Brandon Jacobs: Bob Rosato/SI
By far and away, the No. 1 "start-or-sit" question (or variations of) I've heard from co-workers, long-lost family members and prank callers this week revolves around Giants rusher Brandon Jacobs. Is he a true feature back? How many carries will Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw 'steal' from him? How come he doesn't score more touchdowns? These are all fair questions; but I'm also shocked by how fantasy players are focused like a laser on Jacobs' perceived negatives ... and not the many qualities that portend a breakout season. But that's why I'm here.
Let's start with the negatives: In his first two seasons with the Giants (2005-06) - while sharing the rushing duties with Tiki Barber -- Jacobs tallied only 671 total yards but somehow found the end zone 16 times! And then in 2007, with the retired Barber out of the picture, Jacobs rushed for 1,009 yards -- but produced only six touchdowns -- leaving dispirited fantasy owners to curse the notion of ever taking him in the top 20 again. (See Reggie Bush, August 2007)
Now for the positives: In Jacobs' last 10 games (regular season), he reached the hallowed century mark in total yards eight times and never had fewer than 81 (combined) the other two games. During that span, he also recorded six touchdowns. And while Jacobs has two serviceable backups in Ward and Bradshaw, he is still the primary option between the 20 ... and the only consideration for goal line carries. How's this for a bonus? Jacobs is playing for a mega-sized contract extension this fall -- talk about motivation!
The verdict: Unless fantasy owners already have LaDainian Tomlinson and Frank Gore plugged into their two-RBs-only lineups this week ... Jacobs is a solid play against the Redskins.
1. WR - Laveranues Coles vs. Miami
2. TE - Antonio Gates vs. Carolina
3. RB - Edgerrin James vs. San Francisco (opportunity knocks, Tim Hightower)
4. RB - Fred Taylor vs. Tennessee
5. RB - Deuce McAllister vs. Tampa Bay
6. WR - Anthony Gonzalez vs. Chicago
I don't have Larry Johnson on any of my eight fantasy teams - but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying. I am one of the few, the proud fantasy writers (and I have 12 preseason annuals on my desk to prove it) who believe Johnson will have no difficulty returning to his circa-2006 glory days ... you know, before all the injuries, holdouts and incessant whining about the demise of the Kansas City offensive line. In fact, here are five reasons to support L.J.'s uprising in '08:1. Johnson can make sharp cuts without pain -- something he couldn't do at the end of last season, after coming back from a "freak" foot injury.
2. Johnson has regained his explosion within two steps of getting the ball.
3. Chan Gailey, a proven power-running specialist, is the Chiefs' new offensive coordinator.
4. The continued development of receiver Dwayne Bowe and freakishly consistent play of tight end Tony Gonzalez will, in turn, create sizable running lanes for Johnson.
5. Backup tailback Kolby Smith surpassed the 100-total-yards mark three times in six starts last year, behind a supposedly suspect O-line ... which now boasts Branden Albert, perhaps the best run blocking lineman in last April's draft.
1. Dallas @ Cleveland
2. St. Louis @ Philadelphia
3. Tampa Bay @ New Orleans
4. Seattle @ Buffalo
5. Minnesota @ Green Bay
I mentioned PigskinAddiction.com at the end of Wednesday's regularly scheduled Clicks as one of my favorite in-season sites for fantasy football. Here's one enjoyable staple - a list of the best QB plays for Week 1, with one surefire Hall of Famer curiously missing from the quartet of all-star Studs.
Calvin Johnson: John Biever/SI
Nick from Los Alamitos, Calif. asks the following: I really would like to start of the season with a win. And I pretty much have my lineup filled except for the flex. I'm wondering if you like Calvin Johnson more against the Atlanta defense or if you like Thomas Jones against Miami?My answer: Nick, assuming your league has standard scoring (and not PPR), I would still recommend Calvin over Jones for Sunday. Believe me, Jones is a good play against the Dolphins. But I have a gut feeling that Calvin will be on the hook for 6 catches, 124 yards and 1 TD against the Falcons. Let's see T.J. beat that!
Switching gears to baseball ... the Rays are on the brink of becoming the first team -- aside from the Yankees and Red Sox -- to win the AL East since 1997 (Baltimore). Of that Orioles club from 11 years ago, can you name the two starting pitchers who surpassed Mike Mussina in victories? Scroll down for the answer.
As the old saying goes, All is fair in love and fantasy baseball. So, let's pretend you're just two agonizing points away from an AL-only league title and desperately need to break a four-way tie in the WHIP category. What's the easy solution? Well, you could hope that James Shields, Matt Garza or even Jesse Litsch are still waiver-wire free agents (you have a better chance at winning the lottery) ... or you could find inspiration from SI.com's list of the 10 most unheralded set up relievers with the best combination of ERA and WHIP in the last 30 days. We're talking about guys with at least 10 innings pitched since Aug. 4.1. Joey Devine, Athletics (0.00 ERA, 0.32 WHIP)
2. Kameron Loe, Rangers (0.00 ERA, 0.66 WHIP)
3. Darren Oliver, Angels (0.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)
4. Brandon League, Blue Jays (0.69 ERA, 0.77 WHIP)
5. Scott Downs, Blue Jays (0.73 ERA, 0.89 WHIP)
6. Grant Balfour, Rays (1.26 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
7. Justin Masterson, Red Sox (1.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
8. Robinson Tejeda, Royals (2.13 ERA, 0.87 WHIP)
9. Jose Arredondo, Angels (2.20 ERA, 1.10 WHIP)
10. Chad Bradford, Rays (0.84 ERA, 1.59 WHIP)
Speaking of Mussina ... now might be the perfect time to consider his still unfinished résumé for baseball's Hall of Fame, while being compared to other great pitchers vying for a Hall invite: Mussina: 267 wins, 3.69 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2,786 Ks, 10 15-victory seasons; zero titles
Bert Blyleven: 287 wins, 3.31 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3,701 Ks, 10 15-victory seasons; two titles
Jack Morris: 254 wins, 3.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 2,478 Ks, 12 15-victory seasons; three titles
Randy Johnson: 294 wins, 3.26 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4,772 Ks, 11 15-victory seasons; one title
Dennis Martinez: 245 wins, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2,148 Ks, 7 10-victory seasons; zero titles
If you are part of a fantasy league that drafts AFTER tonight's Redskins-Giants game ... then you deserve all the heartache that comes with being in a substandard operation. I respect those who live in fear of the needless preseason injury (see Clinton Portis, August 2006). But waiting this long reeks of Amateur Hour ... although the experienced fantasy honk may derive some pleasure in watching little-known Giants wideout Domenick Hixon score two TDs against Washington - and then get taken in Round 5.
Ever dreamt of playing fantasy football against a Hall of Fame safety, Sports Illustrated football writer, Major League Baseball general manager, world-renowned swimsuit model, professional poker player or best-selling author -- to name a few? SI.com, in conjunction with Facebook, will welcome someone into its 2008 Celebrity Fantasy League where one lucky fan matches weekly wits, from Draft Day to the Fantasy Bowl, with Ronnie Lott, Peter King, Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, supermodel Brooklyn Decker, poker great Phil Gordon and Michael Lewis, author of the sabremetrician-friendly book, Moneyball. Time's running out, though, so click here and register today! As a consolation prize for the contest non-winners, you can create new leagues and develop newer rivals on the new SI/Facebook fantasy game.
At long last, SI.com has a fantasy football game, complete with all of the drafts, waiver wires, stats and analysis you need. Take the grand tour here and sign up a league. Heck, sign up two leagues if you want. We'll be waiting.