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Players to start, and to avoid, in Week 8

Anybody who's played for a while has at some point felt their wrath, but if proof ever was needed that sometimes you're destined to lose, consider this torturous series of events I endured last week:

-Rudi Johnson gets stopped near the goal-line, and on the next play the Bengals pass to somebody else for a score.

-Willie Parker gets stopped near the goal-line, and on the next play the Steelers pass to somebody else for a score.

-Jake Delhomme leads the Panthers to the 10-yard line and promptly fires an end-zone interception.

-Reggie Wayne is open for a fade in the end zone, but the ball hits him in the hand, of all places, and he doesn't catch it.

-Bye-week fill-in Lee Evans actually gets open for a bomb in the end zone and J.P. Losman actually hits him - you guessed it - in the hands, so Evans drops it.

By my count that's five touchdowns left on the table in my loss by ... about five touchdowns. If that wasn't enough, I was playing against Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, who were held relatively in check before hooking up for a 52-yard score with 32 seconds left.

I just had no chance.

As you admire me for having the courage to come forward with this painful story, here are some players to start in Week 8, some to avoid, and some long shots that just may pan out:



-Overthinker Alert: The Colts' Peyton Manning faces a Broncos defence that has allowed just two TDs, but never even briefly consider benching him. Last year Manning had either 300 yards or multiple TDs in five of six games against top defences.

-Wow, now Atlanta's Michael Vick has an arm, too? It's hard to resist starting him against a spotty Bengals defence. (His four TD passes followed complaints on TV about not passing enough, prompting quarterbacks everywhere to call HBO and line up interviews.)

-The last time Chicago's Rex Grossman faced an NFC West weakling he turned into a turnover machine. He should do much better against the 49ers, who last week ended their four-game streak of allowing multiple TD passes by having a bye.

-If some guy named Andrew Walter can light up the Arizona defence, certainly Brett Favre can. He's always good for at least two scores against lousy defences.

-Notice how great Matt Leinart is now that Arizona finally fired that offensive co-ordinator? Oh, maybe not. But he does face a Packers defence that let Joey Harrington go for over 400 yards.


Kansas City's Damon Huard seems to be gaining confidence to do more than just hand it to Larry Johnson and get out of the way. He's thrown two TD passes in three of his last four games, but check Sunday to make sure he's playing. Huard missed practice Friday with a sore groin.


Please, in the name of Steve Pelluer, don't start these guys:

-Mobile youngster Tony Romo replaces granite-footed Drew Bledsoe when Dallas faces Carolina, meaning Julius Peppers will actually have to do a little chasing for his numerous sacks.

-What in the world has happened to the Jaguars? Byron Leftwich, who can do the splits on turf outside Jacksonville but little else, has missed practice with a sore ankle this week and may not play. The Jags are 0-3 on the road, where Leftwich has only one TD pass against defenses not located in Washington.

-If you think Seattle backup Seneca Wallace looked googly-eyed against Minnesota, wait till he gets a look at Arrowhead Stadium. (Side note: The KC defence is a good one to start this week.)



-Cincinnati's won 13 straight when Rudi Johnson gets at least 20 carries. He faces a Falcons run defence that for some reason is tough every other week. They're due to be bad this week, considering they've allowed 146, 31, 259 and 55 yards in the past four games.

-Start Denver's Tatum Bell against the Colts, because a guy named Booger can't fix such a bad run defence all by himself. And there's no way the Broncos are trusting Jake Plummer in this big game.

-Start everybody in Cleveland. The Browns' Reuben Droughns could finally do something against the horrid Jets run defence. The Jets' Leon Washington is about five feet tall and shares time, but still seemingly can't be stopped.

-The Texans are so busy celebrating a second win that their 31st-ranked defence will forget all about Tennessee's Travis Henry, who's averaging 150 yards in his last two games. (The bigger story here, of course, is that one of these teams will somehow win its second straight.)

-Carolina's DeShaun Foster has vanished recently, failing to hit 60 yards the past two weeks. But he'll be facing a tired Dallas defence that should be on the field a long, long time.


-Houston's Wali Lundy finally has figured out how to run. He has done so only after I cut him in two leagues, so he'll certainly rub it in with a big game against the Titans' NFL-worst run defence.


-If you can trade Arizona's Edgerrin James for Lundy, Artose Pinner, Justin Fargas or a couple of sandwiches, do so now. There's just no hope for the Cards' running game.

-The Patriots' duo of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney won't find much room to run against the Vikings' No. 1 run defence that's giving up about 70 yards a game.

-Carnell (Cadillac) Williams started to get rolling against the Eagles, but the Giants' defence just isn't letting people run.



-Romo is young but knows enough to get the ball to Terrell Owens. T.O. will catch plenty of the passes that Carolina defenders don't get to first, but can we please stop seeing close-ups of his sideline scowls?

-Speaking of loudmouth receivers who were fired by other teams, start Carolina's Keyshawn Johnson. The ex-Cowboy scored twice the last time he faced a former employer.

-When last we saw the Bears' receivers, they were bumbling around in an embarrassing display against Arizona. This week they play the 49ers, who let guys score even when they bumble.

-Maybe you can crown anyone who plays the free-falling Cardinals, but while you're at it keep Anquan Boldin in the lineup against the Packers' NFL-worst pass defence that's allowing nearly 300 yards a game.

-Kansas City's Eddie Kennison has a TD catch in two of his last three games.


-New England rookie Chad Jackson has started figuring things out, with two touchdowns in his last three games. Of course, it's always easier to figure things out with Tom Brady around, and Brady will be passing plenty at Minnesota.


-Hasn't Baltimore gone through about a dozen offensive co-ordinators under offensive genius Brian Billick? Whoever the new guy is, don't bank on him to get Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason going against the Saints.

-San Francisco's Antonio Bryant should continue his four-game streak of no touchdowns or 100-yard outings against Chicago.

-The Jets' defence is bad, but the Browns' passing attack is worse, so keep Braylon Edwards on the bench.



Pick these guys up if they're available in your league:

Houston's Wali Lundy (93 yards, TD), Miami's Joey Harrington (412 yards, 2 TDs), Dallas' Tony Romo (2 TDs), Pittsburgh's Charlie Batch (2 TDs), Pittsburgh's Nate Washington (2 TDs in past two weeks), New England's Chad Jackson.


Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:

Big Hits: I suggested taking a flier on Harrington as well as starts for Jon Kitna (3 TDs), Kevin Jones (143 total yards, TD) and Doug Gabriel (TD). I also suggested benching Santana Moss (20 yards, strained hamstring) and Matt Hasselbeck (1 TD, injured knee).

Big Misses: I thought Willie Parker (47 yards) would roll and that there would be no passing in the Pittsburgh-Atlanta game (9 TD passes). I expected big things from Byron Leftwich and two other Jags (0 combined TDs), as well as Matt Leinart (2 INTs) and Clinton Portis (43 yards).



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