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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, November 5, 2009

Fantasy football: No-huddle offense for Week 9

When us fantasy freaks think of things we need more of in the NFL, running-back committees rank far below DIRECTV's Sunday Ticket and slightly above more high-definition closeups of an annoyed Eric Mangini.

Well, buckle up, boys and girls, we've got another committee, thanks to one of this year's biggest busts, Steve Slaton.

Slaton was fantastic as a rookie last season, when he ran for 1,282 yards, averaged 4.8 yards per carry, scored 10 touchdowns and caught 50 passes for 377 yards. This year, not so much.

The Texans running back was benched early last week after losing his fifth fumble of the season. In his place, Ryan Moats -- who had 56 yards in Houston's first seven games -- ran for 126 yards and three TDs on 23 carries and had two receptions for 25 yards.

That has led to speculation this week that Moats, who has 623 career rushing yards in limited duty since 2005, will take over as the Texans' featured back. Coach Gary Kubiak, however, has refused to name a starter, but did say Slaton, Moats and Chris Brown all will play.

Thanks, Coach. I'm sure this week's opponent, the Colts, are every bit as nervous as Slaton owners.

In Houston's first seven games, Slaton had 109 rushing attempts, Brown 36 and Moats 15. So what was a one-man attack is now a two-headed monster -- but not of the Saints variety (the productive Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell combo). Instead, it's more of a don't-play-either-unless-you-have-to-because-of-bye-weeks-situation.

Of the two, Moats has more value this week, since he should at least start. If he gets the majority of the carries, he could be a decent No. 2 running back going forward, when the Texans face the Titans (Week 11, No. 18 vs. the run), Jaguars (Week 13, No. 25 vs. the run) and Rams (Week 15, No. 28).

But at this point, you can't trust Slaton or Moats. Because six teams are off this week, Moats is a low-level No. 2 running back. Slaton is a reserve.

And committees continue to remind us of the evil doings of Mike Shanahan.

Replacement players

If you were among the unfortunate owners who lost standout tight ends Chris Cooley (who will miss at least another few weeks because of a broken ankle) and/or Owen Daniels (who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury), let's look at five players who are available in the majority of the leagues on We'll do so in descending order to build the drama:

5. Kevin Boss, Giants (owned in 39.5 percent of the ESPN leagues): He was impressive last season (33 catches for 384 yards and six touchdowns) and anything but in the Giants' first five games this year (11 receptions for 161 yards and zero scores). Boss had three catches for 70 yards and a TD last week, and he has six receptions in his last two games. The bad news: He's been limited this week by a sprained ankle (but he is expected to play). Week 9 opponent: Chargers (No. 6 vs. the pass).

4. Benjamin Watson, Patriots (30.2 percent): He has four touchdowns on the season, but six of his 15 catches and 77 of his 222 yards were in the Patriots' season opener (as were two of his TDs). Week 9 opponent: Dolphins(No. 21 vs. the pass).

3. Spencer Havner, Packers (1.6 percent): This seems like a reach, until you consider Havner has three touchdowns in the Pack's last two games. He's not going to be much of an asset in point-per-reception leagues, but with Jermichael Finley likely out again this week because of a knee injury, Havner could at least get you six points the old-fashioned, non-PPR way. Week 9 opponent: at Buccaneers (No. 15 vs. the pass).

2. Todd Heap, Ravens (41.8 percent): He's had three or more catches in five consecutive games, but he hasn't had a TD in that span after scoring twice in the first two weeks. Week 9 opponent: at Bengals (No. 30 vs. the pass).

1. Fred Davis, Redskins (3.1 percent): When Cooley was injured in Week 7 against the Eagles, Davis, a second-round pick in 2008, was targeted 10 times and caught eight passes for 78 yards and a TD. Considering Cooley has averaged 4.6 receptions per game since 2007, Davis figures to get plenty of opportunities to produce for a struggling offense. Week 9 opponent: at Falcons (No. 31 vs. the pass).

Start 'em

-- Matt Forte, RB, Bears: How much were his 90 yards rushing and two TDs a product of how awful the Browns have been? Likely quite a bit, but I would at least see how the 2008 rookie stud and '09 disappointment performs in tough matchups this week against the Cardinals (No. 8 vs. the run) and in Week 10 at the 49ers (No. 2).

-- Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers: With 11 catches and 15 targets in two games since ending his holdout, I'd consider the rookie an every-week starter in PPR leagues.

Sit 'em

-- Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: He's thrown as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes, and there are too many productive quarterbacks this season to continue starting him every week.

-- Eli Manning, QB, Giants: He hasn't thrown for more than 243 yards since Week 4, and he has twice as many picks (six) as TD tosses (three) in his last three games.

Drop 'em

-- Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys: Remember him? Whether Williams wants to admit it or not, and apparently he doesn't, Austin Miles is Dallas' top receiver. Williams has one TD since Week 1 and has had 35 receiving yards or fewer in four of his last five games. If you need the roster space and have a few productive receivers, he is a candidate to hit the waiver wire.

-- Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos: Another game, another shutout. It's amazing that a player who caught 91 passes as a rookie in 2008 has a total of 10 catches for 68 yards in six of Denver's seven games (Royal had 10 catches for 90 yards in the other, a Week 5 win over the Patriots). Royal has yet to reach the end zone, and it's hard to argue with letting him go at this point.

Closing numbers

Cardinals running back Tim Hightower -- who has struggled mightily on the ground (3.3 yards per carry this season and 2.9 in his two-year career) -- has four more catches (39) than teammate Anquan Boldin.

Hightower had 34 receptions in 16 games as a rookie last season. Boldin, who has battled injuries but played in all seven games this year, had 89 catches in 12 games in 2008. Hightower also has five TDs to Boldin's one in 2009.

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