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Wednesday, 05 December 2007 10:53
NFL Headline News

 FANTASY FOOTBALL
By JOHN McFARLAND
Associated Press Writer
The answer to the big question hasn't changed all season: No, nobody has a chance of stopping Tom Brady and the unbeaten Patriots.
But maybe - and this is a big maybe - a showdown against Tom Brady in the fantasy football playoffs doesn't spell certain doom.
Consider the past couple of weeks, when new defensive schemes limited him to three scores. That's three total in two games, following a 10-game streak in which Brady hit three or more TDs every week. And this week he faces the Steelers' top-ranked defense.
Fantasy foes of Brady may have an even better weapon, though: The simple fact that it's really cold outside. In the windy and blustery Baltimore weather Monday, Brady looked cold, uncomfortable and - gasp - even a little inaccurate.
Brady's next three games are in New England, where sleet, snow or freezing temperatures can botch up a passing game. In fact, in his home December games over the past five years, Brady has thrown three or more TDs just twice. He's only put up one 300-yard game.
Of course, he didn't have Randy Moss or a chance to make history then. And he'll probably still have another huge game or two. Or three or four. But at least there's a sliver of optimism.
As you keep hoping for a New England blizzard, here's a look at some players to start in Week 14, some to avoid, and a few long shots who just may pan out:
QUARTERBACKS
A SAFE BET
-How about that Tony Romo of the Cowboys? (Not to be confused with the great Rick Romo, as he was called on NFL Network's game telecast.) Tony has put up three four-TD games in his last four and faces the Lions' 31st-ranked pass defense.
-Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck is averaging 284 yards and a couple scores in his last five home games, and he faces a beat-up Arizona secondary that hasn't been much on covering people lately.
-So what was all that NFC title game business for the Saints last year? Guess they were pretty fluky after all, but Drew Brees should have the 5-7 team looking like championship material against the Falcons.
-After surprisingly flopping with his real team this season, Cincinnati's Carson Palmer at least has a chance to help fantasy owners. The Rams have been decent against the run in their mini-resurgence, so plenty of passing yards should be there.
-The crumbling of the Titans defense has worked out well for Vince Young, who has passed for at least 245 yards each of the past three games. He should keep busy with a daylong comeback against the surprisingly soft Chargers defense.
TAKE A SHOT
-I'm eating nearly a season's worth of words here, but Tarvaris Jackson's looking sharp for Minnesota. He may get bored between long runs by Adrian Peterson and throw a few touchdowns on San Francisco.
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Please, in the name of Matt Cassel, don't start these guys:
-The Giants are 1-0 when they forbid Eli Manning to throw the ball unless it's an absolute emergency, so start him only if your league awards handoff points.
-Matt Schaub is following the Texans blueprint perfectly, with the occasional big game in between regularly occurring injuries. (David Carr's certainly thinking ``I told you so'' from his spot at the far, far end of the Carolina bench.)
-Nobody's given up more touchdown passes than the Browns (27), but it's still a leap to suggest the Jets' Kellen Clemens is a reasonable postseason start.
RUNNING BACKS
ALL DAY LONG
-Not to nitpick the unbeaten three-time Super Bowl champs, but that New England defense sure has looked old and slow the past two weeks. Even an infrequent end zone visitor like Pittsburgh's Willie Parker (2 TDs) has a shot at a big game.
-With Brett Favre sore and Oakland still not fully committed to the tackling concept, look for another big game from Green Bay's Ryan Grant. He's averaging 100 yards and a score his last four games, and the Raiders have allowed more TD runs (20) than anyone.
-Denver's Travis Henry already got the hard part of his week over, winning his appeal with the league over drug test results. Somehow, that battle had a lot more intrigue than the Broncos-Chiefs matchup with ninth place in the AFC on the line.
-Brandon Jacobs is returning from injury just in time, with Derrick Ward out for the year and the Giants going with an Eli-proof scheme. Jacobs gets to warm up against Eagles defenders who are suddenly quite easy to juke.
-If Marshawn Lynch returns for Buffalo, start him against the Dolphins' NFL-worst run defense. If a backup by the name of Fred Jackson starts, start him. If somebody else starts, start him.
HE COULD FIND A SEAM
-With the season long over and an offensive line that can hang with any practice squad, the Falcons have finally decided it's time for speedy youngster Jerious Norwood to get the carries.
RED FLAGS
-Strangely, it took two offensive coaches to decide the 49ers should quit feeding the ball to Frank Gore last week. Wonder how many guys it'll take to decide against running straight into the Vikings' impenetrable run defense.
-Remember when the Ravens defense was so scary you'd never start anybody against them? Those days are long gone for quarterbacks and receivers, but not so much for runners. If you have a better option, rest the Colts' Joseph Addai.
-Shouldn't we all just call it a fantasy season for the Jets' Thomas Jones? Sure, he scored his first TD of the year, but getting just 3 yards a carry against Miami is hard to explain.
---
WIDE RECEIVERS
THROW HIM THE DARN BALL!
-Cleveland's Braylon Edwards is living right after his 67-yard score in which he appeared to clearly have been down by contact. Take that luck, plus the Jets' bad luck, and he should be good for 200 yards this week.
-Somehow, a Falcon is a must-start. The Saints don't ever cover people, and Roddy White has emerged as a reliable No. 1. He's a lock for his first 1,000-yard season, and has 100 yards and a score in each of his past two games.
-Bryant Johnson is about the only Cardinal receiver not limping, and Arizona's sure to be passing a lot against Seattle. Johnson has 11 catches and a TD the past two weeks with injuries to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
-Fun with passing stats is about all that's left for the Bengals, so start any of their top three receivers as they take out some frustration on the Rams.
-T.O.'s an obvious start for Dallas, but Patrick Crayton also may do some damage against the free-falling Lions. He's healthy again and coming off his second two-touchdown game of the season.
MAYBE THROW HIM THE DARN BALL?
-With Detroit's Roy Williams out, it could be a good time to plug in Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey or Shaun McDonald. They'll see plenty of passes if Jon Kitna survives Cowboys defenders still hacked that Kitna didn't think they were very good when he had 306 yards and four TDs against them last year.
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH
-It certainly feels ridiculous to suggest benching the Rams' Torry Holt in the fantasy playoffs. But if Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte are both out, it could be up to Brock Berlin to get him the ball.
-Is it possible that Green Bay's Donald Driver never scores again? He's catching plenty of passes, just none in the end zone. His scoreless streak has hit nine games.
-Derrick Mason's averaging six catches the past five games and even scored last week as the Ravens seemed to find an offensive rhythm. But two straight offensive outbursts is a bit much to ask of the Ravens, especially against Indy's No. 2 pass defense.
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FREE AGENT SHOPPING LIST
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: Some QB named Luke McCown (313 yards, 2 TDs), RB Jerious Norwood (starter), RB Fred Jackson (151 total yards), WR Bryant Johnson (TD), QB Kyle Boller (2 TDs), QB Tarvaris Jackson (2 TDs), QB Josh McCown (3 TDs), QB Aaron Rodgers (TD).
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WHAT DO I KNOW?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I expected big things for everyone named Adrian Peterson (116 yards, 2 TDs for the one in Minnesota, 149 total yards for the one in Chicago), Hines Ward (90 yards, 2 TDs), Travis Henry (2 TDs), Derek Anderson (304 yards, 2 TDs) and Thomas Jones (first rushing TD). I suggested benching Javon Walker (7 yards), Anquan Boldin (25 yards, injury) and Chad Johnson (0 TDs).
Big Misses: I thought Gus Frerotte (311 yards, 3 TDS) would spend the day chasing botched snaps. I suggested benching all Eagles WRs, including Kevin Curtis (111 yards, TD). I also expected failure for David Garrard (2 TDs) and DeShaun Foster (93 total yards, TD). I for the last time ever predicted success for Plaxico Burress (36 yards). I also expected big things from Jason Campbell (INT) and Deion Branch (40 yards).
 

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