Sunday marked Week 3 of fantasy football PhD. No, The Skinny isn't taking graduate courses in rotisserie sports. In this case, PhD is short for "post high-def." As in: it's been three weeks since my brother's high-def big screen shorted out. His record at the time was 5-1. This week's loss will drop him to 5-4. Coincidence? Probably, but even fantasy owners know you don't mess with a winning streak. Same chair, same TV, same lucky shirt – it's that simple. Personally, I'm hoping for a quick repair job. The bar tabs are cheaper at his place. What – you thought I cared about how his team fares? On to Week 9:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Five weeks ago, Buffalo was a fantasy wasteland. The team was 0-4, Drew Bledsoe had been sacked 18 times and their most valuable fantasy commodity, Travis Henry, had yet to score a touchdown. Does anyone recognize this team now? Was a yet-to-be-aired episode of "Pimp My Ride" featuring the Buffalo offense taped after Week 5? You must admit – even Xzibit and the West Coast Customs crew would be impressed by this transformation. Bledsoe hasn't been sacked in two weeks, Willis McGahee has added a few horsepower to the running game and Eric Moulds (targeted 10 times Sunday) remains his old reliable self.
But the newly modified accessory with the most fantasy relevance is Lee Evans. With three receptions of more than 45 yards this season, Evans was already on the radar as a big-play threat. Sunday he showed he can be converted into a possession receiver on the fly. He caught a four-yard touchdown pass that put the Bills up for good and also hauled in a 27-yarder on Buffalo's final drive that allowed them to kill the clock. He was targeted seven times on the day (six in the second half) and finished with five catches for 64 yards. He's probably available in your league and makes a decent speculative add as Buffalo is desperate to find a reliable No. 2 option opposite Moulds.
- Tired of promos for "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss?" Well, now you know what it feels like to share cube space with The Skinny, who spent the good part of last week telling anyone who would listen that Brian Griese was in for a huge second half. Sorry friends: Griese's 296-yard, two-touchdown performance Sunday only added fuel to the fire. Let's not forget that Jon Gruden already turned one journeyman quarterback into a league MVP. Griese and Rich Gannon are very different quarterbacks, but the parallels between Griese in 2004 and Gannon in 2002 are striking.
In 2002 Gannon leaned heavily on Charlie Garner, a role being played in Tampa this year by Michael Pittman, who has 322 total yards and four touchdowns in the past two weeks. Jerry Porter emerged for Oakland in 2002 much as Michael Clayton has exploded onto the scene for the Bucs. He has at least 80 yards or a touchdown in four of his last five games. Tim Brown, of course, was present for both resurrections. If you're at all worried about your starting quarterback's matchups in the playoff weeks, sign Griese now if only to own him for his Week 15 feast against New Orleans.
- Coach Tom Coughlin admits he almost made the move. After Kurt Warner threw two interceptions and killed two more drives with fumbles, Coughlin considered benching Warner in favor of rookie Eli Manning. It would have been Manning's first game action since Week 1. Warner turned the ball over only twice in the season's first five weeks. The team was 4-1 at the time, and there was little public pressure to play Manning. Since then, Warner has fumbled eight times, thrown three interceptions and been sacked 18 times. New York has lost two of three.
Fantasy owners wouldn't mind a change to Manning. Warner's real-life success hasn't translated into fantasy. Minimizing mistakes doesn't light up the StatTracker, and that's what Warner has been good at – at least until Week 7. Coughlin has already named Warner as his Week 10 starter, but his leash is as short as it's been all year. Another group that wouldn't mind a change: New York wide receivers. Through Week 9 they have accounted for one touchdown.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- David Garrard, QB, JAX
Byron Leftwich will miss at least one start and probably several. The timing of his injury before a bye week works to the advantage of Garrard, who gets a full week of reps and then some with the starting offense in advance of next week's game against Detroit. We don't know much about what this kid is capable of – but we know he's confident and athletic. In his first NFL game back in 2002 he rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Last year he appeared in one game and completed 9-of-12 passes with one touchdown.
- Jesse Chatman, RB, SD
Curiously, Chatman is available in well above half of Yahoo! leagues. That means at least 60 percent of LaDainian Tomlinson owners are passing on a valuable insurance policy that is just a mouse click away. Chatman led San Diego in rushing Sunday and is now averaging a ridiculous 7.2 yards per carry. Sure, Tomlinson has a bye week to rest his injured groin, but right now you can't afford not to back him up with Chatman.
- Shaun McDonald, WR, STL
With Dane Looker nursing a bum knee, McDonald has excelled as St. Louis' No. 3 wideout. He was targeted a modest five times in Week 9 and finished with 3 receptions for 33 yards in the loss to New England. Despite the dip in production Sunday, he still has three touchdowns in his last five games. he also handles punts for the Rams which adds additional value in leagues that credit return yards.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Santana Moss, WR, NYJ – In an effort to awaken Moss from his season-long slumber, the Jets tried something drastic Sunday. They threw to him. Moss was targeted a season-high nine times and he responded with six catches for 157 yards and a score. Justin McCareins also scored Sunday, proving these two can co-exist on fantasy rosters.
Ken Dilger, TE, TB – Dilger scored for the second time in his last three games Sunday and was quarterback Brian Griese's second-favorite target (thrown to seven times) after Michael Clayton.
Johnnie Morton, WR, KC – Morton caught six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown Sunday. After going 13 games without a touchdown, Morton now has at least 100 yards or a score in three of his last four games.
Jerome Bettis, RB, PIT – Bettis' longest run from scrimmage Sunday, a graceful 24-yard scamper, came on his 30th carry. Are there any original "Bus has something left in the tank" jokes out there?
Josh McCown, QB, ARI – After back-to-back road tests against tough pass defenses, McCown gets to stay home in four of the next six weeks. Chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald has survived Anquan Boldin's return.
Boo Williams, TE, NO – In last week's Fantasy Forum, Yahoo!'s own Mike Harmon tagged Williams as the tight end to watch in the second half. Sunday he was targeted eight times by a struggling Aaron Brooks. The two hooked up five times for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Drew Brees, QB, SD – In five home games, Brees has thrown 15 touchdowns against only two interceptions. Next week's road foe, Oakland, has allowed a league-high 19 touchdowns through the air.
Kevan Barlow, RB, SF – Scored his fourth touchdown of the season Sunday, but managed just 27 yards on his last 12 carries. Why the upgrade? Next week San Francisco faces a Carolina team that has allowed a league-worst 13 rushing touchdowns.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, HOU – Gaffney extended his streak of games with at least five catches and 80 yards to three on Sunday. Next up: a fantasy-friendly matchup against Indianapolis.
Travis Henry, RB, BUF – Henry was limited to four touches Sunday. If this is what being a "co-starter" is like, how would a full-blown demotion take shape? A trade to the Montreal Alouettes, perhaps?
Larry Johnson, RB, KC – Showed some versatility by catching four balls for 38 yards, but could muster only 21 yards on 10 carries given nearly a full half to showcase his talents.
Marty Booker, WR, MIA – Enjoyed a mild breakthrough Sunday with four catches for 91 yards, but left with a high ankle sprain that may sideline him for two-to-six weeks.
Kevin Jones, RB, DET – As a team, Detroit is averaging a league-low 3.2 yards per carry. Jones didn't help that average when he picked up just 20 yards on 12 carries Sunday.
Donte' Stallworth, WR, NO – Stallworth did not start Sunday and didn't catch a pass in a blowout loss at San Diego. This is particularly disconcerting when you consider that the Saints had plenty of chances to use three-receiver sets after trailing 20-7 at half and 36-7 in the third quarter.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
7.5 Average number of second-half pass attempts for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh's last four wins. The Steelers have thrown 7, 6, 13 and 4 times after the break in those games. Imagine the type of fantasy numbers Big Ben could put if Pittsburgh was involved in weekly shootouts.