By Dalton Del Don
Matt Schaub - Faced with a difficult schedule and three straight road games, Schaub had struggled mightily and his job security was tenuous as a result. Patience was rewarded with a big game Sunday, as he threw for 307 yards with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio. With Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels and now Steve Slaton, there are plenty of weapons at Schaub's disposal in the passing attack. Schaub's 7.8 YPA mark was an elite number last season, so there's plenty of upside. Houston now has four straight home games against relatively easy competition, so Schaub can safely be treated like a top-10 fantasy quarterback moving forward.
Deuce McAllister - McAllister entered Week 4 with just two carries on the season, but the Saints used him as their feature back against the 49ers, and he turned 20 rushing attempts into 73 yards and a touchdown. He may finally be rounding into shape after coming off two major knee surgeries during the offseason, but he is approaching 30 years old, and the knee issues figure to have sapped his explosiveness. Still, it's not like Reggie Bush (3.5 YPC) was having any success running between the tackles, so if New Orleans is going to give McAllister the opportunity, he has plenty of fantasy value.
Mewelde Moore - With Willie Parker (knee), Rashard Mendenhall (shoulder) and Carey Davis (ankle) all sidelined, Moore quickly becomes Pittsburgh's primary ballcarrier. Moore isn't built to carry a full workload, so don't expect more than 20-plus touches. However, he has always been productive when given the chance throughout his career, averaging 4.8 YPC while acting as a major threat as a receiver out of the backfield. For as long as Parker remains out, Moore should be solid.
Matt Jones - Jones has turned around what looked like a lost career as recently as this summer, catching at least five balls in all four games this season. He's been targeted 32 times on the year, so he's clearly emerged as Jacksonville's No. 1 option in the passing game. David Garrard is capable of playing better, and with the Jaguars' defense regressing, the team may be forced to throw more than usual. Jones has good size and speed, so a breakout appears to be in the looming.
Drew Brees - With Tom Brady (knee) out for the year and Peyton Manning struggling, at least to his standards, Brees has quietly been putting together a huge season, on pace for 5,372 passing yards with 32 TDs. The yardage totals aren't sustainable, but his 9.1 YPA mark to go along with his 72.3 completion percentage are truly remarkable. With that efficiency, he won't have to attempt nearly as many passes as last year's record-setting number, but he should still equal the results. Of course, New Orleans will always remain pass-heavy, and it's comforting to know Brees is immune to injuries to his receivers, as he can remain productive even if his top options are sidelined.
Larry Johnson - At least for the short-term, rumors of Johnson's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated, as the bruising back has ran for 319 yards and three touchdowns over the past two weeks. An easy schedule has helped, but there's no denying the 6.1 YPC. He's still useless in the passing game, but as long as Damon Huard remains under center, the Chiefs' offense is at least adequate. The schedule stiffens up soon, but expect Kansas City to continue to rely heavily on Johnson throughout the year.
Brett Favre - The Arizona secondary isn't any good, but Favre's six touchdowns on 8.5 YPA in Week 4 was certainly a statement declaring he can still play. With a suspect defense and running game, the Jets may have to pass frequently, and Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles are two solid options at receiver. The more Favre acclimates himself into the system, the better rapport he'll develop with the two, so expect continued success moving forward.
Michael Bush - Justin Fargas' (groin) status remains cloudy, and Darren McFadden's turf toe injury is clearly hampering him, which leaves Bush as the only healthy option in Oakland's backfield. The upcoming bye may help the others return to health, but their injuries appear fairly serious, and the team is run-first anyway. Bush hasn't been overly impressive running the ball this season, but he has emerged as a target in the passing game, catching seven balls for 80 yards last week. The Raiders have a good defense and a terrific run-blocking unit, so there's potential here.
Marc Bulger - The Trent Green experiment was short-lived, as Bulger has reclaimed the starting quarterback job in St. Louis. He's been nothing short of awful dating back to last season, but with coach Scott Linehan fired, at least the locker room will be more harmonious. No one should expect the Pro Bowl Bulger to return anytime soon, but at least he's back starting.
Carson Palmer - As if Palmer's season couldn't get any worse (5.7 YPA, 1:3 TD:INT ratio), he's now dealing with what could potentially be a serious elbow injury. His long-term status remains a mystery, but any problem with his throwing arm that is significant enough for him to miss a game is major cause for concern. As poor as Palmer has played, it's still a major downgrade to the rest of the offense when Ryan Fitzpatrick replaces him at quarterback, so his health is also a big worry for Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh owners.
Ryan Grant - After a 15-carry, 20-yard (1.3 YPC) performance Sunday, Grant's slow start to the season has officially become worrisome. Tampa Bay has a stout defense, but last week Grant no longer appeared on the injury report, so the hope was that he's finally over his hamstring problem. There's still time to turn it around, but since Grant isn't much of an option as a receiver, he really needs to drastically improve his 3.4 YPC mark on the year. Additionally, Aaron Rodgers' (shoulder) health status is a question mark right now, which would greatly affect Grant's value as well.
Jamal Lewis - Lewis ran for 79 yards and a touchdown last week, but there's plenty of reason for pessimism, as it took 25 carries and came against a soft Bengals defense. On the season, he's averaging a paltry 3.4 YPC for a Cleveland offense that has regressed badly. One plus is that Lewis has been more active in the passing game this season, but it's still in moderation. It's looking more and more like last season was an aberration among a string of disappointing campaigns by Lewis.
Kevin Smith - Even during the Lions' bye week, Smith gets the downgrade after coach Rod Marinelli officially named Rudi Johnson the team's starting running back. Smith has been involved as a receiver, but with a 3.5 YPC mark, it's easy to see why the switch was made, especially now that Johnson has fully grasped the playbook. Johnson has been impressive so far as a Lion, averaging 5.5 YPC. However, he's by no means a lock to stay healthy, and Smith remains the future in Detroit, so don't go dropping him.
Thomas Jones - Despite upgrades along the offensive line as well as at quarterback, Jones has averaged just 3.8 YPC this season while adding little in the passing game. Last week he mustered just 46 yards on 18 carries (2.6 YPC) despite playing at home with a big lead and against an average Cardinals defense, which is major cause for concern. Now on the wrong side of 30 years old, Jones is clearly in decline. Leon Washington is getting more involved in the offense, and he might even have Jesse Chatman to compete with before long. Jones' YPC has declined in each game since Week 1.
LenDale White - Playing on a Titans team that's fierce defensively with a strong offensive line, White could still be looking at double-digit touchdowns. However, he has zero receptions on the year and is getting an embarrassing 2.7 YPC. Meanwhile, rookie Chris Johnson continues to excite and is getting more and more of the carries. In fact, Johnson even scored two goal-line touchdowns last week, and if that trend continues, any value White had will quickly vanish.
Aaron Rodgers - Rodgers has vowed to play this week after suffering what's being termed a "sprained shoulder" last week, but the injury is cause for concern since it's to his throwing arm. Also, it's worrisome because Rodgers has proven to be rather injury-prone throughout his brief career. Coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't commit to Rodgers' availability for Week 4, saying he would have a better idea of the quarterback's status after the team's practice Wednesday. Rookie Matt Flynn would get the nod under center if Rodgers can't go in Week 5.
Pierre Thomas - After a strong Week 1, Thomas has struggled, averaging just 3.3 YPC on the year. He's a weapon as a receiver, but that's Reggie Bush's role in New Orleans, and Deuce McAllister got 20 carries to Thomas' one last week. McAllister figures to remain heavily involved, especially in short-yardage situations, making Thomas irrelevant unless injuries strike.
Article first appeared 9/30/08