October 28, 2009

If we've learned anything about the NFL over the past several weeks, we now know this: the 2009 season is one of haves (Saints, Broncos, Colts, Patriots, Vikings, etc.), and have-nots (Rams, Browns, Bucs, Chiefs, etc.). This is useful for our game, as most -- but not all -- of the quality fantasy options just so happen to play for the league's best teams. But will those players continue to soar as the leaves turn brown next month? A closer look reveals both tricks and treats ahead for several of the league's elite.-- By Jeff Ritter, SI.com

Easy Road Ahead Tough Road Ahead
Drew Brees, QB, NO
Drew Brees

The Falcons' secondary just surrendered 311 yards and three TDs to Tony Romo, and the rest of Brees' November slate is the NFL equivalent to three pints of Ben & Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. (Ben, Jerry: feel free to send me a pint for the plug.) Brees enters November ranked No. 5 in total fantasy points for the season among quarterbacks; he'll finish the month even higher.Next four games: ATL, CAR, @STL, @TB

Kyle Orton, QB, DEN
Kyle Orton

The dreaded Ravens-Steelers double is lurking for the Broncos in Weeks 8 and 9, and that raises a red flag. While Denver has been one of the league's biggest surprises so far, November could be an ugly stretch for fantasy numbers for Orton and the rest of the offense. Even the Redskins (whose defense is underrated) and Chargers could be tough tests for Orton later in the month.Next four games: @BAL, PIT, @WAS, SD

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAX
Maurice Jones-Drew

He's already the No. 3 RB in standard-scoring leagues, and life is about to get even sweeter for MJD and his fantasy owners. The Titans and Chiefs are a mess, and the Jets recently lost stud defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, which is going to severely limit their ability to contain one of the NFL's most dynamic running backs. MJD enters the month with 8 TDs -- we expect him to exit with at least 12.Next four games: @TEN, KC, @NYJ, BUF

Matt Forte, RB, CHI
Matt Forte

For Forte owners who have been waiting for their No. 1 pick to live up to the hype ... Week 8 is pretty much it. That's the last train out of town. The Cardinals and Eagles boast two of the NFL's best run defenses, and the Niners are vastly improved from last year. If Forte has a big week against the Browns -- a team that gives up the third-most fantasy points to RBs in the NFL -- look to trade him before the schedule gets brutal.Next four games: CLE, ARI, @SF, PHI

Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
Calvin Johnson

Motown's No. 1 wideout has been a disappointment, and that sprained knee he suffered in the first quarter of the Lions' Week 5 loss to the Steelers didn't help. He starts a pillow-soft four-game stretch this week -- if he can get back on the field. His QB, Matthew Stafford, is recovering from his own knee injury, but even if backup Daunte Culpepper makes the start, Megatron should still be able to pile up the stats.Next four games: STL, @SEA, @MIN, CLE

Derrick Mason, WR, BAL
Derrick Mason

That upcoming Browns matchup is the one pleasant blip on an otherwise-ominous radar for the Ravens' passing attack. Mason (381 yards, 3 TDs) has been a solid WR2 in fantasy to this point, but it might be time to look for alternatives for the three non-Cleveland November matchups. (Lee Evans, anyone?) Next four games: DEN, @CIN, @CLE, IND

Lee Evans, WR, BUF
Lee Evans

I would've given this spot to T.O., but it's time to acknowledge that the mercurial 35-year-old receiver has lost a step. The Bills' passing attack hasn't exactly been dynamic this year, but Evans is coming off his best two games of the year and gets back-to-back matchups against two of the league's worst pass defenses in the Titans and Jags. As the ahem No. 1 WR in Buffalo, that matters. If you're looking for an under-the-radar receiver in November, Evans is your guy. Next four games: HOU, BYE, @TEN, @JAX

Antonio Gates, TE, SD
Antonio Gates

You're probably not going to bench him, but the upcoming stretch of defenses has had their way with opposing tight ends. Even the notoriously putrid Raiders have somehow managed to allow the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends in the NFL, at just 4.1 per game (we're as surprised as you). Time to lower your projections for Gates. Next four games: OAK, @NYG, PHI, @DEN

Who's Hot?

There's no one hotter in the game right now than Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, who has racked up 421 yards and four TDs in his last two starts. Keep riding the wave. ... Matt Hasselbeck is coming off a bye and appears to be recovered from his early-season rib injury. Upcoming matchups with the Lions and Cardinals look like great way for the quarterback to re-ignite Seattle's passing attack. ... Indy's Reggie Wayne has been a monster this season, but he picked an inopportune time to suffer a groin strain -- while in the midst of absolutely torching the Rams in Week 8. It looks like the injury was minor, but keep an eye on this. ... Frank Gore returned to action -- but didn't do much -- against the Texans in Week 7. The upcoming schedule is friendly, so keep the Niners' bruiser active as he rounds back into form.

Who's Not?

Philadelphia scatback Brian Westbrook was knocked out of Week 7's Monday night game in the first quarter with a concussion. When he can't go, rookie LeSean McCoy will get the start. ... The Shaun Hill era may be over in San Francisco. Former top pick Alex Smith stepped in during the second half of Sunday's game vs. the Texans, played well, and makes his first start of the season in Week 8. ... Jets running back Leon Washington suffered a gruesome fibula fracture against the Raiders and is done for the season. Drop him in everything but the absolute deepest keeper leagues, and grab rookie Shonn Greene if he's available. ... Nothing is physically wrong with Larry Johnson, but after ripping his organization after K.C.'s loss to the Chargers and then making a series of gay slurs, the Chiefs have asked the running back to stay away. Fantasy owners should do the same.

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