- Scott Engel, ESPN Fantasy Games
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Welcome to the latest session of fantasy football therapy. The season has moved along further, and some stress levels are rising. No reason to fret. We will tackle your problems and help get your team back on track.
ISSUE: Shaun Alexander has a good matchup this week. Can I confidently plug him back into my lineup?
OUTLOOK: We have already discussed some Alexander issues, but the concerns must be revisited. He faces the Browns this week, who are allowing 139.4 yards per game, 13th in the AFC. A friendly matchup, however, is no solid recipe for success for the former NFL MVP. He rushed for only 47 yards against St. Louis before the bye and has totaled only 107 rushing yards in his past three games. He has not scored since the second game of the season. The offensive line is not blocking well at all, especially on the right side. Also, the Browns could roll up a lot of points throwing the ball this week, and Matt Hasselbeck may have to throw often to keep pace, limiting the potential output of the running game. Seattle may have fixed some offensive problems during the bye week, but we'll have to wait to see if the time off was truly productive.
YOUR STRATEGY: Keep Alexander benched unless you are desperate. He has to prove himself again on the field before you trust him again. If you want to rid yourself of your worries about him, you can also try to trade him now, before the Browns game, to an owner who still has some faith in him.
ISSUE:Lee Evans finally reemerged with good numbers last week. Should I expect more quality production this week?
OUTLOOK: Evans had his best game of a very disappointing season so far, when he ripped a questionable throw from J.P. Losman away from a New York defender for an 85-yard score, his first touchdown of the season. He finished with a season-high 138 yards and now faces the seemingly defenseless Cincinnati Bengals. They have allowed 18 passing touchdowns this season, tied with Cleveland for the most in the NFL. J.P. Losman is expected to return to the starting lineup this week, and he has historically worked well with Evans.
YOUR STRATEGY: Don't consider Evans a must-start option. The Bills may operate conservatively on offense, especially in an effort to dominate time of possession and keep the Bengals offense off the field as much as possible. It's not hard for any team to defend the Bills, either. Double-team Evans and give him extra attention, and the Bills will be forced to use other options. Evans is a decent option this week, but don't let the matchup sway you to use him over guys who have been more reliable so far this season.
ISSUE: How much longer can I depend on Travis Henry?
OUTLOOK: Henry missed this past Monday's game because of a rib problem and his owners are genuinely concerned about his impending future. He was able to return to practice on Wednesday, but the Denver Post has reported he will learn more about his possible drug suspension after the next two games. A hearing is set for November 5 but the date is tentative. Selvin Young showed a lot of promise in Henry's place against Green Bay and his value is rising, but his owners are wondering when they can start leaning on him more regularly.
YOUR STRATEGY: You'll have to simply deal with this situation on a week-to-week basis. You're not going to get much value in return in a trade for Henry, so get anything out of him you possibly can when he plays. Hold onto Young, if you have him, and patiently wait for him to get hot, which will hopefully come during the fantasy stretch run and playoffs. If you are a Henry owner and don't have the Young handcuff, do what it takes to get him unless you have excellent depth at running back behind Henry.
ISSUE: The Colts finally meet the Patriots this week. Who do I start and who do I sit?
OUTLOOK: Of course, there are the obvious starts. You wouldn't bench Tom Brady against the 1985 Bears. Randy Moss is the best wide receiver in fantasy football right now, and the Colts will be another team that cannot keep him out of the end zone. Wes Welker has come through with three terrific games and there is no way you can't trust him. Donte' Stallworth isn't consistent, but he can get loose in the slot and is a fine option as third receiver. Ben Watson is still iffy. The New England defense will be fired up in this one, and even if they give up some points, they will force some critical turnovers. Peyton Manning has 13 touchdown passes, and is not playing on Brady's level, but this is a huge game for him for obvious reasons. Joseph Addai's shoulder no longer seems to be a major issue and he should get a lot of work. Reggie Wayne has clearly become Manning's go-to guy, especially with Marvin Harrison hurting, and Dallas Clark is on his way to having the best season of his career.
YOUR OUTLOOK: Start the top offensive players on both sides; this game has huge ramifications, including possible home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs down the line. The only unit you may want to bench is the Colts defense/special teams, because even though they have played well this season, no team can seemingly handle New England's offense, and it's too risky to find out if Indianapolis can compensate with a few turnovers or sacks. Harrison's outlook is still iffy, but the Colts may treat this like a playoff game and give him the thumbs-up. They may have rested him last week to make sure he's ready for this blockbuster matchup.
ISSUE: Game-time decisions drive me crazy and I need to know who I can start as soon as possible.
OUTLOOK: We all have to deal with this every week, and this week, we could be looking at unclear decisions on guys like Marvin Harrison, Deion Branch and Andre Johnson. While we would all love to use these very productive players, it's difficult to get reassurances on these guys, and even if they play, their production could be limited and it's also possible they could aggravate an injury and leave the game. Also, if guys are not playing in 1 p.m. ET games on Sunday, this further complicates your decisions. The status reports on players in the later Sunday games won't be available until after the first group of games begins, so you will face a lot of confusion if you want to wait for the reports on a player participating in a late game. If you are dealing with Monday night players, your decision becomes even more challenging.
YOUR STRATEGY: When in doubt, always go for a healthy guy. It will quell your worries and limit the possibility of low or, even worse, no production. Have your lineup set by 1 p.m. ET every Sunday with no question marks in it for the most peace of mind.
ISSUE: What's the deal with the Cincinnati running backs?
OUTLOOK: Kenny Watson, who has performed well in place of the injured Rudi Johnson recently, suffered a mild concussion and his status is now apparently iffy for the next game against Buffalo. Meanwhile, Johnson has finally returned to practice. It appears the Bengals didn't want to rush him back into action, so he should be well-rested when he returns. Watson, if available, would likely return to being a change-of-pace running back.
YOUR STRATEGY: This could be another dreaded game-time decision. If Johnson is fully ready to go, though, he will at least be worth using as a No. 2 fantasy running back in leagues larger than 10 teams.
Scott Engel answers the pressing questions of the week, like whether a favorable matchup with Cleveland will get Shaun Alexander out of his funk.