A recipe for success: Working the wire

I can't recommend Henson with any more enthusiasm than I did Eli Manning a week ago. Yes, he looked good on a fourth-quarter TD drive against an indifferent Ravens defense. But he won't be a fantasy factor this season. As for Manning, he was cool and collected in his debut last week, but you don't want him on your fantasy team. Check the schedule – the Giants next four games are against Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Yikes.

  • New England's Deion Branch was a popular pickup this week, and for good reason – he's Tom Brady's favorite big-play target and a top-20-caliber fantasy WR when healthy. Branch, who missed seven games with a knee injury, returned to the Patriots' lineup in style last week, making six catches for 105 yards and a score on Monday night against K.C. His return knocks David Patten out of the starting lineup and makes him a poor fantasy choice. David Givens remains a starter, but his value takes a hit as well.

  • Consider adding – Green Bay RB Tony Fisher, Kansas City WR Eddie Kennison, Tampa Bay WR Joe Jurevicius, New Orleans WR Donte Stallworth, Cincinnati defense; Consider dropping – San Francisco QB Tim Rattay, Dallas RB Eddie George, Oakland RB Amos Zereoue, Carolina WR Keary Colbert

    Starting nod

    Quarterback: Brett Favre, Green Bay – The Packers might not have a healthy running back come Monday night, which means Favre is a good bet to throw for 300-plus yards and a few TDs vs. the Rams.

    Running back: LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego – The bye week seemed to do LT's ailing groin some good, and he ran for a season-best 164 yards last week. He could top that this week against K.C.; Fred Taylor, Jacksonville – Taylor's surpassed 100 yards in three of four games, though he has no TDs to show for his hard work. He's set up for a big game against the Vikings.

    Wide receiver: Terrell Owens, Philadelphia – The Giants had no answers for T.O. in the opener, and he scored three TDs. There's no reason to expect anything less the second time around.; Muhsin Muhammed, Carolina – There isn't a hotter wide-out in the game than Muhammed, who has seven touchdown catches in four games after notching two TDs in his first six.

    Tight end: Alge Crumpler, Atlanta – Coming off a two-TD game, the Falcons' top option in the passing game figures to get in the end zone again this week against the Saints.

    Kicker: Adam Vinatieri, New England – The Ravens don't give up much, but they have surrendered 17 field goals in 10 games. Vinatieri can throw a little, too.

    Defense: Miami – The Dolphins and Niners rank 1-2 in turnovers, having combined to commit 51 on the season. This isn't a game you want to watch, but it should produce plenty of fantasy points for both defenses.

    Ravens report

    This week brought more bad news for Jamal Lewis owners in what has been a long and frustrating season. Lewis sprained his ankle early in the first quarter last week, leaving lots of unlucky teams with a big fat zero in their RB slot. Word came Wednesday that the injury will sideline Lewis for this week's game and possibly longer, clearing the way for Chester Taylor to start in his place. Taylor averaged 83.5 yards in two starts last month, and he scored his first TD of the season last week. He's a great short-term starter for those that kept him around for insurance or claimed him earlier this week.

    If not for the limping Lewis, the big news would be Kyle Boller, who's progress is worth noting. I never thought I'd write this, but Boller isn't a bad option as a No. 2 fantasy QB. Over the last four weeks, Boller has ranked 12th in scoring among quarterbacks. He's been better than Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck and Roethlisberger in that span. Don't give up on Clarence Moore, either. His poor numbers last week (one catch for 24 yards) can be attributed to the fact that he woke up with the dreaded "flu-like symptoms" and received intravenous fluids before the game.

    The Ravens have given up 20 or more points only twice this season, but their defense gets a test this week against the league's ninth-ranked attack. Quarterback Tom Brady has at least one TD pass in every game this season, and the return of Branch (see above) boosts the Patriots passing game. Running back Corey Dillon is coming off two-TD performance, but he hasn't fared well against the Ravens in his career. Dillon has averaged 56.0 yards and scored three TDs in 13 games vs. Baltimore.

    Dave Alexander is a sports producer at baltimoresun.com. Send questions or comments to dalexander@baltimoresun.com
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    Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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