Best of the Blogs: Palmer, Romo, Torain ... and a Chiefs kicker?
Guess what percentage of ESPN standard leagues Ryan Torain is owned in.
Hmm, there's a buzz around him, and he's a running back, so maybe 65 percent? Ah, let's make that 50. Or 40. Yes, 39 percent.
A Denver back who is due back soon -- there was even a slight chance he could play at New England on Monday -- who is owned in less than 20 percent of leagues right now.
Prepare for that to change this week, which brings us to the true essence of this "Best of the Blogs" column. It's about putting your finger on the pulse of the news and reacting to it in your fantasy leagues. Some weeks there might not be much in the news that deserves fantasy reactions, but a case such as Torain's shows how important the media and coverage of him is to fantasy leagues.
Just think, Torain hasn't played a down in an NFL regular-season game. He's from Arizona State, far from a perennial college powerhouse, so not many of us can even remember seeing him play. He's a fifth-round pick, which is hardly a recipe for stardom. He's coming off a broken elbow. Michael Pittman is the established starter in Denver. Torain won't return until at least Week 9. And yet, simply because of what we read and know as fantasy owners, Torain will be -- and should be -- in high demand this week and next.
What have we read, and what do we know? We know Mike Shanahan's offense can usually run the ball effectively. We know the backs who shine in those offenses usually aren't the guys you'd expect (Pittman is a good example of this). As our AFC West blogger Bill Williamson noted, we know Torain's big, bruising style fits the "downhill, one-cut" running style Shanahan and the Broncos like. We know the buzz is also coming from the Broncos, who are eager to have their star back. We know Torain was on the verge of taking the starting job in training camp when he suffered the injury. (Read full blog entry)
Take a look at your league's waiver wire, and you won't find a player listed who has Torain's fantasy upside in Week 9 and beyond. Seriously. A third of your league might not even know who he is, but you do, because you've done your homework. Here's hoping it pays off for you.
Palmer out beyond this week? | Read full blog entry
"From what I'm being told, [Palmer] cannot get better [while he's] playing, and that's the foundation here. How much does Palmer want to risk not improving this condition, or possibly it getting worse, by continuing to throw? That's why he's shutting it down for at least two weeks, and I personally believe he should make more time off." -- James Walker
Fantasy spin: So now we're looking at two weeks, not one. Quite honestly, that might be enough to warrant dropping him if you own him (and he's currently owned in 84.3 percent of ESPN standard leagues). This elbow won't get better anytime soon, and he wasn't exactly helping you much anyway. I'm prepared to drop him in a league in which I drafted him moderately high. Sigh.
Jones to play this week? | Read full blog entry
"Matt Jones practiced Tuesday, which should mean he's not suspended this week. ESPN has reported he's out three games, but that an appeal can delay the suspension." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: That three-gamer is coming eventually, but you might as well use him this week against the Browns, right? Really, what other good receivers does David Garrard have?
Champ out 4-6 weeks | Read full blog entry
"Good luck to the Broncos. The Broncos, who have a bye this week, have to try to come out of a slump without Champ Bailey. The star left cornerback is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. ... Bailey is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He was handling New England receiver Randy Moss before he was injured; Moss then took advantage of Dre' Bly with Bailey on the sideline. Rookie Jack Williams is expected to take Bailey's place in the starting lineup. Denver's defense has been brutal much of the season. Bailey, along with linebacker D.J. Williams, was one of Denver's two feared defensive players. His loss is going to make it very challenging for Denver." -- Bill Williamson
Fantasy spin: Bailey's loss makes Denver's defense (even more of) a defense to target. For the record, after their Week 8 bye, the Broncos host Miami, then play at Cleveland and at Atlanta.
Romo "all but ruled out" for this week | Read full blog entry
"It seems like Tony Romo is facing the reality that he may miss two more games. Speaking on Terrell Owens' radio show Tuesday evening, Romo all but ruled himself out for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay." -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: My reaction to this, of course is: Terrell Owens has a radio show?! Yikes! While Romo wavered because he wanted to "sacrifice his health in order to help [the team]," as Mosley put it, our injury analyst Stephania Bell, to her credit, stuck to her guns. "There's no way he plays," she kept saying. All Romo did was distract Brad Johnson and his team. I strongly believe the Cowboys (and Romo) will do the right thing here and hold him out 'til after their Week 10 bye. That just makes sense for a two-to-four-week injury; that would be four weeks and three games missed. So just stash Romo, right? Not necessarily. The Cowboys have a pretty difficult schedule during the fantasy playoffs. They play at Pittsburgh in Week 14, host the Giants in Week 15 and host the Ravens in Week 16. Granted, when the Cowboys' offense is right, they can overcome the matchup. But we also shouldn't expect big things from Romo, either. Perhaps a fellow owner is "getting by" with a second-rate quarterback? You might be able to convince him that he needs to trade for Romo for the future betterment of his team. Considering the details, you have my full blessing to try that.
Winslow suspended? | Read full blog entry
"The dispute between the Cleveland Browns and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. continues as the team suspended Winslow for Sunday's game without pay. So a player tells the truth about a staph infection the Browns tried to hide, and the player gets suspended for it? That alone shows how worried Cleveland is about public perception with its problems containing staph." -- James Walker
Fantasy spin: Through six games of the season, Winslow has just 21 catches and 187 yards. As in, he's currently on pace for less than 500 yards receiving, and he's going to miss this week's game, which further hurts the pace. But I still would try my very best to keep him around. If you need to cut him, I can't give you any compelling reason not to, other than he has as much week-to-week upside as any fantasy tight end, and it's almost a sure thing he'll end up on one of your opponents' teams. I still believe Winslow has a good game or three left in him this season.
Looking like LJ will miss Week 8, too | Read full blog entry
"The troubled Larry Johnson may miss more playing time for the 1-5 Chiefs. Also, it seems more and more likely that a split between the player and the team is nearing -- probably at the end of the season. ... While many NFL observers expect Johnson to be suspended, it hasn't happened yet. A source close to the situation said Johnson has not been contacted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or the league about a pending suspension. The source said Johnson isn't necessarily out of the woods but said 'it is a wait-and-see situation.'" -- Bill Williamson
Fantasy spin: Sheesh, given all the negative off-field reports I'm hearing about Johnson, I have my doubts as to whether he can even return for Week 9. But that's just me. It's also not a sure thing he'll miss Week 8 -- you'd think the NFL would have suspended him by now if they were going to -- so don't do anything drastic. Just track the situation.
S-Jax will be OK | Read full blog entry
"Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams reacted with relief upon learning that Steven Jackson's injury was not serious. ... From Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat: The Rams expect Jackson to start in Week 8." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: In a word, "whew!" The matchup at New England is tough, but Jackson will get enough touches -- through the air or on the ground -- to warrant starting him. Do so with confidence.
Westbrook sounds ready to go this week | Read full blog entry
"Les Bowen reports that Brian Westbrook is feeling good again.'" -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: Even more encouraging were the quotes Bowen got from Westbrook himself. In one two-sentence span, he used the words "confident" and "back on track." We have a modest stat projection for Westbrook this week (11 points, 19th among running backs). That makes sense given his questionable status (he's coming back from cracked ribs). But I'm predicting big things again, and one thing is for sure: No matter who you have on your team, if Brian Westbrook plays for the Eagles, he must start for you.
Shockey doesn't practice, looking questionable for game in England | Read full blog entry
"Tight end Jeremy Shockey (sports hernia) did not practice Tuesday." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: Shockey reportedly had some "in-game discomfort" in his first game back following hernia surgery. (On a personal note, reading that gave me the heebie-jeebies.) Anyway, Shockey himself indicated to the Associated Press that he's still not well and might miss the Week 8 game in London. Still, he traveled with the team, and likely will try to practice this week. But Shockey owners should be prepared for him to miss the game. Might I suggest his backup, Billy Miller, who has at least 50 yards in each of the past three games?
Bryant named the post-Galloway-return starter | Read full blog entry
"Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden made it clear Antonio Bryant will remain as the starting split end even after Joey Galloway returns from injury. This makes sense because Bryant has played very well in Galloway's absence. He's not the deep threat Galloway was, but Bryant's been Tampa Bay's best receiver. It would be easy to say Galloway can just move over to flanker, but he doesn't really fit that spot in Tampa Bay's offense. The Bucs ask the flanker to do a lot in traffic, and that's not where Galloway excels. Flanker Ike Hilliard had a concussion Sunday and could miss some time, but the Bucs have Michael Clayton as the backup. It remains to be seen exactly when Galloway will be back, but the most likely possibility might be the Bucs using him as a slot receiver." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: Personally, I think everyone -- not necessarily Gruden -- is going a bit overboard on Bryant. The guy has been vintage Bryant this season. He had 115 yards and his first touchdown in Week 7, but a week before that, he had one catch for 13 yards. In Week 3, he had 138 yards receiving, a week after he was held without a catch against the Falcons. The guy is maddening to own, regardless of whether he's starting or not. So news like this shouldn't be overrated.
New kicker in KC | Read full blog entry
"One of the more intriguing story lines of the Chiefs' training camp reversed field Tuesday. The team signed kicker Connor Barth to be their new place-kicker. He replaces Nick Novak. Novak made 6 of 10 field-goal attempts this season. He made one of three attempts Sunday in the Chiefs' 34-10 loss to Tennessee. Novak beat out Barth in a closely contested battle in training camp. The final decision wasn't made until after the final preseason game. Barth, a rookie, will make his NFL debut Sunday versus the Jets." -- Bill Williamson
Fantasy spin: This was an interesting story line during the preseason, but hey, aren't they all interesting then? Anyway, now that we know how the Chiefs' offense is, we're not interested in owning their (unproven) kicker.
Cadillac ready for a test drive | Read full blog entry
"Carnell Williams is back at practice. There still is no guarantee Williams will return to the playing field this year, but this is a huge step in his comeback from a major knee injury last year. Williams will be allowed to practice while not counting against the 53-man roster. The Bucs will have 21 days to decide if they want to activate him or put him on the injured reserve list. Running back Warrick Dunn is a little banged up, but the Bucs still have Earnest Graham and Michael Bennett at that position. They have to keep that in mind and make sure they don't rush Williams if he's not ready. Some players who have had the same injury as Williams (torn patellar tendon) have taken as much as two years to make a full return." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: The overwhelming theme in the paragraph above is simply not to expect much from Cadillac. In fact, I wouldn't even recommend picking him up.
Lions looking for quarterbacks? | Read full blog entry
"Detroit worked out quarterback Tim Rattay on Tuesday, as first reported by Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. You never know when the Lions might need another quarterback after placing Jon Kitna on injured reserve, leaving them with Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton and Drew Henson on their quarterback depth chart. Rattay played in four games for Arizona last season." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: The question here is whether they're looking at Rattay or someone else as simply depth, or actually planning to have them start. It's not inconceivable that they could get to a winless point in the season where they'd put in a veteran who just could get them in the win column. Either way, Lions quarterbacks don't deserve our attention at this point.
Julius lashes out | Read full blog entry
"Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says frustrations boiled over on the Seahawks' sideline Sunday night as running back Julius Jones lashed out. [Coach Mike] Holmgren sounded unconcerned." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: Unconcerned maybe, but ready to give Maurice Morris more work? Maybe. A good story by Hughes with details of Jones' tongue-lashing, which even was aimed at Holmgren; apparently his teammates had to restrain him. This stuff happens all the time, and Holmgren, not a stranger himself to hollering on the sideline, understands this. But Jones hasn't really proven himself in Seattle, and Holmgren is the de facto decision-maker here. Just take a close look at how much work Jones gets in Week 8; it could be a precursor to the rest of the season.
A look at the Pats | Read full blog entry
"The Patriots' most dominant rushing performance in 15 years [on Monday] coincided with the best game of Matt Cassel's young career. Screens and short passes were the key, as he did not attempt any passes over 15 yards. ... Wes Welker, who found the end zone Monday night for the first time this season, is actually on pace to match last year's total of 112 receptions. However, his productive game Monday night notwithstanding, Randy Moss is still way behind last year's pace, with 15 fewer catches than he had at this point last season." -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: The two bits go together to answer this question: Is Randy Moss back? And I say no. Sure, Moss had two scores, but he had them by turning short/screen passes into scores, which is a heck of a lot more work than outrunning a defender and catching a bomb (read: Moss in 2007). Welker continues to be more of a focus in this Tom Brady-less offense, with 17 more catches and even more yards than Moss. Welker, the diminutive slot who runs screens, slants and outs, hasn't skipped a beat with Cassel; but with Moss, games like he had Monday will be few and far between.
"Andre Johnson has already had the best calendar month of his career yardage-wise. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, he's got one game left in October. His Texans complete a month of home games when they host the Bengals on Sunday. His production is best among all NFL receivers this month, and second place is Carolina's Steve Smith, who is 120 yards behind." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: Johnson is finally staying healthy long enough to become the elite receiver we expected him to be and, as Johnson told the local press this week, Owen Daniels' emergence is a big reason for it. Hang on to AJ for dear life; the Texans have some favorable games coming up, beginning this week versus the Bengals.
Orton navigating the offense successfully | Read full blog entry
"Right before our very eyes, the Bears' offense has evolved into a pass-oriented scheme that places a huge responsibility on a quarterback most observers considered a temporary bridge to the team's next draft project." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: Seifert talked about how the Bears are even using a no-huddle offense and allowing Orton to run things. He has had some soft matchups, but Orton clearly is comfortable. New stud quarterbacks emerge every season (such as Derek Anderson last season), and Orton appears to be one of those this season.
Young doesn't even play in blowout | Read full blog entry
"The Titans emptied the bench late in their 34-10 blowout win over Kansas City. Only two guys in uniform didn't play: receiver Chris Davis and quarterback Vince Young. ... It would not have accomplished anything to put Young in for Kerry Collins late in the game. The Titans were just going to hand the ball off and all the substitution would have done was stir up potential for controversy where there currently is none." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: This still serves as a nice reminder to us as to how far Young has fallen.
Wildcat offense headed to Chicago? | Read full blog entry
"Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner admits he has toyed with the 'Wildcat' offense, writes Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times. The obvious candidate for quarterback in that scheme is kick returner/receiver Devin Hester. Garrett Wolfe and Kevin Jones are other candidates." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: Interesting. Wouldn't it be nice to see the ball in Devin Hester's hands more? Obviously, you'll have to wait for it to happen first, but it's intriguing nonetheless.
Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.