Hey Mike! As soon as I drafted DeAngelo Williams, I planned on dealing him near the trade deadline. However, now I'm having second thoughts. He's been absolutely on fire lately, and the idea of trading him makes me a little queasy. But looking at the schedule, he does face the Giants and Vikings in the fantasy playoffs. If I were going to trade him, who should I go after? -- R. Goode, South Korea
Michael Fabiano: The thought of dealing Williams would make me feel queasy too! Honestly, there's no way I'm trading him unless I'm getting back someone like Chris Johnson or Ray Rice. Williams has become a matchup-proof fantasy player and should be active regardless of the opponent while the Panthers are leaning on the run. While it's true that he does have some tough matchups down the stretch, he also faces teams with vulnerable run defenses like the Falcons and Buccaneers. Also remember that Williams ran for 108 yards and four touchdowns in the 2008 fantasy championship week against the Giants at the Meadowlands. If that's not proof of his increased value, I don't know what is. Again, he's not someone to bench due to a strong opponent unless you have immense backfield depth. I'd be riding Williams throughout the rest of the season.
M.F.: Because this is a seasonal league, I would make this move. I'm not as worried about Johnson going forward, especially because he's facing some great matchups down the stretch. What I do worry about is the confidence of his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who's coming off a five-interception performance against a mediocre Seahawks defense. Jackson, who is the top-scoring wide receiver on NFL.com after nine weeks, has a far more reliable quarterback in Philip Rivers and is developing into a real star.
M.F.: You might think I'm nuts, but there's no way I'm benching Benson right now. He's been too productive to sit, even against the Steelers and their top-rated run defense. Remember, Benson rushed for 76 yards and scored a touchdown against them back in Week 3. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Bengals rank second in the league against the run, so Mendenhall isn't as much of a guarantee to post monster numbers as you might think. Brown and Thomas both have unbelievable matchups, but I'd start the former in what should be a Wildcat showcase against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers rank 30th in the league against the run and have allowed nine rushing touchdowns this season.
Which wide receiver should I start this week: Sidney Rice or Mike Sims-Walker? My heart tells me to play the matchup here and go with Rice, but does that justify benching Walker? Please help me out with this one! --P. VanDeMark, Everett, Wash.
M.F.: Despite his impressive performance against the Chiefs last week, Sims-Walker is a risky fantasy starter against the Jets. Not only does his quarterback, David Garrard, struggle to produce on the road, but Sims-Walker also faces a difficult matchup against cornerback Darrelle Revis and a Jets team that's second in receiving defense. Rice, who has become the top option in the passing game for Brett Favre, is a more attractive option against the Lions. They're ranked 31st in receiving defense on the season.
I'm sitting at 5-4 and fifth in the playoff hunt, and have two dilemmas to consider this week, First, I need to bench one of Frank Gore, Pierre Thomas and Steven Jackson at running back. What's your take? Second, I'm facing my wife this week. She is 3-6 and on the outside looking in as far as making the playoffs. I'd never intentionally throw a game, but should I start a team that might be more competitive with her lineup to give her a chance? Or proceed to lay down the hammer as if it were anyone else in the league? -- J. Wommack, Woodstock, Ill.
M.F.: I think Thomas is a terrific starter this week against the Rams, but how do you bench Gore or Jackson? The advantage those two backs have over Thomas is that you know they're going to get the majority of the backfield work for their respective teams. All you would need is to start Thomas and have Mike Bell put up huge totals! Both of your other backs also have favorable matchups, as Gore faces the Bears (21st vs. run) and Jackson goes up against Thomas and the Saints (19th vs. run). To answer your second question, well, I'd be playing to win. Unless of course beating your wife in a fantasy league is going to result in a divorce! (And I doubt that's the case). If you do beat her and feel bad about it, promise to take her to a nice dinner if you happen to win the league's championship. On second thought, take her to a nice dinner regardless!
I have a huge dilemma this week at the quarterback position. Should I start Tony Romo or Kurt Warner? Thanks! -- F. Johnson, Newport News, Va.
M.F.: If you're lucky enough to own Warner, chances are you're going to be very pleased with his fantasy production down the stretch. The veteran quarterback faces the pass defenses of the Seahawks (17th), Rams (23rd), Titans (32nd), Vikings (21st), 49ers (24th) and Lions (31st). As you can see, none of those defenses are even in the top half of the league against the pass. While Romo has played well in recent weeks for the Cowboys, I think Warner will be your starter for several of the next seven weeks, including Week 10.
What do you see happening with the Texans backfield going forward? I took Steve Slaton in the first round of my draft and he's killing me now! Also, should I accept this trade: I would get Marion Barber and give up LaDainian Tomlinson. Thanks! -- T. Minardi, San Jose, Calif.
M.F.: Well, I see anyone that owns Moats or Slaton having a lot of headaches, to be honest. In Week 9, Moats got the start and received most of the carries against the Colts, but he did lose work to Slaton in the second half after losing a goal-line fumble. Slaton also saw a red-zone rushing attempt that resulted in a fourth-quarter touchdown, so there are no definitive roles in the backfield. Whether or not Moats remains the starter after the team's bye remains to be seen, but this situation has become a problem for fantasy leaguers. Whatever the scenario, this looks like a backfield committee going forward. Unfortunately, that makes Moats and Slaton just flex options. As for your second question, I didn't want Tomlinson to start the fantasy football season and I don't want him now. I'd pull the trigger on this deal and acquire Barber.
M.F.: Honestly, I would stick with Hasselbeck. I know Flacco is facing the hapless Cleveland Browns, but here's a few factors to keep in mind. First, the Browns are allowing an average of just 188 passing yards per game at home. Second, you would think that this team would be fired up to play in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. Third, Hasselbeck has always found success in his career against the Cardinals. In his last five starts against Arizona, he's thrown for an average of close to 240 yards with a combined 10 touchdown passes. Also, the Cardinals are allowing an average of 254.2 passing yards per game on their home field this season. To answer your second question, I would start Jones ahead of Forte. The bottom line is simple. Jones has been the better fantasy back, and he has a better matchup in Week 10.
With Clinton Portis doubtful to play this week, who should I start at my flex spot from Mike Bell, Ladell Betts and Justin Fargas? Also, would you start Donald Driver over Terrell Owens? -- P. Franklin, Baton Rouge, La.
M.F.: I think you have to take a wait-and-see approach with this situation. Fargas has far and away the best matchup of these three players, facing a Chiefs defense that ranks 28th against the run. But if Darren McFadden comes back (as expected) and a committee is imminent, Fargas loses his luster. In that case, I'm going with Betts. The matchup against the Broncos (8th in run defense) isn't great on paper, but they did surrender 155 rushing yards to Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall in Week 9. At wide receiver, I would definitely use Driver over Owens. While T.O. does have a good matchup in Tennessee, he's been far too inconsistent to trust at this stage of the fantasy season. Furthermore, Driver has just been too good to bench. He's also facing a Cowboys team that ranks an unimpressive 22nd in the league in receiving defense.
I want to trade for another running back since Kevin Smith has struggled this season. Would you trade Vincent Jackson for either Frank Gore or Cedric Benson? At wide receiver I have Earl Bennett, Braylon Edwards, Mohammed Massaquoi and Steve Smith (CAR). Maurice Jones-Drew is my top back. Please help! -- A. Ferris, Longmont, Colo.
M.F.: I think dealing Jackson for either Gore or Benson (I'd prefer the latter based on the schedule) makes a lot of sense. Assuming you start two running backs and two wide receivers, you'd have Jones-Drew and one of the newly-acquired runners in your backfield with Smith and Edwards as your top wideouts. Just be aware, you're gong to see a decrease in production at wide receiver if you make a trade. If you need to fill a flex spot, at least Smith still fits in that role. If this is a PPR (point per reception) league or you're required to start three receivers, however, I don't know if I'd make the move. You don't want to be stuck starting Bennett or Massaquoi on a regular basis.