Week 16 game by game 

December, 21, 2006
Well, this is it for some of you. Fifteen weeks down, and this is your fantasy football championship weekend. Thanks for bringing us along for the ride. Now, we turn it over to Tim Rattay and Ron Dayne to win.

What? Are you insane? Rattay and Dayne? Why not Derek Anderson, Edgerrin James and Ronald Curry while we're at it, eh? Are we trying to lose?

Not exactly. But all the names you just read out loud in astonishment are actually decent plays this week. And if we've told you once, we've told you a thousand times, fantasy football titles are not always won by Peyton Manning, Larry Johnson and Torry Holt. In fact, they seldom are.

The December ghosts of fantasy stud QBs past are filled with names we don't want to remember, like Kyle Boller, Billy Volek, David Garrard and Jeff Garcia. And while I admit, it's not the best time to throw someone like Rattay into a championship game, well, we're just talking stats here. That's all.

Our pals Hector & Victor, wise and demented as always, projected Rattay with 16 performance points this weekend. Let's just say they don't have nearly that many points projected for Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Now you might have one of those big name guys, and think you're being loyal to them by playing them, but if Hec & Vic's projections are correct, you'll be costing yourself points. And I actually agree with the dynamic duo.

And it's not just because Rattay did well in relief of Bruce Gradkowski last week, getting three touchdowns against the suddenly vulnerable Bears. It's because stuff like this happens every season! We have the history to prove it. It's tradition that a guy like Carson Palmer, in a nice matchup against the Colts, will throw four fewer touchdown passes than his opponent. He got outscored in Week 15 by Tarvaris Jackson and Jason Campbell, as well as Boller, Jay Cutler and Brad Johnson. This isn't about which QB can win an actual Super Bowl. It's about the stats.

And if it's about the stats, then Tom Brady is not a good option. He just isn't. And your loyalty to playing the guy you chose first in the draft, the guy who might end up in the Hall of Fame, the guy who dates the nice looking women, is well and good, but it's misplaced. Brady's just trying to beat the Jaguars, a tough proposition in their place, when the Jags have to win the game or get the golf clubs out. Brady doesn't care about throwing the ball. If Corey Dillon gets off to a nice start, he'll just keep handing off. It's a low scoring game, Brady's goal is to win.

Your goal is to win as well, but if you play Brady, you need more than 109 passing yards. You need more than one fantasy point, which Brady has given you twice in the last seven weeks. And in the other games in between, he topped 14 fantasy points once. You really think he's going to do well in Jacksonville?

But Rattay, on the other hand, fits exactly into that Billy Volek air-it-out mode. The Bucs have long had nothing to play for. Joey Galloway must feel like Allen Iverson did in Philly, a man among boys just wondering what he's doing there while poor Gradkowski is under constant pressure and sling shotting the ball all over the place, anywhere but at him. But Rattay, hardly a superstar, can throw the ball. He's done it before. He's going to do it again this week. And then next year he'll be someone else's third-stringer, buried because he lacks upside. He's Billy Volek. And playing the role of Drew Bennett could be Galloway. It seems obvious.

Certainly I tend to subscribe to the theory in fantasy that you go with your best guys, but it's not out of loyalty. Trust me, Brady couldn't care less if he's on your bench or starting lineup. Neither could Rattay. If you ranked these fellows in pretty much any context, Brady would win. But close your eyes and project Brady's stats for this week. Whadda ya say, maybe 175 yards, a touchdown and a pick at best? He's in Jacksonville. Don't you think about 15 quarterbacks, at least, will top that this week? Rattay can. His opponent in that game, Derek Anderson can. Hec & Vic have 23 quarterbacks topping Brady's 10 projected points.

I agree with them. This is not a time to blindly play your favorite guys. Don't throw Roy Williams in your lineup because "you've used him all season." He's playing the Bears, and Jon Kitna has done nothing in two months. You think Trent Green is going to play well, just because you waited through those 10 weeks for him to come back? Look at the numbers, look at how tough it is to move the ball on the Raiders.

OK, on to the games. And Happy Holidays to all. No Sunday morning chat this week, but we've got a pair of them on Friday and you can always read the transcripts off our fantasy football page.

Packers 20, Vikings 10: Not much to like in this game. It's the final time this season Brett Favre will play at home, but not the final time he'll actually play at home. So hold off on the tears. Vikings are just about the easiest team to pass against. Now Favre was supposed to go off last week against Detroit, and he didn't. Expect more this week.

For Green Bay: Favre is worth a fantasy start, with 250 yards, two touchdowns, and certainly Donald Driver needs to play. That's it. Ahman Green did not run well last week, and Vernand Morency got the touchdowns. Look for a timeshare again, with the Vikings stopping the run.

For Minnesota: Chester Taylor should improve on last week, top 20 carries and get 75 yards. Tarvaris Jackson could be terrible or terrific, but at this stage, it's too risky to find out. He's not Rattay, after all.

Raiders 17, Chiefs 10: Upset! You think Kansas City is all that and a bag of chips? This team has lost three straight and their star player, the No. 2 player in fantasy, is ripping them. Aaron Brooks isn't a star, but with Oakland's defense stopping overmatched Trent Green, he doesn't need to be. Just score, baby.

For Oakland: I'll give Brooks 200 yards and a touchdown pass to his new fave target, Ronald Curry, and Justin Fargas takes up 20 carries for 70 yards and a score. No other Raiders deserve mention.

For Kansas City: Larry Johnson is just about it. Green might not top 100 passing yards, so sit his receivers. Johnson's rushing yards should top Green's passing figure. It's not as rare for this to occur as one might think. Corey Dillon topped Brady's yardage just two weeks back.

Falcons 27, Panthers 10: Poor Carolina is in the tank, and Atlanta needs this one so badly, if only to make Week 17 interesting, I say Michael Vick comes out with another big game. And Vick is the No. 4 QB in fantasy, it's not a stretch to expect something nice statistically.

For Atlanta: Expect 250 total yards from Vick, as he (finally) tops 1,000 rushing yards for the season, and he has a hand (or feet) in all three touchdowns. Any other Falcons? Well, Warrick Dunn is normally good for 60 or so yards, if that's your thing. Alge Crumpler should be involved. Nobody else.

For Carolina: You can forget about Chris Weinke, as if you were ever interested in the first place, and don't worry about the running backs. It's a bad timeshare, because both DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams are talented enough to matter, but neither do. As for the big news here, Mr. Steve Smith, I don't think you absolutely have to play him, but he could catch half of Weinke's 200 passing yards, so you probably should.

Bills 24, Titans 20: I hear people talking about the maturation of J.P. Losman every week, and maybe, just maybe we're finally seeing it. That's five touchdowns and no picks the last two weeks, if you're counting. He's got a terrific receiving weapon in Lee Evans. Losman should be doing this occasionally. For the season, he's closing in on the fantasy top 10 at his position, so he deserves attention.

For Buffalo: Is Losman playing well, or did he just play well because of the opposition? Regardless, he can get two touchdown passes in this one, and 200 yards. I don't know why people think I don't like the guy, he's putting up numbers finally. Willis McGahee bounces back with 80 yards and a score as well. Play Evans, really, every week.

For Tennessee: Vince Young comes off a three-point effort against the Jags, but he did get the win after all. Look for a double digit performance, not a great day, but good enough. Travis Henry approaches 100 yards and scores as well. He's a decent play, especially considering he meets the team that didn't want him.

Browns 20, Bucs 19: Both quarterbacks will be throwing a lot, and while they should make mistakes, I could see Rattay and Derek Anderson each topping 200 yards, each getting a pair of touchdowns. The fact that nobody will be watching this game has nothing to do with the stats we'll see. Often that's when the best stats do come out!

For Cleveland: We never heard Anderson's name mentioned earlier in the season as a possible replacement for Charlie Frye, but he's clearly played better, and more consistently. Again, Anderson isn't a star, and you can do better in the fantasy playoffs, but he's not the worst option either. I wouldn't expect much from Reuben Droughns or any Cleveland running back. Kellen Winslow is like Tony Gonzalez now (the 2005-06 version), and a decent tight end play.

For Tampa Bay: How about 275 yards for Rattay, two touchdowns, three picks? Joey Galloway tops 100 yards and scores a touchdown, maybe that other Alex Smith gets the other one. Don't bother with Carnell Williams. It's Week 16, haven't we seen enough from Cadillac?

Bears 27, Lions 13: This might not be the same Bears defense we remember from a month ago, but it's still good enough to shut down a Lions offense that seemingly gave up a while ago. And I don't think Rex Grossman is on a short leash anymore, I think he's safe, and I think he's going to play the whole game, and play well. Why give Brian Griese work?

For Chicago: Give Grossman 250 yards, two touchdowns, with one going to Bernard Berrian, and maybe rejuvenated Desmond Clark gets the other. Cedric Benson is clearly healthier than Thomas Jones, and younger, and more in the future plans, so I don't know why Jones would get 20 carries. Benson might. And he might do very well, approaching 100 yards and scoring.

For Detroit: There's nothing here. It is possible Jon Kitna and Roy Williams hook up, which hasn't exactly been common of late, because the Bears defense isn't the same as it was, but look for Kitna to struggle yet again. He'll get his yards, and make mistakes. Why isn't there a Tarvaris Jackson on this team getting a chance to throw? And if you have to ask about Arlen Harris, you haven't been watching.

Rams 33, Redskins 30: Nice matchup for Marc Bulger at home. The last two Rams home games the defense was abominable each time, allowing the Cards and Bears to score 76 points, but that's OK since Bulger averaged 335 yards passing. Washington won't stop Bulger or the running game, but the Redskins will score points.

For St. Louis: Bulger doesn't have to throw as much as the other games, unless he's trailing, but he still gets 250 yards and a pair of scores. Steven Jackson is the big option, topping 130 yards rushing and scoring twice as well. Play Torry Holt and, in what will likely be his final home game, Isaac Bruce.

For Washington: I kind of like Jason Campbell to have a 16-20 point day, top 200 yards and get a pair of touchdowns as well. And Ladell Betts has been one of fantasy's top backs the last month. Watch him top 100 yards again and reach the end zone. Look for Santana Moss to have one of his bigger games, which of course will result in him finishing in the top 15 among WRs, even though he managed to do it based on three good games.

Giants 31, Saints 27: Huge game for Eli Manning, and I say he comes through just in the nick of time. You didn't think the Giants were going to miss the playoffs, did you? This will be a fun game to watch, and fantasy owners should enjoy it greatly.

For Giants: Eli has been erratic, but I think the Saints can be thrown on. Look for Manning to make a few mistakes, resulting in two touchdowns, two interceptions, and about 250 yards. Plaxico Burress hauls in one of the scores, and the dual ground game of Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs each hit the end zone, with Barber rushing for about 80 yards.

For New Orleans: Drew Brees will be throwing a lot, and he tops 300 yards, and throws two touchdowns, with two interceptions as well. Look for a big game from Marques Colston, and Devery Henderson should also put up nice yardage. As for the ground game, I don't expect big success, but Deuce McAllister does score, and Reggie Bush totals about 100 yards, most through the air.

Steelers 20, Ravens 13: Proud defending champs make things difficult for their rivals, leaving them something to play for on that final Sunday night game against the Bengals (look for that to be the last regular season game in Week 17). Baltimore dominated this game the previous meeting, shutting Ben Roethlisberger out, but I don't see a repeat in Pittsburgh.

For Pittsburgh: Nothing worked for the Steelers the last time. I don't expect a big day from Willie Parker, but all he needs to do is break one for 40 yards and it might look like one. Figure on 80 yards, and a touchdown. Roethlisberger figures in the other touchdown, probably on a pass, but then again, he has been running lately. I wouldn't play Hines Ward. Roethlisberger throws for about 180 yards.

For Baltimore: Not a lot of great plays here. Steve McNair should start, but don't expect more than 200 yards. Jamal Lewis has topped 100 yards recently, but here it's about 60 yards and a touchdown.

Jaguars 20, Patriots 6: Huge game for the home team, and the home team plays much better in their own place. Pats got shut out two weeks ago at Miami, I could see a similar result in this one.

For Jacksonville: Opportunistic game for the Jags, with Maurice Jones-Drew getting 75 yards and a touchdown, and David Garrard finding Matt Jones for the other score. Not a lot of yards coming for the Jags, but they'll create turnovers and have good field position. Not sure anyone but Drew is necessarily a nice fantasy play, other than their defense.

For New England: Nothing against Tom Brady, but I don't think he's going to have a great game. Even against Houston last week, he got a few scores in the first half and then coasted, and one of them was a Kevin Faulk screen pass. Brady throws for 175 yards, no scores. Corey Dillon runs for 60 yards, no scores. I wouldn't play any wide receivers.

Colts 35, Texans 10: Last time they played was in Indy, and Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and piled up 43 points. I'll be kinder to the Texans this time. Really, their problem starts at quarterback, not running back.

For Indy: Manning has a monster day, as he normally does against this poor franchise, with 320 yards, three scores. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai (yes, he plays!) score the other touchdowns, and you want Marvin and Reggie in there, obviously.

For Houston: Got a feeling we're going to see Sage Rosenfels slingin' it this week, after David Carr struggles again. Last time Carr reached even 150 passing yards was four games ago! Maybe Rosenfels can do that Rattay-relief thing, who knows. Ron Dayne would appear a nice pick, and I think he has a decent first half, maybe scoring yet another touchdown, but ultimately, like the Bengals on Monday night, the team trailing will have to throw.

49ers 30, Cardinals 20: I don't know what it is about Alex Smith, but it's still hard to trust the guy in fantasy football. The 49ers really don't score a ton of points; did you know the last time this team topped 24 points was in Week 5? And Smith hasn't topped 214 passing yards since Week 3. I think we have a good gauge on this team; they run. It's Frank's team.

For San Francisco: Frank Gore is regularly running for 130 yards now, at least, and I expect a similar performance here, with two touchdowns. Smith throws a touchdown pass as well, but it's not a terrific fantasy game for him. I wouldn't bother with San Fran receivers.

For Arizona: Matt Leinart continues to be hard to predict, even with his standout wide receivers. Let's not call this a great game for him, but 230 yards, one score is safe. Edgerrin James has had more bounce in his step lately, and he rushes for 75 yards and the other touchdown. Play Larry Fitzgerald, and most weeks I'd stick with Anquan Boldin as well. These teams move the ball, but we'll see a lot of their kickers.

Broncos 27, Bengals 17: After seeing how easy it was for Peyton Manning to pick apart this defense, you tend to think most quarterbacks can have success on the Bengals. I mean, this team won four straight games, but after the Brees game, it was against Cleveland, Baltimore and Oakland. Not exactly the fun bunch Redskins, you know? Jay Cutler has his first win under his belt, now he gets his first big victory.

For Denver: I think I would trust Cutler a bit here, although as always it depends on your other options. I'll give him 250 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. I think the Denver running backs will have success, but as always the problem is choosing. Tatum Bell could very well run for 100 yards and a score, or he could leave early and Mike Bell does it. That's the problem in choosing. Tatum remains safer, but not exactly safe.

For Cincy: Whether Carson Palmer is or is not truly healthy we might not ever know, but on the road in a hostile place, he's no lock for a big game. He should have more time to throw, but I think he'll turn the ball over a few times. Give him 220 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one fumble. Chad Johnson has the big day among the receivers. Sit Chris Henry. And Rudi Johnson is safe for 75 yards and a score most weeks, including this one.

Seahawks 30, Chargers 27: We know what to expect each week from the Chargers. At 12-2, they don't have bad games. As for Seattle, however, the 49ers just went to their place and won. I'll give the Seahawks a pass in that one and a huge bounce back victory, but thanks to the passing game, not Shaun Alexander.

For Seattle: Alexander's still worth a play, and he should get 90 yards and a touchdown, but he still doesn't look like himself. Matt Hasselbeck needs to have a big game, and I think he gets it, with two touchdown passes and 300 yards. D.J. Hackett and Deion Branch each score and pile on the yards.

For San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson scores three touchdowns, two on the ground, one throwing to Antonio Gates, and continues his assault to top the best fantasy season ever by 100 points. It's going to end up looking like the Babe Ruth season when he swatted 54 homers, and nobody else had ever hit 30. Something like that. I don't think Philip Rivers is playing well enough to trust him in this one.

Cowboys 31, Eagles 21: Dallas has played only one bad game since early November, with its defense letting Brees take them apart the lone blemish. Jeff Garcia controls a game well, and could make things interesting, but ultimately the Cowboys need to win games like this at home, especially on such a grand stage. Santa Parcells will be proud.

For Dallas: Tony Romo is not what everyone thinks he is. He has played well, but in a fantasy sense, he's been ordinary the last month. Consider that he failed to reach double digit fantasy points three of five weeks, yet QBs like Jason Campbell and Derek Anderson are doing that regularly now. Romo should reach 200 yards and throw a touchdown pass or two, probably two, with Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn each catching one. Marion Barber III remains this team's top fantasy asset. Julius Jones plays the role of Fred Taylor, which means he sometimes gets yards, but generally the younger guy coming off the bench gets the glory.

For Philly: Garcia throws two touchdown passes, one to Donte' Stallworth and the other to Brian Westbrook, who also scores on the ground. Look, I love the Eagles, and this resurrection has been great, but they could have easily lost that Monday night game to the Panthers and escaped Washington barely with a two-point win. And even against the Giants last week, they trailed with a few minutes to go. Bubble bursts in Dallas, then the Eagles win at home against Vick to be a 9-7 wild card. And then they go to Seattle and & well, that's for another day.

Dolphins 20, Jets 10: The T.O. game will be more exciting, as the solid Miami defense bounces back at home by shutting down Chad Pennington and his running game. Anyone else wonder if the Dolphins would be 8-6 right now if they signed Brees instead of Daunte Culpepper? The defense is good regardless.

For Miami: Joey Harrington is generally not a good play, and even if he tops 200 passing yards in this game, he'll make mistakes, costing you points. And who knows what he'll have to throw to? Wesley Welker might actually be a decent sleeper. Ronnie Brown might get back for this game, and if he plays, I'd expect 75 yards and a score. If he doesn't, then Sammy Morris does exactly that.

For Jets: Jets have actually won three straight on the road, with Pennington airing it out successfully at Minnesota and Green Bay. Not on this defense. Give him 175 yards and two interceptions. Cedric Houston scores the touchdown, but runs for only 50 yards total. Risky game to play your Jets, I'd try to avoid it.

OK, best of luck to everyone in Week 16 trying to win their fantasy titles, and Happy Holidays to all.