Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
I'd like to thank everyone who chimed in on last week's direction-of-the-column
question. I received numerous responses and plenty of good suggestions
(even great ones) regarding where we should take this baby in the
future. Though I can't possibly please everyone, I'm certainly hoping
the column will--at the very least--remain useful for the broad majority
of fantasy gamers out there. After all, you wouldn't be reading it
(or commenting upon it) if you didn't find it somewhat helpful in
the first place, right? Right.
With that in mind, I've decided not to tinker with the format too
much, save for two notable exceptions. I will no longer be listing
injured players (players who are listed as "out" on the
official NFL injury report) or players who are on their bye week.
Though most of you had no problem with this, others felt (and I ultimately
agreed) that the commentary regarding idle players was superfluous.
We all know Peyton Manning is a top-of-the-line starter. We don't
need to be reminded (and probably don't WANT to be reminded), that
he's sitting out this week. Besides, with Manning out of the way,
some of the less notable signal-callers get a chance to step into
the fantasy spotlight, if only for a week.
I hope this minor alteration to the format doesn't drive any of you
away. I honestly think the lists will more accurately depict the ranks
of available fantasy players on a week-by-week basis. For that reason,
I also think they'll be more useful in the long run. Once again, I
truly appreciate the feedback and if you have any other questions,
concerns, complaints, feel free to drop me a line.
Must Start: The Top 10 Plus 1
1. Steve McNair @ CAR - He almost
beat me by himself last week (421 yards and three scores). Almost.
He is laying waste to good secondaries and bad and now leads the
league in passing yardage (1632 yards). Expect more of the same,
regardless of matchups, since his backs provide virtually no assistance.
2. Daunte Culpepper vs. DEN - There
are some who think Minnesota is more effective with Frerotte at
the helm. Don't believe it. Culpepper is more talented in every
respect and will pick up where he left off against a good Broncos
D this week.
3. Marc Bulger vs. GB - If you missed the Monday Night game against
Atlanta (352 yards and 2 scores), you can catch the replay this
Sunday against the Pack. Mike McKenzie, Green Bay's only shutdown
corner, might sit. Torry Holt owners are already tallying up the
4. Brett Favre @ STL - KC couldn't stop him last week (25 of 36
for 272 yards and a touch). Unfortunately, his defense couldn't
stop KC. That's bad for the Pack (really bad) but good for Favre
owners as he's likely to be involved in many more shootouts this
season, starting this Sunday in St. Louis.
5. Brad Johnson @ SF - Only McNair and Manning have been more productive
this year. Considering Tampa has no gamebreakers at the receiver
position, that's no small feat. And to think I snagged him for Reggie
Wayne a few weeks back. Sucker!!!
6. Drew Bledsoe vs. WAS - This might qualify as an understatement,
but he's been enigmatic so far (five TDs vs. four picks). A below-average
receiving corps and an anemic rushing attack certainly aren't helping
matters but something's not right here. Still, if Moulds does play,
I like Bledsoe's chances of righting the ship against a 'Skins D
minus Fred Smoot.
7. Trent Green @ OAK - See what you get when you rag on a guy facing
your favorite squad? I got your 400 yards and three touchdown passes
RIGHT here, cheesehead! The only thing standing between him and
another huge day in Oakland is Oakland's inability to stop Priest
8. Matt Hasselbeck vs. CHI - Though a dyed-in-the-wool West Coast
guy, Holmgren is doing his best to maintain balance this year (149
passes vs. 142 runs). If that trend continues (and it may against
a dreadful Bears squad), Hasselbeck will continue to give you modest
numbers. Modesty doesn't win fantasy championships. Gaudiness does.
9. Patrick Ramsey @ BUF - He's taking a beating (21 sacks so far)
and the warm fuzzies are starting to fade in Washington. That said,
he's thrown for 1518 yards (third-most in the league) and will continue
to wing it until The Ballcoach discovers a running game. (Note to
The Ballcoach: your running game plays for Carolina now.)
10. Kerry Collins vs. PHI - In all fairness, I kept Favre on this
list when he probably played himself off it earlier in the year.
Look how that turned out. Collins is capable of duplicating the
feat provided he cuts down on the picks (pronto) and starts utilizing
his vast arsenal of offensive firepower.
Grab A Helmet:
David Carr vs. NYJ - Threw for 371 yards last week and a couple
scores. We could harp on the three picks but the fact of the matter
is turnovers aren't nearly as costly in fantasy ball as they are
in real life. Once he harnesses the power of that rocket launcher
he calls a right arm, look out.
Tim Couch vs. SD - He put up microscopic numbers last week (127
yards and no TDs) but that's mostly because William Green made mincemeat
out of the Raiders front seven. San Diego is just as crappy on defense
(OK, crappier) but, strangely enough, more potent on offense. That's
my way of saying you should expect a shootout in Cleveland. Couch
is in the midst of rekindling a career and could inflict some serious
damage in this one.
Aaron Brooks @ ATL - He's starting to show signs of life (seven
TDs vs. four picks and an 80.4 rating) but it may be too late to
salvage the season. Of course, unless you're a Saints fan, you don't
care about that. You care about fantasy points and, like Bulger
last Monday, he should deliver a bunch of them against a miserable
Falcons D in Week 7.
Jon Kitna vs. BAL - If ever a guy was a serviceable fantasy starter,
he's it (1164 yards and six TD passes). He won't win a ton of games
for you but he probably won't lose many either. If Dillon ever rounds
into form, the Bengals (thanks to an improving defense) could surprise
people in the second half. For now, be glad that Kitna's throwing
the ball to Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick.
Drew Brees @ CLE - The weapons on offense are there (Tomlinson and
Boston) and Brees is capable of using them effectively. More importantly,
the offense is going to be asked to carry the load since the defense
(obviously) can't. It's a tried and true fantasy formula: bad defense
= more offense.
Grab A Clipboard:
Jeff Garcia vs. TB - Don't be deceived by his fairly decent fantasy
numbers. He's run for three scores and those points have obscured
his below average passing stats (six TDs vs. seven INTs). More importantly,
he's not a good fit for Dennis Erickson's offense and is barely
escaping with his life most weeks. Until San Fran figures out a
way to protect him (good luck against Tampa), he'll have a hard
time finding his receivers downfield and improving his efficiency.
Joey Harrington vs. DAL - Make no mistake about it: the loss of
Chas. Rogers during the bye week will prove costly. Detroit had
bottom five talent at the skill positions to begin with. Now, they
resemble a CFL team. Shawn Bryson? Bill Schroeder? Az Hakim? You
deserve better, Joey.
Kurt Kittner vs. NO - Is Dan Reeves desperate or what? Kittner couldn't
be much worse than Doug Johnson but that's no reason to insert him
in your lineup. Guys like him make writing this column pretty easy.
Jay Fiedler vs. NE - He had a golden opportunity to redeem himself
vs. Jacksonville's dreadful secondary last week. He didn't do it
(14 of 27 for 147 yards and a pick). Since Ricky is obviously capable
of carrying the load, expect Wannstedt to remain conservative and
win with defense/ball control.
Chris Chandler @ SEA - Only an overeager Cubs fan prevents Kordell
Stewart from being the least popular guy in Chicago right now. Chandler
takes over the reins in time for a return trip to Seattle, where
he engineered U-Dub's offense seemingly 30 years ago. Even THREE
years ago, he was way past his prime. Don't go there.
Donovan McNabb @ NYG - I never thought he'd grace this list once,
let alone twice. He's clearly struggling right now and doesn't have
much to work with in the way of viable targets. Again, sit him down
until something changes in Philly.
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Priest Holmes @ OAK - Went virtually unutilized in Green Bay
until overtime, when he carried it nine consecutive plays. Of course,
the Chiefs were in catch-up mode almost all day. They won't be playing
catch-up in Oakland so he should be in for a fairly huge day against
the atrocious Raiders D (164.7 rushing yards/game).
2. Ahman Green @ STL - Don't look now but he's officially supplanted
Priest as the top scorer heading into Week 7. The fumbles are troublesome
(OK, heartbreaking) but they won't hurt your bottom line in the
fantasy world. Faces a largely untested Rams rushing D that gives
up 4.6 per carry so expect a cool hundy and at least one score.
3. Ricky Williams vs. NE - His yards per carry are way down this
year (3.4 vs. 4.8 in 2002) but he's still scoring major points.
Perhaps that's because he's leading the league in attempts (134).
Expect him to continue getting the majority of touches until Wannstedt
eventually sours on Fiedler. That might be sooner than you think.
4. Jamal Lewis @ CIN - As promised, he broke off a big one against
the Cardinals (a 52-yarder). Unfortunately, he didn't score. For
now, the fewer TDs (compared to Holmes and Green) are the only thing
keeping him out of the top three. Faces the Bungles in Week 7 so
big things might be in store.
5. Deuce McAllister @ ATL - Thanks to a 4.5 per carry average and
25 receptions, Deuce has overcome an inability to find paydirt.
Fortunately, he faces an Atlanta D this week that has given up a
league-leading nine rushing touchdowns on the season. Come to think
of it, Atlanta's D seems to have given up on the season itself.
He's a great start in the Georgia Dome.
6. Clinton Portis @ MIN - With the Snake no longer a distraction,
defenses will gear up to take Portis away. Pittsburgh certainly
did in Week 6 as he carried it only 15 times for a paltry 47 yards.
The Vikings aren't terrific vs. the run (4.5 per carry) but I'm
expecting his numbers to tail off a little, nonetheless.
7. LaDainian Tomlinson @ CLE - Even with Tomlinson (a great young
back) and Schottenheimer (an old school coach), the Bolts have managed
only 118 rushing attempts this year. That accounts for roughly 38%
of their plays from scrimmage. What gives? Try a defense that yields
boatloads of yardage and way too many points. In fact, they keep
giving and giving and
. Teams that fall behind as frequently
as San Diego does can't afford to run the ball much so Tomlinson
may continue to struggle with consistency.
8. Stephen Davis vs. TEN - Could a legitimate MVP candidate end
up in a platoon situation by year's end? Don't laugh. Deshaun Foster,
who replaced the gimpy Davis last week, is clearly the more explosive
runner. Though Davis promises he'll play in Week 7, the Panthers
won't (and shouldn't) be afraid of turning to Foster should the
big guy show any lingering effects of a forearm injury. Monitor
this situation VERY closely.
9. Shaun Alexander vs. CHI - He's listed as questionable this week
and since the 'Hawks are facing Northwestern
er, Chicago, you
might wanna sit him. Maurice Morris is a very capable backup (6.9
per carry) and could see extended duty if Seattle jumps out to an
early lead. They will.
10. Tiki Barber vs. PHI - The Giants have the fifth-most productive
offense in the league but are only scoring 19 points a game. Care
to guess why? Only Arizona has turned the ball over more. Tiki is
part of the problem (three fumbles) and he's not making up for it
by scoring touchdowns (just one so far). Simply put, he's an iffy
start against the stout Philly front seven (68.2 rushing yds./game).
11. Moe Williams vs. DEN - He reportedly will lose more carries
to Onterrio Smith in the coming weeks. That's not a good thing from
a fantasy perspective. Denver's D has also been pretty stingy against
the run (only two rushing TDs against) but recently lost linebacker
Ian Gold for the season. Expect the Vikes' mammoth O-line, as a
result, to create a scoring opportunity for both Williams and Smith.
Oh, and grab Michael Bennett on the off chance he's still available
in your league.
12. Travis Henry vs. WAS - Even with seven TDs to his credit, he
ranks outside the Top 10 in fantasy points for running backs. A
2.6 average per carry will do that to you. Not sure if the questionable
passing attack is killing Henry's productivity or if it's the other
way around. Regardless, he's got a nose for the endzone and, for
the most part, that's all that matters to us.
13. William Green vs. SD - He wasted the Raiders last week (26 carries,
145 yards, and a score) and should find just as much room to roam
against an atrocious Chargers D this week. His per-carry average
is up around 4.0 now and I expect it to stay there for the rest
14. Troy Hambrick @ DET - This guy is a situational starter all
the way. He struggles against good defenses and feasts on poor ones.
Detroit's defense falls into the latter category and if the Cowboys
jump out to an early lead (which they've done with some regularity
of late), Hambrick should garner 20 carries and another score.
15. Charlie Garner vs. KC - Speaking of garnering, it's time Charlie
and the Raidahs started garnering some points (not to mention wins).
Now that Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are starting to show their age,
he's the number one option in the offense. Though he'll never be
a pile-moving tailback, he's fleet enough to wreak havoc on the
perimeter and KC's defense, though better, is not exactly stellar
against the run (4.9 per carry).
Grab A Helmet:
Anthony Thomas @ SEA - Running backs who play for awful teams don't
usually stand a chance of being productive. Consider A-Train the
exception. Chicago was horrible last week but he still managed 96
yards on 21 carries. Now that Chandler is behind center, you can
expect Coach Jauron to ride Thomas until he drops. Seattle's run
defense is nothing special, either.
Domanick Davis vs. NYJ - I'm not trying to brag or anything but
I needed a stopgap solution at running back last week and picked
this guy up late Saturday night. 129 total yards later, I was sitting
at 6-0. He's much better than Stacey Mack (waiver wire fodder) and
could continue to post decent numbers in the coming weeks. The Jets
are anything but solid against the run (149.8 per game).
Michael Pittman @ SF - Like Davis, Pittman is Mr. Versatility. He'll
run for some yards and catch a handful of passes. The end result
is usually in the neighborhood of 75-100 total yards and, if you're
lucky, a score.
T.J. Duckett vs. NO - He's very similar (in build and in ability)
to Troy Hambrick. He's also broken off some surprisingly long runs
this year and could do so again this week. Coach Reeves will do
everything possible to protect Kurt Kittner in his first start and
the best way to protect a young QB is to run the ball. Ask Jake
Lamar Gordon vs. GB - He's listed a probable on the injury report
so I guess that means he's probably a good start this week. The
Pack managed to contain Priest Holmes last week (as much as that's
possible) but isn't super against the run. If the Rams build a lead
(possible), he'll be asked to consume the clock and could eventually
find the endzone as a result.
Grab A Gatorade:
Eddie George @ CAR - He's an over-the-hill tailback who's losing
carries and red zone opportunities to his backups. He's facing Carolina
this week. He's averaging 2.8 yards per carry this year. Shall I
Corey Dillon vs. BAL - The groin is good as new
him. You'll hafta excuse me for being skeptical. Facing Ray Lewis
and the boys, I don't like his chances of succeeding this week.
Sit him down one more time and let him prove he's back before you
start him again.
Garrison Hearst vs. TB - Ran for 62 yards and a touch vs. the Seahawks.
Tampa Bay is no Seattle, though. Use the platoon thing with Barlow
as your excuse this week and find another starter.
Ladell Betts @ BUF - Canidate appears to be on the shelf for this
one so Betts gets the call. Though the Bills aren't very stout vs.
the run (121.2 per game), I have a feeling Washington will live
and die with Ramsey and Co. this week. Call it a hunch 'cuz the
numbers don't support the prediction.
Kevin Faulk @ MIA - He's a third-down back masquerading as a feature
back. Surprisingly, he's done a helluva job so far (58 carries for
263 yards), despite the fact he hasn't found the endzone. Expect
very little this week against a Miami defense that is only yielding
70.8 yards/game and 3.2 per carry.
Must Start: The Top 15:
Randy Moss vs. DEN - Like McNair, matchups don't seem to matter
for Moss. He's an equal opportunity destroyer, lighting up the best
corners in the league as well as the worst. He's clearly benefited
from the emergence of a powerful rushing attack this year, too,
so expect more of the same in the future.
2. Torry Holt vs. GB - I'm already having visions of him torturing
the short-handed Packers secondary on Sunday. It's Friday. Here's
hoping I'm not clairvoyant.
3. Derrick Mason @ CAR - He may not have the wheels he once had
but he's still plenty dangerous. Witness his huge day vs. the Texans
last Sunday (six catches, 177 yards, and THREE touchdowns). He's
facing a much better Carolina defense in Week 7 but until some semblance
of a ground attack emerges--don't hold your breath--he'll keep racking
up the points.
4. Eric Moulds vs. WAS - Assuming he plays (not a given), he's got
a chance to go ballistic on a depleted Washington secondary that
has yielded the most passing TDs this year (12). I love Rashad Bauman
(Smoot's replacement and a fellow Duck), but he can't possibly hope
to contain the bigger, stronger, faster Moulds in Week 7.
5. Chad Johnson vs. BAL - Welcome back, old friend. We've missed
you. If Corey Dillon is still gimpy this week (he's listed as questionable),
Kitna and Co. will take to the air again. Surprisingly, that hasn't
been such a bad thing for Cincy. Mr. Johnson is the reason why.
6. Joe Horn @ ATL - If the Saints are ever going to get healthy,
it's going to happen this week against the laughable Falcons defense.
Horn's running mate, Donte Stallworth, has disappeared so Horn carries
the burden for now. Expect at least one scoring hookup with a steadily
(if slowly) improving Aaron Brooks.
7. David Boston @ CLE - I'm glad he doesn't play for any of my teams
but he's doubtless a force to be reckoned with when his head is
screwed on straight. Though that isn't often, he's coming off a
HUGE game two weeks ago against Jacksonville (14 catches, 181 yards,
and two scores). The Chargers will need points aplenty to keep up
with Couch and the Browns so expect more of the same this week.
8. Terrell Owens vs. TB - Garcia had no trouble finding him last
week. Unfortunately, T.O. had trouble finding the handle (three
big drops). Is that any way to act after clamoring for more attention?
You'd better believe the Bucs will be paying him PLENTY of attention
in Week 7.
9. Laveranues Coles @ BUF - The Bills have defended the pass pretty
well this year (175 yds./game) and Patrick Ramsey is spending more
time on his back than his feet lately. If the O-line can't shore
up protection and give him more time to throw, it won't matter how
lethal Coles is in the open field.
10. Donald Driver @ STL - Nobody distributes the ball more democratically
than Favre (nine players caught passes last week), That probably
hurts Driver's value in the long run. Nevertheless, he's still option
#1 in the passing game and if the anticipated shootout vs. the Rams
materializes, he'll put up big numbers.
11. Amani Toomer vs. PHI - His 19.1 yards per catch is tops in the
league for guys with 20 or more catches. Unfortunately, his quarterback
has thrown more interceptions than anyone not named Doug Johnson.
That better change if the G-men hope to challenge the Cowboys for
NFC East supremacy.
12. Andre Johnson vs. NYJ - Took a back seat to Corey Bradford in
Week 6 but is still the most dangerous Texans receiver. Playing
for a team that gives up way too many points (30.2 per game), he'll
be relied upon heavily for the rest of the year.
13. Jeremy Shockey vs. PHI - Philly was better against the Cowboys
last week but is still giving up too much yardage through the air.
Shockey has caught as many balls as Moss so far (29) and there aren't
too many tight ends who can make that claim.
14. Tony Gonzalez @ OAK - Now we're talking! Gonzalez is coming
off a huge day in Wisconsin (four catches, 121 yards, and a score)
and is reaping the benefits (finally) of the undivided attention
paid to Priest. That should continue to be the case in Oakland this
15. Isaac Bruce vs. GB - IF the Pack manages to contain Holt (and
even if they don't), Bruce should take advantage of mismatches in
the secondary. He's caught 27 balls for 397 yards so it's not like
he's an afterthought in the offense. Get him in your lineup.
Grab A Helmet:
Keenan McCardell @ SF - Provided Brad Johnson stops throwing the
ball to Todd Yoder and Will Heller in the red zone (who?), he's
a good bet to score against a Niners defense that has given up 11
passing TDs on the year.
Joey Galloway @ DET - He's not catching a ton of balls (less than
four per contest) but he's making the most of those catches (20.2
per grab). Detroit's secondary is third-rate so if Carter can avoid
an erratic performance, Galloway should shine.
Koren Robinson vs. CHI - My refusal to put him in the Top 15 is
causing consternation from coast to coast. OK, not really. Still,
I'm receiving plenty of hate mail regarding the 'Hawks young wideout.
You must understand that I LOVE Koren Robinson and would certainly
start him if he played on one of my teams. I only leave him out
because he competes for balls and because (as mentioned previously)
Holmgren seems dedicated to the run. Are we square?
Rod Smith @ MIN - The injury to Plummer hurts Smith's value. Beuerlein
simply isn't as good and can't escape the pocket like the Snake
can. That said, Minnesota's secondary is somewhat feast or famine.
They've intercepted 13 passes so far but will give up a fair amount
of big plays. Expect Smith to take advantage at least once.
Alge Crumpler vs. NO - Take away Peerless Price's huge day against
Minnesota and Crumpler has been the most valuable Falcons receiver
(21 catches, 316 yards, and two scores). Of course, since he's not
(technically speaking) a receiver, he's even more valuable to your
fantasy squad. Expect a decent game against the crummy Saints if
Kittner manages to find him.
Ernie Conwell @ ATL - Has anyone else noticed he's caught 21 balls
for 231 yards and two touchdowns? Those are pretty darn good numbers
when you consider how awful the Saints have been this year. Against
a pitiful Falcons defense that must focus on Joe Horn, he's liable
to continue the hot streak this weekend.
Grab Some Wood:
Any Philly receiver @ NYG - A reader suggested I was a little harsh
on the Philly receiving corps in light of Donovan's issues. That
may be the case (he's definitely struggling with accuracy) but what
are these guys going to do with it once they catch it? Thrash, Pinkston,
and Mitchell are not fantasy starters. Period.
Chris Chambers vs. NE - Save for a huge Week 1, Chambers has been
virtually a non-factor. The next-best Dolphins receiver (Derrius
Thompson) has only seven catches through five games. Think opponents
might be game-planning to take away Chambers? So do I.
Peerless Price vs. NO - I sat him two weeks ago and he exploded.
I started him last week and he IMploded (one catch for eight measly
yards). Until Vick returns (IF Vick returns), he's riding my bench.
That's not an indictment of his ability (Top 10 under the right
circumstances). It's an indictment of the charlatans throwing him
Bill Schroeder vs. DAL - There aren't many guys who are better athletes
at the position (you think I'm kidding), but he's never managed
to translate his physical gifts into consistent production (12 catches,
134 yards, and 1 TD so far). By default, he becomes Harrington's
favorite target this week. That's not good enough.
Bubba Franks @ STL - Trust me when I say he's overrated and has
been for quite some time. If it weren't for his uncanny ability
to find the endzone, he'd hardly be worth starting. Not to mention,
Favre seems to like throwing the ball to a more reliable Wesley
like I knew he might.
Good luck, folks!