THE PACKERS started with Brandon Jackson, went with DeShawn Wynn, then to Vernand Morency, before

settling on Ryan Grant as their starting

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running back in Week 8.

Give anybody four tries and he's bound to get it right.

Since he was inserted into the lineup, Grant has run for a league-best 717 yards, and only Adrian Peterson and

LaDainian Tomlinson's six rushing touchdowns are more than Grant's five.

Grant is a must-play in fantasy as long as the Packers (11-2) have meaningful games.

But looking ahead to scope Grant's 2008 fantasy value, Bob McGinn, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, talked to a couple of scouts before last Sunday's game who aren't sold on Grant as a featured back.

"Grant is doing well for them, but I don't think, by any means, is he a legitimate starting running back in the NFL," one scout said. "He's a crease runner. Runs hard in a crease and has some strength. But I think if you're

going into next year saying, 'This is our guy,' I don't think many people will be scared of you."

Grant was acquired from the Giants for a sixth-round pick on Sept. 1 and had a career day Sunday, with 29 carries for 156 yards and a score in a rout of Oakland.

We fantasy leaguers are playing for 2007 championships these 3 weeks. Grant has a career opportunity on the line.

Lidge wins

The real reason Aaron Rowand signed with San Francisco is to be as far away as possible from Brad Lidge.

OK, maybe there were 60 million other reasons Rowand ended up in San Fran, but Lidge did thump up Rowand in their fantasy playoff last week.

Lidge won, 66-49, to move into the semifinals of the MLB FFL hosted by CBSSports.com.

Lidge will take on free agent Craig Wilson in one semifinal. Matt Clement, another free agent, and Toronto closer B.J. Ryan meet in the other.

Three up

* Jabar Gaffney, WR, Patriots: With big games in two of the last three, Gaffney has become a decent No. 3 wide receiver option. Teammate Donté Stallworth also is worth a risk as a No. 3 against the Jets Sunday.

* Fred Taylor, RB, Jaguars: The loss of end Aaron Smith hurts the Steelers' second-ranked run defense.

* Drew Brees, QB, Saints: With eight TDs and only one interception over the last three games, Brees should start ahead of every quarterback but Tom Brady.

Three down

* Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: A slight rib injury and the presence of Dominic Rhodes and Lamont Jordan makes him a risky play.

* Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs: He has an ankle injury that could result in carries to some guy named Jackie Battle.

* Patrick Crayton, WR, Cowboys: If hunting for No. 3 wide receivers, New Orleans' David Patten or Seattle's Nate Burleson are better options.

Weather report

Field goals could be hard to come by, as wind is expected to be a factor in a number of games on Sunday. You might want to adjust your lineup if you have kickers involved in any of the following: Baltimore at Miami; New York Jets at New England; Buffalo at Cleveland; Seattle at Carolina; Jacksonville at Pittsburgh; Atlanta at Tampa Bay; Washington at New York Giants.

Ed Barkowitz, who recently purchased a Laurence Maroney voodoo doll, has been writing about fantasy football in the Daily News since 2001. *

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