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Recent posts by Pat Fitzmaurice
1. Randy Moss — Beware, Twin Cities parking-meter attendants: The Mercurial One is coming home. Unhappy with his contract status, Moss moped his way out of New England after four weeks of mailing it in for the Patriots. He now returns to the Vikings, the team he spent seven fruitful years with before an acrimonious parting of the ways after the 2004 season. The same Vikings fans who turned their backs on Moss at the time are now welcoming him with open arms. The Vikes have been in dire need of a quality wide receiver ever since Sidney Rice's hip was found to be unsound during training camp. Moss has only nine catches for 139 yards this season, but the trade gives him an instant shot of motivation, and you just know that Brett Favre is going to be targeting Moss heavily right from the start. And how perfect that the Vikings play on the Monday-night stage this week, against the Jets and frequent Moss nemesis Darrelle Revis, who's returning from a hamstring injury sustained when he was beaten by Moss for a one-handed TD catch in Week Two. Put the beer on ice and send the kids to bed early: This is gonna be good.
2. Brett Favre — Favre has played with some very good wide receivers over the years: Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, Andre Rison, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings. But Favre hasn't played with a truly great wide receiver since he was throwing to Sterling Sharpe in the infancy of what has become a 20-year career. Now Favre finally gets to play with another great one, provided that Randy Moss is still in the mood to be Randy Moss. Favre has looked terrible in his first three games, and the lack of weaponry at wide receiver clearly has been a factor, but will No. 4 instantly regain his old form now that Moss has come to the rescue? Or will Favre's testy ankle and his deteriorating offensive line continue to make him look like a quarterback who came back from the brink of retirement one time too many? And as for this week's Vikings-Jets game, somewhat overshadowed by all the hullabaloo over Moss is the fact that most Jets fans don't like Favre very much after his one-year stint with the team in '08 and won't exactly be throwing bouquets in the quarterback's direction when he makes his return.
3. Brandon Lloyd — Kyle Orton is on pace to break Dan Marino's 1984 record for single-season passing yardage, and Lloyd has emerged as the Broncos' version of Mark Duper (albeit a slightly taller version). One of the biggest shockers of the season so far is that a career journeyman like Lloyd has reinvented himself to such a remarkable degree. With 25 catches and 454 receiving yards through four games, Lloyd might surpass his previous single-season highs (48 catches for 733 yards in 2005) by the halfway point of the season. He demonstrated his importance to the newly explosive Denver passing game last week, catching 11 balls for 115 yards in a road upset of the Titans. But four games is a relatively small sample size. Will the Broncos keep slinging it around to such an extreme degree? And will Lloyd continue to be Orton's top weapon, or will Orton start spreading the ball around in more egalitarian fashion, perhaps with an increasing role for talented rookie WR Demaryius "Bay-Bay" Thomas? This week, Lloyd faces a Ravens defense that ranks first in the league against the pass despite a number of injuries in the secondary.
4. Santonio Holmes — Most of the attention will be on Randy Moss and Brett Favre on Monday night when the Vikings visit the Jets, allowing Holmes to quietly slip back into action after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy. But "quiet" probably isn't what Holmes would prefer; he'd undoubtedly love to make a big splash with his new team in front of a prime-time audience, and ruin the Randy & Brett Show in the process. The question is how seamlessly Holmes can blend into a Jets offense that's starting to click. Mark Sanchez has developed a rapport with Braylon Edwards, and Dustin Keller is developing into one of the league's better tight ends. Will Holmes be used mostly as a decoy at first, or will Sanchez start throwing his way right off the bat?
5. Terrell Owens — T.O. is fresh off one of the best days of his illustrious career. He lit up the Browns last week for 10 catches and 222 yards, including a 78-yard TD catch. It was the second highest yardage total of Owens' career, coming nearly 10 years after he torched the Bears for 20 catches and 283 yards in December 2000. Despite the fact that they're playing together for the first time, Carson Palmer has targeted Owens far more often than anyone other than T.O. himself might have expected. We may see more of the same this week when the Bengals host the Buccaneers, particularly since rookie slot receiver Jordan Shipley is injured and may not suit up for Cincinnati.
6. Antonio Gates — Not only has Gates been the most valuable tight end in fantasy football so far this season, he might just be the fantasy MVP regardless of position. Without WR Vincent Jackson in the lineup, Philip Rivers has been leaning even more heavily on Gates. After only four games, Gates already has 24 receptions for 386 yards and six TDs, putting him on pace to shatter some TE receiving records. He's coming off a 144-yard, two-TD game against the Cardinals, and he figures to be a busy man again this week when the Chargers visit the Raiders.
7. Matt Ryan — "Matty Ice" has been more like Matty Slushy this year. After a lackluster showing in 2009, Ryan is still struggling to make good on the promise of his '08 rookie season. He was shaky last week in a narrow Falcons victory over the 49ers, and his performance in that game might be under closer scrutiny had the 49ers' Nate Clements not carelessly fumbled on an interception return with less than two minutes to go in regulation, allowing Ryan one more chance to drive his team into range for the game-winning field goal. This week, Ryan gets to face a Cleveland pass defense that in Week Four made Carson Palmer look vastly better than he had looked in three previous games. If Ryan flounders this week, it's fair to start wondering whether he's really a top QB in the making, or just another guy.
8. C.J. Spiller — The trade of Marshawn Lynch to the Seahawks finally clears the way for Spiller to get a number of touches befitting his immense talent. The woebegone Bills need to turn the rookie loose and see what he can do with a steady diet of carries. But the workmanlike Fred Jackson is still in the picture (in fact, he's been named the starter for Sunday), and let's not forget that Buffalo's offensive line ranks somewhere between subpar and abysmal (closer to the latter, actually). Spiller owners are hoping that the Bills' home game against Jacksonville this week will serve as a coronation for their young playmaker, but expectations should obviously be tempered by the fact that Spiller is employed by the NFL's worst team.
9. Dez Bryant — You get the feeling that big things are just around the corner for this guy, and I don't mean another $55,000 restaurant tab. The skills and natural talent are just so obvious. Bryant has been a useful cog in the Dallas offense during the first three games of his professional career, but we're still waiting for his first big game. It's coming. Maybe it's even coming this week. A Week Three bye gave the Cowboys a chance to further define Bryant's role in a proficient passing attack, and this week Dallas will face a Tennessee defense with a thin, injury-plagued defensive backfield. Yes, Miles Austin is still Tony Romo's go-to guy, and Roy Williams showed a pulse in Week Three with a 117-yard day and a pair of TD catches, but Bryant will nonetheless get his. It's just a matter of when.
10. LeGarrette Blount — An average of 2.5 yards per carry isn't conducive to the job security of an NFL running back, and thus Cadillac Williams is about to be stripped of some responsibility. At least that's the word from Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris, who said that Blount and Kareem Huggins will get more carries going forward. With the Tampa Bay ground game shifting to RB-by-committee mode, the division of labor is still malleable, and early impressions will be important as the Bucs emerge from a Week Three bye. Blount made a nice debut against the Steelers in Week Two, rushing six times for 27 yards and a TD, and he could carve out a significant role for himself with a good showing this week in Cincinnati.