sorry if this has been posted here already.. i don't see it.
Talented Mr. Roto: Week 3 AFC notebook
Sep. 22, 2005
by Christopher Harris
Let's take a quick look around the league and imagine what this week's idle teams will do during their bye weeks, shall we?
Detroit: Field phone calls from fans wondering why the team tends to quit when it gets behind by more than two TDs. Give Joey Harrington some guts. Show lots of film to Kevin Jones in which football players do not get knocked down within half a second of being handed the ball.
Washington: Calmly explain to Joe Gibbs that the win over Dallas Monday night, while impressive, is not "one of the greatest wins" of his career. Remind him he's won three Super Bowls. Keep sneaking sleeping pills into Roy Williams's Gatorade. Put finger in air to test trade winds for Patrick Ramsey. Report to Patrick that it would have been easier to trade Steve Spurrier. Wonder why Clinton Portis hasn't been the same since his giant contract. Wonder why John Hall is still on an NFL roster. Wonder why Native Americans aren't proud of team's mascot.
Baltimore: Explore trading Kyle Boller to Yankees for Tony Womack. Invite HBO cameras to follow around Brian Billick as he gives self-contradicting statements to the press every ten minutes, then phones Barry Bonds to ask how he's doing. Build brick wall between Ray Lewis' locker and the lockers of any and all offensive players in order to avoid bouts of rage. Ask Jamal Lewis if he still thinks he's going to top 2,000 yards this year.
Houston: Introduce David Carr to Andre Johnson.
Bills: RB Willis McGahee owners (like me): Are you worried yet? Against a terrible Texans team, McGahee managed 117 yards (most in clock-killing time) and no scores; against a good Tampa D, he had 13 attempts for 34 yards. No scores. Twelfth in the league in rushing, tied with Larry Johnson. But don't blame Willis. The ugliness can be directly linked to my perennial whipping boy, QB J.P. Losman. How many first downs did the Bills post in the first half last weekend? Zero. Buffalo’s most symbolic play so far has to be Losman fading back to pass in his own end zone, hesitating, hesitating, inducing fans to think, "Well, he's not going to wait that long, is he?" and finally getting quasi-pushed out of the end zone for a safety by Shelton Quarles. If I've got a stake in Buffalo's skill players (and I do), I'm really starting to wonder if Losman is ever going to harness his obvious escapability into any sort of field awareness. If you squint real hard, Losman looks an awful lot like Rob Johnson. He's a don’t-play until further notice. ... It was obvious as early as the second quarter, to these eyes, that Cadillac Williams was wearing out the rugged Bills D. The damage in the end? 128 yards rushing, and Williams is the NFL's new leader. ... For a moment it was scary watching OT Mike Williams limp off the field with a rolled ankle. Then I realized: It's Mike Williams, and he's one of the worst top-five picks in recent years. Anyway, he was reportedly walking without a limp after the game Sunday. ... Also, it was a little scary for McGahee owners to watch RB Shaud Williams look so quick catching the ball out of the backfield on Buffalo's fourth-quarter drives. But McGahee has to start for you, even though Atlanta's defense can be solid. We all watched Shaun Alexander turn in a 144-yard, 1-TD performance against the Falcons last week, so there may be some room. That is, unless Losman fails to register a first down in the first half again. ... Don't be afraid to use the Buffalo defense this week. Mike Vick is quick, but he struggles against the league's top schemes. ... Be afraid, however, of using WRs Lee Evans or Eric Moulds this, and just about any, week. Paging QB Kelly Holcomb. Will Kelly Holcomb please pick up the white courtesy telephone?
Dolphins: The Dolphins showed their true color last weekend: gray. After a thrilling offensive display against the Broncos, this is more like it -- a bruising 17-7 loss to the Jets that is going to be much more typical of Miami's team this year. The leading concern here for Fantasy players is the running back situation. RB Ronnie Brown is supposed to be carrying the mail during Ricky Williams's four-week absence, but Sammy Morris is getting far too many touches in the second half to make either of these guys useful. Either Ricky's going to wind up the main guy beginning with the Week 6 matchup at Tampa, or we're headed for the mother of all RBBCs. ... QB Gus Frerotte went 20-43 for 177 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, and yes, that's quite a few tosses for 177 yards. Has the NFL started counting snaps from center as passes? No. It's just that Nick Saban's much-vaunted "aggressive" play-calling (contrasted ad nauseum after Week 1 with Dave Wannstedt's stone-age schemes) will often take a back seat during close games. Expect TE Randy McMichael, already set to break into Alge Crumpler territory, to lead Miami in receptions thanks to a series of plays the Dolphins like to call "Dump-Off City."... WRs Chris Chambers and Marty Booker combined against Denver to snare 10 passes for 144 yards and 1 TD. Against the Jets? Four catches, 42 yards, no scores. Which is why I was telling you not to get too excited. ... Can't like many of the Fins' skill position players this week at home against Carolina. The Panthers made Tom Brady look sick last weekend, and in case you hadn't noticed, Frerotte is no Brady. McMichael is an absolute must-start every week, and I suppose in deeper leagues you probably have to ride Chambers who, despite his talent, is nowhere close to posting his first 1,000-yard season. Otherwise, stay away. ... I remain unconvinced that Miami's defensive line is going to hold up all season. Even with the scheming Saban at the helm, the Dolphins followed up their three-turnover, 10-point lambasting of Denver by wresting no turnovers and yielding 17 points to New York. The 3-4 is en vogue and NFL offenses haven't quite caught up yet, but as guys like DE Kevin Carter, DT Keith Traylor and swingman Vonnie Holliday wear down, Miami's linebackers will have less room to roam. I've got no concern about DE Jason Taylor as an IDP, though. Saban made his bones highlighting star pass rushers.
Patriots: Hey, hey, they're human! Frankly, the 27-17 score last weekend against the Panthers was closer than it should've been. The Patriots are just terrible on special teams. Not only did Carolina's Chris Gamble post a 76-yard punt return and Rod Smart log an average of 26.3 yards per kickoff return, but the Panthers also had two extremely long punt returns called back, one for a TD. Combine that with an incredible number of Patriot false-start penalties (in all the team was called for a mind- and whistle-blowing 12 yellow flags), and you've got the sloppiest New England game in years. ... Something was wrong with QB Tom Brady. He was 23-44 for 270 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, but it was uglier than that. He was off from the very beginning, throwing at receivers' ankles, looking hurried. ... Pretty tough to listen to Dan Dierdorf go on and on about how "Corey Dillon finally got his ring," as though Dillon was the most deserving and best player never to win a Super Bowl until last year. At this point Dillon's not a Hall-of-Famer, Dan, and there's this guy named Peyton Manning that someone should introduce you to soon. ... One good note from the Panthers’ game: WR David Givens looked a lot healthier in Week 2 than in Week 1 (5 catches, 56 yards). I still wouldn't start him, especially not at Pittsburgh, but he's the only legitimate big wideout they've got. They'll use him more eventually. ... CB Randall Gay hurt his ankle and at best is a game-time decision for the Steelers. With Chad Scott and Tyrone Poole also banged up, Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward may be licking their chops. Remember what the Pittsburgh offense did when Ty Law got hurt in the regular season game at Heinz Field last year? ... The New England defense has been disappointing in the early season against the run, though that's not news. Seems every year media wags sound the alarm early on, but then DE Richard Seymour and the boys figure something out halfway through the season. However, watching how bad the Pats were on the goal line against Carolina (has anyone touched Stephen Davis yet?), one couldn't help but recall the way Tedy Bruschi used to flow to the carrier in those situations. ... The Patriot running game is ugly at this point. Dillon logged at least 75 yards in every single game in 2004, but he hasn't done it in either of New England's first two games. Many (including myself) predicted the absence of Kris Jenkins would give Dillon some room. Nuh-uh. He's only a so-so play against Pittsburgh's tough run D. ... TE Daniel Graham got another vulture TD last week. It's getting so people are starting to call him "Jesse Crain" around the locker room. It's obvious from watching the game, though, that Ben Watson is the guy New England wants to throw to -- he was wide open for a long TD but Brady missed him, while Graham seems set as mostly a blocker.
Jets: That sigh of relief you hear from the Meadowlands isn't the peanut vendors recovering from two home games in two straight days. No, it's from the Jets' brass, who just learned that RB Curtis Martin's MRI came back negative, and he'll likely be fine for Sunday's home game against Jacksonville. Martin hurt himself very early in the first quarter and still rushed 31 times against Miami last weekend; nevertheless, when your best player needs a knee-scan, you hold your breath. Martin is a decent play against a Jags' D that's proven stouter against the pass than the run (Edgerrin James went for 128 yards rushing and 39 receiving last week against Jacksonville). However, as many folks on this site have indicated, if you're a Martin minion, you should consider RB Derrick Blaylock, the quick-as-lightning scatback made obsolete in KC last year by Larry Johnson's emergence. He's pretty clearly the go-to guy in case the unthinkable happens to Curtis. It doesn't seem as though rookie RB Cedric Houston is ready. ... Of course, Martin only used his 31 rushes against the Dolphins to gain 72 yards, a 2.3-per-carry average. That, friends, won't get it done. Could it be the Jets miss OT Kareem McKenzie more than we all thought they would? Nevertheless I still think Martin could surprise this week, especially with S Donovan Darius out for the year. ... Last week I asked whether TE Chris Baker was the new Antonio Gates. Survey says: Brrrr! Baker caught one ball for three yards in Week 2. New York's starting TE will usually be a decent play, because QB Chad Pennington is both weak-armed and strong-minded, meaning he's a dump-o-holic. But expecting Baker to be a top-10 TE is too much to ask. ... WR Laveranues Coles had the Jets' best offensive game in Week 2, notching five catches for 68 yards and a seven-yard score. Love to see Pennington look for Coles in the red zone, something he never did with Santana Moss (also known as "straight-ahead Santana"). Clever pundits who foresaw a return to glory for Coles after two looong years in Washington may have been right. Remember, this is a guy who's posted two 1,200-plus-yard seasons in the NFL, and he's not even six feet tall. Even though the Jags' corners are playing out-of-this-world, I think you start Coles this week. ... Hey, and there was a Justin McCareins sighting last weekend. He caught five balls for 87 yards against Miami, looking like the big slot receiver the Jets advertised in '04. I'd sit him against Reshean Mathis and the surprising Kenny Wright this weekend, though.
Ravens: Hey, uh, I drafted the Ravens defense with my fifth-round pick. Should I be concerned that the Titans outgained Baltimore in the first half 228-23? ... Hopefully you didn't buy that QB-Kyle-Boller-Is-The-Key-To-Our-Season baloney Brian Billick had the media regurgitating all summer. Billick dropped Boller fast. It would've been easy for Billick to put any QB controversy to bed, but he refused. Anthony Wright will probably get a minimum of three more starts, and if he shows anything at all (p.s., against the Titans he didn't), you wouldn't be surprised to see Boller stay on the bench with his toe owie. ... RB Jamal Lewis made many of us Fantasy geniuses look pretty stupid last week, registering nine yards on 10 rushes. Gee, Jamal, I'm sure your many owners out there are just pleased as punch your legal troubles are behind you, but how's about we quit with the line-of-scrimmage dancing? Let's face it: If running behind OT Jonathan Ogden can't get you more than a 0.9 yards-per-rush average, you are not very good. I don't think it's necessarily that J-Lew's ankle is killing him. I think it's playing for the perpetually anemic Ravens' offense. ... Baltimore, in case you didn't know, is off this week, meaning you don't have to make any snap decisions about Lewis just yet. Regardless, unless you get bowled over, you can't trade the man, unless you enjoy getting nickels for your crisp dollar bills. Lewis will have a pretty tough game against a stout Jet run defense in Week 4, though. ... TE Todd Heap will continue to improve from his shoulder woes, as evidenced by his solid five catches for 56 yards in Week 2. He looked far crisper running routes, and should team with WR Derrick Mason to be a fine receiving duo all year. Both of those guys are safe to start every week. However if you're playing WRs Mark Clayton, Clarence Moore or Randy Hymes, I think you're nutso.. .. Most vexing, as my first note indicated, is the lack of performance from the Ravens' D. This is supposed to be the one sure thing among NFL defenses, isn't it? Outside of DE Terrell Suggs's back, which hasn't caused him to miss a game yet, the unit is healthy (unless you consider DB Deion Sanders' ossification an injury), but it's not taking away the ball like it did last year (and the year before that, and the year before that...). Granted, Baltimore stiffened each time Wright caused a turnover, forcing three field goals, and the defense was victimized by one safety the Ravens gave up on special teams, and played a perpetual game of losing field position. But it also only generated one sack, and S Ed Reed has been nonexistent. Still, you have to think the guys will fare well in Week 4 against the conservative Jets.
Bengals: Break up the Bengals! That was one heck of an offensive output against Minnesota last Sunday. QB Carson Palmer is obviously the real deal; just watching him manage his throws is reminiscent of someone like Troy Aikman: smart, doesn't put himself in too many bad positions, doesn't have John Elway's arm but can always get the ball where it needs to go -- and with some mustard on it. Impressive, especially against some really solid Viking corners. The sky's the limit. He's a must-play from here on out. ... I love to see WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh as a primary option in the red zone. In the first half alone, Palmer looked T.J.'s way three times there, hitting him for one TD. Then, as a special added bonus that excited football nerds across the nation, Housh ran for a score as well. ... Of course, it helps that Housh runs alongside Chad Johnson, who is simply the best WR in the world not named Randy or Terrell. Mr. 7-11 made Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot look like minor leaguers in that game, and they only make up one of the best cover tandems in the NFL. It's a tough challenge for a team to score a ton of points in Chicago, but my bold prediction: Johnson will hit the century mark again against the Bears this week. ... Cincinnati's yards-per-play in the first half? Ten! ... It's very much worth noting that WR Chris Henry was clearly Palmer's third option in the passing game last weekend. Given how explosive the team looks through the air, Henry becomes very ownable in deep leagues, even if you're not quite ready to start him yet. It appears that Kelley Washington's chance has come and gone. ... PK Shayne Graham is quietly a very good option at Fantasy Football's most annoying position. Love those guys on teams that score a lot. ... Yes, RB Rudi Johnson's starting position is safe, as he logged 22 carries for 90 yards and right now is the pinnacle of consistency. He's a must-start. However, if you ask me which runner looked best for the Bengals in their dismantling of the Vikings, I'll say Chris Perry. He's playing just about every third down, and he looks amazing. I must admit I wasn't a huge fan despite his big numbers at Michigan, nor did I understand Cincy selecting him where they did (26th overall). Color me doofus. Perry is electric. He rushed nine times for 47 on Sunday, caught four for another 33, and had a super-long edge rush for a TD called back on a chintzy penalty. Pick him up now. ... I can't recommend the same for the Cincinnati defense. Yes, they have a favorable schedule, and yes, they contained Daunte Culpepper and friends. But many of those turnovers (7 of them!) were the result of terrible Viking play, rather than stellar Bengal play. Two INTs came when Nate Burleson and Troy Williamson allowed good passes to bounce off their hands, and two more came when Culpepper had clearly lost interest in the game. And really, come to think of it, is there a worse coach in the NFL than Mike Tice? (Put your hand down, Mike Martz.) After these first two weeks for Minnesota, all these penalties and all these turnovers, and given that he clearly lost his team's attention after they got down by three TDs on Sunday, how does this guy still have a job? Anyway, the Bengal D is still a matchup squad, though they could be a pretty good option against the Bears this week.
Browns: Whoa. Now that was unexpected. QB Trent Dilfer threw for three TDs. WR Braylon Edwards broke one big for an 80-yard score. TE Steve Heiden, last seen yodeling in the Swiss Alps, caught six balls for 104 yards and two scores. It wasn't exactly a dominant performance, but Green Bay is terrible and Romeo Crennel has his first win, and if you saw this coming, you are more Swami than Berman. Can this continue? Well, this week against Indy on turf probably isn't the best venue for a continued resurrection. ... The question, as we pick through the carnage of the Brownies' ugly first win, is whom can you safely own and/or start? I'm still staying far, far away from Dilfer. He's still Trent Dilfer, which means he's a game manager, and if your DBs cover his primary option, he's going to jump around. How about Heiden? He's a much-picked-up guy this week, and if you need a tight end, I suppose there are worse players. However, before you get too excited, I ask you to grab the file marked Baker, Chris. ... Edwards is still the third wideout on this team, behind Antonio Bryant and Dennis Northcutt, but that can't last. He's the #3 overall pick, and he's going to supplant Northcutt in the season's first half. ... The real puzzle here is the running back situation. RB Reuben Droughns ran 20 times for 50 yards, not exactly doing his best Barry Sanders, if you know what I mean. William Green logged nary a carry. It seems to me there's still a place warm for RB Lee Suggs, once he gets over his high ankle sprain -- which could be this week, but is more likely to be Week 5, when the Browns return from their bye. In the meantime, keep away from any of these guys against the Colts this week. Indy's offense is going to take out some frustration on Cleveland's week secondary, so the Browns' running game will be unneeded. ... Start Dilfer? Well, he's the NFL QB of the Week, if that means anything, and this'll be a situation where the Browns will throw a lot. But it's playing with fire. You have better options; I just know you do.
Steelers: Last week I predicted that RB Willie Parker would lead the NFL in rushing after Week 2. I was wrong. Cadillac Williams is the leader. Parker is four yards behind him. Now, let's not get carried away; Parker is not an elite rushing option. He's simply played against two very bad defenses. A question I've gotten a ton this week is: Should I play Fast Willie against the New England defense? I say: Yes. You have to be unimpressed by the Pats' run-stopping abilities (especially when it comes to Stephen Davis at the goal line): Opponents are rushing for 98 yards a game against these guys, which isn't good. S Rodney Harrison is making too many tackles. You know the Steelers are going to stay committed to the run all day, and try to keep this the kind of low-scoring, bloody-nosed affair they imagined for last year's AFC Championship Game. That means Fast Willie time. RB Jerome Bettis won't play, and while Duce Staley may play (he's practicing this week), he's not ready to carry the mail. ... I suggested maybe you shouldn't start WR Hines Ward last weekend if you had better options, only because I was worried about a blowout at Houston. Well, unless your better options logged better than 84 yards receiving and two scores, you hate me a lot right now. No such worries against New England this week. With a wounded cornerback corps for the Pats, expect Pittsburgh to mix things up occasionally, and that means Hines at Heinz. ... On the other hand, I'm still not happy enough with Ben Roethlisberger to recommend him as a QB1. I think Pittsburgh will win this week, but right now, with this offense and this head coach, he's a caretaker, not a weapon. ... The Pittsburgh defense continues to be my absolute favorite this year. Seven points allowed in the first two victories is a fine start. DT Casey Hampton, in particular, has been a man among boys while plugging the Titan and Texan defenses. Much of New England's O-Line scheming will center around Hampton.
Texans: My lord, does QB David Carr stink. A sleeper of mine this offseason, Carr has proven to be the kind of disaster that gets coaches fired. (Hello -- or rather, goodbye -- Chris Palmer!) Watching his second-quarter, Statue-of-Liberty-to-the-other-team fumble, I found I couldn’t turn away, no matter how horrific the scene was. His QB rating for the year is 47.9. Heck, give me a pretty-boy whiffle haircut, and I'm pretty sure I could do that. Oh, and I'll take Carr's seven years at $46 million, too ... Then again, that's not really the job I'd want to have. I think I'd rather take the job of defensive coordinator, as long as I got to play the Texans every week. Here's the strategy I'd employ: I'd cut up some pieces of paper, write the name of a different blitz on every one, throw them in a hat, and pick one out at random before every play. That's all you need to do against Houston. Any blitz -- and I mean any blitz -- results in a sack. All this is why former Texans offensive coordinator Palmer is on the street this morning. ... It's frustrating to be a WR Andre Johnson owner (trust me, I know), but having watched the Texans get dismantled by the Steelers, I can tell you that you can really only blame Johnson for one play: A drop on a short crossing route near the goal line, where Carr didn't quite lead him enough and Johnson was probably thinking how much it was going to hurt when Chris Hope killed him. Otherwise, scheming against Houston is simple. Every time Johnson runs a route beyond 10 yards, a safety rolls directly toward him, regardless of whether it's a run or a pass play. Every time Johnson runs a route within 10 yards, a linebacker cuts off the flat, again, regardless of whether the play is designed to go to Big Andre. Until Houston proves it has another option, that's going to be the story. ... RB Domanick Davis was a disaster in short-yardage situations once again, and I think I know why. He hesitates. Give it to him on 3rd-and-two, and he stands there waiting for a hole. Then Dom Capers gets frustrated with him, takes him out, puts in Jonathan Wells, and Wells does the exact same thing. Someone should really send these guys a tape of Curtis Martin. ... The Texans have a bye in Week 3, so fortunately you won't need to think about whether to start them. Next time out, they'll take on the red-hot Bengals.
Colts: I remember sitting in Vegas during the Super Bowl a couple years ago, watching the Patriots play the Panthers. The first quarter was drawing to a close, and Adam Vinatieri had just missed a gimme field goal. As the time ticked down, a few guys in the giant ballroom where I was watching the game shouted "5...4...3...2...1...yeah!" I was mystified, then I figured out: They'd taken the very long odds that the first quarter of the Super Bowl would go scoreless, and they'd just made some serious dough. Last weekend, I wondered: What would the payoff have been if you'd bet that the Colts-Jags game would go 0-0 at the half?... You're an RB Edgerrin James owner, sitting at home, watching the crawl go by, seeing that the Colts had scored and that QB Peyton Manning still had no TDs passing. You're privately thrilled, waiting for EJ's line to come up...and you see he doesn't have a TD either. Then you see some dude named Ran Carthon. Looks like EJ's got a new handcuff in town, and he's Maurice Carthon's kid. (Carthon, you'll recall, was the guy who tormented Joe Morris owners back in the 1980s.) Dominic Rhodes is returning kicks and not much else, plus he hurt his shoulder last week. James Mungro is also out. ... Jacksonville's defensive squad -- especially Reshean Mathis and Kenny Wright -- were terrific against the Colts last week, sticking with the Indy WR group long enough for the various tricks and zones Jack Del Rio employed to work. The same will not be said for the Cleveland Browns this week, and Manning & Co. are peeved. Expect a high-octane output from everyone on that offense, and start them all. You should especially start EJ; if I was a guy who wrote a "ranking" column, I'd probably put him No. 1 on my list. The Browns' Romeo Crennel is the coach who outfoxed Manning so many times with the Pats, and the way he always did it was to drop a bunch of guys into coverage and confuse the QB. That, combined with the Colts' backup RB injuries, will mean a ton of carries for James. I'm serious: 150 yards and three scores are not out of the question.
Jaguars: Bad news for Jags' defense owners: S Donovan Darius is out for the season with a torn ACL. A big hitter and a big guy, especially in run support, Darius is replaced by Deke Cooper, who's much more of a special teams player than someone who can key a run defense. ... QB Byron Leftwich is fine. He tweaked a groin (and we all know how painful that can be), but will definitely play against the Jets. He's an OK play. ... The WR Matt Jones train has left the station. Are you on it? I'm not. In keeper leagues, yes, he's definitely someone to own. But he's going to be too inconsistent as a third or fourth option to be startable. Last week's production? One catch, nine yards, two rushes, seven yards. Pass. ... No turnovers for Jacksonville's offense against that suddenly-tough Colt D last weekend, but six sacks allowed, and some hits that reminded many of Leftwich's limpiest games for Marshall. ... WR Jimmy Smith had a chance to come up big on the game's final play last week, and maybe was interfered with trying to get into the end zone. But his owners know it's a good sign that Leftwich always looks Smith's way. He only logged three catches for 49 yards last week, but I like him first among all Jags against New York this weekend. ... RB Fred Taylor is having a really nice start to his season, and considering how well Indy's defense played, the fact that Taylor logged 81 yards rushing (on only 16 carries) is terrific. ... The Colts let LB Mike Peterson go in the offseason because they didn't think he was a middle linebacker; he runs around a little too much, and doesn't take on blocks the way he should. Against his old team last week, however, Peterson may have proved Indy made a mistake. He made 13 tackles and an interception for the Jags' last week. Despite his obvious athleticism and ability to make tackles on the outside, I wouldn't have expected him to look so good so fast in Jacksonville.
Titans: Jeff Fisher believes RB Chris Brown will play this weekend, and considering this week's game is on turf at St. Louis against a crummy run defense, that's news. Brown missed a large chunk of the Baltimore game last week because of a concussion; in his absence, Travis Henry lugged the ball, carrying 18 times for 62 yards. The truth is, if either of these guys were the unquestioned starter, they'd be a no-brain play against the Rams, but since they're probably going to split carries again, we're looking at a wacky, "Three's Company" type of scenario once more, where everyone keeps mistaking everyone for everyone else, people keep getting carried off on stretchers, Don Knotts wears paisley, and no one gets lucky. Sit them both. ... QB Steve McNair hit nine different receivers in the unexpected win over Baltimore, and looked quite controlled doing it. He's no longer a threat with his legs, but it seems he'll toss an occasional gem, kind of the football equivalent of Greg Maddux. The frustrating thing, though, is McNair looked like Tom Brady spreading the ball which, if you've ever owned a Pats wideout, you know is pretty frustrating. On a day when the Titans passed for 200 yards against the supposedly the league's staunchest D, it's discouraging, for example, that WR Drew Bennett caught exactly three balls. And that was as many as anyone else caught. I don't know what to tell you: There are yards and TDs to be had against St. Louis, but I'd be pulling a Carnac if I claimed to know who was going to get them. If you paid dearly for Bennett, you've got to start him. But Troy Fleming, Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby, Tyrone Calico, Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe are also in on the act. Ugh. Troupe is still my favorite among this group. ... PK Rob Bironas kicked three FGs against Baltimore. Which definitely means you should waive your starting PK and go get him ... First-rounder CB Pacman Jones still isn't starting, though he's logging significant minutes. In the meantime Tony Beckham is keeping his eventual spot warm for him. Man, that Beckham is amazing. First a soccer star. Then he marries the hot Spice Girl. Now this? ... Note: I was being sarcastic about Rob Bironas. ... DT Albert Haynesworth, a solid but unspectacular plugger in the middle, sprained his knee in last week's game, but claims he's all right. However, expect Steven Jackson and the Rams to test that assertion mightily this Sunday.
Broncos: CB Champ Bailey is reportedly risking a more serious injury by playing with his dislocated shoulder, but he's never missed a game in his seven-year career, and that includes playing last weekend against the Chargers -- when he intercepted perhaps the worst-thrown ball of the young season from Drew Brees on the first play of the second half, and completely changed the game by scoring a TD. Bailey will keep playing, and though he's still an over-rated cover guy who takes too many chances, the Broncos obviously do still need him in there. ... Another RB situation I don't want any part of is How The Bronco Turns: In Week 2, RB Mike Anderson bore the brunt, rushing 15 times for 49 yards. However Ron Dayne made a more-than-cursory appearance, getting the ball eight times and rushing for 44 yards. Then, crushing the hearts of soap opera fans everywhere, some dude named Kyle Johnson scored Denver's only offensive TD on his only carry. Argh. For the record, this week Anderson and his sore ribs are "probable," Dayne is fine but also very, very fat, Tatum Bell's ankle makes him questionable, and the team just re-signed last year's surprisingly effective midget, Quentin Griffin, perhaps to return kicks, or perhaps to screw up everyone's Fantasy team. I keep getting asked who I like amid this mess. And the truth is: I don't like any of them. Forced to choose, I stand by Bell, but only for a little while longer. If he continues to miss time, he's going to find himself in Mike Shanahan's doghouse, and ask Reuben Droughns how fun it is to live there. ... TE Jeb Putzier has a total of eight catches for 83 yards this season, with no scores, but he had a long TD called back against the Chargers last weekend, and continues to be a relatively good big-play threat. Now that the charade of calling Stephen Alexander a "starter" is essentially over, it's safe to keep using Putzier, as you can assume he'll break a couple big ones this season. ... How will Denver fare at home Monday night against the Chiefs? Your guess is as good as mine. The KC defense held up pretty well at Oakland, while the Bronco offense still lacked consistency ("erratic, thy name is QB Jake Plummer") against the Chargers. I'd continue to start WR Ashley Lelie because the Broncos are clearly throwing it to him more and in different types of situations. I guess I'd start Anderson if I had to, and Putzier. Plummer? I suppose if you bought into him during your draft, you like living on the edge and you believe he'll have more good games than bad, so start him. If you don't own him, it probably means you passed on him because he makes Martin Lawrence looks stable. Be glad you don't have a decision to make this week.
Chiefs: RB update in KC: Priest Holmes' shoulder is fine; Larry Johnson's bail bondsman, also fine. Holmes didn't even miss time during last Sunday night's win against the Raiders, and he'll definitely play Monday night in Denver. Johnson, meanwhile, had his trial delayed by the prosecution, so he'll be able to continue assaulting NFL defenses for the foreseeable future. ... Looking for a reason the Raiders were able to (relatively) contain the Chiefs' running game last week? Look no further than OT Willie Roaf, who missed the game with a gimpy hammy, and who I think will also miss the Bronco game. KC still netted 125 yards on the ground, but compared to the 198 they stuck on the Jets, it's downright anemic. ... TE Tony Gonzalez is still without a score this year, sending his owners -- each of whom probably drafted him several rounds too high -- to the nearest ledge. He does still have nearly 100 yards receiving on the season, however, and it's clear that QB Trent Green is still looking for him in the red zone. It's just a matter of time, and Gonzo loves the national spotlight, so Monday could be the night. ... As for Green: It's weird, isn't it, that KC is 2-0, and his QB rating is 79? It's possible he's feeling the effects of his granny leg surgery, or it's simply possible that the QB rating system is a bit heavily weighted toward TD passes, of which Green has exactly zero. Again, don't fret, and start him with confidence this week. ... Whither the wideouts? Eddie Kennison has been fine, catching eight passes for 128 yards and becoming a pretty solid fantasy starter, including this week against a potentially overmatched Denver secondary. Samie Parker is probably more exciting when he catches the ball, as evidenced by his impressive 50-yard strike against the Raiders last week, but he also fumbled, which won't win him any play-calling friends. I'm not ready to start Parker yet, but he's worth owning.
Raiders: Best play I saw all weekend: WR Randy Moss in his old Vikings purple tossing a lateral to the Burger King guy. ... It's distressing to see WR Ronald Curry tear his Achilles again, meaning he'll miss another full season of airborne Raider fun. It's hard to say if Curry will ever be the same player, but this harkens back to his days as a hoopster Tar Heel, when he was the object of Dick Vitale's on-air screams and seemed to have as much upside as Allen Iverson. Supposed to be a good kid, too. It's a shame. ... In QB Kerry Collins, Moss has found his football soul mate. Collins has a tiny head but one heck of a big arm, and it doesn't take much thinking to hoist balls Moss's way. Dude was double-covered on every single play last week, and it didn't matter: 127 yards, a 64-yard score, and another TD called back because of a bogus offensive pass interference call. If Moss can keep up this pace (and can anyone come up with a ton of reasons -- other than jail time -- that he can't?), he'll log a 2,000-yard receiving season, with 16 TDs. Okay, maybe I'm not buying the 2,000 yards. But I'm buying the 16 TDs. ... Collins is the living, breathing example of a guy you absolutely do not want starting for your real NFL team, but who is fantasy gold. His line Sunday night? 21-of-35, 263 yards and a TD. He actually hasn't thrown a pick yet this season, though his completion percentage is barely above 50 percent. But who cares? Keep flinging it Randy's way, my man. It'll be a hilariously fun game this weekend in Philly as Moss and Terrell Owens try to outdo one another. The Eagles will probably win big, but expect an aerial show that puts the Blue Angels to shame. ... Don't blame RB LaMont Jordan if his rushing stats aren't living up to your expectations. I mean, if you expected the Raiders to have a lot of leads this year, you are truly drinking the Al Davis Kool-Aid. However, the good news is that Norv Turner seems invested in keeping Jordan on the field even when Oakland is losing, so LaMont's got a team-high 11 receptions, making him even more valuable in PPR leagues. In any kind of non-shallow league you have to keep playing him, even in Philly this week. ... Forgotten in the Moss theatrics and Curry's problems is WR Jerry Porter, who hasn't gotten hurt. Much. Yet. With Curry out, Porter could really be getting his chance to shine. I'd sit him this week, though.
Chargers: What does the league's best player have to do to get a little love these days? RB LaDainian Tomlinson has only carried the ball 38 times this year, lending credence to the theory that Marty Schottenheimer is too dang clever for his own good. The run-pass ratio is way off in Chargerland, and even LDT is wondering why; it's not like the Chargers have been way behind in either of their losses this season. You have to expect things will change against the Giants this week. In the meantime, 62 YPG is not why you drafted Tomlinson first overall, even if he is a lock to keep scoring in every game. ... Fun to see TE Antonio Gates back in the fold up in Denver last week. Essentially a WR1 for the Chargers, he was QB Drew Brees' main target all day, racking up 80 yards receiving (but no scores). Having Gates around makes WR Keenan McCardell less of a possession guy and more a down-the-field guy, meaning he has the big-play value Fantasy players love. It also makes WR Eric Parker unstartable. ... Brees sure is making everyone forget about his terrific 2004, isn't he? Don't set fire to your "Play Phillip Rivers" t-shirts just yet. That throw into the flat that Champ Bailey returned for a TD was horrific, as is Brees's 67.0 QB rating. The Giants have been very solid on D so far, though it was against Arizona and New Orleans. Still, I think I'd be looking elsewhere this week if I had options; I want to see Brees win a few games again before I buy him as a legit fantasy threat again. ... Clearly, you're starting Gates and Tomlinson every week, and as I just said, I like McCardell for some possible big plays. I'm personally also starting the Charger D this week against Eli Manning and the Giants. Expect San Diego to bottle up Tiki Barber and then make Manning perform well in front of the fans he scorned a couple years back. Plus, while I did think the Chargers would struggle to replicate last year's success, they're way too talented to go to 0-3. (Uh, aren't they?) I'm looking for a big game from LB Donnie Edwards, a few picks and a few sacks.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy expert for http://www.talentedmrroto.com
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