Commentary

Tales of woe and desperation

Updated: December 15, 2009, 4:43 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

The Talented Mr. Roto

I don't wanna hear it.

You played against Brandon Marshall and the Johnsons, Chris and Andre. You had Aaron Rodgers, Rashard Mendenhall and Randy Moss. You listened to some (ahem) idiot on the Internet and didn't start Eli Manning. I get it. I hear you, and I feel your pain. But I don't wanna hear it.

Because before you go feeling sorry for yourself, I want you to be aware of six people not named Blake Thompson. You see, we have this game called Streak for the Cash. Real simple game. We set up a bunch of games and props. You pick the winner. Get it right and start a streak. That's where the "streak" part of the game's name comes in.

We invited the seven folks with the longest streaks of the year to come to Bristol this past weekend, where they had a "pick-off." And the person with the longest streak over the course of the weekend would win $1 million. As in, $999,999 more than $1. That's where the "cash" part of our game comes in.

Blake is the guy who won. Good, smart, nice guy; you can see and hear his story many places, including on our Tuesday Fantasy Focus podcast. But I wanna talk about the other six. Just to get to this pick-off, they each had streaks of at least 29 wins in a row. Unless you've played the game, and many of you have because it's been wildly popular, you have no idea how tough that is. I think my high is nine. It's crazy hard, unbelievably addictive and a lot of fun.

So OK. They have done the improbable and picked at least 29 winners in a row and beaten every other person who has tried the game in order to be here and have a chance at $1 million.

No one really expected my Redskins, off a soul-crushing overtime loss to the Saints, to travel all the way to the West Coast and beat a Raiders team that had just taken down the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Certainly not Adam from Louisville, Ky., who took Oakland and lost his streak (and shot at a million dollars) with Washington's win.

Every Marion Barber owner was going nuts when he had multiple tries from the goal line and couldn't get in against San Diego. But no one was rooting harder than Kelly from Harleysville, Pa. The only female of our "Streak 7," Kelly needed just one stupid yard. If Barber scores that touchdown, Dallas probably wins and Kelly's shot at a million bucks stays alive. Think about that: one yard.

Pargev from Las Vegas had the ranked Cincinnati Bearcats in college basketball. And they were up five with less than a minute to go before they lost to Xavier in double overtime. Think about that. Think about losing your shot at a million bucks with a five-point lead with less than a minute to go.

But ultimately, think about Mike from Watseka, Ill.; Kevin from Doylestown, Pa.; and Jason from Nashville, Tenn. It was down to the three of them and Blake. One of the four of them was guaranteed to be a millionaire. Life-changing stuff, you know?

Mike, Kevin and Jason were tied for the lead, and none wanted another to take a lead solo. So they all had to pick, and the only game left to pick was a Football League Championship game in England. As in, soccer. Mike, Kevin and Jason all took the favorite, West Bromwich Albion, to win. In fact, 83 percent of the folks who picked that game went with them.

Jonas Olsson
Laurence Griffiths/Getty ImagesBy decree of Man's Law, Blake Thompson is now obligated to wear a Queens Park Rangers jersey every Dec. 14th to mark the anniversary of his win.

And West Bromwich Albion probably would have won … if one of their own players had not headed a ball into his own goal. Now think about that. Think about losing a million dollars because a professional soccer player accidentally heads a ball into his own goal.

As a result, the game ended in a 2-2 tie, meaning Blake's pick of the Queens Park Rangers to win or draw extended his streak to an insurmountable eight games, making him our newest Streak for the Cash millionaire.

Blake deserves our congratulations. But as you sit there cursing Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald or shaking your head in disbelief because someone started Willis McGahee against you on a whim and had both Rob Bironas and the Titans' defense as well, think of our six Streak finalists.

It happens. You need to be good. You need to do your homework. But you also need some luck sometimes. And as frustrating as it may be, just because you lost doesn't mean you're a bad player. It means it wasn't your week. And you are not alone, my friend.

Don't Look Back in Anger

"Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. " -- Paul Boese

Here are some guys I have suggested you pick up in previous editions of this column (sometimes, many weeks over … Quinton Ganther, ahem). 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. So consider this a combo of obvious names and a listing of guys previously discussed. Unless noted, 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 (80 percent); Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins (32 percent); Jason Campbell, QB, Redskins (24 percent); Robert Meachem, WR, Saints (79 percent); Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (57 percent); Leonard Weaver, RB, Eagles (1 percent); Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons (44 percent); Fred Davis, TE, Redskins (7 percent); Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (46 percent) ; Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers (20 percent); Jason Avant, WR, Eagles (17 percent); Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (28 percent); Devin Thomas, WR, Redskins (7 percent).

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs (79 percent) comes back from suspension this week, and if he's available, I like him more than any of the wide receivers listed above. He plays Cleveland in his first game back. Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles (84 percent) has returned to practice and certainly, if you have the room, is a worthy flyer.

Pickups of the week

"I hope you have a license, baby, 'cause you're driving me crazy."

Chris Jennings, RB, Browns (1 percent): As long as we're talking depressed folks and bad beats above, can we add a fantasy columnist who last week touted Jerome Harrison as not just a good pick-up, but a good play against the Steelers? And he was totally right … except it was the wrong Browns running back. Thanks, Mangenius.

Harrison had an illness going into the game, and Jennings was the more explosive runner. He looked good, getting 73 yards and a score on 20 touches. It's still a muddied situation, and I expect both Harrison and Josh Cribbs to get work against Kansas City on Sunday. But the Chiefs are such a tasty matchup that you have to take the flier and grab Jennings, even if you don't use him. Better him to be on your bench than against you. He's the No. 1 pickup this week because of this matchup and the one with the Raiders the week after. (You know, the reasons I also liked Harrison.) We'll try to get more clarity on this situation as the week goes on, but if he can get 20 touches against K.C. and Oakland, that's a very good thing.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans (1 percent): Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you? Foster came into the game last week against Seattle and performed well. Of course, everyone performed well. Except Kevin Walter. Grumble, grumble. But I digress. Foster had 17 touches for 88 yards and Texans head coach Gary Kubiak says they are going to give him a long look. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is also a big fat liar, liar, pants on fire. He's from the Mike Shanahan school of "he will totally say one thing and then do another just to jerk around fantasy owners." At least, that's my impression. But just like Jennings above, even if you don't have the guts to start him this week (or even the need), you don't want your opponent to get him. Not with the Rams and their 27th-ranked run defense on the docket.

Crabtree
Kyle Terada/US PresswireThose of you holding out for a big Michael Crabtree performance could be rewarded in the final two weeks of the season. Get it? Holding out?

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (59 percent): Honestly, he should be in the "Don't Look Back in Anger" section above since I've mentioned him a ton, especially in the middle of the season. But I'm pulling him out and spotlighting him a little more because he's still available in more than 40 percent of leagues, he now has two scores in his last four games and at least 54 yards receiving in four straight games, and I'm short on some wide receivers this week. And oh yeah, he plays Detroit and St. Louis in Weeks 16 and 17.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (55 percent): A touchdown in two straight, at least 60 yards in four straight and two embarrassing drops on national TV. It's like he's a young Braylon Edwards! Anyway, he's starting now for the Giants, and frankly, I don't love him against the Redskins on Monday night. And Carolina and Minnesota are both solid pass defenses as well. So it's not a great schedule the rest of the way. But he's got big-play ability, Eli is looking for him, and he's producing -- which, at this point, is all you can ask for.

Texans D/ST (5 percent): A week after scoring 15 fantasy points against Seattle, Houston, a team that is still in the hunt and desperately needs a win, visits St. Louis. That would be for a matchup with a Rams teams featuring a banged-up Steven Jackson and a third-string quarterback. It's a squad that just gave up 21 points to the Titans' defense. In fact, no team gives up more fantasy points to opposing defenses than the Rams. The defense facing them has scored at least nine fantasy points in five straight weeks.

Johnny Knox, WR, Bears (39 percent): He has a score in two of his past three, and he's here because of the injury to Devin Hester and the matchup against the Lions in Week 17. He's pretty much feast-or-famine, but he's a big-play threat and, if Ed Reed is out again, could be OK against Baltimore this week as well.

Just below the Mendoza Line

"I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it."

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.

With Kevin Smith done for the year, it means an increase in value for both Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown. I like Brown more from a skills standpoint. Morris will probably get more opportunity, however, and I don't trust either against an angry and embarrassed Arizona team. But those in deep leagues, take note.

With Devin Hester banged up, another Devin, of the Aromashodu variety, had eight receptions for 76 yards and a score this past week. … I certainly don't like him this week against the Jets, but I'd be shocked if Matt Ryan comes back, and Chris Redman, QB, Falcons, has at least 14 fantasy points in two of his past three, had nine points in the other week and gets the Buccaneers in Week 17. … I'm still not ready to totally write off Ryan Moats, RB, Texans (See "Kubiak, Gary" and "evil" in the Arian Foster writeup), and he did score last week. More than one guy could have a good game against St. Louis.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders, lined up at wide receiver some and had some nice success for Oakland. He finished with 105 total yards and faces Cleveland in Week 16. … I expect Larry Fitzgerald to be back for Arizona on Sunday, but if not, it was Early Doucet, WR, Cardinals, who got looks and would have decent value against Detroit. … And finally, I mentioned Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots, last week but didn't want to put him in above in the obvious-name section or again as a pick-up. But he's gonna get six or seven touches Sunday, and against Buffalo, that may be enough to help you out.

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 don't think they will ultimately lead you to the promised land, based on their schedules and on who else is available in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.

Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco (sigh), David Garrard (double sigh), Matt Cassel, Matt Ryan, Matt Hasselbeck, Jay Cutler, LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, Donald Brown, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, Kevin Smith, Darren Sproles, Willie Parker, Derrick Ward, Clinton Portis, Rock Cartwright, Mario Manningham, Lee Evans, Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Kevin Walter, Bernard Berrian, Laveranues Coles, Devin Hester, Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey, Dustin Keller, New York Giants D/ST, Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST.

That's all I got. We'll see you on Thursday for Love / Hate. Thanks for reading. And for not telling me about it. Because seriously. I don't wanna hear it.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- played against a team that had Marshall, DeSean Jackson, Chris Johnson and Rob Bironas. Good times, good times. 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"