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Fantasy News: Week 15 Edition

FITZGERALD TO PLAY. 

In last week’s Monday night game between the 49ers and Cardinals fantasy owners were left shaken for a moment when Larry Fitzgerald left the field for a series.  They were left even more shaken to find out that is was right knee injury.  Well, according to the

Arizona Republic Fitzgerald’s injury has been officially ruled as a sprained MCL to go along with a bone contusion. 

“It was scary,” Fitzgerald said of the injury. “I felt the pop in there. Immediately when you feel that you just hope for the best.”

However, fantasy owners shouldn’t stress just yet as Fitzgerald himself insists that he should be a go for Sunday against Detroit. 

“We don’t like to talk about the injury stuff,” he said. “I’m just fortunate it wasn’t any worse than it is and I’ll be able to go out there and keep playing. … It’s only been two days, so by tomorrow and Friday I think I’ll be feeling real good.”

Fitzgerald has started 37 consecutive games, so head coach Ken Whisenhunt knows it’s going to be really tough to keep his star wideout off the field when it comes down to it, but at the same time the last thing the Cardinals need is for it swell up and force No. 11 to miss significant time with the playoffs right around the corner. 

“The big thing with Larry is you have to hold him back,” Whisenhunt said of Fitzgerald’s work in practice. “I think the most important thing is we don’t want to do too much with him that he is getting swelling or soreness later in the week.”

The good news for the Cardinals offense is that they can insert a playmaker like Steve Breaston as starter and still get good production from the receiver position, not at the level of a Fitzgerald, but possibly enough to smoke the Lions putrid defense.  In all his words of wisdom though, Mr. Whisenhunt wasn’t real clear on what would happen if his 2008-09 playoff superstar would be absent this week and down the road. 

“One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve had these guys play a number of different spots and that’s a product of moving Larry around,” Whisenhunt said. “They have all got training as the single receiver or the inside receiver or the outside receiver in all those spots.”

Stay updated to this red situation, and consider inserting Breaston in to your playoff lineup if Fitz can’t go this week, especially against a defense that has allowed a league high 29 touchdowns through the air this season. 

DO THE PACKERS HAVE TOO MUCH TALENT?

The Green Bay Packers are rolling right now.  Winners of their last five games, barring a colossal collapse they’re destined for the playoffs.  But is everything totally peachy inside the green and gold locker room? 

According to the

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel a changing of the guard on offense has occurred in the past four games when it comes who is being targeted by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Winner, winner chicken dinner — Jermichael Finley, who has been targeted a team high 31 times in the past month, and has caught 22 passes for 228 yards; both team highs as well.  What gives, and what do his fellow talented receiver mates feel about this sudden change? 

As Mike McCarthy and wideout Greg Jennings point out it has everything to do with match-ups. 

“…. Personnel-wise, you’re always looking for the matchups, and weather doesn’t really dictate that as much as the concepts, scheme,” McCarthy said. 

“To piggyback off what Mike is saying, you go at matchup situations where you feel like you have the best matchup,” Jennings said. “Of course, ‘J-Mike’ is going to present a huge matchup every time. That’s no question. I don’t know a safety in the league other than Nick Collins or someone like that who’s going to match up. He presents a huge matchup situation, but we feel we do as well. What it boils down to, whatever it takes to win, that’s what we’ll do.”

Wide receiver James Jones isn’t going to complain as long as they’re winning, but he does admit he would much rather be in more receiver sets. 

“We always feel like we have the best matchup when we’re all on the field,” Jones said. “But you have to roll with the punches. Coaches call the plays; all we can do is run them. Do we want to be in more-receiver sets? Yeah.  The ultimate goal is winning, and we’re winning, so we can’t do too much complaining.”

Yes, they’re winning, but the offense has been struggling inside the red-zone.  In the past four games Packers kicker Mason Crosby has attempted 10 field goals inside the 20, and 12 inside the 25.  Clearly, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and coach McCarthy have not done the best job of scoring touchdowns inside the red-zone, which all goes back to the play-calling in certain situations, which according to red-zone target stats has been suspect at best. 

After evaluating the game logs I discovered that tight end Jermichael Finley has been targeted a team high 14 times inside the 20 in the last four games.  Meanwhile, Greg Jennings (2), Donald Driver (5), Jordy Nelson (2), and James Jones (4) have combined for 13 red-zone targets during the same stretch. 

How can you justify targeting Greg Jennings just twice in four games in the most crucial spot on the field?

The sooner both coaches fix the current story the better chance they’ll have to have a happier ending to long drives once the playoff run ensues. 

For now, fantasy owners have to be leery of starting any green and gold wide receivers this fantasy playoff season, and it has little to do with talent, and sadly, much to do with play-calling. 

A DEION-DEON SIGHTING?

Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson was on pace to come up a half a yard short of 1000 in what was to be classified as a nice rebound season for the seven year veteran whose 2008 season was a mere one game after suffering a season-ending knee injury.  Now, according to

Seahawks.com Burleson is all but guaranteed to miss at least this week’s game against the Buccaneers, and head coach Jim Mora has to decide if his No. 2 receiver should be placed on IR or not to free up a roster spot. 

With Burleson out at least this week the Seahawks will turn to another veteran in Deion Branch to start this week, who wasn’t that thrilled upon hearing the news. 

“It’s good and bad,” Branch said after practice. “Nate, that’s my teammate and probably my best friend on the team. We’re always together. We’re always doing everything together. So to see my guy down, that’s tough.”

And the beat goes on…..

“Yeah, there’s more balls for me. But am I happy about it? No,” Branch said. “I’d rather have my guy on the field playing than for me to be receiving more catches because he’s hurt. It’s weird.”

The other factor that is important here is that another Deon (Butler) will be moving up the depth chart to the slot position, an important spot on the field, especially against a defense that will be focused on shutting down the Seahawks outside options. 

If you take a trip back to the preseason you will find that Butler was productive when given the opportunity to play significantly as he caught two touchdowns and averaged 15.8 yards per catch. 

Most significantly here, though is that with Burleson out more defensive emphasis will be put on stopping TJ Houshmandzadeh, who as it is has been struggling mightily as of late (see SIZZLING AND FIZZLING). 

Tack on a Buccaneers defense that has allowed a combined 16 receptions for 246 yards (61.5 per game), and one total touchdown to number one receivers named Colston, White (Roddy), Smith (Steve — CAR), and Edwards over the past four games and you have two possible sleeper candidates for Week 15 named Deion and Deon. 

HARVIN’S HEADACHES

As most know the brain is the most vital organ, and sometimes it can cause a whole lot of “headaches,” especially in the game of football, which is such the case in Minnesota when it comes to wide receiver Percy Harvin.  According to the

Minneapolis Star Tribune the rookie playmaker continues to suffer from migraine headaches, and it’s something that has caused Harvin to go through a variety of tests while missing a lot of practice time.

“You know I think [the doctors] attempt to allay their fears in terms of other things, worse things, by asking questions,” head coach Brad Childress said at his mid-week news conference. “But not being a doctor, they’ve got a whole set of kind of protocols that they are taking him through.

We’re attempting to look into and see if there are any common denominators,” Childress said of the tests Harvin is undergoing. “He’s been having them for a good period of time. It’s important for us to get some kind of baseline if we can, doctor-wise, and yet still know that [the migraines] are fairly unpredictable. We as coaches — you know, the controlling types — we would like to control those things but that’s something beyond my control.”

In his three games prior to the injury Harvin was starting to heat up and averaged almost six receptions, and 87 yards per to go along with a touchdown scored in each.  He’s an important piece to the Vikings offense, as he gives them another big playmaker who can both run and pass. 

The latest from the

Associated Press is that Harvin was back at practice on Friday, and hopes to play, but insists his headaches are still bothering him a lot, and knows finding a sure-fire cure may not come easy. 

“They’re real bad,” Harvin said. “It’s hard to explain them for somebody who doesn’t know them. It got real bad to the point where I had to shut it down. It’s good that I’ve come back around to be around my teammates.”

“There’s no magic cure. Different people will react to different medicines, so it’s just kind of seeing what I react to,” Harvin went on. “I’m willing to take any opinion from the doctors, and hopefully we can come up with something that’ll knock this thing out.”

I can’t imagine he’ll make a major impact in the stat column come Sunday, but his presence may help shield defenders from ganging up on Adrian Peterson, and the other weapons within the Vikings offense. 

FOSTER FOSTER. 

Finally, the time has come for Arian Foster to showcase his skills.  That’s right, according to the

Associated Press, because of Steve Slaton being placed on injured reserve, the Texans are looking for a runner who can step up and kick-start their miserable 29th ranked rushing attack.  That runner could be the rookie undrafted free agent, who has spent much of his 2009 season on the practice squad, but could be in line for an increase in touches this week against the Rams. 

“He’s getting an opportunity because of the misfortune of Steve being out and us searching for some back to step up and take it upon his shoulders,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “So we’ll see how he does. He better protect [quarterback Matt Schaub] if he’s going to play.  He’s a. … Little inconsistent, but he’s got a lot of talent and he’s getting an opportunity here and he needs to understand how important this opportunity he is getting is.”

While Kubiak does plan on using Moats and Brown as well, if the Texans go up big on the dismal Rams early Foster will get a lot of carries late in the game, making him a tempting start against a Rams defense that is giving up 147.2 yards per game and has surrendered 19 touchdowns on the ground.

ALL QUIET ON THE BOWE FRONT

He’s back.  And he couldn’t have come back at a better time, especially with Matt Cassel’s latest struggles.  However, as pointed out by the

Kansas City Star everyone thus far has been hush hush about the role Bowe will play come Sunday against the Browns.  Todd Haley has been impressed with Bowe in practice, and the way he’s kept himself in shape the last four weeks, contrary to when he showed up for camp 30 pounds over his target weight. 

“Dwayne looked like he did a good job while he was away keeping himself in condition,” Haley said. “Really would have liked to have seen where he would have been had he been here the last four weeks because he was making so much progress leading up to the suspension.  It was really important that Dwayne worked real hard while he was away. That sometimes is hard to do when you’re on your own and you’re not able to practice football.  But Dwayne was a breath of fresh air out there.”

But what about his role coach?

“He made it through yesterday and I think he’s done a good job of keeping himself in shape while he was away,” Haley said. “Just as important he’s picking up a handful of new stuff that we’ve evolved into since the suspension. I’m encouraged by where he’s at after two days.”

What do you think Mr. Cassel?

”You know, I don’t know, that’s probably coach’s decision right now,” Cassel said when asked about Bowe’s role. “I think he’s still trying to get caught up to speed, we’re doing a lot of different things now from when he left, so it’ll just kind of be up to the coaches to see how far he progresses throughout the week.“

Come on, who are they trying to kid?  Matt Cassel has thrown seven interceptions in the last three games, and the Chiefs are playing the Browns.  Yes, Cleveland is coming off a big win against the Steelers, but they’re still a defense that over the course of the season has allowed an average of 13.5 yards per catch, good for 30th in the NFL.  I fully expect Bowe to have a good enough game to consider him as a starter, regardless of how much of the playbook he has to learn yet. 

A learning curve they say; hah!

IN OTHER NEWS……

According to the

Sacramento Bee 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has indicated that lately he prefers to pass more than run; not good news for Frank Gore owners.

According to

New York Daily News it’s looking more and more like quarterback Mark Sanchez will start this week. 

According to the

Nashville Tennessean quarterback Vince Young returned to practice on Thursday and barring any setbacks is expected to start this Sunday against the Dolphins.

There is no hotter tight end right now than Dallas Clark, who has been carrying fantasy teams in the past five days, as he’s scored five touchdowns in the last two games, including two to go along with 95 yards against the Jaguars on Thursday night.  

On the flipside, running back Joseph Addai has failed to score a touchdown in each of the past two games, and the kicker is that Donald Brown has been absent during both games.  

Keep an eye on David Thomas on Saturday night when the Saints host the Cowboys.  Normal starter Jeremy Shockey is a little banged up, and has practiced on a limited basis this week.  Thomas has started in two of the last four games.

In Detroit it looks like Daunte Culpepper will be the starter at quarterback this week, but according to the

Detroit Free Press the Lions have been outscored 74-3 when Culpepper has been behind center. 

According to the

Pittsburgh Post Gazette former black and gold player Jerome Bettis spoke out on the Dan Patrick Show during the week, as he believes his Steelers are done. 

“The Steelers are done,” Bettis told Dan Patrick.  “When you lose your spirit, then everything is pretty much gone. And that’s what I saw when they hit the field against the Cleveland Browns. … When you don’t have the enthusiasm to get up for a game in which you have to win, then it tells me that the leadership isn’t there.”

One match-up I’ll be watching closely this week is Chad Ochocinco against Antonio Cromartie, as according to

Chargers.com the two have worked out with one another in the off-season, something that Ochocinco believes has elevated his game. 

“He helped me get better at my game,” Ochocinco said. “I’m really looking forward to some of the info he gave me and using it against him and see how much I’ve improved in my route running.”

ON THE INJURY FRONT

According to

AtlantaFalcons.com both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner have practiced, but have been limited, and their statuses for Sunday’s must win against the Jets remain questionable. 

In Chicago, Bears wide receiver Devin Hester is expected to miss this week’s game against Baltimore.  Once again, Devin Aromashodu will get a shot to produce alongside Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett

The Philadelphia Eagles will be without running back Brian Westbrook and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin this week.  Enter Reggie Brown, who should get the start, and also count on Kevin Curtis possibly playing as well. 

According to the

Associated Press Rams running back Steven Jackson is both experiencing flu-like symptoms and nursing a sore back, but his teammates expect him to be on the field this week against Houston.  “Steven has shown he can do well without practice and I anticipate he’ll do very well this week,” Samkon Gado said. “I’d be very surprised if he couldn’t go.”

OTHER INJURIES

LB Demarcus Ware — Questionable

S Ken Hamlin — Questionable

WR Lance Moore — Probable

RB Pierre Thomas — Probable

WR Devin Hester — Doubtful

CB Charles Tillman — Questionable

WR Mark Clayton — Doubtful

S Ed Reed — Questionable

WR Derrick Mason — Probable

TE Ben Watson — Questionable

WR Terrell Owens — Questionable

WR Larry Fitzgerald — Questionable

QB Matthew Stafford — Doubtful

WR Calvin Johnson — Questionable

QB Matt Ryan — Questionable

RB Michael Turner — Questionable

WR Roddy White — Probable

WR Isaac Bruce — Doubtful

RB Frank Gore — Probable

CB Nate Clements — Out

WR Jeremy Maclin — Out

RB Brian Westbrook — Out

TE Brent Celek — Questionable

S Tory Polamalu — Out

RB Steven Jackson — Questionable

DE Leonard Little — Questionable

QB Vince Young — Questionable

QB Bruce Gradkowski — Out

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey — Out

TE Zach Miller — Questionable

RB Correll Buck halter — Doubtful

LB Shaun Phillips — Questionable

TE Kellen Winslow — Questionable

WR Nate Burleson — Out

WR Sidney Rice — Questionable

WR Percy Harvin — Questionable

SIZZLING AND FIZZLING

Here are some players that have been red hot and ice cold in the past three weeks.

SIZZLING

QB Drew Brees:  In the past three weeks Brees has thrown 10 touchdown passes, and has completed exactly 75 percent of his passes for a combined 1086 yards through the air. 

QB Jason Campbell Oddly enough Campbell has been red hot in the last three weeks, and has been a bit of surprise considering the state of the Redskins’ franchise with a combined eight touchdowns (7 passing, 1 rushing). 

RB Chris Johnson:  Sure, he didn’t score a touchdown in every game, but he’s rushed for 100+ yards eight consecutive weeks now, and his three touchdown performance last week probably won a few playoff games for fantasy owners. 

WR Miles Austin:  Austin has caught a touchdown pass in each of the last three games, and has recorded games of six, seven, and ten receptions to go along two 100-yard performances. 

WR Brandon Marshall:  Not only did Marshall have a record-setting 21 catch 200-yard performance last week, but he recorded 85+ yards in each of previous two weeks and caught a touchdown pass in Week 13 against the Chiefs.

TE Antonio Gates: In Week 12 Gates scored two touchdowns and torched the Chiefs defense for 118 yards.  In Week 13 he caught eight balls for 167 yards.  And last week he caught four balls and scored a touchdown.  You do the math.  

FIZZLING

QB Matt Cassel: One touchdown pass and seven interceptions is not going to get it done. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe couldn’t be coming back at a better time. 

 

QB Carson Palmer:  Yeah, Palmer has thrown a touchdown pass in each of the last three games, but passing yardage totals of 110, 220, and 94 make me want to puke. 

RB Marion Barber III:  Barber III hasn’t seen the end-zone since Week 8, and is averaging 48 yards on the ground per in the last three games. 

RB LeSean McCoy:  McCoy has big shoes to fill in Philly, but his zero touchdowns and just about 60 total yards per game were probably not what fantasy owners were hoping for heading in to the playoff run. 

WR TJ Houshmandzadeh:  14, 37, 52.  Those aren’t exactly the yardage numbers the Seahawks probably had in mind when they overspent to get the former Cincy star.  Oh, and Housh hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 9.  I hear the B-word coming. 

WR Jerricho Cotchery:  After coming on strong post bye in Weeks 10 & 11 Cotchery has seemed to have lost a gear.  In his last three games he’s averaged 35 yards per and hasn’t found the end-zone. 

TE Heath Miller: Earlier in the season it was looking like Miller was going to be a great fantasy tight end.  However, since Week 7 he has scored just one touchdown, and over the past three games he has caught one ball twice, and is averaging less than 30 yards per. 

Good luck.  Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a staff writer for Fantasysharks.com.  E-mail him at

e.huber12@yahoo.com

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