As we hit Week 7, another major storm is brewing off the coast, changing start times and field conditions for several battles. The Chiefs and Dolphins will begin the week on Friday, so those leagues with roster acquisition deadlines set for the first game of the week need to pay heed to the new start.
Otherwise, this appears to be the week for the dreaded "game-time" decision. There are hordes of skill position players fighting through one injury or another, leaving fantasy owners guessing. One need only look to Week 6 and Thomas Jones and Corey Dillon to see how differently the same information can shift.
In any event, we'll begin our trip around Fantasy Football This Week with an update on those injuries impacting our waiver wire decisions.
- Injuries to his ribs, pelvis, and groin sustained in Sunday's loss to San Diego put Randy Moss on the injury list as doubtful for Week 7 against Buffalo. He'll be a game-time decision by Norv Turner and the coaching staff. If he's unable to go, Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel will run as the starting wideouts with Alvis Whitted in the third slot. Given Buffalo's inability to thwart the run, expect a steady diet of LaMont Jordan this week.
- St. Louis may welcome Isaac Bruce back into the fold for this week's game against New Orleans. He's been unavailable since Week 3, and will be a critical addition to the equation in support of Jamie Martin. His return would mean the end of Kevin Curtis' reign as a starting wideout.
- Staying in St. Louis, Marc Bulger is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with the sprained shoulder sustained on an attempted tackle on Monday against Indianapolis. Many readers took me to task for calling out Bulger for his tackling attempt. Believe me, I appreciated that Bulger didn't walk to the sidelines after the pick and tried to clog things up for someone else to make a tackle. However, he needed to get through a pile of blockers to get to the ball carrier, and led with his throwing shoulder. I'll take the adrenaline explanation, but you still have to be cognizant of protecting your most valuable asset. Veteran backup Jamie Martin slides into the top spot in his absence, and makes for a serviceable play this week if you're facing a bye or injury.
- Donovan McNabb suited up for Wednesday's practice and will be ready to roll this week against the Chargers. The timing of the Eagles bye week couldn't have been better for the ailing QB. Now, the Eagles need to work on the bruised ego of Brian Westbrook to get this offense back in full gear.
- Steve McNair sat out Wednesday with a sore back, but according to Jeff Fisher, he wasn't expecting McNair on the practice field anyway. The Titans expect McNair to play through the injury on Sunday against a struggling Arizona defense. Tennessee will play without Drew Bennett for several weeks with a thumb injury sustained in Week 6. Rookie Brandon Jones will step into the starting lineup in his absence. Jones was targeted 12 times in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati.
- T.J. Houshmandzadeh got back on the practice field in limited work on Wednesday. He's expected to hit the field this week against the Steelers, and pushes Chris Henry back into the No. 3 role.
- Hines Ward remained on the sidelines for the Steelers on Wednesday with a tender hamstring. He missed Week 6 against the Jaguars, snapping a streak of 116 consecutive games played. Ward certainly wants into this week's AFC North showdown with the first-place Bengals. Antwaan Randle El is also listed as questionable for Week 7 with a foot injury. Randle El remains optimistic that he'll be available to run deep patterns for Ben Roethlisberger's return to the lineup.
- Joe Horn was unable to participate in team drills during Wednesday's practice after re-injuring his hamstring against the Falcons. It's currently looking like he'll miss at least one more game (Week 7 against St. Louis) before returning to the field. Donte' Stallworth, also suffering from a minor pull himself, and Devery Henderson will start for the Saints if Horn is indeed held out.
- Don't read too much into Thomas Jones' absence from Bears mid-week workouts. He is merely resting his injured knee in anticipation of a big workload against the Ravens. After learning a painful lesson from his 89-yard, two-TD performance in Week 6, don't inactivate him unless the Bears do.
- The Lions welcomed Jeff Garcia back to full practices this week, and he's splitting reps with Joey Harrington. Kevin Jones has struggled to gain much running room this season, and must now contend with a sprained shoulder. He's currently listed as questionable for this week's game against Cleveland. Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson will split the workload should Jones miss this tilt against the 29th-ranked Cleveland run defense.
- Falcons bruising back T.J. Duckett remains in a walking boot and will likely miss Monday's game against the Jets. The Falcons activated rookie DeAndra Cobb from the practice squad with the anticipation that Duckett's ankle injury will keep him sidelined. The Jets rank just above Atlanta against the run at 27th, so big efforts from Warrick Dunn and Curtis Martin are most certainly in the offing.
- Aaron Stecker, who was expected to continue his time share with Antowain Smith in the Saints backfield, showed up on the injury report with an Achilles injury. He's currently listed as questionable, but the injury appears to have put Smith in the driver's seat.
- Bobby Engram will join Darrell Jackson on the sidelines for at least one more game with injured ribs. With Shaun Alexander dominating opposing defenses and solid play from Joe Jurevicius in their absence, there's no need to hurry Engram back into the lineup.
- Chris Perry, RB, Cin: The Bengals continued to find ways to make this playmaker a bigger part of the offense. Last week, he caught nine passes from Carson Palmer for 45 yards and a touchdown and had a TD called back because of a penalty. Rudi Johnson is in no danger of losing his gig, but the change of pace Perry offers makes him a solid bye week contributor.
- Detroit Defense: Fantasy owners like to see a defense take it to the house. After Detroit did it twice last Sunday, owners rushed to the waiver wire to snap the Lions defense up ahead of their meeting with Cleveland. They've racked up 10 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries in addition to 12 sacks. The Lions make for a solid spot start this week.
- Chris Brown, RB, Ten: Brown finally found pay dirt last week, scoring twice in the thriller against Cincinnati. His fumbling problems resurfaced, but he shouldered the load nicely and gained over 100 combined rushing and receiving yards. The Cardinals allow 106 yards per game on the ground, and have already allowed eight rushing touchdowns.
- Patrick Pass, RB, NE: Corey Dillon's last-minute deactivation pushed owners to the waiver wire to acquire the services of Pass. He split carries with Amos Zereoue, and contributed much to the Patriots passing game with six receptions for 89 yards. Putting up 153 yards of offense in a week where running backs were dropping like flies will push a player's stock north in a hurry. The Patriots have been very non-committal about the extent of Dillon's injuries. As such, owners burned by the game of cat-and-mouse last week will not be fooled again.
- Kelly Holcomb, QB, Buf: Holcomb has resurrected the Bills passing attack after Eric Moulds and Lee Evans lobbied for his promotion to the starting role. He's tossed three touchdowns in the last two weeks and thrown for 341 yards. The Bills have achieved balance between the run game with Willis McGahee and the passing game behind Holcomb. They should find success again this week against Oakland.
- Robert Ferguson, WR, GB: Ferguson has scored in three of the Packers past four contests and has become a go-to guy for Brett Favre in Javon Walker's absence. He's been targeted an average of six times by Favre through five games this year.
- Cedric Benson, RB, Chi: Week 6 was supposed to be his coming out party against the Vikings. Lovie Smith refused to rule Thomas Jones out all week, leaving owners to gamble on his availability. If they gambled incorrectly, Jones and his 89-yard, two-TD performance was wasted. Benson gained a weak two yards on three carries before returning to the sidelines. Unless Jones sustains more serious damage to his knee, Benson's touches and fantasy usefulness will be limited.
- T.J. Duckett, RB, Atl: He's currently sporting a walking boot to aid in the recovery of an ankle sprain, but owners had started to jump off his bandwagon after his five-carry performance in Week 5. Duckett carried the ball only twice before leaving last week's game with his injury, and is unlikely to play against the Jets this week.
- Michael Clayton, WR, Tam: After a brilliant rookie season, Clayton has been a non-starter for the Buccaneers in '05. Joey Galloway seized the top spot in the Buccaneers passing game and has been brilliant. Clayton has caught only four passes over the past three games for a total of 38 yards. Last year, he had two or fewer catches only three times. With the loss of Brian Griese, the passing attack takes a step backward behind Chris Simms. It's likely that Tim Rattay challenges for the top spot in short order.
- Trent Dilfer, QB, Cle: A scoreless outing against the Ravens in Week 6 pushed fantasy owners off of the Dilfer bandwagon. His struggles in that contest forced Romeo Crennel to speak of a re-evaluation off all offensive positions. That speech sent owners in search of Steve McNair, Gus Frerotte, and Kelly Holcomb off of the waiver wire.
- Tyson Thompson, RB, Dal: Thompson fell out of favor due to his Week 5 end of play fumbling issues despite his 75 yards on 20 carries. With Julius Jones sidelined for Week 6, he was expected to take on a more significant role. Anthony Thomas and Marion Barber split the workload instead.
- Chris Henry, WR, Cin: The return of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, combined with the single catch for five yards registered in Week 6, have owners thrusting Henry back to the waiver wire. As potent as the offense continues to be in Cincinnati, fantasy owners aren't convinced that there are enough balls to go around.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Brandon Jones, WR, Ten
Jones has become a big part of the Tennessee offense, targeted 12 times by Steve McNair last week. With Drew Bennett's thumb injury expected to sideline him for several weeks, Jones will continue to play a large role in the Tennessee attack. Though the Cardinals only allow 195 yards and a single passing TD per game, Jones will have multiple opportunities to make plays, and that's all you can ask from a receiver off of the waiver wire.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG
Jacobs has seen his workload drop dramatically since his Week 2 touchdown against New Orleans, but truly damaged his future work prospects with a fumble at the goal line against the Cowboys. Fortunately, the defense forced a Cowboys punt and Eli Manning was able to take Jacobs, and Coach Coughlin, off the hook. Jacobs was expected to take on a bigger role as a complement to Tiki Barber, but plays like last Sunday will serve to make him a mere spectator.
HOT AND COLD
Jake Plummer, QB, Den: Plummer has thrown TD passes in five of six games this season and has not committed a turnover in four straight games. The effectiveness of the Tatum Bell/Mike Anderson combination limits his yardage totals, but he's been money when it counts. He's left behind the player that used to keep you scratching your head (you remember the left-handed toss last year).
Curtis Martin, RB, NYJ: Despite a brilliant '04 campaign, Martin slipped in drafts this year as owners counted out a repeat. And for four weeks, they had reason to feel good about that assessment. However, he's taken advantage of opportunities in the last two weeks with Vinny Testaverde under center. Martin scored twice against the Buccaneers in Week 5, and then turned in a dominant performance last week against Buffalo. He's primed for a repeat performance on Monday against a Falcons defense that struggles against the run.
Santana Moss, WR, Was: The cat is out of the proverbial bag. Many believed that Moss's trade to Washington served as a death sentence on his fantasy viability. Not so fast. He and Mark Brunell are hooking up with great regularity, and Joe Gibbs has effectively employed the old adage of putting the ball into the hands of your playmakers and letting them make plays. Moss has already been targeted 61 times through five games.
Donte' Stallworth, WR, NO: Stallworth is following the "every other week" system for accruing yardage and receptions. In even numbered weeks, he's pulled down 23 receptions for 350 yards and scored his first TD in Week 6. With Joe Horn expected to be sidelined against a suspect Rams secondary, Stallworth makes for a good Week 7 starter, despite a slight hammy pull of his own and the fact that we're in an odd week.
Rob Bironas, K, Ten: Save the Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh, Bironas has been called upon for at least two field goal attempts in each game this season. He's connected on 11-for-14 overall, and with the injuries on offense for Tennessee (and bye weeks for Adam Vinatieri, John Kasay, and Josh Scobee), Bironas was a popular pickup on the waiver wire this week.
Kerry Collins, QB, Oak: Collins has failed to score in two consecutive games, and must now deal with the injury to Randy Moss. His injury signals a heavier workload for LaMont Jordan, who has been an integral part of the passing game as well. His streak without a turnover ended last week with an early interception. The Bills have the top-ranked pass defense at 136 yards per game and have ceded only four passing TDs.
Keenan McCardell, WR, SD: Since his early success (before LT entered the passing game), McCardell has been virtually invisible the past three weeks. He's caught only four passes for a meager 36 yards, although he did record a TD catch in Week 4. McCardell and the Chargers face a fired up and rested Philly secondary on the road, which means another day of low productivity.
Reuben Droughns, RB, Cle: In five games as the unquestioned starter in Cleveland, Droughns has failed to top 80 rushing yards and has yet to hit pay dirt. Lee Suggs will eventually get healthy enough to compete for carries, and Romeo Crennel will not hesitate to juggle things to spark the offense.
Amani Toomer, WR, NYG: Toomer broke a long scoreless streak against St. Louis in Week 4, had a bye week, and then tallied two catches for 11 yards in the Week 6 loss to Dallas. While Eli Manning has raised the level of his game with the arrival of Plaxico Burress and a fully healthy Jeremy Shockey, Toomer has become a forgotten man. He's on pace for just 45 catches and 600 receiving yards.
Kevin Jones, RB, Det: Through five weeks, Jones has accrued a paltry 226 rushing yards (21 in Week 6), and is now nursing a shoulder injury that may sideline him for Week 7. He did score twice in Week 5 versus Baltimore, but contributed only 58 yards on the ground.
Swooping Vultures: Goal-Line Backs
Each week, we'll review the players earning their living around the goal line.
- Jerome Bettis was unexpectedly a non-factor in the Week 6 loss to Jacksonville, a move that Bill Cowher has since admitted was a mistake. With Willie Parker's productivity sliding, Bettis should be a bigger factor against the Bengals.
- As mentioned above, T.J. Duckett is still sporting a walking boot on his injured ankle. High ankle sprains tend to linger, and may cost Duckett several weeks of action before he's fully healed. Justin Griffith and newly activated rookie DeAndra Cobb will be called upon to spell Warrick Dunn and aid in short yardage and goal line situations against the Jets.
- We began to see how Ricky Williams will fit into the Miami attack, drawing a mix of receiving opportunities with around 10 carries. Ronnie Brown didn't shine last week in Ricky's return, but he did find the end zone. The duo should find room to run against the Chiefs this week in Friday night's game.
- Former super vulture Zack Crockett has seen his workload reduced and his viability in the role upended by LaMont Jordan. Jordan has taken all short yardage carries himself, rendering Crockett a non-factor. It will be interesting to watch how Norv Turner works his backfield with Randy Moss potentially sidelined for an extended period of time.
Tight Ends: Surveying the Safety Valves
The Tight end is often the young or struggling quarterback's best friend. Sometimes, he's so dominant that he can't be denied. Here are several players making noise at the position.
- Rookie Heath Miller has become a bigger factor in the Steelers attack, catching four passes and recording a score for the second straight week. With Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El both hampered by injuries, Miller figures to remain a big target for Ben Roethlisberger and a fantasy factor. To keep Cincinnati blitzers off of Ben Roethlisberger, look for him to turn to short routes to Miller.
- Chris Cooley has established himself as one of the top tight ends in NFL and a chief catalyst of the surging Washington passing attack. In the past two weeks, he's hauled in 14 passes for 136 yards and a pair of scores. With the 49ers on the slate for Week 7, another big day for the Brunell-Cooley combo is in the offing.
- Jermaine Wiggins was a target of 15 Daunte Culpepper passes in Week 6 against the Bears. The Vikings figure to have a better time against the Packers secondary coming off of the tongue-lashing from owner Wilfe. With the passing game still looking for a spark, I believe that the short passing game will be employed by the Vikings this week, and that Wiggins will again approach 8-10 catches.
- Eli Manning has reaped tremendous benefits from a healthy Jeremy Shockey. He's scored in the Giants last two games, been targeted an average of seven times per week, and has tallied four or more catches in four straight games.
Y! Friends & Family League
Providing a glimpse into our managerial efforts:
KFFL-Rij retained first place in the West division with a 31-point win over RotoWire_Liss, riding the triple threat of LaDainian Tomlinson to victory. In the East, a Y! Sports Funston victory and a loss by my squad sets up a Week 7 battle for first place.