Alex Smith: AP
At first blush, the notion of 49ers QB Alex Smith throwing five touchdowns against the Bears seems a tad ridiculous -- since we're talking about a guy who tossed only one TD during his seven-start rookie run of 2005 ... and someone who couldn't beat out Shaun Hill in training camp back in August. But then again, who's to say he cannot repeat the feats of Carson Palmer (Week 7) and Kurt Warner (Week 9) against a Chicago defense that, at the present time, can only stop Cleveland's anemic offense? Stranger things have happened, you know -- like Smith beating out Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Braylon Edwards, DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Aaron Rodgers for the No. 1 overall pick four years ago. That was pretty crazy!
Yes, Smith has his full complement of playmakers in the lineup right now (aside from backup RB Glen Coffee). Yes, the Bears defense ranks just 23rd in sacks and surrenders 24 points per game. And, yes, Michael Crabtree looks like the real deal and could easily break out at any point this season (especially at home). But it still may not be enough to hit the magical 5-spot on national TV ... which means Smith may have to settle for the thrill of 250-plus yards and matching his career-high in TD passes (three -- twice). Here's a breakdown of our projections:
QB Smith: 277 yards passing, 37 rushing (314 total), 3 touchdowns
RB Frank Gore: 147 total yards (119 rushing), 1 TD
WR Michael Crabtree: 8 catches, 93 yards, 1 TD
WR Josh Morgan: 5 catches, 42 yards, 1 TD
WR Isaac Bruce: 4 catches, 47 yards
TE Vernon Davis: 6 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD
1. Carson Palmer @ Pittsburgh
2. Drew Brees @ St. Louis
3. Kurt Warner vs. Seattle
4. Aaron Rodgers vs. Dallas
5. Donovan McNabb @ San Diego
6. Philip Rivers vs. Philadelphia
7. Peyton Manning vs. New England
8. Tom Brady vs. Indianapolis
9. Alex Smith vs. Chicago
Looking for a creative way to land Patriots WR Randy Moss (49 catches, 712 yards, 5 TDs in '09) in a pre-deadline blockbuster? Try offering a RB-needy owner Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and Giants WR Mario Manningham, as part of an all-too-tempting 3-for-1 trade. The brilliance of this swap is two-fold: By offering Owner B the security of the Westbrook/McCoy handcuff, it seems like you're doing him/her a major favor. But we'd argue that Westbrook and McCoy's fantasy stats -- on a per-game basis -- will suffer down the stretch when both are active and presumably healthy (perhaps every Sunday).
On the Manningham front, he undoubtedly deserves far greater respect than "throw-in status" when looking at the numbers (34 catches, 491 yards, 4 TDs) ... but, given his lack of time-tested name recognition, Owner B will invariably pull Double-M from their starting lineup at 12:55 on Sunday afternoon during the fantasy-playoff weeks, in favor of a bigger "name" with lesser seasonal production. (It's a pretty good Jedi Mind Trick and something that would prompt Billy Dee Williams to say: Works ... every ... time ... HA!)
... I dealt him away in a CBS keeper league on Tuesday, as part of 2-for-3 blockbuster. With my team likely out of the playoff picture (and that's putting it mildly) and with Moss' ownership-eligibility running out at season's end ... I had no choice but to make the following move:
Randy Moss, Shonn Greene for Brandon Jacobs, Knowshon Moreno, Mike Sims-Walker
The rationale: Jacobs (673 total yards, 2 TDs in '09) fills a short-term hole at running back, given the unexpected flameouts of Darren McFadden (injury), Marshawn Lynch (erratic production), Donald Brown (simply not ready for primetime) and Greene (trapped behind Thomas Jones). Sims-Walker serves as a solid short-term replacement for Moss (both playmakers had 6 catches, 147 yards, 1 TD in Week 9), with the potential for keeper consideration at season's end. And Moreno, bless his Bronco-busting heart, represents the "upside guy" who could seriously challenge Matt Forte and/or Roddy White for the two keeper slots in 2010 -- assuming he'll demonstrate sustained flashes of his immense potential between Weeks 10-17.
Is this a perfect arrangement? Certainly not. For starters, there's no guarantee that Moreno possesses greater keeper potential than Greene (unless T. Jones re-signs with the Jets -- which could happen) ... and Jacobs may soon be playing second-fiddle to Ahmad Bradshaw, if the Giants keep losing. But these are the sacrifices we make in keeper leagues. Let's just hope that Sims-Walker isn't a fantasy flash-in-the-pan. Normally, I'd stay away from players with two last names ... but, for whatever reason, that seems to work in Jacksonville.
Here are the 20 best available free agents for 12-team, standard-scoring leagues:
1. RB Ladell Betts, Redskins
2. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (he'll likely take the field this week)
3. QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
4. TE Dustin Keller, Jets
5. WR Chris Chambers, Chiefs (a no-risk move, on a team that falls behind early a lot)
6. WR Justin Gage, Titans (my choice for a major breakout down the stretch)
7. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions (better days are on the horizon)
8. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
9. WR Pierre Garcon, Colts
10. QB Chad Henne, Dolphins
11. WR Lance Long, Chiefs (had 11 targets last week vs. Jacksonville)
12. D/ST New York Jets
13. WR Lance Moore, Saints (injured now, but a good stashee for Week 14)
14. WR Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns (the one gem of Cleveland's disastrous year)
15. RB Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
16. WR Devery Henderson, Saints
17. TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (getting a noticeable uptick in weekly targets)
18. WR Andre Caldwell, Bengals
19. PK Joe Nedney, 49ers
20. WR Brandon Tate, Patriots (while fantasy owners flock to grab Sam Aiken, I'll gladly take the bigger, stronger, faster and hopefully better wideout)
You can never have enough quality running backs in fantasyland, which is precisely why Washington's Ladell Betts (93 total yards, 1 TD vs. Atlanta) will fetch top dollar in auction and blind-bidding leagues this week (he'll undoubtedly be No. 1 in straight-up waiver leagues, too). But not everyone has the resources to add Betts, whether it's because: 1) Their seasonal record is too good, or 2) They've exhausted their amount of free-agent blind-bidding bucks in previous weeks. However, there's a simple solution to this problem (at least in the future): Simply identify which unheralded tailback is on the brink of becoming The Next Big Thing due to unforseeen circumstances (like a Clinton Portis injury). Or, you could just cherry-pick off my Top 10 Running Backs You'll Be Selling Your Fantasy Soul To Get In 1-3 Weeks, Unless You Act Now (after Ryan Moats, Shonn Greene and Beanie Wells, of course):
1. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
2. Brandon Jackson, Packers
3. Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
4. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
5. Mike Hart, Colts
6. Garrett Wolfe, Bears
7. DeShawn Wynn, Packers
8. Justin Forsett, Seahawks
9. Dantrell Savage, Chiefs
10. Jerious Norwood, Falcons (could return from injury as early as Week 11)
For owners in 16-team leagues who absolutely, positively need a backup running back this week, one with a serious chance of scoring double-digits through the magic of garbage time ... look no further than Baltimore's Le'Ron McClain, whose disappearance from the Ravens' rushing attack (along with Willis McGahee) has undoubtedly been devastating to fantasy owners who spent a Round 8 draft pick on him in August. But, the promise of tomorrow has never been greater for McClain (20 carries, 78 yards, 1 TD in '09) ... who's a viable candidate to score not one, but TWO goal-line touchdowns against the Browns in Week 10. So, enjoy this one-time gift from the fantasy gods, Le'Ron!
(Writer's Note: This mini-section originally didn't make the cut for today's lengthy Clicks ... but since we were dead-on with last week's prediction, Jags rookie RB Rashad Jennings, we figured we'd give it another try.)
1. Matt Forte @ San Francisco
2. Frank Gore vs. Chicago
3. Adrian Peterson vs. Detroit
4. DeAngelo Williams vs. Atlanta
5. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Cincinnati
6. Ronnie Brown vs. Tampa Bay
7. Thomas Jones vs. Jacksonville
8. Pierre Thomas @ St. Louis
9. Chris Johnson vs. Buffalo
10. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Philadelphia
11. Ray Rice @ Cleveland
Looking for a creative way to snag Ray Rice (46 catches, 1,009 total yards, 6 TDs) for your Points Per Reception league? Try offering a WR-light owner Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes (ranked 19th and 22nd, respectively) and Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, as part of a bold 3-for-1 trade.
For what it's worth right now ... these are the QBs/RBs/WRs (in no particular order) you'll want to move mountains to acquire before Week 14 -- traditionally the first weekend of the fantasy playoffs:
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Kurt Warner
RBs: Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, Thomas Jones, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, DeAngelo Williams, Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore
WRs: Marques Colston, Derrick Mason, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Miles Austin, Vincent Jackson
It's foolish to guarantee 100 yards and/or one touchdown with tight ends -- since their stats, stars included, tend to fluctuate wildly from week to week. Instead, here's our top 10 most productive tight ends for Week 10:
1. Brent Celek @ San Diego
2. Dallas Clark vs. New England
3. Dustin Keller vs. Jacksonville
4. Vernon Davis vs. Chicago
5. Heath Miller vs. Cincinnati
6. Visanthe Shiancoe vs. Detroit
7. Antonio Gates vs. Philadelphia
8. Greg Olsen @ San Francisco
9. Jeremy Shockey @ St. Louis
10. Brandon Pettigrew @ Minnesota
Frank Gore: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
@YanksJason asks: I have Frank Gore in a PPR league. So, should I give up Percy Harvin for Anquan Boldin/Glen Coffee?
Answer: Mr. Yankee, first of all, congratulations on your world championship (even if you had to go Saks Fifth Avenue to buy it). Secondly, I see what Owner B is doing here -- he's offering you the promise of two talented, but injured players for the wonderment of the rookie Harvin. Most fantasy owners would throw a red flag on this deal right away ... but me, I'd pull the trigger on this one. At worst, you lose an enigmatic rookie; at best, you gain a top-5 PPR receiver (when healthy) AND a top-5 RB handcuff. After making the deal, though, it might help to kneel down and pray for Boldin's health.
@NINEONE5 wonders: Would you trade Rashard Mendenhall/Dwayne Bowe for Carolina's Steve Smith/Pierre Thomas?
Answer: To be honest, I could go either way here. But when push comes to shove, I'd rather have the Mendenhall/Bowe end for two reasons: 1) Mendenhall is an unstoppable moose who likely won't face serious RB competition from Willie Parker down the stretch; 2) The Chiefs have one of the easier fantasy-playoff skeds you'll see this year (Bills, Browns, Broncos -- all at home) ... and Kansas City often plays from behind against quality teams that weren't mentioned here.
@arl314 wants to know: Is it time to start thinking about dropping Clinton Portis? With the endless injuries and sorry state of the Redskins, is he washed up?
Answer: Without yelling at a loyal follower like Arl too much, I have to say I'm not a big fan of vague, open-ended questions -- especially regarding a fantasy star like Portis (when healthy). But in general terms, I would NEVER drop Portis in a 12-, 14- or 16-team league -- where the demand greatly outnumbers the supply of quality running backs. Now, if you're looking to get Ladell Betts off waivers, I say that's fine ... as long as you find a non-Portis dropee in the process. Having the Portis/Betts handcuff makes great sense -- even with a train-wreck-of-a-team like the Redskins. As for 10-team leagues, you wouldn't be wrong to at least consider the possibility of kicking him to the fantasyland curb.
@makkyt poses these questions: I have Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and need to start two quarterbacks. Would it be worth it to trade Palmer for Joseph Addai? Second question: Which two RBs do I start among Adrian Peterson, Brandon Jacobs, Beanie Wells?
Answer: First things first. Given your immense depth at QB, yes, I would endorse trading Carson for Addai -- who has virtually no competition among the Indy running backs right now. Secondly, upon doing that deal, you'll then be faced with starting either Addai (vs. Patriots), Peterson (vs. Lions), Jacobs (bye) and Wells (vs. Seahawks). So, by eliminating Jacobs automatically ... that leaves us with Addai and Peterson in Week 10. Thanks!
@mountainrugby wonders: I have Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steve Smith, Tim Hightower and need a No. 2 running back really bad. Should I accept the following trade offer: Rivers for Carson Palmer/Cedric Benson?
Answer: Mountain-man, unless you're a diehard Browns fan who still resents the people of Cincinnati because of Sam Wyche's famous "You Don't Live In Cleveland" rant ... there is absolutely no reason to reject a trade for Bengals Palmer and Benson. In fact, what are you doing here now????? Run -- don't walk -- to your email account and accept that deal ... especially since Cedric WILL run for 214 yards against Kansas City in Week 16!
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 Brandon Jacobs should NEVER get fewer touches than Ahmad Bradshaw (especially when averaging 6 yards/carry) ... OR how Cowboys TE Jason Witten can collect only 43 yards on a seven-catch night?
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. Reggie Wayne vs. New England
2. Randy Moss @ Indianapolis
3. Justin Gage vs. Buffalo
4. DeSean Jackson @ San Diego
5. Vincent Jackson vs. Philadelphia
6. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Seattle
7. Donald Driver vs. Dallas
8. Marques Colston @ St. Louis
9. Devery Henderson @ St. Louis
10. Hines Ward vs. Cincinnati
11. Derrick Mason vs. Cleveland
12. Michael Crabtree vs. Chicago
In case you're scoring at home, here's my perfect lineup for Week 10:
QB Donovan McNabb
RB Adrian Peteson
RB Thomas Jones
WR Reggie Wayne
WR Randy Moss
RB/WR Chris Johnson
TE Brent Celek
PK Neil Rackers
D/ST New Orleans Saints (simply follow the strench-trail that is the Lions, Browns, Bucs or -- in this case -- Rams)
Can you believe how fast this decade has come and gone? Geez, it seems like yesterday that I was sitting in an East Lansing, Mich. bar (home of Michigan State University) celebrating the last night of the 20th Century -- Dec. 31, 1999 -- with hundreds of people wearing T-shirts like I Believe In Y2K, This Internet Thing's Just A Fad ... or the MSU-specific, Who Needs Nick Saban? We Have Bobby Williams! (deep sigh)
In terms of fantasy football, though, we couldn't have asked for a better 10-year run with quarterbacks -- from Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning to Tom Brady and Drew Brees. In fact, perhaps now would be the perfect time to put the current decade in better perspective ... while listing the "Best Single Seasons of Fantasy QBs from 2000-2009":
1. Tom Brady -- 4,806 passing yards, 50 TDs, 8 INTs (2007)
2. Peyton Manning -- 4,557 passing yards, 49 TDs, 10 INTs (2004)
3. Daunte Culpepper -- 4,717 passing yards, 39 TDs, 11 INTs (2004)
4. Drew Brees -- 5,069 passing yards, 34 TDs, 17 INTs (2008)
5. Peyton Manning -- 4,413 passing yards, 33 TDs, 15 INTs (2000)
6. Philip Rivers -- 4,099 passing yards, 34 TDs, 11 INTs (2008)
7. Kurt Warner -- 4,830 passing yards, 36 TDs, 22 INTs (2001)
8. Daunte Culpepper -- 3,937 passing yards, 33 TDs, 16 INTs (2000)
9. Rich Gannon -- 4,689 yards, 26 TDs, 10 INTs (2002)
10. Peyton Manning -- 4,397 passing yards, 31 TDs, 9 INTs (2006)
11. Kurt Warner -- 4,583 passing yards, 30 TDs, 14 INTs (2008)
12. Trent Green -- 4,591 passing yards, 27 TDs, 17 INTs (2004)
13. Peyton Manning -- 4,267 passing yards, 29 TDs, 10 INTs (2003)
14. Brett Favre -- 4,088 passing yards, 30 TDs, 17 INTs (2004)
15. Donovan McNabb -- 3,875 passing yards, 31 TDs, 8 INTs (2004)
16. Drew Brees -- 4,423 passing yards, 28 TDs, 18 INTs (2007)
17. Aaron Rodgers -- 4,038 passing yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs (2008)
18. Carson Palmer -- 3,836 passing yards, 32 TDs, 12 INTs (2005)
19. Drew Brees -- 4,418 passing yards, 26 TDs, 11 INTs (2006)
20. Marc Bulger -- 4,301 passing yards, 24 TDs, 8 INTs (2006)
Here are some quick-hitting thoughts about the ONLY scripted comedy on TV that's 100-percent dedicated to the sport of fantasy football (and no, CSI: St. Louis doesn't count):
**Prior to last Thursday, I had never heard the term eskimo brother.
**Along those lines, I will never think of "hubris" differently again.
**Only Andre's character could've pulled off the Child, please reference. Brilliant!
**Ruxin's explanation of why he'd never leave his "hot" wife was absolutely priceless.
**And NO FANTASY LEAGUE ON EARTH would ever allow a Peyton Manning for Fred Taylor/Torry Holt trade to become official -- although that would've been a solid win-win swap back in 2004.