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Volume 70, Issue 71, Friday, December 3, 2004

Sports

'Foolish' moves may be wise for fantasy fans

By Mike Kruft
The Daily Cougar

Crunch time is upon us. In most fantasy leagues, the playoff picture is starting to look pretty cemented, but maybe you're one of the lucky ones fighting for that final spot in the postseason. If you're stuck in the middle of the pack, mired in mediocrity with a 6-6 record, don't lose hope. Maybe that first-round Michael Vick pick didn't work out so well, but the important thing is you can still make the playoffs if you know where to look for production. In the late season, you may find yourself forced to make some moves that would normally be considered foolish, but you'll have the last laugh if you act now.

Gearing Up:

Julius Jones (RB, Cowboys): After a standout 150-yard, two-touchdown performance Thanksgiving Day against the Chicago Bears, Julius Jones has solidified his role as the feature back for the Dallas Cowboys. With the Cowboys stuck in the basement of the NFC along with eight other teams fighting for the final playoff spot, Jones will be asked to do a lot. This could be the shot in the arm your fantasy team might need to make a serious playoff run.

Mushin Muhammad (WR, Panthers): Muhammad has enjoyed a successful year as Carolina's No. 1 wideout, and we have no reason to expect any deviation in production heading into the final weeks of the season. The Panthers, along with the Cowboys, are fighting for the last playoff spot in a very weak NFC. The Panthers' schedule makes them the early favorites to clinch that spot, facing New Orleans, St. Louis and Houston the next three weeks. This should make Muhammad a favorite of yours, as all three pass defenses rank among the league's worst.

Nick Goings (RB, Panthers): Goings has filled in nicely in a Panthers backfield that has lost more players to injury this year than some entire teams have. If you're in a bind for running backs, or you're facing a split backfield situation -- like in Minnesota, San Francisco, or Kansas City -- Goings might be a better alternative. Consistency is key at this point in the season, and Goings will surely be getting the ball.

Shifting Down:

Plaxico Burress (WR, Steelers): The Steelers are sitting pretty atop the AFC at 10-1 thanks to a great defense, a solid running game and a rookie quarterback who doesn't screw up games for them. However, if you're looking for production from Plaxico Burress in the final weeks of the fantasy season, don't count on it. The Steelers upcoming schedule is fairly brutal with games against fellow AFC powerhouses like the Jaguars, Jets and Ravens.

Clinton Portis (RB, Redskins): Portis only rushed the ball six times last week, and over the last three weeks he has only amassed 135 total rushing yards. One reason for this is the Redskins have been largely trailing throughout games this season, and Portis is not included in passing formations due to his lack of size for pass blocking. Don't expect the Redskins to run their most valuable player, Portis, much the rest of the year on what has become a lost season.

Kevan Barlow (RB, 49ers): Barlow gave up the majority of carries last week to backup Maurice Hicks. This trend had been on the increase in recent weeks, resulting in a 20-yard stinker of an outing against the Dolphins. This kind of production can be fatal in the home stretch of the fantasy season. Despite comments from head coach Dennis Erickson that Barlow will start Week 13 against the Rams, you can't depend on Barlow, so be sure to bench him.

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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