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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 8
Paul Sandy
October 23, 2007

QUARTERBACKS

1. Kurt Warner, Cardinals
Warner showed some toughness on Sunday returning from an elbow injury weeks earlier than expected. He threw 41 times for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He could’ve easily had three TDs but he was pulled at the goal line on a trick play. Tim Rattay got the score instead. Going forward, I like Warner’s chances of being a consistent fantasy QB. In the last 11 games Warner has started and finished for the Cardinals, he has averaged 302.5 yards passing. Arizona is on bye this week but when they return, the schedule couldn’t be much better—with games against Tampa, Detroit, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Cleveland.

Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Warner is worth owning in all leagues and with his favorable schedule could be a viable starter.

2. Kellen Clemens, Jets
Is the Chad Pennington era over in New York? It looks that way. Head coach Eric Mangini indicated he would study the game film before making a decision. However, with the Jets in the middle of a tailspin and the media applying the pressure, look for Clemens to get the start this week. He would be a decent play against the Bills, particularly considering that six teams are on bye this week. Buffalo is improving, but still ranks 31st in the NFL versus the pass. Clemens has a stronger arm than Pennington and should add a dimension to the Jets passing attack that has been sorely missing. If Clemens lives up to the hype he could produce greater yardage with about the same TD output that Pennington was generating. That’d make him a borderline starter in 12-team leagues. (If Pennington gets the start, he’d be a passable starter against the Bills, as well.)

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Clemens is a smart pickup for any owner who has suffered from poor QB play this season.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Jesse Chatman, Dolphins
Dolphins starting RB Ronnie Brown tore his ACL on Sunday against the Patriots. He will miss the remainder of the season. Head coach Cam Cameron will now turn to Jesse Chatman, who was out of football last year. Cameron brought him into training camp and he impressed, averaging 6.0 yards per carry during the preseason. How will Chatman fare as the starter? Probably not very well. Miami is just a really awful team right now. The best hope for Chatman is that he can make an impact in the passing game to supplement what will probably be some pretty meager production on the ground. Anything more than 70 all-purpose yards per game would be gravy. Consider him to be flex player or backup with the potential to emerge as a passable RB2.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Chatman becomes the starter for Miami and thus deserves a roster spot in all leagues.

2. Chris Henry, Titans
Everything I heard about Henry during the preseason was negative. He was having trouble pass blocking. He wasn’t making the right cuts. Most media members wrote him off as a workout warrior who had great results at the scouting combine but would never make it in the NFL. Henry silenced the critics . . . at least for one week . . . with an impressive showing. Filling in for the injured Chris Brown, Henry put up 69 total yards and a touchdown on 13 touches. Brown is expected to miss at least another week of action, which makes Henry a good option on a week with an inordinate number of teams on bye. Henry could put up a similar performance this week against Oakland’s 29th-ranked rush defense. 

Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Henry is a fine one-week option against the Raiders and is worth long-term consideration in keeper / dynasty leagues.

3. Kenny Watson, Bengals
Watson is surprisingly still available in more than 40% of fantasy leagues. He’s been quite good filling in for Rudi Johnson (hamstring). Watson was the leading scorer among fantasy RBs in most leagues this past week, posting three touchdowns. Although Johnson’s hamstring isn’t expected to keep him out of the lineup much longer, Watson has likely earned himself some playing time. Looking ahead, assume that he will be a factor for the Bengals for the remainder of the season regardless of Johnson’s health status. Because of his skill as a pass catcher, Watson is especially valuable in leagues that award points per reception.

Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Watson is starter material as long as Rudi Johnson is out and should be a servicable flex player or reserve option when he returns.

4. Jason Wright, Browns
Don’t forget about Wright just because the Browns had a bye in Week 7. The last time we saw him Wright put up a solid stat line (98 yards and one touchdown). Jamal Lewis is making progress in his recovery from an ankle injury but he is expected to be limited in practice this week. If he has a setback, Wright would again be in line for the start. With the Rams on tap next, he would have considerable value. Monitor Lewis’ progress and don’t hesitate to plug Wright into your lineup if it looks like he’ll get the start or split time. If Lewis is inactive, Jerome Harrison also merits consideration.  

Availability: Owned in ~39% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Wright is worth a look this week against a soft Rams defense if Lewis’ ankle injury lingers.

5. Adrian Peterson, Bears
If you play in a deeper league or are just plain desperate for RB help, Chicago’s Adrian Peterson is a sneaky stopgap play this week against the Lions. He’s been getting about seven touches per game and having a fair amount of success (54 yards last week). That won’t cause your jaw to drop, but with Detroit coming to town there’s reason to hope for a spike in Peterson’s production. Tampa’s Earnest Graham caught 13 passes on Sunday against Detroit. As Chicago’s best pass catching option out of the backfield, Peterson might get more work as a receiver. Start him if your options are limited.

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Peterson should get you a minimum of 50 yards this week against the Lions.

6. Michael Robinson, 49ers
Frank Gore injured his ankle on Sunday against the Giants. He gutted it out and managed to put up some decent yardage, but is “day-to-day”. If you are counting on Gore and your backups look iffy, Michael Robinson is a good insurance policy. He’s #2 on the Niners depth chart and would figure to get the most carries were Gore to sit out.

Availability: Owned in ~4% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Robinson provides insurance for the Frank Gore owner.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Muhsin Muhammad, Bears
Muhammad has re-emerged as a fantasy factor with Brian Griese under center. Since Griese took over for Rex Grossman, Muhammad has posted three touchdowns in four games. If he’s available on your waiver wire and you need a WR, scratch, claw, bite, do whatever it takes to get him. Muhammad should have success this week against a feeble Detroit Lions pass defense that ranks 30th in the NFL.

Availability: Owned in ~54 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Muhammad deserves a roster spot in all leagues and is an excellent play this week against the Lions.

2. Kevin Walter, Texans
Walter has been mentioned by the Forecast a couple times now, but he still has his share of skeptics. Despite ranking second in the entire NFL with 23 receptions in the month of October, Walter is still only owned in about 30% of fantasy leagues. I suspect many owners are leery of how Walter will do when Andre Johnson returns. It’s a fair question, but the bottom line is Johnson may be another couple weeks away from seeing action. If your wideouts have been holding your team back, Walter is a guy who can be your savior. He’s been so impressive that it’d be foolish to automatically assume that Johnson’s return will greatly diminish Walter’s fantasy value.

Availability: Owned in ~29 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Walter has been huge lately and is a solid WR3 or flex player this week against the Chargers.

3. Brandon Stokley, Broncos
Javon Walker (knee) looks like he could be sidelined for awhile if not the entire season. Brandon Marshall was arrested for drunk driving. Considering the state of the Broncos wide receiving corps, Brandon Stokley could be a nice fantasy WR for owners over the second half of the season. Head coach Mike Shanahan called him the best slot WR he’d ever seen. Stokely has the ability and opportunity to consistently post 70 yards per game for the rest of the year. Acquire him now because the Broncos offense looks like it could be on the upswing.

Availability: Owned in ~15 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: He’s not flashy but Stokley is worth a look in all leagues and could be a bigtime factor in points-per-reception leagues.

4. Ike Hilliard, Buccaneers
Hilliard was touted here last week as a great bye week replacement option. He lived up to the expectation, posting 92 yards and a touchdown. Hilliard has become such an integral part of Tampa’s offense that owners can now look to him as a WR3 or flex player on most weeks. In the last three games, he has been thrown to 26 times. Based on the number of opportunities Hilliard is getting, he’ll be a nice player to keep on your roster to use when one of your regular starters has a bye or poor matchup.

Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hilliard is defying age and is now worth a look in all leagues.
 
5. Roydell Williams, Titans
Williams was an early season Forecast recommendation. Unfortunately he fizzled out after his breakout game in Week 2. The good news is he is slowly working himself back into fantasy relevance. Williams has caught five passes each of the last two games. On Sunday, he turned those five receptions into 124 receiving yards. I wouldn’t trust him enough to start him at this point but Williams clearly has talent and upside. If you play in a league that has deep rosters, stash Williams in case he starts producing more consistently.

Availability: Owned in ~5 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams isn’t consistent enough to be a starter yet, but his big performance makes him a decent prospect in bigger leagues.

6. Arnaz Battle, 49ers
Battle was targeted 10 times on Sunday and now has scored a touchdown in back-to-back games. He’d probably rank higher on this list, but Alex Smith is set to return to the starting lineup next week. The QB change could reduce his value. Battle was clearly Trent Dilfer’s favorite target. Still, if WRs are a sore spot for your club, Battle could prove to be a valuable pickup. Darrell Jackson has been a nonfactor this year and Vernon Davis has battled injuries. Battle is the team’s #1 receiving target and thus deserves your attention.

Availability: Owned in ~8 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Battle is a decent reserve WR in all leagues.

7. Devin Hester, Bears
Teams are starting to kick away from Hester on special teams, so the Bears are working him into the gameplan in other ways. He was targeted on four passes Sunday against the Eagles and he caught three balls for 41 yards. The miss was on a bomb into the endzone. The fact that Hester doesn’t get many opportunites makes him a risky play. The fact that a couple of the opportunities he does get are on deep passes gives him the potential to put up a big fantasy number. With the Lions coming to town, I like Hester’s chances of having an impact. Detroit is horrible versus the pass. Their secondary had trouble keeping Philadelphia’s Kevin Curtis in front of them a few weeks ago. Hester has an entirely different set of gears than Curtis and should catch at least a couple long passes.

Availability: Owned in ~18 of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hester is a sneaky plug-and-play this week against the Lions.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Tony Scheffler, Broncos
See Brandon Stokley above. The Broncos are short on receivers. They need the tight ends to step up and Tony Scheffler is answering the call. He caught five passes for 50 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers on Sunday night. Scheffler is a former first round draft pick who is known more for his pass-catching skills than blocking. He’s an excellent option this week against the Packers if your regular TE is on bye. Green Bay has given up a ton of points to TEs this season. Monitor Scheffler’s status this week before activating him though. He limped off the field on Sunday with an apparent leg injury.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: If he plays, Scheffler is a decent bye week replacement against the Packers.

2. Kyle Brady, Patriots
With Ben Watson injured and the running game sputtering, Kyle Brady has become New England’s go-to-guy at the goal line. He has pulled down two short touchdown receptions over the last two games. As long as Watson continues to miss time, Brady will be a good fantasy option. In case you hadn’t heard, the Patriots are pretty good on offense. The TE position looks like it will continue to be a nice source of fantasy points regardless of who’s playing. Exploit the Brady-to-Brady connection this week if Watson is inactive against the Redskins.   

Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Brady is a serviceable option in Week 8.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although they’re nowhere close to the Bucs defense of yesteryear, Tampa’s defense has been a relatively consistent squad for fantasy purposes. They’re giving up just 15.7 points per game. Although they haven’t scored a defensive touchdown, the Bucs do well in the turnover department. I like their chances this week against the Jaguars who will have a short week. They’ll be an even better option if starting QB David Garrard (leg) isn’t able to play. While Garrard hasn’t thrown an interception this season, backup Quinn Gray turned the ball over three times Monday night against the Colts.

Availability: Owned in ~42% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Tampa is a solid stopgap this week if your regular defense is on bye.

2. New Orleans Saints
Another team worth a look this week if you’re facing a bye week dilema is New Orleans. The Saints should fare well against a 49ers team that hasn’t scored more than 17 points in the last five games and might be without its best player in Frank Gore. In the last three games they have allowed eight turnovers, 15 sacks, a saftey and a defensive score. Their futility should fuel a highly productive afternoon for owners savvy enough to start the Saints.   

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Saints are worth a look this week against a miserable San Francisco offense.

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