Must Start: The Top 15
1. Steve Smith v. TB –
After a three-game scoreless skid, Smith finally found the end
zone again last weekend, helping the Panthers bury the once-promising
Falcons in Charlotte. This Sunday, he squares off against the
other NFC South contender, Tampa, in a game that would virtually
clinch the division for Carolina should they win. I think they
do it as Smith scores again.
2. Chad Johnson v. CLE –
C.J. graduated from guaranteeing victories to guaranteeing just
about everything this past week (an AFC championship, forty points
a game the rest of the way, and an MVP trophy for his QB). Not
sure what that means for the Bengals’ long-term prospects
but since he didn’t mention Pepto or the Cleveland secondary,
he’s probably OK for Week 14. Sure would like to see him
grab some of the love being thrown his teammate’s way these
past two weeks, however.
3. Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin
v. WAS – There’s plenty of love flowing in
the desert these days, thanks to the prolific tandem of Fitzgerald
and Boldin. It’s a virtual coin flip for who will perform
better on a weekly basis but you probably can’t go wrong
with either guy. They’re both averaging close to 100 yards/game
and simply cannot be completely contained. Start one or both without
4. Santana Moss @ ARZ –
Opposing Arizona’s dynamic duo will be Washington’s
one-man band, Mr. Moss. He’s apparently banged up but should
be cleared to play by Sunday and could have a stellar day against
the Cardinals’ vanilla pass defense. Keep starting him.
5. Marvin Harrison @ JAX –
He’s scored touchdowns in six of his last seven contests
and has topped the 100-yard mark in three of his last five. Making
matters worse (for opponents), he’s just one of several
top-notch options in the Colts’ passing attack. In other
words, he’s a guy who deserves, but rarely receives, extra
attention from defenses.
6. Joey Galloway @ CAR –
Galloway, on the other hand, gets scads of attention but still
manages to slither his way to 90 yards and a score most weeks.
Can you imagine how dangerous the Bucs’ passing attack would
be if Michael Clayton had decided to show up this year? Lucky
for Joey’s owners, he didn’t. Expect nothing to change
as the season winds down.
7. Torry Holt @ MIN –
I backed off him a tad last week thanks to the unsettled QB situation
but he still found a way to snare six balls for 75 yards. Game-breaking
numbers, no. Worthy of a start as your #2 or #3 guy? Probably.
The same holds true this week as the Rams visit Minneapolis. Expect
something along the lines of 75-100 yards and (this time) a score.
8. Plaxico Burress @ PHI –
Kid Bro’s poor day hurt everyone in the Giants receiving
corps, none more so than the main guy, Burress. If they do manage
to get things back on track, he’ll also be the main beneficiary.
Expect them (and him) to do that. He caught six balls for 113
yards and a score the last time these two teams faced one another
and a similar day this Sunday would go a long way toward advancing
you in the fantasy playoffs.
9. Chris Chambers @ SD –
One way to ensure you WON’T advance in the playoffs? Leave
guys like this on your bench when they go off for career days
(15 grabs for 238 yards and a score). Believe it or not (and I
hesitate to bring this up), I did exactly that last weekend in
our yearly league. In fact, I left him AND T.J. Houshmandzadeh
on my bench. It’s only by sheer luck that I managed to secure
a playoff berth (thanks, Seattle). I won’t make the same
10. T.J. Houshmandzadeh v. CLE –
Speaking of Mr. Hard-To-Prounounce-Man-Zadeh… WOW! I’ve
been singing his praises for many moons now but even I’m
a trifle impressed by his latest surge (235 yards and three scores
in his last two). Of course, it helps when your opponent is selling
out to make 7-11 shut his yap. Expect Cleveland to pay him a little
more attention than recent squads, but not enough to put much
of a dent in his bottom line.
11. Antonio Gates v. MIA –
He hasn’t gone two consecutive games without a score all
season and continually makes opponents pay for trying to cover
him with linebackers. Wouldn’t matter if they tried to cover
him with DBs though, either. He’s a physical freak who can
only be stopped by Drew Brees’ unwillingness to look his
way. That doesn’t happen very often, by the way, so you
should probably leave him right where he is, holding down your
tight end position for the playoff run.
12. Hines Ward v. CHI –
The Curtain passing game was uncharacteristically prolific last
week, thanks to the fact they were trying to match a high-octane
Cincy offense point-for-point. The main man, as usual? Mr. Ward.
He caught nine balls for 135 yards and two scores and even managed
to resurrect the Ickey shuffle after one of them. Classic. Of
course, it wasn’t enough and now the Steelers are in the
dangerous (and previously unthinkable) position of possibly missing
the postseason. If they want to get there, they’ll need
another big day out of Ward. I expect him to be the difference
as Pittsburgh sneaks by the Bears.
13. Reggie Wayne @ JAX –
What else can I say about the guy? He’s good…just
not good enough to supplant Marvin Harrison as the main man in
Indy. More specifically, he hasn’t developed the almost
ESP-like rapport with Peyton that Marvin seems to possess. Takes
time, kid. Unfortunately, you won’t be around next year
to continue developing it. Enjoy Baltimore! Heard the crab cakes
14. Randy Moss @ NYJ –
Heresy, you say? Reality, I retort. The fact is Randy hasn’t
produced like the Raiders thought he would when they made him
the highest profile free agent pickup this past offseason. Part
of that has to do with injuries but the other part has to do with
inconsistent QB play. This week, he’s back to square one,
attempting to develop some chemistry with the former option quarterback,
Marques Tuiasssosoospo. I’m not sure I like that prospect
at this stage of the game.
15. Eddie Kennison @ DAL –
He’s one of those guys who always seems to be on the bubble
for owners, not exceptional enough to be an auto-start but not
crummy or inconsistent enough to be an easy bench. He’s
coming off three pretty good games in a row, however, and since
the KC passing attack seems to be rounding into shape, he looks
like a pretty good sneaker start in Week 14. Don’t forget
he’s topped the century mark four times this year, or one
more time than the previous guy has.
Grab a Helmet
Terry Glenn v. KC – The
100-yard games are a distant memory for the former Buckeye (boo!
hiss!) but he’s still finding paydirt every once in a while.
If you think, like I do, that this Sunday’s showdown with
KC will be high-scoring, then you should probably think about
getting him in your lineup, as well. He’s facing a weak
Chefs secondary and could find a seam at some point for a big
gainer and six. Worth a shot, at least.
Rod Smith v. BAL – He
hasn’t dropped below 50 yards since Week 5 (seven games)
and has also scored four times in that same span. Not too shabby
for a guy who’s going to be older than my creaky butt this
next May. If you’ve been using him as your #2 or #3 guy
all year, there’s no reason to stop now.
Robert Ferguson v. DET –
You didn’t know he was back? Well, he is and may just be
flying solo this weekend if Don Driver doesn’t get well
soon. When healthy, he’s a pretty decent #3 guy (three scores
in his first five games this year) who isn’t afraid to catch
balls in traffic and is reliable enough to get plenty of attention
from Fav-ruh. If you’re looking for super-sneaky starters
this Sunday, look no further. I think he scores as the Pack guarantees
a Reggie Bush-less future.
Deion Branch @ BUF – He
hasn’t been turning heads of late (10 catches for 93 yards
in his last two) but is certainly capable of turning it on at
any given time. He managed 92 yards and a score in the first meeting
with the Bills and could duplicate those numbers if the game turns
toward the offensive. Of course, whether it does or not could
depend a lot on the Bills passing game and, specifically…
Lee Evans v. NE – …this
guy. Last week’s explosion (three first quarter TDs) was
certainly an anomaly but now that Buffalo has suspended the disgruntled
and pouting Eric Moulds, Evans is about all they have left. He’s
definitely talented enough to get deep on anybody but will still
be relying on J.P. Losman to get him the rock, an iffy prospect
if ever there was one. Lucky for both of them, New England possesses
the 31st-ranked passing defense in the league. Anyone smell shootout
at Foxboro? Could happen.
Grab Some Wood
Any Chicago receiver @ PIT –
There’s winning with defense and then there’s…the
Bears. Chicago’s passing attack managed just SIX completions
in the Week 13 win over Green Bay, none by Muhsin Muhammad, the
supposed go-to guy. Bottom line? The only Bear you want in your
lineup this week is the eleven-headed monster known as the Chicago
Any NY Jets receiver v. OAK –
Chicago’s offense makes New York’s look positively
fruitful, which is saying something when you consider the Jest
is averaging less than six points in its last four tilts. I’m
not sure about you but I’m generally looking for touchdowns
come playoff time. Keep looking.
Any Detroit receiver @ GB –
Raise your hand if you knew the Pack ranks #1 in pass defense.
Statistics can certainly be deceiving (and probably are in this
case) but 167.6 yards/game is still 167.6 yards/game, not very
many by NFL standards. Of course, the Lions would probably kill
for that many of late (not even 150 per in their last three games).
Sit ‘em all down for this unsightly-est of Sunday night
Any Baltimore receiver @ DEN –
Let’s see…did we miss anyone? Chicago. New York. Detroit.
Baltimore. What about San Fran and Cleveland? Yep, them too. You
simply can’t afford to play receiver roulette at this point
of the season. Why not stick with guys who play for, you know,
Best of luck, folks!