by Jeff West
October 8, 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)...

    I've been a big proponent of Moe Williams all season long.  I own him in three of the four leagues I play in and have been starting him and reaping the rewards his successes.  This week Minnesota Head Coach Mike Tice predicted a 100-yard day for Onterrio Smith.  Since Onterrio already started stealing some carries away from Moe, and had even vultured a TD from Mr. Vulture himself a week earlier, I took Tice at his word and started Onterrio Smith in a couple leagues this week.  (I also fell prey to Tice's Randy Ratio last season, so Tice was already on shaky ground with me.)  From now on I think I will find out what propaganda Tice is spreading and do the exact opposite.

    There are many unwritten rules that transcend the particular rules in every individual fantasy football league.  One of the mainstays is "Never sit your studs!"  In week four I threw the saddle on Peyton Manning and he returned with a Derby win.  Six touchdowns!  An amazing performance like that deserved an encore, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the next race for this renowned Colt.  Opposing QBs were averaging an unreal 29 QB rating against the Bucs' defense in 2003.  I, of course, chose to ignore the first unwritten rule of fantasy football this week and watched Manning throw for nearly 400 yards and 2 TDs while sitting on my bench (along with Byron Leftwich).

    Just doing a quick survey of the 32 teams in the NFL, 13 have implemented RBBC to some extent.  This is troubling because it is placing a higher premium on true starting RBs and is diluting the talent pool behind those few quality #1s.  Since I am closest to the Philadelphia Eagles, a team making every attempt to be the quintessential RBBC offense, I will address the problems this poses to fantasy football.  The Eagles, in their last two games (both wins), have made a concerted effort to run the football more.  The Eagles have an outstanding offensive line when it comes to run blocking.  A fantasy owner should look at this as a favorable situation for a RB.  But the issue is that every week a different Eagles RB is getting the bulk of the carries.  In games one and two, when the Eagles made little attempt to run the ball, it was Duce Staley who was getting the chances.  In game three, when everyone knew the Eagles would run the ball more, it was Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook splitting the carries, with Duce no more than an afterthought.  In game four, Buckhalter disappeared again and Staley took a secondary role to Brian Westbrook.  Would anyone care to predict what will happen in the Eagles-Cowboys game this coming weekend?  With so many quality RBs not playing because of injuries or byes, it makes it nearly impossible to identify a decent backup.

"Heading North" Players whose fantasy value is rising

    After nearly three weeks in limbo, Clinton Portis returned to the Denver lineup with a vengeance.  He showed no ill effects from the bruised ribs during the game, garnering nearly 220 total yards of offense with a TD.  He is taking it easy during the practice week in order to be ready for the Steelers in week six.

    I mentioned Anthony Thomas last week after his impressive performance against the Packers on Monday night.  Last week he put up another 100-yard rushing game.  The Bears have a soft schedule over the middle part of the season, so there is no reason to think that Thomas wont continue to get his carries.

    As much as Id love to put Byron Leftwich here, the man to watch is WR Jimmy Smith.  Despite missing four games for violating the NFLs Substance Abuse Policy, Smith looks like he is in prime game shape.  In his return to the field, Smith caught 8 passes for 137 yards.  Byron Leftwich will certainly benefit from the return of a true number one receiver, but will still show rookie inconsistencies from time to time.

"Going South" Players whose fantasy value is slipping

    Now that the Jets are returning from their bye-week, the Curtis Martin play reduction efforts will begin in earnest.  LaMont Jordan, who has only three total rushing yards on ten carries this season, will begin to get more carries beginning this week against Buffalo.  That Martin should lose carries to a player who is averaging 12 inches a carry says a lot about the state of the Jets.

    One of the hottest commodities in the offseason was Bills WR Josh Reed.  Most people assumed hed step right into the void created by the loss of Peerless Price.  Reed showed flashes of brilliance as a number three WR in the 2002 season, so it was natural to assume that hed pick right up where Price left off.  Through five games Reed has 11 catches for 132 yards and no TDs.  That translates to just over 400 yards for a 16-game campaign.  That is nowhere near the production people expected.

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

    After a one-week suspension, Charger WR David Boston marked his return with an exclamation point.  He scored twice and added 181 receiving yards in a losing effort.  Because SD looks like they will be playing from behind more often than not, Boston might look like the stud he used to be.  If he stays healthy, he will be that stud.  But Boston is a disaster waiting to happen.  Between his dubious health and his anti-social activities, Boston has a big question mark on his jersey.

    In his first two NFL games, Titan WR Tyrone Calico caught two TD passes.  In his second two NFL games he didnt receive a pass.  This past weekend, Calico hooked up with QB Steve McNair three times for nearly 100 yards.  The Titans have plenty of depth at WR in Mason, Bennett, and McCareins, so playing time is going to be hard to come by for Calico.  If any of the WRs should go down to injury, keep a close eye on Calico as he is the real deal.

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