Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Hangover - Week 3

The first week of the season I went 0-3. In week two I picked up one W and lost two. And the trend continues in week three as I win 2 and lose 1. At this rate I'll win three trophies. Except for the fact that I won't.

By week three you may not know if you have a superbowl champ on your hands, but you should have good idea if your team stinks. I have one such team. It starts and ends with Matt Schaub and Roddy White. I maneuvered my way into Dustin Keller, but Ryan Matthews is a huge bust so far, if you own him then you certainly feel my pain. Pierre Garcon has been supplanted by Austin Collie, Steve Breaston has been essentially neutered by Derek Anderson and Felix Jones is repeating every year he's ever had as a pro. Dammit.

>>But things could be worse. I could have stayed up late Monday night waiting for Jay Cutler to deliver me a mere 20 points, which (in this particular league) has happened each of the first two weeks. On the contrary, I faced off against Cutler with only the Robbie Gould to protect myself. But thanks to Devin Hester and some incredible clock-management by Green Bay, Cutler never had a chance to be a fantasy factor. Sure, he won the actual "game." But unless you are a Bears fan you don't give a rat's fart.

>>Braylon Edwards had a pretty good Sunday. I can't wait to see what he blows this week.

>>Sure do wish I'd picked up Vick when he was out there. But that's OK, he's bringing out the best in Desean Jackson. BTW, the best in Desean Jackson is better than "The Best" of just about anyone else.

>>Anyone but Anquan Boldin apparently. Did he and Joe Flacco wake up and realize he season started two weeks ago? Or, more likely, will they pull one of those hot and cold stunts where they disappear for two weeks then blow up for 1 making them virtually unstartable because you never know when they'll show up. But maybe not, Boldin is a competitive guy, hopefully he's here to stay.

>>Did you bench Mike Wallace because a) he hasn't done a thing all year or b) because Charlie Batch is throwing him the ball? Either way, sorry about missing out on one of this week's fantasy lottery tickets.

>>Who is the Adrian Peterson fellow? It must be nice to have a running back you can pretty much rely on week in and week out. Sort of the opposite of Joseph Addai. Never drafting that guy again.

>> I tried to trade Desean Jackson for Frank Gore and got soundly rebuffed last week. I think after this weekend we're both happier dancing with who brung us.

>>But really this was the weekend of the QB. Going into Monday night I looked across the board and the trend terrified me: QBs were going nuts all weekend. Vick was out of his mind. Brees played horribly but still put up huge numbers. Is Peyton allowed to throw for fewer than 300 yards? Chad Henne. Aaron Rodgers. Philip Rivers. Flacco. Just points everywhere. Really the only disappointments were Cutler and Matt Schaub. My man Romo didn't exactly light the world on fire, but he got the job done.

>>This week people will be discussing Peyton Hillis and Roy Williams ad nauseum. Hillis I think has value, but Roy, well, unless he pins together another week or two of not sucking he's just bench gravy. Maybe Dez Bryant should reconsider his stance on carrying the man's shoulder pads.

Did you see any trends this week? Let us know.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The only thing we have to fear is being dumber than a box of rocks

Part 1 in in a continuing series on how I sabotage my own fantasy season

Last week I talked my opponent into benching Michal Vick (vs the Lions) and starting Donovan McNabb (vs the Texans). Naturally I outclevered myself and McNabb outfantasied Vick by 12 points. Fortunately I still beat the guy so all's well that ends well.

But you can't expect such blundering to go unpunished for long, and this week it seems, the cows have come home to roost. It's not a done deal, but I've got the most tenuous 20.5 point lead anyone has ever had in a game of fantasy football. Why? I made two classic fantasy blunders: I started my starting RB (Addai) even though he's started to look like he used his last bit of energy exploding in the preseason. I seriously considered replacing him with my new friend (and possessor of the finest nickname in football) BenJarvus -The Firm - Green-Ellis who went for 98 and a TD. Compared to Addai's meager 29 yards, this would have been a game-changing swap.

And if that's not bad enough, I benched another starter (Witten) in favor of Mercedes Lewis who dropped a steamer of a 2.5 point game against the Eagles. And I knew it was coming. I had the misfortune of drafting Witten last year and I stayed on that horse all season until late in the year I said enough is enough. The second I drop him? BAM! 20 point day. Same thing here. A benched Witten is a productive Witten. #&@%*$.

So instead of enjoying MNF from the standpoint of a man with a 38 point lead and a Kicker. I get to sit helplessly by while Cutler pulls my heart out all night long while I pray for Gould to nail half a dozen or so 50-yard field goals. There is nothing more stressful than watching your lead deteriorate at the hands of a QB when all you have to defend yourself is a Robbie Gould.
Go kicker go.

-Eric Edwards

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tough Choice on Who to Start? Look Deeper

Don't you just hate agonizing over two players as 1 p.m. approaches? Maybe we can help you out here. (Or maybe you think you have better odds of Chad Johnson treating you to a steak dinner -- although in his case it should have been hot dogs.)

When choosing between two seemingly equal candidates to start, it's not always about the recent numbers or merely the skill sets of the players involved.

Look at the game and how it's likely to play out. As many aspects of it as you can. This might not guarantee you make the correct decision, but it could break the stalemate and make you feel more confident about the choice you make.

Case in point: Cleveland at Baltimore today. If you own Ray Rice, it's a no-brainer to start him. But those of you who own Willis McGahee might well consider him as an RB2 or flex play -- because of two variables that quietly entered the picture on Saturday.

The Browns' best (only?) run-stopper, Shaun Rogers, was declared out for today. So a one-sided matchup in the trenches just got more one-sided-er. Also, Joshua Cribbs' ankle is iffy, and he was downgraded. The Browns had said earlier in the week that they wanted to get Cribbs -- their only electric offensive player -- more involved in the offense. Not having Cribbs would also hurt the Browns' return game, meaning they could have lousy field position much of the afternoon.

So the chances have grown for Rice to have a huge day, quite probably huge enough for the Ravens to give McGahee a good number of garbage-time carries. Remember, this is a guy who scored 14 touchdowns last year and averaged five yards a carry.

Yes, there is such a thing as over-thinking. Yes, even the most careful analysis of as many variables as possible can backfire on you. But looking at the total picture of the game gives you the best chance of making the best decision for your team. Good luck!

--Reid Creager

Friday, September 24, 2010

Act Fast: Knowshon Moreno Out for Week 3 UPDATED

Laurence Maroney looks like the pickup here.

UPDATE: Uh, no, he doesn't. Late Friday afternoon, Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said Correll Buckhalter will start Sunday against Indianapolis, although it's obvious Maroney has the calendar and upside on his side. Maroney should get a decent number of carries on Sunday, though.

Moreno reportedly has a hamstring injury; it's assumed it happened in practice. It's not known how long he'll be out. Meanwhile, the brittle and aging Buckhalter -- who's not playing well but who did manage a TD last week -- could be a decent RB2 against a shaky Indy run defense.

--Reid Creager

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Who's Your Favorite Fantasy Longshot?

Notice I didn't say "sleeper." I'm talking about guys who are so far under the radar that the beam won't go that low.

Last week, amid the Brandon Jackson hype, I gave you Packers fullback John Kuhn. (Hey, every once in awhile I get one right.) Kuhn not only looked better than Jackson on Sunday, he outgained him. Although Kuhn fell short of the TD I predicted for him, he's now going to split carries with Jackson, including at the goal line (and maybe even with Dimitri Nance, too. If you sold your soul to get Jackson, my condolences.).

Our cohort Eric Edwards was Eric on the spot late last night with news of the Hank Baskett signing with the Vikings. But do you really want to put too many eggs in that Baskett? He hasn't done anything of note in the past couple years except marry (and stay married to) a former Playboy playmate. Baskett is currently the No. 5 receiver behind Greg Camarillo and Greg Lewis -- although yeah, he's got as good of a chance to emerge as a consistent threat as they do, and could pass them on the depth chart with one strong game once he learns the offense.

Baskett is a true longshot -- he remains zero percent owned in Yahoo leagues as of late morning today, the same figure for Kuhn for much of last week -- but he certainly merits watching. And hey, the esteemed Mr. Edwards certainly has a longer fantasy track record than I do.

Let me give you another longshot special I picked up yesterday: RB Keiland Williams of the Redskins.

It's simple math and opportunity, really: Washington released the ancient Larry Johnson yesterday, leaving Williams as the backup to the wheezing and gasping Clinton Portis. Williams' play in the preseason facilitated the release of another old warrior, Willie Parker.

Last week, the 5-11, 230-pound Williams caught all four passes to him out of the backfield in his first regular-season NFL action. But he's an undrafted rookie who's still without a rushing attempt in his NFL career. Can there be a longer longshot than that? Or a crazier add for your roster? Nope. But that's what's fun about it. The ridicule will be unending -- until Portis sits out with chapped lips.

I obviously like the odds that Portis gets hurt by the time you finish reading this, and I also like Mike Shanahan's career tendency to pull an unknown RB out of his hat and turn him into a stud. You want a potential starting RB at the cheapest price possible? It will never get any cheaper than this.

Who's your Hank Baskett? Keiland Williams? You know you've got one. We'll just keep it our little secret.

--Reid Creager

Hank Baskett to the Vikings, this does not bode well for Vincent Jackson

Minnie Star-Trib is reporting that the Vikes have snared Hank Baskett from the Eagles. Whether that puts the kibosh on the Vincent Jackson deal is not yet clear. Obviously the Vikes would prefer Jackson, who wouldn't? BUT - Jackson apparently comes with a pretty steep price tag and no guarantees, and Sidney Rice will be back in a few weeks anyway. So not only would Minnesota be paying a premium for a receiver who could bolt next season, but they'd be doing it to patch a hole for a few weeks. Baskett may be enough to get them through the rest of the Riceless part of their season which will see them face Detroit in week 3, bye in week 4, Jets in week 5, Dallas in week 6 and depending how long Rice is out, Green Bay in week 7.
So really there are 3 games here that you need that top flight receiver. Two high picks is a lot to pay for that.
As far as fantasy goes it doesn't matter as long as you go and grab Baskett and find a spot on your roster for him. He could be useful for a few weeks and he's definitely available. I'd still hold on to VJax if you can afford to, he still has a few hours to get moved before the odds of his playing this season shrink to zippo.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pass the keys Braylon

One man's week 2 celebration is another man's DWI charge. Especially if that other man is Braylon Edwards who had his best performance in forever yesterday against rival Patriots.
Big win? Yes. DWI worthy win? I don't know, maybe not.

So before bench trolling owners even had a chance to get excited about having Braylon sitting there like a tiny sliver of hope, he goes and gets himself locked up. Guess what, he's already on the league hot seat for some offseason antics that may or may not have involved punching LeBron's buddy in what may or may not have been his face. Which means he's going to be able to spend at least a Sunday or two joining Santonio Holmes on the couch watching games.

I'd say this makes Dustin Keller the Jets' top target, but clearly the little owned TE already was.

-Eric Edwards

Tuesday Hangover - Week 2

Whither Ray Rice? Two middling fantasy outings have owners pondering the use of their coveted 1st pick on Rice. No doubt he'll turn it around and he's far from the only top drafted back to be a let down in week 2. To wit:

Jamaal Charles - I love to see a professional athlete demonstrate a zen attitude when he's needlessly made to play second fiddle to a tired vet simply because the coach hates fantasy owners, but not as much as I like it when they DEMAND THE BALL. C'mon Jamaal, show me your inner Brandon Jacobs and throw a huge temper tantrum and possibly your helmet to prove your love of the sport.

Felix Jones - My Man. I have owned you since you were pulling hammys in your momma's womb. Every year you are one game away from swapping spots with Marion Barber. This year your handlers actually had us convinced that you were the no. 1 guy. Where's the prima donna? You are in your prime, 2 points a game is not cutting it.

My favorite bust this week is Ryan Matthews who went down with an ankle after 50 all purpose yards and dropped ball. While the whole world was drooling over Matthews, Jahvid Best was quietly plotting to take over the world. Best was like two fantasy players on Sunday, a full day rushing and a fuller day receiving.

Things that make me smile: A guy in one of my leagues had Best on his bench this week. He ended up winning, which dulls the joke a little, but still. 49 points sitting next to one guys name on a the bench warms my cold plastic heart.

MJD. Chris Johnson. DeAngelo. The list goes on and on. Unless you owned Gore, AP, Knowshon?!, LeSean?!?!, McFaddy?!?!!! you got a luke warm performance at best.

On the other hand welcome back DeSean Jackson, Andre Johnson and Roddy White. Thank you for rejoining the party, Welker, Moss and Reggie Wayne missed you. So did your owners. I personally was so stricken with grief after AJ's dismal performance last week that I almost didn't have enough energy to set my lineups this week. But my faith has been restored. Unfortunately my record is not as restored as my faith, won 1, lost 2. The good news is that the win was bigger than the losses b/c the league is set up for division play, gotta win your division (or have the best record to not win a division) to make the 4 team playoffs. It's a tough playoff to get into. The other leagues are basically finish in the top half make the playoffs. Starting off 0-2 isn't good, but things will work out in at least one of those leagues.

Fantasy QB note of the week: It's so true that they say it on TV, Romo may not be a very good "clutch" player, but he is a helluva fantasy QB outscoring pretty much everyone but Schaub and McNabb. Speaking of Schaub, what a monster day. Almost 500 yards in the air. I thought he'd have a good year, but if I'd know he was going to turn into Dan Marino I'd have drafted Kevin Walter on top of AJ.
-Eric Edwards

Reggie Bush Out Awhile; Consider Adding Ivory

Not a great week for Reggie Bush. He gave up his Heisman trophy for violating NCAA rules while at USC, then almost gave up a fumble while trying to catch a punt Monday night.

The only good news of his week was, he fell on the fumble. The rest of his bad news was that a pile of 49ers fell on him, causing what has been reported as a fractured fibula in his right leg. A report in the wee hours Tuesday said Bush could miss six weeks (the report came from ESPN, so wait for more reliable sources -- such as when the team makes an announcement today).

The Monday night crew on TV correctly pointed out that DeShawn Wynn is currently the No. 3 back on the team and the only other Saints back available right now. What it didn't -- and should have -- said is that Wynn is merely holding space until Chris Ivory returns from an MCL sprain, likely in Week 4.

I'm not necessarily advocating that you run and add Ivory, but if you have a free spot on your roster to play with it might not be a bad idea. Ivory had a strong camp and preseason, including a 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Chargers on which he stiff-armed, dodged and steamrolled his way into the end zone. Ivory hurt his MCL in the preseason finale, giving Wynn a temporary spot as the team's No. 3 back behind Pierre Thomas and Bush.

Saints coach Sean Payton likes the 6-foot, 220-pound Ivory a bunch -- especially his short-yardage potential -- but admits the undrafted rookie is a bit raw. The team was impressed enough to sign Ivory to a three-year deal in April, so he's definitely in its plans. Maybe he'll fill the goal-line role that Mike Bell filled for the Saints early last year.

Regardless of the possible Ivory factor, the Bush injury boosts Thomas' stock and almost certainly will add to his touches in the passing game. It also could bode well for hit-and-miss passing targets such as Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson -- but they've never been a sure thing in this offense, so there's little reason to think that will change now.

--Reid Creager

Monday, September 20, 2010

Idiot Move? Don't be an ... Well, You Know

If there's anything dumber than making a dumb decision, it's kicking yourself all over the place for making a dumb decision when you made a smart decision that didn't happen to turn out well.

Hey. You traded Andre Johnson for Brett Favre? Dumb decision. You have a low annoyance threshold and you sit there and watch Chris Berman talk about football or anything else? Kick away.

But come on. Slapping yourself around for starting Brandon Jackson over Jahvid Best in Week 2 makes as much sense as calling yourself R. Trentham on a fantasy football site.

Best ran the ball 14 times in Week 1 for a grand total of 20 yards. 1.4 yards per carry. (Yes, he had two touchdowns, but they were very short goal-line carries and the team had no other options.) It was perfectly reasonable to assume he would continue to struggle as he found his way, especially as a rookie. It was also perfectly reasonable to assume that the Lions' offense would struggle in Week 2 after their starting QB went down, and that they would be throwing downfield a lot late in the game and all but eschewing the run game. (I know. Real men never use the word eschewing. How idiotic.)

Jackson, on the other hand, ran very well in Week 1 after Ryan Grant went down and was one of the hottest waiver pickups in many a year; was going against a horrible rushing defense in Week 2; has drawn raves from his coach for his improving skills, which seemingly range from picking up the blitz to picking up after the postgame meal; and plays for perhaps the most explosive offensive team in football. Shouldn't have even been that hard of a decision.

Hey, R. (or should I call you R. Trent? or Ham? or Period? or Per for short?), it's good to see your post sparked some empathy. Keep it coming, readers. And yeah, judging by some of the decisions our readers fessed up to, they can justifiably have regret (as can I for benching Antonio Gates. Never bench Antonio Gates. Dumb.).

But when you have logic, momentum and numbers on your side, and Lady Luck (or Freddy Fluke) tackles you at the 1, don't blame yourself. Don't call yourself an idiot. Others are standing by and waiting to make that call, and there is so much season left.

--Reid Creager

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Idiot move of the week

Always happy to go first.

This one might be tough to beat: I benched Detroit's Jahvid Best for Green Bay's Brandon Jackson.

What was yours?

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Give Us Your Sunday Morning Lineup Questions!

We'll answer as many as we have time for -- no guarantees on results, of course, but none of the tired shtick or waiting you get from the other sites.

Make sure you tell us whether it's a PPR format or not, and any other scoring particulars that may be relevant.

I'll put it out there one more time, at considerable risk to any good reputation I might have: I see at least one TD from Packers fullback John Kuhn against Buffalo. And unless you're playing in a league full of Kuhn family members or you're in Shippensburg, Pa., you can be sure he's unowned.

--Reid Creager

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fantasy Football Question of the Week

We ask and answer a fantasy question each Friday. Have a question you'd like us to ask ourselves? Email it.

What was your big waiver wire pickup this week. Will it result in a starter?

Eric Edwards: Legedu Naanee, WR, San Diego. Unfortunately, I missed out on the Brandon Jackson frenzy, but I grabbed Legedu Naanee in two of my leagues while watching the Chiefs/Chargers game. I also picked up the Chiefs D, which looked dominating against the allegedly high-powered Chargers. I'll start both this weekend.

Trevor Freeze: Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland. So, Jerome Harrison wants to get more involved in the game. Great. But he's not the coach. And Eric Mangini isn't showing his cards: "I have total confidence in either one." Only start Hillis if your next best option is below the Tim Hightower line, which ironically is my situation.

Reid Creager: John Kuhn, RB, Green Bay. He figures to get the goal-line carries and may, at least initially, be to Brandon Jackson what Willis McGahee is to Ray Rice (bad news). Kuhn could score one, maybe two TDs on Sunday -- depending on how quickly the Pack has this game sewn up.

Trent Roberts: Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay. Unless I trade Jackson, he's starting for me. (I also helped a friend secure the services of M. Vick, who gets Detroit. But, jeez, they had to drop Matt Moore ...)

Peter St. Onge: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia. I had two - the much-discussed Jackson, whom I traded for a much-needed receiver, and Vick. He might be a one-week-only start, but it's a terrific matchup against the Lions, so look for at least two scores.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Should I make this trade?

Every year, panic sets in.

An 0-1 start is one thing. But 0-3? Someone hit the Bat Signal.

The unfortunate fallout about the football season is you can't afford to be left behind. If you've played for very long, "Desperado" is a tune you've sung every now and again.

But not yet. It's time to come to your senses.

The rule of thumb I've always lived by is, wait a minimum of 2 weeks to really assess your team. Too many flukes can happen in Week 1. Teams are out of shape. Unusual turnovers. Fluky injuries.

In our 12-team Observer league, the following deals have been hatched in the last two days:

* Phillip Rivers for Jamaal Charles

* Joseph Addai for Jonathan Stewart

* Johnny Knox and Brandon Jackson for DeSean Jackson

These three trades, initiated largely by an owner's 0-1 start, are a microcosm of three types of trades you'll see in your league.

1). The Surplus: The Rivers owner also has Drew Brees and traded from surplus to help a dire need at RB2.

2). The Parachute: Both Addai and Stewart owners were unhappy with their player's week 1 performance and wanted to pull the rip cord before all trade value plummets.

3). The Upgrade: The owner who snagged Jackson off the wire packaged him with Knox to upgrade his WR2 spot.

Whether you won or lost your first week, it's key to start scouring rosters, laying the groundwork for future trades, possibly sending out feelers to the owner who has two near-elite QBs or three high-quality RBs, but is suffering badly in the WR department.

The fastest way to complete a deal is to find someone's need and meet it. Don't just think about yourself when throwing out offers. You're more likely to avoid I-77 traffic in Charlotte. During rush hour. On a Friday afternoon. In a downpour.

So, what trade offer are you pondering?

If you don't know, you're not in the game.

-- Trevor Freeze

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brandon Jackson to owner: Play me or trade me

I'm trying, I'm trying.

The backdrop: I picked up Jackson on Tuesday afternoon in my less-than-vigilant family league (no waiver waiting; it's first-come-first-served on Tuesday mornings), figuring I'd try to trade him to the owner who has (had) Ryan Grant.

The teams: I'm Team A. The Grant-less wonders are Team B. Just listing RBs and WRs to simplify trade talks.
* Team A -- Jackson, Jahvid Best, Ryan Matthews, Justin Forsett, Jerome Harrison (RBs); Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Michael Crabtree, Terrell Owens, Dexter McCluster (WRs).
* Team B -- Frank Gore, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jonathan Stewart, Michael Bush, Grant (RBs); Calvin Johnson, Mike Sims-Walker, Devery Henderson, Chaz Schilens, Jermichael Finley (WRs, TE not required).

The strategy: Just for funsies, I want to go all-in on receivers and pry Calvin Johnson loose from Team B.

The question: What's a fair-value trade involving RB Jackson and WR Johnson?

The X factor: Team B is my wife's team.

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brandon Jackson and the week it was good to be bad

You can almost never count on succeeding by failing. But this week is different. Half your league is 0-1 and half your league is 1-0. So everyone's one game out of first at the moment. But some lucky sap had the worst record in the league, and in leagues with weighted waivers (first picks going to the worst record) it was a good day to be a low scoring team.
Sure, just 2 hours ago I was pondering the relative value of Brandon Jackson for a few weeks of work vs. say, Naanee for a season. But with the news that Ryan Grant is out for the year, the chase for Jackson is one of the most important waiver grabs of the season.
Unfortunately for yours truly, I lost my games, yet in two leagues was not fast enough on the draw to get Jackson when he went down, and in a third my score makes me the 3rd in line to rights to Jackson. Well, there's always a chance one owner will get too swamped with work or family or rehab to pick up on Jackson, but there's no way two owners miss the boat.
But to you lucky bastiges who had horrible weeks and now will benefit - I say cheers.

Ryan Grant Fallout: Beyond the Obvious

I had to chuckle when I went on Yahoo's fantasy football site a couple hours ago and saw one of its writers urge people to scoop up Brandon Jackson now that Ryan Grant is done for the season.

In any truly competitive league -- such as the one I'm in -- Jackson was picked up oh, about 48 hours ago, when it became apparent Grant was hurt and wasn't returning to Sunday's game. The fact that he's now out with the ankle is gravy.

Now, if you really feel like being progressive in your thinking (or overthinking the whole situation, which I might be doing here), you pick up fullback John Kuhn, who becomes Jackson's backup for now. He's zero percent owned in Yahoo leagues. How's that for progressive? Or just overreacting?

Here's the thinking: Kuhn scored a vulture TD on Sunday while Jackson was getting a breather. The Packers have always liked Kuhn as a short-yardage, goal-line back, and it's obvious Jackson is not going to be accustomed to this kind of a workload. He'll need to be spelled fairly often, and Kuhn will be the guy (yes, the Packers signed free-agent running back Dmitri Nance, formerly of the Falcons' practice squad, this afternoon -- but he figures to be a backup to the backup and, as a rookie who doesn't know the offense, can't realistically be expected to get goal-line work).

Kuhn gets even more attractive when you look at this weekend's Packers opponent: Buffalo. The Bills have an elite secondary, meaning maybe more of a focus on the Green Bay running game and more of a need for Kuhn to play a little more. Plus, the lack of quality opposition almost guarantees the Packers will have a safe fourth-quarter lead and will be running out some clock. You think they're going to run the risk of doing that entirely with their new No. 1 back?

Yes, Kuhn is a no-name. Yes, the Packers could pick up a "name" veteran off the street by the end of the week and knock him entirely out of the picture. But they like Kuhn -- and maybe you should, too, if you have an RB flex spot to fill this week. Given how the stars align for Kuhn this week, you could even be starting him as your No. 2 RB if you're very thin there.

I am -- and I am. At least until someone makes me a strong offer for Philip Rivers or Jermichael Finley, who are sitting behind Drew Brees and Antonio Gates on my bench.

--Reid Creager

Waiver Wire and Trade Bait

Waiver Wire
Watching the action and making the moves are a big part of the fantasy game. But that's never more true than the first few weeks when you get to evaluate A) how many of your drafted players aren't going to pan out and B) how many undrafted players are going to have fantasy value.

>>This week the steam is all over Brandon Jackson. Not because he "proved" himself to be of fantasy value but because of Ryan Grant's injured ankle which will make BJax a starter for at least a week. I guess it would be foolish not to grab him if you can get him, but his value isn't long term.

>> Legedu Naanee however seems to be the lucky recipient of Vincent Jackson's hold out. He was targeted 8 times and found the end zone.

>> I didn't see Mercedes Lewis play so it's hard for me to say whether his performance was fluky or if he appears to be a regular target. But considering the value of tight ends (in leagues where they are mandatory) it's worth the pick up even if he turns out to be a fluke.

>> Defenses are among the toughest "position" to judge in the preseason, so owners are left to rely on their recollections of last year, plus off season additions and losses all while weighing opponents potential offensive strengths. I was all over the 49ers considering their weak divisional schedule and pro-bowl caliber performers. But then the Seahawks happened to them and though offensive turnovers were directly responsible for half of the points against them, there is no reason for anyone to think that trend won't continue. New England performed very well against the vaunted Bengals O, until 4th quarter trash time anyway. But the team that excited me was the Chiefs. They were absolute aggressors against the Chargers. In the end their score didn't reflect how dominating they looked against one of the top offenses in the west.

Trade Bait
You've got guys on your bench that you have no intention of playing for a number of reasons: You don't trust them or you don't trust their offenses in general. Either way, their main value is that of a replacement in case of injury or trade bait to someone not as stacked at that position as you are.

>>Darren McFadden. With Michael Bush injured he had the start and made the most of it. He could be auditioning for they No. 1 role nut he'll certainly be losing carries when Bush is healthy. Someone who is desperate for a RB might overlook that and cross their fingers that this is the year McFadden achieves his potential.

>>LeSean McCoy. If you didn't start him you might want to. But if you don't want to, trade him now while he's a commodity.

>> Steve Breaston. He could easily be a starter on your squad but you remain concerned about the QB situation. He'll fetch a good price right now.

>> Ditto Austin Collie. That ball gets spread around so much in Indy that it's hard to rely their tertiary receiver, but someone will definitely bite on a guy who averaged 16 yards a reception on Sunday. Come to think of it, maybe you'd better keep him on your roster unless you are loaded for bear at receiver but are desperate for a RB or QB.

- Eric Edwards

Week 2: Still in the Evaluation Stage

Well, that was fun -- or maybe Week 1 wasn't fun at all, if your lofty expectations instead resulted in an 0-1 start.

But whether you're a resounding 1-0, a forgettable 0-1, an I-was-robbed 0-1 or you're 1-0 by the width of a piece of dental floss (as I am), keep it calm for this week. Don't overestimate what you've got, and don't panic if you didn't happen to win in Week 1.

But make no mistake: This week is very important.

A 2-0 start gives you a big head start toward making the playoffs. But if you're 0-2, you really need to get busy -- and let's focus on that situation, because it will obviously demand the most attention. Simple math says that if you're 0-2, you need to win seven of your final 11 games in most standard leagues to have a chance at the playoffs. And given that you'll lose at least a couple of those games due to flukes or bad luck, your margin for error can get pretty slim in a hurry.

Basic advice: Don't try to build a perfect starting lineup overnight. If you're not thrilled with your second RB or your third WR, join the club. If you really like the core of your team, take heart in the fact that you may be only an injury away from at least temporarily resolving the RB issue (hello, Brandon Jackson), and that WRs emerge from nowhere all the time (hello, Miles Austin). You may have to step up your vigilance during the week as it pertains to matchups and who's banged up after Week 1. And you'll want to watch that waiver wire a lot more closely now in case some help or even a gem falls your way. Fantasy titles are often facilitated by smart pickups of others' discards.

Speaking of WRs, I have to differ with my cohort Trevor Freeze -- who has probably won more fantasy titles than I could ever hope to -- when it comes to advice such as getting a piece of the Indy passing game. Or the New Orleans passing game. Or the Green Bay passing game.

Unless you can trade for an elite option, this could backfire. The simple fact is this: When it comes to pass-crazy offenses, unless you're holding a Greg Jennings or a Reggie Wayne (or maybe a Dallas Clark or Jermichael Finley), you're playing with fire by starting people like Pierre Garcon (uh, was he awful Sunday? Oui), Austin Collie, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Donald Driver and James Jones. In New Orleans, where they also throw to the RBs frequently, even Marques Colston isn't a sure bet for touchdowns week to week. On these teams, the passing targets are so spread out, so unpredictable each week among the non-elite guys, that it's a total crapshoot as to who scores the touchdowns. That's a very dangerous strategy unless you're 2-0 and can afford the risk.

Good luck with Week 2. Remember, you don't have to win this Sunday-Monday if you're 0-1, but the following week will have a lot more urgency. Or hey, you could always just let it all ride and watch the games for pure enjoyment.

Sorry, lost my head.

--Reid Creager

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Tuesday Hangover

>>You say you drafted Andre Johnson expecting more than 3 looks a game? Me too. So your befuddlement at the Texans' refusal to put the ball in the air is something I'm familiar with. And I'm here to offer solace: Not every defense is going to be violated by Foster the way the Colts were. It was a great game plan against Indy and it puts the league on notice that you can't just ignore the Texans run game by focusing solely on AJ. This poor, poor opening day for Andre will not be a trend. I hope.


>>Guess Welker's knee was OK after all. Kenny Mayne suggests a deal was made with the devil, I knew he was a Pats fan.

>>Hello Baltimore - has an offense ever looked better while scoring only 10 points. The Ravens moved the ball well on almost every drive, especially the one's that ended in turnovers. Guess you can't have it all. Boldin is the real deal. If you must start a TE, Heap is going to be putting up lots of points.

>>You didn't happen to play against Manning did you? Hard to top the thousand points he put up in the loss. This is great news for people who drafted Peyton. His biggest downside is always that he's on the bench during fantasy playoffs, but if Houston and Tenn step up hemay have to play a full season. Guess I shouldn't have laughed so hard at the guy who took him first overall in my keeper league. Just kidding.

>>You say my Fred Jackson theorem didn't pan out? Well, I can't lie - I wasn't thrilled with the 2 point day. But I was thrilled with C.J. Spiller's equally smelly performance. And I liked that they pulled Fred in on the Wildcat. He picked up a decent yardage that got called back on a worthless hold. So he'll be useful, especially if CJ continues to shuck.

>>Who was it that said Mike Sims-Walker was a steal? His head on a plate please.

>>That rumbling sound you'll hear is every waiver troll in the country scrambling to pick up Brandon Jackson. I have to include myself in that crowd but I think I'm just doing it because a million vultures can't be wrong. Right? I don't know, he didn't look that good.

>> I can't tell with all the three and outs, but are the Chiefs good or do they just play well in loud rainy places?

>>What happened to funny beer commercials? A guy in a thong specifically ordering bad tasting beer gets mocked by hot lady bartender - really? Whatever happened to Bierbitzch?

>>Sometimes you find yourself in such a deep fantasy hole extrication is impossible. I was in one of those. Three of those actually. Jaamal Charles almost got me out of one.

>>Biggest bench gaffe? Steve Breaston was a popular bench warmer who had a great week. I left him on a bench and it cost me the game. I hate that.

-Eric Edwards

It's official: fantasy football is good for you...

And it's good for your children, too!

A McClatchy News Service story reports that fantasy football is helping kids learn math. At least that's what the kids are saying:

In a survey of middle and high school students by the University of Mississippi,
56 percent of boys and 45 percent of girls said they learned math easier because
they played fantasy sports in class. And 33 percent of boys and 28 percent of
girls said their grades improved.

The students also said that texting friends during English class helped them with reading proficiency. Actually, they didn't say that, but you can see that we're dealing with some iffy methodology here.

But hey, this is a fantasy football blog, and we believe that you're never too young to be disappointed by Jay Cutler. Enjoy, kids!

What do you do with Arian Foster, Colts?

He was drafted in the 12th round in early August. In the 6th round by mid-August. And in the 4th round by late August.

He's Texans RB Arian Foster and after Sunday's 231-yard, 3 TD performance against the Indianapolis Colts, he's looking like a sure-fire first-rounder.

Or is he?

One week a season does not make. However, one defensive back apparently a defense makes.

Enter Bob Sanders. Or should I say exit Bob Sanders. Late in the first quarter, Sanders suffered a right elbow injury. Before the 2007 NFL's Most Valuable Defensive Player left the game in Houston, Foster had 7 carries for 24 yards, or 3.5 yards a carry.

Without Sanders, Foster ran like he was on fire, 26 carries for 207 yards or 8 yards a carry.

So am I saying Foster's a fluke?

Not at all. But over the years, it's been well-documented how crucial Sanders is, possibly moreso than any other single defensive player in the NFL.

I still like Foster as a No. 2 back, fringe No. 1. But if you can get clear No. 1 value from him in a trade this week, take it. And don't look back. He may run for 1,400 yards and 14. But not 2,400 and 24. Although someone in your league may think that way today.

As for the Colts' defense? There's speculation that Sanders will need season-ending surgery, which would immediately boost the values of Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark.

No Sanders means more shootouts, much like Sunday's 433-yard Manning scoring spree. Keep a close eye on his status this week.

If you can get a piece of the Colts passing action, this may be your last week before prices skyrocket.

-- Trevor Freeze

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's week 1. Who are you starting?

Because I believe in transparency, and other stuff you can see through, I'l go ahead and post my lineups for the week. I'll try to do this regularly, but if I forget, well, you'll survive. If you think I'm making a huge mistake, that's great. I want to hear your thoughts, not so much to improve my team but to spark a discussion. I probably won't post my benches since the list will just get too unwieldy with three teams. But for week one I'm starting:

Team One
Format note - must start TE, no flex, 1/2 ppr, defense weights heavily
TRomo, JCharles, JAddai, AJohnson, DJackson, JWitten, RGould, 49ers

Team Two
Format note: No ppr, open flex spot
MSchaub, RMatthews, FJones, RWhite, PGarcon, MSims-Walker, FJackson, MPrater, Panthers

Team Three
Format note: 1/2 ppr, open flex
TRomo, RRice, FJones, MAustin, ABoldin, MWallace, FJackson, SebasJan, Chargers

thoughts?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Buffalo, where the only wing that concerns me is Fred Jackson's

Get it? Buffalo wings.
Fred Jackson was by most accounts a top 15 fantasy running back in 2009, dwarfing the production of his "Platoon-mate" Marshawn Lynch. He rushed for almost 1100 yards, had almost 50 receptions and scored as a passer, a rusher and a receiver.
But he never got a lot of buzz generated behind him. Owners who drafted Jackson got a lot of value for a guy who generally was available as late as the 10th round.
And thanks (in small part) to a broken hand, Jackson didn't show up very high on fantasy radars this year, either.
But if you were paying attention to his numbers and you snagged him in the 7th round or later, you got a steal. His hand is better, and ESPN is reporting that he'll be playing on Sunday. How much work will rookie C.J. Spiller take away from him? Hard to say. But a guy as reliable as Jackson across the board is going to find a good place in that offense. So congratulations if you got him late, and I feel a little bad for the folks who reached up to take Spiller - because Fred is the real deal.
I'll be putting him in my flex spot as my 3rd RB opening weekend.

Eric Edwards

Monday, September 6, 2010

Revis Island Says Hello, Anquan

Reports began surfacing in the wee hours Monday that Darrelle Revis has ended his holdout and agreed to a seven-year deal with the Jets. If so, he's expected to be in the lineup for Week 1 against the Ravens. (Update later Monday morning: It's a four-year deal.)

This is very good news if you're a Jets fan, or if you own the Jets defense. This is not good news if you own Anquan Boldin, who will likely be Revis' assignment for the opener. The list of premier wideouts who went to Revis Island to die in 2009 is a lengthy one, so consider benching Boldin.

While we're at it, a few words about team defenses. Whether you've already had your draft or will be streaming defenses over the course of the season like most of us, don't chase last year's (or this year's) touchdowns. You'll almost always be disappointed. Defensive touchdowns are about as predictable as Joe Namath at halftime.

Lean toward defenses that are on a roll. I know -- that sounds as obvious as saying the Bengals are a team of thugs. But defenses can get on a collective roll the same way an offense can. Most important, look for defenses that pressure the quarterback. Sacks and interceptions are somewhat easier to predict than touchdowns, based on the talents of the individual defenders. And sacks and INTs often lead to touchdowns anyway.

But it's not just about the defense; it's about who the defense is playing -- and when. Last year in the first half of the season, you wanted the defense that was playing the Tennessee Titans. But in the second half, if you were smart, you didn't want any part of a defense that was playing the Titans.

Last but not least: School yourself on the offensive line that's facing the defense you're thinking about picking up. You don't have to know the skills of every player on the line, but consider the quality of that offensive line as a whole. If that OL is having trouble getting a ground game going -- and especially if it's having trouble protecting the quarterback -- that should factor into your decision.

Picking a defense can sometimes blow up in your face, even if you've done your homework. But looking past the obvious when selecting a defense can mean the difference in winning or losing a week for you.

Got any other strategies involving defenses? Go on offense with them right here.

--Reid Creager

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tiers of a Crown: Tight Ends

Thanks for your comments, and keep 'em coming. There are many experts out there. Show us what you've got!

TIER 1
Antonio Gates
Vernon Davis

Gates has always been an elite option, and now the ceiling rises with Vincent Jackson gone -- plus, he's got the quarterback and the cushy schedule to provide a possible 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. Davis must prove last year's breakthrough wasn't a fluke, but he's always had the skills, so that isn't very much in doubt. Look for him to join the 1,000-yard club, although 13 TDs again is a reach.

TIER 2
Jermicheal "FA" Finley
Dallas Clark

Today's homework: Google "Finley freakishly athletic." You'll be stunned how many times that description is used for him (such is the level of creativity for most football and fantasy writers). So we've officially given him a new nickname. FA is an almost-cartoonish size-speed mismatch for opposing defenses, a major goalline target in the second half of 2009 in a lethal offense. He could well be the No. 1 TE in fantasy this year. Clark remains an upper-tier guy, but sheer odds say he won't repeat his 100-catch, 1,100-yard totals. The continued development of Pierre Garcon -- another FA guy -- and Austin Collie will cut into his numbers, too.

TIER 3
Visanthe Shiancoe
Zach Miller
Brent Celek
Tony Gonzalez

Projecting gets a little more challenging from here on out. Shiancoe (11 TDs last year) may benefit from the absence of Sidney Rice in the red zone, but some of those throws could go to Percy Harvin instead this year. Shiancoe won't sneak up on people in 2010. Miller figures to be a receptions machine this year -- especially with a new quarterback in Jason Campbell who has a history of finding the tight end. The fact that Oakland doesn't have a proven wideout adds to his value. Celek (8 TDs last year) was probably the most underrated TE in the league last year, and even with a new and unproven QB, the Eagles remain a throw-first team. (Celek had eight catches for 104 yards in both of Kevin Kolb's starts last year.) Gonzalez is a steady albeit aging star on a Falcons team that doesn't make throwing a priority.

TIER 4
Kellen Winslow
Jason Witten
Owen Daniels
Greg Olsen

Liking the gifted Winslow as a sleeper in an offense that will need to find safety valves in the passing game. Witten remains a rock over the middle, but his TDs fell off a cliff last year to just one. That's not likely to increase a lot with Felix Jones and Dez Bryant coming on. The reliable Daniels (when healthy) is one of many viable targets in Houston. Don't overlook a guy with eight touchdowns last year (Olsen), but the inconsistency of the Bears passing game may make him a frustrating guy to own.

TIER 5
Chris Cooley
John Carlson
Kevin Boss
Heath Miller

We've officially hit questionable status. Cooley's coming off a broken ankle and must fend off the improving Fred Davis. Carlson had seven touchdowns last year, but what can you ever expect out of any Seahawk in fantasy? Boss is an underrated but unspectacular target for Eli Manning. Miller is about as vanilla as they come, and very inconsistent in terms of production.

TIER 6
Todd Heap
Fred Davis
Dustin Keller
Michael Hoomanawanui
Tony Scheffler
Jeremy Shockey
Jermaine Gresham
Rob Gronkowski

In this tier of uncertains, mediocrity, over-the-hills and unprovens, Hoomanawanui, Gresham and Gronkowski are the most intriguing. Hoomanawanui and Sam Bradford paired up well the other night (two scores). Gresham supposedly could be the tight end the Bengals have been lacking forever -- but we hear that every year. Gronkowski hooked up well with Tom Brady in the preseason, although that was the preseason. Ancient history. We're just four days from the real thing. Gentlemen, start your laptops.

--Reid Creager

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tiers of a Crown: Wide Receivers

TIER 1
Andre Johnson

His 1,569 receiving yards last year were 200-plus above the league runner-up in his second straight 1,500-yard season. Given his role in the offense and that kind of elite consistency, he's head-and-shoulders above the rest.

TIER 2
Miles Austin
Randy Moss
Calvin Johnson

Austin and Moss are incredible talents who are catching passes from primo quarterbacks. Not so for Johnson when it comes to his QB, Matthew Stafford. Still, he's got an unlimited ceiling and will be featured in an offense that figures to be much improved, with a young quarterback who can get him the ball. The addition of Nate Burleson at the other wideout should blunt some of those triple coverages.

TIER 3
Larry Fitzgerald
DeSean Jackson
Reggie Wayne

Fitz drops a little this year because he doesn't have a good QB to throw to him, and the Cardinals are going to be run-first. Jackson could be the next elite WR, and he's in a pass-happy offense. Wayne barely makes this tier because he's getting up there in age and because the Colts have so many other pass targets, especially with Anthony Gonzalez back and looking good.

TIER 4
Greg Jennings
Roddy White
Anquan Boldin
Brandon Marshall

Don't sleep on Jennings, who is still a major red-zone target and talent -- in an elite offense -- despite a subpar 2009. White, Boldin and Marshall are also gifted receivers, albeit in offenses where the ground game is prominent.

TIER 5
Marques Colston
Steve Smith North
Michael Crabtree
Chad Johnson

We may be sliding out of WR1 territory with this bunch, but there's still much talent here. Colston is still a guy to target, even factoring in the possible Super Bowl hangover and the fact that the Saints have so many passing options, including two in the backfield. Smith and Eli Manning are developing quite a feel for each other. Crabtree is a little bit of a surprise this high, but I see him coming on like gangbusters now that he'll be in the offense for a full season. And as for the Bengals WR (the name his parents gave him is good enough for me), the addition of Terrell Owens just might cool off those double and triple teams.

TIER 6
Percy Harvin
Steve Smith South
Dwayne Bowe
Malcolm Floyd
Mike Sims-Walker

Harvin figures to benefit the most by the injury to Sidney Rice. The migraines are definitely a concern, but they can disappear and quickly as they come on. He's as explosive in the open field as any player in the NFL, and the Vikings need him desperately now. Smith and his new QB look comfortable together, but the huge yardage days for him are more infrequent now and that's clearly a run-dominated offense, with no other strong WR to take the heat off him. I really like Bowe this year; he seems to have matured, and KC will have to throw a lot late. Floyd is the Chargers' clear No. 1 WR now, looks good hooking up with Rivers, has nice size, and they seem to have a very easy schedule. Sims-Walker is sneaky-good for a team that will have to throw
often.

TIER 7
Pierre Garcon
Vincent Jackson
Mike Williams
Hines Ward
Johnny Knox
Hakeem Nicks

You can get some great bargains here. Garcon has shown he can easily become the next Reggie Wayne. Only problem is, he's competing with a lot of other talented targets on his own team. Jackson is obviously hard to rank, but grab him if you can get him late or cheap. Latest word is that a trade could be hammered out in the very near future. Some NFL team with no common sense will always take a chance on a me-first guy. Williams is a stud waiting to happen; don't let the TB after his name deter you. Lightning-fast Knox is a sleeper as the best Bears wideout, and he has a strong-armed QB to throw to him. However, his big games will be hard to predict because of the probable inconsistency of the Chicago passing game.

TIER 8
Wes Welker
Jeremy Maclin
Mike Wallace
Donald Driver
Robert Meachem

Lots of sneaky value here via guys who aren't their team's No. 1 receivers but who can benefit from double coverage elsewhere, and strong match-ups. (Get to know the DB talent level throughout the NFL; it's crucial for weekly lineup decisions.) Welker says he doesn't feel right in his rush return from his ACL, but if he can stay on the field he's a prolific guy. Maclin and Wallace are emerging stars. Beware of Driver falling off the usefulness cliff; he's 35 now.

TIER 9
Jacoby Jones
Santana Moss
Kenny Britt
Steve Breaston

We're now officially in iffy territory. Loving Jones as a sleeper. Britt is a great talent, but the knucklehead factor is holding him back -- a lot. Breaston could benefit from all of the attention on Fitzgerald, but that QB situation is dreadful.

TIER 10
Austin Collie
Jabar Gaffney
Bernard Berrian
Mohamed Massaquoi
Derrick Mason
T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Berrian has had a crummy preseason. He figures to benefit from Sidney Rice's injury but has a history of inconsistency. Good luck picking the one, maybe two, weeks that he goes off. Someone has to catch passes for the Browns, who'll be behind all season. Massaquoi has good hands and upside.

TIER 11
Eddie Royal
Laurent Robinson
Louis Murphy
Terrell Owens
Mario Manningham
Devin Hester
Santonio Holmes
Braylon Edwards
Dez Bryant
Nate Burleson
Lee Evans
Julian Edelman

Kyle Orton says he'll get the ball to Royal much more this year. If he means it, that's a great sleeper pick. Robinson is the clear No. 1 in St. Louis; same for Murphy in Oakland, although Zach Miller will probably lead the Raiders in catches. If you're up for rooting for a guy like Owens -- whose game-by-game totals have been extremely inconsistent for at least a couple years now -- be my guest. The most consistent thing he's done lately is weekly yardage totals in the 30s. You can look it up. As for the rest, if you can make a strong case for why they're sleepers, I'd be glad to hear it.

TIER 12
Sidney Rice
Devin Aromashodu
Kevin Walter
James Jones
Justin Gage
Roy Williams
Dexter McCluster
Devery Henderson
Jason Avant
Anthony Gonzalez

Rice is out until at least November. Keep an eye on him, but don't muck up your bench with him for now. Gage is technically the Titans' No. 1 wideout, but his inconsistency makes him a poor option. McCluster gives you eligibility at RB as well, at least on Yahoo, and has the kind of upside that isn't bad at the end of your bench. The inconsistent Henderson will do what he always does: He'll go off for two or three weeks (either spread out or consecutive), you'll pick him up, wonder if you're chasing last week's stats -- and you'll be right about that 100 percent of the time.

Lots of names here. If there's anyone you think should be on the list, set us straight.

--Reid Creager

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tiers of a Crown: Quarterbacks

TIER 1

Drew Brees
Peyton Manning
Aaron Rodgers

Pretty much a coin flip here (always call tails). Most people have Rodgers as the No.1 fantasy quarterback -- helped by five rushing scores last year -- and that's certainly possible. But Brees and Manning seem to have a deeper receiving corps; plus, I see Minnesota having a disappointing year as Brett Favre's old body, bad decision making and absence of a true No. 1 wideout catch up with him. So don't be surprised if Manning and Rodgers are resting late in the season, their divisions locked up early, when you need them most. I don't see that happening with the Saints -- who are sure to fall back a little -- battling a very dangerous Atlanta team in the NFC South.

TIER 2
Tom Brady
Matt Schaub
Tony Romo
Philip Rivers

Look for a great season from Brady, who might even be Tier 1 material. The only worry is that he's more of a statue than ever now since the ACL thing, making him extremely vulnerable to another injury. Schaub can be elite, too, if he can play a full schedule. Romo had a nice bounceback year but has consistency issues. And with or without Vincent Jackson, Rivers is a stud with plenty of solid receiving weapons -- and he's got that AFC West bonus going for him. (AFC West teams play the weak NFC West this year, a great scheduling perk. But as always, don't read too much into strength of schedule. It's more important how hot/cold an opponent is when they come up on the schedule.)

TIER 3
Joe Flacco
Kevin Kolb

If you miss out on the first two tiers of quarterbacks, you can't be fully confident in the guy you're starting. But I love Flacco, who has a monster arm and now a desperately needed weapon in Anquan Boldin. (Boldin also opens things up more in the passing game for Ray Rice.) Factor in that the Ravens' secondary is very pedestrian, and you could see more shootouts than you're used to in Baltimore. Kevin Kolb is my shocker in this tier. He's had a lousy preseason, but Andy Reid saw enough late last year to know what he was getting (the first QB in NFL history to throw for 300-plus yards in his first two starts). Reid knows quarterbacks, and the Eagles are again a passing-dominated offense that features two kegs of dynamite in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Reid will throw till it hurts (and it just might). But the numbers will be there.

TIER 4
Matt Ryan
Brett Favre
Eli Manning
Donovan McNabb

Ryan is over a bad turf-toe injury he played with last year, and he's a good bet to blossom after a disappointing second year. Problem is, Atlanta isn't really a vertical team. Favre is long overdue for an injury or performance drop-off; even he was surprised by what he did last year. Manning is solid but almost never spectacular, and the aging McNabb would still be in Tier 3 if he could stay healthy more consistently.

TIER 5
Jay Cutler
Carson Palmer
Vince Young
Ben Roethlisberger

I guess you could argue that this is where fantasy titles are won -- gambling on guys like these. Better you than me. The laser-armed Cutler still has happy feet and accuracy issues, and has been moaning that the team's offensive scheme isn't daring enough even with Mike Martz on board. No real go-to receiver, either. Palmer has almost always underachieved in fantasy circles, and his accuracy has really been an issue the past couple years. Vince Young could turn out to be the best of them all in this tier, given his added running dimension and improvement under a great coach. But Justin Gage and/or Kenny Britt will have to emerge for Young to be consistently viable. Are you feeling that? Roethlisberger is a so-so option given his season-opening suspension, often questionable decision making on and off the field, and being in a run-heavy offense.

TIER 6
Chad Henne
Alex Smith
Matthew Stafford

Strong guys for keeper leagues, and not bad options as your backup. But you don't want them starting; too unproven. On the other hand, they'll probably be trailing often in the fourth quarter, so there will be much throwing. Also a good number of INTs.

TIER 7
Mark Sanchez
Matt Hasselbeck
Kyle Orton

Sanchez falls this far mostly because of the run-first offense he's in. The big games will be there occasionally, but good luck betting correctly on when that will be. Hasselbeck is fading fast and can't stay healthy. Orton does have that AFC West thing going for him, but Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal don't scare anyone as No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts.

TIER 8
Matt Cassel
Josh Freeman
Jason Campbell
Sam Bradford
Derek Anderson
Matt Moore

Cassel and Freeman have some intriguing young targets to throw to, and they'll be throwing a lot in the fourth quarter nearly every game. Maybe Campbell, too. I just don't see Anderson being viable, even with Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. He's too inaccurate, and the Cardinals are going to the run more this year.

96 TIERS
Your fantasy theme song if you're looking for talent this low.

--Reid Creager