- Brendan Roberts, Fantasy
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Isn't it ironic that the week we're talking about good performances on fantasy benches (primarily Brett Favre, in a lot of leagues) is the one following the heaviest bye week of the season?
Let the fantasy trading season begin! It's time to use that excess and fill your weaknesses, folks. And seek deals with fantasy teams that will be decimated by upcoming byes.
With that, we get to this week's midweek news. I encourage you to click on the "Read full blog entry" links if you would like to read more about that subject, and note that I have ranked these topics from most important to least important in terms of fantasy relevance. Have at it!
Could Plax miss more time? | Read full blog entry
"A report in the Daily News indicates that Burress may not be out of the woods yet. He may have violated the league's personal conduct policy when he was involved in two domestic disputes over the summer in which police were summoned. According to the Daily News' source, the league is currently investigating the matter and could impose a fine or further suspension. On Monday, interim NFLPA director Richard Berthelsen said, 'There hasn't been any discussion of the personal conduct policy in the case we're discussing.' The league neither confirmed nor denied the existence of an investigation, which usually means there's an investigation underway. I know that Tom Coughlin wants all this to go away, but I'm not sure it will. Every other day, another detail about Burress' life surfaces. He's apparently been fined close to 40 times since joining the organization, which seems like somewhat of a trend. Is this the sort of guy you want to reward with a long-term contract extension? ... We'll have to see how it all plays out, but if the league determines Burress was purposely withholding information this summer, he might have to sit out an additional game and write a check." -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: Oh, good stuff. Well, not good stuff by Plax, but good info on him, anyway. Fantasy owners must be sure, though, not to overreact to this news. Right now, it appears he'd perhaps miss one game, at most. Even the greats sit an occasional game because of injury, and we mustn't think this is any different. Sure, Plax's character has come into question, but fantasy owners have him for what he does on the field, not off it. And the more he gets in trouble off the field, the more he'll want to produce on it. I say you stand by your man.
Rudi to start at RB for Lions | Read full blog entry
"Veteran Rudi Johnson took over as the team's No. 1 running back, sending an unhappy Kevin Smith to the bench. According to multiple media outlets in Detroit, Smith revealed he had been demoted. Johnson, who joined the team a week before the season began, will get the majority of carries for the time being. Smith hasn't been overly productive in his first three NFL games, totaling 102 yards on 29 carries, but it doesn't take a lot of thought to understand what's happening here. The Lions made it clear last week they hadn't given up on the season and expected to compete the rest of the way. If nothing else, the Lions have seven more homes games to sell to their fan base. No one wants to send a message that the team is building for the future. Smith is the Lions' future, but Johnson might represent a more productive present." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: Coach Rod Marinelli also addressed his own job situation this week, and that makes the reasoning for this move obvious. Marinelli is doing everything he can to win now and save his job. So Rudi gets the call, and his fantasy value jumps with it. But there's no telling if: (A) He'd do any better than Smith, or (B) He'd stay healthy as a full-time starter. I guess what I'm saying is, don't sell the farm to get Rudi Johnson.
Pittsburgh re-signs Davenport | Read full blog entry
"Coming off the season-ending shoulder injury to rookie tailback Rashard Mendenhall, the Pittsburgh Steelers reacted quickly Tuesday and signed Najeh Davenport. Davenport knows the offense, so he shouldn't have much of a learning curve. He just needs to hold the fort for another week or two before starter Willie Parker returns." -- James Walker
Fantasy spin: Ho hum. Davenport knows the offense and has the build of a goal-line back, but we've been enamored with him before, only to be disappointed. Several times. No way can we trust a guy off the street to help us anytime soon. With Willie Parker due back right around the time Davenport gets into full game shape, I say Najeh is not even worth a pickup.
Boldin likely to take week off | Read full blog entry
"According to Michael Irvin, [Anquan] Boldin said he's been advised to take a week off. The Cardinals have not offered specifics on Boldin's injury or a timetable for his return." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: No surprise there. In fact, the Cardinals' bye is in Week 7, and I could see the Birds giving Boldin Weeks 5 and 6 off, then the bye week, to clear his mind and come back strong for Week 8. That's just speculation, though.
Packers lose another key defensive player | Read full blog entry
"Defensive end Cullen Jenkins has been diagnosed with a torn pectoral muscle, according to the National Football Post. If that's the case, Jenkins almost certainly will miss the season. Coach Mike McCarthy referred to Jenkins' injury as a strain while speaking Monday to reporters in Green Bay. Jenkins had further tests Monday afternoon to reveal the extent of the injury. Jenkins has been enjoying a strong year, playing at right end on running downs and moving inside on passing downs. It's not clear how the Packers would replace Jenkins in the starting lineup." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: First Al Harris, now Jenkins. And AJ Hawk's groin injury "could be serious," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. They're dropping like flies in Green Bay, and even with those guys in the lineup for much of the first four weeks, the Packers rank 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per game. Even if Hawk bounces back quickly, I don't see Green Bay being a top-10 defense the remainder of the season ... but I still like it as a spot start this week at home against Atlanta.
Bengals sign Benson | Read full blog entry
" The Cincinnati Bengals added a running back off the street Tuesday, signing former Chicago Bears tailback Cedric Benson. This signing doesn't make much sense. Benson's had some character concerns, and there's a hometown product from nearby Kentucky in Shaun Alexander who has a better résumé and would have been a better public relations move." -- James Walker
Fantasy spin: Cedric Benson? Yeah, there must have been something wrong with Alexander. And both players are similar backs to Chris Perry, the team's starter. Obviously, Benson was signed for depth, with both Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey banged up, but I don't think he's even worth adding to your bench at this point. Take the wait-and-see approach with him.
Bulger back as starter | Read full blog entry
"New Rams coach Jim Haslett wasted no time restoring Marc Bulger's career as the Rams' starting quarterback." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: I give Bulger three games before he's back on the sideline nursing badly bruised ribs.
Griese to remain Bucs starting QB | Read full blog entry
"Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese made history Sunday, but for all the wrong reasons. Griese threw three interceptions in a victory against Green Bay. He also threw three interceptions the previous week in a victory against Chicago. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Griese became the first quarterback in 28 years to win consecutive starts despite throwing at least three interceptions in each game. San Diego's Dan Fouts was the last quarterback to do so and that was in 1980. ... Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden got his dander up when asked about Griese ranking low in several statistical categories. 'You know he's 3-0 as a starter; how about that? We've played two very good defenses," Gruden said sarcastically to the media. 'He's a winning quarterback for us and we're going to rally around him, continue to try to improve on his strengths and try to clean up a couple plays that hurt us last week.' Although Griese has thrown six interceptions in the last two games and Gruden praised the progress of former starter Jeff Garcia in practice, the coach didn't sound like he's even thinking about changing quarterbacks." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: Griese has a history of filling in and looking good for a few starts, but once fatigue sets in on the legs, or the book gets out on him, or for whatever reason, he returns to earth. That's why we call him a journeyman quarterback. We wouldn't be hitching our wagon to him, that's for sure.
No. 20 a magic number for Deuce, Saints | Read full blog entry
"The fine folks at ESPN's research department sent over some very interesting numbers about the Saints and running back Deuce McAllister. He was the center of speculation after barely playing in the first three games and the center of attention after getting 20 carries in Sunday's victory against San Francisco. That's kind of ironic because it appears 20 is the magic number for McAllister and the Saints. In the games in which McAllister has played and carried at least once since the arrival of coach Sean Payton, the Saints are 6-0 when the running back gets 20 carries. When he gets less than 20 carries, the Saints are 5-9." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: Worth mentioning, but I think this is a bit deceiving. It's kind of the chicken-or-egg thing. Whereas one could say the Saints are winning because Deuce is running so much, I'd say Deuce is running so much because the Saints are winning. On Sunday, in a game in which Deuce had 20 carries, the Saints passed the ball on 17 of its first 26 plays, by my count, in jumping out to a 7-3 lead. Deuce carried the ball just three times in those 26 plays. Then the team went more of the conservative route; from midway through the second quarter on, the team was a lot more balanced, successfully defending and even building its lead by running the ball. And of course, Deuce is a great grind-it-out back to use to protect leads. That's just how this team is sculpted -- pass first, then run to protect the lead. Now, if they had one of the league's best defenses and/or were assured to win a lot of games, that's great for Deuce. But they don't. They were facing an inferior defense at home, and Deuce became more of the game plan. Thus, I think this "Deuce is back" talk is premature.
Bills' McGee out | Read full blog entry
"A sprained left knee will keep Buffalo Bills cornerback and kick returner Terrence McGee out of Sunday's road game against the Arizona Cardinals, an NFL source with knowledge of the injury has informed ESPN.com. ... An MRI on Monday confirmed there was no serious structural damage, but the former Pro Bowler was having difficulty moving when he arrived to the Bills facility. ... McGee is Buffalo's best cornerback and kickoff returner. Arizona has the NFL's fifth-ranked offense and fourth-ranked passing offense. Arizona ranks 10th in points per game." -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: Helloooo, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald & Co. The Bills' defense has become a vogue unit in fantasy, and they should be able to sack Warner and force turnovers, but McGee's absence is just one reason the Cardinals should be able to rack up plenty of yards and maybe even points. In fact, with Adrian Wilson perhaps out for the Cardinals, this game could be a fantasy-friendly shootout.
Should the Bears lighten Forte's workload? | Read full blog entry
"Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times chronicled the high number of carries for rookie tailback Matt Forte this season. Meanwhile, Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune profiled backup tailback Kevin Jones, who just happens to be facing his former team Sunday in Detroit. Is it time for Jones to start easing Forte's load? That might not be a bad idea for the long haul, assuming the Bears are comfortable with Jones' recovery from offseason knee surgery. Forte has an NFL-high 92 carries in four games, six more than Kansas City's Larry Johnson, and also leads the Bears with 18 receptions. Forte is on pace to rush 368 times this season, putting him dangerously close to the 370 mark that historically has caused problems for running backs. Mulligan details a study by Football Outsiders that suggests tailbacks who get at least 370 carries in a season face a greater risk for injury and typically see their production the following year drop by 35 percent." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: As a Forte owner myself (in a few leagues), I too am concerned by Forte's workload, not as much for future seasons as the end of this one, especially fantasy playoff times. Forte already has it tough in Weeks 13 and 14 with Minnesota and Jacksonville on tap, and I'd hate to see his yards-per-carry dip before that time. Now, the Chicago press is on this full force, and my experience with coaches reading this information, or responding to questions regarding it, is that it does make a slight difference in the play-calling. Not necessarily for an established player, but I think the hubbub will cause the Bears to shift a handful of carries per game from Forte to Kevin Jones. Enough to lessen his value? Maybe not. But one thing is clear: There's no better time than now to trade Matt Forte.
Don't expect changes from Raiders on offense | Read full blog entry
"Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd: 'Things are obviously a mess off the field in Oakland, but a coaching change won't alter things much between the lines. ... The one tweak might be opening up the vertical passing game a bit more because [Lane] Kiffin's approach revolved around running to set up the pass and placed a greater emphasis on ball control, ball security and field position. ... [JaMarcus] Russell has the bazooka arm to make those throws so it's just a matter of getting him comfortable within the offense.'" -- Bill Williamson
Fantasy spin: The team's possible intent to throw downfield more doesn't necessarily mean the Raiders will succeed at the task. Russell does have a strong arm, but will the line block long enough to give his receivers a chance to get downfield? And also look at the receivers: Ronald Curry and Zach Miller are more possession guys, while Javon Walker and Ashley Lelie have lost a step and are inconsistent. My expectations for the Oakland passing game remain low, but it is encouraging to read that the Raiders will continue to focus on the running game.
Advantage: Patriots | Read full blog entry
"The Patriots could be a sack-happy bunch against the 49ers, Christopher Gasper writes. ... Christopher Price of Metro Boston News writes the Patriots should know how to defense a Mike Martz offense. ... Boston Herald reporter Karen Guregian writes the 49ers could present 'the perfect get-back-on-the-horse proposition for the Pats.'" -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: Everyone seems to think the Pats will roll the 49ers even though they're favored by only three points. Well, I guess I'm with 'em because I think the Pats will shut down the Niners on their way to an easy victory. I stuck with the suddenly unpopular Patriots defense during their bye week and plan on starting them against J.T. O'Sullivan, who has been sacked a league-high 19 times already.
Mewelde should do just fine for Steelers | Read full blog entry
"Mewelde Moore is set to start at Jacksonville on Sunday, and though he's a bit small and should be Pittsburgh's No. 3, he's a better runner than his numbers against Baltimore (13 yards on eight carries) indicate. He has good vision and instincts and, despite his 209-pound frame, is tough enough to run inside. He lacks Willie Parker's burst and breakaway speed and Mendenhall's power and measurables, but Moore is, at worst, a capable emergency starter. He's also an excellent receiver and a solid contributor in pass protection -- an asset Pittsburgh needs now more than ever." -- James Walker
Fantasy spin: Moore hasn't gotten too much attention this week because he's a veteran back who is starting, and the element of the unknown isn't quite what it would be with a youngster. But I think he'll do just fine, even at Jacksonville. Moore is an exciting, explosive back who can rack up receiving yards, but the knock on him was that he was just too small to handle every-week chores. Well, with Parker due back in a few weeks, he doesn't have to. He can handle his 20-plus touches the next two games, then return to the third-down role in a few weeks. He and the team know that. I think you could do a lot worse if you have a starting back on bye this week (I'm talking to you, Steven Jackson or Thomas Jones owners). Oh, and one more thing: The Steelers have lost starting guard Kendall Simmons to a right Achilles injury, and he is already being thrown on the "serious losses" list by many. He's not. By all accounts, Simmons is a league-average starter, at best, and his backup, whoever it might be (Darnell Stapleton?) should be able to come close to Simmons' production.
McMichael likely to head to IR | Read full blog entry
"Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams might have to place tight end Randy McMichael on injured reserve. ... Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Jim Haslett is putting pressure on tight end Joe Klopfenstein to realize his potential." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: The two go together because it's looking like Klopfenstein will be McMichael's replacement for the remainder of this season. Klopfenstein was highly touted by the Rams coming out of college, but it's not like he's a fleet-footed fantasy-type tight end, and of course the Rams' offense is nothing to write home about, either.
Texans lose a defensive starter | Read full blog entry
"Houston's strong safety C.C. Brown is finished for the year after suffering a fractured arm that turned out to be worse than the Texans had hoped. The team will sort through a couple options as it prepares for its first home game of the season Sunday against Indianapolis." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: So a team that ranks 25th in the NFL in yards allowed per game is losing a starter? Oy. Actually, the team should be OK here. They lack depth at a number of positions, but not in the defensive backfield. Granted, the D is still one to target, but don't overrate this single loss.
Carolina should be OK without Gross? | Read full blog entry
"It appears as if Jordan Gross' streak of 91 straight starts (every game of his career) is in serious jeopardy. The Carolina left tackle could miss at least a couple of weeks after suffering a concussion and losing consciousness against Atlanta. That's a huge blow for the Panthers because Gross is their best offensive lineman, and right tackle Jeff Otah also has a sprained ankle. But this was posted by Scouts Inc.'s Tag Ribary: 'The Panthers are in better shape than most people realize. Left guard Travelle Wharton is experienced at left tackle and will be able to switch back quickly and fill in for injured left tackle Jordan Gross without a drastic impact. In fact, I don't see this as a major blow to Carolina. Gross is a little more athletic, but Wharton has a strong lower body, can set his feet better and is a little more stout versus a power rusher. He also has as much experience at left tackle as anyone on the Panthers and it wouldn't even surprise me if Wharton has already practiced taking reps from left tackle, just as an injury precaution. Plus, Wharton is familiar with the Panthers' offensive scheme.'" -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: There you have it. Good stuff from people who know a lot more about football than you or I do (unless, by chance, you're an NFL scout or general manager). It's concerning that Carolina might have lost bookend tackles, regardless of Wharton's ability, but it doesn't sound as dire as first anticipated. Don't downgrade your Panthers offensive options.
O'Sullivan getting hit hard | Read full blog entry
"Observations on the 49ers' pass protection against the Saints after watching the game and breaking down the team's offensive personnel use: None of the six sacks was on third down. That means the 49ers weren't necessarily getting beat in obvious passing situations. Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan is not going to make it through the season without better protection and more consistent decision-making. He took a pounding. In the fourth quarter, Charles Grant lifted Barry Sims off the ground and hit O'Sullivan right after the quarterback threw. O'Sullivan was limping when he got up. ... It's hard not to admire the way O'Sullivan fights through the hits. I just think he's taking too many sacks -- 19 through four games -- and too many hits to last." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: Good stuff from Sando, including notes about tight ends not being used to pass-protect and empty backfields. For the record, this is a Mike Martz staple. He often leaves in too few blockers, and his quarterbacks get pounded. In fact, could you even imagine Alex Smith playing in this offense? If they're tough enough, quarterbacks can withstand the hits and beat blitzes by throwing slants and outs, but at this point I'd have to agree with Sando that it's not looking likely that O'Sullivan can stay upright enough to help fantasy owners.
Dolphins O-line better than you realize | Read full blog entry
"Miami befuddled New England with the Wildcat package only six times. Take out those unusual plays and Miami still had 342 net yards, didn't allow a sack and gave Chad Pennington enough time to complete 17 of 20 passes. 'Domination' isn't a word Dolfans are used to hearing in their favor, but their revamped offensive line was in total command against the Patriots. The Dolphins linemen don't view their performance as one good afternoon but as a coming-of-age performance for a group still learning to play together." -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: Yup, still talking about that Dolphins-Patriots game, but the theme here is the upgrade of the team's offensive line, and I've bought into it. The team added a high draft pick in Jake Long, signed Justin Smiley, moved Vernon Carey back to his natural right side and have Samson Satele now in his second year at center. Both in terms of experience and talent, this team has improved. It'll take a bit for the unit to come together and play consistently, but I see it happening in the second half, and Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Chad Pennington & Co. stand to gain from it.
What's wrong with Chad? | Read full blog entry
"Here is comprehensive film analysis from Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd: 'What has happened to wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco? He looks like a different player this year. ... It's obvious that his displeasure about the organization and extended missed time in training camp have affected his performance. Simply put, he doesn't look like the explosive playmaker who forced defensive coordinators to design coverage schemes that isolated on him. However, the Browns went into the game this past weekend making sure he was the first one they tried to slow down. In certain situations they would bracket him with both a corner and safety, but it's T.J. Houshmandzadeh who makes the Bengals' passing game go right now as the No. 1 receiver. ... Johnson doesn't seem to be playing with a lot of explosion (shoulder injury?) when separating off the line of scrimmage, along with that competitive demeanor and confidence when attacking different levels in the passing game which has made him a very special player over his career in the NFL." -- James Walker
Fantasy spin: Not sure what it is -- perhaps losing? -- but Ocho Cinco just isn't into it. But if there are two things I've learned in fantasy, they're: (A) Don't make trades with (or take financial advice from) a guy whose nickname is a city or state, and (B) Don't give up on superstar players after a few bad weeks. I think you Ocho Cinco owners have no choice but to hang on to him and wait this out.
Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.
Brendan Roberts looks through the NFL Blog Network for fantasy-relevant nuggets.