1. Damon Huard, Chiefs
The streak continues. The Forecast is now a perfect 5-for-5 in recommending bye week QBs. Each passer who has been given the yellow stamp of approval has delivered a multiple TD game. Joey Harrington’s 412-yard, 2-TD effort last week was the icing on the cake. This week’s pick is Damon Huard. The KC QB has been remarkably efficient under center lately. He’s thrown for 200+ yards and two TD passes in three of the last four games. A meeting this week against the bruised and battered Seahawks looks promising. Seattle ranks 25th in the NFL against the pass, allowing 225.5 yards per game through the air. They’re even worse on the road where they’ll play this week and where they’ve given up five passing TDs in their last two games. Plug in Huard and look for 200 yards and a pair of TDs.
Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Huard has developed into a decent backup QB and is a strong play this week against the Seahawks.
2. Charlie Batch, Steelers
Steelers starting QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a concussion during Sunday’s game against the Falcons. His playing status for Week 8 is up in the air, but don’t be surprised if he misses time. When it comes to head injuries, doctors tend to err on the side of caution. If Big Ben does sit, Charlie Batch would get the nod. Batch has been nothing short of amazing in the limited action he’s seen. In the six quarters he’s played, Batch has logged five TDs and no interceptions. Though this week’s opponent, the Oakland Raiders, are ranked best in the league against the pass, Batch is definitely worth a look if your regular starter is out. Fact is the Raiders haven’t really been tested much by quality offenses in 2006. If he plays, I expect Batch to finish with at least 225 yards and a touchdown or two.
Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Batch has been solid when called upon this season and could be a viable fantasy starter in deep leagues if Roethlisberger rests.
3. Seneca Wallace, Seahawks
The Seattle offense took another hit Sunday when QB Matt Hasselbeck sprained a knee ligament. Already without MVP Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks will be forced to start second-year QB Seneca Wallace against the Chiefs. Wallace looked out of his league in relief of Hasselbeck on Sunday, thowing two interceptions and leading his team to just three points. But don’t dismiss him yet. Mike Holmgren has been coaching QBs for his entire 20-year NFL career and will get the young Wallace prepared for Sunday. With a full week of practice with the first team and an offensive package designed to take advantage of his specific talents, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Wallace post 200 all-purpose yards and a couple of scores against the Chiefs.
Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Wallace didn’t perform well last week, but he should fare better given a week of preparation. Owners who lost Hasselbeck should give him a look if there’s nothing better out there.
Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Jon Kitna and David Carr
Other quarterbacks I’m monitoring: Tony Romo
1. Wali Lundy, Texans
Wali World is open for business again. Wali Lundy, who was mentioned here last week, came through with a confidence-building 93-yard, 1-TD performance against the Jags. He’s now likely to receive the majority of carries for Gary Kubiak’s squad. If Lundy wasn’t picked up last week, he’ll likely be the most sought after pick up. It’s rare to find a starting RB available at this point in the season, so make an effort to get him. A match-up this week against the Titans looks pretty sweet for Lundy owners at first glimpse. But don’t get ahead of yourself. The Titans have been playing good ball lately and they’re well-rested after a Week 7 bye. Tennessee held Clinton Portis to just 58 yards rushing in their last game (albeit with two TDs).
Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Lundy is this week’s top pickup if available.
2. Justin Fargas, Raiders
LaMont Jordan’s back tightened up on him during pre-game warm-ups and he never took the field against the Cardinals. Backup Justin Fargas received most of the carries. Back injuries can linger for a long time. Tampa’s Cadillac Williams’ slow start this season can be chalked up to a back injury. He’s only now starting to make a positive fantasy contribution. At the time this article was published, Jordan was scheduled to undergo an MRI and is listed as questionable. If he misses time, don’t be surprised to see more of Fargas, who received a career-high 22 carries against the Cardinals. Oakland faces some stout run defenses in the coming weeks (PIT, SEA, and DEN) so even if Jordan does miss time, Fargas’ value isn’t huge. Still, RBs are in short supply, so Fargas has value. For that matter so does Zack Crockett (at least in deeper leagues).
Availability: Owned in 4% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Should Jordan miss time, Fargas could be used as a stop gap if you’re in a pinch.
3. Cedric Benson, Bears
Lost in the excitement of the Week 6 Monday night shocker against Arizona two weeks ago was the ineffective rushing by Bears tailback Thomas Jones. Jones looked tentative and ended the day with just 39 yards on 11 carries. The Forecast sees a potential running back by committee situation on the horizon. If it was just a one game fluke, Jones probably doesn’t have anything to worry about. If he continues to struggle and ends up in a full-blown slump, look for Cedric Benson to start seeing more work. Benson had one of his better games as a pro three weeks ago against the Bills picking up 48 yards and two scores.
Availability: Owned in 64% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Benson has always been worth a spot in keeper leagues, but may become a fantasy contributor in leagues of all shapes and sizes before long.
4. Ladell Betts, Redskins
If you rely on Washington RB Clinton Portis on a weekly basis, you’d be wise to consider picking up his backup Ladell Betts this week. Portis suffered a “mild” high ankle sprain Sunday against the Colts and was in a walking boot after the game. Although he is expected to be ready to go after this week’s bye, ankle sprains—particularly high ankle sprains—can take awhile to fully heal. Betts looked sharp spelling Portis against Indianapolis, posting 93 all-purpose yards. By handcuffing him to Portis, you’ll be covered should the injury cause Portis to miss any time.
Availability: Owned in 49% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Handcuff Betts to Portis if you hadn’t already done so.
5. Jerome Harrison, Browns
We’re approaching the midway point of the season. It’s around this time when many teams are coming to the realization that a playoff berth just isn’t in the cards. It’s around this time that coaches start looking ahead to next year and evaluating their younger players. One RB who could see increased action during the second half of the season in rookie Jerome Harrison. Starter Reuben Droughns is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. He’s not Cleveland’s RB of the future. Is Harrison? Maybe. Maybe not. But the Browns won’t know until they get him on the field. Look for him to start getting carries by Week 10. Harrison was impressive during the preseason, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues
Forecast guidance: As the Browns fall farther out of playoff contention, it seems likely that the team will take a good long look at Harrison. He’s worth a look in deep leagues and keeper leagues.
Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Leon Washington, Chris Perry, and Jerrious Norwood
1. Chris Henry, Bengals
Henry is slated to return to action this week from his 2-game suspension. If he was dumped in your league while he was out, make acquiring him a priority. Prior to being suspended, Henry was one of the hottest wideouts in the league. He had just lit up the Steelers and Browns during a two-week stretch where he racked up 182 yards and two scores. Without Henry in the lineup, the Bengals offense stumbled. Although his return won’t necessarily ignite the entire team, it won’t hurt. Henry is a quality WR4 who can be counted on when the matchup is favorable.
Availability: Owned in ~35% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Henry is eligible to return to action this week and should pick up where he left off.
2. Santonio Holmes, Steelers
Holmes and his counterpart Nate Washington were mentioned by the Forecast last week. Both players played admirably against the Falcons in Week 7. Holmes put up 93 yards on five catches and Washington had 76 yards and a touchdown. Both players are young and raw, as evidenced by a couple mistakes they made (Holmes a fumbled punt return and Washington a penalty). However, they both look like future stars in their own right. Of the two, I think Holmes has the most potential, but Washington’s three scores might make him a more attractive option in TD-weighted scoring systems. Though Pittsburgh’s official depth chart will tell you otherwise, Holmes has for all intents and purposes supplanted Cedrick Wilson as the starter opposite Hines Ward.
Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Holmes appears to be Pittsburgh’s #2 option in the passing game and is a quality reserve in most leagues.
3. Joe Jurevicius, Browns
Jurevicius, who missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a rib injury, returned to the field on Sunday against the Broncos and caught four passes including a TD. At 6’5” Jurevicius provides young QB Charlie Frye with a huge target. Dennis Northcutt, who is the regular starter opposite Braylon Edwards, missed Sunday’s game while battling a rib injury of his own. According to Pro Football Weekly, Northcutt’s injury might pave the way for Jurevicius to claim the starting spot permanently. That would help beef up Jurevicius’ production and give him at least a few more looks per game.
Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Jurevicius is no stranger to the endzone; he’s worth acquiring in leagues with 12+ teams.
4. Marcus Robinson, Vikings
Marcus Robinson has TDs in three of the four games he’s played and finished this season. With a ratio like that, Robinson is worth a look in leagues of all sizes. Minnesota’s top wideout this season was supposed to be former first-round draft pick Troy Williamson. While Williamson has been okay, he doesn’t have a TD all year. Robinson looks like QB Brad Johnson’s go-to guy. He did suffer a lower back bruise in Week 7, but Travis Taylor and Williamson also suffered injuries of their own. If Robinson gets the start next week, he could deliver again for fantasy owners brave enough to start him.
Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Robinson could be worth a spot start against New England depending on whether Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson play.
5. Marty Booker, Dolphins
When he’s healthy and has a decent QB throwing him the ball, Marty Booker is a pretty good NFL receiver. Unfortunately, with the situation as it is in Miami, Booker has had a tough go of it in 2006. Daunte Culpepper was awful. Booker suffered a couple nagging injuries. The Dolphins offense sputtered. But with Joey Harrington under center and Booker feeling good, there is a glimmer of hope. The duo hooked up on seven receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown. Miami is on bye this week, but Booker might be a good pickup for owners who have been struggling at the WR position.
Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Give Booker a look if you need some receiving depth.
6. Brandon Jones, Titans
Owners looking for a deep sleeper at wideout should take a peek at Brandon Jones. Jones was a good prospect coming out of Oaklahoma. Tennessee drafted him in third round last year. He tore a ligament in his knee during his rookie year but not before he opened eyes as one of the team’s leading receivers over the first half of the season. Jones surfaced two weeks ago, catching three passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. It may not look like much on paper, but the Titans starting wideouts have been disappointing so far in 2006 and have battled injuries. While they were banged up, Jones showed good rapport with Vince Young and has become his favorite receiver. As Young continues to gain experience, Jones’ star may continue to rise.
Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Jones is a deep sleeper who could become a fantasy factor as the season wears on.
Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Bryant Johnson, Doug Gabriel, and Mike Furrey
Other receivers I’m monitoring: DJ Hackett, Ruvell Martin, and Peerless Price
1. David Martin, Packers
Already reeling from the losses of Robert Ferguson and Koren Robinson, the Packers receiving corps suffered another setback when rookie phenom Greg Jennings sprained his ankle during Sunday’s game against Miami. Jennings says he’ll play next week, but even if he does, QB Brett Favre is short on experienced pass catchers. He’s going to be leaning more on his TEs for the rest of the season. That should mean more games like the 31-yard, 1-TD effort that TE David Martin posted in Week 7. The Packers face an Arizona defense that gave up a big game to Oakland’s Courtney Anderson last week, so Martin is a decent play.
Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Martin could be a sneaky play this week against the Cards.
Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Randy McMichael, Jerramy Stevens, and Chris Cooley
Defense / Special Teams
1. New York Giants
Since giving up 92 points over the first three games, the Giants have turned things around. In their last three games, New York has allowed just 13.0 points per game. More importantly for fantasy owners, they’ve registered 16 sacks, five interceptions, a touchdown, and a safety over the same stretch. A favorable upcoming schedule (TAM and HOU) should yield more points. Acquire the Giants this week and don’t be afraid to use them as your primary defense.
Availability: Owned in ~58% of leagues
Forecast guidance: The Giants defense is rolling and can be started on most weeks.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Although I like Seneca Wallace’s chances this week to post some decent fantasy stats, he is a young, inexperienced QB who will probably make a mistake or two against the Chiefs. If your regular team defense is on bye, you could do worse than Kansas City. The Chiefs racked up three turnovers and four sacks against a good San Diego Chargers offense. Start them this week at Arrowhead where they play well. They may give up some points, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them return an interception for a TD.
Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Give the Chiefs the start against the Seahawks young QB and look for them to record a couple turnovers and a few sacks.