Remember a few weeks back when I said I was done making the mistake of starting Carson Palmer over Ben Roethlisberger when the matchup doesn't warrant it? Yeah, well, I'm currently looking for a support group for owners looking to wean themselves of their dependence on Palmer. It's really just silly that I started Palmer at Pittsburgh on Sunday against a Steelers defense allowing the lowest QB Rating in the league. I could have plugged in Big Ben against that oh-so-soft Bengals secondary, but I was playing a hunch … at this point, that "hunch" can only be interpreted as addiction in disguise. In this particular league, I'm now the first team out of the playoffs with one game left in the league's regular season. A loss by any one of three other 7-6 teams in the league and a win by my squad means I'll make the postseason. And at QB, I have to decide between Palmer against St. Louis or Roethlisberger at New England. Man, that Palmer matchup looks so good … While I deal with my demons, let's take a look at the fantasy landscape following Week 13:
The Good: Backup quarterbacks. If you look at the Week 13 fantasy leaders at the quarterback position, you'll see backup signal-callers Luke McCown and Gus Frerotte among the top four. Filling in for Jeff Garcia and Marc Bulger, respectively, both quarterbacks topped 300 yards passing on Sunday and threw for at least two touchdowns (Frerotte threw for three). If there's anything to glean here, it's not that Frerotte and McCown are must-get waiver diamonds this week. Rather, the two quarterbacks serve as a reminder of just how bad the Cleveland and New Orleans pass defenses are. The Browns allow the most fantasy points to quarterbacks, while the Saints give up the fourth-most. Both teams have yielded two-plus TD passes in eight of 12 games. Two more less-heralded quarterbacks will face-off against these secondaries in Week 14 – Chris Redman, who threw for two touchdowns at St. Louis filling in for an ineffective Joey Harrington, hosts New Orleans and Kellen Clemons hosts Cleveland. Something to consider for those fantasy owners backed into a corner at QB in Week 14.
The Bad: Denver Broncos. It wasn't that surprising that Broncos QB Jay Cutler was shutout of the end zone by a very good Oakland secondary on Sunday – he finished with 214 passing yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs – but that Denver could muster just a combined 78 rushing yards from the Travis Henry/Selvin Young backfield duo was pretty pathetic. After all, this was an Oakland run defense that allowed 5.0 yards per carry and eight 100-yard rushers entering Week 13. Henry managed two touchdowns, but the Broncos could have used two more from Henry as a 14-point loss puts the team in a dire playoff position.
The Ugly: Detroit Lions. Week 13 was about insult and injury for the Lions. Not only did they suffer the humiliation of a 32-point loss to division-rival Minnesota, but top WR Roy Williams suffered a knee injury (sprained PCL) that may very well knock him out for the remainder of the season. In the loss, Kevin Jones rushed for just one yard and QB Jon Kitna threw just one touchdown pass, connecting with the very fantasy-irrelevant Casey FitzSimmons. Since throwing for eight touchdowns in his first four games, Kitna has just seven scoring passes in his past eight games. So much for that high-flying Mike Martz offense that everyone was expecting.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Vince Young, Ten, QB – Young has averaged 33 passes and ranks No. 8 in fantasy at quarterback in the past five weeks. On Sunday, Young threw for two touchdowns for just the second time this season. He also rushed for 44 yards, which happens to be his average over the past four games.
Ryan Grant, GB, RB – He's running against everyone, and he has one of the softest remaining schedules at the running back position. Grant has quickly elevated his status in fantasy to weekly "must-start" territory.
Earnest Graham, TB, RB – Graham scored for the fourth straight game in Week 13. In his past six games, he's scored four touchdowns and has averaged 123 yards from scrimmage. You could argue he's a weekly "must-start" as well.
Justin Fargas, Oak, RB – Who could have predicted in September that Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham and Fargas would have positioned themselves as top 10 running backs down the stretch of the '07 season? Fargas rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on Sunday and is a top five fantasy back over the past five weeks.
Sidney Rice, Min, WR – Unlike one of my colleagues, I don't throw around the term "man-crush" very often, but Rice makes my heart flutter when I think about his vast talents. The rookie from South Carolina scored for the third time in four games on Sunday and continues to play his way up the '08 fantasy receiver rankings. He's truly a rising star.
Tavaris Jackson, Min, QB – In his first five starts, Jackson completed just 46 percent of his passes. In his past three, the Vikings' signal caller has connected at a 78 percent clip. He had his finest performance of the season on Sunday, throwing for 204 yards and two TDs, while adding 20 yards on the ground.
Bobby Engram, Sea, WR – Engram is having the best season of his career and needs to average seven catches in his final four games to reach the 100-catch mark. He's the No. 9 fantasy receiver over the past five weeks after going for 60 yards and a touchdown in Week 13.
Arnaz Battle, SF, WR – Battle has scored in each of his past two games and has averaged a very respectable 68 receiving yards over his past four games. He's a reasonable waiver add this week against a Minnesota defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to receivers.
Marcedes Lewis, Jac, TE – Lewis ranks No. 8 in fantasy at tight end over the past three weeks with a combined 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns – he went for 42 yards and a score on Sunday.
Willie Parker, Pit, RB – Parker has touched the ball 249 times in his past 10 games, but has just one touchdown to show for it. He was held scoreless for the fifth consecutive game on Sunday and he failed to reach 100 rushing yards for the fourth time in that span.
Kevin Jones, Det, RB – Sure, he was facing Minnesota, but to get just one rushing yard? Week 13 marked the second time in the past four games that Jones has been held to one yard or less (minus-4 rushing yards at Arizona in Week 10). Jones faces a tough Dallas run defense in Week 14, making him a very tenuous fantasy option given his recent volatility.
Wes Welker, NE, WR – In addition to getting an earful from Samari Rolle and company on Monday night, Welker was held to his lowest yardage total of the season (18). He's scoreless in his past three games, but don't expect him to stay down for long. A week 15 matchup with the Jets and a Week 16 date with Miami should be a cure for what ails him.
EARLY BIG BOARD RETURNS
• Players in consideration for falling off the Board: Roy Williams (knee), Anquan Boldin (hip, toe)
• Players in consideration to make the Board: Justin Fargas, Hines Ward, Tony Gonzalez
• Expected top Board climbers: Jamal Lewis, Earnest Graham
• Expected top Board fallers: Kevin Jones, Plaxico Burress