Here's what KFFL's inside sources are saying this week.
- Our New England Patriots pen says Tom Brady should be rounding into form soon, given that it usually takes a few games for quarterbacks to get back into full game shape after enduring ACL injuries and surgeries.
- The New England Patriots did a good job sending blitzes and getting to the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco. It was his worst game of the year. The interception in the end zone was a miscommunication, though, and Baltimore isn't worried; not every team they play will have a scheme similar to the Pats.
- Dallas Cowboys signal caller Tony Romo hasn't shown much trust in his receivers, and they haven't returned the favor. We saw this on the interception last week where Miles Austin ran the wrong route and Romo put the ball where it should be.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' David Garrard isn't merely locking in on the top receiver on a given play anymore. His exploration of secondary options has cut down on predictability and opened things up.
Garrard spreading the love
- The Philadelphia Eagles' Kevin Kolb increased the chances he'd be the replacement if Donovan McNabb were to leave town and at least be the subject of re-signing negotiations next year. This probably means Michael Vick won't be with Philly after this season.
- Kerry Collins isn't the main problem with the Tennessee Titans. Sure, he is throwing more interceptions this year, but his receivers have also dropped the ball a lot and they've had to play from behind. If this gets to 0-6 or 0-7, then you might see Vince Young.
- The Minnesota Vikings have been limiting quarterback Brett Favre in practice and keeping him on a pitch count partially because they don't want the 40-year-old QB to wear down. He does still have that partially torn biceps tendon, remember.
- Josh Johnson played good and safe for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5, but he'll need to take more chances down the field. He still needs to find a comfort zone.
- While Chad Pennington was more diplomatic, current Miami Dolphins starter Chad Henne is a bit more dictatorial in the huddle. He has been an OK game manager but needs to improve his accuracy and develop a quicker release.
- If you haven't already, it's probably time to call a spade a spade. JaMarcus Russell hasn't put in the work needed to become a leader in an NFL offense, and the Oakland Raiders may have created a lazy monster. If he isn't willing to put in work to improve, it's hard to take a chance on him in the fantasy world.
- Wideouts have had a tough time getting open for the St. Louis Rams' Kyle Boller, but he made some rookie-esque throws in Week 4, including an interception returned for a touchdown. He doesn't have much to throw to, but there doesn't appear to be a quarterback controversy with Marc Bulger (shoulder) possibly coming back next week.
- Why is the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner off to a slow start? Blocking most likely. He might look sluggish to some, but he was never that quick to the hole - he still gets there when it's open. Maybe Atlanta is missing offensive tackle Todd Weiner and tight end Ben Hartsock more than they'd like to admit.
- Expect a time share going forward between Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy for the Philadelphia Eagles. Westbrook is seemingly always banged up and doesn't have the same explosiveness anymore; they probably won't be afraid to give Westy some extended rest if needed. The Iggles expect McCoy to be the guy in a year or two.
- The Cincinnati Bengals' Bernard Scott has good speed to the outside and makes good decisions with the ball. He could see six to eight carries spelling starter Cedric Benson.
- Dallas Cowboys starter Marion Barber III (quadriceps) should be back to his usual workload, which should mean 15-plus carries unless his quad tightens up on him. Tashard Choice could still get double figures in touches, though.
- There haven't been any discussions on changing the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson's grip on the ball. He just needs to learn when to go down (say, when three guys are tackling you). Note: Peterson has struggled against 3-4 defenses this year, except for one half against the Cleveland Browns.
- Don't worry about Maurice Jones-Drew's pint-sized workload in Week 4. The Jacksonville Jaguars were up big, so they brought in fantasy handcuff Rashad Jennings to carry the second-half burden. Of course, it hurt MJD owners for that week, but don't expect Jennings to have too much face time under normal circumstances.
Though out for this week, Willie Parker (toe) is listed as the Pittsburgh Steelers starter - for now. If he continues to play well in place of Parker, Rashard Mendenhall would probably no longer be the interim starter and be the full-time option. If this were to happen, Parker would be relegated to a backup role upon his return, with Mewelde Moore keeping his third-down, change-of-pace work. Though it didn't hurt that the San Diego Chargers run D has been weak, Mendenhall was hitting holes hard in Week 4, and Pittsburgh was blocking well.
Mendenhall could overtake Parker
- What could send Mendenhall back to the bench: his attitude faltering again. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was forced to verbally kick Mendenhall in the butt in a public setting before Week 4 so Mendenhall didn't become too complacent. They don't want the second-year carrier to rest on his laurels.
- Don't read too much in Seattle Seahawks back Julius Jones diverging home and road splits. The issue probably has more to do with the offense's comfort level as a whole when at home compared to on the road.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't hesitate to stick with Cadillac Williams now that they've seen he has the endurance and his knee has held up well. He'll be featured in almost all of their packages, which he wasn't in previous weeks. If he isn't running well, though, the team still has Derrick Ward ready on the sidelines.
- The Denver Broncos will start Knowshon Moreno this week with Correll Buckhalter (ankle) out, but you should count on LaMont Jordan and Peyton Hillis chipping in as well in roles similar to what they've done this year. In other words, it shouldn't prevent Moreno from seeing a big day of touches.
- Don't expect too many carries from Jamal Lewis (hamstring), even if he's healthy enough to play - about 10 totes for him, max, as Jerome Harrison continues to start.
- Concerns about Harrison's ability to handle a big workload remain, despite his busy day in Week 4. His long-term stock remains iffy in that sense.
The Washington Redskins were able to nurture a rushing tempo in Week 4 against the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading to a pretty productive game for Clinton Portis. Don't be too confident: He'll never reclaim his burst; he had to work hard for those 98 yards on 25 carries (3.9 yards per tote). The blocking hasn't been there, and Portis has had words with fullback Mike Sellers over his blocking miscues. Portis ranks as a weekly matchup play until he shows some spunk.
Don't get a big Portishead
- Expect the Oakland Raiders to ride the hot hand between Michael Bush and Justin Fargas with Darren McFadden (knee) out of commission. Bush will get the first chance to start off hot, though.
- Best bets for carries in the New England Patriots backfield, in descending order: Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk, who will more often chip in on receiving plays, as usual. Despite this week-to-week guessing game, Morris ranks as the most consistent fantasy play.
- The Kansas City Chiefs are eager to take a look at Kolby Smith for backup work upon his scheduled return after Week 6. They haven't been satisfied with Jamaal Charles' performance, and Smith may become the changeup option to Larry Johnson in the second half of the season.
- Houston Texans No. 3 Ryan Moats looked like the perfect back for their system last week. He'll still bow out to Steve Slaton, who appeared to have a fire lit under him after fumbling and giving way to Moats. Regardless, the Texans are going to stick with the run as it sets up their play action and bootlegs.
- Slaton has appeared more decisive as a receiver rather than a runner in the last few games.
- Braylon Edwards beat LeBron to Manhattan - err, East Rutherford, N.J. The newest New York Jets wideout punched his ticket out of the Midwest with his whining and off-field drama. It was the perfect time for the Cleveland Browns to sell, stuck in an 0-4 season with an emerging top receiver while ditching a high-priced malcontent in a contract year.
- Edwards will have only a limited playbook at his disposal (10-15 plays) for his first game with the New York Jets. He'll start from the get-go, though, and play a lot.
- Edwards' arrival should help Jerricho Cotchery the most; the former is a great route runner and should be able to get open more against single coverage.
- The winner of the Nnamdi Asomugha "sweepstakes": the New York Giants' Steven Smith. The Oakland Raiders corner will be Smith's biggest test of '09, by far. We also should expect Domenik Hixon to regain his No. 2 job this weekend, but that's still up in the air. The Giants run a lot of three-wide sets, though, so we'll probably see Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks mixed in often, anyway.
- Are the Atlanta Falcons outcoaching themselves regarding Roddy White? They aren't targeting him deep as often this year as they have in the past. He was open against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, but the throw was off the mark. That is the only time our source can remember they went to him on a long play this season.
- With Roy Williams (rib) out for the Dallas Cowboys, Miles Austin is the most likely to benefit. However, quarterback Tony Romo doesn't trust him as much; Sam Hurd could be in Romo's good graces as much as Austin. Still, you probably don't want either in your lineup.
- Both Bryant Johnson and Calvin Johnson missed time in the Detroit Lions' training camp, and none of the receivers have a great chemistry with Daunte Culpepper. Don't expect the latter to be limited, though.
- Projected Cleveland Browns pecking order: Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Mike Furrey, Chansi Stuckey and Josh Cribbs. Stuckey could easily become the No. 3 as the season drags on, since he has similar skills to Furrey and more upside.
- Michael Crabtree ran with the San Francisco 49ers' scout team in his first few practices. He'll spend the next few weeks inundated in work to catch up and is slated to debut against the Houston Texans following their Week 6 bye. He hasn't done many go routes but has looked good physically. The foot injury is a "distant memory," according to our Niners sage.
- In the early stages of Crabtree's return, the wideout pecking order will be headlined by Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan, with Crabtree, Arnaz Battle, Jason Hill and Brandon Jones fighting things out for No. 3 time. A progressive Crabtree would seize the No. 3 and eventually challenge Morgan for split-end duty.
- It looks like Jeremy Maclin will be the No. 2 wideout for the Philadelphia Eagles as long as Kevin Curtis (knee) remains broken down, which may be a permanent state at this point. Jason Avant has No. 3 potential, which doesn't bode well for Curtis, either....
The Miami Dolphins will probably be involving Brian Hartline more often. He has learned all three wideout positions and has chemistry with starting quarterback Chad Henne from when they were on the second team. The Big Ten connection could mean more Hartline and a little less Ted Ginn Jr., though they don't want to underutilize Ginn's explosiveness more than they already have.
Still Miami QBs' Bess friend
- The Dolphins' pecking order: Davone Bess, Ginn, Hartline and Greg Camarillo.
- The New England Patriots may not be cutting the recently demoted Joey Galloway loose any time soon. They will probably wait for rookie Brandon Tate (knee) to rejoin the fold, if they end up releasing Galloway. They still think they have something in Julian Edelman, and Sam Aiken will still rotate in as the No. 3 despite his blown chances in Week 4.
- The Seattle Seahawks are slowly working Deion Branch into the game plan, though it's tough to see him having any big games. There are too many other options ahead of him in the pecking order.
- Most of the negative attention absorbed by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has come because of strong safety Troy Polamalu's (knee) absence. Sure, that's a key factor, but maybe the AARP card carriers have something to do with their struggles, too....
- Though it has posted decent stats, the Indianapolis Colts defense will need to heal before they face stiffer competition. They may be exploited otherwise....
- The Kansas City Chiefs run D has been solid if not spectacular this season, meaning things may not be as rosy for the Dallas Cowboys running game this week.
Individual defensive players
- Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, an IDP stud, is on pace for 208 tackles, according to NFL.com. He can credit some of that to the Washington Redskins D's inability to leave the field; the 'Skins rank 30th in time of possession. Keep an eye on Fletcher as the season wears on, though; he showed signs of fatigue last year in the final month, with nagging injuries contributing to his decline in production. The bright side: Fletcher is looking fresh from sideline to sideline for now.
- The Philadelphia Eagles will probably start new - well, familiar - addition Jeremiah Trotter at middle linebacker but might yank him if he doesn't pan out. They want him to focus on Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Cadillac Williams.
Around the league
- The Jacksonville Jaguars have shown surprising offensive line depth.
- Our Washington Redskins scribe thinks it's merely a matter of when, not if, for head coach Jim Zorn being canned before the end of the season.
- It's not just the altitude. On the more positive coaching front, Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels hasn't been afraid to do a 180 after halftime and have outscored their opponents 46-7 in the last two quarters. In their Week 4 contest, their spread offense didn't work well in the first half, and they came out after the break by working two-tight end sets frequently, something they didn't practice much last week.
- It wouldn't be surprising if New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes over offensive play calling in his Week 5 clash with McDaniels, his former offensive coordinator.
- For what it's worth, the Philadelphia Eagles are 10-0 coming off bye weeks under head coach Andy Reid....
- Cleveland Browns DC Rob Ryan echoed some KFFL editors: The Cincinnati Bengals should count their blessings that their Week 4 game-winning field goal wasn't reviewed....
- The return of Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Demetrius Bell (groin) should help the protection for quarterback Trent Edwards. They've been unable to generate much through the air with their replacement tackles struggling.
- Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron continues to emphasize an aerial approach; his belief is you don't need to run the ball as much as you used to. That won't change even if offensive tackles Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda, both better blocking for the run than the pass, are starting as the line bookends.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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