- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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This season will be different.
There are always the constants, of course. Brett Favre retiring, unretiring, crying at news conferences, throwing former teammates and coaches under the bus, me hating Brett Favre to the point of being irrational about it, Brett Favre's hobbies being revealed as clubbing baby seals and shooting old ladies with pellet guns, swine flu cases increasing in the greater Minneapolis area because of the presence of Brett Favre ... all "allegedly" of course ... well, those are the givens. You can count on them like clockwork.
But this season will be different. Because while we are stuck with the old bas--, er, gunslinger, this is the first football season in almost 80 years without Joe Bendavid. He passed away a few weeks ago and it was as sad a day as I've ever had.
Back when I was married, Joe was my father-in-law. But before I got married to the ex-Mrs. Roto, throughout my marriage and even after his daughter and I divorced in 2005 ... Joe was my friend.
I am not alone in this. He was everyone's friend. And I mean everyone's friend. Never met someone he didn't like or instantly befriend; he was always quick to ask how you were. And actually cared about the answer.
Quick story about Joe that is typical of him. Maybe five years ago he and I were at a supermarket and Joe was talking to the guy behind the bread counter. After he gave his order, Joe starts talking.
Joe: Hey, what's your name?
Bread Guy: Jose.
Joe: Hey, Jose! How you doing? Where you from?
Joe: Cuba! Did you see that documentary about it on PBS the other night? I taped it -- it was amazing.
Jose: No, no sir. I didn't catch it.
Joe: I taped it. I'll loan you the tape! You gotta see it.
Jose: Thank you sir, but I don't have a VCR.
Joe: I'll loan you one!
The bread guy shakes his head and smiles. OK, buddy. Two days later, we are walking back into the same supermarket. And Joe has with him a VCR and a tape. (Note to the kids: A VCR and a tape is how your mommy and daddy used to watch documentaries about how to hunt dinosaurs and make fire before DVD players were invented.)
Joe: Jose! Here, take this, bring it back when you're done, you gotta watch it.
Jose can't believe it, but he takes the machine and the tape. And three days later, we are back in the supermarket. (Joe really loved this supermarket.) And Jose comes running up to him.
Jose: Senor Joe! I watched it. I watched it!
Joe: (genuinely excited) Yeah?!
Jose: It was amazing. So beautiful. Thank you. I hadn't seen my home country since I was a young boy. I cried. It brought back so many memories. Thank you, thank you.
Jose almost started crying then and there, he was so grateful. And, he returned the VCR and tape in perfect condition.
Who does that? I like to think of myself as a nice guy and I've gone out of my way to help folks, but I'd be lying if I said it ever occurred to me to loan a piece of electronic equipment to a random stranger. Seriously, who does that?
I don't know who does, but I know Joe Bendavid did. All the time, he did stuff like that. There are a million "Joe" stories. He had the same best friends since he was 12. One of them, Ernie, told me this story about him. When both of them were single, they were out one night and saw two girls at a distance. They decided to go talk to them. So they wandered over and as they got closer and saw the girls, Joe turned to his friend.
Joe: You know, Ernie, yours is not so cute.
Yeah, Joe was also funny. As generous, loving and genuine a man as I have ever met, I am actually crying as I write this. And I can count on one hand the number of times I have cried in my adult life.
When I was married to his daughter, I was a screenwriter, but my passion was sports. So was Joe's and we watched many games together. He was the very first guy to suggest I try to make a career in sports. "You're so passionate about it, you're so knowledgeable, you should be doing that instead of the writing. You don't like Hollywood."
I'm married to his daughter, it's my job to provide for her and he's encouraging me to junk a well-paying career to start over and try to make it in a supercompetitive industry at age 34? Who does that?
Joe did that. He was a lifelong Giants fan, having had season tickets to the team since the early '50s. And if you've read me for any amount of time, you know that I am cursed to have been a Redskins fan since I was 5 years old. Joe and I went to every Redskins-Giants game for a number of years, and it's only the love his fellow section mates had for Joe that enabled me to escape unscathed, despite wearing full Washington regalia, and often being on the losing side.
As we start the 10th year of "Love/Hate" and Week 1 has my Redskins visiting Joe's Giants, it will be different this season. And frankly, not as good. I miss Joe and I am far from alone in that sentiment. Brett Favre could learn a lot from him as could a lot of people. Including me. I'm not the man Joe was and I'm not sure I ever will be. But it's a good goal to shoot for.
Speaking of shooting for goals, I'm sure my editors would like me to eventually get around to talking some football, so I thank you for indulging me and, if you want to do something on behalf of Joe, call someone you care about today but haven't talked to in a while, and let them know they matter. I hadn't spoken to Joe for about six months when he passed away and I'll be living with that guilt for a long time.
Week 1 players I love
Some of the complaints about Love/Hate I can't address. Like, I'm still employed. But I can cut down on the number of players. Instead of using projected points or a specific statistical benchmark, I'm just going to talk about guys I love or hate this week more than most, as based on our composite rankings. As always, use your brain. This is about general expectations. Just because I hate Terrell Owens and love Troy Williamson doesn't mean you bench T.O. for Troy. It just means, depending on your league, you may have better options than Owens this week and if you are in a deep league where you play three wideouts, Williamson has nice upside.
Oh, and sometimes I like to make jokes. Just because I have a joke instead of long, boring statistical analysis doesn't mean I haven't done the research on it. Or maybe it does. I'll let you decide.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens:I can't tell you how depressed I am that I don't have Flacco on any teams this year, because, truly, I am wacko for Flacco. But he keeps going before I can grab him in some leagues and folks I draft against know I love him. Anyway, last year, he averaged 16 fantasy points per game for Weeks 8 through 17. To give a comparison, Drew Brees averaged 18 points a game last season. Flacco was much better from a fantasy perspective than you might have thought. Now you get the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town. That's a defense that was top 10 last year in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed and 29th in points allowed. Flacco has looked awesome in the preseason, having more yards passing than another preseason darling, Aaron Rodgers. He's at home against a team with a new coach and a bad defense. I'll say it again. I am wacko for Flacco.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: Schaub played in only five home games last year, but when he played? Fantasy goodness. He averaged more than 300 yards passing and had nine touchdowns in those five games, or almost two per contest. I like the Jets' defense more this year than last but not enough to think it will be able to Stump the Schaub. Thank you! I'll be here all week!
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: The fun part about the Thursday games is when I predict a guy to do well and he doesn't (or the opposite) everyone can read this on Friday and talk about what a maroon I am. That's a word that needs to come back, incidentally. Bugs Bunny used it a lot but, outside of cartoons from the '50s, it doesn't get a ton of play. I like it. As in, if you bench Ben Roethlisberger, you're a maroon. More than 300 yards and two scores last year when he played the Tennessee Titans and they no longer have Albert Haynesworth to pressure the quarterback. And the Titans' secondary isn't that great.
Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks: Joe was an optimist. Which may have rubbed off on me, since I like Jones this week, despite no Walter Jones or Chris Spencer on the offensive line. I bet the Rams are better than last year, but at some point, you can't make lemonade out of a lame defense. Or something like that.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: (Can't speak. Lungs crushed. Bandwagon overflowing. Fire hazard. Gurgle gurgle.)
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals: My hatred of Cedric Benson is less than my hatred of what Denver calls a defense.
Mike Bell, RB, Saints: I don't think Pierre Thomas is playing. I know Detroit is terrible. And Bell has not only looked terrific this preseason, the Saints were a top-10 team last year in terms of rushing touchdowns.
Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens: See Flacco, Joe.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans: See Schaub, Matt, and also realize that last year, the Jets gave up the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: More a gut call than anything, though Santana Moss does have three three-touchdown games in his career and two of them have been against the G-Men. Moss also had a score last year in the game at the Meadowlands.
Troy Williamson, WR, Jaguars: He was second in the NFL in preseason receiving yards. And, as our crack team over at Scouts Inc. notes: "Receivers can find some success when attacking the Colts' safeties, especially with Bob Sanders hurting. Besides Lewis over the middle, Troy Williamson has the size and speed to threaten the Colts over the middle and deep."
Week 1 players I hate
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: I have him ranked lowest among anyone and I know folks accuse me of being a Rivers hater. And maybe they are right. Look, I think Rivers is a really good real-life quarterback. That's not the issue. I'm just down on him more than most this year from a fantasy perspective because I expect a healthy LT to get more red zone work and the better San Diego Chargers defense to not get the team involved in too many shootouts. I also think you don't mess with Nnamdi Asomugha, even if he's not 100 percent. As great a year as Rivers had last season, in two games versus the Oakland Raiders in 2008, he had 180 and 214 yards passing respectively. And in the game at Oakland last year, only one score and three turnovers. Why? Because you beat the Raiders by running the ball, and it's really hard, even for the great Philip Rivers, to throw the ball while LT is hanging on to it.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: The Redskins' defense has injured a lot of quarterbacks in the preseason. Will it continue into the regular season?
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: I love a fresh cup of Coffee in the morning.
Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, WR, Bills: I tend not to like road teams on Monday night to begin with. National stage, crowd gets really amped up, all that. But in this case, it's an unmitigated disaster. The Buffalo Bills' first-team offense looked horrific in the preseason, Owens hasn't played very much, the offensive line is a mess and Trent Edwards will spend a lot of time on his back. No, no, no thank you. Not even with your team.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: If you have him, you have to start him. But I'm down on him in a salary cap-type game because of Asante Samuel, the blitzing pressure that the Eagles will bring and Jake Delhomme's general Jake Delhommeness.
That's all I got this week. Thanks for reading and good luck. And when you see a Giants-Redskins highlight, think of Joe for me. Just for a second.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is taking Baltimore in his Eliminator game. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend
Matthew Berry lists the players he loves and those he hates for Week 1 of the NFL season.