Normally I look to identify a few players at each position to highlight for your benefit on a weekly basis, but with many of you either already in the throes of your playoffs, or facing crucial matchups to keep your postseason hopes alive, I'm stepping up my game, expanding my analysis for Week 13. No thanks are in order, but if you feel the need to reward me for all the brilliant insight I've provided, I'll be posting my address at the end of the year so that you can send me a portion of your winnings. Just kidding (not really). On to the tiers ...
Tony Romo vs. SeattleKurt Warner @ PhiladelphiaPeyton Manning @ ClevelandJay Cutler @ New York JetsPhilip Rivers vs. AtlantaBen Roethlisberger @ New EnglandDrew Brees @ Tampa BayAaron Rodgers vs. CarolinaDonovan McNabb vs. ArizonaBrett Favre vs. DenverMatt Ryan @ San DiegoTyler Thigpen @ Oakland
David Garrard @ HoustonJeff Garcia vs. New OrleansChad Pennington @ St. LouisEli Manning @ WashingtonTrent Edwards vs. San FranciscoKerry Collins @ DetroitShaun Hill @ BuffaloMatt Cassel vs. PittsburghSage Rosenfels vs. JacksonvilleJoe Flacco @ CincinnatiJaMarcus Russell vs. Kansas CityJake Delhomme @ Green Bay
Trent Green/Marc Bulger vs. MiamiGus Frerotte vs. ChicagoKyle Orton @ MinnesotaJason Campbell vs. New York GiantsMatt Hasselbeck @ DallasBradyQuinn vs. IndianapolisRyan Fitzpatrick vs. BaltimoreDaunteCulpepper vs. Tennessee
• Needing a win to secure a playoff berth in my home league, I traded for McNabb late on Friday night (note to self: stop drinking and dealing). I started him, and as you know, he put up -6 fantasy points. I lost by two. Nobody has more spite for Andy Reid and McNabb than I do right now, but I'm not letting it cloud my judgment for this week. The Cardinals are giving up an average of two passing touchdowns a game. At home, in front of a hostile Philly crowd, I fully expect McNabb to use the boulder-sized chip on his shoulder and an "f-you" attitude to propel him to fantasy studliness.
• In case you needed reminding, Rivers has thrown multiple touchdowns in eight of his 11 games. Don't ever bench him.
• What Matt Ryan is doing as a rookie QB is unprecedented. He's on pace for 3,516 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only 9 picks. To put that in perspective, Roethlisberger was the only guy to even come close to the 2:1 TD/INT ratio that Ryan is flirting with, and the elder Manning is the lone rookie to top 3,000 yards (Chris Weinke had 2,931 yards, but of course, he was also 38 years old). "Matty Ice" is a great play against a San Diego defense which is ranked dead last in passing yards allowed per game ...
• "Average Joe" Flacco is also having a very surprising rookie campaign. This weekend, he is facing a Bengals team that gives new meaning to the term "much maligned," but I just can't put my playoff hopes in the hands of a guy who was playing against the likes of Delaware State and Northern Iowa at this time last year.
• Since being named the starter in Week 8, no one has more passing touchdowns than Thigpen's 11. Toss in the fact that he's run for over 20 yards in each game, and you can go ahead and count me among the growing throng of Thigpen believers.
• Not so much on Shaun Hill. Sure, he put up two touchdowns in each of his last three games, but those came against the sieve-like secondaries of Arizona, St. Louis, and Dallas. I'd take a vacation to Buffalo in late November, rather than start an inexperienced, warm weather QB in that same city with my playoff life at stake.
• What if I told you there was a quarterback, who in five starts this year is averaging 246.2 passing yards, has five touchdowns, and is playing against a team that has given up the fourth most passing scores in the league? Is that someone you might be interested in? Now what if I told that his name was Sage Rosenfels and he's also turned the ball over 11 times in those five games? Changes things a bit. The man is a fantasy roller coaster.
• The first thing that went through my head when I saw Cassel throw for 400 yards again this past weekend was, "Boy, that Tom Brady fella sure was overrated." Ok, so maybe that's was just my inner Colts fan talking, but it does make you wonder doesn't it? Don't expect a repeat performance out of Cassel against Pittsburgh. The Steelers allow a league-low 168.8 passing yards and are second in the NFL with 37 sacks...
Thomas Jones vs. DenverMarion Barber vs. SeattleLaDainian Tomlinson vs. AtlantaAdrian Peterson vs. ChicagoMarshawn Lynch vs. San FranciscoChris Johnson @ DetroitJoseph Addai @ ClevelandMichael Turner @ San DiegoMatt Forte @ MinnesotaDeAngelo Williams @ Green BayDarren McFadden vs. Kansas CityLarry Johnson @ OaklandJamal Lewis vs. IndianapolisFrank Gore @ BuffaloWarrick Dunn vs. New OrleansBrandon Jacobs @ WashingtonRyan Grant vs. CarolinaRonnie Brown @ St. LouisClinton Portis vs. New York GiantsMaurice Jones-Drew @ HoustonLenDale White @ Detroit
Mewelde Moore @ New EnglandJustin Fargas vs. Kansas CitySteve Slaton vs. JacksonvilleLeon Washington vs. DenverSteven Jackson vs. MiamiWillis McGahee @ CincinnatiDerrick Ward @ WashingtonFred Jackson vs. San FranciscoReggie Bush @ Tampa BayPierre Thomas @ Tampa BayRicky Williams @ St. LouisLe'Ron McClain @ CincinnatiDominic Rhodes @ ClevelandTim Hightower @ PhiladelphiaJuliusJones @ DallasPeyton Hillis @ New York JetsJerome Harrison vs. Indianapolis
Brian Westbrook vs. ArizonaKevin Smith vs. TennesseeJ.J. Arrington @ PhiladelphiaMaurice Morris @ DallasDeuce McAllister @ Tampa BayRay Rice @ CincinnatiKevin Faulk vs. PittsburghFred Taylor @ HoustonSammy Morris vs. PittsburghAntonio Pittman vs. MiamiCedric Benson vs. BaltimoreJonathan Stewart @ Green BayCarnell Williams vs. New OrleansBenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. PittsburghTatum Bell @ New York JetsMichael Bush vs. Kansas City
• Don't read too much into Fargas' 107 yards against Denver (I'm pretty sure that a handicapped donkey could top 100 yards with 24 carries against the Broncos). It was clear to anyone watching the game that a healthy McFadden is far and away the best back in Oakland. At one point, after Fargas was denied a touchdown inside the five-yard line for the sixth consecutive time (no joke), McFadden had to literally guarantee coach Tom Cable that he would score if they just gave him the damn ball. The result? An easy jaunt into the end zone for the rook. There doesn't seem to be any explainable reason for McFadden not to start getting the bulk of the carries for a 3-8 Raiders team that should have their one unpatched eye looking solely towards next season. Of course it is Oakland, and "Demented Davis" and "Unable Cable" are running the show, but if logic wins out, "Run DMC" will be a Top Five play at the position.
• At first glance, Forte doesn't figure to be a great start against the vaunted run defense of the Vikings, but an interesting pattern has started to develop for opposing runners against Minnesota. In four November games, starting backs are averaging just under six catches and right around 60 yards receiving, as teams are starting realize that the Vikings big hefties can be neutralized by screen passes and short swing routes out of the backfield. And it just so happens that Forte is second among all backs in receptions, and third in receiving yards ...
• Let's see, Thanksgiving Thursday brings us the league's biggest turkeys (the Lions), going against, literally, the league's hungriest running back (White). If "Lumpy LenDale" doesn't score a touchdown, I'll eat my life-sized cardboard cutout of John Madden.
• Larry Johnson should be poised for a big game against Oakland. He's been entirely undependable this season, what with his inability to avoid giving women liquor baths, and the Chiefs inability to keep the running game relevant by not getting blown out. The Raiders run defense is very suspect, but they held Johnson to just 22 yards on 12 carries in their first meeting. Honestly, nothing would surprise me here.
• Lorenzo Booker. Let's discuss. I have no clue if he's a good running back or not, but I do know that, in five games with the Dolphins last year, he caught 28 passes. Sounds like the prototypical Eagles back if you ask me.
• The good news for Slaton owners is that the ball-thieving Ahman Green was gunned down by the injury sniper. The bad news is that Slaton isn't exactly a pillar of great health himself these days. Bruised ribs and 191 touches are really starting to wear on the kid, and the physical Jacksonville defense seems like a prescription written by Dr. Kevorkian. Avoid him if you can.
• The Jets have allowed three backs to rush for more than 50 yards. For the entire year. Gotta say, I'm not liking Peyton Hillis' prospects much this week.
• I'm not necessarily saying he's starter worthy, but over the past three weeks, Jerome Harrison has put up 188 yards on 18 touches, while the plodding Jamal Lewis has only gained 217 yards on 51 touches. At the very least, Harrison is worth a pickup if you're a Lewis owner. Considering the fragile state of the Colts run defense, you could do worse if you're in desperate need at the RB3 spot.
Anquan Boldin @ PhiladelphiaTerrell Owens vs. SeattleBrandon Marshall @ New York JetsLarry Fitzgerald @ PhiladelphiaAndre Johnson vs. JacksonvilleRandy Moss vs. PittsburghSteve Smith @ Green BayReggieWayne @ ClevelandRoddy White @ San DiegoMarques Colston @ Tampa BayWes Welker vs. PittsburghLaveranues Coles vs. DenverJerricho Cotchery vs. DenverBraylon Edwards vs. IndianapolisLee Evans vs. San FranciscoDwayne Bowe @ OaklandHines Ward @ New EnglandLance Moore @ Tampa BayT.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. BaltimoreCalvin Johnson vs. Tennessee
Santonio Holmes @ New EnglandChris Chambers vs. AtlantaDeSean Jackson vs. ArizonaBraylon Edwards vs. IndianapolisSantana Moss vs. New York GiantsDonald Driver vs. CarolinaDerrick Mason @ CincinnatiKevin Walter vs. JacksonvilleKevin Curtis vs. ArizonaAntonio Bryant vs. New OrleansVincent Jackson vs. AtlantaMatt Jones @ HoustonMarvin Harrison @ ClevelandAnthony Gonzalez @ ClevelandRoy Williams vs. SeattleMichael Jenkins @ San DiegoTed Ginn Jr. @ St. LouisJosh Reed vs. San FranciscoJustin Gage @ DetroitTorry Holt vs. MiamiDavone Bess @ St. LouisMuhsin Muhammad @ Green BayDeion Branch @ DallasMark Bradley @ OaklandDevin Hester @ Minnesota
Chad Johnson vs. BaltimorePlaxico Burress @ WashingtonSteve Breaston @ PhiladelphiaBernard Berrian vs. ChicagoAntwaan Randle El vs. New York GiantsIsaac Bruce @ BuffaloDonnie Avery vs. MiamiHarry Douglas @ San DiegoMark Clayton @ CincinnatiBobby Engram @ DallasAshley Lelie vs. Kansas CityJabar Gaffney vs. PittsburghMalcom Floyd vs. AtlantaIke Hilliard vs. New OrleansAmani Toomer @ WashingtonJoey Galloway vs. New OrleansReggie Brown vs. Arizona
• With no hope of establishing a running game against the Jets, there's a good possibility that Cutler airs it out 50-plus times. If you set the over/under at 11 catches for Marshall on Sunday, I'd take the over without thinking twice about it.
• Can you imagine the season Calvin Johnson would be having if he didn't have the Orlovsky-Culpepper duo throwing him the ball all year? The fact that he's scored in six of his last seven games and is currently fifth in receiving yards is nothing short of a miracle. That said, he's bound to have a bad game sometime soon, right? If anyone can corral him, it's a ticked off Titans squad.
• It's referred to as "Steve Blass Disease" in baseball (or for those of us under 30 years old, the "Rick Ankiel Affliction"). In golf, they call it the "yips." They have a name for it in the porn industry, but I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to print it in this space (here's a hint, it rhymes with head dock). It's the inexplicable loss of the ability to do the one thing that made you successful at your job, and I think we're seeing it manifested in football for the first that I can recall. Edwards' numerous drops haven't completely killed off his fantasy value, but it sure has lowered it. With snow showers, swirling winds, and inept quarterback play expected in Cleveland on Sunday, I'd be a little apprehensive about giving him a go.
• Do I think that Roy Williams is capable of putting up big numbers for the Cowboys? Sure. Would I trust him as anything more than a WR3, even in a tasty matchup with the Seahawks? Not a chance. Sometimes, I wish when players were traded, that they'd have to change their names so that owners didn't get confused by what the player used to be with their former team. I also wish that I owned a pizza parlor above a bar and had a friendly clown for a limo driver. I never get what I wish for.
• Interestingly enough, the Bills lost all four games that Reed -- who was quietly having a decent season -- missed time in due to an ankle injury. During that same span, Lee Evans saw his production completely fall off the table. Upon his return, Buffalo put up a 50 spot, and Evans went for 110 yards (Reed had five catches for 50 yards and a score himself). If the Bills win out, I'm voting for Reed on my work sponsored MVP ballot. I'm also starting him in my flex spot against the Niners.
• Bernard Berrian used to be good this year. Now he's not (four catches for 52 yards in his last three games). You need to act accordingly.
• You may remember Davone Bess as the dreadlocked slot receiver that set the WAC on fire for three years as Colt Brennan's go-to man. Now you should know him as Greg Camarillo's replacement and the guy who had 85 yards on five catches last week, and who has actually caught a ball in every game this year. Owners in deeper leagues need to take notice.
Tony Gonzalez @ OaklandDustin Keller vs. DenverDallas Clark @ ClevelandAntonio Gates vs. AtlantaChris Cooley vs. New York GiantsKevin Boss @ WashingtonKellen Winslow vs. IndianapolisOwen Daniels vs. JacksonvilleBo Scaife @ DetroitJeremy Shockey @ Tampa BayBrent Celek vs. ArizonaZach Miller vs. Kansas CityJason Witten vs. Seattle
Heath Miller @ New EnglandJohn Carlson @ DallasTony Scheffler @ New York JetsGreg Olsen @ MinnesotaBilly Miller @ Tampa BayVisanthe Shiancoe vs. ChicagoVernon Davis @ BuffaloMarcedes Lewis @ HoustonTodd Heap @ CincinnatiJerramy Stevens vs. New Orleans|Desmond Clark @ MinnesotaDonald Lee vs. CarolinaMartellus Bennett vs. Seattle
Anthony Fasano @ St. LouisBenjamin Watson vs. PittsburghDante Rosario @ Green BayAlgeCrumpler @ DetroitRobert Royal vs. San FranciscoDaniel Graham @ New York JetsL.J. Smith vs. Arizona
• I know he's been battling through battered ribs, but Witten has just four catches for 53 yards in his last four games and hasn't scored since Week Five. Meanwhile, Martellus Bennett has eight grabs for 83 yards and two scores over the last four. Anyone who watched HBO's Hard Knocks and saw Bennett's punkishly arrogant attitude has to cringe at the thought of owning him, but the dude is a freakish athlete and his presence is hurting Witten's value. Hopefully (for "J-Dubs" sake), Bennett's ankle injury keeps him limited on Thursday.
• Keller is not the future of the tight end position. He's the present. His 20 receptions for 236 yards over the last three weeks has only been bettered by Gonzalez.
• Good to see Reid finally come to the conclusion that Celek was a better option than L.J. Smith. It only took 23 months without Smith recording over 50 yards in a game, a 131-yard performance out of Celek, and then an additional two more weeks for him to figure it out. If McNabb has as big of a game as I think he's going to have, Celek will be a delight to watch through turkey-induced glazed eyes on Thursday.
• Since his banishment to the locker room against Seattle, "Vern-Nasty" has just three receptions in his last three games. Two of them went for touchdowns and one was a 47-yarder, which makes him the seventh ranked TE (in non PPR leagues) during that time. Go figure...