Must Start: The Top 15
1. Chad Johnson @ PIT –
I told you he’d lead all receivers in fantasy points at
the start of the year and I’m not backing off that prediction
now, especially with Steve Smith coming back to earth of late.
C.J. has tallied 368 yards and two scores in his last three games
and gets a chance this Sunday to put some room between the Bengals
and Steelers in the AFC North. It won’t be easy but when
have you known him to back away from a challenge? Get those mikes
ready if Cincy pulls off the upset.
2. Steve Smith v. ATL –
Considering where he’s been (the stratosphere), you shouldn’t
read too much into that “coming back to earth” comment.
He’s still the most productive fantasy wideout in the game
and could remain so if the Panthers get their suddenly stagnant
offense back in gear. I think they will against Atlanta’s
somewhat overrated bunch.
3. Larry Fitzgerald @ SF –
If the Cardinals ever develop a legit rushing attack, look out.
Even without one, nobody’s been able to stop Fitzgerald
and his running mate, Anquan Boldin, this season. “Nobody”
includes the band of nobodies masquerading as defenders in the
San Fran secondary. Expect big numbers and at least one score
for the former Panther this Sunday.
4. Marvin Harrison v. TEN –
I’ve been taken to task for favoring Marvin over his more
dynamic and almost-as-prolific teammate, Reggie Wayne, this season.
Shall we peek inside the numbers? Marvin’s scored nine touchdowns
to Wayne’s four. Any questions? Enough, already!
5. Anquan Boldin @ SF –
The same logic dictates I put Fitzgerald over Boldin, though the
margin is even slimmer between these two. He’s actually
averaging more yards/game (92.9) than his more celebrated teammate
(90.8) and is always capable of posting bigger numbers in any
given week. Heads you win, tails you win.
6. Santana Moss @ STL –
It didn’t help you much (since the article didn’t
get published in time), but I actually predicted a score for him
last weekend. I feel even more confident he’ll find the
end zone this Sunday as he’s facing a Rams team that has
given up a league-worst 23 touchdown passes thus far. In fact,
let’s go ahead and guarantee that score.
7. Torry Holt v. WAS –
He’s failed to score in only two games this season and is
averaging over 104 yards per contest, good for third in the league.
So why is he all the way down at #7? Let’s just say I’m
not convinced Ryan Fitzpatrick can catch lightning in a bottle.
The Redskins are a far cry from the ragtag outfit Houston trotted
out on the field last weekend. Start him but temper your expectations
8. Randy Moss @ SD – I
can’t remember the last time a healthy Randy fell out of
the top 5 but the numbers don’t lie: just six catches for
68 yards and no scores in his last two tilts. You certainly don’t
sit him but you might think twice about starting him over Jerry
Porter if you own the both of them.
9. Joey Galloway @ NO –
Even if he doesn’t catch another pass all season, Galloway
has locked up my vote for Comeback Player of the Year. Seriously,
did anyone think he was capable of topping the 1,000 yard mark
again? He’s already done it through twelve weeks and might
even best 1,500 if he keeps up his current pace (269 in his last
two efforts). Start him, as usual.
10. Plaxico Burress v. DAL –
The Panthers are still my favorite to win the NFC but it wouldn’t
surprise me greatly to see the G-Men steal the championship should
they make it that far. They outplayed the other title contender,
Seattle, last weekend and have the most offensive talent east
of San Diego. Manning v. Manning, anyone? You know what the folks
at NFL corporate would think about that prospect. Cha-ching!
11. Antonio Gates v. OAK –
Gates did almost nothing in the first meeting with Oakland but
is too good to be shut out this time around. Besides, with L.T.
running rampant, how can the already challenged Raiders throw
extra coverage his way? Expect 75 yards and a score as the Bolts
inch ever closer to a playoff berth.
12. Jerry Porter @ SD –
I took the Chargers in our local survivor pool but it’s
not because Oakland lacks talent. It’s because the talent
they DO have plays on only one side of the ball, the offensive
side. Porter has become Collins’ favorite target of late
and should have no problem racking up 50-75 yards and a score
in the inevitable shootout. Start him.
13. Reggie Wayne v. TEN –
He’s nowhere near his 12-TD pace of last season but is still
a dangerous target capable of posting huge numbers when the circumstances
warrant. I’m not sure they will this Sunday, either, but
you can’t sit him down against a Tennessee team that has
yielded 22 TD strikes this season. Give him the nod and hope like
hell Peyton feels like throwing a little love his way.
14. Rod Smith @ KC – He’s
caught five balls in every one of his last four games and has
also scored three times in that same span. Not top 5 numbers by
any stretch, but better than the proverbial poke in the eye with
a sharp stick. Get him in there against a KC D giving up over
240 yards per game through the air.
15. Hines Ward v. CIN –
The absence of Big Ben didn’t hurt his bottom line as much
as I thought it would. Now that the big guy is back, he should
be a good start the rest of the way. He doesn’t play in
the most dynamic offense, but he’s usually good for 50-75
yards and a score. Expect something along those lines against
a fairly generous Bengals defense.
Grab a Helmet
Donte Stallworth v. TB –
He hadn’t scored through the first five weeks of the season
but has since tallied six TDs and is finally becoming a great
sidekick to the always productive Joe Horn. We’ll see what
he’s really made of this weekend as the Saints square off
against the tough Tampa secondary. Expect 50 yards and, if you’re
lucky, another score.
Donald Driver @ CHI –
It’s hard to figure the Pack this year. They don’t
win games (just two “W”s thus far) but they don’t
get blown out and have even managed to score more points than
their opponents through twelve weeks, a statistical anomaly bordering
on the unbelievable. What does all this mean? You shouldn’t
sit Driver, no matter how bad things appear to be in Green Bay.
Deion Branch v. NYJ –
David Givens is supposed to return to the lineup this Sunday but
he hasn’t played in almost a month and is unlikely to take
over feature duties from Branch, anyway. Though he doesn’t
catch a ton of balls, Branch is pretty adept at finding pay dirt,
having scored thrice in his last five games. Give him a look if
you’re short-handed at the position.
Jeremy Shockey v. DAL –
He followed up a one-catch, one-yard performance in Week 11 with
a 10-catch, 127-yard beaut in Week 12. Unfortunately, he was also
caught prematurely celebrating one of Jay Feely’s three
misses. That’s bad mojo, bud. Here’s hoping he’s
satisfied the football gods enough to post solid numbers again
this Sunday. Keep in mind he’s already posted one 100-yard
effort against the ‘Boys this season.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh @ PIT –
Despite two fewer games, the pony-tailed one has actually posted
almost identical numbers to Reggie Wayne this season, the guy
most of you think of as the best #2 option outside of Anquan Boldin.
His totals last week against the supposedly stingy Ravens? Nine
catches, 147 yards, and a score. To think I paid only a few bucks
for him in our “experts” auction league. Suckers!
Grab Some Wood
Any NY Jets receiver @ NE –
The Pats are no great shakes against the pass this season but
perhaps they would be if they faced the Jets every week. The quarterback
mess hasn’t helped things, for sure, but Messrs. Coles and
McCareins have still only accounted for three TD receptions thus
far. That’s not good, especially when you consider that
former Jet, Santana Moss, has accounted for twice that many…all
by himself. No way.
Any Detroit receiver v. MIN –
Joey takes the heat and Mooch takes the fall but there’s
no question they’d both be better off if these guys had
lived up to their potential. Take away Roy Williams’ three-TD
explosion against Arizona and you have only three scoring receptions
by the wideouts this season. Blame whomever you want. I still
blame these guys and a woeful offensive line. Of course, I’m
a little biased (go Ducks!)
Any Cleveland receiver v. JAX –
The Browns have some talent at receiver but not the means to maximize
it until Trent Dilfer gives way to someone more dynamic. If you’re
in a keeper league, you should definitely be stashing Braylon
Edwards and Antonio Bryant on your bench. If you’re not,
you shouldn’t be wasting the roster space. Sit them both
down against Jacksonville’s second-ranked passing D this
Best of luck, folks!