The Breakdown: Week 3
Arizona Cardinals (1-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
Anyone else think the Ravens would be better off with Kyle Boller at the helm? Yeah, me too. It sounds ridiculous, given Boller's hair-on-fire style as a starter the past few years, but his big arm helps. The thing that has to keep Brian Billick up at night is that Steve McNair's chicken wing made Cincinnati's defense look pretty good.
Fantasy Up: Willis McGahee's yards-per-carry average might never evoke Jim Brown (it's at 3.9 so far in this season), but the fact that he got 22 touches in Week 1 and 28 touches in Week 2 rocks. He also registered the first receiving TD of his career against the Jets. Arizona's been good against the rush, but McGahee is a borderline No. 1 fantasy RB this week. And yes, that's even knowing that Jonathan Ogden practiced this week, but will not play. You don't need me to tell you to start the Ravens defense, but Trevor Pryce is down with a broken wrist for at least a month. The pass rush could suffer. The Cardinals weren't kidding about trying to become the Steelers. Edgerrin James is a fantasy starter this week, even against the Ravens, simply because he's likely to log so many carries. His 50 rushes tie Edge with (surprise!) Willie Parker for the most attempts in the NFL. It's worth noting that the Cardinals are running between the guards a lot, allowing rookie OT Levi Jones, for one, to concentrate on pass blocking. Matt Leinart's only sack last week came when he got his legs tangled with the center.
Fantasy Down: McNair has produced big games when everyone doubted him, but sorry, I still doubt him. He has one of the weakest arms in football, and the Cards will dare him to throw deep. Maybe he connects on a few long ones, but I wouldn't risk it. Mark Clayton is healthier this week, and will start over
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San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Green Bay Packers (2-0)
NFL coverage is getting more and more factoid-based, as pundits seem to know less and less about the game. "Quick, tell me the one thing I should know about Green Bay. Brett Favre! Yeah, Brett Favre! Let's see playing like he's 27 instead of 37!" Never mind if it's true (it's not). And the Chargers boy are they ever dead after last week against the Pats, huh? (No.) Two very good defenses will mix it up at Lambeau this week, but these offenses are light years apart.
Fantasy Up: The list of offensive players you should start is the same list you always start: LaDainian Tomlinson, Donald Driver and Antonio Gates. LT might have the lowest yards-per-carry in football right now, but he's played the Bears and Pats. Sure, the Packers are tough, and Shane Olivea is out this week. And if you bench Tomlinson, you're officially far too clever for your own good. Driver is fourth in the NFL in targets, and is the only guy Favre really trusts. Gates is inhuman, and pretty much impossible to cover. You definitely should play both defenses, too. Chargers NT Jamal Williams hyperextended his elbow against New England, but it sounds like he'll play. LB Matt Wilhelm might not play because of his calf, which would help the Packers' rushing, but still ...
Fantasy Down: I'd avoid any Green Bay rushers, especially because Williams will start. Brandon Jackson might now have taken a back seat to University of Florida rookie DeShawn Wynn, and Vernand Morency might be back to steal a few touches on Sunday, too. Greg Jennings sounds like a game-time decision again with his bad hammy; as of this writing, he hadn't practiced. James Jones showed flashes last week, but hurt his hamstring in practice Thursday. Ruvell Martin might start. Philip Rivers apparently has a rare disease in which linebackers appear invisible to him. His two picks against the Patriots were thrown right at the heads of dropping linebackers Rivers never saw. Favre managed the game much better against the Giants, but that's one terrible defense. Tom Brady showed that the Chargers' corners could be had, but Favre won't have that kind of time, and he won't throw with Brady's brand of accuracy. I think the AFC/NFC differential shines through in this one, and San Diego rights the ship.
Indianapolis Colts (2-0) at Houston Texans (2-0)
Too much has been made about "how much better" the Patriots are now than the Colts, because New England dismantled San Diego, and Indy struggled with Tennessee. The Chargers were hell-bent-for-leather last week, and left holes, which the Pats exploited for big plays early. The Titans laid back, and made Indy score on longer drives, then played it close-to-the-vest on offense. Indy is really good.
Fantasy Up: Owen Daniels is the sexiest name I could come up with here (and heaven knows the moniker "Owen" sets the ladies' hearts a'pattering). Daniels has only eight targets in two games, but with Andre Johnson confirmed out for this one, Daniels is the surest thing the Texans have via the air. I guess Dallas Clark is also especially worthy of mention here. If defenses are going to set up a perimeter 20 yards downfield and dare the Colts to dink and dunk, Clark's going to have more days like his nine-target, seven-reception afternoon in Tennessee, where it seemed like Peyton Manning was throwing it his way every other down. I don't quite have the Indy defense in my top 12 this week, but I couldn't blame you for starting it. Both starting outside linebackers were out last week (Rob Morris and Freddy Keiaho), and they still were tough against a team determined to jam it down their throats. It sounds like Keiaho will play Sunday.
Fantasy Down: Matt Schaub is getting closer to fantasy startability, but not this week. The Colts have made Drew Brees and Vince Young look relatively poor, and while I don't love Kelvin Hayden or Marlin Jackson, you don't need shutdown corners when you play the Cover 2. Add the missing Andre Johnson to the mix, and it's not a day I'd want to be Houston's QB. Ahman Green looked very good at times against Carolina last week, carrying it 15 times for 71 yards and a score, but Ron Dayne stole six first-half touches and 19 touches overall. Much of that business came because the Texans were winning big, but the goal-line situation is still up for grabs. It seems incredible to say this given how porous they were last year against the rush, but the Colts with Bob Sanders are a different defense, and I'd sit both Houston rushers, unless Dayne really seems like he'll miss the game because of his pectoral problem. In that case, Green would be come a decent No. 2 RB. Jacoby Jones figures to start at receiver for Johnson, and it's not outside the realm of possibility he performs well. Don't use him in your fantasy lineup, though.
Minnesota Vikings (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-2)
The most significant aspect of this game is it echoes Hank Stram's legendary entreaty to "keep matriculating the ball up the field" when these teams met in Super Bowl IV. Indeed, it's truly a bouquet to Stram and his malapropism that we'll take a moment during this tilt to think of that funny moment. Or else it's a blight on the modern versions of these teams, who couldn't assemble a decent starting quarterback if they stitched together body parts of the signal-callers on these two rosters.
Fantasy Up: Again, it's a struggle to get terribly excited about anything here except the fantasy defenses. Minnesota has produced nine turnovers, 10 sacks and three defensive touchdowns already this year. They've also allowed only 76 rush yards per game, sixth-best in the league. They're an every-week play. The same can't be said for the Chiefs, but I'd use them this week. Minny looks like they'll start Kelly Holcomb at QB, and KC gets Jared Allen back from his two-game suspension. He's a sack machine and a havoc-wreaker, and will make a difference. Larry Johnson and Adrian Peterson should also start on all their fantasy teams, though each could struggle. LJ wasn't as bad as the headlines would have you believe against Chicago (he was better than Tomlinson was against the Bears), and his touches are only going up. Peterson didn't have much rushing room against (of all teams) Detroit, and the Vikings missed FB Tony Richardson, who might miss this week with his bad forearm, too.
Fantasy Down: Damon Huard is brave; you have to give him that. He got crunched several times in Week 1, but hung in there. The pass-blocking from his tackles is as bad as the doomsayers predicted, and Huard killed the Chiefs with a fourth-quarter pick down 10 in Chicago's end zone. He did have a long touchdown called back by penalty, but avoid him. And you don't want any part of Holcomb either. Dwayne Bowe will start for Eddie Kennison again this week. Bowe scored on a tipped TD pass that was headed straight for Tony Gonzalez's arms last week. Oh, fickle finger of fantasy fate. Anyway, there isn't a wideout on either team you'd consider using in Week 3.
Buffalo Bills (0-2) at New England Patriots (2-0)
If Peter King considers SpyGate "the worst coaching scandal of my NFL lifetime," I wonder what comes in second. A Detroit assistant coach naked in a Wendy's drive-thru? I love Mr. King's work, but I think his breathlessness about the issue strikes a false note. How could anyone objectively look at losing a first-rounder and think the punishment wasn't harsh enough? I know it's chic to hate the top dog, but can you imagine what would've happened if the league had taken away (for example) a Cleveland Browns pick? We'd be saying it'd set the franchise back a decade.
Fantasy Up: I have Randy Moss third among fantasy wide receivers in Week 3, which means I've officially given in to the dark side. Anyone who believes Moss won't be the first guy to toss anyone in the Pats' organization under the bus the moment he doesn't like what's happening is incredibly na´ve. But for the moment, Randy's happy, and when Randy's happy, Randy plays. The Bills have no answer for him. I'd still like to see him play against a true shutdown corner, or a defense organized around shutting him down, but what can you say? Start him. Heck, who am I kidding? Start your Patriots.
Fantasy Down: Marshawn Lynch will make an interesting test case this week. I'm recommending him as a flex play only; he struggled against Pittsburgh (18 carries, 64 yards), and it's hard to imagine Buffalo wanting to run much if they get down big. That said, Lynch is a big-time talent, and I'm not entirely sold on New England's rush defense. My jaw won't come unhinged if Lynch has a decent day. I feel more secure saying it's wise to give Lee Evans one more week to struggle before using him against the Jets in Week 4. Evans has four catches for 22 yards, and is a victim both of J.P. Losman's struggles and Dick Jauron's conservative play-calling. I know Buffalo is talking about moving him around to different spots in formations, including the slot, but even in his huge 2006, Evans only caught three passes in two games against the Pats. Buffalo isn't a terrible team, but they're still annihilated by injury on defense. Heck, the starting corners, Terrence McGee and Ashton Youboty, had to leave the Pittsburgh game. Each is expected to start Sunday, but add injuries to the safeties, linebackers and defensive line, and it could be ugly.
Miami Dolphins (0-2) at New York Jets (0-2)
So many memories. The Monday night comeback. The Dan Marino "I-Spiked-It-No-I-Didn't" play. Ken O'Brien blowing big leads. Don Strock looking 74 years old on the field. Now everyone in the AFC East is 0-2 except New England, and neither of these franchises is currently showering glory on itself. Trent Green looks shot, and the Mangenius is making few friends around the league. The Jets appear to be a significantly better team, though.
Fantasy Up: Thomas Jones got 24 carries against a stout Ravens rush defense, which pretty much puts worries over his calf or his possible time-share fate to bed. With Justin Miller out for the season, Jones's primary backup, Leon Washington, probably will return kicks, which can only be a good thing for Jones's full-time status. Miami's rush defense isn't what it used to be. Jones is an acceptable No. 2 rusher in Week 3. Both Jets receivers are worth starting. Laveranues Coles is the better red-zone threat, but Jerricho Cotchery is a perfect possession-receiving complement. Cotchery has 20 targets in two games, and Coles has 19; both are among the top-15 wide receivers. Sure, there's uncertainty surrounding Chad Pennington's softball throwing arm, but Miami's pass defense is injured (safety Yeremiah Bell), changing positions (Travis Daniels, jumping from corner to safety), filled by reserves (Michael Lehan at corner) and/or limping back to action (nickel man Andre' Goodman). I don't have Chris Chambers as a top-25 receiver this week, but he's a decent flex play. Clearly, he's been excellent through two games (15 catches, 10 first downs, 201 yards), but my approach to starting a guy like Chambers is unless I've got no other options, I'll avoid using him until it hurts too much not to.
Fantasy Down: Pennington probably will play, and he'll probably throw a touchdown, maybe two. But his upside is so limited because of his arm and his offense. You can use him in two-QB leagues, but that's about it. I was flat-out wrong about Trent Green last week. After watching the Dallas game, all I can say is: That guy's arm is shot. Yes, he threw a ton (40 attempts), and no, not all his four picks were exclusively his fault. But he missed too many receivers, and the day would've been even worse if he hadn't thrown a garbage-time TD bomb to Derek Hagan. Green shouldn't start for any fantasy team. I'm very worried about Ronnie Brown. Jesse Chatman appears to be a permanent part of this offense now, Cam Cameron gives up on the run too easily, and Brown stood uninjured on the sidelines for a large part of the second half. I don't see how you can start him in a 12-team league right now, despite the fact that he did notch two 100-yard games against the Jets last year. Miami's defense might be without Zach Thomas, who's battling migraines. I see no reason to use either unit, each of which is sorely lacking in playmakers just now. I actually have the Jets (15th) rated ahead of the Fish (17th).
Fantasy Up: Brian Westbrook is the only person on the Philly offense playing like a star. He's got a 4.9 ypc average, 112 yards receiving, hasn't put the ball on the ground and is averaging more than eight yards after the catch. I expect big things in Week 3. Donovan McNabb looked horrible to me on "Monday Night Football". He was terribly inaccurate on any pass over 10 yards, he was ginger on his injured knee, and Washington was clearly not scared of him running. They put their corners up on the Philly receivers, banged 'em around, and assumed McNabb wouldn't be able to adjust. And he couldn't. I still have him as No. 11 among QBs this week, but I'm wavering. Similarly, it's just too good a matchup for me not to try Reggie Brown again. Sure, I know the Lions defense is tied for the NFL lead with seven takeaways in the first two games, but the personnel simply doesn't match the small-sample-size results, and McNabb isn't Josh McCown or Tarvaris Jackson. Start Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson, and consider using Mike Furrey in a flex spot. Heck, consider using Shaun McDonald in a flex spot. And if Herman Moore was playing at age 37, you could consider using him. This just in: The Lions are going to throw.
Fantasy Down: Lito Sheppard's absence at corner was extremely noticeable for the Eagles against Washington, and it'll be even worse against Detroit. William James was torched by the Redskins (and it could've been worse), and Joselio Hanson and Nick Graham are going to be on the field a lot against multiple-receiver sets Sunday. I had the Eagles D/ST eighth in my rankings, but I've changed my mind; I might play it safe and start someone else. Tatum Bell's fantasy usefulness might be gone. Kevin Jones will suit up on Sunday and supposedly take part in between 15 and 20 plays, though if he looks good, one can imagine that number increasing in-game. Plus, Brian Calhoun beat out Bell in rushing yards last week (22 to 14). Ouch. Jon Kitna continues to be a turnover machine (three in two games), but he's a tough sonofagun. After returning from his concussion, he caught a batted pass to himself in overtime, landed on his head on a scramble, and then got clocked refusing to slide on a different scramble. Philly's mega-blitz defense will give Kitna some openings to make big plays, but I'm just barely leaving him out of my top 12 for another week. If he gets sacked a bunch (a real possibility), turnovers will ensue.
San Francisco 49ers (2-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)
The Niners feature the league's worst offense so far, having racked up fewer than 200 yards of total offense in both of their wins. That speaks well of their defense, for sure, though losing former first-rounder Manny Lawson with an ACL he tore in practice really hurts the pass rush. It came at a bad time, because the Steelers' offense is rolling. This is one of the week's most intriguing matchups, and not only because of the bated breath nationwide over what Mike Nolan will be wearing.
Fantasy Up: All the Steelers' regulars except Heath Miller (who is officially Matt Spaeth's caddie) need to start, and that includes Santonio Holmes. I especially like Holmes covered by Walt Harris, who played quite well against Arizona but had some very poor moments against Seattle. Frank Gore put together a nice he's-tackled-oh-no-he's-not TD run in St. Louis last week, but remove that quasi-fluky play and he's got 93 yards on 37 carries this year, a woeful 2.5 ypc. Neither Maurice Hicks nor Michael Robinson is any kind of threat to Gore at the goal line, which is awesome, but teams are loading up against the run, and Pittsburgh will be no exception. Until Alex Smith relents and throws downfield more regularly, Gore's going to need those baby one-yard TD runs to keep his owners in the pink. Vernon Davis whined and whimpered about under-use this week (he has four catches for 27 yards). Considering where you drafted him, I'd still start him this week, to see if his complaining worked.
Fantasy Down: I'm tempted by Patrick Willis and the Niners' D, but Lawson's injury puts me over the top. I'll sit 'em in Pittsburgh. Alex Smith has a 5.3 yards-per-attempt average, matching Drew Brees for the worst such number among starting NFL QBs. To this point, San Francisco hasn't had to take off the training wheels, and we all remember what happened when they did that in the second half of 2006 (p.s. - it was bad). One would imagine the Niners will need to throw to be successful in this game. We'll see if that raises Smith's profile a little. Darrell Jackson fades a little on my list, though as long as he's healthy, he's a deep threat. But c'mon, D-Jax: a 0.7 yards after-catch average? Why not just bring a rocking chair out there with you to make receptions?
St. Louis Rams (0-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
Could Orlando Pace really be that crucial to the Rams' fortunes? Pace is good, but I don't think so. Maybe San Francisco's defense is really that special, or maybe the rest of St. Louis' O-line is that dreadful. If Tampa can generate pressure out of its Cover 2 schemes, something it did at times against New Orleans, Marc Bulger could get hurt. That said, the Rams really only lost to the Niners last week by dint of a fumbled punt. They definitely can get on track here.
Fantasy Up: Despite the six sacks and countless hits he took last week, keep starting Bulger. The last time he faced a true Cover 2 defense, he lit up Chicago in Week 14 of last year, going 34-of-55 for 356 yards and three scores. Bulger also had nine completions of 18 or more yards last week. ... In addition to Pace, C Richie Incognito will miss Sunday's game, which isn't great news for Steven Jackson. Jackson hasn't had good holes to run through yet this year, but Tampa's defensive line can be had. You really would like to see the Rams rediscover Jackson in the passing game, too. ... I'd use Carnell Williams this week. St. Louis' rush defense appears to be as poor as it was in '06, and Williams earned a lot of trust from Jon Gruden while playing with injured ribs and dehydration in the second half last week. Plus, without Mike Alstott around, short-yardage carries appear to be Caddy's. ... You also should use Jeff Garcia if you don't have an every-week quarterback. He was methodical against the Saints, even though most of the Bucs' big offensive plays came on short passes broken for long yardage. But those count, too. And with Tye Hill out for a month (and Fakhir Brown still suspended two more games), Lenny Walls will be starting at corner for the Rams. Walls is tall, but he also is quite terrible. Garcia and Joey Galloway could have ultra-solid days.
Fantasy Down: Randy McMichael briefly had to leave with a hamstring problem last week, and although he returned, he caught nothing thereafter. This has been the story of McMike's career: big ol' fantasy tease. For the moment, I've dropped him out of my top 12. ... Alex Smith isn't getting the targets you would expect in a Jeff Garcia offense; he has only five through two games. ... Neither defense warrants a fantasy start this week, or most weeks. ... Forgive me for failing to get giddy over the news that Michael Clayton is likely to see more action, especially with Ike Hilliard doubtful. He had a nice downfield block to spring Galloway last week, but Clayton still has only one catch. ... Guess Maurice Stovall isn't quite ready to be a fantasy sleeper yet.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) at Denver Broncos (2-0)
Maybe we have to give the Jags a mulligan. Their worst rush-defense day in recent history unfolded in Week 1, but Jacksonville got it together against Atlanta and allowed 82 rushing yards. This game will be a good test, because Travis Henry is rolling; he leads the NFL with 267 rushing yards. (Granted, those yards came against Buffalo and Oakland.) The real running drama will unfold going the other way. The Jags have been hags on the ground, but Denver has allowed 156 yards per game to opposing rushers, a 5.1 yards per carry clip.
Fantasy Up: I'm not sure what was up with Maurice Jones-Drew getting X-rays after last week's game, but we haven't heard anything about it since. Assuming he is OK, MJD deserves to start. Through two weeks, defenses have stuffed the line of scrimmage and dared David Garrard to beat them with his arm, which he isn't equipped to do. But the Broncos' strength is in the secondary and the pass rush, not at linebacker. Heck, I'd consider Fred Taylor as a flex. I think we will see 'em bust out a bit this week. ... Javon Walker earned 13 more targets last week, and he leads the NFL with 28. He also is tied with Randy Moss and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the league lead in receptions with 17. He hasn't scored yet, but it's coming. ... Brandon Marshall also looked very good against a solid Oakland secondary. Baby T.O. has 15 targets and 10 catches, and he had a TD called back last week because he committed offensive pass interference. He's a flex play. ... I mentioned Denver's strength is its DBs, and that never is a bad place to have fantasy strength. They have mustered four picks and six sacks in '07, and more are coming.
Fantasy Down: Jay Cutler is a wild man. He makes way too many questionable throws, although his cannon regularly gets him out of bad spots. What almost makes me start him this week is that the Jags' Gerald Sensabaugh is out for the season and has been replaced on the roster by the deliciously named Jamaal Fudge. Ageless Sammy Knight will take over at strong safety, which isn't particularly good for the rush or pass defense. Still, Cutler remains a high-upside, high-risk bench guy for me. ... Selvin Young had a 40-yard run and was targeted on a couple of long throws in Week 2, and is the clear handcuff to Henry. ... Matt Jones might not play this week, and he is the third Jacksonville wideout anyway, behind Ernest Wilford and Dennis Northcutt. Plus, Reggie Williams got an end-zone look last week (and scored). None of these guys are fantasy-startable.
Cleveland Browns (1-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-2)
I don't think it will happen ever again for Derek Anderson, but it was fun. The best thing about Cleveland's 51-45 win was the emergence of Braylon Edwards. Last week, I wrote I was bummed about Edwards being trapped in this offense, because he would be a fantasy starter almost anywhere else. Well, I have him 26th among receivers this week, because I like the Raiders' secondary, but Edwards is close to an every-week guy now.
Fantasy Up: Jamal Lewis made some nice open-field moves on last week's long runs, which weren't just the result of shoddy tackling, so give him credit. That said, Lewis' performance broke down like this: carries of 2, 7, 2, 2, 4, 4, 3, -3 (with a fumble), 2, 2, 2, 31, 4, 10, 3, -2, 66, 0, 3, 14, 47, 4, 0, 2, 1, 5, 1 and -1. That's not meant to take anything away from Lewis; it was a great day. But he still is someone who gets plugged at the line way too often. Use him this week in Oakland, but don't expect a double-hondo. ... If LaMont Jordan is healthy, he probably is a better bet than Lewis. Sure, in theory, the Browns should draw safeties closer to the line, betting Josh McCown (he of the eight completions last week) won't hurt them deep. But Cleveland's secondary is really beaten up. Brodney Pool, Mike Adams and maybe Gary Baxter could miss or be limited in this game. The real question with Jordan, though, is his bad back. Lane Kiffin claims Jordan will be a game-time decision; because this is a 4 p.m. ET start, using Jordan will be risky. ... I also would stick with Ronald Curry. If anyone is going to take advantage of the Browns' rotten pass defense, it's Curry.
Fantasy Down: Don't start Anderson at quarterback. Derrick Burgess did have to leave the Denver game late last week, and he hasn't practiced yet; if he doesn't play, the Raiders' pass rush might be controllable. Still, Oakland has a very nice, up-and-coming secondary. ... McCown reportedly will be on a very short leash Sunday, and Daunte Culpepper supposedly is closer to mastering the Raiders' playbook. Culpepper's mobility is a huge question, but his big arm and swashbuckling style would threaten defenses more.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
Now comes the overreaction. The Bengals aren't that bad on defense. I mean, they don't have great playmaking linebackers, and the bet they placed on Johnathan Joseph (who hurt his wrist last week) being a top-20 corner might turn out to be unfortunate. But Justin Smith is a really good player who draws a lot of attention, Robert Geathers is physical and Madieu Williams is an above-average free safety. (Plus, the jury is still out on Joseph.) My guess is that Seattle will have luck throwing the ball this week but that running will turn out to be harder than it was for Cleveland in Week 2.
Fantasy Up: Matt Hasselbeck wore the goat horns for his botched handoff as Seattle was setting itself up for a winning field goal late in the game against Arizona last week. But he had a nice day, connecting with Deion Branch for seven completions and 122 yards, and should be solid again this week, as should Branch. The Bengals are having a tough time generating a pass rush, and if corner Leon Hall has to play again this week, it could be another long day for Cincy. ... Clearly, you always play both Shaun Alexander and Rudi Johnson, and both have nice matchups this week. Seattle's weakened interior line (it really misses Marcus Tubbs) showed last week against Edgerrin James, and while I don't see Alexander dropping 200-plus, he will get loads of carries.
Fantasy Down: Neither defense should be anywhere near your starting lineup. ... Nate Burleson scored last week but didn't see much action in the second half. Bobby Engram took over the No. 2 receiver role and racked up seven targets and five receptions. Neither guy is consistent enough to be a fantasy target, and, unfortunately, D.J. Hackett still is hurt. ... Maurice Morris missed last week's game and is questionable this week. Alvin Pearman could get his first significant third-down looks.
Carolina Panthers (1-1) at Atlanta Falcons (0-2)
In my fantasy spin about the Byron Leftwich signing, I mentioned that Atlanta's O-line actually is pretty OK, and some folks took exception, citing the 13 sacks of Joey Harrington this year. But honestly, I think a lot of those have been due to Harrington himself: his indecision, his unwillingness to make a mistake that will get him booed. Todd Weiner is an above-average right tackle, and Kynan Forney is a very good right guard. Jacksonville really didn't start getting to Harrington until it threw the kitchen sink at him in the second half last week, at which point Harrington simply wasn't fast enough with his reads. It's unfair to expect five O-linemen to block seven rushing marauders every play. Wayne Gandy sounds like a go at left tackle (he left in the first quarter last week because of a hammy). Criticize the depth in Atlanta, criticize the complicated blocking packages Bobby Petrino is trying to install, but, talent-wise, there are far worse O-lines in the NFL.
Fantasy Up: Steve Smith had single-coverage against Houston for a lot of last Sunday, and the results showed it. Atlanta can't do that. Can it? ... You probably will start Jake Delhomme this week, unless you've got a great alternative. The Panthers' offensive approach has been to throw a ton in the first half and see where it gets them; Delhomme has a 117.4 passer rating in first halves so far this year. Atlanta's pass defense isn't bad, but the commitment to get the ball to Smith is awesome. ... Alge Crumpler has only eight targets in two games. That has to change, doesn't it?
Fantasy Down: You probably can't start either Carolina runner. At this point, DeAngelo Williams has crawled so far into the doghouse that he is eating out of a Snoopy dish at home. Two fumbles in two games and some missed blocking assignments haven't earned him love. DeShaun Foster is the better tandem member, and I guess he can be a flex guy. ... Warrick Dunn told reporters this week that he is not 100 percent because of his offseason shoulder surgery. The shoulder itself is all right, but Dunn's legs aren't in football shape. Because of that, and because of Jerious Norwood, stay away for now.
New York Giants (0-2) at Washington Redskins (2-0)
New Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo comes from the Jim Johnson school of thought, which, generally speaking, requires tons of unpredictable blitzing and a lot of quick QB pressure. Defensive backs shouldn't have to stay long with their men, but they have to play man. Therein lies the problems in New York. The defensive backs are perhaps the slowest in the league and haven't proven capable of staying with anyone, and the folks blitzing for the Giants aren't as talented as the guys blitzing for Philly. Corey Webster was so bad last week against Green Bay that he has been shifted to nickel and rookie Aaron Ross will start.
Fantasy Up: Santana Moss ate William James' lunch on Monday night last week. Moss had a fine night with six catches for 89 yards, but it almost was an excellent night: He beat James by five yards on a deep route, only to have Jason Campbell overthrow him. Moss should get loose a lot Sunday. ... Losing Randy Thomas to a triceps injury hurts Washington's running game, but you still have to start Clinton Portis. Portis had 17 carries to Ladell Betts' six last week. ... Eli Manning has a 62.9 percent completion rate through two games, which might in part be due to the defense not stopping anyone, but beggars can't be choosers. His shoulder injury seems behind him, and I'd use him again this week. ... The Giants have allowed nearly 18 fantasy points a game to tight ends. Chris Cooley should break out of his three-catches-for-the-season morass this week. I have him a slot ahead of the mouthy Jeremy Shockey.
Fantasy Down: Campbell might not have a tastier defense to throw against all year, but that still only hikes him to 13th on my QB list. He was better against Philly than he was against Miami, but accuracy continues to be his issue. The arm is there, and the 'Skins will throw it downfield. But too often, Campbell makes the straightforward throw seem difficult, and he also seems to have a difficult time with touch passes. I don't hate him as a starter this week, and he continues to have potential. ... Steve Smith (the Giants' version) is out for a while with a broken shoulder blade; Sinorice Moss will take over as the third wideout. He's not worth playing yet.
Dallas Cowboys (2-0) at Chicago Bears (1-1)
Fun game. Dallas has scored more than anyone. Chicago has allowed the second-fewest points in the NFC (one point behind Minnesota, against superior offenses). Top-of-mind logic dictates the Bears' immovable object will resist the Cowboys' irresistible force. Plus, maybe someone will call Rex Grossman a mental midget again. That's always fun.
Fantasy Up: Terrell Owens and Jason Witten start for Dallas, and you can make an argument for Marion Barber III as a flex guy. You are playing with fire any time you use a running back against this defense, though. ... Bernard Berrian clearly is the favored wideout in Chicago, and I would start him Sunday night. As shaky as Grossman has been, Berrian still has 17 targets and 10 catches in '07, and is averaging 14.8 yards per catch. With Terence Newman still a big question mark in the Dallas secondary (even if he plays, you can't expect him to be at full strength), Berrian benefits most. Muhsin Muhammad has eight targets and two catches. ... Adrian Peterson (the Chicago version) got only two carries against Kansas City last week, which is good news for Cedric Benson owners. Benson nearly broke a long score, and while the 3.3 yards-per-carry average is worrisome, the Cowboys are allowing 4.3 yards per carry, which puts them in the NFL's bottom half. Play Benson.
Fantasy Down: Last Sunday's home opener was supposed to be a day on which Grossman racked up some of his unnecessarily huge stats to offset what apparently will be regular slumps, but it didn't happen. He rarely threw downfield, and both his interceptions were bad tosses over the middle -- the second gave the Chiefs life in the fourth quarter. As much as I think Dallas' secondary is flammable, I don't trust Grossman to light the match. ... Julius Jones is teetering. His 3.2 yards per carry (compared to Barber's 6.2) isn't acceptable, and the Cowboys pretty much pulled him in the second half in Miami. He doesn't do short yardage, he doesn't catch very well and he appears to get down on himself. Wade Phillips says he won't ditch his committee any time soon, but I'm not so sure. I'd sit Jones in Chicago.
Tennessee Titans (1-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-2)
If they can't make it here, they won't make it anywhere. The Saints, and specifically Drew Brees, have been bamboozled by zone defenses, and while the Titans play a lot of man defense, you have to assume they have been watching and will shake things up, keeping some combination of safeties back and making New Orleans drive. Given that the Titans' front seven has been stout against the rush, this isn't the slam dunk it might initially appear to be. Still, I'm betting the Saints score a lot Monday night. A couple of turnovers, some good field position and a lot of on-field emotion, and the scoreboard will start clicking.
Fantasy Up: So yes, play Brees. Play Marques Colston. Play Reggie Bush, although hopes of him being a No. 1 fantasy RB this year are fading. (North-south, Reggie! North-south!) Until he shows you something, Deuce McAllister probably needs to be a flex play only, but if New Orleans does get a lead, you have to believe it will pound it with Deuce. ... I like Vince Young a lot this week (but then again, don't I like Vince Young a lot every week?). He made things happen with his legs against Indy, and opportunities will be there again Monday. Like everyone else, Tennessee will pick on Jason David, who has been torched multiple times in two games, although it's hard to know which of the Titans' cast of receivers will do the damage, so you really can't start any of them. ... LenDale White has turned into the clear fantasy favorite in Tennessee. I have him right on the starter borderline this week. White and Chris Brown pretty much have made it a straight platoon carries-wise, but White gets the ball in close. That's what we like to hear. Plus, White learned a lot from Travis Henry last year; he dances significantly less than Brown does. That earns points with Jeff Fisher.
Fantasy Down: Devery Henderson got benched in the second quarter last week because of a couple of bad drops, and while he will continue to be a big-play threat, you can't start him. Brees will throw it his way (nine targets in what amounts to less than a game-and-a-half), but until he actually, like, catches the ball, no thanks. ... Eric Johnson crashed back to earth in Week 2 with just two catches on five targets, after nine grabs in the opener. The Saints probably are hoping they have to use him less this week, because fewer tight-end dumps mean more Colston streaks.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Cockcroft: Updated top 250 rankings
- Berry & Kiper: Top fantasy rookies
- Karabell: Add Yadier Molina now
- Karabell: Separating RBs into tiers
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Cockcroft: Updated top 250 rankings
- Berry & Kiper: Top fantasy rookies
- Karabell: Add Yadier Molina now
- Karabell: Separating RBs into tiers
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Cockcroft: Updated top 250 rankings
- Berry & Kiper: Top fantasy rookies
- Karabell: Add Yadier Molina now
- Karabell: Separating RBs into tiers