Indianapolis at New England
(-3.5) , 9:00 pm
Welcome Back. No, we’re not talking about Mace’s return
to hip-hop, fresh from a spiritual awakening that actually retarded
his personal growth. We’re talking about the return of the Colts
to Gillette Stadium, where they lost the AFC Championship Game in
January to the Patriots, who as you know went on to Super Bowl glory.
Peyton Manning — who has most likely had recurring nightmares about
Ty Law since that fateful day — comes off his best season to date
but is facing an enormous challenge in Week 1 against the Pats.
His counterpart, bubble-gum pop sensation Tom Brady, looks to repeat
his solid performance (22-37, 237 & 1 TD) and get the Super Bowl
Champs off to a rip-roaring start.
The Colts will try to pick up where they left off, when they outscored
the Pats 14-9 in the second half last year. Manning will be more
careful this time around and avoid Law by picking on Pats cornerback
Tyrone Poole. Don’t expect big numbers from Manning. He’ll rely
on a balanced approach and the running game of Edgerrin James, who
is by all accounts healthy and poised to have a great season. Although
Marvin Harrison is a stud receiver who should be in your lineup
every week, don’t expect a career day from him against this secondary.
The Colts defense has come a long way from two seasons ago, but
I think the Patriots can move the ball effectively through its secondary,
which is inexperienced and prone to exposure. LB Cato June moves
into LB David Thornton’s old spot on the weak side (he’s now the
strong-side linebacker) and could be a fantasy factor.
The Pats have added the much-maligned, often-beleaguered Corey Dillon
to their already solid offensive arsenal and shuffled Antowain Smith
off to Tennessee, where he has assumed a backup role. Dillon has
a lot to prove in his first game with the Patriots, who will play
a ball-control game. Unfortunately for Troy Brown fans and fantasy
owners who like to own Patriots receivers, this year promises a
variety of options for Brady, with Brown being considered a severely
diminished factor from years past. Brown actually prepared for limited
use at defensive cornerback during training camp, allowing the Pats
to keep six wideouts on their roster and still have another free
hand at CB — just in case they need it. While Brown struggled with
injuries last year, talented young receivers Deion Branch, David
Givens and Bethel Johnson are supplanting the elder statesman’s
numbers with some stats of their own. With all that said, I do believe
Brady will throw the ball to Brown occasionally, as long as he’s
healthy, but with less frequency as they reach mid-season. While
it’s not unusual for early season games in the AFC East to get pretty
woolly when it comes to offense, I think this one’s going to be
a lot like the January jaunt, which saw limited scoring and a few
key plays determine the outcome.
Final Score: Pats 23, Colts
Arizona at St. Louis, 1:00
There once was a team from L.A.
that moved to St. Louis one day.
They developed some “O” But let Kurt Warner go,
and now have to Faulk it away.
I know that was ridiculous, but it felt nice, and I wanted to loosen
up before this preview, because there’s a chance I’ll pull a hamstring.
Arizona is still the doormat of the league and St. Louis is still
just a couple key defensive starters away from being a real contender.
For our purposes, none of that stuff matters — not even the limerick.
The intriguing part is that this game could make or break Week 1
for lots of fantasy owners.
The Cards were snake-bitten by serious injuries to RB Marcel Shipp
and WR Anquan Boldin in the preseason and will test starting QB
Josn McCown this year minus both those weapons. I hate saying this,
but although Emmitt Smith is older than the Grand Canyon, he still
could provide some fantasy value as a third running back in leagues
that require one. If you don’t have Emmitt, I wouldn’t rush out
to get him, and if you already have Emmitt as your #2 RB, you need
to reevaluate your draft strategy. Smith might put up decent numbers
in a third of Arizona’s games this year, and this will probably
be one of them. At WR, there are a lot of question marks as to who
McCown’ s go-to guy will be. There haven’t been too many wildly
successful rookie receivers in the league’s history, but Pitt product
Larry Fitzgerald could be the next. I also like Bryant Johnson’s
chances to catch 50+ passes this year, especially with few other
experienced receivers in the mix.
I would stay away from McCown this game unless you have no other
options, just because there’s an outside chance he throws five picks.
The Rams should have one of their easiest games in the past few
year for several reasons. Unlike the past four seasons, there aren’t
too many lofty expectations for this team. Faulk is healthy and
eager to prove his doubters wrong (although time will tell whether
his body can still hold up for a full season), and Marc Bulger’s
eyes will be wide open as he gets little pressure from the Cardinals
weak defensive line and picks apart the mediocre secondary.
Torry Holt is a questionable but if he does play, he’s a must-play.
So is Isaac Bruce. You may also see some second-half production
from Stephen Jackson, who the Rams will use to spell Faulk.
I don’t see much hope for the Cards in this one, although WRs Fitzgerald
and Johnson should both be safe plays this week as garbage time
will begin somewhere in the third quarter. ..
Final Score: Rams 44, Cards
Baltimore (-3) at Cleveland,
Other than acquiring backup QB Kordell Stewart and WR Kevin Johnson,
not much has been done to improve the offense in Baltimore, if
you consider those two moves improvements. The good news is that
RB Jamal Lewis is not (yet) incarcerated and former defendant
Ray Lewis still leads the best defensive team since Johnny Cochran,
Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey and Carl Douglas. The Browns remain
very afraid of Jamal Lewis but will probably focus a little bit
more on him this time around.
The Ravens run a conservative offense, not necessarily a great
thing for Kyle Boller, Travis Taylor and Kevin Johnson owners.
Jamal Lewis set an NFL single game rushing record against the
Browns last year, so obviously he’s the go to guy again. Don’t
expect anything quite as spectacular from Lewis this time around,
but it would be fair to anticipate at least 100 yards on the ground
and a score. Boller is the real question mark, and I would tend
to avoid him like the plague until HC Brian Billick proves he
is willing to have his young QB throw the long ball, which he
is very capable of doing. The Ravens defense may very well pitch
a shutout here, and is an absolute lock this week as a team defense.
The Browns hoped to pave road to the playoffs this year by picking
up veteran QB Jeff Garcia. They have obviously not been watching
game tape of his play over the past couple years in San Fran.
Garcia’s best days are behind him and while the Browns will focus
less on willy nilly distribution via their seemingly endless options
at wide receiver and more on the evasive running style of Lee
Suggs, I don’t think this is the year. This will not be a nice
opening game for Suggs owners, who will have to decide whether
he will play around gametime. They may also be in for a disappointing
year. Willie Green, although currently the backup, is too good
to remain on the bench all year. If you have Garcia, seek medical
assistance immediately, and if you are that anxious to play a
Browns offensive player in your starting roster this week, make
it TE Kellen Winslow, Jr.
Final Score: Ravens 23, Browns
Cincinnati (+4.5) at
N.Y. Jets, 1:00 pm
I don’t think the Bengals were as good as everyone thought they
were last year, and evidently, the oddsmakers agree. Sure, they
have a lot of heart, but Jon Kitna played well above his head
last year, and now they’ve got Carson Palmer, who looks to me
like a younger version of Tim Couch, who is now getting cut more
often than clients of an Edward Scissorhands’ massage parlor.
Once the 1980s were over, Ohio football just went down a steep,
The Bengals may call on rookie RB Chris Perry occasionally, but
Rudi Johnson earned the starting job with some great performances
last year. Don’t hesitate to go with Johnson, who is on track
for a great season and might be capable of 1,300 yards or more.
While I would stay away from Palmer until he gets a few games
under his belt and proves himself at this level, I believe Chad
Johnson should still produce this week. He’s no longer a secret,
so just watch and see how he deals with double teams in the absence
of the injured Peter Warrick. Kelley Washington didn’t do much
as a rookie, but could pile up some statistics this year as a
decent possession receiver.
The Jets will finally begin a season with Chad Pennington as their
starting QB, a morale factor that might lead this team to big
things in 204. They match up well against the Bengals, who have
a weak defensive line and general confusion among the rest of
the unit. People will score against the Bengals this year, and
that bodes well this week for Pennington, RB Curtis Martin, and
receivers Santana Moss and Justin McCareins. Don’t hesitate to
play any of these guys if you’ve got them. Defensively, I always
like DL John Abraham, DL Shaun Ellis, LB Sam Cowart and LB Eric
Barton. The Jets biggest weakness on defense is their secondary,
which hasn’t been the same since they lost Victor Green and Aaron
Final Score: Jets 33, Bengals
Jacksonville (+3) at
Buffalo, 1:00 pm
If I didn’t own Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith in my league, I wouldn’t
even care about this game. It is, however, my charge to discuss
it with you, and prognosticate without prejudice. There are some
intriguing possibilities surrounding this game. One interesting
item will be Willis McGahee’s role in the Buffalo offense, which
has been running smoothly behind Drew Bledsoe’s capable, albeit
ancient arm. Another is the injury to Fred Taylor, which fantasy
experts (at least the ones that I listen to) say won’t be a factor.
I’m still a little scared, but I’ll be paying him Sunday.
The Jags are a much better team than they were before last season
because (1) Jimmy Smith is not serving his usual four-game suspension
and (2) QB Byron Leftwich has a few games under his belt and IS
the starting quarterback. Leftwich might throw some interceptions
against Buffalo trying to force balls into double coverage. While
there is no real second receiver on this team, I consider that
a blessing rather than a curse and just stay away from anybody
not names Jimmy Smith. Leftwich will not produce great fantasy
numbers against Buffalo — or anybody, for that matter, until he
finds someone other than Smith and Taylor to throw the ball to.
On defense, Mike Peterson will be the guy that produces big IDP
numbers game in and game out. The Bills have some great fantasy
players on both offense and defense, and will be a force to be
reckoned with even before McGahee is 100 percent. RB Travis Henry,
whom I’ve dubbed “The Reluctant Stud” wanted it known early and
often that he wouldn’t stand for split time with Willis McCheeseLeg,
claiming that he can’t get into a rhythm breaking up the offensive
workload. I hate to quote The Rock, but Henry really needs to
know his role and shut his mouth. If McGahee is healthy, he only
strengthens the offense. While it doesn’t make fantasy football
any easier for Henry and McGahee owners, I’m sure we’ll all cross
that bridge when we come to it. 2004 is an even number, so it
is safe to play WR Eric Moulds for the entire season. Rookie wideout
Lee Evans has impressed in camp, earned a spot as the #2 receiver,
and should get lots of looks from Bledsoe against Jacksonville.
Final Score: Bills 27, Jags
San Diego (+4.5) at Houston,
These two franchises both looked poised to gradually develop into
formidable contenders by 2005 going into last season, but only
Houston has made any strides towards the playoffs. San Diego has
gotten worse, and has further confused their quarterback situation
by drafting the NFL’s newest malcontent, Philip Rivers, who sat
out much of training camp because his agent told him he was special.
Good move, Philip, that kind of attitude is really going to turn
this franchise around.
The Chargers have really been hurt by the draft in recent years,
other than picking up Superstud LaDainian Tomlinson, who is the
future of the franchise. Against the Texans, he can pile up points,
but the Chargers will probably not get a win. It’s just a matter
of trends. The morale in Houston couldn’t be much higher, and
the morale in San Diego couldn’t get much lower. WR Kevin Dyson,
who looked like he might fit into the offense, was cut, leaving
a wealth of inexperience and question marks at the receiver positions.
And while Drew Brees got the starting nod from the coaching staff,
but he’s not getting it from me. Other than Tomlinson and TE Antonio
Gates, the only players you should have starting for the Chargers
is LB Donnie Edwards, at least until other leading tacklers emerge.
The Texans have several players this year that are prepared for
big seasons, including QB David Carr, RB Domanick Davis and WR
Andre Johnson. Although WR Corey Bradford fell on a lot of cheatsheets
before the draft, this is one game to play him if you managed
to pick him up somewhere in the later rounds. I’m still not convinced
that Jabar Gaffney is all that great, but he’’s worth a look if
you are really strapped at receiver. On defense, there’s lots
of talent, with Jamie sharper heading up the list. He’s a stud
LB and a must-play each and every week. I had him last year and
he was the anchor to my defense, which was consistent all year,
won me plenty of games and was instrumental in winning my league
championship. There’s also LBs Jay Foreman and Kailee Wong as
well as DB Marcus Coleman. They are all good defensive plays this
Final Score: Houston 27 San
Tampa Bay (+2.5) at Washington,
There are high expectations for both these teams heading into
2004. The Skins should be pretty good, adding veteran QB Mark
Brunell and superstar RB Clinton Portis — probably the best back
in football. While Brunell is old and never fully reached his
potential in Jacksonville, Rich Gannon was in a similar situation
when he went to KC and then Oakland, where he found his groove
in systems that suited his style.
The Bucs are coming off a very disappointing season, but have
new GM and don’t have to listen to Warren Sapp’s chatty yap any
more. While the fat bastard was a dominating presence on the D-line
and an occasional goal line tackle-eligible receiver on offense,
he could have been more of a distraction last year than anything.
Backup DL Anthony McFarland has been waiting his turn for some
time now, and should produce. Brad Johnson can still lead this
offense, but Washington has made great strides to improve its
line pressure and use more blitzes from its secondary with rookie
FS Sean Taylor, a 6’0”, 231-pound beast out of Miami in the Steve
Atwater mold. This will not be Brad Johnson’s best game this year,
and will probably be one of his worst. I wouldn’t anticipate too
much from the Bucs running backs — who are ALL overrated. The
Skins defensive line has added Cornelius Griffin and Philip Daniels,
two veteran lineman with run stopping capability. For owners worried
about Washington’s offensive production — don’t. Even against
the Bucs, Portis will be solid, Brunell will be surprisingly productive
and WR Rod Gardner will return to his 2002 form. Even Darnerian
McCants might get some more throws his way, although the red zone
is his favorite stomping ground. The only question mark is Laveranues
Coles, who has been battling a toe injury since last year. Coles,
a five-year veteran, is used to pain and should still produce.
Final Score: Redskins 17, Bucs
Detroit at Chicago, 1:00
I wish I could just write another limerick and be done with this
one. Wait, maybe I will.
A fantasy owner from Chi-town,
Got stuck in the draft in the third round.
He took the A-train,
but to his disdain
Thomas Jones got the ball and scored touchdowns.
The Lions have the makings of a surprise team in 2004, and a Week
1 matchup in Chicago might just be the emotional boost this team
needs to turn their losing ways around. Joey Harrington is a solid
young QB and now he has some receivers to complement his talent.
Charles Rogers, Tai Streets and even rookie Roy Williams are all
worthy of being on fantasy rosters this year and both Rogers and
Streets are safe plays against the Jets. Stay tuned to see how
much Az-Zahir Hakim plays a role in this offense, but if you’re
looking for a wild card WR that might produce, look his way. Kevin
Jones is the big-time back Detroit has needed since Barry Sanders
retired, should get 1,000 yards this year if he stays healthy,
and is a smart play against a largely useless defensive unit.
The Bears just don’t scare me anymore, and I wouldn’t want to
own any of them on my fantasy team this year. I know everybody’s
high on Thomas Jones, but it’s not like the guy has been producing
over the past few years. In fantasy circles, he’s drawn comparisons
to Garrison Hearst, but Hearst’s career turned around when he
joined the 49ers, who at the time were a good football team. I
don’t like Grossman, wouldn’t be caught dead with him as my QB,
and don’t like his matchup against a good secondary in Detroit.
The receiving situation is anybody’s guess, and while I like David
Terrell the best, it’s only because of his potential. Justin Gage
is the safest play at WR.
Final Score: Lions 20 Bears
Oakland (+4) at Pittsburgh,
The Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a long rivalry
that goes back to the days of John Madden and Chuck Noll, Ken
Stabler and Terry Bradshaw. With both teams looking to reestablish
themselves as AFC contenders, this game might set the tone for
the first half — even all — of the 2004 season. While the Steelers
stood pat on defense — still their forte — the Raiders went out
and got a couple of fat guys — Warren Sapp and Ted Washington
— to strengthen their woeful run defense.
The Raiders have hired head coach Norv Turner, shed Charlie Garner
and will use Tyrone Wheatley as their primary back this year.
Wheatley is a fast, power back with good instincts and lots of
experience. He fits with Turner’s offensive style and may even
start the season off with a 100-yard game. Rich Gannon has reached
a mid-life crisis, while backup Kerry Collins is probably on the
verge of both an emotional meltdown and alcoholic relapse — events
that I am sure will coincide at some point this season. It also
remains to be seen if WR Jerry Porter can handle the burden of
being Oakland’s go-to-guy. Jerry Rice is well into the fossilization
process but other than Porter, he still provides the most potential
from a fantasy perspective.
The Steelers didn’t do much to improve their defense, but at least
east nobody got shot in the ass this year, putting them one-up
on the 2003 season already. Pittsburgh did make some key changes
on offense, however, adding Duce Staley to the backfield. Staley
played well near the end of the season last year and seems rejuvenated
in the Steel City, which could really use a receiving threat out
of the backfield to complement their solid corps of wideouts.
Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randle El are most productive
threesome since Melissa Etheridge, Tammy Lynn Michaels and David
Crosby. I anticipate lots of scoring, as big plays from the Steelers
receivers will make the difference and break the game open against
the overrated Raiders secondary.
Final Score: Steelers 34, Raiders
Seattle (-2) at New
Orleans, 1:00 pm
One of the better matchups this weekend, and not just because
it will be a battle between two top five running backs. Seattle
is everybody’s favorite to win the NFC West, but the Saints have
a shot at a wild card this year, and a win against the Seahawks
would get them off to a wonderful start.
The Seahawks have an offense with some of fantasy football’s best
options at the skill positions. Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander,
Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson are great stat producers that
should be in the fantasy lineup every week. The offense even boasts
two tight ends that are capable of putting up decent numbers week-to-week.
The only major problem with the Seahawks defense is the injury
to LB Chad Brown, who will miss all of this month. That means
Anthony Simmons should have a boatload of tackles this week, and
puts additional pressure on the secondary. Play Seahawks D-backs
if you’ve got any.
The Saints have an aging defensive unit that missed a lot of tackles
last year, lending to big fantasy points on other end. It also
means that when they fall behind, Deuce McAllister catches tons
of balls out of the backfield. He could emerge as the best fantasy
running back this season. While QB Aaron Brooks is capable of
putting up gaudy numbers each week and doesn’t throw too many
picks, he has been inconsistent handling the football and lost
11 fumbles last year. I expect a good game from him against Seattle,
but wouldn’t play him against strong pass rush/secondary combinations.
At WR, Joe Horn is always a gamer and Donté Stallworth is ready
to perform in a gamebreaker capacity after a couple of disappointing
seasons. TE Eddie “Boo” Williams is fast emerging as one of the
best fantasy tight ends in football and is a big play threat.
Final Score: Seattle 31, Saints
Tennessee (-3) at Miami,
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, their city’s abbreviation — MIA
— has taken on a whole new meaning with the unexpected retirement
of Ricky Williams. The guy was a apparently smoking spliffs and
eating God knows how many different hallucinogens in Jamaica with
Ziggy Marley when he decided to cut his dreads off under a waterfall
(good move) and hang up his spikes (bad move). Why couldn’t this
guy just read Peter Mathiessen’s The Snow Leopard like everybody
else and just pretend to gain spirituality? And where’s P. Diddy
to bring this guy back to reality when you need him?
The Titans must be chomping at the bit to flaunt new starter Chris
Brown in a regular season game. He’s got moves, can run faster
than ten miles an hour (a feat that sometimes challenged Eddie
George) and looks ready to assume the responsibility that his
predecessor had of perennially leading his team into the playoffs
with an efficient, hard-hitting running game. Steve McNair and
Derrick Mason have better chemistry than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan,
and they’ll need it this week as the Titans will be without WR
Tyrone Calico and the Dolphins still have a solid, talented secondary
with lots of experience. Kicker Joe Nedney, who I happened to
draft on Sunday, got hurt in practice this week and is probably
lost for the season.
The Dolphins have been searching for a starting halfback all of
training camp, and traded for Rams RB Lamar Gordon, who was the
odd man out in that backfield. It remains to be seen if the Dolphins
can use Gordon, Travis Minor, or Sammy Morris effectively, as
even The Artist Formerly Known As Dreadlocks had problems finding
holes in Miami last year. Jay Fielder’s still the starter at QB,
but one that provides little fantasy value, especially playing
Tennessee, a defense that is particularly strong against the pass.
Playing WR Chris Chambers is always an option, but I would stay
away from predatory mammal - turned aquatic mammal Marty Booker
until he proves to be part of the offensive plan.
Final Score: Titans 24 Dolphins
Atlanta (-3.5) at San
Francisco, 4:15 pm
Hippies and other folky types used to sing “Where have all the
flowers gone?” in San Francisco in the 1960s. Now everybody’s
wondering what happened to their beloved 49ers. With Owens, Hearst
and Garcia gone, the team looks a lot different. Atlanta’s only
problem is not knowing what to expect from half the guys they
are playing against.
The 49ers will introduce the Falcons, however, to RB Kevan Barlow
very quickly. With Keith Brooking questionable, the Falcons will
have problems stopping Barlow. WR Brandon Lloyd will be their
next option, and if the Falcons double Lloyd or load up against
the run, WRs Cedrick Wilson and veteran Curtis Conway will beat
them deep. On defense, look from good numbers from LB Julian Peterson,
LB Derek Smith and DB Tony Parrish. I have a feeling people will
be surprised by the 49ers on Sunday.
The Falcons, and must-play (yes, even with the bad hammy) QB Mike
Vick, will look early and often to RB Warrick Dunn and WR Peerless
Price, but will also run a bit on his own. It’s in his blood.
I’m not really big on T.J. Duckett, who has shown potential, but
should be the feature back in a different system. Dez White put
up numbers in Chicago and should continue to do so in Atlanta,
unless Brian Finneran becomes a more popular target for Vick.
On defense, I like DL Patrick Kerney and LB Chris Draft.
Final Score: 49ers 23, Falcons
N.Y. Giants (+8.5) at
Philadelphia, 4:15 pm
There’s a lot of excitement in New York about the Giants’ fantasy
football hopes this year. No one is more excited than me, because
I just ignore Giants and look elsewhere for fantasy production,
while all the Giant fans in my league try to figure out if Tiki
Barber is going to fumble or if Ron Dayne is no longer a fat turd
who gets no carries. Kurt Warner or Eli Manning? Who cares? Neither
will lead this team to the playoffs anyway. In Philadelphia, there’s
lots of excitement, too, but it’s for Terrell Owens, who whined
just enough to get traded to a Super Bowl contender.
The Giants are faced with lots of options on offense, including
Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard and of course
Dayne, who I would avoid like a lactose intolerant senior citizen
with a fridge full of rotten milk. Barber’s carrying the football
like a retarded kid clutching his “blankee”, but whether or not
that will help or hinder his overall fantasy production remains
to be seen. I can see Barber having a good day, but I don’t see
him getting into the endzone. Toomer and Hilliard will rack up
points if the Giants fall behind, like they always do, but don’t
count on big games from either. If you’ve got other options, explore
them. On defense, there’s a lot of new faces at linebacker, but
bank on Carlos Emmons and Barrett Green making some tackles. Third-year
linebacker Nick Greisen was a little dinged during training camp
with a strained hammy, so stay away until he proves he can play
The Eagles have a short list of solid fantasy producers, including
Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook and Owens. Freddie Mitchell
and Todd Pinkston have potential to contribute, but the overall
effect of T.O. will begin to tell the tale after Week 1. All the
receivers were useless last year, so I can’t see Owens having
too much of a negative effect. L.J. Smith looks like the new go-to-TE,
replacing Chad Lewis as the starter. On defense, there seems to
be anew guy putting up stats each week, so I favor DB Brian Dawkins
and former Titan DL Jevon Kearse, who is out to prove himself
all over again.
Final Score: Eagles 31, Giants
Dallas (+4.5) at Minnesota,
The Cowboys have started a trend in recent years of looking REALLY
horrible the first game of the season. As a Cowboy fan, I’m hoping
that trend ends abruptly on Sunday. But I’m also hoping to get
some kind of fantasy production from at least one of the Cowboys
that I drafted, and after looking at my roster on 11:30 p.m. this
past Sunday night, I was thinking I may have drafted too many.
Other than Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, the Vikings have some
question marks with answers that will start to emerge in Week
1 as well.
The Cowboys best fantasy player in 2004 will most likely be DB
Roy Williams, who is in on almost every play. On offense, Vinny
Testaverde might be a decent backup for some fantasy teams, but
I don’t project him to be a starter, and definitely not this week.
Julius Jones will get most of the carries this and every other
week, but a top ten running back he is not. Eddie George is only
an option if something happens to Jones, or if Bill Parcells has
been using the rookie as a decoy through all of training camp
(which is unlikely). I think Keyshawn Johnson might catch around
80-90 balls this year, but whether that will translate into lots
of yardage and — most importantly — touchdowns, remains to be
seen. He will have more than one, however, and the first might
come on Sunday. I’m not crazy about TE Jason Witten yet, but I
would have drafted him if he made it to the last couple rounds.
The Vikings have a studly QB, a studly WR, but weirdness at RB
and confusion on defense. LBs Chris Claiborne and E.J. Henderson
should emerge as the team’s leading tacklers, and both are great
IDP options as long as they are healthy. Corey Chavous and Brian
Russell are also options. I would tend to stay away from the running
back position as Dallas has a formidable run defense. WR Nate
Burleson is also a good option against a Dallas secondary that
has frequent lapses.
Final Score: Vikings 24 Cowboys
Kansas City (+3) at
Denver, 8:30 pm
Another division rivalry that will set the tone for 2004, these
teams match up well and always have great games. I anticipate
heavy doses of both Priest Holmes and Quentin Griffin, with turnovers
deciding who gets the W.
The Chiefs are without a great #1 wide receiver but have Holmes
and Tony Gonzalez, a similar situation to the Chargers minus the
foreboding dismay. They do have a good QB in Trent Green and a
capable defense that might step it up a little more this year.
I like to stay away from Chiefs WRs, because it’s always somebody
new every week that gets the TD. I’m not going to change that
system now. On defense, Greg Wesley plays up and gets lots of
tackles, but can stay back and bat down passes and is a good play
against a team that runs a predictable offense. I also like LBs
Shawn Barber, Scott Fujita and Mike Maslowski as well as DB Jerome
The Broncos can get it done with Griffin, who should grab 100
and a touchdown against the Chiefs. When and if Tatum Bell joins
the party, RBBC will be a possibility, but the job should be Griffin’s
for now. Jake Plummer is one of those QBS that I can’t bring myself
to draft, regardless of how high football pundits are on his progress.
How many chances is this guy going to get with fantasy owners?
The game could turn into a scoring battle, which is the only reason
to even consider Plummer. If you don’t any better options, I feel
sorry for you. At WR, I still believe in Rod Smith and am anxiously
anticipating the true arrival of Ashley Lelie, who has boatloads
of potential. Stay away from the TE situation, play LB Al Wilson
on defense and enjoy your chicken wings.
Final Score: Chiefs 38 Broncos
Green Bay (+3) at Carolina,
This is who should have played in the NFC Championship game last
year. It will be an entertaining Monday Night matchup, especially
with everybody’s favorite lunatic Brett Favre leading the aging
but still hungry Packers into Carolina to play the NFC Champs.
The Packers have a great quarterback, but he’s absolutely nuts.
Favre becomes more and more unpredictable with age and is still
a lot of fun to watch. He’s also a decent fantasy quarterback
for about eight weeks of the season —the only problem is deciding
which eight weeks they are. Ahman Green is among the best backs
in the game, and has figured out how to cut down on his fumbling.
The Packers WRs can all produce, and I think Donald Driver and
Javon Walker are both good options against Carolina, which is
weakest in its secondary. TE Bubba Franks should also enjoy some
good numbers. On defense, go with Nick Barnett and Darren Sharper,
the safest bets to put up tackle totals. The Panthers are a better
team than last year, and Jake Delhomme — who is my backup quarterback
— leads his team a lot like Tom Brady does. He will put up admirable
numbers, but shouldn’t be your starter unless he matches up really
well against an easily-exploited secondary. I also drafted DeShaun
Foster, but I’m not going to play him unless resident stud RB
Stephen Davis goes down. Until further notice, play Davis and
eat your potato chips. At WR, Steve Smith broke out last year,
and will continue to be Delhomme’s favorite target. Muhsin Muhammed
is a good wideout, and may produce decent numbers against the
Packers, who are in trouble on the corners. Defensively, there’s
no harm in playing defensive lineman Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers,
who will get a sack or two between them. Dan Morgan’s also good
bet to get at least 7-10 tackles.
Final Score: Panthers 23 Packers