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Wednesday, 26 September 2007 18:52
NFL Headline News

 FANTASY FOOTBALL
By JOHN McFARLAND
Associated Press Writer
OK, all you remorseful fantasy football players, repeat after me: I will not bench Donovan McNabb ever again. I will not bench Donovan McNabb ever again.
Keep repeating until you're brainwashed, because certainly some of you blew it like I did and benched McNabb before last week's 381 yards and four touchdowns.
But don't be too hard on yourself, because the monumentally boneheaded blunder made sense at the time. Before McNabb got a look at the Lions, he looked immobile and lost. He overthrew and underthrew, apparently lacking receivers and confidence.
Now, just a week later, it seems McNabb has the perfect setup. Philly's defense is rotten, and the Eagles don't like to run much, so tons of passes are guaranteed. And his little buddies Kevin Curtis and Brian Westbrook are fine targets.
Best of all, the rest of the schedule is loaded with coverage-free defenses. Upcoming opponents just waiting to get burned include the Giants, Jets, Vikings, Saints and Bills.
That's not to say McNabb will put up 400 yards regularly, but he could at any time. After all, he's had nine 300-yard games and eight games of three or more TDs in his past 22 games.
As you take back everything you said about McNabb, here's a look at some players to start in Week 4, some to avoid, and a few long shots that just may pan out:
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QUARTERBACKS
A SAFE BET
-Fantasy football law requires starts for all QBs facing the Vikings. The unit that made a genius out of Damon Huard should allow Green Bay's Brett Favre to set the career TD record by at least a couple. (Forget the dated notion that Favre struggles in the dome; he has averaged 330 yards and 2 TDs in his last two visits.)
-The Giants' Eli Manning should go Peyton on the Eagles in a game unencumbered by defense. He's gone for 300 yards or three TDs in all but one of his last four against Philly. The Eagles rank 26th in pass defense and everyone's hurt.
-San Diego's Philip Rivers should find openings as the Chiefs stack 10 or 11 guys to stop the run. The Chiefs' No. 6 pass defense ranking is largely the result of games against Rex Grossman and Kelly Holcomb.
-Despite the injuries, boos and 150-yard games, the Jets' Chad Pennington has put up five TDs the past two weeks. He faces the Bills, who would have the league's worst pass defense even without their spate of injuries.
-Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia passed for 312 yards and three scores against Carolina last year as an Eagle. The overrated Panthers' pass defense has given up five TD passes this year while recording just two sacks.
TAKE A SHOT
-Miami's Trent Green has averaged about 300 yards and thrown three touchdowns the past two weeks, so he could make a fine bye replacement against a Raiders defense apparently inspired by a twist on the team slogan: ``Just jog, baby.''
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Please, in the name of Mike McMahon, don't start these guys:
-Bench Brian Griese as he replaces Rex Grossman, whose yearlong campaign to get benched finally succeeded. The Bears do face the woeful Lions, but if Griese had anything he would have supplanted Grossman long ago.
-You might be tempted to start Marc Bulger because the Rams are without their top runner and the Dallas secondary is a bit spotty. Just remember he's playing with two broken ribs behind a line built to allow fractures.
-It's hard to imagine Atlanta's Joey Harrington going for 300 two weeks in a row, especially against the improved Texans. (This one has all the makings of a 9-8 game.)
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RUNNING BACKS
ALL DAY LONG
-Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook has made fantasy players cynical of injury reports. Day to day, may not play ... yeah, sure. He'll probably miss a bunch of practices then put up big numbers, just like he always does.
-Chicago's Cedric Benson should finally get going as the Bears go with a new system in which the QB hands off all day. It's a great idea against a Detroit defense allowing an NFL-worst six TD runs.
-Start Dallas' Marion Barber and his usually ineffective pal Julius Jones. The Rams have allowed 150 yards rushing and five TD runs, so there'll be plenty of garbage time fantasy points to go around.
-Fantasy disappointment Willis McGahee finally gets to cash in on the big perk of being a Raven: a game against Cleveland. The Browns are allowing 175 yards rushing a game, so McGahee may even get his first rushing TD.
-Rookie Marshawn Lynch has two TDs - or 12 of the Bills' 17 offensive points - while facing Denver, Pittsburgh and New England. This week he leads the quarterbackless Bills against a Jets defense that recently mistook Ronnie Brown for Jim Brown.
HE COULD FIND A SEAM
-Notice the Giants' free-agent gem Derrick Ward is nicked up and getting benched near the goal line? None of that should matter because everybody gets to visit the end zone in the free-for-all with the Eagles.
RED FLAGS
-Fortunately for Larry Johnson owners, he faces the Bengals defense. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen for another two weeks. In the meantime, save yourself the heartache and again bench Johnson and the series of 1-yard jaunts he has planned for San Diego.
-Steven Jackson couldn't find any room behind a Rams line that starts each game with introductions for all the new guys, so backup Brian Leonard won't either. (He's a backup because he's worse, right?)
-If Rudi Johnson does play despite his hamstring injury, he could be in for another 9-yard game in the Bengals-Patriots pass-a-thon. Likewise, sit backup Kenny Watson if Johnson can't go.
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WIDE RECEIVERS
THROW HIM THE DARN BALL!
-Green Bay's Donald Driver really wants to catch Brett Favre's NFL-record 421st TD pass. Favre's into all the NFL history stuff, so his favorite target's in for at least one score - probably the first.
-There's no evidence to suggest starting the Rams' Torry Holt is a good idea, considering of late he's mostly been completing patterns just in time to see Bulger's feet flying in the air. Still, he's that guy who'll go for 200 yards the day you finally bench him.
-The Eagles' Kevin Curtis seemed fluky with that 221-yard, three-score game. But he faces Giants defenders who seemed even flukier while stumbling across a few stops last week.
-It doesn't matter that New England's Donte' Stallworth has a total of four catches. Somebody has to get all the other touchdowns against Cincinnati after Randy Moss gets tired.
-Baltimore's Derrick Mason is catching eight passes a game and faces Cleveland's 31st-ranked pass defense that's already allowed a league-high 11 scores.
MAYBE THROW HIM THE DARN BALL?
-Houston's Andre Davis is the only Texans receiver left standing, so why not?
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH
-Whatever happened to Larry Fitzgerald? He's touchdownless and even the Cardinals' odd strategy of playing two quarterbacks may not help against the brutal Steelers. It's tough to bench him, but it's been really tough playing him.
-Even with all the balls flying around Detroit, last year's NFC receptions leader Mike Furrey is routinely good for only 60 yards and no scores. (Maybe the Lions should reconvert him back to defensive back, where they obviously need more help.)
-Buffalo's Lee Evans should remain fantasy football's highest-drafted 2-catch specialist. You're really desperate if you're clinging to hope that he'll click with new QB Trent Edwards, whoever he is.
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DON'T FORGET THE BYE WEEK:
Washington, Jacksonville, Tennessee and New Orleans are off, meaning Drew Brees' fantasy production will stay about the same.
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FREE AGENT SHOPPING LIST
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league:
- WR Kevin Curtis (221 yards, 3 TDs), RB Brian Leonard (new starter), RB Kenny Watson (TD), QB Joey Harrington (361 yards, 2 TDs), QB Brian Griese (new starter) WR Roddy White (127 yards, TD), WR Dwayne Bowe (TD), WR Andre Davis, QB David Carr (Carolina backup).
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WHAT DO I KNOW?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I predicted success for Jon Kitna (446 yards, 2 TDs), Matt Hasselbeck (3 TDs), Tony Romo (329 yards, 2 TDs), Roy Williams (204 yards, TD) and Dwayne Bowe (TD). I expected failure for Larry Johnson (42 yards) and Edgerrin James (57 yards).
Big Misses: I had no idea McNabb, Ronnie Brown (211 total yards, 3 TDs) and Vincent Jackson (98 yards, TD) would return from the dead. I also for some reason thought Jerry Porter (1 catch) and Calvin Johnson (2 catches) were in for big days.
 

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