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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 6
Paul Sandy
October 7, 2008
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QUARTERBACKS

1. Kyle Orton, Bears
Rising ValueOrton remains at the top of the Forecast’s QB pickups, where he was listed last week. Most owners just can’t fathom starting a Chicago passer, but it’s time to cast aside your preconceived notions. It’s a mad, mad world. You’re thinking, “Yeah Orton had a good game against the Lions, so what?” The reality is Orton has thrown multiple touchdowns each of the last three weeks. He’s coming off a career-best 334-yard performance. Oh yeah, and he gets to face the Falcons next week. Atlanta has allowed nine passing scores this season—tied for second most in the NFL. After that, he faces Minnesota. After that, he has a bye. After that, he faces Detroit again. Make no mistake, Orton is a QB who can cover your team for three of the next four weeks.

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Orton should be owned in all leagues.

2. Gus Frerotte, Vikings
Bye Week RescueCan’t get Orton? Get the guy who faces the Lions this week. Detroit’s pass defense is woeful and they’ve been embarrassed by the likes of Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, J.T. O’Sullivan and Orton this year. There’s no reason to think Freortte won’t be the next QB to post good fantasy numbers against the them. The Vikings have scored an average of 28.8 points per game versus Detroit since the Brad Childress era began in Minnesota. Look for a minimum of 200 yards and a touchdown from Frerotte with an upside as high as multiple scores and 300 yards.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Everyone does well against the Lions, even Frerotte.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Cedric Benson, Bengals
SleeperThe free agent talent pool is running a little shallow this week particularly at the RB position. Unless you’re in a small league, guys like DeAngelo Williams (owned in 79% of leagues), Correll Buckhalter(72%) and Tim Hightower (71%) likely aren’t available. If they are, they should top your list of targets. One player who’s more readily available and worth picking up this week is Cedric Benson, who signed a contract with the Bengals last week. While he was expected to only see a few touches on Sunday, Benson ended up carrying the ball 10 times for 30 yards. The numbers weren’t great, but they were better than starter Chris Perry (13 for 31). Perry also coughed up a costly fumble and leads all NFL running backs in that dubious category with five. Bottom line: Perry’s days as a starter are numbered. While Benson may not propel your fantasy team to juggernaut status, he could add nice depth.

Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Benson should continue to see his role increase and is worth acquiring in all leagues.

2. Justin Fargas, Raiders
Injury ReplacementDon’t forget about Fargas, who opened the season as Oakland’s starter. He was averaging 5.2 yards per carry before tweaking his groin. Fargas is scheduled to return this week against the Saints. With McFadden still nursing a gimpy toe (he was held out of practice yesterday), Fargas could again be a passable second RB or flex player. On the downside, a coaching change in Oakland muddies the situation. We won’t really know how the carries will be divided until Sunday. However, with McFadden still laboring, it’s a good bet that Fargas will touch the ball 15 times. That makes him a worthy start if you’re shorthanded at the RB position.

Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: With McFadden still ailing, Fargas is worth a look in all leagues.

3. Warrick Dunn, Buccaneers
Rising ValueDunn continues to snipe carries from starter Earnest Graham. He’s received double-digit touches in four of the first five games this year. His 11-carry, 74-yard performance against the Broncos was his best outing of 2008. He added three receptions for 13 yards. Dunn’s lack of touchdowns deflates his value a bit, but there’s no doubt he still can play the game. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry. A matchup this week against a Panthers defense that ranks 13th in the league against the run isn’t particularly attractive. Carolina has allowed just one rushing score this season. However, Dunn can be played if your options are limited. He’s done well against the Panthers throughout his career and will get enough opportunities.

Availability: Owned in ~52% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Dunn deserves a roster spot as a backup in leagues with 12 or more teams.

4. Andre Hall, Broncos
Injury ReplacementSelvin Young left Sunday’s game against the Bucs with a strained groin. It’s unclear how much time Young will miss, if any. Should he sit out, Michael Pittman and Andre Hall are quality options this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville seems like they should have a stingy run defense, but the reality is they give up 106.8 yards per game on the ground. They’ve also proven to be quite vulnerable to RBs who can catch passes out of the backfield. A few RBs who’ve done damage through the air versus the Jags, include Steve Slaton (8 receptions for 83 yards and 1 TD), Fred Jackson (7-83-0) and Chris Johnson (3-43-1). All told, Jacksonville has ceded six TDs to RBs. Look for Hall to turn in a good performance if Young sits. Pittman, owned in 76% of all leagues, is worth a spot start either way given his pass-catching skills. 

Availability: Owned in ~13% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: If Selvin Young sits, Hall is worth a start against the Jaguars.
 
5. Ladell Betts, Redskins
Bye Week RescueBetts has received 10 or more touches in both of the last two outings. That’s not a huge number, but 10 opportunities to carry the ball against the Rams this week could very easily net 65 yards and a touchdown. “Backup” RBs have been huge against St. Louis this year. Get a load of these numbers: Fred Jackson (55 yards and 1 TD), T.J. Duckett (79-2), Ahmad Bradshaw (70-2) and Tony Hunt (5-1). If your team is in a bye week pickle, take a flier on Betts. With the way the Redskins are playing, he could easily be a huge factor in the fourth quarter as Washington tries to run out the clock.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Roll the dice with Betts if you need a one-week stopgap at the RB position.

6. Ryan Torain, Broncos
SleeperI’ll keep Torain on the Forecast one more week since I think now is the ideal time to dedicate a speculative roster spot to him. The rookie is on track to resume practice during the week leading up to Denver’s meeting with New England on October 20. Figure it’ll take him two weeks to get into game shape. With a well-timed bye in Week 8, it’s likely that we’ll see Torain’s debut in Week 9 against the Dolphins. Beginning in November, and not including Week 17, six of Denver’s last eight games are outdoors in “cold weather cities”. While the Broncos may be pass-heavy now, they might lean more on the running game as the season progresses and the weather takes a turn for the worse. Torain figures to be a big part of that effort—especially considering Mike Shanahan’s hesitancy to give Young more than 12 touches per game.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Torain is worth a speculative roster spot in deeper leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Steve Breaston, Cardinals
Rising ValueBreaston is starter material this week against the Cowboys assuming Anquan Boldin misses the game as is expected. He led all Arizona wideouts with 77 yards receiving last week against the Bills. That follows a 122-yard effort the week prior. The 6’0”, 189-lbs. wideout doesn’t provide nearly the presence of Boldin, but he’s getting the job done and becoming a reliable target. QB Kurt Warner threw his way eight times, completing seven passes. Dallas has been average at best against the pass, allowing 210 yards per game through the air. Breaston seems like a lock for 70 yards receiving this week.

Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Breaston is playable in all leagues this week if Anquan Boldin remains out as expected.

2. Reggie Brown, Eagles
Rising ValueStill available in over 40% of fantasy leagues, Brown has strung together two solid fantasy performances in a row. After catching six passes for 79 yards two weeks ago, Brown recorded four receptions for 84 yards on Sunday against the Redskins. With Brian Westbrook ailing with a rib injury, QB Donovan McNabb will have to utilize his other weapons in the passing game more frequently. That should mean continued success for Brown. The Eagles have a favorable schedule coming up with games against the 49ers, Falcons and Seahawks. Brown is playable in all of those games. Look for him to continue to post decent yardage with sporadic touchdown opportunities.

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Brown is back on track and merits a roster spot in all leagues as a third or fourth WR.

3. Rashied Davis and Devin Hester, Bears
Bye Week RescueWith Brandon Lloyd out of the lineup, Davis and Hester both turned in standout fantasy performances in Week 5. Davis logged six receptions for 97 yards while Hester posted five receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown—his second consecutive week with a score. Chicago’s wideouts are blessed with another favorable matchup this week against the Falcons. Atlanta has allowed five passing scores in their last two games. Wideouts were on the receiving end of four of those five touchdowns. Given that he’s scored in two straight games, Hester might be the safer option. However, don’t be surprised if Davis gets more looks. He was targeted nine times against the Lions.

Availability: Owned in ~2% and ~21% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Davis and Hester are both decent WR3 or flex options against the Falcons.

4. Greg Camarillo, Dolphins
Bye Week RescueCamarillo notched his second straight game with 60 or more receiving yards. He also recorded his first touchdown of the season on Sunday against the Chargers. Chart out his productivity over Miami’s first four games and you’ll quickly realize Camarillo is heading in the right direction. His yardage has improved each week and his receptions have climbed from three in Week 1 to six in Week 5. If you’re in a league with 12 or more teams or a points-per-reception league, Camarillo is worth a look in Week 6. The Dolphins face Houston. The Texans have allowed six passing scores in four games.

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Camarillo is a passable wideout this week if you’re desperate for WR help.

5. Brandon Stokley, Broncos
Injury ReplacementRookie sensation Eddie Royal sprained his ankle in Week 5 and was seen leaving the locker room on crutches. Although it’s not the dreaded high-ankle sprain, there’s a fair chance he misses this week’s game against the Jaguars. If you lost Royal or you’re just looking for a viable receiver, consider adding Brandon Stokley. Before you flame me with negative comments, yes, I understand Stokley plays in the slot and isn’t Royal’s replacement. That honor will likely go to Darrell Jackson. However, my hunch is Stokley will see plenty of looks and be a better option than Jackson. TE Tony Scheffler (groin) was also injured Sunday. If Scheffler misses next week’s game, Stokley suddenly becomes the team’s best inside pass-catching presence. In his last two games, both quality fantasy performances, Stokley has 13 receptions and one touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~11%  of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Stokley has a good chance of posting a solid fantasy line this week if Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler are out.

6. Antwaan Randle El, Redskins
Bye Week RescueIt hasn’t been conventional, but Randle El has recorded quality fantasy performances in two straight games. He had a receiving touchdown in Week 4 against the Cowboys and a passing touchdown in Week 5 against the Eagles. With teams starting to roll coverage to Santana Moss, Randle El should continue to see single coverage. It’s the reason he was targeted 10 times against Philly. This is the perfect opportunity to grab him because the Redskins have a creampuff schedule coming up. They’ll face the Rams this week followed by the Browns and Rams.

Availability: Owned in ~41%  of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Randle El has a juicy upcoming schedule, including a game this week against the Rams.

7. Dominek Hixon, Giants
Rising ValueHixon came up big last week with Plaxico Burress serving a suspension. He ended the day with four receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown but left the game with a concussion. Based on his performance against the Seahawks and a strong preseason, he looks like a future star. The reality though is Burress will return this week, which is going to make it difficult for Hixon to post consistent numbers. He’ll need an injury or depth chart change to become an every-week option. However, don’t dismiss him entirely. The Giants offense is clicking right now and they have a favorable upcoming schedule with games against the Browns and 49ers. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a Robert Meachem-like deep threat this season.

Availability: Owned in ~25%  of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hixon is worth a bench spot in deep leagues.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Greg Olsen, Bears
Rising ValueOlsen was pegged by the Forecast last week as a TE worth picking up and playing. He came through with three receptions for 87 yards. I like his chances for another productive week against the Falcons. Atlanta has surrendered touchdowns to TEs in three of their first five games. Although the rise of Chicago’s passing offense hasn’t led to a huge number of receptions for Olsen, he’s still getting it done for fantasy owners. He’s posted 122 yards and a touchdown over the last two games on seven catches.  

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Olsen is worth a roster spot in leagues with 12 or more teams and should fare well this week against the Falcons.

1. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
Bye Week RescueShiancoe has scored in two of the last three games and draws the Lions this week. He’s a great option if your regular TE is Tony Gonzalez, who will be on bye this week. Detroit has allowed eight passing touchdowns in the four games they’ve played this season. With Minnesota’s starting receivers, Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice, still laboring with injuries, Shiancoe should continue to see a fair number of targets. 

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Shiancoe is worth a spot start this week against the Lions.

KICKER

1. Shaun Suisham, Redskins
Rising ValueWashington has opened some eyes over the last four games, defeating quality opponent after quality opponent. It’s easy to focus on the respective numbers of star players like Santana Moss, Clinton Portis and Jason Campbell, but don’t overlook kicker Shaun Suisham. Suisham has attempted multiple field goal kicks in four straight games. He’s connected on three or more kicks in three of his last four outings. With an upcoming game against the Rams, Suisham is a great pickup this week. It will be surprising if he doesn’t post 10 or more points.

Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: With a matchup this week against the Rams, Suisham is a great pickup in all leagues.

John Carney, Giants
SleeperLast week the Forecast suggested starting whichever Giants kicker was active for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. Carney got the nod as Lawrence Tynes’ knee flared up late in the week. Carney delivered, booting three field goals and five extra points. In my book, Carney is one of the top five fantasy kickers in the league. He’s connected on multiple field goal kicks in every single game this season. As long as Tynes is out, Carney is an attractive play—especially this week against the Browns. Just be sure to monitor the status of Tynes.

Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Carney has been a difference maker all season and is worth playing as long as Tynes is out.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Washington Redskins
Bye Week RescueThe fantasy stats haven’t been there for the Redskins this season (six INTs, six sacks and zero TDs), but they have a good NFL defense. They allow fewer than 20 points per game. Things should even out from a fantasy perspective this week when they face the Rams. St. Louis ranks dead last in total offense. Rams QBs have been sacked 13 times in four games and the team has allowed one defensive touchdown. Pick up and play the Redskins against St. Louis. If they perform well, consider keeping them active for upcoming matchups against the Browns and Lions.

Availability: Owned in ~38% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pickup and play the Redskins this week against the Rams then weigh their long-term potential.

2. New York Jets
Bye Week RescueThe Bengals offense showed improvement last week against the Cowboys but they’re still a mistake-prone team. I like New York’s chances this week coming off a bye week. During head coach Eric Mangini’s tenure, the Jets have performed very well coming off a bye. In 2007, they held the Steelers to 17 points, sacked Ben Roethlisberger seven times, recorded two turnovers and won.  In 2006, the Jets held the Patriots to 14 points, sacked Tom Brady four times, recorded two turnovers and won.
 
Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues.

Forecast guidance: Consider the Jets a fine bye week fill-in this week if you’re defensively challenged.

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