Must Start: The Top 10
1. Donovan McNabb v. DAL—He
lost his star running back right before kickoff and his star wideout
shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, 288 yards, two TD strikes, and
two TD scampers later, Don walked off the Monday night stage victorious.
Is there really any doubt who the MVP front-runner is at this
point? Though that won’t make him the center of attention
this weekend (you know why), it does make him your best QB start
of Week 5.
2. Peyton Manning v. TEN—When
Justin Miller crossed the goal line with 2:20 left to cap off
a brilliant 103-yard kickoff return that put the Jets ahead, only
one thought crossed my mind: WAY too much time left. Not surprisingly,
the cold-blooded Peyton promptly marched his squad 61 yards for
the winning score, throwing for the first 60 and diving for the
final one as the Colts escaped the Meadowlands unblemished. Expect
significantly less drama (and significantly better numbers) this
weekend at the RCA Dome.
3. Drew Bledsoe @ PHI—The
careless Favre made things pretty easy for Philly’s injury-decimated
secondary on Monday night but Drew and company won’t be
as obliging this Sunday. Even if the Birds do shut down/shut up
you-know-who (not likely), they’ll still hafta worry about
Dallas’ best and most productive wideout, Terry Glenn. You
heard me right. Tall order, folks. Start Bledsoe.
4. Marc Bulger @ GB—I
was in Vegas this past weekend where even the dud games seem to
attract an audience. Nonetheless, for the life of me, I couldn’t
find anyone watching the Lions/Rams tilt. Too bad, really, since
the game featured 70+ points. Bulger had a hand in many of them,
as he tossed for 328 yards and three scores, including the game-winner
to The Reverend with 1:56 to go. Expect similar numbers against
the beleaguered Pack secondary this Sunday at Lambeau.
5. Tom Brady v. MIA—File
this under “things you wish you’d known before plopping
down $50 on the Bengals”: Brady and his Pats haven’t
lost two games in a row since December of 2002! I’ll save
you the math. That’s 53 straight and the reason you never
EVER doubt Mr. 3-Time Super Bowl MVP. Give him the nod against
the reeling Fish at Foxboro.
6. Rex Grossman v. BUF—Somebody
finally took me to task for refusing to give Grossman props so,
to make amends, I’m including him in the top 10 this week.
I still think the former Gator needs some seasoning but he does
play behind the league’s most underrated line and also seems
to have found some legitimate weapons in the passing game. If
that defense keeps stoning the opposition, the Bears might be
primed for a deep postseason run. God, I can’t believe I
just wrote that.
7. Brett Favre v. STL—Aw,
what do I care? The Pack has OWNED the Bears (and the NFC North)
for most of the past fifteen years. You can’t expect total
domination to last forever, can you? The end draws nigh for ol’
#4 but that doesn’t mean he can’t still occasionally
shine. After all, he’s averaging over 264 yards a game thus
far and has even managed to toss six TD passes. Give him the nod
against St. Louie’s dubious D and hope Mr. Driver is able
8. Drew Brees v. TB—I
didn’t like the Saints to win last week’s game in
Charlotte (too soon after a too emotional W) but ya’ gotta
hand it to them: they didn’t quit when the game seemed out
of reach. Brees’ late 86-yard hook-up with Marques Colston,
in fact, meant the game was still in doubt ‘til the bitter
end. Now we find out if they’re truly for real. The Bucs
are coming off a much needed bye week and will be primed to get
off the schneid.
9. Mark Brunell @ NYG—He
frustrates expectations better than anyone I know and even kicked
it up a notch last week with a perfectly threaded game-winner
to Santana Moss. Simply put, he couldn’t have thrown a better
ball in that situation. Give him the start against Gotham’s
highly questionable pass D this Sunday and hope that hot hand
10. Eli Manning v. WAS—One
thing’s for sure: if it does, Eli will need to elevate his
game to keep pace. The Giants are a whisker away from being winless
and need all the offense they can muster to cover for a sad-sack
defensive unit. Best case scenario? They play from behind and
Lil’ Bro goes bonkers again. Already happened twice so don’t
bet against it.
Grab A Helmet:
Matt Leinart v. KC—I’ll
now say publicly what I’ve been saying privately since draft
day: the Cards flat-out stole this guy at #10. There will be bumps
in the road, assuredly, but he’s got all the tools and,
more importantly, the mentality to be a great one. Plus, he’s
got all the weapons a green signal-caller could want in Edge,
Fitzgerald, and Boldin. Here’s hoping that atrocious O-line
can keep him upright.
Jake Delhomme v. CLE—Jake
didn’t throw a touchdown pass or top the 200-yard mark ‘til
Week 3. Not coincidentally, that’s when he got all-world
wideout Steve Smith back. If you don’t think receivers can
make QBs, there you go. Expect 200+ again and at least one six-point
hook-up with Mr. Smith this Sunday.
Damon Huard @ ARZ—Your
five top-rated passers through four weeks? David Carr, Rex Grossman,
Chad Pennington, Don McNabb, and…Damon Huard. To quote the
immortal St. Vince: “what the hell is going ON out there?”
He’s 47 of 66 in 2 ½ games and hasn’t thrown
a pick yet. Does Trent Green get his job back when he returns?
Not the crazy question it might seem to have been a few weeks
Brad Johnson v. DET—The
Lions have yielded just three yards a tote and one rushing touchdown
through the first quarter of the season. That would be mighty
impressive if not for the fact they’ve yielded 282 yards/game
and ten touchdowns through the air. Even worse? Opponents are
completing more than 70% of their passes against them. Why run
when you can throw all day long? Oh, one more thing: Detroit has
yet to intercept a pass.
Alex Smith v. OAK—Smith
hadn’t THROWN a pick ‘til last week when he and the
Niners waltzed into Arrowhead and got flattened by the Chefs.
Even more disappointing were the kid’s 92 passing yards.
How does a team lose by 41 points and not throw for 100 yards?
Don’t expect a repeat effort this Sunday at Monster Park.
The Raiders aren’t capable of holding any QB under the century
mark…except maybe their own.
Grab A Clipboard:
Phillip Rivers v. PIT—I
like what Rivers is doing thus far (playing within himself) but
I’m not too crazy about the Roethlisberger-esque 23 passing
attempts per game. His coach is to blame for that, of course,
but it’s hard to make hay (at least fantasy-wise) when you’re
not getting the opportunities. Expect a slugfest at Qualcomm this
Sunday night and not much production from San Diego’s young
Ben Roethlisberger @ SD—Speaking
of Mr. Roethlisberger…. The Steelers are in serious danger
of going 1-3 out of the gate and he’s almost solely to blame.
His QB rating is microscopic (34.3) and he has yet to find the
end zone. Furthermore, he’s already thrown five picks in
two games, more than half the number he threw last season. Wait
‘til he gets his sea legs back before trotting him out there.
Vince Young @ IND—Young
was predictably horrid in his first career start, tossing two
interceptions and losing a fumble in the Titans’ crushing
defeat at the hands of Dallas. Don’t put too much of the
blame on him, though. That offensive line is dreadful and Tennessee
is woefully short of playmakers at the moment. Until they get
some (and he gets more experience), he’s an auto-sit.
Andrew Walter @ SF—Him,
too, though you could argue the Raiders aren’t exactly bereft
of playmakers. More like enthusiasm. Just ask Randy Moss: “I’m
not concerned about football right now.” Good luck, Mr.
Daunte Culpepper @ NE—The
rating isn’t that bad (77.0) until you consider his opponents
are a combined 4-11. In other words, it’s not exactly like
he’s been facing the league’s elite squads. Now comes
word that he didn’t practice on Thursday. You hear that?
It’s real faint, but…”Joey! Joey! Joey!”
Laugh all you want. Harrington WILL start for the Dolphins before
the year is through. Mark it down.