Everyone knows to start Peyton
Manning every week, regardless of the match-up. But not all decisions
are as easy at that one. So to help you decide who you should
start and who you should bench I have identified the players at
the QB, RB and WR positions that should excel this week and should
be started, as well as the players who will struggle this week
and should be benched. Don’t forget the Thursday night game—get
those lineups in on time. And no need to worry about your star
player being off; the bye weeks are over and everybody plays!
FYI, this week there are no Thursday, Saturday, or even Monday
Night football games—everyone’s playing on Sunday.
Congratulations to those of you who won your league championships.
And to the small minority playing in your title game this week,
good luck! The only caution I have is to watch for starters who
might be rested or pulled early because their game is meaningless
(i.e., Patriots, Jets, Eagles, and Chiefs players).
Let's start with the QB position. You shouldn't have to be told,
but just in case... always, always start the following players
when healthy: Peyton
Vick and Philip
Rivers. Now on to the question marks...
Quarterbacks Who Will Outperform Relative
To Their Draft Position And Recent Hype
Eli Manning @ WAS
Has there been an uglier, more mismanaged, more embarrassing team
than the New York Giants in recent weeks? Sure, Coughlin and his
flunky Kevin Gilbride need to vamoose, but Eli is a major problem
the Giants are stuck with “for life.” Yeah, he has
a lot of TDs this year, but he has almost as many INTs. He leads
the league in INTs and total turnovers (counting his 5 lost fumbles)!
Still, he’s good for 251 yards and 2 TDs per game, so if
you can absorb his 2 INTs per matchup, then he’s a good
option this week against the lowly Redskins pass defense. Washington’s
31st-ranked pass defense gives up 263 yards per game, and although
they’ve only given up 22 TDs in 15 games, I expect lots
of scoring in this game, especially with Washington giving up
the sixth-most big plays in the league.
Sam Bradford @ SEA
Bradford will get you 224 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT per game but
has his club on the brink of a division title if they beat the
Seahawks this week. Seattle, while amazingly still alive for the
playoffs in this division, has a horrible pass defense—29th in
the league. They give up 257 yards and 2 TDs per game and allow
the second-most big plays in the league (almost 5 per game). Bradford
is coming off his second-best career game and should keep the
momentum going against the team he threw for 289 yards and 2 TDs
against last time he faced them. It’s time for this rookie to
put the icing on his Rookie of the Year cake with another win,
a division title, and a playoff berth with another big outing
to cap off his regular season. I mean, did you see what Josh Freeman
did to Seattle last week?
Matt Schaub vs. JAX
Schaub is fifth in the league with 275 yards per game and his
INTs are low—just 12 on the year. The bad news was his drop
in TDs—29 last year and only 23 this year; the good news
is he’s been on a tear the last month—passing for
over 300 yards in every game and throwing for more than 2 TDs
in all but one of them. His 10 TDs over his last five games has
suddenly brought his TD totals between last year and this year
very close. You can expect his hot streak to continue against
the soon-to-be eliminated Jaguars and their 26th-ranked pass defense,
which gives up 250 yards and 2 TDs per game with 8.1 yards per
completion (second-highest in the league) and 65 big plays (fifth-most
in the league). Look for Schaub and company to be showing off
their Katy Perry fireworks this weekend.
Trent Edwards @ HOU
Not to be outdone by his counterpart on the other team, Edwards,
who will be filling in for the injured David Garrard, couldn’t
have picked a better game to start—against the league’s worst
pass defense. The Texans are last in the following passing categories:
yards per game (277), TDs (32), QB Rating (102.3), big plays (72),
yards per completion (8.4), pass completion percentage (66 percent),
and 40-plus yard plays (17). That’s a whole lot of “lasts,” people.
Garrard had been on fire recently, and we’ll see if it was really
him or if it’s Jacksonville’s offensive system. Even if it was
Garrard, you should be able to see the possibility of Edwards
having a big game against the Texans this weekend.
Quarterbacks Who Will Under Perform
Relative To Their Draft Position And Recent Hype
Whitehurst vs. STL
I’m putting an awful lot of stock in the Rams’ 20th-ranked pass
defense but, c’mon, it’s Charlie Whitehurst, right? The Rams are
only giving up 227 yards and 1 TD per game, plus they have the
10th-best QB rating (80.1). Their 43 sacks are better than anyone
besides the Chargers, Giants, and Steelers (who all have 44),
and their 57.3 percent pass completion percentage is sixth-best
in the league. In Whitehurst’s lone start this year he went 12
for 23 for 113 yards with 1 TD, 2 INTs, and a fumble. I’m sure
he’ll do better this week against the Seahawks, but it might not
be by much.
Tebow vs. SD
Tebow followed up his pro debut, where he passed for 138 yards
and a TD and ran for another score, with his first career win
last week, where he passed for 308 yards and again threw and ran
for TDs. But before his legend grows any further (we’re such bandwagon
hoppers in this country), let’s see how he handles the Chargers’
top-ranked pass defense this week. San Diego is out of the playoffs
and ownership has already confirmed the return of head coach Norv
Turner (shocking to me) and the GM, so what do they have to play
for? Not much; still, they are a much better team than the Broncos.
Look for San Diego to hold Tebow in check to their average of
177 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and 3 sacks per game.
Cutler @ GB
Cutler’s 222 yards per game is just 21st in the league this year—a
little low considering the offensive coordinator is Mike Martz.
His 23 TDs are decent and his 14 INTs are OK, but his 46 sacks
are still the most in the league, and his 10 fumbles (6 of them
lost) lead the league. After being destroyed by New England three
weeks ago, Cutler has responded with back-to-back games with 3
passing TDs—and he had 4 total last week against the Jets as he
ran one in. To say he’s on fire right now is an understatement,
but I’m recommending benching him this week because of two things:
the desperate Packers and their fifth-ranked pass defense at home,
and the overall inconsistency of Jay Cutler. He might be able
to best the 260 yards per game Green Bay gives up and match the
1 TD per game they allow, but he’s also likely to help increase
their INT (1.5 per game) and sack (3 per game) average—plus he’s
always good for a fumble or two. He could also be rested if the
game gets out of hand one way or the other.
The Freeman fantasy is over.
Freeman @ NO
Freeman’s 213 yards per game might only be 25th in the league,
but his 23:6 TD-INT ratio is better than everyone other than Brady
and Cassel. Yes, he’s coming off a career-best game against Seattle
last week in which he completed 81 percent of his passes for 237
yards and 5 TDs! It’s a shame the Buccaneers won’t make the playoffs
this year—they are an exciting young team and their head coach
has got to win Coach of the Year. Still, New Orleans is fighting
for playoff seeding, and while this should be a great game, I
would put my money on the Saints’ veteran, second-ranked pass
defense over the second-year QB. New Orleans allows just 191 yards
a game and their 11 TDs are the fewest in the league. If you’ve
been riding the Freeman express, this might be the stop you want
to get off at.