By Kenn Ruby
Larry Johnson sprained his ankle late in Sunday's affair with Green Bay and was on crutches after the game. Priest Holmes only has seven carries this season, but he's clearly the first option if Johnson were to miss time. Although Holmes isn't as explosive as he once was, he was a touchdown machine from 2002 to 2005. He's not a bad short-term option, as only Kolby Smith stands to take away carries from Holmes if Johnson misses this week's game.
Justin Fargas has zoomed past LaMont Jordan on the Oakland depth chart. On Sunday, Fargas carried the ball 23 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Jordan had just 10 yards on four rushes. As long as Fargas continues to produce, Oakland likely will give him the ball. If he's still available in your league, claim him while you still can.
Although both Kenny Watson and Rudi Johnson were relatively healthy, neither was able to run the ball well against the Buffalo defense Sunday. Johnson had just 11 yards on nine carries, while Watson, who had 11 yards on four carries, was effective catching passes out of the backfield. Watson finished with 90 yards receiving on seven catches and showed no ill effects of his minor concussion from a week earlier. Watson has looked like the better running back all season and might continue to see an uptick in playing time if Johnson continues to struggle.
Travis Henry had just nine carries for 31 yards Sunday, and he left the game with a minor knee injury in the third quarter. Selvin Young had just six carries, as the Broncos were forced to pass for most of the second half. Henry's appeal for his suspension has been delayed until Nov. 16, so as long as he stays healthy, he should play in at least one more game. That's a big if, however, as Henry has had one injury after another this season.
Shaun Alexander struggled to gain 32 yards on 14 carries Sunday and is clearly a shell of his former self. Already playing with a cast on his injured wrist, Alexander suffered knee and ankle injuries last week and watched as Maurice Morris got the call on a fourth-and-1 in overtime. Alexander is in no danger of losing his job to Morris permanently, but the injuries are starting to stack up.
The going was a little tougher for Ryan Grant against the Chiefs on Sunday. Grant finished with 55 yards on 19 carries just six days after his first 100-yard game. Brandon Jackson returned to the fold with 18 yards on five carries. Grant is the starter for the time being, and he'll no longer face competition from DeShawn Wynn (out for the year with a shoulder injury), but Jackson and Vernand Morency will be there to swoop in if Grant has more games like he had on Sunday.
Jerious Norwood, already facing an uphill climb to steal carries from starter Warrick Dunn, had just six carries Sunday before leaving with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Dunn carried the ball 27 times and had his first 100-yard game of the season. Norwood is averaging 5.9 yards per carry this season but hasn't run more than nine times in any game. The injury, combined with Dunn's strong performance, will only prolong the inevitable decision to put Norwood in the starting lineup.
With Frank Gore out with an ankle injury Sunday, San Francisco turned to Maurice Hicks and Michael Robinson. Robinson started and carried 17 times for 67 yards. Hicks, used mostly on passing downs, had 49 yards on seven carries, including a nine-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The 49ers won't play Atlanta every week, and with Gore expected to return this week, Hicks and Robinson aren't worth picking up.
Although Ahman Green returned and played well Sunday against the Raiders, he did not receive a carry in the second half after aggravating his knee injury. Enter Ron Dayne, who finished with 122 yards on 22 carries against the worst rush defense in the league. Adimchinobe Echemandu, who outplayed Dayne in Week 8 while Green was inactive, had just two carries but was limited by a sore thigh. The Texans are off this week, so they'll have time to sort out their running back situation.
Earnest Graham further cemented his position as the lead Tampa Bay running back, finishing with a career-high 124 yards on 34 carries Sunday. Michael Bennett is still kicking around, stealing carries here and there, but if Graham keeps playing like he has, Bennett will have a hard time getting more than the five carries he received Sunday. Michael Pittman is due back after this week's bye, but the job is Graham's until further notice.
Jay Cutler left Sunday's game with a severe contusion to his fibula. Patrick Ramsey, facing a deficit from the moment he stepped on the field, completed 29 passes in 46 attempts and added a late touchdown. A Monday MRI on Cutler's leg confirmed no fracture, but he is still very sore. The Broncos were unable to confirm whether Cutler will practice or play this week, but expect them to be conservative with their quarterback and give the nod to Ramsey.
Although the Jets did not come away with a win, the first career start for Kellen Clemens had to be encouraging. Clemens completed 23 passes in 42 attempts for 226 yards and a touchdown. He added 48 yards rushing, and more important, did not turn the ball over. While the 5.4 yards per attempt was a bit lower than the Jets would like, that figure should improve with time. Barring an injury, it doesn't look like Chad Pennington will be starting again any time soon.
J.P. Losman was back at the helm Sunday, leading Buffalo to a 33-21 victory over Cincinnati. Trent Edwards was inactive with a sprained wrist, and will probably sit this week as well. When Edwards is healthy, he could get his starting job back, but if Losman continues to play well, expect Buffalo coach Dick Jauron to stay with the hot hand.
Josh McCown was back calling the shots Sunday, but with three interceptions and just 158 yards passing, he may not be long for the job. Daunte Culpepper had a few decent games in his place, but doesn't look like the answer either. With Oakland standing at just 2-6, the calls for top draft pick JaMarcus Russell are getting louder and louder.
Matt Schaub sat out Sunday's game with the Raiders due to a concussion, giving Sage Rosenfels a rare start. Houston focused on the running game, rushing 39 times for 178 yards while only throwing 19 passes. The Texans have a bye week coming up, and Schaub is expected to return, but if his numerous injuries linger, Rosenfels and the Houston offense will probably see a similar split between run and pass.
Tarvaris Jackson was back in action Sunday, but he left in the second quarter after taking a knee to the head. Brooks Bollinger fared well in relief, completing seven passes in 10 attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown. With both Jackson and Kelly Holcomb banged up, Bollinger could start this week.
David Carr started Sunday, but couldn't last the whole game, leaving in the fourth quarter with a concussion. Rookie Matt Moore replaced him, but only completed two passes in five attempts and threw an interception. The previous week's starter, Vinny Testaverde, was out with an injury to his Achilles' tendon. With the Carolina offense struggling so much, it doesn't really matter who is under center, though early indications say it will be Moore this week.
Although Cleo Lemon is still the starter, John Beck is getting closer and closer to claiming his job. Lemon hasn't been terrible in his three starts, but the Dolphins keep losing. A winless team has nothing to lose by throwing its prized rookie quarterback into the deep end to see if he can swim.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Chad Johnson suffered what looked like a serious neck injury Sunday. The news was good after the game, as a CT scan produced normal results, but Johnson will probably be unable to play this weekend. Chris Henry is due back this week from an eight-game suspension and could find himself in the starting lineup if he can shake off the rust quickly.
The return of D.J. Hackett opened things up for Bobby Engram, who hauled in a career-high 14 passes last week. Engram finished with 139 yards and a touchdown and was targeted a whopping 21 times. Hackett, looking nothing like a player who has been out two months with a sprained ankle, had six catches for 58 yards and a score. With Deion Branch expected to return this week, Seattle suddenly looks like a team with a solid group of wide receivers.
Marvin Harrison's knee injury continues to linger, and it reportedly could bother him the rest of the year. Anthony Gonzalez missed another chance to shine in Harrison's absence when he broke his hand after getting just one reception. Aaron Moorehead, who isn't exactly healthy either, could step into the starting lineup if Harrison misses another game.
Darrell Jackson returned from a strained quad, but he only managed two catches for 21 yards. The San Francisco passing game has never gotten going this season, meaning Jackson, Ashley Lelie and Arnaz Battle aren't strong fantasy plays. Only tight end Vernon Davis, who has 13 catches for 148 yards the last two weeks, is showing any success in the San Francisco passing offense.
Laveranues Coles suffered a mild concussion Oct. 28 and missed last week's game. Justin McCareins took his place in the starting lineup and caught three passes for 32 yards. Coles shouldn't be out long, but post-concussion syndrome can be tricky. In the meantime, McCareins, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith should benefit from his absence.
Robert Ferguson got a rare start Sunday with Troy Williamson out due to a death in the family. While Ferguson had just three catches for 24 yards before leaving with a concussion, the real find was rookie Sidney Rice. Rice had 66 yards on four receptions, including a beautiful 40-yard touchdown. Williamson should be back this week, but Rice has some upside and is worth targeting in deep keeper leagues, especially if Ferguson and Bobby Wade continue to be limited by injuries.
Although Ernest Wilford and Dennis Northcutt are the starters, they were both outplayed by Reggie Williams on Sunday. Williams had an 80-yard touchdown and finished with six catches for 128 yards. Northcutt and Wilford have been up and down this season, but Wilford, who has yet to find the end zone this year, is more likely than Norhcutt to lose his job to Williams.
Donald Lee continues to benefit from Bubba Franks' lingering knee injury. Lee had four catches for 78 yards Sunday, and has caught at least three passes in each game this season, which is about as consistent as you can get from any non-elite tight end. Franks is still a couple of weeks away from returning.
David Patten had another good game Sunday, finishing with four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. In the last four weeks, Patten has 19 catches for 332 yards. While Marques Colston is the first option at wideout, Patten has distanced himself from the likes of Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and Terrance Copper as the second option.