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Archive November 2007

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XM Radio Podcasts Are Up

The podcasts are available at this link:

http://www.rotowire.com/podcast/index.htm

This week it's Mike Salfino for one, and Scott Pianowski for the other, but the guests will vary. We'll post two per week going forward.

Worst game ever?

I just got done watching the Knicks turn in what could possibly be the worst performance in NBA history. That sounds like hyperbole, but it was a really, really bad game by the Knicks. The Celtics went up 14 - 3 in the first minutes of the game, went on a 16-2 run to start the second quarter, then a 12-2 run to start the third quarter. Kevin Garnett went to the bench halfway through the third quarter with the team up by 35, and both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen joined him on the bench a few minutes later with the team up by more than 40. There was a point in garbage time when the Knicks only had 47 points and were down by 50!

The Knicks ended the game with 59 points, the second lowest total in team history (and it took a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer by Nate Robinson for them to avoid the team record). They lost by 45 points, the third worst lost in team history. And the body language of all of their players just looked awful and apathetic.

Fantasy-wise, the Knicks had started to suck me back in a little bit earlier in the week with a couple wins in a row. I had picked up Stephon Marbury in a league and felt quietly optimistic after his big game on Monday. There is lots of talent on the Knicks, and before Thursday I would have said they had several fantasy-worthy players. But now? I'm trying to sell my Knicks as soon as possible. Any team that can show that little intensity and play that poorly on any given night is a team whose players I want no part of on my fantasy rosters. You just never know what you might get from them.

Can They Win it All?

Today I wanted to talk about a team flying under the radar. A squad off to a good start yet has gone largely without the media’s attention. Since no one else is writing about them, I’m making it my duty to highlight the Boston Celtics. OK, so ESPN has a page setup comparing them with the 72-10 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, so I’ll remove my tongue from my cheek now. Entering the season, there wasn’t a team I was more curious about than the Celtics. I pretty much panned the Kevin Garnett trade at the time, suggesting that Al Jefferson is 10 years younger and has the upside to be the better player within the next 3-4 years. Moreover, Boston’s roster appeared to have an Eastern Conference Champs ceiling, almost certain to get swept by whoever came out of the West. Four weeks into the season, I’m willing to concede that this blockbuster deal might be the rare one that has both teams coming out winners, and certainly if I’m a Boston fan, I’m thrilled with it, regardless of the long-term ramifications.

The Eastern Conference presented a unique opportunity this season, as a team that finished dead last, 29 games back with a .293 winning percentage last year, could conceivably make the finals this season after a couple of offseason acquisitions. Reluctantly, I picked the Celtics to win the Eastern Conference in my season preview. Not only am I happy I did so, but I’m also rethinking my old stance of the West beating them as a foregone conclusion. Now, these weren’t your average “offseason acquisitions” mind you. I don’t need to tell you the resumes of the “Big Three,” but I do feel most may have underestimated how perfect of a fit they are together. Paul Pierce is the slasher and penetrator, Ray Allen the spot up shooter and Garnett the dominating big man with uncanny passing ability. All three veterans have much to prove, are super motivated and seemingly unselfish, which starts with Garnett – the most selfless superstar in the history of sports.

But what is this team’s ceiling? Right now, we are looking at 13-game sample, albeit an impressive one. The C’s average margin of victory is 10.6 points, and the team has played terrific defensively. Depth is a glaring weakness, but basketball is by far the most individual sport there is. Unlike baseball and football, two superstars can and have won titles with only role players aboard. This team has three. Additionally, the other starters play possibly the two most unimportant positions on the floor; now, a dominant center is obviously a difference maker, but there’s been about two of those over the past 20 years. The combination of Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop is probably one of the five best centers in the NBA today. And as far as point guard is concerned, does it really matter who brings the ball up the court?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anointing this team with anything yet, but they have certainly made the early season more interesting. The Big Three have a mean age of 31, so it still remains to be seen how these veterans’ legs hold up over the course of a long season. If one of them succumbs to injury, all bets are off, and this looks like a good, not great team. The Bulls’ 72 wins record is safe, but Boston has a legitimate chance of winning it all this season.

NFL Notes

Jon Kitna is not a very good quarterback. The 7.6 YPA is nice, but that’s likely more a product of the Mike Martz engineered offense (as is the 44 sacks taken). He’s just way too inaccurate, and this team is going nowhere until they improve the position…Brett Favre, on the other hand, is playing unbelievably. I could not have been more wrong regarding his prospects at this stage of his career…Anyone who wasn’t too consumed with Thanksgiving witnessed a mini coming out party by Calvin Johnson, who was finally being targeted like the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft. Maybe his back is finally starting to get healthy, but it’s fairly evident this is going to be a special player for years to come.

Marion Barber is terrific and a top-10 fantasy back in most formats, but it’s pretty telling that the 103 rushing yards this week marked his season-high. He needs to get the ball more often than only in the fourth quarter of games already won…There’s something to be said about beating teams you are supposed to, and the Cowboys have done that with ease this year time and again. Remember, they’ve only lost to the undefeated Patriots.

How bad was the timing on Atlanta’s part to deal Matt Schaub this offseason?...Roddy White would probably be a top-15 fantasy WR if he had a capable quarterback…Reggie Wayne has had a fine season, but he’s left an awful lot of yardage on the field with uncharacteristic drops over the last few games.

I refuse to accept the Panther loss ATS on my record, as the late week injury to Vinny Testaverde made all the difference. David Carr shouldn’t be starting for a college team right now, let alone an NFL one…This Saints run D is underrated.

Completing a remarkable 84.2 percent of his 38 pass attempts Sunday, Carson Palmer was downright impressive…Not sure why DeDe Dorsey got more carries than Kenny Watson, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Triple-D 2.0…It’s too bad most Rudi Johnson owners likely missed the playoffs, because Cincinnati’s schedule weeks 14-16 is ridiculously good.

In a keeper-league, I’d still prefer Antonio Gates over Kellen Winslow because of durability, but it’s very, very close…I’ve slurped Braylon Edwards quite a bit this year, but he does drop too many balls still…Continuing our running conversation regarding starting a franchise, I’d make Matt Schaub a top-20 pick.

While in the minority, I’ve always viewed the Coen brothers as overrated. Not any more, as “No Country For Old Men” is a fantastic film and easily their best work. It’s on the short list of my best movies of the year and hysterical too. Probably one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years. Javier Bardem gives one of the finest performances in the history of cinema.

I’d love to see what David Garrard could do with an above average wide receiver to throw to…Remember Matt Jones’ off-the-charts measurables at the combine? Shocking how that didn’t translate into becoming an effective NFL receiver.

During a midseason draft I did before Week 8 this year, Justin Fargas and Ryan Grant weren’t even drafted – just goes to show how ever-changing this league is…To say Brodie Croyle still has some work to do would be an understatement…The Raiders run D is truly atrocious, but Kolby Smith came through Sunday, showing good burst and shiftiness. He’s going to get all the work he can handle from here on out.

Eli Manning has eight interceptions the last two games versus Minnesota – six of them returned for TDs. Even more worrisome for Giants fans was his postgame interview, in which he proceeded to answer questions about his shoddy play with a gee-gosh, happy-go-lucky grin on his face…Tarvaris Jackson still can’t pass, but he is quite elusive…The Giants run D is very, very good…The opposite is true regarding Reuben Droughns…Chester Taylor is better than I thought he was.

Marc Bulger is one of the most injury-prone athletes in all of sports…How about that goal line stand by the Rams’ offense? It started with Gus Frerotte missing a wide open Isaac Bruce from five yards away and ended with him fumbling the snap. The Seahawks did everything they could to give that game away Sunday, but clearly, St. Louis is more interested in the upcoming draft position…I’d be shocked if Shaun Alexander gets another start this year.

The Redskins were minus-six on the turnover battle Sunday yet still almost beat the Bucs. Tampa Bay was outgained 316 yards to 15 during the second half, as the team failed to gain one single first down over the game’s final 30 minutes. It’s safe to say the Bucs need a healthy Jeff Garcia on offense.

Arizona’s run-first philosophy has officially been scrapped…Larry Fitzgerald will be worth an early second round fantasy pick next year…As far as skills go, Frank Gore is easily a top-5 running back in the NFL. It was only a matter of time before he busted out, although the offense has done about as good of a job as possible of slowing him down. Still, his proneness to injury will make him a risky first round fantasy pick next year…If he hadn’t been sacked, Kurt Warner would STILL probably be looking for the open receiver while standing in the end zone.

Imagine what Andre Hall would have done had he not suffered a high ankle sprain during his first carry of the game…There are two major criteria I look for in fantasy running backs – do they catch passes and are they fast? Travis Henry strikes out on both, and I seriously regret recommending him…How about a hand for Mike Bell – the guy gets his first carry since Week 3 and promptly fumbles. Cecil Sapp should be owned in all deep leagues..As if the Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Javon Walker trio didn’t already have a bright enough future, Tony Scheffler looks like a possible future star at the tight end position. The Broncos are going to own the AFC West over the next decade…You hate to see any injury, but any Cedric Benson/Adrian Peterson owner couldn’t have been sad to see Benson carted away Sunday…Devin Hester is a pretty good special teams player.

Watching Ray Lewis try to guard Antonio Gates makes you remember how good he USED to be…Philip Rivers has quite possibly the worst mechanics in the NFL…The Chargers do an excellent job of blowing out bad teams while playing at home from time to time, but don’t let Sunday’s game fool you again into thinking this is a good football team.

So the Patriots are mortal, after all. Not sure what the team’s plan is regarding Laurence Maroney, but I am positive their lack of running game doesn’t hurt their chances of winning the Super Bowl…Wes Welker has an uncanny ability to get open finding the seam down the middle. He’s a legitimate top-10 fantasy WR with New England throwing it 55 times a game.

I tried to find something more exciting to do during the awful Monday night game – like doing laundry. What a joke that was…The fact Ben Roethlisberger completed 85.7 percent of his passes during those conditions is pretty impressive…Sure, the sod didn’t help, but I’m thinking Willie Parker is more banged up than he’s letting on…What a return by Ricky Williams!

NL MVP?

After going a perfect 5-for-5, the voters swung and missed with the Jimmy Rollins MVP pick. While there wasn’t a particularly great choice – or even good choice for that matter – Rollins was clearly a misguided vote. Rollins had a fine season, but he was picked for all of the wrong (and archaic) reasons. He played great defense (although not quite Gold Glove quality) from the most important defensive position. However, the impressive 139 runs scored were more of a reflection of staying healthy (716 at-bats) and the lineup around him, as his .344 OBP wasn’t anything special. When you factor in his home ballpark, his .875 OPS is good, not great. In fact, it was only the 22nd best mark in the National League.

His excellent base stealing helped (87 percent success rate), but that really only adds 35 total bases to his resume and never advances another runner in the process. There’s clear value in being the first shortstop in the NL in 34 years to play in every game of a season, but there’s a legitimate argument he was only the third most valuable player on his own team (and own infield). Chase Utley missed time with injury, but he had a superior OPS by .101 and played even better defense from a middle infield position. There’s even an argument that Rollins was the fifth best player on his team, as Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand all had higher OPSs, and Rowand is the game’s best defensive center fielder. Maybe defense makes up for the difference, but Hanley Ramirez was by far the better hitter from the SS position.

I’m not sure whom I would have voted for (probably Jake Peavy), but I do know that the person who finished with the 100th best on-base percentage in baseball probably doesn’t deserve the hardware.

NFL Notes

Byron Leftwich has the slowest delivery in the history of football. The Falcons quarterback of the future is currently not on their roster…Michael Pittman is a decent guy to stash in deeper fantasy leagues, especially in PPR ones. That said, Earnest Graham has really impressed as the starter, and the team hardly misses that Pinto, er, Cadillac.

With Derek Anderson’s rough patch of his schedule behind him, expect top-3 numbers from the fantasy quarterback from here on out…I guess I was a little premature proclaiming Mark Clayton’s resurgence. If he can’t be counted on at home against Cleveland, then he can’t be counted on, period…If Sunday Night Football doesn’t make a Browns contest one of their “flex games” this season, it’d be egregious.

Larry Fitzgerald is very, very good…Just when I think the Bengals can’t disappoint any more, they do…R.I.P. Rudi Johnson…Can you believe the Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart over Jay Cutler? OUCH…Edgerrin James may have the best remaining schedule of any fantasy running back, but I’d use that info trying to deal him before relying upon it.

You could probably make better use of that roster spot than holding onto DeAngelo Williams. Like picking up a backup kicker, or something…Despite appearing only on milk cartons over the past month, I actually expect Steve Smith to suit up and put up a big game this week. Vinny Testaverde has exhibited the ability to go downfield, and the matchup against the Saints is favorable.

I am severely jealous of anyone who has Andre Johnson on their fantasy team…Expect plenty more multiple TD games from Matt Schaub in the future, as the YPA is quite impressive. I’d actually view him as a top-10 QB right now…I’m as unimpressed by Ron Dayne as the next guy, but he makes for another fine start this week against the Browns…This Saints team is soft and can be completely ignored from here on out…Reggie Bush and Mario Williams both look like busts.

Joseph Addai is better than I gave him credit for. He’s not just a product of his environment but a shifty and elusive runner. He has to be seriously considered as the No. 1 overall fantasy pick next year…Yes, the Colts are suffering the consequences of all those injuries, but we’ve seen this before. Indy always jumps out to a terrific start to the season, then stumbles right around now, and at least last year, peaked at the right time. While I seriously doubt New England is going to lose this year, the Colts are still the second best team in the NFL. Their defense is very good, and Peyton Manning will rebound.

Maurice Jones-Drew’s block on Shawne Merriman was the highlight of Week 11. Someone needs to get back on the juice…I’m actually going to flip-flop and predict the Broncos make the playoffs over the Chargers. The discrepancy in quarterback play is dramatic…While Jacksonville doesn’t appear like a good passing team, David Garrard is getting 7.7 YPA with an 8:0 TD:INT ratio…I don’t even like college football all that much, but Lou Holtz’s pep talks are one of the highlights of my week.

Sidney Rice completed 2-of-2 passes and got 47.0 YPA Sunday…LaMont Jordan is one of the bigger enigmas in the league…Since Chester Taylor ran for 164 yards against the Raiders’ front seven, I’m fairly confident Adrian Peterson’s Week 9 record-setting performance would have been short-lived had the rookie not suffered the knee injury…Ronald Curry has 538 receiving yards this season. He’s gained 47 percent of that total in two games.

Death. Taxes. Donovan McNabb getting hurt in mid-November…Can’t wait to hear the MNF guys talk about Ricky Williams’ return to the league during the telecast next week. It will be good stuff. And by that I mean the opposite…Brian Westbrook is one of the 15 best players in the NFL…I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” season finale last week, which Larry David absolutely hit out of the park. It’s my favorite show of all-time, and Season 6 has to go down as one of the three best of the show’s tenure.

Brandon Jacobs is both better than I thought he’d be as a lead back and even more injury-prone than I imagined…Mike Martz likes running the football about as much as Jerry Seinfeld likes being questioned if his show was canceled.

Thomas Jones became the first 100-yard rusher against Pittsburgh in 35 games Sunday. Jones has now been held out of the end zone in 12 straight games…Lost in everyone piling on the Colts is the revelation of a pretty mediocre Steelers team when playing on the road…If Barry Bonds spends 30 years in prison for lying to 23 people about putting a needle into his OWN body, then this world is even crazier than I gave it credit for. Nice to have Mark Geragos back in our lives, however.

In this his 12th year in the league, Terrell Owens ironically sports a career-best 17.7 yards per catch yet a career-worst 4.1 yards after the catch. You know what else is ironic? The fact Alanis Morissette’s song titled “ironic” features lyric after lyric that is nothing of the sorts…If Tony Romo ran for president, he’d have my vote…Speaking of Romo, was Bill Parcells even watching practices the last two years he was in Dallas? I understand the position is difficult to predict, but come on. Parcells seriously thought Drew Bledsoe was a better QB option? Parcells makes for a better Coors Light shill than he does head coach these days.

Coming from someone who went to the 49ers/Rams game Sunday, let me tell you, it’s a good thing the tailgate started at 9 am. Even terrific seats couldn’t make that game watchable…San Francisco actually played well defensively, but make no mistake, this is the worst team in the NFL…Mike Nolan’s decision to kick a 46-yard field goal down by 7 with 1:51 left and then attempt an onside kick made about as much sense as an episode of “John From Cincinnati”…I’m fairly confident I have better hands than Darrell Jackson.

D.J. Hackett is a must-start from here on out…Cedric Benson is a must-sit from here on out…All this Cardinals playoff talk is silly – the Seahawks own the NFC West…If someone dropped Shaun Alexander in my fantasy league, I’d be sure to rush to not pick him up.

I understand the point spread was insane for that Patriots/Bills game, but it’s more than evident this New England team is special. As in, best ever special. I’ve made a couple of bets getting even odds that they’ll go undefeated this season, and I’d take on more if there are any takers…If the 1972 Dolphins played this year’s Patriots, I think they’d be somewhere around 35-40 point underdogs.

For all of us Vince Young apologists – and I led the bandwagon entering the year – it was somewhat vindicating to see him play so well Monday night, and that was with a gimpy leg. Young struggles with accuracy, but the Titans receivers dropped at least 7-10 catchable balls, and I don’t understand why Young doesn’t run like that more often. With the rest of the running game in decline – LenDale White looks as big as a house - Young has rushed for 126 yards over the last two games. His fantasy owners don’t want to hear it, but he still possesses huge upside…I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth reiterating – Jay Cutler is a top-10 commodity in the National Football League. I highly doubt there are five other QBs in the history of the league who got 7.6 YPA through their first 15 career games. His arm strength is ridiculous…Brandon Marshall, AKA “Baby TO,” is an absolute beast. He’s the whole package: height, speed, strength, hands, blocking ability. With Cutler, Marshall and Javon Walker in town, the Broncos’ offensive future is one of the brightest in the league…Calling timeouts immediately before field goals is the silliest trend in the NFL today. Why give a kicker a practice shot?...Andre Hall has to be owned in all fantasy leagues right now, but Selvin Young is still the man in Denver’s backfield.

NFL Notes

The Panthers offense produced zero touchdowns while playing at home against the Falcons Sunday. They are officially one of the best opponents to start your fantasy defense against…Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith: It’s safe to say USC’s system is better than the wide receivers playing in it…Julius Peppers is having one of the most disappointing seasons in the NFL this year.

Effusive in my praise of Adrian Peterson last week, the bloggers curse has struck again. At least I prefaced it noting his previous injury history, but what a blow to fantasy owners. To be honest, I’ve never even heard of the “lateral collateral” ligament and was unaware one existed…Despite the explosive rookie’s presence, Chester Taylor has actually been pretty good this year and makes for a very serviceable play on a run-first team for the time being…Hard to believe the first 100-yard rusher allowed this season by Minnesota was to Ryan Grant.

My main man Kolby Smith was virtually non-existent Sunday, but Priest Holmes is about as boring as an episode of “Heroes.” Don’t be surprised if the 34-year-old gets hurt soon…Arrowhead is officially no longer a difficult place to play an NFL football game…Like Jerry Seinfeld promoting “Bee Movie,” Travis Henry just needs to go away – I’d much rather own Selvin Young at this point.

Instead of wasting everyone’s time talking about the Dolphins/Bills snoozefest, I’d like to take a moment of time to congratulate the MLB voters for actually getting it right this year. Dustin Pedroia over Delmon Young was an easy call, but that doesn’t make it any less surprising that the voters nailed it. Young “led” the American League in outs made, had a 127:26 K:BB ratio, and despite having a strong arm, is still a below average right fielder. Pedroia had him by .100 points of OPS, had a 42:47 K:BB ratio and played the more important defensive position very well…As for Ryan Braun over Troy Tulowitzki, both were very worthy choices. Still, Braun simply had to win this award, despite being the game’s worst defender. Tulo posted a .256/.327/.393 line when not hitting in Coors Field, while Braun led the league with a .634 slugging percentage, which was the highest by a rookie in major league history. The guy hit 34 home runs in 451 at-bats. Defense is important, no doubt, but you’d have to be crazy to think Tulowitzki contributed more wins to his team than Braun did to the Brewers.

So I guess that bye week did some good for this Rams offense. Steven Jackson can now be treated like a top-10, if not top-5 fantasy player, and it looks like Antonio Pittman is the backup to own, not Brian Leonard…Drew Bennett makes for a sneaky pickup in fantasy leagues right now. Isaac Bruce is dealing with a hamstring injury, and the entire St. Louis passing attack looks back on track. With a really good schedule coming up, Bennett – an excellent red zone target - should be a decent flex play…Sunday marked the Rams’ first touchdown scored on the road this season.

Despite giving up 28 points Sunday, make no mistake, this Steelers defense is legit…Willie Parker is on pace to total 1,748 yards this season. And score 3.5 touchdowns…Even in a game that sees him get just 3.5 YPA, Derek Anderson throws three scores…Like the film “American Gangster,” Ben Roethlisberger is very, very good.

I’m beginning to think even I could play quarterback for Jacksonville and have a decent chance at winning the right matchup…I could not have been more wrong regarding Vince Young this season. He’s really not even worth owning in deep leagues at this point…Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the five best running backs in the National Football League.

James Thrash’s TD catch was the first by a Washington wide receiver this season…I may be wrong, but it certainly looked like the Redskins let the Eagles score a rushing touchdown with 2:18 left Sunday, and bravo if that was the case. It definitely gave the team their best chance at winning…Memo to Andy Reid - even if it ties the score, you should not be trying a two-point conversion with 18 minutes left in the game. I’m no mathematician, but going for one point at a 99 percent success rate seems a little better than going for two points at a 45 percent success rate.

Chris Henry will almost certainly be out of the league within a year or two, but when on the field, he’s the most talented receiver in Cincinnati…Mark Clayton is a must-add in every fantasy league right now. A candidate to breakout in this his third year before the season began, he’s finally healthy and has an extremely favorable matchup against Cleveland this week…Although he may have this guy throwing to him.

Aveion Cason led the Lions in rushing Sunday with one carry for one yard…Tim Rattay is the new Mike Alstott – goal line vulture for TDs…I still have faith in Kevin Jones, but T.J. Duckett should probably be owned in all leagues right now…Good thing Dre Bly isn’t very good, because Tatum Bell is an absolute nothing at this point…One thing is clear, any game featuring the Lions will entail a whole lot of turnovers.

The Giants have the superior pass rush and maybe even running game, but the discrepancy between quarterbacks regarding Dallas and New York is significant…If I owned Jeremy Shockey, I’d be shopping him around following his big week – I see his future, and it involves hobbling to the sidelines with a leg injury…This Dallas defense doesn’t get enough credit.

If someone set the Raiders’ over/under for wins over the rest of the season at 0.5, I’d take the under…I’d rather Selvin Young than Cedric Benson for fantasy purposes from here on out…At this point, might as well see what JaMarcus Russell can do.

It doesn’t always work this way, but Reggie Wayne is a good example of why I always prefer receivers who are the only game in town. The guy was targeted 19 times Sunday, more than making up for the extra coverage slid his way with no Marvin Harrison around…Yes, his name is Craphonso Thorpe…It’s past time to start worrying about Philip Rivers’ long-term outlook…The Colts allowed two special team touchdowns, and Peyton Manning threw six interceptions, yet still should have won. There’s zero cause for concern in Indy.

Matt Hasselbeck looks like a surgeon at times and should be treated like a top-5 fantasy QB with Seattle’s pass-happy ways and improved health from his receivers. I value D.J. Hackett as a top-20 fantasy WR right now…Maurice Morris didn’t really impress Monday night, but he’s still an upgrade over Shaun Alexander…The numbers don’t jump out at you, but that was probably the best Frank Gore looked all season – that week off may have done his body some good…The Patriots traded the 28th overall pick last year for Randy Moss and a likely top-3 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. That ranks as a top-5 trade in the history of sports.

Early season trade thoughts

Early season fantasy basketball is all about increasing the value of your team as much as possible, before the season settles into its grind and it just becomes about team maintenance. Picking up the hot free agent is one method of doing this, of course, but the other way is to make smart trades. To give up players that you believe may be a bit overvalued at present in exchange for undervalued guys that hopefully will be worth even more in the long-term. This season there are several star players that have interesting trade potential, so I figured I'd talk a bit about them here. The interesting thing about trading is that there is no one set strategy. As you'll see below, the same player can be either good trade bait or a good trade target, depending on the circumstances.

1) Amare Stoudemire. I didn't draft him in any leagues because I was worried about his knee issues, and early in the season those fears seem justified. So if you used your first round pick on him, and there is another owner in your league willing to pay you first round prices for him now, you might consider making that deal.

On the other hand, because his knee has been causing him to miss action it is possible that the pendelum may have swung the other way. If the Stoudemire owner in your league is panicking and is willing to sell him at say, late 2nd/early 3rd round value, you might consider trying to buy low on him.

2) Jason Kidd. Kidd exploded in the playoffs last season, increasing his already great numbers into the nightly triple-double range. But this preseason he complained of back issues, and even though he is playing now it is possible that his back trouble could affect him, especially in back-to-back situations. Plus, he is well into his 30s and back injuries linger even in younger players. So, if I had him on my team I would consider trading him now, while his numbers still look great.

3) Gilbert Arenas. Arenas has had his knee drained twice already, and his game has not quite lived up to expectations thus far. Like Stoudemire, if I have him and can get full first round quality in return I would probably trade him. But if the Arenas owner in your league is panicking, see if you can snag him on the cheap.

4) Dwyane Wade. Wade has dramatically increased his numbers in every one of his NBA seasons thus far, to the point where he was putting up video game stats last season before his injury. He should be back in games soon, so he makes a very interesting trade case.

Ask yourself this question: what are the odds that his knee and shoulder are sufficiently healed to allow him to reach the lofty stats he posted last season or surpass them? And what are the odds that he avoids injury for the remainder of this season? Your answers to these two questions will determine whether or not he is untouchable (if you own him) or worth going after (if you don't)

I, personally, am a big Wade fan and would absolutely love to have him on my team...but I also believe that the odds of him reaching peak level and maintaining it for 5 months aren't great. So, if someone is offering me top-5 player value for him now...I might just take it.

On the other hand, I wouldn't sell him short. A healthy Wade is virtually untradeably good, so if I'm not getting Kobe Bryant-level offers for him, I probably wait until after he comes back and take the chance that he will return full speed.

NFL Notes

After a 3.9 YPA effort Sunday, Alex Smith has gotten 5.9 YPA with a 19:31 TD:INT ratio during his career. It often takes time for quarterbacks to learn the position, but there’s not much to be optimistic about here. He should have became a scientist or something…San Francisco has very little to cheer about these days, but at least the team hit a home run with the Patrick Willis pick, and Vernon Davis does resemble a future superstar…I have no idea who the Seahawks got in return for Darrell Jackson, but I do know they won that trade…Can’t wait to see what Roddy White will do with a quarterback willing to go downfield. Byron Leftwich isn’t very good, but he will help White’s stats, that’s for sure.

It’s long past time to start considering this Bengals team as a doormat…Lost in the Adrian Peterson hoopla is a terrific rookie season by Marshawn Lynch, who ripped off a couple of sick runs Sunday. He’ll be a first round fantasy pick next season…If loving Lee Evans is wrong, then I don’t want to be right…Kenny Watson simply has to be on the field more than Rudi Johnson.

This Broncos team is baaaad – it’s entirely possible that they have both the worst pass defense (8.5 YPA last in league, 15 TD passes allowed) and run defense (161.5 YPG last in league) in the NFL…I expected more from Roy Williams this season…And yes, Shaun Rogers’ TD was one of the coolest plays so far this year.

I’m writing an open apology to Brett Favre, who I had completely written off entering the year. Sure, he’s still mistake-prone, but the 38-year-old is making some of the most impressive deep throws week in and week out…Greg Jennings is a top-15 WR for fantasy purposes…Looks like Larry Johnson is the latest 370-plus carries victim. I predict this injury is much more serious than the team is letting on…I’m saying it now, Kolby Smith is going to have serious fantasy value over the rest of the season…It’s becoming tiresome, but I’m going to bring up these ridiculous coaching decisions until sanity prevails: the Chiefs went for a 2-point conversion up 20-16 with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter Sunday. Someone, please make it stop.

I hate coming across as this generation is better than the past, but Adrian Peterson right now looks like the best running back in the history of the league. Sure, there are plenty of areas in his game he can improve on (blocking, receiving, fumbling), but this guy is virtually unstoppable in the open field. He might literally be both the fastest and strongest RB I’ve ever seen. His strength cannot be underestimated. Durability is something that can’t be overlooked at this stage, but Peterson is the most valuable fantasy commodity right now…Philip Rivers is maddeningly inconsistent.

Looking at their cupcake schedule, I wasn’t willing to fully consider the Saints as “back.” I was wrong and they are. Since I picked them as NFC Super Bowl representatives before the season started, I’m pleasantly surprised too. In a watered down conference, they are very much in the thick of it…When Quinn Gray and Reggie Williams are burning you for an 80-yard score, it’s time to look in the mirror, Jason David.

Not playing alongside Laveranues Coles helped, but I really think Jerricho Cotchery can have serious fantasy value with Kellen Clemens at the helm…Nice to see Clinton Portis has something left in the tank, but I’d be shopping him like crazy this week…One of the most impressive stat lines of Week 9 had to be David Harris for the Jets, who recorded 24 tackles (20 solo) Sunday. Sure, he was able to do so because he was playing on a defense allowing first down after first down, but it’s an impressive number nevertheless.

Playing in Tampa Bay is one of the toughest places to score points right now…Earnest Graham is pretty good, and the team hardly missed a beat with the Carnell Williams injury. That said, stashing Michael Pittman is a pretty good idea, especially in PPR leagues…Remember when everyone was burning their FAAB on Michael Bennett? Good times.

It’s ironic, but the worst thing for this Titans franchise long-term might be all of this winning going on now. This team has zero upside come playoff time with the way the aerial attack is set up. It’s a shame too, because the defense is a top-3 unit in all of football…If I’m an NFL GM, I’m starting Jeff George at quarterback before I do David Carr again…LenDale White is the new Eddie George – terrible YPC yet terrific fantasy player.

Matt Hasselbeck should be considered a top 5-8 fantasy QB from here on out. Seattle has no running game, an easy upcoming schedule and Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett back in the lineup…If you can trade Shaun Alexander for Selvin Young or Kolby Smith, I’d do it…I want to have Derek Anderson’s children…This Browns team is easily the most fun to watch in the NFL.

The Patriots/Colts game was good, not great. You just got the feeling neither team played even close to their potential, especially on the offensive side of the ball…Fully aware the Colts have the best pass defense in the league, I didn’t like the Pats going more run-heavy than usual, as that’s not their game…Randy Moss is the best receiver in the NFL…There’s not a better cut-back runner than Joseph Addai right now…If these two teams played five times at the RCA Dome, I’d expect the Colts to win three of them. The only problem is, with the loss Sunday, the next time these two will meet will almost certainly be in Foxborough. I’ll go ahead and place the odds of New England going undefeated this season at 75 percent.

Justin Fargas, AKA Huggy Bear Jr., has to be owned in all fantasy leagues and above any other Oakland RB. This team’s run blocking is actually pretty good – Tom Cable is no joke…I got tickets for the upcoming Colts/Raiders game before the season started, and it’s safe to say I may end up watching a game that won’t be a nail-biter. There might be a slight discrepancy in QB talent there…Question: What is a pork burrito from “Chipotle,” a six-pack of Newcastle, or a copy of Radiohead’s “In Rainbows.” Answer: Things I’d trade Ahman Green for.

The only people who consider the Eagles anything but a bad football team haven’t watched them play this season…I’d place the odds of Donovan McNabb wearing an Eagles jersey next season at five percent…Why o why do I pass on Brian Westbrook every year? He’s easily a top-5 RB right now…If I could have the Cowboys and you can have the field to win the NFC, that’s a bet I’d be willing to make. Although Green Bay’s defense is for real.

It’s very clear that there are a big-three in the NFL right now, and the Steelers belong in that group…Steve McNair is currently one of the three worst quarterbacks in the league…Mobility might not be the right word, but Ben Roethlisberger has tremendous footwork and pocket presence. His ability to slide both inside and outside the pocket is second to none, and he’s easily one of the five most important players in the NFL today…If you own Hines Ward in your fantasy league and looked at the box score this morning, you were dumbfounded.

Should you cut a nonproducing sleeper/rookie for a hot free agent?

How long do you give your sleeper/young players to produce before cutting them loose? This is always one of the key questions early in any season, and answering it correctly any given year can be the difference between a good team and a so-so one. The problem is that there’s no consistent right answer. If you cut Ben Gordon in his rookie season after his bad first week you missed out on the eventual 6th Man of the Year. On the other hand, last year I held onto Randy Foye long enough to miss out on hot early season pickups like Leandro Barbosa and Monta Ellis. It’s hard to gauge.

This season, I’m approaching it on a team-by-team basis but I’m more likely to cut my losses early for a hot producer than I’ve been in the past. I’ve already cut Thaddeus Young (one of my favorite rookie sleepers) for Antoine Wright in one league, and Marco Belinelli for Damon Stoudamire in another league. My feeling this year (after being burnt last year) is that I’d rather take advantage of a hot player and hope that, at the very least, I can find a tradeable. And then later on, if it appears that my former young player is about to start producing, hopefully I can get to them on the FA wire before any of my league-mates do. It is risky, but every decision in fantasy sports carries risk, and sometimes risk and reward go hand-in-hand.

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