Week 5 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I am not sure who won the VP debate last night. Both political parties seem to believe their candidate stepped up to the plate. The NFL is still pretty split in making a decision this election year. I do know that Al Davis likes Sarah Palin — mostly because he believes she’s youthful and has 4.3 speed.

Herm Edwards, on the other hand, really couldn’t make up his mind. He wants to like someone like Palin, who reminds him of a Brodie Croyle or even a Tyler Thigpen, but that’s just to keep up the front that the team is rebuilding. Voting for someone like Joe Biden, an experienced candidate best compared to Damon Huard, might give the impression that the American people can expect to be won back right now by a government that could do a few good things. That’s scary for Herm to think about.

The jury is still out for Bill Belichick. He just taped the whole thing to watch later, and rumor has it that the tapes came from practice runs that the candidates had on stage before the real debate started. That dude is weird.

This week, you are probably looking for a few spot starters to help you over the bye week hump. If your backup isn’t performing at a high level, you might want to take a chance on some of the guys that I point out here. Bubble guys become more worthwhile of consideration on a week like this week. Don’t expect them to put up the same numbers as your studs do each week, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do.

As always, leave a question in the comments if you are struggling with who should start in Week 5.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions
I know. I am insane, but the Detroit Lions are not hard to throw against. In fact, they encourage you to throw because if you aren’t passing, your running back is embarrassing them by blasting through the giant holes their defensive line can’t close. My guess is that the Bears let Orton cut loose a bit here. Matt Forte is still going to have a field day on the Lions defense, but Orton should have a few good plays through the air just to keep the defense honest. Why the hell not? It’s the Lions. Don’t bench Peyton Manning for him, but if you need a QB, this week Orton could be your man.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Chargers
It’s not often that you can recommend a man like Pennington. I like him, but for fantasy purposes, he doesn’t put a lot of numbers up unless he has a really nice matchup. This week, you’re in luck. San Diego is letting every quarterback run wild on them this season. Pennington won’t be shut down because San Diego’s defense will also have to worry about Ronnie Brown going into “Wildcat” mode like he did against the Patriots. We know the Chargers can put points on the board, and this game is going to be on Chad to win.

Brian Griese, QB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Despite Denver’s well-respected corners, the Broncos like shootouts this year. Their defense obliges by letting the opposing QBs pass for more yardage on them than all but a small number of teams in the NFL. Apparently, Griese is going to throw a great deal more than Jeff Garcia did last season, so look for the Bucs to have a big day through the air — as long as there is something left for them after Graham and Dunn tear apart the Broncos ground game.

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Lions
This game might be the hottest start he has all year. Forte’s averages more than 80 yards per game, and the Lions basically promise opposing running backs 200+ yards just for playing. Forte is an absolute MUST START this week.

Earnest Graham, RB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Denver can’t stop the run or the pass. If Larry Johnson can do something, I believe a coke machine — the drink machine, not Travis Henry or Matt Jones — with a football taped to the top can do it. You know, just like the one in those Reggie Bush commercials. Regardless of how many carries Warrick Dunn takes, Graham will have plenty to feed a hungry fantasy football team.

Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers vs. Chiefs
“The Daily Show” — my new favorite player nickname, by the way — should run over the Chiefs defense this week. Be wary of benching a stud for Stewart since he still splits time with Williams but a good game here could — fingers crossed — start to move him into the more dominant role in this offense.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Colts
I’m required by foolish fantasy law to mention every rookie in the NFL if I mention any of them. That’s a fact. You want another one? Indianapolis can’t stop the run without Bob Sanders.

Lance Moore, WR Saints vs. Vikings
Moore is seeing quite a few passes come his way with Shockey and Colston still missing. They’ll need to pass against a tough Vikings run defense this week, so look for Moore to dominate on targets again and make something out of them just like he did last week.

Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban, WR Cardinals vs. Bills
If Boldin doesn’t play this week, both of these WRs could see looks from Kurt Warner. Buffalo has a tough defense, but their weakness will be at corner this week. With Buffalo’s best corner out of commission, Breaston and Urban should face the Buffalo’s third corner and rookie Leodis McKelvin. Breaston’s a lock to see looks, but it could be Urban that steps up in this game since Breaston will most likely not be taken off the kick return duties. It’s in the air right now, but watch reports coming out of Arizona to see if the coaches leak the game plan.

Amani Toomer, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
Plax is out for this week because of his INSUBORDINATION, a word that must always be typed in uppercase. Toomer should see more looks his way, and the two younger Giants WRs, Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, will fill in the rest. Toomer is a big red zone threat and a better start than both the young ones.

Bobby Engram, WR Seahawks vs. Giants
He’s back. Hasselbeck will be giving him big hugs all day on Sunday, and he should see plenty of action as long as his shoulder is really good to go. Seattle is likely to fall behind, and Engram is the most trusted receiver they will have on the field to make critical plays.

Santana Moss, WR Redskins vs. Eagles
Don’t be afraid of the Eagles secondary. Did you see what Kyle Orton did to them last week? Yeah, and that was Kyle Orton. Moss will continue to get his points each game. The Redskins have been good about not turning the ball over, but Campbell won’t have to force it to Moss to keep Moss’s fantasy revitalization going strong this season.

Justin Gage, WR Titans vs. Ravens
Since the RBs will be slowed a bit by the Baltimore defense, Collins should be looking for Gage to pick up crucial yards in the air. Gage hasn’t put up a lot of TDs, but he gets consistent yardage as long as Collins is at QB. Expect the usual.
UPDATE: Gage is still struggling with a groin injury this week, and, right now, he is listed as ‘doubtful.’ Unless that changes, I’d suggest you go with a different option this week.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Chargers
The Chargers have given up a TD to a tight end every game this season. Pennington really likes throwing to his tight ends — probably because his WRs are nothing to write home about. Yup, that pretty much sums up my reasoning.

Bubble Boys

Carson Palmer, QB Bengals vs. Cowboys
Palmer might not even play this week, but if he does, he’ll face and Cowboys secondary that doesn’t punish you. Even with that glorious matchup, he’s a big risk. He could go right back out of this game or just look bad trying to play with an elbow injury limiting him.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Chiefs
He could probably throw if he wanted to throw, but he won’t have to against this horrible run defense. Decent start if you have to plug him in, but he might only put up one TD and yardage unless this one gets heated. If he’s your best option, use him.

Chris Johnson, RB Titans vs. Ravens
Oh no, it’s another tough defense. If you haven’t noticed, Johnson can score against tough run defenses. He’s just TOO fast, and he can get to the outside. Baltimore will try to stop him, but in my mind, he is entering into unsittable status after last week’s showing against Minnesota. Plus, you might as well use him this week. If Baltimore twists as many ankles and breaks as many bones as they did against Pittsburgh, then this game might be the last one of the season for Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Vikings
Wow, I’m sure you’re excited. You just picked up a power running back that *could* be featured in a high-powered offense as long as he stays healthy this season. Unfortunately, he faces Minnesota. The Vikings aren’t a total lock to keep him out of the end zone, but unless some Saints passing plays die one or two yards short, McAllister should have limited fantasy potential. Since he’s TD-dependent, I’d look elsewhere. Surely, there’s a guy on your roster that you drafted who has a better matchup this week. If not, start Deuce but limit your expectations.

Mewelde Moore, RB Steelers vs. Jaguars
Surprisingly, the Jaguars aren’t all that scary to run against this year, but the question is whether or not Moore will be featured as a RB or used sparingly. He’s the fourth in line for carries (or at least, he was before all the injuries last week), and the Steelers may opt to have Big Ben throw more this week rather than risk putting too much of the offense in the hands of a backup guy. If you need a RB, he’s not a bad spot start, but there’s the risk that he doesn’t get the same looks Mendenhall or Willie Parker would.

Bobby Wade, WR Vikings vs. Saints
The Vikings haven’t exactly shredded it through the skies this season, but Wade had 75 yards from seven catches last week while no one was watching. As long as Sidney Rice remains a little banged up, Wade should get the majority of the snaps against the Saints very bad secondary. Scoring is probably too much to ask, but Wade could be a decent spot starter in a WR3 position. Almost anyone involved in the Vikings vs. Saints game is worthy of fantasy consideration.

Cold Shoulders

Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers vs. Falcons
Even if he plays this week, he’s still hurt. I wouldn’t take a chance on him. The Packers game plan will probably involve a heavy dose of Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson to win this one.

Edgerrin James, RB Cardinals vs. Bills
The aging running back busted out a good game last week against the Jets, but the offense will come down a few notches when it’s the Buffalo defense on the other end of the field. James won’t put many two TD games together this year as long as Kurt Warner is under center. You can go ahead and scratch this one off the list.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, RB Jaguars vs. Steelers
Other than TDs, there’s not many ways for running backs to make fantasy points against the Steeler defense. Look elsewhere this week. The Jaguars just don’t have the line right now to push around the Steeler run stoppers.

Randy Moss, WR Patriots vs. 49ers
Sit Moss until further notice…and by further notice, I really mean until Tom Brady is back next season. Matt Cassel has got to prove me wrong, but I don’t see him getting the ball to Moss anytime soon even though, with the 49ers, it’s always a potential shootout.

Sleepers

Domenik Hixon, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
I like Hixon from the massive, three touchdown performance he had this preseason. With Plaxico Burress out for a game, Hixon might be able to fill his shoes or at least share snaps with Steve Smith. Hixon’s got that big play ability and has been under the tutelage of Toomer. The other Steve Smith is still the safe play here, but if you want a deep sleeper, Hixon might be just that.

Dallas Cowboys defense vs. Bengals
If Carson Palmer doesn’t start, I expect the Cowboys to get their first INT of the season. If not, this defense could be high risk, high reward. It’s still the Bengals, and who knows when they will put it together again.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 4: Postgame reactions to the week that fantasy forgot

Where did that Carson Palmer injury come from on Sunday morning? I lucked out played against him this week, but I didn’t hear a word about it until I saw him putting up zero points heading into halftime. Enough with the quiet injuries already.

I’m still shocked there was an Ocho Cinco sighting without Palmer in the lineup.

Denver Broncos lose to the Kansas City Chiefs. That was unbelievable enough, but it just sounds silly when you consider that both Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall had big days. Unfortunately, they also fumbled. They’ll have to fix up that offense before Tampa Bay this week. I don’t think Larry Johnson is that good. Denver’s defense is that bad.

Royal had 100+ yards in the loss. I see him taking a Patrick Crayton of 2007 value. When Marshall has an average or less spectacular performance, Royal will have a big game, but when Marshall is out of this world, Royal is limited to something around 80 yards and a rare TD.

David Garrard might be hitting his stride. He’s getting back to being mobile to compensate for issues with the offensive line. Garrard is worth holding onto until after his bye. A Jags transition to a pass-first offense with Garrard threatening to run could make him increasingly more valuable in fantasy.

Is Matt Jones for real or is this just some residual effect of the drugs?

Matt Schaub woke up from his fantasy slumber in Week 4 as well. Was that Kevin Walter or Wes Welker out there? Either way, I want him on my fantasy roster.

By the way, Steve Slaton looks like he can do some big things. I’d make sure he’s on a roster this week if you’ve been ignoring my constant recommendation that you pick him up.

Brett Favre disappoints on Monday night and then fires back with six touchdowns this week — including one to the rookie TE Dustin Keller. (Get him.)

I can’t believe he took it up a notch with the Jets wide receivers so quickly. Coles is supposed to hate him for replacing his best friend, Chad Pennington, but I guess being mad at Favre is like ignoring a rocket-fast bullet flying into your chest. You just have to catch it.

Anquan Boldin certainly isn’t afraid to take a monster hit or run right into coverage. Glad he’s okay. There’s no way you should trade for him now when his value is at its peak, but if the owner gets scared of the injury or Boldin misses some time, make an offer. Boldin could win you several games down the stretch.

The Jets defense is becoming a potential fantasy play…but so is Kyle Orton.

J.T. O’Sullivan was underwhelming in this one, but he’s no Drew Brees. The 49ers will continue to develop a rhythm with their passing game should remain a fantasy threat on offense down the stretch. O’Sullivan’s a great QB2, but he’ll enter into a rough patch the next few weeks before he hits the next nice patch of matchups.

Atlanta corners are just bad — and especially bad against Steve Smith. Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith like being together in that offense. Delhomme likes them there, too.

When Tennessee plays Minnesota, you don’t expect to see 30 points on the board. Chris Johnson benefited from the LenDale White fumble and had a bigger game than anyone expected. Johnson’s basically become a must start in the Tennessee offense even though he splits time. More TDs would be nice though, Chris.

Greg Jennings finally scores a touchdown…and then another one. I know Aaron Rodgers got banged up and mistreated, but it was the Bucs defense. He’ll bounce back, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t start in Week 5 to torch the Atlanta corners (and get Greg Jennings another TD for this season).

Don’t sleep on Jordy Nelson. The rookie has talent and Rodgers’ trust.  As long as James Jones is out, Jordy Nelson is a borderline starter or WR3.

Where did Jerramy Stevens go this week? Jail?

Warrick Dunn is reducing Earnest Graham’s value. They are both being paid the same amount of green, and if you take away the two big runs that Graham has broken, he isn’t getting a lot of action. I think I’m worried if I am a Graham owner. Might be time to buy low on someone else. (Psst, Ryan Grant)

I am convinced that I have mind control after I commanded the Buffalo interception return for a touchdown and the long bomb to Lee Evans. Seriously, I was looking at my ESPN live scoring, and I asked myself why Buffalo had done nothing on defense…and why hadn’t Lee Evans gotten more than ONE throw. Prayers answered.

Trent Green is NOT a better quarterback than Marc Bulger, but maybe the Buffalo defense went a little easy on him since no one wanted a death on their hands if they sacked him into his last concussion.

What happened to the Cowboys on Sunday? Yes, being from Big D, I am a Cowboys fan. Loathe me.

I respected the Dallas corners, but this far into the season with no interceptions? Pacman really did just become just “Adam” this season. I no longer give them credit for their skills until the get an INT.

The Cowboys offense fell asleep in the second quarter — along with the corners — and Felix Jones has got to get at least one carry. Wade Phillips said the Cowboys have no plays designed for Jones in comeback situations. How about every game-changing run he’s had so far this season?

The Chargers really have given up a touchdown to a tight end every week this season. Even Zach Miller gets one for the Raiders. I’m starting Anthony Fasano if I have him this week against the Chargers. The TMR agrees.

JaMarcus Russell may still be young, but that guy can throw. Dynasty leaguers should note that potential.

DeSean Jackson finally gets his first TD in the NFL. I don’t think he let the ball go at all, but he caught this one in the end zone. Then, he fumbled a punt. Rookie.

Is Kyle Orton becoming a decent fantasy play? Someone pinch me…or slap me…or knock me out. This fantasy surge just can’t happen.

But Neckbeard has Detroit and Atlanta the next two weeks. Is it the mustache?

Can David Akers make field goals anymore? Rocca doesn’t like his chances. How close does he need to be these days?

If Westbrook had been in this game, he would have gotten that touchdown.

Joe Flacco can extend the play, hit his receivers and, like Russell, he’s got a gun. Unfortunately, he’s still a rookie. He’s going to fumble and make mistakes, and he did.

Where is Ray Rice? I hate you LeRon McClain and your last TD that cost me a match this week. That big boy might just be a waiver wire gem all season as long as McGahee can’t stay healthy.

Weeks like Week 4 are why projections can drive you crazy. Better lineups next week, and cheers and beers to all who started Brett Favre.

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Obviously, things change in fantasy football. There’s no Tom Brady, and therefore, no Randy Moss. Offenses in Seattle, Cincinnati and Cleveland are in shambles. Jacksonville keeps turning it over, and the Denver Broncos might have the most explosive offense of 2008.

Shanny, we knew you had it in you. I won’t even say that I called it. (I CALLED IT), but it was right there in front of our noses. This year might be a competition between T.O. and Baby T.O. for the top wide receiver spot.

Who else is hot this week? (Well, besides the obvious.)

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan, Bryant Johnson, Isaac Bruce vs. Lions: We are starting bold. The 49ers face off against Mike Martz’s former home. I think Detroit probably knows a lot of Martz’s schemes, but Martz also knows how to exploit the Detroit defense — not like that information is really top secret. I like this one to be high scoring and crazy. If you have J.T. O’Sullivan on your roster, this week and next week against the Saints look like his best starts of the year.

Frank Gore vs. Lions: Detroit cannot stop the run. Gore will get some action.

Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson vs. 49ers: An explosive contest and a weak secondary make the interception-prone QB a nice play this week.

All Your Broncos vs. Saints: Jay Cutler and his boys manhandled the Chargers defense last week. They’ll do the same to the Saints. Brandon Marshall could break the record for most receptions in a game in this one. I like it. The only exception to this rule is Selvin Young, who might be only a yardage guy from here on out.

Chris Johnson vs. Texans: Fast Willie Parker had 3 TDs, and this kid is faster.

Reggie Bush vs. Broncos: He’ll be relied upon as a target against the corners in Denver. Bush will have to pull some big plays to win, and Darren Sproles made the Broncos look they were standing still a few times last week.

Steve Smith vs. Vikings: Just in case you forgot he was on your roster. If he’s not on your roster and you want to get crazy, send a trade offer to see if you can smuggle him away before he even sees the field. With Randy Moss gone, Steve Smith might be the only challenger to Terrell Owens and Baby T.O. for the top WR spot.

Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Bengals: Destroy, Brandon Jacobs! Destroy! Ahmad Bradshaw even makes a decent start since he’s forgotten what he learned in kindergarten and no longer plans on sharing touchdowns. What does Jacobs have to do for a touchdown? Run over TWO safeties. I think Jacobs gets his first score this week. The Bengals defensive players are only on the roster because they are trying out for the offense.

Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Bengals: Surely, Eli and Plax will join in on the fun as well. You can’t just let Brandon Jacobs run the ball all day.

Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Matt Cassel vs. Dolphins: This week, Moss wakes up. He still remembers what to do when the ball comes his way.

Buffalo Bills D/ST vs. Raiders: JaMarcus Russell against the aggressive, healthy Buffalo defense. *Salivating* If the Oakland cornerbacks come to play, this game could become a contest to control the clock. Buffalo’s schedule gets good from here.

Philip Rivers vs. Jets: With L.T. slowed by his injury, Rivers could look to find Chambers again. They’ll want to put plenty of points on the board to keep themselves out of trouble in this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, John Carlson vs. Rams: New wide receivers and an easy day against the Rams could be all that Hasselbeck needs to come alive again. He might be the slow-starting Brees of 2007. Even though Hasselbeck gets new hands this week, he just might be growing fond of Carlson’s. Look for the rookie TE to have a decent day against the Rams — who doesn’t?

Julius Jones vs. Rams: Jones could have a similar day to his 127 yards and a TD against San Francisco.

Bubble Boys

Michael Turner vs. Chiefs: Injury could hinder his performance, but if he’s 100 percent, Turner could tear the Chiefs run defense up just like Michael Bush and Darren McFadden did last week. Pop this bubble if you see him off the injury report come Friday.

Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings vs. Cowboys: If Rodgers wants to win this one, he’s probably going to have to air it to stay ahead of Romo. I respect the Dallas corners even if they have given up a lot of yardage. Rodgers isn’t going to have as big a week as he did against Detroit, but he should do something.

Randy McMichael vs. Seahawks: Seattle might be on the worst defenses that the Rams face all year, but they should still get after Bulger. McMichael could have another Week 1 performance where he reaps the benefit of Bulger’s rushed passing. It’s a risk I’m willing to take unless, of course, I have a better option.

Brett Favre vs. Chargers: Favre’s risky, vertical throwing could get him into trouble against this secondary. The Chargers are hungry for a win after they had the Broncos’ game stolen by ‘Roid Ref. You might consider giving Favre a week off, but then again, it’s Monday night. That Stuckey guy will probably nail a TD or two down. That guy’s my nemesis.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor vs. Colts: Matt Forte didn’t need that great of an offensive line to run on the Colts. The Jags line could come together to make these two productive again, but maybe the Colts go up by so much, they don’t get a chance. I remember when this Colts-Jaguars matchup used to be a heated showdown…those were the days.

Larry Johnson vs. Falcons: L.J. is losing carries to Jamaal Charles, and I hated Charles when he was a Longhorn. Charles is just a fast pair of legs with unsure hands, but L.J. is an unsure set of legs with fast hands. (That means he’s good at magic tricks like making a five-yard play into a one-yard gain.) If Johnson’s yards per carry decreases, it’s because he’s running backwards. Might be time to put Charles on your roster.

Cold Shoulders

Lee Evans vs. Raiders: I know Jay Cutler exposed the Raiders lazy cornerback play, but Evans will get blanketed by he who cannot be named, Nnamdi Asomugha. While Evans is back to fantasy relevance this year, he should have a quiet one this week.

Pierre Thomas, Deuce McAllister vs. Broncos: You can run on Denver, but who is doing the running? If Deuce really does get worked into this rotation, it just muddies the value of Thomas. Are they playing Denver or is this Shanahan coaching their run game too?

Earnest Graham vs. Bears: He had a nice score last week, but this week’s Bears defense won’t let him get loose. He’ll have yardage, but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.

Ryan Grant vs. Cowboys: Until he’s healthy, he’s not going to have a good game. Against the Cowboys defense, he’ll need a good hamstring to be effective.

Steve Slaton, Chris Taylor vs. Titans: The Titans eat running backs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t try. Just don’t.

Chad Pennington vs. Patriots: Lacking their star corner, the Patriots still make it tough to throw on them. It won’t matter if Pennington has a My Size Barbie arm. Putting the ball through the air is just going to be hard.

All Raiders besides Darren McFadden vs. Bills: Buffalo will attack JaMarcus Russell from all sides. This game should show everyone that Buffalo is worth carrying on your roster as a starting defense, and it doesn’t get bad for the rest of the season.

Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis vs. Ravens: One more week of pain.

David Garrard vs. Colts: See above.

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson/Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Giants: The New York RB wrecking crew controls the clock in this one and will require that the Bengals put something in the air to win, but Palmer just doesn’t have it right now. The Bengals passing game is bench-worthy until I see a spark.

Green Bay Packers D/ST vs. Cowboys: It’s just not a good idea to play your defense against the Cowboys this season.

Sleeper candidates:

I’ll take a few shots in the dark this week, and we’ll see how that works out for me.

Michael Pittman vs. Saints: When the Broncos get close, look for Pittman to punch them into the end zone all day. Don’t get too confident. The Saints might let Royal and Marshall finish every catch at the goal post, but Pittman could get you a score or two in this one if you are hurting at RB.

Jerious Norwood vs. Chiefs: If Turner is slowed, Norwood could have a big day. McFadden used his speed to torch the Chiefs last week, and Norwood has some speed of his own.

Post any sit/start questions in the comments for help setting your roster this week. I have to get back to practicing my route running with Matt Hasselbeck.

Week 2 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Don’t get all reactionary when you are setting your lineups this week. If your stud disappointed in his first showing — and there is no evidence supporting his failure, i.e. horrible line in Jacksonville and St. Louis — just forget Week 1 happened.

This week, we’ll move into more of a Q&A mode with the start-or-sit recommendations. No matter how many people I name, you will always have a call between two players that I don’t address. Here’s your chance.

If I don’t mention one of your tough calls, or you have a follow-up question, post it in the comments (or you can send me direct messages through Twitter.)

Hot Hands

Chris Johnson vs. Bengals: If you thought he looked good against Jacksonville…

Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Rams: Big Boy make ‘em pay. Eli and Plax should connect a few times just as McNabb did with everyone on his team last week.

Derek Anderson vs. Steelers: When these two teams play each other, the QBs have a habit of going off.

Ben Roethlisberger vs. Browns: Same as Derek Anderson.

Ryan Grant vs. Lions: Ryan Grant vs. Lions, Ryan Grant vs. Lions. I’m just going to keep repeating it. It’s the Lions. They let Michael Turner run through them like Red Rover. As long as Grant starts, he will look big in this one — injured hammy and all.

While I am at it…

All Your Packers vs. Lions: Again, IT’S DETROIT. Everyone but Donald Lee is worthy of throwing in your lineup unless you have studs that outrank them.

Brian Griese vs. Falcons: Because there’s talk that Jeff Garcia might be getting traded, because Atlanta corners don’t scare me, because if I was faster, I might be able to start at corner for Atlanta and because he was worthy of starting last year when he was with the Bears. The Bucs have a better receiver group.

Jerricho Cotchery vs. Patriots: Clearly, he’s a favorite target of Brett Favre, and he’s had success in New England. The Jets want to win this one and Cotchery will be a big part of it.

Bills defense vs. Jaguars: Looked creative and aggressive against Seattle. Marcus Stroud should be looking for a nice “reminder” game — as in, remind the Jags why they never should have let him go. I’m scared.

Felix Jones vs. Eagles: Marion Barber hurt his ribs in Week 1. Jones scored a TD in that one. I see him getting more chances this week.

Bubble Boys

Philip Rivers vs. Broncos: Yes, Rivers has a great record in Denver, but I don’t like him this week. LaDainian’s best buddy is probably going to watch L.T. blow through the Denver run defense so badly and limit Rivers’ opportunities. If San Diego gets down in this one like I believe they might, he could turn it on, but my gut feeling is that he has a TD and a few yards. Surely, you drafted him as a QB2, so you can probably bench him in favor of your stud QB as long as your stud has a great matchup as well.

Damon Huard vs. Raiders: I know Oakland gave up every yard that Jay Cutler wanted last week, but that was Jay Cutler. This is Damon Huard. The corners might redeem themselves, but if you lost Tom Brady or Vince Young, you might not have better options.

Jay Cutler vs. Chargers: Cutler hasn’t had a lot of good games against San Diego, but he looks stronger this year. Having Brandon Marshall back from suspension, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler won’t hurt either. If he’s your best guy this week, why not give him a chance?

Lee Evans vs. Jaguars: Evans should be a solid WR2 or WR3 this year. If the Buffalo offense keeps this up, he might even warrant WR1 status in bigger leagues. Unfortunately, Jacksonville knows that he is a weapon and will probably lock him down this week if they can. Start him as a WR3 if you must, but don’t count on a huge week.

Tony Scheffler vs. Chargers: I’m going to go out on a wild card here and say Tony Scheffler is an okay start this week. Cutler faces one of the toughest defenses (without their best defensive player) and Scheffler might see the red zone targets if Brandon Marshall doesn’t finish all his catches in the red zone.

Cold Shoulders

Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor vs. Ravens: The Texans looked miserable against the Steelers. Do you really think they change that against the Ravens? No. That’s the answer.

Any Rams not named Steven Jackson or Randy McMichael vs. Giants: Not worth starting until they have an offense. Randy McMichael is an exception since it looks like he will be the only productive thing on offense, and you know Marc Bulger is going to want to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid shattered ribs.

Eagles defense vs. Cowboys: It’s hard to get sacks against the Cowboys, and this one could be high scoring. While the Cowboys defense might weather the storm, I don’t think Philadelphia will fare as well.

Q&A QB: Which Rookie Running Backs Are Worth Drafting?

Q&A QB is a head-smacking, hard-hitting, name-taking question and answer series where Jacob assists readers and his Twitter followers in perfecting their draft strategy and winning their league. If you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A QB post, send Jacob an email or tweet him (whatever that means).

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on some of the rookie running backs in the later rounds?

I have a feeling someone in my league will jump on the McFadden bandwagon and take him second or third round. I’m not sold on him that high, but what about Matt Forte in the later rounds (sixth or seventh)? Maybe Jonathan Stewart and Rashard Mendenhall? A sleeper pick I am looking at for the tenth or eleventh round is Ray Rice. What are your thoughts on him?

To answer this question, let’s just break down all the rookie RBs worth drafting. Rankings are at the bottom for those of you who like to cheat.

Darren McFadden RB Oakland Raiders

Darren McFadden is going earlier than I think he deserves. He’s not going to put up Adrian Peterson numbers this year. I think fourth round is really the best round to snag him in for value. Any sooner than that is expecting more than you are going to get.

I am not a fan of the crowded backfield in Oakland. He will eventually be the starting running back there, but the Raider offense is still very weak and unproven in the passing game. They will lean heavily on their running game and get McFadden decent numbers with a few exceptional performances. He won’t be breaking any rookie records.

In the second round, let someone else spend a high pick on him. Solid running backs that will out produce him for 2008 are still available there. You can find a better RB2. Make McFadden a FLEX or RB3.

Matt Forte RB Chicago Bears

Matt Forte is a reliable pick. He won’t put up any crazy stat weeks, but he should be good for some consistent yardage and a few scores.

He’s a nice pick because he is actually going at his value.

There is a slight scare now that Kevin Jones has returned from his injury that he will take Forte’s job away, but I think the Bears still want to put the ball in Forte’s hands as their back of the future. Even if they share time, I think I like the chances for Forte to be successful.

You can get Forte in the later rounds, and if he does end up producing more than consistent yardage and the occasional score, he’s has great value there.

Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers

I really Jonathan Stewart this year, but no one is sure whether he will get the start in Carolina.

Last season, Carolina screwed everyone by starting DeShaun Foster after consensus opinion was that DeAngelo Williams would have won the role. It could happen again with Stewart and Williams.

Depending upon who you ask, Carolina has one of the easiest rushing schedules in 2008. If you can get Stewart in the fifth round and DeAngelo Williams in the sixth or seventh, the pair creates a strong RB2 for any fantasy team.

If you draft Stewart in the fifth round or so, just make sure you get Williams or another solid start in case Stewart doesn’t win the starting job right away.

Rashard Mendenhall RB Pittsburgh Steelers

Rashard Mendenhall’s value isn’t really clear at this point.

He’s likely to steal short yardage looks for Willie Parker, but I don’t see him taking command of this offense this year as much as Jonathan Stewart could. He might be a bye week fill late in the season if he sees an increased role, but for now, he is merely a good backup to roster late for Willie Parker owners.

Some people are going to be really high on him like I am on Stewart, but I don’t buy him being a big fantasy producer in the Steelers’ offense this year. Take Mendenhall later in your draft if you get Willie Parker, but he should go off the boards only after all the RBs with the chance to start are gone.

Ray Rice RB Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice is a smart pick to close out your draft — especially with McGahee returning slowly from his recent surgery. Rice could end up playing a larger role in this offense than we originally thought for 2008 if McGahee falters.

Cam Cameron knows how to make phenomenal RBs. If Rice has the job given to him, he will benefit, but I still think McGahee is the guy in 2008. He’ll get past his injury before the season gets going.

Steve Slaton RB Houston Texans

Steve Slaton is a better flier late in your draft than Ray Rice. He has a good chance to start by the end of this season.

Houston has Ahman Green in the starting role, but he is on his way out. They brought Chris Brown to play a stopgap role in case Green is injured again this season and to hold them over until Slaton can start, but Brown has injury troubles again as well.

Slaton is the future of the franchise at RB — unless Chris Taylor lives up to all that “coach speak” love from offseason last year. Luckily for fantasy owners, Taylor is being transitioned into a fullback. If Slaton shines enough, he could have the starting job.

If the Texans RBs are plagued with injury, Slaton will start and produce well. He could work his way into a role worth of a RB2 spot on your fantasy team. If you are willing to wait on him — and he’s a better one to wait on than Ray Rice or Mendenhall — he’s more likely than other rookies to have a significant role by the middle of the season.

Chris Johnson RB Tennessee Titans

The wild card rookie this year is Chris Johnson. He set the NFL Combine ablaze when he posted the fastest 40 time. That speed got him drafted in the first round by the Titans.

He’s sharing a backfield with LenDale White, but he also has explosive, big play potential. The Titans could use him like Reggie Bush was utilized in the Saints’ offense during his rookie season.

Johnson is already gunning for offensive rookie of the year and talking it up. With a crowded backfield for McFadden in Oakland and the absence of receiving playmakers in the Tennessee offense, it just might happen.

The only drawback of drafting Johnson is that he is skyrocketing up draft boards. He’s going ahead of LenDale in some drafts now. If he falls to the sixth or seventh in your draft, he is a steal there. Taking him as a RB2 is not advised, but a FLEX or RB3 is a perfect place to put him. Don’t pay too much for a guy you can’t be sure about.

Kevin Smith RB Detroit Lions

When Tatum Bell returned to the Lions, he thought he would be the starting Detroit RB. Too bad…

Kevin Smith almost broke the record for total yardage in a season while in college. He can handle a big workload. Plus, he ran in the Detroit Lions same system while in college. The Lions won’t be great this year, but as long as he has another strong showing in the Week 4 preseason game, the Lions are likely to declare him the starter over Bell. That means he’ll be worth something in fantasy.

He’s barely worth a RB3 spot right now, but taking him as a backup RB could end up being a smart move when Detroit faces weak run defenses.

Ryan Torain RB Denver Broncos

It’s no secret that Mike Shanahan is in love with Ryan Torain. He likes his physical size and abilities and compares him to Terrell Davis.

Torain could have overtaken Selvin Young before he injured his elbow in the preseason. Now, he should miss the first part of the season and return in a backup role, but don’t be surprised to see him get on the field.

Selvin Young, for all his talk this offseason, is not a feature back. While Young can carry the load early this season, he could easily struggle or suffer an injury. It’ll be hard for him to keep a guy like Torain on the bench as long as Mike Shanahan likes the new rookie RB.

He’s not worth drafting, but he’s a player to watch as the season progresses. Just like every other guy on Shanahan’s list, Torain could put up some fantasy points when he’s back on Denver’s RB depth chart.

Felix Jones RB Dallas Cowboys

To use the incredibly over-killed phrase, Felix Jones is the lightning to Marion Barber’s thunder. (I already feel cheaper for having said that.)

Unlike the fading Julius Jones, Felix Jones brings some impact speed to the Cowboys running game. He’ll likely play more snaps than Julius Jones did late last season and compliment Barber with some big yardage breaks and a few big touchdowns.

He doesn’t have the same super speed as Chris Johnson, but he is worth putting on your roster before you start going after some of the iffy starting RBs. Dallas’ offense is powerful, and Jones will put up points by just being in that machine. You could take him in the seventh or eighth round for a potent FLEX player or backup RB.

More rookie RBs that just aren’t worth drafting yet:

  • Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals (He won’t steal Edge’s job just yet)
  • Mike Hart, Indianapolis Colts (Addai and Rhodes in front of him)
  • Tashard Choice, Dallas Cowboys (He’ll give Barber breathers but not much else)
  • Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (Not impressive enough to steal much time from LJ or Kolby Smith)

Which rookie RBs are worth drafting and where?

Rankings go by who I would want on my team the most, not necessarily where you’ll have to draft them to get them on your team. Round recommendations are the earliest I would suggest drafting the rookie RB based on a 12-team, non-PPR league. Average draft position stats from Footballguys.com.

1 Darren McFadden ADP: 40 4th Rd
2 Jonathan Stewart ADP: 64 5th Rd
3 Chris Johnson ADP: 96 6th Rd to 8th Rd
4 Matt Forte ADP: 66 6th Rd
5 Felix Jones ADP: 98 7th Rd to 8th Rd
6 Kevin Smith ADP: 67 6th Rd
7 Steve Slaton ADP:153 12th Rd
8 Rashard Mendenhall ADP: 87 9th Rd to 10th Rd
9 Ray Rice ADP:114 12th Rd (Late Flier)
10 Ryan Torain ADP:198 Undrafted (Late Flier)

Combine appearances moving stock for elite players [Combine News]

Darren McFadden cooled worries about his on-the-field game by posting an impressive 40-yard dash.

His official time was recorded as 4.33. (His first run was timed “unofficially” at 4.27). With that show, McFadden proved he was one of the fastest players in Indianapolis. He showed his burst speed, but doubts could still be raised about his ability to run between the tackles. Then, there is always the issue of all his multiple children on the way and off-the-field baggage still to be considered. He still keeps the hype as the first back anyone will take in this year’s draft, but some who don’t desperately need his help might think twice.

The title of fastest running back at the Combine goes to Chris Johnson of East Carolina. Johnson ran a 4.24. Even if a cornerback comes close to those numbers tomorrow, that is one of the top times ever seen at the Combine. His role in an NFL franchise is probably as a returner like Devin Hester or a change up back like Jerious Norwood. He is competing among running backs in the same spot as Jamaal Charles of Texas in my opinion, and his faster time maskes him look more appealing for special teams. His stock definitely rose with that 40-yard time.

QB Joe Flacco was considered by some to be the best quarterback prospect at the Combine. He might end up being a steal in the second round with his powerful arm, but he hasn’t broken into consideration for the first round yet. Flacco didn’t run as fast as he promised in the 40-yard dash, but the hype around him has been rising ever since scouts got a good look at him in the Senior Bowl. He has a pretty nice highlight reel.

As far as strength goes, Vernon Gholston looked like a superhuman beast in the Combine workouts. His stats surpassed Chris Long, his fellow defensive linemen who currently holds the top spot among DL and the possibility of going first overall to Miami. Gholston ran a 4.64–that’s quite the momentum–and tied Jake Long with 37 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Some predict Gholston’s stock rising from his stats and times today, but Chris Long still showed better technique and quickness in the skill drills. I expect Long to keep the top spot come draft day.

One player flying under the radar is Josh Johnson. Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom, the hosts of The Audible podcast at Footballguys.com, really love this guy. Other sports writers are still skeptical that anyone will give him a chance to play quarterback. He posted the fastest 40-yard time for any QB at 4.55 and the highest vertical at 33.5. Even though he only played at San Diego, he reminds scouts of Vince Young. That guy hasn’t turned out so bad–overlooking some possible taint on this year due a defeat of the Madden curse.

For the complete results of all the Combine athletes thus far, check out FFToolbox’s Combine Results tables.