by Jeff West
October 29, 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)...

    A week ago, I lauded Brian Griese for playing well and earning the chance to remain as the Bucs' starter.  He led the Bucs to another win, but did not light up fantasy scoreboards with only 163 passing yards and a TD.  There were no INTs or fumbles, so that is a positive.  After his bye-week, he'll have some better opportunities to put up numbers.  Keenan McCardell didn't waste any time getting involved in the Charger offense.  He played and led the Chargers in receiving yardage.  It won't be long until he starts finding the end zone.  Finally, Donald Driver has emerged as the ideal complement to Javon Walker.  Driver only had 52 receiving yards against the Cowboys, but managed a TD as well.

    It was bound to happen at some point.  All of the players I told you were going south last week ended up having big weeks.  Chad Johnson abused Champ Bailey to the tune of 149 yards and a TD.  Maybe this will be an awakening for him.  Jerry Porter put his whining aside for a week and produced 113 yards and his first TD, by far his best effort of the season.  William Green got his numbers, despite sharing carries with Lee Suggs.  Green had one less carry (14) than Suggs, but still managed 64 yards and a score.

    Antonio Bryant was one of the players I told you to keep an eye on.  He played some against the Eagles and had a couple catches for 26 yards.  Once he gets more comfortable in the system, he should emerge as the top playmaker at the WR position.  The other player, Najeh Davenport, took a back seat as Ahman Green had a huge day.  Davenport still managed 57 total yards and got 12 carries, so he's still in the picture.

Heading North

    He had a horrendous preseason and a very slow start, but QB Byron Leftwich seems to be hitting his stride (despite a sprained ankle).  In his last four games, he's been averaging more than 300 passing yards a game and has thrown twice as many TDs as INTs.  The team seems to be moving more towards becoming a passing team than a running team, which bodes well for future success.  Look for Lefty to continue his tear against Houston this weekend.

    Coming into the season, I was adamant that WR Ashley Lelie would emerge as the Broncos' number one wideout.  His production at the beginning of the season had me chewing on my shoe as he scored only once in the first four games and had a one-catch, three-yard performance against the Buccaneers.  But Lelie has scored twice in the last three games and seems to be establishing himself as a guy Jake Plummer trusts.  Lelie still has ten fewer catches on the season than Rod Smith, but Lelie has scored more and has much better yards-per-catch numbers.  He could really solidify his standing with a big game against the Falcons.

    Against the Giants in week seven, rookie RB Kevin Jones finally showed some of the promise fantasy owners expected.  He averaged five yards a carry and scored a TD.  Thus far this season, the Lions are 3-0 when Jones is the primary ball carrier.  In the three games where he was hurt or recovering from the injury, the Lions are only 1-2.  Look for Jones to improve upon his numbers over the next couple weeks.   He could be a decent #3 RB, or even a desperation #2, for owners.

Going South

    The big news this week is the emergence of Willis McGahee to starter status.  That means that Travis Henry is heading to the bench.  He'll still get some carries, but he has been a colossal disappointment to fantasy owners this season.  Henry does not have a 100-yard game and has yet to find the endzone.  Furthermore, Henry has been battling a variety of injuries during the season and will likely watch McGahee secure the starting position for the remainder of the season.  Henry still has value in keeper leagues, but has very little in a redraft league.  Even trading him will prove difficult.

    With the addition of Justin McCareins and the emergence of Santana Moss, QB Chad Pennington looked like a sure thing this season.  The resurgence of the running game and some bland play-calling have kept Pennington to an average of 218 passing yards a game.  He's thrown only five TDs in six games.  While Pennington is still a good NFL QB, his fantasy value has taken a nosedive.  Pennington isn't going to hurt his owners with a 150 yard, two-INT game, but he won't win many with his current stats.

    It may be time to cut ties with Michael Bennett if you still have him on your roster.  He's been set back by injuries all season and had to watch Onterrio Smith, and then Mewelde Moore step in and perform.  Bennett got one carry in week seven for no gain.  He's still not 100% and Moore is cranking out the yards like a #1 RB would.  Onterrio Smith will be back in uniform for week nine, so he could share carries with Moore, still leaving Bennett out of the picture.

East-West

    Anquan Boldin, last year's rookie phenom, is due to return to the playing field this week against the Bills, as he practiced well on Wednesday and was upgraded to probable on the injury report.  Arizona has played reasonably well behind Emmitt Smith and the passing game has been improving as of late.  Boldin would step right into the starting role opposite Larry Fitzgerald.  If you drafted Boldin and held onto him, you're finally going to be rewarded for your patience.

    The "Greatest Show on Turf" was built on the backs of two receivers, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, who are still performing at a very high level.  Lately, however, another WR is standing up and demanding some of the attention.  Shaun McDonald was a fourth-round draft pick in the 2003 season and played very sparingly in his rookie season.  Over the past four weeks McDonald has three TDs among his ten receptions.  As teams continue to focus their efforts on Holt, Bruce, and Marshall Faulk, McDonald could slip under the coverage and make some noise.

Misdirection

    Randy Moss started the week seven game against the Titans.  He extended his consecutive games streak to 102 by going out for two snaps and then spending the rest of the game on the sideline.  Weak.  Is the personal record that important that the Vikes had to make another player inactive for the game because Moss wanted to keep the streak alive?  Brett Favre has the longest active consecutive games streak in the NFL right now, but he played each and every one of them, often hurt to the point where many players would not even be activated, because he wanted to help his team win, not because the streak existed.

    What will be worse five years from now?  Having been a member of the Yankees team that was up 3-0 on the Red Sox before losing four in a row or a member of the Cardinals team that was swept by the Sox in the World Series?  I imagine that people will still be talking about the Yankees collapse in five years, but by next week people will have forgotten who the Sox beat in the Series.  I'm not sure which is worse...  to be remembered because you lost, or to be forgotten because you lost.

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