I'm gonna just dive right in this week because I want to do a mailbag. I love doing a mailbag. I get great mail, I've done one for as long as I can remember (neither Bill Simmons nor I is the first to do one) and they are always fun, but I don't get to do them as often as I'd like to. Why today, then, you ask? Well, two important things happened on the way to today's column.
First, I decided I wanted to do a mailbag no matter what. Secondly, and most importantly, I decided I didn't want to think of a clever intro. My laziness is your gain!
As always, players I "love" are players I feel will exceed their usual production this week and players I "hate" are those I feel fall short. You have to know whether a guy's expected increase in production (Cedric Benson makes this week's love list) makes him worth starting over a guy whose expected decrease in production is on the week's hate list. Like Michael Turner. The rankings are updated Friday around noon; always look there for my specific feelings on where players stand in relation to each other.
Week 8 Players I Love:
Jeff Garcia, QB, Buccaneers: Yes, he's old, balding and has a crazy-hot wife. Lots of reasons to hate. But he has at least one touchdown pass in every game he's played this year, he's coming off a 300-yard game, the Cowboys' secondary is really banged up right now and there are only 10 teams in the NFL that give up more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Dallas Cowboys.
Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers: If he plays, he goes off.
All your Redskins: Man, I love teams playing Detroit. Portis and Santana Moss are obvious, of course, but I expect big games from Jason Campbell, Chris Cooley, Antwaan Randle El and Chief Zee, who has been goldbricking in my fantasy mascot league for three weeks now.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: Very quietly has scores in two of his past three games.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills: Has eight career touchdowns against the Fins, the most against any team. Love calling them the Fins, by the way. For no real reason.
Trent Edwards, QB, Bills: The Dolphins' run defense? Better than you think. Their pass defense? Not so much.
Kevin Faulk, RB, Patriots: Rumors are that Britney and K-Fed are getting back together, that Holly and Hef still live together and that Sammy Morris isn't playing on Sunday. I cannot prove any of these, but I do think Faulk is worth a start regardless against a Rams defense that, even in resurgence, has given up big points to opposing running backs the past two weeks.
Matt Cassel, QB, Patriots: Take all the time you want with that knee, Tommy. We're making Cassels in the Sand! (Pause) Feel free to jot down Oct. 23, 2008, 11:54 a.m. as the time that TMR officially lost it.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams: New England does not have good turn-and-run corners and you can beat them deep.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints: In this week's "Called Out," Tristan Cockcroft asked me how I have Colston in my top 10 a week after he has absolutely zero catches. And I'll tell you what I told him: Well, the Saints lost Reggie Bush, which means more passes to go around. And they lost the Carolina game bad. Which means I don't think they want to repeat what they did against the Panthers, and that includes ignoring Colston. Carolina played a quarter defense against the Saints, rushing four and dropping the linebackers back, forcing Brees to just throw underneath a lot. And my guess is the Chargers try something similar. The problem is that San Diego doesn't have the pass rush that Carolina does and won't be able to pull this off effectively, which means lots of crossing routes for Colston over the middle. There's a reason no team in the NFL has given up more passing yards than the Chargers this year.
Deuce McAllister, RB, Saints: The game is in London. Wonder if Deuce will only be able to run in the left-hand lane? In the four games this year that San Diego has been on the road, the Chargers have given up almost 500 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: It's clear that San Diego doesn't trust LaDainian Tomlinson, I don't trust the Saints' pass defense and no one trusts football played overseas. I have to be honest; I don't care if England gets into football. The Brits don't care if we like tea and crumpets and Dame Edna. Why do we need to foist the NFL on them? Look, I'm glad we got "The Office," Monty Python and the Rolling Stones. We gave them Coke and Burger King. I could live without soccer. Or a grown man dressed as a woman. And David Beckham doesn't do all that much for me either. If this game is another mud bath with bad weather I am burning my DVD of "Spice World" and you can't stop me. (Pause again) I told you. I've totally lost it at this point.
Malcolm Floyd, WR, Chargers: Only if Chambers doesn't play.
Jets D/ST: They are playing Kansas City and Tyler Thigpen. Next up: "The Mentalist."
Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: The only question was carries. Now that he's getting them all, full steam ahead.
Zach Miller, TE, Raiders: The Ravens used a run blitz very effectively last week to stop the "Wildcat" run game of the Dolphins and given the Raiders' reliance on running the ball, I expect that to continue here. Which means JaMarcus Russell will have to throw and his most likely dump-off target is Zach Miller.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders: As I said above. If you're scrambling he could be solid here. (Get it? Scrambling? JaMarcus is a quarterback? Sigh.) Remember, the Ravens' secondary has given up 546 passing yards over the past two weeks.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers: In three career games against Arizona, he has more than 600 yards and five touchdowns. He also has at least two touchdown passes in three of his past four games.
Panthers D/ST: They are tough, they are at home and I wouldn't call Kurt Warner the most protected dude around, you know?
Jamal Lewis, RB, Browns: Ran well last week when he was on the road against a good defense. Which was the Redskins'. All I'll say is that I watched the entire Redskins-Browns game last week and I am very aware that Jamal Lewis plays for the Browns. Cleveland will stick to the run game on the road at Jacksonville.
Steve Slaton, RB, Texans: This might be as much of a no-brainer as it gets. If you're really desperate, I could see Ahman Green getting looks here too. (I think Slaton gets most of the work, though, which is why I ranked Green so low.)
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals: You think you hate your life? I bet Eric Karabell on today's podcast that Cedric Benson would get more than 100 total yards this week. So now I have to root for Cedric Benson and possibly admit I was wrong. Why don't I just make out with a dude and then kill myself to complete the trifecta?
Santonio Holmes, WR, Steelers: The Giants are one of the most blitz-happy teams in the league. And I'm betting Big Ben picks at least one of them up and burns the Giants deep with Santonio.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: I never list him here because I always think he's an obvious start, but then everyone thinks I hate him, so I am listing him here to prove I don't hate him (I just don't think he finishes the season with first-round value) and because he should really go off this week.
49ers D/ST: Seahawks have allowed at least eight fantasy points to opposing defenses for three straight weeks.
Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks: Sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Sometimes, I pretend I'm on a porch with a hound dog wearing overalls, sipping lemonade and spitting sunflower seeds as the kids gather 'round to hear weird clichés and tales of yore.
Week 8 Players I Hate:
Brad Johnson, QB, Cowboys: On the bright side, he's not dating a pop star.
Roy E. Williams and Patrick Crayton, Cowboys: On the bright side, neither of them cries at news conferences. If you own Owens, of course you have to start him, but I don't see him having a great game either.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Mission No. 1 of the Redskins? Shut this guy down.
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Lions: Don't get cute. Houston isn't Washington.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: Pretty sure the Ravens just showed everyone how you beat the "Wildcat." Not to be confused with "Wildcats," among Goldie Hawn's best work. Which, to be honest, speaks more to Goldie's filmography than the quality of the picture.
Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins: He's a guy who seems to get started every week and generally I like him, but the Bills actually give up the least amount of fantasy points to opposing tight ends of any team.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets: Banged-up this week and didn't get a lot of looks last week.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: On the road at an Eagles team that is second in the league in sacks, top 10 against the pass and only two teams in the NFL allow fewer fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. So, I guess what I am saying is that I think the Eagles are a good gamble here.
Edgerrin James, RB, Cardinals: Let me give you a list of names. Matt Forte. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Michael Turner. Larry Johnson. Reggie Bush. Pretty good list of running backs, right? Well, not one of them has rushed for more than 100 yards or gotten a touchdown this year against the Carolina Panthers. On the road, at Carolina, I don't think Edgerrin James busts that trend. Cardinals will attack through the air and you want Edge on your bench.
Derek Anderson, QB, Browns: Bray-dee! Bray-dee! Bray-dee!
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans: The Bengals allow only four fantasy points a game to opposing TEs.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: Sure, he's got that "aw, shucks" charm. But I'm gonna give you a number: 214. As in, the most passing yards the Steelers have allowed this year is 214. Four out of six games this year, they have allowed 200 yards or fewer. They haven't allowed more than one passing touchdown in any game this year, the game is in Pittsburgh and the Steelers are ranked first in the NFL in sacks. You have to start Plaxico if you have him, but I don't like the Giants' passing game at all in this game.
Mewelde Moore: It was fun while it lasted.
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: Used to be Peyton Manning was an every-week no-brainer start. But as the great Neil Diamond has taught us, used-to-bes don't count anymore. They just lie on the floor 'til you sweep them away. Titans have not allowed a touchdown pass in five straight weeks. They are at home, and they give up the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks of any team in the NFL. Meanwhile, Peyton now has seven turnovers in his past five games and the way Tennessee is running the ball, I don't see the Colts' offense getting a lot of possessions. If you own Reggie Wayne, you have to play him. And Dallas Clark should be OK. But that's it.
Jay (STL): Please, I beg of you (and all of the on-air personalities and fantasy writers), STOP SAYING "LOOK" AND "LISTEN" AND DEFINITELY STOP WRITING IT!!! It's lazy, cheesy, and guess what? We are already looking and listening, OK? This has become the most overused crutch/mechanism in sports media today. Thank you, Annoyed.
TMR: Listen, I hear ya. But, look, I'm pretty sure the all-caps and zealous use of exclamation points are third and fourth on that list.
Ed (Waldwick, N.J.): Lame, dude. Lame. There was a four sentence maximum on entries for the basketball league and how many did you guys select that were in excess of the requirement? Pretty unfair that some of us got the Heisman when we played by the rules. I had to listen to novellas about guys who are gonna bring cardboard cutouts of you two around town and he gets an automatic invite? It's better to lose while playing fair than to win by cheating. Belichick is paying the price now and so will some of these individuals. You guys are like Bud Selig and the rest of them. Turn a blind eye to the problems of your league and you will sooner or later pay the price. The league will turn out to be full of cheats and underhanded dirt bags. Remember this when baseball season rolls around. Hopefully those of us playing by the rules will get an even playing field. Thanks.
TMR: Both Bill and I tend to talk long so it may have sounded like that, but trust me, no one got in who went over the limit.
Christian (The Valley): I thought I was in the league! Now you are not even mentioning me? I am sad!
TMR: The selection process was a complicated one and in some cases, people other than myself and Bill got votes. I wanted you in. Sorry.
Greg Detty (Lincoln, Neb.): OK, if you need to be bribed to be in your league I will give you the pick of the next litter my dogs have. The male, Gunner, has 4 litter mates who are champions, the female's mother is a show champ and her father a field trial champ. She has been entered in field trials. Now where does this fit in your list?
TMR: I already have a dog.
Josiah (Townsville, Australia): I promised you and and Bill a kangaroo scrotum each. An incredibly unique gift that will bring you lots of luck. I thought that would at least have gotten my e-mail read.
TMR: And I don't need a kangaroo scrotum.
Cameron (Jeffersonville, Ind.): I was wondering why Antonio Bryant wasn't mentioned in your pickup column? He is owned in 40.7 percent of leagues and Tampa Bay has said he will remain the starter even after Galloway returns. His upcoming schedule is Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota, Detroit, New Orleans: nobody who is tough against the pass. If you mentioned him before, I don't remember it and he wasn't on your list of previously recommended players still available in too many leagues. Peace man
D.M. (San Antonio): Why do you like talk like you're, I don't know, like 12 years old instead of like (this is a real like) a mature male who knows what he's talking about and probably gets paid like really well doing it. It's like really annoying.
TMR: Have you seen my humor? I am a 12-year-old. You know, inside. Where it counts.
Pat (Middletown, N.J.): What's up? After we road-tripped out to Cleveland to see the Giants get massacred on Monday night, I had my not-too-sober friend text his ex-girlfriend and his current pursuit. And I told him to say, "Lincoln freed the slaves." The ex was not pleased. The pursuit replied: "Wilkes-Booth shot Lincoln." She's a keeper, no?
TMR: No-brainer call of the year.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is, like, happy for all the folks who, like, entered our hoops league and wishes more people could have gotten in. He appears on Fantasy Football Now, airing Sundays at noon ET on ESPN.com. He is a four-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. 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