NFL Skinny: A leg up

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Running Back Radar
MIAMI DOLPHINS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jesse Chatman
2nd Chair: Patrick Cobbs, Lorenzo Booker
Skinny: Ronnie Brown has been lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered in Week 7. He leaves as the top fantasy scorer among running backs. In his absence, Chatman looks like he'll inherit the lion's share of Brown's workload. After a strong preseason and a combined 20 touches in the first two weeks of the regular season, Chatman had many fearing an RBBC in South Florida. But Brown exploded in Week 3 and Chatman faded into the background until Sunday, when he picked up for Brown with seven carries for 73 yards and a TD in garbage time. He represents a life-raft for Brown owners, and an attractive No. 2-type fantasy RB for everyone else.
ST. LOUIS RAMS RED HOT
1st Chair: Steven Jackson (groin)
2nd Chair: Brian Leonard
Skinny: It sounds as if S-Jax is back in Week 8. Jackson has been riding the sidelines since suffering a partially torn groin in Week 3, with Leonard filling in with modest results. Offensive line and quarterback issues have contributed to the Rams' sixth-worst yard per carry average of 3.5. But Jackson would be making an opportune return, facing a Cleveland defense in Week 8 that has allowed 4.9 yards per carry, the third-highest mark in the league. Leonard owners might want to hang on to him until Jackson proves his health on the field.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS HOT
1st Chair: Laurence Maroney (injured)
2nd Chair: Sammy Morris (injured), Kevin Faulk, Kyle Eckel
Skinny: After missing the previous three games with a groin injury, Maroney was in the Patriots backfield on Sunday. But he carried a mere six times for 31 yards as New England let Tom Brady's arm (6 TD passes) give Maroney's groin a break. The good news is that Maroney was the most productive backfield factor for the Patriots in Week 7, as Faulk, Evans and Eckel combined for 16 carries and 53 rushing yards. Evans and Eckel may weigh heavily into goal-line carries with Morris out a few more weeks with a chest injury, but Maroney should start seeing the clear majority of the carry load going forward now that he's healthy again.
DENVER BRONCOS HOT
1st Chair: Travis Henry
2nd Chair: Selvin Young, Mike Bell, Andre Hall
Skinny: In addition to a possible NFL suspension for violating the league's drug policy hanging over his head, Henry suffered an injury to his ribs in Week 7 that leaves him questionable for Week 8. Henry and head coach Mike Shanahan believe the ribs to just be bruised, but fantasy owners will have to follow this story this week to see how it develops. Young was a popular fantasy add when news that Henry is facing a suspension broke – we should ultimately learn his fate in the first couple weeks of November. Young could become relevant as soon as this week against Green Bay, though, if Henry is ruled out.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS HOT
1st Chair: Earnest Graham
2nd Chair: Michael Bennett
Skinny: As expected, Graham turned things around in Week 7 at Detroit, rushing 19 times for 92 yards and picking up another 99 receiving yards on a league-high 13 catches. Graham's impressive full-featured performance on Sunday may keep Bennett from inheriting something close to a split load right away. Bennett handled his first three carries for Tampa Bay on Sunday, rushing for 22 yards. He should continue to add touches each week, but Graham is clearly in the driver's seat for the time being.
GREEN BAY PACKERS HOT
1st Chair: DeShawn Wynn
2nd Chair: Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency
Skinny: Wynn has emerged as the clear-cut leader of the RBBC in Green Bay, and is perhaps the only ownable Packers running back. Morency has fallen into a role more in line with third-down duty. On Week 6, Wynn carried 13 times to Morency's 4, while Morency caught five passes (Wynn did not record a catch). Jackson, meanwhile, has been inactive the past three games while dealing with a shin injury. And even though Jackson is healthy enough to play now, he may remain inactive as he's fallen so far behind the others in the platoon.
OAKLAND RAIDERS HOT
1st Chair: LaMont Jordan
2nd Chair: Dominic Rhodes, Justin Fargas
Skinny: After seeing the field for just one snap in his return from suspension in Week 6, Rhodes complained about his lack of use, claiming that he can help the Raiders win. In Week 7, his complaints earned him nine carries, which he converted into a meager 21 rushing yards – and the Raiders lost to the Chiefs at home. Jordan, however, didn't fare much better, handling 11 carries for 29 yards and adding four catches for 40 yards. Like it or not, given Jordan's balky back, Rhodes is likely to continue to garner 8-10 carries a week.
CHIACGO BEARS WARM
1st Chair: Cedric Benson
2nd Chair: Adrian Peterson
Skinny: The timing seems right for RB-needy fantasy owners in deeper leagues to make a speculative add of Peterson. Benson continues to be the poster-child for fantasy RB mediocrity. At this point, he ought to try and patent his 17-carry, 46-yard line from Week 7 – it's becoming a very commonplace type of performance for the '05 first-round pick. Benson is sitting at 3.1 yards per carry, while Peterson sports a 4.5 ypc average. Peterson is also a more well-rounded back in terms of pass protection and receiving. It just seems logical that Peterson's role will start to grow rapidly with each lackluster effort from Benson from here on out.
Also See: Sunday Scene | Injury Rundown

I guess now we know why it's called foot-ball. Tennessee kicker Rob Bironas managed to gain a share of a Tom Brady-dominated spotlight in Week 7 by kicking an NFL-record eight field goals in a 38-36 victory over Houston on Sunday. In addition to Bironas, there were seven other kickers that finished with at least three fields goals in Week 7 – the eight kicker hat tricks ties Week 2 for the most this season. Incidentally, Week 7 also saw the most kickers go without a field goal (11). Obviously, the polarization of kicker performances is a random event, but it seemed interesting, nonetheless. In retrospect, maybe not – as Adam Sandler might lament, "Who cares about the kicker?" Let's take a look at the weekend that was, sans the foot fetish.

The Good: Larry Johnson. The nostalgia flowed thick for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Larry Johnson offered glimpses of his more productive recent past, rushing for 100-plus yards against division-rival Oakland, the third time he's topped the century mark in his past four games after digging his fantasy owners into an early-season hole. And he found pay dirt against the Raiders for the 10th time in his past seven meetings. For those who might be wondering, LJ gets another shot at the Silver and Black in Week 12. In addition to Johnson's rise from the ashes, Priest Holmes returned to the playing field for the first time since Week 8 of '05. He handled just four carries for nine yards, but he gained some relevance again in fantasy as it looks he's handcuff-worthy for Johnson owners.

The Bad: New York Jets run defense. The Jets run defense is so bad that it turned Cincinnati, one of the most pass-happy offenses in the league, into the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. And it made a fantasy star of backup running back Kenny Watson, who replaced an injured Rudi Johnson and ran 31 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Carson Palmer threw just 21 times as he sat back and watched Watson run wild. It was Palmer's fewest pass attempts since Week 1 of last season. The Jets have now allowed a running back to reach at least 97 rushing yards in five of seven games, with Ronnie Brown, Brandon Jacobs, Correll Buckhalter and Watson topping the century mark against the Jets this season. Rookie Marshawn Lynch gets his second crack at the Jets run defense in Week 8 – he was good for 79 rushing yards and a touchdown in his first go-round in Week 4.

The Ugly: Marc Bulger. The struggling Rams were hoping to get a lift from a healthy return of Bulger. Instead, he was the central victim in Seattle's rise to the top of the fantasy defensive scoring for Week 7. The Seahawks sacked Bulger seven times, picked him off three times and recovered two of his fumbles on Sunday. Bulger barely managed to complete 50 percent of his passes (21-for-40) and did not throw a touchdown pass – his QB Rating of 38.0 was somehow still better than his 35.6 rating from Week 3, another 3 INT effort. With Steven Jackson hoping to return in Week 8, help could be on the way for Bulger. But the mess is so bad in St. Louis right now, even S-Jax's return isn't cause for much optimism.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Brian Griese, Chi, QB – Griese posted splashy fantasy numbers in his first three games, but it came against suspect secondaries. On Sunday, he was productive against his stiffest competition yet, throwing for 322 yards and a last-second touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad at Philadelphia. He's proven to be a must-start fantasy commodity in his month's worth of work.

Kevin Jones, Det, RB – In his return the starter's role in Detroit, Jones picked up 5.1 yards per carry (15-for-76) and scored a touchdown against Tampa Bay. He also picked up right were he left off in an injury-shortened '06 season, padding his numbers with a healthy effort in the passing game – six catches, 34 yards.

Kenton Keith, Ind, RB – It appears Indy has found its replacement for Dominic Rhodes. With 15 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown on Monday night, Keith is taking shape as more than just an injury substitute for Joseph Addai. Keith brings a little more power to the running game – don't be shocked if he continues to log 10-12 touches per contest.

Marion Barber III, Dal, RB – Barber fell four rushing yards shy on Sunday of becoming the first back to top 100 yards against Minnesota's vaunted run defense – no back had previously topped 67 rushing yards. But he did manage to score a touchdown, the first of the season against Minnesota by a running back. He also outcarried RBBC partner Julius Jones 19 to nine.

Marshawn Lynch, Buf, RB – Lynch continues to impress with his grind-it-out manner. He once again managed respectable fantasy production against long odds – the Baltimore Ravens. Lynch posted 84 rushing yards and a touchdown in the Bills' 19-14 victory over the Ravens on Sunday, the best fantasy production by a RB against Baltimore this season.

Jeff Garcia, TB, QB – Garcia still has yet to throw an interception this season, and he's coming off his best game yet, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-16 loss at Detroit.

Drew Brees, NO, QB – Brees threw for two touchdowns on Sunday. After throwing just one scoring toss in his first four games, and nine interceptions, Brees has a combined four touchdown passes and just one interception in his past two games.

Roddy White, Atl, WR – White topped 100 receiving yards (8 catches, 110 yards, TD) for the second time in his past five games. In his past six games, he's averaging 83.5 receiving yards and has scored twice.

Ike Hilliard, TB, WR – Hilliard caught nine passes for 92 yards and a TD on Sunday. He's now averaging 7 catches and 80.8 yards in his past four games.

Tony Scheffler, Den, TE – With Javon Walker out with a knee injury, Scheffler stepped up in Week 7 with five catches, 50 yards and a TD. He was utilized heavily by QB Jay Cutler in the final month of last season, and things between the two could be heating up again with Walker out of the picture for the next several weeks.

Shaun Alexander, Sea, RB – Alexander is going through the most miserable stretch of his career. He failed to score a touchdown against a soft St. Louis run defense on Sunday, the fifth straight game he's gone without a score. And in his past four contests, he's averaging 46.3 yards and 2.7 yards per carry.

Santana Moss, Was, WR – Santana Moss has been the Bizarro World version of Randy Moss. Washington's Moss is scoreless in his five games played and after getting held without a catch in Week 6, he followed that performance up with a 2-catch, 8-yard effort on Sunday.

Chad Pennington, NYJ, QB – Despite a solid fantasy performance on Sunday, a loss at Cincinnati could be the straw that breaks Pennington's back. Head coach Eric Mangini did not offer a strong endorsement for Pennington on Monday, and speculation is that the time is ripe for a Kellen Clemens takeover.

Marques Colston, NO, WR – Despite Drew Brees' warming trend, it has done little to help Colston's production. He still has yet to surpass the 70-yard mark this season – he had more than 70 yards six times last season – and he has just a combined 8 catches, 77 yards and 1 TD in the three games since his Week 4 bye.