Will Carroll
Monday November 8th, 2010

Last week, I explained the "lottery ticket" concept. Some players are possibilities, not probabilities. It's not sexy to win a fantasy week because your first-round pick did what he was supposed to do. Picking up an unknown quantity off waivers before he collects 30 points is the one you'll brag about to your friends at next year's draft. A lot of instant geniuses are telling people they "knew" Randy McMichael was going to put up big points in Week 9. A lot of people who didn't see Colt McCoy as a late-round flyer or waiver-wire pickup in the last few weeks are now pulling a hamstring jumping on the bandwagon.

Here's the thing: Not one of these Sunday occurrences tells us anything about next week. Antonio Gates might be back. McCoy might have earned another start, or even made Mike Holmgren believe Colt is the Browns' next Bernie (Kosar) or Brian (Sipe); but it's as likely that one of the two QBs that were ahead of him on the depth chart (Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace) -- before injuries -- might well be better players. There's always room to dream, to hope, to drop back and throw the Hail Mary pass, but remember: You only run that play when you have to. It's desperation, not a game plan. In a week where Ndamakong Suh and Wes Welker attempted PATs after touchdowns, anything can happen. If you're a fantasy player and not a psychic, I don't think it's a bad thing that you can't tell the future. Let's fast forward around the league:

Learn how to pronounce Seyi Ajirotutu. He might be the new T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a spelling bee test that shows who the real fans are. Even the real fans didn't know who Ajirotutu just a couple weeks ago, and we can't expect him to continue this torrid pace forever (+23 over his projection). We can expect him to keep it up for a while, though. Ajirotutu is owned by 0.3 percent of owners at ESPN and saw a big trend upwards at Yahoo, but not as high -- just more than half -- as much of a surge in pickups as Patrick Crayton saw. This is a smart play. Crayton is far more of a known quantity, even after Ajirotutu's big week. We'll see an absolute landgrab for him in waiver leagues and the remains of many FAAB budgets will get used on him. The downside is that Vincent Jackson will be back in a few weeks, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee will heal, and that could put Ajirotutu back in the WR4 or WR5 slots, playing special teams and spotting in. It could also make him the next Miles Austin. Grabbing Ajirotutu this week is a big gamble, so go in with your eyes open. Peyton Hillis had a huge day in the Browns' win (+22), as did Matthew Stafford (+14) before his injury.

Nik Bonaddio from numberFire checks in with this week's massive bust, Matt Forte, who might also qualify for the biggest bust of the past 14 months. I'm not sure why, after a great rookie campaign, but Nik takes a deeper look:

Mike Martz once masterminded the greatest offensive display ever seen on a football team. History looks back at the Rams in their heyday as a triumph of Kurt Warner's quick release and Marshall Faulk's all-world versatility, while strangely ignoring the role of Orlando Pace and his crew, a truly world-class offensive line that provided the coal to the furnace. Mike Martz is back in the game with a similarly versatile back in Matt Forte, but as S.E. Hinton will tell you, that was then and this is now. The Bears' line aren't in the same hemisphere as those Rams teams, and I'll spare you the coldness of comparing Jay Cutler to Kurt Warner. With all that said, Buffalo would have trouble stopping me and 10 of my friends, so if there were any week for Matt Forte to be a competent starter, this was it. And yet, the result was just like every other week: Terrible production on the ground, horrendous blitz pickups, and the indignity of being vultured by Chester Taylor on a goal-line score.

Forte's gone from being a guy who went in the second round of most drafts to a guy that you have to think about dumping at this point in the season. Forte was -16 in Week 9. Other big busts: LaDanian Tomlinson (-13.5) and Anquan Boldin (-13).

Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the league. There are arguments for a couple others, but when it comes to doing what he's supposed to do, week in, week out, Peterson is the most consistent performer. Putting up 26 points might not be the highest total among RBs this week, but it's what the guy is supposed to do. His physical play might not let him have a long career, but that's the risk of any RB in this league. Peterson's usage by the Vikings hasn't been excessive, but think about this: In 3 1/2 seasons, Peterson is almost one-third of the way to Emmitt Smith's NFL record. Elite runners in this era, absent traumatic injuries, tend to have 10 productive seasons.

Austin Collie lay motionless on the field for five minutes and interminable replays of a play that made me cringe as much the 10th time as the first. His arms were locked out and his eyes closed before he hit the ground. I don't think the hit itself was "dirty" or intentional, but it was a helmet-to-helmet hit by Kurt Coleman. I don't think that Coleman intended to hit him with his head, but he did. I don't think that any hit where a player leads with his head can be tolerated. I wondered just after the play whether Coleman would be the first player suspended under the league's new focus, but I don't think he should be. The penalty was enough. If you watch the play, Coleman himself staggered after the play, Stewart Bradley-style, and I'm curious if the Eagles' medical staff took a look at him while Collie was on the ground. (He was back in the game shortly after, to be sure.) The rule is in place to protect the defensive players as much as the wide receivers.

There were lots of other injuries around the league. Matthew Stafford left with yet another shoulder injury, as did Panthers quarterback Matt Moore. The Panthers lost Jonathan Stewart early after a big hit left him unconscious on the turf. Saints TE Jeremy Shockey took a nasty spear to the back and had to go to the hospital during the game. We're also waiting for word on Ryan Mathews, Hakeem Nicks and Roddy White, who left their games early with apparent ankle injuries.

Abe Gordon, a producer for Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio, knows baseball. He also knows fantasy football, giving us this week's fantasy lesson, via Twitter. Abe calls it "the Randy McMichael/Jason Snelling" rule: If an offense relies heavily on one player and he's out ... grab his fill-in. It works with Indianapolis' Jacob Tamme, who had a big day as well. The NFL does function on "system" a lot, where "next man up" is actually "next man in" to a given role. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but one that should be discernible from team to team. Within the fantasy context, it's much easier to grab a guy like Tamme -- who is filling in for Dallas Clark, who is done for the year -- than it is to snap up a guy like McMichael, who could be back on the bench next week. Making decisions based on roles is a good plan, if you've done your homework to understand which teams make it work for you.

The NFL and its network partners have always been at the forefront of broadcast technologies. ESPN's entry into the market has accelerated that, since they like putting their resources into unique views and tools. Still, watching Michael Vick run Sunday made me wonder why there's not some tool that allows a check of point-to-point speed. The NFL devotes weeks and millions of dollars to the NFL Combine, where every player is asked to run a 40-yard dash. Every year, I'll hear some scout look at a surprising time and say, "He can't do that in pads." That makes sense, but just how fast is Vick once he decides to run? How fast was the 40 time of that special teamer who ran down the guy you were sure was headed to the house? More importantly, that's useful information for fantasy players. If we knew WR1 could go 20 yards in 2.4 seconds and that CB can do it in 2.6, even factoring in the swivel, we've got something. That sort of matchup info -- a quick "-0.2" -- isn't the end-all of stats, but it's one more for the arsenal. With MLB hard at work on visual tools for pitching and fielding, it's time for the NFL broadcasters to show us their speeds.

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