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December 16, 11:00 AM ET
Fantasy Football with Tristan Cockcroft

Mike (Madison, WI)

I don't have a question, Tristan. I just wanted to thank you for doing these chats all year. Thanks for putting all the time in.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:01 AM)

No problem Mike, it's my pleasure, and all of ours, really. I have fun with the chats, and hopefully they've helped everyone get this far this season! Anyway, let's try to push everyone over the top, to a fantasy football championship. Let's get to your questions!

Peyton Manning (Indy)

Dude, Am I playing more than a quarter Thursday night? Guess. You'll never guess.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:04 AM)

OK, I want to get this out of the way right off the bat. There's all this hub-bub about the Colts and Saints (Colts in particular) resting starters now that they're locked in as the AFC's No. 1 seed, and here's my blanket response: Hogwash. OK, for this week at least. Think of it like this: If they rest guys for the final three weeks, that's an entire <i>month's</i> rest, and to draw a baseball comparison into this, ask the 2006 Detroit Tigers how things panned out when they had all that rest going into the World Series. There's the risk players get rusty. This is such a good matchup, there's only one way I see Peyton Manning sitting late -- he throws for 200 and two scores against the terrible Jags D and then gets the hook, say, 10 minutes into the third because his team is up 31-7. But I don't think his owners would complain if he's the reason they're up big. We can talk in Weeks 16 and more likely 17, but this week? No concerns at all.

Simon (Boca Raton, Fl)

I never thought I would be asking this. Is it time to bench Reggie Wayne? His production has been almost nil the last three weeks, and the Colts stance on the remainder of the schedule worries me. I have VJax, Donald Driver, and Robert Meachem as my other top receiving options, and Quinton Ganther as a possible flex. Should I use two of those receivers and Ganther at flex, and do the once unthinkable, bench Reggie?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:05 AM)

This kind of ties into the previous question, and if Rashean Mathis is out for the Jags again, that plays right into the hands of Wayne. Remember, he clobbered the Jags' in their previous meeting this season, and I could very well see him doing it again. Peyton Manning will have all the time in the world to locate Wayne deep, and Wayne should be wide open regularly.

Lee (Atlanta)

Tristan,what is your take on the two Panthers RB's against Vikings now that they will be starting two back-up offensive tackles? Do you see either being able to score TD against Vikes run D?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:07 AM)

Very good point, Lee, as the O-line injuries are a noticeable hit to the fantasy value of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Sounds to me like Stewart might not play this week, in which case I'd still call Williams a No. 2/flex type despite the tough matchup. If the two split the workload, though, I'd steer clear if I could.

Jake (VA Beach)

'We're running out of time!' Seriously, just about ONE month away from Season 8!! So, emerging Nicks or slumping MSW? And, Benson, Jacobs or Ganther?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

Can't wait, Jake. I just wish they were showing us more in the commercials, though I'm sure that'll come with time. With the receivers, that really depends on the status of Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall. A depleted Redskins pass D means Hakeem Nicks gets a noticeable boost. Right now, I give the slight edge to the rookie, and I have a feeling that will the case right into kickoff. At running back, I'd go Cedric Benson. He's a workhorse and the matchup suits him at least as well as the other two.

Dan (Michigan)

Ok, so I'm a #1 seed who's gotten lucky so far... Who should go this week in a tough matchup- C. Jennings or C. Benson?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:11 AM)

No. 1 seeds can hardly say luck was the driving force behind their current status. For one thing, Cedric Benson has been a heck of a pick for you, not just a couple-week stud. And he's my guy here, too, though I admit I think Chris Jennings is a lower-level (think flex-play) sleeper. It seems safe to declare him "the guy" in that backfield now, because there was an explanation offered as to why he was not in Week 13.

Michael (Los Angeles)

HELP! Start Witten who has been a bit of a dissapointment but gets lots of targets or Davis who has the match-up against the Giants?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:15 AM)

You know, it's not crazy to roll the dice on Fred Davis this week. I'd have those guys extremely close-ranked. Jason Witten is a somewhat smarter play in a game where the Saints might look to contain Miles Austin, not to mention one where the Cowboys might be throwing a lot. But Davis does have a good matchup. Witten for me, but just stressing I won't call Davis fans crazy.

Curt (Phoenix)

Please ! ! Stefan Logan, the kickoff returner for the Steelers, did not play last week, and no one on this site or anywhere else can tell me why. He is vital to my team. What is going on? Can I play him this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:16 AM)

He did play, just not on kick returns (Mewelde Moore did). Also, seems the Browns just kicked away from him on punts, hence the zero numbers. Hard to say whether that trend changes; Mike Tomlin did promise changes before the week, so that might be a permanent switch.

Ryan (Tn.)

Arian Foster or Quintan Ganther?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:17 AM)

Oooh, interesting. I'd go Foster. The Texans could stand to get a longer look at him, he's a useful pass catcher (so PPR owners will be most pleased) and he faces the Rams. Ganther battles the Giants, and that's not the best of matchups.

Phil (Chicago)

Do you expect much out of Dwayne Bowe this week? It is a good matchup, but I am worried they are going to ease him back into action.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:18 AM)

I'm worried about that too. After so much missed time, it would make sense he's eased back in more slowly. I'd only consider him a fringe No. 3/flex in a deeper league (12-plus teams).

sam (pompano, fl)

Are there any good defenses that are probably still available in most leagues that would be a good pick up this week

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

Among defenses available in at least 50 percent of ESPN leagues, only the Texans seems to strike me as a viable plug-in. They battle the Rams, which is a good matchup, especially if it's Keith Null at quarterback again. Cardinals are barely owned in 50 percent and they battle the Lions ... though I actually barely prefer the Texans to them.

Kevin (Templeton)

Too much thinking? Revis scares me. Sit Roddy and go with Derrick Mason and Randy Moss?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:22 AM)

No, not too much thinking. Any Darrelle Revis matchup requires deep thought. I do think Revis shuffles around and isn't glued to Roddy White on every single down, but he'll be White's shadow often enough that I see Mason and Moss as smarter plays.

Vince (Ohio)

I have lost Matt Ryan for the playoffs mostly and now who is my best option this week: Palmer, Cutler (Ugh) or Campbell?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:24 AM)

Jay Cutler is a no-way, no-how option in the fantasy playoffs. Period. He looks terrible, and if your league penalizes interceptions... let's just say it's not pretty. Jason Campbell faces the Giants, and while that might not cement his status as a top-10 option, there's considerably better fantasy potential with him than the other two. Giants games might by all rights shape up as shoot-outs the remainder of the year. Could totally see it.

Brett (Tallahassee)

I was thinking a BBQ pulled pork sandwich with Smoked Gouda for lunch today, you? Any chance I should start Wells over Mendenhall? I amhating that matchup with the stingy cheeseheads.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:25 AM)

Leftover pizza for me today. And I'd have those guys ranked awfully close, as second-tier backs. With the way Beanie Wells looked clearly like "the guy" ahead of Tim Hightower, I'd go with the rookie against the Lions.

April (Boston)

Stick with J. Finley or roll the dice on F. Davis' TD streak... playoff, every point is important!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

This is one week where I do not like Jermichael Finley's matchup at all. Even missing Troy Polamalu the Steelers have contained tight ends lately, while Fred Davis battles the safety-challenged Giants.

Chad (STL)

Tristan - I realize you have nothing to do with the projections, but Vince projecting for more points then Brady is no reason to actually not use Brady. I'm right, right.... right?!?!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:29 AM)

Remember that our statistical projections effectively offer you a "most probable" expected fantasy point total. It doesn't mean <i>Tom Brady WILL only get nine fantasy points</i>, it means that accounting for all the factors that go in, that seems the most middle-ground of any possible outcome. It makes sense, because the guy is really nicked up right now, and the Bills don't give up oodles of passing yards. I'd just react to those numbers as this: Boy, Vince Young sure would be a useful fill-in if the worst-case happens with Brady leading into Sunday. From that angle, those projections are immensely useful ... but you should <i>never</i> simply take them at face value without reading the writeups and thinking about the specific matchup yourself.

Browns D (Cleveland,OH)

What about us? We get KC and Oakland.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:31 AM)

There is no chance the Cleveland Browns defense is going to be in my fantasy lineup any week, let alone our playoffs. The three times the Browns managed double-digit fantasy points you would <i>never</i> have had them active (twice versus Steelers, once versus Bills). Too unpredictable, and it's due to a dearth of elite talent.

bryan (houston)

do you like the Texans D over the Titans D this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:32 AM)

Yup, odd as that sounds.

John (New Jersey)

Im against the 1 seed this week and am considerably outmatched so this is a big decision for me. Should I stick with Roddy White despite a terrible matchup, or go with a shaky alternative in Jason Avant or Devin Aromashodu?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:34 AM)

Stick with Roddy White, because even the best-case scenario with the other two might not be as good as an average output by White. There's a reason I say stick with your studs in the fantasy playoffs, and it's because you won't be as upset if White is a bust (say, 5 FPTS) and an Aromashodu "goes off" (say, 8-10) than if you used the latter and he gets a predictable two points, while White beats Revis for a score and manages 10-12. Much more potential for regret, for one.

jay (armonk, ny)

Would you consider starting Foster vs. StL over Ryan Grant vs. Pitt?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:35 AM)

Nope. After all, it's not like the Steelers have played great overall defense lately. Look what the Browns' backs just did to them.

Andrew (Missouri)

Peyton or McNabb this week? I'm tempted to play McNabb to cover myself. I am 21 pts ahead of my opponent going into this week, but his team is very strong and could make up those 21 points quickly. Your thoughts? Thank you!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

I'm not sure how the points come into play here; I'd be playing my best matchup either way. Go for the kill. No way I'm sitting Peyton Manning against the Jaguars. The point potential is too great.

Daniel (SF)

Need some QB help. Can't stick with Hasselbeck any longer. Pick up Henne or Cassel?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

But this is one time -- assuming he's fully healthy and cleared to play, of course -- that Matt Hasselbeck's matchup leans entirely favorably.

PJ (Charlotte)

Brady or Campbell? It's not as crazy as it sounds!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

Yes it is, unless Brady has a barrage of injuries significantly threatening his status for the game ... which, yes, was the case in Week 14. Barring a repeat, it's crazy.

Christopher (ATL)

Addai over Charles in a TD only league this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:39 AM)

I'd play Jamaal Charles over Joseph Addai in every single fantasy football format I can think of this week. He plays the Browns; that's a great matchup.

Scott (Detroit MI)

Advice needed! Jennings vs. Steelers or Meachem vs. Cowboys?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

The worry with Greg Jennings is that the Steelers might not give Aaron Rodgers enough time to throw to him, but considering how that defense has played lately, I'm not that concerned. It's Jennings here, but barely.

Rob (State College)

Hey Tristan - I'm projected to win my next playoff round by 23 points, which of course means I'm doomed! Help me pick the right 2 RBs and 1 flex: Mendenhall, Grant, LT2, Charles, Foster.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:42 AM)

Haha, don't you just love that, the projected margin of victory? A perfect reason why I said earlier that projected fantasy point totals cannot be taken as gospel. They range wildly, and a number on paper cannot detail the extent. So let's give you a good lineup, shall we? Jamaal Charles is an obvious pick to me. And I will go LaDainian Tomlinson as the No. 2, and not because I think he's an especially good runner, but more because he's a goal-line machine this season. The guy will average you 3.0 yards per carry most weeks, but when the Chargers get close, it's LT2, LT2, LT2.

Jonathan (Philly)

In PPR, Gore vs Eagles or Moreno vs Raiders? Packers DST vs Pitt or previously mentioned Texans DST vs StL? And if Fitzgerald is OUT this week, do you like Antonio Bryant vs Sea?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:45 AM)

I think if Correll Buckhalter is out, this has to be Knowshon Moreno. Way too much upside in the matchup if it's entirely Moreno's backfield. Any other circumstance has me using Frank Gore, though. At defense I would stick with the Packers, because they're playing surprisingly well lately and picked a good time to play the Steelers. And yes, Bryant is a fine fill-in if you need him. Considering how poor the Seattle defense is, Bryant is a solid No. 2/3 type for this week.

Santana Moss (D.C.)

Can u compare me to DJax this week where I score TD's at will against a sorry Giant's secondary?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:46 AM)

I cannot because I recall similar stacked matchups for Mr. Moss in which he was a real disappointment. Seems Jason Campbell is as likely to look in Fred Davis' direction, or Devin Thomas', then Moss'. Not that I'm saying Moss is a poor play, but he's not coming close to D-Jax's Week 14.

Gary (Sedona, AZ)

Do you see J.P. Losman starting right away at OAK? My fantasy hopes lie on it being Russell again so that my D can clean up.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

Good question from the defensive perspective, but no, I can't see the Raiders immediately tossing Losman to the wolves. In Week 16 or 17? Sure, maybe. That said, if Tom Cable is truly this desperate to avoid JaMarcus Russell, I wouldn't be any more scared by a fresh-off-the-street Losman than Russell, not this week.

Jason (Wichita)

I've remained in first place all season long and have advanced to the second round of the playoffs riding N. Burleson and M. Sims-Walker as two of my WR's in a PPR league. Their production has dropped off rapidly and both are facing injuries but do I continue to use them this week or start D. Bess and D. Bowe instead?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:50 AM)

I think you're going to <i>have</i> to use one of those guys, at least, seeing that Nate Burleson has his foot in a boot due to a high ankle sprain, meaning he's pretty unlikely to play this week. I'd pick Davone Bess of those options. He's a decent plug-in for PPR formats, and the matchup isn't all that bad.

Mike (Bay Area)

So is it safe to assume Denver D is the #1 bet this week???

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:51 AM)

Hmmm ... yes. If the Vikings were at home, I might have considered them for the honor though.

Zach (East Lansing, MI)

I won't write a touchy-feely letter about how you never answer my question; I am simply begging, putting my ego aside, on my knees, pleading for you to answer this one: 2 of 3 in PPR league: Arian Foster, Beanie Wells, Ganther

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:52 AM)

You've got to use Beanie Wells against the Lions. So it's down to a previous question about Foster versus Ganther, and in a PPR format, that seems pretty clear to me: Foster. That's one of his greatest assets, catching passes out of the backfield.

Garrett (Utah)

Sit Roddy for Britt or Cribbs (wildcattery)?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

No, but a lot of people seem to be asking about Josh Cribbs today, so let's talk that for a second. Now, I'll be completely honest, I have never played in a league that straight-out rewards return yardage, so it's hard for me to pinpoint an exact weekly expectation for a guy like Cribbs. Numbers tend to stick in my head when I'm used to them in a lot of leagues on a weekly basis. Gut feel? I think he's probably a great, and tremendously underrated, option in those formats. For one thing, this talk that he'll get some carries is legit. I could see 5-10 any week, meaning the guy might legitimately touch the football about 12-15 times per week. Plus, he's explosive and the matchup suits him. Again, hard for me to advise exactly where and how to use him, but if he has been a decent value in your format all year, I'd be willing to give him my starter's endorsement for Week 15.

Roger (Duluth, MN)

Would you start Antonio Bryant and sit Megatron if Culpepper starts?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:56 AM)

Very interesting question, Roger, and yes, I probably would if I needed to roll the dice. This is one of those questions where the guys would rank almost the same, but there's more risk/reward in Bryant, and more stability/predictability in Megatron. And yes, there is a downside with Megatron, but I don't see it being as steep as with Bryant.

Matt (SC)

Hey Tristian, Happy Holidays! I'm with you on Peyton this week as far as still putting up decent numbers in limited time, but would you think about playing his younger brother over him with that knowledge?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:58 AM)

No. To be clear, I think it's at least twice as likely that Peyton Manning plays every snap of Week 15 as he plays only half the game. If I had to predict, I will say he plays, hmmm, 52 minutes.

Sam (BAltimore, MD)

Tristan, why is Michael Bourn so low (106) in your top 200 for baseball in 2010? He is still young and had a breakout year last year where he finished in the top 40 on the Player Rater.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

We'll get to baseball chats pretty soon, Sam, don't worry, but for those who popped in today to ask a baseball question, feel free to e-mail me off the site or pop me a question on Twitter (@SultanofStat). I'll get to each of them, don't worry.

Taylor (Idaho)

Tristan, had a non-playoff team in my league drop their entire bench. IMO this is cheating and he is trying to affect the playoffs so as Commish I locked all teams and told him to pick his players back up or he wouldnt be invited back in the league. fair or foul?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:01 PM)

That very much depends on what he (or she) was trying to do. If they were all useless players and he was trying to clear open spots to ease the process of lining up waiver claims -- relevant in keeper leagues especially -- then you can't really block the move. But traditionally speaking, as commish I do lock out non-playoff teams from moves in redraft formats, and if teams do this, as commish, yes, you'd have the right to ask the owner politely not to do it. If that owner is then difficult, you can consider replacing him in the offseason.

Brent (Minneapolis, MN)

I have V. Young, A. Smith and Orton...who plays this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

If Vince Young is cleared fully to play -- and I believe he will be -- then he's got the best matchup of the bunch.

Jack Bauer (...?)

Will we see Tony this year in 24??!!!!!!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

I think so, yes. Too popular a character.

Eric C (Cambridge, MA)

I have ryan grant, justin forsett and beanie wells. Match ups and projections tell me i should sit ryan grant. isnt that kinda insane though?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:04 PM)

Yes, it's kind of insane. We can't even be assured Justin Forsett will get more than half of the touches between the two Seattle running backs. In which case there's no way I can endorse him this week, much as I like him in terms of sheer talent.

Xander (Philly)

But do you like Grant this week? Packers can be real pass happy at times.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:05 PM)

To put it simply, I like Ryan Grant as a solid, middle-ground No. 2 fantasy RB this week. I'm neither raving nor trashing him by any means. Nice, safe, middle-level guy.

Hans Moleman (Springfield)

Thanks for staying late again, THC. Since you don't do weekly rankings I'd like to know would you consider sitting Roddy this week for a lesser option like Bowe, Britt, Avery or S. Moss? Thanks.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:07 PM)

No problem Hans, and by the way, I was also saying "Boo-urns." The only one of those options I'd even think about is Kenny Britt -- and I'd make the swap only under two conditions: One, Vince Young plays, and two, I needed to take high-upside shots because of the construction of the rest of my lineup.

guy (minny)

Weird question. Mangenius has mentioned that he was thinking of using Cribbs, their only playmaker, in a more traditional rb role. I have 2 rbs and a flex (CJ, Ricky, Chris Jennings). What do you think about using Cribbs at wideout and hope he gets the touches of a rb and beat the system by starting potentially 4 rbs?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:08 PM)

Again, I have no idea what your league rewards in terms of special-teams numbers. I don't think you're way off-base in your strategizing. If I'm predicting this, I think Cribbs could by all rights get 5-10 carries this week, and if you think you see value there, by all means. But I don't know your alternatives. I doubt a ton of teams -- especially those in standard formats -- can afford to do this.

Give me one (Detroit)

Sit Rodgers this week for Romo?...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:09 PM)

Nope! Not at all scared by Aaron Rodgers' matchup. Liked the comment we had on him in the projections, actually. Very relevant stat you should check out.

Trey (OK)

Do you like Steven Jackson this week? Over Grant?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:11 PM)

Let's just say with Steven Jackson that what I wrote in Instant Replay rings true. What I have liked about him this season is he was an automatic 20-carry guy with five-catch potential every single week. Problem is, I think the Rams would be smarter to cap his workload at 15 carries and 20 touches the rest of the way, and with that he's no longer an automatic. I'd call these guys very similar; Jackson is a high-level No. 2 back, and there's a chance that he drops a couple notches next week (like 12th to 15th), and then a similar amount more the final week.

Eric (Boston)

THC, I was wondering if you had an opinion regarding picking up Ronnie Brown as an option for keeper leagues. I wouldn't lose a draft pick for him because it's off waivers. I don't know why his owner waited this long to drop him if he wasn't intent on keeping him, but what say you? I get two and my other will probably be Moreno in hopes that he becomes an every-down guy out in Denver.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:13 PM)

Ronnie Brown by no means should be a free agent in any keeper league, no matter how few players you retain. I can make the case right now that he's <i>at least</i> a top-50 player for 2010, and that means in a 10-team, five-keeper league, he's an automatic. And I'm being conservative there; a lot can change between now and the keeper deadline. It's not a far jump from there to top-25, or top-20 status, and those latter two are instant keepers in any format.

Scott (Hanover, Pa)

Haven't seen anyone mention it, what do you think of the strategy of starting Jenkins in place of White this week b/c of Revis taking him out? Yay or nay? Thanks!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:14 PM)

That was sort of the way Week 14 shook out, but I'll stress that Michael Jenkins is only for those desperately digging deep in PPR formats. The main reason is that at his best he'll probably haul in a handful of 8-10 yard catches between the 20s, but when he has helped advance the drive into the red zone, then it's Roddy or Tony G. or Jason Snelling time.

Max Fisher (Rushmore)

With Burleson's injury, is Deion Branch suddenly useful?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:16 PM)

Perhaps, if Nate Burleson is formally ruled out. It's a good matchup and there aren't a lot of viable alternatives, so if you're in a deeper league I could see maybe No. 3/flex value in Branch. Not that I'm giddy about it, I'll stress.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:17 PM)

OK folks, time to wrap things up for the day. Thanks for all your questions, and sorry if I didn't get to yours. Best of luck to you in your Week 15 playoff matchups -- hope I've helped you win a title! Take care...