It’s been way too long since I’ve had my ugly mug on the front page here (ok, ok, yes, my kids have been looking for it and I have to oblige their request!), I’ve been in and out of the forums, but it’s not the same. So, I’ve put together some random thoughts that have been bouncing around in my little noggin. Many pertaining to this week, a few pertaining to, well, nothing in particular.
I spent some time this week getting reacquainted with our old friend Ed Berliner who has moved over to Cold Hard Sports. There are a couple clips there from our conversation if you’d like to check it out. He’ also got a myriad of opinions from other contributors. Some good stuff.
The season is winding down, last week of the season for many, first week of the season for others, good luck. Speaking for myself, I know this season did not turn out as I had dreamed that it would. The great feelings I had after draft day are a long distant memory. Though I was able to squeeze out a few playoff appearances, I’ll be back as hungry as ever next year.
So let’s get into a few of the things I talked about with Ed, along with some other random stuff.
No need for me to get into the troubles he’s now facing, for the fantasy leaguer, he’s done for the season. In many ways, this is not a terrible announcement. There’s not gray area here, he’s not Stephen Jackson or Reggie Bush of the last four weeks, he’s done playing. While unfortunate for the Burress owner, an opportunity for the person that either has, or is able to pick up, Domenik Hixon. Ironically, Eli Manning had one of his better weeks as a passer last week, look for that to continue with Hixon being a major contributor.
Who Can You Score On?
Ed and I talked a little bit about which teams you want your players up against down the stretch. With four weeks left in the NFL season, teams are either still in the running (which includes those teams jockeying for seeding) or out of the running. Soon, we’ll probably have a team or two (see also Titans and Giants) that have sewn things up…but that’s another story for another time. Teams that are out of the running are the teams the fantasy owner should focus on. The secret is out on many of these teams, but here’s a list of teams that you should take a long hard look and try to get your players up against: San Francisco, Cincinnati, Detroit (more on them later), Seattle, Cleveland, St.Louis. If you are deciding between two players and one of them is up against one of these teams, this should be your deciding vote.
Minnesota Run Defense and McAllister
The NFL has announced that the players they’ve charged with doping are to be suspended for the final four games of the regular season. Of note to the fantasy owner, are the two Williams (Kevin and Pat) run stoppers for the Vikings and Deuce McAllister. At press time, the players were appealing the suspensions, so nothing has been decided yet, but we’ll go along with the premise that the suspensions will stick.
The Saints have been phasing McAllister out for some time now, setting him up for his record breaking touchdown at home a few weeks ago as a send off. Him out of the way coincides nicely with the healthy return of Reggie Bush. If you Bush owners have been able to hold on without him for the last month, rejoice as he should now command 90% of the work with Pierre Thomas only getting the scraps. As for the Vikings run defense, this is certainly a blow. Aside of this week (more on the Lions later), if these guys are out, then you must upgrade the Vikings’ opposing running game.
Speaking of Run Defense, Let’s Talk Lions
Ok, ok, we’ve teased it enough, let’s talk Lions. As many of you know, projections at this site are done by a eight of us, each person projecting one division. My division has been the NFC North, so I’ve had the pleasure of watching the Lions closely all season. I project the numbers based on how I think the game will go, then once the games are played I go back and see where I went wrong, and think about how what happened affects my future projections.
This week, Detroit is up against Minnesota. The topic above this was the Vikings run defense. You’ll note that I put “aside of this week” when upgrading opposing runners. I had a nice exchange in the forums about this, wondering why Kevin Smith wasn’t upgraded due to the suspensions. My comment was, “…I don’t care if the Lions are up against the Vikings defense, the depleted Vikings defense, or the Sisters of the Poor, I can’t project more than 50 total yards for Kevin Smith.” I’ve seen enough of Detroit and their lack of a running game all season, I don’t see how they can change now.
On the flip side, in both of the last two weeks, the Lions have allowed two (TWO!) one hundred yard rushers against them. In fact, last week, while we were all stuffing ourselves with turkey, both Chris Johnson and LenDale White both not only went over a hundred, they both scored twice. For this reason, I projected Chester Taylor pretty high. Good yardage and at least one score. I see the game playing out with the Vikings getting on top early, the Lions forced to pass to catch up (after all, this might be their last chance to win this season), then Minnesota salting the second half away with Adrian Peterson and his 3TDs on the bench, giving Taylor the opportunity to run wild.
Sneaky and Good Plays for This Week
Ed and I talked about some of the players I think will be good fantasy starts. At press time, it sounds like Matt Schaub will be back this week. I’m not sure that he’s a great start this week, but I see this as even better news for Andre Johnson. If Schaub looks good this week, I wouldn’t hesitate to start him in the coming weeks. Kurt Warner continues to be gold. There isn’t a fantasy owner out there that could have predicted that Warner would be gold AND that he’d be gold all season. The Cardinals passing game continues to click. Aaron Rodger should continue to be a top start this week, and I look for Jay Cutler to have a strong week as well.
I like the Green Bay running game this week. Reports are that Ryan Grant is dinged a little bit, so I’m looking for Brandon Jackson to be the better play of the two. Check as late as possible, but if you’re in a pinch, Jackson might work as a flex option. Matt Forte continues to have a tremendous season. If Jacksonville can give up 100 yards to Steve Slaton, then Forte can certainly light them up for 100+ and a couple of scores. On the other side of the ball in that game, I like Maurice Jones-Drew as well. The Bears aren’t the run stoppers that they used to be so don’t be afraid to use Jones. As discussed above, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings could break records this week. I pity the owner up against him.
Rather than try and spell receiver (reciever?), I’m going to go with wide out. Much easier. As far as they go, Greg Jennings is getting a lot of love from Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are still in this, but they can’t afford to make any more missteps. Jennings will be prominently involved. Marques Colston of the Saints is another strong play. The Saints passing game is working very well. I also like Deion Branch of the Seahawks. Seattle is up against a weak Patriots secondary, and though the Seahawk passing game isn’t great, look for Branch to excel this week. All of these guys are seeing 10+ targets a game, look for that to continue.
On the tight end front, we’re finally, FINALLY, seeing someone other than Tony Gonzalez do well at the position. Dustin Keller of the Jets and Zach Miller of the Raiders are tops on my list after Gonzo. If you have either of these guys, it shouldn’t be a question, they should be your starter. They are both seeing 10+ targets a game and they have both been responding with both quantity of catches and total yards. Tony Scheffler is another guy that I’m putting in the same category, strong week last week. Sure, you don’t bench Jason Witten or Antonio Gates, but I would rank those three guys right behind the Big Three.
Kickers and Defense
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for kickers, guys that have done well are only getting PATs. Tough to predict. Pay attention to weather reports, this is the best advice I can give for this time of year for kickers. You want to avoid the wind, rain and snow as much as possible. Defense is equally difficult, weather does play a factor, in a defenses favor. Unless you have one of the top defenses, play the matchup game. Look for the team up against the Seattles, the Detroits, or the San Franciscos…teams out of the running and looking towards next year, especially those that might be giving a young quarterback some time on the field.
Thanks for reading, I leave you with this: If an AFC West game between two crappy teams happens on a Thursday night on NFL Network, does it make a sound?