- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Notes: Carson Palmer isn't playing well. But the good news is: Even when he doesn't play well, his fantasy teams benefit. Palmer forced several throws Sunday against the Chiefs because the Bengals needed to surmount a deficit; as a result, he tossed it 43 times. Things get a lot easier against the Jets' anemic pass rush in Week 7. ... I was tempted to go quite a bit higher on Garcia, but suffice it to say: You should start him. The Lions allow the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and while they're also easy to run against, running isn't what the Bucs do best. Garcia still probably won't go downfield that much, but his downside is limited; he's gone 141 passes without a pick this season. ... McNabb definitely benefited from some obscenely bad Jets tackling early Sunday, but didn't do much after Kevin Curtis's long catch-and-run. He's still (barely) a fantasy starter, but his accuracy is off. ... Griese benefits from the continued absence of Brian Dawkins, but cornerback Lito Sheppard is expected to return for the Eagles in Week 7. ... I may bump Bulger up on Friday if he practices this week. As it is, he's expected to play over the dumbfoundingly bad Gus Frerotte, and Seattle's defense is reeling a bit. ... Brees looked like his old self on Sunday night, but I'm waiting one more game to use him if I've got other options. Atlanta played acceptably well on defense Monday night (their problems lie on offense), and I want to see Brees do it again. ... Vince Young reportedly won't practice this week because of an injured quad, but he hasn't been ruled out for the Houston game. We should know more later in the week; Kerry Collins (ick) would go if VY can't. ... I'm oh-so-tempted to put Pennington higher. He's a stubborn little bugger, and with so many people (including me) talking trash about him, I could see him torching the Bengals. But he's just looked so bad lately. ... Trent Green is practicing for Miami, and I guess there's a chance he comes back and starts over Cleo Lemon. You don't want either guy against the Patriots, anyway. ... Trent Edwards faces a terrible matchup against the Ravens, but it sounds as if he's Buffalo's permanent full-time quarterback, thus mercifully ending the J.P. Losman era. Edwards is calm, while Losman was hair-on-fire. 'Nuff said.
Notes: I have Minnesota's Peterson second among rushers despite the fact that coach Brad Childress continues to promise he'll split touches between AP and Chester Taylor. Last week, Taylor actually got the ball one more time than Peterson did. Hey, but what matters is what you do when you get it, right? ... For at least one week, it appears I was right about Larry Johnson. He was excellent in the first half against Cincy and only ran into problems once the Chiefs were trying to protect a lead by rushing in obvious run situations. The Raiders are allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing rushers. Speaking of LJ, with Michael Bennett (not ranked as he learns the Tampa offense) headed to the Bucs, Kolby Smith becomes the must-handcuff for Johnson owners. ... Alexander didn't do anything to assuage his owners' fears last week. Against what had been a very easy Saints defense, Alexander looked indecisive. Part of it, no doubt, is a lack of reliable holes from his overrated O-line. Nevertheless, when Leonard Weaver looks better, there's cause for concern. Hopefully the Rams make Alexander right. ... Thanks a lot, LaMont Jordan. I daresay there were precious few fantasy players in this great land who started the "Big Dummy" for his 4 p.m. game Sunday, since he went from "doubtful" to "18 carries" in about five minutes. Those who tried Justin Fargas (or, worse, Dominic Rhodes) were sorely disappointed. Anyway, Jordan doesn't have a fantastic matchup against a surging Chiefs D, but he's been solid all year, so you probably have to start him. ... Edgerrin James is playing very well, but without either of the Cardinals' first two quarterbacks available, he'll be the focus of Washington's defense this week. ... Jacobs may have dinged up his ankle a bit Monday night, but Giants coach Tom Coughlin says he'll be fine. What's not fine is this huge, lumbering back losing goal-line touches to Reuben "The Sandwich" Droughns. ... I know Graham was terrible last week and didn't exactly get a vote of confidence when the Bucs traded for oft-injured and even-more-oft-terrible Michael Bennett. But Detroit's rush defense is just awful. Graham is a decent fill-in if your main guys are on bye. ... Rudi Johnson is reportedly expected to see an "increased workload," but considering he carried it four times Sunday, I'm still not sure what that means. For the moment, I have Kenny Watson higher, but that's subject to change on Friday. ... Sammy Morris is out for at least a month, and Laurence Maroney's groin still isn't a sure thing, so Kevin Faulk gets some love in this week's rankings. I still believe Maroney will play, but as usual, it's going to be very deep into the week before we know anything for sure. ... With Chris Brown hurting, it sounds like rookie Chris Henry (the rusher, not the troubled wideout) will be active for the first time this week. If Brown can't play because of his injured ankle, Henry could make a decent Hail Mary for the bye-decimated.
Notes: I've followed my cohort Nate Ravitz's assertion that Houshmandzadeh deserves the top spot among receivers, at least with Steve Smith on bye (and with Vinny T the Carolina QB). Housh, as Nate notes, is on pace for 150 catches and 20 touchdowns. That would be some kind of record or something. ... This just in: Plaxico Burress scores a touchdown every game. ... It sounds like Harrison will be OK to go against the Jags. Jacksonville often puts Rashean Mathis on Harrison no matter where he lines up, which sounds good until you watch career tape of those two against one another and see Harrison repeatedly making Mathis look foolish. Suffice it to say the matchup doesn't scare me much, and Marvin's due to go on his annual touchdown safari. ... Galloway is perhaps the least-consistent good fantasy receiver around, and as I mentioned earlier, I wouldn't suddenly expect Jeff Garcia to go commando and fling it 50 yards a pop. But Galloway is a fantastic run-and-catch guy, and I think he'll score on Sunday. ... For the moment I've got Fitzgerald higher than Boldin, but Boldin high enough that I think he'll play. The damper on this is that Tim Rattay would appear to be the Cardinals' quarterback, unless Kurt Warner makes a (dare I say it?) miraculous recovery from a torn ligament in his non-throwing elbow. Washington's defense is quite a bit better this year, though if Rattay remains upright, he'll get some yardage. ... I haven't heard much on Javon Walker, other than that he thinks he'll be able to play against Pittsburgh on Sunday but won't know anything for sure until he's undergone a week of practice. Jay Cutler certainly needs Walker badly. I'm a big booster normally, but I don't trust this knee of his. It sounds like it might be a problem all year. ... Was Santana Moss distracted Sunday because of his injuries? He played one of the worst games a wide receiver has had in 2007, tipping an easy reception for an interception and dropping a reverse that the Packers returned for a touchdown. He told reporters he pulled himself from the game because of a cramp and not because of anything serious, but still, it was a pretty gutless performance. For the moment, I've got Randle El ranked and Moss not, but that'll change if it's clear Moss will play. ... I guess Booker benefits a bit from Chris Chambers getting dealt from Miami to San Diego, but you have to believe the Fins also want to take a long look at Ted Ginn Jr. and Derek Hagan. Booker is ownable in deeper leagues, but I doubt he'll be a consistent contributor. ... Darrell Jackson got himself dropped in my 16-team league, which is quite an insult (Priest Holmes is owned in that league). Alex Smith will probably play against the Giants, which restores some of Jackson's fantasy value, but hey, if an offense steadfastly refuses to throw the ball downfield, I can't blame folks for abandoning even as talented a guy as Jackson. ... There's still a chance Andre Johnson could play this week; in fact, coach Gary Kubiak told reporters Tuesday he was relatively optimistic it could happen. I haven't ranked AJ just yet (and have Andre Davis as my top Texans receiver), but I may change my mind Friday.
Notes: Without Gates or Winslow around, the question became: Dallas Clark or Jason Witten? While I have Clark higher because he has five touchdowns to Witten's four, you can't really go wrong with either. Tony Gonzalez is making a move on the outside, as well. He's gotten 14 and 10 targets in Kansas City's past two games. ... Cooley, too, makes a quality starter. He's scored a touchdown in each of Washington's past four contests. ... Olsen has outpaced Desmond Clark in targets each of the past two games, but not by much, and Clark still looks like a slightly better red zone target. They're both usable, but it's hard not to dream of Olsen as a starter by himself. Bears fans may get that wish as soon as 2008. ... It sounds like Vernon Davis will finally return this week, just in time for Alex Smith not to throw the ball to him. Nevertheless, if Davis comes through practice well this week, I'll probably bump him up to starter-worthy.
Notes: Akers missed what were perhaps the two ugliest kicks of his career Sunday, but with the Eagles regularly stalling deep in the opponent's territory, he'll keep getting chances. ... Who are the first candidates to kick in a blinding snowstorm? How about Jeff Reed and Jason Elam this week in Denver? Which begs the question: How many times have World Series games been canceled on account of blizzard? Who's got custody of Bowie Kuhn's short-sleeved shirt, anyway? ... John Carney gets a big nod from me if only because of his sneaky onside kick Sunday, which he himself recovered.
(Bye-Week Notables: Green Bay, San Diego, Carolina, Cleveland)
Notes: It gives me the shudders to rank the Giants this high; I still don't like their back seven very much, but it's hard to argue with the results. True, they've benefited from some sweet matchups over the past few weeks, but it's not hard to imagine them walking all over the Niners offense on Sunday. ... Ditto Washington, which hasn't been anywhere near my top five all season. Upon review of Sunday's game in Green Bay, however, I was impressed at the pressure that once-beleaguered front line got on Favre & Co., and getting rid of Adam Archuleta was one of the smartest things Redskins owner Dan Snyder ever allowed his coaches to do. (Signing Archuleta? Another story entirely, right Bears fans?) ... Neither do I enjoy endorsing Seattle's mediocre defense as a starting unit for Week 7, but the matchup says "go." Sure, Marc Bulger is back, but Seattle's real troubles rest with stopping the run, and Steven Jackson isn't close to ready. ... Normally I have the Vikings quite a lot higher, but the secondary in Minnesota has fallen apart lately. Antoine Winfield & Co. seem to be far more concerned about helping in run support than, like, covering people.
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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 and rationale for Week 7 of the NFL season.