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A Chilly Night In Minnesota

Brad Childress will now be spending his Thanksgiving similar to the rest of us. “Chilly” will be watching football and eating turkey as he was relieved of his coaching duties this week. After the Minnesota Vikings missed the Super Bowl by one play in last year’s NFC championship, Minnesota’s 2010 season has been a tumultuous, 180-degree turn for the worse riddled with injuries, Randy Moss drama, inconsistent performances from Brett Favre and turmoil in the locker room. It is difficult to feel much empathy for Childress, who has been criticized for his lack of self deprecation or sincerity in interviews and will still receive $6.6 million over the next two years. Nevertheless, the finger cannot be pointed solely at Childress for the team’s offensive and defensive declines this season. Best of luck to Minnesota and interim coach Leslie Frazier as they battle the Washington Redskins this weekend, who have experienced their own uproars recently. 

To all of our surprise, there is news in the NFL this week that does not involve the Minnesota Vikings. Vince Young had another meltdown as he left Tennessee’s game early due to a thumb injury, but was withheld from returning by coach Jeff Fisher. Young has now been placed on Injured Reserve, which ends his season. If you drafted Vincent Jackson and still have him, then you are a very patient fantasy manager. Although it sounds like “V-Jax” should pick up where he left off last season, it has been amazing watching Philip Rivers lead all quarterbacks with yards and touchdowns without his top receiver and with a hobbled Antonio Gates. If Jackson was forgotten for some reason and remains on your waiver wire, literally put down your Thanksgiving grocery list or stop whatever you are doing and pick him up now.  

Shaun Hill – Although it has been yet another season of disappointment in the “Motor City,” the Lions have shown improvement both offensively and defensively. If you are only looking at their 2-8 record, it looks like just another losing season in Detroit. However, the Lions have only allowed three more points than they have scored this season. In comparison to last season, Detroit was outscored by 232 points. With Matthew Stafford plagued by injury again, backup quarterback Hill has continued to step up and give Detroit a realistic shot at winning each week. Hill’s accuracy has improved recently as he has seven touchdowns and two interceptions in his last four starts or appearances.

Although I do not believe Detroit will upset New England, you certainly can anticipate another rich performance from their quarterback. Even though the New England Patriots are considered one of the NFL’s top contenders, their secondary has struggled mightily by surrendering the second-most passing yards, including the most completions and highest completion percentage in the league. In the last two games, New England has allowed seven passing touchdowns and an average of 391 passing yards. Start Hill with confidence as I predict 350 passing yards and two touchdowns, which will bring a smile to your turkey-stuffed face on Thanksgiving. 

Mike Tolbert – The San Diego Chargers’ running back was uncharted in the fantasy football world until this season. Although he has shared carries when starting running back Ryan Mathews is healthy, and overcame a rough stint in mid-October, Tolbert’s stock is selling at an all-time high as the Bolts’ back rumbled for 111 yards against the Denver Broncos on Monday night and has averaged more than four yards per carry over the last three games.

With Mathews’ status uncertain for this weekend, Tolbert will be facing the weak rush defense of the Indianapolis Colts. If Mathews is sidelined, then Tolbert should bulldoze the Colts’ 30th ranked rush defense, who allow five yards per carry. Tolbert will scamper over Indianapolis for 100 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Derek Hagan – Please do not feel that I am attempting to steal the thunder of the “Waiver Wire Wonders” article on Fantasy Sharks, but I must list Hagan in the “Dive.” Hagan’s star has not shined very bright in the NFL thus far. In fact, he was actually watching NFL games on Sundays from his couch a few weeks ago as he was cut by the team earlier in the season. With the injury to Hakeem Nicks, Hagan will be lining up opposite Mario Manningham, who also was recently promoted to starter, and will be catching passes from Eli Manning while battling to recapture first place in the NFC East. Although Philadelphia bullied Manning and the Giants receiving corps on Sunday night, Hagan was able to catch three passes off of nine targets including a touchdown.

With the midweek additions of Michael Clayton and Kevin Curtis, Hagan’s workload is still a question mark making him a risky start, but still a name to consider in a deep league. New York’s passing game will recover this week against the fifth-worst pass defense, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars’ lousy secondary has given up 20 passing touchdowns and allowed 11 plays for more than 40 yards (second worst to Houston’s 13). I foresee Hagan having a solid breakout performance with 60 receiving yards and a touchdown.  

Joel Dreessen – If you were looking to fill in your tight end slot last weekend, hopefully you chose Dreessen. Nicknamed “Salad” Dreessen (yes, seriously), he has replaced the injured Owen Daniels in several games this season. Although Dreessen is not generating “2009 Daniels’ pre-injury” stats, he has been a decent fill-in. After a critical fumble leading to Houston losing to Jacksonville in Week 10, Dreessen redeemed himself with 106 receiving yards and a touchdown. However, some of last weekend’s success may be attributed to Andre Johnson being stranded on (Darrelle) Revis Island.

Dreessen may be in for another productive week against the Tennessee Titans, who allowed 135 yards to the Washington Redskins’ Chris Cooley and Fred Davis last Sunday and rank second-worst in yards allowed to tight ends. If Daniels is unable to start, look for Dreessen to catch 90 yards, but no touchdowns.

Cleveland Browns Defense – I hate to be a bully, but I am going to pick on the lowly Carolina Panthers again this weekend. Although their third-string running back Mike Goodson has been a surprisingly productive fill-in for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Carolina has given up more points to opposing defenses than any other team. In fact, defenses have recorded a touchdown in three of the last five games. The Cleveland Browns played exceptionally well in a losing effort to Jacksonville last Sunday with four sacks, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a score. Cleveland’s defense should make a decent spot start against Carolina and record at least 10 fantasy points. 

Last week’s picks –

QB – Mark Sanchez

– Week 11 stats: 315 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
– My Prediction: 250 yards, 2 TD (Nailed this one. Sanchez was even better than predicted!)

RB – Felix Jones

– Week 11 stats: 86 total yards
– My Prediction: 100 total yards and a TD (overshot slightly, but Jones left the game briefly with an injury)

WR – Mario Manningham

– Week 11 stats: 24 yards
– My Prediction: 90 yards and a TD (missed this one due to Eli Manning’s terrible game, but play Manningham this week!)

TE – Jermaine Gresham

– Week 11 stats: 33 yards
– My Prediction: 60 yards and a TD (missed this one)

DEF – Baltimore Ravens

– Week 11 stats: 13 points allowed, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 2 TD. 
– My Prediction: I called this one although it should have been a more obvious favorable matchup. It took Baltimore a while to get going, but they ended strong!

Good luck this week and have a Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful for all of your blessings, including fantasy football!

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