Q: Is this the last column for 2010?
A: For me? Hell, yes. Sorry. I mean, Hell, yes!!!
Q: You don't have to sound so excited about it. I mean, I get your readers being happy about it, but you?
A: Look, my columns average between 3,500 and 4,000 words. Twice a week. Preseason stuff is longer. Including draft kit stuff, I've written almost 170,000 words the past five months. It's a lot, especially when your life hasn't been all that interesting lately.
Q: Wow, you're a real American hero. You want me to applaud you for, I don't know, doing your job?
A: Dude, I'm just saying I'm tired. Football season is a seven-days-a-week job that is research- and writing-intensive with a lot of podcasts, twice-a-week rankings and a lot of TV, including a 90-minute show on Sundays. It's a great job and it's been a great season, but I'm looking forward to it being over.
Q: How do you know I'm a dude? Sexist much?
A: I know you're a dude because you're me. I'm interviewing myself.
Q: Ah, it must be the end of the season if you're digging out that old gimmick.
A: I'll have you know that my editor specifically requested it, actually. I've done it a number of times in the past 10 years. He likes it.
Q: I got news for you, sailor. Not everyone who tells you they like something actually means it.
A: You think I don't know that? I was married you know. And I worked in Hollywood.
Q: How could I forget? You only talk about yourself constantly.
A: Actually, I only write about myself constantly. When I talk, it's usually to ask questions about myself.
Q: So this "open" is what? Your favorite person interviewing your favorite subject about your favorite topic?
A: Something like that. I've got nothing left on my list.
Q: Your list?
A: Yeah, my list. I keep a list of potential "opens" at all times. Stories I like, themes I wanna explore, half-fleshed-out nuggets that aren't ready yet, things I like but haven't come up with the appropriate fantasy column to tie them to. My list.
Q: So what's on the list that you didn't use this year?
A: Well, I thought about doing something about my birthday, which was Dec. 29, the day I wrote the intro to this column. I hate my birthday. It's in between Christmas and New Year's, no one is ever around, those who are around don't feel like going out big before New Year's, it's always during football season so I have to work during it, I always get the B.S. "one present for two holidays" thing, it's annoying and depressing and I've never liked my birthday. So I wanted to do a whole thing on that.
Q: Right. Except you've already written about that at least twice. As long as we're repeating stuff, why not do some Leslie Nielsen quotes?
A: No. I know I've done the "birthday bitch." It's why I'm not doing it. Although every one of my friends on Facebook who didn't wish me a happy birthday is now officially un-friended.
Q: Oh no! How will they ever survive without your cyber friendship?
A: You're very confrontational. What's that about?
Q: I'm you. You tell me. Some unresolved anger issue?
A: Dude, I have so many unresolved issues that it's impossible to narrow it down to just one.
Q: Good point. By the way, this is your reminder to get something nice for your therapist.
A: Really? Are you supposed to get things for your therapist? I don't think you're supposed to.
Q: All I know is, whatever you pay her, it's not enough.
A: That's true of most people in my life. How about I just wish her a happy new year?
Q: Nice call, big spender. Speaking of next year, why not do a top 10 for 2011?
A: Speaking of obvious. I thought about that, too. And here's the list: Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, Roddy White. But it didn't feel like an "open" to me. I didn't want to spend a lot of time discussing each guy -- I mean, you know what Foster has done -- so then it was just a list, and I didn't feel like going deep enough -- like 50 deep -- to make a list worth an "open." I guess I could defend White being there -- he's probably the most controversial -- but it'd just be a lot of talk about his consistency and about the lack of depth at that position compared to running backs.
Q: Zzzzzzzzz-, oh, are you done? Good. Ugh. Clearly, a look ahead wouldn't work, so why not one last look back? I'm sure there are some good calls you want to brag about while completely ignoring your bad ones.
A: Yeah, although that always seems to be too self-serving.
Q: Have you met you?
A: Right. But there's so much chatter out there that, if I'm being honest, you do want credit for some of the good calls. But if all you do is list those, it comes off as bragging, and that's not fun to read. So you have to mention the misses. And then it's a whole thing. Like take my "You Heard Me" column from the preseason.
Q: This one?
A: Yeah. That's my bold prediction piece. Like, they were all supposed to be borderline outrageous, right? As you would expect on a bold predictions piece written weeks before the season, I swung and missed bad on some (Pierre Garcon, Matt Ryan, Steve Smith of Carolina, Bernard Berrian, Michael Bush, Laurent Robinson and Justin Forsett among them), but I also hit on quite a few. In fact, for a bold predictions piece, I think I did pretty well.
Arian Foster, Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings as top five (was 20th last year); Mike Williams of Tampa Bay, Frank Gore as top three (he was until he got hurt); Nate Burleson having value; bad years for Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Mike Sims-Walker and Chad Ochocinco; not buying the Jay Cutler explodes under Mike Martz hype; liking Ahmad Bradshaw over Brandon Jacobs, Fred Jackson over C.J. Spiller and Jeremy Maclin over DeSean Jackson despite the fact they were going the opposite way in drafts. So yeah, I want to beat my chest a little, but I'm worried it'll come off even more braggy than usual. And that doesn't even include Peyton Hillis as a deep sleeper in this column where I nailed a lot of preseason stuff. But I'm just worried it would sound like it's total ego-stroking and not much else.
A: A well-founded fear. What else you got?
Q: I keep wanting to do something about all the different people who are giving fantasy advice now, including A-list movie stars, Playboy playmates, active NFL players themselves and people in sports media I know for a fact don't actually play. I think there's something there, but I haven't cracked a funny take on it yet. Right now, I either make fun of them (which I don't want to do; I'm glad so many people are talking about fantasy) or I celebrate them, which is really not funny at all. I'll figure that one out eventually.
Q: Don't kill yourself. I'm not convinced that you'll figure it out or that it'll be worthwhile even if you do.
A: Yeah, that's my editor's fear, too. I spend a lot of time thinking about my opens. Like, I've had a whole Tucker Max story that I've been wanting to do (I love his new book; I can't print the title, but the book is hilarious), but given Tucker's polarizing nature, I haven't nailed how to do it on a family website. It'll take time, and I rarely get more than a few hours to write any one column.
Q: Waaaaah. They make me write about fantasy football. For money. On ESPN. Boo-hoo-hoo. It's like you're a Chilean miner but you've never been rescued. Seriously, hand me a towel. I need to dry my keyboard from tears of empathy.
A: Look, this is coming out wrong. As I'm looking back on the year and specifically my writing, I'm just expressing that I have these sort of half-interesting threads that are left over. Maybe I'll use them for baseball, maybe I'll use them for football next season, maybe I never will. I don't know. I think they are interesting.
Like, I have this whole thing about my Redskins jerseys (I own six and, assuming Donovan McNabb is gone after this year, it'll be seven next season). I have a few more crazy date stories; I want to do a whole list of "Things that have actually been said to me"; I have a bunch of very funny quotes from various co-workers, friends and fans, but I haven't decided whether it works better as a stand-alone thing or as one of a "10 lists of 10." And whether printing it will get me fired. I'm guessing yes.
Q: Ah yes. Your job. Was wondering when we were gonna get around to that. You know, a common thread we hear, read and sometimes, under a fake name, even post ourselves is that you should be fired. Critics want to know how on Earth you got this job and how come ESPN hasn't fired you yet?
A: You'd have to ask my bosses.
Q: So we have to continue to endure your self-centered nonsense combined with mediocre fantasy advice?
A: On many different channels and platforms!
Q: Or we could just not watch/listen/read.
A: Wait. You mean people actually have choices?
Q: Yes. Turns out you're not the only fantasy sports analyst on ESPN. Lots of your colleagues write very strong, solid analysis. And a quick Google search for fantasy football analysis shows more than 2.7 million results.
A: Huh. What about egocentric fantasy football analysis ?
Q: Just you.
And with that, let's get to the last Love/Hate of the season. As always, I highly suggest you look at my rankings to see where I stand on every single player. Do I start this guy or this guy? Well, check my rankings, or you'll be like Ro last week.
Ro (New York, N.Y.): Do you really get paid for your incompetent advice to fantasy football players? For example, starting Marshawn Lynch during championship week over Matt Forte? I guess we should just be happy you didn't go into the medical profession.
TMR: I had Forte as a "love" last week, and if you'll check my ranks, I ranked Forte at 15 and Lynch at 23. I missed plenty last week, but my ranks told you to play Forte in that situation. And remember, I update my rankings every Friday.
Anyways, OK, last rant of 2010. Here's we go. As always, numbers in parentheses are my ranks and the average ranks of the other three rankers. And, just like the past few weeks, I have an "If You're Desperate" section. These are high-risk, high-reward types, so if you play them, realize you are playing with fire, but I like the matchup and potential.
Week 17 Players I Love
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (6, 11): So money at home he doesn't even know it.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (7, 10): Really? Five touchdowns later and I'm still the highest one on him? I guess it's a matter of which do you believe in: red-hot Freeman or a solid Saints defense at home? He's averaging 15 points a game on the road, and I believe Freeman will have to throw a lot to keep up with New Orleans. The team, not the city. To keep up with the city, you need money, beads and a healthy liver. Which is as good a city slogan as I've ever heard.
Shaun Hill, QB, Lions (13, 24): He probably belongs more in "If you're desperate" than anywhere else, but I wanted to write about him because if you're stuck this week because of your QB not playing, Hill has averaged almost 17 fantasy points in games that he has started and finished this season. Had a solid fantasy day this past week against the Dolphins, which is a much tougher defense than the Vikings', on the road on a short week.
If you're desperate: Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders (14, 23); Joe Webb, QB, Vikings (18, 24) if Favre doesn't play, obviously; Stephen McGee, QB, Cowboys (21, 23). I don't expect Kitna to play, obviously, and I expect Philly to sit most of its starters.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers (10, 12): Oh, the irony. And this is real irony, not the crappy made-up kind Alanis sang about. Chances are, if you made it to the finals, you don't have Mathews on your team. Among the bigger fantasy busts this year, most people had to waste a second-round pick on him. The week he's finally worth something, chances are you're done. But, if you somehow managed to get to Week 17 and still have him on your roster, he'll do very well with no Mike Tolbert splitting carries and the Broncos' 31st-ranked run defense opposing him.
Ahmad Bradshaw (9, 15) and Brandon Jacobs (20, 27), RB, Giants: The last time they faced the Redskins, each of these running backs had two touchdowns. Since then. Eli Manning has started his annual second-half "start throwing a bunch of interceptions run" (you can practically set your calendar to it), and the Redskins' run defense -- despite last week's results against the Jaguars -- is not very good. With no Hakeem Nicks, expect a heavy dose of the run game for the Giants in a game they have to win to remain alive.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears (12, 21): I bring him up here because I love him if he plays (he's such a focal point of the offense) but he might not play the full game. If the Falcons or Saints win in the first slate of games, the Bears have nothing to play for in their 4 p.m. ET game. So, be very, very careful here and realize there's a good chance he'll sit at least part of this game. So my rank of 12 here is with an asterisk and, frankly, I'll lower him some in Friday's update.
If you're desperate: Jerome Harrison, RB, Eagles (27, 48) -- with nothing to play for, I don't think LeSean McCoy will play very much, if at all; Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers (35, 44); Joe McKnight, RB, NYJ (40, 51).
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (9, 17): The man, because that's what he is, a man, is averaging 13 points a game his past two. The Colts have struggled recently, giving up 258 yards to opposing wideouts the past two weeks. I expect the Colts to concentrate on Chris Johnson, I expect the Titans to be throwing it a lot. Remember, last time these two teams faced, Kerry Collins threw for three touchdowns and led Tennessee to one of the most frustrating backdoor covers, err, bizarre rallies this year. Britt didn't do much in that game; this week, that changes.
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers (16, 29): Scored last week, scored last time he played Arizona, scored in my heart. You heard me. Cards are much worse on the road (19 fantasy points a game allowed to opposing wide receivers on the road this year), and although Crabtree's Week 16 touchdown came with Troy, not Alex, he's too talented to not be a flex play this week, regardless which Smith is throwing. (Alex is starting).
Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars (18, 32): And what have we learned this year, class? Besides that, Brett. You start your wideouts against Houston. Thomas is available in 77 percent of leagues, by the way.
Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens (20, 36): Stop me if you've heard this one. Every week, I'm the only guy who ranks Mason over Boldin. And every week (at least, six of the past eight), Mason outscores his more famous teammate. Mason scored when he faced Cincy earlier this year. With six touchdowns in eight games since the bye, Mason leads the team in targets for that time frame. I expect Flacco to have a good game and Mason to be a reason why.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans (4, 8): If I had the time, motivation and digital rights to both NFL footage and the movie "Throw Momma from the Train," I would put together a montage of Daniels' season so far, interspersed with only Momma from the movie screaming "Owen!" at different levels and with different inflections. She says it many times throughout, and at the start of the year, it'd be a very disappointed "Owen." Then a disgusted "Owen!" then an indifferent shoulder shrug "Owen." And now, a happy, excited "Owen!" Because, finally healthy, Daniels has come on, just in time for Matt Schaub owners to be really bitter about what might have been this year. He got at least 80 yards in two of his past three; he scored this past week; and the Jags give up the sixth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. With Andre Johnson still banged up, expect it to be the Arian and Owen show.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (9, 12): You know who loves Shaun Hill? Besides Mama Hill, the TMR and the made-up fan club of people named William, "The Hill Billys"? Brandon Pettigrew loves Shaun Hill. Averaging more than seven points a game in games he starts this year, he had 74 yards and a score this past week in Hill's return. Vikes have given up five TDs to opposing tight ends in the past seven games.
Atlanta Falcons D/ST (2, 4): You know what's better than a defense at home facing the Panthers? An angry, motivated and red-hot defense at home that's facing the Panthers. Available in 37 percent of leagues, too.
If you're desperate:: San Francisco 49ers D/ST (10, 15).
Week 17 players I hate
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (10, 7): Maybe you get a half out of him, maybe you don't. With nothing to play for, it's so hard to say. And a half of Brady could very easily be better than a full game from most. But I hate the unknown, the risky, the leaving so much up to chance -- despite what my dating track record says. You'll see a fairly common theme among my hates; almost all of them are guys with playing time issues or questions.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles (22, 14): Now that we know officially that Vick won't play, I'll up Kolb a few spots on Friday. But with Vick's injury history, the Eagles probably don't want anything to happen to Kolb, either, so even he might not play the full game. My sense is that the Eagles are treating this like a preseason game. Which means maybe half a game for Kolb? If he does play all 60, I could see him having a big day. But with playing time questions and no DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin; lotta questions marks for me.
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs (20, 16): Nothing to play for, and I expect the Chiefs to run a lot.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns (23, 16): He's on a downward trend; he has missed two days of practice this week; and it's the Steelers with something to play for. No thanks.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles (NR, 18): Don't think he'll play.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets (NR, 29): He might play a little in a meaningless games for the Jets, but I didn't rank him because I just can't imagine a scenario where I would feel comfortable or even want to play him and my guess is people will see the Bills on the schedule and get all excited. Well, excited for LT. Not for the Bills.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos (30, 24): With Tim Tebow taking some of the runs, him being banged up and the Chargers still having the second-best run defense, I'm saying no sir to Knowshon. (Thank you! Thank you! It's the end of the year. Looking forward to four months of no puns or hacky jokes, so gotta use 'em or lose 'em. Thank you! Thank you!)
Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens (32, 18): See Mason, Derrick. Or don't. Because if you own Boldin, his brutal one-point performance last week probably killed you. Only 35 yards the last time he faced Cincy, he has had a total of five fantasy points the past three weeks combined. No way is he in my top 20 this week.
Braylon Edwards (45, 25) and Santonio Holmes (NR, 22): Don't think they'll play for very long; not convinced Mark Sanchez will play at all; Holmes is hurt -- I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles (NR, 14): Ah, Week 17.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers (11, 7): He's certainly been hot recently, but I have a hard time seeing him as a top-10 play this week. He'll be OK, but just 43 yards the last time he faced the Saints, who give up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Thanks to their strong corner play, they can afford to pay extra attention to Winslow.
Minnesota Vikings D/ST (20, 12): Traveling, on a very short week and this is a much better Lions offense than folks realize.
That's all I got, folks. Thanks to everyone who read all year. Seriously, I am very lucky. There's a ton of good people out there, and I appreciate your spending some of your fantasy football time with me. Have a great, safe and happy new year; good luck this week; and we'll see you in the spring for baseball.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is done. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend