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.
Just when you think you have things figured out, something like this past week happens and completely throws your thought process out of whack. The Ravens go into Indianapolis averaging 154.2 rushing yards per game, and come out battered and bruised with only 49 yards to show for it? Makes perfect sense. Derek Anderson hadn't thrown for more than 166 yards all season, and then puts up 310 yards against a Giants pass defense that had dominated opponents? Of course. A reeling Rams team that was giving up 36.7 points a game shuts down a Redskins offensive unit that had outscored New Orleans, Arizona, Dallas and Philadelphia over the last four weeks? Oh yeah, we all saw that coming.
Any given Sunday, right?
Well, with that in mind, let's look at things in a different light this week. If it seems impossible; if all the numbers, factors, and analysis point in one direction, let's go the other way. Let's let our guts and hearts be our guide to fantasy bliss this Sunday. After all, it can't be any worse of a place than where the numbers led us last week.
Peyton Manning @ Green BayDrew Brees @ CarolinaAaron Rodgers vs. IndianapolisBen Roethlisberger @ CincinnatiJay Cutler @ New EnglandJason Campbell vs. ClevelandBrad Johnson @ St. LouisEli Manning vs. San FranciscoPhilip Rivers @ BuffaloMatt Schaub vs. DetroitBrett Favre @ OaklandJake Delhomme vs. New Orleans
Jeff Garcia vs. SeattleTrent Edwards vs. San DiegoDerek Anderson @ WashingtonKerry Collins @ Kansas CityGus Frerotte @ ChicagoMatt Cassel vs. DenverMarc Bulger vs. DallasChad Pennington vs. Baltimore
Kyle Orton vs. MinnesotaJ.T. O'Sullivan @ New York GiantsJoe Flacco @ MiamiRyan Fitzpatrick vs. PittsburghBrodie Croyle vs. TennesseeJaMarcus Russell vs. New York JetsCharlie Frye/Seneca Wallace @ Tampa BayDan Orlovsky @ Houston
Brad Johnson: 19-of-28 for 265 yards and two touchdowns
Why it seems impossible: For starters, the man's 40 years old, hasn't thrown a meaningful pass since the 2006 season, and hasn't thrown for 300 yards since Week 3 of '04. The only time he'll ever be called a gunslinger is if he dresses up as John Wayne for Halloween, and yet his top two receivers thrive in a vertical passing game. Oh, and he's got one of the best running backs in the game going against a St. Louis defense that's the third worst in the league.
Why it will happen: Because he's Brad Johnson. And because he's playing for a Cowboys team that's being managed by an insane Geppetto, and coached by Pinocchio. You think Jerry Jones is going to let Wade Phillips do the smart thing and simply grind out a victory against the Rams with check-downs and handoffs? Not a chance. He's got a new toy and two losses in the last three weeks. He wants immediate results, and he wants them to come in spectacular fashion. While that's not something that Johnson excels in, flinging the ball around the field, he is capable. He's smart enough, and crafty enough to deliver the goods on a short-term basis, especially when the opposition only has grainy 8mm film to watch of him. Plug him and play him with no worries this week.
Jason Campbell: 24-of-32 for 255 yards and two touchdowns
Why it seems impossible: He burned you last week. You trusted him to lead you to victory, and he couldn't even muster up double-digit fantasy points against a bad defense. He hasn't found the end zone in his last two games, and is playing a very underrated Cleveland secondary that had three interceptions against Eli Manning, and held him under 200 yards for the first time all season.
Why it will happen: Because the Redskins are still learning Jim Zorn's offense, and occasionally, as Zorn said himself, there are going to be "miscommunications" that prevent it from operating smoothly. That was the case in Week 1 when Campbell threw for only 133 yards, and it plagued them again this past weekend. After that first game, Campbell and Zorn got together, hugged it out, and the result was a 321-yard aerial display the next week. I understand that you want nothing to do with him, that you feel like a scorned lover, but trust me when I say, it wasn't all Campbell's fault. Give him a chance at redemption this week.
Roethlisberger's start to the season is remarkably similar to his first five games of last year (1,013 yards/nine touchdowns/three picks in '07, and 947 yards/seven touchdowns/three picks this year). The Steelers had a Week 6 bye last year, and Benjamin exploded out of the break with a 290-yard, four touchdown performance ... C'mon, don't tell me that you're buying "Neckbeard" as a starting caliber fantasy QB are you? When he pulls an "Orton" this week, don't say I didn't warn you ... Please bench O'Sullivan. Over the past three weeks he has seven interceptions, been sacked 10 times, and has a QB rating that would embarrass Ryan Leaf (54.9).
Clinton Portis vs. ClevelandMarion Barber @ St. LouisBrandon Jacobs vs. San FranciscoLaDainian Tomlinson @ BuffaloMarshawn Lynch vs. San DiegSteve Slaton vs. DetroitAdrian Peterson @ ChicagoWillie Parker @ CincinnatiFrank Gore @ New York GiantsChris Johnson @ Kansas CityDarren McFadden vs. New York JetsReggie Bush @ CarolinaThomas Jones @ OaklandEarnest Graham vs. SeattleSteven Jackson vs. DallasLarry Johnson vs. TennesseeRyan Grant vs. IndianapolisJamal Lewis @ WashingtonMatt Forte vs. MinnesotaLenDale White @ Kansas City
Dominic Rhodes @ Green BayRonnie Brown vs. Baltimore...Justin Fargas vs. New York JetsDeAngelo Williams vs. New OrleansJonathan Stewart vs. New OrleansWarrick Dunn vs. SeattleSammy Morris vs. DenverKevin Faulk vs. DenverLe'Ron McClain @ MiamiMichael Pittman @ New EnglandDerrick Ward vs. San FranciscoWillis McGahee @ Miami
Ricky Williams vs. BaltimoreJulius Jones @ Tampa BayDeuce McAllister @ CarolinaKevin Smith @ HoustonRudi Johnson @ HoustonAhman Green vs. DetroitRay Rice @ MiamiChris Perry vs. PittsburghCedric Benson vs. PittsburghLaurence Maroney vs. DenverMewelde Moore @ CincinnatiAhmad Bradshaw vs. San FranciscoMaurice Morris @ Tampa BayShaun Alexander vs. ClevelandPatrick Cobbs vs. Baltimore
Earnest Graham: 17 carries for 114 yards and two touchdowns
Why it seems impossible: Graham's backfield mate has been effective all year, and Dunn has really taken it to a new level over the past two weeks, outgaining him 189 yards to 70. Last week Dunn was handed the ball 22 times, while Graham only registered five attempts.
Why it will happen: Because "The Graham Cracker" spent last Sunday smashed between the bellies of Carolina defenders while playing the role of Dunn's fullback due to injuries. He wasn't forced into that role, however, he volunteered. And Jon Gruden is grateful. "I just want everybody to know that what Earnest Graham did today, although he didn't show up on the stat sheet, makes coaching worthwhile," said Gruden. "I want to thank him for that." He'll show his gratitude this Sunday by feeding the selfless tailback a healthy diet of pigskin, and you can bet that when the opportunity for a goal line carry arises (and it will against the anemic Seattle defense), the coach will give a wink and a butt-pat to Graham as he calls his number.
Darren McFadden: 18 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns
Why it seems impossible: If you take away McFadden's big day against Kansas City in Week 2 (164 yards and a touchdown), he's averaging just 34.5 yards per game and hasn't scored. His troublesome toe injury has hindered his explosive one-cut running style, and he's yet to make an impact in the passing game. Now that Fargas is back in the picture, the touches are going to be harder to come by, and the Jets -- powered by the 350-pound behemoth Kris Jenkins -- are the third ranked rush defense in the league (allowing just 69 yards a game).
Why it will happen: Because McFadden is a bad mother ... (I'll shut my mouth), and he's more than a month removed from injuring the toe. As long as there are no setbacks, you'll see that the first five games were just an introductory handshake. This week, McFadden will forgo the formalities and smack owners right in the face with his otherworldly talents. By the way, for as good as they've been against the run, the Jets have surrendered seven touchdowns on the ground.
Morris' presence doesn't scare me off from starting Julius Jones, but the Buccaneers impenetrable, goal line stuffing run defense sure does ... Pittman appears to be the man in Denver. For now anyway. Mike Shanahan's training camp boy toy, Ryan Torain, returns to practice this week ... Apparently the Saints defense isn't as bad as we thought. They've held McFadden/Fargas, Peterson and Gore in check the past three weeks, and have only given up a rushing touchdown in two games. Makes you pause a bit before starting Williams or Stewart doesn't it?... Even after his cringe-inducing, two carries for minus-two yards and a fumble outing against the Colts last week, McClain is still my preferred start out of the Ravens backfield if only because McGahee has yet to make it through a full game without getting injured ...
Andre Johnson vs. DetroitSteve Smith vs. New OrleansReggie Wayne @ Green BayGreg Jennings vs. IndianapolisBrandon Marshall @ New EnglandPlaxico Burress vs. San FranciscoTerrell Owens @ St. LouisBraylon Edwards @ WashingtonCalvin Johnson @ HoustonWes Welker vs. DenverRandy Moss vs. DenverJerricho Cotchery @ OaklandLaveranues Coles @ OaklandSantonio Holmes @ CincinnatiCalvin Johnson @ HoustonHines Ward @ CincinnatiLee Evans vs. San DiegoRoy Williams @ HoustonBernard Berrian @ ChicagoSantana Moss vs. ClevelandMarques Colston @ Carolina
Anthony Gonzalez @ Green BayT.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. PittsburghChad Johnson vs. PittsburghMarvin Harrison @ Green BayDwayne Bowe vs. TennesseeBobby Engram @ Tampa BayDonald Driver vs. IndianapolisTorry Holt vs. DallasKevin Walter vs. DenverVincent Jackson @ BuffaloDevin Hester vs. MinnesotaDerrick Mason @ MiamiMuhsin Muhammad vs. New OrleansAntwaan Randle El vs. ClevelandLance Moore @ CarolinaBobby Wade @ ChicagoEddie Royal @ New EnglandChris Chambers @ BuffaloJoey Galloway vs. Seattle
Deion Branch @ Tampa BayIsaac Bruce @ New York GiantsSteve Smith vs. San FranciscoAmani Toomer vs. San FranciscoDonte' Stallworth @ WashingtonDomenik Hixon vs. San FranciscoIke Hilliard vs. SeattleJustin Gage @ Kansas CityGreg Camarillo vs. BaltimoreTed Ginn Jr. vs. BaltimoreNate Washington @ CincinnatiJosh Reed vs. San DiegoAntonio Bryant vs. SeattleBrandon Stokley @ New EnglandPatrick Crayton @ St. LouisKoren Robinson @ Tampa BayBryant Johnson @ New York GiantsDevery Henderson @ CarolinaShaun McDonald @ HoustonMike Furrey @ Houston
Bobby Engram: Six catches for 72 yards
Why it seems impossible: Did you see Frye attempt to play quarterback last week? I honestly thought I was watching the season finale of Pros vs. Joes at one point. And in case you didn't notice, the result was zero catches for Engram. Did I mention that the Seahawks are playing a Buccaneers defense that's leading the league in interceptions?
Why it will happen: Because the theme of this thing is "any given Sunday" right? Seriously though, if Branch returns as expected, Engram can move out of the flanker position and back into the slot, which will alleviate the constant double-team that he faced last week. Things will get even easier if Seneca Wallace can make the start at QB. This is his fourth year in the system, and he's an actual NFL caliber signal-caller, not some junior account manager that the Seahawks just pulled off the street. Consider Engram an upper-tier WR3 this week.
Anthony Gonzalez: Five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown
Why it seems impossible: Didn't you hear? Harrison's back, baby! Now that Manning has his timing down and Harrison has the spring back in step, poor Gonzalez looks to be the odd man out. Not that he's not capable of producing big numbers (remember that nine-catch, 137-yard performance in Week 2?), there's just too many mouths to feed in Indianapolis, and young "Gonzo" is at the bottom of the food chain. In the three games since his big outburst, he only has seven catches for 73 yards.
Why it will happen: Because we've seen this before with the Colts offense. Gonzalez is essentially filling the Stokley role of a few years back. Much as what has happened over the past few weeks, there would be times when Stokley would barely register a single fantasy point, but just when you'd start to think about dropping him ... BAM! He'd post 120 yards and a score. Manning is a master exploiter of defenses and their tendencies, and with all the attention now being focused on Harrison and Wayne, it's the perfect time for him to turn to Gonzalez to burn the Packers defense.
I just spent 40 minutes trying to figure out what the NFL record for most receptions in a season without a touchdown is, and I'm pretty sure Al Toon holds the mark with 74 in 1991. Why am I telling you this? Because Welker's on pace for 115 catches, and has yet to score ... The Dolphins are allowing the fourth most passing yards per game, and Mason hasn't caught less than four balls all year. In a points per reception league he might as well be nicknamed "The Flex" ... The Giants have had four different leading receivers in their five games. Burress is obviously a must start, but someone out of the Toomer, Smith, Hixon group is bound to produce as well. I just have no clue which guy it'll be ...
Jason Witten @ St. LouisDallas Clark @ Green BayAntonio Gates @ BuffaloChris Cooley vs. ClevelandHeath Miller @ CincinnatiOwen Daniels vs. DetroitBo Scaife @ Kansas CityZach Miller vs. New York JetsTony Gonzalez vs. Tennessee
Kellen Winslow @ WashingtonJeremy Shockey @ CarolinaTony Scheffler @ New EnglandGreg Olsen vs. MinnesotaVernon Davis @ New York GiantsAnthony Fasano vs. BaltimoreJohn Carlson @ Tampa BayTodd Heap @ MiamiDonald Lee vs. IndianapolisBen Utecht vs. PittsburghDavid Martin vs. Baltimore
Kevin Boss vs. San FranciscoDesmond Clark vs. MinnesotaDante Rosario vs. New OrleansVisanthe Shiancoe @ ChicagoAlge Crumpler @ Kansas CityBilly Miller @ CarolinaRobert Royal vs. San DiegoNate Jackson @ New EnglandBenjamin Watson vs. Denver
Mark my words, Clark catches his first touchdown of the season against the Packers ... I had no clue that Scaife was leading the Titans with 20 catches for 226 yards. Yeah, that's right, the lone undefeated team in the league is being led in receiving by a guy named Oliver Edward Scaife III. It's been a weird season ... I gotta say, out of all the wacky, improbable things that happened this past weekend, Davis catching six balls for 75 yards had to have been the most unlikely. I'm not letting one good week change my opinion of him, but if he can put up two in a row ... Six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown was a good game for Shockey when he was with the Giants. For Boss, it's been his season ...