- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Denver Broncos (6-7) at Houston Texans (6-7)
The running back situation for each of these teams makes this quite the fantasy hot-button game. Ron Dayne came out of Houston's upset of Tampa Bay with an ankle injury, and as of this writing seemed highly doubtful to play Thursday night. In his stead Sunday, undrafted rookie Darius Walker (last seen at Notre Dame) carried it 16 times for a modest 46 yards and so would appear to have a leg up on the starting gig. He's a good pass-catcher who might lose some goal-line touches to Adimchinobi Echemandu, but Denver's been known to allow rush yards. On the other side, fellow undrafted rookie Selvin Young got 17 carries to Travis Henry's 10, plus racked up 156 yards rushing, against the Chiefs, so would appear to be the starter. Henry has vultured a few scores the past couple weeks, but is nothing more than a flex play.
Fantasy Up: Brandon Marshall appeared to suffer a shoulder injury near the end of the Kansas City game, but is expected to be fine for this one. Baby T.O. is fifth in the AFC in catches (75) and receiving yards (1,029), giving him an outside shot at Pro Bowl consideration. That probably won't happen, but then again, this is a national TV spotlight: one more chance to show off. I don't trust Fred Bennett, Jamar Fletcher or whomever else the Texans throw at Marshall. ... For that same reason -- a shaky secondary -- I've got Jay Cutler higher than I've had him all year. Listen, Cutler has the tools to be a very good quarterback, and his arm strength and quick release are unquestioned. His issues, when he's had them, have involved decision-making: he'll march down the field, but make one bone-headed play per series. Against a team with a solid pass rush but holes in its coverage, Cutler gets a chance to prove he's taken a step forward. ... The Broncos have been reluctant to hand a single receiver over to Champ Bailey and say, "cover him," but if it's ever going to happen, you'd suspect it'd be against Andre Johnson. AJ is an every-week start, but I do think he'll see Bailey an awful lot, which should limit his targets. ... Denver has allowed tight ends at least 50 yards receiving four straight weeks, which bodes well for Owen Daniels.
Fantasy Down: Sage Rosenfels played dink-and-dunk against Tampa, and his defense got him enough field position to make it work (Andre' Davis's kickoff return didn't hurt). Rosenfels completed 26-of-37 pass attempts for just 209 yards (a woeful 7.7 yards per completion, and just 5.6 yards per attempt). Don't start him unless you're desperate, but Matt Schaub (whom the Texans hoped might be back for this one) won't go. ... Javon Walker reportedly ran full-speed unhindered for the first time in practice early this week. And while I'm happy for good ol' Javon, I have to say: avoid him. ... Both of these defenses fall under the "feh" category, as in: "Should I start the Houston or Denver defense? Feh." The Texans probably make the more attractive option; they're at home, and have racked up seven sacks in the past two weeks. The Broncos sacked Brodie Croyle five times in Week 14, which is all well and good, but I'm remembering their anemic road effort at Oakland two weeks back (one turnover, no sacks, 34 points allowed) and staying far, far away.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Christopher Harris breaks down the Thursday game between the Broncos and Texans from a fantasy perspective.