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The Shot Caller's Report
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups

Those who have been waiting patiently (myself included) for the return of Michael Vick can take heart in the fact that fellow fantasy owners will be missing many of their own stars in the weeks ahead. The deluge of byes is upon us and we'll soon discover who did their homework on draft day…and who fed it to the family mutt. There may be nothing more frustrating than losing a stud tailback for a heated matchup with a hated adversary, but there's certainly nothing more exhilarating than watching a backup ball carrier scamper for 100 yards and a couple scores in his stead. Whether that happens or not has a lot to do with how capably you fleshed out your roster. Did you cover your tail with a solid #3 back? Or are you contemplating whether to start Shawn Bryson or Lamont Jordan? Time to pay the fiddler, folks.

Here are the must-start and should-start players for Week 4 in my not-as-humble-as-it-should-be opinion.


Must Start: The Top 10 Plus 1

1. Daunte Culpepper vs. SF - The only thing he's turning over these days is a new leaf. Still has yet to throw an INT. Don't believe Coach Tice, either. He'll play and (probably) shine provided he can avoid the Niners' fierce pass rush (13 sacks so far).

2. Tommy Maddox vs. TEN - Was efficient (but not spectacular) against the Bungles. Ward and Burress could murder a soft Titans' secondary that hasn't picked off a pass this year. Yes, they're the only squad without an INT.

3. Drew Bledsoe vs. PHI - What in the world was THAT? We'll give him a mulligan and assume the Fish were highly motivated. He's facing a similarly amped but wounded Philly D that's allowing opposing QBs to complete 70% of their passes. Even bad NCAA defenses don't do that.

4. Steve McNair @ PIT - What a stud. Only Culpepper has a better QB rating after three weeks. Pittsburgh's pass D has been fairly stingy but since George will be ineffective (see below), I like McNair's chances to air things out, especially if Tennessee falls behind.

5. Peyton Manning @ NO - If Reggie Wayne isn't a one-week wonder, the Colts could be something special. Peyton has flown under the radar so far (only three scores) but he's one sleeping giant you wouldn't wanna poke.

6. Jeff Garcia @ MIN - The Metrodome isn't kind to opposing QBs (ask Mr. Favre) and the Vikes' secondary leads the league with eight picks. Then again, this guy is just as nifty with his feet. Only McNabb has more rushing yardage through three games. Erickson seems committed to throwing the ball all over the lot, as well.

7. Donovan McNabb @ BUF - Speaking of McNabb…. A sub-50% completion percentage, no TDs, and two fumbles so far? He's not that bad, is he? Something tells me Andy Reid will have the boys frothing at the mouth come Sunday. Buffalo's D is significantly improved, however, and it could get worse before it gets better.

8. Kerry Collins (Bye) - Only completing half his passes (50.9%) but has thrown for the fourth-most yards in the league through three weeks (743). Of course, TD-only folks care more about the six TD passes. Either way you play it-yardage or no-Collins has something to offer.

9. Matt Hasselbeck (Bye) - It's probably a toss-up between him and Ramsey but the 'Hawks are 3-0. Of course, you might wanna start Ramsey this week since Seattle's not playing. Just a thought.

10. Brett Favre @ CHI - My head (a 67.6 rating and six picks) says he doesn't belong on this list. My heart (who's better over the last decade?) says he does. We'll give him one more week against a team he owns, shall we? After that, no promises.

11. Michael Vick (Inj.) - Is it just me or is the NFL a LOT less exciting without this guy around?

Grab A Helmet:

Patrick Ramsey vs. NE - Pop quiz: who's leading the league in passing yardage? You guessed it. Five scores against two pilfers isn't too bad, either, especially for a second-year QB playing for the meddlesome Ball Coach. He's a strong start against the below-average and Lawyer-less New England secondary this week.

Jake Plummer vs. DET - Like Eden's most famous denizen, this Snake will tempt you with his gift. Don't come crying to me when he inevitably disappoints. That won't be this week, by the way, since Detroit's visiting to Mile High.

Tim Couch vs. CIN - Holcomb ails so a motivated Couch gets another shot. I don't know the guy personally but I gotta think he's jazzed to make up for lost time. Plus, he's playing against fellow Ohio doormat, Cincinnati. There's a chance he's available in redraft leagues. Get him.

Jeff Blake @ STL - A slice of humble pie, please?…with extra crow? Not only did he make me (and likely others) look stupid last week. He did it against my beloved Pack. There is no God. Against the suspect Rams' D, he could surprise again.

Marc Bulger vs. ARI - Favre wasn't terrible against Arizona. He just couldn't get on the field. If Gordon can help shoulder the load and help St. Louis win the time of possession battle, Bulger could inflict serious damage. His numbers (462 yards, three touchdowns, two picks) have been pedestrian so far.

David Carr vs. JAX - Could face Byron Leftwich in a battle of promising, young signal-callers. Jacksonville's pass defense is so-so but mostly because nobody's needed to throw against them. Carr has put up good numbers (aside from too many INTs) and is starting to build a rapport with rookie wideout, Andre Johnson. I like this hook-up to produce for many years to come.

Doug Johnson - OK…I know this sounds crazy since he looked absolutely clueless against Tampa (95 yards and three INTs). Carolina's D is probably just as good but is also yielding over 300 yards per game through the air. Brunell went crazy in Week 1 and Brad Johnson did the same in Week 2. If Johnson is forced to pass (he will be), he could respond with a nice game.

Grab A Clipboard:

Drew Brees @ OAK - David Boston has been suspended and seems bound and determined to frustrate all expectations of greatness. Brees, unfortunately, will pay the heavy price. With Tim Dwight hurting, his #1 receiver this week will be Eric Parker. That isn't a good thing with an angry Raiders squad waiting (and stewing) in Oakland.

Joey Harrington @ DEN - Say it ain't so, Joe(y)! Our Ducks shock the nation on Saturday and you celebrate by throwing three picks on Sunday? A matchup with the red-hot Broncos in Denver doesn't sound like the cure for what ails this fellow quacker. Keep him on the bench for now.

Vinny Testaverde vs. DAL - Probably self-explanatory but just in case…. Vinny has thrown for some decent yardage (almost 250 per game) but Dallas opponents aren't even completing 50% of their passes. A punchless running game puts even more pressure on the aged veteran. He could surprise (he has before) but I'm not counting on it.

Trent Green @ BAL - His shaky numbers have been overlooked thanks to a torrid Chiefs start. Still, he's thrown five interceptions to three touchdowns and Priest Holmes IS the offense in KC. Facing the Ravens this week, you might wanna go in another direction.

Kyle Boller vs. KC - KC's defense is no slouch either and with a celebrated battle of titans on tap (Holmes vs. Lewis), Boller could be a non-factor. Not that he isn't usually a non-factor, throwing for only a shade over 100 bones a game. Luckily for Ravens fans, he's young and learning. .

Running Backs

Must Start: The Top 15:

1. Priest Holmes @ BAL - Gotta love cut and paste: "…he's worth 150-200 all-purpose yards and at least a couple scores." The High Priest faces the team that forsook him a few years back. Think he doesn't have something to prove? Baltimore better hope not.

2. Ricky Williams (Bye) - More touches generally means more points. Through three weeks, he's touched the rock a staggering 35 times per game. Thank your lucky stars if you face his squad this week.

3. Jamal Lewis vs. KC - Averaging an eye-popping 7.3 yards./carry so far against lousy opponents. Still, 7.3 per is 7.3 per. Faces stiffer competition this week as KC hasn't allowed a rushing TD yet.

4. Shaun Alexander (Bye) - Another heavyweight opponents needn't worry about in Week 4. Only downside so far is that he's not contributing in the passing game (seven receptions for 35 yards).

5. Ahman Green @ CHI - The Pack may be struggling but don't blame him. He's still a dangerous double-threat facing one of the easiest schedules in the league. Needs to stop putting the ball on the ground, however.

6. Clinton Portis vs. DET - Averaging 6.3 yards/carry without the benefit of a record-setting day. If he can avoid the annoying injuries (questionable), he'll move into the top five by year's end. Faces a dreadful Detroit D this week.

7. Stephen Davis vs. ATL - He's coming off a bye week and faces Atlanta's crummy front seven (135 rushing yards/game and six touchdowns yielded). If he doesn't score this Sunday, I'll eat my hat.

8. LaDainian Tomlinson @ OAK - B-R-E-A-T-H-E, Tomlinson owners. The kid managed to top 100 yards and find the end zone…finally. Now the bad news. The Bolts lost another O lineman (Vaughn Parker) and could have a tough time carving holes for him in the future.

9. Edgerrin James @ NO - 72 carries in the first three weeks (second to Ricky) renders questions about his knee moot. Unfortunately, now his back hurts. Biggest concern, however, is the lack of touchdowns. A below-average New Orleans D could be the tonic in Week 4 if he's able to go. If not, James Mungro is a sneaky pickup.

10. Deuce McAllister vs. IND - 11 carries for eight yards against Tennessee last week. Ick! He's got too much talent for a repeat performance. Then again, Indy's D is no slouch.

11. Moe Williams vs. SF - He may be a product of Minnesota's stellar O-line but who cares? 5.1 yards/carry says he belongs on the list. With Culpepper and Moss doubtful, he could shoulder even more of the load.

12. Tiki Barber (Bye) - Has more yards than anyone not named Priest or Ricky but hasn't found paydirt. He's also fumbled twice. If he steps it up, he stays. If not…

13. Fred Taylor @ HOU - Lemme get this straight. It's Week 4 and Taylor isn't on IR? He's averaging 5.1 per but, like Barber, needs to score more (read: some).

14. Travis Henry vs. PHI - Five touchdowns are the only thing keeping him in the Top 15. Averages a microscopic 2.2 yards/carry and has four receptions. Plus, he's banged up. Maybe that Willis McGahee selection wasn't so strange after all.

15. Marshall Faulk (Inj.) - How the mighty have fallen. The broken hand saves him from ignominy but he might lose this spot when he returns. Stay tuned.

Grab A Helmet:

Kevan Barlow/Garrison Hearst @ MIN - Talk about job sharing! Barlow has 39 touches to Hearst's 37. Only Hearst's touchdowns separate the two. The situation isn't ideal (obviously) but you could do worse and there's no doubt the O-line has something to prove after a woeful effort against the Browns.

Lamar Gordon vs. ARI - The waiver wire snatch du jour, he should fill in ably for Faulk. He's averaging 5.1 per carry and is a capable receiver. Arizona's D is nothing special, either, despite the stellar performance against Green Bay.

William Green vs. CIN - It's time, kiddo. He's getting the touches (17+ carries a game) and now he gets the opponent. Cincy's defense is giving up 152 yards/game on the ground.

Troy Hambrick @ NYJ - Hasn't lived up to expectations and may not. For now, he's all Dallas has. On the bright side, he's facing an atrocious Jets run defense in Week 4. Could Carter's passing actually loosen things up for this horse? I never thought I'd say that.

Jerome Bettis vs. TEN - Purely a hunch but the Bus seems destined to become a touchdown specialist. That's a good thing in TD-only leagues. Tennessee stuffed Deuce last week but stopping this freight train on the goal line could be another story entirely.

Stacey Mack vs. JAX - I trashed him last week and he didn't disappoint (13 carries for 39 yards). That said, he could score against the lowly Jags on Sunday. Could last week's garbage be this week's gold? Use him on a case-by-case basis since his days as a starter are surely numbered.

Grab A Gatorade:

Warrick Dunn/T.J. Duckett @ CAR - Don't say you weren't warned. These two clowns ran it 12 times for a mere 13 yards last week. If they thought Tampa was tough, wait'll they get a load of Fox's boys.

Curtis Martin vs. DAL - 158 total yards in three games and no scores. The years and the touches are starting to catch up with Mr. Martin. He faces a highly underrated (& well rested) Dallas D in Week 4, to boot. Need another reason to sit him? Vinny Testaverde.

Eddie George @ PIT - Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…. He got on the scoreboard last week and even reached the century mark. Of course, it took him 29 carries to do so. 2.9 yards and a cloud of dust won't get you very far against the Curtain at Heinz. I'm willing to bet he lays an egg. Any takers?

Amos Zereoue vs. TEN - Just when we thought he was cementing his position, Cowher called on the Bus for red zone and clock-grinding duty. Ouch. If you can trade him, you might want to do so…quickly.

Corey Dillon @ CLE - Lost his spot in the Top 15 and may not return. He hasn't performed so far and now he's iffy health-wise. Which is really too bad since Cleveland's run defense is soft with a capital 'S.'

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Must Start: The Top 15:

1. Randy Moss vs. SF - Rumors swirl that his injuries are more mental than physical. If he's truly in full ball-demanding mode, the Niners could be in for a long day. Andre Davis (of all people) lit them up when crunch time arrived last weekend.

2. Terrell Owens @ MIN - #1 vs. #2, and a national TV audience at the Heftydome. Can't freakin' wait. Owens is the type of receiver who seems to relish a big stage & a worthy opponent. Which is kinda like saying Homer Simpson is the type of cartoon character who seems to relish a worthy sandwich. Duh.

3. Laveranues Coles vs. NE - He leads my league in fantasy points at the receiver position. He's also facing a questionable Pats' secondary. If he doesn't score big points, I'll be shocked.

4. Hines Ward vs. TEN - Solid as a rock (almost 100 per and a score a week) and facing a Titans' D that yields too many catches. Maddox will be looking to exploit and Ward will be Weapon 1A.

5. Plaxico Burress vs. TEN - Weapon 1B.

6. Amani Toomer (Bye) - Only 13 catches but makes the most of them (300+ yards and 2 touches). Alas, he's an observer in Week 4.

7. Marvin Harrison @ NO - Has scored fewer fantasy points than Jermaine Lewis this year. Jermaine Lewis is on injured reserve and didn't play last week. Hmmmm…. Don't jump ship yet but don't expect typical Harrison numbers. Reggie Wayne could steal points (finally) and Edge has looked good to date.

8. Chad Johnson @ CLE - I won't stop until every fantasy gamer recognizes him as a great (not good) receiver. Makes difficult catches look easy. Cleveland's pass defense is deceptively average (162.3 yards/game) because it can't stop the run.

9. Eric Moulds vs. PHI - Disappeared against Miami but Philly's M*A*S*H unit of a secondary could be the antidote. Bledsoe will be eager to make amends for a dreadful performance and the #2/#3 wideouts (Reed and Shaw) are crummy.

10. Torry Holt vs. ARI - You don't sit anyone against Arizona and if Gordon struggles, Bulger will air it out. Holt, as usual, will likely be his favorite target.

11. Donald Driver @ CHI - Got his feet wet in the desert and should be back at full-strength on Monday night. Favre has made a living off the Bears. Sit him at your peril.

12. Joe Horn vs. IND - The scoreboard could resemble a pinball machine on Sunday night and Horn will probably contribute. He hasn't set the world on fire yet (18 catches for 199 yards and a score) but that's gotta change soon.

13. Derrick Mason @ PIT - Leads the league in receptions and might have a big game if Tennessee struggles to move the ball on the ground (they will).

14. Andre Johnson vs. JAX - I'm breaking numerous rules here by inserting a rookie receiver who plays for a bad team. This guy is something special, though. He doesn't get a ton of help from Bradford or Gaffney but still can't be stopped.

15. Jeremy Shockey (Bye) - Moves to the head of the tight end class thanks to Gonzalez's ineffectiveness. He won't help you this week but will in the immediate (and foreseeable) future .

Grab A Helmet:

Anquan Boldin @ STL - I was wrong. I'm sorry. He's big, fast, and runs good routes. Ride the hot hand until he hits the rookie wall (a near certainty).

Reggie Wayne @ NO - Speaking of hot hands, Wayne blew up in Week 3 (10 catches, 141 yards, and two scores). I figured his value has never been higher and promptly traded him. Here's hoping I don't regret that decision.

Isaac Bruce vs. ARI - The cagey vet can still play (19 grabs for 252 yards) and faces the lousy Cardinals' D this week. Will always compete with Holt for touches but should see plenty this Sunday, at least.

Ashley Lelie vs. DET - Has only five catches so far…for 153 yards. Even the math-phobic amongst you can figure that yards/catch average out. Facing the Lions' woeful secondary, he's ready to explode.

Rod Gardner vs. NE - Lav Coles is casting a pretty lengthy shadow these days but Gardner is finding points, as well (175 yards and two scores). New England's defense is good but not great. The former Clemson Tiger is a good start in Week 4.

Peerless Price @ CAR - The talent is unquestionable even if his coach's ability to devise a passing scheme is. Carolina will snuff the Falcons' running game so Price should get an opportunity to shine.

Grab Some Wood:

David Boston (Susp.) - Just seeing if you're awake.

Antonio Freeman @ CHI - Driver's return signals the end of the Freeman/Favre reunion tour. If you need him to start, you probably have bigger issues, anyway.

Tony Gonzalez @ BAL - I'm actually thinking (seriously) about dealing him. Vermeil is determined to make the Chiefs a one-trick pony and that trick is named Priest, not Tony. Get something for him while you still can.

Charles Rogers @ DEN - Joey Heisman's struggles will continue in Denver and Rogers won't make an impact. After a blistering start, he's come back to earth (10 catches, 92 yards, no TDs in Weeks 2 and 3).

Good luck, mates.