These Monday nighters are killing me.
Two weeks ago I go into the final game of the week with a lead and lose on Terrell Owens' touchdown catch that wasn't a catch.
Last week I go in with a lead and barely hang on to win when Clinton Portis gets dragged down just short of the goal line twice.
Yeah, I know a win's a win. But it was an ugly win, a hard-on-your-heart win, an I-don't-deserve-this-win win. I'll take it, but I don't have to feel good about it.
I'm 2-1 staring at 2-10, and my fortunes aren't looking up. My quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck) has a bye this week. My receivers (Derrick Mason and Koren Robinson) apparently have byes this season.
I've got to shake things up. Trade patience for panic. Make a move. Something.
I'm oh-so tempted to cut Robinson, who was supposed to be my No. 2 receiver. Ha! I play him Week 1 and he can't hang onto the ball. He makes three grabs for 35 yards. So I sit him Week 2 (you know, send him a message) and he gets 66 yards and a TD. I put him back into the lineup last week and he makes one reception for 12 yards.
In fairness to Koren, he had the sniffles this past weekend. What, you can give a guy a cortisone shot, but not Tylenol Cold and Sinus? Some green tea and honey? Suck it up, Koren! Your team needs you (and I'm not talking about the Seahawks; they won 34-0 in Week 3).
I don't need guys like that on my team. What I need is more guys like Edgerrin James, who strained his hamstring while scoring an insurance touchdown in Week 2 against the Titans. Asked why he didn't go down short of the goal line so the Colts could run out the clock, 'Edge' said: "The fantasy football people would have been mad at me. I had to please the fantasy guys."
That's what I want guys who have a hard time separating fantasy from reality.
No matter what ails your team, now is a good time to try to swing a trade. By now you should have a good read on your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your opponents. You've got an idea what to expect from your players (my general rule: players who disappoint in Weeks 1 and 2 are slow starters; players who disappoint in Weeks 1, 2 and 3 are bums). And it's still early enough for your deal to make a difference.
The best deals get done by owners who do the work. Identify your team's strengths (assuming it has some). Find an owner who needs what you have and has what you want and propose a reasonable, mutually beneficial trade. It's a more effective approach than doomsday message board postings ("My team's miserable; everyone's available") or insulting offers (as much as you might like Trader Joe to accept your Joe Horn-for-LaDainian Tomlinson proposal, it's not going to happen).
No matter the approach, the basic idea behind any trade should be to sell high, buy low. Listed below are a few prime candidates in both categories.
Buy low: Fred Taylor, Duce Staley, Corey Dillon, Travis Henry, Michael Bennett, Lee Suggs, Tatum Bell, Steve McNair, Michael Vick, Trent Green, Carson Palmer, Derrick Mason, Santana Moss, Laveranues Coles, Anquan Boldin, Todd Heap.
Sell high: Thomas Jones (No. 2 among RBs; no way he stays there), Curtis Martin, Tiki Barber, Onterrio Smith, Joey Harrington, Reche Caldwell, Isaac Bruce, Javon Walker, Brandon Stokley, Ronald Curry.
Quick hitters Week 3's top five performers: Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb and Javon "J.J." Walker, who was Dyn-O-Mite! His three TD catches against the Colts propelled him into the top 5 among WRs, along with Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Roy Williams and Hines Ward. Hey, I'm as shocked as anyone - I wrote Walker off after a lousy performance in Week 1. I told someone last week that he was no better than any number of middling receivers that could be plucked off the fantasy waiver wire. Well, if for some reason Walker's on the waiver wire in your league, now would be a fine time to pluck him.On the injury front, two starting running backs are done for the season Tampa Bay's Charlie Garner and Miami's Lamar Gordon. Michael Pittman, fresh off a three-game suspension, takes over for Garner (torn ACL) and makes a good No. 3 RB or spot starter against weak defenses. The situation is less clear in the Dolphins backfield, where Leonard Henry, Sammy Morris and Travis Minor will vie to replace Gordon (shoulder). But Morris and Minor aren't healthy, and Henry isn't someone you want in your lineup right now. Both Tampa Bay and Miami are reportedly pursuing Larry Johnson, who has fallen out of favor in Kansas City. Stay tuned.Oakland QB Rich Gannon could miss up to eight weeks with a neck injury, clearing the way for Giants castoff Kerry Collins. Collins looked sharp on Sunday night against Tampa Bay and might make a decent fantasy backup and bye week fill-in. A few players who don't make decent backups Chicago QB Rex Grossman (done for the season with a torn ACL) and his replacement, Jonathan Quinn.Warrick Dunn has exceeded expectations thus far, and there's a good reason you won't find him on the above list of sell high candidates. He's got 223 rushing yards and 4 TDs in three games, and something tells me he can keep it up. Dunn was miscast in Atlanta's offense in years past, and he missed out on red-zone carries that went to the bigger, more powerful T.J. Duckett. But the Falcons' new West Coast hybrid attack spreads out defenses, leaving lots of holes for a shifty runner like Dunn and leaving Duckett out in the cold.Last week, Minnesota's Culpepper and Moss had fun at the expense of the injury-depleted Chicago secondary. This week, the league's top quarterback-receiver duo McNabb and Owens get their shot. McNabb's the top-scoring player in all of fantasy football. Good chance he'll stay there for at least one more week.With his 101 yards last week against Jacksonville, Tennessee's Chris Brown became the second back in NFL history to rush for 100 or more yards in his first three starts (Stump Mitchell was the other). More impressively, Brown snapped the Jaguars' NFL-best streak of 17 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. The league's longest active streak now belongs to Baltimore (which will be put to the test by former Raven Priest Holmes this week) and Detroit at nine games.Starting nodQuarterback: Marc Bulger, St. Louis He's thrown just one TD pass in each game this season but has steadily improved his yardage totals; he'll bust out against the Niners.Running back: Staley, Pittsburgh He's got the most rushing yards (249) of any RB without a TD; he'll get one this week against the Bengals. Aaron Stecker, New Orleans Deuce McAllister's stand-in faces the league's worst run defense (Arizona);Wide receiver: Jimmy Smith, Jacksonville The receiver du jour against the Colts' suspect secondary. Amani Toomer, N.Y. Giants 126 yards last week; this week he gets in the end zone.Tight end: Freddie Jones, Arizona It's only a matter of time before Josh McCown throws his first TD pass this season.Kicker: Matt Stover, Baltimore No team gives up more points per game than Kansas City, and there aren't many kickers out there better than this guy.Defense: New York Jets They're fresh off a bye week, and they're playing the Dolphins. Feeley or Fiedler? Either way, I've got a good feeling about this one.Ravens reportJamal Lewis dropped in most drafts because of his uncertain status beyond Nov. 1, but he's paying huge dividends for owners willing to roll the dice on the NFL's reigning rushing champ. With his performance against the Bengals the second best fantasy outing by a RB in Week 3 Lewis once again affirmed his status as a fantasy stud. Expect a similar effort against a reeling K.C. defense that ranks 29th against the run.Randy Hymes continues to make the most of his opportunity to start and is worth adding for teams in need of a No. 2 or 3 receiver. He picked up his first career TD against the Bengals (this one actually counted) and will continue to see balls thrown his way, especially with Todd Heap and Travis Taylor out of the mix. Head coach Brian Billick said earlier this week that the second-year WR is slowly becoming "the guy we have to go to on the outside," which says a lot about Hymes and about Kevin Johnson.On the other side of the ball, it doesn't get much better than the Ravens' defense. Chris McAlister runs back an interception for a TD vs. Pittsburgh; Baltimore gets four turnovers and four sacks vs. Cincinnati. What next? One of Ed Reed's patented punt blocks for a touchdown would be nice.Dave Alexander is a sports producer at baltimoresun.com. 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