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Lynch's suspension upheld; Jackson named starter to begin season

The National Football League has denied the appeal of Marshawn Lynch, who was looking to have his three-game suspension for the start of this season reduced.

Lynch will be forced to miss games against the Patriots, Buccaneers and Saints before he's eligible to return on Oct. 4 (Week 4) on the road against the Dolphins. Missing those three games -- or close to 25 percent of fantasy football's regular season -- makes Lynch a much less appealing option in drafts.

A talented runner out of California, Lynch has rushed for 1,000-plus yards with a combined 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons at the pro level. He also made a strong impact as a receiver out of the backfield in 2008, posting 47 receptions for 300 yards. Now that he'll miss three games, Lynch has little chance to post another 1,000-yard rushing season and will see an obvious overall decrease in statistical success.

In Lynch's absence, coach Dick Jauron has named Fred Jackson his interim starting running back. Jackson has been a solid replacement for Lynch in the past, most notably last season when he rushed for 136 yards on 27 carries in a late-season loss to the Patriots. A versatile back, Jackson also finished with career bests in receptions (37) and receiving yards (317) in 2008.

Based on the fact that Jackson will face three teams that finished no better than 15th (Patriots) against the run last season, he'll be a viable flex starter across the board in the month of September. While he will lose some work to Dominic Rhodes, who was signed for depth purposes in the offseason, Jackson should still see around 15-20 touches per week. He'll be seen as a viable middle-round selection and remains a must-target back for owners who decide to take Lynch.

Speaking of Lynch, he'll now be a fourth- or fifth-round pick in fantasy drafts. However, his three-game absence could have an affect on more than his short-term stock.

More and more teams are using backfield committees around the league, and the Bills could decide to follow suit if Jackson is impressive while Lynch is sidelined. Rhodes is no slouch either, as he's coming off a season with 45 receptions, 840 scrimmage yards and nine total touchdowns with the Colts. That's not to say that a three-headed backfield committee is imminent, but it does seem that Lynch could lose at least some of the workload.

The Bills also have major questions on their offensive line after trading OT Jason Peters to the Eagles, so this trio of backs could take its share of punishment.

On a positive note, the team's pass attack should be much more effective after the addition of Terrell Owens.

Despite the fact that he'll turn 36 at the end of the season, T.O. is still one of the most athletic and gifted athletes in the league. His presence should mean a greater level of statistical success for Trent Edwards, who has some real sleeper potential with Owens and Lee Evans at his disposal. Edwards was "unbelievably impressed" with Owens during the offseason and will continue to gain a rapport with the veteran wideout throughout training camp and the preseason.

If the pass attack can live up to expectations, Lynch, Jackson and Rhodes should see fewer eight-man fronts as defenses must contend with the skills of T.O. and the speed of Evans on the corners. Of course, that will be dependant on Owens not turning Edwards into a head case (as he's done with Jeff Garcia and Tony Romo in the past).

Lynch also has a very favorable schedule based on the results from last season. Seven of his games will be played against teams that finished 15th or worse against the run in 2008. He has a particularly attractive slate during the fantasy football postseason, facing the Chiefs (30th vs. run) and Falcons (25th vs. run) in Weeks 15 and 16.

Overall, however, Lynch still has to been seen as a risk.

While the potential of the pass attack and a favorable schedule is an advantage, the fact remains that he'll still miss three games due to suspension. When he does return, he'll be forced to play behind a questionable offensive line. You also have to consider the chance that he'll lose work to either Jackson and Rhodes out of the backfield.

Fantasy leaguers should avoid taking Lynch as anything more than a low-end No. 2 runner in drafts, and those that do land him must add Jackson in the middle rounds to cover themselves for the first three weeks. Otherwise, you could be forced to play a less-than-attractive running back for the first month of the fantasy season.

News and notes

  • » Reports out of Raiders training camp have been anything but positive about rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey, who continues to drop footballs like hot potatoes in team workouts. While he has shown some skills as a route runner, the Maryland product isn't doing himself any favors in terms of earning a prominent role in the pass attack. Unless you're in a keeper league, avoiding Heyward-Bey in drafts is a good idea.
  • » The Rock Hill Herald is reporting that Jonathan Stewart's problematic Achilles' tendon could keep him from practicing more than once a day in training camp. The Oregon product didn't do much during the preseason due to the ailment, and the fact that he's still having issues is a huge cause for concern. This situation is one to watch as it pertains to both Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in the weeks to come.
  • » Cowboys running back Felix Jones has been ultra-impressive in the early part of training camp. Jones, who missed most of last season due to toe problems, will see a major role in what will be a more run-based offense. He's a solid sleeper even with Marion Barber and Tashard Choice in the backfield and is worth a middle-round selection. Jones will have added value in formats that reward players for return yards and touchdowns.
  • » The Chicago Tribune reports that Greg Olsen has officially passed Desmond Clark on the tight end depth chart. While Clark will still see plenty of time on the field in two tight-end formations, the move does suggest that Olsen's role in the offense is on the verge of seeing a huge increase. He could turn into Jay Cutler's most reliable receiver and should be seen as a viable No. 1 fantasy tight end in 2009.
  • » The Baltimore Sun is reporting that despite the Ravens' imminent backfield committee this season, Ray Rice continues to see the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense. Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain are also in the mix, but Rice's skills as a runner and receiver make him the best bet to lead the backfield in touches. The Rutgers product is worth taking a chance on in the middle rounds.

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