Must Start: The Top 10
1. Peyton Manning v. PIT –
The revamped defense finally looked vulnerable last Sunday, allowing
37 points and nearly 500 yards to Carson Palmer and the Bengals.
Lucky for Indy, Peyton and the boys picked up the slack…and
then some. He’s now thrown for three scores in each of his
last three tilts and looks every bit as unstoppable as he did
last season. Those ’72 Dolphins must be getting awfully
2. Carson Palmer v. BAL –
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Indy should
definitely pat itself on the back. These Bengals bear a striking
resemblance to the ’04 Colts. All that’s missing now
is a defense to complement the absurdly talented offense (sound
familiar, Indy fans?) They’ll need more playmakers on that
side of the ball to take the next step but everything’s
looking groovy on offense. Start Palmer against the short-handed
Ravens this week.
3. Tom Brady @ KC – Nobody’s
talking about the Pats these days but if you ask me, that’s
a huge mistake. Yes, they’re 6-4. They’re also two
games clear in the AFC East and eyeing a return to the playoffs,
where Mr. Brady tends to shine. I’m not sure they’ll
get the win against a Chiefs team that needs it more this weekend,
but I’m pretty sure it won’t be because of him. Expect
300 yards and a couple scores against the dubious KC secondary.
4. Trent Green v. NE –
Not that KC has the market cornered on dubious secondary play.
In fact, New England’s pass defense is even more porous
statistically, having yielded over 260 yards and two scores per
game thus far. Maybe THAT’S why nobody’s talking about
the Pats? Regardless, the disappointing Green should have no trouble
moving the football against them in Week 12. Give him another
chance if you’ve relegated him to the bench in recent weeks.
5. Kerry Collins v. MIA –
There are plenty of things wrong with the Raiders this season
but he’s not one of them, despite what some analysts say.
He’s averaging over 265 yards/game (good for second in the
league) and is on pace for 11 picks, well below his career average.
That makes him a pretty good play the rest of the way, starting
this weekend against a run-of-the-mill Dolphins group.
6. Drew Brees @ WAS –
Nothing run-of-the-mill about this guy. He’s averaging over
300 yards and almost three scores per over his last three games
(all wins) and is clearly playing well enough to boost San Diego
into the second season. Whether they get there or not could depend
a lot on this Sunday’s cross-country clash with the reeling
Redskins. I think they get the “W,” thanks to a solid
day from Brees.
7. Byron Leftwich @ ARI –
The Bolts will need that “W” ‘cuz the Jags (their
primary competition for a wildcard spot) keep on winning. The
reason? Leftwich. He still hasn’t posted a 300-yard day
yet but did throw for three scores last week (finally) and is
starting to discover he has other options at receiver. If Arizona
can’t match up with the super-sized Jax wideouts, he could
be in for another large day in the desert. Mark him down for 200+
yards and a couple TD strikes.
8. Matt Hasselbeck v. NYG –
Hasselbeck faces another of those dubious secondaries in the Emerald
City this Sunday, just in time to clinch the NFC West title. If
he does what he’s been doing, they can start setting their
sights on home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If you’ve
ever been to the good ol’ Pacific Northwest in the wintertime,
you know they’ll be tough to beat at home come January.
9. Jake Delhomme @ BUF –
Carolina looked like the class of the NFC a couple weeks back
but then promptly went out and scored three points against the
upstart Bears. Delhomme was largely to blame, throwing two picks
in the loss. He should bounce back this weekend against the Bills
but will need to stay off his backside (eight sacks in Week 11)
to get the job done. I suspect he will.
10. Eli Manning @ SEA –
Kid Bro rebounded from a ruinous Week 10 performance (four INTs)
to post stellar numbers against the Birds last Sunday (218 yards
and three scores). This week, he draws the Seahawks in a game
that will go a long way toward clearing up the NFC playoff picture.
Expect 250 yards and a couple scores, albeit in a losing effort.
He still doesn’t have that marquee road win under his belt.
Grab A Helmet:
Brett Favre @ PHI – The
20 turnovers tell me he’s trying to do too much with too
little. Alternatively, the 18 TD strikes tell me he’s still
got some gas left in the tank. If you can live with the miscues,
give him another look. He isn’t gonna stop slinging it around
(who else does the Pack have?) and that means 200+ yards and a
couple scores is an attainable goal against Philly this Sunday.
Mike McMahon v. GB – Favre’s
opponent, the intriguing McMahon, looked pretty decent against
Dallas in Week 11 (295 yards and two scores, one on the ground)
but definitely needs some more polish to be a legit starting option.
Well, that or a matchup against one of the league’s fluffiest
defenses. Expect 200+ yards and two more scores as the Eagles
send Green Bay spiraling toward the NFC basement.
Kurt Warner v. JAX – Think
he was pretty jazzed to get win no. 1 against his old mates in
St. Louis last weekend? He’s played well enough to win a
few more but doesn’t have the surrounding cast to make it
a regular occurrence. It’s back to reality time this Sunday
against the tough Jags, though Warner should still post good numbers.
Jamie Martin @ HOU – The
guy who replaced the guy who replaced Warner in St. Louis looked
pretty solid in relief last weekend, throwing for 161 yards and
a score in the loss. This week, he draws a Texans squad that has
only tallied three picks all season (against 17 touchdowns). If
he sticks to the game plan and doesn’t force things, he
should post surprisingly good numbers in Week 12.
Steve McNair v. SF – Ditto
for McNair. He’s clearly nearing the end of the line but
is still solid enough and veteran enough to make San Francisco’s
horrible secondary look foolish this Sunday. Though I don’t
like his wideouts, they shouldn’t prevent him from putting
up nice numbers at Monster Park. Start him.
Grab A Clipboard:
Kyle Boller @ CIN – The
only thing worse than watching Boller v. Maddox last weekend?
Watching them for a “bonus” ten minutes in OT. The
former Golden Bear emerged victorious but did nothing to dispel
the notion that he is simply not the answer at QB for the already
offensively-challenged Ravens. This week, he squares off against
an opportunistic Bengals D that was dressed down by Peyton and
Co. in Week 11. I smell turnovers…lots of them.
J.P. Losman v. CAR – Unlike
Boller, Losman is likely to improve in the coming weeks and could
even emerge as a legit option in ’06. Between now and then,
he’s got some learning to do. The on-the-job training doesn’t
get any easier in Week 12, as he’ll be forced to contend
with a Panthers D that is both extremely talented and extremely
rough on young field generals (see the last three weeks for proof).
Kyle Orton @ TB – Orton’s
the only one of those young field generals to emerge victorious
against the Panthers this season, though his numbers were nothing
to write home about (136 yards, a score, and a pick). Then again,
that’s about par for the course for him (he averages 139
per contest). That might be good enough for the Bears but it isn’t
good enough for you. Find someone else.
Chris Simms v. CHI – The
reason Chicago can stomach Orton’s less-than-stellar figures?
Take a look at that defense. They’re yielding barely 11
points and 252 yards per contest, numbers that compare favorably
to another Bears defense from days of yore. The Monsters of the
Midway they may not be…but give them time. Oh, and sit down
Simms while you’re at it.