Must Start: The Top 10
1. Carson Palmer v. BUF –
He’s exactly what you’re looking for in Week 16: a
superstar talent with something to play for (a first-round playoff
bye). He’s failed to throw a TD pass only once this season
and is coming off yet another three-score effort in the blowout
vs. Detroit. No reason to think Palmer will have anything but
a field day against Buffalo’s equally overmatched secondary
2. Drew Brees @ KC – Superstar
talent? Getting there. Something to play for? You betcha. The
Bolts will likely end up the best team uninvited to the dance
but that isn’t gonna stop them from trying to get there.
Though another tough road test awaits, Brees hung close to 400
yards and two scores on the Chefs in the last meeting. If he’s
anywhere near those totals this weekend, San Diego could be in
business come January.
3. Matt Hasselbeck v. IND –
Actually, almost everyone will be in business come January. Getting
past New Year’s Day is the real trick, though, and Seattle’s
already ensured that. Next on the to-do list? Home-field advantage
throughout. Believe it or not, Chicago prevented them from wrapping
that up last Sunday. Lucky you. Expect 200+ and a couple scores
as the ‘Hawks square off against Indy’s second-stringers
4. Tom Brady @ NYJ – If
it’s almost January, it must be Tom Brady time. The Pats
have locked up a playoff berth but Coach B says it’ll be
business as usual come Monday night. Though he’s not the
most trustworthy head man in the league, there’s definitely
precedent for the no-sit approach he intends to employ. Bottom
line: if Brady’s playing, you want him in there.
5. Trent Green v. SD –
Isn’t it a bit odd that the best division in football may
be represented by only one team come playoff time? It would take
a semi-stunning upset to prevent that scenario from playing out
at this point. The Chiefs could have made things a lot more interesting
had they decided to pack their defense last weekend. Alas, they
didn’t (what else is new?) and must now get a LOT of help
to stay in the mix.
6. Jake Plummer v. OAK –
Your AFC West representative if all goes according to form. The
stakes aren’t quite as high for Denver this weekend but
high enough (a potential first-round bye) to necessitate that
Jake puts in a full day. They’re in the driver’s seat
at the moment but can’t afford to slip up with a trek to
sunny San Diego looming on New Year’s Eve. Not that they’d
ever look past the hated Raiders. Expect nice numbers from The
Snake as the Broncos clinch the AFC West this weekend.
7. Josh McCown v. PHI –
Not everybody’s playing for something in Week 16, which
is what makes handicapping these late-season matchups so dicey.
If you’re worried about cautious coaches resting your stud,
you might just be forced to turn to someone like McCown, a fill-in
hoping to impress as the ’05 campaign winds down. He certainly
has some awesome weapons to work with and has proven in limited
action this year that he’s at least capable of putting up
legit numbers. Give him a look.
8. Steve McNair @ MIA –
Everyone wants to know if his fishing bud (the Ol’ Gunslinger)
will call it a career but nobody’s talking about the possibility
of McNair calling it quits, despite the fact he broached that
very subject this time last year. Who could blame the guy, what
with the constant injuries and the Titans’ spiraling fortunes?
One thing’s for sure: he (and Favre) can still wing it.
240.5 yards/game, a career high, attest to that.
9. David Garrard @ HOU –
Though he doesn’t possess the pure ability of Air McNair,
Garrard does bear a passing resemblance to Tennessee’s long-time
signal-caller (stout, strong arm, good runner). If he wants to
take the next step, he’ll have to harness that raw power
and evolve from mere thrower to precision passer. Not an overnight
transition, to be sure, but I like the tools. I also like the
matchup against Houston’s woeful secondary this Saturday.
10. Eli Manning @ WAS –
Kid Bro seemed destined for super-stardom earlier this season
but has become maddeningly inconsistent of late, not to mention
erratic. Can he turn it around in time to make a deep playoff
run? He may not have to if Tiki keeps it up but I suspect the
G-Men will only go so far as Manning Jr. can take them. That could
be quite far if they can get by the suddenly resurgent ‘Skins
in D.C. this weekend.
Grab A Helmet:
Jake Delhomme v. DAL –
Delhomme has been equally frustrating for fantasy owners this
season, starting off like gangbusters but leveling off as the
season has progressed. A conservative scheme is part of the problem
but the lack of a second option in the passing game is the primary
issue. If the new kid (Drew Carter) continues to make strides,
the Panthers will be a tough out in the second season. I still
like them to represent the NFC in Detroit, by the way.
Mark Brunell v. NYG –
I promised the ‘Skins wouldn’t make the playoffs with
Brunell under center but they now control their own destiny and
can make me look real bad with a win over New York this weekend.
Do they get it? I’d say it’s 50-50…and more
like 75-25 if the former Dawg throws for two or more scores.
Kelly Holcomb @ CIN –
The Bengals have given up twelve TD passes in their last five
games, seeming proof that they’re soft in the secondary.
Try again. They lead the league in picks (30) and are usually
in full vanilla mode thanks to a dynamite offense. Expect another
big lead and a few more picks this Saturday, but also a coupla’
garbage time TD passes for the former Blue Raider. Don’t
forget he threw for 413 yards and FIVE touchdowns the last time
he faced Cincy.
Gus Frerotte v. TEN –
Frerotte looked iffy at the start of the week but returned to
practice on Wednesday and appears to be the starter heading into
Week 16. Good thing for his owners, too, ‘cuz the Titans
have given up more passing TDs than any squad in the league, including
San Francisco. If you’re comfortable with the moderate risk
(he failed to make it through last week’s tilt), give him
a look. The payoff could be big.
Joey Harrington @ NO –
From moderate risk to high risk. I know this sounds crazy and
I know I’m an unapologetic, completely incorrigible Joey
fan, but…. He’s been terrible against the good defenses
(Chicago, Tampa, Carolina, and Baltimore) and solid against the
poor ones (Green Bay and Arizona). This week’s opponent?
The 29th-ranked Saints D. I suspect he could be solid as he attempts
to prove (for the last time, most likely) that he can indeed be
a franchise QB.
Grab A Clipboard:
Michael Vick @ TB – Surprised?
No more surprised than I was this week when he was named to the
Pro Bowl. I know the pickings were slim in the NFC but thirteen
TD passes against twelve picks?…for barely 150 yards per
game? Those aren’t Pro Bowl numbers, people, and certainly
not the type of numbers that will win you a fantasy championship.
He’s still my favorite player outside of Fav-ruh but I’m
ready to be realistic about his impact: minimal until he matures
into a bonafide NFL passer.
Brett Favre v. CHI – Speaking
of Fav-ruh, ugh! In a season of history-bucking lows, the Ol’
Gunslinger dug even deeper last week, tossing interceptions around
like they were candy canes and eventually getting yanked in the
48-3 prime time drubbing. Normally, I’d say he’ll
bounce back from the terrible performance. Unfortunately, things
aren’t normal in Green Bay this year. He’ll be facing
a ridiculously stingy Bears squad without the services of Samkon
Gado, the third Packer rock-toter to suffer a season-ending leg
injury this year.
David Carr v. JAX – Even
when the Texans play well (the 30-19 win last week), Carr puts
up crummy numbers (150 yards, no scores, and two turnovers). Is
it time to start thinking about some fresh blood at the position?
Don’t be surprised if Houston opts for Matt Leinart come
next April, especially if they manage to win (read: lose) the
January 1st Reggie Bowl in San Fran.
Alex Smith @ STL – The
best way for the Niners to ensure they get Mr. Bush? Keep starting
this guy. He’s thrown precisely zero touchdown passes in
five starts and is starting to look like a Heath Shuler-esque
bust. It’s early, yes, but he seems to have no clue what
he’s doing out there and could clearly have used an extra
year of seasoning in Salt Lake. No way.
Charlie Frye v. PIT –
Frye, on the other hand, could turn out to be the best signal-caller
selected in the weak 2005 draft. He’s confident in the pocket,
fairly accurate, and deceptively elusive. Unfortunately, he’s
facing a very stout Curtain D this Christmas Eve that will be
fighting for a playoff berth. I don’t like that set-up,
especially if I’m gunning for a fantasy championship. Find