Marc Bulger: Jim Rogash/Getty Images
It's known as the Bewitching Hour. From 12 noon to 1 p.m. every fall Sunday, just moments after getting confirmation with actives/inactives and the various weather reports for each NFL stadium, fantasy owners inexplicably stray from the lineups they've had set for 3-4 days and reconfigure their starters, in a classic case of overthinking or paralysis through analysis. Sometimes, the last-minute changes -- like subbing out Tashard Choice for Jonathan Stewart before Panthers-Cowboys -- are a stroke of brilliance. But for the most part, these moves reek of desperation and end up in spectacular flameout ... while serving as the difference between losing and winning.
As a form of public service, Fantasy Clicks would like to present 6 simple rules to obey during the Bewitching Hour:
1. Don't fret about rain from Weeks 1-8: As a general rule of thumb, September rain should never be the mitigating factor in starting/sitting a quarterback. Whether it's late summer or early fall, a wet ball still travels well -- unless there's a 40 mph crosswind wreaking havoc. So, if you ended up replacing Tom Brady (277 yards, 1 TD) against the Falcons at rainy Foxboro for the vastly inferior JaMarcus Russell (1 passing yard in the second half vs. Denver) ... you're probably cursing the day the freakishly large, cannon-for-an-arm Russell ever darkened your draft-day doorstep.
As for rainy days in November and December, it's more than OK to sit a stud QB -- especially if strong winds are at play. Factoring in the cold air, the stifling wind, the near-frostbit fingertips (for those QBs who don't wear gloves) and overall conservative play-calling of coaches down the stretch ... you'd be a fool to not consider a decent quarterback (like Shaun Hill) hurling the ball in warm, sunny weather or a domed stadium. The greatest example I can provide is this: Week 15 of 2007 ... Brady threw for only 140 yards against the Jets, amid horrible weather conditions -- the one glitch in a record-breaking season of 50 TD passes, while taking thousands of owners down with him in the fantasy playoffs.
2. Never use "handcuffing" as the No. 1 factor in choosing a QB: If you have Andre Johnson or Vincent Jackson and want to pair 'em with Matt Schaub or Philip Rivers ... by all means, do the deed! But it's not necessarily the smartest thing to pair Kerry Collins-Justin Gage, Chad Henne-Ted Ginn, Jr., Derek Anderson-Braylon Edwards or Brett Favre-Greg Lewis for the sole purpose of double-dipping points (although it would've made a great story to have Favre-to-Lewis in your Week 3 lineup).
3. Remember the decoys: Let's pretend you have Maurice Jones-Drew and he's coming back early from a sprained-knee injury. Leading up to Sunday's game, you promised yourself he'd ride the bench no matter what -- due to an utter lack of trust for players who say they're "fine" midweek but don't practice. But come Sunday, upon hearing the news that MJD will suit up, you automatically throw a less-than-optimal asset back into the lineup. Now, if your only other alternatives are Kenneth Darby and Rashad Jennings, of course you're going to start Jones- Drew. But in most dilemmas, you'll want to start Cedric Benson or Joseph Addai -- just in case Jacksonville plans on using MJD as a decoy for most of the afternoon. Think about it: If MJD was missing from the starting lineup, would you be afraid of the Jaguars' passing attack?
4. Your first gut instinct is usually correct: This one is rather self-explanatory. If your brain keeps telling you that Julius Jones will have a monster game against the Colts in Week 4 -- even though there's a mountain of evidence to the contrary -- trust your judgment, take a stand and let the chips fall where they may. Besides, nothing could possibly compare to the mental torture of benching Antonio Bryant just seconds before Bucs-Panthers in Week 14 of 2008 ... only to watch him catch nine balls for 200 yards and two touchdowns. By relying on intuition ... at least you'll respect yourself in the morning.
5. A last-minute lineup switch should never include the Browns, Buccaneers or Redskins: These three clubs look lost on the field right now ... and that malaise holds true in the fantasy realm, as well. Torn between Jake Delhomme and Byron Leftwich (or Josh Johnson)? Can't decide between Kenny Britt and Malcolm Kelly? What about James Harrison or Jamaal Charles? All things being equal, stay away from Cleveland, Tampa Bay or Washington players ... unless their names rhyme with Schmoss, Schmortis, Schmilliams or Schminslow.
6. Never start Marc Bulger: True story. Last Sunday afternoon, after a full week of touting Kevin Kolb as a top-5 fantasy option against the lowly Chiefs on Twitter (and radio interviews), I made the colossal blunder of switching out Kolb for Bulger, simply because Bulger was playing in the climate-controlled Edward Jones Dome ... and that I had Laurent Robinson as the QB-WR handcuff. (Kolb, for the record, was playing on the chewed-up, rain-saturated grass at Lincoln Financial Field, home to easily the NFL's worst playing surface in wet weather.) Well, two minutes into Rams-Packers, Bulger goes down with a shoulder injury, followed up Robinson's season-ending ankle injury. On the day, Bulger and Robinson combined for49 yards ... whereas Kolb accounted for 328 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first QB in NFL history to exceed 300 yards passing in his first two career starts. Ouch!
1. Carson Palmer @ Cleveland
2. Peyton Manning vs. Seattle
3. Trent Edwards @ Miami
4. Drew Brees vs. N.Y. Jets
5. Tony Romo @ Denver
6. Shaun Hill vs. St. Louis
7. Aaron Rodgers @ Minnesota
8. Brett Favre vs. Green Bay (I would be genuinely disappointed if Packers-Vikes wasn't a shootout for the ages; at the very least, let's hope it ballparks the hype surrounding it)
In general terms, here's a list of the 20 best available free agents for 12-team, standard-scoring leagues:
1. RB Glen Coffee, 49ers
2. RB Tashard Choice, Cowboys
3. QB Kyle Orton, Broncos
4. WR Pierre Garcon, Colts
5. QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles (a must-handcuff for D-McNabb owners)
6. TE Brent Celek, Eagles
7. QB David Garrard, Jaguars
8. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
9. QB Seneca Wallace, Seahawks
10. RB Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
11. WR Andre Caldwell, Bengals
12. WR Kenny Britt, Titans
13. RB Fred Taylor, Patriots
14. D/ST New Orleans Saints
15. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
16. QB Mark Sanchez, Jets
17. WR Sidney Rice, Vikings
18. WR Keenan Burton, Rams
19. TE Dante Rosario, Panthers
20. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
1. Matt Forte vs. Detroit
2. Cedric Benson @ Cleveland
3. Steve Slaton vs. Oakland
4. Donald Brown vs. Seattle
5. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Tennessee
6. Brandon Jacobs @ Kansas City
7. Reggie Bush vs. N.Y. Jets
8. Glen Coffee vs. St. Louis
9. Adrian Peterson vs. Green Bay
10. Ronnie Brown vs. Buffalo
11. Steven Jackson @ San Francisco
I typically abstain from schadenfreude -- taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. But truth be told, I wasn't totally displeased to see Chris Brown's crucial fumble at the 1 in the Texans' 31-24 home loss to the Jaguars. Throughout the Jacksonville game, Brown had been vulturing Steve Slaton's short-yardage carries, an out-of-the-blue occurrence that was quickly vanquishing Slaton's fantasy value. Brown runs left. Brown runs right. Brown runs up the gut ... it was enough to wonder if the Round 2 investment on Slaton -- who, by all accounts, had no competition for between-the-20s and goal-line touches -- was fool's gold.
Yes, Slaton has improved his total yards in each successive game this season, but without the undisputed red-zone touches and presumptive touchdowns, he's nothing more than Wes Welker for running backs. Hopefully, Houston's coaches can easily move on from the Brown experiment ... and return Slaton to his all-purpose-dynamo days of 2008.
... Here's how we'd rank the tight ends heading into the August drafts:
1. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
2. Dallas Clark, Colts
3. John Carlson, Seahawks
4. Jason Witten, Cowboys
5. Brent Celek, Eagles
6. Kellen Winslow, Browns
7. Antonio Gates, Chargers
8. Owen Daniels, Texans
9. Dustin Keller, Jets
10. Chris Cooley, Redskins
11. Vernon Davis, 49ers
12. Dante Rosario, Panthers
13. Jeremy Shockey, Saints
14. Todd Heap, Ravens
15. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
16. Greg Olsen, Bears
17. Zach Miller, Raiders
18. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
19. Ben Watson, Patriots
20. Kevin Boss, Giants
Here are the 10 best buy-low options heading into Week 4. Normally, I'd advise herky-jerky owners to wait four whole weeks before consummating blockbuster deals -- as part of a major roster overhaul -- but since this is my last Clicks for a while ... might as well go out in style:
1. Steven Jackson, Rams (capitalize on Owner B's freakout from the TD-less start)
2. Brian Westbrook, Eagles (I'd kill to have him in any of my 10 leagues)
3. Kurt Warner, Cardinals (the ultimate boom-bust QB will eventually find his stroke)
4. Darren McFadden, Raiders (he's too much of a freak to disappear in fantasyland)
5. Steve Breaston, Cardinals (the quintessential stud-handcuff to Fitzgerald/Boldin)
6. Brandon Marshall, Broncos (patience ... the stats will come -- I think)
7. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (check out his Week 13-17 sked)
8. Steve Slaton, Texans (it may be too late to steal him)
9. Antonio Gates, Chargers (he's healthy ... and yet, could be had for a decent WR3)
10. Eddie Royal, Broncos (I know he's been sucking wind -- 6 catches to date -- but Josh McDaniels' offense is tailor-made for him ... don't give up the ship yet)
Thomas Jones: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
@airT08 asks: Would you rather start Tashard Choice (@DEN) or Brandon Jacobs (@KC)? What about ... Lee Evans (@MIA) or Josh Morgan (@STL)?
Answer: This seems like a slam-dunk bet for Week 4 ... in favor of B-Jacobs over Choice (although both could total 100 yards) and Evans over J-Morgan. History has shown that Evans has 3-4 monster fantasy games each year, and I have a feeling he'll hit paydirt in Miami.
@steelpr1 inquires: What do you think about this move: Drop Brian Westbrook, while adding Tashard Choice?
Answer: Steel, you would not believe the ungodly number of man-hours I've spent this season, TRYING in vain to land Westbrook (138 total yards in two games) in a buy-low trade ... and here you are, just wanting to brazenly dump him for a third-string rusher? Don't get me wrong, I like Choice and would love to have him on any roster for the remainder of the season (regardless of Marion Barber/Felix Jones's health). But unless Westbrook has a femur bone sticking out of his leg, he's absolutely worth keeping in all formats, regardless of league roster size. Come on ... really?
@thrasherrr wonders: What do you think of this blockbuster? I'd be giving up Thomas Jones, DeSean Jackson, Donovan McNabb for Steve Slaton, Kurt Warner, Brandon Marshall.
Answer: It's impossible to answer this question with 100 percent certainty, without knowing your full roster. But at face value, I'd rather possess the Jones/Jackson/McNabb triumvirate from Weeks 4-17. All three have immense upside and could easily carry a fantasy team for a few weeks at any point. BOOM!
@hblakers wants to know: I am 0-3 and thinking about giving up Larry Fitzgerald/Clinton Portis for Vincent Jackson/Thomas Jones/Julius Jones. Thoughts? I need points now!
Answer: Theoretically, I'm OK with trading Fitz/Portis for V-Jax/T-Jones/Julius. However (and please pay attention here), I would think you could squeeze out another good player from Owner B -- making it a landmark 4-for-2 swap. The way I see it, people should move mountains to own Fitz (PPR and standard-scoring leagues) ... and I'd milk Fitz (and Portis, the world's greatest throw-in) for all their worth. Bonus: If you hurry to consummate the deal before Sunday, you can revel in the fact that Owner B won't be able to use Fitzy until Oct. 11 (Arizona has a Week 4 bye).
1. Lawrence Tynes @ Kansas City
2. Nate Kaeding @ Pittsburgh
3. Nick Folk @ Denver
4. Stephen Gostkowski vs. Baltimore
5. Mason Crosby @ Minnesota
6. Dan Carpenter vs. Buffalo
7. Rob Bironas @ Jacksonville
Mainstream fantasy sites, like SI.com, are obviously a hit with fantasygoers. But there's always room for alternative media in the marketplace, especially when the authors are hilariously shouting from the rooftops about why Marc Bulger hasn't turned over a new leaf, or why the Cleveland Browns could be the next Detroit Lions.
The first must-see blog is PigskinAddiction.com; and the site's signature page involves Snake's Takes (running every Tuesday) -- comprising a collection of unfiltered thoughts so random, so emotional, so bitter, so twisted ... you'll wonder how the man even survives an NFL Sunday, let alone write about it come Monday.
Next up ... Fantasy Football Toolbox. If you're looking for updated depth charts, weekly cheat sheets, injury reports and even -- sacre bleu! -- an updated listing of the NFL's Top 10 punters (insert joke here) ... then welcome home!
There's even a weekly podcast during the season -- although the Clemons/Ritter podcast offers more hard-hitting fantasy analysis and abject mocking of one another's lineup decisions.
1. Chad Ochocinco @ Cleveland
2. Greg Jennings @ Minnesota
3. Marques Colston vs. N.Y. Jets
4. Lee Evans @ Miami
5. Reggie Wayne vs. Seattle
6. Vincent Jackson @ Pittsburgh
7. Santonio Holmes vs. San Diego
8. Derrick Mason @ New England
9. Calvin Johnson @ Chicago
10. Santana Moss vs. Tampa Bay
11. Nate Burleson @ Indianapolis
We interrupt this topsy-turvy fantasy football season ... to bring you a wedding. I'm getting married this weekend and will subsequently be unchained from my computer for the next 10-12 days (outside of random 5-minute sessions to set lineups). But hath no worries, for Clicks and the award-winning Fantasy Revelations shall rest in the capable hands of Jeff Ritter (@jeffritter) and David Sabino (@davidsabino) until Oct. 14. Feel free to blast 'em any lineup queries on Twitter. Hasta luego!