Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
There's no such thing, almost any inveterate gambler will tell you,
as a sure thing in the world of professional football. The marble
floors of Vegas are strewn with the souls of those who disregarded
this first immutable law of football forecasting. Sadly for us,
and perhaps not surprisingly, this same law applies in the parallel
world of fantasy football. Thought you were gonna ride herd with
LaDainian Tomlinson or Donovan McNabb this year? Thought you couldn't
lose? Welcome to reality, folks. If it's any consolation, you're
Luckily, fantasy football championships aren't usually won with "can't
miss" players. After all, almost every league owner can lay claim
to a superstar or three on his/her roster. Though an underachieving
star might submarine one's efforts, a lack of overall depth and lousy
luck will almost certainly do so. This is another way of saying that
solid, consistent professionals-more so than top five performers-will
form the backbone of any contending squad. Of course, identifying
these players and knowing how and when to put them in a position to
succeed is easier said than done.
The following is a list of must-start players (in order) and should-start
players (in no particular order) for Week 3. We'll update the lists
on a continual basis since everyone surely knows by now that nothing
is forever in the NFL.
Must Start: The Top 10 Plus 1
1. Drew Bledsoe at MIA - We thought the loss of Peerless Price might
hurt Bledsoe. Turns out it's the other way around.
2. Tommy Maddox at CIN - He's not throwing to Swann and Stallworth
but he may as well be. Ward and Burress are the best tandem in the
league and Maddox has the gun (596 yds. in two games) to find them.
3. Daunte Culpepper at DET- Five touchdowns against no INTs and
30+ rushing yards per game? Daddy likey.
4. Peyton Manning vs. JAX - Slow out of the gate (1 TD and 2 picks)
but a rejuvenated Edge makes him dangerous in the long run.
5. Steve McNair vs. NO - If you think he's gonna miss a game because
of a dislocated ring finger, think again. This guy's a warrior.
Monitor the situation if you own him, though.
6. Donovan McNabb (Bye) - We can't give up on him just yet but the
supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired. Here's hoping a week
off will help Don right the ship.
7. Jeff Garcia vs. CLE - Like Culpepper, a dual threat. He's scored
with his arm and his legs this year.
8. Kerry Collins at WAS - He's likely to slide down this list through
no fault of his own. Only Chicago's injury woes prevent the Giants'
offensive line from being the league's worst.
9. Brett Favre at ARI - Have the years caught up with this ol' gunslinger?
Don't bet on it. He faces a horrid Cardinals' secondary this week
and gets his favorite target back next week.
10. Rich Gannon at DEN - He misses Jerry. No, not that Jerry. Nonetheless,
he's a stud and a must start every week.
11. Michael Vick (inj) - House rules: nobody loses a top 10 spot
because of an injury. Slated to return in mid-October. We can hardly
Grab A Helmet:
Matt Hasselbeck vs. STL - Hate to say we told you so, but…we told
you so. With Koren Robinson back in the fold, Favre Protégé No.
3 will soon bump someone off the above list.
Marc Bulger at SEA - Anybody else get the feeling we've seen the
last of Kurt Warner? The surrounding cast is still deadly and Bulger
is talented enough to make this circus go.
Brad Johnson at ATL - Care to guess which defense is dead last in
yards per game this year? Last we checked, Michael Vick doesn't
play DB. Johnson's arm may soon fall off (97 attempts through two
games), but without a reliable running game and facing a lousy Falcons
D, he's potentially flammable.
Aaron Brooks at TEN - The most enigmatic player (not quarterback)
in the NFL. He looks like Randall Cunningham but has fewer rushing
yards than Tom Brady this year. Still, he's facing a suspect Tennessee
secondary and has some greyhounds to work with at receiver.
Tom Brady vs. NYJ - Speaking of Mr. Brady, we're willing to let
him off the hook for a miserable Week 1 performance. He flambéed
the vaunted Eagles' secondary in Week 2 to the tune of 255 yards
and three scores and should encounter significantly less resistance
against the Jets this week.
Patrick Ramsey vs. NYG - While we're on the subject of the J-E-T-S,
think they're kicking themselves for letting Lav Coles slip away
to Washington? Ramsey's Week 3 opponent, the G-men, allowed Quincy
Carter to pass for 321 yards on Monday night. Quincy Carter.
Jon Kitna vs. PIT - No, we haven't been drinking. Carson Palmer's
seat-warmer is throwing for nearly three bills a game and the Bungles
seem to be playing a perpetual game of catch-up (read: throwing
the ball a lot). None of this is likely to change on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Grab A Clipboard:
Kelly Holcomb at SF - If you thought one good performance against
a crappy Steelers' secondary warranted the starting nod…well, our
league is looking for another owner. The resurrection of Tim Couch's
once-promising career can't be too far off.
Drew Brees vs. BAL - David Boston is the most overrated player in
the league. There…we said it. Drew will continue to struggle as
long as teams load up to stop Tomlinson. In case you were wondering,
the Ravens will load up to stop Tomlinson.
Jeff Blake vs. GB - You need us to tell you this? You should try
fantasy basketball or something.
Jake Plummer vs. OAK - Jake the Flake isn't changing any minds in
Denver. Don't be fooled by the three TD performance against the
Bolts, either. San Diego's secondary is unsightly and this guy is
still an interception waiting to happen.
Doug Johnson vs. TB - Unless of course you drafted him as insurance
for Mr. Vick… like we did. Sigh. Tampa's defense is still eminently
stingy (105 passing yds./game) and more than likely seething after
last week's dud versus Carolina. Avert your eyes…and make sure Kurt
Kittner is still available on the waiver wire.
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Priest Holmes at HOU - There isn't a more valuable fantasy player…period.
The injuries are worrisome but, when healthy, he's worth 150-200
all-purpose yards and at least a couple scores.
2. Ricky Williams vs. BUF - Buffalo is much-improved on defense.
That shouldn't matter to you. This guy doesn't sit.
3. Shaun Alexander vs. STL - St. Louis isn't stopping the run. For
that matter, they aren't stopping the pass, either. Alexander could
be in for a big day this Sunday.
4. Ahman Green at ARI - When you play with Brett Favre, you get
overshadowed. Nonetheless, Batman is worth 150 yds. and a score
every week. He faces the Sun Devils…er, Cardinals this week.
5. Clinton Portis vs. OAK - We're not convinced he won't eventually
be hurt by an erratic Plummer. For now, he's a lead pipe lock every
6. Jamal Lewis at SD - No way he goes for 295 large this week. Then
again, he is facing the Chargers.
7. Marshall Faulk at SEA - Starting to fade somewhat (less than
100 yds./game) but Bulger's emergence likely means better numbers
are on the horizon. Beware of Lamar Gordon, however.
8. Stephen Davis (bye) - If you needed a reminder that Davis is
a top 10 fantasy back, check out last week's numbers against the
big, bad Bucs: 33 carries (!) & 142 yards.
9. Deuce McAllister at TEN - Needs to find the end zone more but
the Saints' meal ticket keeps churning right along.
10. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. BAL - He's just not finding paydirt
and a horrific defense will likely put the Chargers in catch-up
mode for the rest of the year. That spells trouble for the back
some pegged as a legitimate #1 pick on draft day.
11. Edgerrin James vs. JAX - Serviceable and occasionally spectacular.
Picked up 120 yards on a workmanlike 30 carries and added a score
12. Charlie Garner at DEN - He's the best receiving back in the
league but an ordinary runner. Still, when Oakland's offense comes
around, he'll probably be the reason why.
13. Travis Henry at MIA - He's scored five touchdowns already but
is barely averaging two yards per carry. What gives? As long as
Bledsoe & Co. continue to stake early leads, he'll remain valuable.
14. Corey Dillon vs. PIT - He only has 11 more carries than backup
Brandon Bennett this year. If that keeps up, he'll be banished from
this list quicker than you can say "Bengals suck!"
15. Fred Taylor at IND - Hello, endzone? Have you seen Mr. Taylor?
He might be supremely talented but the iffy QB situation in Jacksonville
means Taylor will likely lose this spot soon.
Grab A Helmet:
Kevan Barlow vs. CLE - Faces a defense that just yielded a record-setting
performance. Think he's not tingling with anticipation? It's time
this bruiser earned the starting gig full-time.
Garrison Hearst vs. CLE - Until he does, however, we still like
this guy. The committee attack normally frustrates us to no end
but there are more than enough yards to go around against the Browns
this week. Not to mention, Hearst has been pretty darn good thus
far, racking up over 200 all-purpose yards and two scores.
Amos Zereoue at CIN - He's nothing special (which says a ton about
Jerome Bettis) but neither is Cincy's run defense (giving up 159
yds/game). We like the Steelers to get up big and stay up big with
Zereoue toting the rock and killing the clock.
Moe Williams at DET - Reminiscent of the mid-90s Denver squads,
Minnesota seems to gain yards on the ground no matter who's carrying
the ball. Williams seems to be getting the lion's share of the work,
Onterrio Smith at DET - …isn't a terrible option if you're short
a back this week. He's shifty and capable of scoring against a lousy
Detroit defense. We wouldn't be overly surprised to see him in the
starting lineup at some point this season.
Grab A Gatorade:
Stacey Mack vs. KC - This guy was a trendy sleeper pick before the
season began. Why? He's averaging three yds./carry and has scored
precisely zero touchdowns so far. With Houston likely to be playing
from behind on Sunday (on most Sundays), expect Mack to disappoint
William Green at SF - Don't get us wrong. He's an exciting young
back. Unfortunately, the Browns' rushing attack will be hampered
by the poor play of Kelly Holcomb. San Fran's only giving up 71.5
yds./game on the ground, as well.
Emmitt Smith vs. GB - Some people quit while they're ahead. Others…well,
ouch. We will never suggest starting Smith this year. We promise.
Eddie George vs. NO - D-O-N-E. He's under three yards/carry and
hasn't even sniffed the endzone this year.
T.J. Duckett/Warrick Dunn vs. TB - Remember what we said about that
seething Tampa defense? Don't even think about it. We smell shutout.
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Randy Moss at DET - He torched a decent Packers secondary in
Week 1 and played decoy in Week 2. It's anybody's guess which role
he'll play against Detroit. Then again, does the name Anquan Boldin
mean anything to you?
2. Terrell Owens vs. CLE - Hasn't exploded yet but don't forget
he's playing for mega-millions next year. Though it pains us to
say it, he's worth every penny.
3. Marvin Harrison vs. JAX - The numbers are down for Ol' Reliable
but if you sit him, you're nuts.
4. Laveranues Coles vs. NYG - In a word? Wow! He's lightning fast
and is leading the league in receiving yardage.
5. Hines Ward at CIN - Catches like Largent. Hits like Lambert.
What's not to like about Mr. Ward? Did we mention he's playing Cincy
6. Plaxico Burress at CIN - Him too. The Pittsburgh duo is sitting
third & fourth in receiving yardage. Expect more of the same in
the weeks ahead.
7. Chad Johnson vs. PIT - Disregard the Bengals uniform in this
case. The guy is a superstar. He's good for 100+ yds. per game and
a touchdown every two out of three weeks.
8. Eric Moulds at MIA - He's David Boston minus the bad attitude
and the supplements. Averaging nearly 20 yds./catch even with a
bull's-eye squarely on his back.
9. Torry Holt at STL - Ike Bruce has more yards but Holt is the
red-zone option. In somewhat of a twist, the QB change in St. Louis
could actually make him more productive.
10. Amani Toomer at WAS - A gaudy per-catch average of 24+ so far.
He's criminally underrated.
11. Donald Driver (inj) - Would you believe we're winning without
Vick and Driver? Starting next week, Favre's favorite target will
be back in our lineup.
12. Joe Horn at TEN - Still Aaron Brooks' favorite hook-up. Will
score more touchdowns as the season progresses.
13. Tony Gonzalez at HOU - OK. We're officially starting to worry.
He's caught four balls for 26 yards in two games.
14. Derrick Mason vs. NO - Makes up for a low yards-per-catch average
with more catches. Guess there's more than one way to skin a cat.
15. Jeremy Shockey at WAS - Voted most likely to get liquored up
and run his mouth. No, wait. That was Mike Vanderjagt. No denying
this kid's got talent, though.
Grab A Helmet:
Javon Walker at ARI - For the second consecutive week, we're predicting
a breakout game by Walker. According to our highly scientific calculations,
Brett Favre v. Arizona secondary = trouble.
Andre Johnson vs. KC - David Carr is getting better by the day.
If KC busts out to a big lead (very likely), he'll be looking for
the rook early and often.
Chris Chambers vs. BUF - Was a semi-bust last year but has been
busting loose this year. He's over 200 yards so far and has put
it in the end zone twice. Could soon bump someone out of the top
Peter Warrick vs. PIT - Could it be? Is Warrick finally starting
to emerge? We know Pittsburgh is tough but Kitna has put up some
big numbers against the Curtain in recent years.
Deion Branch vs. NYJ - It's always a crapshoot with New England's
receivers but Branch has speed to burn and looked fantastic against
Philly. He's a solid start in larger leagues.
Jerry Rice at DEN - Plays Monday Night against Denver. You need
another reason to start him?
Keyshawn Johnson at ATL - With his running mate, Jurevicius, out,
Meshawn could go apestuff on the Falcons woeful defense. We're hoping
so since we'll be starting him.
Grab Some Wood:
Antonio Freeman at ARI - A trendy snatch off the waiver wire in
Week 2, he's likely to see only spot duty against Arizona. Robert
Ferguson is fighting through his injuries and Javon Walker has more
upside. Translation? Stay away.
Eric Parker vs. BAL - He's been a huge surprise through two weeks
but huge surprises have a way of coming back to earth (usually with
a thud) in the NFL. This is especially the case when good defenses
watch two games worth of film.
Anquan Boldin vs. GB - See above, although the Packers aren't in
the same league as the Ravens when it comes to defense.
Santana Moss at NE - The numbers (8 snags for 154 yards) aren't
bad until we consider 142 of those yards came mostly in garbage
time against Miami last week.
Bobby Shaw at MIA - His numbers are skewed by a 54-yard touchdown
catch. Go with Josh Reed if you're gonna start a Buffalo receiver
other than Moulds.
Peerless Price vs. TB - It pains us to say it (yes, we own him)
but he's a lousy start this week. For that matter, he hasn't been
a stellar start in the first two weeks, either. He needs Michael
Vick more than we do.
As always, good luck, folks.