Must Start: The Top 15
1. Steve Smith @ ATL –
I spend the rest of my free time blowing whistles for area cagers
so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about game management.
Rule #1? Make DAMN sure you understand the motivation behind a
player’s perceived unsportsmanlike conduct before giving
him the heave. That was a disgraceful piece of officiating that
may have cost Carolina a shot in last weekend’s loss to
Dallas. Smith returns this week and (I’m guessing) will
be hopping mad. Look out, Dirty Birds.
2. Santana Moss @ PHI –
The ‘Skins have virtually no other threats at receiver and
yet opponents still can’t keep Moss from lighting them up.
Ever heard of rolling coverage, Coach Coughlin? He won’t
go for 160 yards and three scores in Philly but he could very
well reach the 100-yard mark again. Throw in a score and you’ve
got your second-best receiver start of Week 17.
3. Chris Chambers @ NE –
Is there a hotter receiver in the league than Chambers right now?
He’s scored six times in his last four games and appears
to have finally fulfilled his immense potential in this, his fifth
season. The Pats are saying they’ll play it straight again
but they’re still one of the worst in the league against
the pass. That means the former Badger could be in for another
4. Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin @
IND – There’s definitely no hotter receiving
tandem in the league. Since Boldin’s return in Week 11,
the two have combined to average 196.7 yards and more than a score
per game. It’s a damn good thing the Cards don’t have
a running game or they’d be virtually impossible to stop.
As it stands, they’re just very difficult to stop. Very,
5. Plaxico Burress @ OAK –
The formerly enigmatic Burress is back to being enigmatic again,
tallying just 158 yards in his last four games (and no scores).
That might have something to do with Kid Bro’s spotty play
but at some point, it doesn’t matter who’s to blame.
You need production at this time of year and he isn’t getting
it done. The remedy? An Oakland D that is disinterested…at
best. Couple that with Shockey’s injury and you’re
looking at some serious bounce-back potential.
6. Joey Galloway v. NO –
He hasn’t scored or topped the century mark in any of his
last three contests but is still making clutch grabs that keep
the Bucs alive. Next up? A better-than-advertised Saints D that
will be looking to prevent a rival from making the playoffs. Galloway
scored the only touch in the last meeting (a 10-3 Bucs win in
Week 13) and stands a reasonably good chance of finding paydirt
again this Sunday.
7. Torry Holt @ DAL –
Holt matched his season-high last weekend with 163 yards and one
score on ten grabs. Apparently, he doesn’t care who’s
throwing him the football? I don’t expect the Rams to do
much this weekend in Big D but they’re still a dangerous
team that can score points against anybody. I like them to get
21 or so, six of them courtesy of Mr. Holt.
8. Hines Ward v. DET –
Ward has been relatively inconsistent this year but the earlier
injury to Big Ben has a lot to do with that. When all systems
are firing, he’s a lock for the Top 10. They will be this
weekend against a Detroit team that is merely playing out the
string. Expect 75-100 yards and a score at Heinz Field.
9. Chris Henry @ KC –
It’s anybody’s guess how long C.J. & T.J. will
play but I’m guessing it won’t be more than a half,
meaning Henry will get his chance to be the feature guy at Arrowhead.
He’s scored more TDs (six) than any other rook receiver
so it’s not like he isn’t capable. Give him a go if
you’re stuck with a bunch of guys who may or may not put
in a full day’s work.
10. Jimmy Smith v. TEN –
Both he and Leftwich are questionable for Week 17 but with a playoff
berth hanging in the balance, I can’t see them sitting this
one out. Even if Leftwich can’t go, Smith is a good start,
as Garrard has proven he can run the show effectively. Monitor
the injury reports but get him in there if he gets the nod.
11. Samie Parker v. CIN –
The Chiefs may be on life support at the moment but at least they’re
not six feet under…yet. A win gives them a remote chance
at making the playoffs and that means the starters start. Parker’s
been coming on of late (75 per in his last three) so he’s
probably as good a start as any of them. There are more consistent
wideouts in the world, sure, but not many of them are playing
12. Andre Johnson @ SF –
Johnson’s been pretty consistent this year. Consistently
worthless, that is. He has only two 100-yard games to his credit
and is arguably even a bigger bust than Randy Moss at the WR position.
Nevertheless, the Texans are making some strides of late and appear
to be actually trying to win games, something that doesn’t
do much for them in the grand scheme of things. Expect 75 yards
and perhaps another score for the former Cane this Sunday.
13. Eric Moulds @ NYJ –
Think maybe he got the message after the Bills sat him down for
a week? Since returning from suspension, Moulds has gone for 110
and 99 yards successively. It doesn’t hurt that his return
coincided with the reinsertion of Kelly Holcomb into the starting
lineup, but…. Give him a start against the Jets this weekend.
14. Mark Clayton @ CLE –
A Ravens receiver? Recommended by the Shot Caller? Desperate times
call for desperate measures, people, and these are desperate times
for those looking to fill out a legit receiving corps. You could
do a lot worse than the former Sooner, fresh off four consecutive
solid efforts. Give him the nod and hope Boller’s emergence
isn’t the mirage I suspect it might be.
15. Drew Bennett @ JAX –
Though nursing several injuries, Bennett has managed to score
three times in the last two weeks. That ups his season total to
four, telling us plenty about how his season has gone (not as
well as expected). Nevertheless, it’s hot-hand time and
very few hands have been hotter than his of late. Give him the
start against Jacksonville’s solid but susceptible back
Grab a Helmet:
Are you kidding me? I could barely find fifteen I felt comfortable
recommending. Feel free.
Grab Some Wood:
Joe Horn @ TB – Hard as
it is to believe, this once-prolific pass catcher has tallied
just one touchdown this season. One. Aaron Brooks, for all his
foibles, never had trouble finding him in the past, which leads
me to think that Horn might be on the downside of his career.
The true test will come next year when he will, presumably, be
healthy and, most likely, catching passes from somebody more consistent
Donald Driver v. SEA –
No telling who will be throwing balls Driver’s way next
year but you already know who I hope it will be. Hopefully, his
running mate, Mr. Walker, will be back to take some heat off on
the other side of the field. No such luck this week, though, meaning
Driver is an iffy start at best.
Randy Moss v. NYG – He’s
scored once in his last six games and hasn’t topped the
100-yard mark since (are you ready for this?) Week 4. That’s
over two and a half months ago, folks. If you think he’s
gonna break the slump this Saturday against a highly motivated
Giants squad, you’ve got more courage than me.
Best of luck, folks! It’s been fun! Have a great New Year’s!