A Bone to Pick - NBC 7 San Diego

A Bone to Pick

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    NEWSLETTERS

    You can bet that not long after Mike Martz signed his two-year contract to head up the 49ers' offense, he circled September 21 on the schedule.

    That's the date Martz and San Francisco play host to the team that fired him in January, even though for two straight seasons his high-flying, if pass-happy attack was the only thing the Lions had going for them. The consensus says Martz has a bone to pick with the club.

    I'm sure Mike would tell you no, but it would be contrary to human personality to not give a little extra thought to it. - FOX analyst Brian Billick

    You know this game means a lot to him. That's just natural, but he hasn't really said it to anybody. He doesn't have to. - 49ers tailback Frank Gore

    When he tries to exact his revenge...I think it's going to be kind of a one finger salute. - Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski.

    I think he'll be real fired up. There's no question about that. - new Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, Martz's friend of 20 years. No more.

    It didn't take Martz long to find work after Detroit fired him (why should it -- he's good at what he does), but he won't take it easy on the franchise that blamed his offense, not the failed defense, for its 1-7 finish to last season. Martz isn't the angry, spiteful type. But he's proud and will want to make Lions GM Matt Millen remember the good thing he let go.

    Shoot, the Lions' play through two weeks says Martz, not Rod Marinelli, should be running the Motown ship.

    All 49ers skill players look like good bets for production in what could be a high-scoring affair on Sunday. The San Francisco offense is starting to find its groove. Isaac Bruce (38.3 yards-per-catch average) is a big-play threat again and the apparent go-to guy in Martz's attack. Bryant Johnson caught six passes last week and scored his first touchdown as a Niner. Arnaz Battle (four catches at Seattle) has clearly emerged as the third receiver. Even Vernon Davis might be sent on a few pass routes Sunday.

    to pick him up. I'd encourage you to play J.T. O'Sullivan with confidence this week. There are few quarterbacks with this sort of one-game upside.

    Now to the injury updates.

    Important Game-Time Decisions for Week 3

    Arms
    Ben Roethlisberger - Ben certain to start against overrated Eagles secondary.
    Carson Palmer - Made it through a full week of practice and will start Sunday.

    Wides
    Braylon Edwards - Saw limited work in practice this week, but should be a go.
    Hines Ward - High-scoring wideout will play, face Asante Samuel in coverage.
    Laveranues Coles - Coles will start on Monday Night Football at San Diego.
    Donte' Stallworth - Very unlikely to play Sunday despite "questionable" listing.
    Reggie Brown - Will only rotate in Sunday and has likely lost his starting job.
    Jerry Porter - Won't face the Colts and is looking like an early free agent bust.
    Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice - Berrian to start; Rice probably will be inactive.
    Justin Gage - Didn't practice this week, so don't bet on Gage facing Houston.
    Javon Walker - Will be active for likely third or fourth receiver role at Buffalo.
    Koren Robinson - Chronic knee woes acting up again; Billy McMullen to start.
    Devin Hester - "Questionable," but didn't practice all week and unlikely to play.
    Roscoe Parrish - Speedy kick returner/slot receiver will play against Oakland.
    Steve Breaston - Emerging return man/third receiver is probable for Sunday.
    Joshua Cribbs - Pro Bowl return ace will be active Sunday against Baltimore.
    Sam Hurd, Miles Austin - Austin to be active; Hurd is probably out this week.
    James Thrash, Malcolm Kelly - Slated to play off the bench against Cardinals.

    Backs
    Adrian Peterson (Vikings) - AP is a full-blown game-day call versus Carolina.
    LaDainian Tomlinson - LT should play, but may not see more than 10 carries.
    Ryan Grant - Elevated to probable, may be in line for biggest workload to date.
    Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor - Both will play, should be in lineups at IND.
    Jamal Lewis - Considered virtually certain to start in difficult matchup at BAL.
    Darren McFadden - Considered probable, but appears set to come off bench.
    Laurence Maroney - Don't count on Maroney even if he is active on Sunday.
    Justin Fargas - Called "doubtful," but Fargas will not play against the Bills.
    LaMont Jordan - Listed as doubtful; Sammy Morris likely to start at Dolphins.

    Ends
    Ben Utecht - Won't face the Giants due to a chest injury and can be dropped.

    Legs
    Lawrence Tynes - Unlikely to play, but could be back after Jints' Week 4 bye.

    Already Ruled Out for Week 3

    Arms
    Tom Brady - Matt Cassel to start Sunday against punchless Miami secondary.
    Vince Young - Kerry Collins to remain starter as long as Titans are winning.
    Brodie Croyle - Fill-in Tyler Thipgen to be on a short leash against the Falcons.
    Drew Stanton - His odds of seeing starts increase with every Jon Kitna pick.

    Wides
    Marques Colston - Don't expect Colston to return until Week 6 at the earliest.
    Joey Galloway - Antonio Bryant should lead Bucs receivers in targets Sunday.
    Kevin Curtis - Eagles website suggested that Curtis may return in a few weeks.
    Drew Bennett, Keenan Burton - Dane Looker to draw second consecutive start.
    Seneca Wallace, Deion Branch, Bobby Engram - Keary Colbert to start v. STL.
    Chris Henry - Bengals' wideout is slated to return from suspension in Week 5.
    Darrell Jackson - Denver's fourth receiver can be dropped in all fantasy leagues.
    Joe Jurevicius - May return from PUP in Week 7, but more likely to land on I.R.
    Troy Williamson - Is still sidelined by thigh injury he suffered in training camp.

    Backs
    Carnell Williams - On PUP through Week 6; seems unlikely to play this year.
    Ahman Green - Ankle injury has probably cost Green his starting job for good.
    Ryan Torain - Broncos are still targeting Week 7 for their rookie back to return.
    Maurice Morris - Julius Jones has second straight great matchup versus Rams.

    Ends
    None of significance.

    Legs
    Mike Nugent - Out indefinitely; Jay Feely is shanking short kicks in his place.

    Week 3 Matchups to Exploit

    Michael Turner vs. Kansas City
    Time: 1PM ET

    The Falcons' game plan against the Chiefs will undoubtedly be run based. Atlanta got away from the ground after falling behind in Week 2 and Turner finished with only 42 yards on 14 carries. But Kansas City's run defense is lackluster (AFC-worst 5.7 YPC allowed so far) to begin with and defensive ends Tamba Hali and Turk McBride are both questionable to play. Matt Ryan will have a clean pocket and Turner will have gaping lanes to run through. He's an RB1 option in an ideal matchup and should make for a nice sell-high in fantasy leagues after this game.

    Sammy Morris vs. Miami
    Time: 1PM ET

    The Patriots' four-headed monster reduces to a three-man ordeal with LaMont Jordan's (foot, doubtful) expected inactivity Sunday. Most likely, it'll be a two-man backfield of Morris and Kevin Faulk with Laurence Maroney battling a shoulder injury that kept him out of Wednesday and Thursday's practices. While Maroney has a small chance to play, it'd likely be in a limited role at best. Morris has taken over as the current fantasy back to own in New England and figures to see 18-22 touches against a Dolphins defense that is certain to double team Randy Moss on virtually every play. QBs' passer rating against Miami through two weeks is a near-perfect 147 and their completion rate is 72%, making Matt Cassel a fine spot start as well.

    Greg Olsen vs. Tampa Bay
    Time: 1PM ET

    Olsen has begun the season in disappointing fashion, having hauled in only four passes for 43 yards through two games with a disturbing two fumbles lost. The 2007 first-round pick didn't lose one fumble in his rookie year. However, tight ends often start slow and Olsen is likely to see a jump in snaps Sunday with Bears third receiver Devin Hester (ribs) expected to be inactive, or possibly resigned to special teams if he does play. Olsen also faces a Bucs' Cover 2 defense that tight ends are notorious for finding soft spots against. The Bears could struggle to run effectively on this stout unit (only 3.7 YPC allowed) and Kyle Orton may be forced into 30+ pass attempts for the second straight week. Orton should have a good chance to lead Chicago in catches Sunday.

    Fred Taylor @ Indianapolis
    Time: 4:15PM ET

    The Jaguars plan to increase Maurice Jones-Drew's usage on offense after giving him only 19 total touches in the first two weeks. But against Indianapolis' undersized and Bob Sanders-less defense, it is Taylor who will pose the biggest matchup problem. While MJD should undoubtedly be started as an RB2, Taylor makes for an ideal flex, as his more powerful build will give Indianapolis' sub-235 pound linebackers fits. Starting DT Keyunta Dawson (ankle) may also be missing for the Colts, making the Jags' interior line woes less of a concern, and with Jerry Porter still sidelined and David Garrard struggling Jacksonville figures to take a decidedly run-first approach.

    Week 3 Matchups to Avoid

    Darren McFadden @ Buffalo
    Time: 1PM ET

    McFadden (turf toe) is listed as "probable" on the injury report, but did little in practice Friday and coach Lane Kiffin won't determine his in-game role until morning warmups. LaDainian Tomlinson owners last week found out the hard way how tricky injuries like McFadden's can be. McFadden will be active for the game, but Kiffin says the former Arkansas Razorback might only be used as a change of pace behind potential starter Michael Bush. Bush currently appears to be the stronger bet for a 20-24 carry workload, and his 247 pounds could be too much for lightweight Buffalo SAM linebebacker Keith Ellison (6'0/228) to handle on strong-side runs.

    Anthony Gonzalez vs. Jacksonville
    Time: 4:15PM ET

    Gonzalez had a big game (9-137) in Week 2 while facing Vikings RCB Cedric Griffin in primary coverage. Trouble is, so does everybody else (fyi., Muhsin Muhammad likely draws Griffin this week) and the return of Dallas Clark projects to cut heavily into Gonzalez's snaps. Both Clark and Gonzalez serve as slot receivers when the Colts use three wides. Indianapolis could implement four-receiver sets Sunday if Joseph Addai can't get going against the typically run-tough Jags, but even then Gonzo will be a third or fourth option on plays. It's not a great bet to happen, but owners should watch to see if Gonzalez begins taking playing time from Marvin Harrison outside.

    Willis McGahee vs. Cleveland
    Time: 4:15PM ET

    McGahee will not start Sunday, by all accounts, and since he's off the injury report entirely, it calls into question his standing on the depth chart. The best guess for now would have rookie Ray Rice opening the game and splitting early-down carries with McGahee, while LeRon McClain enters for any goal-line or short-yardage chances. The Ravens' offense lacks big-play potential and will have to matriculate the ball down the field to score, making them one of the most likely teams in the NFL to be in goal-to-go situations against bad defenses. While McClain is a fairly good bet for a touchdown and Rice is a flex option in PPR leagues because he'll dominate passing-down work, McGahee should not be used in any format despite his big name and favorable matchup.

    LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Jets
    Time: 8:30PM ET Monday

    Presumably, Tomlinson (turf toe, questionable) owners have been following his practice workloads this week, but here's a short recap. LT2 missed practice Wednesday. That's fine, because he plays Monday night. LT2 missed Thursday's practice, then said the swelling had dissipated a bit from his troublesome toe. He returned Friday, but was limited. Beat writer Kevin Acee, one of the best in the business, expects Tomlinson to start but said on the NFL Network late Friday that he might only see 10 carries against the Jets and will likely struggle to make anyone miss because he can't move horizontally at full tilt. Darren Sproles is expected to shoulder the bulk of the workload. Hopefully Tony Kornheiser has done his homework on this kid, because if he hasn't we might here a whiny voice ask "Whoooo iss this kidd?" 10+ times on Monday Night Football.

    Reply Absolutely Not to the Following Questions

    > Should any true fantasy fan miss out on this column?

    > Could the Chiefs beat USC?

    > Should Colts SS Melvin Bullitt be left on IDP waiver wires this week?

    > Is Edgerrin James a good "buy low" candidate? Ahman Green? Larry Johnson?

    > Should IDP leaguers wait on grabbing Chargers ILB Stephen Cooper, who returns from suspension in Week 5?