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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Watch - Week 9
Todd Gray
November 1, 2005

Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own

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1 CAR Steve Smith There's no denying top billing to the NFL leader in receptions (50), yards (797) and receiving TDs (8) - with his bye week out of the way, no less. This week's opponent, Tampa Bay, presents the toughest test of the year for the Panthers' offense: the Bucs have allowed an NFL-leading two passing TDs and a third-best 154 passing yards per game.
2 PHI Terrell Owens Owens had only three catches against the Broncos on Sunday, but with them he produced a whopping 154 yards including a 91-yard TD. Struggling Philadelphia should have its hands full in Week 9 against a Washington pass defense that surrenders a league-low 152.7 passing yards per game and fewer than one passing TD per contest. Regardless, now is not the time to bet against Owens.
3 WAS Santana Moss Hopefully, that was only a speed bump the Redskins hit in New York on Sunday. Moss owners suffered through his first crappy fantasy performance this season in the Redskins' 36-0 drubbing at the hands of the Giants (4 catches, 34 yards). He even coughed up his first fumble of the season in the loss. Moss has simply been too good to ignore regardless of the matchup, and Week 9 opponent the Philadelphia Eagles have their own problems - not the least of which is a defense that's surrendered 13 passing TDs in seven games and an unsightly 232 passing yards per contest.
4 CIN Chad Johnson Johnson turned in his worst fantasy performance of the season on Sunday (5 catches, 62 yards), but his remarkably consistent contributions place him in that select group of four wideouts who have clearly outproduced the rest of the pack through eight weeks. We'll soon know if the left shoulder injury suffered at the hands of the Packers will affect his playing status at Baltimore in Week 9, but there is no indication at the time of this writing that Johnson will miss any action.
5 NYG Plaxico Burress Burress heads up "the rest of the pack" for two primary reasons: he's produced consistently this season despite a Week 8 hiccup against the Redskins (4 catches, 42 yards); and he's in the most stable situation in what has become a year of absolute turmoil for wide receivers and QBs. His season totals should get a robust boost this weekend when the Giants visit San Francisco to rough up the 49ers' league-worst pass defense.
6 TAM Joey Galloway Tampa Bay's fortunes took a tumble on Sunday against hapless San Francisco, but Galloway continued his career year performance with eight catches, 149 yards and a TD in the Bucs' 15-10 loss with backup QB Chris Simms at the helm. Galloway remains one of the few fully healthy skill players on this team’s offense and is a rather good bet to appease fantasy owners once again when Tampa Bay hosts Carolina on Sunday.
7 IND Marvin Harrison Harrison and the Colts return from a Week 8 bye to face the Patriots in New England on Monday. The question is, which Patriots defense will show up: the one that held Harrison to 12 catches, 88 yards and one TD in two meetings last season, or the one that currently ranks near the bottom of the league in most major pass defense categories?
8 STL Torry Holt Holt missed his second straight game on Sunday with a strained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and his availability for Week 9 would again be in doubt if it weren't the Rams' bye week. Holt owners who haven't already prepared for a worst-case scenario should strongly consider a backup plan for Week 10.
9 OAK Randy Moss Moss owners eagerly anticipated a near-return to form against the Titans on Sunday despite his designation as "Questionable" on the injury report leading up to the game. Instead, these owners were treated to only three catches and 26 yards as Moss served primarily as a decoy (he was targeted only six times). It will be hard to depend on Moss in Week 9, but it will be even more difficult to leave him on the bench against a Kansas City pass defense ranked among the worst in the NFL.
10 ARI Larry Fitzgerald Fitzgerald's value has to take a slight hit with the loss of counterpart Anquan Boldin (knee), who will probably be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks. He may indeed get more looks from QB Josh McCown, but he'll also get more attention from opposing DBs unless new No. 2 wideout Bryant Johnson steps up in a big way.

(Note – this listing considers the rankings of WR’s if a draft was held today)

Climbing The Ladder

Kevin Curtis (STL) - It's little surprise that Curtis' value has skyrocketed throughout the course of the season. He's produced on a weekly basis and his stats have continued along an upward trend, culminating in a three-catch, 105-yard, one-TD performance on Sunday against Jacksonville. Now, there are concerns that No. 1 wideout Torry Holt (knee) may miss more time than originally expected, and that No. 2 WR Isaac Bruce will continue to be out with the mother of all nagging injuries, turf toe. It all adds up to continued production from Curtis. QB Marc Bulger (shoulder) is expected to return in Week 10 following the Rams' Week 9 bye, which further enhances Curtis' long-term potential.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh (CIN) - When Houshmandzadeh missed two early-October games with a bruised hand, Housh owners everywhere feared the worse - that his absence would set the stage for another Bengals skill player to step up and inherit some of Housh's future touches. Two games back and that is clearly not the case as Houshmandzadeh has tallied 12 catches, 152 yards and a TD in that time while clearly being QB Carson Palmer's No. 2 target. RB Chris Perry and WR Chris Henry (among others) won't disappear, but there appears to be enough offense to go around in Cincinnati - although that may not be true when the Bengals play at Baltimore in Week 9. Regardless, Housh owners can feel confident locking Houshmandzadeh into their No. 3 WR slot much more often than not.

Bryant Johnson (ARI) - Cardinals star wideout Anquan Boldin is likely out for at least a couple of games with his latest knee injury. Thus, the door swings wide open for the speedy Johnson to step up and fulfill the potential that Arizona management saw in him when they made him a first-round draft selection in 2003. This is good news for opportunistic Boldin owners who are scrambling to find a replacement for their surprise No. 1 fantasy wideout. Bryant hasn't exactly been a bust - his 84 catches, 975 yards and two touchdowns in limited action the past two seasons suggest that he's capable of even greater production given the opportunity, and the Cardinals should continue to air it out regularly. In fact, Week 9 may be the first good time for fantasy owners seeking a No. 3 wideout to plug Johnson into their starting lineups - the Cardinals host a Seattle squad that is merely respectable against the pass.

Sliding Back

Minnesota WRs - To preface these comments, it's a pretty safe bet that a Vikings wideout will post quality numbers against the Lions in Week 9. That said, are you willing to risk a win or a loss on a one-in-four chance to strike gold with this sinking ship of an offense? Nate Burleson has only four catches and 43 yards in two games following his much-anticipated return from a knee injury. Travis Taylor has nearly flatlined with only seven catches and 90 yards over the past three games, and rookie wideout Troy Williamson has nearly duplicated that feat with only six catches and 84 yards in the same amount of time. Now QB Daunte Culpepper (knee) is done for the season and the reins are being handed to the same Brad Johnson who led this offense during the Clinton presidency. That may actually be good news, but then...no, it's not. Add to this the fact that every wideout on this offense has produced less than expected with the possible exception of Marcus Robinson, and that's only because no one ever expects a great deal from Robinson in the first place. That said, his seven catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns combined the past two games suggest that he's the best bet for fantasy-worthy production in Week 9 when the Vikings host the equally inept Lions.

Mike Williams (DET) - Williams had his best game of the season in QB Jeff Garcia's first start in Week 7 (5 catches, 95 yards), but then everyone on the Lions' offense regressed against the Bears in Week 8 and fantasy owners can go back to expecting little from Williams. That's especially true given the possible Week 9 return of No. 1 wideout Roy Williams (thigh) and No. 2 WR Charles Rogers (suspension). While Mike Williams may not lose his starting gig to Rogers right off the bat, there simply isn't enough offense in Detroit to make him a fantasy starter regardless of the situation. The only light at the end of the tunnel is the Lions’ favorable matchup in Week 9 (@ Minnesota).

Anquan Boldin (ARI) - The results of Boldin’s MRI on Monday revealed that his latest knee injury is no more than a bone bruise and not torn meniscus cartilage as was originally feared. This is great news for Boldin owners who feared an end to his season, but it also means that said owners will need to find a suitable replacement for Boldin for the next couple of games. Start with backup WR Bryant Johnson, who should make a fine sub in Boldin’s stead and who should be available for the taking in all but the deepest of leagues.