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Thursday, December 2, 2010
Those who are dead to me

By Matthew Berry
ESPN.com

Could. Not. Disagree. More.
The Talented Mr. Roto
So I follow my friend and colleague, "First Take" host Jay Crawford, on Twitter (@jaycrawfordESPN). He does a great job interacting with fans, answering questions and giving his opinion on sports, especially about Cleveland, where he's from.

The precursor to "First Take," a show called "Cold Pizza," was the first program to ever put me on TV and Jay has always been a gracious, supportive friend, so I have nothing but love and kind words to say about him.

But when he tweeted the following, I leaped out of my chair.

@jaycrawfordespn: dear cleveland, i know this will be hard, but, please CHEER LEBRON when intro'd thurs! show class, and thanks. then boo when game begins!

What? What!?! Hells no, Cleveland. Couldn't disagree more with his sentiment. Look, I'm not even from Cleveland but I hate what LeBron did. Hate it. Yo, LeBron, you know how you are keeping track of everyone who has been negative about you? Add me to the list, please.

With LeBron returning to Cleveland tonight, if you're in that arena, I say you boo the "talents" right out of him. There's times to take the high road. This isn't one of them. I say you boo, I say you yell, I say you follow the Twitter account @Cavs_Chants and scream things like "Side-kick," "No-Ring-King" and "Wit-Nessed Noth-ing" when they tell you to. I say you let him have it and have it hard. You're frustrated and you have every right to be.

Wright Thompson wrote a must-read column about Cleveland yesterday and the sentiment he expressed from Clevelanders is the same I feel. While disappointed, I have no issue with LeBron leaving Cleveland. You should be able to play where you want for who you want. I thought it was the coward's way out, to go be a sidekick rather than the alpha dog, but that's another discussion. He wants to leave, fine.

It's the way he did it and the timing: not giving the team a heads-up, doing it late in the free agency period so they couldn't sign anyone else, and doing it on national TV, where they found out at the same time as everyone else.

LeBron James
LeBron James didn't even have the decency to "it's not you, it's me" the fans in person.

If I'm dating someone and she comes over to my place to say, "Hey, I've enjoyed our time together but I want to break up," I'm disappointed but I respect it. But if I walk into my place and find her in bed with my rival as she looks up from a tangled mess and says, "Oh yeah, we're broken up," then I'm sure as hell not going to applaud the next time I see her in person.

If I'm a Cavaliers fan, LeBron is dead to me. Do you understand? Dead. To. Me. There's a scene in the Neil Diamond movie "The Jazz Singer" where Laurence Olivier (seriously) is talking with Neil, who plays his son. Neil has decided to not become a cantor like his father but rather pursue a career in music and they argue, with his dad ripping his sleeve.

Lucy Arnaz: Honey what happened? What was that all about?
Neil Diamond: When a Jew mourns somebody dead, they tear a piece of their clothing.
Lucy Arnaz: Who's dead?
Neil Diamond: I am.

If I were going to the game tonight, I'd wear a piece of clothing that was ripped. Or a black armband. The PA announcer should play "Taps" just before the introductions. Because he's dead to you. Hell, I'm a Lakers fan, and he's dead to me. Because I can appreciate, at least on some level, the anger, frustration and hurt that goes along with having invested yourself in LeBron only to have him give you the middle finger on national TV and shrug his shoulders when asked about the city of Cleveland.

When you draft a guy in fantasy football, they are your guy. You tie all your hopes and dreams into their performance. So when they don't perform even close to what you expected, it crushes you. Kills your soul as you wait, week after week, for something, anything, before you can't take it anymore.

So I have my own "dead to me" list. The players over whom I have ripped my virtual clothing, the guys who will never be on my team again, the players that, as far as I'm concerned, no longer exist.

Tops on that list is Randy Moss. Three teams in one year? Three?? And you can't produce on any of them? You're that much of a head case? And I just know you're gonna go off this week, after everyone's already been eliminated, because you're an inconsistent, no-hustle, selfish player.

Pierre Thomas, oh how I loved you, but you can't stay healthy and your weekly insistence that you were coming back, only to continue to sit out for weeks on end, pre vented us from just cutting you and moving on.

Brett Favre
And on top of it all, he's suddenly a Twins fan? Not nearly enough was made of Favre's choice of chapeau, an obvious diss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

My mom said if I don't have anything nice to say about someone I should say nothing at all (don't read this column, Mom), so here's something nice about Brett Favre: Your play and off-the-field issues have given me new reasons to hate beyond the yearly selfish theatrics of your waffling about retirement.

Matt Schaub, Joseph Addai, Jonathan Stewart, Pierre Garcon, Shonn Greene, Mike Shanahan the general manager (Really, that's the offensive line you went into the season with? And you thought Larry Johnson and Willie Parker were the answer at backup running back?), Ryan Mathews and Eric Mangini (Peyton Hillis was, what? Third on your depth chart at the start of the year? Fourth?).

It's not just football players that are on my dead to me list. It's an extensive list that requires me to constantly be ripping clothing. The BCS, Scott Kazmir, the movies of M. Night Shyamalan, Alex Rodriguez, any city that doesn't have a Chick-fil-A (including every single one in Connecticut), women who say, "I'm not that kind of girl" when they are exactly that type of girl, people who drive too slow, too fast, while texting or talking on the phone (I have a lot of issues with driving), bloggers who knowingly make stuff up or don't bother checking facts before printing something as fact, Randy Moss again, at least 10 different kids I went to high school with, the Celtics, Keith Smart, fantasy writers who spend their time ripping other people off and/or tearing fellow writers down instead of just being original (and I am aware of the irony of calling someone out for ripping someone in a column filled with hate, but it's my rant, so go with it), strawberry-flavored ice cream (you ruin Neopolitan!), Jay Leno, bourbon, people who veto fantasy trades and Steve Slaton. Still.

The point is … we all have people on our list. It's human, it's natural and tonight, I say Cleveland should let LeBron know he's on its list. Be classy on Friday. Tonight's not the night.

And with that, we dive into Week 13's "Love/Hate" with a hope that after this you won't be adding me to your list. As always, numbers in parentheses are my Wednesday ranks and the average ranks of the other three rankers. I do them in order of position and overall rank, so the first guy on the top isn't the player I love or hate the most, so pay no attention to the order. Just check out my Friday ranks for where I specifically stand on one player versus another. There are no obvious names on the list because you're starting Peyton Manning and benching Laurence Maroney regardless of my feelings for them.

Week 13 Players I Love

Jay Cutler
In my on-again, off-again relationship with Jay Cutler, I'm on again. What can I say, Jay... I just can't quit you!

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (6, 11): The argument against, of course, starts with Ndamukong Suh. That the Lions have a stong pass rush (currently ninth in the NFL in sacks) and how Cutler is a turnover machine, especially when facing pressure. Except he's learned how to be successful in a Martz offense getting rid of the ball quicker, the Lions secondary is terrible (only seven teams have allowed more touchdown passes) and the last time he faced Detroit he had 372 yards and two scores. Not sure why my fellow rankers don't have him in the top 10, because at the end of the week, he will be.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs (10, 11): What do I have to do? Do I have to come to your house, hack into your computer while you're sleeping and pick up Cassel for you? Because I will. Dude, add leagues where Cassel is still available (40 percent!) to my dead-to-me list. Just like Kyle Orton at the beginning of the year, I feel like I've been talking about this guy every week for two months. Here's a fun stat:

Touchdown passes, Week 3 through Week 12

Matt Cassel: 21
Drew Brees: 20
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 19
Tom Brady: 18
Eli Manning: 18
Philip Rivers: 18

Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have 16 over that same time frame. Dude! How many times do I have to talk about his ridiculously easy schedule, his strong run game that sets up both play-action and all those third-and-short situations, and the Man they Call Bowe?

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills (13, 20): Uh, did you notice who was third on the list above? He's available in 67 percent of leagues, incidentally, and the Vikings have allowed eight touchdown passes in their past three games.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (15, 18): If you're in the lower tier and scrambling a bit, Bradford should find good success against a Cardinals team that is 25th against the pass. Bradford has 11 touchdowns and just one interception in his past six games and as Steven Jackson owners are painfully aware, only Brees has more red zone pass attempts this year than Bradford.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears (10, 11): I'm a little late to the bandwagon. Is there still room?

Mike Goodson (21, 27) and Jonathan Stewart (28, 30), RBs, Panthers: Look, just because Stewart is dead to me doesn't mean he has to be for you. Both guys looked good last week and starting with the Seahawks/Giants game (the first full game that Red Bryant and Colin Cole missed with injury), Seattle has allowed five touchdowns and an average of 23 points a game to opposing running backs. Carolina will run, run, run, making both guys decent flex plays this week.

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys (22, 22): We all like Felix this week. With Barber banged up and the Colts 29th-ranked run defense on the field, things are lined up for Jones to have at least one week in which he doesn't crush your soul and/or will to live.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (7, 11): Bringing him up because not only do I think he's a top-10 play this week, I think he's a safer play than DeSean Jackson. One of my bold predictions this year was Maclin would have more fantasy points than Jackson. And so far, I'm right. Only noted Philly fan Eric Karabell joins me as having Maclin over DJax. And no question, Jackson can have a 14-point play at any given time; I have both Eagles wideouts in my top 10 this week. But if I had to choose one, I'm choosing the guy who has double-digit standard fantasy points in three straight games and more than 320 yards and two scores in his past three home games.

Mike Williams
As far as I know, Mike Williams has never been asked to mop up a puddle of urine in the end zone.

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers (10, 17): The first year after I graduated from Syracuse University, I lived in Los Angeles. I couldn't even find a grunt job in show business, had five different sample ("spec") scripts turned down by every talent agency in town and had to work at a FAO Schwartz, where, among other things, a kid peed on the big tree in the store. Guess who had to clean it up? Mike Williams South has had a much better time in his first year out of Syracuse, including 89 yards and a touchdown the last time he faced the Falcons.

Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers (14, 28): Last week's game was an aberration, as the Chargers scored two defensive touchdowns and spent the majority of the game running the ball. I understand the concern with his health and no doubt, there's risk there. But he scored a touchdown in his first game back against Denver, he put up 213 yards and a touchdown the last time these two teams faced off, and with Vincent Jackson out and Antonio Gates banged up, Floyd will be the No. 1 target against a team that has a less-than-100 percent Nnamdi Asomugha and has given up 82 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers the past three weeks.

Johnny Knox, WR, Bears (16, 24): All in on Chicago this week.

Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars (22, 42): Fun number for you: zero. As in, Mike Thomas has 52 receptions and ZERO drops this year. Zero. Thanks, ESPN Stats & Information! It's not just his two first names that are a crowd pleaser. Three scores in his past four games, 88 yards the last time he faced the Titans, he leads the Jags in receptions, targets and yards. Expect Tennessee to focus on MJD, leaving David Garrard looking for Thomas, just like he always does.

Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens (26, 29): Since the Ravens' bye in Week 8, here's some interesting stats over Baltimore's last four games:

Anquan Boldin: 22 targets, 13 receptions, 134 yards, 1 TD
Derrick Mason: 30 targets, 19 receptions, 219 yards, 3 TDs

Boldin is being started in 74 percent of leagues. Mason? 17 percent. Oh, and if Steve Johnson catches that ball last week, the Steelers have given up an average of 22 points to opposing wide receivers over their past six.

Joel Dreessen, TE, Texans (9, 11): He's scored in two straight, has at least six points in three of his last four, and only Andre Johnson has more receiving yards than him over that time frame on Houston. The Eagles give up the fifth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends and Dreessen is available in 97 percent of leagues.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings (6, 15): What's the opposite of a "dead to me" list? An always-alive-to-me list? An unyielding love list? A dangerously close to stalking and obsession list? Whatever the list is, tight ends against the Bills are on it.

Now Orleans Saints D/ST (2, 7): Happiness is a defense against Carson Palmer.

St. Louis Rams D/ST (9, 13): Available in more than 80 percent of leagues, they are tied for the fifth most sacks in the NFL and Arizona allows the second most sacks. Meanwhile, there are only two teams in the NFL that have more turnovers than the Cards.

Week 13 Players I Hate

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (12, 9): You know what questions I don't like? "Do you know how fast you were going, sir?" "What kind of girl do you think I am?" "Have you heard our quarterback is walking around in a boot?" On the road at Baltimore with a bum foot, I just don't think Ben is a top-10 play this week like my fellow rankers. You probably don't have better options and I think he'll be OK here, but he's got 10 points or less in three of his past five games, the Ravens giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and with everything that's on the line in this game, I expect a low-scoring affair that's heavy on the run.

Matt Ryan
When asking the question "can Matt Ryan come outside and play," we're actually asking... can Ryan play outside?

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (19, 12): Eight. Nine. Fourteen. Sorry. Just listing the fantasy point totals for Ryan in the games he's played on the road and outside this season. He had only 13 points (235 yards, one touchdown) the last time he played the Bucs, who are top-10 in the NFL in passing yards allowed and total points allowed. He'll be OK, I just feel his upside is limited and there's lot of other options that are better, many of them available on the waiver wire.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins (21, 20): Wonder what he could do if he had an offensive line. Or a running game. Or a wide receiver who could catch. If I'm starting McNabb, I'm not worried about fantasy points. I'm rooting for him just to finish the game.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers (26, 25): Ooh, one more add to the "dead to me" list: Any running back facing the Falcons. They have the third-fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs (only the Jets and Steelers are better), and the last time an opposing running back got into their end zone was Week 5.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants (31, 19): After all the talk about how he was the starter, he got exactly one touch more than Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw is the better running back and I expect him to have more touches this week than Jacobs. If you start him, you're basically gambling that he scores a touchdown, which he very well might. But with no teams on bye, there's too many running backs who will get more touches and have a better chance of fantasy value for me to consider Jacobs a top-30 guy this week. If he scores, great. If not …

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals (45, 36): Ugh.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (18, 9): But only because I've actually seen Drew Stanton play. If you have Megatron, you have to start him, but against Chicago (fifth-fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers), he's not a top-10 guy this week.

Wes Welker, WR, Patriots (27, 21): If we get more clarity before the game, this could change. But I expect Welker to be welcomed to Revis Island, which means he also gets welcomed to my bench.

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys (29, 17): With three receptions or fewer in four straight games, you haven't cared because he's scoring. But it's tough to count on that when you're not touching the ball very much. Short passes, reverses … it's just not something you can count on, especially on the road at a Colts team that is sixth in passing defense, has given up just 13 touchdown passes this year (tied for fifth best) and has given up just four touchdown passes in five home games this year. All of this makes me nervous enough that I can't call him a top-20 automatic start the way the rest of my fellow rankers feel.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens (37, 26): See Mason, Derrick.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals (44, 24): Another one who would be on my "dead to me" list if I hadn't already avoided him since he was one of my big preseason busts. Eight fantasy points or fewer in four of his past five, in eight of 11 games this year and in every game at home. Owens gets the majority of targets and the Saints allow the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. At this point, Chad's too worried about his video game, his upcoming wedding, his reality show, his talk show, his iPhone app and everything else to worry about performing against the Saints.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (16, 13): But again, seriously, it's only because I've seen Drew Stanton play. If I hadn't, I'd be totally fine starting him against a Bears team that has allowed only one touchdown to an opposing tight end all year. (And that was last week, when Brent Celek caught a fluke pass off three defenders.)

Baltimore Ravens D/ST (16, 8): Despite what I said in the Ben hate above, this isn't your daddy's Ravens defense, or even your older brother's. With the exception of a crazy game against the Panthers, this is a team that has single-digit fantasy points in every game this year but one. Big Ben ain't Brian St. Pierre; in fact, opposing fantasy defenses average just 4.5 fantasy points a game against the Steelers, who are 5-1 on the road this year. I expect a low-scoring game, yes, but not a huge turnover one. Which means the Ravens are not a top-10 defense this week.

That's all I got. Good luck to the Cavs, to you and to everyone who is still alive to me.

Matthew Berry -- The TMR -- wishes Randy Moss would come back to life just so he can put him on the list one more time. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend