BEN ROETHLISBERGERSteelers VS. Bengals Big Ben's last regular-season game against Cincy wasspectacular--for fantasy owners. He passed for 386 yards and three TDs in aloss. After an appendectomy, he could be shakier this time around. In his firsttwo games back after two previous injuries, he's averaged fewer than 200 yardspassing and thrown seven picks.
TOM BRADY PatriotsVS. Broncos Brady threw for 341 yards the last time he played Denver, but onepass was picked off and returned 100 yards in the playoff loss. Payback will betough without WRs Deion Branch and David Givens, who caught 65% of his passesthat day. Look for the Broncos' D, which hasn't allowed a touchdown, to bottleup Brady.
DREW BREES SaintsVS. Falcons This game marks the NFL's Welcome Back to New Orleans, but it'salso a Welcome to the NFC South for the transplanted Brees. The former Chargerwon't receive a warm greeting. Lockdown cornerback DeAngelo Hall will containBrees's top receiving threat, Joe Horn. Look for picks aplenty: The Falconsalready have four.
September 24, 2006
JAKE PLUMMERBroncos AT¬†Patriots Don't listen to Mike Shanahan. Two poor outings isplenty of reason to panic, especially in the case of Plummer, who could losehis job outright. Through two games he's averaged 155.5 passing yards, with noscores and four interceptions. Most leagues penalize picks. Until he solvesthat problem, he's a liability.
KEVAN BARLOW JetsAT Bills The Jets' passing game has been lights out so far, while the runninggame, with Barlow and Derrick Blaylock splitting the carries, can be describedas pedestrian at best. No Jets back has rushed for 50 yards in a game, whileBuffalo's defense held Miami's Ronnie Brown to 70 yards and the Dolphins tojust 92 total rushing yards in Week 2.
CADILLAC WILLIAMSBuccaneers VS.¬†Panthers Williams has been as big a disappointment asanyone in the NFL this season, rushing for just 59 yards in two games. Beforelast week's game he was slowed by back spasms, which may be a problem for theremainder of the season. Sit him until he shows signs of being a productiveback again.
REUBEN DROUGHNSBrowns VS.¬†Ravens Playing behind a makeshift O-line, Droughns hasvirtually no chance to move the ball against a defense that has allowed 65rushing yards this season--against two backs coming off 1,000-yard years. Intwo games last season against a Ravens D that was clearly inferior to the '06model, Droughns gained a total of just 95 yards.
FRANK GORE 49ersVS. Eagles Facing a Philadelphia defense that shut down all-world running backTiki Barber last week is going to be a great measuring stick for Gore. Thusfar, with the starting job his alone, Gore has rushed for 214 yards, and histhree rushing touchdowns lead the NFC. But use an alternate if possible againstthe Eagles.
BEN WATSONPatriots VS. Broncos The Broncos have not allowed a touchdown to an opposingtight end since Tony Gonzalez had one in Week 13 last season. These two teamsmet at Invesco Field last October, and Watson was held to one catch for justsix yards; in the rematch in the AFC divisional playoffs Watson went without areception.
KELLEN WINSLOWBrowns VS. Ravens They say that playing at the U is like joining a fraternity,and this week Miami alums Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will neutralize Winslow withthe equivalent of some heavy hazing. The Ravens haven't given up a touchdownyet this season and have allowed opponents into the red zone just threetimes.
BEWARE OF BUST
RB PACKERS ATLions
How unflappable isthe Detroit front four that Green faces this week? Defensive line coach JoeCullen was suspended for the team's opener against the Seahawks--somethingabout a naked bootleg at a Wendy's drive-thru--yet his squad performedadmirably, holding Shaun Alexander to a mere 2.7 yards per carry and sackingMatt Hasselbeck five times. One week later it held the Bears' rushing attack,ranked eighth in the NFL last year, to 2.6 yards per carry. Can Green ownersexpect something similar in Week 3? Pretty much. More bad news: HistoricallyGreen's numbers dip in domes. Indoors he averages 43.7 yards per game, almost23 below his career norm, and he scored just one dome touchdown in the previousthree seasons. Last week the Packers signed wideout Koren Robinson, perhapsindicating a pass plethora. Robinson wasn't brought in to run block, that's forsure.
LEE EVANS BillsVS. Jets Evans has a pathetic four catches for 44 yards--not exactly whatfantasy owners had in mind when they drafted this breakout candidate. And hewon't pad his stats this week: In four career games against the Jets, Evans hasaveraged a paltry 37.3 yards. Long term, those who drafted Evans should keep aneye on his teammate Josh Reed, who has more catches.
BRAYLON EDWARDSBrowns VS. ¬†Ravens He'll be a popular pickup after getting 110 receivingyards against Cincinnati, but think twice before starting him. All of hiscatches came in the second half, with the game already over. He'll face aRavens defense that has allowed 299 passing yards so far--a poor total for onegame, but it's for two.
LARRY FITZGERALDCardinals VS. Rams Cardinals QB Kurt Warner has too many mouths to feed.Fourth-year man Bryant Johnson is slowly working his way into the Arizonaoffense, with a long score against Seattle's stout pass defense to prove it.Plus, Anquan Boldin has blown up against St. Louis in the past (two 100-yardgames in '05), so consider sitting Fitzgerald.
DEION BRANCHSeahawks VS. Giants Branch should be a solid start ... about three weeks fromnow. Until last week he hadn't put on pads since last Jan. 14. He's learning anew offense. And Darrell Jackson's 127-yard game against Arizona in Week 2eases the pressure to improve the wideout corps. If you start him, don't expecttoo many touches.
MATT BRYANTBuccaneers VS. Panthers As if things weren't bad enough for the Buccaneers,Bryant has been one of the league's least-used kickers, taking the field forscoring chances just three times in two games. Even worse, he missed two ofthose field goals. He has yet to attempt an extra point and has scored onlythree points so far this season. In contrast Colts kicker Adam Vinatierialready has 27 points.
STEELERS VS.Bengals You can bet that Carson Palmer has had this date circled on hisschedule since Pittsburgh tore up his knee and knocked Cincy out of theplayoffs in January. He has seven TDs in four career games against the Steelersand has been beating teams throwing to Chad Johnson, Chris Henry and KelleyWashington.
WEEK 3 INJURY WATCH
T.J. HOUSHMANDZADEH WR Bengals (heel)
CHAD JOHNSON WR Bengals (concussion)
TERRELL OWENS WR Cowboys (out, broken ring finger)
CLINTON PORTIS RB Redskins (shoulder)
ADAM VINATIERI K Colts (groin)
For the latest injury news, go toSI.com/football/nfl/injuries.
BYE WEEK Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Raiders