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Fantasy Clicks: All's fair in fantasy

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It's not much different in fantasy sports. Sometimes, you need to bend the truth to help move your team toward the ultimate goal of winning a championship. With fantasy football seemingly everywhere, every owner in your league has access to all the same information as you. In years past, you may have been able to just keep your mouth shut and get a guy on waivers because you were the only one in your league who knew anything about him. But with fantasy websites and live scoring and Sunday Ticket, the NFL is covered, and reported on, from every single angle. That's when you need to create an angle of your own.

To illustrate, I present a conversation I had with my friend Zach. We're in a very competitive, high-stakes league together, and were discussing waiver claims for this week. The following is an unedited, instant-messaging exchange:

Zach: I think I might use my waiver on Tolbert. What do you think?Me: I don't think Mathews is injured seriouslyZach: He (Tolbert) like a beastMe: might end up being a wasteZach: even so there's like no one on the wireMe: no one worth giving a shot?Zach: he's going to get goal line touches, in terms of talent I don't see anyone close to TolbertMe: yeah, I just wonder if it'll be worth it assuming Mathews is fineZach: ya I see that point, but someone's going to scoop himZach: he's going to get TD's regardlessMe: we'll see

Even though reports out of San Diego early in the week said Ryan Mathews' injury wasn't too serious and he looks ready to go for Sunday, the only reason I was saying any of these things was because I wanted Mike Tolbert myself. Instead of trying to talk down the Chargers' backup, my strategy here was to talk up the starter. The only way I could possibly persuade Zach to go in a different direction was to convince him that he'd be wasting his valuable spot in waiver priority (in other cases, his free agent budget) when the Chargers proclaim Mathews' ankle healthy later in the week. Once you plant that seed of doubt, the next step is to suggest another player worthy of your mark's attention. "Hey, did you see that game Shaun Hill had? He's got two explosive weapons in Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson, and the Lions should be down in their next two games (@ Minnesota, @ Green Bay), meaning he'll be throwing the ball a lot. He could be a sneaky add with Matt Stafford out."

It's a derivative of the bait-and-switch. In this instance, you feed your rival a small dose of misinformation, then quickly provide something for him to get excited about. It's all fair in the cutthroat world of fantasy sports.

Unfortunately for me, Zach was wise to my ruse and put in a claim for Tolbert. "I decided I'm going to claim Tolbert," he told me. "I know you want him anyway." That's where the key to the misinformation campaign arises. For every little fib you tell, you need to provide a nugget of truth. If the opposition knows all you do is lie, they'll always do the opposite of what you say. Telling the truth every now and again keeps them honest even when you're not. And that's how you can get that extra little edge.

For the first time since 2006, Vick is a permanent starting quarterback in the NFL. Not only has Vick officially taken over for Kevin Kolb in Philly, but head coach Andy Reid said it was based on merit, not Kolb's concussion issues. It may only be a two-game sample, but Vick has completed 64 percent of his passes with a 7.9 YPA, three touchdowns and no interceptions to go along with 140 rushing yards on 18 carries. It wasn't just stat-padding against the Lions either. He came in cold against one of the league's best defenses in the Packers the first week of the season and looked like the Vick of old. If you grabbed him late in your draft or cheap in your auction, you may have picked up the bargain of the year. He's a great play this week at Jacksonville, but you may want to get a price check after Sunday. The Eagles' next four games are Washington, at San Francisco, Atlanta and at Tennessee before their bye.

Here are my positional ranks for Week 3. These are strictly for this week, not the rest of the season. The goal here is to rank the starters and then some in a 12-team league that starts two running backs and two wide receivers.


1. Peyton Manning @ Denver -- Solidifies his status as this week's top option if Champ Bailey (ankle) is out.2. Matt Schaub vs. Dallas -- If you have him you're going to start him, but he'd be a lot lower if Andre Johnson (ankle) can't play.3. Aaron Rodgers @ Chicago -- The Bears shutdown the run, but Tony Romo and Miles Austin gave them fits. Rodgers and Greg Jennings will likely be able to do the same.4. Philip Rivers @ Seattle -- Seriously, did you see what Kyle Orton did to them last week?5. Drew Brees vs. Atlanta -- Might seem low for him, but Minnesota and San Francisco have held him in check, and Atlanta's defense has looked strong, albeit against the Dennis Dixon-led Steelers and the Derek Anderson-"led" Cardinals.6. Tony Romo @ Houston -- This is a huge game for Dallas, and their likely to put it on Romo's shoulders. Donovan McNabb threw for more than 400 yards against Houston last week.7. Tom Brady vs. Buffalo -- The Bills' secondary doesn't get the respect it deserves, but Brady still slots here8. Jay Cutler vs. Green Bay -- He composed himself after Cowboys shook him with the blitz early, and his line looked semi-decent too. Dealing with another tough pass rush this week, but he and Mike Martz appear to have a nice friendship going.9. Donovan McNabb @ St. Louis -- The Rams might be just what the doctor ordered for Washington's rushing attack, but McNabb should sling it all over the Edward Jones Dome.10. Michael Vick @ Jacksonville -- The Jaguars secondary is falling apart, and both Kyle Orton and Philip Rivers have had big games against them. Vick appeared to have an instant chemistry with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.11. Joe Flacco vs. Cleveland -- If not now, when?12. Brett Favre vs. Detroit -- No word on if you can actually smell the desperation for a receiver emanating from Minneapolis across the Midwest.13. Matt Ryan @ New Orleans -- He and Roddy White have developed into one of the league's best connections.14. Eli Manning vs. Tennessee -- After getting harassed by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, it doesn't get much easier for Eli, but I expect the Giants to win, and they'll have to do it through the air.15. Chad Henne vs. New York Jets -- With Darelle Revis (hamstring) out, Brandon Marshall should be in store for a big day.

Running backs

1. Adrian Peterson vs. Detroit -- We haven't seen a signature game from him yet.2. Ray Rice vs. Cleveland -- This is the week Baltimore's entire offense finds its stride3. Chris Johnson @ New York Giants -- They ran a lot of dime sets against the Colts, which won't happen this week, but Johnson can't rank much lower than third.4. Frank Gore @ Kansas City -- Looked dominant as a runner and pass catcher against the Saints. No way the 49ers lose this game.5. Rashard Mendenhall @ Tampa Bay -- First of all, he's from one of the greatest towns (Skokie, Ill.) in the country. Secondly, he never seems to succumb to first contact. The Buccaneers held DeAngelo Williams in check, but that was with a lead they won't have against the Steelers.6. Pierre Thomas vs. Atlanta -- With Reggie Bush (broken leg) out of the picture, Thomas could permanently vault into this range.

7. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Philadelphia -- Has yet to get going this year. Jahvid Best ripped them apart last week with a style similar to MoJo's.8. Michael Turner @ New Orleans -- As long as the groin is fine, he'll finish the week a few spots higher than this.9. LeSean McCoy @ Jacksonville -- I know it was Detroit, but he looked great last week. Jacksonville hasn't had a ton of success stopping the run either in its first two games.10. Steven Jackson vs. Washington -- It already appears Jackson is going to have his scoring chances again limited by the overall ineptitude of the Rams, but he's still running well.11. Arian Foster vs. Dallas -- The Cowboys have played well against the run, but the potency of Houston's offense warrants Foster being this high.12. Jahvid Best @ Minnesota -- He probably won't put up 232 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, but he showed the world why the Lions were so excited about getting him in last April's draft. Pierre Thomas was able to close out the Vikings with hard running in Week 1.13. DeAngelo Williams vs. Cincinnati -- The Bengals will dare Jimmy Clausen to beat them while stacking the box to shut down Williams and Jonatahn Stewart. I'm not sure Clausen has it in him just yet.14. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Tennessee -- With malcontent Brandon Jacobs sulking in a corner somewhere, Bradshaw should get the vast majority of the looks this week.15. Matt Forte vs. Green Bay -- He has 13 targets this season, and that's not about to slow down.16. Darren McFadden @ Arizona -- Michael Bush (thumb) appears to be progressing, but McFadden had a great game last week against the Rams. He'll be given every opportunity in what should be a close game.17. Cedric Benson @ Carolina -- The Panthers look like a potential doormat, but I still can't get all the way behind Benson.18. Tim Hightower vs. Oakland -- If Beanie Wells (knee) can't go again, Hightower could be in store for a big game.19. Ryan Mathews/Mike Tolbert @ Seattle -- Whichever one ends up starting should be in on the fun the Chargers are sure to have against the Seahawks.20. Clinton Portis @ St. Louis -- The St. Louis Rams: The cure for whatever ails your run game.21. Knowshon Moreno vs. Indianapolis -- I'm just not sure he'll have a ton of chances to run if Denver gets down early.22. Shonn Greene @ Miami -- LaDainian Tomlinson looks spry and will continue to eat into Greene's carries.23. Jamaal Charles vs. San Francisco -- The 49ers have a great run defense and Todd Haley scares me.24. LaDainian Tomlinson @ Miami -- He's looking surprisingly useful thus far.25. Felix Jones @ Houston -- I think the Cowboys will be intent on getting Jones involved this week...26. Marion Barber @ Houston -- ... and it may just be at Barber's expense.27. Fred Taylor vs. Buffalo -- The Patriots might put up a 40-spot this week.28. Brandon Jackson @ Chicago -- The Bears have looked great against the run thus far this season.29. Jerome Harrison @ Baltimore -- We can never be sure what Eric Mangini is going to do with him and Peyton Hillis. Throw Baltimore's defense in the mix, and I'd look elsewhere if I could.30. Cadillac Williams vs. Pittsburgh -- Another year, and the Steelers are still dominant against the run.

Wide receivers

1. Andre Johnson vs. Dallas -- You might want to play all the way through the whistle when your guarding Andre Johnson.2. Miles Austin @ Houston -- He has 20 receptions and 288 yards in two games and Houston just gave up more than 400 passing yards to the Redskins last week.3. Brandon Marshall vs. New York Jets -- He won't have to go to Revis Island, which should result in a trip or two to the endzone.4. Randy Moss vs. Buffalo -- As we've said already, Buffalo has an underrated secondary, including two great safeties in Jairus Byrd and Donte Whitner. They're still not enough to keep Moss out of the top-five.5. Greg Jennings vs. Chicago -- The Bears are much more susceptible to the pass than the run and Jennings should be able to exploit favorable matchups all night.6. Reggie Wayne @ Denver -- With Champ Bailey potentially out, the Broncos won't have anyone who can match up with Wayne.7. Roddy White @ New Orleans -- He already has a ridiculous 35 targets. The Saints make big plays on defense, but Alex Smith completed 72 percent of his passes for 275 yards on Monday night.8. Calvin Johnson vs. Minnesota -- One thing is for certain. Shaun Hill's not afraid to throw it up and let Calvin go get it.9. Anquan Boldin vs. Cleveland -- See entry for "Ray Rice" above.10. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Oakland -- Derek Anderson has been clownish in the first two games, but we're still talking about Larry Fitzgerald.11. Hakeem Nicks vs. Tennessee -- Looks like he's Eli's favorite receiver, especially in the red zone.12. Marques Colston vs. Atlanta -- Ron Jaworski was right about his rapport with Drew Brees. They seemingly can read one another's mind.13. DeSean Jackson @ Jacksonville -- Him and Vick have already hooked up on a few deep balls this year, and the Jaguars secondary is falling down all around them.14. Mike Sims-Walker vs. Philadelphia -- The goose egg in Week 1 was a mirage, but don't forget his touchdown last week came in garbage time.15. Wes Welker vs. Buffalo -- Look for the entire New England offense to take out last week's frustrations on the Bills.16. Chad Ochocinco @ Carolina -- Was open for a touchdown against the Ravens but Palmer missed him, which would have made the day look nicer.17. Steve Smith (NYG) vs. Tennessee -- Write off that Colts game for the Giants offense. The line couldn't protect Eli and they looked lost from the start.18. Michael Crabtree @ Kansas City -- I'm not jumping ship.19. Johnny Knox vs. Green Bay -- With Devin Aromashodu reportedly in the doghouse, Knox appears to be the closest thing to a go-to guy for Jay Cutler.20. Dez Bryant @ Houston -- He had 12 targets in Week 1, but that plummeted to two against the Bears. He caught both targets for 52 yards.21. Malcom Floyd @ Seattle -- San Diego has another big offensive day in store. Floyd, Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates will all put smiles on the faces of their owners.22. Jeremy Maclin @ Jacksonville -- Like DeSean Jackson, he seemed to enjoy playing with Vick.23. Santana Moss @ St. Louis -- The Rams have played well against the pass, but they also faced Derek Anderson and Jason Campbell/Bruce Gradkowski in the season's first two weeks. Donovan McNabb and Moss should have their names called plenty on Sunday.24. Steve Smith (CAR) vs. Cincinnati -- It's no fault of Smith's. I just can't see Jimmy Clausen having much success in this game.25. Robert Meachem vs. Atlanta -- Meachem has been awfully silent in the first two weeks.26. Donald Driver @ Chicago -- The Bears have struggled defending the pass this season.27. Pierre Garcon @ Denver -- Reggie Wayne isn't the only beneficiary of an injured Champ Bailey.28. Hines Ward @ Tampa Bay -- The Pittsburgh passing game is effectively neutered until Ben Roethlisberger returns from suspension.29. Dwayne Bowe vs. San Francisco -- I can't rank him any higher in good conscience until he shows something.30. Mark Clayton vs. Washington -- He's all Sam Bradford's got in terms of downfield weapons.

Last week we cruised with Green Bay, and our other suggestions of Atlanta and Indianapolis coasted to easy victories, as well.

1. New England Patriots (vs. Bills): Another week, another tough road test for Buffalo, another apparent slam dunk of a survivor pick. Coming off a tough loss to the Jets, it's nearly impossible to envision Tom Brady and company falling at home to the AFC East doormat. Anytime you make a quarterback change under the premise, "Hey, he's not as bad as the guy we've been starting," it's not the best sign. Back the Pats with confidence.

2. Baltimore Ravens (vs. Browns): They may be 1-1 with a tough win at the Jets, but I still count the Ravens among the most disappointing teams in the season's first two weeks. This was supposed to be the year they finally had a passing game to go along with their run game and great defense. Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense should turn it around against by far their weakest opponent to date.

3. San Diego (@ Seahawks): I usually don't like taking my survivor pick on the road, especially in one of the few stadiums that exhibits a true home-field advantage. I'm okay with it in this instance because the Seahawks are one of the worst teams in the league. The Chargers suffered a fluky loss Week 1 at Kansas City (tough divisional opponent, on the road, raining, punt return touchdown), before throttling the Jaguars last week. Look for them to keep it rolling in Seattle.

I know it's early in the season, and it may be a little esoteric, but this Monday night we've got Packers-Bears, Soldier Field, first place on the line, capping another great week of NFL action. It doesn't get much better than that. Enjoy the weekend everyone.


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