Commentary

Broncos backfield in the spotlight

Updated: November 5, 2008, 10:22 PM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

Sometimes you just need a little ammunition.

I happened across a good post from a reader in the ESPN Conversation after Shawn Peters' "Grand Theft Roto" column last week. ESPN poster "colvin0518" talks about trading, and, well, in true "Best of Blogs" fashion, I'll let the poster take it from here:

"The question I have isn't so much who to trade for -- it's getting teams to trade at all. The owners in your average ESPN league are pretty stupid. No one wants to trade because they are convinced you know something that they don't and you are trying to rob them. It's even worse when your team is in first place. They think you are some football god and whatever you offer them, they think they will get screwed.

"Some of these guys, I believe I could offer my whole starting lineup for their backup kicker and they would still turn it down for fear you know something they don't and they will end up getting screwed. I try to explain sometimes, 'You have five or six good receivers. You can't possibly start them all. I have a ton of good running backs. Bye weeks are about over now. It improves both of our starting lineups and makes us both better teams,' but still get nothing. What carrot can I offer the little bunnies to make them come out come out of their holes?"

Well put, colvin, and a legit problem. Which is why I suggest that, when it's applicable, you use the news of the week to help you trade. Be up front and honest with them, explaining why you're making an offer now. Tell them your lineup situation -- maybe you have an injury to account for, or your trade partner does -- or cite something you read about your player's value status. Be honest with them, and act as if you're giving them all the information you know (even if you aren't).

Oh, and handle this in a timely manner. For instance, it's looking as though Selvin Young might be back in action Thursday against the Browns and might get plenty of work with Andre Hall and Michael Pittman out. Not that he's anything special, but this might be a good chance to trade him to an owner who lacks depth at running back (if you happen to have depth). Jump on it, cite the report that Young is back practicing and go from there. Because sometimes it's not just the "what" and "why" of a trade, it's the "when," too.

Now let's get to the best of this week's blog comments:

Broncos injury updates (for Thursday's game) | Read full blog entry

"Denver will be without linebacker D.J. Williams for about four weeks and safety Marlon McCree, who could be out for a few games. Williams and McCree join fellow defensive starter, cornerback Champ Bailey, on the list of players who have been ruled out to play at Cleveland. … Both tight end Tony Scheffler and running back Selvin Young are expected to play against the Browns. They have both missed the past three games with groin injuries. Both are listed as questionable on the injury report. … Denver will need Young. Running backs Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were put on the injured reserve this week. Young, rookie Ryan Torain (who has three career rushes for 1 yard) and P.J. Pope, who was promoted from the practice squad Tuesday, are Denver's only running backs. Expect Torain to play often despite [his not having] much NFL experience in pass protection." -- Bill Williamson

Fantasy spin: Torain definitely has been a hot-button question this week in chats. Should he start or not? Although I think Torain is going to be a fine fantasy starter in future weeks, I'd try to wait and make sure he's the primary guy this week before starting him. For example, the Rocky Mountain News is reporting the Broncos tried to get Young lots of work in practice Tuesday, so it's no sure thing that Torain will get the primary workload. In other words, Torain slots in as a No. 3 RB/flex to me rather than a No. 2. Now, if you're light on upside-worthy backs because of byes and injuries, then sure, consider it. But if there's any way you can hold off, try to. After all, the kid has rushed for only a single yard in his NFL career.

News on Orton not as bad as expected | Read full blog entry

"Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that quarterback Kyle Orton's recovery period from an ankle injury will be shorter than the initial four-week projection. … Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune suggests Orton could return in time for the Nov. 30 game against at Minnesota." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: A Nov. 30 return means a three-week absence for Orton. After a few weeks of Rex Grossman, I wouldn't be shocked if there's clamor for Orton to return after two. Either way, keep Orton on your bench because the Bears have some pretty cushy matchups, at least for the passing game, from Week 13 and beyond.

Culpepper or Stanton, Stanton or Culpepper? | Read full blog entry

"The Lions didn't acquire [Daunte] Culpepper to ease him slowly into their offense, but I can't see how either side will be served well by such a quick turnaround. Even if Culpepper has been studying the Lions' playbook from the moment he worked out last Tuesday -- unlikely, since most teams don't hand them out to unsigned players -- the real learning doesn't happen until actual practice repetitions begin. I'm not sure playing Culpepper against the Jaguars puts him in a position to succeed. It's quite an indictment of the Lions' opinion of [Drew] Stanton that Culpepper, or anyone else, could jump in front of him in line so fast. But all indications suggest that's exactly what has happened." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: And just when we were getting to like Dan Orlovsky a little… The Lions' matchup versus the Jaguars (at home) is actually semi-favorable, but there's no way I'd touch either guy, even in two-quarterback leagues. There's no saying the guy who starts the game will finish it. And for those who feel Culpepper still has something left, enough of the foolishness. He's not the same mobile quarterback he was years ago, and even then, I've always felt he basically lived off chucking the ball up to Randy Moss (and Cris Carter for a few of those seasons). Ov-er-rat-ed.

Allen to miss Packers game? | Read full blog entry

"Minnesota has been bracing for playing a stretch of games without the Williams Wall at some point this season. Now, [the Vikings] might have to deal with the loss of defensive end Jared Allen as well. … Allen quite readily admitted he had a third-degree [shoulder] sprain -- the worst possible grade of that injury. And with almost no prompting, Allen said the Vikings internally consider him out of Sunday's game against Green Bay. If Allen truly has a third-degree sprain, it's a near certainty that he won't play against the Packers. A third-degree sprain is a two-to-four-week injury." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: If Allen's injury sidelines him multiple weeks, and the suspensions of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are upheld, a Vikings defense that ranks 11th in yards per game loses a lot of bite. Keep that in mind, owners of opposing offensive players.

Henderson to face suspension? | Read full blog entry

"John Henderson could be in line for a suspension after he was ejected following a fight with Andrew Wentworth, says Vito Stellino." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: No word yet this week of a suspension, so it probably won't happen for Week 10. But the Jags have a big game against the Titans next week and obviously hope to have Henderson available for that one.

Bills lose key defensive player | Read full blog entry

"The Bills' defense suffered a potentially devastating personnel blow in Sunday's loss to the Jets. Safety and captain Donte Whitner has a separated right shoulder and could miss significant time. Bills coach Dick Jauron on Monday afternoon called the injury 'fairly significant' and said Whitner would be assessed on a week-by-week basis." -- Tim Graham

Fantasy spin: I've been hearing the pundits refer to upcoming opponents and calling the Bills a tough defense. I'm not buying that anymore. First of all, the team ranks 10th in the league in yards allowed and 13th in points allowed, which is hardly dominant. But Buffalo now is without Whitner and Aaron Schobel, and they previously lost John DiGiorgio and Angelo Crowell. I just haven't viewed it as a top defense since the Dolphins knocked 'em around in Week 8. Keep that in mind for upcoming matchups versus the Patriots and Browns.

Blogger feels Big Ben injury not serious | View full blog entry

"Being around the team all yesterday and last night, there wasn't a sense of panic. I've been around teams where big injuries have taken place, and that didn't seem the case. If this were a playoff game, Ben Roethlisberger would have finished it. Worst-case scenario, maybe a game or two, and the [Steelers] would have to rely on Byron Leftwich. … The combination of Leftwich playing well and the Steelers being 6-2 might factor into their decision-making of allowing Roethlisberger sitting a game." -- James Walker

Fantasy spin: We'll just have to wait and see on this one, but I do want to advise you not to go overboard on Leftwich. Remember, this is the same guy who basically flopped as a starter in Jacksonville; he's no miracle worker. I like the Steelers' matchup (at home versus Indy), but simply put, starting Leftwich would scare me.

Cadillac to get a look in the Bucs' backfield | Read full blog entry

"It sounds like a decision on Tampa Bay running back Carnell Williams is coming soon. At his Monday news conference, coach Jon Gruden said the Bucs will test out Williams in pads Tuesday and Wednesday. Williams hasn't played since suffering a major knee injury more than a year ago, and his knee might not be the only factor in deciding whether to activate him after the bye week. Gruden said Monday that Earnest Graham has a knee injury. Gruden said he didn't know the extent of the injury, but the team is very concerned about its running back situation with backup Warrick Dunn sitting out Sunday's game and numerous injuries at fullback. The Bucs barely used veteran Michael Bennett on Sunday, and undrafted rookie Clifton Smith got work at tailback late in the game. If it looks like Graham and Dunn could miss some more time, the chances of seeing Williams return this year will jump dramatically." -- Pat Yasinskas

Fantasy spin: Easy there, don't go picking up Cadillac just yet. First of all, the Bucs have a bye this week, and secondly, we need to see how he progresses in practice first. As Yasinskas noted in his "Blogger's Blitz" this week, Williams' injury was expected, just after his surgery last season, to keep him out until 2009. That still might be the case. You'll need to see Williams progress before you move for him. And if he doesn't, the Bucs might IR him to clear a spot on the roster for his replacement. Just mark this down as a situation to track while the rest of your owners are tracking teams that play this week.

McFadden still hurting | Read full blog entry

"Rookie tailback Darren McFadden is still day-to-day with a turf toe injury that kept him out the last two games. This thing may drag out longer." -- Bill Williamson

Fantasy spin: It's looking like a lost season -- or at least a lost second half -- for McFadden. Honestly, I couldn't stop you from cutting him.

Kerney headed for surgery | Read full blog entry

"The Seahawks hope defensive end Patrick Kerney might miss only a couple of weeks following surgery to repair whatever damage awaits inside his left shoulder. Given how the season has gone, however, the Seahawks can't expect a best-case scenario here. Kerney's health was a concern when the Seahawks signed him. He was coming off surgery then, he was coming off surgery entering this season and he'll be coming off surgery in the near future." -- Mike Sando

Fantasy spin: Remember when the Seahawks' defense was good? Seems like such a long time ago. Now they're 27th in the league in total yards allowed -- and maybe headed for worse.

Samuels injury affecting running game? | Read full blog entry

"No one would admit it, but I think the knee injury to left tackle Chris Samuels is the reason the Redskins abandoned their left-handed running game. That's where Clinton Portis has had a lot of his success this season, but the Redskins ran to the right side when the game was still close. Samuels had one of the worst games of his career, with three holding penalties. He was no match for outside linebacker James Harrison in space." -- Matt Mosley

Fantasy spin: The Steelers have made a lot of running games look bad in the past several years, and Portis had averaged more than 5 yards per carry in five straight games coming into the Monday nighter, but this is at least something to watch after the team's Week 10 bye.

Jets finding identity on offense | View full blog entry

"The Jets are [limiting Brett Favre's interceptions by] making him throw a lot quicker. The less time Favre has to think, the less chance he's going to cost his team. … What the Jets are doing is finding their identity as a run team. Everybody was enamored with the brand-new toy. When you have Brett Favre on your team, you automatically think 'that's a passing team. He's gonna be a gunslinger.' But against the Bills, the Jets further established themselves as a run-first, pass-second team." -- Tim Graham

Fantasy spin: Excellent philosophical stuff by Graham, and it has me wondering whether my team that has Favre as its quarterback (for the record, I drafted Carson Palmer as my No. 1) is going to have a productive QB down the stretch. I think yes. Thomas Jones has proved he is more productive in the 15-carry range per game than the 20-plus-carry range, and Leon Washington is as much a scatback receiver as a runner. I think the Jets just rein in their passing game and don't look downfield as much, which I believe makes Washington and possession receiver Laveranues Coles (our highest projected WR scorer this week) better plays down the road.

Loss of Schaub to stifle hot offense? | Read full blog entry

"No matter what you think of Matt Schaub going down again, it is unfortunate for him and for the Texans. The loss to Minnesota that cost them their chance to be 4-4 was bad. The loss of Schaub -- for at least two weeks and possibly four -- again puts the offensive continuity the team believes it had begun to forge on hold." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: Sage Rosenfels is quietly one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, and although he might not have as strong an arm as Schaub, he's a similar quarterback. The Texans have some tough matchups coming up, including Week 10 against Baltimore. But I think Rosenfels will hold his own, at least when it comes to getting the ball to Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and even Steve Slaton. It might not be pretty, but I don't think Johnson, Daniels or Slaton has anything to worry about.

The reason behind the rookies' rewards | View full blog entry

"A reason [Joe Flacco and Ray Rice] are progressing so rapidly is because they've faced that Ravens defense since training camp. I've talked with Flacco and Rice, and they both say they've faced the Ravens defense Monday through Saturday, and when game time comes, they feel they've already faced the best defense in the league. I think they're both going to have really big second halves." -- James Walker

Fantasy spin: Excellent point, and something I guess I've never really thought of before. A stout defense can speed up the development of a young offensive player, and that certainly appears at play here. As Walker added in this sound bite, Flacco and Rice have played in every game this season and, per se, aren't even considered rookies by their teammates anymore. My expectations for Flacco are tempered because of the team's run-first philosophy and lack of depth at receiver, but I like what Rice could do in the second half.

Hightower simply a better fit | Read full blog entry

"Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains why Tim Hightower replaced Edgerrin James as the Cardinals' starting running back. Hightower fits the offense better. … Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals expect Edgerrin James to put the team first when dealing with losing his starting job to Tim Hightower. Coach Ken Whisenhunt says he has seen nothing to suggest an unhappy James will be a problem." -- Mike Sando

Fantasy spin: It's true. Now, there are rumors that James might become the Hightower-like short-yardage guy, but I think that's just hogwash. They were present last week and didn't really play out. And Hightower wouldn't have been in the role to begin with if he hadn't been better at short-yardage carries. The team would have eased him in as a backup, rather than in short-yardage situations, if it just wanted to get a look at him. I see James getting three to five carries per game in a relief role, playing full series, and that's it. On a related note, he's OK to drop in a shallow league.

Celek breaks Eagles record | Read full blog entry

"Paul Domowitch gives reserve tight end Brent Celek his due. His performance was a great sign for this offense. Best regular-season day for a tight end [in terms of yardage] in club history? Wow!" -- Matt Mosley

Fantasy spin: I was talking with a writer friend of mine at his home in the greater Phoenix area Sunday afternoon, and his wife came up excitedly and said she just had to pick up "that Celek guy." At first, I was thinking she meant Tom. Bless her for being a devout, on-the-ball fantasy player, but the move was unnecessary. Celek, a second-year player, has nice skills and all, but L.J. Smith (concussion) is expected back this week, Celek had all of eight catches in seven games heading into Sunday's game and the team also has Matt Schobel. Don't make him one of this week's waiver pickups.

Raiders preparing to clean house | Read full blog entry

"It's official: The Oakland Raiders are the worst franchise in the NFL. They now, apparently, want to undo what many thought they should never have done by dumping the high-profile, high-priced players they brought in this year. Oakland, according to sources, is close to cutting cornerback DeAngelo Hall and could eventually part ways with other high-priced veterans. Candidates could include Javon Walker, Tommy Kelly, Gibril Wilson and Kwame Harris." -- Bill Williamson

Fantasy spin: Sigh. There's not much more I can say. The cuts might give the Raiders a fresh start, but this won't make them any more popular with fantasy owners, unless you're talking offensive players opposing Oakland.

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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