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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 6
Paul Sandy
October 11, 2005

QUARTERBACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: None

1. Mark Brunell, Redskins

A two-time Forecast recommendation, Mark Brunell continues to impress. He has two touchdowns in each of the last three weeks, including a 322-yard performance last week against a respectable Broncos defense. What impresses me most about Brunell is that he isn’t making many mistakes. He only has two interceptions this season. Upcoming games against the Chiefs, 49ers, and Giants look favorable for continued success. Next opponent: @ Chiefs.

2. Josh McCown, Cardinals

One thing is clear in Arizona: the Cardinals cannot run the football. This undeniable fact has forced Denny Green to put the ball in the air 46 times in each of the last two games. The quantity of passes and quality of receivers make QB Josh McCown a viable pickup. McCown has thrown for 385+ yards and two touchdowns in the same two games. If you’re desperate for a quarterback and can stomach starting a Cardinals QB, McCown deserves consideration. It’s worth noting that if you do acquire him, you’ll have to wait a week to start him as Arizona has a bye in Week 6. Next opponent: Bye.

One Week Wonders: Matt Schaub

RUNNING BACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Tatum Bell and Jerome Bettis

1. Antowain Smith, Saints

With starter Deuce McAllister out for the year with a torn ACL, journeyman Antowain Smith steps into the Saints starting role. At 33 years of age, Smith is no spring chicken and his best days are behind him. Plus with coach Jim Haslett on the hot seat, Smith could get a quick hook if he fails to establish a respectable yards per carry average. Despite all the negatives, starting running backs are hard to come by, so Smith should be at or near the top of your list of potential fantasy acquisitions this week. Next opponent: versus Falcons.

2. Aaron Stecker, Saints

While Smith enters this week as the favorite to become the Saints new starter, don’t discount third-down RB Aaron Stecker who provides more speed and explosiveness. Stecker filled in for McAllister for a time last year when he was dealing with a high ankle sprain. If you can’t get your hands on Smith, target Stecker as a player with upside. Judging by Smith’s disappointing yards per carry average over the last few years, he may not last long as the starter. Stecker could get his shot by midseason. Next opponent: versus Falcons.

3. Tyson Thompson, Cowboys

Jones was sidelined for much of Sunday’s upset win over the Eagles with a knee injury. All signs point to him being ready to play this week, but the injury shed some light on the Dallas depth chart. Tyson Thompson, not Anthony Thomas and not Marion Barber, is the backup RB for the Cowboys. The rookie carried the ball 20 times for 75 yards in relief of Jones. If you’re a Jones owner, acquire Thompson as an insurance policy. Next opponent: versus Giants.

4. Tony Fisher, Packers

Green Bay ’s injuries continue to mount. On Sunday, backup RB Najeh Davenport, who was filling in for the banged up Ahman Green, suffered a broken ankle and will miss the rest of the season. Third-down specialist Tony Fisher now moves up a slot in the Packers RB hierarchy. Green says he’ll be back after this week’s bye, but the Packers have an interesting philosophy when it comes to their running backs. They like to rest Green between the 40 yard lines. Davenport had been getting this spot duty. If Fisher assumes these carries, his value could be considerable when you factor in the work he already receives in the passing game. At the very least, he makes sense as a handcuff for Ahman Green owners. Next opponent: Bye.

One Week Wonders: Shawn Bryson

WIDE RECEIVERS

Obvious Acquisitions: Joe Jurevicius and Eric Moulds

1. Antonio Bryant, Browns

Bryant may have been drafted in your league, but after a somewhat slow start, he’s available in around 40 percent of fantasy leagues. That won’t be true for long. Bryant broke out on Sunday, posting 83 yards and two touchdowns. In his last two games, he has 15 total receptions. While it took QB Trent Dilfer a few games to figure out who his go-to receiver would be, it’s now apparent that Bryant is that guy. With rookie Braylon Edwards expected to miss a few weeks with an infection, Bryant’s success should continue in the coming weeks—particularly when you consider they have upcoming games against the Texans, Titans, and Lions. Next opponent: @ Ravens.

2. Chris Henry, Bengals

Rookie Chris Henry doesn’t catch many passes, but the ones he does catch usually go for a good distance. Henry is averaging 16.5 yards per catch. In his last three games, he has two touchdown receptions of 25 yards or longer. In the other game, he caught another 25+ yard TD, but it was later overturned by replay. The point here is that Henry is getting deep opportunities in every game. With starter T.J. Houshmandzedeh questionable again this week with a hand injury, Henry should continue to be a frequent target for Carson Palmer. Next opponent: @ Titans.

3. D.J. Hackett, Seahawks

The depleted Seahawks receiving unit has left the door open for some backup players to contribute. While Peter Warrick was expected to get the start opposite Joe Jurevicius on Sunday, Warrick has been battling a sore hamstring so D.J. Hackett got the start instead. Hackett didn’t have a huge game, but he did grab five receptions for 43 yards. A game this week against the Texans looks promising. If you need a bye week fill in, Hackett deserves a look, especially if you get points for receptions. Next opponent: versus Texans.

One Week Wonders: Bethel Johnson

TIGHT ENDS

Obvious Acquisitions: Todd Heap

1. Jerramy Stevens, Seahawks

Darrell Jackson is expected to miss at least a few more weeks while he recovers from knee surgery. Joe Jurevicius, a Forecast recommendation last week, was clearly QB Matt Hasselbeck’s favorite target. But don’t overlook the rising value of TE Jerramy Stevens. Stevens caught three passes for 65 yards and a touchdown last week and will continue to be a key cog in the Seahawks offense. Next week’s opponent, the Texans, just gave up 94 yards and a touchdown to Tennessee’s tight ends. Stevens is an excellent acquisition in TE-mandatory leagues, but also deserves consideration in leagues where tight ends are combined with receivers.

2. Chris Cooley, Redskins

The resurgence of the Redskins offense under the leadership of QB Mark Brunell has caused a spike in the value for players like Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. Cooley, who is officially an H-back but is likely listed as a TE on your league management site, has 12 receptions and a touchdown over the last two weeks. If your TE position has been struggling, Cooley should be considered instant starter material. Next opponent: @ Chiefs.

3. Daniel Graham, Patriots

After Graham’s eye-opening performance on Sunday, you would think he deserves to be the top-ranked tight end on this list. Graham cranked out 119 yards and a touchdown. What’s a bit problematic for Graham is that he plays in a Patriots offense that spreads the ball around more than any other team in the league. Receivers and tight ends alike will erupt one week and disappear the next. Even so, with the intensity that Graham showed on a couple of his receptions, I suspect he’s going to be a factor for New England on most weeks. Next opponent: @ Broncos.

One Week Wonder: Will Heller

TEAM DEFENSE

Obvious Acquisitions: None

1. Seattle Seahawks

By all accounts the Seattle Seahawks are an average fantasy defense. They have three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 15 sacks. Solid numbers, but certainly not spectacular. What the Seahawks have going for them is a favorable match-up this week against the NFL bottom feeding Houston Texans. The Texans rank dead last in total offense, averaging just 11 points per game. What’s more, QB David Carr has been sacked a league-high 27 times. Acquire Seattle and start them with confidence. Next opponent: versus Texans.

2. Cleveland Browns

If you’re a believer in playing the match-ups, the Browns deserve more than a passing glance this week. They will face off against a Ravens offense that hasn’t scored 20 points all season. Backup QB Anthony Wright continues to struggle as the starter. He has six interceptions and has been sacked nine times in four games. Meanwhile, the Browns have gained some respectability. While they haven’t scored a defensive touchdown yet this season, Cleveland has held opponents to 13 points or less in the last two games. Give them a shot this week. Next opponent: @ Ravens.

One Week Wonders: Green Bay Packers