Must Start: The Top 15
1. Larry Johnson v. SF—Needless
to say, it’s been a rough start for fantasy football’s
top dogs, LJ and Alexander. The former’s been handicapped
by an uncertain QB situation and the latter’s been waylaid
by the eerily, ruthlessly predictable Madden curse. What to do?
Nothing, if you own Johnson. Fact of the matter is, he’s
racking up over 150 total yards per game and, provided he finds
the end zone soon, still merits that top dog status. Get him back
2. LaDainian Tomlinson @ BAL—How
good are the Chargers? LT rushed for 71 yards and two scores in
the Week 2 victory over Tennessee and wasn’t even CLOSE
to being the team’s top rock-toter. That tells me two things:
1) San Diego’s O-line is very, very good, and 2) Tennessee
is really, really bad. The competition gets much stiffer this
week (a Baltimore squad yielding a paltry 34 yards/game on the
ground) but you don’t play matchups with Tomlinson.
3. Brian Westbrook v. GB—Westbrook
is fast becoming impervious to matchups, too, as his 420 yards
and five scores would attest. Even if he does struggle in the
running game against Green Bay’s surprisingly decent front
seven (3.2 yards/carry), he’s going to inflict damage in
the passing game. In fact, I’m already cringing at the thought
of him matching up against the Pack’s inexperienced outside
backers. Look away.
4. Steven Jackson v. DET—I
promised you a score last week but, lo and behold, he didn’t
deliver. Thankfully, all was not lost as he still tallied 121
total yards from scrimmage. That makes three consecutive triple-digit
days for the former Beaver. No way he doesn’t make it four
straight against the crummy Lions this Sunday. I’m fairly
certain he’ll find paydirt, too, though I’m chastened
a bit by last week’s prediction. Let’s play it safe
and call it a definite maybe.
5. Rudi Johnson v. NE—Johnson
needed sixteen more carries to rush for twelve more yards than
backup Kenny Watson last Sunday, proving the Steelers were clearly
game-planning to take him away. Too bad they didn’t have
a plan for Carson and the boys, huh? The Bengals offense is like
the mythical Hydra. Cut off one head (Rudi) and another appears
in its place (CJ, TJ, Henry, etc.) Keep riding the former Tiger.
6. Ronnie Brown @ HOU—Go
ahead and saddle up this former Tiger, too. He’s yet to
reach the 100-yard mark this season but that’s more a reflection
of Daunte’s ineffectiveness than it is Brown’s ability.
He’s not an auto-start and shouldn’t have been drafted
as high as he was, but he DOES get the Texans this weekend, the
same Texans squad that yielded a staggering 234 rushing yards
to Washington last Sunday. Time for a bust-out game, methinks.
7. Warrick Dunn v. ARI—234
rushing yards was actually below average for the Falcons heading
into last Monday night’s tilt at the Superdome. Unfortunately
for Dunn (and his owners), the Saints were, to put it mildly,
“energized” by the opportunity to play a real home
game again. I wouldn’t read too much into Atlanta’s
performance. There was no way the New Orleans buzzsaw was gonna
lose that game. Arizona is about as far away from “buzzsaw”
status as a team can get right now.
8. Clinton Portis v. JAX—A
wealthy friend of mine spends most of his workday sitting in a
plush corner office doing fantasy research for his various leagues.
I could live with that if his research didn’t include calling
ACTUAL physicians to figure out what the prognosis for a partially
dislocated shoulder is. True story, people. And you thought I
was addicted, honeybunch? I’m sure you wouldn’t care
as much if I were pulling down six figures.
9. Edgerrin James @ ATL—Denny
Green reiterated this week that he’d like to get Edge 25+
touches a game. Not sure why he felt the need to say it since
the former Cane hasn’t yet failed to reach that magic number.
I think what Coach Green meant is that he wants Edge (and not
Kurt Warner) to be the centerpiece of Arizona’s talented
offense. I’m sure his owners feel the same way…as
do most Cardinals fans.
10. Chester Taylor @ BUF—I’m
not sure what I think of this guy yet (or the Vikes, for that
matter) but this much is true: he gets almost all of the backfield
touches and Minnesota is more than likely going to contend for
the NFC North crown. All things being equal, those are good things
to have on your resume as a fantasy rock-toter. Give him the start
against a Bills squad giving up over 116 rushing yards per game.
11. Willis McGahee v. MIN—TBRBITNFL
has been TBRBITNFL thus far, at least from a statistical standpoint.
He leads the league with 311 yards and is even getting a couple
of touches per contest in the passing game. Of course, he has
not scored a touchdown to date. That has to change for him to
be considered TBRBIFF. Simply not gonna happen, this year or any
12. Laurence Maroney @ CIN—No
word on Corey Dillon’s status as of press time but even
if he plays, Maroney will probably get the majority of the looks.
That’s a pretty good reason to play him since the Bengals
are usually content to let teams move the ball a bit. You have
that luxury when you can score at will on your opponent’s
defense. Give him the start and hope Dillon doesn’t play
(no offense, Corey).
13. Maurice Morris @ CHI—Shaun
Alexander apparently consulted Deion Sanders, M.D. this week,
proclaiming himself fit to play despite concrete medical evidence
to the contrary. Coach Mike wasn’t buying it, anyway, so
MoMo gets the start. You have no idea how long I’ve been
waiting to say that, actually. He’s been stashed away in
both of my dynasty leagues since practically the day he was drafted.
The matchup isn’t ideal but this guy can flat-out tote it.
Think Michael Turner minus thirty pounds or so. Plus, he’s
a Duck. If you’re scoring at home, a full 1/16th of NFL
starting tailbacks are now Oregon alums.
14. Fred Taylor @ WAS—Taylor
garnered 21 carries in last week’s loss to the Colts, tallying
a modest 74 yards in the process. That wouldn’t be cause
for concern if his stable mate, rook Maurice Jones-Drew, hadn’t
racked up 103 more on just 13 carries in his most extensive action
of the season. Not sure you can call them a committee just yet
(see DeAngelo Williams’ numbers for Week 4) but the situation
definitely deserves your undivided attention. Start Taylor as
a #2 guy and go get Jones-Drew, a potential rising star.
15. Frank Gore @ KC—An
abdominal pull and an untimely, goal line fumble mean that storm
clouds are gathering on this rising star’s hoizon. Coach
Nolan says he’ll play this week but he also intimated he
might give more red zone work to the versatile Michael Robinson.
Ruh-roh. Call it your classic good news/bad news development.
Could be a motivational ploy but Nolan’s a pretty earnest
fellow and NFL coaches are notoriously unforgiving of guys who
fumble away scoring opportunities. Gore owners, beware.
Grab A Helmet:
Reuben Droughns @ OAK—He
was a late scratch for Week 4’s contest, replaced in the
lineup by virtual no-name, Jason Wright. One week later, Droughns
is still a little iffy and Wright is still pretty much a no-name.
Whoever gets the nod should perform quite well, however, considering
the Raiduhs are yielding an astounding 166 yards per game on the
ground. My suspicion? It’s Droughns. You’ll want him
in there if said suspicion is confirmed.
Reggie Bush @ CAR—There
are probably a few Bush owners out there frustrated that the kid
seems to be more “tease” than “second coming”
thus far. No reason for panic, however. He’s getting more
touches than even I thought he’d get to this point (and
I love the guy) and is clearly public enemy #1 for opposing defensive
coordinators. That means you exercise patience, remain thankful
for the 80-100 yards he accumulates each week, and sit tight for
the eventual explosion. It’s coming, people.
DeShaun Foster v. NO—Reggie’s
opponent this week, the somewhat disappointing Foster, is coming
off his most productive outing of the season, a 20-carry, 82-yard
effort against the Bucs. Seems as though he might’ve been
motivated by DeAngelo Williams’ emergence in Week 2. There’s
no question the rook will continue to be part of the mix but Coach
Fox knows the Panthers aren’t likely going anywhere relying
on a first year running back. Translation? Foster’s the
guy for the foreseeable future.
Julius Jones @ TEN—Tuna’s
name was already mud this week after he callously (and very publicly)
demonstrated a total lack of concern for his troubled wideout.
He sealed the deal with fantasy GMs, however, when he stated he
wants to get backup MBIII eight to nine carries a game. Some rudimentary
math tells us there are, at most, 20 touches left over for Julius.
He’s capable of producing with the reduced workload (especially
this week) but he shouldn’t be considered a #1 back any
longer. Call him a solid #2 guy or, depending on the matchup,
Lamont Jordan v. CLE—I
have no reason to believe Oakland has sorted ANYthing out during
the bye week but it’s typical of reeling squads to get back
to basics when nothing else seems to be working. Getting back
to basics means getting the ball in Jordan’s hands 25-30
times a game, something they haven’t done yet. If you didn’t
panic deal him already, get him back in there. He could surprise
in Week 4 against the marginal Cleveland D.
Grab A Gatorade:
Jamal Lewis v. SD—Lewis
didn’t light up that Cleveland D last week like we thought
he might (21 carries for 86 yards). Too bad, ‘cuz he could
have used some momentum heading into a showdown against similarly
unbeaten San Diego this Sunday. The Bolts are giving up only 71
yards/game on the ground and you can bet your britches they plan
to make the Ravens a one-dimensional team this Sunday. I’m
thinking anything north of 75 yards would be a victory.
Kevin Jones @ STL—Jones
was finally north of 75 rushing yards last week and even threw
in a touchdown for good measure. Too bad that means absolutely
nothing. The Pack is (regrettably) a weak sister this season and
one decent game isn’t gonna convince me Jones can be a consistent
starter for your fantasy squad. I like the matchup but I just
don’t trust the guy. Simple as that.
Ahman Green @ PHI—Batman
scored for the first time, as well, in Detroit and also tallied
a stout 68 receiving yards as the Pack scratched out victory #1.
Unfortunately, the only thing I remember is his ridiculous end-of-the-game
fumble that could have cost Green Bay the W. God gave you two
hands for a reason, bud. You should try using both of them one
of these days.
Thomas Jones or Cedric Benson v. SEA—Morale
is high in the Windy City as the Bears have stormed out to a 3-0
start. It isn’t gonna amount to a hill of beans, however,
if they don’t figure out how to get some production out
of that rushing attack. I don’t see them improving this
Sunday, either, what with Seattle’s 2nd-ranked run defense
coming to town. Steer clear until one of these guys does something…anything.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends