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Early stumbles nothing to fret

Being able to differentiate between a slow start and a lost cause often determines whether or not a fantasy football owner will be in the hunt or enrolling in an anger management class come October.

Speaking from experience, and as the most impatient owner the world has ever known (an 0-for-20 stretch in July had me offering Manny Ramirez for a rainbow snow cone and some Pop Rocks), it's difficult to think rationally and not be impulsive when your top picks are your top concerns this early in the season.

But also speaking from experience, giving up too early on proven qualities can come back to burn you in the worst way, especially when your bums become someone else's treasure (I hate you, Roy Oswalt).

Sometimes displaying patience and having faith that everything will end up in its right place is all you can do.

Take, for example, the case of LaDainian Tomlinson, the prized first pick in most drafts who has stumbled out of the gate for the second year in a row. Tomlinson has just 123 yards rushing in two games and is battling a turf toe injury that's put his Week 3 availability in jeopardy.

He's hurting, his numbers are pedestrian at best and his backup, Darren Sproles, is on fire. Doubt, fear and Shaun Alexander flashbacks are surely creeping in, but it's too early to count out LT, especially when he has two games to play against the Raiders, his very own personal catnip against whom he's typically good for six to eight touchdowns and in the neighborhood of 500 yards combined rushing and receiving per season.

Even if he's forced to sit this week or the next three, LT (relax, he's 29, he's still good, he'll come around) can compile a season's worth of stats in four games (see 2007). Besides, watching him go off for the competition (as I did last season) would be a thousand times more frustrating than whatever you're feeling right now.

All's well, remain calm.

In St. Louis, the Rams offense is stuck in reverse behind an awful line that isn't opening holes for running back Steven Jackson and has quarterback Marc Bulger, who is threatening to dethrone San Francisco Giants catcher Bengie Molina as the world's slowest human being, running (or something close to it) for his life every time he drops back to pass.

They couldn't be off to a worse start and might win six games tops, but the Rams do have fantasy heavyweights in Bulger, Jackson and Torry Holt (not sure that end zone roll job was really a catch, but we're happy to take it) who will put up strong numbers health permitting, Jackson in particular.

In Kansas City, star running back Larry Johnson might be even angrier over his lack of involvement in the Chiefs' offense thus far than the fantasy owners who ignored warnings like "reduced workload" and "one-dimensional offense" when they made him their first or second pick on draft day.

Johnson is healthy, but his situation is dicey based on the fact that you and I might be better quarterbacking options than what KC has at this time and because coach Herm Edwards seems more interested in preserving one of the league's top offensive weapons rather than, oh, I don't know, utilizing him.

Still, we see Herm getting with the program and putting the ball back in LJ's hands rather than relying on those of Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard or Tyler Thigpen. Dang, I'd be mad, too, LJ.

On the other hand, Simon says abandon ship if when it comes to the mess that is the Cincinnati Bengals. The level of dysfunction in Cincy makes the circus in Oakland look like Romper Room. Running back Chris Perry hasn't been bad, but Carson Palmer owns the league's worst passer rating (37.1), T.J. Houshmandzadeh can't get open and Chad Ocho Stinko can't shut up or catch the ball.

Al Davis will sign Lane Kiffin to a lifetime services contract, and include a new home and a piece of the team in the deal, before the Bungles get their act together. Run. Away. As fast as you can.

Yee haw!

It's a bit premature to be doing the Happy Dance, but Operation Cowboy (and the Chris Chambers touchdown factory) has us in the lead and looking like a legit contender two weeks in. Week 3, however, could bring a cold shot of reality with three-fourths of my starting lineup on the road at Philly, Green Bay and Chicago, venues that are generally unkind to visitors.

Good luck this week, and y'all come back now, ya' hear?

Our Week 3 lineup --

QB: Tony Romo (at Packers); RB: Willie Parker (at Eagles) and Earnest Graham (at Bears); WR: Chris Chambers (vs. Jets) and Torry Holt (at Seahawks); TE: Jason Witten (at Packers); Nick Folk (at Packers);

D/ST: Steelers (at Eagles).

Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at srosenberg@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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