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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 4
Paul Sandy
September 25, 2007

QUARTERBACKS

1. Trent Green, Dolphins
Trent Green has attempted the fourth most passes of any NFL QB. He’s averaging 274.4 passing yards per game (7th best in the NFL). Miami’s emphasis on the passing game is making Green a viable fantasy QB. If your team will be without Drew Brees or Vince Young this week because of a bye, or if your regular QB faces a tough opponent, Green could be a more than adequate stopgap. The Dolphins are at home against an Oakland pass defense that ranks 24th in the NFL. I expect Green to fare reasonably well and put up somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 yards and 1-2 touchdowns. Interceptions have been a problem, so Green is perhaps a bit riskier in leagues that penalize for turnovers.

Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Green’s consistent yardage and favorable matchup make him a great bye week fill-in.

2. Chad Pennington, Jets
Pennington tossed two touchdowns in Week 3, leading his team to a win over the Dolphins. Although I’d advise against starting him on most weeks, Pennington should put together another nice performance this week against Buffalo. The Bills rank dead last in the NFL versus the pass, surrendering 281.0 yards per game. Pennington has thrown at least one TD in five of his six career games against the Bills. He’s a safe play with good upside.

Availability: Owned in ~52% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pennington is a good one-week play against the 32nd-ranked Bills pass defense.

3. Brian Griese, Bears
In deep leagues or leagues that start two QBs, be sure to take note of the situation in Chicago. Rex Grossman’s 45.2 QB rating is second-worst in the NFL. He has just one TD pass compared to six interceptions. And he’s averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt. All of Grossman’s negatives are stacking up higher than the dirty dishes at Louie Anderson’s house. In short, his time is about up. He may find salvation this week against the Lions, but Grossman’s leash has never been shorter. Look for the Bears to make the switch to Griese at the first sign of trouble.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Griese is worth a flier in leagues that start two QBs.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Brian Leonard, Rams
St. Louis head coach Scott Linehan revealed yesterday that Steven Jackson has a partially torn groin. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “torn” and “groin” in the same sentence, my first reaction is to draw my knees together and clench every muscle in my lower body. Jackson is definitely out this week and very likely will miss more time. Unfortunately for the Rams, they’ll get no help from the schedule. St. Louis won’t have their bye until Week 9. What do you need to know about Leonard? He’s a 235-lbs. bruiser who played fullback in college. Despite his size, Leonard has 4.5 speed and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. If you are weak at RB or were counting on Jackson, be aggressive in getting Leonard.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Leonard is worth a roster spot in all leagues and is starter material as long as Steven Jackson is out.

2. Ron Dayne, Texans
Ahman Green sprained his knee in Sunday’s game against the Colts. Although the injury isn’t believed to be significant, Green could be sidelined for this week’s game against the Falcons. If Ron Dayne (ribs) is healthy enough to suit up, he’ll get the start. I like his chances against the Falcons, who give up 142.3 yards rushing yards per game. He’s a decent one-week option if your team’s backfield is a mess. Should Green’s knee injury be slow to heal, Dayne could even be a serviceable option over the next few weeks because Houston’s schedule isn’t all that difficult (ATL, MIA, JAC and TEN).

Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Houston’s schedule makes Dayne a borderline RB2 as long as Ahman Green is out.

3. Kenny Watson, Bengals
A miserable performance for Rudi Johnson (17 rushes for 9 yards) got even worse when the hard-hitting RB suffered a hamstring injury. Kenny Watson promptly stepped into the lineup and added some flash. He racked up 60 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. The extent of Johnson’s injury isn’t known at this point. However, hamstrings can linger as we’ve seen with some other players like Greg Jennings. Look for Watson to get the start on Monday night against the Patriots (or at the very least split carries). The tough matchup decreases Watson’s value a bit, but he could be started in a pinch—particularly in leagues that give points for receptions. Watson has better hands than Rudi and could make an impact in the passing game if the Bengals are playing catch-up.

Availability: Owned in ~5% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Watson is worth a roster spot in all leagues.

4. Aaron Stecker, Saints
Deuce McAllister tore his ACL Monday night against the Titans. He will reportedly miss the remainder of the 2007 season. The injury leaves the Saint shorthanded at RB. The Saints brass won’t want Reggie Bush to carry the ball 25+ times a game. It’s likely they’ll lean on Aaron Stecker to pick up McAllister’s share of the workload. Stecker is a versatile veteran who can contribute in many ways. Don’t expect him to become a weekly fantasy contributor. Instead, look at him as a spot starter who you can plug in when the matchup is right.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Stecker will likely spit carries with Reggie Bush, but is a bench fantasy player for now.

5. Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
After an impressive 75-yard, 2-TD performance against the Rams, Graham might be the most coveted free agent this week. Graham is worth a look in most leagues, but it might be over-reaching to make him your #1 waiver wire priority. His performance came against one of the worst (if not the worst) rush defenses in the NFL. Plus consider that the best case scenario has Graham splitting carries with not one teammate but two (Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman). Still, head coach Jon Gruden has said he wants to get Graham more involved in the offense going forward. He’s a relatively young RB with good upside and could be a fantasy factor if Williams struggles or gets hurt.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Graham earned himself some playing time and is worth a look in most leagues.

6. Correll Buckhalter, Eagles
Brian Westbrook strained his abdominal muscle on Sunday. It looks like he’ll be listed as questionable for Week 4. Westbrook always seems to play through nagging injuries like these. However, his owners shouldn’t chance it. If he misses the game, Correll Buckhalter would assume the starting duties and split time with rookie Tony Hunt. Buckhalter looked more than capable in limited action last week. He carried the ball seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown. If you’re a Westbrook owner and don’t have Buckhalter, think hard about grabbing him as insurance. If you’re not a Westbrook owner but need RB help, Buckhalter might be worth a look because he’ll probably see 5-7 more carries to keep Westbrook fresh. The Eagles have a nice matchup this week against the Giants.

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Buckhalter is must-have insurance for the Westbrook owner and has upside for anyone who’s thin at RB.

7. Najeh Davenport, Steelers
If your backfield is thin this week, Davenport is a sneaky pickup and play option. The Dump Truck has been outstanding in relief of Willie Parker. (He has more rushing yards than LT.) Davenport has posted 40+ yards in every game this year and he even found the endzone against the 49ers. Why is that trend likely to hold up this week? The Steelers travel to Arizona, where they’ll face another average rush defense. The Cardinals rank 15th against the run. And with the way the Steelers a playing, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear the term “garbage time” bandied about in the second half. While Davenport won’t win you your game, he seems unlikely to post a goose-egg.    

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Davenport has a good chance to put up 40-50 yards and get a goal-line plunge. He’s an adequate one-week fill-in or flex player for owners in leagues with 12+ teams.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Kevin Curtis, Eagles
Curtis was drafted in the majority of leagues but many owners lost faith in Philly and dumped him. He’s now available in 36% of all leagues. If yours is one of them, Curtis probably deserves to be the top free agent priority. He had a performance for the ages in Week 3 against the Lions. A repeat of his 221-yard, 3-TD effort is unlikely this week. However, with a matchup against the Giants, don’t be surprised to see Curtis streaking toward the endzone once or twice.

Availability: Owned in ~64 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Curtis emerged as Donovan McNabb’s favorite target and deserves a roster spot in all leagues.

2. Shaun McDonald, Lions
McDonald has his share of doubters. He’s still available in about 40% of fantasy leagues. The former Rams wideout has fully earned the trust of QB Jon Kitna. McDonald has exceeded 70 yards receiving in all three games this season and scored twice. The Lions are a team built around the pass so put aside your concerns about the number of balls McDonald will receive. With Calvin Johnson suffering a back injury, McDonald could become an ever more critical part of the offense.

Availability: Owned in ~61 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: McDonald is getting enough looks to be worth a roster spot in all leagues.

3. Greg Jennings, Packers
Jennings was in the midst of an outstanding rookie year in 2006 when he suffered an ankle injury. Many were eager to see what he could do in 2007, but hopes were deflated after he had a terrible preseason and ended up pulling his hamstring. Jennings is healthy now and has his burst back. Against the Chargers, he took a quick slant 57 yards to paydirt during crunch time, breaking a couple tackles along the way. With Brett Favre looking more like an MVP candidate than a guy checking his mailbox for his AARP card, Jennings has the chance to become a decent fourth or even third WR for fantasy teams.

Availability: Owned in ~62 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jennings is worth a roster spot in all leagues.

4. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
The Forecast recommended Bowe after Week 1. Since his name graced these pages, he has scored twice and become the Chiefs go-to wide receiver. Bowe is a good-looking rookie who goes after the ball like he’ll never see it again. He made his TD-grab on a jump-ball throw, displaying excellent athleticism and hands. The only knock on Bowe is that he plays in an offense that hasn’t been able to get out of neutral. Once Kansas City’s schedule lightens up, don’t be surprised if Bowe starts putting together even bigger games.  

Availability: Owned in ~30 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bowe is a good WR4 who will be a decent spot starter going forward.

5. Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson, Seahawks
Not to keep harping on the same guys week after week, but Engram and Burleson are quality fantasy receivers who deserve more attention than they’re getting from the masses. The Forecast has identified them as good options a few times now. Engram caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown last week. Burleson grabbed six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Despite the production, both players are available in over 80% of all leagues. If you need a good, trusty fourth wide receiver, either one is a decent option while D.J. Hackett nurses a high ankle sprain.  

Availability: Owned in ~20% and ~15% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Acquire Engram or Burleson to be spot starters in leagues of all sizes.

6. Roddy White, Falcons
White has steadily improved over the first three weeks of the season and is a favorite target of QB Joey Harrington. The duo hooked up for 81 yards back in Week 2. Then, on Sunday against the Panthers, White exploded for 127 yards and a touchdown. Harrington threw White’s way nine times and White caught all nine balls. How’s that for efficiency? Acquire the third-year WR this week and don’t be afraid to use him periodically as long as Harrington remains the starter. The two seem to have a built a good rapport. 

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: White looks like the Falcons best wideout and deserves a roster spot in most leagues.

7. Marty Booker, Dolphins
Booker caught the attention of the Forecast last week when he pulled down four passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. The veteran WR followed up that performance with five catches for 60 yards. He was targeted nine times. Because of the emphasis on the passing game and because he is getting so many looks, Booker is a serviceable fantasy contributor on most weeks. He provides good depth in leagues of all sizes and scoring systems, especially those that give points for receptions.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Add Booker to your roster as a reserve who you can count on for 4-6 receptions on most weeks.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Jeff King, Panthers
King is becoming a fixture on the Free Agent Forecast. Recommended for three weeks straight, he posted his best performance of the week on Sunday. King hauled in four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted seven times, most among all Panthers pass catchers. Outside of Steve Smith, he is the team’s best receiver. In the three games this season, King has no fewer than four receptions. That kind of consistency is rare among TEs, so promise me you’ll give King more than a cursory glance this week when you scour the waiver wire.

Availability: Owned in ~4% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: King has established himself as a quality backup TE or low-end starter in bigger leagues.

2. Donald Lee, Packers
With the running game going nowhere fast, the Packers have attempted the third-most pass attempts in the NFL. It’s not just the receivers getting in on the action. Green Bay tight ends Donald Lee and Bubba Franks have been surprising contributors, as well. On Sunday against the Chargers, Lee caught four passes for 44 yards. Franks caught just one pass but it was a touchdown. Give Lee a look if you’re in need of help at the TE position. He’s been targeted 16 times this season by Brett Favre and figures to be the more consistent player.  

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lee is a decent backup TE and can be used confidently as a spot starter if you need help.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Houtson Texans
Scan the boxscores for potential defenses to pickup this week and you might overlook the Texans. They did, afterall, give up 30 points in Week 3. But beneath the surface, Houston solidified their status as an up-and-coming defensive unit. They held all of the Colts offensive weapons in check for most of the game. Sure the sacks and turnovers weren’t there. But these are the Colts and Peyton Manning. Next week they get the Falcons and Joey Harrington. There’s no need to explain the difference. Acquire the Texans and start them with confidence.

Availability: Owned in ~40% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Texans defense is worth starting in leagues of all sizes and scoring systems this week.

2. New York Jets
The Jets defense has allowed 20 or more points in every game this season and they rank at the bottom of the NFL in turnovers. However, all that should change this week when the Jets face the Bills. Buffalo will be without starting QB J.P. Losman, who suffered a sprained knee on the opening series on Sunday. Losman will be replaced by rookie Trent Edwards. Any time a rookie makes his debut, he’ll be susceptible to mistakes. Look for the Jets to throw all kinds of blitz packages at Edwards, which should lead to plenty of sacks and turnovers (not to mention fantasy points).

Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Jets are a solid one-week option this week against the Bills, who will start a rookie QB.

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