STOP US if you've
heard this one before: Peyton Manning will have a big year for the Colts
because, with Edgerrin James gone, he'll need to throw more often. Or this one:
LaDainian Tomlinson's rushing numbers will suffer because opposing defenses can
stack the line against Philip Rivers, the Chargers' inexperienced quarterback.
Those are just two of a slew of assumptions bandied about by fantasy owners who
seem to be "in the know"--notions tossed around in bars and over the
Internet, spreading like germs in a second-grade classroom. But are theories
like these valid? SI's team of NFL insiders canvassed the games, practice
fields and locker rooms to find out.
Steve McNair will
significantly improve the receiving numbers of Mark Clayton and Derrick
REALITY Though not
the athletic quarterback he once was, McNair, 33, is a marked upgrade over Kyle
Boller, who's now the Ravens' backup. McNair has completed at least 60% of his
passes in every season since 1999; in three years Boller has never been above
58.4%. Mason (eight catches for 93 yards in two games), with whom McNair
connected for 29 TDs during eight years in Tennessee, will certainly benefit.
Clayton's numbers should get a boost too, though he remains a marginal fantasy
beneficiary, however, will be tight end Todd Heap, who caught a team-high five
passes for 46 yards in the Ravens' opener and added five catches for 17 yards
and a touchdown on Sunday against the Raiders. Over his career McNair has shown
an affinity for throwing to the tight end; 31% of his completions (728 of 2,338
at week's end) have gone to players at that position. "Steve's going to
obviously look Todd's way a lot," says former Titans tight end Frank
Wycheck. "I predict big numbers."
numbers will suffer without Terrell Owens.
your TV and computer have been disconnected, you know that the Eagles' McNabb
hasn't exactly missed T.O. so far, passing for 664 yards and five touchdowns in
two games. The key questions: Will this trend continue, or are McNabb's numbers
inflated because he faced two poor pass defenses (Titans and Giants)? The
consensus from on-the-scene reporters who have been watching McNabb since
training camp: He's the goods.
Even before Owens
brought his trash-talking, abs-crunching circus to Philly, McNabb performed
like a top-tier QB, throwing for 3,365 yards in 2000 and 25 TDs the next year.
Owens's arrival in '04 helped drive McNabb's stats to career highs (3,875 yards
and 31 TDs). McNabb's drop-off last year was largely attributed to T.O.'s
departure in November, but the quarterback was also playing with a sports
hernia that caused him to miss the last seven games. Now healthy, the
29-year-old McNabb is back to making plays on the run, throwing across his body
and spreading the ball around the field (20 completions to wide receivers, 17
to running backs and 14 to tight ends through Sunday). "He's healthy and
confident," Philly coach Andy Reid says. "He knows he has his whole