James Starks Is a Decent Fantasy Addition But Don’t Get Carried Away

With most leagues heading into the playoffs this week, we didn’t do our typical weekly fantasy waiver wire column; those of you who have made the postseason probably have a good idea of what you’re doing. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t provide some valuable fantasy advice when it comes up. Enter James Starks.

Brandon Jackson owners know quite well that Starks led the Packers in carries Sunday against the 49ers. The rookie 6th round pick from Buffalo made his season debut racking up 73 yards on 18 carries. John Kuhn was next on the team with six carries while quarterback Aaron Rodgers ran it four times and running back Brandon Jackson also had four carries. Though several backs got into the act, Starks clearly separated himself in terms of workload.

Though Starks seems promising, I have my reservations about his potential productivity. Green Bay has become a pass-heavy team putting the ball in the hand of Aaron Rodgers for the most part. They have a dome game in Detroit this weekend meaning they’ll probably throw it plenty. After Detroit, it’s at New England and then home against the Bears and Giants to finish up the year — both good teams against the run. Maybe the Packers haven’t been good running the ball because they haven’t had a good running back, but I just don’t see this team suddenly giving Starks 20 carries a game leading to 100 yards. Additionally, Jackson is a good pass catcher out of the backfield and will still be a big part of the offense.

Starks may get 15 carries a game the rest of the way, but without rushing touchdowns he won’t be too valuable. He’s a decent player to watch but don’t get carried away.

Working the Waiver Wire: Week 13 Free Agent Pickup Advice

Here is some advice on working the waiver wire in your fantasy league (for personal advice email larry at larrybrownsports.com):

Matchups to Avoid (at your discretion): Packers, Bears, and Steelers defenses are not impenetrable, but they’re good. Avoid Saints, Chargers, Giants, and Bears pass defense. Still avoid Steelers, Bears, Chargers, Jets run defense.

Matchups to Exploit (at your discretion): Houston, Buffalo, Seattle, Jacksonville, New England and Oakland’s secondary (Asomugha is out). Buffalo, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Denver, and Indy’s run defense.

The waiver wire has been thinner and thinner the past few weeks because players have been able to stay healthy for the most part. An injury to Frank Gore made Brian Westbrook the top target, but outside of that we’re just picking at players who are likely available. Take a look at our thorough guide of working the waiver wire for advice on how to manage your fantasy football roster:


Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers – Westbrook looked great on Monday night, running for 136 yards and a touchdown. With Frank Gore out for the season, Westbrook will be their feature back.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings – Gerhart’s no Adrian Peterson (who is?), but he is a physical runner that would stand to get a lot of carries if an ankle injury keeps Peterson out.
Ben Obomanu, WR, Seahawks – Now the top receiver in Seattle, he hauled in an 87-yard score on Sunday and has scored in three of the last four games.
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs – We’ve frequently advised picking up Cassel as a one-week monster play, but now we’re just recommending picking him up. He’s a safe play most weeks because he doesn’t make mistakes. The connection with Dwayne Bowe, while likely to slow down, has helped his stats tremendously.
*Make sure they’re not still available: Todd Heap

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Frank Gore Hip Injury Makes Brian Westbrook Top Fantasy Pickup

What started off as a promising night for Frank Gore fantasy football owners swiftly turned into a Derek Anderson-like tirade. Gore had a 25-yard run to open up the game and he went ahead for another 19 on his next two. After losing a yard on his fourth carry, Gore left the game but later returned on the team’s second drive.

Frank was hurt during his first carry back and did not see action after that. Reports on Monday night were that Gore was out for the season with a fractured hip, an injury that seemingly came out of nowhere. Anthony Dixon became San Francisco’s short-yardage and goal-line back while Brian Westbrook quickly emerged as the team’s feature back.

Westbrook, who previously only had nine yards on five carries for San Francisco, carried the ball 23 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. The 23 carries were the most Westbrook had since week 14 in 2008, and the 31-year-old looked more like the stud we saw for six years in Philly rather than the concussion case he became last year.

The year off of action has left Westbrook with fresh legs and he still appears to have the strong speed and good moves. Playing for a team that likes to employ a conservative ball control offense like San Francisco, Brian Westbrook will become an excellent fantasy addition.

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Working the Waiver Wire: Week 12 Free Agent Pickup Advice

Here is some advice on working the waiver wire in your fantasy league (for personal advice email larry at larrybrownsports.com):

Matchups to Avoid (at your discretion): Packers defense has been awesome, plus Chicago and Pittsburgh’s D have been good too. Avoid Saints, Chargers, and Bears pass defense. Still avoid Steelers, Bears, Giants, Jets run defense. Green Bay’s defense is the best in the league, and Pittsburgh and Chicago are not too far behind.

Matchups to Exploit (at your discretion): Houston, Buffalo, Jacksonville, New England and Dallas’ secondary. Buffalo, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Denver, and Indy’s run defense. Start a defense playing Carolina and Tennessee as long as Rusty Smith is starting.

Last week’s must-have gang featured the likes of Santonio Holmes, James Jones, and Brandon Pettigrew, all of whom had huge receiving games. We also recommended Mark Sanchez (315yds, 3TDs), Matt Cassel (192yds, 2TDs, no turnovers), KC (13 points allowed), and Baltimore (two defensive touchdowns) as our monster plays. That should be reason enough to trust our judgment. Here’s our advice for picking up free agents off the waiver wire in week 12:


Mike Tolbert, RB, Chargers – Unlikely to be available in your league once it was revealed Ryan Mathews wouldn’t play last week, Tolbert is a great pickup if he is available. Mathews is probably out on Sunday, making Tolbert a good bet for a score.
Maurice Morris, RB, Lions – Jahvid Best is bothered by turf toe making Morris the likely beneficiary. He can run and receive and should total 100 yards on Thursday.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers – Likely available on your waiver wire, he’s back from his holdout this week. He’ll see even more targets with Crayton and Floyd hurt.
Keiland Williams, RB, Redskins – I wasn’t big on Keiland after his Monday night game, but with Clinton Portis hurt he should have the starting job until Ryan Torain is healthy. Starting running backs on decent offenses have value.
Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins – We’ve recommended him before as a nice addition, but with Brandon Marshall out he should see more targets. Of course, that means he’ll get more attention from defenses too.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings – The big Minnesota target looked good hauling in three passes in his season debut last week. He won’t be the monster he was last year, but he still can do plenty.
*Make sure they’re not still available: James Jones

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Working the Waiver Wire: Week 11 Free Agent Pickup Advice

Here is some advice on working the waiver wire in your fantasy league (for personal advice email larry at larrybrownsports.com):

Matchups to Avoid (at your discretion): Packers defense now that they’re healthy. Avoid Saints, Chargers, and Bears pass defense. Still avoid Steelers Giants, Jets run defense. Outside of Green Bay, there really is no true defense to avoid this year.

Matchups to Exploit (at your discretion): Houston, Buffalo, Jacksonville, New England and Dallas’ secondary. Buffalo, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Denver, and Indy’s run defense. Start a defense playing Carolina and Seattle (SF falls off the list now that Troy Smith is starting).

We recommended Santonio Holmes as our must-have player last week and all he did was break out with the game-winning touchdown in overtime as the Jets’ leading receiver. Still not sold on our talents? Josh Freeman and David Garrard were touted as one-week monster plays at quarterback. Freeman threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 19 yards. Garrard had 342 yards passing and two touchdowns including the hail mary, plus 35 yards on the ground. Simply put, we know what we’re doing. Keep that in mind as you read through the rest of the advice:


Mario Manningham, WR, Giants – We gave him a special recommendation after word came out about Steve Smith’s pec injury and Manningham did not disappoint in his first start. 10 catches and a touchdown, he’ll be valuable as long as Smith is out.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets – Demoted to second string at the beginning of the year, he’s now getting at least half the carries each game. I think he’ll be a common thread on many championship teams and will be a valuable contributor during fantasy playoffs. If someone dropped him, pick him up. Try to trade for him if you can (but don’t go overboard in what you give up).
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys – Broke a screen pass for a 71-yard touchdown and showed what he can do in the passing game. He may become more involved in the offense with Garrett calling all the shots now. He’s already on most rosters, but if he’s available he could help your team down the stretch.
James Jones, WR, Packers – He had back-to-back 100-yard games after catching 8 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown a week ago and he looked great working with Aaron Rodgers. He’s available in most leagues.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets – Recorded his first 100-yard game of the season, breaking a couple of big plays Sunday. Back-to-back matchups against weak secondaries makes him an even more appealing play.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions – Shaun Hill is back at quarterback and absolutely loves this guy. He has exceptional value in PPR leagues
*Make sure they’re not still available: Malcom Floyd

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Steve Smith Pectoral Injury Opens Up Opportunity for Mario Manningham

The best phonetic quarterback-wide receiver combination in the NFL may be in full effect the next few weeks for the New York Giants: Eli Manning to Mario Manningham. Wide receiver Steve Smith hurt his pectoral muscle during practice on Thursday and will miss at least the next two games. The injury to Smith means slot receiver Mario Manningham will move into the starting lineup and likely see more targets.

Manningham has always been able to get open, but his problem as far as I’ve seen it is that he has shaky hands. The third-year wide receiver from Michigan has plenty of speed which allows him to get in position to score a touchdown nearly every single week. If you decide to pick him up (he’s available in almost 40% of leagues), beware that Manningham went two games this season without a catch. Keep in mind that was when he was a situational third receiver and not a starter, as he will be now.

The Star-Ledger says Smith has a partially torn pectoral muscle which means that missing at least two games is likely. Manningham isn’t reliable in terms of his hands, but with Smith out he should produce more consistently and give you a quality fantasy option.

Tom Brady, Patriots Offense Hurting Without Randy Moss

We knew Tom Brady’s stats would go down without Randy Moss and that the Patriots would be a less-potent offense without the star, but we could not have figured they’d be struggling as badly as they are. Don’t get me wrong, they still were the top team in our power rankings last week, but the Pats’ offense hasn’t lit it up since trading the Pro Bowler.

ESPN provided some excellent analysis of Brady’s stats in the four games with Randy Moss and the four games without him. Here are some of the highlights:

Tom Brady Without Randy Moss

    + Completion percentage is down 11.4%
    + Yds/attempt is down 0.9 (from 7.5 to 6.6)
    + Four fewer touchdown passes (9 vs. 5)
    + Sacked three more times (8 vs. 5)
    + Passer Rating down 24.8 points (109 vs. 84.1)

Wes Welker’s stats without Randy Moss

    + Six fewer targets (24 vs. 18)
    + Eight fewer catches (26 vs. 18)
    + Catch percentage down 12% (76% vs. 64%)

I always said Randy Moss made Wes Welker and it looks like that’s exactly the case. That’s not a knock on Welker because he was the ideal complement to Moss, but on his own he can’t create the type of plays he could with Randy there.

The Vikings meanwhile experienced a similar change in production with and without Randy Moss. They averaged 21.5 points per game with Randy and just 17.5 without him. Brett Favre’s passer rating was 80.8 on average in games played with Moss but 71.5 without him.

Even though Randy’s stats might not show he’s doing much, it’s pretty clear he has a large, positive impact on any offense of which he’s a part. Obviously this is good news for the Titans’ prospects the rest of the year.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Amy Sancetta