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!!
BEWARE!! The BYE weeks have begun. Those players on a BYE will be listed at each of the skill positions.
David Carr, Houston (vs. Jacksonville): Don’t let last week’s numbers (167 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) fool you. Carr has an improved line and with the addition of Andre Johnson, he’s got the big play guy to post big numbers. The Texans face the Jags this week who are ranked 21st in the NFL in passing yards allowed. It’s safe to start Carr.
Marc Bulger , St. Louis (vs. Arizona): Not only will Bulger be playing to give the Rams their second win of the season this week, he’ll be playing for the starting job. Facing a Cardinals defense that has allowed an NFL high seven passing TDs, you can be sure Bulger will take some pressure off Lamar Gordon and throw deep often.
Jon Kitna, Cincinnati (vs. Cleveland): With the Bengals sitting at 0-3, it’s only a matter of time before the rumblings of Carson Palmer start to build up to a quiet roar. The Browns won’t make Kitna’s job any easier with the Dawg Pound in full effect this week having only allowed an average of 148 yards passing this season.
Gus Frerotte, Minnesota (vs. San Francisco): With Dante Culpepper doubtful for this week’s game against the Niners with three cracked bones in his back (Ouch!), Gus Frerotte may get the starting nod. Don’t rush to the waiver wire to pick him up. San Fran is ranked fifth in the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed, so expect the Vikes to keep the ball on the ground this week to minimize any mistakes from the passing game.
BYE WEEK: Jay Fiedler, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselbeck, Brad Johnson
Stephen Davis, Carolina (vs. Atlanta): Coming off an early bye week, the Panthers are looking to pick up where they left off from their week two victory over the Bucs. The Falcons have been susceptible to the run allowing over 135 yards per game and Davis should be well rested and ready for 30+ carries on Sunday.
Duce Staley, Philadelphia (vs. Buffalo): Following the week after the bye theme, Duce should finally be “caught up” with the offensive gameplan after missing most of training camp due to a contract dispute. With the Eagles reeling at 0-2, they’ll get back to basics which means control the clock and run the ball.
Troy Hambrick, Dallas (vs. N.Y. Jets): I didn’t want to include three backs coming off a bye on this list, but with the Tuna facing his old team who have allowed the second-most yards on the ground per game, this one was an easy pick. If anyone knows how to take a crowd out of the game, it’s Parcells. Watch the Boys run all day long.
Anthony Thomas, Chicago (vs. Green Bay): A bye week won’t solve the offensive woes in Chicago. With Kordell Stewart on the verge of losing his job and Marty Booker complaining to the press that he’s not getting the ball enough, expect the Bears to throw often on Monday night limiting Thomas’ opportunities.
Warrick Dunn, Atlanta (vs. Carolina): Dunn has totaled only 110 rushing yards after the first three games. If T.J. Duckett wasn’t questionable with a strained quad last week, he may have been the starting back as Atlanta needs to shake things up until Mr. Vick returns. Things won’t get any easier against the Panthers this week.
Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh (vs. Tennessee): Don’t dust off your #36 Steeler jersey quite yet. Yes, Zereoue and Bettis split carries last week, but it’s anyone’s guess who will get the majority of the carries this week against the Titans who are tops in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at 61.3 per game.
BYE WEEK: Ricky Williams, Tiki Barber, Shaun Alexander, Michael Pittman, Mike Alstott, Thomas Jones
Joey Galloway, Dallas (vs. N.Y. Jets): Galloway has been the main weapon in the Dallas passing attack thus far this season. Even though the Boys are likely to run often on the road this week, I have a hunch that Galloway will break a long one to make him a worthy start this week.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona (vs. St. Louis): The rookie hasn’t gone away yet. After his huge week one performance, he’s posted back-to-back solid games (8 catches for 62 yards, 5 catches for 99 yards). The Cards will need to throw to keep up with the Rams this week and Blake will continue to look Boldin’s way.
Rod Smith, Denver (vs. Detroit): All those stats that Ashley Lelie posted in Monday night’s thrashing of Oakland should have gone to Rod Smith. Smith was ejected in the second quarter after accidentally striking an official. Expect Smith to keep his hands to himself and post strong numbers against the Lions in Denver this week.
Santana Moss, N.Y. Jets (vs. Dallas): After Moss posted 142 yards receiving in week two, many owners gobbled him off waivers only to see his numbers plummet to one catch for 17 yards last week. Do not fear my waiver wire abusers! With Curtis Conway dropping several passes last week, Moss will get his chance to shine once again.
Travis Taylor, Baltimore (vs. Kansas City): Until Kyle Boller or Chris Redman prove they can get the ball down field and someone proves they can stop Jamal Lewis, Double T should be securely implanted on your bench.
D’Wayne Bates, Minnesota (vs. San Francisco): Bates missed last week’s game with a bruised foot and this week the Vikings face a tough San Fran pass defense possibly with Gus Frerotte running the show. That’s should be all the info you need to promptly place Bates on your bench this week.
Jerome Pathon, New Orleans (vs. Indianapolis): Danger, danger! One-week wonder alert! Pathon posted more catches, yards and TDs than Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth combined last week. Don’t expect this to be the norm. The Saints face a tough Colts pass defense this week and Pathon should revert back to the #3 WR.
Troy Brown, N.E. Patriots (vs. Washington): In two of the Pats first three games, Troy Brown had one catch. Unless that one catch is for 80 yards and a TD (which neither of them were), that’s not someone you want in your starting lineup. Be weary of all Pats WRs until QB Tom Brady settles into a rhythm.
BYE WEEK: Chris Chambers, Derrius Thompson, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell
Christian Fauria, N.E. Patriots (vs. Washington): Brady’s favorite target in the red zone, has also made his presence felt in the middle of the field. Keep him in your lineup.
Doug Jolley, Oakland (vs. San Diego): I’ll put it this way, Jolley has more receptions and yards than Tim Brown. Do you think you should start him? I thought so.
Erron Kinney, Tennessee (vs. Pittsburgh): Kinney has already pulled in ten catches playing for the injured Frank Wycheck, but the Steelers linebackers will be all over the big man this week. Bench him if you can.
Chad Lewis, Philadelphia (vs. Buffalo): Although Lewis is third on the team in receptions, the combination of Buffalo’s greatly improved defense and McNabb’s ineptitude should keep Lewis on the pine until further notice.
BYE WEEK: Randy McMichael, Jeremy Shockey, Itula Mili, Ken Dilger