Commentary

It's Love/Hate stuffed with pickups

Updated: November 24, 2010, 9:31 AM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

It doesn't happen a lot anymore, thank goodness, but back in the day, I used to get interviewed about fantasy sports a lot.

The Talented Mr. Roto

Is it a fad? How popular can it get? Golly, people sure seem obsessed with this weird thing, huh? What is it, how do you play it, golly, it seems like it's not just nerds in their basement playing it, huh?

Thankfully, fantasy sports is now mainstream enough that those type of uninformed stories are few and far between. It's become common knowledge that folks of all ages, genders, race, income levels and from every place on the planet now play. And not just fantasy football.

One quote I used to say all the time through the years, and I've heard it repeated a number of times (though not always with attribution, ahem), is "If there's a way to keep score at it, there's a way to play a fantasy version of it."

I've seen it all. Fantasy death pools, fantasy Congress, a slew of fantasy pop culture games based on fashion, movies and TV. No pun intended, but fantasy sumo wrestling is huge in Japan. Plus, every reality show has a fantasy game version of it. (I played in one for "Big Brother" this past summer. Love that dumb show.)

But in all my time … I've never seen one for Thanksgiving.

As we prepare for the annual holiday with family, friends, loved ones and required guests it occurred to me that no matter what your level of enjoyment for the formal giving of thanks, there's a way to make it better: fantasy.

Here, now, the first (and only, unless I get desperate for a column next year at this time) TMR-sanctioned Thanksgiving fantasy game.

Decide who you are playing against/with, like your brother or wife or both. Say it's just you and your wife. Look over the scoring categories below, take turns drafting and then, as you slog through the holiday, keep track. Suddenly every mind-numbing thing becomes fun. Now you've got action … on everything!

You can set your lineup however big or small you want it, but I'd probably make it 20 "things" covering family, travel, the meal and the football games.

turkey
PRNewsFoto/Butterball Turkey CompanyTurkey is usually a solid performer in Thanksgiving Fantasy, but lack of scarcity and the risk of it being overdone knock it to near the bottom of the top-10.

Like you could say … I'll draft … Mom, cousin Jimmy, our stewardess, three random people I'll point out to you when we first come to the airport, turkey, Joe Buck, the (according to CBS) hilarious new sitcom "Mike and Molly," Jose Cuervo tequila, stuffing, a misdemeanor, the stop light at Fifth & Main, your old high school boyfriend, the story about Mom finding my Playboys when I was 15, Uncle Brad's flatulence, the word "tryptophan," fishing for compliments and the phrase "We're eating dinner here. Will you please put on a bra?" On top of it, you also get yourself. (To make things really interesting, you could consider trading yourself to your opponent for themselves plus, say, complaining about how early one has to get up Friday; but you may need to throw in Uncle Brad's flatulence to seal the deal).

Total points win. Give yourself one point every time …

Someone you don't know touches you. Including, but not limited to, jostling, shoved next to someone in a airport tram, going through security, old smelly dude tapping your shoulder to ask for directions and the fat woman sitting behind you trying to use your head rest to lift herself up while you are sleeping, except she wakes you up by grabbing part of your head with her grubby fat fingers instead. There should be a special torture device for people like that. Anyways, that's a point each. Also, points if …

You are delayed for any reason not in your control.

Movie on the flight is something you've never heard of. (Be honest.) OR: Movie is something that you don't want to watch even if they give you free headphones.

One point every time someone has a loud sneeze or hacking cough near you. Double points if it happens while you are in confined space, like a plane or train. Triple points if they are within five feet of you. Quadruple points if you're married to the person doing it and you get evil glares from people who are playing this game but drafted you instead of your spouse. (I assume that's why they would glare).

They are out of something you ask for. Double points if it's something that you can't believe a plane would take off without, like ice. (This has happened to me twice.)

If they offer you a snack they've clearly been paid to promote that you would never eat in a million years, like the brand new "Tony's raisin and barbecue flavored peanuts."

You are asked any of the following (you have to draft the person who has asked it):

When are you getting married, having a kid, having another kid, getting a job, getting another job, getting your hair cut, your hair shaved, breaking up with "that girl," why can't you be more like (pick a more successful family member), why can't you give up stripping (double points if there's actually a stripper who reads this column), why don't you call more often, why don't you move out, why don't you get yourself a boyfriend who isn't married, why don't you control your kids, why aren't your kids as well-behaved, as smart, as cute as (choose a family member with better kids), why aren't you someone other than you?

Points if your parents brag on anyone that isn't you.

Points if a family member gets drunk. Double points if you drafted the time of day, choice of drink or number of beverages it takes. Triple points if it's you.

A point for every time you hear "there's so much food," see someone actually pat their belly and for every piece of food you manage to eat after your cousin's little kid has touched it all with his dirty little fingers. (I'm a bit of a germaphobe, if you can't tell).

One point for every person you drafted that actually eats cranberry sauce. Double points if they pretend to enjoy it.

Points if you have to drive someone home because they are too drunk. Double points if the place you are driving them from is jail. Triple points if it's your parole officer.

Matthew Berry
ESPN.comJust when you thought you'd never again have to see that picture of yourself wearing a gold thong ...

A point for every embarrassing photo, story or video that is shown of you. Double the points if this story has been told before. Triple points if the story is actually about your brother but everyone thinks it's you and no one will hear different. Bonus points if you drafted said story.

Five points if you manage to re-enact said story this trip. Double that if it involves you being naked at any point.

If you are awoken from a nap. If you can't nap. If you can't identify everyone that's sitting on the couch next to you when you wake up. If you wake up and someone has their hand on your leg, that's a point. Double points if you don't immediately have to shower afterward. (See phobe, germa).

A point for every family member that doesn't help you with whatever you have to do (cook, clean, shop, buy smokes for Aunt Jane, etc.) while they themselves aren't doing anything else.

A point for every time you hear "Are you gonna finish that?" Five points every time a family member lets one rip and give yourself 10 points if you play your players on Thanksgiving and they stink or you bench them and they go off. You're gonna be depressed enough until Sunday as is, you might as well get 10 points.

A point if you can find, on the first try, a bar that's open Thanksgiving night and also gets NFL Network. Negative points for each subsequent bar you fail at finding it.

One point for every photo taken of you looking tired, bloated and full. Two points if it gets posted and "tagged" on Facebook. Three if it's done by your mom. Whom you're "friends" with.

Minus two points if she discovers she's on "limited profile."

Each of you should pick one CBS and FOX show. You get a point for every time they mention or promo that show. "Letterman" and "American Idol" have to be the early favorites.

Do they show Barry Sanders footage during the Lions game? Do they show Troy Aikman footage during the Dallas game? Does Troy make a "that was a long time ago" or a "who is that guy?" joke when they show it? Do they show live turkeys? Do they show the president doing the whole presidential turkey pardon thing? Is there any sort of a "stuffing" pun … like "On a day when America is filled with stuffing, Marion Barber is getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage." Yes or no for all of these. Point if you're right, minus one if not.

Do any of the announcers mention fantasy football during the game? Do they say something like "This guy is on my fantasy team!" or "Fantasy owners will sure be excited!" Do you believe he has any idea what he is talking about? Group vote, points if you voted with the majority.

Do you have to explain football or fantasy football to anyone while watching the games? A point for each time. Two points if, after you've explained it, you hear "And you make a living at that?" (Me only.)

When you hear your phrase "We're eating dinner here. Will you please put on a bra?" you get double points if the phrase is "We're eating dinner here. Will you please put on a bra, Grandma?"

Minus two points for every hour you get sucked into shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving, for using the phrase "Happy Turkey Day," and for any actual complaint on that day. Seriously, other than "I miss my Thursday TMR fix," there's no legit complaint. Whatever your level in life, someone's much worse off. Be very, very, very thankful for everything you have. I know I am.

Just like the Thanksgiving treat "turducken," this is a column that is a bit of a mix-and-match hybrid. My mom is the mayor of College Station, Texas, so I'll be spending the holiday there, parking anywhere I want because in that town, I'm above the law. So only one column this week, in which I'm just gonna do a "Love/Hate" with pickups weaved right in.

There are very few big pickup names this week -- pretty much everyone was covered last week as I ranked them depending on your needs, so check that out if you want a comprehensive list of names to get you through the next two weeks, or specifically for the playoffs.

To me, the only real pickups left are matchup based: guys who are good plays this week. So sprinkled throughout the "Love/Hate" will be some guys who are good plays this week and happen to be available in lots of leagues; I've indicated that. And, at the end of the "Loves" I've listed some players who I don't necessarily think should be started this week (or even necessarily picked up) in 10-team leagues but whom you should keep an eye on. An "others receiving votes" list, if you will. And I'll throw a "Welcome to Dumpsville" list at the end of the Hates.

Finally, since this column is coming out before our ranks do on Wednesday, I'm just going old school; these are guys who I think perform better or worse than they typically do.

Week 12 players I love

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: His middle name is Jeremy, in case you got him mixed up with any of the other Green-Ellis' out there. More importantly, he's got double-digit fantasy points in three of his past four and, on a short week, I expect a scaled-back game plan for the Patriots. And given the state of the Lions' run defense, that means plenty of the Law Firm.

Nate Burleson, WR, Lions: Available in 72 percent of leagues, he's a guy I've talked about a lot. At least seven receptions in three of his last four games, a touchdown in four his past six (or since he came back from injury) and I expect the Patriots to be up big and all over Calvin Johnson.

Terrell Owens & Chad Ochocinco
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe Cincinnati Bengals, aka Stacy-Joe Herkimer, are just a complete disaster right now.

Pick a Jet. Any Jet: So you ever see this on Thanksgiving: You go to a local bar with your high school buddies whom you haven't seen in a while. You're catching up and you notice there's a girl who went to your school but you didn't really know and she's alone and has clearly had way too much to drink. She's way past "flirty drunk," "this-could-get-interesting drunk" and "up-on-the-table-dancing drunk." She's slurring her words, can't balance and all you want to do is look away. She's a drunk, hot mess and you know she's gonna hate herself in the morning and wish all the memories would go away. My friends, the Cincinnati Bengals are that drunk, hot mess. When you give up that big a lead, at home, to Buffalo? You're done, kids. This is a bad football team going nowhere that now has to travel to New York on a short week. I expect good games from both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards (in that order) a solid (14 points or so) game from Mark Sanchez, and I'll take the over on 100 total yards for LaDainian Tomlinson. I also think Shonn Greene could be flex worthy here. The only one I'm not starting with confidence is Dustin Keller, who seems to be the lost man in this offense.

Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: Been a while since we heard from him. Call it a gut call. The fact that he is playing the Bills (second worst in the NFL against opposing tight ends) doesn't hurt.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: I bring him up here just because I think he has reached "start him every week no matter what" status, even if the Bills are playing the Steelers.

Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers: I've mentioned him for a few weeks now and if I was doing a traditional pickup column, he'd be the No. 1 guy. Available in 90 percent of leagues, he has more than 100 yards rushing in two straight games and I believe he'll be the starter even if Jonathan Stewart comes back this week. He looks quick, decisive … everything the other Panthers running backs haven't been this year. Once is a fluke, twice is a trend and three times is a charm. The Browns are giving up more than 116 rushing yards a game, and while I don't think Goodson necessarily gets in the end zone, he's the focal point of the offense, such as that is. Like him as a flex play and yes, as a human being.

Cleveland Browns D/ST: Another pickup, this one available in 94 percent of leagues, they have two 20-point games in their last four. Despite recommending Goodson above, I don't think Brian St. Pierre, or even Jimmy Clausen, if he comes back, will mount much of a challenge. The Panthers have allowed the fourth most sacks this year and have the second most giveaways.

Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: With almost no wide receivers left (hey, someone call Plaxico!), I expect the Giants to rely even more on the run, especially against one of the poorer rushing defenses in the NFL. By the way, I wouldn't start him, but since we're peppering this with free agents, it looks like Derek Hagan is the Giants wideout you want in place of Hakeem Nicks.

Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars: Available in 84 percent of leagues, how many weeks do I have to keep talking about this guy? With Mike Sims-Walker having more names than healthy ankles, Thomas is now officially the No. 1 guy on the Jags. He already was in terms of receptions, targets and receiving yards. A score in three straight games, at least eight points in five of his past six, he'll do well against the Giants.

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: Thought he looked good. Thought the Redskins defense didn't. Sometimes it's that simple. Available in 57 percent of leagues, he had a team high 10 targets last week and I expect him and Favre to connect more this week as they get their timing down.

Nate Washington, WR, Titans: Sad to say, er, write but … the Titans wide receiver you want these days.

Joel Dreessen, TE, Texans: If Owen Daniels doesn't play, Dreessen is a guy they (and I) like. Yes, in that way. Over 100 and a score last week, 67 yards three weeks ago and now he gets the Titans, who have given up over 100 yards and a touchdown to opposing tight ends each of the past two weeks.

Cassel/Bowe
John Rieger/US Presswire"Matt! When coach said you had to carry the team this week, he didn't mean literally!"

Matt Cassel, QB, and Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: The hottest duo since Brangelina, we need a nickname for them. Mwayne? Dwatt? Eh, it's a work in progress, just like the Seahawks' pass defense. By the way, Cassel (mentioned a million times in this column) is still available in 57 percent of leagues.

Oakland Raiders D/ST: I know, I know. They were terrible last week. But prior to running into an angry Steelers team, they had put up 47 points in three games. They are among the league leaders in sacks, they're at home, and Miami, with Tyler Thigpen, a banged-up offensive line and possibly no Brandon Marshall, come to town.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers: Remember when you used to be scared of the Ravens' run defense?

Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers: Welcome back. (Check to see if he's available in your league for some reason).

Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals: Nine fantasy points in three of the four games he's been back, and the 49ers have given up 90 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in the last three games. He's available in 50 percent of leagues.

Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: Coming out of the bye, Mike Martz promised a more balanced attack for the Bears. Who knew Mike Martz would tell the truth for once? The Bears have gotten back to winning the way they were at the start of the season; by getting Olsen involved. A touchdown in two of the three games since the bye, he's tied with Johnny Knox for the team lead in targets in that span. So he's getting a lot of looks, he's scoring and now he gets the Eagles, who give up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Others receiving votes: It's worth noting that with Mike Williams hurt, Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu has at least seven points in three straight. … I'm not ready to jump on Colts receiver Blair White's bandwagon yet because we just don't know if Austin Collie will play or not. But he did score twice on Sunday and looked great doing it. … With turf toe bothering Jahvid Best, Lions running back Maurice Morris is getting more work if you're in a deep league and truly desperate. … I know Brett Favre is the starter this week, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Vikings trot out quarterback Tarvaris Jackson at some point and I like him. … If Brandon Marshall misses any time, fellow Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline is getting more and more work. … Same with Bengals wideout Jordan Shipley. … A lot depends on the health of Jeremy Shockey, but deep keeper leagues should note that they love the skills of Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in New Orleans, and looking at him, it's hard to disagree. … It's a bad upcoming schedule and it's a bit of a mess in terms of time share, but both Redskins running backs Clinton Portis and Keiland Williams are out there in tons of leagues. … Finally, if you're a little weak at quarterback and looking toward the playoffs, there's talk that the Cowboys could have quarterback Tony Romo back by Week 15.

Week 12 players I hate:

Jahvid Best, RB, Lions: Turf toe or no, when you get pulled for Maurice Morris, you get pulled from fantasy lineups. It's right there in the rule book and everything.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: Saints haven't given up a touchdown to an opposing tight end since Week 3. Witten has fewer than 60 total yards in the two games since Jason Garrett took over. They've also won those two games, so I see no reason for Witten's role to change to something you'd feel good about using.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: I wonder if you get a lei and warm face towel when you land at Revis Island. It'd certainly be a nice touch.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals: When they get down big -- and they will -- they will abandon the run just like they have all season. Did you know he has just one touchdown on the road this year? As bad as Cincy's run game is, it's worse on the road, where Benson has had more than 15 carries only twice all season.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers: Let me tell the rest of you something that Steven Jackson owners figured out last week: The Falcons have a sneaky good run defense. They haven't allowed a touchdown to an opposing running back since Week 5 and haven't given up a rushing one since Week 2.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: It's been a fun few weeks, but you know what isn't fun? The Steelers' run defense, which has not allowed 100 yards rushing to running backs in any game this year. That's not individual running backs; that's entire teams.

Dolphin
AP ImagesAnd while you're at it, pass on Flipper in your Thanksgiving pool. He hasn't done a thing since the mid-90's.

Pick a Dolphin: Seriously, what a frustrating team. You already know I hate Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and wouldn't start either even though it looks like a decent matchup. This is a line and offense that is really struggling and I don't see it turning it around this week, especially after a long trip, and you know I like the Oakland defense this week.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins: Singling him out in case you thought I didn't mean him in the post above. Not sure if he plays, but off an injury, long road trip, Nnamdi should be back and so far Tyler has not made me wiggy for Thiggy.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: Yes, he's looked good the past few weeks. He's played the Bills, Vikings and Dolphins. Now he plays a real defense. One that blitzes a lot. And class, what happens when Jay gets blitzed? That's right, he makes the kind of poor decisions that make the "Jersey Shore" kids go "Dude, what were you thinking there?"

Johnny Knox, WR, Bears: See above. Throw in Asante Samuel.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST: Just because they rocked last week, don't get cute here. The Ravens offense is firing on all cylinders. Lotta points in this one.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: Remember that magical Week 8, when he showed the world how amazing and special he could be this year? When he finally got the rock, was healthy and had his highest-scoring game of the year? You know, the week when he got 50 yards rushing and 12 points?

Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers: Averaging just four points a game since his bye week, the Ravens give up the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.

Welcome to Dumpsville ... Population: You

I'm not saying to definitely dump these guys, but if you need to find roster space, I don't have an issue dropping them in 10-team non-keeper leagues. None of the following are players I feel must be owned in every league. And if they’re not among your "must owned" list, then they are legitimate candidates to be dropped:

Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Chad Henne, Vince Young, Matt Schaub, Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower, Ryan Mathews, Cadillac Williams, Chester Taylor, Michael Bush, Ronnie Brown (Every week I put him here, every week someone yells about how could I put him on here, I think one guy used the word "irresponsible," and then every week he goes out and is terrible. Seriously, stop defending this guy this year. You'll never feel comfortable starting him. Ever.), Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, DeAngelo Williams, C.J. Spiller, Deion Branch, Roy E. Williams, Jerricho Cotchery, Donald Driver, Lee Evans, Steve Smith South, Mike Sims-Walker, Bernard Berrian, Randy Moss. (To be honest, I'm hanging in there one more week with Moss. But he's killing me and if you wanted to bail now, I certainly wouldn't blame you. He's barely rosterable at this point.) Any Raiders wide receiver, any Bears wide receiver not named Johnny Knox, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Patrick Crayton, Brent Celek, Dustin Keller (same deal as Moss; can't blame you if you wanna), Owen Daniels, Tony Moeaki, Jeremy Shockey, John Carlson, Aaron Hernandez.

That's all I got. And, if you read all of this, give yourself a point.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- wants to know why he isn't a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float. He's clearly got as much hot air as Snoopy. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"