Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
9/28/2006 04:16:00 PM
We mean it this time: Shaun Alexander will not play this week.
John W. McDonough/SI
At least Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks put a quick end to any thought of Shaun Alexander playing this week. A second test on Alexander's foot confirmed the crack found earlier in the week, so the reigning MVP will indeed miss Sunday night's game even if he is listed as just "doubtful." You can now slot Maurice Morris in your lineup or whatever other running back you've got to replace Alexander.
It's one of the rare cases where a team can be upfront about an injury to a key player and fantasy owners can plan accordingly. Instead, there's always a flood of guys on the weekly injury report who may or may not practice during the week and are the dreaded "gametime decisions" that keep fantasy owners guessing until the last second.
Here is this week's list of fantasy-relevant players on the injury report who will have owners in a bind all weekend long: -- Terrell Owens: Now that the circus from Wednesday has subsided a bit, the question for fantasy owners still remains: Is his hand healed enough for him to play against the Titans? It looks that way, but Bill Parcells has the final decision. -- Laveranues Coles: He's questionable again with a calf injury. He had the same injury last week and played reasonably well. -- Donte Stallworth: The Eagles surprised many by scratching him with a hamstring injury last week, and now fantasy owners really have to worry if he'll be able to go on Monday night. -- Brian Westbrook: Seemingly always a gametime decision with a knee injury, but that didn't stop him last week. -- Reuben Droughns: The shoulder is still bothering him, except that this week's matchup against the Raiders would be a bad one for him to miss as opposed to last week against the Ravens. -- Kellen Winslow: His knee is slowing him down in practice this week. -- Mark Brunell: He's got an elbow injury, although he's not a great play this week against Jacksonville.
Terrell Owens is out of the hospital, but will he play this week?
It's been a bizarre week already for fantasy owners, starting with the Kurt Warner-Matt Leinart saga. It's gotten even stranger with news about two of the biggest names in fantasy football. Many owners are going to have some tough decisions to make thanks to some of the events of the past 24 hours.
First off is the Terrell Owens situation. Owens was hospitalized Tuesday night, but T.O. eventually defused rumors circulating all day that it was a suicide attempt, saying that he just had a bad reaction to some pain medication. In fact, Owens looked healthy and coherent at the press conference and said he was still looking to play Sunday against the Titans. T.O. is still suffering from a broken hand, but last week there were indications that he would return in time for the Tennessee game.
So the questions for fantasy owners are: Will Terrell Owens play this week and should I play him? It is still way up in the air. The finger is still hurting him, but the Cowboys have a great matchup against the Titans. The way this whole story unfolded can't sit well with Bill Parcells, but Owens is a guy who tries to get into the game. I'd be hesitant to start him this week if you have some decent receiver depth, although he's a must-start in Week 5 when he returns to Philadelphia. Of course, with that said, T.O. could also go off for an eight-catch, 100-yard game as well.
But while all the attention was going to the truly bizarre T.O. situation, word is coming out of Seattle that Shaun Alexander is now hoping to play Sunday. On Monday, head coach Mike Holmgren said Alexander would miss at least a couple of weeks with a cracked bone in his foot. But Alexander said that he was feeling much better and was going in for another set of tests to see if the crack in his foot is still there. Alexander did credit the power of prayer in easing the pain of his injury.
Holmgren said he'll be very careful with Alexander this week, especially since he has a decent option in Maurice Morris to take his place. Alexander is officially listed as doubtful for this week, and you'll probably want to play it safe with him as well. However, now that there's a chance that Alexander might play, your decision gets even tougher. There's going to be plenty of last-second roster shuffling Sunday morning (or even Sunday evening if you're figuring out the Alexander/Morris situation).
News of Kurt Warner's demise as Arizona's starting QB was a bit premature.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
-- So much for those reports that Matt Leinart will be starting for the Cardinals this week. Kurt Warner will keep his starting job this week, although he faces a tough matchup heading into Atlanta to face a Falcons team looking to bounce back after Monday night's loss in New Orleans. It would've been the wrong spot to give Leinart his first start, especially if John Abraham is healthy for the Falcons. With Warner so turnover prone in recent weeks, this could be a good time to use the Atlanta defense. Don't be surprised to see Leinart in there at some point this year, though. As mentioned before, Warner started nine games for the Giants in 2004 before giving way to Eli Manning.
-- One player you might want to watch over the next couple of weeks is the Jets' Leon Washington. While Kevan Barlow has emerged as the starting running back, he still hasn't done a lot to impress fantasy owners just yet. Washington, a fourth-round pick out of Florida State, had 77 total yards against the Bills on Sunday, including a 47-yard reception. The knock on him is his size, although that hasn't stopped Maurice Jones-Drew from lighting up the Colts last week and becoming one of the more popular waiver wire picks. Washington may be emerging as the third-down back and could see more looks as the year progresses.
-- There are rumblings out of Miami that the Dolphins may want to turn to Joey Harrington with Daunte Culpepper still struggling. If there's a week for Culpepper to recover, it would be this one as he faces a very soft Texans pass defense. However, how many sacks are we going to see this week? Culpepper has been sacked a league-worst 15 times this season with David Carr going down 10 times (although just once last week).
Michael Vick was kept in check by the surprising Saints defense.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
-- The Saints do appear to be for real, or at least rode the support of the New Orleans faithful to shut down the Falcons on Monday night. The biggest thing to come out of the game is that the Saints run defense is pretty solid, holding Warrick Dunn to just 44 yards after shutting down Reuben Droughns and Ahman Green the first two weeks. The defense also recorded five sacks and the special teams blocked a punt for a touchdown and later blocked a field goal. Anyone playing the Saints defense and/or special teams may have been able to steal a victory thanks to that performance. It should be interesting to see what New Orleans will do against the Panthers on Sunday.
-- As for the New Orleans offense, Marques Colston is looking more and more like a guy you should start every week as he went for 97 yards on seven catches. Meanwhile, Joe Horn was held to just three catches for 47 yards matched up against DeAngelo Hall. The Saints traded Donte Stallworth to open up a spot for him, and he's delivered -- as has Stallworth for the Eagles, a great win-win situation.
In a way, Colston's rise seems similar to how second-team wideouts often thrive when a backup QB takes over as a starter. Those guys have a rapport and they'll continue on until proven otherwise. The Saints had a clean slate going into this season with a new coach and a new quarterback. So the incumbents weren't guaranteed anything, which is why Stallworth was traded and Zach Hilton was cut because guys like Colston emerged in camp despite being the third to last pick in the entire draft. And now Colston is taking the Wayne Chrebet path to stardom.
Finally, that Deuce McAllister-Reggie Bush combo is working out nicely for the Saints, but it's a bit aggravating for fantasy owners who know they could see big numbers if either one of them had full control of the running back job. McAllister actually had as many catches as Bush (four) on Monday, negating Bush's advantage there, but the reigning Heisman winner showed he could do some inside running.
-- The Falcons were overwhelmed by a lot of different factors in New Orleans, and with the running game finally kept in check, it was up to Michael Vick to win the game with his arm, and he failed to do that. A handful of early passes were dropped by Alge Crumpler, but he also was all over the place trying to hit the long ball. He did land one to Ashley Lelie early for 48 yards, but that was about it. Vick did add 57 yards on the ground -- 30 of them on a run late in the game -- but added to just 137 passing yards, and you still have a below average fantasy game.
-- Atlanta does have an interesting matchup next Sunday since it appears Matt Leinart will indeed be starting for the Cardinals against the Falcons. Kurt Warner is benched after committing four turnovers, including a fumble late in the game with Arizona in range for a short game-winning field goal. It's a bit of déjà vu for Warner, who was gave way to then-rookie Eli Manning in 2004 after starting nine games. If you have Warner, it's time to pick up Leinart, although it's a big risk to start the former Heisman winner this week. Sure, Leinart has some great weapons around in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, but how quickly can he click with them when it matters -- especially when DeAngelo Hall will be covering at least one of them. Rookie QBs are always a risk, although Leinart does have decent value as the season progresses.
Shaun Alexander is averaging under three yards a carry this season and now will miss at least a game or two with foot injury.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Just as Steve Smith and Clinton Portis have returned to form, another big name has gone down, with the Madden curse striking again. Shaun Alexander, who hasn't looked right all season, is now out for at least a couple of weeks after suffering a cracked bone in his sore left foot. Coach Mike Holmgren said Alexander broke the bone during Sunday's win over the Giants in which he rushed for just 47 yards on 20 carries, although he scored a touchdown.
Alexander has 187 rushing yards on 65 carries (a 2.9 yard average) with a couple of scores this season. He's been battling that injured foot all season -- Holmgren said the bruise in Alexander's foot helped lead to the cracked bone. The upheaval in the offensive line, marked by Steve Hutchinson's offseason move to Minnesota, has helped contribute to Alexander's disappointing numbers.
The Seahawks have a very capable backup in Maurice Morris, who's averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his five-year career, although he has just two career touchdowns. In fact, many people drafted Morris for a situation just like this -- to fill in should the stud running back go down. And Morris will be a very popular waiver-wire pick this week as well -- you can be sure Alexander owners will go hard after him, as will other owners hoping to prevent the handcuff from occurring.
While Morris is going to be the starter, he faces a very tough matchup this week as the Seahawks go on the road to play the Bears. Plus, the Seahawks have a bye in Week 5, giving Alexander an extra week to recover. But given the fact that he'll be the starting running back for at least one week, Morris has plenty of fantasy value. However, don't be surprised if Matt Hasselbeck takes to the air even more this week with his arsenal of receivers.
-- Not surprisingly, Trent Green will not play for the Chiefs this weekend as he continues to recover from that nasty hit in the season opener. Damon Huard gets another start for Kansas City, which has a decent matchup against the 49ers.
-- Dennis Green was noncommittal on Monday about Kurt Warner's future as the Cardinals' starting quarterback after he committed four turnovers against the Rams, including a fumble in the final minutes as Arizona was in position for a game-winning field goal. Much like Alexander owners taking on Morris as a handcuff, Warner owners may be doing the same with Matt Leinart, who would be poised to take the job away from Warner.
Charlie Frye is tied for the NFL lead with three rushing touchdowns.
In many fantasy leagues, the scoring system often favors running backs over quarterbacks, which would explain why Brian Westbrook's three touchdowns and 168 total yards was likely more valuable than Matt Hasselbeck's five-TD (and three-INT) game against the Giants or Brett Favre's 340 yards and three scores against the Lions
However, while some big games from quarterbacks may still be dwarfed by similar impressive performances from running backs or wideouts (especially if your league gives points for receptions), signal callers often still have an out to save them from utterly disastrous fantasy games. And it's those rushing yards and especially the touchdowns that inflate their backfield mates' fantasy values.
You'll see some of that in action tonight as Michael Vick takes on the Falcons. Vick can go off for a 100-yard game at seemingly any moment, which helps offset his often average or mediocre yardage numbers. And even better are those touchdown runs, which often are more valuable than his passing scores. Of course, Vick can be a bit overrated because many believe he'll get great rushing stats (for a quarterback) every week when his passing numbers are only so-so on a weekly basis. But his ground stats aren't consistent, so it'd be nice to have good passing numbers to rely on, with the rushing being gravy.
However, a handful of quarterbacks did bail themselves out a little bit this week by turning to the ground, especially at the goal line, when the passing game wasn't necessarily there. Six quarterbacks had rushing touchdowns this week, and in at least a few cases, lifted them from bad or terrible games to passable fantasy performances.
For instance, Daunte Culpepper was below average once again, passing for just 168 yards. But add in a rushing TD to the mix and while he performed well below expectations against the Titans, those extra points may have come in handy. Of course, if your league deducts quarterbacks for sacks, then all bets were off since he went down five times. Culpepper has had a knack for running in the past, although his knee injury makes him a question mark for providing extra ground yards this season.
Also, Peyton Manning was kept in check by the tough Jags' defense (219 yards, 1 TD). But Manning helped himself out with a nifty naked bootleg at the goal line for his first rushing TD since 2002. You don't expect Manning to run all that much, but that score made a mediocre game (for Peyton, that is) not so awful. In that same game, Byron Leftwich also punched one in from the ground, helping to offset a very bad 107-yard, 1-TD, 2-INT performance through the air. Leftwich already has two rushing TDs this season in three games, matching his number of passing scores (but he has four picks).
A player who had a similar game as Leftwich (few passing yards but a TD run) was Chris Simms, who only passed for 139 yards with a TD and INT, but also perked up his somewhat meager fantasy stats with his scoring run. Of course, Simms' ruptured spleen may have had a lot to do with the stats, and that injury might've been aggravated even further with the leap and hard landing that came with the score.
While few fantasy owners likely started him, J.P. Losman helped out his big fantasy game (328 passing yards with a TD) with a short TD run as well, likely stealing a chance from Willis McGahee in the process.
Finally, there's Charlie Frye, whose penchant for finding the end zone on the ground is what's keeping him among the top-ranked fantasy quarterbacks this season. Frye only has two TD passes to go with five interceptions this season, and he ranks just 13th in passing yards. However, he's run for a score in each of the first three games this season, turning his marginal passing games into slightly passable ones. It's hard to expect him to keep up that pace, but with the way the Browns' offensive line has played (he's been sacked 12 times already), he'll keep on scrambling to get out of trouble and picking up some decent rushing yards in the process.
In fact, that's where things get interesting when it comes to quarterback rushing yards. Since sack yardage doesn't count against a player's rushing stats as it does in college, a quarterback who hits the deck often like Frye, Culpepper or David Carr won't be penalized as much as you might think from a fantasy perspective. Instead, since they're constantly trying to avoid the pass rush, some of the scrambles turn into positive yardage.
For instance, Carr rushed for 308 yards last season despite being sacked a whopping 68 times. Culpepper's best rushing year was in 2002 when he had 609 yards and 10 scores on the ground -- and had a career-worse 47 sacks. Vick's career-best 902 rushing yards in 2002 came the same year he was sacked 46 times, by far his worst total.
Just remember that while those additional rushing yards can really help a quarterback's value, counting on it every week will burn you. Be elated when it turns a very good performance into a great one and be happy when a so-so game becomes a decent one. But sometimes a bad game is a bad game, no matter how he runs.
Chris Simms suffered a ruptured spleen at some point during Sunday's game but played on, looking woozy in the process.
-- Obviously the big news is Chris Simms having emergency surgery to remove his spleen after Sunday's game against Carolina. Simms did play well, throwing for a score and running for another, although he was definitely in pain for much of the game after taking a number of big hits. It is unknown when Simms will return, and right now the No. 2 quarterback is rookie Bruce Gradkowski with Tim Rattay also on the roster. It could be tough going down the road for the Bucs offense. Tampa Bay does have a bye this week to get things in order.
-- Corey Dillon left Sunday night's game with an arm injury, giving Laurence Maroney the bulk of the carries. However, Maroney only finished with 18 yards on 12 carries, but did catch five passes for 61 yards. If Dillon can't go, Maroney becomes a must-start against the Bengals, who allowed a big game from Willie Parker on Sunday.
-- Vernon Davis fractured his fibula in the second half of the 49ers' loss to the Eagles on the same play that Frank Gore suffered an abdomen injury while fumbling the ball that was returned for a Philadelphia TD. Davis appears to be out at least four weeks, which allows former starter Eric Johnson to retake the job. Johnson had seven catches for 87 yards and a score late in the game against the Eagles. He should be a very popular waiver wire pick if not to replace Davis but as a bye-week fill-in for Heath Miller or Jeremy Shockey.
-- Speaking of Shockey, the Giants tight end ripped into coaches after their 42-30 loss to the Seahawks. It should be an interesting bye week for the Giants. However, ripping into coaches may have helped one former 'Canes tight end as Kellen Winslow went for seven catches and 92 yards this week after questioning his role in the offense during the week (although he apologized for those statements).
-- Back to the Niners, Gore's injury doesn't appear to be too serious, although don't be surprised to see rookie Michael Robinson or backup Maurice Hicks get more looks in the offense this week against the Chiefs. Robinson, who had two TDs after Gore's injury, may be the player to pick up off the waiver wire.
Brian Westbrook piled up 168 total yards with three touchdowns to sink the 49ers.
-- There were plenty of game-time decisions lingering this week, but the Donte Stallworth scratch had to take many fantasy owners by surprise. Of course, the way the Eagles played against the 49ers, they realized they had enough weapons without Stallworth (Brian Westbrook, Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith) to win -- but the same might not be said about your fantasy squad.
-- Deion Branch did make his Seahawks debut, but that just made Matt Hasselbeck turn into Tom Brady and throw the ball to everyone on the roster. That would explain four TD passes to four different receivers in the first half (none of them Branch). It helps to be starting every drive in enemy territory as the Seattle defense rattled Eli Manning early on. It took until the Giants were down 42-3 that Eli finally put big stats. But for fantasy purposes, it's what you do, not necessarily when you do it.
-- The Seattle run game still looks spotty even if Shaun Alexander did have a rushing touchdown. That could explain why the Seahawks went pass happy with all their great field position. And Hasselbeck seemed to be a bit complacent late, which would explain how he ended up with three picks to go with his five touchdowns.
-- Cleveland still has no running game (Jason Wright struggled starting in place of the injured Reuben Droughns) and the offensive line allowed seven sacks, but Charlie Frye finds ways to make plays, thanks to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, and put up numbers, although he also makes some ill-timed turnovers that led to the eventual loss. He's got a rushing TD in three straight games for instance. If he could find his way to nice numbers against the Ravens, just imagine what he'll do next week against the Raiders.
-- While Jamal Lewis had a good but not great game, Steve McNair finally connected with Derrick Mason to get a victory. McNair's stats are so up and down from game to game, although he knows to play from behind and pile up extra passing yards in the process.
-- The Rams-Cardinals game was ugly and bizarre. Sure, Marc Bulger had a 300-yard game, but he had a late fumble that should've given the game to Arizona except that Kurt Warner had four turnovers including his own late fumble that sealed the game for St. Louis. Larry Fitzgerald finally got on the TD board, and Edgerrin James did have his best game with the Cardinals (94 yards and a score). Also, unsurprisingly Torry Holt had another big game (8 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD).
-- The 49ers did pile up some yards at the end but also had the misfortune of losing both Frank Gore and Vernon Davis on the same play -- a Gore fumble near the goal line that the Eagles returned for a touchdown. That was one reason why rookie Michael Robinson ended up running in two touchdowns late in the game. And filling in for Davis was Eric Johnson, who proved that he still deserves consideration in the emerging San Francisco offense. If Davis misses a lot of time, Johnson is a guy to get off the waiver wire. One last note: Alex Smith set a career-high with 293 passing yards, although he was playing from way behind for most of the game.
-- Jake Plummer finally got his act together, connecting with Javon Walker on two long TDs -- the types of plays the Broncos (and fantasy owners) expected from the two of them. The Broncos also seemed to get their running game in order with Tatum Bell getting the bulk of the work and putting up a 100-yard game in the process.
-- Denver finally allowed a TD late in the game, as the Patriots got the passing game going because the Broncos shut down the running game (especially after Corey Dillon left the game in the first half with an arm injury). It was classic Tom Brady as he spread the ball around, especially Laurence Maroney out of the backfield and Doug Gabriel, who took three games to get his first catches for the Patriots (and may now be a popular waiver wire pick this week after scoring a touchdown).
-- The news of Chris Simms’ surgery to remove his spleen following Sunday’s game was a major shock, especially given that he played a decent game against the Panthers. While reports have him recovering just fine, it is does cast some doubts about the Tampa Bay offense in upcoming weeks. The Bucs are off next week, giving him some time to recuperate without missing action. However, Tampa Bay could be in trouble trying to replace him -- Bruce Gradkowski has been the primary backup for now.
Clinton Portis had 164 total yards and two TDs in his first start of the season.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
-- At least for one week, Mark Brunell can ward off the critics looking for a change in quarterback as he set an NFL record with 22 consecutive completions (to start the game no less). Granted, lots of it was short stuff, but those little gains do add up. Plus, he was able to get all of those targets on the team into the action. It also says something about the Texans pass defense. And speaking of the Redskins, this is what everyone was expecting from Clinton Portis all year long. Plus, Ladell Betts got into the action as well and put up big numbers, especially in the fourth quarter with the 'Skins nursing a big lead.
-- Steve Smith did indeed make his return and he came back in a big way with a 100-yard game, including receptions of 33 and 41 yards. Meanwhile, Keyshawn Johnson seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder against his former Bucs mates, scoring two early TDs. The Panthers offense was clicking again, including a decent outing from DeShaun Foster (20 carries, 82 yards). At least he's held off DeAngelo Williams (4 carries, -1 yards) for this week. But the big winner in the Carolina offense was John Kasay, who had four field goals -- all over 40 yards and two over 50, great numbers if you give bonuses for longer scores.
-- Brett Favre still has a few more big games left in him after torching the Lions on Sunday. Detroit's pass defense is very bad, and it gets Marc Bulger and the Rams next week. Favre is definitely a guy very dependent on matchups at this point in his career, but at least when the time is right, there's a vintage performance still in the works. And not a bad game either from Jon Kitna (342 yards), which does say something about the Packers defense as well.
-- Also in this game was the quiet big rushing/receiving games from both Ahman Green (63 rushing, 68 receiving, 1 TD receiving) and Kevin Jones (81 rushing, 44 receiving, 1 TD rushing).
-- Kerry Collins had decent numbers (269 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) against the Dolphins, keeping him around for another week. Meanwhile, Daunte Culpepper was sacked five times (but ran for a TD) and passed for just 168 yards. Yeesh. At least his Dolphins won, and now draw the Texans next week. Maybe Culpepper's numbers get better then.
-- Ben Roethlisberger again turned in subpar numbers (208 yards, 3 INTs), but you have to wonder how much of it is the opposing defenses or how much of it is him. He's got a bye week to get his game back in order, although he gets the Chargers in Week 5. With Big Ben struggling, that hurts the stats of guys like Heath Miller and Hines Ward. However, Willie Parker was back on track after being shut down on Monday nigh. Unfortunately, the Steelers couldn't use him enough to stop the Bengals.
-- Speaking of Cincinnati, Carson Palmer had a bizarre stat line (193 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 lost fumble), but leagues friendly to TD passes must like Carson this week. Interesting that Palmer threw two TD passes each to Chris Henry and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, with Chad Johnson a non-factor (1 catch, 11 yards). At least Palmer was able to make up for a quiet game from Rudi Johnson (19 carries, 47 yards).
-- Peyton Manning's numbers were pedestrian by his standards (14-31, 219 yards, 1 TD passing, 1 TD rushing), but expectations had to be lowered against a tough Jaguars defense. And a good job by the Colts to keep the team in the game even though they got gashed on the ground by Fred Taylor (74 rushing yards) and the surprising Maurice Drew (103 yards rushing, 32 yards plus a score receiving). Of course, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne owners are still waiting for a TD catch. Dallas Clark caught Manning's only score -- and he was ridiculously wide open on that play. Oh yeah, the Colts running game was pretty much invisible, but after Willie Parker was stymied on Monday night, that wasn't a surprise. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai may do something against the Jets next week.
-- The Jets gave up big numbers to both J.P. Losman (328 yards, 1 TD passing, 1 rushing) and Willis McGahee (150 yards) but somehow won. Chad Pennington's 300-yard streak did indeed end (183 yards, 1 TD to Chris Baker) but was effective, and while none of the Jets running backs had big stats, they did get two scores from Kevan Barlow and Cedric Houston. Lee Evans finally came through for the Bills with a 100-yard game, and speedster Roscoe Parrish had a big score for Buffalo as well.
-- David Carr still continues to put up passable stats, although most of it comes in garbage time. He did orchestrate a nice early drive marked by a nice long pass to Andre Johnson (who's emerging as a great fantasy wideout if he can only get the TD catches going to every tight end on the roster) and finished with 208 yards and two scores. He was also sacked only once, although he threw his first pick of the year. Just imagine if Carr could play like this the whole game. Also, Ron Dayne ran reasonably well (14 carries, 58 yards), possibly holding off Samkon Gado for another couple of weeks.
-- Rex Grossman piled up the yards again this week, although it took a late TD pass to previously unknown Rashied Davis to be somewhat respectable from a fantasy perspective, not to mention giving the Bears the win. Thomas Jones is still an enigma, going for just 54 yards on 18 carries. Chicago keeps winning, or else Jones would be more scrutinized. That defense did clamp down on the Vikings offense, with Minnesota's only score coming on a Grossman interception returned for a score. Minnesota will have better days, but it's also very matchup-oriented. With Buffalo next week, I'd be hesitant again.
-- And for one note that probably came way too late for fantasy owners: the Eagles scratched Donte Stallworth, meaning Reggie Brown could have a big game against the 49ers.
-- Maurice Drew is just 5-7, but he looks like he can play as he outgained Fred Taylor in the first half 87-67 as the Jags ran the air out of the ball to keep Peyton Manning off the field. The first part did work, although it was Byron Leftwich who scored the Jags’ only TD, but somehow they could only muster the one score, while the Colts stayed in the game with a Terrence Wilkins’ punt return for a score. Give Manning some time in the second half, and his stats will bounce back.
-- Clinton Portis looks just fine, taking a shovel pass for a 74-yard gain in the first quarter and then had a 30-yard TD run just before halftime. Also, Mark Brunell has done just fine, going 14-for-14 for 191 yards and a TD in the first half. With the way the Texans pass defense has played so far, maybe Daunte Culpepper can even have a big game next week.
-- Willis McGahee with 114 yards in the first half against the Jets. Not too surprising. J.P. Losman with 149 passing yards and a score at the half. That’s a surprise, but it was a nice catch and run by Roscoe Parrish for 51 yards to provide the bulk of the stats.
-- Congrats to Brett Favre on his 400th TD pass, and it looks like Greg Jennings is proving to be a great second option for Favre this year, but credit Donald Driver for a nice block on the milestone TD.
-- Steve Smith is active this week and should see some action against the Bucs. With his hamstring injury, it’s hard to figure out how much he’ll play or how much he’ll produce. If you’ve got better options on your team, go with that, although Smith might be good for a big play or two.
-- Clinton Portis said he will start and he’s got a great matchup against the Texans, so don’t be afraid to start him.
-- T.J. Houshmandzadeh, like Steve Smith, will play although he’ll be the No. 3 guy behind Chad Johnson and Chris Henry. However, there should be plenty of balls to go around in Cincinnati this week.
-- Adam Vinatieri and Brandon Stokley will miss today’s game for the Colts. While Stokley may not have been a factor for many fantasy teams, Vinatieri owners will have to get a backup -- Indianapolis signed Martin Gramatica for this week, although there could be decent options on the waiver wire.
-- Chris Brown is inactive for the Titans this week, giving Travis Henry the start. Henry could have a decent game against the Dolphins, although LenDale White will see his share of carries as well.
-- Derrick Blaylock is inactive for the Jets, meaning Kevan Barlow will start and get the bulk of the carries if you’re desperate for a running back. However, Cedric Houston will get some looks, so see how he fares there.
-- Ron Dayne gets the start for the Texans this week, but that might just for a week or two before Samkon Gado becomes the starter.
-- Among players battling injuries this week who will play include Laveranues Coles, Troy Williamson and Matt Jones.