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Jospeh's Articles

The Shot Caller's Report
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups

I'd like to thank everyone who chimed in on last week's direction-of-the-column question. I received numerous responses and plenty of good suggestions (even great ones) regarding where we should take this baby in the future. Though I can't possibly please everyone, I'm certainly hoping the column will--at the very least--remain useful for the broad majority of fantasy gamers out there. After all, you wouldn't be reading it (or commenting upon it) if you didn't find it somewhat helpful in the first place, right? Right.

With that in mind, I've decided not to tinker with the format too much, save for two notable exceptions. I will no longer be listing injured players (players who are listed as "out" on the official NFL injury report) or players who are on their bye week. Though most of you had no problem with this, others felt (and I ultimately agreed) that the commentary regarding idle players was superfluous. We all know Peyton Manning is a top-of-the-line starter. We don't need to be reminded (and probably don't WANT to be reminded), that he's sitting out this week. Besides, with Manning out of the way, some of the less notable signal-callers get a chance to step into the fantasy spotlight, if only for a week.

I hope this minor alteration to the format doesn't drive any of you away. I honestly think the lists will more accurately depict the ranks of available fantasy players on a week-by-week basis. For that reason, I also think they'll be more useful in the long run. Once again, I truly appreciate the feedback and if you have any other questions, concerns, complaints, feel free to drop me a line.


Must Start: The Top 10 Plus 1

1. Steve McNair @ CAR - He almost beat me by himself last week (421 yards and three scores). Almost. He is laying waste to good secondaries and bad and now leads the league in passing yardage (1632 yards). Expect more of the same, regardless of matchups, since his backs provide virtually no assistance.

2. Daunte Culpepper vs. DEN - There are some who think Minnesota is more effective with Frerotte at the helm. Don't believe it. Culpepper is more talented in every respect and will pick up where he left off against a good Broncos D this week.

3. Marc Bulger vs. GB - If you missed the Monday Night game against Atlanta (352 yards and 2 scores), you can catch the replay this Sunday against the Pack. Mike McKenzie, Green Bay's only shutdown corner, might sit. Torry Holt owners are already tallying up the points.

4. Brett Favre @ STL - KC couldn't stop him last week (25 of 36 for 272 yards and a touch). Unfortunately, his defense couldn't stop KC. That's bad for the Pack (really bad) but good for Favre owners as he's likely to be involved in many more shootouts this season, starting this Sunday in St. Louis.

5. Brad Johnson @ SF - Only McNair and Manning have been more productive this year. Considering Tampa has no gamebreakers at the receiver position, that's no small feat. And to think I snagged him for Reggie Wayne a few weeks back. Sucker!!!

6. Drew Bledsoe vs. WAS - This might qualify as an understatement, but he's been enigmatic so far (five TDs vs. four picks). A below-average receiving corps and an anemic rushing attack certainly aren't helping matters but something's not right here. Still, if Moulds does play, I like Bledsoe's chances of righting the ship against a 'Skins D minus Fred Smoot.

7. Trent Green @ OAK - See what you get when you rag on a guy facing your favorite squad? I got your 400 yards and three touchdown passes RIGHT here, cheesehead! The only thing standing between him and another huge day in Oakland is Oakland's inability to stop Priest Holmes.

8. Matt Hasselbeck vs. CHI - Though a dyed-in-the-wool West Coast guy, Holmgren is doing his best to maintain balance this year (149 passes vs. 142 runs). If that trend continues (and it may against a dreadful Bears squad), Hasselbeck will continue to give you modest numbers. Modesty doesn't win fantasy championships. Gaudiness does.

9. Patrick Ramsey @ BUF - He's taking a beating (21 sacks so far) and the warm fuzzies are starting to fade in Washington. That said, he's thrown for 1518 yards (third-most in the league) and will continue to wing it until The Ballcoach discovers a running game. (Note to The Ballcoach: your running game plays for Carolina now.)

10. Kerry Collins vs. PHI - In all fairness, I kept Favre on this list when he probably played himself off it earlier in the year. Look how that turned out. Collins is capable of duplicating the feat provided he cuts down on the picks (pronto) and starts utilizing his vast arsenal of offensive firepower.

Grab A Helmet:

David Carr vs. NYJ - Threw for 371 yards last week and a couple scores. We could harp on the three picks but the fact of the matter is turnovers aren't nearly as costly in fantasy ball as they are in real life. Once he harnesses the power of that rocket launcher he calls a right arm, look out.

Tim Couch vs. SD - He put up microscopic numbers last week (127 yards and no TDs) but that's mostly because William Green made mincemeat out of the Raiders front seven. San Diego is just as crappy on defense (OK, crappier) but, strangely enough, more potent on offense. That's my way of saying you should expect a shootout in Cleveland. Couch is in the midst of rekindling a career and could inflict some serious damage in this one.

Aaron Brooks @ ATL - He's starting to show signs of life (seven TDs vs. four picks and an 80.4 rating) but it may be too late to salvage the season. Of course, unless you're a Saints fan, you don't care about that. You care about fantasy points and, like Bulger last Monday, he should deliver a bunch of them against a miserable Falcons D in Week 7.

Jon Kitna vs. BAL - If ever a guy was a serviceable fantasy starter, he's it (1164 yards and six TD passes). He won't win a ton of games for you but he probably won't lose many either. If Dillon ever rounds into form, the Bengals (thanks to an improving defense) could surprise people in the second half. For now, be glad that Kitna's throwing the ball to Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick.

Drew Brees @ CLE - The weapons on offense are there (Tomlinson and Boston) and Brees is capable of using them effectively. More importantly, the offense is going to be asked to carry the load since the defense (obviously) can't. It's a tried and true fantasy formula: bad defense = more offense.

Grab A Clipboard:

Jeff Garcia vs. TB - Don't be deceived by his fairly decent fantasy numbers. He's run for three scores and those points have obscured his below average passing stats (six TDs vs. seven INTs). More importantly, he's not a good fit for Dennis Erickson's offense and is barely escaping with his life most weeks. Until San Fran figures out a way to protect him (good luck against Tampa), he'll have a hard time finding his receivers downfield and improving his efficiency.

Joey Harrington vs. DAL - Make no mistake about it: the loss of Chas. Rogers during the bye week will prove costly. Detroit had bottom five talent at the skill positions to begin with. Now, they resemble a CFL team. Shawn Bryson? Bill Schroeder? Az Hakim? You deserve better, Joey.

Kurt Kittner vs. NO - Is Dan Reeves desperate or what? Kittner couldn't be much worse than Doug Johnson but that's no reason to insert him in your lineup. Guys like him make writing this column pretty easy.

Jay Fiedler vs. NE - He had a golden opportunity to redeem himself vs. Jacksonville's dreadful secondary last week. He didn't do it (14 of 27 for 147 yards and a pick). Since Ricky is obviously capable of carrying the load, expect Wannstedt to remain conservative and win with defense/ball control.

Chris Chandler @ SEA - Only an overeager Cubs fan prevents Kordell Stewart from being the least popular guy in Chicago right now. Chandler takes over the reins in time for a return trip to Seattle, where he engineered U-Dub's offense seemingly 30 years ago. Even THREE years ago, he was way past his prime. Don't go there.

Donovan McNabb @ NYG - I never thought he'd grace this list once, let alone twice. He's clearly struggling right now and doesn't have much to work with in the way of viable targets. Again, sit him down until something changes in Philly.

Running Backs

Must Start: The Top 15:

1. Priest Holmes @ OAK - Went virtually unutilized in Green Bay until overtime, when he carried it nine consecutive plays. Of course, the Chiefs were in catch-up mode almost all day. They won't be playing catch-up in Oakland so he should be in for a fairly huge day against the atrocious Raiders D (164.7 rushing yards/game).

2. Ahman Green @ STL - Don't look now but he's officially supplanted Priest as the top scorer heading into Week 7. The fumbles are troublesome (OK, heartbreaking) but they won't hurt your bottom line in the fantasy world. Faces a largely untested Rams rushing D that gives up 4.6 per carry so expect a cool hundy and at least one score.

3. Ricky Williams vs. NE - His yards per carry are way down this year (3.4 vs. 4.8 in 2002) but he's still scoring major points. Perhaps that's because he's leading the league in attempts (134). Expect him to continue getting the majority of touches until Wannstedt eventually sours on Fiedler. That might be sooner than you think.

4. Jamal Lewis @ CIN - As promised, he broke off a big one against the Cardinals (a 52-yarder). Unfortunately, he didn't score. For now, the fewer TDs (compared to Holmes and Green) are the only thing keeping him out of the top three. Faces the Bungles in Week 7 so big things might be in store.

5. Deuce McAllister @ ATL - Thanks to a 4.5 per carry average and 25 receptions, Deuce has overcome an inability to find paydirt. Fortunately, he faces an Atlanta D this week that has given up a league-leading nine rushing touchdowns on the season. Come to think of it, Atlanta's D seems to have given up on the season itself. He's a great start in the Georgia Dome.

6. Clinton Portis @ MIN - With the Snake no longer a distraction, defenses will gear up to take Portis away. Pittsburgh certainly did in Week 6 as he carried it only 15 times for a paltry 47 yards. The Vikings aren't terrific vs. the run (4.5 per carry) but I'm expecting his numbers to tail off a little, nonetheless.

7. LaDainian Tomlinson @ CLE - Even with Tomlinson (a great young back) and Schottenheimer (an old school coach), the Bolts have managed only 118 rushing attempts this year. That accounts for roughly 38% of their plays from scrimmage. What gives? Try a defense that yields boatloads of yardage and way too many points. In fact, they keep giving and giving and…. Teams that fall behind as frequently as San Diego does can't afford to run the ball much so Tomlinson may continue to struggle with consistency.

8. Stephen Davis vs. TEN - Could a legitimate MVP candidate end up in a platoon situation by year's end? Don't laugh. Deshaun Foster, who replaced the gimpy Davis last week, is clearly the more explosive runner. Though Davis promises he'll play in Week 7, the Panthers won't (and shouldn't) be afraid of turning to Foster should the big guy show any lingering effects of a forearm injury. Monitor this situation VERY closely.

9. Shaun Alexander vs. CHI - He's listed as questionable this week and since the 'Hawks are facing Northwestern…er, Chicago, you might wanna sit him. Maurice Morris is a very capable backup (6.9 per carry) and could see extended duty if Seattle jumps out to an early lead. They will.

10. Tiki Barber vs. PHI - The Giants have the fifth-most productive offense in the league but are only scoring 19 points a game. Care to guess why? Only Arizona has turned the ball over more. Tiki is part of the problem (three fumbles) and he's not making up for it by scoring touchdowns (just one so far). Simply put, he's an iffy start against the stout Philly front seven (68.2 rushing yds./game).

11. Moe Williams vs. DEN - He reportedly will lose more carries to Onterrio Smith in the coming weeks. That's not a good thing from a fantasy perspective. Denver's D has also been pretty stingy against the run (only two rushing TDs against) but recently lost linebacker Ian Gold for the season. Expect the Vikes' mammoth O-line, as a result, to create a scoring opportunity for both Williams and Smith. Oh, and grab Michael Bennett on the off chance he's still available in your league.

12. Travis Henry vs. WAS - Even with seven TDs to his credit, he ranks outside the Top 10 in fantasy points for running backs. A 2.6 average per carry will do that to you. Not sure if the questionable passing attack is killing Henry's productivity or if it's the other way around. Regardless, he's got a nose for the endzone and, for the most part, that's all that matters to us.

13. William Green vs. SD - He wasted the Raiders last week (26 carries, 145 yards, and a score) and should find just as much room to roam against an atrocious Chargers D this week. His per-carry average is up around 4.0 now and I expect it to stay there for the rest of year.

14. Troy Hambrick @ DET - This guy is a situational starter all the way. He struggles against good defenses and feasts on poor ones. Detroit's defense falls into the latter category and if the Cowboys jump out to an early lead (which they've done with some regularity of late), Hambrick should garner 20 carries and another score.

15. Charlie Garner vs. KC - Speaking of garnering, it's time Charlie and the Raidahs started garnering some points (not to mention wins). Now that Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are starting to show their age, he's the number one option in the offense. Though he'll never be a pile-moving tailback, he's fleet enough to wreak havoc on the perimeter and KC's defense, though better, is not exactly stellar against the run (4.9 per carry).

Grab A Helmet:

Anthony Thomas @ SEA - Running backs who play for awful teams don't usually stand a chance of being productive. Consider A-Train the exception. Chicago was horrible last week but he still managed 96 yards on 21 carries. Now that Chandler is behind center, you can expect Coach Jauron to ride Thomas until he drops. Seattle's run defense is nothing special, either.

Domanick Davis vs. NYJ - I'm not trying to brag or anything but I needed a stopgap solution at running back last week and picked this guy up late Saturday night. 129 total yards later, I was sitting at 6-0. He's much better than Stacey Mack (waiver wire fodder) and could continue to post decent numbers in the coming weeks. The Jets are anything but solid against the run (149.8 per game).

Michael Pittman @ SF - Like Davis, Pittman is Mr. Versatility. He'll run for some yards and catch a handful of passes. The end result is usually in the neighborhood of 75-100 total yards and, if you're lucky, a score.

T.J. Duckett vs. NO - He's very similar (in build and in ability) to Troy Hambrick. He's also broken off some surprisingly long runs this year and could do so again this week. Coach Reeves will do everything possible to protect Kurt Kittner in his first start and the best way to protect a young QB is to run the ball. Ask Jake Delhomme.

Lamar Gordon vs. GB - He's listed a probable on the injury report so I guess that means he's probably a good start this week. The Pack managed to contain Priest Holmes last week (as much as that's possible) but isn't super against the run. If the Rams build a lead (possible), he'll be asked to consume the clock and could eventually find the endzone as a result.

Grab A Gatorade:

Eddie George @ CAR - He's an over-the-hill tailback who's losing carries and red zone opportunities to his backups. He's facing Carolina this week. He's averaging 2.8 yards per carry this year. Shall I go on?

Corey Dillon vs. BAL - The groin is good as new…according to him. You'll hafta excuse me for being skeptical. Facing Ray Lewis and the boys, I don't like his chances of succeeding this week. Sit him down one more time and let him prove he's back before you start him again.

Garrison Hearst vs. TB - Ran for 62 yards and a touch vs. the Seahawks. Tampa Bay is no Seattle, though. Use the platoon thing with Barlow as your excuse this week and find another starter.

Ladell Betts @ BUF - Canidate appears to be on the shelf for this one so Betts gets the call. Though the Bills aren't very stout vs. the run (121.2 per game), I have a feeling Washington will live and die with Ramsey and Co. this week. Call it a hunch 'cuz the numbers don't support the prediction.

Kevin Faulk @ MIA - He's a third-down back masquerading as a feature back. Surprisingly, he's done a helluva job so far (58 carries for 263 yards), despite the fact he hasn't found the endzone. Expect very little this week against a Miami defense that is only yielding 70.8 yards/game and 3.2 per carry.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Must Start: The Top 15:

Randy Moss vs. DEN - Like McNair, matchups don't seem to matter for Moss. He's an equal opportunity destroyer, lighting up the best corners in the league as well as the worst. He's clearly benefited from the emergence of a powerful rushing attack this year, too, so expect more of the same in the future.

2. Torry Holt vs. GB - I'm already having visions of him torturing the short-handed Packers secondary on Sunday. It's Friday. Here's hoping I'm not clairvoyant.

3. Derrick Mason @ CAR - He may not have the wheels he once had but he's still plenty dangerous. Witness his huge day vs. the Texans last Sunday (six catches, 177 yards, and THREE touchdowns). He's facing a much better Carolina defense in Week 7 but until some semblance of a ground attack emerges--don't hold your breath--he'll keep racking up the points.

4. Eric Moulds vs. WAS - Assuming he plays (not a given), he's got a chance to go ballistic on a depleted Washington secondary that has yielded the most passing TDs this year (12). I love Rashad Bauman (Smoot's replacement and a fellow Duck), but he can't possibly hope to contain the bigger, stronger, faster Moulds in Week 7.

5. Chad Johnson vs. BAL - Welcome back, old friend. We've missed you. If Corey Dillon is still gimpy this week (he's listed as questionable), Kitna and Co. will take to the air again. Surprisingly, that hasn't been such a bad thing for Cincy. Mr. Johnson is the reason why.

6. Joe Horn @ ATL - If the Saints are ever going to get healthy, it's going to happen this week against the laughable Falcons defense. Horn's running mate, Donte Stallworth, has disappeared so Horn carries the burden for now. Expect at least one scoring hookup with a steadily (if slowly) improving Aaron Brooks.

7. David Boston @ CLE - I'm glad he doesn't play for any of my teams but he's doubtless a force to be reckoned with when his head is screwed on straight. Though that isn't often, he's coming off a HUGE game two weeks ago against Jacksonville (14 catches, 181 yards, and two scores). The Chargers will need points aplenty to keep up with Couch and the Browns so expect more of the same this week.

8. Terrell Owens vs. TB - Garcia had no trouble finding him last week. Unfortunately, T.O. had trouble finding the handle (three big drops). Is that any way to act after clamoring for more attention? You'd better believe the Bucs will be paying him PLENTY of attention in Week 7.

9. Laveranues Coles @ BUF - The Bills have defended the pass pretty well this year (175 yds./game) and Patrick Ramsey is spending more time on his back than his feet lately. If the O-line can't shore up protection and give him more time to throw, it won't matter how lethal Coles is in the open field.

10. Donald Driver @ STL - Nobody distributes the ball more democratically than Favre (nine players caught passes last week), That probably hurts Driver's value in the long run. Nevertheless, he's still option #1 in the passing game and if the anticipated shootout vs. the Rams materializes, he'll put up big numbers.

11. Amani Toomer vs. PHI - His 19.1 yards per catch is tops in the league for guys with 20 or more catches. Unfortunately, his quarterback has thrown more interceptions than anyone not named Doug Johnson. That better change if the G-men hope to challenge the Cowboys for NFC East supremacy.

12. Andre Johnson vs. NYJ - Took a back seat to Corey Bradford in Week 6 but is still the most dangerous Texans receiver. Playing for a team that gives up way too many points (30.2 per game), he'll be relied upon heavily for the rest of the year.

13. Jeremy Shockey vs. PHI - Philly was better against the Cowboys last week but is still giving up too much yardage through the air. Shockey has caught as many balls as Moss so far (29) and there aren't too many tight ends who can make that claim.

14. Tony Gonzalez @ OAK - Now we're talking! Gonzalez is coming off a huge day in Wisconsin (four catches, 121 yards, and a score) and is reaping the benefits (finally) of the undivided attention paid to Priest. That should continue to be the case in Oakland this week.

15. Isaac Bruce vs. GB - IF the Pack manages to contain Holt (and even if they don't), Bruce should take advantage of mismatches in the secondary. He's caught 27 balls for 397 yards so it's not like he's an afterthought in the offense. Get him in your lineup.

Grab A Helmet:

Keenan McCardell @ SF - Provided Brad Johnson stops throwing the ball to Todd Yoder and Will Heller in the red zone (who?), he's a good bet to score against a Niners defense that has given up 11 passing TDs on the year.

Joey Galloway @ DET - He's not catching a ton of balls (less than four per contest) but he's making the most of those catches (20.2 per grab). Detroit's secondary is third-rate so if Carter can avoid an erratic performance, Galloway should shine.

Koren Robinson vs. CHI - My refusal to put him in the Top 15 is causing consternation from coast to coast. OK, not really. Still, I'm receiving plenty of hate mail regarding the 'Hawks young wideout. You must understand that I LOVE Koren Robinson and would certainly start him if he played on one of my teams. I only leave him out because he competes for balls and because (as mentioned previously) Holmgren seems dedicated to the run. Are we square?

Rod Smith @ MIN - The injury to Plummer hurts Smith's value. Beuerlein simply isn't as good and can't escape the pocket like the Snake can. That said, Minnesota's secondary is somewhat feast or famine. They've intercepted 13 passes so far but will give up a fair amount of big plays. Expect Smith to take advantage at least once.

Alge Crumpler vs. NO - Take away Peerless Price's huge day against Minnesota and Crumpler has been the most valuable Falcons receiver (21 catches, 316 yards, and two scores). Of course, since he's not (technically speaking) a receiver, he's even more valuable to your fantasy squad. Expect a decent game against the crummy Saints if Kittner manages to find him.

Ernie Conwell @ ATL - Has anyone else noticed he's caught 21 balls for 231 yards and two touchdowns? Those are pretty darn good numbers when you consider how awful the Saints have been this year. Against a pitiful Falcons defense that must focus on Joe Horn, he's liable to continue the hot streak this weekend.

Grab Some Wood:

Any Philly receiver @ NYG - A reader suggested I was a little harsh on the Philly receiving corps in light of Donovan's issues. That may be the case (he's definitely struggling with accuracy) but what are these guys going to do with it once they catch it? Thrash, Pinkston, and Mitchell are not fantasy starters. Period.

Chris Chambers vs. NE - Save for a huge Week 1, Chambers has been virtually a non-factor. The next-best Dolphins receiver (Derrius Thompson) has only seven catches through five games. Think opponents might be game-planning to take away Chambers? So do I.

Peerless Price vs. NO - I sat him two weeks ago and he exploded. I started him last week and he IMploded (one catch for eight measly yards). Until Vick returns (IF Vick returns), he's riding my bench. That's not an indictment of his ability (Top 10 under the right circumstances). It's an indictment of the charlatans throwing him the ball.

Bill Schroeder vs. DAL - There aren't many guys who are better athletes at the position (you think I'm kidding), but he's never managed to translate his physical gifts into consistent production (12 catches, 134 yards, and 1 TD so far). By default, he becomes Harrington's favorite target this week. That's not good enough.

Bubba Franks @ STL - Trust me when I say he's overrated and has been for quite some time. If it weren't for his uncanny ability to find the endzone, he'd hardly be worth starting. Not to mention, Favre seems to like throwing the ball to a more reliable Wesley Walls…like I knew he might.

Good luck, folks!