Comfortable sofa? Check. Sunday Ticket package? Check. Lightning-fast
internet connection? Check. Tall, cool glass of High Life? Check.
As my aviating colleagues might say, "approach checklist complete."
The NFL season is upon us and the atmosphere in the Shot Caller
household is positively electric. In fact, the only thing that could
possibly kill this buzz is the piercing shriek of our nine-month
old rook, Baby Shot Caller. Sigh. That's the problem with rookies.
They just don't understand the MAGNITUDE of the game. Coming, honey!
Must Start: The Top 10
1. Daunte Culpepper vs. DAL
- He was the highest-rated passer in the NFC last year despite
having precisely ONE legitimate NFL receiver to throw the ball
to. Of course, that one receiver is a pretty good one. Good thing,
too, 'cause Marcus Robinson hasn't panned out as the #2 guy. Expect
healthy numbers against a banged-up Dallas secondary in Week 1.
2. Peyton Manning @ NE - Peyton
returns to the House of Horrors (Gillette Stadium) looking to
redeem himself for a horrible performance in last year's playoffs.
Whether he does that or not (he's 2-8 lifetime against the Pats),
I like his chances of putting up some pretty good numbers. There
isn't a better prepared QB in the league and you can bet your
bottom dollar he's done a little preparing for this one.
3. Michael Vick @ SF - The Fulton
County faithful are up in arms over Mr. Vick's less-than-stellar
performance thus far. Apparently, they're unaware those were PRESEASON
GAMES! Come on, people. You really think it MATTERS whether he
grasps the intricacies of Coach Mora's hybrid West Coast offense?
I snaked him in the middle of the third round this week and couldn't
believe my luck.
4. Marc Bulger vs. ARI - The
job is his so it's time he started acting like it. If the one-to-one
TD-to-INT ratio persists this season, we'll be seriously disappointed.
Don't expect that to happen as he still has some of the best toys
to play with (Holt, Bruce, Faulk) and even some new ones (Jackson
and Sh. McDonald) added to the mix. Anything less than 28 TDs
must be considered subpar.
5. Steve McNair @ MIA - The
losses of Justin McCareins (trade) and Ty Calico (injury) are
gonna make things tougher on this old warrior but only a little
bit. Precious few QBs can carry a team almost single-handedly
but he's one. Luckily, if Chris Brown emerges this year as a viable
back (something Eddie George hasn't been for two years), he won't
6. Matt Hasselbeck @ NO - If
preseason predictions mattered AT ALL, the 'Hawks would already
be booking travel arrangements for Jacksonville. A lot of the
hype surrounds Mr. Hasselbeck and his enigmatic corps of receivers.
Can they take the mantle from St. Louis as the most dangerous
aerial attack in the league? No question. Will they? I wouldn't
bet the farm on it.
7. Brett Favre @ CAR - I've
run out of superlatives for this guy and you folks are probably
tired of hearing them, anyway. Suffice it to say, the tank is
not dry despite a relatively mediocre preseason. If Walker and
Ferguson emerge as it appears they will, the Pack won't need to
rely on Ahman Green and a stellar O-line as much as they did last
year. Not that they couldn't if they had to. Keep in mind Carolina's
only apparent weakness on defense is in the secondary.
8. Chad Pennington vs. CIN -
One man's loss is another man's #2 wideout. McNair lost his vertical
threat, the aforementioned McCareins, and now Pennington appears
to have all the pieces in place for a brilliant season. Cincy's
defense is no great shakes and with so many new faces, they might
need a few games to get in a groove. I smell "high-scoring
affair" in the Meadowlands.
9. Donovan McNabb vs. NYG -
Shouldn't the addition of T.O. move McNabb up the list a bit?
That's one school of thought. The other is this: the Eagles still
don't have a decent #2 receiver and T.O. gets hit with constant
double-coverage. Constant double-coverage means fewer balls thrown
his direction. Fewer balls thrown his direction means
10. Trent Green @ DEN - At least
Philly's only missing a decent #2 receiver. K.C. is gonna be hard-pressed
to find a decent #1 receiver. Johnnie Morton won't start this
week and Marc Boerigter is out for the year. Still, with Priest
Holmes and a stellar offensive line controlling the clock, it
might not matter who Green is throwing the ball to. He put up
solid numbers last year (4,000+ yards and 24 TDs) with virtually
the same cast.
Grab A Helmet:
Tom Brady vs. IND - He's the
poster child for why fantasy football isn't real football. If
I were a GM, I'd want him on my team. As a fantasy GM, there are
definitely better options. Still, his 3600+ yards and 23 touchdowns
last year tell us he's not the worst option. Don't expect the
addition of Corey Dillon to impact those numbers much, either.
New England will still control games with a short passing attack
and a suffocating D.
Jake Delhomme vs. GB - The Carolina
brass gave him a boatload of money in the off-season but I think
the jury's still out. He threw only three more TDs than picks
last season. Nevertheless, he's facing a Mike McKenzie-less Pack
secondary and might even have the good fortune of victimizing
not one but TWO rookie corners on Monday night (Ahmad Carroll
and Joey Thomas). Anybody have an Advil?
David Carr vs. SD - He's the
sexy choice for next big superstar and, according to my wife,
just plain sexy. Whether he busts out this year will depend largely
on how well the #2/#3 receivers perform. Andre Johnson is gonna
be a star but only if some of the heat can be diverted to the
other side of the field.
Joey Harrington @ CHI - He's
MY choice for next big superstar and not just because he's a former
Duck. OK, that's part of the reason but I digress. Simply put,
Joey has more weapons to work with than Carr. Chas. Rogers demonstrated
in just a handful of games last year that he's gonna be a force
and Roy Williams is a lead pipe lock to make some noise as a rook.
No better way to get this offense rolling than facing the banged-up
Bears in Week 1.
Carson Palmer @ NYJ - Detecting
a trend yet? The league is experiencing an infusion of young talent
at the QB position. How well these guys perform depends on a lot
of things, mostly what kind of talent they have to work with.
They don't come much more talented than Chad Johnson so you've
gotta like Palmer's chances of putting up good numbers. After
all, he struggled at SC until a guy by the name of Mike Williams
Grab A Clipboard:
Rex Grossman vs. DET - How are
the Bears going to score points this year? They just traded away
their only legit receiver and they're using a journeyman and an
underachiever to tote the rock. Oh, and they're going with the
32nd ranked starting QB in the league (my opinion). If you're
relying on Grossman, you're either a BIG Gators fan or in need
of some fantasy assistance. Can't help you with the Gators part
but I can certainly offer the assistance: DON'T start this guy!
Jay Fiedler vs. TEN - He won
the least exciting QB derby in history and will get the nod over
former Duck, A.J. Feeley. If that's not reason enough for me to
dislike him, try this on for size: he's thrown 61 career TDs against
58 career picks. Not the kind of numbers you're looking for from
a fantasy signal-caller
or any signal-caller, for that matter.
Brad Johnson @ WAS - All of
a sudden, his best target appears to be Michael Clayton, a rook
from LSU. That's a far cry from the days of Keyshawn and Keenan.
If you believe Joey Galloway/Tim Brown can still be productive
and that Bill Schroeder can actually BE productive, by all means
go with Bull. If not, I'll be over in the not-a-fan section.
Mark Brunell vs. TB - Speaking
of QBs in their declining years, Brunell gets a chance to prove
there's some tread left on that tire for a revamped team in D.C.
His preseason was pretty shaky, though, and I'm not enthralled
with the 'Skins' receivers outside of Laveranues Coles. Not to
mention, Coach Gibbs recently intimated he'll be using Clinton
Portis like the Fish used to use Ricky Williams (think pack mule).
In other words, Brunell might not get much of an opportunity to
put up big numbers.
Jeff Garcia vs. BAL - This is
a tough one because I really do think Garcia is chronically underrated.
Unfortunately, I don't think Butch Davis knows what he's doing
and that type of thinking tends to infect the entire team, starting
with the field general. Garcia will throw some and run some and
hand off some (to whom, we're not sure) but I just don't see him
being in the top 15 by year's end. He also draws a tough matchup
in Week 1 against the best defense in football.