Friday, September 16, 2005


Already, Week 2 in the Nation Football League is upon us. Much like life, the league holds surprises for us. For instance;

A. Whattya' say 'bout G-Bay? Are the Packers as bad as they seemed Sunday? The D is simply atrocious. Worse still, the O-line can't pass protect, they struggled with their run blocking assignments, and they sorely miss departed stalwarts Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera. The loss of stud #1 receiver Javon Walker is quite a blow, but towards the end of last season Favre began to slide... will such poor play continue?

B. The Cardinals, dark-horse SuperBowl candidates heading into the season, yielded 42 points to the Giants; 14 of which are directly attributable to poor Special Teams coverage. Can coach Denny Green right his ship? And speaking of Shipp... who's going to run the ball? Will it be Marcel or JJ? Each back struggled mightily; Arrington averaged a little more than 1/2 yard per tote and Shipp rumbled for 1+ yards per carry. Gaudy numbers indeed.

C. Will the head Ram ham, coach Mike Martz, make proper use of his potent run game? Stud back Steven Jackson was granted less than a dozen carries after the 1st Quarter. QB Marc Bulger was Sacked 7 times... that's 6 times too many.

D. The Jets crashed and burned Sunday... no, correction, Pennington crashed and burned. Is he indeed over-rated? The Jet pilot's wing still seems to be bothering him. If that is NOT the case, then it won't be long until the pressure to put local boy and experienced backup Jay Fiedler under Center becomes excruciating. As ridiculous as this sounds... the Jets are already faced with a "must win" game.

E. Last season, Week 1; Culpepper tosses a Peyton Manning-esque 5 TD passes. THIS season, Week 1, Culpepper's generosity is unprecedented. The Purple Pepper passer suffers a 5 turnover day. With Minnesota's struggles Sunday comes the question... did the loss of Moss derail the team's entire season?

I will review some of the more interesting games in greater depth… and roll out the rest of the “Start and Sit” athletes in list format.

Minnesota at Cincinnati: Much as it pains me, Cincy's O is balanced, explosive, and the Vikes' are probably doubting themselves already. While the Viking Secondary was solid and picked Buc' QB Brian Griese off twice... the Run defense was fictitious! Rookie runner Cadillac Williams put it in Cruise Control and motored through Minny's defensive backfield as care-free as any Sunday driver. By game's end, Williams' odomoter read; 148 rushing yards and 1 TD. The loss of stud Center Matt Birk may be as costly to Minnesota as the defection of Moss, incidentally. BENGAL MUST-STARTS: Carson Palmer has 2 top receivers in Chad Johnson and T.J Houshmandzadeh. Palmer's accuracy is startling (76.5% Sunday) and his receivers can move after the catch. Again, Bucc’ back Carnell Williams “got medieval” on the Vikings last Sunday. Look for Beng' back Rudi Johnson to enjoy similar success. And, as Cincy’s passing attack is far superior to Tampa’s, Vike Safety Darren Sharper can ill-afford to creep up in order to stuff the run. Even with Minnesota’s dynamic DB duo of ‘Twan Winfield and Fred Smoot (1 INT Sunday), the Bengal pass catchers could find themselves running in space with some regularity. At some point, 2nd year runner Chris Perry's extraordinary receiving skills will bear fruit; that could happen as soon as Sunday. VIKING MUST-STARTS: Daunte Culpepper should have a bounce-back game against a Cincy' Secondary that is somewhat less than "staunch." Likewise, top WR Nate Burleson should benefit from the coverage that Marcus Robinson and slot receiver Travis Taylor will receive. TE Jermaine Wiggins had a pair of TD passes wiped off the books because of penalties last week, that's an indicator that Minny's not opposed to using him as a Red-Zone weapon. Wiggins could be a solid start against the thin Bengal defensive backfield. RB Michael Bennett will receive a lion's share of the carries. And, as Cincy allowed William Green and Reuben Droughns to rack up almost 100 yards on 18 carries... the much faster Bennett could have a break-out game. Even though he flashed a set of skillet-hands, RB Moe Williams still should see the Goalline touches.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis: The Jags were the only team to defeat the Colts in their dome home in '04, and that’s no small accomplishment. However, Baltimore's anemic O made the revamped Colt D look like the Steel-curtain reborn! While Indianapolis’s defense is certainly better than it was last season, the true measure of the unit lies somewhere between the mid-70’s Steeler teams and last year’s Colt team. The most impressive component of the Colts’ defensive performance is the fact that 3 starters were absent from the lineup; starting T Montae Reagor (shoulder), hard-hitting rookie CB Marlin Jackson (groin) and S Mike Doss (league mandated suspension) are all expected back for Week 2 and should add speed and strength to an already impressive group. Jacksonville may have their own set of triplets; QB Byron Leftwich, RB Fred Taylor and WR Jimmy Smith, but these guys are no match for Manning, Marvelous and Edge’… not to mention WRs Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokely, and TE Dallas Clark who’s expected back. Although the Colt D has a tougher task with this week’s offense, they should prevail nevertheless. JAG’ MUST-STARS: Lefty (Leftwich) and Freddy (Taylor) were solid if nothing else against a poor Seattle D last week. While the Colt D is quicker, and Leftwich will have to constantly monitor DE Dwight Freeney’s whereabouts… Freeney may have the quickest first step in the league… both Leftwich and Fred Taylor are worthy starts, especially in deeper leagues. Something to keep in mind is that Taylor, who recorded a wee 3 TDs last season, is a better yardage league start. Also, this Colt squad held former Pro Bowl Balty’ back Jamal Lewis to 48 rushing yards last week. I’m giving you mixed messages, aren’t I? Ok, the Jag running back is a solid #2-3 / ”Flex” player this week. WR Jimmy Smith still has a nice pair of hands and can gain yards after the catch. Coming off of a strong Week 1 performance, he’s a solid start against a Secondary that still has much to prove. COLT MUST-STARTS: Short and sweet; all of ‘em. An interesting nugget o’ info I unearthed; against the Jags, RB Edgerrin James has never eclipsed the century mark rushing. WR Reggie Wayne could enjoy a productive Sunday as the Jags’ top cover man, Rashean Mathis, will attempt to stick to Marvin Harrison like hair on a lolli-pop. TE Dallas Clark is listed as “probable.” Given that Manning likes to find his TEs in the Red-Zone… as Ben Utecht discovered to his ball-spiking delight last week, Clark… a far superior receiver, could hang 6.

Kansas City at Oakland: Forget Hot-lanta’s dynamic Duckett and Dunn duo, get past Pitt’ partners “Bus” and “Fast Willie,” and ‘Phin fans are all wet if they think Ricky and Ronnie stack up to the Chiefs’ run game. Nope’, Kansas City boasts the strongest run game in the league. Lead back Priest Holmes has led KC’s offensive flock with all the passion and fire of a televangelist, while disciple Larry Johnson has quickly learned at the knee of the master back. Of Holmes’s 4 career 100 yard receiving days, 2 came against the Raiders. Further, Priest averages 4.5 YPC against the silver and black. Larry Johnson is a top-notch backup and he’d be an elite runner if he received 20-25 carries per game. How capable is Johnson? LJ has recorded 6 consecutive multiple TD games. As for passing game, QB Trent Green can air it out. Although Oakland’s passing attack is po-tent with Randy Moss and Jerry Porter hauling in Kerry Collins’ deep balls, and RB LaMont Jordan has taken the running game to a whole new level, KC’s re-tooled D (look out for LB Derrick Johnson) and hi-octane O should carry the day. This should be a high scoring affair and if I were a gamblin’ man as opposed to just a writin’ and ramblin’ man, I’d take the “over”bet. CHIEF MUST-STARTS: Let us begin with RBs Priest Holmes and Larry “Baby J” Johnson. Both backs should be able to run over, through and around the Raider D. While said D did a reasonable job containing New England’s Corey Dillon last week, the Patriot RB still gashed ‘em for chunks of yards both through the air and on the ground, and notched pair of scores in the process. Here’s the rub, if Larry Johnson is gonna’ be pinching so many Goalline/inside the 10 yard line carries… Holmes’s value is substantially diminished. Still, both Chief backs are worthy starts. *NOTE: Larry Johnson was arrested on a domestic; check his status before setting your lineup. Meanwhile, Patriot Signal Caller Tom Brady spread the ball around smooth as butter last week, taking full advantage of the embarrassment of pass catching riches at his disposal. “Tom Terrific” hit his WRs, RBs and TEs in stride. While QB Trent Green was solid if unspectacular last week, he DOES have a career passer rating of 90.5 against Oakland. And with an even deeper stable of receivers to rely upon, Collins should be a solid fantasy start. As this generation’s most prolific Tight End and, quite arguably the greatest at his position ever, Tony Gonzalez is always a fantasy “must start.” To further legitimize KC’s leading pass catcher… “Big G” has 7 career TDs vs. Oakland and is 44 receiving yards shy of 7,000 for his career. Smart money says Green looks to Gonzalez early and often. RAIDER MUST-STARTS: RB LaMont Jordan had a solid, 18/70 yard rushing game; his debut as an uncontested feature back. Although Jordan was pulled due to cramping and exhaustion… his conditioning should improve weekly. Although he had only 18 carries (because the Raiders were losing and were forced to go to the air) last week, Oakland would like to see him receive 25 or so per game. It’s important to note that Jordan was consistently awarded Goalline carries last week; traditionally the responsibility of Zach Crockett. Count on Crockett’s role to be reduced, looks like he’ll strictly be a 3rd down, change o’ pacer. When opposite the stripe, the Raiders are apparently quite content to pound away with their “sledge-human” back, LaMont Jordan. QB Kerry Collins is a human high-wire act. Some games, Collins looks fantastic… other games well, not so much. It’s always an adventure. A classic pocket-passer, Collins struggles when he’s thrown out of rhythm. If LB Derrick Johnson and company get in his mug… WR Randy Moss will be the recipient of at least 2 “heave and a hope” passes per game. This tilt should be no different. As Moss will garner more attention than Pamela Anderson at a nude beach… this could be fellow wideout Jerry Porter’s breakout game. Also, TE Courtey Anderson could get a Red-Zone look or 2 with the Moss-Porter duo commanding so much of the Secondary’s focus.

“Must Start” Signal Callers:

Patriots: Tom Brady: Facing Carolina in Carolina won’t faze Tom Terrific. With his “Brady Bunch” skill po’ players, Brady should hang… well, “Brady-esque” digits. At some point, however, the Patriots will come back to Earth.

Falcons: Mike Vick: Fantasy enthusiasts such as we are constantly knocking slick Vick. We cite his weak numbers, we cite his iffy statistics, and we point to “measureables.” What cannot be measured is… heart. While Vick plays his out, he causes his opponents’ to flutter. A far better real QB than fantasy QB, Vick is stepping up his game and could run-ridiculous over a somewhat disappointing Seahawk squad.

Vikings: Daunte Culpepper: Look for Minny’s Purple Pepper Passer to rebound against Cincinnati’s toothless Secondary. Yikes! The Vikes MUST receive a contribution from their stable of Running Backs. If Bennett can’t get it done, coach Mike Tice will insert proven 3-down back, Mewelde Moore. TE Jermaine Wiggins should get a few Red-Zone looks and could be a sneaky-good start against the Bengals. These cats will have their hands full, covering WRs Nate Burleson, Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor. Let’s see if Minnesota sneaks new acquisition WR Koren Robinson into multiple receiver sets. Although the team claims K-Rob is on Special Teams duty for the foreseeable future… it’d be a waste of his talents.

Chargers: Drew Brees: Against a physical, ball-hawking Cowboy Secondary featuring S Roy Williams and CBs Terence Newman and Anthony Henry, Brees had a rough game. “Twos” were the theme of the day for Brees; 2 TDs, 2 INTs, and 219 yards. San Diego didn’t play a balanced game Sunday; stud RB LaDainian Tomlinson, a runner with a wideout’s hands, caught nary a pass. With a more balanced game-plan and TE Antonio Gates back in the lineup… the Bolts’ should bounce back. Look for Brees to be as cool as the other side of the pillow and enjoy a nice game against a Bronco D that was victimized by Miami’s “journey-Phin” Gus Frerotte.

Giants: Eli Manning: Okay, so he’s not his brother, Peyton. But… who is? Eli and top receiver Plaxico Burress have already forged a nice chemistry and Plax’ hung some rock-solid numbers last week against a swift and hard-hitting Cardinal Secondary. The G-Men finally have the “thunder and lightning” running back combo they thought they were getting when they drafted former Wisconsin star, Ron Dayne. Giant Giant RB Brandon Jacobs and RB Tiki Barber are a lethal 1-2 punch, and TE Jeremy Shockey (check his status, I believe an ankle could have him shelved or hobbled) is a capable and above-average pass catching TE. With such receivers aiding his development, look for Peyton’s little bro to have a good game against a Saint team that can ride the wings of emotion for only so long.

“Should Sit QBs”

Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger: Ben enjoyed a good game Sunday… but the dude tossed a mere 11 passes. Granted, Big Ben rung Tennessee’s bells with a duo of TDs… but a High Schooler could post gaudy numbers against the Titans. That team is D-pleated, D-feated, and D- .. D-… D-something else that’s clever! Nicked up, Ben’s still expected to start… but the team will run “Fast Willie Parker” down Houston’s collective defensive throat.

Bills: J.P Losman: Buffalo’s 2nd year Field General is undefeated as an NFL starter! That’s the good news. The bad? Well, if Losman is your starter… you’ve got real issues. However, with WRs Lee Evans and Eric Moulds flanking him, RB Willis McGahee lining up a step behind, and a bulky O-line in front of him… the Bill coaching staff has put the young QB in an enviable position. Against an intimidating Buc’ D… a unit that is capable of making game changing plays at any moment, Losman’s a poor, poor gamble.

Jets: Chad Pennington: Short and sweet. It seems to me, Pennington’s arm remains a serious issue. If Pennington has another “human blooper clip” game, coach Herm Edwards will be put under excruciating pressure to start local boy, Jay Fiedler. As I stated last week… leave Chad hanging until he proves healthy!

Must Start RBs:

Steelers: Willie Parker: Dude had a par-tay last week against a largely fictitious Titan D. Look for the Texans to receive a steady diet of Parker; Willie left… Willie right… Willie up the gut.

Rams: Steven Jackson: Mike Martz always raises eyebrows with his curious decisions, play calling, and clock management. Still, the way he used stud RB Steven Jackson last week… was ahhh, poor. Look for the bullish back to roll up the yards against ‘Zona this week. The Cards’ looked like human turnstiles against Tiki Barber (13/62/1) and Brandon Jacobs (6/39/1) last week. And, speaking of whom…
Giants: Tiki and B-Jake: The Saints played inspired ball Sunday. However, New Awlins’ has a tough task ahead; a Monday nighter’ against a Giant team that looked every bit the NFC East contender. Look for both NY backs to notch scores.

Chargers: LaDaniain Tomlinson: LT is an-gry! Look for head coach Mart Schottenheimer to “ride the horse that brung him” this week. Although Miami dismantled Denver primarily through the air… rookie runner Ronnie Brown still enjoyed modest success. While the Bronco Linebackers are probably the league’s fastest, they’ll be facing a motivated Tomlinson. There’s an unenviable task.

Ravens: Jamal Lewis: With starting QB Kyle Boller conveniently removed from the picture after a foot injury, the Ravens can put Anthony Wright under Center. Look for the team to draw motivation from the “now we’re under-dogs” thing. Lewis, eager to prove that he can still carry the mail and not sit in jail, will have a breakout game against a simply horrid, ghastly, nearly absent, Tennessee …can I even call ‘em a D?

Should Sit RBs:


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