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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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