As I went in search of Christmas presents, my mind wandered, as it often does. I begin to think of what bad shape my fantasy team is entering the playoffs. Yep, if one more of my donkeys gets a concussion, we’re going to make Steve Young our team mascot. However, we’re in a better place than many other fantasy owners at this point in the season. CBS says I’m only a one-point underdog to a team that has overachieved in winning a division championship.

Anyway, before my mind wanders yet again, and considering this could be my last week playing fantasy football this year, I figured I’d let all two of my faithful readers know what I was most thankful for this season.

I was thankful my division stunk up the joint.

Yes, I finished 9-4 and just missed a second consecutive division title, but I have to admit I was a little lucky, too. Other than the division champ, who also finished 9-4 and is the second best in our 20-team league, the other three chumps finished below .500. This includes the team I predicted to win the division, yet finished with a 2-11 record. Yes, I am one hell of a prognosticator. My friend who accepts my paltry wagers (for root beers and candy, of course) has been my best friend this year. I think he might even buy me a Christmas present.

See, my mind is wandering again.

I was thankful for Calvin Johnson.

I might marry that guy. Oh wait, I’m already married, and same-sex marriage isn’t allowed in Louisiana. I don’t think it’s legal in Michigan, either, because I’d move. He’d probably just think I was some weird stalker, anyway, and put some sort of restraining order on me. Well, I love him. He didn’t do too well in the first third of the season, and it’s no coincidence I started 1-2. It’s no coincidence, either, I won eight of my last 10 games. If I were one to get tattoos, I would definitely put an 81 with a lion coming out of it somewhere prominent on my body.

What’s that? I don’t understand. What does TMI mean?

I was thankful (yet again) for an understanding wife.

She puts up with a lot of crap. And her least-favorite 16 days of the year are Sundays during the fantasy football season. She is beginning to hate Thursdays now, and really doesn’t like Mondays much, either. Now that we have a young daughter who is very close to learning how to speak, my wife thinks it’s a good idea to take her to the park when the Mojo Xpress is playing or I wear a muzzle. Third option, Dear, is to turn the garage into a sound-proof man cave. Yeah, I like that one.

I am thankful I gave better advice than I gave myself.

Even though, I made some mistakes with my team, all in all, I had a pretty good season picking names out of a hat. Oh, I didn’t tell you that’s how I pick the names that go in this column on a weekly basis? The one week I did poorly, I let my little girl pick. I mean she started walking that week, and I thought she deserved a reward. So it’s not my fault I told you to start Michael Vick in Week 9 against the Saints. SHE told you to pick Vick. Yes, I am telling you to blame a 16-month-old girl. So there.

This week’s winners who are hot out of a pink bucket sitting here on my kitchen table? (I couldn’t find my hat.) Let’s get to it … and good luck in the playoffs!

LOVE

QUARTERBACK
Ben Roethlisberger,
Steelers vs. Chargers (21st vs. pass)
You mean I am telling you to start a guy who has missed the past three weeks and probably has trouble lifting his cup of coffee in the morning? That’s right. That’s what came out of the bucket. And pssst, if you didn’t know this already, he might be the toughest son of a gun in football. He’ll be ready, and no one knows Pittsburgh is a must-win situation more than Big Ben.
Honorable mention: Jay Cutler, Bears at Vikings (Talk about your must-win situations. Hear that, pretty boy? It’s the Packers coming to steal your division away.)

RUNNING BACKS
Vick Ballard,
Colts vs. Titans (22nd vs. run); Alex Green, Packers vs. Lions (19th vs. run)
Ballard continually has been stealing more and more time away from Donald Brown. With Brown out this week and against a bad rush defense, Ballard should get lots of work. … Looks like James Starks is out for the season, which means Green will get another real chance to be the lead back for the Pack. Even though they signed Ryan Grant, one wouldn’t expect him to get much work the first week.
Honorable mention: Shonn Greene, Jets at Jaguars (He has about three good games per year – he’s due); Pierre Thomas, Saints at Giants (Didn’t need to, but proved last week why he is so important to Saints)

WIDE RECEIVERS
Larry Fitzgerald,
Cardinals at Seahawks (5th vs. pass); Riley Cooper, Eagles at Bucs (32nd vs. pass)
Never thought I’d see the day when Fitzgerald would be in a low enough tier to make the blog here, but it has happened, indeed. And with John Skelton back in the fold, at least he might be targeted seven to 10 times, like he should. Who knows? Maybe he’ll catch a few of them and actually be able to score. … Talk about a guy who can make some unbelievable catches, Cooper could become a big target the next few weeks. And with every game Nick Foles gets, he’ll learn to find the guy with the 12-foot reach.
Honorable mention: Nate Washington, Titans at Colts (Indy secondary gives up tons); Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs at Browns (Could get 10 targets)

TIGHT END
Tony Moeaki,
Chiefs at Browns (24th vs. pass)
He has over 50 receiving yards in four of his last five games after being almost non-existent the first half the season. Throw in last week’s touchdown, and for those needing a tight end replacement heading into the playoffs, Moeaki might be the best of the bunch.
Honorable mention: Vernon Davis, 49ers vs. Dolphins (Just another one of my hunches)

KICKER: Connor Barth, Bucs vs. Eagles (Becoming one of league’s best kickers)

HATE

QUARTERBACK
Matt Ryan,
Falcons at Panthers (8th vs. pass)
Who’s that team with an awful record pretending to be able to play defense? Yep, that’s the Carolina Panthers, who have been putting tons of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And the more pressure Ryan gets, the more he gets that deer-in-the-headlight look. Besides, the playoffs are close, and we all know what happens to him then.
Not-so-honorable mention: Russell Wilson, Seahawks vs. Cardinals (So many experts jumping on his fantasy bandwagon. Going to be a low-scoring game this week, and he lost to Arizona the first time.)

RUNNING BACKS
Bryce Brown,
Eagles at Bucs (1st vs. run); Stevan Ridley, Patriots vs. Texans (2nd vs. run)
Just a few weeks ago, no one but fantasy diehards and NFL braintrusts knew who the hell Bryce Brown was. Now, everyone loves him. Just know Tampa Bay is the only team in the league which has yet to allow 1,000 or more rushing yards in a season, and have been even stingier the past few weeks. And if Brown continues to give the ball away, he’ll be on the bench shortly. … Not only has Houston been tough against the run, but Tom Brady has something to prove after an average week last time out against Miami. You can bet he’ll be throwing plenty in the prime-time spotlight, which is bad for Ridley.
Not-so-honorable mention: Darren Sproles, Saints at Giants (Even in PPR leagues, you can’t trust the mighty mite)

WIDE RECEIVERS
Cecil Shorts,
Jaguars vs. Jets (4th vs. pass); Josh Gordon, Browns vs. Chiefs (9th vs. pass)
Even though he has passed his concussion tests, Shorts has been unable to practice. If you were Mike Mularkey, why would you play him? What a shame, considering Shorts had made his way into must-start status, but even if he suits up Sunday, it won’t take much for him to head back to the bench. … One thing you can bank on Sunday is that Trent Richardson will get a ton of carries, and the Chiefs will play decent defense against team that struggles in the passing game. That means Gordon won’t have enough opportunities to be anything more than mediocre.
Not-so-honorable mention: Danario Alexander, Chargers at Steelers (Not this week, not against the league’s toughest defense); Julio Jones, Falcons at Panthers (Has just one 100-yard game, one touchdown in past four games and stunk it up against Panthers earlier this season)

TIGHT END
Dallas Clark,
Bucs vs. Eagles (16th vs. pass)
He has been hot as of late, scoring three times in four games. Still, he hasn’t been targeted all that much, and you certainly can’t count on his touchdown production.
Not-so-honorable mention: Antonio Gates, Chargers at Steelers (Oh, what a waste)

KICKER: David Akers, 49ers vs. Dolphins (Just can’t trust him right now)

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