In most fantasy leagues, you either have just finished the first round of your playoffs, or you're about to start them. You're probably extra-proud of the players cited below in the Good category, and more PO'd than usual at the Bad players, since they may have ended your season.
If you're done for 2007, the best way to start the grieving process is to counsel your still-alive friends on what they should do to win a league championship. Don't wait for them to ask, either. People love unsolicited advice about their fantasy teams.
To get your career as a fantasy expert started, here are a few nuggets geared toward more casual leagues:
1. Play Matt Hasselbeck if you have him. We didn't include him in the must-start list last week, probably because we got spooked by his so-so Week 13 outing against the Eagles. In Seattle's five-game winning streak, he's averaging 38 attempts and 265 yards per game, and has tossed 11 touchdowns against just three interceptions. The Seahawks are going to ride Hasselbeck as far as he'll take them, and so should his fantasy owners unless their other QB's names are Brady, Manning or Romo. Only 55 percent of Hasselbeck's owners in FOXSports.com leagues started him in Week 14, so this one isn't as obvious as you might think.
2. Ryan Grant is really good. Grant has played pretty well since winning the Packers' starting job by process of elimination, but you had the nagging feeling it was all going to end soon -- or at least we had that feeling. But with 558 yards, five scores and a 5.4 yards-per-carry average in his last five games, Grant has progressed from possible fluke to solid starter. If one of your friends owns Grant, he's probably starting him already -- 63 percent of FOXSports.com teams had him active in Week 14. Remind the owner just in case.
3. The Vikings' defense is on fire. Can you say something like that about a unit that ranks last in the NFL in passing yards allowed? Sure, since they've really come on over the last few weeks. The Vikes have been racking up the fantasy points since Eli Manning forgot he wasn't supposed to throw touchdowns to the guys in the purple helmets. This week, the Vikings host the Bears and new starting QB Kyle Orton on Monday night, and then get a visit from career backup Todd Collins and the Redskins in Week 16. Jackpot.
4. Don't forget to set lineups early since there are Thursday and Saturday games every week. This could be a life saver for your absent-minded buddies. This week, it's Broncos-Texans on Thursday night, and Bengals-Niners Saturday. Make someone buy you a beer if you're the one to remind him.
Now, for those of you who are still playing:
Quarterbacks (non-Brady division)
GOOD: Jay Cutler, Denver
The man from Santa Claus, Ind., completed 20 of 27 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-7 win over the Chiefs. Cutler's been better lately, throwing nine TDs against four picks in his last five games, but he's still too inconsistent to trust unless your alternatives are really bad.
Honorable mention: Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle (22-33, 272 yards, 4 TD); Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (13-17, 249 yards, 4 TD)
BAD: Vince Young, Tennessee
In Weeks 10 through 13, Young averaged 36 pass attempts, 264 yards passing and 44 yards rushing per game. If you drafted him with high hopes a few months ago, it was enough to make you want to get him back in the lineup.
If you did start him, we're sorry. Young put up a stinker against the Chargers, completing just 13 of 21 for 121 yards with two interceptions, and an un-Vince-like two carries for two yards. Young now has seven touchdown passes and 16 interceptions in 2007. Thanks for a terrible season, Vince.
THIS WEEK'S PLAY: Eli Manning, New York Giants
This one is for the desperate among you. Maybe your team was solid enough to get this far despite counting on a low-end No. 1 quarterback like Jon Kitna, Donovan McNabb or Marc Bulger. You don't have faith in your starter, and want to catch lightning in a bottle for your playoff game. Can Eli really be the answer?
Um, maybe. Eli and the Giants are home Sunday night to face the 6-7 Redskins, who allowed 309 yards to Chicago's Grossman/Griese combo last week, and 257 yards against Buffalo rookie Trent Edwards the week before. If you need to gamble on a QB this week, start Eli if you have him.
GOOD: Marion Barber, Dallas
Nobody EVER talks about this guy. After scoring 14 touchdowns in a part-time role last year, Barber has nine more to go along with 839 rushing yards so far in 2007. If he wasn't sharing carries with the perennially mediocre Julius Jones, he'd be one of the top running backs in the league.
Against the Lions, Barber had a limited role, with seven carries for 43 yards, but he had 10 receptions for 61 yards. He also scored three times, so his fantasy owners have already forgotten about the low rushing yardage.
Honorable mention: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (26 carries, 146 yards, 1 TD; 5 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD); Joseph Addai, Indianapolis (13 carries, 32 yards, 2 TD; 3 receptions, 49 yards, 1 TD)
BAD: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
It's likely that the man called Purple Jesus carried your fantasy team into the playoffs. A Week 14 matchup against the terrible 49ers loomed for your hero, and you told your wife or girlfriend not to make any plans for the weekend before Christmas, because you were going to be in front of the TV wearing your Vikings No. 28 jersey and cheering your team to a fantasy league championship.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Peterson posted one of the all-time fantasy playoff stinkbombs -- 14 carries for THREE yards. You're stunned, shocked, flummoxed -- it's like someone spent three months setting you up for the worst practical joke ever. You can't be mad at Peterson, because he was the season's breakout star, and YOU had him. Everyone patted you on the back for your drafting acumen all year long, and it was great. Best pick you ever made, right?
Well, it's over now, champ. As long as you're home by yourself, in a room where nobody can hear you, it's okay to cry a little bit. We understand.
THIS WEEK'S PLAY: Justin Fargas, Oakland
Fargas has games of 179, 146 and 139 yards this season. With 920 yards so far, he's not starting for as many fantasy teams as you might think (44 percent last week). He's got a home matchup against the so-so Colts' run D this week, and we think you can expect a strong outing from him.
Besides, it's not often that you get to root for the son of Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch. No, not the Ben Stiller-Owen Wilson-Snoop Dogg movie version -- the 1970s TV show. That link is okay, but we prefer the French language site. Wait for the theme song.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (non-Moss division)
GOOD: Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis
Since returning from a hand injury three weeks ago, Gonzalez has had the following totals:
• Week 12: Six receptions, 105 yards
• Week 13: One reception, 22 yards
• Week 14: Six receptions, 134 yards, two touchdowns
What's Gonzalez going to do moving forward? We have no idea, but if you started him last week, congratulations. We dare you to do it again.
Honorable mention: Brandon Marshall, Denver (10 receptions, 115 yards, 2 TD); Marques Colston, New Orleans (9 receptions, 92 yards, 2 TD)
BAD: Terrell Owens, Dallas
T.O. is having the best season of his career, with 74 catches, 1,270 yards and 14 touchdowns so far. Heading into the fantasy playoffs, he was your go-to guy. That's why it's very possible he capsized your season with his three-reception, 21-yard performance against the Lions. Owens hadn't been held without a TD since Week 5 against the Bills. Great timing, don't you think?
THIS WEEK'S PLAY: Brandon Marshall, Denver
Fifty-one percent of FOXSports.com teams didn't start Marshall in Week 14. We want to find those 51 percent, grab them and smack some sense into them. How good do your other receivers have to be to bench a guy who's on pace for 92 catches, 1,266 yards and seven or eight TDs?
If you read this column five weeks ago, you know that we're fans of Marshall (Hasselbeck, too). He hasn't had a lot of really big games, but he's been solid, and we kind of thought some big ones were coming. Week 14 was a big one for Marshall, and we wouldn't be surprised if he put up another on Thursday night against the Texans.
John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning football blog Sundays through Thursdays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" will appear every Tuesday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at email@example.com.
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