Must Start: The Top 15
1. Steve Smith v. STL—He’s
played two fewer games, but Smith is now creeping up on the league’s
receiving yardage leaders (a fourth-best 780 yards through ten
weeks). Anyone willing to bet he doesn’t end up on top?
This despite the fact he was seen repeatedly hurling throughout
last Monday night’s victory over the Bucs, a game in which
he tallied 149 yards and another score. If they can’t keep
him down when he’s ill, what are the league’s DBs
gonna do when he’s feeling fit?
2. Marques Colston v. CIN—If
Smith wants to lead the league in receiving yards again, he’s
gonna hafta catch this guy, the seventh round phenom making minced
meat out of the league’s best secondaries. He’s averaging
(averaging!) over 150 yards his last three tilts and has also
scored three times over that same span. Forget about him being
a fluke. I’d start him over every other guy on this list,
save for Smith.
3. Chad Johnson @ NO—That
includes this guy, a wideout I clearly adore. You knew it. I knew
it. He knew it. We all knew it. The blowup was coming. Only question
was when and against whom. San Diego ended up being the unsuspecting
victim of his 260 yard, two-score explosion but, amazingly enough,
they survived to tell about it. Not sure the Saints will if they
let him go off this weekend. Don’t miss this one, folks.
4. Terrell Owens v. IND—This
one either. The Cowboys seem to have turned the corner with Romo
at the helm and Owens has certainly been the beneficiary of the
young gun’s coming-out party. He racked up 96 yards and
a score in the win over Arizona and even found time to argue with
passing game coordinator, Todd Haley, on the sidelines. All in
a day’s work, right TO?
5. Marvin Harrison @ DAL—Marvin
and cohort Reggie Wayne were MIA last Sunday as the Colts squeaked
by the Bills at the RCA Dome. No way they can pull that stunt
again and survive a trip to Big D. They won’t, for the record,
which means Harrison should be good for 100+ yards and a score
or two. Mark it down, folks.
6. Torry Holt @ CAR—Speaking
of MIA, whatever happened to Mr. Consistency, Torry Holt? Since
scoring seven touchdowns in his first six games, he’s been
shut out in his last three, accounting for “only”
171 yards as the Rams have gone winless. I’m not the brightest
bulb on the tree but I’m smart enough to know St. Louis
has a better chance of winning when he’s scoring touchdowns.
So start scoring them already, would ya’?
7. Donald Driver v. NE—Driver’s
been targeted 97 times this season (good for third best amongst
receivers) and 28 in his last two games alone, more than enough
attention to get OUR attention. Even better, he’s turning
said looks into points and even notched a career-high 191 yards
in the Week 10 W over the Vikes. Repeat after me: you ALWAYS want
Favre’s favorite target in your starting lineup.
8. Andre Johnson v. BUF—The
only guys targeted more frequently than Mr. Driver? Torry Holt
and this guy, the current league leader (103). Not surprising
when you consider who else the Texans are trotting out at receiver.
He’s cooled off a bit of late but should never be riding
pine, even with David Carr still running the show in Houston.
Give him the start against Buffalo’s middle-of-the-pack
pass defense in Week 11.
9. Roy Williams @ ARZ—Mr.
Feast or Famine finally found some middle ground last weekend,
tallying five catches for 81 yards in the laydown at Ford Field.
You could live with that but it’s more fun to watch him
explode from time to time. He should this weekend against the
Cardinals as the Lions get back on the winning side of the ledger…for
10. Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald
v. DET—If they aren’t able to, Boldin and Fitz
could be the reason why. The former’s numbers were certainly
hurt by the latter’s return but, in the end, they’ll
both be better off now that teams aren’t able to load up
on either guy. Leinart is struggling, sure, but we’ve got
a cure for that: the Dee-troit Lions, baby! Get ‘em in there.
11. Hines Ward @ CLE—The
shift to Air Cowher has paid large dividends for the former Bulldog.
He’s averaging over 116 yards/game over his last four and
has also scored four times, though three of those came, fittingly,
in a single outing at the Georgia Dome. I suspect the Steelers
won’t need to air it out as often this Sunday but I’ve
thought that before and look where that’s got me. Start
Ward and expect 75-100 yards to go with yet another touch.
12. Javon Walker v. SD—Walker
saw the football only twice in last week’s win over the
Raiders, which would have been a travesty had they lost (and they
almost did). Luckily, he maximized his touches, as usual, tallying
62 yards and a score as the Broncos skated away with a hard-fought
W. If you saw CJ riddle the San Diego secondary last weekend,
you know what Coach Shanny’s thinking. Wait a sec. No, you
don’t. NOBODY does! Start Javon anyway.
13. Reggie Wayne @ DAL—I’ve
been writing this column for about four years now and still haven’t
said anything remotely interesting about Mr. Wayne. Maybe I’m
wasting all the creativity on his counterpart? It’s audience
participation time once again, folks. Best Wayne blurb for Week
12 gets printed. I’m serious…and seriously lazy, it
14. Donte Stallworth v. TEN—How’s
THAT for a return to the fold? Stallworth shook off weeks of rust
with a stellar six-catch, 139-yard day, highlighted by an 84-yard
up-top special that resulted in Philly’s first touchdown.
This week, he draws a 25th ranked Tennessee secondary that has
already yielded 17 touchdown passes on the season. I’m betting
he adds to that total this Sunday.
15. Darrell Jackson @ SF—Ever
so quietly, Jackson has managed to put together one of his best
seasons yet and is now on pace to surpass career highs in both
yardage and touchdowns. The strange part is that he’s doing
it without Matt Hasselbeck and with Deion Branch, the guy most
thought would relegate him to second tier status. Hasn’t
happened, folks, and I’m not so sure it will. Maybe he needed
that second fiddle to finally shine, huh?
Grab a Helmet
T.J. Houshmandzadeh @ NO—T.J.
was well on his way to another stellar outing when he was knocked
cold on a vicious hit by Marlon McCree in the second half of last
Sunday’s wild 49-41 score-a-thon. Only good part is that
it happened in the second half ‘cuz he still managed to
rack up 88 yards in limited duty, keeping his better-than-60-yard
streak alive. Can any other receiver boast of such a streak? I’m
asking. I don’t know.
Muhsin Muhammad @ NYJ—After
two sorry outings in Weeks 5 and 6 (ten and two yards, respectively),
Muhsin has picked up the pace a bit, averaging 76+ and a score
over his last three contests. Like Grossman (and the rest of the
Chicago offense, for that matter), he benefits from a lot of short
fields. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon and especially
this week, so keep starting him.
Plaxico Burress @ JAX—A
bad day for Eli means a bad day for Plax and that’s exactly
what happened last Sunday against the Bears. Don’t be too
discouraged. Prior to that, he’d scored in two consecutive
games. Moreover, the G-Men will be without Amani Toomer the rest
of the year. That means Lil’ Bro should be looking his way
a lot in the coming weeks. Lord knows he isn’t looking in
Jeremy Shockey’s direction enough.
Kellen Winslow v. PIT—Speaking
of tight ends (apparently, I don’t do this enough), raise
your hand if you knew Winslow was leading the group in reception
this season. He is, believe it or not, with 56 and has even strung
together three solid efforts in a row. I’m no fan of the
Cleveland offense but somebody’s gotta produce and he’s
as good a candidate as anyone at the moment. Consider him a great
TE option and even a decent flex option in leagues that allow
more positional leeway.
Grab Some Wood
Randy Moss @ KC—Randy
Moss should never EVER catch one ball in a football game, no matter
what the circumstances are. That tells me he either doesn’t
care or isn’t trying…or both. If you drafted him higher
than the seventh or eighth round, the joke’s on you. Character
does matter, people. Remember that come next August, especially
if he’s still wearing the silver and black.
Jerricho Cotchery v. CHI—Cotch
has been a pleasant surprise this season, averaging 59 yards a
game for an offense that wasn’t expected to do much when
the season began. Unfortunately, he runs into the big, bad Bears
this Sunday in a game that should remind New York how far they
hafta go to truly be considered “back.” Greener pastures
lie ahead, Jest fans, so don’t get to down on your boys
Reggie Williams v. NYG—I
never miss a chance to needle Dawg fans so imagine how tickled
I was last weekend when Reggie managed another one-catch day AND
Washington became Stanford’s first victim AND Corey Dillon
looked like the second coming of Refrigerator Perry. It’s
tough living amongst the enemies but a heckuva lot easier when
the enemies SUCK EGGS! Drop him and don’t look back.
Ashley Lelie @ BAL—I usually
group these clowns together but I’ve decided to single Lelie
out this week since he’s the only one who actually dropped
a touchdown pass that likely would have spelled the difference
in Atlanta’s inexcusable Week 10 loss to the Browns. Did
anyone really think the change of uniforms would turn him into
a viable weapon? Wait. Don’t answer that. Just check out
what Javon Walker’s doing in his stead for the Broncos.
‘Nuf said? Thought so. Moving on…
Antwaan Randle El @ TB—I’ve
decided he’s going to take up permanent residence on this
list until further notice. After a mind-boggling goose egg in
Week 9, the Redskins’ prized free agent “catch”
turned the trick again in Week 10, snagging zero balls in the
27-3 defeat. On the bright side, he did run for 23 yards and even
attempted a pass, albeit an incompletion. This guy’s agent
deserves a raise.