For many in Sharkland, the Thursday night game signals the beginning of the end of your season. Those who don’t make the playoffs will have six to seven months to ponder their draft busts, horrible trades, and why in the Holy Name of God did they not pick up Marques Colston off the wire? Unless you’re a fantasy baseball nut, it’s a long, cold, dark off-season. Believe me.
But there are others for whom this week’s games mean something. Whether it’s a win-and-in scenario, a win-but-need-help, or just jockeying for byes and playoff positions, this week could be the key in getting to your league’s championship. So we’ll quickly rip through this week’s games, checking out who the studs are. But we’ll throw in some keeper/dynasty observations along the way to get you started for next year. Why? Because if you’re making the playoffs, then you probably haven’t needed to switch your lineups around too much. I know that other than a shuffle at the TE spot, I haven’t changed my lineup in a month.
Baltimore v. Cincy: The Baltimore equation has been the same all season: DST, Todd Heap, Jamal Lewis. But how long will Steve McNair and Jamal Lewis be around? Not too much longer, me thinks. Check out Musa Smith next year. Rudi Johnson owners, Chris Perry’s injury means receptions for you. Unless Marvin Lewis wants Kenny Watson to touch the ball more than five times this week.
San Diego v. Buffalo: The ultimate dichotomy. You would start any Charger you got this week, but would you start anybody on Buffalo? Maybe Lee Evans? Ok, I’ll live with that. But Lord help you if you have no other RB option than Willis McGahee.
Minnesota v. Chicago: Again, besides the defenses, who do you start? Rollercoaster Rex? Brad Johnson threw three TDs last week—against Arizona. Most of us would pretty much have to start Thomas Jones or Chaz Taylor (or Mewelde Moore), but I’m thinking a guy here like a Marcus Robinson makes some noise this week. By the way, this is the last year for Tom Jones in Chicago.
KC v. Cleveland: Larry Johnson. I’m glad I don’t have to play him this week. That Tony Gonzalez is pretty good, too. Maybe you’ll get some pop out of Braylon “Big Mouth” Edwards and Kellen “No Funny Phrase Required” Winslow.
N.Y. Jets v. Green Bay: If you have Leon Washington or Kevan Barlow, consider them a decent flex play this week. Pack can’t stop the run. And, of course, they’ll be exhausted because they can’t get off the field. That Brett Favre is a gunslinger, ain’t he? Aren’t Coles and Cotchery doing what Fitzgerald and Boldin were supposed to? Let me just take a second to show you how bad Green Bay is going to be fantasy-wise very soon: a possible Aaron Rodgers (if he heals)/Noah Herron backfield. Thank God for Greg Jennings.
Detroit v. New England: Do we have to? Maybe Detroit puts up a fight. You can’t bench Roy Williams. As for the Pats, start everyone: Brady, Dillon, Maroney, Watson, the DST. By the way, how high does Maroney go next year? You know Dillon won’t be back. Does he crack the top 5?
San Francisco v. New Orleans: Why doesn’t anyone tout Frank Gore for MVP? He’s been a beast all year. I can’t say that for the rest of his team. Meanwhile, Drew Brees is having the kind of season we all thought one of the Manning Brothers would have. Play the Saints WRs, but don’t be surprised if Deuce is held down. The 49ers can stop the run.
Arizona v. St. Louis: Has anybody seen any of the wide receivers playing in this game lately? My god. I traded Boldin a few weeks ago because I saw the writing on the wall. But Torry Holt? There’s only one sure play this week, and that’s Stephen Jackson. I see 150 and two touchdowns.
Indianapolis v. Tennessee: Look at the media go after Marvin Harrison. Those bloodsuckers will turn on anyone except Brett Favre, it seems. If I was Marvin, I’d be ticked off too, everybody saying that Reggie Wayne is the man now. Yeah, let’s see how good Wayne would be with constant double coverage! Everybody forgets that. Start everyone for Indy. Under the radar signing that could be of huge benefit for you in the playoffs for deep leagues that start multiple flex guys: Ricky Proehl. You heard it here. If you’re a Travis Henry owner, this should be a good week.
Atlanta v. Washington: The gravy train that was once the Atlanta rushing offense (and Alge Crumpler) has gone off the rail. There is a chance to get back on track this week, but it’s tenuous at best. Michael Vick could have the accuracy of Joe Montana, but we’d never know it because his receivers can’t catch a pass. As for the Redskins, it’s amazing that, just like last year, they tried to do something different offensively, only to see it fail and return to the ground attack that made Joe Gibbs a winner in the first place. Some genius that Al Saunders is. Ladell Betts is a underrated play, as is Chris Cooley.
Jacksonville v. Miami: A game betweens two teams you can’t figure out. This should be low scoring with lots of running, so both DSTs are good plays. Fragile Fred continues to have his touchdowns poached by Jones-Drew, so either becomes a shaky start. For all those on the MJD bandwagon for keepers/dynasty, don’t forget that Greg Jones will come back next year—and could easily end up poaching TDs like Maurice is doing this year. On the other hand, it’s better than having to start Sammy Morris. Marty Booker’s big game on Thanksgiving sure made the Chris Chambers owners out there real happy, didn’t it?
Houston v. Oakland: Um…let’s see. Andre Johnson and Randy Moss are your guys. I don’t see anyone else being viable. Neither team was able to establish any kind of running game last week. Was Houston’s plan all along to stink it up again this season in order to draft Adrian Peterson? It certainly looks likely to me. You know things are bad in Oakland when they replace the offensive coordinator with a guy who was run out of Chicago because Cade McNown and Jim Miller were not happy with the playcalling.
Dallas v. NY Giants: Is there anyone you don’t feel comfortable starting on Dallas right now (with the exception of Jason Witten)? In contrast, is there anyone you do feel comfortable starting for the Giants? Let me just slam my head into the keyboard a couple of times. By the way, doesn’t this Julius Jones/Marion Barber thing have to be settled in the off-season? Doesn’t it?
Tampa Bay v. Pittsburgh: Joey Galloway, Willie Parker and the Steelers defense are the picks in this contest. Hines Ward owners will sit this one out and wonder what might have been if Chaz Batch would have been allowed to play more this year.
Seattle v. Denver: Shaun Alexander looked pretty good on Monday against the Pack. Now let’s see him do it in Denver. Little bit different. Hasslebeck can’t seem to stay injury-free this year, but both he and Alexander just might get this rolling in time for the fantasy playoffs. That is good news for owners who haven’t gotten their money’s worth this year. The Jay Cutler era finally begins in Denver. We’ll quickly find out who will become his favorite target. I don’t want to even get into the Broncos running backs. It gives me a headache.
Carolina v. Philadelphia: Jake Delhomme’s last-minute INT against the Skins was horrible. He had a receiver uncovered in the slot before the ball was even snapped, but he ignored him, looked Steve Smith down, and threw it up for grabs in double coverage. Delhomme is very shaky right now. Whichever Carolina running back starts this week is a good selection. Philly can’t stop the run with blitzing. Brian Westbrook is the No. 3-ranked running back in my league this year. Not bad production for a guy who cost almost $30 less than Tomlinson or Johnson. With Jeff Garcia manning the Eagles, he’s the only quality start.