Associated Press Writer
The Cleveland Browns have been masters of hideous football in recent years, losing 10 or more games each of the past four seasons thanks to Charlie Frye, Trent Dilfer and other names you sort of remember.
This year, Cleveland fans can celebrate a team that's only half hideous. The offense has blossomed, but the defense is ranked dead last after allowing a league-high 17 touchdown passes and a 100-yard rusher in every game.
It's that very ugly side that has made the Browns such a beautiful fantasy football team. They give up so many points that big statistics are guaranteed for the always-passing trio of Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow.
Their defense also offers that rare commodity fantasy owners crave: predictability. Everybody who faces the Browns gets big numbers, from the raw Cleo Lemon (4 TDs) to the aged Steve McNair (307 yards).
As you consider finally scraping some Rams off your bench to face the Cleveland D, here's a look at some players to start in Week 8, some to avoid and a few long shots that just may pan out:
-Eli Manning has thrown two touchdowns in three straight games, but his numbers should go way up as the Giants knock the crumpets out of Miami in the NFL's first regular-season game in London. The Dolphins have allowed a league-high 27 TDs.
-Boy, Donovan McNabb sure is boring to watch now that the Eagles specialize in the 4-yard pass. He gets the Vikings' NFL-worst pass defense this week, though, which means 4-yarders can quickly become exciting big plays.
-Pittsburgh threw a lot last week in a bid to outsmart the Broncos, who can't stop the run. Now the Steelers face the Bengals, who can't stop the pass, so they should run a lot. However, in a clever double-reverse outsmart, look for Ben Roethlisberger to air it out.
-Only Tom Brady (27) and Tony Romo (16) have thrown more TD passes than Cleveland's Derek Anderson (14). The recently unheard-of Anderson should easily jump into second place against the listless Rams.
-Brian Griese had 300 yards or multiple TDs in each of his four starts, and he faces Detroit's 30th-ranked pass defense that he burned for a couple scores last month.
-This should be the last chance for Marc Bulger (2 TDs, 7 INTs, 18 sacks this year). If he can't at least get a couple scores against the Browns, there goes that last little shred of hope.
Please, in the name of Tim Couch, don't start these guys:
-Jon Kitna has become a fantasy dud since teams have started daring the Lions to run. He's gone two games without a touchdown and faces a Chicago defense that looked a little less terrible last week.
-Jeff Garcia's coming off a 300-yard game, leads the league in passes of 40 yards or more (6) and has yet to throw an interception. But he faces a Jaguars defense that has allowed an NFL-low four TD passes.
-Are the Vikings serious about starting Tarvaris Jackson? The guy's had single-digit completions two straight weeks. (Then again, this is a coaching staff with the peculiar goal of keeping the ball away from Adrian Peterson.)
-It's kind of neat that Giants 264-pounder Brandon Jacobs is all set to run mercilessly over defenseless members of the winless Dolphins while in England. It has sort of an old-timey imperialism feel to it.
-Don't consider benching the Eagles' Brian Westbrook against Minnesota's rugged run defense. Westbrook will catch lots of passes, and Vikings defenders will tire out thanks to their offense going for the three-and-outs record.
-Those of us cursing that Frank Gore pick in the first round may be able to start him this week without cringing too much. He's expected to play even though he's a bit banged up, and the 49ers should stay close enough to the Saints so he'll get more than a dozen carries.
-Has LenDale White finally taken over as the featured Titans back after getting 27 carries last week? Even if he hasn't, good things can happen for part-timers against Oakland's 29th-ranked run defense.
-Owners of DeShawn Wynn should be excited that he's facing Denver's NFL-worst run defense, even if the Packers have the NFL's worst running game.
-Steven Jackson is expected to return after missing a month with a groin injury. He didn't do much for the embarrassing Rams before getting hurt, but this is a game against Cleveland.
-Miami's Jesse Chatman is a good free agent pickup, but don't think he'll step in and produce just like Ronnie Brown. Chatman was out of the NFL last year and will probably share some carries. (Plus, for some reason his pants always seem to be falling down.)
-When the Bears drafted Cedric Benson with the fourth pick in the 2005, they surely never envisioned a featured back going for 59 yards a game and 3.1 yards a carry.
-Oakland's LaMont Jordan shouldn't do a whole lot against the Titans' top-ranked run defense, especially now that Dominic Rhodes is taking away some carries.
-With Javon Walker out and Denver's running game struggling, Brandon Stokley is suddenly a good option. He had five catches for 70 yards and a score last week. Remember that Stokley, as the Colts' third receiver in 2004, went over 1,000 yards with 10 TDs.
-Kevin Curtis is the only Eagle without hands of stone, so he should become the latest receiver to pile up the numbers against the Vikings.
-Apparently Brian Griese was the only guy who knew Muhsin Muhammad still plays for the Bears. They've connected for three touchdowns in Griese's four starts.
-Kevin Walter, the great big receiver for the always-trying-to-come-back Texans, has averaged nine catches for about 130 yards the past two weeks. There should be no shortage of comeback opportunities against San Diego.
-Washington's Antwaan Randle El has yet to score, but he should be able to mop up some meaningless stats this week. The Patriots have given up a few TDs in garbage time - which is starting shortly after halftime these days.
-San Francisco miraculously cleared 300 yards of offense last week, and Arnaz Battle had a rare TD catch. The Saints are improving, but they're still not really stopping the pass.
-Lee Evans finally did something for the Bills last week, so it's time to plug him into the lineup, right? Wrong. The Bills face a Jets run defense that turned Kenny Watson into LT for a day, so few people other than Marshawn Lynch will see the ball.
-Roydell Williams went over 100 yards for the Titans last week, but that was only against the Texans. Tennessee should spend most of the day running on the Raiders.
-Bench all the Chargers receivers until it becomes more clear whether handless Vincent Jackson or newcomer Chris Chambers will wind up with the coveted title of third option behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates.
DON'T FORGET THE BYE WEEK: Kansas City, Arizona, Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore and Seattle are off, meaning Shaun Alexander won't get booed this week.
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: RB Jesse Chatman (new starter), WR Brandon Stokley (TD), WR Muhsin Muhammad (TD), WR Roddy White (110 yards, TD), WR Roydell Williams (124 yards), QB Josh McCown (eventual new starter), QB Sage Rosenfels (4 TDS), K Rob Bironas (8 FGs), QB Kellen Clemens (Pennington's days possibly numbered).
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I expected big things for Chad Pennington (272 yards, 3 TDs), Jeff Garcia (316 yards, TD), Drew Brees (2 TDs), Laveranues Coles (133 yards, 2 TDs), Roddy White (110 yards, TD) and Marshawn Lynch (TD). I saw failure for Marc Bulger (0 TD, 3 INTs) and Travis Henry (51 yards).
Big Misses: I expected little from Ben Roethlisberger (290 yards, 4 TDs) and Marion Barber (96 yards, TD). I also didn't expect one-armed Kurt Warner to throw two TDs to Anquan Boldin. I had high hopes for Jason Campbell (95 yards, INT), David Patten (29 yards), Laurence Maroney (31 yards) and Shaun Alexander (47 yards).

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