Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
OK, everyone. It's audience participation time again. As you've no
doubt noticed, the title of my column has changed for no apparent
reason whatsoever. Actually, there's a very good reason why it's changed
but we won't don't have room for that here. The webmeister and I put
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unique and witty. The result? Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Bubkas. You can
probably see where this is going.
Please submit your own ideas for a column title so we can do away
with the very generic "Start 'Em/Sit 'Em." I PROMISE I'll use the
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by next Wednesday, the 29th. We're counting on you, folks.
Must Start: The Top 10
1. Steve McNair @ JAX - He made
up for a mediocre day passing by running for a score against the
Panthers. As if you needed further proof he's the most valuable
player in the league through seven weeks. He simply does whatever
it takes for his team to win. Oddly enough, if Holcombe and/or George
emerges as a threat, his value could drop a little. Don't count
on it against a fairly good Jags run defense.
2. Peyton Manning vs. HOU - Only
the horrendous Falcons yield more yards per reception than the Texans.
That spells trouble against a rested Peyton and his favorite target,
Marvin Harrison. Expect the pigskin to be flying in Indy come Sunday.
3. Daunte Culpepper vs. NYG -
As promised, he picked up where he left off against the Broncos
last week (277 yards and two scores). The G-men have improved against
the pass of late but one has to wonder about their collective mindset
coming off a give-away against the hated Eagles. CB Will Peterson
is out, as well, so you can count on Daunte looking in Ralph Brown's
direction early and often.
4. Marc Bulger @ PIT - Bulger
was prolific against the Pack (247 yards and three scores) but also
mistake-prone (two picks). Not to worry. Mistakes won't kill you
in fantasy ball. The Pittsburgh D is MUCH worse than the numbers
would indicate (162.3 passing yards/game) and simply doesn't have
the personnel to slow down Holt and Bruce. Expect another big day
from Mr. Bulger.
5. Drew Bledsoe @ KC - Travis
Henry bounced back from a sluggish start with a HUGE game last week.
That can only help take the heat off Bledsoe and a struggling receiver
corps. KC might be a big story this year but they certainly aren't
winning with defense, yielding 359.9 yards per game. Yes, that was
former quasi-option QB, Marques Tuiasosopo, mounting a near miraculous
comeback against them Monday night.
6. Jeff Garcia @ ARI - Vaults
back into the Top 10 thanks to a brilliant performance against the
Bucs (253 yards and two scores). I'm not in love with him as a long-term
fit for Erickson's offense, but you may as well ride him while he's
at the helm. Besides, he's the fourth-highest fantasy points scorer
amongst QBs. That should be reason enough to start him, whether
you 're in love with him or not.
7. Brad Johnson vs. DAL - Wasn't
sharp at all against the Niners (one TD vs. three INTs). I'm betting
that was just an anomaly. Nevertheless, Dallas has been downright
awesome vs. the pass this year (59.2 rating and a paltry 47% completion
percentage). It's certainly possible Johnson will struggle again.
8. Trent Green vs. BUF - Clearly,
he's more valuable when the Chiefs fall behind and need points in
a hurry (see Week 6). When they don't, the running game takes center
stage. That's not likely to change as most NFL coaches (even the
wacky Vermeil) are more than happy to salt away victories with a
especially when that tailback is named Priest
9. Jon Kitna vs. SEA - Scoff if
you must but I'd take this guy over just about any other second-tier
QB. His 85.4 rating is good for tenth in the league and his nine
TD passes rank seventh. He's simply an experienced signal-caller
who knows his limitations and doesn't cost his team victories. An
added bonus? The ever-petulant Corey Dillon is grousing about PT
again. Oh, another one: he's facing his former team on Sunday.
10. Matt Hasselbeck @ CIN - Speaking
of Kitna's former team, Hasselbeck has the 'Hawks flying high at
5-1. Actually, "flying" probably isn't the word I'm looking
for. Holmgren appears determined to win games with low-risk passes,
a healthy dose of Shaun Alexander, and a solid (but not spectacular)
defense. That's great for him but bad for you. Strangely, like Trent
Green, Hasselbeck's numbers would probably increase if Seattle trailed
Grab A Helmet:
Tom Brady vs. CLE - Brady has frustrated his owners for most of
the year but he may have turned the corner in a HUGE win at Pro
Player (283 yards and two TDs). His game-winning strike to Troy
Brown was positively Favre-esque and might lend him the confidence
he needs to get back on track. He faces a Cleveland D that, surprisingly,
has given up the fewest yards per game (157.4) in the league. Should
Aaron Brooks vs. CAR - Like Brady, he may have rediscovered his
mojo in the blowout win at the Georgia Dome. Then again, you could
argue he never really lost it. His numbers place him in the Top
10 in almost every category this year (89.8 rating, 1508 yards,
10 TDs, and only four picks). He goes up against a Carolina D this
week that is starting to have some issues, namely the forward pass
David Carr @ IND - His numbers were kind of blah against the Jets
but he's facing an Indy team that is sure to post a lot of points
in Week 8. Lots of points mean catch-up mode. Catch-up mode means
lots of yards and, potentially, some TD passes for Carr. Call it
Byron Leftwich vs. TEN - Jacksonville is likely to fall behind Air
McNair and the Titans. Falling behind means Leftwich will have plenty
of opportunities to hook up with Jimmy Smith. Detect a pattern here?
The rook struggled in his last outing (three picks) but Tennesee's
secondary is hurting without Samari Rolle (272.3 yards/game and
an 89.2 rating against).
Tommy Maddox vs. STL - He's had a week off to contemplate the meltdown
and now will be paired with the Bus in the backfield. Love him or
hate him, the Bus must be accounted for. That wasn't the case with
Zereoue. I expect Maddox to bounce back with a solid game against
a good but not great Rams secondary. This could also be a high-scoring
Grab A Clipboard:
Quincy Carter @ TB - Though they may be ripe for the picking (post-Super
Bowl hangover, anyone?) the Bucs are still not a team you want to
especially after a loss. The last time Tampa was embarrassed,
the young Patrick Ramsey paid the price. I suspect it will be the
almost-as-young Carter this time around.
Chris Chandler vs. DET - Some are touting him as a sleeper candidate
for Week 8. He'll be asleep, all right. I'll grant that Detroit
is not very good against the pass (241 yards/game) but Chicago doesn't
have the talent at wide receiver to take advantage. Nor do they
have Anthony Thomas, it appears, to take the heat off in the running
game. I've watched too many NFC Norris clunkers to assume this will
be anything but a 13-10 dud.
Joey Harrington vs. CHI - He may start for my wife's "fantasy"
team but he shouldn't start for yours. You thought Chicago's wide
receivers were bad? The Detroit wideouts are FRIGHTENINGLY bad.
Scotty Anderson, Bill Schroeder, and Az Hakim combined for just
five (!!!) catches last week. Wait 'til Chas. Rogers returns.
Kerry Collins @ MIN - He will probably throw for a fair amount of
yards this Sunday but, oh, those turnovers! Minnesota is a league-best
+13 in the takeaway/giveaway department. Not what you'd call an
ideal matchup for a reeling, mistake-prone QB.
Donovan McNabb vs. NYJ - Remember those bumper stickers that read
"Rush Is Right"? I won't go there. He's been riding my
bench for quite some time and he should probably be riding yours
as well. Philly receivers (or should I say receiver?) caught ONE
ball last Sunday. This is a West Coast offense?
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Priest Holmes vs. BUF - 173
total yards and a touch on Monday night puts him back on top of
the fantasy points heap. He was even robbed of another likely score
by a stupid false start penalty near the goal line. Buffalo is average
vs. the run (111.9 yards/game) so expect more of the same from Priest
in Week 8.
2. Ricky Williams @ SD - The workload
hasn't decreased (27 carries vs. New England) and isn't likely to
until the Dolphins passing game shows signs of life. Fortunately,
he's facing a San Diego team on Monday night that can't stop anybody
from running the football (137.3 yards/game and 4.6 per carry).
Expect a big game regardless of who starts at quarterback.
3. Jamal Lewis vs. DEN - His yards
per carry average is still absurd (6.3), but it seems unlikely he'll
keep that up against a solid Denver front seven. Then again, this
is a guy who CORRECTLY predicted a record day vs. Cleveland. If
he finds the end zone more often, he'll pass Ricky on this list.
4. Deuce McAllister vs. CAR -
Owners who were thrilled by his Week 7 performance shouldn't forget
it came against Atlanta. That said, Deuce has been pretty steady
all year long (94.3 yds./game and four scores). If Brooks and the
boys can get it in gear (they're starting to) he could become even
more dangerous. Carolina allowed Tennessee to rush for over 100
yards last week (Tennessee!!!) so maybe that D isn't as stingy as
5. Stephen Davis @ NO - He was
a non-factor last week as the Titans jumped out to a big, early
lead. Nothing to be concerned about, really. He should bounce back
against the marginal Saints D in Week 8, a defense he scolded for
159 yards and a touch just three short weeks ago.
6. Clinton Portis @ BAL - He was
without the Snake in Minnesota. Now, he's without Beuerlein, too.
If the attention wasn't focused squarely upon him before, it certainly
will be now. Note to running backs: you do not want Ray Lewis' attention
focused squarely upon you. Portis is talented enough to put up the
numbers but a slight dropoff should be the inevitable result of
a chaotic QB situation.
7. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. MIA
- That sell rating I gave him a few weeks ago might have been premature.
OK, it was definitely premature. He exploded on the Browns last
Sunday to the tune of 221 total yards and a touch. Still, Cleveland
isn't exactly stopping the run this year and Tomlinson's Week 8
opponent, Miami, most certainly is (68.8 yards/game). I wouldn't
be the least bit surprised to see him struggle. He is, after all,
8. Shaun Alexander @ CIN - He
(not Hasselbeck) is the Seahawks' meal ticket. He's big, fast, and
durable and we can expect many more 100-yard games in the future.
Cincinnati is only average vs. the run (119.2 yards per game) so
the future starts Sunday.
9. Travis Henry @ KC - Willis
McGahee begins practicing and Henry runs wild against the 'Skins
(31 carries, 167 yards, and two TDs). Coincidence? Hardly. Nothing
motivates like the fear of being replaced. Though he has nothing
to worry about this year, Henry's probably gonna be fighting for
his job in '04. He could start making his case in advance by duplicating
last week's performance against a susceptible Chiefs D.
10. William Green @ NE - Playing
from behind, he didn't get many carries in Week 7 (14). Provided
Holcomb can make something happen in the passing game, he should
be good for 75-100 yards in Week 8. Regardless, it would help if
he started finding the end zone.
11. Tiki Barber @ MIN - Between
the twenties, he's invaluable. Near the red zone
hafta GET in the red zone first, don't you? The Giants are struggling
and no one is paying the price more than Barber owners. He was even
replaced by Dorsey Levens at times last week, the same Dorsey Levens
who hasn't been a factor since his days in Green Bay. Expect another
sub-par day if the Vikes jump out to an early lead.
12. Fred Taylor vs. TEN - This
isn't a good matchup for Taylor as Tennessee is yielding a paltry
78.4 rushing yards per game. Nevertheless, he's a good enough back
to find some yards and, with a little luck, a TD in garbage time.
13. Domanick Davis @ IND - It's
generally not a good idea to start a rookie running back who plays
for a bad team fielding a terrible defense. Then again, it's DEFINITELY
not a good idea to overlook nearly 200 yards of total offense. If
Coach Capers doesn't pull a Fontes on us again, Davis could find
the end zone against an average Indy run defense (131 yards/game).
Go get him if he's still available.
14. Edgerrin James vs. HOU - He's
reportedly ready to rock after a few weeks off. Facing a dubious
Texans defense, 100 yards and a score or two isn't out of the question.
15. Moe Williams vs. NYG - Onterrio
Smith keeps sniping carries and Michael Bennett's return is a few
weeks away but Moe keeps scoring touchdowns. That's what Moe does
best. Until he no longer does, you should continue starting him.
The Minnesota line might be the best in football.
Grab A Helmet:
Brian Westbrook vs. NYJ - Yes, I'm actually recommending you start
an Eagle. McNabb's struggles are well documented but Philly isn't
out of the playoff hunt. If Coach Reid has any sense at all (he
does), he'll give the ball to his most consistent back against a
Jets D that can't stop the run at all (153 yards/game).
Garrison Hearst @ ARI - Picked up 117 yards and a score vs. Tampa
last week. Needless to say, Arizona is no Tampa. Word is the Niners
dangled Kevan Barlow before the trade deadline so expect Hearst
to keep getting the lion's share of carries.
Kevin Faulk vs. CLE - I don't like him as a regular option but Cleveland
can't stop anybody from running the ball (5.1 per carry and and
134.7 per game). He's also pretty good catching passes out of the
backfield so I expect the TD drought to end this week.
Jerome Bettis vs. STL - The Rams bottled up Ahman Green last week
but haven't really kept teams from running the ball for the most
part (4.5 per carry). Bus is back in the starting lineup and if
the shootout materializes, he should find paydirt. Then again, if
the Rams jump out to a big lead, he could just as easily disappear.
Grab A Gatorade:
Eddie George @ JAX - No, no, no, no, no! He's still averaging 2.8
per carry and has scored all of one TD this year. He's also starting
to share carries with Robert Holcombe of all people. How many ways
do I hafta say he's finished?
Curtis Martin @ PHI - The Eagles were gashed for some pretty good
yardage last week but is still holding opposing backs to 3 yards
per carry. Add to that the fact Martin has one fewer TD than George
this year and you've got an iffy starter at best. Go in another
direction if you can.
Troy Hambrick @ TB - The numbers are pretty decent but Tampa is
angry and Gruden won't allow Hambrick to beat them. His best games
have come against lousy defenses. Some bad performances aside, Tampa's
defense should not be considered lousy.
Corey Dillon vs. SEA - He's always been a bit of a malcontent but
asking to be traded (after the trade deadline, no less) probably
won't sit well with Coach Lewis, especially when the Bungles are
finally showing signs of life. I'd steer clear until he kisses and
IF he kisses and makes up.
Any Detroit RB @ CHI - The Bears rank 31st in rushing defense. Amazingly,
that's not a good enough reason to start Olandis Gary or Shawn Bryson.
Why? For starters, they share carries
and not in a good way.
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Randy Moss vs. NYG - Ten catches,
151 yards, and one sweet lateral to Moe Williams in Week 7. Simply
put, nobody is more dangerous. New York got well against an anemic
Philly passing attack but faces a whole different animal in Mr.
Moss and the Vikes this week.
2. Marvin Harrison vs. HOU - Consider
yourself lucky if you faced his team last week. Houston's pass rush
is non-existent and we all know what Peyton can do when he has time
to throw. Look away.
3. Torry Holt @ PIT - He's not
just getting open. He's getting WIDE open. That doesn't bode well
for a Steelers club allowing opposing QBs to complete 66% of their
passes (worst in the league). Did I mention he leads all receivers
with 45 catches and seven scores? I GUARANTEE he'll score this week.
4. Chad Johnson vs. SEA - Other
than Moss and maybe Harrison, is there a more dangerous deep threat
in the game? Kitna found him for an 82-yard scoring strike last
week, his third TD catch of 40+ yards on the year. It only takes
one of those per week to make him more valuable than 99% of the
receivers out there.
5. Derrick Mason @ JAX - Like
his fishin' buddy, Favre, McNair likes sharing the wealth. As a
result, Mason probably isn't as valuable as he could be. Nevertheless,
he's still the primary target in Tennessee and has twice as many
receptions (41) as any other Titans receiver. Expect him to rebound
from a sub-par performance with a big game against a lousy Jags
6. Eric Moulds @ KC - If he's
healthy (where have we heard that before?), he's a must start. The
KC secondary is opportunistic (13 picks so far) but also vulnerable
to big plays (248.9 yards per game).
7. Joe Horn vs. CAR - He and Brooks
are starting to find a groove and the Carolina secondary is definitely
a weak link. Expect the two to build on a fabulous performance against
the Falcons last week.
8. Terrell Owens @ ARI - He's
coming off a monster day against Tampa (6 catches, 152 yards, and
a score) and will definitely take advantage of a crappy Cardinals
secondary. Very few players can turn a simple out route into a 75-yard
slalom down the field. Though I hate giving him credit for anything,
he's one of them.
9. Isaac Bruce @ PIT - Holt gets
most of the attention (and touchdowns) but teams who ignore The
Preacher Man will pay a heavy price. He lit up the Pack for nine
catches and 129 yards last week and should find the getting just
as good in Pittsburgh.
10. Andre Johnson @ IND - The
emergence of Domanick Davis may hurt his numbers some but he's a
big play waiting to happen. I expect at least one long hookup with
Carr in Indy.
11. Hines Ward vs. STL - Maddox
and Co. are coming off a bye week and should post some decent numbers
against the Rams. Ward is still Option #1 so expect him to be the
beneficiary of at least five tosses and, if all goes well, a score.
12. David Boston vs. MIA - He
disappeared almost as quickly as he re-emerged (2 catches for 10
yards last week). Then again, Brees only threw the ball 18 times
against Cleveland. Surprisingly enough, Miami is yielding 258.7
yards per game through the air, probably because they're consistently
stuffing the run. If the Bolts are forced to throw, Boston could
bounce back in a hurry.
13. Jimmy Smith vs. TEN - He's
Leftwich's favorite and, perhaps, only target. The Titans are giving
up tons of yardage via the airways so you can expect a 100-yard
day and a score
especially if the Jags are playing from behind.
14. Amani Toomer @ MIN - The Vikings
made Danny Kanell look pretty good last week. Imagine what might
happen if Collins is able to avoid costly interceptions (a big "if").
Toomer is still averaging a gaudy 18.2 yards per catch and might
score in a game that promises plenty of points.
15. Tony Gonzalez vs. BUF - He
finally supplants Shockey as the best tight end option
now. The two will probably duke it out for the rest of the year
but Gonzo has been on a tear of late and is still the best receiving
option (outside of Priest) that Trent Green has.
Grab A Helmet:
Keenan McCardell vs. DAL - Has he made some big plays this year
or what? Dallas' passing D is formidable but Johnson will want to
rebound after laying an egg in San Fran. I expect him to find McCardell
for at least one score.
Steve Smith @ NO - So maybe he's not so marginal after all. Last
week's game got out of hand in a hurry and Smith was doubtless the
beneficiary of some vanilla coverage. Still, ten catches and 151
yards is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Feel
free to start him against a Saints D that has given up 12 passing
TDs this year.
Koren Robinson @ CIN - I'm probably opening myself up here but,
from a fantasy perspective, he's overrated. Holmgren's conservative
attack is to blame. If he doesn't do anything of note against an
average but improving Bengals squad, I'll stop recommending him.
Santana Moss @ PHI - It seems Chad Pennington might return for spot
duty this week. He'll probably like what he finds in Moss. The kid
has really taken to the starting gig (6 catches, 111 yards, and
a score last week) and could find some holes in the short-handed
Randy McMichael @ SD - He posted big numbers against the Pats last
week (eight catches for 102 yards) and appears to have emerged as
Fiedler's favorite target. Though that's not saying much, you can
expect the embattled QB to go looking for his safety valve again
on Monday night
provided he plays.
Anquan Boldin vs. SF - He's averaging 15.2 per catch and is racking
up the yardage (fourth in the league with 592 yards). I still expect
him to fade away at some point but for now, he's probably a good
start. The Niners can be had through the air, as well.
Grab Some Wood:
Any Philly receiver vs. NYJ - Did you even read the blurb on Donovan?
These guys combined for ONE catch and SIX yards against the G-men
last week. Do not start a Philly receiver
Keyshawn Johnson vs. DAL - Has more catches than his running mate,
McCardell, but fewer yards and three less touchdowns. Simply put,
that means he's not the #1 receiving option in Tampa. Of course,
you'll never convince him of that. Here's hoping Roy Williams does.
Travis Taylor vs. DEN - Fool's gold. He'd done absolutely nothing
up until last week and you can bet your bottom dollar Denver watched
plenty of film this past week. Don't forget the three TDs came after
the game was already decided.
Donte Stallworth vs. CAR - He caught a bomb for a score last week
but that's all. One reception from your #2 receiver (against the
Falcons!) is not gonna get the job done. He has potential, for sure,
but has been a major disappointment overall. Now might be the time
to capitalize on the big play and deal him.
Dez White vs. DET - He seems to have supplanted the gimpy Marty
Booker as Chicago's #1 option. Chicago's #1 option still isn't good
enough to be your #3 option. If he has a big day against a vulnerable
Lions secondary, trade him. You'll thank me later.
Good luck, folks!