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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Report - Week 12
Todd Gray
November 21, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own Comment
1 CAR Steve Smith Smith put a scare into fantasy owners when he was helped off the field after apparently injuring his left shoulder early in the second half of Sunday’s game against St. Louis, but he returned and finished with four catches, 90 yards and one touchdown in the Panthers’ 15-0 win.  Smith isn’t the hottest receiver right now, but he’s been the best since returning from his hamstring injury in Week 3.  Week 11 opponent Washington fields arguably the worst pass defense in the league.  The Redskins have allowed 20 passing touchdowns in 10 games and 237.6 passing yards per outing.
2 HOU Andre Johnson Johnson caught six passes for 76 yards in the Texans’ 24-21 loss to Buffalo, but he went scoreless for the third straight week – his longest such streak of the season.  He also bruised a thigh on Sunday, though the injury is apparently minor.  The Texans face a pair of solid defenses on the road over the next two weeks starting on Sunday with the New York Jets and on Dec. 3 against Oakland.  That’s no reason to leave Johnson out of fantasy lineups, but enough to believe that he’ll be hard-pressed to contribute top-tier WR numbers over that stretch of time.
3 IND Reggie Wayne Wayne continues to be one of the most consistent upper-tier wide receivers in the NFL following his seven-catch, 111-yard, one-TD performance in the Colts’ 21-14 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday.  Indianapolis will host a new-look Philadelphia team on Sunday that will be without QB Donovan McNabb (torn ACL), but with a pretty good defense against the pass.  Nevertheless, less McNabb for the Eagles will most likely translate into more time on offense for the Colts, who should rebound in a big way from their Week 11 loss to Dallas.
4 CIN Chad Johnson It’s taken only two weeks for Johnson to go from being one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2006 to being the No. 1 overall WR in most fantasy formats.  His two-week totals (17 catches, 450 yards, five TDs) rank as one of the most gluttonous fantasy binges ever and they surpass his yardage and TD totals in his first eight games combined.  There remains more than a trace of doubt that Johnson won’t slip back into his six-catch, 70-something-yard early season form, especially when considering a season-ending stretch of opponents that includes (in order) Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland, Indianapolis, Denver and Pittsburgh.
5 DAL Terrell Owens Owens had a quiet day against the Colts with only four catches and 70 yards, and he failed to score for only the second time in six games.  Week 12 opponent Tampa Bay may be ripe for the picking – the Buccaneers have allowed two or more passing touchdowns in three consecutive games.
6 SEA Darrell Jackson Jackson doesn’t often post huge fantasy totals, but rarely does a week go by in which he doesn’t find his way into the end zone.  His four-catch, 77-yard performance in the Seahawks’ loss to San Francisco on Sunday gave him one or more touchdowns in seven of 10 games this season, and he now leads the NFL with eight TD catches.  Jackson has been one of the best value picks in fantasy play given his downgraded preseason value due to concerns about his knee.  He should have little trouble adding to his 2006 resume when the Seahawks host Green Bay on Monday night.
7 NO Marques Colston Colston sprained his ankle early in the Saints’ loss to the Bengals on Sunday and had to be carted off the field.  Early reports are that he is day-to-day with a high ankle sprain, which places his availability for the Saints’ game at Atlanta on Sunday in question.  It’s not too much of a stretch to state that just about any WR who QB Drew Brees throws to turns into fantasy gold, so Colston owners should rush to grab Saints backup WR Devery Henderson (nine catches, 169 yards on Sunday) as a solid Plan B if Colston is forced to sit out.
8 STL Torry Holt Holt has now gone four straight weeks without generating at least 75 receiving yards or a single touchdown.  The Rams’ offensive line is a mess and the team hasn’t won a game since October 15, but there is at least a glimmer of hope: the Rams host San Francisco and Arizona in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively.
9 IND Marvin Harrison Harrison posted nice numbers against Dallas on Sunday, but once again fantasy owners were left to gaze across the proverbial aisle at the Colts’ “No. 2” wideout, Reggie Wayne.  Week 12 opponent Philadelphia has allowed only one touchdown pass over the past four games, but the Colts and Eagles are two teams heading in opposite directions.
10 DEN Javon Walker Walker’s four catches and 68 yards against the Chargers represented arguably his weakest output since Week 1, and it had more than a little to do with Denver’s ability to re-establish its running game.  The Broncos get resume play on Thursday at division rival Kansas City.  The Chiefs have allowed only two passing touchdowns in the team’s past three games. 

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

Climbing The Ladder

Devery Henderson (NO) – Henderson was a hot sleeper pick against Pittsburgh in Week 10 play thanks to his three-catch, 111-yard, two-TD coming out party in Week 9, but he was shut out against the Steelers and fantasy owners jumped off his bandwagon as fast as they got on it in the first place.  On Sunday, the fantasy world stood around and watched as Henderson had his second big game in three weeks (nine catches, 169 yards) due largely to a high ankle sprain suffered by WR Marques Colston early in the contest.  Henderson will rarely be fantasy-relevant in games in which the Saints’ top two receivers, Colston and Joe Horn, are healthy, but that’s been an uncommon occurrence of late.  Colston owners not fortunate enough to snap Henderson off the waiver wire may even consider Terrance Copper (12 catches, 179 yards, two TDs the past two weeks) as a plug-in in the No. 3 hole when the Saints play face the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday.

Mark Clayton (BAL) – Clayton turned in his third straight strong performance and his fourth in five games on Sunday with five catches and 89 yards in the Ravens’ 24-10 defeat of Atlanta.  His to-date totals of 46 catches, 591 yards and three touchdowns now surpass his 16-game totals as a rookie in 2005 (44-471-2), and he’s becoming the No. 1 receiving option on a Ravens’ squad that includes the long-time pitch-and-catch combo of QB Steve McNair and WR Derrick Mason.  Clayton is a solid-if-not-spectacular option as a low-tier No. 2/upper-tier No. 3 wideout when the Ravens host resurgent Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Braylon Edwards (CLE) – Edwards’ seven-catch, 137-yard performance against Pittsburgh on Sunday was his first 100-yard game since September 24 – a span of seven games.  Nonetheless, he’s now scored a touchdown or hit the century mark in yardage for three weeks straight.  Edwards isn’t a wide receiver who can be trusted on a weekly basis, but he makes a strong fantasy option on Sunday when the Browns face a Cincinnati defense that has allowed more yards per game (254.4) than any team in the NFL, in addition to 15 TD passes allowed in 10 games.

Sliding Back

Donte’ Stallworth (PHI) – Stallworth’s value takes an immediate hit due to the torn ACL suffered by QB Donovan McNabb against Tennessee on Sunday.  Enter either backup QB Jeff Garcia or Jay Feeley, one of whom will be announced as the Eagles’ new starting QB on Wednesday.  Stallworth is the Eagles’ primary deep threat, yet neither Garcia nor Feeley have deep-threat arms.  No. 2 WR Reggie Brown’s value suffers, as well, though given his recent production (four catches, 62 yards total in the past three games), that’s a moot point.  Fantasy owners should start either receiver at their own risk against Indianapolis on Sunday.  The Colts are due for a rebound game following the team’s first loss of the season on Sunday.

Brian Berrian (CHI) – Berrian (ribs) felt good enough to play on Sunday after sitting out the Bears’ Week 10 game against the Giants, but you wouldn’t know it from the box score (zero catches).  Meanwhile, backup WR Mark Bradley had four catches, 80 yards and one TD for his second big week in a row and it appears that he’ll take a handful of looks away from Berrian on a weekly basis.  Berrian was a fantasy godsend in the season’s first five weeks, but since that time he’s caught only eight passes for 83 yards and zero touchdowns in the four games in which he hasn’t been injured.  The Bears finish a tough three-game road stretch on Sunday with a matchup against New England, leaving little doubt that Berrian should be kept on the bench in fantasy play against one of the NFL’s best defenses against the pass.

T.J. Housmandzadeh (CIN) – Housh’s two catches and 15 yards in Cincinnati’s win over New Orleans on Sunday is not cause for panic.  After all, the Bengals No. 2 wideout was the team’s top fantasy WR through the first nine weeks of the season.  Regardless, WR Chad Johnson has re-established himself in a big way as QB Carson Palmer’s favorite target, and the Bengals finish the season with an absolutely brutal stretch of games that includes Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland, Indianapolis, Denver and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks.