by Jeff West
November 14, 2003
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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).

    Ahh... Week ten is in the books.  It was quite a fantasy week as a number of players had big point efforts.  Hopefully some of them carried you to another victory.  But the best thing about week 10 is that from here on out, there are no more bye weeks! I've been bitten by the bye bug this season, on more than one occasion, and I'm sure many of you have too.  It's all well and good to think about bye weeks when you're drafting, but if you've already drafted Clinton Portis, and now you have a shot to grab Deuce McAllister, should you pass on McAllister because he has the same bye week as Portis?   That's a tough question to answer.  Personally, I'll take my chances with Portis and McAllister.  The ultimate goal is a fantasy football championship and there are no byes come fantasy playoff time.  I'll gladly (well, maybe resignedly is more apropos) take a loss during the season and enter the playoffs with two stud RBs in my arsenal.

    Kyle Boller suffered a season-ending injury this past week against the Rams.  Boller had a tough first season with Baltimore, as he was the only rookie QB to start from jump.  Boller did show some signs of improvement as the season progressed, highlighted by a 300-yard, two TD effort in a loss to the Bengals.  Over his last four games he threw five TDs to only three INTs--a clear sign of progress.  His mobility, coupled with a good offensive line, kept the sacks down and prevented excessive mistakes.  In the eight games he started (and finished), Boller led the Ravens to a 5-3 record (with a lot of help from RB Jamal Lewis and LB Ray Lewis).  Those of you who grabbed Chris Redman as insurance at the QB position may want to think again.  Anthony Wright has been given the starting nod for week 11.  Coach Billick prefers his athleticism in his offensive system.  I wouldn't expect him to do too much more than hand the ball off to Jamal Lewis, especially with a ball-hawking Miami defense on the other side of the line.

    Speaking of QBs, Michael Vick has started practicing with the team again.  He'll be listed as doubtful for week 11 and won't see any time, but there are some thoughts that he could return to the playing field as soon as week 12 against the Titans.  Coach Dan Reeves has been at odds with Vick, insinuating that he should have been back by now.  Vick insisted he wasn't healthy enough yet, despite what seemed to be ample time to recover.  The Falcons are desperate for Vick's return, although at this point the only benefit will be to get Vick some time with Peerless Price in preparation for next year.  The big question will be if Vick has the confidence to run like he did in the past, and, if he does find the confidence, will he still have his pre-injury abilities.

    Cincinnati WR Chad Johnson guaranteed a win against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in week 11.  I don't think I'd bet against it...

"Heading North" – Players whose fantasy value is rising

    Clearly a player who needs to be on your roster, for this year and the future, is Bengal RB Rudi Johnson.  He stepped in for the injured Corey Dillon and has not missed a beat.  In week ten he had 43 carries for 182 yards and two TDs.  Those are almost the same numbers Dillon has for all of 2003.  More importantly, Johnson is not in the Coach's dog house.  Dillon will be watching from the sidelines again this weekend (if he shows) so look for more "Rudi, Rudi, Rudi!" cheers from the dozens of people attending the game in Cincinnati.

    Atlanta played an impressive game last week against the Giants and gave Dan Reeves his 200th victory.  Now we should see a return to the Falcons we've watched in weeks two through nine.  Saints QB Aaron Brooks should have another game reminiscient of the one he tossed at the Falcons in week seven.  Brooks threw for 352 yards and three TDs in a 45-17 win.  The Saints have stepped their play up a notch or two since the beginning of the season and will climb back to .500 this weekend.

    In week ten Falcon RB Warrick Dunn made a case for some more work when he rushed for 178 yards and a TD.  TJ Duckett still vultured two other TDs, but as an owner who started Dunn last week, I didn't really mind.  Look for Dunn to get the bulk of the carries again this week.  Because the Falcons will be playing from behind most of the game, Dunn should also get used extensively in the short passing game, an added bonus if you get points for receptions.

"Going South" – Players whose fantasy value is slipping

    Last weekend, against the Bills, Troy Hambrick had 13 carries for 33 yards.  Not a good outing against a defense in the middle of the pack against the run.  Enter Adrian Murrell.  Murrell, coming off a nine-carry game in week nine, got 16 carries and put up 76 yards.  Earlier in the season it looked like Hambrick was playing well enough to end the Hambrick-Cason RBBC in Dallas, but now a new RBBC has reared its ugly head (for Hambrick owners).  Murrell is obviously a favorite of Parcells, so look for him to continue to get carries as long as he's moving forward with them.

    Prior to week ten, many experts were jumping on the Kerry Collins bandwagon.  Those experts watched a confused and injury-ridden Donovan McNabb throw for more than 300 yards against a terrible Falcons defense.  Logically, Collins should have been able to do even more.  He wound up throwing for 202 yards, no TDs, and two INTs.  Things won't get much better for Collins as his favorite target, Jeremy Shockey is out with an injury.  Ike Hilliard was able to run free and was having a career year, now he is hobbled (and listed as questionable for week 11) with ankle and knee injuries.  Tiki Barber can still catch a pass out of the backfield, but chances are he'll fumble it soon after.

"East-West" – Players whose fantasy value is still undetermined

    Any time you score four TDs in a game, all praise and celebration is certainly deserved.  Chargers backup QB Doug Flutie started against the Vikings and threw for two TDs and ran for two more.  LaDanian Tomlinson had a great game and even maligned WR David Boston looked like a legitimate fantasy WR again.  The Chargers face a division opponent in week 11 and Flutie will have a very difficult time repeating his performance.  Even as a full-time starter in 2001, Flutie was a very erratic fantasy QB.  Can he put up decent numbers now that he has better weapons?   Don't put all of your fantasy flakes into Flutie's box.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars picked WR Kevin Johnson off waivers from the Browns this week.  He will join up-and-comer Byron Leftwich, star receiver Jimmy Smith, and star RB Fred Taylor on a potentially dangerous Jacksonville offense.  He will most likely start at the #2 position, allowing Troy Edwards to play the slot position, one he is better suited for.  There has been no determination yet if Johnson will get much playing time this weekend, but as he learns the offense, he should be productive at the position.

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