Make no mistake. I am winning this bet.
There are lots of great things about fantasy sports. The competition, the "having an interest in every single game," the camaraderie with your league mates, the ability to know about players like Steve Slaton. Football fans will say, "Like, where'd this guy come from?" and fantasy guys are all "Uh, like, yeah, we've been talking about him since the preseason."
But the best part of fantasy sports is the smack talk. And for that, you have to admire our own Bill Simmons, who's also known as "The Sports Guy" around these parts. In his most recent column, he took some shots at me as he laid out his fantasy basketball sleepers. Now, certainly, I was interested in reading what he has to say. If you've ever read his column, you know he knows the NBA backward and forward. You can't miss his love of hoops. In fact, lots of readers play a drinking game to his column. Every time he mentions the NBA or Boston you have to do a shot. You're plowed by paragraph four. (As always, obey the legal drinking age and please drink responsibly. Which means reading Bill only three paragraphs at a time.)
Bear with me here as I go off on a completely non-football-related tangent. Or don't, and click here to skip right to the Week 9 pickups. I promise, we won't talk about you while you're not around. As far as you'll know. Now, for the rest of you, as you may have heard, Bill and I are doing a league with eight of our readers. We held the auction this past Sunday night and you can see the league and rosters by clicking here.
You'll be able to follow along with the league all season long. And I'm sure Bill will mention it as well. If he's winning. Which he won't be. We have a bet, the Sports Guy and I. Loser has to grow a Fu Manchu. I am looking forward to seeing "Evil Bill" this summer, after he has lost to me in this league. Like he has done the past two years in the baseball league we both play in. Like his Patriots did to the Giants. Like he has to his wife in pick 'em. Twice. Maybe that's what I should have done. A Fu Manchu for the Sports Gal. Now that's a bet.
Anyway, Bill and I square off in Week 1. It's a head-to-head league and I'm fairly confident I'm winning Week 1. The rest of the league agrees with me. Amazon Tom took a poll and asked everyone for the team they liked the best (couldn't vote for yourself). Navy Eric got four votes. I got three. Bill got zero. In a poll of who will have to get the Fu Manchu, TSG was the winner there as well.
By the way if you are looking at the rosters, I like my team but I screwed up a few times: I let Michael Redd go too cheap (probably should have gone $50 on Kobe, too) and I was price enforcing on Ben Gordon and got caught. Our scoring is set up based on Bill's column about http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?section=magazine&id=3630801">fixing fantasy hoops so it favors scoring, assists and rebounds. More importantly, it's a head-to-head points league. Those are the two reasons why I totally bailed on my point guard/power forward theory. It works great for rotisserie or category scoring, but not as much for points. So I concentrated on getting guys who score and get assists. You can always find rebounds on the waiver wire. Getting Tracy McGrady and Mehmet Okur late was the key. The bargains at the end are what make or break any auction.
Of course, what will really be the key to this league is also the key to any league. The pickups. Working the wire every week to find key free agents who can help your team. Which is what we are going to do now, football-style. As always, this column is primarily geared toward our ESPN standard 10-team leagues, ownership percentages are in parentheses and I have saved one "secret" pickup for the video up top. Let's get to it.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams (22 percent): Here's what I wrote about Avery in last week's column: "Speaking of the resurgent Rams, Avery followed up his four-for-73 game with an impressive four-for-65 and a score. That doesn't include the fact that he had another score called back by penalty and missed by 6 inches on yet another. The Patriots just lost Rodney Harrison and regardless, I expect the Rams to be down and throwing in a lot of games."
Since Avery's owned in only 22 percent of leagues, not all of you listened last week. I'm guessing the number goes up this week after his crazy 163-and-a-score performance on Sunday. The Rams get Arizona, then play at the Jets and at San Francisco in their next three. Those are all pass defenses in the bottom half of the league. Now look at the fantasy playoffs: at Arizona, San Francisco again, Seattle and then at Atlanta in Week 17. Awesome. I'll even say this: I'd rather have Avery than Torry Holt these days.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins (20 percent): As long as I am recycling stuff, here's what I wrote about Ginn in this weekend's TRUM: "Welcome to fantasy relevance, Ted Ginn Jr. He had seven catches for 175 yards and looked like the guy I was pumping up in the preseason, not the guy I bailed on two weeks ago. Before you dismiss it as just one game, take a closer look: He's second in targets on the Dolphins coming into Sunday [still is] and has at least 40 receiving yards in three of his past four games. The next four opponents are Denver, Seattle, Oakland and New England, and none of them have good pass defenses. That's the other big reason I'm buying on him."
Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins (59 percent): OK, I'm not gonna just copy and paste previous columns, but Chad was mentioned in my Week 5 pickups column. Since then, he has 61 fantasy points in four games. Sixty-one. Here are the totals for some other quarterbacks in their past four games: Drew Brees, 67. Donovan McNabb, 52. Peyton Manning, 60. Jay Cutler, 48. Eli Manning, 45. Now look at the schedule I just put up in Ginn's write-up. Plus Miami is at Buffalo, home to San Francisco and at Kansas City in the fantasy playoffs.
Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs (13 percent): So as it turns out, I was right to hate Larry Johnson this year. Except for that game against Denver that, as far as my therapist and I are concerned, never actually happened. With LJ not playing this Sunday and his future up in the air with his off-the-field issues, Kolby will most likely get another start. I feel like this is the retread column as I've also written about Kolby and Jamaal Charles a lot before. I still like Charles more but since he has that high ankle sprain, Kolby may get all the carries. And while the matchup isn't great for the third straight week (Tampa Bay has yet to give up a rushing touchdown this year) he'll be a starting running back in a week when LaDainian Tomlinson, Frank Gore, Deuce McAllister and both Panthers running backs are enjoying their byes. And, if the high ankle sprain continues to be a problem for Charles, and Larry keeps, uh, being Larry, it gets easier for Kolby, especially with Oakland and Denver in Weeks 13 and 14.
Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers (1 percent): Here's a quote from San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Martz on his starting quarterback. "[He] is going to be an outstanding player in this league," Martz said. "He's on his way." You certainly like to see praise like that about a quarterback. Of course, Martz said this about J.T. O'Sullivan. Last week. In saying O'Sullivan wouldn't lose his job. Mike Martz lied, or maybe he was simply overruled by rantin' Mike Singletary, but here's something truthful: I hate Mike Martz. That said, his quarterbacks can put up good fantasy numbers and I actually think Hill has some skills. Especially since he's on a bye this week and will get all the first-team reps for two weeks before a nice matchup with Arizona in Week 10. If you need some quarterback depth, here ya go.
Mike Walker, WR, Jaguars (1 percent): Remember that huge game he had against the Steelers? (Six receptions, 106 yards.) Then he got hurt. Well, he practiced Monday and with Matt Jones possibly facing suspension and the Bengals and Lions next up for Jacksonville, he makes an interesting grab. Of course, if Matt Jones is still available, you want him first, just in case.
If you need a running back this week, some other options include Michael Bush (13 percent), who got work because of the injury to Darren McFadden and is at home against Atlanta this week; Kevin Faulk (29 percent), whom I absolutely love against the Colts; BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16 percent), who also merits consideration here; and Maurice Morris (33 percent), who appears to be getting the most work of the Seattle backs. I'm not buying Leonard Weaver (1 percent) and I'm not crazy about any Seahawk against Philadelphia. Also, it looks as though Steven Jackson will play, but if not, I do like Antonio Pittman (1 percent) at home against Arizona.
If you need a bye-week defense, you may think I'm crazy, but I actually think Cleveland's D/ST (16 percent) could be OK this week. At home against the Ravens, that's always a big emotional game. The Browns' fans will be very into it, it's a rookie quarterback and the Browns have 44 fantasy points on defense the past four weeks. Santonio Holmes is back this week and it's a bad matchup on the road at Washington, but it's worth noting that Nate Washington (7 percent) now has a score in three straight games.
Off the Injured List:
Brandon Lloyd (30 percent) is expected back this week. He gets Detroit at home this week and was having a decent season before he got hurt. Joey Galloway (50 percent) has a nice matchup against Kansas City this week and Kevin Curtis (50 percent) should have a strong game against Seattle because, well, most people have strong games against Seattle.
Feel Free to Drop
I'm not saying you drop them, but if you need roster space, I don't have a problem with you getting rid of the following guys: Patrick Crayton, Brad Johnson, Ike Hilliard, Cedric Benson, Josh Reed, Tashard Choice, Malcom Floyd, Drew Bennett, Benjamin Watson, Ashley Lelie, Jeremy Shockey, Mike Furrey, David Patten, Chansi Stuckey and Derek Anderson.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- will wipe the floor with Simmons this week. He appears on Fantasy Football Now, airing Sundays at noon ET on ESPN.com. He is a four-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend