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NFL Barometer: 2006 NFL Barometer-Week 4

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The Barometer

By Michael Salfino
RotoWire Staff Writer




Lots to say, and the car is packed with kids waiting to get out of town this last week of summer. The Bengals have not yet played, which means Carson Palmer has not yet taken the field. Proceed with him at your own risk, but consider that, in most formats, it's very unwise to take a QB in the first five rounds (at least).


UPGRADE

Tatum Bell, RB, Broncos: Completely outclassed Mike Bell on Sunday night, running with speed, power and purpose. But does Mike Shanahan care anymore?

Ben Watson, TE, Patriots: Well, the cat is out of the bag. But we all know what Watson is capable should he stay healthy. Tom Brady gave his talent a shout out while subtly questioning his work ethic. Watson has tremendous upside, but donít count on him.

Thomas Jones, RB, Bears: Only upgraded because of Cedric Benson's very bad week off the field (Benson is never on it). (See below.)

Wali Lundy, RB, Texans: Itís Wal-ee like Ali. The rookie is a one-cut runner with decent size, right out of the Broncos' mold. With Domanick Davis knee a serious question mark, he'll make a fine, late upside play in leagues where most owners still think Vernand Morency is the vulture in Houston. Gary Kubiak doesn't like dancers like Morency.

Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons: Nice vulture play on the assumption that Warrick Dunn finally wears down or gets hurt again. Dunn getting hurt is a guarantee if the Falcons are dumb enough to try to ram his 180 pounds into the mass of humanity at the goal-line.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: Not only scored a five-yard TD but more importantly came in during short yardage while the starters were still in. So Barber is the goal-line back and a nice value late-middle or early-late.

Matt Leinart, QB, Cardinals: Very impressive against a Bears defense playing with some seriousness. He looks like he a quick study considering the holdout. With those receivers, he'll make some noise if Warner gets hurt and/or if the Cardinals falter.

Donte Stallworth, WR, Saints: There was a question as to whether he'd start after a slow summer, but he looked fine this weekend and is a good value play in most drafts given Joe Horn's age. Stallworth can be a No. 1 receiver on a bad team with a good QB (Drew Brees), albeit one adjusting to new surroundings.

Patriots Defense: I donít draft defenses and kickers until the last two or maybe three rounds (if I'm feeling crazy). The Patriots couldn't intercept last year, and are perceived as a unit held together with spit and polish. But look at that schedule: lots of shaky QBs in new systems. They get the NFC North, whose QBs made a monster out of the Bengals D just last year.

John Kasay, K, Panthers: Led the league in 50-yard-plus field goal attempts. Was four-for-four last week, including a 53-yarder. More importantly, this is a team that's going to win, play good defense and will move the ball while probably having trouble scoring in the red zone because of the shaky running game (the most efficient scoring teams tend to run the ball very well in close).

Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: Mike Martz talked this week of the need for a running back to get a lot of touches and get into a groove. That's big. The Don Coryell system has always emphasized the run close to the goal line. I'm reaching here, but there's desperation when it comes to finding a No. 2 running back in 12-team leagues.

Drew Bledsoe, QB, Cowboys: He's looking good and will get Terrell Owens back, eventually. (Right? RIGHT?!?)


NO CHANGE

Cadillac Williams, RB, Bucs: The good news, supposedly, is that he got the ball on first and goal. Who cares? If it was first and goal from the two, great. If they brought him in on second and goal from the two, even better. But they took him out and brought Alstott in for the plunge. Get used to it. Williams had two inside-the-five carries last year (we expect 18-to-25 from top scoring RBs).

Randy Moss, WR, Raiders: Like we didn't know Moss was a gamebreaker. Don't forget that Aaron Brooks still stinks despite a couple of nice throws in August. Nothing has changed at QB, which is the bigger problem for Moss, not the chronic injuries the past couple of years.

Matt Jones, WR, Jaguars: Scored again. But he looked stiff to me. None of the Jaguars receivers have the quickness you like to see getting into and out of breaks. And the timing of the Jags passing game suffers as a result. Of course, it doesn't help that Bryon Leftwich is the league's least-accurate passer (as measured by percentage of poor throws).

Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals: He looked even better than Leinart against the Bears (if you watched the game and didn't look at the mere stats). I'm convinced he'll be a top fantasy QB as long as he starts, but you better have a Plan B (which, in 12-team leagues, starts with the Leinart handcuff).


DOWNGRADE

Cedric Benson, RB, Bears: Left a game early and missed a team meeting. He was ratted out by his teammates, who presumably prefer that Jones start. Heck, they might prefer Adrian Peterson after Benson sulked again about being disliked.

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots: The fine is the big problem here: $14 K for each day missed. New England has given him permission to negotiate with other teams. Is this the darkest hour before the dawn or just the darkest hour?

Mike Bell, RB, Broncos: See, Bell, Tatum, above. Week 3 of the preseason is given extra scrutiny by most coaches because it's closest to regular-season action. But Shanny marches to his own drummer.

Julius Jones, RB, Cowboys: Bill Parcells says both backs will play throughout each game. This gives Barber a chance to outshine Jones every week (and vice versa, but don't draft Jones on the assumption he'll be a traditional feature back).

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: Forget their offensive struggles against New England without him. T.J. Duckett is going to steal goal-line carries (never Portis' strong suit). The shoulder is also likely to be a season-long problem.

Domanick Davis, RB, Texans: He's given Lundy too much time to impress the coaches. Davis will likely be given a limited workload to start '06 even if he makes it back on the field.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: Hasn't done anything dramatic. Of course, he can in Week 1, and the preseason won't matter. Rhodes is there for the taking, too.

Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts: Maybe Edgerrin James was better than us wise guys thought.

Terrell Owens, Cowboys: Reportedly fined for missing a meeting and being late. Still hurt with a bad hammy. You get the feeling that Parcells is going to blow at any moment. Do you want to deal with this all year?

Article first appeared 8/28/06