Why should we hold out for Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather when we have our own controversial rivalry in the NFL? In a week filled with plenty of highlights, injuries and epic performances, the majority of attention this week revolves around the slobber-knocker between the Houston Texans’ Andre Johnson and Tennessee Titans’ Cortland Finnegan.
Although Finnegan is notorious for cheap shots and has become infamous for being a “dirty player,” the low-profile, reserved Johnson may be receiving the bulk of criticism for delivering a flurry of haymakers at the end of their fight. After a history of incidents against opponents over the years including taunting Houston’s bench just prior to this skirmish, Finnegan’s tactics set off Johnson to a new degree last Sunday. Caught up in an angry rage, Johnson ripped off Finnegan’s helmet and the bout began as he threw his fists at the Titans’ troublemaker until they were finally separated by referees. Whether you agree with commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to discipline the offenders equally with a fine rather than suspension, many people are thanking the fantasy gods as they will have Johnson starting in Week 13, which is one of the final weeks of the regular season in the world of fantasy football.
Although the Johnson against Finnegan match made the front page news this week, there were other key highlights, including phenomenal performances from Dwayne Bowe and Peyton Hillis, who each earned the NFL’s version of the hat trick. If your team battled opponents with either of these players, it is likely that you had a frustrating week. Other surprises included five quarterbacks tossing at least three touchdowns, including rookie Sam Bradford.
Week 12 was relatively injury-free until Monday Night Football when Frank Gore fractured his hip and will miss the remainder of the season, which is a disappointing revelation for the San Francisco 49ers who have continued to battle in the weak NFC West division. Gore has accounted for 37 percent of San Francisco’s total yards on the ground and through the air so his presence will be inevitably missed. If Gore is on your team, then I certainly hope you have already snatched Brian Westbrook off waivers.
Several key divisional clashes are on deck for Week 13, which will help determine playoff seeds including Atlanta against Tampa Bay and the New York Jets against New England, so let’s amp up your team in this week’s “Dive,” which may decide whether you will be contending in your league’s playoffs.
– Sorry Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, USC’s backup quarterback is having a better season than both of you. In fact, Cassel has the highest quarterback rating in the NFL over the last seven games with 112.2. Cassel has thrown 18 touchdowns over this span with only one interception. With his favorite receiver Dwayne Bowe on fire recently, Cassel is an attractive start against the Denver Broncos this weekend. Although Denver crushed Kansas City in Week 10, Cassel still slung almost 500 passing yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort. Denver has allowed at least three passing touchdowns per game over the last three weeks, so Cassel should torch Denver at Arrowhead Stadium for 300 passing yards and two scores.
– You may be staring at my article in complete disbelief as you see that I am recommending starting a Carolina Panther this week. As insane as you may think I am to suggest a player on the NFL’s worst offense, it is important to note that Goodson has played exceptionally well over the last three games where he has averaged 133 total yards per game. With Jonathan Stewart healthy again, Goodson may not receive the same workload, but should still be the primary back this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks. After thwarting the rushing efforts of their opponents in the first half of the season, Seattle has surrendered an average of 148 yards on the ground over the last six games, including last weekend’s defensive debacle against Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones who ran for a total of 241 yards. Expect 100 total yards and a score this week against Seattle.
– With injuries to Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie, White has moved into the slot and become an integral piece of the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. Although he has not earned more than 42 yards in a game thus far, Peyton Manning has been targeting White in the red zone as he has caught three touchdowns in the last two games. If Collie remains sidelined, White should receive more targets from Manning this weekend who looks to rebound against the Dallas Cowboys’ defense, which has allowed more than 226 yards per game to wide receivers over the last six games. Although I do not anticipate a breakthrough game for White, I do project another 40 receiving yards and a score.
– With Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks wounded, Boss’ production has slightly increased as of late. Boss has also hauled in three touchdowns over his last four games. I do not see Boss creeping into the in-crowd of premier tight ends, but he does have value in deeper leagues or in place of an injury. His Week 13 opponent, the Washington Redskins, have played relatively average against opposing tight ends, but I still see Boss having a decent game. Start your top-tiered tight end if you own one, but pick up Boss if you are desperate. The New York Giants’ tight end should be good for around 60 yards and his fourth touchdown this weekend.
– In the comedy “Anchorman,” Ron Burgundy signs off his newscast with “Stay Classy San Diego.” Since we are now in the second half of the season, the Chargers have been quite “classy” lately as they continue their tradition of rallying in the second half of the season. San Diego’s defense was absolutely “redonkulous” last Sunday as they bullied the Indianapolis Colts’ offense with four interceptions (two were returned for touchdowns), a fumble recovery and a sack. They held Indianapolis to a season low 14 points and pressured Peyton Manning the entire game. San Diego’s defense ranks first in total yards allowed as they have been successful in stopping teams through the air and on the ground. San Diego begins a three game home stand this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, who have significantly cooled since their bye. With yet another quarterback switch as Jason Campbell returns to the reins after sitting last week, Oakland will struggle this week against a “supercharged” San Diego defense. I predict San Diego’s defense to earn at least 12 points this week.
Last week’s picks:
QB – Shaun Hill
– Week 12 stats: 285 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
– My Prediction: 350 pass yards, 2 TD (Hill started out strong, but cooled. He was not a bad pick, but not near my projection).
RB – Mike Tolbert
– Week 12 stats: 103 rushing yards, 15 receiving yards, 1 TD
– My Prediction: 100 rushing yards, 1 TD (very close projection on this one so I hope you started him).
WR – Derek Hagan
– Week 12 stats: 21 yards
– My Prediction: 60 yards, 1 TD (Hagan started, but was not a factor).
TE – Joel Dreessen
– Week 12 stats: 15 yards, 1 TD
– My Prediction: 90 yards (Although I missed the yards call, he scored and thus provided the same amount of points in most leagues).
DEF – Cleveland Browns
– Week 12 stats: 17 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 INT
– My Prediction: I missed this pick. Cleveland did not play terrible, but posted six points in most leagues rather than 10. Carolina ran well on them.
Week 13 is here and playoffs begin in the next two weeks in most leagues. You may be calculating the scenarios that will need to occur for you to make the playoffs. Good luck this week!