Commentary

Ravitz: Backups take charge

Updated: October 8, 2007, 4:06 PM ET
By Nate Ravitz | ESPN.com

Here's some food for thought on Week 5 in the NFL. A running back is in trouble with the league over alleged marijuana use ... and his name isn't Ricky Williams. The Dolphins lost one broken-down quarterback and replaced him with ... a Lemon. The top three scorers at running back were Kenton Keith, Najeh Davenport and Michael Turner, and No. 5 was Mike Sellers. No. 14 was Lester Williamson. Santonio Holmes stood on the sideline all game ... and scored just as many fantasy points as Darrell Jackson. By the way, there's no NFL player named Lester Williamson, but a lot of you checked, didn't you?

Headlines

  • Warner replaces Leinart, for good this time

    Bad news for Matt Leinart is good news for the entire fantasy community. Leinart suffered a fractured collarbone, an injury that will sideline him for several weeks. Kurt Warner threw for 190 yards and a touchdown, and added one rushing score, in relief of Leinart. He's now a borderline No. 1 fantasy quarterback, although the upcoming schedule isn't kind. After a matchup versus Carolina at home, the Cardinals have two road games (at Washington and Tampa Bay), with a bye sandwiched in between them. But if Warner can keep the job beyond that span, things get juicy. The Lions visit Glendale, Ariz. in Week 10, and then the Cards visit defensively deficient Cincinnati (a widely accepted term, yet not one endorsed by the Cincinnati Tourist Board) before returning home to face the 49ers and Browns, respectively, in Weeks 12 and 13. Meanwhile, given the way Leinart was playing, having Warner in the lineup full-time only can benefit Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and the rest of Arizona's skill players. Of course, all of this will be rendered moot if Warner sticks to his usual script and bangs his thumb on a teammate's helmet next week.

  • Colts cruise without Addai, Harrison

    Staring a Week 6 bye in the face, the Colts decided to err on the side of caution and keep both Joseph Addai (shoulder) and Marvin Harrison (knee) out of Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. It hardly mattered. Kenton Keith stepped into the workhorse role at tailback and ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Rookie Anthony Gonzalez started in place of Harrison and caught seven passes for a team-high 71 yards. Keith chipped in with five receptions, and tight end Dallas Clark continued to be one of the featured targets in the offense, catching seven passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. Both Keith and Gonzalez proved that they could be worthy fantasy starters when pressed into starting jobs, and both played well enough that they could earn expanded roles even when Addai and Harrison return in Week 7.

  • Surprise contributors lead Steelers

    If you had Najeh Davenport and Cedrick Wilson in your "key players for the Steelers on Sunday" pool, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. Now, slap yourself in the face because you're a liar. Davenport spelled Willie Parker to the tune of 58 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, while Wilson caught five passes for 69 yards. Wilson's contributions were needed because Hines Ward and Holmes both missed the game. Ward's status was well known, but Holmes pulled a hamstring in pregame warmups, after active rosters had been set. Unfortunately, fantasy players were likely stuck with Holmes in their starting lineup. Parker picked up his fourth 100-yard game of the season, but his owners were dismayed to see Davenport score on 1- and 5-yard runs. The former might be of serious concern; Parker had just "scored" on a 20-yard run, but the play was challenged, and it was ruled that he was down just short of the goal line. Davenport then came in for the gimme touchdown. Parker's only touchdown run this season has come from 11 yards out, so we have no definitive way of knowing that Davenport's 1-yard touchdown was a fluke. Parker should continue to be a top fantasy performer, but this situation bears watching.

  • Bush gets more work, Saints still stink

    Nate Ravitz can be seen on "Fantasy Football Now," ESPN.com's free live-streaming fantasy football pregame show, every Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.

    He can also be heard as host of the "Fantasy Focus" football podcast every weekday. Download or subscribe to the podcast on our fantasy pages or by clicking here

    Well, we wanted to see what Reggie Bush could do with a full load, and now we know: pretty much the same as what he did as a part-timer. Bush carried 21 times against the Panthers on Sunday but gained only 67 yards, and he gained only 52 yards on nine receptions. Fantasy owners will take 119 total yards, but Bush's continued unwillingness and/or inability to get upfield is sabotaging his production. Meanwhile, Drew Brees was shut out for the third time this season and now has nine interceptions versus only one touchdown pass. But hey, let's look on the bright side. Brees has been able to accomplish something once thought impossible: His completion percentage (63.3) is actually several points higher than his passer rating (57.4). Congratulations, Drew!

  • Jacobs returns, splits work with Ward

    At halftime of the Giants/Jets game on Sunday, Derrick Ward had 30 yards on seven carries, and Brandon Jacobs had 26 yards on six carries. After the break, the Giants turned Jacobs loose, and he finished with 100 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Ward had 56 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. It's safe to assume that Ward will continue to get a chunk of the workload, but the doomsday scenario that he would remain the featured back at the expense of Jacobs is not playing out. Jacobs should be safe to start as a No. 2 fantasy back, especially given his upcoming schedule. In the next three weeks, the Giants play the Falcons, 49ers and Dolphins, and those teams rank 21st, 23rd and 31st, respectively, in run defense.

    Player Tracker

    Ike Hilliard, WR, Buccaneers: After coming out of nowhere to catch seven passes for 114 yards in Week 4, Hilliard caught eight passes (albeit for just 58 yards) on Sunday. Clearly, Jeff Garcia has found a target he trusts, and Hilliard should be owned in deep point-per-catch leagues.

    Keenan McCardell, WR, Redskins: Sure, it's a stretch, but McCardell could have some value in deep leagues if Santana Moss' injury lingers.

    Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins: Sure, Betts still serves as Clinton Portis insurance, but fantasy owners who spent, on average, a seventh-round draft pick, were hoping for more from him. Betts now has 104 rushing yards for the season, a total he matched or bettered in five consecutive games at one point last season. Adding insult to injury, Mike Sellers scored two touchdowns Sunday.

    DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Williams, who was, on average, selected just a few picks after Betts, hasn't received more than 12 touches in a game since Week 1.

    Chris Chambers, WR, Dolphins: After getting off to a terrific start in the first three games, Chambers has caught just two passes (for limited yardage) in each of the last two games. Plus, Cleo Lemon, who likely will start in place of the injured Trent Green, saw significant action in three games last season, and in those three games, Chambers caught just four passes for 55 yards.

    Tatum Bell, RB, Lions: When you play for a team that rarely runs the ball and you get seven fewer carries than Kevin Jones, well, that's not good.

    Aaron Stecker, RB, Saints: With four carries for 12 yards, he didn't exactly replace Deuce McAllister in the New Orleans offense.

    Darrell Jackson, WR, 49ers: It didn't seem like Jackson's stock could get much lower, but a two-catch, 6-yard performance in Week 5 didn't inspire investor confidence.

    Studs and Duds

    Quarterbacks

    Stud: Philip Rivers (270 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 rushing TD)

    Honorable Mention: Gus Frerotte (262 passing yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs)

    Dud: Jon Kitna (106 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs, 3 fumbles)

    Dishonorable Mention: Vince Young (157 yards, 0 TD, 3 INTs)

    Running backs

    Stud: Kenton Keith (121 rushing yards, 2 TDs)

    Honorable mention: Ronnie Brown (153 total yards, 1 TD)

    Dud: Larry Johnson (15 total yards)

    Dishonorable mention: Shaun Alexander (32 total yards)

    Wide receivers

    Stud: Larry Fitzgerald (9 catches, 136 yards, 1 TD)

    Honorable mention: Plaxico Burress (5 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD)

    Dud: Santonio Homes (0 catches)

    Dishonorable mention: Darrell Jackson (2 catches, 6 yards)

    Tight ends

    Stud: Benjamin Watson (6 catches, 107 yards, 2 TDs)

    Dud: Alge Crumpler (2 catches, 4 yards)

    Kickers

    Stud: Kris Brown (5 FGs, 1 PAT)

    Dud: Joe Nedney (one made extra-point, one missed field goal)

    Team Defense/Special Teams

    Stud: Washington Redskins (2 INTs, 5 sacks, 3 points allowed)

    Dud: Denver Broncos (0 sacks, 0 takeaways, 41 points allowed)

    Training Room

    Quick thoughts on injuries not covered elsewhere. For detailed injury analysis, check out Stephania Bell's injury blog.

    Michael Pittman is expected to miss 3-4 weeks of action because of a fractured fibula, according to the Tampa Tribune. That locks Earnest Graham in as the starter for now, but the Buccaneers might step up their efforts to acquire another running back.

    Damon Huard left with a bruised shoulder. Brodie Croyle wouldn't have any fantasy value in a starting role, but he'd be in position to hurt guys like Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe.

    Trent Green was carted off the field with a concussion after diving head-first into the knee of Houston's Travis Johnson. Green escaped serious injury but is a major question mark for Week 6.

    With Santana Moss already out, Antwaan Randle El caught seven passes for 100 yards in the first half but missed the second half with a hamstring injury.

    Deion Branch was carted off the field with a sprained foot. There was no immediate word on the severity of his injury, but it's worth noting that Branch has played a full 16-game schedule just once in his career.

    Joe Jurevicius left with a knee injury. Hopefully this did not affect your fantasy squad.

    Jamal Lewis left with a foot injury. If you've been listening to me, this did not affect your fantasy squad.

    Quick observations

    Anyone who drafted Laurence Maroney in the first round is going to be bitterly disappointed at the end of the season. Sammy Morris is playing so well that he looks like a lock to continue eating into Maroney's workload when the latter returns, and not just near the goal line. It's bad enough that Maroney has no touchdowns and no receptions this season, but with Morris averaging 4.9 yards per rush, you can bet that the Pats will continue to feed him the rock between the 20s. Updated projection for total touchdowns for Maroney this season: five.

    Dallas Clark has five touchdowns this season, one more than his previous career high. His 300 receiving yards put him just 188 yards shy of his career-best total.

    Benjamin Watson also has five touchdowns this year.

    You're feeling pretty dumb if you drafted Alge Crumpler in the eighth round and could have waited three or four more rounds to get Clark or Watson.

    That's now three straight 100-yard rushing games for Ronnie Brown, who is on pace for 1,360 rushing and 918 receiving yards. Is he the new Tiki Barber?

    Everyone keeps saying "sell high" on Plaxico Burress, so allow me to voice the dissenting opinion. The guy has scored in every game this season, and dating back to last year, he now has scored in 10 of his last 12 games. If you're selling, I'm buying. I say he has another eight touchdowns in him and gets to 15 this season. As Matthew Berry would say, "You heard me!" Uh, in this case, you read me.

    I guess Eddie Kennison's return didn't affect Dwayne Bowe too much, huh?

    I don't like to brag, but I ranked Gus Frerotte as my No. 11 quarterback this week. My "Fantasy Football Now" (live Sundays at noon ET on ESPN.com!) cohorts Matthew Berry and Erik Kuselias not only refused to rank Frerotte but also labeled me crazy for doing so. Well, if you rode the "Gus Bus" in an ESPN standard league Sunday, you got 19 points out of your quarterback position, more than if you had started Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, among others.

    It's a good thing I don't like to brag because it would be awfully tough to brag about my elevated Lions' team defense ranking (ninth).

    It's not entirely his fault, but with the Jets sitting at 1-4, Chad Pennington is probably 2-3 weeks away from losing his job to Kellen Clemens.

    Negative Nate

    We all keep fooling ourselves into believing Ron Dayne can take advantage of a good matchup when the truth is that even Dane Cook probably would be a better option.

    Vince Young is completing 62 percent of his passes but is averaging fewer than six yards per attempt. Here's betting the Titans address the wide receiver position in the offseason.

    Artose Pinner's long run notwithstanding, the Falcons just can't get anything going on the ground.

    But on the bright side, their quarterbacks stink, too!

    Five early trends for Week 6

    1. Maurice Jones-Drew had only 21 rushing yards on 11 carries in two games last season against the Texans, this week's opponent. But he scored a rushing touchdown in each game while tallying 58 and 56 receiving yards, respectively.

    2. Ronald Curry had only four catches for 40 yards in two games against the Chargers last season.

    3. Philip Rivers was held to fewer than 135 yards in both games against the Raiders last season and had a total of just one touchdown pass.

    4. Warrick Dunn rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries at home against the Giants last season.

    5. In the same game, Jeremy Shockey caught six passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns.

    Nate Ravitz is an editor and analyst for ESPN.com Fantasy.

    Nate Ravitz is the deputy editor for ESPN.com Fantasy and co-hosts -- along with Matthew Berry -- the Fantasy Focus baseball and football podcasts.
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