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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fantasy football: No-huddle offense for Week 8

Beanie Wells, like Rashard Mendenhall before him, might be one who got away -- a running back you released because he wasn't producing and you needed the roster space due to bye-week restrictions.

But if you had Week 7 in your When Will A Healthy (For Now) Beanie Show Signs Of Life, Ticking Owner X Off In the Process office pool (what, you don't have one?), you, like the guy who selected Ray Rice in the sixth round, followed by Ben Roethlisberger in the seventh, are a winner.

In his last two games, Wells has 30 touches (26 rushes and four receptions) -- six more than his total for the Cardinals' first four games. The former Buckeye had 14 carries for 67 yards last week -- to starter Tim Hightower's 4-for-9 effort. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the latter is still his starter, but with a two-year average of 2.9 yards per carry and a season total of 167 yards rushing, you have to figure the job will be Wells' soon.

Wells should be considered a low-end No. 2 running back this week, since six teams are on a bye and the Cardinals will play host to the Panthers, who rank 26th against the run. Even better: Arizona's next five opponents are Carolina, Chicago (No. 18 vs. the run), Seattle (No. 14), St. Louis (No. 27) and Tennessee (No. 9). The five teams have allowed a combined 33 rushing touchdowns in 31 games.

Hightower, who has 31 catches for 239 yards, is only an asset in point-per-reception leagues. Soon, he might not be anything more than a No. 4 fantasy back.

Marching to a familiar beat: Another team with a favorable upcoming schedule and a confusing running-back situation is the undefeated Saints, who are so prolific and so generous the only fantasy givens are quarterback Drew Brees and receiver Marques Colston.

In the last two weeks, running back Mike Bell has 27 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown, including a 12-for-80 effort last week. Pierre Thomas -- who ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns in Weeks 3 and 4, when Bell was out because of a knee injury -- has 23 carries for 102 yards in that two-game span. Then there's Reggie Bush, who no longer gets more than seven or eight touches per contest, but has scored a TD in each of his last two games.

Since the Saints are averaging 427.3 total yards and 39.7 points per game, I'd expect them to stick with what works, which is dividing the majority of the carries between Bell and Thomas, with Bush getting a handful, along with a few catches.

All of which makes Bell and Thomas no better than a No. 3 running back, but the pair will be enticing the next four weeks, when New Orleans faces Atlanta (No. 19 vs. the run), Carolina (No. 26), St. Louis (No. 27) and Tampa Bay (No. 29). Both can be considered low-end No. 2 backs if bye weeks have wreaked their usual havoc on your roster.

LeChange in Philly: Brian Westbrook missed practiced again Thursday, and it seems more and more likely the Eagles running back will sit out Sunday's game against the Giants, who, surprisingly, have allowed more rushing touchdowns (10) than all but the Raiders and Rams this season. If Westbrook sits, rookie LeSean McCoy can be counted on to be a No. 2 back, especially in PPR leagues. When Westbrook missed the Eagles' 34-14 win over the Chiefs in Week 3, McCoy had 20 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Start 'em

-- Sidney Rice, not Bernard Berrian or Percy Harvin, is the Vikings' most productive receiver. He has 33 catches for 545 yards and two TDs in seven games, and 16 catches for 312 yards in his last two. He should now be considered an every-week regular.

-- No longer just a return specialist (sorry, Josh Cribbs), the Bears' Devin Hester has 14 catches for 184 yards and a TD in his last two games. Up this week: the Browns, who rank 28th vs. the pass and No. 32 overall.

Sit 'em

-- Braylon Edwards is back to his old tricks in his new home. Aftter a productive first game with the Jets (a five-catch, 64-yard, one-TD performance at Miami on "Monday Night Football"), the former Browns wideout has four receptions for 54 yards and zero TDs the last two weeks. I can only come up with two reasons to play him this week: the opponent again is Miami, and with six teams off, you probably have to start the butterfingered one.

-- Terrell Owens has been even more quiet on the fantasy front than in the throwing-his-quarterback-under-the-bus department this season. In his first season with the Bills, T.O. has yet to have more than 60 yards receiving in a game, he has one TD all season and none in his last five contests. Has he lost a step? Should he be blasting Ryan Fitzpatrick? Whatever the answer, Owens is a No. 3 receiver only in weeks in which byes are a factor.

Drop 'em

If you need the roster space, it's time to bid adieu to Browns running back Jamal Lewis (zero touchdowns, only one game with more than 57 rushing yards), Jets tight end Dustin Keller (three catches for 42 yards in his last three games), Cowboys running back Tashard Choice (who's not a factor in Dallas' backfield as long as both Marion Barber and Felix Jones are healthy) and Dolphins receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (five catches for 77 yards and a TD in his last four games).

On deck: Saturday, we'll look at the projected impact of a pair of young running backs who will now play prominent roles -- the Jets' Shonn Greene and the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles. The weekly column for the print editions will be posted on the Sports section of the News-Herald's Web site, and the link will also include our weekly audiocast. Saturday, we'll also have the "big blog," with start-and-sit advice, injury updates and an expanded playlist. That will be published in this space and on the N-H's Sports site.

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