure a quarterback with a favorable schedule during the fantasy playoffs, or if you are worried about your starter sitting down a few weeks early (Peyton Manning owners), becoming senile (Brett Favre owners), or being further concussed (Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger owners), there are still a few quarterbacks available that could fill that void.
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
He won over the coaching staff and the team after replacing Shaun Hill midseason, but he’s won over fantasy owners in recent weeks after the 49ers installed a spread offense. In the spread, Smith has been deadly effective, and Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, and Michael Crabtree should continue to benefit. Best of all? In Week 16, he faces the Detroit Lions in what could be your fantasy Super Bowl. You can’t ask for a sweeter matchup.
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans
As I showed with the stat analysis I did on VY last week, he’s got one of the best schedules in the NFL in Weeks 14-16, and he’s got a running back that will keep defenses from every shutting down the passing game. If you’re in desperate need of a reliable starter with the potential for greatness, VY is the guy.
Others you might consider in the order I would consider them (if I were you, hoping not to have to consider them): Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins; Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills; Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Oakland Raiders; Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns.
All have schedules that could give them a boost in these final weeks, but none of them are quarterbacks I would want to bet my season on unless I had lost all hope. Also note that Joe Flacco gets to play the Detroit Lions this week, if you’re in need of a miracle and able to acquire him.
This week’s bright spots are led by a few running backs you may have forgotten.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
He’s scoring his points through the air thanks to Brady Quinn’s renewed effectiveness. As long as that keeps up, and as long as Harrison keeps the majority of the workload at running back, he is in line for a few big days in the coming weeks.
Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos
Now that he’s healthy, he’ll get to share a lot more carries with Knowshon Moreno. While Moreno got the scores against Kansas City, Buckhalter’s explosive runs and his ability to catch passes makes him a threat to take any given play to the house. Even without scoring, he’s putting up enough yardage to contribute if your current starter faces a tough stretch. Matt Forte, we’re still looking at you.
Chris Brown, RB, Houston Texans
He’s a big brute, but a brute who scores touchdowns is never worth complaining about. Things are murky in Houston’s backfield, but I prefer Brown to Ryan Moats. His playoff schedule could give him plenty of chances to line up at the goal line for a score.
And if you’re receivers have become garbage (Devin Hester owners) or suspended (Dwayne Bowe owners), there are a few young guns to add to your roster.
Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins
Better than he seems in the stat line, Bess has been a PPR stud all year and finally got a chance to shine in the Miami passing frenzy that overwhelmed the Patriots. If it keeps up, Bess will, too.
Devin Thomas, WR, Washington Redskins
Okay, so the Redskins do have an offense. Jason Campbell found Thomas for two touchdowns this past week, and he could be in line for more down the stretch as Campbell fights to remain relevant in Washington (and the NFL in general) and while Thomas proves he’s no bust.
Josh Morgan, WR, San Francisco 49ers
See Alex Smith. In the spread offense, Morgan has become a favorite target, and again, fantasy Super Bowl vs. Detroit. That’s worth a shot-in-the-dark start.
Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints
Last week, I had to make last-minute swaps to get Hartley in for John Carney when the Saints finally decided to switch back to their younger leg. But it paid off big. As TMR points out, he plays all but Week 17 indoors, where it is nice and cozy.
D/STs for the Playoff Run
Sports Data Hub pointed out how good the New Orleans Saints D/ST is looking for the fantasy playoffs. Hopefully, you, like me, were able to stash them in Week 5 and ride them all the way to the end of the season. Looks like the good times haven’t come to an end yet.
But if you didn’t listen then or had already missed your chance at owning Brees’ boys, The FF Geek Blog has a short list of defenses to plug into your lineup this week. Out of that list, Green Bay is another favorite to set and forget for your run at the championship, especially coming off their Monday night performance against Baltimore.
I’m pretty sure half the NFL wishes that this game wasn’t even televised. It might fool some people into believing that the Browns and the Lions are good teams.
Despite their big fantasy days Sunday, the downward-trending Browns and unfortunate Lions are not fantasy starters. They only get to play each other once this year.
Obviously, last week’s running back pickups look like fantastic grabs this week if your league neglected to snatch them up. Look to get Jason Snelling, Beanie Wells, and Jamaal Charles before anyone else on this list, but here are a few additional notes on some of the guys from last week and some new names.
No long-term investments this week as we approach the end of the fantasy season.
Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks — The receiving game made him a stud last week, and now he gets to face the Rams. I still don’t love his situation, but he makes a solid starter for your lineups this week.
Chris Chambers, WR, Kansas City Chiefs — He’s filling in adequately for Dwayne Bowe and would be a great receiver to add for depth if you are making a push for the playoffs.
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — While it seemed optimistic at first to consider him a dark horse stud for the fantasy playoffs, it’s looking more realistic than optimistic now. His consistent production and the confidence he showed in Houston have compelled me to rate him as a solid backup quarterback if you’re current starter doesn’t have a kind schedule in Weeks 14-16.
Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants — Eli Manning just realized how to use Boss again this season, and he’s making up for lost time. If your tight end hasn’t lived up to expectations, it might be time to show him who’s the Boss.
Rock Cartwright, RB, Washington Redskins — He gets to start in Washington by process of elimination. Portis won’t return in Week 12, and Betts is out for the season. Look for Washington to bring in some veteran depth as support, but for now, Cartwright is your starter against the Eagles.
Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — He impressed against the Raiders, and this week, he gets the Browns. Best hope Cedric Benson sits one more week.
And if you’re really having trouble filling up that roster…
Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals — If Warner were out for the rest of the season, I’d say you must own Leinart. Right now, Warner might not even miss a game, and that’s a good thing considering how terrible Leinart looked replacing Warner at the end of the game against the Rams. And yes, let me repeat that was against the RAMS. I shudder to think what Leinart could do to ruin the fantasy playoff plans of many a Larry Fitzgerald owner if Arizona is forced to start him for a few weeks.
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills — Marshawn Lynch injured his shoulder Sunday. Lynch could be ready to go in Week 12, but there’s a chance Jackson gets to carry the full load. During Lynch’s suspension, Jackson was a beast, but he’ll face the Dolphins on Sunday and Jets (in Canada) next Thursday if he gets the call.
Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints — He’s suddenly become a reliable red zone target for the Saints and for fantasy teams. That’s worth stashing on your bench if you’re prepping for a playoff run.
Danny Ware, RB, New York Giants — His value increases if Brandon Jacobs sits, but it looks like that won’t happen. Just keep an eye on this situation.
Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — Johnson didn’t shoulder much of the load on Sunday, but he could take on more of the offense in the coming weeks against the Browns and the Lions. I think Scott would have to show some inexperience or an inability to make the play for the Bengals in order for L.J. to take over as the starter during Cedric Benson’s absence.
Daunte Culpepper, QB, Detroit Lions — Looks like he’ll be facing the Packers since Matthew Stafford injured his shoulder against the Browns on Sunday, but something tells me you won’t be thankful for his performance on Turkey Day.
Kyle Boller, QB, St. Louis Rams — Matchups are good, but Boller is not. He will have to prove himself for me to trust him, and I am just hoping that he doesn’t cut into Steven Jackson’s value.
Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints — Pierre Thomas just can’t win. With Reggie Bush out, the Saints let Mike Bell get two touchdowns while Thomas was held scoreless. While he’ll never be a lock for any points, Bell could vulture more touchdowns down the stretch as the Saints have one of the weaker schedules against the run.
Jason Avant, WR, Philadelphia Eagles — He’s not the first or second receiver on the depth chart, but the Eagles throw enough to keep him productive. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t trust him to keep it up when it counts.
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns — Massaquoi can certainly tear up the Lions’ secondary, but unless you’re desperate for a starter during one of his two easy-as-cake matchups in the fantasy playoffs, you might find better use for a roster spot than a Browns receiver.
Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams — He’s getting a lot of targets, and St. Louis has some favorable matchups down the stretch. But don’t forget that he’s still a Ram. Kyle Boller also takes over as the starter this week.
It’s good that it only comes after bye weeks are over when rosters have, for the most part, been figured out. Otherwise, Thursday Night Football would be a real pain.
Instead, it’s just kind of a pain because you have to remember in the middle of the week, just after setting your waiver wire claims and receiving said claims on your team, that it’s time to set your roster again.
The NFL is just training us to watch professional football every night of the week. First came Sunday and Monday nights. They own those now. We will never have them back — not that anyone does besides crazy people and girlfriends.
Now, they’re encroaching on Thursday nights, setting up shop and planning to stay around.
What will they take from us next? Wednesday nights? Tuesday nights? Yes, please. And why not?
If there was any way an NFL game could kill Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance? I’m all for it. I don’t think I can dance, and I don’t care if the stars think they can either. The NFL is the only TV worth watching.
So thank your NFL overlords and set your lineups today.
As usual, we’ll cover a few players to start or sit who may or may not be on the fence of startability this week.
Hot Hands Starts of the Week
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Raiders – Oh, Charles, I just can’t quit you. Really, I wish I could. You made me look bad last week, but this week, you get the Raiders and complete job security knowing that Larry Johnson is off somewhere tweeting about how gay you are.
The Raiders are terrible against the run. They are second in points allowed to running backs behind only the Bills. The Raiders are also terrible against bees — they always get stung — and light bulbs. Oh, do light bulbs give them a hard time. Llamas could run for 100 yards against them.
You’re better than a llama, right, Charles?
One can only hope if you chose to start him again this week.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams vs. Saints – Sometimes people get cute against a high-powered offense and sit the dependable running backs who could get taken out of the game early. Don’t. Do. That.
Coming off a bye and two straight 100+ yard performances, Jackson should have plenty of room to run against the Saints defense, currently without run-stopper Sedrick Ellis. Running backs have been able to hurt them, which explains why the Saints have been so fond of getting behind in the first half of their games lately.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions vs. Vikings – Against a pass rush that wants to eat his lunch, Matthew Stafford would be well-served by passing the ball off to Brandon Pettigrew more than once in this game. Pettigrew reached the end zone last week, and the Vikings rank first in points allowed to tight ends.
The opportunity is there if the Lions can take advantage.
Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Bears – Don’t get me wrong. Smith is not Kurt Warner. He will not throw for five touchdowns, but he should get his fair share against this Bears defense with receiving options like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
This game is more important to the 49ers than the Bears. While the 49ers have fallen back just two games in their division, the Bears are almost completely out of the race. For that reason, I think the 49ers will take it as long as they can keep it close.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Jaguars – The Jags have laid down like kittens in road games this year, and the Jets are coming off a bye. Two signs that point to a big day on offense for the Jets. Edwards should get his fair share of targets, and he has a very good chance of scoring in this one.
Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers vs. Eagles – Dead to fantasy football until further notice.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars vs. Jets – He’s having such a nice season, but this week, he gets covered by The Darrelle Revis Effect. It’s like The Butterfly Effect, but you don’t wake up until the game’s over. And you didn’t change anything on the scoreboard.
Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins vs. Broncos – So you’re walking along thinking “You know, I got that Betts guy this week off waivers. He’s replacing Clinton Portis while Portis recovers. I think that’s a pretty solid start.” You’re buddy says “I dunno, Bob.” (Your name is Bob. I assume these things.) You say “How could it go wrong? Washington’s got no one else, and Betts looked good against the Falcons last week. He even scored a touchdown.”
And then your friend tells you, as any responsible person would, that that’s the point, Bob. The Redskins have no one else. Even Jason Campbell got banged up last week. Don’t you think the Broncos will get after him? The Broncos may have given up yards to running backs against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but the Redskins are not on a roll in the running game like either of those teams. At this point, you stop listening, Bob, because you realize that your friend is a real talker.
As impactful and suspenseful as that little side story was, that’s how productive Betts will be this week against a motivated Broncos defense that knows the Redskins will pose a small threat to their dream-season hopes. The Broncos need to get back on track, and the Redskins are llama pathetic, in keeping with the theme.
Trent Edwards, QB, Bills vs. Titans – One quarterback who won’t take advantage of the Titans’ secondary? This guy. I just don’t see it happening, and I don’t have much confidence in any of the Bills this week.
Green Bay Packers D/ST – They fell apart against Tampa Bay, and I have a hard time imagining them doing any better against Miles Austin and the Cowboys. They might even be without Aaron Kampman, one of their best defenders, as he recovers from a concussion.
Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week
Zach Miller, TE, Raiders vs. Chiefs – One of those rare games in which JaMarcus Russell does not seem completely incompetent, only slightly. The Chiefs are actually pretty average against tight ends, but Miller is the only target Russell can hit with any consistency.
As a side note, I’m so glad I never have to clean a toilet that JaMarcus Russell uses. Can you imagine how bad his aim is in that arena?
Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups
Hawthorne Heights – “Ohio Is For Lovers”
I know what you’re thinking. What does this screamy song have to do with fantasy football? Well, I like to imagine Ted Ginn Jr. singing this song to his own hands.
“And I can’t make it on my own…because my heart is in Ohio.”
“So cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight, or die. Because you kill me. You know you do. You kill me well. You like it, too, and I can tell.”
That’s practically out of Ted Ginn Jr.’s pregame diary. I feel like we violated him just by listening to it. He’s obviously convinced cutting off his hands is the only way for him to be happy again, but don’t do anything that drastic, Ginn. Just make them work for you in something other than kick returns.
At least you can take solace in not having Ted Ginn Jr. on your team this week.
It’s easy to pick on Brian Westbrook, but his surprise “inactivity” this week probably caught many fantasy owners off-guard. It caught me off-guard. All indications were that he would take the field, but some headaches on Friday conspired to keep him from playing.
That also prevented me from starting LeSean McCoy over Jamaal Charles. Would have been nice to know, you know, Westbrook?
I spent the past weekend and first half of this week in California for a conference. For some reason, I assumed that free Internet would be easily found and obtained around the state of California, land of tech and startups, but it was pretty lacking around the hotel. Not to mention, the hotel wanted to charge $13 per day to plug into the wall for Internet. What is this? The Dark Ages?
I hadn’t fully adjusted to the time change on Sunday at 10 a.m. when I realized the games were already starting. Football at 10 a.m.? That feels like college. I don’t like that.
The bye week served Tampa Bay well. Not only did they get Josh Freeman up to speed for his first start, but they also got the team excited enough to get after the Packers and get their first win of the season. Quite a way to start off a rookie season. Might be the only good game he has in him this year.
No 0-16 seasons this year. Three weeks ago it looked like it would be a race between the Titans and the Bucs, but now both teams have rediscovered their offenses thanks to quarterback changes and bye weeks. I guess that’s why they have the byes. I just thought the byes were intended to make fantasy football more difficult.
At least we can still hope for 1-15.
Kurt Warner’s having hot flashes. Never has the Warner boom-bust phenomenon been more obvious than his five-touchdown performance one week after his five-interception game.
On the other hand, Cedric Benson proved he’s the model of consistency. Baltimore looked angry last week, ready to destroy Cincinnati in their revenge game, but Benson put up 100+ yards on them again and added a score just to drive the point home.
Much to the delight of DeAngelo Williams’ owners, the Saints let the Panthers roll on them again in the first half. That run defense just can’t hold the line anymore with the injuries that have hit it in recent weeks, but they still come up with the big play.
This week, it was forced fumbles that created the Saints’ scoring opportunity on defense instead of Darren Sharper and that excellent secondary. Even though they let the scores get high, the Saints remain a valid fantasy option by scoring so much on defense.
I really expected the Patriots to exploit the young and inexperienced Miami secondary more than they did on Sunday. Randy Moss had a big day, but Brady didn’t do much more than that. Where’s the evil Belichick I know and love?
Jay Cutler proved that his favorite target is Greg Olsen by throwing him three touchdowns against the Cardinals.
Matt Forte barely remembers what the ball even looks like at this point. The Bears had to abandon the run so that Cutler could try to get them back in it. At this point, you can pretty much call Forte’s season “over.”
It took longer than expected, but Clinton Portis finally went out of a game with an injury this week as the Redskins got run over by Michael Turner. Portis has fallen off a cliff this year after being driven into the ground by Washington last year.
I don’t have many regrets from this week, but I wish I had started Joseph Addai. Here I was thinking that the Texans had finally fixed their problems on the ground, but short-yardage goal line situations are pretty common for the Colts. Addai capitalized.
Oh, hi there, Chris Chambers. Just when I thought you were dead…
Releasing Larry Johnson less than 100 yards before he becomes the team’s all-time leading rusher? Yeah…I’m pretty sure they had nothing against him.
By the way, now that I’m back to the land of the Internets, the waiver wire post from Tuesday has been updated and fleshed out. Feel free to peruse it’s newly formatted goodness all over again. It’s like going from standard definition to high definition.