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Wide Write: Brandon Marshall Is a Fantasy Monster

In our FOXSports.com blog on Sunday morning, we predicted a 117-reception season for the Broncos’ Brandon Marshall. That projection was obviously far too timid. After Marshall’s 18-catch, 166-yard stat stunner in Week 2, you should be ready for anything. Team Wide Write has Marshall and Randy Moss in one league, and it’s hard to say who the better receiver is. Actually, we really don’t think it’s hard to say, but saying it might get us ostracized from the Fantasy Columnists Union.

Now that we’ve tooted our own horn, we’ll give ourselves a reality check. Here’s what we wrote last week about a certain Raiders rookie: “Darren McFadden may have been slightly — or not so slightly — overrated … We all forgot that the Silver and Black has another pretty good running back in Justin Fargas, and even though Fargas won’t have an 18-9 carry edge over McFadden every week, expecting McFadden to be an instant star is unrealistic.”

If your TV reception was bad on Sunday, that was definitely McFadden shredding the Chiefs’ defense for 164 yards after taking the lead role when Huggy Bear’s son, Fargas, was injured. Wow, he’s good, even if he doesn’t get all the carries.

Here’s what else we learned in Week 2:

• Aaron Rodgers is better than expected. The 16th-ranked QB in FOXSports.com fantasy drafts has completed 70 percent of his passes for 506 yards, four touchdowns and no picks in his first two NFL starts. The Pack doesn’t seem to be missing a beat with Brett Favre gone, and Rodgers might be turning into a solid fantasy starter. Do you think Packers GM Ted Thompson is just a little happy about this turn of events?

• Matt Hasselbeck is going to have some trouble if his receivers don’t get healthy. Usually a perennial mid-level fantasy starter, Hasselbeck has nobody to throw to besides our new favorite tight end John Carlson (six receptions, 78 yards in Week 2). The Seahawks signed Koren Robinson and traded for Keary Colbert earlier this week, and if that’s supposed to be an upgrade, you might want to look at some other QB options. Fast.

• Jonathan Stewart might be a really good runner. The Panthers rookie rushed 14 times for 77 yards and a pair of TDs against the Bears, and he looked terrific doing it. With WR Steve Smith back this week, defenses are going to have to back off the line a bit, allowing Stewart plenty of room to run. Wide Write's Charlotte HQ is officially excited.

• The Kurt Warner revival has no expiration date. After a solid opener against the 49ers, the 37-year-old Warner lit up the Dolphins for 361 yards and three scores. Sure, he needs to prove it against a stronger defense, but with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin hauling in passes for him, Warner might continue his fantasy excellence for weeks. We’d take the over on 25 TDs.

Let’s move on to this week’s picks to start at quarterback, running back and receiver (either WR or TE). As usual, they’ll be players who aren’t permanent fixtures in fantasy starting lineups:

Quarterback

Jay Cutler, Broncos – Yes, this seems like a no-brainer right now, but since a lot of owners didn’t start him last week, it needs to be said again. The Broncos are playing the Saints at home, and we think that means Brandon Marshall is going to catch something like 37 passes. That would make Cutler a must-play, right?

Matt Cassel, Patriots – Let’s not forget that Cassel has some serious weapons at his disposal, and he wasn’t bad against the Jets last week (16-for-23, 165 yards). With the Dolphins coming to Foxboro this week, if there was ever a time for Cassel to bust out, this is it.

Running Back

Michael Pittman, Broncos – We’re really not trying to make this week’s column so Broncos-centric. It’s actually no fun at all since Mike Shanahan is such a noted fantasy hater. With that said, if you need a fill-in at running back, short-yardage specialist Pittman has already scored three times in two games. Even though this violates our “never take a Bronco back” rule, Pittman seems like a vulture that could pay a small dividend.

Julius Jones, Seahawks – Here’s an example of all the fantasy pieces falling into place. The Seahawks host the lowly Rams this week. Matt Hasselbeck, as mentioned above, has a collection of wide receivers who might have trouble starting for the Dillon Panthers. Maurice Morris, Jones’ backfield partner, is expected to miss this week’s game with a knee injury. When all these circumstances happened in last week’s game – with the only change being the 49ers instead of the Rams as the opponent – Jones ran for 127 yards and a TD. Do we need to spell this out for you? Wait, we just did.

Receiver

Anthony Gonzalez, Colts – Folks, Marvin Harrison is 36 years old. It’s only natural that he’ll slow down some, and second-year man Gonzalez is around to pick up the slack. His average draft position (ADP) saw him go in the 12th round of most drafts, but with 14 receptions and 185 yards in his first two games, he’s playing like a huge bargain.

Justin Gage, Titans – Gage isn’t a superstar, but he’s not bad at all. In Week 2 with new quarterback Kerry Collins, Gage grabbed five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Sometimes you need a decent third receiver in a week with some tough matchups, and Gage looks like that kind of play against the Texans.


John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning fantasy blogSundays through Fridays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" appears every Thursday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at jhalpin37@gmail.com.

For more fantasy sports coverage, visit FOXSports.com/fantasy.