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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Wide Receiver Report - Week 17
Todd Gray
December 27, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy WR’s to own Comment
1 IND Marvin Harrison Harrison has been a monster down the stretch, averaging 7.3 catches, 117.8 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game in Weeks 13-16.  Unless he disappears on Sunday, 2006 will be his biggest year fantasy-wise since his phenomenal 2002 season.  The Colts actually have something to play for in Week 17 when the team hosts Miami, so expect Harrison to work full-time against the Dolphins.
2 DAL Terrell Owens Owens caught his league-leading 12th touchdown to account for the Cowboys’ lone score in the team’s 23-7 loss to Philadelphia on Monday night, but he paired it with only two catches for 23 yards.  Dallas needs to beat Detroit at home on Sunday to have a chance to take the NFC East lead away from the Eagles, and Owens makes a wonderful play against a weak Lions defense.
3 IND Reggie Wayne Wayne owners can’t complain about his career season, but his performance against Houston on Sunday (three catches, 27 yards) only helped the opposition in fantasy play.  Despite the down week, Wayne still has every chance to end the season as the NFL’s No. 2 fantasy wideout when the Colts host the Dolphins on Sunday.
4 CIN Chad Johnson Johnson may end the season as a top-5 fantasy wideout, but more than half of his total production to this point (83 catches, 1,316 yards, seven TDs) came during his monster five-game stretch in weeks 10-14.  Meanwhile, weeks 15 and 16 yielded Johnson’s fantasy owners only six catches, 69 yards and zero TDs total.  He should start for most fantasy teams when the Bengals host Pittsburgh on Sunday, but it’s worth noting that he’s averaged only 3.5 catches and 54.5 yards with zero TDs in his last four games against the Steelers.
5 GB Donald Driver Not only has Driver proven to be one of the best value picks in fantasy drafts, but he’s also been one of the most consistent fantasy wideouts in the process.  In 15 games this season, he’s produced eight or more catches five times, 90 or more yards (three 150+) seven times, and a touchdown catch on seven separate occasions.  The Packers game at Chicago on Sunday isn’t exactly a recipe for success, but Driver has averaged seven catches and 89 yards against the Bears in the past three meetings between the two teams.
6 STL Torry Holt One of the most consistent fantasy wideouts in the 21st century has been anything but that in 2006.  Holt is putting the finishing touches on a strong overall campaign with a disappointing eight catches, 113 yards and zero TDs in Weeks 15 and 16 combined.  Despite his ups-and-downs, his current totals – 84 receptions, 1,098 yards and 10 TDs – speak for themselves, and he’s a near must-play on Sunday when the Rams face a Minnesota defense that has surrendered a league-high 238 yards passing per game. 
7 CIN T.J. Houshmandzadeh Housh has been a fantasy beast down the stretch, producing serious points in four of his past five games, including nine catches, 94 yards and a touchdown on Sunday at Denver.  He makes a strong fantasy play on Sunday when the Bengals, fighting for a playoff spot, host Pittsburgh.  Houshmandzadeh has averaged seven catches, 91 yards and two touchdowns in his past two regular season games against Pittsburgh and has scored in three straight games overall against the Steelers.
8 NYJ Laveranues Coles Coles was knocked out of the Jets’ Monday night game against Miami thanks to a hard hit by LB Zach Thomas that left him with a cut on his head.  He returned in the third quarter, but finished the game with only two catches for nine yards.  The Jets host Oakland on Sunday needing a win to lock off a playoff berth.  The Raiders have allowed a league-low 150.9 passing yards per game, but they’ve been scored on plenty and have little to play for but to avoid finishing the season with the worst record in the NFL.
9 HOU Andre Johnson Johnson may have helped a lot of fantasy owners reach the playoffs, but from Week 13 on he hasn’t even been a top-40 fantasy wideout in most scoring formats.  Sunday’s four-catch, 48-yard day was actually his second-best fantasy performance since Week 12.  Nonetheless, Johnson is almost certain to be the only wide receiver in the NFL to finish the season with more than 100 catches – he currently has 101 with one game to play at home against Cleveland on Sunday.  Though he’s become something of a risky start, he makes a favorable play against the Browns.
10 BUF Lee Evans A monster performance in Week 11 helped Evans to shoot up the fantasy scoring ranks, but he’s been one of the most consistent fantasy plays at WR throughout the season nonetheless.  He had five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee on Sunday, the third straight game he finished a play in the end zone and, depending on scoring format, his eighth consecutive fantasy worthy performance.  Now the bad news: the Bills play at Baltimore on Sunday against a Ravens squad fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

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

Climbing The Ladder

Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin (ARI) – Fitzgerald has been good and Boldin has been pretty good the past few weeks, but neither receiver has been himself from a fantasy standpoint since rookie QB Matt Leinart took over for former starter Kurt Warner in Week 5.  Now Warner is back in the saddle for the Cardinals’ final game of the season on Sunday due to a sprained left shoulder suffered by Leinart in the team’s 26-20 win over San Francisco on Sunday.  It may be a stretch to believe that Fitzgerald and Boldin can both make a one-week return to their glory days of fantasy production, but there’s no reason to believe that Warner won’t air it out early and often when the 5-10 Cardinals play at 13-2 San Diego on Sunday.

Plaxico Burress (NYG) – The Giants have lost six of seven games since opening the season 6-2, but Burress’ has been a fantasy star despite the team’s poor play.  He had only one catch in the team’s 30-7 home loss to New Orleans on Sunday, but he turned into a 55-yard touchdown and has now either scored a touchdown or registered 100 yards receiving in six straight games.  The Giants put their slim playoff hopes on the line at Washington on Sunday, facing a Redskins squad that has been out of the playoff picture for a few weeks and which has allowed a league-high 29 touchdown passes through 15 games coupled with a league-low six interceptions.

Sliding Back

Steve Smith (CAR) – What happens to your No. 1 wide receiver’s production when his team attempts 52 running plays against only seven passing plays?  Just ask any Smith owner for the answer.  Smith’s 10 catches, 123 yards and zero TDs total in Weeks 14-16 represent his least productive three-game stretch since Weeks 2-5 of the 2003 campaign.  The good news is that the 7-8 Panthers still have something to play for when the team plays the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday.  The bad news is that backup QB Chris Weinke will most likely get his fourth straight start.  It’ll always be hard to bench Smith no matter what the occasion, but he merits no greater status than that of a low-tier No. 2 fantasy wideout in mid-sized leagues in the Panthers’ matchup against the Saints.   

Antonio Bryant (SF) – Who woulda thunk?  The NFL suspended Bryant last Friday for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, effectively ending a season that started with so much promise and ended with a thud.  After beginning the season with two straight 100-yard performances, Bryant logged only two solid fantasy performances in the 12 games that followed.  Fantasy owners in deeper leagues who are in a pinch may want to give a nod to 49ers WR Arnaz Battle for the team’s game at Denver on Sunday.  Battle has caught 12 passes for 152 yards over the past two games and should be good for 4-6 catches and 60-70 yards in what could be a blowout at the hands of the playoff-hungry Broncos at Mile High Stadium.

Marcus Robinson (MIN) – Robinson was released by Minnesota on Dec. 24, ending a 2006 season with the Vikings in which he alternated quality fantasy performances with weak fantasy performances with weeks in which he wasn’t even active.  This news won’t make too much impact in the fantasy world, though there is now one fewer option for fantasy owners in deeper leagues who are seeking a serviceable No. 3 wideout for Week 17 play.