by Jeff West
November 12, 2004
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    This weekly article will discuss those players “Heading North” (fantasy value is rising), “Going South” (fantasy value is falling), or “East-West” (fantasy value is still undetermined, but worth watching).

    Last week I was lamenting my choices from week eight as those heading north.  This week I get to bask in the glory of a job well done.  I said Onterrio Smith would be the man with the job in Minnesota, and he took over immediately.  He finished with 95 total yards and a TD.  He averaged more than six yards every time he touched the ball.  The other RB I touted was Willis McGahee.  McGahee ran for 132 yards and a TD and added a couple pass receptions.  Finally, I said now was the time when Trent Green would begin to put things together and become a legit fantasy starter again.  He had a second straight solid outing, passing for 369 yards and three TDs.  Unfortunately he also tossed a couple to the other team, but that shouldn't have hurt his points too badly.

    For the players going south, the leader of the pair was Amani Toomer.  He caught two passes for 34 yards in yet another disappointing outing.  He is no longer the threat he once was, and a focus on the rushing game makes it unlikely that he will get the chance to reverse current trends.  Another WR who routinely disappoints is Donte' Stallworth.  Not only did he not catch a pass last week, the QB never even attempted to throw one his way as he had zero pass targets.  New Orleans does have offensive weapons, and Stallworth will probably have a hundred-yard, two-TD game sometime before the end of the season, but fantasy owners can't hope for that to happen each week.  Deal him or cut him.

    Of the players on the watch list last week, one had a solid week, one had an outstanding week, and another had a quiet week.  Eric Johnson managed five receptions for 54 yards, but no scores.  He's still getting targeted by Tim Rattay, but Brandon Lloyd has stepped up and become the focal point of the passing offense.  Johnson is still a good fantasy starter each week, but he won't have many more gargantuan efforts.  Rookie Bob Sanders stepped into the starting safety position for the injured Mike Doss.  The team did not miss a beat and held Daunte Culpepper to one TD pass and less than 200 yards passing.  Sanders led the team with seven solo tackles.  Finally, Clarence Moore only caught two passes against Cleveland, but one was for a two-point conversion.  Moore isn't going to blow up and help a fantasy team this year, but deep keeper and dynasty league owners will want to continue to track his progress.

Heading North

    One of the better offenses in the AFC is the Houston Texans.  Quietly, they've put together a solid squad with dangerous weapons and reliable role players.  Leading this group is QB David Carr.  While his numbers last week (245 yards passing with no TDs) won't excite anyone, his numbers in week ten should be markedly improved as he faces a Colts defense that will give up yards.  Carr has his favorite target, Andre Johnson, and has also learned to use his other wideouts, Jabar Gaffney, Derick Armstrong, and Corey Bradford effectively when Johnson is taken away.  Add a solid rushing game, which is getting healthy again, and things look bright for Carr.

    Just two weeks removed from a four-TD effort, Derrick Blaylock wasn't even activated against the Bucs as he was nursing a sore thigh.  Now, with Priest Holmes sidelined, Blaylock will get the call against the Saints in week ten.  The Saints have not slowed anyone down and Blaylock should get plenty of carries.  Larry Johnson will spell Blaylock, but his efforts in week nine did not impress the coaches enough to make him the focal point of the offense this week.

    He's back.  Domanick Davis is not on the injury list this week and is coming off a solid effort against a tough Bronco defense.  Davis scored two rushing TDs in week nine.  With his team facing Indy this week, Davis should easily top 100 yards and could score a couple times again.  Davis is still an injury risk, but when he's healthy, he's a performer.

Going South

    The Redskins counted on a key TD pass early in the second half to give them the spark they needed to win a game against the Lions last week.  The pass was thrown by Clinton Portis.  The Skins QB, Mark Brunell, has played more and more poorly each week.  Brunell managed to throw for 58 yards and completed only six of 17 passes.  The fans and media are turning on Joe Gibbs and his QB decisions.  It won't be long before Patrick Ramsey gets another shot and Brunell is on the bench.

    He was one of the wonder boys at the beginning of the season.  But lately he's been battling injuries and just plain sputtering.  To make matters even worse, Warrick Dunn has done next to nothing against his former team, the Buccaneers.  In two games, he has 18 carries for only 21 yards.  Dunn had a bye week to rest his legs, but it won't do him any good.  Leave him on the bench.

East-West

    Chad Pennington will be out of the line up for a couple weeks, minimum.  Taking his place will be the beleaguered Quincy Carter.  The Jets will, most likely, turn to Curtis Martin and hope he can carry them through Pennington's absence.  Defenses will be planning for this, and if they are able to slow him down, Carter will have to go to the air or resort to his own scrambling ability to gain yards.  At this point I'd use Carter as a bye-week fill in or in an emergency situation.  There's no doubt he can throw for 300 yards, but it is unwise to expect it.

    The return of Joe Jurevicius to the Buccaneer lineup is a much welcomed return.  Jurevicius will take some of the pressure of teammates Michael Clayton, Brian Griese, and Michael Pittman.  While Jurevicius is not a legitimate fantasy threat, he is a red zone target and might be a guy to watch if you play in a scoring only league.

    Every week LaDainian Tomlinson is producing.  He carries the ball, catches the ball, and scores.  But he has been unable to shake some nagging injuries all season and his numbers are far off his career averages and much below the numbers he had last season.  With the passing game rounding into form nicely, it has given LT2 an opportunity to take more frequent breaks.  In fact, Jesse Chatman has been coming in as a closer as LT2 is no longer finishing games.  The Chargers have a bye in week ten, which will help LT2 heal up a bit, but keep an eye on Chatman for the rest of the season.

Misdirection

    Move over Kellen Winslow.  No, not the Kellen Winslow that is missing his rookie season with the Browns.  Move over Kellen Winslow, Sr.  Another TE, (occasionally) wearing the powder blue uni with the lightning bolts, has been leading his team to victory after victory.  Gates leads the NFL with 54 receptions, is tied for second with eight TDs, and is 13th in the NFL with 602 receiving yards.  In a year when TEs have been doing very well (Eric Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Randy McMichael, Alge Crumpler, Jeremy Shockey), Antonio Gates is outclassing the field.

    The league is going too far in their protection of the QB position.  Any time a defensive player comes near a QB, it seems like a flag is flying.  Two weeks ago the Eagles had a clean shot on Ravens QB Kyle Boller.  The hit was to the upper chest area, but because the official was behind the QB, he called a personal foul for a blow to the head.  When Andy Reid inquired about the hit during a TV timeout, the official indicated he thought it was a blow to the head because the QB's head moved.  The next week the Eagles were hit again with a questionable roughing call that helped to extend a drive.  Now Brown's DT Gerard Warren is willing to risk a fine and possible suspension by landing a forearm shiver to Ben Roethlisberger's head because he too is sick of the overprotection QBs get from the officials and the league.

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