I know it’s playoff time and I know we’re all NFL
fans here, but can I say just one thing about the BCS since pundits
and bowl reps can’t seem to stop congratulating themselves
for a job well done this year? Pfffffttt! If Ohio State and Notre
Dame are better than the Shot Caller’s Ducks, they know
where they can prove it. Just hop on I-80 and head west, guys.
WAY west. The best 10-1 squad in the country will be waiting for
you. OK, off the soapbox and on to the important stuff. Your Week
Must Start: The Top 10
1. Peyton Manning @ JAX –
Some are worried Coach Dungy will rest the franchise down the
stretch. I’m not one of them. The Colts want perfection
and so does Peyton. He’s thrown three TD passes in four
of his last five and needed only 17 tosses to do so last week.
That’s almost as perfect as it gets. Expect more of the
same as the Colts trample the upstart Jags this Sunday.
2. Carson Palmer v. CLE –
Cincy can’t afford to sit its franchise, despite owning
a two-game cushion in the AFC North. They want a first round bye
and will get it if Palmer continues playing this well. He’s
thrown 13 scoring strikes in his last five games (against three
picks) and now faces a Browns squad he usually destroys.
3. Kurt Warner v. WAS –
He’s averaging more than 40 attempts and a shade under 300
yards per game, proving the Cardinals are neither interested in
nor capable of running the football. Though that’s no recipe
for consistent success in the NFL, it’s doing wonders for
Warner’s owners in the fantasy world. Expect another 40+
attempts and close to 300 more yards this weekend against the
4. Drew Brees v. MIA –
Brees bounced back from a horrible effort in Washington to post
very tidy numbers against the archrival Raiders last week (17
of 22 for 160 yards and two scores). If there’s one team
that can truly challenge the Colts for the AFC title, it might
just be the Bolts. They hafta get there first, though, and a win
against the Fish this Sunday would certainly advance that cause.
5. Tom Brady @ BUF – Brady
was pretty efficient last week, too, but couldn’t put the
ball in the end zone despite 271 yards. Chances of that changing
this Sunday? 100%. He’s failed to reach the 200-yard mark
in just one contest so far and only missed it in that one by a
measly yard. Consistency means everything come playoff time, meaning
you want him in your lineup. The TDs will come, as well.
6. Jake Plummer v. BAL –
Until two weeks ago, Plummer was arguably the most consistent
signal-caller in the league not named Manning or Palmer. Unfortunately,
he’s reverted to form the last two Sundays, missing receivers
and turning the ball over. Can he mend his ways in time for the
fantasy playoffs (not to mention the real ones?) It’s anybody’s
guess but I’m about 60-40 in his corner. If you can live
with that much risk, give him the nod against Baltimore’s
formerly fearsome defense.
7. Eli Manning @ PHI –
At least Kid Bro has an excuse for being inconsistent. He’s
just a kid. Nevertheless, the G-Men will need him to grow up in
a hurry if they have any shot of contending in the NFC. He was
atrocious last week (a season-worst 27.9 rating) and needs to
get well against a Philly bunch that will be itching to prove
they’re better than last Monday night’s debacle would
lead us to believe. Expect 200-250 yards and two scores as New
York gets the big road win.
8. Michael Vick v. NO –
The most exciting player in the league? Yes…still. The most
frustrating, from a fantasy standpoint? Probably. I wouldn’t
wanna be in the position (and won’t be, thanks to his inconsistency)
but if you own him and you’ve managed to make the playoffs,
stick with him. It’s a limelight game against a cupcake
opponent and one the Dirty Birds desperately need. Translation?
I have a hunch he’ll do something special.
9. Steve McNair v. HOU –
Ever so quietly, Air McNair has managed to post some decent numbers
of late. Though he’s not a full-time starter in most fantasy
leagues, he’s still a decent spot start. What better spot
than a Week 14 pillow fight against the equally craptastic Texans?
He lit them up for 220 yards and two scores in the first meeting
and should find similar success this Sunday.
10. Brad Johnson v. STL –
I like to think I follow the game pretty closely (duh) but I hafta
admit I didn’t even know he was still playing until a month
into the season. That’s how far off my radar he was. Since
taking over as the starter in Week 9, he’s gone 5-0, salvaged
a sinking Vikes ship (yuk, yuk!), and even turned into a legit
fantasy option (seven TDs and just two picks). This week, he draws
a St. Louis defense that’s yielded a league-worst 351 points
this season. You could do a lot worse, for sure.
Grab A Helmet:
Matt Hasselbeck v. SF –
You expected him in the Top 5, right? Well, he IS facing the Niners’
league-worst secondary, but I’m just not convinced the ‘Hawks
need him to do much right now. He was yanked after only 15 passes
last Monday night and would suffer a similar fate if Seattle is
able to drop the hammer on San Fran’s woeful bunch this
Sunday. Not sure that’s a risk I’d be willing to take
as we enter the playoffs.
Drew Bledsoe v. KC – I’ve
lost count how many touchdowns he’s scored for his opponents
thus far but that doesn’t prevent me from recommending him
again this weekend. He usually plays better at home and faces
a KC D that ranks in the bottom three against the pass. Not to
mention, the ‘Boys may need him to throw the ball plenty
in order to keep pace with the hard-charging Chefs’ O. Keep
him in there.
Trent Green @ DAL – Did
I say “hard-charging?” That’s code for “virtually
unstoppable.” Green’s resurgence is one reason why,
as he’s thrown six TD strikes in his last three games (all
wins). The presence of Larry Johnson means he won’t hafta
worry much about nickel and dime packages, either. Expect 250
yards and two more scores as KC scores the big road win in Big
Brett Favre v. DET – If
footballs were presents, Favre would be Santa Claus. He now leads
the league in giveaways (26 in 12 games) and seems content, more
often than not, to just chuck it up and hope for the best. Lucky
for him, chucking it up may just get the job done against a Lions
secondary that is short on playmakers and shorter still on enthusiasm.
I told you he’s got one more beaut in those old bones. This
one might be it, in front of a national audience, no less.
Jake Delhomme v. TB –
It only took 13 weeks but the Panthers have finally discovered
the dynamic ground-gainer (DeShaun Foster) to complement the dynamic
pass-shagger (Steve Smith). That combination, along with a top
5 defense, makes Carolina the team to beat in the NFC, provided
Delhomme doesn’t screw things up by turning the ball over.
Expect a solid performance against Tampa as they seize control
of the NFC South.
Grab A Clipboard:
Any rookie QB – Of the
four, Charlie Frye has the best chance of posting decent numbers.
Unfortunately, he just lost his best wideout (Braylon Edwards)
and will be facing a Bengals secondary that leads the league with
26 interceptions. If you remember what happened the last time
Cincy faced a rookie signal-caller (Kyle Orton in Week 3), you
know it’s best to stay away from the former Zip this weekend.
Kyle Boller @ DEN – He
was lauded for driving his team to the winning field goal last
Sunday, but did anyone bother to notice whom exactly he was driving
his team AGAINST? That would be the same 1-11 team he “smoked”
for 198 yards and no touchdowns. I’m only thankful Theismann
wasn’t doing the game.
Aaron Brooks @ ATL – Even
Thiesmann would have a hard time defending Brooks at this point.
After torching the Jets in Week 12 (181 yards and three scores),
he imploded in Week 13 against Tampa, tossing four picks in the
10-3 loss. That, my folks, is called a microcosm. If these aren’t
his last four games as the Saints starter, I know nothing about
Jeff Garcia @ GB – Of
course, that means I could probably apply for the Lions’
GM job when Matt Millen inevitably gets canned. First order of
business? Get Joey back in the lineup. Next? Move the team to
Portland, the Shot Caller’s hometown. I promise nobody will
boo the Rose City’s favorite son. Now, where’s that
five-year contract extension?