- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Notes: Peyton Manning was terrible Sunday night, and it's folly to explain his performance away by saying it was the result of a weaker cast than 1985's "Saturday Night Live." He made bad decisions and a few awful throws even to Reggie Wayne, who presumably knows where to be. However, that doesn't sour me on Manning this Sunday against a poor Chiefs pass defense. Kansas City's D started the year strong against opposing fantasy quarterbacks, but in the past five weeks it is among the nine worst in the league, and Manning, at home, is too good to let one week get him down. ... Bulger was healthy and looked strong against the Saints; he, too, has a sweet matchup against a Niners secondary that flopped around embarrassingly in Seattle on Monday night. ... Derek Anderson continues to be a good trade acquisition candidate. He still isn't getting proper respect, and I'd play him against the Ravens' injured corners this Sunday. Anderson's schedule gets really nice after Baltimore: HOU, ARI, NYJ, BUF, CIN, SF. ... Palmer couldn't throw touchdowns against the Ravens, and in Arizona he gets a pass defense that's been seventh-best against the pass over the past five weeks. You still use him, but I'm not as high on him as usual. ... Brees owners were pleased with the end numbers, but the Saints quarterback played terribly against the Rams. The mistakes that characterized his first month were back: poor decisions, inaccurate throws and what looked like a general confusion. St. Louis called off the dogs in the fourth quarter and suddenly Brees looked strong again, which should tell the Texans what they have to do: blitz like crazy and be aggressive in man coverage. ... Schaub should play after his bye, and he gets the Saints' lousy secondary. ... McNabb's final numbers were fine, but without a poorly thrown touchdown to Reggie Brown and a dump-off that Brian Westbrook took to the house, he'd have been as pedestrian as ever. I don't like Miami's secondary, and Zach Thomas may be done for the year, but I still grow weary of Mr. McNabb, whose best days are in his rearview. ... Boller will start for Baltimore against Cleveland's worst-in-the-NFL pass defense. ... Garrard will be back for the Jags, but all that really means is about 40 more rushing yards from the quarterback spot. He's not a much better passer than Quinn Gray. ... I've assumed Leftwich's ankle will be healthy enough to play. If not, I'd bump Joey Harrington a few spots lower than I've got not-so-Iron Byron. ... It sounds like Grossman will play over Brian Griese, Beck will start instead of Cleo Lemon, and Tarvaris Jackson will be un-concussed.
Notes: Tomlinson's roll of seemingly difficult opponents continues, and I was surprised how well the Jags held up against Tennessee without the suspended Marcus Stroud. But Jacksonville has been the 14th-easiest defense for opposing backs to score against over the past five weeks, including very productive days from Addai and Bush. LDT has had about enough of NorvBall, but I've a feeling he finally produces Sunday. ... Bush sounds like his noggin is okay, though the Saints have taken some heat for allowing him to keep playing with a concussion. Assuming his knee is also all right, he's got an awesome matchup against the second-friendliest defense to opposing fantasy backs (and the franchise that passed on him in the draft). ... Chester Taylor takes a massive and temporary leap into the top 10; he and Minnesota face the dreadful Raiders rush defense. Now, I have little question Minny will have to do something to keep Oakland's safeties honest. I'd throw downfield a few times in the first quarter, and pass three or four screens to Taylor, then set my jaw and start blasting between the guards. From the looks of it, Warren Sapp has lost his will. ... It sounds like LenDale White's sore knee will be fine, and Denver's rush defense is still bad. ... Portis has been a terrific surprise over the past month. He's running harder than he did to start the year, lending credence to the idea that he wasn't healthy. The Cowboys have a better-than-average rush defense, but I'd count on starter-worthy numbers from Portis for the foreseeable future. ... At least Gore made it through Monday night without hurting himself again, though if the Niners are going to play that badly, Gore will have trouble exceeding 13 carries a lot of weeks. Nevertheless, he's the only thing San Francisco has going for it on offense, so you need to keep using him. ... Don't get blinded by Grant's big day against the Vikings; he's not a great player, and he took advantage of perhaps the league's premier underperforming defense. Carolina stinks against the run, so I'm starting Grant this week, but he's not an every-week play for me just yet. ... As long as Jerious Norwood is out, the risk associated with Dunn is lower. You might as well use him while he's hot; it can't last forever. ... I'd like to say the fact that Dwight Freeney is out for the year benefits Priest Holmes, but Freeney doesn't stop the run much anyway. But I admit I was surprised that Holmes still has a surge in his legs, and while I do believe he'll get hurt, he's worth starting as a weak No. 2 rusher or flex most weeks. ... Marshawn Lynch is all but out with a bad ankle for the Bills, which means Anthony Thomas should start, while surprising Fresno St. rookie Dwayne White will get some carries, too. Needless to say, I'm not all that excited about either guy against New England, though Thomas can be a flex guy if you're desperate. ... I've assumed neither Travis Henry nor Shaun Alexander will play. Neither of those assertions is set in stone, though. Keep checking ESPN.com for updates.
Notes: Lest you worry about Edwards playing against a nominally strong Ravens D, the last time he faced Baltimore, he had 97 yards and a score, and Chris McAlister was healthy (and torched). Now three guys in the Ravens' starting secondary are hobbled. ... Houshmandzadeh's streak ended, but I believe Chris Henry's return will be a good thing for Housh owners in the long term. Let Henry score a couple times, and suddenly those red-zone double-teams will go away. ... With Boldin still not right (I sure misjudged his healing powers over Arizona's bye), Fitzgerald took a step forward as a scoring threat against Detroit. He has a sweet matchup against those young Cincy corners. ... In his first week rated ahead of Donald Driver, Jennings didn't deliver: four catches for 63 yards and a missed Brett Favre throw away from another long touchdown. Still, he's the primary deep threat on one of the league's top deep-throwing teams. ... Andre Johnson returns, and I've optimistically (Pollyanna-ishly?) made him a fantasy starter right away. The Houston papers have me believing A.J. could've gone in Week 9 against Oakland, so the logic is he's really healthy now. With Matt Schaub (presumably) back, the sky should be the limit. ... I have three Patriots receivers before I've got any Bucs, Bills, Panthers, Jets, Eagles, Ravens, Falcons, Bears, 49ers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Chargers, Redskins, Jaguars, Vikings, Titans or Raiders pass-catchers. ... Kevin Curtis takes a bit of a dive while Reggie Brown rises a bit. Brown finally scored on a deep ball in Week 10, while Curtis's consistency is flagging. ... If you've been waiting for a week to start Derrick Mason or Mark Clayton, here it is: home against Cleveland, with Kyle Boller passing. ... Steve Smith didn't do himself any favors fumbling at the goal line last week. The chances are so few and far between; mistakes like that commit fantasy murder. ... If Rex Grossman really is back, it benefits Bernard Berrian. You notice: the moment Sexy Rexy returned, Berrian broke loose for his go-ahead 59-yard score. ... I've got Coles pretty far down, and further than his teammate Cotchery, because of his concussion. I may reverse field in Friday's update, depending on how they practice.
Notes: Among the fantasy studs, Shockey has the matchup of the week against a Detroit defense that's allowed the fourth-most points to opposing tight ends in the past five weeks. ... Donald Lee has five targets and four catches in each of the past two weeks. He also caught an easy score against Minnesota. ... One target and zero catches for Olsen in Week 10? Where'd that come from? Des Clark wasn't much better (three targets, two scores), but too many more weeks like that, and you'll have to use a more consistent option that Olsen in your fantasy playoffs. ... Watch out for Jeff King as an injury fill-in for a guy like Todd Heap. King had another five targets in Week 10, and Green Bay has struggled against tight ends all year. ... Daniels may go higher in my Friday update. I just want to see him practice with the high-ankle thing behind him.
Notes: It's getting yuckier and yuckier to rank defenses each week. Green Bay is No. 1? Really? I guess it's because of last week's shutout, fresh in my mind, as well as the prospect of facing a Vinny-led Panthers offense at Lambeau. Still, I'll be the first to say I don't think the Packers corners are as all-fired spectacular as everyone seems to be saying. The Steelers haven't put together any particularly good road efforts, which makes me nervous saying they'll definitely dominate the Jets. Still, personnel would seem to indicate this is a mismatch when New York has the ball. ... Look for the Giants to put a lot of pressure on a very weak combination of Detroit tackles. No Jonathan Scott means the Lions will have to start George Foster again, despite his constant benching. ... Simeon Rice won't be productive over the entire rest of the season, but I can imagine him putting some pressure on Brodie Croyle Sunday, especially since Tony Dungy knows Rice well enough to know how disinterested he is in stopping the rush. Most weeks, the Colts will have to play more man than ever with their corners, eschewing the Cover-2 a lot, to get pressure on quarterbacks. But against Herm Edwards's conservative play-calling and an offensive line that doesn't scare you without Larry Johnson running behind it, I think it'll pretty much be business as usual this week for Indy. ... Wish I'd known Albert Haynesworth was going to miss Sunday's game before I rated the Titans so highly against the Jags. Haynesworth's hammy has healed, and he's got a good chance to play Sunday.
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.
22mMichael C. Wright