NFL Skinny: Northern Lights

Mike Harmon
Yahoo! Sports
1st Chair: J.J. Arrington
2nd Chair: Marcel Shipp
Skinny: The Giants shut down the rookie in Week 1, limiting to a paltry 0.6 yards per carry. Then, he missed Week 2 with a stomach virus, allowing Shipp to post solid numbers against the Rams.
1st Chair: Vacant
2nd Chair: Michael Bennett, Mewelde Moore, Moe Williams
Skinny: This is turning out to be as big a mess as expected. The Vikings are having all sorts of trouble on the offensive end, still reeling from the losses of Randy Moss and Matt Birk. Bennett fumbled twice in four carries in Week 2, leaving the door open for the speedy Mewelde Moore to stake a claim to the job. Of course, Moe Williams has also shown an ability to shoulder the load in the past and will steal any goal line carries that present themselves.
1st Chair: Chris Brown
2nd Chair: Travis Henry
Skinny: It was only a matter of time before this running back duo was down to one healthy back. Brown left Sunday's game with a mild concussion, allowing Henry to rack up 18 carries. Brown remains the starter for now, but his status for Sunday's tilt with the Rams is currently in question.
1st Chair: Kevan Barlow
2nd Chair: Frank Gore
Skinny: With a feeble 2.3 yards per carry average through two games, it's only a matter of time before Mike Nolan starts to split carries more equitably in San Francisco.
1st Chair: Willie Parker
2nd Chair: Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis
Skinny: Bill Cowher emphatically stated that Parker will remain his starting tailback after two brilliant outings to start the season, and both Staley and Bettis agree that the course of action, or inaction as it were, is correct. Eventually, look for Cowher to create a three-headed monster, good for the Steelers, bad for fantasy owners, with super vulture Bettis reclaiming his role around the goal line.
1st Chair: Thomas Jones
2nd Chair: Cedric Benson
Skinny: Jones had a monster week against the Lions in Week 2, but Benson quietly tallied 16 carries of his own. Benson's issues in pass protection will keep his early game carries somewhat contained for now, but watch for this to develop into a full-blown platoon situation down the road.
1st Chair: Rudi Johnson
2nd Chair: Chris Perry
Skinny: I know, Rudi Johnson is not losing his job. However, the pass receiving abilities of Perry have gotten him on the field (9 catches for 70 yards), and will put him in a position to rob Rudi, Rudi, Rudi of some of his TD glory.
1st Chair: Stephen Davis
2nd Chair: DeShaun Foster
Skinny: Davis's return from injury has been positively amazing, to say the least. Sure, one of the touchdowns against New England was controversial, but it's still six points on the log. Foster is relegated to third-down passing situations for now, but given past injury problems, Davis owners need to keep him around.
1st Chair: Tiki Barber
2nd Chair: Brandon Jacobs
Skinny: Like Rudi Johnson, Tiki Barber is in no danger of Jacobs ciphening off large numbers of carries. However, Jacobs heads the list of new vultures for 2005. Tiki will need to make every burst to the goal line count, because this young battering ram is waiting to steal the walk into the end zone.

The first two weeks of the NFL season have thrown everyone for a loop. I watched as Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb lit up the 49ers secondary like a barroom pinball machine. Anyone owning a member of the celebrated Colts offense sat in disbelief as Ran Carthon scored the only touchdown in Sunday's game versus Jacksonville. I witnessed Steve Austin incarnate, Stephen Davis, rumble to the end zone thrice against the defending champion Patriots. (Note: I am referring here to the Lee Majors' "Six Million Dollar Man" character and not the wrestler by the same moniker).

Actually, I did have an inclination to imitate Austin's characteristic double middle finger salute to the performances of some of my players this week. Those of you running with Willis McGahee, Jamal Lewis, Deuce McAllister or Corey Dillon know exactly of what I speak.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about those who drafted Daunte Culpepper. He needs to throw only three more interceptions this year to reach his season totals of '03 and '04! The losses of Matt Birk and Randy Moss, coupled with a mountain of injuries have Vikings fans and fantasy owners gripping already. The shouts of "Sell! Sell! Sell!" can be heard throughout fantasyland.

As they say, "two weeks do not a season make." While that's true on some level, it shouldn't prevent us from making upgrades to our teams and casting off dead weight. With one eye fixed on the latest news and the other on the waiver wire, it's time to get The Skinny on Week 2.

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

  • The great expectations in Baltimore have been torn asunder. The Ravens have generated just 17 points through two weeks of play, prompting a huge sell-off of key fantasy commodities such as Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. The struggles of Kyle Boller in Week 1 were not completely unexpected, and Anthony Wright fared no better in his season debut. The offensive line has made things difficult for Jamal Lewis to get on track. He is currently averaging a feeble 2.2 yards per carry. But, none of the offensive woes are nearly as confusing as the numbers put up by the Ravens defense. So far, they have failed to generate turnovers. A well-timed bye week should help further the implementation of Rex Ryan's 4-6 defense.
  • Staying in the AFC North for a moment, the high release point of Ben Roethlisberger was scrutinized to death in the preseason. And when Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley were hurt in the preseason, the Steelers were all but written off. Willie Parker has been the buzz of the fantasy world for the first two weeks, ripping off 272 rushing yards and displaying an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. With Parker getting the press he received in '04, Roethlisberger has quietly put up one of the most efficient starts in memory. He's completed 72 percent of his pass attempts for 472 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's certainly worthy of a trip to the waiver wire to review whether he's available. Roethlisberger and company face a huge test this week against the Patriots, who come off a difficult loss to Carolina.
  • Carson Palmer has got the Bengals offense flying out of the gate, leading the team to 12 scoring drives in the first two weeks of play. Palmer has relied heavily on two favorite targets of last season, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but is effectively checking down to his other options and getting a myriad of receivers involved. The excitement over the offensive weaponry has deflected attention away from the stellar defense that has been assembled. The additions of Odell Thurman and David Pollack have paid off immediately, with the defense contributing 10 turnovers and two sacks to aid the offense.
  • The decision to bench Patrick Ramsey after the clothesline he received from the Bears in Week 1 was widely criticized throughout the media world. Though it almost took too long, Joe Gibbs' decision paid off with two huge bombs off the arm of Mark Brunell in Monday's dramatic comeback win over the Cowboys. The evening certainly didn't start so perfect, as the Cowboys young and athletic defense pitched a shutout deep into the fourth quarter. But, that's when Joe Gibbs went away from the Clinton Portis "four yards and a cloud of dust" theory and exploited the pockets in the Cowboys zone. Brunell finished with 291 passing yards, two touchdowns, and made a 25-yard run on a third-and-long that harkened back to his Jacksonville glory days and kept a scoring drive alive. He also served notice that there is still life in his left arm and his legs, and early week pickups reflect the impact of a prime time finish.

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  • Trent Dilfer, QB, Cle: Dilfer was left out of virtually all draft-day parties, as owners refused to believe that someone who hadn't been a starter in the league for four years could get it done. He turned in a solid effort in Week 1 against Cincinnati, but absolutely torched the Packers secondary on Sunday (336 yards, 3 touchdowns). Only Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer have thrown more TD passes through Week 2.
  • Drew Bledsoe, QB, Dal: Dallas had a big fourth quarter letdown in Monday's rivalry game against Washington, but Bledsoe turned in a fine performance, helped particularly by his rapport with Terry Glenn. Bledsoe has thrown for 487 yards and four touchdowns against zero interceptions.
  • Marcel Shipp, RB, Ari: Hurry up and get those waiver claims in! J.J. Arrington's ineffectiveness in Week 1 (0.6 yards per carry against the Giants) and Shipp's solid performance in Week 2 (93 all-purpose yards) have fueled speculation that the veteran Shipp will replace Arrington in the starting lineup. When last installed as the full-time starter, before Emmitt Smith came to town, Shipp ran for 834 yards and six scores.
  • Derrick Blaylock, RB, NYJ: Curtis Martin sustained a sprained knee in Sunday's win over Miami. Martin owners should hit the waiver wire immediately. Those of you feeling the ill effects of sub-par performances from your starters should look to add him for a possible alternative. Blaylock has shown capable of handling the starting role before, having played well behind Priest Holmes in Kansas City. He'll also offer another receiving threat for Chad Pennington out of the backfield.
  • Robert Ferguson, WR, GB: Javon Walker's season-ending injury propelled Ferguson into the starting lineup opposite Donald Driver. He tallied four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown in the Week 2 loss to Cleveland. He was a fantasy factor when last a starter in 2003 (38 catches, 520 yards, and four touchdowns).
  • Doug Gabriel, WR, Oak: The Raiders lost Ronald Curry to a season-ending ACL injury, but welcome back Doug Gabriel from a two-week absence with an injured finger. Gabriel had caught 33 balls for 551 yards and two scores last season for the Raiders before getting hurt himself. He'll battle Alvis Whitted for the role to start, but should soon become an integral part of the passing attack.