Must Start: The Top 15
1. Steve Smith @ TB –
When you light up a notorious motor-mouth like Fred Smoot to the
tune of 11 catches, 201 yards, and a score, you earn the Shot
Caller’s seal of approval. When you celebrate said score
with a C.J.-esque row, row, row your boat routine, you earn a
special place in his heart for the rest of your career. Encore,
2. Chad Johnson @ BAL –
C.J. had a little fun with the Vikings’ “shutdown”
corner earlier this season, as well, but has hit some choppy waters
of late. The reasons? T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Perry. More
weapons = better Bengals and I’m sure even the selfish Johnson
would admit that’s a good thing. Give him the start against
a Ravens team he absolutely demolished in the last meeting (161
yards and two scores in ‘04).
3. Terrell Owens @ WAS –
He’s not a lock to play at press time but he HAS practiced
the last two days, meaning he’ll probably start. Whether
he’ll make it a full sixty minutes remains to be seen. If
he does, you can mark him down for 100 yards and a score or two,
despite the fact Washington fields the league’s best pass
defense through eight weeks (152.7 yards/game). Matchups don’t
matter to guys as talented as him.
4. Randy Moss @ KC – Nor
to him. Unfortunately, Randy’s even more banged-up than
the aforementioned T.O. at present, and seems to be playing a
lot more decoy than he did at the start of the season. Through
six games (he sat one out), he’s caught only 25 balls, barely
more than four per contest. That’s not enough (it’s
never enough) but there aren’t too many guys who can turn
four or five touches into 125 yards and a score on a regular basis.
5. Santana Moss v. PHI –
The other Moss finally had an off-day (four catches for 34 yards)
but he had plenty of company as the ‘Skins posted a big,
fat goose egg at the Meadowlands. Any chance they duplicate the
ignominious feat v. the Birds this Sunday night? In a word, no.
Philly now fields one of the bottom third pass defenses and will
be hard-pressed to hold Santana down all night. Keep him in there.
6. Plaxico Burress @ SF –
Plax has been everything the G-Men hoped he would be (and more)
this season and now faces a San Fran squad giving up 315 yards
and two scores per tilt. That’s a long-winded way of saying
he should be good for at least 100 yards and a score or two by
the bay. Start him.
7. Larry Fitzgerald v. SEA –
One man’s loss is another man’s gain in the world
of fantasy football. Nobody will benefit more from the injury
to Anquan Boldin than Mr. Fitzgerald. Not that he was struggling
to post good numbers when Boldin was around (87.3 yards/game and
four scores). He’ll certainly draw more attention than usual
but is too big and too talented to be flummoxed by anything the
‘Hawks can throw at him.
8. Marvin Harrison @ NE –
Marvin is similarly interfered with by the young buck, Reggie
Wayne, but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring five times
this season. This week, he draws the archrival Pats in a game
that will go a long way toward clarifying the balance of power
in the AFC. Keep in mind he’s caught more balls for more
yards and more touchdowns against New England than against any
9. Joey Galloway v. CAR –
Chris Simms has hindered the Bucs’ chances of making a strong
playoff push but if last week is any indication, he hasn’t
hindered Galloway’s personal push to become comeback player
of the year. In fact, the former Buckeye didn’t even seem
to notice the switch at QB, tallying eight grabs for 149 yards
and a score against the Niners in Week 8. Give him the start v.
Carolina’s somewhat suspect secondary in Week 9.
10. Antonio Gates @ NYJ –
He’s not just a wide receiver in a tight end’s body.
He’s a top 10 wide receiver in a tight end’s body.
His six scores put him behind only Steve Smith for the league
lead and the 82 yards/game tell us he’s not just a goal-line
go-to guy, a la Heath Miller. He’s a go-to guy anywhere
on the field. Think Gonzo circa turn of the century…only
11. Donald Driver v. PIT –
Not many 1-6 teams field a start-worthy wide receiver but the
Green Bay Packers aren’t most 1-6 teams. They field a future
HOF’er at QB and can still score enough points to beat any
given opponent on any given day. That includes, by the way, the
5-2 Steelers this weekend. In fact, I’m gonna give you a
different variation of the Shot Caller guarantee this week: Driver
scores AND the Pack wins. Call it the Shot Caller parlay. Heard
it here first, folks.
12. Jimmy Smith v. HOU –
Mr. Smith has been missing in action the past month or so and
is starting to lose touches and scoring opportunities to everyone’s
favorite free agent pickup, Ernest Wilford. Does that mean you
should give up on him? You already know what I’m gonna say,
don’t you? Guys who play Houston must start, recent history
notwithstanding. So do it already.
13. T.J. Houshmandzadeh @ BAL –
It’s pretty rare for a team to trot out two wideouts hailing
from the same university, but two from the same school who were
in the same draft class, as well? Somebody needs to find out if
this has ever happened before. It’s been bugging me for
some time now. While you’re at it, don’t forget to
start T.J. this week.
14. Joe Horn v. CHI –
Heh? What did I tell you? Guys returning from an extended absence
often act as though they haven’t missed any time at all.
Horn was no exception last week, as he notched seven grabs for
99 yards in his return to the fold. Better yet, his hammy appears
to have survived the contest, making him a surefire start for
15. Deion Branch v. IND –
Every year, I tell myself to steer clear of the Pats’ receivers.
Every year, one of them ends up making me feel like an idiot.
It shouldn’t surprise us that Mr. Super Bowl MVP is starting
to come into his own, but I’m betting his recent surge (18
for 286 in his last three) did indeed catch most of us off guard.
Now you have no excuse. Give him the start against a Colts team
he enjoys playing against (75 yards/per and two career TDs).
Grab A Helmet:
Jerry Porter @ KC – There
you are! It’s about time the Raiders’ other stud target
got into the act (six catches for 123 yards and two scores in
Week 8). All it took, apparently, was the mere rumor he might
be the go-to guy in Randy’s absence. Not sure what that
means exactly, but let’s hope he continues to build upon
his success against the highly susceptible Chefs D this weekend.
Eddie Kennison v. OAK –
We haven’t talked about him much this year and the only
time I mentioned him to readers was when I suggested (via e-mail)
that they start him in Week 7. Oops! Sorry about that, whoever
you were. Week 7 happens to be the only week in the past four
he HASN’T gained over 100 yards. He and the KC passing game
are gathering steam, it appears, just in time to face off against
the Raiders in a classic AFC West shootout.
Heath Miller @ GB – We
didn’t EXPECT to talk about him much this season but it’s
kinda hard to ignore a guy who’s scored six touchdowns in
his first seven professional games. If you know how shallow the
talent pool is at TE, you know guys who can guarantee you a six-pointer
every week are worth owning, not to mention starting. Do so against
Green Bay’s very generous secondary this Sunday.
Hines Ward @ GB – For
that matter, go ahead and give Miller’s teammate, Mr. Ward,
a look, too. I’m not saying Charlie Batch is likely to throw
two TD passes but I am saying it’s entirely possible. Moreover,
if he does so, Miller and Ward are the most likely recipients.
Start him as your #2 or #3 guy this weekend.
Courtney Roby @ CLE –
Wanna know how short-handed the Titans are at wideout these days?
Look no further than Roby, the third-round pick and ostensible
go-to guy with Drew Bennett and Ty Calico on the shelf. He’s
probably better than Calico, anyway, but it’s still pretty
surprising to see him getting quality looks so early in his career.
Give him a start against Cleveland if your top guys are on a bye.
He’s already scored once and could do so again this Sunday.
Grab Some Wood:
Reggie Williams v. HOU –
He’s still considered the starter in J-Ville but that doesn’t
mean he should be starting for you. He only averages 30-some yards
per game (fewer than Ernest Wilford) and is the only one of the
top four Jaguars wideouts who’s failed to score a touch.
I like the matchup but I don’t like much else about him
right now. Find someone else.
Jabar Gaffney @ JAX –
Gaffney responded reasonably well to the added responsibility
in Andre Johnson’s absence. Nevertheless, Johnson has now
returned and the former Gator has even slipped behind greenhorn
Jerome Mathis as the primary playmaker for the playmaking-deficient
Texans. You could do worse, for sure, but you could also do much
Brandon Lloyd v. NYG –
Since Tim Rattay took a seat and subsequently got shipped, Lloyd
has tallied only four catches for 61 yards and no scores. Coincidence?
What do you think? Wait until the Niners are able to field a bonafide
starting quarterback before thinking about using him again. Magazines
are in the lobby.
Laveranues Coles v. SD –
Has anyone been victimized by such lousy QB play for such an extended
period of time? Save for a spell when Chad Pennington could actually
throw a football, he’s been saddled with sub-par signal-callers
almost his entire career. Nothing changes this week as he gets
the geriatric Testaverde back.
Best of luck, folks!