Obvious Acquisitions: Brad Johnson
1. Charlie Frye, Browns
Frye was solid in his first NFL start—against the Jacksonville Jaguars no less, one of the NFL’s top pass defenses. He connected with fellow rookie Braylon Edwards on two touchdown passes and amassed 226 yards through the air. With the Browns out of playoff contention and Trent Dilfer wallowing in mediocrity, head coach Romeo Crennel might be compelled to give his protégé QB more starts. Acquire him for long-term depth if you participate in a dynasty league or deep keeper league. Next opponent: @ Cincinnati.
One Week Wonders: Sage Rosenfels
Obvious Acquisitions: Samkon Gado and Greg Jones
1. . Michael Bennett, Vikings
After Mewelde Moore injured his ankle on a kickoff return, Bennett proceeded to gut the Lions defense for the second time in five weeks. On the day, he totaled 89 yards and two touchdowns. (This despite the fact that the Vikings offensive line was outplayed by the Lions front four throughout much of the game.) Moore is quickly making a name for himself as being fragile or injury prone. If he sits out this week, Bennett could be worth a token start, especially considering Minnesota will square off a Rams defense that ranks 30th in the NFL against the run. Next opponent: vs. St. Louis. Next opponent: vs. St. Louis.
2. Kevin Faulk, Patriots
Faulk was recommended here a couple weeks ago in anticipation of his return from a knee injury he sustained during the preseason. He finally was activated on Sunday against the Jets and immediately made an impact, piling up 81 total yards on 14 touches. It was just another day at the office for the versatile Faulk. If your team is desperate for a running back this week, Faulk should be near the top of your list of potential acquisitions. A match-up against the 31st ranked defense of the Bills should yield a minimum of 70-80 all-purpose yards for Faulk. Next opponent: @ Buffalo.
3. Frank Gore, 49ers
Gore was listed as questionable entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals with a hip injury but, alas, he suited up. While his numbers weren’t huge (53 all-purpose yards), Gore could see more touches in the coming weeks. Kevan Barlow is battling a knee injury and the 49ers are clearly looking ahead to next year. They may give Gore an increased workload to see if he’s capable of being a workhorse-type running back. Add him to your roster if you were counting on Barlow or if you play in a keeper or dynasty league. Next opponent: @ Seattle.
4. Artose Pinner, Lions
With Kevin Jones resting his sore quadriceps, Artose Pinner assumed the starting duties in Week 13. He posted a more than respectable 103 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Monitor the status of Jones. It’s unlikely that Detroit, a team that has been eliminated from the playoffs, will risk further injury to a franchise running back if he’s not 100%. While it’d be folly to plug Pinner into your starting lineup—especially considering the state of the Lions—he could provide nice roster depth for the playoffs. Next opponent: @ Green Bay.
One Week Wonders: Rock Cartwright
Obvious Acquisitions: Bobby Engram
1. Koren Robinson, Vikings
Robinson finally had the break-out game fantasy owners had been waiting for since the once-troubled receiver was signed by the Vikings. He connected with QB Brad Johnson on two big plays that Johnson had apparently drawn up in the huddle—positioning Robinson like a pawn by telling him things like “run to the cameraman in the red vest”. The schoolyard tactics worked and Robinson finished the game with 148 yards and a touchdown. More fireworks could be on the horizon as the regular season draws to a close. Start him this week against a Rams defense that can’t stop anyone. Next opponent: vs. St. Louis.
2. Lee Evans, Bills
Evans was touted here a couple weeks ago after J.P. Losman re-emerged as Buffalo’s starting quarterback. When Losman is under center, Evans is clearly the favorite target. (Eric Moulds didn’t have a single reception in Week 13.) The second-year wideout caught five passes for 117 yards and three touchdowns. According to CBS Sportsline, Evans is still available in 43 percent of fantasy leagues. He can be relied upon as a #3 receiver for your playoff run depending on the match-up, but has the most value in keeper and dynasty leagues because Moulds could be released next season due to a high salary cap number. Next opponent: @ New England.
3. Darrell Jackson, Seahawks
Jackson, who has missed a significant amount of time due to a knee injury, could return to action this week against the 49ers. He is still available in over 25 percent of leagues and could still make an impact before all is said and done. San Francisco is currently dead last in pass defense and is particularly bad when they’re on the road, as they will be this week. Monitor Jackson’s status. If he plays, he’s a high-risk, high-reward player that could give your team the boost it needs to pull off an upset. Next opponent: vs. San Francisco.
4. Eric Parker, Chargers
Parker was targeted by the Forecast last week and has now produced three straight weeks in a row. He has two touchdowns in the last three games and has become an important component of the San Diego offense. I certainly wouldn’t want to count on Parker as a starter on my playoff squad; however, he is a solid play for teams that are just trying to get by. He should fare well against a Miami Dolphins defense that was burned time and time again by the aforementioned Lee Evans. Next opponent: vs. Miami.
One Week Wonders: Michael Clayton, Quincy Morgan, and Braylon Edwards (inj.)
Obvious Acquisitions: Zack Hilton
1. Bryan Fletcher, Colts
I highlighted Fletcher as a promising acquisition last week and he met all expectations. The rookie tight end has touchdown receptions in three straight weeks. While he hasn’t been racking up the quantity of catches that you might prefer from your starting tight end, Fletcher’s consistency in the red zone cannot be ignored. At the very least you can count on him as an excellent backup TE. At most, use him when the match-up is favorable. Next opponent: @ Jacksonville.
One Week Wonder: None
1. Nick Novack, Cardinals
The Forecast rarely recommends kickers, but I’m obliged to single out Arizona kicker Nick Novack as a strong free agent pickup this week. Novack filled in admirably for Neil Rackers, who injured his calf in Thursday’s practice. After booting three field goals, it became apparent that the Cardinals offense generates a lot of scoring opportunities for any kicker—not just Rackers. If your fantasy squad is gearing up for the playoffs and you’ve been relying on a kicker who’s struggling (ala Jay Feeley), snatch up Novack and ride him. Rackers is expected to miss the next at least a couple more games. Next opponent: vs. Washington.
Obvious Acquisitions: Seattle Seahawks
1. Green Bay Packers
The Packers defense has been a pleasant surprise in 2005, considering entering the season most considered them to be the laughingstock of the league. The Green Bay defense has single-handedly kept the team in most games, including last week when they held Bears QB Kyle Orton to just 68 yards passing. They’re now ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass. Because they’ve overachieved, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see defensive coordinator Jim Bates land a head coaching job next year. This week Bates’ squad will square off against a Detroit Lions team that is in disarray. Look for the Packers to chalk up a win with a big contribution from the defense. If your team is playing spoiler this week, the Packers could be a nice surprise. Next opponent: vs. Detroit.
One Week Wonders: New England Patriots