Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ NE
– Why did it take three weeks for Coach Schottenheimer to
figure out L.T. deserves at least 50% of his team’s touches?
It’s not like the guy is, you know, GOOD or anything. Though
he only ran the rock 21 times (for a preposterous 192 yards and
three scores), he also caught six balls (for 28 more) and threw
a touchdown pass for good measure (sweet!). Forget about matchups
when it comes to this guy.
2. Shaun Alexander @ WAS –
Thanks to Tomlinson, Alexander’s four-TD explosion in the
Emerald City ranked as only the second best performance of Week
3. Not that his owners cared much. When you get upwards of 40
fantasy points from your meal ticket, you’re almost guaranteed
a victory. He won’t get that many this week against a stingy
‘Skins squad but he should still be good for 80-100 yards
and a couple scores.
3. Carnell Williams v. DET –
Contrary to popular belief, the polls are still open for rook
of the year voting. It only seems like this kid has already landed
the hardware. The Caddy has yet to rush for fewer than 128 yards
in a game and has proven in three short weeks that his allegedly
fragile frame can definitely handle the rigors of the NFL (a league-leading
88 carries thus far). Start him against a Detroit squad that gave
up a buck-forty to Thomas Jones in Week 2.
4. Julius Jones @ OAK –
Thomas’ younger brother has been every bit the workhorse
Williams has been thus far, accounting for almost half the touches
in Dallas’ balanced attack. This week, he draws an Oakland
squad that ranks near the bottom in total defense. Do you smell
high-scoring affair? I sure do. Start him.
5. Rudi Johnson v. HOU –
It’s hard to call any Cincy starter a disappointment at
this juncture but I definitely expected more from him through
three weeks. Of course, who needs a running game when you have
folks like Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson sharing the huddle?
Give him a go against Houston’s 31st-ranked run defense
this weekend. I promise you won’t be disappointed much longer.
6. Deuce McAllister v. BUF –
Believe it or not, the only team worse than Houston v. the run
is Buffalo (174 yards/game), largely considered one of the best
defenses in the league before the season began. A suffocating
secondary still puts the Bills in the top 10 overall but they’d
better batten down the hatches against Deuce or they could be
staring at a 1-3 start.
7. Willis McGahee @ NO –
The best way for Buffalo to avoid that 1-3 mark? Give the rock
to McGahee and get outta the way. He has no passing game to take
the pressure off but, in spite of that, he still managed to grind
out 140 yards and a score against the Dirty Birds last Sunday.
He should find a lot more breathing room against New Orleans’
cranky bunch this weekend in San Antone. Whether it will be enough
to secure a victory is another matter entirely.
8. Edgerrin James @ TEN –
It seems all anyone wants to talk about these days is the Colts
underachieving passing game. Lost in the hubbub is the Colts’
perfectly healthy running game and, more specifically, Edge. He’s
on pace to set career marks for yardage and I gotta think that’s
by design. Tony Dungy is smart enough to know that the only way
to keep the ball outta Tom Brady’s hands come playoff time
is to keep it IN James’ hands. At least, that’s my
9. Brian Westbrook @ KC –
He’s touched the ball 19, 18, and now 19 times in his first
three tilts. Coincidence? Nothing’s a coincidence when Andy
Reid’s running the show. Clearly, he and the Eagles’
brain trust have found Westbrook’s sweet spot and it happens
to be just short of 20 touches per contest. Hard to argue with
them, especially after the former ‘Nova star parlayed his
limited looks into 208 yards and two scores last week.
10. Steven Jackson @ NYG –
A rib injury prevented him from posting the big numbers we expected
in Week 3 but he’s been cleared to rock and roll in the
Big Apple this Sunday. That probably means he’ll be in for
a big day. I say “probably” because Marshall Faulk
filled in rather nicely against the Titans, raising the specter
of a picture-clouding platoon situation. Monitor closely and don’t
forget that wildcards don’t get much wilder than Mike Martz.
11. Priest Holmes v. PHI –
You saw the upside of KC’s two-pronged attack in the first
couple weeks. Now you’re familiar with the downside. When
opposing defenses force the Chefs to throw, Holmes and his running
mate, Mr. Johnson, pay the price. I suspect they’ll still
be good starting options in the long run but how good is now subject
to debate. He’s ever so slightly sliding down the list.
12. Corey Dillon v. SD –
Dillon arrested his own freefall by hammering at the Steelers’
stout front seven for 61 yards and two critical scores last Sunday.
Though he’s yet to rush for even 70 yards in a game thus
far, he HAS tallied four TDs in three weeks. Expect another one
(and maybe two) against the Bolts this weekend.
13. Clinton Portis v. SEA –
Someday, the ‘Skins will unearth a legitimate starting quarterback
to take the load off of Portis’ shoulders. Until such time,
he’s nothing better than a middle-of-the-pack feature back
who will occasionally surprise with a huge day. Lucky for you,
I’ve got a hunch he could very well surprise this weekend,
especially with the ‘Hawks’ average defense visiting
the nation’s capital.
14. Stephen Davis v. GB –
He actually tallied fewer yards (and fewer fantasy points) than
backfield mate, DeShaun Foster, last weekend. Unfortunately for
his owners, that may happen several more times this season. Fortunately,
it won’t happen this Monday night. The 0-3 Pack is coming
to town and that can only mean one thing: he scores a guaranteed
six on national TV. Mark it down, folks.
15. Tiki Barber v. STL –
Tiki took a backseat to Eli Manning and his vastly underrated
receiving corps last Sunday, but you don’t keep a stud like
him down for too long. Though the Rams are better against the
run than they have been, the numbers are skewed by games against
two paltry rushing attacks, San Francisco and Arizona. Keep him
in there and don’t be surprised if he outscores several
of the fellas ahead of him on this list.
Grab A Helmet:
Lamont Jordan v. DAL –
We’re three games deep and he still has yet to run the ball
20 times in a game. Think that might have something to do with
his team’s inability to get a lead? I suspected as much
at the start of the year (see Week 1’s Report) but that
doesn’t mean you should sit him down. After all, he’s
been a pretty active participant in the Oakland passing game so
far (five catches for 53 yards and a score last weekend). Keep
Fred Taylor v. DEN – If
Jordan has been underutilized, Formerly Fragile Fred has been
just the opposite, racking up a ridiculous 37 carries in the Week
3 win at the Meadowlands. Remember when the folks in Jacksonville
were talking about him potentially missing the season? Keep him
in your lineup against an average Browns…er, Broncos…front
Domanick Davis @ CIN –
Nobody needed the early bye more than the reeling Texans and we
can only hope Coach Capers and staff spent the extra week figuring
out ways to get Dom the ball more. With Carr and the defense struggling,
he’s their only hope of staying in games at this point.
Believe it or not, I think he’ll post good numbers against
a vastly improved Bengals bunch. Alas, it won’t be enough
for the much-needed “W.”
Warrick Dunn v. MIN –
He’s a top 15 talent who will never see the top 15 again
unless T.J. Duckett (aka, the designated TD-converter) gets hurt.
You can live with 9-10 fantasy points at your flex position but
I’m betting you need more from your 1st and 2nd running
backs. If you’re stacked at RB, give him a look. If not,
Mewelde Moore @ ATL –
We know better than to trust Mike Tice (GOD, do we know better!)
but it looks like Moore might be the main man in Minny at the
moment. That could certainly change (and probably will) but he’s
not a bad option in the short term. He’s shifty and could
be a major factor in the passing game, especially with Nate Burleson
on the shelf.
Grab A Gatorade:
Kevin Jones @ TB – Do
we have an early candidate for bust of the year? It certainly
looks that way after two weeks of less-than-inspiring totals.
His QB (not to mention the Bears D) was largely to blame for Week
2’s flameout but he also doesn’t seem to be hitting
the holes with the same explosiveness we saw last season. His
longest run to date? Eight yards. Jones’ opponent this weekend,
Mike Alstott, already has a nine-yarder to his credit. Ouch!
Jamal Lewis v. NYJ – If
he’s 100% healthy, I’m the mayor of Baltimore. Lewis’
numbers through two weeks are almost embarrassing (57 rushing
yards and no scores) and there’s no other explanation for
the decline. He’s always had the disadvantage of playing
with a crappy signal-caller. Only difference now is which crappy
signal-caller he’s playing with. Sit him down until Coach
Billick and Co. figure out what in the hell they’re actually
attempting to do on offense.
Kevan Barlow v. ARI –
In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not a huge
Kevan Barlow fan. Though his figures from last weekend’s
shootout were fairly decent (93 total yards), he also split carries
with the rookie, Frank Gore. Trust me when I say the kid will
bite into his touches even more as the season progresses and the
Niners keep losing. Steer clear.
Any Arizona RB v. SF –
Good thing the NFL decided to export such quality teams for its
first regular season foray into Mexico, eh? Our amigos to the
south give us tasty tacos and cheap labor. We return the favor
by sending them San Francisco v. Arizona. And we wonder why the
rest of the world hates our guts.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends