October 27, 2010
Incredibly enough, the NFL is actually going to allow Denver and San Francisco to play the Wembley game this week, as scheduled. Any international progress the league made in previous years will thus be erased.
As you'll note in the image above, London Mayor Boris Johnson (center, disheveled) seems somewhat perplexed — appropriately so, because it's insane that this is the match-up we're exporting. The Broncos-Niners game has the potential to set back U.S.-British relations 240 years. Let's hope either Frank Gore(notes) or Kyle Orton(notes) can do something to save this thing. Below, both players are ranked as if they will.
QUARTERBACKS1. Peyton Manning(notes) vs. HOU
Let's just get the Brett Favre discussion out of the way at the top: He's in a walking boot, he's legitimately injured, and he'd really like to re-set everyone's expectations to zero. "I would love to play," he told reporters on Wednesday, then added, "There's a chance I don't play." At no point did he mention that he's currently the 28th ranked player at his position in terms of per-game fantasy scoring, but he is. He's clearly a risky play. Even if Favre starts, he may not finish. … In a miserable loss to Cleveland in Week 7, Drew Brees still delivered a tolerable fantasy line (356 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs). No one ever likes to see a match-up against Pittsburgh on the schedule, but understand that Brees is basically a lock to put the ball in the air 40-plus times. You can't bench him under these circumstances. Even if the Saints had a respectable running game at the moment (they don't, they rank 26th), the Steelers would almost certainly shut it down. Pittsburgh's run defense is the best in the NFL, by a wide margin (2.8 YPC, 63.7 YPG). This sets up as another game where the run is an afterthought, and Brees is responsible for all the scoring. Start with confidence.
Back in the '80s (or whenever it was), Jon Kitna was a solid option for fantasy owners, although inaccuracy was always part of the scouting report. None of us can say precisely what a 38-year-old Kitna is going to look like after a full week of practice with the varsity, but you have to like the opponent (Jacksonville) and of course we all know he has a few weapons at his disposal. If you're in a league that doesn't penalize too severely for turnovers, he's a much safer start. You're always at risk of a five-turnover game with Kitna. Nice ceiling, killer floor. … Vince Young returned to practice for the Titans on Wednesday, so it would be a mild surprise if he can't go this weekend. The problem: He'll face the league's top-ranked pass defense. The other problem: He still hasn't thrown (or hasn't been allowed to throw) more than 28 passes in any game this season. … Troy Smith, not David Carr(notes), will draw the start for the Niners in Week 8, since Alex Smith (shoulder) is on the shelf. London is electric with anticipation. That city was geeked for Josh Johnson(notes) last year, sure, but this Smith thing is, like, 100 times bigger.
RUNNING BACKS1. Adrian Peterson at NE
There really shouldn't be many surprises at the top of the ranks this week — it's mostly brand-name backs and/or match-up plays. But perhaps you're wondering about Felix Jones, who seemed to take a step back in Week 7 (nine carries for 35 yards, three receptions for 27). Dallas only ran the ball 13 times against the Giants, as the team went into catch-up mode in the second half. Assuming the score never gets out of hand against Jacksonville, Jones should get all the work he can handle, particularly with Kitna at the controls of the Cowboys' offense. He's been a sneaky PPR play. Stay the course, Felix owner.
DeAngelo Williams was held out of practice on Wednesday, due to a foot injury of unknown severity. Thus, he was held out of the top-30 in my early RB ranks, and Jonathan Stewart received a bump. If there's better news on Williams later in the week, those two may flip positions. … Carnell Williams and LeGarrette Blount will reportedly share carries in the Arizona game. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Cadillac will not be used exclusively on third downs. Blount was a monster in the win over St. Louis (11 carries, 72 yards), but Williams caught the game-winning score. … Beanie Wells has an outstanding match-up in Week 8, no question. Brad gave you the details in this week's Flames. Tampa Bay's defense ranks last in the NFC in stopping the run (157.7 YPG). The problem is, I have no confidence that the Cards' offense can score more than 10-13 total points, so Wells doesn't crack the top-10. I can only award him three-and-a-half Noises:
Really wish I could be more bullish, but the lousy team context in Arizona limits Beanie's ceiling.
WIDE RECEIVERS1. Calvin Johnson(notes) vs. WAS
At the rate the Bucs are targeting Mike Williams (11 times last week), there's a huge game coming. The rookie is a massive talent, and he's facing one of the league's most user-friendly Ds in Week 8. Arizona has allowed 26.7 points and 368.7 total yards per game. Respect the two-Mike Williams fantasy alignment.
Steve Johnson has found the end zone five times in his last four games for Buffalo, and he's coming off an eight-catch, 158-yard effort against Baltimore. He's more than a garbage-time phenomenon. (Irrelevant detail: Four years ago, I was convinced that Johnson's college quarterback, Andre Woodson, was going to be a star. It's possible that I didn't appreciate Kentucky's receiving corps — Johnson, Keenan Burton(notes), Jacob Tamme(notes). Told you this was irrelevant). … Apparently, last week's reports about Anthony Gonzalez's re-tweaked ankle were slightly exaggerated (or just flat-out wrong). Gonzalez is expected to be ready for the match-up with Houston, which complicates the Blair White situation. … Malcom Floyd(notes) (hamstring) is expected to be sidelined on Sunday, and there's reportedly a possibility that he'll be out through San Diego's Week 10 bye.
TIGHT ENDS1. Antonio Gates(notes) vs. TEN
DEFENSES1. Pittsburgh Steelers at NO
Photos via Getty Images