by Jeff West
December 4, 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).

    Most fantasy leagues are entering their final week of regular season play in Week 14, so rosters are probably set now, but there are still some changes that can be made before you jump into the playoff fray.  Week 13 provided some glimpses of players that might help you this year, or, if you play in a keeper league, next year.

    The Seattle-Baltimore game in Week 12 was an exciting one for fantasy owners, but the Baltimore offensive output appeared to be an aberration more than anything else.  Well, those Ravens were back at it in Week 13, putting up 44 points against what had appeared to be an improved San Francisco defense.  Anthony Wright cooled off considerably, but still had two TD passes.  One of those went to Marcus Robinson who finished with 71 yards and that TD.  K Matt Stover also impressed with eight scoring chances, all converted.  Jamal Lewis continues to be the only reliable starter from the offense, but his handcuff, Chester Taylor, lost some carries to rookie Musa Smith who also added a TD this week.  Keep an eye on this situation if you own Lewis.  Finally, for you IDPers, Ray Lewis showed why he is the best in the game.  He finished with 14 solo tackles, 4 assists, and an INT which he returned for a TD.  He also helped with the coverage on Terrell Owens, holding him to 23 receiving yards.

    The Rams put on a display reminiscient of their "Greatest Show on Turf" days as they put up 48 points against the struggling Vikings.  Despite the point total, they only managed 263 passing yards, 41 of them on an Isaac Bruce pass.  Marc Bulger threw for only 222 yards, one TD and one INT.  The star of the show, however, was Marshall Faulk, who showed everyone he is back.  He ran for 108 yards, caught passes for another 35 yards, and added three TDs for good measure.  Those of you who have been wary of Faulk given his injury history (myself included) should start believing now.

"Heading North" – Players whose fantasy value is rising

    The injury bug hit the Niners this week as Garrison Hearst underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.  When the Niners face the Cardinals this coming weekend, Kevan Barlow will get the start and should see the ball 20+ times according to Coach Erickson.  If Barlow is floating around on your waiver wire, grab him.  He is an excellent start this week.

    About this time last year, Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck was tearing up the league.  Seattle had the league's most prolific offense by the end of the 2002 season.  Well, he's doing it again.  Over the past two weeks Hasselbeck has thrown for 665 yards, eight (yes, eight) touchdowns, and only one INT.  With upcoming games against the Vikings, Rams, Cardinals, and Niners, there will be plenty of chances for Hasselbeck to continue his torrid pace.

"Going South" – Players whose fantasy value is slipping

    Houston RB Domanick Davis has had an outstanding rookie year.  He and Arizona WR Anquan Boldin are the two frontrunners for Rookie of the Year honors.  He is currently listed as questionable for Week 14 with a quad bruise and an ankle sprain.  The nagging injuries and the quality of defense he'll be facing over the last month of the season will keep him from producing the type of numbers fantasy owners have come to appreciate.  Look for more modest numbers against the likes of the Jags, Bucs, Titans, and Colts as the season winds down.

    Another emerging RB, Rudi Johnson, will probably see fewer and fewer carries in Cincinnati for the remainder of the season.  Johnson and Corey Dillon each had ten carries in the win against the Steelers in Week 13.  However Dillon was able to do much more with his ten carries.  As the Bengals close out their playoff run (yes, I used the words Bengals and playoffs in the same sentence) look for the team to return to Dillon as the number one RB.

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

    If you were one of those fantasy owners who drafted Michael Vick in the first round of your draft, only to watch him go down with a severe injury, you were probably very happy to see him return to the field in Week 13, especially if you've managed to stay in the playoff hunt in your league.  However, you might be best served to stick with the QB that carried you this far.  Vick looked healthy, and dangerous, once again in clean-up duty against the Texans and will start in Week 14.  But Vick faces the Panthers, Colts, Bucs, and Jags to close out the season.  The Falcons are not a good team and will not suddenly start to click with Vick as they face some of the better defenses in the league.

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