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.
Tommy Maddox, Pittsburgh (vs. St. Louis): The Steelers have lost three straight and in those games Maddox has thrown no TDs and four INTs. With Pittsburgh naming Jerome Bettis the starter this week, look for Maddox to go up top and find Burress and Ward who should be healthy after a much-needed bye week.
Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville (vs. Tennessee): Another QB coming off with a bye week with a favorable matchup. As well as the Titans have been playing, they rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Leftwich may need to throw often this week to keep pace with the high scoring Titans. Look for Leftwich to perform McNair-like.
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia (vs. N.Y. Jets): With McNabb dealing with a bruised thumb on his throwing hand, he’s questionable for this week’s game against the Jets. With the numbers he posted last week (9 of 23 for 64 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) you better have other options.
Kyle Boller, Baltimore (vs. Denver): Don’t get too excited over Boller’s stats last week. He did face the Bengals and he was playing from behind which meant airing it out. The Broncos will be tougher to post stats in the air and Boller will do more handing off to Jamal Lewis than he does throwing down the field.
BYE WEEK: Doug Johnson, Kurt Kittner, Brett Favre, Rich Gannon, Marques Tuiasosopo, Patrick Ramsey
Corey Dillon, Cincinnati (vs. Seattle): Dillon has yet to bust out with a big game this season. He’s been dinged up and hasn’t rushed for more than 40 yards since week two. Look for the Bengals to try and establish the running game early at home to keep the potent Seahawks offense off the field and to get Dillon in a groove.
Garrison Hearst, San Francisco (vs. Arizona): Hearst continues to keep Barlow behind him on the depth chart with strong performances and last week’s 117 yards rushing against the defending Super Bowl champs was no exception. Look for Hearst to find yards easier to come by this week against the Cards in Arizona.
Domanick Davis, Houston (vs. Indianapolis): One week too late? Maybe. But Houston’s offense has come together nicely this year (amazing what an offensive line will do, huh!) and the Colts have been susceptible against the run allowing 131 yards per game. Stacey Mack may get the goal one carries, but Davis will get it the rest of the day.
Troy Hambrick, Dallas (vs. Tampa Bay): Rumblings of Hambrick playing fullback may not be anything more than Parcells’ mind games, but don’t expect Hambrick to post big numbers this week against a Bucs team that was run over by Garrison Hearst last week. Returning to Tampa may be the edge the Bucs need to cool off the hot Cowboys.
Michael Pittman, Tampa Bay (vs. Dallas): Pittman has had a solid season thus far. Even when he doesn’t get the rushing yards, he posts solid numbers as a receiver. The Dallas run defense has been fantastic this year which means Pittman may have to get open in the passing game to post any numbers worth noting.
Marcel Shipp, Arizona (vs. San Francisco): Patience, Shipp owners. His time will come but not against a Niners defense that is ranked 5th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. With Cincy, Cleveland and Chicago still on the schedule, Shipp will be a solid fantasy starter soon enough.
BYE WEEK: T.J.Duckett, Warrick Dunn, Ahman Green, Charlie Garner, Ladell Betts, Trung Canidate
Derrick Mason, Tennessee (vs. Jacksonville): Mason is known for his ups and downs during the season. Last week would definitely be a down with only 2 catches for 39 yards. Look for Mason’s stats to rebound this week against the Jaguars who have allowed 11 TDs in the air in only six weeks.
Jimmy Smith, Jacksonville (vs. Tennessee): With good things expected from Leftwich this week, Jimmy Smith should be the main beneficiary. Smith has 14 receptions in only two games but he doesn’t have a TD yet. Yet, being the key word.
Jerome Pathon, New Orleans (vs. Carolina): With Donte Stallworth doubtful for this week’s game, Pathon moves up to the #2 spot. Pathon has had a couple solid games this year and with the Saints offense finally awake facing a Panthers team that ranks 26th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, Pathon could be in line for a nice day.
Marty Booker, Chicago (vs. Detroit): Booker should return to the starting lineup this week after sitting out last week’s game with a sprained ankle. If Booker plays, regardless of whether it’s Chandler or Stewart at QB, look for him to take advantage of a Lions defense that has allowed a league-high 13 TDs passing this season.
Keyshawn Johnson, Tampa Bay (vs. Dallas): Keyshawn’s thigh injury was definitely affecting his play last week as his one catch for four yard-performance indicated. With a knock-down, drag-em-out game on the horizon against the Cowboys, if Johnson was healthy he’d be a risky play. Since he’s not, it’s a relatively easy call.
Johnnie Morton, Kansas City (vs. Buffalo): Morton followed up his 6-catch, 109-yard, 1 TD outing against the Packers two weeks ago with a 2-catch 19-yard stinker on Monday night against the Raiders last week. Not to mention the fact that I started him over Troy Brown last week and it cost me a win. Don’t make the same mistake this week.
Ashley Lelie, Denver (vs. Baltimore): With Danny Kanell taking over at QB, look for the Ravens to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him to make things difficult. With half of Kanell’s completions going to Shannon Sharpe last week, there won’t be enough balls thrown Lelie’s way to warrant a start.
Steve Smith, Carolina (vs. New Orleans): For those of you that guessed right last week and started Smith, congrats. I’m willing to bet that Smith will not make it three weeks in a row with 100+ receiving yards.
BYE WEEK: Peerless Price, Brian Finneran, Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson, Javon Walker, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Jerry Porter, Laveranues Coles, Rod Gardner
Randy McMichael, Miami (vs. San Diego): Anyone who watched the Pats-Dolphins game saw how involved McMichael was in the passing attack late in the game. Don’t expect that to change even if Griese is the QB.
Freddie Jones, Arizona (vs. San Francisco): With Blake’s favorite target Anquan Boldin feeling the effects of a hamstring injury, Blake should find his 2nd favorite target enough times to warrant a start from the big TE.
Ernie Conwell, New Orleans (vs. Carolina): Conwell left last week’s game against the Falcons in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. With Boo Williams a possible fill-in, show Conwell the bench this week.
Desmond Clark, Chicago (vs. Detroit): Clark sprained his right big toe last week and was seen in a walking boot. Just writing that a NFL TE sprained his big toe is comical enough for me, but I’m easily entertained.
BYE WEEK: Alge Crumpler, Bubba Franks, Doug Jolley, Byron Chamberlain