Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and LeSean McCoy, or to bench John Beck and Derrick Mason? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 9 of the 2011 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons at Colts. Ryan has thrown exactly one scoring pass in each of his last five games, making him a popular whipping boy in fantasy circles. He should break out of his funk Sunday with the expected return of Julio Jones (hamstring) and the primo matchup with the Colts’ sieve-like secondary.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers at Saints. He’s returning from his knee injury just in time, as the Bucs are otherwise decimated at his position. Blount should have little trouble gashing the soft New Orleans run defense.
Michael Bush, RB, Raiders vs. Broncos. Darren McFadden (foot) is still on crutches, making it highly unlikely he’ll be ready for Sunday’s tilt. Bush, already a goal-line vulture and competent receiver, will start against Denver’s average-at-best run defense. Rookie Taiwan Jones will get a few looks, too; but this is Bush’s game to shine.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams at Cardinals. Despite laboring with A.J. Feeley at quarterback, Lloyd has fared better as a Ram than he did earlier this season with the Broncos; presumably due to his familiarity with Josh McDaniel’s system. Regardless of which passer gets the call this week – and Sam Bradford’s high ankle sprain is improving – you have to like Lloyd’s chances to prosper against one of the NFL’s most generous pass defenses.
Mario Manningham, WR, Giants at Patriots. Whether or not Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) plays – and he doesn’t sound like a guy who’s planning to – Manningham belongs in your lineup. He finally reached the end zone last week against the Dolphins, and he should have little trouble racking up the yards, and probably his second touchdown, against New England’s embarrassing secondary.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Eli Manning, Matt Cassel, Tony Romo; RBs Mike Tolbert, Beanie Wells, Cedric Benson, Shonn Greene; WRs Victor Cruz, Marques Colston, Mike Williams (Bucs), Jeremy Maclin, Jordy Nelson, Anquan Boldin, Sidney Rice.
Roll ‘em back
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers vs. Packers. The once-elite gunslinger has been downright awful most of this season, and he has proven he can’t be trusted even in favorable matchups. Green Bay’s defense has racked up the second-most interceptions in the league, which doesn’t bode well for the mistake-prone Rivers.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans vs. Bengals. As dreadful as Johnson has been all season, he is still being started each week by roughly 90 percent of his owners, who hold out hope for his “inevitable” breakout game. But Cincinnati boasts the league’s second-stingiest run defense. If a breakout is indeed coming, it won’t be this weekend.
Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins vs 49ers. Talk about a guy who has squandered his opportunities. Torain’s 14-yard rushing effort last week was actually an improvement over the five yards he lost in Week 7. Even without serious competition for carries, Torain has been a disaster. I’m setting the over/under at 20 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense.
Lance Moore, WR, Saints vs. Buccaneers. Aside from Marques Colston, no Saints wideout can be banked on in consecutive weeks. Drew Brees uses his secondary receivers interchangeably, and since Moore was his leading target in Week 8, he’s more likely to disappear on Sunday than celebrate another trip to the end zone.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans vs. Bengals. On the heels of his two-touchdown outing against the Colts, it would be tough to send Washington back to your bench. But Matt Hasselbeck has been fairly pedestrian lately, while the Bengals field one of the stingiest pass defenses in the league. This should be another down week for the Titans’ lead wideout.
More thumbs down: QBs Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Tim Tebow, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Joseph Addai, Peyton Hillis, Marshawn Lynch; WRs Plaxico Burress, Pierre Garcon, Davone Bess, Antonio Brown, Kevin Walter, Greg Little.
Taking a flier
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Chiefs vs. Dolphins. Kansas City’s first-round draft pick finally got a chance to strut his stuff under the Monday night lights. The 6’4”, 228-pound wideout is an imposing presence, and Miami’s lousy secondary will have a difficult time keeping up with him. Baldwin has more upside as a WR3 or flex play than teammate Steve Breaston this week.
Don’t be the bonehead who…benches Larry Fitzgerald just because John Skelton starts at quarterback. Skelton may be as raw as they get, but he managed to connect with Fitz for 57 yards and a score in just three quarters of last season’s finale. This week, if Kevin Kolb (toe) is sidelined, Skelton will face the generous Rams secondary. Fitzgerald should remain in your lineup.