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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 7
Paul Sandy
October 16, 2007

QUARTERBACKS

1. Brian Griese, Bears
Since taking over for Rex Grossman, Brian Griese has been a fantasy point machine. In his three starts, Griese has thrown seven touchdowns and averaged 293.7 yards per game. With Cedric Benson laboring, the Bears are a pass-oriented offense. Griese is currently averaging over 40 pass attempts per game. Scoop him off your waiver wire and don’t be afraid to use him on an occasional basis. He’s worth a shot in Week 7 against the Eagles, and will be even better in Week 8 against the Lions.  

Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Griese is a strong spot starter in leagues of all sizes.

2. Jeff Garcia, Buccaneers
Owners who will be without the services of Brett Favre, Derek Anderson or Phillip Rivers this week should consider Jeff Garcia as a one-week plug and play. Garcia has put up decent numbers the last two weeks against stiff competition (Indianapolis and Tennessee). He has an above average chance to post 250+ yards with multiple touchdowns this week against the Lions. Detroit ranks 30th in the NFL against the pass. In their last three games, the Lions have been torched for eight passing touchdowns.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Garcia is an excellent one-week play this week against the Lions.

3. Cleo Lemon, Dolphins
If you give your fantasy team a Lemon, will it make lemonade? Lemon was certainly more sweet than sour in his first start. He accounted for four TDs in his second NFL start. The lofty production was against the Cleveland Browns, so your expectations should be kept in check. On the other hand, you only need to look at the other side of the box score to recognize that you shouldn’t be too quick to write off a young QB. Derek Anderson has been one of the biggest surprises in 2007. If you have the roster space and play in a deep league, consider adding Lemon for depth. Should Lemon produce this week against the Patriots, it might suggest that he has longer-term potential for fantasy owners.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lemon is worth a look as a backup in any league in which QBs are scarce.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Jerious Norwood, Falcons
When Norwood owners realized their sleeper pick was playing second fiddle to Warrick Dunn, many of them began to slowly lose faith. Today he’s available in roughly 43% of fantasy leagues. That will change dramatically by tomorrow morning. Last night, Norwood displayed the speed and shiftiness that made his value skyrocket leading up to the start of the season. Will he finally become the workhorse for the Falcons? I doubt he’ll get 25 carries week in and week out, but you can bet Bobby Petrino is starting to believe that Norwood is perhaps the best offensive weapon he has.

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Acquiring Norwood should be Priority #1 if he’s available in any of your leauges.

2. Michael Bennett, Buccaneers
The Chiefs have traded RB Michael Bennett to the Buccaneers. After years of being a backup, Bennett will once again get an opportunity to be an NFL starting RB. Since rushing for 1,296 yards in 2002, he has bounced around and dealt with injury upon injury. At this point in the season acquiring a potential starting fantasy RB is a rare opportunity. Be aggressive if you use a bidding system for free agents. If Bennett can stay healthy . . . a big if . . . he could emerge as a borderline fantasy starter. He still has a career 4.5 ypc average. Look for the Bucs to work Bennett into the mix quickly but split time with Earnest Graham.

Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bennett deserves a roster spot in all leagues.

3. Kevin Faulk, Patriots
Sammy Morris suffered a chest injury in Sunday’s romp over the Cowboys. His status is up in the air at this point. Laurence Maroney (groin) will probably be ready to return to action this week. However, he might not be ready to take on a full workload having been sidelined for the last three games. Look for Kevin Faulk to spell Maroney and get enough touches to be a fantasy factor against the Dolphins. He is one of the NFL’s best receivers out of the backfield. Consider adding Faulk if your team is in a bind this week because of injuries or byes. Heath Evans is also worth evaluating in a TD-biased league.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: If Sammy Morris misses time, Faulk’s role would likely increase to the point of being a viable spot starter.

4. Najeh Davenport, Steelers
Davenport had his best game as a Steeler two weeks ago when he posted 96 all-purpose yards and two TDs. Although Willie Parker remains the undisputed starter, Davenport should continue to get a fair amount of touches. He won’t need too many opportunities to put up good fantasy numbers this week. The Steelers face Denver, owners of the NFL’s worst rush defense. The Broncos give up nearly 190 yards per game on the ground. Look for Davenport to finish this game with at least 60-70 yards and a possible score. Before you activate him, check the Pittsburgh news to make sure Davenport plays. He got himself in trouble with the law during the bye week.

Availability: Owned in ~40% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Give Davenport the nod this week against the worst rush defense in the NFL.

5. Reuben Droughns, Giants
Injuries continue to plague the Giants backfield. Starter Brandon Jacobs suffered a couple bumps and bruises Monday night. The most significant was an ankle injury. The extent of that injury was unknown at the time this column was published. However, if it sidelines Jacobs for next week’s game against the 49ers, consider adding Reuben Droughns. At the very least, Droughns figures to get the team’s goal line carries should Jacobs miss time. He carried the ball 12 times for 90 yards and a goal line plunge against the Falcons.

Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Check the reports out of New York to determine the extent of Jacobs’ injury and add Droughns if it looks significant.

6. Chris Perry, Bengals
Owners in deeper leagues might want to consider scouring the depths of their waiver wire to grab Chris Perry. Perry has been on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list since the beginning of the season and is eligible to return to action this week. With Rudi Johnson apparently aggravating his hamstring during Week 6 action, head coach Marvin Lewis may not have any choice but to activate Perry. Look for him to start getting into the mix within the next few games. If Johnson’s hamstring injury lingers, Perry could be a nice late-season surprise. That said with his injury history, Perry is a longshot.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: If you have an available roster spot in a deep league, consider adding Perry in case Rudi Johnson’s hammy continues to be an issue.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Kevin Walter, Texans
The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that WR Andre Johnson will be out for Week 7 and could miss Week 8, as well. Even without Johnson, QB Matt Schaub looks comfortable under center. He’s done well with average receivers like Kevin Walter and Andre Davis. Walter was Schaub’s favorite target on Sunday; he caught 12 passes for 160 yards. Look for continued production from Walter and Davis until Johnson returns. Both players are worth a start this week at home against the Titans.

Availability: Owned in ~4 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Walter looks like Matt Schaub’s go-to-guy and is worth a start this week against the Titans..

2. Reggie Brown, Eagles
Brown finally had the breakout game fantasy owners were waiting for this week. He posted 89 yards on six receptions. The irony is that most owners didn’t wait quite long enough. While he was drafted in 100% of fantasy leagues, he’s now available in nearly 40%. If yours is one of them, consider adding Brown as a backup WR with the poential to emerge as a starter sometime during the second half of the season. QB Donovan McNabb is just now finding his rhythm after last season’s knee surgery. If he and Brown get in sync, the duo has the potential to connect for 80+ yards per game for the remainder of the year.

Availability: Owned in ~62 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Brown might not be worthy of a start at this point, but he’s certainly worth a roster spot.

3. D.J. Hackett, Seahawks
According to Mike Holmgren, D.J. Hackett will practice this week and likely return to the lineup against the Rams. If things play out like Holmgren says, Hackett merits your attention as you enter your waiver wire picks today. He was one of the top sleepers this preseason and has the playmaking ability to put up some huge games. Plus with Deion Branch (ankle) scheduled to miss another game, Hackett will have to step up. Starting him this week is a bit risky because of his long layoff, but there’s no doubt that Hackett is worth a roster spot based on his potential. If Hackett still can’t go, Ben Obamanu can be used as a spot starter.

Availability: Owned in ~12 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hackett will provide solid WR depth in leagues of all sizes.

4. Ike Hilliard, Buccaneers
With Detroit’s 30th-ranked pass defense up next, Hilliard draws a life preserver icon this week. He’s an excellent bye week replacement if your team is stinging because of a tough bye week draw. Hilliard has received at least seven targets in each of the last three games, which makes him a relatively low-risk player. Plus, with the Lions as his opponent, he has a high potential to do something special with his opportunities. I’m forecasting a minimum of 60 yards with a ceiling of 100 yards and a touchdown.  

Availability: Owned in ~13 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hilliard is a low-risk, high-reward player this week against the lowly Lions defense.

5. Lance Moore and David Patten, Saints
The Forecast recommended Lance Moore last week. He scored a TD on a reverse and delivered moderate numbers through the air. David Patten, however, suddenly emerged as a favorite target of QB Drew Brees. (As predicted, Devery Henderson saw his playing time and stats reduced.) With the Saints showing signs of returning to their 2006 form, the team’s #2 WR position commands your attention. I stand by my hunch that Moore is the best Saints receiver to own outside of Marques Colston. He seems to have everything that Henderson does plus he has good hands. Patten is a veteran wideout who is also worth a look based on his 113-yard effort in Week 6. Both players are fair starts this week if you need a third or fourth wideout.

Availability: Owned in ~3% and 1% of leagues, respectively.
Forecast guidance: Moore and Patten have high upside in an offense that could be returning to form.

6. Amani Toomer Giants
Toomer’s on-again, off-again season continued last night when he posted his best fantasy output of the 2007 season. He ended the night with seven receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. This after a zero-catch effort in Week 5. The inconsistency makes Toomer a bit of a risk, but there’s no denying that when the matchup is favorable, he is a viable fantasy starter. The bottom line is on most week’s he’s the second or third receiving option on one of the better passing offenses in the NFL. That alone makes him deserving of a roster spot. It’s also worth noting that the Giants have a favorable schedule coming up with games against the 49ers, Dolphins, Cowboys, Lions and Vikings.

Availability: Owned in ~36% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: If you can stomach Toomer’s inconsistency, he might emerge as a solid WR4 during the second half of the season.

7. Chris Henry, Bengals
In highly-competitive leagues with 12 or more teams, you might need to think far ahead of the competition. If you participate in such a league, now might be an appropriate time to stash Chris Henry on your bench. From a talent perspective, many consider Henry to be comparable to teammates Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. From an intelligence perspective, many consider Henry to be comparable to a jar of peanut butter. Henry is serving out a league suspension and will be eligible to return in Week 10.  

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: It’s not too early to grab Henry if you think the playoffs are in your future.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Greg Olsen, Bears
Olsen was identified here last week and he came through with another strong effort. He and QB Brian Griese look like they’re on the same page. The duo hooked up for 63 yards on five receptions. Olsen was Chicago’s first round draft pick this year and the coaches envisioned him being the team’s top receiving TE. He got off to a slow start due to an injury, but is beginning to fulfill the lofty expectations. If your team is suffering from poor TE play, take note of Olsen.

Availability: Owned in ~52% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Olsen is a borderline starter in TE-mandatory leagues.

2. Vernon Davis, 49ers
Davis is slated to return from a sprained knee this week against the Giants. He’s battled injuries his entire pro career. As a result, many owners have become disenfranchised with the former first-round draft pick, who was supposed to be the next Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez. With QB Alex Smith apparently close to making his own return to the lineup, Davis has the potential to regain some credibility in the eyes of fantasy owners. Think about adding him if you have roster space in case he explodes during the second half of the year.  

Availability: Owned in ~50% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Davis is worth a roster spot in 12 team leagues that require a TE.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Washington Redskins
The Redskins look like one of the more well-balanced defensive units in football right now. After shutting down the high-powered Detroit Lions in Week 5, they frustrated Brett Favre and company on Sunday. This is not merey a squad that you pick up and start when the matchup is favorable. Rather they are a team that you can count on for most games. A matchup this week at home against the Cardinals (and their third-string QB), looks like a goldmine. Start the Redskins with confidence.

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Redskins look like an above average fantasy defense this week and beyond.

2. Kansas City Chiefs
I whiffed last week on my bye week defensive pick (Arizona). Who knew a 44-year-old Vinny Testeverde would look so spry? This week I’ll bounce back with the Chiefs. Kansas City should benefit from a matchup against the Raiders. True to form, QB Daunte Culpepper was a turnover machine on Sunday against the Chargers. C-Pep threw two picks and fumbled once. He was also sacked six times. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are quietly putting together some nice defensive box scores. They are tied for the NFL lead with 19 sacks and they have forced 14 turnovers. Take a chance on KC this week and look for them to capitalize on more Raider mistakes.   

Availability: Owned in ~37% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Chiefs are a solid stopgap this week if your regular defense is on bye.

Other Features

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