‘Good chance’ Brian Westbrook won’t play against Giants

According to Philly.com, the Eagles are unlikely to rush Brian Westbrook back, even for a big game like Sunday’s tilt against the Giants.

From a fantasy perspective, Westbrook’s owners knew that he was going to miss a few games throughout the season, so they shouldn’t be surprised or angry about this news. LeSean McCoy is a capable backup, but it’s not like next week’s game against the Giants is a tasty matchup for either RB.

Desperate owners should look to Shonn Greene and/or Beanie Wells, who may be available. Greene is going to get most of Leon Washington’s touches and Wells is getting more and more work in the Arizona backfield. He’s a much better natural runner than Tim Hightower, though Hightower has more experience and better hands.

If Greene and Wells are gone, Mike Bell is another option. He is getting all of the Saints’ goal line work and has 27 carries in the last two games. He’s not going to post Westbrook-like numbers, but he should help fantasy owners get by. If Bell isn’t available, Justin Fargas ran really hard against the Jets and has a nice matchup against the Chargers in Week 8.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Breaking down the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie Year candidates

Around this time last year, I compiled a top 10 list of Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates and ranked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan No. 1. He went on to throw for 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns and led Atlanta to a remarkable playoff appearance, all while making me look like some kind of OROY-predicting genius.

Of course, I also listed Titans running back Chris Johnson at No. 7 behind less-productive names like Darren McFadden (No. 4), Kevin Smith (No. 5) and Rashard Mendenhall (No. 6), hence making me look like some kind of OROY-predicting moron.

To see my top 10 ranking from last year, click here. And for my top 10 ranking of the offensive rookie of the year candidates for this season, see below.

1. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos
While the knee injury he suffered in Denver’s preseason opener is a concern, Moreno is expected to be ready for Week 1 and will be given every opportunity to shine in ’09. Granted, he’s stuck in a crowded backfield and could be eased into the season after hurting his knee, but he has the potential to be an every-down back at some point this year. He was the most complete back in April’s draft, has outstanding vision and should get plenty of opportunities to make plays in Josh McDaniels’ shotgun-heavy offense. He’ll also benefit from running behind the Broncos’ stellar O-line. Expecting him to put up rushing numbers similar to those of Chris Johnson (1,228 rushing yards) last year might be a little ambitious. But if Moreno stays healthy, a 400-plus yard receiving season in McDaniels’ system is certainly doable.

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Surprises and Busts: Trying to predict the unpredictable in fantasy football

Most fantasy owners draft a running back in the first round and oftentimes their season depends on how that player fares. If he misses a few games with an injury and is bothered by it for a few more, his production will suffer and it will put his fantasy team in a tough spot. This can be offset if his owner is savvy enough to draft one of the “surprise” backs that inevitably crash the top 10 every season.

But how does one pluck one of these backs out of the middle rounds? Better yet, how can we avoid drafting an early round bust in the first place?

As a forewarning, this is not a tight article. I ponder, deliberate and meander as I go along. Trying to predict the future is nebulous at best and futile at worst, so please bear with me as I muddle my way through this topic.

Here’s a list of the top RBs from 2008…

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Edgerrin James to be released soon – are Texans an option?

After drafting Chris “Beanie” Wells in the first round of the NFL draft on Saturday, the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to release running back Edgerrin James soon, possibly even as earlier as this weekend.

James started clamoring that he wanted out of Arizona last season when he started losing carries to Tim Hightower. James carried the ball only 133 times (his lowest total since an injury-plagued 2001 season) for 514 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last season. He did rush for 236 yards on 61 carries in the playoffs last year (including the Super Bowl), but even then the writing seemed to be on the wall that he was done in the desert.

If he is released, James will get what he wants, although his market value will be extremely low now that the draft is over. At 30 years old, he’s at the age where teams stop looking at you as a starter and more as a backup in a platoon.

This is just speculation on my part, but one team that could be interested in James is the Texans. Steve Slaton emerged as a quality starter last year, but like most backs in the NFL, he wouldn’t be able to sustain the pounding of a full 16-game season. The team also still has Chris Brown and Ryan Moats on the roster, but Brown spent the entire 2008 season on IR due to a back injury and Moats rushed for just 94 yards on 26 carries last season.

Some speculated that the Texans would pick a running back in the first round of last week’s draft, but they decided to once again address their defense with the selection of linebacker Brian Cushing. Houston then went then entire weekend without taking a running back in any of the seven rounds.

James wouldn’t get more than a one or two year deal at this point, but he could make a nice complement to Slaton as long as he’s motivated. I know James still wants to be a starter, but at this point he better be willing to take a role in a platoon.

Breaking down the 2008 Heisman Trophy hopefuls

After becoming the first underclassman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007, the conventional wisdom is that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is the favorite to win college football’s prestigious award again this year.

But should he be the favorite?

Below is a breakdown of 10 Heisman Trophy candidates and reasons why they will or won’t win the award this season.

1. Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
Why he’ll win: Barring injury, “Beanie” Wells should be the true favorite to win the Heisman this year based on his role in Ohio State’s offense, his talent and his team’s schedule. Jim Tressel loves to pound the ball on the ground, which should mean big numbers for Wells, who’s arguably the best back in the nation. It also doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes won’t face many tough defenses this year outside of USC and possibly Penn State, who both had excellent run defenses in 2007. A 2,000-yard season certainly isn’t out of the question given Wells’ durability and strength.
Why he won’t win: Voters tend to remember if players don’t perform well against top competition, so Wells could blow his Heisman chances if he produces a dud against USC in early September. Outside of that, an injury or just a terrible year, what’s to stop Wells in 2008-09?

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Why he’ll win: Tebow is arguably the best player in the country and certainly the most versatile. He also is the offensive centerpiece for a powerhouse program that should contend for a national title this year and his 2007 performance is still fresh in the minds of voters.
Why he won’t win: The Gators offense should be even better in 2008, which in theory means that Tebow won’t be counted on to do quite as much as he did last year (again, in theory). Obviously he’ll still have a huge role in the offense, but Florida will have one of the most balanced attacks in the nation, which is great for wins but not for Tebow’s final numbers. He’ll likely not only have to produce a tremendous season, but also lead the Gators to a national championship, which is never easy playing in the tough SEC.

3. Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri
Why he’ll win: Stats. Given the offense the Tigers run, Daniel is going to have the opportunity to match the 4,000-plus yards and 30-plus touchdowns he compiled from a year ago. Like last year, Missouri is a contender for the national title, which only helps Daniel’s chances.
Why he won’t win: Stats aren’t going to be a problem, but wins against top competition might be. Daniel will likely have to lead Mizzou to victories against Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma (or whoever) in the Big 12 Championship to even sniff a decent finish in the Heisman voting. That’s one tall order for not only Daniel, but the Tigers as well.

4. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Why he’ll win: It’s scary to think that given how productive the freshman Moreno was last year (1,334 yards, 14 TDs, 5.4 YPC), that there’s even more room for growth. Outside of Wells, Moreno is the most talented back in the nation and he also plays for the preseason No. 1 favorite so he’ll receive plenty of attention. He’s already drawing comparisons to Herschel Walker and Garrison Hearst.
Why he won’t win: Mark Richt has already indicated that he wants to get other backs involved (i.e. redshirt freshman Caleb King) in the offense, which could eat into Moreno’s touches (and thus, his stats). The offensive line also features some youth and might take time to gel, which usually doesn’t bode well for running backs. UGA quarterback Matthew Stafford also figures to be in the Heisman mix this season, and thus stealing some of the spotlight from Moreno.

5. Pat White, QB, West Virginia
Why he’ll win: Despite being one of the most electrifying players in the nation, White also has several factors working in his favor. One, West Virginia plays a favorable schedule and will likely contend for a national championship. Two, White doesn’t have to share the spotlight with Steve Slaton anymore, which should only increase his Heisman value. (Although Noel Devine looks like Steve Slaton Jr., so that second point might be moot once the season starts.)
Why he won’t win: With Rich Rodriguez now in Michigan, White and the Mountaineers have to adjust to having a new head coach (even though the team is familiar with new front man Bill Stewart from last year’s Fiesta Bowl victory). White has also struggled with injuries and one loss to a sub-par opponent will crush his Heisman chances. And with Slaton now in the NFL, defenses will likely key on White and build their game plan around stopping the dynamic QB.

6. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Why he’ll win: Crabtree’s stats should be impressive across the board in terms of touchdowns, receptions and yardage. Given the offense he plays in and the quarterback he plays for, Crabtree is going to have every chance to be the most productive receiver in the nation. (Stat-wise, at least.)
Why he won’t win: Crabtree will have the same problem as teammate Graham Harrell in that he plays in an offensive system designed to produce outrageous numbers. Heisman voters will expect big numbers out of Crabtree, so he and Texas Tech will likely have to produce a few upsets in order to turn heads.

7. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Why he’ll win: If it weren’t for an injury suffered against Texas Tech late in the year, Bradford would have made some noise in the 2007 Heisman race. His numbers were extraordinary last year (8 INTs compared to 36 TDs), so if he can stay healthy, produce similar stats and lead OK to another Big 12 Championship, his Heisman chances are excellent.
Why he won’t win: Losing receiver Malcolm Kelly hurts and like several other players on this list, Bradford has a teammate in DeMarco Murray that could steal some of his spotlight. Will the Sooners have to compete for a national title in order for Bradford to truly be recognized by voters? Or will a Big 12 Championship be enough?

8. DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Why he’ll win: As a backup last year, Murray produced 13 touchdowns, so the sky is the limit this season. He also plays on a dynamic offense and a program that should compete for a national title. A few key performances against Texas, Kansas and possibly Missouri in the Big 12 Championship, would be huge for Murray.
Why he won’t win: As previously mentioned, only one underclassman has ever won the Heisman and that was Tebow last year. Murray also has to share the limelight with teammate Sam Bradford and he’s battled a knee injury in the past. Back up Chris Brown is also likely to steal some of Murray’s carries.

9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Why he’ll win: Stafford has developed into one of the best quarterback prospects in the nation and a future top 5 draft pick. He also plays on the most talked about team in the nation and if Georgia can cash in on all the preseason hype, Stafford is going to get major recognition from voters.
Why he won’t win: Playing in the SEC East is brutal. Stafford and UGA will have to face Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and LSU this year, which is daunting to say the least. It also doesn’t help that Stafford plays in the same backfield as Moreno and will face Florida’s Tebow – two of the Heisman’s top candidates. Stafford could essentially lose the race if Tebow outperforms him in early November.

10. Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech
Why he’ll win: Similar to Chase Daniel, Harrell should produce eye-popping numbers in the Red Raiders’ high-powered offense. It also doesn’t hurt having a solid offensive line and an explosive weapon in fellow Heisman candidate Michael Crabtree. Depending on how you look at it, the Red Raiders’ schedule could help or hurt Harrell’s chances. Road games against Oklahoma and Kansas could sink Harrell’s Heisman stock. But if he could pull off a couple of upsets, his chances will obviously rise.
Why he won’t win: History. Despite producing great numbers on a yearly basis, Texas Tech quarterbacks typically don’t fair well in Heisman voting. System quarterbacks have a hard time earning Heisman votes; Hawaii’s Colt Brennan was the latest example.

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