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What to watch: Mannings, Vikings, Westbrook

12/24/2009

I know people who spend more time staring at their computers on a football Sunday than enjoying the action on the television, and not just during their fantasy football championship matchups, but every week. Hey, to each his own, I suppose, but I think you need to love the game of football to thrive at fantasy football, and this is a huge weekend for big games. That doesn't mean I don't (or won't) check the status of my fantasy matchups, but my point here is you should be sure to enjoy the games themselves.

Only three games on the schedule this week involve two teams with no hope for the playoffs (Lions-49ers, Raiders-Browns, Bills-Falcons), so the other 13 games will make for a terrific weekend. I love to see how football teams react when there's really something on the line, and really, this is the most important week of the regular season. By next week, the final week of the season, a bunch of these 7-7 AFC teams will be eliminated, more of the first-round byes will be locked up and quite a few more games will matter less. And more star players will, unfortunately, be sitting.

From a fantasy football aspect, the most compelling games of the weekend are Chiefs-Bengals and Panthers-Giants. Obviously, there are bigger games around the league, like the Saturday night Chargers-Titans tilt -- get those lineups in early, please! -- or the Ravens-Steelers game and whatever that Brett Favre guy does in Chicago on Monday night. ... But getting back to the Chiefs-Bengals affair, the Bengals really need to fix things after losing to a pair of playoff-bound teams on the road. And in that game, we have a pair of top-10 running backs. I think one (Cedric Benson</a) could deliver his best game of the season, if the way the Chiefs defended Jerome Harrison in Week 15 is any indication, and the other is clearly a rising star (Jamaal Charles). I'm also watching how the Chiefs divide the targets to their wide receivers.

In the other key fantasy matchup (Panthers-Giants), until we hear otherwise, there are four running backs in this game worthy of being activated in fantasy, with all of them (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw) making my top 30 at the position. Plus, how can you not be interested in the potential of the Giants' wide receivers, notably hotshot rookie Hakeem Nicks?

Anyway, I'm excited for this weekend's slate of games. Enjoy your (KaraBlog-free) Christmas. As is this blog's tradition to ending each week, here are 16 players -- it is Week 16, after all! -- I'll be keeping a closer eye on than usual. I mentioned a handful of key names in Wednesday's "rankings decisions" blog, and I'll discuss a few more key players below. Wow, there is a ton to watch!

Quarterback

Peyton Manning, Colts: There's no guarantee he'll log a full game, and the same can be said for the leader of the NFC's top team, Drew Brees of the Saints. That said, I think we'll get top-10 performances from both quarterbacks.

Eli Manning, Giants: Do it again, Eli! Hey, he's a top-10 quarterback for season scoring, so we shouldn't be surprised, but certainly some fantasy owners remain skeptical because of his December performances in the past. Don't be.

Vince Young, Titans: Fantasy players who took a chance on this compelling player and needed him to start might have gotten on late-season runs that brought them this far. Young has been in double digits for fantasy scoring each week, and I expect him to do so again this week.

Jay Cutler, Bears: Throwing 30 interceptions would be quite an accomplishment. I say he'll get two picks against the Vikings ... but also two touchdowns.

Running back

Jerome Harrison, Browns: I predict he'll rush for 114 yards and a touchdown.

Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Silly me, I thought this was going to be a rushing team. Hey, call some audibles for your best player to get more than 20 carries. The last five times that has happened, Peterson has averaged 100 yards.

Pierre Thomas, Saints: I view him a bit like Knowshon Moreno in Week 15, when he was supposed to shred the Raiders' defense. Thomas faces the Buccaneers, and I have a feeling I might have ranked Thomas a bit too high this week in putting him 11th among rushers.

Darren McFadden, Raiders: I was the one who said to stick with McFadden when he got hurt in October. I think Michael Bush is the Raider you want this week, but I really want to see what McFadden does with his touches.

Brian Westbrook, Eagles: How can't we be curious how he's used? I'd be very cautious.

Wide receiver

Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars: If you think you know what he'll going to do from week to week, please share it with the group. I think this will be the first time all season he tops 10 fantasy points on the road.

Pierre Garcon, Colts: After Reggie Wayne gets blanketed by Darrelle Revis in the first half, he might not want to play after that. Revis has to cover someone after that, but will it be Garcon, Austin Collie or maybe even Dallas Clark?

Michael Crabtree, 49ers: Nearly made my top 20 among receivers. This would be a nice time for that monster breakout game.

Robert Meachem, Saints: Scored a pair of touchdowns in his last meeting with the Buccaneers and remains heavily involved in the passing offense.

Kenny Britt, Titans: He's seeing fewer targets since Justin Gage returned, which kind of stinks. I like Britt much more.

Tight end

Fred Davis, Redskins: Has become this team's best fantasy option and a clear top-10 option at his position.

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons: The Bills thrive against opposing tight ends, not allowing one to score since Week 2. Just sayin'.

Happy and healthy holidays to everyone, and best of luck in Week 16!