With Sunday's games in the books, here's a brief list of the most significant depth chart changes affecting fantasy leagues:
TAMPA BAY RB - RISING: Warrick Dunn. FALLING: Earnest Graham. Graham suffered an ankle injury on his first carry Sunday, paving the way for a game-high 20 carries for Dunn. The 53 yards that Dunn earned left something to be desired, but then again, Minnesota's run defense is pretty good. Still, Dunn is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry over the last four weeks, so even if Graham's injury is serious, proceed with caution.
PITTSBURGH RB - RISING: Willie Parker. FALLING: Mewelde Moore. Just last week we were throwing the dirt on Parker's coffin, as it looked like he might be done for the season with a shoulder injury. Well, reports of Parker's demise may have been exaggerated. Against the Chargers, Parker ran 25 times for 115 yards while Moore ran only once. Parker was in the game late, even scoring a goal-line touchdown that was called back by a penalty. It's good for the Steelers that they have a backup who can step in and be as successful as Moore has been, but it's very clear that as long as Parker is healthy, Moore has little fantasy value.
SEATTLE QB - RISING: Matt Hasselbeck. FALLING: Seneca Wallace. The Seattle passing game, thought to be a strength heading into the season, has been a mess all year. The problems can mostly be attributed to the decimation of the wide receiver corps, but Seattle had also been without Hasselbeck the last five games. In his return to the starting lineup, Hasselbeck showed some rust, throwing three interceptions. A late touchdown pass made his final line respectable, and he is certainly an improvement over Wallace and the other options the Seahawks have, but this has been the worst season of Hasselbeck's career.
SEATTLE WR - RISING: Deion Branch. FALLING: Koren Robinson. The Seahawks did get one of their receiving weapons back Sunday, as Branch also returned from a five-game absence. It's been a lost season for Branch, as he's only played in two games all year. Robinson did the best he could while Branch was out, and even caught touchdown passes in each of the last two weeks. His only hope to keep fantasy relevance is that with Hasselbeck in the game, the Seahawks will throw a lot more. Robinson only caught two passes Sunday, but he was targeted seven times. That's a good sign he'll still be part of the offense.
NEW ORLEANS RB - RISING: Pierre Thomas. FALLING: Deuce McAllister. Although McAllister started and scored Sunday, he was largely ineffective, gaining 18 yards on eight carries. Meanwhile, Thomas was 16-for-88 and also scored, adding 56 yards receiving. McAllister will have his hearing with the NFL this week and could be facing a suspension for using banned substances. If Reggie Bush is out another week, look for Thomas to get the start next week against Green Bay.
HOUSTON RB - RISING: Ahman Green. FALLING: Steve Slaton. Slaton carried the ball just 14 times for 156 yards Sunday, including a 71-yard touchdown. So why is he "falling" then? Because his coach has been talking about Slaton "hitting the wall" and keeping him fresh. Green got two goal-line scores on Sunday, and if Slaton continues to be treated with kid gloves in the red zone, Green could take away a lot of Slaton's value in the near term.
NEW YORK GIANTS RB - RISING: Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. FALLING: Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs had a pair of one-yard touchdowns in the first quarter, so he helped his fantasy teams long before he was knocked out of the game with a knee injury. Jacobs doesn't seem to think it's too serious, but you can't be too careful about knee injuries, particularly with running backs. Fortunately for the Giants, there are a couple of good backups. Bradshaw had 96 yards, most of which came on a 77-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. Ward has reached double digits in carries each of the last four weeks, so he was already getting plenty of playing time even when Jacobs was healthy.
CHICAGO QB - RISING: Kyle Orton. FALLING: Rex Grossman. Orton only missed one game with the sprained ankle he suffered Nov. 2, but for all intents and purposes, he should have taken Sunday off as well. Orton threw for just 133 yards in the 37-3 loss to Green Bay, and a lost a fumble returned for a touchdown late in the game. Things will hopefully go a bit better for the Bears next week against the Rams.
ARIZONA RB - RISING: J.J. Arrington. FALLING: Tim Hightower. The red zone was Hightower's domain even when Edgerrin James was the starting running back. Imagine Hightower's surprise when Arrington got the ball three times inside the 10-yard line on Sunday. Hightower's first start of the post-Edge era went great, but since then he's been worse than mediocre, gaining just 57 yards on 24 carries in his last two starts. Arrington had 40 yards on eight carries and another 21 yards on three receptions. He scored twice - once on the ground and once in the air - and he could be used more in the red zone as the Cardinals' offense continues to hum.
Article first appeared 11/17/08