by Jeff West
October 7, 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)...

    Two weeks ago I pointed out that rookie LB Jonathan Vilma would be starting in place of the injured Sam Cowart.  He started his first game last week and had a solid outing.  He led his team in tackles and assists as his defense thoroughly dominated the Dolphins.  However, all of the other players I predicted would be heading north went south.  Rod Gardner managed only three catches for 19 yards as Laveranues Coles finally stepped up.  Kerry Collins threw for three INTs and no TDs in a poor first start for the Raiders.  Tyrone Wheatley started out strong with 27 yards on three carries, but an injury sent him to the sidelines for the remainder of the game as Amos Zereoue cleaned up nicely.

    Last week I recommended cutting ties with Reggie Williams.  He proved his lack of value by putting up only 40 yards on three catches.  Ernest Wilford, another rookie who was selected later in the draft, is getting the opportunities that Williams isn't.  A couple of Bills WRs had nice games (Eric Moulds and Lee Evans), but Drew Bledsoe still put up decidedly average numbers with 247 yards, a TD, and an INT.  Derrick Mason seemed to click with QB Billy Volek, but even with 12 receptions, he couldn't eclipse 100 yards.  He did add a TD, however, in a game where Tennessee went to the air to play catch-up.

    Kevan Barlow was one of the players I told you to keep an eye on last week.  It looks like his week two performance was more an aberration than anything else.  He ran 15 times and produced only 42 yards.  He's been nursing an injury, but he needs to produce more than 2.8 yards a carry, and score once in a while to merit a fantasy start.  Trent Green was another player that people were getting impatient with, and for good reason.  But Green is putting together some nice games including a Monday night game against a tough Baltimore defense.  He completed 67% of his passes and did not turn the ball over at all.

Heading North

    Last week Texans WR Andre Johnson had 115 receiving yards and a TD against an impressive pair of CBs in Philip Buchanon and Charles Woodson.  This week he faces an undersized Antoine Winfield and an inconsistent Brian Williams.  Look for Johnson to use his size, strength, and speed to take advantage of the Viking secondary as David Carr looks his way often.

    This recommendation almost seems like a no-brainer, but some people just haven't caught on yet.  With Patriots WRs Deion Branch (doubtful), Troy Brown (questionable), and Bethel Johnson hurting, David Givens is a must start.  Givens started the year with a nagging injury, but has averaged 95 receiving yards a game this season.  He has yet to reach the end zone, so he's overdue.  Givens says he is Tom Brady's favorite receiver in the Sirius Satellite Radio advertisement, so it must be true.

    Let's make it three for three with the WR recommendations this week.  Detroit's Roy Williams is coming off a bye and is facing a weak pass defense.  Atlanta is currently ranked 27th in the league against the pass despite their number two-rated rush defense.  Williams has the size and speed to take advantage of a banged up Falcon secondary.  Williams has two TD catches in each of his last two games and could very well keep his end zone visitation privileges for another week.

Going South

    New England is considered one of the elite NFL defenses, yet this season they are yielding 130 rushing yards a game and are ranked 22nd against the run.  It seems that the Super Bowl champs have a weakness, but don't let that convince you that Miami RB Leonard Henry is a good play this weekend.  While it is important to look at match-ups, remember that the Pats have won the last three, are nearly impossible to beat at Gillette Stadium, and the Fins are a bad team.

    Last week in a loss to the undefeated Falcons, the struggling Panthers' QB Jake Delhomme threw for 300+ yards.  He'll be hard-pressed to get much more than 200 this weekend against a solid Denver defense that allows only 0.5 TD passes a game, a 52% completion percentage, and 149 yards.  Delhomme should have plenty of solid efforts as the season continues, but let him ride the bench this week.

    Saints WR Joe Horn is having an excellent season.  He's tied for fourth in the NFL with 27 receptions and is seventh with 342 yards through four games.  He's also added a pair of TDs.  His production, however, has declined each week and he is battling a knee injury.  Facing a tough Buccaneer pass defense won't make things any easier.  While he still deserves a start as a stud fantasy WR, he may not give owners the numbers they'd like this week.

East-West

    QB Chris Simms gets the start this week for the anemic Buccaneers.  He completed two-thirds of his 32 passes in week two, but managed only 175 yards and no scores against the powerful Seahawks.  He'll face a much softer defense in the Saints this week, however he has a back-up RB and a depleted WR corps to work with.  He is, most likely, the future of the Bucs franchise and needs to jump-start an offense that is nearly dead.  Keep an eye on him in keeper leagues as he is unlikely to warrant much attention in a redraft league.

    A situation, more than a player, that bears attention is the Minnesota rushing game.  It is a given that Culpepper and Moss will get theirs, but Minnesota is a team that prides itself on being able to run the ball well too.  The team seemed set heading into the season with Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith, Moe Williams, and rookie Mewelde Moore in tow.  Head coach, Mike Tice, even wondered aloud if the Dolphins would be contacting him to try to pry one of the RBs away when Ricky Williams skipped out on them.  Now Bennett has undergone his second surgery of the season, Onterrio Smith is beginning a four-game suspension (which was mysteriously delayed and delayed until Bennett was originally supposed to return), Moe Williams is nursing a strained calf, and Mewelde Moore and Larry Ned could be carrying the load in week five.  Whoever plays seems to be a solid fantasy performer, however it would be nice to know who that would be each week.

Misdirection

    Quarterbacks Eli Manning, Ken Dorsey, Josh McCown, Jay Fiedler, Chris Simms, Tommy Maddox, and Doug Pederson have combined to throw 343 passes so far this season.  They have combined for zero TD passes.  Running backs Emmitt Smith and Richie Anderson have combined to throw two passes this season.  They each have a TD pass.

    Looking for your fantasy WR to put up 100 yards or more?  If he's playing Jacksonville, don't get your hopes up.  The Jags have gone 15 straight games without allowing a receiver to reach 100 yards against them, the longest such streak in the NFL.  This doesn't bode well for those of you hoping that Reche Caldwell will light it up again this weekend.

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