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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 4
Paul Sandy
September 27, 2005

QUARTERBACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Drew Bledsoe

1. Eli Manning, Giants

If you’re seeking a long-term solution to a starting quarterback who’s stinking up your roster like last week’s deviled egg platter, Eli Manning could be your man. He has quietly had himself a nice first few games of the season, averaging about 230 yards per game. While the touchdown total isn’t great (5), it’s better than a lot of QBs who are probably starting in your league including Matt Hasselbeck, Tom Brady, and even Eli’s brother Peyton. The younger Manning can be used as early as this week against a St. Louis Rams defense that gave up 261 yards and two touchdowns Sunday to a Titans team that is average at best on the offensive side of the ball. Next opponent: versus Rams.

2. Tim Rattay, 49ers

If you need a one-week jump-start because your regular starter is facing a bye or a tough match-up, give Tim Rattay a shot. Throw out the offensive meltdown that took place versus the Eagles in Week 2 and Rattay has been above average, throwing five touchdowns in two games. A match-up this week against the Cardinals should be fruitful. Over the first three games, Arizona has given up 32.0 points per game—second-worst in the league. While the Cardinals have been decent against the pass, Rattay has a history of success against the division rival. Last year, he had his best game against Arizona, throwing for 417 yards and two touchdowns. Next opponent: @ Cardinals.

One Week Wonders: None

RUNNING BACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Mewelde Moore

1. Kevin Faulk, Patriots

With no major injuries to running backs this week, the choices are limited for free agent ball carriers. But if you’re desperate, Kevin Faulk could be worth a look. For the last few seasons, Faulk has been the type of player who shuffles in and out of fantasy rosters. He’s always on the periphery of being a reliable backup. If he’s available in your league, he could be a decent fill-in for RBs who are on bye this week, including Thomas Jones, Willie Parker, and Ronnie Brown. Faulk is the Patriots third-down running back who, on his best weeks, will get 9-11 touches. Fortunately, those typically come on passes out of the backfield that are sizable gains. He averages around nine yards per catch. Next opponent: versus Chargers.

2. James Jackson, Cardinals

During his Monday morning press conference, Denny Green didn’t sound like a coach who is ready to concede the season. He’s disappointed and will likely make changes to his sluggish offense before long. While rumors circulated last week that the Cardinals might be interested in trading for Minnesota’s Michael Bennett, midseason trades are a rarity. If Green sticks with what he’s got, it might not be long before we see James Jackson get his shot. While Marcel Shipp has replaced rookie J.J. Arrington and fared okay, he’s not exactly tearing it up. Shipp is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Grab Jackson and consider him a long-term investment if you’re in a deeper league. Next opponent: versus 49ers.

One Week Wonders: Jerald Sowell

WIDE RECEIVERS

Obvious Acquisitions: Terry Glenn, Travis Taylor, and Brandon Lloyd

1. Kevin Curtis, Rams

Curtis was touted here a couple weeks ago, but with Sunday’s turf toe injury to Isaac Bruce, his value is worth repeating. He’s only owned in 36% of fantasy leagues. While Bruce likely will miss just a game or two, turf toe is an injury that could bother him for the rest of the season. If it causes him to lose a step, Curtis would likely see a spike in his production. After Bruce left the game, Curtis caught three passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. If he’s still available in your league and you need a wide receiver, make acquiring him a priority. Next opponent: @ Giants.

2. David Givens, Patriots

Givens got off to a slow start this season and was dumped by many owners. In fact, he’s available in more than 50 percent of leagues on a couple of the popular hosting sites. On Sunday, Givens returned to form catching a team high nine passes for 130 yards. New England receivers aren’t without risk. Tom Brady loves to spread the ball around. As a result, guys like Givens and Deion Branch are more inconsistent than fantasy owners would like. However, the Patriots rushing offense isn’t clicking, so the team has had to pass more than usual. As a result, you could do a lot worse than Givens if you need a #4 receiver who you will only start in a pinch. Next opponent: versus San Diego.

3. Joey Galloway, Buccaneers

Since leaving the Seattle Seahawks several years ago, Joey Galloway has suffered his share of injuries and fell out of favor with the fantasy world. But he’s making a bit of a comeback this year and seems to have put his health issues behind him. In Week 1, he caught five passes for 97 yards versus the Vikings. In Week 2, he didn’t catch a pass. Last week, he grabbed another five balls and scored two touchdowns. The goose egg in Week 2 is worrisome, but you can’t argue with Galloway’s two solid performances out of three games. He’s worth a start as early as this week against the Lions. Next opponent: versus Lions.

4. Troy Williamson, Vikings

Life in Minnesota, it seems, will go on without Randy Moss. The Vikings bounced back from two miserable performances to open the season. Speedster rookie WR Troy Williamson also entered the fantasy landscape with a big performance, catching three passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Three receptions might not seem like much, but this is an offense that has lived and died by the big play for the better part of a decade. Culpepper will likely continue to take his deep shots, and the primary benefactor will be Williamson, who is one of the NFL’s fastest players. Stick him on your bench as a #5 WR and see if Williamson continues to progress. Next opponent: @ Falcons.

5. Greg Lewis, Eagles

I listed Lewis as one of my preseason sleepers because I didn’t think Terrell Owens would ever get out of Andy Reid’s doghouse. I was wrong on the Owens prediction, but may end up right about Lewis anyway. Through the first three weeks, Lewis is averaging five receptions per game. He scored a touchdown in Week 2 and had 70 yards in Week 3. Those stats are more than worthy of a #4 fantasy receiver. Lewis is available in most fantasy league, but will likely be on the radar of many fantasy owners in the coming weeks. Next opponent: @ Chiefs.

6. Keary Colbert, Panthers

What, you may ask, is a receiver who has just two receptions this season doing on a free agent list? A valid question. Colbert is likely going to be available in most leagues this week. Most owners have all but given up on the Carolina wideout. But there are a couple reasons to be optimistic. First, Colbert is still getting lots of looks. He’s been thrown to 6-7 times in each of the last two games. Second, he plays the Packers this week on Monday night. Green Bay has given up seven passing touchdowns this season, tied for second-worst in the NFL. Third, his counterpart, Steve Smith, has shown the world he’s fully recovered from his leg injury last year. He finished with 170 receiving yards on Sunday. That should mean more double coverage for Smith and more open looks for Colbert as the season progresses. If you can squeeze him onto your roster, acquire Colbert this week in anticipation of a break-out game in Week 4. Next opponent: versus Packers.

One Week Wonders: Devery Henderson

TIGHT ENDS

Obvious Acquisitions: Jason Witten

1. Courtney Anderson, Raiders

Through the first three games of the season, Oakland’s Courtney Anderson has been an all or nothing tight end. He had two touchdowns in Week 1 … didn’t do squat in Week 2 … and caught five passes for 100 yards in Week 3. The season-ending injury last week to Ronald Curry makes the 6’6” Anderson an even more attractive target for QB Kerry Collins. Most owners can stomach an occasional turd from their tight end position as long as they are rewarded occasionally. If that statement sounds even slightly autobiographical to you, Anderson should be on your free agent list. Next opponent: versus Dallas.

One Week Wonders: Ernie Conwell

TEAM DEFENSE

1. Cincinnati Bengals

I missed badly on the Bengals last week, calling them a One Week Wonder. The team stirred up all sorts of trouble in the Windy City and finished as one of the top scoring defenses of the week. In doing so, they made a believer out of me. They look like the real deal and face a terrible Houston Texans offense this week at home. Houston ranks dead last in the NFL in total offense, scoring an average of seven points per game and managing just 170 total yards per game. While an extra week of preparation will likely help the Texans get things moving in the right direction, Cincinnati is simply playing on another level right now. Next opponent: versus Texans.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Cardinals QB Kurt Warner is likely to miss this week’s game with a groin injury. That’s good news for this week’s opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. Warner’s replacement, Josh McCown isn’t likely to inspire confidence for a team that has struggled to move the ball all season. The Cardinals have scored just 12 points in each of their last two games. In that same stretch, they’ve given up eight sacks and four turnovers. While the 49ers don’t have a top defense on most weeks, they have enough talent to cause turnovers and get to the quarterback against the Cardinals. Next opponent: @ Cardinals.