- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Notes: Brees had 346 yards passing at halftime last week against what's supposed to be a decent Jacksonville defense. It's almost as if the season's first month didn't happen. Here's hoping you held on to him. ... Roethlisberger was ultra-sharp in a driving rainstorm last Monday night, and Cleveland's struggling secondary shouldn't offer much resistance. Big Ben's bruised hip doesn't sound like it'll be an issue. ... The Patriots mostly abandoned their typical 3-4 defense against Peyton and the Colts last week and stuck with an extra down lineman most plays. The logic, I think, was to put more pressure on Peyton while taking some pressure off the nose. In the second half, it worked pretty well. Now we have to wonder if the Chargers, who typically run a 3-4 defense, will do the same thing. ... It's relatively good news for Hasselbeck owners that the Seahawks have figured out all they can really do is pass. Don't blame Shaun Alexander; that offensive line has been atrocious. The worry now would be Hasselbeck getting pummeled because defenses can tee off on him. ... I don't like Derek Anderson much this week, but if you've been riding him to this point, and you can't stop now. The Steelers sure do play well at home, though. ... Yeah, that's right: J.P. Losman - Fantasy Starter. He had business cards printed. The bye may have cured a few of Miami's ills, but this is still a defense that's allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. The secondary needs an Extreme Makeover. ... Ordinarily, I'd like the idea of taking a chance on Bulger. Even winning four straight, the Saints' secondary has shown serious cracks, covered up by a really solid defensive line. I'd use Torry Holt with impunity, but Bulger is still likely to get slammed around a lot Sunday. ... Funny that Kitna has fallen out of "starter territory" not because he's too wild and crazy but because he's too conservative. ... I like seeing Vince Young save an otherwise crummy day with a rushing touchdown. But I can't justify starting him until he actually shows he can throw. Something seems to have happened to him since the second half of '06. This guy is just a mess when he passes.
Notes: Does the fact that I have them ranked Nos. 1 and 3 guarantee that Addai and Tomlinson will combine to rush for a ton of yards and scores? Of course not. But on the face of it, you'd expect both the Colts and Chargers to take advantage of soft rush defenses Sunday night. San Diego is a week removed from Purple Jesus, while the Colts' weakness still seems to lie in the fact that their defensive ends run straight up the field, without even a glance at an opposing rusher. ... Sunday would appear to be Lynch's last fun matchup for a while. Next up: Patriots, Jaguars, Redskins. ... The thing that makes me nervous about Parker is that Cleveland is way more vulnerable to the pass than the run, and under similar circumstances Monday night, the Steelers went crazy via the air. Oh, Parker did get his 23 carries (for 42 yards), but it all practically screamed, "We're just keeping you honest!" Fast Willie owners need to hope for an early lead and a lot of clock-bleeding. ... The Cardinals gave up 124 yards to Earnest Graham last week, which was kind of a shock, considering they allowed just 43 to Clinton Portis before the bye. The real Bucs D is probably somewhere in the middle, but Kevin Jones continues to be borderline No. 1 running back material. ... Chris Brown should be back this week to spell LenDale White, but let me take this opportunity to mention how terrific White's schedule looks for your fantasy playoffs: after a Stroud-free Jacksonville this week, he gets Denver, Cincinnati, Houston, San Diego, Kansas City and the Jets. There are at least four bona fide terrible run defenses in that group. ... If Benson's ever going to do a thing in '07, it has to be this week against the worst-in-the-NFL Raiders run-stoppers. On the year, this defense has allowed 23.8 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. ... Steven Jackson sounds like he'll play, but injured backs are a tricky thing. I've got him rated as the last No. 2 rusher in a 12-team league, but truthfully, with the way the New Orleans defense has looked against the run (they've allowed no runners to eclipse 61 yards since Week 1), I'd rather bench Jackson if I could. ... Same with Alexander. His knee, ankle and wrist all hurt, and Maurice Morris looks better. ... I've assumed Frank Gore won't play. If that's the case, Michael Robinson makes the best Niners back. The former Penn State quarterback should be owned in most leagues. ... Rudi Johnson isn't on Cincinnati's injury report, but that doesn't mean he's healthy. Either way, against Baltimore, say "'no" to both him and Kenny Watson. ... Larry Johnson is out, and Priest Holmes is his replacement. That's the fantasy football equivalent of the back half of a palindrome, isn't it?
Notes: The top spot for Wayne is a reflection of my supposition that Marvin Harrison is either not playing or will be limited Sunday night. It'll be a relief for Wayne to get away from Asante Samuel, who did a fine job on the stud Colts receiver last week. ... Burress practiced for the first time in a month coming off the Giants' bye. ... I've got Houshmandzadeh as my second-rated receiver from this point forward in all of football (after Randy Moss), but Baltimore's defense isn't as bad against the pass in '07 as it was in '06. In the opener against the Ravens, Housh caught nine passes for 50 yards and a score on a balky leg. He's healthy and is a good bet to score every week in that offense. It'll be interesting to see how much of a role Chris Henry plays in the red zone. ... Ward at six, Holmes at seven. Yeah, I like Pittsburgh's passing game again. ... I promised I'd do it, and here it is: Greg Jennings is ahead of Donald Driver, and it's not a one-week overreaction. Driver isn't the only top receiver in Green Bay anymore. He hasn't received double-digit targets since Week 2 and hasn't scored since Week 3. Meanwhil, Jennings is the big-play threat his Western Michigan University boosters would've had you believe last year, and has an impressive six scores, four of which have been 41 yards or longer. ... Marshall (a.k.a. "Baby T.O.") got a meager 18 targets last week for the Broncos. Eighteen! Now, Denver won't be losing by 30 points every week (or will they?), but the main point would appear to be that for as long as Javon Walker stays out, Marshall will get passes his way regardless of who's playing quarterback. ... Roy Williams continues the slide downward. Since scoring in each of the Lions' first three games, he has been held without a touchdown since, and caught only three of the eight passes thrown his way in Week 9. You still have to start him, but it would've been nice to see Jon Kitna duplicate the double-digit targets Williams got against Chicago in Week 8. At this point, Williams has often been a too-expensive decoy. ... I've got Chad Johnson rated as though he'll play, and you still need to start him, but you'll forgive him for being gun-shy after the smack his head took off the ground in Buffalo. ... There's a tiny glimmer of hope for Steve Smith fans: it sounds like Vinny Testaverde might start for Carolina.
Notes: It's pretty tough to argue with this top five (in some order). You want to knock Gates below Winslow? OK, I like the way the Browns are using their tight end, too. You like Dallas Clark a little more than Gonzo? I guess these things do ebb and flow. The question then becomes: Is there anyone who seriously deserves the No. 6 slot? I think you can make an argument for about five guys (not-so-coincidentally the next five guys on my list). But I do think there's a bit of a gulf between Nos. 1-5 and Nos. 6-10. ... Todd Heap tried to play in the rain Monday night, but it didn't go well. I'm assuming he won't start against Cincinnati this week. ... No Alge, no cry.
(Bye-Week Notables: New England, Tampa Bay, Houston, NY Jets)
Notes: Last week, I wrote: "the Chargers defense has arrived." Then they went out and allowed the single-game rushing record. Ugh. I'm not fooled again, especially not against the Colts. ... I suppose if David Garrard comes back and replaces Quinn Gray, I'll be a little more worried about what I perceive as a potentially vulnerable Tennessee secondary. Still, the rush defense and pass rush are so stout, I'd probably still hold onto them as my No. 1 defense the week. (Then again, San Diego was my No. 1 defense last week.) ... I know Cleveland's offense is high-octane. And I know Derek Anderson didn't start the 34-7 Steelers win in Week 1. But I still think there'll be too much pressure at the Ketchup Bottle. The Browns will score some points, but the Pittsburgh D will score more. ... Hey, how 'bout 'dem Saints? Don't get me wrong: I still fret that Jason David and his band of merry, non-wideout-covering men will be exposed big-time down the road, but against the Rams, I'm less than worried. ... It frankly gets a little rough for me right around Baltimore this week. No, the Ravens' defense wasn't the culprit Monday night (Steve McNair turning the ball over 76 times in the first half did the job), but still, the corners are sick or injured (but might both come back this week), and the Bengals aren't a fun offense to play against. Similarly, while I don't fear Vince Young much these days, the fact that the Jags are down one stud defense tackle (Marcus Stroud) puts a seed of doubt in my mind (as did Drew Brees doing anything and everything he wanted last week). Bears? Vulnerable against the rush lately. Lions? Mirage. Washington? Made the Jets look like an NFL offense. In Week 10, I'd be glad if I owned one of the top seven units on this list.
Don't forget to read The Breakdown on Fridays, for more detailed thoughts on every team and every game.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
1mK. Lee Davis
16hTristan H. Cockcroft