A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

There was already going to be panic on the airwaves surrounding the Cowboys offense this week. Now it's well founded. ESPN's Michael Smith reports that Tony Romo will miss four weeks (three games) with a broken pinkie, forcing Brad Johnson into the starting lineup.

Johnson is hardly a 40-year-old virgin as an NFL starter, but he's barely taken a snap since a mediocre run in Minnesota in 2006. He's a classic "game-manager" and will probably have the weakest arm of any NFL starter in Week 7. The Cowboys now must rely heavily on their mammoth offensive line and running game. There should be no complaints about the workload of Marion Barber and Felix Jones over the next three weeks. They actually might get a brief boost in value, at least against the Rams. After that, their chances of scoring go down with Johnson at the helm.

The passing attack will stop trying to go vertical to Terrell Owens and start going horizontal to Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton. That should go over well with T.O. Owens remains someone to start, but he'll be ranked more like a WR2 than a top-five option. Witten can expect his incredible season to slow down.

If Smith's report is accurate, Romo will miss games at St. Louis, vs. Tampa Bay, and at the Giants. NFL Network's Adam Schefter believes he could miss another game. The Rams game becomes a must-win because Johnson will struggle to move the ball the following two weeks against two of the best defenses in football.

Romo owners shouldn't assume Brad Johnson is their best option as a replacement. He will be ranked as a below average QB2, and we can't imagine using him against the Bucs and Giants. Chad Pennington and Matt Ryan are two potentially available players we'd rather have. This is where solid drafting comes into play. Your regular backup should be far better than Johnson.

This is a Cowboys team with the personality of their head coach, always convinced the sun will shine brighter tomorrow on America's Team. They have been criticized for failing to handle adversity well. They will either prove everyone wrong or spectacularly implode.

Things to know after going to your brother's wedding

1. Warrick Dunn dominated the Bucs workload at running back against Carolina (22-to-5 over Earnest Graham), continuing a yearlong resurgence. But Graham's low total was largely because Graham volunteered to move to fullback once the Bucs' usual starter was injured. Dunn should be owned in all leagues and is a flex play in the right matchup, but don't go overboard upgrading him.

2. Jeff Garcia is going to be the Bucs quarterback for a while. In Grudenese, that translates to at least one more week.

3. The Rams may have won in Washington, but their passing game didn't look much better. Marc Bulger barely topped five yards-per-attempt and Torry Holt is still struggling to beat anyone deep.

4. Matt Ryan is for real. Forget the injured Bears defensive backs Sunday and the early-season schedule. Ryan is averaging 7.2 YPA through six weeks of his rookie season, which is insane. Roddy White can remain a top-ten receiver with Ryan playing this well.

5. Since Gus Frerotte took over, Bernard Berrian has produced more standard fantasy points than any receiver except Greg Jennings, Roddy White, and Larry Fitzgerald. Frerotte has an underrated arm and Adrian Peterson helps open up deep plays.

6. The Raiders could trade Justin Fargas or Michael Bush by Tuesday. Tony Gonzalez looks like the most likely quality veteran to move, even if that likelihood is under 50%.

7. Vincent Jackson can be a quality WR2 for as long as Chris Chambers is out of the lineup.

8. For the first time all season, Tim Hightower had more touches in a game than Edgerrin James. The Cardinals pulled off their biggest win of the year and could make this a close split moving forward.

9. The last five quarters of Texans games have effectively ended any quarterback controversy. Matt Schaub can put up QB1 numbers with the talent around him. Trying to keep up with Houston's lousy defense will help him greatly.

Don't Panic

1. Santana Moss is back to frustrating owners with inconsistency. Jason Campbell hasn't even thrown the ball his way much in successive weeks as opposing teams realize it's better to make the other Redskins wideouts beat you. Since I believe in Jason Campbell, though, I believe the Redskins will adjust back and get Moss the ball.

2. Matt Forte failed to top four yards-per-carry in matchups against Detroit and Chicago. His awesome receiving ability is keeping him in the top-five PPR running backs, but his heavy workload is a concern. Rotoworld news maven Evan Silva made a convincing case for selling Forte high on Saturday. While a committee seems unlikely, I share Silva's concern that Forte will break down. Forte has been one of the most consistent fantasy assets out there, so don't go crazy trying to sell. (Thus, don't panic.) But if you can get true top-five value, now is a good time to deal.

3. Jay Cutler is not going to put up huge numbers when Brandon Stokley, Tony Scheffler, and Eddie Royal are all out at the same time. They should be returning shortly, likely this week, so he could be a good buy-low if Cutler owners are getting impatient.

Some Panic is Acceptable

1. Antonio Bryant had only two targets against Carolina, as Jeff Garcia preferred to look for his tight ends and running backs. With Joey Galloway returning soon, Bryant's value is slipping.

2. Unlike top backs such as Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, and Matt Forte, Michael Turner owners are going to have to live with a hit or miss season. He's failed top 60 yards or score a touchdown in half his games.

3. Chris Perry is about to lose his job, if he hasn't already. Unfortunately for the Bengals, Cedric Benson is the top candidate to replace him. Don't be shocked if Kenny Watson gets back in the mix.

4. JaMarcus Russell did, in fact, throw more under Tom Cable, and it wasn't only because they trailed for most of the game. Drop passes hurt, but Russell's embarrassing 4.5 YPA and 40% completion rate against a below average secondary shows how far last year's number one pick is away from being a quality starter.

5. I bought the Jerry Porter hype in Jacksonville and couldn't have been more wrong. After another game buried on the bench, it's safe to give up that dream for 2008.

6. With four touchdowns and nine turnovers in the last three weeks, it's clear J.T. O'Sullivan is a matchup play for fantasy leaguers. The matchups don't get any easier at the Giants this week.

The Other Big Story

The original lede of this column was the resurgence of the Colts passing game. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison's breakout game meant so much because of who it was against. Baltimore had the top-ranked pass defense in the league according to FootballOutsiders going into Week 6. Other than Tennessee, no other defense was close. And the Colts hit big play after big play on them.

The Ravens can partially blame some injuries, but Harrison's damage came against Baltimore's supposed best cornerback - Chris McAlister. Manning took advantage of McAlister's aggressiveness with some pump takes and continually targeted Harrison in the red zone. He could have scored three times. Harrison won't be the consistent fantasy option he once was, but he'll score enough touchdowns to matter if Manning is all the way back. Reggie Wayne is drawing the double coverage now.

The acknowledgement by the Colts that Manning indeed underwent a second knee surgery before the season helps explain the passing attack's slow start. The offensive line is getting healthier and closer to form. In a season where three of the top-five quarterbacks drafted are hurt (Brady, Romo, Palmer), Manning looks to be himself just in time for a successful stretch run.

Committee Time

1. DeAngelo Williams had eleven carries to six for Jonathan Stewart. Both had cracks at the end zone, although Stewart did almost vulture a touchdown after Williams led the Panthers to the goal line. In the end, the two combined for only 39 yards against a stout Bucs defense.

2. Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush split the workload evenly carrying the ball against Oakland. McAllister had only 14 carries in a 35-3 win, though, which shows it will be tough for him to top that number most weeks. Bush, meanwhile, continues to be a Fantasy MVP favorite despite averaging 3.1 yards-per-carry this season. That has to catch up to him eventually, right?

3. With Fred Taylor hurt most of the day, Maurice Jones-Drew gave a preview to what life as a primary back will look like for him in 2010. Mo-Jo owners should be disappointed Taylor was able to return to the game late, but perhaps this will get him more carries moving forward.

4. Is the Denver committee over? Well, at least until Selvin Young and/or Ryan Torain come back. Until then, Michael Pittman owners can enjoy found money with a solid every week RB2.

5. Thomas Jones had twenty touches to only nine for Leon Washington. That will happen more often when the Jets play with the lead.

Short Declarative Sentences About Defenses

The Bucs have allowed one touchdown combined against the Broncos and Panthers in successive weeks. The Bears pass defense isn't scary after all their injuries. The Bengals pass defense is a lot better than you think. This is the worst Patriots defense since 2002, especially in the secondary.

The Replacements

1. Dan Orlovsky didn't help Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams, but it's hard to say he was much worse than Jon Kitna. There's some hope here for the Lions wideouts to maintain value. Orlovsky looks likely to get another start.

2. Charlie Frye is going to make just about every Seahawk hands off until Matt Hasselbeck returns.

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick is about as poor as we expected. Again. At least he zeroed in on T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco. They had 12 catches between them, but look like average fantasy WR3 plays when Carson Palmer is gone.

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