Many fantasy football players took the same gamble way back on draft day, picking that big name from 2003 on the slight hopes they'd recapture some of the old statistical magic.
It worked perfectly for those who snagged 37-year-old Kurt Warner or 39-year-old Brett Favre, yet many others found themselves stuck with old guys who no longer put up their old-time stats.
Since by now there's little chance of that magic returning, it's time to unload the old guys and instead take a few free agent gambles in your run for the coveted fantasy playoff spot. Sure, the geezers may provide a few flashbacks with occasional big plays, but that's not going to win you a title.
So thank Edgerrin James (54 yards a game) and Torry Holt (41 yards a game, 1 sort of accidental touchdown) for their service, then give them the boot. Likewise, say goodbye to the likes of Donald Driver (47 yards a game), Muhsin Muhammad (stats falling quickly with Steve Smith's resurgence) and Rudi Johnson (1 TD, employment in Detroit).
f that age discrimination's only good in fantasy sports, here's a look at some players to start in Week 9, some to avoid and a handful of long shots who just may pan out:
QUARTERBACKS:
A SAFE BET
-There's no more sure bet than Chicago's Kyle Orton, who hopes to become the seventh QB in eight games to set a career passer rating against the Lions. Look for him to improve upon the 334 yards and two scores he had against the Lions earlier this season.
-The Giants' Eli Manning hasn't had more than one TD pass in his past three games, but that should change against a Cowboys defense that could be starting two rookie cornerbacks. He had seven scores in three games against Dallas last year.
-Don't fret Donovan McNabb's touchdownless effort last week, or put too much stock in Seattle's defensive display. McNabb was just letting Brian Westbrook enjoy his return. And the Seahawks' No. 30 pass defense only stopped the 49ers last week.
-Jacksonville's David Garrard doesn't really have any receivers, but who needs them against the winless Bengals? Maybe he'll just run for scores against the Bengals who are impressively bad against the run and the pass.
-The Rams' Marc Bulger apparently just needed new coach Jim Haslett to tell him how to play again. He's thrown for scores in two straight games and faces an Arizona defense that has allowed an NFL-high 14 TD passes.
TAKE A SHOT
-Miami's Chad Pennington has increased his passing yardage in five straight games and is coming off his first 300-yard game in over two years. He faces Denver's 28th-ranked pass defense, which is always itching to give up 300 yards.
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Please, in the name of Tyler Thigpen, don't start these guys:
-Heading into Monday night's game at Washington, Ben Roethlisberger's a big reason why the Steelers are 0-2 against the NFC East. His numbers in those two games: 1 touchdown, 5 interceptions, 13 sacks, 3 fumbles.
-The Patriots' Matt Cassel has made strides, but he's also smart enough to know you only really need to hand off against the Colts' 26th-ranked run defense. (Everybody else has done this, so Indy's allowed an NFL-low 2 TD passes.)
-Speaking of young erratic guys named Matt, Schaub of the Texans faces a Vikings defense on the road that's a far cry from the Lions-Bengals-Dolphins trio he just finished shredding.
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RUNNING BACKS:
ALL DAY LONG
-Overthinker Alert: The Steelers may have the No. 3 run defense and Washington's Clinton Portis may be banged up, but you just don't bench the NFL's leading rusher at home on Monday night.
hman Green against this defense.
-The Jags can't run at all, with Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combining for less than 100 yards in five of seven games. But seasonlong shortcomings don't matter when the Bengals are on the schedule, so confidently start either one.
-Tim Hightower, who has scored six times in a minor role, is about to supplant Edgerrin James as the main back in Arizona. Of course, there is the danger that could just mean he'll get 11 carries while the Cardinals continue to pass exclusively.
-At least one guy named Pittman should be worth a start. The Rams' Antonio could start if the injured Steven Jackson can't, and Denver's Michael may get 20 carries for the third straight game if he isn't losing time to rookie Ryan Torain.
HE COULD FIND A SEAM
-Who's starting for New England? Kevin Faulk? That guy with two first names and two last names? Somebody else? At least one could do something good against the Colts, though the hard part is figuring out who it'll be.
RED FLAGS
-Remember Green Bay's last game, when Ryan Grant got his first 100-yard outing and first TD? Those figures should stand at one apiece after this week against the Titans.
n and the Ravens were worse. Baltimore has the NFL's top run defense and has allowed one rushing TD.
-Steer clear of the obscure guy on terrible teams who you might consider just because he's getting a start at home. That includes Jamaal Charles or Kolby Smith for the Chiefs, Cedric Benson of the Bengals or Julius Jones of the Seahawks.
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WIDE RECEIVERS:
THROW HIM THE DARN BALL!
-Atlanta's Roddy White has turned into about the most reliable receiver going, with five touchdowns and four 100-yard games in his last five appearances. He's on a long road trip to Oakland this week, but three of his past five have been away from Atlanta.
-Where'd this Donnie Avery come from? The rookie has scored twice in the past two weeks, accounting for half the Rams' 2008 passing touchdowns. Steve Smith showed last week what a really fast guy can do to that Arizona pass defense.
-Speaking of rookies, Denver's Eddie Royal has caught nine passes in half the games he's played in this year. He's healthy again and facing a Miami defense that's among the league's worst.
-Detroit's Calvin Johnson has a TD in three straight games. He's facing Chicago defenders who've struggled against the pass and will probably let their minds wander once this game gets out of hand.
is past two games. But he's due, and this isn't the usual caliber of New England defense he's facing.
MAYBE THROW HIM THE DARN BALL?
-Let's see, a receiver goes for 175 yards and then faces one of the NFL's worst pass defenses? Sure, Miami's Ted Ginn Jr. has never done anything before last week, but he may be worth a shot against Denver.
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH
-How have the Cowboys suddenly become the NFL's most unwatchable offense? It'll get uglier with Brad Johnson or Brooks Bollinger getting crushed by the Giants, who lead the league in sacks. Keep Terrell Owens on the bench no matter how wrong that seems.
-Speaking of guys who used to score tons of touchdowns, Cleveland's Braylon Edwards is back to dropping most everything he touches and faces the brutal Ravens defense. He does have a TD in each of his last two home games against Baltimore, but it's hard to have much confidence in the Browns' offense at this point.
-Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant won't be catching as many passes now that Joey Galloway's back and the Bucs won't need to do much passing against Kansas City.
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FREE AGENT SHOPPING LIST:
nts RBs Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker (reports that Deuce McAllister getting suspended), Dolphins WR Ted Ginn Jr. (175 yards), Jaguars WR Matt Jones (117 yards, TD), Dolphins QB Chad Pennington (314 yards, TD).
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OFF THIS WEEK: Carolina, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco.
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WHAT DO I KNOW?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I expected a rebound for LaDainian Tomlinson (170 total yards, TD) and good things from Kurt Warner (381 yards, 2 TDs), Peyton Manning (3 TDs) and Santana Moss (140 yards, TD). I was right about bad things for Julius Jones (9 yards), Terrell Owens (33 yards), Ronnie Brown (43 yards).
Big Misses: I struggled mightily with QBs, thinking the terrible J.T. O'Sullivan (3 turnovers, first-half benching) would do something against terrible Seattle, and that Trent Edwards and Jeff Garcia would throw TDs. I was down on Brett Favre (290 yards, 2 TDs). I admit to being wrong about Brandon Jacobs (47 yards) under protest because I disagree with the refs who said he didn't score in the first quarter. And I advised caution when considering a start for the injured Anquan Boldin (2 TDs). I expected good things (and good behavior) from Plaxico Burress (15 yards).

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