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JL’s Week 6 Observation Deck

The Elite

Thus far in the 2008 season, I believe it has been difficult to determine who are the elite fantasy players this season. I believe there are 19 to be exact, and if you have three (or even four) of these players you are probably sitting very pretty in the standings. It will probably also signify you are one of the favorites to take home the championship in your respective leagues.

At quarterback, six players jump off the page at me. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Kurt Warner and Phillip Rivers. Romo will be out four weeks and obviously his numbers will drop off, but he is still an elite player upon his return.  Cutler might be slowing down a bit, as he has failed to reach 230 yards passing and seven yards per attempt each of the last two games. The Broncos defense has trouble stopping the run and

Denver has suffered some injuries at the WR position. His schedule shapes up to be extremely favorable after his Week 8 bye, so it might actually be a time to buy-low if you are feeling lucky. The other quarterback in question is Rivers. His TD-to-INT ratio is better then any of the aforementioned QB’s as he is tied for the league lead in touchdowns passes with 14. The Chargers weakness this year has been their rush offense and their pass defense, usually a formula for QB fantasy success. LT is keeping defenses honest still, as Rivers has thrown between 25 and 33 passes in every game this season so far, throwing three scores in four of his six games. Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson are the big time playmakers who complement LT, Gates and Chambers so well. Rivers will continue to be elite.

The player you might be overlooking who can join this group is Eli Manning. In Weeks 3 through 5 he threw six TDs, no interceptions and over 260 yards in each contest. The toughest game Eli has left on his schedule is Week 13 at

Washington. Every other game he will have the ability to put up very good numbers. Don’t worry about those Cowboys and Eagles matchups either, as Eli threw seven scores in three games against

Dallas in 2007, and

Philadelphia defense has shown a great vulnerability to the pass in recent weeks. Also, don’t overlook David Garrard, who put up 276 yards passing this past week and has shown his capability his last three outings. His schedule is very favorable as well.

At running back, six players have separated themselves from the pack. They are Clinton Portis, Marion Barber, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, Ronnie Brown and Frank Gore. Obviously Brian Westbrook is in this category as well when he returns to health. Michael Turner is the one I am concerned about. He already has three games scoring under six fantasy points. His three huge games have come against the Lions, Chiefs and the Packers. I would recommend selling high while his ranking is at the level it is right now. He plays the improved Saints rushing D twice more, the Panthers again, the Eagles and still has his bye week. Plus, in Weeks 15 and 16, when his production will matter the most, he takes on


Bay (who already held him to 48 total yards on 15 touches) and

Minnesota. Can you afford a six-point game in the semifinals or championship? I don’t think so.

As for two running backs I expect to jump up the rankings in the next few weeks, let’s take a look at Marshawn Lynch first. He probably has the easiest schedule left of any running back. The Billls will be refocused after a loss and a bye week. His yards per carry will shoot back up towards the 4.5 range as well. In 2007, from Week 7 forward, he rushed for 80-plus yards in six of his eight games played, three of which he topped 100 yards. Expect at least a repeat performance, as he will move from the 13th-ranked fantasy runner to about seventh in the next four or five weeks.

The other running back on the rise started his upward trend this week. Thomas Jones will continue producing big numbers against the likes of the Raiders, Chiefs, Bills and Rams in his next four games. The Jets have found a rhythm on offense and the team will gain a lot of confidence over the next few weeks as they play weak defense after weak defense.

At the all important wide receiver position, seven pass catchers have really got the job done thus far. Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Owens had slowed down a bit, and with the loss of Romo, his big game ability might be limited. Romo spreads the ball around much better than Brad Johnson will, so expect TO to still get his targets. The other six are also legitmate studs. Consistent looks, tons of yards and playmaking ability make these guys the cream of the crop.

Receivers can obviously jump up the rankings big with just a big game or two. Expect such performances from Jerricho Cotchery and Santana Moss. Moss has caught over 60 percent of his targets and has 15 yards per catch average … a great sign for future production. The problem has been he has only been targeted five times the past two weeks combined. His inconsistency is well documented and now is the time to go out and grab him. He gets a crack at the Lions and Browns secondary in the next two weeks.

Cotchery on the other hand, has been productive thus far, but I believe will take it to the next level. Of all WRs with 30 or more targets on the season, only Anquan Boldin has a higher catch percentage than Cothcery’s 76.5 percent. He has had 7 catches in 2 of the last 3 games without having a big-time game in either one of those outings. In 2007, in the 4 games he caught 7 balls or more, Cotchery averaged 14.3 points per game. Brett Favre and the Jets are making a conscious effort to get him the ball and its just a matter of time until his high number of receptions and reception percentage make him a top 10 wide out.

Quick Hits

It was obvious to me pre-draft that Matt Ryan was a franchise QB; but not even I thought he would become such a clutch and poised performer so early in his career. I don’t think that the Falcons will make the playoffs this season, but them being 4-2 in his first 6 career games tell me that this guy is a winner. And no not like Vince Young is a ‘winner’, I mean like Peyton Manning type of winner.

Brodie Croyle returns from an injury just in time to take on the Tennessee Titans. Are you kidding me? Why bring him back and allow certain injury? I can almost guarantee he will not make it through the game Sunday and I feel kind of bad about it. Herm Edwards should wait one more week for Brodie’s return. I agree the Chiefs need to see what they got in Brodie, but getting him injured again should not be in the plan.

Don’t be afraid to start Matt Schaub. He has played a couple good games in a row and the Texans, although have a bad record, are a team who can keep up in shootouts, especially when you have playmakers like Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton.

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