Fantasy Focus: Fantasy Football Analysis Week 5

Week 4 was historic, it was the first week that I didn’t finish first in overall fantasy rankings, a little competition we have here at For those of you that don’t know, the staff gets together their fantasy rankings for the week, and in the Fantasy Focus review everybody gets graded based on their picks. I won the first 3 weeks before getting ousted by my chubby and generally crazy uncle. I haven’t heard the end of it since he knew he took home the gold. But hey, I still finished tied for “next” with Red Red Ryan, yet another guy that keeps telling me he’s just as good as me. It’s a tough crowd, you fall a step back one week and now you’re not the best. We’ll see… This week we have four more teams on bye, Bears, Packers, Saints, Chargers – so don’t get caught with any of those circus-squads in your starting lineup. Dream big in Week 5, almost 1/3 of the way through the fantasy season. Craziness…

Elite Starters: Guys picked early that I love this week…

1. Peyton Manning – Come on, free money, against the Titans D, he should be even better than normal.
2. Adrian Peterson – I liked him last week against the Packers, and while he didn’t do well, I won’t hesitate against STL.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew – This cat is physical, ask Frank Gore what physical runners do to Seattle…
4. Matt Schaub – The Cardinals are really good against the run, good enough to score a lot, thus Matt will have a day.
5. Reggie Wayne – I can’t get enough of Reggie, he’s such a sure thing, and I expect him to do bad things to Tennessee.

Solid Starters: Guys picked in middle rounds that should outplay their ranking/draft position this week…

1. Julius Jones– Julius and the Hawks were brutal last week, but against Jax’s defense, I like his upside.
2. Santana Moss – If Carolina knows what’s good for them, they’ll stack the line. That should open a few up for Moss.
3. Tim Hightower– I’d say Tim was picked in the low rounds, but he’s not full sleeper. Against Houston he could score twice.
4. Carson Palmer – I like Carson again, even against a good Ravens D – there’s room to pass in that secondary.
5. Hines Ward –Hines, like Carson, finds himself on this list for the 2nd straight week. He didn’t let me down last time.

Sleeper Starters: Guys ranked low, drafted low or not at all, but I still like them this week…

1. Tashard Choice – He might be a back-up again, but if Dallas is up early, why waste Marion? They won’t, Choice gets 20 totes.
2. Jerome Harrison – I’ve always loved his vision; thought he’d do big things with lots of carries; he’ll get them again this week.
3. Mohamed Massaquoi –He’s the #1 in Cleveland now, and Derek Anderson likes him. A good play this week.
4. Steve Breaston– You can probably pick up breast in most leagues; he could be huge against Houston.
5. Eddie Royal – I have to go to this well one more week, he’s as talented as little guys come, could be huge!

Sit ‘Em Son: I don’t care where they were drafted, I don’t like these guys starting this week…

1. Ray Rice – I would sit Rice this week, I think Cincinnati really shuts him down in Week 5.
2. Steven Jackson – Minnesota, ick. I’d rather start Mendenhall, Hightower, or Julius Jones.
3. Matt Ryan – I’d look for a better option than San Francisco’s solid defense coming off two weeks of prep.
4. Roddy White –If I don’t like Matty Ice, I really don’t like Roddy going against Nate Clements all day long.
5. Larry Johnson – Get ready for less than 3 yards per rush against Dallas.

PS – Bye weeks are back, and here for some time, recognize! Mind the gap!

Week 5 Fantasy Pre-Rankings

Ryan Kauffman	        Josh Arsenault		Papa Weimer		Lucky Lester


1.Peyton Manning   	1.Peyton Manning	1.Matt Schaub   	1.Peyton Manning
2.Kurt Warner   	2.Tom Brady     	2.Kurt Warner     	2.Matt Schaub
3.Ben Roethlisberger 	3.Donovan McNabb     	3.Tony Romo     	3.Donovan McNabb
4.Joe Flacco     	4.Matt Schaub     	4.Peyton Manning 	4.Carson Palmer
5.Tom Brady     	5.David Garrard    	5.Donovan McNabb	5.Kurt Warner

1.Adrian Peterson	1.Maurice Jones-Drew	1.Adrian Peterson	1.Adrian Peterson
2.Chris Johnson 	2.Brandon Jacobs  	2.Rashard Mendenhall  	2.Maurice Jones-Drew
3.Maurice Jones-Drew	3.DeAngelo Williams  	3.Chris Johnson 	3.Brandon Jacobs
4.DeAngelo Williams	4.Clinton Portis    	4.Brian Westbrook 	4.Rashard Mendenhall
5.Brandon Jacobs 	5.Rashard Mendenhall   	5.Glen Coffee   	5.Tim Hightower


1.Reggie Wayne	        1.Reggie Wayne          1.T.J. Housmandzadeh 	1.Reggie Wayne
2.Andre Johnson 	2.Andre Johnson   	2.Reggie Wayne		2.DeSean Jackson
3.Larry Fitzgerald  	3.Anquan Boldin 	3.Larry Fitzgerald   	3.Anquan Boldin
4.Derrick Mason    	4.Brandon Marshall 	4.Andre Johnson 	4.Chad Ochocinco
5.Hines Ward    	5.Calvin Johnson	5.Mike Sims-Walker	5.Andre Johnson


1.Dallas Clark  	1.Dallas Clark  	1.Dallas Clark  	1.Dallas Clark
2.Jason Witten		2.Jason Witten		2.Tony Gonzalez 	2.Chris Cooley
3.Chris Cooley		3.Tony Gonzalez		3.Vernon Davis  	3.Owen Daniels
4.John Carlson   	4.Brent Celek   	4.Chris Cooley		4.Tony Gonzalez
5.Vernon Davis  	5.Vernon Davis   	5.Dustin Keller 	5.Jason Witten


1.Vikings		1.Vikings		1.Giants		1.Giants
2.Steelers		2.Giants        	2.Vikings		2.Vikings
3.Giants 		3.Eagles 		3.Eagles		3.Jets
4.Jets   		4.Cowboys  		4.Ravens		4.Eagles
5.Patriots		5.Jets  		5.Steelers		5.Steelers


Laces out, just like our kickers, out of the rankings! When the toe kick returns, we're back in!

Week 2 Fantasy Football News: Ten for Tuesday

After two weeks, Drew Brees is on pace to throw 72 touchdown passes while gaining one million yards (but is still second to Phillip Rivers in the yardage area). His QB Rating is 132.9, damn near perfect. However, it’s not Brees and his 9 touchdowns that has me amazed. It’s second year studs, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco that have me impressed. These guys haven’t heard of sophomore slump, both have their teams undefeated, and are tied for second in QB TDs behind Drew….   Three offensive coordinators were fired right before the season started, of the three, it looks like only the Chiefs little fella has had any effect, and that might be pushing it. See Buffalo is moving the ball and putting up points despite cutting their OC, Trent Edwards is Top 5 in passer rating and tied for 4th with four touchdowns thus far. Byron Leftwich has also tossed 4 touchdowns while Tampa’s running game has put up some solid totals as well. The Chiefs have been brutal, but it’s hard to see KC being much better with Bill Walsh calling plays….    Brett Favre has the highest completion percentage in the NFL, and has yet to toss an interception. So much for him being too much of a gunslinger, and starting off the season a little rusty after spending more time throwing to high school receivers than pro guys. It has to be nice handing the ball to Mr. Peterson……  The 2007 Draft class is beginning to look like a quarterback bust. So far, the best season has to be given to Tyler Thigpen for his performance down the stretch last year. Trent Edwards is probably the best player of the bunch, especially given that Tyler couldn’t beat out Brodie Croyle for the Chiefs #3 job. Maybe Troy Smith would be getting the nod if he had not gotten hurt before the 2008 season, but Joe Flacco has that job on lock down so we may never see. The two first round picks, Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell (not in that order) have been guys I’ve tried to like, but they are making it very difficult to do so….    Matthew Stafford is not ready to be an NFL quarterback. I don’t know how else to put it. I know his first name is Matt, and last year a guy named Matt was a first year stud, but it’s not that kind of copycat league. He throws the ball really hard, and will pull an amazing toss out of his ace here and there, but the kid has a guy named Calvin Johnson on his team, of course he’s going to look good now and again. The Lions have lost nearly 20 straight football games, I know they’re not going to win a lot this year, but they might want to get Culpepper in there so they have a chance to break that streak before it gets into the 30s….   Speaking of that class, it may not have been QB heavy (to say the least) but there are some absolute freaks of nature (from that group) taking the league by storm. Adrian Peterson, beast. Calvin Johnson, freak. Patrick Willis, machine. Darrell Revis, stud. And there’s more pro-bowlers from that group. It may be top heavy, but you could argue that those four guys are either the best but no lower than Top 5 at their positions…..   Marc Bulger is brutal. Somebody tell me how Jeff Garcia can just get signed last week when Marc Bulger can have a starting gig and millions of dollars getting paid to him to do what he does. Brutal. If they lose 16, they need to get the nod for worst team of all time….    It’s hard to write a weekly fantasy re-cap without mentioning Mario Manningham, it’s not fair to you guys and it’s not fair to him. Manningham looked like a beast in college, but he looks frail in the NFL. But looks can be deceiving, because all you have to do is ask the Cowboys to understand how tough this guy is to tackle. Apparently Elly Manning knew something when he told everyone that he expected big things from mini-Mario. He’s fast enough to get open, runs good routes, and has shown fearlessness when catching the ball in traffic. Steve Smith has been solid, but I don’t expect this to be Mario’s only good week. And I don’t know if the Giants are going to have a mediocre receiving corps for long. A trio of Hakeem Nicks, Mario, and Smith – with Hixon as a 4 – that is going to be a good group…..   Julius Jones in Week 1 or Julius Jones in Week 2? Somewhere inbetween. It’s tough to fault him completely for his 8 carry for 11 yard performance against the 49ers. The Hawks will start getting offensive linemen back this next week, and should get better as the season moves forward. That being said, they only play the Rams one more time – still, Jones will be alright…..   Felix Jones is still averaging over 8 yards per carry, which is just disgusting. I know he only has 13 carries this season, and barely over 40 for his short career, but he might get real carry numbers next week, and here’s to hoping he continues to bust carry’s off for 8.9 per clip. He might be the only RB in the history of the NFL that averages more yards per run than he does per catch….   Brandon Jacobs, Darren McFadden, and Kevin Smith: 3 guys I thought would have big years, are all averaging less than 4 yards a carry through 2 games. Kevin Smith has had a tough time early, but Sunday’s 85 yard performance against a stout Vikings defense makes me think he’ll be just fine. Jacobs should start to see more running room with Elly and his receivers looking good enough for the girls he goes with. And McFadden, well, unless Russell starts showing defenses that he can complete more than half his passes, he’s going to struggle to find room. Still, if you’re paying a running back that much cake, get him the ball at least 20 times a game. Yeah, that’s 11, not 10, so sue me.

Week 2 Waiver Watch: Thing 1 and Thing 2

Week 1 is in the books and what a strange week it was. Sure a handful of the usual suspects lit up the scoreboard (thank you, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Reggie Wayne), but just as many fantasy giants stumbled out of the gates – much to the chagrin of their owners (curse you, Jay Cutler, Michael Turner and Andre Johnson).  If your team didn’t quite live up to expectations on opening weekend now is certainly not the time for panic.  A few simple tweaks via trade or your league’s waiver system may be all your club needs to compete not just in week 2 but for the long run as well.  In the short-term, players like Saints running back Mike Bell or Oakland wide receiver Louis Murphy can give your squad a welcome boost in production if you are lacking at those positions.  Both Bell and Murphy are owned in less than 15% of standard ESPN leagues and I expect them to continue to contribute even when the injured Pierre Thomas and Chaz Schilens return to action.  With that in mind, here are some other players to consider that are most likely floating around your league’s free agent pool.

Thing 1: This QB relies on accuracy and decision-making to accumulate fantasy numbers.  He is young, but a strong supporting cast of playmakers takes some of the pressure of him on a weekly basis.  In week 1 he went 22-36 for 229 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs.  Currently this signal-caller is owned in 100% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Thing 2: This QB depends on accuracy as well and with improved pass-catchers around him he will no longer be called upon to do too much with too little.  A very intelligent player (Stanford alum), he kicked off his season going 15-25 for 212 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs.  He is currently owned in 52% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Matt Ryan and Thing 2 is Trent Edwards.  I know Edwards isn’t the sexiest option at QB but I believe in the Buffalo starter just entering his second full season.  His accuracy is excellent and he has the arm strength to make all the throws.  With TO in town to relieve some of the pressure from Lee Evans and a very good receiving backfield duo in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, I think Edwards takes a big step forward this season.

Thing 1: This RB is the complimentary back in a run-first offense.  He had a decent week 1 rushing for 60 yards on 12 carries (5.0 ypc) and snagging three passes for 11 yards, though he failed to get into the end zone.  He is currently owned in 97% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Thing 2: This RB is the complimentary back in a run-first offense.  He also had a solid showing in week 1 gaining 55 yards on 12 carries (4.6 ypc) including a touchdown.  In addition, he caught one pass for four yards.  Currently, this back is owned in 13% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Ahmad Bradshaw and Thing 2 is Michael Bush.  As any LL reader knows, I love Bradshaw but this is more a testament to Bush’s role with the Raiders (and his considerable upside in the event of a trade or injury).  I like for him to get the bulk of the carries in the red zone and score 8-10 TDs this season.

Thing 1: This WR is the #1 option for a playoff-caliber team.  In week 1 he was targeted frequently and hauled in 8 passes for 103 yards but did not record a TD.  There are younger, more athletic receiving options on this team but this player can be counted on for production and is currently owned in 100% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Thing 2: This WR is the #1 option for a playoff-caliber team.  In week 1 he was targeted frequently and caught 7 passes for 78 yards and a TD.  There are younger, more athletic receiving options on this team as well but this player is a reliable target with the trust of his QB and is currently owned in 35% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Hines Ward and Thing 2 is Justin Gage.  Like Ward, Gage is a gutsy wideout that will make the tough catch and keep the chains moving.  If he is still available in your league don’t pass up the chance at 80 catches for 1100 yards and 6 TDs (see also: Burleson, Nate – 23% ownership).

Thing 1: This TE moved to a new team and didn’t do much in the preseason.  Questions about the QB position have created some uncertainty about his expected production.  He made a decent showing in week 1 catching 5 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown and is currently owned in 98% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: This TE also changed locations in the off-season and had a quiet preseason before emerging as the leading option in week 1 with 4 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.  With a young QB that will likely rely on this safety valve, this player makes an intriguing option and is owned in 0% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Kellen Winslow and Thing 2 is Robert Royal.  No, that is not a typo for Royal’s ownership percentage but I don’t anticipate that number staying as low as it is.  Brady Quinn has shown a strong rapport with his TEs throughout his young career and the spot vacated by Winslow in the off-season may be Royal’s ticket to fantasy relevance.  He is not a TE1 at this point but he is worth a stash (especially in keeper leagues).

Thing 1: A big-name D/ST, this unit’s best days are probably behind them.  Injuries as well as a few off-season departures have robbed this group of a bit of their swagger and big-play ability.  During week one, they faced a poor offense and allowed 24 points without forcing a single turnover and are owned in 100% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: A fly-under-the-radar D/ST, this group is an attacking bunch that will give up some big games but will also get after the QB, resulting in sacks and turnovers (fantasy gold).  In week 1 this unit shut down a decent offense to the tune of 7 points while generating 4 turnovers and 4 sacks.  They are currently owned in 4% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is the Ravens D/ST and Thing 2 is the Falcons D/ST.  I like this group a lot with the understanding that they are best when matched up against running teams with average passing games.  Elite QBs will be able to pick apart their secondary, but the Falcons generate one of the best pass-rushes in the game.  Be sure to grab them to take advantage of a juicy match-up coming up this week against Jake Delhomme and the Panthers.

Fantasy Football Value: Thing 1 and Thing 2

Thank you, Dr. Seuss for the inspiration for this weekly fantasy column.  I was in trade negotiations in one of my dynasty leagues when I got to thinking about the (at times) sizable gap between perception and reality when it comes to NFL players and their production.  Nowhere is this schism more apparent than with the dreaded “injury-prone” label that gets tossed about every off-season around draft time.  Remember kids, it’s corner backs that are supposed to have a short memory, not successful fantasy players.  Nothing chaps my ass more than when a player gets slapped with the IP label simply because they got hurt at some point in their most recent season.  Tom Brady missed all of last season with a shredded knee and then hurt his AC joint this preseason when Albert Haynesworth landed none-too-gracefully on him.  Injury-prone? … probably not.  But Carson Palmer, he of the elbow vagitis last season and sprained ankle this preseason? … avoid at all costs because you can’t count on him to stay on the field.  This is what is referred to as a double standard, and if you can sift through the BS and come to terms with reality, your fantasy team stands to reap the considerable rewards when it comes to draft-day value.

Thing 1: A 27-year-old RB whose 2005-2008 yardage totals are 1139, 1284, 991 and 1170.  He has totaled 25 touchdowns during that span.  This player was injured in 2007 is currently being picked in the 3rd round of fantasy drafts.

Thing 2: A 28-year-old RB whose 2005-2008 yardage totals are 1420, 1716, 1480 and 804.  He has totaled 28 touchdowns during that span.  This player was injured in 2008 and is currently being picked in the 6th round of fantasy drafts.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Ronnie Brown and Thing 2 is Willie Parker

Thing 1: A 24-year-old TE who caught 54 passes for 574 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.  He will be catching passes from a new QB this season and is currently being picked in the 6th round of fantasy drafts.

Thing 2: A 25-year-old TE who caught 55 passes for 627 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.  He will be catching passes from a healthier QB this season and is currently being picked in the 9th round of fantasy drafts.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Greg Olsen and Thing 2 is John Carlson

Thing 1: A 27-year-old WR who has hauled in 171 passes over the past two seasons totaling 2584 yards and 13 touchdowns.  He was the favorite target of a rookie signal-caller last season and is currently being picked in the 2nd round of fantasy drafts.

Thing 2: A 35-year-old WR who has hauled in 183 passes over the past two seasons totaling 2124 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He was the favorite target of a rookie signal-caller last season and is currently being picked in the 8th round of fantasy drafts.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Roddy White and Thing 2 is Derek Mason

Thing 1: A 24-year-old QB that completed 61% of his passes and threw for 3440 yards and 16 touchdowns.  This player also ran for 104 yards and 1 touchdown and is currently being picked in the 6th round of fantasy drafts.

Thing 2: A 31-year-old QB that completed 63% of his passes and threw for 3620 yards and 15 touchdowns.  This player also ran for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns and is currently being picked in the 12th round of fantasy drafts.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Matt Ryan and Thing 2 is David Garrard

Thing 1: A 32-year-old QB that was banged up and missed nearly all of the 2008 season.  In the three years prior to that, his average season was 4148 yards passing and 33 touchdowns.  He is currently being picked in the 2nd round of fantasy drafts.

Thing 2: A 29-year-old QB that was banged up and missed nearly all of the 2008 season.  In the three years prior to that, his average season was 4001 yards passing and 29 touchdowns.  He is currently being picked in the 8th round of fantasy drafts.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Tom Brady and Thing 2 is Carson Palmer

Thing 1: A 26-year-old RB that has averaged 1155 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs and 13.75 games/season over the last four years.  This player has played a full 16 games only once and is currently being picked in the 1st round of fantasy drafts.

Thing 2: A 31-year-old RB that has averaged 1244 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs and 15.75 games/season over the last four years.  This player has played a full 16 games five times and is currently being picked in the 5th round of fantasy drafts.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Steven Jackson and Thing 2 is Thomas Jones

NFL Free Picks: Week 3

Two weeks down, 15 to go. That’s right, just a sliver of the NFL season has gone down, and already people are saying teams are in trouble. I’ll tell you one guy not in trouble, that’s me. I haven’t killed it with any undefeated weeks or anything, but two straight winners and a 19-11-1 record stares at me when I look in the mirror, and that’s not a bad way to start. Let’s see if I can make it 3 for 3 with this week’s free picks… Enjoy! Oh, and feel free to donate if I make you some dough. Ha.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons (-4): This line has to be climbing up, as the Chiefs are likely to start Tyler Thigpen at quarterback and they are going up against a better all around team in Atlanta. The Chiefs can’t stop the run, and Atlanta is going to hand the ball off 40 times this weekend. That doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs attempts to get that first win of the season. KC isn’t a good road team, they aren’t a good team in the first place, and they have a bad match-up against a strong running team this week. Take Atlanta.

Oakland Raiders (+10.5) @ Buffalo Bills: Oakland’s defense has shown me that they are solid. Sure, Jay Cutler carved them up, but who isn’t that guy destroying? Oakland can run the ball effectively and has a quarterback that can really fire a pass if need be. I think Oakland is better than many give them credit for, and the Bills aren’t quite the 10.5 point powerhouse at home. Take the points and the Raiders here. Expect JaMarcus Russell to have a two touchdown game, and the Raiders to stay close in Buffalo.

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans (-5): I don’t think Houston’s run defense can slow down the Titans rushing attack enough to cover in Tennessee. Houston is in a tough spot having to go heads up against the Steelers last week, missing a home game against Baltimore, and then walking into Tennessee to see what they can muster against a very good TItans defense. I like the Texans, but see this as a tough spot for them. Look for Kerry Collins to do just enough, get the ball to Justin Gage and Algae Crumpler, and let Chris Johnson do work on Houston’s front 7.

Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Giants (-13): Until the Bengals show me that they are more together than a bucket of busted Legos, I’m not even considering taking them at anything less than +17. Carson Palmer hasn’t gotten the time of day from his offensive line, and receivers seem to be running bad routes. New York’s pass rush won’t help his cause, that’s for sure. I bet he’s sweating bullets just thinking about Justin Tuck and company. The Giants have impressed me thus far, and while I don’t think they are the best team in the league, certainly not as good as they’ve played, they should still dominate a BAD Cincinnati defense and hold that stagnant offense in check.

Arizona Cardinals (+3.5) @ Washington Redskins: I understand that the NFC East hasn’t lost a game out of their own conference this season. It’s only been two weeks, but it is definitely the scariest conference in football. Still, the Redskins had to pull some magic tricks to break off a win against the Saints last week, so much so that I’m betting not much momentum rides into this week’s home tilt against the Redskins. Arizona has played frighteningly good defense thus far, and that athletic secondary should be able to slow down Zorn’s west coast passing attack. Washington will find it hard to slow down Kurt Warner and company without a strong pass rush. If the Cardinals can keep Jason Taylor out of the backfield, and double teams will help, they should have plenty of time to pick apart the Skins all day long. Take the road dogs here.

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots (-12.5): This is going to be one of those Patriotic blowouts. Miami is still one of the worst teams in football and despite Tom Brady’s absence, the Patriots are still one of the best. Miami allows big plays in the secondary, and they don’t have a stout rush defense either. It may be an awkward group of backs for New England, but Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, and Kevin Faulk will have answers on the ground. I’m betting on New England feeling free and easy after taking down the Jets last week, and parlaying that into a big offensive day for Randy Moss and company.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) @ Chicago Bears: I know the Bears are 2-0, but I still don’t see them as a good team. Maybe that changes this week if they can fend off the Bucs, a solid team all around, but my bet is that doesn’t happen. I like Tampa to effectively run the ball against a Bears front 7 that hasn’t given up much on the ground this season. Brian Griese has his ups and downs, but he has what it takes to find open receivers and speedy backs. I’m guessing this game is one of those 13-7 contests, or maybe it even gets to the 30’s, but a high scoring affair it won’t be. Tampa should shut down the Bears solid rushing game and do enough to pull the slight upset in Chicago.

Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings (-3): Carolina sure has found a way to win the first few weeks, and now they get back their own personal Vikings killer, Steve Smith. That’s right, Steve does work against the Minnesota boys and he’s back from his two game hiatus. But I don’t think that will be enough. I don’t see Carolina’s rushing attack working too well in Minnesota, and I do think their offensive attack and winning chances depend on that. Gus Frerotte starts this week in Minnesota, so the Panthers will have more to worry about through the air. We’ll see, but I have to believe that the Vikings don’t start the season 0-3. Take the Vikes to get their first win and by just enough to cover at home.

St. Louis Rams (+11) @ Seattle Seahawks: Please. I know the Rams have been bad, but what have the Hawks done to gather an 11 point margin here? Both teams are winless, so there will be an old fashioned struggle to get things on the right track. I like St. Louis’s offense better right now, and no, Koren Robinson’s signing didn’t push me over to Seattle’s side. If the Hawks win it will be there defense that makes it so. My motto there is this, if you are betting on a defense to win you a football game, never ever bet on that team if the spread is bigger than a touchdown. The Rams will score and the Hawks will be lucky if they get out of Seattle with their first win.

Detroit Lions (+4) @ San Francisco 49ers: This game comes down to a couple things. A- the Lions are winless. B- Detroit’s players hate Mike Martz more than Mike Martz wants to prove his worth. And C- these are the freaking San Francisco 49ers and never should you ever take them as a favorite. Neither team is worth their weight in copper, but Detroit has more to play for, more to lose, and a better team than does San Fran – so I’ll go with the road dogs once again.

New Orleans Saints @ Denver Broncos (-4.5): New Orleans isn’t as good as people think they are – Denver is. The Broncos may have gotten a gift last week when Cutler fumbled away their chances only to get a piggy back from Ed Hachuli, a second chance, and a game winning touchdown and ballsy two point conversion to beat the Chargers – but what many people will forget is how the Broncos pretty much handles San Diego. That’s right, it’s not always the case that points tell the entire story, and this was one of those instances. The Chargers were magic late, and that got the game back on their side, but the Broncos were the better team on Sunday. That said, they are much better than a speed bump team from the NFC South. Take the Broncos to do whatever they want at home against New Orleans – pass, run, lateral – I don’t care, they are going to succeed. Take Splinter’s little ninja horses to cover.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles (-3): Everyone and their mother seems to like the road dogs in this one, but I’m not so sold. Pittsburgh is a solid group, but Philly can really play some ball, and I think they should be getting more points at home against a Steelers unit that is a little dinged up. Ben Roethlisberger will have trouble dealing with the Eagles pass rush, especially considering that his shoulder is burning as I write this. The Eagles look very confident and though they did get some help to stay close to Dallas (thank you Tony Romo), they also showed their dynamic flavor in a big NFC East showdown last Monday night. Westbrook will be able to do enough on the ground to keep the Steelers honest, and that’s not a good sign for Pittsburgh’s secondary. In a tight match, I’m taking the Eagles by a touchdown.

Jacksonville Jaguars (+6) @ Indianapolis Colts: Bob Sanders’ injury wins me over to the dogs in this one. I think the Jaguars will run all over the Colts on Sunday. This is a pretty big game for both teams, and Jacksonville has looked anything but solid thus far, but my instinct is to trust my gut, and my gut tells me that Jacksonville has been playing well below their talent level, and that will stop now. At 0-2 there’s not much room to mess around, and I don’t imaging they’ll come out throwing all over Indy. Maurice Jones Drew should get 15-20 carries and Fred Taylor will get his touches as well. If that happens, and I believe it will, the Jaguars and Colts will both be sitting at 1-2 after Week 3.

Cleveland Browns (+2.5) @ Baltimore Ravens: Free Money! It’s amazing that the Browns love has fallen this fast. I mean, even I was laughing at the “Super Bowl” chances given to the Brownies, but a 2 point dog to the rookie led Ravens? Please. Like Matt Ryan, it will be soon that Flacco learns the ups and DOWNS of the NFL. Cleveland lost a couple tough games to start the season, playing a great Cowboys team and taking a tough 10-6 game on the chin against a very good Steelers team – there will be better days, like, umm, Sunday – for example.

Dallas Cowboys (-3) @ Green Bay Packers: I hate to bet against Green Bay here, but even more so I hate to go against the Cowboys, a team I think is better than any other in football. My bet is this; the Cowboys will put a lot of pressure on Aaron Rodgers and really stymie the Packers rushing attack. Those two things will get them just over the top for a touchdown victory on the road against a very good Packers team. I also think the Packers run defense isn’t as good as it was last season. If that assessment is true, Marion Barber and Felix Jones will do some damage on the tundra in Wisconsin. Take the Cowboys here, the best team in football.

New York Jets (+10) @ San Diego Chargers: Alright, so the Chargers have been screwed around in Weeks 1 and 2, losing a pair of games on touchdowns in the last 30 seconds. They are definitely the best 0-2 team in football and they will win this week against the Jets. I’m just betting on this game being one of the 17% in which the team that wins doesn’t cover. Brett Favre will do enough in his 3rd game to hit the Chargers where it hurts, their secondary. I expect this to be Brett’s best game in Jet-green, and while I’m thinking the Chargers see the luck turn and win, I do think Brett has a chance. That chance will be good enough to stick within a touchdown and a field goal of the Chargers on Monday Night Football.

Three for Thursday: Week 2

What Would I do for a Klondike Bar? How about a healthy offensive line!: More than a couple quarterbacks are pondering that exact question this week, and that should make you worry too. That’s right, the Jaguars, Seahawks, Vikings, and Colts are all down at least one key guy on their respective offensive lines. The Jags, Hawks, and Colts look to be really hurting, while it’s just Tarvaris Jackson’s blind-side hurting in Minnesota. This week, the Jags play the Bills, a tough defensive front, and their offensive fantasy players should all be downgraded because of it. The Vikings play the Colts, so play them at will. The Colts, in turn, play the Vikes, that can’t be a good match-up for Joseph Addai, and Peyton might have to throw a little quicker, but he’s still a nice play. The Hawks go up against the 49ers, and if there was ever a good time to play Julius Jones, it’s probably now, but he, by no means, is a safe bet – even against that defensive line in San Fran. I’m just saying, the health of the big guys (or lack there of) is a big reason for success (or lack there of). Keep that in mind when setting your lineups.

What a Year for Rookies? Or what a first week?: It has often been said that rookies can’t be trusted unless they are running backs put into a great situation. Some have beaten that advice (Larry Fitz, even more so Anquan Boldin, Michael Clayton, Dwayne Bowe had a solid year, and a couple others for sure) but for the most part, there are more rookies with nice weeks than nice innagural seasons. Still, I can’t help but recognize the difference makers throughout this rookie class – and you should take notice as well. Guys not picked in the first round, players like Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Smith, Matt Forte, John Carlson – and then 1st rounders like Stewart, Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Matt Ryan – these guys all seem pretty legit. Was week 1 just a coming out part for the rooks, and week 2 will be a blast of reality? It’s tough to say, but right now I’m going with the greatness of this class that was supposed to be void of solid receivers and high on super talents that hadn’t figured it out yet. Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson, among others, figured out how to rock week 1 like a champ.

The Great Wall of… CINCINNATI?: Don’t bet on it. The Titans look to be a team destined to have two 100+ yard rushers in the same week for the first time this year. Kerry Collins has the deep arm to keep the Bengals secondary honest, and even then, it’s not as if they can tackle. Good luck catching Chris Johnson, and even better luck trying to bring down the bulk that is LenDale White. This box score is going to look like a Navy football game – run, run, and then run some more. Maybe a better question is what are the Bengals going to do to fix their offense? Sign Shaunna Alexander… Oh great, that’s going to work wonders! Sigh.

Fantasy Football: Tiered Quarterback Rankings

Here are my *TOP 30 Quarterbacks. I’m not dancing around at all in these ones, I’m considering all factors and this is how I would tier my rankings of quarterbacks while getting ready for a draft. I explained my rankings a bit in each tier, and if you keep your rankings tiered like this, it should really help you determine value on draft day. Good luck!


  1. Tom Brady

You betcha – I’m not a guy thinking Tom is going to toss 50 TDs again this season, but he will get over 30. He’s the best quarterback in the league and he has the most dangerous wide receiver and a coach that really knows how to make things happen. Tom will surely be the 1st QB selected on draft day, and that’s respectable.


  1. Tony Romo
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Peyton Manning

I think Peyton Manning is a great quarterback – one of the best ever – but I’m a little scared of him this season. I had a hockey playing buddy from Finland that was never the same after a staff infection decided to eat at his knee. IVs and the inability to move the same bogged him down. I’m not saying Manning doesn’t have the best medical staff in the world or that he won’t be healthy by go time, but it might take him a little longer than expected to get it all back, that confidence and all. He’s just not as safe as he used to be, still a tier 2 guy though. Tony Romo is a stud with all the swag a quarterback needs to be successful. He really makes things happen. He has TO, Marion Barber, Jason Witten, and a little trick up his sleeve by the name of Felix Jones. Believe in him as the #2 QB overall. Drew Brees could surpass Peyton this year, in fact, I like it to happen. The Saints will still be throwing all the time and Brees is very accurate. With Shockey and Meachem, I think this passing attack got a lot better. Brees is the in Tier 2.


  1. Carson Palmer
  2. Donovan McNabb
  3. Ben Roethlisberger
  4. Matt Hasselbeck

Yes, believe it or not, I like Carson to rebound. He has talked about how he had started to play with bad habits and that he just started over in the off-season and worked his tail off. I like that. He has as much talent as any signal caller in the league and he still has TJ and Chad to toss the rock to. Expect a 30 TD year from the Bengal leader. McNabb is great – when he plays. He’s back to 100% and I like the Eagles to make some noise and maybe steal a little thunder from last years’ Super Bowl Champs and the Division winning Cowboys. Look for Donovan to have a great season, even without a #1 receiver. Big Ben had a great touchdown throwing season in ’07, and while I don’t think the passing attack will be quite as good in ’08, I still expect him to be a tier 3 guy. He has a very good arm, nice receiving options, and has matured quite a bit. Matt Hasselbeck will go underrated and under-appreciated for yet another season. Matt is one heck of a guy and a very good quarterback for a pass-happy team. Burleson will impress this year, behind the arm of Matt.


  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Derek Anderson

I feel the same way about Jay Cutler that I felt about Carson Palmer before the Bengal had his breakout season. Marshall is gone for 2-3 games, but I don’t think that should rob Jay of many fantasy points. Cutler has the cannon, and the confidence to be a Top 5 guy in this league. Just you watch. Derek Anderson is still a talented kid with a nice arm, but I don’t think he duplicates last years’ numbers. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit


  1. Brett Favre
  2. David Garrard
  3. Aaron Rodgers
  4. Jake Delhomme
  5. Phillip Rivers
  6. Marc Bulger
  7. Vince Young
  8. Matt Schaub
  9. Eli Manning
  10. Jon Kitna

Brett Favre, in a new system, on a new team, with new receivers, leading a group that didn’t win more than a handful of games last season – but yes, I still think he’s a starting fantasy options in a seasonal league. Coles and Cotchery are very good receivers – heck, look what they did with a QB that couldn’t stretch the field. Alan Faneca is a very good guard – one of the best in the league, and despite last years’ rushing woes, this offensive line in New York is young and talented. Look for Brett to be up to his old tricks. David Garrard was brilliant when he played last season – almost never throwing interceptions and guiding his team up and down the field with a balanced attack. He has some receiver woes, sure, but as a runner and a passer this guy will put up numbers week in and week out. Rodgers will be good. Mark my words – this guy is a talented passer with a feel for the game. He has a cannon arm and a strong work ethic, and Big Mike knows what he’s doing. This kid has too talented of a receiving corps and rushing attack to stumble. Jake Delhomme will be good if he stays on the field. He’ll probably rank out much higher than this if he plays 16 games this season. The Panthers (now that everyone is ignoring them) are actually a playoff sleeper this season. Jake and Steve Smith (after 1st two games) will run the show in Carolina. Phillip Rivers sure doesn’t get any credit. He’s supposedly looking good in camp, though I would never say he looks good. Despite throwing marshmallows, he is surprisingly successful. He grew up in the playoffs and I think he has a big year in ’08. Marc Bulger has so much upside with a good offense and a great receiver, but I’m not ready to say he’s going to be a Top 10 guy. He is a low risk high reward guy, and you have to love that. Vince Young has slipped right off the cliff of fantasy rankings, but don’t ignore him – he’ll be better this season. I like having Vince as a #2 in leagues where QBs get 4 points per passing TD – he’ll make up a lot of ground in those leagues. I still think he’s a #2 to starter in every league. Matt Schaub has a lot of upside and I’ve always liked him. I think he’ll be another low risk high reward guy. Bulger, Young, and Schaub – all solid options. Eli Manning will be picked much higher than this, so this is me suggesting you pass on the Super Bowl MVP – he’s erratic and the Giants will likely struggle in ’08. Jon Kitna is a solid passer, but I wouldn’t rely on him as a starter. His days of 350 passing yards are likely over, but his 20+ INT days are probably done too. He’ll be decent.


  1. Matt Leinart
  2. Jason Campbell
  3. Jeff Garcia
  4. Tarvaris Jackson
  5. JaMarcus Russell

Matt Leinart has a better quarterback (Warner) behind him. HOwever, Matt still has a lot of talent and has two great receivers to get the ball to. I wouldn’t like to rely on him, but you could do worse. He’s a decent touch passer but he holds onto the ball too long. Jason Campbell has always been a favorite of mine, and I’ll probably try to get him as a #3 or even a #2 if I wait too long to draft old QB number two. He looked very good in the first pre-season game he played. I like Zorn as a groomer of young QB talent. Santana Moss is explosive and Chris Cooley is a very good receiving TE. Portis is a stud. Garcia does all the little things well and if he doesn’t get destroyed and injured, he’ll be a stable player. Remember, he plays 6 games a year against the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers… Not really defensive super teams. Tarvaris Jackson is getting a little too much hype. Sure, he’s on a good team where defenses stack the line, but how has that worked for his fantasy career thus far? Will he be better? Probably, but I don’t know if he’s a fantasy back-up even. JaMarcus Russell throws one of the prettiest balls I’ve ever seen and he can make any throw in the game. His arm is ridiculous. I expect lots of bumps from his as a starter, but at some point this season, he might be ready to be a fantasy factory.


  1. Kurt Warner
  2. Trent Edwards
  3. Chad Pennington
  4. Brodie Croyle
  5. Matt Ryan

Kurt Warner should be starting somewhere, probably Arizona. Right now, he’s just going to be a back-up, but is still a better fantasy option than a few starters in the league. You can get a great maybe player at the end of the draft and he could become a top option starter later in the season. That’s a good risk to take. I like Trent Edwards but I don’t know if he’s mature enough to take the right risks to be a fantasy contributer. I think he’s a good quarterback, and probably the right guy to move Buffalo in a more positive direction, but he’s a low tier back-up. Chad Pennington still can’t throw farther or harder than I can, and I’m and old offensive lineman. I like his accuracy and he seems like one heck of a guy. So, on the nice-guy-o-meter he’s a decent pick. Brodie Croyle isn’t consistent enough to be a fantasy option, but he’s still a starting option that can be picked up for bye weeks or if he slips and figures it out. Dwayne Bowe, Larry Johnson, and Tony Gonzalez are 3 solid offensive weapons at his disposal. Matt Ryan is a rookie quarterback – and that doesn’t usually bode well for fantasy success. However, the Falcons aren’t as bad offensively as many think and Ryan has a nice arm and solid confidence. Can he be counted on? Don’t get crazy, but keep him on the radar.