Must Start: The Top 10
1. Donovan McNabb @ TB—Donovan
put up a “mere” 247 yards in the loss to New Orleans
last week, his lowest output of the season. However, only seven
other signal-callers are even AVERAGING that much thus far. In
other words, don’t sweat it. He still managed to connect
for a couple six-pointers and should have no trouble doing so
again this weekend in Tampa.
2. Peyton Manning v. WAS—In
fact, Peyton hasn’t surpassed the 247-yard mark since Week
2 when he racked up 400 against the lowly Texans. Should we be
worried about his un-Peyton-like numbers yet? Uh, no. The ‘Skins
have yielded ten TD tosses through six games and will have a devil
of a time slowing him down, especially since he’s had two
weeks to prepare. You know what to do.
3. Eli Manning @ DAL—Kid
Bro, on the other hand, has been looking quite Peyton-like in
the early going, averaging over 265 yards and two scores per contest.
He’s never fared well against the ‘Boys but I have
a hunch we might finally see some points scored on a Monday night…by
an offense, that is. Start him and hope the divisional shootout
4. Matt Hasselbeck v. MIN—The
‘Hawks almost kicked away a sure win last weekend but managed
to pull it out with some timely throws by Hasselbeck and a huge
kick by Josh Brown to finish off the pesky Rams. Deion Branch
starred and Darrell Jackson played a solid second fiddle, meaning
upcoming opponents better look out. The only thing Seattle’s
lacked in this, their contending window, is two talented targets.
No more excuses, guys.
5. Carson Palmer v. CAR—Cincy
might be looking for a few excuses after two less-than-stellar
performances in the last three weeks. Now they draw a Carolina
team that is clearly back from the dead and ready to compete for
an NFC championship. The Bengals simply MUST get Chad Johnson
more involved if they have any hope in this one. I suspect they
will, though it may not be enough.
6. Jake Delhomme @ CIN—If
it isn’t, Delhomme-to-Smith will probably be the reason
why. After a sluggish start to the ’06 campaign, the former
Ragin’ Cajun has been spot-on as the Panthers have reeled
off four impressive Ws in a row. He threw for a career-high 365
yards in the win at Baltimore and might need nearly as many to
knock off the Bengals in the Queen City. I think it’s the
most intriguing game of the weekend, as it will tell us which
of these two upstarts is truly ready for the primetime.
7. Matt Leinart @ OAK—Tell
you what: THIS guy’s certainly ready for the primetime (485
yards and four scores in his first two starts). Too bad his Arizona
squad is still pathologically allergic to it. On the bright side,
Dennis Green is now officially my favorite NFL coach. Best post-game
tirade ever…until/unless the Cards manage to boot away another
W at the Black Hole this Sunday. Stay tuned.
8. Byron Leftwich @ HOU—“Playoffs???”
Leftwich and the Jags are thinking so after a solid start to the
’06 season and an upcoming schedule that includes Houston
(twice) and Tennessee in the next month. His career numbers against
the Texans aren’t great but this Texans squad is currently
second-to-last in pass defense (273 yards/game) and has given
up eleven scores through the air already. Start him.
9. Chad Pennington v. DET—The
Lions are nearly as feeble v. the pass (13 scores in six games)
and are also allowing opposing QBs to complete a preposterous
70.6% of their passes. Not good news (for them, at least), especially
when you consider Pennington is one of the game’s most accurate
triggermen (65.3 for his career). Expect an error-free day and
a couple more TD strikes this weekend at the Meadowlands.
10. Drew Bledsoe v. NYG—If
Bledsoe thought a couple TD strikes would get you-know-who off
his case…well, let’s just say he should have known
better. Everything’s cool in Big D at the moment but that
will change in a heartbeat if the Cowboys are unable to handle
the G-Men this Monday night.
Grab A Helmet:
Tom Brady @ BUF—Brady
failed to top 200 yards only three times in 2005 and one of those
came in the season-ending loss to Miami when he only played a
quarter. He’s already failed to reach that mark three times
in 2006…and the Pats still have eleven games to play. Make
no mistake about it: New England is a run-first squad. You’d
run first, too, if you had Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney toting
the pigskin. Adjust those expectations accordingly.
Ben Roethlisberger @ ATL—Expectations
for Big Ben, on the other hand, were properly restored last week
after he put up trademark Big Ben numbers (16 of 19 for 238 yards
and two scores) in the 45-7 drubbing of the Chefs. He doesn’t
attempt enough passes to be a fantasy superstar (and never will)
but you can live with two TD tosses per contest. Get him back
in there if you relegated him to the bench after a poor start.
Phillip Rivers @ KC—The
kids are most definitely all right, it appears. Leinart’s
shining in Phoenix. Alex Smith is coming around in San Fran. Rivers
is making folks forget about Drew Brees in “America’s
Finest City.” Easy enough to do, of course, when you’ve
got LT lining up behind you. Give him the start against a KC D
that was roasted by the guy who started this QB youth movement
thing, the aforementioned Roethlisberger, in Week 6.
Bruce Gradkowski v. PHI—Here’s
another kid who’s making some waves of late. The former
Rocket has been solid in two starts since Chris Simms went down
(200+ per and four scores) and now appears to have locked up the
position for the foreseeable future. Some would call it serendipity.
I call it right place, right time, right guy. Start him against
the Eagles and hope that iffy Tampa line can keep Philly’s
blitz-happy D out of his face.
Brett Favre @ MIA—Most
probably forget that the ageless one himself once benefited from
a teammate’s bad luck. All he’s done since taking
over for the injured Majik Man back in 1992 is start 226 consecutive
games (not including playoff games). I don’t care what you
say: that’s the most impressive durability streak in the
history of sports. Yes, I’m aware that has nothing to do
with your fantasy team.
Joey Harrington v. GB—By
comparison, Joey’s now started two consecutive games for
the struggling Dolphins. Fourteen more 16-game seasons and he’ll
tie #4’s venerable mark. Of course, he’ll be 42 by
then and probably tickling the ivories in some jazz club, but….
If he ever gets some help from his receivers (two dropped TDs
last Sunday against the Jets), he might even have some fond memories
of a bumpy career when he finally hangs them up. Still rooting
for you, homie.
Grab A Clipboard:
Michael Vick v. PIT—You
know how much I love this guy but things are shaping up to be
real uncomfortable for him this Sunday. The rejuvenated Curtain
is coming to town and that offensive line of his can’t seem
to pass protect. You normally don’t mind when he’s
running for his life but Pittsburgh has the athletes to keep him
corralled. Sit him down this week and wait for a better matchup.
He’s got several on the horizon.
Andrew Walter v. ARZ—Walter’s
line is even more suspect than Vick’s and, unlike Mike,
he doesn’t have the escapability to avoid a beating. Even
when he’s not getting sacked (17 times already), he’s
usually finding a way to give the ball back to his opponents (ten
turnovers). If you’re starting Andrew Walter, you’re
either the unluckiest fantasy GM in history (you drafted Chris
Simms, Aaron Brooks, and Trent Green) or the worst (you drafted
Chris Simms, Aaron Brooks, and Trent Green?) Not on your life,
Charlie Frye v. DEN—The
good folks in Cleveland are pretty high on Charlie Frye but that
doesn’t mean you should be. He’s only posted one decent
game this season (against the Raiders, no less) and has turned
it over even more than Walter has (twelve giveaways thus far).
This week, he draws a Denver D that has yielded just 19 points
in its last four games combined. Bad QB plus bad matchup = auto
Jake Plummer @ CLE—The
Snake’s starting to look more and more like an auto sit-down
with each passing week, as well. He’s barely averaging 150
yards per contest and has only thrown three TD strikes to this
point (and none against the lowly Raiders last Sunday night).
Give him the hook until something changes.
David Carr v. JAX—The
Houston running game is a shambles and the defense is a turnstile.
That should mean plenty of meaningless fantasy points for Carr
and the Texans’ wideouts, right? Maybe, but I kinda doubt
it this week. The Jags are solid in the secondary and are coming
off a bye week (and before that, a 41-0 shellacking of the Jets
in Jacksonville). Best case scenario? They fall way behind and
he posts good garbage time numbers. Dicey proposition, though.
Find someone else.