It may only be Week 4 in the NFL, but there’s a trading panic in my fantasy leagues not seen since the Dukes tried to corner the market on frozen orange juice in Trading Places. What few seem to realize is that it’s a long, long season (and apparently about to get longer). Let’s count down the top eight-soon-to-be-great players who have already caused their own share of panic this NFL season. -- Joe Concha Joe Concha is a weekly contributor to foxsports.com and is based in New York despite being a Bears fan who graduated from Maryland. Send pithy questions or colorful comments to Joe.Concha@foxnews.com.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
It seems the only way the original Steve Smith will get his numbers up is via trade to an offense that scores more than the Carolina Hurricanes. It's obvious 11 receptions in three games during an apparent rebuilding process makes Smith a prime candidate to head to better offenses in Minnesota and Washington. Given the likely scenario of Carolina getting the No. 1 pick in the draft next year, getting some value while they can seems to be the only option.
Brett Favre, QB, Vikings
The old man is going to return to 2009 form (or 1999 form ... or 1989 form), I can feel it. Why? Because training camp on FavrePlanet is now complete! This weekend's bye week will help get his timing down even further with the likes of Headache Harvin and Slanky Shiancoe. Moving forward, two of his next three games are against former teams (Jets, Packers), and as we saw last year against Green Bay (511 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs), a little jilted revenge can go a long way. And if Adrian Peterson continues to enjoy what could be his finest season yet (130 yards per game thus far), that should open up the passing game to Favre, particularly if Steve Smith could be added as a weapon.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
As a Terp, it's difficult to diss Shaun Hill as someone who can't get the ball downfield, but facts are facts: Last week alone, Hill completed 29 passes, but 21 were to running backs or tight ends. Six of the other eight were to Johnson, who averaged a paltry 9 yards per catch. Not exactly a reason to Fear the Turtle. However, with Matthew Stafford likely back in Week 5 for a nice stretch against the Rams, Giants and Redskins, look for CJ to get back to 2008 levels (17.1 per catch, 12 TDs) as the Lions do what they do best ... play catch-up.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints
The pride of Hofstra (which no longer even has a football program) isn't exactly the pride of New Orleans right now. Amazingly, Colston has yet to score and is averaging about 50 yards a game in that offense. But have no fear, the Panthers are here! The NFL's most likely candidate to go 0-16 is the cure for any struggling player, allowing 24 points per game against three average offenses thus far (Giants, Bucs, Bengals). In the end, the Saints offense is too good, too potent, too diverse to not allow its leading receiver to get back on track.
Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
The Raiders' all-time leading scorer is still kicking himself after missing a 32-yard chippie against the Cards last week, but never underestimate someone who once attempted a 76-yard field goal and is the highest-paid player at his position in league history. Simply put, Janikowski's miss in Arizona wasn't surprising, only because the Raiders are rarely in position to ever need last-second heroics in the first place. Over the last decade, the former first-round draft pick has missed exactly 12 kicks under 40 yards ... less than one per year (which given the wind in Oakland is remarkable), so look for Jano to bounce back in mostly meaningless situations for the rest of the season.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
Through three games last season, Stewart had exactly one TD. Through three games this season, see the previous sentence. The good news is for the Smash portion of the Smash and Dash (DeAngelo Williams) tandem is he scored all 11 of his TDs in the final 13 weeks of the season last year. With Jimmy Clausen bringing a need to establish the run more the ever (see: Mark Sanchez last year), expect Stewart to run his way in for a few meaningless scores.
Donald Driver, WR, Packers
Did you know Driver is the author of two children's books? Apparently, his Quickie Handles a Loss and Quickie Makes the Team are big sellers in Wisconsin. Overall, an easy guy to root for (involved deeply in the community, has stayed with the same team since last century), but the next JK Rowling needs to make us believe his 35-year-old body can produce the kind of magical season he did last year (1,061 yards, 6 TDs). No worries ... the offense and Driver/Quickie should improve from their spotty, sloppy performance in Chicago with feast-worthy games against the Lions, Redskins and Dolphins over the next three weeks.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
Of his league-high six interceptions this season, only one can be considered his fault …and that was thrown left-handed. Despite a 1-2 start, Peyton’s younger brother has thrown for over 800 yards through three games, putting him easily on pace for a 4,000-yard season (the team record is 3,762 by Kerry Collins). The picks should subside once his receivers stop shooting the team in the leg and look the ball in, and when they do, Eli could have his finest season yet. Whether the wins will follow with a questionable defense and running game is a different story.