So you thought the biggest issue surrounding the offensive stars of the Philadelphia Eagles was to determine how early they would start to be rested for the playoffs. Oh, how you (and I) wish that that scenario was still true!
The latest word on Terrell Owens is that he sustained torn ligaments in his ankle and will be shelved until the Super Bowl. I particularly liked the use of "available for the Super Bowl" part of the explanation. Last season they lost Brian Westbrook to injury in the regular season final against Washington, and now this. I fully expect Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook to play a minimal number of minutes in the final two games. As enticing as a matchup against the Rams may be (22 passing TD's allowed), I would give a strong look to your backup QB.
As for replacing the production of Owens, a couple of options may be floating under the radar.
- Lee Evans of the Bills has scored in four straight games, with two 100-yard games during that stretch. The Bills will likely be without Willis McGahee, which means that the passing game will be called upon to vanquish the 49ers.
- The speedy Antwaan Randle El of the Steelers will start against Baltimore, as Plaxico Burress continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Randle El has caught five passes in two of the last three games and benefits from the double-teams being thrown at Hines Ward. Randle El may handle the ball only a handful of times (after the catch or throwing the ball), but he's a threat to go the distance every time he does.
- Kelley Washington of the Bengals has scored in three of his past four outings, and narrowly missed scoring last week. Carson Palmer is expected back under center when the Bengals face the Giants. As teams focus on Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Washington gets one-on-one coverage downfield.
The Sunday night game between Baltimore and Indianapolis threw us back to that moment in childhood (SPOILER coming) when it became apparent that Santa Claus was not really a jovial philanthropist doling out presents from the North Pole. Leaving no literary reference unturned, the Grinch (as played by Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense) tried to steal the joy of the season by thwarting Peyton Manning's attempt to capture Dan Marino's single-season record in prime-time.
Though a flurry of yellow flags dropped on the ground,
No touchdowns from Stokley, Wayne or Pollard would be found.
Two field goals from Vanderjagt and a scamper for James,
One toss to Harrison and a classy end to the game.
With victory secured, crowd and TV crews still demanding,
Manning knelt thrice from the five and left the record still standing.
Ok, so I'll stick to football analysis. I do welcome your creative odes to the players that brought you to the top of the mountain in your league or those that broke your heart. I'll add a couple to the next mailbag and, as it is a family show, let's keep the profanity to a minimum.
Let's move on to the Week 15 inside look:
Clinton Portis of the Redskins has shown tremendous durability in the face of a heavy workload. Portis averages 26 touches per game. Alas, the early-season Mark Brunell experiment kept the Redskins from achieving any semblance of consistency and has held his TD total down. However, he is on pace to top 1,500 yards rushing for the third straight season.
The man who started the "Year of the Tight End" finally reappeared in Monday's game. Daniel Graham scored his first touchdown since Week 5. In that game, Tom Brady threw three TD passes for the second time this season, but was picked off four times. The third pick came as he was being sacked by Jason Taylor. He tossed a floater that helped get the Dolphins back in the game.
Finally, as the weather turns (see the snow bowl in Cleveland, for instance), running games will be on display throughout the league. In the games of Week 15, 24 backs finished with 20 or more touches. Eleven of them had more than 25 touches. Make sure to go easy on the egg nog until you've made your lineup decision for the week.
Let's get deeper into Week 15:
Shouldering the load: Most active RB's (carries+catches)
|Week 15 Touch Leaders|
|1||Clinton Portis, WAS||38|
|2||Jerome Bettis, PIT||37|
|3||Larry Johnson, KAN||30|
|4||Domanick Davis, HOU||29|
|5||Warrick Dunn, ATL||28|
|5||Corey Dillon, NE||28|
|7||Nick Goings, CAR||27|
|7||LaDainian Tomlinson, SD||27|
|7||Julius Jones, DAL||27|
|10||Michael Pittman, TAM||26|
|10||Deuce McAllister, NO||26|
Attention getters: Top intended targets (looks)
|Week 15 Look Leaders|
|1||Drew Bennett, TEN||17|
|1||Derrick Mason, TEN||17|
|3||Javon Walker, GB||16|
|3||Hines Ward, PIT||14|
|5||Muhsin Muhammad, CAR||14|
|5||Jerry Porter, OAK||13|
|5||Brandon Lloyd, SF||11|
|8||Roy Williams, DET||11|
|9||Jason Witten, DAL||11|
|9||Torry Holt, STL||11|
|9||Isaac Bruce, STL||11|
|9||Antonio Bryant, CLE||10|
Trainers table: Updates on the wounded in action
- In the continuation of an evil plot designed to torment fantasy owners, Chris Brown sat out Sunday's shoot-out against Oakland with the ever-present turf toe injury. Word is that Brown will make the trip to injured reserve this week, meaning that Antowain Smith will start against Denver in Week 16 with rookie Troy Fleming and Robert Holcombe worked into the mix.
- Zack Thomas missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. He'd like to play in the home finale next week against Cleveland, but those of you using IDP should prepare to finish the season without him.
- David Givens battled through his ankle injury to participate in the Monday night game. He was targeted just once. Given the way that Brady spreads the ball around and that he hasn't scored since Week 8, Givens is a non-starter for the final two weeks.
- The scan on Matt Hasselbeck's injured throwing shoulder showed no cracks, breaks or tears, according to Coach Mike Holmgren. Hasselbeck expects to be ready to start at home against Arizona.
- The Rams revealed that rookie RB Steven Jackson was available for insertion into Sunday's game, but given the frequency of blitzes from Arizona, they thought it best not to make Jamie Martin a sitting duck. He'll be ready to split time with Marshall Faulk for Monday's matchup against Philadelphia.
- Tim Rattay has been shut down with a veritable laundry list of ailments. Ken Dorsey will start the final two games for the 49ers.
- While the Eagles got slammed with the extent of Owens' injury, the Buffalo Bills are breathing a sigh of relief. Willis McGahee hyper-extended his surgically repaired knee after making a reception on Sunday and slumped to the ground. Fortunately, the injury will not require surgery. However, fantasy owners vying for a league title are salty, as the breakout star and key component to the resurrection of a seemingly dead offense will most likely be in street clothes for Week 16. As of now, Shaud Williams looks to nab the starting job for this week's matchup.
- "Pain don't phase me." Tatum Bell approaches the game in the same vein as office linebacker Terry Tate. Bell played through piercing pain in his shoulder and stole the rock from Reuben Droughns. If he can battle through the pain again (and not fumble inside the five), he'll get the start and the lion's share of carries against a Tennessee defense that can't stop anyone.
- TO is getting the headlines in Philly, but Todd Pinkston is also questionable for this week's matchup against St. Louis. Pinkston hurt his knee on Sunday against Dallas.
- Robert Ferguson of the Packers remains in the hospital following the brutal clothesline from Donavin Darius. He lost feeling temporarily and continues his recovery. He will likely not return until the playoffs.
- Marc Bulger anticipates that he will be ready to stand under center against Philadelphia on Monday night. The bruise in his throwing shoulder has sufficiently healed, or so he believes. With the playoffs on the line and the prospect of Chris Chandler needing to trot back onto the field, here's thinking that Bulger suits up.
- With a playoff berth in hand, the Chargers will ease Keenan McCardell back into active duty. He has been more of a factor in the X's and O's than on the fantasy gridiron. He's questionable for a return to Week 16.
- Derrick Blaylock missed this week's matchup with a sprained knee, and young Larry Johnson was more than up to the task. Johnson will get the starting nod this week.
- Johnnie Morton sat with a strained knee. He hasn't been much of a fantasy factor of late, despite the Chiefs' ridiculous offensive output. There are better options out there.
- Jon Kitna got the starting nod against Buffalo, as Carson Palmer recovers from a sprained MCL. Palmer anticipates being available for the Week 16 matchup against the Giants. Watch this one closely. If he can go, he's got a shot at a big day.
- Duce Staley sat yet again with his injured hamstring. Since Jerome Bettis is on a roll, there's no sense in risking Staley for the playoff run. Ride Bettis for the duration of the campaign.
- Staying with the Steelers, Plaxico Burress has grown tired of sitting on the pine, but with Antwaan Randle El stepping up big, he's likely to miss the final two regular season games to ready himself for the playoffs.
- Finally, though it's not really an injury, Koren Robinson will return from his four-game suspension this week. Though no role has been defined for him as of yet, he's expected to split time with Jerry Rice.