We won't get fooled again: Fantasy Clicks

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Recent Fantasy Clicks 10-22-08: We won't get fooled again 10-21-08: Pats turn back the clock 10-20-08: Week 7 revelations 10-17-08: Johnson & Johnson 10-16-08: Who's next? 10-15-08: Deadline deal 10-14-08: Romo and Pinkie-gate 10-13-08: Week 6 Revelations 10-10-08: Clash of the titans 10-09-08: Not your father's microfracture surgery 10-08-08: Brian's Song 10-06-08: Week 5 revelations 10-03-08: Kiss and tell

We Won't Get Fooled Again

Brad Johnson: AP

Say what you want about the Cowboys, the team I dubbed as America's Mess for the Week 7 Revelations (to the consternation of one loyal, but disgusted reader) ... but no one can say they don't learn from their mistakes (sort of). Last week, leading into the Rams game, the Cowboys' big-top circus was in full effect -- from Pacman Jones' indefinite suspension and Terrell Owens' sulking about everything ... to overpaying for WR Roy Williams at the trade deadline (despite having a productive, midrange No. 2 receiver, Patrick Crayton, AND a guy named Roy Williamsalreadyon the roster). And don't forget all the Pinkie-gate coverage -- chronicling whether injured QB Tony Romo should play (a notion refuted by his head coach but fully endorsed by his owner). All this craziness, of course, preceded the Cowboys' embarrassing 34-14 loss, prompting many to wonder if Dallas (the prohibitive NFC favorite entering the season) would even make the playoffs -- let alone win a postseason game.

Fast forward to the present: Pacman has been removed from discussion in the interim, T.O. is back to maintaining a positive attitude, Roy E. Williams is settling into the Cowboys culture, Romo won't be rushed into duty this week (giving him more time to rest/heal his broken pinkie), and Brad Johnson (234 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs last week) finally gets the standard 75-80 percent of starting-QB practice reps.

Verdict: With the Cowboys morphing into a kinder, gentler, quieter team this week, everything seems a "go" for more offensive fireworks against the Bucs (the same club Romo carved up for five TD passes in 2006) ... right? Wrong! I can't harp on this enough: Johnson, 40, may be a Super Bowl champ ('02 with Tampa Bay) ... but he has no business starting for a contending team (let alone the Lions or Bengals) at this point in his career. Consider this a "You've Been Warned" reminder: His mediocre potential will reveal itself again on Sunday, to the fantasyland tune of 220 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs. In other words, you'd be better off starting Jacksonville's David Garrard, Tennessee's Kerry Collins or Detroit's's Dan Orlovsky over Johnson this week.

Accentuate The Fantasy Positive

Picture this ugly Week 8 fantasy scenario: You're a middle-of-the-pack team, already scratching and clawing just to get into playoff consideration; and now, you must combat the inconvenient truths of having QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte and K Mason Crosby on their respective byes, while also compensating for the loss of RB Reggie Bush (out 2-4 weeks with a knee injury) and TE Kellen Winslow (team-enforced suspension). It's enough to drive you batty ... but hardly the end of the world - for Cutler, Forte, Winslow and Crosby will return to fantasy-friendly matchups in Week 9 (Cutler vs. Miami's poor pass defense; Forte against the sad-sack Lions) ... while Bush is a good bet to return by Week 12 - when the Saints host the Packers and their vulnerable defense. FYI: Reggie's untimely absence, while annoying, can easily be absorbed by grabbing Saints backup RB Pierre Thomas off the waiver wire ... ASAP!

QB Locks -- 275 Yards and/or 3 TDs

1. Brett Favre vs. Kansas City
2. Donovan McNabb vs. Atlanta
3. Jake Delhomme vs. Arizona
4. Eli Manning vs. Pittsburgh
5. J.T. O'Sullivan vs. Seattle

Bye-Week Blues

As a general rule in fantasy drafts, I never take a kicker or D/ST whose bye week comes before Week 8 -- a policy that provides roster-building "peace of mind" from Weeks 1-7 of the NFL season (unless my kicker or D are truly awful!) But eventually there's a price to be paid for such a keen strategy, in the form of dumping a key reserve -- leading up to Week 8 -- just to accommodate having two kickers, albeit temporarily, on the roster.

Minnesota's Ryan Longwell, for example, has a league-high 16 field goals this year (tied with Jason Elam). Normally, kickers are a dime-a-dozen property, but I'd be a fool to part with someone who plays in a dome during the winter months and directly benefits from the Vikings' anemic red-zone offense. So, while the fantasy world laments the Week 8 absence of stars like Matt Forte, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Ryan Grant, Bernard Berrian and Adrian Peterson ... I'll be sitting at home, stewing over the unwanted departure of Bucs WR Antonio Bryant or Broncos RB Ryan Torain - just so I can have San Francisco kicker Joe Nedney against Seattle this week (thanks to Longwell's Week 8 bye).

Ladies & Gentlemen ... Start Your Jets!

By the time you read today's Clicks ... we'll be about 96 hours away from a sneaky-good Week 8 fantasy matchup: Kansas City at the New York Jets. Sure, this game pitting teams with a combined record of 4-8 seems like a dog -- but it should also yield big returns for fantasy owners -- especially Jets playmakers like Brett Favre, Thomas Jones, Jerricho Cotchery, Laveranues Coles, Chris Baker and even Dustin Keller (rookie tight end) or Leon Washington, the team's lightning-fast change-of-pace back. Just so you know ... the Jets defense is also primed for a big day against Chiefs QB Tyler Thigpen (possessor of a big arm and quick feet but turnover-prone heart) -- but not all-world RB Larry Johnson (likely out for Week 8).

RB Locks -- 120 Total Yards and/or 2 TDs

1. Brian Westbrook/Correll Buckhalter vs. Atlanta (whichever one gets the start)
2. Ronnie Brown vs. Buffalo
3. Jonathan Stewart vs. Arizona
4. Steve Slaton vs. Cincinnati
5. Willis McGahee vs. Oakland
6. Clinton Portis vs. Detroit
7. Marion Barber vs. Tampa Bay
8. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Cleveland
9. Chris Johnson vs. Indianapolis
10. Thomas Jones vs. Kansas City

Target Practice

Calvin Johnson: Harry How/Getty Images

A receiver is only as good as his quarterback ... and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch (known as Targets). So, while the fantasy world "Bronx cheers" Cincinnati wideout Chad Johnson for catching eight balls for 52 yards and one touchdown against Pittsburgh in Week 7, I'm busy marveling at the 13 passes that came Ocho Cinco's way. Not to belabor the point, but Targets are a must-know for fantasy owners -- especially in PPR leagues. This underrated stat is the best way to safeguard against one-hit wonders during a long, long, long fantasy season. To wit, SI.com presents a list of the 24 pass-catchers (including three tight ends) who are averaging at least 8.3 Targets per game (excluding Nate Burleson, who's lost for the year to injury):

1. WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos (13.2 Targets)
2. WR Andre Johnson, Texans (13.0 Targets)
3. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (11.2 Targets)
4. WR Steve Smith, Panthers (11.0 Targets)
5. WR Roddy White, Falcons (10.8 Targets)
6. WR Plaxico Burress, Giants (10.4 Targets)
7. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (10.3 Targets)
8. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts (9.8 Targets)
9. WR Wes Welker, Patriots (9.7 Targets)
10. TE Jason Witten, Cowboys (9.6 Targets)
11. WR Eddie Royal, Broncos (9.5 Targets)
12. WR T. J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals (9.4 Targets)
13. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions (9.0 Targets)
14. WR Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (9.0 Targets)
15. WR Braylon Edwards, Browns (9.0 Targets)
16. TE Kellen Winslow, Browns (9.0 Targets)
17. WR Joey Galloway, Buccaneers (9.0 Targets)
18. WR Derrick Mason, Ravens (8.7 Targets)
19. TE Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs (8.7 Targets)
20. WR Bernard Berrian, Vikings (8.6 Targets)
21. WR Terrell Owens, Cowboys (8.6 Targets)
22. WR Santana Moss, Redskins (8.3 Targets)
23. WR Laveranues Coles, Jets (8.3 Targets)
24. WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers (8.3 Targets)

I Cannot Believe I'm Saying That ...

Either the Bengals (0-7) or Lions (0-6) will get off the NFL's proverbial laugh-in seat this week and earn their first victory of 2008. Cincinnati travels to Houston (as part of the Texans' scheduling changes following Hurricane Ike); and Detroit hosts 5-2 Washington, which has struggled mightily against the Rams and Browns in successive weeks. So, if I had to pick the one winless winner ... I'll go with this: Detroit 27 Washington 23.

Kicker Locks For 3 Field Goals

1. Rian Lindell vs. Miami
2. Stephen Gostkowski vs. St. Louis
3. Nick Folk vs. Tampa Bay
4. Shaun Suisham vs. Detroit
5. Jeff Reed vs. N.Y. Giants
6. Joe Nedney vs. Seattle
7. Rob Bironas vs. Indianapolis

How'd We Do?

Last week, I offered specific predictions for Week 7 -- some pure gold and others that flopped worse than Four Kings, the buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy sitcom from 2006 starring Seth Green (aka "Chris Griffin" on Family Guy) and Josh Cooke. Quick aside: Does anyone remember Seth's old "Cha-Ching" commercial for Rally's from the early '90s? Here's a breakdown to date:WR Locks for 110 Yards and/or 1 TD
1. Brandon Marshall (77 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
2. Greg Jennings (32 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
3. Reggie Wayne (24 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
4. Wes Welker (63 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
5. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (58 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
6. Steve Smith (122 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
7. Andre Johnson (11 catches, 141 yards -- correct!)
8. Hines Ward (60 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
9. Calvin Johnson (154 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)

Five Players Who'll Disappoint
1. Julius Jones (37 total yards -- correct!)
2. Santana Moss (75 yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
3. Thomas Jones (159 total yards -- wrong)
4. Laurence Maroney (did not play -- technically correct!)
5. J.T. O'Sullivan (283 total yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs -- judgment call)

Five Unsung RB/WR/TEs Who'll Score 1 TD
1. WR Patrick Crayton (41 total yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
2. RB Leon Washington (40 total yards, 1 TD --correct!)
3. TE Owen Daniels (6 catches, 66 yards, 2 TDs -- correct!)
4. RB Jamaal Charles (43 total yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
5. WR Mike Furrey (6 catches, 89 yards, 0 TDs -- good outing ... but wrong)

Five Highest-Scoring Games
1. Detroit @ Houston (49 total points -- correct!)
2. Indianapolis @ Green Bay (48 total points -- correct!)
3. Cleveland @ Washington (25 total points -- wrong)
4. Dallas @ St. Louis (48 total points -- correct!)
5. Denver @ New England (48 total points -- correct!)

Trivia Time

Which division did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers belong to in 1976, the team's inaugural season as an NFL franchise?
A) NFC West
B) AFC East
C) NFC East
D) AFC West
E) NFC Central
F) AFC Central
G) NFC North

If I Were A Bidding Man ...

Here are 10 free agents I'd spend at least $15 for this week in blind-bidding leagues when handling waiver-wire pickups ($100 salary cap):

1. QB J.T. O'Sullivan, 49ers (has a fantastic home matchup with the Seahawks)
2. QB Matt Ryan, Falcons (has thrown for 300 yards or 2 TDs his last two games)
3. WR Greg Camarillo, Dolphins (has been targeted 31 times his last four games)
4. WR Antonio Bryant, Bucs (has an impressive 46 targets his last five games)
5. TE Greg Olsen, Bears (273 receiving yards, 2 TDs his last four games)
6. QB Tyler Thigpen, Chiefs (has Dwayne Bowe/ Tony Gonzalez as primary targets)
7. PK Matt Bryant, Bucs (9-of-11 made field goals his last four games)

Trivia Answer

The answer is D. Strange but true: The NFL housed the expansion Buccaneers in the AFC West in 1976, the same year Tampa Bay went 0-14 and finished as the only winless team of the Super Bowl era. But the Bucs' divisional assignment was essentially irrelevant that season ... since they played every AFC team just once (13 total) and then had one game against an NFC foe -- the 2-12 Seahawks, the other expansion franchise from 1976. Seattle, by the way, temporarily belonged to the NFC West in its inaugural season, a full 26 years before permanently moving back to the division.

Forsaking Snake (For A Week)

Loyal readers of Wednesday's Fantasy Clicks have come to expect the "Dear Mr. (Non-PC) Fantasy" segment right about here, where Mr. Snake of PigskinAddiction.com gives his hilarious, sometimes ulcer-inducing takes from the weekend's games. It's a great read, every time, without exception -- that is, unless Snake doesn't blog off the action ... as was the case this week (vacation? business trip? heart episode?). Check back next Wednesday for Snake's Takes (we think). In the meantime ... let's talk some NBA.

Permission To Talk Fantasy Hoops ...

With the SI.com & Friends basketball league draft coming up on Tuesday (just hours before the NBA's Opening Night) ... I've been getting in "picking shape," through a series of grueling mock drafts and real-league drafts. Here's a recap of my last real-league draft (from Oct. 15), featuring roto-style scoring (obviously, you'll see that I prefer versatile point guards and power forwards to one-dimensional stars at the small forward spot). I had the 9th overall pick in this 10-team serpentine draft:

Round 1 -- PG Steve Nash, Suns (9th overall)
Rounds 2 -- PF Elton Brand, 76ers (12th overall)
Round 3 -- C Yao Ming, Rockets (29th overall)
Round 4 -- PF Chris Bosh, Raptors (32nd overall)
Round 5 -- PG Mo Williams, Cavaliers (49th overall)
Round 6 - SG Brandon Roy, Cavs (52nd overall)
Round 7 -- PG Devin Harris, Hornets (69th overall)
Round 8 -- PF Al Harrington, Warriors (72nd overall)
Round 9 -- C Mehmet Okur, Jazz (89th overall - I love 3-point shooting centers)
Round 10 - PG Monta Ellis, Hornets (92nd overall -- an absolute steal when he returns)
Round 11 -- SF Marvin Williams, Hawks (109th overall)
Round 12 -- SF Al Thornton, Clippers (112th overall - a scoring-in-bunches threat)
Round 13 -- PG Rodney Stuckey, Pistons (129th overall -- should have PG/SG versatility, like O.J. Mayo)

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