Thursday, November 17, 2005



It seems as if starting Signal Callers are dropping like flies. Minnesota has lost Daunte Culpepper for not just this season, but given the nature and extent of his injury... C-Pepp's very career is threatened. At the least, "those in the know" speculate that the popular purple passer will miss much of '06 season as well. And, another Field General from the fabled class of '99 has fallen victim to injury; the Eags' will, most likely, be without Donovan McNabb services until the '06 season. Unable to play his style of Football, in considerable pain, and with the Eagles barely aloft in the NFC East, it would seem as if 'D-Nabb" is seriously considering season-ending hernia surgery after being examined by a prominent sports medicine surgeon. The Dolphins will be without Gus Frerotte, and San Francisco has been reduced to starting Ken Dorsey. Need I go on?


Peyton Manning: Finally... Peyton Manning has caught fire, plain and simple. After last season's preposterous (not happy with "preposterous?" feel free to insert your own adjective) production, owners and fans expected a 40+ TD encore from the record-setting passer. But with several months to study the '04 Colt O in detail, opponents are dropping into a 2 deep zone and preventing the Colt receivers from burning 'em deep. So, with Manning's cannon arm somewhat silenced the team was able to turn to RB Edgerrin James.... and James is grinding foes to powder. With his ability to pound the rock between the Tackles, bounce it outside, or serve as a receiver coming out of the backfield, Edge' has positively bludgeoned opposing Ds and is a legit' MVP candidate. And now... now things have come full circle. Opposing D-Coordinators are scheming against James, trying to prevent the Colt runner from beating them almost single-handedly. Naturally, the peerless passer is taking advantage of the opportunities provided him. Over the course of the past 4 games Peyton's thrown 10 TDs to only 2 INTs, and has notched a pair of 300 yard games (Ok I lie... last week he had 297 yards. I'm rounding up). This week, against the Bengals' 8th ranked pass defense, the Colts could be walking into a trap. Certainly they won't be looking past this dangerous foe, but the Bengs' are one of the very few teams with skill po' players capable of matching up with Indy's "Triplets." The advantage Peyton has over Palmer? Edgerrin James will take advantage of Cincy's 24th ranked run D (yielding almost 125 per), the Bengs' will be forced to creep up in order to better defend against the CASH-MONEY runner, and Peyton will be able to dissect the Cincy' Secondary. Or, so says my "Fantasy Magic 8 Ball." I dare not prognosticate numbers... but I WOULD start TE Dallas Clark (who made his first trip to the End-Zone last week) and WR Brandon Stokely. Both targets will benefit from less talented coverage, and Clark could really have the breakout game his owners have been longing for.

Carson Palmer: Here's the thing that links Palmer to Peyton, and BOTH passers to their Canton-honored brethren; there is no such thing as being "over-prepared." Each Signal Caller clocks hours upon hours of film and field work, and neither takes an opponent lightly. The way Manning works with Marvelous is the way Palmer works with Chad Johnson; both men realize just how important their top targets are. Carson's "nose to the grindstone" ethic is bearing fruit, and with fewer than 2 dozen NFL starts under his belt Palmer is already considered an "elite" talent. The Cin' City Signal Caller and his top pass catcher took a road-trip this past week; the already prolific pass and catch combo sat in the stands and watched the Colts whup' the Texans. Palmer felt that, as opposed to the distance of film study, there was something to be gleaned from watching (in person) his opponent play. The "In-D" is tuff-tuff-tuff, ranking 8th against the pass (174 passing yards per) and 9th (97.4 rushing yards per) against the run. The smart game-plan would be to have RB Rudi Johnson attack the edges of the D by running right at Colt DEs Mathis and Freeney. In this way, the Bengs' might be able to nullify the strength of the defense: its speed. With Rudi banging away at the D-line, Palmer should be afforded some extra time to pass. And, in WRs Houshmandzadeh, Henry, and Johnson, the guy has an embarrassment of pass catching riches to turn to. In addition, versatile 2nd-year RB Chris Perry has a wideouts mitts... with a Runner's power, speed, and moves. Look for a solid, but not spectacular day from Palmer. He does remain, however, a "Must Start" QB.

Marc Bulger: After languishing on the sidelines for almost a month due to a shoulder sprain, Bulger handed the clip-board back to QB Jamie Martin, shed his soft-cap in favor of a helmet, and reclaimed command of the Ram offense. The strong-armed Ram QB picked-up right where he left off, and threw for 300+ yards with a "welcome back" TD (he also threw 1 INT) to his top target, WR Torry Holt last week. This coming Sunday, Bulger will again face-off against the Cardinals and his former mentor, Kurt Warner. In their Week 2 tilt Bulger struggled; his line for the day was 216/1/1, with a fumble and 4 Sacks. But this week I would expect the underwhelming Card' D to be much softer than they were at the season's start. You know, back when they still held hopes of a post-season play! With RB Steven Jackson's full complement of skills finally being put to use, opposing Ds cannot afford to play off the line. And, with both WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce relatively healthy and back in the line-up, and #3 receiver Kevin Curtis (40/587/4 on the season) posting numbers worthy of a #1-2 pass-catcher, Bulger is again top-tier fantasy QB. Given the sorry state of BOTH defensive units, this game could actually turn into a shoot-out!

Tom Brady: Although the Saints' 5th ranked Secondary has actually proven to be reasonably stout against the pass... allowing a mere 167.8 passing yards per game is kinda' sorta' stingy... are you really gonna' sit Tom Terrific? Make no mistake... Brady has made some himself of late (mistakes, that is), but the Aints' have dropped 5 straight and 7 of their last 8, and have clearly given up on the season. With the Pats' fielding a wafer-thin O' and eager to post back-to-back Ws for the first time all season (can you believe it? "Dynasty... shmynasty"), I'm willing to bet that Obi-Wan Belichik turns to Brady and the passing game. Scrap-heap escapee Heath Evans will again be expected to legitimize the run game... as he did last week (102 total yards last week), and I'd look for another "Very Brady Sunday;" 245/2.
*NOTE: As projected in last week's "Week 10 Start and Sit" piece, TE Ben Watson (3/37/2) DID turn out to be the key that sprung the Pats' offensive lock. Look for the physical TE to again be a solid Red-Zone weapon.


Kurt Warner: The Card' QB came up for discussion in the "Sunday Morning Chat-Room" last week. Warner may not be the magician of old... but damn- the old guy can still hang gaudy passing numbers! He is, therefore, worth a start... particularly in yardage leagues. Without the benefit of a run game, Warner blew-UP for a season-high 359 passing yards and a touch' against the Detroit Lions Week 10, and for the first time all season.. didn't take a Sack. Let's put our fantasy hands together for the 'Zona linemen. Anyway, this week Warner faces his old team, the Rams, for the 2nd time this season. The first meeting (Week 2) saw Warner thow the ball up and down the field and accrue 327 passing yards on a 29 of 42 day. However, Kurt failed to throw a TD pass, he DID toss a pick, and he suffered the indignity of 5 Sacks and 3 fumbles (1 lost). Warner IS worth starting against the Rams' 27th ranked Air defense (allowing 240+ passing yards per), and WR Larry Fitzgerald should again be a favored target. Look for a 250+/2-3 TD afternoon. *NOTE: 'Zona has an 0-5 record in games where Warner has been the starter.

Matt Hasselbeck: 'Beck's been a fantasy pillar, and no NFL Qube' has been more consistent. We've been through the whole "consistent consistency" thing-but it IS true, and Hasselbeck's owners know what they will get from this guy week in and week out. The C-Hawk Signal Caller certainly hasn't been spectacular; he doesn't post "Warner type" yardage totals or "Manning type" TDs. He's been "reliable," and if you're not looking for him to win your week for you... you won't be disappointed. Hasselbeck has failed to throw a TD pass in only 1 game this season (Week 3, Arizona), and he's thrown for 200+ yards in every contest but 2. Last week, everyone (including Matt's mommy) expected the dude to blow holes through St. Louis' stupid-bad 2ndry... and he didn't ((17/29 for 243with a pair o' picks a single TD pass). Instead, Shaun "Alexander the Great" conquered yet another team virtually by himself. I know I (along with several skillion' other fantasy writers) projected 'Beck to do the Rams ugly last week... but THIS week? Against THIS San Francisco team? Matt Hasselbeck stands to post a season-best game. The Niner' 'backers are the strength of the ... umm, "D" (and I use the term loosely), "holding" opposing backs to... umm, 117 rushing yards per game. Laugh if you want, but the Frisco' rush defense is utterly air-tight when compared to it's passing D! The Niner' 2ndry has been a "defen-SIEVE," permitting teams to rack-up over 280 passing yards per.... and to move the ball the ball almost with impunity. Look for 260/2-3 from Hasselbeck Sunday... and those numbers shouldn't disappoint.

Mark Brunell: Facing Oakland's 23rd ranked pass defense (almost 220 passing yards per) and their 19th ranked run D (allowing almost a buck 20 by ground), Bru' rates as a solid signal calling start this week. Keep in mind that Brunell HAS had issues with turnovers over the past 2 (3 combines fumbles against Philly and Tampa, 2 INTs at Tampa last week) games, but the Raider Secondary isn't exactly a buncha' ball hawks. With RB Clinton Portis running better... Brunell, TE Chris Cooley (a fine fantasy TE, especially in yardage leagues) and WR Santana Moss are all solid starts Sunday.

Brett Favre: If Brett and Co. were playing any team other than the Vikings this Monday Night... I wouldn't give much thought to starting him. However, the Wisconsin cheese Wiz' IS playing against the pathetic and floundering Minny' D, and is therefore worth a start because of it. The Vike's 26th ranked pass Defense has allowed opponents to roll up over 230 passing yards per, and even the injury-ravaged Pack' attack should post yards against 'em. With no-name RB Samkon Gado taking the NFL by surprise, in much the same way Steeler Willie Parker did, Favre finally has a run game to rely upon. I think. Either way, Favre WILL throw a couple of picks... but he should also be good for a 250+/2 evening.


Edgerrin James: James needs no introduction, and I need not write of his accomplishments. Simply know that this season, opposing D-coordinators devised their schemes in order to prevent Colt QB Peyton Manning and his pass catching contingent from beating them. These teams figured that they'd let James get his yards... and they'd be able to keep the scoring to a minimum. Well... they got part of it right. Dropping a pair of Safeties back and deep has prevented, to some degree anyway, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Brandon Stokely from lighting 'em up. What they did NOT count on? That James would become a 1-man Wrecking Crew. Edge' has rushed for a C-note or more in 7 of the Colts' 9 games, has 140+ combined yards in 5 games, and has reached the "6 Point Promised Land" in 6 consecutive games (with 10 total TDs). Although this week's opponent, Cincinnati, has been able to force turovers... their run D has been poor. The Bengs' 24th ranked run D yields almost 125 rushing yards per week.
Look for Edge' to bank 25+ touches, 130+ yards, and 1 TD Sunday.

LaDainian Tomlinson: LT is always a "must start" fantasy weapon. However, much like Chief RB Larry Johnson- this week LT is chomping at the bit, eager to take a bite of some Buff' backside. The Bill run D? Call 'em "Buffa-blow," seeing as how the human turn-stiles allow over 150 rushing yards a week. QB Drew Brees and TE Antonio Gates will have their hands full with a #2 ranked pass D, but with LT pounding over, around, and through Buff' defenders... the passing game should, obviously, benefit.

Shaun Alexander: NO runner has meant more to his team this season than Shaun Alexander, and the 'Hawk runner is a legit' candidate for league MVP. With last week's 3 score game against the Rams, Shaun-A became the first back in league history to record 5 consecutive seasons with 15 or more TDs. That, my fantasy friends, is heady stuff. Say what you want about LaDainian Tomlinson... but Alexander means more to his team and is as durable as they come. The Seahawk feature back has played in every regular season game since entering the league as a rook' in '00. The guy will also garner what projects to be a record-breaking contract during the coming off-season. ... So- entering this season, the supposed "strength" of the Niner' D was its Linebacking corps. Julian Peterson and Co. have helped "hold" opposing runners to a meager 117 YPG. Right. Anyway, here's the bet; look for Seattle to run Shaun Alexander left, run Shaun Alexander right, and run Shaun Alexander up the middle. Matt Hasselbeck is solid in the pocket and can pick apart San Fran's awful 2ndry, and "Alexander the Great" is a near-lock to record yet another multi-TD game.

Steven Jackson: Jax' has really poured it on over the last 5 games; he's recorded 100+ total yards in each, and has averaged a TD per. And this week... well, the Cards' sick and sorry run D (giving up 125+ YPG) doesn't figure to slow him down any. With QB Marc Bulger back at the Ram helm... Jackson should be even more dangerous. Look for the Ram runner to receive 20-25 touches, as he's rapidly developing into a top pass-catching back.

Mike Anderson: "Marine" Mike Anderson fits the Denver Bronco D like a summer sun dress fits Paris Hilton. While Anderson would probably shudder to be compared to the Internet video queen... and oh yes, heiress to the Hilton empire (we dated for awhile, but she chews with her mouth open, I'm allergic to Chihua-hua dogs, and I had to end it). However, Anderson's one-cut, North/South running style meshes perfectly with the Bronc' O-line. This week, Anderson and the Broncos draw an under-achieving, underwhelming, underperforming Jet team. The Jets play with no fire, and as their season effectively ended when both QBs Pennington and Fiedler fell to injury in the same game, a scant 7 plays apart- Gang-Green is really playing for draft position. Reggie Bush, anyone? It's unlikely that the Jets will get Matt Leinart... but a top-notch runner should be on their wish-list. For that matter, a head coach capable of instilling fire and yes, even fear should also be on their Christmas list. Current coach Herm Edwards is good at excusing his players, and he's good at standing up for them... certainly admirable. Edwards seems incapable of having them play as if their very jobs depend upon each and every play, however, and that's really what the Jets need. They do NOT need a great excusionist. This is an argument better left for it's own article.
Look for the Broncos to use RB Mike Anderson as a sledgehammer... and the swifter, more agile RB Tatum Bell to serve as the anvil. Both backs are rock-solid starts Sunday against a 29th ranked Jet run D that has mailed the season in.

Larry Johnson: Could the stars be aligned any better for Larry or his owners? This week, Johnson and a semi-desperate tribe o' Chiefs take on the G-d-awful Houston Texans. Houston positively BLEEDS yards, surrendering a .. a.. (insert your own adjective for "utterly unbelievable") over 150 rushing yards per week! In 9 games (and he's only been the unquestioned feature the past 2) this season, Johnson's notched 638 yards and 6 TDs on 124 carries.
Look for Lil' J to record yet another game of 175 total yards and 2-3 TDs.


Tiki Barber: For all Barber's strong running and hard work this season... he'll probably garner the team MVP award. Last week, Barber and friends were forced to swallow the bitter pill of defeat after giving the game away to Minnesota. The loss had nothing to do with Tiki, though. The ageless back did EVERYTHING in his power to secure the win. The loss was attributable to a combination of horrifying Special Teams work and QB Eli Manning's turnovers. Be that as it may, that's not what we're here to consider. Let's consider, instead, the record Barber quietly broke last Sunday for it underscores his value and versatility to team and fasntasy owner alike. Barber ran for 95 yards and a score on 23 carries; yeah-yeah, great. He also snared 8 passes for 111 receiving yards. Was that Barber's excellent work... or was it Minnesota's ghastly-bad D? Dunno, don't care. Sunday, Barber and Big Blue tackle a Philadelphia Eagle team that has dropped 3 in a row and is positively out of control. The Terrell Owens thing is bad, but the loss of QB Donovan McNabb is insurmountable and effectively ends the Eag' season. Look for Tiki (as his Giants are tied for 1st with Dallas in the rough & tumble NFC East) to enjoy another rock-solid Sunday against a Run D that allows almost 115 per, and more to the point, has bupkiss to play for.

Clinton Portis Much like the aforementioned Tiki Barber and his Giants, C-Port's Redskins are coming off a tough-luck loss of their own. Yet another 1-pointer, their's to the defensive-minded Buccaneers. Those "defensive-minded" Buccs' weren't able to shackle Portis though, and the 'Skin back ran for a season-high 144 yards and 1 TD on 23 carries. Sunday was the 4th time this season that portis broke the century mark. This week, Portis and tribe host the disappointing Oakland Raiders. Oakie's O was supposed to be unstoppable, and the D solid at worst. Unfortunately, the "on-paper" Raiders are much better than their "on-field" counterparts! The Black & Silver D permits 115+ rushing yards, and almost 220 passing yards. As mentioned last week, "if the Redskins are for real... then this game will prove it." The 3rd place Redskins' post-season hopes are still a'flicker in the highly competitive NFC... but the team MUST play better ball, and that starts with the rushing attack.

Samkon Gado: Gado stepped into former Pack' back Ahman Green's cleats during the Week 9 game... and has taken full advantage of the opportunity. Against a gristle-tough Pittsburgh Steeler Run D Gado ground out hard yards (62/1), and gave the Packer O just enough. Last week, though... last week was a whole other story! Gado, as projected in the "Week 10 Start and Sit" (Re: the "next Willie Parker) and "Pick 'Em" pieces, was a capable "spot-start." In actuality, Gado was far more than "capable." Dude wen *BOOM* for 103 combined yards and 3 TDs (1 receiving). With a re-configured but still awful Viking D (they allowed the NY Giants 400+ yards last week) next on the Packers' plate (they play in the Monday Night'er), Gado is a "must start" in every format. The Purple Patsies' are allowing runners to rack-up 125+ each week.

Greg Jones: Here's another back who was listed as a "2nd Tier Starter" last week... and was pushed during the always friendly... always informative, "Sunday Morning Chat." G-Jo the Jag' mauled the Ravens last week, rolling up 106 rushing yards and a touch' on 25 carries. With RB Fred Taylor still nursing an ankle injury, look for another strong game from Jones. The Jags' play a bad (115+) Tenne'D Sunday.


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