Friday, December 19, 2003

Borderline stars could shine late for many teams


Fantasy football

By John Nemo
Enquirer contributor

Super Bowl, homeboy. The phrase coined by Randy Moss a few years back when he signed a gigantic contract extension has never rung more true. And judging by the frantic "I made it!" e-mails I'm getting this week, many of you are still alive and ready to claim your league's top prize.

Because this is arguably the most important week in fantasy football, here are some borderline starters who could pay off.

Quarterbacks

Quincy Carter has hardly been a consistent fantasy performer this season, but this week he gets a dream matchup - a team that has flat out quit. The New York Giants got rolled last week by Aaron Brooks for five touchdowns, with Joe Horn catching four scores and making the most outrageous cell phone call ever. This week, Carter should throw for multiple scores and approach 300 yards passing.

I hesitate to recommend Rick Mirer, but he has a favorable matchup against Green Bay, and threw a TD pass last week to Jerry Rice as the Raiders beat Baltimore. Mirer could turn in "just good enough" numbers to help your squad compete.

Tommy Maddox and Drew Brees both need to finish strong this year to ensure they'll have a starting gig next season. Because they face each other this week, both should have a nice day considering how bad San Diego and Pittsburgh are against the pass.

Running backs

If the NFL kept a statistic on most touchdowns with the least amount of touches, Brian Westbrook would lead. Despite getting only eight carries last week and a couple of catches, he managed to score twice for the Eagles. He's scored multiple TDs more than once this season, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him do it again this week against San Francisco.

Other backs who should make for decent plays this week include Jerome Bettis against San Diego, New England's committee (Kevin Faulk, Antowain Smith, etc.) against the Jets, Rock Cartwright against Chicago and DeShaun Foster against Detroit. Also watch to see who starts for Denver at running back on Sunday night against Indianapolis. If Clinton Portis can't go, Mike Anderson can steal the show.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Todd Heap should do well again this week against Cleveland. Daniel Graham has been showing up more and more in the end zone and should find it again Sunday against the Jets.

It's about time for another Peter Warrick, "holy cow!" kind of game, and St. Louis provides the perfect secondary to do it against. With all the attention on Chad Johnson, watch for Warrick to explode in a must-win game for the Bengals.

Other lesser-known wideouts who could have nice days include Bobby Engram against Arizona, Justin McCareins against Houston, Todd Pinkston and/or James Thrash against San Francisco and Charles Lee against Atlanta. Also, any one of Dallas' receivers (Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, Antonio Bryant) could have a huge week against the Giants, so plug one in if you're desperate.

That said, enjoy this Sunday. It only comes once a year, and if you've earned the right to be playing for the title, I have only three words for you: Super Bowl, homeboy.

Moves to make

Start him: Anthony Thomas, Bears. With the Rex Grossman Era officially under way, it's all about defense, protecting the ball and banging away with Thomas. Expect more of the same this week against Washington.

Bench him: Chad Pennington, Jets. He faces an incredibly tough defense in New England this week, and this matchup does not bode well for the shootout-type game every owner craves.

Pick him up: Thomas Jones, Bucs. Jon Gruden has been crowing about him most of the season, and last week Jones finally was given the full load on offense. He should shine this week against an Atlanta team just waiting for the season to end.

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John Nemo writes Fantasy Fanatic, a nationally syndicated column, every week. Reach him with question and comments at johnnemo@comcast.net




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