Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /fantasy/rashard-mendenhall-chris-johnson-and-three-other-fantasy-players-give

Rashard Mendenhall is having a bad season. Even when he's not injured, he's not getting the production you probably paid for with a late first or early second round pick. 

So when is it time to cut the cord on some of your starters and look elsewhere? That's a hard decision to make because usually you're so invested in high draft picks, and it also tells the other owners in your league "Look at me, I'm an idiot who was stupid enough to draft this guy." 

But that's what you have to do if you want to put your team in the best possible spot to win your league. Here's five guys who you should probably bench at the very least, drop at the very most, or trade, if you think you can get any value for them.

Rashard Mendenhall: Trade Immediately or Bench
Mendenhall had 324 carries last season, more than any other back in the league. And it seems like all those carries are taking a toll on his body. Rashard didn't see any playing time last week against the Titans due to a tweaked hammy, but even before then he was not showing the same explosiveness and power he had last year, averaging just 2.8 and 2.1 yards per carry in his last two contests. With Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer performing at least capably, it doesn't seem like Mendenhall is going to give you nearly the production you would expect out of him this year. If you can get someone to buy low on him, get what you can. Once a running back's body turns the corner, it rarely comes back into it's prime.

Chris Johnson: Trade Him Immediately
It feels like there's a correlation between an NFL player missing training camp and then having a severe lack of production. And Chris Johnson is this year's poster child for that. In the first five weeks, Johnson shas had one good game. and he's only found the end zone once. And you probably drafted him no lower than 6th overall. In the next few weeks the Titans play the Texans (who shut down Darren McFadden), the Colts (who he should have a decent game against), the Bengals (who have a solid run defense). So you're left with two good games in the first nine weeks of the season. It's best to cut your losses and see if another owner think Johnson is the 2,000 yard rusher he was two years ago.

Chad Ochocinco: Drop
Chad Ochocinco sucks. There's no other way to describe his play this year in one of the most potent offenses in the league. You'd think anyone in that lineup would at least be good for 5 catches and 80 yards a game, but Ochocinco is lucky to get 2 and 20. After the first couple of weeks, we were cutting him some slack. Without the regular offseason workouts, it would take a while for Ocho and Tom Brady to get on the same page. But it's been over a month now and Ocho's just not doing anything. Tom's so locked into Wes Welker and his two tight ends (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) that it looks less and less likely for Ocho to get in on the fantasy bonanza. He may have a big game here or there, but consistent production looks like a thing of Ochocinco's past now.

Mike Williams: Bench Until He Shows Signs of Life
The Tampa Bay wide receiver hasn't done much to garner his 3rd/4th round draft slot with only one TD in the first five weeks, he's not getting open in space and he's opting for more short passes instead of long balls. If you're in a PPR league, he might give you a little consistent production, but I'd rather have the guy who could go for 3 catches, 100 yards and a score, instead of 5 catches for 40 yards and a whole lot of nothing. If you're very thin at WR, then keep him in your lineup, but frankly, I think almost anyone in our week 6 waiver wire has more upside than Mike Williams right now.

Dallas Clark: Drop
Dallas Clark needs Peyton Manning. And Curtis Painter is not Peyton Manning. The once lofty piles of points Clark used to put up seem to be a thing of the past now. He's found the end zone only once this year and hasn't had more than 46 yards or four receptions in a game. With tight end being so deep this year, it's probably time to look to the waiver wire or your back-up to find a new starter. If Manning comes back next year, then Clark will find fantasy prominence again, but until then, he's not going to help your team in 2011.

<p> When is it time to cut bait and look elsewhere on some of your fantasy football starters</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 10:55
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/fantasy-football-waiver-wire-week-6

It's fantasy football bye weeks, folks, so everyone's going to be scrambling for some fill-in players because some of us have a tendency to draft our back-up without realizing he has the same bye week as our starter. Here are some of the best options available.

Some of the players listed in Athlon Sports' NFL Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 6 may be one-week adds, some may be season-long adds and some are listed just for you to keep an eye on to stash on your roster if you have the space.

Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.

Curtis Painter, Indianapolis Colts
He shot the lights out in the first half against the Chiefs, and then someone turned the light off for Curtis in the second half. But still, there's at least been some promise in the recent play of the back-up's back-up in Indy. You won't get massive production out of Painter, but who wouldn't be happy with another 250+ yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions from a guy filling in for your regular starter? Answer: No one. (Well, maybe jerks.) To go along with that, the injury to Addai could mean a depleted backfield next week which means more Curtis Painter through the air. He has a nice rapport with Pierre Garcon (more on him later) that clicked and will hopefully keep clicking as the season goes on. If Curtis can put together a complete game, he could be a consideration if your real starter goes against a shutdown passing defense like the Jets or Eagles.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos
The Broncos are on a bye this week, but you may want to stash Tim on your bench because it's officially going to be Tebow Time in Denver. And while we don't think he's going to be a capable quarterback in the NFL, he can be a serviceable back-up for fantasy owners because of what he does with his legs. Think of him as Vick-lite (or Vick-heavy, since he outweighs the Eagles QB by a solid 40 pounds.) He's going to throw picks. He's going to have lots of incompletions. But, he's also going to pile up a few rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Rushing yards stack up at 10 yards per point, while passing yards are generally at 25-40 yards per point. And rushing touchdowns usually count for 6 points, while passing TD are ususally worth 4. You do the math.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
Yep, the Bengals actually have a decent young quarterback on their hands. They also have a bunch of guys who get giant packages of illegal drugs shipped to their house. But let's focus on Dalton. He didn't have his best game against Jacksonville (179 yards, 2 TDs and 1 pick), but he still managed to put up passable numbers that wouldn't have killed you. He goes up against a horrible Colts secondary that got abused by Dwayne Bowe and the Chiefs on Sunday. This may be the best game of the season to play Dalton because Cedric Benson's suspension could come down this week, meaning the Bengals will be even more likely to rely on the passing game if they're without their #1 back.

Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle
If it comes out that he's the starter in Seattle, and then your first, second and third QB options are all either injured or dead, then go ahead and take a flier on Whitehurst. But unless you're in a 32 team fantasy league, there's probably a few better options out there at the quarterback spot.

Running Backs:
Delone Carter, Indianapolis
With Joseph Addai going down with a hamstring injury, Carter took the majority of the carries for the rest of the game. He had 14 touches, while other back-up Donald Brown finished with 8. Carter didn't necessarily light it up trudging for just 22 yards on 12 carries and two receptions for 12 yards. Brown on the other hand managed 38 yards. So which one should you get? While Carter probably won't break off any 100+ yard games, he is probably the better back to bank on than Donald Brown because Carter gets the goal line carries and you may get lucky with 50 yards, a score and a couple catches sprinkled in. The Colts play a stout Bengals defense next week, so Carter will only be a play if you're in a dire situation due to injuries or bye weeks.

Jacob Hester, Chargers
With Ryan Mathews injuring his calf and Mike Tolbert getting dinged with a concussion, there's a lot of uncertainty in the Chargers backfield. The Chargers are on a bye this week, and they face a Jets defense in week 7 that is normally strong, but also just gave up a career day to BenJarvis Green-Ellis. This is strictly a flyer pick-up as Hester is a fullback with a fullback's speed. Tolbert is expected to play in week 7, but concussions have a knack for coming back. And Mathews' injury is still uncertain. If Hester finds himself as the feature back against the Jets, he won't pile up much yardage, but could be good for a few goal-line looks and receptions (he had 2 catches filling in for Tolbert and Mathews in week 5.)

Kregg Lumpkin, Buccaneers
Yes, I didn't know who Kregg Lumpkin was until this week, either. The Bucs back-up's, back-up's back-up running back has been a favorite of the Tampa Bay coaching staff for a couple years (who knew?), and now after LeGarrette Blount (do the Bucs have the best collection of named running backs? Yes.) left Sunday's game against the Niners with an injured knee, Lumpkin could see some playing time. On top of it, Earnest Graham has also been nursing a tweaked hamstring. Graham played last week, but hammy's also have a way of rearing their heads again. If Blount's knee keeps him out, Lumpkin could be a good candidate to get 10-15 touches and a few receptions against the Saints in week 6.

Ryan Torain, Redskins
Ryan Torain went off two weeks ago in his first action of the season against the St. Louis Rams for 135 yards and a touchdown on only 19 carries. Now, before you wet yourself, the Rams have the worst run defense in the league. But, if you feel like wetting yourself again, Torain and the Redskins are going up against the Eagles and their almost equally pathetic run defense. The Redskins backfield has been a committee all season, but coach Mike Shanahan said that Torain ran like he was "possessed" against the Rams. If that's not a vote of confidence that could turn a running back committee into a running back of one, then I don't know what is. Tim Hightower, who injured his shoulder two weeks ago expects to play, but look for him to primarily be a third-down back with Torain playing his way into the feature role.

Jackie Battle, Kansas City Chiefs
Remember when everyone was pretty sure that Dexter McCluster was going to blow up after Kansas City lost Jamaal Charles for the year? Well, that didn't really happen. And last week Battle was the back who lead the Chiefs in carries and yards, with 19 and 119 respectively. The Chiefs are on bye this week and play the Raiders in week 7, so you may want to hold off on picking him up. And quite honestly, no one knows what to expect from the Chiefs offense. But if he emerges as the go-to back and keeps putting up numbers like he did in week 5, you could have a solid RB2 on your hands.

Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals
Cedric Benson is going to get suspended at some point, right? Right? And when he does, well, you have a mediocre RB3 to put right in your lineup. (Full disclosure: We've expected Benson to be suspended for weeks now. Some of us have actually been keeping Bernard Scott on our bench way longer than we should have. If anyone in the league office is reading this, please put us out of our misery and either suspend Benson or let us know that he got off scot free.)

Wide Receivers
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts
I know what you're thinking. "Pierre Garcon? There's no way he's available on the waiver wire." Well, consider this just a friendly reminder to go back and check. Garcon was dropped in a lot of leagues after Kerry Collins came out and stunk up the joint. But now, with Curtis "I look like an ugly Thor" Painter at the helm in Indy, Garcon's season has been revived. He has a great rapport with Painter, posting 146 and 125 yards and 4 (count em, 4!) touchdowns in the last two weeks, alone. So while there's a good chance he's not around, it's worth taking the two minutes to check. You could find a diamond from an owner who gave up on him weeks ago.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are on a bye next week, but if you have the space, it's a good idea to stash Baldwin. Baldwin racked up 8 catches and 136 yards with a td last week to follow up a solid 5 catch, 84 yard performance two weeks ago. With Sidney Rice getting most of the attention Baldwin has managed to get himself into a consistent bit of production. How long this will last remains to be seen. Both Baldwin and Ben Obomanu (more on him next) have capitalized in the absence of Mike Williams concussion issues. But both of those guys are doing what the Seahawks offense is asking of them.

Ben Obomanu, Seattle Seahawks
Right now you're probably wondering why we made a joke about picking up the Seahawks possible starting quarterback and we've got two Seahawks wide receivers on the waiver wire list. Well, it's because we like jokes. (And there are conflicting reports on whether Whitehurst will actually be the starter now.) But back to the other Big Ben. He posted a solid 6 catch and 51 yard performance with a touchdown added in for good measure last week. The Mike Williams absence has helped him and he could be the first to lose playing time when Williams comes back. But until he does, keep Obomanu in your back pocket. Or in your front pocket, whichever you prefer.

Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
Good news! Greg Little has been officially promoted to the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns. Which is a little like getting promoted at Enron. (In 2011.) The Browns currently have the 30th ranked offense in the NFL, and given the fact that there are only 32 teams in the league, that qualifies them as "bad." Is Greg Little going to come in and make them a top 5 offense? Probably not, but he is a dynamic playmaker who should rack up a few receptions starting in the X slot for the Browns. Little was the guy making noise in the preseason as a breakout candidate, and this is his chance to prove those yea-sayers right.

Legedu Naanee, Carolina Panthers
With Steve Smith getting back to his old self and Cam Newton playing beyond his years, there might actually be some room for Legedu to put up some points. Normally, there wouldn't be too much to get excited about from a 4 catch and 63 yard performance. But what should get you at least a little excited is that Naanee was targeted 8 times in the game (which led the team.) Now, should he have done more with those 8 targets? Sure. But if teams keep double-teaming Steve Smith, there should be lots of room opening up for Naanee. And if he can stay on the same page with Newton, he may just blossom into a decent WR3.

Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons
Before the season started, everyone loved Harry Douglas as a sleeper. Now, five weeks in, the only person who loves Harry Douglas is his mom (mostly because he's basically sucked fantasy-wise all season). But there may be some reason to hold out a little hope. With Julio Jones going down with a hamstring injury, this could be Harry's time to shine. Keep an eye on how long Jones will be out. If his hammy is fine, then don't take a flier on Harry. If not, then go for it because the Falcons aren't shy about spreading the ball around.

Damian Williams, Tennessee Titans
When Kenny Britt went down, someone had to step up and fill at least some of the shoes he left on LP Field. And it was Damian who had a breakout game in week 5 with 6 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Titans are on a bye in week 6, so you should probably hold off on adding him right now, but he's had two touchdowns in as many weeks. And he should be good for a handful of receptions each week as his chemistry with Matt Hasselbeck gets better with more playing time. The lack of running game for the Titans means they'll probably be throwing more than usual, as well.

Kevin Walter, Houston Texans
Walter has been inconsistent all season, but finally had a decent game in week 5 against the Raiders with five catches for 81 yards and one touchdown. After getting zero production in weeks 2 and 4, there's really no telling which Kevin will show up next week. Houston is going up against the Ravens in week 6, so normally we'd say not to pick him up, but since Andre Johnson will be out, and the Texans will either be down or needing to throw a lot, this will be your last chance to squeeze many fantasy points out of Walter. But if he continues is on again off again pattern, then he may get zero catches next week. Don't say we didn't warn you (yes, we're hedging against ourselves.)

Kyle Williams, San Francisco 49ers
With Josh Morgan out for most, if not all, of the season with a busted ankle, it looks like Kyle Williams may have a chance to step up in his place. And with Alex Smith playing out of his mind, he may be worth a flier in a deep, deep league. Williams hasn't done anything to give anyone the idea that he's a breakout candidate, but no one thought the 49ers would be 4-1 right now, either. Weirder things have happened.

Tight Ends
Joel Dreessen, Houston Texans
Just when you thought TE/RB one-week sensation James Casey who would be the guy to be your genius waiver wire pickup in week 4, along comes Joel Dreessen, a borong old TE (no RB) to drop 5 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Casey is now out with a torn pectoral muscle, so we guess maybe Dreessen is going to be more involved? OK, I'm going to come tell you something that no other fantasy pundit will tell you, no one has any clue what Joel Dreessen will do next week. But, with both Casey and Johnson on the sideline, someone has to get some catches, right? Right?

Any Kicker That's Available If Your Kicker Is On Bye
Seriously, it doesn't matter. Go find a monkey, and then go find some darts, and then ask the monkey to throw some darts at the list of available kickers. And then pick a different one. It just doesn't matter. There's no way to predict which kicker will just put PATs through the uprights on a random Sunday, or the kicker who will launch three 50 yarders. Just make sure he's starting and his kicking leg hasn't fallen off and he's as good as any other kicker. (You may also want to make sure his non-kicking leg hasn't fallen off, either. Just to be safe.)

Check back later this week for our complete week 6 positional rankings.

<p> Jackie Battle, Tim Tebow, Delone Carter and Greg Little lead the waiver wire pickups for Week 6.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: New York Giants, Victor Cruz, News
Path: /news/victor-cruz-will-not-take-no-answer

Victor Cruz has done everything he can to become a starting wide receiver in the NFL.

Whenever he's on the field, whether during a preseason game, in a starting role, filling in for an injured New York Giants receiver, or as a back-up, the guy just makes plays. He did it again this week with eight catches for 161 yards and a touchdown, while making a spectacular catch (since the NFL doesn't allow embedding, you'll have to see the video here)

So why isn't he a starter? He has blown up the last three weeks, filling the stat sheets with 369 yards receiving and three touchdowns to go along with 17 receptions.

And yet Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride says that Cruz is progressing at a "slow pace." I'd hate to see what a quickly-pacing Cruz would be doing. 500 yards receiving per game?

But at some point, the Giants will have to come to their senses and admit that Cruz should be a full member of the first team offense. As the Giants continue to lose, it seems pretty clear that they need all the help they can get. 

With Manningham and Nicks still being the starters on paper, Cruz is definitely a wide receiver worth owning. No matter how many times the Giants sit him on the bench, or tell him he's not good enough, he continues to prove them wrong.

<p> Victor Cruz, the Giants wide receiver continues to make a case for more playing time</p>
Post date: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 12:09
All taxonomy terms: Tiger Woods, News
Path: /news/tiger-woods-has-hot-dog-thrown-him

Tiger Woods is used to throwing hot dogs around, so it was ironic when a fan at the golf event ran onto a green and threw a hot dog at the controversial golf star.

Whether the hot dog was supposed to symbolize Woods' philandering ways, is yet unknown.

The fan, yelled a few things, which were indecipherable, tossed the dog and then laid down, waiting to get arrested.

He was never close to Tiger at any point in the ordeal. But the biggest travesty in this whole thing is that there is no video of the incident. In this day and age, that seems almost impossible.

According to Woods, who was trying to putt at the time, "I could hear the security behind me. I was still bent over my putt. And when I looked up (the hot dog) was already in the air."

The man arrested in the incident was 31 years old and from nearby Santa Rosa and he expressed remorse for tossing the dog.

Is it just me, or does golf need more drunken idiots to spice up the game? With Tiger Woods fall from grace coinciding with his game's fall as well, golf just isn't that interesting as it used to be.

Remember golf before Tiger Woods' star came along? Of course you don't because you didn't watch golf back then (unless you're a 60 year old man, then maybe you watched it.)

Golf needs excitement. And what tells you everything you need to know about the state of the game, the hot dog throwing incident involving Tiger Woods is getting much more press than the fact that some guy (named Bryce Mulder) actually won the tournament we're talking about.

If Tiger can get his game back, then interest in the game will come back, too. Until then, we'll have to hope for more hot dogs.

<p> Isn't it ironic? Usually it's the other way around</p>
Post date: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 11:43
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, John Fox, Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, News
Path: /news/tim-tebow-wont-be-saviour-denver

Tim Tebow has a knack for not going away. With Kyle Orton continuing to struggle, and fans begging for Tebow Time to start in Denver, head coach John Fox finally gave in and benched Orton during the Broncos game against the Chargers.

And now, with the Broncos on a bye week, it seems that the Tim Tebow era is going to officially get underway in the mile-high city.

If there was any doubt left in your mind, the Broncos next game is on October 23rd in Miami, where there will be a special reunion honoring of the Florida Gators 2008 championship team, meaning the stands will be packed with Tebow supporters for his first start of the 2011 season. How much more perfect could that get?

And, of course, Tebow lead the Broncos to a near comeback with a 12-yard touchdown run and hit Knowshon Moreno on a 28-yard screen pass for another touchdown.

Tebow then lead the Broncos down the field in the last minute of play to try a hail mary that nearly won the game for Denver.

Sounds like the storyline for a quarterback on the verge of greatness, right?

Well, if you look into the numbers a little deeper, you can see that Tebow didn't perform as well as the story may lead us to believe.

His stat line, 4-10 for 79 yards and a touchdown and a sparkling 101.7 quarterback rating looks both good and bad. The 101.7 and no interceptions looks nice, but the 40% completion rating isn't something you want to hang your hat on.

And when you break down his completions, they look rather pedestrian. The 28-yard touchdown pass was a screen. Those yards and touchdown were pretty much on the shoulders of Knowshon, instead of Tebow (Tim probably threw the ball 15 feet for that completion.)

And another of his 20 yards came on a spectacular catch by Brandon Lloyd. Which accounts for more than half of his yardage.

And while he deserves all the credit for his 12-yard touchdown run, it will be interesting to see if defenses who are preparing for him (instead of the statuesque Orton) will do a better job of stopping Tebow's legs.

Time will always tell with Tebow, and he has a history of proving the doubters wrong, but there's a reason John Fox was reluctant to put Tebow in the starting lineup. He does bring a spark, but he'll need to start bringing wins to Denver to turn the minds of his detractors.

<p> It looks like it's Tebow time in Denver. But is that a good thing?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 10:54
All taxonomy terms: college sports myths, News
Path: /news/college-sports-myths-debunked-infographic

College Sports Myths
Created by: Online Masters Degree

A lot of people think college sports is an incredibly profitable industry that makes billions on the backs of the free labor of their athletes. And sometimes that is the case. But when you dive down into the numbers, you find that college athletics isn't as profitable as initially thought.

Many college sports don't pay for themselves and rely on subsidies to turn a profit. And college tend to spend much more on their student athletes than they do on their actual students.

And while the spector of whether schools should pay their athletes looms large, many of the athletic scholarships fall short of covering the cost of school for many of the student athletes. By over $3,000.

And for fans of college athletics who think their schools should pony up a few more bucks for better facilities to get better athletes, there's actually no correlation between spending more on athletics and winning more.

And while it would seem that the most important reason for attending school is to graduate, 34% of college basketball players fail to graduate from university (only 1% go to the NBA) and 31% of college football players fail to graduate (only 2% go to the NFL). So schools, it seems, do very little to ensure that their student athletes finish college.

<p> Think college sports are incredibly profitable and scholarships cover the cost of school? Think again</p>
Post date: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 09:06
All taxonomy terms: Tennessee Volunteers, Tyler Bray, News
Path: /news/tyler-bray-picks-worst-time-miss-4-6-weeks-fractured-thumb

Tyler Bray picked the worst time to miss four to six weeks with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand.

Bray, the Tennessee Volunteers' sophomore starting quarterback, sustained the injury when he hit his hand a Bulldogs' helmet in the Vols 20-12 loss to Georgia on Saturday.

Bray, who will be out for the minimum of a month, had started the 2011 season strong, with the only loss (until Georgia) coming at the hands of Florida in the swamp. And as conference play gets into full swing, Bray is going to miss the most important games against the top competition in the nation that a young quarterback needs to elevate his game. Those games are vital to the learning curve of an SEC quarterback. Especially one who's only in his second year.

The Vols next two games are against the #1 ranked LSU Tigers and the #2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Both teams who easily have the best defenses in the nation. 

Filling in for Bray will be Matt Simms, who started eight games last season. It will be interesting to see how the Vols respond to the loss of their starting quarterback. No one expects them to take down an LSU or Bama, as they're still in rebuilding mode. 

The Vols have shown they've been able to beat lower-grade teams, but if they want to compete on the national stage once again, they're going to have to get a few wins against top competition.

But everyone will learn a lot about the heart and spirit of this team if they play hard and don't give up on the season. A win against either South Carolina or Arkansas, the last two ranked teams they play the rest of the season, will give Tennessee something important to build on for next year.

How Bray responds to so much missed time in his young career will remain to be seen for a couple of years.

<p> Tennessee's quarterback will miss games against the first and second ranked teams in the nation</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 18:06
Path: /news/detroit-tigers-put-it-all-max-scherzers-shoulder-alcs-game-2

The Texas Rangers aren't happy with a 1-0 lead in the ALCS, even if they just beat one of the hottest pitchers in baseball.

After disposing of Cy Young lock Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 3-2 in a rain-interrupted first game of the ALCS, the Rangers are sending Derek Holland to the mound who already has an ALDS win under his belt in 2011, giving up just one run in five innings pitched in game 2 against the Tampa Rays.

Holland is coming off a great season, where he lead the American league in shutouts with four. He's has never pitched against the Tigers, who's potent lineup has posed a problem for pitchers all season.

In contrast, the Tigers are sending Max Scherzer to the mound to try and even the series at 1 game a piece. While Holland has no history against the Tigers, Scherzer has a record of 3-0 against the Rangers in six starts with a tidy 3.41 ERA against Texas.

Rick Porcello was originally going to start game two, but he put in some relief work on Saturday and Max talked Tigers manager Jim Leyland into letting him start after Max Scherzer tossed a few balls to see how his arm felt (he also pitched some relief) and it felt fine. Scherzer let Leyland know that he could go and Porcello was pulled and Max was slotted in.

"So I jumped the gun a little bit in giving the rotation," Leyland said. "I apologize for that."

What will remain to be seen is how Scherzer responds to the pressure of a much-needed win for the Tigers. It's not yet must-win terrotory, but if the Tigers go down 2-0, they will definitely be behind the eight ball. Scherzer pitched six strong innings in game 2 of the ALDS against the Yankees, giving up no runs and striking out five.

If he can do that again, the Tigers will be in a great position to even the series. But shutting down a Yankees offense that had been inconsistent in the playoffs will be much different than keeping the powerful Rangers lineup off the board. The Rangers, who are stacked at every position can seemingly score at will when they get hot.

Will Scherzer handle the pressure against a stacked lineup on the road? He'll have to step up his game and continue his strong postseason play.

<p> Derek Holland goes against Max Scherzer as the Rangers look to take a commanding ALCS lead</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 14:06
All taxonomy terms: Mario Manningham, New York Giants, News
Path: /news/mario-manningham-must-start-week-5

Mario Manningham is back in the lineup for the New York Giants, and should capitalize on his return to full time.

As the Giants coaching staff assured everyone that Manningham was still the starter, despite solid production form back up Victor Cruz, Manningham finds himself in a good position to have a great Sunday against a banged up Seahawks secondary.

The Seahawks, who are already the 16th ranked passing defense, will be without Marcus Trufant, the Hawks cornerback who would have most likely been covering Manningham. So Mario will have a chance to be super as he returns from a concussion. Not only will he have a chip on his shoulder to prove that he should be the starter ahead of Cruz, he'll be going up against a young back up all day long.

Look for Eli Manning to get him involved early and often. Manningham and Eli had a great connection last year, and Mario will most likely want to get that chemistry back on track.

And to make things even better for the Giants passing attack, change of pace back Brandon Jacobs is inactive, leaving the Giants ground game undermanned. All signs point to this being a big day for all of the Giants wide receivers, but with Manningham back in the lineup and with something to prove, look for him to give it a little extra in Week 5.

Start him with supreme confidence as I would expect 6 receptions, 75 yards and a touchdown.

<p> The Giants wideout is poised to put up big points against the Seahawks</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 12:18
Path: /news/brandon-jacobs-knee-out-giants-week-5

Brandon Jacobs is inactive for the New York Giants in Week 5. The Giants running back is sidelined with a knee injury and won't be able to suit up against the Seahawks.

Jacobs injured his MCL last week. The extent of his injury is unknown, but there should be more information available early next week to see if he only needs one week off, or if he'll be shelved for longer.

As always, bad news for one fantasy owner is good news for another. Ahmad Bradshaw owners should see an increase in production, as Bradshaw will carry the bulk of the load (as well as goal line chances) and get somewhere between 20-30 touches today against a pretty good Seahawks run defense.

Danny Ware will slide in as Bradshaw's primary bakc-up. He's worth keeping an eye on if Jacobs is out for an extended period of time. Or if Bradshaw gets dinged up today. Ware doesn't have much experience, but you never know where you can squeeze some unexpected production from in a fantasy season, especially as bye weeks start to rear their ugly heads.

Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 12:05
All taxonomy terms: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs, News
Path: /news/dwayne-bowe-sell-high-candidate-trade-him-if-you-can

Dwayne Bowe had a monster game for the Kansas City Chiefs in week 5. His seven catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns made him one of the top fantasy football performers for the week.

And that means you should trade him immediately, because he will never be worth more than he is today. The Chiefs aren't going to do much on offense this year. Matt Cassel has shown that he probably won't be a starting quarterback next season if the Chiefs get one of the top two picks in next year's draft. And while Bowe will get some touchdowns here and there, the Colts small corners were no match for Bowe's size and skill.

If the Chiefs were playing the Colts every game for the rest of the season, I would say hold onto him. But they're not.

And Bowe's production will fall back down when he goes up against teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago and the Jets later in the fantasy football playoff weeks. Meaning, you'll get very little out of him when you need him the most.

So while Bowe will still put up some production for the rest of the season (the Chiefs will be losing a lot, so they'll be throwing a lot), but if you can find a fantasy owner who has stars in his eyes expecting Bowe to duplicate his insane production from the second half of last year, and will be willing to part with a first or second rounder for him, take that trade if you can find it.

<p> You will never get more for Dwayne Bowe than you will right now</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 11:34
Path: /news/cedric-bensons-last-game-suspension

Cedric Benson will probably be suspended by the NFL early next week. So enjoy him now.

Fantasy football owners are going to be very glad the NFL waited a couple extra weeks to suspend the Cincinnati Bengals running back, with Cinci going up against the hapless Jaguars in Week 5.

Originally it looked like Benson's suspension was going to take place a couple weeks ago, causing him to miss good match-ups against Buffalo and Jacksonville. Last week, Benson had a 100 yard game against the Bills, and he should do at least as much against the Jags, who give up 107 yards on the ground per game.

The one extra upside to Benson's play against Jacksonville, is that the Benglas have a pretty good defense. And they should keep the struggling (and let's just face it, really bad) Jaguars offense from putting up a lot of points.

If this game goes the way it should on paper, the Bengals will most likely have a somewhat comfortable lead going into the second half, which means they will pound it on the ground a lot. Which means a heavy dose of Cedric Benson. I would look for 125+ yards from Cedric and at least one score, if not two.

And since it looks like he'll be suspended for one-to-three games (the announcement could come early this week), this game should be anice one for him to go out on.

Also keep an eye on Bernard Scott, the Bengals back-up who will fill in for Benson when he is finally suspended. Scott won't do a whole lot, but week 5 starts the byes, which means you'll probably be scrambling to fill in for someone on a bye, and you could do worse than Scott. Just as long as you don't expect too much production out of him.

<p> The Cincinnati Bengals running back will probably be suspended for week 6</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 09:09
All taxonomy terms: Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots, News
Path: /news/aaron-hernandez-knee-looks-hell-play-week-5-get-him-your-lineup

Aaron Hernandez looks like he'll be ready to play in week 5 against the Jets. 

One half of the New England Patriots tight end tandem has missed the last two weeks with a sprained knee, but should be ready to suit up against the Jets in week 5.

Hernandez was able to practice Thursday for the first time since spraining his MCL in week 2, but more importantly he was able to follow it up and practice on Friday as well. The day after the first practice is always the true test to see if a player can return from injury.

And Boston area beat writers have said that they haven't seen Hernandez walking with a limp. Another great sign that he'll play. He will, of course, be listed as questionable for the game, and you should definitely check the inactive lists an hour and a half before game time, but if there are no surprise red flags, get him in your lineup.

Hernandez was having a Pro-Bowl caliber season after just two games, posting 165 yards receiving, 14 receptions and two touchdowns. If he can continue at half that pace, he will be one of your more productive players (when he's in the lineup.)

Rob Gronkowski owners should expect some decline in their production with Hernandez back int he lineup, but with Tom Brady throwing it all over the field, don't expect it to fall off too much.

—Oct. 10, 2011

<p> The New England Patriots tight end is listed as questionable, but looks good to go in Week 5</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 08:47
Path: /news/frank-gore-play-two-thirds-snaps-hunter-play-one-third-sunday

Frank Gore should get the majority of snaps on Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers running back has been nursing an ankle injury, but it looks like he'll play through it this week against the Buccanneers.

According to San Fran beat writer, Gore is expected to get 2/3rds of the carries with capable back-up Kendall Hunter getting the rest.

And Gore owners should be happy about that this week with the 49ers facing a sketchy Tampe Bay run defense. Through four games, the Bucs have given up 4 yards per carry and allowed just over 100 yards per game to opposing running backs.

Gore, coming off a game last week where he was also questionable going into the game against the Eagles, and he hung 127 yards and a touchdown on Philly's defense. He should be healthier this week than he was last week. So, you know he should be able to put up another monster day, as Gore is one of the best running backs in the league when he's healthy. He was limited in pracitce all last week, but that seems more precautionary than anything.

Put him in your lineups with confidence today, with an expectation of 15-20 touches, 90 yards and a score with a few receptions sprinkled in.

<p> The San Francisco running back should get the majority of snaps in week 5</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 04:26
Path: /news/rashard-mendenhall-hamstring-game-time-decision-heres-three-reasons-you-should-sit-him-anyway

Rashard Mendenhall is a high draft pick playing like a late-round flyer in 2011.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back was a late first or early second round pick in a lot of leagues, and he hasn't come close to being worth that high price this season.

And his hamstring issues aren't making things easier for his owners. In week 5, Mendenhall will be one of the dreaded game-time decisions as the Steelers trainers will apparently be working on his hamstring up until the very last minute to see if he'll be able to play.

Here's a message for Rashard owners: Save yourself the headache and sit him anyway. Yes, even if he plays.

If Mendenhall was having a great season, we'd be giving you different advice. But his poor play, combined with the iffiness of his hamstring injury means he's not worth the roster spot this week against Tennessee's tough run defense.

Reason #1 To Sit Him Even If He Plays:
In four games in 2011, Mendenhall is averaging only 3 yards per carry, and has only found the end zone twice, ranking him as the 30th running back overall (my guess is you took him as the 8th or 9th back overall. Ouch.) Two touchdowns in four games isn't that bad, except when you consider that's he's supposed to be the feature back on a classically run-first offense.

Were his 370 carries last year too much for his body to bounce back from? It remains to be seens, but he's just not having the same production he did last year.

Reason #2 To Sit Him Even If He Plays:
And this week, the Titans defense is no slouch, ranking 8th overall against the run, giving up only 87 yards per game on the ground. So it's not like Rashard would have lit it up against the Titans even if he was 100% healthy.

Reason #3:
To make matters worse, the Steelers have Isaac Redman playing much more spirited football, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. So why would the Steelers push Mendenhall and risk further, more serious injury when they have a back who can step in and carry the load and be just as dynamic as they thought Mendenhall would be? (Answer: They won't.)

As you can see, all signs point to starting someone else instead of Mendenhall this week. His upside is very low. I would start someone like Joseph Addai or Mark Ingram in his place without hesitation. You know what you're going to get with Rashard, but some of the upside gambles could pay off.

Chances are they won't do any worse than Mendenhall in week 6.

<p> The Pittsburgh Steelers running back hasn't lived up to expectations in 2011</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 01:19
All taxonomy terms: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, News
Path: /news/al-davis-raiders-owner-dies-age-82

Al Davis, the always controversial and enigmatic owner of the Oakland Raiders passed away today, October 8th, 2011.

The cause of death is currently unknown, but the team site says they will issue a statement later today with more information.

Davis, who has been highly criticized in recent decades for making seemingly poor football decisions, was 82 years old. And while the Raiders had struggled in recent years, it should not be forgotten that his "Just Win, Baby" mantra in the 70s turned the Raiders into a very successful franchise. And even though he has taken a lot of flack in recent years, the Raiders have exceeded expectations this season and have one of the more exciting offenses in the NFL.

In his 48 years as owner of the Raiders, Oakland won 3 Super Bowl championships (Super Bowls XI, XV and XVIII) and had 28 winning seasons. Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. Loved him or hated him, you had to admit that he always wanted the best for the Oakland Raiders. He was George Steinbrenner before there was George Steinbrenner.

He was known for feuding with players and coaches and had a penchant for being an owner who made decisions that would override those of his coaching staff and GMs.

His death marks a very big turning point for not only the Raiders team, but for the league as well. With Davis at the helm and making unconventional decisions (like paying Nnamdi Asomugha much more than the market would have), the Raiders have had a ripple effect on the league. 

It is unclear who will take over control of the Oakland Raiders, but much more information should be forthcoming. Davis has suffered from ill-health for a while.

Earlier this year, Al Michaels said that the Raiders would never win a Super Bowl as long as Al Davis was still alive and running the Raiders.  We're guessing he feels a little bad for saying that now.

It will also be interesting to see how the Black Hole, the Raiders rabid and often insane fan base shows their support for Davis this weekend.

<p> The controversial and enigmatic Oakland Raiders owner passes away</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 8, 2011 - 10:41
Path: /news/texas-longhorns-oklahoma-sooners-rivalry-funny-pictures

The Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners have a long and storied rivalry. And today they renew that rivalry on the football field. So, we thought we'd let them battle it out in photos and post some of the best images of signs and insults through the years. Because at the end of the day, everyone wins when someone spends the time to create a sign or shirt that mocks a bitter rival. Isn't that really what college football is all about?

While the Sooners are expected to win handily, rivalry games are much harder to predict on paper. Click here to see our complete prediction for the Oklahoma Texas game. And scroll down to enjoy some good, old fashioned fan rivalry below.

<p> The Longhorns and Sooners battle it out on the football field today. Here, they battle it out in photos</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 8, 2011 - 09:50
Path: /news/vincent-jackson-hamstring-expected-play-should-dominate

Vincent Jackson is a must play every week he's in the lineup. But you probably knew that.

This week, Jackson, who's been struggling with a hamstring and strained abdomen issues for the last few weeks, should be good to go, but his match-up against the Broncos' Champ Bailey has some owners worried. 

They shouldn't be.

V-Jax participated in all of San Diego's Friday practice and drills and looks like he will be on the field Sunday against the Broncos.

Normally, a match-up against the Broncos' top corner Champ Bailey would cause owners to downgrade a wide receiver. Bailey has a history of shutting down top wideouts, but he's coming off a hamstring injury of his own. Bailey hasn't played since the first week of the season and should be rusty trying to guard Jackson, one of the top receivers in football.

So if a shutdown corner and a star wide receiver both have hamstring issues, who wins? The smart money is on the wide receiver.

Last week Jackson played 22 snaps through pain and managed to post 108 yards and a touchdown on three receptions. And Norv Turner expects Vincent to play at least that many. Which means he'll probably be on the field for even more snaps this week than he was last week.

Vincent has at least been on the field for every game of the season. There's no way Champ will be himself and he'll have to shake off the rust of missing a month against one of the best receivers in the game, who's got one of the hottest quarterbacks throwing to him in a pass-first offense. That's a tall order for even Champ Bailey, who, it should be noted is 33 this season. His body won't bounce back the way it has in the past. 

Will Champ be a little more hesitant than usual concerning his hamstring injury. Probably. And that's why I think Vincent Jackson will perform better than most fantasy football pundits think he will this week.

It should also be noted that the Chargers will be without Philip Rivers go-to-third down option Antonio Gates, leaving that many more targets on the table for Vincent. The only concern is that the Broncos anemic offense won't produce enough points the keep the Chargers throwing. But San Diego throws so much, that that should be too much of a worry.

Make sure you check the inactive lists on Sunday, but you can almost assuredly put Vincent Jackson in your lineup and not worry about him. He should play more snaps than last week and post solid numbers against a rusty and hesitant Champ Bailey.

<p> The Chargers wide receiver will perform much better than expected against the Denver Broncos</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 8, 2011 - 09:08
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, Beanie Wells, NFC West, News
Path: /news/beanie-wells-hamstring-questionable-should-play-sunday

Beanie Wells has been a fantasy football star this season. When's he's in the lineup, that is.

While Beanie has performed much better expected than his position this season (he's averaging over 5 yards a carry and has found the end zone five times in three games), he's also been a headache for his owners.

Two weeks ago, when the Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt had said all week that Beanie, who had tweaked a hamstring, was going to play. Then Sunday afternoon came around (Arizona was playing a late-afternoon game) and Beanie owners were scrambling to put in a back-up when news broke that he was sitting.

Then the same thing happened last week, with a much different result. All week, Beanie owners were wondering if he was going to play. Everything looked good, but they'd heard that before only to have to sit him. 

Well, Beanie played last week and hung 138 yards and three touchdowns on the Giants.

And the rollercoaster ride continues this week, with the Cardinals officially listing Beanie as "Questionable", but it seems like all signs point to him playing. He has shown no ill effects this week and has missed no practice. And there have been no whispers that he is feeling anything other than good after his career day last week.

Our guess is that the Cards are just calling him questionable as a precautionary measure, given his history. It's still unclear (from a locker room standpoint) if it was a good decision for Beanie to take himself out of the game a couple weeks ago. But he went a long way in proving himself to his teammates with his performance against the Giants.

Will Beanie hang another 100+ yard and multi-TD game against a much better Minnesota run defense? Probably not, but Beanie is proving himself a must play this season when he's in the lineup.

Make sure you keep an eye on the inactive lists that come out Sunday at 10:30 eastern--thankfully the Cardinals are playing an early game at the Vikings. But it looks like all systems are go for Beanie in week 5.

Update, Oct 9, 7:46 am: Beanie has said that his hamstring is "99% normal." We'll take a chance that the 1% won't derail him. Get him in your lineups.

<p> The Cardinals running back is listed as questionable, but has shown no ill effects at practice this week</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 8, 2011 - 08:07
Path: /mlb/new-york-yankees-turn-focus-next-season

— by Mark Ross

In 2009, the New York Yankees won their 27th World Series title, far and away the most of any major league baseball franchise. They have returned to the postseason the past two years, this season as the top seed in the American League by posting the second-most (97) wins in all of baseball.

But following last night's 3-2 ALDS Game 5 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Yankees Stadium, the team with the highest payroll in the game is left to ponder an early postseason exit for the second year in a row.

While most teams would love to make the playoffs three years in a row, let alone be just two years removed from winning the World Series, this is the Yankees we're talking about where success is measured by one thing — championships.

Look no further than what team president Randy Levine told earlier today, "We are the Yankees... When you don't win the World Series, it is a bitter disappointment and not a successful year." So with this season already labeled a failure, the focus now shifts to next season and what will the 2012 Yankees look like.

Starting at the top, general manager Brian Cashman is in the final year of his contract. Cashman has been the Yankees' GM since 1998, overseeing four championship teams during his tenure. However, he's also had to weather a fair amount of criticism and take the brunt of the blame when the team has fallen short of its expected goal, such as this year.

It remains to be seen if Levine and the other team executives think it's time for a change in the front office or not, although it should be pointed out that Levine has expressed his desire to re-sign Cashman. Complicating things is the fact that Cashman's name has already been suggested and bandied about for other GM jobs that are open or could come open, most notably the one belonging to the Chicago Cubs.

No matter what happens in the front office, it certainly appears that manager Joe Girardi will be back in 2012. Girardi, who just finished his fourth season as the Yankees' skipper, has a 384-264 record in the regular-season and a 18-10 mark in the postseason. His Yankees team have participated in the past three postseasons, highlighted by the World Series title in 2009. Girardi is signed through the 2013 season and there don't appear to be any signs that a change in the dugout is forthcoming.

As for the product on the field, the Yankees entered the 2011 season with a team payroll of more than $200 million, the highest in the league. The next highest payroll belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies, whose players' salaries totaled around $30 million less than that of the Yankees.

A high team payroll is nothing new for the Yankees and despite another early postseason exit it's not going to change next year. The Yankees currently have more than $150 million committed in salary for the 2012 season, thanks to the lucrative, long-termed contracts belonging to the likes of Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

In fact, these six players alone account for more than $108 million in salary, which is more than the entire payrolls for all but nine TEAMS this past season, according to figures provided by USA Today.

To be fair, Teixeira (.248, 39 HR, 111 RBI), Jeter (.302, 84 R, 61 RBI) and Rivera (1.91 ERA, 44 saves) did their part all season, while the same can not be said for the oft-injured Rodriguez (.276, 16 HR, 62 RBI in just 99 games) and erratic Burnett (11-11,. 5.15 ERA). And then there's Sabathia.

The left-hander had a fine regular season (19-8, 3.00 ERA, 230 Ks in 237 1/3 innings), but he was ineffective in the postseason (6.23 ERA in the ALDS) for the second straight season. What's more, Sabathia, who signed a seven-year, $161-million contract with the Yankees in December 2008, has an opt out clause that if exercised, would make him a free agent this offseason.

While it seems highly unlikely that he would walk away from a guaranteed $92 million over the next four years, Sabathia, who turned 31 this season, may be viewing this as his final opportunity to sign a substantial contract. If he does opt out, there's no reason not to think that the Yankees would do everything they can to re-sign him, but outside of Texas Rangers' left-hander C.J. Wilson, there's not a lot of marquee pitchers among this offseason's potential free agent crop. So if the Yankees do end up re-signing Sabathia, he certainly won't come cheap.

Outside of Sabathia becoming a potential free agent, the only other significant free agent on the Yankees' current roster is Jorge Posada. Early indications are this is the end of Posada's career in pinstripes as the 40-year-old hit just .235 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI in 344 at bats and played a grand total of 16 games in the field, 14 of those coming at first base.

Posada's catching days are long past him as Russell Martin became the starting backstop this season and the Yankees have Teixeira entrenched at first and don't lack for DH options. They also have Jesus Montero, the organization's top hitting prospect, waiting in the wings. Montero, who will turn 22 in November, hit .328 in limited action after being called up in September and figures to be the Yankees' primary DH headed into next season, while spelling Martin behind the plate on occasion.

The infield for next season is already set with Rodriguez (3rd), Jeter (ss), Teixeira (1st) and Robinson Cano (2b). Cano is arguably the Yankees' best all-around player, which is saying something on this star-studded roster. Cano has hit .302 or better the past three seasons and averaged 103 runs, 27 home runs and 104 RBI during the same span. He also has totaled six home runs and 15 RBI while batting .333 the past two postseasons.

Cano, who will turn 29 in November, made $10 million this season and has a $14 million club option for next season and a $15 million club option in 2013. Considering Jeter, who will turn 38 next June, and Rodriguez, 37 next July, will be paid a collective $92 million the next two seasons, it's safe to assume that Cano isn't going anywhere in the immediate future.

Despite the offensive numbers that Cano and Teixeira each put up this season, the best season at the plate by a Yankee came from center fielder Curtis Granderson. In his second season in pinstripes, Granderson led the majors in runs (136), was second in home runs (41), third in RBI (119) and also stole 25 bases. The 30-year-old is one of the top candidates for AL MVP and even if he doesn't win, a top-five finish in the voting seems all but certain, which would raise his 2013 club option from $13 to $15 million.

Granderson should be joined in the outfield next season by Brett Gardner, who for the second straight season showed he can be a productive everyday player. Gardner batted .259 with 87 runs scored and tied for second in the majors with 49 stolen bases this season. The 28-year-old Gardner is arbitration-eligible and positioned for a significant raise from his roughly $500,000 salary this season.

The biggest question related to the outfield is who will round out the starting trio? Nick Swisher has given the Yankees three steady, consistent years at the plate and in the field and has a $10.25 club option for next season. The Yankees may choose to decline the option on Swisher, who will turn 31 in November, and look to free agency for his replacement.

The Yankees may also look to get younger on their bench as both Eric Chavez (turns 34 in December) and Andruw Jones (35 next April) are free agents. With Jeter and Rodriguez getting older, the need to find younger, productive bench players becomes even more important so Girardi can give his veterans the rest they need throughout the season.

Whatever the Yankees' decision-makers decide do in the outfield and with their bench, it doesn't look like they will be joining in the sweepstakes for either of the marquee free agents that will be out there this winter — Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. As has already been mentioned, the Yankees are set at first with Teixeira and, even though they can afford it, don't need another high-priced DH.

Besides, if the Yankees are going to spend any significant amount of money this offseason it's going to be where it's needed most — pitching. If Sabathia does choose to opt out of his contract, re-signing him will be become their no. 1 priority. Outside of that, there figures to be a lot of turnover on the pitching staff.

Sabathia was far and away the Yankees' best starting pitcher, which only further reinforces the amount of leverage he holds as he decides whether to opt out or not. Burnett for whatever reason  just hasn't been able to put it all together during this three seasons in pinstripes. Even though he's owed $33 million the next two seasons, the Yankees may even explore trading him to someone else just to be rid of him.

If that happens, at best the Yankees will have to eat a significant amount of his contract or what's more likely, take back another bad contract/team's headache (the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano perhaps?) in the process.

To give a better assessment of the state of the Yankees' starting pitching, look no further than the fact that if not for a 24-year-old rookie and two under-the-radar free agent signees, there's a chance they may not have even made the postseason.

Should Sabathia opt out and the Yankees are unable to re-sign him, at least they have Ivan Nova. The rookie from the Dominican Republic made 27 starts this season, finishing second on the team with 16 wins. A strong candidate to win AL Rookie of the Year honors, Nova figures to be a key piece to the Yankees' rotation for years to come.

After Nova, the next biggest surprise regarding the Yankees' rotation was the performances of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Signed to minor-league contracts in January and February respectively, the duo worked their way into the starting rotation and combined to make 51 starts with 311 innings pitched, 20 wins and a 3.82 ERA. While they may not have been spectacular, the 38-year-old Colon and 35-year-old Garcia were reliable and certainly justified their collective $2.4 million salary.

The only other Yankees' starting pitcher to make more than two starts this season was Phil Hughes. The right-hander entered this season looking to build of off his 18-win campaign from a year ago, but he struggled with injuries throughout the year and made just 14 starts. And even when he did pitch, the results (5-5, 5.79 ERA) were not impressive.

Hughes, who turns 26 next June, was long believed to be one of the future cornerstones of the Yankees' rotation. Now, following his injury-plauged, highly ineffective 2011 season, there doesn't appear to be any guarantees that Hughes will even be a part of next season's rotation.

The bullpen, headlined by Rivera, the future Hall of Famer who turns 42 in November and is showing no signs of slowing down, is in considerably better shape compared to the starting rotation headed into 2012. A big reason for this is the emergence of David Robertson.

Headed into this season Robertson figured to be used as a situational or middle-innings reliever with Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano, the Yankees' big free-agent acquisition, tagged as the setup men. However, Soriano went on the DL in the middle of May and Chamberlain went down in June with a torn elbow ligament, which forced Robertson into a more prominent role.

Robertson showed he was more than up to the task as he finished the season with a 4-0 record, 34 holds and a miniscule 1.08 ERA in 70 games pitched as the primary setup guy. Compared to Soriano, who went 2-3 with 23 holds, two saves (in five opportunities) and a 4.12 ERA.

To put it another way, Soriano, who signed a three-year, $35 million deal in January, made more than $254,000 for every inning (39 1/3) he pitched this season, while Robertson made a little more than $460,000 for the entire season or less than $7,000 for every inning he pitched. The 26-year-old Robertson is another of the Yankees' arbitration-eligible players headed for a big raise next season, a raise he rightfully earned.

Ironically enough, Soriano can, like Sabathia, opt out of his contract this offseason. However, given the injuries he battled this season, his lack of production and the fact he would be walking away from a guaranteed $25 million over the next two years, that development seems highly unlikely.

While Robertson, Soriano and Rivera can be assured of their roles in the bullpen next season, the same cannot be said of Chamberlain. The big righty underwent Tommy John surgery in June and even if he is able to return at some point next season, it's unclear where he would fit in.

What is clear is that there figures to be some new faces in the Yankees' bullpen next year and you can never rule out another marquee free agent signee like Soriano. Among some of the names that could be available this winter are Heath Bell, Rafael Betancourt, Ryan Madson and, wait for it Yankee fans, Jonathan Papelbon.

Whatever pitching additions the Yankees make, they do have some promising pitching prospects on the horizon, headlined by left-hander Manny Banuelos and righty Dellin Betances. Cashman made it very clear throughout this season he had no desire in including Banuelos or Betances in any potential trades as he viewed each player a key part of the Yankees' future.

The same can be said for Montero, who certainly appears to figure prominently into the Yankees' plans in 2012 and beyond. And given the state of the starting pitching, Banuelos and Betances may not be far behind.

What remains to be seen, however, is if these three and any other new players that may be added are ready for the spotlight and high expectations that comes with wearing the world-famous pinstripes. After all, with the Yankees, success is measured with one thing, championships.

And considering how hard it's going to be for everyone in the Yankees' organization, not to mention their fans, to watch another team hoist the World Series trophy in a few weeks, 2012 and the next chance at championship no. 28 can't come soon enough.

<br />
Post date: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 15:29
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-5

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

2011 NFL Week 5 — Kicker Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 5 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points.

Teams on bye this week: Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, St. Louis, Washington

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jason Hanson DET vs. CHI
2 Neil Rackers HOU vs. OAK
3 Mason Crosby GB at ATL
4 John Kasay NO at CAR
5 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. NYJ
6 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at HOU
7 Rob Bironas TEN at PIT
8 Mike Nugent CIN at JAC
9 Nick Folk NYJ at NE
10 Matt Bryant ATL vs. GB
11 Rian Lindell BUF vs. PHI
12 Nick Novak SD vs. DEN
13 Robbie Gould CHI at DET
14 David Akers SF vs. TB
15 Alex Henery PHI at BUF
16 Connor Barth TB at SF

<br />
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 11:17
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-5

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

2011 NFL Week 5 — Defense/Special Teams Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 5 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points.

Teams on bye this week: Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, St. Louis, Washington

1 Detroit Lions vs. CHI
2 Green Bay Packers at ATL
3 New York Giants vs. SEA
4 Tennessee Titans at PIT
5 San Francisco 49ers vs. TB
6 Houston Texans vs. OAK
7 Chicago Bears vs. DET
8 New Orleans Saints at CAR
9 New York Jets at NE
10 Cincinnati Bengals at JAC
11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at SF
12 San Diego Chargers vs. DEN
13 Philadelphia Eagles at BUF
14 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. TEN
15 Arizona Cardinals at MIN
16 Indianapolis Colts vs. KC

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Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 11:17
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-5

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

2011 NFL Week 5 — Wide Receiver Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 5 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points.

Teams on bye this week: Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, St. Louis, Washington

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. CHI
2 Larry Fitzgerald ARI at MIN
3 Greg Jennings GB at ATL
4 Vincent Jackson SD vs. DEN
5 Hakeem Nicks NYG vs. SEA
6 Steve Smith CAR vs. NO
7 Roddy White ATL vs. GB
8 Wes Welker NE vs. NYJ
9 Mike Wallace PIT vs. TEN
10 DeSean Jackson PHI at BUF
11 Dwayne Bowe KC at IND
12 Brandon Lloyd DEN at SD
13 Steve Johnson BUF vs. PHI
14 Santonio Holmes NYJ at NE
15 Julio Jones ATL vs. GB
16 Jeremy Maclin PHI at BUF
17 Percy Harvin MIN vs. ARI
18 Reggie Wayne IND vs. KC
19 A.J. Green CIN at JAC
20 Mike Williams TB at SF
21 Sidney Rice SEA at NYG
22 Jordy Nelson GB at ATL
23 Marques Colston NO at CAR
24 Nate Washington TEN at PIT
25 Mario Manningham NYG vs. SEA
26 Eric Decker DEN at SD
27 Jacoby Jones HOU vs. OAK
28 Plaxico Burress NYJ at NE
29 Lance Moore NO at CAR
30 Johnny Knox CHI at DET
31 Pierre Garcon IND vs. KC
32 Mike Thomas JAC vs. CIN
33 Denarius Moore OAK at HOU
34 Michael Crabtree SF vs. TB
35 Deion Branch NE vs. NYJ
36 David Nelson BUF vs. PHI
37 Antonio Brown PIT vs. TEN
38 Victor Cruz NYG vs. SEA
39 Robert Meachem NO at CAR
40 Nate Burleson DET vs. CHI
41 Kevin Walter HOU vs. OAK
42 Jacoby Ford OAK at HOU
43 Malcom Floyd SD vs. SD
44 Dexter McCluster KC at IND
45 Titus Young DET vs. CHI
46 Steve Breaston KC at IND
47 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. HOU
48 Devery Henderson NO at CAR
49 Early Doucet ARI at MIN
50 Michael Jenkins MIN vs. ARI
51 Emmanuel Sanders PIT vs. TEN
52 Josh Morgan SF vs. TB
53 Austin Collie IND vs. KC
54 Arrelious Benn TB at SF
55 Jerome Simpson CIN at JAC
56 Jason Hill JAC vs. CIN
57 Patrick Crayton SD vs. DEN
58 Hines Ward PIT vs. TEN
59 Preston Parker TB at SF
60 Donald Jones BUF vs. PHI
61 Randall Cobb GB at ATL
62 Andre Roberts ARI at MIN

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Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 11:12
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-5

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

2011 NFL Week 5 — Quarterback Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 5 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points.

Teams on bye this week: Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, St. Louis, Washington

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB at ATL
2 Tom Brady NE vs. NYJ
3 Philip Rivers SD vs. DEN
4 Matthew Stafford DET vs. CHI
5 Drew Brees NO at CAR
6 Michael Vick PHI at BUF
7 Matt Ryan ATL vs. GB
8 Cam Newton CAR vs. NO
9 Eli Manning NYG vs. SEA
10 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF vs. PHI
11 Matt Schaub HOU vs. OAK
12 Josh Freeman TB at SF
13 Matt Hasselbeck TEN vs. PIT
14 Kevin Kolb ARI at MIN
15 Ben Roethlisberger PIT vs. TEN
16 Mark Sanchez NYJ at NE
17 Jay Cutler CHI at DET
18 Jason Campbell OAK at HOU
19 Kyle Orton DEN at SD
20 Donovan McNabb MIN vs. ARI
21 Alex Smith SF vs. TB
22 Matt Cassel KC at IND
23 Andy Dalton CIN at JAC
24 Curtis Painter IND vs. KC
25 Blaine Gabbert JAC vs. CIN
26 Tarvaris Jackson SEA at NYG

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Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 11:08
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-rankings-week-5

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 5 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

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Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 10:48