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Thursday, September 25, 2003
Updated: October 9, 4:02 PM ET
Ask the Gamer: Week 4

By Brandon Funston

Brandon "The Gamer" Funston takes your fantasy questions every week. E-mail him your question.

Josh, New York, NY: Gamer, I need some help here. My current quarterbacks are Matt Hasselbeck and Brad Johnson, both of whom have bye weeks. Who do you recommend I pick up?

Gamer: If you can still land Jeff Blake, that's the direction I'd go. He's available in roughly half of FFL leagues, and he probably belongs in more. He's the No. 8 fantasy quarterback, thus far, and he missed three quarters of his Week 2 matchup with Seattle because of a bruised heel. Had he not left, I could be talking about the top fantasy quarterback to this point. I wouldn't have a problem playing him this week against St. Louis. If he falls behind (likely), that just means a lot of passing.

You might also want to consider Vinny Testaverde. He faces a Dallas defense that has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks than any team, save the Detroit Lions. If neither neither Blake nor Testaverde are available, take a chance on Byron Leftwich. He's been exceptional in two series this year. You'll have to wait until Sunday to find out whether Mark Brunell's elbow is going to be healthy enough to allow him to play. But if Brunell can't play, Leftwich has a decent opportunity against a Houston defense that hasn't been great against the pass.

Mike, Boston, MA: Who is the safer start, Quentin Griffin or Joe Burns?

Gamer: Mike, I'd gamble on Griffin. In Buffalo, Travis Henry is dealing with torn rib cartilage, but he is telling everyone who'll listen that he is going to play. Chalk this up to the fact that Henry is averaging just 2.3 yards per carry, and he is loathe to let someone else come in and create a running back controversy. He's extra sensitive these days because Buffalo drafted Willis McGahee. So Henry is going to make sure he doesn't leave a door open for anyone. This means he'll play with any injury if he can.

In Denver, the Broncos are facing Detroit this week, which should be an easy win. Clinton Portis has a bruised sternum and is talking seriously about skipping the game so that the injury fully heals and it doesn't become an ongoing thing. If he does skip out, Mike Anderson is probably his replacement, but you'd expect to see Griffin get some time, as well. Remember that Anderson was the starting fullback, so he could be moved to fullback when Griffin comes in. And then, if Denver does rout Detroit, both Portis and Anderson could be rested after halftime. Anderson tweaked his knee in Week 3, so a little rest would do him some good, as well. It's possible that Griffin could wind up with 10-12 carries and 50-60 rushing yards. That's not anything to write home about, but it is more than I would expect from Burns this week.

Eric, Bristol, CT: Brandon, with Marshall Faulk hurt what can I expect from Lamar Gordon? And would you start Gordon, Eddie George or Kevin Faulk this week?

Gamer: Let's see, Kevin Faulk is clearly outplaying Antowain Smith in New England's running back platoon. And it seems his role is expanding a little more each week. But, fact is, he's still losing carries to Smith and that makes him a secondary option to Gordon and George, who both are likely to see 20+ carries this week as their team's featured back.

George put up 100 rushing yards last week, but I was far from impressed. Tennessee was able to get an early lead and just milked the clock with George, who only managed 3.4 yards per carry in the contest. It certainly wasn't a revitalized effort from George. And I don't see Tennessee getting out to a commanding lead against Pittsburgh.

That leads me to Gordon, who takes over for the injured Marshall Faulk. His first assignment is the Arizona Cardinals and a defense that allows the ninth-most fantasy points against running backs. To me, he represents the best start among the three. I'd throw him right in the fantasy fire.

Mike, Abilene, TX: I do not have any of the "elite" receivers but I do have Isaac Bruce, Derrick Mason, Ashley Lelie, and Antonio Bryant. Which three do I start this week. Matchup-wise, I am thinking of leaving Mason out. However, I've started him all three weeks and I'm 3-0. What do you think?

Gamer: I would be tempted to recommend that you bench Mason. After all, he's gone 10 consecutive games without scoring a touchdown against Pittsburgh. And the Steelers haven't allowed more than 157 passing yards to a quarterback this season. And Steve McNair has struggled in recent years when he travels to Pittsburgh. So the warning signs are there for Mason. That said, Mason is McNair's go-to guy. And I can't fathom benching a go-to guy in favor of a No. 3 receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. I'm talking about Antonio Bryant, of course. Admittedly, he's a better No. 3 receiver than most teams can boast. But the Cowboys offense is far from being a team that you can count upon for big fantasy numbers. No, I wouldn't start Bryant. So my answer would be to start Mason, Bruce and Lelie.

Carl, Louisville, : Who would you take in Week 4: Shawn Bryson, Troy Hambrick or Ladell Betts?

Gamer: Carl, you have to go Hambrick here. After his 20-carry, 63-yard performance in Week 2 against the Giants, Hambrick was so upset with his play that he couldn't sleep. This week, he was first in to the film room, preparing for the Jets. He should be able to atone for his sins against a Jets squad that has allowed the second-most rushing yards in the NFL. I like Betts and Bryson, but I don't think either can claim the opportunity or the motivation that is confronting Hambrick this week.

Mike, San Francisco, CA: Gamer, I traded Marty Booker and Keyshawn Johnson for running back help last week and now have Jerry Rice and Anquan Boldin for my No. 2 receiver behind Harrison. Who is a good start this week, and are either viable No. 2 receivers for the rest of the season?

Gamer: After watching last Monday's game (Oakland vs. Denver), it is really hard for me to support a Raiders receiver at this time. I'll tell you, the thing that really jumped out at me was how old Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice and Tim Brown looked. They've never looked so slow. Clearly, the offense being out of sync is partially to blame, but the loss of Jerry Porter is having a dramatic affect on the look of this offense. It suddenly looks like it's pulling a trailer. Wait on Rice. He'll get better as the weeks progress, and the return of Porter should help push Rice back into No. 2 fantasy receiver viability.

For this week, give me Boldin. I'm a believer. He's a good player, his team is going to throw a lot and he's Jeff Blake's favorite target. This week, he faces a St. Louis secondary that has given up the 12th-most fantasy points to receivers. He is almost certain to catch at least six passes every week, and probably more this week.