- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Notes: If Warner could stay on the field, we'd really have something here. Granted, his huge day against the Niners was helped immensely by a Hail Mary touchdown pass just before halftime, but the ol' grocery bagger keeps posting nice fantasy days, doesn't he? One salivates at the thought of him not having to come out of games when the Cardinals are in the red zone, giving up the bunnies to Tim Rattay. It sounds like Peyton Manning has a shot at getting Marvin Harrison back for the Jacksonville game (stay tuned, and see below), which would obviously help. Schaub's matchup in Tennessee would've sounded scarier a few weeks ago. Now the Titans are coming off two games in which they allowed a combined five touchdown passes and an aggregate completion percentage of 81.3. Just ask Chad Johnson how scary the Tennessee secondary is these days. I'm sure he'll tell you. Campbell is taking an unnecessary beating for his late-game interceptions the last two weeks. The picks are just a sign of growing pains. But overall, his accuracy has improved immensely of late; he has three straight games with better than a 60 percent completion percentage, after posting just two such games in Washington's previous eight contests. Obviously, the distraction factor for this team will be justifiably high, but here's hoping they rally around one another. A week after I praised him to high heaven, Vince Young bumped himself down a peg, though his comfort in the pocket is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was to begin the season. He took a bad sack that killed his team, but he's still worth starting consideration this week. Eli Manning has gotten pilloried in the press, but only one of last week's four interceptions was his fault. Jeremy Shockey consistently makes mental mistakes in routes, and Plaxico Burress can hardly run out of his breaks. Hey, I'm far from a Manning apologist, but facts are facts: The kid isn't Troy Aikman, but he's not Dave Brown, either. I'm assuming Bulger will be cleared from his concussion symptoms and play, so this is kind of a mealy mouthed ranking. Against Atlanta, he probably deserves to be a little higher. I guess I'm factoring in the possibility he gets bounced from the game by injury again. I'm also guessing McNabb plays, but again, there's no guarantee he'll finish what he starts. Also, Seattle's pass defense has tightened up of late. When Jeff Garcia tells a Tampa radio station he's so banged up he can't throw a ball, I take it seriously. For now, I've assumed Gradkowski starts, and you want none of it despite the favorable matchup against the Saints.
Notes: Keep an eye on Addai. (Hey, that rhymes, and probably should be the young man's catchphrase.) The Colts are a bit concerned about his neck injury, although they did let him back into Thursday's game in Atlanta after the injury occurred. If he practices, he'll play. Steven Jackson had to come out of the Rams' loss to Seattle last week after taking a blow to the head, but he came back in during Gus Frerotte's ill-fated goal-line series, and I assume he'll play this week. Atlanta's rush defense has gotten a little better statistically of late, but I still like S-Jax an awful lot this week. Same with Gore. We Gore owners were finally rewarded for our patience last week, with a 214 total yards and two touchdowns against Arizona that ranks as one of the season's fantasy-best. He's healthy, he's mad, and Carolina just stinks. For me, there's a pretty big drop off after the top six this week. Fargas has been a workhorse, but Denver's defense has stiffened a bit against the run lately. McGahee is very consistent, but it's always unsafe to think a team will stay with the run against New England. Purple Jesus is awesome, but will he get enough carries? You get my drift. I have Barber as a sneaky high performer Thursday night. The Packers have allowed double-digit fantasy points to an opposing rusher in each of their last five games, and they're fighting depth injuries along the defensive line. I talked about LenDale White on TV Tuesday; he's a fantasy menace right now. Can't sit him, hate to start him. He has blown two tasty matchups (Denver and Cincy) the past two weeks, with just 69 combined rush yards, and maybe part of that's due to his lard. But the Titans have also fallen behind early and needed to throw. Houston's another great opponent, and maybe Tennessee stays close enough to be able to use White. Keep starting Bush, but beware of his shin bruise. He was basically a third-down back last week. For the moment, I'm assuming Selvin Young emerges from the Denver mess. As of this posting, Travis Henry still hadn't been suspended, and he says his knee is OK, but he has said that before. Somehow, I think circumstances will conspire to keep him out. Young's own knee cost him a start last week, but my Wednesday guess is that he plays Sunday. Alas, you probably won't know until game time. Andre Hall is also questionable with a sprained ankle, so Cecil Sapp could wind up being worth a look in deeper leagues. The return of Brian Young and continued healing of Charles Grant could help the Saints' defense get tough on the run again. I'd start Graham but adjust my expectations. For the moment, I'm guessing Chatman overcomes neck and leg issues to play against the Jets, but if he can't go, the newly signed Samkon Gado likely will start over Patrick Cobbs.
Notes: That Browns/Cardinals game looks like a 41-40 game, if ever there was one. Each team is missing key corners named Eric (Cleveland is without Eric Wright; Arizona is without Eric Green), and now Arizona's Adrian Wilson is also out for the season. The big three in this game (Edwards, Fitzgerald, Boldin) should all be in line for tons of touches. Need any more proof (13 catches, 149 yards) that Welker is a No. 1 fantasy receiver? With D.J. Hackett out another couple of weeks (at least), I pushed Engram to the top of the No. 2 wideout heap. Both he and Branch should get tons of targets, but I'm guessing Engram continues to run out of the slot. The Eagles have depth issues in their nickel and dime packages, and we saw what Lito Sheppard did to Randy Moss last week. He should be on Branch, leaving more space for Engram. Burress still doesn't look right, but the Giants made a concerted effort to get it his way Sunday, targeting him on 13 throws (in part because they were down big). By the way, I think sometimes we lose sight of how cool a name "Plaxico" is. OK, so then there's Marvin. For the moment, I have him ranked as though he'll play but not quite be in game shape. But here's the thing: There's still significant scuttlebutt that optimistic assessments of Harrison's chances of playing this week are a smokescreen, and he won't go. Keep an eye on whether he's able to practice; if he still doesn't participate in team drills by Friday, you probably shouldn't risk starting him. The only reason this should vex you is if you have someone on Green Bay or Dallas you normally wouldn't start over a healthy Harrison. For instance, while right now I have Driver (who sprained an ankle last week) rated below Harrison, you'd be forgiven for taking the "surer" thing and starting Driver on Thursday, rather than potentially taking another Marvin goose egg. [Editor's Note: It's looking more and more like Harrison won't play. Look for updated rankings on Friday.] What a catch by Berrian in the end zone last week, huh? Dude's making himself some money. Another week in which Steve Smith has a terrific matchup (the Niners have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing receivers in the last five weeks), but there's just no one in Carolina who can effectively get him the ball. Calvin Johnson looks healthier, and he got a whopping 15 targets on Thanksgiving, scoring his second touchdown in as many weeks. I'm not here to say Megatron is definitively the No. 2 guy in Detroit because Shaun McDonald got 14 targets the week before. But there are good signs. I've rated Santonio Holmes as though he'll play but be limited against Cincinnati. It's a sweet matchup, though, and if he looks healthy this week, I'll bump him up on Friday.
Notes: Another 10 catches for 107 yards and a score for Winslow last week; another six catches for 105 yards and two scores for Gates. Does it really matter who gets the No. 1 spot and who's No. 2? If you own both and didn't trade one before your deadline, well, oops. I have Donald Lee high this week, for sure. Maybe I've fallen in love with this statistic a little too much, but here goes: The Cowboys have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends over the past five weeks. There was a chance Bubba Franks would be back for this game, but that's not happening, and Thanksgiving's disappointment notwithstanding, Lee is Brett Favre's preferred red zone target right now (Greg Jennings tends to get his love from farther out). Gates torched the Ravens; don't think the Patriots didn't notice. I have a feeling Watson scores one this week. Scheffler caught all five of his targets for 82 yards and a score last week. He's verging on starter territory in 12-team leagues. Marcedes Lewis had nine targets against Buffalo, and tight ends can definitely get open against Indy's Cover 2. He's a sneaky play as Jacksonville's only healthy guy at the position.
Notes: This is a harsh week for some very fantasy-relevant defenses. I've used the Packers all season, but I'm sitting them Thursday in Dallas; that game just has way too much offensive firepower in it. No matter what you think of the aging and injured Ravens defense, you can't use it against New England. The Jags looked strong even without Mike Peterson, but do you really want to start them at Indy? Even the Steelers have a bad matchup against Air Marvin Lewis, though I'd probably start them because they have a history of making big plays against the Bengals. As such, I have some weird teams in my "startable" territory this week. Minnesota as No. 2? Really? Eesh. I can easily envision the Lions getting off the schneid against a Vikings secondary that'll be without Antoine Winfield again and has been shaky most of the season (last week's defensive-touchdown fiesta notwithstanding). But I just don't see a lot of other options. I have New Orleans ridiculously high here, but a lot of that depends on Jeff Garcia potentially not playing. I still hate the Saints' secondary; I just don't trust any Tampa backup signal-caller to take advantage of it. Heck, I have the Niners as a starter in a 12-team league. Ick. But when you're playing against a team without a decent quarterback
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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 accompanying rationale) for Week 13 of the NFL season.