Conference Championship Playoff Betting Previews
January 16, 2006 4:00 PM
For Exhibit A as to why fantasy
footballers eschew using early picks on wide
receivers, look no further than the volatile
class of 2005.
Let's say you went receiver-heavy
and landed Terrell Owens and Randy Moss as your
starters. Let's go further and say that your
league completely ignored the position and you
backed that duo up with Marvin Harrison and
So, how'd you do in your week
16 fantasy bowl with zero touchdowns, two DNPs,
and 90 total yards?
As difficult as it is to find
reliable fantasy production from your wideouts,
it's equally challenging to find emotional stability
at a position where the top five heading into
next season could very easily include a guy
who was suspended from his team in midseason
for being a jackass; a moody talent who admittedly
plays when he wants to play (and apparently
didn't want to last season); and a diminutive
powder keg who once smashed in a teammate's
face during a film session and more recently
was ejected from a key game for putting hands
on an official.
The bastion for stability at
this position is a multiple-Pro Bowler who was
accused of roughing up a couple of teenage autograph
seekers the last time he was in Hawaii.
Of course, these are also the
guys who will show up some Sunday and drop 200
yards and three touchdowns at your feet, so
it's a love-hate relationship to say the least.
Here's a glance back at the ups
and downs of the 2005 season, as well as a peek
at what might be in store for 2006:
Went Right in 2005
When Steve Smith managed to keep his temper
in check, he was flat-out awesome. Smith never
threw up back-to-back clunkers—a rarity
at this position—en route to leading the
league in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns.
Not too shabby for a guy who snapped his leg
and missed the entire previous season.
After a sluggish start, Marvin
Harrison was about as rock-solid as you've come
to expect. Had you bailed on Marvelous following
week five—after all, he'd only posted
one 100-yard game to that point and been shut
out three times already—you missed his
glorious run of nine touchdowns and four 100-yard
efforts in eight games. Then, unfortunately,
he busted his hand racking up 135 yards against
the Chargers and took the rest of the year off.
The Cardinals pass-first (and
second, and third) approach helped answer questions
about which Arizona wideout, Larry Fitzgerald
or Anquan Boldin, belongs in the top 10. After
matching triple-digit catch, 1,000-yard campaigns,
it's clearly both.
Lost amidst the drama and the
Fame-like musicals that accompanied many wide
receiver touchdowns was the quiet consistency
of Torry Holt. A midseason injury cost him a
couple games, but he returned to turn in a steady
steam of performances despite the Rams' quarterbacking
carousel. Despite the missed games he finished
one catch behind co-leaders Smith and Fitzgerald
and sixth in the league in yardage.
Several other pass-catchers produced
seasons of note, including Chad Johnson, who
was not only productive but also kept us glued
to the tube for his next end zone opera; Hines
Ward, who fell shy of 1,000 yards but still
caught 11 touchdown passes on a predominantly
running team; Chris Chambers, who provided you
didn't need a legitimate NFL quarterback to
put up solid fantasy numbers; and Santana Moss,
who rode the resurgence of Mark Brunell to a
fast start and finished with a flourish, winning
many fantasy bowls with his 160-yard, three-touchdown
Went Somewhat Right in 2005
Those who snagged Joey Galloway with a late
pick—or, more likely, made him an early
pickup—got a pretty nice run from the
old fella as he posted career highs in catches
and yardage and produced his best touchdown
season since 1998. Problem was, he lost his
map to the end zone at the wrong time, laying
goose eggs in weeks 14, 15, and 16—and
his double-dip against the Saints in week 17
probably came too late to help his fantasy owners.
Another old folk, Keenan McCardell,
looked like he'd be the outside complement to
Antonio Gates in San Diego with four touchdowns
in the first three games. However, the rest
of the year McCardell haphazardly mixed clunkers
with productivity, to the point you were probably
benching him when he scored and starting him
when he tanked.
No one expected Joe Jurevicius
to score 10 touchdowns, but that's exactly what
he did stepping into the lineup void created
by the injury to Darrell Jackson. Jurevicius
posted just two yardage games of note, however,
and interspersed goose eggs liberally throughout
his slate of games.
When Roy Williams managed to
make it to the field, he was generally effective—and
given that he was catching balls thrown by Joey
Harrington and/or Jeff Garcia all season, that's
not easy to do. Alas, a month of DNPs and just
one game with more than five catches had us
doubting Roy all season—and probably missing
out on his four scores in the final six weeks
of the season.
Went Wrong in 2005
Much like securing a live interview with Tom
Cruise, drafting Terrell Owens this season was
a high-risk, high-reward proposition. When he
did play, Owens played extremely well; he scored
six times and topped the century mark four times
in the seven games he stuck around. Then, of
course, came the situps on the front lawn and
the non-apology apology and the suspension and
the "next question" press conference,
and now we're wondering who'll take a chance
on the obviously talented but clearly unstable
It was a match made in heaven:
the Raiders' love of the long ball and the addition
of Randy Moss to the Silver and Black attack.
Moss posted 257 yards and two touchdowns in
his first two games, hit the century mark again
in week four, and then got banged up the following
week against the Chargers. And then… well,
given his past statements one would have to
question if he wanted to play, as he scored
a disappointing (for him) four touchdowns and
topped 75 receiving yards just once prior to
showing up for the season finale. But even then,
with a couple touchdowns already in his pocket,
Moss was an observer on a key goal-line series
that has everyone wondering if he's jumped the
There's no more sickening feeling
during NFL Kickoff Weekend than to have one
of your top draft picks go down with a season-ending
injury—as those who spent a high pick
on Javon Walker know all too well. Walker stuck
around for four catches before blowing out his
knee, which certainly didn't help quell the
free-fall of Brett Favre's fantasy value, either.
And while initially Walker's injury opened the
door for Donald Driver to have a nice run, watching
Driver be kept out of the end zone for nine
of the season's final 10 games was almost as
painful as seeing Walker carted off the field.
Those who were banking on another
stellar campaign from Joe Horn were probably
carted off by the end of the season as well,
by those nice men in the white coats from the
state institution. Coming off a career year
of 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns, Horn lit up
the Giants for 143 yards and a touchdown in
week two… and then didn't cross the century
mark or even sniff the end zone the rest of
the year. In all, a whopping 76 wide receivers
scored more touchdowns than Horn; yes, it was
In what turned out to be a great
year to completely ignore wide receivers, several
other big names underachieved notably, including
Andre Johnson, who was hamstrung by a calf injury
and a line that refused to give his quarterback
time to go deep (though that's no excuse for
two fantasy-worthy games over the course of
the entire season); Nate Burleson, who was plagued
by injuries all season long and came nowhere
near filling Moss's void in the Minnesota passing
game; Drew Bennett, who—stop us if this
sounds familiar—battled injuries all year
and never took to his new role as a No. 1 receiver;
Laveranues Coles, who was mostly killed by a
new low in quarterback play that had Jets fans
clamoring for the glory days of Quincy Carter;
and Michael Clayton, who went from Rookie of
the Year finalist to waiver-wire fodder after
putting up numbers that were an astonishing
821 yards and seven touchdowns lower than his
Ahead to 2006
Some large questions remain to be answered this
offseason, some of them directly involving receivers
(such as the 2006 venues for Owens, Reggie Wayne,
and Antonio Bryant, among others) and some involving
the guys who get them the ball (as in, will
Carson Palmer and/or Daunte Culpepper be ready
for training camp). Without making too many
rash assumptions, here's one editor's ranking
of the top 25 wide receivers heading into the
2006 fantasy season.
1. Steve Smith, Panthers: Until
a defense demonstrates Smith can be stopped,
he's got to be number one.
2. Marvin Harrison, Colts: He'll still have
Peyton Manning, he may not have Reggie Wayne,
and Indy will certainly be motivated. This is
a shout-out to consistency over wildly fluctuating
3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Seems to be
the favored target in the red zone—and
a frequent target elsewhere—but questions
abound around him.
4. Torry Holt, Rams: Another attempt to balance
the need for consistency with the home run threats
at this position. Holt's a solid combo of both.
5. Terrell Owens, ??: He won't return to Philly,
but somewhere there's a coach on the brink of
a Super Bowl run who is convinced he can be
the one to rein in TO's tantrums.
6. Chad Johnson, Bengals: Much of Chad's value—as
well as that of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris
Henry—hinges on Carson Palmer's surgically-repaired
7. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals: Kobe to Fitz's
Shaq, Mantle to his Maris… but the same
concerns linger as well.
8. Randy Moss, Raiders: Simply can't slide down
the list any further. You know you'll take a
chance on him if he's there.
9. Darrell Jackson, Seahawks: Watching the playoffs
reminds you how good DJax was on his way to
becoming prior to the injury. If Shaun Alexander
leaves Seattle, Jackson becomes their top offensive
10. Hines Ward, Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
is a pretty good quarterback, and if Jerome
Bettis hangs it up after this year Ward's red
zone looks will go up.
11. Chris Chambers, Dolphins: Every preseason
we lament, "If only he had a quarterback,"
and then he goes out and still puts up great
numbers. If he only had a quarterback...
12. Reggie Wayne, Colts/UFA: Does he stick in
Indy and catch balls from Peyton, live in Marv's
shadow and maybe make another playoff run? Or
does he go for the big coin and a shot at top
13. Roy Williams, Lions: A healthy Legend with
a legit quarterback might just blow the lid
off of Ford Field.
14. Andre Johnson, Texans: You have to think
offensive guru Gary Kubiak will find a way to
get Johnson more heavily involved.
15. Javon Walker, Packers: He's already made
one smart move, dropping Drew Rosenhaus as his
agent. He'll either be Brett Favre's swan song
or Aaron Rogers' safety blanket.
16. Santana Moss, Redskins: About the only downfield
option on the roster. When will Jason Campbell
17. Nate Burleson, Vikings: Ideal skill set
for Brad Childress' WCO; let's see what he can
do if he stays healthy.
18. Deion Branch, Patriots: One of these years,
Tom Brady is going to lock in on Deion and stay
there all season long.
19. Donte Stallworth, Saints: Matt Leinart's
going to need a downfield target, and we've
lost all confidence in Joe Horn.
20. Plaxico Burress, Giants: Eli loved him the
first half of the season, then left him in the
second half. One worked out better than the
other for the Giants, so we're guessing they
kiss and make up.
21. Laveranues Coles, Jets: Was almost serviceable
with Brooks Freaking Bollinger under center,
so any warm body should be an improvement.
22. Mark Clayton, Ravens: Brian Billick made
a concerted effort to get him the ball the latter
part of the season, when Baltimore's offense
was actually working. Coincidence?
23. Drew Bennett, Titans: Still the top pass-catching
option on a team that still looks like it will
be giving up plenty of points next season.
24. Rod Smith, Broncos: Ashley Lelie has yet
to even inkle that he might be ready to take
over Rod's role as Denver's go-to guy.
25. Lee Evans, Bills: You know how well Evans
played with J.P. Losman at quarterback. You
don't really think a new coach is going to start
Kelly Holcomb, do you?
Joey Galloway, Buccaneers: Rarely does a career
year come so late in a receiver's career. And
it's even more rare that said numbers get duplicated.
(1): Antonio Bryant, Browns/UFA: Should
be brought back to be Charlie Frye's favorite
target, at least until 2007 when Braylon Edwards
is back at full speed. Or, he could return to
Pennsylvania and be the next TO in Philly. He's
certainly got the attitude...
(2): Koren Robinson, Vikings/UFA: Got
his feet (but, hopefully, not his whistle) wet
by playing primarily on special teams for the
Vikings—and earned a trip to Hawaii for
his efforts. He clearly still has speed, and
if he stays on the straight and narrow he could
be the receiver everyone thought he'd be a few
years back in Seattle.
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