October 02, 2008

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, we look at the impact of old quarterbacks, young running backs and the fact that Drew Brees won't stop throwing 300-yard games.

Ready ...

Tony Romo vs. CincinnatiPeyton Manning @ HoustonJay Cutler vs. Tampa BayDrew Brees vs. MinnesotaPhilip Rivers @ MiamiDonovan McNabb vs. WashingtonKurt Warner vs. BuffaloJake Delhomme vs. Kansas CityBen Roethlisberger @ JacksonvilleEli Manning vs. SeattleMatt Schaub vs. IndianapolisGus Frerotte @ New Orleans

Set ...

Kurt Warner vs. BuffaloTrent Edwards @ ArizonaBrian Griese @ DenverJon Kitna vs. ChicagoMatt Hasselbeck @ New York GiantsJason Campbell @ PhiladelphiaAaron Rodgers vs. Atlanta (if he plays)Kyle Orton @ DetroitMatt Cassel @ San FranciscoChad Pennington vs. San DiegoDavid Garrard vs. Pittsburgh

No!

J.T. O'Sullivan vs. New EnglandKerry Collins @ BaltimoreDamon Huard @ CarolinaCarson Palmer @ DallasJoe Flacco vs. TennesseeMatt Ryan @ Green BayMatt Flynn vs. Atlanta (if he plays)

Who says the NFL is no country for old men? Frerotte, Huard, Collins and Griese are all over 35 years old (well, Griese's only 33, but he's been concussed enough to qualify him for this analogy), and they've all been handed the keys to their respective offenses. Each brings years of starting experience, and with that experience comes wisdom, leadership and an intricate understanding of how an offense is supposed to function. On the flip side, experience also brings arthritis, brittleness, slowing of muscle reaction and ummmm, how do I put this nicely ... the inability to "perform" on a regular basis. In other words, if you catch one these guys on the right day, they're still capable of cooking up some delectable fantasy yum-yums. But if you get them during one of their "senior moments," you'll be eating a robust platter of turnovers, back injuries and fantasy losses. Are any of these football geriatrics capable of helping your squad out this week? Let's put on some comically thick-lensed glasses and take a look:

Griese seems like the best choice to give your team a Metamucil-infused explosion, but after seeing what Kansas City did on the ground against the Broncos, and considering Griese is coming off back-to-back three interception games, count on Jon Gruden calling on the country singing duo of Graham and Dunn to move the ball rather than the gun-slingin' Griese. Faced with the right matchup, Huard and Collins still have the ability to put up 300-yard games, but against top-seven pass defenses like Baltimore and Carolina, they'll be asked to not over-exert themselves and focus on methodically maintaining the offense. You'll get no help from either this week. That leaves Frerotte. "Good ol' Gus" had a nice outing against the tough Titans defense (266 yards and a touchdown), and he's already developed a strong rapport with resident deep threat, Bernard Berrian, and utility man Bobby Wade. The Saints will be forced to put extra guys in the box to stop Adrian Peterson, and that's going to leave their woefully undermanned secondary in precarious positions. Frerotte, using his experience, wisdom and still lively arm, will exploit it to the max. If you're missing Brett Favre and his salt-and-pepper beard this week, this may be the next best thing.

Other notables:

Speaking of old quarterbacks, can we start taking bets as to how much longer Warner remains uninjured/starting? Last week, he was sacked five times, put the ball on the turf four others, and completed passes to Jets defenders on three occasions. I'm not sure he makes it through two quarters against the Bills ... Campbell's yet to throw an interception, and is coming off three quality outings, but I'm not forgetting that he was awful against the Giants on opening night and has faced New Orleans, Arizona and an overrated Cowboys secondary since. I've said all along that he's a spot player, and against Philly, his spot will be on my bench ... The undressing began last week, and now Bill Belichick and his enraged defense get to rip the mask completely off O'Sullivan, revealing him as the under-protected over-his-head, journeyman QB that he really is. If you're in a league where the goal is to get negative points, O'Sullivan is a great play this week.

Ready ...

Adrian Peterson @ New OrleansMarion Barber vs. CincinnatiLaDainian Tomlinson @ MiamiMarshawn Lynch @ ArizonaMatt Forte @ DetroitJoseph Addai @ HoustonFrank Gore vs. New EnglandSteve Slaton vs. IndianapolisBrandon Jacobs vs. SeattleMichael Turner @ Green BayLarry Johnson @ CarolinaChris Johnson @ BaltimoreFelix Jones vs. CincinnatiEarnest Graham @ DenverJonathan Stewart vs. Kansas City

Set ...

Correll Buckhalter/Brian Westbrook vs. WashingtonClinton Portis @ PhiladelphiaLaurence Maroney @ San FranciscoJulius Jones @ New York GiantsDeAngelo Williams vs. Kansas CityEdgerrin James vs. BuffaloRyan Grant vs. AtlantaReggie Bush vs. MinnesotaDeuce McAllister vs. MinnesotaRicky Williams vs. San DiegoRudi Johnson vs. ChicagoWarrick Dunn @ DenverLe'Ron McClain vs. TennesseeLenDale White @ BaltimoreChris Perry @ DallasMewelde Moore @ JacksonvilleTim Hightower vs. BuffaloMichael Pittman vs. Tampa Bay

No!

Ronnie Brown vs. San DiegoFred Taylor vs. PittsburghMaurice Jones-Drew vs. PittsburghWillis McGahee vs. TennesseeJerious Norwood @ Green BayKevin Smith vs. ChicagoSelvin Young vs. Tampa BayAndre Hall vs. Tampa BaySammy Morris @ San FranciscoMaurice Morris @ New York GiantsFred Jackson @ ArizonaDerrick Ward vs. SeattleDarren Sproles @ Miami

Going to the opposite end of the age spectrum let's take a look at what's shaping up to be the best rookie running back class of the last decade. Forte, Johnson, Darren McFadden and Slaton are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons, and Stewart, Jones and Hightower are all in line for double-digit touchdowns (as is Johnson). Yes, I understand that we're only four weeks into the season, but it's already pretty apparent that this class is going to provide unprecedented fantasy production. So what do the rooks have in store for us this week?

Forte and Johnson have already been elevated to "play no matter what" status. Forte's shown surprising versatility (18 receptions) and a steady, grind it out style that makes him effective against any type of defense ... especially the type that isn't very good, like the Lions, for instance. Similarly, Johnson looks more and more impressive each week (61 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota), and converting his first two goal line touches only adds to his expanding fantasy repertoire. I'm not sitting him against Baltimore, and neither should you. Slaton couldn't get much going on the ground against Jacksonville this past weekend, but what impressed me was his pass-catching ability (eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown). In the Colts, Slaton faces a defense that hasn't given up anything less than 180 rushing yards to an opponent, and features an undrafted rookie, a converted defensive end, a special teams player and two guys that were recruited from a local construction crew in their defensive tackle rotation. Good times all around for Slaton owners. I'm also high on both Jones and Stewart this week. For some reason, Jones, who's averaging eight yards a carry on the season, received zero touches against the Redskins. Expect Dallas to recommit to the run game this week and for owner Jerry Jones' favorite hog to get a career high in carries. Stewart is a touchdown machine, plain and simple. He may not run for more than 60 yards against Kansas City, but he'll have plenty of opportunities to punch it in from close range. Hightower is still an ankle tweak away from making a huge splash on the fantasy scene.

Other notables:

The Panthers have held Tomlinson, Peterson, Forte and Turner touchdown-less and under the 100-yard mark. Can L.J. break the trend? I have my doubts ... Speaking of trends, Turner's rushed for 324 yards and five touchdowns in two games at home, but only 98 yards and no scores on his two trips outside the Georgia Dome. This week's contest in Green Bay against an average Packers defense should give us a good gauge of what "The Burner's" actually capable of ... If Chad Johnson can change his first name to "Ocho Cinco," I see no reason why Westbrook can't change his to "Game-Time Decision" ... You could make the case that Brown's five touchdown performance was the biggest "what-the-hell" moment of the early season, but personally, I thought Rudi Johnson rising from the grave in Week 3 to put up a career high 48 receiving yards was more shocking. Even if he is starting, I don't trust Johnson at all against the Bears ... Don't forget that Williams had a 16-carry, 98-yard game while Brown was racking up all the highlights against the Patriots. With the Chargers focusing all their attention on Brown, the still not high Williams is a sneaky candidate to post very respectable numbers

Ready ...

Larry Fitzgerald vs. BuffaloTerrell Owens vs. CincinnatiReggie Wayne @ HoustonBrandon Marshall vs. Tampa BayRandy Moss @ San FranciscoSteve Smith vs. Kansas CityCalvin Johnson vs. ChicagoT.J. Houshmandzadeh @ DallasAndre Johnson vs. IndianapolisSantana Moss @ PhiladelphiaChad Johnson @ DallasLee Evans @ ArizonaGreg Jennings vs. AtlantaSantonio Holmes @ JacksonvilleDeSean Jackson vs. WashingtonHines Ward @ JacksonvilleRoddy White @ Green Bay

Set ...

Eddie Royal vs. Tampa BayWes Welker @ San FranciscoDwayne Bowe @ CarolinaChris Chambers @ MiamiMarvin Harrison @ HoustonBobby Engram @ New York GiantsAnthony Gonzalez @ HoustonRoy Williams vs. ChicagoDonald Driver vs. AtlantaReggie Brown vs. WashingtonPatrick Crayton vs. CincinnatiRobert Meachem vs. MinnesotaMatt Jones vs. PittsburghMuhsin Muhammad vs. Kansas CityVincent Jackson @ MiamiBernard Berrian @ New OrleansSteve Breaston vs. BuffaloKevin Walter vs. IndianapolisLance Moore vs. MinnesotaAntonio Bryant @ Denver

No!

Justin Gage @ BaltimoreDeion Branch @ New York GiantsJoey Galloway @ DenverIsaac Bruce vs. New EnglandArnaz Battle vs. New EnglandDerrick Mason vs. TennesseeJosh Reed @ ArizonaIke Hilliard @ DenverDevin Hester vs. DetroitJustin McCareins @ BaltimoreAntwaan Randle El @ PhiladelphiaJerheme Urban vs. BuffaloDevery Henderson vs. MinnesotaDavid Patten vs. MinnesotaHank Baskett vs. WashingtonReggie Williams vs. Pittsburgh

Since Brees insists on throwing for 300 yards despite the absence of Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey, we better address the New Orleans receiving situation. Moore and Meachem were the beneficiaries this past weekend, with each catching scoring tosses (Moore actually had two). I like Meachem better because of his outstanding ability to haul in the deep ball (three out of his six receptions have gone for over 45 yards), but Moore has great short-term value as long as Patten is still nursing his groin injury. Monitor the Patten situation closely throughout the week. Whoever gets the nod will most likely be Brees' most targeted player against Minnesota. Henderson does have two 80-plus yard receptions on the season, but that's all he's been able to offer up. He's better off left in your leagues free agency pool.

Other notables:

I don't know what it is about Carolina, but I like their vibe. Don't be surprised to see Smith pull off one of his patented early-season, monster performances (you know, the kind where has 10 catches for 150 yards and two scores) ... Evans has a long reception in every game and is averaging a crazy 23.7 yards-per-reception. He plays the Cardinals this week, who if I'm not mistaken, have a bit of problem giving up big plays in the passing game (cough, cough, six touchdowns ... cough) ... You think Chambers is looking for some sweet revenge against the organization that made him suffer through the Cleo Lemon, Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper eras? I sure do ... Hasselbeck on getting Branch and Engram back: "These are guys I know. These are guys who have played before. I was getting pretty tired of referring to my receivers as 'hey you' and 'dude that used to be on our practice squad.'" OK, so I made the last part of that quote up, but it doesn't change the fact that Branch, and especially Engram, will provide an immediate impact ... Guess who has six touchdown catches in his last eight starts? Walter, that's who ... Nothing about Mason's eight-catch, 137-yard outburst on Monday made sense. Having a dominant day against a shutdown defense with a shaky, rookie quarterback was perplexing enough, but Mason hadn't had a game like that since Steve McNair was tossing him passes in Tennessee. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. And skeptical. Very skeptical ...

Ready ...

Jason Witten vs. CincinnatiAntonio Gates @ MiamiDallas Clark @ HoustonTony Gonzalez @ CarolinaOwen Daniels vs. IndianapolisAnthony Fasano vs. San DiegoTony Scheffler vs. Tampa BayChris Cooley @ PhiladelphiaHeath Miller @ Jacksonville

Set ...

John Carlson @ New York GiantsGreg Olsen vs. PhiladelphiaBilly Miller vs. MinnesotaKevin Boss vs. SeattleJerramy Stevens @ DenverAlex Smith @ DenverTodd Heap vs. TennesseeVisanthe Shiancoe @ New OrleansRobert Royal @ Arizona

No!

Donald Lee vs. AtlantaVernon Davis vs. New EnglandBo Scaife @ BaltimoreAlge Crumpler @ BaltimoreDavid Martin vs. San DiegoDante Rosario vs. Kansas CityBen Patrick vs. Buffalo

Whatever Daniels did to Schaub, he needs to apologize because his QB avoids him like an ex-girlfriend whenever they get near the goal line. Once again, he's quietly averaging nearly five catches and 60 yards a game, but he's got a big fat zero in the touchdown department. Out of his three touchdowns last year, two came from the arm of Sage Rosenfels ... How much emphasis are you placing on Cooley's one touchdown in eight career games against the Eagles? I'll be honest, it worries me a little bit ... Heath Miller is catching balls at exactly the same rate he did last year, but the touchdowns aren't there. He was averaging a score every three games coming into this season, and with zero through four weeks, he's due ... Is Carlson for real, or did playing in an offense without NFL wide receivers inflate his stock? I'm staying away until we get a definitive answer ... I scoured the Internet for at least 20 minutes looking for an injury update on Heap, but apparently he's not injured. He's just regressed to the point that he can now go entire games without registering a single stat (like he did against Pittsburgh) ... I'm sorry, but there was nothing that could be done to save Mr. Davis' career. Everyone tried really hard, but in the end, he was just a physical specimen that couldn't figure out to how to play football. If you want to go ahead and say your goodbyes before dropping him, I suggest you do it now...

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