DeAngelo Williams: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Quick thoughts on the Panthers' convincing 38-23 win over the Buccaneers, where the 'Cats improved to 10-3 on the season and 7-0 at home:
Waiver wires should be pretty dry by now, but thanks to another rash of injuries around the league, there are a still a few guys who spiked in value and could still be available.
Derrick Ward, RB, Giants. Brandon Jacobs left early last week with a knee injury, opening the door for the shifty Ward to get some extra work. Jacobs didn't seem to be limping too badly as he walked off, so the injury may not keep him out of this Sunday's NFC East showdown against the Cowboys. Just another situation to monitor throughout the week.
Tatum Bell, RB, Broncos. The Peyton Hillis magic carpet ride is over in Denver. Now it's Bell who figures to step into a featured role, with a healthy Selvin Young sharing at least some of the carries.
DeShaun Foster, RB, 49ers. He stepped in admirably after Frank Gore left Week 14 with an ankle injury. Gore hasn't been ruled out for Sunday's game against the tough Dolphins' D, but keep an eye on this -- and snap up Foster if he's on the wire.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins. He's been heating up for a few weeks now, and Sunday he was Chad Pennington's favorite target once again, snagging nine passes for 74 yards. If you need receiving help, it's time to buy.
Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers. He's legit, and after the Niners face the Dolphins this Sunday, I really like him as a sneaky play against the Rams in Week 16.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints. He's probably available in only the shallowest of leagues, but Reggie Bush's return to the Saints lineup may have prompted a few Thomas owners to prematurely cut the cord. Thomas scored again in Week 14, his fourth straight game with a TD.
This week in the much-discussed SI.com and Friends league, my team faced Jay Clemons' "Count Chocula's Henchmen" in Round 1 of the playoffs. I was down 15 points heading into the Sunday nighter -- with only the Ravens' D remaining in my lineup -- prompting an overconfident Clemons to openly scout his second-round matchup. Turns out Ed Reed and the Ravens did just enough to save my day, and ruin Jay's. The comeback wasn't sealed until Jason Campbell's garbage-time INT. You can't beat the fantasy playoffs: Sure, any given week can be decided by one play, but when it's the whole season on the line (and your opponent is sitting smugly in the cubicle across from you), things reach a whole new level. Oh, and R.I.P., Henchmen. R.I.P. ...
If you lack the means to call out your fantasy playoff opponent on a public Web site, feel free to imitate any of these fantastic end zone celebrations as a way to properly dismiss your fallen foe. Like I said, you just can't beat the playoffs.
1) Ladell Betts (vs. Bengals)
2) Chris Cooley (vs. Bengals)
3) Dominic Rhodes (vs. Lions)
4) Devin Hester (vs. Saints)
5) T.J. Duckett (vs. Rams)
The Redskins suffered several significant injuries along offensive line Sunday, none more damaging than the season-ending triceps tear to Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels. The Redskins have lost four of their last five, and have mustered just 33 points in those four losses. Normally I'd say it's time to downgrade fantasy playoff expectations for their key offense cogs, especially Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley and Jason Campbell. But thankfully for fantasy owners, the 'Skins face the blundering Bengals this week, so big stats still seem attainable.
Tashard Choice: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
With the ball in his hand, Marion Barber III looks like one of the baddest dudes in the NFL. (I mean, he's so bad, he inspired me to write "baddest dudes" for the first time since 1994.) That's why it's surprising to hear Cowboys owner Jerry Jones call him out for skipping Sunday's game with a dislocated pinkie toe. Tashard Choice stepped in to produce solid stats against the Steelers, and he figures to get the bulk of the carries as long as Barber remains sidelined.
1) All your Steelers (vs. Ravens)
2) Tony Romo (vs. Giants)
3) Aaron Rodgers (vs. Jaguars)
4) Steve Slaton (vs. Titans)
5) Randy Moss (vs. Raiders)
For the upper echelon of fantasy teams, the playoff drive continues. But for everyone else, next year starts now -- especially for those in keeper leagues with early roster deadlines. We'll have several rounds of projections, prognostications, and maybe even a few recklessly wild guesses in the coming weeks. For now, here is one man's 2009 top 20:
1) Adrian Peterson
2) Michael Turner
3) Brian Westbrook
4) Clinton Portis
5) Frank Gore
6) Marion Barber III
7) Matt Forte
8) LaDainian Tomlinson
9) Steven Jackson
10) Drew Brees
11) Joseph Addai
12) Chris Johnson
13) Marshaun Lynch
14) Larry Fitzgerald
15) Brandon Jacobs
16) Steve Slaton
17) Brandon Marshall
18) Willie Parker
19) Ryan Grant
20) Maurice Jones-Drew