- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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It was a very good year.
There's a song that says something like that and I have to agree. I love music. Can't write it, read it or play it worth a lick, but I love it. Love how expressive it can be.
My two favorite music quotes of all time?
"As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin' man I have chalked up many a mile. Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks and I learned much from both of their styles." -- Jimmy Buffett, "Son of a Son of a Sailor"
"But this house is haunted and the ride gets rough. You've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above." -- Bruce Springsteen, "Tunnel of Love"
Both lyrics describe my attitude and how I wish I lived, if I don't always get there. Being that it's the holidays and the end of the year, both on the calendar and in the Fantasy Football section, it's easy to get a bit sappy and thoughtful. And my e-mailers only help, of course. Normally I cut the e-mail address out of e-mails but this one made me laugh.
Mort Goldman (Quohaug, R.I.) (email@example.com) "Hey Berry, you suck. Your fantasy advice sucks [ ] and your job is a fraud. The fact that someone can be called a 'fantasy expert' and suck as much as you do is a mockery of the human race. Merry Christmas you a--. Have fun at the movies tomorrow."
TMR: Thanks, Mort. And I'm being genuine when I write that. Because there's one other song lyric that I really like.
"So I wanna say thank you. 'Cause it makes me that much stronger. Makes me work a little bit harder. It makes me that much wiser. So thanks for making me a fighter. Made me learn a little bit faster. Made my skin a little bit thicker. Makes me that much smarter. So thanks for making me a fighter." -- Christina Aguilera, "Fighter"
People always ask me why I print the negative e-mails and it's for a few reasons. Of course, it's mostly because they're much more entertaining than the ones talking about how awesome I am. You'll see. Since it's the final column of the year, I'll indulge in a lot of self-serving e-mail printing at the end here. But assuming you bail before you read a bunch of e-mails that seem like my mom wrote them, I just want to thank you.
Whether you love or hate, I appreciate you playing fantasy, I appreciate you stopping by ESPN to enhance your fantasy experience and I appreciate you letting me be a small part of it every week. Lee here put it best.
Lee Metzger (South Bend, Ind.): Mr. Berry, I greatly admire your work. Please, never take for granted the fact that you have the greatest job in the entire country
TMR: True dat, Lee. True dat. Let's get to it.
As always, players I love for Week 17 are guys I think exceed certain statistical benchmarks. Guys I hate I feel will fall short. That simple. Those benchmarks are 175 yards and two touchdowns for quarterbacks (or 15 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring); 90 yards and/or 30 yards and a touchdown rushing and receiving (or nine fantasy points) for running backs and wide receivers, 60 yards or a touchdown for tight ends and eight points for kickers and defenses. I used to say no obvious names, but I don't think there is such a thing anymore. Just ask anyone who started Adrian Peterson of the Vikings in Week 16.
Week 17 players I love
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Patriots: Touchdowns in four of his past five.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: Only Giant I trust here and I don't even trust him that much. Feel he gets about 100 total yards or so. Figure on 10 points or so, so barely over the threshold, but not a ton.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: Adrian Peterson of the Vikings averaged basically 17 fantasy points a game for 2007. Marshawn Lynch averaged 13 a game. Something to consider for 2008 because one will go a lot higher than the other and four points a game isn't that much. Eagles are tough to run against, but Takeo Spikes being out pushes Lynch over the edge for me here.
Kenny Watson, RB, Bengals: It's elementary! Both this joke and the fact that my dear Watson will go nuts against the Dolphins.
Cleo Lemon, QB, Dolphins: You heard me. In three home games, he has 42 fantasy points and double digits in each of them, including one against New England. Bengals give up more than 20 fantasy points a game to opposing quarterbacks, third most in the NFL.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: In his past four games against the Cowboys, he has 422 yards and three touchdowns. He had more than 100 yards and a score the most recent time they played. He has 20 fantasy points in the past two weeks. Dallas has nothing to play for and is fairly gutless. I'm a Redskins fan, incidentally.
T.J. Duckett, RB, Lions: You saw him rush for more than 100 yards against Kansas City, the Lions should try to run at Lambeau and Green Bay gives up more than 16 fantasy points a game to opposing running backs. And that's with its first-team defense. With nothing to play for, Duckett should have a good game against Green Bay's second string. I feel so dirty.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans: Just think if he could have stayed healthy all year. He'd have been really good. I mean, he was good. But he would have been gooder. Er, something like that.
Drew Brees, Aaron Stecker, David Patten, Saints: Three things I don't believe in: the resurgence of the Bears, Colston coming back 100 percent and dating women who are psychology majors. Trust me on all three.
Chris Redman and Roddy White, Falcons: Throw out the Tampa Bay game -- Bucs have one of the best pass defenses in the league -- and Redman has two touchdown passes in each of his past three games. Expect Redman and Roddy White to have solid games against a Seattle team with nothing to play for.
Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers: He missed practice on Wednesday but if he plays, he could be a decent start if you're scrambling. He's averaged 16 fantasy points each of the past two weeks and even though the Browns have improved on defense recently, they still give up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in the NFL. I don't expect amazing numbers, but he should be solid.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: Don't tell Stephania. Ugh. I feel so ashamed.
LenDale White, RB, Titans: Has three straight 100-yard games. Make it four.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Probably a week too late for most.
Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos: Has 10 touchdown passes in his past four home games. Vikings are 32nd against the pass. If you start him and he leads you to a championship, you can make a sign that reads, "The Cutler Did It!" Pick a reason, any reason.
Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers: Tomlinson will play a series, maybe two is my guess. And then Sproles will get more work than Michael Turner against a Raiders team that has given up the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL in 2007.
Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Rams: My not ranking Isaac Bruce was a typo that was my fault, in case you are wondering. I'll correct in Friday's update but I like all the Rams here.
All your Cardinals: Not a low-scoring game, this one. I have Warner as my No. 1 quarterback for the week.
Week 17 players I hate
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: I just like writing that I hate Eli.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: Even if he plays all game, he's playing all game against New England with Eli throwing to him. And Eli's horrific. Just wanted to point that out.
All your Panthers: Maybe Steve Smith gets 70 yards or so, but I don't trust him or any of the Panthers. Even against the Bucs' second-team defense.
All your Cowboys: We know Terrell Owens is out. They're not going to risk Romo, Barber or anyone else. And I don't think Brad Johnson lights it up with whoever is out there with him on the road against a very motivated Redskins team.
Brett Favre, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Ryan Grant, Donald Lee, Packers: You know what the Pack are doing? Packing it in. Get it? Pack are Packing it in? (Pause) What do you want from me? It's the end of the year. They're not all gonna be winners.
All your Jaguars: See, the Jaguars have a playoff berth wrapped up and well, are you seeing a theme here?
All your Seahawks: See Jaguars, All Your.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Vikings: I don't care what he did against Washington. You can't be this desperate can you?
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets: Chiefs are actually sixth against the pass and they saw the same game we all did. Plus, coach Herm knows a thing or two about the Jets, no?
OK, gang, that's all I got for this week. Self-congratulatory e-mails start Now.
(I had to edit a lot of these down for space -- TMR)
Annalise (LaPorte, Ind.): Matthew, I've read every one of your posts this year and have managed to land a spot in the championship in my rookie year. Thanks for that. Also, thank you for using the word "sneaked" correctly and not succumbing to the lowly "snuck." While Merriam-Webster has allowed it to work its way into the vernacular as acceptable English, some of us have not, and I, for one appreciated that. Also, don't date Lori Cox. See you next year, Annalise
Ben W (Houston): I wanted to send along a profound thank you for saving my fantasy year. I joined a friend's league on a whim, having never played fantasy football before, and proceeded to make a number of decisions that proved that I hadn't. In an autopick league, my pre-rankings were so screwed up, the system that it used picked me six consecutive WRs before it picked me any other sort of player and I compounded it with making a number of crazy trades at the beginning, including Chad Johnson for Tatum Bell, which I regret to this day. I had, to put it modestly, absolutely no idea what I was doing. But, from that point on, I did my homework, made smarter trades, trawled the waiver wire, and I got a lot better, in no small part because I read all your columns every week. So I feel I have you to thank when I announce that I won my fantasy league championship by 16 points, against a team that has apparently won the league every year. I was much more excited about this than I was over any other aspect of Christmas. So thank you. I'm addicted now. I'll see you next year.
Laurence (Atlanta): First, I think you've done a great job this year. I don't always agree with your assessment, but you're right most of the time. Compared to any others, you and [a guy on another site] appear to be on target the most. Thanks for all the good advice. Oh, and I especially like your responses to the brain-dead people who trash you for those obvious choices after the fact when there was a grossly unpredictable outcome.
Ben (Dallas): I wanted to thank you for your advice this season. I have been runner-up the past four years in my league, my friends joked I was the fantasy version of the 1990s Bills. However this season I won our Super Bowl and had the best regular-season record. I attribute my success to religiously reading your columns. I handcuffed my starting back, Travis Henry (Selvin Young) and I made two smart waiver-wire pickups in David Garrard and Justin Fargas. Those made all the difference. I know you catch a lot of [bad word] so I wanted you have at least one positive e-mail.
Joe (Buffalo): Thanks for your advice. I won a championship in my league on another site and am up 14 in my ESPN league. I will be taking your advice on pickups because many of my players will be sat for Week 17. Thanks for the help and keep up the good work. The people who blame you for losing leagues for them are bums.
Candace (Raleigh, N.C.): Matthew Berry! Thank you so much to you and your crew for leading me to the promised land that is a Fantasy Football Championship!!! Unlike many of your other readers I do not give you all of the credit or blame for my fantasy season, however I greatly appreciate all of the pearls of wisdom that helped me through my inaugural season (and helped me beat a league full of boys)! Thanks again!
Daniel (Jerusalem, Israel): I really enjoy your pieces. I have been living abroad without a TV for almost nine years, so I understand very little of your TV/cultural references, and still find them hilarious. Keep up the good writing. Fantasy advice: My late grandfather was a surgeon in the 40s through 60s. They were judged by how confidently they marked the places for incisions. He developed something of a motto: "Never in doubt. Frequently wrong, but never in doubt." Keep up the doubt-free advice.
James (San Francisco): WORST TO FIRST!!! TMR, I went from last place a year ago to playing in the upcoming championship game! I can't help but think it had something to do with finally coming to my senses and religiously following your columns and downloading your podcasts all season.
Mike (Norfolk,Va.): Mr. Berry. I would just like to say thank you so very much for everything you have done for me this fantasy season. It was my first time playing. I was in a 12-team league with all of my friends and I won the Championship over the No. 1 seed. Now, thankfully I didn't always listen to your advice but I did always find your articles and the podcast very entertaining and would like to dedicate my first-ever fantasy championship to you. Thank you. Can't wait 'til Baseball. P.S. and of course, Down with Pod-vader.
Josh (Minneapolis): Longtime reader, first-time e-mailer. I have been entertained by your column all year. I have recently just won my league because of Westbrook's decision to lay down at the 1. I would rather be lucky than good! My question is, would you rather have people read your column because of crazy girl stories or of the fantasy advice? Because in reality aren't they both fantasy? Until next season.
Matt (San Francisco): So let me get this straight: If Najeh Davenport racks up big points in a game that should have seen Fast Willie Parker get most of the carries, doesn't that validate your Fast Willie pick? How can someone look themselves in the mirror (or webcam) and slam you for the pick? How? No seriously, what is up with that? It's been a fun ride, made all the more fun by your Avis-style column; the jokes may not be No. 1, but they try harder. I'm fixing to lose in the championship in my ESPN league, but hey, I've made it to the championship with a patchwork of role players, several of which were your solid calls. So cheers to that. May sane women beat a path to your door soon
TMR: And that, kids, is a New Year's wish we can all agree on. Thanks to all and good luck. And remember, you can still be my cyberfriend and read my personal blog here.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's Sr. Director of Fantasy, in charge of content. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner and the only writer in the industry with wins in multiple sports (NFL, MLB, NBA). Be sure to check him out every Sunday morning on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" at 11 a.m. ET.
Matthew Berry offers his start 'em, sit 'em column with a love/hate twist.