Commentary

Best of the Blogs: Never a dull moment in the NFL

Updated: September 24, 2008, 5:05 PM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

You gotta give it to the NFL; it never lacks for a dull moment.

As you know, 15 of the 16 Week 3 games were played Sunday, yet the news Monday (and not Sunday) and the days after have included a suspension of a star receiver and Super Bowl hero (Plaxico Burress), a report that one of last season's top fantasy quarterbacks might be benched as soon as this week (Derek Anderson), the return of Trent Green to starting (in place of a quarterback in Marc Bulger who was drafted on average in the eighth round in 12-team leagues), a productive running back being ruled out already for Week 4 (Willie Parker) on an injury we didn't know existed before the ruling, and an uber-productive running back (Brian Westbrook) who also might have to miss. Oh, and the Bears waived Mark Bradley!

Yet another example that fantasy football isn't just played on the weekends. You can't just set your lineup before you leave work Friday evening, track the game Sunday and then show up Tuesday morning and put in a few waiver claims. Things change fast in this league, even on days no teams play. Suddenly Burress owners must find a fill-in. Suddenly Brady Quinn, Correll Buckhalter, Green and Rashard Mendenhall have value where there was little before. Suddenly a 3-0 fantasy team that has Westbrook and Parker looks mediocre. Just like that.

It behooves a fantasy owner to keep up with the news during the week and be the first guy to snatch a Le'Ron McClain or a Brady Quinn. And those round-the-clock NFL blogs are a good place to do that. Let's get to the news.

Westbrook "highly unlikely to play" | Read full blog entry

"As Les Bowen reports, Brian Westbrook said [his ankle] injury, which occurred on the first play of the second quarter, is 'closer to being a high ankle sprain than anything else.' As you might expect, Eagles coach Andy Reid wasn't exactly tipping his hand on Westbrook's status Monday, but listening to Westbrook describe the injury doesn't offer a lot of hope that he'll be ready for the Bears. 'My left foot came down on one of [Tra Thomas'] legs, and my right foot got caught in the turf … it was painful, very painful.' Reid might continue to call Westbrook a game-time situation all week, but it's highly unlikely that he'll play him. Correll Buckhalter and Lorenzo Booker will receive the bulk of the playing time in Westbrook's absence." -- Matt Mosley

Fantasy spin: Now that's some strong reporting. I like what Buckhalter, who has looked good when given an opportunity, can do for that Eagles' offense. Unfortunately, I don't like this week's matchup versus the Bears in Chicago, the same Bears team that rendered Earnest Graham useless last week. The Eagles' offense has been prolific thus far, and I say they'll still move the ball, but I see those yards coming through the air this week. And Buckhalter isn't quite the receiving option Westbrook is. What's really concerning to me is whether Westbrook will be back in Week 5; high ankle sprains sometimes take several weeks to heal.

Burress suspended for one game | Read full blog entry

"Just hung up the phone with a Giants official who confirmed that wide receiver Plaxico Burress had indeed been suspended for the Oct. 5 game against the Seahawks because he skipped a mandatory team meeting Monday and failed to respond to phone calls from the club. I'm told that Burress was asked to go home and not return to the facility until Oct. 6. Burress' no-show Monday had nothing to do with the fact he only had two catches in Sunday's win over the Bengals, according to the team official. So what was the receiver's explanation? I'm not sure what he told Tom Coughlin, but it apparently didn't hold much water." -- Matt Mosley

Fantasy spin: Sigh. And this just three weeks after signing a lucrative extension. Strike Plax from your lineup for the next two weeks (he's on a bye this week), but I'm not down on him for the rest of the season. Team suspensions happen now and then, and their purpose is to wake up a player and refocus him. I think it'll work in this case.

Parker and Hampton ruled out | Read full blog entry

"If Baltimore could hand-pick two players it would rather not see this week, Willie Parker and Casey Hampton, both ruled out for Week 4, would be near the top of that list. It's well documented that both teams love to run and stop the run. … Baltimore's defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 straight games, which is the longest current streak in the league. Odds are against Pittsburgh rookie tailback Rashard Mendenhall breaking that streak Monday in his first career start. If Mendenhall struggles, Pittsburgh could be forced to throw more than it wants and that would put pressure on Pittsburgh's pass protection, which was extremely shaky in allowing nine sacks last week." -- James Walker

Fantasy spin: There's trouble ahead for the Steelers without Willie Parker. Twelve carries, 23 yards, no touchdowns … that's my prediction for Mendenhall, and that might even be generous. He's going from relative inactivity to facing a hot Ravens defense, and it won't be pretty. Big Ben and Co. should be able to rack up passing yards, but they'll come at the expense of Big Ben's body, which I fear could add a few bruises this week. If I had a hot second quarterback (Trent Edwards?), I might even -- gulp! -- consider starting him instead.

Green to quarterback the Rams | Read full blog entry

"The Rams' decision to replace Marc Bulger with Trent Green initially struck me as a panic move. That feeling dissipated some after re-watching the Rams-Seahawks game from Week 3. Bulger wasn't stepping through his throws. He left several throws short, including at least one potential touchdown pass. This wasn't the first time Bulger looked like a quarterback who had taken too many hits and didn't want more. Bulger has time to [bounce back]. He might need it, too, after taking more sacks since 2003 than any other NFL quarterback. Green, the NFL's most prolific passer (in terms of passing yards) from 2003 to 2005, might be down to his final shot at a starting job." -- Mike Sando

Fantasy spin: As much as I'd like to believe Green could fix this offense, I just can't buy into it. First of all, the offense might not be fixable for any quarterback. And secondly, Green has had concussion troubles before, and if the 31-year-old Bulger can hardly make it through games without suffering an injury (thanks to that offensive line and scheme), I shudder to think about what might happen to the 38-year-old Green. Make him prove he's fantasy-worthy before burning a roster spot on him.

Anderson on the hot seat | Read full blog entry

"Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson knows it's time to produce or sit. … It's too difficult to change the No. 1 receiver, who is struggling to get open and catch the football this season. It's a major undertaking to alter the right side of the offensive line that's being manhandled by opponents. So the easiest solution is to yank the starting quarterback. Such is life in the NFL. Anderson likely will be the first to lose his starting job for the Cleveland Browns because the signal-caller often makes the biggest impact in games. Already on a short leash, Anderson put himself in this position by having arguably the worst performance of his career, throwing for 125 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions on Sunday. He was the biggest reason the Browns lost 28-10 to the Baltimore Ravens." -- James Walker

Fantasy spin: I still believe in Anderson and agree with Mr. Walker that he is only one of many problems the team has. Everyone seems to agree that going to Quinn is the right thing to do if Anderson struggles again, but I hardly think that going to a highly touted quarterback getting his first real game action is going to help the offense. In fact, given all the struggles around him, it could even get worse. Anderson has struggled against Dallas, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, three stout and physical teams, and while he has been downright awful in those matchups, I see him bouncing back this week in a much softer matchup against the Bengals and keeping his job. Not that I'd start him for it, though.

Another absence (or two) for the Saints | Read full blog entry

"Just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse for the Saints, they have. The news that left guard Jamar Nesbit has been suspended for four games for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances leaves an offense that already was thin because of injuries in deep trouble. Nesbit had started every game at left guard since the start of the 2006 season. There also is concern that left tackle Jammal Brown could miss some time with a groin injury. The woes on the offensive line come at the same time the Saints have receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey out with injuries, and running back Deuce McAllister barely has played as he comes back from knee surgery." -- Pat Yasinskas

Fantasy spin: Drew Brees and Co. have remained productive without Colston, but apparently things kick up a notch this week. At what point do you start downgrading Brees and Reggie Bush? I think Bush will be fine against the Niners in Week 4, but I don't see how Brees can continue to rack up 300-yard games. I'd downgrade him slightly.

Huard to start for Chiefs? | Read full blog entry

"The Chiefs are leaning toward playing Damon Huard again at quarterback. An official announcement is expected Wednesday." -- Bill Williamson

Fantasy spin: No official announcement has been made, but I'll take the preemptive strike and say the move doesn't change the prospects much of this sputtering offense. However, it would make Tony Gonzalez, Huard's lock-on receiver, look a lot better. In the 10 games Huard started last season, Gonzalez averaged 7.2 catches and 89.2 yards per game, with four of his five touchdowns. In the six games not started by Huard, he averaged 4.5 catches and 46.7 yards per game. Huard is a conservative passer, and Gonzalez is his go-to guy. I've found it nigh impossible to trade for elite tight ends in recent years, but if you have a surprise stud at your No. 3 running back (Matt Forte, for instance), you might dangle him to get Gonzalez while he's averaging just 43 yards per game and 8.6 yards per catch. With Huard, those numbers are sure to jump.

Rumblings that Kitna is on the hot seat | Read full blog entry

"Detroit backup quarterback Drew Stanton spent some extra time with coaches Tuesday, prompting Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com to wonder if a change is coming after the Lions' bye week. Starter Jon Kitna said no one had informed him of anything and added: 'I'm all about this team winning. If they feel that's necessary, then so be it. But I don't think I'm the problem.'" -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: Really, he's not. And not being a fan of Stanton, I doubt he'd do better. In fact, as a Calvin Johnson owner, I'm afraid a move to Stanton would put the "training wheels" on the Detroit offense, resorting it to short passes and not throwing downfield to Megatron. Of course, this would probably help Roy Williams catch more passes, but still, this offense is ranked in the upper half in passing yards per game, and I have doubts as to whether Stanton can keep it there.

Gore adapting to Martz offense just fine | Read full blog entry

"Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Frank Gore has his eye on the NFL rushing title. I think 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz wouldn't mind adding a rushing champion to his pass-oriented resume, particularly after the Lions said they wanted a coordinator more committed to the ground game." -- Mike Sando

Fantasy spin: Not only is Gore averaging almost 100 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry, but he also is in the top 10 among backs in receiving yardage. And that is why we liked Martz's move to San Fran. Three games in, it appears Gore is more Marshall Faulk than Kevin Jones. Martz seems to be having fun with this offense, also bringing players such as J.T. O'Sullivan and Bryant Johnson into the fantasy vernacular. I think Gore is on his way to a monster season.

Matt Jones anchoring the Jags' passing game? | Read full blog entry

"For now, [Matt] Jones is clearly the best the Jaguars have got [at receiver], and if they are to continue to climb out of the hole they dug with an 0-2 start, I think he's going to have to be a big part of it. It sounds very much like [coach Jack] Del Rio thinks that, too. Asked if [Jones'] improved play was a result of the team better figuring out how to use him or improved dedication in his part, the coach said it's a bit of both. 'Matt has had a great start to the year and I think that has carried over from a great camp and a great preseason. He's worked hard at it. He's become a more complete player, somebody that David [Garrard] has come to count on and lean on there and he's shown the ability to catch the ball in traffic and make a couple tough catches there that were very timely [Sunday]. So we want to build on that.'" -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: Matt Jones, No. 1 WR. We expected to say that, oh, about three seasons ago. But the talented fourth-year player finally appears to be clicking with the offense and impressing his coaches. I'm not buying it. First of all, his "success" is all relative. He has 162 yards in three games, which isn't much, and he's averaging just 10.8 yards per catch. It just seems like he's been bigger because Jones has made a number of key third-down catches. Secondly, he's in an offense which focuses (heavily) on the run, and the only reason he's even open is because teams are stacking the box. The better he does, the more teams will pay attention to him. And finally, there's that little matter of his felony drug charge. His trial date is set for October 10. This guy has had good stretches before and quickly disappeared; it takes more than three "decent" games before I believe in him.

Favre to miss? No way | Read full blog entry

"Jets coach Eric Mangini expects Brett Favre's streak of consecutive starts to remain intact Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at the Meadowlands. Mangini admitted Tuesday his opinion is based on Favre's gritty reputation as much as medical information." -- Tim Graham

Fantasy spin: We know better than to expect Favre to miss -- or even downgrade him because of injury. In fact, it seems this guy plays his best when the odds are stacked against him. And even though the Cardinals' defense is improved, I still like Favre's prospects this week now that he's finally clicking with his receivers.

Gates almost fully healthy | Read full blog entry

"Antonio Gates, the Chargers' Pro Bowl tight end, admitted Monday night that two weeks ago, against Carolina, he thought he was not going to make it through this season. Gates had offseason surgery on his left big toe and missed all of the preseason. However, Monday night, Gates said he is almost certain he will soon be completely healthy. 'I really feel great tonight,' Gates said. 'I'm at about 85 percent and going up. It's not going backwards anymore. I'm definitely going to make it. Tonight, I felt the best I have since the surgery. It's really getting better. In pregame warmups, I could tell the difference.'" -- Bill Williamson

Fantasy spin: To his credit, Gates has still been pretty darned productive even at less than 100 percent. He's fourth among tight ends in ESPN fantasy points. But a fully healthy Gates could jump to No. 1 in that offense. Also good news: left tackle Marcus McNeill was back in the lineup in Week 3 to anchor the left side of the offensive line and protect Philip Rivers' blind side.

Bryant looking good, Galloway not | Read full blog entry

"Has age finally caught up to Tampa Bay receiver Joey Galloway? It's sure looking that way. … From Bucs coach Jon Gruden on how good Antonio Bryant looked: 'He was looking to get one more opportunity to show that he belongs in the league and what kind of man and receiver he can be. He's in great shape. He's the first guy here. I see him in the lobby at 6 a.m. waiting for coach [Richard] Mann to get here. He never missed a day in the offseason. He's in tremendous shape." -- Pat Yasinskas

Fantasy spin: Before reading Gruden's perspective, I chuckled when I heard people talking about Bryant having value this year. Now I'm starting to believe. The veteran has always been very talented, and now he appears to be working hard at it. I'm checking my waiver wire now …

Edge an afterthought? | Read full blog entry

"Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says Edgerrin James has become an afterthought in Arizona, playing a secondary role to Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. I've always viewed James as a solid and consistent player, never a spectacular one. … The Cardinals and Rams are among four teams without a single rushing play of 20 yards or longer. That feeds into the thinking that … James is not dynamic enough." -- Mike Sando

Fantasy spin: I must admit I still believed in Edge coming into this season. He's a workhorse in a potentially dangerous offense who also can catch passes. But he's not catching passes (15 yards receiving), and he's not getting chances to score touchdowns (Tim Hightower is). Edge isn't even in the top 30 among running backs in fantasy points despite averaging more than 20 carries per game. Don't expect that to change any time soon.

Crumpler = fantasy bust (so far) | Read full blog entry

"Tight end Alge Crumpler, signed to be a security blanket and reliable outlet for the passing game, has only five catches in three games." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: Many tagged Crumpler as a sleeper in Tennessee's offense … but mostly because Vince Young has shown the propensity to rely on security blankets such as the big Crumpler over the middle. Now Young is on the sidelines, and strong-armed Kerry Collins is either throwing to his wide receivers or his backs on designed plays. More than anything, the team's security blanket is its running game. Through three games, the Titans have averaged just 23.7 pass attempts per game, the fourth-fewest in the NFL.

Rodgers running too much | Read full blog entry

"Aaron Rodgers runs too much. I'm all about mobile quarterbacks, and I understand the inherent advantage of having a quarterback who can move around in the pocket. But there is a fine line between utilizing your mobility and giving up on a play too early. Rodgers, who ran five times Sunday night and has 17 carries this season, is moving toward the latter category. A 16-game starter needs to be judicious with every decision to run. Sometimes, throwing the ball away is the smartest course of action." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: I've thought the same thing, and actually am concerned Rodgers can make it all 16 games by playing that way. After all, we had injury questions about him coming into this season.

Shiancoe not exactly a jewel | Read full blog entry

"Sorry, Visanthe Shiancoe. One touchdown catch -- on a play that no defender touched him -- does not mitigate four dropped scores in the past 19 games. Shiancoe dropped another (non-scoring) pass earlier in Sunday's game after a big hit. I understand he's absorbed some pretty violent hits over time. I don't expect a tight end to make acrobatic catches, but he should hold on when he collides with someone smaller than him. Don't know about you, but I cringe every time I see him running open down the middle of the field. What a tease." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: Like many of you, I love Shiancoe's build and raw talent, but Seifert is right: he just doesn't produce. Don't know about you, but this'll keep me from claiming him off the waiver wire even in the thin bye weeks.

Dolphins used gimmick plays to beat Pats | Read full blog entry

"Miami Dolphins quarterbacks coach David Lee is getting much of the credit for installing the gimmick offense they ran Sunday to flummox the Patriots. Running back Ronnie Brown scored four rushing touchdowns in a 38-13 rout. Brown also threw a touchdown pass. The Wildcat offense, as the Dolphins call it, put Brown in a shotgun formation, spread quarterback Chad Pennington wide and lined up Ricky Williams as a wingback who would counter. The Patriots were fooled out of their socks. Lee used that ploy at Arkansas with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. But Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning ran a similar system before in the NFL -- and to a much higher degree. [With Carolina,] Henning would snap the ball directly to DeAngelo Williams and then hand off to [DeShaun] Foster. Unlike the Dolphins, who picked their spots with the Wildcat, Henning went full-scale with his gimmick in a 2006 game against the Falcons. The Panthers ran 52 times that day and held the ball for nearly 42 minutes in a 10-7 victory. The Panthers tried seven passes, one of them going for the team's only touchdown." -- Tim Graham

Fantasy spin: Considering Brown and Ricky Williams are the two players fantasy owners care most about, getting the ball in their hands, even on gimmick plays, sounds just right to us. But about that Ted Ginn Jr. breakout …

Texans ready to return home | Read full blog entry

"Bob McNair would be shocked if the Texans don't play at Reliant Stadium on Oct. 5 as scheduled." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: The Texans, considered a dark-horse team by many to make the playoffs, have looked listless in their first two games. But a return to Reliant Stadium, where the team went 6-2 last season, might be just what they need to get it going. Beginning Oct. 5, the Texans play four straight and five of six games at home, and that would be a good time to perhaps reinvest in players such as Matt Schaub (if he makes it as the starter that long), Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Steve Slaton and others, especially in our Gridiron Challenge game.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy. He has been covering fantasy sports as an editor and writer for more than eight years and was awarded the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2006 from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Roberts can be read in both the fantasy baseball and football areas at ESPN.com.

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