Every Friday during the NFL season, we'll review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. If an expert breaks from the herd on a particular player, they'll be asked to show their work. You're encouraged to discuss the wisdom or lunacy of these opinions in comments.
Kevin Smith (Behrens rank: 13, Y! colleagues: 16-19-23)
Smith has averaged 97.5 total yards per game over the past six weeks, and he's done it against a series of playoff-quality defenses. Check the game log. It's been an impressive stretch. If numbers don't do it for you, check the highlights. This is a talented back who happens to play for a spectacularly unsuccessful team. The Saints aren't particularly tough against the run, they allow 25.2 points per game, and they're 1-6 on the road. There's no obvious reason to fear their defense. And even if you did fear the New Orleans defense, you still have to like Smith's workload. He's averaging over 19 carries per game over the Lions previous six games. In a week where several marquee backs are in various states of disrepair, Smith is peaking. Start him with confidence.
Brett Favre (Evans rank: 9, Y! colleagues: 11-12-14)
This week, the Larry King of quarterbacks will throw more than his false teeth at Seattle.
Yes, Favre has performed marginally for much of the season's second half. He's averaged just 205.9 passing yards and totaled a 6:6 TD:INT split since Week 8. More discouraging, his 16.5 fantasy points per game output over the past five weeks ranks 21st among signal callers.
But he should be labeled "must start" material in Week 16. On the year, the Seahawks have allowed the most 20-yard pass plays in the NFL. And since Week 11, they've surrendered 281.4 passing yards and 1.4 air scores per game to gunslingers, equal to the eight-most fantasy points allowed.
Frankly, it's dumbfounding Favre was selected over Matt Cassel and Philip Rivers for the Pro Bowl, but in the Starbucks City, the old-codger will pack a fantasy wallop equal to a triple-shot espresso topped with whipped cream.
Fearless Forecast: 24-38, 262 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
Santana Moss (Funston rank: 37, Y! colleagues: 21-22-24)
I'm not sure which factor makes Santana Moss a must start, according to my colleagues. Was it the concussion Moss sustained last week at Cincinnati? Perhaps it's the fact that the Redskins will likely be without its two best offensive linemen – OT Chris Samuels (triceps) is out for the season and OT Jon Jansen is doubtful for Week 16 with a knee injury. Or is it that Moss failed to catch a single pass the last time he faced the Eagles (Week 5)? I'm sorry, but all things considered, I'm not going anywhere near Moss. With that battered offensive line – one that afforded Clinton Portis a whopping (sarcasm) 77 yards on 25 carries against the Bengals last Sunday – facing a defense ranked third in the league in QB sacks – I have little faith that QB Jason Campbell is going to be able to locate the 5-foot-10 Moss amidst a sea of green.
Lee Evans (Pianowski Rank: 17; Y! colleagues: 21-32-41)
I realize "Small Noise" Evans has made a lot of fantasy owners unhappy of late, grabbing just seven catches for 45 yards over the last two weeks. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 7. But the recent troubles are simple to explain – J.P. Losman has been absolutely brutal in his brief stint as stand-in quarterback. The Buffalo coaches were so disgusted with Losman's play, they demoted him two spots this week to No. 3 quarterback; they don't want this guy anywhere near the huddle on game day.
Now Trent Edwards isn't a miracle cure at quarterback, either, but he's definitely an upgrade over Losman, and he's taking dead aim at a Denver secondary that's been leaky against the pass all year (96.3 rating, 233 yards per game). And forget the home cooking with the Broncos, because their defense has actually played worse at home in 2008. It's time to have a short memory with Evans, and get him into your Week 16 plans as a No. 2 receiver or flex play. It's payback time, and he's going to make a big play or two in the Mile High City.
Anthony Gonzalez (Funston Rank: 18, Y! colleagues: 25-28-32)
Well, the bullishness for Gonzalez is all about the expectations that this week he'll get a larger share of the Peyton Manning pie. Regular No. 2 wideout Marvin Harrison is sitting out the Thursday night game because of a hamstring injury. So Gonzalez will fill that void, and he'll do it against a secondary allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to WRs this season – the Jags have allowed a league-high 14 pass plays of 40-plus yards. We all seem to like Gonzalez more than usual this week, I guess I just like his situation better than most.
Braylon Edwards (Behrens Rank: 37; Y! colleagues: 17-18-19)
Really? Another Edwards discussion? Well, OK.
Here's why I won't start him: Edwards leads the NFL in drops, his quarterback is Ken Dorsey, and his team hasn't scored an offensive touchdown since Week 11 (or a passing touchdown since Week 10). You can't play a guy in a must-win week if he fits that description, no matter where you drafted him. If it's not Monday night, Edwards typically gives you three catches for 30-something yards. I don't see any reason for optimism, but I can find lots of reasons for doubt.
Clinton Portis (Pianowski Rank: 14; Y! colleagues: 21-24-24)
The Eagles are no easy mark against the run (allowing 3.4 yards a carry and 90.5 yards per game) but Portis has relished the challenge, gauging the Eagles for 315 total yards a pair of scores in the last two meetings. Look for Jim Zorn to right the ship in Washington by getting back to basics, which means getting the rock into the hands of his most reliable player in all situations (forget Mike Sellers at the goal line, it's time to get back to the bell cow). Mark it down, you'll see 20-plus touches and at least one end-zone spike from Portis this weekend, and you'll be singing Portishead songs as a victory salute come Sunday night. Rematches in the NFC East are generally about physical play, especially at this time of year, and Portis is ready, willing, and able to be the focal point of the Washington offense again (he hasn't been on the injury report for two weeks).
Chester Taylor (Evans rank: 20, Y! colleagues: 40, NR, NR)
The Minnesota Moses will smash inscribed stone tablets over the heads of Atlanta defenders.
Quietly, Taylor has been a flex marvel over the past five weeks, especially in PPR formats. During that span he's averaged 2.8 receptions, 56.8 total yards per game and pranced into the end-zone five times. His 10.5 FPPG accumulated over that stretch ranks 25th among RBs, ahead of such prominent names as Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson and Clinton Portis.
Since Week 11, the Falcons have conceded 4.9 yards per carry, 150.6 total yards per game and seven scores to rushers, equal to the 10th-most fantasy points yielded. With Tarvaris Jackson manning the controls, Adrian Peterson and Taylor will be the point of emphasis in Brad Childress' offense. Expect the 29-year-old to grip the pigskin roughly 10-15 times, classifying him an elite Flex play in 12-team and deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 9 carries, 44 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 22 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
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