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updated: 10/27/2011 9:00 PM

Fantasy football: Midseason keys to success

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  • Former Illini running back Pierre Thomas could pile up big points this weekend when New Orleans plays St. Louis, says fantasy football columnist John Dietz.

      Former Illini running back Pierre Thomas could pile up big points this weekend when New Orleans plays St. Louis, says fantasy football columnist John Dietz.
    Associated Press

 
 

The time has arrived.

It's Midseason Mania!

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We have officially reached the part of the fantasy football season where virtual unknowns are bursting onto the scene and will lead many of you to the playoffs and maybe to a title.

So, after one of the worst weeks of injuries in recent memory, pay attention!

It's going to be difficult to sort through everyone's disaster in one column, but let's give it a shot. (And let's assume someone in your league (hopefully you) owns Dallas' 253-yard DeMarco Murray).

Big names crashing

If you are a Darren McFadden owner and managed to win last week, congratulations. You either have a very deep team or got lucky because your opponent had an off week. McFadden has a mid-foot sprain, which could keep him out of Oakland's next game in Week 9. This illustrates exactly why you should always handcuff your stud RB when the backup is a very capable one in Michael Bush.

Denver's Willis McGahee broke his hand and is likely out 2-4 weeks. The knee-jerk reaction is to plug Knowshon Moreno into the lineup, but astute fantasy owners will grab Lance Ball. The Broncos basically can't stand Moreno, so don't be surprised if Ball becomes a mini version of last year's LeGarrette Blount.

Speaking of Blount, it appears his owners can look forward to his return after the Bucs' bye this week.

In Arizona, despite what you are hearing out of Beanie Wells' mouth, he could miss 1-2 weeks with a swollen knee. His backup is Alfonso Smith, and while a terrible play this week vs. Baltimore, Smith would be a great play in Week 9 when Arizona hosts St. Louis.

On Wednesday, it looked like Cleveland's Peyton Hillis (hamstring) was all set to go this week at San Francisco, but he suffered a setback Thursday. If Hillis can't go, it makes Montario Hardesty (33 carries, 95 yards last week) an OK flex play at San Francisco.

ALERT! If you are dying for RB help and the mopes in your league still haven't picked up Cincinnati's Bernard Scott, stop reading this, go pick up Scott and then finish this column. Anyone living in a cave or trapped under something heavy may have missed the fact that Cedric Benson has been suspended for the Bengals' game at Seattle. We could wish for a better matchup than a tough Seahawks defense (105 ypg allowed, 5 TDs), but we're talking about a sure-fire starting RB here. Go get him.

Others to target

Many of you will be without the services of Tim Hightower, Felix Jones, Jahvid Best and possibly Mark Ingram for this week and in some cases (like Hightower) much longer.

In Washington, Ryan Torain is the obvious name to resume full-time duties in lieu of Hightower's injury, but I love Roy Helu, and now you must keep an eye on Evan Royster, who was just signed off the team's practice squad. With Mike Shanahan at the controls, anything is possible.

In New Orleans, if Ingram can't go, Pierre Thomas is a solid RB2 play against the worst run defense in the league in St. Louis. I can easily see double-digit points from the former Illini back.

My teams: In the regular league, I got monster performances from Drew Brees (46) and DeMarco Murray (40) for a 146-106 victory that improved my record to 4-3. The unit-league team (3-4) somehow picked the right week to go up against Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady (bye), Dwayne Bowe and Miles Austin. Pulled out 43-36 win to keep playoff hopes alive.

Good bets

Titans RB Chris Johnson and Titans defense vs. Indianapolis. After getting clubbed 62-7 by the Saints, no team is reeling more than the Colts. Johnson should find some big holes, and the Tennessee D is a great play against a team scoring just 16 points per game.

Saints RB Pierre Thomas and WR Lance Moore at St. Louis. Total flier here with Moore, and mostly one for those of you in TD-heavy leagues. Drew Brees still likes Moore in the red zone, and it just takes one connection against a wretched team to give you nice numbers.

Bengals RB Bernard Scott at Seattle. I can see 110 all-purpose yards and a TD from a guy dying to show the NFL what he's got.

Giants QB Eli Manning vs. Miami. With a bye week to prepare, watch Manning rip the Dolphins for 325 yards and 3 TDs.

Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. New England. Pittsburgh's going to have to throw in this game. A lot. Brown, who has eclipsed 60 yards in four of the last six games, is a nice play, especially with Hines Ward dinged.

Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Arizona. Going up against his former team -- and one that allows 274 passing yards per game -- I like Boldin this week. If I'm right, it would give him three straight solid games ... and it would be time to TRADE HIM immediately for anything you can get.

Texans defense vs. Jacksonville. The Jaguars have scored 13 or fewer points in five of seven games.

Bad bets

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald at Baltimore. Fitz is actually on pace for a 1,347-yard season, but his 2 TDs leave a lot to be desired. It would be tough to bench him, but I see nothing better than a 4-catch, 70-yard day coming.

Broncos WR Eric Decker and RB Knowshon Moreno vs. Detroit. All Denver players except Tim Tebow are on hold until further notice.

Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Washington. Facing a team leading the league in sacks and having allowed just 5 TD passes, Fitzpatrick belongs on your bench.

Redskins RB Ryan Torain at Buffalo. The matchup is actually good. But I don't trust Mike Shanahan.

Colts WR Reggie Wayne at Tennessee. Amazingly, you can almost dump the one-time superstud.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo at Philadelphia. Like Lance Moore in the good bets, a total flier. I don't see Romo being awful, but I'm putting a cap of 240 yards and 2 TD passes on him, especially in a road game against a desperate division foe.

jdietz@dailyherald.com

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