I am deathly sick.
Not the kind of deathly sick you get when you have been on national TV telling folks to sit Larry Johnson and the underperforming bum decides to get 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Not the kind of deathly sick where you wake up from a long night of partying and, upon opening your eyes, you ask yourself, "Oh, no. What have I done?"
Not the kind of deathly sick where you actually feel fine but you can't tell your boss that "Sean got backstage passes to Springsteen, and we're gonna tailgate with these ridiculous 22-year-olds I met at Rick's Cabaret last night."
No, I'm the kind of deathly sick where I actually think death would feel better. I've lost my voice. My head is pounding. Even my dog, who sniffs her own poop, is staying away from me and my hacking cough.
It's why I am not on the podcast this morning. It's why, if you watch "NFL Live," you won't see me today. It's why I have no interest in writing this column today.
When you are sick, all you want to do is curl up in a ball and die. Or sleep. Or lie on the couch drinking orange juice and catching up on episodes of the new "90210." Anything but write. I don't feel funny, I don't have any energy and I certainly don't feel like doing all the research and analysis I do on every player. (I know it doesn't seem like it, but trust me, I actually do a ton of research.)
But you have to carry on. Just like our fantasy teams do. Frank Gore, Joseph Addai, Brandon Jacobs and Marion Barber are among the studs who either will not play this week or are severely banged up. Not to mention Clinton Portis' ongoing issues, Peyton Hillis being out for the year and Kellen Winslow not helping. Add to that Brian Westbrook, LenDale White, Kevin Smith, Fred Taylor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles all showing up on the injury report Wednesday.
If you are still alive in the playoffs, chances are you are limping in -- just like me, into this column. Trying to predict player performance with so many crazy injuries doesn't add to the fun, you know?
But carry on we must. It's not ideal. You're not going out there at 100 percent. But you got this far. You know what you're doing (other than, you know, reading me). So suck it up, make do the best you can with whatever is available and hope for the best. That's my plan. So, semi-live from a place in my home that is not my bedroom, office, living room, den or kitchen, here we go. As always, players I love are those I feel will exceed their average weekly output, while players I hate are those I feel will fall short. And be sure to check out Stephania Bell's injury blog all week long for the latest on who is hurt and who will be able to go.
Week 15 Players I Love
Kyle Orton, QB, Bears: Two touchdowns in each of his past two games, short weeks favor the offense and the Saints are 26th in the NFL in terms of passing yards allowed. Orton might not be your first choice, but if you're stuck, I like him this week. By the way, for those of you playing Pigskin Pick 'Em, he is 13-2 at home as a starter.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears: Putting the super-obvious, no-brainer start guys in this week so I don't have to get mail that says, "Why don't you love Matt Forte this week?" Instead, I choose to receive the mail that accuses me of listing every player in the NFL every week. Picking my poison, I am.
Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: More of a gut call than anything because the Saints tend to defend the tight end pretty well and Desmond Clark is around. But Olsen has been better recently. He has had at least 40 yards in three of his past four home games and a score in two of them. Plus, I think this will be a bad-weather game, forcing more dump-offs and short throws. If it turns out to be nice Thursday night in Chicago, bump him down a few notches.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: See Forte, Matt.
Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, RBs, Saints: Yes, the Bears have the sixth-best run defense in the league. But Bush will be a big part of the passing game, and I believe Thomas will get a goal-line score. Chicago has given up 13 rushing touchdowns this season, which is in the middle of the pack.
Warrick Dunn, RB, Buccaneers: I know, he didn't do much in Week 14. And Cadillac Williams vultured the touchdown. But I still like Dunn in his return to Atlanta. Last time he faced the Falcons, he had 70 total yards and a score. And with Atlanta likely to pay a lot of attention to Antonio Bryant, I like Dunn to have double-digit fantasy points against the Falcons' 22nd-ranked run defense.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons: See Brees, Drew.
Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: The Zorn Supremacy is smart enough to know that if his playoff hopes have any chance of lasting another week, the Redskins need to win here, and you have a better shot of doing that with your best player going. Think Portis will play the whole game and have a monster performance.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: He has had at least 20 carries in three of his past five games and at least eight fantasy points in four of them. The Colts rank 25th in the NFL against the run and, on the road, with quarterback issues, the Lions probably will feature the run quite a bit this week. Even if they fall behind big, Smith is on pace for 37 receptions this season. He'll stay on the field during passing downs.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: See Turner, Michael.
Donald Lee, TE, Packers: The Jags give up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and Lee always has had two first names. Recently, he has added touchdowns in three of his past four games.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars: If I were truly scrambling and needed a long shot, I could see Lewis being OK here. The Packers don't defend the tight end particularly well, Jones is out and Lewis has had at least 40 yards in three of his past five games.
Seneca Wallace, QB, Seahawks: If you're scrambling for a QB (Get it? Scrambling? QB? Seneca? Sigh. This gold is too good for the likes of you ), I actually like Wallace this week. Double-digit fantasy points in each of his past four starts, and the Rams give up the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks: You just read the Wallace entry, right? You saw Week 14, right? You see where I am going with this, right?
John Carlson, TE, Seahawks: At least 100 yards or a touchdown in three straight games. And, you know, the whole "playing the Rams" thing.
Shaun Hill, Isaac Bruce, 49ers: West Coast team going East, which you never like to see. But no run game (I don't think Gore is playing), they will be down in this game and the Dolphins are 21st against the pass.
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins: Another gut call, but he's been looking better and better. He has had a touchdown in three of his past four home games and, for his career, averages more than 80 yards rushing against the 49ers. I'm gonna bump him up in my Friday ranks. Not for the weak of heart in fantasy playoffs time, but if you feel like gambling, I'd roll with Ricky. I'm guessing I'm not the first to say that.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills: Did you know the mom on "Good Times" was named Florida Evans? Sometimes these are just for me. Move along, kids. Move along.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: Once, I did an interview with Johnson and I hugged him on behalf of all fantasy owners. Seriously. And I'd do it again.
Steve Slaton, RB, Texans: Had 124 total yards and a score last time he played the Titans. In case you were worried.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans: Two first names that also could be two last names.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: See Jones, Thomas.
Everyone involved in the Cardinals' passing game: Including Steve Breaston. In his past four home games, Breaston has had more than 400 yards receiving. He has a touchdown as well, and the Vikings have given up more than 280 passing yards a game in their past five road games.
Mewelde Moore, RB, Steelers: I don't love him, but if I have to choose one Steelers running back, it's him. The Ravens seem to give up a lot of receiving yards to opposing running backs.
Zach Miller, TE, Raiders: Eight receptions in Week 14 -- he's by far the Raiders' best weapon. The Patriots have given up more than 1,100 passing yards in their past four road games, and they give up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, Raiders: A true Hail Mary desperation play, but if you are in a very deep league and looking, here's a shot in the dark. Again, the New England secondary has been brutal on the road this season. Same reason I could see Darren McFadden having a big game; the Raiders have been using him at receiver some. But he won't do anything as a running back against New England.
Derrick Ward, RB, Giants: I don't think Brandon Jacobs will play.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles: See Williams, D'Angelo.
Week 15 Players I Hate:
Jeff Garcia, QB, Buccaneers: A dozen or fewer fantasy points in four of his past six games. And in their past two games, the Falcons limited Philip Rivers to less than 150 yards passing and Drew Brees to less than 250. Garcia isn't as good as either of those guys.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: Think he'll be only OK here. The Bucs' defense was embarrassed on "Monday Night Football," so they will come out with force, and they still are the fourth-best passing defense in the league. I expect the Falcons to run the hell out of the ball, and I expect 200 yards and one touchdown from Ryan. Decent, but not what you expect or need.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: If he couldn't do it against Denver, he ain't doing it against San Diego. I'm gonna go throw up now. And for the first time today, it's not because I am sick.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: Man was I wrong on him this season. Sigh.
Fred Taylor, RB, Jaguars: In case you missed it, he now is out for the season. So, you know, feel free to ignore that advice to "pick him up because he's so great in December" from my Tuesday column.
Maurice Morris, Julius Jones, RBs, Seahawks: Looks like they will split carries and even Leonard Weaver will be in the mix. The only thing more frustrating than your running back not getting the ball is your running back not getting the ball against the Rams. I'm in enough pain as it is.
Marc Bulger, QB, Rams: Seven fantasy points the last time he faced Seattle. Don't get cute, even with the good matchup.
Frank Gore or DeShaun Foster, RBs, 49ers: Whoever plays needs to be on your bench. West Coast team traveling East, the Dolphins are 11th-best in the NFL against the run and you've got either a banged-up Gore or DeShaun Foster, who has a bad case of being DeShaun Foster.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers: Only one team allows fewer fantasy points to opposing tight ends than the Miami Dolphins.
Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins: Bet you didn't know it was the 49ers.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: Single-digit fantasy points in four of his past five home games. The 49ers are 14th-best against the run, and Ronnie will be splitting time with Ricky. In fact, if you have both, I'm going to go out on a limb and say I like Ricky more, as stated above.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: You have no idea how much it depresses me to write this. Unless you listen to our podcast. In which case, you have a very good idea. The problem here, I think, is that I don't know your personal podcast-listening habits.
Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, WRs, Jets: I just don't trust them. That simple.
Kevin Walter, WR, Texans:
John (New Jersey): Hey MB, I don't know if this has been mentioned, but Kevin Walter has been on a steady and obvious trend this season. Starting after his Week 2 bye, he has alternated single- and double-digit performances (exception Week 6, where he missed DD by two yards). The same pattern holds true for touchdowns after Week 8. For playoff teams: Sit him this week, start him next week then take a gamble on the final week. Just makin' your job easier MB.
Mike (Boston): Hey TMR! I noticed a ridiculous statistical trend that needs to be addressed: Take a moment and look at Kevin Walter's game-by-game stats. Literally since Week 1 he's followed up a solid-to-spectacular fantasy day with a poor-to-average one.
TMR: Yeah, it's weird. Look at these numbers: 19, 4, 14, 7, 15, 3, 20. Those are Walter's fantasy points scored since Week 8 in ESPN standard scoring. Now, consider he had just 15 yards the last time he played the Titans. Walter is here more because of the poor matchup and the fact that Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels are around than because of the week-on/week off-thing, but still. Spooky.
Selvin Young, RB, Broncos:
Erin S. (Houston): Hi Matthew (or Matthew's intern). I won last week's first round with Peyton Hillis and Tashard Choice as my running backs. I can't believe I just wrote that. Of course, I am crushed that Hillis is out. I picked up Tatum Bell, but worried that you said Young was a better choice. I thought Bell was expected to start, so why is he not the favorite? To steal Rudi Johnson's underwear, it takes deception, quickness and crazy thinking, all qualities I love in a running back.
TMR: I might have to marry this girl. Plays fantasy, is funny and is from Texas? Awesome. Anyway, I printed this for two reasons. One, I don't have an intern. I'd love one but don't have one. I never have time to respond to all the e-mail I get but I do read all of it. Second, I know. I did say that and meant it. But Young just can't stay healthy. He had another setback this week after practicing all last week. It's just too dicey to gamble on. I'm not crazy about Bell, either, on the road at Carolina. But if I am forced, like Erin here, to pick a Denver running back, Bell is now the guy. The Friday rankings update will reflect that.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers: It might seem like a great matchup on paper, but look closer. He has thrown for less than 200 yards in four of his past five games. Champ Bailey is healthy again for the Broncos and, considering how bad Denver is against the run, I expect to see nothing but DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. So unless you get points in your league for handing off
All your Steelers: They play the Ravens.
All your Ravens: They play the Steelers.
Matt Cassel, QB, Patriots: Missing some practice time this week due to personal issues, on the road against a better-than-you-think Oakland pass defense, only one touchdown pass in his past two games. Lotta red flags here.
Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: Know what I am doing? Not hugging Huggy Bear's son.
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: He's a hero, and not just because the word is he now is living with Jessica Simpson. But if I have another solid option this week, I'm sitting him. The past two good teams he's played -- the Redskins and the Steelers -- shut him down, and the Giants are in the top 10 in the NFL in both passing yards allowed and touchdown passes allowed. In fact, on the road this season, New York is averaging almost two turnovers forced a game and has allowed two or more touchdown passes only twice. And finally, consider this: In Week 14, Romo was pressured into three sacks and hurried a lot more by Pittsburgh, which is tied for the league lead in sacks. Who is tied for 6th in sacks? The Giants. Expect 200 yards, a score and two turnovers from Romo this week.
Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys: I think Marion will play. A lot.
All your Browns: This is just a terrible football team.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: I think he'll be OK. I just don't think he'll have the monster game a lot of folks expect. Look at his fantasy points his past four games: 9, minus-4, 28, 12. Great game against Arizona, but otherwise very mediocre. The Browns actually play much better pass defense than run defense, 15th-best in the league, and allow only 11.6 fantasy points a game to opposing quarterbacks, 12th-best in the NFL. Look at the past four quarterbacks to face the Browns: Kerry Collins had 10 points, Peyton Manning had one point, Sage Rosenfels had 11 points and Trent Edwards had nine points. Not exactly a Pro Bowl lineup, except for Manning, but not terrible, either. Yes, Jay Cutler lit up the Browns, but that was a short-week game. I think McNabb will get you 12 points or so, which is fine, but you easily could do better.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is going to go curl up in a ball and wait for January. He is a four-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a writer of the year award. He also 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