"Injuries may be forgiven, but not forgotten." – Aesop
In the world of fantasy football, three things are constant: Goal-line vultures in Atlanta, "Lucifer" Shanahan running back head games and, worst of all, tear-jerker injuries.
Whether it's the tweak of a groin, the pull of a hammy, or the bite of a land shark, injuries are the most unpredictable performance-changing occurrences in fantasy football. There is nothing more horrifying to an owner than a star player befallen by a serious injury. It's devastating. It's season-ruining. And it flat out sucks. Am I right Larry Fitzgerald fans?
With five weeks already in the books, now is the time to auction off a small group of players affectionately known as the "Fragile Five." In order to prevent future headaches and bouts of insomnia, here is who you need to put on the block:
5. Julius Jones, Dal
Notes: Ranked as the seventh-best fantasy back in performance leagues, the "Juice" has not soured this season. However, Marion Barber III continues to steal carries at the goal-line and Jones is on pace for 344 carries, 87 more touches than his career-high from a year ago. Remember, he was sidelined for 11 games in his first two seasons. If he continues to churn out 21-plus touches per week, a pungent taste will surely follow.
4. Brian Westbrook, Phi
Notes: The top-rated back in fantasy, the swelling in his knee has subsided, but, as our own John Murphy reported on "Fantasy Football Live" last Sunday, he could need microfracture surgery at some point, in-season or not. When possible news of the knife is rumored, you have to take notice. Sell high.
3. Drew Bledsoe, Dal
Notes: Chalk this one up to mental injury. "Doo-Doo" Drew's three picks and three fumbles (one lost) train-wreck in Philly has the Dallas radio airwaves ripe with Tony Romo talk. Bill Parcells said a change is not expected "at this moment," but the leash has to be extremely short. See what you can get before it's too late.
2. DeShaun Foster, Car
Notes: Foster must be Fred Taylor's second cousin as he has missed a combined 15 games in three years. On pace to obliterate his career-high 205 carries by nearly 75 touches, eventually he will step on a landmine and find his way to the injured reserve.
1. Fred Taylor, Jax
Notes: With a nickname that causes glass vases to break when spoken, Taylor has to be at the top of this list. In his nine-year career, Taylor has missed an average of 3.8 games per season due to a variety of injuries and with Jack Del Rio turning to Maurice Jones-Drew inside the five it's time to shop.
WEEK 6 FANTASY FLAMES
Do you want to look like a pigskin prophet? Each week the Noise will dig deep for five no-so-obvious names to turn you into a gridiron guru. Here are this week's flame candidates:
J.P. Losman, Buf, QB – Opponent: at Det
Fearless Forecast: 268 YDs, 2 TDs, INT, 19 rushing yards
Notes: Yeah, I've stated that Losman's initials stood for "Just Pathetic" in the past, but I have to admit, he's made some significant strides this year. Outside of his three turnover debacle in Chicago last week, Losman has completed a respectable 61.5 percent of his passes, up 12 percentage points from a year ago. Although he will make an occasional mistake at inopportune moments, the third-year quarterback's arm strength and athleticism are undeniably superb. This week facing a loathsome Lions secondary that has yielded 265.8 passing yards-per-game, 11 passing touchdowns and forced only one interception, Losman should connect repeatedly with money man Lee Evans. Available in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues, J.P. will rock Ford Field so hard you'll think his initials stand for "Judas Priest."
Bruce Gradkowski, TB, QB – Opponent: Cin
Fearless Forecast: 238 YDs, 2 TDs, INT, 27 rushing yards
Notes: Runner up to Jon Kitna in the Mr. Clean look-a-like contest, the former miggity-miggity MAC standout outplayed much-hyped contemporaries Matt Leinart and Vince Young in Week 5. At 6-foot-1, 222-pounds, the "Polish Prince" is not an ideal size for the NFL game, but his fierce competitiveness and grit determination makes him a force to be reckoned with. The Bengals have had major issues in defending the run and if the battered Tampa O-line can lead Carnell Williams to back-to-back 100-yard games, the rookie signal caller will again post borderline top-10 QB totals. Gradkowski will not hurt defenders deep, but as long as he can get the speedy Joey Galloway the ball, a big gainer is one juke away. With a handful of prominent gunslingers on bye this week, Gradkowski is a brilliant plug n' play.
Marion Barber, Dal, RB – Opponent: Hou
Fearless Forecast: 9 carries, 41 YDs, TD, 3 receptions, 20 YDs
Notes: The goal-line gremlin in the Big D, Barber will give fantasy owners a fresh fade this week in the battle of the Lone Star State. Despite seeing limited action, Barber has totaled an impressive 53.1 yards-per-game and has crossed the chalk in three straight contests. The terrible Texans have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season and with the Tuna upset after a tough loss in the "T.O. Bowl," look for the Cowboys to build a sizeable lead early. Julius Jones will do the damage initially, but Barber will sweep up the scraps in the second half. Owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he is a fantastic flex play in 12-team leagues.
Michael Turner, SD, RB – Opponent: at SF
Fearless Forecast: 12 carries, 63 yards, TD
Notes: "The Burner" will brand the foreheads of the gold-panners in an increased role this week. Averaging a ridiculous 6.8 yards-per-carry this season, the tree-trunk legged bruiser will smash a San Francisco defense in garbage time that has allowed 146.6 yards-per-game and four touchdowns to running backs since Week 3. Look for Marty Schottenheimer to turn to Philip Rivers more this week after his impressive 242 yard, two touchdown effort against the Steelers. Couple that with LaDainian Tomlinson's probable huge first-half and a stiff Chargers D and this game has huge third quarter lead written all over it. Turner is an upside flex option in 12-team leagues who could replicate his 13-carry, 138-yard performance he had against the Titans in Week 2.
Bernard Berrian, Chi, WR – Opponent: at Ari
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 81 yards, TD
Notes: The No. 1 rated receiver in performance based leagues, Berrian reminds me of 1985 drag-racer Willie Gault. Despite being ranked 26th in the league in total targets, Berrian leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns (4), is second in yards-per-catch (21.7) and ranks third in total receiving yards (413). Arizona corners Antrel Rolle and Eric Green tend to be overaggressive and do not possess the elite speed needed to keep up with the Bears burner. Expect Rex Grossman and Berrian to again connect on a long TD pass in a desert rout. At this point, it's safe to assume Berrian is a top-10 wideout and a must start each week.
Eric Parker, SD, WR – Opponent: at SF
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 92 yards
Notes: After nailing Travis Taylor last Sunday, this week's "Big Noise" shocker special is another unsung receiver available in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Parker has come on quietly of late, totaling 13 targets, nine receptions and 123 yards in his past two. An acrobatic receiver with sensational hands, he is the best vertical threat in the Chargers yet-to-peak passing attack. Label Parker a serviceable No. 3 in Week 6 versus a feeble 49ers pass D that has allowed five air plays of 30-plus yards.
Washington D/ST – Opponent: Ten
Fearless Forecast: 10 points allowed, 2 INTs, 3 sacks
Notes: Whenever you're in dire need to find a quality waiver wire defense, think forever Young. Fantasy-wise, Washington has been less than desirable, repeatedly torched by prolific air attacks due to the void left by the injured Shawn Springs. The lone bright spot for the Redskins is their ability to defend the run, giving up just 94.6 rushing yards-per-game and two touchdowns this season. The return of hole-plugger Joe Salave'a should help Washington win the battle in the trenches and stymie the suddenly rejuvenated career of Travis Henry. Vince Young's ability to scramble can frustrate defenses, but his inexperience will have defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Andre Carter licking their chops. Available in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues, put on a pig nose.
WEEK 6 FANTASY LAMES
Worried about your awful matchups this week? The Noise lists five players that should be relegated to clipboard duty for your fantasy team. Here are this week's lame candidates:
Eli Manning, NYG, QB – Opponent: at Atl
Fearless Forecast: 234 YDs, TD, 2 INTs
Notes:The Falcons will sink their sharp talons into Manning and the Giants this week. Little Manning has found tremendous success primarily against a string of suspect secondaries (Ind, Sea, Phi, Was), averaging over 287 passing yards-per-game. Led by boisterous corner DeAngelo Hall, Atlanta has yielded the second fewest fantasy points to QBs and is the only NFL team yet to allow a passing touchdown. In his young career, Manning has had a 30 percent decline in touchdown production on the road and will tally lukewarm numbers in Hot-Lanta.
LaMont Jordan, Oak, RB – Opponent: at Den
Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 62 YDs, 3 receptions, 11 YDs
Notes: The human bowling ball will veer toward the gutter this week in the Mile High City. The Broncos frenetic pursuit can be overaggressive at times, as they have allowed 105.8 rushing yards-per-game, but they have not given up a ground score yet this season. Jordan has rolled his way to a healthy 6.2 yards-per-carry mark in his past two, but the physical Denver frontline is far superior to the Raiders previous two foes (Cle, SF). Chip in the expanded role of Justin Fargas, and Jordan makes an obvious sit candidate.
DeShaun Foster, Car, RB – Opponent: at Bal
Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 67 YDs, 2 receptions, 13 YDs
Notes: Foster owners will wish they had watched the "Lake House" with the wife instead of enduring the anguish of seeing their star No. 2 flop in Baltimore. The former Bruin has performed admirably of late, posting back-to-back 100-yard games, averaging a solid 5.2 yards-per-carry in those contests. However, the Ray Lewis-led Ravens D ranks third in the NFL versus the run giving up an inflexible 73.8 yards-per-game. With rookie dynamo DeAngelo Williams out with an ankle injury, the increased workload will just lower Foster's yards-per-carry average. Search for other options.
Hines Ward, Pit, WR – Opponent: KC
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 43 YDs
Notes: The reigning Super Bowl MVP might as well be called the "mental" Ward. Surprisingly, his targets have increased slightly from last year, but the porous play of Ben Roethlisberger has significantly diminished Ward's value. Kansas City ranks first in fewest fantasy points allowed to receivers and should be able to put pressure on a rattled Big Ben with bookends Jared Allen and Tamba Hali. Also, the Chiefs use a Cover 2 scheme that pushes quarterbacks into short-range throws, making it difficult for the maligned receiver to rack high yardage totals. To complicate matters, Ward has not shown his usual explosiveness, because he is still not fully recovered from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of the preseason. Do you need another reason?
Anquan Boldin, Ari, WR – Opponent: Chi
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 52 YDs
Notes: The Chicago Bears are E. Coli to opposing offenses. So far, the Monsters of the Midway have yielded the third-fewest fantasy points this season to wide receivers and will easily cover Matt Leinart's jersey in grass stains. With Larry Fitzgerald out, Boldin will be the bologna in a Nathan Vasher/Mike Brown double-team sandwich, limiting his total targets and overall production. Denny Green will likely attempt to counteract the Bears blitzes by getting his physical receiver the ball in short pass plays, which makes the fourth-year standout a reliable play only as a No. 3 in points-per-reception leagues. Consider more favorable options in shallow formats.
Scanning media reports with a fine-toothed comb, the Noise puts his fantasy spin on various tasty tidbits.
Disgruntled Arizona running back Edgerrin James continues to voice complaints that the Cardinals need to run the ball more. Head Coach Denny Green concurred and plans to install more run plays this week against Chicago on Monday night.
Spin: Do you think James regrets his jettison to the desert? What amazes me about his continued tirades is that he ranks second in the league with 22.4 carries-per-game. If a finger should be pointed at any person or group, it's the pathetic play of the Cardinals O-line and not Green's decision making. No matter if he touches the rock 20 or 30 times per game, the continued lack of protection will hamper James' production. Ideally, Green must continue to incorporate Edge's soft hands into the passing game by calling more screens and dump passes in order to take pressure off Leinart. This will greatly enhance his fantasy value in points-per-reception formats and help him regain some sort of general fantasy credibility. With 11 receptions and 75 yards in his past two games, the implementation of James into the passing game is headed in the right direction.
Don't expect Edge to pay dividends as a fantasy first-rounder anytime soon. Outside of facing San Francisco in Week 16, Arizona has arguably the toughest fantasy playoff schedule with Seattle, Denver and a road contest versus San Diego on tap. For now, anticipate another shoddy effort from Edge this week with run-stoppers Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher in town. At this point, he will be lucky to finish with 1,500 total yards and 4-6 touchdowns.
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Daunte Culpepper? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
I was reading your tips this (past) week about who not to play and your assessment of Antonio Gates. Totally agree with you about Gates being neutralized by "Martyball" so far, but take exception to you saying about Rivers "despite his poor play" – You are inaccurate here. The kid can play if Marty would let him. His QB rating is 96.1 which ranks 7th in the NFL. Not bad for a guy in his first year starting. He has turned the ball over once and only been sacked once in three games, partly due to his quick release.
– James, Vancouver, BC
Noise: Man, I love getting emails from our friendly northern neighbors. Many Americans diss on Canada, but for a country that produced hotties like Pam Anderson, Shania Twain and late-night Skinamax star Shannon Tweed, they deserve a Tony Kornheiser "goodnight" any day of the week.
To clarify, the "despite his poor play" statement was meant to reference Gates and not Rivers. I do agree with you that Rivers has the physical attributes and leadership skills to be a quality quarterback for years to come. It was refreshing to see the conservative Schottenheimer grow a pair on Sunday Night and call 37 pass plays. It's apparent when the Bolts face a soft secondary, a more air-friendly hybrid of "Martyball" will be employed. Along with Rivers' 242, two TD thrashing of the Steelers, he picked a part an indigent Titans defense for 235 yards and a touch on 35 attempts back in Week 2. Anticipate more of the same in Week 6 matched against a San Francisco defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to QBs this season.
As for Gates, Rivers said on Tuesday that defenses have keyed on the Pro Bowler, causing him to avoid threading double-team needles. This explains why Gates has seen close to a three targets-per-game decline from last year. Again, the decrepit 49ers defense should help reverse his fortunes. Supplanted by Marques Colston as the premiere tight end – No, we can't change his designation-in Yahoo! games – Gates is a premiere buy low player. The continued growth and experience of Rivers will eventually translate into Drew Brees-like success for the beleaguered Bolt.