Kansas City's run defense is beyond bad. This fact couldn't have been better illustrated than when LenDale White – he of the 240-plus pounds and a 40-yard time split in the 4.7 second range – broke through the Chiefs' defense mid-way through the fourth quarter and romped 80 yards untouched. You could tell by the way he kept swiveling his head side-to-side, looking over his shoulders, that White was just as surprised as everyone else. Even head coach Jeff Fisher couldn't help but mock the play, quipping, "He must have had a salad for dinner last night."
The Chiefs are just one of the laughable run defenses of the AFC West, where three of the four teams (K.C., Denver and Oakland) rank among the six most generous in fantasy to opposing running backs. Kind of makes you feel a little better about a LaDainian Tomlinson turnaround, doesn't it? Tomlinson gets to face the Chiefs twice in the second half of the season, as well as the Raiders and Broncos one more time. In fact, LT faces just two defenses the rest of the way, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, that allow less than 4.3 yards per carry.
So who are the other backs with a lip-smacking remaining schedule? There are currently nine teams that allow 4.5 yards per carry or more. They are: Jacksonville (4.5), New England (4.6), Oakland (4.6), Detroit (4.8), Cleveland (4.8), Green Bay (4.9), St. Louis (5.0), Denver (5.1) and Kansas City (5.6). And, let's also throw Indianapolis (4.4) and Houston (4.4) in the mix, since each is a matchup you'd relish your running back getting to face. Here's a look at the running backs lined up to face these 11 squads most-often the rest of the way (an asterisk means that the player faces one of these defenses in Week 17):
LenDale White/Chris Johnson, Ten: 7*
Joseph Addai/Dominic Rhodes, Ind: 6
Matt Forte, Chi: 6*
Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Mia: 5
Maurice Jones-Drew/Fred Taylor, Jac: 5
Cedric Benson, Cin: 5
LaDainian Tomlinson, SD: 5*
Marshawn Lynch, Buf: 5*
Thomas Jones, NYJ: 4
Jamal Lewis, Cle: 4
Justin Fargas/Darren McFadden, Oak: 4
Adrian Peterson, Min: 4
Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams, Car: 4
Willis McGahee, Bal: 4*
Larry Johnson, KC: 4*
Willie Parker, Pit: 4*
For White and Johnson, it's a case of the rich getting richer. And given that Forte has been finding a way to be a useful fantasy commodity even against the staunchest run defenses, you have to love how his remaining schedule sets up. And, in case you are wondering, Marion Barber and Brandon Jacobs are the only two lead backs that won't see any of those defenses at least once the rest of the way.
Keep the above list in mind when considering upcoming adds/drops and trades. Now, let's get to the rest of the weekend that was …
Week 7: Take 10
A look at 10 significant developments/situations from Week 7
1. I have to give props to Willis McGahee for a gutsy effort against Miami on Sunday – 19 carries, 105 yards, TD, 47 receiving yards. He, reportedly, dealt with a lot of pain in his surgically-repaired knee during the game. But he battled through against a Dolphins defense that was second-best in fantasy against opposing running backs coming into the game. If McGahee can continue to suck it up like he did on Sunday, he's likely to continue to make a positive impact in fantasy, as he's got Oakland, Cleveland and Houston on tap over the next three weeks.
2. For the second consecutive week, Ryan Grant topped 30 carries, and this time the results were more in line with what you'd expect with that kind of workload – 31 carries, 105 yards, TD. His 3.4 yards per carry against Indy may not have you completely convinced that he's truly digging himself out of an early-season, injury-aided hole, but last year's breakout star deserves to be cut some slack. I watched Grant get hit almost immediately after he was handed the ball a few times against the Colts. He had no chance on the three carries that resulted in negative-10 rushing yards. He also was put in a situation, with the team nursing an early lead and trying to run a conservative game plan to protect QB Aaron Rodgers' sore shoulder, where Indy knew that Grant was going to the main man. Grant did what he had to do in his final game before a Week 8 bye. Unfortunately, he comes out of the break with a murderous schedule ahead, facing Tennessee, Minnesota, Chicago, New Orleans and Carolina in succession.
3. Consider me firmly on the Kyle Orton bandwagon. He looks completely different than the quarterback I saw in Chicago in '07 and '05. He's permeating a confidence now that I haven't seen before. His decisions are quicker, there's more snap on his passes and he's distributing the wealth in a manner that would make fellow Purdue alum Drew Brees proud. On Sunday, he completed at least two passes to seven different receivers. He finished with 283 yards and 2 TD passes, but should have had a third scoring toss had Marty Booker not dropped a perfect dart in the end zone – it was one of two balls that Booker could have turned into scores, in addition to a curl route in the third quarter that he turned into a 51-yard touchdown. Back to Orton, I think you have to consider him a legit top 10-12 fantasy quarterback, at this point.
4. Painted grass continues to save Marshawn Lynch's butt. He finished with just 70 rushing yards on 19 carries against San Diego on Sunday, meaning that he still hasn't hit the 90-yard mark this season in six games. But he found pay dirt against the Chargers, giving him five scores on the year. His touchdown run didn't involve much skill, as he took a handoff around the right side of the line of scrimmage and, thanks to a great block by Fred Jackson, waltzed in to the end zone virtually untouched. Still, give him credit for grinding out production on a weekly basis. The feeling in Buffalo is that the team hasn't done a very good job opening up holes for Lynch and that Lynch is taking the yards that have been available to him. And, at least the Bills are making something happen for him in the red zone – only Marion Barber, Larry Johnson and Frank Gore have handled a higher percentage of his team's red zone carries than Lynch. If you are a Lynch owner, don't be too concerned about the lack of yardage production. This team is not even close to pointing a finger at "Beast-mode" for the team's running game issues.
5. I made a dubious last-minute lineup decision in the Friends and Family League on Sunday morning, one that will likely cost me a victory against arch-rival Brad Evans. I decided to roll with Steve Slaton over Steven Jackson given that, a.) Slaton was facing the Lions; b.) Evans has an unhealthy fascination for Slaton; and c.) Evans has tried for weeks to make a deal for the rookie and was even willing to promise not to play Slaton against me this week if I traded him to him. My vindictiveness appears to have cost me, as I lead Evans by three points heading into Monday night with his Randy Moss still to go. Of course, had I stuck to S-Jax, I'd be sitting on a much more comfortable 24-point lead. The message that Jackson sent me this past week is that he's still a weekly must-start. Sorry, that's not much in the way of analysis, I just needed an avenue to channel my self-loathing.
6. Scott Pianowski billed Clinton Portis as the early leader in the MVP race, and I think I'm ready to get behind that line of thinking. Last week I moved Frank Gore to the top of my Big Board, due in large part to his consistent week-to-week production – he'd been a top 15 fantasy back each week prior to his 61 yfs, 0 TD letdown against the Giants on Sunday. Many people wrote to me in protest of the Gore appointment, lobbying for Portis instead. Portis backed up their support by hanging 175 rushing yards and a TD on the Browns in Week 7. It was his fourth-consecutive 100-yard effort and the fifth time in his past six games that he's found the end zone. And he's managed to beat up on both the stronger and weaker of run defenses, even when he's not been in the best of health – he was struggling with a hip flexor injury prior to Week 7. He's No. 1 this week, and the appointment will come with a bit of an apology.
7. Marques Colston returned from a broken thumb in Week 7, sort of. After dropping a couple early passes and appearing out of sync with Drew Brees, Colston was pulled from the game – he finished with zero receptions. His fantasy owners shouldn't be too worried. A full week of practice will do him a lot of good as far as getting back up to speed. And he has some nice matchups ahead with San Diego in Week 8, then Atlanta in Week 10 after a bye. The Chiefs follow the Falcons and, while Kansas City, on paper, looks like a quality defense against the pass, they're not. The Chiefs have struggled all year against quality wideouts, but their numbers look better because run-heavy teams like Oakland and Tennessee hardly even bothered throwing to its receivers when they squared off.
8. 49ers rookie Josh Morgan garnered some preseason buzz, but got lost in the shuffle behind Bryant Johnson and Arnaz Battle once the regular season got underway. On Sunday, though, Morgan replaced Johnson in the starting lineup and delivered with five catches for 86 yards and a nice 30-yard TD grab in the second quarter. His performance has solidified his standing as a starter. Mike Martz really likes this guy, and now that Mike Nolan has been fired, Martz has even more power to wield. He's likely to give Morgan plenty of opportunities to show what he's made of. That should work out well for the immediate future as Morgan gets a Seattle defense allowing the second-most fantasy points to receivers in Week 8 – Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson combined for 231 yards and a TD against the Seahawks in Week 2.
9. I had a feeling that the trade of Roy Williams to Dallas was going to be an addition-by-subtraction move for the Lions, and Calvin Johnson. Williams and Johnson were too much alike in that both are more of the deep-ball, sideline-type targets. It's pretty easy for safeties to guard against two guys like that. With Mike Furrey working underneath and the middle of the field, Johnson was able to break loose for 154 receiving yards and a TD. Sure, he only caught two passes, but I don't think it was a coincidence that both those catches were longer than any catch he'd had previously in his career. Detroit looked to Johnson deep four times, and I expect it's a trend that will continue. Johnson could be hit-or-miss in this set up with Dan Orlovsky at quarterback but, as we saw on Sunday, those hits will pay off very nicely.
10. It's a tough time to be a Seattle sports fan. After losing the NBA's SuperSonics, we've had to endure a 100-loss season from the Mariners, a 0-6 start from the Washington Husky football team and a now a 1-5 start from the Seahawks. It sounds like the 'Hawks will be without QB Matt Hasselbeck for at least Week 8, and very possibly longer. At this point, I wouldn't trust a single Seattle offensive player, with the possible exception of rookie tight end John Carlson, who has turned five red zone targets over the past two weeks into two touchdowns.
WEEK 7 SHORT LIST
Players that need to be on your mind heading into Week 7
J.T. O'Sullivan, SF (63% owned in Plus leagues)
Admittedly, O'Sullivan is a turnover factory – 9 INTs, 3 Fumbles Lost in his past four games. But, in Week 8 he'll face a Seattle defense that can't buy a turnover – 1 INT, 4 Fumble Recoveries. In Week 2 at Seattle, O'Sullivan enjoyed, arguably, his best day as a pro, throwing for 321 yards and a TD (0 INT) against the Seahawks, and also tacked on an additional 32 yards on the ground. Mike Martz, having schemed against Seattle for years in St. Louis, will have his QB prepared for this Week 8 showdown.
Marc Bulger, StL (40% owned)
Bulger still hasn't topped the 200-yard passing mark this season, but at least some optimism has returned to St. Louis after two consecutive victories over tough NFC East foes. And Bulger had his highest QB rating of the season (119.0) on Sunday against Dallas. In Week 8, the Rams will face a New England defense that had allowed three touchdown passes in each of its two games prior to Monday night.
Gus Frerotte, Min (28% owned)
Frerotte is on bye in Week 8, so he's of no immediate help. That said, Frerotte should probably be rostered in most leagues of 12-plus teams. In the past five weeks, only Drew Brees and Kyle Orton have thrown for more passing yards (1,286) – Frerotte has topped 200 passing yards in each of those five games. And to add to his intrigue, in the four-week span of Weeks 12-15, crunch time for owners, he'll face three of fantasy's four most generous defenses to opposing QBs (Jacksonville, Detroit, Arizona).
Jeff Garcia, TB (59% owned)
Sunday night's 300-yard passing performance against Seattle was Garcia's first since Week 7 of last season. Garcia was in vintage form against the Seahawks, scrambling around and making plays like he was at recess in the school yard. In his past three games, Garcia has completed a laser-accurate 75 percent of his passes (55-for-73). He's not a bad bye-week filler in Week 8 against a Cowboys defense that has allowed 7 TD passes in there past four games. And, looking long-term, Garcia really only has one matchup that ranks as perilous for QBs the rest of the way – at Carolina in Week 14. With a relatively soft schedule remaining, Garcia makes for good backup insurance.
Cedric Benson, Cin (35% owned)
You have to give Benson credit. He picked up 52 rushing yards on 14 carries against, perhaps, the toughest run defense in the league. And, while the game turned into a blowout when the Steelers scored 21 fourth-quarter points, Benson did all his damage with the game hanging in the balance. When he ripped off a 15-yard run early in the fourth quarter, it marked the longest run against the Steelers this season. The game was 17-10 in Pittsburgh's favor at the time. Benson saw just one carry after that, resulting in a 2-yard loss. As illustrated in the opening statement above, Benson has a fairly soft schedule ahead, starting with a matchup with the Texans in Week 8. Benson may have burned many of you in the past, but fantasy is no place to hold a grudge.
Jamaal Charles, KC (20% owned)
Reports are that Larry Johnson could be slapped with a league suspension for shady off-the-field behavior. The true nature of LJ's transgressions will likely be better explained in the next week or so. In the mean time, those owners with a bench spot to play with may want to stash the rookie Charles, who's upside vastly trumps that of Kolby Smith. Smith might get the favored amount of carries in the short-term if LJ is out, but Charles was considered a top five running back talent in this year's class by many scouting services, and he'd be the better long-term gamble. Again, this is all contingent upon how the LJ mess plays out.
Kevin Curtis, Phi (63% owned)
While his hernia recovery ultimately fell to the pessimistic side of return expectations, Curtis is finally back this week. He practiced Monday and is expected to be re-inserted into the starting lineup from the get-go. This is likely the last chance to grab an important piece of Philly's pass-heavy attack.
Antonio Bryant, TB (54% owned)
Bryant man-handled the Seahawks corners on Sunday night, finishing with 6 catches, 115 yards and a TD. And, while his production has been erratic from week-to-week, he does rate out as a top 20 fantasy receiver over the past five weeks. As mentioned in the Garcia blurb above, the Bucs have a fairly pass-friendly schedule ahead, making the big-bodied Bryant a nice gamble.
Mike Furrey, Det (3% owned)
Furrey, not Shaun McDonald, proved to be a much more valuable compliment to Calvin Johnson in the first game since the Lions traded away Roy Williams. At Houston, Furrey hauled in 6 catches for 89 yards. Remember, Furrey hauled in 98 passes for 1,086 yards just two years ago before Calvin Johnson came aboard and Mike Martz departed for San Francisco. Even as a No. 3 behind Williams and Johnson last season, he grabbed a healthy 61 passes for 664 yards. While not much of a TD threat, he's a good possession receiver that could have a lot of games where he nets 5-7 catches for 60-80 yards from here on out.
Donnie Avery, StL (22% owned)
For the second consecutive week, the rookie led the Rams in receiving yards, and he also found pay dirt for the first time. The speedster is averaging 69 receiving yards in his past two, catching a pass of 40-plus yards in each contest.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Min (36% owned)
Like Bernard Berrian, Shiancoe couldn't be happier with the switch to Gus Frerotte at QB. With Frerotte in control of the offense, Shiancoe has been a top five fantasy tight end over the past five weeks, finding the end zone three times in that span. He enjoyed his best game of the season on Sunday against Chicago, catching four balls for 68 yards and a score. He's on bye this week, but his recent production warrants an early pickup for those that aren't riding long-term solutions at the position.
Steven Jackson, StL (thigh)
S-Jax tweaked his thigh muscle in the process of running all over the Cowboys on Sunday. The early expectations are that he'll have a light week of practice and be good to go for New England in Week 8.
Reggie Bush, NO (knee)
The NFL touchdown leader (8, tied with LenDale White) had arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee on Monday. The timetable for a return is roughly a month, meaning that he'd miss at least three games (bye in Week 9). His owners should pray for a quicker recovery, one that could get him back in time for a delicious matchup with the Chiefs in Week 11.
Brian Westbrook, Phi (ribs)
The hope was that a Week 7 bye would treat Westbrook right. While Westbrook came out of the bye talking about being on track to play in Week 8, expect a game-time decision cloud to hang over his head again this week.
Warrick Dunn, TB (back)
Dunn pinched a nerve in his back on Sunday night and is likely to be questionable for the Dallas game in Week 8.
Jeremy Shockey, NO (hernia)
After his Week 7 return, Shockey is pointing a finger at the Saints for, perhaps, coming back too soon from his hernia surgery. His participation in a Week 8 matchup with San Diego in London, England is now in doubt.