This list will include a handful of players at each skill position that has either a very favorable matchup or a matchup to avoid. Not every player at every skill position will be listed every week. Instead of a watered-down version of predicting each player’s performance, this list will focus on a select group of players whose chances to succeed or fail are increased based on their opponent of the week.
When using this list, try and remember a couple basic rules:
1) Studs – Always play your studs. You won’t find Marshall Faulk or Randy Moss on this list. This list is to help choose between the middle-of-the-road players.
2) Depth – Every fantasy team is different and some have more depth than others. Only follow the recommended moves if your team depth allows you to make such a move.
Enough of the chit-chat, onto the list!!
Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay (vs. Carolina): To say Johnson was simply spreading the ball around against the Eagles Monday night is a huge understatement. Johnson connected with nine different receivers including Warren Sapp. Yes, that Warren Sapp. Expect Johnson to keep the Bucs offense moving this week against the Panthers who allowed over 250 yards passing to Jacksonville last week.
Jeff Blake, Arizona (vs. Seattle): Did Blake have his best game of the season last week? Maybe. Anytime a QB throws for 363 yards and three TDs, you can’t expect many games better than that. Seattle is still a banged up defense so Blake should post numbers worthy of a start this week. Start him, then deal him as fast as you can.
Tom Brady, New England (vs. Philly): What will a 14 for 29, 123-yard, no TDs, 4 INTs performance get you? Top billing on the bench list. A 20.4 QB rating heading into Philly is not a promising number for Brady and the Pats.
Jake Delhomme, Carolina (vs. Tampa Bay): While Delhomme may be the hero in Carolina after throwing for three TDs in a comeback win against the Jaguars last week, chances are he won’t have the same success against the Bucs defense who made McNabb looked dazed and confused all night long.
Charlie Garner, Oakland (vs. Cincinnati): If you only looked at the rushing stats for Oakland from last week’s game, you’d think I’ve lost what few marbles I have left recommending Garner. Glancing down at the receiving numbers and spotting Garner’s name atop the list with 8 catches for 112 yards and a TD tells you all you need to know about the role Garner will play in the Oakland offensive attack this week as well.
Stacey Mack, Houston (vs. New Orleans): Mack jumps from the bench list to the start list after a strong performance on the road against Miami (27 carries for 89 yards). Mack should have an easier time finding daylight against the Saints this week who allowed over 150 yards against the Seahawks in week one.
Garrison Hearst, San Francisco (vs. St.Louis): Every year Kevan Barlow is threatening to take Hearst’s job and every year Hearst fights him off. Hearst’s 2 TDs and 97 total yards of offense last week are proof that the veteran still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Tiki Barber ran crazy against the Rams last week so Hearst should post solid numbers in St. Louis.
Troy Hambrick, Dallas (vs. N.Y. Giants): The collective sigh that was heard when Aveion Cason busted off a 63-yard TD run was from Hambrick owners who now fear for their player’s starting job. Hambrick will start this week, but Cason could give those owners headaches all season. Playing the Giants who held Marshall Faulk to 28 yards rushing last week won’t help Hambrick’s cause or his owner’s migraines for that matter.
Anthony Thomas, Chicago (vs. Minnesota): The Kordell Stewart era has begun in Chicago and somewhere Jim McMahon is now contemplating a comeback. Until Stewart can prove he’s got anything left, the running game and Thomas specifically, will suffer big time. Keep the A-Train in the station this week.
Corey Dillon, Cincinnati (vs. Oakland): It’s always tough to put a guy with Dillon’s abilities on the bench list since he’s capable of posting a 200-yard game just as easily as posting a 20-yard game. If you have other options with favorable matchups, you may want to evaluate starting them instead of Dillon facing Raider Nation and an Oakland defense that held Eddie George to 42 yards on 20 carries.
Keyshawn Johnson, Tampa Bay (vs. Carolina): Keyshawn looked solid last Monday night and heading home for the Bucs first game as defending Super Bowl Champs this week should be motivation enough to keep the offense rolling. Brad Johnson comes recommended as well as he’ll look for Keyshawn early and often.
Javon Walker, Green Bay (vs. Detroit): Not only did Walker post solid numbers (five catches for 84 yards and a TD) in an otherwise dismal week for the Pack, Walker may be the only WR left standing. Both Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson were hurt during last week’s game leaving Walker as Favre’s main target this week.
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati (vs. Oakland): Bench Corey Dillon, but start Chad Johnson? Yep. The Raiders can be passed on and chances are the Bengals will be playing from behind (I know, what a surprise!), and Kitna will need to toss it up often. Chances are Chad Johnson will be on the receiving end of his fair share of deep balls.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona (vs. Seattle): Talk about making a first impression! The rookie lit up the Superdome last week posting 10 catches for 217 yards and 2 TDs in his NFL debut. The odds are certainly stacked against Boldin to produce at such a high level all season, but if Blake keeps looking his way, he’ll be worth a spot on your roster.
Andre Johnson, Houston (vs. New Orleans): Johnson has a solid rookie debut last week (6 catches for 76 yards) but he was overshadowed by the Charles Rogers and Anquan Boldin’s of the league. Look for Houston to play ball control this week leaving AJ fewer chances to post numbers worthy of a start.
Jermaine Lewis, Jacksonville (vs. Buffalo): Don’t….don’t…don’t, don’t believe the hype!! There’s not enough Public Enemy references out there if you ask me. Lewis is the ultimate fantasy tease as he’s good for a game like last week’s (3 catches for 90 yards and a TD) every five or six weeks. Leave the bait on the hook and move on.
Ashley Lelie, Denver (vs. San Diego): Lelie owners were rejoicing when they saw Lelie was in the starting lineup last week. Lelie’s final stats after week one: zero catches, two rushes for 11 yards. Keep Ashley on the bench until the Snake finds his way and Lelie proves he’s a necessary cog in the Broncos offensive machine.
Joe Jurevicius, Tampa Bay (vs. Carolina): Now, don’t all go running to the waive wire at once to pick up J.J. His two TD catches were both highlight material, but the chances of a duplicate performance anytime in the near future with the wide variety of weapons that Coach Gruden likes to use makes Jurevicius a risky play at best.
Marcus Pollard, Indy (vs. Tennessee): The Colts won a nail-biter last week without scoring a TD. Something tells me that will change this week playing in the friendly confines of the RCA Dome. Manning should post numbers better than the 211 yards from last week and with the Titans focusing on keeping Harrison from destroying them, Pollard should find the middle of the field wide open.
Jeremy Shockey, N.Y. Giants (vs. Dallas): Even though Shockey had x-rays after last week’s game due to a foot injury, you can bet he’ll be ready for the spotlight of Monday Night Football against the Tuna and the Cowboys. We’ll see who can call who those bad names after this matchup.
Anthony Becht, N.Y. Jets (vs. Miami): Either the Jets or the Dolphins will be starting the ’03 season at 0-2 after this week’s games. Now I’m not a big Jay Fiedler fan, but I’d take him over Testaverde every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Becht and any other Jet receiver gets no love from the start/bench list.
Billy Miller, Houston (vs. New Orleans): With the offensive additions Houston made in the off-season (Stacey Mack, Andre Johnson, etc), Miller won’t play as large a role this year as he did in ’02. Add that to the fact that he’s playing with a dislocated finger, make Miller a player worth avoiding.