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5 Minute Fantasy
ADAM DUERSON
November 27, 2006
ADAM DUERSON MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
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November 27, 2006

5 Minute Fantasy

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A mobile quarterback and a ground-oriented attack point to a big stretch run for Fred Taylor

THOSE OWNERS who have endured the inconsistency of Jaguars running back Fred Taylor shouldn't give up hope just yet. Now that David Garrard has replaced injured starter Byron Leftwich at quarterback, Taylor has noticed that defenses have to play him differently. Outside linebackers who would normally lurk closer to the line of scrimmage and pounce on running plays now have to stay at home. If they don't, Garrard has the quickness to dash around them on bootlegs. "They can't just cheat the play and run to the ball now," says Taylor, who had rushed for 696 yards and three touchdowns entering Monday night's game. "Just that little dimension opens up creases in the defense that make our running game more potent."

Offensive coordinator Carl Smith also is more likely to favor a running attack going forward because Jacksonville's young receivers have had a hard time holding on to the ball. The downside for Taylor owners is that this might also provide more opportunities for shifty rookie running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who usually gets about eight carries a game (and the bulk of the goal line work). But that shouldn't be a huge concern. There'll be more than enough touches for Taylor and more satisfaction for the owners who have been waiting for him to produce consistently.

BROWNOUT? The health of Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow bears watching as the season winds down. Although he's enjoying a breakout year--with 60 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns-- Winslow has been nagged by constant pain in his surgically repaired left knee, according to a league source. In fact, Winslow has admitted that he may need arthroscopic surgery after this season to remove scar tissue. So even though he's a tough player who's one of the two biggest threats in a limited offense, there's a chance he could fade down the stretch.

NOT SO FAST While Shaun Alexander was sidelined with a broken left foot, backup Maurice Morris did a solid job of sparking the Seahawks' running game. (He had back-to-back 100-yard games before Alexander returned to rush for 37 yards against the 49ers on Sunday.) Owners shouldn't be too quick to toss Morris back on the waiver wire, however. He's still valuable insurance in the event that Alexander suffers another injury, and he has played well enough to warrant more carries, even if Alexander is 100% healthy. Morris is a more reliable receiver and pass blocker than Alexander, and Seattle coach Mike Holmgren appreciates how those skills help the Seahawks' offense. "When we have Maurice in the game, I don't have as many restrictions on calling plays as when Shaun is in there," Holmgren says.

NOT EASY BEING GREEN Trent Green isn't returning as the Chiefs' quarterback at a particularly good time for his owners. Damon Huard played well while Green was sidelined by a severe concussion suffered in the Chiefs' season-opening loss to the Bengals, but now that Green is back, the offense is badly banged up. Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez is out with a sprained left shoulder, and injuries along the offensive line (Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters has a sprained right MCL, and right tackle Kevin Samson has a foot injury) have left Kansas City shuffling players to shore up its pass protection. It's worth waiting another week to see how Green fares, especially after his 102-yard, no-TD outing in a narrow win over the Raiders on Sunday.

PETER KING I THINK ...

... it's time to assess the tight end market heading into the playoffs

THIS HAS been such a disappointing year for tight ends that those of you who expected big things from Antonio Gates and Jeremy Shockey (a combined 8.0 catches per game) are probably tearing your hair out. Supposed second-tier studs Randy McMichael and Benjamin Watson have combined for two TD receptions in 20 games. Would-be sleeper Alex Smith of the Bucs? Still fast asleep: 22 catches, little impact.

These are my five best tight end pickups down the stretch (knowing that at least some of them may not be available in your league):

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