The Pro Bowl selections are out, and while there are a number of very interesting and worthy selections, there are also a few guys going to Honolulu who shouldn't. Let me hit you with a few lists:
Steven Jackson, StL. Given that Frank Gore was a gimme, and some retiring guy in New York was going no matter what, the third NFC spot came down to Jackson and Brian Westbrook. I think Jackson's the right call...he has 82 receptions to go along with his 1,236 rushing yards and 1,916 total yards from scrimmage.
Adrian Wilson, Ari. He's tied for the league lead in sacks for a defensive back, caused four fumbles, picked off four passes (one of which he returned 99 yards), and in an age where safeties are beginning to specialize in run-stopping, Wilson can cover most tight ends and a lot of receivers.
Jamal Williams, SD. Williams and his ridiculous 375 pounds are the main reason the Chargers defense withstood the loss of some key players through this year, and he's the main reason the linebackers on this team can go whole hog after the passer. He's surprisingly quick in his box-in-the-middle, and packs a wallop.
John Lynch, Den. Man. This one's just awful. Lynch has just 48 tackles, and he's played every game. He has zero turnovers. And defenses have been picking on him mercilessly in the passing game. There are at least five better AFC players at Lynch's position this year.
Ronde Barber, TB and DeAngelo Hall, Atl. Barber had that one big game against Philly, where he returned two Donovan McNabb picks for touchdowns, and that's been it. He's a very good tackler for a corner, but defenses don't shy away from throwing at him anymore. Hall is a shameless self-promoter on whom offensive coordinators feast. The Falcons are the worst team in the NFL against WR1s. Hm. Who do you think covers WR1s?
Philip Rivers, SD. Okay, yeah, the Chargers are having a banner year. But Rivers over Tom Brady? Please. Don't get me wrong: the first-year starter is playing well, but he's the caretaker on LaDainian Tomlinson's offense, mixing it up a little when LDT's feeling generous. Brady's about all the Patriots have on offense just now, especially with Laurence Maroney on the shelf.
Larry Allen, SF. My lord.
Marcus McNeil, SD. Hey, let's take our rookie second-rounder and put him at left tackle, perhaps the most intimidating position in professional sports. What's that? He broke both his hands, and still anchors the offensive line? This dude never allowed a sack in college (at Auburn).
John Henderson, Jac. With all apologies to Richard Seymour, who was playing on one leg for much of the year, Henderson's the best defensive lineman in football, bar none. He's far outplayed Seymour while much of the rest of the Jags defense has gotten hurt.
Pacman Jones, Ten. If we're penalizing people for being asses, what's substance-abuser Shawne Merriman doing going to Hawaii? Jones has been every bit as much at the heart of the Titans' late-season rally as Vince Young. He's got two punt returns for touchdowns, an 83-yard interception for a score last week, and scares the living hell out of opponents. His cover skills, maligned last year, are now at least as good as Hall's.
Okay. As always, you can check back Thursday for updates in my weekly rankings, as well as ratings from the other Yahoo! Sports Fantasy experts. And don't forget to get your Vikings and Packers in your starting lineups early, since those teams play on Thursday this week, and your Chiefs and Raiders in your starting lineups in time for the Saturday game between those teams.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 15 Rating|
|1||Peyton Manning||@ HOU||2|
|2||Drew Brees||@ NYG||1|
|4||Carson Palmer||@ DEN||3|
|6||Jeff Garcia||@ DAL||8|
|7||Philip Rivers||@ SEA||13|
|10||Tom Brady||@ JAC||6|
|12||Matt Leinart||@ SF||16|
|15||Rex Grossman||@ DET||18|
|16||Vince Young||@ BUF||15|
|19||Steve McNair||@ PIT||11|
|20||Chad Pennington||@ MIA||19|
|21||Jason Campbell||@ STL||22|
|25||Tarvaris Jackson||@ GB||NR|
|26||Tim Rattay||@ CLE||NR|
|28||Trent Green||@ OAK||20|
|30||Chris Weinke||@ ATL||25|
Notes: I've gotten some email asking me what's the big deal with Brees. He's just a system quarterback, anyone could be doing this in "a Sean Payton offense." I say: that's hogwash. First of all, what's "a Sean Payton offense?" Near as I can tell, up until 2006, that meant an offense with a pretty bad quarterback. I grant you Payton has been a great play-caller in his first job as a head man, and he's taken advantage of his weapons. But Brees was excellent in a totally different system in '04, more than competent in '05, and now has adjusted to a different attack (not tight-end-happy, deeper routes, more screens) in N'Awlins. Besides which, if you're a fantasy player: who cares? Just take the numbers (still an outside threat to Dan Marino's single-season yardage record) and smile … I like Garcia against a Dallas secondary that's allowed huge games in consecutive weeks to Brees and Vick. When the Giants put pressure on Garcia last week, he did make some poor throws, and I could see some of that "hair-on-fire" stuff he did in Detroit and Cleveland. Generally, though, he was smart and tough, and he's got weapons … I'm not put off by Rivers' poor performance against Kansas City. Seattle is ninth-worst against fantasy quarterbacks in the last six weeks … The Saints defense had a terrible time stopping the run against Washington last week, but I think the Giants will beat them via the air. Eli Manning can have a big day; the Saints just don't have anyone to match up with Burress or Shockey … I'd be very nervous starting Brady in my Fantasy Bowl. Jacksonville has continued to be one of the five-toughest defenses to throw on, and they'll put pressure on the Pats' offensive line. You may have no alternative, and he is still Tom Brady. But I'm nervous … Leinart and Cutler leap over Young this week. Leinart will have some open receivers in San Francisco (though that secondary seems much better with Shawntae Spencer in the mix), and Cutler showed the arm that made Mike Shanahan trade up to get him last week against the Cardinals. Young plays a surging Bills defense that humiliated Harrington last week. I still do have Young over Losman, because Young is such a threat with his legs … Kitna has been so terrible the past five weeks, it boggles the mind. His average day in that span? 22-for-36 for 250 yards, two interceptions and zero-ish touchdowns. His QB rating has been 72 or lower in every game. He has eight interceptions the last three weeks. And he goes against Chicago this week … Tarvaris Jackson gets the call in favor of Brad Johnson. Jackson has twice the arm Johnson does, and the Packers can be beaten deep. Still, I think you have to stay away, unless you have absolutely no options … Rattay has played very well for about a full game's worth of time, and Cleveland's secondary has been torched by speedy receivers lately.
Notes: Rudi Johnson is where I think he should be on this list if Willie Anderson plays. I haven't heard an update on Anderson's foot injury, which caused him to miss the final three quarters of last Monday's game … Betts should start in all formats. He's racked up 549 yards on the ground his last four games. The only thing that's been missing is touchdowns. That could change this week in St. Louis … Obviously, I'm anticipating that Ronnie Brown will be back this week. He got his cast off, and is supposed to practice. Keep an eye on him, but I think he steps in for Sammy Morris raring to go. Hopefully he's kept his conditioning up … I've rated Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor as though Taylor will play limited snaps. I have no inside information on this; I just think the Jags are whistling past the graveyard thinking that Fragile Freddy's game-ending injury against Tennessee last week was just a "cramp." If I know my Fred Taylor, he'll tell everyone he's fine to go, then pop it again in the first quarter. It'll be very difficult to start Taylor this week, and it's scary to rank Jones-Drew this high, because if Taylor does play, obviously Jones-Drew's value drops a lot … I hate Parker against Baltimore (he rushed it 10 times for 22 yards against the Ravens just four weeks ago), but at some point, you have to just play the guy that brung you. Parker has 1,331 yards rushing and 14 scores overall. Do you really want to lose with Fast Willie on your bench? … McGahee moves from what was a bad match-up against Miami to a nice one against Tennessee … I'm sorely tempted to move Marion Barber higher, since Philly has been so generous lately with their rush defense. But Barber's role doesn't figure to change much, no matter how generous the Eagles are; he's the third-down and short-yardage back, he'll score the touchdowns, but he won't get that many more carries. I think he stays right around the same this week as last … Dayne will be a very popular start in fantasy championships, and with good reason. He's topped 87 yards in three straight outings and has three scores in that time, plus he's playing the Colts. Naturally, Indy knows just what the Texans will try to do, so there's a chance Dayne gets stuffed. But in one league where my fantasy backfield is crippled, I'm rolling the dice with Heisman Ron … Tony Dungy says he thinks Addai's ankle will be okay to play, but I still lowered him just a touch below where I'd otherwise have him against Houston … I like Reggie Bush against the Giants, who have a tough time with quick backs (see Westbrook last week) … I have no idea what's going on in Denver. Hopefully you don't have to rely on that backfield for anything but chuckles.
Notes: I know: pretty stupid to keep Smith in the top spot after five catches for 56 yards and no scores last week, huh? I can't help it; Smith might not quite be at top speed, but he's as healthy as he's been in a while, and he did get 10 targets in the Panthers' debacle against Pittsburgh last week. Atlanta is one of the worst teams against WR1s (welcome to the Pro Bowl, DeAngelo Hall), and you have to believe there's some pride in Carolina. Don't you? … I like Burress a lot this week for your championship game. The Saints have been one of the eight worst defenses against fantasy receivers all year, and they especially struggle with size. There's no one in that defensive backfield that can match a motivated Plax … Evans against Pro-Bowl-snubbed Pacman Jones (who, in one of my weekly video segments, I mentioned was a lock for Honolulu) should be a lot of fun … I believe Galloway will come up huge for his owners the biggest week of the year. Cleveland has given up big days to speedy wideouts several times in the past weeks, and all those injuries in the secondary has made them one of the five worst defenses against fantasy receivers … Stallworth and Brown, Brown and Stallworth. Hard to project which will get the biggest catches, but against a scuffling Dallas secondary, I think both will be worth starting in deep-ish leagues … I moved Hackett ahead of Branch in Seattle's offense. Darrell Jackson will probably miss at least one more game, and Hackett received a ridiculous 13 targets in Week 15. With a fierce Chargers' rush in his face, I think Matt Hasselbeck goes to the possession guy … Curry is the only guy for Oakland, the only guy. With news that Aaron Brooks gets the start Sunday, Curry becomes startable as a WR3 on your championship team … Booker's sprained ankle, which caused him to miss the second half of Sunday's game in Buffalo, is supposedly a "day-to-day" affair; I bumped him down a bit … I don't know what to make of Walker, who's got a first-degree shoulder separation. In this case, first is better than second or third, so the Broncos give Walker a chance of playing Sunday against Cincinnati. If it comes clearer that he'll be able to go without limitation, obviously I'll move him far up the list. As it is, though, I have him, Rod Smith and rookie Brandon Marshall right around the same spot, with the idea that Jay Cutler will spread the ball to all of them. Cutler's a pretty good play this week; alas, I'm beginning to think Walker isn't … Williamson replaces Marcus Robinson on this list (probably just in time for Robinson to become Tarvaris Jackson's best friend). Williamson has hands of stone, but he got 13 targets last week, eight of which came in the fourth quarter, which just happened to be the moment when Jackson took the reins.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 15 Rating|
|1||Marques Colston||@ NYG||3|
|2||Antonio Gates||@ SEA||1|
|3||Tony Gonzalez||@ OAK
|6||Todd Heap||@ PIT||5|
|8||Chris Cooley||@ STL||7|
|9||Desmond Clark||@ DET||14|
|10||L.J. Smith||@ DAL||8|
|12||Ben Utecht||@ HOU||13|
|18||Daniel Graham||@ JAC||16|
|21||Jermaine Wiggins||@ GB||26|
|25||Chris Baker||@ MIA||25|
|26||Bo Scaife||@ BUF||23|
|28||Reggie Kelly||@ DEN||28|
|30||Bryan Fletcher||@ HOU||22|
|32||Leonard Pope||@ SF||NR|
Notes: Colston seemed healthy enough against Washington last week; I think he has a wide-receiver-level game in New York this week, which puts him at the top of the tight end list … Watch out for Vernon Davis. He's on a roll, and the Niners are looking to throw his way. Thirteen targets the last two weeks, to go along with two touchdowns, means the rookie has officially captured Norv Turner's attention … Utecht showed some skills Monday night, translating five targets into four catches. Of course, as long as Marvin Harrison's going to be open all night in the end zone, Utecht won't sniff a score … I'm assuming Benjamin Watson sits again this week, and Graham blocks as much as he catches … Daniels drops as Gary Kubiak revealed the rookie's been playing with an injured shoulder … Scaife couldn't play on his bad ankle in Week 15, but should be back this week … Fletcher wasn't active last week, due to a bad quad.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 15 Rating|
|1||Adam Vinatieri||@ HOU||4|
|2||Shayne Graham||@ DEN||6|
|3||Nate Kaeding||@ SEA||7|
|5||Robbie Gould||@ DET||8|
|7||Matt Stover||@ PIT||5|
|10||John Kasay||@ ATL||10|
|11||John Carney||@ NYG||13|
|12||Mike Nugent||@ MIA||16|
|16||Lawrence Tynes||@ OAK||21|
|17||Neil Rackers||@ SF||17|
|18||David Akers||@ DAL||18|
|19||Shaun Suisham||@ STL||23|
|24||Stephen Gostkowski||@ JAC||24|
|28||Ryan Longwell||@ GB||28|
|29||Matt Bryant||@ CLE||32|
|30||Rob Bironas||@ BUF||29|
Notes: What can I tell you? They're kickers … Elam and Stover are tied for the league-lead in field-goal percentage, with 92 percent apiece. The only reason Stover dips a bit this week is Baltimore's trip to the nightmarish kicking venue in Pittsburgh … Wilkins has made and attempted the most field goals of anyone so far this year (29 and 33, respectively) … The reason Scobee's been valuable this year is Jacksonville's uncanny ability to stall drives between the 23 and the 32. Scobee has 18 kicks in the 40-to-49 range (he's made 14 of them), four more attempts than Wilkins, and three more makes than Gould … Gould does get a friendly dome game this week, where Hanson has been an unsung hero for many fantasy teams. Hanson's 3-for-6 from 50-plus; only Josh Brown (3-for-5) and Kasay (4-for-7) have been better … Rackers is 14-for-14 from 39 in, 21-for-24 from 49 in, and 1-for-7 outside the 50. 2005 seems like a long time ago, indeed.
|Rank||Name||Opponent||Week 15 Rating|
|1||Chicago Bears||@ DET||2|
|2||Baltimore Ravens||@ PIT||1|
|4||New England Patriots||@ JAC||4|
|5||San Diego Chargers||@ SEA||7|
|7||Minnesota Vikings||@ GB||6|
|10||Kansas City Chiefs||@ OAK||30|
|11||New York Jets||@ MIA||14|
|12||Arizona Cardinals||@ SF||16|
|13||Green Bay Packers||MIN||21|
|15||St. Louis Rams||WAS||18|
|17||Carolina Panthers||@ ATL||11|
|18||San Francisco 49ers||ARI||28|
|19||Cincinnati Bengals||@ DEN||20|
|21||New York Giants||NO||15|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||@ DAL||22|
|23||Tennessee Titans||@ BUF||27|
|25||New Orleans Saints||@ NYG||23|
|26||Indianapolis Colts||@ HOU||29|
|30||Washington Redskins||@ STL||32|
|31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||@ CLE||31|
Notes: Buffalo's defense is playing really well; Aaron Schobel's Pro Bowl selection was well-justified, and though he doesn't have the numbers in '06 to really back it up, Nate Clements could go almost any year … Just a tiny 20-spot jump for Kansas City. That's what happens when you go from playing the Chargers to playing the Raiders … The statistical part of my brain contends there could be a lot of defensive points generated in Thursday night's Vikings/Packers game, especially with rookie Tarvaris Jackson at the helm for Minnesota, and the Turnover Machine piloting Green Bay … Here's hoping you don't have to rely on Carolina as a fantasy defense in your playoffs. They've quit … I've been a partial booster of the Raiders defense, but not this week. The Chiefs will run Larry Johnson until he can't run no more, and that's just what Oakland can't stop.