The Weekly Gut Check Vol. 176

  Updated 10/29 by Matt Waldman, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

The Weekly Gut Check examines the players, strategies and guidelines fantasy football owners use to make personnel decisions.

Earlier this month, I wrote about strong starts and demonstrated that there are a significant number of players at every position that finish like studs despite beginning like duds. Last week, I focused on players and their performances at the midpoint of the fantasy season. This week, I'm unveiling my All-Stretch Run Fantasy Team; players I believe will perform well enough from weeks eight through thirteen to propel your team to a strong finish.


  • Carson Palmer: Although the five-touchdown week helped put Palmer on this squad, it's how he's scoring that's so impressive. No longer are the Bengals a one-dimensional offense. Cedric Benson is playing as well as any back in the league and defenses cannot roll coverage without paying for it dearly. Moreover, Carson Palmer and Laveranues Coles are beginning to develop a connection, Andre Caldwell has improved enough to be a reliable receiver between the hashes, and Chris Henry is getting healthy enough to threaten defenses deep on a more consistent basis. It's the fact that Coles and Palmer are beginning to connect in the red zone that puts it over the top for me. Palmer has two weeks to prepare for the rematch with the Ravens and they get a chance to sweep Pittsburgh the week after. These might not be the best-looking match ups, but I'm comfortable going with him and after that he faces Detroit, Cleveland, and Oakland before a tough match up with Minnesota. The great reward in week 15 is the San Diego Chargers, which could be a shoot-out.

  • Kurt Warner: Beanie Wells just might provide some balance for the Cardinals offense, but this team's bread is buttered by the firm of Fitzgerald, Boldin and Breaston. Just look at these completion percentages by game, and you can tell Warner has been uneven thus far: 59, 92, 57, 68, 78, and 55 percent last week against the Giants. Warner does have to face Philadelphia and Minnesota in many fantasy playoff formats, but that just might mean Warner has 60 attempts rather than 30-40. Warner also has enough softer opponents to get you to the postseason. As you are beginning to see, I like quarterbacks with at least three decent receivers and some semblance of skill running the football up the middle. Warner isn't my top choice because Beanie Wells has to prove he can be a consistent force…however, I think his performance against the Giants proves his head is finally on straight and that benefits Warner owners.

Third String

  • Matt Ryan: Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez is an elite, receiving combo, but the ground game is struggling enough that teams don't have to respect it as much as last year. Ryan got harassed last weekend and as much as everyone is ready to anoint him as the next great quarterback, I think we need to emphasize the word "next" in the context of "in the future." Although Ryan had not been sacked in 143 attempts leading to the Dallas game, he clearly shows that pressure phases him more than it does the elite signal callers. The Saints, Redskins, Giants, and Eagles are four of the next five opponents, and they can bring the pain. Warner and Palmer are clearly better options, but if the Falcons offensive line can generate more of a push up the middle for Turner to hit the holes north south, Ryan becomes a factor. That's just too big of an if for me.

Practice Squad

  • Tony Romo: How can you not love some of Romo's skills? His elusiveness and accuracy can be stunningly good. However, his decisions can be erratic and without super strong receivers to bail him out, he's not a lock to go on a tear. Miles Austin has obviously gained rapport with Romo and even if I'm still not convinced he's benefited tremendously from poor secondary play, he is still performing far better than Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, or anyone else with a star on their helmet that Michael Irvin can throw into the mix after a Spike TV tryout. If Austin continues his performance, Jason Witten and the trio of runners could do a lot of damage underneath. However, I'd much rather have Palmer and Warner.

Running Backs

  • Brian Westbrook: Grade three concussion? Memory Loss? Congressional hearings? Yeah, I know - highly doubtful Brian Westbrook is playing this week. I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff Lurie got a personal phone call from Roger Goodell post-Congressional media circus. All that means to me is Westbrook has en extra week to be ready for the stretch run. I know there's a lot of love for LeSean McCoy, but right now "Shady" is a more appropriate term to describe his decisiveness and pass blocking. Unless the light suddenly comes on, Westbrook is far and away the best weapon the Eagles have - and that includes DeSean Jackson. Westbrook looked fresh and ready prior to his concussion and I think he's ready for a big stretch run.

  • Rashard Mendenhall: Obvious? Yes! However, I think Mendenhall turns it up another notch when the elements become a greater factor at Heinz Field. Although Denver is on tap, Oakland, Cleveland, and Kansas City are there, too. I especially like Oakland and Cleveland back to back in weeks 13 and 14.

The Committee Special

  • Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown: The Dolphins face the Patriots twice, and I'm thinking Bill Belichick will do something not to be embarrassed by this duo again. However, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay are key opponents who are capable of stopping the run but only the Jaguars have a shot to be a contender and remain a tough play by this point in the season. Plus, Williams and Brown are running against everyone. Ricky Williams has been a revelation in particular. One of the last things I would have anticipated is Williams outrunning the Saints defense for a 68-yard score last week. I know he still has the power and receiving skills, but his speed was a shocker. Both backs will be fresh enough down the stretch and the way they use the Wildcat is unique enough to test even stronger units in the league.

Wide Receivers

  • Torry Holt: Mike Sims-Walker is the present and future of the Jaguars receiving corps, but I think Torry Holt's past two games with 95 and 101 yards, respectively, shows that the veteran still has value in the here and now. Tennessee, Kansas City, Buffalo, Houston, and Miami also present easier options and with teams focusing on Sims-Walker and Jones-Drew, Holt will surely benefit. What I especially found encouraging was Holt's 20.2-ypc average against St. Louis. He and David Garrard are gaining more rapport and I think it will continue to manifest in strong games for the veteran.

  • Hakeem Nicks: Mario Manningham has never been a strong route runner. This is why I was not high on his prospects from Michigan. He was merely a one-dimensional perimeter option. His athleticism is terrific and he has a future if he works at his craft, but Hakeem Nicks is a potential Pro Bowl player who paired with Steve Smith will give Eli Manning a duo that could rival any unit in the league. Nicks not only has the great hands and physical skill of a primary receiver, but he also has the on-field IQ you hope from an established veteran. Watching him get the better of Nnamdi Asomugha with techniques you don't usually see from a rookie was great indication that he would be ready for me. The fact Eli Manning went to Nicks first in a red zone opportunity last week also shows where this is heading. The schedule will be a challenge with Denver, and Philadelphia (twice), but the Giants have the ground game and the line for the passing game to generate big plays.

  • Percy Harvin: I think the Steelers game was a turning point for Harvin. The rookie came into the game with a shoulder injury, but was able to make plays despite taking hard shots from a physical defense. Favre looked to Harvin deep more than you might expect and when you combine these things with the fact the Green Bay stuck Charles Woodson in single coverage although Harvin was in the slot and the rest of the Packers defense was in zone, you begin to get the sense of how Harvin scares defenses. The problem for defenses, and benefit for fantasy owners, is that Favre is developing more confidence in Harvin that he's primed for some big games against Chicago (twice), Cincinnati, Detroit, Seattle, and Carolina ahead.

Tight Ends

  • Vernon Davis: Alex Smith has the arm strength to go deep, and Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Isaac Bruce should do well enough outside that Davis thrives - especially with Frank Gore once again healthy. Gore is the key, because his presence forces opposing defenses to use a safety in the box on plays that look like run but turn out to be passes to the tight end.

  • Jeremy Shockey: Other than Marques Colston, Shockey seems to be the most consistent recipient of targets in New Orleans. Shockey has had at least four receptions in every game this season and I don't expect that to change.

Week 7 Progress

Here's a quick update:

  • Footballguys IDP Staff League: 7-0 with Tom Brady on bye this week. I picked up Alex Smith this week because quarterback is the one position I'm not well stocked with depth.

  • AAFFL: I went with a 1-RB, 4-WR lineup for another week and lead the league in scoring this weekend. DeSean Jackson and Carson Palmer lead the way. What burns me is I dropped Vernon Davis in week two. This team could have been dominant with him. Now they are simply a strong contender.

  • Footballguys IDP Survivor League: I'm three games back from the leading team this week and continue to get strong play from my receivers and linebackers.

  • FESL Bravo: I came back to earth last week and I'm currently 3-4, but Ray Rice was on bye. I still think I have a shot to reel off a few and contend for a playoff spot.

  • HAFAX-II: With Elvis Dumervil and Mike Sims-Walker on bye, and Donovan McNabb relatively quiet, we ended our three-game winning streak, but we're still in second place.

  • HyperActive Dynasty League: Still going strong at 5-2 despite poor quarterback play. With Bulger, Sanchez, and Edwards comprising my depth chart, I'll need huge weeks from Ray Rice and DeAngelo Williams to compensate.

  • Ironman 3 IDP Dynasty League: Tied for first at 5-2 in my division despite a low-scoring week with Ryan Fitzpatrick subbing for David Garrard on bye. Ricky Williams was a big reason for this team's victory. I actually picked up Williams two years ago as a long shot...

  • WCOFF $300 Satellite League: Another big win and league-leading score that has me 49th overall among all $300 Satellites despite Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, and Mike Sims-Walker on bye. If only I didn't make a last-minute switch from Carson Palmer to Brett Favre - might have made a bigger overall leap among point leaders. I play the first-place team this weekend with a chance to narrow the gap to a game.

  • SOFA Auction League: Westbrook's concussion and Anquan Boldin's toughness (taking away looks from Steve Breaston) were big reasons I dropped to 2-5. With a fair bit of disparity between the top and the bottom of each division, I still have a remote chance but it's not looking good.

  • Rapid Draft: With the Footballguys "Slick Willie" team getting handed its first loss, I was able to make up ground and lead the league in scoring despite Willie Parker and Felix as my starters. The fact I'm 5-2 and scoring well is miraculous.

  • Footballguys Subscriber Contest: I'm still alive thanks to Vincent Jackson, Jeremy Shockey, and Aaron Rodgers. However my team's uniqueness factor isn't that high, so I'm waiting for that one big knockout week.