Football

Ladd Biro | Look for big game from Orton

Starters and benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Chris Johnson, or bench Jimmy Clausen and Brian Westbrook? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for real help with your starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 4 of the 2010 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos at Titans. Only Philip Rivers has passed for more yards than Orton to date, and Denver’s aerial attack should remain prolific while Knowshon Moreno rests another week. Though Tennessee’s secondary has allowed just one passing TD in 2010, they gave up big yards to the Giants in their first test against a decent passing team. Orton poses their biggest threat to date.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts at Jaguars. Donald Brown is nursing a hamstring injury and could miss Sunday’s game. That’s great news for Addai’s owners, who have yet to celebrate any visits to the end zone this year. He’ll fix that Sunday against the Jaguars’ mediocre run defense.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Cardinals. All signs point to the rookie returning to the field after recovering from an ankle injury. Even though Mike Tolbert has looked solid in the interim, and he could poach a goal-line carry or two, a healthy Mathews is worth starting against the awful Arizona run defense.

Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans at Raiders. Whether or not Andre Johnson (ankle) suits up, Jones will undoubtedly be a bigger part of the Texans’ game plan. Kevin Walter is approaching every-week-starter territory, but Jones also belongs in your lineup against a statistically sound Raiders secondary that nevertheless has surrendered two passing scores apiece in three games against mediocre competition.

Mark Clayton, WR, Rams vs. Seahawks. Steven Jackson will be a game-time decision with his injured groin; but either way, the Rams will likely choose to attack Seattle’s 30th-ranked pass defense in this contest. Clayton remains red hot in tandem with his rookie quarterback.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez; RBs Matt Forte, Ronnie Brown, Peyton Hillis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Justin Forsett, Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis; WRs Austin Collie, Lance Moore, Johnny Knox, Donald Driver, Jeremy Maclin, Braylon Edwards, Nate Washington, Santana Moss, Malcom Floyd.

Roll ‘em back

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens at Steelers. The Browns (and Anquan Boldin) made him look like an All Pro last week, but Flacco has otherwise been a fantasy scrub this season. Look for another sub-par performance on Pittsburgh’s home turf. The Steelers have given up just one passing TD versus five interceptions to date.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants vs. Bears. Bradshaw has excelled while Brandon Jacobs has imploded. But Bradshaw will hit a speed bump against the Bears’ NFL-best rush defense. Reserve him if you can.

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins at Eagles. Though Philly’s run defense is nothing special, Portis would be best left on your bench, thanks to a wrist injury and the expectation that Ryan Torain will get more involved in the action, especially on first and second downs. Portis may be relegated to passing-down duties, since he’s better at blitz pickups than the younger Torain.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers at Saints. You probably don’t have the luxury of sitting Smith now that the bye weeks are here, but things could get ugly(er) for rookie QB Jimmy Clausen in the raucous Superdome on Sunday. Smith will be blanketed by the Saints’ opportunistic secondary, so don’t expect him to help you win this week.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers at Falcons. With a new coordinator striving to inject some creativity into the offense, it will take time to turn this struggling unit around. Traveling cross-country won’t help. Crabtree and his QB have been on different pages all season – Alex Smith has a pathetic 6.6 quarterback rating when throwing his way – so don’t expect an overnight fix.

More thumbs down: QBs Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, David Garrard, Derek Anderson; RBs Ray Rice, Jahvid Best, Jerome Harrison, CJ Spiller, Correll Buckhalter; WRs Derrick Mason, Mike Sims-Walker, Hines Ward, Calvin Johnson, Eddie Royal.

Taking a flier

Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders vs. Texans. With the onset of the bye weeks, short-term fixes are needed at virtually every position. Gradkowski had a solid showing in Arizona last week and now returns home to face the awful Texans secondary. Houston has coughed up a league-worst 1,143 passing yards and six touchdowns, while failing to capture a single interception over the first three games.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHOkeeps Garrett Hartley in your starting lineup this week. Because he remains on the Saints’ roster, inattentive fantasy owners may believe he’s a safe play. (In fact, Hartley is still owned in more than three-quarters of fantasy leagues!) But he’ll be inactive now that John Carney has returned to handle the field goal duties.

Ladd Biro is a syndicated fantasy football columnist and host of Sporting News Radio’s weekly Fantasy Files show (Saturdays, 9-10 am ET). Follow his daily fantasy advice at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com) and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).

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