Dwayne Bowe has become an absolute fantasy monster. Not just a wide receiver to rely on, but the best fantasy receiver in the game. He basically has turned into Andre Johnson in terms of consistent, high-end production. This is not breaking news, of course; he has been a beast since Week 6. But how come every week we seem to rank Matt Schaub pretty well at quarterback, thanks in large part to Johnson's presence, while Bowe's quarterback, Matt Cassel, lumbers down at the bottom with Carson Palmer, the rookies and whatever the Cleveland Browns toss out there?
I thought about that as I was ranking players for Week 13, and while I realize Cassel was pretty worthless from a fantasy perspective the first month or so, he has been putting up big-time numbers of late, and the fun should only continue down the stretch thanks to a favorable schedule. This week, the Chiefs face the Denver Broncos. I don't know whether you've seen the Broncos lately, but they can't defend. That's good for Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd, who are constantly playing catch-up, and it's doubly good for opposing offenses. I ranked Cassel No. 10 among quarterbacks this week, as did a few of my colleagues, because this week or any week, you shouldn't make fantasy decisions based just on name value.
One dominant wide receiver can make an average quarterback a better fantasy play. On teams that don't seem to have that obvious top-10 fantasy receiver, we often overlook the quarterback. Couldn't David Garrard, Donovan McNabb and Sam Bradford use a Dwayne Bowe these days? They sure could. Look at how the awesome play of Steve Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Lloyd has elevated their quarterbacks. I'm relying on Ryan Fitzpatrick in a league, and he has been worth it. Shaun Hill was, too, before his injury. Orton is easily a top-10 guy. Well, Cassel's recent play has moved him into the season top 10 at quarterback, one measly point behind the slightly overrated Matt Ryan. Sorry, but it's true. Ryan is owned in 99.6 percent of ESPN standard leagues; Cassel's ownership percentage is barely half that.
So I went all-in on Chiefs this week, with Bowe the top wide receiver, Cassel a top-10 quarterback and Jamaal Charles over Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Peyton Hillis -- who would have thought Hillis would ever be in this sentence? -- at No. 3 among running backs. I have a feeling the Chiefs will be the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season.
Here are a few other thoughts from the Week 13 rankings:
Action Jacksons: Still delirious from the ease with which San Francisco 49ers afterthought Brian Westbrook ran through the Arizona Cardinals, I'd be pretty pleased to own Steven Jackson this week. Still, I ranked the St. Louis Rams star conservatively, at No. 7 at running back, and was surprised others did so as well. Are we all concerned about Jackson, who hasn't reached the 100-yard plateau since Week 7? I think so. He's still a definite start, but if he doesn't pilfer the Cardinals, it's time to worry. Same with Philly's sensitive DeSean Jackson; he got yelled at after the Sunday night loss in Chicago and should have plenty to prove Thursday night against the awful Houston Texans secondary. If Jackson doesn't go nuts, that's a huge story. I actually ranked Jeremy Maclin a bit better than Jackson this week, which shows you I am a bit concerned about him.
Pats on the back: I was a bit surprised at our lofty Week 13 projections for New England Patriots wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch. I always expect good things from Welker, so that's not surprising, but 100 yards and a score for Branch is definitely noteworthy. However, look how we ranked them. Welker is pretty much always around No. 20 for me these days, higher than any other Pats receiver, although not much higher this week. I put Branch at a respectable No. 32, but two of my three fellow rankers chose not to rank Branch (in the top 50). That shows he's not yet a trusted option, at least not this week against the New York Jets. The thing is, the Jets have given up a decent number of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers this season. It can happen. The Jets are fantasy's best against running backs but middle of the pack against quarterbacks and receivers.
Tight decisions: Everyone has questions at tight end, where many of the options drafted are either on injured reserve or constantly questionable to play. I ranked Antonio Gates well, thinking that if he plays, you want him active. It's not like Randy McMichael is a safe handcuff. I keep ranking Jacob Tamme tops at this position, because he deserves it statistically, and my sleepers this week, based on how poorly others ranked them, are Brent Celek and Visanthe Shiancoe. I know, I know, these fellows have disappointed us greatly, but Celek showed something against the Bears and the Texans have not been able to stop opposing tight ends (or much of anyone). Shiancoe faces a Bills team that ranks second worst (to the Texans) in fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Brett Favre didn't do much in Week 12 against the Washington Redskins, but this should be a more productive game for him.