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Friday, September 21, 2007
Alone on an Island: TMR loves Branch

By ESPN Staff

Wondering what these guys were thinking when they broke from the pack in the
Week 3 rankings? We like to call that being "alone on an island." Here is what our castaways had to say.

Matthew Berry on Deion Branch
Ranked: 11 Composite Rank: 19

Here are some numbers for you: 5, 7, 51, 122. What do they mean? Last week, Branch's Week 3 opponent, the Bengals, gave up five touchdown passes. Branch had seven receptions. The Bengals gave up 51 points. Branch had 122 receiving yards. What's not to love here? The Seahawks will be at home, and the Bengals will need to worry about stopping Shaun Alexander after Jamal Lewis ran all over them last week. It's not that others aren't high on him. It's that I have him ranked higher than guys like Donald Driver, Hines Ward and Marques Colston. To me, it's about matchups. No other position in the NFL is as matchup-dependent as wide receiver, and it's tough to beat the matchup Branch has this week.

Eric Karabell on Braylon Edwards
Ranked: 15 Composite Rank: 26.5

While everyone, including me, has been saying all week that Derek Anderson can't duplicate his amazing Week 2, it doesn't mean I think he'll stink. He isn't Joey Harrington, either. He still can get the ball to Edwards and Kellen Winslow, and he'll have to, because I think Jamal Lewis will have problems. Edwards is very talented. He reminds me of Plaxico Burress in terms of size and speed. I think Edwards is a legit 1,000-yard guy breaking out, and the Oakland defense doesn't scare me. I stuck with Jon Kitna and his merry band of wide receivers against Oakland in Week 1, and I like the Browns in Week 3.

Scott Engel on Deuce McAllister
Ranked: 13 Composite Rank: 23

The Saints are in desperation mode heading into Monday night at 0-2. Their success hinges on re-establishing the ground game behind McAllister. Without a solid ground game, the Saints fall behind, and they are not built like a comeback team right now. Marques Colston gets defenders all around him, and no else steps up, and Drew Brees has nowhere to go with the ball. By re-establishing McAllister, there will be less pressure on Brees and more opportunities for a balanced offense and play-action passing. And, a bad defense will spend less time on the field. The Saints simply need to ride McAllister to regain respect and avoid an 0-3 start. Look for McAllister to go for more than 100 yards and score at least once as the Saints regroup behind their best runner.

Ranked: 5 Composite Rank: 18.5

We must admit we're a bit surprised by the lack of love for Coles this week. Coles has had lots of success against the Dolphins in the past, scoring five times in his past five games against Miami. Plus, the Dolphins defense is nowhere near the level of the Ravens squad Coles faced last week, when he caught six balls for 57 yards. Oh, and need we remind you that was with Kellen Clemens throwing the ball? Chad Pennington will be in the pocket this week, and Coles and Pennington always have had a great rapport. Now, a fun fact for you: According to several baby name Web sites, Laveranues doesn't mean "of the green" (although he does wear it proudly) but rather derives from the Roman deity for petty criminals. So go ahead and start him, and steal a victory this week, dear readers.

Christopher Harris on Fred Taylor
Ranked: 18 Composite Rank: 29.3

Considering that we are asked to rank on Tuesday night, I had to make a decision: take word about Maurice Jones-Drew needing X-rays after Sunday's game seriously, or pretend I didn't hear anything. I took it seriously. Therefore, I felt I had to rank Taylor ahead of the home-run-hitting Jones-Drew. Denver's rush defense isn't good, and its pass defense is quite good, which means someone should get some ground yards. Taylor and Jones-Drew have pretty well split carries through two games even when they both have been healthy, and my guess Tuesday was that MJD might not be healthy. It looks like he's OK, but I think once all is said and done, both guys might wind up giving you some fantasy points from Mile High.

Nate Ravitz on DeShaun Foster
Ranked: 18 Composite Rank: 26.7

Well, this certainly is uncharted territory: In the five years that Foster has been in the NFL, I'm not sure I've ever said something positive about him. This is going to be awkward, but here goes. The best thing Foster has going for him is -- are you ready for this? -- the Atlanta offense. The Falcons rank 27th in the NFL in total offense, and I just don't see them doing much in this game. As a corollary, the Panthers should have the ball a lot, and they shouldn't have much trouble sustaining drives against Atlanta's defense. Foster has had great success at the Georgia Dome in the past two years, topping the 100-yard mark in both games and totaling 267 yards and a 5.8 yards-per-carry average. While DeAngelo Williams is getting plenty of work, Foster still is the clear No. 1 back for the Panthers, and I'm expecting him to tally at least 100 yards of total offense, with a good chance of hitting paydirt.