We’ve hit the halfway point, folks, and like most other things
football-related, that’s a good news/bad news deal. The good
news? There’s still plenty of football to be played. The bad
news? There’s still plenty of football to be played. Packers
fans know what I’m talking about. Let’s take a look
at Week 9, shall we?
Must Start: The Top 10
1. Peyton Manning @ NE –
This one’s been circled since last January 16th, the day
Peyton’s Colts laid a season-concluding egg (three points)
in Foxboro. Redemption could be sweet but those who think it’ll
certainly be table-turning time should probably take into consideration
the combined record of Indy’s first seven opponents: 17-34.
I’ll take the points and the Pats, thank you very much,
though it won’t be his fault this time around.
2. Carson Palmer @ BAL –
After a dud against the Steelers, Palmer was back to his ruthlessly
efficient self against the overmatched Pack last Sunday, tossing
for 237 yards and three scores, good enough for another 100+ rating.
History would tell us he’ll struggle against the Ravens
this weekend but the absence of Messrs. Lewis and Reed means history
isn’t a reliable indicator in this case. Start him as usual.
3. Tom Brady v. IND –
Not many QBs can claim to have gotten the best of Peyton in their
careers but Brady’s atop the (very) short list. His regular
season totals against the Colts? 235 yards, two scores, and nearly
70% complete per game. Oh, and four “W”s against no
losses. I won’t even bother belaboring the point with his
postseason figures. You know what to do.
4. Donovan McNabb @ WAS –
He hadn’t completed fewer than 50% of his tosses since November
of ’03, but he made up for the uncharacteristic inaccuracy
by tallying three scores in the bloodbath at Mile High. Unfortunately,
he also turned it over three times, adding to his unusually high
total of giveaways. He’s already tallied one fewer turnover
(9) than he committed all of last season, proof that all is not
well with the Birds. Bear in mind Don might also be without the
services of his #1 target, you-know-who.
5. Jake Delhomme @ TB –
Those who have corresponded with me know I’m strongly opposed
to starting battery mates. Why risk sub-par numbers at two positions,
I’ve argued, when you can diversify and pair up a great
signal-caller from one team with a superstar wideout from another?
Here’s why: because Delhomme is a top 5 QB and his main
man, Steve Smith, is a top 1 WR. The exception to the rule, it
6. Eli Manning @ SF –
The numbers were ugly thanks to some atrocious New York weather
but the end result (a thorough thrashing of the ‘Skins)
is all that matters. This week, the kid draws a Niners squad that,
despite the upset last week, is still the league’s worst
in terms of passing yards/game and passing TDs yielded. Expect
oodles of yards and two scores as the G-Men seize control of the
7. Kerry Collins @ KC –
If there’s a defense that even approaches San Fran’s
ineptitude, it’s the Chefs’. Big surprise. They’ve
surrendered close to 275 passing yards per tilt and 14 TD strikes
thus far. That’s two per game and not a good sign with Randy
and Co. coming to town. An added bonus: there’s been a Jerry
8. Brett Favre v. PIT –
Pile on, playa haters, but be honest with yourself: how many QBs
do YOU know who can throw five picks, generally stink up the joint,
and still scare the living bejesus out of an opponent until the
final gun has sounded? That last “pass” was comical
(I actually laughed), but it also proves there’s no quit
in the Ol’ Gunslinger. Mark him down for 200+ yards, a couple
scores, and a few more turnovers against the Big Ben-less Curtain
9. Matt Hasselbeck @ ARI –
The ‘Hawks have had two weeks of R and R since the gift
“W” against Dallas and now draw a Cardinals bunch
that is threatening to do what almost every incarnation of the
Cardinals has done since the franchise moved to the desert: fade
into oblivion. Hastening this year’s disappearing act will
be Hasselbeck and the league’s most balanced attack. Start
10. Drew Brees @ NYJ –
If it weren’t for L.T., he’d probably lead the league
in touchdown passes. As it stands, he’s on pace to match
his career high of 27 set during the San Diego resurrection last
season. That’s a good enough reason to start him at the
Meadowlands this Sunday. Don’t forget he lines up with the
league’s best RB and its best TE, as well.
Grab A Helmet:
Mark Brunell v. PHI –
Yuk. It was only a matter of time before the overachieving ‘Skins
O returned to earth. The only surprising thing about last week?
How loud the “thud” was. Brunell scraped together
just 65 yards and a pick, relatively stellar totals when you consider
his meal ticket, Mr. Portis, managed just 22 total yards. Shake
it off and give him another go. The Eagles are hurting on D and
haven’t been able to stop anyone of late.
Trent Green v. OAK – Neither
have Green’s Chefs, which (as we all know) makes him an
intriguing option the rest of the way. Doesn’t matter how
good your running game is when you’re spotting opponents
three-TD leads. Early deficits equate to more passing, something
Green needs to do more of if he’s to regain his rightful
place in the top 10. Give him a look against the improved but
still reviled Raiders at Arrowhead this Sunday.
Michael Vick @ MIA – The
time is almost nigh to admit he’s never going to be the
passer some thought he could be. After all, fifth year triggermen
aren’t supposed to go 11 of 26 for 116 yards, no scores,
and three picks. Then again, NO triggerman is supposed to rush
for two touchdowns. Inconsistent passer or no, he’s still
a legit option at the position, if not exactly the most conventional
Byron Leftwich v. HOU –
He’d be ranked a lot higher if not for the Texans’
32nd ranked run defense. Seems as though a steady dose of Mr.
Taylor will be all that’s required to nudge the Jags two
games above .500 this weekend. If, for some reason, they’re
unable to get much going on the ground, you can expect the big
guy to start flinging it around against an almost-as-terrible
Brad Johnson v. DET –
It’s doom and gloom time in the Twin Cities but I, for one,
think rumors of their inevitable demise are greatly exaggerated.
This isn’t some scrub they’re throwing into the mix,
after all. It’s a one-time Super Bowl winner who still has
the arm to keep (I mean get) the Vikings offense moving in the
right direction. Your sneaky QB start of the week.
Joey Harrington @ MIN –
Your sneaky QB start of the week, Part II. Lions fans will bemoan
the return of the ivory-tickling Harrington (our first clue he
wouldn’t be well-received in the Motor City) but I’ve
got a hunch the former Duck will be rejuvenated by the second
chance. Sure doesn’t hurt that he’ll be facing the
astonishingly awful Vikes’ secondary this Sunday. If you’re
flailing, give him a look.
Grab A Clipboard:
David Carr @ JAX – Well,
he HAS thrown a TD pass in every game but the first. Unfortunately,
he’s never thrown MORE than one. Don’t expect that
to change against Jacksonville’s stingy and eminently opportunistic
back four. He simply doesn’t throw the ball enough (29 attempts
in his last two games) and will need a week or two to re-establish
(establish?) his connection with Andre Johnson.
Chris Simms v. CAR – Have
you ever seen a team go from divisional front-runner to also-ran
in such a short amount of time? Simms is the primary culprit,
as he really doesn’t have the make-up to be a successful
field general in the NFL. He never seems to grasp coverages and
seems unwilling to throw the ball away when protection breaks
down. Result in Week 8? Five sacks and three giveaways. Steer
Aaron Brooks v. CHI –
His coach is embattled (again). His owner is scuffling with reporters
and fearing for his safety. His so-called fans are staying away
in droves. Has anybody even noticed that Aaron Brooks still sucks?
Things don’t look to get a lot better against Chicago’s
vastly underrated eleven. Stay away.
Anthony Wright v. CIN –
The return of Kyle Boller has been pushed back a couple weeks,
which would normally be cause for celebration in the Charm City.
Not when the alternative is Anthony Wright, though. Interception-prone
QB + pick-happy secondary = trouble, any way you slice it. Nope.
Cody Pickett v. NYG –
He entered last week’s game with over ten minutes remaining
and led the beleaguered Niners to an improbable victory over Tampa.
“Led” is kind of a relative term, however, since all
he really did was hand the ball off to Kevan Barlow and Frank
Gore…and play a little special teams (cool!). Total offensive
plays: 16. Total passing attempts: 1. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring
ratio. Wait ‘til he does something before adding him to