Obvious Acquisitions: Kurt Warner and Steve McNair
1. Brad Johnson, Vikings
Over the last few weeks, journeyman QB Brad Johnson has made Vikings owners forget about Daunte Culpepper. Johnson, who has led his team to four straight wins, is still available in nearly 40 percent of fantasy leagues on CBS Sportsline. He’s coming off a game in which he threw three touchdowns. A meeting this week against the bumbling, stumbling, crumbling Detroit Lions and the following week against St. Louis have Johnson poised for more excellent performances. Next opponent: @ Detroit.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rams
Fitzpatrick, an Ivy League product, stepped in for the injured Jamie Martin (head) in Sunday’s barnburner against the Texans. Three touchdowns and 310 yards later, he has likely sealed up the opportunity to start his first NFL game this week against the Redskins. While a repeat performance is not likely, Fitzpatrick could post nice stats for the remainder of the 2005 season. He has one of the better receiving units in the NFL at his disposal and will benefit from having his blindside protected by Orlando Pace. Next opponent: vs. Washington.
One Week Wonders: Gus Frerotte
Obvious Acquisitions: TJ Duckett, Samkon Gado, and Greg Jones
1. Patrick Pass , Patriots
A sexy match-up this week against the 30th ranked defense of the New York Jets is enough to make Patrick Pass this week’s top Free Agent Forecast recommendation. Pass led all New England running backs in Week 12 with eight carries in a game the Patriots were playing from behind. He added a touchdown run. If Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk rest again this week, Pass figures to have a good afternoon. He is an excellent play if your only goal is to spoil the playoff hopes of one of your league mates. One hundred yards and a touchdown are not out of the realm of possibility. Next opponent: vs. Jets.
2. Mike Alstott, Buccaneers
The original A-Train has scored five touchdowns in the last four games. While it’s tough to rely on a running back who only sees duty in short yardage and goal line situations, Alstott’s consistency has been remarkable. Right now he’s a better play than guys like Kevin Jones and Stephen Davis. A game this week against the New Orleans Saints should provide a least a couple goal line opportunities for Alstott. Acquire and start him with confidence. Next opponent: @ New Orleans.
3. Ron Dayne, Broncos
Even Dayne’s harshest critics have to give him credit for an inspired performance on Thanksgiving Day. The former Heisman Trophy winner was activated because Tatum Bell was sidelined with a chest injury. He carried the ball seven times for 98 yards, including a 55-yard scamper in overtime that set up a game-winning Jason Elam chip shot. The status of Bell is up in the air, but with Denver’s strong record, head coach Mike Shanahan may not be compelled to rush him back into the lineup. It’s also worth noting that Dayne could be a nice pickup in keeper and dynasty leagues since he’ll become a free agent this offseason. Next opponent: @ Kansas City.
4. Shawn Bryson, Lions
Lions starting running back Kevin Jones suffered a quad injury in the first quarter of Thursday’s blowout loss to the Falcons. His status for Week 13 is unclear. If he sits, Bryson will likely get the start and split carries with Artose Pinner. It’s not an ideal situation for fantasy owners, but there are worse options. If you’re desperate, give Bryson a look because he catches a lot of passes—in fact he leads the Lions in receptions—and his versatility could propel him to some decent all-purpose yardage. Next opponent: vs. Minnesota.
One Week Wonders: Rock Cartwright and Travis Henry
Obvious Acquisitions: Andre Johnson, Amani Toomer, and Joe Jurevicius
1. Chris Henry, Bengals
It’s rare to find a #3 wide receiver who can be relied upon for decent fantasy statistics week in and week out. Brandon Stokley was that type of player in 2004. Az-Zahir Hakim was trustworthy as a #3 WR in the hey-day of the Rams. In 2005, Cincinnati rookie wideout Chris Henry is starting to carve out a name for himself despite playing third fiddle to Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh. Henry has strung together three straight games with a touchdown. All told, he has five touchdowns this year. While the quantity of receptions isn’t great, Henry typically gets at least one or two deep looks per game. He will provide excellent depth for any fantasy squad and is one to watch for future years. Next opponent: @ Pittsburgh.
2. Marcus Robinson, Vikings
Robinson was billed as a strong acquisition here a few weeks ago after he hooked up with Brad Johnson for 77 yards and a touchdown in Johnson’s first week of action. However, the connection fizzled out soon thereafter—Robinson only had three receptions between Weeks 9 and 11. But on Sunday the duo once again got on the same page, hooking up for three touchdowns. Robinson’s streaky nature makes him a high-risk, high-reward play … perfect for fantasy teams that are playing the role of spoiler. Next opponent: @ Detroit.
3. Eric Parker, Chargers
With Antonio Gates playing at less than 100 percent over the last two weeks, Eric Parker has elevated his game. In that span, the fourth year receiver has averaged 97 total yards per game, scoring once. Parker may well continue his hot streak this week against the division rival Raiders. Oakland was picked apart by Gus Frerotte and the Miami Dolphins last week. In 2004, Parker had a solid game in the meeting versus the Raiders in San Diego, catching six balls for 91 yards. Next opponent: vs. Oakland.
4. Sammie Parker, Chiefs
Parker has quietly strung together back-to-back solid fantasy performances. He scored a touchdown in Week 11 against the Texans and followed it up with a 76-yard effort against the Patriots on Sunday. The Chiefs passing offense has been more efficient in the last two weeks. Trent Green and company have scored four touchdowns through the air in that period. The last time the Chiefs faced this week’s opponent, the Denver Broncos, Parker caught a touchdown pass. Use him as a #3 WR or flex player against the 28th ranked pass defense of the Denver Broncos. Next opponent: vs. Denver.
One Week Wonders: Roydell Williams, Jerricho Cotchery, and Bryan Gilmore
Obvious Acquisitions: None
1. Zack Hilton, Saints
Recommended here last week, Hilton followed up a big performance in Week 11 with another solid outing on Sunday night against the Jets. Hilton caught three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. In all likelihood, he will be the last good long-term tight end prospect available on your waiver wire for the remainder of the 2005 season. If you’re in a TE mandatory league and have been struggling at the position of late, acquiring Hilton should be priority number one. Next opponent: vs. Tampa.
2. Bryan Fletcher, Colts
Fantasy owners are well aware of Indianapolis’ top TE Dallas Clark, but it has been rookie Bryan Fletcher who has been making waves of late. Fletcher, the brother of former San Diego running back Terrell Fletcher, has scored touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He’s clearly beginning to earn the trust of QB Peyton Manning. At 6-5, Fletcher is the biggest target on the Colts roster and represents an excellent redzone target. If you’re preparing for a playoff run and need a backup TE, Fletcher deserves more than a passing glance. Next opponent: vs. Tennessee.
One Week Wonder: Courtney Anderson
Obvious Acquisitions: Jacksonville Jaguars
1. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota’s roller coaster ride of a season is on an incline for the moment. While I’ve suggested owners stay away from the Vikings defense previously, I’m shifting gears this week and recommending them this week against the Lions. Detroit is a team in turmoil. In Week 11, they used three different quarterbacks, who were sacked a total five times. Despite all their weapons, the Motor City Kitties have scored just seven points in each of the last two games. Meanwhile, the Vikings are playing well as a defensive unit, registering five interceptions and seven sacks in the last two weeks. More importantly for owners who play in a league that penalizes for points allowed, Minnesota has held opponents to fewer than 20 points three of the last four games. Next opponent: @ Detroit.
One Week Wonders: Kansas City Chiefs