5 Minute Fantasy

September 24, 2006

ADAM DUERSONMATCHUP OF THE WEEK

In 2003 they wereRams teammates when Kurt Warner, returning from injury, declined to take thefield out of "fairness" to his replacement. Who will be the betterfantasy performer when they meet on Sunday?

MARC BULGER

QB RAMS

He made Warnerexpendable with his consistent performance, averaging 19 TDs in three years atthe helm and becoming a top-tier fantasy quarterback. But that was under MikeMartz. Scott Linehan's system has meant fewer passes (34 per game so far, downfrom 40 in '05) and diminished finishing power (one passing TD).

VS.

KURT WARNER

QB CARDINALS

Before facing hisold team in St. Louis last year, Warner said, "I don't think I want to winthis game any more than I want to win any other game." Don't believe it.Warner proved downright vengeful, amassing 285 yards and three TDs. And if ashoddy Arizona defense can't stop Bulger, it'll be up to Warner to playcatch-up. He's game.

THE VERDICT It'sin the defenses. Arizona's was torched for 341 yards by the Seahawks on Sundayafter making Alex Smith look like Dan Marino in Week 1. Bulger, who has an evenbetter stable of receivers than Smith, will go wild. But Warner will have tocontend with Jim Haslett's revamped unit. Bet on Bulger.

JEFFRI CHADIHATHE INSIDE MAN

Quick Fixes

Players such asDrew Carter, who's filling a void for the Panthers, can give you a short-termboost

OR THOSE fantasyowners who are already so frustrated with their rosters that they're combingthe waiver wire for help, here's some advice: Stop looking for long-termsaviors and start eyeing players who might prosper for short periods of time.One example of the latter is Panthers wide receiver Drew Carter. The25-year-old caught five passes in a season-opening loss to the Falcons andadded four catches in Sunday's loss to the Vikings. He's the most explosivepass-catching threat Carolina has, while Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith ishampered by a sore right hamstring.

The Steelers alsohave a couple of solid players worth considering for your bench. Running backNajeh Davenport, a free-agent signee, has emerged as Pittsburgh's best optionin short-yardage and goal line situations. (Duce Staley blew his chance at thatjob with a poor preseason.) And keep an eye on wide receiver Nate Washington,whom Peter King touted here last week. League sources say he could be thisyear's Willie Parker--the Steeler who comes out of nowhere to deliver majorproduction.

LJ AGAINST THEWORLD So far the concussion suffered by quarterback Trent Green in a Week 1loss to the Bengals hasn't hampered Larry Johnson's production much. Green isout indefinitely, and one league source says he could be sidelined for morethan a month. That's a long time for Johnson to operate with backup quarterbackDamon Huard, who was 17 of 23 for 133 yards against the Broncos on Sunday.Johnson, who was held to 68 yards by the Bengals in Week 1, broke loose for 126yards on 27 carries in Denver on Sunday (though he has yet to find the endzone). He's tough enough to run against eight- and nine-man fronts, but it'sgoing to be harder for him to pile up 100-yard games and score touchdowns.

OPEN GATES?Message to those skeptics who are worried about Antonio Gates's production,especially after he caught just six passes in his first two games: Don't fret.The Chargers swear that 24-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers can handle theoffense, and they're just waiting for him to get comfortable as a starter."The offense doesn't change for Philip," says Eagles backup quarterbackA.J. Feeley, who was with San Diego before being released in August. "Itdoesn't change at all from what they did with Drew [Brees]. The reads startwith Gates, and that's the same way it's been. Nothing is going to besimplified or cut back for Philip. He's spent three years in the system and heknows the offense."

NO PAT ANSWER ThePatriots' Tom Brady is coming off back- to-back sub-225-yard passing games andlooks as if he could be in for a frustrating year, primarily because hisfavorite target, Deion Branch, is gone. How bad is the situation? At this stageBrady's most experienced receiver, 35-year-old Troy Brown, should be a thirdoption, while his best tight end, Ben Watson, is attracting more defensiveattention in a year in which he was supposed to break out. A league source alsosays that rookie receiver Chad Jackson, New England's second-round pick, hasstruggled to learn the playbook and has been nagged by a strained hamstringsince preseason. And wideout Doug Gabriel, acquired from the Raiders lastmonth, hasn't been with New England long enough to make an impact.

PETER KING ITHINK...

...you'd betternot forget about Darrell Jackson in Seattle

THREE REASONS whyI would take Jackson over newly acquired Deion Branch for my fantasy team:

1) Jackson'sinjury woes are behind him. You say you still worry about him getting hurt? Metoo. He missed 10 games last year with torn cartilage in his right knee, thensat out most of the preseason with the same injury. But he played all 34 gamesin 2003 and '04, and he came back to catch 20 passes for 268 yards and two TDsin three '05 postseason games. He's not complaining about the knee now, andhe's already caught 10 balls for 174 yards in his first two games.

2) Quarterbackslike old reliables. Matt Hasselbeck and Jackson became full-time starters in2001, and Jackson has averaged 65 receptions a year since. Look at the bestquarterback-receiver combos of this era--Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison orTom Brady and Branch. When the game's on the line, the quarterback looks forthe man he knows will run a 12-yard incut at precisely 12 yards, because the QBknows that sometimes he's going to have to throw the ball before the receiveractually cuts. He has to throw to a spot, not to a man. Hasselbeck and Jacksonhave that rapport: In their last four playoff games together they connected 32times for 396 yards.

3) Jacksonremains the main man in the Seahawks' offense. As long as he's healthy, the27-year-old--lined up as the split end, often alone to one side--will play moresnaps than any other Seattle receiver. Branch's arrival won't change that.Jackson may not catch 85 passes, but if he stays healthy, I'll be surprised ifhe doesn't lead Seattle in receptions and yardage by comfortable margins.

DAVID SABINOMARKET WATCH

Moving Up

Bernard BerrianWR BEARS Speed demon has one TD catch in each of the first two weeks.

Mike Furrey WRLIONS Former Rams free safety has become Jon Kitna's favorite possessionreceiver.

Joseph Addai RBCOLTS Rookie from LSU gained 104 yards (82 rushing, 22 receiving) and scored atouchdown in his second pro game.

Jerricho CotcheryWR JETS Has 186 receiving yards, eight more than Randy Moss and Terrell Owenscombined.

Samkon Gado RBTEXANS With Houston's other backs struggling, the starting job could fall tohim.

Moving Down

Cadillac WilliamsRB BUCCANEERS Has 59 rushing yards through Week 2--and no carries longer thanseven yards.

DeShaun Foster RBPANTHERS Rookie teammate DeAngelo Williams outrushed him 74--26 against theVikings.

Eddie Kennison,WR CHIEFS Has a paltry three catches for 53 yards and no touchdowns in hisfirst two games.

Michael Koenen KFALCONS Triple threat may soon lose his placekicking duties.

Aaron Brooks QBRAIDERS Ineffective and fumble-prone, he was pulled for Andrew Walter early inWeek 2.

DEEP THINKERS

Read Peter King's 10 Fantasy Things I Think I Thinkand analysis from David Sabino at SI.com/fantasy.

PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (CARTER)FAST START Carter, a third-year speedster, has caught nine passes in two games. THREE PHOTOSJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (BULGER); PETER READ MILLER (WARNER); HOWARD SCHATZ (CHADIHA) PHOTOG. NEWMAN LOWRANCE/WIREIMAGE.COM (RIVERS)STATUS QUO Rivers's first option is--no surprise--usually his tight end. PHOTOCORKY CHARLES TREWIN/WIREIMAGE.COM (JACKSON)JACKSON TWO PHOTOSSCOTT BOEHM/GETTY IMAGES (BERRIAN); KIRBY LEE/WIREIMAGE.COM (BROOKS)

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