Wondering whether to start Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson, or bench Max Hall and Laurence Maroney? 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 8 of the 2010 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions vs. Redskins. Fully recovered from his Week 1 shoulder injury, Stafford faces the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense with all his offensive weapons healthy and raring to go. Unlike Jay Cutler, Stafford won’t make DeAngelo Hall his leading receiver.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Buccaneers. Few teams run as poorly as Arizona does, but Tampa Bay’s rush defense is equally sorry. Wells finally crossed the goal line last week, and he should have his best game yet now that Tim Hightower has fumbled his way into the doghouse again.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys vs. Jaguars. Jones’ value over the last few weeks has been primarily as a receiver. He’ll be leaned on more heavily as a runner now that Jon Kitna is piloting the offense, especially against a defense that’s about as accommodating as they come.
Steve Johnson, WR, Bills at Chiefs. With five TDs accumulated over the last four games, Johnson is en fuego. The Chiefs have allowed a pair of scoring strikes apiece in their two most recent contests, so look for another banner outing for this rising star.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Chargers vs. Titans. San Diego can’t get their running game in gear, so Philip Rivers is passing up a storm. Over the past two weeks, Crayton has caught 13 passes for 199 yards, and he should keep up the pace while Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee sit out again.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Kitna, Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel, Matt Schaub; RBs Ryan Torain, Darren McFadden, Thomas Jones, Jamaal Charles, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jahvid Best, Marshawn Lynch; WRs Kenny Britt, Pierre Garcon, Roy Williams, Dwayne Bowe, Terrell Owens, Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Williams (both), Michael Crabtree.
Roll ‘em back
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers at Saints. He’s amassed five TDs since returning to action two weeks ago, but the Saints have allowed only six passing scores all season. Look for Pittsburgh to pound Rashard Mendenhall all Sunday night to run the clock and keep Drew Brees off the field.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Titans. Despite all the optimistic talk, the rookie has failed to seize the workhorse role in his high-octane offense. Mathews is a weak pass blocker, which forces him out of the game too often. Mike Tolbert is still poaching the TD dives, Darren Sproles is a better receiver and the Titans have yielded a solitary rushing score all season.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers at Rams. As Steven Tyler might have said, Williams’ get-up-and-go must’ve got-up-and-went. He’s reached the end zone only once all season and has yet to generate a 100-yard rushing day. Now he’s hobbling on an injured foot, and considered iffy for Sunday’s matchup. Jonathan Stewart could start against a Rams defense that’s allowed just two rushing scores to date.
Donald Driver, WR, Packers at Jets. He posted his first goose egg in 133 games last weekend, undoubtedly due to his ailing quad. Against the Jets’ talented corners, he’s unlikely to fare much better. Don’t be surprised if James Jones is a bigger part of Green Bay’s game plan again.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Packers. Edwards is bound to see fewer targets now that the more sure-handed Santonio Holmes has had the bye week to get in sync with Mark Sanchez. Green Bay’s secondary is playing at a high level, making the drop-prone Edwards a risky play.
More thumbs down: QBs Sanchez, Brett Favre, Sam Bradford, Donovan McNabb; RBs Ronnie Brown, Brandon Jackson, Fred Jackson, Justin Forsett, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Chris Ivory; WRs David Gettis, Hines Ward, Robert Meachem, Kevin Walter, Eddie Royal.
Taking a flier
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans at Colts. Though not yet 100 percent recovered from the knee injury that cost him half of the 2009 season, Daniels is poised to be a major weapon in Houston’s passing attack again. Next to Andre Johnson, he is Matt Schaub’s most trusted receiver, and you know they’ll be airing it out in Indy all Monday night.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHObenches Brees because he’s facing the mighty Steelers. He has a history of rising to the occasion against the toughest competition, and he always rebounds nicely from sub-par outings. Besides, Pittsburgh won’t allow the Saints to run, forcing Brees to pass early and often in this near must-win home game.