Friday, October 14, 2005




Carson Palmer: With over 1,300 passing yards and 11 TDs (TD passes in EVERY game this season, and MULTIPLE TDs in all but 1) already in the bank, Palmer's been utterly brilliant this season. He's limited his mistakes, he doesn't seem to get rattled, and even the best defenses (I.E Chicago, where he enjoyed a 3 TD day) can't slow him down. This week, against a Titan Secondary that has allowed a whopping 11 TD passes (of 14 total TDs scored against them), Palmer is as an excellent start.
*NOTE: Keep an eye on a brewing receiver battle. Erstwhile #2 T.J Houshmandzadeh, who will probably return from his hand injury Sunday, may have to fend off rookie receiver Chris Henry in the not-too distant future. Henry (who I listed weeks ago as a viable and "sneaky-good" 'Wire pickup) was the Bengs' 3rd round pick, and he's fast, tall (6-4), and "sudden." The kid hooked up with Palmer 3 times last week for an average of 28+ YPC, and caught his 2nd TD pass of the season.

Peyton Manning: You know... each week I run Manning out as a "Must Start," and aside from 1 week, the guy has ben a HUGE disappointment! Take last week for instance. Against a sorry San Fran' team... a team with the 2nd worst passing D in the league, mind you, you'd think Manning would have had a banner day, right? But nooooo! Prolific Peyton... Peyton of the "Single-Season Passing TD Record" threw for a meager (for him, anyway) 255 yards, with 1 score and 2 picks. Ok, THIS is a "can't miss" Sunday for Peyton. The Ram defense is just painful to watch, and they're like... human turnstiles. The St. Louis D allows almost 264 passing yards, and slightly more than a C-note on the ground. Look for a pissed-off Peyton to tee-off on the Rams. Likewise, WRs Marvelous and Reggie, and RB Edge' are all solid plays this week in what should be a high-scoring affair.

Drew Bledsoe: Who would have thought that Bledsoe would enjoy such a renaissance season? In a crucial divisional matchup, Bledsoe and his co-Pokes will go to battle against against their arch-rival Giants. New York and Dallas are each 3-1, and the winner of this tilt will sit alone atop the tough NFC b'East. Last week, Bledsoe became just the 8th Signal Caller to reach 41,000 passing yards with a 289 yard, 3 TD effort. This week, against a G-Man D that is allowing an improbable 322 passing yards, Bledsoe is a VERY good start. With RB Julius Jones hobbled with a high ankle sprain and possibly even shelved for this one, both WR Terry Glenn and TE Jason Witten should see a lot of work. Last week, undrafted RB Tyson Thompson was a 2nd half fill-in for Jones. This week, the running load could be split between Thompson and de-railed Bear feature back Anthony "A-Train" Tomas. Check on Jones' status... but he could be a game-time decision.

Eli Manning: In the game before the Giant's Week 5 Bye, against the St. Louis Rams, Eli had what was arguable his finest game as a pro. With 296 passing yards, 4 TDs, and a passer rating of 120.7, Peyton's little bro came into his own and served his "I have arrived!"notice to the NFL. Eli was also named "FedEx Air Player of the Week" for that stirring performance... quite an honor, I'm sure. Anyway, against a Dallas Secondary that rose to the occassion last week and limited regal Eagle Donovan McNabb to 119 passing yards, I STILL like Manning. This same Secondary allowed former Niner' starter Tim Rattay almost 270 yards and 3 TDs (week 3) and Redskin Signal Caller Mark Brunell (week 2) almost 300 and 2 TDs. RB Tiki Barber should be reasonably effective against a stingy Dallas run D, and a healthy TE Jeremy Shockey should prevent hard-hitting 'Boy S Roy Williams from rolling over and doubling-up WR Plaxico Burress. It'll be up to Williams to play Centerfield, because ANY of the G-Men pass catchers is capable of burning the D, including the somewhat overlooked WR Amani Toomer.

Drew Brees: Historically, Brees has been a hurricane force against his division rival Raiders. Having won his last 3 starts against Oakland, and with 7 TDs (including last season's 22 of 25, 281 yard, 5 TD outing) and NO INTs... the Bolt' QB is a rock-solid fantasy start this week. Of course... Brees benefits from the following: RB LaDainian Tomlinson is the best back in the NFL, Antonio Gates is the best Tight End in the league, and the San Diego Signal Caller has received excellent protection from his line.

Tom Brady: With a ludicrous 18 players on the IL, the New England's more "M.A.S.H" unit than Football team. Further complicating matters, Tom "Terrific" and his band of merry Patriots are faced with their 4th road game in 5 weeks. The good news is that NO team responds better to adversity. Last week against Atlanta, coming off of a stinging 24 point home loss at the hands of the Chargers, Brady rallied the troops and responded with a 350/3 TD passing day. This week, the team must travel cross-country and face a tougher than expected Denver Bronco squad. The Broncs' have their weaknesses, however. One being a somewhat suspect Secondary. To be fair, top cover corner Champ Bailey's been out of the mix, and Denver has ceded 235 passing yards per. Expected back this week... Champ's impact may be limited, and not just by his still-nagging hammy'. Brady has no favorite pass catcher; last week, the Pat' passer hit 9 different receivers, including BOTH TEs *NOTE: RB Corey Dillon left last week's game with an apparently mild ankle sprain. Although he's listed as "questionable," head coach Bill Belichik generally plays a sleight-of-hand game with the injury report. In fact, a whopping 15 players are listed as "Probable" on this week's report. That does not mean, however, that they can't be downgraded and scratched at game-time. Expect Dillon to play, as the team will get it's much needed Bye the following week. What a gimpy Dillon could mean... the Pats go pass heavy this week, and target (until he proves himself healthy, anyway) an equally gimpy Champ Bailey.

"Honorable Mention"

Matt Hasselbeck: 'Beck burned me last week, for I had him listed as a "Should Sit Quarterback." Naturally, the C-Hawk QB responded with 316 passing yards, 2 scoring strikes, and the "NFC Offensive Player of the Week" award. Sunday, the 'Hawks face a winless and understandably demoralized, Houston Texan team. The Seahawks boast the leagues' top O... Houston ahh, "boasts" the leagues' worst O (the Texans are AVERAGING fewer than 100 passing yards per game... daaammmn, that's a bad O!) and this game could get ugly in a hurry. Unlike the Eagles who walked into a classic "trap game" against Dallas last week, Houston is anemic on both sides of the pigskin. With both WRs Darrell Jackson (knee) and Bobby Engram (ribs) still out with their respective injuries, look for RB Shaun Alexander (did I mention that that boy goes through yards and scores like a bulimic monkey on a banana binge?) to be run hard. Likewise, I AGAIN like gigantic TE Jerramy Stevens as a 'Wire pickup and start for those of you who lack credible TE play, and WR Joe Jurevicius should also be a fantasy factor. Those of you who picked up receiver D.J Hackett... although he has nice sleeper potential, he apparently suffered a hip injury last week. Although he'll probably start with the receiving corps so decimated, an already slow pass catcher may be further slowed. Those of you who planned on starting Hackett... make sure you check Sunday's injury report first.

Jake Plummer: Plummer hasn't made this list much... he's been neither brilliant nor abomination; he's just... been. Which is actually good for the Broncs'. With a better than expected defense and an ALWAYS productive run game, the Broncos simply need execution from the QB position. "The Snake" has provided precisely that. In this match-up of divvy' leaders, each Field General is a sound fantasy start. Denver, on a quest for their 5th consecutive win, has an interesting dilemma; they can again brag a 2-headed running monster. "Marine" Mike Anderson is a powerful, determined, North-South runner, and Tatum "Chips... or Come Ring My" Bell (can't decide which I like better) is a nifty-footed break-away back. The smart money says that if Bell can stay healthy... no small feat for him, he'll see the bulk of the carries and win the feature role. Anyway, the Patriots are missing several key cogs from their D, most significantly LB Tedy Bruschi and S Rodney Harrison. Allowing almost 225 passing yards per game, but decimated by injury, look for a good and (I can't believe I am saying this, but...) "smart" game from the Denver QB.

"Should Start Running Backs"

Edgerrin James: James is running hard and has benefitted from a mysteriously ineffective Colt passing attack. Although the Rams are better against the run than pass... that's sorta-like saying "they don't stink a litle, but not THAT badly". Look, the Rams allow almost 30 points per game... how good can they be? I'd expect the Colts to jump out to an early lead courtesy of Peyton and the passing game, thus paving the way for James and the run game. As I did last week, I'm lookin' for 135 total yards and a score or 3 from this tremendous all-around back.

Shaun Alexander: No matter how you slice it.... no matter how you look at his stats, Alexander is CASH-MONEY and the 'Hawks will rue their decision to not lock him up to a long-term deal when they had the chance. This week Alexander will perform on his preferred stage; the Sunday night'er. In 4 such games, Shaun Alexxander has run for a total of 520 yards, including a 266 yard, 3 score symphony against Houston in '01. And... guess who the 'Hawks draw this week? Right-O, a hapless Houston team. Look for Alexander to rip through Houston (allowing almost 120 rushing yards per) like a straight-razor through a silk suit.

Warrick Dunn: Last week, without QB Mike Vick, the Falcons STILL scored with near impunity. Although New England ultimately won the game, Atlanta gave them all they had... and it was only a waning moments field goal that sealed the deal for the Pats. This week, the Falcs' will dance with a hurtin' New Orleans team. The Saints may have fire in their bellies as they were shamed by the Pack' last week... but there may be only so much they can do without RB Deuce McAllister. That team ran around Deuce like a watch around its main-spring. Allowing almost 125 rushing yards and nearly 30 points per game, the Saints are ripe for picking. Even by this injury-thinned Falcon team. Oh yes, injuries to CB Chris Cash and LB Edgerton Hartwell, amongst others, have severly weakned the Hot-Lanta D. This could impede the O, as they'll be forced to go to the air if N.O QB Aaron Brooks can get his groove on. That is not, however, likely. Dunn is a strong play Sunday; he plays well against the Saints, he plays well on "Faux-Grass," and he gets both this week.

Willis McGahee: Kelly Holcomb does more than steward the Bill team. Holcomb, thankfully, restores fantasy relevance to Buffs' skill po' players. Once again, with the forward pass part of the offensive repetoire, WRs Eric Moulds and Lee Evans are fantasy factors. Of course, this bodes well for McGahee and the run game. Whereas before, with J.P Losman shepherding the team, McGahee was forced to contend with stacked fronts... now, Holcomb can force those defenders back off the line. The Jet run D has been a sieve (120+ per game), and McGahee should be a fine start in what should be a very good game.

Curtis Martin: And speaking of the Jets... Martin is a solid start in his own right. The Bills, a team once thought to possess a stout D, hemorhages ground yards at the rate of 160.5 per! This is not the product of a single flukey' game either. Last week, Miami's rook' runner Ronnie Brown nearly hit the century mark. With Vinnie Testaverde over Center... the Jet O takes on a whole new look, and displays confidence. Look for Curtis, who scored his 1st and 2nd TDs of the season last week, to sincerely benefit from the veteran Qubes' presence.

LaDainian Tomlinson: NO "Must Start" list would be legit' if LT were omitted. Tomlinson is quite arguably the best, most complete back to hit the gridiron since Barry Sanders prematurely hung up his black cleats. LT is averaging 102 YPG, he has scores in EVERY game thus far (a sweet 9), and has multiple scores in 3 of his 5 games. The Bolt' back has faced some of the toughest Ds in the league, too; LT has stepped up and performed against Dallas, Denver, and Pittsburgh. This week, look for QB Drew Brees and TE Antonio Gates to knock a porous Raiduh' Secondary (almost 270 YPG porous) back on their heels, allowing Tomlinson room to roam. There's more good news! Tomlinson, with mitts as good as ANY Wideout, has been seeing more receptions of late. *NOTE: It should be mentioned that the Raiders are tough against the run, allowing 3 and change per carry... and LT DOES have trouble against such physical Ds.

"Honorable Mention"

Steven Jackson: Even when Jax' hasn't gobbled up the ground yards, he's hung his 6's. Coming off of his finest game of the year (77 rushing yards, 62 receiving yards, 1 rushing TD), the Ram runner has a tough draw. The Colts are a defensive juggernaut this year, and if you'd seen 'em last year... you would NEVER have predicted the team would be THIS good (defensively). Indy's allowed a mere 2 TDs, but both have come on the ground. Look for QB Mark Bulger to again use Jackson as a receiver out of the backfield, and even if the Rams lose the game... it won't be because their featured runner was under-used.

Jerome Bettis: The Steelers started the season with a surprise opening act; "Fast" Willie Parker. However, Parker was NEVER intended to be the feature back... it was going to be a "Running Back By Committee." In turn, "Fast Willie" paid a price for the workload- the dude's dropped almost 10 pounds since the season opener. Now, fully recovered from a nagging calf injury and with QB Ben Roethlisberger likely out with a hyper-extended knee, the Steelers are jumping aboard "The Bus." Bettis has a most favorable matchup, as Jacksonville yields ground yards at an alarming, rate of almost 135 per game. Look for Bettis to pick up the offensive slack in this one.

LaMont Jordan: Jordan was expected to make an IMMEDIATE difference to the Oakie' O. He has not, however, been as effective as the team, and his owners had hoped. Part of the blame must fall upon the O-line and QB Kerry Collins' shoulders, though. Collins is easily rattled and you can bet the Chargers have watched film of both KC and Philly' bringing pressure upon him from every angle except up... and I think the Eag's even got to him that way once. As in any game, the run game will flourish if the passing game does; the pass generally sets up the run. The Raiders can boast a nearly peerless pass catching contingent, San Diego struggles against the pass (240+ YPG), and that could set Jordan up for a very big game.


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