1. Damon Huard, Chiefs
Huard was a bye week replacement recommendation last week, and he came through in the clutch with a solid 312-yard, 1-TD effort against the Seahawks. Most who follow the NFL thought Kansas City’s playoff hopes disappeared the second Trent Green’s head hit the turf in Week 1. But Huard has led the Chiefs to four wins in the last five games, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more consistent fantasy QB over the last five weeks. He has thrown for either 200+ yards and two TDs or 300+ yards and one TD in all but one game during that stretch. Huard is an underrated fantasy starter on most weeks, including Week 9 against the Browns.
Availability: Owned in ~32% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Huard is throwing the ball well and is a surprisingly solid starter on most weeks.
2. Tony Romo, Cowboys
In his first NFL start, Romo completed 24 of 36 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown. The performance came on the road against a tough Carolina defense and could be a harbinger of good things to come. Another promising omen is Romo’s chemistry with Terrell Owens who has now had his two biggest yardage games of 2006 with Romo under center. Look for another quality fantasy showing this week against the Redskins, who rank 30th in the NFL against the pass, and next week against the Arizona Cardinals. Long term, Romo has high upside as a keeper or dyanasty league prospect.
Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Romo looks like the real deal, but use him only when he faces a favorable opponent for now—that includes Week 9 against the Redskins.
3. Seneca Wallace, Seahawks
I had a sneaking suspicion that Mike Holmgren would coax a good performance out of Seneca Wallace last week. Although he did throw a couple interceptions, Wallace rewarded fantasy owners who were brave enough to start him with three TDs and nearly 200 yards passing. If you’re shorthanded at QB, you could do worse than Seattle’s backup. Wallace will get the start this week against the Raiders and the following week against the Rams before starter Matt Hasselbeck returns from a knee injury.
Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Wallace is a servicable replacement for Hasselbeck owners.
4. Steve McNair, Ravens
As an alternative to the QBs highlighted above, consider Steve McNair. The firing of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel gave Baltimore’s offense a jolt. The team returned from its bye and posted three offensive touchdowns. Steve McNair had his best game as a Raven completing 17 of 23 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns against a good New Orleans secondary. McNair also rushed for 23 yards and a touchdown, capping a solid 3-TD afternoon. Acquire him this week to fill-in for your regular QB. McNair will face a reeling Bengals defense that has given up nine passing TDs in the last four weeks.
Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Take a flier on McNair this week against the Bengals who have proven to be vulnerable over the last few games.
Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Jon Kitna and Phillip Rivers
Other quarterbacks I’m monitoring: Vince Young
1. Mike Bell, Broncos
Bell’s rollercoaster ride of a season hit a peak this week after a “hey-don’t-forget-about-me” 136-yard, 2-TD performance against the Colts. Bell, lost the starting job earlier this season to Tatum Bell after a couple games. But he seized his second opportunity when Tatum, who is notoriously injury prone, pulled himself out of the second half against Indy after his turf toe flared. Don’t expect Mike Bell to be named the starter this week unless the toe keeps Tatum Bell out. However, he has certainly earned more carries and could become a factor at the goal line.
Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues
Forecast guidance: If Tatum Bell’s turf toe injury lingers, Mike Bell could become a top 15 RB. He’s worth a spot in all leagues.
2. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Cowboys, Carolina is at a point where they might start to shake things up. The team is 4-4 and the offense only managed 14 points in each of the last two games. In his press conference yesterday, head coach John Fox indicated the bye week might give the team a chance to find “players who can finish games.” Though he didn’t mention names, Fox may be casting the stink eye in DeShaun Foster’s direction. Foster has averaged barely over three yards per carry in the second half in each of the last two games—games in which Carolina had the lead entering the third quarter. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see a 50-50 split in carries for Foster and rookie DeAngelo Williams when the team returns from the bye.
Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Grab Williams now in anticipation of him becoming a more active part of the Panthers offense.
3. Justin Fargas, Raiders
LaMont Jordan has been one of fantasy football’s biggest busts this season. Now a back injury has exacerbated the situation. Jordan played on Sunday against the Steelers, but he only received seven carries and didn’t do much with them. Jordan’s backup is Justin Fargas, who posted 55 yards on 18 carries—not great, but too bad when you factor in the tough match-up. Fargas should fare better this week against a Seattle defense that was slammed by Larry Johnson last week for 155 rushing yards and three scores.
Availability: Owned in 11% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Fargas is a decent fourth-string RB who can be used in a pinch when facing favorable opponents.
4. LenDale White, Titans
White has been running with authority over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been given many opportunities. As the season wears on, that will change. White is this team’s RB of the future and looks too talented to remain a situational player. Look for Travis Henry to start giving up carries to the rookie in the coming weeks. The Titans have a posh schedule during the fantasy playoffs as far as run defenses, including the Colts and Texans.
Availability: Owned in 41% of leagues
Forecast guidance: White will have an increased role in the second half of the season; grab him now if you need RB depth.
Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Maurice Jones-Drew, Leon Washington, Michael Turner, and Jerrious Norwood
Other running backs I’m monitoring: Curtis Martin and Mewelde Moore
1. Chris Henry, Bengals
Henry draws the top Forecast WR recommenation for the second week in a row. He returned to action after a two-game suspension handed down from the league. It didn’t look like Henry missed a beat; he actually led the team in receiving with 81 yards receiving, including a touchdown. Averaging 16.1 yards per catch, Henry provides QB Carson Palmer a reliable deep threat. Palmer usually attempts the long ball at least a couple times per game, so Henry gives owners a big payoff when the connection is clicking. He has three quality starts in the four games he’s played, which is considerably better than his counterpart “Ocho Cinco.” Comprende?
Availability: Owned in ~47% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Henry can be started as a WR3 in most leagues regardless of the matchup.
2. Matt Jones, Jaguars
I didn’t think much of Matt Jones entering the season and didn’t draft him in any of my leagues. But I think he’s a great pickup if he’s available on your waiver wire right now. Jones returned from a groin injury this week and led the Jags in receiving—albeit with just 32 yards. Jacksonville’s upcoming schedule is among the softest in the NFL with games against Titans, Texans, Giants, Bills, and Dolphins over the next five weeks. Reggie Williams, who starts opposite Jones, has taken a couple steps backward after a fast start. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones step up and become the go-to-guy for David Garrard or Byron Leftwich over the second half of the season.
Availability: Owned in ~47% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Take a flier on Jones in leagues that start three or four wideouts. He should start in Week 9.
3. Kevin Curtis, Rams
Curtis hasn’t been nearly as big of a fantasy factor this season as he was in 2005 when he had 801 yards and six TDs. However, he has started to make an impact over the last few weeks and the Rams are using more three receiver sets. He had his best game of the season in Week 8, catching seven passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. That followed a 52-yard effort in Week 6 and a TD in Week 5. Curtis deserves a roster spot in deep leagues and can be used as a starter when the situation dictates including this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City has been roughed up by #3 WRs this season (including DJ Hackett in Week 8). Other upcoming games for Curtis include the Seahawks, 49ers, and Cardinals.
Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Curtis is beginning to re-emerge as a fantasy contributor and is a solid prospect in deep leagues.
4. Michael Jenkins, Falcons
Atlanta’s wideouts get a lot of bad press, but the fact of the matter is that for the last few seasons the Falcons have been a run-first team. They pounded and pounded the ball on the ground. And then they pounded is some more. Now they’re finally starting to attack teams through the air. What’s the result? Well . . . not much production for the wideouts still . . . but there is hope. Michael Jenkins caught three passes for 53 yards and a TD Sunday against the Bengals. It was his third score this season and second in the last two games. Although TE Alge Crumpler has been Michael Vick’s primary target by far, you have to think defenses will start rolling coverage Crumpler’s way. If/when that happens, fantasy owners could see a spike in Jenkins’ already rising value.
Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Jenkins has upside but keep him on your bench until he proves he can catch 5-6 passes per game.
5. Jerry Porter, Raiders
How desperate are you for a receiver? After spending the first seven weeks of the season in Art Shell’s doghouse, Shell finally threw Jerry Porter a bone and activated him on Sunday. While the performance wasn’t anything special (1 rec., 19 yds.), Porter is a proven fantasy player and at this point in the season it’s rare to find someone of his talent on the waiver wire. Porter is known for being a slow starter who flourishes over the second half of the season. In the last two years, he’s scored 13 TDs in Week 8 or later. Give him a look if you play in a league with 12 or more teams. Otherwise take a wait-and-see approach.
Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Porter is a longshot to become a factor this season but is worth a flier in big leagues.
1. Owen Daniels, Texans
Daniels is tied for the NFL lead among TEs with five touchdowns. You read that correctly. Houston’s rookie TE has more TDs that Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey, and even the great Antonio Gates. The only knock on Daniels, who was highlighted here several weeks ago, is that he’ll disappear from games. If having your TE post a goose egg will drive you nuts, it’s possible that Daniels isn’t the right player for you. However, his 9-catch, 99-yard game in Week 8 proves that he is capable of carrying a fantasy squad. Acquire Daniels if your regular TE isn’t cutting it.
Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Daniels is a TD machine and should be owned in all leagues in which TEs are mandatory.
2. Tony Scheffler, Broncos
Two rookie TE recommendations on the same week? It’s been that kind of year. The Broncos had high hopes for Tony Scheffler when they drafted him in the second round back in April. Denver thought they were getting a player who would provide a similar offensive presence to Shannon Sharpe. Unfortunately, Scheffler has struggled along with the rest of the Broncos offense. Coming into the team’s Week 8 game against the Colts, he had just two receptions. He doubled that production on Sunday, catching four passes for 51 yards.
Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Scheffler may become a viable TE during the second half of the season. If you have a roster spot, consider stashing him on your bench.
Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: David Martin and Jerramy Stevens
Defense / Special Teams
1. Oakland Raiders
A few weeks ago people were speculating about whether the Raiders would go winless in 2006. Now they’ve won two games in a row and people are pretty much leaving them alone. But don’t completely disregard them when it comes to building your fantasy squad. Oakland is playing great defense right now. They’ve held their last three opponents to 13 or fewer points. If you’re desperate for points from your team defense, grab the Silver and Black this week and start them for Monday night’s tilt against the Seahawks. Seattle will once again be without Matt Hasselbeck’s and Shaun Alexander’s services.
Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues
Forecast guidance: The Raiders are a sneaky play this week against the stumbling Seahawks.