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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 5
Paul Sandy
October 2, 2007

QUARTERBACKS

1. Derek Anderson, Browns
Anderson lit up the Ravens for 204 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. I recommended the second-year QB a couple weeks ago, but had some doubts about how he’d hold up against teams like Baltimore. Anderson is proving those concerns were unwarranted. He’s playing with a ton of confidence right now and is a great acquisition for anyone whose regular starter has been a disappointment (i.e. Bulger). Anderson draws another tough opponent this week in the Patriots, but if you’re in a pickle, he’s proven to be a consistent point scorer regardless of the competition.

Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Anderson is worth a look in leagues of all sizes as a spot starter.

2. Jason Campbell, Redskins
Campbell is coming off a bye week and should be well prepared for a Week 5 tilt against the Lions. Detroit has given up a minimum of two passing touchdowns in every game this year except versus the Vikings. The Lions currently rank 30th in the NFL against the pass so the matchup looks good for Washington’s air attack as a whole. While Campbell hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like to see from a fantasy QB, he has one of the better arms in the NFL. As we saw in the game against the Eagles, Detroit can be beat by the deep ball. Look for Campbell to connect for at least two scores and 200+ yards.

Availability: Owned in ~39% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Campbell is a solid one-week stopgap against the Lions if your regular starter is on bye or hurt.

3. Daunte Culpepper, Raiders
It’s tough to get a read on Culpepper’s performance in Week 4. In his first start since early in 2006, he posted five touchdowns (two passing and three rushing). That was the good news. The bad news was that he completed just five of 12 passes for 75 yards. I’m willing to chalk up his inefficiency in the passing game to Culpepper knocking off the rust. The key to his fantasy value will be his ability to churn out some yardage on the ground. He seemed willing to tuck the ball and run on Sunday, which was promising. Pep ran the ball seven times. If your QB play has been miserable this year, take a chance on Culpepper. Just realize that he’s on a bye this week.

Availability: Owned in ~33% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Culpepper flashed some of his old self last week and is worth a look in all leagues.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
Cadillac Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s win over the Panthers. He will be replaced by veteran Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham. Exactly how the carries will be divided is a bit of a mystery. This much is known: Pittman is an outstanding pass catcher and Graham has gotten much of the goal-line work over the last couple games. Both players are definitely worth a roster spot in all leagues. Which player do I think will emerge as the better fantasy back? In standard performance leagues and leagues that award points for receptions, I’d rate Pittman higher. In TD-weighted leagues, Graham figures to have the most value.

Availability: Owned in ~30 and ~27% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Pittman and Graham are both worth roster spots until it becomes clearer which will be the better fantasy player.

2. Aaron Stecker, Saints
I have to assume Stecker was overlooked on the waiver wire last week because the Saints were coming up on a bye. He’s still available in over 75% of all leagues. With Deuce McAllister out for the season and Reggie Bush not able to carry a full load, Stecker figures to become an important part of the New Orleans offense. Look for him to get around 15 touches per game. He’s averaged 4.0 yards per carry throughout his eight-year career and is also an accomplished pass receiver out of the backfield. He could develop into a fine RB3 or flex player.

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Stecker deserves a roster spot in all leagues as a reserve RB.

3. Dominic Rhodes and Justin Fargas, Raiders
LaMont Jordan, who was making an early push for comeback player of the year, suffered a back injury Sunday against the Dolphins. At this point, it’s not clear how much time Jordan will miss (if any). One of the Bay Area newspapers has speculated that the injury is serious enough that it will keep Jordan out of action for awhile. The good news is the Raiders are on bye this week, so Jordan will have a couple weeks to rest. Even so, given the chronic nature of back injuries, there’s a fair chance he’ll miss some time or have his workload reduced. If that’s the case, look for Dominic Rhodes, who is due back from league suspension, to assume the starting job. Justin Fargas may be the more popular pickup this week, but based on Fargas’ track record and injury history, Rhodes will likely get the bulk of the carries.

Availability: Owned in ~44% and ~2% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Fargas may be the hot pickup but look for Rhodes to get the bulk of the carries if Jordan misses time.

4. Selvin Young, Broncos
With the injuries to Williams and Jordan, Travis Henry’s twisted ankle didn’t get much publicity this week. A post-game x-ray came back negative and Henry thinks he’ll be ready to play Sunday against the Chargers. Look for him to be listed as questionable. Because it’s an afternoon game, it would behoove Henry owners to grab Selvin Young off the waiver wire in case Henry is a late scratch. Young has looked tremendous in limited action so far this year and is averaging a robust 9.2 yards per carry. He’d be worth a start against the Chargers if Henry sat.

Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Young is a must-have handcuff for Henry owners this week.

5. Adrian Peterson, Bears
While the Bears QB position has gotten the bulk of the attention in the media over the last few weeks, don’t overlook the sorry state of their backfield. Cedric Benson has a serious fumbling problem and he’s not making up for it by providing big yardage. His longest run this season is 16 yards. Benson was benched after he put the ball on the ground against the Lions and a switch at the position could happen in the near future. As it stands, Adrian Peterson would get the bulk of the work if Benson gets the hook. Make a play for Peterson this week if he’s available.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Peterson is a couple more Benson fumbles away from a starting job and is thus worth roster consideration.

6. Kenton Keith, Colts
Colts head coach Tony Dungy indicated that Joseph Addai will miss some practice this week and possibly Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers. As we saw with the Eagles and Brian Westbrook last week, teams often like to hold their injured players out the week before a bye so they can take advantage of a longer recovery period. With the Colts on bye in Week 6, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Indy rest their star RB in Week 5. Grab backup Kenton Keith as a precaution in case that scenario plays out.

Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Keith would be a great one-week play if Addai sits.

7. Leon Washington, Jets
With Thomas Jones struggling behind an underachieving offensive line, the team is leaning a bit more on backup Leon Washington. Washington is a shifty back who can make something out of nothing. After being involved with just seven plays over the first two weeks, Washington touched the ball 22 times over the last two games. Look for him to play a significant role again this week against the Giants. After head coach Eric Mangini studies the game film of New York’s domination of the Eagles last week, you can bet quick hitters and check downs will be an important part of his gameplan. Pick up and play Washington if your other options look bleak.

Availability: Owned in ~42% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Washington got 12 touches last week and deserves a look in leagues with 12 or more teams.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
The Forecast first trumpeted Bowe back in Week 2. He’s been nothing short of spectacular ever since, yet he’s still available in about 43% of fantasy leagues. Acquiring him should be a priority because if anyone is going to be the next Marques Colston, it’s Bowe. The rookie offers just the right mix of size, speed, aggressiveness, and cockiness. He put up 164 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. Kansas City’s coaching staff has finally realized that, while the offense goes through Larry Johnson, LJ can’t be successful unless opponents respect the pass. If the Chiefs continue to throw the ball 25-30 times per game, Bowe will be a fine WR2 or WR3.   

Availability: Owned in ~57 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bowe looks like a rising star and is starter material in all leagues.

2. Patrick Crayton, Cowboys
Crayton was a hot free agent pickup earlier in the season, but many owners gave up on him after he dropped too many balls. Crayton regained his confidence in Week 4, catching seven passes for an NFL-best 184 yards and two touchdowns. If he’s available in your league and you’ve been victimized by under-achieving receivers this season, Crayton should be a nice pickup. He faces a favorable matchup this week against the Bills and has a chance to give you some immediate production. Buffalo ranks 32nd in the NFL versus the pass.

Availability: Owned in ~28 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Crayton is worth a shot as a WR3 this week against the lowly Bills defense.

3. Antwaan Randle El, Redskins
Reports out of Washington suggest that Santana Moss (groin) might miss this week’s game against the Lions. If Moss is indeed out, Randle El could prove to be a waiver wire steal. The former college QB possesses speed and quickness that can stretch the field, which has killed the Lions this season. Pick up and play Randle El and look for around 80 yards with a possible score.  

Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Randle El is a good one-week option this week against the Lions.

4. Andre Davis, Texans
When Andre Johnson sprained his knee back in Week 2, the fantasy world wondered which Texans wideout would emerge as Matt Schaub’s favorite target. Two weeks later we have our answer. Andre Davis has corralled nine passes over the last two weeks for 187 yards and a touchdown. With Johnson likely to miss a couple more weeks of action, Davis can adequately serve as a low-end third wide receiver.  

Availability: Owned in ~7 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Davis will be a good spot starter as long as Andre Johnson is sidelined.

5. James Jones, Packers
Jones was has twice been touted by the Forecast, once prior to the season and once during the regular season. Although he hasn’t put together a huge performance yet this year, he has been a mark of consistency. Over the last three weeks, Jones has put up a minimum of 70 yards or a touchdown. That’s good production for a third wide receiver or a flex player. Don’t be afraid to use Jones when the matchup is right, including this week against the reeling Bears.  

Availability: Owned in ~32% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jones is a consistent producer who can be an adequate third or fourth receiver in most leagues.

6. Sidney Rice, Vikings
Rice is the most talented receiver the Vikings have. What’s that worth? At this point not a lot. However, it’s important to note that Kelly Holcomb wasn’t with Minnesota for training camp or the preseason. He’s just now getting familiar with his teammates. If you compete in a league where the waiver wire is thinner than Chris Berman’s hair, it might pay to reach for Rice now before he emerges as a legitimate fantasy player. He had some success getting behind a good Packers secondary on Sunday and caught six passes for 75 yards and a touchdown (and was targeted nine times). The Vikings are on a bye this week, but when they return Rice could be poised to pick up where he left off.

 Availability: Owned in ~8 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Rice is worth a roster spot in deep leagues and worth keeping your eye on in all leagues.

7. Lance Moore, Saints
It’ll be interesting to see how the Saints come out of their bye week. Hopefully, they used their break to regroup and figure out what’s wrong with the offense. Amidst all the turmoil in New Orleans over the first three weeks, Lance Moore was quietly a bright spot. He was targeted 10 times in last Monday’s loss to the Titans and caught six passes. For practical purposes he seems to have leapfrogged preseason darling Devery Henderson. If the Saints experience a rebirth, Moore could be a big part of it. Stash him on your roster if you’re in a deep league. Otherwise keep you eye on this speedy wideout.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Take a flier on Moore if you think the Saints offense will find its groove.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Donald Lee, Packers
Lee drew a recommendation here last week and came through with four receptions for 66 yards. He has become such a crucial part of the offense this season because of the lack of a running game. Green Bay is essentially using short passes as a sort of quasi rushing attack. Lee has been one of the primary beneficiaries of that gameplan. In the last two weeks, he’s been targeted 11 times. Lee is a decent play this week against a beat up Bears team that has given up TDs to TEs in two of their four games this season.   

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.

2. Desmond Clark, Bears
The switch to Brian Griese paid immediate dividends for TE Desmond Clark. Clark caught a season high seven passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. Griese will get the start again this week against the Packers. If your regular TE is on a bye, you could do worse than Clark. In the last three weeks, Green Bay has allowed 21 receptions to opposing tight ends. Clark recorded 77 yards receiving in his only meeting against the Packers last season.  

Availability: Owned in ~37% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Clark is worth a look both as a one-week option and a longterm option.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Tennessee Titans
In their last two games, the Titans have recorded three sacks, five interceptions and a touchdown. They allow just 15.3 points per game despite having already faced the Colts. If your league charges a fee for transactions and you’re looking for a stable defense that you can rely on every week, consider Tennessee. They’re coming off their bye week and should be ready to face the Falcons and Joey Harrington.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Titans look like a promising defense that can be started in all leagues this week.

2. Arizona Cardinals
Owners looking for a defense with upside this week should consider the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards will square off against a St. Louis team that has yet to find any rhythm this season. The Rams rank last in the NFL in total offense and are the only team in the league averaging fewer than 10 points per game. In their last two outings, they’ve been sacked four times and turned the ball over four times.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Cardinals are a sneaky one-week play against the Rams.

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