Line of scrimmage: Debating Vick's value, Moss' future, Fitzgerald's fall

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I'm Jonathan Phillips and welcome to my column.

OUR column.

Right. This season the good folks at Sports Illustrated will be bringing you our weekly column, "Line of Scrimmage," where I'll discuss three hot fantasy football topics and...

Hey, why am I the one in italics?

Because you look good in them, Dave. They're slimming and I just can't carry them off. Anyway, that's Dave Young in italics. Together we bring you the weekly "Just a Bit Outside" fantasy podcast, every Sunday morning at noon ET on BlogTalk Radio. He'll be the Counter-Block to my Block in this column as we present different sides of five intriguing fantasy issues ...

Three issues.

... three issues, and tell you what we as fantasy experts would do with this info to make your team better besides quit and go home.

Wait, why am I the Counter-Block?

And every now and then, Dave will whine. Like now. So fine, Dave, take the block on this one.

Topic No. 1: Does Michael Vick's performance in Week 1 mean he's out of the fantasy doghouse and worth a roster spot on your team?

Block:Like the Eagles, I'm not going to let a little thing like character get in the way of populating my team. Coach Andy Reid says if Kevin Kolb's healthy, he's committed to him, but there's a bigger issue than Kolb's concussion. Against a tough Green Bay defense Vick threw for 175 yards and ran for 103 more. His QB rating was 101.9, while Kolb's was a measly 56.3. The Eagles are already a game behind the Redskins and loyalty goes out the window when performance is at stake. Especially against weaker defenses, Vick could give you two passing TDs with 250 yards in the air and one rushing TD with 100 yards on the ground. Or as much as Jets QB Mark Sanchez will give you all year.

Counter-block: You chose one heck of a bone to pick. Reid isn't committed to either of these guys. By the game's second series Reid had Vick and Kolb trading places like Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. Last year Reid wanted to institute Vick more into his game plan, but the egos involved (read: Donovan McNabb) refused. Even after Kolb's '09 1-1 record and decent stats (55-for-85, 718 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs), the Eagles still aren't fully behind him. It's hard enough playing QB without having to look over your shoulder to see Andy Reid coming to sack you. It's messy, and messy means inconsistency. And inconsistency means a runny sauce. Wait, that's for my cooking article. Inconsistency is not something you want in fantasy football.

Piling on: If Vick is on your waiver wire, he's worth a pickup. But wait until Reid better defines the QB situation before starting him.

Speaking of doghouses ...

Topic No. 2: Is Randy Moss' mouth going to affect his fantasy numbers the rest of the year?

Block: "When it comes down to it ... games that we lose in the second half, or losing on the road like we did, that can be lack of trust, lack of confidence."

No, that wasn't my youth soccer coach pressing me to suck it up at the left-wing position. That was Tom Brady speaking to the Patriots lack of success in '09. The Patriots dismantled the Bengals thoroughly on Sunday and what does Moss do? No, not that. He's done insulting cameramen. He strides up to the podium post-game and rants for 16 minutes complaining about his contract and that no one in New England likes him. When you want your employer to give you a raise, do you run outside and tell everybody you're unhappy with the company and they as human beings suck? Well maybe Dave would, but Brady's quote points to the nerve that Moss impinged on Sunday. Brady has come ready to play, and after having his star receiver publicly berated Pats' fans and their organization Brady might not target Moss eight times like he did Sunday.

Counter-block:That's OK, Randy, no one in New England likes me, either. The Patriots' offense is always a crapshoot in terms of who is going to get the ball. Sometimes it's everyone. Sometimes it's no one (at least no one on anyone's fantasy team). The Pats are all about program over players (you hear me, Richard Seymour?), but they're also about winning. Brady will spread the ball around and has no loyalty to any particular receiver, end or back (besides Wes Welker, not that there's anything wrong with that). So Moss is still a WR with elite potential, but be prepared for his Casper imitation like Weeks 2 and 17 last year (and yes, I'm still bitter).

Piling on: You shouldn't consider dropping Moss, but you may entertain trade offers after he goes off one week. Moss can still be your WR1, but suddenly some of the pre-season zest is gone. Have some Zoloft ready for when he disappears a few weekends.

Speaking of wide receivers underperforming ...

Topic No. 3: Without Kurt Warner feeding him the ball, is Larry Fitzgerald still an elite WR?

Block:On last week's podcast I predicted a Rams win over the Cardinals, and like usual, the Cards let me down ... but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Derek Anderson is no Kurt Warner (heck, he's not even Kurt Russell), and even Fitzgerald couldn't hide his disgust over Anderson's misguided throws. Don't be surprised to see coach Ken Whisenhunt call former BYU QB Max Hall's number within a month. Until then, Whisenhunt may have opposing secondaries wear Cardinals jerseys to ensure Anderson won't throw any passes directly to them. But until then, there's no doubt that Fitzgerald could easily see a 40 percent drop in production, turning him into, say, Derrick Mason.

Counter-block:Ah, and here's where people are over-reacting. See that guy in the stat column named Steve Breaston? You have to, the name is titillating enough that I get to use a word like "titillating." Did you see what his line was? Oh, only seven receptions for 132 yards on seven targets. Fitzgerald was targeted 15 times for his paltry three catches and still found the end zone. We all know Anderson has talent (if you can lead Cleveland to be competitive in anything you've got something all of us want) and even with defensive backs jumping all over Fitzgerald like a Whack-A-Mole figurine Anderson still tried to stick with his top man. Fitzgerald may still be a Top 5 receiver by year's end.

Piling on:Don't get too cute so early. Fitzgerald still gave you 10 fantasy points in standard leagues and was an end zone target. The Cardinals play in a weak division and have Atlanta and Oakland as their next two games. Fitzgerald should be fine.

Thanks for joining me.


For joining me and my co-hort, and tune in on Sunday and hit us with your questions, comments, and counter-blocks of your own. Until next week, watch your blind side.

Jon Phillips is the 2008 Champion of the Columbus Dispatch National Fantasy Football Contest "Rate the Experts" and has written for Talented Mr. Roto, and He also hosted Rotoexperts flagship radio show "Xperts Edge" as well as "The Think Tank", both with Scott Engel. Dave Young has written weekly fantasy sports columns for Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Talented Mr. Roto, and other sites he can't remember. Catch them both on "Just A Bit Outside" on, Sundays, noon Eastern (9 am Pacific).