Rashard Mendenhall (left), Willie Parker: Jonathan Daniel/Getty; Scott Boehm/Getty
In the last two games, Mendenhall has rushed for 242 yards (on just 44 carries) and three touchdowns -- the kind of numbers that don't even account for his woulda/coulda/shoulda rushing TD against Detroit last week (the second of the day -- called back on a suspect holding penalty). It also doesn't factor in the Steelers' borderline obsession with throwing the ball 30 times a game, even when maintaining a comfortable lead. Simply put, Mendenhall needs only 15-20 carries per game to dominate ... meaning Parker -- regardless of whether he starts against Cleveland -- will be given a short leash to produce, given Mendenhall's immense size, speed, strength and uncanny efficiency. Nevertheless, Parker remains a top-flight handcuff option with Mendenhall in all fantasy leagues ... just like these performers:
Top 20 Running Back Handcuffs
1. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
2. Ray Rice/Willis McGahee, Ravens
3. Joseph Addai/Donald Brown, Colts
4. Rashard Mendenhall/Willie Parker, Steelers
5. Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush/Mike Bell, Saints
6. Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson, Bills
7. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Dolphins
8. Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice, Cowboys
9. LaDainian Tomlinson/Darren Sproles, Chargers
10. Frank Gore/Glen Coffee, 49ers
11. Knowshon Moreno/Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
12. Chris Johnson/LenDale White, Titans
13. Thomas Jones/Leon Washington, Jets
14. Adrian Peterson/Chester Taylor, Vikings
15. Brian Westbrook/LeSean McCoy, Eagles
16. Larry Johnson/Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
17. Tim Hightower/Beanie Wells, Cardinals
18. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush/Justin Fargas, Raiders
19. Cadillac Williams/Derrick Ward/Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
20. Sammy Morris/Laurence Maroney/Fred Taylor/Kevin Faulk, Patriots
Here's a list of prominent players who'll bounce back in Week 6 -- I promise:
1. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (nothing cures one's ails like a visit from the Rams)
2. WR Randy Moss, Patriots (came thisclose to 2 TDs last week vs. Denver)
3. WR Santonio Holmes, Steelers (I'm thinking 5 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD vs. Cleveland)
4. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
5. RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles
6. RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers
7. QB David Garrard, Jaguars (see above rationale for Jones-Drew, Maurice)
8. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
9. QB Derek Anderson, Browns (let's face it ... he can't possibly be any worse)
10. WR Lee Evans, Bills
At first blush, Giants receiver Mario Manningham has the look of a week-in, week-out consideration at the WR2 or flex spot in 10- or 12-team leagues. After all, Manningham (20 catches, 342 yards, 3 TDs) ranks 5th among wideouts on ESPN.com's fantasy page, he's a contributing member of a prodigious passing attack (led by Eli Manning) ... and this season's signature performance of 10 catches for 150 yards and one touchdown occurred on national TV -- against the hated Cowboys.
But alas, Manningham also has some skeletons in his fantasyland closet, such as:
1. Taking away the Dallas performance, he's averaging only 2.5 catches per game
2. He's caught only seven balls out of 18 Targets in the last three weeks (39 percent)
3. The Giants will be a run-first offense when blustery weather hits the Meadowlands
4. And ... last but not least ... rookie Hakeem Nicks (105 receiving yards, 2 TDs in Weeks 4-5) is nipping at Manningham's heels for playing time, opposite the other Steve Smith
But the Trader Beware stance extends beyond Manningham's reach. Here are seven players to avoid in trades (unless they're simply throw-ins to consummate a deal):
1. QB Joe Flacco, Ravens (could encounter eight straight cold-weather games from Weeks 9-16)
2. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers (has too many 30-to-40-yard games to warrant being an automatic TE1)
3. WR Johnny Knox, Bears (has only 38 receiving yards in his last two games)
4. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys (at full strength, Dallas will likely morph back into a run-first offense)
5. WR Santana Moss, 'Skins (averaging 2.75 catches/40 yards/.25 TDs in games NOT vs. Detroit)
6. RB Tim Hightower, Cardinals (sooner or later, Beanie Wells will dominate Arizona's attack)
7. RB Tashard Choice, Cowboys (good-looking tailback who'll only be a fantasy monster if Marion Barber and Felix Jones are hurting)
1. Drew Brees vs. N.Y. Giants
2. Aaron Rodgers vs. Detroit
3. Matt Hasselbeck vs. Arizona
4. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cleveland
5. Philip Rivers vs. Denver
6. Joe Flacco @ Minnesota
7. Kurt Warner @ Seattle
8. Donovan McNabb @ Oakland
Back by popular demand, my up-to-the-minute rankings for the top 20 tight ends:
1. Dallas Clark, Colts
2. Kellen Winslow, Jr., Buccaneers
3. Brent Celek, Eagles
4. Antonio Gates, Chargers
5. Heath Miller, Steelers
6. Jason Witten, Cowboys
7. Owen Daniels, Texans
8. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
9. Vernon Davis, 49ers
10. Chris Cooley, Redskins
11. John Carlson, Seahawks
12. Todd Heap, Ravens
13. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
14. Jermichael Finley, Packers
15. Ben Watson, Patriots
16. Dustin Keller, Jets
17. Zach Miller, Raiders
18. Greg Olsen, Bears
19. Sean Ryan, Chiefs
20. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
1. Arizona @ Seattle
2. N.Y. Giants @ New Orleans
3. Denver @ San Diego
4. Tennessee @ New England
5. Detroit @ Green Bay
@mdalakas asks: Mr. Clemons, I love Fantasy Clicks on FanNation! I am in a 2-points-per-reception league with yardage and TD bonuses. Should I deal Steve Slaton for Michael Turner? Thank you
Answer: First of all, thanks for the kind words. Secondly, have you noticed that Slaton doesn't have a red-zone TD yet, nor does he see the ball inside an opponents' 5-yard line (thanks, Chris Brown)? It's enough to drive you batty ... and right into the waiting arms of Turner, whose multiple-TD gems makes him a lock over Slaton, even in high-stakes PPR leagues.
@hblakers asks: Do you think Randy Moss/T.J. Houshmandzadeh for Darren Sproles/Nate Burleson is fair deal? And I know you hate this ... but which defense do you like better this week: Bengals or Giants?
Answer: I would feel VERY UNEASY about trading Moss/Housh for Sproles/Burleson ... have Owner B add a 3rd player on your end. And since you asked, let's go with the Bengals defense (vs. Houston) over the Giants' D (@ New Orleans).
@B4him13 wonders: I made a move while you were gone -- trading Larry Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Steve Smith (Giants) for Maurice Jones-Drew/Anquan Boldin. Your thoughts?
Answer: Getting Boldin/MJD for LT/LJ and the Giants' Steve Smith may have been the work of a genius. Boldin will likely lead the Cardinals in receptions and yards, if healthy; and MJD might rack up 1,700 total yards and 13 TDs this season. On the flip side, LT, LJ and Smith all have marvelous potential ... but they're certainly no match for Boldin/MJD at this stage of their careers. Well played, sir.
@cjbrown22 wants to know: In a 12-team Points Per Receptions league, I've been offered Jonathan Stewart for Sidney Rice. My WRs: Greg Jennings, Hines Ward, Nate Burleson, Andrew Caldwell. RBs: Adrian Peterson, Marion Barber, Larry Johnson, Correll Buckhalter.
Answer: I would prefer J-Stew (207 total yards, 2 TDs in '09) over Sidney in ANY scoring format -- even with Rice's impressive start (233 yards, 2 TDs).
@jreich says: Please pick two running backs for Week 6: LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Smith, Rashard Mendenhall.
Answer: Oh dear lord, I want to say LT against Denver ... but K-Smith (@ Green Bay) and Mendenhall (vs. Cleveland) have good-to-execeptional matchups in Week 6. Ride 'em high!
@dolphinsfinsdol asks: Please rank Larry Fitzgerald, Chad Ochocinco, Nate Burleson, Mike Sims-Walker, Steve Smith from Carolina.
Answer: I'd rank 'em like this for Week 6: 1)Fitz 2)Steve Smith 3)Burleson 4)Ochocinco 5)Sims-Walker ... thanks!
LaDainian Tomlinson: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Sometimes the little hampster falls asleep at the wheel. -- Carla Tortelli from Cheers
Perhaps I unknowingly sustained a concussion while zip-lining through the mountains of Costa Rica (canopy tour) on my honeymoon last week. Maybe one of those white-faced Capuchin monkeys sucked all the oxygen out of my brain during a rainforest encounter. Otherwise, there is no plausible excuse for me moving heaven and earth to acquire LaDainian Tomlinson (along with throw-in QB Trent Edwards) Thursday, as part of a star-studded 2-for-3 trade (surrendering Reggie Bush, Kyle Orton, Braylon Edwards).
And yet, I couldn't be more thrilled about the gamble.
After two games and five weeks of the NFL season, the likely Hall of Famer Tomlinson has only 70 yards and one touchdown. And frankly, he has shown zero signs of regaining his all-world form that was even apparent during his injury-plagued 2008 season. So, why did I make a strong effort to grab him? Furthermore, why did Owner B quickly oblige my offer, without the requisite period of haggling? (It's almost as if he pressed "accept" in record time ... just in case the 5-player offer was a dream.) Truth be told, I did it for the following reasons:
**I had never owned LT in any of his nine NFL seasons.
**Tomlinson's injuries don't appear to be serious or turf-toe-related.
**His opponents from Weeks 13-16 include @ Cleveland, @ Dallas (his boyhood hometown), vs. Cincinnati, @ Tennessee.
**LT has posted a minimum of 1,536 total yards in eight full seasons.
**Tomlinson scored 99 touchdowns from 2004-08.
**The man is absolutely driven to eclipse Emmitt Smith's all-time rushing record (18,355 yards) ... sometime in 2012.
**And ... LT has the luxury of playing with Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson -- all of whom prevent opposing defenses from trying to stifle Tomlinson at all costs.
For what it's worth, I don't share the same kind of passion for Buffalo's Edwards. He'll be a waiver-wire casualty five seconds after the trade becomes final on Friday.
Ah, sanity restored.
A receiver is only as good as his quarterback ... and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch (known as Targets -- an absolutely critical stat for PPR leagues). This underrated category is the best way to safeguard against one-hit wonders during a long, long, long fantasy season. To wit, SI.com presents a list of the 32 wideouts with 32 or more Targets (through Week 5):
1. Andre Johnson, Texans -- 52 Targets
2. Nate Burleson, Seahawks -- 49 Targers
3. Randy Moss, Patriots -- 49 Targets
4. Steve Smith, Giants -- 48 Targets
5. Reggie Wayne, Colts -- 48
6. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- 46
7. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks -- 45
8. Santonio Holmes, Steelers -- 41
9. Steve Smith, Panthers -- 41
10. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 41
11. Calvin Johnson, Lions -- 40
12. Hines Ward, Steelers -- 40
13. Torry Holt, Jaguars -- 39
14. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals -- 37
15. Justin Gage, Titans -- 37
16. Brandon Marshall, Broncos -- 37
17. Eddie Royal, Broncos -- 37
18. Nate Washington, Titans -- 37
19. Mark Clayton, Ravens -- 36
20. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets -- 36
21. Roddy White, Falcons -- 36
22. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- 35
23. Mario Manningham, Giants -- 35
24. Santana Moss, Redskins -- 35
25. Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers -- 35
26. Bryant Johnson, Lions -- 34
27. Derrick Mason, Ravens -- 34
28. Bernard Berrian, Vikings -- 33
29. Louis Murphy, Raiders -- 33
30. Donnie Avery, Rams -- 32
31. Patrick Crayton, Cowboys -- 32
32. Ted Ginn, Jr., Dolphins -- 32
1. Vincent Jackson vs. Denver
2. Larry Fitzgerald @ Seattle
3. DeSean Jackson @ Oakland
4. Greg Jennings vs. Detroit
5. Marques Colston vs. N.Y. Giants
6. Santonio Holmes vs. Cleveland
7. Steve Smith @ Tampa Bay
8. Derrick Mason @ Minnesota
9. Anquan Boldin @ Seattle
10. Torry Holt vs. St. Louis (my loathing of T-Holt -- at this stage in his career -- has been well-documented ... but you have to love his chances against the Rams, his old team)
Going back to Twitter for a moment ... here's an interesting Tweet from a regular follower (@thrasherrr):
What Would Jay Do?: I'm trying to land Ronnie Brown (507 total yards, 6 TDs) from Owner A who has interest in Steve Smith (NYG). Whom should I add in the 2-for-1 trade? Steve Slaton, Reggie Bush, Larry Johnson, Joseph Addai?
Answer: Well, "Jay" doesn't know Owner A's likes/dislikes, or his/her roster. However, at face value, Addai and Slaton hold greater value in that 3-player paradigm, while Bush/LJ + Steve Smith would constitute a fair offer. Just don't be shocked if he gives everything a thumbs-down ... savvy owners seldom part with great running backs.
1. Ryan Grant vs. Detroit
2. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. St. Louis
3. Adrian Peterson vs. Baltimore
4. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Cleveland
5. Michael Turner vs. Chicago
6. Brian Westbrook @ Oakland
7. DeAngelo Williams @ Tampa Bay
8. Chris Johnson @ New England
9. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Denver
One good turn deserves another. Here are the 18 tailbacks with 17 or more Targets after five weeks:
1. Ray Rice, Ravens -- 32
2. Tim Hightower, Cardinals -- 30
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- 30
4. Joseph Addai, Colts -- 28
5. Fred Jackson, Bills -- 28
6. Chester Taylor, Vikings -- 26
7. Chris Johnson, Titans -- 25
8. Steven Jackson, Rams -- 23
9. Kevin Smith, Lions -- 23
10. Reggie Bush, Saints -- 22
11. Steve Slaton, Texans -- 22
12. Darren Sproles, Chargers -- 22
13. Jerome Harrison, Browns -- 20
14. Leon Washington, Jets -- 18
15. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers -- 18
16. Tashard Choice, Cowboys -- 18
17. Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- 17
18. Mewelde Moore, Steelers -- 17
1. WR Sammie Stroughter (vs. Carolina)
2. RB Le'Ron McClain (@ Minnesota)
3. WR Lance Moore (vs. N.Y. Giants)
4. TE Sean Ryan (@ Washington)
5. WR Bryant Johnson (vs. Green Bay)
Last but not least ... here are the 18 tight ends with at least 24 targets to date. If your preferred guy isn't on the list, perhaps it's time to choose someone who actually sees 4-5 balls per game:
1. Dallas Clark, Cowboys -- 42 Targets
2. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers -- 42
3. Vernon Davis, 49ers -- 39
4. Owen Daniels, Texans -- 38
5. John Carlson, Seahawks -- 35
6. Antonio Gates, Chargers -- 35
7. Heath Miller, Steelers -- 33
8. Jason Witten, Cowboys -- 33
9. Brent Celek, Eagles -- 32
10. Chris Cooley, Redskins -- 32
11. Todd Heap, Ravens -- 31
12. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons -- 28
13. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars -- 26
14. Randy McMichael, Rams -- 25
15. Greg Olsen, Bears -- 25
16. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions -- 25
17. Zach Miller, Raiders -- 24
18. Jeremy Shockey, Saints -- 24
Noticeably Absent: Jermichael Finley, Visanthe Shiancoe, Kevin Boss, Shawn Nelson, Dustin Keller, Sean Ryan, Donald Lee, Anthony Fasano, Alge Crumpler, Bo Scaife, Daniel Fells, Ben Watson
... One of my favorite Simpsons clips of all time, involving the famous soccer riot at Springfield Stadium. Why am I showing this here? Well, coming off my honeymoon in Costa Rica -- where the locals are VERY passionate about soccer -- this bit could not have been more spot-on, regarding the United States' relative indifference for futbol ... at least compared to the South/Central American countries. Besides, not a day goes by in my life where I don't bellow Holds it! ... holds it! ... holds it! for no apparent reason. HA!