MATCHUP OF THEWEEK
Their careershave followed similar paths: Each has made one Pro Bowl, but neither has beenthere since. Both could very well be back in Hawaii this February. But who willhave the advantage on Sunday?
Through fourgames (Houston had a bye last week) few receivers were more productive thanthis 6'3", 219-pound Terrell Owens clone (without the baggage). Benefitingfrom the improved play of quarterback David Carr and the desperation of aTexans team that has been forced to throw, the fourth-year wideout is averaging102.5 receiving yards.
In three-plusseasons Newman has played in 52 straight games and established himself as oneof the league's stickiest cover corners. The 5'11" 195-pounder has allowedjust one touchdown since 2004, and in a big win over the Panthers last year heheld Steve Smith to one catch for 18 yards. Coach Bill Parcells thought Newmanshould have made the Pro Bowl last year.
THE VERDICTNewman obviously doesn't succeed without help from some very talented friends,i.e., strong safety Roy Williams and fellow corner Anthony Henry. Johnson'ssize and speed make it difficult to shut him down completely, but a touchdowncatch against this defense is too much to ask.
Even though LarryJohnson is wearing a bull's-eye, the Chiefs are wedded to the running game
IT HASN'T been aneasy year for owners of Chiefs running back Larry Johnson. Since quarterbackTrent Green went down with a concussion in a season-opening loss to theBengals, Johnson--widely regarded as the top fantasy player heading into theseason--has struggled to generate numbers matching those expectations. Throughfour games he has rushed for 331 yards (and two TDs), including just 36 againstthe Cardinals on Sunday, when he left the game in the fourth quarter with asprained neck.
The Chiefs remaincommitted to the run, however, even if Johnson is seeing eight men in the boxmost of the time. Coach Herm Edwards wants to control the clock, keep hismuch-improved defense fresh and take the pressure off quarterback Damon Huard.So while Johnson isn't giving his owners 150-yard, three-TD games, he's stillgetting his 20 to 25 carries a week, and he's catching more passes--20 alreadythis season (including six for 106 yards and a TD against Arizona), versus atotal of 33 in 2005. Though Green remains out indefinitely, Huard is playingmore efficiently than expected (he completed 26 of 38 passes for 288 yards andtwo TDs against the Cards and has yet to be intercepted), which bodes well forJohnson's numbers.
If you haven't figured it out yet, it's time to bench Raiders wide receiverRandy Moss indefinitely. Not only does he have just 12 receptions for 136 yardsand two TDs through four games (and don't get carried away by his 5-for-52 gameagainst a weak 49ers defense this week), but he's also playing with an obviouslack of interest. Moss no longer displays his trademark explosive burst off theline of scrimmage, nor does he leap over hapless defensive backs for jumpballs. Oakland is struggling with erratic quarterback play and offensive-lineproblems--one team source says the club expected disappointing left tackleRobert Gallery to be performing like a Pro Bowl--caliber player by now--soMoss's numbers aren't going to improve any time soon.
The partially dislocated left shoulder that plagued Redskins running backClinton Portis throughout the preseason is finally less of an issue. Washingtonoffensive coordinator Al Saunders says he's becoming more comfortable usingPortis on a wider variety of plays than he had been earlier this year,primarily because Portis, who ran for 76 yards on 19 carries against the Giantson Sunday, has more strength in the shoulder joint. Early in the seasonSaunders preferred to employ Portis mostly on plays on the perimeter, wherecontact wasn't so punishing. Now Saunders says, "We've been giving Clintona bigger workload each week. He's gotten to the point where we don't feel theneed to limit him so much."
Falcons rookie running back Jerious Norwood has surely caught the attention ofthose owners looking for hidden gems, especially after his 106-yard effort in aWeek 4 win over the Cardinals. But don't expect the Falcons to revert to thoseirritating days when Warrick Dunn split time with now-departed T.J. Duckett.Dunn will remain the workhorse, with Norwood and fullback Justin Griffithspelling him in certain situations. As one team source told me last week,"Warrick has proven that he's an every-down back in this league, and thecoaches are going to use him like one."
I THINK ...
...you have toconsider relationships when you configure your lineup
A couple of weeksago you might have heard Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe, in a TV sound bite,talk about how in all his years in football he'd never thrown to a receiver hetrusted more than Terry Glenn. Bledsoe said that Glenn was always in the rightplace, and he was sure Glenn could get open on certain routes. And if you'velistened to Dallas coach Bill Parcells over the years, you've heard much thesame thing.
Yes, TerrellOwens was a very big off-season acquisition for the Cowboys, the kind of playerwho can propel a team to a championship. But understand that Bledsoe is asloyal a teammate and friend as there is in the NFL, and that while Parcellsdoesn't call the offensive plays, he still dictates what he wants done in abroad sense.
TheBledsoe-Glenn-Parcells relationship has a productive history, dating back tothe trio's days with the Patriots a decade ago. Since Bledsoe and Glenn werereunited in Dallas last year, they've formed one of the most prolific aerialcombinations in the league. From the start of 2005 through Week 5 of thisseason, Glenn has caught 82 balls, good for a 17.4-yard average (second in theNFL to the Redskins' Santana Moss over that span) and 10 touchdowns. That tellsme that even though Bledsoe will get plenty of balls to Owens by the end of theyear (provided Owens doesn't implode and Bledsoe doesn't get benched for TonyRomo), the quarterback will usually look for Glenn in a pinch. And I bet Glennfinishes 2006 with better numbers than Owens. So if you can make a trade forGlenn without giving up excessive value, I'd do it in a second.
This isn't just aBledsoe-Glenn-Parcells point; there are other bonds to consider. Coach MikeShanahan has a deep respect for Rod Smith, even though Smith has started slowlythis year. Remember Brett Favre's history with Donald Driver, Steve McNair'swith Derrick Mason and Andy Reid's with his first draft choice in Philly,Donovan McNabb. Relationships mean a lot in the NFL, and not just in terms ofkeeping a locker room happy.
With 225 passing yards and two TD tosses against the Saints, he looked morelike a six-year veteran than a rookie sixth-rounder making his first NFLstart.
In place of Marty Booker, the speedy slot receiver hooked up with new QB JoeyHarrington nine times for 77 yards.
He had two TD grabs against the Raiders and will continue to get chances asopponents key on Antonio Bryant.
Onetime stalwart of Mike Martz's stable of receivers in St. Louis had a big dayagainst the Vikings (eight catches, 92 yards).
How can you even think of using a back who gains eight yards on 10 carries?
These days he talks a better game than he plays (three catches, no TDs againstthe Eagles).
The often overrated (and always outspoken) Shockey is a flat-out bust thisseason (12 catches, 147 yards, one TD).
DOLPHINS After a 1-for-3 day on FGs, he joins Miami's growing group offlops.
The onetime elite tight end is nothing more than a fourth option for BrettFavre.
Read Peter King's 10 Fantasy Things I Think I Thinkand analysis from David Sabino at SI.com/fantasy.
THOMAS B. SHEA/US PRESSWIRE (ANDRE JOHNSON)
ROB HOLT/SPORTPICS (NEWMAN);
AL TIELEMANS (LARRY JOHNSON)
HANDS ON Johnson's yards per carry are down, but he's on pace for an eye-popping 80 receptions.
HOWARD SCHATZ (CHADIHA)
JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES (PORTIS)
GOAL-ORIENTED Portis has four TDs but just one 100-yard game.
TOM DAHLIN/WIREIMAGE.COM (FRANKS)
MATTHEW EMMONS/US PRESSWIRE (GLENN/BLEDSOE)
GLENN AND BLEDSOE