Obvious Acquisitions: Brad Johnson
1. Kurt Warner, Cardinals
Regardless of which QB lines up under center for Arizona, the Cardinals put the ball in the air as much as any team in recent memory—an average of 42 times per game. In Week 9, Kurt Warner got the start and finished with 334 yards and a touchdown. Because he had been out of the lineup with a groin injury, Warner is likely available on your waiver wire. He should continue to be a reliable fantasy quarterback as long as head coach Denny Green sticks with him. A match-up this week against the Lions makes him a primo pickup. Next opponent: @ Detroit.
2. Kyle Orton, Bears
In three road games this season, the 49ers have given up 10 passing touchdowns. They don’t travel well and that makes Bears QB Kyle Orton a low-risk, high-reward option for owners facing bye week issues. The rookie has thrown at least one touchdown pass in five straight games. He’s therefore unlikely to burn you with a horrible performance. However, with the 49ers coming to town, he could very easily post 200+ yards and two touchdowns. Plug him into your active lineup and hope for the best. I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Next opponent: versus San Francisco.
One Week Wonders: Brooks Bollinger
Obvious Acquisitions: Marion Barber
1. Samkon Gado, Packers
Who would’ve thought a fifth-string running back from the Packers would be the must-have fantasy acquisition at any point during the season? That’s just the type of year it’s been. Gado got the nod after an early fumble by ReShard Lee. He promptly got the Lambeau crowd behind him with some solid runs, displaying a combination of speed and power that makes you wonder what he was doing on a practice squad for much of the season. With Tony Fisher expected to miss some time with a cracked rib, the Nigerian-born Gado is more than a flash in the pan. Acquiring him should be a priority if you’ve been struggling to field a decent rushing attack. While there are plenty of questions surrounding Gado (pass blocking and stamina come to mind), you won’t find an RB with more upside at this point. Next opponent: @ Atlanta.
2. Michael Bennett, Vikings
The oft-ridiculed Bennett resurfaced at least for one game. On Sunday, he carried the ball 18 times for 106 yards, displaying the speed and elusiveness that fantasy owners coveted during his rookie season. He added a touchdown reception to cap off an exceptional fantasy performance. Before writing off Bennett, it’s worth considering that head coach Mike Tice has always been a Bennett supporter. While the Twin Cities sports media unanimously backed Mewelde Moore as the starter during the preseason, Tice stuck with Bennett—even when he was hurt. Tice eventually caved after Bennett’s slow start, but don’t be surprised if he sticks with him this time. Moore has been decent but unspectacular. And, let’s not forget he hasn’t exactly been a poster child for excellence off the field. Next opponent: @ New York Giants.
3. Duce Staley, Steelers
With Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis sidelined because of injuries, the Steelers dusted off Duce Staley. He rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown against a decent Packers run defense. Time will tell how much time Parker and Bettis will miss, but Staley will likely be a factor for the next few weeks regardless. In the wake of the Terrell Owens debacle, give Staley props for waiting patiently for his turn and keeping his mouth shut. He’s a class act. Add him to your roster if he’s available. Next opponent: versus Cleveland.
4. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Jacobs secures this spot for the second time in as many weeks. I recommended him last week in anticipation of a big game against the 49ers. He scored two touchdowns. I’ll recommend him again this week, eagerly awaiting a repeat performance against the Vikings. Minnesota struggles mightily on the road giving up an average of 33.25 points per game. If you’re a Rudi Johnson or LaDainian Tomlinson owner, Jacobs should be a nice one-week replacement because he will get at least one goal-line carry and probably more. Next opponent: versus Minnesota.
5. J.J. Arrington, Cardinals
Arrington was recommended a couple weeks ago as a long-term project for fantasy owners with deep rosters. He had the best game of his young career on Sunday, racking up 62 total yards on nine touches. Arrington may finally be recognizing the need to let plays develop before simply running headstrong into the mass of linemen. If one of the owners in your league abandoned Arrington earlier this year, give him a chance to surprise you during the second half of the season. Upcoming games against Detroit, St. Louis, and San Francisco could help boost the rookie’s confidence. Not to mention his fantasy value. Next opponent: @ Detroit.
One Week Wonders: Jerald Sowell and Ciatrick Fason
Obvious Acquisitions: Roy Williams, Donte Stallworth and Nate Burleson
1. Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis, Eagles
I mentioned Brown and Lewis last week as players to consider adding because Terrell Owens had an ankle injury. By the end of the week, both players’ values had skyrocketed because the story broke that Owens would be suspended. With the official word coming out yesterday that Owens won’t play for the Eagles for the rest of the season, Brown and Lewis are even hotter. Put Brown at the top of your list because he had a better game on Sunday, but Lewis will also be an integral part of the Eagles offense and deserves more than a passing glance. Next opponent: versus Dallas.
2. Ernest Wilford, Jaguars
I missed the mark last week on Wilford, calling him a One Week Wonder after he posted a nice stat line. During that Week 8 game, Wilford caught a touchdown on a tipped pass. It wasn’t the first time he had scored that way. But in Week 9, Wilford scored again; this time he did it without any help. With two strong games in a row, he deserves a roster spot. The second-year wideout has clearly outplayed Reggie Williams this season and, at 6-4, Wilford should continue to be a redzone factor. Next opponent: versus Baltimore.
3. Andre Johnson, Texans
Considered by many to be the biggest fantasy bust of the 2005 season, Andre Johnson finally lived up to his potential in Week 9. He caught nine passes for 91 yards in his first game back from a calf injury. With Domanick Davis a surprise scratch, Johnson was clearly the favorite target of QB David Carr. After his slow start, he was dumped by many owners and is now available in 35 percent of leagues on CBS Sportsline. He has the talent to be one of the premier wideouts in the NFL and thus deserves a roster spot. If he finds a rhythm with Carr, watch out. Next opponent: @ Indianapolis.
4. Bryant Johnson, Cardinals
Johnson was identified as a player with upside last week. His value is even higher now that he has proven to be a capable replacement for injured WR Anquan Boldin. Johnson grabbed six receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Seahawks. As long as Boldin remains on the sidelines, Johnson deserves starting consideration as a #3 WR or flex player. He should fare well against the Lions. Next opponent: @ Detroit.
5. Robert Ferguson, Packers
A couple weeks ago, Ferguson suffered what at the time looked like a season-ending knee injury against the Vikings. An MRI later revealed that the injury wasn’t as severe as it looked initially. By that point, many owners had already dumped Ferguson. If he’s available in your league, know that he could return as soon as this week against the Falcons or perhaps the following week against the Vikings. Acquire him now because when he’s healthy, he will reclaim his starting job from Antonio Chatman. Next opponent: @ Atlanta.
One Week Wonders: Corey Bradford, Justin Gage, Tab Perry, and Dennis Northcutt
Obvious Acquisitions: L.J. Smith, Erron Kinney, and Chris Cooley
1. Desmond Clark, Bears
If you have a tight end on bye, particularly Antonio Gates, you may be able to survive using Desmond Clark for a week. The Chicago TE faces a plush match-up this week against the 49ers. As previously indicated in the Orton recommendation, San Francisco is awful on the road. But what I also like is Clark’s recent success in Soldier Field. In his last two games on his home turf, Clark has 69 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Plug him into your active lineup this week in expectation of an upswing in offensive production from the Bears. Next opponent: versus San Francisco.
One Week Wonder: None
Obvious Acquisitions: Carolina Panthers
1. Washington Redskins
The Redskins have one of the tougher defenses in the NFL, but oddly one of the weaker defenses in fantasy football. That anomaly exists because they don’t cause a lot of turnovers or register many sacks. However, I like their match-up this week against the Buccaneers. Tampa QB Chris Simms has made some bad decisions since taking over the reins from Brian Griese. Simms has two interceptions and one fumble in each of his two starts this season. Look for Washington to harass Simms into more mistakes and score their first defensive touchdown of the year. Next opponent: @ Tampa.
One Week Wonders: Minnesota Vikings