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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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fantasy football: More dos and don'ts, injury updates, start-and-sit advice and expanded playlist for Week 12

In this week’s column, I break down the must-starts and dos and don’ts for the remainder of the season.

Let’s get to a few leftovers, which only seems fitting on this day, before the usual injury updates:

DO ...

-- Consider starting both Cardinals running backs — Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower — when the matchup is right (i.e., Weeks 15 and 16, when Arizona plays at Detroit and hosts St. Louis).

In the last two games, Wells has rushed 30 times for 159 yards (5.3-yard average) and three touchdowns, and caught four passes for 43 yards. In that span, Hightower has 24 carries for 147 yards (6.1 average) and seven catches for 36 yards. For the season, the latter has 47 receptions and five rushing TDs.

Of the two, Wells is the better play, but Hightower is still an effective flex start or lower-echelon No. 2 running back in point-per-reception leagues.

-- Consider Davone Bess as a No. 3 receiver in PPR leagues. The Dolphins’ top receiver has 20 catches in his last four games and 16 in his last three. I would only play him when the matchup is favorable, which is especially true in Weeks 14 at Jacksonville (No. 25 vs. the pass) and 15 at Tennessee (No. 31).

DON’T ...

-- Trust the Saints’ running backs unless the matchup is favorable. Pierre Thomas is the best in terms of yardage, Mike Bell has a tendency to steal the goal-line carries and Reggie Bush had five TDs in his last five games prior to sitting out last week and, when healthy, is the best receiver of the three.

Thomas is still the best fantasy option, but if you have two productive running backs, consider both Thomas and Bell flex plays on a week-to-week basis.

-- Get too excited over Terrell Owens’ huge Week 11, when the Bills receiver had nine catches for 197 yards, including a 98-yard TD, against the Jaguars. Prior to last week, Owens hadn’t scored since Week 2 and he had only 26 catches for 366 yards in nine games. He’s still a No. 3 receiver with whom you should play the matchup game. Owens is a decent play this week against the Dolphins, who rank 22nd against the pass.

Injury updates

-- Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisbeger — who suffered head injuries last week — are both expected to start. The Cardinals’ Warner has the much more favorable matchup of the two — a game at Tennessee, which ranks 31st against the pass and has given up 25 touchdown tosses. Roethlisberger and the Steelers play at the Ravens, who rank 17th vs. the pass but have as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes allowed. Play both if they’re active, although Roethlsiberger isn’t a top-10 start this week.

-- Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will play today after being bothered by a back injury. The Raiders have been stingy against the pass — No. 12 in yardage and only eight TD passes allowed — but I would still start Romo.

-- Bengals running back Cedric Benson (hip injury) practiced Wednesday and is expected to play. He is listed as questionable, but if he practices again Friday (the critical day from an injury standpoint for most players), you should feel safe in keeping him in your lineup. If he’s a late scratch, backup Bernard Scott is a very good start against the Browns and their 28th-ranked run defense.

-- Falcons running back Michael Turner, who missed last week’s game because of a high ankle sprain, also practiced Wednesday and hopes to play, but he sounds more iffy than Benson. If Turner plays, start him against the Bucs, the league’s worst run defense. If he doesn’t, backup Jason Snelling is worth a spot in your lineup.

-- Seahawks running back Julius Jones has missed practice with a bruised lung, but is expected to start Sunday. If he’s active, he’s a quality option as a flex play against the Rams (No. 28 vs. the run). The same goes for backup Justin Forsett should Jones sit for a second consecutive game.

-- Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who is nursing hand and knee injuries, will be a game-time decision for today’s Thanksgiving tilt against the Packers. His value is also hurt by Daunte Culpepper’s presence at quarterback in place of the injured Matthew Stafford. If Johnson is active, play him. If he isn’t, don’t look at teammates Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt for help.

-- Running backs Clinton Portis and Brian Westbrook are still out because of concussions, leaving the starting jobs for the Redskins and Eagles to Rock Cartwright and LeSean McCoy, respectively. McCoy is a top-10 start at his position this week, and Cartwright should be considered no better than a flex play at the Eagles (No. 10 vs. the run).

Five to start

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

-- Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals, vs. Browns:
He has only 385 yards passing and zero touchdowns in his last two games, but he threw for 230 yards and two scores in the Bengals’ Week 4 win at Cleveland. I would expect similar numbers Sunday against the Browns’ No. 26 pass defense.

-- LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers, vs. Chiefs: He’s been disappointing, but there are signs of life — five TDs in his last four games and 169 rushing yards in his last two. The Chiefs rank 27th vs. the run.

-- Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys, vs. Raiders:
The former fantasy stud ran for 99 yards last week, his second-highest total of the season and the most he’s had since Week 2. Barber should reach the century mark vs. the Raiders, who rank 30th vs. the run and have given up 11 rushing TDs.

-- Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs, at Chargers: He has scored in each of his last two games, a span in which Larry Johnson’s replacement has 183 total yards and six catches. The Chargers have struggled against the run (No. 21).

-- Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers, vs. Jaguars: The rookie had his best fantasy game as a pro last week, catching four passes for 77 yards and a TD. Make it two straight games with a score, as the Jags rank 25th against the pass and have allowed 17 touchdowns through the air.

More matchups I like:

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys, vs. Raiders; Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons, vs. Buccaneers; Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks, at Rams; David Garrard, QB, Jaguars, at 49ers; Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots, at Saints; Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WRs, Seahawks, at Rams; Terrell Owens, WR, Bills, vs. Dolphins; Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts, at Texans; Michael Jenkins, WR, Falcons, at Buccaneers

Three to sit

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

-- Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants, at Broncos:
He has yet to rush for 100 yards this season and has only three touchdowns, which should give him a seat on your bench unless you’re hurting for a second running back.

-- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos, vs. Giants: He’s rushed for 177 yards on only 28 carries the last two weeks (6.3-yard average), but he hasn’t scored in his last three contests and the Giants rank 11th vs. the run (one caveat: The G-Men have allowed 14 rushing TDs).

-- Steve Slaton, RB, Texans, vs. Colts: Chris Brown is the latest back to share carries with Slaton (it was fun while it lasted, Ryan Moats), but even with the demotion in playing time, Slaton still has four TDs in his last five games and 24 catches in his last six. Regardless, you should have better options than playing the second-year back against the Colts’ No. 13 run defense.

More matchups I don’t like:

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens, vs. Steelers; Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos, vs. Giants; Rock Cartwright, RB, Redskins, at Eagles; Santana Moss, WR, Redskins, at Eagles

Last week

The start list, for the first time all season, was 5-for-5. Eli Manning (384 yards passing, three touchdowns, one interception), Kevin Smith (45 yards rushing, four receptions for 104 yards and a TD), Bernard Scott (119 yards rushing, three catches for 32 yards), LeSean McCoy (99 yards rushing, one TD) and Beanie Wells (74 yards rushing, one TD, two receptions for 11 yards) all have productive games.

The all-QB sit list was 2-for-3, as Jay Cutler (171 yards passing, one TD, one interception, 11 yards rushing) and Joe Flacco (256 yards passing, zero TDs and one pick) struggled. Benching Matt Ryan (268 yards passing, two touchdowns, 14 yards rushing) was not a good idea.


1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, at Lions (No. 32 vs. the pass)
2. Peyton Manning, Colts, at Texans (No. 15)
3. Philip Rivers, Chargers, vs. Chiefs (No. 28)
4. Drew Brees, Saints, vs. Patriots (No. 6)
5. Tom Brady, Patriots, at Saints (No. 16)
6. x-Kurt Warner, Cardinals, at Titans (No. 31)
7. Carson Palmer, Bengals, vs. Browns (No. 26)
8. Matt Schaub, Texans, vs. Colts (No. 18)
9. Brett Favre, Vikings, vs. Bears (No. 8)
10. Matt Ryan, Falcons, vs. Buccaneers (No. 14)
11. x-Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, at Ravens (No. 17)
12. Tony Romo, Cowboys, vs. Raiders (No. 12)
13. Donovan McNabb, Eagles, vs. Redskins (No. 1)
14. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, at Rams (No. 24)
15. Eli Manning, Giants, at Broncos (No. 3)
16. Jay Cutler, Bears, vs. Vikings (No. 21)
17. David Garrard, Jaguars, at 49ers (No. 30)
18. Matt Cassel, Chiefs, at Chargers (No. 11)
19. Joe Flacco, Ravens, vs. Steelers (No. 13)
20. x-Kyle Orton, Broncos, vs. Giants (No. 2)
x-Make sure Warner, Roethlisberger and Orton (who has a sprained ankle) are active. All are expected to play.


1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings, vs. Bears (No. 23 vs. the run)
2. Ricky Williams, Dolphins, at Bills (No. 31)
3. Joseph Addai, Colts, at Texans (No. 22)
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, at 49ers (No. 6)
5. Chris Johnson, Titans, vs. Cardinals (No. 8)
6. Steven Jackson, Rams, vs. Seahawks (No. 15)
7. Frank Gore, 49ers, vs. Jaguars (No. 17)
8. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers, at Jets (No. 16)
9. LeSean McCoy, Eagles, vs. Redskins (No. 25)
10. Ryan Grant, Packers, at Lions (No. 20)
11. x-Michael Turner, Falcons, vs. Buccaneers (No. 32)
12. x-Cedric Benson, Bengals, vs. Browns (No. 29)
13. Ray Rice, Ravens, vs. Steelers (No. 1)
14. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers, vs. Chiefs (No. 27)
15. Matt Forte, Bears, at Vikings (No. 3)
16. Marion Barber, Cowboys, vs. Raiders (No. 30)
17. x-Julius Jones, Seahawks, at Rams (No. 24)
18. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers, at Ravens (No. 5)
19. Kevin Smith, Lions, vs. Packers (No. 4)
20. Laurence Maroney, Patriots, at Saints (No. 19)
21. Beanie Wells, Cardinals, at Titans (No. 9)
22. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs, at Chargers (No. 21)
23. Pierre Thomas, Saints, vs. Patriots (No. 14)
24. Tim Hightower, Cardinals, at Titans (No. 9)
x-Make sure Turner, Benson and Jones are active.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, at Titans (No. 31 vs. the pass)
2. Randy Moss, Patriots, at Saints (No. 16)
3. Reggie Wayne, Colts, at Texans (No. 15)
4. Roddy White, Falcons, vs. Buccaneers (No. 14)
5. Vincent Jackson, Chargers, vs. Chiefs (No. 28)
6. Wes Welker, Patriots, at Saints (No. 16)
7. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals, at Titans (No. 31)
8. Andre Johnson, Texans, vs. Colts (No. 18)
9. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals, vs. Browns (No. 26)
10. Donald Driver, Packers, at Lions (No. 32)
11. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars, at 49ers (No. 30)
12. x-Calvin Johnson, Lions, vs. Packers (No. 7)
13. DeSean Jackson, Eagles, vs. Redskins (No. 1)
14. Greg Jennings, Packers, at Lions (No. 32)
15. Steve Smith, Giants, at Broncos (No. 3)
16. Nate Burleson, Seahawks, at Rams (No. 24)
17. Marques Colston, Saints, vs. Patriots (No. 6)
18. Brandon Marshall, Broncos, vs. Giants (No. 2)
19. Steve Smith, Panthers, at Jets (No. 4)
20. Hines Ward, Steelers, at Ravens (No. 17)
21. Miles Austin, Cowboys, vs. Raiders (No. 12)
22. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks, at Rams (No. 24)
23. Michael Crabtree, 49ers, vs. Jaguars (No. 25)
24. Sidney Rice, Vikings, vs. Bears (No. 8)
25. Terrell Owens, Bills, vs. Dolphins (No. 22)
26. Santonio Holmes, Steelers, at Ravens (No. 17)
27. Derrick Mason, Ravens, vs. Steelers (No. 13)
28. Mario Manningham, Giants, at Broncos (No. 3)
29. Chris Chambers, Chiefs, at Chargers (No. 11)
30. Devin Hester, Bears, at Vikings (No. 21)
31. Percy Harvin, Vikings, vs. Bears (No. 8)
32. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets, vs. Panthers (No. 5)
33. Pierre Garcon, Colts, at Texans (No. 15)
34. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles, vs. Redskins (No. 1)
35. Kevin Walter, Texans, vs. Colts (No. 18)
36. Lee Evans, Bills, vs. Dolphins (No. 22)
x-Make sure Johnson (knee and hand injuries) is active Thursday.

MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL: Who are the must-starts at each position (even kicker)? Kevin Kleps has the answers here. The link also includes this week’s audiocast by Kleps and Sports Editor Mark Podolski.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fantasy football: Injury updates, start-and-sit advice, expanded playlist and more for Week 11

A brutal Week 10 has left many of you scrambling for help at running back (hello, Bernard Scott, Justin Forsett and Jason Snelling).

A quick roundup of the most notable injuries:

-- Both Michael Turner (sprained ankle) and Cedric Benson (hip injury) are listed as doubtful, but the ailments for both backs seem to be only a one-week concern. Scott should get the majority of the carries in Benson's absence, and Brian Leonard will continue to be the third-down back whose best asset is in the receiving department (20 catches). I wouldn't consider Larry Johnson, who was unproductive with the Chiefs before signing with the Bengals this week.

Turner's top backup would normally be the explosive Jerious Norwood, but the latter has missed the last four games with a hip injury and is listed as questionable this week. Norwood should play, but he likely will be the backup to Snelling, who had 93 total yards last week.

-- Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton will be a game-time decision because of a sprained ankle, but he hasn't practiced all week and Sunday's opponent, the Chargers, rank 11th against the pass. Keep him on your bench. Same goes for Chris Simms, should he get the call instead of Orton.

-- Both Clinton Portis and Brian Westbrook will sit because of concussions, with Ladell Betts and impressive rookie LeSean McCoy starting in their place in Washington and Philadelphia, respectively.

-- Seahawks running back Julius Jones won't play because of a bruised lung, clearing the way for Forsett to get the bulk of the carries for the second straight week. The rookie has 10 catches in his last two games and had 149 total yards in Week 10.

-- Buccaneers receiver Antonio Bryant is expected to return from a two-week absence on Sunday, but his knee has been bothering him all year and Tampa's franchise player has yet to record more than 62 yards receiving in a game this season. He's a No. 4 wideout at best against the Saints, who have more than twice as many interceptions (17) as TD passes allowed (eight).

On to the start-and-sit lists ...

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, vs. Falcons: He has only one two-touchdown game since Week 6 and hasn’t thrown for more than 243 yards in his last five games, but I’d expect Peyton’s little brother to meet both those numbers against the Falcons’ 28th-ranked pass defense.

-- Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals, at Raiders: The rookie’s biggest impact thus far has been on special teams. With Cedric Benson hobbled by an injured hip, this Division II product should have a career day vs. the Raiders, who rank 29th vs. the run and have given up 14 touchdowns on the ground.

-- Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals, at Rams: With three touchdowns in his last four games and 29 carries for 157 yards in his last two, he’s slowly taking the starting job from Tim Hightower. The former Buckeye should have his best performance yet vs. the Rams, who rank 28th stopping the run and have yielded 13 rushing TDs.

-- LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles, at Bears: Brian Westbrook’s concussion issues might make McCoy a starter the rest of the season, and he deserves to be in your lineup, especially in point-per-reception leagues. The Bears have the league’s 12th-worst run defense.

-- Kevin Smith, RB, Lions, vs. Browns: He’s been very disappointing (zero touchdowns in his last five contests and no games with more than 67 rushing yards since Week 3), but the Browns have a knack for ending opposing players’ slumps. Cleveland ranks 30th against the run and has allowed 13 rushing TDs.

More matchups I like:

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals, at Raiders; Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks, at Vikings; Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys, vs. Redskins; Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants, vs. Falcons; Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings, vs. Seahawks; Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals, at Rams; Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles, at Bears

Three to sit

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

The all-QB edition ...

-- Matt Ryan, Falcons, at Giants: Sophomore slump? Ryan has thrown 10 interceptions in his last five games (with 1,031 yards and seven TDs in that span), and he’s been picked off two times or more in four of his last six games. The Giants own the league’s second-best pass defense, but have given up 15 TDs through the air.

-- Joe Flacco, Ravens, vs. Colts: Another second-year QB who started fast and has slowed considerably, Flacco hasn’t thrown for a touchdown in his last two games and has only 525 yards in his last three. The Colts are in the middle of the pack vs. the pass (No. 16), but have three more interceptions (10) than TD passes allowed (seven).

-- Jay Cutler, Bears, vs. Eagles: He has thrown 17 interceptions on the season and 12 in his last five games. The Eagles (No. 10 vs. the pass) have picked off 15 passes.

More matchups I don’t like:

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs, vs. Steelers; Santana Moss, WR, Redskins, at Cowboys; Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys, vs. Redskins; Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs, vs. Steelers

Last week

The start list had two hits in Sidney Rice (seven catches for 201 yards) and Jonathan Stewart (82 yards rushing, two touchdowns) and two decent plays in Laurence Maroney (31 yards rushing, one TD, two catches for 15 yards) and Knowshon Moreno (97 yards rushing, two catches).

The lone dud on the list was Percy Harvin, who had three catches for 53 yards and rushed for 7 yards.

The sit list had two good calls in Carson Palmer (178 yards passing, no touchdowns and no interceptions) and Brian Westbrook (28 yards rushing, two catches for 26 yards). The third item on the list was any Raiders running back, which was good in the case of Darren McFadden (11 yards rushing), not so good if you sat Justin Fargas (41 yards rushing, one TD) and terrible if you actually would have considered playing Michael Bush (119 yards rushing).


1. Drew Brees, Saints, at Buccaneers (No. 15 vs. the pass)
2. Kurt Warner, Cardinals, at Rams (No. 25)
3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, vs. 49ers (No. 29)
4. Tom Brady, Patriots, vs. Jets (No. 3)
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, at Chiefs (No. 24)
6. Matt Schaub, Texans, vs. Titans (No. 31)
7. Peyton Manning, Colts, at Ravens (No. 13)
8. Brett Favre, Vikings, vs. Seahawks (No. 22)
9. Tony Romo, Cowboys, vs. Redskins (No. 28)
10. Eli Manning, Giants, vs. Falcons (No. 28)
11. Philip Rivers, Chargers, at Broncos (No. 5)
12. Donovan McNabb, Eagles, at Bears (No. 8)
13. Carson Palmer, Bengals, at Raiders (No. 14)
14. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, at Vikings (No. 23)
15. Jay Cutler, Bears, vs. Eagles (No. 10)
16. Joe Flacco, Ravens, vs. Colts (No. 16)
17. Matt Ryan, Falcons, at Giants (No. 2)
18. David Garrard, Jaguars, vs. Bills (No. 9)
19. Vince Young, Titans, at Texans (No. 17)
20. Jason Campbell, Redskins, at Cowboys (No. 18)

1. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, vs. Bills (No. 32 vs. the run)
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings, vs. Seahawks (No. 11)
3. Chris Johnson, Titans, at Texans (tied for No. 14)
4. Ray Rice, Ravens, vs. Colts (tied for No. 14)
5. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers, at Chiefs (No. 27)
6. Steven Jackson, Rams, vs. Cardinals (No. 8)
7. Frank Gore, 49ers, at Packers (No. 4)
8. Matt Forte, Bears, vs. Eagles (No. 9)
9. Bernard Scott, Bengals, at Raiders (No. 29)
10. Thomas Jones, Jets, at Patriots (No. 17)
11. Joseph Addai, Colts, at Ravens (No. 5)
12. Beanie Wells, Cardinals, at Rams (No. 28)
13. Pierre Thomas, Saints, at Buccaneers (No. 31)
14. Marion Barber, Cowboys, vs. Redskins (No. 24)
15. Ryan Grant, Packers, vs. 49ers (No. 3)
16. Brandon Jacobs, Giants, vs. Falcons (No. 26)
17. LeSean McCoy, Eagles, at Bears (No. 21)
18. Kevin Smith, Lions, vs. Browns (No. 30)
19. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers, at Broncos (No. 12)
20. Ladell Betts, Redskins, at Cowboys (No. 10)
21. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos, vs. Chargers (No. 23)
22. Jason Snelling, Falcons, at Giants (No. 13)
23. Laurence Maroney, Patriots, vs. Jets (No. 18)
24. Justin Forsett, Seahawks, at Vikings (No. 6)

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, at Rams (No. 25 vs. the pass)
2. Reggie Wayne, Colts, at Ravens (No. 13)
3. Randy Moss, Patriots, vs. Jets (No. 3)
4. Andre Johnson, Texans, vs. Titans (No. 31)
5. Steve Smith, Giants, vs. Falcons (No. 28)
6. Marques Colston, Saints, at Buccaneers (No. 15)
7. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals, at Rams (No. 25)
8. Hines Ward, Steelers, at Chiefs (No. 24)
9. Calvin Johnson, Lions, vs. Browns (tied for No. 19)
10. Roddy White, Falcons, at Giants (No. 2)
11. Wes Welker, Patriots, vs. Jets (No. 3)
12. Brandon Marshall, Broncos, vs. Chargers (No. 11)
13. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals, at Raiders (No. 14)
14. Vincent Jackson, Chargers, at Broncos (No. 5)
15. DeSean Jackson, Eagles, at Bears (No. 8)
16. Donald Driver, Packers, vs. 49ers (No. 29)
17. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks, at Vikings (No. 23)
18. Greg Jennings, Packers, vs. 49ers (No. 29)
19. Sidney Rice, Vikings, vs. Seahawks (No. 22)
20. Santonio Holmes, Steelers, at Chiefs (No. 24)
21. Miles Austin, Cowboys, vs. Redskins (No. 1)
22. Derrick Mason, Ravens, vs. Colts (No. 16)
23. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars, vs. Bills (No. 9)
24. Nate Burleson, Seahawks, at Vikings (No. 23)
25. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles, at Bears (No. 8)
26. Mario Manningham, Giants, vs. Falcons (No. 26)
27. Michael Crabtree, 49ers, at Packers (No. 6)
28. Steve Breaston, Cardinals, at Rams (No. 28)
29. Devin Hester, Bears, vs. Eagles (No. 10)
30. Percy Harvin, Vikings, vs. Seahawks (No. 22)
31. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets, at Patriots (No. 7)
32. Braylon Edwards, Jets, at Patriots (No. 7)
33. Terrell Owens, Bills, at Jaguars (No. 26)
34. Lee Evans, Bills, at Jaguars (No. 26)
35. Laveranues Coles, Bengals, at Raiders (No. 14)
36. Donnie Avery, Rams, vs. Cardinals (No. 30)

MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL: Has your team been affected by the injuries to running backs Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Michael Turner, Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook or Julius Jones? I break down the values of their backups here. The link also includes this week audiocast with Sports Editor Mark Podolski and I.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fantasy football: Start and sit for Thursday's Dolphins-Panthers game

On draft day, maybe you selected Ricky Williams as a handcuff for Ronnie Brown. Maybe you decided to take the biggest name on the board in Round 10. Maybe you were a big fan of the Mike Ditka "Ricky Is My Entire Draft" Era.

Whatever the reason, you likely were pleasantly surprised when the Dolphins running back, even with starter Ronnie Brown excelling, rushed for 558 yards and caught 18 passes for 193 yards in the first nine games. In that span, Williams scored seven touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

Then came word Wednesday that Brown would miss the rest of the season because of ankle and foot injuries. All of which leaves Williams as a late-round draft pick who could end up being one of the year's best bargains.

Williams will start tonight against Carolina, which ranks 25th vs. the run, and the schedule for Weeks 12-16 isn't much more strenuous -- at Buffalo, vs. New England, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, vs. Houston.

By now, you know to start Williams every week. He is on track to rush for 1,000 yards for the first time since 2003, and last week he had his first 100-yard game on the ground since Week 10 of 2008.

The decision isn't as easy regarding the Panthers' top two running backs: DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Both are listed as questionable, although Stewart practiced in full Wednesday and should play. Williams missed practice but is still expected to play (he missed last Friday's practice with a knee injury, then rushed for 92 yards and had a catch for 30 yards two days later).

If both are active prior to kickoff, play them, even against a Dolphins defense that ranks seventh vs. the run -- a number that is deceiving because it doesn't take into account that Miami has allowed 10 rushing TDs.


Dolphins: RB Ricky Williams, K Dan Carpenter

Panthers: RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Steve Smith

Quick slants: The disappointing Smith had two touchdowns last week -- double his total from the first eight games. ... The Panthers' Williams has 1,075 total yards and seven TDs in nine games. ... Stewart has scored two touchdowns in two of his last three contests and has rushed for at least 82 yards in three of his last five. ... Carpenter is 15-for-16 on field-goal attempts, including 7-of-8 accuracy from 40 yards and beyond.


Dolphins: QB Chad Henne, WR Davone Bess, WR Greg Camarillo, WR Ted Ginn Jr., defense and special teams

Panthers: QB Jake Delhomme, WR Muhsin Muhammad, defense and special teams, K John Kasay

Quick slants: Henne is 4-2 as a starter, but he has thrown only five TD passes in that span. ... The Dolphins' top three wideouts -- Bess, Camarillo and Ginn -- have a combined one TD reception. ... The much-maligned Delhomme doesn't belong on a fantasy roster, but if you're in a (really, really) deep league, don't be tempted to play him coming off his first two-touchdown game since Week 8 of last season. ... Muhammad had six catches for 91 yards last week, but the veteran has yet to score a TD and has one game with more than 51 yards.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fantasy football: Injury updates, start-and-sit advice and expanded playlist for Week 10

The injury dilemma of the week goes to Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who will be a game-time decision because of a knee ailment.

The excuse of the week goes to Bills receiver Terrell Owens, who is listed as questionable because of a strained hip -- the result of taking a nap on his couch Monday night. No word on whether or not Tony Romo was kicking him in his sleep.

On to the injury roundup:

-- Williams is a must-start if he's active, but expect backup Jonathan Stewart to get a decent share of the carries. Both are good plays against the Falcons' 24th-ranked run defense.

-- Owens is expected to play, as is Cardinals wideout Anquan Boldin, who sat out last week because of a sprained ankle.

-- Eagles running back Brian Westbrook should return Sunday from a concussion, but he's a low-level No. 2 running back at best. Impressive rookie LeSean McCoy could get more carries against the Chargers' 26th-ranked run defense.

-- LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to play through a hip injury, and Redskins running back Ladell Betts, who has a sprained ankle, should start for the injured Clinton Portis. Betts likely will split carries with Rock Cartwright and Quinton Ganther and is no better than a flex play.

-- Raiders running back Darren McFadden should return from a knee injury, but teammate Justin Fargas has established himself as the No. 1 back. Both are No. 3 running backs against the Chiefs, who rank 28th vs. the run.

Five to start

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

-- Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots, at Colts: He’s rushed for a touchdown in each of his last three games, a span in which he’s carried 49 times for 248 yards (5.1 per attempt). The Colts have allowed six rushing TDs.

-- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos, at Redskins: He’s been so unproductive in the last three games (33 carries for 86 yards and one TD, along with minus-5 yards receiving) that he’s no longer a regular starter. But I’d give the rookie another chance against the league’s 25th-ranked run defense.

-- Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers, vs. Falcons: The second-year back has scored four touchdowns in his last five games and would get a lot of work if DeAngelo Williams doesn't play because of a knee injury. The Falcons rank 24th vs. the run and have given up six TDs on the ground.

-- Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, WRs, Vikings, vs. Lions: Detroit is the league’s second-worst defense against the pass, and the Lions have allowed the second-most TD tosses (19). Harvin had five receptions for 84 yards and a TD in his last game, and Rice has 20 catches for 352 yards in his last three.

More matchups I like:

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks, at Cardinals; Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets, at Jaguars; Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs, at Raiders; Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs, at Raiders; LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles, at Chargers; Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills, at Titans; Mike Bell, RB, Saints, at Rams

Three to sit

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

-- Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals, at Steelers: It’s difficult to bench a quarterback on pace for 3,664 yards and 28 touchdowns, but five of Palmer’s 14 TDs were in one game, and the Steelers have only one fewer interception (eight) than TD passes allowed (nine).

-- Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles, at Chargers: He is expected to return from a concussion, but now is being bothered by an old ankle injury. Factor in his five-game totals of two touchdowns and 327 total yards, and you should look elsewhere, even vs. the league’s No. 26 run defense.

-- Any Raiders running back vs. the Chiefs: Justin Fargas has been effective in his last three games (49 carries for 213 yards, one TD rushing, seven catches for 54 yards), but Darren McFadden is expected to play for the first time since Week 4. Seems like another backfield split to avoid.

More matchups I don’t like:

Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles, at Chargers; Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos, at Redskins; Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks, at Cardinals; Kevin Smith, RB, Lions, at Vikings; Jamal Lewis, RB, Browns, vs. Ravens

Last week

The start list had only one hit in Julius Jones (36 yards and one TD on the ground, six catches for 78 yards). Donovan McNabb (227 yards passing, one TD, two interceptions), Joe Flacco (195 yards passing, two picks), Michael Crabtree (three catches for 30 yards) and Jamaal Charles (six carries for 36 yards and three catches for 19 yards) were all duds.

The sit list was 2-for-3, with Jay Cutler (369 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception) as the bad call. Benching Knowshon Moreno (five carries for 3 yards) and Kevin Smith (67 yards rushing, two receptions for 9 yards) was the right call.


1. Drew Brees, Saints, at Rams (tied for No. 22 vs. the pass)
2. Brett Favre, Vikings, vs. Lions (No. 31)
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, vs. Bengals (No. 25)
4. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, vs. Cowboys (No. 20)
5. Peyton Manning, Colts, vs. Patriots (No. 4)
6. Tom Brady, Patriots, at Colts (No. 9)
7. Philip Rivers, Chargers, vs. Eagles (No. 11)
8. Joe Flacco, Ravens, at Browns (tied for No. 22)
9. Tony Romo, Cowboys, at Packers (No. 8)
10. Kurt Warner, Cardinals, vs. Seahawks (No. 17)
11. Matt Ryan, Falcons, at Panthers (No. 6)
12. Donovan McNabb, Eagles, at Chargers (No. 5)
13. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, at Cardinals (No. 29)
14. Carson Palmer, Bengals, at Steelers (No. 14)
15. Matt Cassel, Chiefs, at Raiders (No. 13)
16. Mark Sanchez, Jets, vs. Jaguars (No. 26)
17. David Garrard, Jaguars, at Jets (No. 2)
18. Kyle Orton, Broncos, at Redskins (No. 1)
19. Chad Henne, Dolphins, vs. Buccaneers (No. 15)
20. Vince Young, Titans, vs. Bills (No. 10)

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings, vs. Lions (No. 17 vs. the run)
2. Ray Rice, Ravens, at Browns (No. 31)
3. Chris Johnson, Titans, vs. Bills (No. 32)
4. Michael Turner, Falcons, at Panthers (No. 23)
5. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, at Jets (tied for No. 14)
6. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins, vs. Buccaneers (No. 30)
7. Thomas Jones, Jets, vs. Jaguars (No. 22)
8. Steven Jackson, Rams, vs. Saints (No. 19)
9. Pierre Thomas, Saints, at Rams (No. 27)
10. Cedric Benson, Bengals, at Steelers (No. 1)
11. Ryan Grant, Packers, vs. Cowboys (No. 12)
12. Joseph Addai, Colts, vs. Patriots (No. 20)
13. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers, vs. Bengals (No. 2)
14. x-DeAngelo Williams, Panthers, vs. Falcons (No. 24)
15. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos, at Redskins (No. 25)
16. Marion Barber, Cowboys, at Packers (No. 9)
17. Laurence Maroney, Patriots, at Colts (tied for No. 14)
18. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers, vs. Falcons (No. 24)
19. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs, at Raiders (No. 29)
20. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers, vs. Eagles (No. 10)
21. Marshawn Lynch, Bills, at Titans (No. 18)
22. LeSean McCoy, Eagles, at Chargers (No. 26)
23. Mike Bell, Saints, at Rams (No. 27)
24. Tim Hightower, Cardinals, vs. Seahawks (No. 11)
x-Make sure Williams (knee injury) is active.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, vs. Seahawks (No. 17 vs. the pass)
2. Randy Moss, Patriots, at Colts (No. 9)
3. Marques Colston, Saints, at Rams (tied for No. 22)
4. Reggie Wayne, Colts, vs. Patriots (No. 4)
5. Vincent Jackson, Chargers, vs. Eagles (No. 11)
6. Hines Ward, Steelers, vs. Bengals (No. 25)
7. Miles Austin, Cowboys, at Packers (No. 8)
8. Donald Driver, Packers, vs. Cowboys (No. 20)
9. Wes Welker, Patriots, at Colts (No. 9)
10. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals, at Steelers (No. 14)
11. Roddy White, Falcons, at Panthers (No. 6)
12. Brandon Marshall, Broncos, at Redskins (No. 1)
13. DeSean Jackson, Eagles, at Chargers (No. 5)
14. Nate Burleson, Seahawks, at Cardinals (No. 29)
15. Greg Jennings, Packers, vs. Cowboys (No. 20)
16. Derrick Mason, Ravens, at Browns (tied for No. 22)
17. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals, vs. Seahawks (No. 17)
18. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars, at Jets (No. 2)
19. Calvin Johnson, Lions, at Vikings (No. 21)
20. Santonio Holmes, Steelers, vs. Bengals (No. 25)
21. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks, at Cardinals (No. 29)
22. Sidney Rice, Vikings, vs. Lions (No. 31)
23. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs, at Raiders (No. 13)
24. Percy Harvin, Vikings, vs. Lions (No. 31)
25. Braylon Edwards, Jets, vs. Jaguars (No. 26)
26. Santana Moss, Redskins, vs. Broncos (No. 7)
27. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets, vs. Jaguars (No. 26)
28. Torry Holt, Jaguars, at Jets (No. 2)
29. Mike Wallace, Steelers, vs. Bengals (No. 25)
30. Terrell Owens, Bills, vs. Titans (No. 32)
31. Laveranues Coles, Bengals, at Steelers (No. 14)
32. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles, at Chargers (No. 5)
33. Pierre Garcon, Colts, vs. Patriots (No. 4)
34. Steve Breaston, Cardinals, vs. Seahawks (No. 17)
35. Eddie Royal, Broncos, at Redskins (No. 1)
36. Devery Henderson, Saints, at Rams (tied for No. 22)

MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL: In a season full of fantasy disappointments, we break down the top 10 busts of the year here. The link also includes this week’s audiocast, in which Sports Editor Mark Podolski and I give our top five value picks and busts of the first nine weeks.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fantasy football: Start and sit for Thursday's Bears-49ers game

Expect a lot of scoring tonight -- the 49ers' defense ranks 24th against the pass, and the Bears have been very susceptible vs. the run (No. 21 in the league, seven rushing TDs allowed).


Bears: QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, WR Devin Hester, TE Greg Olsen, K Robbie Gould

49ers: RB Frank Gore, WR Michael Crabtree, TE Vernon Davis, K Joe Nedney

Quick slants: Forte has been disappointing, but there is hope. The consensus top-five fantasy pick has rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns and caught eight passes for 105 yards in his last two games. He has posted more than 100 total yards in back-to-back games for only the second time all season. ... Hester has 27 catches for 359 yards and a TD in his last four games. In that span, he's had at least six receptions and 81 yards in each contest. ... Cutler is coming off his best fantasy day as a Bear, a 369-yard, three-TD effort against the Cardinals. ... Olsen had only 10 catches for 94 yards and two scores in his first four games, but has 17 catches, 192 yards and four TDs in his last four. He matched his TD total for the season by scoring three times last week. ... Gore has erased any worries about his ankle injury in the last two games, during which he's rushed 28 times for 174 yards (6.2) and two TDs, and caught 12 passes for 118 yards. ... Look for Crabtree to score his first NFL touchdown against a beat-up Bears secondary. ... Davis, who has been one of this year's best draft-day bargains, has 35 receptions and seven TDs in his last six games.


Bears: WR Earl Bennett, WR Johnny Knox, defense and special teams

49ers: QB Alex Smith, WR Josh Morgan, WR Isaac Bruce, defense and special teams

Quick slants: Bennett is worth a look only in deep PPR leagues. He had seven catches for 93 yards last week, but has yet to reach the end zone. ... Knox, who had three TDs in Chicago's first five games, has only 116 yards and zero TDs in the last three games. ... Smith could be useful in deeper leagues. He's thrown for 690 yards and six scores, with five interceptions, in three games.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fantasy football: Injury updates, start-and-sit advice, expanded playlist and more for Week 9

Let's get to the usual round of injury updates, led again this week by the wideouts:

-- Anquan Boldin and Devin Hester both have sprained ankles, and both are expected to play. I'd consider Boldin a No. 2 receiver this week against the Bears, and Hester a No. 3 against the Cards' No. 20 pass defense.

-- Calvin Johnson is expected to return from a knee injury, and Mario Manningham should play through a shoulder ailment. Johnson is a low-end No. 2, high-end No. 3 wide receiver this week, and I wouldn't play Manningham unless I was desperate because of injury or bye-week issues.

-- Bucs receiver Antonio Bryant (knee) will be a game-time decision, but the combination of his 2009 struggles and the first start for rookie QB Josh Freeman should prevent you from playing the '08 fantasy surprise.

-- Lions running back Kevin Smith (shoulder) likely will play in pain again, but isn't a quality option against the Seahawks (see below).

On to the start-and-sit lists, and a reminder that if you have a lineup question, e-mail me at the address above instead of posting a comment at the end of the blog.

Five to start

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

-- Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens, at Bengals: His touchdown totals in his last five games: 1-2-1-2-1. Even more reason to like Flacco’s chances of throwing for at least a pair of scores against the Bengals’ No. 30 pass defense.

-- Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles, vs. Cowboys: He’s barely throwing for more than 200 yards per game, but he does have nine TDs and only one interception in five contests. Expect McNabb to have a big game vs. Dallas, which ranks 22st defending the pass.

-- Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs, at Jaguars: The suspended Larry Johnson won’t play this week (and maybe not again for the Chiefs), leaving the bulk of the carries to Charles. The second-year back has been impressive in limited duty, and he should produce vs. the Jags, who rank 25th vs. the run.

-- Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks, vs. Lions: After a productive start to the season, Jones has been held to 120 yards rushing in his last four games. The guess here is he’ll break out against the Lions (No. 21 vs. the run).

-- Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers, vs. Titans:
He has 13 receptions in two games since ending his holdout, and the rookie should score his first touchdown against the league’s worst pass defense, one that has allowed a league-high 19 TD tosses.

More matchups I like:

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons, vs. Redskins; Mike Bell, RB, Saints, vs. Panthers; Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants, vs. Chargers; Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals, at Bears

Three to sit

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

-- Jay Cutler, QB, Bears, vs. Cardinals: He has thrown six interceptions in his last three games, four (with only one touchdown pass) in his last two and has as many picks (11) as TD tosses (11) on the season.

-- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos, vs. Steelers: There aren’t many backs who are quality plays against the Steelers’ top-ranked run defense, one that has allowed only two rushing TDs and has given up 76.6 yards per game on the ground. Moreno has rushed for only 83 yards in Denver’s last two games.

-- Kevin Smith, RB, Lions, at Seahawks: He’s battling a shoulder injury, and Seattle has been surprisingly decent (No. 10) against the run. Smith hasn’t scored in his last three games.

More matchups I don’t like:

Eli Manning, QB, Giants, vs. Chargers; Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins, at Patriots; Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots, vs. Dolphins; Steve Slaton, RB, Texans, at Colts

Last week

The start list had two standouts in Matt Forte (90 yards rushing, two touchdowns and two catches for 31 yards) and LaDainian Tomlinson (56 yards rushing and two TDs). Devin Hester (seven catches for 81 yards) was decent, and the two Jaguars on the list — David Garrard (139 yards passing, 22 yards rushing, two interceptions) and Torry Holt (two catches for 17 yards) — were busts.

The sit list had two good calls in Joe Flacco (175 yards passing and one TD) and Ahmad Bradshaw (21 yards rushing, one TD) and one bad one in Donovan McNabb (240 yards passing, three touchdowns and 14 yards rushing).


1. Peyton Manning, Colts, vs. Texans (No. 14 vs. the pass)
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, at Buccaneers (No. 15)
3. Tom Brady, Patriots, vs. Dolphins (No. 21)
4. Drew Brees, Saints, vs. Panthers (No. 1)
5. Joe Flacco, Ravens, at Bengals (No. 30)
6. Donovan McNabb, Eagles, vs. Cowboys (No. 22)
7. Philip Rivers, Chargers, at Giants (No. 3)
8. Matt Schaub, Texans, at Colts (No. 7)
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons, vs. Redskins (No. 2)
10. Kurt Warner, Cardinals, at Bears (No. 12)
11. Tony Romo, Cowboys, at Eagles (No. 10)
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, at Broncos (No. 8)
13. Carson Palmer, Bengals, vs. Ravens (No. 19)
14. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, vs. Lions (No. 27)
15. Jay Cutler, Bears, vs. Cardinals (No. 20)
16. Eli Manning, Giants, vs. Chargers (No. 6)
17. Kyle Orton, Broncos, vs. Steelers (No. 16)
18. Matt Cassel, Patriots, at Jaguars (No. 26)
19. David Garrard, Jaguars, vs. Chiefs (tied for No. 28)
20. Alex Smith, 49ers, vs. Titans (No. 32)

1. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars, vs. Chiefs (No. 26 vs. the run)
2. Michael Turner, Falcons, vs. Redskins (No. 22)
3. Ray Rice, Ravens, at Bengals (No. 5)
4. Frank Gore, 49ers, vs. Titans (No. 18)
5. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers, at Saints (No. 11)
6. Chris Johnson, Titans, at 49ers (No. 2)
7. Ryan Grant, Packers, at Buccaneers (No. 30
8. Cedric Benson, Bengals, vs. Ravens (No. 4)
9. Pierre Thomas, Saints, vs. Panthers (No. 24)
10. Joseph Addai, Colts, vs. Texans (No. 20
11. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins, at Patriots (No. 15)
12. Brandon Jacobs, Giants, vs. Chargers (No. 27)
13. Marion Barber, Cowboys, at Eagles (No. 12)
14. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers, at Broncos (No. 3)
15. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers, at Giants (No. 19)
16. Clinton Portis, Redskins, at Falcons (No. 23)
17. Brian Westbrook, Eagles, vs. Cowboys (No. 13)
18. Matt Forte, Bears, vs. Cardinals (No. 8)
19. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs, at Jaguars (No. 25)
20. Julius Jones, Seahawks, vs. Lions (No. 21)
21. Mike Bell, Saints, vs. Panthers (No. 24)
22. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers, at Saints (No. 11)
23. Ryan Moats, Texans, at Colts (No. 17)
24. Tim Hightower, Cardinals, at Bears (No. 16)


1. Randy Moss, Patriots, vs. Dolphins (No. 21 vs. the pass)
2. Reggie Wayne, Colts, vs. Texans (No. 14)
3. Greg Jennings, Packers, at Buccaneers (No. 15)
4. Marques Colston, Saints, vs. Panthers (No. 1)
5. Wes Welker, Patriots, vs. Dolphins (No. 21)
6. Andre Johnson, Texans, at Colts (No. 7)
7. Roddy White, Falcons, vs. Redskins (No. 2)
8. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, at Bears (No. 12)
9. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals, vs. Ravens (No. 19)
10. Vincent Jackson, Chargers, at Giants (No. 3)
11. DeSean Jackson, Eagles, vs. Cowboys (No. 22)
12. Donald Driver, Packers, at Buccaneers (No. 15)
13. Derrick Mason, Ravens, at Bengals (No. 30)
14. Miles Austin, Cowboys, at Eagles (No. 10)
15. Steve Smith, Panthers, at Saints (No. 17)
16. Hines Ward, Steelers, at Broncos (No. 8)
17. Brandon Marshall, Broncos, vs. Steelers (No. 16)
18. Steve Smith, Giants, vs. Chargers (No. 6)
19. Michael Crabtree, 49ers, at Titans (No. 32)
20. Nate Burleson, Seahawks, vs. Lions (No. 27)
21. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks, vs. Lions (No. 27)
22. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars, vs. Chiefs (tied for No. 28)
23. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals, at Bears (No. 12)
24. Santonio Holmes, Steelers, at Broncos (No. 8)
25. Calvin Johnson, Lions, at Seahawks (No. 18)
26. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs, at Jaguars (No. 26)
27. Santana Moss, Redskins, at Falcons (No. 31)
28. Devin Hester, Bears, vs. Cardinals (No. 20)
29. Austin Collie, Colts, vs. Texans (No. 14)
30. Steve Breaston, Cardinals, at Bears (No. 12)
31. Hakeem Nicks, Giants, vs. Chargers (No. 6)
32. Torry Holt, Jaguars, vs. Chiefs (tied for No. 28)
33. Roy Williams, Cowboys, at Eagles (No. 10)
34. Kevin Walter, Texans, at Colts (No. 7)
35. Johnny Knox, Bears, vs. Cardinals (No. 20)
36. Nate Washington, Titans, at 49ers (tied for No. 28)

For a breakdown of five players to trade and five players to acquire as we begin the second half of the fantasy season, click here. The link also includes this week’s audiocast.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fantasy football: No-huddle offense for Week 9

When us fantasy freaks think of things we need more of in the NFL, running-back committees rank far below DIRECTV's Sunday Ticket and slightly above more high-definition closeups of an annoyed Eric Mangini.

Well, buckle up, boys and girls, we've got another committee, thanks to one of this year's biggest busts, Steve Slaton.

Slaton was fantastic as a rookie last season, when he ran for 1,282 yards, averaged 4.8 yards per carry, scored 10 touchdowns and caught 50 passes for 377 yards. This year, not so much.

The Texans running back was benched early last week after losing his fifth fumble of the season. In his place, Ryan Moats -- who had 56 yards in Houston's first seven games -- ran for 126 yards and three TDs on 23 carries and had two receptions for 25 yards.

That has led to speculation this week that Moats, who has 623 career rushing yards in limited duty since 2005, will take over as the Texans' featured back. Coach Gary Kubiak, however, has refused to name a starter, but did say Slaton, Moats and Chris Brown all will play.

Thanks, Coach. I'm sure this week's opponent, the Colts, are every bit as nervous as Slaton owners.

In Houston's first seven games, Slaton had 109 rushing attempts, Brown 36 and Moats 15. So what was a one-man attack is now a two-headed monster -- but not of the Saints variety (the productive Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell combo). Instead, it's more of a don't-play-either-unless-you-have-to-because-of-bye-weeks-situation.

Of the two, Moats has more value this week, since he should at least start. If he gets the majority of the carries, he could be a decent No. 2 running back going forward, when the Texans face the Titans (Week 11, No. 18 vs. the run), Jaguars (Week 13, No. 25 vs. the run) and Rams (Week 15, No. 28).

But at this point, you can't trust Slaton or Moats. Because six teams are off this week, Moats is a low-level No. 2 running back. Slaton is a reserve.

And committees continue to remind us of the evil doings of Mike Shanahan.

Replacement players

If you were among the unfortunate owners who lost standout tight ends Chris Cooley (who will miss at least another few weeks because of a broken ankle) and/or Owen Daniels (who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury), let's look at five players who are available in the majority of the leagues on We'll do so in descending order to build the drama:

5. Kevin Boss, Giants (owned in 39.5 percent of the ESPN leagues): He was impressive last season (33 catches for 384 yards and six touchdowns) and anything but in the Giants' first five games this year (11 receptions for 161 yards and zero scores). Boss had three catches for 70 yards and a TD last week, and he has six receptions in his last two games. The bad news: He's been limited this week by a sprained ankle (but he is expected to play). Week 9 opponent: Chargers (No. 6 vs. the pass).

4. Benjamin Watson, Patriots (30.2 percent): He has four touchdowns on the season, but six of his 15 catches and 77 of his 222 yards were in the Patriots' season opener (as were two of his TDs). Week 9 opponent: Dolphins(No. 21 vs. the pass).

3. Spencer Havner, Packers (1.6 percent): This seems like a reach, until you consider Havner has three touchdowns in the Pack's last two games. He's not going to be much of an asset in point-per-reception leagues, but with Jermichael Finley likely out again this week because of a knee injury, Havner could at least get you six points the old-fashioned, non-PPR way. Week 9 opponent: at Buccaneers (No. 15 vs. the pass).

2. Todd Heap, Ravens (41.8 percent): He's had three or more catches in five consecutive games, but he hasn't had a TD in that span after scoring twice in the first two weeks. Week 9 opponent: at Bengals (No. 30 vs. the pass).

1. Fred Davis, Redskins (3.1 percent): When Cooley was injured in Week 7 against the Eagles, Davis, a second-round pick in 2008, was targeted 10 times and caught eight passes for 78 yards and a TD. Considering Cooley has averaged 4.6 receptions per game since 2007, Davis figures to get plenty of opportunities to produce for a struggling offense. Week 9 opponent: at Falcons (No. 31 vs. the pass).

Start 'em

-- Matt Forte, RB, Bears: How much were his 90 yards rushing and two TDs a product of how awful the Browns have been? Likely quite a bit, but I would at least see how the 2008 rookie stud and '09 disappointment performs in tough matchups this week against the Cardinals (No. 8 vs. the run) and in Week 10 at the 49ers (No. 2).

-- Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers: With 11 catches and 15 targets in two games since ending his holdout, I'd consider the rookie an every-week starter in PPR leagues.

Sit 'em

-- Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: He's thrown as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes, and there are too many productive quarterbacks this season to continue starting him every week.

-- Eli Manning, QB, Giants: He hasn't thrown for more than 243 yards since Week 4, and he has twice as many picks (six) as TD tosses (three) in his last three games.

Drop 'em

-- Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys: Remember him? Whether Williams wants to admit it or not, and apparently he doesn't, Austin Miles is Dallas' top receiver. Williams has one TD since Week 1 and has had 35 receiving yards or fewer in four of his last five games. If you need the roster space and have a few productive receivers, he is a candidate to hit the waiver wire.

-- Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos: Another game, another shutout. It's amazing that a player who caught 91 passes as a rookie in 2008 has a total of 10 catches for 68 yards in six of Denver's seven games (Royal had 10 catches for 90 yards in the other, a Week 5 win over the Patriots). Royal has yet to reach the end zone, and it's hard to argue with letting him go at this point.

Closing numbers

Cardinals running back Tim Hightower -- who has struggled mightily on the ground (3.3 yards per carry this season and 2.9 in his two-year career) -- has four more catches (39) than teammate Anquan Boldin.

Hightower had 34 receptions in 16 games as a rookie last season. Boldin, who has battled injuries but played in all seven games this year, had 89 catches in 12 games in 2008. Hightower also has five TDs to Boldin's one in 2009.

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