Tom Brady: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
I realize Tom Brady is the living, breathing version of Captain America right now, or the NFL's modern-day Roger Staubach, if that helps, where goodness and greatness emanate out of every pore. I also understand why CBS dispatches its No. 1 broadcasting team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to every available Patriots game -- ignoring the quality of opponent. Simply put, the combination of Brady, Randy Moss and Bill Belichick (must be the hoodie) is regular must-see TV and CBS will be damned if something great doesn't occur on Nantz/Simms' watch.
So, you can imagine the old Tiffany Network's glee in watching Brady throw five -- count 'em, FIVE! -- touchdowns in one quarter on Sunday (he threw six for the game). Five touchdowns against last year's best team in the AFC (regular season, of course). Five touchdowns with Moss and Wes Welker heavily involved in the 15-minute onslaught. Five touchdowns on a snowy Gillette Stadium turf -- even though the calendar read mid-October. It was the perfect storm for CBS (pun intended) ... and every fantasy owner who erroneously chose to start Derrick Ward and Carolina's Steve Smith over Thomas Jones and Sidney Rice, BUT had the admirable fortitude to stick with Brady on Sunday morning, even after seeing that Alberta Clipper punish the East Coast!
As dominant as Brady was on Sunday (against a winless club that may or may not have already thrown in the towel for their season), I'm here to bring a dose of reality to the party: We're still talking about a quarterback who's only thrown for more than 26 TDs once in his career (the record-breaking season of 2007). We're still talking about a fantasy QB who's only eclipsed 4,110 passing yards ONCE in seven full seasons as the Patriots' starter (you guessed it, 2007). And before the Week 6 tsunami against Tennessee, surprise! ... Brady wasn't on-track to surpass the 26/4,110 marks this year, as well.
What's my message here? If you're languishing at 1-5 or 2-4 with Brady as your starting QB, NOW is the time to pull off a 3-for-1 blockbuster trade for the ages. And we're not just talking about landing one stud running back and two complementary receivers here -- at the very least, Owner A should rightfully demand a No. 1 running back, No. 2 receiver and No. 1 quarterback package in return (with a WR or RB throw-in) ... with the caveat of making Brady available to every owner in the league. (Post a big sign that reads, "Tom Brady is up for sale ... come strong with your offers, or don't come at all!")
For the record, Brady is a top-3 fantasy QB and certainly possesses the drive (and supporting talent) to post another 4-, 5- or 6-TD game in the very-near future. But his aura of mystique will never be brighter than the current memory of six touchdowns in an October blizzard. Capitalize on that warm and fuzzy feeling.
Without a doubt, a few fantasy owners will immediately scoff at your princely demands for Brady -- but don't be deterred by the naysayers. Thankfully, Brady still has America mesmerized by that 50-TD season (and supermodel wife) ... and hopefully, you'll have the savvy to dangle Brady in front of every owner who's realistically one great quarterback away from capturing a fantasy title. And if the real Captain America were here today (I'm hearing reports of an assassination ... really?), he'd surely proclaim, "The noblest spirit embiggens even the smallest man."
Oh wait, those are the historic words of Jebediah Springfield from Season 7, Episode 16 of The Simpsons. Sorry to geek out on you like that.
1. Peyton Manning @ St. Louis
2. Aaron Rodgers @ Cleveland
3. Philip Rivers @ Kansas City
4. Matt Cassel vs. San Diego
5. Tom Brady @ Tampa Bay
6. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Minnesota
7. Tony Romo vs. Atlanta
8. Eli Manning vs. Arizona
In general terms, here's a list of the 20 best available free agents for 12-team, standard-scoring leagues:
1. WR Sidney Rice, Vikings
2. RB Laurence Maroney, Patriots
3. QB Matt Cassel, Chiefs
4. WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers
5. TE Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
6. RB Sammy Morris, Patriots
7. WR Steve Breaston, Cardinals
8. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
9. TE Heath Miller, Steelers
10. QB Marc Bulger, Rams
11. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
12. D/ST San Francisco 49ers
13. D/ST Dallas Cowboys
14. WR Eddie Royal, Broncos
15. TE Sean Ryan, Chiefs (tight ends are feasting on the Chargers defense)
16. WR Josh Morgan, 49ers
17. RB Glen Coffee, 49ers
18. QB Jason Campbell, Redskins
19. WR Greg Camarillo, Dolphins
20. PK Nick Folk, Cowboys
1. DeAngelo Williams vs. Buffalo
2. Steven Jackson vs. Indianapolis
3. Ryan Grant @ Cleveland
4. LaDainian Tomlinson @ Kansas City
5. Larry Johnson vs. San Diego
6. Steve Slaton vs. San Francisco
7. Joseph Addai @ St. Louis
8. Leon Washington @ Oakland
9. Michael Turner @ Dallas
10. Brian Westbrook @ Washington
11. Brandon Jacobs vs. Arizona
12. Cedric Benson vs. Chicago
13. Pierre Thomas @ Miami
Dontcha hate it when fantasy owners immediately reject an official trade offer, solely based on the lack of name-brand players presented in the deal? Now, before going any further here, I include myself in this grouping of quick-to-dismiss owners who sometimes don't see the forest through the trees. Hearkening back just one year, I vividly recall rejecting a midseason swap involving Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams, simply because I thought his impressive first half was fluky ... AND that Jonathan Stewart would eventually eclipse him as the No. 1 runner (so very wrong!). On the flip side, I remember offering Braylon Edwards for Thomas Jones to an owner before the 2007 season, blissfully unaware that Derek Anderson would usurp Charlie Frye as the Browns' starting quarterback by Week 2 ... and that Braylon would pull down 80 catches for 1,289 yards and 16 TDs. Whew!
It bears repeating here ... but after six weeks of NFL action, fantasy owners need to realize that 90 percent of the playmakers have already tipped their '09 hand, production-wise. For the most part, Steven Jackson will rack up 115 total yards per game ... but has less than a 25-percent chance of finding the end zone. Jay Cutler will likely throw for 265 yards every week (regardless of the weather) ... and toss exactly two touchdowns (regardless of the opponent). In other words, to steal a popular Bill Parcells aphorism: You are what your fantasy track record says you are.
As established fantasyland players, Jackson and Cutler tend to get the benefit of the doubt when owners are filling out their starting lineups or, more importantly, considering/submitting midseason trades. But the following players don't necessarily get that respect -- even though they've earned the right to be known as unassuming studs:
1. QB Matt Schaub, Texans -- (FYI: It is Schaub -- and not Drew Brees or Tom Brady -- who leads the NFL in touchdown passes. It's time to recognize his greatness ... even if he has a clunker every now and then.)
2. WR Austin Collie, , Colts -- (Search all you want, but I seriously doubt you'll find too many receivers with 17 catches, 209 yards and three touchdowns in their last three games. Nor do any of these other wideouts have perhaps the best quarterback on earth, Peyton Manning, throwing the ball their way.)
3. WR Steve Smith, Giants -- (It's perfectly natural for owners to disbelieve what they're seeing, given Smith's out-of-nowhere success. But in six games, he's had only one fantasy lemon -- the 4-catch, 44-yard effort in Week 6 against the Saints that could've easily been saved if he hadn't dropped a sure-fire TD pass from Eli Manning.)
4. RB Leon Washington, Jets -- (Here's a perfect example of his obscurity: On the same day he posts 145 total yards against the Bills, Thomas Jones rushes for a franchise-record 210 yards ... and celebrated rookie Mark Sanchez tosses a club-record-tying five interceptions. Man, L-Wash just can't buy a break in the Big Apple!)
5. TE Heath Miller, Steelers -- (Take it from someone who dropped Miller two weeks ago, in a classic fit of bad judgment: You'll regret picking up that shinier, faster, sleeker tight end on waivers, at the expense of Ben Roethlisberger's favorite red-zone target ... and someone who has Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland and Green Bay still on the schedule. Cha-ching! Oh, and did we forget to mention his 18 catches for 204 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games?)
6. RB Steve Slaton, Texans -- (Yes, he hasn't scored a rushing or red-zone touchdown all season; but he's still averaging 20 touches per game ... and possesses a lightning-fast burst through the hole that can't be topped, or stopped.)
7. WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos -- (In ESPN.com standard-scoring leagues, Marshall ranks 13th overall with 29 catches for 232 yards and four touchdowns. The stats are obviously pretty decent ... but Marshall has yet to dominate one game -- and then carry the Broncos on his back for another month. He's definitely worth giving up a No. 2 running back, via trade.)
8. QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles -- (It's entirely easy to laugh off any trade involving Kolb as a throw-in, unless Owner B owns Donovan McNabb. HOWEVER, Kolb is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300-plus yards in his first two career starts ... and would easily repeat that feat -- if McNabb were to suffer another setback in the broken rib department. Yes, it's entirely possible that Kevin Kolb is holding the key to an unsuspecting owner's fantasy-title prospects.)
... Thought I'd have the chance to acquire a fully healthy Larry Johnson on non-bidding waivers; and yet, that's exactly what happened around 4 a.m. Wednesday (the same time I was typing up Fantasy Clicks) in my 'Battle of the Sexes' "experts" league. For the low, low price of jettisoning QB Matt Hasselbeck from a roster that features Peyton Manning (he's already had his bye), I happily got first dibs at LJ -- one of my first-ever man-crushes in fantasy football (circa 2005). And while Johnson is no longer a lock for 120 yards and two touchdowns every Sunday, he undoubtedly stands as the best No. 6 running back I may ever own. Seriously, what is this world coming to when Keenan Burton and Correll Buckhalter are undroppable commodities in fantasyland ... and yet the Johnsons and Jamal Lewises of our mini-universe can be had with one mouse click at 1:38 in the morning? Amazing!
... Here's how we'd rank the quarterbacks leading up to the August drafts:
1. Drew Brees, Saints
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
3. Peyton Manning, Colts
4. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
6. Kurt Warner, Cardinals
7. Philip Rivers, Chargers
8. Matt Schaub, Texans
9. Jay Cutler, Bears
10. Matt Ryan, Falcons
11. Donovan McNabb, Eagles
12. Tony Romo, Cowboys
13. Joe Flacco, Ravens
14. Kyle Orton, Broncos
15. Eli Manning, Giants
16. Brett Favre, Vikings
17. Carson Palmer, Bengals
18. Matt Cassel, Chiefs
19. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
20. David Garrard, Jaguars
21. Shaun Hill, 49ers
22. Mark Sanchez, Jets
23. Jake Delhomme, Panthers
24. Chad Henne/Chad Pennington, Dolphins
25. Kerry Collins, Titans
26. Matthew Stafford/Daunte Culpepper, Lions
27. Marc Bulger, Rams
28. Jason Campbell, Redskins
29. Josh Johnson/Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers
30. Trent Edwards, Bills
31. JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
32. Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn, Browns
It's foolish to guarantee 100 yards and/or one touchdown with tight ends -- since their stats, stars included, tend to fluctuate wildly from week to week. Instead, here's our list for the top 10 most productive tight ends for Week 7:
1. Dallas Clark @ St. Louis
2. Kellen Winslow Jr. vs. New England
3. Antonio Gates @ Kansas City
4. Jermichael Finley @ Cleveland
5. Sean Ryan vs. San Diego
6. Owen Daniels vs. San Francisco
7. Jason Witten vs. Atlanta
8. Tony Gonzalez @ Dallas
9. Chris Cooley vs. Philadelphia
10. Greg Olsen @ Cincinnati
Sidney Rice (left) and Adrian Peterson: AP
@B4him13 asks: Should I trade Ray Rice/Eddie Royal for Adrian Peterson or Michael Turner at this point?
Answer: If you can find someone stupid enough to give you AP for Ray Rice/Royal ... by all means, do the deed! But regarding Turner vs. Rice (since Royal's an obvious throw-in), I'd rather have Rice the rest of the way. From Weeks 8-16, the Ravens could potentially have nine straight cold-weather games -- which bodes well for Rice (and maybe Willis McGahee) but not necessarily Joe Flacco, Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. And while Turner has the greater potential for 100 yards and three TDs on any given Sunday, the Falcons are slowly evolving into a pass-first offense, led by Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. In a battle that close, you might just want to stick for now.
@arl314 wonders: In what order would you rank these waiver-wire pickups for wide receiver? Andre Caldwell, Sidney Rice, Pierre Garcon, Julian Edelman, Michael Crabtree, Domenik Hixon?
Answer: I'd rank your WR choices like this: 1)Sidney Rice 2)Crabtree 3)Garcon 4)Caldwell 5)Edelman and 6)Hixon. If we're talking about a Points Per Reception league -- and you already own Wes Welker -- I'd move Edelman ahead of Caldwell. He's a must-handcuff to Welker in all PPRs ... thanks!
@sjo2009 shouts from the rafters: Steven Jackson sucks! I need a RB to trade for and play with Ronnie Brown, who will score me some TDs since Jackson won't.
Answer: I understand your frustration with S-Jax (671 total yards) and his zero touchdowns, to this point. But let's not be so hasty, as to do something rash. If you really want to bolster your backfield, identify a struggling 1-5, 2-4 or even 3-3 team and simply offer Owner B a strong 3-for-1 or 4-for-2 blockbuster to get his best running back. In desperate times, that owner may be in dire need of across-the-board starting depth, especially at quarterback and wide receiver. By the way ... I'm guaranteeing that Jackson breaks the TD drought in Week 7 against Indy. Book it, baby!
@nbdyuknow asks: Oh mighty wise guru ... for #2 QB in Week 7, do I go with boring but usually dependable Shaun Hill or boom-or-bust Chad Henne?
Answer: For Week 7, I'd ride Henne (vs. NO) over Hill (@HOU) for this non-scientific reason: The Texans defense, led by Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans is due for a MAJOR breakout -- something like 4-5 sacks and one interception return or kick-return touchdown. Just call it a hunch.
@PL_Illini happily declares: Please evaluate my absolute STEAL of a trade. Sent Brian Westbrook, Marion manningham, Vernon Davis, Jerricho Cotchery for Reggie Wayne/Maurice Jones-Drew. Thx!
Answer: Congrats on getting MJD/Wayne for Westbrook/Manningham/V-Davis/Cotch ... now go join a tougher league, one where the owners are passionate about fantasy football -- and not just killing time until the 2010 World Cup of soccer begins. Challenge yourself! ... All kidding aside, as I write often in Fantasy Clicks, a 4-for-2 blockbuster can absolutely change a team's fortunes in a New York minute (which is only seven seconds, according to Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock). Assuming the rest of your starting lineup is solid, I can appreciate the fact that you've already realized that great bench depth serves you no purpose whatsoever in the playoffs. Now, let's just hope, for your sake, you get there!
1. Nick Folk vs. Atlanta
2. Joe Nedney @ Houston
3. Mason Crosby @ Cleveland
4. Rian Lindell @ Carolina
5. Shayne Graham vs. Chicago
6. Lawrence Tynes vs. Arizona
7. Nate Kaeding @ Kansas City
Mainstream fantasy sites, like SI.com, are obviously a hit with fantasygoers. But there's always room for alternative media in the marketplace, especially when the authors are hilariously shouting from the rooftops about how Nate Washington can possibly produce one catch for NEGATIVE 22 yards, or why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may not win a game ... until 2012.
The first must-see blog is PigskinAddiction.com; and the site's signature page involves Snake's Takes (running every Tuesday) -- comprising a collection of unfiltered thoughts so random, so emotional, so bitter, so twisted ... you'll wonder how the man even survives an NFL Sunday, let alone write about it come Monday.
Next up ... Fantasy Football Toolbox. If you're looking for updated depth charts, weekly cheat sheets, injury reports and even -- sacre bleu! -- an updated listing of the NFL's Top 10 punters (insert joke here) ... then welcome home!
There's even a weekly podcast during the season -- although the Clemons/Ritter podcast offers more hard-hitting fantasy analysis and abject mocking of one another's lineup decisions.
1. Vincent Jackson @ Kansas City
2. Randy Moss @ Tampa Bay
3. Hines Ward vs. Minnesota
4. Andre Johnson vs. San Francisco
5. Steve Smith vs. Arizona
6. Greg Jennings @ Cleveland
7. Roddy White @ Dallas
8. DeSean Jackson @ Washington
9. Steve Breaston @ N.Y. Giants
10. Reggie Wayne @ St. Louis
11. Dwayne Bowe vs. San Diego
For what it's worth, here's my perfect lineup for Week 7:
QB Ben Roethlisberger -- threw for the quietest 417 yards in NFL history last week
RB DeAngelo Williams -- I'll be shocked if he doesn't total 140 yards
RB Cedric Benson -- consider this a triple-dog lock against his old team
WR Roddy White -- the Cowboy corners aren't exactly known for shutting down stars
WR Reggie Wayne -- he's got the Rams on a lightning-fast turf -- enough said!
RB/WR Steven Jackson -- THIS IS THE WEEK he breaks the TD drought
TE Dallas Clark -- not to keep piling on the Rams ... but an absolute gimme
PK Nick Folk -- like every week when picking kickers ... call it an educated hunch
D/ST Packers -- smart fantasy owners always follow the shaky trail of the Browns, Rams, Lions or Bucs ... ka-boom!
Before you check out the NFL's official injury report -- which goes public every Wednesday during the season -- please don't be alarmed to the sight of Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, Tom Brady, Hines Ward, Jonathan Stewart or Antonio Gates and their uncertainty for playing in Week 7. Each player will suit up on Sunday/Monday ... and post their strong, customary numbers -- although Brady might run for 100 yards against the Bucs, instead of throwing six TDs.