- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Notes: Don't be scared off by Romo's five picks in Buffalo. Sure, he let the night get away from him, and sometimes that'll happen with his playing style. But I'm not blown away by New England's secondary. It'll be tested. ... I have Palmer third, but I don't feel good about it. There just aren't a ton of other options. The Chiefs have allowed the fewest fantasy points in the league to quarterbacks so far. ... Hasselbeck is missing his top receiver and has a struggling offensive line in front of him. But what's that on the horizon? Is that the Saints? Ah, disaster averted. ... Warner has played surprisingly well. What took him out of starting gigs in years past was holding onto the ball too long, and accuracy problems when he finally did throw. This season, he's gone downfield (8.4 yards per attempt), but still has a 62 percent completion rate. It remains to be seen if he can be this effective when teams prepare specifically for him. Carolina has struggled against the pass this year, though. ... Derek Anderson is high here, but it's deserved. He, too, is going downfield to beat the band, and he's been quite effective against defenses that can't muster a pass rush. Miami can't. ... I'm wary of having McNabb even this high. His O-line is still a mess, though the Eagles have had a couple weeks to sort things out. What makes McNabb a fantasy starter are the many bye-laden quarterbacks ahead of him, and the Jets' lack of a pass rush (they have just three sacks). ... Harrington will start again for Atlanta, while Byron Leftwich waits. The Falcons are a far better team at home. ... Right now it sounds as though Herm Edwards will give Huard a chance to prove he's healthy enough to play. The Bengals, obviously, can be had via the air.
Notes: Lost in Ronnie Brown's terrific start is how well Miami's offensive line has played. Vernon Carey looks like a different guy on the blind side, and L.J. Shelton has been a bear. Given Trent Green's absence, Cleveland will focus on stopping the run, but I still like Brown a lot. ... Westbrook owners have to keep checking the news. So far, so good, as he practiced Monday. At this point, it may just be a matter of pain management, but the Jets are the second-most generous defense to fantasy rushers. ... Larry Johnson's Last Stand, Part One: Cincinnati allows 21.7 fantasy points per game to opposing rushers, so this is the defense LJ owners have been waiting for. If Johnson does nothing this week, then I'll start to worry. ... With six teams on bye, it gets ugly pretty quickly at this position. I don't particularly love Alexander at No. 9, particularly because of how little push the offensive line has gotten. But again, the Saints are a tempting opponent for Alexander to get right. ... I relented, swapping Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor back to their original order. Not so, Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney. I'll believe Maroney is healthy when I see it. ... I've ranked Jamal Lewis and Ahman Green as though they'll play. But is anyone surprised they're both battling injuries? I wrote all summer that this is what you should've expected. ... Rudi Johnson didn't practice again Monday because of his bad hamstring, which isn't a good sign. Still, we'll know more if he sits Thursday and/or Friday. ... I'm assuming LaMont Jordan isn't playing, though he hasn't been ruled out. Dominic Rhodes comes back from his suspension this week and deserves a pickup in most leagues, but Justin Fargas was quite good against Miami two weeks ago. Still, the Chargers are very good against the run, so there's little reason to expect either guy to break out. Plus there's the fact that Rhodes sort of stinks. ... My patience has run out with Thomas Jones at just about the same time as the Jets' patience. Leon Washington got nine carries to Jones' 13 last week, and while Washington didn't do anything with those touches, he had an awesome return for a touchdown. Neither guy should be a starter, unless it's as a flex. ... I know Brian Leonard has the size and one-cut ability to be a No. 2 fantasy running back, but not against Baltimore.
Notes: Evidently Burress doesn't need to practice to score touchdowns (he's got at least one in every game). Granted, he should've been stopped by Andre Dyson last week, but then again, betting on Dyson has never been a profitable pastime. ... I know David Carr is scary as Steve Smith's partner, but it sounds as though the Panthers will remain admirably fixated on getting Smith the ball. They used him to good effect in the fourth quarter Sunday for sure. ... Laveranues Coles is cool. He's so precise, which is why Chad Pennington throws to him so much. One has the sense that once Kellen Clemens takes over in New York, Jerricho Cotchery may actually become more valuable. ... Keep an eye on Dwayne Bowe. Like everyone else, the Bengals will focus on Larry Johnson with some extra attention given to Tony Gonzalez. ... I like Curry this week because the Chargers' secondary regularly falls asleep. Quentin Jammer can look terrific on a couple of consecutive plays, then lose focus and get torched. And as I mentioned last week, the tackling hasn't been good, either. ... Engram and Burleson are worth some attention because of Deion Branch's absence. Hopefully they take turns getting lined up against Jason David. ... Crayton could be even higher here; he's worth starter consideration even against New England. I think Dallas throws a ton on Sunday. ... Keep an eye on Boldin's hip (OK, not literally). He says it came through pretty well during a rigorous workout early this week. It still smells like a 50-50 proposition for Week 6, though. ... Randle El caught all seven of his targets for 100 yards in the first half last week before leaving with an injured hamstring. However, he thinks he'll play against Green Bay this week, while Santana Moss still sounds highly questionable. ... Oh, Mark Clayton. Why have you forsaken me? (Clayton isn't the only one who'd benefit from a Steve McNair benching, but he's probably the leader in the clubhouse.)
Notes: Witten is closing the gap on Gates. He'll probably never catch the elusive Chargers stud, but Witten benefits from Romo's mobility perhaps more than anyone on the field; those extra couple of seconds Romo earns freeze linebackers and get Witten open. He had another eight targets Monday night. ... Watson won't score two touchdowns many weeks, but like Witten, the scary receivers around him can deflect attention. New England spreads the ball around, but Watson will get his. ... Daniels finally pulled the nutty that folks have been predicting for him since Andre Johnson's injury: seven targets, six catches, 96 yards. ... Alex Smith had only three targets and two catches against Indy, but it helped that both the receptions were scores. ... Clark and Olsen both benefit from the Brian Griese Dink-And-Dunk Machine. Too bad they cannibalize one another. ... Todd Heap used to be known as terribly injury-prone, but he had played in 36 straight games before missing last Sunday's contest. Heap is said to be optimistic he'll play this week, but watch to see if he practices. ... Deep-leaguers in search of a serious Hail Mary can try David Martin. He doesn't have more than three targets in any game this year, but Cleveland is allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends in the league.
Notes: Considering Kris Brown set a record by kicking three field goals of 54 yards or longer last week, he probably deserves the top spot. You know how ranking kickers goes, though: it'll almost certainly not happen two straight weeks. ... I don't have too many other pithy things to say about fantasy kickers. Every year around this time, fantasy owners re-realize why they should never, ever draft a kicker before the last round or two.
(Bye-Week Notables: Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Detroit, Denver)
Notes: The Vikings have scored more fantasy points per game than any defense yet this year. If they have a vulnerability, it's certainly defending the pass (speaking of guys with concentration lapses, how about that Antoine Winfield?), but one has a hard time imagining Griese going crazy with downfield throws. This one smells like a defensive battle. ... Seattle isn't defending the run particularly well, but they're most vulnerable to the kinds of power stunts the Steelers ran on them last week. That's not Reggie Bush's game. Plus, the Saints' offense is allowing 13 fantasy points a game to opposing defenses. ... As of Wednesday, the Titans defense was owned in just 23 percent of ESPN.com leagues. That's not nearly enough. They're practically an every-week play, and they dominate the run (third-fewest rush yards allowed per game). Tampa's is a steady offense that doesn't beat itself, but it's hard to envision Earnest Graham breaking out in any kind of meaningful way this week. ... I've made a habit of bashing the Giants D, and Aaron Ross' two picks last week didn't do a lot for me (considering they both came on stupid Chad Pennington throws). Heck, Ross was benched when the game started. Still, Atlanta is a mess on offense, and Wayne Gandy being out for the year thrusts undrafted rookie Renardo Foster into a starting-tackle role. Winston Justice, anyone? ... I know the Redskins D scored 24 fantasy points throttling the Lions last week, and they're not nearly as inept in creating sacks and turnovers as they've been the past couple seasons. Still, I'm not sure I'm ready to start them against the Packers, who'll throw-throw-throw this week. ... The Cowboys defense has an NFL-high 10 interceptions along with two defensive scores and 12 sacks. And I still think you'd be crazy to start them against New England. The Patriots haven't allowed a single fantasy defense to score positive points against them this year. That's nuts.
Don't forget to read 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.
4hThomas McKean, ESPN Stats & Information