DENVER BRONCOSRED HOT 1st Chair: Travis Henry 2nd Chair: Selvin Young, Andre Hall Skinny: With Henry unable to play on Monday night because of sore ribs, Young was thrust into a significant role for the first time this season, and he proved up to the task. Young rushed 18 times for 71 yards (3.9 ypc) and added 49 receiving yards on six catches. Henry's appeal date for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy looms, with one report claiming a decision could come down in the next week. It's possible Henry's season could coming crashing to an end before he plays another snap. The situation is still unclear, but Young showed the fantasy community on Monday night against one of the better run defenses in the league (Green Bay) that he's ready to step in and be the Broncos' main man.
GREEN BAY PACKERSRED HOT 1st Chair: Ryan Grant 2nd Chair: DeShawn Wynn, Vernand Morency Skinny: "I think it's safe to say that Ryan Grant will be the starter when we go to Kansas City." That was head coach Mike McCarthy's quote after Grant ran for 104 yards on 22 carries on Monday night in place of Wynn, who injured his shoulder after carrying once against the Broncos. It's refreshing to have a coach be so forthright about his backfield situation, isn't it? Fantasy owners in need of a running back in Week 9 can now go grab Grant with the confidence. He'll face a Kansas City defense that has allowed 4.2 yards per carry to running backs, so he has a chance to be productive once again. Wynn had his shoulder x-rayed, but the results have yet to be revealed. Stay tuned …
HOUSTON TEXANSRED HOT 1st Chair: Ahman Green 2nd Chair: Adimchinobi Echemandu, Ron Dayne Skinny: Green has been dealing with swelling in his surgically repaired knee, a concern for head coach Gary Kubiak. The team has been pleased with backup Echemandu, who contributed 10 carries for 62 rushing yards on Sunday against San Diego with Green on the sidelines – Dayne handled 17 carries for just 47 yards. Given Green's problematic knee, Echemandu is poised for an increased role, but he tweaked his hamstring in Week 8, which puts his health for Week 9 in question. Whichever back emerges with a lead role on Sunday is in for a treat. Houston faces an Oakland run defense allowing more than five yards per carry. Follow this situation throughout the week. For ultra-needy owners, grab Echemandu now and hope his hammy is fine.
OAKLAND RAIDERSRED HOT 1st Chair: LaMont Jordan 2nd Chair: Dominic Rhodes, Justin Fargas Skinny: The Raiders backfield situation is playing out exactly as it was predicted here a few weeks back. Jordan, who has battled a sore back most of the season, is losing carries and has been much less effective in recent weeks than he was when he bolted out of the starting gate with 350 rushing yards and two touchdowns through the first three games of the season. If you weren't able to trade Jordan a couple weeks back, you're now stuck with a RBBC player. Fargas and Jordan split 24 carries on Sunday, with Fargas picking up 61 yards to Jordan's 16. Head coach Lane Kiffin said after the game that Fargas will continue to figure prominently in the mix. As for Rhodes, he's looking like the odd man out now. If you were holding on to Rhodes, swap him out for Fargas this week if you can.
ST. LOUIS RAMSHOT 1st Chair: Steven Jackson (back) 2nd Chair: Brian Leonard Skinny: Jackson's return from a groin injury lasted less than two quarters on Sunday. While S-Jax was able to find the pay dirt in the first quarter against Cleveland, he had to leave shortly thereafter with back pain – the diagnosis is a bulging disc. with the Rams sitting at 0-8, it seems silly to rush Jackson back into service right away, if at all. Head coach Scott Linehan said that Jackson wouldn't be able to go this week if the team had a game. Don't cut Leonard loose just yet. He very well could wind up with plenty of work down the stretch
MIAMI DOLPHINSWARM 1st Chair: Jesse Chatman 2nd Chair: Patrick Cobbs, Samkon Gado, Lorenzo Booker Skinny: Chatman handled 16 of Miami's 20 running back carries in Week 8, the first game without Ronnie Brown's services. Chatman rushed for 79 yards on his 16 totes and also added three catches for 21 yards. Overall, it was a solid effort which should help maintain his majority share on the backfield workload. However, Gado was added to the team last week after Houston cut him loose, so we could see him worked into the mix for short-yardage work. Chatman owners should keep watch to see whether Gado or Cobbs will be the most prudent handcuff going forward. I wouldn't waste a roster spot on either one until the backup picture is more clearly defined.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERSWARM 1st Chair: Earnest Graham 2nd Chair: Michael Bennett Skinny: Against a staunch Jacksonville run defense, Graham posted an admirable 62 yards on 14 carries. Bennett carried just twice for the Bucs, but he flashed some speed and nifty moves on a 19-yard touchdown jaunt in the third quarter. Bennett is likely to eventually see 8-10 touches per week. After his impressive scoring run in Week 8, the increased workload may be coming as soon as Week 9.
CHIACGO BEARSWARM 1st Chair: Cedric Benson 2nd Chair: Adrian Peterson Skinny: Considering he'd averaged just 3.1 yards per carry heading into Week 8, Benson's 13-carry, 50-yard performance on Sunday can almost be considered explosive for Benson. But, seriously, let's not kid ourselves. His 3.8 ypc effort against a Detroit defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs was just another of many disappointments for his fantasy owners. In addition to the mediocre rushing numbers, Benson displayed stone hands out of the backfield. Peterson handled just two carries on Sunday, but he was the recipient of six passes that totaled 41 receiving yards. Fantasy owners should continue their vigil on Benson's death march. At some point, Lovie Smith has to address Benson's ineffectiveness by awarding Peterson more touches.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTSLUKEWARM 1st Chair: Laurence Maroney (injured) 2nd Chair: Sammy Morris (injured), Kevin Faulk, Kyle Eckel, Heath Evans Skinny: On Sunday, it was 14 carries for Maroney, 14 carries for Faulk, Eckel and Evans combined. That's a good development for long-suffering Maroney owners. Maroney looked dashing in picking up 75 rushing yards and another 37 receiving yards against Washington. Until Morris can make his way back from a chest injury (likely at least 2-3 weeks away), Maroney seems safely established as the featured back. He may even find the end zone one of these weeks, as he had three carries from Washington's 6-yard line (or closer) in week 8.
With apologies to Bon Jovi, we're halfway there, and many of us are living on a prayer. Owners with a 3-5 or 4-4 record, I'm talking to you. For Yahoo! default leagues, the playoffs start after Week 13, meaning there are just five weeks left to cement a postseason berth. I have a couple teams that will probably need to go at least 4-1 if I hope to keep my title hopes alive – and I'm sure many of you are in a similar boat.
For those with just a flicker of hope remaining, the task at hand involves doing everything possible to win this week … and then the next … and so on. Be it working a trade to consolidate excess bench luxuries into a better starting player or making a tough cut of a handcuff to one of your starting running backs to pick up a player that fills an immediate bye-week need, your entire focus should be on improving your roster for Week 9 – worry about Week 10 next Tuesday. While contemplating what "taking it one week at a time" means to you, let's take a look at how the past weekend shook up the fantasy landscape:
The Good:Joseph Addai. Reports of Kenton Keith's rise to a 30-40 percent claim of the Colts' backfield workload appear unfounded after Addai handled 23 carries for 100 yards and three touchdowns (one receiving) on Sunday. Keith turned six carries into a respectable 33 yards, but Addai's performance has rendered all previous time-share discussions moot. Keith has proven to be a capable backup, but Addai owners can now exhale a bit as it looks like Keith's role won't be more than just that.
The Bad:Brian Griese. Heading into Week 8, Griese owners had to be licking their chops. Griese came into Sunday with eight touchdown passes and an average of more than 300 passing yards in his first four games. And Sunday's opponent was the oh-so-generous Detroit Lions and a secondary that had allowed 10 touchdown passes (to just three interceptions) in its previous four games. Perhaps it was foreshadowing that Griese supplied those three interceptions in his prior meeting with Detroit in Week 4. At least he managed two touchdown passes and 286 passing yards in that meeting. On Sunday, he was a far cry worse, throwing one touchdown pass to four picks, while managing just 208 passing yards. The only reasonable explanation is that Rex Grossman chloroformed Griese, shoved him in his locker and suited up in Griese's No. 14 uniform.
The Ugly: England. What a sloppy mess the NFL's first regular-season game turned out to be, in reality and fantasy. Wet conditions and thin turf led to muddy, slippery conditions at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Fantasy numbers suffered in the process. Thankfully, Miami was involved in the game, because Jesse Chatman was the only viable starter for the Dolphins in Week 8 – if you started a 'Fin player other than him on Sunday, you have more than the weather to worry about. But for those relying on the Giants' passing game, the results were as bad as could be imagined. Plaxico Burress caught just two passes, good for 14 of Eli Manning's 58 passing yards (Manning was 8-for-22 passing). Burress has a combined 57 receiving yards and no scores in his past two games after scoring a touchdown in each of his first six contests. Amani Toomer, who scored in each of his two previous outings, was good for just one catch and 13 yards. And Jeremy Shockey managed three catches for 26 yards. Manning managed to salvage some fantasy respectability with a 10-yard scoring run in the second-quarter. Brandon Jacobs was the biggest benefactor of the slick track, rushing 23 times for 131 yards.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Edgerrin James, Ari, RB – A rested James (coming off his bye week) will face arguably the easiest run schedule the rest of the way. Eight of his final nine opponents rank among the 16 most generous in fantasy against opposing running backs.
Hines Ward, Pit, WR – Finally healthy, Ward is looking like an All-Pro again. He caught eight passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday and, like James, his schedule of opposing defenses the rest of the way is littered with softies.
Lee Evans, Buf, WR – Evans is officially back. A week after tallying five catches for 98 yards against Baltimore, Evans found the end zone for the first time this season on Sunday. He added 138 receiving yards against the Jets in Week 8.
Greg Olsen, Chi, TE – Griese's miserable performance on Sunday didn't affect everyone in the Bears passing game. Olsen managed six catches, 59 yards and a touchdown. Olsen has averaged 57 receiving yards and has two touchdowns in his past four games.
LenDale White, Ten, RB – In the NFL's most run-heavy offense, White continues to enjoy the biggest slice of the pie (seems like the right metaphor for White). For the third consecutive game, White handled at least 25 carries. And he topped 100 rushing yards (133) for the second week in a row.
Greg Jennings, GB, WR – It took an overtime period on Monday night, but Jennings found pay dirt for the fourth time in five games. He gained 82 of his 144 yards on the scoring strike from Brett Favre in the extra period on Monday night, no doubt wreaking havoc on many Week 8 fantasy matchups.
Jeff King, Car, TE – King was the surprise target (13) and catch (10) leader among tight ends in Week 8 – good for 82 yards. He's been the 14th-best fantasy tight end this season.
Clinton Portis, Was, RB – Portis hasn't managed more than 72 rushing yards in any of his past six games. Against New England on Sunday, he was held to a season-low 27 rushing yards.
Frank Gore, SF, RB – A troublesome ankle and a miserable supporting offense have conspired against Gore this season. The bum wheel contributed to a 12-carry, 41-yard effort on Sunday, and he's likely to be questionable for Week 9.
Jon Kitna, Det, QB – Rest easy, Kitna owners. After failing to throw a touchdown pass for the third straight game on Sunday, Kitna has been removed from the Yahoo! "Can't Cut" list. I still wouldn't cut him, but I understand …
Donald Driver, GB, WR – While teammates Greg Jennings and James Jones both topped 100 yards on Monday night, Driver could manage just 28 receiving yards. It was the fourth straight game that he has failed to reach 60 yards or find the end zone.
EARLY BIG BOARD RETURNS • Players in consideration for falling off the Board: Travis Henry, LaMont Jordan, Cedric Benson, Brandon Marshall