Must Start: The Top 15
1. Steve Smith v. DAL –
Gotta hand it to the Panthers. They know who their playmaker is
and will do almost anything imaginable to get the ball in his
hands. He catches balls, runs end-arounds, and even returns kicks,
a relative rarity in this age of prima donna wideouts. He scored
twice last weekend and will be the focal point of the Carolina
attack again this weekend. Make him the focal point of yours,
2. Chad Johnson v. BUF –
On Carson, on Rudi, on T.J., on Chad! The league’s preeminent
showman is promising the “greatest celebration of all time,
man,” complete with leftover reindeer. Though that may not
please the folks at PETA, it could be a real hoot for the rest
of us. Well, that and the 75-100 yards and a score he’s
likely to tally against the Bills.
3. Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin v.
PHI – Their numbers are eerily similar this year
(1,236 v. 1,240 yards, respectively), forcing opposing defenses
to pick their poison on a weekly basis. Fitzgerald is SLIGHTLY
more valuable (less injury-prone and more of a scoring threat),
but that’s splitting hairs, really. If the Cards could mount
some semblance of a rushing attack, they might actually have the
most potent O in the league. Of course, if we had some ham, we
could also have ham and eggs…if we had some eggs.
4. Santana Moss v. NYG –
You want eerily similar? Check out Moss’ statistics vis-à-vis
Boldin’s. Yeah, identical (1,240 yards and six scores).
I like the Cardinal more than I do the less consistent Moss but
at least the latter doesn’t have as much competition in
Washington, save for the occasional explosion from Chris Cooley.
Expect a couple of bombs and, I think, a score this weekend against
5. Torry Holt v. SF –
The presumed switch back to Jamie Martin probably won’t
affect Holt’s value much, as he’s been fairly consistent
through several QB shufflings already. If anything, the Niners
won’t be able to take advantage of the more experienced
Martin as much, opening things up for the Rams both in the running
game and the passing game. I like Holt’s chances of scoring
again this weekend.
6. Chris Chambers v. TEN –
Thanks to a dynamite December, Chambers is making a late push
for Top 5 honors and has already secured a trip to Honolulu in
February. He’s always been freakishly talented but finally
seems to be getting consistent looks from his adequate QBs (Frerotte
and Rosenfels). Not sure what took so long but let’s hope
it continues in Week 16. He’s scored four times in his last
three and could make it four (or five) of five this Saturday.
7. Rod Smith v. OAK –
Smith tallied 137 yards on eleven catches last Saturday, both
career highs for a guy who’s had a pretty illustrious career.
It’s no wonder he was named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster,
where he’ll be the oldest representative for the red guys.
Expect another solid day against the hated Raiduhs in Week 16.
It’s what he does.
8. Plaxico Burress @ WAS –
This year’s crop of wideouts seems to be even more unreliable
than most, as evidenced by the number of guys who have graced
this list. Plax has been a regular member, for sure, but he’s
slipping ever so slightly toward the bottom half, thanks mostly
to his QBs recent ineffectiveness. Three straight games of sub-50-yard
production won’t cut it this week so if you own him, hope
for a sudden turnaround.
9. Antonio Gates @ KC –
The league’s best tight end was held mostly in check at
Indy but that’s nothing to be concerned about. He got at
least one end zone look and will continue to be a go-to guy near
the goal line, especially this weekend at Arrowhead. His career
numbers against KC? 95.3 yards per and SIX touchdowns in three
games. Yeah, I’d say he likes playing against the Chefs.
10. Joey Galloway v. ATL –
Are opponents starting to figure out the Bucs’ one-dimensional
passing attack? Sure seems that way of late as Galloway has now
posted his two worst performance of the year in back-to-back weeks.
I suspect Coach Chucky will make a concerted effort to reverse
that trend this weekend. Whether he’s successful or not
could have a lot to do with whether Tampa makes the playoffs.
11. Drew Bennett @ MIA –
It’s been a fairly disappointing campaign for the former
Bruin but he’s fighting through the nagging injuries and
seems to have reestablished a rapport with Air McNair. His best
game of the year occurred last weekend (93 yards and two scores)
and now he faces a Miami D that ranks in the lower third v. the
pass. Start him.
12. T.J. Houshmandzadeh v. BUF –
He’s the consummate straight man to the highly comedic C.J.,
playing the part of self-effacing second banana while his outlandish
teammate grabs all the laughs. All the attention, though? Not
likely, especially if he keeps scoring a touchdown a week. Expect
another one this weekend as the Bengals hammer the hapless Bills
in the Queen City.
13. Darrell Jackson v. IND –
I didn’t expect a productive return for Jackson, as several
of you found out, and that turned out to be a mistake. Mea culpa?
At any rate, it appears D-Jax is back in fine form. Give him the
start against a Colts squad that will be looking to do one thing
and one thing alone: get home safe.
14. Hines Ward @ CLE –
When you think about the two clowns who filled in for Big Ben
this season (Maddox and Batch), it’s amazing Ward has been
able to do what he has (63.8 yards/game and ten scores). Last
weekend’s performance was nothing to write home about (two
grabs for eleven yards) but he should bounce back against Cleveland
in Week 16.
15. Roy Williams @ NO –
Like most of the other Lions, he’s had a seriously disappointing
season. However, he finally appears to be healthy and has even
managed to build a little momentum as the ordeal winds down. He’s
scored six times in his last six contests and is a good bet to
punch one in this weekend, as well. Give him a start if you’re
short on bodies.
Grab a Helmet:
Deion Branch/David Givens @ NYJ –
If you’re wondering why I’m sitting on the sidelines
in Week 16, look no further than Mr. Givens. I sat him down in
favor of Joe Horn last Saturday and instantly paid the price as
the former Domer tallied 137 yards and a score in the first game
of the weekend. Nice move, Shot Caller. Note to self: stay away
from the Pats receivers next year!!!
Samie Parker v. SD – I
talked up my fellow Duck at the beginning of the year but it wasn’t
until recently that he’s made me look good, averaging over
70 yards in his last four games. Though he hasn’t found
the end zone since Week 11, he could find his way there this weekend
in a game that promises to feature points, points…
Keenan McCardell @ KC –
…and more points. I’ve recommended every other Charger,
so why not McCardell, the most consistent wideout and a scorer
in his last two games? I don’t think he tops the 100-yard
mark (he’s done it just once this year) but 75 and a score
sounds reasonable. What do you think?
Jimmy Smith @ HOU – I
think the Jags would be a damn tough team to stop if they still
paired McCardell with his former running mate, the ageless Jimmy
Smith. After a mid-season swoon that no doubt had some of you
thinking he might be slowing down, the former Tiger has turned
it on of late, averaging 76 yards per over his last five. That
makes him a pretty sweet start against Houston’s 26th ranked
Eric Moulds @ CIN – He
went from possibly deactivated to merely suspended to very productive
in the span of two weeks, notching nine catches and 110 yards
in the loss to Denver last Saturday. This Saturday, he faces a
Bengals D that is willing to bend (a lot even) so long as their
offense gives them a sufficient cushion. Start him.
Donte Stallworth v. DET –
The switch to Todd Bouman did nothing to reverse New Orleans’
flagging fortunes (five turnovers) but it didn’t seem to
affect Stallworth much, as he continued his strong play with a
five-snag, 102-yard effort at Baton Rouge. No reason to think
he can’t approach those numbers against the equally crummy
Lions in San Antone this weekend. Give him the nod.
Grab Some Wood:
Donald Driver v. CHI –
Driver hasn’t scored since November and is having a hard
time finding holes in opposing secondaries these days. That happens
when there’s nobody on the opposite side consistently demanding
attention. I think you’re best steering clear of Packers
the rest of the way, even the ones, like Driver, who have been
big for you in the past.
Any Minnesota receiver @ BAL –
I’ve been wrong before but I think the game in Baltimore
this weekend could end up being a real snoozer, at least from
a fantasy perspective. The Ravens scored a season’s worth
of points last Monday night but won’t be able to duplicate
the feat against Minnesota’s desperate, and fairly talented,
D. Minnesota’s O? Yeah, they’re desperate too…just
not that good.
Randy Moss @ DEN – Know
why they’re not any good? You’re looking at him. Not
that Randy’s setting the world on fire in Oakland. Yes,
he caught a touchdown pass last week. Unfortunately, that’s
the only thing he caught. That gives him three grabs in the last
two games, about ten fewer than we should legitimately expect.
How can you rely on him in the most important game of the season?
Andre Johnson v. JAX –
It seemed pretty unlikely that Moss and Johnson would end up on
the “S” list at year’s end but here we are and…well,
here they are. Nagging injuries and spotty QB play are the primary
culprits but there’s no question that they’ve both
underperformed. Will they be back near the top in ’06? That
depends on what transpires in Houston and Oaktown this offseason.
Best of luck, folks!