January 13, 2010

The Colts' stale ending to the 2009 season has many wondering how the team will perform now that it's crunch time. One thing is for certain -- Indianapolis faces a stiff challenge in a Baltimore defense that all but shut down New England last week.

When the teams met in Week 11, Colts running back Joseph Addai struggled to gain ground. While he did post the longest gain of his season (21 yards), Addai gained just 2.9 yards on his other 18 carries that afternoon. The team's other back, rookie Donald Brown, may be in a better position to shine this weekend. Though Brown was limited in the game against Baltimore he was given a hefty workload against the Jets in Week 16 and has the explosiveness to break the big gainers that Addai may not.

The playoffs are an opportunity for young players to step up their game, and fantasy owners can expect Brown to get that opportunity this weekend.

Here are a few more fringe players that could come up big for their respective teams this weekend ...

Fantasy owners are well aware of Smith, New York's Wildcat weapon. But at a glance his season numbers aren't impressive enough for fantasy owners to consider him worthy of a playoff roster spot. Maybe they should reconsider. Smith posted 13 of his 18 rushing attempts in the final five games of the season, including five attempts against Tampa Bay and four for 92 yards in the Week 17 win over Cincinnati. It's evident that the Jets' coaching staff is intent on using Smith in as many ways as it can, and that will be the case again against San Diego.

Next to New York's Darrelle Revis, the Cowboys own two of the better cornerbacks remaining in action, Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins. Minnesota will need a strong effort from its passing game in this contest, meaning Brett Favre may need to turn to his backs and secondary receivers if Newman and Jenkins do a number on Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice. Enter Lewis, who has had a quiet season but has the skill to rise to the occasion. A reach, no question, but Lewis has plenty of playoff experience having played for Philadelphia during the first six years of his career.

Many fantasy owners will have forgotten about Thomas, who missed the regular season finale with a calf injury. Thomas caught 35 passes this year, including 13 in his last two outings combined (102 yards). In fact, Thomas had 25 or more yards in six of his final seven appearances suggesting he is beginning to emerge in his first year in New Orleans. Last week Arizona allowed 159 yards to Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, and although Thomas has nowhere near the athleticism that Finley possesses, he could nonetheless be a good weapon down the middle of the field where Arizona's defense is vulnerable.

The rookie out of Virginia has shown great promise down the stretch this season. He has good size (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) and was given an opportunity to catch the football in the final month of the season. In the Week 15 win over New Orleans he caught three passes for 40 yards, and last weekend against Philadelphia he caught a one-yard score. With opposing defenses paying so much attention to Dallas' all-world tight end Jason Witten -- a pattern Minnesota will no doubt follow -- it allows players like Phillips to be forgotten on passing downs.

You May Like