Next week, NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth has more than a few things off the track to do: He has a NASCAR Contenders’ Live event at Chicago’s Navy Pier where he will join the other top 12 drivers on stage to answer fans’ questions. He has to continue to strategize about how to get his speed back for the upcoming stretch of the Sprint Cup Chase. And, like millions of other of fantasy-football obsessed fans, he has to get prepared for his fantasy football draft. After all, Kenseth, who plays in a Keeper League with some of the guys from his garage, his family and a few friends of his is out to claim the crown this year.

"I finished second (last year),” he said. “I was going to win the Super Bowl. I had Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and that was great, but I was playing against Roddy White, so I kind of lost it.

Kenseth won't give away any of his tips -- after all, he's doing the draft in a few days and doesn't want to tip off any of his opponents. But he's far from the only pro athlete playing fantasy sports.

At the NFL Network media event, Marshall Faulk said he's been playing since his days when he was actually back on the field. He was in a league with a few of his teammates and some friends, who saw it as their chance to finally beat him in something. "It's their opportunity to prove they’re better at football than me, because they can't really get on the field," he said.

Now older and wiser he says his secret strategy lies in a revamped player SAP player comparison tool, which he believes helps fantasy players make more informed choices. He’s putting his money the Rams’ Tavon Austin ("a human highlight") and Sam Bradford and the Jets’ new running back Chris Ivory.

"The Jets are going to have to run the football to control the clock,” he advised. "I think Geno Smith will win the starting quarterback job and with a young quarterback that’s what you have to do. He’ll touch the ball maybe 300, 350 times this year and probably rush for 1,400 yards if he stays healthy. Probably put up 12-15 touchdowns."

Michael Irvin didn't want to tip off his fantasy football opponents, but offered the following:

"I'll give you this tip and I think it will be interesting to watch -- especially early on in the season, I don't think Tom Brady should be drafted as high as Tom Brady’s usually be drafted,” he said. “It’s not that I’m doubting Tom Brady’s ability to do what he does because he’s one of the best to ever do it. But I’m looking at the team on a whole. This team is doing such an incredible job of adjusting to what they need to do to win games and all along after the first few years all of that came through Tom Brady throwing the ball … but it looks like for now, it's going to be more of a running team until Tom gets his legs back. So it's going to be interesting.

After all, with Wes Welker gone and Danny Amendola hurt, Irvin pointed out, at least one of the quarterback's favorite targets is in question. "So I don't know if Tom Brady's worth it," the retired running back said, "... not that he's not a great quarterback ... but for fantasy it's just a different situation."

Fantasy football fanatics who are hungry for a more advanced and nuanced platform may be in luck.

A few former Philadelphia Eagles employees have created a new fantasy game that is just a few steps shy of allowing its users to be actual NFL GMs.

The platform is called Reality Sports Online, and the brains behind it are Matt Papson and Stephen Wendell.

Among other cool new features, Reality Sports Online offers an amazing new free agency auction room in which owners must bid on players through a computer algorithm which acts as an agent. The program weighs other offers, age and injury concerns in selecting the best deal. No word on whether the algorithm also takes into account pressure from Jay-Z to steal its clients.

"Everything we did, we started with the NFL rules and worked backwards," Papson told CNN. "At its roots that was what fantasy was supposed to be about. There was a fork in the road where fantasy sports became its own thing. We're trying to converge them back together."

Papson worked as a junior salary cap analyst for the Eagles, so he knows a thing or two about the managing a roster. While some fantasy football GMs are OK with simply setting their roster every week and then stepping away from their computers, Reality Sports Online is aiming for a more stats-focused crowd.

The nature of the platform will require close monitoring and is tailored to a certain type of fan.

"I think the Wall Street guy crunching numbers can apply that to fantasy football," Wendell told CNN. "With this, you can say 'I won because I'm smarter than you.' Wall Street guys like being able to say that."

The service currently charges fans $9.99 per team and Papson and Wendell figure that they need about 17,000 players to break even with the initial $400,000 launch funds that they compiled from investors.

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Quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick aren't just inspiring a new generation of running signal callers: They're changing video games.

EA Sports has been pumping up its new feature called "Run Free," according to USA Today. The feature will allow a variety of new moves for ball carriers, reportedly inspired by RGIII and Kaepernick.

"(The game) feels so much different -- the pistol offense, the read option -- it feels a lot different to me than the wildcat where you might throw in a couple plays but in a couple of years it kind of faded away," Anthony Stevenson, senior director of marketing for EA Sports, told the newspaper. "This doesn’t feel like that at all. This is personnel driven and you're talking about the future quarterbacks that are going to be the Pro Bowlers for the next ten to 15 years and take the torch from the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys. We wanted to make sure we represented that in this year’s game so we have a campaign called Run Free."

The game also promises better defense to stop the increased running game features -- something we're sure many NFL teams wishes they could add with the push of a development team.

Madden NFL 25 will be available August 27.

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When it's all said and done, Robert Griffin III will likely be one of the biggest fantasy football steals of 2012.

True, Griffin was the second overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, but many people weren't sure how he would adapt to playing in the pros.

Griffin proved all the doubters wrong, and as of Week 16 his 322 points were sixth among all players in Yahoo! leagues. And that's despite Griffin missing last week's game with a knee injury.

So how has Griffin had such a good year for fantasy owners? It turns out he had a little help from an "expert" fantasy coach named Nate. Griffin III worked with Nate on developing a few moves that would boost his fantasy score, and it looks like the practice is paying off.

Luckily for us, Funny or Die was there to film the super-secret practice sessions:

Nate also provided Griffin with some extra motivation, which may or may not have worked.

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Like so many other fantasy owners, Nick Lachey is middling in mediocrity.

The singer and Cincinnati native is in two leagues, and he’s stuck in the middle in both.

"It’s not a fantastic year," Lachey told ThePostGame, "but not a catastrophic one either."

Lachey, a huge Bengals fan, says he has been accused before of "drafting with my heart and not my head," so lately he’s tried to change that. Despite several solid fantasy weapons on the Bengals offense, including quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, this year the only Cincinnati player on either of his rosters is place kicker Mike Nugent.

Despite the dearth of Cincinnati players on his roster, Lachey can’t help but sympathize with the Bengals.

"Like the Bengals, I've just got to make it to the postseason," Lachey said, "then anything can happen."

Related content:
Nick Lachey's Top 5 Cincinnati Sports Moments

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Josh Freeman says that Fantasy Football is great for extending the NFL's fan base. He knows because he hears about his performance on a day-to-day basis from fantasy fans, be it on the street, at the movies or even at the supermarket.

"I was at a Publix supermarket, grabbing some milk," Freeman said at an event to promote the new video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, "and this older lady came up to me. She was tellin' me how she had a huge family and that they had started up a league, how it was her first year playing fantasy."

Freeman was expecting one of the two lines that he usually gets from fantasy players.

"It's always like: 'Oh, I'm so glad I got you on fantasy' or 'Man, you killed me last week,'" he said.

But it turns out that Freeman wasn't even on her roster.

"She said, 'Make sure you throw the ball to Dallas Clark,'" Freeman said, laughing. "It was hilarious."

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For fantasy football owners, now is about the time of the year when the panic sets in. After weeks of checking your team, swapping in players and devoting ungodly amounts of time to your W/R flex position, you've realized that the playoffs are a pipe dream.

The guys at the NOC feel your pain.

The same team that released such parody classics as "Jeremy Lin That I Used to Know" and "Whistle" recently unveiled their newest video, "1-8." The song has the same tune as Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," but in this video a fantasy football owner is lamenting his horrific squad.

"I wish I picked then who I know now -- Andrew Luck and Andre Brown," sings Jesse Adelman. "Fantasy hurts, it's looking so bleak. I wish I could just take, take a bye week."

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If this video characterizes how you're feeling about your fantasy team, don't worry, it will all be over soon.

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Fantasy football can be a fun hobby and a way for fans to immerse themselves in the sport, but as certain players have pointed out, some fantasy owners take their passion a bit too far.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Braylon Edwards felt the wrath of a dismayed fantasy football owner Monday during a visit to the hospital. Edwards missed Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions with a swollen knee, and apparently one hospital security guard didn't have time to take Edwards out of his lineup. So when he saw Edwards at the hospital, he gave him some grief for not playing.

Edwards wasn't too happy to hear from this guy, and understandably so.

We saw something similar happen a few weeks ago, when a replacement referee chided LeSean McCoy for his performance.

Little did the ref and the hospital security guard know, these guys are more than robots who score points every Sunday, they are living, breathing human beings. And they should be treated as such.

(H/T to Game On!)

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Joe Buck is known for being the No. 1 play-by-play man for Fox Sports' coverage of the NFL and MLB -- sometimes doing both on the same day.

Buck is also a fantasy football player with entries in two leagues. One is with work colleagues.

"We call it the A-crew, so it's [Troy] Aikman, our producers, directors, guys working the cameras," Buck said. "Pam Oliver is in our league. And then I'm in one with friends. Guys and girls that I know from all parts of the globe. It's funny because I'm awful at it. I've done it I think four years now and I have never gotten into the playoffs. I'm awful at picking fantasy teams."

It might not come across on the air, but there may be times when the game he is calling will have an impact on his fantasy success (or failure).

"With our games, there was a time earlier in the season three years ago where Aikman and I were neck-and-neck in our little division, and we were doing, I think, Vikings-Patriots," Buck said. "He had [Randy] Moss or [Tom] Brady and I had Adrian Peterson. So we're calling the game and I'm living and dying with what my guys are doing because the last thing Aikman wants to do is lose. He hates losing. And the best thing I can do is beat him at that."

What happened?

"I think I lost because that's typical," Buck said. "Aikman wins at everything."

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"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" featured one of the most star-studded casts of comedic actors in the past decade. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Christina Applegate turned the simple setting of a 70s San Diego news station into classy comedy.

One might imagine this group made all kinds of jokes offset and fed off each other's cracks. Koechner claims this was not the case.

"People ask and it's not a group of pranksters," he says. "There wasn't a lot of hijinks."

Koechner played Champ Kind, the cowboy sportscaster, in the movie, and in real life, he is an avid football fan, who is helping pitch the Bud Light Fantasy Football League this season.

Koechner says he and some of his fellow cast mates were far from relaxed at the start of filming. The actor/comedian remembers some anxiety he had after working with such a deep cast that first week.

"We had the weekend off, and myself, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell had all gone home and had the same conversations with our wives, which was 'I'm not keeping up. Oh, my gosh, those guys are all so funny,'" he says. "So that was interesting. How we all felt like the other ones were terrific."

The cast must have eventually felt comfortable in each other's presence, as the movie became an instant hit. A $26 million budget was turned into a worldwide $90.6 million total at the box office upon its July 2004 release. "Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie," based on outtakes and deleted scenes from the original, went straight to DVD later that year.

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The actors have fed off the success of the films, as have writer/director Adam McKay and producer Judd Apatow.

Now, the entire Anchorman team is ready to return to the newsroom. "Anchorman: The Legend Continues" is scheduled to begin filming in February 2013 with a planned release date later in the year. Koechner says he is "very excited" for what he is calling "Anchor Deuce." He believes the prospect of a sequel had been floating around for some time since the first movie, and all the pieces just needed to be lined up.

"Everyone wanted to get back to it," he says. "No one was opposed to it. It just took a long time for all of the elements to come together."

Koechner will reprise his role of Champ Kind, who is known for his male-dominant attitude and underlying feelings for Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), one of the co-anchormen at KVWN.

Koechner did not do any extensive background research on sportscasters for the role. As a television watcher, he felt he would be just fine.

"I just went into it as an actor," he says. "Obviously most Americans have a working knowledge of television and your local evening news, so all my life I've seen my local sports anchors all over."

Outside of the Anchorman movies, Koechner undertook a different sports-related role as Coach Lambeau Fields in the 2007 comedy, "The Comebacks" (directed by Tom Brady -- no relation to the Patriots quarterback).

After experiencing both roles, Koechner has come to a conclusion: No sports background is needed for a sports-related comedy role. Although he did come into his "Anchorman" and "The Comebacks" roles with a passion for sports, he does not believe it made much of a difference.

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"I would dare say a person would not have to know anything about sports to play either of those roles because it's not like you were writing it. It's already written," he said. "I mean I certainly have a love of sports, and football is my favorite, but I don't think you have to well-versed in the art of all things sports to play them as an actor. I mean it helps."

Koechner believes actors with little sports knowledge can perform well by just sticking to some classic acting techniques. Imagine a more relatable scenario and stick to the script.

"As an actor, you have to create your own emotional life," he says. "Now if you don't have a touchstone for it, how that fits with whatever this role you're playing, you should do some investigation, but normally what you'll do for anything is you'll substitute something that's emotionally relevant and resonate to you in accordance to what the lines are.

While Koechner prepares for another turn as Champ Kind, he will focus on his main sports love: football. Koechner will be participating in the Bud Light Fantasy Football League, a way to compete against others using codes on Bud Light bottles. Players can use the codes to create a team (each code marks a different position on a team, rather than individual players), and there are more than 13,000 weekly prizes available. One grand-prize winner will be given an opportunity to go to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

Koechner is thrilled to get started with the league, which works on a daily basis: "Like most Americans. I like my footballs, I like my fantasies and put them together, what do you have? Fantasy footballs."

As Koechner says about acting in sports roles, no sports knowledge is necessary to compete in the Bud Light Fantasy Football League.

In terms of the NFL season, Koechner is sticking to loyalties with his Super Bowl pick. The Tipton, Mo. native is taking the Chiefs to take home the Lombardi Trophy to Kansas City in February.

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