Google and Yahoo’s top 10 most popular searches are going to have a new member this week. Right up there with Justin Bieber, John Cena, and the Kardashian credit card will be Brian Westbrook, the hottest commodity on fantasy football free agent lists.
Westbrook was as M.I.A. this football season as Susan Boyle’s voice was on The View.
San Francisco kept Westbrook’s behind nailed to the bench 99.9 percent of the time. He had touched the ball 10 whole times—five rushing attempts, five receptions—in San Francisco’s first 10 games.
It was almost like the 49ers were trying to tell him it was time to retire by ignoring him.
But Frank Gore pulled a Bo Jackson and busted his hip. Now that Gore is out for the remainder of the season, and because head coach (and David Letterman running joke) Mike Singletary and the 49ers prefer running the ball rather than having Troy Smith drop back and throw 30 wobbly floaters every game, Westbrook became the most popular man on fantasy waiver wires.
Snagging a starting running back this late in the season can be the difference between winning hundreds of bucks and winning nothing. Just ask the fantasy owners who scooped up Buffalo’s Fred Jackson and Carolina’s Mike Goodson in recent weeks.
But before you go gaga over Westbrook’s triumphant 136-yard, one-TD return to fantasy relevance, check out that dark cloud hovering over his helmet.
There are reasons to be weary of Mr. Westbrook.
So think about these things before you hang your hat on him.
Westbrook is no Cal Ripken, Brett Favre, or Calvin Murphy.
He has been dinged more times than Rex Ryan’s microwave.
This super scat back’s soft skull, the result of countless concussions, had him on the verge of calling it a career. One square helmet-to-helmet hit could end all of his fantasy momentum.
The 49ers aerial “attack”
San Francisco’s passing game might have tight end Vernon Davis and receiver Michael Crabtree as the focal points, but without a solid quarterback delivering the ball to them, opposing defenses will stack up eight and nine-man fronts against Westbrook.
His room to run could be more narrow than Al Davis’ thinking.
Before you fool yourself into thinking the 49ers have a realistic chance to win the NFC West because they have won three of their last four games, and because Troy Smith is the lesser of the two evil Smith options at quarterback, take a gander at who San Fran is playing over the final five weeks.
Let’s start with a game at chilly Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay should be up 21-0 before long, meaning running plays during the second half of the game will be at a minimum for Westbrook.
Following Green Bay are two tough divisional games against Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams, and a road game against the San Diego Chargers, you know, the team that never loses in December.
I do not see many automatic 100-yard games there for Westbrook.
All signs point to this little-known rookie getting the goal line carries when San Francisco gets inside the five-yard-line. Dixon is a big back who can bowl over defenders and bang forward for tough yards.
Westbrook is hardly that type of runner, especially now in his later years and with a head he would rather not lower into oncoming traffic.
Dixon’s presence could definitely cost Westbrook some scores.
Do not be fooled by Westbrook’s comeback performance against the hapless, hopeless Arizona Cardinals. I have not seen athletes wave the white flag quicker than that since Michael Spinks climbed into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson.
The Cards’ were gutless, especially during the second half of the game when the Niners were running on obvious running downs and situations and just plowing through the Cards’ front seven like they were soft snow.
If you needed a running back this week for your fantasy team, like if you had Gore, then I cannot fault you for picking up Westbrook and praying for the best.
Just do expect the same Brian Westbrook Philadelphia Eagles fans and fantasy owners had between 2006 and 2008, that’s all.
Run and Shoot
The best fantasy defense to own during these final five weeks of the season could be the Atlanta Falcons.
While the Falcons’ defensive numbers are uneven to say the least—26th in sacks, fourth in interceptions, 19th in total defense, seventh in scoring defense—the NFL’s dirtiest birds have two contests against the downtrodden Carolina Panthers, the worst offense in the league.
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has turned his back on his former favorite target, tight end Dustin Keller, and has firmly decided to ride with wide-out Santonio Holmes more often. Keller’s fantasy stock has dropped like a pass thrown to Buffalo’s Steve Johnson.
Keller was Sanchez’s main man while Holmes was serving his suspension during the first month of the season. Keller caught 19 passes for 254 yards and five touchdowns and was making big plays down field, on third down, in the red zone, everywhere.
But Keller has vanished since Holmes appeared on the scene. Zero touchdowns in his last seven games, and he is averaging a paltry 37 yards per game over the past five weeks.
Dallas Clark’s fantasy value might still be higher.
I do not think this is the last we’ve seen of Ol’ Keller. Do not toss him on the fantasy scrap pile just yet.
When the opposing defenses get tougher, Sanchez still seems to look Keller’s way, and the Jets’ hardest part of their schedule will be their final five games, starting with the New England Patriots this Monday night.