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The Shot Caller's Report
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups

The Shot Caller was almost felled by a nasty cold this week so if it's all the same to you guys, I'm gonna dispense with the customary introduction and get right down to business. Fair enough? If anything that follows sounds fishy, you can blame the gallon of Nyquil I chugged while writing it. Ahhh-choo and away we go...


Must Start: The Top 10

1. Steve McNair @ ATL - He suffered his worst outing of the season last week but hangs on to the top spot thanks to a juicy matchup with league doormat, Atlanta. The Falcons give up over 270 passing yards per game and will be hard-pressed to hold McNair under 300.

2. Peyton Manning @ BUF - This guy could make ANY receiver look good. Though the Bills have fared pretty well on defense this year, they haven't faced many quality attacks. When they have (KC, for instance), they've struggled. Peyton should have the Orchard Park faithful squirming in their seats this Sunday.

3. Daunte Culpepper vs. DET - Sometimes, you've gotta take the good with the bad. He's averaging 198.6 yards/game when he doesn't throw an interception and 335.6 yards when he does. More throws means more picks but also more yards and, ultimately, more fantasy points. Translation? Don't sweat it.

4. Chad Pennington vs. JAX - The Jets mantra might be "wait 'til next year" but if YOU own this guy, the time is now. He doesn't make many mistakes and is averaging three touchdown passes over his last three contests. Expect him to throw for at least a couple more against the dubious Jaguars' secondary.

5. Marc Bulger @ ARI - Word on the street is he was thisclose to getting yanked at Soldier field last week. Luckily, Coach Martz stuck with him and was rewarded with a brilliant come-from-behind effort. The forecast calls for sunnier skies and pathetic pass defense in Arizona so stick with him.

6. Trent Green vs. OAK - Don't blame Green for KC's meltdown in the Queen City. He was his usually solid self (313 yards and two scores) and now faces a Raiders defense that gave up almost 400 passing yards last week.

7. Tom Brady @ HOU - He survived the Dallas D and proved once again he knows how to win even when he's not having a great game. Though his receiving corps is decimated, he should find some open passing lanes against a Houston team that gives up tons of yardage through the air (237.2 per game).

8. Jake Plummer vs. CHI - Since the clunker in Week 1, he's only thrown one interception. Of course, he's only played in six games. No matter. It's clear he's a changed man and If he stays healthy, he could very well lead you to the promised land.

9. Brad Johnson vs. NYG - He's turning the ball over a bunch which is uncharacteristic of him. Fortunately, he faces a Giants secondary that isn't very opportunistic (eight picks on the year). He also does so without the services of Keyshawn Johnson…which is a good thing.

10. Jon Kitna @ SD - Raise your hand if you thought Carson Palmer would be starting by now. He may not be the future, but there's no way Kitna loses his job this year unless the Bengals start playing like…well, the Bengals. Expect big numbers against a god-awful Chargers team in Week 12.

Grab A Helmet:

Tim Rattay @ GB - Garcia is ostensibly the starting quarterback but you can bet your bottom dollar Niners fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when Rattay was named the starter earlier this week. Only the elements will prevent him from having a great game in Titletown.

Donovan McNabb vs. NO - Don't worry. He'll be back in the Top 10 soon. For now, take heart in the fact that Donovan hasn't thrown an INT in three games. Baby steps, people.

Kelly Holcomb vs. PIT - I was wrong about him last week but you shouldn't get too excited over his performance against a bottom-feeder like Arizona. He's still one of the most inconsistent QBs around. Nevertheless, he faces a Steelers secondary that looks much better on paper than it does in reality.

Tommy Maddox @ CLE - Like Holcomb, he's been consistently inconsistent. One positive sign, however, is that he's thrown only one pick in the last three games. If the expected shootout materializes in Cleveland, he could be golden.

Grab A Clipboard:

Brett Favre vs. SF - Yes, that was the Power-I formation you saw the Pack line up in last Sunday. Until Favre's thumb heals, you can expect to see more of it in the future. If you're still on the fence, consider that rain and/or snow are predicted for Sunday.

Joey Harrington @ MIN - He just lost his "best" receiver, Scotty Anderson, to injured reserve. Doesn't that tell you all you need to know about the Lions offense? But, wait…there's more (see below).

Jake Delhomme @ DAL - He threw for a ton of yards last week (317) and still needed a mystery TD by Stephen Davis to beat the 'Skins. Facing a Dallas D that makes good quarterbacks look bad and bad quarterbacks look worse, he could struggle mightily in Week 12.

Quincy Carter vs. CAR - Theismann and Maguire couldn't stop gushing about this guy last Sunday night. Were they watching the same game I was? He's thrown two TDs and seven picks in his last four games. Upside or no, he's not a QB that's going to lead you to a fantasy championship.

Drew Bledsoe vs. IND - Buffalo's last touchdown came about 2 months ago. If you haven't already planted Bledsoe on the bench, you should probably do so now.

Running Backs

Must Start: The Top 15:

1. Priest Holmes vs. OAK - He'll have trouble fending off Green in the weeks to come but for one more week, at least, he's the #1 back. The reason? A Raiders defense that yields boatloads of yards on the ground (147.4 per game and 4.5 per carry).

2. Ahman Green vs. SF - #2 on this list but #1 in our hearts. Of course, he also happens to be #1 in fantasy points this year. Forget about matchups with this guy as the Pack has proven it can (and will) run on anyone.

3. Jamal Lewis vs. SEA - He's failed to top 100 yards only three times this year. With Anthony Wright under center, the Ravens better hope he doesn't fail to do it again. Coach Billick surely knows that Seattle has given up a staggering 163 rushing yards per game in three road losses.

4. Deuce McAllister @ PHI - He's averaging over 150 total yards in his last seven contests. Thanks to a depleted receiving corps and an anemic passing attack, he should continue to get the bulk of the work. In fact, one could argue the Saints' flagging playoff hopes positively depend on it.

5. Clinton Portis vs. CHI - After some early injury concerns, he's settled down and is now getting almost 30 touches per game. Even bad backs can make something happen when they get that many opportunities. He's not a bad back, either. He's a great one.

6. Edgerrin James @ BUF - Although Peyton threw for over 400 yards, Edge managed to run the ball 36 times and score three touchdowns against the Jets. With Harrison still hobbled, Coach Dungy may lean on him heavily again.

7. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. CIN - His three biggest days have come against Oakland, Cleveland, and Minnesota. Those teams have one thing in common: lousy defense. Cincy's defense has been anything but lousy of late and though he usually finds a way to produce (whether on the ground or through the air), Tomlinson could struggle this Sunday.

8. Ricky Williams vs. WAS - If you like quantity over quality, Ricky's your man. He's carried the ball more times (246) than any other back in the league but is averaging just 3.3 per tote. That is two yards PER CARRY off Ahman Green's mark of 5.3. Hopefully, a soft 'Skins D will help him improve on those numbers in Week 12.

9. Fred Taylor @ NYJ - He's using words like "probably" to describe his chances of playing this Sunday. Coming from him, that's not an overly encouraging sign. If he is indeed ready to rock, he's a very good start against a matador Jets run defense (154.1 yards per game).

10. Shaun Alexander @ BAL - Coach Holmgren said we'd see mo' Morris against the Lions last week. If he meant mo' as in more than two carries, he wasn't lying. Alexander is the main damage-doer and though he'll hafta fight for yards against a tough Ravens D, he should find paydirt at least once.

11. Stephen Davis @ DAL - He's been listed on the injury report for a couple weeks now, but he's still managed to get almost 30 touches per game. He might need that many to reach 100 yards against a stellar Dallas front seven (3.4 yards per carry).

12. Marshall Faulk @ ARI - He finally topped the century mark against the Bears last week but got more than half of those yards on one play. Expect him to become a bigger part of the offense as the Rams position themselves for a playoff run.

13. Tyrone Wheatley @ KC - Teams that give up 4.9 per carry and 130 rushing yards per game don't win Super Bowls. Period. Wheatley will think he's back in Ann Arbor again after running the ball 30+ (40+?) times this weekend.

14. Tiki Barber @ TB - He's been held under 100 total yards in only two games this year and he even gained 99 in one of those. The league has finally caught up with Tampa's vaunted "Two" so a heavy dosage of Tiki is probably on tap for this Monday night.

15. Anthony Thomas @ DEN - Another former Wolverine who should see plenty of action in Week 12. The Bears don't stand much of a chance anyway, but they don't stand a chance at all if Thomas doesn't carry the ball 25 times.

Grab A Helmet:

Antowain Smith @ HOU - Coach Belichick is smart enough to know you don't go very deep in the playoffs without a legitimate running game. Smith has been getting more carries of late and though he's been languishing on my bench all year, he'll get the nod this Sunday against the Texans. Wish me luck.

Jerome Bettis @ CLE - His expiration date was about two years ago but the Steelers don't have a better option at the tailback position. I have a sneaking suspicion he'll sneak one into the end zone against a crummy Browns run defense (117.3 yards per game).

Moe Williams vs. DET - Predictably, his carries have dropped off since Michael Bennett's return. Surprisingly, he's become a major force in the passing game (over 200 yards the last two weeks). We'll take 'em anyway we can get 'em, right?

Brian Westbrook vs. NO - Outside of Zach Crockett, Westbrook has the best touchdown-per-touch ratio of any back in the league. He's finally healthy again and is coming off a stellar three-TD performance against the G-men. Expect him to see plenty of opportunities against a weak New Orleans run defense (133.3 per game).

Rudi Johnson/Corey Dillon @ SD - Two backs. One backfield. Uh-oh. Dillon's return couldn't come at a worse time for fantasy owners. Still, there will probably be enough yards to go around against a horrendous Chargers defense this week. After that, no promises.

James Jackson vs. PIT - His numbers aren't eye-popping but he sure does have a nose for the end zone (three TDs in his last two games). Cleveland always manages to score on Pittsburgh and there's a good chance he could be one of the guys scoring come Sunday.

Grab A Gatorade:

Any Washington RB @ MIA - Figuring out who will suit up is the hard part. Figuring out who will actually perform is much easier: nobody.

Any Detroit RB @ MIN - A visit from the Lions is exactly what the reeling Vikes' D needs right now. No Detroit back has gained more than 73 yards in a game and the leading rusher two weeks ago was (are you sitting down?)…Reggie Swinton. He's a RETURN man!

Troy Hambrick vs. CAR - If you like the kicking game, you'll love this weekend's matchup in Big D. The Cowboys feasted on weaker opponents in the first half but will struggle to score points against playoff-caliber teams. If Carter's struggles continue (they will), Hambrick becomes waiver-wire material.

Curtis Martin vs. JAX - I've pronounced him dead more than once and for that, I deserve a reprimand. It appears I haven't learned my lesson, though. He's nearing the end of the line and he faces a solid Jacksonville front in Week 12 (3.1 per carry and 88.7 yards/game). I urge you to sit him again.

Warrick Dunn vs. TEN - What the…? He's averaging 170 (!) yards rushing his last two games but Tennessee is a real step up in terms of quality (78.8 rushing yards per game). Expect the Titans to throw the kitchen sink at Dunn and force Doug Johnson to beat them.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Must Start: The Top 15:

1. Randy Moss vs. DET - The last time Randy felt neglected (and publicly stated as much), he exploded for 172 yards and three scores against the Niners. History could very well repeat itself as the Vikes attempt to right the ship against a pitiful Lions defense in Week 12.

2. Torry Holt @ ARI - Only two teams have kept him out of the endzone this year. One of them sports a great record (Seattle). The other sports a great defense (Baltimore). Arizona sports neither.

3. Santana Moss vs. JAX - He's scored in six straight games and now trails the other Moss (and Mr. Holt) by just one receiving TD on the year. Talk about en fuego! He's facing a Jacksonville secondary that's yielded the third most touchdown passes (16) so it's no big stretch to think he'll score another this Sunday.

4. Chad Johnson @ SD - Take me back? I promise I'll never doubt you again, bro. In fact, I'll even call you "The Oracle" from here on out…provided you don't go forecasting a Beavs victory in this weekend's Civil War.

5. Terrell Owens @ GB - The only person more thrilled by Rattay's third start (other than Rattay himself) is Owens. The Packers struggle against GOOD, big wideouts (I should have clarified last week) and T.O. definitely fits the bill. Expect him to wreak havoc against an average Green Bay secondary at Lambeau.

6. Derrick Mason @ ATL - More from the weird statistics department: Mason has accumulated either 98 or 99 receiving yards in five of his team's ten games this year. Of course, he's only accumulated one touch in those games, too. Still, 100 yards is worth ten points in most yardage leagues. How many receivers will give you a consistent ten points every week?

7. Reggie Wayne/Marvin Harrison @ BUF - If Harrison plays (still iffy), he obviously merits your #1 receiver slot. If he doesn't, Wayne is just as deserving of the nod. Why? He's talented, for starters, and Peyton doesn't seem to care who he's throwing the ball to. Monitor the injury reports and make a game-time decision on Sunday if your league allows it.

8. Keenan McCardell vs. NYG - No, Meshawn. Throw HIM the damn ball. The Empire strikes back in Tampa and McCardell is the chief beneficiary. He was already the Bucs' leading receiver (15.3 per catch and seven touchdowns) and should garner even more attention now that Johnson is shopping for apartments in New York.

9. Hines Ward @ CLE - The yardage numbers alone are Top 10 but the eight touchdowns are just gravy. If Plaxico begins to get hot (he looked like a real receiver on Monday night), Ward's totals could dip a bit.

10. Rod Smith vs. CHI - The Snake returned with a bang last week so his #1 receiver returns to the Top 10 this week. Simple cause and effect. Though Denver has other receiving threats, Smith is the most consistent and most reliable. He's even more valuable if your league counts return yardage.

11. Anquan Boldin vs. STL - Speaking of consistency, rookie receivers usually aren't. Consider him the exception to that rule. He's big, fast, durable, and the only viable option in the passing game for Jeff Blake.

12. Tony Gonzalez vs. OAK - Only two owners in your league get receiver-type numbers from the tight end position. One of them owns this guy (566 yards, 6 TDs). The other owns…

13. Shannon Sharpe vs. CHI - …this guy (476 yards, 7 TDs). Six of his seven touchdowns have come with Jake Plummer at the helm. Coincidence? Hardly.

14. Isaac Bruce @ ARI - The lack of TD catches is maddening but facing a Cardinals secondary that was torched by Kelly Holcomb last week, he's a good bet to post solid numbers in Week 12. The yardage totals make him worth starting on a regular basis, anyway.

15. Peter Warrick @ SD - He accumulated over 200 all-purpose yards against the Chiefs and even managed to steal some of Chad Johnson's thunder. Can he do it again? Count on it against a woeful San Diego secondary (248.7 yards/game).

Grab A Helmet:

Justin McCareins @ ATL - As promised, Mr. McCareins found the endzone last week. Though he'll never be the favored target between the twenties, his value increases exponentially near the goal line. Oh, and he's facing the Falcons on Sunday. Start him.

Deion Branch @ HOU - Though he only caught two balls last week, Brady threw him the rock nine times. Bad receivers don't get nine looks in the NFL…unless they play for Detroit. With Troy Brown out and David Givens battling a leg injury, I anticipate Branch being the focal point of the passing attack vs. a crummy Houston defense.

Quincy Morgan/Andre Davis vs. PIT - One less "me" guy in the mix seems to have worked wonders for the Browns receiving corps. It's anybody's guess which one of these two will ultimately become the man but it didn't seem to matter last week as both put up good numbers. Expect more of the same against a weak Steelers secondary.

Jimmy Smith @ NYJ - His quarterback is young and prone to big mistakes. Nevertheless, he's got talent and only one option in the passing game. You're looking at it.

Laveranues Coles @ MIA - Whether it's Ramsey or Hasselbeck, the 'Skins will need to throw the ball against Miami. Surprisingly, that's been a fairly easy thing to do this year (234.3 yards/game). A touchdown might be too much to ask, though, as the Fish have given up only seven so far.

Grab Some Wood:

Koren Robinson @ BAL - He hasn't broken the century mark all year and hasn't scored a receiving touchdown since Week 3. Is this really a guy you wanna rely on come playoff time? I'm tired of hearing how talented he is. Numbers are numbers and his don't stack up against the top receivers in the league.

Eric Moulds vs. IND - How long can a guy linger on the questionable list before he becomes just plain questionable? Owners in the playoff hunt need healthy bodies and Moulds is clearly NOT healthy right now. Neither is his offense. Steer clear until something changes…drastically.

Muhsin Muhammad @ DAL - Think he's rediscovered his game after a brilliant Week 12 performance? Think again. Muhammad last put up consistently good numbers in 2000. This week, he faces a league-leading Dallas D that stifles opposing passing attacks, especially bad ones.

Donald Driver vs. SF - As the Packers lean more heavily on Green, Driver will continue to struggle. Stash him away until Favre's thumb stops hurting…IF it stops hurting.

Joe Horn @ PHI - Robinson, Moulds, Driver, and now Horn. What has happened to all the upper crust receivers? The ability to play through injuries may be an admirable trait in real football, but it's the kiss of death in fantasy ball. Find someone who's healthy and don't look back.

Good luck, folks!