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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 8
Paul Sandy
October 25, 2005

QUARTERBACKS

Obvius Acqouisitions: Mark Brunell

1. Kelly Holcomb, Bills

I continue to like Holcomb as a quality backup QB. In three starts, Holcomb has thrown five touchdowns. While the yardage hasn’t been great, it’s been consistent—no fewer than 159 yards and no more than 179. That production may increase slightly over Buffalo’s next few games. Each of the teams that the Bills will face during the next three weeks rank 24th in pass defense or worse. Owners facing bye week or injury issues at the QB position would be wise to take a look at Holcomb. Next opponent: @ New England.

2. Chris Simms, Buccaneers

With Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, and Matt Hasselbeck on bye, plenty of owners will be looking for QB help this week. The league patsy 49ers are on the schedule this week, so the Tampa passing game could be big. Unfortunately, tapping into that potential isn’t without risk. The Buccaneers will start Chris Simms this week. Simms will likely be asked to play conservatively and not make mistakes. Even so he probably won’t be able to help throwing a pair of touchdowns against a 49ers defense that gave up 52 points in Week 7. Next opponent: @ San Francisco.

One Week Wonders: None

RUNNING BACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Willie Parker

1. Tony Fisher, Packers

Fisher has been recommended here twice before. On the first two occasions, I liked his upside as a third-down back who would spell starter Ahman Green. Now Green is out for the year and Fisher has become the hottest free agent acquisition in fantasy football. I urge you not to look at Fisher as just a third-down specialist. At 222 lbs., he is capable of a full workload. In his only career start, he had 30 touches for 115 yards and touchdown. How much production can you expect from the Notre Dame alum? The Packers have struggled running the football all season, so expecting a big contribution from him every week would be asking too much. However, stats similar to those of Minnesota’s Mewelde Moore seem realistic—fair yardage and minimal touchdowns. If you’re already a Fisher owner, consider adding ReShard Lee for depth. Next opponent: @ Cincinnati.

2. Marion Barber III, Cowboys

Let’s be real clear here. The Cowboys have had a different leading rusher in each of the last four weeks. It’s an unpredictable situation. Rely on a Dallas running back at your own risk. The latest ball carrier to get his shot was Marion Barber, who carried the ball 22 times for 95 yards. The Cowboys face an Arizona Cardinals defense that was giving up yards in big chunks to Tennessee’s Chris Brown before he got hurt, so whoever starts at RB for Dallas has nice upside. Acquire Barber in case Julius Jones misses another game. Next opponent: versus Arizona.

3. Frank Gore, 49ers

The Forecast suggested Gore a few weeks ago intimating that he could secure the starting spot by midseason if Kevan Barlow didn’t step up his game. While Barlow has shown a bit of improvement, he bruised his quad on Sunday. Any type of leg injury is problematic for a running back, so Gore could be elevated and become the primary ball carrier this week. Gore carried nine times for 89 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Redskins. Even if Barlow’s injury is minor, the 49ers have to be about ready to concede the 2005 season. Expect Gore to continue to see more carries. Next opponent: versus Tampa.

4. J.J. Arrington, Cardinals

Seven weeks into the season and we have our first significant J.J. Arrington sighting. The rookie has had a miserable start to the season, but showed some signs of life Sunday against the Titans. Arrington carried the ball five times for 30 yards. Before you get too excited about the 6.0 yards per carry, it’s important to note that he got 32 yards on a single carry and negative yards on most of his other touches. He’s only worth a roster spot if you have a deep enough roster to stash him away for several weeks. He will continue to see more carries as Marcel Shipp reaffirms that he isn’t a reliable every-down running back. Next opponent: @ Dallas.

One Week Wonders: Mike Sellers, Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, and Zack Crockett

WIDE RECEIVERS

Obvious Acquisitions: Kevin Curtis

1. Antonio Chatman, Packers

The Green Bay Packers are this year’s version of the 2004 Carolina Panthers. Their offense has been ravaged by injuries. In addition to losing Ahman Green (see above), the Packers will be without the services of WR Robert Ferguson for a few weeks. His replacement Antonio Chatman will take over the starting spot opposite Donald Driver. With defenses rolling coverage Driver’s way, it should leave Chatman in single coverage for QB Brett Favre. The three-time MVP has looked crisp for the past few weeks and will make Chatman a household name for fantasy owners in the days to come. Start him immediately as needed. Next opponent: @ Cincinnati.

2. Az-Zahir Hakim, Saints

Hakim was the top WR recommendation here last week. After a 100-yard, 1-touchdown performance, you’d think he could hold onto the top spot. But Joe Horn should return to action one of these weeks, limiting Hakim’s long-term value. Still, as long as Horn is out, I would not hesitate for a nanosecond to get Hakim in my lineup. He’s had three solid games in a row and should continue to post good numbers as long as the Saints take to the air. New Orleans has averaged 36 passes per game over the last three weeks. Monitor Horn’s situation. If he sits, Hakim is gold. Next opponent: versus Miami.

3. Doug Gabriel, Raiders

In a rare display of leadership, Randy Moss suited up for the Raiders in Week 7 despite various injuries to the lower half of his body. Moss made a contribution, but it didn’t limit Doug Gabriel’s effectiveness. Gabriel, who was another Forecast recommendation last week, caught five passes for 101 yards against a stingy Buffalo Bills pass defense. Moss figures to be limited for at least a couple more weeks, so Gabriel is a nice option. Use him if you’re desperate for help this week against the Titans, who have already given up 14 passing touchdowns this year. Next opponent: @ Tennessee.

4. Mike Williams, Lions

Available in more than 60 percent of leagues according to one of the popular management websites, Mike Williams appears to be the favorite target of Jeff Garcia, Detroit’s new starting QB. Williams caught five passes for 95 yards against the Browns. It could be a sign of things to come. The Lions offense still isn’t clicking but with Garcia under center there’s reason for hope. The former 49ers and Browns QB is a fiery competitor and will get more out of his young receivers than Joey Harrington. Next opponent: versus Chicago.

5. Tyrone Calico, Titans

Titans rookie WR Brandon Jones, who became the team’s #1 WR with Drew Bennett sidelined, suffered a sprained knee last week. Because of the injury, Tyrone Calico will become a significant component of the Tennessee offense by default. Calico led the team in receptions Sunday against the Cardinals, hauling in six passes for 51 yards. If you’re having trouble fielding a competitive WR corps, consider acquiring and activating Calico. Next opponent: versus Oakland.

6. Amani Toomer, Giants

The rise of the Giants offense saw a corresponding spike in the values of Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress, and Jeremy Shockey. But former standout receiver Amani Toomer has finally elbowed his way to the buffet table and begun feasting on the spoils. He caught eight passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos on Sunday. Toomer could be a good player to have in reserve in the coming weeks with favorable match-ups against the 49ers, Vikings, and Seahawks coming up. Next opponent: versus Washington.

One Week Wonders: Josh Reed

TIGHT ENDS

Obvious Acquisitions: Heath Miller and Dallas Clark

1. Bubba Franks, Packers

Due to the Robert Ferguson injury, the Packers will likely lean on their tight ends a bit more in the coming weeks. All told, the Green Bay tight ends combined for eight receptions and 90 yards on Sunday against the Vikings. Franks led the group with 38 receiving yards. If you’ve been struggling at this position all year, Franks provides better value than you’re apt to find on the waiver wire for the rest of the year. He just returned from an extended absence caused by an injury and is available in all but the deepest leagues. Next opponent: @ Cincinnati.

One Week Wonder: Ryan Hannam

TEAM DEFENSE

Obvious Acquisitions: Chicago Bears

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are a nice one-week stopgap play for owners faced with a tricky bye week situation. Jacksonville will face the Rams, who figure to be without starting quarterback Marc Bulger. While backup Jamie Martin didn’t toss any interceptions in Week 7, that was against the Saints. The Jaguars are considerably more talented on defense and rank second in the entire NFL against the pass. If they can stymie Steven Jackson, it will put the pressure on Martin and cause him to make mistakes. Next opponent: @ St. Louis.

One Week Wonders: None