Fantasy report


There has been a lot of talk of late about Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey.

Is he a shutdown corner? Is he the best the Texans will face?

Well, figure in Texans receiver Andre Johnson and you get another question – does it really matter? Johnson has already faced his share of talented corners including, Quentin Jammer, Samari Rolle and Antoine Winfield.

And he still is fourth in the league with 665 receiving yards.

Not to say he isn't taking Bailey lightly. The name Champ alone makes you wonder.

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"He's a great player," Johnson said of Bailey, whose Broncos host the Texans Sunday. "You just have to go out and play to the best of your ability because he is going to play to the best of his ability. He's a guy you can put out by himself on an island and let him play man-to-man … That's something we expect him to do."

Johnson said it will be just another test for him as a growing receiver. But this column is about fantasy football, so for those fantasy owners who trot Johnson on the field this week here are a few things to keep in mind.

Bailey has two interceptions on the season and is on track to have one of his best years in passes defensed. Above all he is an outstanding athlete and has played some receiver this season and can return punts.

But both Texans coach Dom Capers and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan have different views on his "shutdown" ability. Shutdown, of course, being a relative term.

"A lot of people think anytime a guy completes a pass to somebody, it doesn't matter if its zone coverage or two-deep, they think they complete it on Champ," Shanahan said. "So you're highly scrutinized. Regardless if he's anywhere near the ball people always think it is man-to-man coverage. That's just a process of being a corner and getting a lot of money and the scrutiny that goes with it."

In fact Bailey will likely move around the field and matchup against other receivers at times giving Johnson chances on different defensive backs.

Other teams have gone right at Bailey, including two weeks ago when Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson hauled in 50-yard pass for a touchdown after Bailey fell down a few yards from the line of scrimmage.

"Champ Bailey is an outstanding player," Capers said. "There's no question. If you ask any player to lock on one-on-one the whole game, that's a big task. We'll be aware of where he is but I don't think that will change our whole strategy. He's a good player and we feel we have good players going against him."

FANTASY GAME BALLS:Jake Plummer threw for a career-high 499 yards Sunday and lost.

In a statistical anomaly that does not happen very often in the NFL the eight-year veteran threw four touchdowns, three interceptions and led the Broncos to a team-record in total yardage but did not lead his team to a come-from-behind victory against the Atlanta Falcons.

Plummer himself admitted he probably would not have believed it if someone told him Sunday morning he would throw for some 1,500 feet and lose.

It still deserves a game ball.

In the same game Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick became the first player to throw for 250 yards (252 to be exact) and rush for more than 100 yards (115) in the same game. He also tossed two touchdowns.

Seattle running back Shaun Alexander has always had a way of making his job look easy. Rushing for 195 yards and a touchdown seemed easy enough last week.

Priest Holmes continues to make good on his promise of more touchdowns and bigger runs this season. Holmes followed up a four-touchdown day against the Falcons with a three touchdown, 143-yard effort against the Colts. He also had 82 receiving yards.

Denver receiver Rod Smith proved he is not on the down slope of his career. The 10-year veteran finished with 208 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Falcons.

San Diego tight end Antonio Gates keeps figuring into one of the league's most surprising offenses. He joined Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez as one of the AFC's best tight ends last week hauling in two touchdowns on just 63 receiving yards.

Gonzalez had a nice day himself, totaling 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Colts.

WHO TO START:Ok, so let us look at the matchups.

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As for break out games, it was in the Texans' preseason game against Denver that running back Domanick Davis looked to be in 2003 form.

Davis rushed for 49 yards on just seven touches. Even though he saw limited action he matched up well against the Broncos defense.

Injuries have slowed him to this point of the season but he will be healthy Sunday.

The Broncos defensive line has a couple notable injuries and a successful Texans passing game should be more than enough to spread out the defense and keep the linebackers honest.

I would be leery about any player in the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game this weekend. Yes, big games make for big performances but they can also turn into low scoring affairs with big disappointments.

With Randy Moss nursing an injury Terrell Owens becomes the most consistent fantasy wide receiver. He had 101 yards and a touchdown – his ninth on the year – against a very good Ravens secondary.

He should be all right in this game.

On the Steelers side I would lean toward the running game. Jerome Bettis is always a risky start, but in a game that could come down to how well the Steelers control the ball he might put up some points.

I have secretly been hoping for a breakout game from Jets wide receiver Justin McCareins. It seems we may now be closer than ever.

McCareins hauled in a touchdown pass Monday night and may now be an official scoring target for Chad Pennington. McCareins faces Buffalo this weekend.

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