Following the money can make for cagey fantasy lineup decisions
With roughly 5,942 fantasy columns pumped out each week in America, countless NFL shows with fantasy analysis, Direct TV, NFL Network and 30 million fantasy conversant Americans to talk with, there's no shortage of ways to formulate opinions and set your lineups. But one piece of information I like to use, and that I think is under-utilized by the fantasy population at large, are the Vegas line moves. Understanding the ways Vegas changes its lines can help you make that crucial lineup change on Sunday.
This may be common knowledge to a lot of people, but in general, a betting line in Vegas moves in concert with the money. That is to say, if a team starts out as a three-point favorite and 70 percent of the public money is on the favorite, they'll move to four- or five-point favorites. However, sometimes the line moves against the money, and that's when you, the fantasy owner, knows something is up.
For example, New Orleans started out as a 14-point favorite over Cleveland. Sixty-eight percent of the money was on the Saints, but the line dropped to 13 by Sunday, meaning Vegas wanted even more money on the Saints. I saw that Sunday morning, and with a fantasy team on which I have extraordinary running back depth, I ended up making a last-minute change and benched Beanie Wells for Peyton Hillis. After seeing the way the line moved, I figured Cleveland would at least be in the game, and I thought Hillis would have to be a big part of that. The difference between the two didn't end up being huge (Wells had 54 yards and a touchdown, Hillis had 69 yards and a score), but Hillis did end up outscoring Wells by a point-and-a-half.
Line moves against the money indicate a game may be much more competitive than a cursory glance might suggest, and odds are not many people in your league are using that to their advantage. With the constant stream of information we have, anything you can use that your league-mates don't can be an edge.
• Week 7 was The Week of the Wide Receiver. The following all had at least 100 yards and a touchdown: Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith (NYG), Jordan Shipley, Chad Ochocinco, Roddy White (11 catches, 201 yards 2 TD!), Kenny Britt (225 yards, three scores!), Hines Ward, Marques Colston, Steve Johnson, Lee Evans
• New York Giant Steve Smith was a giant again. I hope you didn't give up on him a few weeks ago, because the Giants' offense looks like one of the best in the league.
• The Cowboys are a mess, but I like Jon Kitna as a fantasy option while Tony Romo is out, especially this week against Jacksonville. In fact, I'm starting him in a league where I have Eli Manning and Jay Cutler on byes.
• Even more encouraging than Michael Turner's 121-yard, two-touchdown effort was the fact that he had 23 carries to Jason Snelling's five.
• I still don't buy Carson Palmer after his huge game against the Falcons. The consistency isn't there to make him a reliable starter.
• I think Jay Cutler just threw an interception. Calling the Bears' offensive line "porous" is being generous, and it's clearly in Cutler's head. All four picks he threw were on him, but it's an offshoot of having such a terrible line in front of him. At the first sight of pressure, he's unloading the ball, and it's hard to recommend him with the week-in, week-out beating he takes.
• The Redskins sure look comfortable giving Ryan Torain the lion's share of the carries. He's a weekly starter from here on out.
• Kevin Kolb lost any shot he had to keep the starting job after Sunday's performance. The Eagles have a bye this week, but I'd get Michael Vick right back in there against the Colts in Week 9.
• I apologize to anyone who sat Kenny Britt on my recommendation last week. He's pretty much impossible to ignore now, but I'd be offering him around to see what he can bring back in a trade.
• Nice to see Maurice Jones-Drew making plays, albeit in the passing game. He's a guy I'd be trying to trade, though. He should fetch a pretty nice price on the open market, and I think he's just inside the top-10 backs going forward.
• The back-and-forth between Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown means neither is a great play going forward. I'm not saying you can't start them, but I wouldn't be expecting the production of even a second running back out of either of the two.
• Ben Roethlisberger is a top-10 quarterback going forward. I'd rather have him than Tom Brady.
• I'm still a Chris Ivory fan. The Browns defense is better than a lot of people realize, and once the Saints got down, they kind of abandoned the run, evidenced by Drew Brees' 56 pass attempts. Sean Payton indicated Pierre Thomas could be a healthy scratch, to borrow a hockey term, in the future, and the Saints' schedule looks favorable after playing the Steelers next week (@Carolina, vs. Seattle, @Dallas, @Cincinnati, vs. St Louis).
• LeGarrette Blount: 11 carries. Cadillac "Toyota" Williams: four carries. It's about time, Raheem Morris. As long as that breakdown continues, Blount could be a sneaky flex play in the future.
• DeAngelo Williams is not a top-15 running back going forward. By the way, Carolina started out as a three-point underdog and moved to two by Sunday even with close to 70 percent of the public money on San Francisco.
• Is Ryan Fitzpatrick a legitimate fantasy option? He might be. He played pretty well against Jets, and absolutely lit up the Ravens. With 12 teams on bye the next two weeks and the Bills playing the Chiefs and Bears, Fitzpatrick is an intriguing waiver-wire add.
• Wow, Darren McFadden really returned with a bang. Still, I wouldn't overreact to his domination of the Broncos. He had 16 carries to Michael Bush's 15, and Bush got the goal-line carry. While McFadden may get the starting nod, this looks like it will remain a timeshare.
• I think I'm going to stop predicting Ryan Mathews-breakout games as an attempt at a reverse jinx. Patrick Crayton remains a good option as long as Malcom Floyd is out.
• Keep an eye on Brett Favre's ankle. He has two fractures, and if he has to miss any time, you'll have to downgrade Randy Moss and Percy Harvin.
1. Peyton Manning vs. Texans
1. Adrian Peterson @ Patriots
1. Reggie Wayne vs. Texans
1. Antonio Gates vs. Titans
Last week, we went 2-for-3 and advanced with the Falcons in another ugly week for survivors with the Saints and Broncos going down and taking plenty of people with them.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Bills): The Chiefs look pretty legit, especially on offense, led by their two-headed rushing attack of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. The Bills actually have a pretty solid secondary, despite what they showed against the Ravens, but they'll have no answer for Charles and Jones. Back the Chiefs with confidence.
2. Indianapolis Colts (vs. Texans): This may seem like a risk, and it's admittedly a hunch, but I just can't see the Colts losing at home to the Texans, coming off a bye, after already losing to them earlier this season. Expect a ton of fireworks in this game, as I fully expect the winner to approach 40 points. In the end, the Texans secondary can't stop Peyton Manning when they need to, and the Colts take it.
3. St. Louis Rams (vs. Panthers): Again, a bit of a risk. Despite getting their first win last week, and John Fox making the right move going back to Matt Moore, this is a bad team. Steven Jackson should have a monster game against a poor rush defense in Carolina, leading the Rams to victory.
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