Must Start: The Top 15
1. Priest Holmes vs. HOU - His
status is shrouded in mystery but it's hard to believe he won't
play for a team desperately in need of a "W." I'm breaking
one of my own rules (see Chris Brown) because even a less-than-100%
Priest is better than most of the dudes on this list. Monitor
the papers but don't hesitate to start him if he isn't ruled out.
2. Ahman Green @ IND - He's
"slippery," all right. Almost as slippery as that ball
he carries around 25 times a game, huh? Sigh. He'll likely never
solve that problem (your OTHER right!) but ya' gotta love him,
regardless, since fumbles don't hurt you nearly as much in fantasyland
as they do in real life. He'll ROLL against an undersized Colts
front that hasn't stopped a decent ball carrier this century.
3. Ladainian Tomlinson @ DEN
- THAT'S the L.T. we know and love, baby! He tallied 87 yards
on the ground and another 76 through the air against New York.
He also punched one in for six. No matter who lines up under center,
he'll get his points. I can't envision a scenario where he isn't
a top five start, in fact.
4. Jamal Lewis @ CIN - The Bengals
did a great job of bottling up Lamar Gordon but we shouldn't read
too much into that. The Dolphins' O line is only better than Buffalo's
and Jamal Lewis is no Lamar Gordon. The 2.7 yards per carry is
worrisome (blame Boller) but he broke through last week for two
TDs and I have a sneaking suspicion he's ready for a big-time
Jamal type of day. Mark it down: he'll score again on Sunday.
5. Clinton Portis vs. DAL -
Dallas' D is the only reason they're 1-1, plain and simple. A
look inside the numbers, however, tells us they aren't as solid
against the run as you might suspect (five yards a pop and 136
per game). Think Portis will be motivated to atone for a miserable
Week 2 on Monday night against a hated rival? Yeah, that makes
two of us.
6. Domanick Davis @ KC - So
much for the Gunther Cunningham experiment. If possible, the Chefs
are even worse against the run this year than they were in '03
(187 yards/game). That happens when the personnel returns virtually
intact. Of course, Davis appears to be doing a fair amount of
his damage in the passing game, as well (165 yards so far). Bottom
line: any way you slice it, he's a GREAT start in Week 3.
7. Marshall Faulk vs. NO - Kansas
City may be dead last against the run but New Orleans isn't too
far behind (ahead?). The Saints have been gashed by Shaun Alexander
and, most recently, Kevan Barlow for scads of yards and five TDs.
Faulk is definitely in the same league as those guys and should
have a field day at Edward Jones this Sunday.
8. Quentin Griffin vs. SD -
He's lost two big fumbles this year (join the club, buddy) but
still has the full confidence of Coach Shanahan. This week, he
gets a chance for redemption against a below-average Bolts front.
I'm not jumping ship on the guy and neither should you. He'll
score on Sunday
9. Chris Brown vs. JAX - I was
taken to task for recommending you sit him last week. As numerous
readers found out, however (aside from the fact I DO respond to
e-mail), I like the guy. I simply don't like putting my fantasy
fate in the hands of players who are questionable or worse on
the injury report AND have shown a propensity for getting banged
up in the past. Suffice it to say he qualified. Provided he's
healthy and provided you know this (for certain) before game time,
start him. Beware a tough Jags run D this week, though.
10. Kevan Barlow @ SEA - He's
built to carry the ball 30 times a game but the brain trust seems
determined to spread the carries around again. No matter. Barlow
is making the most of his touches (4.9 yards a carry and two scores)
and will probably take on a heavier workload as the season progresses.
Though Seattle is much better against the run this year, he should
net 80+ yards and another score.
11. Shaun Alexander vs. SF -
The 'Hawks return home after a lackluster offensive effort in
Tampa. They're not the first team in history to do that. They
get the Niners this week, a team that has been surprisingly stout
against the run (2.7/carry and 70.5 yards/game). You don't sit
Alexander (especially at home) but I don't think he's fully recovered
from the knee sprain suffered at the Superdome. For that reason,
he drops out of the top 10.
12. Brian Westbrook @ DET -
Westbrook Nation has spoken and I have listened. He's better than
I thought he was. He's a dangerous threat out of the backfield
and arguably even more dangerous when split wide. Nevertheless,
it should be noted that he ranked only 16th among running backs
in fantasy scoring last week (conventional format). That means
he needs to score a touchdown before you guys can REALLY rub it
in my face.
13. Thomas Jones @ MIN - I apologized
to David Terrell last week and he rewarded me with one touch (a
run, no less) and one fumble. You do the math. Jones will get
more than one touch so I don't mind playing the apology card again.
Sorry, Thomas. Now don't screw up!
14. Tiki Barber vs. CLE - Tiki
has far fewer carries than any other ball carrier on this list
but is top 15 in rushing yardage so far. The meaningless 72-yard
scamper against Philly didn't hurt but his 6.2 yards per tote
is still pretty impressive. Ron Dayne appears to be reverting
to form so don't be surprised if "Lightning" starts
putting up even more impressive numbers.
15. Fred Taylor @ TEN - You
weren't the only fantasy baller who thought the Jags' O would
put up some nice figures this year. Guilty. Taylor is hurt by
a young QB who isn't very accurate and can't move. If something
doesn't change quickly, he may slide out of the top 15. For now,
I think you stick with him a while longer.
Grab A Helmet:
Warrick Dunn vs. ARI - Why didn't
we see this coming? He's done nothing but produce since entering
the league and is a glove-like fit for the West Coast offense.
T.J. Duckett will eat into his rushing totals as time goes by
(really) but for now, he's a solid #2 back. If you're wondering
why that doesn't put him in the top 15 this week, take a gander
at the injury report and recall my rule.
T.J. Duckett vs. ARI - Speaking
of Duckett, he's not bad insurance if you're uncomfortable starting
Dunn. Coach Mora's plan all along was to go with Dunn and use
Duckett as the second half wrecking ball. Since the Cards are
yielding 174 yards a contest and will likely be playing from behind
all afternoon, he might actually get to employ that strategy on
Sunday. Just something to think about.
Onterrio Smith vs. CHI - This
is likely his swan song before a rumored drug suspension hits.
Although he didn't stand out on Monday night, he still managed
to hammer out 80+ total yards. I doubt Coach Tice believes the
Vikes can be successful with Culpepper throwing almost 50 passes
a game but then I doubt he'll be mistaken for a rocket scientist
anytime soon, either. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt,
Edgerrin James vs. GB - Like
Dunn, Edge is banged up. At press time, he's been upgraded to
questionable. Do not (repeat: do NOT) get on my case if he ends
up sitting out or playing only a partial game. He's a great start
against a thin Pack front but this is the best I can do as far
as a recommendation goes.
Kevin Jones vs. PHI - Lost in
the hoopla of Donovan-to-T.O. mania is the fact that Philly's
D is yielding an eye-popping 5.9 yards per carry so far (good
for dead last). No doubt a lot of those yards were given up in
the late stages of a lopsided win over the G-men but Philly was
no great shakes against the run last year, either (4.8/carry).
Jones is looking more comfortable by the carry and could do some
damage if the Lions don't fall too far behind on Sunday.
Grab A Gatorade:
Duce Staley @ MIA - The Dolphins
defense should be commended for keeping the team in games it had
no business staying in. Though Chris Brown ripped them in Week
1, Rudi Johnson couldn't do much of anything last Sunday night.
Expect the box to be loaded as the Fish dare the neophyte, Roethlisberger,
to beat them. Oh, and there's always the Bus poach factor to consider.
Rudi Johnson vs. BAL - Again,
this is strictly a matchup play. Johnson is a top 15 guy most
weeks but Baltimore is no team to try and run the ball against.
Expect the Ravens to put the onus on Carson Palmer by filling
the box and forcing the Bengals to throw. If you have good alternatives,
go with them.
Charlie Garner @ OAK - Chucky
returns to the Black Hole and it's gonna be ugly. I'm talking
about the game. Tampa's offense is in disarray and even though
Garner was the lone bright spot last week, he could struggle to
gain positive yardage against his former mates, a vastly improved
bunch. This one has 10-7 written all over it so starting anyone
in this contest looks risky.
Any Oakland RB vs. TB - Did
I mention this one is gonna be ugly? As Shaun Alexander found
out, the Bucs are still the Bucs (read: stingy). Yeah, Clinton
Portis put up big numbers in Week 1 but they were heavily skewed
by his inaugural tote as a 'Skin. Oakland doesn't know whom it
wants to feature at tailback and the picture is unlikely to be
any less murky after Sunday's game. Steer clear until some semblance
of a plan develops.
Emmitt Smith @ ATL - Third time's
a charm? He's managed to find the end zone twice through two games,
meaning he's made me look stupid two weeks running. Ed Donatell
has the Falcons playing MUCH better on D and so long as they're
not asked to defend any 4th and 26 plays, that trend should continue
this week. It's unlikely the Cards will be able to run much anyway
since they'll be playing from behind from the get-go.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends