- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Notes: Who'd have thought opposing quarterbacks would be licking their chops heading to a prime-time matchup with the Bears? That's what happens when you lose both your starting corners (and a lot of other stuff, too). Chicago actually submitted kind of a gritty performance on defense last week through three quarters (they were winning 13-3), but just ran out of gas. Favre should be solid again. This is the first time in '07 I've had Cutler in my top 12. Bye weeks are assisting him, but so is the disappointing San Diego secondary. Not only is Quentin Jammer struggling to cover receivers, but the entire unit back there can't tackle. It's amazing how bad the Chargers' tackling has been. Nickel corner Bryant McFadden will be out for Pittsburgh, which should encourage Seattle to spread it out. Pass protection was better for Hasselbeck in Week 4. Playing the Lions is license for a big offensive day. Campbell gets his turn Sunday. Schaub was gutty without many weapons in Atlanta last week. Miami's defense looks just horrible, and I think it gets better for Houston's offense. Yes, the Giants made Donovan McNabb look sick last week. But Winston Justice, Philly's not-ready-for-prime-time reserve tackle, was the problem, and the Eagles never switched things up to give him any help. The Jets won't have such issues, and Pennington will be able to take advantage of the Giants' secondary. Yes, this officially means I'm worried about Drew Brees.
Notes: Tomlinson looked like himself in the first half last week, carrying it 14 times for 116 yards and a 5-yard score, giving the Chargers a 16-6 halftime lead. But San Diego is officially too clever for its own good, and only gave LT the ball three times in the third quarter and three times in the fourth. But fear not, Tomlinson owners: Denver is the ninth-friendliest defense to fantasy rushers so far this season, and can't decide which of their mediocre defensive tackles to dress each week. There's no shame in James only getting 77 yards on his 21 carries against a rough Pittsburgh rush D last week. The larger lesson continues to be: Arizona is going to run him into the ground. St. Louis is extremely soft. Larry Johnson owners are breathing a sigh of relief. The road is still tough this week against Jacksonville, which has stood up well against the run after that opening-day disaster, but after that for LJ it goes: Cincy, Oakland, Green Bay (tougher), Denver, Oakland. Time for LenDale White to show his stuff. The Falcons are allowing 128 yards a game on the ground, and if they've only given up one rushing TD it's because they haven't had to tackle this 260-pound goliath. Bush hasn't shown anything yet this season, and has relapsed to the first half of '06, when he seemed to see too many things at once and tried to make a Barry Sanders move on every play. Rushing is instinct, so it won't do for Sean Payton to describe what he wants, but Bush needs to know the East-West stuff doesn't cut it. He deserves to be this high because of opportunity, but the leash is short, and Pierre Thomas is a legitimate big back. It sounds like Ahman Green will be back, though I wouldn't forget Ron Dayne entirely. Kevin Jones and Tatum Bell split carries (11 for Bell, 10 for Jones) against the Bears, but things are surely shifting KJ's way. Bell's first fumble of the year -- it could've been a killer last week -- won't help his cause. You'd love Maroney, except it's hard to know if he'll play, or if he'll get anything approaching a full accompaniment of carries. Fred Taylor gets the nod over Maurice Jones-Drew. The carries are close to split, but watch the tape and there's no question who the more decisive, sharper runner has been.
Notes: The scary thing is, at this point, I don't see any reason Moss's ludicrous pace can't keep up. A few weeks ago, I told every radio station who'd listen the Patriots weren't the kind of team that produced 15-TD seasons from receivers, but heck, now Moss just has to get one more per game the rest of the year, and he's there. Steve Smith's ranking is a leap of faith, huh? Listen, David Carr isn't good, but he's not as bad as he showed last week. With some prep time and some cranial adjustments, he'll be able to throw the ball downfield a little bit. Plus the Saints have allowed the fourth-most points to opposing receivers, and if Jason David gets anywhere near Smith, it's six. I wouldn't let the New England matchup scare me off of Edwards. He's getting open against everyone, and the Pats don't have anything approaching a lockdown corner (Asante Samuel ain't it). I've ranked Hines Ward as though he'll play, but he might be limited, so Santonio Holmes gets the most love. Big Ben targeted him nine times last week, and he scored twice. I suspect Marvin Harrison will play, and if he does, you obviously start him, but I like Reggie Wayne more. Tampa will play zone and tackle, which means fewer deep balls Marvin's way. Slants and crosses are passes Wayne will take to the house; Harrison, not so much. It's time to admit I was sleeping when it came to Chambers. What can you say? For all his flaws, Trent Green has been invaluable to Chambers' return. He's fifth in the NFL in targets, with 44, and tied for 11th in receiving yards. The touchdowns will come. The Rams' defense is such a sweet matchup for a passing (and rushing) attack, but because Matt Leinart is beaten up (physically and mentally) and Anquan Boldin's hip isn't right, it's hard to project exactly who'll take advantage. I'd love to rank someone in the passing game higher, but it's hard to be sure about any of 'em. With Santana Moss hurting, Antwaan Randle El against the Lions appears to be a great play. I'll update Javon Walker Friday if he's practiced. I'll bet he sits again.
Notes: Dallas Clark got 10 more targets last week against Denver. Expect him to get lots more work against the Tampa zone. It's worth noting that Tampa has literally given up the fewest points to fantasy tight ends so far this year, but I've a feeling Mr. Manning can change that if he so desires. It's also worth noting that Clark was essentially playing wideout part of the time while Marvin Harrison was out last week. Keep an eye on Heap and his hamstring. Obviously I've rated him as though he'll play, but the Ravens sound worried. If he's out, Quinn Sypniewski might have some value. Here's why you should never take Jeremy Shockey anywhere near Antonio Gates. Gates has 43 targets, while Shockey has 31. OK, Gates gets used a little more, but that's reasonable. But Gates has turned his targets into 33 catches. Shockey's got 16. Hands, anyone?
Notes: We had a Nate Kaeding sighting in San Diego last week. Normally I'd be all over his visit to the thin air at Mile High. Let's see him do it one more week. Wilkins is an utter mess right now. He missed an important early-game field goal for the second straight week, and his confidence looks shot. You have to find another kicker. Olindo Mare has a big, erratic leg, and has been held hostage by Drew Brees so far this season. He's another huge-potential guy you have to have serious reservations about using. Morten Andersen: 4-for-5 last week. Man. Just own him.
(Bye Week Notables: Philadelphia, Minnesota, Oakland, Cincinnati)
Notes: Rodney Harrison comes back for the Patriots this week. The Packers didn't do a ton on defense against Minny last week, but here come the turnover-prone Bears. Tennessee has quietly been a really great story on defense. They've averaged more than 10 fantasy points a game, and this despite the fact that one of their three contests was against the high-octane Colts. The Titans have been especially stingy against the rush; they've allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs, and the second-fewest rushing yards per game. Albert Albert Haynesworth is stomping his way to a fat new contract. Washington is my big risk of the week. I don't fully trust that defense. But I see how generous the Detroit offense is every week. Even though they'll score a bunch on you, they'll allow sacks, turnovers and special teams touchdowns. In the last three weeks, opposing defenses have scored 20, 15 and 13 fantasy points against Kitna and Co.
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.
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