Fantasy: Schedule success key to comebacks
It's Week 8, and you are 2-5.
The running back you traded for is a flop, your wide receiver keeps dropping passes, and you're less-than-excited about your team.
It happens to everyone, at some point. Consider one fantasy owner. Let's call him "Pandora." He made the mistake of settling for Indianapolis' Joseph Addai and Seattle's Julius Jones as his top two running backs. Inept decisions are harder to overcome than injuries, and our man Pandora still has a chance to reach the playoffs.
Here are four things he can do to get his team back on the winning track in time to reach the postseason:
Watch the bye weeks
Bye weeks kill your team. But the upside to having a bad roster is that means other teams might have better players, and when their bye weeks come, someone will have to be dropped.
That's your chance to pounce.
There are only three bye weeks left, but the next two are doozies. Six teams have a bye in Week 8, and another six in Week 9. So the chances for quality players to be dropped from a roster are increasing.
Play the schedules
With almost half the season gone, you have a better idea of which defenses stink. That is important information you can use when adding and dropping players.
For instance, the Seahawks have nine games left, and only one of those comes against a team ranked higher than No. 14 in yards allowed per game (Green Bay, Week 16). It is by far the easiest schedule remaining. That's good news for Julius Jones, Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Matt Hasselbeck and John Carlson.
The flip side: the Cowboys play the toughest schedule, with nine games left and only two opposing defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league. Watch to see if Miles Austin's bubble bursts a little.
Go for the home run
Everybody has an Isaac Bruce somewhere on their bench.
The 49ers' receiver is well past his prime and hardly a breakout candidate, even with Alex Smith throwing the ball. On his best day, he's still your fantasy team's No. 4 or 5 wide receiver.
So why are you keeping him?
Instead, go for high-ceiling, boom-or-bust players who might be available. Sure, Earl Bennett (Bears) or Davone Bess (Dolphins) might completely tank. But they are players who at least have a chance to help you.
Plus, what difference is there in finishing 5-8 and 2-11?
Avoid the Browns
The Browns have a weak schedule the rest of the way, but you shouldn't care.
These Browns are playing like they want to get first-year coach Eric Mangini fired. Only the Raiders have fewer total yards than the Browns, but they at least have players with more than one touchdown. And a quarterback who has not gone 23 for 70 in his past three games. Don't own any Browns unless you absolutely must.
By the bye
Players who could be available as their teams take byes:
WR Laveranues Coles (Bengals), RB Jamaal Charles (Chiefs), Patriots defense, WR Mike Wallace (Steelers), RB Derrick Ward (Bucs), WR Antwaan Randle El (Redskins)
WR Terrell Owens (Bills), WR Bernard Berrian (Vikings), RB Shonn Greene (Jets), RB Justin Fargas (Raiders), WR Donnie Avery (Rams)
WR Kevin Walter (Texans), WR Hakeem Nicks (Giants)
Smith, Davis suddenly a potent combo
Alex Smith is a godsend for Vernon Davis.
The old-turned-new 49ers quarterback certainly will not play as well as he did against the weak-defending Houston Texans (15 of 22, 206 yards, 3 TD) every week. But if Smith really turns out to be an improvement over Shaun Hill, Davis stands to be the beneficiary.
Three weeks ago, Davis was having a nice season despite a no-name quarterback, an injured star running back and no wide receivers to help pull away the coverage.
Now, running back Frank Gore is back in the lineup and first-round pick Michael Crabtree has joined the team and shown he can make an immediate impact.
Smith has played with Davis for three seasons while both underachieved. Expect them to play with chips on their shoulders.
Just beware this week's match against Indianapolis, which sports the league's best pass defense (5.5 yards per attempt).
Name - Team - Pos.
Shonn Greene - NYJ - RB
Beanie Wells - ARI - RB
Jamaal Charles - KC - RB
Name - Team - Pos.
Larry Johnson - KC - RB
Michael Bush - OAK - RB
Mark Sanchez - NYJ - QB
Wideouts to watch
Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars . If Sims-Walker is not an every-week starter for you yet, this week will cement it. The Titans are 28th against the pass (per attempt) and have given up more 91 more passing yards than any other team in the league despite already having a bye.
Bryant Johnson, Lions . QB Matthew Stafford should be back this week against the Rams, who are as bad against the pass as the Lions are. The Lions' lesser Johnson was far better with Stafford in the lineup than not, and Calvin Johnson is banged up.
The teams who face the weakest defenses the rest of the way:
Team - Opponents cumulative rank
Seahawks - 206
Jaguars - 189
Bengals - 187
Browns - 187
Cardinals - 183
Bears - 80
Titans - 179
Lions - 178
Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins . Chipped a bone in his ankle and having surgery, but he could be back in a month.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans . A chest contusion has him day-to-day, but reports say he expects to play. Against, the Bills is a tough matchup anyway.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts . Could practice this week. Expect another week off before he can play in games.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles . Was knocked unconscious and suffered concussion Monday night. Team will be careful with him, so expect at least one game off, maybe more.