I hope most readers are still alive in their fantasy football league and fighting for the prize, whether that is a trophy, cash, or bragging rights. I am in three highly competitive leagues and in a neck and neck tight race for one of four playoff spots in one, with a team that I believe is strong, led by the steal of the draft, MVP candidate Peyton Manning. In my second league, I'm also in the hunt as six teams make the playoffs. I have the two top-ranked WRs in the league so far (Victor Cruz and A.J. Green), as well as Tom Brady.
In my third league, I am sadly done and riding out the rest of the way. I started with the 10th pick in a 10-team league, made a mistake at 10, and never recovered. One note: If you are in a league where you are eliminated too early, please put in your best lineup each week and play to win. That, to me, should be a major rule in fantasy football code of ethics. We are all busy watching football, with kids, sports and work, but it could make the difference to another team in your league.
Last week I led off by reiterating that you must always play your studs. At www.FFChamps.com, Thou Shall Start Your Studs is our 10th and final of the FFChamps Ten Commandments of Fantasy Football. This may seem like a no-brainer but inevitably there will come a time when one of your studs is in a slump. It could strike at any time and sometimes it's due to a minor injury or someone just isn't playing great. Or maybe they are going against a very tough defense and you are considering benching them. I referenced Calvin Johnson's slump last week and to add even more difficulty to the decision whether to play Megatron, he did not practice and was a game-time decision. However, as soon as the word came that he was starting, he was in my, and I hope everyone else's, starting lineup. He delivered a solid 8 reception, 129 yard outing. If you are unsure if a player is a stud, go to FFChamps.com and our proprietary weekly player rankings -- the FFCPI -- where we clearly label all the studs.
!We continue to monitor schedules and defensive match-ups with the FFChamps strength of schedule tool and drive that point home in each week's 1st and 10. This season is a bit of a challenge, as the teams with the best QB and WR match-ups the rest of the season are some of the weaker offenses, such as KC, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Jets, Carolina and Indy. As we stressed above, if you have a stud on these teams, that is a tremendous advantage, especially in weeks 14-16. Steve Smith finally got a TD last week and Cam Newton showed signs of life, something he could exploit against weaker pass defenses the rest of the season. If MJD comes back for the end of the fantasy football season rested and healthy, he will be worth playing. Andrew Luck, coming off a 433 yards passing, 2 TD game, will also likely be strong down the stretch against favorable match-ups. I am worried about the Chiefs anemic offense and horrible quarterback situation. Jamal Charles has had some brilliant weeks but some awful duds, largely because the team is so bad. I am not convinced there is a favorable match-up for this Chiefs offense but if there is any time you may do well with Chiefs players fantasy football-wise, it will be weeks 10-16. Dwayne Bowe and Charles are worth rolling with if you believe the Chiefs can step it up vs. porous defenses.
By now, we are all enamored with Doug "Muscle Hamster" Martin and his remarkable Sean Alexander 4 TD game last weekend. It made me look good as I had just touted the emergence of the Tampa offense and its key players as a next great fantasy football offense in this column. However, don't let the fact that Adrian Peterson is a stud get lost in all the Doug Martin hype. AD is a top 3 Fantasy RB through Week 9 and in all three of my leagues, and I'm sure in yours too, he slipped anywhere from a late 1st round to an early 3rd round draft pick because of his healing ACL. AD was the steal of your draft and in hindsight a top 1-3 pick by all standards. He is a machine. Big plays and consistent TDs and yardage win fantasy football games and AD does all three of these.
!It's no secret that another draft day steal was Peyton Manning, who like AD, was available later than usual due to a 2011 injury. I followed FFChamps.com Ten Commandments #5, Thou Shall Wait on Thy Quarterback, and took Manning in the sixth round of my draft. Along with Matty Ice Ryan, the elder Manning is the leading candidate for NFL MVP and vs. a softer schedule could propel fantasy football teams to the Super Bowl. He is only eight games into a new team and offense. It is possible he has not even yet hit his stride. With Peyton on fire, and Decker and Thomas also playing like top 8 WRs, I expect a strong rest of the season for Willis McGahee. McGahee is a rock solid fantasy football back, averaging 98 yards per game from scrimmage, scores TDs and is now on a dynamic offense. Teams will key on Manning, opening up the door for McGahee.
Let us know at @FFChamps if you believe Peyton or Matt Ryan would be MVP if the voting took place today.
Week 9 is one of the final bye weeks and I see some decent QB replacement possibilities. Joe Flacco plays against Oakland's 21st ranked pass defense, Big Ben is playing the miserable KC Chiefs and Ryan Fitzpatrick may have the opportunity to put up points against the Patriots suspect cornerbacks, especially if he is chasing Tom Brady all day and playing from behind. I could see Fitzpatrick piling up some late, garbage time fantasy points. Lastly, Ryan Tannehill plays Tennessee, ranked 27th in passing defense. As written last week, the Dolphins are improving; Brian Hartline had over 100 yards last week and Tannehill is a strong replacement for for QB bye in Week 9.
Injuries are part of the NFL and just as they affect NFL teams, they also affect fantasy football teams. Last week alone, injuries occurred to super fantasy footballers Percy Harvin, Jordy Nelson and Darren McFadden. In the NFL, there is only so much strength one can have on the bench. The Patriots have always been one of, if not the best, teams to adapt to injuries as they have a system into which they believe any player can be plugged. Fantasy Football is different. If you draft, trade and use waivers properly, by following FFChamps.com's waiver wire pickups and trade, bait and prey suggestions, you should be able to survive an injury. For example, say you are in a league that starts two running backs and three wide receivers. On your roster you have what amounts to either five strong starting WRs, two solid quarterbacks or four strong starting running backs. As you approach your trading deadline you may be able to afford to trade that extra positional player for someone that improves your starting lineup while still staying balanced. No one wins fantasy football leagues with strong players on the bench. Winners move that strong player to improve their starting lineup. By building depth at one position, you can trade one player to improve elsewhere and keep one extra starter in case of injury. The key to winning fantasy is having the best starting lineup you can, with enough depth to survive an injury while not wasting away points on the bench.
Each week I list five players I'd love to have. Last week they were Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez Dolphins WRs Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, and Calvin Johnson. White, Hartline and Megatron each had 100 yard games, and Bess had a solid points per reception week with 6 catches. Gonzo had another quiet week but I still keep all of these players on this list this week. This week's five players I'd love to have are: TY Hilton, who had 102 yards and a TD and as said above, is on a Colts offense that has a soft pass defense schedule the rest of the fantasy football season; Ronnie Hillman, who is now entrenched as Willis McGahee's back up. Hillman is a speedy rookie who has shown some potential. He is worth a flyer and certainly is a must back-up to McGahee; Owen Daniels, who is on arguably the best team in football and has scored 5 TDs in his last six games and is Matt Schaub's red zone go-to, made better by the presence of Andre Johnson; Mikel Leshoure, who had a not-to-be-expected-each-week 3 touchdowns in Week 9 but is on an offense starting to find some synergy and has a knack for the end zone; and James Jones and Randall Cobb, both very late round fantasy football draft picks or even early season waiver wire players, and now the No. 1 and 2 wide receivers for the best QB in fantasy football.
!Each week I list five players I am worried about. Last week these were Philip Rivers, LeGarrette Blount, Michael Turner, Greg Jennings and Rashad Mendenhall. Rivers had an OK week, throwing 2 touchdowns on 220 yards, but will only come off the list if he is consistently throwing for 300 yards a week. Blount, who had taken a back seat to Doug Martin, just got pushed onto the side of the road after he fumbled on one of his few carries and Martin ran wild. Turner looked real good and gave up less carries to Rodgers, which is my only concern, while Mendenhall is still gimpy with Redman looking awesome rushing for 147 yards. The Steelers are saying it's Mendenhall's job if and when healthy but if Redman keeps on trucking like he did in Week 9, they won't be in any hurry to bring Mendenhall back. This week's five players I am worried about are: All Eagles offensive players subjected to Mike Vick as their QB and Andy Reid as their head coach, including my own 1st round pick Shady McCoy, who is doing great considering Vick's ineptitude; Darren McFadden, who I have listed as a player I love but is now once again injured with the dreaded high ankle sprain. McFadden tends to come back from injuries very slowly; Antonio Brown, also injured, who could come off this list quickly if he gets back on the field; and Hakeem Nicks, who is still dealing with lingering knee issues, is the second option to Victor Cruz, and will struggle as long as Eli Manning continues to struggle.
Remember to tweet us @FFChamps and let us know who is your MVP to date, Ryan or Manning and 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.