If someone had told me Willie Parker, Stephen Davis, and Carnell
Williams would be the top points-producing running backs after Week
2, I’d have turned my typewriter in and taken up crochet.
Unfortunately for you, they didn’t…which means I’m
still here punching away, hoping against hope that some semblance
of order, some measure of normalcy returns to the game as we head
into the third weekend. Order? Normalcy? This is the NFL, dummy!
What were you thinking? I was thinking, because you ask, that I’ve
got a job to do. Undaunted, we press on to the Week 3 recommendations.
Must Start: The Top 10
1. Peyton Manning v. CLE –
Need proof the ’05 season isn’t going according to
form? Look no further. After two weeks, he’s thrown just
64 passes and two touchdowns. Of course, a revamped defense means
the Colts are still comfortably undefeated. They’ll remain
so after Week 3, thanks to a Cleveland team that doesn’t
measure up at any position.
2. Donovan McNabb v. OAK –
So much for the bruised sternum/ego, eh? I almost never go against
my own rankings but I chickened out on Sunday morning and sat
him down. (Stop laughing.) Though it didn’t cost me, it
should have. Won’t make that mistake again. Start him against
an improving but still vulnerable Raiders D.
3. Carson Palmer @ CHI –
What’s this, a Heisman winner who actually succeeds in the
NFL? Better believe it, folks. After two weeks of monster numbers
(five scores and a league-leading 617 yards), it’s apparent
Mr. Palmer has finally arrived. What should really scare opponents,
though, is that he’s used every one of his considerable
weapons thus far, tossing those five TD passes to five different
targets. Look out, AFC.
4. Kerry Collins @ PHI –
Look out, AFC, Part II…if that defense ever comes around.
The usually erratic Collins is still barely above 50% but has
avoided the costly interceptions that have plagued him in the
past. Moreover, he’s finding the one guy who matters most
(Mr. Moss) on a regular basis. He won’t lead the Raiduhs
to victory this Sunday but he’ll still put up good numbers.
Keep starting him.
5. Tom Brady @ PIT – After
an uncharacteristically crappy performance on Sunday, Brady is
faced with the prospect of beating the Curtain in Steel Town or
going home 1-2, an unheard of mark for a perennial Super Bowl
squad. Lemme ask you this: is there anyone else you’d rather
have under center in such a situation? Didn’t think so.
Expect a solid bounce-back performance and a New England victory.
6. Marc Bulger v. TEN –
Did you notice I’ve been spelling his name wrong the past
two weeks? Marc with a “C” posted modest numbers against
the Cards last Sunday but is always capable of putting up big
ones when the situation warrants it. I’m not sure it will
this weekend but I think he’s still good for 250 yards and
a couple scores, especially at home. Stick with him.
7. Trent Green @ DEN –
After two weeks, only two starting QBs are sporting goose eggs
in the touchdown column. Green is one of them. Daunte Culpepper
is the other. I’d have bet my (admittedly puny) life savings
they’d be on the board by now. Green probably would be if
he didn’t have the best 1-2 RB punch in the league lining
up behind him every week. He makes amends at Mile High on Monday
8. Ben Roethlisberger v. NE
– I’ll confess to being somewhat skeptical before
the season began, but now I hafta admit to being totally impressed.
He doesn’t throw it much (a mere 32 attempts in two games)
but when he does, he’s money, completing almost 72% of his
throws and completing all of them to the men in black (no picks).
There are better matchups than the defending champs but I suspect
he’ll perform well, just as he did last season (18 of 24
for two scores). The only difference this year will be the result.
9. Aaron Brooks @ MIN –
Coach Haslett’s gonna need a truckload of yellow dye to
ward off that rapidly encroaching gray after another year of watching
Brooks lead his squad. Though the Saints’ signal-caller
threw for 375 yards and his first TD at the Meadowlands, he also
managed to throw three picks and lose a ridiculous fumble in the
third quarter. He is what he is, folks (a poor decision-maker
who doesn’t like pressure). If you can live with that, you
might be rewarded with the occasional gem.
10. Matt Hasselbeck v. ARI –
Hasselbeck bounced back from a rough one against the Jags to post
stellar numbers against Atlanta’s equally stingy bunch.
What does that tell us? He’s a maddeningly inconsistent
but talented field general. Sound familiar, Saints fans? The matchup
looks good this weekend and he tends to play better in Seattle
so give him another shot.
Grab A Helmet:
Daunte Culpepper v. NO –
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the Vikes’
beleaguered leader? He’s beyond “struggling”
at this point (TEN turnovers in two games) and clearly misses
his bailout man, Mr. Moss. Will he get better? How can he get
any worse? I like the matchup this weekend and I think he bounces
back against an inconsistent Saints D.
Brian Griese @ GB – He
wasn’t asked to do much last week (thanks, Caddy) but that
doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value. The Pack has been
fairly stiff against the run (surprise) but soft against the pass
(no surprise). If they’re able to corral the rook this Sunday,
Griese could opt to devastate them with Messrs. Galloway and Clayton.
Jake Delhomme @ MIA –
The notoriously slow-starting Delhomme is at it again this season,
tossing just one TD against three picks to this point. Though
Steve Smith is a fabulous target, someone else needs to be involved
in the passing game. Ricky Proehl and Keary Colbert have combined
to grab just five balls in two games. That isn’t good enough
and the Panthers know it. Expect the situation to be rectified
against an overwhelmed Dolphins squad.
Eli Manning @ SD – Raise
your hand if you thought he’d have more TD passes than big
bro after two weeks. Manning visits the city/team he didn’t
want to play for this Sunday in a game that could decide the playoff
fate of the Chargers. If he outperforms Drew Brees, the Bolts
will be finished. He just might, believe it or not.
Kurt Warner @ SEA – He’s
thrown 88 passes in two games, tying him for the league lead with
Mr. Favre, another 0-2 triggerman. Imbalance might work in the
college ranks (ask Texas Tech) but it doesn’t work in the
bigs. If the Cards don’t find a running game (likely), he’ll
continue chucking 40+ passes a game. That won’t do much
for their fortunes but it might help you out, provided he’s
able to find the end zone every once in a while.
Brett Favre v. TB – Favre
is certainly finding the end zone (three TD strikes) but, unfortunately,
is also forcing too many balls into coverage. Nothing new there
so if your league doesn’t penalize picks too severely, give
him another look. He’s eventually gonna get comfortable
with his inexperienced receiving corps and when he does, you’ll
want him on your side.
Grab A Clipboard:
Trent Dilfer @ IND – He
actually outplayed the future Hall of Famer last Sunday (336 yards
and three scores) but doesn’t have the luxury of facing
the Pack’s wobbly secondary this week. Instead, he gets
an Indy bunch that is leaps-and-bounds better than they were last
season. If he manages to avoid the vicious Colts pass rush, he
could still surprise. Of course, I said the same thing about Byron
Leftwich last week. Sit him down and hope he survives to play
J.P. Losman v. ATL – The
best thing that could be said about his fledgling career as a
starter? He hasn’t turned it over yet. Unfortunately, you
don’t get fantasy points for not turning the ball over.
He needs to do more to be considered a viable option and the Bills’
conservative attack isn’t going to afford him that opportunity.
No, unless you’re REALLY hurting at the position.
Kyle Orton v. CIN – The
other greenhorn, Orton, is coming off a solid performance against
the Lions and is a couple wins away from being the toast of Chitown.
It’s unlikely he’ll be the toast of your fantasy league
anytime soon, though. After all, he only accounted for six of
his team’s 38 points last Sunday. Expect similar numbers
this weekend but also a few turnovers against Cincy’s ball-hawking
Michael Vick/Matt Schaub @ BUF
– The fleet-footed one is looking like he’ll be a
game-time decision at Orchard Park, which should be reason enough
to go in another direction. Even if he plays, though, you gotta
wonder how effective he’ll be against the league’s
best defense. I’m betting the tender hammy doesn’t
keep him from playing but does keep him from posting good numbers.
Wait a week.
Tim Rattay v. DAL – Wait
a week here and he may not be starting anymore. Despite the .500
mark, it’s only a matter of time before Rattay yields to
the franchise (Alex Smith), especially considering he’s
led the Niners O to just 359 yards in TWO GAMES, a full 600+ yards
fewer than the San Francisco D has given up thus far. That’s
not a sustainable margin over the long haul and you can’t
expect things to get much better with an angry Dallas defense
coming to town.