Must Start: The Top 10
1. Carson Palmer @ KC—From
potentially career-threatening injury to Steve Austin-esque recovery
to top of the QB heap in just nine short months. Pretty impressive
stuff, huh? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, folks. Expect
a triumphant return to action against the same ol’ Chefs
this Sunday at Arrowhead.
2. Peyton Manning @ NYG—Not
that Peyton’s done anything to deserve a demotion. He still
has Messrs. Harrison and Wayne to play catch with and he’s
still the most feared signal-caller in the game. Only thing missing
now is the keep-‘em-honest rock-toting of Edge. Not a minor
detail, I’m afraid. That sound you hear is the Colts’
window of opportunity slamming shut.
3. Kurt Warner v. SF—He
hasn’t completed a season since 2001 and is once again keeping
the seat warm for a precocious newcomer. Still, what a seat! With
the league’s best WR tandem at his disposal and the aforementioned
Mr. James lending much-needed balance to the offense, he’s
got a chance to post some nice numbers in the early going. Start
him against a Niners’ D he torched for 354 yards in the
4. Matt Hasselbeck @ DET—There’s
a conspicuous lack of buzz surrounding the Seahawks this year
but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Not a lot
has changed in the Emerald City since Super Bowl XL and when you’re
as awesome as Seattle was, that’s a good thing. Expect a
solid first outing as Hasselbeck and the ‘Hawks return to
the scene of last February’s crime.
5. Donovan McNabb @ HOU—Speaking
of a conspicuous lack of buzz! It’s been nothing but crickets
in Philly since you-know-who split the scene and nobody’s
more thankful for that than Mr. McNabb. The only downside? Donte
Stallworth is no T.O. Of course, that’s also the upside.
Don’t be surprised if the Eagles are playoff contenders
6. Jake Delhomme v. ATL—Carolina
has moved beyond contender status to chic Super Bowl pick in ‘06.
Delhomme is just one of the many reasons why. Though he still
throws too many picks, the former Ragin’ Cajun knows how
to win and, more importantly, how to stay on the field. When it
comes to fantasy ball, that last trait (durability) cannot be
7. Trent Green v. CIN—Just
ask this guy. Green hasn’t missed a start in five years,
one of the many benefits of operating behind the league’s
best line and in front of guys like Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson.
Unfortunately for him, that line is now starting to show its age
and the KC brass still refuses to upgrade the receiving corps.
I’m not as high on him as in years past but he’s still
safer than someone like…
8. Eli Manning v. IND—Don’t
get me wrong. This guy’s gonna be Carson Palmer good (and
maybe even Big Bro good) in about a year or two. He’s got
the pedigree, the arm, and plenty of talent surrounding him. First,
however, he has to start completing more passes. What good is
all that talent, after all, if you’re only hooking up with
it 52.8% of the time? Baby steps, Kid Bro. Baby steps.
9. Jake Plummer @ STL—At
least when Kid Bro completes passes, they’re to his teammates
most of the time. Plummer? Not so much. In fact, The Snake needed
an 18-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio last season to bring his career ratio
above 1:1. I’m reluctant to start him out in the top 10
this season but last year’s improvement coupled with the
addition of Javon Walker makes him a tantalizing choice. Yes,
I know you’ve heard that before.
10. Mark Bulger v. DEN—He’s
never played for anyone but Coach Crazy so it’s hard to
gauge how dependent his numbers have been on that pass-happy system.
My guess? A lot. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a better-than-average
QB option. Give him the nod in Week 1 but have a backup plan.
The days of 35+ pass attempts are probably over.
Grab A Helmet:
Michael Vick @ CAR—He’s
easily the most polarizing individual in the fantasy game, loved
by those who marvel at his potential and loathed by those who
scoff at his meager production. You can count me among the former
for now but even I don’t possess unlimited patience. It’s
time, Mike. Don’t let me down, bud.
Drew Bledsoe @ JAX—You
want polarizing individuals? No, not him. HIM! Have fun with that,
Daunte Culpepper @ PIT—Nobody’s
willing to say he’s back to 100% (not even Daunte) and that
would worry me if I owned him. Besides, it’s not exactly
like he was tearing it up last year when he was healthy. Start
him against the Steelers and hope to God he doesn’t get
the crap kicked out of him in this, his first real test since
a season-ending knee injury a year ago.
Tom Brady v. BUF—The Pats
have never been blessed with All-Pro talent at wideout but that
hasn’t stopped Brady from leading them to three Super Bowl
trophies in the last five years. If he does it again this year
with (gulp!) Reche Caldwell and Troy Brown on the flanks, he’s
the greatest QB who ever lived. No, that would not be an overstatement.
Drew Brees @ CLE—The Reggie
Bush lovefest begins in earnest this Sunday but if the Saints
have any hope of climbing out of the doldrums, it will be Brees
(and not Bush) leading the way. 51 TD passes the past two years
tell us he’s capable. Give him the nod against Cleveland’s
better-than-you-think secondary in Week 1.
Grab A Clipboard:
Aaron Brooks v. SD—The
guy Brees replaced in New Orleans is now running the show out
in Oaktown where he seems to be a perfect fit for Al Davis’…er,
Art Shell’s field-stretching offense. Then again, Brooks
always “seems” to be a lot of things. Good, for one.
Not unless you enjoy undisciplined quarterbacks playing in an
undisciplined system for a famously undisciplined franchise. Perfect
fit, for sure.
Brett Favre v. CHI—Come
on. It’s hard enough for me to group my main man with retreads
like Aaron Brooks. Now you want me to tell you why? Think horrific
offensive line and too few targets. Oh, and he’s facing
a ferocious Bears defense right outta the chute. There’ll
be better days for the Ol’ Gunslinger…but not too
Rex Grossman @ GB—At least
Favruh can rest assured he’ll still be the best QB in the
stadium this Sunday. That’s not saying much, though. The
early over/under on Grossman’s starts this year? 4.5. It
won’t be his treasonous body that does him in, either. Try
Brian Griese and the increasingly impatient Bears faithful. Steer
J.P. Losman @ NE—He’s
taken an inordinate amount of heat up in Buffalo for a guy who
hasn’t even started ten games in his career. Perhaps the
Bills’ brass could just lay off and give the kid a chance?
Don’t count on it, especially if they stumble out of the
gate against division rivals New England and Miami.
Charlie Batch v. MIA—Would
you believe this is only Batch’s ninth year in the league?
Guess it only seems like he’s been playing since the early
nineties. If you handcuffed him to Big Ben, congratulations. You
now own the worst starting quarterback in the league.