ADAM DUERSONMATCHUP OF THE WEEK
These leapers have gobbled up receptions and records, first at Bedford (Ohio)High and then at Wisconsin. Last Dec. 4 they combined for 355 yards and fourTDs. Who will win this showdown?
The most recentmeeting between these friends was a freaky back-and-forth catchathon. Evans(the junior by three seasons) exploded for three TDs in the first quarter, butit wasn't enough as the Bills lost 24-23. Still, Evans has always put forth hisbest effort against Miami. In both of his NFL seasons his top receiving gamehas come against the Fins-110 yards and two TDs in '04, 117 yards and threescores in '05.
Chambers answeredEvans's big game last season with 15 grabs for 238 yards of his own, both NFLseason highs, including the last-second TD that gave Miami the victory. Thesetwo may never top their combined numbers from that day, but rest assured theywill produce. In Chambers's four games against Evans's Bills, he has averagedseven receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown, stats that scream, "Pickme!"
THE VERDICT Bothteam's defenses are mediocre against the pass. But Chambers's time is now,especially with long-ball-loving Daunte Culpepper throwing to him. Evans's timeis in the future-if and when J.P. Losman (he of the 51.2% completion rate)reaches his potential. So this time around, opt for Chambers.
JEFFRI CHADIHATHE INSIDE MAN
Baltimoreofficials say Jamal Lewis is healthy, and his Week 1 performance bore thatout
RAVENS RUNNINGback Jamal Lewis had fantasy owners scratching their heads this summer. Ahip-flexor injury sidelined the 27-year-old for the last two weeks of thepreseason and raised doubts among owners interested in drafting him. However,the good news for Lewis-and the Ravens-is that the injury isn't as serious asit appeared. Team officials say they simply held Lewis out of those finalpreseason games as a precaution.
Ravens generalmanager Ozzie Newsome says that Lewis was close to 100% for the final preseasongame, against the Redskins. In Sunday's opener Lewis vigorously proved that hewas back in form, rushing for 78 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries againsta tough Buccaneers defense.
However, thebiggest question involving Lewis isn't his physical condition; it's how he willfare behind a declining offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden,entering his 11th season, will need some time to get back to game speed. Hemissed most of training camp while dealing with the death of his father,Shirrel, on July 26, and said he even briefly pondered retiring. Furthermore,guard Edwin Mulitalo and center Mike Flynn, both 32, are on the downside oftheir careers. So if you own a comparable running back, consider sitting Lewiswhen the Ravens face stout run defenses.
BIG BEN STOPPEDDon't assume that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be ready to playby Week 2. A source says that team doctors expect Roethlisberger to need atleast 10 to 12 days of recovery time from his emergency appendectomy on Sept.3. Considering that Pittsburgh's second game-against the Jaguars-falls 15 daysafter the date of Roethlisberger's surgery, it will be a stretch for him tofeel comfortable under center. The Steelers say Roethlisberger's availabilitywill come down to how much pain he can tolerate. At this point it's best tolook for his return in Week 3 at the earliest.
CODDLING CRUMPLERKeep an eye on Alge Crumpler. The Falcons' Pro Bowl tight end underwentarthroscopic surgery on his right knee during the off-season, and he was stillexperiencing soreness during training camp. Coach Jim Mora wants to doeverything possible to have Crumpler, who caught three passes for 27 yards anda touchdown in Week 1, ready for game days, so he says he may limit hispractice time or give him an occasional day off during the week. Regardless, beadvised that there could be many weeks when Crumpler leaves fantasy ownersguessing about his health.
DENVER'S OTHERBELL Broncos running back Tatum Bell may be gaining more respect from coachMike Shanahan. Bell, 25, had started just one game in his three years withDenver, but he got the nod on Sunday and gained 103 yards on 15 carries againstthe Rams. Bell believes he's starting to show Shanahan that he can be a tougherrunner who doesn't get tripped up by arm tackles. If that's true, this could bethe year that Bell starts getting more carries. (He's never had more than 17 ina pro game.) Undrafted rookie Mike Bell was the big story early in Broncostraining camp, but Tatum Bell is emerging as a player whom fantasy ownersshould consider as a third or fourth back. He's definitely worth plucking offthe waiver wire if you can.
PETER KING ITHINK ... ... you should do your homework before grabbing a free agent
DIFFERENT LEAGUEShave different rules for free-agent pickups. But as you scan the game summariesfrom Week 1 and scour the Web for more information in hopes of finding thisyear's Willie Parker, I'm going to give you what I call the Wes WelkerAlert.
The Dolphins'Welker, as you undoubtedly know, is a latter-day Phil McConkey. He returnskicks and punts, displays true grit as a spare receiver and, in general, is apain in the butt for teams that have to prepare for him. Nick Saban, whoinherited the spunky Welker from Dave Wannstedt, loves him. So does DaunteCulpepper. And Welker will be a fairly important cog in Miami's drive to theplayoffs.
As you watchedthe first game of the NFL season last Thursday, you saw Welker nearly break apunt return for a touchdown against the Steelers, catch a nice crossing patternfrom Culpepper, and return three kicks. Ten touches, lots of open-fieldrunning. You thought: Nobody's got Welker in our league. This guy might give mefive or six touchdowns as an extra wideout and return man.
Here's thecautionary tale: Welker is in his third year in the NFL. He has touched theball 248 times as a receiver, returner and runner. And he has found the endzone exactly once. The guy is as valuable a special-teamer as the Dolphinsemploy, but his fantasy value is negligible. The player to watch out ofThursday's game is Nate Washington, the Pittsburgh receiver from that notedfootball factory Tiffin University. And it's not just because he caught anacrobatic touchdown pass from Charlie Batch. It's because offensive coordinatorKen Whisenhunt loves Washington as the Steelers' new Plaxico Burress, a deepthreat in his embryonic stage.
Read Peter King's 10 Fantasy Things I Think I Thinkand analysis from David Sabino at SI.com/fantasy.
Donte' Stallworth WR EAGLES
Established himself as McNabb's go-to guy with six catches for 141 yards and atouchdown.
Deion Branch WR SEAHAWKS
Finally dealt by the Patriots, his value gets a big boost in Seattle's WestCoast offense.
Bryant Johnson WR CARDINALS
Even with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald around, he caught two balls for 51yards.
Jerious Norwood RB FALCONS
Gained 66 yards on 10 carries in his first game as a pro.
Marques Colston WR SAINTS
Seventh-rounder from Hofstra had a four-catch, 49-yard, one-TD debut.
Roy Williams WR LIONS
A three-catch, 36-yard day isn't what elite receivers are made of.
Wali Lundy RB TEXANS
Preseason phenom fizzled in his first NFL game, rushing for just 32 yards on 11carries.
Chris Simms QB BUCCANEERS
Was manhandled by a tough Ravens defense, tossing three interceptions.
DeAngelo Williams RB PANTHERS
Record-setting college runner had four touches, but no rushes, in his prodebut.
Reuben Droughns RB BROWNS
If you can't run against the Saints (27 yards), whom can you run against?
MICHAEL ZITO/SPORTSCHROME (EVANS); GARY ROTHSTEIN/ICON SMI (CHAMBERS); HOWARD SCHATZ (CHADIHA)
ROBERT SKEOCH/WIREIMAGE.COM (LEWIS)
NO PAIN Though sound, Lewis will go only as far as Baltimore's O-line will take him.
AL TIELEMANS (CRUMPLER); PETER READ MILLER (BELL); DREW HALLOWELL/GETTY IMAGES (STALLWORTH); KEVIN TANAKA/SPORTPICS (DROUGHNS); JIM MCISAAC/GETTY IMAGES (WASHINGTON)