December 09, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jeff Ritter
Sweet Home Carolina
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:

  • Despite facing one of the toughest run defenses in the league, the 1-2 Panther punch of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart was awesome. Williams rumbled for a franchise record 186 yards and added two scores. Stewart tore off 115 yards and two more TDs. It was a jaw-slackening performance, and if you have either of these guys on your fantasy team, you probably won your playoff matchup. (And you should feel good moving forward. Denver's terrible D is up next.)
  • Steve Smith remains one of the league's most dynamic players. It was just another ho-hum nine-catch, 117-yard, one TD night, and his presence continues to keep defenses honest, giving Williams and Stewart (Flash and Dash? Shake and Bake?) more room to run.
  • I still don't like either of the Monday quarterbacks as a fantasy option. Jake Delhomme is inconsistent, and Jeff Garcia is a risky matchup play. If you have to start one or the other this week, I'd take Delhomme, who gets the wildly unpredictable Broncos, over Garcia, who travels to Atlanta.
  • The Bucs fancy themselves to be a run-first operation, but Antonio Bryant continues to be a legit home run threat. He hauled in nine passes for 200 (yes, 200) yards, and two scores. Bryant was barely a blip on the fantasy radar at the start of the season, now he's a solid fantasy No. 1. Just further proof it's not always the biggest names, but those diamonds in the rough who produce the fantasy titles.
  • Oh, Bryant's second touchdown catch was so good it deserves it's own separate mention. And highlight.
  • Finally, just in case you need a more proof that Carolina is a tough play to play -- or even to broadcast -- here's a clip. Emmitt Smith's ensuing death stare is priceless.
  • Go Get 'Em

    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.

    Nothing's Better Than The Fantasy Playoffs

    This week in the much-discussed 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. ...

    Another Way To Celebrate Fantasy Success

    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.

    5 Under-The-Radar Guys Who'll Score This Week

    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)

    Washington's Offense Is Skinned

    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.

    Banged Up Barbarian
    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.

    Five Week 15 Busts

    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)

    There's Always Next Year

    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

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