Steve Smith: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Outside of the standard prayers of world peace and good health for family, friends (get well, Ryan O'Donnell) and my favorite homeless person in downtown Atlanta (he loves Blimpie subs), I rarely drop to one knee, clasp my hands together and implore the gods for a master-stroke of good fortune. But if I ever wanted to seek divine intervention for fantasy purposes (as superficial as that sounds), I would undoubtedly wish for picture-perfect weather this Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., the setting for Cardinals-Panthers. Oh, what potential we have for fantasy goodness, weather permitting: Kurt Warner, Edgerrin James, Tim Hightower, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston for Arizona ... Jake Delhomme, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Muhsin Muhammad for Carolina. But the real greatness, of course, lies in Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steve Smith, a 1-on-1 WR matchup that could yield even more production than Andre Johnson (11 catches, 141 yards) vs. Calvin Johnson from Week 7.
To clarify, I don't envision Fitz breaking Calvin's mark of 154 receiving yards from last week; but he's a perfect candidate to pull down 11-plus catches on Sunday -- especially with Breaston and Boldin (back from injury) keeping the Panthers' D honest. Smith, in turn, also has the capacity to score three TDs against the Cardinals -- matching the feat accomplished by Jets WR Laveranues Coles a few weeks ago. OK, OK, I can already tell that I'm overselling this matchup; and if the Charlotte weather takes a turn for the worse between now and Sunday (Weather.com predicts 67 and partly sunny), then I'll really look like a moron. Instead, I will simply, safely say that Fitz and Smith are lead-pipe cinches for 110 yards and/or 1 TD -- at least in my world. Am I crazy? Accuscore.com weighs in with its own projections:
Larry Fitzgerald: 6 catches, 80 yards, 0.5 TDs
Steve Smith: 6 catches, 91 yards, 0.6 TDs
Final Score: Panthers 26, Cardinals 21
Want a prime example of how disheveled the Cowboys organization seems these days? I cannot remember the last time a star QB -- and not a team doctor, owner, head coach, GM or even PR department -- furnished the initial announcement of when he would/would not return from injury ... which is exactly what Tony Romo did on Wednesday. Want another example? The Cowboys are once again pinning their fading NFC East-title hopes on QB Brad Johnson -- despite his age (40), inaccuracy (17-of-34 completions last week), rust (only 45 passes since December 2006), lack of mobility (the Cowboys' O-line cannot protect their quarterback) or that Brooks Bollinger (compared to Johnson, in the waning days of his 17-year career) serves as the more victory-friendly option, in Romo's stead. Call me skeptical, but I will be shocked if Johnson orchestrates back-to-back wins over the 5-2 Bucs and 5-1 Giants before the team's Week 10 bye; furthermore, I will be amazed if he throws for 425 total yards and 3 TDs during that span. All this means that, at best, Dallas would be nursing a 5-4 record when Romo returns on Nov. 16 to lead the wild-card-only battle. It also signifies fantasyland doom and gloom for the Cowboys playmakers during the brief Johnson Era -- Jason Witten and Marion Barber excluded.
1. Seattle @ San Francisco
2. Arizona @ Carolina
3. N.Y. Giants @ Pittsburgh
4. Indianapolis @ Tennessee
5. St. Louis @ New England
Fifteen years from now, NFL historians will revere the RB Class of '08 in the same way the QB Class of '83 has been deified. We're talking 10 potential franchise backs -- Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart, Rashard Mendenhall (out for the season) and Jamaal Charles, to name a few. Here are some Week 8 projections for the '08 class, courtesy of Pigskin Addiction:
Chris Johnson, Titans: 100 yards, 2 TDs
Steve Slaton, Texans: 80 total yards, 1 TD
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs: 75 total yards
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: 60 total yards, 1 TD
Kevin Smith, Lions: 95 total yards
Darren McFadden, Raiders: 60 total yards
1. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Carolina
2. DeSean Jackson vs. Atlanta
3. Jerricho Cotchery vs. Kansas City
4. Randy Moss vs. St. Louis
5. Santana Moss vs. Detroit
6. Steve Smith vs. Arizona
7. Andre Johnson vs. Cincinnati
8. Plaxico Burress vs. Pittsburgh
9. Calvin Johnson vs. Washington
Greg Jennings: AP
Matt from Queens asks: In a PPR league, I have Lance Moore and Marques Colston. When can I drop Moore? Is there ever a scenario where I should start both of them?
Answer: Matt, if you're truly desperate to start Colston and Moore together at some point this season, I would recommend Weeks 10 (Atlanta), 12 (Green Bay), 14 (Atlanta) and 16 (Detroit). But I would hope, for your team's sake, that you have better options than Lance Moore on a week-to-week basis. But don't mistake my indifference as a greenlight for dumping him -- he's a solid bench player.
James in Virginia Beach wonders: I just traded Terrell Owens and Michael Turner away for Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings. Was this a good move? Here is the rest of my lineup: QB (Jay Cutler, Trent Edwards), WR (Justin Gage, Steve Breaston, Donnie Avery, Marques Colston, Roy Williams), RB (Earnest Graham, Steve Slaton, Michael Pittman, Jonathan Stewart, Derrick Ward), TE (Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey), K (Josh Scobee), defense (Tennessee).
Answer: First of all, your trade was structurally sound (although it's always hard to give up a stud running back without getting a decent RB in return). Secondly, unless you start two QBs (a rarity in fantasy) ... the next phase of your overhaul should focus on trading Cutler to Brandon Marshall's owner (or a desperate-for-a-QB team) -- in hopes of reeling in one more stud RB or WR (your choice).
Cramer in Milwaukee says: I have a trade request where I'd be getting Lee Evans for Marshawn Lynch, straight up. I have Marion Barber, Steve Slaton, Matt Forte, Julius Jones, Dominic Rhodes at RB and Andre Johnson, Braylon Edwards, DeSean Jackson, Lance Moore, Antonio Bryant at WR ... and we can start up to 4 WRs and up to 3 RBs? Do I pull the trigger on this trade?
Answer: Cramer, you're blessed with an excellent team and great depth, meaning you could probably afford to take chances on a bold trade or two. However, Marshawn has greater value than Evans (whom I love in fantasyland) -- in fact, it's not even close. That's why I could never accept this trade under any circumstances, as presently constituted. At the very least, force the other owner to add a top QB or top-4 TE (Witten, Gates, Gonzo, Winslow) to the mix, as part of a 2-for-1 swap.
Jim in Florence (Kentucky, I presume ... and not Italy?) wonders: I'm in a head-to-head league, and I'm looking for a top receiver. My team consists of Kyle Orton, Kurt Warner, J.T. O'Sullivan at QB; LaDainian Tomlinson, Steve Slaton, Brandon Jacobs at RB; Randy Moss, Laveranues Coles, Kevin Walter, Antonio Bryant at WR; Chris Cooley at TE. We start 1 QB/2 RB/3 WR/1 TE. Any suggetions for the rest of the season?
Answer: Jim, if you're a conservative fantasy owner, I'd stand pat for the time being (quality players -- not a ton of depth). However, if you really, really want to shake things up, I'd convert Warner and LT (either traded together or in separate deals) ... into -- are you ready for this? -- 1 excellent QB, 2 great WRs and 1 good RB. Be bold ... but at the same time, don't be afraid to walk away from a deal -- if you're not completely satisfied. Good luck!
Noel in Orange, Calif. asks: Is it worth trading Terrell Owens and Thomas Jones for Clinton Portis? My team consists of: Brian Westbrook, Steve Slaton, Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee for RBs; WRs are Steve Smith, Jerricho Cotchery. We start 2 WR, 2RB and 1WR/TE.
Answer: Noel, while I appreciate your desire to upgrade the WRs -- complementing your stud RBs -- I cannot endorse trading T.O. and Jones for Portis in any way. Portis is the hottest RB on the planet right now, and I'm willing to bet my life you'd get a better offer if you posted a BIG, bold advertisement regarding Portis' availability on your league message board. My rationale: Great running backs are like gold ... and if someone wants Portis, via trade, they're gonna have to beg for him. Also, since you're knee-deep in RBs right now, I would request two stud WRs in return for CP.
Chuck in Long Beach, Calif. has a trade question: I have been offered Kellen Winslow/Donovan McNabb for Anquan Boldin/Jonathan Stewart. I have RB depth to give up with Stewart. Boldin (was) hurt but one of my top wide receivers. McNabb and Winslow would be upgrades from my current QB/TE combo of David Garrard/Heath Miller. Should I do this deal?
Answer: By your extensive trade rationalization, Chuck, it sounds like you're looking for me (or anyone) to say "Yes, it's OK to get D-McNabb and Winslow in this trade" ... and guess what? Since you're in dire need of a QB/TE makeover, that's exactly what I'm going to do. Make the call, do the deed ... and don't look back!
1. Philip Rivers (I don't trust the waterlogged Wembley Stadium "pitch")
2. Marques Colson (be leery of the big bandage on the thumb)
3. Steven Jackson (he'll get his 100 total yards -- but zero TDs)
4. Chad Johnson
5. Edgerrin James
Who is the Saints' all-time receptions leader?
A) Joe Horn
B) Dalton Hilliard
C) Marques Colston
D) Eric Martin
E) Donte Stallworth
F) Danny Abramowicz
G) Tony Galbreath
H) Wes Chandler
1. WR Muhsin Muhammad (vs. Cardinals)
2. RB Leon Washington (vs. Chiefs -- back-to-back weeks on this list)
3. TE Zach Miller (vs. Ravens)
4. RB Jerious Norwood (vs. Eagles)
5. WR Josh Reed (vs. Dolphins)
1. Wes Welker
2. Correll Buckhalter (I love this guy ... but his value may never be higher)
3. Steven Jackson (I'm not suggesting you get rid of him ... however, this is the perfect time to get a stud RB AND top-notch WR in a 2-for-1 trade)
4. Kyle Orton
5. Chad Johnson (seriously ... if he scores again next week -- sell, sell, sell!)
6. Steve Slaton (I bet you could get Joseph Addai, straight-up)
7. Antonio Bryant
8. Brett Favre
9. Tony Gonzalez
10. Owen Daniels (he's clutch ... but it never hurts to dangle him in front of a desperate owner)
The answer is D. Eric Martin (1985-93) finished his Saints career with 532 catches, outdistancing Joe Horn for top honors. The one-time Pro Bowler had his greatest fantasy season in 1988, catching 85 balls for 1,083 yards and 7 TDs.
1. Ryan Torain (you'll thank me later)
2. Matt Ryan
3. Joseph Addai (I traded for him this week -- and the other owner didn't even bat an eye when accepting my offer ... which means one of us is an idiot)
4. Justin Gage
5. Derek Anderson (there's still time ... like 3:45 p.m. on Sunday)
6. Zach Miller
7. Chester Taylor (I'm going to write his name here every week)
8. Dan Orlovsky (in case you're wondering Who? ... he's the Lions' starting QB)
9. Greg Camarillo (by far and away ... the Dolphins' best receiver)
10. Derrick Ward (one of the best RB handcuffs in the league)
Thank heavens for the Bengals (eh, Kansas City fan?) ... otherwise the Chiefs would be the runaway choice for "Fantasy Mess of the Year." Where to begin with this club? Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard have been placed on IR, ending their seasons; Larry Johnson's troubles with the law have again forced the Chiefs to take away the privilege of playing pro football; and the franchise is putting the finishing touches on a 17th consecutive season (or so it seems) without a viable No. 2 wide receiver! As bad as things seem for the Chiefs (oh, did I mention their Swiss-cheese-like run defense?), there are a few fantasy bright spots: TE Tony Gonzalez (27 catches, 290 yards, 2 TDs) can still reach the 70-catch, 7-TD mark, WR Dwayne Bowe (410 receiving yards, 2 TDs) is third in Targets amongst all pass-catchers; and rookie Jamaal Charles remains a star-in-waiting at running back -- once LJ is out of the picture (long term) and as soon as the K.C. coaches realize Kolby Smith has lost the right to vulture Charles' carries (short term).