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Bye Weeks: Bills, Broncos, Colts, 49ers, Lions, Steelers.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs (CIN, 5.0 price tag): So his TD streak -- three straight games from Weeks 2-4! -- was snapped this past Sunday. So what? He still managed four catches and stretched 'em for 70 yards, against a pretty stout Jaguars secondary at that. By comparison, the Bengals get ripped by guys named Engram (Week 4) and Jurevicius (Week 2), and neither of those has close to the breakaway speed of Bowe.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins (@CLE, 6.7): OK, so this one's obvious, with Brown coming off three consecutive 100-yard efforts while totaling 5 TDs. Still, I don't think people understand how strong this matchup is for him. The Browns have been gashed for 157.4 rushing yards per game and eight runs of 20-plus yards so far. Plus, with Cleo Lemon under center, Brown again will be the centerpiece of the Miami offense.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals (CAR, 5.9): A few things at play here. For one, Anquan Boldin's hip still bothers him. For another, look at Fitzgerald's track record in Kurt Warner's 15 starts in Arizona; he averages 6.3 catches and 83.0 yards per game and has 7 TDs. Finally, the Panthers' pass D has been dreadful, ranking 24th (233.6 ypg). The Cards might be more run-oriented this year, but Warner's presence will boost the passing game.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks (NO, 6.5): No Deion Branch might seem disastrous to the Seattle passing game, but don't outright dismiss Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson as capable pass-catchers. Engram is the possession receiver, Burleson the deep threat, a respectable combination, and Seattle' West Coast system should keep this offense rolling. By the way, those Saints rank dead last in passer rating allowed (114.7).
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants (@ATL, 5.1): He looked remarkably strong in his first game back from a sprained right knee, looking like the bowling-ball runner he was throughout the 2006 season. In addition, with Derrick Ward there as the change-of-pace back, one could say the Giants' backfield is suddenly rather underrated. The Giants' offense is on a roll, it's a prime-time game, and note, Jacobs had 4 TDs in five such games in 2006.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars (HOU, 5.3): He ran with more authority in Week 5, carrying the ball nine times for 82 yards and a score, perhaps helped by the week's rest. Now Jones-Drew gets the Texans, who, despite their No. 9 ranking against the run (91.4 ypg), surrendered 186 yards and 3 TDs to Joseph Addai (Week 3) and Ronnie Brown (Week 5). Jones-Drew also scored in each of two games against Houston in 2006.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles (@NYJ, 6.5): I'm banking on the bye week having allowed Westbrook's abdomen enough time to heal, and if it has, he couldn't ask for a better matchup for his first game back. The Jets have allowed 127.6 yards per game and 6 TDs on the ground this season, and they struggle with multi-talented backs like Westbrook. He has 100-plus scrimmage yards in 14 of his past 15 games, postseason included.
Bobby Engram, WR, Seahawks (NO, 4.0 price tag): I'm tempted to pick the big-play receiver, Nate Burleson, in Branch's absence, but I'm going the "safe" route, noting the Seahawks' lack of receiving depth right now. Engram had 9 receptions for 115 yards and 2 TDs in Weeks 3-4 against the Bengals and 49ers, comparably poor pass defenses to New Orleans', and his role is only set to expand the next two weeks with Branch shelved.
Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (CAR, 5.8): Again, Warner's installation as the Cardinals' new QB should breathe some life into what had been an inconsistent passing game in the brief Matt Leinart era. In his 15 career starts for the Cards, Warner has seven 300-yard efforts, and in the past three weeks, he outplayed Leinart easily. No, he won't pass 45-plus times as he did in the past, but 35 throws against Panthers should mean a big day.
LenDale White, RB, Titans (@TB, 4.8): His Week 5 fumble aside, White has been one of the few parts of the Titans' offense going right thus far. In the past three weeks he has 146 yards and 2 TDs rushing, effectively snatching the goal-line job from Week 1 sensation Chris Brown. Tampa Bay's defense has been soft against the run, ranking 22nd (124.0 ypg), and White's role could begin expanding soon, if not right here.
Cedric Benson, RB, Bears (MIN, 5.3 price tag): No one -- I repeat, no one -- runs successfully against the Vikings. They lead the league in the key rushing defense categories: yards per game (62.0), yards per carry (2.5), rushing TDs (0), etc. Last year, Bears RBs combined for only 134 yards and 1 TD in two games against the Vikings. Sure, Benson got the TD, but he's a lesser back as a starter and the Vikings' D is stiffer now.
Drew Brees. QB, Saints (@SEA, 6.2): Until he shows me something, I'm simply not trusting him again. Through four games he's averaging 232.3 passing yards with 1 TD and 9 interceptions, painting him as an absolute bust as shocking as Daunte Culpepper was in 2005. Don't blame Brees for all the Saints' problems, but he's a big part. Plus, the Seahawks do overachieve defending the pass, ranked ninth in passer rating allowed (75.1).
Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers (TEN, 5.1): The Titans are another defense that has overachieved thus far, and much of the credit should be given to Jeff Fisher, who always seems to get the most out of his players. LB Keith Bulluck, DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch have played exceptional football, and Galloway has a history of tossing up stinkers facing tricky matchups. I'd say this one qualifies.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers (OAK, 5.2): His 2006 stat line tells you all you need to know; he managed a mere three receptions for 32 yards and 0 TDs in two games against the Raiders. The Raiders' pass D remains as strong as ever at cornerback, where they have the underrated Nnamdi Asomugha and Stanford Routt. Don't look at Jackson's Week 5 as a bounce-back; remember that Broncos CB Champ Bailey got hurt early.
Thomas Jones, RB, Jets (PHI, 4.8): Sure, he's complaining about his declining workload, and sometimes that leads a coach to appease his high-paid star. Still, I think there's a difference between a receiver asking for more throws -- read: Chad Johnson, 2006 -- and a running back asking for more carries despite averaging 2.8 yards per attempt facing back-to-back cakewalk matchups. This one's terrible, so I see Jones being unhappy again.
Matt Schaub. QB, Texans (@JAC, 6.2): Let's heave all the credit we can to Schaub for doing what he has, leading his Texans to three wins despite missing key offensive players Ahman Green and Andre Johnson for multiple games. In addition, it was Schaub's two-minute drill in Week 5 that made all the difference. Still, the challenge is oh-so-much-tougher this Sunday, against a Jags D that excels in its home games.
Vince Young, QB, Titans (@TB, 6.3): When did Vince Young go from scrambling quarterback to pocket passer? Did I miss something? He has been held to under 30 yards rushing three times in four games, compared to three times in his final 12 contests of 2006. Oh, those numbers will pick up, sure, but this seems these are the "growing pains" stage of his career. Drawing the Bucs' resurgent defense this week won't help matters.
Players priced at 6.0 or higher (6.4 or higher for quarterbacks) this week.
Marion Barber III, RB, Cowboys (NE, 6.0 price tag): There probably isn't a fantasy team around that can afford to bench Barber, he of the 21 TDs in his last 20 regular-season contests. In the Gridiron Challenge game, though, a 6.0 salary is simply too much to pay. The Patriots defense ranks fifth (74.2 ypg), and Barber is coming off back-to-back 0-TD games against the Rams and Bills. Think No. 2/flex play, for you fantasy leaguers.
Brett Favre, QB, Packers (WAS, 6.9): Considering how good Favre has looked so far this year, it's easy to forget that he's only five games removed from a string in his career where he had 38 TDs and 48 interceptions in a 33-game stretch. He's a virtual lock to wing the ball 45 times this week, but you can be sure the Redskins know that. That their pass D ranks eighth (182.0 ypg) could mean "bad Favre" pops up here ... just this once.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (OAK, 6.6): Sure, the Chargers' offense looked "fixed" in Week 5, steamrolling the Broncos. Still, their offense flows through LaDainian Tomlinson, and in weeks with trickier matchups, you can count on a strong day for LT, but only so-so statistics for Rivers and his receivers, Antonio Gates excluded. Last year against the Raiders, Rivers managed 241 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 interception in two games.
Their matchups might not look good, but you shouldn't be worried.
Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys (NE, 5.4 price tag): On paper, facing the Patriots is a matchup that looks dreadful, especially for opponents' passing games, since the Pats rank sixth (177.2 ypg) against the pass. Look a little closer, though, and you'll see the Patriots actually have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends, with Antonio Gates and Kellen Winslow mostly responsible for that. Witten's every bit as talented as those two.
Week 5 Recap: It's official, Drew Brees, you are an out-and-out bust. Now watch, you'll go nuts against the Seahawks this week, right after I drop you. If you can't beat the Titans (Week 3) or Panthers (Week 5), you're simply not trustworthy. By the way, what did I say last week about Marion Barber? I'll quote: "I'd be shocked if he goes scoreless in back-to-back games against the Rams and Bills." Well, color me shocked. In fact, that whole Monday night game shocked me, from start to finish. Plus, it didn't help my cause that Santonio Holmes sat out with a pulled hamstring he suffered in pre-game warm-ups. Granted, I could have slotted him out, and I'm sure those of you who had him probably did, but remember, the object here is to give you a sense of how these picks fare points-wise from week to week. I'll suffer the zero and chalk it up to bad luck; it happens. Score: 83 points in Week 5, 510 points for the season (68.3 percent).
QB1: Donovan McNabb, Eagles (@NYJ), 6.1 price tag
QB2: Kurt Warner, Cardinals (CAR), 5.8
RB1: Ronnie Brown, Dolphins (@CLE), 6.7
RB2: Brian Westbrook, Eagles (@NYJ), 6.5
WR1: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (CAR), 5.9
WR2: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (CIN), 5.0
TE: Jason Witten, Cowboys (NE), 5.4
K: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (@ATL), 3.9
D/ST: Philadelphia Eagles (@NYJ), 5.0