Game time is almost upon us so here's a quick look around the NFL based on the Nerd projections.
Bears @ Lions
I can't believe I'm opening this post by saying "Kyle Orton should be considered in most leagues." Yes, Orton has improved and I'll disagree a bit with the Nerd's #22 ranking. He's got a great matchup and the Lions have got to be worried about Matt Forte (and they have every reason to worry!). Speaking of Forte - he's sitting pretty ranked at #1 this week.
I don't like any of the Lion RB's against Chicago's D, but Kitna, Johnson, and Williams should do well. Johnson is obviously the go-to guy in Motor City with a Nerd rank of 5. Williams is quite a bit down the list at #39.
Chiefs @ Panthers
Where to start? Both teams now have solid fantasy plays here. LJ (#15) probably won't produce last week's numbers, but should still produce for owners. Bowe and Gonzalez are good options here. Bowe has been very consistent over the first 4 weeks and I think he'll continue that streak. The experts disagree with me and have him ranked #38.
If you've been waiting for that investment in Steve Smith to pay off, you should enjoy today's game. Smith (#8) and Delhomme (#6) are projected to connect pretty well today. What does this mean for Muhsin Muhammad (#22) owners? Temper your expectations as it will be difficult for him to repeat last week's performance, but ranking in at #22 is still respectable. Stewart could do well at the goal-line this week and is ranked #19 among RB's this week.
Falcons @ Packers
Aaron Rodgers (#9 among QB's) will be a game-time decision today. If he can't go, the value of the GB receiving corp definitely takes a hit. There seems to be quite a bit of consensus that Rodger's value is solid at the #9 rank should he decide to go. The experts project Grant (solid #16) to have a good game today. I sure hope so. Otherwise I'll be following the crowds as we either dump Grant or relegate him to the pines.
I am hard-pressed to disagree with the experts today on the projections for Michael Turner (#7), but could be convinced to move him up a bit in the rankings. The Packers are missing some key players in their Defense and they'll give up plenty of yards on the ground today. I agree with the Nerd that Matt Ryan belongs at #26 this week with White at #10 this week. The Packers secondary is either hot or cold and if they're cold, expect a big day out of White.
Chargers @ Dolphins
Tomlinson is a must anyway, so let's look at the passing game. Rivers should be considered a must-start with his #4 ranking and he's got a great matchup with his choice of targets: Gates, Chambers, and Jackson in that order.
If Pennington hasn't already acclimated himself to the warmer climate of MIA, he should this week by heating things up against the San Diego D which gives up a ton of passing yards. I like Fasano this week with a #4 ranking, however I think he'll surprise all and be this week's #1 TE. Expectations for Ronnie Brown should be tempered and I think the Nerd's #13 ranking for him this week is optimistic.
Seahawks @ Giants
Both Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are expected to make their returns against the Giants this week, which could mean big things for owners with them (and Matt Hasselbeck owners!). Their JV team should be replaced with the dynamic duo, but be cautious about using them. It's always tempting to just plug star receivers back in the lineup upon their return, however there's no guarantee that they'll produce. The Nerd sees them as #42 and #47 among WR's this week. I don't like either one against the Giant's D, and Holmgren has made comments leading me to believe that they'll be eased into the game and won't be pushed. Having picked up Branch in one of my leagues, I hope I'm wrong. Jones isn't expected to do much either against a pretty-solid D.
Plaxico's out, but Manning's gotta throw to someone. Toomer and Boss are good plays here. Jacobs is ranked #9 this week and that could be tough against a Seattle D that poses a tough matchup. That doesn't bode well for Bradshaw and Ward who will continue to rotate in the offense.
Redskins @ Eagles
I don't expect the Eagles to give up yards on the ground like they did against Dallas, so Portis's value is probably valid at #17 (Ryan Grant edges him by almost a full point). Campbell (#7), Moss (#7), and Cooley (#3) look like great options this week.
Westbrook should be back this week, but the extent of his ankle injury puts him up in the air. He wasn't seen at practice this week performing any cuts, instead opting for straight rushing. His quick cuts are a nightmare for opposing defenses, so that leaves open the readiness question. Reggie Brown should be a good play at #27 and I have difficulty buying into the #16 ranking for DeSean Jackson (hate mail to follow). I can't help but compare Jackson to Sarah Palin - both have great potential but still lack the maturity needed to succeed (even more hate mail to follow). Jackson is an explosive player who can make big plays but I can't get his moronic TD play out of my head. I have to say that I may be in the minority here.
Titans @ Ravens
I'm not excited about any of the plays here, except for the defenses. Chris Johnson could produce like he did last week, but I'm not starting any of my Titans or Ravens this week (again except for the D's). Derrick Mason (#40) could make me eat my words if Joe Flacco doesn't flacco out. McGahee (#26) is questionable but will most likely start. McClain seems to get more of the goal-line chances and edges out McGahee with a ranking of 18.
Colts @ Texans
Finally, Joseph Addai may produce. His #6 ranking among RB's comes against a Houston defense that allows roughly 160 yards/game to opposing running backs. Peyton is a must-start of course even with the year he's having and sits nicely ranked at #2. Wayne is also a must-start, but be careful with your expectations for Harrison and Gonzalez. Those two are difficult to predict. Start Clark with confidence this week. He's ranked #8, but I wildly disagree with the experts. Bo Scaife is ranked higher than Clark and I think that's optimistic.
At some point, Andre Johnson has to have a monster game. It could very well happen this week (as if you even considered benching him). Schaub and Owen Daniels are solid plays this week. Steve Slaton cracks the Top 5 this week so many owners are expecting big things from him today.
Buccaneers @ Broncos
Earnest Graham should have a productive day today, and I think Brian Griese deserves his first Top 10 Nerd ranking this week against a Bronco's D that ranks 2nd in the league for passing yards allowed. That makes Bryant (#12) and Hilliard (#28) beneficiaries down field. Galloway will most likely not play, which makes me like Griese's receivers that much more.
Many predicted 2008 as Jay Cutler's breakout year and he hasn't disappointed any of us. The Cutler-Marshall combo looks like the Brady-Moss combo of last year. They can hook up at will and certainly will against Tampa Bay. Cutler is a Top 5 starter and Marshall claims ownership of #1 this week among WR's.
I'm frustrated by the backfield in Denver. Selvin Young (#38) and Michael Pittman (#37) hurt each other's fantasy values. Young gets the bulk of the carries, but Pittman is the go-to guy on the line.
Bills @ Arizona
What did they put in the water in Buffalo? The Bills are tops this year and this will most likely be a high-scoring game. Lee Evans, who was so inconsistent last year, comes in ranked at #13. Lynch should have a solid game and I don't expect much of anything out of Fred Jackson.
With the right tools at his disposal, Kurt Warner can put up some serious fantasy numbers. Even with Fitz (ranked #2), Warner falls to #12 among QB's with the loss of Boldin. Fitzgerald may find it difficult to achieve his projected numbers if the defense doubles up on him all day, which is what they should be doing. James vs Hightower? It's just like the Young-Pittman situation in Denver. James (#28) will get the bulk of the carries, however Hightower (#40) is the go-to guy on the line.
Patriots @ 49ers
Greg Jennings can still be a star without Brett Favre, but Moss and Welker haven't even left our orbit with Matt Cassel. The loss of Tom Brady has meant a loss for the Pat's receivers. Plenty of coverage has been given to the time that Cassel and Moss spent over the bye week trying to get on the same page. Cassel's ranked #19 this week. Moss is #9. Welker is #26. New Englands O-Line needs to give Cassel enough time in the pocket to bring Moss into the game. Maroney comes in ranked at #34, mostly due to the fact that he has to share time with Jordan and Morris. If there's going to be a good week for Pats, it should come at the expense of the 49'ers. I'm not convinced.
Frank Gore comes in ranked #4 and there seems to be a pretty solid consensus that he belongs there. He's got a great matchup this week. As for J.T. O'Sullivan (#23), I've read many reports that call for fantasy owners to bench him. I have a hard time arguing that. The same can be said of Vernon Davis. I have Davis in one of my leagues and dread the week that I have to start him due to bye-week coverage. He's just not involved in the offense.
Bengals @ Cowboys
Carson Palmer (#20 among QB's this morning) seems insistent that he'll play today. "I've already made up my mind I'm playing," said Palmer. "I'm going to do what I can in practice and do what they let me do, but I'm 100 percent expecting to play going into this game, and planning on playing. I'll probably be limited in practice, but I'll do what I can."
Receiver Chris Henry (#62 among WR's) was activated yesterday by the Bengals, however I think it's a stretch that he should be included in your lineup unless you're in a very, very, very deep league. There are simply better WR's out there.
Housh has some value here, but Ocho Cinco is way up in the air. Maybe having T.O. in the same stadium will be enough for Ocho Cinco to bring his A-game, but I doubt it. Everything revolves around the status of Palmer and how healthy his play is today.
Dallas is...well...Dallas. When Tony Romo (#3) isn't burning you through the air, Marion Barber (#3) will be scorching you on the ground. The Bengals are pretty good against the pass, but this is Tony Romo and a supporting cast that is talented enough to put up some big numbers. The Bengals give up a fantasy-loving 160+ yards on the ground per game. If there were policemen on the field, Barber will be getting tickets for hit & run and speeding this week.
Ravens @ Steelers
The running game in Pittsburgh is in shambles, so leave it up to Big Ben (#11), Santonio Holmes (#11), and Hines Ward (#30) to take it to the air. I think Moore (#20) should only be started if you're out of options and in a PPR league.
Who would I start on the Ravens? Unfortunately, nobody. The Steelers have such a dominant run defense that MJD and Fred Taylor will have a tough time surpassing the 74 yards that other teams get each week. 74 yards isn't impressive and it's worse when you're sharing carries. How about in the air? Sorry, guys, it's just not attractive here either. Jones and Wiliams have potential, but the Steelers only allow an average of 162 passing yards.
Vikings @ Saints
What happened to the much-respected Vikings Defense that everyone touted during the drafts? I'm pretty sure that they won't show up today either. Drew Brees lays claim to the #1 ranking this week among QB's and that makes Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem valuable receivers. It goes without saying that Reggie Bush is a must-start, especially in PPR leagues where Brees is sure to reward those fantasy owners with lots of dump-offs to Bush in the backfield.
Adrian Peterson has a fantastic matchup this week, unless Frerotte is forced to throw a lot to keep the Vikes in the game.
That's it for this morning. Good luck to all!
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