Every Sunday morning during the football season we do a show called "Fantasy Football Now." It starts at 11:30 a.m. ET, both here on ESPN.com and on ESPN2, and goes until kickoff. Last-minute injury updates and inactives, on-field fantasy reports from the likes of Rachel Nichols, Ed Werder, Sal Pal and Michael Smith and, of course, advice from lots of folks, including ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck.
About 20 minutes into the show this past Sunday, I got the following e-mail:
Shaun Houck (Baltimore, Md.): Hey Matt, I think you really know your stuff and I read everything of yours on the Web site. But [what] is Hasslbeck doing on an ESPN Fantasy show? I just heard him say Cedric Benson will get 100 yards and a TD against the Ravens. Besides Benson's hip problem and the fact they will likely be playing from behind, the Ravens are [first] against the run, at home and I think the last RB to run for 100 against the Ravens was Corey Dillon with the Bengals. IMHO Hasslebeck is a joke. I hope nobody listens to his advice.
Benson's final line against the Ravens: 136 total yards and a touchdown.
So, you know, that's what Tim is doing on an ESPN Fantasy Show.
For the record, I agreed with you, Shaun. At least as far as Benson went. I didn't like him in that matchup. But that's what's great about fantasy and sports in general. We all have opinions, some right and some wrong. In fact, I make my living by, among other things, giving my opinion on more than 250 football players and their statistical performance every single week. It can tire a guy out, frankly.
So for this week's "Love / Hate," I've decided to not offer any opinions. You heard me. Not a one. Everything in this column is, as we say on the podcast, "factually correct." I did this in the preseason with my "100 facts you need to know column" and while I don't have space for 100 here, I can do a quick 15, along with at least one fact for every player I list.
So, through the first five weeks of the 2009 NFL season, here are 15 facts you should know (but probably don't).
1. Only Randy Moss and Andre Johnson have more pass targets this year than Nate Burleson.
2. Bernard Berrian leads the Vikings in pass targets with 27. Second on the team, with 23? Chester Taylor.
3. Only two teams allow more sacks than the Kansas City Chiefs.
4. Only three team defenses have more sacks than the Cincinnati Bengals.
5. No team has allowed more touchdowns to opposing running backs than the Houston Texans.
6. Only Ronnie Brown has more rushes inside an opponent's 10-yard line than Matt Forte.
7. Bye weeks skew this somewhat, but so far this year, Joseph Addai has as many offensive touches as Ray Rice, Matt Forte or Ryan Grant, among others.
8. No player has more yards after the catch than Dallas Clark.
9. Derrick Mason has at least eight receptions in each of his past three games against Minnesota.
10. Steve Smith (NYG) and Reggie Wayne are the only wide receivers with more receiving yards this year than Hines Ward.
11. Of running backs with at least 60 rushing attempts, only Chris Johnson (6.0 thanks to that ridiculous Houston game) and Ray Rice (5.8) have a higher yards-per-carry average than Ricky Williams (5.2).
12. In fact, among running backs, Williams is currently the eighth-best fantasy running back in ESPN standard scoring.
13. The guy on the Arizona Cardinals with the most receptions is Tim Hightower.
14. The New England Patriots have forced a turnover in 13 straight games.
15. Only the Carolina Panthers have given the ball away more than New England's opponent this week, the Tennessee Titans.
As always, what follows is a list of players I expect to exceed or fall short of their general current expectations. If I don't list a player, it means I feel they will do about what you expect. It doesn't mean you bench a stud for a bye-week flier. To see where I stand on every single player in comparison to others, see my weekly rankings. They are updated Friday, so be sure to check back Friday afternoon for the latest.
Week 6 players I love:
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers: In five games this year, Detroit has given up six touchdowns to opposing tight ends.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: He has two touchdown passes in every road game this year.
Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings: In Brett Favre's past two home games, he has attempted 77 passes. See No. 2 above.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings: Touchdowns in three of his past four games.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: Has 12 touchdowns in his past nine games.
Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints: He used to play for the Giants. It did not end well.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Last time he played the Bucs, Williams had 186 yards and two scores.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers: In four games, the Panthers have given up six touchdowns to opposing running backs.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: In two home games this year, Garrard has more than 600 yards passing and five touchdowns. Only the Lions give up more points per game than the Rams.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars: Leads Jacksonville in receiving touchdowns and, despite missing last week, is second in targets, receiving yards and receptions.
Matt Hasselbeck, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson and John Carlson, Seahawks: Hasselbeck has seven touchdowns in the two games he has played this year. No team in the NFL gives up more passing yards per game than the Arizona Cardinals.
Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, RB, Jets: Jones has a rushing touchdown in his past two games against the Bills. Washington had one in his most recent game against the Bills. Buffalo is 29th in the NFL against the run.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: Oakland gives up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.
Patriots D/ST: See facts No. 14 and 15.
Benjamin Watson, TE, Patriots: Three touchdowns in five games.
Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: Olsen leads the Bears in targets. He has scored in his past two games. The Falcons have given up at least a touchdown or 90 yards receiving to the opposing tight end for three straight games.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: Has a touchdown in six straight "Monday Night Football" games.
Week 6 players I hate:
Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: Vikings have not given up a touchdown to an opposing running back all season.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants: Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this year. In fact, no running back has even gotten 100 total yards against them.
Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: Browns have allowed only one touchdown to an opposing tight end in five games and are top 10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends this season.
Derrick Ward, RB, Buccaneers: Has not had more than nine carries since Week 1.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: The Redskins are ninth-best in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers, No. 3 in the NFL in pass defense and are actually tied for fifth in scoring defense.
Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks: No team in the NFL gives up fewer rushing yards per game than the Arizona Cardinals. Jones has seven fantasy points or worse in three of the past four weeks.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: Johnson has single-digit fantasy points in four of five games this year. The Patriots are 11th in the NFL against the run and 13th-best in fantasy points allowed to running backs.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bills: Only the Giants and Broncos allow fewer fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than the Jets.
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos: In two home games this year, the Chargers have only given up two touchdown passes.
And that's all I got. Not a lot of guys I hate this week. Felt that the guys were either too obvious to list as a hate or I didn't feel strongly enough to list them just to pad the column.
I got many great, kind and thoughtful notes about this week's pickups column. I'm glad people enjoyed it and got something out of it. I'm trying to respond to everyone but probably won't be able to. Know that I read every single e-mail and it always means a lot you took the time to write.
Before I go, I'll share one other e-mail I got. This came in Thursday evening of last week.
Steve (Nazareth, Penn.): You know what? I'm calling for a good game for Cedric Benson against the Ravens. I'll say 80-90 yards with a TD, or the equivalent of 14-15 fantasy points. I'm not all that impressed by the Ravens' run defense. Now, don't get me wrong; the Ravens' run defense is very good, but I think their stats are a bit misleading. The teams they faced so far are poor rushing teams, including two in the bottom five in rushing offense. The Bengals, while not a powerhouse rushing team, will be the best the Ravens face so far. We already saw Benson post a solid game against the Steelers, who have faced stiffer rushing offenses than the Ravens. I'm calling it, and I hope you can call me out, whether my call be genius or totally idiotic (more likely). Regardless, thanks for all your advice along with the humor mixed in. Look forward to your columns each week and keep it up!
TMR: Well done, Steve. Props well deserved -- you and Tim Hasselbeck both called it.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has his Rally Monkey out. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend