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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Watch - Week 15
Todd Gray
December 13, 2005

Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own

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1 IND Marvin Harrison Simply put, Harrison is on fire. His two touchdown catches against Jacksonville gave him a league-high 12 such scores, four TDs in three weeks and at least one TD in any given week but one since Week 5. Forget about concerns that coach Tony Dungy will begin to limit his starters now that the Colts own home field advantage – the impression here is that Harrison, Manning, James and Co. will play starter’s minutes or close to it until when/if the team loses its first game.
2 CAR Steve Smith Smith’s 103-yard performance in the Panthers’ home loss to Tampa Bay made it eight triple-digit performances this season. The league’s leader in catches (87) and yards (1,329) now faces two decent pass defenses at New Orleans in Week 15 and at home against Dallas in Week 16.
3 STL Torry Holt Holt now has double-digit catches in three of his past four games thanks to a 10-catch, 95-yard performance against the Vikings on Sunday. Home games the next two weeks against the Eagles and 49ers, respectively, make Holt arguably the most dangerous fantasy wideout in the game now that crunch time has arrived.
4 ARI Anquan Boldin QB Kurt Warner’s new favorite target hauled in nine passes for 114 yards against the Redskins to make it four straight games with at least eight catches and 105 yards. Given this team’s inability to move the ball forward unless it’s airborne at some point, Boldin’s streak may very well continue with prime matchups on the slate against Houston and Philadelphia in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively.
5 CIN Chad Johnson With seven catches and 76 yards total in his past two games, Johnson is currently winning the race for most disappointing fantasy receiver down the stretch. Fantasy owners who’ve weathered his lack of production intact should be cautiously optimistic when Bengals play at Detroit in Week 15. The Lions may be a very bad team, but they tend to defend well against the pass.
6 TAM Joey Galloway Galloway produced a rarity on Sunday: he didn’t get shut out, nor did he have a big game. Unfortunately, his something-in-between stats (4 catches, 39 yards) were on the shutout side of things. Resurgent New England looms in Week 15, but despite the Patriots’ better overall play they still rank among the league’s bottom feeders against the pass.
7 ARI Larry Fitzgerald Fitzgerald’s production has dropped since the return of Anquan Boldin four weeks ago, and things reached a low point on Sunday when he managed only four catches and a season-low 23 yards against the Redskins. Regardless of who’s top dog at wideout for the Cardinals, both receivers should get their share of chances in upcoming games against Houston (Week 15) and Philadelphia (16).
8 MIA Chris Chambers Chambers’ averages the past three games of 9.7 catches, 163.3 yards and one TD form an exaggerated illustration of what can happen when one player is a team’s only viable receiving threat. Sure, Chambers’ Moss-esque (take your pick) run of dominance may end as soon as it began, but he’s simply too hot to ignore when the Dolphins face a tough Jets pass defense on Sunday.
9 CIN T.J. Houshmandzadeh Thanks in part to lots of double-coverage on the other guy, Houshmandzadeh has been the No. 1 fantasy wideout who wears a Bengals uniform over the past month or more. Housh’s catch and TD totals for the season would most likely be on par with Johnson’s if he hadn’t missed two games to injury earlier in the campaign.
10 IND Reggie Wayne Wayne has been rather quiet of late with respectable totals of 13 catches, 193 yards and a lone TD over the past three weeks. He’s consistent, no doubt, having posted not a single true dud for fantasy owners since Week 2. Expect good things against the Chargers in Week 15.

(Note – this listing considers the rankings of WR’s if a draft was held today)

Climbing The Ladder

Jimmy Smith (JAC) – Smith owners with playoff hopes must be thrilled with what is transpiring in Jacksonville, and it’s happening just when that most important stretch of the season arrives. He’s scored in two straight games following his eight-catch, 102-yard, one-TD outing on Sunday – against the Colts, no less) – and the scheduling gods must be pleased with Smith owners because they’ve given the Jaguars matchups against the 49ers (home) and the Texans (away) in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively.

Eddie Kennison (KC) – Kennison is in the midst of another second-half binge with 15 catches for 332 yards and three touchdowns over the past four games. He’s done the same thing the past few years, never more notably than last season when he produced three 100-yard games and eight touchdowns over the Chiefs’ final eight games. He’s not that hot now, but he’s been very good nonetheless and the schedule is slightly favorable with a road date on Saturday against the Giants followed by a Week 16 home game against the Chargers.

Mark Clayton (BAL) – The Ravens have been getting the rookie Clayton more involved in the offense of late, and it shows in his stats as he’s totaled 14 catches, 191 yards and a TD the past two weeks. Those numbers roughly equal his totals in his first nine games this season, which is a bleak reminder of what the other side of the coin holds for fantasy owners who are left with no choice but to start Clayton in Week 15. Take comfort, said owners: it’s a lost season in Baltimore, meaning more touches for the promising rookie; the Ravens have upcoming home games against the Packers (Week 15) and Vikings (Week 16); and last but not least, Clayton may be the best option available on the wire in most mid-sized or larger fantasy leagues.

Sliding Back

Plaxico Burress (NYG) – Burress shot out of the gates this season with four touchdowns in his first four games, but he’s managed only two trips to the end zone in nine games since. Early in the season, the Giants were scoring 23 points on bad days, yet over the past six weeks that’s just about what they’re averaging per outing. Not to mention, early in the campaign QB Eli Manning wasn’t routinely posting sub-70 QB ratings. Most Burress owners will have little choice but to start him against the Chiefs on Saturday, but if his production is weak once again, his “automatic start” status will be kaput by the time the Giants play in Washington in Week 16.

Donald Driver (GB) – Green Bay seems determined to ride rookie RB Samkon Gado as far as he’ll take them, which eases what had become a tremendous burden earlier in the season for QB Brett Favre and the rest of the Packers offense. That doesn’t spell good things for Driver owners who had come to rely on his steady production throughout much of the season, nor do upcoming dates against the Ravens and Bears in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively.

Antonio Bryant (CLE) – Bryant held his own as a serviceable No. 3 receiver in many fantasy leagues for much of this season before his production took a turn for the worst four weeks ago. Since then, he’s produced only 12 catches for 187 yards and zero TDs in four games. Meanwhile, there’s a rookie QB at the helm (Charlie Frye), albeit one who has performed well in his first two starts. Count on Bryant as a No. 3 wideout at best in deeper leagues only when the Browns play at Oakland on Sunday.