JOE MALIZIA always has had a penchant for fantasy sports. The 35-year-old Army major has been stationed all over the world, so, naturally, he dragged his fantasy teams along with him.
Malizia, who grew up in Roxborough and played linebacker at Penn Charter, was stationed in Bogota, Colombia, at the start of the current NFL season. Among his duties on this mission was to provide care to impoverished people as part of the Army's Medical Civic Action Program.
"In a nutshell, we bring doctors and medicine to small, poor [people] where the Colombian government usually isn't able to provide service," said Malizia, who also has had assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Malizia was bumped up to company commander Nov. 21 and now is stationed in Homestead, Fla. As if he doesn't have enough to do, he also dabbles as a writer and copy editor for the Web site www.fantasyfootballcafe.com.
Despite being in South America during this year's draft, Malizia won his division of the Professional Fantasy Football League, which features Philadelphia-area childhood friends Joe Brogan and the brothers DiBricida (Brian, Anthony and Kevin). The draft was held at Brian DiBricida's house, and Malizia participated via Web cam.
Malizia had a playoff bye last week, which was fortunate, because Tony Romo and Clinton Portis are his top players. He's never won the PFFL, but finished second in the previous two seasons. Fantasy, Malizia says, keeps him close to home as he bounces around the globe.
"You absolutely feel as if you're not so far away," he said. "Fantasy football is just a conduit for that. The excitement always builds once the NFL season rolls around."
Tight end is sometimes a forgotten position. This year, that wasn't such a bad thing.
Aside from Tony Gonzalez, this year's crop has been disappointing.
Antonio Gates will post his worst numbers since his rookie year, but at least he has six touchdowns. Chris Cooley used to get to the end zone frequently, but he has only one touchdown all season. And while Jason Witten is in the top three in catches and yards, he has three puny touchdowns.
These are only some numbers to keep in mind when filling out the fantasy ballot on this page. It's been a kooky season, and the tight ends are doing their part. After Gonzalez and Gates, the next three prolific touchdown scorers are Kevin Boss, Donald Lee and Visanthe Shiancoe, with five each.
* Brandon Marshall, Broncos wide receiver: Has had 10-plus receptions in four of his previous five December games, which is enough to approach fantasy-god status in leagues that reward catches.
* Steve Slaton, Texans running back: Avoid the temptation to sit him against the Titans' seventh-ranked rushing defense. He's had at least 120 yards in three of his previous four games, and ran for 116 in the Week 3 game at Tennessee.
* Tony Romo, Cowboys quarterback: He's thrown three touchdown passes in each of the five home games he's started this season. Just passing it along in case you were considering benching him after Sunday's three-pick performance at Pittsburgh.
* Joseph Addai, Colts running back: All those sick of the Joey Injury Report, say "Aye." It shouldn't get any better than a Week 15 matchup against
Detroit, but Addai is too unreliable. Dominic Rhodes would be the better choice.
* Julius Jones, Seahawks
running back: Coach Mike Holmgren is so down on him, Jones didn't play a single snap Sunday. And even though Jones had his best game of the season (140 yards) in Week 3 against the Rams, Sunday's opponent, there's too much at stake to even consider playing him.
Maurice Morris would be a better option.
* Marshawn Lynch, Bills running back: Buffalo has managed only a pair of field goals the last two games, and on Sunday the Bills visit an angry New York Jets team that is fourth in the league against the run and tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns allowed. *
Ed Barkowitz, who has enough trouble keeping up with his teams from his home in South Philadelphia, much less Colombia, also is a fantasy football consultant for CBS3's Sunday morning Eagles pregame show. Send e-mail to