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Wide Write: Fear and Wagering in Las Vegas

Team Wide Write spent Week 7 in the money-losing paradise of Las Vegas, where there’s nothing better than watching a roomful of football bettors emotionally invested in a see-saw point spread battle late in a game. We were fortunate enough to be at the MGM Grand Sports Book near the end of the 49ers-Giants matchup. The Giants were ahead 27-17, and favored by ten-and-a-half points. People were getting nervous.

With 5:08 left, Niners QB J.T. O’Sullivan was sacked for the 67th time in the game, and Giants DE Justin Tuck stripped the ball as he made contact. The ball bounced around a bit, and rolled toward the goal line before alert Niners WR Josh Morgan intentionally kicked it through the back of the end zone for a safety. The Giants’ lead grew to 12, and the roar was so loud you’d have thought everyone in the room had just hit a video poker jackpot for $10,000. Next time someone tells you fantasy players don’t care who wins or loses the real games, ask them if they gamble, and recount this story.

Quarterback

Trent Edwards, Bills — Ladies and gentlemen, meet the NFL’s most underappreciated quarterback. He’s 10-4 as the Bills’ starter since last season, and is averaging 238 yards plus a touchdown per game this year. Being a Stanford grad, Edwards has a reputation for being pretty smart, but he’s much more than that. This week, he and best buddy Lee Evans (521 receiving yards, three TDs) travel to Miami to face the Dolphins’ 27th-ranked pass defense. You know what to do here.

(P.S. While in Vegas, we wagered $20 on the Bills to win the Super Bowl at 20-1 odds. We put our money where our mouths are with Edwards.)

Jeff Garcia, Buccaneers — This is more about piling on the Cowboys’ depleted pass defense than it is about Garcia, who completed 27 of 36 passes for 310 yards and a score against the atrocious Seahawks last week. Even if WR Joey Galloway doesn’t return from his injury hiatus on Sunday, it looks like Dallas is down to the lower rungs of its DB depth chart, and might need to lure Deion Sanders out of retirement to play one of the corners. Besides, Garcia is married to a former Playboy Playmate, so you’ve gotta start him at least once this season, right?

David Garrard, Jaguars — OK, maybe this is the NFL’s most underappreciated signal caller, even if he is built like a fire hydrant. After playing with robotic precision last season (18 TDs and three INTs in 12 starts), Garrard was a little shaky to start 2008, throwing four picks in his first three games. But he’s turned things around in his last three, averaging 237 yards and a score with no interceptions. Even though the Browns’ D isn’t bad, Garrard is a steady, solid quarterback who’s a good bet to put up steady, solid numbers against anyone. If your star QB is ever injured or on a bye, and you need a fill-in to keep you in the game, Garrard’s a great guy to have. Have we mentioned that he’s steady and solid?

Running Back

Kevin Faulk, PatriotsLaurence Maroney is on injured reserve, and Sammy Morris is day-to-day this week with a knee injury. Enter the dependable Faulk, who has touched the ball 29 times (19 rushes, 10 receptions) in his last three games, totaling 194 yards and two touchdowns. If you want to gamble on a huge game from someone, look elsewhere. But if you need a bye-week replacement for someone like Adrian (Purple Jesus) Peterson or Matt Forte, then Faulk could give you a decent day — or perhaps more if Morris can’t go.

Ahman Green, Texans — The brittle Green has gone three whole games without getting injured, so you’re definitely on borrowed time if you own him. With that said, he was on a pretty straight timeshare last week against Detroit, carrying 14 times for 62 yards and a score compared to Steve Slaton’s 17-80-1. The Texans get to face another soft run defense (Cincinnati) this week, so we could see repeat performances from both Green and Slaton.

Green would be the rare guy who’s probably better to own as a platoon player than as a full-time starter … if there was still such a thing as a full-time starter at running back in the NFL. Thank you again for ruining fantasy football with your annoying backfield committees, Mike Shanahan.

Deuce McAllister, Saints — Deuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce! The Saints play the Chargers in London this week, and with Reggie Bush out, McAllister appears to be in line to get most of the carries. The eight-year veteran is averaging more than four yards per carry in a part-time role this year, and with Drew Brees’ aerial assault spreading the field, McAllister should see some holes. If you’re in one of those leagues that awards bonus points for yardage gained outside North America, then McAllister is a must-start.

(Warning: When the Giants and Dolphins played at London’s Wembley Stadium last season, the field looked like a crowd of soccer hooligans came out in the morning, tore it up, and then threw all the loose pieces of sod back down just as the NFL game was about to start. Wide Write assumes no responsibility if McAllister steps in a hole and tears his ACL in the first quarter on Sunday.)

Receiver (WR/TE)

Donnie Avery, Rams — OK, so we’re a week late getting on this rookie’s bandwagon, but better late than never, right? Avery has been a frequent target of Marc Bulger’s over the past two weeks, catching nine passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, and adding a near-miss in the end zone on a Bulger overthrow against the Cowboys. We’d tell you more about Avery, but the most interesting thing in his bio on the Rams’ Web site is that he majored in sports administration at the University of Houston. Zzz …

Kevin Curtis, Eagles — Since we were late on Avery, we’re going to jump in early on Curtis, who’s scheduled to make his first appearance of 2008 this week after missing six games due to sports hernia surgery. The 30-year-old Curtis was Donovan McNabb’s favorite target in 2007, catching 77 passes for 1,110 yards and six scores, and posting a 221-yard, three-TD game against the Lions (shock!) in September. The Eagles host the Falcons and their 26th-ranked pass defense this week, and we’re betting on Curtis to catch a handful of passes.

Mike Furrey, Lions — After Roy Williams was traded last week, Lions head coach Rod Marinelli was non-committal about whether Furrey or Shaun McDonald would be the busier man opposite Calvin Johnson. Here’s the tally from Sunday:

Furrey: Six catches, 89 yards

McDonald: Zero catches, minus-seven yards

Impossible, you say? Well, on the last play of the loss against the Texans, quarterback Dan Orlovsky completed a pass to Furrey, who then lateraled to the yardage-losing McDonald. If that’s not bad enough, McDonald was actually targeted six times in the game by Orlovsky, who threw incomplete every time. So, while McDonald was really just as busy as Furrey, he and his QB clearly have an oil-and-water thing going.

Johnson’s going to be quadruple-covered on just about every down for the rest of the season, so someone else is going to have to get the ball sometimes. Until we can prove that Orlovsky isn’t intentionally missing McDonald due to some sort of Polish-Irish feud, we’ll stick with Furrey.

Finally, don’t forget your byes this week — the Bears, Broncos, Packers and Vikings are vacationing together in Wasilla, Alaska.


John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning fantasy blog Sundays through Fridays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" appears every Thursday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at jhalpin37@gmail.com.

For more fantasy sports coverage, visit FOXSports.com/fantasy.