Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fantasy Football Week 12: Chargers Jackson Back Just in Time

By Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Better late than never.

That's the sentiment of the San Diego Chargers as they welcome back All-Pro wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who missed the first 10 games of the season. And the timing couldn't be better.
Even though the Chargers have the NFL's top-ranked passing offense, they've had to deal with a multitude of injuries in their receiving corps, which makes what quarterback Philip Rivers has accomplished even more impressive.

Rivers began the season without his top receiver in Jackson because of a contract dispute, All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates has missed time because of a torn plantar fascia, and San Diego has gone through a series of backup receivers getting hurt and sitting out. Yet Rivers led the NFL in yardage and touchdown passes through Week 11.

Because Patrick Crayton suffered a wrist injury Monday night, the timing of Jackson's return was perfect. Jackson might be a little rusty from his layoff, but all indications from practice this week suggest he's in top shape and will be counted on to make big plays against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

The Chargers are a great offensive team without the 6-foot-5-inch Jackson, who led the NFL the past two seasons with an average of more than 17 yards per catch. But he makes them even more dangerous.

Wise fantasy owners who recently picked up Jackson might be wary of starting him his first time out, perhaps choosing to see what his role will be after such a long layoff. But it will be painful watching him do what he does best -- making big plays -- while he's on your bench.
Because of the Chargers' desperation for receivers, their tradition of great performances in the second half of the season and a key game against the 20th-ranked defense of the Colts, Jackson is a must start this week.

Another Pro Bowl wide receiver in a similar situation is Minnesota's Sidney Rice, who made his season debut in Week 11. Fantasy owners should have been cautious with Rice in Week 11 because he was questionable coming back from a hip injury.

But after Rice had three catches and a team-leading 56 yards on a team-best 10 targets against the Green Bay Packers, it's safe to start Brett Favre's favorite receiver and expect big numbers against the Washington Redskins.

With Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young out for the remainder of the season and Kerry Collins still nursing a strained calf for at least one more week, owners of key Titans offensive players should be worried as their fate will be in the hands of rookie Rusty Smith.

Because of the uncertainty of what Smith will bring, wide receivers Nate Washington and Randy Moss should be played only as a last resort.

For those patient owners who have kept New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs on their benches, the move has paid off as Giants coach Tom Coughlin made Jacobs the starting back after Ahmad Bradshaw's six fumbles this season.

Jacobs has been somewhat productive this season, with five touchdowns in limited play but now should be ready to rumble for big yardage the remainder of the season.

The Giants' passing game took an injury-related blow for the second consecutive week when it lost leading receiver Hakeem Nicks for up to three weeks. This comes one week after the Giants lost their other starting wideout, Steve Smith.

Mario Manningham becomes the featured guy, making him a must pickup and start for New York's Week 12 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Because of the injuries, Derek Hagan also becomes a starter and a viable option if you're desperate for receivers.

A player to pick up and tuck away on the bench is quarterback Tony Romo. His return has no definitive timetable, but with the Dallas Cowboys looking for a respectable finish to a dreadful season, their final games are meaningful. Romo might be a player who could produce big numbers late in the fantasy playoffs. It's a gamble worth taking.

■ NOTES -- Anyone notice what Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe has been doing lately? He's scored a touchdown in six straight games with 10 overall during that span. ... The Carolina Panthers' Mike Goodson has rushed for more than 100 yards in two straight games and is available in many leagues. ... With Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis back on injured reserve, Keiland Williams doesn't have to share carries with anyone.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director who covers all sports for multiple publications. He can be reached at

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