StrategyOctober 23, 2007

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Tuesday Morning Quarterback – Week 7

By Michael Stephens

Five touchdown passes in the first half? Eight Field goals in a game! These are just a few of the high points in another wild and wacky week of the 2007 NFL season. The disturbingly high burnout rate of first round picks is leaving many teams in fantasy (and reality) reeling to find a foothold before they slip backwards into oblivion. If your team is 4-3 or better, you are in pretty good shape, but if you are on the other side of the coin it’s time to scramble faster than Travis Henry would from news of a ninth child.

This piece will cover many topics from week seven including results, injury updates, potential deals, and what to expect from the coming weeks. It’s time to pull up a chair and hunker down as we review the happenings of week seven…

• Patriots 49, Dolphins 28
Tom Brady threw 6 touchdown passes, including 5 in the first 30 minutes. He is the best quarterback in the game and is a must start, period. Randy Moss gave us more of the same with a couple of big plays on jump balls, and Wes Welker continued to surprise with his 9 catches for 138 yards and 2 scores. He is a top #2 WR option from here on out and should continue to see double-digit targets. I don’t know what to make of the Patriots running game, as Maroney came back to supplant the injured Sammy Morris with 6 carries for 31 yards, but I wouldn’t count on the first round production many expected from Maroney going forward.

The huge story of this game emerged after the final whistle. Ronnie Brown will miss the rest of the year with a severe knee injury, though the exact extent is not known at the time of publishing. Jesse Chatman has run quite well in short spurts backing up Brown, and will now become the feature back for this anemic offense. He is definitely worth owning if you just lost Brown or are looking thin in your backfield. Cleo Lemon managed to scamper for a score, but he was simply over-matched, and if you started him this week you probably got what you paid for. Ted Ginn Jr and Derek Hagan are ownable, but don’t hold your breath.

• Saints 22, Falcons 16
With no Aaron Brooks and Michael Vick stories for the announcers to beat to death, its a wonder anyone could stay interested in this game! Drew Brees had his second decent game in a row and now has 4 touchdown passes in his last 2 contests. Marques Colston remains a ghost in this passing attack which has rendered all targets not named Reggie Bush useless. Bush is still a must start as a number 2 back or flex option, but I just don’t see anything spectacular coming from him on a weekly basis. Eric Johnson looks like nice bye-week filler at tight end if you are digging for scraps.

The Byron Leftwich era in Atlanta is again put on hold, as the statuesque signal caller suffered a high ankle sprain midway through the contest and will likely miss some time. The Dirty Birds are on a bye next week, but Joey Harringon will undoubtedly take over in week 9. Jerrious Norwood again ran the ball more effectively than Warrick Dunn on a limited workout, but still isn’t getting the looks to warrant a flex start most weeks. Hang on to him for now though. Roddy White torched the Saints secondary for 110 yards and a score, but who hasn’t run wild on this secondary? He is ownable in deeper leagues, but temper your expectations.

• Giants 33, 49ers 15
Brandon Jacobs owners, it is now OK for you to exhale. The bruising back fully regained his featured role in the potent Giants offense and is a must start as a number two back almost every week he is healthy. With his strong, yet patient running style, he is able to get great quality out of his 20 or so touches and continues to impress since his return. Plaxico Burress did not score for the first time this year, but remains a top 5 wideout and a must start. Eli Manning let us down statistically because many people did not realize fully until this game was over, exactly how putrid the ‘Niners are on both sides of the ball. Continue to start him going forward.

Frank Gore doesn’t quite fit the mold of first round busts for this season, because he has been relatively productive so far, especially when you consider the “talent” surrounding him. He remains one of the most dynamic tailbacks in the league and is a must start, as he is the only consistent threat to score on a weekly basis. The only other shining spot for this team is the young linebacker, Patrick Willis. This guy is an IDP beast and impresses me more each and every time I watch him play. The tackle machine is an absolute must start on this porous defense.

• Titans 38, Texans 36
This was the wackiest game of the week, by far. We all know about Rob Bironas’ 8 field goal/29 point performance, so I won’t dwell on that as it simply proves what a gamble kickers are week by week. LenDale White surprised me by averaging just a hair under 4 yards per carry and found paydirt. With Chris Brown out and White not being the most durable of options, I would pick Chris Henry up again as he looked pretty solid in limited work. Roydell Williams looks to be emerging to fill the shoes that many thought Brandon Jones would fill, and is also worth a speculative pickup. Vince Young should return for week 8, but he remains unstartable as far as I’m concerned.

The other subplot to this game was Matt Schaub being knocked out, forcing Sage Rosenfels into a role familiar to him from his days in Miami. Sage threw the ball all over the yard in the second half and fell just short in a heroic bid to erase a 25 point fourth quarter deficit. For those of you that didn’t see this game, Kevin Walter is officially worth owning as he topped the 5 catch and 70 yard marks for the fourth straight week; and this time he added a touchdown to his resume. Andre Davis was an afterthought in this game with one nice catch on a hail mary with less than 2 minutes left. He was ineffective and invisible for much of the game otherwise.

• Bills 19, Ravens 14
We have a Lee Evans sighting! The former Wisconsin wide-out topped 5 catches for just the second time this season and fell 2 yards short of reaching 100 for the first time this season; and he did this against the Ravens of all teams. He is still a number 3 option at best on most teams, but he has a history of big second halves, and might be getting in sync with Trent Edwards. A JP Losman return could help him too. Nobody thought that Marshawn Lynch would top 80 yards and score on this D but he ran just effectively enough to ice this one, and as long as Trent Edwards stops throwing ill-timed picks for touchdowns, these guys could win 6 games after all!

The Ravens offense is exactly what we thought that it was – bad. No matter who plays quarterback for this team, Derrick Mason remains a good play as he topped 75 yards and scored again this week. Willis McGahee ran the ball OK, but his totals were bolstered by his one nice run of the game, a 46-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter. He remains a must-start, as this offense must control the clock and pray a little bit to win each and every week. No matter how good your defense is, you simply cannot win in the NFL with execution like this. Matt Stover posted his weakest game of the year, but he’ll likely be on track again after their bye week.

• Redskins 21, Cardinals 19
This was a truly ugly game, and I apologize to each and every person to whom I recommended starting Jason Campbell (unless it was over Trent Edwards or Marc Bulger). 95 yards passing with an interception pretty much kills the value of all receivers in this offense, but with this performance removed from memory, I don’t think you can start anyone other than Chris Cooley as a pass-catcher from this squad. Bench Santana Moss until further notice. Clinton Portis found paydirt twice, but averaged 2.4 yards per carry against a mediocre Cardinal defense. One thing is for sure though, Ladell Betts has no value aside from a Portis handcuff.

If you were forced to start Warner and don’t have a team quarterback option, I’m guessing you would like to see the Wizzenator’s head on a platter for putting in Tim Rattay to vulture a touchdown pass at the end of the game. That said, Warner proved to be a much better performer with his injury and against this defense than anyone had thought. He mustered 2 touchdown passes and over 250 yards in a game that the Cards would have won if Neil Rackers could have connected from 55 yards. It was nice to see Anquan Boldin come back with 2 touchdowns, and it appears to be safe to start both Cardinal wide receivers from here on out.

• Lions 23, Buccaneers 16
I don’t think anyone saw this one coming. John Kitna threw for 147 yards, Roy Williams caught 3 balls for 23 yards, and the Lions won? Sure enough, this is how you cover for your offense – play relatively well on defense and DON’T turn the ball over, who knew?. Kitna is no longer a weekly start until he shows that this passing attack can still thrive, which is a couple of weeks away as far as I can tell. Williams and Johnson are still startable, but I would temper my expectations until Mike Martz can get this high-flying offense on track. It was nice to see Kevin Jones show signs of re-emergence. Keep an eye on him in the future, and play the matchups for now.

The surprise of this game was Ernest Graham, whom our guts (as well as many fantasy experts) told us to bench or use as a flex option. I hope you found way to start him, as he tallied a whopping 13 receptions and 191 total yards. You still have to play the matchups with him, but he might be on track again. Those of us who started the Tampa Bay defense got a very flat performance this week, but I still like this unit as a starting fantasy defense many weeks looking forward. I don’t know how they tallied only 3 sacks and did not force a turnover against this Lions offense, but I’m willing to give them a mulligan. Jeff Garcia was very efficient and put up very good numbers again this week. I knew it was a matter of time before Ike Hilliard found the end zone, as he continues to be under-owned in most leagues. For those ppr owners paying attention, he tallied 9 more catches.

• Chiefs 12, Raiders 10
This was an ugly game with one obvious star. Larry Johnson is officially back on track, as he has topped 110 yards and a score in each of the last 2 weeks. The Chiefs are on a bye, and hopefully they can get their passing game on track, but even so, Johnson will be a consistent contributor going forward. Dwayne Bowe made a nice grab on a 58 yard reception, but was hard to find for the rest of the game. His big play potential makes him worth starting in deeper leagues, just don’t expect more than 4 catches and 70 yards most weeks with a chance of a score. Tony Gonzalez is the only other Chief worth starting on a weekly basis.

LaMont Jordan has lost his touch as it seems like the Raiders being upstarts was a short-lived phenomenon. Their running game is losing headway every week and their passing game is not too far behind. Ronald Curry scored again, and I continue to recommend him as the only Raider worth starting going forward. Dominic Rhodes was equally as poor as Jordan, totaling 21 yards on his 9 carries. I think that now is the time to go out and get Michael Bush before the Raiders toy with the idea of starting him and it’s too late (just don’t tell the guys in my keeper league!).

• Bengals 38, Jets 31
Kenny Watson finally lived up to the hype, topping 150 total yards and 3 scores against a beleaguered Jets defense. If Rudi Johnson is out for any more time, Watson will be a nice option against the weak run defenses the Bengals face in the coming weeks. However, I wouldn’t look for this to happen next week against the Steelers. Carson Palmer was again unremarkable, but both Cincy wideouts (Johnson and Houshmandzadeh) topped 10 fantasy points again this week. Shayne Graham is a nice sleeper option at kicker for the rest of the season, as he has been dropped in many leagues despite facing a much easier schedule down the road.

Laveranues Coles was all over the injury report, and again he goes off for a great game. After his 133 yard, 2 score performance, he remains a clear-cut top-10 fantasy wideout for the remainder of the season. Jerricho Cotchery grabbed 6 more balls and found paydirt – he is also a top receiving option on a team that must pass early and often to survive until their inevitable fourth quarter choke. Chad Pennington surprised with over 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. Maybe Eric Mangini needs to put him on a “short leash” every week? Or maybe they could just play the Bengals every week instead?

• Cowboys 24, Vikings 14
This game was not as close as it looks on paper, as it was just a matter of time until the second half Cowboys showed up and slammed the door on the Vikings. Marion Barber surprised those who started him against the league’s top run defense, to the tune of 96 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, and a score! Jason Witten remains a top option at tight end, as he hauled in over 30 percent of Tony Romo’s 21 completions. Terrell Owens continued his top-notch production, grabbing 7 balls for 103 yards and a chip-shot score from inside the 5. The big four of this offense will leave the fantasy community in want for week 9 as they all take a seat next week; plan accordingly!

Repeat after me – there is one Viking worth starting, and he is a rookie running back. Adrian Peterson continues to make the most of his limited carries on a weekly basis and is the only Minnesota threat to find the endzone on Sundays. Chester Taylor is a must-own handcuff, as he has been effective with his carries as the starter, but he lacks the explosiveness and pass-catching abilities AP has. I told you all that Troy Williamson would disappear, and he did; no one in this passing scheme is worth starting, ever. The Vikes gambling defense continues to minimize their opponents running attacks and score on big plays, but man do they give up passing yards in bunches.

• Bears 19, Eagles 16
Brian Griese topped 300 yards again and led a furious Bears rally in the last 2 minutes to win this game, but the only thing he is really doing, is putting Mushin Muhammad and the Bears tight ends (back) on the map. Bernard Berrian looks to return to form as he is getting more looks every week and is worth owning at this point. If you haven’t given up on Cedric Benson, now is as good of a time as any. He has topped 4 yards per carry and 100 yards just once, and the first half of the Bears schedule was the favorable one for running backs. Hope he has 100 yards or a TD against the Raiders or Seahawks and dangle before week 12.

Brian Westbrook topped 12 points again in most formats and remains the only consistently startable Eagle. He ran well on 18 carries against an improved-looking Bears defense and his receptions out of the backfield are always a welcome sight. Donovan McNabb does not look like himself, and he really only has once this season (against the Lions to boot!). At this point, we have to wonder if there is something still nagging him physically, or if he is simply hampered by undersized, overachieving wide receivers. Kevin Curtis exceeded my expectations, but 5 catches for 62 yards is nothing to write home about. He is a flex play at best most weeks.

• Seahawks 33, Rams 6
The Seahawks seem to have set their mold for 2007 success (or lack thereof) and it includes spreading the red-zone wealth around to backup wide receivers and tight ends, watching Shaun Alexander flounder around and run the ball ineffectively on a weekly basis, and let Josh Brown kick until his right leg falls off. Alexander is averaging over 1 yard per carry under his career average and I think that his owners and Seahawks fans alike must be worried. He is climbing my list of first round busts for 2007. Matt Hasslebeck remains a top-10 starter on a weekly basis, as he continually finds ways to get the ball in the endzone with his patchwork receiving corps.

The Rams are on a different level offensively and defensively than the rest of the NFC West, and that is saying something. Many of us are wondering if Steven Jackson will ever play again, or if his handcuff (you do own him, right?) Brian Leonard, will ever get enough room to run and show us his special talents? Torry Holt and Marc Bulger looked like themselves of old on the first drive of the third quarter, but quickly lost their mojo and became spectators to the Josh Brown and Will Heller show. The ever-reliable Jeff Wilkins isn’t even startable anymore, because this offense can’t even smell the red zone… not even from a considerable distance!

• Broncos 31, Steelers 28
Apparently for the Broncos to win, Jason Elam must knock down an incredibly long game winning field goal with under 10 seconds left at home. Otherwise, the Broncos are simply an underachieving team. Jay Cutler looked nice in what was supposed to be a tough matchup, as he bounced back with 248 yards and 3 scores. Brandon Marshall is officially his favorite target and is a startable number 2 wideout while Javon Walker remains hobbled. I think that Brandon Stokley is also a good sleeper option in 12 team leagues as a flex option while Walker is out. Travis Henry was banged up again, and leaves us wondering if he will have any remotely healthy and productive weeks before he is, you know, SUSPENDED! It might be time to pick up Tony Scheffler if you need tight end help, as it looks like Cutler now remembers what he looks like.

There weren’t many who thought the Steelers would lose this game, but it didn’t happen because of inefficient offense. Big Ben topped 290 yards and threw for 4 scores, spreading the ball around nicely. Hines Ward bounced back from injury with a nice 7 catch, 78 yard performance, while Santonio Holmes grabbed 6 for 54 yards and a score. Heath Miller is a must-start option at TE from here on out; he bolstered his impressive stats by hauling in touchdowns number 3 and 4 to score for the second game in a row. Willie Parker helped Najeh Davenport owners remove their misplaced hope with over 120 total yards, but leaves us asking if he’ll ever score again.

• Colts 29, Jaguars 7
This game should cement the fact that there is still a debate for the best team in the NFL. Most Colts had pedestrian stats in a fantasy sense, but Reggie Wayne’s 9 catch performance with 131 yards was to be expected with Marvin Harrison still limited. The aforementioned Harrison will be back in uniform for next week’s game, but it might be one more week until he is again productive. Dallas Clark is a top 5 tight end from here on out, as he now leads all tight ends in touchdown receptions. Kenton Keith is a must-own handcuff for Joseph Addai, as he looks to get a few quality carries a game and would be inordinately more valuable if something were to happen to Addai. He is a decent flex play too if he is able to vulture a half-dozen touchdowns here and there. Where was Anthony Gonzalez?

There weren’t a lot of positives for the Jaguars in this game, and they came out of the blowout with injuries at key skill positions. Maurice Jones-Drew left the game in the last minute with an apparent ankle injury, and David Garrard is said to be out 2 weeks with an ankle injury of his own. This really hurts any fantasy value left on the offense of this team, as these were the only two guys really worth starting in any format. Keep your eyes peeled for updates, but they are both likely to be nagged by their injuries in the coming week. The Jaguars underachieving receiving corps takes an even bigger hit now with Garrard out of the lineup. Hey, at least you can start their defense most weeks, right?

That wraps up my coverage of all of the action from week 7. Hopefully this information can help cover your injuries and week 8 byes (only 3 more of those pesky bye weeks left). You are now cleared to leave your armchair, until next week!

Michael Stephens is an avid fantasy sports buff who writes for the Cafe. He hails from the Pacific Northwest and is a die-hard Seahawk fan to the core! You can find Michael in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name WaCougMBS.
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