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Houston, We Have A Problem

After trailing 17-3 at halftime, the Houston Texans’ offense awakened and formulated a comeback to tie Jacksonville at 24 late in the fourth quarter. On their final drive, Matt Schaub led Houston’s march downfield with hopes of giving Neil Rackers’ leg a shot for the win. However, tight end Joel Dreessen put the kibosh on this plan when he fumbled after a catch.

Despite losing possession, Jacksonville’s chances of capitalizing on Dreessen’s miscue would be minimal with only seconds left in play. After an 11-yard completion and an offsides penalty in their favor, the Jaguars picked up 16 yards quickly, but were still staring at overtime unless David Garrard could miraculously convert a Hail Mary. With a few seconds left to spare, Garrard launched a rocket into the Florida sky aimed for Mike Sims-Walker, but falling towards several Texans’ defensive backs. Glover Quin leaped and spiked the ball towards the ground. Rather than plunging into the turf, the batted ball dropped into the chest of wide receiver Mike Thomas like an early Christmas present, which he walked in for the game winning touchdown. This extraordinary victory is already Jacksonville’s second game-winning play over an AFC South rival as Josh Scobee finished off the Indianapolis Colts with a career long 59-yard kick in Week 4.  

Indeed Houston, we have a problem. After winning three of their first four games, one of which included Indianapolis, and being heralded as a potential Cinderella story, Houston is headed towards yet another losing streak. Last season, they also suffered a four-game losing streak midseason and will repeat this trend if they fail to defeat the New York Jets this weekend.

As soon as it appears that Houston may break through the surface and challenge Indianapolis for the division, the Texans nosedive. I encourage you to read this week’s “Dive” so you can prevent your fantasy team from following the Houston Texans’ footsteps. Also, you will now find the follow up from Week 9’s predictions so you can see if my fortune cookies proved correct.

Mark Sanchez – The “Sanchize” has been quietly impressive this season. Although coach Rex Ryan is never quiet, Sanchez has improved in his sophomore season with almost 2,000 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions, and most importantly has led New York to a 7-2 record. At this time last season, Sanchez had thrown 13 touchdowns, but was also picked off 14 times.

The Jets’ quarterback will be an attractive option against the Houston Texans this Sunday. Houston’s defense has been quite accommodating to opposing quarterbacks by allowing the most passing yards and touchdowns. In fact, they prolonged their struggle by surrendering 342 yards and two scores (including the Hail Mary) to Garrard last weekend. In fact, Houston has allowed at least two passing touchdowns in every game this season except against Washington in Week 2. The Jets’ talented receiving corps should face little turbulence flying by Houston’s secondary, which will help Sanchez cruise to another convincing performance with 250 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Felix Jones – Another first occurred last Sunday for the Dallas Cowboys in addition to Jason Garrett’s coaching debut. Jones received the start over Marion Barber. Whether it was due to the coaching change or Jon Kitna’s ability to spread the field, the Dallas running game finally showed signs of life. Although Jones had only 14 carries, it turned out to be the bulk of the workload, as Jones ran for 51 yards.  But caught three balls for 85 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown.

Ironically, Marion Barber averages more yards per carry with the decreased role. With an effective formula in place, Garrett should continue to use Jones as the primary back this weekend as Dallas hosts the Detroit Lions. Detroit’s defense has permitted the most points to opposing running backs, which will create a favorable matchup for Jones. I see Jones earning 100 total yards and one touchdown.  

Mario Manningham – With Steve Smith out of the picture with a torn pectoral muscle until December, Manningham may be an enticing play this weekend against Philadelphia, and even in upcoming weeks against Jacksonville and Washington.

Last week, (Eli) Manning-to-Manningham connected 10 times for 91 yards and a score. Although, New York was playing from behind most of the game, the Giants’ receiver was targeted 16 times, which was fourth-most this week. After watching Monday Night Football’s scoring bonanza, Week 11’s New York Giants against Philadelphia Eagles game will likely be another shootout. Manningham will put up comparable numbers as last game with another 90 yards and a touchdown.  

Jermaine Gresham – Although the Pittsburgh Steelers looked pitiful guarding tight ends last weekend as New England’s Rob Gronkowski tore up their secondary for a hat trick, the Buffalo Bills surrender the second most points to the position.

Even though you may not be familiar with the Cincinnati Bengals tight end as he has been overshadowed by Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco (aka Batman & Robin), Gresham was targeted 10 times for nine catches, 85 yards and a score last weekend. The Bengals seem to be playing behind frequently this season as Carson Palmer has thrown at least 35 times in every game this season. Although Buffalo succeeded in protecting the end zone from Detroit’s tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler last weekend, the duo still earned a respectable seven catches for 84 yards.

Fortunately, Gresham will not have to share tight end duties and may serve as a decent replacement in case your tight end may be ailing from an injury or has a difficult matchup. Even with Owens and Ochocinco receiving the bulk of receiving yards, I there is still room for Gresham to pick up 60 yards and a touchdown this Sunday.   

Baltimore Ravens Defense – Historically, Baltimore is always one of the first defenses taken off the draft board. After performing as a top defense year in and year out, Baltimore has been somewhat disappointing this season.

However, there could not be a more opportune time for redemption than Week 11. Ray Lewis and Baltimore’s defense will be in for an early Thanksgiving feast this Sunday when they travel to Charlotte to battle the NFL’s worst offense, the Carolina Panthers, who currently average just over 11 points per game. The woeful Panthers are currently starting their third-string running back Mike Goodson and third-string quarterback Tony Pike, given that Jimmy Clausen is unable to start due to his concussion. With a few extra days to prepare due to last week’s Thursday matchup, Baltimore should be ready to roll this week.

Last week’s picks –

QB – Eli Manning

– Week 10 stats: 373 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

– My Prediction: 300 yards, 3 TD (very close)

RB – Fred Jackson

– Week 10 stats: 133 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards, 2 TD

– My Prediction: 100 total yards and a TD (very close)

WR – Bernard Berrian; Week 10 stats: 0

– Late scratch due to pregame injury (last-minute sit so hopefully you did not get stuck with him starting)

TE – Brandon Pettigrew

– Week 10 stats: 50 yards

– My Prediction: 60 receiving yards and a TD. If Pettigrew had not dropped two passes and shared with Scheffler, this pick may have been closer. (almost)

D/ST – New York Giants

– Week 10 stats: 27 points allowed, 1 sack, 1 INT and 1 blocked kick.  

– My Prediction: Ouch. This one caught me by surprise as Dallas’ offense looked re-energized and led all game.   (missed this one)

Good luck in Week 11!

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