by Jeff West
December 3, 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 announced the full return of one Deion Branch, the guy I thought would emerge as the clear #1 WR in NE this season (had he stayed healthy).  He struggled against a stout Baltimore defense (as most offensive players do) to the tune of four catches for 51 yards.  This came off his return effort of 105 yards and a TD against KC the week before.  Branch should continue to click with Tom Brady and if Corey Dillon continues to run the ball well, Branch should see plenty of opportunities.

   Also, last week I penned my funereal dirge for Eddie George and he responded accordingly with only eight yards on three carries.  Even if Julius Jones was to get injured again, I don't have enough faith in the Dallas offense or in Eddie George to make any legitimate fantasy contributions.

    A player I told you to keep an eye on last week was Nick Goings.  He had an auspicious 2004 starting debut and followed it up last week with another 100-yard effort, sans the three scores.  He has a tantalizing match-up this week as he faces an inept New Orleans defense (wasn't Jim Haslett a defensive guru?).  I'd go ahead and give him a chance while the Panthers are playing well.

Heading North

    Before the season, with the Jamal Lewis trial/suspension pending, people were drafting Musa Smith with reckless abandon.  Quietly, Chester Taylor earned the back-up role early in the season and has responded lately with Lewis' injury.  Look for Taylor to have a very solid day against Cincinnati this weekend as the Bengals need to respect the arm of Kyle Boller a bit more than in the past.

Going South

    There are two new starters for the Arizona offense this week at important positions, QB John Navarre and RB Larry Croom.  Both are rookies with different stories.  Navarre was a high-profile QB for Michigan last season, where he was much-maligned.  Navarre is a statue with a good head and a strong arm.  This time last year Larry Croom was toting the ball for the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV and eventually signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent.  Don't look for either of the players to enjoy much success this week despite the fact that Detroit has been playing poorly as of late.

East-West

    After the games finished last Sunday, I could hear the screams from countless Jerry Porter owners who had benched, or even worse, dropped him because of his lack of productivity.  Well, don't go out and leverage the farm to get him back.  While it seems that Kerry Collins has become more comfortable with the Oakland offense and there is no reason to think that he won't be successful this week against the Chiefs, remember that WR Ronald Curry has been the more reliable WR this season, catching 64% of the passes thrown his way while Porter, with 30 more attempts thrown his way has caught only three more passes (47%).

Misdirection

    This week Butch Davis resigned as the Browns head coach.  Could you hear the collective sighs of relief coming from the Cleveland locker room?  During his tenure, Davis ran two highly respected football executives in Carmen Policy and Ron Wolf out of town.  He now admits to having spies in the locker room to monitor the gossip.  It sounds like Davis had a serious inferiority complex and a coach can't win many games dealing with that issue.  Terry Robiskie certainly isn't the long-term answer as head coach, but the players respect him and will play a lot more loose the rest of the season and hope to build a nice stepping stone for 2005.

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