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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 16
Paul Sandy
December 20, 2005

QUARTERBACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Matt Hasselbeck

1. Josh McCown, Cardinals

Kurt Warner will miss the remainder of the 2005 season with a knee injury. I expect Josh McCown to get the starting nod. Since the Cardinals throw more than any team in the NFL, McCown is a shoo-in for decent stats for the final two games regardless of the opponent. He was outstanding in two of his three starts this year, approaching 400 yards passing in Weeks 4 and 5. Don’t let the fact that third-stringer John Navarre played extensively this week concern you too much. McCown was reportedly ill before kickoff and was too weak to finish the game. He is a decent start in all fantasy league formats. Next opponent: vs. Philadelphia.

One Week Wonders: Brooks Bollinger

RUNNING BACKS

Obvious Acquisitions: Ryan Moats and Cedric Houston

1. Dominic Rhodes, Colts

The undefeated streak came to an end for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15. With the loss to the Chargers, many of the starters (particularly Edgerrin James) will be on the bench by halftime of this week’s game. That means backup Dominic Rhodes will get plenty of opportunities to touch the football, perhaps as many as 20 per game. If you were planning on starting James this week, monitor the comments by head coach Tony Dungy on the matter. If it looks like James will rest, don’t be afraid to use Rhodes as a replacement. He should put up some decent stats even though he’ll face a solid Seahawks run defense. Next opponent: @ Seattle.

2. Jonathan Wells, Texans

About an hour before kickoff, Jonathan Wells received word that he was going to start Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. The pregame workout made it clear Domanick Davis’ knee wasn’t healthy enough. Wells carried the ball 28 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns. This week’s match-up against the Jaguars isn’t particularly attractive, but you could do worse than Wells. He scored four touchdowns in the three games he started this season while Davis was injured. If Wells gets the nod in Week 16, he should be good for 70-80 all-purpose yards and a score. Next opponent: versus Jacksonville.

3. Frank Gore, 49ers

Gore was essentially the only offensive weapon that wasn’t a dud for the 49ers on Sunday. He accounted for 136 of San Francisco’s 217 yards — 63% of the offense. I’ve recommended the rookie on a couple different occasions this year, including last week. He should be an excellent fantasy player in Week 16 if starter Kevan Barlow rests his knee again. The 49ers will face the St. Louis Rams, a team that ranks 29th in the NFL versus the run. Gore is auditioning for the starting job next season and will be running with plenty of intensity. Don’t be afraid to use him as a stop gap if your regular starter was injured or will rest this week. Next opponent: @ St. Louis.

4. Marshall Faulk, Rams

It’s fitting that Marshall Faulk is posting some nice stats in what could be the final few games of his career. Faulk, one of the all-time fantasy greats, stepped in for Steven Jackson, who suffered a hip pointer during the Rams Week 15 game against the Eagles. Faulk actually looked pretty spry, accounting for 108 total yards despite playing in an offense that never got untracked. Jackson’s injury isn’t considered serious (in fact he returned to the game in the second half), but if you are counting on him for your fantasy championship, grab Faulk for insurance. Whichever running back starts should post exceptional stats against the 49ers. Next opponent: versus San Francisco.

One Week Wonders: Michael Turner

WIDE RECEIVERS

Obvious Acquisitions: Darrell Jackson, Drew Bennett, and Amani Toomer

1. David Givens, Patriots

Givens, who is available in about 50% of CBS Sportsline leagues, returned to fantasy prominence this week after missing several games with a leg injury. He recorded six receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. Anyone who saw New England dismantle the Buccaneers on Saturday recognizes that the Patriots are starting to have that look again. Grab Givens of your waiver wire this week. While the way QB Tom Brady spreads the ball around makes starting any Patriots wideout a risky proposition, Givens is an excellent backup and a serviceable #3 WR or flex player. Next opponent: @ New York Jets.

2. Brandon Stokley, Colts

Reports out of Indy indicate Marvin Harrison injured his hand early in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. While the injury is minor and Harrison continued to play with it, the Colts will likely want to protect their most valuable receiver for the playoffs. If Harrison starts, expect him to be on the bench after a few series. Stokley would then become a big part of the Indianapolis offense in a game that has the potential for 50+ combined points to be scored. Although he hasn’t been much of a factor in 2005, at least compared to last season, Stokley’s dip in production can be attributed to the Colts using more two tight end formations. Look for him to have his best production of the year on Sunday. Next opponent: @ Seattle.

3. Mark Clayton, Ravens

Clayton was the top WR recommendation here last week and lived up to the expectations, scoring a touchdown for the second straight week. The rookie has now posted three nice games in a row. The Ravens are looking ahead to next year and want to see if Kyle Boller has any future with the team. As a result, look for them to throw more than usual. Clayton has earned a roster spot in leagues of all sizes and, though the idea of starting a Ravens receiver may not thrill you, he can be used if you’re in a pinch.

One Week Wonders: Charles Rogers and Kelley Washington

TIGHT ENDS

Obvious Acquisitions: Ben Troupe

1. Doug Jolley, Jets

Any time a tight end racks up 100+ yards it’s noteworthy. Jolley, whose previous best game this season was 62 yards back in Week 12, caught nine passes against the Dolphins for 102 yards and a score. It’s tempting to write Jolley off as a one week wonder. And with only two games remaining in the 2005 campaign, he may very well fizzle out. However, Jolley was productive during his tenure as the starter in Oakland and is a good TE. With little else going right for the Jets, QB Brooks Bollinger may continue to lean on Jolley. At the very least, he’s a player to remember for the 2006 season. Next opponent: versus New England.

One Week Wonders: None

TEAM DEFENSE

Obvious Acquisitions: Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots

1. New Orleans Saints

With all the turmoil they’ve experienced, the Saints would probably like to forget about the 2005 season. But fantasy owners shouldn’t forget about the Saints defense. New Orleans will face the ramshackle Detroit Lions. Regardless of which QB is under center for the Lions, the team continues to struggle. More importantly, they don’t score many points. In fact, Detroit hasn’t scored 20 points in five weeks. New Orleans should have little trouble extending that streak in what could be the last NFL game played in Louisiana for a while. Next opponent: versus Detroit.

One Week Wonders: Cleveland Browns