Must Start: The Top 10
1. Peyton Manning v. BUF—It’s
cream-rising-to-the-top time as we head toward the playoffs. Not
surprisingly, Big Bro is leading that charge, and also the NFL
in passer rating at the moment (106.0). The Bills were opportunistic
v. Favruh last Sunday but won’t be as lucky v. Manning.
Expect 250 yards and two or three six-pointers as the Colts remain
2. Donovan McNabb v. WAS—After
seven straight multiple-TD outings, Donovan crashed back to earth
in Week 8, throwing for a paltry 161 yards and no scores as the
Eagles laid an egg against the Jags. Will the week off get them
back on track? Philly fans better hope so ‘cuz the second
half schedule is fraught with all kinds of danger, starting this
weekend against the resurgent ‘Skins.
3. Marc Bulger @ SEA—Hey,
when did Mike Martz get hired back in St. Louie? After starting
the season off with uncharacteristic balance, the Rams have reverted
to form of late, asking Bulger to sling it around all over the
place (39+ attempts in four of his last five). Three straight
losses is their punishment but, on the bright side, Bulger is
putting up huge totals, unmitigated by the picks that have plagued
him in the past. Keep riding his right arm and hope it remains
attached to his body.
4. Michael Vick v. CLE—Last
week’s failure in Motown was surprising but probably shouldn’t
have been. It’s precisely the kind of game the Falcons,
notoriously poor handlers of prosperity, tend to lose. Vick was
the primary culprit, turning the ball over three times. Nevertheless,
he did run for 80 yards and also managed to tally another TD toss.
Expect better numbers this Sunday as the Dirty Birds get back
on track against the Browns.
5. Jon Kitna v. SF—Not
that Kitna and the Lions didn’t have something to do with
Atlanta’s setback in Week 9. The pride of Central Washington
was on his game once again, tossing for better than 300 yards
and a touch, the seventh consecutive game he’s put at least
six on the board. Though he’s still too careless with the
ball, there’s no reason to think he can’t post some
solid stretch run numbers as the Lions face San Fran, Arizona,
and Miami in their next three contests.
6. Carson Palmer v. SD—As
usual, there are precious few gimmes on Cincy’s remaining
schedule, a disconcerting fact when you consider the current state
of their squad. Palmer finally admitted his knee is still bothering
him, causing him to air mail a lot of the passes he used to complete
with pinpoint accuracy. Guess that means we hafta downgrade him
for the time being and hope he eventually heals up. He will, though
maybe not soon enough to salvage the Bengals’ season…or
7. Drew Brees @ PIT—There’s
no salvaging Pittsburgh’s season, as the precipitous fall
from Super Bowl champ to playoff outsider is now almost complete.
Big Ben and the offense are largely to blame but let’s not
let that defense entirely off the hook. They aren’t wreaking
as much havoc as in years past and simply didn’t have an
answer for Javon Walker last week. Will they have one for the
prolific Brees and his hotshot receivers? Stay tuned….
8. Tom Brady v. NYJ—Ouch.
Brady followed up his best performance of the season with easily
his worst, a no-TD, four-pick debacle that prevented the Pats
from pinning a first loss on their chief competition for the AFC
crown, Indy. To be fair, two of the picks should probably have
been caught but there’s no doubt he wasn’t sharp.
The silver lining for his owners? He very rarely duplicates such
miserable performances. Start him against the Jets this Sunday.
9. David Garrard v. HOU—I’ve
sung his praises before (look it up) and now it appears he’ll
get a chance to wrest control of the starting job away from always-injured
Byron Leftwich. Not hard to see why Coach Del Rio is leaning his
direction, as he’s 7-1 in the starting role the past two
seasons. Coincidentally, that’s also his TD-to-pick ratio
in those same starts. Not eye-popping numbers but he’s also
got a heckuva set of legs. Go get him.
10. Damon Huard @ MIA—Is
it fair to call this the year of the backup yet? Huard, Garrard,
Young, Leinart, Walter, Romo, Harrington, Gradkowski, Wallace...am
I missing someone? Huard has easily been the most productive of
the bunch and now appears to have won the job for as long as he
can keep it, regardless of whether Trent Green is healthy or not.
Pays to be efficient and error-free, folks. Keep starting him.
Grab A Helmet:
Philip Rivers @ CIN—Like
I said, it pays to be efficient and error-free. Rivers failed
to notch a touchdown pass for the first time all season but, as
usual, didn’t turn the ball over and ran the ruthlessly
efficient San Diego attack with poise and patience. Those are
two qualities that will avail him well as the Bolts head to Cincy
this Sunday to face a hungry and almost desperate Bengals squad.
Keep starting him.
Ben Roethlisberger v. NO—If
you can’t be efficient and error-free, you may as well be
prolific. Roethlisberger used to be the former but is now clearly
the latter, having thrown for nearly 1,000 yards in his past two-and-a-half
contests. Of course, there are those seven interceptions to consider.
If your league doesn’t penalize the picks, get a new scoring
system. Even if it does, Big Ben is worth the negative points.
Incidentally, Mr. Roethlisberger was selected by reader/Steelers
fan Jim Boyer who correctly noted that the last team to lose while
giving up fewer than 100 yards of total offense was…Pittsburgh
(2002 v. Houston).
Brett Favre @ MIN—Speaking
of picks and such, ugh! Favre’s fourth quarter INT was the
difference in the game…and entirely unnecessary. I mean,
I can understand throwing the ball on the goal line when it’s
third or fourth down and you’re simply not able to move
the defensive front. This one, however, was on first down after
a 10-yard run by Noah Herron. I swear, sometimes I think I should
be patrolling a sideline instead of my living room on Sunday mornings.
OK, end of rant.
Tony Romo @ ARZ—Romo did
everything you can ask of a young signal-caller on Sunday (24
of 36 for 284 yards and two scores) but didn’t get the W
thanks to a horrendous drop (you KNOW who) and a bizarre blocked
FG/untimely facemask penalty. Expect him and the Boys (yeah, even
that other guy) to bounce back this Sunday at the Cactus.
Matt Leinart v. DAL—Believe
it or not, I’m expecting Sunday’s game in the desert
to be fairly entertaining. The Cardinals, back in nothing-to-lose
mode, should be primed for the tilt with a former division rival
and have had a week to iron out some of those myriad problems
on offense. Not that it will matter, of course, but the return
of Larry Fitzgerald might help a bit. Expect 250 yards and a score
(maybe two) as the Cards fall to Dallas.
Steve McNair @ TEN—Air
McNair returns to Nashville for a renewal of acquaintances with
his former squad this Sunday. I suspect he’ll enjoy the
reunion more than they will as the Ravens are now 6-2 and back
to dominating with defense…and even a little offense. He’s
not gonna throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns but 200+ and
a couple scores sounds reasonable, especially considering the
Titans have yielded 14 scoring strikes already. Give him the start.
Alex Smith @ DET—Smith
was awful last Sunday at Monster Park but who wasn’t? The
9-3 snoozer was a virtual wasteland for fantasy gamers. Don’t
expect the Niners’ next contest, a Week 10 pillow fight
at Ford Field, to follow suit. The passing defenses are almost
identically crappy (227 yards/per and 15 TDs yielded) and that
should mean plenty of points for all involved, including the former
Grab A Clipboard:
Eli Manning v. CHI—This
is a matchup recommendation all the way, folks. The Bears were
embarrassed by Miami in Week 9 and will be hell-bent on making
amends this Sunday night. I’m of the opinion they thought
they could just show up and win. Wrong, as anyone who’s
watched NFL football should know by now. Expect an error-prone
effort and fewer than 200 yards as Chicago rights the ship in
David Carr @ JAX—Carr
wasn’t terrible versus the G-Men last weekend but now faces
a Jacksonville team that has throttled its last two opponents,
Philly (surprisingly) and Tennessee (not so much). Making matters
worse, the Jags are still smarting from a 27-7 drubbing the Texans
dropped on them just three weeks ago. I’m a firm believer
in revenge angles when it comes to divisional matchups so that
means Houston and, by association, Carr, might be in trouble this
J.P. Losman @ IND—Losman,
on the other hand, was utterly terrible versus the Pack on Sunday,
throwing for just 102 yards. 43 of those came on his lone touchdown
toss, a blown coverage special that I’m pretty sure my mother
could have completed. The Colts might be stinky against the run
but they’re currently ranked third against the pass, surprising
when you consider most of their opponents are forced into throwing
more than they’d probably like.
Charlie Frye @ ATL—The
Falcons, conversely, are quite poor against the pass (a second-worst
243.9 yards/game). I’m not taking the bait on Frye, however.
He just doesn’t make those throws that scream “future
star.” In fact, I’m not even sure the Browns are convinced
he’s the answer at the position. He’s got some decent,
young weapons and should probably be doing more than he is. Steer
clear for now unless you’re really stuck.
Vince Young v. BAL—I’m
pretty sure the Titans DO think Young is the answer or they wouldn’t
have passed on Messrs. Leinart and Cutler in this past April’s
draft. Hate to say it but I’m not so sanguine. He’s
certainly a tough out when he tucks and runs but his accuracy
is for the birds. No matter what happens down the road, you definitely
want him riding pine when Tennessee hosts the Ravens this weekend.
Andrew Walter v. DEN—The
Raiders have now scored 25 points in their past four games combined.
That includes, by the way, the 22 they scored three weeks ago
v. Arizona. Making matters worse, Walter has been dumped 24 times
over that same span. When your sacks allowed match your points
scored…well, you know what it means. Only if your league
pays out for last place.