Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
Though most of you are busy digesting Christmas dinner and looking
forward to next year, some are still scheming for a Week 17 championship
showdown. If you're one of those select few, congratulations…and good
luck. It's hard enough forecasting performances when the games still
matter. It's next to impossible when most of them don't. Lucky for
you, there are an unusually high number of teams still jockeying for
playoff seeds and playoff position. Unfortunately, there are also
a fair amount of superstars slated to take the week off. It's catch
as catch can in this, the final week of the regular season. Thanks
again for a great year, folks, and as always, feel free to e-mail
me with specific lineup questions.
Must Start: The Top 10
1. Peyton Manning @ HOU - What
.? I've seen him complete more passes (12) in a quarter!
Oh, well. If you weren't sunk by his Week 16 performance, take heart
in the fact he can't possibly duplicate it in Week 17...especially
when the game matters and the opponent is Houston (241 yards/game).
2. Daunte Culpepper @ ARI - Lucky
for you, Daunte needs a 'W' too. Though others have floundered in
Arizona (Garcia, Favre, and Bulger to name a few), most of them
did so earlier in the year when the Cards were still game. They
are game no longer as 28 TD passes yielded (second to worst) will
3. Trent Green vs. CHI - He unexpectedly
laid an egg in Minneapolis but should be primed for a rebound in
KC. One potential problem, though: KC could be playing for nothing
pending the outcome of the Buffalo/New England matchup tomorrow.
4. Mark Bulger @ DET - All told,
he's been a disappointment this year. Nevertheless, he's facing
a terrible defense (29th against the pass) indoors in a game the
Rams simply must win to secure home-field advantage. In other words,
the stars are aligned.
5. Jeff Garcia vs. SEA - He's
thrown eight TD passes against no interceptions the past three games.
He's also run for three. That means he's the hottest fantasy QB
in the league right now. It's not like San Fran has had anything
to play for, either. He's a great start at home against a motivated
but crappy Seattle defense.
6. Michael Vick vs. JAX - He only
completed eight passes against Tampa last week. Of course, two of
them went for scores. That's called efficiency, folks. Expect a
nice season-ending performance against an improving Jacksonville
and huge numbers next year if you're in a keeper league.
7. Brett Favre vs. DEN - He turned
personal tragedy into public brilliance last Monday night
reaffirmed his standing as one of the top three QBs of all time.
In the process, he likely led most of his owners to fantasy glory.
If your league is still going, keep him in there. He should wear
out a short-handed Broncos secondary this Sunday in Titletown.
8. Donovan McNabb @ WAS - Don
has been only average the last two weeks but the Philly machine
keeps on rolling. With an outside chance at home-field advantage,
expect him to rise to the occasion. He usually does.
9. Matt Hasselbeck @ SF - Not
as disappointing as Bulger but disappointing, nonetheless. If you're
into finger-pointing, point them in the direction of a butterfingered
receiving corps and a too-conservative coach. He should post decent
numbers at the Stick but the Niners have been unbelievably tough
at home (just 11.7 points/game) so temper your expectations.
10. Jon Kitna vs. CLE - He was
atrocious last week (one TD and three picks) but will likely bounce
back against in-state rival, Cleveland. He lit them up in the first
meeting (three Tds) and knows that a similar performance could vault
the Bengals into the playoffs. It's been a long time since "Bengals"
and "playoffs" were mentioned in the same sentence.
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Priest Holmes vs. CHI - I'm
not convinced he'll play a lot but he never needs many touches to
score big points. Case in point: he's only carried it 48 times the
past three games but has still managed to score EIGHT touchdowns.
That would be a touch every six carries if you're a little slow
on the uptake.
2. Ahman Green vs. DEN - Overlooked
(once again) on Monday night but still managed to run for 127 yards
and another score. Good enough, incidentally, to win me a league
championship. He's a great option in Week 17 as the weather could
be miserable (rain and/or snow).
3. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. OAK
- Favre was unbelievable on Monday night but it didn't hurt that
he was playing the Raiders. Expect Tomlinson to be the chief beneficiary
this week in a game that means absolutely nothing.
4. Jamal Lewis vs. PIT - This
game could affect the playoff fate of no less than five teams. Of
course, it could also mean nothing. Either way, Lewis will be motivated
to break a hallowed record (Dickerson's single-season rushing mark)
and the Steelers will be motivated to stop him. Bet on Lewis.
5. Fred Taylor @ ATL - He destroyed
the Saints last week (225 total yards and a score) and likely the
championship hopes of many a fantasy baller, as well. For my money,
he's been the surprise of the year. Expect him to finish on a high
note against an atrocious Atlanta run defense (143.4 yds./game and
6. Marshall Faulk @ DET - He's
gone over the century mark in five of his last six and has tallied
seven touches in the process. He may be slowing down but there's
no question his mid-season hiatus rendered him dangerous in the
fantasy postseason. There's no reason to think he'll be any less
dangerous at Ford Field.
7. Ricky Williams vs. NYJ - Like
Faulk, he's gone over 100 yards in five of his last six. Unlike
Faulk, he's only scored three touchdowns. And that pretty much tells
the story of Williams' season. If you've managed to survive his
inconsistency, turn him loose against a cruddy Jets run defense
8. Onterrio Smith @ ARI - I told
you he had game. No, really. Check the archives. This week, he faces
a Cardinals D that has been
a little listless of late.
In a game the Vikes must win, he should go bonkers.
9. Kevan Barlow vs. SEA - All
he needed was a chance, apparently. So why did it take San Fran
coaches almost an entire season to figure out what we already knew?
The Niners have a chance to ruin Seattle's once promising season
and I'm thinking Coach Erickson will relish doing so. Barlow will
be his main weapon with T.O. watching from the sidelines.
10. Deuce McAllister vs. DAL -
He's been abominable of late and that means most of his owners probably
aren't reading this column. If you own him and you're still playing,
give him a go. The matchup isn't great but who else do you have?
11. Edgerrin James @ HOU - He
only got 10 carries against Denver last week which, even in a blowout,
isn't enough. He should see the ball a lot more this weekend as
a win against Houston sews up the AFC South title for the Colts.
12. Shaun Alexander @ SF - Predictably,
he ran roughshod over Arizona in the Emerald City last week. He'll
find the going much tougher in the Bay Area this Saturday as the
Niners rank 10th against the run.
13. Anthony Thomas @ KC - If anyone
likes KC for the Super Bowl, gimme a holler. Baby needs a new pair
of shoes. Thomas and the rejuvenated Bears may not win at Arrowhead
but they'll almost certainly put up big yards on the ground against
the 32nd-ranked run defense (5.2 per rush and 150.7 yds/game).
14. Travis Henry @ NE - He's faced
Tennessee, Miami, and now New England to finish off the year. Not
exactly an easy group to run the football against. Henry is good
enough to get his yards but touchdowns could be hard to come by
15. Domanick Davis vs. IND - He's
probably wearing down some (to be expected) but the Colts couldn't
even stop the diminutive Quentin Griffin last week (28 carries for
136 yards). If Houston keeps it close, Davis could sneak his way
to a productive Week 17.
Must Start: The Top 15:
1. Randy Moss @ ARI - He's aiming
to become the first receiver in NFL history to average over 100
yards/game and one touch/game. Facing Arizona, that's a lead pipe
lock. In fact, there's no reason to think he won't score at LEAST
two times against the woeful Cardinals. He is, simply put, the best
receiver in the game. Have I mentioned that before?
2. Torry Holt @ DET - He's gone
over the century mark five times in the last six games and should
have no problem making it six of seven against the crappy Lions.
Ike Bruce will probably sit as well so Holt's chances of scoring
increase exponentially this weekend.
3. Chad Johnson vs. CLE - Love
him or hate him, he's one of the few receivers in the league who
MUST be accounted for on every play. When he's not moving the chains
with 15-yard slants, he's breaking the bank with 50-yard bombs.
Expect him to post huge numbers in the Battle of Ohio.
4. Marvin Harrison @ HOU - Like
most of the Colts offense last week, he wasn't up to snuff (six
catches, 85 yards, and no scores). Expect him to redeem himself
in a game Indy needs to win.
5. Hines Ward @ BAL - His numbers
are very similar to Marvin's (10 TDs and about 80 yards/game), which
is no small feat considering he has Tommy Maddox (and not Peyton)
throwing him the football. Baltimore will be motivated to shut him
down but he always rises to the occasion when the spotlight is beaming.
6. Anquan Boldin vs. MIN - Nobody
benefits more from garbage time than this guy. In a blowout loss
to Seattle last week, he tallied 122 yards and a score. Don't expect
similar numbers next year if the Cards improve (how can't they?)
and a #2 receiver emerges (ok, let's not get carried away). For
now, get him in there!
7. Darrell Jackson @ SF - His
Sunday was cut short last week but Coach Holmgren says he'll play
this week. He better since the 'Hawks MUST win. Though the Niners
are a tough out at home, they're only average vs. the pass (16th
in the league). Expect Hasselbeck to find his favorite receiver
for at least one score.
8. Derrick Mason vs. TB - Coach
Fisher vows McNair will play which instantly boosts this guy's value.
Nothing against Neil O'Donnell, but
9. Steve Smith @ NYG - I expected
the G-men to send Coach Fassel out on a positive note. I was wrong.
Since they're determined to roll over, we can assume Delhomme will
hook up with Smith a number of times this weekend, possibly even
for a score.
10. Keenan McCardell @ TEN - Amazingly,
the Titans still have a chance at a division title even though their
pass defense ranks 31st in the league. Coming off a record-setting
day, Johnson and his #1 man, McCardell, should be able to exploit
11. Jimmy Smith @ ATL - Tennessee
ranks 31st but the Falcons are even worse (worse as in dead last).
Though Smith has been non-existent of late (only seven receptions
the past three games), I'm expecting Leftwich to find him for at
least one big play this weekend.
12. Santana Moss @ MIA - Pennington
pays him a lot of attention (more than 10 looks per game the past
three contests) but teams are figuring out how to contain him. Don't
expect that to change in S. Florida this weekend as the Jets face
an experienced Miami D.
13. Tony Gonzalez vs. CHI - Trent
Green looked his way 12 times in Minnesota last week. I think it's
safe to say most tight ends don't get 12 looks in a game very often.
Facing a dubious Bears secondary, he should cause some more damage
in Week 17.
14. Laveranues Coles vs. PHI -
The stress fracture is worrisome but he says he'll play. That's
a good thing since he's quickly (and kinda quietly) emerged as Tim
Hasselbeck's favorite target.
15. Javon Walker vs. DEN - The
Ol' Gunslinger completed passes to TWELVE different receivers last
week. That's astonishing considering most teams don't even have
twelve receiving options in a given week. Nevertheless, he saves
most of his highlight-reel stuff for this guy (124 yards and two
scores against the Raiders). If you like touchdowns, start Walker.
Good luck, folks, and happy holidays!