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Peeking Ahead

As the season passes the midway point, some players are poised for a surge while others are ripe to be swapped

It's an intriguingmoment in the fantasy season: The remaining schedule is short enough thatyou're able to reevaluate players based on their remaining opponents. This isthe time to trade players facing a tough final stretch and acquire those forwhom the sledding is about to get easier. One quarterback worth going after isCarolina's Jake Delhomme. He's been a middle-of-the-pack passer this year, buthe is primed for a strong finish: the Panthers have a generally soft schedule,and three of their eight remaining opponents (Detroit, Denver and Minnesota)rank among the league's eight easiest teams to throw against. You should beable to swipe Delhomme from an unsuspecting owner's bench for not much at all,and you'll get a quarterback who's poised to give you several quality startsand propel you into the playoffs.

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After being held to just 49 yards on 19 carries by the Ravens on Sunday, he's aperfect buy-low candidate. Cleveland's offense is picking up—the team has morethan doubled its scoring average, going from 11.5 through the first four gamesto 24 through the last four—and in November the Browns will face three foes(Denver, Houston, Indianapolis) who rank in the bottom 10 in rushing yards andrushing TDs allowed.

Here it's not so much the schedule as the situation. The rookie from Texasgained 106 yards on 18 carries last week against a Bucs defense that hadn'tallowed a 100-yard rusher this year. That, coupled with the injuries to KolbySmith and Larry Johnson's off-the-field problems, set Charles up for a strongsecond half in Herm Edwards's conservative attack.

He already ranks in the top half of NFL kickers, with 66 points in 2008, andhis production will only heat up as the weather turns cold: Minnesota plays sixof its eight remaining games in domes and the other two in Florida.

Sure, he's a Pro Bowl--caliber player, but since New York's season opener hehas had fewer than six catches and gained less than 82 yards in every game—allwhile alienating teammates with his antics. Over the next seven weeks Burressfaces five of the league's stingiest defenses, so even if he somehow gets backin the team's good graces, he has a tough road ahead. It's worth seeing whatyou can get for him.

In Weeks 14 to 16, when fantasy leagues hold playoffs, he will face the toughSteelers, Giants and Ravens defenses, making Owens a prime candidate for apostseason slump. Use him as trade bait to pry a top player from a rival owner.Remember to include in your sales pitch: Hey, T.O. even caught a TD with BrooksBollinger as his quarterback on Sunday.

For the first time in his 136-game career he was healthy but did not get acarry last week against the Rams. James is Arizona's leading rusher thisseason, but it's clear that rookie Tim Hightower has taken over in thebackfield.

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Three to Get Ready

• KNOW THAT the 131 receiving yards from Eagles backupTE Brent Celek (right) in Week 9 was 25 more yards than injured starter L.J.Smith had all year. Even when he returns, Smith will have a hard timereclaiming his spot as Philly's main tight end.

• DON'T BE DISCOURAGED by RB Ryan Torain's one yard onthree carries in his NFL debut against Miami. Denver coaches love him, as willyou by year's end.

• TAKE A CHANCE on Vikings WR Sidney Rice, who had a TDin his first game back from a sprained right knee. He could be a terrificcomplement to the speedy Bernard Berrian.



UNBALANCED SCHEDULES Delhomme (left) and Lewis (center) will be facing soft defenses, but it only gets harder for Burress.



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