Archive for December, 2006

Best and Worst of 2006

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Yes, this is primarily a sports site, but everyone else is doing a best/worst list, and I’m starting to feel left out.

MOVIES – Overall, I think this was a pretty weak year in film. That said, let it be noted that I have been pretty slow and have yet to see Pan’s Labyrinth, Babel, Volver, Half Nelson, The Science of Sleep, An Inconvenient Truth and Letters From Iwo Jima. My list may very well look completely different a month from now.

The Best

1. Borat – Yes, there’s some decent social commentary here, but bottom line, I’ve probably never laughed harder during a movie in my life.

2. Casino Royale – I am not a Bond fan and generally not big on this genre. Still, it was the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in a while. Daniel Craig is the man.

3. The Departed – I admit, this movie is definitely over-the-top but in a good way. Martin Scorsese makes the in your face, bigger than life characters work. Again, good old fashioned, popcorn fun here.

4. Little Miss Sunshine – A little more emotional than your average comedy, making it one to remember.

5. The Devil and Daniel Johnston – OK, so I’m cheating here (2005), but it was new for me this year. Johnston is a truly intriguing character study.

6. United 93 – Do not rent “World Trade Center,” starring Nic Cage’s terrible mustache. United 93 pulls no punches and is a poignant look at what many of us don’t want to examine.

7. Superman Returns – I hate comic book movies, but this is easily the best one ever.

8. Hard Candy – This one works better for those entering with no idea of where the film is going. It’s good but not great.

9. Inside Man – After years of never liking a Spike Lee joint, he’s now put out two that I’ve enjoyed. Inside Man was decent enough, and I contend that “25th Hour” is one of the best and most underrated of the decade.

10. TBA – At least one of the above mentioned movies I’ve yet to see has to make the cut, as I refuse to name “The Last Kiss” here.

The Worst

1. Rocky Balboa – An unmitigated disaster. While I admit the end fight sequence was good, the dialogue was so bad I was laughing out loud constantly. Treating biracialism as a complex issue, Sly inquires: “Yo, you go on a Jamaican Cruise or something?” Unbelievable.

2. Apocalypto – Um, to call this over-the-top would be an understatement. Was I supposed to be laughing? Jaguar Paw is the man, don’t get me wrong, but Mel Gibson lost me with all of those animal sequences.

3. Little Man – This coming from a guy who actually liked “White Chicks.”

4. Thank You For Smoking – This is more for being disappointing than it is for being truly awful. Still, it certainly wasn’t any good.

5. Lady in the Water – As an M. Night Shyamalan apologist, I’ll only go so far. I like how he cast himself as the soulful writer and then later has a know-it-all critic get eaten by a monster. Subtle, he is not.

6. Firewall – I swear, all Harrison Ford movies have molded into one.

7. Poseidon – Blah.

8. Date Movie – Blah.

9. Scary Movie 4 – Please stop.

10. Night at the Museum – I didn’t see this movie, but the commercial looks pretty awesome.

TELEVISION

The Best

1. The Wire – The best and most important show ever made. Period.

2. Curb Your Enthusiasm – This might have technically been last year, but its reruns still qualify it in my book. My favorite comedy of all-time, and it’s not even close.

3. Deadwood – I don’t even like Westerns, but HBO gets it right yet again. Ian McShane is brilliant.

4. The Office – Not as good as the British version but definitely the best sitcom on network television these days.

5. The Sopranos – While some grumblings have started regarding long dream sequences, Johnny Cakes and overstaying its welcome in general, there are still few shows I look forward to more than The Sopranos.

6. Lost – Although currently in the midst of its worst season, still intriguing enough.

7. Friday Night Lights – I was skeptical, but this show is pretty solid.

8. To Catch a Predator – Is there anyone more condescending than Chris Hansen? I could watch this show all day long.

9. Boston Legal – Underrated. — I would put “The Shield” on here, but I’m still waiting to watch season 5 on DVD. The Strike Team!

10. Prison Break – This show is awful, and I can’t get enough of it.

The Worst

1. Monday Night Football – It’s safe to say the announcing trio doesn’t work. And the guest cameos? Mike Tirico: “So, Christian, are you a football fan?” Christian Slater: (long pause) “I have lots of friends who are football fans.” Painful.

2. Lucky Louie – Dreadful.

3. Nip/Tuck – I used to love this show, but it was almost unwatchable this season. Listen, I’m still a fan, but my leash extends only so far.

4. Deal or No Deal – This show’s got nothing on 1 vs. 100.

5. Day Break – Admittedly, I’ve never seen this show, but the commercials were enough to warrant it making this list.


Music

The Best

1. Thom Yorke – The Eraser

2. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

Were there any other albums released this year?

Game Capsules

Friday, December 29th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

New York Giants (-2.5) at Washington, Saturday 8 p.m.

Comments: No matter how hard they try not to, the Giants still remain alive in the playoff picture. New York has lost six of its last seven games and didn’t run one single play in New Orleans’ territory last week, when they were held to a season-low 142 yards. The Giants have committed seven turnovers over the last two weeks and have allowed 27.1 points per game over the last seven weeks. Despite all of this, a win Saturday likely gets them into the postseason. Coach Tom Coughlin announced this week that quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride would assume play-calling duties from offensive coordinator John Hufnagel, but the Giants’ problems are rooted far deeper than that. With Michael Strahan (foot) on injured reserve and Jeremy Shockey (ankle, questionable) a game-time decision, New York enters short-handed as well. If you take away one early pass play, Eli Manning threw for just 19 yards last week, and he finished with a paltry 3.0 YPA. Tiki Barber probably didn’t envision riding off into the sunset quite like this, as the Giants are a sinking ship…Washington, on the other hand, as shown improvement of late, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Ladell Betts will set a franchise record Saturday if he’s able to get his sixth straight 100-yard rushing effort. The offensive line has done a tremendous job opening gaping holes for the running game, and Betts is taking full advantage, showing excellent speed and vision in the open field. After throwing five interceptions over his previous three games, Jason Campbell has played mistake-free football over the last two contests. While the Giants seemingly have more to play for, there isn’t a less inspired football team right now…New York lists Rich Seubert (shin) as doubtful, while Washington lists Jon Jansen (calf) and Casey Rabach (hand) as probable.

Predictions: Eli Manning is again inaccurate, but he does throw for 220 yards and a TD strike to Plaxico Burress. Tiki Barber exits the league with a 125-yard rushing effort, while Brandon Jacobs runs in a goal line score. Jason Campbell gets 180 passing yards, with a scoring strike to Chris Cooley. Ladell Betts runs for 130 yards and a TD, while T.J. Duckett runs in another short score, putting an end to the Giants’ playoff hopes. Redskins 21-20.

Carolina (-3) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Although coach Sean Payton isn’t revealing how much his starters will play this week, New Orleans is one of a handful of teams that has absolutely nothing to play for. The Panthers, however, still have playoff aspirations, as long as the Giants lose Saturday night. Regardless, New Orleans will be focusing on its first trip to the playoffs since 2000, likely resulting in limited playing time from its key players, as the Saints are locked into the No. 2 seed. Winners of four out of its last five games, New Orleans enters the final week of the season with the league-leading offense (397.8 yards per game) and passing offense (284.5 yards per game). Drew Brees is likely to fall short, but his season has been MVP-worthy (8.0 YPA)…Carolina won last week while attempting just seven passes all game, bringing an end to Chris Weinke’s 17-game losing streak. Even though Jake Delhomme (thumb) has been upgraded to probable and looks likely to return, expect a similar run-heavy strategy this week against the Saints, who are surrendering 130.5 rushing yards per game. Look for DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams to be busy Sunday, while Steve Smith is highly unlikely to be held without a catch again…The Saints list Joe Horn (groin, doubtful), Terrance Copper (foot, questionable) and Omar Stoutmire (knee, questionable) on the injury report, while the Panthers do the same with Thomas Davis (shoulder, questionable) and Nick Goings (chest, probable)…Carolina is 6-2 over its last eight games against New Orleans.

Predictions: Drew Brees plays sparingly and doesn’t toss a TD as a result. Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister’s playing time is also limited, but McAllister does reach paydirt before exiting. Jake Delhomme plays a conservative game, resulting in 180 yards and a TD to Steve Smith. DeAngelo Williams racks up 80 combined yards, while DeShaun Foster adds 60 and a score, as the road team prevails. Panthers 20-16.

Detroit (+13) at Dallas, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: While Tony Romo has regressed, he hasn’t exactly turned into a pumpkin yet, as he’s still leading the league with 8.5 YPA. However, Dallas has lost each of its last two home games and has hurt its playoff seeding in the process. Detroit, meanwhile, is fighting for the rights to the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. The Lions are 0-7 on the road this season and have dropped seven straight games. While Jon Kitna may have extra motivation to win this week, and therefore allow Brady Quinn to be drafted elsewhere, he leads the NFL with 30 turnovers and has committed at least one in every game since opening week. However, he’s just 98 yards away from posting the second 4,000-yard passing season in franchise history. Against a Dallas secondary that has given up 10 touchdown passes and 10.1 YPA over the last three games, Kitna should have plenty of opportunities Sunday…While the Cowboys are struggling at the wrong time of the season, this team still has potential to go deep into the playoffs. A good way to enter with some momentum would be to run over an inferior squad, with the Lions fitting the bill perfectly. Detroit allows more than 130 rushing yards per contest, so expect Julius Jones and Marion Barber, who leads the NFC with 15 touchdowns, to have big games. Coming off his worst game as a pro, expect Romo to bounce back with a nice effort Sunday, while Terrell Owens atones for his recent drops with a good game himself, as Dallas rolls into the postseason…The Lions list Fernando Bryant (concussion, out), Ross Verba (groin, out) and Teddy Lehman (hamstring, questionable) on the injury report, while the Cowboys list Jay Ratliff (shoulder, questionable)…Dallas has won the last three meetings between these two teams.

Predictions: Jon Kitna throws for 300 yards but also two interceptions and just one touchdown, with Roy Williams being the recipient. Tony Romo answers with 260 yards and two touchdowns that are hauled in by Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens. Owens also adds 120 receiving yards on the day. Julius Jones runs for 110 yards, while Marion Barber gets 50 and two TD runs, as Dallas wins in a rout. Cowboys 31-13.

Seattle (+3.5) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Thanks to their division, the Seahawks have “earned” the No. 4 seed despite losing their last three games. Although locked into their playoff spot, the Seahawks are likely to play to win Sunday, as the team will want to avoid entering the postseason on a four-game losing skid. Still, since they won’t have a bye, it’s possible the starters do sit out the latter part of the game. Seattle has allowed 27.8 points per game over its last six road contests and faces a Tampa Bay team that has played better with Tim Rattay at quarterback. While Seattle stayed afloat with key offensive starters out earlier this season, the offense has struggled since Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander returned. Hasselbeck has a 1/4 TD/INT ratio over the last two games, and Deion Branch is dropping more balls than he’s catching. Alexander, however, got back on track last week, with 140 rushing yards and two TDs, easily qualifying as his best effort this season. Expect him to build off that performance with another nice game Sunday…Tampa Bay ended a four-game losing streak last week, thanks to improved defensive play. Also, the offense has moved better since Tim Rattay has been under center, as he’s getting 7.6 YPA compared to Chris Simms (5.5 YPA) and Bruce Gradkowski (5.1 YPA). Rattay has never been taken seriously as an NFL starting quarterback, but his career numbers (6.8 YPA) suggest he’s somewhat capable. As for the ground game, Carnell Williams (foot, questionable) looks likely to be out again, meaning Mike Alstott and the underrated Michael Pittman will share backfield duties. Pittman is getting 4.5 YPC this season and is always a threat in the passing game. Facing a Seahawks’ rush defense surrendering 127.9 yards per game, expect Pittman to rack up the yards Sunday…The Seahawks name Robbie Tobeck (hip, out), Darrell Jackson (toe, doubtful), Marcus Trufant (ankle, doubtful) and Rocky Bernard (foot, probable) on the injury report, while the Buccaneers name Alex Smith (back, doubtful), Juran Bolden (quad, questionable), Davin Joseph (knee, questionable), Jermaine Phillips (wrist, questionable) and Jamie Winborn (knee, questionable)…Seattle is 5-1 all-time versus Tampa Bay.

Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck bounces back with a solid game, resulting in 240 yards and a TD to Jerramy Stevens. D.J. Hackett remains his primary receiver, totaling 90 receiving yards. Shaun Alexander runs for 110 yards and a TD as well. Tim Rattay throws for 220 yards and finds Joey Galloway for a long score, while Michael Pittman adds 100 combined yards. Mike Alstott finds the end zone in what could be his last game in a Tampa uniform, as the Bucs win it on a late field goal. Buccaneers 23-21.

St. Louis (-2) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Both teams had promising starts to the season turn sour, but it’s only St. Louis who is still mathematically alive for the postseason. Still, it would take a victory Sunday and a whole lot of help for the Rams to make the playoffs. It’s still possible, however, thanks in large part to Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson. Bulger had a huge game last week, throwing four touchdowns and getting 10.2 YPA. Jackson, meanwhile, seems to have a huge game every week, with last week no exception (252 yards, 2 TDs). Jackson has already racked up an NFC-leading 2,168 total yards this season but won’t find many running lanes Sunday, as Minnesota sports the NFL’s best rush defense, ceding just 54.5 yards per game…Making his first career NFL start, Tarvaris Jackson (knee, probable) mustered just 50 passing yards last week. This week the offense will be without Marcus Robins (cut), but Troy Williamson (hamstring, probable) should be able to suit up. Williamson’s future is uncertain due to inconsistent hands, so he’ll have plenty of incentive to impress. Still, the Vikings figure to keep feeding the ball to Chester Taylor (ribs, probable), as the Rams surrender an atrocious 149.7 rushing yards per game. If St. Louis commits eight or nine men to the box, look for Jackson to make them pay, as the rookie may be raw, but he has the arm strength to sling it downfield. Last week’s game in a rainy Lambeau Field was an extremely difficult venue for a first start. This week at home and against a beatable Rams’ defense, Jackson will give Minnesota hope going into the offseason…The Rams list La’Roi Glover (ribs), Torry Holt (knee), Leonard Little (neck) and Will Witherspoon (knee) as probable, while the Vikings list Napoleon Harris (wrist) also as probable…Minnesota is 7-3 over the last 10 games against St. Louis.

Predictions: Marc Bulger throws for 260 yards and finds Torry Holt in the end zone, while Steven Jackson stays active in the passing game, resulting in 140 combined yards. He also runs in a score, while Chester Taylor counters with 110 yards and a TD run of his own. Tarvaris Jackson throws for 160 yards, runs for another 30 and finds Travis Taylor for a score, as home field is the difference. Vikings 20-17.

Atlanta (+8.5) at Philadelphia, Sunday 4:15 p.m.

Comments: Improbably, Philadelphia can clinch the No. 3 seed in the NFC with a win Sunday. The Falcons can also still make the postseason but have a much tougher road after losing two straight and six out of their last eight games. Atlanta has beat just one team with a winning record this season and hasn’t won a home game since Week 7. With coach Jim Mora’s job on the line, expect the Falcons to play focused, and their league-leading rushing attack does match up well against the Eagles, who boast the league’s 26th ranked run defense (134.9 yards allowed per game). Michael Vick’s play has been extremely inconsistent, as he followed a brilliant Week 15 performance with a lousy one last week (22.7 QB rating). Against a fast improving Eagles’ defense that has held opponents to less than 90 rushing yards in consecutive weeks, Vick and company will have their work cut for them…Not only has Philadelphia won four straight games, the last three have all come on the road against NFC East Division opponents. Jeff Garcia continues to impress (10.3 YPA last week), throwing for 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions since taking over quarterback duties. The Eagles’ offensive philosophy has changed along with the signal caller. With Donovan McNabb at the helm, Philadelphia used a quick-strike air attack offense that resulted in a 5-5 record. With Garcia, the offense has transformed into a more balanced, ball-control style, resulting in a 4-1 run. While the defense is another major reason for the improved record, Brian Westbrook (illness, probable) has been heavily involved as well. The running back already has surpassed his career-high in carries by 83 and has amassed 1,884 total yards. Westbrook has also eased some durability concerns after missing just one game this season. The offense will once again center around him on Sunday…The Falcons list Ashley Lelie (shoulder, out), Jason Webster (groin, doubtful), Edgerton Hartwell (knee, questionable), Roderick Coleman (knee, probable), Warrick Dunn (calf, probable), DeAngelo Hall (knee, probable) and Grady Jackson (knee, probable) on the injury report, while the Eagles list Williams James (calf, questionable), Michael Lewis (knee, questionable), Shawn Andrews (collarbone, probable), Lito Sheppard (back, probable), Jeremiah Trotter (knee, probable) and L.J. Smith (toe, probable)…Philadelphia is 4-1 over the last five games against Atlanta.

Predictions: Michael Vick throws for 180 yards, runs for 60 and finds Alge Crumpler in the end zone. Jerious Norwood runs for 40 yards, while Warrick Dunn rushes for 60 yards and a score. Jeff Garcia counters with 220 yards and TD strikes to Reggie Brown and Donte Stallworth, while Brian Westbrook gets 130 total yards and a touchdown run, as Philadelphia clinches its division. Eagles 24-20.

Green Bay (+3) at Chicago, Sunday 8:15 p.m.

Comments: Green Bay comes in with a possible playoff spot on the line in what could be Brett Favre’s final game, while Chicago enters with virtually nothing to play for, having already wrapped up home field advantage throughout the postseason. The Packers have won three straight, despite Favre’s last two games (zero TDs, five INTs). It’s been the Packers’ defense that’s kept their slim playoff hopes alive, allowing just 35 total points over their last three games, albeit against poor competition. Defensive end Aaron Kampman has played a big role, as he recorded three sacks last week when Green Bay held Minnesota to just 104 total yards of offense. Kampman’s 15 1/2 sacks tie him for the NFL lead. If this truly is Favre’s final game, you can bet he’ll want to go out a winner. Facing a Bears’ defense devastated by injuries that has allowed 32.3 points per game over the last weeks, he’ll have every opportunity to do so…It’s unclear just how long Chicago will play its starters Sunday night, as its only real incentive would be to go undefeated against the NFC this year for the first time since the 1985 Super Bowl champions did it. Rex Grossman has thrown five touchdowns to zero interceptions over the last three games, but like last week, expect Brian Griese to get significant playing time. Still, Thomas Jones (ankle, probable), Cedric Benson and even Adrian Peterson should be the biggest part of the Bears’ offense this week, as the team will want to enter the postseason with some momentum…Green Bay lists Abdul Hodge (shoulder, questionable), David Martin (rib, questionable), Donald Driver (shoulder, probable), Ahman Green (knee, probable) and Charles Woodson (shoulder, probable) on the injury report, while Chicago does the same with Charles Tillman (back, questionable), Leon Joe (hamstring, probable) and John Tait (ankle, probable)…Green Bay is a remarkable 11-1 over its last 12 games played in Soldier Field.

Predictions: Brett Favre rebounds from a couple of poor performances with 260 yards passing and two touchdowns to Donald Driver, who also surpasses the 100-yard mark. Ahman Green gets 75 rushing yards but the end zone eludes him. Rex Grossman’s playing time is limited, but Brian Griese is a capable substitute, throwing for 180 yards and a TD to Muhsin Muhammad. All three Bears’ running backs get on the field, but it’s Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson who find paydirt, as Chicago makes it 11-0 against its conference. Bears 21-17.

Bets of the Week

Friday, December 29th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

I should probably learn by now that teasers aren’t the way to go late in this crazy season of upsets, but I still like teasing Cincinnati (-6 at home against Pittsburgh) and Indianapolis (-9 at home against Miami). The better bet, however, may be to go with some underdog moneylines, Minnesota (+126 at home against St. Louis), Seattle (+169 at Tampa Bay) and Atlanta (+314 at Philadelphia) all present good value. Good luck.

Player Spotlight: Barry Zito

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The Giants signed Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract – the largest for a pitcher in baseball history. Basically, it’s identical to the one Vernon Wells signed just days ago. While Zito’s peripherals (151/99 K/BB ratio last year) suggest he’s more of a No. 2 starter than a true ace, there’s something to be said for durability. Zito is still only 28 years old and has made 34 or more starts, while throwing 210 or more innings in six straight seasons. He has never missed a start due to injury in his entire career.

General Managers see the value in minimizing injury risk, just ask Bill Bavasi, who recently signed Miguel Batista for no discernible reason other than health. Batista is guaranteed $25 million after a season with a 4.58 ERA and 1.53 WHIP while pitching in the NL. Gil Meche, who has a 4.65 career ERA and a poor K/BB ratio, was just guaranteed $55 million. These are unjustifiable, terrible contracts. Point is, the market is changing so fast, it’s impossible to judge Zito’s deal right now, and in comparison, it’s certainly not egregious.

From a baseball standpoint, Zito benefits from the league switch and ballpark, but it’s apparent that winning wasn’t a major issue. San Francisco has an old, and likely uncompetitive team next year, with one of the weakest farm systems in the game. Still, Matt Cain and Zito form a pretty solid duo for the future, and the lefty does get to stay in the Bay Area, something he clearly preferred.

Fantasywise, Zito finds himself in the best situation of his career. The switch from the AL to the NL cannot be underestimated. Just last year, Bronson Arroyo saw his ERA dip from 4.51 to 3.29, and his strikeout rate skyrocketed. Zito, a flyball pitcher like Arroyo, should love pitching in spacious AT&T Park. Billy Beane has a pretty amazing track record of when to say goodbye (i.e. Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder), but Zito was the one he was always reluctant to let go and is leaving via free agency and not a trade.

Bottom line, switching to the NL, AT&T Park and one of the most pitcher-friendly divisions in all of baseball, Zito has an excellent chance to post his best statistical season yet. A 3.20-3.40 ERA, with a WHIP around 1.20 seems reasonable, and while the Giants’ offense isn’t exactly potent, 15-18 wins isn’t out of the question either. When you also factor in the likely 190 Ks, he’s easily a top-20 SP now, with the possibility of top-12. Just don’t be discouraged if he gets off to a slow start, as his career 5.04 April ERA is one of the bigger anomalies in baseball. He’s definitely someone to target.

Hoops Scoop

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Admittedly, the coverage on basketball has been a little weak around these parts, but without further ado, I introduce to you a spanking new article – Hoops Scoop. Before long, all the kids will be talking about it…

Brandon Roy is an excellent buy low candidate right now. Portland will find him minutes, and after a lengthy amount of time off due to injury, his hot start is long forgotten.

Andrew Bogut is another guy I’d target as a buy low option. His overall numbers really haven’t improved much from his rookie season, but he’s averaging 14.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists over his last five games. There isn’t a better passing big man in the game.

Earl Boykins is a strong play in the short-term. He should be owned in all leagues at this point. That has to be the smallest backcourt of all-time, right? He and A.I. weigh 290 lbs combined.

One of the best pickups of the year has to be Al Jefferson. He’s hauled in double-digit rebounds in eight straight games and should see an increase in scoring with Paul Pierce out. Available at center in most formats, Jefferson is all of a sudden living up to expectations and is fast becoming a fantasy stud.

What’s going on with Andrei Kirilenko? Not only is he an injury waiting to happen but is also averaging just 9.1 points per game? The guy is taking six measly shots per contest. He’s still extremely valuable, but he might want to start using his time more wisely.

Shaun Livingston is quietly coming into his own. Sam Cassell is both injured and relegated to the bench, with Livingston the future at point. Go get him before it’s too late. Speaking of, how bad are the Clippers? 2-10 on the road isn’t exactly getting it done. As a Kings fan, I sure hope that rumored Artest/Maggette deal doesn’t come to fruition.

Don’t forget about Bonzi Wells, who may very well still be available on your waiver wire. With no Yao Ming for as long as two months, and T-Mac’s back in question, Wells should see a big increase in minutes. There might not be a better rebounding guard in the league, and he’s also a big contributor in steals.

Andre Iguodala is going to be huge from here on out. Not only did Allen Iverson’s 25 shot attempts per game leave town, but a pass-first point guard was his replacement. Treat Baby A.I. as an elite fantasy option.

Not sure what’s wrong with Gerald Wallace this season, but I was mistaken in thinking a contract year would improve his numbers, apparently. How does he go from blocking 2.1 shots last season to just 0.6 this year? He’s got himself a sweet stroke too, evidenced by that 19.5 percent shooting touch from behind the arc.

T.J. Ford’s spinal cord may be hanging on by a thread, but he’s nevertheless been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA this year. If you think he can hold up physically, you might as well hang onto him.

If Jason Kidd is forced to help in the rebounding department even more so now that Nenad Krstic is out for the year, it’s not inconceivable to think he can actually average a triple-double this season.

It’s too bad Yao Ming keeps getting snake bitten. He’d be my third choice to start a franchise with, behind only LeBron and Wade.

Rookie of the Year

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Arguing who should and shouldn’t win awards is often futile and pointless, but hearing ESPN and other media outlets debate the NFL Rookie of the Year recently has made my head spin too much not to comment. A recent argument got heated, when Sean Salisbury proclaimed Vince Young the obvious choice and Merrill Hoge countered with Reggie Bush. Young is having a fine season, helping the Titans win six straight games while posting great rushing totals. Still, this “knows how to win” business is ridiculous and his 6.1 YPA leaves a whole lot to be desired. I love him for the future and want him on my fantasy team next year, but he’s not the ROY.

Marques Colston was the clear favorite up until Week 10, when an injury derailed his impressive rookie campaign. 70 catches for 1,083 yards and eight touchdowns is one of the best first seasons ever for a wide receiver, but again, not the best year by a diaper dandy. Marcus McNeill’s name has even been thrown around, and while he’s done an excellent job at left tackle this year, he hasn’t made the biggest rookie impact. The same goes for Devin Hester.

I’m not quite sure why I have yet to hear Maurice Jones-Drew’s name mentioned on ESPN, but he’s such the obvious choice, maybe that’s why he’s being overlooked. Reggie Bush has 1,274 total yards compared to 1,315 for MJD. Bush is getting 3.6 YPC, while Jones-Drew is getting 5.8 YPC. Bush has seven touchdowns while MJD has 14 scores on the year. The numbers aren’t even close in this contest, yet MJD isn’t even a candidate according to Bristol, not that we really should be surprised. Either way, it’s an amazing rookie class, with Maurice Jones-Drew at the head of it.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, December 25th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Good to see Dave Thomas catching a touchdown this weekend. He was always my favorite fast food founder, with the Colonel being a close second.

Thanks Shaun Alexander, your performance was a spit in the face to all fantasy owners you had a major hand in already eliminating.

Ron Dayne literally took $1,000 out of my pocket this weekend. Has there ever been a bigger stiff deciding so many fantasy championships? I’d argue no.

Carson Palmer is clearly not quite 100 percent, but count on him being so next year. If I had one player to start a franchise with, he’d be my first choice.

Chris Weinke refused to lose his 18th straight game this week, willing his team to victory. Talk about putting a team on your shoulders.

To say I was wrong about the Ravens would be an understatement. I’ve come around on them of late, even considering their defense better than Chicago’s (thanks in part to injuries), but still had trouble taking McNair and Lewis seriously. After taking a desperate Steelers’ team to the wood shed in Pittsburgh, Baltimore is officially a force to be reckoned with.

If you turned on the Giants game 2 minutes and 30 seconds into it, you saw Eli Manning pass for 19 yards Sunday. 3.0 YPA? It’s beyond time to be concerned about him.

Maybe all of this losing will somehow help the Colts come playoff time, as they clearly won’t be entering the postseason as favorites.

Don’t sleep on the Patriots. Winning at Jacksonville is about as impressive of a victory as you can have this year.

Deion Branch left his hands in New England. The guy simply can’t catch the football these days.

The best thing that could happen to the Jaguars is a slow-healing Fred Taylor.

That Giants –3 spread against the Saints was more than suspicious. I called the upset in the game caps, but was too scared to bet too much cash on such an obvious trap. I still don’t get Vegas’ thinking there. One team is really good, the other is pretty bad, and the line suggests they are equals?

Speaking of game caps, I am 7-0 so far this week against the spread – not to toot my own horn or anything.

Check out Tim Rattay’s career stats – he’s always been surprisingly competent.

I’m now prepared to rank Vince Young as a top 5-8 fantasy QB next year.

For all of Washington’s terrible contracts, the recent re-signing of Ladell Betts qualifies as a steal. He’s a top-15 back in the league still being paid like a backup.

Despite some shaky hands, Vernon Davis looks like he’s going to be special. He’s someone to target next year.

I’ve been criticized for my Jay Cutler stance, but I’m ready to gloat right now. Shanahan made the right call. It doesn’t get any luckier than that botched snap, however.

Game Capsules

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

Carolina (+6.5) at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: In order to keep its playoff hopes alive, Atlanta will need to end its home woes, as the team has dropped three straight at the Georgia Dome. Facing a reeling Carolina squad in the midst of a four-game losing streak, expect it to happen. The Panthers will once again be playing without Jake Delhomme (thumb, doubtful) and an offensive line missing three key starters who were lost for the season. The makeshift line allowed five sacks last week, while Chris Weinke has thrown four interceptions to just one touchdown while starting at quarterback. He now has a 1-17 record during his career as a starter. The ground game hasn’t been any better, ranking 27th in the league with just 97.9 rushing yards per game. As for the defense, Julius Peppers has not recorded a sack in the last five games after picking up 11 over the first eight games of the season…Last week Michael Vick not only set a new record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback but also threw four touchdown passes, albeit in a losing effort. Vick (probable) sat out the final drive with a groin injury but is expected to play this week. While his 52.8 completion percentage and 6.5 YPA aren’t exactly impressive, Vick has already reached career-bests in touchdown passes (19) and rushing yards (990). The rest of the Falcons’ offense is back to full strength, as Jerious Norwood (knee, probable) looks likely to return to the lineup, and Warrick Dunn (calf) is listed as probable as well. Although they haven’t won a home game since Week 7, the Falcons should be able to take down their division rivals this week…Carolina lists Drew Carter (ankle, questionable) on the injury report, while Atlanta does the same with John Abraham (thumb, questionable), Jason Webster (groin, questionable), DeAngelo Hall (knee, probable) and Grady Jackson (knee, probable)…The Falcons are 7-3 over the last 10 meetings with the Panthers.

Predictions: Chris Weinke finds Steve Smith for a score, but the wideout is held under 100 yards for the sixth straight week. The Panthers’ ground game remains stagnant, but DeShaun Foster does find the end zone. Michael Vick counters with 180 passing yards, 60 rushing yards and TD strikes to Alge Crumpler and Michael Jenkins. Warrick Dunn gets 60 rushing yards, while Jerious Norwood gets a short score, keeping Atlanta in the postseason picture. Falcons 21-17.

Chicago (-4.5) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Rex Grossman’s improved play has coincided with a regression on the defensive side of the ball for Chicago, who has little to play for now that home field is wrapped up throughout the playoffs. Detroit, meanwhile, may be unequipped to challenge even an uninspired Bears’ squad, as the Lions have lost six straight games and are fighting for draft positioning more than anything else. One position Detroit might look to fill in the draft is quarterback, as Jon Kitna added three more turnovers last week to his league-leading total of 29. Kitna’s yardage numbers have been fine, but he hasn’t thrown for multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 7. With an offensive line full of turnstiles, the slumping Chicago defense may get healthy in a hurry Sunday, as without Kevin Jones (foot), Detroit also doesn’t have a running game to speak of…Despite its two worse defensive efforts of the season over the last couple of weeks, Chicago has won both games thanks in large part to Rex Grossman, who has a 4/0 TD/INT ratio, while getting 8.0 YPA. It’s safe to say he’s now firmly entrenched as Chicago’s starter for the duration of the season after back-to-back solid efforts. One banged up Bear who may see significantly less playing time this week is Thomas Jones (ribs, questionable), as Chicago will want Jones healthy and rested come playoff time, while Cedric Benson is a more than capable replacement. Benson has become an integral part of the offense over the past month and has three rushing TDs in his last four games. Facing a run defense surrendering more than 130 yards per game, expect Benson to have a big day this week…The Lions name Teddy Lehman (hamstring, doubtful), Jeff Backus (foot, probable) and Fernando Bryant (concussion, probable) on the injury report, while the Bears list Todd Johnson (ankle, questionable), John Tait (ankle, questionable), Charles Tillman (back, questionable) and Nathan Vasher (hamstring, questionable)…The Bears have won the last three meetings against the Lions.

Predictions: Jon Kitna again struggles with sacks and turnovers but does throw for 260 yards and a score, which Mike Furrey hauls in. Arlen Harris gets 50 total yards but is held out of the end zone. Rex Grossman puts together another strong outing, resulting in 240 yards and a TD to Bernard Berrian. Cedric Benson gets the bulk of the carries, rushing for 100 yards and a score, as the road team prevails. Bears 23-13.

New Orleans (+3) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: While the Giants should enter hungry fighting for their playoff lives, the Saints will come in focused as well, as New Orleans scored just 10 points last week in an upset loss to the Redskins. It could be Tiki Barber’s final home game in his illustrious career, as the back is ready to enter retirement as soon as the season ends. Facing a Saints’ defense allowing 139.9 rushing yards per contest, Barber should leave the Meadowlands with a big effort. The Giants are also hoping to get Michael Strahan (foot, questionable) back, as the defensive end practiced Wednesday for the first time since early November. New York is 2-13 without Strahan during his career. For all of his faults, it’s hard to argue with Plaxico Burress’ results this season, as the physical receiver has already set a new career-high in touchdown receptions with nine…Last year, the Saints lost a “home game” against the Giants played at the Meadowlands during the NFL’s Hurricane Relief Weekend. This year, New Orleans has already clinched the NFC South title and is fighting for the conference’s second seed. Up against the NFL’s 28th-ranked pass defense, Drew Brees should rebound from last week’s sub-par performance with a big game Sunday, as the quarterback has especially flourished when playing on the road this season. Brees has a 15/2 TD/INT ratio and is getting 9.1 YPA in seven road contests this year. Although New Orleans will be missing Joe Horn (groin), Marques Colston is back to full strength and will once again act as Brees’ No. 1 option in the passing game…The Giants list Luke Petitgout (fibula, out), Rich Seubert (shin, doubtful), Brandon Jacobs (ankle, questionable), Shaun O’Hara (ankle, questionable) and Corey Webster (toe, questionable) on the injury report, while the Saints list Omar Stoutmire (knee, questionable).

Predictions: Eli Manning throws for 250 yards and a scoring strike to Plaxico Burress, while Tiki Barber runs for 130 yards. Brandon Jacobs punches one in from the goal line, but New York also has to settle for field goals too often. Drew Brees answers with 300 yards and two touchdown passes, with Marques Colston and Devery Henderson being the recipients. Reggie Bush adds 90 total yards, while Deuce McAllister finds paydirt. In a battle filled with playoff implications, the road team pulls of the upset. Saints 24-23.

Washington (+1.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Both teams ended losing streaks last week, but its only St. Louis mathematically still alive in the playoff race. Still, the Redskins aren’t pushovers, playing better football of late than their record indicates. Jason Campbell has completed a staggeringly low 49.1 percent over the last month, but he’s making enough plays (7.3 YPA last week) to keep the offense on the field. Facing a Rams’ defense yielding 147.8 rushing yards per game, the Redskins will game plan around Ladell Betts this week. Betts has been one of the NFL’s most impressive backs over the last month, breaking the century mark in rushing yards in each contest while also being an asset in the passing game. Betts is getting 4.8 YPC on the season and has proven the ability to be an above average featured running back…After struggling defensively all season long, the Rams shut out the putrid Raiders’ offense last week. Still, St. Louis is slowly turning into Steven Jackson’s team, as the third-year back is having one of the best campaigns in the NFL, already surpassing 1,900 total yards while catching 82 balls. Washington has shored up its run defense of late, allowing just 170 total rushing yards over the last two weeks. Steven Jackson is equally as dangerous in the passing game, however, and should once again put up a big effort this week. After finishing with zero touchdown tosses last week, expect Marc Bulger to lead his team into the end zone this week…The Redskins list Jon Jansen (calf, questionable), Casey Rabach (hand, probable) and Chris Samuels (knee, probable) on the injury report, while the Rams do the same with Adam Timmerman (ribs, questionable), Alex Barron (toe, probable), Richie Incognito (toe, probable), Will Witherspoon (knee, probable) and Torry Holt (knee, probable)…The Redskins are 4-0 during their last four games played in St. Louis.

Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 200 yards and finds Chris Cooley for a score, while Ladell Betts contributes 140 yards and a score as well. Marc Bulger throws for 250 yards and a TD to Torry Holt, while Steven Jackson gets 160 yards and a touchdown, as St. Louis wins it on a late field goal. Rams 23-20.

Arizona (+4) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments: Two of the NFL’s youngest quarterbacks face off in an NFC West battle. Matt Leinart struggled last week but has shown promise during his first year in the league. Thanks in large part to improved run blocking over the second half of the season, Edgerrin James needs just 12 rushing yards to become the first Cardinal running back to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing since 1998. Although enduring its fifth straight season with at least 10 losses, Arizona has an optimistic future built around Leinart and the WR tandem, but its defense must dramatically improve for any true changes to occur. The Cardinals enter giving up more than 355 yards per game, good for 30th in the league…Coming off the best half of football played in his career, Alex Smith will look to attack an Arizona secondary yielding 235.9 yards per contest. Smith led the 49ers to 21 second half points last week, making big plays in the process. Still, this offense runs through Frank Gore, who has emerged as an elite running back this season. After fumbling in each of his first four games, Gore has lost just one over the last 10 games. He’s also getting a remarkable 5.5 YPC, while amassing more than 1,900 total yards. He should shred Arizona’s soft front seven on Sunday…Arizona doesn’t have any major injury concerns, while San Francisco lists Eric Johnson (knee, questionable), Derek Smith (hamstring, questionable) and Adam Snyder (knee, questionable) on the injury report…The 49ers are 9-1 over their last 10 home games against the Cardinals.

Predictions: Matt Leinart gets 240 passing yards, while also finding Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin for scores. Edgerrin James gets just 60 yards, but he does reach paydirt as well. Alex Smith builds off last week’s effort, resulting in 210 yards and two touchdown passes, with Vernon Davis and Arnaz Battle on the receiving end. Frank Gore gets 160 combined yards, while also running in a score, as the Cardinals’ road woes continue. 49ers 24-21.

San Diego (-4.5) at Seattle, Sunday 4:15 p.m.

Comments: Last year’s MVP winner faces off against this year’s likely winner in a battle between teams going in opposite directions. While San Diego has won eight straight, Seattle has dropped consecutive games and enters with a disappointing 8-6 record. In no small part to its division, Seattle still looks likely to make the playoffs but has been stumbling of late, even losing at home last week to the 49ers. Matt Hasselbeck is clearly not playing at 100 percent, as the former Pro Bowler has been erratic since returning from a knee injury. With Darrell Jackson (toe, doubtful) out of the lineup, D.J. Hackett has emerged as Hasselbeck’s No. 1 option in the passing game. Nate Burleson’s hands are too unreliable, while Deion Branch has been just mediocre. If you take away the Green Bay game, Shaun Alexander is getting 3.0 YPC on 153 carries this year, more than 2.0 yards fewer than each carry he got last season. The writing was on the wall, but Alexander’s breakdown has come at a truly precipitous pace…LaDainian Tomlinson, on the other hand, is having one of the finest seasons at running back in the history of the NFL. He’s re-writing the record book and is the favorite to win MVP honors. While not listed on the injury report, Tomlinson underwent X-rays this week after getting popped in his jaw late in the game last week. The results were negative, and Tomlinson is fully expected to play this week. Against a Seattle run defense prone to give up huge games on the ground, expect more of the same from LDT Sunday. Philip Rivers, however, is coming off his worst game as a pro, completing just 8-of-23 passes while getting picked off twice last week. Expect a nice rebound performance from Rivers, but Seattle should bounce back as well and is still tough to beat at home…The Seahawks list Robbie Tobeck (hip, out), Rocky Bernard (foot, questionable) and Floyd Womack (groin, questionable) on the injury report, while the Chargers list Luis Castillo (ankle, questionable), Randall Godfrey (hamstring, questionable) and Shawne Merriman (shoulder, probable)…The Seahawks have won the last five meetings between these two teams.

Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck gets 230 passing yards and finds D.J. Hackett and Jerramy Stevens in the end zone, while Shaun Alexander gets a modest 85 rushing yards. Philip Rivers throws for 180 yards and finds Antonio Gates for a scoring strike, while LaDainian Tomlinson runs for 160 yards and two more touchdowns, scoring multiple times for the ninth straight week. Chargers 24-23.

Philadelphia (+7) at Dallas, Monday 5 p.m.

Comments: While most assumed the Eagles were done once Donovan McNabb (knee) went down, Jeff Garcia has led the team to a 3-1 record and within one game of Dallas for the division lead. Garcia has a 108.0 QB rating and an 8/1 TD/INT ratio since taking over. Facing a division opponent on the road for the third straight week is no easy task, however, and Dallas will be looking to avenge its loss to the Eagles earlier this year. Still, the Cowboys have surrendered nine touchdown passes over the last two weeks, as their safeties have struggled mightily in coverage. Philadelphia has been surprisingly competent running the ball this season, as the team enters with the 11th ranked rushing offense. Brian Westbrook is having his finest season yet, eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career while remaining a threat in the passing game…Terrell Owens may be even more fired up than usual, facing his former quarterback and former team that shut him down during their previous meeting. The Eagles’ secondary has been playing well, however, and the team is more susceptible against the run. An undersized Philadelphia front seven has been unable to pressure the quarterback of late, while also yielding 138.6 rushing yards per game. With Dallas focusing on the ground game, Julius Jones and Marion Barber should both see double-digit touches, as the Cowboys wear down the Eagles’ defense. Tony Romo has shown a propensity to throw INTs this year, but his 8.8 YPA still easily leads the league…While the Cowboys are healthy, the Eagles list William James (calf, doubtful), Michael Lewis (knee, questionable), Brian Dawkins (back, probable) and Jeremiah Trotter (knee, probable) on the injury report…The Eagles are 10-3 over their last 13 games against the Cowboys.

Predictions: Jeff Garcia throws for 220 yards and finds Reggie Brown in the end zone, while Brian Westbrook totals 125 yards and runs in a score. Tony Romo answers with 250 yards and TD strikes to Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn. Julius Jones runs for 90 yards, while Marion Barber adds 60 yards and a score, as the home team prevails. Cowboys 24-20.

Bets of the Week

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

By Robby Wellington

This week may be the toughest to handicap of the entire season, with a slew of 3-4 point spreads. The Colts (-9 @ Houston) make a great team to tease. I think the Eagles magic should definitely stop in Dallas (Cowboys -7) and would tease the Boys with the Colts. In other bets, I’m taking the moneylines on a few underdogs with good chances of pulling off the upset – New England (+142 @ Jacksonville), Cincinnati (+146 @ Denver), Seattle (+190 vs San Diego) and Baltimore (+170 @ Pittsburgh) all fit that bill. Good luck.

Thursday Night Game Capsule

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Staff Writer

Minnesota (+3.5) at Green Bay, Thursday 8 p.m.

Comments: In what could possibly be Brett Favre’s final game at Lambeau Field, Tarvaris Jackson is set to make his first ever NFL start. Replacing an ineffective Brad Johnson (5.6 YPA), Jackson (knee, probable) was surprisingly competent last week, using his legs and arm strength to already provide an upgrade at the quarterback position. While impressive, Jackson is still very raw and now travels to cold weather Green Bay with limited preparation time. At least Chester Taylor (wrist, probable) looks ready to shoulder most of the offensive duties, as the back has been battling some maladies of late. Facing a Packers’ front seven that can be run on, the Vikings will focus their game plan around Taylor in an attempt to take some pressure off the rookie quarterback. Taylor is having a fine season, but all of those touches (315) have taken their toll. Troy Williamson has shown the ability to get open, but he might have the worst pair of hands in the league…If this truly is Favre’s last home game, you can bet the signal caller will want to go out in style. Since Minnesota comes in with one of the best run defenses a team has had in years (55.1 rushing yards allowed per contest), the Packers’ offense will rely on Favre’s arm. Although winners of two straight, Favre struggled last week, throwing three INTs and no TDs. While Favre has curtailed his interception rate compared to last season, he’s now thrown eight picks over the last four games. Still, Minnesota’s secondary is beatable and presents a favorable matchup for the Packers’ passing game. Donald Driver (shoulder, probable) is having a Pro Bowl caliber season at wide receiver and is on pace to surpass his career-highs in catches and yards. He torched Minnesota earlier this year, with six catches for 191 yards and a score. He should have another successful day this week. In a matchup between two NFC North squads sitting at 6-8, Green Bay keeps its slim playoff hopes alive with a victory…The Vikings list Cedric Griffin (neck, doubtful), Travis Taylor (ankle, questionable), Marcus Robinson (hip, probable), Pat Williams (knee, probable) and Kevin Williams (shoulder, probable) on the injury report, while the Packers list David Martin (ribs, questionable), Ahman Green (knee, probable), Chad Clifton (shoulder, probable), Aaron Kampman (illness, probable) and Charles Woodson (shoulder, probable).

Predictions: Tarvaris Jackson has an up and down first start, resulting in a couple of turnovers, with 180 yards passing, 30 yards rushing and a TD pass to Travis Taylor. Chester Taylor runs for 90 yards and a score as well, while Ahman Green is shut down by the stingy Vikings’ run defense. Brett Favre responds with a nice effort, throwing for 240 yards and two TD strikes to Donald Driver, who also reaches 100 yards receiving, as Green Bay wins it on a late field goal. Packers 20-17.

Week 16 Lineup Rankings

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

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Quarterbacks

1. Peyton Manning
2. Drew Brees
3. Carson Palmer

4. Michael Vick
5. Tony Romo
6. Marc Bulger
7. Jay Cutler (if Walker suits up)
8. Matt Hasselbeck
9. Tom Brady
10. Eli Manning

11. Matt Leinart
12. Brett Favre
13. Jeff Garcia
14. Philip Rivers
15. Vince Young
16. Rex Grossman

17. J.P. Losman
18. Chad Pennington
19. Ben Roethlisberger
20. Jason Campbell
21. Alex Smith
22. Chris Weinke

23. David Garrard
24. Trent Green
25. Derek Anderson
26. Tarvaris Jackson
27. Steve McNair (check status)
28. Tim Rattay
29. Jon Kitna
30. Miami QB
31. Oakland QB
32. David Carr

Running Backs

1. LaDainian Tomlinson
2. Larry Johnson

3. Frank Gore
4. Steven Jackson
5. Ladell Betts
6. Brian Westbrook
7.Tiki Barber

8. Maurice Jones-Drew (if Taylor sits)
9. Willie Parker
10. Chester Taylor (check status)
11. Rudi Johnson
12. Shaun Alexander
13. Willis McGahee
14. Tatum/Mike Bell
15. Marion Barber
16. Julius Jones
17. Ronnie Brown (check status)
18. Ron Dayne (this is not a joke)
19. Edgerrin James
20. Corey Dillon
21. Travis Henry

22. Deuce McAllister
23. Reggie Bush
24. Thomas Jones/Cedric Benson
25. Joseph Addai/Dominic Rhodes
26. Fred Taylor (check status)
27. Cedric Houston
28. Ahman Green
29. Warrick Dunn
30. Jamal Lewis
31. Carnell Williams
32. DeShaun Foster

33. Brandon Jacobs (check status)
34. DeAngelo Williams
35. Justin Fargas
36. Reuben Droughns
37. Vernand Morency
38. Arlen Harris
39. Jerious Norwood (check status)
40. Kevin Faulk

Wide Receivers

1. Reggie Wayne
2. Marvin Harrison
3. Chad Johnson
4. Steve Smith
5. Terrell Owens
6. Torry Holt
7. Donald Driver
8. Javon Walker (check status)
9. Plaxico Burress

10. TJ Houshmandzadeh
11. Larry Fitzgerald
12. Lee Evans
13. Marques Colston
14. Anquan Boldin
15. Laveranues Coles
16. Andre Johnson
17. Roy Williams
18. Terry Glenn
19. Santana Moss

20. DJ Hackett
21. Hines Ward (check status)
22. Braylon Edwards
23. Joey Galloway
24. Chris Chambers

25. Reggie Brown
26. Devery Henderson
27. Reche Caldwell
28. Muhsin Muhammad
29. Bernard Berrian
30. Deion Branch
31. Donte Stallworth

32. Marty Booker (check status)
33. Michael Jenkins
34. Keyshawn Johnson
35. Greg Jennings
36. Jerricho Cotchery
37. Chris Henry
38. Travis Taylor
39. Brandon Marshall
40. Joe Jurevicius



Tight Ends

1. Antonio Gates
2. Tony Gonzalez
3. Jeremy Shockey
4. Chris Cooley
5. Todd Heap
6. Alge Crumpler
7. Kellen Winslow

8. L.J. Smith
9. Vernon Davis
10. Jason Witten
11. Randy McMichael
12. Jerramy Stevens

Team Defense

1. Chicago
2. Baltimore
3. Kansas City
4. Indianapolis

5. Pittsburgh
6. New England
7. Atlanta
8. Green Bay
9. Minnesota
10. San Diego
11. Buffalo
12. Miami
13. Dallas
14. Tennessee
15. N.Y. Jets
16. Cleveland

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, December 18th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

If Dominic Rhodes takes more than five carries away from Joseph Addai Monday night, it’s clear he has some compromising Polaroids of Tony Dungy.

David Carr has one touchdown pass over the last eight weeks – now that’s just silly.

What happened to Roy Williams?

Of all the frustrating players to own this year, Tatum Bell has to be close to the top of the list.

Boy those Adam Archuleta and Brandon Lloyd signings aren’t looking too good for Washington these days.

You won’t find an uglier football game than Sunday’s Green Bay/Detroit contest.

Of all the busts this season, Chris Chambers has to be one of the biggest.

I know the NFC is the inferior conference and all, but this is getting ridiculous.

Derek Anderson sure is giving Romeo Crennel something to think about.

Buffalo has played some of the best under the radar football over the past month. The J.P. Losman – Lee Evans combo could prove deadly next year.

It should be interesting to see what Tarvaris Jackson brings to the table. It’s too bad Troy Williamson was born with 10 thumbs.

Remember when Carolina was everyone’s favorite to win the NFC? Pittsburgh’s schedule remains extremely difficult, but they are the dark horse in the race. Speaking of, Willie Parker is looking like a top-5 pick next year.

It looks like those injuries have more than caught up with Chicago’s defense. A Florida team sporting one of the very worst offenses strolls into Soldier field and drops 31 points? Tim Rattay is back on the scene.

Don’t get too worked up over the New Orleans loss; that was a classic letdown game following the near perfect performance against Dallas in prime time.

Don’t look now, but Jay Cutler is already looking more than competent.

Has there ever been one game that will decide so many fantasy seasons than tonight’s Cincy/Indy matchup? Indy is due for a good performance, but the Bengals are simply playing better football right now.

How do you lose a game when you outgain your opponent 400 to 98 total yards?

Game Capsules

Friday, December 15th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

Dallas (-3) at Atlanta, Saturday 8 p.m.

Comments: Tony Romo came crashing back to earth last week, while Atlanta won its second consecutive road game. The Falcons now return home but may be shorthanded in the backfield, as both Warrick Dunn (calf) and Jerious Norwood (knee) are questionable to play. Don’t expect the rumors of Michael Vick playing some running back to come to fruition, however, as the quarterback is vehemently against it. Facing a Dallas defense stingy against the run, whoever lines up in Atlanta’s backfield is unlikely to have a big game anyway, which means the team needs a solid performance from Vick. Although it’s been reported that Atlanta doesn’t want Vick running as much down the stretch, with both tailbacks banged up, he may not have any other choice. Vick was held to a season-low five rushing yards last week, but facing a physical Cowboys’ secondary, he will need to do a lot of his damage on the ground Saturday…After a torrid stretch, Tony Romo has a 1/4 TD/INT ratio over the last two games. He’s still leading the league, however, with 8.8 YPA. Pitted against the 31st ranked pass defense this week, expect Romo to bounce back in a big way. Guessing which Dallas running back will be more productive on a week-to-week basis has become increasingly difficult, but it’s combo that’s been successful this year, rushing for 130.8 yards per game. The team’s 18 rushing touchdowns rank second in the NFL as well. Atlanta, however, has been easier to beat through the air than on the ground this season, so expect Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens to be busy Saturday night…The Falcons list Jason Webster (groin, questionable), DeAngelo Hall (knee, probable) and Grady Jackson (knee, probable) on the injury report, while the Cowboys don’t have any major injury concerns.

Predictions: Michael Vick starts running again, resulting in 60 rushing yards. He also finds Michael Jenkins for a TD strike. Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood don’t find much success on the ground, but Justin Griffith does run in a short score. Tony Romo picks apart Atlanta’s secondary, finding Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens in the end zone. Julius Jones runs for 80 yards, while Marion Barber adds 40 and a goal line score, as the road team pulls away late. Cowboys 24-17.

Detroit (+5) at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: While Green Bay has won 14 straight games against Detroit when playing in Lambeau Field, home field has not been an advantage for the Packers this season. Green Bay is 1-5 at home this season compared to 4-3 on the road, and while the Packers had never been shut out in Lambeau since Brett Favre became the starter, it’s already happened twice this year. The Lions, however, are losing no matter where they play, including an 0-6 road record and a current five-game losing streak. Jon Kitna’s 26 turnovers are the most in the NFL, and the team just lost its top rusher and receptions leader, Kevin Jones, to a season-ending foot injury. Arlen Harris will take over at running back, but with Jones out of the lineup, expect Mike Martz to throw the ball even more frequently, resulting in plenty of sack and turnover opportunities for the defense…Coming off a solid effort last week, Favre now faces a Detroit team in which he had his best game of the season earlier this year (three TD passes, 9.4 YPA). He should be able to shred the Lions’ secondary again this week. Ahman Green (knee, probable) has a nice matchup as well…Detroit will be missing Fernando Bryant (concussion) and Ross Verba (hamstring), while Teddy Lehman (hamstring, questionable) and Marcus Pollard (hamstring, questionable) are also banged up. Green Bay’s Donald Driver (shoulder, questionable) and Charles Woodson (shoulder, probable) aren’t 100 percent but are expected to play.

Predictions: With no ground game to speak of, Jon Kitna chucks it close to 50 times, resulting in 290 yards, two touchdowns and three turnovers. Roy Williams hauls in one of the scores, while Mike Furrey catches the other. Arlen Harris catches enough dump offs to gain 70 total yards, while Ahman Green counters with 80 yards and a score. Brett Favre throws for 250 yards and scoring strikes to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, as Detroit’s demise continues. Packers 24-20.

New York Jets (+3) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: With the schedule set up nicely, the Jets may have ruined their playoff hopes with a home loss to the Bills last week. Minnesota, however, likely blew its postseason chances weeks ago but got back into the win column last week, as Brad Johnson (7.2 YPA) and the running game had successful days. With Chester Taylor, the team’s primary offensive weapon, sidelined with a rib injury, Artose Pinner came out of nowhere to run for 125 yards and three touchdowns. There might not be a second act to one of the most improbable performances of the year, however, as Taylor (ribs, questionable) looks likely to return. Either way, expect Minnesota to once again rely heavily on the ground game, especially facing a Jets’ run defense ranked near the bottom of the league…Chad Pennington’s (calf, probable) 64.1 completion percentage this season is nice, but his lack of downfield ability has really limited the team’s explosive ability. Still, since the Vikings yield the fewest yards per game on the ground (54.1), the lowest amount in a season since 1942, look for the Jets to attack them through the air, where Minnesota has been far more vulnerable. Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery should present matchup problems for the Vikings’ secondary. The Jets have seemingly found a nice running back combo with Cedric Houston and Leon Washington, but neither should find much running room this week…The Vikings list Napoleon Harris (wrist, probable), Marcus Robinson (ankle, probable) and Pat Williams (knee, probable) on the injury report, while the Jets do the same with Dewayne Robertson (shoulder, probable) and Kimo Von Oelhoffen (shoulder, probable)…The Jets have won five straight games against the Vikings.

Predictions: Brad Johnson has a pedestrian day passing, throwing for 200 yards and a TD to Marcus Robinson. Chester Taylor returns to the lineup and runs for 100 yards and reaches paydirt as well. Chad Pennington responds to last week’s poor effort with a nice outing, resulting in 240 yards and TD tosses to Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery. Coles also adds 100 receiving yards on the day, while Cedric Houston and Leon Washington are stymied on the ground. Still, it’s enough for the road team to pull off the upset. Jets 20-17.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Both teams enter amidst two of the most disappointing seasons in the NFL, as each had Super Bowl aspirations but come into this week under .500. Quarterback play has been a problem for both squads, and it will remain a question mark for Carolina Sunday, as Jake Delhomme (thumb, questionable) once again looks unlikely to play. Chris Weinke replaced Delhomme last week and threw for 423 yards, but it took 61 attempts to do so and also resulted in three INTs. Facing a Pittsburgh secondary that has played better of late, things won’t come easy for Carolina’s offense, which ranks last in the league in third down conversions. Steve Smith may be the most explosive player in the NFL, but opposing defenses have been double and triple teaming him lately, as the wideout hasn’t broken 100 yards receiving in any of his last four games. The running game got DeShaun Foster back last week, but that doesn’t mean it improved, as DeAngelo Williams continues to be the more productive ball carrier. Neither should have big days this week against Pittsburgh’s stout run defense…Although just 1-5 on the road this year, the Steelers have won four out of their last five games and enter with momentum. While the competition hasn’t been great, no one would confuse Carolina with an elite team this year either, so expect continued success for Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger has had a rather strange season, as his 7.5 YPA are nice, but he has also thrown an NFL-high 20 interceptions. In the same amount of games played as last year, Roethlisberger has a staggering 125 more pass attempts. He gets a solid matchup this week, as the Panthers have surrendered 20 touchdown passes this season. Although Roethlisberger’s throwing the ball 10.4 more times per contest this year, the running game has remained productive, as Willie Parker is coming off a 223-yard effort and already has 13 touchdowns this season…Chris Gamble (thigh, questionable), Ken Lucas (thigh, questionable) and Mike Wahle (shoulder, questionable) show up on the Panthers’ injury report, while the Steelers list Troy Polamalu (knee, doubtful), Cedrick Wilson (ankle, questionable), Jeff Hartings (knee, probable) and Hines Ward (knee, probable).

Predictions: Chris Weinke mixes in a couple of turnovers with TD strikes to Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson, but both DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams struggle running the ball. Williams, however, does add 40 yards receiving. Ben Roethlisberger throws for 270 yards and finds Heath Miller for a score, while Willie Parker adds 90 yards and a TD run, sealing it for the road team. Steelers 20-17.

Tampa Bay (+13.5) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: This one could get ugly. While Chicago hasn’t been playing its best football of late, first with Rex Grossman’s struggles and last week with sub-par defensive play, Tampa Bay hasn’t scored a touchdown over its last 11 quarters and is 0-6 on the road this season. A warm-weather team with one of the worst offenses in football traveling to Soldier Field is a recipe for disaster, especially if Grossman continues his improved play from Monday night. The defense will also be motivated after surrendering 433 yards of offense last week. That task shouldn’t be too difficult against Bruce Gradkowski, who throws one of the most inaccurate deep balls in the league. Gradkowski has zero touchdowns and five interceptions over his last three games and will be on a short leash Sunday, as backup Tim Rattay took more snaps in practice this week. With little to no running game to speak of (its four rushing scores rank last in the league), Tampa Bay should have a hard time moving the ball Sunday…After a rough stretch, Grossman played mistake-free football last week and also got 8.7 YPA, his best game in weeks. The Buccaneers, however, are easier to beat on the ground, so expect the Bears to concentrate on running the ball Sunday. With Thomas Jones (ankle, questionable) banged up, look for emerging second-year back Cedric Benson to be even more involved, as Chicago will want to make sure Jones is fully healthy come playoff time. Benson has been playing well in his own right and should have his best game as a pro Sunday…Tampa Bay lists Juran Bolden (quad, questionable) and Shelton Quarles (knee, questionable) on the injury report, while Chicago lists Todd Johnson (ankle, questionable), John Tait (ankle, questionable), Nathan Vasher (hamstring, questionable) and Olin Kreutz (illness, probable).

Predictions: Bruce Gradkowski struggles once again, resulting in Tim Rattay seeing some time in the second half. Neither signal caller leads his team into the end zone, however, as the offense remains stagnant. Rex Grossman builds off last week’s effort with another solid game, resulting in 200 yards and a TD to Muhsin Muhammad. Cedric Benson gets the brunt of the carries and runs for 100 yards and a score, as Chicago clinches the No. 1 seed. Bears 23-6.

Washington (+10) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: While Washington enters in the middle of a lost season, Sean Payton and Drew Brees have transformed New Orleans from the second-worst team in the league last year to a legitimate Super Bowl contender this year. The Redskins’ offense has been a disappointment, but it’s the defense that’s been the true letdown, as the unit comes in with just 10 forced turnovers and 15 sacks, ranking last in the NFL in both categories. The team is on pace to set the league record for fewest turnovers forced in a 16-game season as well as obliterate the franchise-record for fewest sacks and interceptions. The offense, however, has shown signs of improvement lately, as Jason Campbell had his best game as a pro last week (6.7 YPA). He’ll need to drastically improve his accuracy (51.6 completion percentage) if he wants to take the next step, however. Ladell Betts is having one of the best under the radar seasons in the NFL, getting 4.7 YPC while already ammassing1,100 total yards. He’s broken the century mark rushing in three straight games, including 326 yards over his last two. Against a beatable Saints’ rush defense, expect Washington to once again rely heavily on Betts this week…After giving up 22.8 points per game over the first 10 weeks, the Saints have surrendered just 13.3 during their three-game winning streak. While the defense has shown marked improvement, it’s the league-leading offense that’s truly impressive, as Drew Brees is a legitimate MVP candidate. He leads the NFL in TD passes (25), yardage (4,033) and is getting 8.4 YPA, while completing 66.4 percent of his passes. After a somewhat slow start to his career, Reggie Bush has fast become a force out of the backfield, catching 15 balls for 256 receiving yards and scoring five touchdowns over the last two games. The Redskins’ defense doesn’t have the personnel to stop the Saints’ offense, but beware the possibility of a letdown for New Orleans, who is coming off a big prime time win over Dallas…Washington lists Jon Jansen (calf, questionable), Casey Rabach (hand, questionable) and Santana Moss (illness, probable) on the injury report, while New Orleans lists Joe Horn (groin, questionable), who is not expected to play…Washington is 5-1 during its last six games played in New Orleans.

Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 160 yards and finds Chris Cooley for a score, while Ladell Betts gets 130 combined yards and runs in a TD. Drew Brees answers with another nice game, resulting in 260 passing yards and TD tosses to Marques Colston and Reggie Bush. Deuce McAllister adds 80 yards and a TD run, as New Orleans clinches its division. Saints 24-17.

Denver (-2.5) at Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments: In a battle of rookie quarterbacks, it’s Arizona entering with a two-game winning streak and Denver coming in losers of four straight. After winning back-to-back games for the first time since 2004, the Cardinals will now try to make it three straight for the first time since 2002. Matt Leinart has started to flourish over his last four games, completing more than 62 percent of his passes while getting 7.7 YPA and taking just three sacks over that span. The passing game has finally started to open some holes for the running game, as Edgerrin James rushed for 100 yards for the second consecutive game last week after failing to reach the mark in his first 11 games this season. James needs 75 yards to reach 1,000 for the fourth straight year. While both remain factors, Leinart appears to prefer throwing Larry Fitzgerald’s way, as Anquan Boldin has just six catches for 79 yards over the last two games. Fitzgerald was targeted 13 times while Boldin just seven last week…After giving up 12.3 points per game during its 7-2 start, Denver’s defense has allowed an average of 31.2 points during its four-game losing streak. The offense is having its share of problems as well, failing to score more than 20 points in any of its last three games. While playoff hopes lie with the defense’s ability to rebound, the team also needs continued improvement out of Jay Cutler, who was taken one pick after Leinart in last year’s draft. Despite completing just 52.9 percent of his passes and throwing a couple of backbreaking interceptions his first game, Cutler has thrown four touchdown passes in his two starts and faces a Cardinals secondary ranked 30th in the league. It’s also an Arizona defense that can be beat on the ground, and with Tatum Bell finally back to full strength, expect a big game rushing from the tailback…Arizona names Chike Okeafor (calf, probable) on the injury report, while Denver does the same with Adam Meadows (hamstring, questionable), Darrent Williams (toe, questionable), Jason Elam (hamstring, probable), Rod Smith (hip, probable) and Al Wilson (thumb, probable)…Denver has never lost to Arizona, going 6-0-1 all-time.

Predictions: Matt Leinart continues to improve, throwing for 210 yards and touchdowns to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Edgerrin James doesn’t make it three straight 100-yard games, reaching just 75 yards on the ground instead. The Broncos focus on getting Tatum Bell the ball, resulting in 140 rushing yards and a score. Jay Cutler throws for 230 yards and finds Javon Walker and Tony Scheffler in the end zone. Walker also adds 110 receiving yards on the day, as Denver keeps its playoff hopes alive. Broncos 21-17.

Philadelphia (+5.5) at New York Giants, Sunday 4:15 p.m.

Comments: Playoff implications highlight this battle between division rivals, in which the Eagles enter with revenge on their minds after blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead when these teams met earlier in the season. Jeff Garcia has been a revelation, throwing eight touchdowns and zero interceptions since taking over the quarterback duties, leading Philadelphia to back-to-back wins in the process. He’s been especially impressive of late, showing a downfield ability most thought had long disappeared, while getting 7.7 YPA over his last two contests. Facing a Giants’ defense ranked 29th against the pass, Garcia will have more opportunities Sunday for continued success. Meanwhile, Brian Westbrook is in the midst of a career-season, just five yards shy of his first ever 1,000-yard rushing year…The Giants finally ended their four-game losing skid with a win last week, thanks in large part to Eli Manning’s improved play. Over the last two games, Manning has a 5/0 TD/INT ratio and faces a defense Sunday that has struggled to pressure the passer. After accumulating 23 sacks during the first five games, Philadelphia has just eight sacks over the last eight games. The undersized front seven has been even worse against the run, allowing 142.5 yards per game, good for 29th in the league. Although Tiki Barber has just one touchdown this season, he’s had success running the ball (4.8 YPC) and should be able to shred Philadelphia’s sieve-like defense…The Eagles list Shawn Barber (neck, questionable) and Roderick Hood (hamstring, questionable) on the injury report, while the Giants list Luke Petitgout (foot, out), Michael Strahan (foot, doubtful), Shaun O’Hara (ankle, questionable) and Corey Webster (toe, questionable)…
The Giants have won the last three meetings between these two teams.

Predictions: Jeff Garcia throws for a modest 220 yards and one TD to Donte Stallworth. Brian Westbrook combines for 110 yards and runs in a score as well, while Eli Manning counters with 230 yards and scoring strikes to Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. Burress adds 100 yards receiving on the day as well. Tiki Barber runs for 140 yards, while Brandon Jacobs punches one in from the goal line, helping the home team prevail. Giants 24-20.

Week 15 Lineup Rankings

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

By Robby Wellington

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Quarterbacks

1. Peyton Manning
2. Carson Palmer

3. Drew Brees
4. Tom Brady
5. Matt Hasselbeck

6. Brett Favre
7. Tony Romo
8. Michael Vick
9. Marc Bulger
10. Jon Kitna
11. Eli Manning

12. Vince Young
13. Steve McNair
14. Philip Rivers
15. Matt Leinart
16. Joey Harrington
17. Ben Roethlisberger

18. Jeff Garcia
19. Chad Pennington
20. Jason Campbell
21. Brad Johnson

22. Alex Smith
23. Rex Grossman
24. Aaron Brooks
25. David Garrard
26. Trent Green
27. Chris Weinke
28. David Carr
29. Jay Cutler
30. J.P. Losman
31. Derek Anderson
32. Bruce Gradkowski

A lot of fantasy games won’t be decided until Monday night. The top five guys this week all make great options. Vince Young has emerged as a legit fantasy option, while Michael Vick not running is a significant concern.

Dalton Counters: I’d probably rate Roethlisberger and Pennington slightly higher, but my only real discrepancy would be Jay Cutler, who I think makes a reasonable QB1 play this week. In fact, I’m starting him in one league this week.

Running Backs

1. LaDainian Tomlinson

2. Larry Johnson
3. Shaun Alexander
4. Steven Jackson

5. Frank Gore
6. Rudi Johnson
7. Reggie Bush
8. Tatum Bell
9. Willie Parker
10. Brian Westbrook
11. Tiki Barber

12. Corey Dillon
13. Chester Taylor
14. Maurice Jones-Drew
15. Fred Taylor

16. Deuce McAllister
17. Thomas Jones
18. Ladell Bets
19. Ahman Green
20. Willis McGahee
21. Julius Jones
22. Joseph Addai
23. Marion Barber

24. Laurence Maroney
25. Sammy Morris
26. Brandon Jacobs
27. Travis Henry
28. Jamal Lewis
29. Edgerrin James
30. Cedric Benson
31. DeShaun Foster
32. Dominic Rhodes
33. Cedric Houston
34. Warrick Dunn
35. Ron Dayne
36. Justin Fargas
37. DeAngelo Williams
38. Carnell Williams
39. Justin Griffith

LT is good. Along those lines, I would strongly encourage commissioners to consider taking away a 2nd round draft pick away from whichever team has the first pick next year. And maybe even a 4th round pick from whoever gets LJ at two. Steven Jackson and his poo locks are awesome, and I heard Bulger likes to check down to the guy. I am increasingly wary of the Dallas backfield after being burnt the past two weeks. I’m not sure what the story is in New England, but Dillon is the horse to back at this point. Artose Pinner would be ranked 28th if Taylor sits, and Chris Brown slides in at 37th.

Dalton Counters: I’d rather have Steven Jackson on my team this week than any back but L.T. and no, that’s not just because he impregnated me last week. San Diego has a tough run D (LJ), and Oakland defends the pass well but not the run – expect S-Jax to carry fantasy teams yet another week…Did you realize the Colts are yielding the highest YPC in the history of the NFL? Wow…Every fantasy owner who had to sit through disappointing campaigns from Tatum Bell, Shaun Alexander, Joseph Addai and Reggie Bush (until recently) should be rewarded this week in a big way…Where’s Arlen Harris Robby? I thought you liked him over Justin Griffith?…I like Ladell Betts as a top-10 option this week. I wouldn’t trust starting Laurence Maroney at this point.

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith
2. Chad Johnson
3. Reggie Wayne
4. Donald Driver
5. Torry Holt
6. Terrell Owens

7. Marvin Harrison
8. TJ Houshmandzadeh
9. Larry Fitzgerald
10. Deion Branch
11. Anquan Boldin
12. Plaxico Burress

13. Terry Glenn
14. Andre Johnson
15. Laveranues Coles
16. Devery Henderson
17. Roy Williams
18. Marty Booker
19. Chris Chambers
20. Marques Colston
21. Javon Walker
22. Mike Furrey
23. DJ Hackett
24. Nate Burleson

25. Santana Moss
26. Lee Evans
27. Donte Stallworth
28. Derrick Mason
29. Reche Caldwell
30. Matt Jones
31. Bernard Berrian
32. Isaac Bruce
33. Jerricho Cotchery

34. Chris Henry
35. Braylon Edwards
36. Joey Galloway
37. Muhsin Muhammad
38. Keyshawn Johnson
39. Greg Jennings
40. Reggie Brown

There are some good wideout matchups this week. Look for Deion Branch to enter the elite this week. I finally put Booker ahead of Chambers, although admittedly not by much.

Dalton Counters: Watch Terrell Owens expose DeAngelo Hall for the overrated cover corner he is Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if Andre Johnson has a very quiet afternoon against a secondary that focuses on shutting down the opposing team’s best playmaker. With no Kevin Jones, Roy Williams should finally put up a big game – same goes for Javon Walker.



Tight Ends

1. Antonio Gates
2. Todd Heap
3. Jeremy Shockey
4. Tony Gonzalez
5. Alge Crumpler
6. Kellen Winslow
7. Chris Cooley
8. Randy McMichael
9. Jason Witten
10. L.J. Smith
11. Jerramy Stevens
12. A bunch of duds.

Team Defense

1. Chicago
2. Baltimore
3. New England
4. Seattle
5. Minnesota
6. Jacksonville
7. Buffalo
8. Denver
9. St. Louis
10. N.Y. Giants
11. Pittsburgh
12. New Orleans
13. San Diego
14. N.Y. Jets
15. Tennessee
16. Carolina

Dalton Counters: Entirely unenthused by my Atlanta, Philly, and K.C. matchups on D this week, I hit the waiver wire and went with Tennessee. Bravo to Robby for putting them into the top-15, you won’t see them that high in most other rankings, but Jax is bad on the road, and Gerrard is bad everywhere. We’ll see if I’m right.

Game Capsules

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

San Francisco (+10) at Seattle, Thursday 8 p.m.

Comments: If the past two Thursday night contests were any indication, it’s going to be extremely tough for the road team during such a short week. With a squad struggling as much as the 49ers facing a team that is 15-1 at home over the last two years, that trend should continue. After winning three straight, San Francisco has now dropped its last three games, including a disappointing home loss to the Packers last week in which its defense gave up 420 yards of offense. Defense figures to remain a problem for San Francisco Thursday, as the team will be missing Derek Smith (hamstring) and Donald Strickland (knee), while Anthony Adams (knee, doubtful), Jeff Ulbrich (foot, questionable) and Shawntae Spencer (ankle, questionable) are banged up. On the offensive side of the ball, it’s officially time to start worrying about Alex Smith. The second-year signal caller hasn’t thrown for multiple touchdowns since Week 6 and has a 5/10 TD/INT ratio over the last seven games. Like their previous meeting, expect a heavy dose of Frank Gore, who ran for a team-record 212 rushing yards against Seattle in Week 11. He’s the NFC’s leading rusher and should once again be the focal point of San Francisco’s offense…Just when Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander start getting acclimated back into the offense, Darrell Jackson is now out with a toe injury. Jackson’s league-high 10 receiving touchdowns will be missed, but Seattle has enough playmakers to compensate. Nate Burleson is expected to move into the starting lineup, but D.J. Hackett could prove to be the biggest beneficiary. Bobby Engram also looks ready to return after battling a thyroid condition, but he’s likely to be eased back into game action. Shaun Alexander’s disappointing season continued last week, when he was only able to muster 3.5 YPC against a mediocre Arizona defense. Alexander has seen his YPC drop from last season’s 5.1 all the way to 3.5 this year, but he does have a tasty matchup this week, as San Francisco’s front seven hasn’t been able to stop anyone of late. Alexander has nine touchdowns over the last six games against San Francisco and should visit the end zone a couple of times Thursday, as the home team dominates…Aside from their defensive injuries, the 49ers also list Adam Snyder (ankle, out) and Jonas Jennings (ankle, probable) on the injury report, while the Seahawks list Robbie Tobeck (hip, doubtful), Mack Strong (ankle, questionable) and Rocky Bernard (foot, probable)… Seattle is 6-1 in its last seven games against San Francisco.

Predictions: Alex Smith continues to struggle, throwing a couple of interceptions, but he does find Antonio Bryant for a score. Frank Gore has success on the ground, running for 130 yards and finding paydirt. Matt Hasselbeck answers with 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett being the recipients. Shaun Alexander finally breaks out, rushing for 120 yards and two scores, as Seattle clinches its third straight division title. Seahawks 28-17.

Bets of the Week

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

This is a tough week for betting, and I’m looking at going with a couple of road dogs. The Rams are +120 moneyline at Oakland, while the Dolphins are +101 in Buffalo. While I’m at it, the Jaguars are only 3-point dogs at Tennessee, and while I realize the Titans are on a roll, the Jags need this win a lot more.

In terms of fantasy, there isn’t much advice to give at this point, other than the lineup rankings. A few running back injuries may allow some solid guys to emerge as flex plays this week. If you need RB help, add Arlen Harris, Justin Griffith, Artose Pinner and Chris Brown in that order and monitor these situations closely throughout the week. Darrell Jackson’s turf toes make DJ Hackett and Nate Burleson viable fantasy options this week. While Burleson will start, I think that Hackett is the slightly better, or at least the safer option.

On a personal note, I pulled out a nail biter over Dalton this week, thanks to Steven Jackson’s late game heroics. Had to mention that.

Steven Jackson Screwed Me (and didn’t even buy me dinner first)

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Fantasy Loser

When I woke up this morning, there was a feeling in my stomach like a close family member had died. I hate fantasy football. Luck is so much more involved than in fantasy baseball or basketball. Forget that my team easily scored the most in the league, and I barely made the playoffs, now it’s the postseason, and nothing else matters.

Going into Monday night with Chicago defense, Jeff Wilkins and a 6-point lead against Steven Jackson, the suspense was more than palpable. If my neighbors didn’t call the cops, it’s good to know I can get away with murder and not have to worry about those silly consequences, because at times, I was a little too worked up for a 24-year-old man. 24-year-old boy is more appropriate. You see, after 14 weeks of constant tinkering, trading and emotional involvement, it all came down to three hours of hell.

Damn, three important Bears’ starters on D are out, but they have carried me all year, and St. Louis’ offensive line acts like a sieve. Then again, Marc Bulger called out Alex Barron and Richie no longer Incognito during the week, and it’s a home team on Monday night football playing the conference’s best team – this is the Rams’ Super Bowl.

It’s 4 p.m. and ESPN’s SportsCenter announces that Bulger “expects to check down even more than usual tonight,” – awesome. How did it come to this, you ask? Well, my deft acquisition of Antonio Gates two weeks ago (for Andre Johnson and Ben Watson), which was criticized at the time, proved genius when the best tight end in football put up a huge game Sunday. All week long I was going to start Vince Young over Carson Palmer – Oakland’s pass D is for real, their offense can’t score, Rudi Johnson all day, Prince Vince’s homecoming, but ultimately, I didn’t have the balls. Young outscored Palmer by 5.7 points. Still, after starting Julius Jones over Marion Barber last week, my opponent went the opposite route this week – I should consider myself lucky.

Back to Monday night, scoreless first quarter, things look good. That is until a 99-yard drive opens the second quarter. The MNF crew announces this is the third 99-yard drive in the NFL over the last 134 years (we count yardage against in our league). Wait a minute, Steven Jackson is stuffed at the goal line, and Torry Holt gets the TD, so it could have been worse. Um, Jeff Wilkins then goes and misses the extra point on a bad snap. Wilkins hits PATs at a 99.4 percent clip throughout his career – ominous to be sure.

What’s this, Devin Hester returns the kickoff 94 yards to the house!!! Back in business. Too bad this also meant St. Louis gets the ball back immediately, which results in a 72-yard drive ending in a Steven Jackson score. Someone bludgeon me, seriously, it looks like Chicago sent their JV squad tonight. The extra point is up and good. Did I mention the Rams went for it on fourth down earlier in the drive? So instead of a Wilkins field goal, we get an S-Jax TD. Speaking of Wilkins, he shanks a 48 yarder to bring the first half to a close right after the MNF crew flashes a statistic stating he’s the NFL’s current active leader in FG percentage. This is fun.

What’s this? Steven Jackson is down on the ground long enough to cut to a commercial break. Now I know it’s wrong to openly root for injuries, so I assume it’s probably not right to be praying his calf is torn. Damn, they are massaging it, a classic sign of just cramps. He’s off to the locker room and doesn’t return for the next series – I haven’t been this excited since I heard Britney Spears was flashing her goods all over town. If you expect an injury update by the three stooges, well, you just haven’t been watching MNF this year. At this point, I’d rather see Stephen Davis than a naked Jessica Alba.

OK injury update time – on Leonard Little! Now this is just torture. When the next drive commences, and I see Jackson in the backfield (at least the dreads made that part easy), I haven’t been this disappointed since I actually saw Britney Spears’ goods. Torry Holt’s fourth quarter touchdown, along with 89-yard and 73-yard drives, meant I was officially down. No way Wilkins gets a FG chance with the score, so unless I get three turnovers and Jackson breaks his leg, my season is done. Fighting back tears, I hear Mike Tirico use a tone usually reserved for sexually harassing female coworkers and look up; low and behold, Devin Hester is off to the races again, taking yet another one to the crib!

I want to have Hester’s children. Since the Rams already have 750 total yards and 20 points, I can only lose a finite amount of points in those categories. It’s Steven Jackson and four points between me and Week 15. This son of a bitch now has 54 catches over the last five weeks. And how does he find the time to also have a rap career on the side? Anyway, it’s fourth and five and my season on the line and, for the second time in the game, the Bears jump offsides. Followed by a Jackson touchdown where he carries six guys on his back like he’s superhuman.

It was the first 2-TD game of the year for Jackson. It was the lowest scoring game of the year for Wilkins. If I had started Vince Young, I would have won by 0.3 points. I hate life. Fantasy football has given me clinical depression, and I can’t wait till next season starts.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, December 11th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts are a combined 1-7 over the last four weeks.

While Vince Young’s real life QB future is still up for debate, like Michael Vick, his fantasy value is not in question. He’ll enter next year on my top-12 QB list.

When the plays turn out well it certainly makes it easier to say, but Sean Payton sure did outcoach his mentor Sunday night.

In PPR leagues, Reggie Bush is easily a first-round pick next year.

Among mere mortals (meaning LT is excluded), Drew Brees is both the NFL and fantasy MVP this year.

While all the Tony Romo to Canton talk should quiet for the time being, he’s still a fine fantasy option from here on out. And no, despite unfounded rumors, I am not president of the Tony Romo fan club.

How cool was San Diego’s fumblerooski play?!

Despite Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers have to be viewed as Super Bowl favorites right now.

The Jacksonville Jaguars just ran for an 8-yard gain.

It’s hard to come up with a more intriguing matchup than next week’s Cincy vs. Indy game.

I admit, I wrote Fred Taylor off a couple of years ago – he’s still got some game. That said, Mo-Jo may have the best power/speed combo in the league – the guy is 5 foot 6, by the way.

While defense and team record have given Rex Grossman a free pass, the same could be said for Jamal Lewis. He’s nothing more than a glorified goal line back at this point.

Speaking of the Ravens, it’s hard to believe that was Kansas City’s first December home loss in a decade.

If you’re a Kevin Jones owner and surprised by his injury, you weren’t paying attention last year.

The Tuse is Loose! Artose Pinner finally got his much publicized revenge against former team Detroit Sunday. It’s Artose Pinner’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it. OK, I’m done. In all seriousness, what the hell?! Thanks for the heads up, Brad Childress. He does realize fantasy seasons hang in the balance, right? I guess Ciatrick Fason’s 6.8 YPC at Chicago last week just wasn’t impressive enough.

What about the Carolina Panthers? There’s a decent chance they finish 6-10 this year.

I know Tom Brady routinely struggles against the Dolphins, but this is getting ridiculous.

You do realize the Tennessee Titans are 6-2 over the last eight games, right?

Just when you think Shaun Alexander’s season can’t get any more disappointing, he totally redeems himself – in a Lloyd Christmas kind of way.

Boy, that “This is our Country” song never gets old, does it?

Not sure if you’ve heard how Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart have been doing, but Mario Williams recorded three tackles and one pass deflection Sunday.

Game Capsules

Friday, December 8th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

Atlanta (-3) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: While both teams enter with two of the worst passing offenses in the league, Atlanta’s ground game has them still in the playoff hunt. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has hit rock bottom, last week resorting to kicking a last second field goal just to avoid a shutout. Bruce Gradkowski has thrown five interceptions to zero touchdowns over his last two games and just lost Michael Clayton (knee) for the season as well. Carnell Williams has lost more fumbles (two) than he has rushing touchdowns (one) this season. Losers of five out of its past six games, Tampa Bay is officially playing for only pride at this point…Atlanta ended its four-game losing streak last week by getting back to what they do best, pounding the football. Michael Vick needs just 40 rushing yards Sunday to break the NFL’s single-season rushing record by a quarterback. Vick and Warrick Dunn make the Falcons the only team in the NFL to have two players with 900 rushing yards and provide the league-leading rushing attack. Still, it’s Jerious Norwood who has been the most productive ball carrier for Atlanta. He’s getting an impressive 6.7 YPC and has more fourth-quarter rushing yards than any other tailback in the league. While coaches around the NFL this year have proven slow to give work to younger backs, there is no reason why Norwood shouldn’t at least share the carries evenly with Dunn from here on out. Expect another big day on the ground for Atlanta Sunday, as the Falcons ran for a franchise-record 306 yards when these two teams met earlier this season…Tampa Bay lists Juran Bolden (quad), Shelton Quarles (knee) and Alex Smith (ankle) as questionable, while Atlanta lists Jason Webster (groin) as doubtful and John Abraham (groin), Grady Jackson (knee) and Jimmy Williams (ankle) as probable…Tampa Bay is 4-1 in its last five games when playing at home against Atlanta.

Predictions: Bruce Gradkowski finally marches his team into the end zone but also throws two picks as well. Joey Galloway catches the TD toss, while also adding 80 yards receiving. Carnell Williams’ disappointing season continues, as he’s only able to muster 70 yards combined. Michael Vick puts his name in the record books with 60 rushing yards, while also finding Alge Crumpler for a score. Warrick Dunn begins to lose carries to Jerious Norwood, who outperforms him with 70 rushing yards and a TD run, keeping the Falcons’ playoff hopes alive. Falcons 20-16.

Minnesota (+2) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Both teams enter plagued by poor quarterback play of late, as they combined for seven interceptions to just one touchdown last week. On the season, Brad Johnson and Jon Kitna have combined for a staggering 40 turnovers. While Kitna recently got a vote of confidence from Detroit’s brass, Johnson’s job security is shaky. If Brooks Bollinger (shoulder, doubtful) hadn’t gotten hurt, Johnson might have already lost his job. Tarvaris Jackson is an interesting prospect but clearly not ready yet, especially for a team with a chance, albeit very slim, at the postseason (thank you, NFC). At least Johnson faces a beatable Detroit secondary this week, evidenced by his 11.1 YPA and 139.0 quarterback rating he put up when these two teams met earlier this year. One obstacle, however, will be having to play without the team’s clear No. 1 option on offense, Chester Taylor, who is doubtful with a rib injury. Since Taylor had eclipsed his career-high in rushing attempts by more than 100 in just 12 weeks of play, him breaking down was nearly inevitable. Ciatrick Fason, however, should be able to combine with Mewelde Moore to from a solid enough ground game Sunday…Detroit enters in the midst of a four-game losing streak and faces the toughest run defense in the league in Minnesota. Still, the Lions’ offense isn’t built around the ground game anyway (31st in the league) and likes to attack opposing defenses through the air; an area Minnesota has proven to be vulnerable. Roy Williams entered this season with 16 career touchdowns in 27 games played but isn’t getting used nearly enough in the red zone with Mike Martz calling the shots. Williams has only reached paydirt four times all season and hasn’t scored since Week 9, something that figures to change Sunday. Draft bust Mike Williams is supposedly in line for more playing time and has restored confidence in his coaches, but the fact remains Josh McCown was on the field more last week…Minnesota lists Artis Hicks (ankle, questionable), Matt Birk (neck, probable), Napoleon Harris (wrist, probable), Marcus Robinson (ankle, probable), Jermaine Wiggins (knee, probable) and Pat Williams (knee, probable) on the injury report, while Detroit does the same with Fernando Bryant (concussion, out) and Teddy Lehman (hamstring, questionable)…Minnesota has won the last five, and nine out of the last 10, meetings between these two teams.

Predictions: Brad Johnson rebounds from last week’s disastrous effort with a TD strike to Marcus Robinson, while Ciatrick Fason adds 80 yards and a rushing score as well. Jon Kitna mixes in a few sacks and a couple of turnovers in with TD tosses to Roy Williams and Kevin Jones, who also contributes 130 total yards on the day, helping Detroit snap its losing skid. Lions 20-17.

New York Giants (+3) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: The Giants have followed a five-game winning streak by dropping their last four games, while Carolina has lost five games when leading in the fourth quarter this year, putting both teams at a disappointing 6-6 on the season. Quarterback play has been a problem for both squads, as Jake Delhomme and Eli Manning have had a knack for backbreaking interceptions at the most inopportune times this season. Delhomme (thumb, questionable), however, looks unlikely to play, with Chris Weinke set to make his first start in more than four years. With that inexperience at the helm, look for Carolina to concentrate on its improving ground game. DeShaun Foster (elbow, probable) looks ready to return to action, but it’s DeAngelo Williams who has been the most explosive Carolina tailback this year. Williams is averaging nearly one more yard per carry than Foster (3.9 to 4.7) and has been far more effective in the passing game, including a seven-catch, 101-yard receiving game last week. While coach John Fox indicates he’s still turning to Foster as his starter, the exciting rookie’s play will force Fox to continue increasing his workload from here on out…The last time the Giants faced Carolina, they were shut out and gained just 132 total yards of offense in last year’s playoff loss. While Manning showed real signs of progress earlier in the season, just like last year, he’s regressed badly over the second half. Last week’s effort (7.5 YPA), however, was a step in the right direction, and this week he gets to face a secondary that recently made Jeff Garcia (8.0 YPA, three TDs) look like it was 2001. Tiki Barber, broken thumb and all, should also have a nice game Sunday, proving to be the difference between two desperate teams fighting for their playoff lives…Luke Petitgout (fibula, out), Michael Strahan (foot, doubtful), Corey Webster (toe, questionable) and Antonio Pierce (knee, probable) show up on the Giants’ injury report, while Ken Lucas (thigh, questionable), Mike Minter (knee, questionable) and Mike Wahle (shoulder, probable) are banged up for the Panthers…Carolina is 3-0 during the last three meetings between these two teams.

Predictions: Chris Weinke doesn’t take too many risks, resulting in 210 passing yards and a scoring strike to Steve Smith, who also gets 100 yards receiving on the day. DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams split the carries evenly, but it’s Williams who gains more yards and gets the touchdown. Eli Manning finds Plaxico Burress in the end zone, while Tiki Barber runs for more than 100 yards. Barber also rushes for just his second score of the year, while Brandon Jacobs punches one in from close as well, as the road team prevails. Giants 24-20.

Philadelphia (-1) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Just when everyone wrote the Eagles off, Jeff Garcia turned back the clock and kept Philadelphia’s slim playoff hopes alive with a great performance last week. Garcia flashed a downfield ability previously missing from his arsenal, with Donte Stallworth and Reggie Brown being the biggest beneficiaries. Facing a Washington secondary that has surrendered a league-high 23 passing touchdowns, while intercepting a league-low five balls this season, the opportunity will be there for continued success from Garcia. Brian Westbrook (toe, probable) has already reached his career-high in carries and rushing yards this year and is in the midst of his best season yet as a pro. He’ll continue to be the focal point of this Eagles’ offense…While the offense still shows signs of life, Philadelphia brings in a defense that has been entirely beatable all season long, especially on the ground. The Eagles’ run defense is ranked 28th in the league, surrendering 136.8 yards per game and 10 rushing scores on the year; great news for Ladell Betts, who has proven more than capable filling in for Clinton Portis (hand). Betts has shown the ability to be a feature back in this league, rushing for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games, while also revealing adroit receiving skills. He should be in store for a huge game against Philadelphia’s undersized front seven. Although Jason Campbell has struggled to fully grasp the playbook, as well as with accuracy (50.5 percent completion rate), he’s made enough big plays to at least give Washington some hope for the future. Santana Moss’ return to health is certainly a boon to the offensive unit as well. Philadelphia’s season may have been revived last week, but traveling during a short week to face a division rival is not an easy task…Roderick Hood (hamstring, questionable), Darren Howard (knee, questionable) and Michael Lewis (concussion, probable) show up on the Eagles’ injury report, while Phillip Daniels (ankle, probable), Jon Jansen (calf, probable), Casey Rabach (shin, probable) and Troy Vincent (hamstring, probable) show up on the Redskins’…Philadelphia is 8-2 in its last 10 games against Washington.

Predictions: Jeff Garcia comes back to earth Sunday, with 200 passing yards and one touchdown toss to L.J. Smith. Brian Westbrook adds 130 combined yards, while also reaching paydirt. Jason Campbell answers with 180 passing yards and a scoring strike to Santana Moss. Ladell Betts gets 120 total yards and runs in two scores, carrying the home team to victory. Redskins 21-20.

Green Bay (+4.5) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments: It might finally be time for Brett Favre to hang ‘em up, as the Packers enter losers of three straight and completely out of the playoff picture. Favre has career-lows in completion percentage (56.4) and YPA (6.3) this season. Playing a San Francisco team that he’s 6-0 against in the regular season during his career, maybe Favre can rekindle some magic; still, it’s an improving 49ers’ secondary and one that might be getting Shawntae Spencer (ankle, questionable) back in the lineup. Being that San Francisco allowed nearly 200 yards and three scores on the ground last week, Green Bay may best be suited to attack them with Ahman Green anyway…Offensively, the 49ers have featured one of the best rushing attacks in the league this year, as Frank Gore leads the NFC with 1,217 rushing yards even after last week’s season-low 40-yard effort. Although Gore is likely to be the focal point of San Francisco’s offense Sunday, Alex Smith and company face a Green Bay secondary that has been torched all season long. The Packers are ranked 30th in yards allowed (235.2) and have surrendered a league-high 23 scoring strikes through the air. Look for Alex Smith to have his best game in weeks, attacking Green Bay’s suspect secondary deep with Antonio Bryant and underneath with Arnaz Battle. Although the Packers are likely to put up a fight, the 49ers are tough when playing at home…David Martin (ribs, questionable), Nick Barnett (hand, probable) and Charles Woodson (shoulder, probable) are listed on the Packers’ injury report, while Derek Smith (hamstring, out) and Jonas Jennings (ankle, probable) show up the 49ers’…Green Bay is 5-0 in its last five games against San Francisco.

Predictions: Brett Favre throws for 240 yards and a TD to Donald Driver, while Ahman Green runs for 90 yards and a score as well. Alex Smith counters with 230 passing yards and TD tosses to Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle. Frank Gore continues his stellar year with 140 total yards and a TD run, sealing it for the home team. 49ers 24-17.

Seattle (-3.5) at Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments: Arizona has a chance to win back-to-back games for the first time since 2004, while Seattle could clinch the NFC West with a win and a San Francisco loss. In order for the Cardinals to do so, Matt Leinart will need to continue his steady play of late. Over the last three contests, Leinart is completing 62.5 percent of his passes while getting 7.9 YPA. Although Larry Fitzgerald had the bigger game last week, Anquan Boldin was actually targeted two more times; expect both to remain productive over the rest of the season. Edgerrin James finally had his first 100-yard rushing effort of the season last week, only to see three goal line touchdowns pilfered by Marcel Shipp…Seattle is 5-0 with both Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander in the lineup this season and faces a pleasing matchup against Arizona this week. Hasselbeck has been shaky since returning from his knee injury, but he showed signs of coming around during the second half last week and faces a secondary allowing the fourth most yards in the league. Alexander has had a more successful return to the lineup, rushing for 291 yards over his last two games. He has 10 touchdowns during the last four contests against the Cardinals and should be in store for a big afternoon Sunday. Arizona isn’t going to be a pushover while playing in front of its home crowd, but Seattle’s offense will start to click on all cylinders…The Seahawks list Robbie Tobeck (hip, doubtful), Bobby Engram (illness, questionable) and Mack Strong (ankle, questionable) on the injury report, while the Cardinals do the same with Kendrick Clancy (ankle, doubtful)… Seattle is 7-1 in its last eight games against Arizona.

Predictions: Matt Leinart shows more progress, throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns, with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald being the recipients. Edgerrin James turns 25 touches into 85 total yards, while Shaun Alexander counters with 130 yards and a score. Matt Hasselbeck has a big day throwing to Darrell Jackson, as the pair hook up for 125 yards and two scores, as Seattle has too much firepower. Seahawks 24-20.

New Orleans (+7) at Dallas, Sunday 8:15 p.m.

Comments: In a battle possibly for the No. 2 seed, two of the NFC’s best teams face off in prime time. Each teams success is in large part to coaching, as both Sean Payton and Bill Parcells have done terrific jobs this season. New Orleans, however, enters a little shorthanded, as wide receivers Marques Colston (ankle, questionable) and Joe Horn (groin, questionable) look unlikely to play, and its defensive line is banged up, with Will Smith (knee) questionable and Hollis Thomas suspended. For a team already struggling to stop the run, they could be in big trouble Sunday. The Saints will need a lot of offense this week, starting with continued MVP-like play from Drew Brees (8.3 YPA). A carryover from Reggie Bush’s effort last week would also help, as the rookie ran with determination and physicality previously missing from his arsenal. Against a Dallas defense performing at one of the highest levels in the league, things won’t come easy for New Orleans this week…Even when Tony Romo played like a mere mortal last week, he was still able to make the clutch throws necessary to lead his team to victory. Facing a Saints’ secondary stingy in yardage allowed (180.3) but generous with touchdowns allowed (21), expect another big game from Romo. Pitted against a porous rush defense that might be missing two defensive linemen, the Dallas running game should be productive as well. Marion Barber has been more effective and remains the goal line option, but don’t be surprised if Julius Jones retakes a good portion of the ground game Sunday. Either way, this is a committee situation moving forward…New Orleans has won the last four matchups between these two teams.

Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 280 yards and a long TD to Devery Henderson, while Reggie Bush totals 75 yards. Deuce McAllister runs in a goal line score, but the Saints are stopped in the red zone a couple of times as well. Tony Romo answers with 260 yards and three TDs, with two going to Terrell Owens and one to Terry Glenn. Julius Jones runs for 80 yards, but once again it’s Marion Barber punching in the score, as the home team pulls away late. Cowboys 28-20.

Chicago (-6.5) at St. Louis, Monday 8:35 p.m.

Comments: Both squads enter amid quarterback controversy, as Rex Grossman’s play has fallen off a cliff, and Marc Bulger recently criticized teammates for not caring enough. While calling out offensive linemen to the media may not be the best tactic, it doesn’t make the comments untrue, as something has clearly been wrong with St. Louis’ offense over the last month. Bulger (ribs, probable) has been sacked 17 times over the last four games. One player who clearly cannot be blamed is Steven Jackson, who is on pace to catch a remarkable 96 balls for 830 receiving yards this year. Facing a Chicago defense surprisingly susceptible against the run (they allowed 192 rushing yards last week at home against Minnesota), expect another big game from Jackson. The fact Chicago will be missing Tommie Harris (knee, out) for the rest of the season won’t help matters either…Clamoring for backups is usually overdone, especially involving a 10-2 team, but in Rex Grossman’s case, the concerns are legitimate. Grossman has six interceptions to zero touchdown passes over the last two games and hasn’t eclipsed 5.4 YPA in a game in nearly a month. Coach Lovie Smith’s 10-2 record argument runs thin, as he made a QB switch last season in a very similar situation. At minimum, Brian Griese needs to start warming up. Facing a Rams’ secondary ranked in the top-10 in yards allowed but a run defense ranked 31st in the league (allowing 153.3 yards per game), the Bears will focus on their ground game anyway. With Cedric Benson playing the best football of his career (5.4 YPC over the last three games), look for him to combine with Thomas Jones to gash St. Louis on the ground Monday. Jones is still the starter, but the backfield has become a timeshare in Chicago. The Rams will keep it close, but the Bears will make enough plays on defense and special teams to win it…St. Louis lists Kevin Curtis (calf, probable), Torry Holt (knee, probable) and Adam Timmerman (ribs, probable) on the injury report, while Chicago lists Nathan Vasher (hamstring, questionable) and Todd Johnson (ankle, questionable)…St. Louis is 4-1 in its last five games against Chicago.

Predictions: Marc Bulger throws for 220 yards and a TD strike to Torry Holt, while Steven Jackson totals 140 yards and rushes for a score. Rex Grossman has a good, not great game, reaching 200 yards passing and finding Desmond Clark in the end zone. Thomas Jones gets 70 rushing yards, while Cedric Benson gets 50 and a score, as Chicago moves one step closer to home field advantage. Bears 20-14.

Week 14 Lineup Rankings

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

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Dalton’s Rankings

Quarterbacks

1. Tony Romo
2. Peyton Manning
3. Drew Brees
4. Michael Vick

5. Matt Hasselbeck
6. Carson Palmer
7. Vince Young
8. Ben Roethlisberger
9. Tom Brady

10. Jon Kitna
11. Philip Rivers
12. Chad Pennington
13. Eli Manning
14. Matt Leinart
15. Brett Favre
16. Marc Bulger

17. Jay Cutler
18. Jeff Garcia
19. Rex Grossman
20. David Garrard

21. Joey Harrington
22. Jason Campbell
23. Alex Smith
24. Chris Weinke
25. David Carr
26. Steve McNair
27. Trent Green
28. Brad Johnson
29. Aaron Brooks
30. Bruce Gradkowski
31. J.P. Losman
32. Derek Anderson

Comments: It looks like Jake Delhomme isn’t going to be able to suit up, but that doesn’t make Chris Weinke an option. I just picked up Vince Young in my main league, and now wish I hadn’t. With Oakland’s pass defense scaring me so much, I just might be insane enough to go Young over Palmer this week.

Running Backs

1. LaDainian Tomlinson

2. Frank Gore
3. Larry Johnson
4. Brian Westbrook
5. Steven Jackson
6. Shaun Alexander
7. Willie Parker

8. Kevin Jones
9. Tiki Barber
10. Rudi Johnson
11. Tatum Bell
12. Ladell Betts
13. Travis Henry
14. Marion Barber

15. Maurice Jones-Drew
16. Edgerrin James
17. Cedric Houston
18. Julius Jones
19. Joseph Addai
20. Corey Dillon
21. Fred Taylor
22. Ahman Green
23. Willis McGahee
24. Deuce McAllister
25. Ciatrick Fason
26. Thomas Jones
27. Cedric Benson
28. Reggie Bush

29. Carnell Williams
30. DeAngelo Williams
31. Jamal Lewis
32. DeShaun Foster
33. Warrick Dunn
34. Brandon Jacobs
35. Laurence Maroney

36. Wali Lundy
37. Ron Dayne
38. Leon Washington
39. Justin Fargas
40. Jerious Norwood
41. Dominic Rhodes
42. Sammy Morris
43. Jason Wright/Reuben Droughns
44. Mewelde Moore
45. Mike Bell

Comments: LaDainian Tomlinson is having the greatest fantasy season of all-time. Cedric Houston may prove to be the key pickup that helped teams win fantasy championships this year – he’s a real solid RB2 or flex play this week. Robby turned in his rankings a bit early this week because he’s out of town, but it now looks lik Chester Taylor isn’t going to play this week. While not great, I do think Fason is a fine flex play as a result.

Wide Receivers

1. Terrell Owens
2. Darrell Jackson
3. Chad Johnson
4. Reggie Wayne
5. Steve Smith
6. Donald Driver
7. Roy Williams
8. Andre Johnson
9. Torry Holt
10. Marvin Harrison

11. Plaxico Burress
12. TJ Houshmandzadeh
13. Larry Fitzgerald
14. Javon Walker
15. Anquan Boldin
16. Terry Glenn

17. Lee Evans
18. Laveranues Coles
19. Chris Chambers
20. Santana Moss
21. Reche Caldwell
22. Deion Branch
23. Bernard Berrian

24. Donte Stallworth
25. Joey Galloway
26. Devery Henderson
27. Santonio Holmes
28. Braylon Edwards
29. Jerricho Cotchery
30. Matt Jones

31. Mike Furrey
32. Reggie Brown
33. Antonio Bryant
34. Marty Booker
35. Greg Jennings
36. Terrance Copper
37. Keyshawn Johnson
38. Derrick Mason
39. Mark Clayton

40. Chris Henry
41. Muhsin Muhammad
42. Michael Jenkins
43. Marcus Robinson
44. Drew Bennett
45. Brandon Jones
46. Randy Moss
47. Nate Washington
48. Wes Welker
49. Isaac Bruce
50. Arnaz Battle

Comments: I bumped Steve Smith down a bit because of the Jake Delhomme news, but he still is a must-start obviously. I didn’t list Joe Horn or Marques Colston, but if either of them suits up, they’d both be worth using, especially Colston. If neither does, Henderson and Copper are sneaky good plays instead.

Tight Ends

1. Antonio Gates
2. Tony Gonzalez
3. Todd Heap
4. Alge Crumpler
5. Jeremy Shockey
6. Chris Cooley
7. Jason Witten
8. Kellen Winslow
9. Ben Watson
10. L.J. Smith
11. Randy McMichael

12. Heath Miller
13. Jerramy Stevens
14. Bo Scaife
15. Desmond Clark

Team Defense

1. Chicago
2. Pittsburgh
3. Baltimore

4. Atlanta
5. New England
6. Kansas City
7. Cincinnati
8. New York Jets
9. Minnesota
10. Seattle

11. Carolina
12. San Diego
13. St. Louis
14. Dallas
15. San Francisco

Comments: If you happen to have Pittsburgh’s defense this week, congratulations.

Robby’s Rankings

Quarterbacks

1. Drew Brees
2. Tony Romo
3. Michael Vick
4. Peyton Manning
5. Carson Palmer

6. Jon Kitna
7. Matt Hasselbeck
8. Tom Brady
9. Brett Favre

10. Philip Rivers
11. Matt Leinart
12. Joey Harrington
13. Vince Young

14. Jeff Garcia
15. Marc Bulger
16. Eli Manning
17. Ben Roethlisberger
18. Chad Pennington
19. Jake Delhomme (check status)

20. Steve McNair
21. Brad Johnson
22. Alex Smith
23. Aaron Brooks
24. David Carr
25. Jay Cutler
26. Jason Campbell

27. J.P. Losman
28. Rex Grossman
29. Trent Green
30. David Garrard
31. Bruce Gradkowski
32. Cleveland QB

Comments: This is a tough week for elite quarterbacks as none of them have favorable matchups, and the steady Mike Vick climbs the rankings as a result. Look for the shootout in Dallas (over/under 47.5) to produce some big fantasy numbers. Jeff Garcia emerged as a possible fantasy starter, while Rex Grossman’s fantasy season is officially over.

Running Backs

1. LaDainian Tomlinson

2. Frank Gore
3. Brian Westbrook
4. Larry Johnson

5. Shaun Alexander
6. Willie Parker
7. Steven Jackson

8. Tiki Barber
9. Tatum Bell
10. Rudi Johnson

11. Chester Taylor (check status)
12. Kevin Jones
13. Ladell Betts
14. Joseph Addai
15. Reggie Bush
16. Laurence Maroney

17. Marion Barber
18. Travis Henry
19. Maurice Jones-Drew
20. Thomas Jones
21. Deuce McAllister
22. Corey Dillon

23. Edgerrin James
24. Willis McGahee
25. Brandon Jacobs
26. Dominic Rhodes
27. Cedric Houston
28. Ahman Green
29. DeAngelo Williams (12 if Foster sits)
30. Julius Jones

31. Cedric Benson
32. Carnell Williams
33. Fred Taylor

34. Jerious Norwood
35. Jamal Lewis
36. Warrick Dunn
37. Wali Lundy
38. Justin Fargas
39. Sammy Morris
40. Jason Wright/Reuben Droughns

Comments: Tatum Bell is back (at least I hope so). I continue to rank Maroney well ahead of Dillon, even though Dillon has outperformed the ballyhooed rookie. Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones’ skills as receivers keep them as respectable options against tough defenses.

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith
2. Terrell Owens
3. Larry Fitzgerald

4. Chad Johnson
5. Donald Driver
6. Anquan Boldin
7. Reggie Wayne
8. Torry Holt

9. Darrell Jackson
10. Terry Glenn
11. TJ Houshmandzadeh
12. Marvin Harrison

13. Roy Williams
14. Chris Chambers
15. Marques Colston (check status)
16. Andre Johnson
17. Mike Furrey
18. Plaxico Burress

19. Deion Branch
20. Santana Moss
21. Lee Evans
22. Laveranues Coles
23. Marty Booker

24. Donte Stallworth
25. Matt Jones
26. Reche Caldwell
27. Javon Walker
28. Derrick Mason

29. Joe Horn
30. Jerricho Cotchery
31. Joey Galloway
32. Randy Moss
33. Braylon Edwards
34. Isaac Bruce
35. Keyshawn Johnson
36. Bernard Berrian
37. Greg Jennings
38. Muhsin Muhammad
39. Chris Henry
40. Reggie Brown

Comments: The Colts and Bengals have tough matchups, so I bumped down their WRs a bit. Mike Furrey and Marty Booker are on a roll, go ahead and use them.

Tight Ends

1. Antonio Gates
2. Tony Gonzalez
3. Todd Heap
4. Jeremy Shockey
5. Ben Watson
6. Kellen Winslow
7. Chris Cooley
8. Alge Crumpler
9. Randy McMichael
10. Jason Witten
11. Bo Scaife
12. L.J. Smith

Team Defense

1. Chicago
2. Pittsburgh
3. Baltimore
4. San Diego
5. Kansas City
6. New England
7. N.Y. Jets
8. Cincinnati
9. Dallas
10. Atlanta
11. St. Louis
12. San Francisco
13. Indianapolis
14. Detroit
15. Philadelphia