Wide Write: Championship Week

In most leagues, championship games are scheduled for this weekend. That means two things:

1. If you're playing for your league title, you'll be reading fantasy football advice columns very closely this week. We think this is great.

2. Since most fantasy leagues have 12 teams, and two are playing for the league championship, then Wide Write's readership is down by approximately 83 percent from the regular season. We think this stinks.

So, even though we're pretty sure that five-sixths of our readers are out getting drunk at office holiday parties instead of debating who to start at the No. 3 wide receiver position, we're going to give this column our best effort since there's so much riding on it for the rest of you. Good luck in your big games, and don't forget that the first NFL game of the week is on Thursday (Steelers-Rams).

Quarterbacks (Not a non-Brady division this week)

GOOD: Kurt Warner, Arizona

Any Arizona retirement community looking to attract homebuyers should make Warner its poster boy. "Folks, there was a time when I thought I'd never be able to throw or avoid a rush again. But after a few years in this warm, dry desert air, I feel like I'm 28 years old again. If that young punk Matt Leinart hadn't gotten hurt, I'd have taken his job anyway."

Warner had 233 yards and three more touchdown passes against the Saints in Week 15. Over his last six games, Warner has thrown 15 TDs and averaged 282 yards passing. Sure, he throws a ton of interceptions and fumbles at least once a game. Those things don't hurt you too much if your quarterback is flinging scoring passes all over the place like Warner, who matches up against the 24th-ranked Falcons' D this week.

Honorable mention: David Garrard, Jacksonville (17-33, 197 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT)

BAD: Tom Brady, New England, and Derek Anderson, Cleveland (tie)

Sunday's two snow bowlers just had to be included here, didn't they? After carrying countless fantasy teams on his back this season, Brady's weather-affected performance against the Jets (14-for-27, 140 yards, 1 INT) certainly ended some of those teams' playoff hopes. Could you imagine having Brady post Xbox-like numbers for your fantasy team all year, and then have it blow up in your face due to a snowstorm? We can't, but since our teams are all scheduling tee times right now, we probably shouldn't make fun of anyone else.

Anderson played in an even worse storm than Brady, and posted a similar stat line (9-for-24, 137 yards). If you missed it, the referees in the Bills-Browns game had trouble finding the 50-yard line under the snow at one point. Makes you want to draft all your fantasy quarterbacks from teams in domed stadiums next year, doesn't it?

THIS WEEK'S PLAY: VinceYoung , Tennessee

Last week, we got on Vince's case for being such a disappointment this season. But, if you've got a low-end starter who's got a tough matchup in Week 16 - Jon Kitna and Donovan McNabb come to mind - then Mr. Rose Bowl might not be a bad cross-your-fingers type of pickup.

In Week 15, Young was 16-for-26 with 191 yards and two touchdown passes. He's thrown two TDs in two of his past three games, and has averaged 228 yards per games over his past six. He added seven carries for 32 yards against the Chiefs, and has posted rushing totals of 52, 74 and 44 in that six-game stretch. This week, he gets to battle the 26th-ranked Jets defense. It's not like we're suggesting that you should bench Tony Romo for Young, but if you've got a so-so signal caller on your hands, we think he's worth a shot.

Running Backs

GOOD: Aaron Stecker, New Orleans

Also known as "The Guy Who Ran Better in Two Games Than Reggie Bush Did All Year." Stecker gained 95 yards and scored twice against the Cardinals after picking up 100 yards the week before against the Falcons. This week, Stecker and the surging Saints (30 ppg in their last four) host the deader-than-a-doornail Philadelphia Eagles. Look for another strong outing from this late-season surprise.

(WARNING: As of mid-week, there was still a possibility that Bush could return for this game. If he does, he probably won't be at full strength, but he could take some of Stecker's carries. Keep an eye on the Bush news before starting Stecker. You might start him either way, but it's a slam-dunk if Bush is out of the picture.)

Honorable mention: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (15 carries, 116 yards, 2 TD); Darren Sproles, San Diego (25 carries, 122 yards, 2 TD; 1 reception, 13 yards); Fred Taylor, Jacksonville (25 carries, 147 yards, 1 TD); Steven Jackson, St. Louis (24 carries, 143 yards, 1 TD; 4 receptions, 27 yards)

BAD: Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati, and Shaun Alexander, Seattle (tie)

Wide Write and its companion blog over at have been pretty harsh on this pair all year. We've campaigned for their benchings, once wondered if Johnson had the same "fork-in-back disease that Alexander has," and basically suggested that both backs should be sent to the great running back farm in the sky.

After Week 15, in which both backs had seven carries but Alexander outgained Johnson 17-16, we have a message for them: Thanks for making us look smart, guys. You're the best.

BAD (Special category) Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia

Westbrook made an extremely intelligent play against the Cowboys by intentionally kneeling down at the one-yard line just before the two-minute warning. The play clinched an Eagles victory, but also cost Westbrook and his fantasy owners a valuable playoff touchdown.

Listen, Brian, we know it's fun to show off how smart you are, but fantasy owners (and gamblers) are the NFL's most hardcore fans. If it wasn't for our compulsive habits, many of your teammates would be greeting customers at Wal-Mart during the offseason to make extra money. Remember where your bread is buttered next time you start thinking about your team before ours, OK?

THIS WEEK'S PLAY: DeAngelo Williams, Carolina

Williams carried 15 times for 61 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown, in the Panthers' upset win over the Seahawks. The second-year back has started to get the ball more lately, thanks mainly to the ineffectiveness of teammate DeShaun Foster. Williams isn't a lock for big numbers, but as a No. 3 running back or flex player he might help you.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (non-Moss division)

GOOD: Marques Colston, New Orleans

Colston had eight receptions for 114 yards and a score against the Cardinals. After a slow start to the season, he has a big-time line of 61 receptions for 829 yards and seven touchdowns in his last eight games. Drew Brees throws to Colston all the time, and he's become an elite fantasy receiver.

When your 2008 draft comes around, and the run starts on wide receivers, who are you going to take before Colston? Probably Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, if you don't think they're going to turn into sullen malcontents again. The next tier includes Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Braylon Edwards, Larry Fitzgerald, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and maybe Andre Johnson. Are you more sure about any of their prospects next year than you are about Colston's? The more we think about it, we don't think we are.

Honorable mention: Roydell Williams, Tennessee (4 receptions, 94 yards, 2 TD)

BAD: Antonio Gates, San Diego

Two weeks ago, The Best Fantasy Tight End Ever had one catch for minus-one yard against the Chiefs, and we thought it was just a random bad game. In Week 15 - a fantasy playoff week, for God's sake - Gates had one reception for eight yards. To paraphrase the noted philosopher Dr. Evil, throw us a frickin' bone here, will ya, Antonio?

THIS WEEK'S PLAY: Shaun McDonald, Detroit

If you're not playing this guy yet, you should be. McDonald has been the prime beneficiary of Roy Williams' injury absence, catching 19 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown over the past three games. Anyone catching the ball as often as McDonald does is bound to find the end zone sometimes. He's a solid start at the flex position, or as a No. 3 wide receiver if your roster calls for that many.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone.

John Halpin covers fantasy sports for, writing a morning football blog Sundays through Thursdays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" will appear every Tuesday during the NFL season on Send him an e-mail at

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