Happy Thanksgiving everyone. What a glorious holiday. You (hopefully) get a day off from work. You get to eat great food with family and friends. You get to fill your face until you’re so stuffed you can’t move off the sofa, and since you can’t move anyways, there’s nine straight hours of football. Yes, what a great holiday. This year, the set of games are some of the best that I can remember. I won’t go into detail about how good the games are going to be because you’ve probably already read enough on them. I’d like to talk about something else before I get into the calls for the week.
The NFL really needs to go back and address this “completing the process of the catch” rule. Twice in the past two years have we had completed passes for touchdowns called back because of this rule. Last year we had the Calvin Johnson catch where he is holding the ball out in front of him with one hand while he’s falling on his back in the end zone. As he rolls over to get up, he sets the ball on the ground and the refereess call the pass incomplete because he “didn’t complete the process of the catch.” Right … This past week we had the same thing happen again. Jermaine Gresham catches a ball with one hand, turns, falls into the end zone, and then with the ball in his hand, touches the ground. No good. Didn’t complete the catch. If a guy gripping the ball with his hand on top it, palming it like a basketball player going for a dunk, isn’t a catch, then I don’t know what is. Watch the replay, and you can clearly see that his hand is on top of the ball and it’s not moving in his hand. He clearly has possession of the ball in the end zone. This is something the NFL referees need to take a look at in the offseason and tweak the rule or we’re going to have to watch even more catches for touchdowns get called back. Now on to the calls for the week.
Last week was the first time all season that Matt Hasselbeck didn’t throw a touchdown pass in a game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed multiple touchdown passes in 60 percent of their games this year, and in every one of their last three games. The Buccaneers also allow around 250 passing yards per game. Hasselbeck would make a good call this week with all the injured quarterbacks around the league.
If you’re not starting Carson Palmer yet, get him in your lineup this week. He gets the Chicago Bears in Oakland this week. He has thrown a touchdown pass in all three of his starts this year, and his interception totals are trending down as he gets more and more familiar with his wide receivers. His first start of the year was in Oakland where he threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns against a Denver defense that is very comparable to the Bears’ defense.
Matt Leinart hasn’t played in a game since the 2009 playoffs, and hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 15 of the 2008 season, where he came in during garbage time of a 47-7 beatdown by New England. Even though it looks like Leinart is in a much better system for his skill set and it appears that Andre Johnson might be back this week, Leinart is still a bad play this week. Jacksonville has a strong defense and is are going to be coming after Leinart to get him to create turnovers. A bad player coming into a good team isn’t going to make that bad player into a good one.
Matt Moore has Miami on a three-game winning streak, but he will have a hard time this week against a strong Dallas defense at Cowboys Stadium. Dallas will be the best defense Moore has seen since the Miami quarterback faced the New York Jets in Week 6. The Jets held Moore to zero touchdowns and two interceptions. I think Miami’s winning streak ends this week. Moore would be a bad call to have in your lineup.
New England is past the tough rushing defenses on the schedule and now moves on to some easier matchups. This week, BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be running against the Philadelphia Eagles’ poor rush defense. The Patriots gave Green-Ellis 20 carries last week, so I would say he’s still their lead back for the moment. The Eagles have allowed six different running backs to pile up more than 100 total yards against them. Big bulldozing running backs like Marion Barber, Fred Jackson, Frank Gore, Michael Turner and Steven Jackson have all found the end zone against the Eagles, and my guess is that Green-Ellis can do the same. Starting Green-Ellis this week would be a good call.
Chris “Beanie” Wells gets an early holiday present this week when Arizona goes to St. Louis. The Rams’ rush defense is a poor one, and Wells should be able to plow right through them for some good numbers for you this week. St. Louis has allowed more rushing yards this season than Indianapolis, and the Rams rank dead last in the NFL. Any running back playing St. Louis should be started, and this week Wells gets that luxury.
Frank Gore definitely looked like his knee wasn’t giving him any problems when he received 24 carries last week. However, he was only able to gain 88 yards, for a 3.67 yards per carry, much lower than his 4.6 yards per carry season average. This week he gets a much tougher matchup when the 49ers travel to Baltimore for the Thanksgiving night game. Temper your expectations of Gore this week. Baltimore ranks as the third-toughest team to run against in the NFL.
Mike Shanahan said recently that Roy Helu wasn’t ready for a full running back load, yet. Then this week the Washington Redskins cut Tashard Choice and promote Evan Royster to the 53-man lineup from the practice squad. Do I sense some more ‘Shanahanagans’ in the mix? If you’re thinking that Helu is the next Ryan Torain, a running back that will be good for three weeks and disappear into the stable where Shanahan keeps his running backs, you’re probably right. I’d stay away from this whole running back situation until a Washington running back gets 15-plus carries a week for five straight weeks. Stay away. You’ve been warned.
Back in my Week 7 article, I said Torrey Smith was starting to look like a young Mike Wallace, a speedy receiver that gets behind defenses for big plays. Right now Torrey Smith averages 20.3 yards per catch, better than Mike Wallace (17.4), Victor Cruz (17.4), Vincent Jackson (19), DeSean Jackson (16.9), and second only to Malcom Floyd (21.1). Smith will play San Francisco and face the 49ers’ unbalanced defense this week. The 49ers have been great against the rush and bad against the pass. Smith should get you some good points this week and would be a good call to be in your lineup.
In his last two home games, Vincent Brown has nine catches for 176 yards and a touchdown. This week the weak Denver defense should be easy for Brown to get some more good stats for you. Denver has been allowing a team’s No. 2 wide receiver to get around 4-5 catches for 60 yards in recent games. If you you’re looking for a WR2 or WR3 for your lineup, Brown would make a great candidate for that spot.
If Matt Moore is going to struggle against the Dallas Cowboys, then Brandon Marshall will be struggling as well. Dallas has held opponents’ No. 1 receivers to around 50 yards since the Week 5 bye. That includes talented receivers like Wes Welker, DeSean Jackson, Sidney Rice and Stevie Johnson, who all had less than 70 yards when they played Dallas. Marshall would not be a good call this week.
When Sidney Rice has faced Top 10 receiving defenses this season, his best stat line has been three catches for 69 yards. This week Rice has to play Washington, which hasn’t allowed a 100-plus yard receiver since Week 7, and only three touchdowns over that same time. Rice only has two touchdowns on the season, and his value has definitely gone down with his move to Seattle. Rice would be a bad call to be in your lineup this week.
The game in Detroit has the highest over-under total of the week, so this game should be a shootout. Playing Brandon Pettigrew this week would be a good call. The Green Bay defense hasn’t been stopping tight ends this year. Pettigrew has a good shot at a touchdown this week.
Fred Davis had a good streak going from Weeks 6-8, but has slowed down since then. I expect Davis to get some more action this week in Seattle, and he would make a nice filler in your lineup.
Greg Olsen has also been quiet as of late, and this is not the week he starts making noise again. His opponent this week, Indianapolis, has actually been stopping tight ends from putting up good numbers against them. That’s probably because everything else on a team’s offense works so well, there’s no need to turn to the tight end. Sit Olsen this week and wait for next week’s soft matchup against Tampa Bay.
Vernon Davis has score in two straight games, but this week in Baltimore is going to be much tougher for him. The Ravens haven’t allowed a tight end to score a touchdown against them this year, and the most yards they’ve given up to the position is 73. Davis would be a ball call this week.
Good luck this week. I hope you make all the right calls.