It's a crazy world in fantasy football so far. Normally, we have a pretty good idea which teams are going to show up each week and which ones will fold, but that isn't happening.
• Cincinnati has played some good teams tough in their last few games, finally pulling out its first win against a hapless Jaguars team that lost too many studs on the offensive and defensive lines. Do you think Jack Del Rio is missing Marcus Stroud right about now?
• Don't be fooled by Cedric Benson's performance last week against the toothless Jacksonville defense. After the bye, the Bengals play Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Trade him if you can, before the other owners look at his upcoming schedule.
• You know things are bad in Oakland when the players offer up some of their salaries to entice Al Davis to sign Michael Vick when he is released from (really a country club) prison. I doubt Davis would have asked for their money, since Vick fits the mold of the kind of players Davis seems to attract, but I am equally sure he'll remind them of their collective offer if he does sign him. Assuming of course, Vick's petition for reinstatement to the NFL is approved by Roger Goodell.
• It seems Al Davis is having more flashbacks. This time, he is reincarnating the soul of Charlie Finley, another former Oakland owner who gleefully ripped his team to shreds to the shock and awe of the players and fans. This time, Davis orchestrated the surgical removal of DeAngelo "Toast" Hall, just months after signing him to a seven-year, $70 million deal. Davis apparently wanted to send the team a message, via Cable-gram, that losing is just fine by him. Look for the Raiders to be destroyed this week by the visiting Carolina Panthers. I'm thinking the Panthers might be the best fantasy defense this weekend.
• Edgerrin James says he knew the writing was on the wall. Readers of this column have known for weeks that it was only a matter of time before Tim Hightower took over the starting job in Arizona. It wasn't personal, Edge, but whatever helps you sleep at night. Arizona is playing like a team possessed, and Hightower adds another explosive element to an already-dangerous offense.
• In a surprise move, Dallas head coach Wade Phillips named Brooks Bollinger the No. 2 quarterback behind Tony Romo. OK, so it wasn't really a surprise. Brad Johnson doesn't have the skills to be an NFL quarterback, and he showed it the last two games. Bollinger isn't much better, but he is a bit more mobile. Good thing, too, since he'll be running for his life if Romo can't make it back when Dallas travels to Washington after the bye. For his part, Romo seems to feel his pinkie is healed enough to start practicing with the team, but if he re-injures it, all could be lost for the Cowboys' playoff aspirations.
• How many of you believe Romeo Crennel when he says replacing Derek Anderson with Brady Quinn was his idea? If that was the case, don't you think he'd have mentioned it in the press conference when he said he had no intention of replacing Anderson with Quinn? You know the owners or GM Phil Savage made the call, and Crennel is just the puppet on a string. That doesn't bode well for a return engagement in 2009. Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou going in the off-season Romeo? My guess? The unemployment line.
What does Quinn's starting status mean for your Cleveland Browns players? Does Braylon Edwards suddenly find the Stickum to keep the football from bouncing off his hands? Will Kellen Winslow Jr. march back into our consciousness and stay there the rest of the way? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I read that Quinn has the third-highest bench press on the entire team, including linemen. Those guns are loaded, and it showed when the passing game came to life Thursday night. What a perfect opening matchup against a moribund Denver defense.
• Is it time to bail on Marshawn Lynch? No, of course not, but owners who picked him early have been deeply disappointed with his production. There is good news ahead, however. After a tough game against New England in Foxboro, he gets Cleveland, Kansas City and San Francisco. Lynch is still a viable RB2, but he was drafted as an RB1 in most leagues.
• Rumors out of Detroit are that Daunte Culpepper could earn the start for the Lions this Sunday. I can't see it happening, even though there is concern about Dan Orlovsky's thumb. He played the entire game against Chicago with it and didn't do so bad, and Culpepper doesn't know the offense yet. Still, when you are 0-8 and desperate to show the fans that you are at least trying to win ... well, the Lions haven't made a lot of smart football decisions in the last few years outside of finally canning Matt Millen, so I suppose Culpepper starting wouldn't be a huge surprise. I might even put him on a roster or two, particularly one miserable one where I have Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Anderson, and Matt Hasselbeck.
• It seems that overall I've done pretty well this year, but I may have to sign up for Scott Engel's Roto University for my stretch playoff run. This is the time when every decision you make will impact whether you make the playoffs and how far you go if you get there. Hopefully he won't make me pay ... but he has that twisted sense of humor, so you never know.
• Mark Bradley's signing with the Kansas City Chiefs went largely unnoticed, but the former Chicago Bear has had two solid games in a row and provides Tyler Thigpen with another weapon in the passing game. With the run game in flux, expect Thigpen to continue targeting Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe and Bradley to breathe life into the offense. Bradley is averaging seven targets and four catches per game, and although seldom used since coming into the NFL in '05, he has averaged 15.3 yards per catch in his career. I like both Bradley and Thigpen for reserves and spot starts for the balance of the year. Kansas City's schedule isn't the worst out there, with two games against San Diego, plus Oakland, Denver, New Orleans and Buffalo in the next six weeks.
• The Hot Seat has been a bit chilly lately, as most teams seem to have settled in for the coming winter months. It's very possible that several lame ducks remain at the head of some NFL teams, and they will be retained until the season is over. One who shouldn't get too comfortable is Mike Singletary. Although it is highly unlikely San Francisco will dump him at this juncture, another de-pantsing situation could force him into the changing rooms.
• Ryan Torain got the start in Denver this week. He's been highly touted, and I picked him up in my Fantasy Football Open Championship league just in case. I'm pretty thin at RB. After Adrian Peterson and Ronnie Brown, my bench includes Ricky Williams, Warrick Dunn, Deuce McAllister, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and now Torain. Since Week 9 was the deadline for free agent moves in the FFOC, I figured I'd load up on backup RBs and see how far I can go. Engel gave me that lesson for free, but he did hint that the next one might require a PayPal donation. I guess I can always deduct it from his check ...
• I just wish I'd have kept Brady Quinn, but I can't complain too much. Rookie Matt Ryan has been a pretty decent flex start this year and should get a few votes for Rookie of the Year.
• I said early this season that I wasn't drinking Buffalo's Kool-Aid after their 4-0 start. Last week, I weaned myself off the Titans cooler as well, and they just missed their first loss of the season -- a squeaker at home against the Packers. This week, Tennessee travels to Chicago, and I'll again go out on a limb and say the Bears win this one. I'm still not convinced, even though the Titans schedule is pretty soft from here on, with the exception of a big game against Pittsburgh.
• Just to let you know how confident I am of a Bears win, I promised my daughter that if the Titans win, I'll finally sit down and watch a movie she has been begging me to see with her.
Titanic, of course. And no, I don't go in for remakes of remakes. Hollywood's lack of imagination bores me to tears. Give me trucks and guns and stuff exploding and making a bloody mess of things all day and I'm a happy guy. Sitting and watching a boat take three hours to sink while some gushy romance goes on in the background is akin to going to the dentist and getting a root canal, sans anesthesia.
I imagine watching the Oakland Raiders soap opera must be a pretty close second.