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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 16
Paul Sandy
December 19, 2006

QUARTERBACKS

1. J.P. Losman, Bills

It’s taken Losman awhile to earn the trust of the Forecast. But after three straight games with multiple touchdowns, it’s time to give the third-year QB his proper respect. While the yardage isn’t spectacular (180.3 ypg over the last three outings), Losman is showing poise and confidence. And his rapport with star wideout Lee Evans is undeniable. The coaching staff went so far as to declare Losman the starter in 2007. If you’ve taken a platoon approach to your QBs this season, Losman is worth a look in Week 16. Also, consider him a prospect in keeper and dynasty leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~34% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Losman seems to have figured this quarterbacking thing out. He merits a spot start this week if you’re desperate.

2. Derek Anderson, Browns

I may be in the minority here, but what I’ve seen from Anderson in his two and a half games of action leads me to believe this kid isn’t going to be a career backup. He seems fearless and he’s got a rocket for an arm. Anderson has thrown five TDs over the last three games against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. These are tough opponents not patsies. Consider plugging him in this week against the Buccaneers, who just gave up 339 yards and two scores to Rex Grossman. More importantly, keep your eye on Anderson for 2007.

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Anderson has shown promise but he’s a better keeper prospect than a Week 16 starter.

Other quarterbacks worth considering: Tim Rattay

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Jeff Garcia and Jason Campbell

RUNNING BACKS

1. Ron Dayne, Texans

It may be time to put aside your preconceived notions about Dayne. Pudgy he may be, but he looks like a good fit for Gary Kubiak’s offense. And he appears to be fully recovered from a turf toe injury that hindered him during the preseason and cost him a roster spot, if not a starting spot, with the Broncos. Dayne has strung together three quality starts, averaging 100 all-purpose yards per game with three TDs. To say his matchup this week against the swiss-cheese defense of the Colts is promising would be an understatment of epic proportions.

Availability: Owned in ~35% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Dayne deserves strong consideration for a spot start this week against the Colts.

2. Michael Turner, Chargers

Turner missed a few weeks with a hamstring injury, but returned to action in Week 15. The Chargers have already clinched a first round bye in the playoffs, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them reduce LaDainian Tomlinson’s workload over the last two weeks. It’s surprising to me that Turner is available just a little bit less than half of all fantasy leagues. He should see a fair amount of action this week against the Seahawks, who have struggled against the run lately. And if your team plays in Week 17, Turner should be golden as Tomlinson figures to play only a series or two if San Diego’s playoff fate is already determined.

Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Turner is likely to see more touches in Weeks 16 and 17. He has tremendous upside as a second or third RB—and even more value in keeper leagues.

3. Justin Griffith, Falcons

With Warrick Dunn and Jerrious Norwood battling injuries, Griffith drew a Forecast recommendation last week. Although Dunn got the start, Griffith spelled him and ended up having the better game, racking up 49 total yards with two scores. Unless you have Dunn on your roster and you are counting on him this week, Griffith probably isn’t worth much more than a cursory glance. However, Dunn and Norwood will likely both be on the injury report. If one or both miss the game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Griffith in the endzone come Sunday afternoon against a punchless Panthers squad.  

Availability: Owned in ~5% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Handcuff Griffith to Dunn for the remainder of the season in case Dunn misses time.

4. Mike Alstott, Buccaneers

Alstott is much more than a novelty pickup in what could be the final year of his career. The A-Train brought his A-game to Sunday’s game against the Bears, scoring a key touchdown and stealing carries from starter Carnell Williams. If head coach Jon Gruden likes what he saw, it wouldn’t be surprising if he increases Alstott’s workload this week against the Browns. Cleveland has ceded rushing TDs in four of their last five games. Alstott is the heavy favorite to get the goal line work from here on out, so he’s a quality play in TD-weighted leagues and a sleeper worth considering in standard leagues. 

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues
Forecast guidance: There’s a good chance Alsott finds the endzone this week against the Browns. Consider him if you can live with 30-40 yards and a score.

5. Kevin Faulk, Patriots

In past seasons, Faulk used to be a great guy to have on your roster during the bye weeks. He could usually be counted on for 50-70 all-purpose yards—an adequate fill-in for when your stud is resting. However, the addition of rookie Laurence Maroney sapped all the value from Faulk early in the season. Now that Maroney is hurt, Faulk is hearing his number called more often. Faulk had six touches against the Texans, which translated into 68 yards and two touchdowns. A matchup this week against the Jaguars isn’t great, but if you’re playing in the consolation bracket and your options are limited, Faulk is worth a look (assuming Maroney sits again).   

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Faulk is a serviceable play in leagues that give points for receptions.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Ladell Betts, Mike Bell, Sammy Morris, and Mewelde Moore

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Joe Jurevicius, Browns

Jurevicius extended his late season hotstreak in Week 15, catching five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. It’s no coincidence that his fantasy re-emergence coincides with Derek Anderson taking over for Charlie Frye at QB. If WR is an area of weakness for your team, consider plugging and playing Jurevicius against one of his former teams, the Buccaneers, this week. Tampa has given up an NFL high 25 passing touchdowns.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Jurevicius is a worthy starter this week in leagues of all sizes and scoring systems.

2. D.J. Hackett, Seahawks

Mike Holmgren has indicated he does not believe Darrell Jackson will be ready to play in this week’s game against the Chargers. Jackson might also miss the season finale against the Bucs. Though Hackett isn’t technically the replacement for Jackson in the starting lineup, he does appear to be the primary beneficiary in the boxscore. He caught eight passes for 87 yards against the Niners last week. Don’t hesitate to use him against San Diego in what should be one of the week’s highest scoring contests. 

Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Hackett is a solid play for Week 16 against the Chargers.

3. Arnaz Battle, 49ers

Battle has been a Forecast favorite since before the season started. Unfortunately, the erratic play of QB Alex Smith has hampered Battle’s fantasy value. With Smith’s confidence on an upswing, it might be time to ride the wave and see if you can get some points out of Battle. He caught five passes for 97 yards last week against the Seahawks. A meeting this week against the Cardinals could be an opportune time to plug Battle into your lineup.

Availability: Owned in ~12% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Battle may have supplanted Antonio Bryant as San Francisco’s top wideout. He merits consideration as a third WR or flex player in deeper leagues.

4. Ronald Curry, Raiders

With Randy Moss out, Curry was identified as a potential fantasy contributor here last week. Curry met the expectation, posting 87 yards on nine receptions. He’d rank higher on this list of potential pickups if Oakland’s QB situation were a clearer. I like Curry better with Aaron Brooks under center, though he’s playable regardless of who starts. He has 17 receptions for 186 yards of the past two games. Curry is a solid wideout who could be a star in 2007 if the Raiders show Moss the door.  

Availability: Owned in ~5% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Curry has posted beefy numbers the last two weeks and is a good play with Randy Moss sidelined.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Matt Jones

TIGHT ENDS

1. Robert Royal, Bills

Royal has come out of relative fantasy obscurity to score touchdowns in three consecutive weeks. The former Redskins TE has become a favorite target of QB J.P. Losman in the redzone. Unfortunately, up until last week, he hasn’t done much on any other part of the field. Royal is decent play in TD-weighted leagues this week against the Titans. Tennessee gave up eight receptions to TEs last week against the Jaguars—and they had a TD to rookie Marcedes Lewis overturned.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Royal might be worth considering in deep leagues, particularly TD-only leagues.

2. Ben Utecht, Colts

The Indianapolis offense has sorely missed TE Dallas Clark, who is out with a knee injury. There was some debate about who would emerge as the team’s #3 pass catcher with Clark sidelined. I speculated a couple weeks ago that Brandon Stokely could step up. He promptly tore his Achilles. On Monday night against the Bengals, Ben Utecht was a favorite target of Peyton Manning. The duo hooked up for 35 yards on four receptions. Utecht could be a diamond in the rough for Week 16. The Colts will face a terrible Houston defense.

Availability: Owned in ~11% of leagues
Forecast guidance: Utecht is starter material this week in leagues of all sizes.

Picks from previous weeks worth repeating: Desmond Clark, Jerramy Stevens, and Tony Scheffler

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Buffalo Bills

The Forecast identified the Bills as a sleeper last week. They awoke on cue to pitch a shutout against the Dolphins. Their play of late makes the Bills a quality defense that fantasy owners can trust from here on out. They’ll face Vince Young and the Titans this week in a rematch of the Music City Miracle game. Look for the Bills to fare well again in another cold weather game.

Availability: Owned in ~47% of leagues
Forecast guidance: The Bills are worth starting in all leagues.