- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Notes: It's hard to ignore Brady for top-spot consideration. A 79.5 percent completion percentage, nearly 300 yards a game and a 10-to-1 TD/INT ratio will do that. It's tempting to go a little lower on Peyton Manning because Denver has been so good against the pass (and pretty weak against the run). But Indy owns the Broncos at home. McNabb was good against a ridiculously bad Detroit defense, so I'm trying hard not to overreact. But New York's secondary is really just about as bad. With Chicago's defense so torn up, Kitna's home game against the Bears doesn't look as scary as it normally might. Teams are throwing on the Monsters of the Midway. Carolina's secondary has been eaten alive two straight weeks, by Matt Schaub and Joey Harrington. That's really disappointing, but there's no reason Garcia owners can't benefit this week. Favre is playing well, thanks in part to his defense. Without any huge deficits, he can follow Mike McCarthy's mandate to take it easy with the throws into tight quarters. The Pack won't be able to run in Minny, so Favre will have to do it with his arm; I think he'll throw a couple picks, but also a couple TDs. Bulger is a buy-low candidate. Yes, his ribs are broken, and yes, his running game is in shambles. But the Rams have weapons. By year's end, I still think Bulger winds up a top-10 fantasy QB, and this week he should be able to throw while engaged in a shootout with the Cowboys. Goodbye, sexy Rexy. We hardly knew ye. Schaub would be higher, but he's running out of people to throw to. Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones are both out this week. For now I'll believe Ken Whisenhunt that Leinart isn't losing his job. One more performance like last week, though, and Kurt Warner's getting that job. It's unknown whether Delhomme or Carr will play for the Panthers. Clearly, if it's Delhomme, and he's truly healthy, he belongs higher on this list. I'm assuming it's Carr, though, which is why I've listed them both so low.
Notes: Addai deserves the top spot; he's the only guy taken near the front of first rounds who's actually playing like it. He's tied for fourth among RBs, and tied for 14th among all positions in fantasy points. Denver is allowing more than 17 fantasy points a game to opposing rushers. Westbrook is among the 4,000,000 players nursing injuries; make sure his abdominal strain improves this week. McGahee hasn't produced much yet, but this is a sweet match-up against a sagging Browns rush defense. Gore's broken paw scares me less than Alexander's does. Maybe that's irrational. But in a game where these backs will face one another, remember Gore torched Seattle for 356 yards in two games last year, while Alexander had 110 combined yards against the Niners. Welcome to the top 10, Jordan and Adrian Peterson. For Jordan, it's about a Miami rush defense that's allowed the ninth-most points to opposing rushers. For Peterson, he's just about all the Vikings have on offense. Lynch was impressive on an otherwise putrid day for the Bills against New England. His opponents, the Jets, are second-worst against opposing rushers so far this year. Theoretically, Maroney has a swell match-up against the Bengals. But Sammy Morris is stealing way too many carries (Maroney leads, 54-33). I ranked Green as though he'll play, which it sounds like he might. If not, Ron Dayne would roughly take over Green's spot. Rudi Johnson owners are in a pickle, because we won't know for sure about his status until as late as Monday afternoon. If you can avoid the situation, I'd do it. Brian Leonard is in for Steven Jackson, and can be a flex play. I'm relenting on Larry Johnson. He probably won't be much better against the Chargers this week. But better opponents loom.
Notes: Brady and Moss are Nos. 2 and 3 in all of fantasy right now. Chad Johnson, the NFL's second-best fantasy receiver so far in '06, is nine points (or 13 percent) behind Moss. Steve Smith might take a hit Friday if we discover David Carr's starting for Carolina. Wayne deserves to be higher than Harrison; call it the Champ Effect. Champ Bailey usually takes Harrison one-on-one. Last year, Harrison caught five for 38 yards against the Broncos, while Wayne caught 10 for 138 and three scores. I'm not cowed by Javon Walker's no-show last week, and Brandon Marshall's big day. Walker won't always draw Rashean Mathis straight-up. Against Indy's zone, Walker will be open. On the one hand, Holt is hurt by the chaos around him. On the other hand, he should find plenty of room against Dallas, especially on those deep-middle routes he routinely takes to the house. The Cowboys' safeties don't roll into coverage well. Play Edwards, and don't be scared because Cleveland's got the Ravens. Baltimore has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to wideouts so far this year. With Hines Ward out, Holmes gets top duties against the Cardinals, who'll give up the big play. I probably should have Washington a little higher here, and would if the Steelers would stop throwing it to their 17 tight ends. I strategically placed Evans at No. 25, meaning he's not a fantasy starter in standard leagues, but I do think this is the week he shows something. Same with Clayton and Brown. They all have opposing secondaries that can be taken advantage of. If they fail to produce this week, they deserve to head way down the charts. Calvin Johnson would be higher without the entire-body bruise he received slamming to the Philly turf. As it is, all four Detroit wideouts are worth consideration just about every week.
Notes: I mistakenly included L.J. Smith in my composite rankings; it seems as though he's most assuredly out after undergoing surgery a week ago Friday. Sorry about that, though there is still a chance he'll play this week. Check Friday's update to the composite rankings. Witten's no fluke. It only seems like Tony Romo looks for him every other play; in fact, he's getting seven targets a game, and has a 16.6 yards per catch average. The Rams haven't given up much to tight ends yet, but Romo should have time Sunday. Marvin Harrison has been targeted 26 times so far this year. Reggie Wayne has been targed 25 times. And Dallas Clark has been targeted 20 times. Guess he's a big part of that offense, huh? Jeff King of Carolina is a borderline starter in a lot of leagues. He's ninth among tight ends in targets and has 13 catches for 130 yards and a score. Regardless of whether Jake Delhomme or David Carr starts, King's is a name to know. Don't get down on Daniels. As we told you last week, with Andre Johnson out, Matt Schaub will look Daniels' way more, and on Sunday he did: seven targets for seven receptions and 56 yards. Daniels hasn't scored yet, but that's not his fault. I've also mentioned Sean McHugh a few weeks running. He's Detroit's fullback, and as such is likely to get three or four change-of-pace dump-offs a game.
Notes: Cleveland, Buffalo, Arizona, Miami, Cincinnati, Oakland; these are the teams allowing the most points to fantasy kickers so far this year. Not super surprising. I know Graham, Gould and Kaeding aren't the 23rd, 25th and 26th best kickers in football, but Kaeding and Gould have yet to do anything this year, and Graham has a bad matchup against the Patriots. I know, I know, putting stock in the fact that New England has only allowed 1.7 points per game to fantasy kickers is stupid, especially when Graham kicks for the high-octane Bengals. But between that stat and Graham's hip, I'd rather go elsewhere this week.
(Bye-Week Notables: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Washington, New Orleans)
Notes: Talk about being pulled in two different directions. On the one hand, the Bears D/ST is about the most banged-up unit in football. I'll discuss the specifics more in The Breakdown this week, but Dallas moved like a hot knife through butter at least in part because of these injuries, and Detroit's high-octane offense certainly will push. By the same token, Jon Kitna continues to be a turnover machine, and it's not like there aren't still some very good athletes healthy and capable of returning interceptions for scores. Clearly, I erred on the side of Kitna's generosity. The Steelers haven't gotten a real test from an aggressive offense yet, and it probably won't happen in Arizona this week. I'm not impressed with the Cowboys' defense, but you can use it this week against the Jackson-free Rams. Terence Newman's return did make a difference last Sunday night. Houston's defense isn't getting the pub it deserves. DeMeco Ryans is probably the best player on that entire team (as long as Andre Johnson is out), and I'm surprised backup free safety Von Hutchins (pressed into action when Jason Simmons got hurt) has held up pretty well against the rush. Also, Dunta Robinson is a good young corner. I know Joey Harrington hit it big last week against Carolina, but I can see using the Texans this week.
Don't forget to tune into The Breakdown on Fridays, for more detailed thoughts on every team.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Christopher Harris provides his player rankings for Week 4 of the NFL season.