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5 Minute Fantasy
Adam Duerson
November 13, 2006
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November 13, 2006

5 Minute Fantasy

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His run-pass potential makes him irresistible, but will Michael Vick ever be a consistent performer?

MICHAEL VICK has yet to develop into the standout passer that the Falcons were promoting before the season began. After throwing a combined seven TD passes in wins over the Steelers and the Bengals, he reverted to his erratic form in Sunday's loss to the Lions (163 yards, one TD, two interceptions). As much as the Falcons want to believe that Vick's decision to spend his first full off-season in Atlanta is paying off--a team source said last week that "the lightbulb has come on for him"--the dividends aren't showing up on a regular basis.

A ray of hope for Vick owners is the emergence of wide receiver Ashley Lelie, whom Atlanta acquired in a trade with Denver on Aug. 23. Lelie, 26, brought valuable speed as a third receiver, and he has helped the Falcons' younger wideouts, Michael Jenkins and Roddy White, learn how to prepare for game day. But Vick owners should brace themselves for more of the same inconsistency overall.

Disgruntled Carson Palmer owners can blame the Bengals' offensive line for the decline in the quarterback's fantasy numbers. Ever since losing starting center Rich Braham--who suffered a deep bruise to his left knee in a Week 2 win over the Browns--the unit has struggled to play cohesively. To fill in for Braham, Cincinnati first tried Eric Ghiaciuc and then left guard Eric Steinbach, and now is back to Ghiaciuc. The juggling has made it hard for the group to make consistent line calls, which means Palmer has a more difficult time avoiding pressure in the pocket.

This doesn't mean that Palmer won't still produce the 300-yard, three-touchdown games that were a constant for him last season. It just means that owners need to be mindful of when he's facing a team with a pass rush capable of giving him problems.

Houston's running back situation has come full circle, with Wali Lundy, the Week 1 starter, returning to favor among the coaching staff. There is still some talk about a rotation--with Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado splitting the short-yardage touches--but Lundy has capitalized on his recent opportunity as the lead back. He has gained 252 yards in the last three games while Dayne's star appears to be fading because he's not hitting the holes quickly enough.

The Ravens' Jamal Lewis may never again be the dominant running back that he was a few years back, but one thing is for sure: He's going to get more touches now that coach Brian Billick is calling the plays. Over the last two games Lewis has logged 55 carries. That's his highest two-game total this season, and his teammates like Billick's renewed dedication to the running game. "That's what we need," says wide receiver Derrick Mason. "Anytime Jamal gets a lot of carries, guys don't want to tackle him in the fourth quarter. He's 245 pounds coming downhill, and he's going to get stronger as the game goes on."

A longtime fantasy stud, LaDainian Tomlinson had only one 100-yard rushing effort through his first six games. Tomlinson's offensive linemen were as agitated by that statistic as his fantasy owners, especially because the Chargers were starting to be referred to as a finesse team. San Diego's front five responded by clearing the way for Tomlinson's 183-yard performance in a Week 8 win over the Rams and his 172-yard game against the Browns on Sunday. "[The linemen] didn't apologize for it," said Tomlinson, "but you knew they were pretty upset about not being able to run the ball effectively."


... it's time to get on the Patriots' bandwagon--quick

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