Love, Hate and some mail

Michael (Willingboro, N.J.): TMR, I am writing this with tears in my eyes. And I cry about half as often as you do. I just got around to reading your Love/Hate this morning, which, it being Monday, is pretty useless. But I love your work, so it was a treat nonetheless. But the Joe Bendavid part ... Jeez. I lost my Dad this summer, and what you said about the guilt, I can feel you there, dog. There was a similar gap in my communication there, too. No reason, just missed connections, getting too busy, all that crap. Gorgeous piece of writing, Matt. Really touching, and well done. As my favorite ESPN personality likes to put it, "Peace Out."

TMR: Thank you, Mike. I got many wonderful, amazing e-mails and comments about last week's article, and I thank everyone for them. I am trying to respond to each but don't know whether I will have the time. Just know that I read every one of them, and it meant a lot to me that each of you took the time to write. Joe was an amazing man, and he taught me a lot about kindness, making the best of a situation and never judging anyone.

Ryan (Denver): Mr. Roto, I must say that the introduction to your Week 1 Love/Hate was very touching and I thought it was a great way to begin the column this season. However, as I learned that you were a Hollywood screenwriter in your past life, it occurred to me that you may be the same Matthew Berry that wrote "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles." Please tell me that is not the case ...Your dedicated reader (for now), Slo Roast

TMR: Clearly you grasped the point of the story. But yes, I am, in fact, the co-writer and a Razzie nominee for my work on "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles." My partner and I took the job when the execs correctly answered the question "You want to pay us how much?" When you sell out, kids, make sure you sell out big. That's my advice. I spent 15 years in Hollywood as a working writer and, among other things, co-wrote projects for stars like Hilary Swank, Tim Allen, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, The Muppets and the guys who did "Elf." The fact that only the Croc (by far our worst script) got made is among the many reasons I am glad I am no longer in show business. Your dedicated columnist (for now), TMR.

Scott Goodman (Montclair, N.J.): That is the longest extended anecdote I have ever seen to start an article. Yet it kept my attention and worked. Nice job ... I bet most of the comments you receive are about fantasy sports. Sorry.

TMR: Not all of them. Some of the e-mails have career advice.

Rico (Snowshoe, W.Va.): How could I be a 40-point favorite and lose by 30 on your projections? You (meaning the ESPN experts - which is a complete oxymoron and you are all morons) were off by 70 points and that is almost as much as my total. You really weren't any better last year. I dropped D. Williams at mid season last year because you suggested other players that would do better. How do you cash your paycheck with a clear conscience? A monkey couldn't do a worse job than you and would actually be more fun to watch. I'll tune in again at the beginning of next season with hopes that your team has been replaced with more intelligent simians. Do everyone a favor and apply for a job that suits your abilities (McDonald's).

TMR: But on the plus side, we weren't any worse than last year.

Alternate response: I don't remember saying that about DeAngelo Williams, but to answer your question, that's why I have direct deposit.

Alternate alternate response: Doesn't sound like it would be a favor for the good people at McDonald's.

Final response: Come on, man. That's not fair. A monkey is always more fun to watch.

True-story tangent that has nothing to do with football: I actually think monkeys are hilarious. And way in the future, when scholars have run out of things to study and are desperate, they probably will throw their arms up in the air, say, "Why the heck not," and get around to analyzing my writing. When I was doing scripts, my partner Eric Abrams and I would try to work a monkey into almost everything we wrote. You'll note that there is, in fact, a monkey in Croc 3. Anyway, one year we were working on "Married … With Children" and we managed to figure out a way to get a monkey into the show. (The episode was called "Chicago Shoe Exchange," if you care.) The episode didn't turn out great for a lot of reasons I won't get into here (the monkey part was hysterical, however), but here's the hilarious part.

As we are working on the outline, the production coordinator comes into our office.

Him: Hey, you guys need to hurry up with the script. We're gonna have to shoot this two weeks earlier than planned.
Me: Why? What's up?
Him: Because if we don't shoot it in the next two weeks, we're screwed. Every decent monkey in this town is booked for Babe 2.
Me (laughing): Really? There's an A-list of monkeys?
Him (dead serious): Yes. And we're lucky we got one. They get booked early. But I'll tell you this. I'm not doing this show with some rookie monkey. (Hands me a list.) We get one of these five monkeys, or I'm out.

Ollie Fremont (Portland, Maine): I love your work: sound fantasy advice that puts a smile on my face. What more could a guy ask for? It seems to me that you spend a good amount of effort qualifying your "Love/Hate" picks by stating that your list is made relative to what is generally expected of a player in a given week rather than the absolute performance of that player (I think you used T.O. and Troy Williamson as an example last week). I suspect you make these qualifications because you get a lot of flack if, for example, T.O. outperforms Williamson when each was hated and loved (respectively) in your column that week. This suggests to me that your column is misnamed. Obviously you would be pretty hard-pressed to come up with a title as catchy and succinct as "Love/Hate," but is a snazzy title really worth all the abuse? Perhaps a slightly more clunky, but semantically accurate title such as "Overrated/Underrated" might make life easier for you?

TMR: Frankly, I do the explanation because the people who read my articles are idiots. (Not you. You're smart. I mean the other guys who read this. You know who I'm talking about. Just nod smugly so I know we're cool. Thanks.) And I'd change the name, but that ship has sort of sailed, you know? However, I do thank you for the explanation this week so I don't have to do it. Let's get to it.

Week 2 players I love

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: I have him ranked 19th this week, which means I feel he's a starter in a 10-team, two-running back league. (Like an ESPN standard league. I'm a company man.) My fellow fantasy analysts Christopher Harris and Eric Karabell have him outside the top 20, and its against a great Vikings run defense in a game most expect the Lions to be down in … what am I thinking? Here's the thing: Smith is a huge part of the Lions' passing game (seven receptions and 10 targets last week), and if you are going to run on Minnesota, you are doing it around the edges, not up the middle. Smith can have some success doing that.

Packers D/ST: Another home game for the Packers, and Carson Palmer still doesn't look right to me. Remember, the cheese stands alone. (Pause.) Yeah, I got no idea what that means, either.

Matt Schaub and Owen Daniels, Texans: I had a very strong Week 1 in this column, but if there was one big misfire, it was being so high on Schaub. However, here's my take on the Titans. The reason they were so great against the pass last season was the pressure brought by Albert Haynesworth. The Titans needed to rush only four, so they could drop back seven in coverage. That's not the case anymore; it's why I liked Ben Roethlisberger last week and why the Steelers passed for 363 yards. I expect the Titans to concentrate on Andre Johnson and the Texans to be down. Which means a lot of throwing and a lot of looks to Daniels. And if I'm wrong this week, I promise, I'll shut up about Schaub.

Justin Gage, WR, Titans: As seen in this week's Talented Mr. Roto pickup column. Speaking of that column, I got many angry notes about the lateness of its posting. Sorry about that. Without getting too much into it, my schedule will be better next week, and it will get written a lot sooner than it was this week.

Darren McFadden and Zach Miller, Raiders: The Chiefs are … what's the mot juste … abominably vile. You read that, Rico? Let's see a monkey come up with that.

Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings: Sign I'd like to see: "Mercy, Mercy, Percy!"

Kevin Faulk, RB, Patriots: I'm not going to shock you by telling you Randy Moss and Wes Welker led the Patriots in targets last week. But did you know Faulk was third? I was impressed with the Jets' defense last week, and it's clear Rex Ryan will get after Tom Brady and not give him a ton of time to throw. Which means I expect a decent amount of dump-off passes. The last time Ryan played Brady was a Ravens-Patriots game. In that game, Patriots running backs had 98 yards receiving. And that was during Brady's 50-touchdown season. Am I expecting a monster game from Faulk? No. But I do think he'll be productive as a flex guy in 12-team leagues, and when the revised rankings come out Friday, I'll have Faulk in the mid-30s.

Thomas Jones, RB, Jets: Worst Halloween costume this year? Patriots defensive lineman. That's scaring nobody.

Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley, Santana Moss, Redskins: Playing the Rams. At home. Just saying.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: Eric Karabell called me out in our weekly column on the rankings for having Jackson at No. 6. Here's what I wrote him: Fred Jackson is the Buffalo offense. And playing at home, against a team that gave up an average of 4.9 yards per carry to Dallas running backs last week, makes him another strong start in a week when Marshawn Lynch will once again miss the game. Teams will continue to focus on Terrell Owens, which leaves the underneath passes (Jackson led the Bills in pass targets last week) for "Fast Freddy," as I and only I call him.

Devin Hester, WR, Bears: I expect Chicago to be down. And throwing. And at least some of Jay Cutler's passes will go to his teammates.

Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: Troy Polamalu's being out is a bad thing for Steelers fans but a good thing for Olsen and his owners. I'm going to move Olsen up in my Friday rankings update.

Joe Flacco, Willis McGahee, Todd Heap, Ravens: My feelings on Flacco have been well documented. I included McGahee here not because I'm down on Ray Rice. Quite the contrary -- Rice still is the running back you want against San Diego. But McGahee's getting two scores last week was not a fluke. He is the Ravens' goal-line back and will continue to have value. As for Heap, you'll have to check out Called Out for my feelings on him, but suffice to say, me likey.

Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, RBs, Giants: Rico, I just subscribed to a brand-new service I am very excited about called "Phone-A-Monkey." I asked him about this matchup, and here's what he said: "Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward both had good games against the Cowboys last week, and these guys are better than those two are."

Week 2 Players I Hate

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals: I like Charles Woodson. I don't like Carson Palmer. There ya go.

Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: The addition of Richard Seymour makes the Oakland defensive line a lot better than in years past. This is no longer the everyone-can-run-on-them Raiders.

Randy Moss, WR, Patriots: If you have him, you obviously are starting him. I am not saying to bench him. I have him ranked at No. 7 overall, which is still a must-start stud, but I'm the lowest on him among my ranking bretheren. I list him here only because if you are playing Gridiron Challenge or another salary-cap game, your money might be better spent elsewhere. I believe Rex Ryan will put a lot of pressure on Brady and Darrelle Revis will do a solid job on Moss.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: My guess is he won't play, but if he does, I'm not starting him. Too risky this week, despite the tasty shootout matchup with the Saints.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: The Redskins held Brandon Jacobs to 46 yards last week. It's a good defense, Marc Bulger is scaring no one and the Rams aren't exactly a good road team.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: The Colts' offense is not as explosive, and I liked what I saw out of Miami's run defense in Week 1.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: My guess is he won't play, but even if he does, he's banged up and it's against Baltimore.

Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals: Don't expect a repeat of last week.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: Even if he plays, which I'm not convinced of, don't underestimate the Eagles' run defense, especially at home.

The Constants

I feel like I keep writing about them on the "hate" list, but until they prove me wrong, I'm going to keep putting them here. At least this week, when I don't like their matchups:

Philip Rivers (versus the Ravens), Jay Cutler (versus the Steelers), Ronnie Brown (versus the Colts), Reggie Bush (at Philly, and doubly so if Pierre Thomas gets carries).

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- also likes movies in which animals play sports. He is 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