Quick story before we get into this week's picks
When I was a young boy, growing up on the rough streets of Syracuse, N.Y., I was offered up as a volunteer for myriad charity events by my parents. Leukemia Society, Coaches vs. Cancer, Ernie Davis Foundation if there was a charity, I was volunteered for it. And it ended up being a lot of fun -- I went home feeling good about helping out, and I usually got to meet Qadry Ismail or Paul Pasqualoni. Because I like to keep that good feeling alive, and since ESPN legal frowns on me giving away R-rated movies as ways of paying up on open Ashley Lelie challenges, I am going to do this:
In honor of Jimmy V. Week, for every Hail Mary choice in which I am "off," I will donate $5 to the foundation. The off-ness of a call will be determined by one of my esteemed colleagues here, and I'll donate it all in the name of Ashley Lelie. If any readers want to do the same, please feel free.
So, without further ado, this week's Hail Mary:
• Peyton Manning, QB, Colts
• Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts
The missing link in this ridiculous "name game" we've been playing all season long (Chris Henry and Chris Henry; Adrian Peterson and Adrian Peterson; Jay Feely and A.J. Feeley), Anthony Gonzalez has seen his fantasy value rise sharply in the absence of Marvin Harrison, serving as the No. 2 receiver for the high-powered Colts offense. He is owned in just 14.5 percent of leagues, and should be at least up in the 40s or 50s, considering: (1) he has Peyton Manning throwing to him; (2) secondaries will be focused on Reggie Wayne; and (3) according to our good friends Hector and Victor, "The Jaguars have been getting torched via the pass, allowing 285.2 yards per game through the air in their past five contests."
Yes, it is Week 13, and yes, the playoffs are near, but Gonzalez would be a strong addition to any team at any time in this situation, regardless of where we are in the season.
• Samkon Gado, RB, Dolphins
Our old friend, Samkon Gado, re-enters our consciousness in one of the stranger returns to fantasy value in recent history. Miami has cycled through Ronnie Brown, Jesse Chatman and Ricky Williams so far this season. They are left with Patrick Cobbs, Lorenzo Booker and Gado, who was actually released by the Dolphins just four days ago, then quickly re-signed after Ricky's season-ending injury. The smart money here is on Gado, because Cobbs is valued for his special teams skill, and Booker has been toeing that "active/inactive" line all season long. Gado has had success in the past, with three 100-plus-yard games in 2005, and flashes of pass-catching ability in 2006. He may not run wild for a ton of yards in Week 13, but he may be the only healthy -- and, therefore, the feature -- back, and should be good for 40 or 50 yards, at the very least.
• Reggie Williams, WR, Jaguars
Why are we telling you to go get a guy who has a total of four catches in the past three games? Because he also has two touchdowns in the past three games. And three touchdowns in the past four.
Williams has been an absolute bust in his NFL career, but he seems to have a knack for finding the end zone lately for his fantasy owners. Over the past two games, Williams had a total of three catches, but has managed a whopping 23 fantasy points. If you want to go back to that third game (which I was blatantly leaving out to make the numbers look better), he has four catches for a total of 24 points. That's still eight points per game. And four games back? Williams blew up in Week 9 to the tune of six catches for 128 yards and 18 points. Care to be awed by another point average? He has 10.5 points per game over his past four games. All he has to do is catch one long touchdown pass -- which he has done frequently these past few weeks -- and it's a fantasy diamond in the rough for owners looking to throw caution to the wind and gamble on a violently unpredictable WR.
• Cecil Sapp, RB, Broncos
Sapp was a deep sleeper pick at the start of the season, then found himself buried on the Denver depth chart, and quickly jettisoned from fantasy rosters. This is, of course, no longer the case, with injuries and looming suspensions hanging over the heads of the rest of his backfield mates. Oakland has given up the most rushing TDs (18) and rushing yards (154 per game) in the NFL, while Denver is notorious for its "put anyone back there and he'll get 100 yards per game" running back philosophy; this is, of course, a recipe for fantasy fun. Unless you own the Raiders' defense.
Even if Sapp doesn't get the start, he stands to gain some serious yardage, whether it be through providing fresh legs, entering the game as an injury replacement, or getting the random start. And if it ends up being a bit of a blowout, Sapp could stand to gain his yards -- and remember, this is a worst-case scenario -- in garbage time.
Detroit has given up 22 touchdowns through the air this season, good for third-worst in the NFL. Minnesota, meanwhile, has given up 283 passing yards per game, good for dead last in the league. This Minnesota-Detroit matchup has all the pieces in place for an old-fashioned shootout, with inflated passing numbers and a bevy of names in the box score that even the most die-hard fan won't recognize. So here's why we're calling these four out:
1. Mike Furrey: He's been eerily quiet all season, and got goose-egged in Week 12 against Green Bay. With Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson probably getting the most attention from the secondary, Furrey could find himself open more often than not against the weak Minnesota pass defense.
2. Sean McHugh: McHugh is owned by 0.0 percent of owners in ESPN leagues, and for good reason: he's not very good, fantasy-wise. But he's still the No. 1 tight end in Detroit, he had 27 yards off three catches when the two teams tangled in Week 2, and, well, Minnesota gives up 283 passing yards per game. It's time for McHugh to shine.
3. Just so we're clear, I did not include Sean McHugh in order to be sure I'd be donating money to the Jimmy V Foundation.
4. Tarvaris Jackson: Not only has Detroit given up 22 passing touchdowns, they also are the second-worst pass defense in the NFL, allowing 269 passing yards per game. If Tavaris is going to forget about the four interceptions he threw the first time he faced the Lions, and build on the momentum from the Giants game (where he ably played the role of "the QB who wasn't Eli Manning"), this would be the week to do it.
5. Visanthe Shiancoe: Two weeks removed from a 94-yard performance (granted, 79 of those yards came from Sidney Rice on a trick play), Shiancoe has been dangerously close to a breakout season, but has been thrown to erratically, and isn't exactly Jackson's favorite target. Still, in those short-yardage situations, he'll have no better chance of scoring than against Detroit.
Fun kicker fact of the week
Adam Vinatieri's great-great grandfather, Felix Vinatieri, was an Italian immigrant who served under General Custer. You can find this, and other great trivia, on Adam's IMDB page.
Fun Adam Vinatieri IMDB page fact of the week
Adam Vinatieri has more listings on his IMDB page over the past five years than Chris Tucker.
Ashley Lelie corner of fantasy incompetence
Week 12: Ashley Lelie battled through injury to catch zero passes for zero yards.
Fun Ways to Use Google, Just to Get Some Kind of Numbers Next to Ashley Lelie's Name
14,900: Googling "Ashely Lelie" and "Adam Vinatieri"
1: Googling "Ashley Lelie" and "George Custer"
0: Googling "Ashley Lelie" and "Jade Scipioni" (former St. John's basketball player)
277: Googling "Ashley Lelie" and "heroic"
282: Googling "Ashely Lelie" and "fart"
Nando Di Fino is a fantasy baseball and football analyst for ESPN.com.