It’s about that time when fantasy football experts start putting out their midseason report cards and lavishing praise on the likes of Matt Schaub, Cedric Benson and the Giants’ Steve Smith.
But it’s easy to look back.
That’s why I’m going to use today’s column to look forward. Going position-by-position, I’ll predict three players who will have a great second half and three dark-horse candidates who might surprise a lot of people with a number of strong games in the second half.
So without further ado …
While Matt Schaub put together arguably the best first half, I think you can look to another Texas quarterback to put together the best second half. Dallas signal-caller Tony Romo has thrown for just 1,652 yards and nine touchdowns in the Cowboys’ first six games, but look for him to start putting up the numbers fantasy owners expected of him from here on out. Romo was affected by the lack of a true No. 1 receiver during the first half (Roy Williams is a stiff), so now that Miles Austin has cemented himself in that role, look for Romo to blossom. Dallas also has a nice schedule, with the Seahawks this Sunday, then Oakland, San Diego and Washington twice down the stretch. Expect 2,300 yards and 22 TDs the rest of the way.
Dark horse: Matt Cassel. He’s starting to understand the Chiefs’ offense, and if you look at the schedule (Jacksonville, Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland) you can definitely see some big games ahead.
Cedric Benson leads the NFL in rushing, but even more surprising is the fact Steven Jackson is third. Throw in his 165 yards receiving, and the Rams running back is quietly putting together a nice season. Jackson’s first half was quiet because he didn’t score a touchdown, but expect that to change this Sunday when he runs wild over the Lions. With soft run defenses such as Seattle, Chicago and Houston on the horizon, I expect Jackson to gain another 900 total yards and score 7-8 TDs down the stretch.
Dark horse: Chris “Beanie” Wells. Starting running back Tim Hightower’s days are numbered and Arizona has some weak rush defenses on the horizon (Carolina, Chicago, Seattle, St. Louis – twice — and Detroit).
Besides a strong showing against Jacksonville, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has struggled with his new team. If you take out the Jaguars game, Houshmandzadeh is averaging 56.4 receiving yards per game and has zero touchdowns. But the Seahawks wide receiver is averaging more than five catches a game and because of that I think the yardage and scores will start to come. Houshmandzadeh is getting more and more comfortable in the offense, and with the Seahawks’ decimated defense you know the team is going to have to throw more and more in the weeks to come (Seahawks head coach Jim Mora even hinted at pulling a move like Mike Holmgren and abandoning the run game). Throw in the schedule (Detroit, Arizona, St. Louis, Houston, Tampa Bay and Tennessee) and I think you can expect 1,000 yards and eight TDs out of Housh the rest of the way.
Dark horse: Lee Evans. The Bills WR was having a pathetic season (159 yards and a TD in five games) until Trent Edwards got hurt. Since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over the QB job in Buffalo, Evans has 143 yards and a pair of scores. If Fitzpatrick can continue to play well and keep the job, expect Evans to haul in 800 yards and 7-8 scores over the remaining nine games.
For a look at the tight end and defensive positions, check out Aaron Swaney’s blog “Hot Off the Gridiron” at www.heraldnet.com.