Did you see this quote?
"A deadline is a deadline. It was pretty much done as of this morning. He's a fine pitcher, but there's a lot of things that go into this. This isn't fantasy baseball."
Those would be the words of Hank Steinbrenner, courtesy of the fine folks at The Associated Press, talking about the Yankees pulling their offer to the Twins for Johan Santana.
Hank's right, of course. In fantasy baseball, or football, or any other fantasy sport, everyone has the same amount of money and plays on an even field.
It's fun when you hate a team, as I do the Yankees, and then their owner says something stupid to justify and increase your hate. Speaking of hate, lots more e-mail to get to, so let's dive into this week's Love/Hate so we can get to it.
As always, players I love this week are guys I think exceed certain statistical benchmarks. Guys I hate, I feel will fall short. That simple. Those benchmarks are 175 yards and two touchdowns for quarterbacks (or 15 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring); 90 yards and/or 30 yards and a touchdown rushing and receiving (or nine fantasy points) for running backs and wide receivers; 60 yards or a touchdown for tight ends and eight points for kickers and defenses. I used to say no obvious names, but I don't think there is such a thing anymore. Like if I had said bench Kyle Boller against New England last week, I'd have been wrong.
Remember, Redskins-Bears tonight, so set your lineup.
Week 14 Players I Love
Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: In three career games versus the Bears, Portis has averaged more than 150 rushing yards per game. The Bears are ranked 27th in the league against the run. Only three teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Bears I guess what I'm saying is I like Portis in this game.
Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins: Here's a fun fact about Cooley: He plays fantasy football and once lost a playoff game because the guy he was playing had him (Cooley) as his tight end. He caught three touchdowns against Dallas and lost in the playoffs because of that. So Chris Cooley is one of us. Except, you know, he's a lot richer and in much better shape and can probably date whomever he wants. Hmm. Guess he's actually not like us at all. But I'm still a fan.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: At least 15 fantasy points in three of his past four games.
Fred Taylor, RB, Jaguars: You're starting Maurice Jones-Drew here as well, but look at Taylor. He averages five yards per carry in the month of December, more than he does in any other month. He's coming off two straight 100-yard games, and only five teams have given up more rushing touchdowns this year than the Panthers.
All your Cowboys: Except Julius Jones because he's, well what's the term I am looking for hang on, it'll come to me bad.
Reuben Droughns, RB, Giants: Has a touchdown in three of his past four games, and we don't know if Jacobs is playing or not.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: A total gut call here, but if he plays, I like him here, for some reason.
Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: Fargas is far out! Pause. Thank you, I'll be here all week! Thank you very much!
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers: When people ask me, "TMR, what makes you giddy with excitement and giggle like a schoolgirl?" I answer: "A new season of 'American Idol,' the phrase 'two-for-one dance time,' and, of course, Ryan Grant against the Raiders."
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: Nate Ravitz and I got into a dispute about this on our podcast Wednesday. It's fairly entertaining and I go more in depth than I do here, but I don't understand why Nate (and others) are so afraid of Big Ben on the road at New England this week. Throw out the swamp game against Miami and Ben has 12 total touchdowns (10 passing, 2 rushing) in his past four games. New England made Kyle Boller and A.J. Feeley look pretty good the last two weeks, no? In fact, the Patriots give up more than 19 fantasy points a game to opposing quarterbacks.
Willie Parker and Hines Ward, Steelers: Willie has said he's going to take off the rubber sleeves. By the way, if I ever start a crappy metal band, our third album is going to be called, "Take Off the Rubber Sleeves."
All your obvious Patriots: It's the playoffs. Don't get cute.
Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Rams: Regardless of who is throwing to them. Although I hope it's Brock Berlin, so I can say "Take my breath away, Maverick!" after he throws a touchdown. (Pause) I know. It's a thinker. Some of these are for me, kids.
All your Bengals: Even Rudi Johnson.
Earnest Graham, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, Buccaneers: And Jeff Garcia, if he plays. Want to hear a crazy statement? I wouldn't be shocked if Tampa Bay makes the Super Bowl. The Bucs run the ball well and play great defense. Just sayin'.
Edgerrin James, RB, Cardinals: If they stand any chance, they have to run. As true for the Cardinals as it is for people who do the "running of the bulls." What can I say? I'm in a weird mood today.
Leonard Pope, TE, Cardinals: With his receiving corps banged up, I could see him getting more into the mix.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Just because it is obvious doesn't mean it's not true.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: Touchdowns in two straight games and three in his last six games.
Trent Dilfer, QB, 49ers: Not for the weak of heart, this one. But he does have two touchdowns in two straight games. Very risky play, but if you are desperate
Arnaz Battle, WR, 49ers: Trent Dilfer has played in six games this year, and Arnaz Battle has a touchdown in four of them, including each of the last two. And he's facing the Vikings, who give up more than 25 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, third most in the league.
All your Browns: True statement that makes you shake your head: Only five running backs have more fantasy points this year than Jamal Lewis.
Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs: Insert "running back facing Denver" here.
Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Colts: You probably have to start Joseph Addai here as well, but I'm not sure I trust him or Anthony Gonzalez. I mean, I trust them to hold my keys. To give me directions, maybe. Set me up on a date, probably. But anything beyond that
Roddy White, WR, Falcons: He's had more than 100 total yards and a touchdown in two straight games, and he gets a fantastic matchup against the Saints and their 28th-ranked pass defense. In fact, only three teams in the NFL have given up more passing touchdowns than the Saints. And if Chris Redman gets the start, I like both him and Alge Crumpler here as well.
Week 14 Players I Hate
DeShaun Foster, RB, Panthers: If I were a creepy old lady, I might befriend three other creepy old ladies, buy end zone seats to this weekend's Panthers-Jaguars game and hold up a sign with my friends that read "Jags' Hags." And then I would cackle every time they tackle Foster for a loss.
Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: Now can I say it was fun while it lasted?
All the Dolphins: On the road, at Buffalo, I actually hate this matchup.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: Something has to give. Eagles have the least number of interceptions, Eli has thrown the most. I vote the Eagles win. I also vote all Eli Manning's owners get a voodoo doll of him to stick needles in at their leisure.
Brett Favre, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, Packers: Here's my thinking: First, you know Oakland is terrible against the run, so expect to see a ton of Ryan Grant. Then, remember that the Raiders have given up only eight passing touchdowns all year. That's second best in the NFL. They allow only 186 passing yards a game, that's fifth best in the NFL. Add in the fact that it might be bad weather in Green Bay and Favre is banged up, and I don't like it.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: Five touchdowns in his past five games. Way too inconsistent to trust in the playoffs. Or with your sister. One of those statements probably isn't true.
Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, Texans: Throw in whoever plays quarterback for them this week too. Bucs are fourth against the pass, second in scoring defense, allow the third-least amount of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends.
Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals: He's always an injury risk, both of his wide receivers are banged up and they are on the road at Seattle, always a tough place to play. Add in the fact that the Seahawks have given up only seven touchdown passes all year, best in the NFL. No thanks.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: Yes, he's healthy. But he's still terrible. The Vikings have the No. 1 run defense and Gore has had only one great game since Week 2.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: Has never topped 100 total yards in three games against the Falcons.
Had a very good week, last week. Among the nice calls: Patrick Crayton, Roddy White, Sidney Rice, Thomas Jones, MJD to bounce back, Joey Galloway, starting both Vikings runners and starting both Adrian Petersons plus hating on Kevin Jones, Philip Rivers, Reggie Bush and Carson Palmer. Of course, it wasn't all puppy dogs and rainbows
David (Denver): Augh! Your Love/Hate column this week, and your advice on "SportsCenter" before the Dallas/Green Bay game, made me sit Ryan Grant for Earnest Graham! And now I'm out two touchdowns and 94 rushing yards! How could you do this to me?! Auuuuuuuuuuuuuugh!!!
TMR: It's because I don't like you, personally. Never have.
Scott (Livingston): Matt Berry I must thank you. Whenever I watch fantasy minute and listen to your advice, whatever you say, I do completely the opposite, and it's brought me great success. Hats off to you my friend, no one can consistently make more awful calls.
TMR: So you're saying I'm dependable?
Patrick Casey (Roanoke): I know you get a lot of hate. I want to give you some love. I am in a great position to win my league because of your advice. I drafted Alexander and Maroney No. 1 and No. 2, but started out really strong because of other players. I realized, however, that I would never win in the postseason without help at RB. I tried to trade; no takers. As a regular reader of this column, I took the following actions: (1) picked up Selvin Young very early; (2) picked up Maurice Morris as my handcuff; (3) picked up Adrian Peterson (bad) as a prayer; (4) picked up Kolby Smith as a prayer when Priest Holmes was named starter. I now have decent options at RB whereas before I had trash. I had to be very patient during some difficult weeks (I lost three of four in one stretch), but your help paid in spades. Props.
TMR: Thanks for the kind note but you need to give yourself credit. You correctly analyzed your team, you did the research, you picked up the players you did.
Don (Ocean City): You are now worse than the "by so far the worst ESPN has to offer," we shall now refer to you as captain obvious, ruler and writer of things we already know. You are a worthless employee of this network.
TMR: Patrick likes me.
Erik (Philadelphia): TMR, just wanted to forewarn you of the e-mails you'll get this week blaming you for recommending Justin Fargas. Denver used to be a putrid run D. They've only allowed one 100-yard game since Week 5 (Grant and it was only 104) and it is the Raiders after all. Just trying to help you out!
TMR: And then after Fargas went nuts last week
Erik (Philadelphia): Fargas -- terrible call by me! Maybe I'm just mad since I thought I was looking good with LaMont Jordan early in the year. Good call.
TMR: Props for the retraction.
From the ESPN Conversation page (beta!) on our "Alone on an Island" article.
Rover23232: You will need to change the 27.4 for Carson Palmer to its true value of 7.4. Don't let it go on much longer or you just may ruin somebody's week by having them bench Palmer for Tavaris Jackson. Oh and Matthew Berry, himself, having Carson at 28 is ridiculous. Mind-boggling.
TMR: We did correct the average, thanks. Our bad. As for Palmer, he had seven fantasy points last week. Jackson had 16. Just saying
Jay in Baltimore: You are killing me! You hated on Ryan Grant this weekend, so I benched him in 3/4 of leagues I had him in. Guess what? The Packers started the year off being a pass-minded team, until they found Grant. In my mind, I wanted to play him because of this. Alas, I gave in to temptation and listened to the "experts." I honestly think you don't know much more than I do. You're probably just a slightly better writer and you met the right people that got you your job. Lucky bastard. I am now taking your column with less than a grain of salt. Jb.
TMR: If it makes you feel better, I was only out to get David in Denver. You just got caught in the cross fire.
DJ (Seattle): Hey TMR, Since I know you've got a huge ego, I thought you'd be interested to know that when I Google "ESPN" a link to "Love/Hate" appears as one of eight sub-section links under the ESPN main page along with such things as "NBA" "NFL" and "MLB." So apparently Google thinks that your column is one of the most highly sought-after pieces of the ESPN empire. Unfortunately, the link doesn't take me directly to your column, but rather to the Fantasy Football main page.
TMR: When asked how he knew the apocalypse was upon us, DJ had an answer at the ready
That's all I got kids. You can be my cyberfriend and read my personal blog here: myespn.go.com/MatthewBerry
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's Sr. Director of Fantasy, in charge of content. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner and the only writer in the industry with wins in multiple sports (NFL, MLB, NBA). Be sure to check him out every Sunday morning on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" at 11 a.m. ET.