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A fine line between sickness and wealth

I need help.

Not just "I'm 1-2 and have Randy Moss off this week" help, but perhaps, as it relates to fantasy football, clinical help.

Consider Sunday morning. I'm in Texas, in the lobby of the hotel for the South Florida football team, which is fresh off a wild double-overtime win at Texas Christian. It's about two hours to the first NFL kickoff, and I realize I haven't updated my lineup. My starting quarterback, Tom Brady, is off.

Panic sets in. My wife and our 19-month-old son are riding out the hurricane at her parents' home in Clearwater, but I can't bring myself to call her and try to convince her to log in to Yahoo and tweak my lineup. "Hey. You have power? Good. Yeah, stop boarding up the windows," I would say. "I can't just take a zero, can I?"

Can't do it. Not six years to the day after a hurricane bumped our wedding back a week. I try to plug my laptop into a courtesy phone in the lobby, but I can't get a dial tone. I find an office where hotel guests can go online, and I find a group of USF staffers using the computer, searching for updated hurricane info back home.

"You're probably looking for the same thing as we are," a man says, and I smile and agree. A sad, sad lie.

I know my family is safe, though, so when the group leaves, I sneak into the office. It takes a credit card to log on, charging 55 cents a minute with a $5 minimum. I swipe the card and hurry to Yahoo's fantasy page, proudly adding Steve McNair, who is dinged up and facing a tough Jaguars defense. Still, he has to be better than nothing, no?

Before I log off, I make one more change, a rash move that will fit in well with my team's showing. I bench Cardinals rookie Larry Fitzgerald and pick up Saints back Ki-Jana Carter, who wasn't in the NFL a week earlier but has been touted by a national fantasy guru on the radio as New Orleans' go-to guy.

So I spent $5, and McNair and Carter both gave me fat zeros. McNair had no touchdowns, and his piddly yardage was offset by an interception. Carter, a truly lemming move on my part, barely touched the ball, while ex-Buc Aaron Stecker, playing for my opponent, rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown, the kind of numbers he's used to putting up for a season.

Please e-mail with embarrassing stories of the lengths you've gone for your fantasy team, so I can feel better. And technically, this is part of my job. Had I kept the receipt, I might expense-account that $5.

DEFENSELESS: I'm on my third defense in four weeks, and none of them is Seattle, one of the biggest surprises of the season after Sunday's shutout of San Francisco. If you can deal a backup receiver or back for the Seahawks defense, pull the trigger: Seattle has four games left against the NFL's three worst teams in scoring offense, plus another date with the 49ers.

If you can't get the Seahawks, go after Atlanta, which has an NFL-high 14 sacks and has scored a touchdown. It's time to toss aside defenses that were good last season _ only one fantasy defense has scored fewer points than Carolina, though the Panthers did have a bye last week.

DROP/ADD: My kicker is off this week, and in trolling for a replacement, I stumble on New Orleans' John Carney, who is the top fantasy kicker around after hitting five field goals this week. Especially if you get a bonus for 50-yarders, he's a smart addition. Can you believe Marvin Harrison ranks third in fantasy points among Colts receivers? Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley are ahead, though all three rank among the league's top 11 receivers. If you're a Peyton Manning owner, life is good. Ex-Bucs are hot, with Stecker shining and Chicago's Thomas Jones looking like a top-tier back, but please stop short of picking up Arizona's Karl Williams. I saw some sites touting him as a sleeper after his 90-yard game Sunday, but I can't take that seriously. A better hunch is Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell or Oakland's Ronald Curry, who gets a weak Houston defense this week and could score for the third game in a row.

If you have a fantasy question, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at aumansptimes.com.

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