The Seahawks haven't allowed an opposing TE to catch a TD all season, partly because of LB Anthony Simmons – one of the leagues more athletic linebackers. That doesn't bode well for Jim Kleinsasser, a physical, not athletic, tight end.
Seattle has scored more than 33 points in each of their last three games while the Vikings have allowed an average of 33 points in each of their last four. The Seahawks offense is peaking, and that includes Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson – who were near nonexistent in the early stages of the season. Every player should receive the benefit of doubt in this one.
Jerome Bettis has 17 or more rushing attempts in four of his last five games and he's also scored in two of his last three. Pittsburgh faces a reeling Raiders defense that's given up 16 rushing touchdowns, third most. Plus, Tommy Maddox is ailing (knee), so you may see the Steelers rely upon their ground game more than at any other time this season.
After a hot start, Brad Johnson has hit the skids in recent weeks, tossing two touchdowns in his last three starts combined. Meyshawn may not be the world's greatest receiver, but without him and Joe Jurevicius (IR), there's a noticeable absence of talent at receiver.
Nothing says that better than watching Thomas Jones become their top fantasy threat. Speaking of Thomas Jones, he's quietly playing an expanded role in the Bucs offense, scoring in each of their last two games. And since the Bucs are basically playing out their season, with minimal options in the passing game, you can expect Tampa to continue feeding him the ball. At the very least, they can determine if he fits into their long-term plans. He's got a reasonably good match-up versus the Saints paper-thin run defense.
So Steve McNair is coming off a sub-par performance facing a team that thoroughly defeated the Titans in the first meeting…...Take McNair to the bank.
Tennessee hasn't allowed a 100+ yard rusher at home in nearly two years, and it's doubtful Edgerrin James will break that streak, so expect Manning to account for much of the Colts offense – again. Since Dallas Clark is out, Marcus Pollard should see a few more balls headed his way, especially against safety Tank Williams – who's better known for his tackling than coverage skills.
Looking for a QB dark horse, then look no further than Jake Delhomme. He's in a dome facing one of the leagues worst pass defenses. Plus, with Vick back in the lineup, the Falcons will put up their fair share of points, which means Delhomme will be forced to respond.
Az Hakim (check injury status - back) has caught nineteen passes the last three games, including two touchdowns, and faces a Chargers team that's allowed 28 touchdown passes, seven more than the next closest team (Arizona). And if you're incredibly desperate, consider Bill Schroeder. He's facing Sammy Davis, a rookie that doesn't have the top end speed to stick with Schroeder.
Mikhael Ricks is a tight end lock if there is such a thing. San Diego's given up ten passing touchdown to opponents tight ends – an average of nearly one per game.
The Texans defense has slipped mightily compared to last season. Their pass defense ranks 30th in yards allowed and 32nd in average yards per pass play allowed. As long as the Jags don't let up after last week's solid victory, Jimmy Smith is in a position to have a quality outing.
FANTASY LOCK OF THE WEEK:
Fred Taylor will run over, through, and around the poor Texans defense.
Washington's defense is well below average, but that doesn't make any of the Giants offensive players sure fantasy starters. Most of NY's problems start up front, something we talked about months ago. They started two unproven players again this season, and it's showed. Now tackle Luke Petitgout is questionable, while center Lucier and guard Suebert are done for the season.
That's not the only injuries NY has suffered. Starting corners Will Allen and Will Peterson are done for the season, while current starter Ralph Brown is questionable. The Redskins passing game has been a big disappointment most the year, but the Giants are injured and have lost their fight. This is as good as it gets for Coles, Gardner, and McCants, assuming Washington finds a way to protect Tim Hasselbeck.
The Cardinals pass defense is again one of the leagues worst and may be without FS Dexter Jackson and CB Renaldo Hill, so don't let Garcia's dismal performance last week scare you off. Plus, the Niners are at home, where they're a comfortable 5-1, and where the Cardinals are a not-so-comfortable 0-6. Terrell Owens is an obvious starter, but don't forget about Tai Streets. Not only does he have five touchdown receptions, one less than Terrell, he's got 4 inches and 15 pounds on CB Coby Rhinehart.
The Jets and Bills have scored 78 and 68 points collectively in their last two games played in Buffalo. Buffalo's offense finally broke out of their funk last week, but it came against a lifeless Giants team decimated by injuries. The Jets secondary, which has allowed a league low ten passing touchdowns, should neutralize the Bills dismal passing game, leaving Travis Henry as the lone source of offense. On the other side of the ball, the Bills secondary has also played well, allowing the fourth fewest yards and only eleven passing touchdowns. Use discretion when judging talent in this one – Travis Henry looks like the only sure fire fantasy lock.
Willis McGahee could see his first action of the season this week, but don't expect his contributions to account for much - Travis Henry owners should rest assured.
Todd Pinkston will find out if Cowboy's cornerback Mario Edwards just had a bad day last week (Chambers scored three touchdowns). As well as the Eagles are playing, Pinkston is worth consideration as a third fantasy receiver.
If you're ever looking for irony, you'll never have to look further than the NFL. The Niners acquired Dennis Erickson and were expected finally open up the passing game. Through week thirteen, San Fran's passing game ranks 17th in yards per pass play, which is where they finished the 2002 season. The only difference between this year's squad and last year's is their running game, where they rank 11th in YPC, five spots worse than last season. So they're passing game is the same and the running game took a step back – and the opposite was supposed to occur.
Speaking of the Niners, with Garrison Hearst doubtful, Barlow becomes a number one fantasy back since he faces a fading Cardinals team. To clarify the origin of the Cardinals "fade", it started shortly after WWII. And you Bengals fans think you've had it rough.
Domanick Davis is battling the injury bug and faces a stiff Jaguars defense that ranks 1st in yards per carry allowed and 2nd in rushing yards allowed.
Boo Williams has scored in both games since his predecessor, Ernie Conwell, was lost for the season. The Bucs, like every other opponent, will be forced to play eight defenders in the box in hopes of slowing Deuce McAllister down, which should make Williams a solid target for Brooks yet again.
Troy Brown still hasn't practiced and is questionable. Entering this season, he'd caught one TD in his last 22 divisional games, making him a long shot to produce at a desirable level. The Browns have scored 13 points in their last two games, but don't be too quick to shy away from their skill position players. As last week proved (Jets and Jaguars), primetime always brings out the best in teams, even one's that are struggling.
Michael Vicks return couldn't come at a better time for all Falcon-player owners. Price and Crumpler should benefit tremendously and should both be in your lineup. Don't be too intimated by the Panthers 15th ranked defense (22nd against the pass). They've also allowed 17 passing touchdowns - one of the higher league totals.
TREND OF THE WEEK:
The Rams are 3-12 against the number in their last 15 road games and are 2-10 in their last 12 on grass. Got to love the Brownies this week, just like the Jets last week.
Donovan McNabb and the Eagles have received their fair share of acclaims in recent weeks, thanks to an eight-game winning streak. But did you know McNabb's 74.1 passer rating ranks ninth in the NFC, and his nine passing touchdowns ranks 13th – in the NFC. OK, let's set the record straight. McNabb gets the ink because he's a leader and a likeable guy. You can't measure his leadership, which is also why Steve McNair will always be underrated. It's one of those qualities that are seldom considered when discussing quarterbacks, but that doesn't make it any less important.
To clean out the Fantasy closet and respond to the Rush Limbaugh meltdown of a few months ago, and what a joyous event that turned out to be. As an objective observer who could really give a rat's you know what about the whole thing. I just wonder why no one discussed a USA Today article, printed the following week that told of a black rower who was doing what no black rower had done before.
And how did Warren Sapp's "slave master" comment fade away without discussion? I think most of us know why these transgressions weren't touched, which is exactly why politics should be kept out of sports.
KEY WEEK #14 INJURIES
Garrison Hearst is doubtful (knee)
Domanick Davis is questionable (ankle)
Troy Brown is questionable (leg)
Dante Stallworth is questionable (ankle)
Joe Jurivicius is out and has been placed on IR
Patrick Ramsey is doubtful (ankle)
Jeremy Shockey is questionable (knee)
Brian Finneran is questionable (knee)