Fantasy matchups: Warner, Taylor are nice options

Derick Moss

Time for a pep talk.

OK, look ... the bye weeks are over. That means no more looking to scruffy veterans like Vinny Testaverde or Ahman Green. No more Kolby Smiths or Leonard Weavers making their way into the lineup. Odds are, your opponent is hitting you with Drew Brees or Joseph Addai.

No, sir, you're obliged to start the sure-fire fantasy studs these days. But that doesn't mean you can just start your original draft picks and set the boat on its way. Do the smart thing and play the matchups, pick your starters carefully and stay aggressive.

You haven't won anything yet.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: Don't expect too many points in this one, and the NFC-leading Bucs defense is one of the better plays of the week. In three games against Atlanta, Jeff Garcia has 958 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. Earnest Graham has averaged 134 yards of offense the last three games.

Sit 'em down: Even though Joey Galloway had a great game (nine catches, 161 yards) the last time he played in the Georgia Dome, DeAngelo Hall is playing shutdown football at cornerback.


Suit 'em up: It's hard to recommend any Falcons in this matchup, but Warrick Dunn is playing so well he can be a flex option -- the Bucs defense is 18th against the rush, but sixth against the pass.

Sit 'em down: It appears Byron Leftwich will start, not that it matters to you. Stay away from him, Roddy White, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson or any Falcons receiver.

Cleveland at Baltimore
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: Yes, the Ravens defense is pretty good, but it's 12th against the pass and has been beaten badly in more than a couple of games. So Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards are all must-starts.

Sit 'em down: Jamal Lewis hasn't played well lately and gets a tough matchup here. There's no other Cleveland player worth looking at, really.


Suit 'em up: The Browns defense is the only thing that would make Kyle Boller a palatable start. Willis McGahee has a touchdown in four straight starts and should get plenty of carries this week, making him a top-tier back.

Sit 'em down: Derrick Mason, the short-yardage receiver, had a better relationship with Steve McNair than he has with the stronger-armed Boller, who throws downfield a little more (Mark Clayton may be the most valuable Ravens receiver now). Also, don't expect the Ravens to post a low yardage total, though they'll still get a sack or two and maybe a turnover.

Arizona at Cincinnati
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: Kurt Warner is playing with two injuries on his left arm, but still had three touchdown passes last week. He's unable to hand off very well, so he might put it up 40 times this week. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are solid plays, and Bryant Johnson might even snatch four passes or so.

Sit 'em down: Edgerrin James is averaging 3.3 yards per rush since week 3, J.J. Arrington is playing on some third downs, Marcel Shipp is playing near the goal line and Warner's having trouble handing off. Need more reasons?


Suit 'em up: Carson Palmer hasn't been nearly as good this year, and the Cardinals pass defense is not bad. Despite that, this stat is encouraging: In five games at home against the NFC, Palmer has 11 touchdowns and two interceptions, winning four games. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a No. 1 WR, but with Chris Henry stealing passes, Chad Johnson's output might be impacted.

Sit 'em down: Kenny Watson has outplayed Rudi Johnson all season, yet Johnson gets more playing time when healthy. Start Watson at your own risk, but banish Rudi to the bench.

Carolina at Green Bay
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: It's hard to recommend one single Carolina player. But go ahead and take a chance on Steve Smith just because he has the ability to turn a screen pass into a long touchdown. And the Packers are 18th against the pass.

Sit 'em down: Neither Vinny Testaverde nor David Carr is worth your time. DeShaun Foster just isn't consistent, and the Packers are strong against the run (seventh).


Suit 'em up: As bad as the Panthers offense has been, the defense is playing much better lately, especially against the pass. But Brett Favre is playing better than he has in years. Ryan Grant ran for 119 yards against Minnesota, which is better than Carolina against the run. The sleeper here is Donald Lee -- the Panthers often struggle defending the tight end.

Sit 'em down: Ruvell Martin won't catch two touchdown passes again this week, maybe never again in his career. And Koren Robinson is no more than a fourth or fifth option in the passing game, so don't be tempted.

New Orleans at Houston
1 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: The Saints took a step back in a loss to St. Louis last week, but Drew Brees (272 yards, two TD) continues to put up big numbers, and will do so again against a beaten up Texans secondary. Marques Colston has three touchdowns in three weeks, and Reggie Bush seems fully recovered from a bad headache and could be a No. 1 option this week.

Sit 'em down: David Patten, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore are sort of all jumbled together. Each could have a breakout game or be held to one catch. Explore other options.


Suit 'em up: The Texans were great in the season's first two games when Andre Johnson was playing, and he's back this week. That should give Matt Schaub's value a boost in a matchup against the league's 29th-ranked pass defense. Coming off a season-best game, Ron Dayne might be worth a flier if only because of the matchup.

Sit 'em down: With Johnson's return, Andre Davis goes back to being a third receiver. Kevin Walter might still retain some value, but Owens Daniels might be the second-best receiving option.

Kansas City at Indianapolis
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: With Larry Johnson out, Priest Holmes will get the bulk of the work in the backfield and is a decent No. 2 option this week. Tony Gonzalez is a solid play, and Dwayne Bowe is a No. 2 target and might even benefit from Brody Croyle's big arm.

Sit 'em down: Croyle makes his first start, and its on the road against the No. 2 pass defense. Take a pass this week, but pick him up for down the road. Kolby Smith might get a few more carries this week than he did last time out, but he's risky, at best.


Suit 'em up: Indy has plenty of injury issues, but as long as Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai are OK it has three No. 1 options. If you need a deep waiver wire sleeper at WR, check out Craphonso Thorpe, who's getting looks with Marvin Harrison and Aaron Moorehead questionable and Anthony Gonzalez out.

Sit 'em down: Harrison might be a game-time decision, and he'll see some rest if the Colts get any kind of a lead early. Kenton Keith scored last week, but he's not forcing a platoon anytime soon.

San Diego at Jacksonville
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: Jacksonville's defense is underachieving at the moment, so the Chargers might score more than expected. LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates are must-starts, of course. And here's a hunch that, although he's struggled in two of three games, Chris Chambers gets into the end zone.

Sit 'em down: Philip Rivers is in a funk and isn't a No. 1 option, and his play means Vincent Jackson isn't an option.


Suit 'em up: San Diego's defense causes turnovers, but gives up big chunks of yardage. Maurice Jones-Drew shouldn't expect his 5.2 YPC to go down this week and could be a No. 1 option. Fred Taylor will probably lose carries but is still a second-tier running back. Dennis Northcutt gets a slight boost with the return of David Garrard, but isn't much more than a flex play, though he's probably the most consistent receiver the Jags present.

Sit 'em down: Garrard returns but might not be the running threat he was, which limits his value. Hopefully you don't have Matt Jones, on whom the team has quit.

Oakland at Minnesota
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: Is it possible that an entire game doesn't have a single viable fantasy player? Yuck! OK, take a chance (if you're desperate) on Daunte Culpepper, who's starting for Oakland against a terrible pass defense. If he throws a touchdown pass, it will probably be to Ronald Curry or Zach Miller, but neither is a great start. In fact all of these guys could just have easily been in the following category.

Sit 'em down: Justin Fargas remains an option, but is facing a pretty good run defense (though they haven't been quite as strong lately).


Suit 'em up: With Adrian Peterson down, Chester Taylor gets to take a shot at a defense that has allowed 10 rushing touchdowns this season. The Vikings defense might also be a safe bet, if only because Oakland is so bad on offense.

Sit 'em down: Tarvaris Jackson is starting again, but we're not sure why. His receivers have some physical ability (Sidney Rice especially), but they have a better shot at getting yardage on reverses and screens rather than downfield passes. This game looks like a 9-6 final.

Miami at Philadelphia
1 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: Jesse Chatman gets a tough matchup, but the Dolphins have the offensive line of a much better team (makes you wonder why they're 0-9). Chatman is still a decent play.

Sit 'em down: It is truly amazing that Miami is unable to get Ted Ginn more involved in the offense. John Beck might prove to be better than Cleo Lemon right away, but neither is worth a start this week against a team that loves to blitz.


Suit 'em up: Start them all -- the Miami defense is awful when healthy, and now Zach Thomas (concussion) and Jason Taylor (ankle) are iffy. Donovan McNabb is a No. 1 option, Brian Westbrook is a no-brainer and Kevin Curtis could rebound this week. I'd take a shot at L.J. Smith, as well.

Sit 'em down: Hank Baskett and Jason Avant have been virtually non-existent this season, and there's no reason to believe that will change.

Pittsburgh at New York Jets
4:05 p.m., CBS


Suit 'em up: The efficient offense gets a great matchup. Willie Parker might be the best fantasy play this week -- he's facing the league's worst run defense. With only two touchdowns, he could double that this week. Ben Roethlisberger is a must-start, while Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are also good plays. Heath Miller is also a No. 1 option.

Sit 'em down: Najeh Davenport is a short-yardage guy who got stuffed twice last week on those types of carries, including once at the goal line. It's doubtful the Steelers ever get stopped near the goal line this week.


Suit 'em up: A bad matchup all around, as the Steelers rank first in the NFL in passing, rushing and overall defense. The only Jet worth starting might be Jerricho Cotchery, who has at least five catches in every game but one this season.

Sit 'em down: Laveranues Coles had a bye week to recover from a concussion, but being covered be Ike Taylor might be an even bigger headache. Kellen Clemens has been average in two starts, but will be less than that Sunday. Thomas Jones is going against a defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 34 games.

Washington at Dallas
4:15 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: The Redskins' best bet is to run the ball, control the clock and keep Dallas' offense on the field. Heck, that's Joe Gibbs' philosophy every week. But Clinton Portis has 66 carries for 333 yards the last two weeks, and will probably get 25 carries or so this week (barring a blowout). The Cowboys are better against the run (fifth) than the pass (16th), but don't be fooled -- they're blowing people out and making teams throw the ball to catch up. Go ahead and start Jason Campbell, who played very well last week (three TDs).

Sit 'em down: Washington has taken three of four from Dallas, so this game might be closer than some think. That doesn't mean you should start any of the Redskins receivers with the exception of TE Chris Cooley, who could have a big day.


Suit 'em up: Redskins safety Sean Taylor is out, so Jason Witten figures to be a big factor. Don't be scared by Terrell Owens' numbers against Washington (38.3 ypg in eight games). Most of those were against Champ Bailey, who's now a Bronco.

Sit 'em down: The Redskins are better against the run (11th) than the pass (22nd), so Julius Jones looks like a lesser option while Patrick Crayton gets a nudge ahead.

New York Giants at Detroit Lions
4:15 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: Eli Manning remains an enigma: A throw of awe-inspiring accuracy on one down, a numbskull play the next. Against the 30th-ranked pass defense (and on turf indoors), expect shock and awe. Plaxico Burress has been wearing down, it seems, but this matchup is too good to ignore him or Amani Toomer.

Sit 'em down: Well, you can't sit him, but the Lions defense is fifth against the run, so Brandon Jacobs might not be a No. 1 option this week.


Suit 'em up: Roy Williams caught a pair of touchdown passes last week after none since week 3. He's the best bet among Lions receivers this week, though Shaun McDonald is being targeted a lot lately.

Sit 'em down: Detroit is beaten up and might be coming back to earth. Jon Kitna has a bad back and will get plenty of jolts this week. Kevin Jones aggravated a foot injury last week and faces the ninth-best rushing defense this week. Calvin Johnson isn't getting as many chances as Mike Martz said he would, and the Lions defense, surprisingly valuable so far, simply cannot maintain the pace of three takeaways per game.

St. Louis at San Francisco
4:15 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: Is it possible that the Rams are better than the 49ers? Not only is it possible, it's a fact (and from a fantasy perspective, it's not even close). Against the 25th-ranked rushing defense, Steven Jackson could have his best game of the year. Marc Bulger has been very good lately, so start him and Torry Holt with no reservations. Isaac Bruce is back as a No. 2 option.

Sit 'em down: Brian Leonard is out as Jackson's backup, and Antonio Pittman is in. Neither has any fantasy value as long as Jackson is healthy (of course, that's no sure thing).


Suit 'em up: Coach Mike Nolan openly criticized the team for not getting the ball to Vernon Davis more, so here's a bet that Davis gets as many as 10 targets this week. And Frank Gore, even though he's banged up, gets a matchup too good to ignore this week.

Sit 'em down: Trent Dilfer starts this week ahead of the ailing (and ineffective) Alex Smith. He wasn't a fantasy factor 10 years ago, and won't be this week. Don't waste your time with Arnaz Battle or Darrell Jackson unless you're truly desperate. Truly.

Chicago at Seattle
4:15 p.m., FOX


Suit 'em up: He's back! Rex Grossman, that is. And he loves to throw deep to Bernard Berrian, who may be the only player who seems to respond to Grossman. The Seahawks are 20th against the pass, so take a shot at Muhsin Muhammad, as well.

Sit 'em down: Everyone loves to beat up on Cedric Benson, and why not? Against the 10th-best rushing defense, he'll average around 2.5. The team's best back is Adrian Peterson, but he's not so valuable if he's not playing. This situation will change eventually, but remember how long it took to get Grossman out of the lineup the first time?


Suit 'em up: Shaun Alexander is a game-time decision, and if he's out Maurice Morris becomes a good start against the league's (surprisingly) 30th-ranked rush defense. With Grossman's affection for the interception, take a chance on the Seattle defense.

Sit 'em down: With Deion Branch probable, Bobby Engram's great run might be coming to a close. But D.J. Hackett's likely will continue. Make Branch play a solid game before starting him.

New England at Buffalo
8:15 p.m., NBC


Suit 'em up: It's amazing the Bills have put together a four-game win streak with the league's 28th-ranked defense. Tom Brady and Randy Moss are no-brainers, but Wes Welker (TDs in four straight games) is a great play, too, and you could do worse than Ben Watson.

Sit 'em down: Did you know that Laurence Maroney played fewer snaps than Kevin Faulk against the Colts? Maroney doesn't have 100 yards in a game since week 3, and still doesn't have a touchdown. That's hard to believe considering most teams are playing five and six defensive backs on every play. Consider him a flex play.


Suit 'em up: It's odd that J.P. Losman would get a recommendation, but the guess is that the game gets out of control, and Losman puts it in the air 35 times. Lee Evans has been very good lately (466 yards in four games) and is worth a shot.

Sit 'em down: Anthony Thomas, Dwayne Wright, Fred Jackson ... take a pass on all of the potential replacements for Marshawn Lynch, who'll miss the game.

Tennessee at Denver
8:30 p.m., ESPN


Suit 'em up: Denver is 31st in rushing defense, and LenDale White looks healthy. White will likely run for 100 yards for the fourth time in five games. The Titans defense is worth a shot against a dink-and-dunk Broncos passing game.

Sit 'em down: Vince Young racked up more than 300 yards of offense last week, but facing the tough CB tandem of Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, he'll revert to the form we've seen most of the year. Brandon Jones and Roydell Williams are about even in value, and that's as flex options.


Suit 'em up: The Broncos really ought to let Jay Cutler air it out this week against an average pass defense. If he does, Brandon Marshall might find the end zone for the first time since week 4. This might be a good week to start the Broncos defense, which could pick off Young more than once.

Sit 'em down: Travis Henry is hurting and may be serving a suspension after this week, anyway, so Selvin Young is the starter. Young might be a No. 2 RB, but the Titans are very good against the run and downright dominating when Albert Haynesworth is playing (he could be a game-time decision). That might be your guide as to whether to start Young.

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