ADAM DUERSONMATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Harrington spentfour woeful seasons in Detroit, and his ex-teammates apparently can't wait tobatter him for old times' sake. Will he have the last laugh, or will hisreplacement add insult to injury?
The QB of LionsPast has found new life in Miami, beating two top pass D's--the Bears' and theChiefs'. He also has a 400-yard game and seems to have cured his fumblingproblem, though he has thrown 10 interceptions. The concern for Harringtonowners here is that coach Nick Saban will keep the ball on the ground against adefense that allows 125.5 rushing yards per game.
The QB of LionsPresent would be dangerous if he had better blocking. Instead he has 12interceptions and six fumbles. He faces the league's sixth-ranked pass defense,though it may be without injured tackle Keith Traylor. That may not seem socritical since Traylor is a run-stuffer, but he has been key to freeing upMiami's linebackers and has a career-high four sacks.
THE VERDICTKitna's big days have come mostly in the sort of shootout game that theDolphins' defense is unlikely to allow. Harrington, meanwhile, faces atoothless D that ranks 29th in interceptions and 26th in sacks. He'll have moretime to work and will make the most of his opportunities.
JEFFRI CHADIHATHE INSIDE MAN
Best for Last
A mobilequarterback and a ground-oriented attack point to a big stretch run for FredTaylor
THOSE OWNERS whohave endured the inconsistency of Jaguars running back Fred Taylor shouldn'tgive up hope just yet. Now that David Garrard has replaced injured starterByron Leftwich at quarterback, Taylor has noticed that defenses have to playhim differently. Outside linebackers who would normally lurk closer to the lineof scrimmage and pounce on running plays now have to stay at home. If theydon't, Garrard has the quickness to dash around them on bootlegs. "Theycan't just cheat the play and run to the ball now," says Taylor, who hadrushed for 696 yards and three touchdowns entering Monday night's game."Just that little dimension opens up creases in the defense that make ourrunning game more potent."
Offensivecoordinator Carl Smith also is more likely to favor a running attack goingforward because Jacksonville's young receivers have had a hard time holding onto the ball. The downside for Taylor owners is that this might also providemore opportunities for shifty rookie running back Maurice Jones-Drew, whousually gets about eight carries a game (and the bulk of the goal line work).But that shouldn't be a huge concern. There'll be more than enough touches forTaylor and more satisfaction for the owners who have been waiting for him toproduce consistently.
BROWNOUT? Thehealth of Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow bears watching as the season windsdown. Although he's enjoying a breakout year--with 60 catches for 597 yards andthree touchdowns--Winslow has been nagged by constant pain in his surgicallyrepaired left knee, according to a league source. In fact, Winslow has admittedthat he may need arthroscopic surgery after this season to remove scar tissue.So even though he's a tough player who's one of the two biggest threats in alimited offense, there's a chance he could fade down the stretch.
NOT SO FAST WhileShaun Alexander was sidelined with a broken left foot, backup Maurice Morrisdid a solid job of sparking the Seahawks' running game. (He had back-to-back100-yard games before Alexander returned to rush for 37 yards against the 49erson Sunday.) Owners shouldn't be too quick to toss Morris back on the waiverwire, however. He's still valuable insurance in the event that Alexandersuffers another injury, and he has played well enough to warrant more carries,even if Alexander is 100% healthy. Morris is a more reliable receiver and passblocker than Alexander, and Seattle coach Mike Holmgren appreciates how thoseskills help the Seahawks' offense. "When we have Maurice in the game, Idon't have as many restrictions on calling plays as when Shaun is inthere," Holmgren says.
NOT EASY BEINGGREEN Trent Green isn't returning as the Chiefs' quarterback at a particularlygood time for his owners. Damon Huard played well while Green was sidelined bya severe concussion suffered in the Chiefs' season-opening loss to the Bengals,but now that Green is back, the offense is badly banged up. Pro Bowl tight endTony Gonzalez is out with a sprained left shoulder, and injuries along theoffensive line (Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters has a sprained right MCL, and righttackle Kevin Samson has a foot injury) have left Kansas City shuffling playersto shore up its pass protection. It's worth waiting another week to see howGreen fares, especially after his 102-yard, no-TD outing in a narrow win overthe Raiders on Sunday.
PETER KING ITHINK ...
... it's time toassess the tight end market heading into the playoffs
THIS HAS beensuch a disappointing year for tight ends that those of you who expected bigthings from Antonio Gates and Jeremy Shockey (a combined 8.0 catches per game)are probably tearing your hair out. Supposed second-tier studs Randy McMichaeland Benjamin Watson have combined for two TD receptions in 20 games. Would-besleeper Alex Smith of the Bucs? Still fast asleep: 22 catches, littleimpact.
These are my fivebest tight end pickups down the stretch (knowing that at least some of them maynot be available in your league):
1) Owen Daniels,Texans. Savvy owners were on to this rookie by Week 6. He formed a quick bondwith David Carr in training camp, and he caught five TD passes in the firsthalf of the season. As long as Jeb Putzier and Mark Bruener are on the roster,he won't play every down, but he has soft hands and should continue toscore.
2) Chris Baker,Jets. Chad Pennington isn't a great downfield thrower, which makes Baker--a bigtarget (6'3", 258 pounds) with good hands--a valuable commodity. In theJets' 20--13 loss at Cleveland in Week 8, Pennington looked for Baker on thefinal drive, which shows he's a trusted target.
3) Dan Campbell,Lions. Mike Martz, Detroit's offensive coordinator, isn't going to make a tightend a Hall of Famer, but he will tell his quarterback--in this case JonKitna--to go through his progression and hit the open man. After Roy Williamsand Mike Furrey, that man is Campbell, who blocks well and gets open.
4) Ben Utecht,Colts. Some weeks Utecht will catch two balls for 16 yards. Every so often it'ssix for 60-something. With Brandon Stokley hampered by a knee injury and DallasClark getting split out more than ever, Utecht is going to see some action.
5) Reggie Kelly,Bengals. Carson Palmer is going to find Kelly two or three times a week,particularly when Cincinnati is filling the air with 40 to 45 attempts agame--which it has to do because its defense is playing so poorly.
DAVID SABINOMARKET WATCH
Jason Campbell QBREDSKINS The second-year man threw two TD passes in his debut despite theabsence of WR Santana Moss.
Ronald Curry WRRAIDERS Self-nicknamed 7-Eleven was open all day against the Chiefs, catchingfive passes for 85 yards.
Justin Fargas RBRAIDERS With LaMont Jordan out for the year, Fargas (52 yards, no TDs onSunday) will shoulder the tailback load.
Jeff Garcia QBEAGLES The 36-year-old steps in for Donovan McNabb (out for the season with atorn ACL) and gets a chance to prove he's still worthy of a starting job in theNFL.
Leon WashingtonRB JETS He has gained just 108 yards on 37 attempts over his last three gameswhile losing carries to Cedric Houston.
Greg Jennings WRPACKERS He caught only one pass against the Patriots and has no touchdownssince Oct. 8.
T.J. Duckett RBREDSKINS With Clinton Portis on IR, Duckett failed to produce as Washington'sgoal line back.
Doug Gabriel WRPATRIOTS Against the Packers, Tom Brady completed passes to eightreceivers--but none to the former Raider.
Read Peter King's 10 Fantasy Things I Think I Thinkand analysis from David Sabino at SI.com/fantasy.
JOHN BIEVER (HARRINGTON)
BILL FRAKES (KITNA)
VINTAGE Taylor, 30, is on pace for 1,237 rushing yards, his most since 2003.
HOWARD SCHATZ (CHADIHA)
JOHN RIEGER/US PRESSWIRE (GREEN)
EASY DOES IT Green threw only 16 passes in his return.
EVAN PINKUS/WIREIMAGE.COM (BAKER)
JOE ROBBINS/GETTY IMAGES (CAMPBELL)
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (GABRIEL)