September 23, 2008

Week 3 of the regular season is in the books. What are the latest roster shakeups and how will, or should, they affect your lineup? Let's take a look.

News: Brian Westbrook is day to day (aren't we all?) with an ankle strain

Views: I can just hear the moans and groans coming from the Westbrook haters:

I told you Westbrook was injury-prone and cannot be trusted ... orHe's just not tough enough to be a No. 1 fantasy back ... orHe has never played 16 games in a season (excluding playoffs) ...

Let's debunk the first two points, or myths: Since he became entrenched as the Eagles' starting back midway through '03, Westbrook has started 67 of 75 games, amassing 7,843 yards from scrimmage and 50 TDs in that span (top 5 for tailbacks). And while he regularly appears on the weekly injury report with various maladies, there is usually little doubt he'll play -- and dominate -- as a runner and pass-catcher. As for the last point ... yes, Westbrook has never played in a full 16-game slate. But he'll start 14-plus games every year (or 89 percent), a figure that reaffirms his underrated durability.

Verdict: It goes without saying, though. If you own Westbrook, it's imperative to either grab Correll Buckhalter and/or Lorenzo Booker as fantasy handcuffs this week. But good luck guessing which one gets more touches against the schizophrenic Bears defense.

News: TE Jeremy Shockey out 4-6 weeks after having sports hernia surgery

Views: Shockey has yet to find the end zone with his new team, leaving fantasy owners with the impression he's struggled out of the gate. But Shockey currently ranks fifth in Targets among tight ends (6.7 per game) and second in catches among tight ends (16), trailing only the Cowboys' Jason Witten. And when you factor in a very painful injury that he's likely been enduring for a few weeks, I have a new admiration for his deceptively good numbers.

Verdict: In the interest of full disclosure, I was going to cut Shockey in some of my 10-team leagues -- at least before I did the research and penned this piece. But now, I'm going to remain patient, even with Shockey's spotty track record of quickly recovering from injuries. What's the recommended move in 12-team leagues? Well, if you decide to ax him for two weeks (maybe picking up Seattle's John Carlson) ... just make sure you're first in line to reacquire him off waivers before October's second week.

News: Randy Moss totaled only six catches for 47 yards in Weeks 2 and 3

Views: I can see where Pats fans and Moss fantasy owners are feeling super-low about the Matt Cassel-Moss dynamic. But I'm more optimistic about this pairing than a week ago, simply because Moss was targeted 10 times (according to in the Dolphins game -- way up from three in Week 2. And with the bye week coming, I'm reasonably confident that Bill Belichick & Co. will devise numerous ways to get No. 81 the ball (Single Wing-T, anyone?).

Verdict: This may be the most obvious call in the history of predictions, but Moss is a dead-lock-cinch to NOT break his TD-receptions record (23) from a year ago. That said, he can still be a top-15 wide receiver in the Cassel regime, posting seasonal numbers of 83 catches, 1,265 yards and 10 TDs.

News: Lane Kiffin has again survived published reports of his firing

Views: How Kiffin, aka Rasputin, has lasted this long at the Alameda County Institute of Dysfunction is nothing short of a miracle. I mean, from my vantage point seven states away (or 2,465 miles), Kiffin has done an admirable job of steering the usually hapless Raiders in the right direction.

Verdict: Even with QB JaMarcus Russell (the No. 1 overall pick in the '07 draft) on board, the Kiffin-led Raiders have been a run-first, run-second offense. In three games, Russell has attempted only 62 passes (21 per game), while a less-than-100-percent Darren McFadden (164 rushing yards in Week 2) has tallied 49 touches in the same span -- a number that's surely to rise, or at least stay steady, in the coming weeks.

News: The NFL's first bye week is upon us

Views: If you own skill-position talent with Miami, Seattle, Indianapolis, New England, Detroit (insert joke here) or the N.Y. Giants, don't forget to adjust your lineups accordingly.

Verdict: Roughly 85 percent of Ronnie Brown's owners sat him last week against the Patriots (including yours truly -- twice) ... and then watched him rack up 5 TDs (4 rushing, 1 passing). So, it must be doubly disheartening to see that Brown's fantasy momentum has been stunted by the bye week. The same holds true for Reggie Wayne (253 yards, 2 TDs), Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson or Brandon Jacobs (at least 93 rushing yards or 1 TD in all three games). On the flip side, you'll probably need the extra week anyway to sift through all those offers for Seahawks RB Julius Jones (285 total yards, 2 TDs in his last two games).

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