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Volume 70, Issue 29, Friday, October 1, 2004

Sports

Hurt players stress fantasy fans

Your Fantasy Man

Mike Kruft

Week four of the NFL season has been characterized by mounting injuries across the board, and fantasy owners are scrambling feverishly to plug the holes in their lineups. When an injury happens, you often don't have time to put a trade together to grab a real replacement. Sometimes coaches like to make fantasy owners pull their hair out by keeping a player's status listed as "questionable" until kickoff, which leaves you either starting a sidelined running back or benching a starting quarterback in lieu of some no-name arena leaguer. Either way, you're left holding the bag. There are a few decent replacements floating around though, each with their upsides and downsides.

Kerry Collins (QB, Raiders)

Upside: Collins has a big arm, and that's exactly what guys like Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel need to stretch the field for big plays. Rich Gannon's broken neck vertebra will likely keep him out for a majority of the season, if not all of it, as head coach Norv Turner is expected to place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season by the end of this week. This week he faces a Houston pass defense that is one of the worst in the league.

Downside: Collins hasn't given us much reason to trust him over the last few years. He's been a mediocre quarterback at best, usually only warranting a start against the right match-up, or in leagues with 12 or more teams, where productive quarterbacks become scarce. This is his first year with a new team and system, so don't depend on Collins as a regular fantasy start the rest of the season.

Dante Hall (WR, Chiefs)

Upside: There's no real talent for Trent Green to throw to in Kansas City besides his running back, Priest Holmes, and tight end, Tony Gonzalez. To make matters worse, the Chiefs' starting receivers, Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton, are making perpetual visits to the injured list. Hall is the only wideout in Kansas with any speed to burn, making him the only big play target downfield. If your league allows for return yards and touchdowns, Hall's value skyrockets.

Downside: Despite being fast, Hall is also vertically challenged. The drawbacks of being 5-foot-7 are only amplified when playing a position that relies heavily on positioning and leaping ability. The Chiefs' 0-3 start probably has them thinking more about "back to basics" football, with more involvement by their key playmakers.

Michael Pittman (RB, Buccaneers)

Upside: Make no mistake about it -- Charlie Garner is done. The Bucs placed him on injured reserve yesterday, ending his season after he ruptured his patella tendon last week. Enter Michael Pittman. Pittman showed he has all the tools to be an effective running back during the Bucs' Super Bowl run two years ago. Pittman is very good at catching passes out of the backfield, something that will happen more often this year with the Bucs' starting wideouts being a dinosaur (Tim Brown) and a rookie (Michael Clayton). Pittman won't have to split carries with guys like Thomas Jones this year either, making him all the more valuable. 

Downside: Mike Alstott is still roaming around the Bucs' backfield. Alstott is probably the biggest goal line opportunity vulture short of Jermone Bettis. Pittman did not score a single touchdown last year, in large part thanks to Alstott. 

The Bucs' offense has also been pathetic so far this year; with Jon Gruden constantly yanking Brad Johnson for Chris Simms, it's been hard for the offense to get moving.
 

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