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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Report - Week 14
Todd Gray
December 5, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own Comment
1 CAR Steve Smith Smith scored a touchdown for the fourth straight week in the Panthers’ 27-24 loss to the Eagles on Monday night, but his catch and yardage totals have been anything but Smithesque over the past month.  A generally favorable schedule over the last few weeks of the season kicks off when the Panthers host the reeling New York Giants on Sunday.
2 CIN Chad Johnson Johnson returned to Earth in Cincinnati’s 13-7 home win against Baltimore, but that was good enough for eight catches and 91 yards against a normally steadfast Ravens’ defense.  The Bengals’ brutal stretch of games to close the regular season continues when the team hosts Oakland on Sunday.  The Raiders have allowed an NFL-low 143.0 passing yards per game, including a ridiculous -5 net passing yards to Houston on Sunday.
3 DAL Terrell Owens Owens remains arguably the most consistent upper-tier fantasy wideout over the past two months following his eight-catch, 84-yard performance in the Cowboys’ 23-20 defeat of the Giants on Sunday.  Expect sufficient numbers when the Cowboys host New Orleans on Sunday in a meeting between two of the league’s hottest offenses.
4 IND Reggie Wayne Wayne’s three catches and 57 yards in the Colts’ 20-17 loss to the Titans on Sunday represented season-low totals, but after six strong weeks in a row he gets a mulligan.  Or two, perhaps: Week 14 opponent Jacksonville has allowed only three passing TDs against 13 interceptions in six home games this season.  To make matters worse, Wayne has averaged only three catches and 46 yards with zero TDs in his past five games against the Jags.
5 HOU Andre Johnson Johnson’s one-catch, nine-yard performance was actually pretty good considering that the Texans finished the game with negative five passing yards.  But then, it’s hard to buy into that silver lining if you’re a Johnson owner.  Week 14 opponent Tennessee may look weak on paper (20 passing TDs allowed in 12 games), but the Titans have surrendered only three touchdown passes while intercepting five tosses during the team’s three-game winning streak.
6 SEA Darrell Jackson Jackson’s knee is sore again, or maybe it has been all along, but he produced against Denver on Sunday night with six catches and 91 yards against a stingy Broncos defense.  Jackson is one of the most attractive fantasy wideouts down the stretch thanks to a very favorable season-ending slate of games starting with the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday.
7 IND Marvin Harrison The roller coaster ride that is Harrison’s season continues.  His seven catches, 172 yards and one touchdown against the Titans was the top fantasy performance of the week for WRs, but his two-month trend of alternating good numbers with bad numbers makes him an unattractive-if-necessary play in most formats when the Colts play at Jacksonville on Sunday.
8 DET Roy Williams Williams notched only three catches for 50 yards on Sunday, but worse things could’ve happened to the Lions against the Patriots in New England.  He becomes one of most attractive wideouts in fantasy play the next couple of weeks with a home game against Minnesota on Sunday followed by a Week 15 matchup on the road against Green Bay.
9 STL Torry Holt Who cares how it happened or under what circumstances – the point is that Holt busted out of his six-week fantasy drought with seven catches, 115 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ 34-20 loss to Arizona on Sunday.  Now if only he can duplicate it against Chicago on Sunday – an unlikely proposition.  The Bears’ field arguably the NFL’s best pass defense and have allowed only one passing touchdown against six interceptions in their past three road games.
10 GB Donald Driver Driver produced a rather modest line on Sunday with three catches, 41 yards and one touchdown, but he remains sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (943), tied for ninth in TDs (6) and 14th in receptions (64). Fantasy owners who planned ahead expect top-10 stats for Driver the next few weeks thanks to a soft slate of defenses that includes San Francisco (away), Detroit (home) and Minnesota (home), in that order.

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

Climbing The Ladder

Jerricho Cotchery (NYJ) – Cotchery had his second straight big game with nine catches, 99 yards and a touchdown in the Jets’ 38-10 defeat of Green Bay, and he’s come on strong the past few weeks following a mid-season slide.  QB Chad Pennington looked sharp again to help squash rumors that his arm is tired and has thrown for 549 yards and three touchdowns in the Jets past two games – both wins.  As a result, Cotchery should make a solid No. 2 fantasy wideout when the Jets host a susceptible Buffalo squad on Sunday.

Reche Caldwell (NE) – Caldwell owns the distinction of being the most unlikely top-10 fantasy wideout over the past month.  He caught eight passes for a season-high 112 yards on Sunday to culminate a four-game stretch in which he’s averaged 5.6 catches, 82.2 yards and half a touchdown per contest.  Caldwell has developed into QB Tom Brady’s favorite target and should be considered a strong play as a No. 3 fantasy wideout when the Patriots play at Miami on Sunday.

Matt Jones (JAC) – It was the day that Jones’ fantasy owners had been waiting for … and waiting for … and waiting for…  Finally, he did his best to make up for lost time with six catches and a career-high 128 receiving yards in the Jaguars’ 24-10 win at Miami on Sunday, and he did it on the heels of head coach Jack Del Rio’s comments last week in which Del Rio said he anticipated a big game from Jones.  The Jaguars’ upcoming schedule isn’t favorable – the team hosts Indianapolis followed by games against Tennessee (away), New England (home) and Kansas City (away) – but nevertheless Jones’ performance on Sunday should make him the most acquired free agent this week by fantasy owners seeking a solid WR candidate for the stretch run.

Sliding Back

Javon Walker (DEN) – The dreams of rookie QB Jay Cutler’s “cannon” of an arm faded quickly in the Broncos’ 23-20 home loss to Seattle on Sunday, but in hindsight the writing was on the wall.  Walker had maximized his opportunities all season long thanks to a 16.4-yard per-catch average, but with a rookie QB struggling mightily and a running game that moved right along, Walker had even fewer opportunities than he had with QB Jake Plummer at the helm.  Denver coaches can be expected to adopt a more conservative game plan to accommodate Cutler for the team’s game at San Diego on Sunday, and Walker suddenly becomes no better than an average play as a No. 2 fantasy WR in fantasy leagues mid-sized and larger.

Joe Horn (NO) – Horn put together a mean three-game stretch starting in Week 6, but his recurring groin injury put a fast end to his rewarding play on Sunday when he managed only one catch and 18 yards before leaving for good in the first quarter of the Saints’ 34-10 win over the 49ers.  Early reports suggest that the latest re-aggravation of Horn’s groin injury may cause him miss a couple of games like he did in Weeks 9 and 10, which would be more than enough time off to render him all but useless in fantasy play down the stretch.

Marques Colston (NO) – It may seem ridiculous to get down on a guy who averaged nine catches, 151.6 yards and one touchdown in the past three games in which he played, but fantasy owners who have short memories are currently bemoaning the three straight donuts that have followed Colston’s monster stretch of play.  Colston (ankle) is likely – again – to play on Sunday when the Saints face the Cowboys in Dallas, and if so he should be a fantasy starter in most formats.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the league’s most explosive rookie responds to his first return from an injury.