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NFL Skinny: Keeping pace

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Running Back Radar
OAKLAND RAIDERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Justin Fargas
2nd Chair: LaMont Jordan, Dominic Rhodes, Michael Bush
Skinny: Fargas carried 23 times on Sunday (104 yards, TD) and head coach Lane Kiffin has already declared him the team's new starter. Jordan had just four carries in the game and there are reports that he's in the process of being fazed out of the Raiders' future plans. Fargas looks like the featured back for the moment, but remember that he's not very durable. At some point before season's end, Bush, who is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, could also get a look, health permitting.
DENVER BRONCOS RED HOT
1st Chair: Travis Henry
2nd Chair: Selvin Young, Andre Hall
Skinny: Henry's battling a bothersome knee and ribs, and faces a potential NFL suspension in the coming weeks. But it's his sub-par production that is likely to cost him carries in the coming weeks. Don't be surprised if a platoon-type arrangement develops between the Henry and Young before the end of the month.
HOUSTON TEXANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Ahman Green
2nd Chair: Adimchinobi Echemandu, Ron Dayne
Skinny: Green had to give way to Dayne after eight carries in Week 9 because of his on-going knee pain. He said he expects to deal with the pain the rest of the year. Given the situation, Houston is expected to move to a time-share between its three backs, with Dayne (21 carries, 122 yards, TD in Week 9) likely to be the most valuable of the bunch – "valuable" being a relative term in this case.
ST. LOUIS RAMS WARM
1st Chair: Steven Jackson (back)
2nd Chair: Brian Leonard
Skinny: Jackson suffered a back injury in Week 8 and he did not practice on Monday coming off his bye week, but head coach Scott Linehan said he expects Jackson to be able to play in Week 10. As a Leonard owner, I'm going to hang onto the rookie another couple weeks just to make sure Jackson doesn't suffer a relapse.
GREEN BAY PACKERS WARM
1st Chair: Ryan Grant
2nd Chair: Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency
Skinny: It's reported that Grant suffered a concussion in Week 9 but he's expected to be fine for this Sunday. If he truly is fine, Morency and Jackson will remain inconsequential fantasy commodities.
CINCINNATI BENGALS WARM
1st Chair: Kenny Watson
2nd Chair: Rudi Johnson
Skinny: Johnson, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, finally was able to take the field in Week 9 after missing three of the previous four games. As it turns out, he would have been better off taking another week off as he managed just 11 yards on nine carries. Backfield mate Watson also finished with a mere 11 rushing yards (four carries) but he added a worthy seven catches for 90 yards. Johnson is out of game shape and it shows. Until he looks the part of the warrior we've seen the previous few seasons, expect Watson to continue to figure prominently in the mix.
CHIACGO BEARS WARM
1st Chair: Cedric Benson
2nd Chair: Adrian Peterson
Skinny: It's becoming a broken record in this space, but still we wait for head coach Lovie Smith to smell the coffee and start awarding Peterson with a larger chunk of the backfield pie. Benson's been woefully ineffective, and Peterson does so many things better …
Also See: Sunday Scene | Injury Rundown

I won't waste any space below on Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Frankly, he's been written about and talked about plenty since his awe-inspiring 296-yard, three touchdown effort this past Sunday. But what I will say is that what Peterson has done in his nine-week NFL existence has already positioned him as a potential No. 1 overall fantasy pick next season. All that needs to happen for AP to cement his place among top pick candidates is for his offensive line to stay relatively intact – it really is an awesome unit leading the way up front – and for head coach Brad Childress to fully get on board with the idea that, in a backfield where you are blessed with the perfect prototype of what an NFL back should be, Chester Taylor is nothing more than a very capable backup. Peterson was officially awarded the starting gig over Taylor a couple weeks ago, so there's every reason to believe that those two caveats will be in place so that Peterson can be in the conversation with Tom Brady, LaDainian Tomlinson and Joseph Addai for first-pick honors next season. But, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Let's take a look at how Week 9 shook up the fantasy landscape:

The Good: Top tight ends. Until this season, Antonio Gates has pretty much been in a class of his own at the tight end position. But the disparity between Gates and the rest of the upper tier class at the position has shrunk considerably in '07. In fact, Dallas' Jason Witten (77 receiving yards, TD, catch of the year in Week 9) has nearly matched Gates across the board, thus far – he's two catches (47 to 45) and 32 receiving yards (649 to 617) behind Gates, and he's crossed the end zone chalk equally as often (5 to 5). Tony Gonzalez (10 catches, 109 yards, TD in Week 9) and Kellen Winslow (11 catches, 125 yards in Week 9) are also keeping pace, falling roughly a fantasy point per week behind. And Dallas Clark can throw his hat into the mix thanks to a tight end-high six touchdowns – he's hurt by the fact that he's 200-plus receiving yards behind the others mentioned here. This fab five of tight end talent is currently averaging more fantasy points per game than Gates did when he led tight ends in per game fantasy production last year.

The Bad: Carolina offense. For the third time in their past five games, the Panthers scored exactly one touchdown. Not surprisingly, those five games represent the post-Jake Delhomme portion of the season. In the four games that backup QB David Carr has seen significant action behind center, the Carolina offense is averaging 9.3 points. In those games, WR Steve Smith has averaged 3.5 catches, 28 receiving yards and has scored just one touchdown. The Carr experience also coincides with a backfield meltdown. In those four games under Carr's guidance, DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams both have been held to 64 rushing yards or less.

The Ugly: Running backs named Henry. Both Travis Henry and rookie Chris Henry are staring at a suspension by the league for violating the banned substance policy. Of course, both think they have extenuating circumstances that need to be heard in the appeal process. Travis Henry's appeal now sounds like it won't be heard until after Thanksgiving, offering his owners a stay of execution. But you have to wonder if they wouldn't be better looking for other options immediately. The Broncos back has found the end zone just once this season and has posted 65 total yards or less in four of his past five games, including an anemic nine-carry, 31-yard effort on Sunday. In addition to sore ribs, Travis Henry dinged his knee in Week 9. Regardless of whether or not he can stay active through Turkey Day, it's becoming increasing likely that backup Selvin Young will see more and more play going forward. As for Tennessee's Henry, he hasn't appealed his case yet, but it sounds like he will soon. Regardless, it's not likely to make waves in fantasy as LenDale White (averaging 27 carries and 100 rushing yards over his past four games) has rendered the rest of the Titans' backfield mix moot.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Vernon Davis, SF, TE – In the past two weeks, Davis has been targeted 19 times, resulting in 13 catches, 148 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Bobby Engram, Sea, WR – In his past three games, Engram has been targeted 43 times and has produced a combined 29 catches, 332 receiving yards and a touchdown. On Sunday he finished with 21 targets, 14 catches, 139 yards and a score.

David Patten, NO, WR – In the resurgent Saints offense, Patten has topped 80 receiving yards in three of his past four games, including a four-catch, 81-yard, TD effort in Week 9.

Donald Lee, GB, TE – A knee injury to Bubba Franks has opened things up for Lee, who topped 70 receiving yards for the second time in his past three games on Sunday.

Sidney Rice, Min, WR – This rookie has opened my eyes a couple times this year. Minnesota's passing game is still too shaky to make him a viable fantasy option, but let his four-catch, 66-yard, TD performance in Week 9 serve as a wake-up call. This guy has some legit talent.

Roy Williams, Det, WR – Williams still ranks among the top 20 fantasy wideouts, thanks to a monster three-week season-opening stretch. In the five games since then, however, he's averaged a mere 47 receiving yards per game and has failed to find the end zone.

Jason Campbell, Was, QB – Fantasy owners looking to get some QB help for the upcoming final bye week should steer clear of Campbell. The Redskins' signal caller has averaged just 145 passing yards and has thrown just one touchdown pass in his past three games. In addition, he threw for just 209 yards and one touchdown in Week 2, the last time he faced Philadelphia.

Vincent Jackson, SD, WR – Jackson has gone from everyone's favorite fantasy wide receiver sleeper to unownable over the course of the season's nine weeks. He's was cruising from Week 3 through Week 5, averaging 78 yards and scoring twice in those three weeks. In the three games since then, he's caught a total of two passes for 21 yards and no touchdowns.

EARLY BIG BOARD RETURNS
• Players in consideration for falling off the Board: Travis Henry, Thomas Jones,
• Players in consideration to make the Board: Drew Brees, Kellen Winslow
• Expected top Board climbers: Brett Favre, LenDale White,
• Expected top Board fallers: Shaun Alexander, Roy Williams, Larry Johnson (ankle), Rudi Johnson, Henry, Jones

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