by Jeff West
November 21, 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).

    The 1972 Miami Dolphins can once again crack open that champagne knowing their record is safe for yet another season.  The Chiefs fell for the first time this season, to a rejuvenated Bengals squad.  In most cases, this might appear to be the result of a Chiefs team overlooking the Bengals as they prepare for a division battle with their arch-nemesis Oakland.  But Bengals WR Chad Johnson prevented the Chiefs from taking the Bengals lightly when he came out and guaranteed a Bengals win over the previously perfect Chiefs.  Many thought this was a ridiculous assertion by Johnson and even criticized him for doing it.  Conversely, it helped to inspire the Bengals to win.  Chad Johnson has been fined numerous times this season for taunting and other actions, but he keeps his team fired up.

    Speaking of controversial players, not long after the Buccaneers (4-6) lost yet another game, Coach Gruden informed Keyshawn Johnson that he was being deactivated for the remainder of the season.  He even went so far as to tell him not to bother showing up for work any more.  This was a big move by the coach.  Regardless of his personal feelings for Keyshawn, he removed a legitimate offensive threat from his lineup.  Had the Buccaneers been 6-4 instead of 4-6, I imagine that Gruden may have put up with Keyshawn's ego for a bit longer than he did.  Now Gruden is hoping for addition by subtraction.  Was Keyshawn's presence really a detriment to the team?  Keyshawn is not a different player than at any time in his past; he is what he is.  Last year, when the team was on its way to a Super Bowl victory, Keyshawn had the same "Throw me the damn ball!" attitude, yet the team was winning so it wasn't a problem.  Will his absence prove to be a bigger detriment?  Time will tell.  I'm betting that the offense will suffer as a result of the decision.  Keenan McCardell becomes the number one receiver now, a role that he may not be talented enough to assume.  Joe Jurevicius, a solid number three, now steps into the number two role. I think the fantasy production of the entire Buc offense will drop over the last six games of the season.  Regardless of Keyshawn's bad attitude, he is being made the scapegoat for the Bucs' losing record.

    Another mess is playing out in Cleveland.  Starting RB William Green, who received a four-game suspension from the NFL for a violation of their substance abuce policy, is in the news again during the week.  He was rushed to the hospital this week after suffering a knife injury.  His fiancee called 911 and indicated he cut himself.  Green indicated that his wound came from falling down a flight of stairs.  Now his fiancee has been arrested for allegedly stabbing Green herself.  This comes on top of a heated quarterback controversy and the waiving of the team's most productive wide receiver.  If Butch Davis can keep this team afloat (they are only a game out of first place in the AFC North), then he deserves Coach of the Year.  More than likely, he is fighting to keep his job because of the poor decisions he has made.

    It's interesting that no one on the Raiders has stepped forward to guarantee a win against the Chiefs this week.  They did play well against the Vikes last week.  Is it possible that the Chiefs fall again? ...  No, not this week.

"Heading North" – Players whose fantasy value is rising

    A team that may be flying under many owners' radar is the 49ers.  The team is resting at .500, two games behind the division leading Seahawks and Rams.  The reason the team is still hanging around is the SF Defense. They've very quietly had an excellent year.  They allow only 16.5 points a game which is fifth best in the NFL.  Their rush defense has been outstanding and their pass rush has generated 29 sacks, tops in the NFL.  Their pass defense, which was horrendous last year, is now at least respectable.  The SF defense may still be on your league's waiver wire.  They're at least worth a roster spot, if not a start.

    Donovan McNabb has been under fire the entire season.  From his poor play, presumably the result of injuries, early in the year, to his unprovoked attack by former NFL commentator Rush Limbaugh, McNabb has handled himself with class shown himself to be the character guy Andy Reid drafted despite much Philadelphia fan protest.  One of the things that will help McNabb is the effectiveness of the Eagles running game.  Brian Westbrook has proven himself to be a very dangerous back.  Correll Buckhalter and Duce Staley have both carried the load at various times this season.  As a result, a very mediocre Eagles receiving corps is getting open just often enough.  McNabb has looked much sharper in recent weeks and is no longer taking the weekly pounding he did early in the season.  Since the Eagles now use their formidable rushing attack, the opposing defenses have slowed (or stopped) blitzing.  Given the time to throw, McNabb has been able to find an open receiver and move the team.  In his last three games, McNabb has not thrown an interception nor fumbled the ball.  In his first seven games he threw seven interceptions and fumbled nine times.  After this week's game against the Saints, McNabb's upcoming schedule is difficult (Carolina, Dallas, Miami, and San Francisco), so don't expect miracles.

    While he doesn't receive the fanfare and acclaim of his team's star RB, much of the success of the Kansas City Chiefs this year should rest firmly on the shoulders of QB Trent Green. Green never seems to be center of the attention, but quietly goes about his job. Over the past three weeks Green has averaged 318 passing yards, 2+ TDs, and zero turnovers.  On the season he has thrown for more than 2500 yards and has more than twice as many TD passes as interceptions.  The nickname TrINT Green no longer applies.  Even in a loss to the Bengals, Green played an outstanding game.  However, the Chiefs were unable to run the ball with the same effectiveness as the Bengals were.  A favorable schedule should allow Green to continue his torrid pace.

"Going South" – Players whose fantasy value is slipping

    With all of the trouble Browns RB William Green is facing, RB James Jackson is getting a chance to prove himself.  In the past two weeks Jackson has scored three TDs and averaged almost 20 touches a game.  Lee Suggs is not quite ready to carry the load yet, so Jackson, a former Miami Hurricane, should continue to tote the rock.  Before you get too excited, keep in mind that two of his TDs came against the Cardinals and he only managed two and a half yards a carry in that game.  The rest of his schedule should be a bit more daunting than the Cardinals.  Games against the Seattle, Denver, Baltimore, and Cincinnati defensive units will provide plenty of challenge for him.

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

    One of Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson's hallmarks over the years has been his ability to minimize mistakes.  Often he won games merely by not losing them.  Yet in the past three weeks Johnson has turned the ball over seven times while only throwing five TDs.  Johnson has a favorable matchup against an uninspired Giants team with a depleted secondary, and his upcoming slate features games against the Jags, Saints, Texans, and Falcons.  But don't look for a return of the 300+ yard and 3 TD games.  Johnson's offense is falling into disarray.

    Cleveland QB Kelly Holcomb had a week 11 that will keep him in the starting lineup.  He threw for nearly 400 yards and three TDs.  Any enthusiasm brought about by that stat line needs to be tempered by the realization that those numbers came against the Arizona Cardinals hapless defense.  Look at Holcomb's numbers against the Patriots and the Chiefs in the two weeks prior.  He averaged less than 135 passing yards per game and threw twice as many INTs (2) as TDs (1).  Holcomb seems to play better when he is at home, so he may have decent numbers against a weak Pittsburgh secondary at Browns Stadium in week 12.  But be very wary of starting him against the Seahawks in Seattle in week 13.

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