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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 6
Paul Sandy
October 13, 2009
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ICON LEGEND
Rockstar Rockstar Performer / Free Agent
Worth a Look Worth a Look
Injury Injury Replacement
Sleeper Sleeper
Rescue Roster Rescue / Temporary Fix
Outlook Favorable Schedule Outlook

QUARTERBACKS

No Brainers: Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Ryan

1. Kyle Orton, Broncos
RockstarOrton threw for 330 yards and two scores against the Patriots. He has now tossed at least one touchdown in every game this season and two in each of the last two games. With all of the injuries, benchings and poor play, you’d be hard pressed to find many QBs who’ve been as consistent as Orton. With the weapons Denver has in its passing game, he could be a nice little fantasy QB going forward. He’s playable this week against a decent but not overly stout Chargers pass defense. On the downside, Orton has a cruel schedule following San Diego. In the coming weeks, they’ll have a bye followed by meetings against the Ravens and Steelers.

Availability: Owned in ~68% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Orton is roster worthy in all leagues.

2. Jake Delhomme, Panthers
RescueFantasy owners shopping for a temporary replacement at the QB position can take a look at Carolina’s Jake Delhomme. The Panthers will face a Buccaneers team that has allowed 12 passing scores this season, third most in the NFL. The Tampa Bay defense has perfected the art of giving up big play touchdowns. Through five games, the Bucs have allowed eight passing scores of 30 yards or greater. Look for Delhomme and Steve Smith to test the Tampa secondary and connect on at least one long score.    

Availability: Owned in ~35% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Delhomme is a viable matchup play this week against the Bucs.

3. Marc Bulger, Rams
RescueI told myself I wouldn’t do it, but here I am recommending Bulger. The Rams will face a Jaguars team that has allowed at least 265 yards passing and one touchdown in every game this season. The Jacksonville secondary has been absolutely whipped in their last three outings, allowing eight passing scores. Owners who will be without Peyton Manning or Tony Romo this week can roll the dice with Bulger. Set your expectations at about 250 yards and a touchdown and cross your fingers.

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bulger is a boom-or-bust QB this week against the Jaguars.

RUNNING BACKS

No Brainers: Ahmad Bradshaw, Rashard Mendenhall, Tashard Choice and Ricky Williams

1. Sammy Morris, Patriots
Worth a LookWith Fred Taylor on the shelf indefinitely following ankle surgery, Morris has stepped into the featured role for the Patriots. He led the team with 17 carries for 68 yards against Denver but failed to cross the stripe. In case you’re wondering Laurence Maroney had just five carries. Bill Belichick seems to have an affinity for Morris. Morris closed out the 2008 season with five quality fantasy efforts. In 2007, he strung together four useful fantasy stat lines before getting injured. As long as he can stay healthy, Morris will be a factor. Don’t hesitate to grab him as a potential spot starter. Weeks 7-8 are going to be tricky from a bye perspective with six teams off each week. Morris will be worth his weight in gold for New England’s Week 7 matchup against the Bucs. So will Kevin Faulk for similar reasons. Consider acquiring both players now. Tampa ranks 28th in the NFL against the run. As for this week, think of Morris as a low end second RB or flex play against the Titans.

Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Morris should be owned in all leagues

2. Jamal Lewis, Browns
Worth a LookI must be a glutton for punishment. After advocating for three Browns who turned out to be duds last week, I’m going to the well again. This time it’s veteran Jamal Lewis, who merits your consideration. Lewis was practically the entire Browns offense Sunday against the Bills amassing 117 yards on a shocking 31 carries. This despite earning the “questionable” tag with a tight hamstring. Until further notice, consider Lewis the primary RB for Cleveland. However, I would only recommend playing him against the Steelers if you are desperate.

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lewis should be owned in all leagues.

3. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
RescueThe Panthers running game has done nothing to inspire confidence this season. As a team, Carolina is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. The futility has caused many owners to give up on second-year back Jonathan Stewart. But as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Stewart is worth considering as a spot starter this week in deep leagues. The Panthers face off against a porous Tampa run defense. Look for Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to finally get back to the basics and gut the Buccaneers for 160+ yards and a couple scores.

Availability: Owned in ~75% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Stewart is playable this week against Tampa.  

4. Michael Bush, Raiders
InjuryDarren McFadden is expected to miss at least a few more weeks following knee surgery. Michael Bush is the starter for now. If you pick him up, understand what you’re getting. Bush is a talented runner who plays on a dysfunctional offense. He will not get you more than 60 yards per game and will only chip in a touchdown periodically. Depending on your league size, that may or may not be enough to merit consideration for a roster spot. Adding to Bush’s misery, is the fact that the Raiders face quality run defenses over the next couple games in the form of the Eagles and Jets.

Availability: Owned in ~48% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bush is worth a look in deeper leagues.

5. Derrick Ward, Buccaneers
RescueWard is clearly playing second fiddle to Cadillac Williams in Tampa’s backfield. He carried six times in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Eagles, compared with 10 for Williams. This week’s game against the Panthers will likely be a much closer contest, which means more carries to go around. Carolina ranks 30th in the NFL in run defense. I’m not entirely sure why Tampa’s coaching staff is so resolute in their belief that Williams is a superior option in the running game. Ward has averaged a healthy 4.2 yards per carry this season. If he gets 10-12 touches against the Panthers, he could net you 60+ yards. In deeper league’s that would be a useful showing for a bye-week fill in.

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Ward could be useful this week against the Panthers.

6. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
SleeperCharles hasn’t done much on the ground this season. He’s carried the ball just 15 times in 2009. However, he’s capable of making an impact in the passing game on occasion. In Week 5, he caught five passes for 54 yards. With Larry Johnson yet to get untracked this season, it’s conceivable we could continue to see more of Charles going forward. Grab and stash him in deeper leagues. And if you happen to play in a PPR league, don’t be afraid to press him into action when the situation calls for it.

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Charles is the type of guy you can pick up and play in an emergency.

WIDE RECEIVERS

No Brainers: Nate Burleson, Braylon Edwards, Mario Manningham, Steve Breaston and Antonio Bryant

1. Miles Austin, Cowboys
RockstarWith Roy Williams (ribs) sidelined, Austin got his first start and a had career afternoon on Sunday, racking up 250 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs. He figures to be an important part of the Dallas offense going forward. Leading up to the game Williams had been struggling and the Cowboys were desperate for a wide receiver who could stike fear in opposing defenses. Austin has legitimate potential to be that guy and emerge as an every-week fantasy contributor. The only bad news is you won’t be able to use him until Week 7 when the Cowboys return from bye.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Austin is the must-grab free agent WR this week.

2. Eddie Royal, Broncos
RockstarOver the first four weeks of the season, Royal was a royal pain in the you know what for fantasy owners who blew a mid-round draft pick on him. He failed to catch more than three passes in any game and didn’t score. That all changed on Sunday against the Patriots. QB Kyle Orton targeted Royal 15 times, completing 10 passes for 90 yards. It’d be nice to see Royal back up his performance with another quality effort before starting him. However, for owners in deep leagues, he’s worth a shot against the Chargers. Royal caught a career-high 11 passes his last time out against San Diego.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Royal merits roster consideration in all leagues.

3. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
RockstarThe rookie showcased his downfield speed against Tampa, burning them for 142 yards and two touchdowns. This was QB Donovan McNabb’s first game since getting hurt in Week 1. Considering McNabb only attempted 18 passes in the opener, this was the first real opportunity for Maclin and McNabb to develop some chemistry. Look for more explosive plays in the coming weeks from the combo. However, recognize that McNabb loves to spread the ball around to his receivers. Some inconsistency is likely for Maclin.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Maclin’s big-play potential should earn him a roster spot in almost all leagues.

4. Austin Collie, Colts
OutlookCollie has punched in quality fantasy performances two weeks in a row. After catching six balls for 65 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago, he hauled in nine passes for 97 yards and two scores on Sunday night against the Titans. Collie likely has at least a couple more games worth of fantasy viability before Anthony Gonzalez returns. In reality, if he continues to perform, the Colts may not rush back Gonzalez until closer to the end of the season. After the bye week Collie and the Colts will face the Rams, 49ers and Texans, which bodes well for fantasy owners.

Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: He’s on a bye but if you can clear a spot, it looks like Collie will be a frequent fantasy contributor going forward.

5. Hakeem Nicks, Giants
Worth a LookNicks has scored in back to back games. Although the yardage hasn’t been huge, you can’t help but think bigger games are ahead for this promising rookie. Giants QB Eli Manning is judiciously spreading the ball around to his wideouts. Nicks certainly has the explosiveness to be the next New York wideout to put up a monster performance. He and his New York pass-catching compatriots have tremendous upside this week against the Saints in a game that has all the makings of a shootout.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Nicks figures to be an active part of the Giants offense and should be owned in 12-team leagues.

6. Torry Holt, Jaguars
RescueHolt will no doubt be in the ear of QB David Garrard this week pushing him for more looks. This will be Holt’s first time going up against his former team, the Rams. He’s coming off his best game as a Jaguar, posting seven receptions for 95 yards against Seattle. Despite never recording fewer than 40 yards receiving this season, Holt’s ownership has dipped from 93 percent at the beginning of the year to just 59 percent today. The Rams have a below-average pass defense so fantasy owners can comfortably insert Holt into their lineups.  

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Holt is highly startable this week against his former team.

7. Donnie Avery, Rams
RescueAvery had all the explosiveness of a wet firecracker over the first four weeks of the season. He finally showed up in Week 5, posting 87 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. With a suspect Jacksonville defense on tap next, Avery is a viable one-week stopgap for fantasy owners in deeper leagues. To date, the Jaguars have allowed 273 passing yards per game. They were carved up by the Seahawks for four touchdowns on Sunday. With St. Louis’ receiving corps beat up, Avery is the team’s best option and should again exceed 80 yards.  

Availability: Owned in ~34% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Avery is worth a spot start against a hapless Jacksonville secondary.

8. Chris Henry and Andre Caldwell, Bengals
RescueThe Bengals defense and RB Cedric Benson have been getting most of the headlines but there’s reason to be optimistic about Cincinnati’s passing game. QB Carson Palmer has thrown seven touchdowns in the last four games. This despite facing a strech of games against formidable pass defenses like the Packers, Steelers, Browns and Ravens. The team gets a bit of a break this week against the Texans. Consider plugging and playing either Chris Henry or Andre Caldwell. Henry is the more explosive option while Caldwell is a better bet to catch more passes.

Availability: Owned in ~32% and 11% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Consider tapping the Bengals WR corps for help this week if you’re in a bye week pickle.

TIGHT ENDS

No Brainers: Heath Miller and Visanthe Shiancoe

1. Jermichael Finley, Packers
RescueFinley was on a bye in Week 5 but don’t forget his 128-yard, one-touchdown effort a week ago on Monday night. The athletic TE has the speed to get open downfield, something he should have little difficulty doing against a Lions defense that has been victimized by TEs all year. Detroit has ceded five touchdowns to TEs in five games this year. Finley’s first career touchdown came at the expense of the Lions last year.

Availability: Owned in ~32% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Finley is a viable matchup play this week against a Lions team that struggles to keep TEs out of the endzone.

2. Todd Heap, Ravens
RescueHeap’s production has leveled off since the 2009 opener in which he racked up 74 yards and a touchdown. He’s currently owned in about 66 percent of leagues. If you’ll be without Jason Witten, Dallas Clark or Vernon Davis this week, Heap is a nice option. The Ravens will go up against the Vikings and they’ll likely be forced to pass. Minnesota has allowed seven passing scores this season and four of them came at the hands of TEs. Look for a minimum of 40 yards with the upside of 70 yards and a touchdown.

Availability: Owned in ~66% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Heap is a decent option this week against a Vikings defense that has allowed among the most fantasy points to TEs this year.

KICKERS

No Brainers: David Akers and Ryan Longwell

1. Matt Prater, Broncos
RockstarBroncos kicker Matt Prater ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring among kickers with 39 points. Prater has nailed multiple field goals in five out of his last six games. He’s 4-for-5 on field goals over 40 yards in length, so he’s more-than-capable of delivering in leagues that give bonuses for distance. The San Diego Chargers give up the eighth most points in football. Prater is not only a guy you can use this week, he’s a guy you can count on as your every-week kicker going forward (except Week 7 when he’s on bye).

Availability: Owned in ~58% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Prater should be owned in all leagues.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

No Brainers: Green Bay Packers

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
RescueThe Jags square off against a Rams offense that has given up an insane four defensive touchdowns over the last two games. Over the same period they’ve allowed seven sacks and seven turnovers. If you need a defense for Week 6, get in line to grab Jacksonville.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Jacksonville gets the Rams and should be the hot defensive pickup this week.

2. Seattle Seahawks
RescueThink Qwest Field isn’t a difficult place to play? The Seahawks have dealt a shutout in two out of three home games this season. Seattle’s D is tied for fourth in the NFL with 14 sacks. They’ve also recorded a defensive touchdown. Give them a start this week against the Cardinals. Arizona QB Kurt Warner is not immune to taking sacks, throwing interceptions or fumbling.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Seattle is one of the more surprising defensive teams. They’re roster-worthy in almost any league.

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