James Quintong
Thursday January 20th, 2005

Remember Drew Brees, Antonio Gates, David Terrell, Emmitt Smith and Jerome Bettis? They all had big games in Week 1 and hadn't been heard from since. So, of course, they came back this week to cause more confusion for fantasy owners who had either benched them or gotten rid of them completely.

There's only so much patience you can have, but if you stuck with some of these guys for a while, you might've cashed in this week with plenty of top players having subpar games (like Thomas Jones) or getting injured (like Brett Favre).

1. Tiki Barber, RB, Giants (23 carries, 182 yards, 1 TD; 4 catches, 14 yards): He's now had 100-yard efforts in three of his first four games, plus he's scoring touchdowns. I don't think he's gotten as much fantasy attention as he probably should merit this year.

2. Emmitt Smith, RB, Cardinals (21 carries, 127 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 18 yards; 1-1, 21 yards, 1 TD): The NFL's all-time leading rusher had his first 100-yard game since Thanksgiving Day 2002, plus he threw his first touchdown pass. It's hard to start him every week, but when the matchup is good (like the enigmatic Saints), it's worth keeping him in.

3. Amos Zereoue, RB, Raiders (14 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs; 2 catches, 17 yards): Oakland seems to have veteran backups everywhere. Last week, Kerry Collins came in for an injured Rich Gannon. This week, Zereoue, the ex-Steeler filled in for Tyrone Wheatley, who got hurt, and had a huge first half but did little in the second half in the loss to Houston. However, how many fantasy owners actually had him started (or even on a roster)?

4. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (17 carries, 147 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 13 yards): After last week's subpar effort, Tomlinson ripped through the Titans' defense and asserted himself as a fantasy force again. But in a good news/bad news scenario, San Diego has found a good receiving threat in Reche Caldwell, which means fewer catches for LT. That's good for the Chargers but bad for LT owners looking for extra stats.

5. Curtis Martin, RB, Jets (24 carries, 110 yards, 1 TD; 4 catches, 31 yards): After a bunch of slow starts in recent years, Martin has shocked many fantasy owners with three 100-yard games to open the season. Both New York backs were lightly regarded this summer, but both have opened with a bang.

6. Drew Brees, QB, Chargers (16-20, 206 yards, 3 TDs): With Philip Rivers moving up the depth chart, Brees is doing his best to either keep his job or at least help his trade value. He picked apart the Titans defense, and made great use of both tight end Antonio Gates (7 catches, 157 yards, 1 TD) and wideout Reche Caldwell (3 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD), who's finally coming into his own.

7. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (17-30, 298 yards, 2 TDs): It doesn't matter that Deion Branch was out. Brady has a ton of weapons at his disposal to put up big numbers. Other than Daniel Graham catching a TD pass, it's seemingly a lottery to decide who is the top New England receiver for the week.

8. Tim Rattay, QB, 49ers (31-47, 299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 2-point conversion pass): He returned from injury by putting up big numbers, although most of it was in garbage time. Still, it's nice to see him figuring out the offense. He's definitely comfortable with tight end Eric Johnson, who had 10 catches for 113 yards.

9. Reche Caldwell, WR, Chargers (3 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD; 1 carry, 20 yards): He's starting to gel with Brees, albeit a year later than most people expected. Caldwell's emergence takes some of the pressure off Tomlinson to catch passes. Now the question is: Can Caldwell click with Philip Rivers, should that happen?

10. Billy Volek, QB, Titans (39-58, 278 yards, 2 TDs): He put up better stats than injured incumbent Steve McNair has this year, but most of them came while playing catchup against the Chargers. Still, he has the weapons to put up big stats again if he's needed next week.

Other top performances: Byron Leftwich, QB, Jaguars (29-41, 318 yards, 1 TD, 2-point conversion pass); Eric Moulds, WR, Bills (10 catches, 126 yards, 1 TD); Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals (24 carries, 123 yards, 1 TD); Terrell Owens, WR, Eagles (8 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD); Andre Johnson, WR, Texans (6 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD); David Carr, QB, Texans (14-23, 228 yards, 1 TD; 8 carries, 35 yards); Jonathan Wells, RB, Texans (26 carries, 105 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 28 yards); David Patten, WR, Patriots (5 catches, 113 yards, 1 TD); Peyton Manning, QB, Colts (20-29, 220 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT); Edgerrin James, RB, Colts (19 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD; 3 catches, 25 yards); Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles (23 carries, 115 yards; 9 catches, 63 yards).

Thomas Jones, RB, Bears (13 carries, 32 yards; 6 catches, 40 yards): After lighting up the league early on, Jones was snuffed out by the Eagles, who have done numbers on NFC North running backs.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts (2 catches, 20 yards): After a breakout game against the Packers, Wayne crashed back to earth. Then again, Indy wasn't throwing as much as last week, so there were only so many balls to go around.

L.J. Smith, TE, Eagles (0 catches, 0 yards): He was banged up coming in, but he did play and you'd think he'd have done something against the Bears. Tight ends are a very flaky position, so don't get too upset about Smith's numbers.

Chad Pennington, QB, Jets (14-24, 143 yards, 1 INT): It was Curtis Martin and the New York defense that led the way. Pennington's stats weren't great, and it trickled down to Santana Moss (1 catch, 17 yards) and Justin McCareins (1 catch, 14 yards). Veteran Wayne Chrebet led the team with 48 yards receiving.

Chris Brown, RB, Titans (15 carries, 55 yards; 2 catches, 15 yards): With Steve McNair out, the Chargers helped shut him down early, forcing Tennessee to throw more, especially in the second half. His streak of three straight 100-yard games is done.

Rod Gardner, WR, Redskins (3 catches, 19 yards): So much for him being Mark Brunell's favorite guy. Laveranues Coles had a 100-yard game but lost a fumble late in the game.

Hines Ward, WR, Steelers (6 catches, 48 yards): Like many top wideouts, he won't have huge games every week. He never turned a huge play to help his fantasy stats but did lead the Steelers in catches, which is a plus in leagues giving points for receptions. Plaxico Burress actually had a good game opposite him (4 catches, 69 yards).

Kerry Collins, QB, Raiders (21-38, 237 yards, 3 INTs; 2 lost fumbles): He had a good matchup against the Texans, but he flopped with five turnovers.

Torry Holt, WR, Rams (3 catches, 28 yards): Isaac Bruce is making history at the expense of Holt. And what's with St. Louis turning to everyone but their fantasy studs to score touchdowns? Steven Jackson is one thing, but Joey Goodspeed and Shaun McDonald? Is this August?

David Terrell, WR, Bears (9 catches, 116 yards): OK, so you probably picked him up and then dropped him again. We're still not sure if he's for real, but he was a favorite target of new starting QB Jonathan Quinn.

Amos Zereoue, RB, Raiders (14 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs; 2 catches, 17 yards): Those who owned him last year with Pittsburgh wonder why they never saw this.

Jonathan Wells, RB, Texans (26 carries, 105 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 28 yards): The former Buckeye is still hanging around with Houston and took advantage of Domanick Davis' injury to put up a big game. Tony Hollings also saw time, but it was Wells carrying the load.

Doug Pederson, QB, Packers (7-17, 86 yards, 1 INT; 2 carries, 15 yards): He stepped in for Brett Favre, who suffered a concussion, but he definitely wasn't Favre-like. Pederson got hurt at the end of the game and was replaced by Craig Nall.

Leonard Henry, RB, Dolphins (18 carries, 85 yards; 3 catches, 12 yards): Miami's latest entry in the running back derby had a 53-yard run. If you're desperate for a back, he's worth a pickup. Actually, so is his backup, former Bear Brock Forsey, who was signed last week.

Troy Hambrick, RB, Cardinals (16 carries, 79 yards, 1 TD): Backing up Emmitt Smith, he still got a bunch of carries Sunday and made the most of it. Just don't expect these numbers on a regular basis -- Arizona had a big lead, which won't happen often.

Lee Evans, WR, Bills (4 catches, 93 yards): Eric Moulds is still the go-to guy, especially at the end of the game, but the rookie had the first big game of his career.

Michael Clayton, WR, Buccaneers (4 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD): Evans' fellow first-rounder has emerged as Tampa Bay's top target, partly through attrition. A gaffe by ex-Buc John Lynch led to his long TD reception.

Michael Pittman, RB, Buccaneers (15 carries, 72 yards): Just in time to replace the injured Charlie Garner, Pittman put up decent numbers in his season debut. But yet again, he couldn't find the end zone.

Brett Favre, QB, Packers: A hard hit by the Giants' William Joseph led to a concussion. He threw a TD pass to Javon Walker after that but was then pulled for Doug Pederson. However, his games started streak doesn't appear to be in jeopardy.

Tyrone Wheatley, RB, Raiders: A shoulder injury knocked him out in the first half, but he was replaced nicely by Amos Zereoue.

Warrick Dunn, RB, Falcons: He left in the second half with a strained hamstring after a decent day (16 carries, 76 yards, 1 TD). T.J. Duckett filled in ably, rushing for 63 yards and a late TD.

Tyrone Calico, WR, Titans: He made his season debut after missing the first three games with a knee injury. But he hurt the knee again and will have an MRI on Monday.

Troy Brown, WR, Patriots: An arm injury knocked him out in the fourth quarter. With Deion Branch also out, the Davids -- Patten and Givens -- should step up.

Patriots 31, Bills 17: Slim pickings this week, but there was enough of a shootout in Buffalo to light up the fantasy scoreboard.

Lee Suggs finally returned after missing the first three games with a neck stinger, and he played well, rushing for 82 yards and a TD.

Isaac Bruce is the first receiver to record four straight 100-yard games to open the season since 1963. And to think where he was drafted in relation to Torry Holt.

Speaking of comebacks, it's nice to see Jeremy Shockey finally come up with a decent game (5 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD). Maybe he's having some fun now?

It's got to be aggravating to be a Duce Staley owner. He has two straight 100-yard games, but no touchdowns, while Jerome Bettis has five scores and just 22 total rushing yards. The Bus had two short TDs again this week. So far, it's all-or-nothing for Bettis, and that's way too risky for fantasy owners.

With Chris Chambers scratched, Marty Booker had his best game as a Dolphin with a whopping 46 yards. Bryan Gilmore stepped into the starting lineup and led the team with 57 yards receiving.

Fred Taylor is still the man in Jacksonville, but LaBrandon Toefield was plenty involved in the offense, especially as a receiver. That might give him Richie Anderson-like value, especially on bye weeks.

When a team drafts two wide receivers in the early rounds in the same year, often you'll see the later-picked guy getting better stats for whatever reason. It happened with Anquan Boldin over Bryant Johnson last year in Arizona. It's happening somewhat now in Jacksonville with Ernest Wilford getting more big catches than Reggie Williams.

It's interesting to see how much fantasy players are being catered to these days. During the Colts-Jaguars game, CBS kept a running graphic on both scores and fantasy stats the entire game.

Ronald Curry led the Raiders again in receiving (5 catches, 69 yards). He's not a great fantasy prospect, but he's definitely serviceable in bye week situations at the least.

Quentin Griffin improved after a dud game last week, gaining 66 yards on 21 carries. Better for him, he didn't fumble. So his job should be safe for now.

Stud: Priest Holmes, RB, Chiefs (33 carries, 125 yards, 2 TDs): Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense didn't scare Holmes, who put up another big game by getting the ball early and often.

Dud: Jamal Lewis, RB, Ravens (15 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD): An OK game for Lewis, but with the Chiefs playing keep-away on offense, he had few chances to shred a supposedly bad defense.

Surprises: Randy Hymes, WR, Ravens (2 catches, 68 yards, 1 TD): You still really don't want a Baltimore wideout, but if you're desperate, he's an OK pickup.

Chris Horn, WR, Chiefs (5 catches, 60 yards): With Eddie Kennison out, Horn picked up some key catches. Again, not highly recommended unless you're desperate.

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