Commentary

A 'How-To' guide to Love/Hate

Updated: November 4, 2010, 5:40 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

I get e-mail.

The Talented Mr. Roto

The Huckster (Atlanta): Matthew, here is my perspective on your weekly barrage of vitriol and hatred over your "bad advice." Remember the girlfriend that just couldn't get over your breakup? After you called it quits, she might have done the drive-by routine, watching your house from her car. She definitely talked about what a jerk you were to her friends for 2 months straight. She may have even stepped into psycho and memorized your daily schedule to "accidentally" bump into you and beg for you to take her back. … This is the mindset of your followers. They are heavily invested in your unique blend of deep roster analysis, self deprecating humor, celebrity-centered anecdotes and rightfully so. The hate mail you receive each week means that you are ranked somewhere between God and beer on their importance scale, because you "let them down" somehow. We should all be so lucky.

TMR: I appreciate the e-mail, Huckster, if that is indeed your Christian name. I enjoy the idea that my haters are, in fact, just another version of crazy chicks. Frankly, it makes a lot of sense. But although my readers are a passionate lot, you're giving me way too much credit. Between God and beer? I mean, nobody's that obsessed with me …

Ryan Lawrence (Denver): What does it all mean, Berry? You were in my dream last night. … There were other guys from my league in the dream as well and of course, we were all competing for your attention; you are on TV after all. The interesting thing is that I was seeking your advice on which movie to rent from the video store, which is funny not only because you wrote "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles," but also because it has nothing to do with Fantasy Football. The details of the dream are getting fuzzier as the day goes on, but I have come to the conclusion that it means one of two things; I listen to you too much, or not enough. What do you think?

TMR: I think it could be worse. You could be Chuck's friend Brad.

Chuck Turberville (Pittsburgh): A group of myself and two friends are standing around in a fine establishment on Bourbon Street enjoying Halloween. We're talking to girls and having an awesome time, when my other friend, Ritchie, turns around, he sees Brad running out of the place, frantically. We figure something's wrong so we chase after him. When we finally get close enough to the still-running Brad, he informs us that he thought he saw Matthew Berry. He sprints away from us again. Finally, he runs right up to this guy whom he's never met, gets right in his face and waves back to us, shaking his arms in an "X" in the air. "It's not Matthew Berry!" … I hope you enjoyed this one little thought from my trip to New Orleans and if it really was you, I'm sorry someone ran up to you and shouted right in your face. Keep up the good work.

Halloween
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty ImagesDon't be a Brad. Have your priorities straight.

TMR: I'm in the advice business, Chuck. Usually it's about fantasy sports, but occasionally I venture into other areas. This is one of those times. There is never a good time to run after someone you think might be me. I'm not that interesting. But especially when you are talking to women. In New Orleans. On Halloween.

Alternate response: So you're saying it's not just my columns that are keeping you from scoring?

Sluke1090 (Pittsburgh): Just wanted to say great job. Don't let the haters get you down. Football is unpredictable yet you do pretty good. Your projections aren't always on target but I can appreciate the logic you put behind them. Thanks to you I had the foresight to get Blount before his big breakout and I had Orton for when Romo got injured! Keep up the good work!

TMR: Thanks, Sluke. I think people must have misinterpreted my last column, or maybe I didn't write it correctly. And I'm sure there will be people who will think this column is too defensive. Trust me, the haters don't get me down. I occasionally get annoyed when I'm misquoted, taken out of context or they get really personal, but whatever. Of the quarter of a million folks who follow me on Twitter, I've blocked fewer than 100 of them.

The honest truth is that the haters have given me a great career, a nice paycheck and a ridiculous amount of page views. As Jerry Seinfeld once said to the great Howard Stern, "The day you stop getting hate mail is the day you no longer have a career." The problem is … it's really hard to be funny off of nice e-mails. Watch.

Coty Weston (Parker, Pa.): I hope you actually read these yourself TMR. As I'm sitting here watching NFL RedZone, I see Ricky Williams run in his first touchdown of the season and I think to myself "Matthew Berry 'loved' him this week, good call." … Thank you for your help buddy and I love the posts. Keep 'em coming

TMR: Thanks, Coty. Kind of you to take the time to write. Glad you enjoy the column.

See, Sluke? Hilarious, right? The way I thanked him. And used his name. But I promised I wouldn't use hate mail this year, so I'm sticking by that. But trust me, if ever there was a week, this is it. Last week was not among my best, for sure, and folks let me know it, with nice e-mails and with hate-filled ones. Here's one, however, that helps get (finally) to the crux of the matter.

Jeff (Wisconsin): Hey TMR, Great call on Blount this week. He was a beast in my lineup filling in for DWill. Love the podcast and your column. How annoying is it having to write the same disclaimer in your love/hate each week only still to have people complain about your insight? As a health care provider, I'm stunned every day how people can misunderstand simple instructions. Wondering when common sense became uncommon.

TMR: Really? I'm not stunned at all. People are morons, Jeff. MO-RONS. Like, I heard of these guys who left drunk girls in New Orleans to chase after a fantasy sports writer. So I'm never surprised at people's idiocy. Take this e-mail, for example.

Eric (Boston): I would just like to tell you to keep up the good work. A few people in my league read you like gospel, and manage their teams accordingly. I don't think I would have won this past week had the person not played Marshawn Lynch over Ryan Mathews and Davone Bess over Brandon Lloyd. Thank you TMR, thank you.

TMR: You're welcome, Eric and not just for all the spelling corrections I had to make to your e-mail. But you're lying about at least one thing: The folks in your league clearly doesn't read me as gospel. Because if they had, they would know better.

Look, I'll cop to it. I copy and paste the instructions every week. My editors gloss over them, you probably gloss over them, so hopefully, here at midseason, I can present it in a different way.

This will get a bit long (too late, I know), but this will be the last time I do it this season. [Editor's note: Promise?] So, with apologies to the fine folks at Alpha Books, here is …

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Love/Hate

Last week, yes, Bess was a "love" and Lloyd was a "hate." And neither was a particularly good call. But, if you looked at my Friday ranks from last week, I had Brandon Lloyd at 19 and Davone Bess at 31. Clearly, I liked Lloyd more. If your opponent really had been going on my advice alone, he (or she) never would have started Bess over Lloyd.

The "love" merely meant that I liked Bess more than my fellow rankers last week (and I was wrong), and I liked Lloyd less than my fellow rankers (also wrong). But that's not using this column correctly.

Marshawn Lynch
AP Photo/Tony AvelarLet's be fair here: Who really let you down, me or Marshawn?

As for Lynch over Mathews, fair enough. Like the rest of my fellow rankers, I had Lynch in the top 15 and had Mathews much lower. But you know what? I'd make that call again 10 times over; Lynch had been getting the majority of carries and been effective with those carries and was going on the road (where you expect a team to run a little more) against one of the worst run defenses in the league (even after last week, still 26th versus the run), as opposed to a guy who had been ineffective all year long, has Mike Tolbert vulturing touchdowns and was facing the Titans' top-10 run defense? It was the right call; it just didn't work out.

I use this example all the time: How many times have we seen a drunk girl at a blackjack table, dealer is showing a 5, she's sitting on 19 and she says "Hit me!" Everyone tells her it's dumb, she says she's got a feeling and does it anyway, dealer draws her a 2, she wins and looks smug. "Told you so!" And you know what? She was still wrong.

Just because it worked out this one time doesn't mean it was the right call. The way to win at blackjack (and fantasy football) is to give yourself the best odds to win. And over the course of a sitting at a blackjack table (or a fantasy season) more often than not, if you play the odds, you'll win.

That's the biggest thing all owners should ask themselves when making a decision: "What's most likely to happen?" That simple. Now, for me, a lot of research goes into deciding what is more likely to happen. But "likely to happen" doesn't mean "certain to happen." Last week, Tarvaris Jackson and Derek Anderson, neither of whom started, each had more fantasy points than Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Schaub. Had I ranked them that way, it would have been correct. And nuts. Because it was very unlikely to happen.

So, as we approach this week's list, please understand, once and for all …

A "love" does not mean an automatic start; a "hate" does not mean an automatic bench. Use your brain. If you have one. Go ahead and check to see whether you do. I'll wait.

For example, Drew Brees was on the "hate" list last week. I had him ranked ninth among quarterbacks Friday, and my fellow rankers had him at No. 5 overall. Brees finished as the eighth-best fantasy quarterback last week -- or lower than his overall rank. Believe it or not, Brees was a correct call for me last week.

Now, I missed a good chunk of them last week, but before you make decisions based on this article, understand what you're doing. Numbers in parentheses are my ranking, then the consensus rank by the other three. Sometimes, we are all particularly high (or low) on someone and I'll throw that player in there, as well; like with Matt Forte this week. And other times, after I see the Wednesday ranks, I'll ask one of my fellow rankers what he saw and, given more research (or more time to consider), I will adjust my ranks. Remember, the first set of ranks is done Wednesday morning. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Also, keep in mind that the "hate" list generally has to be bigger names. Hating Colt McCoy doesn't do you any good. Hating Matt Schaub hopefully gives you something to think about. However, hating the bigger names also means more likelihood that they will go off; that's why they are big names to begin with. Be careful there.

If you're gonna use my analysis to inform your decisions, I urge you to read all of this column (not just the names), use my Friday ranks, follow me on Twitter (@MatthewBerryTMR) and then watch "Fantasy Football Now" on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. Because I don't hate you. I want you to win, every week. But help me, dammit. Help me help you!

Week 9 players I love

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (8, 11): Still wacco for Flacco, Christopher Harris and I are the only rankers with him as a top-10 play this week. He's so money at home, he doesn't even know it. Was all last year; he's averaged 19 fantasy points this year in Baltimore, and I generally love teams at home coming off a bye. Miami's safeties continue to struggle, meaning Flacco is gonna be able to attack the deep middle with Anquan Boldin on seam routes. On pass attempts of more than 21 yards, Flacco has five touchdowns, tied for second-most in the NFL.

Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (9, 15): I'm gonna keep writing about him until he's owned in every league. I don't know how many weeks, but it's been at least five. Available in over 60 percent of our leagues, he is tied for seventh among quarterbacks in fantasy points. And he's had his bye week. Here's a short list of notable players he's outscored so far this year: Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub and Jay Cutler. The trick is the legs; he's second in QB rushing yards and always gets you a couple of extra points with his running. This is a quarterback that can make all the throws and is spreading it around: 10 different Bucs got targets last week. Hopefully for Freeman's sake, Dunta Robinson doesn't play in this game, but even if he does, who cares? The Falcons have given up more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in three of their past five games. The two they didn't? Alex Smith's first game with a new coordinator, and against the Browns. Had Josh as a top-10 play last week (he finished tied for seventh-most QB points) and I've got him there again.

Jason Campbell
AP Photo/Jack DempseyWhile Jason Campbell was putting 310 yards and 2 TDs on the Seahawks, the Redskins were busy inviting JaMarcus Russell and J.P. Losman to work out for them. Sorrow is being a Redskins fan.

Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders (16, 22): Please don't remind me that while my beloved Redskins are working out JaMarcus Russell and putting in Rex Grossman to run a two-minute drill, the guy we basically gave away for a conditional fourth-round pick has more than 500 yards passing and four touchdowns in his past two games and plays the Chiefs' 23rd-ranked pass defense that has given up double-digit points to opposing quarterbacks in every game but one this year.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears (9, 11): Turns out that even though the game is in a different country, that whole exchange-rate thing doesn't apply to the Bills' run defense.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers (17, 16): Welcome aboard the Blount bandwagon. Not a great matchup this week with Atlanta (sixth in rushing defense, only three rushing touchdowns allowed all year), but I believe in him as a solid No. 2 this week.

For what it's worth, here are two e-mails I couldn't work into the open.

Chris Turille (Boston): Can we settle on a true nickname for Blount? I am calling him 'The Kangaroo' because he clearly can jump high and is a bit punchy. What do you think?

TMR: Done. Love it. And nice job, Chris. It's not easy to come up with a decent nickname.

Loren (Detroit): I just wanted to share with you a new nickname I came up with for Cadillac Williams. How about instead of Caddy he is from here forth to be known as Pow Pow Powerwheels?

TMR: See?

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots (12, 19): Six scores in his past five games, he's scored in five straight games and -- starting with the Buffalo game in Week 3 (when he first got real playing time) -- he's tied with Chris Johnson for the NFL lead in scores. He's as close a lock as there is to score, and I expect 15 touches and 75 yards, with upside for much more. This is a theme you'll see throughout today's column: I think Belichick runs it up on Mangenius in a big way this week. I love all the Patriots. Even that goofy mascot. And Steve Grogan in flag football with his grandkids before the game. Seriously. Everyone.

Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers (29, 37): This is what I wrote about Sproles last week in this column:

"San Diego has no one else to throw to these days. And against a tough Titans defense, I can see Philip Rivers needing to check down more often than not."

Sproles finished with 77 total yards and a score, and San Diego is even more banged up this week in the passing game. Which stinks, considering how bad Houston is against the pass. The Texans have given up 39 receptions to opposing running backs (top ten in the NFL). Over the past four games, only Patrick Crayton (29) has more targets than Sproles (25) in the Chargers' offense. (Antonio Gates has 22.)

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions (38, 45) and Julius Jones (48, 49): I thought both guys actually didn't look terrible last week (Smith much better than Jones) and, if you were truly bye-week desperate (I mean, really bad off), these are two decent desperation plays who could get you five to six points each.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (8, 13): Stop me if you've heard this before, but the reasoning here is also why I have Reggie Wayne at 13. Since Garcon came back (the Chiefs game), here are some numbers:

Garcon: 17 receptions on 32 targets, 238 yards, one touchdown, 168 yards after catch, one play of more than 25 yards, 9.9 average yards at the catch.

Wayne: 16 receptions on 32 targets, 185 yards, one touchdown, 121 yards after catch, no plays of more than 25 yards, 7.6 average yards at the catch.

Garcon has been (the slightly) better fantasy guy since coming back. In fact, since Garcon has been back, Wayne's been a little more consistent (at least seven points in all games) but he has yet to have a double-digit game. Garcon has one. Garcon's the better deep threat, big-play guy and, knowing how much the Eagles like to blitz, I see Garcon getting some one-on-one matchups and a better chance to get deep for one. We'll see if they line up Asante Samuel on one side or just stick him on Wayne (Philly got a lot of flak for not putting Samuel on Kenny Britt two weeks ago), so if they decide to put him on one guy, you figure it's Wayne. Look, I have both guys in my top 13, so chances are you're starting both of them if you have them, but clearly, I'm going down with this ship: Garcon over Wayne this week.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (6, 16): More comparisons, this time looking at the top two Eagles receivers with Michael Vick at quarterback:

Jeremy Maclin: 147 yards, four touchdowns.
DeSean Jackson: 318 yards, two touchdowns.

Don't get me wrong; I really like Jackson this week (I have him at 12 and I'm the highest on him of our rankers), but Maclin is the guy scoring. Jackson is more of a yardage play. But Indy will play that Cover 2 zone, keeping their corners facing Vick in case he takes off. I expect a lot of underneath stuff and feel Maclin has a better shot at scoring than Jackson does of having a 100-yard day. The biggest thing the Colts have on defense is speed, which is Jackson's main weapon. Both guys need to be started, but I like Maclin (six scores in seven games) to get in the end zone.

The Patriots wide receivers: Take that, Mangenius. And that. And that. Oh, I'm not done with you yet. How you like them apples?

Patrick Crayton, WR, Chargers (15, 26): Seriously, how is he available in any league? Let alone more than 80 percent of them. Leading the team in targets over the past four games and now he gets Houston? The Texans give up the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. They also happen to be dead last in red zone defense and, by the way, San Diego gets into the red zone more than any other team. If you're desperate, Seyi Ajirotutu makes a nice gamble as well.

Hines Ward, WR, Steelers (14, 18): On Monday Night Football, you know he gets up for the big games. And oh yeah, he has 14 career touchdowns against the Bengals, more than any other team.

Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans (Unranked): One more desperation play. The Chargers have such brutal special teams, I could easily see Jones getting a touchdown in this game, one way or the other.

Jacob Tamme, TE, Colts (3, 6): A bad week for tight end matchups, except for this one. Philly gives up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. And again, I expect the Eagles to blitz a lot, meaning looks for Tamme as a safety outlet as well.

Visanthe Shiancoe
David Drapkin/AP Photos"Guys? Guys? Can I play, too? Guys?"

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings (4, 9): It's not just the caterer who is happy about Randy leaving.

Greg Olsen, TE, Bears (6, 13): In the three games the Bears won with Jay Cutler as their quarterback, Olsen had two scores. In the games they lost? No scores and under 75 yards total for Olsen. I'm hoping Chicago used the bye week to figure what works for them and it means getting Olsen more involved. Plus, there's that whole "Bills give up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends" thing.

Minnesota Vikings D/ST (7, 7): Happiness is Derek Anderson coming to town.

Dan Carpenter, K, Dolphins (1, 8): Ten field goals in two games. I'm not expecting a ton of touchdowns against Baltimore. He's available in half our leagues.

Week 9 players I hate

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans (13, 9): He's not a top-10 play for me this week and frankly, hasn't been for a while. Chargers have the No. 1 pass defense this year, allow the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and last week was the first one in which they had given up more than one touchdown pass to a quarterback in a game. Single-digit fantasy points in four of seven games this year, a nicked-up Andre Johnson and a bad matchup don't warm the cockles of my fantasy heart.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals (19, 13): Last week I ranked him 16th among quarterbacks. He finished tied for 14th. And it should have been much worse, as Miami dropped a sure interception which turned into a touchdown for Terrell Owens, a six-point swing. Palmer's a bad quarterback. The Steelers are angry. Not seeing it.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets (20, 19): Single-digit fantasy points in his past three games. I thought he looked confused and tentative against the Packers. Don't get suckered in by an "easy matchup." The Lions have a very good line and are getting great pressure on the quarterback. Detroit is tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks and my guess is, on the road, the Jets run a lot to take pressure off the Sanchise and exploit the fact that the Lions' run defense hasn't caught up to their pass rush, but they have caught and passed the Bills as the most generous defense to fantasy running backs. Hmm. What the heck, let's throw LaDainian Tomlinson on the "love" list, just for fun. Not that you weren't gonna start him anyway, right?

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals (21, 16): Back issues, Coach Whisenhunt says they're gonna get Tim Hightower more involved, and Minnesota has not given up a touchdown to an opposing running back in any home game this year.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills (30, 23): I know it's an ugly week for running backs, but just because this game is in another country doesn't mean that whole exchange-rate thing works on the Bills' lack of a good run game. (pause) What? I used that joke before? Was it any funnier this time? Yeah, didn't think so. Sorry. [Editor's note: probably because your readers are aware that the Canadian dollar is trading pretty much at par ($0.997), making that joke not only repetitive, but about five years out of date. Just saying.]

Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins (28, 27): Single-digit fantasy points in every game but one. This year the frustration of owning him isn't injury-related, which is a nice change of pace.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts (13, 2): See my whole rant on Garcon, and maybe review the instructions if this is confusing to you: You're still starting him unless you own a couple of the dozen receivers I've ranked over him. But no, I don't think he's a top-10 guy this week, so I wouldn't be spending big bucks in salary-cap or anything.

Mike Williams, WR, Seahawks (28, 30): And I thought I was low on him. Apparently we all are. The potential for the debut of Charlie Whitehurst, the Giants have had real success by playing three safeties, and I expect them to focus on Williams, against whom they match up well.

Clay Matthews
AP Photo/Jim PrischingDespite missing a game to injury, Clay Matthews leads the NFL in sacks and in making opposing quarterbacks cry like little girls.

Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys (41, 39): That whole "they played together in Detroit" thing? Matters not one whit when the quarterback is flat on his back with Clay Matthews standing over him.

Brent Celek, TE, Eagles (17, 7): A total of nine fantasy points in the three games Vick started (and finished) this year, the Colts allow the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (18, 10): Matthew Stafford just doesn't look his way. In the two games they've played together this year, Pettigrew has three receptions. Yes, he scored last week, but it's hard to count on that, especially with the Jets allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

New York Giants D/ST (15, 4): If Hasselbeck is out, they will definitely come up in my ranks Friday, and truthfully, I was too low on them to begin with. But my thinking is this: They've had three road games this year and their fantasy point totals are minus-4; 11; 0. This is a long trip, and in three games in Seattle this season, the defense facing the Seahawks has scored minus-1, 6, 6. They play a lot better at home and are tied for the third-fewest giveaways in the NFC. I expect them to play conservatively and not give the Giants' D a lot of opportunity to make big plays.

And as you digest all this and make your decision about what to trust or disregard, keep this in mind:

Ralph Davis (Baltimore): Regardless of what anyone says about your Fantasy Football knowledge, you are absolutely right about M. Night Shyamalan! I want a refund and those hours of my life back.

TMR: Finally, something we can all agree on.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- thinks he's a lot closer to beer than God, if he has to pick one. 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

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