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Sunday night's Green Bay-Dallas game marked a number of events.
1. Wade Phillips' last game as a head coach.
2. The debut of the Jerry Jones shell-shocked look, which is similar to every other look, except his eyes sort of bug out on this one.
4. The Packers' D/ST helping me win a game I had no business winning in a very deep keeper league with Chris Johnson, Kyle Orton, Donald Driver all out and Brandon Marshall continuing to pull a "Miles Austin."
5. It was the ninth consecutive game when I failed to understand the "Tiny Football League." Is it supposed to be funny? Heartwarming? An expensive time filler? Seriously, what's the point of this? I'm not trying to be mean here, I really don't get it.
6. Most importantly, it was mathematically the first game of the second half of the NFL season.
Halfway home in the regular season, four weeks left to make the playoffs and two weeks from the ESPN standard league trade deadline on Nov. 24, and remember, Thursday games start this week; this is as good a time (and an excuse) as any for another set of bold predictions. If you are unfamiliar with the premise, you can check out the preseason version here, where I have some awesome calls and some "what the hell was I thinking" ones.
And I'm sure both will be true again in a few months when we look back on the midseason edition of
You Heard Me
For Weeks 12-17, Vincent Jackson, currently available in 48 percent of leagues, will be a top-10 fantasy wide receiver. My thinking: Clearly, Philip Rivers can make anyone a star, and with no real run game, the Bolts are gonna have to pass, pass, pass. V-Jax is motivated to get a big new deal and has only a few games to show what he can do.
More than 700 yards and at least four scores for Dez Bryant the rest of the way. My thinking: Dude is a beast, and Jason Garrett isn't going to get a full-time gig next year (with Dallas or anyone) by handing off a lot. Bryant is the best weapon they've got.
The rest of the year, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Freeman and Vince Young have more fantasy points than Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb or Brett Favre. You heard me. My thinking: I'm hoping you don't notice the current fantasy points for these players and realize this isn't all that bold.
In a tale of two Matts, Cassel winds up with more fantasy points than Schaub. My thinking: Look at Houston's schedule: After a cake game this week with Jacksonville, the Texans' slate looks like this: @NYJ, Ten, Phi, Bal, @Ten, @Den until they end in Week 17 with Jacksonville again. Now look at KC's: @Den, Ari, @Sea, Den, @SD, @StL, Ten, Oak. Only the Titans and Chargers have pass defenses in the upper half. They've played the same number of game. Cassel has three games of single-digit points and only one since the team's bye in Week 4; Schaub has only three games when he didn't have single digits.
The song "Freedom" by George Michael continues to hold up very well. You heard me.
My editor continues to make fun of my playlist, which apparently doesn't contain any song that isn't older than his four kids ... combined.
The following running backs, currently unowned in almost every league, will help fantasy owners win crucial playoff games: James Davis of Washington, Anthony Dixon of San Francisco, Tashard Choice of Dallas and Kevin Smith of Detroit.
Nate Washington is a top-20 fantasy wide receiver the rest of the way. My thinking: See Welker, Wes and Harvin, Percy.
Shonn Greene is a top-15 fantasy running back the rest of the way. My thinking is he's running better and the Jets need to keep LT fresh.
A Hall of Fame quarterback will be involved in a "Tiger Woods"-esque scandal. Oops, already used that one in my baseball version of this column.
I eventually will be proved right on my irrational love for Pierre Garçon. My thinking: In for a penny, in for a pound.
Tom Brady finishes with his worst statistical season since 2003. My thinking is that this is more of a run team than you think without the aerial weapons you've come to expect.
Knowshon Moreno gets 700 total yards and five touchdowns. My thinking is that he's finally healthy, he's a good pass catcher and this is a good offense.
Chad Ochocinco sells more copies of his new "Mad Chad" video game in its first week than he garners receiving yards the rest of the year. He scores only three more touchdowns the rest of the year. My thinking: I've seen a Bengals game this year.
Peyton Hillis is the second-best fantasy running back the rest of the way. My thinking is look at that schedule. After the Jets, he doesn't face an upper-half run defense until Week 16, and he's already been top-5 so far. I say he's legit, and then some.
In the vein of ESPNBoston.com, ESPNLosAngeles.com and ESPNDallas.com, my ego and I persuade my bosses to launch ESPNMatty.com, where a reporting corps blog and cover my every move.
The above happens and I quickly realize that, without myself to talk about, I have to do actual analysis in my columns, so I quickly have the site shut down.
Jacob Tamme of the Colts outscores every single other tight end the rest of the way. My thinking: Everyone really good at the position is hurt.
I would make a bold prediction about my Redskins, but I can't think of anything that would seem that outrageous.
Oh wait, here's one; I continue to be a fan despite the fact they keep crushing my hopes and dreams.
Don't look back in anger:"Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves; regret for the past and fear of the future." - Fulton Oursler
And at this point in the season, I have talked about almost everyone. So, quickly, here's a ranking of all the available quarterbacks I've talked about for this week only. So, if you own one of those three guys (or Matthew Stafford, who looks as if he won't be able to go this week), here are the ones I like. I'm not putting bid amounts for these guys because they are mostly interchangeable and it's just for one week. How much you bid should be determined by how badly you need one guy this week, what your record is (how bad do you need a win this week) and how much you have left. I wouldn't bid crazy on anyone for just one week unless your season is on the brink.
1. David Garrard, QB, Jaguars (27 percent owned): Off the bye and off a five-touchdown game before that, Garrard had double digits in the two games he started (and finished) before the crazy Dallas game, too. And oh yeah, he's facing Houston and the worst pass defense in the league.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills (33 percent): Coming back to Earth a little, but still has yet to score single digits this year and is home to the Lions, who give up 15 points a game to opposing quarterbacks.
3. Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (43 percent): Why won't someone make me a little Josh Freeman doll, so I can sleep with it on my pillow? He had 19 fantasy points (his best game of the year) against Carolina in Week 2 and faces the Panthers this week, as well.
4. Shaun Hill, QB, Lions (2 percent): Was very effective from a fantasy standpoint while filling in for Stafford, and he'll be solid in what should be a shootout with Buffalo. The Bills have allowed at least 34 points in every game this year but one.
5. Vince Young, QB, Titans (59 percent): Got a new toy to play with. You might have heard something about this.
6. Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs (35 percent): I tend not to like going against home teams coming off a bye, but Denver gives up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and Cassel has at least 15 points in four of his past six.
7. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (28 percent): Nothing fancy, just solid, low double digits every week.
Others receiving votes: (Or the "Dammit, Berry, all those guys are taken in my league" list) Derek Anderson, QB, Cardinals (2 percent) did have 12 points this past week, nine the week before in relief of Max Hall, a bad defense to keep him throwing and Larry Fitzgerald to catch his passes. Arizona plays better at home, as well, and the Cardinals face a reeling Seahawks team this week. Week 2 of the Troy Smith Experience, QB, 49ers (1 percent) could be OK against the Rams this week. St. Louis is a much better defense than you think, but the game is in San Francisco and Smith has had two weeks to prep for it. I wish he were facing anyone but the Jets, but I think Colt McCoy, QB, Browns (1 percent) looks like a real NFL quarterback to me, has at least 13 points in two of his past three, and hey, Cleveland is red hot. Seriously. And although I wasn't real impressed with what I saw this past week, if Charlie Whitehurst, QB, Seahawks (1 percent) gets the start this week, he should find it much easier going against the Cardinals. Finally, I mention Jon Kitna here not because I like him but because I think that, on the road, at the Giants, is a recipe for someone getting killed. Stephen McGee, start warming up.
The Other (Obvious) Guys: Here are some of the non-quarterbacks 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 already have discussed them in detail, so consider this a combination of obvious names and a list of guys previously discussed. Numbers in parentheses are ESPN standard league ownership numbers and how much I would bid, based on a $100 FAAB budget in a 10-team league.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Colts (52 percent, $40), Steve Johnson, WR, Bills (64 percent, $20), Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens (56 percent, $18), Danny Woodhead, RB/WR, Patriots (49 percent, $17), Jabar Gaffney, WR, Broncos (42 percent, $10), Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals (53 percent, $8), Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs (30 percent, $8), Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (26 percent, $5).
Pickups of the Week"Can you pass the tartar sauce, baby? Because you look like quite a catch."
Obviously, from the bold prediction above, if Vincent Jackson is available in your league, I think he should be your No. 1 pickup this week and I'd spend $25 on him if need be. But after him, here's the non-quarterback list of guys to grab this week.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans (33 percent, $10): As seen in bold predictions! He already has four touchdowns on the year; Kenny Britt isn't coming back anytime soon; and if you don't think Wes Welker (or his owners) doesn't miss Randy Moss, you're not paying attention. The Titans' upcoming schedule is ridiculous (four of their eight remaining games are against the bottom three pass defenses), and teams will be much too worried about Chris Johnson and Randy Moss to worry about little ol' Nate.
Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars (6 percent, $5): Learn the lesson of Seyi Ajirotutu. Anyone can have value against the Texans. At least five fantasy points in four of his past five games. He's a Jaguar, so you know you're getting into frustrating territory here, but -- for this week, at least -- he's poised for a nice day.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings (31 percent, $7): With news that he might be active for this game, he's worth a speculative bid if you missed out on Vincent Jackson. A decent schedule, not a great defense and a quarterback who doesn't like to hand off. All positives.
Pick a Redskins running back: Given how crazy Mike Shanahan is (Hey, Rex, two minutes to go and on the road, go get in there!) I would by lying if I said I had any idea how this is gonna play out. What I do know, however, is that Ryan Torain has had injury issues in the past and is dealing with them now and that if Shanny would bench Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb, no one is safe. Clinton Portis is the most obvious guy; he has started running and could be back in a few weeks. Keiland Williams and James Davis off the practice squad (he recently turned down an offer from Carolina to stay with Washington) are also very interesting to me. Washington does not have a great run schedule going forward (after Eagles this week, it's Titans, Vikings and Giants before it gets easier), but, as the season wears on, it's good to have these names on your list. I would rank them for you but it's honestly just a guess. I don't even think Shanahan knows. But for now, call it Portis and Davis long term, Williams for the next few weeks in terms of likely to have fantasy value.
Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers (0.7 percent, $4): Can the last one left in Carolina turn out the lights, please? After DeAngelo Williams was a scratch with the foot injury, Jonathan Stewart got the start. Then he left with an ugly-looking concussion. Then Tyrell Sutton was making progress until he rolled an ankle. Which means there's a decent chance Goodson will be your starting running back this week. At worst, he's a very good pass-catcher (17 receptions on the season, only three fewer than Carolina's receiving leader David Gettis . ladies and gentlemen, your Carolina Panthers!), who you figure gets more playing time with either Jimmy Clausen or Tony Pike under center. Tampa Bay is 30th against the run, so if you're looking for a guy this week.
Marcel Reece, RB, Raiders (4 percent, $4): On a bye this week, he did nothing against Kansas City and is a fullback. So what am I all excited about again? His talent. Yes, he ended up not getting a lot of work versus the Chiefs, but ultimately, he's one of the best weapons the Raiders have, and I expect they'll spend the bye week figuring out more ways to get him the ball. A wide receiver in college, he is big and fast and is a tough matchup problem, and they love his blocking (meaning he'll be on the field a decent amount). And given Oakland's ability to run the ball well and the injury histories of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, he's a good bet to see big playing time at some point. And look at that fantasy playoff schedule: at Jacksonville, Denver, Indy and at Kansas City. If you can afford to stash him, I would.
Others receiving votes"Almost everything in life is easier to get into than out of." - Unknown
Here are a few guys 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.
James Jones, WR, Packers would be an obvious pickup this week if it were not for two small problems: Green Bay is on a bye, and we don't know enough about the health of Donald Driver. If Driver were to miss Week 11, then sure, Jones is an obvious grab. But not before Speaking of guys who would have been pickups if not for a bye week, Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders would warrant a mention, but -- just as we saw with Darrius Heyward-Bey (huge Week 8, nothing in Week 9) -- it's hard to trust any Raider who isn't involved in the running game.
Same can be said for Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers. I mentioned him in this space last week, but the Bolts are also taking the week off. And further complicating matters is that not only do we not know how healthy Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates or Legedu Naanee will be but you also have Patrick Crayton in the mix, Vincent Jackson back in Week 12 and San Diego playing the Monday night game in Week 11. Which means you might not know until all the other games are done who is active among the Chargers' receiving corps. Same goes for fill-in Randy McMichael, TE, Chargers, but he's still a must own for any Antonio Gates owner because of that Monday Night game.
One guy who is playing this week is Danny Amendola, WR, Rams, who seems to be the only healthy guy they've got these days. Luckily, the Austin Collie injury is not nearly as bad as it initially looked, but he still might be out this Sunday, which gives a boost of value to Blair White, WR, Colts. I continue to be tantalized by the potential of Anthony Armstrong, WR, Redskins, I give credit to the Bears for actually doing what they said they would. They got Chester Taylor, RB, Bears more involved, and he scored. He didn't do much other than that, but it's worth noting. That's in stark contrast to the Dallas Cowboys, who kept saying they wanted to get Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys more involved, but then he did nothing. With a change at the coaching position and Marion Barber continuing to look dead, maybe that will change this week. Two other running backs I mentioned last week who continue to warrant attention (and a roster spot in deeper leagues) are Kevin Smith, RB, Lions (given Best's injury history) and Javarris James, RB, Colts (given the injury history of, well, everyone in Indy.). I'm not totally buying the James TDs from this past week -- more a result of the package the Colts had on the field at the time -- but it's worth noting.
In the post-Randy world, Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings apparently has value. At least until Sidney Rice comes back. Nine receptions for 89 yards on 11 targets, and Berrian has a nice schedule coming up, including his former team this Sunday. Two games, two decent fantasy days for Arrelious Benn, WR, Buccaneers. You know I'm high on his quarterback
Finally, with so many productive fantasy quarterbacks available, I'm not gonna recommend grabbing a backup, but I will say that I like Stephen McGee, QB, Cowboys a lot. I grew up in College Station, so I'm an Aggies fan and watched him in college, so maybe I am a bit biased, but he's a mobile guy who won't be hampered by the Cowboys' line issues and could put up some very solid numbers with that offense if he gets a shot.
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.
Bruce Gradkowski, Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Matt Schaub, Kevin Kolb, Chad Henne, any Saints running back, Justin Forsett, Cadillac Williams, Marion Barber, Jonathan Stewart, Ricky Williams, C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews (I'm still hanging tough but if you wanted to bail on him, I get it), Laurence Maroney, John Kuhn, Kenny Britt, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Devin Aromashodu, Jerricho Cotchery, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, Roy E. Williams, Mario Manningham, Deion Branch, Brandon Tate, Devery Henderson, Kellen Winslow, Brent Celek, Jeremy Shockey.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- was going to make a bold prediction involving Anne Hathaway, but realizes that's more along the lines of a pipe dream. 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