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Week 7 Faceoffs: Is Rivers still reliable?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: Each week Senior Fantasy Writers Dave Richard and Jamey Eisenberg will debate the value of a handful of key Fantasy players heading into a certain week that they genuinely disagree on. They not only state their case below, but they also provide owners with some alternatives as it relates to their respective rankings. Read their takes, then make the call.

Start Philip Rivers vs. New England?
Dave Richard Jamey Eisenberg
Dave Richard You'll never hear me badmouth Philip Rivers' talent, but if you give him a re-tread receiver, another re-tread tight end and a never-was first-round bust at receiver -- and that's it -- I don't like his chances. Sure, the matchup against the New England secondary is good. And yes, Rivers is a tremendous quarterback. But the Patriots are going to get one look at Rivers getting sacked seven times last week at St. Louis -- St. Louis! -- and find ways to attack him. Because of the lack of receiving threats, the Patriots won't have to play their aggressive safeties back on every play and can go after Rivers on the blitz or Ryan Mathews on handoffs. And if you think Rivers is incapable of throwing less than two touchdowns in a game, check his numbers from last week when he had Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd at his disposal for much of the game. Now if either of those guys suit up for Week 7, then I'll be back to my typical Rivers-rooting self. But until then, I don't like his chances for big numbers against the Pats.
I'd rather start: Tom Brady (at SD), Matt Cassel (vs. JAC), Carson Palmer (at ATL)
Jamey Eisenberg Does Ryan Fitzpatrick have good wide receivers? Do the Bills have a good offensive line? Is Fitzpatrick the No. 2 Fantasy quarterback this season? Ponder all those questions when you look at Rivers this week. I understand the argument against him: He was harassed by a tough pass rush last week in a loss at St. Louis when Antonio Gates (toe) and Malcom Floyd (hamstring) went down with Legedeu Naanee (hamstring) out. His replacement receivers don't scare anyone with Patrick Crayton, Buster Davis, Randy McMichael and Darren Sproles. But we're still talking about an elite quarterback facing a terrible secondary that has allowed at least two passing touchdowns to every opponent this year, including Fitzpatrick. In fact, Fitzpatrick had the worst performance against the Patriots this year with only 18 Fantasy points. Rivers should get that in his sleep. He'll get the ball to his fill-in receivers and finish as a Top 10 Fantasy option. And the last time he faced the Patriots in San Diego he passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns. If you've been riding Rivers to this point then keep him in there as your starter.
I'd start him over: Donovan McNabb (at CHI), Kevin Kolb (at TEN), Carson Palmer (at ATL)
Start Donovan McNabb at Chicago?
Dave Richard Jamey Eisenberg
Dave Richard It's been a while since McNabb has tossed two touchdowns in a game -- he has yet to do it as a member of the Redskins. And while the Bears have held quarterbacks in check all year (not one has had more than one touchdown against them) they showed last week they are very susceptible to the pass. They've struggled with athletic pass-catching tight ends and McNabb will have one whether it's Chris Cooley or Fred Davis. He'll also have Santana Moss and the emerging Anthony Armstrong as deep threats, a receiving duo that could give the Bears' slow secondary some real problems. The hometown kid will do good against the team he grew up rooting for.
I'd start him over: Josh Freeman (vs. STL), Matt Hasselbeck (vs. ARI), Jay Cutler (vs. WAS)
Jamey Eisenberg McNabb is capable of having a big performance, but he has yet to throw for more than one touchdown pass in a game and might not have Chris Cooley (concussion) this week. That makes him a starting Fantasy option? Not for me. The Bears defense has yet to allow multiple touchdown passes in a game this year and should be able to limit this passing attack. McNabb is a useful bye-week replacement if you're missing Peyton Manning or Matt Schaub on a bye, but I wouldn't expect McNabb to have anything more than the 15 Fantasy points he has averaged this year.
I'd rather start: Eli Manning (at DAL), Brett Favre (at GB), Jay Cutler (vs. WAS)
Start Deion Branch at San Diego?
Dave Richard Jamey Eisenberg
Dave Richard It's pretty evident that Tom Brady is going to lean on Deion Branch. You know it, I know it, and the Chargers know it. San Diego's cornerbacks have played very well this season as opposing receivers have totaled one 100-yard game and two total touchdowns against them through six weeks. That's not to say that Brady won't throw two touchdowns, but it's hard to expect him to make use of the receivers they know will be involved (Branch and Wes Welker). To Branch's credit, he has played against the Chargers once already this year (five catches for 60 yards) and knows what to expect, so that could help him. That's why I think he's fine as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver for this week, but nothing more.
I'd rather start: Chad Ochocinco (at ATL), Santana Moss (at CHI), Robert Meachem (vs. CLE)
Jamey Eisenberg The Chargers are No. 1 in pass defense and have done a great job against opposing wide receivers this season with only Mike Sims-Walker and Danario Alexander scoring touchdowns. But San Diego's secondary is highly overrated. The Chargers have faced Kansas City, Jacksonville, Seattle, Arizona, Oakland and St. Louis so far this year -- not exactly Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Tom Brady is on a different level, and he'll pick apart this defense with Branch leading the way. His chemistry with Branch last week was evident with Branch getting nine catches for 98 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets. I'll take my chances that he has another solid game again, and he should be started in all leagues.
I'd start him over: Mike Williams, SEA (vs. ARI), Donald Driver (vs. MIN), Kenny Britt (vs. PHI)
Start Steve Smith at Dallas?
Dave Richard Jamey Eisenberg
Dave Richard Smith's history against the Cowboys cannot be denied, but so far this hasn't really been Smith's year. Smith has just one 100-yard game and one touchdown through six weeks (370 yards and one touchdown this year) -- that's likely because his role has been trumped by Hakeem Nicks (417 yards, six touchdowns) and Mario Manningham (289 yards, two touchdowns). Now what could happen is that the Cowboys focus on Nicks and Manningham, leaving some holes for Smith to exploit. But what also could happen is that Smith gets lost in the shuffle and puts up 70 yards or less, which he's done in four of six games this year. I like that he's caught at least six passes in three of his last four, so he's far from ignored, but trusting him in standard-league lineups isn't easy. He's fine as a bye-week replacement.
I'd rather start: Roy E. Williams (vs. NYG), Johnny Knox (vs. WAS), Michael Crabtree (at CAR)
Jamey Eisenberg Smith was a Cowboy killer last year in two meetings, and he should do well again this year. In two games against Dallas he had 16 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown. He beat them in September and he beat them in December. He's playing well recently with 12 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown in his past two games, and he's worth starting in all leagues this week. The Cowboys secondary has allowed two receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points this year, and five receivers have scored against them. Eli Manning is playing well, and the Cowboys will focus their attention on Hakeem Nicks. That should allow Smith to make plays again, and he could even torch the Cowboys just as he did last season.
I'd start him over: Lee Evans (at BAL), Lance Moore (vs. CLE), Michael Crabtree (at CAR)

Do you agree with Dave or Jamey? Cast your vote and send your thoughts or questions to DMFantasyFootball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Fantasy Faceoff in the subject field. Include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Jets backfield takes shape following Johnson signing
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) With the Jets signing Chris Johnson on Wednesday, the rest of their backfield should start to take shape, reports the New York Daily News.

The report says Johnson and Chris Ivory will work as a tandem, and Bilal Powell will be the No. 3 running back. Mike Goodson is expected to be released before the start of the season.


Chris Johnson excited for 'fresh start'
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) New Jets running back Chris Johnson's two-year deal is worth $8 million with another $1 million in incentives, reports Pro Football Talk. Johnson was scheduled to make $8 million for the Titans in 2014 alone before he was released.

Meanwhile, Johnson told the Tennessean that he's looking forward to this opportunity with the Jets.

"I have a fresh start. Now I am going to go out there with a chip on my shoulder," Johnson said. "I know a lot of people are doubting me. I want to prove everybody wrong who has doubts in me."


Bengals sign punter T.J. Conley
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) The Bengals signed free agent punter T.J. Conley on Wednesday. 

Conley punted in 16 games for the Jets in 2011. He averaged 42.7 yards on 92 punts, and his 38.8-yard net average was the highest in Jets history. He had 32 inside-20 kicks with just six touchbacks, and his plus-26 differential on inside-20s to touchbacks ranked tied for third in the NFL.

Conley did not play in the 2012 or 2013 regular seasons. He was with the Jets in the 2012 preseason and with Cleveland in the 2013 preseason.

Conley will challenge incumbent Kevin Huber for the starting job, but most likely he won't make the final roster.


Chris Johnson signs two-year deal with the Jets
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) The Jets have signed running back Chris Johnson to a two-year deal, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

Johnson told reporters on Tuesday he was taking free agency one day at a time and added that he had other visits planned, but the Jets must have made him an improved offer to lock up the one-time 2,000-yard running back. 

Johnson has totaled at least 1,400 yards in each of his last four seasons with the Titans since running for 2,006 yards in 2009. He also scored 10 touchdowns in 2013 (four receiving). 


Clay Matthews says it's thumbs up for training camp
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said he's diligently rehabbing his injured thumb, comparing it to a torn ACL rather than a typical bone break. As part of the injury he also had surgery on his forearm, which got damaged when he re-injured the thumb late last season. But he told USA Today that he'll be ready for the start of training camp, though he'll miss offseason workouts. 

Mike James resumes running and cutting
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) Buccaneers running back Mike James is working his way back into football shape after breaking his left ankle last season. He told the Tampa Bay Times that he's been running and cutting and is aiming to get back to full strength and speed. Asked if he would be ready for the team's April minicamp, James said he and the team are "taking everything day by day." 

Josh Freeman signs with Giants
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) The Giants have signed quarterback Josh Freeman, reports FOX Sports.

Freeman spent last season with the Buccaneers and Vikings. His only appearance for Minnesota was against the Giants, and he completed 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and an interception.

Freeman will try and make the final roster for the Giants as a backup to Eli Manning, who is coming off ankle surgery this offseason. The Giants also have Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib on the roster.


Rob Gronkowski will 'take his time' coming back
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will "take his time and then take more time" coming back from a torn ACL suffered last season, a source told Bleacher Report

Gronkowski's heart was questioned last year when he took his time coming back from forearm and back procedures. This year he might not care how long he takes as he wants to practice patience in his rehab. 

The knee injury happened in December of last year. Usually it takes nine months to come back from an ACL injury without incident. That would mean he'd be ready to hit the field by late August. 


Haloti Ngata turned down extension with Ravens
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) Looking to free up cap space earlier this offseason, the Ravens offered a "lucrative, long-term" deal with defensive lineman Haloti Ngata so that he wouldn't cost $16 million in cap space. Ngata, 30 years old with two years left on his current deal, wasn't willing to take the extension, NFL Network reports. 

Report: Ravens planning to add two running backs
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/16/2014) The Ravens are aware of what's been going on with Ray Rice this offseason but were planning to add a pair of running backs this offseason anyway. NFL Network reports that they now believe that one of those two might have to start depending on what happens with Rice. 

The veteran running back had a horrible 2013 season (under 1,000 total yards) and then was indicted on a third-degree aggravated assault charge when he struck his then-fiancee and current wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino. 


 
 
 
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