Tiering your players on a weekly basis not only is a good way to determine whom to draft in fantasy football, but also is great way to break ties for tough lineup decisions each week. Delving into the tiers this week, a few players regain their rightful place among the fantasy elite, we examine the ever-present running back by committee conundrum, and I confront his inexplicable obsession with Zach Miller (TE, OAK).
Carson Palmer vs. ClevelandJay Cutler @ Kansas CityTony Romo vs. WashingtonDrew Brees vs. San FranciscoDonovan McNabb @ ChicagoPhillip Rivers @ OaklandJake Delhomme vs. AtlantaJ.T. O'Sullivan @ New OrleansTrent Edwards @ St. LouisAaron Rodgers @ Tampa BayKurt Warner @ New York JetsBrett Favre vs. Arizona
Ben Roethlisberger vs. BaltimoreBrian Griese vs. Green BayDerek Anderson/Brady Quinn @ CincinnatiJason Campbell @ DallasTrent Green vs. BuffaloMatt Schaub @ JacksonvilleKerry Collins vs. MinnesotaDamon Huard vs. Denver (if he plays)
David Garrard vs. HoustonJaMarcus Russell vs. San DiegoKyle Orton vs. PhiladelphiaGus Frerotte @ TennesseeJoe Flacco @ PittsburghMatt Ryan @ CarolinaTyler Thigpen vs. Denver (if he plays)
In case you were wondering, it's not a typo, I'm not a Bengals fan and I didn't lose a bet. I've had Week 4 targeted as Palmer's breakout since the start of the season, and after watching him throw for 286 yards in the Meadowlands last weekend, I feel supremely confident that he ends the week as the top-ranked QB. I could bring up the 401 yards and six touchdowns that he put up against the Browns last September, or the fact that he's never lost to Cleveland at home, but I don't need to. This call isn't about the stats or the history. It's all about the feeling that comes from knowing that when you have a premier quarterback, two game-breaking receivers and a reliable running game, good things are bound to happen. It was evident last weekend that T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Palmer were finally speaking the same language They hooked up 12 times for 146 yards and a touchdown, and I've got an inkling that "Ochenta y Cinco" is poised to unleash his most elaborate celebratory dance of all time (Personally, I'd like to see him cross the goal line, cram a football down his pants and then proceed to "give birth" to the pigskin through a strategically cut hole, but I'm weird like that). Basically what it all boils down to is that a 28 year-old quarterback who's averaged 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns over the past three seasons doesn't suddenly "lose it." Unless of course there are extenuating circumstances like a catastrophic injury, major coaching or personnel changes, or a meth addiction. Clearly, none of those elements are in play here, so you can put it on the board, "Starvin' Carson" feasts on the Browns like he's Rosie O'Donnell at a Pizza Hut buffet. It's going to get ugly ... in a good way.
Edwards has increased his yardage total and thrown a touchdown in each game this year. Next up is a Rams defense that's surrendering over 275 passing yards and 38 points a game. Make sure he's in your lineup ... Let's see, the Ravens defense has given up 180 passing yards in two games, they're allowing an outlandish 3.6 yards per attempt and they've gotten to the quarterback seven times. Roethlisberger has shoulder and hand injuries, is coming off a game in which his offensive line allowed nine sacks, and he's yet to throw for 200 yards. Thanks, but no thanks ... Don't get caught chasing Griese's 407-yard outing (on a Drew Bledsoe-esque 67 attempts). Griese is a decent option, but if he couldn't throw for more than 160 yards against a bad Falcons defense two weeks ago, what makes you think he'll be any better against the Packers?
Frank Gore @ New OrleansMarshawn Lynch @ St. LouisLaDainian Tomlinson @ OaklandMarion Barber vs. WashingtonAdrian Peterson @ TennesseeReggie Bush vs. San FranciscoChris Perry vs. ClevelandMichael Turner @ CarolinaMaurice Jones-Drew vs. HoustonFred Taylor vs. HoustonSteven Jackson vs. BuffaloJamal Lewis @ CincinnatiLarry Johnson vs. DenverThomas Jones vs. ArizonaEdgerrin James @ New York JetsDeAngelo Williams vs. AtlantaJonathan Stewart vs. AtlantaSteve Slaton @ Jacksonville
Matt Forte vs. PhiladelphiaBrian Westbrook @ ChicagoCorrell Buckhalter @ ChicagoRashard Mendenhall vs. BaltimoreFelix Jones vs. WashingtonLenDale White vs. MinnesotaEarnest Graham vs. Green BayWarrick Dunn vs. Green BayDarren McFadden vs. San DiegoMichael Bush vs. San DiegoSelvin Young @ Kansas CityAndre Hall @ Kansas CityLe'Ron McClain @ PittsburghWillis McGahee @ PittsburghRyan Grant @ Tampa Bay
Chris Johnson vs. MinnesotaPierre Thomas vs. San FranciscoMichael Pittman @ Kansas CityTim Hightower @ New York JetsChester Taylor @ TennesseeJerious Norwood @ CarolinaBrandon Jackson @ Tampa BayDarren Sproles vs. OaklandFred Jackson @ St. LouisRay Rice @ PittsburghMewelde Moore vs. Baltimore
The dreaded running back by committee is hardly a new thing in the world of fantasy football. Helped along by the weasel-y Mike Tanahan (I kid, I kid), many NFL coaches have gone to using multiple backs to carry the rushing workload, and it's wreaking havoc on lineup decisions for those who enlist the services of these duty-sharing plow horses. With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the more troublesome time-shares, and what you should do with them this week:
Young, Hall and Pittman: Denver
Of course Shanahan would employ the most strict (and thus most difficult to predict) running back committee in the league. Young starts and gets five plays. Regardless of whether he receives a single touch or breaks a long one, Hall replaces him after five snaps. Hall then sees the same amount of action before Young re-enters the game. This repeats itself until the Broncos find themselves in a short-yardage situation. Then it's Pittman's turn. What should you do with them this week against a punch-less Kansas City defense that's giving up over 200 rushing yards a game? I like Young the most based on his breakaway ability, but depending on what five plays he's in on, Hall could easily top 100-yards as well. One thing I'm definitely doing is benching Pittman. A "tough-yardage" back against K.C. just doesn't seem necessary.
Johnson and White: Tennessee
The Johnson/White combo has hardly been problematic, but despite their early season dominance, there's no way I'm inserting them both into my starting lineup against Minnesota. Over the past year, the Vikings have allowed just four backs to notch double-digit fantasy days (assuming standard scoring rules). Portis, Grant, Tomlinson, and, shockingly, Reuben Droughns. Now those guys all had three things in common when they accomplished the feat. One, they all topped out at over 220 pounds. Two, they were the primary ball carriers for their teams, and three, they each used a touchdown to push them into double-digits. Looking at Johnson, he weighs 200 pounds soaking wet, splits carries down the middle and has yet to rush for a touchdown (and is rarely given an opportunity inside the 10). Three strikes and he's out. White, on the other hand ... well, he's fat and scores touchdowns. Two out of three ain't bad.
McGahee, McClain, and Rice: Baltimore
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has stated publicly his desire to use all three backs, so look for McGahee to see about 16 carries again, McClain to continue vulturing touchdowns, and Rice to get some spot duty. The yards, and subsequently the points, are going to be hard to come by against the Steelers on Monday night (they're allowing 12 points and 64 yards on the ground). If you have to start a Ravens back, I'd suggest the 260-lb, steamrolling, touchdown thieving McClain.
Brandon Marshall @ Kansas CityTerrell Owens vs. WashingtonBraylon Edwards @ CincinnatiLarry Fitzgerald @ New York JetsAnquan Boldin @ New York JetsT.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. ClevelandSteve Smith vs. AtlantaChad Ocho Cinco vs. ClevelandGreg Jennings @ Tampa BayAndre Johnson @ JacksonvilleTorry Holt vs. BuffaloJerricho Cotchery vs. ArizonaLee Evans @ St. LouisDeSean Jackson @ ChicagoLaveranues Coles vs. ArizonaDwayne Bowe vs. DenverChris Chambers vs. OaklandSantana Moss @ DallasDonald Driver @ Tampa BayEddie Royal @ Kansas CityRoddy White @ Carolina
Santonio Holmes vs. BaltimoreHines Ward vs. BaltimoreVincent Jackson @ OaklandBernard Berrian @ TennesseeChansi Stuckey vs. ArizonaRobert Meachem vs. San FranciscoPatrick Crayton vs. WashingtonAntonio Bryant vs. Green BayBrandon Lloyd vs. PhiladelphiaIsaac Bruce @ New OrleansBryant Johnson @ New OrleansAntwaan Randle El @ DallasReggie Brown @ ChicagoJosh Reed @ St. LouisIke Hilliard vs. Green BayLance Moore vs. San Francisco
Sidney Rice @ TennesseeMiles Austin vs. WashingtonMatt Jones vs. HoustonDevery Henderson vs. San FranciscoHank Baskett @ ChicagoDerrick Mason @ PittsburghDavid Patten vs. San FranciscoJustin Gage vs. MinnesotaJustin McCareins vs. MinnesotaKevin Walter @ JacksonvilleMuhsin Muhammad vs. AtlantaD.J. Hackett vs. AtlantaDarrell Jackson @ Kansas CityAntonio Chatman vs. ClevelandJavon Walker/Ronald Curry/Ashlie Lelie vs. San Diego
Heading into Week 4, there are three receivers who stand out as having grossly underachieved (alright, there's really four, but since New England's on bye, we'll deal with Randy Moss at a later date). I'm talking about Edwards, Ocho Cinco and Holt, and since I already detailed my belief in the Bengals passing game this week, let's take a look at why Week 4 will be your reward for suffering through Edwards' and Holt's awful starts.
I know I put Edwards on double-secret probation last week, and he responded by catching three balls for 27 yards, but that's the beauty of double-secret probation. It's so ambiguous that only the dean (we the fantasy owners) gets to decide when to suspend him fully. With Anderson getting one more shot at keeping his job, he's going to be looking Edwards' way every time he drops back against the battered Bengals secondary. Edwards, with his reputation virtually at stake, will be 100 percent on top of his game. Even if Brady Quinn is behind center, who do you think he's going to be targeting in his first professional start? Syndric Steptoe? I don't think so. In two matchups with the Bengals last season, Edwards hauled in 16 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns. Enough said.
On the surface, the decision to bench Marc Bulger in favor of Green seems to be a curious one, but upon further examination, I think it's exactly the kind of shot-in-the-arm that the Rams passing game needed. The man behind this call wasn't head coach Scott Linehan, but rather offensive coordinator Al Saunders. He was the coordinator for the Chiefs between 2001 and '05, and guess who started every game at quarterback for him during that time? Yep, Green. Assuming that he can stave off the concussion fairy, Green will be the perfect cure for what's been debilitating Holt, namely a quarterback trying to learn a new offensive system with four defenders in his face. And it starts this week against Buffalo.
All Chambers does is catch touchdowns, literally. He's only got six catches on the year, but four touchdowns. Hey, I'm not complaining, but would it kill him to catch a few 15-yard posts every now and again? ... Alright, so I was wrong about Santana Moss last week. I apologize. Feel free to ride him while he's hot ... Until the Steelers offensive line can prove they can protect Roethlisberger, I'm proceeding very cautiously with Holmes and Ward, especially against the heavy-blitzing Ravens ... OK, it's time we start taking this Stuckey fella seriously. He's doubled his catch total each week (2,4,6) and is apparently Favre's top target in the red zone (three touchdowns) ... No Colston. No Shockey. Hellloooo Meachem. Look for the explosive deep threat to become a Brees favorite near the goal line, especially if Patten is limited or unavailable (he strained his groin last week).
Jason Witten vs. WashingtonKellen Winslow @ CincinnatiTony Scheffler @ Kansas CityTony Gonzalez vs. DenverAntonio Gates @ OaklandChris Cooley @ DallasHeath Miller vs. BaltimoreRobert Royal @ St. LouisOwen Daniels @ JacksonvilleVernon Davis @ New Orleans
Dustin Keller vs. ArizonaDonald Lee @ Tampa BayBo Scaife vs. MinnesotaAlge Crumpler vs. MinnesotaJerramy Stevens vs. Green BayZach Miller vs. San DiegoVisanthe Shiancoe @ TennesseeBilly Miller vs. San FranciscoDelanie Walker @ New OrleansMartellus Bennett vs. Washington
L.J. Smith @ ChicagoRandy McMichael vs. BuffaloChris Baker vs. ArizonaDante Rosario vs. AtlantaGreg Olsen vs. PhiladelphiaDesmond Clark vs. PhiladelphiaAlex Smith vs. Green BayMarcedes Lewis vs. Houston
Since we're running short on space, let's take on the tight ends quick hitter style.
Ten catches for 86 yards and a touchdown isn't going to blow anyone away, but it's not bad. If you're looking for a bye week fill-in, you could do a lot worse than starting Royal in that sexy St. Louis matchup .... There's absolutely no statistical evidence to indicate that you should even own Davis, let alone consider him as a possible starting option, so let's just label this one the "Gut-Feeling Call-of-the-Week" shall we? ... I just can't help myself. Miller is as talented as nearly all of the guys in the "Ready" group, but is prohibited by the Raiders need for him to pass protect. I keep thinking that eventually his talent is going to shine through, and maybe the signing of Ben Troupe will help to take some the blocking load off of his shoulders ... oh Jesus, listen to me. You know how sometimes you get completely and irrationally attached to a player for some inexplicable reason? Yeah, that's where I'm at with Miller right now. Not sure which is worse, the fact that Smith is suffering from back spasms, or that he only has one catch over the past two weeks. Either way, he's not worth the risk.