This is an article from the Sept. 25, 2006 issue
ELI MANNING GiantsAT Seahawks Enough already about Manning's lack of big-game ability. The grithe showed in the first two games--even if one was a loss--debunks that myth.Save for the playoffs, a November matchup with Seattle was Manning's biggestgame in '05, and he delivered: 344 yards and two touchdowns. He needs toperform the same way again. He will.
DAUNTE CULPEPPERDolphins VS. Titans Culpepper was among the top five fantasy QBs when he threw39 touchdown passes two years ago. It's been downhill ever since. But if theTitans can make heroes out of Chad Pennington and Philip Rivers, Culpeppershould be set for a big day. Expect vintage '04 numbers: 300 yards and a scoreor two.
REX GROSSMAN BearsAT Vikings There's a sizable chance that Grossman is still available in yourleague. Now, while doubters remain, is the time to grab him. Not only does hepresent a serious long-ball threat (he already has three touchdown passes of 30yards or more), but Chicago's defense frequently hands him the ball in opposingterritory.
MICHAEL VICKFalcons AT Saints Vick owners aren't a discriminating bunch: They'll gladlywelcome back the Vick who's good for 80 rushing yards a game. Still developingas a passer, Vick has thrown three scoring tosses to as many receivers. Aspeedy middle linebacker can keep Vick in check, but the Saints' Mark Simoneauis no Brian Urlacher.
RUDI JOHNSONBengals AT Steelers Normally it's suicide to send a runner into the teeth ofthe present-day Steel Curtain, but Johnson and the Bengals' offense are so goodit doesn't matter. In their last two games at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh hasfocused on Carson Palmer and allowed Johnson to rush for 123 yards and atouchdown in '04 and 98 yards and two scores in '05.
CHESTER TAYLORVikings VS. Bears If Taylor (201 yards rushing in the first two weeks) is onyour squad, it's time to send Vikings coach Brad Childress a thank-you note forhis dedication to the running game. You'd better believe that the Vikes aregoing to stick to their game plan, even against the Big Bad Bears. And youshould stick with Taylor.
WILLIS MCGAHEEBills VS. Jets The Jets got run over by the Patriots' combination of CoreyDillon and Laurence Maroney last week (145 rushing yards between them), whileMcGahee gained 91 yards at home in Miami. In his last three games against theJets, McGahee has carried the ball 88 times for 388 yards (129.3 yards pergame) and two touchdowns.
WARRICK DUNNFalcons AT Saints The Baton Rouge native returns to his home state as an earlyfavorite to win the rushing title. He should improve his chances in theSuperdome, where he's averaged 118.7 yards and scored two touchdowns in hislast three visits to the Crescent City. (You can also add in 100 yards and ascore last year in San Antonio.)
ALGE CRUMPLERFalcons AT Saints The way the Atlanta running game has been humming along,there seems to be no good reason to throw the ball more, but Crumpler is goingup against one of the weaker linebacking units in the league. Now totallyrecovered from February shoulder surgery, he has four catches for 49 yards anda score in '06.
DESMOND CLARKBears AT Vikings The former Bronco and Dolphin is one of the biggest surprisesof the season. He has averaged five catches for 81 yards in his first twogames, with a touchdown last week against the Lions. Don't be deterred by thefact that Minnesota has yielded minus-1 yard on three catches to opposing tightends; Clark will be just fine.
WR LIONS VS.Packers
Williams promiseda Week 2 win over the Bears, but his team fell 28 points short of makinggood--to no fault of Williams's, though. He made six catches for a team-high 71yards against Chicago's top-notch secondary. Here's a more likely guarantee:The third-year wideout will top those numbers this week on turf (he made 30 ofhis 45 catches on that surface in '05) against a Green Bay secondary thatpractically turned the likes of Marques Colston (Saints) and Bernard Berrian(Bears) into household names. That's exactly what the Lions need: patsy DBsagainst whom they can continue to perfect the catch-and-run attack brought inby new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. What's more, quarterback Jon Kitnaappears to be getting a grip on the offense; against Chicago he completed 23 of30 passes (76.7%). Now it's Williams's turn to do something when he gets theball.
ANTWAAN RANDLE ELRedskins AT¬†Texans There's a distribution problem in Washington: too manyreceivers (Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Randle El) and not enough balls (61passes thrown; only 15 catches by that trio). But the Texans' secondary hasalready allowed 714 passing yards, including 12 catches for 20 or moreyards.
PLAXICO BURRESSGiants AT Seahawks Amani Toomer's 12 catches in Week 2 far exceeded his highfrom last season, and Jeremy Shockey was hobbled late against the Eagles. Inother words: Don't panic, Burress owners. His game-winner shows he's still theMan. Burress had six grabs and 109 yards in Seattle last year, and Eli Manningwill always look his way first.
ANTONIO BRYANT49ers VS.¬†Eagles How much does Philadelphia miss injured cornerback LitoSheppard? Consider that in just two games the Eagles have allowed threereceivers to go over 100 yards. Also, all of their opponents' touchdowns havecome from outside the red zone, and Bryant excels at the long ball. The Niners'6'2" burner averages more than 30 yards per catch.
CHRIS HENRYBengals AT Steelers Until T.J. Houshmandzadeh (right heel) returns, consideradding Henry to your squad. (When the heel heals, Henry will still get time inthree-receiver sets.) Don't expect Chad Johnson--like numbers; expect whatHoush figured to produce: five or six catches a game against a team's second-or third-best corner.
RYAN LONGWELLVikings VS. Bears This game shapes up as a good old defensive struggle thatwould make the Purple People Eaters and the Monsters of the Midway proud.Minnesota will pound the ball into the teeth of the Bears' fourth-rateddefense, which should leave Longwell plenty of opportunities to show off a legthat has made him one of the 10 most accurate kickers in league history.
PANTHERS ATBuccaneers After an 0-2 start the Panthers need a lift, especially after losingto Minnesota in Week 2 despite sacking Brad Johnson five times and interceptinghim once. They should get it facing Tampa Bay's Chris Simms, who has six picksand no touchdowns in two games--exactly what Carolina needs to get back ontrack.
DAVID SABINO THE PERFECT TEAM: WEEK 3
QB DONOVAN MCNABB at 49ers Potential MVP faces anunseasoned D
RB SHAUN ALEXANDER vs. Giants New York's front sevencan't stop him
RB WARRICK DUNN at Saints Topped 130 yards in bothgames so far
WR DONALD DRIVER at Lions The biggest mismatch of theweek
WR ANQUAN BOLDIN vs. Rams Has had three 100-yard gamesvs. Rams
TE TODD HEAP at Browns The best tight end to faceCleveland so far
K ROBBIE GOULD at Vikings Has scored 24 points in firsttwo games
D RAVENS at Browns Baltimore has yet to give up atouchdown