Line of scrimmage: Late schedule key in determining player values

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I'll never get over it, Dave. Michael Vick threw his first interception in four years. OK, he hasn't played in three, but his turnover helped put the Bears atop the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers committed his first fumble of the year, and that was the difference in the Packers' loss in Atlanta. The Steelers should have lost to the 2-8 Bills, but the "sure-handed" Steven Johnson gave the Steelers an early Christmas gift, dropping a sure touchdown in overtime. To top it off I lost the family Thanksgiving football game and both airlines I flew on were over an hour late. Only the last three things were predictable.

While you were winging your way back and forth from Patriots land, Jon, I was kicking soccer balls at my boy's head. He wants to be a goalkeeper, and I'm more than happy to oblige. I even scored a few, but pulled a hammy. I now feel a certain kinship with Knowshon Moreno, or anyone else that runs like Steven Segal.

Wait, did you just say you watched Steven Segal movies over the Thanksgiving break?

Sure, I love his movies, much like I enjoy the films of Josh McDaniels. His Broncos took a beating after being caught filming a 49ers walk-through, and he's the same guy accused of filming the Jets. Apparently, Laurence Maroney wasn't the only thing he brought with him from New England.

I can't get over his being caught twice doing that, much like I can't believe Dwayne Bowe's five multi-TD games in the past seven weeks.

Get over it, Jon.

I'll never get over it.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

What is that?

Shakespeare, you drama queen.

Fine, I'm over it.

Topic No. 1: With Dwayne Bowe suddenly alive and well, Matt Cassel has thrown 12 TDs in the last four weeks against one INT. Is it to time make Cassel the king of your franchise?

Block: There comes a time where every man will choke on his Cheerios like I did upon noticing that Cassel is ranked fourth in the league for quarterback rating. However, he's 21st in the amount of attempts he's made with just 323. That's an average of 29 attempts per game. Not bad, but it doesn't exactly place him in fantasy stud-dom. However, in the first four games Cassel was averaging a paltry 6.13 yards per attempt. His last four games he's averaging 7.72 yard per attempt, raising his YPA for the season to 7.14. To put that in perspective, Peyton Manning is averaging 6.8, Drew Brees, 7.28, and Matt Ryan, 6.70. All three have better WRs and are usually better protected up front. Yes, the Chiefs are a run-first team, and they face the Chargers' top-ranked defense in Week 14, but Denver's 20th ranked pass defense next week, and St. Louis and Tennessee's bottom-third ranked defenses in crucial playoff Weeks 15 and 16 make Cassel someone to whom I offer a Lordship. Owned in just 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues, feel free to knight him for these spot starts moving forward.

Counter-block: First, someone invite me into one of these crazy leagues where Cassel isn't owned. Every time someone writes about a player being owned in only half the leagues, I run to the waiver wire only to see that that player was taken two weeks ago. Then again, I always play against ESPN's Dave Hunter, so it's my own fault (he's wicked fast). Second, I was high on Cassel in the draft -- not smart enough to draft him, of course -- and am watching my team fall faster than the GDP of Ireland as Tony Romo festers on my bench. So having said all that, I'm not 100 percent against running with Cassel -- or trying to continue with Jon's royalty allusions, perhaps that's jousting -- but here's something to keep in mind: When we rank passing defenses, we do so by yardage, but there's another story. Taking out Denver, whom I expect Cassel to punish (again) in Week 13, and Oakland, whose Week 17 matchup might be after your league's playoffs are done, the Chargers, Rams and Titans have given up a combined 40 passing TDs against 36 INTs, or an average of 13 TDs vs. 12 INTs. St. Louis is the weakest of the three, but the bumbling Titans have more INTs (15) than passing TDs allowed (14). So while Cassel's 10 TDs vs. 0 INTs his last three games have been impressive, don't expect the same results in Weeks 14-16.

Clearing the pile: Cassel is a QB1 option the rest of the way, but lower expectations from his 10 TD vs. 0 INT pace of the last three weeks.

Topic No. 2: In Week 12 Earl Bennett caught two TD passes and Ben Obomanu had 100-plus receiving yards. Considering both are owned in only three percent of Yahoo! leagues, is either WR worth adding to your roster?

Block: He who trusts his team to Jay Cutler does so at his own risk (our lawyers demanded I start my paragraph with the Cutler Assumption of Risk rider). Bennett had a great game in Week 12 and showed off some impressive guns after that catch and run where he almost broke three tackles for a TD. Still, he can't throw it to himself. Yes, Mike Martz has espoused love for Bennett and claims more plays are being drawn up for him, but he still just sees 5-6 looks a game. It just so happens two got him into the end zone against Philly. This is the same team and QB who succumbed to Seattle and barely beat Buffalo. They have another easy game against Detroit -- a team they had to steal a win from -- and then an awful schedule the rest of the way with New England, Minnesota, NY Jets and Green Bay. On the other hand, Seattle plays Carolina, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. Plus, Obomanu is taking advantage of an injury to Mike Williams, which is a surer way to see more looks. Bennett might have value in Week 13, but go with Obomanu the rest of the way.

Counter-block: I can't rely on any Seattle receiver and sleep at night, which makes me sleepless outside of Seattle. Obomanu has received 19 of his 25 targets in the past three weeks. Great, you say, but Williams is suffering a foot problem that can't be considered too serious when he was only a game-time decision this past week. Since Seattle is now fighting for a division title, he'll get back on the field sooner than later, shifting Obomanu back to WR75 position in Seattle (aka WR2 for every other team) since Seattle is ranked 27th in offensive points per game. It's nice that Matt Hasselbeck has finally looked for another receiver besides Deon Butler, but Obomanu's 231 yards is his highest tally in his six years in and out of football. I want more than one breakout game to start putting him in my lineup, even against the likes of San Francisco coming up.

As for Bennett, it's much the same, though I trust Cutler's arm a lot more than I do Hasselbeck's. I don't care that Cutler makes bone-headed decisions. He gets the ball to his receivers quickly, even if they are on the other team. It's part of his appeal. If you're that desperate for a WR3 or Flex play to give you consistent points, I can think of other guys I'd want to take a chance on who might grow to bigger roles in their offenses. Guys we wanted to see more from like Jacoby Ford, who has two 100-yard games in four weeks, as well as a special teams TD. What about Brandon Gibson, who has three straight weeks of four-plus receptions and a stable quarterback situation.

Clearing the pile: Bennett has become a viable option for a very strong Bears team and is a decent WR2 for you. Obomanu is a reach with less of a track record, but might be a WR3 option in deeper leagues as the Seahawks have a much easier schedule.

Topic No. 3: The Panthers got as close to winning as they have in a long time against the Browns. Part of the effort was Mike Goodson's 136 all-purpose yards and a TD. Should you treat him as Carolina's RB1 the rest of the way?

Block: I'm not a huge fan of any runner in Carolina right now and why should anyone be? Carolina is ranked 21st, averaging 3.9 YPC. Truth is, you might even find Jonathan Stewart on the waiver wire, and when healthy, he could take back the job full time. However, the key clause there is "when healthy," which Stewart isn't and hasn't been for some time. Feet and Achilles problems have nagged him since he arrived in the league. Even though he's toughed it out and played in every game his first two years, his output has been seriously reduced when you consider his talents. Even after his tremendous output last week, Stewart is still plodding along at 3.5 yards per carry, and the odds of him remaining an every-down back this year are likely none. When you find a RB who has three straight weeks of more than 100 total yards output, you take him. Sure, he's got only two good matchups left (Seattle and Arizona), but let me remind you that since Week 7 he has 24 receptions, more than Stewart has ever put up in a season. With a rookie QB throwing with all the confidence of a mouse in a cat orphanage, you can expect him to garner yards through the air as well. He'll give you RB2 numbers the rest of the way.

Counter-block: Everyone was happy to jump on the Goodson bandwagon when he had two consecutive games of 100-plus yards, but I'm not a believer. One of those efforts was against a sad Buccaneers rushing defense, but the other was against the Ravens, who not only have a strong running D, but is the only AFC team I'd mention in Super Bowl talk with the Patriots (sorry, Jets and Steelers). But rushing, like life, is about opportunity and who's in front of you. Returning from a concussion, Stewart's 8.2 YPC easily out-paced Goodson's 3.9 YPC. So while Goodson might have been the starter, in was in name only. Stewart should be back as RB1 next week. As for the receptions, 81 yards were nice, but Jimmy Claussen checked off and dumped the ball off to Goodson a lot, something that likely won't happen from here on out. There's a chance that the team loses enough confidence in Claussen and runs the ball, giving enough touches for both Stewart and Goodson, but Carolina is more of a "three and out" rather than a "long sustained drive" kind of team so it's not worth betting your season on it.

Clearing the pile: While Carolina isn't the best place to mine rushing yards and TDs, Goodson has delivered enough good games to warrant playing him at the flex position. Just beware he'll lose half his value in Carolina's Week 17 matchup against the Steelers.

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, Wednesday nights, 10:30 pm Eastern (7:30 p.m. PT), 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."