by Jeff West
September 23, 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) as well as some extra notes I like to call "Misdirection".

    Ask anyone who knows anything about fantasy football, and they'll tell you running back is the most important position.  First off, they are fairly consistent because they touch the ball so often.  They are also a limited resource which is why a great majority of them are selected in the first few rounds.  A look at any fantasy draft will confirm this.  Now take a look at the injury lists and you'll see many of the same names listed.  Priest Holmes (ankle), LaDainian Tomlinson (toe), Shaun Alexander (knee), Deuce McAllister (ankle), Edgerrin James (hamstring), Marshall Faulk (leg), Kevan Barlow (rib), Warrick Dunn (knee), Stephen Davis (knee), Chris Brown (ankle), Lee Suggs (neck), Julius Jones (shoulder), Tatum Bell (finger), Aaron Stecker (ankle & quad), etc.  If you have a healthy starting RB, consider yourself lucky.

    Last week I told you that Onterrio Smith would be a good option against a weak Eagles run defense.  In a bizarre turn of events, the Vikes only ran the ball ten times (excluding QB scrambles and a WR reverse) during the game.  Smith did have an eleven yard run amongst his ten carries, so additional carries may have been warranted.  He was very active in the passing game, and if your league gives you points per catch, you did well with his eight receptions...  Corey Dillon got his opportunity to showcase his talents against the Cards and did not disappoint.  He ran for more than 150 yards.  His TD carry was the icing on the cake...  Steve McNair rebounded from his 70-yard passing day in week one by passing for 270 yards and adding a rushing TD to the mix.  His lost fumble and interception and lack of TD passes didn't make his owners happy.

    I predicted that Eddie George would not be able to carry the load in Big D.  He managed only yards a carry on 18 carries against a tougher-than-expected Brown defense.  He did add a TD and will probably continue to get work now that Julius Jones is out for an extended period of time...  Once again, Byron Leftwich threw the game-winning TD to rookie Ernest Wilford.  He wasn't a good start despite the 2-0 start by the Jags.  Lefty threw only 16 passes, completing half of them for 120 yards.  The Jags clearly are getting it done with defense right now...  TJ Duckett, who was missing in action in week one, recovered slightly in week two with nine carries for 52 yards.  Still no TDs, as Dunn seems to be vulturing them in a twist of irony.  Duckett should get some more chances now that Dunn is ailing and could be a nice #2 or #3 FF RB against Arizona in week three.

    I told you to keep an eye on Keary Colbert in week two to gauge his integration into the Panther offense in place of Steve Smith.  He caught only three passes, but managed 46 yards and a TD, good enough to serve as a #3 FF WR.  Look for Delhomme and Fox to get more comfortable with Colbert as the season wears on...  I mentioned that it would be premature to get excited about David Terrell based on his week one performance and that he had a history of disappearing.  He disappeared completely in week two with zero receptions.  I expect he'll bounce back in week three against a Viking secondary that can be thrown on.  Terrell will be a very up-and-down player and match-ups will need to be monitored closely...  Joey Harrington responded to the loss of Charles Rogers by throwing three TDs (two to Roy Williams) against the Texans.  He couldn't eclipse 200 passing yards, but was very efficient and looked like he might still be a serviceable #2 FF QB.

Heading North

    We'll shake things up a bit here and start with a defensive player.  He was the highest-rated rookie LB entering the league this year.  Now with Jets starting MLB Sam Cowart out for 4-6 weeks, look for Jonathan Vilma to step right in and not miss a beat.  Vilma has gotten playing time both outside and inside in a reserve role this season, so he is used to the speed of the NFL.  Vilma is formed in the mold of another Miami Hurricane LB, Ray Lewis.

    The Cincinnati offense has had some recent success throwing the ball against the Baltimore defense.  So look for the Ravens to play ball-control offense by running Jamal Lewis heavily in order to keep the Bengal offense off the field.  Lewis is relatively fresh for a workhorse, having not been overworked in the two previous games.  Cincinnati also has problems stopping the run (see Curtis Martin, week one).  Jamal should have his first breakout game of 2004 this weekend.

    Quick, which NFL WR has been the target of the most pass attempts (26) so far this season?  I'll give you a hint.  He is not the #1 WR on his team.  He is a grizzled veteran.  If you said Isaac Bruce, you're right!  Bruce has been playing like a #1 WR thus far this season.  He is third in the league in receiving yards (teammate Torry Holt is one yard ahead of him in second), and tied for first in receptions (17, along with Marvin Harrison).  Clearly the Rams are throwing the ball as much as ever, despite Martz's assurances that he would put more emphasis on the running game this season.  With a match-up against the Saints this weekend, Bruce should be a solid #1 FF WR choice once again.

Going South

    He's been one of the hottest waiver wire acquisitions this week.  He even got mention in my off-season article about third-year WRs (  Reche Caldwell has put together two good weeks to start the season.  Look for those nice numbers to disappear this weekend.  He faces much stiffer competition and will start looking for balls from a rookie QB before long.

    Another player who is outplaying expectations right now is veteran RB Curtis Martin.  He currently leads the NFL in rushing and has been getting all the red zone work too.  He has a bye this week, but will face much better defenses when he returns in week 4.  Since he won't be playing this weekend, start floating his name out as trade bait.  His value will never be higher.

    Stephen Davis must have been watching the DeShaun Foster show last Sunday with a bit of dismay.  Davis is idle with a knee injury and could miss as much as another month.  The Panthers will be in no hurry to rush Davis back in light of Foster's performance (albeit against a weak Chief run defense).  Even when Davis is ready to go, he will likely be sharing the spotlight more than his fantasy owners would like.


    It came a bit sooner than expected, but QB Ben Roethlisberger will get his first NFL start in week three.  Maddox succumbed to injury in week two and Big Ben came in and moved the ball fairly well in the Steeler loss to a tough Ravens defense.  He threw two TDs along with two INTs.  If you have room on your bench, grab him now and watch him.  The Dolphins have a tough pass defense, so he may learn some valuable rookie lessons in week three.

    If the QB you've been counting on hasn't been performing (Leftwich, Johnson, McCown) or is hurt (Maddox, Rattay, Brunell), then you might want to pick up Rich Gannon.  He hasn't done a whole lot yet, but his running game is non-existent and he has a stable of receivers to choose from (Rice, Porter, Curry, Gabriel, Whitted).  He has been quietly efficient and is still flying under the radar.  He has a tough game against the Tampa Bay defense in week three, then faces a couple weak defenses in Houston and Indianapolis where he could really do some damage.

    We've all heard the contract-year incentive for players.  Apparently someone needs to explain the general premise to WR Plaxico Burress.  He is certainly not ensuring any monster contracts with the way he has played in the first two weeks.  Antwaan Randle El is getting more looks in the offense right now than Burress is.  Don't drop Burress yet, he may develop a rapport with a new QB and he has too much talent to ignore.


    Jon Gruden:  "Hello?  Umm, Keenan?  If you're not busy, could you swing by the team offices sometime?  Bruce Allen wants to discuss some contract issues with you.  Oh, and bring your cleats." -- A phone call that Gruden is hoping he can make soon.

    This stand-off has to come to a head soon.  McCardell has been playing in this league for quite a while and is probably enjoying a little respite while watching Joey Galloway get hurt and Tim Brown feebly trying to perform at a level he did ten years ago.  McCardell is holding the cards and needs only wait for the Bucs to realize that they desperately need some help with an offense that ranks 30 of 32 in total yards and dead last in points scored after only two games.

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