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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 8
Paul Sandy
October 26, 2010
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SYMBOL LEGEND
Rockstar Rock Star Free Agent
Injury Injury Replacement
Worth a Look Worth a Look
1 Week Plug & Play 1 Week Plug & Play
Sleeper Sleeper

QUARTERBACKS

No Brainers: Matt Cassel (vs. BUF / 76% owned), Donovan McNabb (vs. DET) and Michael Vick

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
1 Week Plug & PlayRock StarIt’s time to stop doubting Buffalo’s passing offense. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is hotter than a plate full of wings drenched in Anchor Bar Buffalo Sauce. He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four straight games. This includes a 374-yard, 4-TD effort Sunday against the Ravens. If you’ve been suffering from inconsistency at the QB position this year, target Fitzpatrick. The Bills have a reasonable upcoming schedule with games against the Chiefs, Bears and Lions.
 
Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Go ahead and drink the Fitzpatrick Kool-Aid.

Matthew Stafford, Lions
Rock StarStafford is set to return this week against the Redskins. He has been out since Week 2 with a shoulder injury. While Stafford was away, backup Shaun Hill provided a glimpse of just how potent the Lions offense can be. Hill posted three quality fantasy performances in the four games that he started and finished. Stafford is a savvy pickup for any fantasy team that will have a bye week issue coming up, lost a QB to injury or just needs some depth at the position. The Lions QB is playable this week with a favorable home matchup against a Washington defense that yields 292.1 passing yards per game (second most in the NFL).

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Stafford is a smart roster addition in all leagues.

Jon Kitna, Cowboys
1 Week Plug & PlayInjury ReplacementCowboys starting QB Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone Monday night. He will likely miss an extended period if not the rest of the season. Backup Jon Kitna has been a servicable QB for many years in the league and still has a live arm. If you lost Romo and your waiver wire looks thin, Kitna is worth acquiring. Dallas has plenty of offensive firepower surrounding Kitna. Look for him to produce as a situational starter for fantasy purposes. He’s definitely worth playing this week against an awful Jacksonville pass defense.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Kitna is a solid pickup this week based on his favorable matchup.

Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings
Injury ReplacementBrett Favre’s streak of consecutive games started is perhaps in greater jeopardy than at any other time in his career. Favre has a couple small fractures in his left ankle. If he sits, backup Tarvaris Jackson would get the start. T-Jack has been a feast or famine QB thoughout his career. But with so many QBs on bye this week, Jackson could actually be useful for owners in deep leagues. The Vikings have Randy Moss, who will go up against his former team (the Patriots). A motivated Moss could give Jackson the edge he needs to put up quality numbers.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jackson is worth a flier in deep leagues this week if Favre sits.

RUNNING BACKS

No Brainers: Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson, Thomas Jones and Brandon Jackson

LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayWorth a LookBlount led the Bucs in rushing in Week 7, carrying the ball 11 times for 75 yards. He also had a couple long runs totaling over 60 yards called back because of penalties. When given the chance, the rookie continues to impress. Blount’s performance hopefully sets the stage for  him to take over the starting spot from Cadillac Williams. Williams will likely work as a third-down and change of pace option going forward. Blount is an excellent pickup who could pay immediate dividends with a favorable matchup this week against the Cardinals.

Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Blount is this week’s must-grab RB.

Donald Brown and Mike Hart, Colts
Injury ReplacementBrown and Hart cleared through waivers in the majority of leagues last week because the Colts were on bye. Don’t forget about them this time around. Indy starter Joseph Addai has was is being termed a “dead shoulder”. It’s unclear how much time Addai will miss but there’s a good chance he sits this week against the Texans. Brown, who has also been hurt, and Hart would likely split carries if Addai rests. Houston has a stout run defense but Indianapolis always offers an excellent chance for fantasy points by way of touchdown runs. Consider Hart the better pickup at this point because he’s healthy.

Availability: Owned in ~52% and 34% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Consider adding Hart or Brown if you typically count on Addai.

Darren Sproles, Chargers
Worth a LookEntering Sunday’s matchup against the Patriots, fantasy owners were wondering who was going to pick up the slack in San Diego’s receiving game with Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee hurt. Patrick Crayton was an obvious choice but most overlooked Darren Sproles as an option. A nonfactor for most of the season, Sproles showed up in Week 7, punching in with nine receptions for 90 yards. With Floyd likely to miss another game, Sproles isn’t a bad pickup — particulary in PPR leagues. The Chargers face a stingy Titans run defense but Sproles should have the opportunity to catch more dumpoffs and swing passes from Phillip Rivers.

Availability: Owned in ~37% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Sproles can be used as a PPR plug-and play option while the Chargers are hurting at WR.

Derrick Ward, Texans
1 Week Plug & PlayWard, who was on bye last week, returns to action against the Colts next Monday night with a streak of three straight games with a touchdown. Given the number of quality RBs on bye this week, Ward is worth a look if you’re in a pinch. He continues to receive a handful touches per game, which may not seem like much but in Houston’s offense that often translates into decent fantasy points. The last time Houston faced Indy, they rushed for 257 yards.

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Ward is a crafty plug-and-play option against a porous Colts run defense.

Kenneth Darby, Rams
Injury ReplacementSt. Louis starting RB Steven Jackson underwent surgery on his left ring finger on Monday. His status for Week 8 is unclear. Grab backup Kenneth Darby as insurance because Jackson will likely get tagged as questionable. If Jackson can’t play, Darby would become the lead RB for the Rams when they face the Panthers on Sunday. Carolina has a decent but not great run defense so Darby would be useful.

Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Darby is worth picking up until Jackson’s status becomes clearer.

Chester Taylor, Bears
SleeperThe Forecast has been monitoring Taylor as a potential last-season riser for awhile. While there’s no arguing Matt Forte is a capable pass catcher out of the backfield, he doesn’t seem to have the vision or patience to be an elite RB in this league. The coaches indicated this week that going forward Taylor will get the goal-line work. Consider this the first step in Taylor’s potential rise to fantasy relevance.

Availability: Owned in ~32% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Taylor is worth stashing in deep leagues and TD-heavy leagues.

Willis McGahee, Ravens
Worth a LookMcGahee didn’t register a single carry in Week 6. The rumor is the Ravens had him on the trade block at the time and didn’t want to risk him getting hurt. With the trade deadline having passed, McGahee was back in the picture in Week 7. He carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. Plus he added one reception. That seems to be about the number of touches we can count on from McGahee on most weeks. He’s a decent bench option and situational starter but doesn’t offer much upside unless Ray Rice gets injured.

Availability: Owned in ~66% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: McGahee is a good bench player but shouldn’t be in your lineup this week with Baltimore on bye.

WIDE RECEIVERS

No Brainers: Kenny Britt, Dwayne Bowe, Johnny Knox and Mike Williams (TB)

Mike Williams, Seahawks
Rock StarWilliams continues to impress in Seattle. The former USC standout posted a career high 11 receptions on Sunday, ending the day with 87 yards and a touchdown. This follows a 10-reception, 123-yard effort last week. Williams is clearly Seattle’s top option in the passing game. He has shown surprising quickness and sticky hands this season. Williams is an excellent “get” this week if he’s available in your league. The Seahawks face a decent Oakland pass defense but Williams might be matchup proof at this point.

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams should be owned in all leagues.

Steve Johnson and Lee Evans, Bills
Rock StarJohnson may have an unremarkable name but he’s posting unbelievable stats. In his last four games, Johnson has put up five touchdowns. On Sunday, he recorded his best effort yet—eight receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown. The eye-opening performance came against the Ravens, cementing Johnson has a weekly must-start. Johnson’s counterpart, Lee Evans, put up even better numbers versus Baltimore (6-105-3). It was Evans’ second consecutive useful stat line. The former fantasy standout has returned to form and is worth grabbing in all leagues.

 Availability: Owned in ~57% and ~42% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Johnson and Evans are worth grabbing in all leagues this week.

Davone Bess, Dolphins
Rock StarA Free Agent Forecast favorite, Bess continues to impress, tallying his third straight game with a touchdown and his fourth straight useful fantasy performance. If the shifty wideout hasn’t made an impression on you by now, maybe this fantasy football thing isn’t for you. Bess is for real. His quality outings have come against the likes of the Jets, Patriots, Packers and Steelers. If he can produce against those opponents, I don’t see a reason to bench him in any upcoming matchup.

Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bess ought to be owned in all leagues.

Patrick Crayton, Chargers
Injury ReplacementCrayton was a recommended pickup last week and came through with a respectable performance (7-82-0) that had him among the top 30 fantasy wideouts in Week 7. What was most promising about Crayton is Phillip Rivers targeted him 13 times. Top wideout Malcom Floyd could miss another game or two with a hamstring injury. As long as Floyd is out, Crayton can be used as a starter. He’s worth plugging into your lineup against the Titans this week and certainly against the Texans in two weeks.

Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Fantasy owners might be able to squeeze another start or two out of Crayton.

James Jones, Packers
1 Week Plug & PlayJones has a few things working in his favor leading up to this week’s game against the Jets. First, starting WR Donald Driver (quad) is “nowhere near 100%” according to head coach Mike McCarthy. Driver failed to catch a pass against Minnesota. Second, TE Jermichael Finley is out for the year with a knee injury. Third, the Packers face a Jets defense that has been vulnerable to the pass this season — and especially vulnerable to #2 and #3 WRs. With Driver ailing and Finley out, QB Aaron Rodgers threw Jones’ way eight times and he caught four balls for 107 yards Sunday night against the Vikings. Consider starting him this week especially if Driver continues to be hobbled.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jones is worth starting against the Jets.

Anthony Gonzalez and Blair White, Colts
Injury ReplacementI’m no doctor but I’d wager that Betty White has stronger bones and ligaments than Anthony Gonzalez. Countless fantasy owners have wasted draft picks on Gonzalez, lulled into a false sense of hope created by the notion that he should be good in the Colts offense. Time and time again, those dreams have been shattered by torn knee ligaments and twisted ankles. So why recommend him? Because the Colts are desperate. The team lost two of its leading possession receivers in Dallas Clark (out for the year) and Austin Collie (out a few weeks). If he can drag his weary body onto the field, Gonzalez might just return to fantasy relevance. Stranger things have happened. Not a Gonzalez believer? Consider adding Blair White as an alternative.

Availability: Owned in ~18% and 5of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Stash Gonzalez or Blair White on your bench to see if Peyton Manning can turn one of them into fantasy gold.
 
David Gettis and Brandon LaFell, Panthers
Worth a LookCarolina’s passing game finally showed some life Sunday against the 49ers. With QB Matt Moore under center, the Panthers went for 303 yards through the air. Steve Smith was dealing with leg cramps during the game, which gave rookies David Gettis and Brandon LaFell an opportunity to step up. They combined for 216 yards. Gettis had the bigger numbers and scored two touchdowns. It’s probably too early to trust either player this week but if you’re looking for a bench prospect with upside, look to the Panthers. I prefer Gettis over LaFell based on his TD output.

Availability: Owned in ~1% and ~2% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Gettis and LaFell are quality prospects, especially in dynasty leagues.

Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Worth a LookShipley recorded the best game of his career in Week 7, racking up 131 yards and a touchdown versus the Falcons. Although he’s the third option in the passing game behind Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, Shipley can be use as a situational starter when the matchup is favorable. Plus given the current state of the Bengals, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team cut ties with T.O. and Chad next season. If one or both are gone, Shipley could be a fast riser in 2011.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Shipley will likely be too inconsistent week-to-week but is worth a bench spot particularly in keeper/dynasty formats.

TIGHT ENDS

No Brainers: Zach Miller and Chris Cooley

Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
Rock StarIt’s hard to believe but Pettigrew is still available in over half of fantasy leagues. The Lions TE has logged five straight games with either six receptions or a touchdown. Given the recent injuries to key TEs and with six teams on bye this week, Pettigrew should be a coveted free agent acquisition. Even if you already have a reliable TE on your roster, consider adding Pettigrew and trading away your other player. Pettigrew has what it takes to be an every-week fantasy contributor.

Availability: Owned in ~46% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pettigrew should be owned in all TE-mandatory leagues.

Tony Moeaki, Chiefs
1 Week Plug & PlayMoeaki has slowed down after a torrid start to the season in which he scored touchdowns in two of his first three games. He hasn’t topped 50 yards since the Chiefs came off bye three weeks ago but fantasy owners can expect a bounce back this week when KC faces the Bills. Buffalo has allowed a ridiculous seven TE touchdowns in their last four games. Exploit the favorable matchup this week by grabbing Moeaki and starting him.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Moeaki is a savvy plug-and-play option for Week 8.

Jacob Tamme, Colts
Injury ReplacementPro Bowl TE Dallas Clark is out for the season with a wrist injury. The Colts will ask Jacob Tamme to step into the starting role. The scouting report on Tamme is that he’s a versatile player who can line up on the end or split out as a wide receiver. He looked like a capable TE in the preseason, catching four passes with two going for touchdowns. If you have a deep roster and can afford to dedicate a spot to a TE prospect, Tamme is worth picking up.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Grab and stash Tamme because Indianapolis is always a source of TE production.

KICKERS

No Brainers: David Akers and Stephen Gostkowski

Ryan Succop, Chiefs
1 Week Plug & PlaySuccop put up a respectable seven points in Kansas City’s 42-20 blowout win over Jacksonville. It’s hard to believe but Succop is blessed with an even juicier matchup this week against the Bills. Buffalo has allowed the most fantasy points to kickers in the NFL. The woeful Bills defense has allowed 34 or more points in five straight games. Succop is a lock to contribute seven or more points this week.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Succop will be money against Buffalo.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

No Brainers: Tennessee Titans and New York Jets

New England Patriots
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Patriots defense and special teams unit is capable of scoring big points in bunches. Twice this season they’ve recorded multiple touchdowns in a game. This week they’ll host the Vikings. If Brett Favre starts, that works in their favor. If he sits, that might be even better. If your regular DST will be on bye this week, go ahead and roll with the Patriots.

Availability: Owned in ~70% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: New England should have a few turnover opportunities this week against the Vikes.

Dallas Cowboys
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Cowboys struggled to come up with big defensive plays over the first 1/3 of the season but they showed some life on Monday night. Dallas recorded three turnovers and returned a punt for a touchdown. With Tony Romo out, look for the defense to assert itself this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville started Todd Bouman last week and the result was a good stat line for the Kansas City Chiefs defense. Regardless of whether the Jags start Bouman or Trent Edwards, Dallas is worth a one-time plug and play.

Availability: Owned in ~68% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Look for Dallas to post decent numbers this week against the Jags.

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Fantasy Game Recaps
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