Must Start: The Top 10
1. Donovan McNabb @ NO—Wouldn’t
it be nice if just once (ONCE!) he let loose and let you-know-who
have it? Not gonna happen, folks, not even after a scintillating,
354-yard, two-TD smackdown of T.O.’s Cowboys in Week 5.
The laser arm is nice and the big game mentality nicer but it’s
that cool-as-a-cucumber equanimity, I think, that truly separates
him from the rest of the pack. Expect another MVP-like performance
in Week 6 against the Saints.
2. Carson Palmer @ TB—This
guy may very well be a serious MVP candidate some day, too. For
the time being, he’s got a little work to do. He can start
by cutting down on those maddening turnovers, five of which he’s
committed in the last two contests. No doubt he’s still
a little rusty but the bye week should have helped him shake some
of that off. Get him back in there against the Bucs and hope he’s
put the carelessness behind him.
3. Matt Hasselbeck @ STL—Speaking
of carelessness, when did this guy become such an interception
machine? If it weren’t for a five score explosion in Week
3, he might possess the league’s most unsightly TD-to-INT
ratio this side of Ben Roethlisberger. Come to think of it, the
incumbent Super Bowl signal-callers sure don’t look the
part so far, do they? I like Hasselbeck’s chances of turning
things around much better than I like Big Ben’s at the moment.
Start him against the Rams this Sunday.
4. Rex Grossman @ ARZ—Grossman
might be a Super Bowl signal-caller THIS SEASON if the first five
weeks are any indication. The offense is unstoppable, the defense
impenetrable, and the remaining schedule, to put it mildly, less
than imposing. The only thing standing in their way, it seems,
is another season-ending injury to their blossoming triggerman.
Knock on wood, Grossman owners. You too, Bears fans.
5. Marc Bulger v. SEA—The
days of winning pretty appear to be over in St. Louie but you
won’t hear the Rams complaining. Style points don’t
count in the NFL. Real ones do. Though they’ve only scored
13 more than their opponents this season, they’re also 4-1.
Bulger’s 7-0 TD-to-pick ratio is the primary reason why.
Keep starting him and hope the step up in competition (the ‘Hawks)
doesn’t cause him to revert to form.
6. Michael Vick v. NYG—The
passing numbers are Losman-esque (actually, not even that good)
but you didn’t draft him ‘cuz he lights up the skies.
You drafted him ‘cuz he burns terra firma. Through five
weeks, he’s the fifteenth rated runner at 83.3 yards/game.
That’s precisely seven-tenths less than arguably the league’s
most dangerous rock-toter, L.T. Speed doesn’t take days
off, people. Get him back in there against the Giants this Sunday.
7. Drew Brees v. PHI—Brees
was merely average against the Bucs last weekend and may have
even been outplayed by the rook, Bruce Gradkowski. Lucky for the
Saints, another rook stole the spotlight when it mattered most,
housing a fourth quarter punt return for his first (and by no
means last) NFL score. Reggie’s just one of the many weapons
Drew has to work with and he’ll need them all (and then
some) to best the Eagles on Sunday.
8. Eli Manning @ ATL—He’s
averaging almost three bills and over two scores per game in this,
his true breakout season, and now faces a Falcons D that has yet
to yield a TD pass. Guess that means something’s gotta give,
right? Bet on it being the Falcons D as the Giants simply have
too much firepower to be held in check for sixty minutes. Whether
the New York D can stop Mr. Vick and the potent Atlanta rushing
attack? Another story entirely.
9. Drew Bledsoe v. HOU—Bledsoe
was absolutely dreadful in Philly last Sunday, turning it over
four times and getting sacked seven times, mainly because he held
onto the ball too long. Making matters worse, the Tuna gave a
less-than-enthusiastic vote of confidence during Monday’s
press conference, saying merely that a change wouldn’t come
“right this minute.” That’s coachspeak for “hope
you handcuffed him to Tony Romo, fantasy geeks.”
10. Mark Brunell v. TEN—The
roller coaster ride continues for Brunell owners. Just one week
after torching Jacksonville’s above-average secondary, the
former Dawg layed a 109-yard egg against New York’s decidedly
below-average unit in the ‘Skins 19-3 loss at the Meadowlands.
No telling what he’ll do this week (is there ever?) but
you’ve gotta like the matchup. Play the odds and start him.
Grab A Helmet:
Bruce Gradkowski v. CIN—The
latest product of the Mid-American quarterback pipeline, Gradkowski,
looked surprisingly authoritative in his first professional start
(20 for 31, 225 yards, and two scores). In fact, were you aware
there are now FIVE starting quarterbacks who hail from the MAC?
(Yes, I’m including Pennington and Big Swifty.) That’s
more than any other college conference can boast of, save the
Pac-10 (currently eight). Weird.
Chad Pennington v. MIA—Pennington’s
the elder statesman of that group and since he’s only a
seven-year vet, we can reasonably assume this is a fairly new
development. Of course, being more experienced doesn’t make
him the best of the bunch. It does make him the craftiest, though,
a quality he sorely needs since he’s probably the least
talented. Expect a bounce-back effort this Sunday against Miami.
Jake Plummer v. OAK—If
it seems like Jake should be a shoo-in for the top 10 this week,
consider that opposing offenses have racked up fewer than 150
yards/game against the Raiders D. The reason? Well, it isn’t
because they’re any good, folks. All things being equal,
you pound the ball between the tackles in the NFL when you can.
Denver can and will (again and again) this Sunday night.
Phillip Rivers @ SF—Rivers
had done very little in his first three starts to warrant top
fantasy billing but that’s the thing about young QBs. It
usually takes them time to get their feet underneath them. Consider
his firmly planted after a coming-of-age performance against the
Curtain last Sunday night (242 yards and two scores). Too early
to call him an auto-start but you can definitely pick your spots
with him and this Sunday against the Niners is definitely one
of those spots.
Damon Huard @ PIT—Huard’s
a spot starter, as well, which is more than any of us thought
he’d be when the season began. This probably isn’t
a great spot (at 1-3 Pittsburgh) but I’ve got a hunch he
might just sneak into Heinz Field and post some decent numbers.
He’s not exactly acting like a stopgap, after all. He’s
currently the second-highest rated field general in the league!
David Carr @ DAL—Then
again, if you never looked past the numbers, you might think Carr’s
the most accomplished passer in the league (a league-leading 108.9
rating). Far, far from the truth but that doesn’t mean he
can’t score for you when the matchup looks good. I think
it does this weekend, especially if the Texans fall behind early,
which they almost certainly will.
Joey Harrington @ NYJ—Anyone
else get the feeling there’s more to the “heated”
argument between Daunte and Coach Saban than meets the eye? Officially,
the Dolphins don’t think he’s ready to play. Unofficially,
I suspect they’re questioning whether he’s really
the QB who can salvage their flagging fortunes. Joey’s probably
not that guy, either, but he’s gonna get another shot to
prove otherwise in Week 6. Could get very, very interesting if
Grab A Clipboard:
Matt Leinart v. CHI—There’s
no quarterback controversy in Phoenix where the Cardinals swiftly
and decisively transitioned from the Kurt Warner err-a to the
Leinart regime. No looking back now, especially since Mr. Hollywood
did nothing in his first start (save for a troublesome fourth
quarter pick) to make the Arizona brass look rash. He’s
confident, talented, and blessed with a lot of weapons on offense.
Too bad he’ll be without one of them (Larry Fitzgerald)
this Sunday against the Bears. Wait a week.
Steve McNair v. CAR—The
best defense in the AFC does not, contrary to popular belief,
belong to Baltimore. It belongs to Denver, something Air McNair
discovered first-hand in the Monday night loss at Invesco. We
shouldn’t read too much into his poor performance but it’s
foolish to think he can post big numbers against the league’s
better units. Unlike Leinart, he’s not especially youthful
and he doesn’t possess many weapons. Steer clear this Sunday.
Jake Delhomme @ BAL—In
fact, there’s only one thing you should do in games involving
the Ravens: take the under. Delhomme’s been steady this
year (only one pick thus far) but he’s likely to struggle
against Baltimore’s top-notch unit this weekend. I like
his chances of hooking up with Key or Mr. Smith for a six-pointer
but I don’t think he does it twice. Not good enough for
you, I wouldn’t think.
Alex Smith v. SD—Opposing
QBs are completing just 48.7% of their passes against San Diego’s
vastly improved secondary this season. Not good news for the occasionally
erratic Smith. He’s improved by leaps and bounds but he’s
not ready to be a regular just yet. Sit him down and hope that
ferocious Bolts pass rush doesn’t gobble him up whole.
Ben Roethlisberger v. KC—Did
you ever think you’d pine for Charlie Batch, Curtain fans?
It appears Big Ben left more than his game on that Pennsylvania
highway. Until he finds it, sit him down. You can’t afford
to start a QB who has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season.
Andrew Walter @ DEN—Art
Shell claimed he pulled Walter in last Sunday’s loss to
“stop the bleeding.” Better order more gauze pads,