Line of scrimmage: Late QB starters, WR sleepers, more debate

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What choice did he have, Jon? Quin tried to bat it through his chest. The only thing easier to catch this time of year is an illness, and considering that play is being regurgitated as often as Kelly Clarkson on Top 40 radio, Quin might have called in sick Monday.

Phones could be ringing all over NFL sick lines this week. Miami lost their one-two QB combination, Chad Hennington -- that's Chad Henne and Chad Pennington. (Hey, give me props for not making a dangling chad joke.) Though Thanksgiving may be approaching, Kerry Collins served up more ducks Sunday than a Chinese restaurant.

Your Steelers looked like they had quit football cold turkey Sunday, while Carson Palmer tossed one too many dying quails. And Jon Kitna pecked apart the Giants defense ...

Um, Dave, what are you doing?

I was continuing the bird theme, you know, for Turkey Day.

Bird theme?

Ducks, quails, pecking. You know, birds.


Dangling chad?

Hey, remember, what's good for the goose ...

Topic No. 1: Tyler Thigpen finds himself in the starting role for the Dolphins, and the 49ers are employing Troy Smith. In a two-quarterback league which of these waiver wire candidates would you want?

Block: If I had two flat tires, would I prefer the one with some tread left or the one that has blown off, leaving just the wheel? How about just racing on two tires? Neither of these two candidates gives a warm cozy feel in deep QB leagues. However, you want to err on the side of experience, of which Thigpen has more. He became the starting QB in Kansas City back in 2008 among another similar nightmare, when he replaced Damon Huard and the ever-delicate Brodie Croyle. He started 14 games, completed 55 percent of his passes and threw 18 TDs versus 12 INTs. In 2008, that was more TDs than Ben Roethlisberger, a young Matt Ryan and Jake Delhomme while playing on a team whose defense was ranked lower than a Piña Colada is on the list of manly drinks. When called upon Sunday, all Thigpen did was answer the call again, sealing the game with a TD pass to Anthony Fasano in a 4-for-6, 46-yard performance. He's got plenty of weapons around him, and good mobility.

Counter-block: Yes, Thigpen has more experience, but what you left out, Jon, is that in those 14 games Thigpen guided his team to just one win, and had the luxury of dumping most of those TD passes to arguably the greatest TE ever, Tony Gonzalez. Sure, wins don't count in fantasy, but they do in real football and the '10 Dolphins have higher expectations than the '08 Chiefs (witness the line of QBs they brought in for interviews Monday). And keep in mind that risking your fantasy team's season on Thigpen's four completions is like expecting to win the lottery: just a bad understanding of math. While I agree Troy Smith has yet to prove anything, the '10 49ers are just as desperate as those '08 Chiefs, and he seems to have Wally Pipped Alex Smith out of a job. The rest of the way the Niners play Arizona twice, St. Louis and Seattle. That's four good passing matchups for a bunch of guys who are playing for their jobs. And it's refreshing to recommend a Heisman winner who hasn't had to return the trophy.

Piling on: Who are we kidding here? Thigpen has won once as a starter. And while the Dolphins are trying to salvage a playoff season out of their 5-4 record, the 3-6 49ers have nothing to lose by playing big. Smith will get the better opportunities and have the higher upside.

Topic No. 2: Fantasy defenses can make the difference in a close game but few are living up to the hype. What defense do you expect to make the difference down the road?

Block: Going into the season I would have said the top six Ds were Pittsburgh, New York Jets, Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago and Baltimore. That would have given me a 67 percent chance of getting a good D early as the Ravens and Vikings have been awful for fantasy purposes. So if you did go after one of those underachievers (or just have a bad defense), you now find yourself eyeing the waiver wire for a reasonably talented D that plays an easy schedule. The good news is you will likely see some fantasy teams drop their second defenses with the bye weeks over and you might be able to cherry pick a good one. The Saints haven't been exceptional scoring fantasy points on defense, but have held opponents to 151 points (4th best in the NFL), have a below-average schedule the rest of the way (depending on which Cowboys team shows up), and have something to play for. But if you can't get them and have the intestinal fortitude to watch your D cough up 30 points once or twice the rest of the year, you could always take a chance on the meek NFC West and look at the 49ers and the Seahawks, both teams that could overachieve the rest of the way.

Counter-block: We're talking sleepers here, and for that you have to dig. So I pulled out my pile driver and researched the offenses ranked in the bottom third of NFL. Then I compared their giveaway/takeaway numbers, and checked out which of those offenses aided a defense in being Top-10 fantasy defense for that particular week. The most surprising repeaters in the Top 10 were the Chargers and Giants. Four times those two teams gave a defense Top 10 fantasy points. However, the best middling offenses that resided in the Top 10 of bad were Arizona, Seattle and Carolina. Thus, the Atlanta Falcons' defense has three matchups of amazing defensive value facing Seattle once and Carolina twice (once in Week 17). These are two of the worst offenses with corresponding high giveaway numbers. The Falcons also get bottom third offenses Tampa Bay and St. Louis. Considering Atlanta has been opportunistic recently, causing five turnovers in their past three games, Atlanta is a sleeper defense to grab down the stretch. They're only 21 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues.

Clearing the pile: The 49ers were Jon's second choice, so both he and Dave like that defense as well, but the 49ers are viewed more optimistically by Yahoo! Fantasy owners, as they are 51 percent owned. Get Atlanta if you can, or New Orleans if you cannot.

Topic No. 3: OK, guys. You have our attention. Both of you give us a good "Trade High" WR and a solid "Buy Low" one?

Block: This sell-high receiver is ranked 21st in the league for targets with 73, yet he has had had multiple weeks of just one and two catches. He scored his first TD in Week 3, but since Week 5 has reached the end zone eight times. If I'm selling high on someone right now, it's Dwayne Bowe. Although his schedule is favorable the next three weeks, it toughens with San Diego and finishes with Oakland in Week 17. Since Bowe only catches about half his targets, he has just 39 receptions, which ranks 40th behind guys like Jermaine Gresham and Mike Thomas. Kansas City is a rush-first team, and I want my top receiver to be a sure thing down the stretch. If he's your WR2 or worse, fine, keep him. But Bowe can't get any better than this considering the team he's on. Sell high now and go get someone who is much more consistent: Reggie Wayne or Calvin Johnson or an upside play like Dez Bryant.

As for buying low, try Lance Moore. This Moore-sel of goodness has quietly compiled a first half of 35 catches on 51 targets for 448 yards and five TDs. New Orleans is starting to round into shape, and Moore has had seven-plus targets in all but three contests. Their final three matches are tough against Baltimore and then division rivals Atlanta and Tampa Bay. However, Moore scored three times in the first contests against Atlanta and Tampa Bay, and since this team cannot run, Brees will still average 35 passes per contest. Moore will be cheap and should make a solid play the rest of the year.

Counter-block: For my two WRs, don't trade one straight up for the other. The first will still have value down the stretch, while the second has potential that shouldn't be overpaid for. I wouldn't have said this last week, but now I'm ready to sell high on Terrell Owens for three reasons. First, Carson Palmer is feeling obligated to get Chad Ochocinco the ball, which may now be easier with teams keying on T.O. (and yes, I'm watching the same reports to see how hurt Ocho-stinko really is). Second, T.O.'s value will never be higher after his amazing five-game run prior to the Colts game (7 TD, 618 YDs). Third, Carson Palmer is being held together with spit and duct tape, and with the season basically over, expect Palmer to either get knocked out of a game, or rested to recover, which will kill the values of all Cincy receivers.

For Buy Low, I'm nominating Nate Washington. We knew Randy Moss' presence would take pressure off of Chris Johnson, but he's also opened up the passing lanes, just like he did in New England (wouldn't you agree, Wes Welker?). And as I mentioned in a previous column, Tennessee has a nice schedule during the fantasy playoffs.

Clearing the pile: You clear the pile. This topic doesn't require it, so there'd be no point. Come on readers, pay attention.

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" 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. Called the "Laverne and Shirley of Fantasy Football," catch them both on "Just A Bit Outside" on, Wednesdays, 10:30 pm Eastern (7:30 am Pacific), and read their column, "Line of Scrimmage" weekly on E-mail Jon at or Dave at for subjects you'd like to see debated on "Line of Scrimmage."