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Inside Week 4

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RUNNING BACK RADAR
Minnesota Vikings
Incumbent: Moe Williams
Challenger: Mewelde Moore
Outlook: Michael Bennett had surgery, which will sideline him for another 2-3 weeks. Onterrio Smith is set to serve a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. That leaves a gimpy Moe Williams and rookie Mewelde Moore to handle the load in Week 5 against Houston. Moore's worth at least a bench spot as this scenario plays out.
Arizona Cardinals
Incumbent: Emmitt Smith
Challenger: Troy Hambrick
Outlook: Both Smith and Hambrick shone in Week 4 against the Saints, with Smith recording Arizona's first TD pass of the year. It's not thunder and lightning revisited, but if it allows Emmmitt to stay fresh and productive, what's the problem? Keep an eye on this one, because a full-blown platoon situation seems likely going forward.
Denver Broncos
Incumbent: Quentin Griffin
Challenger: Tatum Bell
Outlook: Griffin's solid fourth quarter to put the game on ice against the Buccaneers this week probably staved off a full-scale RB controversy in Denver. However, his propensity to put the ball on the carpet has Mike Shanahan worried. Bell will likely begin to receive work in the next week or two now that his early-season injuries have gone to the wayside.
Cleveland Browns
Incumbent: Lee Suggs
Challenger: William Green
Outlook: Suggs looked solid in his first game this season, piling up 82 yards and a score. I temper my enthusiasm knowing how much Coach Butch Davis loves William Green. Any signs of struggle or injury, and Green will battle back to a 50/50 split on carries. With that said, Davis showed great confidence in Suggs this week, with Green receiving zero carries after halftime.
Pittsburgh Steelers
Incumbent: Duce Staley
Challenger: Jerome Bettis
Outlook: The Bus added another ridiculous stat line to his repertoire this week. At one point, he had -2 yards on four carries with two touchdowns. Sorry, Staley owners. Be prepared for a lot of yardage and minimal TD's so long as the Bus' engine will turn over. Bus owners need to flip a coin each week regarding his starting status.
Atlanta Falcons
Incumbent: Warrick Dunn
Challenger: T.J. Duckett
Outlook: The injury heard around the world to Dunn's hammy finally got T.J. Duckett some time. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and found the end zone, as he did so many times last year. Dunn will still be the workhouse, but perhaps Jim Mora Jr. needed a reminder as to how good Duckett can be.
Buffalo Bills
Incumbent: Travis Henry
Challenger: Willis McGahee
Outlook: McGahee got to watch from the sidelines again as the Bills fell to New England. Eric Moulds complained about tossing the long ball to Lee Evans, and that seemed to work. Maybe he needs to start pumping McGahee's abilities as well.

We finally had a week where the injury bug didn't obliterate the hopes and dreams of fantasy owners. Yes, Brett Favre's injury kept us honest, and Ahman Green's fumbleitis is cause for concern. But other than some downright poor officiating helping the cause (see the Jamal Lewis touchdown run after two suspect penalties in the secondary), Emmitt Smith's first TD pass and the crushing blow dealt by Kerry Collins to thousands of owners, it was a pretty nondescript week in the NFL.

Priest Holmes sliced and diced the Baltimore defense, rushing the ball 33 times. I do truly believe that Dick Vermeil was haunted all week by the ghosts of running backs past for his decision to throw the ill-fated pass from the two-yard line last week. Give the ball to the man; not just for me and the legions of fantasy owners out there, but because he's the best player in the NFL!

Don't look now, but we have a former receiver of the Florida Gators lighting it up in San Diego. Forget the talk of Gators past, Reche Caldwell makes plays. He only caught three balls, but he has a nose for the big play. He's worth a look-see on your league's waiver wire this week.

Torry Holt owners are nervous. Not only is Isaac Bruce the leading receiver through four games, Holt is averaging only six looks per contest. Mike Martz isn't holding that miserable halftime Punk'd rip-off from last week against him, is he? The Rams had a shot at a burial this week against the limping San Francisco defense. Martz took his foot off the throttle, leaving Holt owners bewildered.

Let's get deeper into Week 4:

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

Week 4 Touch Leaders
RANK PLAYER TOUCHES
1 Priest Holmes, KC 33
2 Brian Westbrook, PHI 32
3 Curtis Martin, NYJ 28
4 Jonathan Wells, HOU 27
4 Tiki Barber, NYG 27
6 Travis Henry, BUF 25
6 Duce Staley, PIT 25
8 Fred Taylor, JAC 24
8 Rudi Johnson, CIN 24
8 Marshall Faulk, STL 24
11 Lee Suggs, CLE 23

Attention getters: Top intended targets (looks)

Week 4 Look Leaders
RANK PLAYER LOOKS
1 Drew Bennett, TEN 16
2 Eric Moulds, BUF 15
3 Derrick Mason, TEN 14
3 Curtis Conway, SF 14
5 Laveranues Coles, WAS 12
5 Muhsin Muhammad, CAR 12
5 Eric Johnson, SF 12
8 T.J. Houshmandzadeh, CIN 11
8 Brian Westbrook, PHI 11
8 David Terrell, CHI 11
8 Shad Meier, CLE 11

Trainers's table: Updates on the wounded in action

  • The Packers report that the concussion suffered by Brett Favre in Sunday's loss to the Giants will not keep the iron man out of action this Monday night against Tennessee. Favre saves his best performances for prime time and will look to right the ship against the struggling Tennessee Titans.
  • Favre's backup Doug Pederson was also banged up by the G-Men. He sustained a broken rib, prompting the Packers to finally deal Mike Sherman's headache (Mike McKenzie) and acquire QB J.T. O'Sullivan from the Saints.
  • The Minnesota Vikings running backs continue to be snake-bitten. Michael Bennett underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He'll miss 2-3 weeks. With Onterrio Smith's appeal finally getting heard this week, Moe Williams should be the guy. But here's the problem. Moe is hobbled by a calf injury, meaning that rookie Mewelde Moore will likely see time in the backfield this week as well.
  • Mike Vanderjagt strained his right hamstring in Sunday's game against Jacksonville. He's listed as questionable as the Colts begin preparations for the Raiders this weekend.
  • Tyrone Calico aggravated a knee injury against the Chargers and had an MRI done Monday. It came back negative, but this is still a huge blow to fantasy owners expecting deep balls to go his way. Steve McNair and Billy Volek will continue to use Drew Bennett and Derrick Mason early and often.
  • Steve McNair continues to have trouble breathing due to the bruised sternum he sustained two weeks ago. He'll likely be back under center to battle Favre in the war of the walking wounded.
  • The Jaguars will likely be without OT Mike Pearson for the remainder of the season with torn ligaments in his left knee. Owners of Fred Taylor and the other components of the Jaguars offense shouldn't fret, however, as the Jaguars had signed Ephraim Salaam as insurance this offseason.
  • Buffalo cornerback Troy Vincent will miss at least two weeks with a right knee injury, further depleting the Bills' secondary. Look for a big day from Chad Pennington and the Jets passing attack this week.
  • Quentin Griffin, who has struggled mightily since his Week 1 romp against Kansas City, sprained an ankle on his final carry of Sunday's game. Is it time for super rookie Tatum Bell to get in the mix?
  • The San Francisco 49ers are beyond banged up. They lost Derek Smith and Mike Rumph on Sunday night, joining a cast of thousands on the injury report. The return of receiver Brandon Lloyd from a groin injury is small consolation for the 49ers, who are desperate for help on defense. Depth at wide receiver is not the problem. Rather, it clouds the future value of Curtis Conway, Rashaun Woods and Cedrick Wilson.
  • Domanick Davis missed this week's contest against Oakland with a bad ankle and watched backup Jonathan Wells top the 100-yard mark. He hopes to return this week against Denver, but I'd advise putting in a waiver claim on Wells just in case.
  • Falcons' RB Warrick Dunn left Sunday's game with a cramped hamstring, finally opening the door for T.J. Duckett owners to get some production out of the bruising tailback. Dunn expects to return to action this weekend.
  • Chris Chambers is nursing a knee injury and missed Sunday's game against the Jets. Bryan Gilmore filled in admirably during this contest, but clearly falls back off the radar with Chambers' expected return to action.
  • Deion Branch sat out against the Bills with a bum knee. After starting the season with a bang against the Colts, hopes of Branch becoming the third-year receiver monster this season have dissipated. He's questionable for a return to action next week.
  • The Panthers already lost their punt returner, Steve Smith, for the year with a broken leg. Now kickoff specialist, Rod "He Hate Me" Smart, is smarting from a knee injury that left him crumpled on the one-yard line. Early speculation is that Keary Colbert, now a starting wideout, might see action returning kicks in Smart's absence.
  • Tyrone Wheatley rumbled for 27 yards on three carries before leaving Sunday's game against Houston with a shoulder injury. Famous Amos Zereoue made the most of his close-up, rolling up big yardage and two touchdowns. Get that claim in on Zereoue if you're a Wheatley owner.
  • Peter Warrick missed Sunday's game against the Steelers with a serious shin bruise. The speedy T.J. Houshmandzadeh was the primary beneficiary of Warrick's absence, finding himself the target of 11 Carson Palmer tosses. Warrick should return to action next week.
  • Corey Bradford was held out of Sunday's victory over Oakland with a shoulder injury. He's currently listed as probable for Week 5.
  • Jerome Pathon, who has become a solid third option for Aaron Brooks and the Saints, was inactive against the Cardinals with a bad hamstring. He'll likely return for Week 5.
  • Kevin Faulk will likely return to active duty after missing the first three contests. His fantasy value is limited due to the dominance of Corey Dillon, but he will see time on passing downs.
  • Todd Heap is still 2-3 weeks away from returning from his ankle injury. The offense needs him, resorting to pulling out gadget plays early in the second quarter to get a spark against the Chiefs.
  • Finally, Stephen Davis has targeted this week's game for his return. However, it's becoming more likely that Davis' return to action and the inevitable position battle with DeShaun Foster will be delayed until Week 6.
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