Must Start: The Top 10
1. Peyton Manning v. HOU—During
Sunday night’s telecast, Madden called quarterback the most
difficult position to play in the NFL. Wow. Not hard to see why
Capt. Obvious demands such a huge compensation package, huh? Regardless,
Peyton certainly continues to make it look easy and with no run
support to speak of, he might even come close to revisiting his
2. Carson Palmer v. CLE—An
unusually listless Chiefs O, inclement weather, and some garden-variety
rust likely conspired to prevent Palmer from posting the big numbers
I’d projected for Week 1. Nevertheless, he looked pretty
sharp in spurts (especially running the no-huddle stuff) and led
his team to the convincing victory in a historically hostile stadium.
Expect better numbers and his first few TD strikes this Sunday
v. the Browns.
3. Kurt Warner @ SEA—If
you mined the wickedly talented Arizona offense on draft day,
give yourself a nice, big pat on the back. They’re gonna
score oodles of points this season. Warner could end up being
the plumb of the bunch provided he stays healthy. I mean, how
can you NOT throw for 250+ and a couple scores tossing it around
to Boldin and Fitzgerald each week? Have Leinart handy, though.
4. Matt Hasselbeck v. ARI—If
Seattle had a weakness heading into the season, it was a suspect
receiving corps. Enter Deion Branch. Most teams are loath to part
with first-round draft picks but the ‘Hawks know what Branch
can do for them. Though they’ll hafta wait a week to reap
the rewards, so do Hasselbeck’s owners. Get him in there
against an Arizona D that made Smith and Bryant look like Montana
and Rice in Week 1.
5. Donovan McNabb v. NYG—He
and Donte Stallworth appear to have more chemistry in two weeks
than he and you-know-who had in two years. Still think Philly’s
sunk without a premier #1 receiver? That makes one of us.
6. Jake Delhomme @ MIN—Carolina,
on the other hand, may indeed be sunk without its premier wideout
if Week 1 returns are any indication. Delhomme looked out of sorts
from whistle to gun last Sunday and can only hope that Mr. Smith
is able to go in Minny. If he is, keep Jake here. If not, drop
him down a notch or 10.
7. Mark Bulger @ SF—Too
bad I wasn’t facing him instead of Jeff Wilkins this past
weekend, huh? Six field goals? Mike Martz must be turning over
in his…wait, he’s just in Detroit. Give Bulger a go
against a San Fran D that yielded close to 300 passing yards in
8. Eli Manning @ PHI—Hope
you enjoyed the Manning Bowl ‘cuz they’re about as
frequent as presidential elections and World Cups. Of course,
there’s always the outside chance Archie’s boys could
square off in the Super Bowl someday. On second thought, maybe
Eli & Co. should worry about winning the NFC East first. A
win in Philly would certainly help their cause.
9. Drew Brees @ GB—Brees
must have been cursing his fortune this past offseason after getting
shipped from talent-embarrassed San Diego to talent-starved New
Orleans. Then Houston did the unthinkable and passed on Reggie
Bush in the draft. Call it an instant talent infusion for the
Saints. Brees is part of that infusion, as well, and should start
really ratcheting up the expectations this Sunday at Lambeau.
10. Tom Brady @ NYJ—No
Deion Branch? No problem, says he (and me). Despite completing
just FOUR passes to his ragtag group of receivers, Mr. Super Bowl
MVP still managed to toss two TD strikes in the opening day victory
over Buffalo. Don’t be surprised if he and the Pats hardly
miss that other Super Bowl MVP, especially against the league’s
lesser weights (yeah, the 1-0 Jets still qualify).
Grab A Helmet:
Michael Vick v. TB—He’s
started hot before so we’ll reserve final judgment ‘til
later in the season. Nevertheless, Vick looked like a man in control
of his offense against Carolina’s formidable front last
Sunday. Though he completed fewer than 50% of his passes, he tossed
a couple of TDs and, as usual, wreaked havoc with his legs. Give
him the start but don’t expect much better against a Tampa
squad that was embarrassed in Week 1.
Daunte Culpepper v. BUF—Looking
like a shadow of his former self, Culpepper was predictably out
of sorts in his first start back from a devastating knee injury.
The question now becomes: will he ever recapture the magic of
’04? He’s got some talent around him but minus his
mobility, it’s hard to imagine opposing defenses making
things easy for him. Give him another look against the Bills,
a team he’s owned in years past (266 yds. and three scores
Drew Bledsoe v. WAS—They’re
already whispering “Romo” in Big D, not a good sign
for the guy many thought would lead the ‘Boys to Super Bowl
glory. For the record, I wasn’t one of those “many.”
He’s still surrounded by a lot of studs, though, so let’s
not get too excited about one lousy performance. Besides, do you
really see Dallas starting the season 0-2?
Alex Smith v. STL—He finally
cracks the Top 15 but his stay could be short-lived if he reverts
to form against a vastly improved Rams D. Coming off a solid Week
1 performance (288 yards and a score), he’s at least in
the discussion. That’s a start, right?
Steve McNair v. OAK—Hard
to tell how good the Raiders’ pass D is since the Bolts
attempted just 11 throws on Monday night. Then again, we may not
know a whole lot more after Week 2. Expect a lot of Jamal Lewis/Mike
Anderson and just enough Air McNair as the Ravens start 2-0 against
the atrocious Raiders. Mark it down, folks.
Grab A Clipboard:
Aaron Brooks @ BAL—How
bad is Oakland? I’m not even sure “atrocious”
does them justice. At one point, the ever insightful Coach Vermeil
remarked that Brooks is “very hard to sack.” San Diego
then promptly dumped him 46 times. Man, I really need someone
to hook me up with one of these color analyst gigs. I’ve
got a pulse and a mouth so I’m clearly qualified.
Brett Favre v. NO—Brooks’
old mentor didn’t look a whole lot better against Chicago
last Sunday but at least he was trying. In fact, that’s
the problem with Favre these days. He’s ALWAYS trying. Trying
to make plays. Trying to win games. Trying to be Brett Favre.
As you can see, I’m trying, too…trying to spin this
in a way that won’t force me to say bad things about my
main man. I’ll stop now.
Jon Kitna @ CHI—Tell me
who this sounds like: “We are going to be fine. I think
a lot of guys learned a lot of things about each other.”
Careful, Jon. The last guy who talked like that after crummy losses
ended up getting run out of town on a rail.
Damon Huard @ DEN—I rave
about Trent Green’s durability last week and, sure enough,
he gets his clock thoroughly cleaned while rolling out of the
pocket. Heck, I should have a curse named after me. Don’t
go pouncing on Huard until he does something (anything) to deserve
David Carr @ IND—The Texans
have invested an awful lot of time and money in this guy but it’s
hard to know when they’ll see a return on that investment.
He still gets sacked way too often (five times in Week 1) and
doesn’t have much to rely upon in the running game. Think
Reggie Bush would have made things a little easier for him? Forget
the yapper. Apparently, you only need a pulse to qualify as an