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Fire sale: Cassel quietly emerges as one of fantasy's top quarterbacks

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I receive hundreds of e-mails. While 99.9 percent of them are asking me who to start or calling me a racist because I can't spell the last name of the Rams tight end (I still don't get that one. I'm not a racist, I'm just dumb), one e-mail I received last week really got to me. I wanted to take a minute and share it with all of you.

The day before Thanksgiving I received an e-mail from a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force who is based overseas. He didn't want any fantasy advice. He simply said he enjoyed reading my column and that it put a smile on his face, at least for a little while.

Boy, that really got to me. I think hearing that was one of the proudest moments of my life. I say this for a couple of reasons. First, my miserable life has obviously been void of a lot of great moments. Also, I have the utmost respect for any person who devotes their life to serving in the military.

I always like to put myself in the situation. While I'm confident in defending myself in civilian life thanks to my freakish strength and martial arts training, if you put me in a combat situation I would be the first one crying like a baby. I have no problem making this admission. You see, I'm a gutless coward at heart and whatever it takes to serve your country, I don't have it. That's the bottom line.

I just think it's funny that this column could bring that much joy to someone. Let me paint you a picture of how the Fire Sale comes about. Every Sunday I roll out of bed into my recliner in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. At 1:00 I turn on the Red Zone Channel and don't move for the rest of the day.

As I'm watching games someone or something will bother me and I'll say to myself, "Well, looks like your coming down." Then some nobody will score a touchdown and instantly become a candidate for "Going Up." As the day goes on I add and delete players until I have my final list. Then I write the Fire Sale. That's it.

So considering that simple and unimportant process put a smile on the face of a U.S. soldier is quite an honor. Good thing because God knows it isn't the money that makes it worth it.

Now, on with the Fire Sale ...

• Brian Westbrook, RB 49ers -- Just a shocking development on Monday night as early reports have Frank Gore out for the season. Enter Westbrook, a guy who used to be what I considered the top pound-for-pound player in fantasy football.

In the history of fantasy football, Westbrook is probably my favorite player. Sure, he had some injury issues, but when healthy this guy was always a fantasy monster. Now it appears that Westbrook could once again lead fantasy owners to a championship. He had a huge game on Monday night and Westbrook's pass-catching abilities out of the backfield are second to none. Anthony Dixon will get some work as well, especially near the goal line, but it looks like Westbrook is going to have the most fantasy value right now.

Westbrook obviously moves to the top of the waiver wire list this week. Do whatever you can to get him. This guy has a ton of heart and I know he's going to come back and be a stud for the 49ers offense. In a season of twists and turns, an old friend could be the deciding factor in a lot of fantasy leagues this year.

• Matt Cassel, QB Chiefs -- Wow, what a season this guy is having, huh? Right now, who would you start over Cassel? I can only think of a handful of guys. Unless you have Philip Rivers, Mike Vick, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or a couple other elite passers, Cassel should be in your starting lineup. In his past four games, Cassel has thrown for 1,111 yards, 12 touchdowns and only one interception. Not many fantasy quarterbacks can say that.

Cassel is one of the top overall players in fantasy football. He joins Fred Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Jacob Tamme and Peyton Hillis as players who will help decide fantasy titles. By the way, where did you draft those guys? Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews, Shonn Greene and Randy Moss are pretty much worthless right now. That's why I've always said the most overrated aspect of fantasy football is the draft. It may be fun but when it's all said in done, the fantasy draft matters little in my opinion.

• Danario Alexander, WR Rams -- Alexander made this list a couple of months ago after his big game against the Chargers but was injured soon after and we didn't hear from him again until last Sunday. Here's the bottom line: In two of the three games that Alexander has played in this year, he's caught eight passes for 167 yards and a touchdown.

Alexander will be the ultimate boom or bust player next year. He can boom because I believe Alexander has the physical skills to be a big-time NFL receiver. However, he could bust because his knees are as fragile as my mental state. Health is going to be the key with Alexander. The only thing I fear is when a guy has bad knees, that problem usually never goes away.

As for this year, I picked up Alexander for like the fifth time in my league. The Rams throw the ball a ton so as long as he can stay on the field; Alexander should be a fantasy factor the rest of the season. Look at it this way, who would you rather start right now: Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Donald Driver or Alexander? What were the odds before the season that at the end of November the answer would be Alexander?

• Earl Bennett, WR Bears -- I've been touting Bennett since I watched film on him when he was at Vanderbilt. I fell in love with Bennett then but every time I start believing in him, he lets me down. So I'm not going to say a word about Bennett other than he caught two touchdown passes on Sunday. If you believe he's worth picking up then do it. Every time I back Bennett, he disappears for two months.

• James Davis, RB Redskins -- Read above and replace "Earl Bennett" with "James Davis." I loved Davis in college but he's done nothing in the NFL so far. Now he's splitting first-team reps with the Keiland Williams in practice. Heck, if Williams and Ryan Torain can have fantasy value, I suppose Davis is worth a shot. I can tell you one thing: He's more talented than either of those guys.

• Peyton Hillis, RB Browns -- I had to put Hillis on the list one final time. What a monster. This guy runs over 250-pound linebackers like they're sacks of garbage. I can't remember the last time I was this impressed with a player. It's a shock any week Hillis doesn't score 40 fantasy points. Can you imagine being the guy who traded away Hillis AND two draft picks for Brady Quinn? Can you imagine that, Josh McDaniels? Hey, at least he drafted Tim Tebow in the first round. That should make up for it.

• Andre Johnson/Cortland Finnegan -- I would like to be the first person to praise Johnson and Finnegan for their fight on Sunday. I'm getting so sick and tired of our high-horse media. When I read about the fight I keep seeing words like "embarrassing," "ugly" and "disgusting." Then on TV they have to break down the fight for 20 minutes. Give me a break. It was a fight in a football game. It's not the end of the world. Johnson and Finnegan don't like each other and they got into a scuffle. Big deal. Have people ever played football before? It can be an emotional sport. In my lifetime of playing football I've knocked out two girlfriends, my sister and sent my cousin to the hospital. What can I say? It's a violent game.

If you want a great example of how our media, and society in general, works today, let me give you a perfect example. Remember the classic video of the Colts' Mike Curtis knocking down the fan that ran onto the field? What do you do every time you see that video? Laugh, right? Why? Because it's funny. However, can you imagine if Curtis did that today? The media would chastise him for being a bully, he would have to give a press conference and apologize, he would be fined by the league and most likely have to take anger management classes. Back then, everyone just laughed and moved on with their life.

And don't give me the "it's a negative influence on our kids" argument either. You know what's a negative influence on our kids? Bad parenting. Of course, I'm talking to a society that thinks Bugs Bunny makes kids violent, so I guess I'm wasting my time.

I want to applaud both Johnson and Finnegan for spicing up an otherwise painfully boring game. There's nothing wrong with a little hate in sports. Not everyone has to get along. Hey, and the next time the NFL gives you the "It's a business" comeback, ask them why if it's a business they let a bunch of high school kids rip up Soldier Field two days before their high-priced stars were going to play on it? That doesn't sound like good business to me.

• Aaron Hernandez, TE Patriots -- Hernandez had a strong start to the season but he's fallen off over the last month with the emergence of Rob Gronkowski. It used to be that Hernandez got the receptions, while Gronkowski got the touchdowns. Now, Gronkowski is getting both.

Hernandez is still a talented young player with a bright future. However, teams are now more focused on taking him out of the offense then they were earlier in the year and his declining production is evidence of that. After bursting on the scene, Hernandez has been killing fantasy owners of late.

In the Patriots' offense any pass catcher can have a big week at any time, but in my opinion it's time to put Hernandez on the pine. Take away his two touchdown performance against the Browns and Hernandez only has four receptions for 59 yards in his last three games. Gronkowski is now the tight end to own in New England.

• Donald Driver, WR Packers -- Last week someone in my league dropped Driver, so I picked him up. I figured he would add some depth to my team for the playoffs. Obviously, I was wrong. Driver caught a whopping two balls for 26 yards on Sunday.

It's pretty obvious to even morons like me now that Driver simply isn't a part of the Packers offense anymore. The most disturbing thing I saw on Sunday was that Driver actually played a lot of snaps but Aaron Rodgers simply didn't look his way. The bottom line is Driver is no longer a viable fantasy option. Of course, most of you probably already knew that.

I guess I thought Driver had a little left in the tank. I've always liked him and every time people tried to bury Driver, he proved them wrong. This time, though, it finally appears Driver's great career is coming to an end. He's not even worth a roster spot at this point.

• Vincent Jackson, WR Chargers -- Those of you who waited for Jackson's return were extremely disappointed on Sunday. Jackson lasted three plays before injuring his calf. I don't think I need to be a psychic to tell you that it's just not Jackson's year.

I have received a lot of e-mails about Jackson and Sidney Rice and I always respond the same way: Don't start these guys right away. I don't think people realize how hard it is to come back after missing all of training camp and more than half the season. That's why teams have training camp and preseason games; to get players ready for the grueling season.

I don't blame people for hanging onto Jackson but I just don't see him being much of a factor this year. This season has been a disaster for Jackson from the start. That's not going to turn around in the next couple of weeks.

• Zach Miller, TE Raiders -- Tough break for people like me who owned Miller. After being one of the top tight ends in fantasy football over the first half of the year, a foot injury has relegated Miller to non-existent. I actually cut Miller in my league, and if you are holding onto him, I would advise doing the same. Depending on an injured tight end who plays on a team with below average quarterbacks is no way to go through life son. Unfortunately, it's time to cut ties with the once productive Miller.

• Tennessee Titans -- Wow, that was ugly. I had one guy e-mail me last week asking if he should pick up Rusty Smith because he has a good match-up in Week 15. After watching Smith on Sunday, I wouldn't pick him up if the Titans were playing Vanderbilt in Week 15.

But let's get down to the real story here, which is obviously the fantasy value of Chris Johnson. I tried to trade for Johnson about a month ago and I'm so happy the owner backed out of the deal. I still believe Johnson is the second-best back in the NFL (behind Hillis, of course) but he doesn't stand a chance on this team right now. That was one of the worst offensive performances I've seen in a while.

Things were so bad for the Titans on Sunday that I started Rob Bironas and got no points out of him. Usually the Titans at least get a turnover or something and Bironas hammers a 48-yard field goal. Right now, no Titan outside of Johnson is worth starting and I'm only telling you to play Johnson because it goes against everything I believe in to bench him.

Hey, I wonder if Randy Moss misses New England yet? Heck, right now he may even miss Minnesota.

(Note: This will be the last week for Sneaky Starts. Once fantasy playoffs starts, you don't need me suggesting to start Jason Avant)

• Brian Hartline, WR Dolphins -- The Raiders made Chad Henne look like Dan Marino last week. The Browns' secondary (besides rookie Joe Haden) is so bad it could make Hartline look like Mark Duper. A Louis Lipps reference last week and a Duper reference this week. I do bring the party with me, don't I?

• Ben Obomanu, WR Seahawks -- With Mike Williams banged up, Obomanu is getting more playing time and taking advantage of it. Against Kansas City, Obomanu caught five balls for 159 yards and a touchdown. If you need a flex play with upside, Obomanu is your guy.

• Lee Evans, WR Bills -- Evans has three big games a year. I'm taking a shot that one of those big games is this week against Minnesota.

• Joel Dreessen, TE Texans -- I haven't guessed right on Dreessen all year. I start him and he gets me four fantasy points. I cut him and then he gets 27 and 15 fantasy points. Well, I picked Dreessen back up and I may start him again this week against Philadelphia. I think we all know how this story ends.

• Seahawks Defense -- Yep, still just fading the Panthers.

I'm a very busy man but if you need some one-on-one fantasy help, I will try to fit you in. I have one rule: Don't make your e-mails a book. As a freelance writer, I spend a large part of my day writing and responding to e-mails. So if you have a question, ask it. If you want to tell me how much you hate me, do it and do it quickly. If possible, try and make me laugh. If you can't tell me that you hate me in a couple of sentences, may a suggest seeking some professional help? This is a fantasy football column. If you hate me that much, I'm guessing you have some deep rooted issues that need to be addressed. Anyway, if you must get in touch with me, my e-mail address is tcasale@mail.com. You can also follow my comical musings on Twitter or Facebook if you don't have anything else better to do.

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