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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Report - Week 15
Todd Gray
December 12, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own Comment
1 CIN Chad Johnson Johnson’s stats have normalized a bit over the past three weeks, but no one can complain about his five catches for 101 yards on Sunday against Oakland’s top-ranked pass defense.  The schedule doesn’t get any easier: the Bengals face a Colts team in Indianapolis on Sunday that has allowed only 156.6 passing yards per game and 14 touchdowns in 13 contests.
2 IND Reggie Wayne Wayne was the Colts’ brightest fantasy star on Sunday with eight catches and 110 yards in the team’s 44-17 loss to Jacksonville.  Week 15 opponent Cincinnati has shut down the passing games of Oakland, Baltimore and Cleveland in successive weeks, but no one would confuse those teams with the Colts.
3 DAL Terrell Owens Owens posted his lowest catch (3) and yardage (56) totals since Week 6 in the Cowboys’ 42-17 loss to New Orleans on Sunday, but he did score his eighth touchdown in nine weeks thanks to a botched interception.  Week 15 opponent Atlanta has allowed only 396 net passing yards and one touchdown during its two-game winning streak, but over the long haul the Falcons have been well below average in defending against the pass.
4 GB Donald Driver If there were no Chad Johnson, Driver would be the hottest receiver in the league over the past eight weeks following his nine-catch, 160-yard, one-TD performance against the 49ers on Sunday.  He’s averaged a mere 5.9 catches and 95 yards during that span to go along with six touchdowns.  The Packers host Detroit on Sunday, and as a general rule the stock of all receivers who play against the Lions rises exponentially.
5 CAR Steve Smith Smith failed to score for the first time in five weeks in the Panthers’ 27-13 loss to the Giants on Sunday, and he posted modest catch-and-yardage totals (5 catches, 67 yards) for the third straight game – this despite backup QB Chris Weinke throwing for a team-record 423 yards.  Smith was blanketed throughout the game by Giants defenders, but some of the blame rests squarely on his shoulders thanks to a costly pair of drops.  The injury-related turmoil affecting the struggling Panthers drops Smith another notch, but there’s no good reason to leave him out of fantasy lineups when the Panthers host Pittsburgh on Sunday.
6 IND Marvin Harrison Harrison owners are riding his best two-game stretch since Weeks 1 and 2 following his six-catch, 101-yard output against the Jaguars on Sunday.  Suffice it to say that the 10-3 Colts won’t be resting their starters on Weeks 16 and 17, and Harrison makes an attractive option in fantasy play when Indianapolis hosts Cincinnati on Monday.
7 STL Torry Holt Holt’s big game against the Bears on Monday night (six catches, 75 yards, two TDs) made it two straight rewarding performances just in the nick of time for fantasy owners who had to suffer through his five-game scoring drought in Weeks 8 through 12.  The Rams face a Raiders defense on Sunday that is ranked first in the league against the pass and has allowed only three passing TDs in its last four games in Oakland.
8 HOU Andre Johnson Johnson’s seven catches and 69 yards against Tennessee is nothing to sneeze at, but he’s had only one outstanding fantasy line in his last five starts after opening the season with eight straight gems.  QB David Carr has thrown exactly one touchdown pass in seven games as the Texans’ short passing game has hardly been even that the past few weeks.  The Texans are in New England on Sunday to face a Patriots team that’s allowed only nine touchdown passes all season long, and Johnson owners would be fortunate indeed if he added to that total.
9 CIN T.J. Houshmandzadeh Houshmandzadeh has not only out-produced No. 1 overall fantasy wideout Chad Johnson over the past three weeks, he’s also rewarded fantasy owners in most formats with more points than any receiver not named Marty Booker.  He recorded eight catches, 118 yards and his eighth touchdown of the season on Sunday despite playing with a sore back and against a stingy Raiders pass defense.  Week 15 opponent Indianapolis provides an unattractive matchup, but Houshmandzadeh is producing too much to keep him out of all but the strongest fantasy lineups.
10 DET Roy Williams Williams generated a solid six catches for 73 yards against Minnesota on Sunday.  Few receivers look better on paper than Williams in Week 15 when the Lions play at Green Bay.  The Packers’ 24 passing TDs allowed is the second-worst mark in the NFL, and Williams torched Green Bay for seven catches, 138 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting between the teams on Sept. 24.

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

Climbing The Ladder

Marty Booker (MIA) – Booker is to fantasy owners in 2006 what Chris Chambers was to owners in 2005.  That is, he’s carrying numerous fantasy receiving corps down the stretch.  Booker has 26 catches, 363 yards and four touchdowns over the past four games, and the Dolphins continue to play hard despite being all but eliminated from the playoffs.  Week 15 opponent Buffalo had little trouble figuring out Miami’s offense in Week 2, but this is hardly the same Dolphins offense and Booker is a good candidate for a six-catch, 70-yard-type game with perhaps a touchdown thrown into the mix.

Mike Furrey (DET) – Furry has quietly provided quality fantasy numbers four weeks in a row, and his big day against Minnesota capped a two-game stretch in which he’s caught 18 passes for 207 yards and one touchown.  Expect another big game on Sunday when the Lions play at Green Bay.  A date with the Packers’ bottom-dwelling pass defense is as good as it gets for fantasy owners who are counting on Lions players.

Hines Ward (PIT) – Ward is listed as questionable to play at Carolina on Sunday, but he said on Monday that he expects to suit up against the Panthers two weeks after having a bone fragment and loose cartilage removed from his knee.  If Ward does play, he’ll be one of the best fantasy options in a contest between two teams that have little hope of reaching the playoffs.  The Panthers have been besieged with injuries on both sides of the ball and should make a relatively easy target for the Steelers on Sunday.

Sliding Back

Darrell Jackson (SEA) – Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren said on Monday that Jackson wouldn’t play in the team’s game against San Francisco on Thursday, the result of a turf toe injury that Jackson suffered against Arizona on Sunday.  Holmgren didn’t provide a date of return for Jackson, and since turf toe injuries tend to linger fantasy owners may have seen their last of Jackson this season.  Nate Burleson is expected to start in Jackson’s place, with D.J. Hackett stealing his share of looks. Both receivers make decent options in fantasy leagues mid-sized and larger when Seattle hosts San Francisco on Thursday.  The 49ers defense has reverted to its early-season ways following a strong stretch of play.

Chris Chambers (MIA) – One week after breaking out for season highs in catches (8) and yards (121), Chambers logged only three catches and 11 yards against New England on Sunday.  Last year at this time, he was busy piling up six touchdowns over a six-game stretch.  These days, six catches and 60 yards would be welcome production, and even that is perhaps too much to ask for when the Dolphins play at Buffalo on Sunday.

Greg Jennings (GB) – It seems like a long time ago that Jennings burst onto the fantasy scene with four straight pick-me-up performances in Weeks 2 through 5, but ever since he sprained his ankle against Miami in Week 7 he’s been nowhere near the same.  Jennings has averaged 3.7 catches and 41.2 yards the past six games to go with zero TDs, and he reportedly aggravated his ankle injury on Sunday, though he was able to return to the game.  He makes an average start as a No. 3 fantasy wideout when the Packers host the Lions on Sunday, but only if it can be determined well ahead of game time that he’s fully healthy.  Recent history suggests that won’t be the case.