The Fantasy Fool | Starters and benchwarmer for Sept. 25

Wondering whether or not to start Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson, or to bench Kerry Collins and Jason Snelling? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 3 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Kevin Kolb, QB, Cardinals at Seahawks. After two weeks, Kolb is teetering on the fringes of fantasy respectability, while the Seahawks have just two sacks and no interceptions to their credit. Given the pathetic state of affairs in Seattle, this should be a breakout game for Kolb Company.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Chiefs. Mathews is doing his best to muscle Mike Tolbert (calf) out of his backfield. When healthy, Mathews is the more productive rusher, and he nearly matched his teammate’s receiving output in Week 2. Against the staggering Chiefs, both are great plays; but the pendulum is swinging Mathews’ way.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins at Browns. The rookie ran strong against the Texans in his first action of the season, relegating Reggie Bush to a bit role. Though Bush will surely get more touches this week, Thomas is a much better inside runner. He should score his first TD against Cleveland’s sub-par run defense.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals vs. 49ers. The rookie has a great chance to score in his third consecutive game against a secondary that just coughed up three TD passes to Miles Austin. Green was targeted 14 times in Week 2, underscoring his prominence in the Bengals’ passing attack.

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots at Bills. Branch has quietly racked up 222 yards on 15 receptions. With Aaron Hernandez (knee) out and Chad Ochocinco still searching for his mojo, Branch should have no trouble reaching the end zone Sunday in what could be an aerial showcase.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck, Cam Newton; RBs Fred Jackson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ben Tate, LeGarrette Blount; WRs Stevie Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Lloyd, Anquan Boldin, Mike Williams (Bucs), Mike Sims-Walker.

Roll ‘em back

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys vs. Redskins. I’d be worried enough if the only concern was his broken rib and punctured lung. Assuming Romo plays, he’ll also be missing Miles Austin (hamstring) and possibly the knuckle-headed Dez Bryant (thigh), who had not practiced through Thursday. Washington’s pass defense has given up just two TD passes so far. I’m looking for a safer option this week.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Packers. In his four outings against Green Bay since becoming Chicago’s starter, Cutler has passed for just 875 yards, with 4 TDs and 9 INTs. He’s already been sacked 11 times this season, including a shot to the throat that is still affecting him. The Packers have given up big numbers to QBs so far this season, but they won’t have sympathy for Cutler on Sunday.

Tim Hightower, RB, Redskins at Cowboys. Hightower is off to a strong start in Washington, but Roy Helu is already cannibalizing some of his carries. Dallas’ run defense has been among the league’s stingiest (though two weeks isn’t much to bank on). I’m not optimistic about Hightower’s chances under the Monday night lights.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, RBs, Panthers vs. Jaguars. Carolina’s line has apparently decided that it no longer needs to run-block with Newton at the controls. Though Stewart offered value as a receiver last week, Williams has been a complete dud. Neither is likely to prosper against the Jags’ stout run defense.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs at Chargers. Now that Jamaal Charles is gone, Bowe is the Chiefs’ most dangerous weapon. As poorly as Matt Cassel has been playing, San Diego should have little problem shutting down the connection. After all, they held him to two catches for 16 yards over two games in 2010, when Bowe was en fuego.

More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Rex Grossman, Cassel, Kyle Orton; RBs Arian Foster, Joseph Addai, Thomas Jones, Cadillac Williams, Felix Jones, Knowshon Moreno, Ryan Grant; WRs Michael Crabtree, Denarius Moore, Percy Harvin, Malcom Floyd, Pierre Garcon, Mario Manningham.

Taking a flier

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets at Raiders. Greene has gotten off to a slow start, though he found his way into the end zone last week. More encouraging was LaDainian Tomlinson’s bit role against Jacksonville. Greene should build on the positive momentum against an Oakland run defense that was just gashed by the Bills.

Don’t be the bonehead who fails to grab Bernard Scott off the waiver wire, especially if you’re a Cedric Benson owner. The NFL has suspended the Bengals’ workhorse for three games, beginning in Week 4, for his latest off-field transgressions. Though Benson is expected to appeal the decision, the speedy Scott should offer nice value during a stretch of favorable matchups. If he performs well, there’s no guarantee that the oft-troubled Benson will reclaim his starting gig.