Another week, another set of unpredictable stat lines -- and another running back lost for the season.
Miami running Ronnie Brown is out for the remainder of 2007 with an injured knee suffered in a loss to New England. He was the best back in fantasy football this season, so his loss will devastate owners. Jesse Chatman will now be a hot name on the waiver wire, as he's available in more than 90 percent of NFL.com leagues.
The top 10 performers of the week included one reserve running back (Kenny Watson), a reserve quarterback (Sage Rosenfels) and two field generals that faced unattractive matchups but still produced monster points. Overall, six of the top-10 point producers were quarterbacks. In a season that has seen the running back position fall in overall value, there was one lone runner in the top 10. Three wide receivers also made the list, two of which came from New England.
No one was more productive than Tom Brady, who scored 50 points on 354 yards and a career-best six touchdown passes in Miami. He is now on pace to throw 60-plus touchdowns -- that would smash Peyton Manning's current record of 49 set in 2004. Ben Roethlisberger, who faced Denver's top-rated pass defense, totaled four touchdowns passes and 31 points. Rosenfels (yes, Sage Rosenfels) was third among quarterbacks with 29 points in the absence of Matt Schaub. Jay Cutler (27 points), who faced a stout Pittsburgh pass defense, and Chad Pennington (26 points) rounded out the top five quarterbacks of the week. Rosenfels, Cutler and Pennington were all active in less than 30 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Jeff Garcia exploited a bad Tampa Bay defense and posted solid numbers, and Drew Brees seems to have returnED to his 2006 form. In his past two starts, Brees has thrown for 465 yards and four touchdowns. Kurt "Robo" Warner started despite torn ligaments in his left elbow and produced 17 points. He was released in a lot of leagues due to the ailment (he's a free agent in almost 40 percent of NFL.com leagues), so add him now if you need a quarterback for the stretch run. Matt Hasselbeck (16 points), Tony Romo (15 points) and Eli Manning (15 points) also continued to produce nice totals.
The biggest disappointment at the position had to be Jon Kitna, who totaled five points in a win over Tampa Bay. After a fast start, Kitna has thrown for 253 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in his past two games. He has also averaged 24.5 pass attempts in those starts. That's 10 fewer than the 34.5 attempts he averaged in his first four games. If that trend continues, Kitna's numbers are destined to fall. Marc Bulger returned to action and had minus-1 point in Seattle. He has a combined minus-1 point in his past three starts. Jason Campbell, who scored one point, was also a serious dud for fantasy football owners.
Madden cursed or not, Vince Young missed the weekend with an injured quadriceps. He was on the Titans' active roster, however, so it seems he has a good chance to return in Week 8. Steve McNair was also out of action, but he should return in Week 9 when Baltimore faces Pittsburgh. Byron Leftwich suffered a high ankle sprain in a loss to New Orleans and is out for an extended period, so the Falcons will have to turn back to Joey Harrington after their Week 8 bye. Leftwich has had ankle issues his entire career.
Watson totaled an impressive 157 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in a win over the New York Jets to lead all running backs. He'll continue to see more work while Rudi Johnson is sidelined with an injured hamstring and should be added if available. Larry Johnson had his second consecutive solid stat line, as he rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown in a win over Oakland. LenDale White, who has turned into a tremendous asset in recent weeks, rushed for 104 yards and one touchdown. His success should continue next week against the Raiders. Earnest Graham, who had 13 receptions, totaled 18 points despite the fact that he didn't score a touchdown. Willis McGahee, Brandon Jacobs and Clinton Portis all tied for fifth among runners with 17 points.
Portis continued to produce despite a problematic knee, and he remains the featured back in Washington even with Ladell Betts in the mix. Over the past three games, Portis has averaged 186. carries. Betts has averaged 4.6 carries in that same time. Another back who is now the unquestioned featured runner for his team is Kevin Jones, who is 100 percent recovered from an injured foot and will be a nice asset for fantasy owners down the line. He had 110 all-purpose yards and one touchdown in Week 7. Marion Barber (15 points) and Marshawn Lynch (15 points) were both solid despite hardened opponents, and Reggie Bush had his second solid stat line as the featured runner in New Orleans.
A number of running backs also failed to meet expectations. Shaun Alexander tops that list, as he totaled five points against a St. Louis defense that entered the weekend ranked 27th against the run. He has now scored a combined 17 points over his past four contests and has fallen from the fantasy football elite. Laurence Maroney returned from an injured groin but scored three points and shared carries with Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans. Cedric Benson (five points) and Thomas Jones (six) also had lackluster totals. LaMont Jordan (six) lost carries to Dominic Rhodes, so his numbers -- and value -- could be headed south.
Injuries also made headlines at the position, as Jacobs, Frank Gore and Travis Henry joined Brown on a list of backs that were hurt. Gore injured his ankle in a loss to the Giants, and his status for Week 8 is uncertain. If he is forced to miss time, Michael Robinson would see an increase in carries and value. He's a free agent in most formats. Henry hurt his ribs in a win over Pittsburgh, but the extent of the ailment is unknown. Selvin Young would see more work if Henry is out. Jacobs, who rushed for 107 yards and one touchdown against San Francisco, hurt his ankle but should be fine when the G-Men travel to London to face Miami.
Several wide receivers produced well in Week 7, but none more than Wes Welker and Laveranues Coles. Welker had nine catches for 138 yards and scored twice in Miami, and now has 20 catches for 262 yards and four touchdowns in the past two weeks. Coles made mincemeat of a porous Bengals defense with eight receptions, 133 yards and two touchdowns. Randy Moss totaled 24 points and scored two more touchdowns. He's on pace to break Jerry Rice's single-season record of 22 receiving touchdowns. Roddy White (17 points), who is on pace to produce career best across the board, and André Davis (16) and Terrell Owens (16) round out the top five at the position.
Kevin Walter was also solid for a second consecutive week and is well worth a roster spot. However, his value will fall once Andre Johnson returns from an injured knee. Anquan Boldin had an odd stat line (eight catches, 29 yards, two touchdowns) but produced well in his first start back from an injured hip. Brandon Stokley also played well in the absence of Javon Walker, but owners shouldn't expect him to produce consistent numbers week in and week out. Roydell Williams had a career-best 124 yards and should be a viable option in leagues with 12-plus teams. Overall, 21 wideouts had double-digit points in Week 7.
Santana Moss (0 points) was a disappointment for the second consecutive week. He has been at less than 100 percent, but it's still notable that Moss has totaled zero points over the past two weeks. Roy Williams (two) and Plaxico Burress (four) were both less than stellar, but neither should be reserved based on one poor stat line. It is time to worry about Marques Colston, who had four points in a win over Atlanta and has not benefited from the recent statistical resurrection of Brees.
Heath Miller (17 points) led the tight end position with 50 yards and two touchdowns, Will Heller (13), who started in the absence of Marcus Pollard, was second, and Tony Scheffler (11) was third. Jeremy Shockey (nine) and Leonard Pope (nine) rounded out the top five. Believe it or not, over 70 percent of the top-10 performances at the position came from players who were free agents in most NFL.com leagues.
Tony Gonzalez scored six points, which wasn't bad based on the overall level of production from the position. Owen Daniels (four) didn't perform well, and Vernon Davis (two) wasn't a factor in his return from an injured knee. Todd Heap missed another game with an injured hamstring, but he should return after Baltimore's bye week.
Rob Bironas broke the NFL's single-game record for field goals, as he booted eight in a win over Houston. His conversions came from 52, 25, 21, 30, 28, 43, 29 and 29 yards. His 29 fantasy points is the most scored from a kicker this season and six more than Kris Brown's 23 points back in Week 5. In what was a trend this week, Bironas was also a free agent in most NFL.com leagues. He is now tied with Nick Folk for the most points among kickers with 71.
Josh Brown was also solid in Week 7 with 18 points, and Robbie Gould (15 points), Rian Lindell (14), Mike Nugent (12) and Jason Hanson (12) performed well. Several kickers also turned in dud stat lines, as Neil Rackers (one), Matt Stover (two), Olindo Mare (two) and Jeff Reed (four) failed to meet statistical expectations.
After scoring a total of 18 fantasy points in the first three weeks, the G-Men have averaged 23 points in their last four games. In NFL.com's standard scoring system, the Giants have scored 91 points from Week 4 to Week 7. The next closest defense in that time is Seattle with 68 points. Next on the schedule for New York -- a date with the 0-7 Miami Dolphins.
Philadelphia (five points) and Pittsburgh (six) were the biggest disappointments.
News & Notes
» Tarvaris Jackson broke the middle finger on his right hand in a loss to Dallas, so his status for Week 8 is uncertain. The inexperienced quarterback has been a real disappointment for head coach Brad Childress, so this could give Childress reason to bench Jackson in favor of Kelly Holcomb. In four starts, Jackson has averaged just 134.5 passing yards. He has a 48.7 passer rating with three total touchdowns and five interceptions as well, so don't look for him to make a fantasy impact soon.
» Reports out of Seattle indicate Deion Branch (foot) and D.J. Hackett (ankle) are both expected to return after Seattle's Week 8 bye. That's bad news for Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson, who will both see fewer opportunities to produce in the pass attack. Engram has been hot over the past two weeks, so it makes sense to put him on the trade black and field offers for him. Hackett, who is still available in over 80 percent of NFL.com, is now worth a roster spot in leagues with 12-plus teams.
» Despite a nice stat line in Week 7, Chad Pennington is still on a short leash with head coach Eric Mangini. When asked about the status of his quarterback, Mangini said he would have to watch the game film before he determines whether Pennington or Kellen Clemens will start in Week 8 against Buffalo. Clemens has a cannon arm and has shown potential in the past, so he'll be a hot name on the waiver wire if Mangini decides to make a switch in an effort to spark his 1-6 team.
» Howston QB Matt Schaub hurt his ankle, hip and lower back in a loss to Tennessee. X-rays on his hip were negative, but Schaub is scheduled to have an MRI to reveal any significant damage that occured. There's a chance he will not be available for Week 8, but I wouldn't rush out to add Rosenfels based on a matchup in San Diego against the Chargers. Now Schaub knows exactly how David Carr felt in his tenure with the Texans.