Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
Conventional wisdom says rookies rarely make an impact in fantasy
football. This is especially true, historically speaking, when it
comes to rookie wide receivers. Until now, that is. Take a peek at
the below rankings and you'll see that not one but two tenderfoots
have cracked my Top 15 heading into Week 5. Do they deserve the accolades
or am I a complete nut? Based on recent performances, the answer (to
both questions) is a resounding "yes." Yes, they belong
because they're putting up the numbers. Yes, I'm bonkers because rookie
wideouts ALWAYS hit the wall. Right? Well
. Time will tell whether
Messrs. Johnson and Boldin can maintain their elite status, of course.
Even if they don't, there are only so many weeks to ride the hot hand.
Translation? Conventional wisdom is often too much of the former and
not enough of the latter. Discuss amongst yourselves.
Meanwhile, here are the must-start and should-start players for Week
Must Start: The Top 10 Plus 1
1. Daunte Culpepper (Inj) - Guess
he's not as tough as I thought. Of course, that's easy for me to
say as I sit here typing with perfectly healthy transverse process
bones. The Vikes don't seem to have missed a beat with Frerotte
at the helm and that is a scary thought indeed.
2. Peyton Manning @ TB - Remember
that bit about sleeping giants last week? Or was it sleeping dogs?
Regardless, Peyton opened up a can of you-know-what on the Saints
and upped his TD total from a meager three to a league-leading nine
in just 60 minutes. He faces the Bucs on Monday night so the odds
against a repeat performance are roughly astronomical. Still, he
3. Steve McNair @ NE - Leads the
league with a 110.9 rating and trails only Manning with eight touchdowns.
Those are dynamite numbers when you consider the Titans have NO
running game. He faces a reasonably decent New England secondary
in Week 5 but that shouldn't concern you.
4. Drew Bledsoe vs. CIN - Though
he'll never be confused for a nimble quarterback, he scored on a
one-yard plunge last week. His passing numbers (296 yards and a
score) weren't bad either and he faces the Bungles on Sunday. He'll
also likely be without the services of Travis Henry again. That
means you don't have a better option unless you also own Manning
5. Tommy Maddox vs. CLE - Starting
to lose steam, it seems. He isn't making crisp decisions and is
turning the ball over a lot (six picks so far). Nevertheless, he's
still pitching it to the best receiving corps in the game and is
facing a Browns D that was riddled by John Kitna last week. That's
not as big an insult as it once was, but
6. Donovan McNabb vs. WAS - Rush
asks: "How long have you been a (highly overrated) black quarterback?"
Don answers by leading the troops to a spirited victory over Buffalo
in Orchard Park. If you're scoring at home, that's one less blowhard
on the NFL Countdown set and one more QB we can (most likely) count
7. Kerry Collins vs. MIA - He
comes off a bye week to face an always tough 'Phins defense that
completely shut down Bledsoe two weeks ago. If the G-men can't stake
an early lead, Collins and Co. may not see the field very often.
News flash: You can't score fantasy points from the sidelines.
8. Matt Hasselbeck @ GB - Favre's
most recent second-in-command returns to Titletown for a game positively
packed with storylines. Think The Kid will be up for a high noon
showdown w/ The Ol' Gunslinger? The Pack's D is nothing special
but might make things tough on a patchwork O-line. Incidentally,
Kordell spent most of Monday night running for his life.
9. Brett Favre vs. SEA - As for
The Ol' Gunslinger
. His best years may be behind him but there's
no question he'll be pumped for a visit from the 'Hawks and two
former coaches (Holmgren and Rhodes). He geared up for this weekend's
grudge match by toying with the Bears to the tune of three scores
and another victory, as promised.
10. Rich Gannon @ CHI - Bounced
back with a bang vs. San Diego last week (348 yards and three scores).
He faces an abysmal Bears secondary that helped Favre get well.
Look away if you're at all squeamish.
11. Michael Vick (Inj) - The Doug
Johnson experiment is over for this fantasy owner. I capitalized
on Reggie Wayne's explosive Week 3 to finagle Brad Johnson from
a league mate
and was thrilled to be able to do so. Yes, it's
come to that for owners of Mr. Excitement.
Grab A Helmet:
Gus Frerotte @ ATL - Infamous head butt notwithstanding, he's smart
enough to comprehend the following equation: Randy Moss vs. any
NFL corner = mismatch. Now comes word that Atlanta's already woeful
secondary will be without the services of starting corner, Tyrone
Jeff Garcia vs. DET - Got bounced from the Top 10 but faces a dreadful
Detroit secondary (264 per and eight TDs yielded so far). Here's
betting TO's message, though poorly delivered, got through.
Jay Fiedler @ NYG - The Giants are giving up 340 yards per game
through the air. That's dead last (by far) in the league. Ricky
will always take points away from him but odds are Mr. Fiedler will
find a hole or two in the New York secondary. He's a solid play
in Week 5.
Jake Plummer @ KC - Color me impressed. He was usually running for
his life in Arizona. Now, he's picking his spots and ripping off
big chunks of positive yardage. If he can avoid the picks against
an opportunistic Chiefs D, he'll have a nice game.
Quincy Carter vs. ARI - Like most young quarterbacks, he's at his
best when he's not hurried. Arizona has precisely TWO sacks so far
this year. Maybe that explains why opposing QBs have accumulated
a 100.9 rating through four games.
Byron Leftwich vs. SD - Starts his first game at home against a
Chargers defense that fell apart last week. Jimmy Smith (aka, the
Jacksonville receiving corps) returns so a coming-out party might
be on tap.
Grab A Clipboard:
Doug Johnson vs. MIN - I urged you to start him last week. I urge
you to forgive me this week. He's hamstrung by a lack of ability,
a very conservative coach, and constant reminders of who he isn't.
Oh, and Minnesota leads the league in interceptions
so happens to be Johnson's specialty. Unless you're in a 30-team
league, sit him down.
Aaron Brooks @ CAR - If you can believe it, he's averaging fewer
fantasy points per game than Johnson. To think he used to be an
up and comer. Carolina's D is a tough matchup and the Saints are
a mess. Unless you're thin at the position, don't.
Trent Green vs. DEN - The Chiefs are definitely for real. How do
I know? They're 4-0 and Green has done virtually nothing this year
(207 yards and one TD pass per game). He faces a vastly improved
Denver defense in Week 5 and, once again, Vermeil will pin his hopes
on the Priest. Find someone else.
Kordell Stewart vs. OAK - Really going out on a limb here, eh? He's
still a threat to run (117 yards and a touch to date) but It's hard
to believe anyone ever thought he could play quarterback in the
NFL. He can't-in case you hadn't noticed-and Rex Grossman's debut
is likely a few short weeks away.
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Priest Holmes vs. DEN - It's
only big news when he DOESN'T score these days. Denver's D is yielding
just 88.8 rushing yards per game but 4.4 per carry. That tells me
opponents are falling behind and abandoning the running game. KC
will not abandon its meal ticket.
2. Ricky Williams @ NYG - A normal
running back would wear down with Ricky's workload. Ricky's not
normal. Fresh off a bye week, he faces a solid Giants run defense
in the Meadowlands.
3. Jamal Lewis (Bye) - Averaging
152+ yards per game. Nobody else is really close. Breath a sigh
of relief if this week's opponent owns him.
4. Ahman Green vs. SEA - Brian
Urlacher is STILL trying to catch him. Faces a coach and team this
Sunday that once gave up on him. Think he'll be ready? Yeah, me
5. Shaun Alexander @ GB - Green's
replacement will be well rested for the showdown at Lambeau. Green's
teammates better eat their Wheaties.
6. Clinton Portis @ KC - Hate
the playa, not the game, right? If he keeps jerking us around with
the nagging injuries, we'll do exactly that. He's a shoo-in top
five back when (not if) he becomes more reliable medically.
7. LaDainian Tomlinson @ JAX -
Almost beat the Raiders by himself (232 all-purpose yards, a rushing
TD, and a TD pass[!!!]). Almost. His supporting cast is still sucky
but he's gonna get his yards (and his points) against almost everybody.
Faces a Jacksonville D that, surprisingly, is giving up only 2.8
yards/carry (second only to Philly).
8. Stephen Davis vs. NO - Widely
hailed as the best free agent pickup of 2003. I'll buy that provided
he starts scoring more. Last week was a good start (153 yards and
a TD) and a matchup with New Orleans offers another golden opportunity
to tally points.
9. Edgerrin James @ TB - Sounds
like he'll be ready for the Monday Nighter in Tampa. Oddly enough,
the Bucs are just average vs. the run (107 yards/game and 4.3 per
carry). If he's ready to go, ya' gotta play him.
10. Tiki Barber vs. MIA - Moved
up two spots even though he didn't play last week. He'll likely
slip next week after facing a tough-as-nails Miami D (63 yards/game).
11. Fred Taylor vs. SD - The Chargers
are giving up 150 yards per game on the ground. Taylor is still
healthy (knock on wood) and ripping off 4.7 per carry. He'll score
this week. Take it to the bank.
12. Moe Williams @ ATL - The good
news: he's running behind a really, really big offensive line. The
bad news: he's starting to lose carries to Onterrio Smith and (if
Coach Tice is to be believed) will lose even more as the season
progresses. Monitor his workload but assume he'll score against
an embattled and listless Atlanta D.
13. Deuce McAllister @ CAR - T.J.
Duckett came out of nowhere to rush for 100 yards vs. Carolina last
week. If T.J. Duckett can do it, surely McAllister can. I said "can,"
14. Travis Henry (Inj) - The Bills
need their end zone hound back in a hurry.
15. Marshall Faulk (Inj) - I might
hafta ditch this house rule if running backs keep getting injured.
He obviously doesn't help you now or in the immediate future.
Grab A Helmet:
Kevan Barlow/Garrison Hearst vs. DET - For the third consecutive
week, I'm recommending the Niners' two-headed attack. Detroit can't
stop the run and if San Fran can jump out to an early lead, Erickson
will salt it away with these two guys.
Troy Hambrick vs. ARI - Speaking of salting it away, Hambrick did
exactly that last week vs. the Jets. He did a damn fine job of it,
too (127 yards and a score). If Arizona struggles to score (likely),
Tuna will ask him to duplicate the performance.
Anthony Thomas vs. OAK - There's been an A-Train sighting! One long
scamper skewed the numbers vs. the Pack (110 yards and a touch)
but the Bears' brain trust saw enough to declare he deserves more
carries. If Kordell was your quarterback, you'd say the same thing.
Oakland hasn't exactly been a brick wall against the run this year,
for the record.
Onterrio Smith @ ATL - He scored his first touchdown vs. the Niners
last week. It won't be his last. He's a faster, shiftier alternative
to Moe Williams and when Minnesota breaks out to a big lead, he'll
be counted upon to help chew up yards and clock.
Michael Pittman vs. IND - He may be in the cooler a month from now
but he'll put up plenty of points until then. The Colts aren't stopping
the run very well (4.8 yards/carry) and Gruden wants to nix the
committee approach. He's also a valuable weapon in the passing game.
Grab A Gatorade:
Eddie George @ NE - 12 touches last week for 18 yards. Can we just
agree he's washed up and move on? I'm tired of writing about him,
Trung Canidate @ PHI - So he's better than I gave him credit for
(248 yards and 5.4 per tote). Who cares? Spurrier is committed to
using 18 different backs in the red zone and you don't wanna spend
the rest of the season guessing when it'll be his turn (note: it
hasn't been his turn yet). Pawn him off on a desperate league mate.
Any Philadelphia RB vs. WAS - Sorting out this mess is WAY more
trouble than it's worth. Buckhalter appears to have the most upside
but has actually seen the fewest carries (12). Westbrook certainly
has the wheels but is iffy as an every-down back. Staley is the
former starter who triggered this disaster by holding out of training
camp. The long and short of it? Let Andy Reid sort it out and don't
bother for now.
Kevin Faulk vs. TEN - He's splitting carries with Antowain Smith
(44 to Smith's 45 so far) and hasn't really knocked anyone's socks
off yet. He mustered only 12 yards on ten carries against the 'Skins
last week and faces a stifling Tennessee front four in Week 5.
Emmitt Smith @ DAL - The Diamond returns to the Trash Heap to face
his former team. Normally, I'd like Emmitt to make a statement in
such a situation. Unfortunately, he ruffled too many feathers on
his way out the door and will be hard-pressed to find room to run.
In short, the Dallas D will be ready and hasn't been all that kind
to ball carriers this year (72.3 yards/game and 3.0/rush).
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Randy Moss @ ATL - Holy smokes!
He single-handedly won a game for me last weekend. Imagine what
he might do against the makeshift Atlanta secondary this Sunday.
I just drooled.
2. Marvin Harrison @ TB - Do you
speak Snoop? Check it: he's off the hizzle fo' shizzle. Starvin'
Marvin is starvin' no longer after an aerial display against the
Saints last week (six catches, 158 yards, three TDs). He has a less-than-ideal
matchup with the Bucs on Monday night but I'm guessing you don't
have many options that are better.
3. Terrell Owens vs. DET - You
thought Meshawn was bad. Brother. He's caught more balls than Randy
(25 to 24) and still he complains (loudly) about being underutilized.
He probably COULD be used more effectively, but enough already!
4. Laveranues Coles @ PHI - The
Pats pretty much kept him in check (five catches for 62 yards) but
a decimated Philly secondary may have trouble doing the same. He's
trailing only Anquan Boldin in receiving yardage (453 total) and
is, accordingly, a great start in Week 5.
5. Hines Ward vs. CLE - A workmanlike
nine grabs for 76 yards in Week 4. If Cleveland's secondary couldn't
stop Kitna and the Bungles, how are they gonna stop Maddox, Ward,
and Burress? The short answer: they aren't.
6. Chad Johnson @ BUF - Only caught
three balls against the Browns last week. Of course, two of them
WENT FOR TOUCHDOWNS, PEOPLE! Why haven't you traded for him yet?
If he played anywhere but Cincy, we'd be mentioning him in the same
breath as Moss and Harrison.
7. Plaxico Burress vs. CLE - Still
teaming with Mr. Ward to form the most dangerous tandem in the league.
If Maddox cleans up the mistakes, he could shoot up the list. He's
8. Amani Toomer vs. MIA - He's
a big-play receiver (23.5 yards/catch) and has a strong-armed QB
throwing him the rock. Miami's corners might be the best in the
9. Torry Holt (Bye) - Tallied
12 catches for 133 yards and a score against Arizona last week.
That's pretty good. He won't help you this week but will pay dividends
for the rest of the year no matter who's throwing him the ball.
10. Eric Moulds vs. CIN - Strangely
enough, Bledsoe went looking for Bobby Shaw when the chips were
down last week. That shouldn't concern us too much but it's something
to be aware of. Regardless, The Specimen caught eight balls for
over 100 yards in the contest. He'll fare at least as well against
Cincy this week.
11. Andre Johnson (Bye) - Will
be David Carr's go-to guy for years to come. He sits in Week 5 and
should feel pretty good about his fledgling career at this juncture
to mention his 2-2 ball club and his gutsy coach.
12. Donald Driver vs. SEA - If
he doesn't start finding paydirt, he'll find himself on the outside
looking in. That said, Favre seems to have cured his woes for the
time being and could find Driver for a score vs. a good but very
green Seahawks secondary.
13. Joey Galloway vs. ARI - Shockingly,
he looks like his old self again. Couldn't have predicted that at
the start of the season. He's averaging 18.8 per grab and is clicking
with young Mr. Carter. He's a great start against the crummy Arizona
secondary in Week 5.
14. Jeremy Shockey vs. MIA - Shockey
owners are hoping he used the week off to cure a case of the dropsies.
Regardless, he is the preeminent threat at the tight end position.
If it weren't for TO or Rush, he might be the preeminent mouth in
the league, as well.
15. Anquan Boldin @ DAL - Not
Randy. Not Terrell. Not Marvin. The question? Who's leading the
league in receiving yardage (464 yards)? I'd bet my left arm he's
not sitting at #1 by year's end but stranger things have happened.
Dallas' secondary is almost as young, too. He's a decent start.
Grab A Helmet:
Jerry Rice @ CHI - Coach Jauron opts to replace starting corner,
Jerry Azumah, with a rook (Chas. Tillman). Sic 'em, Old Yeller!
Nate Burleson @ ATL - The Randy ratio is in full swing, albeit a
year late. Still, this promising (and rather large) rookie will
make his first start against an appalling Falcons secondary. He
scored last week and might do so again. Even if he doesn't, you
can assume he's the starter for good as D'Wayne Bates was never
solidly entrenched as the #2 guy to begin with.
Alge Crumpler vs. MIN - Can you believe a tight end is averaging
17.0 yards per catch? Those are deep threat numbers. Even more astonishingly,
he's doing it for a bad team with a lousy QB. Guess that means he's
no worse of a start this week than usual.
Koren Robinson @ GB - Only the Raiders and the Vikes have yielded
as many receptions as the Pack this year. That means either they're
tough to run against (not really) or easy to pass against (more
likely). Robinson is an immature receiver (redundant, I know) but
very, very talented. He's due for a monster game.
Chris Chambers @ NYG - Like I said, New York is giving up huge amounts
of yardage through the air. If they do so again this week, Chambers
will be the guy doing it to them. He's been relatively spectacular
so far (16 catches, 260 yards, and three TDs).
Ashley Lelie @ KC - He's really coming into his own as a big-play
guy (25.4 per catch) and is not someone you wanna sit when Plummer
is feeling it. Even against a pretty good KC D, he's a solid start.
Grab Some Wood:
Reggie Wayne @ TB - He (predictably) disappeared last week (three
catches for 26 yards) after a huge game in Week 3. Good thing I
dealt him, huh? This week, he faces a preposterously stingy Tampa
D that has yielded only 123.7 yards passing per game. Peyton will
throw for more than that but most of them will be accumulated by
Darrell Jackson @ GB - Deceiving numbers alert! More than half his
yardage (133) and 2/3 of his scores (2) came in a blowout win against
the Cards in the desert. He is NOT the main threat on this team
(Koren Robinson is) and he might suffer as the year goes on.
Eddie Kennison/Johnnie Morton vs. DEN - These guys aren't really
that bad but a tough Denver D makes them questionable in Week 5.
Gonzalez finally woke up against the Ravens and may continue to
take on a heavier load. Plus, how many fantasy points are gonna
be left on the table with Priest still laying waste to opponents?
Bryant Johnson @ DAL - He's a pretty good rook (17 catches for 201
yards) even if he's been overshadowed by Boldin. Nevertheless, he
hasn't found the end zone yet and may not against a good Dallas
D. He's a spot starter only this year. Next year? Who knows?
Tai Streets vs. DET - Streets has been toiling in relative anonymity
so far but doing a damn good job of it (226 yards and three scores).
Regardless, I'm guessing TO's demands will be met and that Streets
will see fewer looks against the Lions
which is too bad for
him & his owners.
As always, good luck, folks!