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Fantasy matchups: Palmer, San Diego defense headline starts

By Derick Moss

There's no escaping the Colts-Patriots matchup this week. Everywhere you turn, every NFL television program, every Web site, it's in your face. "Matchup of the Millennium!" "Game of the Century!"

So why not lead off this week's scouting report with ...

49ers at Atlanta
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: OK, so it's not a very sexy matchup, especially for fantasy players. But it's not a bad idea to think Frank Gore might finally break out this week, even if he's been limited in practice. Coach Mike Nolan said he'd give him the ball plenty. Vernon Davis is also playing better lately and might find a seam against a suspect defense.

Sit 'em down: Even against Atlanta, it's hard to recommend Alex Smith this season, especially with his shoulder still a question.


Suit 'em up: Is it finally time to get Jerious Norwood in your lineup? He claims the team used the bye week to integrate him into the offense more. Roddy White is the team's leading receiving option, but he shouldn't be more than a No. 2 for fantasy purposes.

Sit 'em down: Joey Harrington gets the start again, but we can't recommend him. And if Norwood is truly going to get more carries, it might be time to bench Warrick Dunn if you haven't already.

Bengals at Bills
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: Carson Palmer is a safe bet nearly every week, but he'll get plenty of yardage against this secondary. That also makes T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson top options. Maybe Johnson will even find the end zone for the first time since Week 2.

Sit 'em down: Kenny Watson is coming off a concussion, and Rudi Johnson is recovering from a hamstring pull. It's possible they split carries. Check the lineup Sunday morning before making a move.


Suit 'em up: Marshawn Lynch is a No. 1 option this week against a truly bad defense. And if you need a waiver wire pickup at quarterback J.P. Losman returns this week and might have some success as he tries to regain his starting role.

Sit 'em down: Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish just haven't shown enough all year to be considered, and make sure Trent Edwards (sprained wrist) is firmly tucked away on the bench.

Broncos at Lions
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: The Lions defense is much improved, but much of its success has been based on creating turnovers, not limiting yards. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are both nice plays, and Brandon Stokley is a decent flex option.

Sit 'em down: Travis Henry returned to practice this week and presumably will take back the starter's position this week ahead of Selvin Young. It's also possible the two could split time. Henry probably has more value, assuming he starts, but hang on to Young in case Henry misses time down the road.


Suit 'em up: Detroit isn't exactly changing its offense in midseason, but it is running the ball as well as it has since Barry Sanders retired. Kevin Jones is a red-zone threat and has a good matchup against a smallish Denver front seven on Sunday.

Sit 'em down: By no means is Jon Kitna suddenly benchable, but he might not be a No. 1 quarterback these days. He was sacked four times last week, has had three consecutive average games and Sunday faces perhaps the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.

Packers at Chiefs
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: The Chiefs defense, particularly against the pass, is very underrated. But it's hard to bench Brett Favre while he's playing so well, and Donald Driver and Greg Jennings also are viable options. Go ahead and play Ryan Grant, as well, as the Packers' backfield continues to scramble.

Sit 'em down: Speaking of that backfield, DeShawn Wynn is lost for the season, Vernand Morency is a backup and Brandon Jackson might only play on third-and-long opportunities. Stay away from all of them unless Grant goes down.


Suit 'em up: Green Bay has been good on defense so far, but Tony Gonzalez is, of course, a must-start every week, and Dwayne Bowe seems to find a way to make big plays almost every week. Larry Johnson will get plenty of touches on Sunday, as well.

Sit 'em down: Damon Huard can be an effective fantasy quarterback on some Sundays, but this isn't one of them. And although Priest Holmes' return is a great story, he's not a reliable fantasy option.

Chargers at Vikings
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: San Diego is turning things around, and the defense is a big part of it. The Chargers face a one-man team on Sunday, making them a nice play. And look for Chris Chambers to be more of a factor this week as he gets accustomed to the offense and plays a weak secondary.

Sit 'em down: Even though you obviously have to start LaDainian Tomlinson, it's possible that he'll struggle some this week against a very good rushing defense.


Suit 'em up: The Vikings are a broken record, from a fantasy perspective. Adrian Peterson is the only player on the roster worth starting, with the possible exception of Visanthe Shiancoe, who's a waiver wire No. 2 tight end in some leagues.

Sit 'em down: Brooks Bollinger is the likely starting quarterback, but this offense has few fantasy options.

Jaguars at Saints
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: Interesting matchup between a great defense and an offense that's coming to life. Jacksonville had one drive last week that was 14 plays, all rushes. It'll do a lot of that this week, as well, making both Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor excellent starts.

Sit 'em down: With Quinn Gray at quarterback, no Jaguars receiver is a fantasy option right now. And the defense, normally a reliable fantasy unit, might give up more yards than normal on the Superdome turf.


Suit 'em up: After a slow start, Drew Brees is playing near a Pro Bowl level, and Marques Colston is his favorite target again. Reggie Bush isn't scoring as much we'd like, but he's getting plenty of touches. David Patten has 100-yard games in two of his last three outings and might be worth a flier.

Sit 'em down: Brees said a few weeks ago that Lance Moore was one of his favorite players. A lot of good that did him – he has eight catches for 87 yards in the last four weeks combined. Eric Johnson is also not catching enough balls to be a factor these days.

Redskins at Jets
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: A nice way to rebound against a spanking by the Patriots is to face the Jets. Clinton Portis will get a bunch of opportunities this week, and Jason Campbell might have dropped by some after last week's debacle. He's a nice No. 2 quarterback option in this matchup.

Sit 'em down: Santana Moss has 248 yards this season, no touchdowns and has been a major disappointment. Keenan McCardell was once a sleeper pick, but you can release him.


Suit 'em up: The Kellen Clemens era begins, but he's got a tough matchup. Laveranues Coles figures to benefit from the stronger arm under center, as does Jerricho Cotchery. But temper your expectations this week.

Sit 'em down: Maybe Clemens will be a fine quarterback down the line, but this is a risky place to start him. Thomas Jones is on pace for 1,300 total yards, but he's yet to score. He might get more carries but fewer receptions with Clemens back there. Consider him a flex option.

Panthers at Titans
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: What's the over-under on this game ... 12? Both teams will try to run it down the other's throat, but Carolina's facing a tough run defense. At some point, Carolina has to find a way to get the ball to Steve Smith, even if it means running five reverses a game. Start the Panthers defense, however, and hope Julius Peppers awakens from his year-long slumber.

Sit 'em down: As mentioned earlier, DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams are facing a really tough front seven, and David Carr has been pretty bad as Jake Delhomme's replacement. This is a stagnant offense.


Suit 'em up: Tennessee is ranked 29th in the passing game but third in rushing, and the Panthers have struggled against quality backs so far, meaning that LenDale White is a potential No. 1 guy this week. The Titans defense is a No. 1 option this week, as well.

Sit 'em down: The Titans passing game is in shambles, and the Panthers secondary is playing better in recent weeks, making this a tough matchup for Vince Young, Roydell Williams and everyone else on the offensive side of the ball.

Cardinals at Buccaneers
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: The Bucs have struggled against the run, and Edgerrin James is as consistent a runner the league has. Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are facing a tougher matchup in the secondary, but you'd hope they have a good plan of attack coming off a bye week.

Sit 'em down: Leonard Pope is simply a fantasy tease – all those physical tools, but nine catches in seven games means he's just not an option.


Suit 'em up: Earnest Graham figured to get fewer carries with the acquisition of Michael Bennett, but that seems to have been a wake-up call. He gets a good matchup this week and is a nice sleeper for a big week. Jeff Garcia should also rebound after a terrible game last week.

Sit 'em down: Although Bennett has done a lot with the ball when he's gotten it, he's not getting enough touches to be a factor. Ike Hilliard is hurting and shouldn't be used as a fantasy option.

Seahawks at Browns
4:05, FOX


Suit 'em up: Coming off a bye and facing a porous defense, almost every Seahawk is a potential starter. Matt Hasselbeck is a No. 1 option, and with Deion Branch a gametime decision, Bobby Engram remains a solid play (he has 15 catches the past two games) and D.J. Hackett is a potential No. 2.

Sit 'em down: Shaun Alexander is averaging 3.4 yards per carry and has only two touchdowns. You can't sit him because of the matchup, but it looks like something's definitely wrong with the former MVP.


Suit 'em up: Who'd have thought in September that Cleveland would have one of the most explosive offenses in the league and Derek Anderson would have 19 total touchdowns through seven games? Along with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, he's a must-start every week.

Sit 'em down: Jamal Lewis isn't on the injury report this week, but expect his carries to be cut significantly in the coming weeks. Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison will get those carries, but they won't be enough to justify a fantasy start.

Texans at Raiders
4:15, CBS


Suit 'em up: There's probably not a team in the league with as many injury questions as Houston. Sage Rosenfels starts in Matt Schaub's place and has been terrific statistically so far, but gets a tough matchup. The problem is, the Texans would love to run the ball this week, but have banged up running backs all over the place. Kevin Walters has 25 catches over his past three games and is about the only healthy player on the roster.

Sit 'em down: Andre Johnson could play this week, but has been limited in practice by a nagging knee injury. Adimchinobe Echemandu (bless you) had a nice debut last week, but he's got a hamstring issue, and Ahman Green returned to practice this week. Basically, the starting lineup in Houston is a gametime decision.


Suit 'em up: Josh McCown returns as the starter for Oakland and should help the passing game. Justin Fargas is the one to watch (and pick up off the waiver wire if still available) as he's been great the past two weeks and is forcing a split in the backfield with Lamont Jordan.

Sit 'em down: Jordan hasn't been the same since hurting his back in Week 4, and Dominic Rhodes is not playing at all right now. Jerry Porter had a decent game last week, but he's too inconsistent to start.

Patriots at Colts
4:15, CBS


Suit 'em up: Maybe you heard something about this game? Despite two good defenses on the field, the over-under for this game is 58, so expect plenty of points. It's just a hunch, but I think both teams will look to run the ball a little more, making Laurence Maroney a nice play.

Sit 'em down: Check the status of Ben Watson, who's nursing a bum ankle. Otherwise, start all your Pats.


Suit 'em up: Keeping with the running game hunch, Joseph Addai is a good play, and Kenton Keith might even be a flex option. I just have a feeling that, for the first time in years, Indianapolis will try to slow the tempo of a game to control the clock.

Sit 'em down: Marvin Harrison missed Thursday's practice and is a gametime decision. It's still possible he could play, but it's best to look for other options. Anthony Gonzalez hasn't exactly sparkled in his place – he had one catch last week.

Cowboys at Eagles
8:15, NBC


Suit 'em up: Philly's defense gets after the quarterback and make plays all over the field, but the Dallas offense is so diverse it can answer most any challenge. Marion Barber rebounded two weeks ago after three straight subpar games and is a nice play this Sunday, as are most of the Cowboys.

Sit 'em down: For those hoping Terry Glenn would return, it's not going to happen. And Julius Jones may be little more than a flex option this week if Barber gets the same 20-plus touches he got last game.


Suit 'em up: Brian Westbrook proved last week in Minnesota that he can put up fantasy points against just about anyone. And Kevin Curtis has established himself this season as one of the top downfield receiving threats in the game, and he'll be able to find a seam against a suspect Dallas secondary. Need a sleeper at tight end? Try L.J. Smith.

Sit 'em down: Reggie Brown (neck) and Jason Avant (groin) are not a full strength and both are inconsistent to begin with. And this is not a good week for an otherwise solid fantasy defensive unit.

Ravens at Steelers
8:30 p.m., Monday, ESPN


Suit 'em up: Two good defenses in this one, but the Ravens have problems on offense and this isn't a good game to break out against. Honestly, I don't see a no-brainer start for Baltimore, but Todd Heap will likely be back in the lineup after missing two games and is a good option.

Sit 'em down: Willis McGahee might still be a No. 2 back, but there are rumblings about him losing his short-yardage duties. And with Steve McNair back under center, the downfield passing game (or what little there was of it) disappears.


Suit 'em up: Willie Parker is a No. 1 back, and he scored his second touchdown of the season last week, ending a drought. Hines Ward returned with a vengeance last week (two TDs) and Santonio Holmes has six catches in each of the last two games.

Sit 'em down: Najeh Davenport teased fantasy owners with more than 40 yards in four of the team's first five games, but he's done little since and can probably be dropped. Nate Washington also isn't providing much these days, and with Ward healthy, is an even weaker play.

And don't forget the byes this week: Chicago, St. Louis, Miami and New York Giants.

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