NFC West Fantasy Outlook

by Tim Heaney on October 11, 2007 @ 14:19:11 PDT

 


NOTE: All stats are from the past four weeks (three or four games) unless otherwise noted. 

Do Not Bench List - All Positions

  • Running Back Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks: Alexander had 14 carries for just 25 yards in Week 5 as he was silenced by the Pittsburgh Steelers. His bad week continued when it was learned that fullback Mack Strong (neck) was forced to retire due to an injured vertebra in his neck. Strong's run blocking was a noted facet in Alexander's success, and while he's not a complete waste right now, Alexander's stock takes a bit of a hit. Despite averaging 68.2 yards per game on the ground over the last month, he hasn't scored a touchdown in his last three games. Regarding Alexander's Week 6 opponents, the New Orleans Saints have allowed 83.7 rushing yards and a touchdown per game against running backs in the last four weeks. This could be a rejuvenation week for the stud back.
  • Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: The absence of wide receiver Anquan Boldin (hip) has vaulted Fitzgerald back into the elite realm of wideouts, as he led all wide receivers with 14 looks last week. He has averaged 9.5 catches and 128.0 receiving yards in his last two games but finally added his first receiving touchdown of the season last week. Fitzgerald has been the primary target for quarterback Kurt Warner, so you can't hesitate to play him against the Carolina Panthers, even if Boldin returns.
  • Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals: Boldin (hip) has missed the last two games, but it was reported that he could possibly return in Week 6. Check back often this week for updates on his status, as his return should be a boost a fantasy offense.
  • Wide Receiver Torry Holt, St. Louis Rams: Holt continues to carry the load without his favorite sidekick, wide receiver Isaac Bruce (hamstring). He has five catches in each of his last four games, and broke a two-game touchdown drought with an end-zone grab last week. He also earned a season-high 89 yards through the air. Although not outstanding, Holt keeps piling up double-digit fantasy points for your team and avoiding the extreme drops in production that sometimes come with being a stud receiver. The Baltimore Ravens might knock him down a bit in Week 6, but you can't bench a wideout with his current pattern, especially in points-per-reception leagues.

Quarterbacks

Player
Team
Gm
Pass Yds/G
Pass TD/G
INT/G
Rush Yards/G
Rush TD/G
Kurt Warner Arizona Cardinals
3
193.3
1.33
0.33
0.0
0.33
Marc Bulger St. Louis Rams
3
199.3
0.33
1.33
-0.7
0.00
Matt Hasselbeck Seattle Seahawks
4
231.5
1.50
1.00
-1.5
0.00

Warner - Quarterback Matt Leinart's (collarbone) season-ending broken collarbone gives the desert starting job to Warner. He is no longer the unassuming former grocery bagger who inherited the starting job for the Rams during the 1999 season, but this should open up his fantasy value, as he will no longer have Leinart to fend off. Warner has been unspectacular, but hasn't hurt himself. He threw his first pick of the season last week and has done just enough to get by without being a detriment to Arizona. His Week 6 matchup provides a chance to continue his path, since the Panthers allow 254.0 passing yards per game over the last month. Think of Warner as an equivalent to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: very efficient, but with minimal upside in his fantasy production. He is a weak No. 1 or Bye week replacement this Sunday.

Bulger - For the second straight week, Bulger (ribs) will be out of commission for the Rams. In his first go-round as a starter this season, quarterback Gus Frerotte provided some positives to build on for the coming weeks as a fill-in. Frerotte certainly wasn't coddled as the new starter, as he went 24-for-43 in passing, attaining 262 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. The Rams don't seem to be back-peddling on their passing game, so Frerotte will most likely stay as a significant part of the offense. Bulger could spend at least a few more weeks on the bench to rest. This week, the Rams travel to face the Ravens, so keep Frerotte on the bench in Week 6.

Hasselbeck - Hasselbeck's grotesque 13-for-27, 116-yard outing - complete with an interception - gave his owners little help from the quarterback spot in Week 5. The Steelers defense seemed to have his number, and Hasselbeck has now thrown four interceptions in his last three games. This week, Hasselbeck faces the Saints, who have provided their opponents with fantasy comfort this season. At Qwest Field, the Seahawks' offense could be in for a rejuvenation week, and Hasselbeck could benefit. The Saints have allowed 1.67 touchdowns per game and 197 yards per game against quarterbacks over the past four weeks, which is around what Hasselbeck's owners expect from him each week. He is a low-end No. 1 or Bye week fill-in this week.

Running Backs

Player
Team
Gm
Util (%)/G
RZ (%) Plays/G
Rush Yds/G
Rush TD/G
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TD/G
Edgerrin James Arizona Cardinals
 4
22.50 (36.52)
3.00 (42.73)
87.5
0.50
1.25
12.0
0.00
Brian Leonard St. Louis Rams
 4
12.25 (18.56)
1.25 (16.67)
45.2
0.00
2.25
15.8
0.00

James - The Edge had another ho-hum week against the Rams, compiling 88 rushing yards and earning just one reception for the third straight week. He had 27 touches last week with four looks, and his ground yardage has increased in each of the past two weeks. Before facing the Rams, he had 57 yards against the Ravens and 77 yards against the Steelers. The Panthers have allowed 116.5 yards and 7.25 receptions per game to the running back position over the last four weeks, so he might have a chance to add a few more grabs to his stat line. He is a solid No. 1 fantasy back with a strong play in Week 6.

Leonard - Finally seizing his opportunity, Leonard broke out with 102 yards on 18 carries along with five catches for 33 yards against a solid Arizona run defense. With the Rams' offense seemingly invigorated under Frerotte's control, Leonard could stay a valuable dual threat until the return of running back Steven Jackson (groin). The Ravens stand in his way this week, and he might not come close to a repeat. You could still get some serviceable numbers out of him, as he figures to be a big part of the offense. He makes a serviceable Bye week replacement with a weak play this Sunday.

Wide Receivers

Player
Team
Gm
Util (%)/G
RZ (%) Plays/G
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TD/G
Nate Burleson Seattle Seahawks
 4
6.00 (9.75)
0.75 (9.90)
2.75
33.0
0.50
Bobby Engram Seattle Seahawks
 4
6.25 (10.16)
1.00 (13.20)
4.00
52.8
0.50
Isaac Bruce St. Louis Rams
 3
6.67 (7.58)
0.33 (3.33)
4.00
61.0
0.00
Drew Bennett St. Louis Rams
 4
6.50 (9.85)
1.75 (23.34)
2.00
23.5
0.25

Burleson - After receiving just four looks in Week 5, both Burleson and Engram could be in for productive weeks. Wide receiver Deion Branch (foot) suffered a mid-foot sprain during Sunday's contest and will miss at least the next two games. Maybe the removal of competition for statistics will help Burleson, whose production has steadily tanked in the last three games. He caught six passes in Week 3, two in Week 4 and had just one catch for seven yards last week. It would be easy to think Burleson would get an increased workload, and he could contribute a few catches against the weak Saints pass defense, which has allowed 145.7 yards and 1.33 touchdowns per game to wide receivers over the past four weeks. Burleson is a decent No. 3 with a strong play against New Orleans this weekend.

Engram - Like Burleson, Engram's catches have decreased from four in Week 4 to two last week. However, Engram received three less looks this week despite the injury to Branch. And like Burleson, Engram's matchup with the Saints secondary could open up some more opportunities for catches. Engram could be argued as the No. 1 choice for Hasselbeck, as he has consistently opened up looks from the slot position. He is a quality No. 2 option and a strong play in Week 6.

Bruce - The veteran was unable to suit up in Week 5, and the prognosis for Bruce (hamstring) hasn't improved for the coming week. Check in as the week progresses for updated information, and keep him on your bench unless you hear otherwise.

Bennett - With Bruce already out of commission, wide receiver Dante Hall (ankle) suffered what Rams head coach Scott Linehan called a “serious sprain” in his left ankle on a kickoff return. This could be a green light for Bennett to see some more production. He already broke through last week for his first touchdown of the season with two receptions and 32 yards. If Bruce doesn't see the field in Week 6, Bennett could have an above-average week as he is a strong play against the Ravens secondary. Play him if you need a solid No. 3 wideout.

Tight Ends

Player
Team
Gm
Util (%)/G
RZ (%) Plays/G
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TD/G
Leonard Pope Arizona Cardinals
 4
1.50 (2.43)
0.00 (0.00)
0.50
8.8
0.25
Marcus Pollard Seattle Seahawks
 4
2.00 (3.25)
0.50 (6.60)
1.25
13.8
0.25
Randy McMichael St. Louis Rams
 4
5.50 (8.33)
0.50 (6.67)
2.50
30.5
0.25

Pope - Pope finally hit the stat board after going two weeks without a catch, but his lone reception only gained him five yards on the day. He doesn't look to be an integral part of the Cardinals offense and shouldn't enter your lineup this week. 

Pollard - For the second straight week, Pollard registered two catches, gaining 28 yards against a Steelers defense that smothered Seattle. The otherwise porous Saints haven't given tight ends much leeway, allowing just 35.3 yards and 0.33 touchdowns per game against the position over the last month. It would be a good idea to keep Pollard on the bench this week.

McMichael - McMichael seems to be an early favorite target for Frerotte, as the tight end made his presence felt with seven looks - that's one more look than Bennett and just two less than Holt. McMichael totaled three catches for 45 yards with his first touchdown of the season, as Frerotte spread the ball around. He might have to work a bit harder this week against the Ravens, who have only allowed 26.5 receiving yards per game against tight ends during their past four games. McMichael can be played as a marginal No. 1 or Bye week replacement with a weak play this Sunday.

Place Kickers

Player
Team
Gm
XPA/G
XP/G
FGA/G
FG/G
Kick Pnts/G
Neil Rackers Arizona Cardinals
 4
2.75
2.75
3.00
2.00
8.8
Josh Brown Seattle Seahawks
 4
1.75
1.75
1.50
1.50
6.2
Jeff Wilkins St. Louis Rams
 4
1.00
1.00
2.75
1.75
6.2

Rackers - The Arizona kicker had a productive Week 5, hitting all four of his extra point attempts while drilling his second 50-yard field goal of the season. He went 2-for-3 in field goals, missing one within the 30-yard bracket. Two of his four missed kicks this season have come from 50 yards or longer, and he has missed one each in the 30-plus and 40-plus range. He has tabulated at least 10 kicker points in three out of five games this year, and he gives owners security at the kicker spot through a combination of reliability and a spotty Cardinals offense. He's a go-for-launch this week as a strong play against the Panthers, who have allowed 8.2 kicker points per game over the last four weeks.

Brown - In Week 5, Brown settled for a goose egg after legging 11 points against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4. The Steelers shut him down last week, but Brown is still 8-for-8 in field goals and 9-for-9 in extra points on the season. You can't ask for more than that in terms of accuracy. However, his 6.2 points per game leaves much to be desired, and he should occupy a spot on your bench this week against New Orleans.

Wilkins - The veteran scored a season-high 11 points Sunday, going 3-for-3 in field goals with a long of 46. Wilkins is 3-for-6 in kicks from at least 40 yards out, and he might be in line for a bonus kick this week if St. Louis has trouble penetrating the Baltimore defense. He can be played as a weak No. 1 or Bye week replacement option in Week 6.

Defensive Teams

Team
Gm
Off Pnts Allw/G
INT/G
Sacks/G
FR/G
DEF/ST TD/G
Cardinals
4
21.2
1.25
2.8
0.50
0.7
Seahawks
4
16.5
1.25
2.8
0.75
0.0
Rams
4
24.5
0.75
1.8
0.75
0.2

Cardinals - Arizona allowed at least 20 points for the fourth time this season against the Rams last week, but they were able to spring for two sacks, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) off Frerotte. This week could be a bit easier, as the Panthers must fill the void left by quarterback Jake Delhomme (elbow), who will miss the season after undergoing ligament replacement surgery. Even his replacement, quarterback David Carr (back/knee) is considered day-to-day. Carr did pull out a victory through his injuries, but he has a giant target painted on his chest this coming week. With Carr at the helm, the Cardinals can be considered a steady No. 1 or Bye week replacement option with a play this week.

Seahawks - The Saints could help the Seahawks on both sides of the ball this week. New Orleans has been troubled in finding a solution to their 0-4 season. The injury to running back Deuce McAllister (knee) appears to have made their offense even more anemic, and quarterback Drew Brees has not lifted his funk. Seattle had trouble containing Pittsburgh's newly regenerated offense, but still averages 2.8 sacks per game. The Seahawks have allowed just 16.5 points per game this past month. They are a low-end No. 1 or Bye week fill-in this Sunday.

Rams - The ugly Rams defense might get a reprieve the coming week against the Ravens. St. Louis has allowed 69 points over its last two contests against the high-powered Dallas Cowboys and the Cardinals. The Ravens have earned just 22 points in their last two games, as their entire offense came off three field goals by kicker Matt Stover against the 49ers last week. In a matchup of recent putridity, the Ravens offense just might surmount the winless Rams. Go with the percentages and find a different defensive unit.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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