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updated: 11/4/2010 7:45 PM

Injury bug strikes our first-half MVP

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  • San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) drags Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin, left, while gaining 15 yards on a pass-completion during the first half of an NFL football game on Oct. 31 in San Diego.

      San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) drags Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin, left, while gaining 15 yards on a pass-completion during the first half of an NFL football game on Oct. 31 in San Diego.
    Associated Press

  • Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden, left, runs against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

      Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden, left, runs against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Denver Bronco's Kyle Orton passes the ball during the NFL Football match between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

      Denver Bronco's Kyle Orton passes the ball during the NFL Football match between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

 
 

It's that time of year again time to dole out the midseason fantasy football awards.

Time to heap praise upon our studs and blast the duds.

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So without further adieu ...

My first-half MVP award goes to none other than ...

(envelope, please) ...

ANTONIO GATES!

You could argue for Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning or Arian Foster, but Gates is blowing his peers away at his position and it's not even close. In standard scoring leagues, Gates has posted double-digit fantasy points EVERY WEEK but one. He's 12th and 15th overall in fantasy points in my two leagues.

That's unheard of for a tight end.

But now the bad news: Gates popped the plantar fascia in his right foot last week against the Titans. A foot specialist told the San Diego Union-Tribune that "it's going to be really tough to play with any proficiency this Sunday, unless they do a remarkable job anesthetizing him. ... This injury will make it difficult for him to push off and be explosive."

So pay attention this week to practice reports. Hopefully this won't be an issue that hinders Gates' production because to this point with 663 yards and 9 TDs it's been epic.

Surprise RB:

It would be easy to say Houston's Arian Foster (980 yards from scimmage, 8 TDs) should win this award. But it would also be inaccurate.

By draft day, Foster was going in the fourth, maybe fifth round as it became clear he had the talent to be a lead back on a high-scoring offense.

No, the award goes to Oakland's Darren McFadden, a mere afterthought on draft day who was generally taken in the 10th round or later. McFadden is fourth among RBs in fantasy points in just six games. He has 6 TDs and 685 yards from scrimmage.

And for his owners, dream matchups await in the fantasy playoffs when McFadden will destroy the Jaguars, Broncos and Colts in Weeks 14-16.

Biggest bust RB:

This is a dead heat between Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and San Diego's Ryan Mathews. I ranked them eighth and ninth, respectively, in August and they now are tied for 35th in one of my leagues. I still believe Mathews can produce RB2-like numbers in the second half, but that's not what you drafted him for in the second round.

Surprise QB:

Any chance the Bears can rescind the Cutler trade? With no running game, Denver's Kyle Orton has gone from a fantasy afterthought to must-start material.

With a stunning five 300-yard games and 12 TD passes, Orton ranks third THIRD! among fantasy quarterbacks. His owners will especially enjoy upcoming games against St. Louis (Week 12), Arizona (Week 14) and Houston (Week 16).

Biggest bust QBs:

Like RB Foster above, it would be easy to just give this to Brett Favre (ranked ninth in preseason; in 29th now). But I believe you have to look at where players were drafted and go from there. While owners hoped Favre could continue to post starter-worthy numbers, it was certainly no slam dunk.

But when it came to Matt Schaub (fourth in preseason) and Tom Brady (fifth), owners knew they'd be getting huge numbers every week. Only it hasn't worked out that way. Schaub is a pathetic 15th among QBs in fantasy points, while Brady with 1 TD pass in each of the last four weeks is 11th.

Brady figures to struggle the rest of the way, and Schaub may too if Andre Johnson's ankle doesn't heal and Houston's O-line continues to pass block like the Bears' does.

Surprise WR:

He had 660 yards and 3 TDs over the past four seasons. He was owned in 1 percent of cbssportsline.com leagues in Week 1. And he's a former Bear who has never sniffed a 1,000-yard season.

But somehow, Brandon Lloyd has exploded this year to lead the league in receiving yards (878) and 100-yard games (5) while hauling in 4 touchdowns. In one of my leagues, he is 40 points ahead of Miles Austin, 44 ahead of Andre Johnson, 49 ahead of Reggie Wayne and has doubled Marques Colston's point total.

Stunning, indeed.

Biggest bust WR:

No contest here. Randy Moss (second in preseason, 33rd now) has just 22 catches for 313 yards and 5 TDs.

And now he's on the run-first Titans, which should be good for Chris Johnson but not necessarily for Moss owners.

It's all truly pathetic stuff, Randy. Truly.

My teams:

Terrell Owens' second TD the one that bounced off a DB's hands saved my day in the unit league (6-2) where I won a nail-biter, 44-42. In the regular league, I improved to 5-3 with a 123-113 victory thanks to big days by Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden and Antonio Gates.

Good bets

Colts TE Jacob Tamme at Philadelphia. More than his 6 catches for 84 yards last week, I was particularly impressed with how Peyton Manning kept looking Tamme's way. Manning uses the tight end and he'll make Tamme a household fantasy name before long.

Texans WR Jacoby Jones vs. San Diego. Sleeper pick here with Andre Johnson banged up. If you are weak at your third receiver slot or have a flex play, consider Jones, who I think scores this week.

Bears RB Matt Forte vs. Buffalo. Mike Martz says the Bears will run more. Really. Trust him. Call me crazy, but I do, especially against the Bills. Forte will get over 110 yards from scrimmage.

Packers WR James Jones vs. Dallas. Donald Driver is hurt, which means Jones is set to torch the pathetic Cowboys secondary.

Chargers RBs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert at Houston. Did you see what Mike Hart (12-84) did to the Texans on Monday night Football? I did and it compelled me to start Mathews and Tolbert in one of my leagues.

New England's defense at Cleveland. Here's one of those "spot starts" you can give the Pats D.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger at Cincinnati. Big Ben was a disappointment in New Orleans, but he'll get well against a Bengals squad that's allowed 61 points the last two weeks.

Bad bets

Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. the Bears. Rod Marinelli's defense has allowed a scant 4 passing TDs ... and it's getting Lance Briggs back. Sit Fitz if you can.

Texans QB Matt Schaub vs. San Diego. Until further notice, I don't trust Schaub.

Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw at Seattle. OK, he's not a truly awful bet, but if I'm in a TD-heavy league, I'm looking elsewhere. Prediction: Brandon Jacobs outscores Bradshaw this week.

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. the Giants. Nine carries for 7 yards last week, Marshawn? And now you get the third-best run defense? Welcome to the bench, bud.

Bengals WR Terrell Owens and RB Cedric Benson vs. Pittsburgh. The Steelers give up like 9 yards a game rushing. Seriously. Nine. OK, really it's 59 and that's a huge reason Benson's sitting for me, and Tolbert and Mathews are in.

Dolphins WR Davone Bess at Baltimore. After giving up 505 yards in their last game, I say the Ravens come out possessed.

jdietz@dailyherald.com

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