The Rams are hard to figure. They started the season loaded with talent and brimming with potential, particularly for fantasy football players.
We had to like the possibility of Tony Banks being selected in the midrounds and turning out to be a fairly decent scorer. The same had to go for Lawrence Phillips, Isaac Bruce and Eddie Kennison, young talent ready to rise to the top. You had to figure even if the Rams did not win a game, they would put some numbers on the board.
In the first half of the season, that was not the case. But Sunday, the big-play potential of the Rams' position players came alive. For some of us in the fantasy game, it might be too late.
In a 34-31 loss to Atlanta (more on the Falcons later), Banks passed for 401 yards and threw two touchdowns. The yardage mark was the best of his career. He added a rushing touchdown.
In any respectable draft, Banks should not have been among the first 10 quarterbacks picked. But the small-handed one (thus his knack for fumbling) finally might be showing signs of igniting his career.
Speaking of igniting his career, was that the real Isaac Bruce or just a guy who plays him on TV? Bruce also had a career day as the primary recipient of most of Banks' passes. The four-year pro's 233 yards receiving is the best in the NFL this year.
Even Phillips, the embattled second-year first-round draft pick, got into the end zone.
What does all this mean? Not a lot. The Rams love to play on carpet, and they will be on turf this weekend. Oh, and there's this: They'll be playing on the slightly chilled tundra of Lambeau Field. Don't expect a repeat performance.
A GOOD THING WASTED: It's not often Falcons make a starting lineup. The team is bad. The coach is conservative. Atlanta's division is weak. The quarterbacks are injury-prone.
Falcons make fantasy lineups only as third-string wide receivers.
So it's safe to say wideout Bert Emmanuel's two touchdown passes and 102 yards were left on the bench. It's certainly safe to say Chris Chandler's three TDs and 276 yards also were wasted. I'm not a gambling man, but here's a wager: No one, and I mean no one, played Chandler this weekend.
WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?: One thing is perfectly clear _ load your lineup with players on the team playing the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders defense has more holes in it than the screen around my lanai.
Want proof? Look at Sunday's new star, Carolina's Fred Lane. Oakland made Lane look like Barry Sanders. Lane, the third running back used by Carolina this season (Anthony Johnson and Tshimanga Biakabutuka are the others), tore up the Raiders for 147 yards and three TDs. No typo here, that was 147 yards and three scores. Then Oakland allowed Kerry Collins, who should not be confused with Steve Young for his skills in the pocket, to rush up the middle for a 6-yard score untouched.
How impressive were Lane's stats? Consider he was an undrafted free agent who barely made the team. How sad was it for Oakland? Consider he was an undrafted free agent who barely made the team.
DUDES OF THE WEEK: Falcons RB Jamal Anderson (159 yards, 1 TD) leads an impressive array of ball carriers that include Lane, Bam Morris (130 yards), Terry Allen (125 yards) and Corey Dillon (123 yds, 1 TD). Drew Bledsoe (313 yards, 2 TDs) was not as impressive as Banks or Chandler but still good enough, as was Jeff George's 304 yards and two TDs in a loss.
DUDS OF THE WEEK: Curtis Martin (21 carries, 104 yards) was good, but it's time he gets into the end zone; Dan Marino (5-of-15 for 76 yards) is fading quickly; Jerome Bettis (103 yards) and Kordell Stewart (11-of-21, 101 yards, 1 TD) need better numbers.
TIPS OF THE WEEK: Don't be too hasty to pick up Lane. It's unlikely he will repeat that effort this week at Denver.
Pay close attention to the condition of George (bruised ribs), Marino (sprained left ankle) and Stan Humphries (multiple concussions). Even if they play, they might be less effective.
Keep a close eye on Glen Foley. Should Bill Parcells start him against the Dolphins, big numbers could factor. He's ready, they're not.