Skinny: The man or the matchup?

Also See: Sunday Scene | Monday Brunch | Week 6 leaders

Peyton Manning in Week 6 vs. Baltimore: 19-for-28, 271 passing yards, 3 TD passes, 0 INTs, 22 fantasy points (Yahoo! default).

Jason Campbell in Week 6 vs. St. Louis: 18-for-26, 208 passing yards, 0 TD passes, 0 INTs, 9 fantasy points (Yahoo! default).

On Sunday's Fantasy Football Live show, Brad Evans and I got into a verbal jousting match with RotoWire's Chris Liss, who had used a "Lance Moore or Isaac Bruce?" question from a viewer as a point of emphasis in his claim that Brad and I were relying too much on "paper" analysis – most notably, opponent defensive metrics – in determining start/sit decisions.

To summarize, Liss said that Bruce has been the 49ers' go-to guy and has a proven track record, and those facts outweighed a softer matchup for Lance Moore (Oakland). He went on to call me out for telling a previous caller to start Jason Campbell over Peyton Manning – I had them listed No. 9 and No. 10 on the Week 6 QB ranks, so it wasn't like I felt it was a no-brainer. And he had the same message for Evans, who had previously recommended two lesser name backs over two name-brand backs. What his argument basically boiled down to was a "start your studs" philosophy in all cases except when it's very obvious that you shouldn't. Whereas, Evans and I were arguing the importance of factoring in the matchup.

In the aftermath, the question I'm left mulling is this: "Was recommending Jason Campbell really bad advice?"

If based only on the actual outcome, it was definitely bad advice. But let's look at it again from the pre-Week 6 perspective. First off, let's say you own both Manning and Campbell. In this scenario, you had to make a decision on who to start four times prior to Sunday – Manning had a bye in Week 4, so Campbell was your only choice. In the four weeks in which both played, Campbell scored more fantasy points in Week 2 and Week 3, while Manning took top honors in Week 1 and Week 5. And, in Manning's bye week, Campbell had his best fantasy day of the season. So, if you'd subscribed solely to the start-your-stud theory, which I probably would have, you would have lost points half the time.

Manning's Week 6 opponent, Baltimore, came into the week as the toughest defense against opposing quarterbacks. It allowed an average of 145 passing yards and a 3:7 TD-to-INT ratio against the previous four quarterbacks it faced (Carson Palmer, Derek Anderson, Ben Roethlisberger, Kerry Collins). Campbell's Week 6 opponent, St. Louis, allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks despite an average of just 28 pass attempts from opposing signal-callers. Basically, teams were ripping the Rams' secondary to shreds without much effort. You could say it was a worst-case scenario for Manning and nearly a best-case scenario for Campbell.

While Liss was right on the Manning call, I still stand by my recommendation. And, for what it's worth, Liss' philosophy failed him in regards to the Isaac Bruce/Lance Moore call (although, when it comes to the FFL show, there's not much that he's been off target on). Moore wound up with seven catches for 97 yards, while Bruce became yet another go-to receiver limited by the Philly defense (2-for-28), as the numbers warned might happen.

The moral of the story here is that, yes, you have to factor in the track record of a stud like Manning. But you also have to consider the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately element. And you definitely have to weigh the merits of the matchup (points allowed by the opposing defense, how the defense matches up from a personnel and scheme standpoint, etc). And then you mentally factor in key injuries, the educated opinions of others, and so on …

When you've done all that, you look at your lineup and you make gut calls. Because, when it comes down to it, you're the one who has to live with the decisions you make. I'm not going to lose any sleep for telling that guy to start Campbell over Manning (Ok, maybe a little). I'm just saying, if you watch enough football and/or do the requisite homework, then there's no reason to second guess the decisions you make. Logic can be fickle in the NFL – after all, Adrian Peterson had it all going for him in Week 6 (proven star talent with a lip-smacking matchup against Detroit), and he finished with just nine fantasy points (Yahoo! default). The league is ripe for second-guessers. The ball is oval, and it can bounce in unpredictable ways. Make an informed decision and don't look back. Let's move on …

Week 6: Take 10
A look at 10 significant developments/situations from Week 6

1. Frank Gore is going to get strong consideration for top billing on my Big Board this week. In a season where inconsistency among the stars has been prevalent, Gore has yet to disappoint. He has finished among the top 13 running backs in fantasy points each week, three times landing among the top five. On Sunday, he ran 19 times for 101 yards and a TD against a Philly defense that came into the contest allowing just 3.3 yards per carry.

2. Scott Pianowski, in his Monday Brunch blog piece, tagged Larry Fitzgerald as the most valuable receiving commodity in fantasy. I'm not going to argue with that. Like Gore, he's found a level of consistency that few can match. In fact, he's had 70-plus yards and/or a TD in 20 straight games, which is a remarkable stat for a wideout.

3. Forget the Detroit Lions or the St. Louis Rams, Denver is the defense I'd most eagerly anticipate my players going up against. If you watched the Denver/Jacksonville game on Sunday, you likely witnessed Jags quarterback David Garrard being afforded as much time in the pocket as he desired. Garrard threw for 276 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Maurice Jones-Drew's ankle looked healthier than ever – Denver will do that for you – with 125 rushing yards and 2 TDs on a season-high 22 carries. New England is next in line and if any of you want to take a shot with a Matt Cassel, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, etc., I'm not going to try and stop you.

4. A couple weeks ago, I said here that Michael Turner was threatening to be labeled a "paper" player, one who exploits the weak run defenses but wilts against the staunch units. Against Detroit (4.9 ypc), Kansas City (5.0) and Green Bay (5.1), three of the league's five worst in terms of yards per carry allowed, Turner has averaged 148 rushing yards and scored 6 TDs. Against Tampa Bay (3.4), Carolina (3.8) and Chicago (3.5), three teams ranked among the league's top 12 in yards per carry allowed, Turner has burned fantasy owners with an average of 51 rushing yards and 0 TDs. This trend is a bit worrisome short-term, as he'll face Philadelphia (3.5 ypc) and Oakland (3.9 ypc) coming out of the Week 7 bye.

5. I'm loving the look of the Gus Frerotte-Bernard Berrian connection. The duo is taking deep shots every week, and it's starting to really pay off. Berrian has 78-plus yards in each of Frerotte's four games, and has topped 100 yards (with a TD) in each of the past two weeks. As long as Frerotte stays healthy, and we don't have to see Tavaris Jackson again, Berrian looks like a good bet for 1,100-1,200 yards and 6-8 TDs.

6. DeSean Jackson is a pretty special talent. His speed is off the charts. And, in typical Philly fashion, the team makes sure he has opportunities to make use of that speed each week. In addition to an average of eight targets per week, Jackson has ran the ball six times for 50 yards. He leads the league with 19 punt returns and is third in the league, behind Reggie Bush and Roscoe Parrish, in punt return average (13.3) among players with at least 10 returns. If he hadn't tweaked his ankle late in the second half against San Francisco on Sunday, there's a good chance he would have posted his third 100-yard receiving game – he finished with six catches for 98 yards. Even when Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown are both healthy at the same time, I don't think there is any way that Philly can pull back on Jackson's playing time.

7. For the first time in five career games at Qwest Field, Julius Jones did not top the 100-yard rushing mark. With Charlie Frye at quarterback, the Seahawks' offense struggled against the Packers (177 total yards). Jones handled just 12 carries for 41 yards. However, had OG Mike Wahle not been flagged for what was a highly questionable holding call early in the third quarter, Jones would have added a 51-yard carry to the books.

8. Braylon Edwards emerged from a Week 5 bye finally looking like the receiver we expected him to be after a breakout '07 campaign. Against the Giants on Monday night, he tallied 154 yards and a TD on five catches and also was on the receiving end of a two-point conversion. Edwards has battled a shoulder injury and team dissension up to Week 6, but he looked healthy and happy on Monday's national stage. He'll get a chance for an encore in Week 7 against a Washington defense that has struggled against bigger wideouts. Plaxico Burress, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Owens have combined for 24 catches, 313 yards and 2 TDs against the 'Skins this season.

9. I wouldn't completely write off the quarterback situation in Detroit. There's a rumor out there that Jon Kitna's bad back may shut him down for the year. Dan Orlovsky was an uninspiring 12-for-21 with a TD filling in for Kitna, including an inexplicable scramble out of the back of the end zone that resulted in a safety. That said, he deserves credit for not throwing a pick in a hostile environment at Minnesota. Going forward, the Lions are going to be playing from behind an awful lot and Orlovsky has two of the top receiving talents in the league at his disposal in Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams. If you have a QB on bye this week (Donovan McNabb, David Garrard, Matt Ryan, Kurt Warner) and need a fill in, I don't see Orlovsky, who faces a Houston defense allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to QBs, as that much worse of an option than the "Waiver Wire" quarterbacks listed below.

10. I used to have this spot reserved for Robert Meachem, but my favorite receiver sleeper has sailed into the mystic over the past couple weeks – on Sunday, Drew Brees completed passes to nine different Saints, yet he never looked Meachem's way. With Marques Colston set to return in Week 7, Meachem's probably already used up his "15 minutes" of fame in '08. In fact, Meachem's mojo seems to have transitioned to teammate Devery Henderson, who despite only knowing one route ("go deep!"), ranks 13th among receivers in fantasy value over the past three weeks (7, 253, TD). Henderson leads the league with an insane average of 32.1 yards per catch on 12 receptions. He's still floating around on waivers in roughly a quarter of Yahoo! Plus leagues. As a plug-n-play, you know that a couple catches from Henderson will likely be enough to treat you right.

Players that need to be on your mind heading into Week 7

Waiver Wire


Matt Ryan, Atl (47% owned in Plus leagues)

Ryan won't be of help in Week 7 – he's on a bye. But he's played himself into a player of backup intrigue for fantasy owners. In Week 6, he threw for 301 yards and a TD against a tough Chicago defense. In Week 5, he threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns in an upset victory at Green Bay. Although I've felt from Day 1 that he's going to be one of the next great quarterbacks in the league, it looks like he's evolving into a star even faster than I expected. Atlanta's going to remain a run-first team, but Ryan is proving to be a serviceable fantasy option, even against stiffer competition.


Brad Johnson, Dal (24% owned)

With news that Tony Romo will be out 4-5 weeks with a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand, Johnson will take the reins for the league's No. 4 offense (29.2 points per game).


Gus Frerotte, Min (28% owned)

Like the others quarterbacks on this list, Frerotte's value is that of a fantasy backup and bye-week filler. But forward-thinking owners that feel good about their playoff chances may want to think about stashing Frerotte for December. In Week 14 and Week 15, the Vikings will play the two teams (Detroit and Arizona) currently allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks.


Jeff Garcia, TB (21% owned)

Replacing Brian Griese, Garcia played game manager on Sunday in a 27-3 victory over Carolina, completing 15-of-20 passes for 173 yards and a TD (0 INTs). Garcia will remain the starter for now, but he ranked just 19th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game (minimum eight starts) in this offense in '07. Still, there are a lot of soft matchups for the Bucs the rest of the way, so a case can be made to roster Garcia as backup insurance.


Sammy Morris, NE (52% owned)

Morris has scored in three of five games and has more than twice as many touches than any other running back on the Patriots. It's not an ultra-lucrative spot, but he's the team's No. 1 back, nonetheless. Laurence Maroney, inexplicably still owned in 76 percent of Y! Plus leagues, clearly is not a favored son of Bill Belichick. Morris should continue to garner the largest share of carries, including the conventional, non-Wildcat formation, goal-line totes.


Ricky Williams, Mia (54% owned)

Williams picked up 46 rushing yards and a TD on 11 carries on Sunday. The 11 carries should be the upper limit of expectations for him now that Ronnie Brown has secured the headliner role, but Williams is a necessary handcuff for Brown owners, as Williams could produce some solid numbers if Brown were to go down with injury at some point in the future. There are definitely some soft spots on the remaining schedule (Denver, Oakland, St. Louis, Kansas City, for example)


Dominic Rhodes, Ind (16% owned)

Speaking of handcuffs, Rhodes was called to action on Sunday after Joseph Addai left the game early with a hamstring injury. He picked up 73 yards and a TD on 25 carries – his rushing TD was the first against Baltimore this season. It's not known yet if Addai will be able to play in Week 7, so Rhodes should be added as a contingency plan. If he is asked to fill-in again, he'll face a much more generous run defense in the Green Bay Packers.


Joey Galloway, TB (43% owned)

Remember this guy? He hasn't been seen since Week 2 because of a foot injury. But there's a decent chance he could return in Week 7. He was running around in pre-game warmups catching passes on Sunday and the Bucs hope he can practice this week. Don't forget, with Garcia at quarterback, Galloway was a 1,014-yard, 6-TD performer in this offense last season.


Justin Gage, Ten (30% owned)

It's understandable that the fantasy community has fallen asleep on Gage. After catching five passes for 92 yards in Week 4, Gage sat out Week 5 with a knee injury and then observed a bye this past weekend. Gage expects to return in Week 7 against a Kansas City defense that, save the Oakland game, has struggled mightily to limit opposing receivers.


Donny Avery, Chi (2% owned)

The first receiver selected in April's NFL Draft, Avery caught four balls for 73 yards on Sunday, including a nifty 43-yard reception in which he made a nice adjustment on an underthrown pass from Marc Bulger, diving back underneath the defender to haul in the pass. Drew Bennett is expected to return in a couple weeks from a broken foot, but Avery could very well relegate Bennett to a No. 3 role if he continues to flash skills (speed, speed and more speed) like he did on Sunday.



Tony Romo, Dal (finger)

As mentioned above, Romo is expected to be sidelined 4-5 weeks after breaking his pinkie finger on his throwing hand on Sunday.


Matt Hasselbeck, Sea (back/knee)

Hasselbeck is going to sit at least one more week with a bulging disc in his back that is contributing to issues with his knee, as well. Seneca Wallace is likely to replace Hasselbeck at Tampa Bay in Week 7.


Carson Palmer, Cin (elbow)

Like Hasselbeck, it sounds like at least one more week on the sideline for Palmer. He's waiting for medical clearance on his sore elbow, and seeking second opinions that might help expedite that decision. You didn't want anything to do with Palmer (vs. Pittsburgh) this coming week, anyways.


Felix Jones, Dal (Hamstring)

Jones left Sunday's loss to Arizona in the second half with an injured hamstring. He's set to have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, but the early expectations are that he'll miss 1-2 weeks.


Joseph Addai, Ind (hamstring)

As of Monday afternoon, there was no update available on the status of Addai's hamstring injury, suffered early on Sunday against Baltimore. Stay tuned …

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