By Dalton Del Don
Pierre Thomas, RB, NO – Thomas' return from his knee injury got off to a rough start last week, as a bad case of dehydration led to zero first half carries. After halftime, he more than made up for it, gaining 126 rushing yards with two touchdowns on just 14 carries. With Mike Bell dealing with a knee injury of his own and Reggie Bush continuing to struggle between the tackles (and outside them, for that matter), Thomas should be New Orleans' workhorse from here on out. The fantastic offense should lead to plenty of red-zone trips, but even more encouraging is the improved Saints' defense, which should lead to far more rushing attempts than last season. Thomas is in a terrific situation, and he's got the talent to take full advantage. He needs to be considered a top-five fantasy commodity right now.
Glen Coffee, RB, SF – Coffee wasn't prepared to take on a full workload Sunday, but that's exactly what he was asked to do when Frank Gore injured his ankle on the first play from scrimmage. Coffee struggled, gaining just 54 yards on 25 carries, but the schedule really eases up with two upcoming home games against the Rams and the Falcons. With few other viable options in the backfield, San Francisco is going to rely heavily on Coffee in the short-term, as it's a ground-heavy scheme, and while it hasn't carried over, Coffee did impress during the preseason. Moreover, there's no guarantee Gore returns after the Week 6 bye, and with matchups against the Texans and Colts afterward, Coffee could be a factor for quite a while. He deserves a No. 1 waiver priority this week.
Jerome Harrison, RB, CLE – Harrison totaled 85 yards on the road against a tough Baltimore defense last week, which is pretty impressive playing for the Browns. His value would mostly dissipate if Jamal Lewis returns from his hamstring injury, but if the injury continues to keep Lewis out of games, Harrison is a sneaky flex option. James Davis may be the future in Cleveland's backfield, but he's still too raw right now, and Harrison has gotten 5.3 YPC throughout his career. He's also a solid receiver, so he needs to be owned in deeper formats.
Joe Flacco, QB, BAL – Flacco was able to throw for 342 yards Sunday despite Baltimore winning 34-3, which is great news for his fantasy outlook. The Ravens are still a run-first team with a strong defense, but Flacco has gotten 8.1 YPA with a 6:2 TD:INT ratio over the first three games of the season. He's even capable of adding some rushing yards as well. Flacco impressed as a rookie, and it's clear he's only going to get better with time. He already looks like a viable QB1 option in fantasy leagues.
Kevin Walter, WR, HOU – Walter wasted no time in his return from a hamstring injury last week, catching seven balls for 96 yards and a touchdown. And he was awful close to scoring a second time as well. Houston's defense remains a big problem, and Matt Schaub has looked extremely sharp over the last two games, so Walter is going to be productive. He's the team's main target when the Texans enter the red zone.
Vernon Davis, TE, SF – Davis has shown flashes before, but Sunday may have been his true coming out party, as he recorded seven receptions for 96 yards and two scores – the second TD a highly impressive 20-yarder in traffic. With Mike Martz gone, Davis has essentially become the No. 1 option in the passing game, something new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has done before with his tight ends. With Frank Gore (ankle) sidelined, San Francisco may pass more than usual, and the 49ers have a very favorable upcoming schedule.
LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI – McCoy was solid while replacing an injured Brian Westbrook (ankle) last week, rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown. While a 4.2 YPC mark wasn't overly impressive during a home game against the Chiefs, McCoy proved he's worthy of playing time, so even when Westbrook returns after the Week 4 bye, expect more of a timeshare in Philadelphia's backfield. If and when Westbrook suffers his next injury, McCoy will be a must-start playing in that offense.
Davone Bess, WR, MIA – Bess certainly isn't an explosive receiver, but he's reclaimed Miami's WR2 role, and he's not a bad option in PPR formats. New quarterback Chad Henne has a much stronger arm than Chad Pennington, so the switch figures to help Ted Ginn more so long-term. However, in the meantime, don't be surprised if Henne relies heavily on underneath routes to Bess, as the quarterback is still learning the ropes. Henne targeted Bess frequently when he took over in Week 3.
Brady Quinn, QB, CLE – After another ugly performance Sunday, Quinn was pulled in favor of Derek Anderson, and although Anderson struggled just as bad, he's been named the team's starter for Week 4. Over 2.5 games this season, Quinn has gotten 5.4 YPA with a 1:5 TD:turnover ratio while also taking 10 sacks. Despite spending a first round pick on Quinn in the 2007 draft, the Browns are still in search of a franchise QB.
Kevin Smith, RB, DET – After playing through a minor knee injury suffered earlier in the game, Smith was eventually knocked out of Week 3 after suffering a more serious shoulder injury. His status remains a mystery, but he's unlikely to play in Week 4. Smith was in the midst of possibly the best game of his career before going down, so it's unfortunate.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, SEA – Through three games, Houshmandzadeh has racked up just 145 receiving yards and has yet to reach the end zone. While his 10.4 yards-per-catch mark is actually his best since 2006-07, it's still not any good. With Seneca Wallace replacing Matt Hasselbeck (ribs) last week, Houshmandzadeh figured to benefit more than teammate Nate Burleson, but it was the latter who received more targets (12) Sunday. Next up, Houshmandzadeh faces an Indy secondary that has allowed just seven passing touchdowns over the last 20 games.
Eddie Royal, WR, DEN – After getting targeted nine times over three quarters in Week 2, there was reason for optimism regarding Royal, despite the low output. But with just three lowly targets in Week 3, Royal has now produced only six receptions for 42 yards on the season. While it's officially time to panic, and Denver's new scheme appears to be a big problem for Royal, this is a player with skills, so some patience would be prudent in deeper leagues. A matchup against Dallas may finally force the Broncos to throw more this week, and it made sense to avoid him last week with Nnamdi Asomugha guarding him for most of the day. Still, Royal certainly can't be trusted as a starter right now.
Felix Jones, RB, DAL – Jones continues to exhibit both tremendous explosiveness when on the field but an inability to stay on it due to injuries. The latest problem is a sprained knee, which should shelve him for a couple of weeks. Jones is officially injury-prone, but he's also a worthy flex play when healthy, even if Marion Barber is back in action.
Joey Galloway, WR, NE – With Wes Welker (knee) missing action, Galloway figured to be relatively productive playing in New England's offense. Instead, he's been highly disappointing. Whether it is his advancing age or learning a new system, he's showed zero chemistry with Tom Brady. Galloway isn't worth owning regardless, but he could become completely irrelevant when Welker returns.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC – The problem isn't just that Bowe's hamstring injury kept him out of Week 3 action, it's that the problem could linger, and his status for Week 4 remains in question. Kansas City's offense was in big trouble beforehand. Without Bowe, it's an utter disaster.
Byron Leftwich, QB, TB – Leftwich was able to rack up garbage starts through the first two games this season, but he wasn't even able to do that Sunday, despite a lopsided score. As a result, he's been benched for Josh Johnson. Leftwich is nothing more than a backup in the NFL these days.
Chad Pennington, QB, MIA – With a much tougher schedule, Pennington was likely to give way to Chad Henne at some point this season, but another shoulder injury meant the move happened sooner than expected. It's unfortunate for Pennington, as the already noodle-armed QB has a tough road ahead trying to recover from a third procedure on his throwing arm.
Article first appeared 9/30/09