Must Start: The Top 10
1. Donovan McNabb v. GB—Seems
to me I might’ve mentioned something about the Eagles being
a legit contender this season. Don’t look now, but they’re
leading the NFC East, the league’s best division, and are
a 4th quarter meltdown away from being undefeated. Brian Westbrook
and Donte Stallworth get a lot of the credit but, as usual, it
all starts with Don. Did I mention he loves facing Favre and the
Pack (seven TDs in three career games)? The best start of Week
2. Carson Palmer v. NE—Carson
faced down a lot of demons this past Sunday at the confluence,
proving to even diehard skeptics that yes, his knee is fully recovered
and yes, he possesses arguably the most lethal right arm in the
game (sorry, Peyton). With six TD tosses under his belt, he’s
well on his way to matching last year’s league-leading total
of 32. Give him the start against the next AFC heavyweight on
Cincy’s schedule, New England.
3. Peyton Manning @ NYJ—The
uppity Jag-you-ars openly complained about not getting injury-depleted
Indy’s best prior to last Sunday’s tilt. Wonder what
they’re thinking now. I’m betting the kill ‘em
with kindness approach might’ve been more effective. Peyton
wasn’t sharp (14 of 31 for 219 yards) but he did throw for
one TD and run for another. When’s the last time THAT happened?
(2002, in case you’re interested.) He never sits.
4. Michael Vick v. ARI—Monday
night was all about the Saints and the return of football to hurricane-ravaged
New Orleans. Lucky for the fans (and for those who prefer storylines
to good football), the Falcons/Washington Generals decided to
play along, never getting untracked in the 20-3 whipping. Go ahead
and blame Mike (12 for 31 and 137 yards) but understand that at
least half of those incompletions were the result of dropped balls.
Bad ones. He bounces back against a reeling Cardinals squad this
5. Matt Hasselbeck @ CHI—Remember
that “sneaking suspicion” I had last week about Hasselbeck
and the Seattle offense? Hey, even a lame-brained, no-talent columnist
gets one right every once in a while. The ‘Hawks will hafta
press on without the meal ticket (more on that later) but you
might be surprised how little that loss affects them. Keep starting
6. Tom Brady @ CIN—Brady
might just be in the same boat this weekend in Cincy should Corey
Dillon not recover in time to face his former mates. Of course,
Laurence Maroney is more than capable of picking up most of that
slack. Of greater concern to the Pats right now? Who in the heck
is gonna step up at receiver? 18 of his 31 completions went to
running backs and tight ends in Week 2.
7. Marc Bulger v. DET—If
you saw the Ol’ Gunslinger carve up the Detroit secondary
last weekend…you’re obviously a DirecTV subscriber.
Don’t think for a second the Rams aren’t capable of
inflicting similar damage this weekend at Edward Jones. The Lions
are tough in the trenches but don’t put much pressure on
opposing QBs and don’t pick off passes. Like most NFL signal-callers,
Bulger can look like an All-Pro when he has time to chuck it.
8. Brett Favre @ PHI—This
former All-Pro (and future Hall of Famer) is positively murderous
when he has time to chuck it, as he did last Sunday in Motown
(340 yards and three scores). In fact, the Pack is starting to
resemble last year’s Cardinals (or even this year’s
Cardinals): bad team, fantasy goldmine. Ya’ gotta think
Jim Johnson will come at him all night long but so long as Favruh
doesn’t force things—never a given—he could
put up nice numbers.
9. Drew Brees @ CAR—When
the Saints plunked down sixty mil this offseason for Brees, I
couldn’t help but think the move smacked of desperation.
Then again, how much is too much to replace Aaron Brooks? Hard
to say if the significant investment will pay off in the long
run but, for now, Brees is earning every penny. Though things
get tougher in Charlotte this weekend, I like him to throw for
250 yards and a score or two.
10. Drew Bledsoe @ TEN—You
can’t talk about Bledsoe, it seems, or any other Cowboy
for that matter,without talking about you-know-who. They’re
all just bit players in the multi-part miniseries that T.O. has
fashioned of his NFL career/life. Simply mind-boggling, though
not unbelievable. Don’t even think about saying you weren’t
Grab A Helmet:
Kurt Warner @ ATL—The
sky almost fell in the Valley of the Sun this past week as the
playoff-aspiring Cards toyed with officially pulling the plug
on the Joe Pisarcik…er, Kurt Warner era. Not hard to see
what all the fuss was about after he turned the ball over four
times (thrice inside the red zone), costing Arizona a certain
W. Stick with him (Green says he won’t re-evaluate the position
on a weekly basis), but get some insurance. Now!
Damon Huard v. SF—Herm
Edwards no doubt has some fond memories of that so-called “Miracle
at the Meadowlands,’ but he’s got no time for reminiscing
now, what with the Chiefs sitting in an 0-2 hole. KC used to score
16 points before the Arrowhead rowdies were even done pre-func’ing
in the parking lot but, thus far, that’s all they’ve
been able to tally in 120 minutes of 2006 action. Expect that
to change this weekend as the steady but unspectacular Huard leads
them to victory over a not-quite-ready-for-primetime Niners crew.
Alex Smith @ KC—Whatever
you do, don’t blame Smith for San Fran’s inability
to reach primetime status. I’ll grant that he wasn’t
overly effective last week but he did manage to throw for almost
300 yards and a score in the 38-24 spanking. More importantly,
he’s now gone three consecutive contests without throwing
a pick. That’s all you can ask of a young field general:
don’t make mistakes. Now, if that defense could just figure
out how to stop the hemorrhaging.
Chad Pennington v. IND—His
QB rating has been above 90 all season and the Jets, despite long
odds, are tied atop the AFC East at 2-1. There’s no way
they go 3-1 (mark it down) but that doesn’t mean Pennington
can’t continue to make YOUR squad a winner. Expect solid
numbers as they play from behind this Sunday. I’m thinking
something like 250 yards and a score or two will be attainable.
David Carr v. MIA—The
numbers, they tell us, never lie. Wanna bet? Three weeks in, Carr
is the league’s highest-rated signal-caller (113.6). That
happens when you complete 72% of your passes and throw six TDs
against a single pick. Regardless, he and the Texans are 0-3 and
haven’t even been competitive yet. Guess that’s why
they call it FANTASY football, eh? Might as well give him a look
if you’re jonesing for production under center.
Grab A Clipboard:
Phillip Rivers @ BAL—The
second-highest rated passer in the league (see?) is coming off
an early bye week and must now tangle with a fearsome Ravens D—on
the road, no less—that has suffocated three consecutive
opponents. His only saving grace? He’s bringing the equally
formidable San Diego defense with him. This one has 9-6 written
all over it, folks, which means you probably wanna steer clear
of anyone not named LaDainian Tomlinson.
Byron Leftwich @ WAS—Big
Swifty and the Jags were the toast of the league after two weeks,
knocking off favored Dallas and Pittsburgh in impressive, back-to-back
fashion. Funny how things change. Fresh off a whupping at the
hands of Peyton and the Cards, they now draw a resurgent ‘Skins
crew that can’t afford to fall further behind the Birds
in the NFC East. If Leftwich doesn’t improve on a 2-to-4
TD-to-pick ratio, they’ll be back at .500, wondering where
that promising start disappeared to.
Mark Brunell v. JAX—Speaking
of the ‘Skins, the league’s version of Rasputin looked
to be on the verge of finally (finally!) succumbing to age in
the first two weeks, failing to top 200 yards, failing to throw
a touchdown pass, and (most importantly) failing to notch a W.
So, naturally he goes out and completes his first TWENTY-TWO passes
(!) against the Texans in Week 4. If you’re thinking the
NFL is too predictable, there you go.
Kerry Collins v. DAL—Jeff
Fisher isn’t ready to kick off the Vince Young era just
yet but make no mistake about it: the Texas phenom will start
for the Titans soon, maybe even next week. Collins could certainly
stave off the inevitable with a good performance against Big D,
but…. Yeah, who are we kidding? Only if your real starter
is sitting this week out and even then, there are probably better
Andrew Walter v. CLE—If
your real starter was Aaron Brooks, congratulations. You’ve
now officially been put out of your misery (though it’s
probably been unofficial since you drafted him). The Andrew Walter
era DOES kick off this weekend and for those expecting it to be
successful, let me remind you of something: he plays for Oakland!
Love the arm and love the potential but he’s not going to
succeed until the Raiders overhaul their roster, not to mention