Will Carroll
Monday November 29th, 2010

Where did you draft Arian Foster this year? How about Peyton Hillis? If you did ... well, hello Mrs. Foster, how was your holiday weekend? Foster's average draft position was 27th among running backs, likely a ninth-round pick in standard leagues. Hillis wasn't drafted in most leagues, despite the opportunity for carries heading into training camp. This happens every year, but this time, we're talking about elite-level players who will jump into fantasy consciousness for years to come. It's hard to imagine that Hillis won't be the basis of an improved Browns attack next season, and Foster looks to be the guy the Texans have been looking for since coming into the league. (Foster could be an interesting situation. He'll slide in the draft next year if Gary Kubiak isn't back. Kubiak's system is perfect for a one-cut-and-run guy like Foster.) The trick now is not just figuring out when a player is worth a fantasy pickup, but whether or not that great waiver find is a keeper for the future. That's harder. Consistency in RBs is hard to find even among the elite. Of course, that's what makes fantasy football so fun. Decisions like this in keeper leagues could make or break fantasy franchises. That's next year. For this week, let's fast forward around the league:

Bears QB Jay Cutler can be amazingly frustrating to watch, let alone to have on your fantasy squad. The Bears are winning with him, but sometimes in spite of him. His performance in a key game against the Eagles showcased all the things he can do and why many think he's the next Brett Favre. He has great arm strength, good vision, solid durability and a tendency to make throws that leave a coach or fan tearing their hair out. Cutler's day against Philly not only got earmed a win but had him plus-16 over his projections. What's interesting to note here is that both Cutler and Favre have always seemed to take away from their RBs, even at the star level. Against a top-rated pass defense, Cutler was downright surgical in finding and exploiting the weaknesses. Cutler's detractors will point to the missing Asante Samuel, but this performance is going to work against anyone. As the Bears fight for home-field advantage, they'll need Cutler to keep this mojo going in upcoming matchups with the Pats and Vikings during the fantasy playoff weeks. Another huge breakout came from Seahawks WR Ben Obamanu (+22) on Sunday.

I'm not going to fault anyone for drafting Chris Johnson first overall, as many did, but this week's performance shows why there's no such thing as a sure thing in fantasy football. Johnson was shut down and came up -22 on his projection. Nik Bonaddio from numberFire breaks down why.

Johnson checks in with one of the lowest minuses we've ever seen. The Titans, as a whole, were an absolute disaster, gaining a mere 182 yards against what is generally considered to be the worst defense in the NFL. One of the more overlooked truths in the NFL is that it takes a competent passing attack to have a good rushing offense and certainly a good chunk of Johnson's performance can be attributed to the truly horrific play of Rusty Smith. With that said however, you have to think that Jeff Fisher and company knew exactly what they had when it came to Rusty Smith and thus should have designed a gameplan that heavily featured Johnson in a variety of formations, allowing him to attack the weak Texans front both from the point of rushing attack and in the flat as a receiver. For those questioning Johnson's output moving forward, it's sensible to view this week as an outlier but it's prudent to be concerned: despite an incredibly favorable playoff schedule (JAX, IND, HOU), the Titans need to show that either Rusty Smith can play a smart, ball-management style of QB or that Johnson can shoulder an Arian Foster-esque load.

Other busts this week include Mark Sanchez (-7), Keiland Williams (-13) and Mike Wallace (-15.)

There seemed to be a lot of smaller injuries Sunday -- sprained ankles, bruised quads -- but there were some significant fantasy injuries. Adrian Peterson left the Vikings game in the first half with an ankle sprain, but did not return despite telling the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora that it was not too serious. Maurice Jones-Drew seemed bothered a bit more by his abdominal strain, giving up some touches and a TD to Rashard Jennings. Chad Henne was able to play reasonably well at QB despite a pretty large brace on his knee for stability. Michael Oher got rolled up during a play with what looked like a serious knee injury. He was headed for an MRI at deadline, so we have to hope that it's just a mild sprain. In the surprise of the day, Antonio Gates was active for the Sunday night game, despite severe pain after activity. I'm sure I'll have updates by time for this Thursday's Injury Report.

While some of us are fighting for the fantasy playoffs, some people don't mind playing spoiler. This week's Fantasy Lesson comes from Dylan Wilbanks: "When you're out of the money, you can do crazy things like start Ben Obamanu and watch him eliminate your opponent."

I don't recommend trying this at home, but if you are down on the year, playing spoiler can be some small consolation. If you're in a keeper league, this is also a chance to take some gambles, finding players that might be useful next year as situations change. You have to dig in and check contracts -- harder this year with the stoppage looming -- but someone like Kevin Kolb might be an interesting gamble in deeper leagues. Brad Garton had another interesting lesson: "Always go with your gut." Sometimes it seems that way, but this is something you need to disprove to yourself. Before turning in your roster over the next couple weeks, note your gut-instinct picks and monitor whether or not they were right. If you need to, make some "gut-instinct" picks on players not on your team. Make it work for you. Can you pick who will underperform or overperform? Do you pick the "questionable" player that plays and puts up numbers? Some players out there have skills in certain areas. I've tracked several experts this way and it colors how I listen to their information. Having a fantasy notebook can really help you.

I'm pretty sure it was Solomon Wilcots who said the death of the single "feature" back was a positive for offenses. (I'm not sure because I watch most Sunday games using the amazing NFL RedZone.) Whoever said it, they're wrong. Ignoring the fact that most NFL timeshares are created out of necessity than plan, only one out of the top 10 rushing offenses is reliant on a time share. That one is arguable, with the Jets looking at times more like an RB1 situation. Time shares have come about because of an inability to find, develop, or keep healthy enough feature backs to fill up the NFL's needs. This is a fairly new and fluid situation, so I think we're going to see more development. We've already seen shifts away from role-backs, guys like "third-down backs" or even a power back paired with a speed back, so there's room for the minds in the film rooms to figure things out. Until then, the NFL scouts will be watching colleges, hoping for the next Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster.

The NFL finally took a look at the overtime rules, changing them for the playoffs. I'm not sure how that will work out, but having watched Bills-Steelers and several other overtime games this season, I think a simple tweak might help, one I call the "Killer TD." Instead of forcing a possession for each team, I believe that if the first team to have possession (the team that wins the coin toss) would only win the game with a touchdown. Put it in the end-zone and as with sudden death, it's ballgame, drive home safely. A field goal would give the other team a chance to tie with a field goal or to win with a touchdown. It would add a major element of strategy to that first possession. I wonder if it's enough to cause a team to defer the kickoff, figuring they might have the chance to win. I like anything that both simplifies the rules and causes strategic shifts and this does both.

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