There's two more bye weeks remaining and, for a majority of Yahoo! leagues, just a couple weeks before the trading deadline hits. For owners riding just a pray of making the playoffs, it's trim-the-fat time. We're getting to a point where depth matters less and top-end fire power matters much more. In my "buddies" league, I'm going to drop to 3-5 this week despite scoring 20 points more than every team in the league other than my opponent. I have a lot of depth in this league (Kurt Warner, Matt Schaub at QB; LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, LenDale White at RB; Steve Smith, Braylon Edwards, Kevin Walter, Marvin Harrison at WR). We only start one QB, two RBs and two WRs, and my depth has resulted in a comedy of bad starting lineup judgment calls that have helped deliver me to my current 3-5 predicament. My team is a classic example of a team that needs to trim the fat and make a go-for-broke push for the playoffs.
Each week, two top 20 RBs and a top 10 QB sit on my bench. This makes a little more sense early in the year when you need quality depth to navigate bye weeks. But as the bye weeks near an end and the playoffs come into view, this depth is a luxury item best avoided. I need to be out there this week or next shopping my extra quarterback and/or running backs for a top-notch receiver to plug in next to Steve Smith. Teams with its back to the playoff wall are not going to make the promised land with robust talent on its depth chart. It's going to make that leap by maximizing its starting roster. Open up the lines of communication with your fellow owners. it's time …
Week 8: Take 10
A look at 10 notable developments/situations from Week 8
1. I've been advocating patience on LaDainian Tomlinson all season, arguing that you can fully recover from a turf toe in season. That toe issue sure looked like a non-factor against New Orleans in London, England on Sunday. LT busted two rushes of over 25 yards and flashed some lightning as a receiver out of the backfield, catching five balls for 65 yards to go with 105 yards on the ground. Now LT heads into a bye to put the final recuperating touches on that toe before returning with, arguably, the softest schedule for a running back from Weeks 10-16.
2. I'd say it's official at this point: Michael Turner can't be trusted in a tough matchup. He's now failed four straight times to top 60 rushing yards or score a touchdown when faced with a defense allowing 4.0 yards per carry or less. Those teams: Tampa Bay, Carolina, Chicago and Philadelphia. Luckily for Turner owners, the immediate future looks bright. His next three opponents (Oakland, New Orleans, Denver) all land on the softer side when it comes to stopping the run.
3. Terrell Owens has been miserable in two games under the direction of backup quarterback Brad Johnson. And, while he's averaged just 32 receiving yards the past two games, let's not forget that all was not peachy for Owens leading up to Romo's injury. Yes, Owens found pay dirt five times in the six games Romo played, but he failed to top 89 yards in any of those contests, and two of those games – 2-for-17 in Week 3 and 4-for-36 in Week 6 – were every bit as bad as what we've seen with Johnson in command. There are rumors afloat that third-stringer Brooks Bollinger could get a shot in Week 9 given Johnson's struggles to ignite the offense. It's hard to say how that would effect Owens, but I don't know how it could make things worse. For the record, Owens has gone off against his upcoming opponent, the New York Giants, in recent years. TO has scored nine touchdowns in his past seven contests against the Giants, including five scores in three meetings last season.
4. Life after Brady may not be as dire for Randy Moss as it first seemed. Sunday against the Rams, Moss topped 100 yards for the third time this season. With St. Louis overplaying him deep, Moss was able to turn some short crossing routes into big gainers. In the past four games, Moss is averaging 77 receiving yards and has scored three touchdowns – which would be considered good for any receiver not coming off a 1,500-yard, 23-TD season. Before you think about selling Moss off as he's getting hot again, be sure to consider his holiday-season schedule. In Week 12 he faces a Miami team allowing the second-most fantasy points to WRs. Week 13 is no good – Pittsburgh. But then he gets Seattle in Week 14 – third-most to WRs. In Week 15 it's Oakland, a team that has been pretty solid against receivers. But if you don't think Moss will do everything in his power to stick it to his former team, you're kidding yourself. Then in Week 16, he meets an Arizona team allowing the fifth-most fantasy production to the receiver position. Other than that Pittsburgh game, you have to love the way his stretch run is lined up.
5. Kurt Warner currently clocks in at No. 30 on my Big Board, but I'm gonna have a hard time putting a quarterback, save Drew Brees, ahead of him when I update the list this week. Warner's 381-yard, two touchdown effort at Carolina in Week 8 looks even more impressive when you consider that no quarterback had previously topped 231 yards against the Panthers this season – Brees reached the 231-yard mark the previous week. In his past 15 games, Warner has thrown 35 TD passes and amassed 4,451 yards through the air. Admittedly, he's probably the best signal-caller that fantasy has to offer at the moment, but the age/injury history thing makes that a hard statement to commit to.
6. Two "name" receivers, Joey Galloway and Kevin Curtis, returned in Week 8 after lengthy injury layoffs. And although neither made much of an impact – Galloway picked up three catches for 38 yards against Dallas and Curtis went for 45 yards on three catches against Atlanta – they both definitely need to be owned in most all leagues. Neither faces a particularly tough schedule the rest of the way, and both are go-to types for two of the most pass-happy teams in the league – Tampa Bay (38.1) leads the league in pass attempts per game, while Philly clocks in at sixth in that department (36.3). Galloway is currently available in 53 percent of Yahoo! Plus leagues, while Curtis is available in close to 20 percent of those leagues.
7. I had little faith that a deep-ball specialist like Lee Evans would be able to overcome the long-pass shortcomings of QB Trent Edwards. Last season, Evans was much better with a strong-armed J.P. Losman behind center than when Edwards was in there. But Evans has been better than ever in '08, showing a consistency at the position rivaled by very few. On Sunday, Evans topped the 100-yard mark for the third time this season. He has yet to deliver less than 65 yards in any game this season, and he has a reception of 33-plus yards in six of his seven games. It's not that I was an Evans hater, I just didn't hold out much hope for his situation. But it's clear that worry was much ado about nothing.
8. Ray Rice hasn't yet made the impact I predicted for him in preseason, but it's interesting to note that he's fourth among RBs in catches (12) and third at the position in receiving yards (147) in the past three weeks. In fact, his 247 yards from scrimmage in that span ranks 10th among all backs. No question, Willis McGahee is the lead dog here but, throw out his Week 7 performance at Miami (152 yfs, TD) and he's produced 75 yards from scrimmage or less in each of his other five games. He's also lost fumbles in his past two. On Sunday, Baltimore jazzed up the offensive package by employing backup quarterback Troy Smith in concert with Joe Flacco in a single-wing formation. Smith completed a 43-yard pass to Flacco in this set. He also ran an option pitch to Rice that went for 21 yards. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is a well-regarded strategist, and the team is talking about making the single-wing an integral part of the offense moving forward. Said head coach John Harbaugh: "We could see using that package every game. I think people that are preparing to play against us are going to have to be prepared for it every week. We're just scratching the surface of the things that we have in. That's going to be a viable part of our offense all the way through." If Harbaugh holds true to his word, it certainly favors Rice continuing to be an integral part of what's going on. In addition to showing more explosiveness than McGahee in the running game, Rice's excellent receiving ability has been on display for weeks. And Cameron has always favored versatile backs. McGahee's not going away, but he could be marginalized a bit more going forward.
9. Both my colleagues Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski dismissed two long touchdowns receptions by Seattle fullback Leonard Weaver as products of bad defense by San Francisco. Fair enough. But I feel it a bit necessary to defend Weaver. If there was a combine-type NFL competition for fullbacks, Weaver would be one of the favorites. His speed and hands are among the best at the position. If he hadn't suffered an ankle injury in the preseason of '06, he'd likely have beat out Maurice Morris for the backup tailback job to Shaun Alexander. As a Seattle fan, I favor any kind of offensive developments that involve Weaver handling the ball more. That said, Sunday was very likely the entirety of his 15 minutes of fame for '08.
10. One thing that should be no secret at this point in regards to the Mike Martz-led San Francisco offense is that it requires the quarterback to hold on to the ball too long. At least, that's true for a team like the 49ers that really can't sustain its blocks on the offensive line that long. J.T. O'Sullivan suffered three sacks before halftime on Sunday against Seattle, and had several other near-misses before getting benched just before the half expired. Backup Shaun Hill seemed to favor self-preservation over running Martz's offense by the book. While O'Sullivan waited in vain for things to develop vertically, Hill went almost exclusively to a quick-hitter approach. If Hill sticks, it's likely to be a bit of a boost for Frank Gore, who picked up 48 receiving yards on four receptions in two quarters of work with Hill.
WEEK 8 SHORT LIST
Players that need to be on your mind heading into Week 8
Gus Frerotte, Min (24% owned in Plus leagues)
Don't let a Week 8 bye cloud the memory of Frerotte's performances leading into his break. Frerotte has thrown for 200-plus yards in each of his five games, and has tossed a touchdown pass in four of those games. But, his biggest selling point is one of the most fantasy-friendly schedules in the second half of the season, with matchups against the two most generous defenses to opposing QBs – Detroit and Arizona – in Weeks 14-15.
Marc Bulger, StL (48% owned)
Bulger's remaining schedule is every bit the cakewalk that Frerotte's promises to be, with Arizona (twice), Seattle and Miami on tap over the remaining weeks of the season. With Rams rookie receiver Donnie Avery growing some horns over the past three games, Bulger should benefit from St. Louis being able to represent offensive balance going forward. Having a weapon like the speedster Avery in addition to running back Steven Jackson and veteran wideout Torry Holt, should give opposing defenses enough to think about to keep them honest.
Chad Pennington, Mia (62% owned)
One of my all-time personal favorites, Pennington is the No. 4 fantasy quarterback over the past three weeks – 4 TD passes and an average of 298 passing yards. With Denver and Seattle on tap in the next two weeks, Pennington is a solid addition for any owner still anticipating a bye week for their starting quarterback.
Matt Ryan, Atl (63% owned)
As I've been saying all year, this guy is one of the NFL's next major stars at quarterback. He's a near-perfect blend of talent and intangibles, and he has one of the best receivers in the league at his disposal in Roddy White, a wideout that has proven that there is no matchup too daunting. At this point, I think you can feel entirely comfortable employing Ryan as injury/bye insurance for your starter.
Ray Rice, Bal (15% owned)
See observation No. 8 (above)
Leon Washington, NYJ (39% owned)
Washington is sort of the AFC's version of Jerious Norwood, the backup that almost everyone feels is deserving of a much larger role. On Sunday, Washington reminded us why that is, scoring on an 18-yard pass from Brett Favre in the first quarter, and romping 60 yards for a score just before halftime. He finished with 101 yards from scrimmage against Kansas City despite just six touches (three carries, three catches). Considering incumbent Thomas Jones failed to step up in a cherry matchup against the Chiefs and Washington had to bail the team out, it's conceivable that a more equitable time-share is not far off.
Ricky Williams, Mia (48% owned)
Williams has been hit-and-miss this season and is a clear second-fiddle to Ronnie Brown these days, but this waiver recommendation is solely about Williams' upcoming opponent, the Denver Broncos. For owners looking for a bye-week filler, Williams stands out against a Broncos defense that has allowed 78 percent more fantasy points to RBs than the league average in the past three weeks.
Ryan Torain, Den (33% owned)
This is simply yet another reminder that Mike Shanahan really likes the rookie from Arizona St. and that there is much speculation that, now that Torain is in line to finally see the field after nursing an elbow injury all season, he could evolve into the team's lead back at some point before the end of the season.
Donnie Avery, StL (67% owned)
After an electric 163-yard, 1 TD performance at New England on Sunday, it's last call on the lightning-fast rookie, the top receiver selected in April's draft.
Matt Jones, Jac (33% owned)
He's likely to be suspended for a period of time at some point before the end of the season but, until then, Jones belongs on a fantasy roster. He's finally putting his size and speed to good use, and is developing a strong rapport with quarterback David Garrard, who has connected with the former Arkansas quarterback at least five times in all but one game. Jones is coming off his best performance of the season, grabbing eight passes for 117 yards and a TD against Cleveland on Sunday.
Zach Miller, Oak (57% owned)
Miller is averaging 63.5 receiving yards over his past four games and hasn't been worse than 46 yards in that span. He's the most reliable option Oakland has in the passing game.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Jac (33% owned)
Shiancoe is loving life with Gus Frerotte at QB. The two have connected for touchdowns three times in the five games they've worked together. And Shiancoe enjoyed his best game of the season in Week 7, catching four balls for 68 yards and a score.
Clinton Portis, Was (hip/ankle)
While you wouldn't know it by his performance on the field – five straight games with 120-plus rushing yards – Portis is starting to pile up injuries. He took it easy in practice leading up to Week 8 because of a hip flexor issue. And late in Sunday's victory over the Lions, Portis tweaked his ankle. The injuries, however, aren't expected to keep him from going for a six straight 120-yard game in Week 9.
Santana Moss, Was (hamstring)
Moss tweaked his hamstring against the Lions, although it is not considered severe. That said, there's a good chance he'll head into next weekend with a "Questionable" tag hanging over him.
Josh Reed, Buf (ankle)
Reed is expected to miss 2-3 weeks after suffering injuries to his Achilles and ankle on Sunday at Miami. Roscoe Parrish becomes a receiver of interest with Reed out.
Jason Witten, Dal (ribs)
Witten sustained a rib injury on Sunday against Tampa Bay. While the early reports are that he did not break any ribs, he still looks like he'll be highly questionable for Week 9 at division-rival the New York Giants.