This week marks the last week containing a full slate of games before we start heading into the dreaded bye weeks (4-10). Here are my recommendations for Week 3:
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati - The “news” heading into last weekend’s Bengals-Packers game centered around whether Bengals’ WR Chad Ochocinco would follow through on his stated intention of performing a “Lambeau Leap” if he scored a TD. Of course, many were wondering how the Packer faithful would respond to such a mockery of their tradition. Now we know - Ochocinco bought seats for several Bengals’ fans in the front row of the end zone just in case. No mention of whether he also paid for the guy sitting next to them who made the obscene gesture that probably made television sports editors around the country apoplectic. Overshadowed by this circus is the fact that the Bengals appear to be a competitive team this season. Steelers to start in this matchup include QB Ben Roethlisberger, TE Heath Miller, WR Santonio Holmes, and the Defense. WR Hines Ward is listed as Questionable, but if he’s able to play, he belongs in starting lineups as well. Bengals to start include QB Carson Palmer, WRs Ochocinco & Laveranues Coles, and the Defense. RB Cedric Benson & WR Chris Henry are both listed as Questionable, but regardless of whether they play or not, they shouldn’t be in starting lineups this weekend.
Jacksonville at Houston - Jaguar WR Troy Williamson’s season-ending injury has paved the way for WR Mike Sims-Walker to enter the starting lineup. Sims-Walker gives QB David Garrard another option in the passing game, but more importantly, he combines with RB Maurice Jones-Drew to give the Jaguars two sure-fire first-teamers on the All-Hyphen team. Trades for Darius Heyward-Bey and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are said to be in the works. Jaguars to start include Garrard, Jones-Drew, TE Marcedes Lewis, WRs Torry Holt & Sims-Walker, and K Josh Scobee. Texans to start include QB Matt Schaub, RB Steve Slaton, TE Owen Daniel, WR Andre Johnson, and K Kris Brown. WR Kevin Walter (Questionable) may return for the Texans, but he’s too much of a health risk to use in your starting lineup this week.
Cleveland at Baltimore - So, Eric Mangini - how is that whole keeping your starting QB’s identity secret right up until gametime thing working out for you? Not so well? Maybe you should try it with another position (e.g.- who will be the Browns’ Kicker this week? Phil Dawson? Lou Groza? John St. Clair?) The Browns seem well on their way to another Top 5 draft pick, and things don’t figure to improve this week against the Ravens. QB Brady Quinn and WR Braylon Edwards are the only Browns worth starting this week. For the Ravens QB Joe Flacco, TE Todd Heap, WR Derrick Mason, K Steve Hauschka, and the Defense should all be started. I’d stay away from the Ravens’ RB mess if I could, although I’d still start Ray Rice before I’d start Willis McGahee.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay - Going into the season the main concern re: the Giants’ offense was whether their passing game would show enough to keep opposing defenses honest and prevent them from overplaying the Giants’ vaunted ground attack. With the performance of WRs Steve Smith (who is well on his way to shedding his “Other” moniker) and Mario Manningham (people forget he was a human highlight reel at Michigan), those concerns appear to have been unfounded. The party should continue this week against the Buccaneers’ defense. Giants to start include QB Eli Manning, RB Brandon Jacobs (who should finally break out and have a big game worthy of his lofty status in fantasy football drafts), TE Kevin Boss, WRs Smith & Manningham, K Lawrence Tynes, and the Defense. RB Ahmad Bradshaw can also be started at FLEX for those in deeper leagues. Buccaneers worth starting include QB Byron Leftwich, TE Kellen Winslow, and WR Michael Clayton. As with the Ravens, I’d avoid the Tampa Bay backfield situation if I could. However, if forced to choose, I still like RB Derrick Ward’s prospects more than Cadillac Williams’.
San Francisco at Minnesota - So, Brett Favre feels the $125K in fines levied against Eric Mangini, Mike Tannenbaum, and the Jets were “unfair”? Fine, let’s see him dip into his own sizeable wallet and cover them. There was absolutely no reason for him to rehash something now that occurred last season. Of course, the NFL fined those involved for abusing the NFL’s injury report system. Two questions: (1) Who exactly is supposed to benefit from this system? Opposing teams? Gamblers? Fantasy football team owners? (2) Where was the NFL all those years that New England Head Coach Bill Belichick was listing Tom Brady as “Probable” with a shoulder injury week after week? I guess there’s a difference between “abusing” the injury report system and making a mockery of it - good to know. I’ll admit that I’m not impressed by San Francisco’s fast start against the NFC W(eak)est - accordingly, WR Isaac Bruce is the only 49er I’d definitely start this week. Yes, that’s right, I’d leave RB Frank Gore (Questionable), his 270 yards rushing, and his gimpy ankle on your bench this week, especially against Minnesota’s run defense. QB Shaun Hill is worth starting in deeper leagues or those requiring a second starting quarterback. For the Vikings start QB Brett Favre, RB Adrian Peterson (Questionable with a bad back, but I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t play), TE Visanthe Shiancoe, WRs Bernard Berrian & Percy Harvin, K Ryan Longwell, and the Defense. RB Chester Taylor is an option in deeper leagues and will be a must-start in all leagues in the unlikely case Peterson isn’t able to play.
Atlanta at New England - Apparently, opposing defenses aren’t the only ones to feel the wrath of Tom Brady (or at least those close to him). Cross him at your own peril (I wonder if he was listed as “Probable” for his own wedding). This figures to be a good test of just how far the young Falcons’ team has come. Are they a legitimate Super Bowl contender, or just another team with some talented players that will ultimately shrivel up in the spotlight? My bet would be on the former. Falcons to start this week include QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, TE Tony Gonzalez, WR Roddy White, and K Jason Elam. WR Michael Jenkins can also be started by those in deeper leagues. Patriots to start include Brady, TE Ben Watson, WR Randy Moss, and K Stephen Gostkowski. If WR Wesley Welker is able to play, he should also be started; if not, his replacement WR Julian Edelman should be more than serviceable.
Green Bay at St. Louis - Green Bay looked determined to turn Bengals’ defensive end Antwan Odom into an All-Pro last Sunday, but in spite of that, almost won the game. The outcome should be much better this week for the Packers as they face the Rams, another team seemingly destined for a top five pick in next April’s college draft. Packers to start include QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Ryan Grant, WRs Greg Jennings & Donald Driver, K Mason Crosby, and the Defense. Rams worth starting are RB Steven Jackson, TE Randy McMichael, and WRs Donnie Avery & Laurent Robinson.
Kansas City at Philadelphia - When people talk about most 0-2 teams, the discussion centers around what the team needs to do to “turn around their season” and qualify for the playoffs. The Chiefs aren’t one of those teams - their playoff chances are a longer shot than this one. Meanwhile, the nattering nabobs of negativism are out in force in Philadelphia following QB Donovan McNabb’s rib injury and the Eagles’ loss last weekend to the Saints. Have no fear, Philly fans, even with half of your starting skill position players out or listed as Questionable, you’ll still win this game with ease. The only Chief worth starting is WR Dwayne Bowe, while Eagles to start include QB Kevin Kolb, TE Brent Celek, K David Akers, and the Defense. If McNabb (Questionable-ribs), RB Brian Westbrook (Questionable-ankle), WR DeSean Jackson (Questionable-groin), or WR Kevin Curtis (Questionable-knee) play, they are worth starting too. If Westbrook doesn’t play, RB LeSean McCoy is worth starting. In case you’re wondering, this blog is a Vick-free zone until said player actually does something that makes him relevant from a fantasy perspective. Lining up in the Wildcat a few times a game and vulturing an occasional touchdown run doesn’t qualify as making him relevant from a fantasy perspective.
Washington at Detroit- Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Head Coach John McKay, whose team lost 26 consecutive games during the 1976 and 1977 season, was once asked what he thought of his team’s execution. He reportedly replied, “I’m all for it!” Lions’ fans, who’ve now seen their team lose 19 games in a row and 25 out of 26, could be forgiven for expressing similar sentiments. Many are pointing at this weekend’s game against a lackluster Redskins’ offense as a great opportunity to break the streak. Sorry, Lions’ fans, I don’t see it happening, even if Redskins’ QB Jason Campbell (Questionable-foot) is unable to play. But take heart, though - the Lions still have home games remaining against both the Rams and the Browns, so I think there’s a great chance the streak will be over sooner rather than later. Redskins worth starting include Campbell (assuming he plays), RB Clinton Portis, TE Chris Cooley, WR Santana Moss, K Steve Suisham, and the Defense. WR Calvin Johnson is the only must-start Lion, but if you’re in a deeper league, QB Matthew Stafford and TE Brandon Pettigrew can be started if you’re desperate.
New Orleans at Buffalo - Every baseball season some player inevitably hits two home runs on Opening Day, and some scribe who thinks they’re funny writes, “Joe Blow is on pace to hit 320 homers this season!” This year we’ve seen something similar taking place with Saints’ QB Drew Brees, who, we’re constantly reminded, is currently on pace to throw 72 touchdown passes this season (the single-season record is 50, set by Tom Brady during his amazing 2007 season). Of course, facing the Bills’ pass defense, there’s no reason Brees can’t add another 3-4 touchdown passes to his total during this game. Start Brees, RB Reggie Bush, TE Jeremy Shockey, WR Marques Colston, and K John Carney, then let the good times roll. I’d stay away from RBs Pierre Thomas (Probable-knee) & Mike Bell (Questionable-knee), as well as WR Lance Moore (Questionable-hamstring), due to injury concerns. Bills to start include QB Trent Edwards, RB Fred Jackson, WRs Lee Evans & Terrell Owens, and K Rian Lindell.
Chicago at Seattle - Continuing with the baseball analogies, after two games of the 2009 season Bears’ RB Matt Forte is like last year’s batting champ who’s hitting below .200 at the end of April. Expect that to change in a hurry starting this weekend against the Seahawks. Bears to start include QB Jay Cutler, Forte, TE Greg Olsen, K Robbie Gould, and the Defense. I’d stay away from the Bears’ wide receivers, but if you must, I’d rank them Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, and Johnny Knox in order of desirability. The only Seahawks worth starting are TE John Carlson and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Probable-back).
Miami at San Diego - Not since the heyday of former Charger running back Natrone Means has such a force been present in the San Diego backfield as was seen last Sunday. Unfortunately for Chargers’ fans, the force I’m referring to is Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis, who made one of the most amazing game-ending plays you’ll ever see. Fortunately for Chargers’ fans, this week’s opponent doesn’t possess a player able to wreak similar havoc and destruction (no, Jason Taylor doesn’t count). Dolphins to start this week include RB Ronnie Brown and WR Ted Ginn. If you play in a deeper league, RB Ricky Williams can also be started. Chargers to start include QB Philip Rivers, RB Darren Sproles, TE Antonio Gates, WR Vincent Jackson, K Nate Kaeding, and the Defense. RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Questionable-ankle) should not be started this week even if he is able to play.
Tennessee at New York Jets - Interesting sidelight to this game: Titans’ Head Coach Jeff Fisher served as an assistant in the late 1980s under Buddy Ryan, father of current Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan. Of course, neither Fisher nor Ryan will play a down on Sunday, but this should be one of the more interesting games of Week 3. Can the Titans avoid starting the season 0-3? Can the Jets shut down Titans’ RB Chris Johnson and convince the lingering doubters (including me) that they’re for real? I expect a low-scoring game - let’s see what happens. The only Titans I’d start are Johnson and the Defense. The only Jets I’d start for sure are TE Dustin Keller and the Defense, although in deeper leagues QB Mark Sanchez (Probable-knee), RBs Thomas Jones & Leon Washington, and WR Jerricho Cotchery can be started. Stay away from this game from a fantasy perspective if you can, and enjoy it as a fan.
Denver at Oakland - It’s hard to overstate just how bad Raiders’ QB JaMarcus Russell is. His career completion percentage is 51.8% based on 488 passing attempts. This season he’s barely completed one-third of his passes through two games. Bring in the backup QB, you say? That would be Bruce Gradkowski, who has a stellar-by-comparison 53.1% career completion percentage based on 375 passing attempts. In case you were wondering, the NFL average is ~61%. Of course, Jeff Garcia, the one QB on the Raiders’ roster who had a decent career completion percentage (61.6% on 3,676 attempts) is now a former Raider, supposedly because he wasn’t content to serve as Russell’s backup. Can you blame him? Meanwhile, I know much has been made of the Broncos’ tandem of Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins, but as with the Jets, 49ers, and to a lesser extent, the Vikings, I’m not buying the 2-0 start. If WRs Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley are just as involved in the passing game as WRs Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, there’s something seriously wrong. The only Broncos I’d start for sure would be Marshall and Royal, though those playing in deeper leagues can also start QB Kyle Orton, and RBs Knowshon Moreno & Correll Buckhalter. Raiders worth starting include RB Darren McFadden, TE Zach Miller, and the Defense. Those in deeper leagues should also consider starting RB Michael Bush and WR Louis Murphy.
Indianapolis at Arizona - Normally, it would be tempting to pick against a team coming off a Monday night game that’s flying across several time zones to play its next game. However, the Colts’ offense was on the game for less than one quarter of their victory over the Dolphins, and the defense was going to be hard-pressed to shut down the Cardinals’ aerial circus even under the best of circumstances. Expect a final score that resembles a low-scoring college basketball game rather than an NFL game. Colts to start include QB Peyton Manning, RB Joseph Addai, TE Dallas Clark, WR Reggie Wayne, and K Adam Vinatieri. Cardinals to start include QB Kurt Warner, WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin & Steve Breaston, and K Neil Rackers.
Carolina at Dallas - This battle of the maligned quarterbacks figures to be one of the most interesting games of the weekend. Can QB Jake Delhomme and the Panthers avoid an 0-3 start? Can QB Tony Romo and the Cowboys win their first game in Jerry World? I’ll answer no and yes, respectively. Panthers to start include Delhomme, RBs DeAngelo Williams & Jonathan Stewart, WRs Steve Smith & Muhsin Muhammad, and K John Kasay. Cowboys to start include Romo, RBs Felix Jones & Tashard Choice, TE Jason Witten, WRs Roy Williams & Patrick Crayton, and K Nick Folk. I would leave RB Marion Barber (Questionable-thigh) on your bench even if he is able to play.
Good luck to your teams this weekend!
Until next time,
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