Replacing Romo and other tragic tales
You are not alone.
Oh, I get it. Alone, staring at your TV, the big screen at the bar, your phone, a text from your buddy, your ESPN fantasy football app, your computer, hearing an update on the radio or even in the department store electronics section that you sneaked off to for a minute while your wife continued to shop because she keeps making you do crap on the weekend even though you keep bringing up to the couples therapist that Sundays are for football and all you want to do is be left alone to watch the games but you're along to the mall to try to make it work because of the kids the feeling is the same.
That sick feeling. That knowing, growing pit in the bottom of your stomach that screams out "Oh gawd, what did I do?"
You are not alone.
You went heavy on running back and wide receiver and had only Tony Romo as your quarterback. And you watched Monday night as he writhed on the ground, the pain Romo felt mirroring the hurt your fantasy team feels, I am here to tell you
You are not alone.
With a goal-line fumble that wasn't called (sorry, Miami fans, you got jobbed) to goal-line touchdowns that weren't called (thank you, Lovie, for not challenging. Hail to the Redskins!) to Cleveland going on the road with a third-string rookie quarterback making his second start ever to demolish the Super Bowl champs to Oakland putting almost 60 on Denver on the road with their backup quarterback, to injured and punished players going off, to four of the best eight quarterbacks Sunday being available in 95 percent of leagues, to Dez Bryant outscoring Miles Austin and Roy Williams combined by 20 points, this was, to quote Bill Murray in "Tootsie," one nutty hospital.
With news of an off-field altercation, it was announced Kenny Britt would not start in a game in which backup Kerry Collins would be the quarterback against Philly despite a torn tendon in his finger. Britt was started in just 24 percent of leagues on a day when he would go off for 225 yards and three touchdowns.
Forget playing well; the 100 percent-owned Darren McFadden said over the weekend that his chances of even playing this week were just 70 percent. Limited in practice all week, coming off a hamstring injury and having a late game start meant, even in a bye week, that only 42 percent of ESPN leagues had him in their lineup as he went off for almost 200 yards, four touchdowns and a crazy 43-point day.
You are not alone. I've heard some horror stories in my day of wrong players started, points left on the bench and victory and defeat decided by the slimmest, craziest, most improbable margins. But for some reason, this weekend especially stuck out to me.
So as you sit there, bemoaning your fate, slapping yourself with an "I can't believe I was so stupid" slap to your forehead, remember it's not just you. This game humbles us all. I remind you of the story of Matt Hasselbeck, who benched himself in his own fantasy league the day he threw for four touchdowns and was the highest-scoring quarterback in the league that day. And I offer you these poor folks, who tweeted me their misery at @MatthewBerryTMR.
@MJHans: I cut Palmer for Favre, benched Britt for Meachem/Driver.
@wearinggoddshoes: I lost to the girl in our league who drafted players with nice smiles!
@mariorodri: Had McFadden in three leagues and didn't start him. In fourth league, played against him.
@joshcarver: Started the Bronco defense instead of the Titans. A -23 point swing in my league.
@BearcatNeal: I have started Sims-Walker 3 weeks for 2 receptions for 34 yds and 0 TDs. The 4 weeks I did not start him? 19-205 3 TDs.
@SummersEsq: Benched Britt AND McFadden for Driver and Felix Jones.
@A Random Hero: My girlfriend needed to drop someone to pick up a defense for the Jets bye I suggested she should drop Lee Evans.
@mattcarson2: in successive weeks: Floyd (213 yards, TD), Maclin (159, 2 TD) and now Britt (225, 3 TD) on my bench.
@JoeVanella: Dropped Peyton Hillis (last round keeper) for Maroney after Knowshon's injury. No good comes out of owning Maroney. EVER.
@Jrb1239: Hell I dropped Britt in two leagues like a month ago and I am a Titans season ticket holder.
@Franchise77: Owned Britt for one week, dropped before his streak. Played against him and lost, 12-team, start 4 WR.
And, of course
@Baldy_625: Romo was my only QB in a 12 team league.
And this is just a sampling. Thousands more examples have poured in to me on Twitter and my mailbag. As you stare blankly at your screen the morning after, or toss and turn unable to get to sleep that night you are not alone, my friend.
At least you're (probably) not stuck with Jon Kitna
With the Romo injury, Brett Favre's status very iffy (I wouldn't play him even he does go) and guys like Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler and the Eagles QB committee on a bye this week, there are a lot of people looking for quarterbacks. And even if you aren't, consider trying to grab one; there's never been a better time to have depth at the position or to screw over a desperate opponent.
Here's how I rank the free-agent quarterbacks, many of whom I have discussed before.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills (5 percent, $25): I've talked about him in a bunch of columns, first listing him as an official pickup before Week 5, but I want to try to put him into greater perspective here. Over the four games he has started, he is averaging 20.5 fantasy points a game, with three straight games of 20 points or more and a low of 14 points in his first start.
Here are some other quarterback averages over their past four games:
Rodgers has a low of 16 points, but other than that, all the quarterbacks listed have at least one week with a lower score than 14. In other words, over the past four weeks, Fitzpatrick has been, at worst, the second-best quarterback in fantasy, and on a per-week basis, has been a top-five QB in three of the past four weeks in which he's played (the Bills were on a bye in Week 6). I don't think this is that much of a fluke. His defense and lack of a power run game will keep him throwing, Chan Gailey is an offensive-minded coach who has obviously had success before, and while I don't love the skills players around Fitzpatrick, they're not terrible. He's a mobile quarterback (fourth among quarterbacks in rushing yards despite not playing the first two games) and his 63 percent completion percentage is the same as, well, Aaron Rodgers. Other than Week 12 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bills' schedule doesn't scare anyone, and there are some nice matchups coming up soon. Fitzpatrick's passer rating is second only to Peyton this year in the AFC, and while I don't want him as my only quarterback, here's a list of quarterbacks I like less than Fitzpatrick for the rest of the season: Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne and Carson Palmer, to name a few.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (17 percent, $17): Same number of games, one more point this year than Matt Schaub. Just saying. Other than struggling against the Steelers (like everyone does), he has put up at least 12 points in every game, gets Arizona this week and has a fantasy playoff schedule that includes my generous Redskins and the Detroit Lions.
Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins (59 percent, $15): The addition of Brandon Marshall, the emergence of Davone Bess and the complete lack of a run game have meant that Henne has averaged more than 15 points a game over the past four. Like his schedule less than Cassel's, but he's also a safer option than Matt.
Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys (0 percent, $14): It wasn't pretty, but he did end up with double digits after all was said and done. Not having to face the New York Giants' pass rush, getting a full week of reps with the first team and getting to throw to all the offensive weapons the Cowboys have means he'll have fantasy value this year, and he's as available as seats on the Cowboys Super Bowl bandwagon.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets (69 percent, $13): Still a run-first team, but luckily, Rex likes to run up the score when he can.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions (22 percent, $10): How many times have we heard it? Anything Shaun Hill can do, anyone can do better. Back healthy, Stafford is now the starter for a Lions team with more weapons on offense than you realize and, before he got hurt, Hill was among the hottest fantasy quarterbacks out there.
Vince Young, QB, Titans (65 percent, $9): If healthy, he's low double digits every week.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (29 percent, $8): Nothing fancy here, but at least 11 points in five of his past six.
Alex Smith, QB, 49ers (17 percent, $5): Had double-digit points in four of his past five games and was on his way to another when he got injured against the Panthers. He's questionable for this week, or he'd be higher on this list. But if he can play, the new offensive coordinator is helping his fantasy value a decent amount.
Other quarterbacks receiving votes: I want to see it again, but Matt Moore, QB, Panthers did score 18 points last week and, with their run game struggling, he'll continue to have to throw. . He doesn't have a gig right now, but Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Vikings would be a $10 bid for me if he got the job because Favre can't go. Randy Moss, Percy Harvin and his legs would equal fantasy goodness. . He's hurt and I don't like facing Seattle anyway, but eventually Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders will be back and a solid play in future weeks. And I think the rumors of Kyle Orton's demise in Denver are premature. But if they turn to Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos, the same thing applies here: His running plus a "throw first, second, and third" offense would allow for some nice numbers.
Don't look back in angerA man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps. -- Charles Goodyear
Here are some of the guys I suggested you pick up in this column last week (and the week before and the week before that). Somehow, you managed to avoid my genius, or you ran into my idiocy and picked up the wrong guys.
Either way, they remarkably are still available in some leagues. I list them quickly here because I have already discussed them in detail, so consider this a combination of obvious names and a list of guys previously discussed.
As always, ownership percentages are for ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues. In addition, at the request of many of you, I am adding how much I would bid on this player in a league that uses FAAB money. The dollar amount is based on a standard $100 cap. When in doubt as to whom I value more or rank higher, check how much I would bid on that person. That should give you a fairly good idea of how I value a player and the order in which you should pick a guy up.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (82 percent, $38); Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (66 percent, $35); Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers (71 percent, $20); Chris Ivory, RB, Saints (45 percent, $18); Mike Williams, WR, Seahawks ($18); Fred Jackson, RB, Bills (74 percent, $15); Deion Branch, WR, Patriots (72 percent, $15); Danny Woodhead, RB/WR, Patriots (28 percent, $12); Davone Bess (19 percent, $10); Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (9 percent, $8); Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots (70 percent, $5); Seattle Seahawks D/ST (66 percent, $5); Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs (32 percent, $5); Lance Moore, WR, Saints (73 percent, $5); Nate Burleson, WR, Lions (28 percent, $4); Derrick Ward, RB, Texans (3 percent, $3); Danny Amendola, WR, Rams (19 percent, $3); Ladell Betts, RB, Saints (2 percent, $1).
As long as we've been talking about the Bills' passing game, it's worth noting that Lee Evans, WR, Bills (65 percent; $8) is out there in some leagues, including the one in which @A Random Hero's (now former?) girlfriend plays, and while I don't expect three scores like, ever again, this is his second big game in a row (18 targets over the past two games). He stunk versus the Jets, but he's not alone in that, so Fitzy has sparked some life in Evans too.
Steve Johnson, WR, Bills (14 percent, $10) has been mentioned a few times, including as a pickup before Week 6. The touchdowns we were aware of. The issues from before (not a ton of targets, behind Roscoe Parrish on depth chart) were alleviated this week. You've seen his best game of the year, but he'll continue to be productive with Fitzpatrick at the helm.
Pickups of the Week"Do you have a band-aid, baby? I hurt my knee when I fell for you." -- Unknown
A reminder that this week's bye teams are the Falcons, Bears, Browns, Giants, Eagles and Ravens. First week with six teams on a bye, so people will be scrambling more than normal, especially with seven fantasy-relevant running backs out, four top-15 wideouts and the aforementioned quarterbacks. Here's the non-signal-caller list.
Donald Brown, RB, Colts (56 percent) and Mike Hart, RB, Colts (2 percent): It's a pass-first team, they are notoriously close-lipped about injuries, and we're not sure about the distribution of carries. But they need to be owned, especially with Joseph Addai hurt. Hopefully Brown is back this week. If we knew for sure he was 100 percent and starting this week, I'd bid $20 on him. As is, a low-double-digit bid and maybe $7 or $8 on Hart, who has looked solid in limited action -- and even if Brown is healthy, there's no guarantee he stays that way.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers (1 percent, $10): I've discussed him so many times before, I'm out of bad punching jokes. But he finally got the touches Tampa Bay has been promising last week, going 72 yards on just 11 carries and frankly, should have had almost 60 more if not for penalties. Averaging almost 5 yards a carry this year, he's getting more and more work for the Bucs while Cadillac Williams is being phased out. Caddy's still in the picture, but it's more of a third-down role. As I mentioned with Freeman, it's a decent schedule, and soon Blount will be punching it in for touchdowns. Look at that. I had one more.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Chargers (4 percent, $6): Mentioned briefly last week before we knew the severity of the Chargers injuries. And the same caveats still apply. But Malcom Floyd could miss another game, and Antonio Gates is still gonna be gimpy. Which means Crayton, who had 13 targets last week (finished with a 7-for-82 game) will continue to have value, especially with San Diego's struggling run game and that it's Philip Rivers throwing to him. Now, if he can concentrate on not dropping those passes? Look out!
David Gettis, WR, Panthers (0.2 percent, $2): The No. 2 wideout on the Panthers is a rookie and has Matt Moore throwing to him. None of those things inspire confidence, but I have to tell you, I thought he looked great. I watched a decent amount of this game live and every time I looked over he was making a move, running a precise route, making something happen. Clearly, with Steve Smith drawing double coverage, Gettis is the beneficiary (a team-high nine targets on an 8-for-125 day), and as noted in Moore's, er, note, it's a nice schedule for Carolina coming up.
Washington Redskins D/ST (11 percent, $5): Currently the fifth-highest rated fantasy defense this year; don't chalk this up to just a big day against the turnover-prone Bears. Before the Chicago game, the Skins scored at least eight fantasy points against the Eagles, Packers and Colts offenses. With the Lions this week and a great fantasy playoff schedule (the Bucs, @ Cowboys, @ Jaguars and the Giants in weeks 14-17), the Redskins need to be owned in a lot more leagues.
Others receiving votes"I'm so close to Heaven, this Hell cannot be mine" -- Melissa Etheridge
Here are a few guys that I'm not saying you should pick up in 10-team leagues, but who are starting to see an uptick in value and whom you should keep an eye on or consider grabbing in deeper leagues.
Them Other Cowboys
You've already read about my take on Kitna in this column, but remember that when Kitna threw for more than 4,000 yards for two straight seasons in Detroit, his teammate was, yes, Roy E. Williams. As a result of that familiarity, Williams remains a flex play as a fantasy wide receiver. Miles Austin is no longer an elite No. 1 fantasy wideout, but he's still a solid No. 2 and you're starting him every week regardless. I wouldnt trade for him, but I also wouldn't try and sell. His upside is worth more than wht you're likely to get back from a potentail deal. As for Dez Bryant, I love his potential and skill, but he remains a match-up play with upside until we see him starting and not just on the field in 3-receiver sets. Finally, Jason Witten remains a lower tier starting fantasy tight end.
If we find out the Donald Driver injury is more serious than initially thought, that would seriously boost the value of James Jones, WR, Packers, who was on a lot of preseason sleeper lists (mine included) and got eight targets in a 4-for-107 day. If I was a Maurice Jones-Drew owner (or really wanted to screw one over), I'd make sure I had Deji Karim, RB, Jaguars on my team. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry against KC, compared to MJD's 2.9. Buster Davis, WR, Chargers is the other guy in San Diego that deserves a look as long as Floyd and Legedu Naanee are out.
I've mentioned lots of tight ends, especially last week, but it's worth noting that Owen Daniels, TE, Texans is off a bye, finally close to 100 percent healthy and has increased his receptions total for three straight games. I like him a lot in the second half. I have no idea what the fallout of the Dallas Clark and Austin Collie injuries in Indy is going to be. I've already talked about the running backs and I don't think either guy is startable right now, but my guess is Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts (if healthy) benefits more than Blair White, WR, Colts, and I'm not touching either Colts TE, but if forced to pick one, it'd probably be Jacob Tamme, TE, Colts.
Speaking of tight ends, Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, Rams is a guy they like a lot there. Scored a touchdown last week and had five targets (tied for the team lead). The plan is to get him more and more involved in the offense going forward. Interesting name for super-deep leagues. I don't trust the Jordan Shipley, WR, Bengals performance at all, but any time a guy gets 100 yards in a game, he needs to be on your radar. Speaking of radar, I thought Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles looked impressive in what little time he got out there. I'm not putting a ton of stock in the announcement that Chester Taylor, RB, Bears is going to be their goal-line back. On a bye this week, the Bears still need to get down to the goal line before they can decide who will run it. And just because they say it's Chester now doesn't mean they'll actually give him the ball. But if you're in a super-deep league and desperate, there you go
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
As always, these are not guys I'm saying you should drop, and, as always, some of you will ignore that caveat. But if you need roster space to grab someone above, I have no issue with dropping these guys. Every team's needs are different and these are good players who will have productive weeks but who I feel ultimately won't lead you to the promised land, based on schedules, this week's byes and who else is available in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.
Tony Romo, Brett Favre, Kevin Kolb, Jay Cutler, David Garrard, Cadillac Williams, C.J. Spiller, Clinton Portis, Tim Hightower, Marion Barber, Jerome Harrison, Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, John Kuhn, Kevin Walter, Brandon Tate, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Steve Breaston, Sidney Rice, Devery Henderson, Louis Murphy, Josh Morgan, any CHI WR not named Knox, Nate Washington, Legedu Naanee, Dallas Clark, Greg Olsen, Visanthe Shiancoe, Baltimore Ravens D/ST.
And now, I leave you with one more story to remind you that no, you are not alone. And whatever you've suffered, you can take some solace in the fact that it could have been worse.
Jon (New York, N.Y.): Matt, I know that in fantasy, as in life, nothing is unique, and just about everything has happened before, no matter how incredible it seems. Having said that, one of my teams this weekend dealt me a blow that not one person I've spoken to has seen before in this magnitude. The short: I started Kyle Orton, Ray Rice, Ryan Torain, Miles Austin, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith (CAR), Vernon Davis, Chargers D, and Mike Nugent, totaling (before Austin) 73 points. My bench was warmed by Matt Ryan, Darren McFadden, Beanie Wells, Kenny Britt, and Mike Williams (SEA), throwing 137 points down the tubes. My bench scored more than any other team in my league. Every choice I had, I selected the player with the fewest points. Sure, Miles Austin could turn into Run DMC and finally be the guy I drafted in the second round to make up my current 41-point deficit, but do I even want him to at this point? Is there a special term for a fantasy loser like me? Something like the Full Costanza (every instinct I had was wrong)? This is the most pressing question in sports. Please help me out.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- wouldn't have started Run DMC either. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
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