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Hot Reads
By Joe Levit
December 4, 2003

During fantasy drafts, with the exception of a few overbearing talents like Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper and Mike Vick, fantasy owners tend to wait until the middle rounds to select their starting quarterback. This happens because owners like to focus on the running back and wideout positions since every year there are a few new tossers like Jon Kitna that emerge to do serious fantasy damage despite nonexistent expectations.

For most of the fantasy schedule, it is simply important for a fantasy quarterback to keep up with his peers. He can be an average passer who does fairly well week in and out. The other positions, running backs and receivers in particular, determine who actually wins each week with some individual standout performances.

In the playoffs however, the importance of the quarterback position becomes paramount. Owners must start a hot quarterback at that time, because this is when a strong performance may not clinch the win, but a poor one will most likely doom a team.

Successful owners key in on flame-throwing quarterbacks on a roll. It is not ok to continue to start a guy just because he has posted solid statistics throughout the season. A perfect example of this would be Kerry Collins, who is second in the league in passing yards with 3,048, but has struggled of late behind a beat-up line and without the services of star tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Here are a few guys to start in your fantasy playoffs, and another few to bench if you have one of the scorchers on your squad:

Hot Heroes

Jon Kitna – This Bengal has shed his former stripes and become a consistent and strong fantasy player. He is leading an offense of talent (Chad Johnson) and depth (Rudi Johnson) in a string of victories. Kitna is spreading the ball to Johnson, Peter Warrick and rookie Kelley Washington. He has a hot hand, and owners should not hesitate to use him. The team doesn’t bungle the close games anymore.

Matt Hasselbeck – Hasselbeck is at it again, catching fire in the second half of the season. He was in sync with Darrell Jackson for much of the year, but now that Koren Robinson and Bobby Engram are also making strides, it means Hasselbeck is a QB to crave come playoff time. This team can score quickly and often.

Anthony Wright – Wright has given the Baltimore offense a shot in the arm. His defense gives him a shot at great field position every game. Anthony has upped the production of Marcus Robinson, and he has Travis Taylor and Todd Heap to lean on too. Wright probably won’t help the team continue to post 40+ point efforts, but he is hot enough right now to keep in your starting lineup.

Quincy Carter – Quincy was making a move this year in the fantasy rankings until he had a few games in the middle where he seemed to regress. With the Cowboys’ running game taking a back seat in recent weeks, it is again Carter who is making plays happen. He has a great trio of receivers in Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant, so he can complete a big play at any time.

Tom Brady – There is no number-one wideout for the Patriots, so Brady has become terrific at spreading around the opportunities. The recent additions of Dedric Ward and J.J. Stokes are just two more targets at the right time. TE Daniel Graham is improving weekly, and the team is bound to get Troy Brown back at some point. Tom tied for the league lead in touchdown passes last year, and he is starting to add them up more quickly.

Cold Zeroes

Marc Bulger – With Marshall Faulk back, Bulger is losing passing scores to the premier runner. This is a simple case of scoring design. Bulger will still throw for touchdowns, but not at the same rate as before.

Brad Johnson – The Bucs are not going to the playoffs this year, and the loss of Keyshawn is affecting the offense. It’s great that Charles Lee is making the most of his chance to shine, but it isn’t translating into stupendous statistics for Brad, who was a top-three fantasy quarterback earlier in the year. Time to look elsewhere for the yards.

Trent Green – Kansas City is still rolling along, but Green has been struggling to connect with anyone other than Tony Gonzalez in recent weeks. Holmes, much like Faulk, is nabbing a high percentage of the scores, and unlike Faulk, Holmes runs in almost all of his touchdowns.

Steve McNair – Steve is still a true gamer, but he has fallen off his midseason touchdown pace. He has also currently battling a minor injury. There are better fantasy options right now than Steve, who nonetheless remains an MVP candidate.

Joe Levit, based in Boston, writes for and He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a devoted Detroit Lions fan. He can be contacted at