Can't make any sense out of Curtis Martin's resurrected career? Worried about Hines Ward now that Ben Roethlisberger is behind center for Pittsburgh? Wondering which of the seven undefeated NFL teams are for real? Yahoo! Sports' fantasy triumvirate offer their informed opinions on these subjects and more.
Q:Can Curtis Martin possibly keep up his torrid pace with the stout run defenses of Miami, Buffalo (4th in rushing yardage allowed) and San Francisco (3rd in rushing yardage allowed) in the offing?
I believe he can, so long as Mr. Chad Pennington is lining up behind center for those games. I'll give credit to Martin for looking like he's 10 years younger, but Pennington makes the Jets' offense go and his supporting cast sees improved numbers because of it. Just look at the past 34 regular season games. In 23 of those games, Pennington was the starter and Martin averaged 93 rushing yards and scored 12 TD's. But in the 11 contests in which Pennington didn't start, Martin averaged just more than 50 rushing yards and did not find paydirt in any of those contests.
People (myself included) look at Curtis Martin as if he's back from the dead. He rushed for over 1,300 yards last year on 4.0 yards per carry. My only concern is his workload. He carried the ball 32 times in Week 2, his highest total since 2000. I think he'll keep it up.
The Jets' soft schedule to start the season has undeniably contributed to Martin's blazing start to the season. I believe that Curtis Martin's eye-popping start to the season will slow considerably and that he can't possibly average 32 carries per game over an entire season. Granted, he might not lose as many carries to LaMont Jordan as expected in the preseason. Rather, with these premier run defenses on the horizon, Chad Pennington and company will need to turn the passing game up a notch. They're also still try to get prized offseason acquisition Justin McCareins fully into the mix.
Q:Despite the 2-0 start, Michael Vick has completed only 11 passes to his wideouts for 129 yards and zero touchdowns. If you're a Vick owner, are you concerned at all about this lack of production from the receiver position long-term?
Vick simply isn't a classic pocket passer and those who didn't realize that obvious fact went out and drafted Peerless Price, still believing that big numbers were coming his way. Warrick Dunn and Alge Crumpler will continue to be the beneficiaries of the passing game, while Dunn and Vick himself will own the running game. And if the receivers ever figure into the mix at all, the passes will be so spread around that there won't be a wideout for fantasy owners to hang there hat on.
Unless I own Peerless Price, I could care less who he throws to. I'll be comfortable with 200 yards and one touchdown every week so long as he continues to supplement that with 50 or so rushing yards and a touchdown every few weeks.
I'm somewhat concerned by this development, but who's to argue with his success? Simply put, does it matter whether he completed 20 balls to receivers or running backs? Vick may run for a half-dozen touchdowns or more on his own.
Peerless Price owners are clearly vexed by this inauspicious beginning. He wasn't drafted as highly as in 2003, but still sits in the No. 2 spot on many fantasy rosters. Dez White, Michael Jenkins, Brian Finneran and the rest of the corps are uninspiring, but as long as Alge Crumpler roams the middle of the field, Vick remains a top fantasy QB. Just be ready to sit with your heart in your throat over the course of the season.
Now that Jones is out, I've started the countdown to when ReShard Lee gets a shot to take over for the dilapidated Eddie George. Until that happens, yes, Dallas will continue to throw out of necessity. Testaverde becomes the most valuable in that scenario, as there isn't a clear go-to guy in the receiving mix. Any given week, any one of the talented foursome of Jason Witten, Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant could lead this team in receiving.
Right now I'd rather own Testaverde than any of Dallas' wideouts. Yes, they all get an upgrade because of their rushing woes, but it looks like it could be Keyshawn, Glenn, Bryant or now even Witten as the go-to guy on any given week.
Eddie George has been pathetic thus far, stumbling ahead for a 3.3 yards per carry average and ReShard Lee is not an every-down back. Vinny will need to toss the ball 35-plus times per game, making the trio of Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Antonio Bryant solid plays, week in and week out. They face a number of teams that are far better run-stuffers than they are at shutting down the passing game.
And let's not forget about Jason Witten. As Parcells has done in the past with all three of the aforementioned receivers, he called Witten out toward the end of training camp with regard to his blocking and route running. Those are like whispers of sweet nothings from the Tuna and a signal that he's ready to let Witten dominate. Hit the waiver wire to see if he's still available.
Q:Hines Ward leads the NFL in receiving yards after two weeks. What do you think his prospects are with young Ben Roethlisberger under center?
Ward caught four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown after Roethlisberger took over for Tommy Maddox midway through the third quarter. So it seems clear to me that Roethlisberger knows who his sugar daddy is. I can't say enough good things about Hines Ward, and if ever there was a safety valve for a young quarterback, Ward is the man. I was never that impressed with Maddox, anyway, so I'm not going to predict much of a drop in Ward's production, if any.
Roethlisberger may be a rookie, but he was smart enough to know that the fastest way to get from the line of scrimmage to the goal line is to look Ward's way. If Pittsburgh wants to simplify things for Big Ben, it's natural that a possession receiver like Ward will be heavily involved.
The first line in the Pittsburgh playbook handed to Ben Roethlisberger read simply: Hines is open.
All Ward does is catch balls. Over the last three seasons, he ranks in the top five among receivers in both receptions and touchdowns. Look for Pittsburgh to run the ball more with Duce Staley, but for Ward to continue on this pace. Quick screens and timing routes, all involving Ward, will be key for the development of the young QB. Watch for Ward to finish the year around 13 touchdowns.
Q:After the bye week in Week 3, the Buffalo Bills face New England, New York Jets, Miami and Baltimore. Just how bad will things get in Buffalo, and how long before Willis McGahee hears his name called regularly?
Enough already with Willis McGahee. I was a huge fan of his in Miami, as I'm also a big Hurricanes fan. But McGahee has yet to do anything to convince me he's ready to take over for a RB who has averaged nine touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards in his first three seasons (Travis Henry). Sure, McGahee scored some TD's in preseason play, but he's averaging 3.1 yards a carry as a professional (preseason and regular season combined). The problem does not lie with Henry. The problem lies with a sub par offensive line and an aging quarterback who can't improvise (Drew Bledsoe).
Buffalo will continue to struggle, but in order for McGahee's fantasy value to rise, he'll need to take advantage of his opportunities. Travis Henry has struggled along with the rest of the offense, but Willis has yet to step up and push for playing time.
Buffalo is 10-5 all-time after their bye week since its inception. Yeah, that's a nice stat, but this year they get to face New England. Actually, that's OK, because last season Drew Bledsoe and company pasted the Patriots in the season opener. I think the extra week off will help get the timing on track and allow for Mike Mularkey to correct some of the issues that have forced the offense to stall. Eric Moulds is calling for an increased number of deep balls to rookie Lee Evans. We'll see if he gets his wish fulfilled.
As for McGahee, he'll start to see more carries to keep Travis Henry (3.2 yards per carry) from getting pounded. He also produces a change of pace that should help get the offense clicking. In the end, Mike Mularkey, do something, even if it's wrong.
Q:Can the Chiefs rebound from their 0-2 start? In particular, can Trent Green turn it around?
As a Seattle fan, I know how hard it is for a defense to improve over night. The Seahawks are finally turning things around, but it took years. I fully expect the Chiefs defense to continue it's miserable ways, and they'll be very hard-pressed to win nine games. But their offense certainly should improve. Heck, it wasn't until their fifth game that Green produced a two-touchdown game in '03. And, for that matter, as bad as Tony Gonzalez has been through the first two games, he was worse last season. Facing Houston in Week 3 certainly will be a cure for what ails them and could ultimately be what snaps them out of their funk.
I can't get excited about any of Kansas City's receivers, so I fear Green will be a season-long downgrade. As a team I still see them rebounding to claim a playoff spot.
The Chiefs are riddled with injuries on both offense and defense, and the defenders are starting to get testy. That's good. They need a spark to get back to the defense that was plus-19 in turnovers to lead the NFL in 2003.
Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez are banged up, and both Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton are dinged as well. The loss of Marc Boerigter before the opener was a big blow to the downfield passing game, but Vermeil and company will rebound. Lest we forget, Green was unspectacular in the first two weeks of the Chiefs' run in 2003, tossing only two touchdowns in that span. He'll step up a notch and out of the zero TD club against Houston, but I think his prospects for the season are shoddy. Look to the waiver wire for a suitable backup if you're running with Green.
Q:Assuming your QB is on a bye and you haven't drafted a backup, whose number are you calling for Week 3?
Houston's David Carr. He's got a hot hand, throwing for 300-plus yards in Week 2. He faces a Kansas City defense that has allowed five TD passes in two games. And Carr performs much better (fantasy numbers) when he goes on the road.
Left to choose from widely available QB's, I'd roll the dice on Joey Harrington and Roy Williams continuing their Motor City magic. He'll be under constant blitz pressure from the Philly defense, but 250 yards and a couple of TD's isn't unreasonable, particularly if they are playing catch-up.
I'm looking to Kurt Warner in New York. With a defense obliterated by injury both on the line and in the secondary, Warner and the Giants should be able to move the ball. Yes, he's statuesque. Yes, his top receiver, Amani Toomer, has been held in check through the first two weeks. And yes, there's already discontented and brooding players lining the field. What gets forgotten is that this guy is still deadly accurate and that mini-camps and a couple of preseason schedules can't get one ready for the real deal. He was steady in leading the Giants to a win against Washington and will get the job done in Week 3, utilizing Tiki Barber out of the backfield and hitting Jeremy Shockey early and often.
Q:There are only seven undefeated teams left in the NFL. Which of these are true contenders and which will fall to the wayside as the season progresses?
I think the NFC is very soft after Seattle, Philadelphia and Minnesota. But I think Carolina and Green Bay will certainly be there come postseason time. That leaves one spot remaining, and I'm hesitant to give Atlanta the nod. I think that spot is wide open for the Falcons, Dallas, Detroit or St. Louis. Something tells me it'll be Dallas. I never underestimate Parcells.
In the AFC, the playoff givens are New England, Indianapolis, Tennessee and, in my opinion, the New York Jets. After that, it's wide open, and I have a feeling that Jacksonville's offense improves enough to compliment the defense and allow them to make the postseason.
Just like there are 0-2 fantasy teams that lead their league in points, there are a few winless teams that are better than the 2-0 Jacksonville Jaguars. They will fade as will Detroit. Atlanta and the Jets will hang around, but only Philly, Seattle and New England make the postseason.
I think Atlanta, Seattle and Philadelphia are for real in the NFC. Combining solid defensive schemes and some of the most potent offensive performers in the game, they'll be fighting for the conference crown in January.
Detroit will fall to the wayside, being out-muscled by the Vikings and Packers within the division and facing several brutal matchups with the AFC South.
In the AFC, New England and the New York Jets will be chugging on to the postseason. I'm still hung up on Jacksonville right now. Although the defense is dominant, the offense has yet to click. I think there's enough talent under Jack Del Rio to challenge for a wild-card berth.
|QB Hot Seat|
|IF YOU WERE …||ROMIG||FUNSTON||HARMON|
|… Jon Gruden, do you start Brad Johnson or Chris Simms?||Johnson||Johnson||Johnson|
|… Marty Schottenheimer, do you start Doug Flutie or Drew Brees?||Brees||Rivers||Brees|
|… Dave Wannstedt, do you start A.J. Feeley or Jay Fiedler?||Feely||Fiedler||Fiedler|
|… Joe Gibbs, do you start Mark Brunell or Patrick Ramsey?||Brunell||Brunell||Brunell|
|Randy Moss: 100 yards vs. Chicago||Over||Over||Under|
|Larry Fitzgerald: 7 catches vs. Atlanta||Under||Even||Over|
|Jerry Rice: 5 catches vs. Tampa Bay||Under||Under||Over|
|Fred Taylor: 100 yards vs. Tennessee||Under||Over||Under|
|Kevan Barlow: 100 yards vs. Seattle||Over||Under||Under|
|Thomas Jones: 100 yards vs. Minnesota||Under||Under||Over|
|Joey Harrington: 200 pass yards vs. Philadelphia||Over||Over||Under|
|Trent Green: 200 pass yards vs. Houston||Over||Over||Over|
|Jake Plummer: 200 pass yards vs. San Diego||Over||Over||Over|
|Week 3 Featured Matchup: Indianapolis vs. Green Bay|
|More fantasy points: Brett Favre or Peyton Manning?||Manning||Manning||Favre|
|More fantasy points: Javon Walker or Marvin Harrison?||Harrison||Harrison||Harrison|
|More fantasy points: Ahman Green or Dominic Rhodes?||Green||Green||Green|