Three weeks of the NFL season have passed, and many fantasy owners are shaking their heads in amazement as they ponder the highlights and lowlights of the action they've witnessed. The Dolphins are 2-1, the 49ers should be 2-1, and Al Davis clearly has no friends among the schedule makers. As we hit Week 4, fantasy owners look to rebound performances from stars such as Jamal Lewis, Kevin Jones and hope that Houston can find a way to get the ball into Andre Johnson's hands. And, of course, that Peyton Manning realizes that he's, well, Peyton Manning.
With an eye toward the matchups to come, let's take a look at the goings on in Fantasy Football This Week .
Steven Jackson missed Wednesday's practice due to a bruised chest, and his status for Sunday's tilt with the Giants is in doubt. He carried the ball only 12 times for 48 yards in Week 3, and allowed Marshall Faulk (81 total yards and a touchdown) to become a factor in the offense. Jackson is currently listed as questionable, meaning that Faulk may get a start in a good spot this week against the Giants.
Staying in St. Louis, Isaac Bruce appears on the injury report as doubtful with a bad toe. At this point, he's a game-time decision. For those looking for a quick pickup, Kevin Curtis would take his slot in the starting lineup against New York.
Giants cornerback Will Peterson is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against St. Louis, but he believes that his fractured back may force him to miss the rest of the season. He missed 12 games in 2003 with a stress fracture in his lower back. The Giants have allowed a shade less than 25 points per game thus far this season.
The Redskins are coming off of a thrilling Week 2 comeback win over the Cowboys followed by a momentum-killing bye. Washington returns to action against Seattle for Week 4, but kicker John Hall won't be available. Nick Novak takes his place in field goal duties.
LaMont Jordanmissed a portion of Wednesday's practice with a strained calf. It doesn't appear to be anything serious, but should be noted nonetheless.
Normally, offensive linemen fall under the radar for fantasy purposes, but not when the absence of a Pro Bowler messes with an offensive machine. Chiefs tackle Willie Roaf did not practice again on Wednesday, putting his availability for Sunday's big home game against Philly in doubt. His absence severely hampers the running game and leaves Trent Green prone to heavy pressure in the pocket.
It was announced that Kevin Faulk will miss two months with a previously undisclosed leg injury sustained during the victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. Andre Davis, who had yet to play for the team after being acquired this offseason, was released so that the team could sign Amos Zereoue. The value of Patrick Pass as a receiving option rises with Faulk's absence.
Owners of Philadelphia's David Akers need to find another option on the waiver wire this week, as the gamer will be forced to sit out Sunday's game against Kansas City. Todd France takes his place this week, and conceivably until after the Eagles' Week 6 Bye.
Donovan McNabb is battling both a sports hernia and a chest contusionheading into battle against the Chiefs. He refuses to yield and will take to the field on Sunday. Naturally, playing with such injuries has its risks, but with McNabb and the passing game clicking, the reward is high. Be warned, McNabb's strained abdomen is going to require surgery, and Andy Reid concedes that his superstar may miss extensive time this season before it's all said and done. McNabb owners should solidify their backup QB situation if they haven't already done so.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, SF: Lloyd leads the charge of several 49ers and Cardinals players that have owners scrambling to the waiver wire this week. Lloyd has hauled in 10 catches through three games, with three all-important TD receptions from Tim Rattay. He's been targeted 20 times by Rattay thus far. Arnaz Battle is also a popular pickup for this week's matchup with a suspect Arizona secondary.
Eli Manning, QB, NYG: Manning has outpaced big brother Peyton by a TD count of five to two through three weeks of the season. In Week 4, he faces a suspect St. Louis secondary that is allowing 242 yards per game and has surrendered four touchdowns. Manning has established a rapport with receivers Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and TE Jeremy Shockey. Tiki Barber also remains a dangerous component of the passing attack to supplement a solid corps. With the dearth of spectacular QB play to start the season, owners are looking for a player with upside.
Kevin Curtis, WR, STL: Isaac Bruce is likely to miss Sunday's game against New York with a toe injury, vaulting Curtis into the starting lineup. He's received starting receiver looks for the first three weeks of the season, and will no doubt be called upon for big plays against an injured Giants secondary.
Joey Galloway, WR, Tam: Galloway has been targeted 17 times by Brian Griese through the first three weeks of the season, scoring three times (7,2,8). With Cadillac Williams eating up chunks of turf and Michael Clayton drawing double-teams, the veteran receiver has taken the opportunity to resurrect his status as a go-to receiver and fantasy option. He's in a good spot to score this week against Detroit.
Neil Rackers, K, Ari: It's not often that you highlight a kicker, but a 10-for-10 start on field goals and a leg capable of 50 yard boots has Neil Rackers on the radar this week. Rackers participates in the Sunday night game against San Francisco this week, and should see several more FG opportunities with Josh McCown under center.
Mewelde Moore, RB, MIN: Moore took the reins on the starting gig in Minnesota with a 100-yard effort over the weekend against New Orleans. Owners had stayed away from Vikings backs, fearing the dreaded committee situation. Michael Bennett appears to have fumbled away his chance at the No. 1 spot for now, but those picking up Moore will still need to be on guard against Moe Williams. With that said, I like Moore this week against an Atlanta defense that is still trying to find its rhythm against the run.
Keary Colbert, WR, Car: Coming off of a strong rookie year, Colbert's start to the 2005 campaign is nothing short of disastrous. He's caught only two passes for 11 yards through three weeks, and has gone two straight weeks without a catch. With Rod Gardner's role in the Carolina attack expected to increase and Colbert's role uncertain, owners are sending Colbert packing.
Aaron Brooks, QB, NO: Those who drafted the enigmatic Brooks certainly kept him on a short leash. Two touchdowns against five interceptions through the first three games of the season wasn't enough to warrant a contract extension. The recommitment to the running game behind Deuce McAllister and uncertainty surrounding the team's ability to withstand a 16-game road trip have owners seeking help elsewhere.
Cedric Benson, RB, Chi: Back-to-back big games from Thomas Jones and a failure to take the field against Cincinnati in Week 3 have owners cutting ties with the Bears rookie. Benson carried the ball 16 times in the Week 2 romp over Detroit and still figures to be a big factor in the offense, perhaps as early as Week 5 against Cleveland.
Brandon Stokley, WR, Ind: With Peyton Manning without a TD pass in two straight games, fantasy owners are beginning to dissociate from the tertiary receiving options. Both Stokley and Dallas Clark were frequent targets in the Add/Drop process this week. After being targeted 10 times in Week 1 and five times in Week 2, Peyton Manning looked Stokley's way just once in the Week 3 win over Cleveland.
Travis Henry, RB, Ten: Owners are releasing Henry either due to a short bench or a morality clause violation. His four-game suspension makes Chris Brown the reigning RB in Tennessee and the recipient of 20-25 touches for the next four weeks. However, given Brown's propensity for getting dinged with his upright running style, Henry still has value for the second half of the year. His release is short-sighted.
J.J. Arrington, RB, Ari: Arrington has yet to crack double-digit rushing yards for an entire game. Yes, he had a nice 12-yard run in the season-opening debacle against the Giants, but finished with just five yards on eight carries. After missing Week 3 with illness, he returned to contribute nine yards on five carries against Seattle. Fantasy owners are either convinced that Dennis Green will turn from his prized rookie to veteran Marcel Shipp, or trying to keep themselves from the gambler's impulse to insert him into the lineup.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Terry Glenn, WR, Dal
Glenn has reconnected with Drew Bledsoe to the tune of 336 receiving yards and a score in three weeks of play. Bledsoe has thrown to Glenn 25 times already this season. The Cowboys will face the 31st-ranked Oakland pass defense this week (300 yards per game). The Raiders have recorded only two sacks thus far, meaning that the statuesque Bledsoe will have time to work.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Justin McCareins, WR, NYJ
OK, flag me for piling on, but McCareins wasn't able to connect with Pennington, so the ability to find a rhythm with Brooks Bollinger or Vinny Testaverde off the street is suspect. McCareins was targeted eight times in last week's loss to the Jaguars … and recorded one catch.
HOT AND COLD
Keenan McCardell, WR, SD: Talk about making the most of opportunities! McCardell was the target of three Drew Brees passes (and one from LT) in the romp over the Giants on Sunday night. He caught all four balls thrown to him, including two touchdowns. The 35-yeard old McCardell shows no signs of slowing down, and the presence of Antonio Gates and Tomlinson in the passing game gives him room to operate. He's already hauled in four TD passes through three weeks.
Travis Taylor, WR, Min: He's been called a "bust" or something like it for several years now, but he's playing the role of No. 1 receiver in the Vikings aerial assault with Nate Burleson sidelined. He's been targeted 27 times by Daunte Culpepper through Week 3, and is one of the biggest waiver wire acquisitions of the week, as owners anticipate a repeat performance against New Orleans.
T.J. Duckett, RB, Atl: Duckett helped in the obliteration of the Bills run defense on Sunday, racking up 75 yards on 12 carries in the 24-16 win. He also scored for the third straight week. With uncertainty lurking in so many NFL backfields, the Dunn-Duckett combo has become a relied upon commodity. Fantasy owners were slow to embrace the goal line vulture, but three weeks of dancing in the painted grass resolved that hang up.
Jacksonville Defense: The Jaguars rank second in pass defense, allowing a mere 142 yards per game through the air. They've tallied five interceptions against two touchdowns allowed, and have recorded seven sacks. Jacksonville is a popular pick up this week with owners looking for a Bye week replacement for a quartet of solid defenses (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami, Cleveland).
Tim Rattay, QB, SF: He got skunked against the tough Philly defense, but has turned in two multi-TD outings against St. Louis and Dallas. Rattay is in a solid spot for the Sunday night contest in Mexico City against the banged up Cardinals. Receivers Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle have stepped up to compensate for the loss of Eric Johnson. Look to Rattay for Week 4 if your confidence is shaken with your current starter.
Buffalo Defense: Touted as a top three defense coming into the year, Buffalo has been a tremendous disappointment for fantasy owners who reached a couple rounds early to select them in their draft. They rank dead last against the run at 174 yards per game, have surrendered four rushing touchdowns and just lost a key member in LB Takeo Spikes.
Ahman Green, RB, GB: Green finally cracked 20 touches in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, but he tallied only 58 yards on the ground and 27 by air. Two losses on the offensive line (Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera) during the offseason have kept the running attack at bay, and kept Brett Favre uneasy in the pocket. The Carolina defense ranks 12th in the NFL against the run, allowing just 94.7 yards per game.
Trent Green, QB, Kan: Trevor Pryce speculates that Priest Holmes may be hurt; Dick Vermeil was quick to refute that assessment. But, what isn't clear is what seems to be troubling Trent Green. His hand was stepped on in Monday's loss to the Broncos, but that's hardly an excuse for the single TD toss through three weeks. Green owners are advised to find another QB to start this week, as Green and company face a tough Philly defense.
Kevin Jones, RB, Det: With an extra week of soul searching with Detroit's Bye week, fantasy owners are offering Jones up for trade or releasing him outright. It's hard to give up on someone who was projected as a 1,500-yard rusher, but the horrific defeat to the Bears in Week 2 has owners abandoning ship. It's no picnic for Week 4, as Jones and the Lions travel to face the Buccaneers and a defense allowing 51 yards per game on the ground.
Ashley Lelie, WR, Den: After his breakout 2004 campaign, fantasy owners expected big dividends for their selection of Lelie in '05 drafts. He's been a major bust thus far, contributing nine catches for 95 yards and zero touchdowns. In fact, he was targeted only three times in Monday's win over Kansas City (one catch for 16 yards). Week 4 brings a tough matchup against Jacksonville.
SWOOPING VULTURES: Goal-Line Backs
Each week, we'll review the players earning their living around the goal line.
The Steelers welcomed Jerome Bettis back to practice mid-week. He'd missed the Steelers first three games with a strained calf muscle, but appears ready to return to vulture form. With Willie Parker firmly established as the No. 1 and Duce Staley ready as his back up, the Bus can settle into his TD swiping role out of the gate.
Even though he won't return to action until Week 6 and Ronnie Brown rolled to his first 100-yard game this past week, owners are beginning to load Ricky Williams onto their benches. While his role in Nick Saban's scheme is undetermined as of yet, the possibility of Williams taking on short yardage and goal line responsibilities is quite intriguing.
Zack Crockett currently stands as the No. 2 tailback in a thin Raiders backfield behind LaMont Jordan. The Raiders have used him as a change of pace powerhouse (seven carries, 31 yards) to spell Jordan, but his true strength is around the goal line.
Brandon Jacobs has built a huge following in New York with his powerful runs and willingness to lay his body on the line. He might have lost a few of those fans with his failure to convert a third-and-one from the SD 25 early in Sunday's loss to San Diego. He didn't touch the ball again during the game, but it was due to the fact that he was hit in the eye. He's ready to roll again this week.
Tight Ends: Surveying the Safety Valves
After his two-touchdown performance against the Patriots in Week 1, expectations were raised for Oakland's Courtney Anderson, only to watch him go without a catch against Kansas City. Well, he showed up against Philly in a huge way, hauling in five passes for 100 yards. Anderson was targeted nine times in the narrow defeat to the Eagles and will most certainly be a factor against Dallas.
Ernie Conwell rebounded nicely from a Week 2 concussion to post a solid day (three catches, 65 yards and a score) against the Vikings. Conwell was targeted eight times by Aaron Brooks in the loss.
Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe are becoming a potent 1-2 combination for the Titans, much to the chagrin of Drew Bennett owners. Unfortunately, the amount of attention paid to both (Kinney with seven looks and Troupe with five in Week 3) keep fantasy owners guessing, but both are certainly on the radar.
With the injuries sustained by Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler, Brooks Bollinger and ultimately, Vinny Testaverde will stand under center for the Jets. Chris Baker had already been the Jets leading receiver through two weeks of the season, and becomes an invaluable safety valve for Bollinger. The Baltimore defense is hungry to get its swagger back and will look to deliver the knockout blow to Bollinger. He'll need Baker early and often this week.