Friday, September 30, 2005

NFL FANTASY "WEEK 4 START AND SIT"

Week 4 "Start and Sit"

"MUST START QUARTERBACKS"

Peyton Manning: Those owners who took the prolific Signal Caller with the 1st overall pick are regretting that decision. It's Week 4, and Manning's thrown for a scant 604 yards and a mere 2 TDs. Look, the guy's gotta' break out of this slump at some point... right? I mean... he's Peyton Manning. The Colts have again leapt out of the gate and are 3-0. The reason for the jump-start isn't attributable to the teams' record-setting offense, however. No, the Colts are 3-0 because the team fields the stingiest D in the league. Last season, with unpleasant regularity, Manning would drive his team downfield and drop a 6-spot on his opponent... only to hop back into his helmet due to the team's defensive anemia. Look for Manning and the boys to get rolling, the skill po'players are far too talented. The Tennessee Secondary has allowed an average of 215 passing yards per game, placing them a middle of the pack 16th league-wide. Look for the Titan's 21st ranked run D to struggle with physical Edgerring James, and allow Peyton to pick 'em apart.

Tom Brady: This week, Tom Terrific and compatriots draw a San Diego Charger team that allowed Peyton's lil' bro to hang 350+ yards on 'em. While Giant receiver Plaxico Burress may be taller and more talented than any of the Patriot pass catchers... Brady certainly has more receiving options open to him. The Pats' need RB Corey Dillon to it into gear. While Dillon's racked up the TDs (4), he's averaging a paltry 53 rushing yards per game. If he can finally break a few, the Pat passing game will, of course, benefit. As things stand now, look for a "very Brady Sunday;" 225 yards and 2-3 TDs.

Carson Palmer: Carson's comfortably at the helm of a 3-0 Bengal team; a team that is enjoying its best start in 15 years. The team could... should, be 4-0 come Sunday night. This week they face a Houston Texan team that is in such utter disarray... they actually resemble Bengal teams old! Palmer is playing as if he believes himself to be the league's best Quarterback... and at this point, aside from some heroic play from Donovan McNabb... Palmer HAS been the most productive Signal Caller. Through 3 games, Cin' city's favorite Football son has thrown for almost 800 yards and 8 TDs. Look for Carson and Chad (WR Johnson, averaging 102 receiving yards per game) to enjoy another Sunday afternoon pitch and catch. Fellow pass catchers T.J Houshman-REALLYhatetospellhisname and the fast-emerging Chris Henry are also excellent plays against a Houston defense that has allowed foes to hang almost 4 TDs a game on 'em.

Marc Bulger: It used to be that Kurt Warner served as steward to the "Greatest Show on Turf." But, Kurt turned from "Captain Courageous" to "Captain Can't Clutch-a-Ball" over the course of a single season, and the team discovered that it had something pretty good in their young backup. That backup, Marc Bulger, is now firmly in command of a still highly explosive Ram passing game. This season, Bulger's thrown for at least 215 yards and a TD in each game, he's thrown multiple scores in 2 of the 3 games, and he’s on pace for a 4,000+/30+ campaign. It would be his best season yet. Let's look no further than Week 4, however, where Bulger is forced to confront the Giants on their own hostile Meadowlands turf. The G-Men were humiliated by the San Diego Chargers last week when they surrendered a downright stupid 192 rushing yards and 3 TDs to RB LaDainian Tomlinson, and 192 passing yards and a pair of scores to QB Drew Brees. Well... 192 yards? That sounds pretty good you say... legitimizing the 2 scoring strikes with the logic that NY was looking for Tomlinson and not the pass. Consider that Brees attempted 22 passes, connected on 19, and 1 of the Incs’ was a drop! Peeps’, that’s eye-popping accuracy. However, some of the credit… or discredit as it were, must go to the Giant pass defense. If Brees, Keenan McCardell and Gates can dismantle NY’s defensive backfield… what will a pass-happy St. Louis’ O do? With the exception of leviathan TE Antonio Gates, the Bolt pass catchers don’t approach the Ram receivers in terms of talent, and the Giant Secondary will be missing experienced CB Will Peterson (probably done for the year with a back fracture). Bulger and Holt should hook up at least twice, and although savvy vet receiver Isaac Bruce is sidelined with a painful toe injury, the teams’ #3, Kevin Curtis, is a more than capable fill-in. With RB Steven Jackson compromised by bruised ribs, Marshall Faulk will see carries AND catches… Faulk and Bulger work well together. Any way you slice it, Sunday should be a productive passing day for the Rams.

“HONORABLE MENTION”

Mike Vick: Vick and the Falcon coaching staff set some lofty goals for the passing game this season. Thus far, the results have been mixed. The coaching staff wanted Vick’s accuracy to approach 60%... so far, uh-uh. Vick’s slingin’ the ball at a 55% completion rate. The team wanted Vick to scramble less; after all, the dude’s not just the face of the franchise… he’s an NFL commodity. But… stop #7 from running? You’d have an easier time containing a shaken can of soda. Through Week 3, Vick’s rushed for 60 or more yards in 2 games, and 40+ in the other, totaling 175 yards and a TD. The Falcs’ wanted Vick to take fewer Sacks. So far… eh’. Vick’s been Sacked 7 times, 4 by the Eagles in Week 1. But, on a more positive note, the Bills didn’t bring the elusive QB down once last week. The coaching staff wanted VIck to move through his progressions, instead of just locking on to his big TE, Alge Crumpler. There, the Hot-lanta QB has enjoyed greater success. Michael Vick is distributing the ball much more effectively, and is developing a nice little rapport with 2nd year receiver, Michael Jenkins. This week, against a Minnesota Viking Secondary that has been victimized through the air repeatedly AND will most likely be missing S Darren Sharper, Vick and the Falcons should enjoy a banner day. The Falcs’ effective running combo of Warrick Dunn and T.J Duckett will humble and already feeble run D, and Vick, Jenkins, Crumpler, and WR Brian Finneran will be tough to contain. I am not suggesting that Vick’s gonna’ pop-off a 300 yarder… but a 3 score game is certainly within reach.

Drew Bledsoe: Bledsoe and his new/old coach Bill Parcells just work well together. In fact, the Cowboys have hosted a veritable “Bill Parcells: This Is Your Life” episode for the modern coaching legend. Anyone remember that show… I hope? Anyone? Well, the crusty coach has former Jet and Patriot buddies Bledsoe, Keyshawn Johnson, and Terry Glenn (I made pre-season fun of both pass catchers… and have eaten a rather hefty slice of humble pie.) at hand. But, for all his grumbling, the old ‘Boy trusts these guys… he knows what to expect from them. Keyshawn and Glenn have been surprisingly productive; relying more upon their instincts, savvy, and Football IQ than any remaining physical gifts… and Bledsoe still has some bullets left in his rifle arm. Paired with gifted RB Julius Jones and the tremendously productive TE Jason Witten, this is no slow ‘Poke O. Bledsoe looked fantastic dissecting the 49’er Secondary last Sunday, and he should remain in your fantasy lineup this week, as he will further pad his numbers against an Oakland defense that is allowing opposing QBs 300 passing yards per game. Last week, the Raiders stood idly by as an injured Donovan McNabb lit ‘em up for 365 yards. This week, Bledsoe and his posse are all excellent starts

Eli Manning: I struggled with this pick. But, seeing as how Eli’s numbers put big brother Peyton’s to shame… how can he be left off? Eli has made rapid progress as a professional QB, and the general consensus amongst Football’s cognoscenti is that Eli’s physical skills are superior to those of his brother. Coming off of a huge 350+ passing day (that included 2 TDs and no INTs), Manning’s a very solid start against a Ram team that has struggled to stop the pass. In fact, the Ram pass defense, allowing almost 245 yards per game, ranks 24th league-wide. WRs Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, and TE Jeremy Shockey are all solid plays this week.

Donovan McNabb: What can you say, ‘Nabbs been fab! The guy has tallied 340 or more passing yards in the last 2 games, he has a 7:1 TD to INT ratio over that span, and last week saw McNabb hang 365 yards on the Raiders. Here’s the bad news for his owners; news that warrants action. It’s no secret that McNabb is injured, the guy is saddled with a serious sports hernia. If “D-Nabb” played either Baseball or pro Hoops he’d be done for the season. But he doesn’t, he plays Football and he’s a MAN! Seriously speaking, Nabb’s injury will worsen and he WILL, at some point, be benched and rested. This is not my opinion; this is Eagle coach Andy Reid speaking. There is no doubt in my mind that, once the birds secure a Playoff berth, Donovan will sit. This is VERY bad news for his owners for this means that the star Signal Caller will be out of action during FANTASY FOOTBALL’S PLAYOFF WEEK(S)! Those of you who lack a solid backup will have to think about swapping for one… or poring over the Waiver Wire. This week, however, McNabb and his flock will face the Kansas City Chiefs. If Bronco QB Jake Plummer can take the Chief Secondary apart piece by piece… McNabb will tear them to shreds. I’d start ‘Nabb, Terrell Owens, TE L.J Smith, and in particular RB Brian Westbrook this week without fail. However, it’s time to come up with a contingency plan for McNabb. You might find an owner with 3 QBs who’d be willing to part with one.

SHOULD SIT QUARTERBACKS

Matt Hasselbeck: Hasselbeck has been playing better of late, but this week the team will knock heads with a VERY tough Washington Redskin defense. Ranking 3rd overall and 2nd against the run (‘Skins allow 65 rushing YPG), C-Hawk RB Shaun Alexander could find holes tough to come by. If the team can’t run… it’ll be awfully tough to pass. The ‘Skin secondary has allowed a stingy 193 passing yards per game. If you have a legit’ alternative at the position, it might be wise to turn to him.

Jake Plummer: The aforementioned Redskin pass defense is tight… but the Jaguar Secondary makes ‘em look gracious by comparison. This week, “The Snake” and friends must face a Jag’ team that is allowing a miniscule 142 passing yards per game. Although Plummer looked good last week, this week… he’s an awfully iffy start.

Trent Green: Green has been a fantasy stud the past few years. But, coming into the season, there were legitimate questions surrounding the receivers at his disposal. There weren’t questions about HIS health, though. And, that’s precisely the matter at hand. The usually accurate, productive KC Signal Caller has tossed a single TD, and his accuracy has been way down this year. Sure, TE Tony Gonzalez has been double-covered and WR Samie Parker is no Randy Moss. But still, Green’s production... or lack thereof, has to be a great concern to his owners. This week, against an aggressive Eagle D, I’d start another QB.

Brett Favre: After last week’s messy Tampa game, Favre appeared on ESPN and Sports Center and pleaded for calm, re-stating his intent and desire to play. I will say this, Favre has been much better to the franchise than the franchise has been to him. They’ve allowed him to play behind a patchwork offensive line, with a running back who hasn’t hit a 100 since LAST November, and with a defense that, going into the year, observers knew would be worse than last year’s model. Favre is not going to save this franchise. Pull the team out of its downward spiral and eke out a Playoff Berth? Favre might sooner pull a rabbit out of his butt. This week (a Monday Night’er), against a formidable Carolina D and a pass rush that has yet to really hit on all cylinders, Favre could be running for his life…again. Julius Peppers could easily become Brett’s personal nightmare Monday night. Favre has thrown multiple picks in each and every game… and this is another contest where fantasy owners might wanna’ bench the beleagured QB

“MUST START RUNNING BACKS”

Rudi Johnson: Seeing as how he’s crossed the stripe but once this season, Johnson’s been a much more productive “yardage league” runner. Week 1, Rudi blew up for 126 yards and a touch’. Since then, though, he’s been rather quiet. It’s not unreasonable to compare the Bengals to last years’ Colt team. Every time you turned around, Peyton Manning was hanging another 6-spot and stud RB Edgerrin James was largely forgotten. While Palmer is not on a record setting pace (though his owners certainly won’t quibble over his fantasy numbers)… the dynamic’s much the same. Rudi and the run game set up the volatile Cincy’ passing game. I’m goin’ out on a limb here, but with the understanding that the Houston Texans have been human turnstiles… and are permitting opposing backs to hang 143 and change on ‘em, look for Rudi’s TD dry spell to come to an end. The Cin’ city O should be able to score at will this week, and I’m wagering the coaching staff tosses this cat a bone and allows him to score a time or 3.



Carnell Williams: I’m not going to roll Cadillac’s accomplishments out; everyone knows that Caddy’s been every opposing D’s daddy. Still, he’s averaging 110+ YPG and should run over, around and through a nearly toothless (allowing runners 116+ YPG) Lion D. Look for Caddy’ and the run game to set QB Brian Griese up for a solid day at the office as well.

Edgerrin James: Oddly enough, Edge’s been the Colts’ most effective offensive weapon. Instead of relying on the offense to win games… a shutdown defensive unit (allowing a microscopic 5 points per game) must be credited with the Colts 3-0 start. QB Peyton Manning hasn’t zipped a TD pass since Week 1, Marvelous Marvin hasn’t been so Marvelous, WR Reggie Wayne’s been pretty quiet, Brandon Stokely appears, at least right now, to have been a product of last year’s offense, and TE Dallas Clark hasn’t enjoyed the breakout season everyone predicted. While I suspect a pissed-off Peyton will tee-off on an innocent Titan D, look for Edge’ to be effective both on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield. Understand that James is playing for a new contract… understand that with this as motivation, little things like opposing Linebackers won’t be allowed to stand in his way.

Brian Westbrook: Westy’ has been a virtual force of nature. As McNabb’s health deteriorates… and rest assured it WILL deteriorate, Westbrook’s value to the offense increases correlationally. Westbrook possesses brilliant cut-back ability, soft-hands, and a 2nd gear. Westbrook brings adjective-defying versatility to the Eag’ O. Need hard numbers? Last week, Westy’ hauled in 6 passes for 140 yards and a score, and added 68 rushing yards and another score on 13 carries. Those of you who doubted his value at the start of the season are ruing the decision to pass on him now. This week, look for Westbrook to wreak havoc on a Chief D that ranks 26th against the pass and 23rd against the run. Again, look for Philly’ to lean a bit more heavily upon Westbrook than they’d like. The trade-off lies in the durability of the smallish back.


“HONORABLE MENTION”

Julius Jones: The ‘Boys have given Jones a heavy workload; he’s averaging almost 30 touches per game. Only time will tell if he’ll be able to hold up to such demands. Still, fantasy owners are lovin’ the way Parcells is using his featured runner. Jones has yet to tally 100 rushing yards in a game, but he HAS scored 3 times this season. This week, against a Raider D that will have a hard time containing QB Drew Bledsoe and the passing game, look for Jones to again enter the “6-point promised land.”

Willis McGahee: Last week, the Falcons KNEW McGahee was coming… they planned on it. And yet… like the IRS and old age, McGahee was unstoppable. After recording a 140 yard, 1 TD day against a better D, look for McGahee to run a 26th ranked Saint run D ragged. His production will skyrocket of QB J.P Losman ever becomes serviceable.

Stephen Davis: Davis entered last week’s game against Miami with a league-best 4 TDs. He exited the game with 36 rushing yards (on 16 carries), no TDs, and a fumble… his owners are aware that in most leagues, Davis garnered negative points. Look for a bounce-back game this week against a Packer team that couldn’t bring down a bad mood. The Pack’, a moribund franchise, are going down hill rapidly. Oh how the mighy have fallen!

LaDainian Tomlison: LT’s coming off of an ill, 192 yard, 3 score game. A game, mind you, that saw the Bolt’ back toss a TD pass. This week, the going could be tougher as the Chargers face a still-tough New England Patriot team. Even without stout Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson, the Pat run D has stopped most backs dead in their tracks. LT is not, however, just “any” runner. While Tomlinson’s a “must-start” as he’s a threat to disassemble virtually ANY D… it might be wise to temper your expectations for this week’s game.

“SHOULD SIT RUNNING BACKS”

Priest Holmes: Okay… I’m not advising you to sit the most productive Running Back this side of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander. But, I AM here to tell you that Holmes isn’t running the way he has. Priest lacks his trademark burst, he’s not lowering head and demolishing opposing ‘Backers, and given Priest’s reputation as a sledgehammer runner… backup Larry Johnson’s getting a few too many Goalline touches for a “backup.” Most alarming was Bronco DE Trevor Pryce opining upon Holmes’s health. “I think he’s hurt” said Pryce, who then went on to expound upon why he feels Priest is hurt. Although head Chief Dicky “Tears” Vermeil was quick to allay fears of any injury… owners must be concerned. It might be time to sell Priest to a back-strapped owner who’d be willing to gamble upon the productive runner.

Steven Jackson: Again, we’re faced with a conundrum. Do we start a usually productive back? Or, so we bench him in favor of another option. The Ram runner is nursing a chest bruise and, though coach Mike Martz has already stated that Jackson will play against the Giants this weekend, rest assured Marshall Faulk will see a heavier than usual workload. Jackson hasn’t been the rushing hammer his owners expected him to be, either. Thus far, Jackson’s recorded but 1 TD and a total of 201rushing yards. The upside? The G-Men boast a 24th ranked run D, and are allowing runners almost 125 yards per game. If Jackson was drafted to be your #1 runner trot him out, but do not be surprised if it’s Faulk who sees the end-zone.

Curtis Martin: Here’s a horror-show for C-Mart’s owners. Martin has yet to reach the end-zone, and with BOTH Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler injured… the immortal Brooks Bollinger will be jamming hands under Jet Center Kevin Mawae. What does this mean? It means that a winless, ticked-off, formidable Raven defense will be looking to clean Curtis’ clock. Jet fans can expect to see greybeard QB Vinny Testaverde start by Week 6 at the latest.

Ahman Green: Those who drafted Green clearly didn’t heed my pre-season warning; “Green looks spent… he recorded as many TDs as fumbles with 7… leave him to another owner to agonize over.” The Pack’ back enters the week without a score, and with a “3 yards and a cloud o’ dust” rep’. Things will get no better as he’s forced to dance with a somewhat sinister Panther run D; look for these cats to pounce on Green. And I said it last week and I’m sayin’ it again; if Green doesn’t get his groove on, the team WILL give hulking Najeh Davenport a try.

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