Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
Those who have been waiting patiently (myself included) for the return
of Michael Vick can take heart in the fact that fellow fantasy owners
will be missing many of their own stars in the weeks ahead. The deluge
of byes is upon us and we'll soon discover who did their homework
on draft day
and who fed it to the family mutt. There may be
nothing more frustrating than losing a stud tailback for a heated
matchup with a hated adversary, but there's certainly nothing more
exhilarating than watching a backup ball carrier scamper for 100 yards
and a couple scores in his stead. Whether that happens or not has
a lot to do with how capably you fleshed out your roster. Did you
cover your tail with a solid #3 back? Or are you contemplating whether
to start Shawn Bryson or Lamont Jordan? Time to pay the fiddler, folks.
Here are the must-start and should-start players for Week 4 in my
Must Start: The Top 10 Plus 1
1. Daunte Culpepper vs. SF - The
only thing he's turning over these days is a new leaf. Still has
yet to throw an INT. Don't believe Coach Tice, either. He'll play
and (probably) shine provided he can avoid the Niners' fierce pass
rush (13 sacks so far).
2. Tommy Maddox vs. TEN - Was
efficient (but not spectacular) against the Bungles. Ward and Burress
could murder a soft Titans' secondary that hasn't picked off a pass
this year. Yes, they're the only squad without an INT.
3. Drew Bledsoe vs. PHI - What
in the world was THAT? We'll give him a mulligan and assume the
Fish were highly motivated. He's facing a similarly amped but wounded
Philly D that's allowing opposing QBs to complete 70% of their passes.
Even bad NCAA defenses don't do that.
4. Steve McNair @ PIT - What a
stud. Only Culpepper has a better QB rating after three weeks. Pittsburgh's
pass D has been fairly stingy but since George will be ineffective
(see below), I like McNair's chances to air things out, especially
if Tennessee falls behind.
5. Peyton Manning @ NO - If Reggie
Wayne isn't a one-week wonder, the Colts could be something special.
Peyton has flown under the radar so far (only three scores) but
he's one sleeping giant you wouldn't wanna poke.
6. Jeff Garcia @ MIN - The Metrodome
isn't kind to opposing QBs (ask Mr. Favre) and the Vikes' secondary
leads the league with eight picks. Then again, this guy is just
as nifty with his feet. Only McNabb has more rushing yardage through
three games. Erickson seems committed to throwing the ball all over
the lot, as well.
7. Donovan McNabb @ BUF - Speaking
. A sub-50% completion percentage, no TDs, and two
fumbles so far? He's not that bad, is he? Something tells me Andy
Reid will have the boys frothing at the mouth come Sunday. Buffalo's
D is significantly improved, however, and it could get worse before
it gets better.
8. Kerry Collins (Bye) - Only
completing half his passes (50.9%) but has thrown for the fourth-most
yards in the league through three weeks (743). Of course, TD-only
folks care more about the six TD passes. Either way you play it-yardage
or no-Collins has something to offer.
9. Matt Hasselbeck (Bye) - It's
probably a toss-up between him and Ramsey but the 'Hawks are 3-0.
Of course, you might wanna start Ramsey this week since Seattle's
not playing. Just a thought.
10. Brett Favre @ CHI - My head
(a 67.6 rating and six picks) says he doesn't belong on this list.
My heart (who's better over the last decade?) says he does. We'll
give him one more week against a team he owns, shall we? After that,
11. Michael Vick (Inj.) - Is it
just me or is the NFL a LOT less exciting without this guy around?
Grab A Helmet:
Patrick Ramsey vs. NE - Pop quiz: who's leading the league in passing
yardage? You guessed it. Five scores against two pilfers isn't too
bad, either, especially for a second-year QB playing for the meddlesome
Ball Coach. He's a strong start against the below-average and Lawyer-less
New England secondary this week.
Jake Plummer vs. DET - Like Eden's most famous denizen, this Snake
will tempt you with his gift. Don't come crying to me when he inevitably
disappoints. That won't be this week, by the way, since Detroit's
visiting to Mile High.
Tim Couch vs. CIN - Holcomb ails so a motivated Couch gets another
shot. I don't know the guy personally but I gotta think he's jazzed
to make up for lost time. Plus, he's playing against fellow Ohio
doormat, Cincinnati. There's a chance he's available in redraft
leagues. Get him.
Jeff Blake @ STL - A slice of humble pie, please?
crow? Not only did he make me (and likely others) look stupid last
week. He did it against my beloved Pack. There is no God. Against
the suspect Rams' D, he could surprise again.
Marc Bulger vs. ARI - Favre wasn't terrible against Arizona. He
just couldn't get on the field. If Gordon can help shoulder the
load and help St. Louis win the time of possession battle, Bulger
could inflict serious damage. His numbers (462 yards, three touchdowns,
two picks) have been pedestrian so far.
David Carr vs. JAX - Could face Byron Leftwich in a battle of promising,
young signal-callers. Jacksonville's pass defense is so-so but mostly
because nobody's needed to throw against them. Carr has put up good
numbers (aside from too many INTs) and is starting to build a rapport
with rookie wideout, Andre Johnson. I like this hook-up to produce
for many years to come.
Doug Johnson - OK
I know this sounds crazy since he looked
absolutely clueless against Tampa (95 yards and three INTs). Carolina's
D is probably just as good but is also yielding over 300 yards per
game through the air. Brunell went crazy in Week 1 and Brad Johnson
did the same in Week 2. If Johnson is forced to pass (he will be),
he could respond with a nice game.
Grab A Clipboard:
Drew Brees @ OAK - David Boston has been suspended and seems bound
and determined to frustrate all expectations of greatness. Brees,
unfortunately, will pay the heavy price. With Tim Dwight hurting,
his #1 receiver this week will be Eric Parker. That isn't a good
thing with an angry Raiders squad waiting (and stewing) in Oakland.
Joey Harrington @ DEN - Say it ain't so, Joe(y)! Our Ducks shock
the nation on Saturday and you celebrate by throwing three picks
on Sunday? A matchup with the red-hot Broncos in Denver doesn't
sound like the cure for what ails this fellow quacker. Keep him
on the bench for now.
Vinny Testaverde vs. DAL - Probably self-explanatory but just in
. Vinny has thrown for some decent yardage (almost 250
per game) but Dallas opponents aren't even completing 50% of their
passes. A punchless running game puts even more pressure on the
aged veteran. He could surprise (he has before) but I'm not counting
Trent Green @ BAL - His shaky numbers have been overlooked thanks
to a torrid Chiefs start. Still, he's thrown five interceptions
to three touchdowns and Priest Holmes IS the offense in KC. Facing
the Ravens this week, you might wanna go in another direction.
Kyle Boller vs. KC - KC's defense is no slouch either and with a
celebrated battle of titans on tap (Holmes vs. Lewis), Boller could
be a non-factor. Not that he isn't usually a non-factor, throwing
for only a shade over 100 bones a game. Luckily for Ravens fans,
he's young and learning. .
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Priest Holmes @ BAL - Gotta
love cut and paste: "
he's worth 150-200 all-purpose yards
and at least a couple scores." The High Priest faces the team
that forsook him a few years back. Think he doesn't have something
to prove? Baltimore better hope not.
2. Ricky Williams (Bye) - More
touches generally means more points. Through three weeks, he's touched
the rock a staggering 35 times per game. Thank your lucky stars
if you face his squad this week.
3. Jamal Lewis vs. KC - Averaging
an eye-popping 7.3 yards./carry so far against lousy opponents.
Still, 7.3 per is 7.3 per. Faces stiffer competition this week as
KC hasn't allowed a rushing TD yet.
4. Shaun Alexander (Bye) - Another
heavyweight opponents needn't worry about in Week 4. Only downside
so far is that he's not contributing in the passing game (seven
receptions for 35 yards).
5. Ahman Green @ CHI - The Pack
may be struggling but don't blame him. He's still a dangerous double-threat
facing one of the easiest schedules in the league. Needs to stop
putting the ball on the ground, however.
6. Clinton Portis vs. DET - Averaging
6.3 yards/carry without the benefit of a record-setting day. If
he can avoid the annoying injuries (questionable), he'll move into
the top five by year's end. Faces a dreadful Detroit D this week.
7. Stephen Davis vs. ATL - He's
coming off a bye week and faces Atlanta's crummy front seven (135
rushing yards/game and six touchdowns yielded). If he doesn't score
this Sunday, I'll eat my hat.
8. LaDainian Tomlinson @ OAK -
B-R-E-A-T-H-E, Tomlinson owners. The kid managed to top 100 yards
and find the end zone
finally. Now the bad news. The Bolts
lost another O lineman (Vaughn Parker) and could have a tough time
carving holes for him in the future.
9. Edgerrin James @ NO - 72 carries
in the first three weeks (second to Ricky) renders questions about
his knee moot. Unfortunately, now his back hurts. Biggest concern,
however, is the lack of touchdowns. A below-average New Orleans
D could be the tonic in Week 4 if he's able to go. If not, James
Mungro is a sneaky pickup.
10. Deuce McAllister vs. IND -
11 carries for eight yards against Tennessee last week. Ick! He's
got too much talent for a repeat performance. Then again, Indy's
D is no slouch.
11. Moe Williams vs. SF - He may
be a product of Minnesota's stellar O-line but who cares? 5.1 yards/carry
says he belongs on the list. With Culpepper and Moss doubtful, he
could shoulder even more of the load.
12. Tiki Barber (Bye) - Has more
yards than anyone not named Priest or Ricky but hasn't found paydirt.
He's also fumbled twice. If he steps it up, he stays. If not
13. Fred Taylor @ HOU - Lemme
get this straight. It's Week 4 and Taylor isn't on IR? He's averaging
5.1 per but, like Barber, needs to score more (read: some).
14. Travis Henry vs. PHI - Five
touchdowns are the only thing keeping him in the Top 15. Averages
a microscopic 2.2 yards/carry and has four receptions. Plus, he's
banged up. Maybe that Willis McGahee selection wasn't so strange
15. Marshall Faulk (Inj.) - How
the mighty have fallen. The broken hand saves him from ignominy
but he might lose this spot when he returns. Stay tuned.
Grab A Helmet:
Kevan Barlow/Garrison Hearst @ MIN - Talk about job sharing! Barlow
has 39 touches to Hearst's 37. Only Hearst's touchdowns separate
the two. The situation isn't ideal (obviously) but you could do
worse and there's no doubt the O-line has something to prove after
a woeful effort against the Browns.
Lamar Gordon vs. ARI - The waiver wire snatch du jour, he should
fill in ably for Faulk. He's averaging 5.1 per carry and is a capable
receiver. Arizona's D is nothing special, either, despite the stellar
performance against Green Bay.
William Green vs. CIN - It's time, kiddo. He's getting the touches
(17+ carries a game) and now he gets the opponent. Cincy's defense
is giving up 152 yards/game on the ground.
Troy Hambrick @ NYJ - Hasn't lived up to expectations and may not.
For now, he's all Dallas has. On the bright side, he's facing an
atrocious Jets run defense in Week 4. Could Carter's passing actually
loosen things up for this horse? I never thought I'd say that.
Jerome Bettis vs. TEN - Purely a hunch but the Bus seems destined
to become a touchdown specialist. That's a good thing in TD-only
leagues. Tennessee stuffed Deuce last week but stopping this freight
train on the goal line could be another story entirely.
Stacey Mack vs. JAX - I trashed him last week and he didn't disappoint
(13 carries for 39 yards). That said, he could score against the
lowly Jags on Sunday. Could last week's garbage be this week's gold?
Use him on a case-by-case basis since his days as a starter are
Grab A Gatorade:
Warrick Dunn/T.J. Duckett @ CAR - Don't say you weren't warned.
These two clowns ran it 12 times for a mere 13 yards last week.
If they thought Tampa was tough, wait'll they get a load of Fox's
Curtis Martin vs. DAL - 158 total yards in three games and no scores.
The years and the touches are starting to catch up with Mr. Martin.
He faces a highly underrated (& well rested) Dallas D in Week
4, to boot. Need another reason to sit him? Vinny Testaverde.
Eddie George @ PIT - Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice
He got on the scoreboard last week and even reached the century
mark. Of course, it took him 29 carries to do so. 2.9 yards and
a cloud of dust won't get you very far against the Curtain at Heinz.
I'm willing to bet he lays an egg. Any takers?
Amos Zereoue vs. TEN - Just when we thought he was cementing his
position, Cowher called on the Bus for red zone and clock-grinding
duty. Ouch. If you can trade him, you might want to do so
Corey Dillon @ CLE - Lost his spot in the Top 15 and may not return.
He hasn't performed so far and now he's iffy health-wise. Which
is really too bad since Cleveland's run defense is soft with a capital
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Randy Moss vs. SF - Rumors
swirl that his injuries are more mental than physical. If he's truly
in full ball-demanding mode, the Niners could be in for a long day.
Andre Davis (of all people) lit them up when crunch time arrived
2. Terrell Owens @ MIN - #1 vs.
#2, and a national TV audience at the Heftydome. Can't freakin'
wait. Owens is the type of receiver who seems to relish a big stage
& a worthy opponent. Which is kinda like saying Homer Simpson
is the type of cartoon character who seems to relish a worthy sandwich.
3. Laveranues Coles vs. NE - He
leads my league in fantasy points at the receiver position. He's
also facing a questionable Pats' secondary. If he doesn't score
big points, I'll be shocked.
4. Hines Ward vs. TEN - Solid
as a rock (almost 100 per and a score a week) and facing a Titans'
D that yields too many catches. Maddox will be looking to exploit
and Ward will be Weapon 1A.
5. Plaxico Burress vs. TEN - Weapon
6. Amani Toomer (Bye) - Only 13
catches but makes the most of them (300+ yards and 2 touches). Alas,
he's an observer in Week 4.
7. Marvin Harrison @ NO - Has
scored fewer fantasy points than Jermaine Lewis this year. Jermaine
Lewis is on injured reserve and didn't play last week. Hmmmm
Don't jump ship yet but don't expect typical Harrison numbers. Reggie
Wayne could steal points (finally) and Edge has looked good to date.
8. Chad Johnson @ CLE - I won't
stop until every fantasy gamer recognizes him as a great (not good)
receiver. Makes difficult catches look easy. Cleveland's pass defense
is deceptively average (162.3 yards/game) because it can't stop
9. Eric Moulds vs. PHI - Disappeared
against Miami but Philly's M*A*S*H unit of a secondary could be
the antidote. Bledsoe will be eager to make amends for a dreadful
performance and the #2/#3 wideouts (Reed and Shaw) are crummy.
10. Torry Holt vs. ARI - You don't
sit anyone against Arizona and if Gordon struggles, Bulger will
air it out. Holt, as usual, will likely be his favorite target.
11. Donald Driver @ CHI - Got
his feet wet in the desert and should be back at full-strength on
Monday night. Favre has made a living off the Bears. Sit him at
12. Joe Horn vs. IND - The scoreboard
could resemble a pinball machine on Sunday night and Horn will probably
contribute. He hasn't set the world on fire yet (18 catches for
199 yards and a score) but that's gotta change soon.
13. Derrick Mason @ PIT - Leads
the league in receptions and might have a big game if Tennessee
struggles to move the ball on the ground (they will).
14. Andre Johnson vs. JAX - I'm
breaking numerous rules here by inserting a rookie receiver who
plays for a bad team. This guy is something special, though. He
doesn't get a ton of help from Bradford or Gaffney but still can't
15. Jeremy Shockey (Bye) - Moves
to the head of the tight end class thanks to Gonzalez's ineffectiveness.
He won't help you this week but will in the immediate (and foreseeable)
Grab A Helmet:
Anquan Boldin @ STL - I was wrong. I'm sorry. He's big, fast, and
runs good routes. Ride the hot hand until he hits the rookie wall
(a near certainty).
Reggie Wayne @ NO - Speaking of hot hands, Wayne blew up in Week
3 (10 catches, 141 yards, and two scores). I figured his value has
never been higher and promptly traded him. Here's hoping I don't
regret that decision.
Isaac Bruce vs. ARI - The cagey vet can still play (19 grabs for
252 yards) and faces the lousy Cardinals' D this week. Will always
compete with Holt for touches but should see plenty this Sunday,
Ashley Lelie vs. DET - Has only five catches so far
yards. Even the math-phobic amongst you can figure that yards/catch
average out. Facing the Lions' woeful secondary, he's ready to explode.
Rod Gardner vs. NE - Lav Coles is casting a pretty lengthy shadow
these days but Gardner is finding points, as well (175 yards and
two scores). New England's defense is good but not great. The former
Clemson Tiger is a good start in Week 4.
Peerless Price @ CAR - The talent is unquestionable even if his
coach's ability to devise a passing scheme is. Carolina will snuff
the Falcons' running game so Price should get an opportunity to
Grab Some Wood:
David Boston (Susp.) - Just seeing if you're awake.
Antonio Freeman @ CHI - Driver's return signals the end of the Freeman/Favre
reunion tour. If you need him to start, you probably have bigger
Tony Gonzalez @ BAL - I'm actually thinking (seriously) about dealing
him. Vermeil is determined to make the Chiefs a one-trick pony and
that trick is named Priest, not Tony. Get something for him while
you still can.
Charles Rogers @ DEN - Joey Heisman's struggles will continue in
Denver and Rogers won't make an impact. After a blistering start,
he's come back to earth (10 catches, 92 yards, no TDs in Weeks 2
Good luck, mates.