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Ten most intriguing players of Week 16

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Recent posts by Pat Fitzmaurice

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Posted Dec. 21, 2011 @ 3:55 p.m. ET
By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. Eli Manning — The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating last week's derailment of the Eli Express, which was carrying a full load of holiday travelers en route to an NFC East title and a Giants playoff berth. Manning had averaged 336 passing yards over his previous 10 games and had thrown multiple TD passes in six of the last seven. But in last weekend's horrific crash in Washington, he threw for 257 yards with zero TDs and three INTs. Manning and the Giants now face a do-or-die matchup against their similarly desperate crosstown rivals, the Jets. Rex Ryan's crew has one of the better pass defenses in the league and features ace CB Darrelle Revis, but with three good receivers at Manning's disposal, there's still a chance that he can get a tan and sip tropical drinks without testing the waters surrounding Revis Island.

2. Arian Foster — Foster owners who remain alive in the fantasy playoffs have a golden opportunity to land an early haymaker on their opponents' chins this week. The stud running back has a dream matchup against the Colts on Thursday night, and it seems almost inconceivable that the Colts will be able to prevent a Foster eruption, even though they limited the human on/off switch, Chris Johnson, to modest numbers last week while recording their first victory of the season. Foster, meanwhile, rolled up big numbers even as his team laid a collective egg in a home loss to the Panthers, posting a rushing line of 16-109-1 and a receiving line of 5-58-0. Expect more of the same when Foster is unleashed upon a Colts defense that ranks 28th against the run and has given up 18 rushing touchdowns.

3. Tom Brady — Brady owners involved in playoff games this week should consider it fortunate that the Patriots still have much at stake at this late date in the season, which hasn't always been the case in recent years. The Pats can earn home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs by winning out, so Brady is unlikely to let up on the throttle when New England hosts Miami on Saturday. And "throttle" is exactly what Brady did to the Dolphins when he last faced them back in Week One, throwing for 517 yards and four TDs, including a late 99-yard TD pass to Wes Welker.

4. Ray Rice — Christmas Eve dinner is a fabulous feast in a great many American households. At our house, Saturday's bill of fare will include lobster and beef tenderloin. At Ray Rice's house, also known as M&T Bank Stadium, he'll be dining on the Cleveland Browns' defense, which he devoured for 204 rushing yards and a TD just three weeks ago. The Browns rank 31st against the run: Mmmm ... that's some good eatin'!

5. Calvin Johnson — Megatron owners had waited none too patiently for the all-world receiver to break out of a five-game drought in which he failed to produce a 100-yard game, and many of those owners were eliminated before they could enjoy the fruits of Johnson's epic Week 15 performance in Oakland, where he put together a receiving line of 9-214-2 and finished with a furious flurry of fantasy points on Detroit's final (and ultimately game-winning) drive. Many of the Megatron owners who made it to Week 15 are playing for championships this weekend, and Johnson will try to come up with a suitable encore in the Lions' home game against the Chargers, who rank sixth against the pass but have yielded 24 TD throws.

6. C.J. Spiller — So that's what the Bills were envisioning when they selected Spiller with the ninth overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft. Last Sunday against the Dolphins, Spiller had far and away the best game of his professional career, with a rushing line of 12-91-1 and a receiving line of 9-76-1. Is there more where that came from? The Bills host the Broncos on Sunday, and Denver ranks 20th in run defense and 22nd in total defense.

7. Laurent Robinson — Robinson poses an interesting dilemma for his fantasy owners. With Miles Austin now fully recovered from a hamstring injury, and with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten still prominent components of the Dallas passing game, Tony Romo might not target Robinson very often in any given week. Such was the case last week, when Robinson was targeted just thrice and finished with three catches for 29 yards. Yet Robinson continues to be a veritable TD machine. He had another one last week despite the shortage of overall activity, and he's had nine TD catches over his last eight games. The Cowboys host the Eagles this week in an important divisional affair. Philadelphia ranks 10th against the pass but has yielded 25 TDs through the air, so while Robinson's volume might be limited, his odds of reaching the endzone again are promising.

8. Cam Newton — Carolina's rookie phenom has thrown multiple TD passes in consecutive games for the first time all season, but he's also gone two straight games without a rushing TD for just the second time this year. It seems inevitable that Newton will hang up boffo numbers this weekend against the Buccaneers, who were flattened by Tony Romo and the Cowboys last week and seem preoccupied with the visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. When he faced Tampa Bay three weeks ago, Newton ran for a season-best three TDs and also had 204 passing yards and a TD toss.

9. Jabar Gaffney — Now playing with his fourth different NFL team, Gaffney has a decent chance to turn in the first 1,000-yard season of his 10-year NFL career. He's been clicking with his old college teammate from the University of Florida, Rex Grossman, catching 12-177-1 over his last two games. Gaffney needs 158 more receiving yards to reach 1,000, and he should be able to make significant progress toward that goal this weekend when the Redskins entertain the Vikings. Minnesota ranks 30th against the pass and has given up a league-high 31 TD passes, and the Vikes may or may not have recovered from last week's five-TD aerial assault at the hands of Drew Brees and the Saints.

10. Julio Jones — Monday night's Falcons-Saints matchup has the scent of a shootout; it's a fitting way to end what for most fantasy leagues is championship week. New Orleans would appear to have an edge in aerial firepower, but Jones has the potential to be an equalizer for Atlanta. The rookie from Alabama was held to just nine receiving yards in an earlier matchup against the Saints, but he was dealing with a hamstring injury at the time. He's healthy now and has caught three TD passes in his last two games, and the fast track of the Superdome should suit him. So, too, should the 28th-ranked New Orleans pass defense.

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