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1st and 10: Thoughts from the Fantasy Football Champs

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Week 6 of the NFL and fantasy football season is in the book and what a week it was with all kinds of major upsets and break-out fantasy performances.

As mentioned in this column last week, we are in the window, Weeks 7-11, where fantasy football championships are made. I believe the best teams are started at the draft and finished on the waiver wire and by making the smart, savvy trade. At FFChamps.com, this is where we dig deepest for our members, to ensure they are not missing a key waiver pick-up, are handcuffing the right players and are being proactive to trade away players that became overvalued early for those that may be undervalued or discounted due to a slow start or injury. FFChamps.com's Rest of the Way Rankings, different from our FFCPI weekly rankings, are the way we assess players for the rest of the season. Our Strength of Schedule tools and formula also begins to weigh in heavily to the rankings, as by Week 6 we now have accurate data on which defenses are the toughest to run or pass against. The bottom line is, whatever guidance you follow, this is the time to pay attention to details in order to bring home your fantasy football trophy.

I am down on Michael Vick and hence, all Eagles offensive studs. I drafted Shady McCoy with the fourth overall pick in one of my leagues and had high hopes. I still do but am very concerned that Michael Vick's inconsistency, mistakes and desire to run too often is bringing down Shady, Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. I'm sticking with Shady but I would not rely on Vick as a No. 1 QB. I do not believe you can get to the Promised Land with him as your fantasy QB nor, can the Eagles with him as their starting QB. In fact, this will be his final year in Philly.

On the flip side of Vick is Peyton Manning, who is rapidly ascending to the top of the MVP heap. I decided to follow FFChamps' fifth commandment -- Thou Shall Wait on Thy Quarterback – and drafted Peyton later, after the Brees, Brady, Rodgers demand was long gone. Denver has a favorable schedule the rest of the way, including a weakened Baltimore defense and Cleveland in Weeks 15 and 16. Peyton struggled in the first half of Week 6 at San Diego but ended up as one of the top QBs of the week. That's what he's always done and he's doing it again.

Speaking of the Ravens, their above mentioned struggles and decimated defense is a boon for their offense and especially their passing game. For one, FFChamps.com proprietary Strength of Schedule tool, http://www.ffchamps.com/p/resources.sos/, has the Ravens with the most favorable remaining schedule, with no matchups against what we see as a tough passing defense and several games vs. weaker pass Ds. I expect Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and even Dennis Pitta to perform the rest of the way, especially as their defense struggles and they are in shootouts or are playing from behind.

That brings me to the Chicago Bears. I am a big fan of a healthy Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and even Jay Cutler as a value QB. However, the Bears schedule down the stretch is downright tough. Cutler and crew go up against San Francisco, Minnesota twice, Seattle and Arizona. That is brutally challenging and will affect the fantasy football stats of the Bears best players. If you have Marshall or Forte and could find someone who really wants these guys, and could get two strong WRs a tier below to help your second and third starting WR spots in your lineup, it might be worth trying to catch someone who is not using FFChamps.com and is unaware of the Bears match-ups defensively. I'm just saying, it's worth a look.

FFChamps.com 10 Commandments No. 7 is Thou Must Draft Key Players' Back-Ups. This is the time of year where, if you like your lineup, you must protect your championship run. I will use one of my own teams as an example. I am 4-2 in a competitive league. My running backs are Shady McCoy and MJD. My back-up running backs are other teams' back-ups or weak starters, such as Jackie Battle, Danny Woodhead and Vic Ballard. This week, I traded my depth at WR, moving Anquan Boldin (whom I like a lot, see above) and two roster-filler players for Rashad Jennings, Bryce Brown and Josh Gordon. I decided that I am going to stick with McCoy and MJD and that if either went down then Jennings and Brown would be the starters and carry the rock 20 times a game. While I am not crazy about the Jacksonville offense, a starting back there is better than a back-up for the Chargers. I also thought that, while riskier and more hit-or-miss than Boldin, Josh Gordon could provide me big play potential as a third WR. Clearly, the team I traded with was selling Gordon high off his two great weeks but considering I protected and handcuffed my starting RBs, the trade was a good move. I also have Big Ben as a backup to Peyton Manning, Kyle Rudolph to Tony Gonzalez, and Mike Williams, Sidney Rice and Brian Hartline along with Gordon, to choose from as my third WR. If you have a winning team that you like at this point, go get your key players' backups before they get injured and you are held hostage. Any trade should always better your starting lineup unless you are protecting your existing one.

Other teams that our Strength of Schedule tool is favoring, along with the Ravens, are the Broncos, the Chiefs (who play Cleveland, Oakland and Indy Weeks 14-16), the Raiders (Tennessee and San Diego Weeks 15,16), and the Browns (Oakland, KC, Washington, Denver Weeks 13-16).

With Peyton Manning looking like a fantasy football stud, and Denver's soft schedule, I also believe Willis McGahee could have a strong rest of the season. For one, he has always had a knack for the end zone, and with Denver's passing attack flying, teams will have to drop linebackers into coverage giving John Fox the opportunity to utilize McGahee, who has sleeper breakaway speed. If you are in a PPR league, McGahee is on pace for 48 receptions as well. If you have him, keep an eye on the rest of the Denver backfield. The backup du jour seems to be Ronnie Hillman, the highly touted rookie. Knowshon Moreno has been a healthy scratch and Lance Ball has not done much but in Denver that could change and I would not be surprised to see Moreno surface as the season goes deeper. However, there is no doubt that McGahee is the No. 1 and I like him in the closing weeks of the fantasy football season this year.

Each week I list five players I'd love to have. Last week these were Rashad Mendenhall, Demaryius Thomas, Willis McGahee, Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Marshall. Other than Mendenhall's health, I have no retractions from this list. This week's five players I'd love to have: Jamal Charles, who as discussed in this column will be facing porous run defenses and is still one of the NFL's most explosive players; Jordy Nelson, who I had on this list earlier in the season, something he finally validated with his 3 TD game Monday night. With James Jones continuing to prove this is his true breakout season and Jennings due back but banged up, I expect Nelson to continue to emerge as the fantasy football top 10 WR draft pick he was this season; Mike Wallace, who has definitively emerged as the Steelers big play and go-to WR, and can score double digit fantasy football points on one play (he did that with his 82 yard TD in his last game); Darren Mcfadden, who is the Raiders offense and will continue to be relied on while playing a soft defensive schedule in several key weeks; Kyle Rudolph, also a Week 1 mention in Players I'd Love to Have. Rudolph is Christian Ponder's safety valve, red zone go-to, and has now scored five times. The chemistry is there and the Vikings are an offensive surprise defenses are so keyed in on Adrian Peterson that Rudolph is becoming automatic inside the 8 yard line. Honorable mention goes to the guy I have on two teams, Mike Williams, who is quietly putting up a very nice season in Tampa alongside Vincent Jackson.

Each week I list five players I am worried about. Last week these were Steven Jackson, Shonn Greene, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson and the Green Bay running game. Only Shonn Greene proved me wrong with his first and only good game. However, he remains on this list. Chris Johnson is the only player on here worth keeping an eye on, as he still can have a great game here and there and the Titans are slightly improving. This week's five players I'm worried about: Demarco Murray, who's on this watch list often. He is now hurt, possibly badly, on a struggling team with a Jekyll and Hyde ownership; Doug Martin, who suddenly has LeGarrette Blount in the rearview mirror, something worth keeping an eye on; Frank Gore, who has carried the rock a lot in recent years and wore down in the second half of last season. Because of that, Harbaugh may use a running back committee in SF; Miles Austin, who has not returned to the form of his great breakout season and has Dez Bryant coming off his best game of the year; and as said above, Michael Vick, who will be on this watch list in perpetuity.

Tweet us your questions @ffchamps or Visit www.ffchamps.com for around the clock rankings, strategy, and one on one advice, all the way through your Fantasy Football Championship. FFChamps.com: Extraordinary Results for Fantasy Football Dominance.

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