As I a write this column I am watching the New York Giants at Carolina Panthers game and have come to a decision: My firstborn will be named Ramses Barden Rondinone!
Fantasy football owners are prone to overreacting after the opening weeks of the season. Many probably thought Kevin Ogletree was going to lead the league in receptions and that Mark Sanchez was on his way to a 5,000-yard year. But reality sets in the longer the season goes on.
Need an impartial arbitrator to break a tie you have between two guys on your fantasy squad? Let me help by offering which players should be started and which should be sat in fantasy leagues this week.
Here are four start ‘em musts, four start ‘em trusts and four sit ‘em busts.
Start ‘Em Musts
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (RB)
The Green Bay Packers can sack the quarterback (especially if his name is Jay Cutler) and create turnovers, but they have trouble stopping powerful running attacks. The San Francisco 49ers racked up 186 yards on the ground during the opening week and pushed the Packers all over the place.
Lynch is no Danny Woodhead. Not many backs run tougher and are harder to bring down than he is. The last thing Seattle will want this Monday night is a high-scoring shootout, so look for plenty of handoffs and screen passes to Lynch as he tortures Clay Matthews and company’s softish defense.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (RB)
It is safe to say that Richardson’s surgically repaired knee is now fine. Any doubts were erased when he barreled for 148 rushing yards, 36 receiving yards and two touchdowns against a sturdy Cincinnati Bengals defense in Week 2.
In an age where workhorse running backs are harder to find than Mitt Romney’s tax returns, Richardson dominates the touches in Cleveland. He has 38 rushing attempts so far, while the rest of the Browns have seven. Richardson hardly ever comes off the field, a fantasy rarity when nowadays NFL teams split the carries between two or three backs.
Richardson is up against the Buffalo Bills this weekend, a team whose run defense is hard to figure because their first two games were blowouts (both for and against), so the rushing yards they allowed were a bit skewed. The Bills allowed New York’s Shonn Greene to run for 94 yards, however, and Richardson is twice as talented, so do the math.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (QB)
You do not need to be Bill Belichick to surmise that Romo is a must-start this week. The gunslinger is playing in his first home game against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team who seems more interested in bum-rushing kneel-down plays than covering receivers.
Tampa Bay allowed Eli Manning to pass for 510 yards last week. The sick thing is he could have thrown for 600 yards if the replacement refs did not allow CB Aqib Talib to hold on 50 percent of the plays. And poor Ronde Barber looked like he was 4'2" and 80 years old.
Romo’s favorite target, Jason Witten, has no more spleen problems. Miles Austin’s hamstring remains unpulled. And a life of staying home watching TV every night seems to be agreeing with Dez Bryant. If Romo does not rack up 300 yards and a pair of TD tosses, I will be shocked.
The New York Jets Defense
Rex Ryan versus Ryan Tannehill might be the biggest mismatch since Tyson-Spinks. Tannehill has looked lost at times in his first two starts and now has to face Ryan’s uber-blitzing defense.
You know Ryan will not hold back like he did against Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger last week. He will not only throw the kitchen sink at Tannehill, but the microwave oven, the George Foreman grill and the toilet bowl, too.
And if Darrelle Revis returns from his concussion, who is he supposed to lock up, exactly? Brian Hartline? This has the makings of a 10-6 game with sacks and turnovers galore that has fans clamoring for more Buccaneers-Giants scorefests. The Jets should put up some solid fantasy points no matter how many tackles Reggie Bush breaks.
Start ‘Em Trusts
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals (RB)
“The Law Firm” runs this week against a Washington Redskins front seven that has been reduced to a front five with two understudies. With Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker suffering season-ending injuries last week, the Redskins’ questionable defense has suddenly become below-average.
Green-Ellis is not the type of back to rumble for 200 yards and set records, but 90 to 100 yards and a touchdown trip or two is definitely in the offing for him. Cincinnati’s offensive line is massive and should roll over Washington’s undermanned group of linemen and linebackers.
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers (WR)
Holdout, schmoldout! Wallace and Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew have proven that not all players ruin their fantasy values when they hold out. Chris Johnson, learn the lesson!
Wallace’s legs appear to be back, as he dashed down the field like a touchdown-hungry greyhound on several occasions against the New York Jets last Sunday. There is no reason to bench him anymore because he is no longer being eased back in by the Steelers.
Wallace gets to sprint through a makeshift Oakland Raiders secondary that could be short a couple corners and just allowed the aforementioned Hartline—yes, Brian Hartline!—to get 111 yards against them. Look for Wallace to have one long gainer and finish with 100 yards and a TD.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (QB)
Peyton Manning was not able to pick apart the Atlanta Falcons’ injury-plagued secondary, but Rivers has more arm strength and taller receivers. Plus, when you get the Falcons out of their dome, it is like playing a totally different team.
Rivers has improved greatly in a couple areas through two weeks. He has cut down on the horrific interceptions (one in two games), has utilized different targets (Dante Rosario, Mr. Triple TD) and has not suffered without his familiar superstars (Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson).
Rivers is primed for an epic 275-yard, three-TD performance against Atlanta. After his fantasy fiasco of a 2011 season, he appears ready for a big bounce-back campaign.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans (TE)
Houston plays Denver this weekend, and one thing we have learned about Denver’s defense so far is that Champ Bailey cannot cover everybody. Tight ends have fared well against the Broncos, with Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez both scoring touchdowns and breaking the 50-yard barrier in their games against Bailey’s boys.
Daniels has more life in his legs than the two aforementioned veterans and should have space cleared for him thanks to Andre Johnson’s routes and Arian Foster’s running. The thin air should not prevent him from having six receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Sit ‘Em Busts
Eric Decker, Denver Broncos (WR)
The chemistry between Peyton Manning and Decker has not been as Hall and Oates-like as the chemistry Manning has with Demaryius Thomas. Decker has put up back-to-back 50-yard games with zero scores, while Thomas has been getting the majority of the targets and the touchdowns.
Do not expect Decker to be the Danny Amendola of Week 3. Denver hosts the Houston Texans and their top-ranked pass defense, so Decker should not find many openings in the secondary, and Manning should still have trouble completing passes over 20 yards.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons (RB)
Who knows if Turner will even suit up after his Fast and the Furious audition after Monday night’s game when he was charged with a DUI. But if the Falcons do allow Turner to play, you should expect about as much from him as you do from Katherine Heigl’s romantic comedies.
Turner has averaged 2.6 yards per carry in his first two games and is slated to face his old team, the San Diego Chargers, who held Oakland’s Darren McFadden and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to a combined 49 rushing yards. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a 40-yard game.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WR)
I know Jackson climbed over New York Giants cornerbacks last weekend like he was Dennis Rodman rebounding against Spud Webb. His 128 receiving yards and one touchdown put him back on the fantasy map as one of the top 15-20 receivers to own.
The Dallas Cowboys upgraded their corners better than any other NFL team by signing Brandon Carr and drafting Morris Claiborne, and their early returns prove it. They held New York’s explosive Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to 96 yards combined and Seattle’s Sidney Rice to 33 yards. Jackson will have trouble finding room to roam this Sunday.
Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers (RB)
Benson had a solid fantasy effort last Thursday night against the Chicago Bears as he ran for 81 yards and caught four passes for an additional 35 yards. The latter was particularly impressive considering Benson has never been confused with Roger Craig or Marshall Faulk when it comes to his pass-catching prowess.
Benson has to deal with the second-ranked run defense in the league this Monday, though. The Seattle Seahawks and their rabid and boisterous fans seem to be all hopped up on Starbucks espresso macchiatos.
With Aaron Rodgers being lackluster (for him) during Green Bay’s first two contests, I see the Packers making a concerted effort to get their passing attack going. Benson will get his 15 carries, but Green Bay’s O-line will not be able to shove Seattle’s D-line, so penciling Benson in for 100 yards and a TD would be foolish.