Any true fantasy football player in some way is addicted to this, uh, sport.
If you’re anything like me, you break into a cold sweat when anyone mentions one of your opponents. Just hearing the name T.J. Houshmandzadeh sends cold shivers down my spine. Come to think of it, saying “T.J. Houshmandzadeh” does the same thing.
The toughest part of this addiction, though, is admitting your early round bust. The first- or second-round pick who buries your team by not sniffing the end zone or by dropping passes. The pick on whom you pin your hopes, only to realize he’s really become a donkey. The pick who, well, has a measly 156 total yards and no scores in three games.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Maurice Jones-Drew.
He of 15 touchdowns in his rookie season. He of 5.7 yards per carry. He of 5 feet 7 inches of pure biceps.
He of ruined fantasy teams across the land.
The Jacksonville Jaguars running back has cursed more teams than fantasy football has jilted wives, and the worst part is, it’s so hard to part with Jones-Drew.
Now, it’s time we all collectively cut the umbilical cord. It’s hard, I know. We form some sort of weird bond with certain players like we actually control their destinies, when in fact, they control ours. It can be a tough addiction to kick.
So say it with me: “My name is _____, and I’m a MoJo-aholic.”
And then go cold turkey on this cold, cold turkey.
On to the locks of the week.
Top-tier players who should perform to their value:
• Edgerrin James, Arizona running back vs. St. Louis: The 20 carries per game is nice, sure. But James got that many carries last year and woefully underperformed. What has changed since 2006? Oh, just about a yard more on each of those carries.
The once-elite back is running behind an improved offensive line, which is coached by the excellent Russ Grimm, and he faces a Rams defense that has surrendered the fourth-most rushing yards per game (157). Expect about 120 yards and a score from James, but watch out for more.
• Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis wide receiver vs. Tampa Bay: With Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson going wild this season, Wayne has gotten lost in the shuffle.
But he’s quietly put together a nice start, with 76 yards per game and three scores. The status of Marvin Harrison still is up in the air, but maybe it doesn’t matter. This is the year the younger Colt overcomes old reliable. Did I just say that? Blasphemy!
• Tom Brady, New England quarterback vs. Cleveland: Brady. The Patriots passing game. Randy Moss. At home. The Browns’ defense. On the road. A coherent sentence isn’t even possible with this matchup.
Midround picks who should feast on favorable matchups:
• Plaxico Burress, New York Giants wide receiver vs. New York Jets: I’ve never been a big Burress guy, but he’s getting too good to ignore.
While Eli Manning spreads the ball around well, he has a nose for Burress in the end zone, where it matters. Burress’ tweaked ankle causes concern, but the Jets’ pass defense alleviates any worries, as it allows more than 250 yards per game.
• Tony Romo, Dallas quarterback vs. Buffalo: The Cowboys’ offense is rolling, and the Bills’ defense is reeling. Romo — on average, the ninth quarterback selected in most leagues — has benefited the most from new coach Wade Phillips’ system.
Buffalo’s defense also bumps the value of Marion Barber, Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton and Jason Witten. All are must-starts.
• Roy Williams, Detroit wide receiver vs. Washington: Williams is a feast-or-famine player. This week, he’s starving for the end zone, and Jon Kitna will target him against a talented but risky Redskins defense.
I was tempted to put Marques Colston in this slot, as Week 5 could be his coming-out party. But not yet.
Top-tier guys who won’t perform up to their value:
• Ronnie Brown, Miami running back vs. Houston: In full disclosure, I own Brown in three leagues, so I might be cursing myself. But Brown has to come back to earth some day, and this is it.
Houston’s rapidly improving defense is yielding 80 rushing yards per game, and while Brown is becoming the factor in the passing game that many expected under new coach Cam Cameron, the Dolphins don’t have much else. He’ll still produce, just not to the level of the last two weeks.
• Thomas Jones, New York Jets running back vs. New York Giants: Jones has gotten off to a poor start, albeit against staunch defenses. Worrisome, though, is Eric Mangini’s propensity to abandon the run too early.
Besides Week 3, when Jones averaged 4.4 yards per carry and gained 110 yards against Miami, the first-year Jets back has tallied just 144 yards at 2.9 yards per carry.
• Torry Holt, St. Louis wide receiver vs. Arizona: This isn’t 1995, this isn’t Washington, and this isn’t Michael Westbrook, so why should we expect Gus Frerotte to be his old self?
Wait. His old self wasn’t that good. Holt’s showing a little age — he’s 31, or roughly 198 in NFL wideout years — and the Cardinals’ defense is showing confidence coming off a two-interception, four-sack performance against Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.
QUICK PICK SIX
The best bets for the week, based on value:
Romo, QB Matt Schaub (vs. Miami); RB Marshawn Lynch (vs. Dallas); WR Greg Jennings (vs. Chicago); TE Chris Cooley (vs. Detroit); WR Deion Branch (vs. Pittsburgh).
Jon Gold is a Review-Journal sportswriter who is in 10 fantasy football leagues. His column is published Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.