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Durability wouldn't be the Philadelphia running back's No. 1 trait; maybe fantasy owners will always have to worry about his health. But when this guy plays, he plays well. The first two weeks of the season Westbrook averaged 24 fantasy points, looking like the top-three draft pick he was. Then he hurt his ankle in Week 3 against the Steelers, costing him the following game against the Bears. He returned in Week 5 and scored a touchdown against the Redskins. He hurt his ribs in that game, missing a potentially meaty matchup in San Francisco and, combined with the bye week, had two full weeks off for Sunday. His owners were starting to wonder if a trend was building.
Westbrook might not be 100 percent healthy even now, but if he's not, he's sure able to disguise it. In fact, Westbrook has been able to play through injuries in the past, better than most realize, and one must figure he would have been able to play had the Bears and 49ers games taken place in December. It's smart for coach Andy Reid to remain cautious with Westbrook before November, but it sure is nice when the versatile running back takes the field. And yet his owners in almost 12 percent of leagues had him on the bench.
The Falcons probably didn't expect a full workload for Westbrook on Sunday, especially the way Correll Buckhalter thrived in his absence. On this career day, Westbrook didn't share very well. Westbrook ran the ball 22 times and caught another six passes, while Buckhalter was relegated to four rushes, and his highlight was turning a short pass from Donovan McNabb into a 27-yarder late in the third quarter. Westbrook did some of his best work after halftime, including a 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and remained the lone running back late in the fourth quarter when the Eagles had what appeared to be a safe 20-14 lead at the two-minute warning. That scenario was fortunate for his fantasy owners: Westbrook galloped 39 yards off left tackle for his second touchdown of the day to seal the 27-14 win.
It's been a disappointing season for some of the top fantasy picks, with many of the prime running backs being doubted as buy-low options. LaDainian Tomlinson, the near-consensus No. 1 pick, has been consistently average while battling a toe problem, until this week, when he looked more like his old self. Joseph Addai is unlikely to suit up Monday night against the Titans, and even when he does return from his hamstring issue, he's doomed to be sharing carries. Steven Jackson missed Sunday's game, as well, and the Tom Brady injury remains the biggest story in fantasy all season.
Westbrook's Sunday performance reminds us just how good he can be when healthy enough to play. In a season of busted first-round picks, it's nice to be able to count on one of the biggest providers again.
Speaking of the rankings, I ignored the threats of rainy, windy weather in London and selected Drew Brees and Philip Rivers as my top two quarterbacks of the week. The duo didn't disappoint, producing nearly equal statistics of more than 330 passing yards and three touchdowns apiece. Only a late interception by Rivers separated the two. Say what you want about NFL games in foreign lands, but maybe this helps prove your favorite fantasy options aren't always deterred by potential weather -- the rain ceased by game time -- or long flights.
Westbrook was the lone running back to score twice on the ground Sunday, but five players scored multiple times through the air. Seattle running back Leonard Weaver was the big surprise, and it's likely few fantasy owners enjoyed his 24 fantasy points, but the four wide receivers who turned the trick aren't as shocking. Like Boldin, Steve Smith, Roddy White and even Kevin Walter are fantasy reliables. Carolina's Smith is averaging more than 100 yards per week in his six games, Atlanta's White is a worthy No. 2 wide receiver no matter the matchup and Houston's Walter has a pair of multi-touchdown games, as Matt Schaub throws enough to get Andre Johnson and the underrated Walter involved.
|This Week In Fantasy Football History|
By Neil Tardy
2007: Is it real or is it Madden? New England's offense seemed straight out of a video game after putting up 52 more points in Week 8. As if 306 yards passing and three touchdowns weren't enough, Tom Brady owners also saw their fantasy franchise rush for a pair of scores. The rest seemed routine, including a touchdown and 89 receiving yards for Wes Welker, another touchdown for Randy Moss (though only three catches for 37 yards) and a score for the Patriots defense, courtesy of a Rosevelt Colvin fumble return. The unknown backup quarterback, Matt Cassel, even added a touchdown run.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins
With 14 fantasy points in six games, fantasy owners had pretty much given up on Ginn. He was owned in 19.6 percent of leagues and active in fewer than three percent. Then he dropped 17 points on us Sunday. I'd be cautious on expecting 175 yards again anytime soon, but the fact is Chad Pennington is accruing the yards, and Ginn is a major deep threat. Look for a touchdown soon.
Edgerrin James, RB, Cardinals
It wasn't like Edgerrin James was expected to run wild against the Panthers, but the 44.2 percent of ESPN owners who started him would have been better off with Rick James. Edge ended up costing you with minus-one point, thanks to 17 yards and a fumble. James' whining about playing time this week clearly didn't help, and now we're whining because he looks like a must-sit.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: His early season struggles appear behind him, as Garrard delivered a season-best 24 fantasy points, thanks to 283 passing yards, two touchdowns and 59 rushing yards. Up next are the Lions and Bengals, making Garrard a standout play.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Fantasy owners love to complain about time-shares, but this one in Carolina might be over. Williams has 35 carries in two weeks, and he topped 100 rushing yards for the second time, while hotshot rookie Jonathan Stewart averaged 1.3 yards on his eight rushes.
Kevin Faulk, RB, Patriots: The 32-year-old veteran stepped up with Sammy Morris out, catching the winning touchdown pass late in New England's win over the Rams, and totaling 107 yards. BenJarvus Green-Ellis started and scored as well, but Faulk should get more carries in Week 9 at Indy.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams: Maybe Torry Holt really was the problem. Avery is having no issue getting downfield and hauling in Marc Bulger's passes. He topped 100 yards by halftime against the Patriots, and the rookie averaged 27.2 yards on his six receptions.
Lance Moore, WR, Saints: The return of Marques Colston didn't automatically make Moore expendable, though fantasy owners made him one of the most dropped wide receivers. Moore delivered 15 fantasy points, more than his total of Weeks 5-7, and remains ownable.
J.T. O'Sullivan, QB, 49ers: A prime matchup against the Seahawks made this supposed Mike Martz prodigy a popular play; he was active in 50.8 percent of leagues. Now O'Sullivan might have lost his job, after three more turnovers forced interim coach Mike Singletary to bench him for Shaun Hill.
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals: Well, there actually were expectations on him this week, with the Texans on the schedule, and he was active in nearly 30 percent of leagues. Benson rushed for 49 yards, and fantasy owners might have to realize the Bengals aren't merely awful, but a fantasy wasteland.
Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs: Here's another wretched team, though the Chiefs nearly beat Brett Favre's Jets. Smith ran 11 times for 15 yards, while Jamaal Charles averaged nine yards on his five rushes. No matter what happens with Larry Johnson, one would think Smith is running out of chances.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: He's not a fella you sell for whatever you can get, but he didn't start the game or play much in the first half, and despite getting a shot at his old team in Pittsburgh, he didn't step up, finishing with 15 yards. Burress hasn't topped four catches in a game since Week 2, and the schedule isn't looking kind.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers: He entered the week ranked 30th in tight end points, yet he was active in 18.9 percent of ESPN leagues. Clearly his name still carries weight. In fantasy terms, though, he's deadweight, especially after Coach Singletary sent him to the showers early. This isn't going to end well.
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten needed in-game X-rays on bruised ribs, and briefly returned later in the game. He's slated to have a CT scan Monday. The Dallas passing game is a mess even with Witten, and would really suffer without him. Meanwhile, staying in the NFC East and at the same position, Philly's L.J. Smith left with a concussion, and might have to miss time.
Will those annoying bye weeks ever end? Well, yes, after Week 10 they're over. This coming week, fantasy owners will miss the fine quarterback play of Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, while the 49ers and Panthers are also off. The three teams off in Week 8 from the NFC North return. Good, we need our Kyle Orton fix.
Speaking of Orton, he lit up the Lions for 334 yards and two touchdowns in Week 5, and with this matchup, plan on him being ranked in our top 10 for quarterbacks. Matt Forte will be a nice play, too, even though he ran for only 36 yards in that game.
With Tony Romo likely out for the Cowboys, Brad Johnson does not make for a good start at Giants Stadium. What about Eli Manning? In four career home games against Dallas, Manning has six touchdowns and five interceptions. He has performed better in the series in road tilts.
Meanwhile, older brother Peyton Manning hosts his ol' pal Tom Bra- um, Matt Cassel. Manning's numbers have been fine against New England over the years, especially at home, so don't be afraid to use him. Randy Moss caught nine passes for 145 yards and a score in Indy a season ago.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 79 and 80 yards in two meetings with the Jets as a rookie, and that's a lot better than what Thomas Jones did against Buffalo (53 yards average). In case you were wondering, Brett Favre has played at Buffalo only three times in his storied career, losing all three.