Commentary

Around the AFC: Ocho Cinco already back on the practice field

Updated: November 6, 2007, 5:29 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

What have the coaches been saying in their weekly news conferences? Tristan H. Cockcroft takes a quick-hitting look at the goings-on for each of the 16 AFC teams:

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: Once again, the Bills' quarterback position appears up for grabs. In his Monday news conference, coach Dick Jauron didn't name a starter for Sunday, saying for the second consecutive week that such an announcement likely will come Wednesday. According to the team's Web site, Jauron said Monday he doesn't know whether Trent Edwards' injured wrist, which kept him on the sidelines in Week 9, will allow him to practice Wednesday. "As of [Sunday] it was better, but I wouldn't say [Sunday] that he could have thrown a ball," Jauron said. Considering J.P. Losman completed 24 of 34 passes for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 33-21 victory, he likely will earn another start. That should encourage owners of Lee Evans, who has 11 receptions for 269 yards and two scores, and 16 targets of Losman's 39 pass attempts, since Losman took over late in the Week 8 game. Losman, meanwhile, is only a desperation option even against a poor secondary (such as Miami's in Weeks 10 and 14).

Miami Dolphins: Coach Cam Cameron confirmed during his Monday news conference that Cleo Lemon will retain the starting role in Week 10. "For this week, there has been no change [at quarterback]," Cameron said, according to the team Web site. Still, both Lemon and John Beck will continue to share the reps with the first-team offense during practice, an indication that Lemon's job is in jeopardy. "John Beck has been one play away from playing for several weeks now," Cameron said. "He's progressing and doing a nice job and we'll continue with his development." Neither player is attractive from a fantasy perspective, although the Dolphins, now 0-8, might soon want to get a look at Beck in preparation for 2008. Lemon has completed only 58.4 percent of his passes and has three touchdowns, four interceptions and two fumbles in his three starts since Trent Green's injury. Don't count on much improvement in the team's passing game, especially with two young quarterbacks with little NFL experience running the show.

New England Patriots: Laurence Maroney's sinking status on the depth chart has become a constant frustration to his fantasy owners. According to the Boston Globe, Maroney played only 23 of 58 snaps in Week 9, significantly fewer than Kevin Faulk, who played 34 snaps. Faulk also got the bulk of the work late in the game -- when the Patriots rallied from 10 points behind -- playing 11 of the final 13 snaps as the team went to a no-huddle offense. It's the second straight week in which Faulk saw more action than Maroney. The Globe notes that Faulk played 33 and Maroney 24 of 76 total snaps in Week 8 against the Redskins. Faulk picked up 49 total yards and a touchdown on 10 touches (7 runs, 3 catches), while Maroney had 59 yards on 15 carries, marking the third consecutive game in which Maroney has fallen short of 75 rushing yards and failed to score. Those who believed Sammy Morris' injured-reserve status might lead to an increase in Maroney's workload were apparently wrong. Faulk is getting a good share of the touches since Morris went down, and while he's not an elite fantasy option by any means, he could be an interesting bench option in the event Maroney gets hurt again. He's worth having on your roster.

New York Jets: In his postgame news conference Sunday, coach Eric Mangini said he was pleased with the play of new quarterback Kellen Clemens in Week 9. The second-year passer completed 23 of 42 passes for 226 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and, most importantly, led his team 64 yards down the field with a little more than five minutes to play, setting up a game-tying 30-yard field goal. "I was encouraged by his first opportunity to lead the team as the starter," Mangini said, according to the team Web site. "Kellen did a nice job in his first start dealing with a little more pressure than we had seen and orchestrating some positive drives." Clemens' performance looks especially impressive considering he was without one of his two best receivers, Laveranues Coles, out with a concussion, and was facing one of the league's better defenses in the Redskins. Don't count on him being a particularly appealing fantasy choice, with the exception of possible spot starts against teams with weak defenses like the Dolphins (Week 13) or Browns (Week 14), but it seems his presence shouldn't hurt the Jets' offense much after all.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Willis McGahee left Monday's game against the Steelers in the fourth quarter when Troy Polamalu's knee crashed into his helmet during a blitz, according to the Baltimore Sun. The team Web site termed the injury a concussion, and coach Brian Billick was unsure of his running back's status after the game. Keep tabs on McGahee's status throughout the week, as Musa Smith would stand to see a big boost in his workload in Week 10 should McGahee be unable to play. … Also in the game, backup quarterback Kyle Boller came on in relief of Steve McNair, who completed only 13 of 22 passes for 63 yards, no scores and an interception. Billick offered no update after the game on whether a quarterback controversy has begun again, although it's possible McNair is on a shorter leash following Monday's terrible performance. Neither quarterback is a particularly attractive fantasy choice, but should Boller get another look, it could mean good things for the team's receivers in the coming weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals: Coach Marvin Lewis said during his Monday news conference that Chad Johnson, who was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a neck injury this past Sunday, has a chance to play in Week 10. According to the team Web site, Johnson has a sprained neck, though he made the team's charter flight home and showed up at practice without a neck brace Monday. Those are encouraging signs that he shouldn't miss any time, though he'll need to be monitored closely during practice this week. Chris Henry, meanwhile, was added to the team's active roster on Monday after completing his eight-game suspension. He'll practice with the team this week and is eligible to play in Week 10, with his status likely closely tied to Johnson's health. Fantasy owners should add Henry, who has a straight track to the No. 3 receiver role in a pass-friendly offense. However, be prepared for it to take a game or two before he's up to full speed, barring a Johnson setback.

Cleveland Browns: Kellen Winslow has been playing through a shoulder injury, according to the Canton Repository. He said it has been bothering him for much of the season and that he will "pay for" some of the hard landings he suffered while recording 11 catches for 125 yards Sunday against Seattle. During his Monday news conference, coach Romeo Crennel wasn't willing to speculate on Winslow's practice status; the team won't resume practicing until Wednesday. "Kellen is a competitor," Crennel told reporters. "He wants to be out there." Don't be too worried about Winslow. While his health bears watching throughout the week, he has been remarkably consistent, racking up at least eight fantasy points in each of his first eight games, and averaging 10 for the season. Although he might be only the No. 2 receiving target on his team -- Braylon Edwards has more catches, yards and scores -- Winslow remains an elite tight end and is No. 4 at his position in fantasy points (66).

Pittsburgh Steelers: Coach Mike Tomlin said after this past Monday's game that he had no second thoughts about putting Ben Roethlisberger, who sustained a hip contusion, back in the game, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He said after the contest that the quarterback will be ready to play in Week 10. "We fully expect him to play this weekend," Tomlin said. Roethlisberger tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes in Monday's game, and he has 11 in three games since the team's Week 6 bye. He left midway through the third quarter with the team up by multiple scores, returned to the contest briefly in the fourth, and then left for good shortly thereafter. That's an encouraging sign that Roethlisberger shouldn't have any further issues with his hip, allowing his fantasy owners to breathe a sigh of relief.

AFC South

Houston Texans: The Texans' defense, touched up for 127 points the past four weeks, suffered a significant loss in Week 9, as cornerback Dunta Robinson suffered season-ending knee and hamstring injuries. In his Monday news conference, coach Gary Kubiak said Robinson had a torn anterior cruciate ligament and that his hamstring ripped completely off the bone. That leaves the Texans with only three healthy cornerbacks and will press Fred Bennett into a starting role opposite DeMarcus Faggins. "He can play better, and he knows that. He will have to play better for us to be successful these last seven weeks," Kubiak said of Faggins. "He's been a good player around here before and he's done some good things this year. We've just got to keep working with him and get his confidence level up." Despite Kubiak's confidence in his cornerbacks, the loss of Robinson could prove devastating to a defense that was already susceptible to big plays by opposing offenses. Bump up the value of any quarterbacks and wide receivers you own who play the Texans in the coming weeks.

Indianapolis Colts: The health of linebackers Tyjuan Hagler and Freddie Keiaho ranks among coach Tony Dungy's most pressing concerns heading into Week 10. Hagler sat out Sunday's game because of a neck injury, and Keiaho missed because of an ear issue, and with the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson next on Indy's schedule, Dungy said during his Monday news conference that having both defenders back in action would make a significant difference in the game. "We kind of envisioned going with a lot of nickel and dime packages [Sunday] because [the Patriots] were so heavy [in three-receiver sets], but San Diego I know runs the ball with LaDainian," Dungy said. "We're going to need our linebacker corps." Tomlinson's fantasy status won't change regardless of whether Hagler or Keiaho plays. The Colts' defense, though, will be facing a Chargers offense that, despite a Week 9 loss, has totaled 121 points in its past four games. That's a pretty tough draw for a defense that failed late in Sunday's loss to the Patriots.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Despite Quinn Gray's respectable 354-yard, two-touchdown, three-interception passing effort in Week 9, David Garrard might reclaim the starting role next Sunday. During his Monday news conference, coach Jack Del Rio said Garrard, who has missed the Jaguars' past two games with a high ankle sprain, will return to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. "We'll see how his ankle responds. We think he'll be available, but I don't want to make a decision now. I would think I'd need the whole week to determine," Del Rio said. While Gray seemed to breathe a little more life into the Jacksonville passing game in Week 9, keep in mind much of his success came in garbage time, after he had been intercepted in the third quarter by the Saints' Mike McKenzie, who returned the ball 75 yards for a touchdown and a 14-point lead. In addition, the matchup was fairly fantasy-friendly for quarterbacks and wide receivers, meaning Reggie Williams, who caught six passes for 128 yards and a score, shouldn't be hailed as a trustworthy weekly option just yet. With Garrard back, the Jaguars would get a little closer to the team that won four of his last five starts. Still, he leads a conservative passing game, one to be trusted only for favorable matchups.

Tennessee Titans: Backup running back Chris Henry faces a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, which the Nashville Tennessean reports was a prescription medication that contained a component on the league's list of banned substances. He has the option to appeal the ban, though the Tennessean speculates that the Titans might prefer he serves it now in order to be available for the final four games of the regular season. "It's my understanding that he is considering an appeal," coach Jeff Fisher said during his Monday news conference. "That's all the information I have right now." This brings Chris Brown's status -- Fisher said Monday Brown might be available in Week 10  more into play. "I think [Brown] has got a good shot to play," Fisher said. "He's been improving weekly since the injury. I would say he probably has a fairly good chance to get back on the practice field, and we'll just determine how effective he is." Both Brown and Henry are backups at this stage, with LenDale White performing well, though this is a significant hit to Henry's appeal as a handcuff to White. White has quickly developed into a workhorse back and a weekly must-start, and it'd probably take a significant injury for either Brown or Henry to get into the picture as a fantasy force this season.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: Jay Cutler left Sunday's game after only four pass attempts because of a leg injury, though an MRI afterward was negative and revealed no stress fracture. In his Monday news conference, coach Mike Shanahan said the team will re-evaluate the quarterback before Wednesday's practice. "Right now he's quite sore, and we'll see how he feels on Wednesday," Shanahan said. Patrick Ramsey completed 29 of 46 pass attempts for 262 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief of Cutler, although much of that was a result of his team trailing by multiple scores by halftime. Shanahan, nevertheless, was impressed enough by Ramsey's performance that he'll enter Week 10 as the team's starter if Cutler can't play. Still, the team might look to add some depth at the position in that event. "If Jay's not able to go, obviously we won't go into the game with one quarterback," Shanahan said. Mike Leach, the emergency quarterback, is not an option in a backup role. With the Broncos facing a tougher schedule the next several weeks (at Chiefs, versus Titans, at Bears, at Raiders), their receiving options -- Brandon Marshall, in particular -- would become less attractive fantasy options if Cutler is out for an extended period.

Kansas City Chiefs: Larry Johnson suffered a midfoot sprain when he was tackled from behind in the fourth quarter of this past Sunday's game. He'll be sidelined for at least Week 10, and there are concerns he could miss more time than that. "They're running some more tests," coach Herm Edwards said during his Monday news conference. "[Johnson] came in to get treatment, but they took an MRI and they're still studying it. We won't know for sure until probably [Tuesday] sometime exactly what the severity is and if he's going to be out, and if so, how long." With Johnson sidelined, Priest Holmes will start, but rookie Kolby Smith should see a decent-sized workload in Week 10. "I don't see Priest carrying the ball more than 15 times," Edwards said. "Kolby's going to have to carry it some. He's played more football this year, counting the preseason, than Priest has. You don't want to wear Priest out." Fantasy owners should consider adding both backs, as this might be an open competition for the role. Expect Holmes, despite having played only two games so far this season, to get the first chance to grab hold of the starting job.

Oakland Raiders: Justin Fargas has officially claimed the starting running back role for the Raiders, according to the Oakland Tribune. He rushed 23 times for 104 yards and one touchdown, while LaMont Jordan, the team's starter in its first seven games, logged only four carries for 10 yards Sunday. More importantly, though, Jordan ran only one time in the game's first half, compared to 12 rushing attempts for Fargas before halftime. That's a clear sign Fargas is the main man in Oakland these days, making him a must-add in all formats. "He ran extremely hard and ran a lot," coach Lane Kiffin said. "It was a decision we made earlier in the week to start Justin, and he responded, ran well, protected the ball and played well." … Kiffin also said he's not planning to throw quarterback JaMarcus Russell into the mix until he's more convinced he'll be able to work well with his supporting cast. "I think about playing JaMarcus all the time," he said. "I thought about playing him when we were down by 14. That doesn't mean it's what we're going to do. This isn't about this year, when you look at everything. You've got to make sure JaMarcus is ready to play."

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers' defense, which totaled 60 fantasy points and held its opponents to 27 points total in three games heading into Week 9, suffered some tough losses in Sunday's contest. In his Monday news conference, coach Norv Turner said defensive lineman Luis Castillo suffered a strained knee and a sprained ankle against the Vikings. "I don't want to comment on how serious it is before they are able to do the tests they need to do. But it looks like one that will keep him out awhile," Turner said. In addition, cornerback Quentin Jammer suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter, while linebacker Shaun Phillips sat out with a groin injury. With a game against the Colts coming up, the Chargers will need all their key defenders healthy to hang in the contest. Even then, few defenses -- certainly not San Diego's -- warrant consideration facing Indianapolis. Long term, the defense, which appeared to pick up its play of late, would suffer should those three miss additional time.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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