Before a busted pinkie sent the Cowboys bandwagon swerving off the road, they had developed into that most rare and treasured of fantasy football outfits - a team that was both prolific and predictable.
Dallas was good for four scores every week, with probably three from the now nine-fingered Tony Romo. Marion Barber would get one or two. Terrell Owens and/or Jason Witten would be solid or great. Even Patrick Crayton or Felix Jones had a reasonable chance for good stats.
Now the Cowboys are just a big, fat series of question marks.
Will Romo actually be able to start this week? If so, will he be effective? If not, can 40-year-old Brad Johnson and his noodly arm do anything? Can Johnson pass farther than 4 yards to T.O., Witten and new acquisition Roy Williams? Will T.O. get mad if Williams catches those 4-yarders? Will Williams get mad and demand a trade? How's Jessica taking all of this?
for Dallas.
As you pick up Johnson in free agency hoping he's the next magical geezer, here are some players to start in Week 7, some to avoid and a handful of long shots who just may pan out:
-The Panthers would run every down if they could, but with the high-powered Saints in town they can't. Jake Delhomme has four TDs and no interceptions in his last two games against the Saints, numbers that should improve in this shootout.
-Some teams sort of take mercy on the winless Lions, but Matt Schaub and the one-win Texans would love to take out some frustrations on the No. 30 pass defense. Schaub's feeling good from his huge game last week - and he didn't even get hurt.
-If you're desperate for a fill-in because of Romo's absence or a bye week, there's a fine variety of old men to choose from. Tops is probably Minnesota's 37-year-old Gus Frerotte, who's thrown a TD each of the past two weeks and faces Chicago's 27th-ranked pass defense, one that's been shredded by the likes of Brian Griese and Matt Ryan.
-Or maybe you're more of a Kerry Collins fan. Unbeaten Tennessee's 35-year-old starter is fairly statless so far. But he could have to throw after all the running backs get tired from sprinting past a Chiefs defense built for 2011.
st the surprisingly cooperative Seattle defense. While the Bucs may eat a lot of clock running the ball, Garcia may pile it on to show he deserves the job.
-Buffalo's Trent Edwards is back from injury, and he should have little trouble staying upright against the Chargers' No. 31 pass defense. (They're actually worse than their ranking, getting a boost from a game last week against the rather nonthreatening Matt Cassel.)
Please, in the name of Tony Romo's pinkie, don't start these guys:
-OK, super-smart football genius Bill Belichick, I give up. What, exactly, do you see in Cassel? Even against Denver's NFL-worst pass defense, Belichick should follow the lead of Cassel's college coaches and bench him for averaging less than one TD a game.
-Speaking of touchdown droughts, what's gone wrong with Washington's Jason Campbell? It's tough to stick with a guy who's gone touchdownless for two weeks, especially against a decent Browns pass defense allowing one TD a game.
-Eli Manning's hurting and his last game was a flashback to his old inexplicable interception days, so he may just hand off all day as the Giants' No. 1 rushing attack plows through the 49ers.
e Miami went all old-timey, and he should keep rolling even against the Ravens' No. 1 run defense. (That ranking's helped largely by opponents from Ohio.)
-Finally, it's safe to start Green Bay's Ryan Grant. He should find the end zone and 100 yards for the first time against the Colts, who are giving up 160 yards rushing every game. Their run defense was surprisingly stingy last week, but that was just against the Ravens.
-Speaking of the Colts, cash in on free agent prize Dominic Rhodes as he replaces the injured Joseph Addai in the starting lineup. The Pack gives up plenty of yards on the ground as well - 153 a game - and Rhodes will have no shortage of touches in this shootout.
-Speaking of waiver wire gems, Pittsburgh's Mewelde Moore could be a great start if Willie Parker can't against a dejected Bengals defense. (Check Parker's status again Sunday, but it looks like he could be out.)
-The experiment to see how many carries a 50-year-old man can endure will continue this week in Tampa Bay, where Warrick Dunn should have plenty of tries in a blowout of Seattle. You could start Earnest Graham, too.
-If you're really hurting for a back this week, try Giants backups Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw. Both could put up numbers filling in after Brandon Jacobs is done beating up on the 49ers.
the bench for quite a while. With no QB and a cross-country trip to Tampa Bay (0 rushing TDs allowed), don't expect much from him.
-That goes for his brother, too. The Jets' Thomas Jones did have three scores last week, but has mostly looked every bit of his 30 years since his 100-yard game in the opener (no games over 70 yards). Those cross country trips can be tough on an old fella, too.
-The Texans have allowed an amazing 10 rushing TDs, but don't get lulled into thinking the Lions have figured this out. Starting Lions is just bad business.
-Hey look, it's Braylon Edwards! The Browns' strategy of playing possum until Week 5 paid off big as the offense finally looked like the powerhouse of 2007. (And sorry to all of my fellow Edwards owners who had him on the bench for his first 100-yard game last week.)
-Lots of folks had Indy's Marvin Harrison on the bench for his first two-TD game last week since 2006, but they won't against the Packers. In fact, start all the Colts and Packers you can scrape up for this game featuring good quarterbacks and no defenses.
-Speaking of shootouts, Carolina's Muhsin Muhammad is a good start against New Orleans. He's scored in each of his last two home games, and the Saints have trouble defending against good QBs.
pass defense. He only has 16 catches this year, but they're averaging 27 yards a pop.
-The Rams' Torry Holt could be in for another of those lucky, bobbling TD catches against the discombobulated Cowboys.
-Receiving against the Vikings is so easy, even a defensive back could do it. Chicago's Devin Hester actually had eight catches last week, if you're really needing a receiver.
-Resist the temptation to start Detroit's Calvin Johnson now that he's the only target for some guy named Dan Orlovsky. Johnson's hurting, and Houston has a tough pass rush. Plus, the Lions are surely still exhausted from being competitive once.
-It took San Diego's Vincent Jackson four years to post a 100-yard game, so odds are against him doing it against Buffalo's decent pass defense. (But be sure and plug him into your lineup in 2012.)
-If you really need somebody to tell you to stop using Bengals receivers, your team is in big, big trouble. (This is your final notice.)
ested in TDs, but really likes FGs).
OFF THIS WEEK: Arizona, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Jacksonville.
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I made the obvious observation that Drew Brees (320 yards, 3 TDs) would do well. I also expected good things from Aaron Rodgers (3 TDs), Matt Ryan (301 yards, TD), Roddie White (112 yards, TD), Bernard Berrian (131 yards, TD), Steve Breaston (108 yards, TD) and Correll Buckhalter (178 total yards, TD). I thought Michael Pittman (109 yards rushing) was worth a long shot. I expected more bad things from J.T. O'Sullivan (0 TDs, 2 INTs)
Big Misses: I figured Peyton Manning (3 TDs) and Braylon Edwards (154 yards, TD) would eventually wake up, just not last week. I didn't think Matt Schaub (379 yards, 2 TDs) would ever wake up. I had no idea the Colts' NFL-worst defense would wake up and stop Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain (16 yards combined). I also expected good things from Edgerrin James (big bag of nothing), Matt Cassel (0 TDs), Julius Jones (44 yards) and Santana Moss (22 yards).

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