1. Shaun Hill, 49ers
Hill looked the part on Sunday against the Rams, completing 20 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Plus he added a rushing score. It was the second game in a row in which he delivered multiple touchdowns. Owners desperate for quality fantasy production from their QB position could do worse than Hill, who benefits from playing in the Mike Martz offense. Hill will face the Cowboys this week. While it’s not a particularly favorable matchup, he should be able to post 200 yards and a touchdown or two. Consider starting him if your alternatives look bleak.
Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hill is a viable backup who can be played when the matchup is right.
2. Kerry Collins, Titans
The Titans have shed the stigma of being thought of as a team that can only hurt you with the running game. QB Kerry Collins has recorded two straight games with over 230 yards passing and multiple touchdowns. The Forecast likes his chances of staying hot this week against the Jets. New York ranks 28th in the NFL versus the pass and fourth in the NFL against the run. Opponents recognize this imbalance and have called 36 passing plays against them per games . . . as compared to just 24 run plays. Look for Collins to attempt close to 30 passes and finish with another 220+ yard effort with a strong likelihood of a touchdown or two.
Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Collins isn’t an every week starter but he looks like a solid play this week against the Jets.
3. Jeff Garcia, Buccaneers
Garcia hasn’t contributed much for fantasy owners this season. He has yet to have a game in which he throws two or more touchdowns. However, his yardage production has been solid, exceeding 250 yards in three of his last four outings. With the Lions on tap next, I like Garcia’s chances of having a breakout game in which he records his typical 250+ yards and tacks on 2-3 touchdowns. Last season against Detroit, he posted 316 yards and two scores. He’s a quality spot starter for Week 12.
Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Garcia is an excellent spot start this week against the Lions.
1. Peyton Hillis and Tatum Bell, Broncos
The tandem of Hillis and Bell performed well against the Falcons. Hillis rewarded fantasy owners with 70 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Bell was eased into the game plan but managed 34 yards on seven carries, many of them tough runs in the second half. Both players have fantasy value going forward. Hillis figures to get most of the goal line action, which gives him a bit more value. However, both players have upside this week against the Raiders, who rank last in the NFL against the run.
Availability: Owned in ~41% and 25% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Hillis and Bell should be owned in all leagues.
2. Warrick Dunn, Buccaneers
Tampa’s top back, Earnest Graham, is expected to miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury. The injury clears the way for veteran Warrick Dunn to become a feature back. Dunn toted the ball 20 times for 53 yards against a tough Vikings defense. He added 65 yards through the air. Although he’s not a player who’s much of a threat to score a TD, Dunn gets enough yardage to command the attention of fantasy owners. As his team’s healthiest RB, Dunn should continue to get 15-20 touches per game. With Tampa set to square off against the Lions, he’s worth a start. Owners in touchdown-heavy leagues should consider adding B.J. Askew, who could assume the goal line work with Graham on the shelf.
Availability: Owned in ~54% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hillis and Bell should be owned in all leagues.
3. Antonio Pittman, Rams
With Steven Jackson in street clothes for Sunday’s matchup against the 49ers, backup Antonio Pittman saw extensive action. He carried the ball 14 times for 95 yards. It appears Jackson could still be a week or two away from returning, so Pittman is certainly worth adding. A matchup this week against the Bears might not seem very advantageous for the St. Louis running game, but the Bears defense hasn’t been as tough this season. Chicago has allowed seven rushing scores in their last four games.
Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pittman should be owned in all leagues until Jackson returns.
4. J.J. Arrington, Cardinals
The Forecast identified Arrington as a sneaky pickup a couple weeks ago. The thinking was rookie Tim Hightower might not be quite ready to assume a full workload and Arrington would get touches on third down and perhaps more. Well, Arrington has delivered quality stats in two of his last three games, including a two-touchdown performance on Sunday against the Seahawks. Meanwhile, Hightower has fallen from grace. The versatile Arrington should continue to deliver quality fantasy stat lines as a key component of one of the NFL’s best offenses. With Edgerrin James in the doghouse, Arrington has an outside chance of becoming the starter for the Cardinals. Unfortunately, a matchup this week against the Giants doesn’t bode well.
Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider adding Arrington to your RB arsenal, particularly if you play in a points per reception league.
5. Ahman Green, Texans
Texans rookie Steve Slaton made all the highlight reels with his 71-yard touchdown scamper, but don’t overlook the fact that Ahman Green scored twice from inside the five yard line. With the coaches making a conscious effort to limit Slaton’s carries in an effort to keep him fresh, it makes sense that Green would assume the goal line carries, which can be punishing. Given that the Texans have a relatively favorable schedule from a rushing perspective, acquiring Green makes sense.
Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Green is a smart handcuff for Slaton owners and worth a look in TD-heavy leagues.
6. Pierre Thomas, Saints
Thomas exploited a favorable matchup against the Chiefs, recording 144 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. The performance could easily be written off as a one-week wonder. However, the Packers are up next. Green Bay ranks 28th in the NFL against the run. They allow close to 150 yards per game on the ground. Although they managed to slow down Chicago’s Matt Forte last week. New Orleans has a much more dynamic offense. If it looks like Reggie Bush will sit out another week, Thomas is worth a look as a spot starter for fantasy purposes.
Availability: Owned in ~20% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider plugging and playing Thomas this week against the Pack.
1. Ted Ginn Jr., Dolphins
Despite having posted quality fantasy performances in three of his last four outings, Ginn Jr. remains available in just less than half of all fantasy leagues. He’s now tallied touchdowns in consecutive games and has become Miami’s most explosive offensive weapon. The team will face the rival Patriots this week. New England is one of just seven teams to have allowed 16 or more passing scores in 2008. Ginn is a worthy third WR in fantasy leagues of all sizes and scoring systems.
Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Ginn Jr. is a viable starter in all but the smallest leagues.
2. Justin Gage, Titans
The Forecast was all over Gage last week, suggesting the Titans sudden willingness to throw the ball around the field could make their top WR fantasy relevant going forward. Gage burned the Jaguars for two touchdowns and 147 yards receiving. Tennessee’s schedule only gets easier with games against the Jets, Lions, Browns and Texans on tap next. Over that stretch, Gage can be a WR3 in leagues with 12 or more teams. An injury earlier this season robbed him of what otherwise might’ve been a 1,000 yard campaign. Gage has scored a touchdown or posted 90+ yards in four of the six games he’s started this season.
Availability: Owned in ~19% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: A Forecast favorite, Gage should be owned in all leagues based on his recent point explosion.
3. Brandon Lloyd, Bears
Lloyd burst onto the fantasy scene early in the season and flamed out just as quickly after he sustained a knee injury. He’s back now and could be poised for a return to fantasy relevance in the coming weeks. With QB Kyle Orton another week recovered from his ankle injury and their most difficult matchups behind them, Chicago’s passing offense should get back on track. A game next week against the Rams will help. St. Louis ranks 24th in the NFL in pass defense. Look for Lloyd and Orton to re-synch.
Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lloyd could re-emerge in the coming weeks and merits a look in deep leagues.
4. Jabbar Gaffney, Patriots
Patriots starting QB Matt Cassel is gaining confidence. His 400-yard performance against the Jets opened more than a few eyes. It also opened up the possibility that Gaffney could emerge as a reliable fantasy player as we close out the 2008 season. Cassel threw Gaffney’s way 11 times, completing seven passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. With Randy Moss drawing double coverage, Gaffney is a decent prospect in deeper leagues at this point. New England faces the Dolphins in Week 12—a team that Gaffney scored on back in Week 3. Even better, during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16), the Patriots draw favorable matchups against the Seahawks, Raiders and Cardinals.
Availability: Owned in ~8% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Gaffney is worth a speculative roster spot in deep leagues.
1. Dustin Keller, Jets
It’s rare for a rookie TE to become a staple on fantasy rosters, but Keller is proving to be the exception to the rule. He has turned in consecutive quality fantasy performances, including last Thursday’s game in which Brett Favre threw his way 10 times, completing eight passes for 87 yards. This week the Jets will travel to Tennessee to face the Titans. Opponents have had a surprisingly high rate of success throwing to the TEs when they face the Titans. Consider snagging Keller off the waiver wire and playing him this week.
Availability: Owned in ~45% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Grab Keller in any league format unless you already own a premier fantasy TE.
2. Daniel Graham, Broncos
Very quietly Daniel Graham has scored a touchdown in four of his last five games. Fantasy owners are leery of the Denver TE because, outside of his production in the redzone, Graham isn’t much of a factor. During his hot streak over the last five games, he’s only had one outing in which he recorded more than two receptions. The bottom line on Graham is he’s a player that QB Jay Culter trusts inside the 20 yard line. Much like a goal line RB, Graham carries a high amount of risk because if he doesn’t score a touchdown, you’re liable to end up with a bagel.
Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Graham is a boom or bust TE who’s certainly worth playing in TD-weighted leagues.
1. Matt Bryant, Buccaneers
The Forecast has highlighted Bryant on a few occassions in 2008, but his name is worth repeating. The guy has connected on multiple field goal kicks in all but one game this season. In his last three games alone, Bryant has attempted 12 field goals and connected on 10. Tampa has an offense that can move the ball up and down the field, but they have trouble converting touchdowns. If your kicker has been a disappointment, do yourself a favor and grab Bryant this week in anticipation of a favorable matchup against the Lions.
Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bryant should be owned in all leagues.
DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS
1. Denver Broncos
Another week, another game in which the Raiders failed to come close to scoring 20 points. Oakland’s offense is stagnant right now and they’re giving up points to fantasy owners in a variety of ways. Raiders QBs have been sacked four or more times in each of their last four games. Although they managed to protect the football last week against the Dolphins, the Raiders generally have a turnover or two per game. If your team has been eliminated from the playoff hunt and you can afford to gamble with your fantasy defense, consider acquire the Broncos this week. Denver doesn’t play great defense, but they do a fair job of pressuring the QB. They have 20 sacks this season.
Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Broncos could be the next DST to cash in on a woeful Oakland offense.