Ahman Green…Steve McNair…Marc Bulger…Isaac Bruce…Robert Ferguson…Torry Holt…Joe Horn. Must I go on? With a Pro-Bowl caliber team missing time with injury this week, combined with the heart of the dreaded bye-week, lots of teams out there are digging deep when picking starters. But fear not…there’s plenty of help on the waiver wire this week! Let’s go!
Tony Fisher RB Green Bay Packers
Man, it’s a tough year to be a Packer Running Back!! Anyone who saw Ahman Green holding his leg after going down on Sunday knew he had a pretty significant injury, and that proved to indeed be the case. With torn ligaments in his quad, Green will soon be joining fellow back Najeh Davenport on the IR…he’s done for the year! This leaves the ballcarrying duties in Packerland to unheralded Tony Fisher, who’s been more of a third-down back up to this point in his career. It’s hard to say how Tony will hold up being the primary runner, but he’s really the only proven back on the team for the moment. Look for Fisher to get 15 or carries per game in addition to his traditional 3rd down duties, making him a solid #3 and possibly a respectable #2 back for ya. The Pack have a tough schedule the next few games so don’t expect miracles, but Fisher looks to be the best of the bunch on the waiver wire this week. Hopefully you snagged this guy when he was mentioned in this column last week…but if you didn’t…you know what to do…
Travis Henry RB Tennessee Titans
Hank’s back! Travis ‘Just Say Yes’ Henry returns this week from his blunt-induced 4 game suspension, and if he’s not rostered in your league, grab him! Huffin’ Hank is a hard-nosed runner who will hopefully have a chip on his shoulder after his NFL-imposed vacation, and the lowly Titans could certainly use him. Chris Brown can hurt himself carrying a grudge, and the fact that Jarret Payton has been getting an increasing number of carries is downright frightening! Look for O’Henry to at least split carries immediately, and become the primary bongcarrier…er, ballcarrier…within a few weeks. He’s still on the wire in about 35% of all NFL.com leagues.
Az-Zahir Hakim WR Baton Rouge Saints
Who ever thought Hakim would be mentioned in the Smokin’ Hot section? I sure didn’t! But the stats speak for themselves…Hakim posted yet another strong performance with a 6 catch for an even 100 yards and a TD against the Rams. With close to 300 receiving yards over the past three weeks, Hakim clearly has some chemistry with erratic Aaron Brooks, and who knows when Joe Horn will be returning? If you’re one to ride the hot hand, Hakim is a very servicable #2 WR in almost every league, though his long-term potential is cloudy. The Saints are no South Central Lousiana State University Muddogs, but without Bobby Boucher to sack the QB 12 times a game, they’re doing their best on their never-ending season of road-games. “Oh no, we suck again!!!”
Marion Barber RB Dallas Cowboys
Hey, it’s rough having a Running Back on your squad with the same name as Richie Cunningham’s mom, but we do what we have to do!! With Julius Jones missing another game, Barber picked up the slack with a solid 95 yard rushing performance on 22 carries. I’m not as sold on his future perfomance as some…Jones will likely be back soon, and with A-Train and Tyson Thompson in the mix, things are too hazy for my liking as Parcells won’t hesitate to switch things up should Barber have a few rough carries. Nevertheless, Barber is worth a roster spot and may even be worth starting against a poor Arizona club this coming weekend should Julius miss more action.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR Cincinnati Bengals
What could this guy’s first name possibly be that it needs to be abbreviated, yet the full spelling of Houshmandzadeh doesn’t? I can’t possibly imagine! In any case, TJH is back from injury and looks to have regained his #2 receiver role with a nice 7 / 75 performance against the Steelers. With Green Bay next on the list, look for the Bengals to take out their frustrations on the lowly Packers and for THJ to catch his share of balls. He’s Chad with twice the letters and none of the riverdance!!
Jeff Garcia QB Detroit Lions
The inevitable finally happened this past weekend. Is the Harrington experiment finally over in Detroit? It’s tough to say, but Garcia played a pretty good game and seems to have lit a spark under this team of underachievers. The Lions offense looked quite decent both passing and running, and with Roy Williams soon to return to action, things could get even better. Yeah, I know they were playing the Browns, but you get the idea…Garcia isn’t a sure-fire starter for many teams, but with a pretty soft schedule down the stretch, don’t be afraid to play matchups with him if you don’t have a rock-solid starter at QB.
Doug Gabriel WR Oakland Raiders
If you read this column last week and made him a spot-starter, good for you! Even with Randy Moss returning to limited action, Gabriel put up some nice stats with a 5 / 101 performance. He’s been hot of late, and often fantasy football consists of riding a hot player as long as it lasts. Moss will probably be closer to his old self next week, but look for Gabriel to be a nice boom-or-bust starter for the remainder of the season. Jerry Porter just doesn’t seem to consistantly produce despite the hype…Gabriel’s worth a spot.
Antonio Chatman WR Green Bay Packers
The injury train just keeps on truckin’ in Green Bay! Robert Ferguson smoked his LCL this past weekend and initial reports having him missing a month of action. Well, that Favre fella sure can throw and the Pack look to be behind early and often in most games from here on in. Chatman moves into the #2 WR role and has looked pretty good doing it. Chatman caught 5 balls this week for only 31 yards but one was a TD…he’ll get more looks from here on in and might team with Driver to put up some pretty respectable fantasy numbers, even if the Pack look to be a pretty awful real-life team.
On the Radar
Aaron Stecker RB Baton Rouge Saints
Stecker showed some grit this weekend by leaving the game after aggravating his ankle injury, yet returning after halftime and posting a 65 yard rushing / receiving total. Stecker is completely overlooked in many leagues, and with Antowain Smith no spry pup, Stecker could be a fantasy factor if things break his way and he can stay healthy. Both big ‘ifs’, but a gamble with some upside should your roster have the slot for him.
Tyrone Calico WR Tennessee Titans
The WR cupboard is looking mighty bare in Titantown…Drew Bennett is likely out for a few more weeks after undergoing surgery for a dislocated thumb, Derrick Mason has left town, and Brandon Jones tweaked his knee and may or may not miss time. But wait! In comes eternally-hyped Tyrone Calico with a pretty nice 6 catch for 51 yard game. Will Calico emerge and become the great receiver some thought he would someday be? Well, let’s not go that far, but the opportunity is certainly there for Calico to become a factor in a wide-open Titans receiver mix. Plus, who has a cooler name? Not Marion Barber, I’m sure you’d agree…
Charlie Frye QB Cleveland Browns
With Trent Dilfer playing a truly rotten game last week, don’t be suprised to see Frye to take over the signal-calling duties in Cleveland. Though one must also keep in mind that in picking him up, you’d be getting a rookie quarterback for the Browns. Yes my son, for each silver lining, there is indeed a cloud.
ReShard Lee RB Green Bay Packers
With many not sold that Tony Fisher can be an every-down back, ReShard Lee may also enter the Packer backfield picture. Lee is a raw talent who’s been cut from the Bills and Cowboys in the past year, but may see significant carries if he can work himself into a platoon with Fisher. The signing of a veteran such as James Jackson or Dorsey Levens would likely snuff any fantasy value he could have, but for the time being, Lee is one to monitor, or perhaps even roster in super-deep leagues.