In most leagues, this week is the championship game. And as we pointed out at this time last season, if the average league has 12 teams, then only two of them are still paying attention to this column. Just think of this week’s edition of Wide Write as the advanced class in your elementary school, where you were doing long division while your friends were still learning their times tables. It’s not their fault they’re not here, right?
First, we need to remind you that there’s a Thursday game (Colts-Jaguars) and a Saturday game (Ravens-Cowboys). Don’t be the person who wakes up Sunday morning and says, “Wait, did I remember to start Marion Barber?” It would result in a lifetime of draft-day and e-mail abuse from your friends, and nobody wants that.
Let’s get going with the starts and waiver claims.
Matt Cassel, Patriots — If Tarvaris Jackson can throw for four touchdowns against the Cardinals, Cassel might throw for eight. There’s NO fantasy QB we’d rather have in our lineup this week. Cassel is owned in 79 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, but was active in just 41 percent of them in Week 15 due to speculation that he might miss the game to attend his father’s funeral. Make sure you start Cassel, unless the Foxboro weather forecast for Sunday afternoon changes to “blizzard.”
Shaun Hill, 49ers – Our man Hill and his shotput delivery are getting it done for the Niners, averaging 235 yards and tossing nine touchdowns since becoming the starter six games ago. Hill gets a fairly favorable road matchup against the Rams this week, and if Frank Gore can’t go again, he’ll have to throw plenty. Hill Is still available in 76 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, so if you need a QB, he’s a steady option.
Dan Orlovsky, Lions – The widely-available Orlovsky would appear to be a not-so-steady option, since he’s a Lion and all. But we bet you didn’t know that in five starts this season, he’s thrown for 1,163 yards (233 per game) and six TDs with just two interceptions. With the softer-than-soft Saints’ passing defense coming to Motown this week, we see Orlovsky winning a shootout and leading the Lions to their first victory of the season before being named as the new CEO of General Motors on Monday.
Chad Pennington, Dolphins – M-V-P! M-V-P! Okay, maybe that’s going to far, but the intermediate-armed Pennington has been terrific all season, and he gets to visit the demoralized Chiefs and their Swiss cheese passing D this week. He’s owned in a lot of leagues, but he’s not starting in many of them. If he’s on your bench, don’t be afraid to put your title hopes on his shoulders.
Bonus: Houston’s Matt Schaub is on fire, and he’s still unowned in nearly half of FOXSports.com leagues. The Raiders’ pass defense is tough, but Schaub’s a decent play.
Cedric Benson, Bengals – Benson has carried 37 times for 130 yards in the last two games, and while that’s not Pro Bowl material, it is a lot of carries. Against the Browns, 20 carries should result in a pretty nice day. If you own a questionable back – Gore, for example – Benson is a terrific title game fill-in. Yes, we know we’re telling you to risk your season on a Bengal. Live a little, will ya?
Maurice Morris, Seahawks – Morris has been steadily improving since he got healthy, and ran for 86 yards against the Rams in Week 15. The desperate Jets are coming to town, but Seattle’s 12th man might use Mike Holmgren’s last game as an excuse to get charged up. Look for a solid if unspectacular outing.
Sammy Morris, Patriots – Sammy the Bull is the man again in New England. He’s scored in three straight games, and ran for 117 yards against the Raiders last week. As we noted earlier, the Pats host the Cardinals, who have given up 120 points in their last three non-Ram games. The Pats are going to win this one by at least three touchdowns, with Morris barreling through the Cards’ D often. Start him if you have him.
Willie Parker, Steelers – You can’t get Parker as a free agent, but you can get him off your bench. With the Titans missing their two best defensive linemen this week, the holes should be bigger than usual.
Pierre Thomas, Saints – The red-hot Thomas is owned in 60 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, which means that the other 40 percent are probably comprised of drunks or dead people. He’s playing the Lions this week. Good grief, is this an easy one.
Davone Bess, Dolphins – Bess only had a few catches in Week 15, but he had 15 receptions for 158 yards in the previous two games. Pennington clearly likes throwing to him, and there should be plenty of room to get open in the Chiefs’ secondary. We’re on the bandwagon of just about every Dolphin, but we limited ourselves to two in this column so you wouldn’t get bored.
Deion Branch, Seahawks – It … is … alive! Branch was seemingly questionable every day for the first three months of the season, but he’s rebounded with 14 receptions for 220 yards and a pair of scores over his last three games. QB Seneca Wallace seems to look for Branch, and he’s going to start again in place of the injured Matt Hasselbeck this week. It hasn’t been that long since Branch won the Super Bowl MVP, has it? Okay, maybe it has.
Domenik Hixon, Giants – Yes, we’re stubborn. Yes, we’re Giants fans. But Hixon did catch six balls for 60 yards against the Cowboys, and Eli Manning keeps trying to find him deep. In Week 13 against the Redskins, Manning overthrew Hixon in the end zone. In Week 14 against the Eagles, Hixon got open for an apparent 85-yard scoring strike and … yeah, he dropped it. In Week 15, Hixon drew a pass interference penalty on Cowboys CB Terence Newman because he was about to blow by him. One of these weeks, he’s going to cash in. Who’s ready to bet on this week?
John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning fantasy blogon weekdays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" appears every Thursday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more fantasy sports coverage, visit FOXSports.com/fantasy.