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Weekend Fantasy Preview: Triple Threat

Week 13. The Grand Regular Season Finale of most fantasy football leagues. Divisions will be decided. Playoff seeds will be determined and a select few teams will be chosen to advance to a small tournament to decide each league’s Champion. This weekend we’ve got a Triple Threat of fantasy football games, loaded with studs, that will help determine many a game and many a league. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s Tremendous Triple Threat.

Atlanta Falcons vs Houston Texans

This game promises to be a fantasy bonanza for both teams. Let’s take a look at some of the key storylines with this game.

Is the Texans’ Defense Overrated?

The Texans’ defense currently has the Number 1 defense in the NFL. They are ranked 2nd in pass defense and 4th in rush defense. Looking at the teams they’ve played though and you start to get a clearer picture on exactly how good, or perhaps, overrated the Texans are. The Texans’ defense has held in check the Colts, Dolphins, Titans, Jaguars (twice), Browns and the Buccaneers. None of those teams are known for their offensive prowess.

On the other hand, whenever the Texans have faced a quality offense like the Saints and the Ravens, they’ve had a bushel of points scored on them. Let’s not forget that the Saints dropped 40 points on them back in September and the Ravens had over 400 yards of offense against them in a 29-14 massacre. This is a defense that’s been rarely tested all season long and when they have they’ve usually come up short.

What about the vaunted Texans’ run defense? Ray Rice (105 rushing yards), MJD (99 rushing yards), and Daniel Thomas (107 yards) all had good games against it. Will a hobbled Michael Turner be able to have a fantasy impact against the Texans’ D? I’m not so sure about him breaking the century mark but I do believe he’s capable of a stat line of 65+ rushing yards and a touchdown.

My beloved Falcons have won 5-of-their-last-6 games and have been firing on all cylinders offensively. Matt Ryan has been averaging close to 300 passing yards over his last 3 games and Roddy White has finally shown up with 267 receiving yards and a touchdown in his last two games. I might not be the most objective fantasy writer when it comes to the Falcons but I have all the faith in the world that they will be able to make a big fantasy impact on Sunday. Tony Gonzalez is also a good bet for a solid game but even though Julio Jones is starting, he’s becoming one of the most unreliable fantasy receivers after last week’s active, zero stat performance. Proceed with caution with that one, my friends.

The Fate of Foster and AJ

When you talk about the Houston Texans, it really comes down to just Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. The Falcons also a boast tough run defense, which has the potential to bottle up Foster, especially after last week’s lukewarm 65 rushing yard performance. What makes Foster still a good bet to pile on stats is his pass catching ability, 2nd in receiving on the Texans with 38 catches for 469 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Foster might not get 100 rushing yards in this game but he’s a lock to get 100 total yards when it’s all said and done.

Andre Johnson’s projection is a little bit more murky. AJ, because of his epic six week injury, has been one of the biggest busts of fantasy football this season. With the Texans down to their 3rd string Quarterback and AJ’s putrid two catch, 22 receiving yard performance last weekend, things aren’t looking that hopeful for Johnson.

One glimmer of good news for AJ owners is that the Falcons will be without their best cornerback Brent Grimes. Furthermore, with the Falcons stout run defense and their explosive offense, the Texans are going to have to pass the ball, if they want to win this game. Even though Johnson has had a leg injury for most of the week, he’s probable to play and new Texans QB Taylor Yates has had a full week to prepare. AJ owners are going to be curious to see if he can salvage something of his fantasy season like another bust Chris Johnson is attempting to do.

Indianapolis Colts versus New England Patriots

Remember when the annual showdown between the Patriots and Colts was routinely the Game of the Year? Those days now seem ages ago. From a fantasy perspective though, this game has the potential to win a bunch of games for a plethora of owners.

An Avalanche of Points for All Patriots

It goes without saying that Tom Brady is going to score 5,436 fantasy points against the Colts’ league worst defense You can also add Wes Welker and Deion Branch to the list of players poised to have career best games. Both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski should also go bonkers. The way I see this game shaking out is that the 1st half is going to be about The Patriots invincible passing game and after the Patriots go into halftime with a 72-17 lead, the 2nd half will be all about the running game.

Benjarvus Green Ellis might have the best game of his career against the Colts 31st ranked rush defense. Once the Law Firm has been taken out of the game after the Patriots jump to a 126-31 lead, you’re going to see quality stats from the rest of the Patriots players like possibly Stevan Ridley and maybe even Ocho Stinko might get owners more than 5 points this week. Maybe he’ll get sixpoints.

The Return of the Wayne

Reggie Wayne finally made a fantasy impact last week, catching five passes for 122 receiving yards and a touchdown. This is the first time Wayne has gone for over 100 receiving yards and scored a touchdown since Week 1. Needless to say, Wayne has had a terrible season. Losing Peyton Manning has destroyed the fantasy value of Wayne as it would for just about any receiver in his situation.

This weekend though, the Colts play the Patriots, a team whose defense has improved but still gave up 400 passing yards to Vince Young last weekend. The same Vince Young, who threw 19 interceptions last Thursday night against the “ferocious” Seattle Seahawks. With a new QB Dan Orlovsky starting for the Colts this week, Wayne still has a chance to post some decent stats. Wayne is really the only Colt worth starting this weekend because it’s hard to think Donald Brown is worth a start, considering the Colts will have to abandon the running game early, once they are down by 16 touchdowns, midway through the 1st quarter.

Detroit Lions versus New Orleans Saints

Of all the games this weekend, none come close to matching the fantasy firepower of this game. We haven’t seen a fantasy shootout like this since the Chargers fought the Packers and lit up the fantasy scoreboard. Owners should feel free to start every relevant fantasy player in this game, from a healing Kevin Smith to a surging Lance Moore, no one should be left on the bench.

The New Orleans Saints are one of the best teams to have fantasy players on and also, paradoxically, one of the worst. We all know that Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham should be in everyone’s lineups every week. With the Lions once formidable pass defense injured or suspended, the high scoring Saints will not be held back from putting up at least 40 points on the scoreboard.

This means that inconsistent Saints like Lance Moore, Mark Ingram, and even Robert Meachem might be viable fantasy starts this week, depending on the strength of owner’s lineups. Let’s face it, at this late time of the year, even with bye weeks over, there are still some holes in many owner’s lineups due to injuries or disappointing players. If you’re not feeling to good about someone in your lineup though and you have an inconsistent Saint who you’ve relegated to the bench out of frustration, now might be the time to reinsert them into your lineup.

From the Lions’ side of things, owners can feel a lot more confident about starting their studs. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are obvious, every week starts. Beyond those two, owners can feel confident starting Kevin Smith, who seems poised to start after healing from his Thanksgiving injury, and Brandon Pettigrew. Nate Burleson, who has 20 catches, 185 receiving yards and a touchdown over the last 3 games is a player owners might want to insert into their lineups. Just about every Lion is worthy of considering starting this weekend going up against the Saints 27th ranked pass defense.

Good Hunting and Good Luck in the final week of the fantasy football regular season,

Ed Bonfanti

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