- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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My brother Jonathan is angry with me.
It's my mom Nancy's birthday today. And it has Jonathan asking, "What am I gonna do? It's not like I have a national column to wish her a happy birthday. How am I gonna compete with that?"
The answer, of course, is that he can't. I mean, he's already accepted her as a Facebook friend. He's got nothing left. So he's gonna have to deal with it.
Three years younger than me, my brother Jonathan is better looking, has more hair, is smarter and more well-liked. He has more friends, a fantastic wife and is amazing at his job (he's a TV producer). He's got a better and more well-rounded world view, he's kinder, more loyal, more religious and funnier. My mom calls him "the good son."
The sad part is she's right. Jonathan calls her more, knows more about everything going on with my mom and dad and is less selfish with his time.
I'm taller and got the column. That's pretty much it. So yeah, I'm gonna use it.
I've got a great mom. My outgoing personality, my humor, my willingness to fight for whatever I believe in, consequences be damned, all comes from my mom. When I was a kid and trying to get ranked in the state of Texas as a junior tennis player (got as high as No. 41 one year), she drove me many hours to godforsaken places like Wichita Falls and Corpus Christi. If you know anything about Texas geography, getting from College Station to either of those places, along with spots like Odessa-Midland or Beaumont, is brutal. She drove and never complained. Nor did she mention it when, at 18 years old, I realized I no longer liked tennis and didn't pick up a racket competitively for the rest of my life.
From Texas to Syracuse for college to Los Angeles to Connecticut, she has helped me move many, many times over. And not just physically. When I wanted to try a career as a screenwriter, and then when I wanted to leave it for a career in fantasy sports, when I went from single to getting married and then when I went from being married to being single again, she helped me move. Like I said, many times over.
You are either a big birthday person or you are not. I am not. I hate my birthday. It's Dec. 29, and every year, I get jobbed. It's between Christmas and New Year's Eve, so it's winter break time and as a kid in school, I never got that one day when my mom would bring in cupcakes for everyone.
I moved around a lot as a kid, so there were different traditions at different schools, but I remember one where, for all the kids who had birthdays over the holidays, there would be one day in January when we would celebrate all of them. Nothing special about that. It stunk. The birthday equivalent of "others receiving votes." It's like, What? No!
Friends and family would always give me one gift. "This is for Christmas and your birthday." "I'm Jewish." "... and Hanukkah." It's total crap, frankly. Would you say to your friend for his birthday in July, "Hey, I gave you a present at Christmas, so we're good, right?" No. Exactly. If you've ever given a gift like that, I don't care what the recipient told you to your face ... he or she was pissed. And he or she was right, you selfish jerk. Come on! Let's hear it! All those born the week between Christmas and New Year's, Birthday Pride unite!
As an adult, people are never around during the holidays and there are so many obligations with other parties, family, etc., it's impossible to find a night to have a decent party to celebrate. I've tried a million different things. It's always a disappointment. I'm sure this year will be no different, especially since I have to work that day. Seriously. And it's your fault: The final edition of this season's column will be due that day. I really hate my birthday.
It's why other people's birthdays are very important to me. I don't want anyone else dealing with the stuff I do. And at the top of the list of important birthdays is my mom's.
My mom, bless her, was the only one who would make sure I had separate presents. That my birthday wasn't lumped in with Hanukkah or New Year's or Christmas or any other kid's birthday or anything else. She made me feel special, even if, on the one day everyone is supposed to, no one else really did.
I don't know what makes a good birthday. I'm so screwed up on the subject I can't be objective.
But I guess the best thing you can do on someone's birthday is to tell them that you love them. That they are important to you, that they make your life better by being in it and that frankly, you're pretty damn glad they were born.
Happy birthday, Mom. Thanks for, you know, the whole giving me life thing. And everything after that.
Don't Look Back in Anger
"If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size?" -- Sydney J. Harris
Here are some guys I have suggested you pick up in previous editions of this column (sometimes, many weeks over ... Jamaal Charles, Pierre Garcon, Robert Meachem, ahem). Seriously, if you want to hear my pitch on those guys, go back and look at last week's column. Both this section and the pickup list. Regardless, you managed to avoid my genius, or you ran into my idiocy and picked up the wrong guys. Either way, they are remarkably still available in some leagues.
Frankly, this section is a much better list of names than anything that will follow. It's the fantasy playoffs and if you are in, chances are you are gonna have to go with the guys who got you there. No real big injuries this past week that opened up new opportunities. Gonna be a fairly small list of pickups.
So consider this a combo of obvious names and a listing of guys previously discussed. They should be picked up before any of the guys listed below them. I've listed them in the order I would claim them if team needs do not dictate a specific positional requirement. As always, ownership percentages are for ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs (68 percent); Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (43 percent); Robert Meachem, WR, Saints (48 percent); Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers (53 percent); Fred Jackson, RB, Bills (81 percent); Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (46 percent); Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (14 percent); Alex Smith, QB, 49ers (29 percent); Vince Young, QB, Titans (25 percent); Jason Campbell, QB, Redskins (20 percent); Jason Avant, WR, Eagles (24 percent); Rock Cartwright, RB, Redskins (29 percent); Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks (68 percent); Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons (43 percent); Kevin Walter, WR, Texans (62 percent); Chris Brown, RB, Texans (13 percent); Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs (57 percent); Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (3 percent).
It's also worth noting that Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks, is owned in only about 70 percent of leagues. If he's available, I like him ahead of Fred Jackson on the list above.
Pickups of the week
"Say baby, I'm not drunk, I'm just intoxicated by you."
Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns (6 percent): Perhaps you remember Harrison from such lists as "Welcome to Dumpsville," "Another Brown you don't want to own," and "Who?" But as we always say, fantasy value changes almost daily. And a couple of things happened since we last left him behind in the rain as we drove off into the sunset: Jamal Lewis suffered a concussion and is done for the year, Brady Quinn has looked semi-respectable and I've got a column due about pickups and there's not much out there. Harrison not only scored twice against San Diego last week, he had 10 rushes for 35 yards. Wait. That's not that impressive. No, it isn't, but here's the part I like: seven receptions for 65 yards. Both touchdowns were on passes and he was targeted 11 times, which is the thing I like the most. And then look at his schedule the next three weeks. Steelers on Thursday on a short week, but then K.C. and Oakland. And by the way, if you were scrambling, I don't hate Harrison against the Steelers. Short week, Harrison is a big part of the pass game and Pittsburgh clearly misses Troy Polamalu. Last three games, the quarterbacks who have faced them (Bruce Gradkowski, Joe Flacco and Matt Cassel) have thrown for 308, 289 and 248 yards, respectively.
Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots (34 percent): Long before Laurence Maroney came back from the dead to become a fantasy zombie, Morris was the goal-line back. I have no idea what Bill Belichick is going to do and anyone telling you different is lying. But he has trusted Morris in the past, Morris did have 65 yards on just 11 touches Sunday and with the Panthers and Bills (both horrible against the run) the next two teams on the menu, Morris could be a nice value down the stretch.
Garrett Hartley, K, Saints (5 percent): A kicker? Really, Berry? Sigh. Yes, really. Told you it was an ugly week. Look, I think kickers are kickers are kickers. That said, he's on the best offense in football and only Week 17 is played outdoors for the Saints, and it's at Carolina, which shouldn't be too bad. He also had 14 fantasy points on Sunday and he's probably better than whomever you have at the moment.
Bo Scaife, TE, Titans (7 percent): Nothing exciting here, and frankly, I don't totally buy it. But he's my favorite Bo since Duke or Derek, he does have five receptions each of the past two weeks, including a score this past week and 68 yards two weeks ago. With St. Louis, Miami, San Diego and Seattle the next four games, I'm taking notice. All four teams are in the upper half of the league in terms of points allowed to opposing tight ends.
Devin Thomas, WR, Redskins (1 percent): Honestly, I don't totally trust Thomas and not sure I would have the guts to start him during the playoffs in anything but the deepest of leagues. But I put him here because I wanted to point out that I have mentioned him in the Mendoza section a few times before, including last week, and I'm guessing no one else had him on their radar. Come on, I'm allowed a little back patting. He's increased his receptions for four straight weeks now and is clearly becoming a bigger part of the offense. I don't expect seven receptions for 100 yards and two scores every week, but I do like his skills and, as noted previously about Jason Campbell in this column, the offense has improved under Sherm Lewis, at least from a fantasy perspective.
Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders (1 percent): I know. Look. I know. But facts are facts. He has 11, 13 and 26 fantasy points the past three weeks. He is getting more and more comfortable. And the Raiders get Cleveland in Week 16. Would I have the guts to start him then? Probably not, if I am being honest. But I wouldn't want my desperate opponent starting him against me, either.
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins (5 percent): He's now scored in two straight and while I actually do not like him against the Raiders, I do think he'll be OK after that. There's not a lot else I can say here. He's Fred Davis. He's solid.
Just below the Mendoza Line:
"Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug."
It's a baseball saying, but it's appropriate here, as well (as far as I'm concerned, OK?). Here are some guys who shouldn't be picked up in 10-team leagues, but for those in 12-team leagues or deeper, I like them, and you should keep an eye on them.
Still not sure the extent of Steve Slaton's injury, but if he misses another game, Ryan Moats, RB, Texans, will get work against the Seahawks. ... I don't think you can count on ever seeing that again (100 yards, a touchdown) from Leonard Weaver, RB, Eagles, but I also felt that way after Week 8 when he had 75 yards and a touchdown. ... Games on the road at Jacksonville and Tennessee along with the Steelers in Week 17 don't fill me with tons of confidence, but you have to notice what the Miami trio of Chad Henne, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano did against the Patriots. It was Fasano's second straight game with at least 60 yards, incidentally. ... Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins, got basically the same workload as Rock Cartwright (and looked solid) and any running back could have value against the Raiders. ... Speaking of the Raiders, everything I said about Bruce Gradkowski applies for Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders, and finally, I thought Tyrell Sutton, RB, Panthers, looked solid for Carolina backing up Jonathan Stewart. If DeAngelo Williams misses any more time, considering Stewart is not the healthiest cat around, Sutton is a name to have on your radar.
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
As always, these are not guys I'm saying you need to drop, and as always, some of you will ignore that caveat. But if you need roster space, I have no issue with dropping these guys. They're good players who will have productive weeks but I feel they ultimately won't lead you to the promised land, based on their schedules and on who else is available in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.
Matt Cassel, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez, Jamal Lewis, Clinton Portis, Donald Brown, Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, Darren Sproles, Willie Parker, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, Steve Breaston, Donnie Avery, Devin Hester, Bernard Berrian, Eddie Royal, Santana Moss, Torry Holt, Johnny Knox, Chris Cooley, Todd Heap, John Carlson.
That's all I got. Happy birthday, Mom. And to everyone who has a birthday between Dec. 20 and Jan. 5.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- also loves his dad. But his birthday is in September. 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
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