Commentary

Instant Replay: Steven Jackson is back

Updated: October 29, 2007, 4:56 PM ET
By Nate Ravitz | ESPN.com

"I hate Steven Jackson!"

Those were the words of my friend, colleague and podcast foil Matthew Berry some 14 months ago. Now, Matthew has always been a forward thinker, as anyone who remembers his vitriol for Ben Sheets can attest. If you stick with Mr. Berry long enough, you shall be rewarded. With that in mind...

I love Steven Jackson!

Those were the words of my amigo, cohort and Fantasy Monday Night Football Preview ESPN Video foil Matthew Berry some two months ago. And once again, if you stick with the TMR, you shall be rewarded ... only this time, it won't take nearly as long.

Jackson returned to the field Sunday and rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries, good for a healthy 5.1 yards per carry. Sure, he left the game with back spasms, but all indications are that this isn't a serious issue. "It was overcompensation for my groin," Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's not an injury that'll keep you out for weeks. It's a setback."

Stephania Bell will have more on the situation in her injury blog, but a sneak preview is that she's reasonably optimistic that Jackson will be fine. He has a bye this week, which should give him ample time to prepare for the Saints in Week 10. Best of all, Stephania doesn't own Jackson, so he's not subject to the curse.

The takeaway here is that Jackson represents a great buying opportunity. After the bye, the Rams face only one elite run defense the rest of the season (Pittsburgh in Week 16). The Rams are terrible, but they can't play any worse than they have so far this season. The patchwork offensive line remains a concern, but it's not like the Rams had road graders last season.

A Steven Jackson owner is likely to be in bad enough shape that he can't afford to have a running back on bye in Week 9. So if you're sitting at, say, 5-3 and have some depth, make an offer. Maybe you can get Jackson for DeShaun Foster (whom you won't want to use against the Titans in Week 9, anyway) and an extra receiver you don't need.

Headlines

  • Saints marching again

    It took more than a month, but the Saints are finally back as an offensive force. Drew Brees showed pinpoint accuracy in completing 31-of-39 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns, with three of the scoring strikes going to Marques Colston. What a difference a game makes: Colston looked like a complete bust coming into Week 8 but is now comfortably back in the top 25 among wide receivers for fantasy points scored this season. The schedule only gets better for the Saints. They don't face a single elite defense the rest of the season; even the Jaguars, who visit the Superdome next week, rank only 15th in the NFL in total defense. Brees owners might have a big hole to dig out of after their third-round pick struggled in the early going, but they should have a top-five quarterback the rest of the way. Meanwhile, David Patten had his second 100-yard game in three weeks, yet he is owned in only 3 percent of ESPN.com leagues, as opposed to the 42 percent ownership of the insufferable Devery Henderson. Hey, 4.2 percent of you! I'm not saying you need to pick up David Patten, but there's got to be someone better than Devery Henderson.

  • London rains on own parade

    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.

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    It's safe to say that the Giants-Dolphins game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday didn't convert many soccer fans to the American version of football. Playing in a fierce rainstorm, Eli Manning completed only 8 of his 22 passes for 59 yards, looking less like the younger brother of Peyton Manning and more like the younger brother of, well, Cleo Lemon. If you were burned by Eli or Plaxico Burress in this game, you pretty much need to call it a mulligan, because the conditions certainly weren't ripe for success in the passing game. On the other hand, Brandon Jacobs (23 carries, 131 yards) and Jesse Chatman (16 carries, 79 yards) both showed well. Chatman owners have to be encouraged by the 19 touches he received; he looks like a viable top-20 back to me. There were seven (seven!) fumbles in this game, not counting the Dolphins' decision to draft Ted Ginn Jr. in the first round. OK, that was a low blow, especially since Ginn Jr. scored his first NFL touchdown in this game. Be still my beating heart.

  • Gore hurt again, hurts owners again

    Frank Gore aggravated his ankle injury on Sunday, right in the middle of yet another spectacular performa ... oh, wait. He stunk up the joint yet again. Gore has now gone five straight games without a touchdown and has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season. Stephania will tell you that the ankle is no big deal, and I'm sure she's right. What she won't tell you (she loves the Niners) is that Alex Smith stinks. The offensive line stinks. The wide receivers stink. The defense stinks. The stadium stinks. And Gore simply isn't rosy enough to overcome all that. Unlike Steven Jackson, Gore is not a guy to target in trade talks. The Niners have a handful of great matchups the rest of the way, but Gore is no longer a must-start every week, let alone a guy who can carry a fantasy team.

    Player Tracker

    Chris Chambers, WR, Chargers: Sure, he caught only two passes, but this was a day when Philip Rivers attempted only 11 passes and completed only seven. The good news: Chambers was the only San Diego wide receiver to catch a pass.

    Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: Good signs abound. The Lions are showing increased commitment to the running game at the same time they are showing decreased commitment to Tatum Bell. Meanwhile, Jones faces the woeful Denver run defense in Week 9.

    Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders With LaMont Jordan struggling once again, Fargas carried 12 times for 61 yards and caught three passes for 36 yards. It appears that he's passed Dominic Rhodes on the depth chart, and given Jordan's ongoing back issues, Fargas could find himself in a starting role before too long.

    Dominic Rhodes, RB, Raiders: What a difference a week makes. Rhodes had nine carries against the Chiefs in Week 7 and didn't so much as touch the ball against the Titans on Sunday.

    Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings: Officially backing up Adrian Peterson for the first time, Taylor carried only six times for 19 yards and caught one pass for 18 yards. He'll continue to see regular action but isn't a viable starter, even at a flex position, in his new role.

    Chad Pennington, QB, Jets Poor arm strength is one thing. Poor decision-making -- which Pennington has uncharacteristically shown all season -- is quite another, and it probably will cost him his starting job in Week 9. Assuming Kellen Clemens takes over as the starter, he'll step into the David Garrard/Jeff Garcia/Damon Huard class of fantasy quarterbacks. In other words, with the byes almost past us, he's really worth owning only in leagues that require two starting quarterbacks.

    Studs and Duds

    Quarterbacks

    Stud: Tom Brady (306 yards, 3 TDs, 2 rushing TDs)

    Honorable Mention: Drew Brees (336 yards, 4 TDs)

    Dud: Vince Young (42 yards, 0 TD, 11 rushing yards)

    Dishonorable Mention: Brian Griese (208 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs)

    Running backs

    Stud: Joseph Addai (100 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 1 receiving TD)

    Honorable mention: Kevin Jones (105 rushing yards, 1 TD)

    Dud: LaMont Jordan (16 rushing yards)

    Dishonorable mention: Frank Gore (41 rushing yards)

    Wide receivers

    Stud: Marques Colston (8 catches, 85 yards, 3 TDs)

    Honorable mention: Braylon Edwards (8 catches, 117 yards, 2 TDs)

    Dud: Plaxico Burress (2 catches, 14 yards)

    Dishonorable mention: Steve Smith (2 catches, 18 yards)

    Tight ends

    Stud: Antonio Gates (3 catches, 92 yards, 2 TDs)

    Dud: Dallas Clark (2 catch, 22 yards)

    Kickers

    Stud: Sebastian Janikowski (3 FGs, 2 of 50+ yards)

    Dud: Robbie Gould (1 PAT, 1 missed field goal)

    Team Defenses/Special Teams

    Stud: San Diego Chargers (4 INTs, 1 fumble recovery, 1 sack, 2 TDs)

    Dud: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0 takeaways, 1 sack, 24 points allowed)

    Training Room

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

    Reggie Bush will be just fine. No need to worry about the ribs that are, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "slightly bruised."

    Starting in place of injured Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb left Sunday's game with a neck injury after being slammed hard to the turf. He was replaced by Brooks Bollinger. On deck: Spergon Wynn! (That's three!)

    Ahman Green was unexpectedly inactive for the Texans after being listed as probable with a knee injury. The good news is that this didn't affect many fantasy owners, since Green's season-long disappearing act led to him being started in only 39 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

    Matt Schaub was able to bounce back from his injury to start Sunday's game but left with what the Houston Chronicle called a concussion.

    Trent Edwards left with a wrist injury. The Buffalo News reports that X-rays were negative. Expect a renewed quarterback controversy in Buffalo this week.

    Quick observations

    The demise of Joseph Addai as a workhorse back was grossly exaggerated, no? Addai carried 23 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns and also scored on a 4-yard reception, while backup Kenton Keith carried six times for 33 yards. That seems like the appropriate split.

    The demise of Vinny Testaverde as a 43-year-old savior was pretty much accurate. He threw 20 passes compared to David Carr's 25. That seems like the appropriate split.

    Ben Roethlisberger is on pace for 34 touchdown passes this season and has posted a passer rating better than 100 in five of seven games this season. Remember when people thought he was just a caretaker?

    I advised owners to trade Donovan McNabb after his 381-yard, four-touchdown game in Week 3. After his 333-yard, one-touchdown game on Sunday, I once again advise showing him the door. He's capable of the occasional big game, but there are at least nine other quarterbacks I'd rather own. Convince someone that they're "buying low" on McNabb and you should be able to get good value.

    That was a pretty nice game for Jesse Chatman, getting 19 touches on a day when both teams struggled to sustain drives. After a bye this week, he has more good matchups than bad ones down the stretch.

    Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Vernon Davis. In my heart of hearts, I know that my scathing rebuke of you at the close of Fantasy Football Now (Sundays at noon, live on ESPN.com!) inspired your breakout performance.

    New York Jets great Wesley Walker scored 12 touchdowns and tallied 1,016 yards in his best season in 1986. Wesley Welker is on pace for 12 touchdowns and 1,226 yards this season.

    If you were redrafting today, how many receivers would you definitely take ahead of Braylon Edwards? For me, it's Randy Moss and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I'd have to think hard about Edwards versus Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress. But for me, at least, he'd easily be ahead of Chad Johnson and Torry Holt. How amazing is that?

    Negative Nate

    I didn't think Vince Young would be good this year, but I thought he'd play the quarterback position better than Neil Young. Or Vince Neil. Instead, the Titans quarterback has just three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in six games, and don't get me started on his rendition of "Dr. Feelgood." The Madden curse strikes again.

    I've said it before, I'll write it again: Cedric Benson stinks. It's not that he's a bad football player, it's that he's so bad he makes me want to build a time machine so I can go back to a time when there was no televised football, and then I wouldn't have to watch him play and have my eyes corroded by his immeasurable putridity. The Bears already made the "ability versus draft status" decision at quarterback with Brian Griese and Rex Grossman. Now it's time to make the same decision with Adrian Peterson (4.5 yards per carry) and Benson (3.1 YPC).

    By the way, it's not that Peterson is especially good. This isn't a Frank Gore waiting behind Kevan Barlow situation. He's just not as bad as Benson.

    Buy into Lee Evans at your own peril. While his 85-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter was a fantastic individual effort, it was also a colossal fluke. He's probably worth starting in a cake matchup against the Bengals in Week 9, but even in that situation he's more than capable of a two-catch, 18-yard stinker.

    Five early trends for Week 9

    1. Derrick Mason has not scored a touchdown in 16 career games against the Steelers. He has only one 100-yard game against Pittsburgh.

    2. Willie Parker was held to fewer than 30 rushing yards in both of his games against the Ravens last season, averaging 2.2 yards per carry.

    3. Hines Ward has been held without a touchdown in his past five games against the Ravens while also being limited to fewer than 85 yards in each of those games.

    4. Peyton Manning has thrown for at least 320 yards in each of his past three games against the Patriots, including last season's AFC championship Game.

    5. Dallas Clark caught six passes for 137 yards in last year's AFC Championship Game.

    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.