Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thursday Night Lights: Texans at Eagles

The Eagles have landed, with a thud. But they're about to take off.

Don't ask me how they allowed four touchdowns (and no interceptions!) to Jay Cutler on Sunday. Chalk it up to a bad day in November, which means nothing come January -- unless that bad day costs you a playoff berth. But expect the Eagles to get well on Thursday in what figures to finally be a potentially high-scoring NFL Network game.

Let's start with what is probably as big of a mirage as Jay Cutler throwing four TDs with no picks: The Texans rank eighth in the NFL against the run. Considering that the Houston secondary could be the worst we've seen in the past several years, why would anyone bother running against the Texans?

So you're not only starting LeSean McCoy on Thursday, you're doing it with gusto. Because once Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant and Brent Celek and Tom Selleck finish torching the Houston secondary in a primary way, the running game will open up like Brett Favre at a retirement press conference.

...Which is where things get interesting (not Favre; he became boring long ago). The Eagles' firepower and the Texans' defensive ineptitude could set up well for an offensive showdown, given the holes Philly showed defending the pass on Sunday and Houston's potent offense. So Arian Foster (remember, the guy I told you late in the preseason that you HAD to have) is a must-start, as always.

Still, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson might not be the locks they would seem to be in this scenario. The Eagles often do a good job of doubling up on premier WRs, and Sunday's fight with Tennesee's Cortland Finnegan shows Johnson can be rattled. Plus, this defense definitely has the speed to stay with anyone. If Philly shuts down Johnson -- and never forget that stud WRs are much more unpredictable than stud RBs -- both the QB's and WR's numbers could reflect it. Besides, the Philly secondary has something to prove after what Cutler did to them.

I'm looking for the Eagles to take a pretty big lead at home, with the Texans' firepower showing up a little too late for real-life purposes. Sure, if Houston is forced to throw a lot late in the game, Schaub and Johnson might put up good numbers with a big boost from garbage time. But in that case, it's just as likely that Kevin Walter and/or Jacoby Jones have one of their infrequent productive games at the expense of Johnson. And Schaub has had an erratic year anyway, so nothing is sure with him.

If you've got Eagles skills players on your team and you need a win this week to make the fantasy playoffs, this game is more important than any that will be played on Sunday. You're probably not going to be disappointed.

--Reid Creager

Tuesday Hangover - Week 12

There, there. Just a few more pieces to go and I should have all of Peyton Hillis' bicep removed from my upper colon. Like many Panthers fans, I've had to go in for a Hillis-ectomy to get rid of lingering chunks of huge-dude-who-violated-my-team this weekend. It's not a pleasant process, but no more painful then the actual violation.
Sure the Panthers were within a field goal of winning that game, but only because Cleveland management policies demand that if they find something that is working they must drop it before it seals away a victory. Seriously, if they hadn't let Jake do anything but hand Hillis the ball every possession for 4 quarters is there any doubt in your mind that Hillis would have personally scored 200 fantasy points and about 100 actual points. I'm assuming that performance is what "roid rage" looks like in real life.

When I'm sitting on the sidelines watching the playoffs this year I'll have three people to thank for it: Hillis, Cedric Benson in week 9 and DeSean Jackson who managed 2 catches for 26 yards in the Bears Sunday beatdown of the Eagles. Way to go DJax. I've spent this season assembling the finest wide receiver corps in 5 states, unbenchable guys like Santonio Holmes, Andre Johnson, DeSean Jackson and this is the thanks I get?

And that is the problem with unbenchable guys. They can stink up the joint and you are kind of stuck starting them. Andre gets his precious feathers ruffled by that weirdo Cortland Finnegan and he misses 7 minutes of a game when Daddy just needed a few more catches. Holmes was fine but when you are playing the Bengals there's an awful lot of garbage time where Sanchez isn't going to be launching the ball downfield. And there's DJax. Owning DJax is like owning a nuclear weapon. The situation has to be just right for you to really pull him out and use him. You'd have thought that being mauled by the Bears would have inspired Andy Reid to call some plays that would get Jax in the game, but I failed to account for the Bears actually having a decent D and keeping Vick pinned down all night. Thanks media for letting me convince myself that Vick couldn't be stopped. Let's put it this way, if you are thinking about benching a good WR who has a tough matchup and replacing him with a RB that doesn't get a ton of carries (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) if that wide receiver is Mike Williams playing the Ravens, you don't even think twice about it, you go with The Firm. But if it's DJax? You are terrified of leaving a 30 point day on your bench, and whammo, you're sunk. Next year I'm getting myself a reliable second RB. Bottom line. Three wide just doesn't work in the format of the 8-player roster. Add in the flex position and 3-wide is fine.

>>Steve Johnson would like to thank the lord for helping him destroy all of the fantasy owners who just two weeks ago said: "Steve Whoson? Am I really going to start a wide receiver for the Bills?"

>>Oh. You say you started Justin Forsett? Sorry. You say you benched Mike Goodson? Ouch. Goodson has been viable every week despite the incredible handicap of being a Panther. It is, in fact, a tremendous testament to how bad the passing Panthers' passing game is. They can be down double digits yet still Goodson is getting his carries. Always remember, three and out is better than pick six. Go with Goodson.

>>The losingest team in my keeper league is a guy who comes as close to being eliminated from contention on week 1 as possible. His teams radiate badness, but he does set his lineup every week and doesn't mail it in. He might be better off if he did, but come playoff time when he's 6 weeks from caring about the results he starts destroying people who are clawing for the wild card slot. This week he used the unlikely double-barrels of Jon Kitna and Wes Welker to beat down Vick and Forte. And he knocked the biggest trash-talker in the league out of the playoffs. As a Romo owner I sure do wish I hadn't judged Kitna on his performance the day he came in for Romo. I should have plucked him early and I'd be sitting on a playoff slot right now. Bad coaching.

>>Dez Bryant, 0 points. Braylon Edwards, 3 points. Anquan Boldin, 3 points. Reggie Wayne, 6 points. Frank Gore - you'll be missed.

>>Jon Gruden was vehement in his assessment that Roger Goodall would "Do the right thing" and not let a 7-9 NFC West champion into the playoffs. Here are some things that I think about that: Americans may not riot when the economy crumbles; We may not revolt when troops are sent to questionable places; We are able, through the sheer power of will, to resist kicking our TVs when those asinine Miller Light commercials come on TV; But no power will be able to subdue a major metropolitan region if an NFL administrator says their division-winning team can't be in the post-season. It would truly be the beginning of the end of this nation. I say we short-circuit the whole rioting and looting process by finding Jon Gruden and sewing his mouth shut with twine, finally making him a suitable fit for the Monday Night Football crew. No one deserves it more.

-Eric Edwards

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fantasy Question of the Week: How tight is your end?

It’s been a tough year for tight ends, Antonio Gates is far and away the no. 1 guy despite having missed the last 4 weeks. Dallas Clarke and Jermichael Finley who are also injured follow him in points production. Who else do you trust to fill your Tight End position?

Eric Edwards: Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville. Lewis expects himself to become the next Gates. While that’s probably not going to happen even if he became half of Gates he’d be a franchise leading TE on most teams. He has averaged just over 10 points a week and is currently the 4th best TE in fantasy production behind Gates, Dallas Clark & Jermichal Finley, none of whom are currently playing.

Peter St. Onge: Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis. Patriots took him away last week, but he still got plenty of glances from Peyton Manning. Get him now, if you can find a fickle owner.

R. Trentham Roberts: Jason Witten, Dallas. Only 3 TD’s, but still averaging more than 5 catches a game, and that’ll work in any point-per-catch league. (And despite all the goings-on in Dallas, the passing game has still been humming with Kitna behind center.)

Trevor Freeze: Todd Heap, Baltimore. After riding the Dustin Keller train to its last stop (week 4), I've finally found some consistency in Old Man Heap, who despite the other weapons in Baltimore, is getting plenty of money looks (4 TDs in last 5 games) and has averaged 54 yards per over that span. The clincher was a goal line situation against the Panthers when the Ravens split Boldin, Mason and Housh on one side and Heap on the other. Believe in the Heap.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thursday Night Lights: Patriots-Lions, Saints-Cowboys, Bengals-Jets

How can you not like the apropos scheduling on Thanksgiving Day? It starts with a noon-ish game that's a decent fantasy appetizer, followed by what should be the main course in terms of offensive firepower, then tapers off with a boring dessert that's perfect for sleeping when all that turkey kicks in. (If you don't have the NFL Network for that third game, you'll probably be saving some good money and time.)

New England at Detroit: There's a chance this game could be the most explosive of them all on Thursday -- after all, both secondaries rank near the bottom of the NFL -- but the Lions are the Lions and often find a way to disappoint. They don't run the ball well at all (ranking 31st in the 32-team league), and if Calvin Johnson is shut down there isn't a lot of proven offensive weaponry to step up, even against the league's youngest secondary. ... Look for Tom Brady's recent momentum to continue, although it's anyone's guess these days as to who his big target will be from game to game. That kind of offensive versatility is good news for Patriots fans but not such good news for fantasy owners of Patriots players. ... Probably the best bet for the Pats after Brady is RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis against the league's 26th-best run defense. Only the Cardinals, Broncos and Jaguars have allowed more rushing TDs than the Lions' 11.

New Orleans at Dallas: On paper, this has shootout written all over it, and it's probably smart to plan accordingly. That said, strange things happen in the NFL, especially when the teams involved have only three days' rest. ... Both quarterbacks -- Drew Brees and Jon Kitna -- are white-hot with strong WR options in Marques Colston, Miles Austin and the incredibly exciting Dez Bryant. ... Surprisingly, the Saints rank fourth in the NFL on the basis of least yards allowed per game -- but this is deceiving, given that they're in the same division with the Panthers and Buccaneers. Plus, they've shown little pass rush of late; they had no sacks on Sunday against a pitiful Seattle line, which bodes well for the patchwork Dallas offensive line and the lead-footed Kitna. Expect both QBs to have lots of time to throw. ... With forever-banged-up Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush still questionable to contribute much anytime soon, the Saints' backfield is a weekly crappyshoot and something to stay away from in fantasy circles. Dallas RB Felix Jones could be a sleeper, especially if the Cowboys' game plan is extra run-centric in an effort to keep the Saints offense off the field. Regardless, Dallas has some elite offensive talent that has finally been paired with a coach who has some guts and brains. This is a very dangerous team again.

Cincinnati at New York Jets: Marvin Lewis must be grateful for the recent coaching distractions in Dallas and Minnesota, because it's incredible that he has virtually escaped national scrutiny as his team hit a new low: 35 straight second-half points allowed on Sunday in a seventh straight loss. His team, always lacking in discipline, now has no defense as well. Still, it's hard to imagine the Cincy defense being as bad as it was Sunday, so don't be surprised if it rebounds somewhat against a less-than-stellar Jets offense. ... Terrell Owens -- one of the Bengals' few bright spots this season and the only offensive player in this game who's been consistent this year -- is all but sure to be shut down and shut up now that he's taking verbal shots at NYJ shutdown corner Darrelle Revis. The rest of the Jets' defense is still formidable (albeit somewhat disappointing this year), too, so start any Bengals with low expectations. ... The Jets passing game is still so-so; as for the running backs, Shonn Greene's expected breakout has hit a wall (1 touchdown all season) and LaDainian Tomlinson is predictably starting to fade. ... Hey. If you like watching head cases like Owens, Chad Johnson, Rex Ryan and Braylon Edwards vying for camera time on the same field, congratulations. You get a parade early and late on Thursday.

--Reid Creager

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuesday Hangover - Week 11

Your mother may disagree, but hangovers are part of a well-lived life. You get drunk, have some laughs, pay for it the next day (or depending on how old you are and how drunk you got - the next week). Either way, the hangover is the paycheck you write to cover your party. This week, for me at least, it was all hangover no party.

I saw this particular train wreck coming all week, there was just no avoiding it. I boldly benched the right guy (Andre Johnson), started the right guy (Santonio Holmes) and even played my best TE and D. But I can't go out there are make my QB NOT fumble the ball, and it seems there is no power strong enough to make Todd Haley stop overusing Thomas Jones. Sometimes it's just out of your hands.

This season I've been pretty good at forecasting my losses. Only once did I really get nailed by a game I didn't see coming. Let's call it CedricBensongate and leave it at that. Which is not to say that I, like many of you, have not suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fantasy fortune nearly every week. And this week it happened so many times that by the time the Giants took the field against Philly I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I was going to get kicked in the junk repeatedly.

We could start with the end which is pretty well summed up by Eli Manning handing the ball over to the Eagles like he was football santa. In that capacity his play was nothing short of brilliant. Though the final act of this particular disaster would not have been complete if not for the league's most combustible receiver, DeSean Jackson suddenly becoming rabid with the dropsies. There is something exhausting about watching quality players perform on their lowest setting and consequently taking your team down with them. DeSean should send me a check every time he drops a ball in the end zone, I've got some ideas how he can recoup that money later on.

There were high spots, though not many of them. Like many fantasy owners who drafted Santonio Holmes and dutifully paid his rent under the roster roof while he sat there, a non-contributing family member for the first 4 weeks of the season, then waited patiently as he sputtered through his first three games, it was nice to get the exclamation point put on a three-game streak of good fantasy production. Holmes is going to pay huge dividends for anyone making a late-season bid for the playoffs, and could seal a championship deal for someone who is already a contender. His rapport with Sanchez has matured and you can just see the two guys hooking up for lots of points for the rest of the season, or at least until Holmes' next benchable transgression which is always as close as the next hookah lounge. Will this make the Jets the best team in the NFL? Hard to complain about their D, Sanchize has come around, LDT is pulling a convincing turn as "Aging Superstar Has One More In Him," and if Braylon Edwards and Santonio can keep from clubbing together they might just be able to contend for a title.

>>>Speaking of drunken miscreants - Ben "Where's the men's room?" Roethlisberger has not so quietly put up career numbers the last two weeks. This week he was looking pretty average until he got straight grill-punched by the Raiders' Richard Seymour. Presumably sexual advances are not to blame for this assault, but I wouldn't leave it entirely out either. Regardless, his two-week fantasy output is 1 point shy of Mike Vick's. And we all know that Vick is the Greatest Of All Time, so that makes Roethlisberger a pretty handy guy to have around.

>>>What is it with the QBs these days? Is it the 'roids? Have the DBacks been fined into complacency? Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck! The points are piled up higher than the eviction notices on Brad Chlidress's office door. That's a lot of points my friend. It is often said by the Jon Grudens of this world that "It's a quarterback's league." Kind of hard to argue with that when Hasselbeck and Jon Kitna combine for 66 points - which is almost 73, their combined age.

>>>Dwayne Bowe is now a must-start fantasy WR? Is this an alternate universe? How is it that Todd Haley is turning Dwayne Bowe into a fantasy stud and Jamaal Charles into Marshawn Lynch. Sorry Jamaal, I'll keep starting you but if you crack open four 15-yard runs a game and they all end at the 1 yard line, that means 6 points for you and 24 for Thomas Jones. You should consider smothering him in his sleep with a pillow, he's 32 that's practically a mercy killing.

>>>There are basically two important classes of wide receiver in the NFL, the absolute must-start, top-of-the line model (Andre Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Calvin Johnson, Marques Colston) who are so good that they draw buckets of defenders and basically suck the defensive pressure to one side of the field and somehow still have mostly decent days. But the emerging class is the guys who benefit from this massive suck. I'm talking to you Jeremy Maclin, Nate Burleson, Robert Meachem. We're all sick of you stealing possessions from our highly-drafted gems. DeSean Jackson should get a percentage everytime Maclin touches the ball. Randy Moss would have retired years ago if that were the case.

>>>This does not include Steve Johnson - there is no explanation for him. Lee Evans certainly isn't drawing double coverage.

>>> Other than people to whom Michael Vick owes money, no one has benefited from his rebirth more than LeSean McCoy. Lord knows he was a waste of space last year, running head first into pile after pile of defenders like he was magnetically drawn to them. This season Vick has put McCoy in space and gotten him the ball and LeSean has blossomed. Should he even be called a running back at this point? He should be made to start in the WR position.

>>>I've been avoiding talking about Peyton Hillis because my keyboard has only been allocated so many uses of the letters P-E-Y-T-O-N and some other guy keeps getting all the calls. But he can't be avoided any more. He was, like every Broncos running back in 2009, amazing for exactly two games before getting injured. Must be something about playing at altitude that makes these guys brittle. Well, I'm not sure how playing in Clevelend can be considered good for one's career but Hillis has turned into a beast. I'm sure we're two weeks from hearing stories about him hunting humans and eating their spleens raw - he's just that scary. In a keeper league this guy is pure alchemy. You picked him up late, if not off the waivers, and now he's going to be a brute of a starter for the next 4 years or until that human spleen rumor takes off. Pass it along.

>>>One of the most sublimely painful experiences in gambling is the backdoor cover. Also known as The Moose. This usually happens when a team has no chance of winning the game, the opposing D slacks off a bit and whammo! last minute touchdown turns a gambling win into a loss. Larry Fitzgerald delivered the fantasy version of The Moose this past weekend. The Cards are hopelessly out of contention, yet they manage in the 4th quarter to amass hundreds of yards of offense against the otherwise stout Chiefs D, and then to multiply the insult they pick up a garbage TD pass to Fitzgerald turning his uneventful day into a nearly 20-point fantasy outing. If you happened to be one of the poor bastards riding the Chiefs D while also playing against Fitz you suffered humiliations galore. Believe me, you know it's bad when the announcers start talking about how pissed/ecstatic fantasy owners are going to be over a play. It almost never happens. I'm pretty sure when the color guy drops fantasy knowledge into the conversation it's only because he owns the offending/outstanding player.

>>>They need to have pure fantasy announcers who break down the various scoring aspects of an actual football game. Like when DeSean Jackson drops a TD in the endzone and David Akers fans everywhere cheer because they get the field goal - not a hypothetical situation by-the-way, that seemed to happen 16 times on Sunday night.

>>>Watching a game at the bar when you have nothing but fantasy implications is very confusing for other patrons. It just goes to show you how important people's preconceived notions are. You can't sit there with a Giants hat on and cheer every time Jeremy Maclin makes a play, it just wreaks havoc on people.

>>>After two cruddy weeks is it fair to say that AP has given up? Or is the rest of the offense is so bad that defenses can just stack whatever they want into the box knowing that if Favre throws the ball it will get picked off somehow? Does losing Childress help them at all? Maybe that was Sidney Rice's demand before he returns to the field. Either way, I have to question the intelligence of new boss Leslie Frazier when his first move isn't to bench the old cooter. The season is over, right? Get Tarvaris Jackson some playing time and find out if he has any skills. I mean, if you've already decided he's not going to pan out then why is he on the roster? If he's the future then start him now and find out.

-Eric Edwards

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What if you had started the Eagles?

I wish I could say that I put these numbers together myself, or that I even considered prospect. But I'm just not that clever. They guys over at Kissing Suzy Kolber are, however, quite clever and demonstrated what an all-Eagles fantasy lineup would have looked like last week:

QB: Michael Vick. 333 yards passing, 4 TDs, 80 yards rushing, 2 TDs.
RB: LeSean McCoy. 43 yards rushing, 5 catches for 51 yards, 1 TD.
RB: Jerome Harrison. 109 yards rushing, 1 TD, 1 catch for 15 yards.
WR: DeSean Jackson. 2 catches, 98 yards, 1 TD.
WR Jeremy Maclin. 4 catches, 79 yards, 1 TD.
TE: Brent Celek. 2 catches, 8 yards.
W/R: Jason Avant: 5 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD.
K: David Akers. 8 XPs, 1 FG (48 yards).
D: EAGLES. 2 sacks, 3 INTs, 1 TD.

That's a 180 point game in my keeper league, which would be the season high-score. So even if you account for scoring discrepencies, that's pretty nasty. Naturally since the KSK crew originated this I'll throw up a link to their site. I must, however, offer forwarning that this tidbit is packaged with the weekly KSK Fantasy Football/Sex advice column where the bloggers offer both fantasy football and NC-17 rated relationship advice. Come to think of it, the football is advice is also often NC-17. It's not for everyone but I love the writing and so I highly recommend this blog for those who, like me, are not offended by anything. If you are easily offended, slightly prone to offense, or Peter King, you'd better go ahead and pass on this one.


-Eric Edwards

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fantasy Football Conversations: The Braylon Effect

A video for your enjoyment.

Who’s the most frustrating, previously unbenchable WR this season not named Randy Moss?

Eric Edwards: Wes Welker, Patriots. On average he was the 12th WR taken in the draft, between Marques Colsten and Anquan Boldin, but his performance makes him the 35th best WR in fantasy ball this year. Hard to draft a bench player with your 3rd pick.

Peter St. Onge: Brandon Marshall, Dolphins. He has all the classic Disappointing WR attributes - instability at QB, targets dwindling, tantrumsthrown.And yet, do you bench him? Now that he’s pulled a hammy, definitely.

R. Trentham Roberts: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals. HALF as many touchdowns as Hakeem Nicks or Dwayne Bowe. Many people spent a first-round pick on him -- they, like the Cardinals, will be looking for the next Kurt Warner for a while. A long while.

Reid Creager: Marques Colston, Saints. Look at these fantasy point totals (standard scoring) for thebestWR on one of the best offenses in the NFL: 6, 6, 2, 3, 9, 5 in Weeks 1-6. Colston had a slight re-emergence the next couple weeks (17, 13) but then regressed to 6 in Week 9 despite his team scoring 34 points in a rout of the Panthers. Plus,he’s got only two touchdown catches after having nine last year. The Saints simply have too much WR depth -- and coach Sean Payton is too inconsistent with his game planning -- for any receiver on this team to be an elite fantasy player.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thursday Night Lights: Bears-Dolphins

For fantasy purposes, this has every indication of being one of those Why-in-the-Name-of-Stupidity-Are-You-Slowing-Down-on-I-77-to-Watch-Two-Motorists-Standing-Next-to-a-Stalled-Car-on-the-Side-of-the-Road-and-Why-Don't-the-Cops-Issue-Tickets-for-This-Kind-of-Driving-Because-it-Leads-to-Major-Traffic-Stoppages-and-Accidents kinds of games.

In other words: Nothing to see here, folks. Keep your freaking foot off the brake and proceed to Sunday's games.

Oh, there may be a small curiosity as to how Tyler Thigpen does in his emergency start as the Miami QB, but only if you don't have much else going on Thursday night and you want to max out on your NFL Network value. I guess there's a chance he could surprise because there's little/no recent film on him (due to the fact that he hasn't mattered since Stuart Scott did), but the Bears secondary has 14 picks this year. Only the Eagles have more. So the yards don't figure to come easily.

Maybe this is finally the Miami QB who enables Brandon Marshall to discard his pacifier, if only for a game. It seems unlikely because the two have had little chance to get any kind of timing down, but stranger things have happened -- and often do -- in the NFL.

Thigpen figures to be throwing a lot on Thursday, given that the Dolphins could have trouble against the league's No. 2 rushing defense (consider benching Ronnie Brown). But it's anyone's guess as to which potential Miami target does the most damage due to the unfamiliarity factor.

On the Bears side, I guess Jay Cutler is an interesting speculative start against a Dolphins secondary that has only six picks this year; then again, Cutler has a way of turning any defensive back into a receiver. Plus, Miami has 23 sacks, a solid total, and the Bears' offensive line is so porous that this number could grow quickly Thursday night. Bears' running game? Hit and miss, mostly Miss (as in a title for a lady).

A head start on your NFL viewing weekend is a beautiful thing, eh? So just watch this one the old-fashioned way. It's tough for fantasy players to start anyone in this game with any degree of confidence, given recent performances (or lack thereof) that contribute to more uncertainty than germs on a handrail. I recommend you wash your hands of this one.

--Reid Creager

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's so great about your league?

Some fantasy leagues rock. Some are worse then a jail sentence.
What the hell? Why?

In the three leagues I particiapte in I have found that format makes a difference, the league settings contribute, the entry fee plays a small role and the biggest key is the right mix of people. You might think that close friends or family would make for a great league, but the two most important elements I've found are the competitiveness of the players and their general proximity to one another.

League A - Friends and friends of friends. No two people that I am aware of are in the same time zone. The owners are competitive, draft online, talk a little trash and mostly pay attention to their teams during the season. But there's very little chatter and all in all this league is the least exciting. Sure it's also the league I'm getting whipped in. But I almost won it last year and it still never really put a wire in my veins.

League B - Friends and Family, a few people geographically close, but still an online draft. Mostly competitive players, a little more trash talk and even though I am borderline on the playoffs it remains fun. Lots of movement, a few trades. If I weren't the commish of this league I would like it more. As it is the season is fun, the getting people to pay up is almost annoying enough to make me give it up.

League C - Some friends, but mostly folks I know only through my involvement in the league. Even though I'm not childhood friends with this crew, we do get together for a live draft (a couple of folks from out of state call in) and I've never been around more competitive, trash talking SOBs then this group - and therefore it is the league I put the most energy into and get the most enjoyment from. We don't all go way back so in some cases the fantasy rivalry is the defining characteristic of the relationship, which makes those games important. That this is a keeper league is no small matter, I feel a greater sense of ownership of the team because I have a generational investment in it. Even though I can only keep two players (the methodology is slightly complex, but you basically can't keep guys who are drafted in the first four rounds the year before - so the top talent in the league is always available on draft day with some exceptions) I can dictate the type of team I want to have. The scoring is important too, lots of incremental bonuses for players boost the scores so 130 point game, while not standard, is far from unheard of. The current high score is 176 - that guy will get a bonus at the end of the year if maintains it. Aside from being a keeper league the format is divisional and only 4 teams make the playoffs, three winners and a wildcard. The difficulty to get into the postseason makes every game a must win, there's no slogging it out and coasting in to that 6th slot. But this also tends to take the teams with the worst records out of the hunt by midseason. So to keep people excited and more importantly to keep people from dumping players - the last game of the regular season has an added bonus: The person with the most points that week - bench included - gets the proceeds from the transaction pot. This can be considerable and will more than pay for the league dues. Even though the bench score won't affect your weekly matchup, it adds some incentive to keep your team strong enough to compete all year.

What I want to know is what makes your league good? What crazy formats have you used or heard of that throw some spice into the season. Leagues evolve so I'm always on the lookout for better ideas to make any league I am in better. Share your stories.

-Eric Edwards

Tuesday Hangover - Week 10

Note to terrorists: If you want to know how to inspire fear and rage in the hearts of middle America, do what CBS Sports.com did this Sunday - separate fantasy owners from their live scoring updates. Really doesn't need to be that long, 10 minutes, an hour at the most and a majority of us will already have started lighting our homes on fire out of frustration.

Yes, in a weekend filled with fantasy and actual football madness -- including but not limited to a Cadillac Williams touchdown (is there anyone who can't score on the Panthers?); 12 minutes of suspended play in the New Meadowlands due to either complete and total darkness or Jon Kitna; or David Garrard pulling some old-school Doug Flutie mayhem out of his yonder -- the most notable event for millions of CBS Sports users will be the hour they had to add up yards in their heads while they watch football without really knowing if they should be caring.

I'll go ahead and admit it, I'm no pansy, love-of-the-game purist. I love football, sure. But I love it a whole lot more when I've got something on the line. And short of moving to Vegas, sleeping on my buddy's couch and sweating the tiniest shifts in the Bills moneyline, fantasy is the cheapest, most comprehensive way for me to care a little about a lot of football. F'rinstance, I'm a 49ers fan (yes, condolences, I know) but they are tragic so I spend most of my time watching the Chiefs hoping that guy standing in the backfield is wearing a no. 25 and isn't Thomas Jones. Fantasy is pretty embedded in my Sunday routine. I get up early, play with the kids, try to make everyone exhausted so they go to sleep right about the time the early games starts. Then I'll sit in The Man Chair with my laptop and something fried and I bounce around DirecTV for as long as the kids will let me. When I'm not bouncing my eyes are glued to the gametracker that updates me instantly on every painful point that my opponent's kicker is amassing while my guy is busy missing extra points (True story, I started Shayne Graham and almost cried when he shanked that PAT - who misses a PAT? It's negative points for my team, it should be at least a pay cut for him).

Take that away and I'm an angry, helpless, blind man. If I can't tell whether I'm winning or losing, then who gives a crap about who's ACTUALLY winning or losing? This game is not about them - it's about me. It's about my brilliance, my decision-making and how bad my opponent must be made to feel when I dominate him. Or, conversely how he has somehow cheated me out of a hard earned victory (I'm talking to you Hicks). So for approximately 1 hour on Sunday I was like a rat trying in vain to get a treat out my laptop. I refreshed, I rebooted, I logged off and back on, I actually started looking for a phone number in the fine print like there's a CBSSports.com fantasy help hotline staffed every weekend for my sense of well-being. After what was perhaps the longest hour of my life the updates came back and my blood pressure settled down to its regular 160/120. An hour later I was barely thinking about lighting a torch and marching on CBS HQ. But it'd better not happen again.

On to the week:

>>>QBs, QBs, and more QBs. You say your QB didn't have a 300 yard game with 16 TDs? You may be an idiot. You are definitely unique among fantasy owners. But I shouldn't make fun, my cousin who is in 2nd place in my league and knows what he's doing (generally) started Chad Pennington upon hearing about Chad Henne's benching. That's some bad mojo right there. What if I told you that 13 QBs would post 300 yard games this weekend (NFL record) and Peyton Manning wouldn't be one of them? Would you lose control of your bowels? I think I just did.

>>>Speaking of bowel relief, how many owners were sitting on handsome leads when Michael Vick's 57 point day came knocking? Admit it, no one saw a 57 point game coming. But let's face it, Cassel's 54 point day in a loss was actually more surprising and in most cases benched.

*Bonus hilarity - In my big league the following QBs were on the bench this week: Matt Cassel, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Jon Kitna, Matt Schaub. To be fair, the guy who benched Schaub started Orton and won. The guy who benched Brady had a good day out of Shaun Hill and won. The Matt Ryan bench looked bad right up until Garrard's angel pass, then Garrard started to look like an OK start. But let's face it, you don't want to wait until the last second of regulation to get affirmation that you made the right call. The guy who left Cassel's 469 yards 4 TD game on the bench? Let's just say 24 of those points would have come in handy.

>>>And where balls are being thrown, balls are being caught. Favre knows a thing or two about that.

But seriously folks - Did anyone in America either start or play against any of the following stat giants: Seattle Mike Williams, Dwayne Bowe, Jacksonville's Mike Thomas! No, of course you didn't. To be fair Mike Thomas should have been credited with a 1 yard reception and whichever jackwad Texan defender that handed him the ball should get credit for the passing TD. How bad does that guy feel right now? The funny thing is that Jag's hail Mary that bounced off the hands of the Texan's DBack and into the waiting arms of Mike Thomas happened right before the CBS servers went down. My theory is that whoever was updating that game had his life savings on the Texans, saw the play, had a stroke, spilled his coffee on the only hard drive at CBS that matters and it was 45 minutes before the swing shift came in and found him. Don't worry, he's now resting comfortably in the free clinic.

>>>If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: If you start Fred Jackson every week eventually you're going to be sitting on a fantasy gold mine. My words are golden. I've said the same about Felix Jones but I actually DID start Jackson and I didn't start Jones. Felix and I have had a turbulent season. I drafted him everywhere, then dropped him in my big league where he got picked up from waivers and benched, then earlier last week he became a tagline in a trade that netted me Eli Manning, Jones and Patrick Crayton for Vince Young, Mercades Lewis and Seattle Mike Williams. Feeling prettty, prettty, good about that one right about now.

There is a feeling you get sometimes that a bench player has just made himself viable. It's harder to "feel" with wide receivers until you see them put together a string of successes, but when you see a RB have a breakout week, especially when you've been waiting for it, double especially when he just got a new coach, it may be time to promote him to a starter. I think Felix has finally arrived. I'll miss him when he breaks his leg next weekend.

>>>The best storyline for me coming into Monday night was needing DeSean Jackson to add about 6 points to get me over the top - no problem right? Well, before the first snap I admit to being nervous, he's a hot or cold guy (mostly hot, sure but he's laid an egg or two). On top of that there seems to be a cosmic pattern that makes me sweat out these tiny point differentials one increment at a time over 4 quarters so that I'll never have resolution until the last minutes of the game. Yeah, not last night. I hadn't even gotten geared up to worry myself to death when he put the nail in my opponent's coffin. But then after that 88 yard TD, not a peep. Did he take the rest of the shift off? Do they do that in the NFL? "I'm down for 88 and a TD, I got you 88 and a TD and now I'm going home." It's the only explanation. Wait, nevermind, he just got a 10-yarder 3 hours after the game ended. Extended lunch break? Damn players union.

>>>Jerome Harrison. Speaking of guys you haven't heard from this season who went for 100 and a TD. It's a one week thing, the Eagles janitor scored on the redskins. Don't pick him up. Don't do it. But I'm definitely going to try.

>>>One thing I'm noticing here is that good quarterback play in general is devestating to defensive score. Probably it's a time of possession issue, but defenses got massacred this weekend. I've got the Chiefs (-2), the Giants (5), Cardinals (7), Steelers (3), Ravens (8), and my favorite Redskins (-6). And this is in a league that starts D's with 22 points.

-Eric Edwards

Vick making folks forget about the dogs

He'll never play again.

That pretty much summed up the national sentiment on July 17, 2007, when Michael Vick was indicted by a federal jury in connection with a dog fighting operation.

Oh, sure, a few folks said that we as a nation are quick to forgive the downtrodden, so long as they show remorse. But most network experts and the unofficial straw poll taken around the office and in the break room that week thought he was done.

Apologies for going with the obvious, but on MNF, someone let the dogs out.

Yes, a little over three years later and Vick set a record for most fantasy points ever by a QB in the modern era, throwing for 333 yards and 4 TD and rushing for 80 yards and 2 more scores as the Eagles rolled the Redskins, 59-28.  Peyton Manning's 6-TD, 314-yard performance on Sept. 28, 2003 was right up there, but not like this.

You have to go back to when your grandpa possibly played some prehistoric version of leather-helmet fantasy ball, when Y.A. Tittle threw for 7 TD and 505 yards in 1962, which would have netted 62 fantasy points in our current Yahoo setup. BTW, Y.A. stands for Yelberton Abraham. Uh, yeah, I'd be going by Y.A. too.

Vick's 57-point masterpiece would have single-handedly won three games in our league this year and tied a fourth.

Instantly, all Eagles WR have become fantasy relevant, even the underowned Jason Avant. Vick is elevated to must-start status, if he wasn't there now and looks to give Peyton Hillis and Brandon Lloyd a run for Pickup of the Year honors, if he didn't seal it already.

The irony is it happened against former Eagle QB Donovan McNabb, on a night when the Redskins just shelled out a guaranteed $40 million apology, er, contract. Not great timing, Shanahan.

If for some reason, Vick was unowned in your league, 1). grab him now and 2). do you have any openings?

-- Trevor Freeze

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is there a team this season that makes you nervous starting otherwise top flight players players?

Eric Edwards: New England. The Pats had a hey day for the last few years with a few true, very dangerous offensive weapons in Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Tom Brady. Post Moss they seem to be going back to offense by committee, spreading the ball around like it’s a game of hide and seek. Welker has all but disappeared and his production has been replaced by Dieon Branch, Brandon Tate and Danny Woodhead. Outside of Brady I don’t trust any of them.

R. Trentham Roberts: New Orleans. Ivory? Betts? Jones? Really? And that’s just the running backs. As for receivers, Marques Colston checks in at No. 14 in our league, and then it’s Lance Moore at No. 25. (Ahead of such names as Braylon Edwards, Ochocinco and Wes Welker, by the way.) And whatever happened to Devery Henderson?

Trevor Freeze: Miami. What's that I hear in the distance. Be real quiet and you can hear the Eagles classic getting louder around South Beach. Seems "Desperado" fever has completely set in, as Miami has lost its senses, yanking one hanging Chad (Henne) with another (Pennington), with the playoffs still in reach. As a Brandon Marshall owner, I hope I'm completely wrong, but I don't see a lot of hope in this QB change, and that means more disappointment for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams loyalists.

Reid Creager: Dallas. That so-called stud running back named Felix is just another Jones, thanks to a disappointing offensive line and his usual brittleness. Austin is miles behind last year’s pace, largely because of the ancient injury fill-in at QB who can’t/won’t get him the ball. I’m trying to come up with a third lousy name pun for this space, but I give up – though not quite in the spectacular way the Cowboys have.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why I decided to trade Vince Young

The simple act of writing this will probably be enough to make Vince Young the most prolific fantasy-point producing QB in history. But I've decided he can't be my QB.
After losing first Tony Romo (clavicle) then Matt Stafford (shoulder, which is only slightly different from the clavicle, medically speaking), I picked up Vince Young on the news that he was prepping a new receiver. This new receiver, Randy Moss (maybe you've heard of him) could only get more press coverage if he were among Brett Favre's body parts. This is generally not a desirable position to be in as an owner. When top performers get air time, it's usually in some commercial capacity. When Moss gets airtime it's not to sell sneakers, it's to talk about his feelings. He has lots of feelings and only 2% of those are productive from a football standpoint.
And then we have Vince Young and the Titans, who as an organization are coming as close to QB by committee as any team that actually pretends to have a starter (excusing Arizona and Carolina).
On the positive side of the ledger, not all of Moss's contagious qualities are detrimental, he may not inspire his teammates, but he does inspire double teams which works out really well for anyone in the slot and the QB throwing at him. Then you figure in defenses that have to strengthen the line to keep Chris Johnson honest and you start running into some mathematical certainties that work in favor of the middle of the field being wide freaking open.
So who wouldn't keep Young when faced with the prospects of two wide open receivers every single play?
Well, it might be a small association, but some people don't entirely trust Vince's ability to accurately place the ball on downfield strikes. And Jeff Fisher may or may not be the founding member of this group's Facebook page. Which means when Vince has managed to miss Moss in the endzone 2 or 3 times a quarter, Moss's queries about the viability of the QB may not fall on the deafest of ears. If anything, even the most casual observer has to agree that Fisher has a tremendous proclivity for keeping Kerry Collins' hand in the game. And Kerry Collins does have a history with Moss in Oakland. Now, I have no idea what that history is, but unless it included Collins giving Moss wedgies in the locker room, I'm guessing Moss might be prone to building a case for Collins if he finds Young unsuitable.
This is all, of course, the wildest of speculation, but I've had two outstanding QBs go down to oddball shoulder injuries so I'm not taking anything off the table of the possible.
No, I'm going to try to find a reasonable, mild-mannered QB who quietly puts up slightly above average numbers. I could miss out on the greatest haul ever, but I'm willing to trade that glory for a nice, reliable QB who brings me home my 25 per week.

-Eric Edwards

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thursday Night Lights: Ravens at Falcons

The first NFL Network Thursday nighter of the season is a good matchup, though not necessarily an offensive showcase.

Neither team is overly exciting offensively, although Atlanta's Michael Turner and Baltimore's Ray Rice are a threat to bust one any time. Both are must-starts, even though Baltimore is again strong against the run (104.8 yards rushing allowed per game, 13th in the NFL) and Atlanta is among the very best (95.9 yards rushing allowed per game, sixth in the NFL, with only three rushing touchdowns allowed all season).

Those stats may be a partial indicator of what to look for, but all bets are out the window when two teams have only three days' rest. It's impossible to know how they'll react with such little preparation time, and bumps and bruises still fresh from Sunday....

Which is especially meaningful in the case of Falcons stud WR Roddy White, who left Sunday's game twice with a bum knee. He's saying he'll start Thursday, but owners should check just before gametime to make sure. His situation puts his owners in a bind, because he's too good not to start; on the other hand, one bad cut or hard tackle and he could be watching from the sidelines.

The most vulnerable defensive component in this game is the young Falcons secondary, which has taken its lumps this season -- an average of 7.9 yards allowed per passing play; only the Cowboys, Texans and Jaguars are worse. There's your stat of the night. It could be a good night for Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and other targets -- and if that passing game gets going, it makes the Atlanta defense less able to key on Rice.

Again: It's hard enough to predict the result of an NFL game, and the Thursday night factor makes it even harder. But I've got a feeling the Falcons' defense will be on the field a lot Thursday, and it'll be hard for Atlanta to run clock against the Ravens' defensive line. The best chance for big fantasy points lies with the Ravens' skill players.

--Reid Creager

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tuesday Hangover - Week 9

By week 9 we can finally sit back and say a few things for sure. Things we may not have wanted to admit, but things that, alas are true.

Thing 1: Arian Foster is the most valuable running back on any team this year. He may or may not be the best running back in the NFL, but no one overpaid for his production. I'd be willing to bet my kids' college funds (that I am frequently willing to do this should not detract from the gravitas of the following) that 75% of teams with Arian Foster are in 1st or 2n place in their leagues. I might be willing to bet the actual kids that no one who drafted Arian Foster misses the playoffs unless that person is mostly brain dead or an ESPN analyst. Roasted!

Thing 2: Is this T.O. guy making waves or what? Judging by the look on Ochocinco's face all night I think the novelty of the situation he helped create has faded. He thought he was getting a tired old man cut from the same windbaggy cloth as Ocho himself. What Ocho forgot was that T.O. didn't dance his way into 150 career TDs (behind only Jerry Rice and Randy Moss). He got them because he's a stud who is making Ocho look like a sideshow these days.

Thing 3: When things fall apart in the Big D they fall apart fast. If I've said it once I've said it 100 times - Romo is the heart and soul of that team. It always seemed like there was a chance to keep the game close or even mount a comeback with Romo in the game. The team just feels different, much worse, without him. Put it this way, the Cowboys had only 1 win when the Giants knocked Romo out of the game, but they were winning that game and there was a sense that nothing was finished. The second he went down there was no doubt their season was over. Just ask Miles Austin who produced exactly 16 yards of offense on Sunday. Which raises the question: When Romo comes back how will the offense respond? The pressure to make the post season will be gone, a new coach will be in place and Romo will be (kind of) re auditioning for his job. Holding on to him could pay huge dividends late in the season.

>>Last week Bill Simmons unveiled his NFL power rankings and his readership was stunned to find out that The Sports Guy managed to talk himself into making the Patriots his top team. Naturally that meant they were going to get drilled by the Browns. When I read that post last Thursday I thought: "I sure wish I had Peyton Hillis stashed away somewhere." He's been good all year, but Simmons basically guaranteed him a career day.

>>Disclaimer: I finally figured out why all of my pre draft predictions (Julian Edelman, Felix Jones, Michael Bush) turned into such huge piles of dung, but my teams have nonetheless stayed competitive (with one notable exception). I'm a horrible gambler. So bad that it's like a super power. If I am relying on my instinct to tell me what team will win a game in the future I am on the wrong side close to 80% of the time -- which in itself is a remarkable stat. Well, setting a lineup is a lot like playing poker, there is an awful lot of concrete information that takes most of the "gambling" out of it. But picking potential "blow up" players is a much bigger game of chance. Some of you out there with decent instincts (Reid Creager) will not understand this. But it's true, give me a lot of info and I can make a good choice, leave it to my gut and I'm toast. If you see me making outlandish future predictions, your best bet is to head in the opposite directions. Unfortunately I have been unable to find a way to actually fade myself - but when I do, they're going to have name the Vegas school system after me.

>>Jon Gruden, when discussing Ocho Cinco last night, said Ocho's the type of "football player" who does a lot of great things that just don't show up on tape. We can only assume the same of Gruden, otherwise there is no explaining his tenure on air. If someone doesn't hire him to coach again soon MNF will start losing viewers to Mike & Molly.

>>This season I've owned the awesome shoulders of both Tony Romo and Matt Stafford in the same league. I'm currently in 4th place (top 4 make the playoffs) and I'm trading away keepers galore just to get my hands on Eli. Any chance Eli makes it through the rest of the year without a shoulder injury? I doubt it. Is it possible for me to use Lloyd's of London to insure someone else's shoulder?

>>I have very strong feelings about the Jamaal Charles situation.

>>Have you ever played a guy who failed to fill three roster spots and thought to yourself: "Well, I've got this one locked up." Then the remaining guys on his bench start putting up points and you realize there's a chance you can lose the game? It's a complete lose-lose situation. If you win, who cares, you played the league flake. If you lose you are an epic tool. So now you are sweating over a game that you get no joy from winning. It's a lot of expended energy with basically no return. That happened to me and it was the best part of my fantasy weekend. The worst part? Watching the last Cedric Benson possession that netted him 2.5 points on a thrice bobbled pass that gave his owner a half-point win over me. I need to find another hobby.

>>Some weeks you have bench blow ups, some weeks you have starters melt down. I'm not sure which is worse. This week was the latter. Pierre Garcon. Miles Austin. Andre Johnson. Patriots D. Ochocinco. Does Justin Forsett count? Regardless the scores were lower across the board in the three leagues I play in and it doesn't seem like folks left tons of points on the bench.

>>Helpful Reminder: Thursday games start this week adding meaning to one more night of the week, but also requiring that you look at your team before Saturday night. Don't get caught with your Falcons and Ravens on the bench. On top of that, trade deadlines are approaching in most leagues so if you've got gaps to fill now is your last chance to try to fill 'em the honest way, by smooth talking another owner into trading away the franchise for your benefit.

-Eric Edwards

Arrowhead Fantasy League

When coach Todd Haley too over the reins of the Kansas City Chiefs, he brought intensity. He brought Romeo Crennel. He brought Charlie Weis. He brought Matt Cassell and a crew of young men passionate about playing in the NFL. He also brought his personal fantasy football league and invited the coaching staff to join him in a high-stakes game where the winner gets to slap the coach in the face five times over the course of the season. Unless Haley is the winner, then he gets to slap each loser in the face one extra time each day for a whole season. Needless to say, the coaching staff takes this league very seriously.

Last season Haley's team, "The Goatee," won going away, the daily evidence of which is stained red across the cheeks of his subordinates. But when Charlie Weis, owner of "Drumstick Junction," took Jamaal Charles with the first pick of this year's draft, Haley knew he had to do something drastic or he may have to deal with the business end of Weis's sausage-sized fingers. So he turned to his newest recruit - the very old Thomas Jones. Just moments after he took Jones with the last pick of the draft, Coach Haley unveiled the Chiefs' new depth chart -- in which Jamaal Charles would be reduced to water boy, and Thomas Jones would be the feature back for no apparent reason.

In this role, Jones has stacked up pedestrian performance upon pedestrian performance -- none more pedestrian than 19 carries for 32 yards in week 9. Following this disastrous outing, Jones ran into Haley in the locker room, where Haley was busy slapping offensive line coach Bill Muir, owner of the league's 3rd place team "The Biggest Sack."

Interior: An almost empty men's locker room. Shower drips in the background. Fluorescent lights flicker sadly over the sinks. Coach Haley has one hand on Muir's collar and the other cocked back for a bonus swipe. His head turns when he hears the door open. Scene:

TJ: "You got a minute, Coach?"

TH: "Can't you see I'm busy doling out slaps? I'm way behind schedule here. I still have to get to Crennel, Carthon and Weis. Gotta do Weis last because my doc says I have to shower after touching him, you know, to wash off the cholesterol. My abs are my life, Jonesy."

TJ: "I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I feel like I let the whole team down today. I think Jamaal is the better runner. I don't think I should get twice as many carries as he does when I only use them to produce half as many yards."

TH: staring angrily at his hands. "Jones, what you can't see is the big picture. Everything is moving according to plan. Don't mess up now by asking to give up touches."

TJ: "But coach! We lost today because I got tired out there. I'm not as young as I used to be. I need to hand over the carries..."

TH: "YOU SHUT UP! Jamaal gets NOTHING! NOTHING, you hear? You are doing perfectly. In order to run a professional organization, the man at the top needs to be able to operate without question. And he needs to be able to slap other men whenever he wants. If that talented punk Charles gets more carries, he'll run for 200 yards every week. He'll score touchdown after touchdown after touchdown! Weis will run away with the league and all will be lost!

TJ: "The League? What are you talking about."

TC: "You don't see it. You stupid simpleton. It's all right in front of your rapidly aging face! You are on my fantasy team and Charles is on Weis'. I've got McFadden and LaDainian too, so I'm having a pretty good year. I'll probably win the league again this year. But not unless you keep clogging up the Chiefs run game. God knows what will happen if we ever let Charles run free. Do you have any idea what it would be like to be slapped by that fat bastard Weis?"

TJ: "Slapped? No. I don't. I'm not sure what you're talking about, Coach."

TC: "Well, I don't know what it's like to be slapped by Weis, either. And with you doing your job, I don't plan on ever finding out. You see, around here Jones, I do the slapping and the yelling and the teeth gnashing and spanking ..."

TJ: "You're freaking me out, Coach."

TC: "Good. That's what successful managers do. If I can keep slapping, and kicking and screaming and freaking people out there's no limit to how far we can go!"

TJ: "Stop licking your lips like that, Coach."

TC: "You're dismissed. And one more thing, Jonesy - we never had this conversation."

TJ: "Whatever, freak."


-Eric Edwards

Seyi's Day, and Playing the Odds

If you didn't take my strong suggestion to pick up the 1 percent-owned Chargers WR Seyi Ajirotutu this weekend (111 yards, 4 catches, 2 touchdowns), my condolences. But whether you did or not, there's a lesson for all of us that goes beyond having the guts to roll the dice on a sleeper pickup.

For me, Seyi Day was a reminder that playing the best fantasy lineup each week is a matter of taking into consideration as many factors as possible that can play into each decision of player X vs. Player Y, and then going with the odds. It's not going to work every time, but it will work often enough to make you look like a smart person most of the time.

Like when you bench Calvin Johnson in order to play Seyi Ajirotutu.

Yep, that's what I did yesterday. Seyi had 23 points. Johnson had 1.

I told three people at work that I was going to do it. Each one said I was crazy. But really, it was perfectly logical if you looked at which way so many of the important factors were pointing:

*Philip Rivers throws for at least 300 yards a week. It's only a matter of how it's going to be divided up. If I put on a helmet with a lightning bolt yesterday and Security would have let me on the field, I would have been targeted (hands are an issue at times, but I'm still very fast).
Floyd, Naanee, Davis and Gates were all sidelined, and only Patrick Crayton was still standing among experienced WRs on the roster. Even if Crayton went off, 200-some yards would have to be spread around elsewhere -- and besides, Crayton figured to draw Houston's best DB yesterday, whoever that is.

*Houston has the worst pass defense in the NFL. This was not going to be a down day for Rivers throwing the ball.

*Ajirotutu fared well in brief action in Week 7 and was on the field for over 40 snaps in Week 8, when he caught four passes. Rivers clearly had growing confidence in him.

*Ajirotutu was starting on the outside, not in the slot. He was going to get deep balls. He's 6 feet 3 inches tall and is a perfect target for jump balls.

*The Chargers have liked Ajirotutu ever since he dominated a college All-Star game while at Fresno State last year. He's definitely a commodity on the rise, and has been for awhile now.

*As for Johnson -- who was coming off a 3-touchdown game -- Darrelle Revis' hamstring hasn't been 100 percent all year, but going into yesterday's game it was. Last year, when healthy, Revis shut down every elite receiver he faced. That's just how it is. It's what he does.

*The Jets' game plan was to pound the ball, and they have the players to do it. That would significantly lessen the time the Lions offense would be on the field. The only worry I had was that Johnson might get a score in garbage time -- but I was so sure that Ajirotutu would get at least one TD that there wasn't a huge risk there.

*My fantasy opponent yesterday has one of the lowest point totals in the league this year. It was a "gamble" I felt I could afford to take even if it failed (and turns out, I still would have won my matchup had I started Johnson instead of Ajirotutu).

When a specific Player X vs. Player Y decision is this lopsided, it becomes more than a matter of just going with a 1 percent-owned sleeper. You're going with the odds. You're not doing a crazy thing, even if it might look that way. You're doing the sane, smart thing.

But if people want to think you're crazy and gutsy -- hey. Bonus.

Someone posted and asked about Ajirotutu's prospects the rest of the way. The short answer: Don't start him unless you're in a bind, because Week 9 was one of those one-week dream situations when he clearly was going to be a major target. Week 10 is a bye week, and after that there's a good chance Malcolm Floyd comes back. Maybe Antonio Gates, too. And Vincent Jackson becomes eligible for Week 12.

But Ajirotutu's height, route-running ability and growing familiarity with Rivers are all very real. He hasn't scored his last touchdown of the year; it's just going to get harder to guess when the next one might come. There was a whole lot less guessing to be done in Week 9.

So weigh all of the factors that are most pertinent, play your odds, and don't be afraid to be unconventional. And keep it all in perspective. Hey, a week after the fantasy playoffs are over, you'll have forgotten all about the 2010 fantasy football season anyway. Or at least you should have.

-Reid Creager

Friday, November 5, 2010

Of all the running backs in a timeshare right now, who is most likely to gain feature back status in the second half of the season?

Eric Edwards: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City. Anyone watching Charles run this year has had one question: Why isn’t he touching the ball more? Last Sunday the carry differential between he and Thomas Jones narrowed considerably and Charles ended up with 177 yards. Hard to argue with 177 yards.

Peter St. Onge: BenJarvis Green-Ellis, New England. When the Patriots needed yards and possession time against a stout Minnesota defense last Sunday, they turned to Green-Ellis. With New England’s receivers now looking more like the waterbugs that took them to Super Bowls earlier this decade, they need the same kind of big back those championship teams had.

Trevor Freeze: Chester Taylor, Chicago. We all know Matt Forte has been as disappointing as circus peanuts or nail clippers in your Halloween bag. And coach Lovie Smith says he wants to both run and use the $7 million Taylor more. Minus the Carolina game, Forte has yet to rush for more than 50 yards, despite double-digit carries in all but one. The fresh-legged Taylor scooped up 65 yards on 10 touches over the past two games and is reporting for goal line duty. Grab and stash.

Reid Creager: Shonn Greene, New York Jets. Yes, LaDainian Tomlinson has had a resurgence with his new team, but aches and pains have tended to pile up on him in the second half the last few years. Greene is coming on of late --and don’t forget how he exploded onto the scene during last year’s NFL playoffs.

Seyi WHAT? Just go get him

Struggling with your WR corps, especially in the depths of the bye week blues? Well, I'm back with more reid-iculous advice -- such as when I told you Arian Foster was a must-own before the season and to pick up Ryan Torain and James Jones, when they had less ownership than shares in a beanie baby company:

Seyi Ajirotutu of the San Diego Chargers could help you win your week.

The reasons are more than the vowels in his name (is he the only professional athlete with all the vowels of the English language in his name, including the Y? Why hasn't there been any research on this? Why am I the one who has to think of these things?). Vincent Jackson isn't eligible to play till the end of the month. Malcolm Floyd, out this week. Legedu Naanee, a spirited but wanting participant in the vowels sweepstakes, also out. Buster Davis? IR. Even Antonio Gates is in danger of not playing now that he has a very painful right foot injury to go with his left foot injury. That would leave zero targets who are even semi-viable outside of the inconsistent veteran Patrick Crayton, the de facto No. 1 WR in San Diego this week.

Philip Rivers -- a surefire candidate for NFL MVP if the Chargers somehow make the playoffs -- found Ajirotutu for three catches and 48 yards last week. The two seems to be developing a connection. The Chargers like Ajirotutu's ability at 6 feet, 3 inches tall to go for jump balls; he's athletic, has good hands and runs smart routes. A former roommate of teammate Ryan Mathews at Fresno State, Ajirotutu opened eyes at the scouting combine and then caught seven passes for 145 yards in the preseason. In other words, he's not some guy who walked in off the street after flipping burgers at Hooters (although that worked out pretty well for Jon Gruden).

And I'm saving the best for last: Seyi has already been named a starter for Sunday at wideout -- not in the slot -- and he's going up against a Houston Texans pass defense that's ranked last in the NFL. It's a virtual certainty that he gets at least a few deep targets. No guarantees on what he does with them, but that's a very tasty scenario.

(The Chargers signed veteran Kelley Washington Thursday for depth, but given his lack of familiarity with the playbook he would be a third receiver at best for the team on Sunday. So don't worry about him.)

The Seyi Hey Kid goes on a bye in Week 10 with the rest of the Chargers, so assuming some other wideouts can get well during that time, he might be just a one-week pickup. Still, he can help plug a gap for you during a crucial week for almost every owner.

Signed off the practice squad last month. One-percent owned. Time to show some stupid guts.

--Reid Creager

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What can Randy Moss do for you?

If you are a fantasy owner of Moss, he can certainly be the cause of seasonal IBS.
But think outside the box for a minute and you'll see that Moss is really like Santa Claus, spreading good will throughout fantasy leagues by sucking defenses off of other guys.

So in reality, while the value of owning Moss has diminished to the point of worthlessness, the value of owning the guys around Moss has never been higher. Why is that, you ask?

In my opinion Moss is at a special wounded animal level of dangerousness. He's lost a step so QBs can't rely on him to catch 10 balls a game, especially in double coverage. But he's still a beast in single coverage so most teams have to double him. If you are Tom Brady or Brett Favre or Kerry Collins or Vince Young, your choices are much easier. You don't need to wait for Moss to get open if he's doubled, just check the ball down to Welker, Harvin or, wait for it, Nate Washington.

That's right. The newest gift from Mossy Claus's season of spreading joy is Nate Washington who is owned in like 40 percent of leagues and started in like zero of those leagues. Nate's got a bye this week, so the buzz may be quiet. But assuming Moss reports to the Titans, and I've heard nothing to suggest he won't, then Nate may become a fantasy commodity. Maybe not on the level of Harvin or Welker, but you never know.

The next question will be: What happens when Kenny Britt comes back? Since Britt is widely owned there's no need to rush out to grab him. You can't. But it's safe to assume that when Britt comes back in week 11 or 12 he'll get the biggest benefit from Moss's presence. Of course that assumes Moss's culinary specifications are met in Nashville and that he's still with the Titans in week 12. I give that a 50 percent chance of happening.

-Eric Edwards

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Conspiracy of Ryan Mathews

I should have known something was wrong just by the way he spells his name. If I had asked myself the question: "Where did that second 'T' go?" I might have come to the conclusion that it was injured and never to be heard from again.

The San Diego Chargers' RB Ryan Mathews was the preseason lead-pipe lock to be the best rookie runner in the game. The type of talent that demands 2nd if not 1st round consideration. His average draft position of 14.8 bears this out. I'd never seen him run but like many others I got caught up in the hype and was disappointed when he didn't fall to me in the second round. My co-owner, typically a very reliable talent scout, dropped glowing endorsements all over Mathews. So high was his praise that when a computer glitch (that's what I'll call it) autodrafted Mathews for me in my Vegas league I considered it a gift. But I was wrong.

In 7 weeks, Mathews has racked up a depressive 49 points and has only had two outings in double digits. This is bad. What's worse is that before I truly came to understand the type of bust I was dealing with I let the aforementioned co-owner (did I mention his acumen?) talk me into trading our struggling, headache-inducing RB Joe Addai plus our IR'd Sidney Rice for Mathews when his stock was perceived as "low."

Of course saying that Mathews' stock was low in week 2 is like saying that the U.S. has experienced an economic "dip." Of course I don't know this yet. It's week 3, I've got Mathews in two leagues and all around me are promising notes from prominent fantasy writers telling me that next week is certain to be Mathews breakout week. Until he drops a fantasy loaf.

Now I am feeling a touch of buyer's remorse, but still the media chatter tells me that Mathews may be a little dinged up, but that's not going to be able to suppress his domination for long. Then another loaf. Then more plaudits followed by more loaves until I'm up to my neck in more highly acclaimed crap than Mitch Albom could produce in a thousand lifetimes.

Now, I'm stuck with him. No one wants this guy. His trade value is at Marshawn Lynchian lows, if that's possible. He's the backbone of my 2-6 team, and if it weren't for the sickest crew of wideouts ever assembled and the continued faith I place in Jamaal Charles, he'd be driving my keeper team to an early grave too.

But still, CBS Sports gives him the vaunted orange sticker that indicates he's a hot player. How is that possible? I think I've got it figured out. It's a psychological test being run on us as unwilling and unwitting participants. Someone wants to see how much control those little player updates have on our roster habits. Will we start a buffoon all season long because someone in Yahoo! tower tells us to? Will we never start someone with a negative prognosis?

Well I, for one, and opting out of this cycle of destruction. Until that "T"-challenged jerk starts earning his keep with some 100-yard games, I'm benching the crap out of him. No more Mr. Hopeful guy. No more of this Childress-style of coaching. If the dude doesn't produce, he's not starting.

Hopefully, when Mathews reads this tomorrow morning he'll get the message loud and clear that owners like me aren't going to stand for this kind of namby-pamby play. Hopefully that will light a fire under him to play at a high level. Until then he can sit around and complain about the collard greens with Randy Moss.

-Eric Edwards

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tuesday Hangover - Week 8

Has a guy who is a concensus fantasy first-rounder ever been traded by his actual team and then dropped outright by the new team? I can't think of one example of this happening until it happened to Randy Moss yesterday. So if you are a Randy Moss owner, it is first important to note that you have been warned about this for years. You chose to roll the dice on the guy when he went to New England, he delivered massive ROI, reinstilled the fantasy community's faith in him, then just when you thought he was a reliable first-round pick, he takes a dump all over your season. Hilarious. As I see it, there is no ceiling for how ticked these owners should be. None. And hey Moss, way to go out on a high note, 1 reception for 8 yards. I bet somewhere there is a dead guy whose wife is trying to come up with a better explanation to give to authorities than "He started Randy Moss and it didn't end well."

Other people who are considering replacing the sugar in their coffee with arsenic:

>> Kenny Britt owners. You saw this one coming from a mile away right? I mean, this is a layup. Guy has a decent season. Guy is on and off the bench. Guy puts up a stratospheric performance. Guy gets promoted to a No. 1, must-start WR. Guy gets injured 5 minutes later and will miss "an extended period of time."

>> Ditto Knowshon Moreno. Never bet on a man who had fish and chips for breakfast. Rule no. 2.

>> Ditto Lee Evans. Never bet on Lee Evans. Rule no. 1.

>> The Law Firm owners. This is more of a code yellow variety of annoyance. You didn't start him, he blew up, you probably will continue to not start him because you still can't trust that offense to make him a priority. It's like Belichick is wired in to all ESPN, CBS and Yahoo! leagues and the second one of his players drops below 30% started he gives that guy a break out week. The second you bench Welker he's going to score 50 points.

>> Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode is really turning up the heat in Seattle isn't he? Did you see the way he punched the ground after one of his nine rushing attempts that added up to 7 total yards? The guy is passionate. I can't believe I actually wasted brainpower trying to decide if Lynch was worth a bench spot on my team. He's not worth the $1 transaction fee. He's trying to out-Maroney Maroney. That's a tall order, but if anyone can do it, Beast Mode can.

>> Aaron Rodgers owners. If he gives you a 30-point game you win, right? Yeah, I thought so. Don't you love it when after a particularly miserable game the player will say he's just glad "they got the win. That's what's important." Don't you want to clobber him with a turkey leg when he says that? I do.

>> Vikings D. Cowboys D. Titans D. Patriots D. Way to show up, playas.

But all was not bad. Not by a long shot. With any luck we are seeing the season gel into form. Barring injuries it seems like teams are starting to find their lineups.

>> Matt Stafford was back from his shoulder injury and only horrified owners 3 times when he hit the ground and got up painfully. Other than that, a 4-TD, 26-completion day is a good sign for owners who held on to him.

>> Is Jamaal Charles finally ready to take over the Chiefs offense? Thomas Jones did have more carries (still), but no one in the NFL makes takes better advantage of his touches than Charles, who averages exactly 12,000 yards per carry. That is not an exaggeration.

>> Calvin Johnson. 'Bout. Freakin'. Time.

>> Frank Gore continues to deliver. Is there a more reliable back in the NFL? Season low is 10. Season high is 36.5. His last 3 games have gone over 100 yards and throw in a TD this weekend. He's the top fantasy scoring RB in many, many leagues. Funny story: The guy who drafted directly ahead of me took Gore over Andre Johnson and I laughed so hard I sprained my jaw. But now? Maybe I'm not laughing so much. Or at all. Well played Al, well played.

>> Jason Witten. Remember, you heard it here 73rd, but Witten is reborn under Kitna, who obviously cannot be trusted to throw the ball more than 15 feet. Kitna's elderly, his eyes aren't what they used to be (and they never were much -- rimshot). Witten is a like a walker with tennis balls to that guy.

>> Oh yeah, hi, Larry Fitzgerald. Nice to see you too. Sometimes I forget that the media thinks you're the greatest WR of your generation. You're not. But it's nice to see you pretend to be slightly above average every now and again. Did I mention that Anquan Boldin has always been better than you? He is.

>> Tampa Mike Williams. Your quietly good season just got a little louder. Let's see some more of those 100 yard/TD games. I personally am facing a bit of a Mike Williams crisis. I've got both of them, plus DeSean & Andre Johnson. Can't start 'em all. Looks like I'll be flipping coins on Williamses for the rest of the season.

>>Was there any way Jacob Tamme wasn't going to score? I'd love to see the stat about how many games were won Monday night on the back of a guy you'd never heard of until last week.

>>It's worth pointing out that the Monday Night Crew in general and Jon Gruden in particular have taken the Peyton Manning idolatry to new and painfully annoying levels. There was not one full minute of time when Peyton was on the field that Gruden wasn't just slobbering all over him.

"I've never seen a practice like the practice I saw last week in Indy, Manning was nothing short of the greatest field general in military history."

"Any catch made within 3 miles of Manning must be attributed to his greatness. I once saw him turn loaves into fishes. It was spectacular. We didn't know what to do with all that fish, but still spectacular!"

"Any ball dropped by a Colts receiver causes Manning sleepless nights and hives even though he has never been at fault for the missed ball, all praise Manning."

"Manning is the light and the path and the glory, in his name we play. Amen."

Listen. I love a good laser-rocket-arm commercial as much as the next guy. And Peyton is a great QB. Fine. But someday we're going to find that Manning has a secret harem of underage Thai hookers caged up in his cellar. Or that he puts shards of glass in Halloween candy. Or that he bakes live bunnies into delicious live-bunny pies which he sells at an incredible markup to Kim Jong-il and Fidel Castro, because he loves dictators and communists. Or worse, he never wins another Super Bowl. And we're going to be super pissed. Like Tiger Woods-grade pissed. Because no one gets built up this much in the media without some dark, damning, bunny baking, big-game-losing secret.

So for the sake of Manning's image, I'd like to see an announcer lay off the hyperbolic platitudes every time he's anywhere near the ball. It is a treat to watch him play well, I don't need to be told how lucky I am every time he takes a snap.

-Eric Edwards