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Inside Week 10

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San Francisco 49ers
Incumbent: Kevan Barlow
Challenger: Maurice Hicks
Outlook: Coach Erickson says there's no controversy here and that Barlow is the starter. Hicks was activated from the practice squad to provide a change of pace and carried the ball eight times for 46 yards against the Panthers. Given Barlow's 3.4 yards per carry average in 2004, expect to see Hicks steal 8-10 carries per game going forward.
Minnesota Vikings
Incumbent: Free-for-all
Challenger: Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith
Outlook: Bennett was the starter this past week, but contributed only five carries. Smith then carried the ball five times. Mike Tice has named Bennett the starter for Week 11, but it appears that this will be a split going forward.
St. Louis Rams
Incumbent: Marshall Faulk
Challenger: Steven Jackson
Outlook: Faulk had the big yardage game, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. He even busted off a 40-yard run. Faulk will see the bulk of the work, with Jackson pushing 8-10 carries and the goal-line plunges.
Denver Broncos
Incumbent: Reuben Droughns
Challenger: Tatum Bell
Outlook: Droughns is the starter, there's no question about that. However, the Broncos are encouraged by the progress of the rookie and will likely give Bell some looks down the stretch.
Cleveland Browns
Incumbent: Lee Suggs
Challenger: William Green
Outlook: Getting into a fight 20 minutes before kickoff will endear Green to Browns fans and shows some heart, but it cost fantasy owners without access to their roster a start. Since the Pittsburgh defense has dominated opposing backs, they didn't miss much anyway. Look for the equitable split to continue.
Pittsburgh Steelers
Incumbent: Duce Staley
Challenger: Jerome Bettis
Outlook: Either he's running for 100 yards and two touchdowns or 100 feet and two touchdowns. Either way, "The Bus" is getting the job done. Staley looks like he'll be ready to go in Week 11, but Bettis will still see his share of carries and, of course, he'll be lurking once the ball is spotted at the one.
Atlanta Falcons
Incumbent: Warrick Dunn
Challenger: T.J. Duckett
Outlook: Duckett scored two touchdowns and came up with a big run to seal the win against the Buccaneers. He finished the game with 12 carries, so watch for a more equitable split in the weeks to come.
Buffalo Bills
Incumbent: Willis McGahee
Challenger: Travis Henry
Outlook: From 1,300-yard rusher in 2003 to a DNP against the Patriots. It's clearly McGahee's squad now and Henry will try to stay warm on the sidelines as he awaits free agency. Barring an injury to McGahee, this is the last appearance of the Bills in this space.

I don't know who was exposed more on Monday night, Nicollette Sheridan or the disappointing Dallas defense, but I can say that I found the Cowboys' play more offensive. At the same time, I don't think many DB's can contain coverage for 14 seconds as the Cowboys were forced to do on Monday night.

Donovan McNabb capped a weekend of spectacular QB performances, hooking up with everyone's favorite receiver and master thespian, Terrell Owens, on three TD passes. Where was the coverage on his second?

There were, of course, several QBs who got their pink slips after sub-par performances on Sunday. Patrick Ramsey and A.J. Feeley will get a chance to see if they can't revive the sputtering Redskins and Dolphins offenses, respectively. Ramsey is the better option on the waiver wire this week, as he has both the running back and wide receiver weapons to become an instant threat.

The most talked about starting debut will be made by No. 1 pick Eli Manning for the Giants this week. He saw spot duty back in Week 1 against the Eagles and went 3-for-9 for 66 yards. The rookie has a rough road ahead with a schedule that includes attacking Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Pittsburgh defenses. Given the recent struggles on the offensive line, watch for coordinators to blitz Manning regularly.

Laveranues Coles leads the list of intended targets again in Week 10. He's averaging 12 looks per game on the season, but has tallied only one score. We'll see if the QB change translates to bigger numbers for Coles and Rod Gardner, who had just two catches in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati.

With his big game against Detroit, Jimmy Smith ranks third in receiving yards with 812. While fantasy owners have been able to pencil in 90 receiving yards from the veteran Smith each week, his TD in overtime was just his third of the year.

This season can be characterized as the year of the tight end. Antonio Gates of the Chargers leads all tight ends with eight TD receptions, followed by five players with five TD's (Daniel Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Marcus Pollard and Jason Witten). Forty-nine different tight ends have scored this season.

I'll be back on Thursday with a deeper look at the numbers through Week 10 and injury updates after Wednesday's practices. For now, let's get deeper into Week 10:

Shouldering the load: Most active RB's (carries+catches)

Week 10 Touch Leaders
RANK PLAYER TOUCHES
1 Domanick Davis, HOU 38
2 Derrick Blaylock, KAN 36
3 Jamal Lewis, BAL 33
4 Anthony Thomas, CHI 32
5 Rudi Johnson, CIN 31
6 Jerome Bettis, PIT 30
7 Curtis Martin, NYJ 29
8 Corey Dillon, NE 27
9 Fred Taylor, JAC 26
9 Tiki Barber, NYG 26

Attention getters: Top intended targets (looks)

Week 10 Look Leaders
RANK PLAYER LOOKS
1 Laveranues Coles, WAS 19
2 Nate Burleson, MIN 18
3 Jimmy Smith, JAC 15
4 Chad Johnson, CIN 14
5 Amani Toomer, NYG 13
5 Ricky Proehl, CAR 13
7 Eric Moulds, BUF 12
7 Muhsin Muhammad, CAR 12
9 Anquan Boldin, ARI 11
9 Darrell Jackson, SEA 11
9 David Givens, NE 11
9 Drew Bennett, TEN 11
9 Jason Witten, DAL 11
9 T.J. Houshmandzadeh, CIN 11

Trainer's table: Updates on the wounded in action

  • Not an injury, but Koren Robinson's appeal will be heard on Tuesday. He's expected to be suspended for four games, beginning with Sunday's game. Bobby Engram and Jerry Rice would slide into his vacated role.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson's groin is no better, despite a bye in Week 10. Watch for Jesse Chatman to split carries this Sunday.
  • Brian Griese strained his throwing shoulder in Sunday's loss to the Falcons. He's expected to play versus San Francisco, but be ready for a sneaky play with Chris Simms if he can't go.
  • Jamal Lewis owners are fired up. Jonathan Ogden is expected to return to the lineup this week. Without Ogden, Lewis has run for an average of 70 yards. With him, he's at 110 yards. Happy days lay ahead.
  • Brian Urlacher is out 4-6 weeks after having surgery on his injured left leg. The loss is a crushing blow to the resurgent Bears, who are riding a three-game winning streak.
  • Randy Moss may be held out of one more game to be sure that he's ready for the stretch run. Keep an eye on the Vikings' practices this week. If he doesn't suit up Wednesday, he's likely to sit and watch Nate Burleson dominate.
  • Priest Holmes will likely miss next Monday night's game against New England. His strained MCL may need another week, meaning that 186-yard rusher Derrick Blaylock gets to try an encore.
  • Chris Brown's toe is swollen and sore after Sunday's loss to Chicago. Does it hurt more after two lost fumbles? Seriously, he's not expected to go this week against the Jaguars, meaning that Antowain Smith is the likely starter.
  • Torry Holt suffered a concussion on a vicious hit in Sunday's game against Seattle. He didn't return, and his availability is questionable for this week. Check to see if Shaun McDonald is on the waiver wire, as his role would expand.
  • The Bears lost Brian Urlacher, but expect Thomas Jones to be back in the lineup for Week 11. Anthony Thomas has been great in his absence and will likely steal some carries from him going forward.
  • Byron Leftwich is working feverishly to get himself ready for Sunday. However, given the play by David Garrard in the win over Detroit, Leftwich will likely sit for one more week.
  • Jake Delhomme broke his right thumb in week 10's win over San Francisco, but is expected to line up under center against Arizona in Week 11.
  • Daunte Culpepper suffered a left knee contusion against Green Bay, but shrugged off its seriousness. He expects to play in Week 11.
  • Ahman Green sustained an ankle injury in Sunday's win over Minnesota, but fought through the pain to post 145 rushing yards. He'll be ready for Houston on Sunday night.
  • Titans QB Steve McNair sat out for the third time this season against the Bears with a bruised sternum. He's expected back this week against Jacksonville.
  • Duce Staley was sidelined for the second straight week with a hamstring injury. "The Bus" ably shouldered the load, but will give the starting job back to Duce this week.
  • Deep-ball threat Andre' Davis continues to be defeated by turf toe. His absence has opened the door for Antonio Bryant to assume a bigger role, but the offense continues to struggle. He may return for Week 11 against the Jets.
  • Jamison Hensley of The Baltimore Sun reports that TE Todd Heap is probably 2-3 weeks away from returning to the lineup.
  • Justin Fargas is ready to get back into action on Sunday. The Raiders are curious to see what they have in Fargas, but he'll play second-fiddle to Tyrone Wheatley.
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