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Week 6

Here is a mix of interesting questions I received from fantasy players this past week, and the response provided. If you have a question for the HTH Mailbag, just drop me an email.

Note that not all questions will be answered because it just isn't possible to respond to them all. Also there are no certainties in fantasy football. The responses represent one opinion to consider in your final decision managing your fantasy team. Overall, I just Hope This Helps...

Hi Mike,

I have until midnight Friday to make my waiver pick, and I've narrowed it down to Reuben Droughns, Mewelde Moore or Onterrio Smith. This week Moore looks like the best bet (Michael Bennett and Smith out, Moe Williams could play some). I can't figure out what Shanahan will do with 4 RBs (Droughns, Quentin Griffin, Tatum Bell, Garrison Hearst). Call me crazy but I'm wondering if Smith doesn't have the most value over the remaining 12 games. I have a feeling Smith gets picked up if I don't grab him. At 0-5, (17 game season; no playoffs) do I play for this week and grab Moore or do you think I have enough depth to grab Smith? If I grab Smith this would be my starting line-up:

(1) QB D Carr
(2) RB D McAllister, F Taylor
(2) WR R Williams, P Burress
(1) Flex W Dunn
(1) TE D Graham
(1) PK K Brown
(1) Def Eagles


Follow up: An owner has offered me Michael Pittman for Bell and my #1 pick. Should I deal ? Is M Pittman better than Droughns, Moore, Smith or Bell?

Don, at 0-5 I would grab the guys with the most value right now, and if your starting lineup is set then try to work a trade to better your team. People will be after Droughns and Moore after their strong performances last week. I would lean towards Droughns because we are more certain that Moore has a short shelf life. If Droughns can keep playing well like last week then he may never relinquish the starting job. Shanahan is difficult to figure out except for the fact he will tend to stick with someone as long as they perform. I say you take a chance on Droughns. My second choice would be Moore and O Smith 3rd.

As for your other follow up question, I would not do that deal. I don't think much of Michael Pittman. Quite obviously this other guy wants to bank on the Denver RB situation between Droughns and Bell, which is not a bad strategy. Usually, eventually, a prime starter will emerge in Denver. I'd rather keep those two players and wait it out for that to happen this year then go with a more "sure thing", but worse quality player/situation like Pittman.

Good luck!

Mike, my choice of WR this week are Terrell Owens, Eric Moulds, Donte' Stallworth, and Marcus Robinson. Obviously I am going to start Owens. I am having difficulty determining who else to start. I know Moulds is the next best receiver, but despite putting up consistent numbers for me I can never seem to get excited about him (plus the Miami defense isn't bad). On the other hand, I feel that the Saints & Vikings bad defenses could create a high scoring, and, consequently, a big day for both Stallworth and Robinson.

Thanks, Tim

Another lineup question...

Hi Mike. What 3 WRs would you start this week - Joe Horn, David Givens, Keary Colbert, Jerry Porter, Johnnie Morton and Marcus Robinson?

Do you think Artose Pinner will start again this week? I'm tempted to sit Kevan Barlow since he hasn't done much of late and Pinner played well last week for me, what do you think? My only other RB is Rudi Johnson who I know I'll start.

Last thing, would you start Aaron Brooks over Vinny Testaverde this week?

Hope your doing well in your leagues, I'm sitting at 3-2 which is amazing to me with all the injury's I've had so far.

Thanks, Mike

I've been getting more and more lineup questions lately. Something I had been thinking about for a little while is how to improve my own ability to pick starters each week. What I would like to develop is some sort of checklist approach to weigh the pros and cons of each start/bench option, add some gut instinct, and then make the decision based on that. I'm not quite at that point yet, but I started to pull together some data to hopefully get us there eventually.

These are the top 20 QB fantasy weekly performances this season, based on FF Today default scoring (standard performance, no points for receptions). Also note the player had to be the designated starter for the game.

Top 20 QB Performances
 Name  Wk  Opp  H/A  PaYd  PaTD  RuYd  RuTD  FF Pts
Daunte Culpepper 5 HOU A 396 5 30 0 42.8
Peyton Manning 3 GB H 393 5 -2 0 39.5
Daunte Culpepper 1 DAL H 242 5 25 0 34.6
Tim Rattay 5 ARI H 417 2 14 0 34.3
Brett Favre 3 IND A 360 4 0 0 33.9
Donovan McNabb 1 NYG H 330 4 12 0 33.7
Daunte Culpepper 3 CHI H 360 2 13 1 33.3
David Carr 5 MIN H 372 3 21 0 32.7
Marc Bulger 5 SEA A 325 3 9 1 32.2
Marc Bulger 3 NO H 358 1 19 1 31.8
Donovan McNabb 3 DET A 356 2 -2 1 31.6
Donovan McNabb 2 MIN H 245 2 24 1 28.7
Tom Brady 1 IND H 335 3 -1 0 27.7
Byron Leftwich 5 SD A 357 1 10 1 26.9
Aaron Brooks 2 SF H 279 3 4 0 26.4
Mark Brunell 3 DAL H 325 2 0 0 26.3
Brad Johnson 3 OAK A 309 2 13 0 25.8
David Carr 2 DET A 313 2 30 0 25.7
Billy Volek 4 SD A 278 2 17 0 24.5
Daunte Culpepper 2 PHI A 343 1 41 0 24.3

I started to do some detailed notes on each game to judge why, in retrospect, these QB excelled on these particular weeks, against these teams. The first thing that jumped out of course is how dominating Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb have been. They have 7 of their 9 combined starts this year landed in the top 20.

I was a little surprised Peyton Manning only landed once in the top 20. He did have 3 more in the 21-40 range, giving 4 of 5 starts in the top 40. Impressive and reliable.

So beyond these 3 players who are on your auto-start list, what can we find here? The biggest thing is the players dominating this list are those whose team fell behind early and were playing catch up through the 4th quarter. The team abandons the run and goes to the pass. The opposing defense is probably playing a bit softer, and all of a sudden a dud fantasy player through 3 quarters has a stud-like performance after 60:00 minutes.

About half of these top 20 performances, after excluding Culpepper, McNabb and Manning, fall into the "come from behind category". So who are good candidates this week to fall behind early? Tim Rattay could make this list every week, likely. The 49ers play the Jets as 10 point underdogs. Jake Delhomme at the Eagles. David Carr at the Titans if the Titans can start off this week like they did last week. Aaron Brooks vs. the Vikings on Sunday night could be a shootout.

There is some risk with this approach, in that if a team is doing so poorly early on they may never get themselves going and/or, the coach might just switch the QB. Say I thought the Rams will jump out to an early lead on the Bucs this week. Does that mean Brian Griese is a good start? Probably not as there is a chance the Bucs switch to Brad Johnson if the game is still in reach. There is no loyalty to Griese who is only in there due to injury to Chris Simms. Jeff Garcia is one player who comes to mind who has struggled so much early in some games, that even opening things up a little more in the late going has left him below average.

I haven't gone in to a tremendous amount of depth at this point, because I want to move on to WR, but it seems this is one thing to look at when judging our starter decisions for QB. We really need to handicap the games and consider all aspects on how things could and should shake out early, and then what the opposing team's reaction would be in that circumstance.

Now, let's look at WR. Here are the top 40 WR fantasy weekly performances this season.

Top 40 WR Performances
 Name  Wk  Opp  H/A  Target  Rec  Rec Yd  Rec TD  FF Pts  Included in
 Top 20 QB
Javon Walker 3 IND A 13 11 200 3 48.8 y
Andre Johnson 5 MIN H 17 12 170 2 41 y
Rod Gardner 3 DAL H 15 10 167 2 38.7 y
Marcus Robinson 5 HOU A 15 9 150 2 36 y
Reggie Wayne 3 GB H 14 11 184 1 35.4 y
Roy Williams 3 PHI H 16 9 135 2 34.5  
Terrell Owens 1 NYG H 11 8 68 3 32.8 y
Randy Moss 3 CHI H 10 7 119 2 30.9 y
Javon Walker 5 TEN H 15 8 159 1 29.9  
Eric Moulds 4 NE H 15 10 126 1 28.6  
Derrick Mason 4 SD A 14 12 94 1 27.4 y
Torry Holt 2 ATL A 9 9 121 1 27.1  
Hines Ward 2 BAL A 9 6 151 1 27.1  
Donte' Stallworth 2 SF H 12 9 113 1 26.3 y
Isaac Bruce 1 ARI H 13 9 112 1 26.2  
Randy Moss 5 HOU A 9 5 90 2 26 y
Plaxico Burress 5 CLE H 8 6 136 1 25.6  
Terrell Owens 4 CHI A 9 8 110 1 25  
Donald Driver 5 TEN H 12 10 150 0 25  
Reggie Wayne 2 TEN A 10 7 119 1 24.9  
Hines Ward 3 MIA A 9 9 96 1 24.6  
Andre Johnson 4 OAK H 10 6 115 1 23.5  
Joe Horn 2 SF H 9 8 94 1 23.4 y
Roy Williams 2 HOU H 7 4 73 2 23.3  
Terrell Owens 3 DET A 9 6 107 1 22.7  
Bill Schroeder 3 OAK A 6 4 126 1 22.6 y
Cedric Wilson 1 ATL H 10 7 94 1 22.4  
Joe Horn 3 STL A 11 7 91 1 22.1  
Reche Caldwell 4 TEN H 4 3 110 1 22  
Deion Branch 1 IND H 9 7 86 1 21.6 y
Eric Moulds 1 JAC H 8 8 75 1 21.5  
Keary Colbert 5 DEN A 6 4 115 1 21.5  
Isaac Bruce 3 NO H 12 8 134 0 21.4 y
Andre' Davis 5 PIT A 9 5 101 1 21.1  
Chad Johnson 1 NYJ A 8 5 99 1 20.9  
Randy Moss 2 PHI A 10 8 69 1 20.9 y
Randy Moss 1 DAL H 6 4 27 2 20.6 y
Larry Fitzgerald 5 SF A 6 5 94 1 20.4  
Keyshawn Johnson 1 MIN A 15 9 111 0 20.1  
Darrell Jackson 5 STL H 7 5 91 1 20.1  

Sixteen of the 40 WR performances, including the top 5, and 7 of the top 8, are performances by WR from games by QB in the top 20. That makes sense. One feeds off the other.

Not only that, but the Target column shows that a high number of targets parlays into a results for WR. Every performance in the top 40 had 6 or more targets except Reche Caldwell in week 4, with 4, when he made the amazing one-handed grab over Samari Rolle's head and turned it into a 58 yard TD. Most players had 8 or more targets. This is another obvious point, but I do think Target data is one important piece of the decision process that a lot of fantasy players still overlook. Start the guys getting the most opportunity, and the points will come.

Back to our shootout candidates were the 49ers, Panthers, Texans (although I'm iffy on this one) and Saints. The problem with the 49ers in terms of the wideouts is they have 3 who are all decent but none standout, unless Brandon Lloyd uses last week as a stepping stone towards his preseason hype. Eric Johnson has been the best and most reliable receiver to date on that team.

For the Panthers there are two solid and pretty much equal options in Muhsin Muhammad and Keary Colbert. Muhammad likely more reliable while Colbert is more of a home run threat. With no points for receptions, I'd lean toward the home run threat. With points for receptions it is more of a toss up. Colbert had a nice game last week while Muhammad was quiet. Between that, and the pressure (blitzing) that the Eagles are expected to throw at the Panthers, Muhammad may be positioned for a better week as the recipient of shorter possession-type passes. I think Colbert is still a good play however.

For the Texans I'm sure everyone is already starting Andre Johnson week in and week out, so there isn't a lot to say there. Joe Horn is also an every week starter and Donte' Stallworth looks more promising this week against the Vikings.

So the most interesting thing here for me is I haven't taken any steps to look at strength of schedule to come up with these matchup picks this week. Usually that is the first thing I go to, to check who the weakest rush and pass defenses are. In the case of passing though, this approach may give us better results. I believe our own Gut Check and Hindsight guy, Matt Waldman, has already discussed this, and likely more eloquently then I have. Hey, at least I can throw out some interesting numbers to pile on the discussion, and answer some specific questions. Let's get back to Tim and Mike's questions above.

Targets By Week
 Player  1  2  3  4  5
Eric Moulds 8 5 Bye 15 10
Donte’ Stallworth 6 12 8 8 4
Marcus Robinson 5 2 2 Bye 15
David Givens 4 10 Bye 7 10
Keary Colbert DNP 6 Bye 7 6
Jerry Porter 10 4 10 6 7
Johnnie Morton 6 9 4 5 Bye
Marcus Robinson 5 2 2 Bye 15

For Tim's first set of 3 receivers, I would go with Stallworth first. A good number of targets in what is expected to be a shootout game. Robinson's targets are a bit skewed because he was injured early. I can't think 15 is going to be his norm, but it is a nice matchup and he is healthy so we'll put him down as the second choice. Moulds is tempting with his high targets the last two weeks (and one would figure if the Bills are going to score a TD, there is about 65% chance it will be him). However, the strength of the Dolphins D drops Moulds down to the third spot. Overall there are 3 good options here.

Mike is starting 2 more WR from the second set to go with Joe Horn. (As a side note, this is the only Saints game in primetime this year. Would it surprise you if they finally played up to, and perhaps above, expectations? I'm not about to predict another Joe Horn cell phone game, but at the same time it is worth noting Horn loves the spotlight.) With Deion Branch doubtful then David Givens is a solid starter selection.

The final choice for me comes down to Colbert versus Robinson, because Porter has done very little even with decent target numbers and Morton is a less than average receiver at this point in his career that can't be counted on. I'm going to go with Robinson here, playing against a weaker defense. Being a rookie, Colbert is more likely to disappoint then a healthy Robinson against the Saints.

Quickly with Mike's other questions, I would definitely be tempted by Artose Pinner against the Packers myself, but I'd want some assurance Kevin Jones is not going to play very much. I don't think he will, but check his status as close to gametime as possible. Barlow has been so disappointing to date, I don't see anything wrong going with Pinner off a good start and against the sad sack run defense of the Packers.

For the QB starter, based on the above expectation that the Saints to be in a bit of a shootout with the Vikings, then absolutely start Aaron Brooks over Vinny Testaverde this week.

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