Week 7 Upgrades/Downgradesby David Dodds and Clayton Gray, Exclusive to
QB Drew Brees, NO - He found Joe Horn for two scores this week. He is making solid decisions and constantly finding the open man. He finished the day with 275 yards and 3 TDs while leading his team to a great win. The shoulder injury, the new team, the rookie RB and WR have not slowed him down. He has become a must-start every week.
QB Aaron Brooks, OAK - Andrew Walter isnít the answer at quarterback. We expect the Raiders to move back to Aaron Brooks once he is at full-health. That could be as early as this week.
QB Marc Bulger, STL - He is in a zone right now that makes him a must-start every week. He led all QBs this week tossing for 360 passing yards and 3 TDs in a loss. Over the last three games, he has completed 64.2% of his passes while generating 908 passing yards and 8 TDs.
QB Jake Delhomme, CAR - Jake Delhomme shredded the tough Baltimore defense (in Baltimore no less). He finished the day with 365 passing yards and 2 TDs. He looks like a pro-bowl QB now that Steve Smith is back in the lineup. With RB DeAngelo Williams hurting, we expect this team to remain as a pass first option in the coming weeks.
QB Bruce Gradkowski, TB - The rookie continues to look sharp. He beat a tough Bengals team managing a close game. He finished with 184 passing yards, 2 TDs and just 1 interception. He also ran for 19 yards.
QB Trent Green, KC - He looks like he will be returning to the field very soon. Damon Huard could not generate any offense against the Steelers and isnít likely to hold off the veteran.
QB Byron Leftwich, JAX - He plays three soft games (Houston twice and Tennessee) in the next 4 weeks. He should be able to produce great stats in these games after coming off a week 6 bye.
QB Philip Rivers, SD - Itís hard not to get exciting about what we are seeing happen with Philip Rivers. Each week the head coach is letting him do a little more and every week he has delivered. He threw for 334 yards and 2 TDs while completing 74% of his passes yesterday. He spread the ball around like a seasoned pro.
QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT - With every critic saying he hasnít looked right, Ben had his best game of the season by far. The game plan was to run the ball (which the Steelers did to perfection), but that set up the play action and Ben was nearly perfect. He finished the day completing all but 3 of his pass attempts while gaining 238 yards and 2 TDs. He also did not fumble. This is closer to the Big Ben we are used to seeing.
QB Alex Smith, SF - He had a solid outing against a tough Chargerís defense. Through 6 games, he has 1,285 yards and 8 TDs (while throwing just 4 interceptions). He is not making the mistakes he made last year and appears to be getting better every week. He finished the day with 214 passing yards and 2 TDs.
QB Vince Young, TEN - He threw for 6.44 yards per attempt and guided his team to their first victory. Heís improving every week and gets a bye in week 7. His first opponent after the bye will be Houston and he should do well in that game with two weeks of prep time.
RB Tiki Barber, NYG - Tiki has been a machine the last few weeks. He totaled 227 combined yards on Sunday and just missed scoring a TD this week. The Giants defense has improved as well meaning they are in games and do not have to abandon the running game in the second half. This is the Tiki we saw explode during the last half of 2006. He trails only Steven Jackson for combined yards (and Jackson has played 1 extra game). He has yet to score, but we expect that is coming very soon.
RB Marion Barber III, DAL - He had an impressive 5.7 yards per carry on Sunday and again scored. Through 5 games, Barber has scored 4 TDs and has emerged as the better goal line back over Julius Jones. Should something happen to Jones, Barberís value would sky-rocket. Donít get caught up in all of the TO drama. This Dallas team is a run-first team.
RB Tatum Bell, DEN - Forget about the RBBC talk. Tatum Bell is getting the carries. He had 23 carries to Mike Bellís one. He finished the day with 83 yards and a TD while adding another 11 receiving. If this trend continues (and we expect it to), Tatum should be a top ten RB going forward.
RB Najeh Davenport, PIT - The Steelers found their backup running back. Davenport will assume the Bettis role and will likely also be used to closeout games they are winning. He finished with 78 yards and a TD on just 12 carries against the Chiefs.
RB Warrick Dunn, ATL - He managed a 90-yard TD run and was headed for a big day. This huge day was halted though as the Falcons squandered the lead and finally abandoned the running game in the 4th quarter. Dunn only carried the ball twice after his long scamper early in the third quarter. He finished the day with 146 yards and a TD.
RB Travis Henry, TEN - He claimed the #1 RB spot on the Titans with a huge performance. He put the team on his back running for 178 yards and a TD on 32 carries. This grind out approach kept the game close and eventually led to the win. Travis will likely give some carries away to rookie LenDale White going forward, but Chris Brown seems entrenched in the doghouse.
RB Kevin Jones, DET - A dual-threat player, Jones catches enough passes to post great combined stats every week. He had his most rushing yards since week 14 of 2004. He finished with 163 combined yards and a TD on Sunday against a solid Buffalo defense.
RB Maurice Morris, SEA - He hasnít been that great, but Shaun Alexander is expected to be sidelined another two weeks. That makes Morris a starting RB for 2 more weeks. He managed 74 yards on 23 carries, but had a key fumble that almost lost the game for the Seahawks.
RB Willie Parker, PIT - When Pittsburgh runs, they play well. The team leaned on Parker early and often this week as they dominated on Sunday. He finished the day with 21 carries for 109 yards and 2 TDs. He gained most of those yards in the first half as the team used Najeh Davenport to close out the game.
RB Leon Washington, NYJ - Despite the team stating that Barlow was still the starting RB, Washington got nearly as many carries (11 to 13) and gained significantly more yards (58 to 45). The handwriting is on the wall. Leon Washington will be the starting running back very soon.
WR Deion Branch, SEA - Branch stepped in for an ailing Bobby Engram and got his first start as a Seahawk. Branch caught a team-high six balls for 76 yards and a team-best two TDs. Engramís status is uncertain, but it is obvious that Branch will have a huge role in the Seattle offense.
WR Reggie Brown, PHI - Brown has been one of the most consistent WRs in the league. He is currently seventh among WRs in fantasy points per game and has at least one TD in four games this season. As long as Donteí Stallworth is on the sidelines with a bad hamstring, Brown will continue as the teamís primary receiving threat.
WR Mark Clayton, BAL - Clayton has been disappointing this season, but he had a nice outing against the Panthers. In the days before the game, Clayton suffered a neck injury and was iffy to even play, but he was a big part of the offense in week six by catching five balls for 101 yards and a pair of TDs.
WR Michael Clayton, TB - Clayton gets the upgrade primarily based on a single play Ė his game-winning TD catch and lunge against the Bengals. Overall, he had a decent day (six catches for 55 yards), but the determination he showed on that play could light a fire under the entire Buccaneersí offense. It was also the type of play that should allow rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski to throw to Clayton with confidence. If you saw Claytonís reaction after the play was called a TD, you know how big a moment it was.
WR Laveranues Coles, NYJ - Coles is having an outstanding season and ranks among the top ten fantasy WRs in the NFL. He already has three 100-yard games and is currently on pace for 101 catches, 1432 yards and eight TDs. The amazing part is that he has been fighting injuries for much of the season.
WR Torry Holt, STL - Prior to the season, Holt was among a handful of top tier WRs (including Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison and the Cardinalsí duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Six weeks into the year, Holt sits at the top of the WR heap with 15.77 fantasy points per game. He is far and away Marc Bulgerís favorite target and likely won some games single-handedly in week six with his 154 yards and three TDs. If you like consistency, Holt has a TD in every game this year except for week one (where he caught seven balls for 80 yards).
WR Joe Horn, NO - Horn went five weeks without crossing the 100-yard mark and without finding the endzone. However, against the Eagles, Horn took care of both of those negatives with a six-catch, 110-yard and two-TD outing. The Saintsí offense is rolling along right now with Drew Brees leading the charge. He likes spreading the ball around, but Horn is a big part of the offense.
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, CIN - After missing two weeks with an injury, Houshmandzadeh has been outstanding in the next three games. In those three games, he has yardage totals of 94, 95 and 102. That is remarkable consistency. Houshmandzadeh also has three TDs in three games and is currently the #2 fantasy WR in points per game.
WR Terrell Owens, DAL - Owens finally got things going against the Texans and caught three TDs. Of course those three scores (and the Dallas win) seemed to have wiped clean the reports of a feud between Owens and WR coach (and passing game coordinator) Todd Haley. After Owensí first TD, they shared a hug and chattered during the game. So, for the time being at least, things look rosy for Owens and the Cowboys.
WR Steve Smith, CAR - Anyone that catches eight balls for 189 yards and a TD deserves an instant upgrade. Smith absolutely torched the tough Ravensí defense and appears to at least be approaching 100% health (he looked pretty solid on his 72-yard TD).
WR Roy Williams, DET - Williams bounced back from his injury-shortened week five outing with an excellent 10-catch, 161-yard outing against the Bills. Williams added a TD to make fantasy owners happy. It appears that Williams having a good time in the Mike Martz offense (three 100-yard games in the last four weeks).
TE Antonio Gates, SD - Gates has had a decent season, but for a guy like Gates ďdecentĒ doesnít get the job done. However, he looked fantastic on his 57-yard TD and is very much on the same page as Philip Rivers. The upcoming schedule isnít overly inviting, but this Chargersí offense is clicking right now. They should be able to keep things going.
TE Todd Heap, BAL - Heap currently leads all TEs with four TDs. He has been a consistent contributor and has at least three catches in every game this year (while scoring in four different games). His YPC is a tad low right now (three yards below his career average). If he could bring that up to par, he could become the top scoring TE in the league.
TE Randy McMichael, MIA - McMichael obviously is comfortable with Joey Harrington at the helm. In the four games with Daunte Culpepper, McMichael caught 10 balls for 113 yards. In Harringtonís two starts, McMichael has 14 receptions for 156 yards. While weíd love to see him crossing the goal line, he definitely merits an uptick.
TE Jeremy Shockey, NYG - Shockey gets the automatic upgrade after scoring a pair of TDs against the Falcons. Even better for Shockey was that his six catches for 55 yards came on a day where he was able to finish the game. In his prior two outings, Shockeyís ankle kept him from being on the field for a full 60 minutes.
TE Alex Smith, TB - Smith has only eight catches for 26 yards in the last two weeks, but he is becoming a nice redzone target for Bruce Gradkowski. In the rookieís two starts, Smith has a TD in each. If you are in need of a waiver wire TE, Smith is a decent option.
TE Jason Witten, DAL - Witten only caught three balls for 17 yards against the Texans, but Houston is surprisingly tough against opposing TEs. However, the next two teams on the schedule (the Giants and Panthers) have been fairly soft defending the position. Witten hasnít found the endzone yet this season, but he should put up some good numbers in the next couple of weeks.
PK Nate Kaeding, SD - Kaeding and the entire Chargers offense have been scoring almost at will this season. Kaeding has at least two FGs in each game so far and has missed only once on 30 total kicks. The next four opponents (Chiefs, Rams, Browns and Bengals) are nice as well.
PK John Kasay, CAR - Steve Smith is at least really close to full strength, and he is obviously the catalyst to the Panthersí offense. With Carolina rolling, Kasay should have no problem scoring in bunches. Of course there is a chance that heíll simply kick a handful of PATs, but you have to feel comfortable that he will not get shut out.
TD Denver Broncos, DEN - The Broncosí defense has been fantastic over the last two games. They have forced five turnovers, accumulated six sacks and allowed only six total points.
TD San Diego Chargers, SD - San Diegoís defense has really gotten after the QB over the last few weeks. In three games, they have 12 sacks and have also forced seven turnovers. In week seven, a struggling Kansas City offense should provide more opportunities for the Chargersí defense.
TD New York Giants, NYG - After a very shaky start to the season, the Giants defense has played very well since their bye week. Against the Redskins and Falcons, New York has ten sacks and forced a pair of turnovers while allowing only 17 points and 493 total yards.
TD Pittsburgh Steelers, PIT - The Steelersí defense has been spotty this season, but they absolutely dominated the Kansas City Chiefs in week six. In their last two games, they have forced four turnovers, sacked the QB five times and scored a TD. The Falcons might be tough matchup in week seven, but the week eight matchups against Oakland looks very nice.
QB Mark Brunell, WAS - Brunell has had a single quality game (week four against the Jaguars) and couldnít excel last Sunday against the Titans defense. Donít expect a rebound against the Colts.
QB David Carr, HOU - The season started nicely for Carr, but the schedule has taken a turn for the worse. He struggled in week six against the Cowboys and doesnít face a soft spot until a week 13 date with Oakland.
QB Daunte Culpepper, MIA - According to HC Nick Saban, Culpepper isnít being benched due to an injury but rather because he hasnít yet rehabbed from his 2005 injury. Seeing as the Dolphins likely will not need Culpepper for a playoff run, it wouldnít be surprising to see him shut down for much of the season.
QB Damon Huard, KC - He put up some good numbers against the Cardinals defense, but after the Pittsburgh debacle, it is pretty obvious that he isnít the answer.
QB Carson Palmer, CIN - All of the Bengalsí offensive players are saying it, and we really canít argue. The Cincinnati offense is a bit off. While there are flashes of greatness, there are far too many breakdowns for this to be considered an elite offense. To make matters worse, there isnít a soft spot on the schedule until a week 12 visit to Cleveland.
QB Jake Plummer, DEN - Itís hard to find a reason to plug Plummer into your starting lineup right now as HC Mike Shanahan seems perfectly content to grind out 13-3 victories. At his current level of production, Plummer is on pace to barely crack double-digits in TDs. He has only one 200-yard game and barely inched over the 100-yard mark in each of the last two weeks.
QB Michael Vick, ATL - The Giants put Michael Vick through the wringer in week six. They intercepted him once and forced four fumbles (Atlanta recovered three of them) while sacking Vick seven times. Vickís passing numbers have never been excellent, but current pace has him throwing a mere eight TDs this season. Plus, he has yet to cross the 160-yard passing mark. Thatís just bad stuff right there.
QB Andrew Walter, OAK - There is no definitive word on when Aaron Brooks will return, but itís pretty obvious that Walter has not seized control of the job. Even with the starting job, this Oakland offense is playing so bad that you canít even start Walter with any amount of confidence.
RB Kevan Barlow, NYJ - There are a few reports that Curtis Martin will attempt to come back from the PUP list and play this year. However, thatís not why Barlow is getting a downgrade. Heís listed here because Leon Washington has outperformed him for two straight weeks.
RB Chris Brown, TEN - Well Brown was at least in uniform this week, but that was only because LenDale White was ill and missed an entire week of practice. Still, it gave Brown good seat to watch Travis Henry shred the Washington defense for 178 rushing yards. Brown is obviously the third man on the totem pole here and has little value when the other two backs are healthy.
RB Larry Johnson, KC - The Chiefs as a team were horrible against the Steelers. While Johnson was able to find the endzone, his 32 total yards on 18 carries was a stinker. Damon Huard does not scare any defense, so expect more mediocrity from Johnson at least until Trent Green is 100% healthy. Having San Diego up next wonít help much either.
RB Rudi Johnson, CIN - Johnson started the season with 241 yards and three TDs in two games. In the three games since, he has totaled only 164 yards and a single TD. Plus, Chris Perry should soon be healthy enough to play, and that will eat into Johnsonís touches.
RB Jamal Lewis, BAL - It has been a tale of two months for Lewis. In September, Lewis scored one TD and averaged almost 20 carries and 78 yards per game. So far in October, he has been shut out of the endzone while averaging fewer than 40 yards on 13 carries per game. Unless the Ravens give him more touches, he simply isnít a viable fantasy option.
WR Bobby Engram, SEA - Tests last week on Engram confirmed that he has a thyroid condition. Additional tests will determine the level of his disorder, how it will be treated and how long he might be sidelined.
WR Derrick Mason, BAL - Mason was a huge disappointment against the Panthers as he put up a goose egg. He was targeted in the endzone, but the pass was tipped and bounced into the hands of fellow Raven Mark Clayton for the score. Targets aside, Mason gets the automatic downgrade after a zero-catch game.
WR Rod Smith, DEN - The Broncosí offense is simply not throwing the ball enough to make Smith a viable option right now. Jake Plummer is on pace for a mere 218 completions, 2480 yards and ten TDs. Even worse is that Smith isnít even getting very much of that tiny pie. He is on pace for 51 catches, 435 yards and three TDs. Another terrible stat: Smithís YPC is currently a full five yards below his career average.
WR Donte Stallworth, PHI - We love Stallworth when heís on the field, but his hamstring really has us worried. He obviously wanted to face the Saints, but he wasnít even close to being healthy enough to step on the field. Hamstrings have a way of lingering, so thereís really no way to pinpoint his return.
TE Tony Gonzalez, KC - Gonzalez is getting a downgrade for a couple of reasons. First he has struggled mightily this season. Since week one, he has only 11 catches for 106 yards and zero TDs. Also, his opponents (San Diego, Seattle and St. Louis) over the next three games are quite difficult against TEs. That is not a good trio to bounce back against.
TE Ben Watson, NE - Watson has been a big disappointment so far this season, and it doesnít look like heíll bounce back anytime soon. He doesnít have a favorable match-up until the week 13 game with the Lions.
PK Matt Stover, BAL - Stover began the season by drilling nine FGs in his first three games. However, the opportunities have decreased lately, and Stover has only one FG in his last three outings. There are likely hotter kickers available on your waiver wire.
PK Lawrence Tynes, KC - The Chiefs offense looks very unimpressive right now and is in the middle of a tough stretch of opponents. The Steelers held Tynes to a single point, and the Chargers could be even stingier. Even the Seahawks defense looks capable of holding down the current version of the Kansas City offense.
TD Cincinnati Bengals, CIN - This has become a very uninspiring unit. In their last two games, the Bengalsí defense has forced two turnovers and accumulated two sacks. They also allowed 26 points and 362 yards per game.
TD Tampa Bay Buccaneers, TB - The Buccaneers have played good bend but donít break defense, but in most scoring systems, that translates to few fantasy points. Over the last two games, Tampa Bay has sacked the QB twice and zero forced turnovers.
TD Kansas City Chiefs, KC - After a 41-0 shutout of the 49ers, it appeared that the Chiefs defense had turned the corner to becoming a respectable fantasy unit. However, they looked mediocre at best while the Steelers ran up and down the field. Factor in the upcoming schedule (Chargers, Seahawks and Rams), and you find a defense that will struggle over the next few weeks.
TD Baltimore Ravens, BAL - Baltimoreís defense started the season hot as they dominated the Buccaneers, Raiders and Browns. However, they have looked uneven lately against the Chargers, Broncos and Panthers. Itís pretty apparent that a good offense can handle Baltimore, and the next two teams on the schedule (New Orleans and Cincinnati) look like good offenses.
TD Washington Redskins, WAS - Going into the season, there were pretty high expectations for the Redskinsí defense. They have disappointed many fantasy owners. The tipping point for us occurred last Sunday as a poor Tennessee offense had zero turnovers while Travis Henry gutted the Redskins for 178 rushing yards.