Brian Westbrook: Brianm Garfinkel/Getty Images
Aren't NFL teams the best at suppressing injury news? When Eagles RB Brian Westbrook left the Redskins game on Sunday, the FOX announcing crew had zero access to the real truth (perfectly understandable). And on Monday morning, while I was listening to a four-letter-network podcast, Westbrook's condition was being characterized as nothing more than a nuisance (gee, I bet the Eagles supplied that misleading info). It's all very comical, the cloak-and-dagger approach. However, I'm willing to give Philly credit for finally coming clean on Westbrook's two fractured ribs -- an injury that would be devastating for quarterbacks or receivers ... but not necessarily earth-shattering for running backs.
First, let's assume that Westbrook takes an NFL-approved painkiller or two prior to Sunday's game at San Francisco. Then, let's assume Westbrook wears not one, maybe even two flak jackets -- designed to protect the ribs from any real danger when carrying the ball. At the time of this writing, if Westbrook suits up and starts against the 49ers, who's to say he won't score a short-yardage TD even with limited reps? (Note: I sincerely doubt the Eagles would call one pass play -- eliminating any risk of Westbrook extending his body to make the play.) Here's the deal: If you have a comparable back on your fantasy roster (like Joseph Addai or Steven Jackson) ... by all means, start him over Westbrook; and I would also recommend starting Philly backup Correll Buckhalter over Westbrook -- if you have that RB handcuff. But, if you only need Westbrook to rack up 50 total yards and 1 TD to satisfy a flex spot ... I say roll the dice! Just be prepared to sub-out your lineups (Eagles-49ers play at 4:15 EST), if/when Westbrook is announced as a late scratch.
1. Drew Brees vs. Oakland
2. Tony Romo vs. Arizona
3. Kurt Warner vs. Dallas
4. Aaron Rodgers vs. Seattle
5. Philip Rivers vs. New England
6. Jay Cutler vs. Jacksonville
It's Week 6, meaning you have a good handle on your fantasy team's respective strengths and weaknesses ... and you're ready to start wheeling and dealing. But alas, you're not sure of how to execute quality deals. Well, have no fear, for here I am to save the day (thanks, Mighty Mouse and Andy Kaufmann) ... by listing four creative strategies for getting the players you truly covet. First up, we have the 1-for-1 swap.
1. Never approve a same-position deal (WR-for-WR, RB-for-RB, etc.), unless it's a blowout in your favor
2. Never give up a full-time fantasy starter for a part-time starter
Think about it: When Owner B offers to give you (Owner A) Titans RB Chris Johnson for Falcons RB Michael Turner (6 TDs in '08) ... he's really thinking: Turner will get more overall points than CJ. And since overall points are the only thing that matter in fantasy football, perhaps you'll be stupid enough to make the move.
OK, maybe Owner B really wants you to have the Tennessee handcuff with LenDale White. Even so, what's your motivation for doing the deed? That's when you politely decline the swap and reply with something to the effect of, "Go find another pigeon!" Now, if that owner is truly serious about prying Turner from your RB-heavy, WR-light team, then you subtly steer him in the direction of stud receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Plaxico Burress or Dwyane Bowe.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, LaDainian Tomlinson re-aggravated his turf-toe injury in the Bolts' desultory loss to the Dolphins on Sunday. (Apparently, a Miami defender stepped on LT's toe, with one of the cleats twisting his foot into the Dolphins Stadium turf. Ouch!) All that rehab progress on the toe ... gone! It seems LT will have to start from scratch with the medical trainers, which doesn't bode well for the Chargers or fantasyland owners. Yes, LT has four TDs on the season, better than most high draft picks combined (ahem, Ryan Grant and Adrian Peterson). But on the flip side, he's failed to rush for 68 yards in three of San Diego's five games -- and I'm not expecting that trend to be reversed with a damaged toe. Bottom line: It's time to "sell reasonably high" on LT -- even if you have the Darren Sproles handcuff -- and be happy with getting a Tier II running back AND wide receiver in return.
1. Matt Forte vs. Atlanta
2. Ronnie Brown vs. Houston
3. Adrian Peterson vs. Detroit
4. Reggie Bush vs. Oakland
5. Thomas Jones vs. Cincinnati
6. Clinton Portis vs. St. Louis
7. Marion Barber vs. Arizona
8. Julius Jones vs. Green Bay
9. Brandon Jacobs vs. Cleveland
1. WR Steve Smith, Panthes (12.3 Targets)
2. WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos (12.0 Targets)
3. WR Bobby Engram, Seahawks (12.0 Targets)
4. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (11.6 Targets)
5. WR Andre Johnson, Texans (11.5 Targets)
6. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (10.6 Targets)
7. WR Roy Williams, Lions (10.5 Targets)
8. WR Wes Welker, Patriots (10.3 Targets)
9. WR Plaxico Burress, Giants (10.3 Targets)
10. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions (10.0 Targets)
11. WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers (10.0 Targets)
12. WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals (9.8 Targets)
13. WR Roddy White, Falcons (9.8 Targets)
14. TE Jason Witten, Cowboys (9.6 Targets)
15. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts (9.5 Targets)
16. TE Kellen Winslow, Browns (9.5 Targets)
17. WR Santana Moss, Redskins (9.4 Targets)
18. WR Derrick Mason, Ravens (9.3 Targets)
General Tenet: Seek out the owner who believes he's "one player away" from making the playoffs or winning a fantasy championship
In my boys-from-my-hometown PPR league, I am swimming in quality rushers -- Reggie Bush, Frank Gore, Ronnie Brown, Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams (3 TDs last week), Darren Sproles -- and need a strong No. 4 receiver to complement Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens and Dwayne Bowe (we start 2 RB/3 WR each week). There are two ways to approach this mission -- either work with an owner exclusively in hopes of striking a deal OR stealthily involving the masses, in hopes of starting a bidding war (the more enjoyable method).
The best way to do this? Simply post something short, sweet, funny and very non-specific on your league message board, like: "I just got a call from Ronnie Brown's agent: He said, 'Play my client EVERY WEEK or trade him.' So, I guess I have to explore that now ... damn! Anyone want him?" After that, it'll be high-time to sit back and let the offers pour in. As soon as two or three attractive offers come down the pipe (assuming the other owners actually care about their rosters), you're in position to play each participating owner against one another -- keeping them on the hook through personalized IMs or emails. What's the point of this dance, you ask? Well, there's a reason why "11th-hour deals" come down to the ... uh, 11th hour. Translation: Make 'em sweat (and possibly jump through hoops) to get their man!
Larry Fitzgerald: AP
Peter in Memphis says: I've been offered Steven Jackson and Donovan McNabb for LaDainian Tomlinson and Selvin Young. I could probably use McNabb since Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schuab are my other QBs. But is it worth giving up LT? My other RBs are Ronnie Brown, Willie Parker and Laurence Maroney.
Answer: Peter, as I addressed earlier in today's Clicks, now's the time to explore trading LT (the weekly anguish over his new-old injury isn't worth the trouble) -- and I would certainly pull the trigger on a deal that promises S-Jax and McNabb in return. In fact, run -- don't walk -- to your computer and seal the deal!
Trevor in San Diego whines: Your specific predictions for Week 5 (were) atrocious. Five for 19 makes me not even want to read your column anymore.
Answer: Trevor, thank god we live in a free country, meaning you can come and go as you please (for the most part). And with this freedom, you have the right to NOT read my Clicks (or the critically acclaimed Fantasy Revelations). So, you're unhappy with my 5-for-19 showing in QB/RB locks, eh? Do you think I'm thrilled about it? Until Sunday, I had been operating at 62-percent efficiency -- an excellent number for someone, you know, who cannot officially predict the future! (deep sigh) But I'm getting off on a tangent here; the bottom line is that EVERYONE in this business has bad weeks from time to time (to err is human, right). My job, simply put, is to supply the readers with up-to-date information based on the probability of what's most likely to happen on any given Sunday/Monday; and if I'm wrong, heavens to Betsy, then all I can do is work my tail off the next week to right any wrongs -- but it's hardly a foolproof method.
Just so you know, Trevor, I went 26-6 during the first four weeks of my eight fantasy leagues ... and that kind of dominance serves as a cuhsion for the inevitable sad-sack Sunday. So, if you want to leave the group (like Paul McCartney left Wings, his post-Beatles hobby) -- then go! But you're going to miss all the fun (and winning) -- especially since I nailed six of the 10 WR locks from Week 5 (see below).
Aron in Calumet, Mich. has to know: I'm in an 8-person league. Standard Yahoo Scoring. We start 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 WR/RB, one TE, 1 K, 1 DEF. As of right now, my starting lineup is: Matt Hasselbeck, Portis/Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings/Santana Moss, Reggie Bush, Dallas Clark, Mason Crosby and Tampa's defense. I don't think I can win with Hasselbeck. Someone's backup is Eli Manning. A Manning, Plaxico Burress, Fred Taylor trade was proposed for Reggie, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Hasselbeck ... you think it's a for-sure go? I could have Eli and Plax starting with Jennings, Moss, AD, Portis, etc.
Answer: Aron, first of all, can I assume you have Houshmandzadeh on your roster -- even though you didn't mention him above? Regardless, Hasselbeck SHOULD NEVER be your starting QB in a shallow 8-man league. He is a top 15 QB this year, at best, so I find it impossible to believe there aren't better options out there -- either by trade or the waiver wire. As for that trade offer, I like the Eli-Plax-Taylor angle (even though I have little use for Freddie); Bush and Housh have far greater value in PRRs than standard-scoring leagues. I'd pull the trigger on that one!
Layne in Honolulu says: I would appreciate it if I could get some input on what you think LT's prognosis is for the rest of the season. I read that he re-aggrevated that toe injury, and it seems like an injury that will hamper and limit his effectiveness for the rest of the season. I'm starting to get itchy fingers, thinking about trading him. I was offered Ryan Grant and Larry Fitzgerald for LT. I'm already deep at receiver (Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Santana Moss and Andre Johnson). If I make the trade, I can deal Jennings straight up for Clinton Portis or Steven Jackson. Should I pull the trigger?
Answer: Layne, even before Sunday's mini-crisis regarding LT's turf-toe injury, I would have advised you to grab the Grant and Fitz deal. Grant has been coming on of late (83 yards and five first downs against Atlanta on Sunday) and is oh-so-due for a breakout, barring injury. And Fitz, well, I have no bigger NFC man-crush at receiver than him. So ... roll the dice and do the deal!
1. Robbie Gould vs. Atlanta
2. Ryan Longwell vs. Detroit
3. Adam Vinatieri vs. Baltimore
4. Shayne Graham vs. N.Y. Jets
5. Josh Scobee vs. Denver
6. Nate Kaeding vs. New England
Last week, I offered specific predictions for Week 5 -- some pure gold and others that flopped worse than Monty, the political talk-show host sitcom from 1994 starring Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) and David Schwimmer. Of course, Schwimmer should thank his lucky stars this show folded ... otherwise he might have missed out on Friends later that year. (Same holds true for Jennifer Aniston and Muddling Through in '94.)
WR Locks for 110 Yards and/or 1 TD
1. Brandon Marshall (3 catches, 25 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
2. Terrell Owens (2 catches, 67 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
3. Calvin Johnson (2 catches, 16 yards -- wrong)
4. Santonio Holmes (4 catches, 65 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
5. Randy Moss (5 catches, 111 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
6. Antonio Bryant (7 catches, 58 yards, 0 TDs -- good guess but wrong)
7. Reggie Wayne (7 catches, 97 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
8. Andre Johnson (9 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
9. Roddy White (8 catches, 132 yards, 1 TD -- soooo correct!)
10. Larry Fitzgerald (7 catches, 52 yards, 2 TDs -- correct!)
Five Players Who'll Disappoint
1. Clinton Portis (158 yards, 1 TD -- wrong))
2. Chad Johnson (3 catches, 43 yards -- correct!)
3. Edgerrin James (78 total yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
4. Michael Turner (121 total yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
5. Muhsin Muhammad (3 catches, 71 yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
Five Unsung RB/WR/TEs Who'll Score 1 TD
1. WR Brandon Jones (3 catches, 54 yards -- decent day, but wrong)
2. RB Fred Jackson (37 total yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
3. TE Casey FitzSimmons (goose egg -- wrong)
4. RB Darren Sproles (47 total yards, 0 TDs -- a week too early, yet wrong)
5. WR David Patten (goose egg -- wrong)
General Tenet: Always be the instigator -- be the first one to push the potential deal
May I introduce ... the 1-4 vs. 2-3 Method. Simply put, this involves a 2-for-2 swap where Owner A gives up the best player (#1) and worst player (#4), while Owner B surrenders the quartet's second- and third-best players (#2, #3). In real terms, say I wanted to ship Colts RB Joseph Addai to an owner who needs running backs and has great depth at receiver. I would simply give him one premium back (Addai) and one decent WR (Derrick Mason) for one premium WR (Greg Jennings) and one decent back (Panthers rookie Jonathan Stewart). The result: a win-win trade for both parties, satisfying two weaknesses. (Note: The 1-4 vs. 2-3 Method works for any positional trade combination -- just make sure Owner A is clearly surrendering the best and worst players of the deal.)
The Detroit Lions started out the 2001 season with 12 straight losses. Which NFC club did they beat in Game 13 for victory #1?
1. Think BIG ... like hauling in a top-5 talent
2. Don't be afraid to sacrifice talent on the bench for a proven star
Sometimes it's best to roll the dice early on a player who, barring injury, will likely bear fruit for practically the entire year. Through five weeks, a slew of highly drafted players (Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Ryan Grant, Chad Johnson, Kellen Winslow) have underperformed and theoretically could be lifted from a desperate-to-sell owner. This also works for teams that started 1-4 or 0-5. Think about it: The frustrated owner's season is already at a crossroads, and soon he/she will have to make the ultimate decision -- is it better to have one superstar or three good players filling out the starting lineup?
In my favorite PPR league prior to Week 5, Andre Johnson's owner was already fretting about his 1-3 start (only four teams out of 10 make the playoffs). Sensing that bit of desperation, I pushed hard to convert three of my solid starters -- RB Julius Jones and WRs Santonio Holmes and Torry Holt -- into Andre Johnson (plus Darren Sproles as a throw-in). With AJ now on board, my starting receiving trio comprises Brandon Marshall, A-Johnson and either Roy Williams, Antonio Bryant and Kevin Walter. Johnson, by the way, had nine catches for 131 yards and one TD against the Colts on Sunday -- his best output of the season. One last thing: The "blockbuster" trade concept is a MUST at your deadline (presumably Week 12). Because, as we all know, bench depth does absolutely squat for you come the playoffs!
The answer is F. The 2001 Vikings, sitting at 5-7 at the time, suffered a dreadful 27-24 loss to the 0-12 Lions -- the first of four defeats to close out a 5-11 campaign. Detroit would finish 2-14 that season.
On the 0-4 Lions: They suck on offense, suck on defense and their special teams just aren't that special. Kyle Orton threw for 334 yards, the very reason he was on my sleeper list last week. The Lions make anyone look like an All-Pro. Rookie Matt Forte chipped in with two touchdowns and the defense had a pick-6 to just throttle the (sorry-sack) Lions. I think the Lions should be banned from the NFL.
On the Titans' sleep-inducing 13-10 win over the Ravens: Boy, this one was exciting, huh? I could have painted the garage and watched it dry instead. No 100-yard rushers, no 100-yard receivers ... what the (heck) am I supposed to talk about? A defensive struggle between two boring teams doesn't leave me much material here. Baltimore seemed to have things in control to snatch the win away until the Titans got a gift in the form of a bogus "roughing the passer" penalty.
On the incomparable DeAngelo Williams: He was The Man with 3 total TDs and 148 total yards. You can all thank me for that one -- I dropped him in my local league this week. Any player I drop is sure to have a career week, I should have published that fact. If you have a player you want me to try and acquire and drop so he'll go off, just let me know.
On the 4-1 Redskins: Can someone please explain why I benched Clinton Portis? Sure he was facing the #1 run D in the league, but HE'S CLINTON FREAKIN' PORTIS! CP rolled for 145 yards and a score on my bench, and now I want to swallow a gun. Chris Cooley was huge with 8 grabs for 109 yards and a score the 'Skins D held Donovan McNabb and B-West in check. The Redskins are now 2-1 against their divisional foes on the road. If that doesn't scream FOR REAL, I don't know what does. This NFC East division is brutal. It's like the SEC in the NFL.
On the Packers' stunning Lambeau loss to the Falcons: Aaron Rodgers and his bum shoulder threw for 313 yards and 3 TDs ... and the Packers still lost! Michael Turner was The Man with 121 yards and a score, and QB Matt Ryan hit Roddy White with ease all day; White rang up 8 grabs for 132 yards and a score on his way to a monster day. This game is just further proof why I have no freakin' idea what is going to happen each week.
I'll keep this one short and sweet: Leave Ed Hochuli alone. The man has been one of the NFL's best referees for the last 10-15 years; and while he's getting older (aren't we all?), I have absolutely zero doubts about his mental sharpness (he's a lawyer) or his physical conditioning (the man is the Rock of Gibraltar). So, yes, he made a mistake in the Broncos-Chargers game ... one that cost San Diego a precious win; but that's hardly an unpardonable sin, right? Stop the insanity! (right, Susan Powter?)