Ten most intriguing players of Week 16

Posted Dec. 22, 2010 @ 5:53 p.m.
Posted By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. DeSean Jackson — An amusing headline this week from the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding Jackson's punt-return TD against the Giants: "Was Jackson Showboating or Not?" Um, I think it's pretty safe to say that he was. A week after celebrating a 91-yard TD catch with a Nestea plunge into the goal line (and by the way, the fact that people still use the phrase "Nestea plunge" more than three decades after that ad campaign was unveiled suggests that it was a resounding success), Jackson paralleled the goal line for more than half the width of the field before finally crossing into the endzone for a last-second, game-winning score. D-Jax probably should start rehearsing new material, because NBC opted to flex the Vikings-Eagles game into the Sunday-night slot this week, and the Vikings clearly have checked out for the season. Jackson has been über-streaky as a pass catcher this year, but the odds are good that he'll light up the disinterested Minnesota defense, and perhaps celebrate his first touchdown by staging a one-man performance of "The Nutcracker" in the endzone.

2. Peyton Manning — Well, well, well … here's something different. It's Week 16, and since this is the rare season when the Colts don't already have the AFC South title in the bag, Manning owners don't have to worry about the quarterback being lifted early. That's not to say Manning owners have nothing to worry about. Austin Collie sustained another concussion last week, so Manning once again will be light on available weaponry. He has struggled at times this season when he hasn't had a full complement of pass catchers, and he'll be on the road against a fairly competent Oakland pass defense.

3. Vincent Jackson — Interesting timing for last week's explosion. For many of Jackson's fantasy owners, the three-TD eruption came too late to matter. But for owners who drafted V-Jax, kept him in cold storage for nearly the entire season, then rolled him out for the playoffs in Week 15, the payoff was oh so sweet. And now, in a lot of leagues' championship week, Jackson once more should be a fine play. Odds are that the Chargers will again be without ailing TE Antonio Gates, and they also might be without WR Malcom Floyd, who didn't play last week. That leaves Jackson as the clear go-to guy for one of the top QBs in the game, Philip Rivers. The Chargers are in a must-win situation and will be facing a sad-sack Bengals outfit that might be ready to throw in the towel. V-Jax owners, can you say, "encore performance?"

4. Ray Rice — You might remember me as the moron who suggested back in August that Ray Rice deserved to be the No. 1 draft pick in fantasy leagues. Yeah, bad call there. But I'd like to think that at least a couple of the people who followed that advice and cursed my name throughout the season were still around to reap the benefits of Rice's two TDs and 233 yards from scrimmage last week. Rice has now exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage in six of his last seven games. This Sunday he faces the Browns, who did a reasonably good job of keeping him in check back in Week Three (80 rushing yards, 16 receiving yards, no TDs). But Cedric Benson awoke from a month-long slumber to trample the Browns for 150 yards and a TD last week, and Fred Jackson ran for 112 yards against Cleveland two weeks ago. Rice is better than those two, so all signs point to a big day for him.

5. Tim Tebow — The rookie acquitted himself reasonably well last week in his first NFL start, rushing for 78 yards and a TD in a loss to the Raiders, and throwing for 138 yards and a TD. It will be interesting to see how Tebow fares the rest of the way. Is he a worthwhile fantasy prospect for 2011? Is he a poor man's Michael Vick? A rich man's Tyler Thigpen? The second coming of Kordell Stewart? There are a handful of owners out there who are actually pinning their hopes to Tebow this week. And why not? The Broncos play the Texans, and the Houston defense looked typically shabby last week in a 31-17 loss to the Titans. Tebow should be able to gouge the Texans for a few long runs, and while Tebow is an unrefined passer (to say the least), the Texans might be one of the few teams against whom he could put up good passing numbers.

6. Andre Johnson — The Broncos have lost five consecutive games, and their opponents scored 35 or more points in four of those games. Last week, Denver yielded 502 yards of total offense to the Raiders. Anyone like the Broncos' chances of keeping Johnson under wraps this week?

7. Mike Williams — I'm referring to the Buccaneers' Mike Williams. Wait, no … I'm referring to the Seahawks' Mike Williams. Actually, since the Seahawks and Buccaneers are playing each other this week, let's make this a dual entry. Both have been productive this season, although Seattle Mike has lost a few games to injury and has had trouble finding the endzone. Tampa Mike seems destined for stardom. He had eight catches for 96 yards and a TD last week, and he now sits at 880 receiving yards and eight TDs in '10. Not bad for a rookie. Tampa Mike could have his way with the 29th-ranked Seahawks pass defense. Seattle Mike was also busy last week, catching eight balls for 66 yards. He's the undisputed No. 1 receiver for Seattle and is writing quite the comeback story after it looked like his NFL career was over. This week, may the better Mike win.

8. Peyton Hillis — After being such a warhorse for most of the season, Hillis now has gone three consecutive games without a TD, and in two of those games Hillis was held to fewer than 60 rushing yards. Is there anything left in his tank? This week's matchup against the Ravens seems daunting, but Baltimore's defense hasn't exactly been airtight lately, and Hillis ripped the Ravens for 144 rushing yards and a TD in Week in Three.

9. Roddy White — You know a guy is a superstar when he's going through a slump and the slump numbers aren't all that bad. So it is for White, who hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game since Nov. 11 and had gone four games without a TD catch before scoring last week. Still, in the five games since his last 100-yard day, White has averaged 7.2 catches and 70 receiving yards. Those numbers aren't shabby, but the White owners who are still alive are undoubtedly hoping for something more on Monday night, when the Falcons host the Saints in a showdown of NFC South powers. White had a TD catch against the Saints in Week Three but was limited to 69 receiving yards.

10. Wes Welker — You have to figure Welker will be pleased to get out from underneath the thumb of Packers CB Charles Woodson. Welker was bottled up by Woodson during the Patriots' hard-fought win over the Packers on Monday night, catching three passes for 42 yards. But then again, the Patriots visit Buffalo this week, and the last time the Pats faced the Bills, Welker was held to four catches for 45 yards. Welker owners probably shouldn't read too much into that Week Three performance. Randy Moss was still with the Patriots at the time and had a pair of TD catches in that game. Expect the indispensible Mr. Welker to bounce back with a vengeance.