Commentary

QB, thy shalt not sit thyself!

Matthew Berry lists the players he loves and hates for Week 9 of the NFL season

Updated: November 6, 2009, 2:21 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

The Talented Mr. Roto

This is not my story.

And even better, it's been told before, most recently on "Fantasy Football Now," the show we do every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET on both ESPN.com and ESPN2. But we all know I'm going to disappoint you at some point in the column, so why not get it out of the way right at the top?

But I love this story, so I'm going to tell it again. And it starts like this …

So my fellow FF Now (that's what the cool kids call it) analyst Tim Hasselbeck is in a fantasy football league this year with, among other folks, his brother, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. It should shock no one that Matt went QB-heavy with his team, drafting not only himself but also his former real-life Packers teammate, Brett Favre.

Like many people I meet, it's Matt's first-year playing fantasy. But he showed the objectivity of a wily veteran when, in Week 5, he decided to bench himself for the ol' gunslinger. It made sense. Favre was coming off a red-hot dismantling of Green Bay on "Monday Night Football," had seven scores in his past three games and was facing the Rams, among the worst pass defenses in the league.

I'll save you the trouble of looking it up. Brett threw for 232 yards, only one score (plus a pick) and finished with 11 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring. Sixteen different quarterbacks finished with more points than Brett that week, including such names as Josh Johnson, Chad Henne and Daunte Culpepper (against the Steelers!).

And sitting on Matt Hasselbeck's bench was, well, Matt Hasselbeck, who threw for four scores against the Jaguars and finished with 27 fantasy points. More than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or any other quarterback that week.

Think about that. He knew the game plan, he had as much control over an NFL game as any fantasy player could ever have, he wound up as the highest-scoring player at his position in the league …

Matt Hasselbeck
Brian Bahr/Getty Images"Let's see... 241 times 0.04 for passing, plus two points for my rush yards and 16 for my touchdowns ... Sonofa, I scored how much?"

… AND HE WAS SITTING ON HIS OWN BENCH.

And I'm gonna shock you even more. I think Matt made the right call.

In my ranks that week, I had Brett at 10 and Hasselbeck at 13. I liked the matchup for Matt, of course, but how do you sit a red-hot Brett Favre against the Rams? Remember, Hasselbeck hadn't played for the two games leading up to Week 5 because of the back injury. How healthy was he? Would he last the game? Would his rhythm be off any?

Coming into that week, the Rams had given up 27 fantasy points to Aaron Rodgers in their previous home game. Matt knew the Rams' pass defense (or lack thereof) very well; he had torched them for three scores in Week 1. Meanwhile, the Jaguars were riding a two-game win streak, including a win two weeks earlier against a pretty good Houston Texans team and, while they had not played great pass defense in either game, it stood to reason the Jags would be a tougher test for Matt than the Rams for Brett.

Obviously, it didn't work out for Matt, but that's the nature of the game. All any of us can do, in any week, is make the best possible decisions, taking every factor into account and then letting the game unfold. Sometimes, it doesn't play out the way you expect.

It's like when you're sitting at a blackjack table. Some drunk girl is sitting on an 18 and the dealer is showing 10. So the drunk girl (or stupid tool of a dude, seen it both ways) says "Hit me." The table rolls their eyes in disgust … and then the dealer throws down a three. The drunk girl is all proud. "I knew it! I had a feeling!"

And I'm like … No! That was dumb! Just because it worked out doesn't mean it was a good decision, you idiot. It was a terrible decision and you happened to get lucky. Had you stayed on 18 and the dealer revealed his 20, you would have lost. But it would have been the right move.

Because it's not about that one hand. It's about the whole time you're at the table. And not just that one night but every time you play. Because odds are, three out of four times you bust when you pull a card when you are showing 18. And over the long haul -- a night of playing cards or a season of playing fantasy football -- playing the odds will work in your favor many more times than not.

If a batter gets a hit three times out of 10, he's a star. If an NFL GM gets two or three picks right a year, it's a great draft class. As ESPN Stats & Information researcher Jeremy Lundblad notes, Tiger Woods, arguably the most dominant athlete ever, has played in 253 PGA Tour events and has won 71 of them. That is 28.1 percent of the events that he has entered.

I rank 250 players every week and I'll be the first to admit I don't get them all right. And even if I could look into the future, what good would that do you? Like, say I had ranked Ryan Moats last week as my No. 1 running back. And Mark Sanchez as my No. 3 QB. Or Larry Fitzgerald, during a week with six teams on a bye, outside my top 20? You'd have thought I was bonkers. And you'd have been right.

Because even though all three things were true, the odds of them happening were not great. In the case of Moats, they were astronomical.

I'm gonna repeat this: Matt Hasselbeck knew the game plan, he had as much control over an NFL game as any fantasy player could ever have, he wound up as the highest-scoring player at his position in the league … and he was sitting on his own bench.

If Matt couldn't nail it, what the hell chance do any of us have? And the answer is that it's a very tough challenge. Which is all the more reason you play the odds, you put yourself in the best chance to win and you hope for the best.

That's good advice for life, too. Which brings us to this week's players that I think have better or worse odds of doing what they normally do …

Week 9 players I love

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: I know, he's been brutal. But the last time he was on the road, he scored twice. The Falcons are coming off a short week and New Orleans ran all over them. They are 23rd against the run, Portis is off the injury report for the first time since, like, 1968, and I'm expecting a heavy dose of Clinton on the road.

Brian Williams
Marcel Thomas/Getty ImagesAward-winning journalist Brian Williams does not, in fact, have 19 career interceptions and hasn't tackled anybody since the unfortunate White House Press Corps dinner incident of 2003.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: The Falcons really miss Brian Williams. Not the NBC newsman. He's still a trusted source of information every single night. I mean their cornerback, who was a trusted source of stopping passes. Now? Not so much.

Fred Davis, TE, Redskins: Falcons giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and Davis has now had a bye week to get even more integrated into the offense.

Devin Hester, WR, Bears: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie loves to gamble (I bet he hits on 18), which means a big-play guy like Hester can burn him the way Steve Smith did last week

Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals: Not counting the Browns game, the Bears have given up at least 19 fantasy points to opposing running backs in three of the past four. With Boldin banged up, I wouldn't be surprised to see Beanie Wells have a nice game too, but if I'm picking an Arizona runner, it's Hightower. Of course, if I am picking an Arizona runner, I'm also screwed.

Ray Rice and Cedric Benson: Two obvious names, but putting them here in case you were thinking of sitting either guy. Yes, both teams are top-five in rush defense, but it's what we talked about above. Okay, what I typed and you read above. These guys are must-starts, no matter what, because odds are they're going to do better than anyone you have on your bench.

Steve Slaton, RB, Texans: I'm calling my shot. Slaton gets the majority of carries against Indy and reclaims the starting gig. I own Moats now in a few leagues and I'm glad I have him as an insurance policy (since I also own Slaton), but Slaton got his wake-up call.

Benjamin Watson, TE, Patriots: He will score. Or completely disappoint. Often describes a night out with me.

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers: Tampa Bay has allowed six scores to opposing running backs in their past three. Ryan Grant qualifies at running back. It's fun when it all works out like that.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: I swear, Jamaal, if you let me down …

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: Under the category of "If Vince Young can do it, anyone can …"

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: My epitaph will read: Here lies Matthew Berry. He believed in David Garrard long after it was rational, or reasonable.

Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars: If you are in a deep league and looking during a bye week, he's had five fantasy points each of the past two weeks and I expect him to get that here as well, with upside for a little more.

Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell, RB, Saints: Panthers are brutal against the run.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks: He's playing Detroit. Hopefully, he's starting himself, what with that other guy on a bye and all.

Julius Jones, Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, John Carlson, Seahawks: Just making sure we all saw this. At home. Against Detroit. And to those of you who will gleefully point out that Carlson was on my "Dumpsville" list, I wish you would read the explanation to that section as intently as the names themselves.

Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers: With a banged-up 49ers line, I expect the Titans to blitz a lot, meaning dump-offs to guys like Davis.

Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers: I'm saying 75 yards or the fantasy points equivalent, thanks to that banged-up Giants secondary.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants: You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. You start your tight end against the Chargers. Someone dig up Jim Croce. He needs to re-record something.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: I know, he's been bad lately. But the Eagles have been even worse against the tight end.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: "Because I'm a Maclin daddy, baby" is the kind of pick-up line that never works, but should.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: In case you were thinking of getting cute: Don't. He goes off in this one.

Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers: For those in deeper leagues, I could see him getting deep for one in a game with a lot more throwing than folks might think. Say, seven or eight fantasy points.

Week 9 players I hate

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: Held to 11 fantasy points or fewer in four of his past five, the Redskins are coming off a bye and are tied for second in pass defense.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals: Don't think he's playing (writing this Thursday morning) and if he does, I don't feel he will be very effective.

Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: Arizona has given up eight fantasy points combined to opposing tight ends in the past three weeks.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: Traditionally does not play well against the Ravens, who looked like they figured some things out in their secondary last week.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: The Texans have been great against the run for a while now. Addai has disappointed for almost as long.

Cadillac
Don Emmert/Getty ImagesGet it?

Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots: It's like we discussed above. Does starting Laurence Maroney give me the best odds of winning? And the answer, of course, is almost always no.

Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers: Keep him in the garage.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints: His lack of involvement in the offense has been puzzling and disappointing to me. Of course, the Saints are 7-0, so they probably don't care what I think.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: Banged-up and on the road, it's not a great matchup for Smith. Seattle is actually 10th-best in the NFL against the run. He'll be OK, but he's not a must-start.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants: The Chargers allow the sixth-least fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Now, some of that is because they've faced JaMarcus Russell twice and the always-potent Chad Pennington/Chad Henne combo in the game in which Pennington got injured. But Eli has struggled recently too, with 11 or fewer fantasy points in three straight games. I expect both sides to pound the run game, which means fewer opportunities for Eli and his receivers.

Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks, WRs, Giants: And when they do pass, it'll be Kevin Boss getting more looks than normal.

Roy E. Williams, WR, Cowboys: I don't think even Roy bought that whole "I'm still the No. 1 guy" speech.

Brent Celek, TE, Eagles: You probably don't have better options, but the Cowboys have shut down Tony Gonzalez and John Carlson the past two weeks, and I expect McNabb to spread the ball a lot in the game.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: The Broncos have allowed only two passing touchdowns at home all year. Big Ben will be OK, but not amazing like he has been. Check my updated rankings Friday for the list of QBs I'd bench him for.

Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: Feel they are going to need him to block more in this game versus the Denver defense.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: Knowshon? Knowsir.

That's all I got for Week 9. Hope it all works out for you, even if you make a dumb move.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- always splits his aces but never his 10s. He is 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

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"

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