STICKING OUT from under a pile of papers that included Boston Bruins stats from last spring and a Sports Illustrated touting Stephen Strasburg as a "National Treasure" were some preseason fantasy publications.

It's always fun thumbing through such periodicals to see what turned out right and what didn't. Who cares how fair it is to use the pristine vision of hindsight. Here are a couple of preseason observations from two prominent sources.

We'll start with USA Today's fantasy magazine:

* What they wrote: "The arrow is pointing up for the [Cardinals] run game in general and Beanie Wells in particular."

What has happened: Only the Colts have a more inept run game and Gilligan's Island's Dawn Wells would have been a better pick at running back than Beanie Wells.

* What they wrote: In light of the Donovan McNabb trade, "[Michael] Vick could see a few more Wildcat snaps. And there is also the chance at a big step up if [Kevin] Kolb flops."

What has happened: Kolb's flop was caused by injury and Vick has been sensational.

Now, the Philadelphia Daily News preview:

* What was written: Colts running back "[Joseph] Addai, who has a nose for the end zone, could be a gem as a No. 2 back."

What has happened: Yuck. Addai has been a No. 2 all right, but not the way we thought. He hasn't played since Week 6 (neck) and was only mediocre before he got hurt.

* What was written: "Hate to dismiss the local guy, but forget [Texans' running back] Steve Slaton for now. Arian Foster is the guy you want."

What has happened: Foster leads the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

* What was written: "The biggest question [for Kevin Kolb] will be his ability to withstand the 16-game schedule. You might want to grab Michael Vick in the last round, just in case."

What has happened: Vick is one of the top five at his position.

* What was written: Adrian Peterson and Drew Brees were rated ahead of Chris Johnson. "Johnson is a horse, but those 358 carries and 50 receptions last year is a concern."

What has happened: Johnson is sixth in the league in rushing, but his last two games (5 yards and 53 yards rushing) have been disasters.

POSITION WATCH

Quarterbacks: The Cardinals' top two QBs this week against Denver are fifth-round rookie John Skelton and Richard Bartel, a backup for Daunte Culpepper this year in the UFL. Best of luck to Larry Fitzgerald owners . . . If Joe Flacco gets as much time to throw on Monday as he did last week against the Steelers, he's going to carve up the Texans. We have Flacco ranked fifth this week behind Aaron Rodgers , Drew Brees , Michael Vick and Tom Brady .

Running backs: New Orleans' Chris Ivory can continue to be used as a flex or a No. 2 in larger leagues despite the imminent return of Pierre Thomas . Ivory, an undrafted rookie out of Tiffin (Ohio) University, has five touchdowns in the last three games and, at the very least, should still get goal-line work . . . QB Matt Cassel's ill-timed appendectomy should mean the Chiefs rely even heavier on the running game and make Thomas Jones worth considering as a flex back against a Chargers defense that has had problems stopping the run.

Receivers: Steve Smith is expected back for the Giants on Sunday and Hakeem Nicks isn't far behind. Their return will be good news for owners of Eli Manning, who hasn't been able to stretch the field with disappointing Mario Manningham as the team's only healthy regular receiver . . . The Cowboys (19) lead the league in most touchdown catches allowed. Cincinnati (16) and Houston (16) are next.

FANTASY ISLAND

Getting defensive:

Fantasy defenses/special teams have been so hit-and-miss this year that it's hard to define which is best. So here's a look at some things to consider heading into fantasy playoff season:

* The Giants have forced a league-best 30 turnovers, but have no defensive/special teams touchdowns.

* The Cardinals' seven touchdowns leads the NFL, but the 338 points they've allowed is worst in the league.

* The Eagles' four remaining opponents (actually three, counting Dallas twice) have committed a league-most 108 turnovers. Atlanta's remaining foes have committed 104. On the flip side, the Saints remaining opponents have committed just 58.

* Tampa Bay's defense is tied for second in the league with 18 interceptions, but will be without star cornerback Aqib Talib, who's out for the season with a torn hip tendon.

* Four best defenses heading into the final games of the season: Steelers, Giants, Packers and Bears.

* Four unheralded defenses to consider heading into the final games of the season: Seahawks, Falcons, Patriots, Chargers.

Stat Stuff:

* Yes, that was a forward pass New England's Danny Woodhead caught from Tom Brady very late in the third quarter Monday night. Woodhead was standing about 2 feet to Brady's left and maybe a foot closer to the line of scrimmage when the quarterback sort of shuffled the ball to him. The play resulted in a 50-yard completion that had numerous fantasy implications.

* Maurice Jones-Drew has a career-best five-game streak of at least 100 yards rushing. The Raiders, the Jags opponent this week, haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Frank Gore in Week 6.

* Rams No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford is 347 yards away from becoming the third true rookie with 3,000 yards passing. Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan are the others.

Contest of the week:

How many rushing yards will the Eagles have on Sunday at Dallas?

The Birds are fifth in the league at 144 yards per game, but in their two dismal visits to Dallas at the end of last year, the Eagles had 93 rushing yards combined. One reader who comes closest will win a Daily News fantasy football T-shirt. As a tiebreaker, include Michael Vick's rushing total. Send your name, hometown and guess to fantasyfootball@phillynews.com or fax to 215-854-5524.

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Stop by and talk fantasy (and all sports) with Ed Barkowitz on Thursday when he collects toys and donations as a guest bartender at Downey's on Front & South from 7-11 p.m. No Cosmos or Bahama Baybreezes, please. Send e-mail to fantasyfootball@phillynews.com.