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Fantasy Football This Week

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Who's ready for another round of "Name My No. 2 RB?" Injuries continue to cause chaos for NFL teams and fantasy owners alike. Players such as Samkon Gado, Greg Jones, and rookie Cedric Benson have been thrust into the spotlight for Week 10.

Other owners are seeking to fill the holes left by the bye week, robbing them of another set of master works by Carson Palmer, Antonio Gates, and LaDainian Tomlinson.

There are plenty of stories to talk about on the field. Let's begin our look at Fantasy Football This Week with our weekly whip-around of the injury reports.

INJURY UPDATE

  • Fresh off a bye week, the Rams received good news in that their triumvirate of injured offensive stars is scheduled to return for this week's divisional showdown with the Seahawks. Marc Bulger and Torry Holt have been upgraded to "Probable," and Isaac Bruce went through virtually an entire workout for the first time in six weeks. The Seattle defense has performed well against opposing QBs, limiting them to a combined 57 percent completion rate, and 203 passing yards and 1.25 TDs per game.
  • Domanick Davis continues to struggle with the inflammation of his injured knee. He's currently tagged as "Questionable" for this week against Indianapolis. It would mark the second straight DNP for the heavily-used back after an injury-free two years to start his career. Jonathan Wells would continue as the top option in his absence. Wells put up 101 total yards of offense and a score in last week's loss to Jacksonville.
  • Third-string tailback Tony Fisher remains doubtful for Sunday's game against Atlanta with a broken rib. That means another heavy workload for rookie tailback Samkon Gado, who performed reasonably well against the Steelers (62 rushing yards and a touchdown). Given the mass destruction at the running back position over the past couple weeks, Gado became this week's biggest mover on the waiver wire.
  • Julius Jones has been removed from this week's injury report by Coach Bill Parcells, and will be available for the Cowboys on Monday against Philadelphia. Jones missed the Cowboys past three games ahead of the bye week, and watched rookie Marion Barber run wild in two straight outings. One would expect Parcells to pull back on Jones' carries somewhat to keep him fresh for the playoff run, especially with a capable No. 2 such as Barber on the roster.
  • Despite leaving Sunday's loss to Minnesota with a perceived nerve problem, Kevin Jones does not currently appear on the injury report for Week 10 against Arizona. Fantasy owners should still proceed with some trepidation here, as Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner will likely help reduce Jones' workload this week.
  • According to all reports, Brett Favre is perfectly healthy and ready to compete on Sunday against the Falcons. However, the veteran QB missed Wednesday's practice at Mike Sherman's request and admitted to feeling "lethargic." Perhaps this doesn't belong in an injury report, but it's a bit disconcerting to hear Favre use such terms, even in the trying circumstances of the 1-7 start by the Packers. He did skip Wednesday practices a year ago, but given the number of new bodies the Packers are attempting to integrate into the offense, that seems a dubious move this year. The Falcons allow 204 yards and just over one TD pass per game.
  • The Jaguars expect to be without Fred Taylor on Sunday as he recovers from a recurring problem with his right ankle. He's currently wearing a walking boot, a pretty sure sign that he'll sit out against the Ravens. That puts Greg Jones into the starting role for the second time this year. He ran for 77 yards and a score in his most extensive work this season back in Week 6 against a stout Pittsburgh run defense.
  • Injuries to Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis have thrust Duce Staley back into the fantasy spotlight this week as the Browns play at Pittsburgh. Staley ran well in relief of Parker in last week's win over Green Bay, carrying the ball 15 times for 76 yards and a score. He'll likely be the man to shoulder the load again this week, with Verron Haynes serving to spell him against the 28th-ranked Browns run defense (129 yards per game) – although it should be noted that the Browns have allowed only four rushing TDs. Staley will take handoffs from Charlie Batch, who will continue to serve as the starter in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who looks to return to action in Week 11.
  • The Buccaneers have seen their running game slowed with injuries to Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman. Williams' productivity dropped off the cliff after a heavy workload to start the campaign, and Pittman has been battling a pinched nerve for the past month. Look for Earnest Graham to factor into the running game a tad more this week against Washington.
  • The Packers expect to welcome wide receiver Robert Ferguson back to action this week after missing two games with a knee injury. Barring a setback, Ferguson figures to line up opposite Donald Driver in the starting lineup, with the pleasantly surprising Antonio Chatman returning to the No. 3 role.
  • Seattle welcomed back starting wideout Bobby Engram in Week 9. In Week 12, it expects to return No. 1 wideout Darrell Jackson to the mix (check the waiver wire, as embittered owners tossed him away a few weeks back). The familiarity that Matt Hasselbeck now has with his secondary receivers makes this a highly potent offense for the stretch run.
  • The Ravens turn back to Kyle Boller on Sunday against the Jaguars. Boller has been sidelined since the opening week with a toe injury and will look to bring a spark to the stagnant Baltimore offense. The Jaguars offer a smallish 162 passing yards and 1.25 passing TDs per game, so don't expect big efforts here. This shapes up as a Matt Stover-Josh Scobee battle, with a bit of Byron Leftwich mixed in.
  • Thomas Jones re-injured his ribs in Sunday's win over New Orleans and watched Adrian Peterson and Cedric Benson run well in his absence. While Jones might be able to go full-tilt if absolutely necessary, the Bears will likely turn to the young duo with San Francisco on the schedule. The extra week of rest would serve him well for the playoff stretch with difficult tests of Carolina, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta comprising four of their next six opponents.


BUZZ INDEX
With the rash of injuries to running backs across the NFL and the need for fantasy owners to replace (in roster spot only, Terrell Owens), this week's positive Buzz focuses solely on the RB and WR positions. Interestingly enough, Owens appears near the top of both the Add and Drop columns in waiver activity this week.

  • Reggie Brown, WR, Phi: Brown stepped into Owens' shoes on Monday Night Football and treated speculative owners to a five-catch, 94-yard performance. His speed and deep ball prowess has owners hoping for a mini-run in the second half as Donovan McNabb seeks a new favorite target.
  • Cedric Benson, RB, Chi: With Thomas Jones likely shelved this week against San Francisco, owners are turning to Benson for his piece of the Chicago timeshare with Adrian Peterson. He's run well the past two weeks, and makes for a great spot starter this weekend.
  • Robert Ferguson, WR, GB: Ferguson returns to the lineup to give Brett Favre another veteran option opposite Donald Driver. Ferguson has been cleared to return to the team for this week's game against Atlanta after missing several weeks with a left knee injury.
  • Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG: Jacobs has become a popular waiver wire pickup this week after his three-yard, two-TD performance in Week 9. Given the cloudy circumstances of so many running back situations, owners are looking to Jacobs for a Jerome Bettis-like second half where he bounds into the end zone on a weekly basis. Tiki Barber owners are seething.
  • Samkon Gado, RB, GB: Gado made a massive leap onto the fantasy radar with his 26-carry performance against the Steelers. While the end results weren't spectacular (26 carries for 62 yards), fantasy owners need a starter who will see upward of 20 Touches in the lineup. Gado is one of the few waiver wire pickups this week, with Tony Fisher still injured, who seems to fit that bill.
  • Brandon Lloyd, WR, SF: Owners are clearly overlooking the final results of Lloyd's recent performances and have him burned in their brain from the highlight reel catches he makes look routine. Unfortunately, his past three weeks' production as a No. 1 receiver for SF yielded five catches for 74 yards. He and the 49ers also face the difficult Chicago defense this week. That led many other owners to jump off his bandwagon and return him to the waiver wire.
  • Mewelde Moore, RB, Min: Moore asked out of Sunday's game with a wrist injury, ceding critical fourth-quarter carries, and perhaps his job long-term, to Michael Bennett. Mike Tice has long been a Bennett supporter, and Bennett's ability to rack up 106 yards in relief of Moore makes the Minnesota backfield a mess yet again. Fantasy owners have decided to ride another option for the stretch run and have divested themselves of the second-year back.
  • Antonio Bryant, WR, Cle: Other than an improbable two-TD game against Chicago several weeks back, Bryant has been virtually non-existent in the fantasy scoring column. Yes, he's hit 98 and 79 yards in the past two weeks, but hasn't scored a TD in seven of eight games. With Trent Dilfer struggling and the Pittsburgh defense laying in wait, owners have run out of patience.
  • Aaron Brooks, QB, NO: Perhaps his appearance on the downside of the waiver list can be attributed to the Saints' Week 10 bye, but thousands of owners dropped Brooks to waivers this week. Brooks has been completely shut out of the end zone in three games (four in the air), but has contributed multi-TD games in three of his past four starts. That would normally warrant at least a reserve spot, but the post-bye schedule does present several difficult matchups.
  • Michael Pittman, RB, Tam: Pittman remains hampered by a shoulder injury, and all indications are that Carnell Williams is moving better by the day. That will further reduce Pittman's role, and thereby limit his fantasy viability. With his Touches dwindling, owners have jumped onto the many platoon situations instead.
  • Jamal Lewis, RB, Bal: Lewis has done nothing to inspire confidence at this juncture. Lewis failed to top 100 rushing yards for the eighth straight contest last week versus Cincinnati. In fact, he failed to top 50 yards for the fourth time this year. Eventually, Brian Billick will have no choice but to give more carries to Chester Taylor.
  • Mark Brunell, QB, Was: Is the party truly over? Brunell's tremendous comeback streak of multi-TD passing games ended at five. He's been shut out in two straight games, and faces a tough test in Week 10 against Tampa Bay (only three total passing TDs and under 155 passing yards allowed per game).


PICKUP OF THE WEEK


Kelly Holcomb, Buf, QB
With injuries, bye weeks, and rough matchups rendering many usual starting fantasy quarterbacks useless, Holcomb has a huge spot this week. He faces a Chiefs defense that allows 260 yards and two passing TDs per game. Since his insertion in the lineup, he's gotten veteran receiver Eric Moulds back into the mix and has been a reliable starter.

DROP OF THE WEEK

Michael Clayton, TB, WR
It's time to finally sever ties with the second-year receiver. Clayton was brilliant as a rookie, but was slowed early by double-coverage and late by injury. He's hobbled by a knee injury that may sideline him for a tough matchup against Washington. For the year, Clayton has topped 50 receiving yards only twice and has yet to find the end zone.

HOT AND COLD

Tatum Bell, RB, Den: Mike Anderson continues to do the heavy lifting for the Broncos, but Bell remains the proverbial home run threat. He's busted off a run of 24 or more yards in six of his seven games played this year. In the past four weeks, Bell has topped 100 rushing yards three times, and scored five times. He's a big play this week in the divisional matchup with the Raiders coming out of the bye week.

LaMont Jordan, RB, Oak: Jordan has been the highest scoring fantasy player over the past three weeks, racking up more than 400 combined rushing and receiving yards and scoring four times. It took several weeks for the Raiders staff to come around, but they finally realized that a heavy dose of Jordan was what the team needed to compete. Barring injury, his heavy workload and big production continues in the stretch run.

Chris Brown, RB, Ten: Amid a sea of injuries, Brown has been the steadying hand for the Titans. He's averaged only 15.5 carries per game, but Brown has been quite productive throughout the year. He's topped 80 yards in three of his past four games (90-plus in two of them), and scored four touchdowns in the Titans past four games. He's yet to top the century mark, but owners will take any back who suits up on a weekly basis right now.

Byron Leftwich, QB, Jac: Leftwich found a complementary receiver for Jimmy Smith in Ernest Wilford, and has seen his passing totals rise as a result. He's thrown at least one TD pass in six straight games and has four multi-TD (including a rushing TD) during that stretch.

Derrick Mason, WR, Bal: It's tough to continue to pick on the Ravens, but at 2-6 and scoring barely 11 points per game, it's necessary. Mason was brought in to jump-start the attack, and that has materialized behind Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright. Though Mason has produced solid yardage totals in recent weeks, he hasn't seen the end zone since Week 2.

Terry Glenn, WR, Dal: Glenn got off to a blistering start, but has seen his numbers dwindle as Drew Bledsoe became comfortable with his other targets, and as Marion Barber jumped up in the running game in place of Julius Jones. In the past three weeks, Glenn has averaged more than four receptions and 50 yards receiving, but he's failed to find the end zone in five of his past six outings.

Carnell Williams, RB, Tam: He won us over with huge games to start the year. Every analyst and sportscaster worked in at least one miserable car joke into the Sunday and Monday highlight reels. Since returning from his injury, Williams has been unable to mount much of an effort in the running game. He's accumulated a meager 49 yards on 24 attempts and lost a fumble along the way. Tampa Bay faces Washington and Chicago in two of the next three weeks, meaning that running room will continue to be scarce.

Hines Ward, WR, Pit: It's no fault of his own, but Ward has been virtually a non-factor for the Steelers over the past few games. He watched Ben Roethlisberger make a connection with TE Heath Miller, and then lost Roethlisberger to injury. Last week, Ward registered a single catch for 12 yards against Green Bay. With Batch again under center, it figures to be another meager day for this perennial Pro Bowler.

SWOOPING VULTURES: Goal-Line Backs
Each week, we'll review the players earning their living around the goal line.

  • Brandon Jacobs has turned into this season's uber-vulture, swooping in to pilfer TD opportunities from Tiki Barber owners. Jacobs played the role to perfection in Week 9, gaining only three yards on the ground but scoring twice.
  • A new entry to the vulture world … and I'm taking some artistic license here. Stephen Davis' workload continues to diminish as the Panthers begin to eye the playoffs. DeShaun Foster carried the ball 18 times to Davis' 12 in Week 9, and it appears that a more distant split may be in the offing. However, those solid gold goal-line attempts will still be going to the bruising Davis, who has turned in four multi-TD games this year, and has not topped 51 rushing yards since Week 2.


SAFETY VALVES: Surveying the tight ends
The Tight end is often the young or struggling quarterback's best friend. Sometimes, he's so dominant that he can't be denied. Here are several players making noise at the position.

  • Over the past three weeks, Antonio Gates has distanced himself from the pack and shown just why he was drafted in the third or fourth round in most drafts. He scored twice as many points as the next TE in the three-week period just past. Gates scored 40 points to Heath Miller's 20 by quadrupling his yardage output.
  • Bubba Franks has gotten back into the mix for the Packers after missing several games due to injury. He's averaged 40 yards per game over the past three and found the end zone. He's a pretty good bet to return to the painted grass this week against Atlanta, particularly with Brett Favre throwing 37 passes per week.
  • Erron Kinney continues to have a heavy presence in the Titans'offense, and finally broke his scoring drought with a Week 9 TD reception. Injuries throughout the Titans' receiving corps have forced Kinney into heavy duty, and usual red zone threat Ben Troupe has been hobbled as well. Kinney has averaged just a shade fewer than five receptions per game this year and 50 receiving yards. That's about as good as it gets for regular productivity.
  • The rest of the Dallas passing attack alongside Drew Bledsoe is getting the bigger numbers and press, but TE Jason Witten has been a steady force in the offense. Witten is averaging 4.5 receptions per game and is on pace to approach 900 receiving yards (more than 54 per game).

Y! Friends & Family League
Providing a glimpse into our managerial efforts:
Despite relying on Brett Favre in recent weeks, team KFFL Deliminator has to the top of the West division with a three-game winning streak. Their latest win was perhaps the most improbable, with just 0.3 points separating the combatants.