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Dallas In Wonderland

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice falls asleep and enters a world she could have never imagined. A nightmare of sorts with a variety of characters including twin midgets “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” her terrible tour guide “the White Rabbit,” the wacky “Mad Hatter,” and a variety of unforgettable characters. While you think this may be a stretch, the 2010 Dallas Cowboys’ season can be compared to this famous fantasy novel.

 Wade Phillips does slightly resemble the White Rabbit and has led “Dallas” through a spiraling downward path to nowhere. Like the White Rabbit, Phillips has had the best of intentions, but has led “Dallas” to frustration, confusion, and a nightmarish 1-7 start.  

The “Mad Hatter” is played by owner Jerry Jones whose thoughtful intentions may be considered slightly crazy in theory. Instead of sitting at an endless tea party like the Mad Hatter, Jones sits inside his luxury suite deciding which personnel move to make next, which has led the team to a disappointing one playoff win since 1996. After her adventure in Wonderland becomes more haywire and even dangerous, a running Alice wakes up from her dream as if nothing happened. Will Dallas wake up from this nightmare as Alice did in her dream?

Whether or not you find any parallel between the famous novel and the Dallas Cowboys, the team is on pace for one of the worst NFL seasons in the history of the franchise. With their pool of talent and hopeful second half return of Tony Romo, the team should be able to finish better than their 1989 mark of 1-15. Nevertheless, Dallas has become gradually worse as of late, especially with last weekend’s dreadful 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Earlier this week, the Mad Hatter fired the White Rabbit and replaced him with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett as the interim coach. Unless the new chief in town can turn this Dallas posse in the right direction, he may also be filing for unemployment at season’s end. Despite failing miserably to meet this year’s lofty expectations, the team is far from the worst, statistically speaking. “America’s Team” ranks 10th in total offense and fourth in total passing.   However, the highly touted trio of talented backs, Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, have become completely ineffective and are ranked 31st in the league with only two rushing touchdowns.

Flip the calendar back to 2009 and you will see that Dallas ended the year ranked seventh in rushing with more than 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. Whether the finger should be pointed at Garrett’s playcalling, the poor offensive line or their running backs, Dallas’ offensive woes can be credited to the inefficiencies of the rush. Although you may be considering sending any of the Dallas running backs that you drafted to “dumpsville,” a few players still have fantasy potential as Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant have been decent producers this season. Hopefully your team is not also 1-7 right now because you are more than likely out of playoff contention. Here are some players to keep your eye on in Week 10 to help you grab a win.

Eli Manning
– After a slow start, the New York Giants appear to be the NFC East’s powerhouse. Their quarterback has quietly posted some “giant” stats in the last four games, throwing for 12 touchdowns. The Giants’ line has improved his protection, which is one reason for Manning’s recent success. Although he still struggles with accuracy, Manning is posting higher fantasy stats than many other quarterbacks lately, including “big brother.”

Manning’s week 10 opponent is the lowly Dallas Cowboys, who have been absolutely manhandled by opposing quarterbacks. In their last duel, Manning threw four touchdowns and more than 300 yards in a shootout. With Kitna leading the Cowboys’ Romo-less offense, I expect New York to win this game early on. Dallas’ secondary has given up at least three touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks (David Garrard, Manning, Aaron Rodgers) over the last three games and has allowed the second-most passing touchdowns in the league. With the current top three fantasy scoring quarterbacks on a bye this week (Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers), you may need to stream or make a quick trade for a replacement quarterback this week.

Manning is likely unavailable in most deep leagues, but may be available in shallower leagues and will be a top play this week.   The younger Manning brother will continue his success against a frustrated Dallas defense with another game of more than 300 passing yards and three touchdowns.

Fred Jackson
– The veteran running back has disappointed this season despite now owning Buffalo’s starting job with Marshawn Lynch‘s departure. Last season, the Bills’ back galloped for more than 1,000 rushing yards and more than 300 receiving yards. One reason for his struggles is the blossoming of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Buffalo’s success through the air.

Although Jackson will not match last year’s numbers, do not give up on him yet, especially since he has battled several strong run defenses recently including the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets. Jackson will receive a break this week against the Detroit Lions’ 24th ranked rush defense that has allowed 4.7 yards per rush. With Roscoe Parrish recently placed on injured reserve, C.J. Spiller will now handle punt return duties and will likely see even fewer carries.

Since Detroit allows the second-most points to opposing running backs, Jackson will receive the bulk of carries and will earn 100 total yards and a touchdown. This will make Jackson an attractive RB2 or flex play.

Bernard Berrian
– Sometimes in fantasy football, a player simply needs to be the only healthy option to have success. Berrian has been unable to create any consistent chemistry with Brett Favre, which has taken him from a second or third fantasy wideout to only ownable in the deepest of leagues.

With Percy Harvin hobbling on a sore ankle, Randy Moss out of the picture and Sidney Rice still rehabilitating, Favre has limited options to target. Although Berrian’s stat line of nine catches and 89 yards last weekend may not be considered a breakthrough considering Favre threw for 446 passing yards, it was by far his best game of the season. In Week 10, Berrian will be targeted again as he battles against his former squad, the Chicago Bears.

Chicago’s third-ranked rush defense should slow down Adrian Peterson, which means Favre will be firing his cannon all over Solder Field (get your mind out of the gutter). In four games against the Bears since 2008, Berrian has averaged a respectable 83 yards and caught two touchdowns. With two passing performances for more than 300 yards last season, Favre will be airing it out again with Berrian serving as a key deep threat.

Although it is tough to recommend the disappointing Vikings’ receiver this season, I will go out on a limb and forecast 90 receiving yards and a score in this NFC North showdown.

Brandon Pettigrew
– Between Weeks 2 to 6, Pettigrew tallied an average of 66 yards per game, but could only find paydirt once. Lately, Pettigrew is not reeling in the yards, but has scored in back-to-back games. He will be a must-start this week as he plays against the NFL’s worst defense against tight ends, the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo has given up the most fantasy points to the position than any other team and has allowed opposing tight ends to score twice in the same game three times already this season. Last weekend, even Chicago’s Greg Olsen was able to find the end zone. Although I recommend subbing in Pettigrew for any tight ends on bye (Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Zach Miller), monitor Detroit’s quarterback situation as Matthew Stafford hurt his shoulder last weekend and may be done for the season. Although Shaun Hill may be the favorable replacement over Drew Stanton, Pettigrew should be fine with either option and will own the Bills’ secondary for roughly 60 yards and a touchdown.

– The key reason for avoiding a defense early in the draft is their unpredictability. Although the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers were often ranked as favorites before the season, they are no longer in the top tier. Generally speaking, teams with poor offenses that turn the ball over frequently rarely have highly ranked defenses. The more time on the field and the increased opportunities for the opponent to score can be defeating for even very talented defenses. Arizona’s defense has been a solid option this season in fantasy. If you don’t believe me, then check for yourself. You may find this shocking since they allow more than 28 points per game and rank near the worst in total yards allowed. However, their “fantasy” value has excelled due to scoring five touchdowns this season. It is very difficult to trust a defense that is on the field so long but lucky and aggressive enough to earn a few scores. However, Arizona may be worthy a stream this week against a dormant Seattle offense that plays even worse on the road. With only one road win this season and Matt Hasselbeck’s inconsistency away from Quest field, the Arizona defense is a solid pickup with a chance for another touchdown.

Don’t forget to set those lineups for Thursday’s game. Happy Veterans Day and good luck this weekend!

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