Note: All statistics appearing in this article are from Weeks 4-7, unless otherwise noted.
Do Not Bench List - All Positions
Running Back Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Just in time for Halloween comes a possible fantasy horror show for Gore (ankle), who injured his ankle against the New York Giants last week. He is listed as day-to-day by head coach Mike Nolan, and Gore was reported as saying that it wasn't serious enough to stop him from playing. Gore was anything but representative of his last name last week, as he ran off a season-high 88 rushing yards and three catches for 23 yards against a scorching Giants defense. However, he hasn't scored a touchdown since his pair in Week 2, and he had a costly fumble on an early drive for the Niners. His butterfingers seem to have gotten the best of him once again. The Saints will most likely stack the line against Gore and make San Francisco's starting quarterback - either Alex D. Smith or Trent Dilfer - beat them. Gore is a weak play as a No. 2 back, but you should start him for his breakout game potential.
Wide Receiver Torry Holt, St. Louis Rams: Holt welcomed back quarterback Marc Bulger with an eight-catch, 85-yard performance. Although he didn't score a touchdown, he received 16 looks, two more than Rams running back Brian Leonard. Bulger's return meant a good week for his favorite receiver. Holt will get an increase in looks, but he faces a Browns secondary that could give him problems. Even with Bulger returning, Holt is still considered a weak play as a No. 2 wide receiver.
Bulger - It didn't take long for the Rams to lean on their original starter in Week 7, as Bulger went 21-for-40 for 225 yards in his return to action. The three interceptions without a touchdown throw, however, weakened his foundation as the Rams went to 0-7 with a loss to the Seahawks. Bulger hasn't mustered a touchdown pass in either of his games since returning from injury. Besides fighting through a pair of broken ribs, Bulger is still feeling the heat from the holes in the Rams' offensive line. The line's ranks got a little thinner this week, as St. Louis released guard Claude Terrell Tuesday after he was charged with assaulting his wife at a hotel. Even with his aforementioned reunion with Holt, Bulger's injury and the Rams' cavernous offensive line make him a weak play. You should leave Bulger on the bench this week.
Smith - With Smith (shoulder) missing Week 7, backup quarterback Trent Dilfer was able to post marginal numbers against the Giants in Week 7, going 23-for-38 for 209 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Giants once again abused a weak San Francisco offensive line, sacking Dilfer six times. Neither Smith nor Dilfer have been able to effectively lead the National Football League's lowest-ranked offense. The Niners should receive more clues Wednesday as to who will be under center, as they will analyze Smith's workout on Tuesday in which he tested his separated right shoulder. If he shows any sign of difficulty, San Francisco won't hesitate to go to Dilfer, who would be a weak play to keep on your bench this week. If Smith goes, he could find a few touchdowns. Keep posted for further news.
Leonard - Leonard was rendered useless for the second straight week, putting up just 44 yards on 12 carries without registering a reception. Aside from his 102-yard performance in Week 5, he combined for 120 yards in Week 4, Week 6, and Week 7 for a skewed average of 55 rushing yards per game over that span. Another con is his goose egg in the touchdown column over the past four games. The Rams returned to their pass-happy offense when Bulger stepped back on the field, which means Leonard might not have a place as an effective No. 2 back. On Tuesday Rams coach Scott Linehan said running back Steven Jackson (groin) will likely play in Week 8 after missing the team's last three games. The consensus first-round fantasy pick's return would fill a giant hole for those who drafted him. He will be welcomed back at home against the Browns, who have allowed just one rushing touchdown all season. Although this will not be the optimal return engagement, Jackson would be expected to slip back into his frequent offensive role. Leonard, however, would slip back into a secondary option. Keep tabs on Jackson's official status as the week progresses. If he can't go, Leonard would be a steady No. 3 back.
Jackson - It was a week of repeated putridity for Jackson, as for the second straight week he only produced two catches for six yards. He was on the end of only five looks with Trent Dilfer at the helm, after receiving only three with Alex D. Smith under center the previous week. Jackson has become the second option to Battle, but both have been targeted twice inside the five-yard line in the last four weeks. The Saints' secondary could help the Niners' receivers, especially the wideout who is matched up with 5-foot-8 Jason David, who has gained a reputation around the league as a proverbial punching bag for receivers. Jackson is a strong play as a No. 3 wideout or a Bye week replacement.
Battle - With 10 looks, Battle proved to be the better receiver option last week, as he had a season-high six catches for 57 yards. San Francisco's leading receiver also caught a touchdown in his second straight game, as the 6-foot-1 wideout has been a favorable target in the red zone. Dilfer was under center for both games, and has seemed to develop a rapport with Battle. Battle is also a strong play - especially if Dilfer starts - and could be a lower-tier No. 2 wideout or a top No. 3 option.
Bruce - Bruce returned from three weeks of inactivity to record two catches for 52 yards, including a 31-yard reception. The veteran wideout registered his biggest yardage total in three games. In fact, he accomplished that feat in just three looks. Although he was successful in his limited window of opportunity, it's still to be determined if he will receive more chances to produce. Against the Browns defense, he is a weak play as a Bye week replacement only. If you have better options, keep Bruce away from the fantasy field.
Bennett - While Bruce returned to action, Bennett (hamstring) missed last week's contest, and Linehan said the receiver's status for Week 8 won't be known until Friday. Shore up your wideout options before then just in case Bennett isn't able to go, as a waiver wire replacement might give you the same production.
Davis - After missing three straight games, Davis returned in Week 7 to catch four passes for just 22 yards. His knee appeared to hold up against the Giants, but he missed a big-play opportunity when he couldn't haul in a pass that most likely would have resulted in a 68-yard touchdown catch. Though Davis failed to make that play, the Niners' willingness to reinsert him into the mix increases his fantasy value. However, the San Francisco quarterback situation is still up in the air, and Davis needs to make a bigger presence to be considered for your starting lineup at this point. The Saints have allowed an average of just 24 yards to tight ends over their last four games, and haven't surrendered a touchdown to them in that time. Davis is a weak play as a No. 1 tight end, but would be a suitable Bye week replacement.
McMichael - It was another stale week for McMichael, as he tallied three catches for 34 yards on five looks. McMichael has seen one look per game in the red zone in his last four contests, reestablishing the scoring presence he had in his days with the Miami Dolphins. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 5, but is getting his sniffs at the end zone. He will need to back himself up this week, as he has guaranteed that the Rams would earn their first win of the season. Luckily for him, this is a great week to be a tight end, as the Browns have allowed 1.67 touchdowns per game to opposing tight ends over the last four games. He's a stable start this week as a No. 1.
Nedney - Nedney didn't have much of a chance to prove himself over the past two weeks, as he missed his only field goal attempt over that span: a Week 6 potential game-winning 52-yarder with two minutes remaining in regulation. With just 25 points in three games, the Niners don't inspire confidence for kicker points. Although the Saints have allowed 8.3 kicker points per game in their last four contests, Nedney probably won't see the field much if San Francisco continues to struggle with the ball. The left-footed kicker is a weak play, and should be kept on your bench.
Wilkins - Another kicker for another sad offense, Wilkins went 2-for-3 in field goals last week, missing a 44-yard boot while making kicks of 31 and 29 yards. The Rams' offense can't be counted on to provide ample scoring chances for Wilkins, and he has missed a field goal attempt in each of his last two games. Against the Browns, he'd only be a Bye week replacement if needed.
49ers - The Saints offense has been reawakened, as they put up 367 yards and 310 yards in consecutive weeks. San Francisco has fielded the lowest-ranked defense for fantasy points over the last four weeks, and Saints running back Reggie Bush will present matchup problems for them. You shouldn't touch them this week.
Rams - The Rams have allowed at least 22 points for five consecutive weeks, and are not a safe play at this point. Against the Browns' effective passing attack led by quarterback Derek Anderson, the Rams are a weak play, and should be left on your bench.
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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