Confused and amused by wild Week 5

You know it's going to be a strange week when your first-round pick (Clinton Portis? Ahman Green?) gets one-upped by a guy named Artose or Mewelde.

That's how it went last weekend, when on-field results flew in the face of rational predictions and made so-called experts look so-so at best.

Week 5 included the unexpected return of Deuce McAllister (so long, Stecker!) and the unexpected departure of DeShaun Foster (so much for that breakout season, huh?).

It was a week in which quarterbacks Tim Rattay and Josh McCown, who play for a couple of the worst teams in the NFL, were among the best players in all of fantasy football.

And finally, it was a week that featured the best performance by a guy named Reuben since "American Idol II," as Denver's Reuben Droughns ran wild against the surprisingly poor Panthers' defense.

Droughns' 193 yards were the most by any running back in Week 5 not bad for a seldom-used fullback who had run for 127 yards in 44 career games before Sunday. Even in the tough-to-figure Broncos' backfield-by-committee, Droughns has earned some carries and a starting spot in fantasy lineups for the foreseeable future.

My future in fantasy football prognostication is a little less rosy. I sure didn't foresee a big day for big Reuben, a surprise starter after Quentin Griffin was scratched shortly before kickoff.

But I did predict a nice week for Ahman Green, who instead stumbled and fumbled early, then spent the rest of Monday night watching from the backfield as Brett Favre threw from the hip, trying in vain to prevent another Packers loss at home. Green finished with a negative score. What, no points for good pass protection?

I also had a gut feeling about Michael Vick. Turned out that feeling was kind of like a kick in the gut. Vick had three turnovers in a loss to the Lions and still hasn't thrown for 200 yards in a game this season. I guess it really shouldn't come as a surprise that an East Coast guy like Vick is struggling in the West Coast offense. You know, because of the whole rivalry thing.

If you grabbed them Mewelde Moore or Artose Pinner, both are safe starts again this week Moore against the Saints' 29th-ranked defense, Pinner against the tackling-deficient Packers.

Just remember Artose by any other name is probably still a backup when Kevin Jones gets healthy.

Bring on Week 6. Here's hoping it's as pleasantly unpredictable as last week.

Quick hitters

  • Last week was huge for quarterbacks, with Daunte Culpepper, David Carr, Marc Bulger, Rattay and McCown cracking the top five. Of that group, only Rattay threw for fewer than three TDs, but he made up for it with 417 yards and 38 completions (a 49ers record). Rattay missed the first three weeks with a shoulder injury, be he's a must-have if you're hurting at QB. Sure, San Francisco's terrible, but that's not your problem. All you need to know is that Rattay's per-game fantasy scoring average ranks fourth among all quarterbacks behind only Culpepper, Donovan McNabb and Peyton Manning. Pretty good company.

  • The Patriots' NFL-record 19-game run isn't the only impressive streak going on in New England. Tight end Daniel Graham has caught a TD pass in five straight regular-season games and in six of seven dating to last season. He has 19 catches in that span, seven of them for scores. After watching Seattle's defense collapse against the Rams last week, I like Graham's chances of making it six straight and the Patriots' chances of getting to 20.

  • He's still wearing purple, but ex-Raven Marcus Robinson is now putting up big numbers for Minnesota after signing as a free agent in the off-season. Robinson is sure to be a hot pickup this week after he was on the receiving end of two of Culpepper's five TD passes last weekend, including the game-winner from 50 yards out. His 150 yards were more than Kevin Johnson has in five games for the Ravens. Makes you wonder what if

  • Some more add/drop suggestions: Consider adding Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, Carolina RB Nick Goings (Stephen Davis insurance), New England RB Kevin Faulk, San Francisco WR Brandon Lloyd, Green Bay WR Donald Driver, Tampa Bay WR Michael Clayton, New York Jets TE Chris Baker, New York Jets defense; Consider dropping Washington QB Mark Brunell, New Orleans RB Aaron Stecker, Cincinnati WR Peter Warrick, Dallas WR Antonio Bryant, Jacksonville defense, Carolina defense (All-Pro DT Kris Jenkins is out for the season).

  • A couple of other receivers to keep an eye on: Arizona's Anquan Boldin and Tampa Bay's Keenan McCardell. Both should return next month, Boldin from a knee injury, McCardell from a season-long holdout. Neither can help right now, but a less-than-healthy Boldin and a less-than-happy McCardell will both be worth owning down the road.

    Starting nod

    Quarterback: Steve McNair, Tennessee He looked good on Monday night at less than 100 percent. He'll be even better this week in a game the Titans have to win vs. Houston.

    Running back: Fred Taylor, Jacksonville He's been disappointing so far, but Kyle Brady's return will provide a boost for the Jags' ground game. So will facing Kansas City; Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati The Bengals have had a week off to regroup, and Cleveland has given up eight TDs on the ground, the second-most in the NFL.

    Wide receiver: Randy Moss, Minnesota "The Freak" has become freakishly reliable lately, catching a touchdown pass in nine straight games. Make it 10; Roy Williams, Detroit The league's best rookie to date faces the league's second-worst defense (Green Bay).

    Tight end: Eric Johnson, San Francisco Quick, who leads the NFL in receptions? Surprisingly enough, it's Johnson, the 49ers tough-as-nails TE with 41, including 13 last week. Defenses can't stop him. Sore ribs won't, either.

    Kicker: Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis The Bucs have given up three field goals three times this season, and Wilkins is 23 of 24 on FGs at home since the beginning of the 2003 season.

    Defense: Washington The Redskins pay a visit to Chicago, one of the few teams with an offense worse than their own.

    Ravens report

    The Ravens' bye week will give owners of Jamal Lewis a taste of what life is like without their No. 1 running back. Get used to it the two-game suspension handed down last week ensures that you'll be muddling through minus Jamal for the better part of the next month. It won't be easy, but it could have been a lot worse, and Lewis owners knew early on that their man could miss some time this season because of his legal difficulties. All things considered, the two-game penalty warrants a big sigh of relief.

    As long as Lewis sits, both Chester Taylor and Musa Smith will have value. How much value, only time will tell. But it's safe to say that both will see a healthy helping of carries, given the Ravens' run-heavy offensive philosophy and the sad state of the passing game. Lewis has averaged 21 carries per game, so it's safe to pencil Taylor in for at least 15-20 attempts and use him as a No. 2 RB.

    Coach Brian Billick indicated earlier this week that Smith could see more time than Taylor typically does as the Ravens' No. 2/third-down back. That should translate into 5-10 carries a game, including some valuable red-zone action. But unless you're in a pinch, you might want to wait a week to see how the Ravens use Smith before putting him in your lineup. Problem is, even if he does get on the field, his chances of busting loose against two of the league's best run defenses (Buffalo and Philadelphia) are slim.

    Dave Alexander is a sports producer at baltimoresun.com. Send questions or comments to dalexander@baltimoresun.com
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