Raise your hand if you predicted Tom Brady would have higher than 30 fantasy points this past week. (Cut to: no one raises hand, even Gisele Bundchen, who meekly says "I played Jason Campbell instead.") Does this mean Brady is back and you can have a duck boat parade? I can't tell you what to do about the duck boats, but hold off on the parade. For now you have to treat him like a matchup-based starter. Play him when he has the best chance for success out of the two or three quarterbacks on your roster. You have to treat Brady like you would Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and RG III: when he has a favorable opponent. This is not your traditionally good Steelers team. I know 55 points is a lot, but they couldn't stop Terrelle Pryor or Christian Ponder earlier this year, either. So was Brady a good matchup on paper? Yes. So hopefully you started him. I didn't start him in one of my leagues but there was only a smidgen of Dana in Homeland this week so I'll call that a wash. Now to the rest of Higher/Lower.
1: How many trades you have to make during a season to make your team better. Lower. As part of my three-part series-within-a-column-wrapped-in-advice, we're addressing trades as you get closer to your league's deadline for deals. Yes, trade talk is heating up and you're seeing some teams feverishly make moves to better their roster. While you should always try to trade, remember this caveat when you make offers to teams: More often than not, the best trade is the one you don't make. So far this season, I've been upset when teams turned down deals where I've offered players like Reggie Bush, Eddie Lacy, Chris Ivory, Le'Veon Bell, Pierre Garcon, and Antonio Brown. I'd like to thank all of you involved who told me "no." I get how we feel as owners: you're frustrated by a player's lack of production and you grow sick of even seeing his name on your roster. This is where you let cooler heads prevail. Talk to a friend you trust when you want to make an offer that you think you just have to do. You could wind up giving up way more than you should and in the end torpedo all you're trying to achieve. You should always try to get better but you don't have to trade to win. The keys to winning are still the same: draft well and be smart on the waiver wire.
7: Number of TD passes Nick Foles will throw between now and Thanksgiving. Higher. OK, let's put Nick Foles' Week 9 in the rear-view mirror and look ahead. I fully realize this time-frame I put up here is for just two games -- and a bye -- for Foles, but he's for real. Take out his bad three quarters against the Cowboys two weeks ago, and Foles has been as good as any other fantasy QB over the last month. What I wrote about him before still goes: he throws the deep ball much better than Michael Vick and he makes good decisions. He could be the QB -- and every year there's one - who rises from obscurity to become a fantasy stud and you can ride his wave to a title. I'm going all in on Foles being that guy this season, though Case Keenum is becoming intriguing as well.
Top 8: Where I'll put Eddie Lacy and Zac Stacy in my running back rankings for this week - and maybe longer. Lower. As in, yes, these guys are in the top eight. Talk about the elite level RBs all you want, but tell me how many guys deserve to be ranked ahead of them on a weekly basis? Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Frank Gore are your top four, with Lacy in that mix. Knowshon Moreno comes next, but after that? It's Stacy. I like the way that sounds: Lacy and Stacy -- which I think was a female cop show back in the 1980's. Arian Foster is in and out of the Texans lineup. Until Sunday, LeSean McCoy had been disappointing since Week 6. Matt Forte and Reggie Bush have been good, but uneven, so the duo is ahead of them right now. Look, it's not like Lacy and Stacy (and now I want to google what Sharon Gless looks like now) are far and away better than all these players I mentioned, it's more that their performances over the last month have merited inclusion in this elite group. Lacy will carry the load until Aaron Rodgers comes back. Behind Seneca Wallace, who hadn't taken a snap since the Reagan administration, he still carved the Bears up for 150 and a TD. They should both be treated like No. 1 RBs. Don't trade them to anyone trying to vulture them from you with a "Who knows how good they are? I'm taking a chance by trading for them" argument.
10: Where I'll have Matt Ryan in my weekly quarterback rankings. Lower. As in outside the top 10. Amazing that after the season he had a year ago, you can't trust him to start for you. Granted, a lot of it is because he's playing without Julio Jones and Roddy White, but that doesn't matter in fantasy. The Falcons have scored just 23 points in the last two weeks, as teams are figuring out how to shut Ryan down without his top two weapons. And even if/when White comes back, he's not the same player as he is when he's healthy, and he just won't be truly healthy at all this season. Ryan is hard to trust, especially with games coming up against Seattle and New Orleans. Hey, I love Harry Douglas, but with him to rely on as his best receiver, Ryan can give you three interceptions without even trying. There are plenty of guys I'll play ahead of him over the next few weeks. For instance, outside of the elite QBs I'll go with Nick Foles and Andy Dalton ahead of him.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. You can see him as the host of NFL Fantasy Live that airs unday through Friday on NFL Network at 5pmET/2pmPT and also at 1amET/10pmPT. Listen to him on the NFL Fantasy Live podcast available at nfl.com and on itunes. Reach out to him on Google plus or Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to his Fantasy Podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on nfl.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.