by Jeff West
October 30, 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)...

    "Who are these guys?"  If that is what you were saying as you perused the fantasy stars at RB this past weekend, you were not alone.  Domanick Davis, Marcel Shipp, Correll Buckhalter, and Rudi Johnson all had very productive days.  However, each of them has probably been on (and off) your radar at some point this season.  But players like Arlen Harris and Brock Forsey?  If you grabbed Harris after his efforts a week ago and started him this weekend against Pittsburgh, you are probably the marvel of the other owners in your league.  As an owner, you need to stay on top of the injury reports and find out who is playing and who isn’t.  Surely Rudi Johnson was a surprise start this week as Dillon was healthy and only kept out because of a motor vehicle accident on the way to the stadium.  But everyone knew Arlen Harris was starting this week.  Keep an eye on other injuries (Antowain Smith, Brian Westbrook, William Green) and make moves accordingly as they may be the difference between a win and a loss.

    Stockton to Malone.  Montana to Rice.  Tinker to Evers to Chance...  It may be time to add Bulger to Holt to the list.  The two have been on fire in recent weeks.  This past weekend they hooked up for 174 yards and a touchdown.  Over their last four games, Holt has averaged 133 yards and 1.5 TDs a game.  He's been putting up better numbers than Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Plaxico Burress, Eric Moulds, and Hines Ward, receivers who were likely selected ahead of him in your fantasy draft.  Only Randy Moss has better numbers, having 13 more yards in receptions.

    During the telecast of the Eagles-Jets game on Sunday, the cameras zoomed in on the Eagles cheerleaders during a break in play.  The Eagles cheerleaders are sporting new outfits this season.  There was much ballyhoo about the outfits as Christina Lurie (wife of Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie) hired Vera Wang, known throughout the fashion world, to design the new duds.  For those who have not yet seen said outfits, they resemble a white bra and panties, with just a hint of Midnight Green (the Eagles official color) around the waist to indicate any sort of relationship with the football team.  The cheerleader who received the attention of the CBS camera man was exposed more than she anticipated.  Some radio talk show hosts in Philadelphia have gone as far as to say that the cheerleaders now look like a group of "crack whores" or "cheap hookers" on the sidelines.  As an undergrad in college, Jeffrey Lurie was a Feminist Studies major.  I would not be surprised to learn that his former professors are forming a lobby to revoke his degree.

"Heading North" – Players whose fantasy value is rising

    When Head Coach pulled Vinny Testaverde in the first half of Sunday's game in favor of Chad Pennington, he may have cost his team the game.  Pennington threw the ball well, but missed some reads and threw a costly interception in the fourth quarter of the loss.  Other than a little bit of rust, however, Pennington threw the ball well and added a lot of mobility to the position that Vinny couldn't.  While Pennington could be an adequate starter for you, don't expect the same types of numbers you saw from him in 2002.

    The Bengals are an improved team.  Their record indicates this immediately, but they have some nice weapons on offense and are playing much better defense under Head Coach Marvin Lewis.  Chad Johnson is working his way to the top tier of wide receivers in the league.  He is brash and exciting, and currently has a QB in Jon Kitna who is able to get the ball to him with some regularity.  With a supporting cast that includes a resurgent Peter Warrick and an up-and-comer in Kelley Washington, along with a solid running game whether it is the disgruntled Corey Dillon or the young Rudi Johnson, the Bengals offense is on the rise.  Keep an eye on the Dillon situation.  Last week he boldly stated that he wanted out, and then missed the game Sunday when he crashed his car en-route to the game.  Marvin Lewis could tire of his act and continue to play Rudi Johnson who has filled in admirably when Dillon is out.

    The tight end position is a cause of endless frustration for many owners.  If you don't own one of the top tier players you're faced with the prospect of wearing a collar at the position every week.  Now that Christian Fauria is battling an injury in New England, look for Daniel Graham to be more involved in the offense.  This past week he caught seven balls for 110 yards, surpassing his yardage total for the entire season prior to the game.  He still hasn't visited the end zone this year, but it is only a matter of time until he does.

"Going South" – Players whose fantasy value is slipping

    OK, he won't go all the way south and should definitely still be a starter, but Clinton Portis will struggle a bit until Jake Plummer returns.  Portis fought tooth and nail to get to 86 rushing yards in the loss to Baltimore.  QB Danny Kanell was ineffective and doesn't have the ability to take any pressure off the running game.  With an upcoming game against a New England defense which has allowed only 16 points and 89 rushing yards a game this season, followed by a bye-week, Portis may not put up Portis-like numbers again until week 11 when Plummer is slated to return against the Chargers.

    Another player who may suffer as the by-product of a QB injury is Texans rookie WR Andre Johnson.  Texans QB David Carr sprained his ankle, rolling it twice in the same game, and will likely miss this Sunday's match up with the Panthers.  Tony Banks will replace Carr and will likely be pressured all day against the tough Panthers front line.  While Banks does have the ability to get out of the pocket and throw a decent long-ball, look for more mistakes than miracles this weekend.

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

    The disappearing act of TE Jerramy Stevens in Seattle, the insistence by Coach Holmgren that the TEs need to be more a part of the offense, and the breakout game by Itulu Mili this past week have caused many an owner to grab Mili off waivers, where he surely had been all season.  Mili caught balls for 80 yards and two TDs against Cincinnati.  Based on 2002 stats, Mili finished in the top 10 in yards and TDs.  Seattle clearly has placed less focus on the TE as an offensive weapon this season.  Don't let one good game by Mili obscure that reality.

    Brian Griese stepped in for an injured Jay Fiedler Monday night and threw three TD passes, no interceptions, and spread the ball well to the entire receiving corps.  Griese had some big games in Denver and was a viable #1 fantasy QB for a few years.  With the viable rushing game of the Dolphins and an underrated group of receivers, Griese has the opportunity to return to that position once again.  However, before you trade away your stars to grab Griese, keep in mind his outstanding numbers came against a weak San Diego defense.  He'll face a much more difficult task in week nine when he faces Tony Dungy and the Colts.  If he passes that test, then consider putting him into your starting lineup.

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