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The Fire Sale: Hope for a Rivers rebound this season proving futile

I apologize for not being on Twitter or returning e-mails this past week. I haven't been online much. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I've been dealing with a health problem and I had a tough week, so I was MIA. I just wanted to let the few of you who actually follow my crazy nonsense know I'm still alive. I will get back to my constant complaining on Twitter as soon as possible. Let's be honest though, to quote Bob Uecker, "No one's listening anyway."

Despite clinging to life, I was able to set aside some time on Sunday to make a few ridiculous observations and spit out a fantasy column. You can say a lot of things about me but you can't say I don't care. I hope you all had a great Turkey Day, and if you partook in Black Friday, thank you for contributing to the downfall of society. I do my part by watching Jersey Shore.

Now, on with the Fire Sale ...

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots -- Vereen has received some playing time for the Patriots last couple of games and he's looked spry. Stevan Ridley isn't the fastest running back on the planet, but his his power and toughness is impressive. But when it comes to getting to the edge, that simply isn't Ridley's strength. Vereen looks like the more explosive of the two rookie backs.

One reason to like Vereen, especially for the future, is he has a very good chance to take over the role currently occupied by Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead. Vereen was an excellent receiver in college, and once he gets all the pass protection stuff down, you could be looking at the Patriots new third-down back.

Vereen doesn't have a ton of value right now. There are still way too many hands in the cookie jar when talking about the Patriots backfield. Remember, Ridley looked like a superstar in a couple of games and then fell off the face of the earth. Still, Vereen is a guy to watch over the next five games.

If you play in a deeper league and you want to add a running back for depth come playoff time, Vereen is worth picking up but he has a lot more value in keeper leagues right now. He may give you one big game down the road but it's hard to imagine Vereen being a huge fantasy help until 2012.

Roy Helu, RB, Redskins -- Helu had a big game on Sunday. With Mike Shanahan's cockeyed approach to life, that probably means he'll get benched this week in favor of Evan Royster. Seriously, tell me you would be shocked if that happened?

Lance Moore, WR, Saints -- It was a great way to finish off the Sneaky Starts last week with Moore going for five catches, 54 yards and two scores.

The Saints have a lot of weapons and players who can do different things, but Moore really excels at working against linebackers on those underneath routes. Now that Moore is healthy New Orleans' passing attack could be even more dangerous, which is scary.

With Moore back in the lineup, Sproles is catching fewer passes. Defenses are now more focused on Sproles, so that's opening up things for Moore to do damage on short routes. Still, it's the Saints, so Moore won't put up those numbers every game but he's the perfect receiver to have on your bench. I always thought that of Moore. He may not be a fantasy stud but when healthy Moore is a good option to start in a pinch. Look for Moore to have a nice final month of the season.

Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles -- I haven't hated a player the way I hate DeSean Jackson in a long, long time. I just hate everything about him. I hate the way he plays, I hate his attitude, I hate his cockiness despite being average, I hate everything about the guy. So after Jackson's good game against the Giants, who are the only team that can't defend him for some reason, I tried like crazy to unload the overrated receiver before my league's trade deadline.

As the deadline approached it appeared I was going to get stuck with Jackson. Then, at the last moment, the clouds parted and an owner accepted a deal that gave me Percy Harvin for Jackson. I also picked up Cooper, who, in my opinion, gave me two receivers better than Jackson.

Here's why I like Cooper: it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Eagles shut down Jackson a la Keyshawn Johnson at some point in the near future. In the last three weeks Jackson has been inactive, got a ridiculously stupid taunting penalty and was benched for not going after balls over the middle. At some point Andy Reid is going to say "enough is enough" with this guy.

Either way, I believe Cooper is in line for a lot more playing time even when Jeremy Maclin returns. Cooper impressed when he was at Florida, and while he may never be a superstar Cooper has a shot to be a nice fantasy option in PPR leagues. Cooper has eight catches for 146 yards and a score in his last two games and now he gets to feast on the Seahawks secondary in Week 13.

I think Cooper will get you around 12-15 points a week in PPR leagues. If Cooper is still around, go get him because Jackson's days in Philadelphia may be coming to an end sooner than most people think.

Broncos defense -- Let's take Tim Tebow out of the equation. Some people despise Tebow and other idiots are getting his name tattooed on their back. Let's not talk about whether or not Tebow can play quarterback in the NFL for a minute.

I want to take you back to last season. After the Raiders ripped Denver's defense for 59 points and what seemed like 1,000 yards rushing I wrote it was the single worst defensive performance I had seen in 30 years of following the NFL. I stand by that statement. I had never seen a defense get pushed around so easily or players not giving any effort at all to get off blocks. It was a disgusting performance.

In my opinion, the Broncos had the worst defense in the NFL last season. So what this unit has done in less than a year under John Fox and Dennis Allen needs to be recognized and applauded. The fact that the Broncos have gone from the defensive mess they were last season to one of the NFL's best units is really astonishing. Again, let's not talk about Tebow. I'm talking facts and it's an absolute fact that you can't keep winning in the NFL if your quarterback has 80 yards passing through three quarters every week unless the defense keeps you in the game. It simply can't happen.

For fantasy purposes the Broncos defense is still available in a lot of leagues, and that's surprising when you look what they have ahead of them. Starting this week the Broncos get Minnesota, Chicago, New England, Buffalo and Kansas City. Other than the Patriots, that's not a bad slate.

Listen, I have the Dallas defense and they stink. The Eagles defense stinks. The Giants defense stinks. If you're still carrying one of these below-average fantasy defenses I would advise dropping them for the Broncos.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers -- Now we know how bad the Packers pass defense really is this season. That was the only unit that made Rivers look good.

Rivers has been one of the most disappointing players in both the NFL and fantasy football. Some claim he's injured, but Rivers and the Chargers keep denying it.

I'm not sure what the reason is for Rivers' struggles but I've never seen him the throw the ball up for grabs as often as he's doing this year, and that goes back to his college days at N.C. State. Rivers' receivers are suspect. Vincent Jackson is vastly overrated, and Malcom Floyd is a waste, but Rivers was putting up huge numbers last year playing with guys off the street.

Word out of San Diego is the Chargers have finally realized what the rest of us have known for years; Norv Turner can't coach. The guy knows offense, I'll give him that, but Turner has no business being a head coach in the NFL. Apparently, he will finally be fired at the end of the season, which is too late because the Chargers have been wasting talent for the past five years.

If you have Rivers and are somehow in position to go to the playoffs, it could be time to play matchups. Rivers has killed fantasy owners all season and things look like they're going from bad to worse in San Diego.

I hope you have a good backup, but if not, it's time to really look at who is available on the waiver wire. As scary as it sounds there are weeks when Alex Smith is a much better fantasy option than Rivers. What a difference a year (and coaching) makes, huh?

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings -- I can't remember when I've seen a worse NFL running back. Maybe Curtis Enis? Enis generally represents the worst running back I've ever seen, so if I were ranking Gerhart I guess I would say he's slightly better than Enis.

This guy just doesn't go anywhere. I see him get the ball, I see his feet moving but I don't see him going forward. How is that possible? Gerhart looks like he's running in place with a football in his arms.

Gerhart gained 44 yards on 17 carries in Week 12, but I think the stat people should go back and look at the tape again because I have no idea how he ended up with 44 yards. You know what Gerhart should do once he's out of the NFL in two years? He should come out with an exercise video because no one makes running in place looks as good as Gerhart does.

As I was watching Gerhart and wondering how this could possibly be the same guy I saw play at Stanford, I also noticed that Christian Ponder has a little something to him. I like the way Ponder takes charge of the offense. Ponder played well on Sunday considering he has a back who can't run and a coach who can't coach. Those are tough things to overcome for a rookie quarterback.

Let's hope Adrian Peterson returns against Denver. If not, maybe Gerhart can add some jumping jacks to his routine so watching him won't be so boring.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants -- No player does less and celebrates more than Jacobs. If I stunk as much as Jacobs I would just be happy to still be in the NFL. The way Jacobs celebrated on Monday night against the Saints with his team losing is all you need to know about him. Jacobs has always been about himself. It's just sad that he can't see that he stinks. Let me put it this way, the biggest Giants homer I know texted me during the first half of the Saints game and said, "I wish I never had to see Jacobs run the ball again." Don't worry, in a month your wish will come true.

Andre Johnson, WR Texans -- Sometimes things get to the point where they are beyond a player's control. It was already bad enough that Johnson had to make his return from a hamstring injury his starting quarterback out for the year. Now Johnson is down to the guy who was probably the third best quarterback in the ACC last year.

Matt Leinart wasn't any kind of savior but at least he had some NFL experience. Leinart could have probably salvaged Johnson and given him some fantasy value. Now all the Texans are in big trouble, including Arian Foster.

Foster will always catch passes to help his fantasy day, but watching him try and run in the second half against Jacksonville was tough. The guy kept going between 55 and 64 rushing yards. Foster would gain a yard, lose four yards, gain two yards and that's how it went for the entire second half.

T.J. Yates is what he is: a third-string rookie with no experience. It's hard to believe Foster and Johnson are going to be huge fantasy players for the remainder of the season.

Johnson's situation is similar to Calvin Johnson's last year. When Matthew Stafford got hurt, Megatron still put up good numbers with Shaun Hill. However, by the time Detroit got down to Drew Stanton, even a beast like Johnson suffered. Johnson had a big game in Week 16 but remember his five-point fantasy performance the week before that sunk a lot of owners in the playoffs? If you start Johnson you could be in line for those kinds of games, and that's a killer come playoff time.

If you waited this long for Johnson to return, it's just bad luck. Either Yates is going to shock the world and be better than we all think or the Texans will struggle badly on offense for the rest of the year. I'm going to go ahead and put my money on Houston struggling.

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys -- A lot of people believe once Austin returns that Laurent Robinson is going to disappear from the Cowboys offense. I'm not one of those people.

I'm a lifelong Dallas fan, which means I expect the unexpected when it comes to making the right decisions and I'm overly hard on the team because I demand success. There is little difference between fans of the Cowboys and Yankees. Even though I despise the Yankees, both teams are sports royalty and nothing short of winning titles is acceptable.

Also, why is it when news breaks in Dallas it's always followed by, "... according to Jerry Jones?" Why do I hear DeMarco Murray will still get most of the carries, "according to Jerry Jones?" Where's the head coach? Why is the owner holding weekly news conferences? Boy, I don't understand why that franchise hasn't won anything in 16 years.

You see, I talk about a Cowboys player and now I'm off on a rant. Getting back to Austin, I'm not high on him down the stretch for a couple of reasons. First, with how well Robinson is playing Dallas isn't going to rush Austin back just to get him on the field. Even when Austin returns his snap count could be limited.

Second, Robinson is playing as well as anyone on the Cowboys team not named Sean Lee. I don't hold much stock in the Pro Bowl but if Lee doesn't get voted in they should never play the game again. He's been the Cowboys' best player all year long with the only exception possibly being DeMarcus Ware.

See, another rant? My point is Tony Romo has built a lot of chemistry with Robinson, so I can't see Austin being more than a flex play when he returns to the lineup. I like going with sure things during fantasy playoffs over hit or miss guys. Austin is going to be far from a sure thing for the rest of the year with the emergence of Robinson.

For more average fantasy advice you can follow Thomas Casale on Twitter and Facebook or e-mail him at tcasale@mail.com.

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