| Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own
||Smith’s five catches for 34 yards in the Panthers’ 17-13 loss to Washington represented his worst cumulative output of the season in those categories, but he added his third touchdown in three games with an eight-yard TD score late in the contest. It’d be easy to plug WR Chad Johnson into this spot given Johnson’s recent play, but the bet here is that Smith’s week-in, week-out consistency earns him the top spot over the long haul. Week 13 opponent Philadelphia has allowed nine touchdowns during its two-game losing streak, but only two of those scores have come via the pass.
||Johnson has caught nine or more passes in six of 11 games following his 10-catch, 98-yard, one-TD performance against the Jets. He now leads the league with 84 catches – 16 more than No. 2 Laveranues Coles (68). It makes for an interesting matchup on Sunday when the Texans play at Oakland. The Raiders allow the fewest number of completions per game (15.6) and fewer yards per game (156.5) than any team in the NFL.
||Johnson has been just okay the past three weeks with totals of 24 receptions, 573 yards and five touchdowns – only one of the best three-game stretches in NFL history. On Sunday, he’ll have the opportunity to continue his act against a Baltimore squad that just pummeled the hapless Steelers. The Ravens have the NFL’s second-best interception-to-pass-TD ratios (20/10), and those 20 picks lead the league. It doesn’t get much easier for the Bengals after that with games versus Oakland, at Indianapolis, at Denver and versus Pittsburgh to wrap up the season.
||Wayne scored for the third time in three weeks and is now tied for the NFL lead with eight touchdowns to go with his 916 yards (fourth-highest in the league). Indianapolis had to come from behind at home in Week 5 to beat Week 13 opponent Tennessee, and the Colts will face the Titans on the road on Sunday. Tennessee may field one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses, but the Titans have improved of late by allowing only two TDs against the pass with three interceptions in consecutive wins over Philadelphia and the New York Giants.
||It’s hard to believe that Owens’ 107 yards against Tampa Bay last Thursday tied his season-high, but what he’s lacked in explosiveness fantasy-wise, he’s made up for in consistency. Dallas hosts crumbling division rival the New York Giants on Sunday. The Giants have allowed 15 passing touchdowns in 11 games and 88 points in their past three outings, stats that bode well for another productive game for Owens.
||Jackson caught only two passes for 20 yards in the Seahawks’ 34-24 defeat of Green Bay on Monday night, but his four-yard touchdown catch gave him an NFL-high nine through 11 games. All seems to be well again in Seattle with RB Shaun Alexander running like a horse, QB Matt Hasselbeck once again at the helm and with an upcoming schedule that softens after Seattle plays at Denver on Sunday. The eight passing touchdowns allowed by the Broncos is the second-best mark in the league.
||Easily overlooked in another miserable day for Detroit was Williams’ six catches and 126 yards – most of it in the first quarter – in the Lions’ 27-10 loss at the hands of Miami on Thursday. He’s already surpassed his career-high in yards with 993 through only 11 games, but he’ll be hard-pressed to add to that mark when the Lions play at New England on Sunday. The Patriots have allowed an NFL-low seven touchdown passes, including a single passing score over the past three games.
||Colston (ankle) probably could have played on Sunday – and many fantasy owners thought that he would – but head coach Sean Payton didn’t want to risk a setback to his star rookie wideout. Oddly enough, fantasy owners savvy enough to snag either backup Terrance Copper or Devery Henderson when Colston was injured in Week 11 have barely missed a beat. Colston will likely play against San Francisco on Sunday, but his fantasy owners would be wise to monitor his progress closely.
||Holt hasn’t exceeded seven catches or 73 yards in five straight games, and he hasn’t scored in that span, either. This is after averaging 6.2 catches and 87.7 yards along with seven touchdowns in the Rams’ first six games. If Holt, QB Marc Bulger, the Rams’ offensive line, etc. are going to exit their offensive funk, few teams will provide a better opportunity to do so than Week 13 opponent Arizona.
||Walker’s stats have been rather flat the past three weeks, but few wideouts have produced better overall numbers than his 51 catches, 854 yards and six touchdowns through 11 games. He’s done it in spite of the so-so play of QB Jake Plummer, near-constant double-teams and an inconsistent running game. Now word is that head coach Mike Shanahan will replace Plummer with strong-armed rookie Jay Cutler, and that can hardly mean bad things for Walker’s production. Cutler will cut his teeth in the NFL against a season-ending string of opponents all ranked in the middle of the pack or worse against the pass, starting with a home game against Seattle on Sunday.
(Note – this listing considers the rankings of WR’s if a draft was held today)
Climbing The Ladder
Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin (ARI) – It’s almost hard to believe how bad things became for this offense over the past month-and-a-half – not that things are good now. Nevertheless, it was nice to see the NFL’s former most dangerous WR tandem light it up just like in the good ol’ days. Fitzgerald (hamstring) finally looked like his pre-injury self, grabbing 11 passes for 172 yards – his first 100-yard game since Week 1. Boldin had nine catches of his own for 140 yards and his first touchdown in five games. It’s too early to count on either of these guys to again produce like No. 1 fantasy wideouts, but both are must-starts when the Cardinals play at St. Louis on Sunday.
Laveranues Coles (NYJ) – Coles virtually fell off the fantasy radar in Weeks 7 through 10, but he rebounded with 17 catches, 191 yards and a touchdown total in his past two games. QB Chad Pennington had his first good game in a month – not coincidentally once the competition softened considerably. Said competition remains rather week in Week 13 when the Jets square off against the Packers in Green Bay. The Packers’ 21 passing TDs allowed is tied for the worst mark in the NFL, and the team’s 233.6 passing yards allowed per game places them 29th in the league.
Plaxico Burress (NYG) – Burress continues to produce quality fantasy numbers, but his production has trended downward during the Giants’ three-game slide. He scored for the second straight game in the team’s come-from-ahead loss to Tennessee on Sunday, but he’s totaled only 13 catches and 157 yards otherwise over the past three weeks and QB Eli Manning and the Giants offense seem ready to implode. The Giants’ remaining schedule isn’t kind, either, with a string of games starting on Sunday against Dallas (home), Carolina (away), Philadelphia (home) and New Orleans (home) – four teams ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in pass defense.
Marvin Harrison (IND) – Harrison continues to alternate good fantasy performances with bad ones, and the bad ones hit rock bottom on Sunday when he had a single catch for eight yards in the Colts’ 45-21 pummeling of Philadelphia. For the record, Harrison totaled 21 catches, 412 yards and four touchdowns in the odd Weeks 7, 9 and 11; and he’s managed only eight catches, 67 yards and zero touchdowns total in the even Weeks 8, 10 and 12. It’s not necessarily a reliable trend, but it doesn’t hurt matters that Week 13 lies ahead. A more reliable trend is that Harrison has averaged 7.4 catches and 99.6 yards with four touchdowns in his past five games against Week 13 opponent Tennessee. Despite all of the positives, Harrison owners must continue to grow accustomed to his status as QB Peyton Manning’s No. 2 receiving option on more weeks than not.
Hines Ward (PIT) – Surprise! Ward went from aggravating his knee injury during the Steelers’ loss to Baltimore on Sunday to having knee surgery on Monday. He had contributed as a No. 1 fantasy WR for six straight weeks until his four-catch, 33-yard outing against the Ravens, but now fantasy owners will have to wait at least a week or two before regaining his services. In the meantime, owners in a pinch much decide who among Cedrick Wilson, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington will benefit most from Ward’s absence. Wilson becomes the Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver (in title only, perhaps), Holmes should slide into the No. 2 spot, and No. 3 WR Washington equaled or bettered the catch and yardage totals of both teammates in the Steelers’ loss to the Ravens. Holmes has been the best of the bunch of late with 16 catches, 221 yards and one touchdown in his past four games, and that production should spike upward a bit when the Steelers host Tampa Bay on Sunday.