Associated Press Writer
Even the most hard-core NFL fan couldn't spot third-stringers Kolby Smith or Andre Hall walking down the street, yet these recently unheard of characters are already huge in fantasy football.
That's because both produced big stats last week after getting snatched up as free agents - a rare double-whammy that helped fantasy owners win games and, perhaps more importantly, helped them impress geeky rivals with their fake GM prowess.
Kansas City's Smith, a rookie playing because Larry Johnson is injured and Priest Holmes retired, put up 150 yards and two scores. Hall, also playing because the two guys ahead of him couldn't, had 98 yards and a score for Denver.
Even for owners not clever enough to land them, Smith and Hall offer a valuable lesson to anybody making a fantasy playoff run: It's never too late to gamble on free agents. Just ask the owners of Chester Taylor, Maurice Morris or some of the other Waiver Wire All-Stars.
As you size up the finer points of Cecil Sapp's game, here's a look at players to start in Week 13, players to avoid and a few long shots who just might pan out:
-It's scary to make a playoff run with Arizona's Kurt Warner, considering he's ailing and 36. But he passed for nearly 500 yards last week, has seven scores in the past three games and faces a Browns defense that has allowed a league-worst 25 TD passes.
-Opposite Warner, the much-younger and nimbler Derek Anderson also could be in for a big day. The Cardinals have been decent stopping the run, and haven't done so well against the pass. Last week they actually made Trent Dilfer look good.
-Things haven't gone well for Jon Kitna during the Lions' three-game losing streak (4 TDs, 6 INTs, 11 sacks). But he faces the Vikings' NFL-worst pass defense, which, aside from Eli Manning's holiday gift basket last week, hasn't stopped anybody.
-Hey, look who dropped in for a multiple-TD day: San Diego's Philip Rivers. He should buck his on-again-off-again pattern and not stink this week. He had two TDs at Kansas City last year, and that was when the Chiefs were kind of respectable.
-Washington's Jason Campbell has two straight 300-yard games. Oh, sure he's also had turnovers and defeats, but nobody cares about that stuff in fantasy football.
-Trent Dilfer reminded San Francisco fans that touchdowns actually can come in groups of three or four. He has a chance to do it again against the long-ago-surrendered Panthers.
Please, in the name of Elvis Grbac, don't start these guys:
-Steer clear of the Giants' Eli Manning and Chicago's Rex Grossman in the Underachiever Bowl. The defensive stats indicate big days for one or both, but come on, have you been watching them?
-Likewise, don't leave your playoff hopes in the hands of anybody operating the Rams' line-free attack. If Marc Bulger starts, he may not finish. And backup Gus Frerotte's still working on his center snap technique.
-It's impressive that Jacksonville's David Garrard has thrown nine TDs and no interceptions, but he's been a fantasy flop in two career games against the Colts (no scores, fewer than 80 yards each time).
-Apparently the first conversation with the 49ers' newly hired offensive consultant started something like this: Say ... have you guys tried getting the ball to that Frank Gore kid? Gore had a season-best 32 touches, 214 total yards and two scores last week.
-Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson returns from injury, and the team says he'll go back to sharing time with Chester Taylor. But start him anyhow, considering he still leads the league in rushing despite taking the past two weeks off.
-There's only one NFL certainty outside New England and Miami: Somebody's going to run through Oakland's defense (league-worst 154 yards a game, 18 TDs). So start Selvin Young, Andre Hall, Cecil Sapp or whomever the Broncos roll out.
-Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew has a pretty good history against the Colts, scoring five times and averaging 128 yards from scrimmage in three career games.
-Which is in more danger, Miami's winless streak or Thomas Jones' streak of 207 carries without a TD? They're probably both safe when the Jets visit the Dolphins, but this may be the last chance to redeem some value for the draft pick wasted on Jones.
-The other Adrian Peterson, the one in Chicago, has had a few explosive moments off the bench and now replaces the injured Cedric Benson as the starter.
-Reggie Bush has never really gone nuts as the Saints' featured back, and his 12 touches in a big win last week have to concern fantasy owners. He only had 70 total yards against the Bucs earlier this season.
-Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson is coming off a season-high 25 carries and his first rushing touchdown, but the Steelers should stuff him. He had 47 yards and no scores in both games last year against Pittsburgh, which has allowed just two TDs rushing in 2007.
-DeShaun Foster has been beyond disappointing. Send a message to the rest of your fantasy roster by cutting him after his ridiculous rushing total of minus-5 yards.
-Sourpuss Steve Smith has been a wreck along with the rest of the Panthers. But if Kurt Warner can nearly go for 500 yards against the 49ers, why can't 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde?
-Detroit's Roy Williams is due, having gone without a score in seven of his last eight games. Last time he played the Vikings, he went for 111 yards and a TD.
-Seattle's Deion Branch should put up some big numbers on the Eagles, who aren't nearly as scary defensively as they once were. Every decent QB they've faced since October has passed for 300 yards and/or three touchdowns.
-If Pittsburgh's Hines Ward can pick up 88 yards while running through turf the consistency of oatmeal, imagine what he can do with even a little traction against the mushy Bengals defense.
-The Bears are certain to emulate the Vikings and force the Giants' Eli Manning to throw deep. So in between Manning's interceptions and backward-scramble-then-fall-down moves, Plaxico Burress just may put up some points.
-The Dolphins appear to be inching toward victory, so celebrate by taking a long, long, long shot on Ted Ginn Jr. because he's the only guy I can name on the Miami roster.
-Should you ever bench a guy who just scored three TDs in a game? Maybe, if it's Cincinnati's Chad Johnson. He hasn't scored or gone over 100 yards in his past five games against the Steelers, who have the NFL's top-ranked pass defense.
-It might not be worth starting Denver's Javon Walker until he truly proves he's back from a knee injury. Last week's ``return'' was good for a handful of plays and zero catches.
-Benching Eagles receivers is usually a good idea, but even more so considering the question mark at QB and the fact that the Seahawks have allowed a league-low six TD passes.
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: Chicago RB Adrian Peterson (TD, new starter), QB A.J. Feeley (345 yards, 3 TDs), RB Cecil Sapp (possible starter with Andre Hall hurt), WR Anthony Gonzalez (105 yards), QB Gus Frerotte (possible starter or finisher), WR Isaac Bruce (TD).
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I projected big things for Kolby Smith (150 yards, 2 TDs), Brett Favre (381 yards, 3 TDs), Drew Brees (3 TDs), Plaxico Burress (93 yards, TD), Matt Schaub (2 TDs), Chester Taylor (TD) and Braylon Edwards (TD).
Big Misses: I didn't think Frank Gore (214 total yards, 2 TDs) should get off the bench. I expected TDs from Eli Manning (4 INTs), just not for the Vikings. I expected success for Cedric Benson (47 yards, out for season), D.J. Hackett (41 yards) and Lee Evans (19 yards), and failure from Jason Campbell (301 yards, TD) and Justin Fargas (139 yards, TD).

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