Wide Write: Time to Start -- Matt Cassel?

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We’re about halfway through the season, and one quirk we’ve seen is the unusually high number of horrible NFL teams. Fortunately, most of them are off this week, but their fans are still angry. Need proof? Here’s an e-mail that was sent to us on Sunday by Browns fan Doug Seibert:

I would like to confirm that all of today’s Browns that played have been paid to date and have no issues with management. That being said, they should give back their pay and go on an incentive pay plan as in most companies, i.e., you get paid for your results. After today, most of them would be getting food stamps.

Browns fever – catch it!

As always, all this week’s recommendations aren’t 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 can be accessed in the column to the right.

Read on for your Week 9 fantasy football recommendations. If you have any questions, comments or insults, send them to widewritevideoblog@foxnews.com.

Who’s off in Week 9: Bills, Raiders, Browns, Rams, Jets, Vikings


Start him: Matt Cassel, Chiefs

Cassel  hasn’t come close to repeating his 2008 success as Tom Brady’s fill-in, but he’s got a good matchup this week against the Jaguars, whose pass defense has been shaky – they’re allowing 242 yards per game with a 70 percent completion rate, and have only sacked opposing quarterbacks five times. With Larry Johnson serving a suspension, the Chiefs are likely to throw the ball more often than usual, especially if they’re behind. It’s tough to start a guy that’s been as inconsistent as Cassel , but if there’s a week to take a chance when your other fantasy QB (Brett Favre?) is out, this is it.

Sit him: Kurt Warner, Cardinals

Warner isn’t just here because he threw five picks against the Panthers last week. He has 11 of them on the season, so that’s nothing new. He’s also completed just 57 percent of his passes in his last two games, and might be without WR Anquan Boldin (see below).

The Bears’ secondary has some decent playmakers, and if you throw out their five-touchdown stinkbomb against Carson Palmer and the Bengals from a couple of weeks ago, they’re allowing a touchdown per game, which isn’t bad. I have a hunch that Warner’s visit to Soldier Field this week won’t be an easy one.

Pick him up: Vince Young, Titans

Young was recommended in this space a couple of weeks ago, but since he’s still widely available after his solid 2009 debut, it’s time to do it again. Young completed 15 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Jags, and also ran 12 times for 30 yards. Young’s value lies in his legs – if he runs the ball something like eight times per game, he’s going to get enough yards to make up for his subpar passing stats. Never has a fantasy QB with the potential to throw for less than 150 yards per game on a regular basis been so interesting.

Also, I can’t get out of my head that the Titans have three straight home games – against the Rams, Dolphins and Chargers – in Weeks 14-16, which is when many leagues hold their fantasy playoffs. If you’re even the least bit dissatisfied with your fantasy backup, you should grab Young.

Running backs

Start him: Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants

Hey, did you hear the one about the speedy running back with the broken foot? Yep, Bradshaw has a cracked bone in his right foot, and if he takes one bad step, his season could be over. Until he takes that step, he’ll still got plenty of fantasy value, and has 545 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns so far. With the Chargers and their porous rushing defense (132 yards per game) coming to the Meadowlands this week, Bradshaw could add to his already nice numbers. I wouldn’t trade for him or anything, though. That would really be asking for trouble.

Also, on behalf of my fellow Giants’ season-ticket holders, I’d like to thank our team for having that putrid performance on the road against the Eagles last week. They’d have gotten booed out of the stadium if that had happened at home. 40-17 to the hated Eagles? Really, guys? %$#@!

Sit him: Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers

The Steelers visit the Broncos and their third-ranked rushing defense on Monday night. As we’ve noted before, the formerly black-and-blue Steelers are throwing the ball 56 percent of the time this season. Mendenhall carried the ball just 10 times in the Week 7 win against the Vikings, and he doesn’t catch the ball much. He’s not bad, but he’s in a tough spot this week. Check your bench for a better option.

Pick him up: Kolby Smith, Chiefs

Johnson’s suspension was already mentioned above. Even though he’s only slated to miss this week’s action, the Chiefs clearly don’t want him around, and they’ll probably try to find a way to unload him if they get the chance. I’m sure that’ll be an emotional going-away party, with Johnson and head coach Todd Haley exchanging a heartfelt hug.

It sounds like Jamaal Charles will get the majority of the workload this week, but he’s really more of a third-down back. Smith started five games in place of Johnson in 2007, and ran for 487 yards with two touchdowns in that span. Smith is expected to be activated this week, and if the stars align, he could be a decent fantasy contributor down the stretch. Stash him on your bench if you have room.

Receivers (WR/TE)

Start him: Kevin Walter, Texans

Texans beat writer John McClain of the Houston Chronicle thinks that Walter is <a href=” http://blogs.chron.com/nfl/2009/11/walter_could_benefit_the_most.html “ target=new>primed for a breakout</a> as a result of TE Owen Daniels season-ending injury, and he makes a lot of sense. The Texans throw a lot, and they can’t just throw it to Andre Johnson on every down. Actually, since Johnson is on most of my fantasy teams, maybe they can …

After a strong 2008 that saw him earn a selection to the Caucasian Pro Bowl with 60 receptions, 899 yards and eight touchdowns, Walter has disappointed fantasy owners so far this season. You probably have him buried deep on your bench, but you should dust him off for this week’s tilt against the Colts.

Sit him: Anquan Boldin, Cardinals

This is an injury-related recommendation. Boldin has played the last three weeks despite a sprained ankle, and hasn’t been able to finish the last two against the Giants and Panthers. When able to stay on the field, he’s been hobbling around like Dr. Gregory House. The Cardinals might make this decision for you by resting Boldin, or they might play him after a week of will-he-or-won’t-he mystery. Do yourself a favor and bench Boldin until you actually see him looking healthy. That might mean he scores on your fantasy bench before you start him, but better safe than sorry.

Pick him up: Malcom Floyd, Chargers

The Chargers waived Chris Chambers earlier this week, ending their association with the most overrated wide receiver in the NFL. Floyd has been sharing duties with Chambers lately, and now he gets a chance at full-time work. The Chargers aren’t shy about airing it out, and even though Floyd will have to stand in line behind Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson for looks from QB Philip Rivers, his ascension to the starting lineup gives him some modest fantasy value. He can be a matchup starter in a deep league, and as a big leaper type, he could get some jump balls in the red zone. No word on when he’ll add the missing letter “L” to his first name.

Also: Eagles running back Brian Westbrook missed Week 8 with a concussion – make sure he practices this week before you start him … Lions WR Calvin Johnson practiced Wednesday, and should play … The Seahawks cut veteran RB Edgerrin James. If you want to dig really deep on the free-agent wire, Justin Forsett is now the primary backup to Julius Jones … Speaking of the Seahawks, their defense gets to play the Lions. If you need a team D for this week, they’re a logical option.

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).