While gearing up for a deep run into the playoffs, many wise fantasy football owners will be keeping a close eye on guys such as Tarvaris Jackson, Rex Grossman and Trent Dilfer.
Not for their marvelous passing, of course. It's their odd decision-making and creative blunders that could make for huge games from just about any fantasy defense. (Exhibit A: Jackson's peculiar move where he appears to attempt an old-school jump-pass then gets sacked on the way down.)
The fact is, there are only a handful of great fantasy defenses. If you don't have the Patriots, Giants, Chargers or Lions, your best playoff defense very well may be the most inept quarterback you can find. And the key is to get that postseason shopping done early, because everyone will have the same idea once the playoffs start.
Possibilities for Week 14 - when some 10-team leagues begin the postseason - include Washington (vs. Grossman), Buffalo (vs. rookie John Beck) and even San Francisco (vs. Jackson).
The next week even the horrid Bengals might look decent against Dilfer or Alex Smith. And options abound in Week 16, such as the Redskins facing Jackson and the Chiefs facing the always-getting-sacked Jon Kitna.
As you wonder just how many sacks Kitna's body can endure, here's a look at players to start in Week 12, players to avoid and a few long shots who just might pan out:
-It's always fun to have a starter on Thanksgiving, so go for Kitna or Green Bay's Brett Favre. Either one's a good candidate for the Golden Turducken or eight-legged ham or whatever animal mutation the networks hand out these days.
-Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck is turning into a fantasy guarantee, with three 300-yard games and seven multiple-score games in his last eight. This from a guy who had just four 300-yard games the three previous seasons combined.
-New Orleans' Drew Brees should put up nice stats in an otherwise barely watchable game at Carolina, where the Panthers can't win and where Brees threw for 349 yards last year.
-The Giants' Eli Manning has gone three straight games with one score, but the Vikings' NFL-worst pass defense just doesn't cover anybody. This is a defense, after all, that let Daunte Culpepper go for 344 yards (the Culpepper of last week, not of 2000).
-Big numbers can't be helped against Cleveland's 31st-ranked pass defense that's yielded an NFL-worst 23 TD passes, so keep on riding Houston's Matt Schaub until his next injury.
-Turns out all I needed to do was cut Tennessee's Vince Young to get him going. He's scored three times and is averaging 281 yards passing and 62 rushing the past two weeks. If not for his first eight games, he'd be an automatic start.
Please, in the name of Ken Dorsey, don't start these guys:
-Washington's Jason Campbell was nearly unstoppable last week against a questionable Dallas secondary, but don't bank on another 300-yard game. Tampa Bay has only given up seven TD passes.
-In other surprising 300-yarder news, don't expect a repeat from Oakland's Daunte Culpepper against the Chiefs at the always hostile Arrowhead Stadium. He may even get benched mid-game for the debut of No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell.
-Speaking of the Raiders, they're just so darned easy to run on that it's hard to imagine Kansas City's Brodie Croyle doing much passing in his home debut as a starter.
-Every time the Steelers lose to an inferior opponent, they go back to their run-game security blanky the next week. So far this year, Willie Parker's averaged 25 carries, gone over 100 yards and scored his only two TDs in weeks following surprising defeats.
-Speaking of smallish Pennsylvanians who'll carry their teams, resist the urge to bench Brian Westbrook against the Evil Empire from New England. He's all the Eagles have, so he'll rack up decent stats in a 50-14 loss.
-Chester Taylor has to stay in the lineup after his fine Adrian Peterson impersonation. The Giants are a good defense, but runners behind that Vikings line get about four yards deep before anybody even notices them.
-The Cardinals won't have much reason to pass once they put that insurmountable 7-0 lead on the non-scoring 49ers, so look for heavy work for Edgerrin James as Arizona starts working the clock in the first quarter.
-Was that Chicago's Cedric Benson actually scoring on a long run last week? He hasn't done that since Baylor was on the schedule, but just may again at home against Denver.
-Kansas City's Priest Holmes could follow Chester Taylor as the next long-ago Baltimore backup to destroy Oakland, which has lost six straight and allowed a league-worst 16 rushing touchdowns.
-Until San Francisco's Frank Gore goes off for 150 yards, don't ever, ever start him again. He couldn't even score on the Rams, and his team is on pace for historic ineptitude.
-The Jets finally remembered they acquired Thomas Jones in the offseason, feeding him 30 times last week. Before you get all excited and peel him off your bench, remember Dallas is tough against the run and likely to be up by 21 in no time.
-Oakland's Justin Fargas should have trouble against the Chiefs' defense that's allowed five rushing touchdowns.
-In the three games since the Seahawks have declared themselves a throw-first team, D.J. Hackett's averaging 98 yards with three TDs, and Bobby Engram's averaging 92 yards with a score. Both should keep up that pace against the Rams.
-Speaking of the Rams, they're riding a two-game winning streak and have remembered how to throw to Torry Holt. The Seahawks have allowed an NFL-low five TD passes, but Holt does well at home against them, last year going for 154 yards and three scores.
-Cleveland's Braylon Edwards has had some serious drops lately and has just one score in his last three games. But he should bounce back at home against the Texans.
-If the Bills can get over the emotional trauma of such a violent slapping-around by the Patriots, Lee Evans could find success against a Jags defense that has given up some big pass plays.
-It is indeed time to give up on the Giants' Plaxico Burress, who hasn't scored or surpassed 50 yards in four games. Before benching him, remember he should be able to hobble down the field unnoticed by the Vikings.
-Donte' Stallworth has been the third wheel in the New England touchdown-a-thon. But maybe the Patriots will let him score a bunch because the Eagles are one of his old teams. (They have to find some way to keep things interesting, don't they?)
-Whatever happened to Arizona's Anquan Boldin? He did score against the dreadful Bengals last week, but he only has 10 catches the past three games and hasn't hit 100 yards since Week 3.
-Maybe Baltimore's Devard Darling is a free-agent find after going for 100 yards and a score last week. But what are the odds of a Ravens receiver turning in two straight big games?
-Oakland's Ronald Curry was a major deep threat against Minnesota last week, but he doesn't get to play Minnesota again.
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: RB Reuben Droughns (backup to injured Brandon Jacobs), QB Jason Campbell (348 yards, 2 TDs), RB Andre Hall (TD, more playing time?), WR Devard Darling (107 yards, TD), QB JaMarcus Russell (eventual starter?), WR Drew Carter (132 yards, TD), QB A.J. Feeley (injured Donovan McNabb's backup), K Phil Dawson (luckiest man around).
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I expected good things for Chester Taylor (202 total yards, 3 TDs), Andre Johnson (120 yards, TD), Earnest Graham (102 yards, TD), Matt Schaub (293 yards, 2 TDs), Marques Colston (118 yards) and Bernard Berrian (102 yards). I expected more failure for Rudi Johnson (25 yards).
Big Misses: I was right about their turnovers and general ineptitude, but didn't see good fantasy stats coming from Jon Kitna (377 yards, TD), Daunte Culpepper (344 yards, TD) and Philip Rivers (309 yards). I also expected failure for Jamal Lewis (92 yards, TD) and good things for Donovan McNabb (2 INTS, injury), Derek Anderson (INT), Plaxico Burress (47 yards) and Frank Gore (32 yards).

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