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NFL Skinny: Bye Weeks, Be Gone!

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Running Back Radar
ARIZONA CARDINALS RED HOT
1st Chair: Marcel Shipp
2nd Chair: J.J. Arrington
Skinny: The Arizona running attack finally gave us reason to take pause on Sunday in the loss to Detroit. J.J. Arrington scored the Cardinals' first rushing TD. Shipp was limited to three yards on four carries and lost a fumble as he played with a heavy heart following the loss of his father. Though Dennis Green maintains that Shipp is the starter, I suspect that Arrington's workload will continue to expand.
DALLAS COWBOYS HOT
1st Chair: VACANT
2nd Chair: Marion Barber, Julius Jones
Skinny: Aside from a long run in the late comeback by the Cowboys and his early TD plunge, the Eagles did a good job containing Barber on Monday night. And, they completely shut down Julius Jones in his return to the field. He finished with only 16 yards on eight carries. Barber seems to have a leg up on this race right now, but his near-fumble late in the game might make Bill Parcells think twice about this situation. For now, it's Platoon City.
CHICAGO BEARS HOT
1st Chair: Thomas Jones
2nd Chair: Adrian Peterson
Skinny: Jones missed Week 10 with continuing soreness in his ribs, leaving Cedric Benson and Peterson to split the workload against the 49ers. When Benson went down, Peterson kicked it into high gear and ran wild. Jones will most likely get back into uniform for Week 11 against the Panthers, but Lovie Smith may split the workload to keep his top option out of harm's way in hard-hitting short yardage situations. As such, Peterson is on the radar this week.
DENVER BRONCOS WARM
1st Chair: Mike Anderson
2nd Chair: Tatum Bell
Skinny: Bell had made some strides on Anderson in the past month, topping 100 yards on three occasions and scoring on five occasions. Anderson remains the workhorse in this scenario, however, and Bell's lost fumble on Sunday re-opened worries about a problem that plagued his rookie campaign.
MIAMI DOLPHINS WARM
1st Chair: Ronnie Brown
2nd Chair: Ricky Williams
Skinny: Brown created a bit of separation in this battle with a strong effort against the Patriots (4.6 yards per carry), while Williams scuffled to 13 yards on 11 carries (1.2). Both players will be bigger factors in Week 11 against Cleveland.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: VACANT
2nd Chair: Willie Parker, Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis
Skinny: Parker's ankle is expected to be healed sufficiently to get him on the field against the Ravens, but both Staley and Bettis will continue to be worked into the mix. As a result, the heat on this situation is low. Fantasy owners are taking a bit of a gamble by plugging in any one of these three right now. You know Pittsburgh will be able to run effectively as a team, but who shoulders the load? We'll keep an eye on this as the practice week develops, and we'll see if the heat gets turned up.
BALTIMORE RAVENS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jamal Lewis
2nd Chair: Chester Taylor
Skinny: Lewis was held under 50 rushing yards for the third time in four weeks, and hasn't seen the end zone since Week 5. Taylor missed practices this past week due to personal reasons and didn't record a single Touch during the shellacking by the Jaguars.
Bye weeks, be gone! This past weekend, owners were forced to adjust their roster to account for byes for the last time. It's full speed ahead to the fantasy playoffs, which believe it or not, begin after just four more weeks of play (for many leagues).

Let's take a look at the stories and players making noise (for better or worse) around the NFL this week. We'll start with the collapse of the Eagles in a must-win situation, and the current status of their star QB.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

Right now, Eagles fans and Donovan McNabb owners are left wondering what other maladies could possibly befall them. Everything was churning along for Philly on Monday. It had a 20-7 lead with just over four minutes remaining, the running game was clicking, and all seemed right with the world, save a few Reggie Brown drops and a third-and-goal play that didn't fool anyone (with Cowboys linebacker Dat Nguyen calling out the play before the snap). And, just like that, it evaporated. The Eagles lost 21-20, and Donovan McNabb may begin an extended stay on the shelf after taking a blow during the game-changing interception return. McNabb completed 19-of-34 attempts for 169 yards and a rushing touchdown before his departure. Andy Reid acknowledged on Tuesday that the Eagles will almost certainly be without McNabb this weekend against the Giants. Owners who failed to carry a backup will need to consider options such as Gus Frerotte, J.P. Losman, Kurt Warner, or perhaps even Philly backup Mike McMahon, in his absence.
Perhaps the biggest move of the year was Seattle's ability to work out a deal to get Walter Jones in for a full training camp. The Seahawks have responded by taking a lead in the NFC West, led, of course, by the offensive line and the brilliance of tailback Shaun Alexander. How do you begin to describe Alexander's impact on the game and fantasy matchups on a weekly basis? He's already topped 15 touchdowns for the fifth straight season, and needs just three more for his second straight season with 20! Two things stand out about his current numbers. First, he has actually been shut out of the end zone in two of the Seahawks nine games. Second, he still has two games against the 49ers, who surrendered 120 yards and a score to Chicago third-stringer Adrian Peterson in Week 10. And, I add one more for good measure. He still needs a new contract. Continued dominance seems certain.
Week 10 also marked the second week of Michael Vick's effort to shake the criticism about his playing style. Vick completed 20-of-30 passes for 209 yards and two scores, and added a third via the ground. However, that didn't help to turn back the upset hopes of the visiting Packers. If you see 33 points on the board for the Packers, surely Brett Favre put up monster numbers, right? Nope. Favre was efficient and limited his turnovers, but for the second straight week, football fans made the acquaintance of Samkon Gado, who scored three times on the day and notched a 100-yard rushing game.
Admit it. You did a double-take when you saw the final score of the Tampa Bay-Washington game. And, of course, you Carnell Williams owners assumed he broke out of his slide. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Clinton Portis turned in a dominating performance against a normally stout Tampa Bay run defense, and Mark Brunell and Chris Simms piled up big yardage and threw multiple TD passes. For Brunell owners that kept the faith after two rough starts, it looked like more of the same following a miserable first half. He finished with 226 yards and two TD passes in the narrow loss. And, as has become customary, Joey Galloway found his way into the end zone yet again. Galloway's TD reception was his seventh of the year, giving him his highest total since 1998!

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  • Adrian Peterson, RB, Chi: Hurry up and get those claims in. The howling winds at Soldier Field and an early injury to Cedric Benson gave Peterson ample opportunities to rumble downfield on Sunday against San Francisco (120 yards and a score). Thomas Jones may return for the Week 11 showdown with Carolina, but Peterson still figures to account for 12-15 Touches, including valuable short yardage opportunities.
  • Matt Jones, WR, Jac: Jones got a chance to redeem himself for a couple of missed one-handed efforts in weeks past when Ernest Wilford left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. Jones has been a big factor in the red zone, hauling in three TD passes from Byron Leftwich in the past four weeks. Early reports have Wilford sidelined for Week 11 against Tennessee, which means another opportunity for Jones to shine against the young Titans secondary.
  • J.P. Losman, QB, Buf: Losman returned from a month on the sidelines with Kelly Holcomb's early departure due to injury, and he looked ready to stake a claim on the starting job. He fired two TD passes to Lee Evans, putting him back on the fantasy radar. Losman completed 9-of-16 passes for 137 yards in leading the Bills to a 14-3 win. Given the severity of his injury, Holcomb isn't unlikely to return to the lineup against San Diego. With the dreaded bye week decisions now a thing of the past, it would take a lot to get Losman into a starting fantasy role, but he's a leading option off the waiver wire for those who left themselves without a viable backup.
  • Brandon Stokley, WR, Ind: After the Colts failed to repeat the aerial magic of '04 early this season, fantasy owners dropped Stokley by the thousands. And, with good reason. His workload dropped off considerably after a strong Week 1, and he had failed to find the end zone. However, Stokley has been back in the mix the past two weeks, hauling in 10 balls for 107 yards and his first TD of the season. The Colts don't figure to run over (literally) their next several opponents as they did somewhat in the first half of the year, meaning that Peyton Manning will be utilizing his full complement of receivers. That means more productivity from Stokley.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Roy Williams, WR, Det: Just when he'd started to slip off of the fantasy radar and back onto the waiver wire, Roy Williams exploded for three touchdowns on Sunday and reminded us of just how good he is when healthy. Williams caught seven balls for 117 yards, several of which came on difficult throws off the arm of Joey Harrington. With the bevy of injury reports that fill the wire each week, it's good to see someone on the comeback trail and becoming a factor for the playoff stretch.

Reuben Droughns, RB, Cle: Droughns turned in his fourth consecutive solid performance for the Browns in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. He topped 99 total yards of offense for the fourth straight week, but more importantly, he found the painted grass for the first time this year. Droughns is just 49 yards shy of 1,000 total yards for the season, and needs to average a mere 42.6 yards per game on the ground to reach 1,000 rushing yards.

Chris Simms, QB, Tam: Simms certainly gave Jon Gruden some anxious moments with questionable decisions in Sunday's 36-35 thriller over the Redskins, but none of those plays made their way into the box score. Simms torched the usually dominant Redskins pass defense for 279 passing yards and three scores. He's got a strong arm and has proven effective when allowed to stand pat in the pocket. The biggest number for this game belonged to the Buccaneers offensive line, a unit that allowed ZERO sacks in Week 10 after surrendering 13 in the previous three weeks.

Samkon Gado, RB, GB: For the second straight week, this unheralded rookie performer shouldered the load for the Packers, racking up 29 Touches in the 33-25 road win at Atlanta. Gado recorded his first 100-yard rushing game and scored three total touchdowns for the victorious Packers. In just two games as the featured back, Gado has already scored four touchdowns. Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, and Tony Fisher scored four touchdowns combined as the top options for the first seven games of the year.

Mike Sellers, RB, Was: Sellers is not a threat to load up on carries or receptions on a weekly basis (his season-high is four Touches), but he is nothing if not efficient. Sellers has a total of 11 Touches this season for the Redskins, and has found the end zone on six occasions. He's scored in five of the seven games in which he's touched the ball. Those who like to gamble with their lineup each week might want to turn in his direction.

Mike Alstott, RB, Tam: Alstott's run for the two-point conversion in the Buccaneers' dramatic victory on Sunday has been controversial, to say the least. Jon Gruden turned to the local favorite for his biggest workload of the season with Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman battling injury. He responded with 21 yards on nine carries and re-established himself as a top goal-line vulture. Alstott has scored three touchdowns in the past two weeks, and figures to continue to pile up carries in short yardage situations with the lingering injury effects in the Tampa Bay backfield.

David Carr, QB, Hou: OK, so it's tough to include Carr in this list, but I felt compelled to acknowledge that the Houston signal caller has found the end zone with his arm or legs in every game this season. He's thrown a touchdown pass in eight straight games, but has topped 200 yards only once, and scored via the ground back in Week 1 against Buffalo. This past week's game against Indianapolis marked the first time that Carr didn't fumble this season.

Joey Harrington, QB, Det: With second-year receiver Roy Williams back on the field, Harrington appeared more comfortable and confident that a receiver would make a play for him. He topped 30 attempts for the second straight week and completed 69 percent of his passes against the 13th-ranked Arizona pass defense. Jeff Garcia may be cleared to return to action this week. Mariucci wouldn't name a starter in his comments to the media on Tuesday.

Ben Watson, TE, NE: Daniel Graham missed Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, opening the door for the second-year TE Watson to make an impact. He responded with a couple of brilliant catches from Tom Brady, scoring twice on the day. Week 10 marked Watson's second straight day with three receptions. With injuries continuing to afflict the Patriots running game (Corey Dillon and Patrick Pass are questionable for Week 11), Brady will continue to throw with regularity and utilize his young TE.

J.J. Arrington, RB, Ari: After eight weeks of futility, Arrington finally scored the Cardinals' first rushing TD of the year with his plunge against the Lions. Dennis Green still contends that Marcel Shipp is the starter, but Arrington tied his career-high (set in Week 1) with eight carries in the loss to the Lions. And, with a 2-7 record, the time is now to begin evaluating talent for '06. He's worth a bench slot as this situation plays out.

Michael Bennett, RB, Min: It's just like a yo-yo. One week you're flying high, as Bennett was after his 106-yard performance in Week 9, and the next, you're being kicked back to the waiver wire after a 19-carry, 16-yard performance. That's right, Bennett averaged 0.8 yards per carry on Sunday. One would expect Mike Tice to revert to a split with Mewelde Moore at the very least in Week 11, when Minnesota looks to create a bona fide winning streak against Green Bay on Monday night.

Eli Manning, QB, NYG: As brilliant as he looked early in the season, Manning has had trouble throwing an accurate ball the past several weeks. Manning was held to a single TD pass for the fourth time in the past five weeks, and tossed four interceptions in the crushing loss to the Vikings. He did throw for his highest yardage total (291) since Week 4 in his attempt to atone for those picks. Manning and company face a huge test this week against the 24th-ranked Philly defense, which looks to rebound from the disastrous final five minutes of the Monday night loss to Dallas.

Carnell Williams, RB, TB: Sunday marked the third straight sub-par effort by the rookie tailback, as he tallied a weak 20 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Since returning from injury, Williams has averaged just over two yards per carry, and has lost fumbles in two straight games. While he'll continue to get his chances between the 20s, his inability to hang onto the ball means more opportunities in tight spaces for Mike Alstott.

Corey Dillon, RB, NE: Owners had been burned twice by Dillon and injury reports in Week 6 and 8, and in Week 10, he left without a single carry. Dillon added a calf injury to the ankle problem that has plagued his '05 season and is unlikely to return to the field for Week 11 against New Orleans. Given Dillon's health and New England's propensity to play the injury list, owners must proceed with caution going forward.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Phi: The Eagles dominated the game and effectively ran the ball for the first time, showing for 55 minutes that they might be just fine in the post-TO era. And then, it all fell apart. McNabb tossed the game-breaking interception into Roy Williams' hands, and was promptly deposited to the turf on the subsequent return. He landed awkwardly and hurt his groin on the play, putting the "doubtful" tag on him for Week 11 against the Giants. There's a distinct possibility that the postseason surgery to repair his sports hernia will be moved up. More information will be available after his Tuesday afternoon MRI. Mike McMahon would likely slide into the starting role against the Giants.

Reggie Williams, WR, Jac: Williams had seemingly cemented his place in the Jacksonville rotation after three strong games to start the season. Since then, he has been passed on the depth chart by both Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones and has failed to record a catch in three straight games.

DeShaun Foster, RB, Car: For those desperate for Touches out of their backfield due to injuries or plain uselessness by other backs, Foster remains an option for their No. 2 slot. However, it's quite clear that he'll need to bust off a long run to get to dance in the end zone. Stephen Davis has been dominant in goal-line situations and doesn't figure to do any sharing. Foster has not scored yet this season, and serves as a great example of the disparity of one's value on the field and in the fantasy box score.

Trent Green, QB, Kan: Just when it looked like the Kansas City passing game was turning a corner, the Bills defense turned in a dominant performance and shut down the vaunted attack. Green tossed three interceptions, took a season-high six sacks, and lost a fumble for the third straight game in leading the Chiefs to a paltry three points. The upcoming schedule features two solid spots against Houston and New England, but with just two multi-TD efforts and four shutouts (TD passes) on the books, it's tough to pin playoff hopes on his arm right now.

Troy Williamson, WR, Min: The rookie broke onto the fantasy radar with touchdowns in Week 3 and 4, but has been a silent partner in the Vikings offense since the Week 5 bye. Williamson caught a single pass for the third time in four weeks and hasn't topped 40 receiving yards since Week 3.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, SF: Owners jumped aboard the Lloyd bandwagon after seeing his highlight reel grabs the previous week, failing to acknowledge that only one of them stood up after penalties were assessed. Lloyd has tallied two or fewer catches in four straight games, making those huge efforts in Week 3 and 4 seem like a lifetime ago.

WATER COOLER RULER
With his 17 rushing touchdowns through Week 10, Shaun Alexander is averaging 11.33 points per game. That's .23 points per game more the Ravens entire team.