When playing fantasy football it's best to have a short memory. As you peel through the season stats you can be misled by something that happened in September that has no bearing on what's happening in November or December -- when knowledge is most important. Here's a short quiz to see how closely you've been following along who's hot and who's not now, not just over the course of the full schedule. The answers will be posted after I answer a few of your questions.
1) Over the last month which of these quarterbacks has averaged the most passing yards per game: Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers or Matthew Stafford?
2) Who has caught the most touchdown passes since mid-October: Plaxico Burress, Jimmy Graham, Calvin Johnson, Laurent Robinson or Mike Wallace?
3) Which kicker is the NFL's leading scorer in terms of points per game during that timeframe: David Akers, Mason Crosby, Robbie Gould or John Kasay?
4) Who is the only non-kicker to average over 10 points per contest since Week 6 began: Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, or Ray Rice?
5) Only one of the following players has actually scored a touchdown in the last month. Who is it? Miles Austin, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Darrius Heyward-Bey, DeSean Jackson, Le'Ron McClain, Sidney Rice, Ryan Torain, Reggie Wayne, Mike Williams (TB).
It's hard to imagine trading Brees in the midst of what may be a season in which he sets the NFL's single-season record for passing yards. But let's look at your potential haul. Jackson has been on a tear, totaling 417 rushing yards and 484 yards from scrimmage over his last three games, and Vick was one of the most sought after fantasy players at the start of the year but has regressed recently into the frustrating fantasy player he was in Atlanta for years. What scares me the most about both are their fragile natures. With their teams both out of the playoff hunt for all intents and purposes, any injuries they suffer, and they both have long injury histories -- will be treated with caution, and they could lose a large number of important games during your stretch run. Yes, it's a high-reward proposition, and the two are potentially both Top 12 fantasy producers, but the risk far outweighs the reward. Just sit back and enjoy Brees' ride.
Chandler has scored more touchdowns than expected, but the rest of his game is exactly as expected. He's an occasional target for Ryan Fitzpatrick, at best the fourth or fifth option, so his catches and yards are going to be severely limited. In fact, though, only once this season has he gone for more than 35 yards and only three times has he caught at least three balls in a game. With the bye weeks just about gone he's not someone to count on. Of those listed above, Watson is the most intriguing. Instead of those you mention as replacements, take a look at the next question:
Once the prototypical young pass-catching tight end, Winslow has slowed down and been left in the dust by the group headed by Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. With the exception of a couple of touchdowns scored in Weeks 8 and 9, he's been a vanilla player in a vanilla offense. You can do better not only by trade but among free agents such as Baltimore's Ed Dickson, Pittsburgh's Heath Miller and Philly's Brent Celek.
McFadden's ankle is killing a lot of owners (including me), but at this point in the year he's virtually impossible to replace via the waiver wire. The best way to offset his loss is by approaching the team owner who has Michael Bush and offering a trade that treats Bush like a starter. You may be overpaying for someone who in a few weeks may have very limited value, but you'll be covered in the Raiders' attractive rushing situation. If you need to find a waiver wire pickup, run out for Lance Ball, who, with Knowshon Moreno already declared out and Willis McGahee questionable at best should be carrying a lot of the load against the Jets in Denver on Thursday night. The Broncos' Tim Tebow-powered offense runs two-thirds of the time and had more rushing attempts Sunday in Kansas City than any Denver team since 1978, or before 48 of the current 53 Broncos were born.
It's long been time coming to ditch the "Madden" cover boy who's been nothing but maddening this year after being one of the most pleasant surprises of 2010. If there's no obvious replacement for him as a free agent available (say, Chris Ogbonnaya) you may consider taking a chance on a deeper sleeper. Consider someone like Joe McKnight, who would move into a third-down role with LaDainian Tomlinson's knee becoming a problem, or Taiwan Jones, especially if something happens to Michael Bush for the Raiders. There's also Phillip Tanner. With the Cowboys offensive line on fire right now, Tanner is the only other back capable of carrying any load behind DeMarco Murray.
1. The much-maligned Philip Rivers has averaged 301.8 yards in his last four games. Only Drew Brees has more at 311.4 per contest. However, it's not all good for Rivers as he's thrown eight interceptions (compared to seven touchdowns), tied with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the most in the league.
2. Trick question: Both Burress and Robinson have caught four touchdowns, more than any other receivers in the NFL.
3. Akers has been one of the unsung heroes of the 8-1 49ers. He's averaging 11.3 real points (and a spectacular 13 fantasy points) per game over his last four, making all 13 of his field goal attempts and six extra points. He now is the second-best fantasy kicker this season behind Saints emergency replacement John Kasay.
4. Obviously, Foster's hamstring is no longer a problem as he's averaging 159 scrimmage yards per contest over the past month and accounts for 10.5 points per game for the Texans, trailing only kickers Akers and Robbie Gould among all players with at least three appearances over the past five weeks.
5. Not only is Chiefs massive fullback Le'Ron McClain the only player on this list to score in the past five weeks, he's reached the end zone twice. None of the others has even sniffed a score and are all dragging down their fantasy owners chances for a championship.