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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 9
Paul Sandy
November 1, 2005

QUARTERBACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Jake Plummer

1. Brad Johnson, Vikings

Sure to get his share of attention this week in fantasy circles, Brad Johnson is the new starting quarterback in the once high-powered offense of the Minnesota Vikings. Daunte Culpepper will miss the remainder of the 2005 with extensive trauma to his knee. For Culpepper owners, Johnson represents what might be the only viable long-term solution at quarterback that’s available on the waiver wire. The 14-year veteran did an adequate job in relief of Culpepper on Sunday, completing 13 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Although not noted for his mobility, he added 30 yards on the ground. If Johnson can stay healthy behind Minnesota’s porous offensive line, he could average 200 yards and a touchdown or better for the remainder of the season. Next opponent: versus Lions.

2. Jeff Garcia, Lions

Despite two blasé starts, Jeff Garcia remains entrenched as the Lions quarterback. The former 49ers and Browns signal caller will continue to improve as he gets his legs under himself. Look for a marked improvement beginning this week against the Vikings. Although they invested heavily in their defense this offseason, Minnesota has been picked apart by opposing quarterbacks. Last week, they gave up 300+ yards to Jake Delhomme. If you’re missing your regular starter because of a bye or injury, Garcia has the potential for a 240-yard, 2-touchdown game against the Purple. Next opponent: @ Minnesota.

One Week Wonders: David Carr

RUNNING BACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Tony Fisher and Ricky Williams

1. Marion Barber III, Cowboys

In Week 8, Barber proved worthy of the high recommendation he got here last Tuesday. Against the Cardinals, Barber racked up 142 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Starter Julius Jones continues to be plagued by a high ankle sprain. A timely bye this week should help to heal Jones’ wounds, but with Barber running so well—and more importantly pass protecting so well—head coach Bill Parcells likely won’t rush Jones back into action. In fact, Parcells has gone so far as to question Jones’ durability. Despite the bye, acquire Barber in case the injury-prone Jones remains sidelined. Next opponent: Bye.

2. Cedric Benson, Bears

Bears starting running back Thomas Jones bruised his ribs in Sunday’s game against the Lions. While Jones has suggested he will play, don’t be surprised if he’s tagged with the “questionable” label in the days leading up to this weekend’s game against the Saints. If Jones sits, Benson would likely be the starter. In limited duty during the overtime period against Detroit, Benson looked impressive, churning out 35 yards on just three carries. If you’re in a re-draft league, Benson may be lingering on your waiver wire (as he is in close to 40% of CBS Sportsline leagues). Next opponent: @ New Orleans.

3. Chester Taylor, Ravens

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been sleeping on Chester Taylor. Not because I wasn’t aware of Taylor’s productivity. Rather I was unaware that he’s available in so many leagues—more than 40% of CBS Sportsline leagues. I stumbled upon this bit of information while watching Monday Night Football and was taken aback since he’s been outperforming Jamal Lewis for weeks. If you play in a league where Taylor is not currently on a roster, by all means grab him. He’s a good player to have on your bench because he receives more touches than your typical backup running back. Plug and play him this week against a Bengals defense that cedes 125 yards per game on the ground. Next opponent: versus Cincinnati.

4. Brandon Jacobs, Giants

If one of your regular starters is on bye this week, Giants short-yardage back Brandon Jacobs could be a decent stop gap. New York will square off against the 49ers. While San Francisco shut down Tampa on Sunday, they Bwill have a difficult time matching the intensity they showed against the Bucs. Look for the Giants to finish on the high side of their 29.9 points per game average this week. Jacobs has an excellent chance to find the end zone on another goal line plunge. It would be his fourth of the year. Next opponent: @ San Francisco.

5. ReShard Lee, Packers

Owners in larger leagues, where running backs are in even shorter supply, should target Packers backup running back ReShard Lee as a good long-term prospect. Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport are slated to become free agents at the end of the season. As Green Bay falls out of playoff contention, at some point the Packers may use a few games to see what they have in Lee. Last season, he averaged 4.0 yards per carry in limited action for the Cowboys. Next opponent: versus Pittsburgh.

One Week Wonders: None

WIDE RECEIVERS

Obvious Acquisitions: Jerry Porter, Antonio Chatman, and Antonio Bryant

1. Bobby Engram, Seahawks

After missing three games with broken ribs, Engram is scheduled to return to action this week. If he was dumped in your league, make acquiring him a priority. Before getting injured, Engram was a key component of the Seahawks passing offense, catching 27 passes in four games. With Darrell Jackson expected to miss another few weeks, Engram figures to keep up that level of production or improve on it. Division games in the next few weeks against Arizona, St. Louis, and San Francisco will help his cause. Next opponent: @ Cardinals.

2. Marcus Robinson, Vikings

When a new quarterback steps under center, it often doesn’t take long for them to build a rapport with a receiver. Case in point: Billy Volek and Drew Bennett late last season for the Titans. Brad Johnson’s favorite wideout could be Marcus Robinson, who has scored in two straight games. Johnson targeted Robinson seven times on Sunday, completing four passes for 77 yards and a score. Acquire him this week in hopes that the Johnson-Robinson connection stays hot. Next opponent: versus Lions.

3. Courtney Roby, Titans

With Drew Bennett, Brandon Jones, and Tyrone Calico all battling various injuries, the Titans were looking for warm bodies to suit up at receiver last week. On Sunday, rookie Courtney Roby exceeded all expectations, catching a team-high seven passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Owners who are desperate for WR help—and with all the WR injuries this season, most people seem to fit that category—Roby is a fair option. The Titans face the average pass defense of the Cleveland Browns this week. Next opponent: @ Cleveland.

4. Bryant Johnson, Cardinals

Another in the long list of receivers downed by injuries this year, Anquan Boldin bruised his knee on Sunday and his status is up in the air. As a result, Bryant Johnson may be thrust into a starting role. Johnson, a third-year receiver, has been a target of criticism for the Arizona media. He has just 15 receptions this year and was actually getting out-performed by fourth-string receiver Charles Lee up until Lee was released last week for arguing with a coach. Nonetheless, Johnson is a decent prospect because the Cardinals attempt 41.1 passes per game, second-most in the NFL. Next opponent: versus Seattle.

5. Greg Lewis, Eagles

Terrell Owens suffered a sprained ankle in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Broncos. It’s the same ankle that ended his regular season in 2004. Owens is currently listed as day-to-day so the situation is definitely worth monitoring. While it’s obviously early in the week, the injury reeks of something that will have Owens listed as a game-time decision on Sunday. Unfortunately, the Eagles don’t play until Sunday night, which puts Owens owners in the same predicament that Corey Dillon owners faced in Week 8. Watch the situation closely. If Owens is listed as questionable, acquire Lewis or Reggie Brown as Plan B in case T.O. can’t go. Next opponent: @ Washington.

One Week Wonders: Mark Bradley, Ernest Wilford, Jerome Mathis, and Eric Parker

TIGHT ENDS

Obvious Acquisitions: Bubba Franks and Heath Miller

1. Erron Kinney, Titans

Leading up to Week 8, it was difficult to predict which Tennessee tight end would catch the most passes in any given game. Things will get substantially clearer this week because Ben Troupe sustained a high ankle sprain. While early indications are that Troupe will be listed as questionable, this variety of sprain is typically slow to heal. As a result, Erron Kinney’s value is on the rise. He caught six passes for 69 yards against the Raiders on Sunday. A match-up this week against the Browns is promising. Next opponent: @ Cleveland.

2. Marcus Pollard, Lions

The Minnesota Vikings have given up eight touchdowns to tight ends in seven games. Owners who are in need of a player at this position that can score more than 3-4 points would be wise to pick up Lions TE Marcus Pollard this week. Pollard has been serviceable so far this season, but will likely surpass his 34.1 yards per game average by 10-20 yards this week. Plus he has an excellent chance to score. Next opponent: @ Minnesota.

One Week Wonder: None

TEAM DEFENSE

Obvious Acquisitions: Cincinnati Bengals

1. New York Giants

Plenty of fantasy owners will be trying to get their mitts on the New York Giants defense this week. They posted a rare shutout win over the previously unstoppable Redskins offense in Week 8, recording five sacks and four turnovers. While the temptation is there to write them off as one week wonders, I urge you not to do so. The Giants will travel to San Francisco this week to face a 49ers defense that will start Cody Pickett at QB. Pickett is for all practical purposes a fourth string quarterback. The Giants will follow up last week’s stunner with another solid outing. Next opponent: @ San Francisco.

One Week Wonders: San Francisco 49ers