Matt Pitzer

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Wasting Space

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


This column is about wasting space. And if that's not enough to keep you reading, I don't know what is.

The long fantasy nightmare that is the Broncos' running back situation has been well-discussed in many places, but it has reached absurd proportions. You reasonably now could be spending four roster spots trying to make sure you have one starter.

Travis Henry appears to have snuck through another week without being suspended, although that still could change, and he still has to return after missing three games to a knee injury. Selvin Young missed last week's game, also because of a knee injury. Andre Hall had a big game against the Bears but sprained an ankle and could be out.

And if all of those guys are out, the lucky starter? Fullback Cecil Sapp. So yeah, you might need to pick him up too. Adding to the intrigue of week, the Broncos are playing at Oakland, which has the worst run defense in the league. The Raiders have given up five rushing TDs the past two weeks to Chester Taylor and Kolby Smith.

So whomever starts for Denver ought to be one of the best running backs of the week. And that is a huge potential source of points you can not afford to ignore at this time of the season.

But I can't recall ever seeing a situation like this with four backs in the mix for one team. Much of the season has been an exercise in frustration from Henry's lingering possible suspension to Young's injury, followed by Hall's.

Henry and Young were not exactly lighting things up, which is what made Hall's 167 total yards against the Bears so enticing. He showed some of that big-play ability Denver usually demands of its backs.

Let's hope the Broncos figure out in practice in the next day or two who is ready to start. That is a pipe dream, of course. You know this one will go down until Sunday -- at which time you might be able to let your lineup quit being held hostage by all of these guys.

Of course, consider this. Suppose Henry really is healthy. He still could be suspended at any time. And with the health of Young and Hall in doubt both now and perhaps the rest of the season, you might need to hold onto them. I hope your roster size is bloated enough to handle it.

Also, not that I would ever want to be accused of being a Mike Shanahan homer, but the theory that he is a fantasy owner's biggest nightmare doesn't really fit here. First, he signaled more than 4 hours before Denver's late-afternoon kickoff last week that Andre Hall, not Selvin Young, would start. That is about as generous as any coach around. Second, the running back depth chart has been clear all season: 1. Henry, 2. Young, 3. Hall. And Shanahan has stuck with that order precisely.

On the rise

Browns defense. The Browns are still last in the league in points allowed, but they are scoring a few fantasy points. They have averaged four sacks over the past three games with eight total turnovers. The remaining schedule features inconsistent offenses: Arizona, Jets, Buffalo, Cincinnati, San Francisco. And if you also get special teams points, the Browns have perhaps the best returner this side of Devin Hester in Josh Cribbs.

Justin Gage. Recommending any Titans receiver is one of the most perilous things a fantasy expert can do, but Gage does appear to have turned into his team's best deep threat. He is averaging 84.7 receiving yards the past three weeks as the Titans have been airing things out more than usual. For now, pick him up as a reserve and play him if desperate. I need a longer track record before buying in completely.

Steven Jackson. Hopefully you would not consider benching Jackson, and this should help eliminate that thought. Jackson has yet to hit 100 yards since returning from his groin injury but has scored in three of four games. And he should be in for a big one against the Falcons, who have allowed 31 points in back-to-back home games. Atlanta's run defense has slipped to 26th and is weak up the middle. Jackwon will run more to either protect a groggy Marc Bulger or keep the ball out of struggling Gus Frerotte's hands.


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Matt Pitzer writes about fantasy football for USAToday.com.
Email :Matt Pitzer



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