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Fantasy Clicks: We're No. 4! We're No. 4!

BY JAY CLEMONS Recent Fantasy Clicks 08-04-10: Bookshelves "R" Us 07-23-10: Have You Hugged A Mock Draft Lately? 07-22-10: The Fantasy Tao Of Greg Jennings 07-19-10: Walkoff Wins Just Look Better Outdoors 07-16-10: Survivor Pool Act Of Self-Preservation 07-14-10: The Obligatory All-Star Revelations 07-12-10: Chicago's (Figuratively) On Fire 07-09-10: Meet 'The Attainables' Fantasy Brigade 07-07-10: Search For Tomorrow's Sidney Rice 07-02-10: The Early, Early Fantasy Spectacular 06-18-10: Meet Your Fantasyland All-Stars 06-16-10: Elite Tight Ends -- Dare To Compare 06-14-10: The Grandest Of Slam Kings 06-10-10: Charles In Charge ... Of Kansas City 06-07-10: The Ubaldo & Tulo Go-Loco Show 06-03-10: SI's Own Bout Of Mock Madness 06-01-10: A Fish Called Cody Saves Miami 05-28-10: The Ultimate Draft Do-Over 05-26-10: A PPR Quandary For The Masses 05-24-10: Sunny Rays Take Houston By Storm 05-20-10: Let The Mock Madness Begin 05-17-10: For Whom The Kubel Tolls 05-14-10: Less Bang For Your Bucs 05-12-10: The Marshall Plan Hits South Beach 05-10-10: The Mother Of All Perfect Games 05-06-10: Fantasy Love Is Blind Sometimes 05-03-10: Phantastic Fantasy Fun In Philly 04-30-10: Kings Of Command 04-28-10: The Post-Draft Mock Madness Quotient 04-26-10: Here Come The Sun Kings 04-21-10: Fantasy Breakdown Of 2010 NFL Sked 04-19-10: Nothing Beats A Royal Flush 04-16-10: Oh, The Cantu-Man Can 04-14-10: Santonio's Fly-By-Night Move to N.Y. 04-12-10: Something Wild In The D 04-09-10: The Tao Of Jose Reyes 04-07-10: Donovan's D.C. Cab ... To Landover 04-05-10: Welcome To Opening Night Revelations 04-02-10: Nothing Beats A Real Fantasy Draft 03-31-10: One More Mock For The Road 03-26-10: A Fantasy-Fueled NFL Draft Breakdown 03-22-10: Fantasyland Prose & Cons: Mauer Power 03-19-10: The NL-Only Fantasy Spectacular 03-15-10: The AL-Only Fantasy Spectacular 03-12-10: Post-free agency adjustments in fantasy 03-10-10: In Case Of Emergency: Twins' Closer 03-08-10: Fantasy Preview Breakdown, Part III 03-03-10: Fantasy Preview Breakdown, Part II 03-01-10: NFL Combine Revelations 02-26-10: A Fantasy Preview Breakdown 02-24-10: Green Flag Goodness: Hitters 02-17-10: Green Flag Goodness: Pitchers 02-15-10: Red Flag Alerts: Pitchers 1-27-10: Red Flag Alerts: Infielders 1-25-10: Championship Sunday Revelations 1-22-10: Playing A Championship Sunday Hunch 1-20-10: Early Mock Draft Madness 1-18-10: Divisional Playoff Revelations 1-15-10: Divisional Playoff Round Clicks 1-13-10: Back In The Baseball Business 1-11-10: Wild Card Revelations 1-06-10: Fantasy Clicks Year-End Spectacular 1-04-10: Wild Card Round Clicks 12-28-09: Week 16 Revelations/Week 17 Clicks 12-23-09: All You Need To Know For Week 16 12-21-09: Week 15 Revelations

Bookshelves "R" Us

Jonathan Stewart: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It's always interesting to see how preseason fantasy magazines arrive at their conclusions for individual player rankings -- particularly running backs. Yes, Chris Johnson (2,006 rushing yards in '09), Adrian Peterson (5,313 total yards/41 TDs in three seasons) and Maurice Jones-Drew (3,154 yards/30 TDs from 2008-09) are the easy-cheesy picks for Nos. 1, 2 and 3 ... but how in the world can anyone make logical sense of the next 10 backs -- and beyond?

The way I see it, you could make a case for Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, Ray Rice, Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall, Shonn Greene, Jamaal Charles and Beanie Wells finishing between the No. 4 and 13 preseason slots; and if you think I'm crazy, just hearken back to where Johnson, Rice and Greene stood just 12 months ago.

With Sports Illustrated's fantasy mag getting a ton of national run, here's a look at our competition and their rankings for the consensus top-8 backs -- with Mendenhall edging Benson, Wells, Charles and Jonathan Stewart by the slimmest of margins:

Tiers Of A Clown -- Running Backs

Running backs are the driving forces behind efficient, ball-controlled attacks, but they weren't all created equal. To wit, the way-too-early RB tier system for fantasy drafts -- some of which begin in about, oh, five weeks:

Tier 1 (1,500 total yards and/or 12 TDs)
Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall

Tier 2 (1,300 total yards and/or 10 TDs)
Ryan Grant, Knowshon Moreno, Shonn Greene, Jonathan Stewart, Matt Forte, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles, Joseph Addai, Ronnie Brown, Pierre Thomas

Tier 3 (1,100 total yards and/or 8 TDs)
Steve Slaton, Jerome Harrison, LeSean McCoy, Ryan Mathews, C.J. Spiller, Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Ricky Williams, Clinton Portis, Cadillac Williams, Justin Forsett, Jahvid Best, Thomas Jones, Willis McGahee, Ben Tate

Tier 4 (950 total yards and/or 5 TDs)
Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Chester Taylor, Correll Buckhalter, Donald Brown, Fred Jackson, Julius Jones, Tim Hightower, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Montario Hardesty, Mike Bell, Derrick Ward, Arian Foster, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris

Tier 5 (800 total yards and/or 4 TDs)
Willie Parker, Leon Washington, Brian Westbrook, Antonio Pittman, Marshawn Lynch, Glen Coffee, James Davis, Rashad Jennings, Kevin Faulk, Jason Snelling, Mewelde Moore, Brandon Jackson, Toby Gerhart, Maurice Morris, Javon Ringer, Jonathan Dwyer, Jerious Norwood, Ryan Moats, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Lynell Hamilton, Andre Brown

Who's In Your Five?

"Just like Texas Hold 'Em; fantasy football takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master." -- Unknown

Let's talk about something real in fantasyland drafts: What is your strategy for the first five picks? Without making any specific player assumptions -- unless you possess a top-4 pick -- have you determined a general battleplan for attacking 10-, 12- or even 14-team drafts? Have you figured out which middle round you'll spring for a quarterback, unless Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning should fall into your lap late in Round 3? Well, here's a great positional flow-chart for all four quadrants of a standard-scoring, 12-team draft:

Slots 1-3
Round 1, RB options -- Johnson, Peterson, Jones-Drew, Rice, Gore
Round 2, WR options -- Wayne, White, Marshall, Calvin Johnson
Round 3, WR options -- White, Marshall, Jennings, DeSean Jackson, C. Johnson
Round 4, RB options -- Wells, Stewart, Ronnie Brown, Jacobs, Best, McCoy
Round 5, RB options -- Spiller, Fred Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton

Strategy: This approach could not be simpler. First, you corral a stratospheric running back in Round 1. Secondly, get ready to land one, if not two of the Elite Eight wideouts (Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Randy Moss, Roddy White); and lastly, kill the opposition with a steady stream of talented rushers in time-shares (or soloists like Beanie Wells or Jahvid Best -- sorry Kevin Smith). And oh yeah, see ya in the playoffs!

Slots 4-6
Round 1, RB -- Rice, Gore, Turner, Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Steven Jackson
Round 2, WR -- Fitzgerald, Moss, Wayne, Marshall, Calvin Johnson
Round 3, RB -- Grant, Moreno, Ryan Mathews, Pierre Thomas, Addai, Stewart
Round 4, WR -- Boldin, Sidney Rice, Jennings, D. Jackson, Ochocinco, Crabtree
Round 5, RB -- Spiller, Fred Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton, Williams, Felix Jones, Jerome Harrison

Strategy: Most people view the 4-6 slots as a proverbial No Man's Land, where you seldom have control of the flow of the draft. Pish-posh. If anything, you simply let the stars at RB/WR/RB/WR/RB fall to you, thus getting maximum value without really racking your brain on how to build an all-star team.

Slots 7-9
Round 1, WR -- Andre Johnson, Fitzgerald, Moss
Round 2, RB -- Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Greene, Mathews, Charles, Wells, Benson
Round 3, QB -- Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub
Round 4, WR -- Boldin, Sidney Rice, Jennings, D. Jackson, Ochocinco, Crabtree
Round 5, RB -- McCoy, Spiller, F. Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton, Williams, F. Jones, Harrison

Strategy: If you really crave Rodgers, Manning, Brady, Rivers or Schaub for 2010 ... this is the perfect spot to land 'em in Round 3 -- without any of the guilt associated with reaching in a draft. In leagues where TD passes are only worth 4 or 5 points, I guarantee that at least one QB will be available midway through Round 3. This ought to blow your mind when considering Manning, who hasn't missed a significant snap with the Colts in 12 stupendous NFL seasons.

Slots 10-12
Round 1, WR -- Andre Johnson, Fitzgerald, Moss
Round 2, WR -- Fitzgerald, Moss, Wayne, Marshall, Jennings, White, Calvin Johnson
Round 3, WR -- Jennings, Marshall, Rice, Marques Colston, Boldin, DeSean Jackson
Round 4, RB -- Stewart, Mathews, Addai, Thomas, Ronnie Brown, Jacobs, Best, McCoy
Round 5, RB -- Spiller, F. Jackson, Barber, McFadden, Portis, Slaton, Williams, F. Jones, Harrison

Strategy: Given all the effective time-shares at running back, what bold fantasy owner doesn't dream of going WR-WR-WR to start a draft, knowing there's immense RB value in the middle rounds? Just make sure that you secure at least five quality rushers from Rounds 4 through 10. It always pays to have options.

The Fortunate Ones

By my count, there are only 14 legitimate workhorse tailbacks among the 32 NFL teams. A "workhorse" back is someone who logs more than 50 percent of the carries/touches in three scenarios -- 1) On first down 2) On 3rd and long, and 3) With goal-line touches. Here are the Alpha-dog rushers:

1. Chris Johnson, Titans
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. Ray Rice, Ravens
5. Steven Jackson, Rams
6. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
7. Frank Gore, 49ers
8. Cedric Benson, Bengals
9. Michael Turner, Falcons
10. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
11. Ryan Grant, Packers
12. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
13. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
14. Clinton Portis, Redskins (neither Larry Johnson nor Willie Parker are classic third-down backs, so whoever wins the preseason battle should be The Man after Sept. 1 -- barring injury)

The Ultimate 1-2 Punches

Conversely, here are the 18 greatest time-shares at running back:
1. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
2. Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones, Chiefs
3. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Dolphins
4. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts
5. Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice, Cowboys
6. Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw/Andre Brown, Giants
7. Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
8. Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush, Saints
9. Knowshon Moreno/Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
10. C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson/Marshawn Lynch, Bills
11. LeSean McCoy/Mike Bell, Eagles
12. Matt Forte/Chester Taylor, Bears
13. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush, Raiders
14. Steve Slaton/Ben Tate/Arian Foster/Ryan Moats, Texans
15. Jerome Harrison/Montario Hardesty, Browns
16. Justin Forsett/Leon Washington, Seahawks
17. Jahvid Best/Kevin Smith, Lions
18. Laurence Maroney/Sammy Morris/Fred Taylor, Patriots

How To Dominate Your Draft

1. Do Your Homework
Fantasy championships seldom fall in the laps of absentee or indifferent owners. In fact, a title earned in Week 16/17 is usually the culmination of hard work, discipline and excellent preparation in August. Here are three components to that process:

**Study at least four publications (outside of your Clicks addiction): Get a sense of what the experts are saying -- along with what they're not saying -- about cetain players. Find common ground among the predraft rankings and drafting trends.
**Continually monitor the Average Draft Position (ADP) rankings on various Web sites: Average draft positions afford you the chance to get the player you want at the value you want ... without the embarrassment of "reaching" for his services.
**Mock, mock, mock your way to building draft-day confidence: There's no disputing your childhood piano instructor's creed: Practice makes perfect. For example, let's say you have your heart set on taking DeSean Jackson as a WR1 in a standard-scoring league, and after five or 10 mock drafts, you realize that he's typically going midway through Round 3. With that inside knowledge, you can now focus on getting a stud tailback in Rounds 1 and 2, with a nod toward taking a QB1 or WR2 in Round 4.

2. Get To Know Your Fellow Owners
This process is incredibly simple: If you're in a league with friends, just stick to a methodical predraft plan of talking trash (like psyching out the competition for players slotted in Rounds 2-5). And in the interest of a little investigative journalism, find out which players will be taken in Round 1, pick-by-pick, just in case you're looking to trade down in the draft.

Now for the fun part: If you're playing in an online league with strangers, buddy up to 'em before the draft. Find out where they're from (chances are they'll reach for a player from their hometown team -- it's human nature) and/or subtly coerce them into bragging about the best draft pick or trade they've made in recent times. The rationale: Fantasy owners tend to redraft players who once led them to a title. You can use that loyalty as leverage for a draft-day trade (assuming you can swap picks during The Show).

3. Come Armed With Cheat Sheets (1-2 pages max)
With 60-90 seconds between picks, you'll never have enough time to peruse a whole notebook of predraft insights once the clock starts ticking. Be orgzanized. Condense your notes. Economize on time. Rank players by specific numbers or color-coded schemes, or whatever it takes to save time when you're on the clock.

4. Limit Your Alcohol Intake During A Live Draft
Fantasy friends typically enjoy having a few drinks at a local watering hole on draft night. The rule of thumb here: Always consume less alcohol than the owners selecting before AND after you in a snake draft. You'll thank me in the morning.

How To Dominate Your Draft, Part II

1. Never take a QB in the first two rounds (only two exceptions to the rule)
**IF Drew Brees should personally guarantee you, in writing, that he'll throw for 5,000-plus yards in 2010. And if he falls through on that promise, you get to buy the rights to his made-for-TV movie project, Bayou Better Believe It.

**IF Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning should magically fall into your lap at the tail end of Round 3. Otherwise, keep building a viable stable of running backs and receivers. The lesson here: Fantasyland quarterback depth should never be a concern (except for 16-team leagues).

2. Never be at the tail-end of a same-position draft run
Rather than grabbing the No. 12 running back in Round 2 -- just because everyone else is hurrying to fill that position -- how about snagging the No. 1 or 2 receiver instead (Andre Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald)? Good drafting is ALWAYS about great value.

3. Never draft a kicker until the last three rounds
By my count, there are 17 fantasy-friendly kickers this season. So, unless you're playing in a league with 18 teams or more ... wait, wait, wait to rescue someone off the proverbial salt mine.

4. Never a take a defense until the last three rounds
Forgive me for essentially repeating points from #3: In an 18-round PPR draft from 2008, I landed running backs DeAngelo Williams (1,636 total yards, 20 TDs in '08) and Chris Johnson (1,488 yards, 10 TDs) in Rounds 14 and 15, respectively, simply because I wasn't stupid enough to take dime-a-dozen defense early in the game. C'mon people, think!

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We Interrupt Fantasy Clicks ...

... To clarify how we'll handle the Vincent Jacksonholdout saga: Unlike most seasons when a player and/or his agent threaten to sit out a season -- even though we all know they're bluffing, for various reasons -- I cannot envision any circumstance in which V-Jax shows up for the Chargers' Week 1 clash against the Chiefs ... without a long-term contract in hand. Jackson's reasons for sitting on his couch until Week 10 -- when players must report to their teams to get full service-time credit for 2010 -- are threefold:

1. As a restricted free agent, Jackson is currently tendered for only $600,000 (and change) this season, a pittance salary for a burgeoning all-pro receiver. In other words, he wouldn't be losing that much money if he ignored the lure of training camp (and subsequent daily fines for missing work) and the regular season.

2. It's been widely reported that Jackson stands to earn a three-game suspension whenever he returns to San Diego's locker room. That grim news, coupled with Jackson's salary strife, paints the picture of a lost season for Jackson, the Chargers and fantasy owners everywhere.

3. San Diego GM A.J. Smith is a certifiable stubborn mule when dealing with holdouts and malcontents. So, why would he ever reward the embattled Jackson for holding out?

Verdict: In any other year, we wouldn't hesitate to grab V-Jax after the 35th pick in a standard-scoring draft; but in the absence of a trade or a long-term deal (odds of either one: what's the number right above zilch?), Jackson's value doesn't kick in until Round 6 or 7 -- which doesn't account for the rapid plunge that'll occur if we're still having this discussion on Aug. 22.

Choose Your Quarterback

Kevin Kolb: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Before I storm the beaches of Hilton Head for one last summer siesta, how about staging a delicious head-to-head battle between Philly's Kevin Kolb and Washington's Donovan McNabb? After all, both QBs possess similar schedules, preseason rankings and plenty of incentive to outperform one another throughout the season. So, without further ado, here's a week-by-week breakdown of Kolb vs. McNabb ... on the off-chance you land both signal-callers on draft day (say Rounds 6 and 7):

Week 1 -- Kolb (vs. Green Bay) over McNabb (vs. Dallas)
Week 2 -- Kolb (@ Detroit) over McNabb (vs. Houston)
Week 3 -- McNabb (@ St. Louis) over Kolb (@ Jacksonville)
Week 4 -- Kolb (vs. Washington) over McNabb (@ Philadelphia)
Week 5 -- McNabb (vs. Green Bay) over Kolb (@ San Francisco)
Week 6 -- Kolb (vs. Atlanta) over McNabb (vs. Indianapolis)
Week 7 -- McNabb (@ Chicago) over Kolb (@ Tennessee)
Week 8 -- McNabb (@ Detroit) over Kolb (BYE)
Week 9 -- Kolb (vs. Indianapolis) over McNabb (BYE)
Week 10 -- McNabb (vs. Philadelphia) over Kolb (@ Washington)
Week 11 -- Kolb (vs. N.Y. Giants) over McNabb (@ Tennessee)
Week 12 -- McNabb (vs. Minnesota) over Kolb (@ Chicago)
Week 13 -- Kolb (vs. Houston) over McNabb (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 14 -- McNabb (vs. Tampa Bay) over Kolb (@ Dallas)
Week 15 -- McNabb (@ Dallas) over Kolb (@ N.Y. Giants)
Week 16 -- Kolb (vs. Minnesota) over McNabb (@ Jacksonville)
Week 17 -- Kolb (vs. Dallas) over McNabb (vs. N.Y. Giants)
Final Tally: Kolb wins, 9-8

Verdict: Wow! You couldn't have asked for a closer showdown between two quarterbacks; and to be perfectly honest, we could've flipped a coin between Kolb and McNabb for Weeks 1, 5, 11, 15 and 17 -- let alone their head-to-head meetings for Weeks 4 and 10. Hmmm ... suddenly there's justification for placing Kolb ahead of McNabb in our preseason QB rankings.

SI's Bout With Mock Madness

Sports Illustrated's fantasy football spectacular -- a 150-plus-page blowout singularly devoted to the most addictive fantasy sport of 'em all -- can be found in bookstores and grocery markets nationwide. Before the mag went to bed, though, SI conducted an Experts' Mock Draft -- a 16-round simulation built around the premise of standard-scoring leagues and a third flex starting spot for either RB/WR/TE. Here were my picks, Rounds 1 through 16:

Round 1 -- RB Michael Turner, Falcons (back to fighting weight, ready to dominate)
Round 2 -- WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (for the sake of balance, took my No. 2 overall WR)
Round 3 -- WR Greg Jennings, Packers (happily settled for Plan B after Knowshon Moreno)
Round 4 -- RB Matt Forte, Bears (if healthy, I'm guaranteeing 1,700 total yards/10 TDs)
Round 5 -- TE Jason Witten, Cowboys (excellent value for this standard-scoring/PPR monster)
Round 6 -- WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (my last shot at WR before going RB/QB crazy)
Round 7 -- RB Cadillac Williams, Bucs (will spend summer running -- not rehabbing)
Round 8 -- RB Clinton Portis, Redskins (the last workhorse back, Laurence Maroney aside)
Round 9 -- QB Donovan McNabb, Redskins (it's always great to land a top-12 QB in Round 9)
Round 10 -- WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets (safest pick among the three-headed WR monster)
Round 11 -- QB Matthew Stafford, Lions (reached one round too high ... but for good reason)
Round 12 -- WR Laurent Robinson, Rams (on the brink of a breakout -- let's hope it happens)
Round 13 -- WR Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (ALWAYS take "upside" this late in the draft)
Round 14 -- D/ST San Francisco 49ers (the best fantasy defense west of Baltimore, Md.)
Round 15 -- PK Mason Crosby, Packers (the best kicker not named Kaeding or Gostkowski)
Round 16 -- WR Brandon Tate, Patriots (Tom Brady believes in his down-the-field explosiveness -- that's good enough for me in Round 16)

Practice Makes Perfect should always be your primary source for voluminous information leading up to fantasy drafts ... but if you're in the mood to participate in a LIVE mock draft on the Web -- while learning NOT to reach for LaDainian Tomlinson before Round 8 -- here are the best destinations for real-time mocking:

**Mock Draft Central
**CBS Sports
**ESPN Mock Draft Lobby
**Fantasy Football Calculator

Toolbox Of Wonder

The eggheads at Fantasy Football Toolbox are off and running with unique takes on the upcoming season -- such as:
1. Running backs 29 or older
2. Positional fantasy studs
3. The most overused running backs
4. Fail-safe picks
5. Best bye-week running backs
6. Prime comeback candidates (author, Rob Warner)
7. IDP rankings -- starring the mullet-free Jared Allen

Clear Sailing Ahead

These teams should have a minimum of 12 weather-friendly games, which is the first step to predicting fantasy goodness (especially with quarterbacks) and laying the groundwork for borderline-crazy preseason predictions (like Maurice Jones-Drew collecting more yards from scrimmage than Chris Johnson in 2010):

Detroit (only nuisance is Nov. 14 @ Buffalo ... and how bad can that be? what a sked!)

San Francisco (only glitch is Dec. 5 @ Green Bay ... quite favorable for Smith/Crabtree)
Jacksonville (a Nov. 28 tilt with the Giants in East Rutherford ... outside of that, no worries)

San Diego
Indianapolis (yet another reason to LOVE Peyton Manning on draft day)
Miami (hmmm ... Brandon Marshall might be a top-3 WR in PPRs/standards now)
St. Louis
New Orleans (as if Drew Brees didn't have enough going for him these days)

Tampa Bay (good weather or not, can the Bucs step out of the Dark Ages offensively?)
Houston (anyone wanna bet Matt Schaub wins the passing-TD title in '10?)
Minnesota (I wonder if someone handed Lord Favre this cake schedule on the lawn mower?)

Kansas City
Green Bay (this is actually good news for Aaron Rodgers -- imagine the possibilities)

Clip & Save

The following is a comprehensive listing (in five classifications) of which teams have the easiest and hardest schedules during the standard fantasy playoff period of Weeks 14, 15 and 16. The formula accounts for weather, strength/weakness of opposition and home/away considerations: (It goes without saying ... if you're torn between two QBs come draft day, this could be the tiebreaker)

Tier I -- The Easiest
1. Green Bay (@ Lions, @ Pats, vs. Giants at Lambeau -- 90 total points expected)
2. Detroit (vs. Packers, @ Bucs, @ Dolphins -- no wind or cold for Matthew Stafford)
3. Seattle (strange but true: Justin Forsett could bring you a fantasy title in Week 16)
4. Baltimore (the Ravens were listed in Tier V last year -- and now they're reaping the benefits of playing the Browns on Fantasy Championship Sunday)

Tier II
1. Indianapolis
2. Tennessee
3. Atlanta
4. Carolina (DeAngelo Williams should rule in Weeks 14/15)
5. Oakland
6. Minnesota
7. Cincinnati
8. Miami (might've made Tier 1 -- if it weren't for @ Jets in Week 14)
9. San Francisco
10. St. Louis
11. Denver (favorable mini-slate with Arizona, Oakland and Houston)
12. San Diego
13. Dallas
14. Houston

Tier III
1. Buffalo
2. Tampa Bay
3. Washington
4. Jacksonville
5. New Orleans
6. N.Y. Jets
7. Arizona
8. Kansas City (might've made Tier II if this team looked better on paper)
9. Philadelphia

Tier IV
1. New England
2. Chicago
3. N.Y. Giants
4. Pittsburgh (avoids Tier V by facing the Bengals, Jets and Panthers at home)

Tier V -- The Hardest
1. Cleveland (@ Bills, @ Bengals, vs. Ravens -- two great defenses, three bad-weather games)

Ma Nature's A Fickle Mistress

On the flip side ... these clubs should encounter treacherous weather for at least five games, which often serves as the great equalizer with star quarterbacks in fantasyland (See Tom Brady, Week 15 of 2007 vs. the Jets):

Five Probable Bad Weather Games

Six Probable Bad Weather Games
N.Y. Giants
N.Y. Jets
New England (rank Brady in the top-3 QBs at your own peril ... we're talking four blustery games at Foxboro, one in Chicago and one in Buffalo -- Dec. 26)

It's All About The Slot: #6

Most people consider the No. 6 pick in a 12-team draft to be a mixed blessing. Yes, you're guaranteed a shot at Andre Johnson or Aaron Rodgers in Round 1 -- assuming you have the stones to pass on a running back -- but you're also at the mercy of savvy drafters from that point forward, without ever possessing an opportunity to grab two productive players at the tail end of any round. Well, hath no fear or ambivalence about this perceived No Man's Land ... for here's a strategy to dominate a 16-round draft with the No. 6 selection:

Round 1, Pick 6: Motive -- Best overall player (anything goes after the first five picks)
1st option: WR Andre Johnson, Texans ... 2nd option: RB Frank Gore, 49ers

Round 2, Pick 19 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR/QB available
1st option: RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs ... 2nd option: QB Peyton Manning, Colts

Round 3, Pick 30 overall: Motive -- Best RB or WR available
1st option: RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos ... 2nd option: WR Greg Jennings, Packers

Round 4, Pick 43 overall: Motive -- Best WR/TE/RB available (unless Matt Schaub lurks)
1st option: QB Matt Schaub, Texans ... 2nd option: TE Antonio Gates, Chargers

Round 5, Pick 54 overall: Motive -- Best elite WR or TE
1st option: WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals ... 2nd option: TE Jason Witten, Cowboys

Round 6, Pick 67 overall: Motive -- Best tight end or top-tier running back
1st option: TE Brent Celek, Eagles ... 2nd option: RB Fred Jackson, Bills

Round 7, Pick 78 overall: Motive -- Best RB available (preferably a workhorse back)
1st option: RB Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers ... 2nd option: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants

Round 8, Pick 91 overall: Motive -- Best RB/WR available
1st option: RB Clinton Portis, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Steve Slaton, Texans

Round 9, Pick 102 overall: Motive -- Best WR/QB available
1st option: WR Kenny Britt, Titans ... 2nd option: QB Donovan McNabb, Redskins

Round 10, Pick 115 overall: Motive -- Best player available
1st option: QB Matthew Stafford, Lions ... 2nd option: RB Justin Forsett, Seahawks

Round 11, Pick 126: Motive -- Best WR available (especially if he's the subject of today's Clicks)
1st option: WR Devin Thomas, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Marshawn Lynch, Bills

Round 12, Pick 139: Motive -- Best player available (with a nod to tight end)
1st option: TE Greg Olsen, Bears ... 2nd option: TE Dustin Keller, Jets

Round 13, Pick 150: Motive -- Best player available (includes kickers -- barely)
1st option: PK Rob Bironas, Titans ... 2nd option: PK Ryan Longwell, Vikings

Round 14, Pick 163: Motive -- Best defense available
1st option: D/ST Cincinnati Bengals ... 2nd option: D/ST San Diego Chargers

Round 15, Pick 174: Motive -- Best handcuff at running back
1st option: RB Larry Johnson, Redskins ... 2nd option: RB Correll Buckhalter, Broncos

Round 16, Pick 187: Motive -- Best WR available (read: high upside nobodies -- for now)
1st option: WR Laurent Robinson, Rams ... 2nd option: WR Brandon Tate, Patriots

Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday/Monday during the NFL and MLB seasons.

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