Must Start: The Top 10
1. Carson Palmer @ CLE—I
told you several weeks back Carson needed to reestablish the connection
with Ocho Cinco if the Bengals were gonna have a shot at glory.
Can we check that off the list now? I’m not sure it gets
them where they’d ultimately like to go (the playoffs) but
I’m certainly hoping it does. I mean, Ravens v. Broncos?
Wasn’t once enough? Pass the Ambien!
2. Peyton Manning v. PHI—I’d
much rather see Indy v. Cincy, even if I already know who would
win that theoretical matchup. The Colts might actually have set
the ol’ cruise control a bit early, as it turns out, stubbing
their toe in last Sunday’s thriller v. the Cowboys. No matter.
They’re still 9-1 and in good shape for the coveted home-field
advantage throughout. Plus, the result didn’t hurt Peyton’s
bottom line much (254 yards and two scores). No worries here,
3. Drew Brees @ ATL—You
might have some here, though. The Saints lost super-rook Marques
Colston very early on and never seemed to recover, despite the
fact Brees threw for a ridiculous 510 yards and two scores without
the youngster at his disposal. 510 yards and only 16 points? Has
that ever happened? Get on it, crack staff, and you might just
get to play Shot Caller for a week. Oh, and don’t forget
to start Brees again, whether Colston’s ready or not. He
hasn’t thrown for fewer than 300 yards in over a month and
currently leads the league in passing yardage.
4. Michael Vick v. NO—“Playoffs?”
Jim Mora apparently doesn’t think so, agreeing with his
radio co-host’s assessment of Vick as a “coach killer”
this week. That would be Jim Mora Sr., of course, who sired the
other Jim Mora, Vick’s current coach and chief apologist.
I don’t even care if it’s his honest opinion. Would
you cut YOUR kid off at the knees in front of a national audience?
Should make for some interesting conversation over Thanksgiving
5. Tony Romo v. TB—The
‘Boys looked like a team on the verge of a meltdown when
Romo took over five weeks ago. Today? They look like the best
team in the NFC East and perhaps the most likely challenger to
Chicago for conference supremacy. I wouldn’t like their
chances against the Bears (not yet) but I certainly like them
this Thursday against the Bucs. Pencil him in for another efficient
outing, somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 yards and two scores
as Dallas improves to 7-4.
6. Ben Roethlisberger @ BAL—It
looked like it was going to be another forgettable day for Big
Ben last week until, lo and behold, he caught fire in the fourth
quarter and salvaged what little hope the Steelers have left for
a playoff berth. The final numbers weren’t terrific (272
yards, two scores, and three more picks) but the 44 passing attempts
is encouraging. He only tallied 30 or more twice last season.
Keep starting him and hope Pittsburgh digs another hole this Sunday.
7. Eli Manning @ TEN—Jeremy
Shockey is raving. Plax Burress is pouting. Even the mild-mannered
Tiki Barber is questioning the team’s direction. In short,
the Giants are a mess. It all comes back on Eli, the guy who’s
looked like a shadow of his former self the past two weeks. Only
one cure for that, I suppose. Bring on the Titans!
8. Phillip Rivers v. OAK—Rivers
threw the football just eleven times the last time these two teams
squared off but that was many moons ago (Week 1), when the Chargers
were still easing him into the role. Now that he’s comfortable,
San Diego looks like the only team capable of giving Indy a run
for their money, something I, for one, think they will do. Heard
it here first, folks: the Bolts represent the AFC in Super Bowl
9. Marc Bulger v. SF—If
you think the Rams liked chucking it around when Coach Crazy was
at the helm, get a load of them now. St. Louis ran the ball a
mere eight times last week but still couldn’t generate even
a semblance of an offense against the hungrier Panthers in the
15-0 pasting in Charlotte. The reason? They couldn’t protect
Bulger (seven sacks and several hurries). That shouldn’t
be a problem this week. On the other hand, they may not be as
pass-happy. Coach Linehan promises balance will be a focus in
Week 12. Mmm-hhh. And I’m gonna watch what I eat on Thursday.
10. Joey Harrington @ DET—Speaking
of Thursday, check out what the football gods decided to dish
up for Turkey Day breakfast. It ain’t exactly TO returning
to Philly but, for us Rose City residents, Joey’s return
to Detroit is just as compelling. I’ve always maintained
he got the shaftola in the Motor City and now he gets a chance
to exact some revenge. I think he does so as the Fish extend their
winning streak to four.
Grab A Helmet:
Jon Kitna v. MIA—Meanwhile,
Coach Marinelli is telling everyone who will listen the Lions
are sticking with Jon Kitna as their starting QB. When a coach
needs to say that, it usually means only one thing: the QB hasn’t
been playing well. This despite two juicy matchups in a row (the
Niners at home and the Cardinals on the road). Miami’s a
step up, for sure, but I think he’ll bounce back in an effort
to validate Detroit’s decision to go with him over Joey
this past offseason. Could be fun, folks. Really.
Jake Delhomme @ WAS—The
typically conservative Carolina attack was even more conservative
than usual last weekend as Delhomme threw the ball only 25 times,
his fewest this season. Of course, they didn’t NEED him
to do much as the Panthers D throttled St. Louis’ once prolific
offense. A matchup with Washington’s horrendous secondary
would seem more promising if not for the fact that defense will
have little trouble duplicating the performance against the ‘Skins’
overmatched O this Sunday. Call him a decent start.
Matt Hasselbeck v. GB—Despite
early reports, Hasselbeck is not certain to start Monday night’s
game against the Pack. Gotta think he wants to, though, as this
is likely his last opportunity to square off against former mentor,
Mr. Favre. If he plays, he’s likely to have his way with
Green Bay’s dubious secondary. If he doesn’t, Seneca
Wallace will. Either way, you can’t lose…unless you
pick the wrong guy. The Monday start makes it an even tougher
Brett Favre @ SEA—Same
deal here, though you gotta wonder who the Pack would turn to
should he not be able to go. Ingle Martin? Todd Bouman? Brett
wouldn’t do that to us, would he? Count on him playing and
playing well as the Pack attempts to outgun its former head man,
Coach Holmgren, in the Emerald City.
Matt Leinart @ MIN—The
Vikings are flat stoning opposing running backs of late (more
on that later), which means Leinart and his gang of ultra-talented
wideouts are the only hope Arizona has of making this a contest.
Believe it or not, I think they do. The kid looked pretty good
in last Sunday’s win over Detroit (233 yards and a score),
his first as a pro. Give him another look this weekend as he should
be airing it out early and often.
Chad Pennington v. HOU—Since
kicking the year off with consecutive 300-yard efforts, Pennington
has been truly awful, failing to reach even the 200-yard mark
more than once in his past eight contests. So why the recommendation?
Two words: Houston Texans. If J.P. Losman can light them up….
Charlie Frye v. CIN—Everyone’s
been lighting the Bengals up of late as they now rank 32nd in
passing defense (254.4 yards/game). Though Frye is a must-sit
almost every week, I’m giving you the green light to start
him this weekend. He might be useful if you’re in a jam
(I’m talking to you, McNabb owners) and this looks like
a pretty good spot for him to score some sneaky points. Give him
Grab A Clipboard:
Jake Plummer @ KC—You
wanna know what a lame duck looks like? You’re looking at
him. Word on the street is the Broncos will hand the reins over
to Jay Cutler in Week 13 and would have done so sooner if not
for the shorter-than-usual prep time (the Thursday tilt). Strange
move when you consider the Broncos are probably playoff-bound
but not so strange when you consider how Jake has performed. He
literally brings nothing to the table and wouldn’t have
gotten Denver past any legit first-round opponent. Cut and run,
David Carr @ NYJ—So maybe
accuracy is a tad overrated? Carr now shares the record for most
consecutive completed passes in a row with Mark Brunell, the recently
deposed field general of the ‘Skins. Hardly select company.
Plus, the Texans LOST THE GAME! How does a guy complete 22 passes
in a row and NOT throw a single touchdown? I’m not sure
we’ll be talking about him next season.
J.P. Losman v. JAX—I’m
certain we won’t be talking about Mr. Losman next year unless
he somehow manages to build on his miraculous Week 11 performance
(340 yards and three scores). He won’t, for the record,
despite the fact Houston, last week’s victim, has already
beaten this week’s opponent, the Jags, twice. You don’t
compare scores in the NFL…and you usually don’t start
Losman and live to tell about it.
Jason Campbell v. CAR—His
solid debut was not completely without precedence (see Leinart
and Gradkowski) but it’s unlikely he’ll find as much
success against a Carolina team that has had a week to prepare
for him. The schedule gets friendlier after this one so sit him
down for a week and see how it goes.
Bruce Gradkowski @ DAL—Holy
Toledo! The Bucs won a game! The former Rocket hasn’t been
that bad thus far but is obviously an up-and-down option who will
shine against the weak sisters and fade against the heavyweights.
I’ve already told you which camp the Cowboys belong to.
Sit him down.
Aaron Brooks @ SD—This
is some kind of joke, right? If I’m Andrew Walter, I start
thinking about that master’s degree. If I’m Randy
Moss (or one of his owners)…yikes!