As we hit Week 7, another major storm is brewing off the coast, changing start times and field conditions for several battles. The Chiefs and Dolphins will begin the week on Friday, so those leagues with roster acquisition deadlines set for the first game of the week need to pay heed to the new start.
Otherwise, this appears to be the week for the dreaded "game-time" decision. There are hordes of skill position players fighting through one injury or another, leaving fantasy owners guessing. One need only look to Week 6 and Thomas Jones and Corey Dillon to see how differently the same information can shift.
In any event, we'll begin our trip around Fantasy Football This Week with an update on those injuries impacting our waiver wire decisions.
- Injuries to his ribs, pelvis, and groin sustained in Sunday's loss to San Diego put Randy Moss on the injury list as doubtful for Week 7 against Buffalo. He'll be a game-time decision by Norv Turner and the coaching staff. If he's unable to go, Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel will run as the starting wideouts with Alvis Whitted in the third slot. Given Buffalo's inability to thwart the run, expect a steady diet of LaMont Jordan this week.
- St. Louis may welcome Isaac Bruce back into the fold for this week's game against New Orleans. He's been unavailable since Week 3, and will be a critical addition to the equation in support of Jamie Martin. His return would mean the end of Kevin Curtis' reign as a starting wideout.
- Staying in St. Louis, Marc Bulger is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with the sprained shoulder sustained on an attempted tackle on Monday against Indianapolis. Many readers took me to task for calling out Bulger for his tackling attempt. Believe me, I appreciated that Bulger didn't walk to the sidelines after the pick and tried to clog things up for someone else to make a tackle. However, he needed to get through a pile of blockers to get to the ball carrier, and led with his throwing shoulder. I'll take the adrenaline explanation, but you still have to be cognizant of protecting your most valuable asset. Veteran backup Jamie Martin slides into the top spot in his absence, and makes for a serviceable play this week if you're facing a bye or injury.
- Donovan McNabb suited up for Wednesday's practice and will be ready to roll this week against the Chargers. The timing of the Eagles bye week couldn't have been better for the ailing QB. Now, the Eagles need to work on the bruised ego of Brian Westbrook to get this offense back in full gear.
- Steve McNair sat out Wednesday with a sore back, but according to Jeff Fisher, he wasn't expecting McNair on the practice field anyway. The Titans expect McNair to play through the injury on Sunday against a struggling Arizona defense. Tennessee will play without Drew Bennett for several weeks with a thumb injury sustained in Week 6. Rookie Brandon Jones will step into the starting lineup in his absence. Jones was targeted 12 times in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati.
- T.J. Houshmandzadeh got back on the practice field in limited work on Wednesday. He's expected to hit the field this week against the Steelers, and pushes Chris Henry back into the No. 3 role.
- Hines Ward remained on the sidelines for the Steelers on Wednesday with a tender hamstring. He missed Week 6 against the Jaguars, snapping a streak of 116 consecutive games played. Ward certainly wants into this week's AFC North showdown with the first-place Bengals. Antwaan Randle El is also listed as questionable for Week 7 with a foot injury. Randle El remains optimistic that he'll be available to run deep patterns for Ben Roethlisberger's return to the lineup.
- Joe Horn was unable to participate in team drills during Wednesday's practice after re-injuring his hamstring against the Falcons. It's currently looking like he'll miss at least one more game (Week 7 against St. Louis) before returning to the field. Donte' Stallworth, also suffering from a minor pull himself, and Devery Henderson will start for the Saints if Horn is indeed held out.
- Don't read too much into Thomas Jones' absence from Bears mid-week workouts. He is merely resting his injured knee in anticipation of a big workload against the Ravens. After learning a painful lesson from his 89-yard, two-TD performance in Week 6, don't inactivate him unless the Bears do.
- The Lions welcomed Jeff Garcia back to full practices this week, and he's splitting reps with Joey Harrington. Kevin Jones has struggled to gain much running room this season, and must now contend with a sprained shoulder. He's currently listed as questionable for this week's game against Cleveland. Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson will split the workload should Jones miss this tilt against the 29th-ranked Cleveland run defense.
- Falcons bruising back T.J. Duckett remains in a walking boot and will likely miss Monday's game against the Jets. The Falcons activated rookie DeAndra Cobb from the practice squad with the anticipation that Duckett's ankle injury will keep him sidelined. The Jets rank just above Atlanta against the run at 27th, so big efforts from Warrick Dunn and Curtis Martin are most certainly in the offing.
- Aaron Stecker, who was expected to continue his time share with Antowain Smith in the Saints backfield, showed up on the injury report with an Achilles injury. He's currently listed as questionable, but the injury appears to have put Smith in the driver's seat.
- Bobby Engram will join Darrell Jackson on the sidelines for at least one more game with injured ribs. With Shaun Alexander dominating opposing defenses and solid play from Joe Jurevicius in their absence, there's no need to hurry Engram back into the lineup.
- Chris Perry, RB, Cin: The Bengals continued to find ways to make this playmaker a bigger part of the offense. Last week, he caught nine passes from Carson Palmer for 45 yards and a touchdown and had a TD called back because of a penalty. Rudi Johnson is in no danger of losing his gig, but the change of pace Perry offers makes him a solid bye week contributor.
- Detroit Defense: Fantasy owners like to see a defense take it to the house. After Detroit did it twice last Sunday, owners rushed to the waiver wire to snap the Lions defense up ahead of their meeting with Cleveland. They've racked up 10 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries in addition to 12 sacks. The Lions make for a solid spot start this week.
- Chris Brown, RB, Ten: Brown finally found pay dirt last week, scoring twice in the thriller against Cincinnati. His fumbling problems resurfaced, but he shouldered the load nicely and gained over 100 combined rushing and receiving yards. The Cardinals allow 106 yards per game on the ground, and have already allowed eight rushing touchdowns.
- Patrick Pass, RB, NE: Corey Dillon's last-minute deactivation pushed owners to the waiver wire to acquire the services of Pass. He split carries with Amos Zereoue, and contributed much to the Patriots passing game with six receptions for 89 yards. Putting up 153 yards of offense in a week where running backs were dropping like flies will push a player's stock north in a hurry. The Patriots have been very non-committal about the extent of Dillon's injuries. As such, owners burned by the game of cat-and-mouse last week will not be fooled again.
- Kelly Holcomb, QB, Buf: Holcomb has resurrected the Bills passing attack after Eric Moulds and Lee Evans lobbied for his promotion to the starting role. He's tossed three touchdowns in the last two weeks and thrown for 341 yards. The Bills have achieved balance between the run game with Willis McGahee and the passing game behind Holcomb. They should find success again this week against Oakland.
- Robert Ferguson, WR, GB: Ferguson has scored in three of the Packers past four contests and has become a go-to guy for Brett Favre in Javon Walker's absence. He's been targeted an average of six times by Favre through five games this year.
- Cedric Benson, RB, Chi: Week 6 was supposed to be his coming out party against the Vikings. Lovie Smith refused to rule Thomas Jones out all week, leaving owners to gamble on his availability. If they gambled incorrectly, Jones and his 89-yard, two-TD performance was wasted. Benson gained a weak two yards on three carries before returning to the sidelines. Unless Jones sustains more serious damage to his knee, Benson's touches and fantasy usefulness will be limited.
- T.J. Duckett, RB, Atl: He's currently sporting a walking boot to aid in the recovery of an ankle sprain, but owners had started to jump off his bandwagon after his five-carry performance in Week 5. Duckett carried the ball only twice before leaving last week's game with his injury, and is unlikely to play against the Jets this week.
- Michael Clayton, WR, Tam: After a brilliant rookie season, Clayton has been a non-starter for the Buccaneers in '05. Joey Galloway seized the top spot in the Buccaneers passing game and has been brilliant. Clayton has caught only four passes over the past three games for a total of 38 yards. Last year, he had two or fewer catches only three times. With the loss of Brian Griese, the passing attack takes a step backward behind Chris Simms. It's likely that Tim Rattay challenges for the top spot in short order.
- Trent Dilfer, QB, Cle: A scoreless outing against the Ravens in Week 6 pushed fantasy owners off of the Dilfer bandwagon. His struggles in that contest forced Romeo Crennel to speak of a re-evaluation off all offensive positions. That speech sent owners in search of Steve McNair, Gus Frerotte, and Kelly Holcomb off of the waiver wire.
- Tyson Thompson, RB, Dal: Thompson fell out of favor due to his Week 5 end of play fumbling issues despite his 75 yards on 20 carries. With Julius Jones sidelined for Week 6, he was expected to take on a more significant role. Anthony Thomas and Marion Barber split the workload instead.
- Chris Henry, WR, Cin: The return of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, combined with the single catch for five yards registered in Week 6, have owners thrusting Henry back to the waiver wire. As potent as the offense continues to be in Cincinnati, fantasy owners aren't convinced that there are enough balls to go around.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Jones has become a big part of the Tennessee offense, targeted 12 times by Steve McNair last week. With Drew Bennett's thumb injury expected to sideline him for several weeks, Jones will continue to play a large role in the Tennessee attack. Though the Cardinals only allow 195 yards and a single passing TD per game, Jones will have multiple opportunities to make plays, and that's all you can ask from a receiver off of the waiver wire.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Jacobs has seen his workload drop dramatically since his Week 2 touchdown against New Orleans, but truly damaged his future work prospects with a fumble at the goal line against the Cowboys. Fortunately, the defense forced a Cowboys punt and Eli Manning was able to take Jacobs, and Coach Coughlin, off the hook. Jacobs was expected to take on a bigger role as a complement to Tiki Barber, but plays like last Sunday will serve to make him a mere spectator.
HOT AND COLD
Swooping Vultures: Goal-Line Backs
Each week, we'll review the players earning their living around the goal line.
- Jerome Bettis was unexpectedly a non-factor in the Week 6 loss to Jacksonville, a move that Bill Cowher has since admitted was a mistake. With Willie Parker's productivity sliding, Bettis should be a bigger factor against the Bengals.
- As mentioned above, T.J. Duckett is still sporting a walking boot on his injured ankle. High ankle sprains tend to linger, and may cost Duckett several weeks of action before he's fully healed. Justin Griffith and newly activated rookie DeAndra Cobb will be called upon to spell Warrick Dunn and aid in short yardage and goal line situations against the Jets.
- We began to see how Ricky Williams will fit into the Miami attack, drawing a mix of receiving opportunities with around 10 carries. Ronnie Brown didn't shine last week in Ricky's return, but he did find the end zone. The duo should find room to run against the Chiefs this week in Friday night's game.
- Former super vulture Zack Crockett has seen his workload reduced and his viability in the role upended by LaMont Jordan. Jordan has taken all short yardage carries himself, rendering Crockett a non-factor. It will be interesting to watch how Norv Turner works his backfield with Randy Moss potentially sidelined for an extended period of time.
Tight Ends: Surveying the Safety Valves
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.
- Rookie Heath Miller has become a bigger factor in the Steelers attack, catching four passes and recording a score for the second straight week. With Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El both hampered by injuries, Miller figures to remain a big target for Ben Roethlisberger and a fantasy factor. To keep Cincinnati blitzers off of Ben Roethlisberger, look for him to turn to short routes to Miller.
- Chris Cooley has established himself as one of the top tight ends in NFL and a chief catalyst of the surging Washington passing attack. In the past two weeks, he's hauled in 14 passes for 136 yards and a pair of scores. With the 49ers on the slate for Week 7, another big day for the Brunell-Cooley combo is in the offing.
- Jermaine Wiggins was a target of 15 Daunte Culpepper passes in Week 6 against the Bears. The Vikings figure to have a better time against the Packers secondary coming off of the tongue-lashing from owner Wilfe. With the passing game still looking for a spark, I believe that the short passing game will be employed by the Vikings this week, and that Wiggins will again approach 8-10 catches.
- Eli Manning has reaped tremendous benefits from a healthy Jeremy Shockey. He's scored in the Giants last two games, been targeted an average of seven times per week, and has tallied four or more catches in four straight games.
Y! Friends & Family League
Providing a glimpse into our managerial efforts:
KFFL-Rij retained first place in the West division with a 31-point win over RotoWire_Liss, riding the triple threat of LaDainian Tomlinson to victory. In the East, a Y! Sports Funston victory and a loss by my squad sets up a Week 7 battle for first place.
- Thomas Jones