Ready ... set ... no!

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.

Ready ...

Peyton Manning @ Green Bay Drew Brees @ Carolina Aaron Rodgers vs. Indianapolis Ben Roethlisberger @ Cincinnati Jay Cutler @ New England Jason Campbell vs. Cleveland Brad Johnson @ St. Louis Eli Manning vs. San Francisco Philip Rivers @ Buffalo Matt Schaub vs. Detroit Brett Favre @ Oakland Jake Delhomme vs. New Orleans

Set ...

Jeff Garcia vs. Seattle Trent Edwards vs. San Diego Derek Anderson @ Washington Kerry Collins @ Kansas City Gus Frerotte @ Chicago Matt Cassel vs. Denver Marc Bulger vs. Dallas Chad Pennington vs. Baltimore


Kyle Orton vs. Minnesota J.T. O'Sullivan @ New York Giants Joe Flacco @ Miami Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Pittsburgh Brodie Croyle vs. Tennessee JaMarcus Russell vs. New York Jets Charlie Frye/Seneca Wallace @ Tampa Bay Dan 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.

Other notables:

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).

Ready ...

Clinton Portis vs. Cleveland Marion Barber @ St. Louis Brandon Jacobs vs. San Francisco LaDainian Tomlinson @ Buffalo Marshawn Lynch vs. San Dieg Steve Slaton vs. Detroit Adrian Peterson @ Chicago Willie Parker @ Cincinnati Frank Gore @ New York Giants Chris Johnson @ Kansas City Darren McFadden vs. New York Jets Reggie Bush @ Carolina Thomas Jones @ Oakland Earnest Graham vs. Seattle Steven Jackson vs. Dallas Larry Johnson vs. Tennessee Ryan Grant vs. Indianapolis Jamal Lewis @ Washington Matt Forte vs. Minnesota LenDale White @ Kansas City

Set ...

Dominic Rhodes @ Green Bay Ronnie Brown vs. Baltimore... Justin Fargas vs. New York Jets DeAngelo Williams vs. New Orleans Jonathan Stewart vs. New Orleans Warrick Dunn vs. Seattle Sammy Morris vs. Denver Kevin Faulk vs. Denver Le'Ron McClain @ Miami Michael Pittman @ New England Derrick Ward vs. San Francisco Willis McGahee @ Miami


Ricky Williams vs. Baltimore Julius Jones @ Tampa Bay Deuce McAllister @ Carolina Kevin Smith @ Houston Rudi Johnson @ Houston Ahman Green vs. Detroit Ray Rice @ Miami Chris Perry vs. Pittsburgh Cedric Benson vs. Pittsburgh Laurence Maroney vs. Denver Mewelde Moore @ Cincinnati Ahmad Bradshaw vs. San Francisco Maurice Morris @ Tampa Bay Shaun Alexander vs. Cleveland Patrick 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.

Other notables:

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 ...

Ready ...

Andre Johnson vs. Detroit Steve Smith vs. New Orleans Reggie Wayne @ Green Bay Greg Jennings vs. Indianapolis Brandon Marshall @ New England Plaxico Burress vs. San Francisco Terrell Owens @ St. Louis Braylon Edwards @ Washington Calvin Johnson @ Houston Wes Welker vs. Denver Randy Moss vs. Denver Jerricho Cotchery @ Oakland Laveranues Coles @ Oakland Santonio Holmes @ Cincinnati Calvin Johnson @ Houston Hines Ward @ Cincinnati Lee Evans vs. San Diego Roy Williams @ Houston Bernard Berrian @ Chicago Santana Moss vs. Cleveland Marques Colston @ Carolina

Set ...

Anthony Gonzalez @ Green Bay T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Pittsburgh Chad Johnson vs. Pittsburgh Marvin Harrison @ Green Bay Dwayne Bowe vs. Tennessee Bobby Engram @ Tampa Bay Donald Driver vs. Indianapolis Torry Holt vs. Dallas Kevin Walter vs. Denver Vincent Jackson @ Buffalo Devin Hester vs. Minnesota Derrick Mason @ Miami Muhsin Muhammad vs. New Orleans Antwaan Randle El vs. Cleveland Lance Moore @ Carolina Bobby Wade @ Chicago Eddie Royal @ New England Chris Chambers @ Buffalo Joey Galloway vs. Seattle


Deion Branch @ Tampa Bay Isaac Bruce @ New York Giants Steve Smith vs. San Francisco Amani Toomer vs. San Francisco Donte' Stallworth @ Washington Domenik Hixon vs. San Francisco Ike Hilliard vs. Seattle Justin Gage @ Kansas City Greg Camarillo vs. Baltimore Ted Ginn Jr. vs. Baltimore Nate Washington @ Cincinnati Josh Reed vs. San Diego Antonio Bryant vs. Seattle Brandon Stokley @ New England Patrick Crayton @ St. Louis Koren Robinson @ Tampa Bay Bryant Johnson @ New York Giants Devery Henderson @ Carolina Shaun McDonald @ Houston Mike 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.

Other notables:

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 ...

Ready ...

Jason Witten @ St. Louis Dallas Clark @ Green Bay Antonio Gates @ Buffalo Chris Cooley vs. Cleveland Heath Miller @ Cincinnati Owen Daniels vs. Detroit Bo Scaife @ Kansas City Zach Miller vs. New York Jets Tony Gonzalez vs. Tennessee

Set ...

Kellen Winslow @ Washington Jeremy Shockey @ Carolina Tony Scheffler @ New England Greg Olsen vs. Minnesota Vernon Davis @ New York Giants Anthony Fasano vs. Baltimore John Carlson @ Tampa Bay Todd Heap @ Miami Donald Lee vs. Indianapolis Ben Utecht vs. Pittsburgh David Martin vs. Baltimore


Kevin Boss vs. San Francisco Desmond Clark vs. Minnesota Dante Rosario vs. New Orleans Visanthe Shiancoe @ Chicago Alge Crumpler @ Kansas City Billy Miller @ Carolina Robert Royal vs. San Diego Nate Jackson @ New England Benjamin 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 ...

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