Ready ... set ... no!

There are certain things in this world that we become programmed to accept as fact. For example, some people believe that salads from McDonald's are healthy. Other people are convinced that dating strippers is a great idea. Whether it's because we're incapable, or because we simply don't want to acknowledge reality, sometimes we miss out on things that should be obvious to the unbiased eye.

This principle is never more apparent than when dealing with our favorite (or least favorite) fantasy players. It's easy to write a single occurrence off as a statistical deviation. When it happens two, three times in a row? Chalk it up to a run of either good or bad luck, depending on your viewpoint. But when the numbers and your observations keep smacking you in the face like an illegal block from Hines Ward, sooner or later, you have to accept them as fact. The sooner you can do that, the quicker you can accurately analyze exactly what kind of team you have, and what kind of trades and/or lineup adjustments you need to make; hence putting you a step ahead of your leaguemates in your quest for a championship. So follow me as we take a look at some of the more relevant players that have changed my way of thinking so far this year.

Ready ...

Kurt Warner @ St. LouisPeyton Manning vs. New EnglandJay Cutler vs. MiamiKyle Orton vs. DetroitDonovan McNabb @ SeattleMatt Schaub @ MinnesotaChad Pennington @ DenverMarc Bulger vs. ArizonaAaron Rodgers @ TennesseeEli Manning vs. DallasBrett Favre @ BuffaloGus Frerotte vs. Houston

Set ...

Ben Roethlisberger @ WashingtonJason Campbell vs. PittsburghTrent Edwards vs. New York JetsDavid Garrard @ CincinnatiJeff Garcia @ Kansas CityMatt Ryan @ OaklandMatt Cassel @ IndianapolisDerek Anderson vs. Baltimore

No!

Seneca Wallace vs. PhiladelphiaJoe Flacco @ ClevelandJaMarcus Russell vs. AtlantaKerry Collins vs. Green BayBrad Johnson @ New York GiantsTyler Thigpen vs. Tampa BayRyan Fitzpatrick vs. JacksonvilleDan Orlovsky @ Chicago

Kyle Orton: Believe me, the last player that I thought I'd be touting entering this season was Orton. His receivers were too lackluster, his previous numbers too uninspiring, and his neck beard is just too damn comical for me take the guy seriously. I ignored the two-touchdown, 268-yard performance in Week 3. His three touchdowns against the Eagles didn't even cause me to raise an eyebrow. Sure, he put up a league leading 334 yards the following week, but it was against a Lions defense that has been rumored to be using area high school players in their secondary. Clearly, I still wasn't buying it. Orton didn't stop there; he went out and put up two more 280-plus yard outings before he was finally shut down by the only thing seemingly capable of doing so, a bye week.

Crazy as it seems, the Bears are actually averaging the second most points-per-game in the league, which is exactly where they were ranked in 2006, the year they went to the Super Bowl. Of course, that was also the year that Rex Grossman became a borderline top-10 fantasy QB. Don't look for the king of drunken Internet photos to slow down anytime soon, especially this week. I hear the Lions are starting a 107 lb. sophomore at strong safety.

Chad Pennington: OK, I'll say it. I think Pennington's taking performance enhancers. I mean, isn't it a little suspicious that a quarterback who's been described as having a wet noodle for a right arm (and was traded by his previous team for a 39-year old Wrangler Jeans spokesman) has put together three consecutive games with at least 284 yards passing and is averaging more yards-per-attempt than Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Manning, and Warner? You know how many times he's topped 284 yards in his career? Eight times. In eight seasons! Something smells fishy in Miami, and I don't think it's Bill Parcells.

It's pretty obvious to me that Pennington has been taking some sort of experimental drug that acts roughly in the same manner as Viagra, only it targets his previously incurable "limp-arm" syndrome. Assuming Roger Goodell doesn't catch wind of the apparent drug use, Pennington will take advantage of a ridiculously easy second half of the schedule (beginning this week in Denver), to become one of the most pleasant surprises of the fantasy season.

Other notables: Mr. Bulger, welcome to the '08 NFL season. We've been waiting for you. We've also been waiting for your mouth-watering matchup with the Cardinals, who just happen to have given up a league-high 14 touchdown passes ... You know what? I'd consider starting Flacco if I could play him at wide receiver ... Just in case you're in the mood for making bad decisions this weekend, Thigpen's facing a Buccaneers defense that's second in the league in interceptions.

Ready ...

Adrian Peterson vs. HoustonBrian Westbrook @ SeattleMichael Turner @ OaklandMatt Forte vs. DetroitClinton Portis vs. PittsburghMarion Barber @ New York GiantsBrandon Jacobs vs. DallasChris Johnson vs. Green BayWillis McGahee @ ClevelandMaurice Jones-Drew @ CincinnatiLenDale White vs. Green BayThomas Jones @ BuffaloSteven Jackson vs. ArizonaMarshawn Lynch vs. New York JetsRyan Grant @ TennesseeMewelde Moore/Willie Parker @ WashingtonEarnest Graham @ Kansas CityDominic Rhodes/Joseph Addai vs. New England

Set ...

Tim Hightower @ St. LouisRonnie Brown @ DenverRyan Torain vs. MiamiRicky Williams @ DenverJustin Fargas vs. AtlantaJamal Lewis vs. BaltimoreFred Taylor @ CincinnatiKevin Faulk @ IndianapolisSteve Slaton @ MinnesotaWarrick Dunn @ Kansas CityRicky Williams @ DenverCedric Benson vs. JacksonvilleBenJarvus Green-Ellis @ Indianapolis

No!

Edgerrin James @ St. LouisJulius Jones vs. PhiladelphiaMaurice Morris vs. PhiladelphiaT.J. Duckett vs. PhiladelphiaLeon Washington @ Buffalo touches a gameFred Jackson vs. New York JetsJerious Norwood @ OaklandRay Rice @ ClevelandLe'Ron McClain @ ClevelandDerrick Ward vs. DallasKevin Smith @ ChicagoRudi Johnson @ ChicagoMichael Pittman vs. MiamiSelvin Young vs. MiamiKolby Smith vs. Tampa BayJamaal Charles vs. Tampa BayAhman Green @ Minnesota

Ronnie Brown: Hey, I was right there with you. After his Wildcat-riffic five touchdown outing, Brown followed it up with 125 rushing yards and a score, and I was ready to anoint him a medical miracle. Forget the fact that it's taken every running back who's sustained an ACL injury a minimum of a year-and-a-half to begin performing like their previous self. Brown was only 11 months removed, and yet there he was averaging over 5.0 yards-per-carry and scoring at will. As expected, it was too good to be true. The real Ronnie already had rushed for 602 yards and had 39 receptions at this time last year. The '08 incarnation has 200 fewer rushing yards, has made 12 catches, and is averaging 6.8 fantasy points a contest when you subtract his back-to-back anomaly games.

Now, I'd be a fool if I told you to bench any running back against the Broncos defense, but what needs to be emphasized is that Brown isn't the sure thing that you think he is. If he's normally your RB3, then that's what he should stay as this week.

Edgerrin James: If James were a basketball player, he'd be Grant Hill. If he played baseball, you could call him Pedro Martinez. And for you soft-core pornography fans out there, he's the equivalent of Shannon Tweed. He's finished. Washed up. Hanging onto fantasy relevance by reputation alone. I'll be honest, it was hard for me to come to that conclusion. Heck, as recently as a month ago, I made a bet that James would finish the year with more fantasy points than Jamal Lewis. Normally I'd carry such a bet out till the bitter end (usually to avoid paying up), but on this one, I've already waived the white flag.

There comes a point when you just can't deny reality. And the reality is, James is simply not good enough to be an NFL running back anymore. He's already been replaced by Tim Hightower as the goal-line back, and Ken Whisenhunt hinted this week that a full-time switch could be coming soon. Don't be surprised if it's as early as this week against St. Louis. After all, Hightower is quicker, more agile, more powerful, and younger than the dull Edge. Why wouldn't the Cardinals make a switch to try and revive their much needed running game? Not only should you bench James on Sunday, but you wouldn't hear a peep from me if you were to drop him completely from your roster.

Other notables: Ahhhh, just what Turner needed. A matchup against the 26th-ranked Raiders rush defense. Consider 125-yards and two scores his floor ... Do you think the collective ill-will that Moore owners have been wishing upon Parker has had anything to do with his numerous setbacks? Whoever gets the call in Pittsburgh is a must-start ... I'm not sure there's a scale big enough to display my excitement for the debut of Torain. The Broncos haven't scored a rushing touchdown in four weeks, and Pittman, Young, and Andre Hall are all banged up. Shanahan loves his powerful-but-sneakily elusive runners, and after reading gushing account after gushing account from him, that seems to be exactly what Torain is ... Washington is awesome. He's explosive, is versatile, and has been averaging seven offensive touches a game. Don't get fooled into starting him ...

Ready ...

Larry Fitzgerald @ St. LouisAndre Johnson @ MinnesotaBrandon Marshall vs. Miami|Anquan Boldin @ St. LouisPlaxico Burress vs. DallasRoddy White @ OaklandLee Evans vs. New York JetsRandy Moss @ IndianapolisReggie Wayne vs. New EnglandGreg Jennings @ TennesseeDeSean Jackson @ SeattleTerrell Owens @ New York GiantsLaveranues Coles @ BuffaloJerricho Cotchery @ BuffaloBernard Berrian vs. HoustonSantonio Holmes @ WashingtonCalvin Johnson @ ChicagoWesWelker @ IndianapolisSantana Moss vs. PittsburghBraylon Edwards vs. Baltimore

Set ...

Hines Ward @ WashingtonDonnie Avery vs. ArizonaEddie Royal vs. MiamiDwayne Bowe vs. Tampa BayDevin Hester vs. DetroitMatt Jones @ CincinnatiChad Johnson vs. JacksonvilleT.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. JacksonvilleDonald Driver @ TennesseeAntonio Bryant @ Kansas CityRoy Williams @ New York GiantsDerrickMason @ ClevelandKevin Curtis @ SeattleTed Ginn Jr. @ DenverTorry Holt vs. ArizonaSteve Smith vs. DallasMarvin Harrison vs. New EnglandSteve Breaston @ St. LouisMarty Booker vs. DetroitGreg Camarillo @ DenverBobby Wade vs. Houston

No!

Antwaan Randle El vs. PittsburghAnthony Gonzalez vs. New EnglandBrandon Lloyd vs. DetroitJoey Galloway @ Kansas CityReggie Williams @ CincinnatiBobby Engram vs. PhiladelphiaJavon Walker vs. AtlantaNate Washington @ WashingtonReggie Brown @ SeattleJustin Gage vs. Green BayJames Hardy vs. New York JetsAmani Toomer vs. DallasDonte' Stallworth vs. BaltimoreKevin Walter @ MinnesotaShaun McDonald @ ChicagoMichael Jenkins @ OaklandChansi Stuckey @ Buffalo

DeSean Jackson: I've heard the arguments over and over again. Rookie receivers rarely contribute consistently in fantasy football, Jackson is waaayy too small to stay healthy at the NFL level, and as soon as Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown return, he'll be nothing more than a third receiver.

I've watched Jackson get shipped off by many an owner this year, usually accompanied by a dismissive "Ah, no way he keeps it up," comment. Well, I'm here to tell you, that's crazy talk. Fellow owners may be drooling over Donnie Avery's breakout, or Royal's three nine-catch games, but Jackson has been, by far, the most consistent of the rookies. And that was with Hank "A tisket, a tasket, I hope a ball drops in my" Baskett and Greg Lewis as his supporting receivers. With Curtis and Brown back, it only benefits the blazingly shifty Jackson, who will feast on any corner that tries to cover him straight up. The Eagles travel to Seattle for a matchup with a secondary that's being referred to (by me) as the Lions of the West Coast, so consider the occasionally brain-farting, always dangerous rookie a high-end WR2 this week.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh: You know how some things aren't as bad as you originally thought? Like a Great Clips haircut, or a minor fender bender? You also know how some things are a lot worse than you originally thought? Like, for instance, a drunken e-mail sent to a co-worker?

Well, the Houshmandzadeh/Fitzpatrick combination fits into the "worse than you thought" category. It's easy to be seduced by "Housh's" 54 receptions, and while the yardage total doesn't take your breath away (512), it's adequate, as are the three touchdowns. Unfortunately, 301 of those yards and all three scores came with Carson Palmer slinging him the ball. With "Harvard" under center, "Housh" has yet to exceed the 60-yard mark, and both of Fitzpatrick's touchdowns have gone to Ocho-Cinco. Most troubling is that, in four starts, Fitzpatrick has completed just one pass for more than 20-yards (a 22-yard "bomb" to Antonio Chatman). With no time-table for a Palmer return (if it happens at all), it's a tough pill to swallow knowing that your premier receiver, a guy you no doubt spent a lofty draft pick on, has essentially been turned into a slightly better version of Derrick Mason by a think first, run second, throw third quarterback. An unlike an ill-advised bowl cut, there doesn't appear to be a solution to this problem.

Other notables:

On the heels of his nine catch, 91-yard performance in Boldin's first game back, Steve Breaston's value has reached its maximal level. Warner was forced to throw 49 times, and Boldin didn't take on his typical full load, which helped to keep Breaston disguised as a WR2 for one more week. It's time to get on the horn and do some selling before this Halloween weekend comes to an end ... It should be back to the bench for Walter; as the last year and half has taught us, he's the classic good-game followed by a bad-game player. Don't expect anything more than a couple receptions and under 40 yards receiving ... Did anyone else see Joey Galloway standing on the sidelines two weeks ago wearing Emmitt Smith's goatee? I thought they were showing some old, retired Buccaneer that the team was honoring at halftime. As a rule of thumb, I usually tend to shy away from players that were around to catch a touchdown pass from Gino Torretta ...

Ready ...

Dallas Clark vs. New EnglandTony Gonzalez vs. Tampa BayOwen Daniels @ MinnesotaChris Cooley vs. PittsburghGreg Olsen vs. DetroitKellen Winslow vs. BaltimoreBo Scaife vs. Green BayJason Witten @ New York GiantsZach Miller vs. Atlanta

Set ...

Tony Scheffler vs. MiamiHeath Miller @ WashingtonVisanthe Shiancoe vs. HoustonAlex Smith @ Kansas CityDavid Martin @ DenverAnthony Fasano @ DenverDesmond Clark vs. DetroitMarcedes Lewis @ CincinnatiMartellus Bennett @ New York GiantsDustin Keller @ Buffalo

No!

Alge Crumpler vs. Green BayKevin Boss vs. DallasJohn Carlson vs. PhiladelphiaTodd Heap @ ClevelandBenjamin Watson @ IndianapolisJerramy Stevens @ Kansas CityChris Baker @ BuffaloRobert Royal vs. New York JetsL.J. Smith @ SeattleSteve Heiden vs. Baltimore

Notables:

Quick update on my unnatural obsession at the tight end position, Zach Miller. Since being held without a catch against Buffalo, Miller has 254 receiving yards in his last four games. Only Clark and Cooley have more yards over the same time span. Now if he could just start finding the end zone, my fiancé might finally come to appreciate the Miller Fathead that I put above our bed. Or maybe not ... With Witten nursing a broken rib, Martellus Bennett could be a sneaky good play this week ... And since we're scraping the bottom of the tight end barrel, I'd like to mention Visanthe Shiancoe, Alex Smith, David Martin and Donald Lee. Shiancoe is tied for second in touchdowns at the position (three), Smith has caught multiple passes in seven out of eight games, Martin hasn't been below 20 yards receiving, and Lee is facing a Titans defense that has surrendered at least 40 yards to opposing tight ends in five consecutive games. Like my accountant always says, desperate times call for latching onto random numbers and hoping you get lucky ...

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