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NFL Barometer: 2006 NFL Barometer-Week 20

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The Barometer

By Michael Salfino
RotoWire Staff Writer


UPGRADE

Derek Anderson, QB, Browns: In his second start, Anderson completes 13 straight passes and two scores versus the ferocious Ravens (who cut him in '05). He should start the Browns remaining games, not Charlie Frye (hand). Tampa Bay is on deck (worst pass defense in football).

Laveranues Coles, WR, Jets: The Jets pass passively against top defenses, but Coles typically owns the Dolphins (four TDs the last three meetings). Miami has break-but-don't-bend defense (42 TD passes allowed in 30 games under Coach Saban).

Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles: Sometimes we get so hung up on what a guy isn't that we lose sight of what he is. I've always stated that Westbrook is a wonderful real-life player, but not a wonderful fantasy player. Yes, he's not durable or an every-down back or a goal-line guy. True that. But he's a very versatile playmaker and it's never a mistake to roster someone who can be defined like that even by his detractors. He'll get 20 carries here and there and even short-yardage scores, like he did last week on fourth down.

Vernand Morency, RB, Packers: Morency keeps getting my attention in limited action. But Ahman Green is still the primary guy there when healthy, so I've mostly ignored him in this space. Now, though, we can begin to set our sites on 2007. Green is not signed for next year and may not be willing to take a big pay cut. So, Morency could definitely be the man in Green Bay and flashes the kind of playmaking ability that Green consistently showed in his prime.

Desmond Clark, TE, Bears: Guys like Clark don't get much fantasy slack. He disappears for a stretch and we bury him, figuring that earlier success was merely a flash. But Clark has ability. He just doesn't have a reputation, which hurts him as much with the Bears as it does with us. They're not looking to feed him, so his stretches of inactivity linger much more than, say, Antonio Gates' (one catch last week).

Ron Dayne, RB, Texans: I have to upgrade him now. He's scoring TDs, running well and getting the vast majority of carries. He's also a Texan. That's not quite a fantasy leper colony, but still not a group with which you want to have too much close contact.

Mike Bell, RB, Broncos: Good thing Stringer Bell from "The Wire" is dead (spoiler alert!). Otherwise, he'd be in play in Denver, too. I'm so tired of ringing these damn Bells. But Tatum coughed up a fumble after taking a big loss, resulting in a Cardinals TD last week. That's a double-dose of dumb that gets you in the Denver doghouse. Mike Bell got two more TDs and the bulk of the carries thereafter.

Jamal Lewis, RB, Ravens: I'm not going to be stubborn about it. He's got value now. He hasn't averaged less than 3.4 per carry for four weeks (laugh if you want, but that's significant in light of post-2004 developments). More importantly, he's scored six TDs the last four weeks. So, he's 2002 Eddie George, not the '03 or '04 models that were recalled. Yes, you got me, this is a backhanded compliment (but that's my specialty, according to my wife).

Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: The guy is making plays all over the field. No, he can't run crisp routes. He's not consistent or reliable enough to be a true star. But he's explosive and manhandles defensive backs with his incredible size and wingspan. I'd roster him now and in the foreseeable future without hesitation.

Terrell Owens, WR, Cowboys: The mad skills get lost among all the distractions. He basically opened the season with the reported suicide attempt. Then he dialed it down with an acoustic set fights with coaches, sleeping at team meetings and putting his party planning over Parcells' 2006 attempt at a Knute Rockne moment. But he's gone electric again by first apologizing for spitting at DeAngelo Hall and then denying he did it after the NFL fined him 35 Gs. You must admit, Owens makes a very unconvincing witness against himself. Oh, by the way, he has a league-leading 11 TD catches.


NO CHANGE

Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos: If he pops, you'll see the seed he threw 65 air yards to Javon Walker for the next 50 years on NFL highlight reels. But he still looks like a rookie on most other throws.

Vince Young, QB, Titans: People want to kill him for last week's egg, but you cannot have a good fantasy day when the opposing QB turns the ball over three times deep in your territory and your defense takes them all back the distance. That guy gets right back on the field, and now your team has less need to throw.


DOWNGRADE

Drew Brees, QB, Saints: I like him a lot still. But we're getting ahead of ourselves when readers are writing me asking if they should start Brees ahead of Peyton Manning at home against a poor pass defense. He's having a great year based on unsustainable effectiveness on bombs (11-for-16 with seven TDs on passes traveling 30-plus air yards). So a bad day from him doesn't seemingly violate nature's laws as does, say, one from Manning (the good one, not Eli).

Chris Chambers, WR, Dolphins: He's disappointing because Joey Harrington can't complete a pass over 10 yards (15.7 QB rating with seven picks on 63 11-to-20 yard throws).

Bears defense: Without dynamic DT Tommy Harris (IR), Chicago can no longer generate heat without blitzing (sack every 20 attempts post-injury versus one every 12 at midseason).

Roy Williams, WR, Lions: It seems like yesterday that I was patting myself on the back here for recommending him. Yes, he's got 70 catches for over 1,100 yards. But you can't be a true No. 1 receiver when you go six weeks without a TD.

David Carr, QB, Texans: He's even more awful than you think: 17 percent of his yards and 50 percent of his TD passes have come in garbage time (down 14 points or more in the fourth quarter). Carr has one TD pass in his last 232 attempts. Digest that for a moment because you're not going to see that again maybe ever. What has Carr ever done to deserve that string of ineptitude. How long of a leash does a No. 1 overall pick get? Bench his sorry ass already.

Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks: More precincts have reported. First, I thought this was as good a time as any for the circus to leave town for Alexander. A broken foot and all those carries? Why wait for the burning bush. Then, he ripped off 200 yards against the Packers, and I backtracked. (What was a reasonable, fair-minded person to do?) Now, he's seemingly back in the tank. Take away the Packers game and he's averaged three yards on 152 carries this year. I'd wet my finger and stick it in a light socket before touching Alexander in 2007 anywhere near where he's likely to be drafted.

Article first appeared 12/19/06