Fear And Loathing In Fantasy Football


Halloween, I am told, is about a few things. Costumes, an excuse for women to dress as skimpily as possible and, of course, scary stuff. So, for my costume, since I'm gonna have to miss a lot of parties, I'll just tell everyone I'm going as Terrell Owens and not show up. I prefer "naughty nurse" over "trampy cop," if you are keeping score at home. As for the scary stuff ... I've got plenty to keep me frightened.

As we approach Week 8 of the NFL and Halloween, what's got me scared is ...

... That this is as good as Matt Forte gets.

… That Brett Favre won't falter in the second half like he did last year, the Vikings will go far in the playoffs (but not win the Super Bowl) and we will be subjected to another offseason of "will he or won't he" retire. He's worse than the Who with the whole retirement thing.

... That my Redskins will hire a guy who has been out of football for six years and was calling bingo numbers at a retirement community to come in and call the plays for a team that, 15 games ago, was 6-2 and coming off a playoff appearance the season before.

... And that this would be an improvement.

... That Steven Jackson won't score a touchdown all year.

... That I may not have finished losing my hair.

... That my editors won't let me run a photo of a really hot random chick dressed as a nurse to drive home my points of scary Halloween and skimpy outfits.

... That, um, I might have been wrong on the whole Michael Turner over Adrian Peterson thing. But I'm sticking to my guns for a few more weeks, dammit.

... That Larry Johnson will actually get another chance.

... That Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel won't work it out. Where are those two crazy kids ever gonna be able to meet someone else?

... That stupid Norv Turner will continue to do stuff like using Darren Sproles on the goal line and that the Chargers' offensive line will continue to stink.

... That David Chesnes of Mentor, Ohio, will represent ESPN in my next contract negotiations:

David Chesnes (Mentor, Ohio): How could you have been so wrong about Vernon Davis in Week 7? By pretending to have any skill at Fantasy Football, you again cost me a win in my league. ESPN would do better using a monkey to pick which players to sit and start. How can you sleep at night taking money for being a "Fantasy Football Expert" when you so obviously know nothing? A human being with any conscious [sic] would return the money and get a job mopping floors. That you could probably do with skill and pride.

... That Jake Delhomme will continue to be the Panthers' quarterback and kill Steve Smith.

... That they might cancel the new "90210" on the CW. Lord help me, but I love that stupid show.

… That the new show "The League" (about a group of friends in a fantasy football league), premiering tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET on FX, won't be funny. I care so much about fantasy sports and I have spent a good portion of my life trying to explain to anyone that will listen that millions upon millions of people play it, that the people who play it aren't just nerds in the basement but are in fact mothers and daughters, doctors, lawyers and movie stars. That everyone plays it and it's only getting more and more popular. I often feel that's a big part of my job, to be a cheerleader/promoter for fantasy sports. Both internally here at ESPN and anywhere else they will let me talk.

So anytime something around fantasy comes out, I'm rooting hard for it, and I think this has as good a shot as anything to be good because it's from a guy named Jeff Schaffer (and his wife Jackie). He wrote on "Seinfeld" for a long time, executive produced it when Larry David stepped down, consults on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and is a long-time friend of mine. I'm guessing that's not as high on his résumé as the other stuff.

... That Bill Belichick will grow a conscience and start pulling his starters when they are up big. That instead of pouring it on, he will actually just run up the middle on fourth down when up by 50 with four minutes left in the game.

... That Alex Smith might actually be fantasy relevant.

... That I am doomed to a life of crazy chicks.

... That Miles Austin is a fluke. So far, he's making me look like a genius.

... That Calvin Johnson won't come back healthy. So far, he's making me look like an idiot.

... That Al Davis continues to be Al Davis.

... That the Yankees will win the World Series.

... That Matt Schaub won't stay healthy.

... That all my readers are as dumb as this guy:

Gordon E. (Penn.): Every week you talk about start/sit, but you never include the words better option. For example this week you said sit Favre. But if I have Sanchez as my backup or worse there's no way I sit him. You just can't say sit Favre without mentioning on your show "if you have a better option."

TMR: Yeah, you got me. I shouldn't have assumed people would understand that, of course, it's if you have a better option. By sitting Favre it assumes you have someone else to start. It's why I always encourage folks to check out our rankings. Yes, I had Owen Daniels on my hate list last week. Bad call. But I ranked him 10th. I had him on the list because I expected Daniels (who went into the week as the No. 2 fantasy tight end) to do worse than he normally does (hence the No. 10 rank). And I "loved" Sean Ryan last week (ranked him 12th) to do better than normal. Another bad call, but just because I loved him and hated Daniels didn't mean I thought you should start Ryan over Daniels.

This is all about expectations. For where I rank specific players in comparison to others (who to start over someone else), see our Friday afternoon rank updates.

Week 8's Players I Love

Lee Evans, WR, Bills: In three road games this year, the Texans have given up an average of 25 fantasy points a game to opposing wide receivers. He has also scored in two straight weeks. Please, Trent Edwards, stay injured!

Matt Forte, RB, Bears: At home, off a horrific loss with something to prove and more importantly, off a podcast appearance, it's now or never for Matt.

Devin Hester, WR, Bears: At least nine fantasy points in four of his six games this season.

Matt Hasselbeck, Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks: Cowboys currently in the bottom 10 of the NFL in terms of passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed. That is, what's the word? Bad. By the way, Julius Jones facing his former team. Just saying.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: Boring name, exciting game! Dennis Northcutt makes an interesting sleeper here if Calvin Johnson can't play and you're stuck.

Danny Amendola, WR, Rams: The "Sam Aiken obscure wide receiver you've never heard of but will be solid for very deep leagues" award winner this week is ...

Kyle Orton and Brandon Marshall, Broncos: Ravens secondary not what it used to be.

Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens: Very quietly has a score in three of his past four games.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: Last week's disappearance was a result of the Texans' run defense, not Gore. He'll be a good play this week, for the first time since dropping 35 on Seattle in Week 2.

Austin Collie, WR, Colts: Single coverage is a beautiful thing.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST: Indy is at home and top-10 in sacks. Oh, and the 49ers are top-10 in sacks allowed. Oh, and one good half doesn't change the fact Alex Smith has been horrific for much of his NFL career.

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins: Very quietly, the hottest running back in the NFL. He's blowing up so big, I heard a Kardashian was thinking of dating him.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets: Expect him to play and play well.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: Westbrook ain't playing. I have no medical degree and I've never met or spoken to Brian Westbrook in my life. On the other hand, I'm not a total moron and I know B.S. when I see it.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants: More of a gut call than anything here since Boss has done absolutely nothing, but the Eagles have been crushed by opposing tight ends recently and last year at Philly, Boss had six for 69 and a score. Boss will move up in my Friday rankings update.

David Garrard and Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars: Garrard has been brutal on the road this year and Titans are coming off a bye, which I never like going against. That said, Titans are a bad team getting worse (32nd against the pass). I realize Bud Adams wants Vince Young to start, but I can only assume that's because he's never actually seen Vince Young play. I expect at least one or two turnovers from VY inside the Titans' 30, making for a short field. Whatever defense Tennessee can bring will focus on Maurice Jones-Drew, so in a bit of a gamble, I like both guys.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: If you are stuck, his name is Justin Fargas.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: In the movie "Major League," in a crucial at-bat late in the big game, Pedro Cerrano says the following to his bat:

I'm pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I good to you. I stick up for you. You no help me now ... I say 'Eff you,' Jobu, I do it myself.

That's exactly how I feel about LaDainian Tomlinson against Oakland. But since the Chargers have turned down my offer to suit up for them, LT gets one more chance.

Arizona Cardinals D/ST: We saw the playoffs last year, right?

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: A must-start these days.

Donald Driver, WR, Packers: Remember Greg Jennings? No joke, just thought I'd pause here to remember him. He was a nice guy. It was fun when he used to play.

Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints: Falcons give up sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell, RB, Saints: I like both of them. Dammit.

Hail Mary:

In a week in which six teams are on a bye, you may need to scrounge, especially in a deep league. Here's some real long shots who are more likely than not to do absolutely nothing. But I like them, if you're gambling and need a miracle. There's some upside with these guys: Mark Sanchez, Jacoby Jones, Marc Bulger, Bryant Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Brandon Stokley, Mike Hart, Michael Crabtree, Davone Bess, Nate Washington, Bo Scaife, Malcolm Floyd, James Jones and Jason Snelling.

Week 8's Players I Hate

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: The Texans have stopped Frank Gore, Cedric Benson and the entire Cards run game the past three weeks.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bills: Sure, it's obvious. Doesn't mean it's not fun to write it.

Kevin Walter, WR, Texans: The Bills are better against the pass than folks realize. Speaking of things folks don't realize, Walter does still play for Houston. You just can't tell it from the box score.

Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, RB, Broncos: Thinking Denver is gonna have to pass to win this one.

Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers: I realize I am playing with fire here. He was on this list last week and went off, obviously. Just ask David. But the Colts give up the least fantasy points to opposing tight ends, they are at home and now have Bob Sanders back. The argument against is that they haven't faced a real tight end this year and that's true. Of the tight ends Indy has faced so far, only John Carlson (five catches for 39 yards in Week 4) is a big part of his team's offense. But my guess is the Colts saw the same thing we all did and will adjust to make sure that Alex Smith doesn't have his security blanket. So that's my thinking.

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets: This week's waiver wire wonder will help teams, just not this week against a Miami team that is fourth in the NFL in rushing defense.

Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins: Every week I put him in here. Every week the folks on the comment boards go crazy about how awesome he is and how he does not, in fact, stink. It amuses me to no end. But since he is now in danger of losing his starting job because the Ohio State alumnus stinks so bad, this might be my last chance to point out that, he is, in fact, not very good.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: He's got only one touchdown in his past two games combined. And other than their run-in with Drew Brees, the Giants have been money against opposing quarterbacks. Six different times they've held the other quarterback to fewer than 250 yards passing.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants: The ankles bother me. Ahmad's, not mine. Everyone knows I got the best ankles in the business.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: Look, he's either gonna be feast or famine. I don't trust Jake, especially on the road. But Smith will be covered by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who gambles a ton. It's entirely possible that Smith beats him a few times when Rodgers-Cromartie bites too hard. So he's here with the caveat that he will either have 100 yards and two scores or do nothing. If you're looking for a guarantee of solid production, look elsewhere. If you feel like rolling the dice, ignore the fact he's on this list.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: See the video above for why I'm not crazy about Rivers this week.

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers: Nice game last week. Against the Browns. Which is a different team altogether than the Vikings.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: He hasn't scored since Week 1 and Minnesota held him to just 31 yards in Week 4, despite the fact Aaron Rodgers threw for a career-best 384 yards.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons: You probably don't have better options, Gordon, but lower your expectations for Gonzo. Single-digit fantasy points in three of his past four games and the Saints haven't given up a touchdown to an opposing tight end all season.

That's all I got. Good luck in Week 8.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- hates when folks give out healthy snacks. It's Halloween. Give the kids some sugar, you commie. He is a five-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