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Wide Write: Alex Smith Is Alive!

Quick World Series prediction: Yankees in six, with Alex Rodriguez’s five home runs earning him the MVP award. After the series, A-Rod changes his name to “Clutchy McClutchinson.”

OK, back to football ...

As always, not all of this week’s recommendations are included below. There will always be a few more players you need to know about, and to find out who they are, you’ll need to watch the weekly Wide Write video blog, which also can be viewed in the column to the right.

Read on for your Week 8 fantasy football recommendations. If you have any questions, comments or insults, send them to widewritevideoblog@foxnews.com.

Who’s off in Week 8: Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers, Buccaneers, Redskins

Quarterbacks

Start him: Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks

Hasselbeck has been a feast or famine type this season, with a four-TD game, a three-TD game and a pair of no-TD games (he missed two games with a rib injury). Look for at least a bit of a feast this weekend, since Hasselbeck faces the Cowboys and their 22nd-ranked pass defense. If you’re losing a guy like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Jason Campbell or Carson Palmer to the bye, Hasselbeck could be a decent fill-in.

(Yes, one of those quarterbacks was included as a joke. You get a gold star if you guess which one.)

Sit him: Brett Favre, Vikings

How many times can one fantasy analyst get burned by incorrect “sit” recommendations for the same player? Let’s find out.

Favre returns to Lambeau Field as an opponent this week, and if there’s ever been an excuse for a defense to get sky-high, this is it. The Packers have been stingy against the pass, allowing just 174 yards per game to go along with an extremely low 54.4 completion percentage. Isn’t every non-Vikings fan in America rooting for the Pack in this game? Sit Favre, and join the crowd.

Pick him up: Alex Smith, 49ers

I was at the Panthers-Bills game on Sunday – which will certainly rank among the three most wasted hours of my life – and when I saw the Niners-Texans boxscore I said, “Alex Smith? That Alex Smith???!!!” Yep, the former top overall draft pick replaced starter Shaun Hill against to start the second half, and immediately channeled his inner Joe Montana, throwing for 206 yards and three touchdowns. I bet Mike Singletary was as surprised as we were.

Smith has been named as the Niners’ starter this week, and while he’s got a tough matchup against the Colts, he’s also got a cupcake of a game at home against the Titans next week. If you want to get greedy, the Niners face the Lions at home in Week 16, when most fantasy championship games are held. I know the notion of starting Smith in your league title game sounds ridiculous right now, but if you’re trolling for a midseason fantasy backup, Smith might be the one with the biggest potential payoff … IF he keeps playing well, of course.

Running backs

Start him: Ricky Williams, Dolphins

Williams is playing so well that when I see his highlights now, I think, “Wow, he’s terrific” instead of, “Heh-heh, heh-heh-heh … bong.” Too bad, because coming up with bong jokes about Williams has long been a go-to move for any writer. Oh, well.

Though getting fewer carries than Ronnie Brown in Miami, Williams has been terrific, averaging 14 touches and 90 yards per game, and scoring six times already, including three TDs against the Saints in Week 7. This week, Williams and the Dolphins visit the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS, who have given up an average of 144 yards on the ground over the last four weeks. Williams is on too much of a roll to sit right now, especially with this matchup.

Sit him: Pierre Thomas, Saints

Thank you, Mike Bell. Thomas was every fantasy wiseguy’s second-tier running back recommendation in August after running like a stud in the second half of 2008. This year, after missing the first two weeks with a knee injury, Thomas has gotten to a point where he’s not only sharing the workload with Bell, but ceding all the Saints’ goal-line carries to him as well. It’s far too early to waive Thomas, but after seeing him get just eight carries last week, you should probably keep him on the bench until he gives you a reason not to.

Pick him up: Shonn Greene, Jets

Ladies and gentlemen, meet this week’s most popular fantasy free agent. After Leon Washington suffered a season-ending broken leg against the Raiders on Sunday, Greene came into the game and … holy cow. Nineteen carries, 144 yards and two touchdowns is a good way to get noticed by fantasy owners, even if it all came against the horrible Raiders.

Greene is more of a traditional tailback than the change-of-pace Washington, but unless the Jets decide that they want to run Thomas Jones until he collapses from exhaustion, Greene will get enough work to be at least a nice matchup option. This week against the strong Miami run defense might not be such a matchup, but I guess that depends on who else you have. After last week, I think I’d look to play Greene, anyway.

Receivers (WR/TE)

Start him: Vernon Davis (TE), 49ers

The tight end position is generally a matchup play unless you have one of the top handful (Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Dallas Clark and probably Owen Daniels). Davis has just about pushed himself into that must-play group, with 29 receptions, 355 yards and six touchdowns in his first six games of the season. How this guy can be available in more than 40 percent of FOXSports.com leagues is amazing.

Wait – did I just plug two 49ers in the same fantasy column? I think I’m having a 1989 flashback.

Sit him: DeSean Jackson, Eagles

Yes, I know Jackson had two long, electrifying touchdowns against the Redskins on Monday night, and he’s breathtakingly fast. While he’s a threat to break one at any moment, he’s also 21st in the league in receiving yards (423), and tied for 60th in receptions (21). You want to start him? Best of luck. Some weeks he’ll make you look like a genius, and others – like Weeks 1 and 5, when he had less than 10 yards receiving – he’ll make you look like an idiot. As bad as the Giants’ pass defense has looked over the last two weeks, they’re no pushover.

Pick him up: Austin Collie, Colts

Collie might have an expiration date that reads “as soon as Anthony Gonzalez gets back,” but if he keeps playing this well it’ll be hard for the Colts to plant him on the bench. Collie has 18 catches for 198 yards and four touchdowns over his last three games. If you can find a better, more widely available (27 percent owned) fantasy free agent receiver, good for you.

Also: On this week’s video, I said that Redskins TE Chris Cooley would probably miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Now the ‘Skins are saying that Cooley could be back in four weeks. I wouldn’t count on that, though … Eagles RB Brian Westbrook will probably miss Week 8 with a concussion … Texans WR Andre Johnson bruised a lung on Sunday, but the team is talking like he’s ready to go … Lions WR Calvin Johnson is TBD with the knee injury that kept him out in Week 6 … Colts RB Donald Brown hurt his shoulder in Week 7; his status is TBD for this week. Teammate Reggie Wayne is day-to-day with a groin injury …Packers TE Jermichael Finley probably won’t play due to a knee injury … Bills QB Trent Edwards is out again with a concussion; Ryan Fitzpatrick gets another start after his spectacular 123-yard effort last week. Try to contain your excitement … Finally, there have been a lot of rumors this week about the Chiefs cutting RB Larry Johnson because he A) trashed his coach on Twitter, B) used anti-gay slurs twice in two days, and C) is generally a pain in the butt. If you’re looking to speculate on a back in a bye week, try Johnson’s backup, Jamaal Charles.

Thanks for reading, and once again, make sure to watch this week’s edition of the Wide Write video blog by clicking here. Share it with your friends, post it on your Facebook page – really, I’d like to be just about everywhere if it’s OK with you.


John Halpin writes Wide Write and hosts an accompanying video blog every week throughout the NFL season. He also writes fantasy columns and early-morning blogs four days a week at FOXSports.com/fantasy. You can receive more fantasy news and contact John by following him on Twitter (@jhalpin37).