It's a doozy of a bye week as the Bears, Broncos, Packers and Vikings are on hiatus, leaving gaping holes in fantasy lineups. Since you'll be digging deeper than usual this week so will we.
Marc Bulger, QB, Rams:Jim Haslett has the Rams believing in themselves and somehow the switch to a more defensive-minded coach has the Rams potentially explosive offense playing up to their potential yet again. Bulger hasn't thrown for more than 184 yards or a single TD in a game yet this season, but recently the Pats have shown themselves to be vulnerable to the pass and have lost the leader of the secondary, safety Rodney Harrison, for the season. Look for big days from Donnie Avery and Torry Holt who can go across the middle breathing a bit easier than if Harrison was head-hunting out there.
Jeff Garcia, QB, Bucs: Bulger's Rams cut up the Cowboys last week, and now it's Garcia's turn to filet a defense that has allowed 601 yards in their last two games and have given up an average of 28.3 points per game at Texas Stadium this season. Even with Ike Hilliard probably sidelined by a head injury, Garcia has developed enough of a rapport with Antonio Bryant to be effective down the field.
Leon Washington, RB, Jets: Kansas City is in complete turmoil after having lost two quarterbacks (Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle) to injured reserve and their star running back (Larry Johnson) to off-the-field issues. The Jets ran well against the Raiders last week, helping to balance an otherwise anemic offensive afternoon that would end in a loss courtesy of an overtime field goal. Unfortunately for the already-suspect Chiefs defensive unit, they're going to be on the field a lot, which will create opportunities for most of the Jets skill players. Washington, who normally plays on third down, will see lots of snaps once the score gets out of hand, which, with an ornery Brett Favre at the helm at home, is nearly guaranteed.
T.J. Duckett, RB, Seahawks: Seattle's another team with myriad problems on offense, but San Francisco doesn't provide much of an impediment on D. Matt Hasselbeck is very questionable to play, and even if he's able to suit up, look for Seattle to try to pound the run against the league's 23rd-ranked rushing defense (tied for 27th scoring defense against the run). Maurice Morris and Julius Jones will run the ball between the fives, but look for Duckett, the Seahawks designated scorer, to be the one to reach the end zone.
Isaac Bruce, WR, 49ers: When these two teams met in Week 2 at Qwest Field, Bruce caught four balls for 153 yards but has been relatively quiet since. However, in his last three against Seattle, he's averaging 22.3 yards on 12 receptions, 25 of which resulted in gains of over 25 yards. He'll be a major factor again as the Niners' offense open up even more (if that's possible) under new head coach Mike Singletary's watch.
Brad Smith, WR, Jets: Not since Pittsburgh unleashed Kordell Stewart as "Slash" have we seen so many multi-tasking players come to prominence as spurred on by Miami's Wildcat offense. The Jets version involves Smith, the former standout Missouri quarterback who had a relatively quiet three seasons in green and white before emerging last week in Oakland by gaining 59 rushing yards on four carries and another 29 yards through the air on four catches. With starting receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles ailing, Smith should see a lot of action against Kansas City. However, don't look for too many exotic plays for him this week. There'll be no need for the Jets coaching staff to tip their hand against the woeful Chiefs.
Jerry Porter, WR, Jaguars: So far the Jaguars have received exactly one catch for six yards from the $30-million-for-six-years contract they handed the ex-Raider in the offseason, but that's about to change. With top receivers Mike Walker (hurt), Matt Jones (on the verge of being suspended) and Reggie Williams (terribly inconsistent), the opportunity is there for Porter, slowed by recovery from a torn hamstring, to thrive, starting this week against the Browns.
Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints: The Saints game this week against the Chargers is in London, so what better place is there for Shockey to thrive than the birthplace of the Punk movement? Reggie Bush has been averaging 18.4 touches per game, which now must get redistributed among the other Saints. San Diego has been suspect against tight ends this season (remember Dante Rosario?), allowing five TDs and four games of 50-or-more yards. Caveat: Should for some reason Shockey not be able to play, pick up Billy Miller.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: Ryan hasn't played like a rookie but he gets his toughest test this week against Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Asante Samuel and the rest of the rested Eagles. Ryan has relied on the rushing yards provided by Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood to power the offense, but against a Philadelphia defense that's allowing just 91.5 yards per game on the ground, it'll be up to Ryan to provide most of the firepower. Not saying he can't, but if you have better options, use them.
Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts:Rhodes was a great fill-in for Joseph Addai in Green Bay last week, gaining 114 yards on 24 touches, resulting in two scores. However, this week the Colts face the last undefeated team in the league, the Titans, who have been death to stats by running backs not named Adrian Peterson. Look elsewhere.
Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas, RBs, Raiders: Neither back has distinguished themselves in the race to be the Raiders lead man, and there's little chance that they will this week either while facing the league's top rushing defense (67.2 rushing yards allowed).
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