We’re in the final throes of the 2010 regular season, the glorious finale to what has been one of the more confusing and topsy-turvy in recent memory.
Changes to rules and their enforcement, multi-back systems, quarterback carousels and coaches on the hot seat are a few stories that have captured our attention.
Top Tight Ends
(Other than Jason Witten, Marcedes Lewis, Vernon Davis)
Owen Daniels vs. Jacksonville
Daniels did not practice Wednesday (knee), so we’ll need to monitor his progress as the weekend approaches. However, he stands as a top option this week if available. Daniels has caught a total of 17 passes for 209 yards in the past three weeks with a touchdown. Teammate Andre Johnson’s ankle may limit him (or keep him out altogether), thereby putting Daniels in line for a huge target count.
Should Daniels be forced out of this game, make the pickup of Joel Dreessen, who has filled in admirably for Daniels in the past.
Jacob Tamme vs. Tennessee
Tamme has played through myriad injuries in recent weeks while retaining a sizable role in the offense. He’s caught four or more passes in each of the past nine games. Tamme’s yardage totals leaves you wanting, as he’s averaged only 37.4 yards per game. However, his target count means everything, as the Colts rate third in scoring offense at 27.5 points per game.
Zach Miller at Kansas City
Miller is finally healthy, and his target count and output have returned to normal levels. He’s caught 17 passes in the past three weeks for 173 yards and a touchdown. Miller is on the board as a prime play against the 20th-ranked Kansas City pass defense (225.6 yards and 1.5 touchdowns allowed per game). Kansas City may sit a number of starters this week, while the Raiders are hungry to finish at .500 and sweep the division.
Kevin Boss at Washington
Boss was shut out last week and contributed to one of the turnovers against Green Bay. He’s on the board this week with Hakeem Nicks sidelined because of a toe injury. Boss has caught touchdown passes in five of the past eight games and remains one of Eli Manning’s most trusted targets in the red zone.
Tony Gonzalez vs. Carolina
Gonzalez remains a solid PPR option for fantasy owners, having caught multiple passes in every game this season (4.3 per game). Unfortunately, he’s averaged only 40.2 receiving yards per game with five touchdowns. One of those touchdown receptions came in Week 14 against these Panthers (four receptions for 28 yards). With a defense of the top seed and the division title on the line, I anticipate a strong effort from the Atlanta offense this weekend. The future Hall of Famer will be involved.
Jimmy Graham vs. Tampa Bay
Graham has emerged as a red zone beast for the Saints in the past two weeks (three touchdowns). He’s caught multiple passes in six of the past seven games while averaging 31.4 receiving yards. The Saints still have a shot at winning the NFC South, so look for the high-octane offense to rev it up at home against the Buccaneers. New Orleans scored 31 points in the first meeting.
Rob Gronkowski vs. Miami
Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez is still banged up, and the starting wideouts may be limited in their reps, if they play at all. Enter “Big” Rob Gronkowski and his red zone dominance. He’s caught multiple passes in only seven games this season, but his role expands here. Gronkowski caught three passes for 43 yards with a touchdown in the first meeting with the Bills.
Randy McMichael at Denver
McMichael has piled up nine receptions in the past three weeks, including a strong five-reception, 55-yard effort against the 49ers in Week 15. With Antonio Gates still sidelined (as is Malcom Floyd), McMichael retains a sizable role in the offense for the finale. Philip Rivers threw four touchdowns in the first meeting with the Broncos.
Kellen Winslow at New Orleans
Winslow has scored four touchdowns in his past four games and had one taken off the board following an errant pass interference call (the NFL’s apology rings hollow). He’s also caught multiple passes in all but one game this season, so he’s definitely a low-end TE1 start.
However, this is a tough spot. The Saints have surrendered only 11 passing touchdowns all season and have limited opposing passers to 191.3 yards per game. Start him for the high target count (seven receptions for 43 yards in the first meeting), but temper your expectations.
Chris Cooley vs. New York Giants
Cooley made a case for Rex Grossman as the 2011 starter in Washington. That should get him a bunch of pass targets this weekend in the finale and perhaps an opportunity to atone for his dropping a sure touchdown last week. Cooley is a strong option in PPR leagues, and his target count certainly rates a play in standard set-ups. However, he’s topped 60 receiving yards just six times this season and his red zone opportunities have been few (three touchdowns).
Ben Watson vs. Pittsburgh
Watson remains a top option for Colt McCoy, thereby keeping him in line for a potential TE1 slot this week. He caught six passes for 88 yards with a touchdown in the first meeting, a 28-10 loss on the road. Watson rolled his ankle in Week 16 against the Ravens and finished with three receptions for 22 yards. I’m not so much concerned about the ankle. I’m just anticipating heat on McCoy to force the ball out. So, while he may amass a decent reception total, I don’t anticipate sizable yardage output.