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NFL Skinny: Rex Effect

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Running Back Radar
CAROLINA PANTHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: DeShaun Foster
2nd Chair: DeAngelo Williams
Skinny: As mentioned in the Week 2 Update (left), Williams was head-and-shoulders the better back on Sunday. In equal carries (13), Williams was nearly four yards better per carry than Foster. And Williams' carries came at a much more critical juncture in the game. While Foster did not talk to reporters after the game, head coach John Fox said about the situation, "At this time, I'm not going to comment on our starting lineup. I've not even seen the tape yet. We feel good about our running back situation, and DeAngelo is part of that mix." Williams did not handle a carry in Week 1, but he feels like a bigger part of the offense now. Said Williams about how he fits in, "I'd say it's a co-running back thing, but he's (Foster) the starter, though." After Fox watches the game film, it might be hard to keep Foster in the starter's role.
HOUSTON TEXANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Wali Lundy
2nd Chair: Sam Gado, Ron Dayne
Skinny: Gado ran for 27 yards on his third carry as a Texan, although it came in the fourth quarter with the team trailing 37-10 – you can forgive Indianapolis if it wasn't stacking the box at that point. But, in total, Gado finished with a nice line in his first outing with his new team: 3 carries, 36 yards. Lundy carried six times for 25 yards, but lost a fumble. Meanwhile, Dayne led the team with 11 carries and 37 yards. While nothing has been said about how this situation is to evolve, I'd bet on seeing more and more of Gado, and less of Dayne.
CHICAGO BEARS HOT
1st Chair: Thomas Jones
2nd Chair: Cedric Benson
Skinny: Week 2 was nearly a mirror image of Week 1 for the Chicago running game. Jones had 21 carries to Benson's 11 in the opener, and Jones carried 21 times to Benson's 10 on Sunday. And in both games, neither back stood out – both are averaging right around three yards per carry. Basically, this position seems ripe for the picking by the first guy to step up their performance. For now, figure Jones will continue to handle about two-thirds of the workload.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS WARM
1st Chair: Dominic Rhodes
2nd Chair: Joseph Addai
Skinny: Rhodes is the starter, but he continues to be outplayed by Addai. On nearly the same amount of carries on Sunday, Addai averaged twice as many yards per carry than Rhodes. Addai also scored his first NFL TD on a 21-yard reception. Rhodes has just 66 yards on 30 carries for the season, while Addai has 108 yards on just 23 carries. But Rhodes has found pay dirt twice on the ground, whereas Addai fumbled on Sunday at the goal line. So it seems that Rhodes is still the "starter," but this situation is progressing the way many fantasy pundits projected it would – Rhodes would get his play early, but Addai would garner favor as the season progressed.
DENVER BRONCOS WARM
1st Chair: Tatum Bell
2nd Chair: Mike Bell
Skinny: Tatum finished with a three-carry advantage over Mike in Week 2 (16 to 13), and Tatum holds a decisive lead in yards per carry for the season (5.5 to 4.4). Nothing happened on Sunday to change the dynamic here – Tatum is still the starter, but Mike will be mixed in heavily. In terms of fantasy value, it's still pretty even. Mike will likely make up for the yardage deficit with more goal-line offerings going forward. Personally, though, I'll keep my chip stack on Tatum.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS WARM
1st Chair: Deuce McAllister
2nd Chair: Reggie Bush
Skinny: Week 2 changed things very little in the New Orleans backfield. After both McAllister and Bush touched the pigskin 22 times in Week 1, Bush finished with 14 touches to Deuce's 13 in Week 2. To reiterate, Bush has been heavily involved in the passing game (16 catches), while McAllister has a 34-20 carry advantage over Bush. And as expected, McAllister is taking goal-line carries – he scored from three yards out on Sunday, and he also busted off a 23-yard scoring run.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS WARM
1st Chair: Corey Dillon
2nd Chair: Laurence Maroney
Skinny: Dillon and Maroney have split carries almost evenly the first two weeks (Dillon 36 carries, Maroney 33 carries), but their fantasy owners shouldn't be overly distraught. The Patriots have the third-most carries in the league and they should remain run-heavy given the success that these two have had in tandem. Both posted fantasy-worthy numbers at New York on Sunday, and they should continue to be viable plays most weeks.
NEW YORK JETS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Kevan Barlow
2nd Chair: Derrick Blaylock
Skinny: As expected, Barlow's share of the workload increased in Week 2 – Barlow carried 14 times (42 yards) while Blaylock garnered just six carries (7 yards). Consider the transition period over – Barlow's the man (using that term loosely) in the backfield for the Jets now.
Also See: Sunday Scene | Damage Report

In terms of noteworthy fantasy performances, Week 1 has to be considered a three-crouton side salad compared to the double-cut prime rib entree that was Week 2. In total, we saw eight 300-yard passing performances, eight 100-yard rushing performances and 15 100-yard receiving performances on Sunday. By comparison, well … in terms of high-octane efforts, Week 1 doesn't compare. So grab some horseradish and au jous, and let's sink our teeth into what went down this past weekend:

Week 2 Update: Need-to-know info from the past few days

The roll call of top passers on Sunday was a veritable who's who of the NFL's elite QB class: Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre, Eli Manning, Rex Grossman, … wait, Rex Grossman? For the second consecutive week, the Rex effect was hitting on all cylinders, producing 289 passing yards and 4 TDs in a dismantling of a Detroit defense that everyone was lauding after it held Seattle to nine points in the opener.

After two weeks, Grossman ranks first in the league in passing TDs and fifth in passing yards – this from a guy that everyone, save the Chicago coaching staff, wanted benched in favor of Brian Griese during the preseason. Now, it can certainly be argued that the Bears haven't faced the stiffest of competition yet (Green Bay and Detroit), but, to be honest, they don't face that many pass-tough defenses moving forward, either.

This coming week's tilt at Minnesota will be one of the best measuring stick opportunities Grossman will see. Chicago has finished no better than 24th in the league in passing yards over the past six seasons and has been a notoriously barren passing attack throughout its history, but Grossman is working in his tight ends (10 catches for Desmond Clark), he's airing it out to his speedster Bernard Berrian (his six catches have averaged 23 ypc), and he's finding his go-to wideout Muhsin Muhammad (10 catches) with regularity. If he can continue to have success on the road against a Vikings squad that sits ninth in the league in passing yards allowed, it might be time to consider that these aren't your father's Chicago Bears.

  • I witnessed Shaun Alexander's Week 2 performance (26 carries, 89 yards, TD) from the stands at Qwest Field. My thoughts? He looks like a 16-TD, 1,300-yard back this season, not the 28-TD, 1,800-yard MVP of a season ago. The offensive line is still very talented despite the loss of stud guard Steve Hutchinson (and now Floyd Womack), but it is clearly out of sync after losing the three-time Pro Bowler. It should gel in time, and this is probably still a top 10 unit. Also, Alexander is dancing more than last season, often bailing from his blocking to cut back against the flow of the play on Sunday. In addition, too often he went into a QB hook-slide when contact was nearing. I know he's one of the best at self-preservation, but I think he missed out on a 100-yard opportunity on Sunday because he bailed out from contact so much.

To his defense, he apparently is dealing with a sore foot. And on those occasions when he was in the red zone, he showed another level and was more physically willing. Consider this: he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on Sunday, but he averaged 5.3 yards per carry in the red zone (6 carries, 32 yards). And had fullback Mack Strong not been awarded a rare goal-line carry early in the fourth quarter, Alexander would have finished with another score. So, I'm not pronouncing the end of Alexander's fantasy dominance, I just think that he's now among those at the head of the running back class, but not clearly out in front of it.

  • This is shaping up as the year of the platoon. And the interesting thing about many of the platoons is that many of these running backs are retaining fantasy viability despite splitting carries. Of the top 20 running back fantasy performances on Sunday, seven can be argued to be part of a time-share (Deuce McAllister, Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney, Dominic Rhodes, Joseph Addai, DeAngelo Williams, and Marion Barber III). Not included in this mix are the likes of Reggie Bush, Tatum Bell, Mike Bell and Julius Jones, other platoon backs that can be started with reasonable confidence most weeks.
For all the Week 2 injury news, including a broken finger that will sideline Terrell Owens for 2-4 weeks, be sure to check out Christopher Harris' Damage Report.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues
QBChad Pennington, NYJ
Pennington was listed here last week, and here he remains after his second-consecutive 300-yard passing game on Sunday. Much to my chagrin, I lost out on him in about five leagues where I laid a claim on him last week. But he is still available in 44 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Grab him if you can, because his window probably closes almost completely after this week's round of waivers. As I said last week, he's a talented, heady quarterback with a play-catch-with-their-eyes-closed type chemistry with Laveranues Coles. And Jerricho Cotchery is also stepping up opposite Coles. Ultimately, he'll need the running game to pick it up if he's to continue in this prolific direction. But he's undeniably a premium backup insurance option right now.

RB – DeAngelo Williams, Car
Despite not garnering a carry in Week 1, I'm still surprised to see the ultra-talented Williams available in 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He's not available in any of the leagues I play in and, after Sunday's performance (13 carries, 74 yards, TD), Williams isn't likely to be available for much longer in anyone else's league. Carolina isn't saying that DeAngelo will supplant DeShaun Foster as the lead back, but you don't have to be Columbo to read the writing on the wall. Williams carried an equal amount as Foster at Minnesota, but the rookie was the one in the game in the crucial second-half and overtime periods. And his 13 carries were far more productive than Foster's (13 carries, 26 yards). Said offensive lineman Jordan Gross about the boost that Williams provided, "I think he (Williams) just said, 'Get those blocks and I'll get the yards.' That's the thing about DeAngelo. He's kind of an outspoken guy and he tries to pump us up the best he can … I thought he did a good job today." I think the conservative conclusion to be drawn from Sunday is that Williams is going to at least co-chair in the backfield, and he's probably the preferable "De" to own.

WRTroy Williamson, Min – Prior to Week 1, I was of the opinion that Brad Johnson was not a good fit for a deep-threat receiver like Williamson. I assumed that Johnson would do his usual thing, playing to short-yardage routes and dump offs to his running backs. But in the first two weeks, I've seen Johnson air it out to Williamson on many occasions. And, admittedly, Johnson's deep ball doesn't look half bad. Williamson has been the target of Johnson 18 times in the first two games, and the two have combined for four receptions of 23-plus yards. They've also failed to connect on five other deep passes. Get this emerging receiver while you still can – Williamson is available in 81 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Alex Smith, SF, QB – Like Grossman, Smith has been one of the big QB surprises of the early fantasy season. He's averaging 260 passing yards and has thrown two TDs without an INT in two games – and he has yet to flash his ample running skills.

Marques Colston, NO, WR/TE – Colston was the Saints' top WR producer for the second straight week – 4 receptions, 58 yards, 1 TD – and he brings the added bonus of TE eligibility in Yahoo! leagues.

Desmond Clark, Chi, TE – After two weeks, Clark ranks second among TEs in receiving yards and fourth in receptions – it's been a long time since Chicago has looked to it's TE like it is doing right now.

Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ, WR – Laveranues Coles isn't the only receiver benefiting from Chad Pennington's good health. Cotchery scored a TD for the second straight week on Sunday, a crazy 71-yard jaunt that came after he rolled off a defender who tackled Cotchery but wasn't able to make his body touch the ground.

Kevin Jones, RB, Det – He's had perhaps the toughest road to hoe (Seattle and Chicago), thus far, but he's handle just 26 carries for 79 yards combined and has yet to find pay dirt. At least he's been active in the passing game (11 catches, 83 yards).

LaMont Jordan, Oak, RB – Stating the obvious, yes, but I just have to harp one more time about the fact that Jordan does not yet have a catch – he had 4-plus catches in 13 of 14 games a year ago, with two catches coming in that other contest. You'd think the Raiders struggles would have prompted a dump-off pass attempt at some point. This situation is about as ugly as it can get.

DeShaun Foster, Car, RB – DeAngelo Williams looked much better than Foster at Minnesota, and Williams took most of the meaningful late carries. Foster's days as the fully-featured back appear over for the time being.

Jake Plummer, Den, QB – I expected Plummer to right himself through the air against Kansas City on Sunday. Instead, he posted the fifth-fewest fantasy points among quarterbacks. He was in the bottom five last week, as well. He has yet to toss a touchdown pass, and the possibility of Jay Cutler replacing him at some point this season isn't looking far-fetched anymore.