Inside Week 9

Mike Harmon
Cleveland Browns
Incumbent: Lee Suggs
Challenger: William Green
Outlook: Suggs continues to impress on tape, even making Butch Davis a believer. He offers a better burst once he gets past the first line of defenders and has the speed to create separation. That doesn't mean that Green is off of the radar by any means. Davis will still use him for 8-10 carries per game.
Minnesota Vikings
Incumbent: Vacant
Challenger: Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore
Outlook: Moore was scratched from the lineup for Monday's tilt against Indianapolis. Fortunately, Onterrio Smith was back after a four-week hiatus to pick up the slack – and he looked good. This now plays out like a vacancy in the WWE, a three-man battle royale. Keep an eye on the reports from camp to see who claims the job.
St. Louis Rams
Incumbent: Marshall Faulk
Incumbent: Steven Jackson
Outlook: For the first time in awhile, there was no straight split of duties in St. Louis. Faulk only carried the ball 12 times, as the Patriots rolled up points and made this a pass-happy game for Mike Martz and company. With that said, Faulk's ability as a pass-receiver (six catches) make him vital to the team's hopes.
Dallas Cowboys
Incumbent: Eddie George
Challenger: Julius Jones
Outlook: It's probably a week too early to list this one, but it's coming in a hurry. George posted a 2.9 yards per carry average against the worst run defense in the NFL. Richie Anderson and ReShard Lee combined with George to tally only 109 yards, fueling speculation that a healthy Jones will receive the lion's share of carries upon his return.
Miami Dolphins
Incumbent: Sammy Morris
Challenger: Travis Minor
Outlook: Morris found paydirt this weekend, but Minor's numbers pop off of the page. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry. With the coaching change on Tuesday, it's possible that tryouts begin for the QB and RB positions.
Pittsburgh Steelers
Incumbent: Duce Staley
Challenger: Jerome Bettis
Outlook: I haven't seen Jerome Bettis smile like he did Sunday in quite some time. Everyone is fired up about Ben Roethlisberger, self included, but let's take a second and give mighty props to the offensive line. The Steelers top the NFL with 160.8 rushing yards per game. Here's thinking that Bettis sees more non-goal-line carries to keep Duce fresh for the playoffs. Don't worry, he'll keep the normal vulture role as well.
Buffalo Bills
Incumbent: Willis McGahee
Challenger: Travis Henry
Outlook: Willis McGahee rumbled to his third 100-yard game in his past four outings, leading the Bills to victory. He also found the end zone for the second straight week. Travis Henry looked good in the long coat and stocking cap on the sidelines. He did make a cameo, carrying the ball three times, but his future lies elsewhere.
Oakland Raiders
Incumbent: Tyrone Wheatley
Challenger: Amos Zereoue
Outlook: Wheatley hit his season-high for carries in Week 9 against Carolina. His 2.8 yards per carry average is less than thrilling, but fantasy owners were elated with his two TD runs. Wheatley owners have to be encouraged that Zack Crockett didn't pilfer the goal-line carries. Zereoue will continue to be used as a change-of-pace back, contributing 7-10 carries. Watch out for Justin Fargas' return.

As I buried myself in the numbers for Week 9, the performances of some cagey veterans leaped from the page. Jerome Bettis got his first start of the year and rumbled to the second-highest rushing total this week with 149 yards.

We saw two backs return from suspensions, Baltimore's Jamal Lewis and Minnesota's Onterrio Smith. Both looked fresh and ran with purpose, contributing huge TD runs in the waning moments of their respective matchups. Watch for both to have huge impacts on fantasy leagues down the stretch. If your league is still in the waiver claim process for this week, check to see whether Smith had been dumped to the wire.

Nine running backs topped the 100-yard mark this week, with Michael Pittman achieving the feat on 15 carries. His three rushing touchdowns on Sunday matched his total number of TD's scored in 2002 and 2003 combined.

Raise your hand if you were defeated by the TD heroics of Adam Vinatieri.

Jake Plummer, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning tossed four or more TD passes for the second straight week.

Roy Williams led all receivers this week with 15 looks, despite catching only three passes from Joey Harrington. Williams has been the target of 23 percent of Harrington's passes despite two DNP's.

Clinton Portis' numbers have been stifled this season as the team adapts to Joe Gibbs's offense. He rushed for his third 100-yard game of the season this week against Detroit and fired a TD pass, giving Portis owners their first TD from him since Week 4. They'll take them any way they can get them. It also marked the first TD reception for Laveranues Coles this season, despite a total of 88 looks. Owners had become chilly to a man selected 42nd overall in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football PLUS drafts.

I'll be back on Thursday with some more factoids through Week 9. But for now, let's get deeper inside the box scores.

Shouldering the load: Most active RB's (carries+catches)

Week 9 Touch Leaders
1 Willis McGahee, BUF 39
2 Clinton Portis, WAS 35
3 Jerome Bettis, PIT 33
4 Edgerrin James, IND 31
5 Reuben Droughns, DEN 30
6 Anthony Thomas, CHI 29
7 Corey Dillon, NE 27
8 Shaun Alexander, SEA 26
9 Tiki Barber, NYG 25
10 Rudi Johnson, CIN 23
10 Jamal Lewis, BAL 23

Attention getters: Top intended targets (looks)

Week 9 Look Leaders
1 Roy Williams, DET 15
2 Tony Gonzalez, KAN 13
2 Terrell Owens, PHI 13
4 Muhsin Muhammad, CAR 12
4 Keenan McCardell, SD 12
6 Jeremy Shockey, NYG 11
6 Chris Chambers, MIA 11
6 Antonio Gates, SD 11
9 Travis Taylor, BAL 10
9 Torry Holt, STL 10

Trainer's table: Updates on the wounded in action

  • Priest Holmes has strained ligaments in his right knee and may be held out of Week 10. That's bad news for fantasy owners, as the Chiefs get to face the brutal New Orleans defense. If he can't go, Derrick Blaylock (himself battling a deep thigh bruise) would get the nod.
  • Byron Leftwich got some good news on Monday; at least he won't need surgery. But he will miss 2-3 games, meaning that David Garrard will take the helm this week against Detroit.
  • The Giants lost both bookends on the defensive line with the season-ending injuries to Michael Strahan and Keith Washington.
  • Staying in New York, Chad Pennington strained his rotator cuff in Sunday's loss and will miss at least one game (Baltimore this Sunday). The mobile Quincy Carter will start for the Jets.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson finally gets the bye week to rest his nagging groin injury. Jesse Chatman came on in relief of Tomlinson again. L.T. be rested and raring to go against the Raiders and Chiefs after the bye.
  • Duce Staley was a late scratch against his former team, leaving Jerome Bettis to dominate the line of scrimmage. Staley was almost cleared to play, meaning that he'll surely be in uniform against Cleveland unless he re-injures himself in practice this week.
  • Stephen Davis missed another game and fantasy owners are starting to lose their patience, dropping him to the waiver wire. I'll be back with an update on his condition later in the week.
  • Quincy Morgan continues to battle a hamstring injury and missed this week's game. He's likely to be back on the field in Week 10 against Philadelphia.
  • Dallas rookie Julius Jones is expected to visit doctors this week with an eye on a Week 11 return to action. Since Eddie George is not under contract for 2005, Bill Parcells wants to get a close look at the youngster heading into the offseason.
  • Randy Moss didn't play in Monday's loss to Indianapolis, but the Vikings kept their intentions close to the vest. It is possible that he returns to the field to face Green Bay this week. We'll keep a close eye on this as the week progresses.
  • Chicago's Thomas Jones is hopeful to resume practicing this week. Right now, he's considered day-to-day, but with the output of Anthony Thomas in his absence, there's no rush.
  • Tim Rattay canceled a scheduled medical exam, where he would have likely been advised to have surgery. Rattay has already missed three games and did not want to sit out and risk his starting job. Watch this one closely if you're looking to claim him due to the rash of QB injuries, as he'll likely be shut down at some point.
  • Andre' Davis re-injured his turf toe against Baltimore, limiting him to two looks and zero receptions. He's listed as day-to-day.
  • Anquan Boldin left Sunday's game briefly with a knee injury, but later returned to action. He will play this week against the Giants.
  • After several weeks of rest, Steve McNair will return to practice Wednesday in preparations for this week's contest against Chicago.
  • Oakland TE Courtney Anderson suffered a seriously sprained knee in Sunday's victory over Carolina. He'll miss 4-6 weeks, meaning bigger roles in the offense for Doug Jolley and Teyo Johnson.