Wednesday, September 07, 2005

UPDATED "START AND SIT" ATHLETES

"MUST START RUNNING BACKS"

PATRIOTS: COREY DILLON: Last season, Dillon racked up a whopping 1,635 rushing yards and 13 TDs. Good news for his owners, and of course the Pats: at age 31- he shows no signs of slowing down. This week, against an aging Oakland D-line and a flat-out bad, poor tackling Linebacking unit, Dillon... who can shed would-be tacklers like a Duck sheds water, should enjoy a banner day.

BENGALS: RUDI JOHNSON: With QB Carson Palmer lighting up Cleveland's skies, Johnson should maul a Brown D that may be loaded with questions... but isn't loaded with talent. Rudi...Rudi... Rudi could be in for a big day. A rock-solid fantasy starter.

BILLS: WILLIS MCGAHEE: The Bills... some league observers have predicted Buffalo to be playoff bound. If that's the case, then the team MUST receive credible play from 1st year starter (essentially a rookie, as last season was a lost season) J.P Losman. Losman doesn't necessarily have to win games... he simply has to avoid losing them. McGahee is talented enough to carry the O. This week, against the Texans, McGahee could enjoy real success. Once past Houston's very average defensive front, the emerging Bill will find himself in space. With skills to pay the bills, McGahee should gobble up the Texans inexperienced 'backers. A rock solid fantasy starter.

RAVENS: JAMAL LEWIS: Although the Raven runner had an average camp, expect him to be single-minded as he attempts to reclaim his place amongst the games "elite" backs. At one time, "J-Lew" was at the head of the fantasy back class. Week 1, against a Colt D that may be improving but is anything but "staunch," look for Lewis to have a "statement game." A rock-solid, fantasy starter.

LIONS: KEVIN JONES: Jones really emerged over the final 1/4 of last season. With significant questions at the QB position, Jones will... at least initially, serve as backbone of the Lion offense. A smooth, gliding runner, "KJ" is also a physical back, possessing a better than average pair of mitts. With a deep and talented Detroit receiving corps... opposing D-Coordinators are forced to pick their poison; stop the run... stop the pass. However, until Detroit's least-favorite son, QB Joey Harrington, proves himself capable of punishing opposing Secondaries, expect foes to creep a Safety up in order to jam a thorn in the Lion run game. This week, against a suspect Pack' defensive attack, look for Kevin Jones to pick up right where he left off last season.

SLEEPER RUNNING BACK: RAIDERS: LAMONT JORDAN: Ok, so LaMont's no sleeper to knowledgeable Football fans. One of the most lauded free agent pickups of the off-season, Jordan is saddled with expectations. A surprisingly quick man with nifty wiggle, Jordan's size belies his ability to make defenders miss. This week, against a Pat' D that WILL miss LBs Teddy Bruschi (stroke) and Ted Johnson (retired), Jordan should be a solid start. Further, this week's performance will be a nice barometer for Jordan's season.

SHOULD SIT RUNNING BACKS

DALLAS: JULIUS JONES:All fantasy owners have a jones for a strong running game. And why not? The ground game serves as the ahh, "backbone" of every good fantasy team. This week, Bledsoe and company draw a tough San Diego squad. While the 'Bolts pass rush falls just short of anemic, their run defense (at least in pre-season) has been virtually impregnable. In addition, the swift Charger LBs can make sideline-to-sideline plays. If the 'Pokes are to mount any kind of effective offense against their Week 1 opponents, then I'd expect it to come through the air. While Julius is on the verge of a monster season... yards and scores could be tough to come by against an aggresive Charger D this week.

COLTS: EDGERRIN JAMES: Just as his QB does, Edge' faces a difficult Week 1 challenge; the stingy Baltimore D. With the understanding that Manning and company like to pass when in the red-zone, and given that the Colts may have few scoring opportunities against a re-worked Balty' D, those scores could come off of Manning's arm. A rare "Sit" recommendation, Edge' will enjoy far better match-ups as the season progresses.

DOLPHINS: RONNIE BROWN: The youngster, having no regular season experience, draws a tough inaugural match up. Facing what could be the quickest LB unit in the league (Denver), the raw 'Phin could get eaten alive... hey, wouldn't make him "Sush-he"!

REDSKINS: CLINTON PORTIS: The 'Skin offense is littered with question marks. And while the run game, in Portis' capable hands, isn't one of them... facing a top Chicago unit... Washington's iffy O has its work cut out for it. The Bears' swift 'Backer unit is led by perennial Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher; that unit alone could make Clinton's life miserable this week. In addition, the Bear Secondary doesn't shirk run support duty. Assuming you have 'em, I'd investigate your other options at RB this week.

MUST START WIDE RECEIVERS

BRONCOS: ROD SMITH: The venerable Smith may be old enough to recall Prohibition... that being said, ain't nothin' to prohibit this savvy receiver from rackin' up the yards against a depleted Miami Secondary. I am absolutely "Surtain" that no "Knight" in shining armor will come to Miami's pass defense. Smith has a remarkable knack for getting himself open, and he should be able to exploit what was previously one of the leagues' strongest units.
*NOTE: #2 WR Ashley Lelie is rapidly asserting himself as the most dangerous pass catcher in the Bronc' O, and he should be considered one of the NFL's most effective vertical threats. After posting a ludicrous 20.1 YPC average in '04, look for Denver's speedster to use last season as a springboard for an even better '05.

STEELERS: HINES WARD: Ward and the team had a somewhat contentious off-season. But, after getting paid CASH M-O-N-E-Y, Ward is once again a happy Pitt' camper. With a season opener against Tennessee... a team that is essentially an expansion franchise (in terms of talent), Ward and Big Ben should hook up like clock-work. Although he goes relatively unnoticed, Hines Ward is a top 10 NFL pass catcher... and he's not too shabby a fantasy weapon either.

LIONS: ROY WILLIAMS: Expect the Lions to fight tooth and nail this week against their conference rival Packers. WRs Roy Williams and Charles Rogers are an ill 1-2 receiving punch, RB Kevin Jones renders it almost impossible for defenders to key upon the pass... for he's got the jets to get into the defensive backfield in a flash, and new TE Marcus Pollard can exploit the middle of the field.
Questions remain; Now that backup QB Jeff Garcia suffered a broken leg, can Harrington... who need not worry about a demotion predicated upon poor performance... succeed? After being out of Football for so long, can this year's 1st round pick, WR Mike Williams, be productive on this level? I suspect that Williams, who lacks great speed and is so big he has trouble moving in tight quarters, is destined to be a Tight End. Only time will answer these questions. Oh yes, by all means start WR ROY WILLIAMS ... and I would toss Mr. Rogers (Charles) out there as well, for Green Bay's defense... as awful as it was last season, may be worse THIS season!

RAMS: KEVIN CURTIS Ram QB Marc Bulger couldn't have drawn up a more favorable kick-off party. This week, Bulger and cronies will make hay against a stupid-bad 49'er team. Although the Frisco' Secondary will welcome CB Ahmed Plummer back from injury... a return of Hall of Fame Safety Ronnie Lott wouldn't be able to plug the teams' gaping holes. It will take every ounce of Niner' energy and defensive ingenuity just to corral WRs Holt and Bruce. #3 and 4 Ram pass catchers, Kevin Curtis (Curtis is being groomed to eventually replace Isaac Bruce) and Shaun McDonald, are quick, sure-handed, and will be sneaky-good starts. *NOTE: San Francisco will have stud LB Julian Peterson back in uniform. After he suffered a torn achilles last season, the entire defensive unit was impacted by his absence. There is, however, only so much one man can do.

SHOULD SIT WIDE RECEIVERS

TEXANS: ANDRE JOHNSON: This is the season team observers believe Johnson will emerge as an "elite" NFL pass catcher. Against a top Buffalo Secondary, however, Andre's emergence may be delayed a week.

CHARGERS: ALL RECEIVERS EXCEPT TE ANTONIO GATES Gates, a physical specimen and absolute anomaly at TE, is a weekly "must-start." The rest of San Diego's pass catchers, however, may find Dallas' re-tooled Secondary (especially newcomer Anthony Henry) to be far more physical then they'd originally anticipated. Plus, rookie DeMarcus Ware and the team's 3-4 front just might be able to get after last season's "Comeback Player of the Year," QB Drew Brees. This particular match up will have implications that resonate far beyond Week 1.

GIANTS: PLAXICO BURRESS: I am so far out on a limb here... I risk life-threatening injuries. However, while QB Eli Manning IS arguably the most talented signal caller to ever suit up for the G-Men... and he WILL, possibly sooner rather than later, put the "ooh!" in "Big Blue," Peyton's little remains a work in progress. Further, complementary pass catcher Amani Toomer is coming off of a weak season, his least productive since '98, and the other WRs are swift and have potential... but they remain projections at best. It's really up to TE Jeremy Shockey to pull coverage away from Burress, and at least initially... I would expect a 65/35 offensive split, in favor of the Giant run game. I am not as high on the Giants as some other observers are. Shockey is fragile, Burress could easily disappoint, and Tiki (Although I don't expect a huge drop-off in production for Barber, he should have a nice fantasy season) is aging.*NOTE: Rook' runner Brandon Jacobs is a sneaky-good Waiver Wire pickup. He'll serve as both the short-yardage AND Goalline runner. Sit Burress until he and Manning show signs of chemistry.

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