He has lurked on somebody's bench, idle for three months, his absence a damaging setback for any fantasy team if he was drafted high before his leg injury, a disappointing investment if he was taken afterward.
Now Michael Vick is giving his fantasy owners a lineup quandary, nicely timed to coincide with the start of the playoffs in most leagues. Do you start him at one of your most important positions with your season on the line or stick with the guys who got you to the playoffs?
Vick's showing in Sunday's overtime victory against Carolina was the fifth best in fantasy football last week, trailing only the 49ers' Jeff Garcia at his position. He rushed for 141 yards, the third-highest total ever for a quarterback, and passed for another 179.
In his final three regular-season games last season, Vick passed for at least 240 yards and totaled five touchdown passes. There's no telling how quickly he can get in rhythm with top receiver Peerless Price, but with Warrick Dunn out with a season-ending injury, Vick will factor in a large majority of the Falcons' remaining touchdowns.
If there's anything to temper the prospects, it's Vick's schedule. He faces the Colts, Bucs and Jaguars, all among the NFL's top 12 in total defense and arguably tougher than the Panthers. In addition, his next two games are on the road.
Nothing stings a fantasy owner worse than seeing your season end with your best players on the bench. I pulled out a 74-67 victory Monday against a team that had Garcia - who passed for four touchdowns and rushed for two more - on its bench.
Garcia threw four interceptions without a touchdown a week earlier, making him a tough guy to start, even against a porous Arizona defense. His four touchdown passes Sunday were as many as he had totaled in his previous seven games. But as logical as the choice was, it contributed to a loss that cost my opponent the last playoff berth in our league. That just hurts.
The temptation is there this week to hand Vick the keys to your fantasy team, but unless you're hurting at quarterback, the safe bet is to keep him on your bench. Somebody else was good enough to get you into the playoffs, and that shouldn't be overlooked.
STILL GOING: Listeners of WDAE-AM 620 have another team to cheer for. The fantasy team of producer Jay Fortunato is one of four that made the playoffs in a Yahoo.com charity league that benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation and will give one lucky station two Super Bowl tickets.
Fortunato, a Central Florida graduate, had the sense to draft fellow alum Daunte Culpepper, who has led his team to a 10-4 record and a second-place tie. Having Clinton Portis and Stephen Davis hasn't hurt, and Peter Warrick and Dante Hall have played well since the team lost Keyshawn Johnson a few weeks back.
As for the tickets, Fortunato said he isn't feeling any extra pressure to win, even though his success could send two WDAE listeners to Houston for the Feb. 1 Super Bowl.
"It would be nice to get them," he said. "It would be cool for the station."
Another way to get the station two tickets - potentially to give away to listeners - is to have WDAE raise the most money for Make-A-Wish among eight participating stations. WDAE is tied for last with $25. A Phoenix station leads with $907. Those interested can make donations at sports.yahoo.com/s/makeawish.
TIP SHEET: Portis had what most are calling the greatest day in fantasy football history Sunday, rushing for 218 yards and five touchdowns against the Chiefs. This week, he lines up against a Browns defense that let Jamal Lewis run for an NFL-record 295 yards in September. Lucky me, I open the playoffs against a team with Portis. ... There's a fantasy Timmy Smith out there, waiting to bust out a huge game out of nowhere in your playoffs. If you're scrounging the scrap heap for a fill-in starter, your best bets are Cleveland running back Jamel White, who topped 100 yards and scored a touchdown Monday and now is the Browns' starter. Packers receiver Robert Ferguson set season highs last week in catches (seven) and yards (79) and faces some awful defenses ahead. And the Chiefs' Hall had as many catches (11) Sunday as he did in his previous six games. Look for another big game against Detroit this week.
- If you have a fantasy question or lineup dilemma, send an e-mail to staff writer Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org