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Ben Tate Medically Cleared, Will He Cut into Arian Foster’s Productivity?

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster capitalized on injuries to Ben Tate and Steve Slaton by rushing for a franchise-record 231 yards the first week of the season against the Indianapolis Colts. The undrafted back out of Tennessee didn’t stop there — he put together seven more 100-yard games for the Texans to earn the NFL’s rushing title and fantasy MVP crown. Though 2010 proved to be a monstrous success for Foster, an interesting item was revealed on Tuesday making us wonder how it will impact Foster’s fantasy status for 2011.

Texans running back Ben Tate announced on twitter that he was finally ready to resume his NFL career. “Went to see the doc today finally cleared no more rehab im sooo happy…..time for a vacation then back on the grind for the 2011 season!!!!!!!!#NOLOCKOUT” he wrote.

Tate was Houston’s second-round pick last year and he unfortunately tore up his ankle in the team’s first preseason game in August. Tate ended up on injured reserve for the entire season, and the starting job went to Arian Foster who became a star. Now that the former second-round pick out of Auburn is returning, one has to wonder if Arian will be as productive as he was last year.

There is little doubt that Foster fits into Houston’s offense perfectly and that he can continue his success in the league. The reality is that all teams share carries at running back — even Houston had Derrick Ward getting plenty of looks last season — so I wouldn’t worry about Tate. He has to worry about regaining the form that led to him being a high draft pick, and the Texans would be crazy to take the ball out of Foster’s hands more than they need to.

Tate’s emergence may give the Texans a better second option at running back, but I wouldn’t worry about him cutting into Foster’s stats too much. Arian Foster is still the man in Houston.

Larry Fitzgerald Doesn’t Recommend Himself for Fantasy Football

Not only is Larry Fitzgerald one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, he’s also one of the most honest. After dominating the fantasy football rankings the past several seasons, Fitz had a major dropoff in production last season. The change is due to the poor play by Arizona’s quarterbacks, a terrible trio of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton. Previously, Fitz had been blessed by playing with potential Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, and alongside Anquan Boldin who drew plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

Without an effective quarterback, Fitz joked to Luis Arroyave of The Chicago Tribune via The Big Lead that he would avoid drafting himself in fantasy football:

“I don’t know why you would take me next season … I have a couple things I need to straighten out before anybody takes me too high in the draft. Losing Kurt Warner hurt me a lot.” Should I pass on Fitzergald in my 2011 draft? “You may have to.”

Hopefully you were wise enough to take a pass on the Fitz last season knowing Arizona’s offense would struggle. And he’s absolutely correct — until they get a new QB, he’s nowhere near the top-tier fantasy receiver he had been in the past.

Losing Fantasy Football Bet Resulted in Unicorn Tattoo for Spud Mann

I’m not exactly the type of person who will put permanent ink on the line as the terms of a bet, but apparently some people are. In fact, in a fantasy football league between friends in Omaha, the guy who lobbied for the terms of the bet is the one who lost.

The Omaha World Herald has the story of Spud Mann who finished last in his fantasy league and had to get a tattoo agreed upon by the other nine members of the league. Here’s what they came up with:

He should have a fun time explaining that one to future girlfriends. Thinks he regrets it? Give it a few years, though we’re interested to hear how you think it compares to this tattoo and these ones.

Ryan Mathews Boosts His Fantasy Football Stock for 2011

It’s amazing how perspective has changed from real football to fantasy football, but I suppose the point is the same. After letting LaDainian Tomlinson go and trading up to get a running back in the first round of the draft, the Chargers planned to turn their rushing attack over to fresh legs in 2010. San Diego targeted Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews as their man but the plan did not pan out.

Mathews hurt his ankle in week two and returned two weeks later as a complementary back. He shared carries with Mike Tolbert for about six weeks, hurt his ankle again, and missed three more games. Mathews split carries with Tolbert the last three weeks but became the feature back after Tolbert was knocked out for the season with a neck injury.

Mathews saw a season high 26 carries Sunday against Denver, rolling for 120 yards and three touchdowns. He caught three passes for 19 yards and seemed to making big play after big play for the Chargers. This was the first time all year Mathews got a full dose of carries and he pounded the pill at will.

Mike Tolbert will likely be back to share the load, but after an off-season to rest, Mathews should be a monster next year. Best part of all, after starting off the year with a fumbling problem (one in each of his first two games, three all year), Mathews didn’t fumble over the final month of the year. He has the makings of a great second running back to draft next season in fantasy football, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chargers start running the ball more in the future. For another take, check out Adam Rank’s post at NFL.com.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Fantasy Football Week 17 Playoff Scenarios: Who Will Sit, Who Will Play

Week 17 is one of the trickiest weeks in fantasy football. Which teams will start their studs and let them play all game? Which ones will scrooge us all by playing starters only partial games? Predicting such affairs is a difficult business, but we’ll do our best to try and help guide you in the most important week of the fantasy football season: championship week.

NFC TEAMS

Atlanta Falcons – Playing for the top overall seed and the homefield advantage that comes along with it. All systems go for Atlanta.

Chicago Bears – Will know if they have a chance at top seed by the time they play Sunday (need a Falcons and Saints loss to move up). They’ve said they’re playing everybody but I would be skeptical their stars play full games. I would go in a different direction.

New Orleans Saints – A win and Falcons loss would give them the division. They’re at home against the Bucs and they’ll want to keep rolling heading into the playoffs. They’re a good bet to play well.

Philadelphia Eagles – They’ve clinched the division and don’t have a chance at the bye week. Mike Vick and DeSean Jackson will likely miss the game to rest and heal. Kevin Kolb could be a decent option if you need to pick up a quarterback.

Green Bay Packers – A win and they’re in. They’ll be going all out to clinch the final playoff spot. Though a Giants and Bucs loss also puts them in, the Giants play at the same time so they won’t know if they backed into a playoff spot until after they’re done.

New York Giants – Need a win to have a chance at the playoffs. They’ll go all out, but the concerns are Hakeem Nicks’ broken toe and Ahmad Bradshaw’s ankle. Nicks probably won’t play, Bradshaw probably will. The Giants’ offense isn’t a great play at Washington, but their defense is. Avoid Rex Grossman.

Buccaneers, Rams, and Seahawks are all playing for playoff spots and their fantasy players should be treated like every other week. Same goes for all other NFC teams.

AFC TEAMS

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Rashad Jennings Is a Must-Have Fantasy Backup to Maurice Jones-Drew

It’s the finals of fantasy football for many leagues, and if not that then we’re deep into the playoffs. Unfortunately for some owners they have to worry about stud

Maurice Jones-Drew, upon whom they relied for the regular season. Jones-Drew, who had a stretch of six straight 100-yard games, sat out the final few drives for the Jags against the Colts Sunday. MJD ended up with just 15 totes, his fewest amount since week two, but says his knee was not to blame.

Complicating matters is the fact that Jones-Drew missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of his knee. The Jags have said they’ll announce Maurice’s status for Sunday’s game on Friday. Fantasy owners would be wise to pick up backup Rashad Jennings if they haven’t already. Jennings is a fully-capable back who scored touchdowns in weeks 12-14 for Jacksonville. If MJD ends up unable to play in a critical game for the Jags, Jennings will be a good roster replacement.

UPDATE: MJD is doubtful and reportedly unlikely to play. Start Jennings.

Owen Daniels, Austin Collie, Pierre Thomas Are Strong Fantasy Pickups

We haven’t done our usual working the waiver wire fantasy column the last two weeks because bye weeks are over and most people are in fantasy playoffs. Still, that won’t keep us from providing recommendations throughout the week when they arise, and it shouldn’t prevent you from contacting your expert (larry at larrybrownsports dot com) for personal advice. Not only does LB kill it with Doc Brown’s picks each week, but LB’s fantasy teams are first in each of their leagues and his advice has been spot on each week. Anyway, here are some recommended pickups if these guys are available in your league.

Hopefully someone dropped Texans tight end Owen Daniels in your league. Daniels has been bothered by a hamstring injury and missed five weeks. He returned to catch 5 passes for 91 yards Monday night against the Ravens, and that was despite some brutal drops. His hands might be rusty, but his body isn’t. If you need a fill-in tight end for the playoffs, grab Daniels if he’s available. The bonus is he has great matchups ahead (at Ten, at Den, Jax).

Colts wide receiver Austin Collie has missed nearly half the season because of concussions. Before the concussions, he was becoming one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets, and now that he’s back he should resume that role. Expect a monster week from Collie against the Jags at home in his first week back.

Lastly, hopefully Pierre Thomas was dropped in your league like the two aforementioned people because of injuries. The Saints running back missed nine games because of an ankle injury and finally returned on Sunday and led the team with 12 carries. With Chris Ivory battling a hamstring injury, Pierre could lead the team in carries again. Though the Ravens are a tough matchup, Pierre’s contributions in the passing game keep him valuable against any opponent.