I'm not gonna lie. I was nervous.
Oh sure, I had some good calls last week. Being higher than anyone else on Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, Kyle Orton continuing to make me look like a genius, the Chargers' and Chiefs' defenses coming through, Chris Cooley. ... But I've found people don't remember the good calls, even the ones from preseason, like how LaDainian Tomlinson was gonna be a lot better than people thought and planting a flag on Matt Forte as a comeback guy.
But even with that, there's no getting around it. I blew the call. Big time. Oh sure, you could argue that everyone who didn't rank Best No. 1 overall blew the call. I didn't see anyone last week touting him as a strong start. So, really, everyone was wrong.
But I was more wrong than most, no question. Totally whiffed on that one. I have to address it. But how? How do I deal with this? Am I going to have to finally admit that I can't see into the future?
As I opened my mailbag, I wondered; what would the reaction be like? What if there was lots of hate mail? What would I do about it? I mean, I made a promise not to use hate mail this year and, unlike Andy Reid, I stick to my guns.
But as I read through all the mail, I was shocked. People were great. Very understanding about the difficult nature of predicting the future, of understanding my logic behind the calls I made, even if they didn't work out, of sharing my shock that the Eagles' vaunted defense (even without Stewart Bradley) could allow a rookie who averaged 1.4 yards per carry in his first game, and who was playing with the Lions' backup quarterback under center, would become the first rookie in NFL history with at least 75 rushing yards, 150 receiving yards and three touchdowns in a single game.
They realized the impossibility of being able to know something that even the player himself didn't, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Monday that Devin Aromashodu was shocked by the lack of playing time he received, with no explanation or heads up from Lovie Smith given to him, the reporters who cover the team or anyone else, before or even after the game.
E-mail after e-mail, plus tons and tons of tweets, filled with support, appreciation and kind words for my work kept flowing in.
Now, if you've ever tried to post a comment on one of ESPN Conversation pages (no longer beta!), you know that there are certain words that aren't allowed. We're a company that is owned by Disney and prides itself on offering content that is appropriate for all audiences, even when uttered in exuberance. So, sure, there were a few words missing in the e-mails. But, as you'll see when you read these, it was super easy for me to figure out what the e-mailer meant, so I went ahead and reconstructed the messages for your enjoyment. Check it out.
Matty's Pigskin Pick 'em picks
I always enjoy playing Pigskin Pick 'em, our football pick 'em game. I play both straight-up and against the spread. Last year, I was in the 95.7th percentile on ESPN.com against the spread.
This year, I have decided to publish my picks. You can find them every week on my TMR page, where there's an uncomfortable amount of me but also links to various articles, videos and podcasts and now, every week, my picks against the spread. Check it out here: Matthew Berry's home page.
Gianni (SLC): Sorry to be so blatant with the [praise] but you guys just [really know] what you are doing. I see you yap on ESPN and read the "What they're saying" player comments and it just makes me laugh. ... Maybe you should spend more time in ACTUAL fantasy football leagues instead of [prognosticating] about something you are [very] qualified to do.
Chase Prathbun (Mount Pleasant, S.C.): Matt-Thanks for the excellent advice on Jahvid Best. I hope you have [no diseases that cause you great pain]. You deserve it.
Chris (New York, N.Y.): You are absolutely [terrific]. I [don't want] the time back that I [spent wisely] reading your column. You are [much] better at this than I am.
Dan (Raleigh, N.C.) I received my first [of many more to come] dose of the Berry with my Sunday morning NFL oatmeal. Stay [in] the NFL. I hope my opponents [don't] take your advice/predictions going forward. More [losses] for me if they do. [Keep] the Love/Hate prediction as well. You are a [great] writer and need to [stick to that]. Do us all a favor and [keep] predicting success and failure in the NFL week after week.
Burke Haugh (Norwalk, Conn.): ... I'll [always] listen to you! [You really deserve to] get paid for this!!!
Smgallaher (from ESPN Conversation): Wow! You know a monkey throwing [sunshine] at a fantasy list would [not] have a better chance of getting at least half of the predictions right. I [can] believe you get paid for this. And for the [smart people] that comment [you guys are reading it], it is the available content. I would also read [BAD] advice. Reading Matthew Berry's work has become like [a wonderful day at the park]. [Don't just] stick to baseball, Mr. Berry.
Alvin Donato (Alexandria, Va.): [No worries] for the great tip on Devin Aromashodu. Now I'm going to lose. [You don't have to] send me $10 for compensation.
Ken (New York, N.Y.): Matt: Could you have possibly been more [not] embarrassed this week? Saying Lee Evans is on your hate list? Really? Did anyone [other than the other three guys who ranked him in the top 35 or the 92 percent of people who own him] think Evans might be anything any week with that Bills team? [Great] stretch to call him a hate guy. Come on, Matt. Then, Cutler and BEST !!!!! Best had a career this week. Yikes. Hurry and [be proud of your work and don't] erase your Week 2 column.
TheHeels83 (from ESPN Conversation): [Not taking the Lord's name in vain], you're [terrific] Berry.
Matt K. (Texas): Berry... You have never really screwed me too bad with projections in my 3 years of fantasy football. I've always trusted you and when it comes up to having uncertainties about my line up, I ALWAYS go with who you like the most. But this week comes and I have Jahvid Best as my flex and I feel pretty good about it. I then see Best on your hate list [but luckily I think for myself so I, completely of my own free will, decided to put] Marion the Barbarian in for him! Anyways, [I was disappointed but what can you do? No one can predict the future]. If I talk about this anymore my laptop is [not] going to go through a wall. Thank you [The Not] Retarded Mr. Roto.
Michael Jennings (Los Angeles, Calif.): Still hate Moss? [You ranked him 23rd overall and he tied for 22nd among wide receivers. I don't understand why people are yelling at you for that call]. [You're a] writer who [really] has [an] idea what he is talking about.
Bill (Fort Worth, Texas): The [still waiting for the season to play out] call ever: Pierre Garcon having a better fantasy year than Reggie Wayne. You should [not] be fired for that one [because I'm sure] you needed to have actual qualifications for your job. Yes I am [not] bitter for having passed on Wayne in both my leagues to take Garcon much later, [since it's a long season and it's really hard to determine what was good value and what was not at this early juncture] based on someone's tip. Thanks.
Frank Valva (unknown): Why are you always more than 50 percent [right] on your love/hate list picks? You [are a person who never messes up]. You get paid to be [right] you [person of a faith that is different than mine yet that I respect]. [Gandhi] should come back from the dead and [make sure you live a long time]. You cost me my fantasy season last year you [smart, wonderful person]. Go [live a long and healthy life] in a [safe and happy place].
Back to me now and as you can see by this small selection, the support is unwavering. But this e-mail is my favorite and I've left it unaltered.
TMR: I can see why you'd want to come back to me. If only there was a way that you could look up online
which defense I think is a better play this week.
Let's get to it.
A reminder for those of you just joining us or those who (and, based on last week, there are clearly a lot of you) didn't bother to read this part last week:
This year, I've decided the best way to do this is based on our rankings. Players I "love" are players I have ranked significantly higher than my colleagues. Players I "hate" are players I have ranked significantly lower than everyone else. As always, use your brain. Just because I "love" Josh Freeman and "hate" Tom Brady does not mean I suggest you bench the Patriot for the Buccaneer. But rather that, compared to everyone else, I am more excited about Josh and less enthused about Tom.
For my thoughts on where specific players rank in comparison to one another, look at my rankings. And do it Friday afternoon! I write this column late on Wednesday after the rankings come out midday. Sometimes, as more research or info comes to light, I adjust my rankings. We publish updated rankings Friday morning. And, of course, I continue to tweak and dispense nuggets on Twitter (@MatthewBerryTMR) up until kickoff.
This year, I've tried to narrow the names each week to just those I feel really strongly about, but there always will be a few more "loves" than "hates" because you're picking from a greater player pool. (Hating the lower guys like Mark Sanchez doesn't do anyone any good.) Finally, the numbers in parentheses are my ranking (as of Wednesday morning) and the average rank of the three other rankers.
Week 3 Players I Love:
Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins (8, 12): Sure, the Rams couldn't contain Bruce Gradkowski, but who among us can? The Redskins' running game is struggling but McNabb looked great last week and, seriously, the Rams gave up almost 300 yards to Derek Anderson. They don't have the speed to keep up with Santana Moss or even Joey Galloway, and the Redskins will have to throw to win this game. No idea how people don't think he's an automatic start this week.
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos (13, 16): Quick quiz: What do Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Tony Romo have in common? Other than really hot significant others? And lots of money? And full heads of hair. Grrr. Well, none of them have as many fantasy points this year as young Kyle. I'm gonna keep snortin' the Orton until everyone else believes. Might be a while, since it's a year and two games later and I'm still highest on him. I don't see a game with the Colts being low-scoring and you wanna hear a crazy stat? Orton is 20-5 as a starter at home. He's sixth in the NFL in passing yards and he has Demaryius Thomas as a weapon now. You should get one. They're all the rage.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (16, 23): For those in deeper leagues or two-quarterback leagues, Freeman keeps putting up numbers. He also has more points than Brees, Brady and Romo and while the Steelers are a bad matchup, I expect at least 175 yards passing, 30 yards rushing and a score. You could do worse and probably have. Can't tell you how many times I've heard that at 1:45 in the morning.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos (7, 15): Is KnowMo a good nickname? Or a bad one? On the fence here. Like, if you yelled "KnowMo!" at the game, does he think you're cheering him on or asking for Correll Buckhalter?
Update: Moreno is now OUT for Sunday. I like Buckhalter more than Maroney as plays here and think Buckhalter is a decent flex.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears (6, 18): The fourth-highest-scoring running back so far this season, he's clearly the most consistent weapon on the Bears right now. Yes, the Packers have a good defense. Of course, only four teams in the NFL have allowed more rushing yards this year than Green Bay. And one of its games was against Buffalo. Not sure what my fellow rankers don't see here. Clay Matthews is gonna be coming after Jay Cutler hard here, which means a lotta check downs. Forte Acres and a Mule would be a good fantasy team name. So would Forte Ounce.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (21, 28): Included him not because I truly love him, but I'm the only guy who ranked him ahead of Tomlinson this week. My feeling: On the road against a good secondary, with (most likely) no Braylon Edwards playing, the Jets run the ball a lot. Greene, for all his struggles, had 15 carries last week to LT's 11. Tomlinson's more a part of the passing game, of course, but I think they're about equal, so, bit of a gut call here, but I'm going with the guy who will get more rushing attempts and knows his gig is on the line.
Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots (29, 34): Remember how Brandon Jackson ran all over Buffalo?!? Hmm. Well, remember all, um, five carries Fred got last week?!? Yeah. OK. I don't have a lot to go on here, except with Kevin Faulk going down, they need Sammy Morris to take over that role, which means Fred should get most of the rushing work, and you need to run to beat Buffalo. It's a better secondary than you think, as you'll see when we get to Tom Brady. I guess I'm just throwing Fred in here as my way of taking a stand and saying, I like him, not BenJarvus Green-Ellis, if you're going with a Patriots running back this week.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins (6, 18): He needs to score. But seriously, six catches for 77 yards in Week 1, 10 for 89 in Week 2; if he scores in either game it's a great day. McNabb is looking for him a lot, and you know the yards and targets will be there. I say this is the week he scores. And you know what else? I think I'm right. Sorry. Had one left over from Tuesday.
Hines Ward, WR, Steelers (18, 23): OK, not fantastic numbers, but as Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information notes, in three games Charlie Batch has started, Ward has 14 receptions, 189 yards and two scores. The Bucs just lost safety Tanard Jackson and I think Ward could be all right here. I have him as a definite start this week.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers (23, 26): With the run game banged up, when Floyd catches a touchdown against the Seahawks, and he will, how many newspapers use "Malcom in the Middle!" as a headline? Three? Four? Ten?
Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders (32, 45): In Gradkowski I trust. I can't believe I just wrote that.
Mark Clayton, WR, Rams (26, 31): You wanna know why?! Because at a crucial point in the game, say fourth-and-10, DeAngelo Hall will be nowhere to be found and Reed Doughty will be out of position, again, as Andr-- er, Clayton catches the ball over his head. Sorry. I may not be totally over last Sunday's Redskins loss.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (19, 21): Two games, two touchdowns, both from Vick. How soon can we start calling him "Mac-Daddy?" Or "Daddy-Mac?" Both names have been available since early 1993. I'm kind of on a nickname kick today.
Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys (6,9): Obviously, you're starting any part of the Dallas passing game you can get your hands on. And with no Brian Cushing, you're definitely starting Witten against a team that has given up 206 yards and two scores to opposing tight ends the past two weeks.
Dustin Keller, TE, Jets (11, 15): Leads the Jets in targets, yards and receptions, no Braylon, and the Dolphins just gave up a buck-oh-six to the Vikings' tight ends.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars (12, 16): He's been good for two straight weeks and, ahem, I seem to have learned the hard way that the Eagles can't defend the middle of the field right now.
Arizona Cardinals D/ST (6, 24): At home, where they traditionally play much better defense. Against the Raiders. Sure, the improved Raiders. But you know what the key word there is? Raiders. Available in 90 percent of leagues. Not your first choice, but if you need it, it's there. Just like this column.
Kansas City Chiefs D/ST (12, 22): Two straight weeks of double-digit fantasy points for this defense, they are at home, the 49ers are traveling on a short week after they just gave up the ball four times. Seriously. They are the third-highest-scoring defense right now. They are available in 90 percent of leagues. No idea why I'm alone on an island here. Did they trade Alex Smith?
Week Three Players I Hate
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (11, 5): OK, chances are you're still starting him. And I have him 11th, so it's not like I think he'll be horrible. But yes, I do have him outside the top 10 starters in an ESPN standard league. Here's why: 255 and 2, 115 and 1. The first number is what Aaron Rodgers did to Buffalo through the air last week. Good numbers, obviously, but nothing crazy considering the offense and his ability. Rodgers ran for a score in that game as well, which Brady won't do. The second set of numbers are what Brady did in his last game against Buffalo. Again, this is a better secondary than you think. And with a solid secondary, Buffalo can afford to take chances blitzing and putting pressure on Brady, the way the Jets did in Week 2.
Now, Brady did light up the Bills in the first game last year, but that was the crazy Monday night game in which Tom threw for two scores in the final couple of minutes during a furious comeback. I'm saying Tom throws for fewer than 250 yards, has two scores and one turnover, which makes him a low-end starter in 12-team leagues and borderline in 10-team leagues.
Because many of you don't actually bother to read or can't grasp the concept of this column before firing off thank-you notes, I'll reiterate; I'm not saying bench him because I can't imagine you have a better option (other than possibly Vick: check my rankings to see who else I'd start over him). I will say, however, that I don't think he has a huge game and wouldn't use him in a salary cap league. By the way, one last caveat: If Percy Harvin can't play, Brett Favre will drop and Brady will move to No. 10. Speaking of the Indecisive One. ...
Brett Favre, QB, Vikings (9, 12): I know, I'm highest on him. So what's he doing in the hate list? (The Week 3 list. You already know he's on my permanent Hate list.) As I said in the Brady blurb, I'll move him out of my top 10 (and move Brady up) if Percy Harvin doesn't play. He missed practice Wednesday. And I'll add this. If Favre can't do it at home against Detroit, he gets "welcomed to Dumpsville" next week.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (15, 12): Much worse on the road traditionally than he is at home, Ryan had a 298-yard, one-score, three-interception game at the Saints last season (nine fantasy points). This year, all Ryan does is look for Roddy White and no one else. The Saints look very strong on defense. No thanks.
Alex Smith, QB, 49ers (25, 16): My fellow rankers have him as a borderline starter in deep leagues or two-quarterback leagues and all I can say is, um, they're clearly not 49ers fans. I talked about the Chiefs' defense in the love section and, on the road, at Arrowhead, on a short week, I'm not even touching Smith with your team.
Thomas Jones, RB, Chiefs (39, 26): He's ranked elsewhere as a flex play, but I don't see it. Yes, I know, he got tons of carries last week. But I still feel Jamaal Charles is the guy you want in Kansas City and the 49ers' defense is pretty good. This is a low-scoring game.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts (24, 17): Live and let Addai ... on your bench! Hah! Yeah, yeah, not great, but neither is this matchup. I don't think the Colts get up big in this game like they did against the Giants, which means less running and more passing, like the first game against the Texans. Addai missed practice on Wednesday with a knee injury and he has this annoying habit of getting banged up in a game and leaving. I think Denver has a better run defense than folks think and the Colts' offensive line continues to not be 100 percent healthy. Add Donald Brown to the mix and Addai's not an automatic starter for me in 10-team leagues the way he is for the rest of the guys as shown by their No. 17 ranking.
The Colts' passing game: Look, you're starting Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, OK? But I'm lowest on all of the Colts' passing game (except Dallas Clark) and here's why: Assuming Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman play (both missed practice on Wednesday), it's worth noting that the Broncos have not allowed a 300-yard passer in their past 15 home games. As Paul Kuharsky noted in the AFC South blog, Peyton is facing a coordinator he's never seen before. Maybe Austin Collie gets a third straight score, maybe Pierre Garcon breaks out of his funk (please, lord, for my preseason sanity, let him break out), but with the Colts, it's just so hard to tell who, other than Clark and, for now, Wayne, will get theirs. How many times last year did we see a guy, say Collie, have a huge game only to then disappear? They have so many weapons and when I rank, part of what I factor in there is the likelihood and security that something happens. I don't think Collie or Garcon having huge games is a certainty, nor do I think Manning or Wayne having huge, top-5 days is a given either.
Update: OK, with the continued injury issues of Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman in the Denver secondary, I am taking the Colts Offense OFF the hate list and my rankings are now more in line with my colleagues.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers (18, 20): He'll be ranked much lower by me in the Friday update, but when he missed practice on Wednesday and said he had a high ankle sprain, all sorts of red flags went off for me. Can flags actually go off? Even if he plays, I'm worried he'll be limited or pulled from the game (especially if they get up on the scoreboard, which is likely). I'm looking for better options regardless.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (28, 18): The Titans currently boast the No. 1 pass defense in the league, Nicks had only five targets and his score last week came in junk time. I expect a much lower scoring game here and I'm not convinced Nicks is fully healthy.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals (31, 28): Until further notice.
Robert Meachem, WR, Saints (NR, 40): Seems like an obvious name here, but I put him on not because I think you'd play him, but because he shouldn't even be owned on your team in a 12-team league. I'm amazed anyone else is ranking him, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune noted Meachem was on the field for only 14 of the Saints' 64 offensive snaps in Week 2. You just can't trust him.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- really [loves] all his readers. 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