MATCHUP OF THEWEEK
What happens whenthe NFL's best running quarterback lines up against its fiercest pass rusher?We'll find out this weekend when the Falcons head to Charlotte to take on thePanthers.
In his first fiveNFL seasons Vick threw for more yards against the Panthers than against anyother team. He's also had two huge rushing games against Carolina: 91 yards in2002 and 141 yards in '03. However, he's averaged just one touchdown per gameover eight meetings (four each rushing and passing). Vick now has betterweapons in second-year wideout Roddy White and newcomer Ashley Lelie.
In their twomatchups last season the Carolina defense held the Falcons to just 17 totalpoints and sacked Vick seven times; Peppers, who rushes from the blind side ofthe southpaw scrambler, had one of those hits. In 2004 Peppers gathered in aVick fumble and scampered 60 yards for a score. He has three career sacks ofthe quicksilver QB, who has been felled an average of twice a game byCarolina's D.
VERDICT: Not longago there was talk that a Curse of Michael Vick plagued the Panthers. Lastseason's double drubbing (a total of 68--17 in two games) quickly put an end tothat notion. Peppers and his opposite end, Mike Rucker, will neutralize Vick'sfantasy value as the Panthers protect their house with an opening-day win.
Read Peter King's10 Fantasy Things I Think I Think and analysis from David Sabino atSI.com/fantasy.
THE INSIDE MAN
SnakebittenBrowns tight end Kellen Winslow is due to have a big year, says hisquarterback
Don'tbe¬†surprised if Browns tight end Kellen Winslow has a breakout season.Injuries limited him to two games over the last two years, but Winslow spentmost of the off-season in Cleveland getting to know second-year quarterbackCharlie Frye. The two often worked out together after training under thesupervision of strength coaches at the team's facility, and Frye says theirfriendship should help their chemistry on the field. The Browns lined upWinslow in a variety of positions during training camp--split wide, in the slotand in a traditional three-point stance next to an offensive tackle--and theyhope to use his athleticism to create mismatches in the passing game. Frye saysWinslow has looked explosive while running routes, and he still has impressivequickness despite multiple right-leg injuries over the last two years.
NEW BIRD WILL FLYDonovan McNabb should put up even better fantasy numbers now that the Eagleshave traded for wide receiver Donte' Stallworth. The former Saint bringsexplosive speed to a mediocre receiving corps, and some think he'll become amore consistent performer with McNabb throwing to him. Cornerback Sheldon Brownalso believes that McNabb's improvisational skills should make a hugedifference for Stallworth, who will have time to get downfield and create somebig plays. McNabb liked throwing deep to recently cut Todd Pinkston. There's noreason why Stallworth, who has 4.2 speed in the 40, can't become a comparablehome run threat.
I THINK ...
...you shouldn'toutthink yourself. Play proven players
Acommon¬†mistake that fantasy owners make is overthinking their lineupsbased on matchups. For example, let's say that for this week's games you haveto choose two receivers from your stable of Reggie Brown, Plaxico Burress,Donald Driver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Matt Jones. You may think: No way I'mpicking Driver this week, because the Packers face the Bears, who might havethe best defense in the league. And I don't like Jones's chances to get off theline against the Cowboys' cornerbacks, nor do I like Houshmandzadeh until I seeif Carson Palmer's O.K. But Eli Manning's going to put three or four up top forBurress against a suspect Colts secondary, and I think Donovan McNabb's goingto carve up the Texans, so Brown could easily go over 100 yards. And so youstart Brown and Burress.
Let's look atyour decisions:
1) Until BrettFavre gets comfortable with rookie wideout Greg Jennings, he's going to lookfor Driver whenever he gets in trouble--and with that porous offensive linehe'll have trouble against the Bears. The Pack also figures to fall behindearly, so Driver should get 10 balls thrown his way.
2) Right call onJones. I don't trust him until I see results.
3) By the sametoken, I don't like the idea of Manning setting up in the pocket and lookingdownfield until he proves himself against a strong pass-rushing team. Iremember too clearly how he threw three picks against the Panthers in lastyear's playoffs, and the Colts' rush will be just as formidable with their twogreat ends.
4) I don't knowhow you pick Brown when he has no history with McNabb. I don't care if McNabbends up throwing for 320 yards--125 could go to Greg Lewis, 90 to L.J. Smithand another 75 to Brian Westbrook. Plus there's the Donte' Stallworth wildcard. Brown might catch one ball.
5) Always,always, always play Palmer's receivers. I don't care if the Bengals are facingthe '76 Steelers. Until Palmer shows you he can't play, roll with him. Moral ofthe story: Go with the guys who are going to get a lot of balls thrown to them,and don't waffle with the wind. Play the guys with the track records. In thiscase, that's Driver and Houshmandzadeh.
CorrellBuckhalter RB EAGLES Missed three of the last four years with injuries but willhave a role in '06.
Doug Gabriel WRPATRIOTS Trade from Oakland should greatly increase his reps--and fantasyappeal.
Kerry Collins QBTITANS Veteran went from being unemployed to probable starter in the blink ofan eye.
Mike Vanderjagt KCOWBOYS Two awful OT misses in Dallas's last preseason game raise bigquestions.
Sammy Morris RBDOLPHINS Four-game steroid-policy suspension costs him any real chance tocontribute.
Jeb Putzier TETEXANS Rookie Owen Daniels seized the starting job, putting Putzier's value injeopardy.
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BACK IN GEAR Healthy again, Winslow may become a major cog in the Browns' offense.