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.
10/12/2006 04:11:00 PM
He's out, and we mean it
There's no doubt about it, Larry Fitzgerald will miss Monday's game with a hamstring injury.
Fantasy owners definitely want a sense of closure, so to speak, when it comes to injured players. Are they playing or are they not? Forget doubtful, questionable, probable, etc. Yes or no? Owners who had guys like Ahman Green, Brian Westbrook, Donte Stallworth or Adam Vinatieri in recent weeks know how it feels to have a player benched at the last second with a lingering injury.
Which makes this week somewhat different than others in that a number of top players have already been ruled out -- either officially on the injury report, or by other means -- giving you time to make other arrangements. And with six teams on byes this week, that waiver wire is going to be extra busy this week.
Here's the rundown of the top players you definitely won't be seeing this week: -- Larry Fitzgerald: His hamstring injury will keep him out up to five weeks. Not only will he miss this week (which may not be a big loss against the Bears), but likely favorable matchups against the Raiders and Packers in the next couple of weeks before the Week 9 bye. Anquan Boldin likely gets a few more looks in the offense, with Bryant Johnson and Troy Walters seeing their numbers improve as well.
-- Shaun Alexander: Officially ruled out for this week, although few probably even thought he'd be back from his foot injury this week anyways. It could be a fluid situation in upcoming weeks, though, so be cautious of that. Maurice Morris is back as the starter, and he should have a much better game than his last outing against the Bears two weeks ago.
-- Daunte Culpepper: Partly injury, partly a coach's decision, Culpepper will miss at least the next two weeks. I still find it difficult to cut him outright, but if you've got to fill out your roster this week, he may be worth letting go.
-- DeAngelo Williams: His ankle isn't broken, but he does have a severe sprain that will keep him out this week in a tough matchup against the Ravens. That means DeShaun Foster carries even more of the load and at least solves that sometimes muddled situation for this week.
-- John Hall: The Redskins kicker went on IR and is done for the season. Nick Novak replaces him on the roster if you're looking for a bye-week kicker.
-- Marty Booker: Officially listed as doubtful with a chest injury, but he's going to miss a couple of weeks at least. The injury just opens up more playing time for Wes Welker, who's been sharp lately. It could also boost the numbers of rookie Derek Hagan, who reportedly might actually get the start in Booker's place.
-- Brandon Stokley: Actually you won't see any Colts this week because they're on a bye. However, Stokley has been ruled out for a couple of more weeks after that with a knee injury, so you may just want to cut him outright.
-- Robert Ferguson: His Packers are on a bye this week, but Ferguson will be out 4-6 weeks after that with a sprained foot. Not like he was much of a factor from a fantasy point of view, but it does put more of the spotlight on Koren Robinson (who's got his own legal problems to deal with). However, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are the only Green Bay wideouts you can count on for consistent numbers.
Of course, there are also a number of players still up in the air that will drive owners crazy up until gametime Sunday with their injuries: -- Jeremy Shockey: The foot and ankle injuries make him a major question mark. -- Brian Westbrook: The knee is better, but you never know with him. -- Donte Stallworth: Likely won't play with the hamstring injury, but who knows. -- Drew Bennett: Questionable with an ankle, probably best to avoid if possible. -- Bobby Engram: Thyroid condition could keep him out. However, the Seahawks passing game is very crowded with Jerramy Stevens making his season debut. -- Todd Heap: Ankle injury makes him questionable, but he usually plays. -- Laveranues Coles: Seemingly always listed on the injury report, but he always plays.
Finally, one more interesting injury note for this week: Curtis Martin is eligible to come of the physically unable to perform list next week, and there's a feeling that he indeed will play this season. The Jets running game is still up in the air with rookie Leon Washington the latest back du jour, so a healthy Martin wouldn't be stealing time from anyone really fantasy worthy. He's already been picked up off the waiver wire in the SI.com Experts League this week, and you may want to do the same just in case.
Jeremy Shockey, who has dealt with a number of injuries this season, is among the early disappointments at tight end.
Peter Read Miller/SI
One blog commenter mentioned this earlier in the week, and it's worth looking into a little more. What has happened to tight ends this year? With the rise of Antonio Gates and the emergence of players like Todd Heap, Alge Crumpler, Chris Cooley and L.J. Smith to go along with Tony Gonzalez, it looked like the tight end was starting to have a bit of a fantasy resurgence.
Last season, Gates was the 26th-ranked player in all of fantasy (according to the SI.com Experts League scoring system) and six others (Heap, Gonzalez, Crumpler, Cooley, Jeremy Shockey, Jason Witten) showing up among the top 80. And heading into this season, there were about 10-12 tight ends who looked like solid picks even if you couldn't land Gates. The players already listed, as well as Heath Miller, Ben Watson and Randy McMichael were all very highly touted.
But the early returns (and granted there are byes involved) haven't looked good for tight ends, unless you count Marques Colston (who qualifies as a tight end in many fantasy leagues).
Only one player ranks among the top 50 overall, and that's Kellen Winslow, who's been injured his first two seasons. Gates and Gonzalez are only fifth and sixth, respectively among tight ends and 121 and 127 overall. Among the crop of highly regarded tight ends from last year, only Heap (87 overall) and Smith (92) have put up decent stats, while guys like Witten (207), Cooley (191) and Crumpler (200) are being outdone by players like the resurgent Clarks, Desmond (107) and Dallas (157), Bo Scaife (182) and George Wrighster (151).
McMichael might've been part of that list too, except that he finally had a solid game in Week 5 after being invisible most of the season. Seeing McMichael's surge does raise hopes for Witten, Cooley or Crumpler, as some of the early numbers are skewed a tad by those players whose only offensive contributions are goal-line scores (otherwise known as fantasy killers since no one is owning those TD vultures). The top tight ends should get those catches, but they also have to pick up the bigger receptions and yards to make them valuable. Sometimes it's trying to develop a rapport with a quarterback or it's facing the right defense that makes the tight end a useful safety valve. And the numbers should balance out a bit once all the bye weeks clear.
What the early returns really do show is that you don't necessarily have to spend a very early draft pick on an Gates (especially when he's only fifth among tight ends), or for that matter reach for a player like Heap, Shockey or Gonzalez. Winslow was highly regarded entering the season but he ranked behind all of them in many cases. And the Clarks were likely drafted as backup tight ends at best. But while there may be some buyer's remorse, would you have drafted a highly-rated kicker or some mid-level wideout or quarterback there?
Another news and notes: -- There is a change at kicker in Washington with Nick Novak, who played at nearby Maryland, taking over for the injured John Hall. With the Redskins playing the sometimes defensive challenged Titans this week, Novak could be an OK bye-week pickup.
-- Lee Suggs is out in Miami, although it's not like he did a whole lot. Sammy Morris is back from his suspension, making Suggs expendable. And teammate Marty Booker will be out a couple of weeks with a torn pectoral muscle. He hasn't been useful in fantasy terms for a while, but his replacement Wes Welker could be a decent pickup given his 27 catches, which ranks him ninth in the league.
-- Larry Johnson's neck is still sore after that nasty helmet twist in Sunday's game against the Cardinals, but he appears ready to go, although he faces a tough challenge in the Steelers this week.
If you were relying on the Monday night game to give you enough fantasy points to win your game, you likely came up short unless you had Al Wilson in IDP leagues (16 total tackles, 12 solo) or the Broncos defense with the three interceptions and two sacks. Denver has allowed just one TD in its first four games, which doesn’t bode well for the Raiders on Sunday night.
Steve McNair could’ve sunk teams by himself with those three picks (which doubled his season total), and his sometimes erratic play will affect the values of Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Todd Heap. Plus, Jamal Lewis continues to not look like the Lewis of old, going for just 43 yards on 15 carries against an underrated Broncos defense. Musa Smith is definitely gaining on him, and Mike Anderson even got some looks back in Denver.
As for the Broncos, it’s not like they had dynamite numbers, either. Tatum Bell did establish himself as the primary running back, going for 92 yards on 19 carries, with Mike Bell getting nothing. And Jake Plummer only passed for 106 yards but did connect with veteran Rod Smith for a score. Other than that 130-yard, two-TD explosion against the Patriots, Javon Walker has been relatively quiet with 11 catches for 183 yards in his other three outings this season.
Larry Fitzgerald scored his second TD of the season on Sunday but will miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
-- Just so you have the heads up, there are six teams on byes this week: Cleveland, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Minnesota and New England. So the waiver wire should extra busy this week thanks to filling in bye-week players, not to mention some of the injuries from Sunday.
-- Bad news for Larry Fitzgerald owners: The star wideout will miss 2-5 weeks with the hamstring injury suffered on Sunday. Anquan Boldin should get a few more looks from Matt Leinart, and Bryant Johnson should also be very involved in the offense as well. The matchup against the Bears next Monday is scary, but after that, the Cardinals have Oakland and Green Bay.
-- As if the Lions didn't have enough problems with Roy Williams getting hurt, they also have three starting offensive linemen who could be out on Sunday. That'll pose problems for Kevin Jones (who seems to be more valuable in point-per-reception leagues) and especially Jon Kitna. As for Detroit's passing game, ex-Rams Az Hakim and Mike Furrey could hold down the fort, although Buffalo's defense is very tricky (Sunday's shellacking by the Bears notwithstanding).
-- Speaking of Lions (or former ones), Joey Harrington will get the start again this week as the Dolphins face the Jets. It's an OK matchup if you're really daring, but that also says a lot about the confidence in Daunte Culpepper. Harrington was decent, but nothing special against the Patriots on Sunday.
-- The Patriots added yet another Florida receiver to the mix, signing Jabar Gaffney to go with Reche Caldwell and rookie Chad Jackson. Right now, it's hard to figure out which New England receiver will get decent looks, but it is interesting that the Patriots have become Gainesville North.
-- Brian Westbrook's knee felt better after Sunday's game, which bodes well for this week's matchup with the Saints, but at this point, don't expect Donte Stallworth to face his former team with his hamstring still acting up.
Terrell Owens was targeted plenty of times against the Eagles but finished with just three catches for 45 yards.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Terrell Owens' so-so statistical performance against the Eagles wasn't totally his fault -- especially looking at some of Drew Bledsoe's very questionable decisions on Sunday. But looking at Owens' numbers as well as those of a handful of other top wideouts this week, you've got to wonder exactly how much of the wide receiver position is really a crap shoot.
All of the Sunday games produced just four 100-yard receivers, and only one of them, Joey Galloway, would've been considered a decent draft pick at the start of the season. (There was that sort of fluky 100-yard game from Larry Johnson, but sometimes you'll get that from the No. 1 overall pick). Greg Jennings wasn't on the radar until late in camp but has become a dependable target for Brett Favre, and Hank Baskett had a brief fling in camp but returned to obscurity after the Donte Stallworth trade. There are some weeks when plenty of wideouts (both known and unknown) break the century mark, but only four so far is odd.
What's even weirder is that despite the dearth of 100-yard receivers this week, a lot of the top guys did score touchdowns, just with not that many yards. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne both finally scored their first TDs of the season but they also combined for just 53 yards. (Brandon Stokley, who had been dealing with a bunch of injuries lately, outgained them by four yards). Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin also both scored (in a very sharp starting debut from Matt Leinart), but Fitzgerald only had 15 yards before hurting his hamstring, while Boldin went for 71. Bryant Johnson actually led the way for the Cards with 82 yards.
Other top guys like Randy Moss (52 yards) and Torry Holt (40 yards) also scored touchdowns, salvaging less than stellar fantasy games.
On the other hand, some of the top performances this week that weren't 100-yard receivers came from Lee Evans (9 catches, 94 yards, 1 TD), who's returning to form as Buffalo's top wideout and Bernard Berrian (4 catches, 97 yards, 1 TD), whose value continues to rise as Chicago's big-play guy. And somehow it was Arnaz Battle, who caught two TDs for the Niners.
Maybe it's just a fluke week, since only one quarterback broke 300 yards, but counting on your top receivers for consistent stats on a week-to-week basis can often hurt you.
Reggie Bush caught 11 passes and scored his first career touchdown on a 65-yard punt return.
Here’s the rundown of some of the key injuries and other notable fantasy storylines from Week 5:
It was a big weekend for top players getting hurt, here’s a quick rundown: Jeremy Shockey (foot), Larry Johnson (neck), DeAngelo Williams (ankle), Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), Roy Williams (shoulder), Kevin Jones (concussion), Brandon Stokley (knee).
Lions-Vikings: Chester Taylor continues to pile up big yards on the ground, and while Brad Johnson is passable as a quarterback, Troy Williamson has been quiet after a hot start. … Another former Ram, Az Hakim, is turning into a decent target in Mike Martz’s offense in Detroit. … Minnesota’s defense provided a lot of the scoring, but isn’t Jon Kitna to blame for some of that?
Titans-Colts: Indianapolis is still struggling to stop the run, which is how the Titans stayed in contention thanks to a big game from Travis Henry. However, there was no passing game to go with it. … Both Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison finally scored their first TDs of the year, but had few yards to go with it. … Dominic Rhodes (84 rushing yards) and Joseph Addai (62) both ran very well again but the split carries continue to hurt their value.
Rams-Packers: Marc Bulger spread the ball around to nine different receivers. … Greg Jennings did step up his game with Donald Driver hurting, going for a 100-yard game, and Koren Robinson was at least marginally useful (4 catches, 42 yards). … Vernand Morency’s fumble problems led to a big game from Noah Herron, who also stepped in for Samkon Gado last year.
Bills-Bears: Another game, another double-digit point game for Robbie Gould (16). … Lee Evans (9 catches, 94 yards, 1 TD) has resumed his role as the only receiver worth having from Buffalo. … Cedric Benson finally got himself into decent action, scoring twice. … Bernard Berrian continues to big Rex Grossman’s top big-play threat, although his TD was just 8 yards (but he did have a 62-yard catch).
Browns-Panthers: Kellen Winslow (8 catches, 55 yards) continues to look good in at least point-per-catch leagues. … DeAngelo Williams injured his ankle, giving DeShaun Foster more time, but giving Carolina a little less security at running back.
Buccaneers-Saints: Bruce Gradkowski was decent in his first NFL start, making Joey Galloway (4 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD) his top target – not a bad thing to have. … Cadillac Williams finally busted out with his first 100-yard game of the season. … Reggie Bush continues to be great in point-per-reception leagues, picking up 11 in addition to his punt return for a score – his first NFL TD. However, Deuce McAllister is still the main guy for dependable rushing stats in New Orleans.
Redskins-Giants: New York’s defense woke up after the bye week, racking up three sacks of Mark Brunell and keeping Washington’s offense very quiet. … The Giants couldn’t close that much either, with Jay Feely attempting five field goals, hitting four. … With Jeremy Shockey hurting, the duo of Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress is looking like a decent 1-2 combo all year long.
Dolphins-Patriots: Joey Harrington started for the injured Daunte Culpepper and threw for 232 yards with two picks and no scores. However, he did get Randy McMichael (6 catches, 84 yards) back into the fantasy landscape and help make Wes Welker (9 catches, 77 yards) the second-most useful wideout in Miami. … The Patriots 1-2 punch of Corey Dillon (10 carries, 45 yards) and Laurence Maroney (18 carries, 38 yards) was quiet, although Maroney got the clock-killing duty late. … Troy Brown was the top receiver this time, but figuring out who gets the touches in New England is becoming a huge guessing game.
Raiders-49ers: As expected, it was a bounceback week for Alex Smith, who had three TD passes (two to Arnaz Battle), and Frank Gore (172 total yards but no scores). However, Eric Johnson (3 catches, 23 yards) has been a bust since that big game in place of the injured Vernon Davis. … Andrew Walter continues to turn the ball over, but at least LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss had OK games, but great based on your expectations of Raiders. … Michael Robinson was a bust in goal-line carries, so Gore could get more of those looks soon.
Jets-Jaguars: A lost day for Chad Pennington and Laveranues Coles, but a great day for Leon Washington, who piled up a 100-yard game in his hometown (although most of it was in garbage time). He could be pushing Kevan Barlow for the featured back role. … Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor appear to be the latest of the top 1-2 RB combos – many of them featuring rookie backs. In good weeks, both are worth starting, especially if you start three RBs and/or a flex player.
Chiefs-Cardinals: Matt Leinart got off to a hot start in his first NFL start, although Arizona’s line eventually came back to haunt him. Plus, Larry Fitzgerald hurt his hamstring, limiting Leinart’s options a tad, although Bryant Johnson is a great pickup if Fitzgerald misses time. … Given the right matchups, Damon Huard continues to be a decent quarterback, even though Tony Gonzalez has been very quiet (1 catch, 25 yards). It helps that Larry Johnson had a 100-yard receiving game.
Cowboys-Eagles: Three catches for 45 yards is all Terrell Owens got, although he was targeted 12 times. A couple of the throws turned into Lito Sheppard picks, including one in the end zone returned 102 yards for a score. The other Cowboys top receiving targets, Terry Glenn (5 catches, 61 yards) and Jason Witten (4 catches, 51 yards) weren’t that much better. … Drew Bledsoe got rattled a ton by the Eagles, but somehow got a rushing TD. … No Donte Stallworth, but Donovan McNabb still got his third 300-yard game this year thanks to long TDs to Hank Baskett and Reggie Brown, not to mention decent receiving games from L.J. Smith and Brian Westbrook (who was a slight surprise as a starter).
Steelers-Chargers: San Diego is giving Philip Rivers a chance to win games on his own, and he showed why with a solid effort against a solid Pittsburgh defense -- even getting decent games from Antonio Gates and Eric Parker. ... While LaDainian Tomlinson was held to just 70 total yards, Michael Turner is getting more and more looks, helping his value but giving LT a slight bump down. ... Ben Roethlisberger now has seven picks and no TDs this season, although he looked a bit better than in recent weeks.