Commentary

The Talented Mr. Roto: Whatever it takes

Updated: December 24, 2008, 4:41 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

Good for the Yankees.

You heard me. This is me applauding the Yankees. And I'll tell you why:

Because I hate the Yankees.

I'm not the first to write it, say it or feel it. It's a phrase that is uttered every day and has been for years. And when the news broke Tuesday that they were signing free agent Mark Teixeira for $180 million, it was heard louder than normal.

The signing makes for a staggering $423.5 million that the team has committed to spending in the past six weeks thanks to the contracts given to Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Add in the contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, and the Yankees have somewhere in the neighborhood of $739 million still to pay these five players.

I'm starting a new paragraph to repeat that. $739 million. Almost three-quarters of the way to a billion dollars. For five players.

Have the Yankees done this before? Of course. And I didn't even mind the Sabathia or Burnett signings. (Given Burnett's injury issues, does anyone else think he is Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano all over again? Me, too.) But the acquisition of Big Tex put me over the top.

I have friends getting laid off left and right, you know? The economy is horrific these days and affecting everyone. The night my buddy gets dumped by his fiancée, I'm not at the bar telling him about the hot girl I'm dating. When you go to a stadium where you are rooting for the visiting team and you win, you cheer, but you're not obnoxious about it. You don't shove your team's good fortune in the face of every home-team fan.

I'm not Miss Manners nor even suitable for mixed company, but I know enough not to rub folks' faces in it. But I have a little bit of class. I'm guessing you do, too. But on Tuesday, the Yankees proved they didn't.

And here's why I say good for the Yankees.

Because those are the rules. They are flawed and screwed up, and it's completely asinine whom it rewards and punishes. But the Yankees didn't make the rules. And given the circumstances, they are doing whatever they feel is necessary to win while abiding by the rules.

The same holds for those of us who play fantasy football this week. Players are half in and half out of lineups, and there's even more uncertainty than ever in terms of playing time, production and ball distribution. It's flawed, screwed up and completely asinine … and yet that's the game. Those are the rules. We all choose to play the game, so, to completely misuse one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen lyrics, you have to learn to live with what you can't rise above.

You need to do whatever is necessary to win this week. You must channel your inner Yankee and forget what the public thinks. Yeah, you might say, I'm not even starting Gary Russell, but I grabbed him off waivers and am sticking him on my bench so my opponent can't use him, and I dropped Joseph Addai to do it. Because although everyone else will hate the move as unsportsmanlike and call it not real football, you feel it puts your team in the best position to win in fantasy while adhering to the rules. And that's the point of all this.

Now, a couple of housecleaning things before we get to the last Love/Hate of the season:

We're doing a Christmas Day edition of Streak for the Cash based on the NBA games of the day. There will be 16 picks and, if you nail them all, you could win $100,000 and a trip to the NBA All-Star Game. Click here to watch Molly Qerim explain it a lot better than I can.

You also can sign up for Gridiron Playoff Challenge to give yourself some fantasy during the playoffs. It's fun and, even better, it's free. And those who want to hear me review my preseason "you heard me" bold predictions and other such projections should tune into our podcast next week, as Nate Ravitz and I will do just that.

Let's get to it. Because I didn't do a pickups column this week, I've thrown in more obscure players whom you could use if you need to.

Week 17 players I love

All the Falcons: They're at home, needing a win for better seeding with the Rams coming to town. All that spells fantasy goodness. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White are no-brainers, but also consider Michael Jenkins, who has at least 48 yards in nine of his past 10 games (and has been better than White the past two weeks). Also consider the Falcons' D/ST, which has had double-digit points the past two weeks.

Torry Holt, WR, Rams: A gamble, to be sure. But in Holt's past three games versus Atlanta, he has racked up 417 yards and four touchdowns. He has at least 55 yards in five of his past six games, and you gotta figure they'll be down in this game. That said, Holt has been terrible on the road this season, so you're looking to buck a trend here. Still, crazier things have happened.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: As those who watched the game or listened to Monday's podcast know, S-Jax ran very effectively in Week 16.

All your Patriots: Coach Bill Belichick needs the win, and all that stands in his way is the Bills. That means Sammy Morris, Jabar Gaffney and Kevin Faulk are fair game if you're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: If Marshawn Lynch can't play, I like the fact that Jackson is so versatile out of the backfield. You can't run on the Pats, but you can throw on them, and I expect Freddy to catch a lot of short passes for at least 50 yards.

Lee Evans, WR, Bills: The Patriots' secondary is horrific on the road.

All your Chiefs: Check the weather for this game, but on the surface, you have to like Gonzo, Thiggy, LJ and Bowe. That sounds like a group of rejected Muppet names. And one current Muppet, of course. Save the hate mail. I already hate myself enough for putting LJ on the love list. Hold on, it gets better.

Cedric Benson
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesCedric Benson has racked up 15 fantasy points in back-to-back weeks. Seriously.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals: He racked up close to 400 total yards the past two weeks. KC is 30th against the run. Time for my weekly Silkwood shower.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: He's averaging 16 fantasy points the past two weeks. The Packers' rush defense is averaging a bunch of crappy performances in a row.

All your Packers: Sorry for all the "all your …" but come on, it's just that obvious. Green Bay is at home against Detroit, which means Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver become above-average plays, and add Donald Lee to that list. He has had touchdowns in five straight home games.

Chris Henry, RB, Titans: Two first names is always a crowd-pleaser, as is lots of junk-time work against a team that can't stop the run and has nothing to play for. Watch the news reports and definitely check out Fantasy Football Now on ESPN.com on Sunday at noon ET. I get yelled at and talked over a lot, so if you're among the haters, you'll enjoy seeing that. Plus, we will have all the inactives, who is starting and who isn't, the latest injury news, etc.

Jim Sorgi, QB, Colts: We know he's at home with a good offensive system going against a defense with nothing to play for. I'm not crazy about any Colts running back, but if I'm forced to pick one, I'll say Najeh Davenport.

Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants: I put "or" because I don't know as of this writing whether Bradshaw is healthy enough to play. If he is, I like him and don't think Ward will get a ton of work. If he isn't, I believe Ward will get a lot of work, and I like him. I'm fickle like that.

Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Vikings: It won't be pretty, but at the end of the day, he'll wind up with double-digit fantasy points.

All your Panthers: Something to play for, and only the Saints' defense in their way. Meow. Me likey.

Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Headline in bad newspaper on Monday: "Feel that Brees!" The Saints have nothing to play for except getting Brees the passing-yardage record, so expect at least 40 attempts and good numbers for all involved in the Saints' passing game, specifically Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. I still don't trust a tight end here, though, not unless one can get 20 yards downfield consistently.

Gary Russell, RB, Steelers: See Henry, Chris, first sentence. Russell is available in pretty much every league and faces the Browns' 29th-ranked run defense at home.

Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers: I normally don't like both sides of a time-split. But then, I normally don't get Oakland's run defense on the road on the East Coast in an early game.

Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, Raiders: He has scored in two straight games, and the Bucs' pass defense got lit up by San Diego last week. Not for the weak of heart, but if you are in a deep league (at least 12 teams playing three wide receivers), desperate and feel lucky, he's a gamble with upside.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears: Thanks to the title he is bringing me, I'm gonna Por-tay with Forte like it's 1999! Yup, that one was for me, kids.

Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: He's scored in two of his past three games. The game in which he didn't score was the game against the Saints when he got mauled in the end zone on a pass-interference play. The Texans give up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

All your obvious Texans: They play much better at home than on the road, and the Bears are the road team on short rest. Steve Slaton, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter should all be solid here.

Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz preview all the Week 17 games and answer e-mails for those people still needing one last victory. Listen

All your obvious Ravens: Le'Ron McClain, Joe Flacco and Derrick Mason should all enjoy themselves against the Jaguars.

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: The only guy in this game I trust.

Anthony Fasano and David Martin, TE, Dolphins: The Jets give up the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, Martin has scored in two straight and Fasano has three touchdowns in his past three games.

Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins: He'll put up the statistical equivalent of "in your face."

Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: More of a gut call than anything because he's been really inconsistent this season. But the Jets can't seem to tackle anyone, Brown has more than 100 yards rushing in his past two games at the Jets, and I expect Miami to want to establish the run on the road.

Thomas Jones, RB, Jets: Because if they're gonna win it, it'll be with this guy.

Every Cowboy and Eagle: This is gonna be a shootout. Love Tony Romo, Terrell Owens to stick it to his old team, the red-hot Tashard Choice and Jason Witten against an Eagles team that gives up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Donovan McNabb will bounce back, again, as will Brian Westbrook, and don't forget that DeSean Jackson had a nice game against the Cowboys last time (goal-line fumble notwithstanding).

Seneca Wallace, QB, Seahawks: He has more than 600 yards passing in his past three games.

Deion Branch and Maurice Morris, Seahawks: Cardinals play tougher defense at home, but the Ravens they ain't.

All your Cardinals: They are treating it like a playoff game. Which means they'll lose. Ha! It's OK, I can make that joke, there are no hard-core Cardinals fans who will get offended. Anyway, Anquan Boldin should be back, you're starting Larry Fitzgerald, and you have to like Kurt Warner even if he plays only a half or so.

All your Chargers: Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson will have monster days against a Broncos defense that is done.

All your Broncos in the passing game: Meanwhile, Denver has no run game, will be down and facing the 31st-ranked pass defense.

Week 17 players I hate

Marc Bulger, QB, Rams: "If I only had an arm …"

LaMont Jordan, RB, Patriots: Don't get cute.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: He's banged up, and it's hard enough to run on the Patriots even when you're healthy.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals: I wonder whether the guys who drafted him are still saying "championship."

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon SMINot even Chris Johnson can score from the bench.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: Unless you get points for standing on the sideline looking stylin'.

Peyton Manning, Dominic Rhodes, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Colts: See Johnson, Chris.

Eli Manning and Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: Add two more to the list.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: I actually think he'll be OK because he's a part of the passing game. I'm just putting him on the list to say that I don't think he's a no-matter-what, put-him-in-your-lineup guy, which you'd assume. Because the Saints are gonna throw on every down.

Every single Brown: If you can, join an old-time simulation game and bench Bernie Kosar, too.

All your Steelers: Except the aforementioned Gary Russell. None of the starters will see the second quarter.

Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Bucs have yet to give up a rushing touchdown at home this season. They'll want to keep it that way in the finale.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers: You probably don't have any other choice, but after Andre Johnson became Nnamdi Asomugha's most recent victim, you must lower expectations quite a bit.

Jeff Garcia, QB, Buccaneers: Well, if I don't like Bryant …

Kyle Orton and Devin Hester, Bears: I so wanted to believe.

David Garrard and Dennis Northcutt, Jaguars: On the road, at Baltimore, against a team that is playing to make the playoffs? No thanks.

All your Redskins and 49ers: Except the aforementioned Portis. If Frank Gore goes in this game, you have to start him, but both these teams have better defenses than folks realize, and I expect this to be a low-scoring game.

Brett Favre, QB, Jets: Remember when he used to be Brett Favre?

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Dustin Keller, TE, Jets: Miami is the third-best team in the NFL against the tight end, and Keller has been ice-cold recently.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: This is the Tashard Choice show.

Tatum Bell, RB, Broncos: He'll get most of the carries, so if you just need to pick someone up, he's a guy to consider. But expect to see former practice squad member Cory Boyd get some work, and the Chargers are very strong against the run, especially at home.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- really hopes the Lakers beat the Celtics on Christmas. He is a four-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. 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"

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