Fantasy football players to start, and to avoid, in Week 9
Thankfully, the Colts have gotten over the crazy idea of winning with defense.
They worried fantasy football players last year when they went 7-0 with a defense that didn't force Peyton Manning to carry the team. He didn't hit 300 yards passing in the stretch and twice went without a TD. But the 2006 Colts have been pleasing their real fans and fantasy dorks alike, again going 7-0 but this time piling up big stats.
Their secret• They've stopped playing defense altogether. The Colts rank dead last against the run and have allowed 18 touchdowns. Of 16 teams with winning records, only the free-falling Seahawks and defenseless Rams have allowed more points.
While a bad defense can ruin an offense by taking it out of its game plan, the Colts seem to get more efficient when Manning's frantically flinging the ball around. So celebrate the lousy defense, leave the fretting to the Indy fans and join in the cheers for Tom Brady to light up the Colts again this week.
As you prepare to enjoy numerous failed arm tackles, here are some players to start in Week 9, some to avoid and a few long shots that just may pan out:
A SAFE BET
-- You never know if the Patriots will throw every play or run every play. Either way, the Colts' defense is bad enough that Brady will rack up big points. He's thrown for three TDs in his last two regular-season games against the Colts.
-- After looking impressive in his first start, Dallas' Tony Romo should fare well against a Washington secondary that's allowed more TD passes than 29 other teams. (The prospect of a big sideline smooch from coach Bill Parcells could be a deterrent, however.)
-- Neither of the Saints' high-profile backs runs much these days, so keep starting Drew Brees. He has thrown for 658 yards and six scores in his last two games. (Also a ton of interceptions, but most leagues don't penalize too much for that.)
-- Detroit's Jon Kitna also frequently throws to the wrong team, but he also is good for a couple of touchdowns every week. Kitna faces a weak Atlanta pass defense and is certain to be playing catch-up most of the day.
-- Just when we were all giggling at Seattle for having to start Seneca Wallace, he pulls off a three-touchdown game. He should do more of the same Monday against the Raiders, who have already defied all odds by winning twice.
TAKE A SHOT
-- Alex Smith of San Francisco could put up some big numbers on the Vikings. He's no Tom Brady, but Brady provided the blueprint for shredding a Minnesota defense that's maybe a little overrated.
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Please, in the name of Rusty Hilger, don't start these guys:
-- Bench whoever starts for Jacksonville against Tennessee, only because the Jaguars make absolutely no sense. They've throttled the Cowboys, Steelers and Eagles, but have been throttled by the Texans and Redskins.
-- Philip Rivers has been solid for the Chargers, but why would he do anything but hand off to LaDainian Tomlinson against a Browns' rushing defense allowing more than 130 yards a game?
-- David Carr's still the starter in Houston, but you should never go with a player who's even once been benched in favor of Sage Rosenfels -- not to mention outplayed by him.
ALL DAY LONG
-- Now that Slingin' Michael Vick has proven teams must respect Atlanta's passing game, look for Warrick Dunn to find more openings in Detroit's defense. (OK, I was just trying to sound smart; there are always openings in Detroit's defense.)
-- New England's Corey Dillon may only come in for 1-yard TD runs in the shootout against the Colts, but there could be plenty of those. In fact, throw in Laurence Maroney as well.
-- The Vikings' Brad Johnson looked every bit the 54-year-old in last week's embarrassing loss, so look for him to go back to handing off to Chester Taylor 30 times against a San Francisco defense that's allowed 11 TD runs.
-- Ahman Green appears to be his old self in Green Bay (his productive old self, not his always-injured old self). He's run for over 100 yards in two straight games, something he last did to start the 2004 season.
-- The Rams' best chance of slowing Larry Johnson is keeping him off the field, so look for them to pound away with Steven Jackson. He has three touchdowns in his last four games.
HE COULD FIND A SEAM
-- If you're hurting for a runner, consider a situational back who just scores all the time. Dallas' Marion Barber III has six TDs in his last six games, and the Giants' 6-foot-4 giant Brandon Jacobs has scored in three straight.
-- Tennessee's Travis Henry was averaging 150 yards a game for a couple of weeks before failing to reach 30 against Houston. Yes, that's 30, and yes, that's Houston. (Of course, he could go for 200 against the Jaguars because they make no sense, but that's pushing the theory.)
-- Don't start any Bells in Denver. Mike had a big game once Tatum got hurt, but even if you figure out who'll get the carries, they'll have a tough time in Pittsburgh.
-- Seattle's Maurice Morris hasn't come close to the end zone or 100 yards since taking over for the injured Shaun Alexander, and he faces an Oakland defense that has actually been decent at times.
THROW HIM THE DARN BALL!
-- With Romo at quarterback, it's time to leave Dallas' Terrell Owens in the lineup no matter what. He's coming off his first 100-yard game as a Cowboy and should make rat salad out of the woeful Redskins secondary.
-- Saints rookie Marques Colston also has moved into that category of guys you never bench. The seventh rounder from Hofstra has six touchdowns in seven games, and he went for 163 yards and two scores last week.
-- Now that the Ravens are interested in offense again, Derrick Mason's about due to do something against a shaky Bengals defense. He was expected to have a big year with Steve McNair, but so far he hasn't sniffed the end zone.
-- Speaking of the Ravens, start all the Cincinnati receivers you can scrape up. Baltimore has allowed 385 and 365 yards passing the last two games. (Maybe it's time for Billick to take over as secondary coach, too.)
-- Though I swore I'd never again recommend a Buffalo player, Lee Evans could actually hang on to a few balls against Green Bay's NFL-worst pass defense.
MAYBE THROW HIM THE DARN BALL?
-- The Steelers' Nate Washington may be worth a shot against Denver. The Colts showed last week that Denver cornerbacks not named Champ Bailey can be exploited.
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH!
-- Javon Walker has had a couple of decent games despite Denver's avoidance of the forward pass, but you should steer clear of everyone involved in the Broncos' offense against the desperate Steelers in Pittsburgh.
-- Don't start any pass catchers for Atlanta not named Alge. Michael Vick has seven TDs in his last two games, but aside from Crumpler he spreads it around too much to really bank on anybody.
-- It's fitting that Troy Williamson was drafted to take Randy Moss' place in Minnesota. Both run really fast before not catching the ball.
FREE AGENT SHOPPING LIST
Pick these guys up if they're available in your league:
Mike Bell of Denver (136 yards rushing, 2 TDs), Reche Caldwell of New England (84 yards receiving, TD), Chris Henry of Cincinnati (81 yards, TD), Sage Rosenfels of Houston (3 TDs), some guy named Owen Daniels of Houston (99 yards, 2 TDs).
WHAT DO I KNOW?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I predicted good things for Michael Vick (3 TD passes), Rex Grossman (3 TDs), Damon Huard (312 yards passing, TD), Eddie Kennison (132 yards), Wali Lundy (149 total yards) and Reuben Droughns (125 yards, TD).
Big Misses: I had no idea Seneca Wallace (3 TDs) could play but thought Travis Henry (29 yards rushing) could. I expected success for Keyshawn Johnson (1 catch, 1 huge drop) and Anquan Boldin (47 yards). I thought a Bell would do well in Denver, but I should have said Mike instead of Tatum (27 yards).