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Eyes of the Guru

Week 16 and championships are on the line in most leagues. I seriously hope all of you had a better week 15 than I, having lost in 4 of 5 leagues. Some things are just not meant to be you know. I mean heck, the Ravens have struggled to score 2 TDs in most games this year so why is it that Todd Heap has to go for 100+ and catch 2 of them against me? Chris Cooley had 3 on the year coming into week 15 but he just had to double his count and beat me by 3 points. All I can say is look out for next year, I've saved up my luck and I'll be back! Meanwhile for those of you who had better luck and are looking for the title...

Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons haven't been happy with the play of their defense down the stretch. The front 4 is missing a couple of starter and has been pushed around some while the safeties haven't been physical enough and haven't been making any big plays. The teams safeties have combined for only 3 picks and 1 fumble recovery on the season. Bryan Scott played SS last season and seemed to be a much different player. The move to FS didn't pan out and eventually led to his benching a couple of weeks back. Former Niner Ronnie Heard replaced Scott and has been given his chance but hasn't been at all impressive. Look for the Falcons to address this position strongly over the off season and possibly move Scott back home to SS.   

Chicago Bears
Mike Green and and Brandon McGowan filled in at the safety positions for the Bears in week 15 and the defense didn't miss a beat. McGowan played SS in week 14 but moved to FS against Atlanta with Green handling the SS duties. The Falcons couldn't muster much offense in the game so neither came out with big numbers and there is a chance that both Todd Johnson and Chris Harris could be available for week 16 against the Bucks. Harris is the starter at FS so if he can go he should start. Mike Brown practiced a little last week but may not return until the playoffs so the question becomes who will get the start at SS between McGowan and Green? One of them should be productive against the Bucks this week. Keep an eye out for info later in the week but keep in mind that it was McGowan who got the call over Green in week 14.  

New England Patriots
There hasn't been much IDP production from the Patriots this year in general. In fact only Mike Vrabel has more than 44 solo tackles on the season and Vrabel's 66 is far from impressive. There are however a couple of guys who might serve as decent starters this week. OLB Rosevelt Colvin has quietly put together a very strong 4 game run. He's recorded 4 solo stops and a sack in in each game since week 12 including a 4-0-1 in week 13 against the Jets who are the opponent again this week. Note that the Jets gave up 6 sacks last week to the Dolphins putting them at a whopping 45 for the season... The other guy who could be decent against the Jets is Vrabel. The Jets offense is playing a lot of backups but these guys are playing very hard in an effort to better their situations for next season. Cedric Houston had 84 yards on just 15 carries against Miami and the kid is running like a young Curtis Martin. Vrabel isn't a stud by any stretch but he should put up at least 5-6 solo stops in this one... One last tidbit, Artrell Hawkins got another start at SS in week 15 ahead of Michael Stone who was active for the game. Hawkins failed as a corner in the league but just maybe the move to safety will be a long term answer for him. He put up a solid 5-2-1 against Tampa Bay.  

Green Bay Packers
Those who have read my column all season already know about Nick Collins but against the Ravens he made me even more of a believer. Not only has he become more consistent as he's gained confidence and a comfort level, but this kid isn't afraid to lower the boom on a ball carrier. He put up a season high 11-1-0 giving him 36 solo stops over the past 5 games. Don't hesitate to give him the start this week against a Bears club that should improve offensively with Grossman under center and keep Collins in mind when you are making those off season dynasty moves. He has a very bright future.  

New York Giants
With the injury to Antonio Pierce it was anticipated that Nick Greisen would slide back inside to MLB but the Giants instead went another route. Greisen remained at WLB while rookie Chase Blackburn stepped into the starting job. Ultimately the box score results were the same as expected with Greisen being the most productive of the Giants linebackers. That said, Blackburn's 3-6-0 was pretty solid for a guy playing only on first and second downs. He'll get the call again this week against the Redskins but don't count on much from him, especially with Portis dinged up.

Washington Redskins
Rookie corner Carlos Rogers came on strong over the second half of the season before missing week 15 with a biceps injury. Heading into week 16 his status is again very much in question. Fortunately for the Skins both Walt Harris and Shawn Springs were able to play in week 15 and suffered no setbacks to their respective injuries. Both should play in week 16... LaVar Arrington missed week 15 as well but it's expected that he will return against the Giants this week. One very interesting note here, safety Pierson Prioleau actually got the start at WLB against Dallas. He shared time with Warrick Holdman. That speaks volumes about how little confidence the Skins have in Holdman as a full time player. 

Carolina Panthers
The Panthers may be in line for a playoff berth but they would sure like an opportunity to rest some of their walking wounded before the playoffs start. Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers may be able to play in week 16 but neither of them are close to 100% healthy. Both are fighting ankle injuries which makes it very difficult for them to push of and can be very limiting. Carolina plays a Dallas club that has struggled to protect the passer of late. Last weekend they gave up 7 sacks to a Washington club that has struggled to find a pas rush, including 4 to Phillip Daniels who previously had just 2 on the year. Starting either of these guys will be a bit risky with the injury situations but the match up is a hard one to pass up. Look for injury news late in the week... Dan Morgan played through his sore ankle in week 15 and suffered no setbacks. He should be good to go against Dallas.   

Miami Dolphins
Channing Crowder left Sunday's game early with a shoulder injury. He will skip some practice time this week but is expected to go on Sunday against Tennessee. 

Cincinnati Bengals
Last week's match up wasn't exactly a strong one for MLB Odell Thurman but it still wasn't completely to blame for his lousy production. Thurman suffered a neck injury in the game. While it isn't anything serious or long term, he is reportedly very sore early this week and may sit out week 16. Nate Webster was activated off the PUP list a few weeks back and has replaced Caleb Miller as Thurman's backup. He could get the start which would be his first action since blowing out his knee early in '04. The club would really like to see where Webster is at this point as it could impact his long term status with the club. If you have been starting Thurman (and his numbers last week didn't contribute to your being eliminated as they did for me) you may want to take a look at Webster as a 1 week replacement. Prior to his injury last season he was putting up some pretty respectable numbers. 

Indianapolis Colts
Now that Indy has a loss all the hype will finally go away. What will also go with it is the possibility that the club will play all their starters for the next two weeks. Under the circumstances there are very few Colts who are not a serious risk. Many of these guys have been playing banged up and will be given time to heal up over the next couple of week as they prepare for the next game that matters. Cato June will play very little if at all over the final 2 games so we may get a good look at Gilbert Gardner in an expanded role. Corey Simon has already been ruled out for week 16 and will be replaced by Josh Williams. The only IDP that should even be considered is MLB Gary Brackett. He is healthy and not really in need of time to heal but even Brackett may not play full time.   

Minnesota Vikings
Looking for a week 16 plug in at LB? consider Sam Cowart. While he hasn't lived up to what I expected of him this season, Cowart has been pretty solid whenever the Vikings have faced opponents with strong running games. 8-1-1 against Atlanta, 5-1-0 vs Chicago, 6-1-0 against Carolina, 6-1-0 against the Giants, 6-0-0 vs Cleveland and 7-2-0 last week against the Steelers. While the Ravens haven't been an offensive powerhouse, they did explode against Green Bay and Jamal Lewis seems to have gotten back on track a little. At the very least this game projects to be a defensive slug fest so the Ravens likely won't be forced out of their running game. Cowart should make a solid third starter who will contribute... Kevin Williams came back from injury in week 15 to post his first quality numbers of the season. Maybe the 2 weeks off helped him to get his legs back. Williams has been as complete a bust as anyone this year but lets see what he does over the final 2 games. It could give us some perspective as to what we should expect next year.  

Buffalo Bills
Aaron Schobel started slow again this year but has come on strong since about October. That said, take a long look at your other options this week. Schobel should have quality tackle numbers but only the Colts have allowed fewer sacks than the Bengals... On the other side of that coin, London Fletcher is a no brainer every week but anyone who has Angelo Crowell on the bench should strongly consider dusting him off for this week. With Chris Perry out the Bengals will turn even more to their between the tackles running game with Rudi and FB Jeremi Johnson sharing the duties. It would be no surprise to see both Fletcher and Crowell in double digits this week.

Philadelphia Eagles
Jeremiah Trotter has been a very solid every week start for most of the season but last weeks poor match up got the best of him. Don't look for much improvement this week against a Cardinals offense that has no running game. Trotter is playing on some third downs but is still heading to the sideline on a lot of obvious passing downs. For Arizona every play is an obvious passing down... On that same note, if you have Jevon Kearse or even Trent Cole, this is a week to consider them for your starting lineup. The Cards have struggled to protect the passer allowing 40 sacks heading into week 16 including 6 to the defensively challenged Texans last week.

Arizona Cardinals
James Darling isn't a guy you can get excited about but if you need a dependable contributor this week he might be your man. It's impossible to figure out which Eagles team will show up from week to week so the match up is no better than average but consider this, Darling has at least 5 solo stops in each of the last 6 games, has averaged better than 7-2-0, and has a sack and a pick over that stretch. He was even productive against the lowly offenses of Detroit and San Francisco.   

St. Louis Rams
Trev Faulk recorded a season (and I believe career) high 10-1-0 against the Eagles in week 15. Faulk replaced Chris Claiborne at MLB in week 12 but missed most of week 13 with an illness. He hasn't put up any significant numbers until the blow up in week 15 but he does warrant some attention over the last couple of weeks. Claiborne has been a complete bust (as expected) and it's a given that he won't be back. Faulk is likely auditioning for a starting job heading into the '06 season.

San Diego Chargers
Last week I talked about Donnie Edwards and asked the question "is he in decline?" My friend and colleague Jene Bramel (those of you who a message board junkies know him as Inbreed) reminded me that Edwards decline coincided with the knee injury he suffered earlier in the season and that he has been playing with the injury much of the year. Good call JB! and thanks for the reminder. Edwards didn't do much against the Colts but after the Chargers turned off the mighty Indy offense like a light switch, that probably isn't much of a measuring stick for Edwards. He's a rare breed to say the least so don't write him off just yet.

That's going to do it for week 16. Be sure to check back next week when I will talk about players who will likely be in different situations come next year and/or or likely to blossom. Good luck to everyone in the big game!

Our main weekly ranking that come out on Thursday are driven strictly by our projections which don't allow for such considerations as confidence in a particular projection or the difficulty in predicting such things as fumble recoveries etc. This cheat sheet is not projections driven and takes into consideration everything I know about a all the players. Players with a * are risky due to injuries and those with a ** may move up due to injuries to other players. Keep in mind that this is usually done prior to the release of the Wednesday injury report.

1 DE Jason Taylor Mia vs Ten 1 MLB London Fletcher Buf at Cin 1 SS Gibril Wilson NYG at Was
2 DE Will Smith NO vs Det WLB Keith Bulluck Ten at Mia SS Terrence Kiel SD at KC
DE Derrick Burgess Oak at Den 3 MLB Jonathan Vilma NYJ vs NE SS Sammy Knight KC vs SD
DE Reggie Hayward Jac at Hou MLB Nick Barnett GB vs Chi 4 FS Sean Taylor Was vs NYG
5 DE Michael Strahan NYG at Was MLB Brian Urlacher Chi at GB SS Roy Williams Dal at Car
DE Simeon Rice TB vs Atl 6 WLB Demorrio Williams Atl at TB 6 SS Adrian Wilson Ari vs Phi
7 DE Leonard Little  Stl vs SF 7 MLB Mike Peterson Jac at Hou 7 SS Michael Lewis Phi at Ari
8 DE Kyle Vanden Bosch Ten at Mia 8 MLB Lofa Tatupu Sea vs Ind 8 CB Charles Tillman Chi at GB
9 DE Jevon Kearse Phi at Ari 9 ILB Donnie Edwards SD at KC 9 FS Nick Collins GB vs Chi
10  DE Trent Cole Phi at Ari 10 MLB Kawika Mitchell KC vs SD 10  CB Antoine Winfield Min at Bal
11 DE Julius Peppers *  Car vs Dal 11 MLB Zach Thomas Mia vs Ten 11 FS Darren Sharper Min at Bal
12 DE Jarred Allen KC vs SD 12 MLB Nick Griesen NYG at Was 12 SS Adam Archuleta Stl vs SF
13 DE Osi Umenyiora NYG at Was 13 WLB Angelo Crowell Buf at Cin 13 CB Ronde Barber TB vs Atl
14 DE Terrell Suggs Bal vs Min 14 ILB Andra Davis Cle vs Pit 14 CB Dre' Bly Det at NO
15 DE James Hall Det at NO 15 OLB Shawne Merriman SD at KC 15 SS Kenoy Kennedy Det at NO
16 DE Justin Smith Cin vs Buf 16 MLB Gary Brackett Ind at Sea 16 FS Greg Wesley KC vs SD
17 DE Aaron Kampman GB vs Chi 17 MLB Danny Clark * Oak at Den 17 FS Stuart Schweigert Oak at Den
18 DE John Abraham NYJ vs NE 18 WLB Kirk Morrison Oak at Den 18 FS Bob Sanders Ind at Sea
19 DE Charles Grant NO vs Det 19 WLB Derrick Brooks TB vs Atl 19 SS Renaldo Hill Oak at Den
20 DE Aaron Schobel Buf at Cin 20 MLB Lemar Marshall Was vs NYG 20 FS Eric Coleman NYJ vs NE
21 DE Adewale Ogunleye Chi at GB 21 MLB Shelton Quarles TB vs Atl 21 SS Kerry Rhodes NYJ vs NE
22 DT Cornelius Griffin Was vs NYG 22 MLB James Darling Ari vs Phi 22 FS Brian Dawkins Phi at Ari
23 DT John Henderson Jac at Hou 23 SLB Derrick Johnson KC vs SD 23 CB Nate Clements Buf at Cin
24 DE Patrick Kerney Atl at TB 24 ILB Morlon Greenwood Hou vs Jac 24 CB DeAngelo Hall Atl at TB
25 DE Alex Brown  Chi at GB 25 ILB Ben Taylor Cle vs Pit 25 SS Troy Polamalu Pit at Cle
26 DE Phillip Daniels Was vs NYG 26 WLB Bart Scott Bal vs Min 26 FS Josh Bullocks NO vs Det
27 DE Orpheus Roye Cle vs Pit 27 MLB Dan Morgan  Car vs Dal 27 CB Deltha O'Neal Cin vs Buf
28 DE Kalimba Edwards Det at NO 28 WLB Lance Briggs Chi at GB 28 SS Dwight Smith NO vs Det
29 DE Erasmus James Min at Bal 29 MLB Sam Cowart Min at Bal 29 CB Terence Newman Dal at Car
30 DT Vonnie Holliday Mia vs Ten 30 WLB Ian Gold Den vs Oak 30 SS Ed Reed Bal vs Min
31 DE Chike Okeafor Ari vs Phi 31 ILB Derek Smith SF at Stl 31 CB Antrel Rolle Ari vs Phi
32 DT Marcus Tubbs Sea vs Ind 32 MLB Tommy Polley Bal vs Min 32 SS Brandon McGowan Chi at GB
33 DE Tony Hargrove Stl vs SF 33 WLB Keith Brooking Atl at TB 33 FS Dexter Jackson TB vs Atl
34   DT John Browning KC vs SD 34   WLB Brian Simmons Cin vs Buf 34 FS Brent Alexander NYG at Was
35 DT Rod Coleman Atl at TB 35 SLB Karlos Dansby * Ari vs Phi 35 CB Champ Bailey Den vs Oak
36 DE Richard Seymour NE at NYJ 36   ILB Tedy Bruschi NE at NYJ 36 CB Ike Taylor Pit at Cle
37 DE Mike Rucker * NO vs Dal 37 WLB Leroy Hill Sea vs Ind 37 SS Lawyer Milloy Buf at Cin
38 DT Kevin Williams Min at Bal 38 SLB Marcus Washington Was vs NYG 38 FS Kevin Kaesviharn Cin vs Buf
39 DE Antonio Smith Ari vs Phi 39   SLB David Thornton Ind at Sea 39 SS Nick Ferguson Den vs Oak
40 DE KGB GB vs Chi 40 ILB Randall Godfrey SD at KC 40 CB Dominique Foxworth Den vs Oak
41 DT Mike Patterson Phi at Ari 41 SLB Wali Rainer Det at NO 41 SS Mark Roman GB vs Chi
42 DT Rocky Bernard Sea vs Ind 42 ILB James Farrior Pit at Cle 42   FS Keith Lewis SF at Stl
43 DE Dwight Freeney Ind at Sea 43 MLB Jeremiah Trotter Phi at Ari 43 CB Ken Lucas Car vs Dal
44 DE Travis LaBoy Ten at Mia 44 WLB LaVar Arrington Was vs NYG 44 SS Artrell Hawkins NE at NYJ
45 DE Bobby McCray Jac at Hou 45 ILB Mike Vrabel NE at NYJ 45 SS Ben Emanuel SF at Stl
46 DE Kevin Carter Mia vs Ten 46 ILB Bradie James Dal at Car 46 FS C.C. Brown Hou vs Jac
47 DT Shaun Rogers * Det at NO 47 ILB Brandon Moore SF at Stl 47 SS Mike Doss Ind at Sea
48 DT Lance Legree NYJ vs NE 48 ILB DaShon Polk Hou vs Jac 48 CB Chris Gamble Car vs Dal
49 DE Greg Ellis Dal at Car 49 OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa Stl vs SF 49 CB Tory James Cin vs Buf
50 DT Darnell Dockett * Ari vs Phi 50 WLB Will Witherspoon Car vs Dal 50 FS Chris Harris Chi at GB
51 DE Trevor Pryce Den vs Oak 51 MLB Ronald McKinnon NO vs Det 51 FS Lamont Thompson Ten at Mia
52 DE Raheem Brock Ind at Sea 52 OLB Rosevelt Colvin NE at NYJ 52 CB Bruce Thornton SF at Stl
53 DE Bryan Thomas NYJ vs NE 53   MLB Odell Thurman * Cin vs Buf 53 CB Demarcus Faggins Hou vs Jac
54 DE Aaron Smith Pit at Cle 54   OLB Clark Haggans Pit at Cle 54 SS Tank Williams Ten at Mia
55 DE Bobby Hamilton Oak at Den 55 WLB Daryl Smith Jac at Hou 55 SS Ifeanyi Ohalete * Cin vs Buf
56 DT Marcus Stroud Jac at Hou 56 OLB Scott Fujita Dal at Car 56 FS Mike Furry Stl vs SF
57 DT Fred Robbins NYG at Was 57   OLB Adalius Thomas Bal vs Min 57 SS Glenn Earl Hou vs Jac
58 DE Robert Mathis * Ind at Sea 58 SLB Julian Peterson * SF at Stl 58 CB Justin Miller NYJ vs NE
59 DT Albert Haynesworth Ten at Mia 59 MLB Al Wilson Den vs Oak 59 FS John Lynch Den vs Oak
60   DE DeWayne White TB vs Atl 60 WLB Channing Crowder * Mia vs Ten 60   CB David Macklin Ari vs Phi
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