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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 16
Paul Sandy
December 16, 2008
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QUARTERBACKS

1. Seneca Wallace, Seahawks
Rising ValueWallace may not have had as good of a game as some of the other guys on your waiver wire (Tarvaris Jackson, for example) but the Forecast likes Wallace’s chances for success this week against the Jets. New York has allowed the third most fantasy points to QBs (through Week 14). In their last three road games, the Jets have yielded six touchdowns combined. Look for Wallace to approach 250 yards with at least one touchdown and some gravy yards on the ground.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Wallace is worth a spot play this week in deep leagues.

2. Dan Orlovsky, Lions
SleeperOkay, obviously this recommendation isn’t for the faint of heart but hear me out. Orlovsky has started five games in 2008 and has thrown at least one touchdown in every start. This includes a respectable game Sunday against a tough Colts pass defense in which he threw for 233 yards and a touchdown. He has considerable upside for this week’s outing against the Saints. New Orleans ranks 26th in the NFL against the pass and they’ve allowed 20 passing scores this season. Look for Orlovsky to post around 250 yards and a touchdown or two.  

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Orlovsky is could surprise this week against the Saints but remains a desperation play.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Tashard Choice, Cowboys
Rising ValueMarion Barber III got the start for Dallas Sunday night against the Giants, but he was outperformed by rookie Tashard Choice. Choice racked up 143 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. Look for him to continue to see extensive action for the remainder of the season. Dallas faces a stiff test this week against the Ravens, so consider Choice no better than a low-end second RB. Owners in keeper and dynasty leagues should keep their eye on him in 2009 even though the Cowboys backfield is crowded.

Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Choice should be owned in all leagues even though he’s a risky play against the Ravens.

2. Cedric Benson, Bengals
Rising ValueBenson’s attempt to resurrect his career has fallen flat for the most part. However, he had a breakout game on Sunday against the Redskins, amassing 161 total yards. He’s not a bad play for Week 16 since the Bengals face the Browns. Cleveland ranks 28th in the NFL in run defense, allowing nearly 150 yards per game on the ground. Owners desperate for RB help can look to Benson in a pinch.

Availability: Owned in ~50% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Benson is a decent stopgap this week if you’re shorthanded at RB.

3. DeShaun Foster, 49ers
Injury ReplacementFoster filled in surprisingly well for the injured Frank Gore on Sunday. He recorded 101 total yards against a usually stout Miami run defense. Gore’s status for next week is unclear at this point. If he sits again, Foster would be a sneaky good start against the Rams. St. Louis ranks 29th in the NFL against the run and they’ve allowed the second most rushing scores this season. Pick up Foster early this week in case Gore remains on the bench.

Availability: Owned in ~23% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Foster is worth a look in all leagues.

4. P.J. Pope, Broncos
Rising ValuePope is the latest in a long line of RBs who have contributed to the Denver running game this season. Against the Panthers, he led the team with 51 yards rushing and added 24 yards and a touchdown through the air. Selvin Young coughed up a costly fumble at the end of the first half as the team was trying to run out the clock. The mistake could cause head coach Mike Shanahan to lose what little confidence he had in Young. Pope would likely be the beneficiary and could see 15 touches per game going forward.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pope is worth a look in all leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Deion Branch, Seahawks
Rising ValueIt’s rare to find a player who emerges this late in the season and it’s not directly attributable to an injury to another player on the team. Branch posted his second straight game with over 75 yards receiving. He’s recorded 14 receptions over the last three games and is clearly QB Seneca Wallace’s most reliable target at this point. A matchup this week at home against a Jets defense that struggles to defend the pass looks good on paper. New York’s defense ranks 29th in the NFL against the pass.

Availability: Owned in ~46% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Branch is a viable starter in most leagues this week.

2. Bryant Johnson, 49ers
SleeperFor owners desperately seeking a number three wideout or flex player who will contribute this week, the Forecast recommends San Francisco’s Bryant Johnson. Johnson has been targeted eight times in two straight games and he managed to score a touchdown back in Week 14. With a cushy matchup this week against the visiting Rams, his chances of success are good. The Rams rank 24th in the NFL against the pass and they’ve allowed the 11th most fantasy points to receivers. Five weeks ago, Johnson tallied 56 yards and a touchdown against them. Also consider Isaac Bruce if you can get your hands on him.

Availability: Owned in ~13% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Johnson is a decent play this week if you don’t trust your current wideouts.

3. Jason Avant, Eagles
Rising ValueAvant is coming off a 101-yard performance on Monday night against the Browns. He has surpassed Reggie Brown, who has been a healthy scratch for the last two games, on the Eagles depth chart. With the success the team has had of late, that trend of Brown being inactive figures to continue Despite their recent emphasis on running the football, the Eagles still have a pass-oriented offense, so look for Avant to continue to get his fair share of looks going forward. QB Donovan McNabb appeared to favor the third-year wideout on third downs and quick hit passes, so Avant could prove to be a good pickup in points per reception leagues.  

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Avant is worth a look in all leagues, especially those with PPR scoring systems.

4. Dennis Northcutt, Jaguars
Injury ReplacementFantasy owners have been speculating for months who would step up and become Jacksonville’s top wideout when Matt Jones was finally suspended. It took an eternity for the legal proceedings to run their course, but Jones was finally given the heave-ho. Who benefited? It was none other than veteran Dennis Northcutt proved he has a little gas left in the tank. He posted 127 yards and a touchdown against the Packers. Activating him this week against the Colts is a risky proposition but if your free agent well is completely dry, you could do worse.

Availability: Owned in ~4% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Northcutt is worth consideration in deep leagues.

TIGHT ENDS

1. Greg Olsen, Bears
Rising ValueOnly four touchdowns were scored by tight ends in Week 15 and two of them came from Miami’s number two and three TEs. Unless you can get your hands on John Carlson of Seattle (owned in 69% of leagues), your chances of finding an emerging player at this position are limited. One player who continues to get plenty of looks from QB Kyle Orton yet is available in a good chunk of leagues is Greg Olsen. He was targeted 10 times on Sunday—tied for second most among TEs—and he ended the day with eight receptions of 45 yards. Olsen will be a fine play against a Packers defense that’s proven to be vulnerable to opposing TEs this season.

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Olsen is worth a shot this week against the Pack.

2. Jeremy Shockey and Billy Miller, Saints
Rising ValueIn Week 16, the Saints will run up against a Lions defense that has ceded touchdowns to TEs in four of their last five games. Detroit was torched by Indianapolis TE Dallas Clark last week for 142 yards and a touchdown. Owners in desperation mode should consider plugging and playing one of the New Orleans TEs. Shockey is the starter but Miller gets enough action to merit consideration.

Availability: Owned in ~74% and ~20% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Look for Shockey and Miller to contribute respectable numbers this week against the Lions.

KICKER

1. Joe Nedney, 49ers
SleeperSix games this week will be played in “cold weather venues”, which puts 12 fantasy kickers at risk. If bad weather lurks for your kicker, you may need to explore the waiver wire. One player who could be your savior is Joe Nedney, who ranks 13th in points among all kickers. That ranking equates to mediocrity, but Nedney’s mediocrity has translated into at least six points on most weeks. He should deliver at least that this week against the Rams, who have allowed the second most fantasy points to kickers. Opposing kickers have scored nine or more points against St. Louis in four straight games.  

Availability: Owned in ~34% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Nedney is a fine play this week against the Rams.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Seattle Seahawks
SleeperThe Seahawks play host to the Jets this week. New York QB Brett Favre doesn’t take a lot of sacks but he leads the NFL in interceptions thrown with 17. Perhaps no coach in the NFL is more familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of Favre than Seattle coach Mike Holmgren. Look for the Seahawks to take advantage of the knowledge in Holmgren’s enlarged melon and cause some havoc. The Forecast likes their chances of intercepting a least a couple Favre passes and holding New York under 20 points.  

Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Seattle is worth a look if you need a sleeper defense / special teams this week.

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