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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 15
Paul Sandy
December 12, 2006

QUARTERBACKS

1. Jeff Garcia, Eagles

Garcia, who has posted three straight multi-TD games, is making fantasy owners forget two years of miserable stats while with the Browns and Lions. The eight-year NFL veteran looks poised and every bit like the Pro Bowler who used to start for the 49ers. What’s most surprising about Garcia is that he’s throwing the ball down the field with accuracy. He has completed a pass of 50+ yards in each of the last two games. Garcia is worth a look this week against the Giants in what could be a dogfight. New York ranks 29th in the NFL in pass defense.

Availability: Owned in ~39% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Garcia has been money over the last three games and is a good play this week against the Giants.

2. Steve McNair, Ravens

Baltimore’s success is still predicated on its defense, but the offense has opened up a bit with head coach Brian Billick calling the plays. QB Steve McNair has put up 225+ yards and at least one touchdown in four of the last five games. His numbers are solid but unspectacular when compared with fantasy football’s elite signal callers. Still, a game this week against the Browns is favorable enough to consider plugging in McNair if your other options look grim. Cleveland has gotten progressively worse on defense. In their last three games, the Browns have given up eight passing TDs and an average of 274 passing yards per game.

Availability: Owned in ~74% of leagues
Forecast guidance: McNair is worth a look this week against the Browns.

Other quarterbacks worth considering: Jason Campbell

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Matt Leinart, David Gararrd, and Vince Young

RUNNING BACKS

1. Arlen Harris, Lions

There are several RBs this week who are worth highlighting due to injuries and other circumstances. Although Harris isn’t the most talented of the bunch, he might have the best opportunity to produce in Week 15. And since most owners are in a must-win, sudden-death playoff situation, Harris draws the top spot. Assuming he gets the start in replace of the injured Kevin Jones (foot), Harris will have a good opportunity to produce 100 all-purpose yards against the Packers. Green Bay has been gashed over the past couple games for nearly 325 rushing yards. And interestingly enough, Harris had the best game of his career (from a yardage perspective) against the Packers in 2002, posting 85 yards and a touchdown while replacing the injured Marshall Faulk.

Availability: Owned in ~8% of leagues
Forecast guidance: If you’re desperate enough, Harris might come through with a good performance against the Pack in Week 15.

2. Ron Dayne, Texans

I highlighted Dayne last week, so I won’t go into too much detail. He racked up 87 yards and two scores against the Titans in Week 14. After the game, head coach Gary Kubiak said that he regretted not giving Dayne more carries. Although Wali Lundy is technically still the starter, Dayne is the workhorse. He deserves a roster spot in all leagues at this point. While I wouldn’t start him this week against the Patriots unless you’re desperate, Dayne provides a nice security blanket for teams in the playoff mix. If your regular starter should get hurt this week, Dayne would be an adequate replacement in Week 16 when he faces the very sieve-like Colts.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Dayne faces the 3rd ranked Patriots defense in Week 15, but provides excellent roster depth.

3. Justin Griffith, Falcons

The Falcons walked out of Sunday’s game against the Bucs with a win, but it came at a high price. The team’s top two RBs suffered injuries. Rookie Jerrious Norwood tweaked his knee and is likely out for Week 15. Warrick Dunn suffered an injury to his left calf. Both players will be listed as questionable. If neither player suits up, fullback Justin Griffith would likely become the primary ball carrier. He looked up to the job on Sunday, rushing the ball 12 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. A game this week against the Cowboys doesn’t look great, but Dallas did just give up 159 yards rushing to the Saints.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Griffith is an adequate solution for Dunn owners in the midst of the postseason.

4. Artose Pinner, Vikings

Much to the chagrin of those who picked up and started Ciatrick Fason, Artose Pinner received the majority of work for Minnesota in Week 14. Pinner touched the ball 31 times and amassed 140 all-purpose yards and three scores. Like most, I believed Fason would replace Chester Taylor as the workhorse with Mewelde Moore spelling him. Pinner came out of nowhere. He’s obviously worth acquiring this week. Just be aware that there’s a fair chance that Taylor returns this week. In fact, Taylor has publicly come out and said he will “definitely” play against the Jets.   

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Picking up Pinner is a must if you have Taylor.

Other running backs worth considering: Justin Fargas

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Ladell Betts and Sammy Morris

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett, Seahawks

Darrell Jackson sustained a turf toe injury that will keep him out of Thursday’s game against the 49ers. His replacement in the starting lineup will be Nate Burleson. D.J. Hackett also figures to see increased action. Both players scored TDs in Week 14 against the Cardinals. This week’s opponet, San Francisco, ranks 24th in the NFL against the pass and they’ve given up 22 passing scores this season. If you need a boost from your WR position this week, you could do worse than Burleson or Hackett. Deciding between the two is a bit of a crapshoot, but I like Hackett because he has twice as many receptions in 2006 as Burleson.

Availability: Owned in ~23% and 2% of leagues, respectively
Forecast guidance: Hackett and Burleson are worth spot starts this week against the 49ers.

2. Ronald Curry, Raiders

Raiders wideout Randy Moss wasn’t doing much anyway, but a sprained ankle will likely keep him on the sideline for this week’s tilt against the Rams. With Moss out, Ronald Curry could become the go-to-guy. He looked impressive on Sunday and appears to finally be fully recovered from the Achilles injury he suffered last season. Curry hauled in eight passes for 99 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He’s a sneaky play this week against the Rams.

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Curry could surprise in Week 15. Plug and play him if you need help at the WR position.

Joe Jurevicius, Browns

With Derek Anderson under center, Joe Jurevicius has actually exceeded Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow in receiving yardage over the past couple weeks. Over that stretch, Jurevicius has racked up 186 yards through the air. Although this week’s game against the Ravens doesn’t look too appetizing, neither did last week’s matchup against the Steelers. Use Jurevicius if you’re in a pinch and your waiver wire doesn’t offer a better option. He seems to have a good rapport with Anderson, who has a certain swagger about him that leads me to believe he may do better than most expect against the Ravens.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Jurevicius has posted back-to-back solid performances and is worth a look in deep leagues.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Mark Clayton and Santonio Holmes

TIGHT ENDS

1. Tony Scheffler, Broncos

Scheffler has been slow to pick up Denver’s offense this season, but the light bulb may have finally went on in his head. Scheffler caught three passes for 66 yards and two TDs against the Chargers. With fellow TE Stephen Alexander slowed with bruised ribs, the time has come for Scheffler to make a fantasy impact. Scheffler, who was QB Jay Cutler’s roomate during training camp, could become a reliable target in the redzone. Acquire him this week and don’t be afraid to use him in Week 15 when the Broncos face the 30th ranked pass defense of the Arizona Cardinals.  

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Scheffler is worth a look in leagues with 12 or more teams.

2. Vernon Davis, 49ers

The Forecast predicted last week that Davis would break out against the Packers. He did, putting up 74 yards and a touchdown. Plus, he had another long reception called back because of a penalty. Davis has all the skills to become an elite fantasy TE. Unfortunately with QB Alex Smith regressing over the last few games, relying on Davis (particluarly if you’re playing for a championship) is a risky proposition. Pick him up and play him if you’re desperate for help, but this week’s game against the Seahawks doesn’t look quite as good as the Week 16 game against Arizona.     

Availability: Owned in ~36% of leagues
Forecast guidance: With the Cardinals on the schedule in Week 16, Davis is a good backup TE.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Buffalo Bills

Fantasy owners scouring the wire for a deep sleeper at the DST position may want to consider the Buffalo Bills. The Bills will roll out the red carpet for the Dolphins this week in what could be a cold weather game. They’re coming off an inspired performance against the Jets in which they forced three turnovers and recorded four sacks. Look for them to take advantage of a huge homefield advantage, and shut down Miami’s offense.

Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues
Forecast guidance: The Bills are a sneaky play this week at home against the Dolphins.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Minnesota Vikings