- Brendan Roberts, Fantasy
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What have the coaches been saying in their weekly news conferences? Brendan Roberts takes a quick-hitting look at the goings-on for each of the 16 NFC teams:
It happened again. The Bills were able to keep the ball away from Terrell Owens (two catches, 25 yards), and Patrick Crayton responded with a six-catch day (for 73 yards and a touchdown). Was this a trend that began last week? T.O. said no on the team Web site. "The ones that were thrown to me, I felt like I had opportunities," said Owens. "The ball was kind of sailing a little bit and it was a lot of tight, close throws to the sideline." Indeed, as the team site reported, the Cowboys did try to get the ball to Owens, but the ball often was forced or underthrown. When push came to shove, the 'Boys had to go to Crayton, who responded. T.O. owners need not worry. He'll get his catches, double-team or not, especially once teams figure out they have to put more focus on Crayton. This is just a classic case of how an elite receiver can make a whole team better. Crayton owners rejoice!
New York Giants:
So why did Brandon Jacobs get so much work in the second half after splitting carries with Derrick Ward in the first half? In his Monday news conference, coach Tom Coughlin cited Ward's lingering ankle injury, saying his running back had a setback that hobbled him a bit. So will the two continue to split time? "As I have said many times, the more good football players you can have, the better off you are going to be," Coughlin said. "I thought Ward's first half was very good. The combination worked very well, and when Reuben Droughns came in at the end of game, he did a good job." In short answer, yes, Jacobs and Ward (along with Droughns) will continue to split the carries. Obviously, this lessens Jacobs' and Ward's potential fantasy value, but this is the new wave of NFL backfield use, so owners have to be used to this.
The Eagles' Web site is reporting running back Brian Westbrook (abdominal strain), tight end L.J. Smith (groin) and left tackle William Thomas (knee) were all back on the practice field, but the extent of their activity is unknown since the workout was closed to the public. While it's encouraging to hear all three players, especially Westbrook, is back in pads, the quotes that followed practice provided no confirmation that the trio will return for Week 6. Westbrook told the Web site reporter he had a muscle tear. "I compare it to a hamstring," he said. "It gets a little bit better, a little bit better and hopefully you have any setbacks. That's the key." Smith said he was "right on schedule" but said he expected a long, continuous rehab process. And Thomas is needed back after the team allowed 12 sacks versus the Giants, many of which came by Thomas' left tackle spot. An early guess would be for Westbrook to return, if maybe at less than 100 percent, and Smith and Thomas to sit at least another week.
Mike Sellers had the fantasy game of his life Sunday, with five carries for 24 yards and a touchdown, three catches for 36 yards and another score and one bulldozing hit of Kenoy Kennedy. So is he worth picking up in fantasy? Coach Joe Gibbs didn't answer that question in his Monday news conference, but he did offer some insight as to how the team uses Sellers, and the key word throughout was block. The team likes Sellers because he can play tight end, which allows the team split out Chris Cooley, and he is a great lead blocker as a fullback, but Gibbs said it best: "We're fortunate back there with Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright, who are explosive (runners), and Mike fits in there, too." There's probably a good reason Gibbs listed Sellers last on that list. It's not that he can't run the ball, it's just that the team needs him in too many other areas, including special teams. I wouldn't give up a useful player to get him on the waiver wire.
Coach Lovie Smith said, in his news conference Monday, that he was very pleased with how Brian Griese distributed the ball to different options. "It all starts with the quarterback, and (Griese) did a good job leading our team," said Smith. "He distributed the ball to a lot of different receivers. It seemed like everyone got involved in catching the ball. It was a special game from our tight ends." This is bad news for owners of Bernard Berrian, who had just one catch for 10 yards. This is the new Bears offense, one that doesn't throw the ball down the field for big plays but instead dumps the ball off short. To a lesser extent, owners of Muhsin Muhammad, who also had just one catch, will be negatively affected as well.
Kevin Jones has been inserted back into the Lions' lineup and continues to progress, carrying 11 times for 48 yards Sunday in Washington. But he's still dealing with a sore foot and will eased back slowly. "He is extremely sore," coach Rod Marinelli said on the team's Web site. "What it does is it cuts your reps down in practice. We are still learning how to practice him right now, how much he can do. We are adjusting to him a little bit on how to get him ready for the game." In other words, Jones is not getting regular reps early in the week because of soreness, and it's limiting his playing time on Sundays. He'll be the lead back, but don't look for the 20-25 carries you'd expect from a feature back anytime soon.
Green Bay Packers:
Coach Mike McCarthy said, in his Monday news conference, that DeShawn Wynn, who started at running back, suffered dehydration, which limited his carries in the second half. And yes, even McCarthy was surprised by that. "He wasn't sick ... he was sweating pretty good in pre-game ... I'm sure he was excited. The young man is from Florida, you don't think that'd happen, but it did." More concerning to Wynn owners, or his potential owners: "We need to learn from that. He was off to a strong start, but he was never right again ... that's a new experience to me." Wynn had a golden opportunity to take the reins on the running back job in Green Bay, and he did finish with a fine 78 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. But his body didn't allow him to take the job to himself with Brandon Jackson out and Vernand Morency at less than 100 percent. He'll probably get a majority of the carries if Jackson misses again, but the Packers are sure to be more careful with him in upcoming games.
Fantasy owners should watch out for Sidney Rice going forward. Rice caught six passes for 75 yards and a score in Week 4, and coach Brad Childress had a number of nice things to say about his talented receiver in his Monday news conference after their bye. "I think obviously those raw skills and ability are certainly the first thing you get interested in when you see a guy that big, tall, fast, good hand-eye, jumping ability," said Childress. "What I have seen here is just more attention to detail each and every rep. He loves to practice. He doesn't know it all; he doesn't think he knows it all, but he tries to get better each and every time he comes out here." A No. 1 receiver role is there for the taking for the young Rice, and he just might take it by year's end if his progresses and hard work continues.
Coach Bobby Petrino said, in his news conference Monday, that he is sticking with Joey Harrington at quarterback. "I think it's in our best interest ... to stick with Joey (Harrington). I think he understands our offense, he knows what we want to do and how we should execute," Petrino said. "Yesterday, he took a lot of hits, and toward the third quarter, I felt he wasn't completing a lot of passes he would usually complete. I thought making a change (at the position) would provide a spark for us and help us get something going." So that's that. Like it or not, Petrino is sticking with Harrington, at least partially, as Petrino noted, because backup Byron Leftwich doesn't have "a complete understanding of our offense." But you can bet Harrington's leash is getting shorter by the week.
Starting quarterback Jake Delhomme went the rehab route with his sore elbow, and it didn't work. He will have elbow surgery and be placed on IR. Coach John Fox, normally vague about the severity of injuries, admitted in his Monday news conference that this one hurts: "Anytime you lose your starting quarterback, it's a blow," Fox said. "He'll be missed." We can only hope Steve Smith's numbers won't take the brunt of that blow.
New Orleans Saints:
In his Monday news conference, coach Sean Payton said he would like to get more players involved on offense. "I have to find a way to get Lance Moore more touches. He's played well every time we've put him in the game," said Payton. "I have to find a way to get David Patten more involved. ... that with Aaron Stecker and Pierre (Thomas), maybe I can be a little more balanced in regards to getting them some more touches." So should Reggie Bush owners or Marques Colston owners be concerned that this team will develop a spread-it-around offense? No. These words came from the mouth of an 0-4 coach. In the long run, it behooves the team to keep the ball in the hands of its two best playmakers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Coach Jon Gruden said, in his news conference Monday, that Michael Pittman will miss at least six-to-eight weeks because of a "pretty good sprain" of his ankle. Earnest Graham will start, and Kenneth Darby will be elevated from the practice squad to back up Graham. But Gruden said the team would "look at what possibilities are out there," and went on to discuss the possibility of a trade. In the meantime, Pittman will be "kept around in case in he can return because he's a guy we desperately need," as Gruden put it. What should fantasy owners do as this point? Well, first of all, Graham is a must-own as the starter of a ball-control offense. Darby probably should be picked up in deep leagues because of the team's attrition at the position. You never know what can happen. And all owners should track the trade rumors this week and next to see what potential trades are linked with the Bucs. It's possible that the Bucs could bring in someone who immediately becomes a viable starting fantasy option.
With Matt Leinart sidelined indefinitely with a broken collarbone, coach Ken Whisenhunt said in his Monday news conference that the Cardinals are looking into signing a veteran backup, and the early leads point to Tim Rattay or Vinny Testaverde (what is he, 87 now?). One thing is for sure: They're going to need somebody because the only other player who can play quarterback is a wide receiver (Anquan Boldin, who played some quarterback at Florida State), and he's hurt. As banged-up as Kurt Warner has been in recent years as a starter, don't dismiss the possibility that the new acquisition could play down the road. "With only one quarterback healthy, there is a good chance that this guy will have to see some playing time," Whisenhunt said. "You would like to have someone who has played who can adapt to your offense." As potent as the Cardinals passing game is, that new acquisition actually might have some value down the road. Owners in deep, two-active-quarterback leagues might want to be preemptive about picking him up. ... Boldin update from the team Web site: The receiver went through a hard workout Monday and said his hip is improving, but he wasn't sure he would play against Carolina because he wants to take a long-term view of his status. Consider him questionable, at best, this week.
St. Louis Rams:
The Rams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday that Gus Frerotte will again start for the team while Marc Bulger continues to heal. Frerotte held his own Sunday at home versus the Cardinals, throwing for 262 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. But he has a taller order this week in Baltimore. Wise move not returning Bulger to the starting role for that one.
San Francisco 49ers:
In his Monday news conference, Mike Nolan said Vernon Davis (knee) has a chance to return following the team's Week 6 bye. "It's better than a doubtful. I'd say questionable," Nolan said. Also, quarterback Alex D. Smith (shoulder) did some throwing before Sunday's game and also stands a good chance to return. Coach Nolan said he'd re-insert his young quarterback back into the starting lineup when he does. As Sunday's loss to the Ravens indicated, the Niners need help on offense, and the best we can hope for is that having all the pieces back in place will get the offense (and especially Frank Gore) rolling again.
The Seahawks had a tough time dealing with the heat in Pittsburgh on Sunday, especially the defense, which spent more than 22 minutes on the field in the second half. Linebacker Leroy Hill, for one, suffered cramping and had to get IV fluids before returning. But this is not something to be concerned about if you own the Seahawks' defense/special teams. The climate in the Northwest is very mild, and things will cool down across the country as the season stretches into autumn. Besides, holding the Steelers to 21 points in Pittsburgh on a day in which their offense amassed only 144 net yards is a pretty good accomplishment, all things considered.
Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.
Brendan Roberts discusses the latest news from around the National Football Conference heading into Week 6.