Playoff Preview

You've worked too hard to blow it now. Time to hunker down and study key matchups, game-by-game and player-by-player, for three make-or-break weeks
December 11, 2006

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Week 14
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DREW BREES hasbeen getting much MVP love recently, and deservedly so: He has thrown for 3,649yards while guiding the division-leading Saints to an 8--4 record. However,when he meets Dallas's stingy pass defense in a matchup loaded with fantasysignificance, Brees could be without two of his top receivers--Marques Colston,who has missed almost three entire games with a sprained ankle, and Joe Horn,who left Sunday's game with a groin injury. With Brees's wideouts ailing, themost intriguing player will be Reggie Bush. On Sunday the man with the movesmade for EA Sports had the kind of performance that many had been expecting allseason (168 total yards, four touchdowns). The rookie looks as if he's comingaround, just in time for the playoffs.

Week 15
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WHEN THISimportant week on the fantasy schedule arrives, many owners still alive willhave either Larry Johnson or LaDainian Tomlinson in their lineups, so there'sno bigger showdown than the Chiefs-Chargers game. Owners of fantasy's top twostuds may not get the usual production out of their workhorses, however.Tomlinson has rushed for 75.3 yards per game against K.C. in his career (hislowest average among teams he has faced at least four times) while Johnson hasrun for 68.8 against San Diego (his lowest mark among teams he has faced morethan once).

Week 16
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WILL PEYTON play?And if he does, how much? In a week in which most fantasy league championshipswill be on the line, the answers to those questions could determine who winsbragging rights for the next year. The Colts (10--2) may have home fieldadvantage throughout the AFC playoffs clinched by the time they face theTexans, and remember what happened last year: With the home field clinchedentering Week 16, Manning played only the first quarter in a 28--13 loss to theSeahawks, killing every fantasy team that had him in its starting lineup. IfManning plays against Houston, he's likely to have a statistical field day.(The Texans rank near the bottom of the league against the pass.) But startinghim could be the biggest gamble of the season.

Week 14

GOING DEEP: THREE TO TAKE A FLIER ON

1. TERRANCECOPPER
WR
Saints AT Cowboys

With his offensiveweapons limited by injuries, coach Sean Payton can throw a curveball at his oldteam by calling Copper's number in a few key situations.

2. ARNAZ BATTLE
WR
49ers VS Packers

Underestimated allseason as a fantasy contributor, Battle (18 receptions in his last four games)will have a field day against a horrible secondary.

3. BRYANFLETCHER
TE
Colts AT Jaguars

Starter DallasClark is out indefinitely with a knee injury, so Fletcher (14 catches, 158yards, two TDs) becomes a key player against the depleted Jags.

BY THE NUMBERS

15
Rushing touchdowns by the Seahawks' Shaun Alexander in nine career gamesagainst the Cardinals.

1
Rushing touchdown by the Eagles' Brian Westbrook in seven career games againstthe Redskins.

0
TD passes allowed to opposing quarterbacks over the last three games by theRaiders, who next face Carson Palmer and the Bengals.

12
Interceptions thrown by the Texans' David Carr in nine career games against theTitans.

5
Total receptions (for 41 yards and no TDs) by the Lions' Roy Williams in hislast three games against the Vikings.

116
Rushing yards per game for the Bills' Willis McGahee in five career gamesagainst the Jets, his highest average among opponents he has faced more thanonce.

FANTASY FORECAST: GAME-BY-GAME

GAME STUD DUD
Browns at Steelers Willie Parker Derek Anderson
Bills at Jets Willis McGahee J.P. Losman
Colts at Jaguars Adam Vinatieri Jaguars D
Eagles at Redskins L.J. Smith Donte' Stallworth
Falcons at Buccaneers Michael Vick Michael Jenkins
Giants at Panthers Steve Smith Plaxico Burress
Patriots at Dolphins Ben Watson Chris Chambers
Raiders at Bengals Chad Johnson Rudi Johnson
Ravens at Chiefs Derrick Mason Trent Green
Titans at Texans Eric Moulds Samkon Gado
Vikings at Lions Chester Taylor Kevin Jones
Broncos at Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson Tatum Bell
Packers at 49ers Alex Smith Ahman Green
Seahawks at Cardinals Shaun Alexander Matt Leinart
Saints at Cowboys Reggie Bush Julius Jones
Bears at Rams Steven Jackson Thomas Jones



Week 15

GOING DEEP: THREETO TAKE A FLIER ON

1. DAVID KIRCUS
WR
Broncos AT Cardinals

He has played onthe second team with Jay Cutler for most of the season, and thatfamiliarity--along with a soft Arizona pass rush--could result in some bigplays.

2. BRANDONJONES
WR
Titans VS Jaguars

The replacementfor the injured David Givens is becoming Vince Young's go-to guy in the clutch.He'll get open with safety Donovin Darius out for the year.

3. BRANDONSTOKLEY
WR
Colts VS Bengals

One of the NFL'stop slot receivers has missed most of the year with a sprained knee. PeytonManning will get him involved and primed for the playoffs.

BY THE NUMBERS

8
TD catches for the Chargers' Antonio Gates in five career games versus theChiefs, against whom he's had 33 catches for 401 yards.

4
Rushing TDs for the Cowboys' Marion Barber in the last three weeks. Barber'sWeek 15 foes, the Falcons, have allowed 12 TDs on the ground, tied foreighth-worst in the NFL.

15 1/2
Sacks by Dolphins DE Jason Taylor in 17 career games against the Bills. Rankedfourth with 38 sacks, the Miami D faces the NFL's fourth-most-sackedquarterback in J.P. Losman.

5
Touchdown catches of 20 or more yards for the Seahawks' Darrell Jackson, topsin the NFL. Jackson takes on the 49ers, who have allowed seven such longscores, tied for sixth-most in the league.

129
Rushing average for the Ravens' Jamal Lewis in 11 career games against theBrowns.

FANTASY FORECAST:GAME-BY-GAME

GAME STUD DUD
49ers at Seahawks Shaun Alexander Jerramy Stevens
Cowboys at Falcons Terrell Owens Warrick Dunn
Buccaneers at Bears Muhsin Muhammad Cadillac Williams
Browns at Ravens Steve McNair Reuben Droughns
Dolphins at Bills Dolphins D Sammy Morris
Eagles at Giants Tiki Barber Giants D
Jaguars at Titans Maurice Jones-Drew Travis Henry
Jets at Vikings Chester Taylor Cedric Houston
Lions at Packers Roy Williams Jason Hanson
Redskins at Saints Drew Brees Joe Horn
Steelers at Panthers Willie Parker Ben Roethlisberger
Texans at Patriots Tom Brady David Carr
Broncos at Cardinals Jay Cutler Edgerrin James
Chiefs at Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson Eric Parker
Rams at Raiders Steven Jackson Justin Fargas
Bengals at Colts Carson Palmer Dominic Rhodes


Week 16

GOING DEEP: THREE TO TAKE A FLIER ON

1. DEREKHAGAN
WR
Dolphins VS Jets

The rookieshowcased his talents in a season-best six-catch, 66-yard game against New Yorkin Week 6. He'll get another chance on Christmas night.

2. CEDRICBENSON
RB
Bears AT Lions

The NFC Northchamps can rest Thomas Jones and see what happens when Benson, their 2005first-round pick, gets a full complement of carries.

3. MUSASMITH
RB
Ravens AT Steelers

The division willbe wrapped up and Baltimore will want to keep starter Jamal Lewis fresh for theplayoffs, especially against the seething Steelers.

BY THE NUMBERS

47
TD passes for the Packers' Brett Favre in 25 career games against the Vikings,the most he has thrown against any team.

26
Field goals allowed by the Redskins this season, the most in the league. That'sgood news for the Rams' Jeff Wilkins, who ranks second in scoring amongkickers.

4
Consecutive games against the Dolphins in which the Jets' Laveranues Coles hashad a TD catch. When the teams hooked up in Week 6, Coles had 106 receivingyards and two TDs.

22
Touchdown passes for the Colts' Peyton Manning in nine career games against theTexans. Fifteen of those scores have come in the last five meetings.

8
Rushing touchdowns allowed by the Cardinals' D in six road games this season.The 49ers' Frank Gore scored twice the last time the teams met, at Arizona inWeek 1.

FANTASY FORECAST:GAME-BY-GAME

GAME STUD DUD
Vikings at Packers Chester Taylor Ahman Green
Chiefs at Raiders Tony Gonzalez Randy Moss
Ravens at Steelers Ravens D Ben Roethlisberger
Panthers at Falcons DeAngelo Williams Warrick Dunn
Bears at Lions Mark Bradley Kevin Jones
Colts at Texans Andre Johnson Peyton Manning
Patriots at Jaguars Laurence Maroney Corey Dillon
Saints at Giants Deuce McAllister Giants D
Buccaneers at Browns Kellen Winslow Bruce Gradkowski
Titans at Bills Lee Evans Travis Henry
Redskins at Rams Torry Holt Isaac Bruce
Cardinals at 49ers Frank Gore Bryant Johnson
Bengals at Broncos Javon Walker Rudi Johnson
Chargers at Seahawks Shaun Alexander Matt Hasselbeck
Eagles at Cowboys Tony Romo Jeff Garcia
Jets at Dolphins Laveranues Coles Cedric Houston

PLAYER RANKINGS

Get the latest NFL news, plus ratings for all fantasyfootball positions, at SI.com/fantasy.

PHOTOJIMMY DEFLIPPO/US PRESSWIRE (BUSH)BUSH PHOTOED ZURGA/AP (JOHNSON)JOHNSON PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (MANNING)MANNING PHOTOTOM DIPACELATE RISER Overshadowed by other receivers early in the year, Copper has come on to catch touchdown passes in three of his last four games. PHOTOTOM DIPACEMCGAHEE PHOTOGREG TROTT/WIREIMAGE.COM (KIRCUS)KIRCUS CATCH? The third-year wideout has just 13 career receptions but a good rapport with Denver's new starting quarterback. PHOTODEHOOG/TDP (LEWIS)LEWIS PHOTORICHARD C. LEWIS/WIREIMAGE.COM (HAGAN)FRESH FISH The 6'2" Hagan, a third-rounder out of Arizona State, is a possession receiver with good size. PHOTOLOUIS LOPEZ/CAL SPORT MEDIA (GORE)GORE

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)