by Jeff West
November 6, 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).

    It must be the kiss of death.  I put Byron Leftwich in my "Heading North" category and he has one of his worst outings of the year.  To top it off, he injured his knee and could miss some time.  I touted Ashley Lelie last week and Rod Smith is the one who puts up the huge numbers.  Fear not, for Lelie also contributed with nearly 100 yards on six catches, including a TD grab.  Kevin Jones scored last week.  That's about the extent of the good news.  Other than the TD, he was unproductive against a weakened Cowboys defense.

    Last week Travis Henry was the epitome of a player going south.  He had one carry for two yards.  End of story.  Another player on the rocks, Chad Pennington, redeemed himself with three TD passes, including one to a WR, the first since week one.  Don't look for him to continue this against some tough defenses upcoming.  Michael Bennett was more heavily used last week because of an injury to Mewelde Moore.  Bennett had a ten-yard TD run, but did little else.

    Of the players to keep an eye on, Anquan Boldin had a decent 2004 debut.  He only managed four catches for 50 yards, but he was the leading receiver for the Cardinals in a poor offensive showing.  Shaun McDonald returns from a bye this week and could have a good game against the Ty Law-less Patriots.

Heading North

    One of the most frustrating positions to predict this season has been the Vikings RBs.  It has also been one of the most rewarding.  Week nine looked to be a confusing week for the position.  The Vikes play an Indy team that can be run on, so there could be big rewards to the RB who gets the call.  Is it Mewelde Moore?  Michael Bennett?  Onterrio Smith?  My money is on Onterrio Smith.  Mewelde Moore has done more than expected, but he is nursing an ankle injury this week.  Michael Bennett is still coming back from injury and doesn't seem to be the same back as he was a couple years ago.  That leaves Smith, who continued to work with team officials during the suspension and is in fantastic shape.  Before the suspension, Smith led all NFL RBs in receiving yards per game, while also posting nearly 70 rushing yards a game to boot.  If you own him, start him.

    Last week Willis McGahee was named starter.  Many felt that it was merely a title and Travis Henry would continue split carries with him.  Henry had one carry.  McGahee finished the game with more than 100 rushing yards and rewarded his owners with a couple TDs.  Look for McGahee to continue to showcase his talents while the Bills decide who they want to keep for 2005.  They'll allow Henry to get healthy, since everyone already knows what a healthy Henry is capable of.  The Bills playoff hopes are gone, so they'll get a nice long look at McGahee.

    Just like clockwork.  Trent Green starts the year slowly and then puts up a monster game (389 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs).  Now things seem to be coming together for the Chiefs and their offensive line is playing extraordinarily well.  Green is spreading the ball around (13 to WRs, 8 to TE, 6 to RBs in week eight) and still has big weapons in Tony Gonzalez and Priest Holmes.  Green owners should continue to reap the rewards as the Chiefs battle back into the playoff hunt.

Going South

    Many novice fantasy football owners will equate NFL team success to fantasy player success.  Often, this doesn't prove fruitful.  Take the Giants, for example.  They're winning games and putting up decent offensive numbers.  But Amani Toomer, their #1 WR, is not producing.  He has yet to find the end zone and is averaging just over 50 receiving yards a game.  Now he has a hamstring issue to compound things even more.  As long as Tiki is wearing the Superman cape, Toomer will be nothing more than a fantasy bench warmer.

    Donte' Stallworth lit up the Niners for 113 yards and a score in week two and has been disappointing his owners ever since.  In two of his last three games, he has had only one reception in the game.  The puzzling thing about Stallworth was that he was a big talent who couldn't stay healthy.  Well, he's been healthy but flat out isn't producing.  Maybe Stallworth was nothing more than a flash in the pan his rookie year.

East-West

    Niner TE Eric Johnson was en fuego at the start of the season.  Over his first five games, Johnson averaged more than 90 receiving yards a game and had a pair of TDs.  In his last two games, Johnson is averaging less than 20 yards and has been kept out of the end zone.  It seems that opposing defenses have made adjustments to keep this former Ivy Leaguer from torching them.  The Niners still have a number of good defenses left on their schedule, so it might not be a bad idea to dangle Johnson as trade bait.  Be sure to play up those big games he had in weeks four and five.

    If you're in a deep keeper or dynasty league, you might want to stow Clarence Moore somewhere on your roster.  You're probably asking yourself who he is right now, right?  Moore is a rookie seventh-round WR for the Ravens.  He is a big target at 6'6", but played at a small college (Northern Arizona) and is still adjusting to NFL-caliber talent.  In week eight against the Eagles, Moore caught three passes for 82 yards and seemed to be catching the eye of Kyle Boller a number of times in the game.  With Kevin Johnson proving ineffective in Baltimore, and rookie Devard Darling spending the rest of the season on the IR, Moore will get many more chances and could work himself into a starting position by 2005 or 2006.

    Another player that many have not heard of is Bob Sanders.  Sanders is a rookie safety for the Colts.  Sanders was a second round pick out of Iowa.  He was notable more for his lack of size (5'8") and for being the last rookie holdout.  Even when he finally signed, he was nursing an injured foot and was unable to practice.  He finally made it onto the playing field in week eight.  He didn't start, but still managed nine tackles despite playing only about 35 snaps, showing his playmaking ability that was evident in college.  Now that starting safety Mike Doss is injured (groin) and doubtful for week nine, Sanders could be a force as a starter.

Misdirection

    Terrell Owens was in the news again this week.  Amazingly, there is no real storyline surrounding Owens and the upcoming game with the Steelers.  This time it was because Owens received a great deal of criticism for his mocking of Ray Lewis.  Owens wonders why Lewis, who is animated and a showman on the field, is revered by the league, its players, and even the media.  Owens, who is also known for his on-field celebrations, is vilified for doing the same things.  Both players talk the talk and back it up on the field.  However, Owens has never had any brushes with the law, no DUIs or domestic abuse charges, no drug or murder charges off the field.  Yet the league seems to point at him as what's wrong with football, while players who break the law can avoid the scrutiny that Owens endures.  Sure, he says what's on his mind.  And who can forget him yelling at his coaches or arguing with his QB on the sidelines?  But WR Reggie Wayne shoves NFL golden-boy Peyton Manning during an argument on the sidelines and it gets little attention.  Terrell Owens mocks a player who plea-bargained his way out of a murder charge and Owens is the bad-guy.

    When Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers, and then was drafted by them, I thought the Chargers looked silly.  Then they turned around and traded him to the Giants for the QB they really wanted, Philip Rivers, and got a nice cadre of draft picks as part of the deal.  They actually gained a small amount of credibility with that move.  Now the QB they intended to replace, Drew Brees, is playing better than any AFC QB except Peyton Manning.  I'm just wondering how the Chargers' brass intends to screw this one up.

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