Wide Write: Fantasy Bailout

We’ve been giving you a total of six players per week to consider starting, and have concluded that the number is far too stingy. Since neither you nor your favorite financial sector companies have gotten a $700 billion bailout from the federal government yet this week, the least we can do is offer up a few more fantasy football players than usual. Maybe that’ll cushion the blow before the next time you check your 401(k) and debate whether you should care about the tax implications of withdrawing the remaining 59 cents.


Chad Pennington, Dolphins — We know this one sounds ridiculous, but bear with us. The intermediate-armed Pennington hasn’t been bad so far, averaging nearly 200 yards per game with a pair of touchdowns and an 87.9 quarterback rating. His opponent this week, the Chargers, have allowed 112 points and a league-worst 276 passing yards per game. If you need a bye-week replacement for Brett Favre or Derek Anderson, Chad could be a sneaky-good choice.

Matt Schaub, Texans — Schaub’s success in 2008 was a foregone conclusion at Wide Write headquarters, but after he threw five interceptions with only one touchdown in his first two games, we were understandably concerned. Schaub bounced back in Week 4 with 307 passing yards and three TDs at Jacksonville, and we think that’s just the beginning. With an emotional crowd likely this Sunday in Houston, look for Schaub to have a solid game against the Colts.

Running Back

Rudi Johnson, Lions — Last season, when Rudi was with the Bengals, we used phrases like “stick a fork in him” when railing about his lack of production. But ever since Tatum Bell stole his luggage from the Lions’ offices, we’ve been rooting for Rudi. In Week 3 against the 49ers, he replaced rookie Kevin Smith (not the guy who wrote “Clerks”) early on and carried 14 times for 83 yards, while adding three receptions for 48 yards. The Lions say they’re going to play the hot back at any given time, but Johnson’s worth a bye-week start against the Bears this week.

Mewelde Moore, Steelers — Moore entered last week’s action as the 57th running back on the Steelers’ depth chart, but a season-ending injury to rookie Rashard Mendenhall and a sprained ankle suffered by some guy named Carey Davis got Moore in for eight carries (and an unsightly 13 yards). Willie Parker’s still out this week with a strained knee, and while Moore’s ability is definitely in question, he’s about the only option the Steelers have for Sunday night’s battle in Jacksonville. How’s that for a confident selection?

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers — If you’re not starting Stewart already, this is your reminder to do so immediately. The rookie is splitting carries with teammate DeAngelo Williams, but he’s got four touchdowns in four games, and he’s running very well. This bandwagon ought to be full already, but some people are too slow or dumb to pull the trigger. If you’re reading this paragraph and thinking, “Hmm … maybe I should start Stewart,” you should fine yourself for not paying enough attention.

Receiver (WR/TE)

Steve Breaston, Cardinals — With Anquan Boldin probably out this week due to the effects of a vicious hit he took last week against the Jets, Breaston gets a front row seat on the Kurt Warner Express. Breaston caught nine passes for 122 yards last week, and he’s a good bet for some more good numbers against the Bills in Week 5.

Bobby Engram, Seahawks — Engram and Deion Branch are both set (but not yet guaranteed) to make their 2008 debuts this week, and QB Matt Hasselbeck must be on his knees thanking the good lord that he finally gets to throw to some receivers he’s actually heard of. Playing in the Meadowlands against the Giants is not going to be a picnic for the Seahawks, but someone’s gotta catch some balls for them, and Engram’s a favorite target of Hasselbeck — he caught 94 passes last year. You should double-check Engram’s status on Sunday morning, but if he plays, five receptions for 75 yards sounds about right.

Matt Jones, Jaguars — Look who’s become a go-to receiver. The freakishly athletic Jones — who was a record-setting quarterback at Arkansas — was a disappointment in his first three seasons after getting picked in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. But all of a sudden, he’s become David Garrard’s main target, with 21 receptions for 244 yards and a score. Jags’ offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter says Jones is “acting like he cares,” and while that might sound like a backhanded compliment, it’s actually great to hear considering what a mess he was as recently as this past offseason. All aboard the Matt Jones bandwagon!

Lance Moore, Saints — If Drew Brees is throwing, we’re buying no matter who’s on the other end of the exchange. WR Marques Colston and TE Jeremy Shockey are both going to be out awhile longer with their injuries, and in their absence Moore has become Brees’ favorite target, with 14 receptions, 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his last two games. To paraphrase the great Mike Tyson, Moore might fade into Bolivian as soon as Colston and Shockey return, but he’s a good bet to continue his stat padding at least through Monday night’s showdown with the Vikings.

Finally, don’t forget your byes this week — the Jets, Raiders, Browns and Rams are off. So is Lane Kiffin if anyone’s looking to fill out a golf foursome in the Bay Area.

John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning fantasy blog Sundays through Fridays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" appears every Thursday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at jhalpin37@gmail.com.

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