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DREW BREES hasbeen getting much MVP love recently, and deservedly so: He has thrown for 3,649yards while guiding the division-leading Saints to an 8--4 record. However,when he meets Dallas's stingy pass defense in a matchup loaded with fantasysignificance, Brees could be without two of his top receivers--Marques Colston,who has missed almost three entire games with a sprained ankle, and Joe Horn,who left Sunday's game with a groin injury. With Brees's wideouts ailing, themost intriguing player will be Reggie Bush. On Sunday the man with the movesmade for EA Sports had the kind of performance that many had been expecting allseason (168 total yards, four touchdowns). The rookie looks as if he's comingaround, just in time for the playoffs.
WHEN THISimportant week on the fantasy schedule arrives, many owners still alive willhave either Larry Johnson or LaDainian Tomlinson in their lineups, so there'sno bigger showdown than the Chiefs-Chargers game. Owners of fantasy's top twostuds may not get the usual production out of their workhorses, however.Tomlinson has rushed for 75.3 yards per game against K.C. in his career (hislowest average among teams he has faced at least four times) while Johnson hasrun for 68.8 against San Diego (his lowest mark among teams he has faced morethan once).
WILL PEYTON play?And if he does, how much? In a week in which most fantasy league championshipswill be on the line, the answers to those questions could determine who winsbragging rights for the next year. The Colts (10--2) may have home fieldadvantage throughout the AFC playoffs clinched by the time they face theTexans, and remember what happened last year: With the home field clinchedentering Week 16, Manning played only the first quarter in a 28--13 loss to theSeahawks, killing every fantasy team that had him in its starting lineup. IfManning plays against Houston, he's likely to have a statistical field day.(The Texans rank near the bottom of the league against the pass.) But startinghim could be the biggest gamble of the season.
GOING DEEP: THREE TO TAKE A FLIER ON
Saints AT Cowboys
With his offensiveweapons limited by injuries, coach Sean Payton can throw a curveball at his oldteam by calling Copper's number in a few key situations.
2. ARNAZ BATTLE
49ers VS Packers
Underestimated allseason as a fantasy contributor, Battle (18 receptions in his last four games)will have a field day against a horrible secondary.
Colts AT Jaguars
Starter DallasClark is out indefinitely with a knee injury, so Fletcher (14 catches, 158yards, two TDs) becomes a key player against the depleted Jags.
BY THE NUMBERS
Rushing touchdowns by the Seahawks' Shaun Alexander in nine career gamesagainst the Cardinals.
Rushing touchdown by the Eagles' Brian Westbrook in seven career games againstthe Redskins.
TD passes allowed to opposing quarterbacks over the last three games by theRaiders, who next face Carson Palmer and the Bengals.
Interceptions thrown by the Texans' David Carr in nine career games against theTitans.
Total receptions (for 41 yards and no TDs) by the Lions' Roy Williams in hislast three games against the Vikings.
Rushing yards per game for the Bills' Willis McGahee in five career gamesagainst the Jets, his highest average among opponents he has faced more thanonce.
FANTASY FORECAST: GAME-BY-GAME
Browns at Steelers
Bills at Jets
Colts at Jaguars
Eagles at Redskins
Falcons at Buccaneers
Giants at Panthers
Patriots at Dolphins
Raiders at Bengals
Ravens at Chiefs
Titans at Texans
Vikings at Lions
Broncos at Chargers
Packers at 49ers
Seahawks at Cardinals
Saints at Cowboys
Bears at Rams
GOING DEEP: THREETO TAKE A FLIER ON
1. DAVID KIRCUS
Broncos AT Cardinals
He has played onthe second team with Jay Cutler for most of the season, and thatfamiliarity--along with a soft Arizona pass rush--could result in some bigplays.
Titans VS Jaguars
The replacementfor the injured David Givens is becoming Vince Young's go-to guy in the clutch.He'll get open with safety Donovin Darius out for the year.
Colts VS Bengals
One of the NFL'stop slot receivers has missed most of the year with a sprained knee. PeytonManning will get him involved and primed for the playoffs.
BY THE NUMBERS
TD catches for the Chargers' Antonio Gates in five career games versus theChiefs, against whom he's had 33 catches for 401 yards.
Rushing TDs for the Cowboys' Marion Barber in the last three weeks. Barber'sWeek 15 foes, the Falcons, have allowed 12 TDs on the ground, tied foreighth-worst in the NFL.
Sacks by Dolphins DE Jason Taylor in 17 career games against the Bills. Rankedfourth with 38 sacks, the Miami D faces the NFL's fourth-most-sackedquarterback in J.P. Losman.
Touchdown catches of 20 or more yards for the Seahawks' Darrell Jackson, topsin the NFL. Jackson takes on the 49ers, who have allowed seven such longscores, tied for sixth-most in the league.
Rushing average for the Ravens' Jamal Lewis in 11 career games against theBrowns.
49ers at Seahawks
Cowboys at Falcons
Buccaneers at Bears
Browns at Ravens
Dolphins at Bills
Eagles at Giants
Jaguars at Titans
Jets at Vikings
Lions at Packers
Redskins at Saints
Steelers at Panthers
Texans at Patriots
Broncos at Cardinals
Chiefs at Chargers
Rams at Raiders
Bengals at Colts
GOING DEEP: THREE TO TAKE A FLIER ON
Dolphins VS Jets
The rookieshowcased his talents in a season-best six-catch, 66-yard game against New Yorkin Week 6. He'll get another chance on Christmas night.
Bears AT Lions
The NFC Northchamps can rest Thomas Jones and see what happens when Benson, their 2005first-round pick, gets a full complement of carries.
Ravens AT Steelers
The division willbe wrapped up and Baltimore will want to keep starter Jamal Lewis fresh for theplayoffs, especially against the seething Steelers.
BY THE NUMBERS
TD passes for the Packers' Brett Favre in 25 career games against the Vikings,the most he has thrown against any team.
Field goals allowed by the Redskins this season, the most in the league. That'sgood news for the Rams' Jeff Wilkins, who ranks second in scoring amongkickers.
Consecutive games against the Dolphins in which the Jets' Laveranues Coles hashad a TD catch. When the teams hooked up in Week 6, Coles had 106 receivingyards and two TDs.
Touchdown passes for the Colts' Peyton Manning in nine career games against theTexans. Fifteen of those scores have come in the last five meetings.
Rushing touchdowns allowed by the Cardinals' D in six road games this season.The 49ers' Frank Gore scored twice the last time the teams met, at Arizona inWeek 1.
Vikings at Packers
Chiefs at Raiders
Ravens at Steelers
Panthers at Falcons
Bears at Lions
Colts at Texans
Patriots at Jaguars
Saints at Giants
Buccaneers at Browns
Titans at Bills
Redskins at Rams
Cardinals at 49ers
Bengals at Broncos
Chargers at Seahawks
Eagles at Cowboys
Jets at Dolphins
Get the latest NFL news, plus ratings for all fantasyfootball positions, at SI.com/fantasy.
JIMMY DEFLIPPO/US PRESSWIRE (BUSH)
ED ZURGA/AP (JOHNSON)
AL TIELEMANS (MANNING)
LATE RISER Overshadowed by other receivers early in the year, Copper has come on to catch touchdown passes in three of his last four games.
GREG TROTT/WIREIMAGE.COM (KIRCUS)
KIRCUS CATCH? The third-year wideout has just 13 career receptions but a good rapport with Denver's new starting quarterback.
RICHARD C. LEWIS/WIREIMAGE.COM (HAGAN)
FRESH FISH The 6'2" Hagan, a third-rounder out of Arizona State, is a possession receiver with good size.
LOUIS LOPEZ/CAL SPORT MEDIA (GORE)