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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
Jamaal Charles all but ruled out for Saturday game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) What was anticipated now appears official - Chiefs superback Jamaal Charles will not play Saturday against Minnesota.

Charles returned to practice Thursday after missing time with a bruised foot. But Andy Reid is taking the cautious approach with him.


Coach: Two-QB system on table for Browns down the road
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Mike Pettine has confirmed that he and Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have considered a two-quarterback system down the road with a package featuring rookie Johnny Manziel "on the table."

Pettine announced this week that Brian Hoyer will start the season opener in Pittsburgh. He has indicated that any package involving Manziel will not yet be incorporated for that game.

"No, this is Brian's job," Pettine said. "I don't foresee us now, especially early, being in a two-quarterback system. This is Brian's job and I never think of it as a leash or we want a guy to be a game manager. ... I don't want our guys on offense to feel like there's any type of governor there and they can't just cut it loose and be aggressive."


James Laurinaitis questionable for Saturday game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis is only a maybe for the Saturday night game in Cleveland. An ankle injury could keep him sidelined for the third straight game.

Laurinaitis practiced this week and ramped up his activity every day. He did some full-team work Thursday, the last full-scale workout before the clash against the Browns in which the starters will receive the longest look of the preseason. Jeff Fisher sounded as if he could flip a coin to predict whether Laurinaitis will play.

"Don't know whether he's going to go; it will be very close," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Laurinaitis has racked up at least 114 tackles in each of his first five years in the NFL. He recorded a career-high 3 1/2 sacks in 2013.


Marshawn Lynch set to rack up carries in preseason clash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) Pete Carroll said that "it's time" for featured back Marshawn Lynch to ramp up the reps. The result will be far more playing time Friday night against Chicago.

Carroll did not announce Thursday how long the starters would play, but did acknowledge that the third preseason game would be the one in which they play the most. They are likely to remain on the field into the third quarter, per the Everett Herald.

Lynch was in on just two plays in the last game without a carry. That is destined to change against the Bears.

"It's time for him to get some carries and get involved a little bit," Carroll said. "I could not be more pleased with the conditioning level that he's had, the consistency of practice and his preparation has been great. He'll be ready to go."


Brandon Bostick almost surely a no-go for season opener
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9:40 am ET) The Packers have all but ruled out tight end Brandon Bostick for the Sept. 4 regular season opener in Seattle.

Bostick sustained a slight fracture of the fibula in his right leg while catching a pass Saturday in St. Louis. Sources have told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the best-case scenario would be to have Bostick back on the field for the second or third game, though he could remain out into October.

He caught seven passes for 120 yards in 2013.


Anthony Hitchens works with first-team at middle linebacker
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9:32 am ET) Redskins fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens took all the first-team reps at middle linebacker in Thursday practice, per the Dallas News. He worked ahead of veteran Rolando McClain, who had missed the Wednesday session with cramps.

The development was necessitated by the loss for the season of linebacker DeVonte Holloman, who has sustained what could be a career-ending neck spinal injury. Hitchens was drafted to play on the outside, but has spent significant time in the middle.

"I'm just moving back and forth," Hitchens said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they moved me again. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can right now."


49ers not ready to award Steve Johnson No. 3 receiver role
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:31 am ET) The 49ers aren't ready to declare Steve Johnson as the team's No. 3 receiver. In fact, according to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, the team won't "put numbers" on their receivers. Johnson is fight Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton, and rookie Bruce Ellington for snaps this preseason.

When asked if Johnson is the third wideout, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said: "It depends. It depends. I think we'll have some flexibility there."

Brent Celek compiles 41 receiving yards vs. Eagles
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) Eagles tight end Brent Celek made his presence felt with only two catches Thursday night against the Steelers in exhibition play.

Celek came down with a 23-yard grab during the second series of the night. On the ensuing drive late in the first quarter, he caught an 18-yard pass from Nick Foles. He played the entire first half with the starters and finished the game with two receptions for 41 yards.

Darren Sproles scores rushing TD Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:10 am ET) Eagles running back Darren Sproles found the end zone during Thursday's exhibition game against the Steelers.

With LeSean McCoy sidelined after the first two series, Sproles tooke over and scored a rushing touchdown from 1-yard out in the second quarter. He played the entire first half with the starters and finished the game with six carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. He was targeted only four times and finished the game with one catch for 4 yards.

Nick Foles not at his best in preseason tuneup
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:04 am ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles didn't look impressive Thursday night against the Steelers in exhibition play.

Foles threw a short pass to LeSean McCoy, who turned it into a 22-yard touchdown. He was picked off by Troy Polamalu in the second quarter. He played the first half and compiled 179 yards through the air while completing 19 of 29 passes. He added a touchdown and an interception, registering a 79.5 passer rating.

Foles has passed for 304 pass yards through three preseason games. His next game will likely be the regular season opener against the Jaguars on Sept. 7.

 
 
 
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