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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fantasy football: No-huddle offense for Week 4

Coach Dick Jauron was kind enough to say the Bills would bring running back Marshawn Lynch "along slowly" in the latter's return from a three-game suspension. Translation: Fred Jackson owners, enjoy your last week of freedom.

I would expect Jackson -- who has thrived in Lynch's absence, totaling 425 yards in three games -- to get the majority of the carries Sunday at Miami. In Week 5, it should be more of a 50-50 split, a prospect fantasy owners detest more than playing against Santana Moss during his one huge game a year.

Jackson is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and is a No. 2 back in point-per-reception leagues, as his 15 catches trail only Arizona's Tim Hightower among all running backs. I would play him even against the Dolphins, who rank third defending the run, allowing only 66 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry.

By Week 5, when the Bills face the always accommodating Browns defense, Lynch -- a 2007 first-round pick who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons -- should be much more involved.

At that point, you know the drill. Play the matchup game, as you do with almost every back who shares carries, and hope you see "Cleveland," "St. Louis," "Tampa Bay" or Houston" in the schedule column next to your player.

On to the no-huddle ...

-- More sharing: In the last two games, Colts running back Joseph Addai has 23 touches (19 rushes and four receptions). Rookie Donald Brown has 20 (18 rushes and two receptions). Addai has generated 110 total yards and one touchdown, and Brown has 162 yards and a TD.

I'm not an offensive coordinator, and I don't play one on the Web, but that doesn't seem to bode well for Addai owners. At best, it's another split. At worst, Brown will take Addai's job by midseason, whether it's by injury or performance.

Addai should stay in your lineup this week against the Seahawks, who rank 25th against the run, but I wouldn't say the same for a Week 5 matchup at Tennessee.

-- Finally, less sharing:
For those keeping score on their laptops, there has been some separation between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, one of the few backfield timeshare's that actually has worked from a fantasy standpoint.

Williams has 50 touches in three games -- 20 more than Stewart. He has received 64 percent of the rushing attempts between the two (41 of 64), compared to 59.7 percent last season. Stewart, who was limited throughout the preseason by an Achilles injury, has only 12 carries in Carolina's last two games.

Williams owners can feel better about their first-round pick getting more of the workload. The problem is he's still getting less work than he did in 2008 because Jake Delhomme has been awful, and the Panthers have been forced to throw more in their 0-3 start.

Williams should break out soon, however. Following a bye this week, the Panthers play at home against Washington (No. 21 vs. the run), at Tampa Bay (No. 31) and at home against Buffalo (No. 18).

-- Less sharing, Part II: LenDale White had one of the best lines of training camp when he said he lost weight after cutting Patron -- a high-priced tequila, for those of you who don't watch "The Hills" -- out of his diet. Maybe he did all that hard work for nothing.

The Titans, smartly, have given Chris Johnson 53 carries to White's 21, and the slimmer, faster second-year back has generated 457 yards on 64 touches, to White's 85 yards on 22 touches.

White was useful in fantasy last season, strictly because of his 15 touchdowns. Now he's no better than a reserve, one who is most valuable as an insurance policy for owners who have Johnson.

-- And the winner is: The 2008 Pierre Thomas made a belated appearance in Week 3, rushing for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the second half for the Saints. With Mike Bell missing practice again this week because of a knee injury and Thomas saying his knee is close to 100 percent, all signs point to Thomas being a valuable asset the rest of the way.

Reggie Bush, who is averaging only 10 carries per game, is a flex play at best in PPR leagues. The player we once thought could be the next Marshall Faulk is now more of a slot receiver, and Thomas, an undrafted third-year back from Illinois, is a must-start, even Sunday against the Jets and their ninth-ranked run defense.

-- And the winner is, Take II: Fred Taylor, he of the 2,466 career carries and the age at which most running backs are looking for media work (33), may have finally given Bill Belichick reason to stop the back-by-committee insanity.

Taylor, who had 17 rushing attempts in his first two games with the Patriots, had 21 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown last week. He's the only Patriots back worth considering week to week.

Just not this one. New England will host Baltimore on Sunday. The league's top-ranked run defense is allowing 51 yards per game and 2.5 yards per carry. The opposition has yet to score on the ground.

-- On deck: We'll have a live fantasy football chat Thursday night at 7. To access the discussion, go to the homepage of and look for the link to the chat. Saturday, I'll have a column on the fantasy prospects of Glen Coffee, Tashard Choice and other young backs who will play a prominent role in the next few weeks, along with an audiocast and the "big blog," which includes the expanded playlist and start-and-sit advice. All can be found in the Sports section of the N-H's Web site, and the blog will also be posted in this space.

Good luck and remember to thank the owner ahead of you in the waiver-wire pecking order who neglected to pick up Coffee (Glen, not Starbucks).

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fantasy football: Start and sit, expanded playlist and more for Week 3

Before we get to the start-and-sit advice and expanded playlist, here are a few injury notes:

-- The assumption here is Marion Barber is going to sit Monday night against the Panthers because of a quadriceps injury. If that's the case, electric Cowboys second-year back Julius Jones should be a quality play against a Carolina defense that is tied for 27th in the league in stopping the run, allowing 168 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. In eight career games, Jones, a first-round pick in 2008, has 43 carries for 384 yards (8.9 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns.

-- Expect Brian Westbrook's status to be announced about 15 minutes before kickoff Sunday. The Eagles back missed practice all week because of an ankle injury (stop if you've heard that before), but, unlike most players, that's never been a true indication that he won't play when it matters. The Eagles have a bye next week and might be more inclined to rest Westbrook, which would clear the way for rookie LeSean McCoy. Should that happen, McCoy is a good start, especially in point-per-reception leagues, vs. the Chiefs, who rank 21st against the run.

-- Mike Bell is out this week because of a knee injury, which is welcome news for Pierre Thomas owners. The latter, who missed the Saints' first game because of a knee injury and played sparingly in Week 2, should get the majority of the carries Sunday against the Bills. Reggie Bush is a worthwhile play in PPR leagues, but likely won't be much of a help in yardage- and TD-heavy formats.

Five to start

This week’s look at part-time starters and fantasy backups who should benefit from a favorable matchup:

-- Eli Manning, QB, Giants, at Buccaneers:
He’s thrown for 586 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 103.2. The Buccaneers rank 27th against the pass and have allowed the second-most TD throws in the league (five).

-- Trent Edwards, QB, Bills, vs. Saints:
He’s thrown for more than 200 yards and two scores in each of Buffalo’s first two games, and the Saints rank 29th vs. the pass.

-- Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens, vs. Browns: With four TDs, 4.9 yards per carry and six receptions, he’s one of the early season surprises. The Browns, as usual, can’t stop the run (No. 31, a league-high five rushing scores allowed).

-- Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers, vs. Dolphins: With LaDainian Tomlinson sitting for a second straight week, the explosive Sproles should have a productive game against a defense that has struggled mightily against the pass. Sproles has only 19 carries for 49 yards, but has thrived as a receiver, with 12 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown. He has scored a TD in each of the Chargers' first two games.

-- Devery Henderson, WR, Saints, at Bills: He has eight receptions for 174 yards, a 21.8-yard average that resembles his career norm of 21.6. With Lance Moore out because of a hamstring injury, Henderson will start against a Bills defense that ranks 31st against the pass and has given up five TD throws in two games.

More matchups I like:

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens, vs. Browns; Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles, vs. Chiefs; David Garrard, QB, Jaguars, at Texans; Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints, at Bills; Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys, vs. Panthers; Ray Rice, RB, Ravens, vs. Browns; Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals, vs. Colts; Derrick Ward, RB, Buccaneers, vs. Giants

Three to sit

If you have a decent backup, these starters should take a seat for a week:

-- Thomas Jones, RB, Jets, vs. Titans:
He and Leon Washington both have 35 touches in two games, which limits Jones’ value significantly. The Titans rank second against the run, are giving up only 1.9 yards per carry and have yet to yield a touchdown on the ground.

-- Joseph Addai, RB, Colts, at Cardinals: This former first-round fantasy pick has only 116 total yards in two games and is being outplayed by rookie Donald Brown. The Cardinals have been surprisingly effective at stopping the run (No. 5 with 113 yards; Arizona is allowing only 2.5 yards per carry).

-- Lee Evans, WR, Bills, vs. Saints: New Orleans is very generous to opposing passing games, but with T.O. in the fold, Evans (four receptions for 57 yards) is no longer a fantasy starter.

More matchups I don’t like:

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons, at Patriots; Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals, vs. Steelers; Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs, at Eagles; Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks, vs. Bears

Last week

The start list had three productive players -- Fred Jackson (163 yards rushing, six catches for 25 yards), Ben Roethlisberger (221 yards passing, one TD, one interception, one rushing TD) and Brett Favre (155 yards passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions) -- and two duds. Nate Burleson (46 yards receiving) and Isaac Bruce (35) both had four catches and no scores.

On the sit list, Kevin Smith (83 yards rushing, two catches for 10 yards, no TDs) was a good call, but Matt Schaub (357 yards and four touchdown passes) and Jay Cutler (236 yards and two TD passes) certainly were not.



1. Drew Brees, Saints, at Bills (No. 31 vs. the pass)

2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, at Rams (No. 25)

3. Peyton Manning, Colts, at Cardinals (No. 18)

4. Philip Rivers, Chargers, vs. Dolphins (No. 23)

5. Tom Brady, Patriots, vs. Falcons (No. 17)

6. Kurt Warner, Cardinals, vs. Colts (No. 1)

7. Matt Schaub, Texans, vs. Jaguars (No. 26)

8. Jay Cutler, Bears, at Seahawks (No. 2)

9. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, at Bengals (No. 16)

10. Eli Manning, Giants, at Buccaneers (No. 27)

11. Trent Edwards, Bills, vs. Saints (No. 29)

12. Tony Romo, Cowboys, vs. Panthers (No. 3)

13. Joe Flacco, Ravens, vs. Browns (No. 7)

14. Matt Ryan, Falcons, at Patriots (No. 6)

15. Kevin Kolb, Eagles, vs. Chiefs (No. 14)

16. Carson Palmer, Bengals, vs. Steelers (No. 19)

17. David Garrard, Jaguars, at Texans (No. 22)

18. Brett Favre, Vikings, vs. 49ers (No. 20)

19. Matt Cassel, Chiefs, at Eagles (No. 12)

20. Kyle Orton, Broncos, at Raiders (No. 20)


1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings, vs. 49ers (No. 3 vs. the run)

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, at Texans (No. 32)

3. Matt Forte, Bears, at Seahawks (No. 26)

4. Chris Johnson, Titans, at Jets (No. 6)

5. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers, at Cowboys (No. 23)

6. Michael Turner, Falcons, at Patriots (No. 14)

7. Ryan Grant, Packers, at Rams (No. 25)

8. Steven Jackson, Rams, vs. Packers (No. 18)

9. Frank Gore, 49ers, at Vikings (No. 15)

10. Steve Slaton, Texans, vs. Jaguars (No. 13)

11. Brandon Jacobs, Giants, at Buccaneers (No. 27)

12. Darren Sproles, Chargers, vs. Dolphins (No. 7)

13. Fred Jackson, Bills, vs. Saints (No. 4)

14. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins, at Chargers (No. 24)

15. y-Felix Jones, Cowboys, vs. Panthers (No. 27)

16. Willis McGahee, Ravens, vs. Browns (No. 31)

17. x-Clinton Portis, Redskins, at Lions (No. 22)

18. z-Brian Westbrook, Eagles, vs. Chiefs (No. 21)

19. Pierre Thomas, Saints, at Bills (No. 8)

20. Kevin Smith, Lions, vs. Redskins (No. 17)

21. Darren McFadden, Raiders, vs. Broncos (No. 10)

22. Tim Hightower, Cardinals, vs. Colts (No. 30)

23. Derrick Ward, Buccaneers, vs. Giants (No. 27)

24. Cedric Benson, Bengals, vs. Steelers (No. 8)

x-This is assuming Marion Barber sits with a quad injury. If Barber is active, he is a decent play against the Panthers. y-Portis missed practice Friday because of an ankle injury and is listed as questionable. He is expected to play, but if he doesn't, backup Ladell Betts is a decent start against the Lions. z-Make sure Westbrook (ankle injury) is active. If he is out, rookie LeSean McCoy is a good start.


1. Andre Johnson, Texans, vs. Jaguars (No. 26 vs. the pass)

2. Randy Moss, Patriots, vs. Falcons (No. 17)

3. Greg Jennings, Packers, at Rams (No. 25)

4. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, vs. Colts (No. 1)

5. Marques Colston, Saints, at Bills (No. 31)

6. Reggie Wayne, Colts, at Cardinals (No. 18)

7. Vincent Jackson, Chargers, vs. Dolphins (No. 23)

8. Steve Smith, Panthers, at Cowboys (No. 3)

9. Steve Smith, Giants, at Buccaneers (No. 27)

10. Santonio Holmes, Steelers, at Bengals (No. 16)

11. Roddy White, Falcons, at Patriots (No. 6)

12. Calvin Johnson, Lions, vs. Redskins (No. 10)

13. Mario Manningham, Giants, at Buccaneers (No. 27)

14. Hines Ward, Steelers, at Bengals (No. 16)

15. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals, vs. Colts (No. 1)

16. x-Wes Welker, Patriots, vs. Falcons

17. Terrell Owens, Bills, vs. Saints (No. 29)

18. Chad Ochocino, Bengals, vs. Steelers (No. 19)

19. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks, vs. Bears (No. 8)

20. Donald Driver, Packers, at Rams (No. 25)

21. Eddie Royal, Broncos, at Raiders (No. 10)

22. Braylon Edwards, Browns, at Ravens (No. 28)

23. Devery Henderson, Saints, at Bills (No. 31)

24. Derrick Mason, Ravens, vs. Browns (No. 7)

25. Brandon Marshall, Broncos, at Raiders (No. 10)

26. y-Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs, at Eagles (No. 12)

27. Roy Williams, Cowboys, vs. Panthers (No. 30)

28. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets, vs. Titans (No. 32)

29. Ted Ginn Jr., Dolphins, at Chargers (No. 13)

30. z-DeSean Jackson, Eagles, vs. Chiefs (No. 14)

31. Santana Moss, Redskins, at Lions (No. 24)

32. Bernard Berrian, Vikings, vs. 49ers (No. 20)

33. Laurent Robinson, Rams, vs Packers (No. 15)

34. Torry Holt, Jaguars, at Texans (No. 22)

35. Justin Gage, Titans, at Jets (No. 9)

36. Pierre Garcon, Colts, at Cardinals (No. 18)

x-Make sure Welker (knee) is active; y-Same goes for Bowe, who is questionable because of a hamstring injury; z-Jackson (groin injury) is probable.

MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL: For my breakdown of struggling early draft picks Matt Forte, Steve Slaton and Steven Jackson, including our weekly audiocast, click here. ... We will have another live chat with readers on Thursday at 7 p.m. Go to the homepage of and look for the link to the live fantasy football chat at the top of the page.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fantasy football: No-huddle offense for Week 3

The Giants didn't have a player with 600 yards receiving last season, when Plaxico Burress' suspension derailed their hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champs.

This year, they might have two 1,000-yard receivers, and somehow, both are owned in fewer than 26 percent of the leagues on

Steve Smith (owned in 25.3 percent of the ESPN leagues) has caught at least six passes in each of the first two games and has 14 receptions for 214 yards and a TD on the season. Mario Manningham (owned in only 5.4 percent, a number that likely will be multiplied by at least 10 by Sunday), like Smith, caught 10 passes on Sunday. In two games, the second-year receiver has 188 yards and two TDs.

You shouldn't need me to tell you to start both.

If you're not convinced, take a glance at the Giants' next five games: Week 3, at Tampa Bay; Week 4, at Kansas City; Week 5, Oakland; Week 6, at New Orleans; Week 7, Arizona. The quintet rank 27th, 14th, 20th, 28th and 18th, respectively, against the pass this season. The five teams have combined to allow 15 touchdown passes and 2,480 yards passing in 10 games.

It's enough to make even Eli Manning give more than an awkward smile.

On to the rest of the no-huddle ...

-- On an Eagle's wing: I was against starting Kevin Kolb last week against the Saints, and 391 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions later, I'm backpedaling faster than Robert Henson, the Redskins' rookie who quit Twitter after calling the team's fans "dim wits."

Kolb was far from great against the Saints, but he showed enough that he's an intriguing option -- should Donovan McNabb sit a second straight week, as expected, because of a fractured rib -- Sunday at home against the Chiefs. Kolb is owned in a whopping 0.3 percent of the ESPN leagues, but if you're desperate for a quarterback, he's a halfway decent one-week option against Kansas City. The Chiefs have allowed 667 total yards and 51 points in their 0-2 start.

-- Jonesing for an alternative: Thomas Jones owners likely were encouraged by his strong Week 1 showing against the Texans. A game later, they're cursing yet another backfield time share gone bad.

In two games, Jones and Leon Washington both have 35 touches. Jones has better rushing numbers (34 carries for 161 yards, a 4.7-yard average, and two TDs), but Washington is a much better receiving option (six catches for 42 yards). In PPR leagues, Jones is all-or-nothing -- either he gets 100 yards and a score on the ground, or he's a dud.

It's telling that both backs received 14 carries last week against the Patriots, and with the Jets' early success, I wouldn't expect that to change. All of which means you should bench Jones this week against the Titans, who rank second to the Ravens in run defense in the early going. Tennessee has allowed the opposition to rush for only 99 yards on 52 carries, a 1.9 average, and zero TDs.

-- No rush, L.T.: Darren Sproles owners, the solution is simple. If LaDainian Tomlinson doesn't play for a second straight week because of a sprained ankle, play the diminutive back who is a huge asset as the primary ball-carrier in point-per-reception leagues. Sproles had only 10 carries for 26 yards last week against the Ravens, but he caught seven passes for 126 yards, including an 81-yard score. In two games, Sproles has 12 catches for 167 yards, and he's scored once in each game.

He'll never be a 20-carry back, but he certainly seems to be more effective than Tomlinson at this point in their careers. That said, I wouldn't start Sproles if Tomlinson is active, since the latter will get the majority of the carries when he plays.

-- Hightower power: Beanie Wells was the Cardinals' first-round pick last spring, but it's Tim Hightower who's playing like a fantasy starter. Hightower -- until this point known as the back who scored short touchdowns but did nothing else last season -- has rushed for an unimpressive 87 yards on 23 carries (3.8). PPR owners love the next stat, though: Hightower's 15 catches (12 in Week 1) for 133 yards.

If you're in a point-per-catch league, Hightower is a quality option the next three weeks against the Colts (No. 30 vs. the run, three rushing TDs allowed in two games), Texans (No. 32, 4 TD, 6.3 yards per carry) and Seahawks (No. 26, 2 TDs, a league-worst 7.1 yards per carry by the opposition).

Hightower is an ideal flex play in PPR leagues, and is an OK option in other formats, at least until Wells gets more than seven rushing attempts per game (a figure he has yet to surpass). The former Buckeye was forced to carry a football everywhere he went this week after fumbling twice last Sunday, and he's strictly a reserve until he takes over the featured role, which should happen later this season.

-- On deck: Thursday at 4 p.m., we'll have our weekly live chat. To ask a question or just watch the drama unfold, go to the homepage of and look for the link to join the chat.

Saturday, we'll break down the disappointing starts of several first-round fantasy picks. That column can be read by going here. We'll also have the "big blog," including the expanded playlist and start-and-sit advice, early Saturday. That can be read on this blog, and on the N-H's main site.

Good luck and remember to curse the owner whose team is so bad he or she were awarded Manningham on waivers ahead of you.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fantasy football: Start and sit, expanded playlist and more for Week 2

As Donovan McNabb owners, we knew our starting quarterback would get hurt.

We just didn't think said inevitable injury would occur in the third quarter of the first game.

With McNabb -- who played 16 games last season, after missing a combined 15 the previous three years -- out Sunday with a fractured rib, there might be more than a few decent alternatives available on the waiver wire in your league. And Kevin Kolb is not one of them.

Here are four who are available in more than 40 percent of the leagues on

-- 1. Shaun Hill, 49ers (available in 89.1 percent of the ESPN leagues): In 10 games played since the start of the 2008 season, he has thrown for 2,255 yards and 14 touchdowns, with eight interceptions and two rushing TDs. Sunday, he'll face a Seahawks defense that was the NFL's worst against the pass last year.

-- 2. Trent Edwards, Bills (available in 42.7 percent of the ESPN leagues): He was impressive against the Patriots on Monday night (212 yards and two TDs), and Sunday the Bills host the Bucs, who allowed 462 total yards to Dallas in Week 1.

-- 3. Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers (available in 95.1 percent of the ESPN leagues): He threw for 276 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys, and the Bills' defense nearly allowed 400 yards through the air on Monday.

-- 4. Jason Campbell, Redskins (available in 78.1 percent of the ESPN leagues): He certainly isn't much help in the scoring department (26 TD passes in 30 games since 2007), but even he should produce in a home game against the Rams.

-- Four likely backups who have favorable matchups this week:
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, at 49ers; Kyle Orton, Broncos, vs. Browns; Joe Flacco, Ravens, at the Chargers; David Garrard, Jaguars, vs. the Cardinals.

Linked in:
Before we get to the start-and-sit lists, here are a few links. This is the column I wrote for Saturday's print editions about Anthony Gonzalez's knee injury, along with some buy-and-sell performances from Week 1. Here is a recap of the live chat we held Thursday (we'll have another this Thursday at 4 p.m. on the homepage of, and here is a blog I wrote Thursday regarding LaDainian Tomlinson's injury.

Five to start

Our weekly look at part-time starters and fantasy backups who should benefit from a favorable matchup:

-- Brett Favre, QB, Vikings, vs. Lions: If there is ever a week to start the indecisive one, this is it. The Lions ranked 27th against the pass last season and were quite generous to Drew Brees in Week 1.

-- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers, at Bears:
The Steelers, even if they don't want to admit it, are morphing into a pass-first offense under Big Ben. The Bears ranked 30th vs. opposing QBs last season, and they will play the rest of 2009 without their best defensive player, Brian Urlacher.

-- Fred Jackson, RB, Bills, vs. Buccaneers: Marshawn Lynch better be in shape when he returns from his suspension, because Jackson showed Monday night he can the featured back. The Bucs ranked 19th against the run in 2008 and gave up 118 rushing yards to the Cowboys last week.

-- Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks, at 49ers:
He caught seven passes for 74 yards and a TD last week, and the 49ers ranked 20th vs. the pass in 2008.

-- Isaac Bruce, WR, 49ers, vs. Seahawks: The ageless one continues to produce, and as we mentioned previously, no defense was worse against the pass last season than Seattle.

-- More matchups I like:
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs, vs. Raiders; Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders, at Chiefs; Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings, at Lions; Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks, at 49ers; Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks, at 49ers; Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals, at Packers; Justin Gage, WR, Titans, vs. Texans.

Three to sit

If you have a quality backup, these starters should take a seat for a week:

-- Jay Cutler, QB, Bears, vs. Steelers: You already know about his debacle of a Bears debut in Green Bay, and it doesn't get any easier this week against the league's top defense, even with Troy Polamalu out of the lineup.

-- Matt Schaub, QB, Texans, at Titans: Andre Johnson owners were not happy with him in Week 1, and Schaub owners shouldn't rely on the QB this week, either. The Titans are still a top-10 defense without Albert Haynesworth.

-- Kevin Smith, RB, Lions, vs. Vikings: He faces the league's best run defense, and we're going to venture a guess that this game won't be close and Detroit will be throwing quite a bit.

-- More matchups I don't like: Eli Manning, QB, Giants, at Cowboys; Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers, vs. Ravens; Willie Parker, RB, Steelers, at Bears; any Saints running back at Eagles.

-- One matchup I don't dislike or like: Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers, vs. Ravens: I wouldn't have started L.T. in this one even if he would have attempted to play, but I wouldn't be surprised if Sproles has a productive game against Baltimore, especially in point-per-reception leagues. He's a decent flex play this week, but I wouldn't consider him a No. 2 back.

-- How we fared in Week 1: On the start list, Joe Flacco (307 yards, three TDs, one interception, 18 rushing yards), Matt Hasselbeck (279 yards, three TDs, two interceptions) and Cedric Benson (76 yards rushing, one TD, four receptions for 32 yards) were productive. Donnie Avery (six catches for 46 yards, 8 yards rushing) and Reggie Bush (14 yards rushing, five catches for 55 yards) were OK at best in PPR leagues and duds in other formats. The sit list of Santana Moss (two catches for 6 yards), Larry Johnson (20 yards rushing, one catch for 6 yards) and Darren McFadden (68 yards rushing, two receptions for 25 yards) was 3-for-3.

On to the expanded playlist ...


1. Tom Brady, Patriots, at Jets
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, vs. Bengals
3. Peyton Manning, Colts, at Dolphins
4. Drew Brees, Saints, at Eagles
5. Kurt Warner, Cardinals, at Jaguars
6. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, at 49ers
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons, vs. Panthers
8. Tony Romo, Cowboys, vs. Giants
9. Brett Favre, Vikings, vs. Lions
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, at Bears
11. Shaun Hill, 49ers, vs. Seahawks
12. Philip Rivers, Chargers, vs. Ravens
13. x-Matt Cassel, Chiefs, vs. Raiders
14. Carson Palmer, Bengals, at Packers
15. Kyle Orton, Broncos, vs. Browns
16. Jay Cutler, Bears, vs. Steelers
17. Joe Flacco, Ravens, at Chargers
18. David Garrard, Jaguars, vs. Cardinals
19. Matt Schaub, Texans, at Titans
20. Trent Edwards, Bills, vs. Buccaneers
x-Make sure Cassel, who is listed as questionable with a knee injury, plays.


1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings, at Lions
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, vs. Cardinals
3. Chris Johnson, Titans, vs. Texans
4. Michael Turner, Falcons, vs. Panthers
5. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers, at Falcons
6. Frank Gore, 49ers, vs. Seahawks
7. Brian Westbrook, Eagles, vs. Saints
8. Clinton Portis, Redskins, vs. Rams
9. Ryan Grant, Packers, vs. Bengals
10. Steven Jackson, Rams, at Redskins
11. Matt Forte, Bears, vs. Steelers
12. Steve Slaton, Texans, at Titans
13. Marion Barber, Cowboys, vs. Giants
14. Brandon Jacobs, Giants, at Cowboys
15. Thomas Jones, Jets, vs. Patriots
16. Julius Jones, Seahawks, at 49ers
17. Derrick Ward, Buccaneers, at Bills
18. Larry Johnson, Chiefs, vs. Raiders
19. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins, vs. Colts
20. Cedric Benson, Bengals, at Packers
21. Fred Jackson, Bills, vs. Buccaneers
22. Ray Rice, Ravens, at Chargers
23. Darren McFadden, Raiders, at Chiefs
24. Joseph Addai, Colts, at Dolphins


1. Randy Moss, Patriots, at Jets
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, at Jaguars
3. Greg Jennings, Packers, vs. Bengals
4. Reggie Wayne, Colts, at Dolphins
5. Roddy White, Falcons, vs. Panthers
6. Andre Johnson, Texans, at Titans
7. Wes Welker, Patriots, at Jets
8. Calvin Johnson, Lions, vs. Vikings
9. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks, at 49ers
10. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals, at Packers
11. Steve Smith, Panthers, at Falcons
12. Eddie Royal, Broncos, vs. Browns
13. Marques Colston, Saints, at Eagles
14. y-Anquan Boldin, Cardinals, at Jaguars
15. DeSean Jackson, Eagles, vs. Saints
16. Hines Ward, Steelers, at Bears
17. Terrell Owens, Bills, vs. Buccaneers
18. Derrick Mason, Ravens, at Chargers
19. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs, vs. Raiders
20. Santonio Holmes, Steelers, at Bears
21. Braylon Edwards, Browns, at Broncos
22. Brandon Marshall, Broncos, vs. Browns
23. Nate Burleson, Seahawks, at 49ers
24. Bernard Berrian, Vikings, at Lions
25. Donald Driver, Packers, vs. Bengals
26. Santana Moss, Redskins, vs. Rams
27. Justin Gage, Titans, vs. Texans
28. Isaac Bruce, 49ers, vs. Seahawks
29. Torry Holt, Jaguars, vs. Cardinals
30. Lee Evans, Bills, vs. Buccaneers
31. Steve Smith, Giants, at Cowboys
32. Devin Hester, Bears, vs. Steelers
33. Donnie Avery, Rams, at Redskins
34. Ted Ginn Jr., Dolphins, vs. Colts
35. Percy Harvin, Vikings, at Lions
36. Michael Clayton, Buccaneers, at Bills
y-Boldin (hamstring injury) is expected to play, but make sure he's active before kickoff.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fantasy football: No-huddle offense for Week 2

We'll make this a weekly staple during the football season -- a mid-week collection of news and notes of relevance for fantasy owners.

On Saturdays, we'll have a column each week for the print editions and the N-H's Sports site (this week's will focus on Anthony Gonzalez's knee injury and a buy-and-sell for some of Week 1's surprise performances). There will also be an audiocast published that morning on our online Sports section.

Saturday will also be when we publish the "big blog," which includes the expanded playlist, five players to start, three to sit and much more. That can be found under "latest updates" on the homepage of our Web site and at

Thursday, we held our first live fantasy football chat. The plan for now is to have them every Thursday at 4 p.m. during the football season. Here's a recap of today's.

On to the no-huddle ...

-- Take a seat, L.T.: LaDainian Tomlinson is saying he plans to play this week against Baltimore, despite a sprained ankle that has required him to wear a protective boot. It's fair to wonder if he thinks he can help his team or if he's worried the Chargers are slowly realizing that Darren Sproles, at this stage of their respective careers, is better. If Tomlinson plays Sunday, I would bench him against the Ravens, who held the Chiefs to 29 rushing yards last week and ranked third against the run last season. Baltimore allowed only 3.6 yards per carry and a league-low four rushing touchdowns in 2008.

If L.T. sits for just the second time in his career, I would consider playing Sproles in point-per-reception leagues. The speedy back will never be a 20-carry player, but he has averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his career and is an effective receiver.

-- Cool your Jets: Mark Sanchez could be the next Matt Ryan -- a sporadic fantasy starter as a rookie. Or he could be the next Joe Flacco -- an effective rookie QB with minimal value in the fake game. The Jets quarterback was impressive in throwing for 272 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, but let's not forget it was against the Texans, against whom opposing QBs had a 92.3 rating in 2008. Until we find out in which category Sanchez fits, I wouldn't consider him.

-- What's the catch?: Matt Forte owners should be slightly concerned, but not about the 2.2 yards per carry the Bears running back averaged in Week 1. The number I would focus on is one, as in the times Forte was targeted by Jay Cutler on Sunday night. Forte's greatest fantasy asset is his ability to rack up both rushing (1,238 yards as a rookie in 2008) and receiving numbers (63 catches for 477 yards). But in Cutler's Chicago debut, he targeted former Vanderbilt teammate Earl Bennett 14 times, yet threw only six passes to tight end Greg Olsen, four to Devin Hester and one to Forte. That has to change if Forte is to remain worthy of a first-round fantasy pick.

-- Too much sharing: As expected, the number of teams splitting carries is more frustrating than an Eric Mangini injury report. Preseason Achilles injury and all, Jonathan Stewart (11 rushing attempts Sunday) is still around to haunt owners of DeAngelo Williams (14 carries). Baltimore has two effective backs (Ray Rice and Willis McGahee) and a fullback (LeRon McClain) who swipes goal-line carries, and the Bucs' time share now includes a rejuvenated (at least until he gets hurt) Cadillac Williams (our condolences on the late draft pick, Earnest Graham owners).

Did we mention Leon Washington got just five fewer carries than Jets teammate Thomas Jones in Week 1, or that Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno each had only eight attempts for Denver at Cincinnati? Then there's the electric Ahmad Bradshaw, who seems to be ready to fill Derrick Ward's former role as the lightning to Brandon Jacobs' thunder. Jacobs had 16 carries for 46 yards last week -- to Bradshaw's 12 for 60.

Rookie Donald Brown had 11 carries for 33 yards in his Colts debut (starter Joseph Addai has 17 for 42),and Beanie Wells' first game as a Cardinal featured seven carries for 29 yards (Tim Hightower had eight carries for 15 yards and possibly the most surprising stat line of the weekend: 12 catches for 121 yards).

Aside from Hightower's receiving totals, which won't happen again, the only encouraging numbers to come from from the Backfield-By-Committee Division were these: 14, 79, 1. Those were Marion Barber's attempts, yards and touchdowns for Dallas at Tampa Bay, compared to Felix Jones' six carries for 22 yards. If Barber continues to get the majority of the touches, he should regain his 2007 status as a high-end No. 2 fantasy back.

-- Closing number: 25.0. That's Eagles backup Kevin Kolb's passer rating in 45 career attempts, which have generated zero touchdowns and four interceptions. We'll address Donovan McNabb's rib injury more in Saturday's blog, but until then, if you are a McNabb owner and are considering using Kolb if McNabb doesn't play, don't. Of McNabb's three backups, the one who might have the greatest value the rest of the season wasn't even on any team's roster in Week 1: Jeff Garcia. Sorry, Michael Vick. I'm no offensive coordinator (even though I can run the no-huddle), but I doubt the latter will have any fantasy impact this season.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fantasy football: Start and sit, expanded playlist and more for Week 1

The predictions, prognostications and prolonged holdouts are all behind us (well, expect for you, Michael Crabtree), and it's finally time for a full slate of Week 1 games.

Before we get to the start-and-sit advice and the expanded playlist, here are a couple quick plugs.

-- Click here for a column I wrote today about Brandon Marshall, which includes injury advice and thoughts from Thursday's season opener. The link also has the audiocast Sports Editor Mark Podolski and I record each week.

-- We'll have a live fantasy football chat on the N-H's Web site this Thursday at 4 p.m. Go to the homepage of and look for the link to the chat at the top.

-- If you have a question, e-mail or post a comment at the bottom of this blog and we'll answer it in the audiocast or the Saturday blog.

On to the lists ...

Five to start

Our first look at part-time starters and fantasy backups who should benefit from a favorable matchup:

-- Reggie Bush, RB, Saints, vs. Lions: Pierre Thomas is out because of a knee injury, which should mean more touches for Bush against a Lions defense that was the league's worst against the run last season, allowing an average of 172.1 yards per game, along with a league-high 31 rushing TDs. Detroit also ranked 27th against the pass, which should mean six or more catches for Bush. Another player to watch in this game: Mike Bell, who should share carries with Bush with Thomas sitting.

-- Donnie Avery, WR, Rams, at Seahawks: He's recovered from a foot injury that held him out of the majority of the preseason, and he gets to open the real season against 2008's worst pass defense. The Seahawks allowed 259 passing yards per game last season. Opposing quarterbacks had 25 TD throws and just nine interceptions.

-- Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens, vs. Chiefs: He should be more productive in Year 2, and there's no telling how bad the Chiefs' defense will be in the first year of the Todd Haley/Scott Pioli regime. Kansas City's pass defense was the league's fifth-worst last season.

-- Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks, vs. Rams: He reportedly is healthy after a back injury wrecked his 2008 season, and he should have a big day against the Rams, who were 19th vs. the pass in 2008.

-- Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals, vs. Broncos: The once-troubled Bear wasn't featured at all on "Hard Knocks," but he should play a prominent role against a Broncos run defense that ranked 27th in 2008, yielding 146.1 rushing yards, 5.0 yards per attempt and 26 TDs on the ground (the second-most in the NFL).

-- More favorable matchups: Seahawks running back Julius Jones vs. the Rams, who ranked 29th against the run in 2008; Ravens running back Ray Rice against the Chiefs (No. 30); Cardinals running back Beanie Wells against the 49ers; 49ers wide receiver Isaac Bruce at the Cardinals (No. 22 vs. the pass); Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson against the Rams (No. 19); and if Anquan Boldin doesn't play because of a hamstring injury, Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston vs. the 49ers (No. 20).

Three to sit

If you have a quality backup with a favorable matchup, these starters should take a seat for a week:

-- Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders, vs. Chargers: This is more of an indictment of the Raiders' weapons-less offense that it is an endorsement of the Chargers' defense, which ranked 11th vs. the run last season.

-- Santana Moss, WR, Redskins, at Giants:
The frustrating thing for Moss owners is his inconsistency, and the Giants were very good defending the pass last season (No. 8, 196 yards per game, 17 TDs, 17 interceptions).

-- Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs, at Ravens: He probably can't be called an every-week starter at this stage of his career, and he should definitely be on your bench against the Ravens, who ranked third vs. the run in 2008 and allowed the fewest rushing TDs (4) in the NFL.

-- More matchups I don't like:
Roy Williams, WR, Dallas, at Buccaneers (No. 4 vs. pass last season); Lee Evans, WR, Bills, at Patriots (No. 11); any New York Giants receiver vs. the Redskins (I'd prefer to wait to see if Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith are Eli Manning's preferred targets); Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos, at Bengals (will he get the majority of the carries or share with Correll Buckhalter?); Jamal Lewis, RB, Browns, vs. Vikings (the league's top run defense a year ago).


1. Drew Brees, Saints, vs. Lions (No. 27 vs. the pass in 2008)
2. Tom Brady, Patriots, vs. Bills (13)
3. Kurt Warner, Cardinals, vs. 49ers (20)
4. Peyton Manning, Colts, vs. Jaguars (24)
5. Philip Rivers, Chargers, vs. Raiders (10)
6. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, vs. Bears (30)
7. Matt Schaub, Texans, vs. Jets (29)
8. Donovan McNabb, Eagles, at Panthers (16)
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons, vs. Dolphins (25)
10. Carson Palmer, Bengals, vs. Broncos (26)
11. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, vs. Rams (19)
12. Joe Flacco, Ravens, vs. Chiefs (28)
13. Tony Romo, Cowboys, at Buccaneers (4)
14. Jay Cutler, Bears, at Packers (12)
15. Shaun Hill, 49ers, at Cardinals (22)
16. Chad Pennington, Dolphins, at Falcons (21)
17. Eli Manning, Giants, vs. Redskins (7)
18. Brett Favre, Vikings, at Browns (14)
19. David Garrard, Jaguars, at Colts (6)
20. Trent Edwards, Bills, at Patriots (11)

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings, at Browns (No. 28 vs. the run in 2008)
2. Matt Forte, Bears, at Packers (26)
3. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers, at Raiders (31)
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, at Colts (24)
5. Steven Jackson, Rams, at Seahawks (18)
6. Brian Westbrook, Eagles, at Panthers (20)
7. Michael Turner, Falcons, vs. Dolphins (10)
8. Thomas Jones, Jets, at Texans (23)
9. Steve Slaton, Texans, vs. Jets (7)
10. Frank Gore, 49ers, at Cardinals (16)
11. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins, at Falcons (25)
12. Brandon Jacobs, Giants, vs. Redskins (8)
13. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers, vs. Eagles (4)
14. Marion Barber, Cowboys, at Buccaneers (19)
15. Ryan Grant, Packers, vs. Bears (5)
16. Cedric Benson, Bengals, vs. Broncos (27)
17. Kevin Smith, Lions, at Saints (17)
18. Reggie Bush, Saints, vs. Lions (32)
19. Ray Rice, Ravens, vs. Chiefs (30)
20. Clinton Portis, Redskins, at Giants (9)
21. Julius Jones, Seahawks, vs. Rams (29)
22. Joseph Addai, Colts, vs. Jaguars (13)
23. Derrick Ward, Buccaneers, vs. Cowboys (12)
24. Beanie Wells, Cardinals, vs. 49ers (13)

1. Andre Johnson, Texans, vs. Dolphins (No. 25 vs. the pass in 2008)
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, vs. 49ers (20)
3. Randy Moss, Patriots, vs. Bills (13)
4. Roddy White, Falcons, vs. Dolphins (25)
5. Marques Colston, Saints, vs. Lions (27)
6. Reggie Wayne, Colts, vs. Jaguars (24)
7. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks, vs. Rams (19)
8. Greg Jennings, Packers, vs. Bears (30)
9. Calvin Johnson, Lions, at Saints (23)
10. Vincent Jackson, Chargers, at Raiders (10)
11. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals, vs. Broncos (26)
12. Steve Smith, Panthers, vs. Eagles (3)
13. Wes Welker, Patriots, vs. Bills (13)
14. DeSean Jackson, Eagles, at Panthers (16)
15. Lance Moore, Saints, vs. Lions (27)
16. Eddie Royal, Broncos, at Bengals (15)
17. Anthony Gonzalez, Colts, vs. Jaguars (24)
18. Derrick Mason, Ravens, vs. Chiefs (28)
19. Terrell Owens, Bills, at Patriots (11)
20. Donnie Avery, Rams, at Seahawks (32)
21. Kevin Walter, Texans, vs. Jets (29)
22. Braylon Edwards, Browns, vs. Vikings (18)
23. Brandon Marshall, Broncos, at Bengals (15)
24. x-Anquan Boldin, Cardinals, vs. 49ers (20)
25. Bernard Berrian, Vikings, at Browns (14)
26. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs, at Ravens (2)
27. Donald Driver, Packers, vs. Bears (30)
28. Laveranues Coles, Bengals, vs. Broncos (26)
29. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets, at Texans (17)
30. Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers, vs. Cowboys (5)
31. Torry Holt, Jaguars, at Colts (6)
32. Roy Williams, Cowboys, at Buccaneers (4)
33. Ted Ginn Jr., Dolphins, at Falcons (21)
34. Nate Burleson, Seahawks, vs. Rams (19)
35. Isaac Bruce, 49ers, at Cardinals (22)
36. Devin Hester, Bears, at Packers (12)

x-Make sure Boldin (hamstring injury) plays. If not, teammate Steve Breaston would be a good start.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fantasy football: Start and sit for Titans-Steelers

Vegas oddsmakers — and we’ve learned to never mess with them — predict Thursday’s Titans-Steelers game will be the lowest-scoring of the NFL’s opening weekend, with the over-under set at 35 points.

Pittsburgh led the league a year ago by allowing only 13.9 points per game, followed by Tennessee at 14.6.

Does that mean you should bench Chris Johnson or Hines Ward?

To quote Chad Ochocino: Child please (or would it be kiss the baby?).

On to the first start and sit of the season ...


-- Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, WRs, Steelers:
Holmes was the Super Bowl hero, but Ward is the better player and fantasy option. Both had productive games in the Steelers’ 31-14 loss at Tennessee in Week 16 of last season. Ward caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Titans, and Holmes had five for 93 and a score.

-- Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: The Steelers had the league’s No. 1 overall defense and were No. 2 vs. the run last season, allowing only 76.9 rushing yards per game and 3.3 per carry. Still, I wouldn’t sit Johnson, a first-round pick in fantasy who had 69 yards and a TD last year against the Steelers.

-- Pittsburgh’s defense and special teams: The unit that ranked first overall, first against the pass and second vs. the run returns almost intact.

-- Tennessee’s defense and special teams: Don’t expect the Titans to shut down the Steelers in their home opener, but if you drafted their defense, which ranked sixth vs. the run and ninth vs. the pass in 2008, there’s no need to acquire another just for one week.


-- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers:
He’s a fringe fantasy starter, but there are much better Week 1 matchups than this.

-- Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: He was disappointing in 2008, when he scored only five times and finished nine yards short of 800 on the ground, and I wouldn’t expect a huge game here, even with Albert Haynesworth in Washington.

-- Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: He was effective last season at Tennessee (eight catches for 69 yards), but his biggest value to the Steelers is his blocking.

-- LenDale White, RB, Titans: He’s only of much use when he reaches the end zone, and I wouldn’t expect that tonight. Considering he drew the Steelers’ ire by stomping on a Terrible Towel after the Titans’ 2008 rout, I’d say it’s a safe guess that — Patron-less offseason diet or not — he will be a target of Pittsburgh’s defense.

-- Justin Gage and Nate Washington, WRs, Titans: Washington left the Steelers to sign with the Titans in free agency, but he will be a game-time decision because of a hamstring injury. Gage is a better fantasy player, one who had five receptions for 104 yards and a TD against Pittsburgh last season, but I wouldn’t anticipate a repeat at Heinz Field.

-- Bo Scaife, TE, Titans: He is an effective tight end in point-per-reception leagues, but he scored only two TDs last season and shouldn’t get anywhere close at Pittsburgh.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Pick Three

Before we get to the final Pick Three of the baseball season, let’s get you linked in.

-- Saturday, I’ll have a column on the most overrated and underrated fantasy football players heading into the second big draft weekend of the year. You can find it in the print editions and on the News-Herald’s main sports site.

-- Also on Saturday, go here for a fantasy football audiocast with Sports Editor Mark Podolski and I in which we discuss potential sleepers and busts for the 2009 season.

On to the Pick Three for Week 23 of the baseball season -- playoff time in most leagues. As always, these players are owned in fewer than half of the leagues on and should be assets in deep, mixed leagues. All stats are through Thursday.

-- Rod Barajas, C, Blue Jays (owned in 9.8 percent of the ESPN leagues): His batting average is terrible (.241), as are his total runs scored (36) and on-base percentage (.272). But any time you’re in a 12- or 14-team category league and you can acquire a catcher who has 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 352 at-bats, he’s worth a look. If you need a power boost, Barajas -- who hit seven home runs in August -- is a good waiver-wire option. In typical Barajas fashion, however, his big power month also included a .225 batting average and .253 OBP.

-- Garrett Jones, OF, Pirates (34.1 percent): His stellar play (.294 average, 18 homers, 34 RBI, 32 runs, nine steals and a .984 OPS in 214 at-bats) is even more improbable than Heidi and Spencer’s continued relevance. Consider that Jones, whose prior major-league experience was a 31-game run with the Twins in 2007, is 28 and an 11-year veteran of the minor leagues. Also consider that in those 3,817 minor-league at-bats, he totaled only 54 steals and batted .258. (He did have quality power numbers, with 158 homers and 629 RBI.) Still, when someone is playing this well, with such an intriguing combination of power and steals, he should be in your lineup.

-- Franklin Morales, RP, Rockies (0.6 percent): This goes only for deep leagues in which you’re forced to start multiple relief pitchers. If you belong to one of those goofy setups, Morales, a temporary fill-in for Huston Street, is worth starting if Street remains shut down by a biceps injury. Morales recorded his first save Wednesday, and the 23-year-old has a 2.93 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings this season. He was a starter in his first two big-league seasons, but should be an adequate closer until Street comes back, especially if you’re a Street owner. And really, who wouldn’t like to own a Street? (Thanks. I try to be here twice a week.)

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Start and sit for the postseason

It's the time of year for which fantasy freaks have been waiting.

What, you thought I meant football draft day?

We'll let the king of all fake sports sit idle for a couple days while we gear up for Week 23 of the baseball season, which usually marks the start of the playoffs.

Let's celebrate with a start and sit list, based mostly on players who were recently traded or returned from injuries or waivers.

All statistics are through Wednesday unless noted.

Start 'em

-- Scott Kazmir, SP, Angels: He lost his Angels debut on Wednesday, but through no fault of his own (6 1/3 innings, one run, eight strikeouts). He's 8-8 with a 5.68 ERA, but he strikes out a lot of batters (99 in 117 1/3 innings), he's now pitching for a team that leads all of baseball with a .288 batting average, and he is on pace to get two starts next week.

-- David Ortiz, DH, Boston: He's in another cold spell (3-for-18 with one RBI and five strikeouts in his last five games) and he's batting only .227 for the season, but consider the following power numbers. Since June 1, Big Papi has 21 homers and 61 RBI in 271 at-bats. He will get hot again, and I wouldn't want him on my bench when he does.

-- Jon Garland, SP, Dodgers: Another pitcher who should benefit from a trade to a better team, only in Garland's case, it's a much better team. He entered Thursday night's start against the Diamondbacks, his former team, under .500 at 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA. But he was 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA and an uncharacteristically high 26 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings in August. He won't help you in the K department (figure only one per two innings), but he should start twice next week and is worth a chance in deeper leagues.

-- David Wright, 3B, Mets: Thursday was his third game back after a scary beaning incident. For some reason, his power has fallen off (eight homers after hitting a combined 89 the previous three seasons), but you know he will hit for a high average and steal an occasional base -- goofy new helmet and all.

-- Carlos Marmol, RP, Cubs: His new role -- closer -- seems to be the one he should have had all along. Since taking over for Kevin Gregg, he has four saves in as many opportunities the last two weeks. In those four save chances, Marmol threw four scoreless innings and struck out seven. In the last three years, he's fanned 286 batters in 219 innings, an average of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. All of which makes the Cubs' offseason choice of Gregg over Marmol all the more curious.

-- John Smoltz, SP, Cardinals: His two-game run of prosperity with the Cards ended Thursday, when he gave up four runs in six innings to the Brewers. Smoltz yielded only one run in 11 innings in his first two games with St. Louis, striking out 15 while walking only one. That was a stark contrast to his dog days in Boston -- 2-5, 8.33 ERA and 59 hits allowed in 40 innings. He's another two-start Week 23 possibility worth a look in deeper leagues in which you play more than five starting pitchers.

Sit 'em

-- Brad Penny, SP, Giants: He was great Wednesday in his Giants debut (eight shutout innings), but that shouldn't overshadow an August in which he was 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four games with Boston. Prior to signing with the Giants, he was 2-7 since the beginning of June, and he isn't a great source of strikeouts (91 in 139 2/3 innings this season).

-- Jim Thome, position unknown, Dodgers: Talk about a strange trade. The Dodgers -- pardon me for a moment while I state the obvious -- wouldn't be able to use a DH until the World Series, yet they acquired an American League slugger who hasn't played the field regularly since 2004. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Thome "will be used exclusively as a power bat off the bench." Translation: We're going to kill the fantasy value of a player who has 23 homers and 74 RBI in 345 at-bats. If you're a James Loney owner, I would worry that Thome will steal at-bats from the 25-year-old regular first baseman every three days or so, especially since Loney is 22-for-98 (.224) since August.

-- Joba Chamberlain, SP, Yankees: The Joba Rules must include a line that reads: "Like Mike Shanahan in football, we hope to drive as many fantasy owners nuts as possible." Chamberlain threw all of 35 pitches in three innings before being pulled Sunday, this after he was started on regular rest, after the Yankees initially stated he would be held out longer. In his last two starts, Chamberlain has thrown a combined seven innings, and he hasn't tossed more than 96 pitches in his last three contests. He's barely averaging more than five innings per start for the season, and with the Yankees' conservative nature with the 23-year-old, he should only be used in very big leagues in which you can still play him at reliever.

-- Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: He had a cortisone shot in his bothersome left knee Sunday, and he returned to the lineup Thursday after sitting Wednesday. Regardless, he no longer is much of a stolen-base threat (nine in 116 games), and he's batting only .243 with a .732 OPS.

-- Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners:
He was activated from the disabled list Tuesday after, um, a testicle injury, and is 0-for-7 since returning. His season numbers aren't much better: .270, five homers, 32 RBI, 10 steals and a .674 OPS in 345 at-bats. Unless you really need a third baseman, Beltre should remain on your bench.

-- Jose Guillen, OF, Royals: This one might be more obvious than the Dodgers/DH reference. Guillen returned from the disabled list this week, only to have his knee brace cause tightness in his hamstring, forcing him to leave Wednesday's game. He's a decent source of power who is available in most leagues (nine homers and 40 RBI in 281 at-bats), but he's also a .242 hitter with a .681 OPS.

-- Nate McLouth, OF, Braves: This decision is much more difficult than Guillen. McLouth, who has already had a setback in his rehab from a hamstring injury, was expected to play in a Class A game Thursday and hopes to rejoin the Braves this weekend. He's a decent power hitter (15 homers and 56 RBI in 395 at-bats) who steals bases (17). But his average is below average (.258), and I'd be hesitant to put him in my lineup for the postseason and then have him get shut down again.

Coming Friday: One final Pick Three for the baseball season.

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