Key injuries could sideline your playoff aspirations

ON FANTASY SPORTS

The Kickoff

November 30, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER

After telling you all not to play Shaun "201 yards on Monday night" Alexander, I might deserve a week in the prognostication penalty box.

But this is probably the most important weekend of the fantasy season. I know I have a 7-5 team that's tied for the division lead and needs to win to keep playing. And I imagine many of your squads are in the same boat.

Unfortunately, this is the time of year when real injuries ruin your fantasy prospects. Tatum Bell, Kevin Jones, Ronnie Brown, Marques Colston and Hines Ward have all been vital fantasy contributors this season, but they're all sketchy options Sunday because of various injuries. As of now, Ward and Brown won't be available, Colston and Jones probably will play but with sore ankles, and it's difficult to know what to expect from Bell.

It's maddening stuff, friends.

I alluded last week to a growing quandary on my team. My rational mind has been nagging me to start a less glamorous Barber, Dallas' Marion, over Giants superstar Tiki. This feels like the wrong move, because Tiki Barber was my first-round pick back in September. But Marion has 11 touchdowns to Tiki's one, and I don't think I can run away from the obvious anymore. I have to bench the guy who was supposed to be my best player for the most important week of my season.

Crazy game.

Anyway, players I like for Week 13 include Michael Vick against the Redskins, Drew Brees against the 49ers, Rex Grossman against the Vikings, Brett Favre and Ahman Green against the Jets, Travis Henry against the Colts, DeAngelo Williams against the Eagles, Devery Henderson against the 49ers, Mark Clayton against the Bengals and the Patriots defense against Detroit.

I'll stop with the football now lest I further jinx myself or any of you.

We're deep enough into the NBA season that a few unexpected stars have emerged for fantasy owners. I had the great fortune of plucking Golden State's Andris Biedrins from the waiver wire in the first week, and the big Latvian has been a revelation. The scouting report on Biedrins always suggested he was tougher and more athletic than the average European player. And he seems to be a perfect fit as a mobile defender and scorer in Don Nelson's up-tempo offense. Biedrins is shooting 65.7 percent from the field and averaging 10 rebounds and almost three blocks per game, so if he's somehow still available in your league, snap him up.

His teammate, Monta Ellis, is another find. Ellis seemed like one of those "why is he in the draft?" high schoolers last year. But as it turns out, he's the rare young guard who can score in a variety of ways. And he's also averaging almost five assists per game.

Speaking of second-year guards, Deron Williams has been terrific for Utah, averaging nine assists per game and removing any doubts after his blah rookie season. Williams looks to be in better shape and has flashed a much-improved jumper. His potential remains a notch below Chris Paul's, because he's not super quick, but it's now easy to see Williams as an elite point guard for the next six to eight years.

Perhaps the most meteoric rise can be found in Sacramento, where unheralded shooting guard Kevin Martin is averaging 23.2 points per game, up from 10.8 last season. The third-year player from Western Carolina is shooting better than 50 percent from the field, better than 90 percent from the free-throw line and better than 40 percent from three-point range. That's Larry Bird stuff, though without the great rebounding and passing.

OK, let's complete the circuit with a little hot stove baseball talk.

The two biggest free agents to sign this offseason, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee, both stand to benefit from their new ballparks. Lee is moving to a home in Houston that favors right-handed power. And though Soriano had no trouble blasting balls out of RFK Stadium last season, Wrigley Field is much cozier and could mitigate the natural fall-off from his career power year.

Keep an eye on Randy Wolf in Los Angeles. If he's most of the way back from elbow surgery (and he should be), his numbers could look very nice at Dodger Stadium.

Finally, Boston fans are likely to scream about J.D. Drew's inability to handle pressure if the Red Sox sign him. But ignore the noise and realize that if Drew can play 140 games for the Red Sox in offense-friendly Fenway Park, he could easily bat over .300 with 25 homers and plenty of runs scored.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Check out player ratings for tonight's Bengals-Ravens game at baltimoresun.com/fantasy.

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