In last week's installment of Fantasy Fodder, I cautioned you to not panic and trade away one of five notable early-season disappointments if your team was stuck in the cellar. I hope this past week was better for you.
This week, we're going to turn the tables. If you're in first place in your league and closing in on a playoff spot, don't stand pat. Now is the time to feed on the desperation of owners who feel their season slipping away.
If you have depth to burn, start working the phones -- or the Internets if you are socially awkward -- and try to set up a 2-for-1 or a 3-for-2 trade to upgrade your starting lineup. For example, say a fellow owner has a stud running back like Adrian Peterson and a gaping hole at the other running back spot. If you have three solid backs, offer two of them for Peterson and hope that your owner is desperate enough to take the bait.
You’d be surprised what people may be willing to do after kicking their coffee table for five straight Sundays.
If you can’t cash in your depth for a top point-producer, look at your roster with a critical eye and determine which players are peaking. Then look at your opponents’ teams to see whose top draft picks are slumping. Let’s use Chris Johnson, one of my examples from last week’s Fodder, as an example. You might be able to trade a hot running back such as Jahvid Best or Beanie Wells for Johnson, who should have a big second half.
Remember, you don’t win trophies or whatever else is at stake in the fantasy regular season. You are building for the playoffs. Your team may be hot now, but is it stacked enough to survive a crazy week from, say, Michael Vick or Calvin Johnson when it counts?
It’s Tebow time: The Broncos have announced that Tim Tebow will replace Kyle Orton at quarterback, and I plan on picking up Tebow as injury insurance for Matthew Stafford in one of my leagues. For Tebow to be a valuable fantasy performer, he needs to have success running the ball, too. In his three starts in 2010, he averaged 66 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown per game. That alone makes him worth a look. He had a 300-yard passing game, too.
Maybe he isn’t a bust: Honestly, Darius Heyward-Bey was set up for failure right away when the Raiders made him the first receiver off the board in the 2009 draft, ahead of Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin. Throw in the uncertainly under center, and it seemed likely that the unpolished speedster from Maryland would get off to a slow start. Finally, in his third season, he is starting to produce. With 11 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown in his past two games combined, he may soon be a starting option for you.
Fantasy penthouse: Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Cassel, two players who were likely riding the fantasy pine, were the top point producers at QB. Adrian Peterson had 122 rushing yards and three TDs. Dwayne Bowe and Pierre Garcon each had 100-plus yards and two scores. Joel Dreessen was the top tight end.
Fantasy doghouse: Kevin Kolb through two interceptions and lost a fumble. Ryan Grant had just 18 rushing yards and a fumble to boot. Dallas Clark and Brent Celek produced little again. So much for Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams having a big week and Jacoby Jones doing his best Andre Johnson impersonation…
The wire: 1. Delone Carter, a rookie out of Syracuse, gets a chance to run with the Colts’ starting job if Joseph Addai is sidelined. … 2. Pick up Earnest Graham if you need a fill-in. He will start if LeGarrette Blount can’t go. … 3. As a Hakeem Nicks owner, I can state as fact that Victor Cruz is cutting into his production big time. … 4. Pierre Garcon looks to be Curtis Painter’s favorite target. … 5. Don’t forget about Ryan Torain.
Five guys I really like this week: 1. If Cedric Benson isn’t suspended between now and Sunday, he should do well against the Colts. … 2. I expect Michael Turner to have a big day against the Panthers. … 3. If you have a Packers pass-catcher, play him. The Packers play the Rams this week. … 4. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are both healthy and worth a start. … 5. Count on more pounding and grounding with Shonn Greene.
Reader question: @DeathByDragonry on Twitter asks, “Has Victor Cruz solidified a place on starting line-ups? He might be the best last round pick I ever taken.” My response: I give you props for drafting him in the first place because he was a deep sleeper. Anyway, seeing as though both Cruz and Mario Manningham were targeted nine teams each against the Seahawks, I’m not sure Cruz has passed Manningham on the depth chart, but it might not matter considering how well Eli Manning has done spreading the ball around. I have no problem with you riding him while he is hot, but brace yourself for a dud or two from the No. 3 wideout.
Extra point: Two players I had never heard of before Sunday, Doug Baldwin and Jackie Battle, are sure to be popular waiver-wire pickups this week. I can’t say I’m thrilled about either player’s potential, but if I had to pick one up, it would be Battle, who had 19 carries for 119 yards against the Colts. I doubt he pulls it off again, but if you have an empty spot on your bench, go ahead and stash him there just in case he does.
Matt Vensel is a blogger and community coordinator for The Baltimore Sun. Send your fantasy questions and comments to Matt.Vensel@baltsun.com, @mattvensel on Twitter or leave them in the comments section below.