Things are beginning to get a little tense in fantasy world.
Injuries are piling up, trade talk is picking up and the playoffs are right around the corner.
Everybody's on a short leash.
Back in August, Travis Henry was my second-round draft pick. Last week, I tossed him on the waiver wire trash heap for a bye-week fill-in at tight end. In Week 10 and beyond, I have no use for a two-carry-per-game bust-turned-backup. Plus, I think I saw him mocking my dance.
Apparently I'm not the only one with thinning patience and plummeting playoff prospects.
Draft day favorites such as Michael Bennett, Kevin Jones, Eddie George, Steven Jackson and Jerry Porter are starting to show up in the transaction list. Flavor-of-the-week pickups like Mewelde Moore and Amos Zereoue are getting dropped faster than a Mark Cuban reality show.
Somewhere in the vast Yahoo universe, some yahoo felt the need to cut Willis McGahee. And I'm sure he or she had a very good reason.
Point is, now is a good time to get desperate. Stop waiting on Amani Toomer's breakout game and shake things up a little.
Take a risk. Make a trade. Do a little dance.
Just do something. Your fantasy future depends on it.
By now you know the weekly refrain – quarterbacks are king. Four of last week's top five performances (and six of the top eight) came from the QB ranks. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Jake Plummer made it for the second consecutive week. They were joined a couple of first-time top-fives in 2004 – Michael Pittman, who had the good fortune of facing the Chiefs, and Jake Delhomme. Delhomme barely beat out Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, who kicked four field goals, four extra points and threw a touchdown pass in Week 9.
Week 8 marked the second straight week that six QBs threw for three or more touchdowns. That's a lot – there were 61 such games all of last season. Manning and Brees have each thrown nine TDs in a two-week span, and Plummer has eight.
For Brees, the first pick of the second round of the 2001 draft, his nine TD passes in two weeks are more than 2001 No. 1 overall pick Michael Vick (6) or 2003 No. 1 pick Carson Palmer (6) have thrown for this season. David Carr, the No. 1 pick in 2002, has nine TD passes on the year. Unless you've got Manning, Daunte Culpepper or Donovan McNabb, Brees should be in your lineup every week until further notice.
Not all the news is good news on the QB front. A couple of starters – Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington of the New York Jets – are both expected to miss at least two games. Leftwich has a knee injury, which won't require surgery but didn't heal sufficiently during the Jaguars bye week. He could be back as soon as Week 12, but be patient. Pennington's a different story. He's out an estimated 2-4 weeks with a separated shoulder, but given that he ranks 16th among fantasy QBs this season, he might not be worth the wait. If you've got better options, don't hesitate to cut him loose.
The backup chatter has picked up in several other cities, including Washington, Dallas and New York. No team needs a QB change more than the Redskins, but Joe Gibbs is sticking with veteran Mark Brunell, who hasn't completed a pass longer than 23 yards since Week 4. And Bill Parcells won't hear of benching Vinny Testaverde, a good indication that Drew Henson isn't ready. But a change is on the way in New York, where the Giants loss to the Bears marked the beginning of the end for Kurt Warner. Eli Manning makes for an intriguing option at QB2, but he's not worth going after unless you're in a deep keeper league.
Buffalo's not going to make the playoffs, but Bills fans can look forward to the arrival of rookie QB J.P. Lossman, who will replace Drew Bledsoe before the end of the season. Bledsoe hasn't thrown for three TDs in a game since Dec. 1, 2002. In that 28-game span, he's tossed 23 TDs and 25 interceptions.
On the running back front, don't forget about rookies Chris Perry in Cincinnati and Julius Jones in Dallas. Both could get late-season carries if their teams fall from the playoff hunt, and there's an outside chance they could help your fantasy squad late in the season.
Despite adding Pro Bowl OG Damien Woody in free agency and using a first-round pick on Kevin Jones, Detroit's running game ranks as the NFL's worst for the second straight season. Jones (3.3 yards per carry) and Artose Pinner (3.1) rank at the bottom of the NFL in rushing average, and neither has cracked 70 yards in a game this season. Even more discouraging, the Lions nearly abandoned the run in a close loss to the Redskins last week, opting instead to have Joey Harrington throw 52 times. With numbers like those, it's hard to recommend either of the Lions running backs right now.
Consider adding – Jacksonville QB David Garrard, Oakland RB Tyrone Wheatley, Kansas City RB Derrick Blaylock, Miami RB Travis Minor, Houston WR Jabar Gaffney, Denver TE Jeb Putzier; Consider dropping – Dallas QB Testaverde, Minnesota RB Moore, St. Louis RB Steven Jackson, Cleveland RB William Green, New York Giants defense.
Quarterback: Trent Green, Kansas City – He's thrown three TDs in two straight heading into this week's game against the Saints. With Priest Holmes ailing, the Chiefs will go to the air against one of the league's worst pass defenses.
Running back: Clinton Portis, Washington – I know it's been a rough year, but the Redskins have lots of good reasons to get the ball to their featured back this week. For one, they're 3-0 when Portis tops 100 yards. Second, they have the league's worst starting QB. And finally, they're facing the NFL's most generous run defense. All the signs point to a big game; Kevan Barlow, San Francisco – Time is running out for him to have a breakout game this season, but the odds are good it will happen this week against the pathetic Panthers.
Wide receiver: Darrell Jackson, Seattle – A sentimental pick. I got scared last week when I read the injury report and sat Jackson, who promptly went out and caught two TD passes. I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come, because I don't want to consider the alternative. Also, he did score once in the Seahawks' first matchup with St. Louis this season; Javon Walker, Green Bay – He's failed to catch a TD pass just once in the past six games. With the Packers well-rested after a bye week and facing the Vikings, he's a near-lock to get in the end zone at least once this weekend.
Tight end: Dallas Clark, Indianapolis – Bounced back from a slow start with three TD catches in his last four games. Three of Manning's touchdown passes on Monday night went to his tight ends, Clark and Marcus Pollard.
Kicker: Steve Christie, New York Giants – Faces the Cardinals, who have given up an NFL-high 17 field goals. The Giants aren't very good at getting into the end zone.
Defense: Tennessee – The Titans are coming off a bye week and face the Bears, who plan to disrupt what little momentum they gained on offense by replacing Anthony Thomas with Thomas Jones at running back.
Jamal Lewis wants the ball more and that can only mean good things for his fantasy prospects. Brian Billick agreed that his 22 carries against the Browns were a little on the low side so expect the Ravens to make a concerted effort to get their man 25-30 carries this week against a Jets defense that ranks in the middle of the pack against the run. While they're at it, maybe the Ravens can get Chester Taylor involved more, too. After shouldering the load during Lewis's two-week absence, he had just two touches last week. A few more games like that should earn him a spot on the fantasy waiver wire.
Don't expect much from the Ravens passing game this week, because the Jets do a good job of pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers. Even Travis Taylor, the only Ravens receiver worthy of a fantasy roster spot, isn't a good start this week. And a quick side note: Kyle Boller has thrown as many touchdowns in his past four games (one) as Portis, Vinatieri and Ahman Green.
Ed Reed's interception and touchdown late last week kept Baltimore's defense atop the fantasy rankings, and the Ravens should have another big week against the Jets. Turnover-prone QB Quincy Carter is making his first start with the Jets in place of Pennington, and Curtis Martin has slowed down after a fast start (his 67 rushing yards last week were a season low). Still, Martin gets a lukewarm recommendation this week, as does Jets WR Santana Moss, coming off a season-best 157-yard effort. Keep Justin McCareins on the bench – the Ravens have allowed one passing TD in their past four games.
Finally, a quick hats-off to Matt Stover, who has made 14 of 15 field goals this season for a team that needs every point it can get. He went 4-for-4 last week and ranks 11th in fantasy scoring among kickers despite having one of the lowest PAT totals (14) in the league.
"He's just so steady, consistent," Billick said earlier this week. "And I will say as the ultimate compliment – he drives me crazy less than any kicker I've been around."
Dave Alexander is a sports producer at baltimoresun.com. Send questions or comments to email@example.com