Another week of NFL games means another week of heartbreak, heartburn, and for some, excessive celebrations and taunting. And, of course, it means another week of difficult roster situations. The mailbag this week was replete with questions about veteran quarterbacks. Drew Bledsoe, Kerry Collins, and Trent Green led the charge. Owners are curious about options to shore up their receiving corps, and a truckload of letters came in about the prospects of a highly touted Houston receiver.
All these topics and running back toss-ups make up this week's lightning round. Let's open some mail …
Alright, this is a toughie, at least for me. I've got both Drew Bledsoe and Kerry Collins (and Moss) in my fantasy league. Both teams are terrible on pass defense. I think the edge goes to Bledsoe because Dallas's running game is a bit better than Oakland's and sets him up more. Help, please! – Marty in Torrance, CA
This was perhaps the most repeated question of the week. The Collins/Bledsoe combination appears to be the most common QB tandem among fantasy owners this seasons. It's certainly a difficult call in this head-to-head matchup, but I'm giving the nod to Collins this week.
The Raiders were able to contain Trent Green at home in Week (237 yards and zero scores), despite the presence of a potent running attack. I expect much the same to play out here, with Julius Jones handling the ball 25-30 times, and Bledsoe moving the chains with veterans Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn. Bledsoe will go for 200 yards and one, perhaps even two scores in this contest. But, I think Collins will be one better.
Through three games, Collins is averaging 290 passing yards and two scoring strikes, and his secondary receiving options are just getting healthy! Randy Moss will have a huge game this week against a Dallas secondary that has surrendered multiple TD receptions to a single receiver in three straight games (Keenan McCardell, Santana Moss, and Brandon Lloyd). Moss will get the extra attention, meaning that Jerry Porter (another week removed from injury and the target of 12 passes last week) will find room to operate, as will third man Doug Gabriel. Add LaMont Jordan's penchant for catching the ball out of the backfield and early breakout star Courtney Anderson, and you've got a huge day for Collins and company. I expect this string without an interception to stop, but the three or four TD passes he'll hang on Dallas will more than offset that miscue.
I have to choose between either Curtis Martin against the Ravens defense or Jamal Lewis, who hasn't done anything so far this season and is against a Jets defense that has been good at stopping the run. Would you start Martin and bank on the fact that potentially 60 percent of the Jets' plays would be running plays, or start Jamal Lewis based on the chance that he may see 35-plus carries if the Jets are unable to move the ball offensively? – AJ in Albany, NY
For this contest, they just might bring out a guy to play QB for both sides like you did in the schoolyard as kids.
But seriously, with the extra week of rest off the Bye week, I expect Jamal Lewis to shoulder a heavy load this week against the Jets, who are allowing 134 yards per game on the ground. The Ravens need his legs to get back into the AFC North picture, and this is the perfect time to work the ground game, as the Jets will struggle to score behind Brooks Bollinger. Like Fred Taylor in last week's game, I expect Lewis to top his full season carries total in this contest, going north of 30.
Martin faces the tough task in that the Baltimore defense has had an extra week to prepare and get their defensive house in order, and that they're hungry to get their swagger back. Combine that motivation with Chad Pennington's absence and the injury to starting tackle Jason Fabini (sprained MCL), and it could be a very long day for the Jets offense. I look for Derrick Blaylock to be used more in this game to try and change the pace, as the Ravens will assuredly put eight in the box to stop Martin.
I would like to know who is a better start this week due to the tough defenses of the opponents: Mike Anderson versus Jacksonville or Fred Taylor. I would also like to know who is a better start between Trent Green and Tim Rattay. – Jesse in Woodbury, NY
For your RB situation, I like Taylor going against the Broncos. I believe Jack Del Rio rewards his tailback for showing heart and tremendous conditioning in his career-high 37 attempts against the Jets in last week's OT thriller. I suspect that with a healthy offensive line ahead of him, and the Jaguars trying to allow Byron Leftwich's leg to heal fully, that Taylor will again be counted on for 25 or more carries. Though Denver's defense was up to the task against the dynamic duo of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, I expect Leftwich's effectiveness in the passing game with three solid receiving options to open things up for Taylor on the
As for Anderson, he'll face a tough test against the stout Jacksonville this week. I expect the Broncos to work in Tatum Bell and possibly Ron Dayne to shuffle the pace against the eighth-ranked Jaguars defense (14.7 points per game). Jake Plummer plays considerably worse away from home, and may go into battle without veteran receiver Rod Smith. The Denver skill players are a tricky play this week.
Turning to the QB situation, it's not often that you'll recommend 49ers players, but they're in a good spot this week against the banged up Cardinals secondary in Mexico City. Rattay has thrown five TD passes through the first three games. You'll naturally see a dubious throw or two that results in an INT, but the upside in this matchup with Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle on the wings is high. Plus, it gives you a reason to watch the Sunday night game.
Trent Green is one of the early disappointments to 05, failing to connect with Tony Gonzalez, and looking out of sorts with bounced passes and poor throws. The Chiefs face a tough Philadelphia defensive secondary, and with Willie Roaf still on the shelf, it could be a long day for the normally dominant Chiefs attack. I expect a better showing than the Monday night loss to Denver, but for the solid efforts to come off of the ground.
I'd run with Jake Delhomme this week against a terrible Packers secondary. They've already allowed seven scoring strikes in three games, and I look for Delhomme to hang two or three more on them on Monday night. I wouldn't count out an encore performance of Steve Smith's Week 3 brilliance despite the double and triple teams that will come his way. The Panthers will look to re-establish Stephen Davis in this game and control the momentum in front of the home crowd. He'll soften the middle and suck the linebackers in, giving Delhomme passing lanes for Smith and company. I look for TE Kris Mangum to be a factor in this game, and for the attention afforded to Smith to get Keary Colbert more involved (he has been targeted 19 times by Delhomme, despite recording only two catches thus far in 05).
As for Vick, I believe he's becoming more comfortable as a passer and this week offers a solid spot against a questionable Minnesota defense, but the presence of Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett keeps him a notch below Delhomme for this week's matchups. He's always got Alge Crumpler to rely on , and receivers Brian Finneran and Michael Jenkins continue to evolve as solid weapons for him as well. I look for him to put up 250 yards (passing and rushing), but you can't count on a multi-TD performance. Despite the temptation of the Vikings defense, run with Delhomme against the weak Green Bay defense.
This week I was wondering if I should go with Larry Fitzgerald, whose numbers have been declining recently, against San Francisco, or if I should go with T.J. Duckett against Minnesota? I need the spot filled for the WR/RB position. – Jeremy in Raleigh, NC
It comes down to two simple questions. How much do you trust Josh McCown? And, do you like to watch your players in prime time?
Through three weeks of the season, Fitzgerald was the recipient of 27 looks from Arizona quarterbacks. There's no question that his value took a bit of a hit with Warner sidelined, but lest we forget, Josh McCown did toss a number of Fitzgerald's eight TD catches a season ago. The 49ers secondary is banged up (Mike Rumph is on IR and Ahmed Plummer just had surgery) and allows passing yards and touchdowns like no other (369 yards per game and nine TDs). Those numbers certainly whet your appetite and fire up unrealistic expectations, because despite a favorable schedule against the pass thus far (NYG, STL, and SEA), the Cardinals have scored just one TD through the air. I suspect that the Cardinals move the ball between the 20s well again this week, but that Neil Rackers becomes a household name and international star with a big game in Mexico City. I think there's the potential for Fitzgerald to make a big play and find the end zone, but I'm going with the bruising tailback from Atlanta in this instance.
With Jerome Bettis sidelined for the early part of the campaign, Duckett has had the vulture glory all to himself. He's already tallied three touchdowns, and bulldozed the Bills defense for 75 yards on 12 carries in Week 3. The Vikings rank 29th in the NFL against the run, meaning that Jim Mora will undoubtedly make tremendous use out of the D&D connection in the backfield. I look for Duckett to repeat last week's performance, punctuating his effort with two scores.
I believe that Ahman Green will eventually find running room as this offensive line gels, but I don't believe it'll happen this week against Carolina. Green has gone nine straight regular season games without topping the century mark, and the losses of Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera have certainly slowed the Packers attack. The Panthers are allowing a mere 94 rushing yards per contest, so I don't see a big effort here. With Julius Peppers and the pass rush eager to make an impact this week, I look for Green to be more involved in the passing game.
I'd turn to Moore this week against the Falcons. Atlanta has allowed 128 yards per game on the ground thus far, and with some of the kinks worked out in the Minnesota passing offense, Moore will have space to run. Daunte Culpepper has established a solid rapport with Travis Taylor and will look to work in talented rookie Troy Williamson even more this week. Take note that the Atlanta defense has only allowed two touchdowns on the ground, so don't expect a ridiculous point total this week. However, I look for Moore to eclipse 100 yards and to find the end zone in this one.
Should I keep Andre Johnson or just get rid of him? Will he get any better? – Steve in Worcester, MA
As Johnson was the ninth receiver drafted on average in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football PLUS drafts, there's no doubt that you spent an early pick for his services. As such, dropping him outright is not an option, and you're likely to get raked over the coals in any trade offer. Despite tallying a mere seven catches for 38 yards in the first two weeks of the season, I believe there's still hope for a turnaround and a respectable season. He's not going to rival most team's No. 1 receivers with the continued problems on the offensive line, but I think the switch of offensive coordinators will remedy some of that mess.
Coming out of the Bye week, look for the Texans to employ more three-step drops for David Carr to keep him from throwing from his posterior. I look for Johnson to be used in a fashion similar to Hines Ward and Terrell Owens going forward. Instead of running deeper routes, he'll be looked to on more short slants and crossing routes to give him space to run and to get the ball into his hands more quickly. Don't count out a 1,000-yard season for him just yet (he needs a shade under 69 yards per contest to get to that mark), but don't expect more than 6-8 touchdowns.
Thanks to everyone for submitting your comments, questions, and roster quandaries for this week. Please remember to include your town so that you can be properly represented.
Here's to a winning week on the virtual gridiron.