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Depth Chart Watch: This Week's Job Battles

Sean Raposa

Sean Raposa is the NFL Offensive Line Guru and Cleveland Browns beat writer at He also works as a research analyst and writer for STATS, LLC. and runs He has been commissioning fantasy leagues since he was 13 years old and loves running backs, starting pitchers, and point guards.

Broncos QB: Tim Tebow got his much anticipated first start at Miami this week and led his team to a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback victory. It wasn't a pretty afternoon, but Tebow played a clean game with no turnovers. He finished 13-for-27 for 161 yards and two touchdowns passing and added 65 yards on 18 carries, scoring the crucial two-point conversion on the ground to send the game into overtime. This was a comfy setting for Tebow, playing the win-less Dolphins in Florida on a day when his 2008 NCAA national championship was honored. Things will get more difficult, but this was a nice start to his tenure and probably about what should be expected fantasy-wise.

Broncos WR:
As expected, in the wake of the switch from Kyle Orton to Tebow, the passing game for Denver was limited. Demaryius Thomas was elevated to the starting lineup in the absence of the recently traded Brandon Lloyd. He scored a touchdown, but managed only three catches for 27 yards. On the other side, new No. 1 target Eric Decker also had a slow game, posting two receptions, 21 yards and no scores. With Tebow at the helm, both figure to have limited fantasy value with Thomas probably having more upside due to his size and big-play ability.

Browns RB:
Peyton Hillis out with a hamstring injury, Montario Hardesty started against Seattle. He got plenty of work, totting the rock 33 times for 95 yards and adding 27 yards on two receptions. Recently signed Chris Ogbonnaya chipped in with five catches for 43 yards and 15 yards on the ground. None of Cleveland's backs have produced at a high level on a per-carry basis this season, but Hardesty's performance could make this situation more of a time share when Hillis returns to health.

Buccaneers RB:
Earnest Graham did a boss job filling in for the injured LeGarrette Blount last week, but he suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter against the Bears on Sunday and did not return. Kregg Lumpkin took over the running-back duties and posted a measly 15 yards on eight carries. Tampa gets a timely bye in Week 8, and hopefully Blount will be able to play the following week.

Cardinals RB:
Beanie Wells was forced to leave Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Alfonso Smith replaced him and found the endzone but only managed 17 yards on five carries in a blowout loss to the Steelers. He would figure to be the starter if Wells is unable to return after Arizona's bye in Week 8.

Chargers RB:
Mike Tolbert returned off San Diego's bye after suffering a concussion in Week 5. The big bruiser actually outproduced starter Ryan Mathews, who left the game briefly with a thumb injury, with 58 yards and a touchdown. Mathews' injury doesn't appear serious, but it looks like the Chargers intend to use both players, which could deflate his value some, especially his touchdown potential.

Chargers TE:
Antonio Gates played against the Jets in his first action since Week 2. He was right back to his old tricks, grabbing five balls for 54 yards and a touchdown. Health is pretty much the only thing that can slow perhaps the best tight end in league history. He reportedly had no setbacks in his return to action, so feel free to launch Gates back into the top five at the position.

Cowboys RB:
DeMarco Murray got his first start Sunday for Felix Jones and made quite the impression. He set a Cowboys single-game record with 253 rushing yards, scoring on a 91-yard run on his first carry. The Rams boast the league's worst rush defense, but Murray's performance is hard to discount. Jones struggled in the feature role this year, so it will be interesting to see how the backfield shakes out when he returns. At the very least it Murray earned himself a share of the carries, if not winning the job outright.

Dolphins RB:
Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas were banged up coming into Sunday, but both played against the Broncos. Bush started and posted 46 yards with 12 touches, while Thomas got nine carries and tallied 53 yards. Both were kept out of the endzone, and neither distinguished himself as the clear-cut better option. This looks like a strict RBBC situation as each brings a different set of skills and has a part of the game plan each week.

Jets RB:
LaDainian Tomlinson started versus his old team Sunday, but it was merely a ceremonial gesture. Shonn Greene had his best performance of the year, posting his first 100-yard game, and his role as the feature back in New York is not in jeopardy.

Lions RB:
Maurice Morris started in the absence of Jahvid Best, who was inactive after suffering his second concussion of the year in Week 6. Morris had a decent afternoon, posting 50 yards on nine carries, but Keiland Williams got nine carries with similar success. Best's status is in question for the rest of the year due to his history of head injuries, but Sunday's game did little to establish one guy as his replacement. Odds are it will be a committee approach if Best is unable to return in 2011, and both Morris and Williams look no better than a bye week, emergency fill-in.

Raiders QB:
The biggest news story in the NFL this week was the addition of Carson Palmer to the Raiders. It turned out that Kyle Boller started, but after throwing three interceptions, Palmer was brought in. He didn't fare much better, throwing three interceptions of his own on 8-of-21 passing. Palmer was thrown into action without any time to learn the offense and facing a big deficit, so this wasn't necessarily a fair assessment of the move, but it certainly wasn't reassuring for the prospects of the previously dormant signal caller. The Week 8 bye and subsequent game in Week 9 will tell a lot more of the story, but owners need to temper expectations for Palmer.

Raiders RB:
Starter Darren McFadden suffered an ankle injury early in Sunday's game against the Chiefs and did not return. Michael Bush took over his duties and rushed for 99 yards on 17 carries. The Raiders offensive line has been fantastic this year, and Bush has long been thought of as a talented runner in his own right, so if McFadden does not return following Oakland's bye in Week 8 he would be a solid play in all leagues.

Rams QB:
Sam Bradford was unable to play with his sprained ankle at Dallas on Sunday. A.J. Feeley started and produced predictable results. He finished with 196 yards on 20-of-33 pass attempts, no scores and one interception. Bradford has suffered through a very tough sophomore year, so even if he returns next week, he's not a great play.

Rams WR:
Recent addition Brandon Lloyd moved right into the No. 1 receiver slot for St. Louis in his first game with the team. Despite playing with backup A.J. Feeley, Lloyd managed six catches and 74 yards. The return to Josh McDaniels' offensive system seems like it will produce good things for Lloyd, especially when Bradford returns.

Redskins RB:
After leaving Week 4 with a shoulder injury and being a surprise scratch against Philadelphia last week, Tim Hightower returned to his starting role and looked to be well on his way to cementing his status in the first half Sunday. He churned out 88 yards on 17 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury. The severity is not yet known, but it didn't look good. Ryan Torain and Roy Helu combined for minus-six rushing yards the rest of the way against Carolina. In classic Mike Shanahan fashion, his running back situation has been a fantasy nightmare this season that doesn't look to be settled any time soon.

Redskins QB:
John Beck's first start of the year provided decent fantasy production. He threw for 279 yards and posted two touchdowns, one on the ground. Unfortunately, he also threw an interception, lost a fumble on the team's first offensive possession and lost the game by 13, so there's no telling how long he'll keep his job. The Skins seem to be in free-fall the last couple games and really have no one trustworthy from a fantasy perspective.

Seahawks QB:
Charlie Whitehurst started against Cleveland as Tarvaris Jackson was still recovering from his pectoral injury. Jackson does not have to worry about a quarterback controversy. Whitehurst's line of 12-for-30 for 97 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception and a fumble lost is about as bad as it gets. Jackson practiced on a limited basis last week, so he should be good to return next weekend.

Seahawks RB:
Marshawn Lynch injured his back during warmups and was a surprise scratch at Cleveland. Leon Washington started in his place and posted 49 yards on 11 touches. Justin Forsett received eight carries as well, but only managed 23 yards. It was a tough afternoon for the Seahawks offense overall as it scored just three points. Lynch is only a borderline starter in fantasy, so if he misses any significant time, the less-talented backups are not worth owning.

Steelers WR:
Hines Ward continues to hold on to his starting spot, though his grip might be slipping. Ward was forced out of Sunday's game with an ankle injury, and Antonio Brown had his best performance of the year. He logged 102 yards on seven catches and could be playing his way into the starting lineup, whether Ward returns next week or not. Brown was already playing well when Ward went down, and Emmanuel Sanders was really the beneficiary of the injury, grabbing five balls for 46 yards and a score of his own. This game might have signaled a changing of the guard, and Brown in particular is worth a look in all leagues.

Vikings QB:
Christian Ponder got his first career start Sunday and produced mixed results. His completion percentage was terrible, connecting on only 13 of his 32 passes with two picks, but he made several nice throws, made a few plays with his legs and tallied 219 yards and two scores. That's a pretty solid debut against the reigning Super Bowl champs, and Ponder looks like he could be a decent flex play or bye-week replacement.