Nov 25, 2011
I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and the decent football we got to watch throughout the day. Due to the holiday and some traveling, this week I will be focusing more on the games that have more significance and only glossing over the lesser matchups.
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons could catch a couple of breaks this week. First, it looks like they’ll avoid Adrian Peterson, although it would have been interesting to see what he could have done against their great run defense. Second, they may have Julio Jones back from his hamstring injury, which is great because they are facing one of the worst secondaries in the league. While we know the Falcons like to have Michael Turner carry the offense, this could be a week where they decide to throw it a little more, especially since the Vikings have done a solid job against backs. Minnesota looks like a fantasy wasteland right now if Peterson out, so outside of Percy Harvin, I would only consider using Toby Gerhart from this team and that would only be for volume purposes.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
The Brown backfield looks like it could have both Montario Hardesty and Peyton Hillis back this week, and while Hillis has made significant improvements, Hardesty looks like he’ll be the starter. Of course, HC Pat Shurmur is going to make this a big headache by saying neither player will see a full load. I’m staying far away from the Browns. A.J. Green looks like he has a shot to come back this week, but he’ll have to face Brown CB Joe Haden and what’s turned into a pretty good pass defense. Andy Dalton was better than expected last week without Green and despite the picks. As we saw, Cedric Benson is only valuable if he scores and while he did that twice last week, it’s not something you can rely on each week.
Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts
Each week, we tend to love whatever RB is facing the Colts. The problem with the Panthers is figuring out who to pick between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The only consistent difference between the two when it comes to their roles is that Stewart tends to be the one more involved in the passing game. Based on the great matchup, they should both be considered low-end #2 options at worst. We should note that the Colt pass defense hasn’t been very good either and we know the Panthers have no problem throwing a lot with Cam Newton. He looks like a fantastic start this week. The Colts are going to stick with Curtis Painter instead of going to Dan Orlovsky, which means very little in the fantasy world. Much like the Colts, the Panther run defense is terrible, but who do you roll with considering how annoying Indy’s RBBC has been? Donald Brown has been the most consistent option, but you’ll have to see where Joseph Addai is come Sunday. Typically, I’d say to stay away, but this matchup is too good to ignore.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Well, with Andre Johnson coming back from a six-week absence and Matt Leinart taking over at QB for Matt Schaub, the Texans couldn’t have asked for a better matchup. The Jaguar secondary has been ravaged by injuries and their pass rush has come and gone all year. Houston has certainly done a good job of talking up Leinart since the preseason, but let’s see what he can do at game speed. Because of the opponent, the Texans should be able to continue to rely on Arian Foster and their ground game to carry the offense this week, which should allow them to work Johnson back in slowly. Gary Kubiak has said Johnson could be on a snap count, but that Johnson could be the one to determine that number. I’d be fine rolling with him this week, but don’t consider him to be anything more than a #2 fantasy WR.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
You can stick a fork in the Bills after they put both Fred Jackson and Donald Jones on the IR this week. It will be interesting to see what C.J. Spiller can do as the starter, but he doesn’t have the best game to measure himself since the Jets should be able to use a similar gameplan to the one they had when they beat the Bills a few weeks ago. They will put Darrelle Revis on Stevie Johnson and focus on stopping the run. The Jets are not a fun team for fantasy since Mark Sanchez is very tough to trust and their best fantasy back looks like it might be Joe McKnight. We’ve said numerous times on the site that Dustin Keller needs to be more involved since it would help for Sanchez to have a nice, safe option in the passing game, but obviously the Jets know what they are doing sitting at 5-5 and clinging to life in a wide-open AFC.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
In the preseason, we liked the Rams as a second-half team because of their favorable schedule, but with both their secondary, OL, and WR corps ravaged by injuries, we just want guys like Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, and Brandon Lloyd to finish the season healthy. Jackson and Lloyd look like great starts this week against a Cardinal defense that might be improving, but is definitely still beatable. I’ve given Beanie Wells credit for playing through his injuries, but it seems like we hear more and more each week how the team needs to manage how many snaps and carries Wells sees. This team is a mess, their OL stinks, and with a terrible QB situation, it’s tough to believe in Wells right now. He’s just to flex play to me, and barely a good one at that. Kevin Kolb has a shot at returning and I’m not sure how much that really matters to Larry Fitzgerald. We’re talking about a guy who has caught TDs from FIVE different QBs in his last 20 games. He’ll be just fine even if Adam Caplan was playing QB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans
The Buccaneers lost to the Packers last week, but might have played one of their best games of the season. We saw an impressive run by LeGarrette Blount, Josh Freeman looked solid, and to prove that miracles do exist, Mike Williams found the end zone and actually put up numbers worthy of being a #1 fantasy WR. The key now is to build on that and they should have a chance to do so against a decent, but beatable Titan defense. Chris Johnson was predictably terrible against the Falcons last week and that probably caused a lot of owners to give up on him, which is certainly warranted considering his season, but it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back against a Buccaneer front seven that’s battle injury issues all season. If Matt Hasselbeck goes, I’m fine rolling with Nate Washington, but as we saw last week, Damien Williams can’t be used as anything more than a flex option.
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders
Who’s excited for Caleb Hanie?! Okay, Earl Bennett owners probably aren’t, and while I’m certainly downgrading Bennett a little bit, Hanie should keep looking his way since he’s been the most reliable Bear WR all season long. Matt Forte owners do not like hearing the name Marion Barber, after Barber stole yet another TD last week. I do think Forte will be fine, although defenses may pay him extra attention until Hanie shows he can keep the passing game at a respectable level. I would not be running to grab Barber unless I had serious injury issues with my backs and needed Barber to fill-in because he could get a cheap TD. The Raiders continue to fight their way through injuries, as Darren McFadden is out again this week and may not even be back next week. Michael Bush has allowed the team to overcome that absence, but what are they going to do at WR? Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore are both banged up and could be out. Darrius Heyward-Bey has done some practicing, but it coming off a concussion and a neck injury. I refuse to buy into T.J. Houshmandzadeh, so it looks like Chaz Schilens may be the guy. Proceed at your own risk.
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks
Tashard Choice is gone, but the Redskins decided to promote Evan Royster from the practice squad to enter the RBBC of Doom. I beg of you to stay away from this fantasy hell, especially against a good Seahawk run defense. I’ve taken a lot of questions on Santana Moss as a stash-and-hope option and it looks like we’ll see how viable he is, as he’s expected to return from a hand injury in this game. I have no problem with Moss, but I just can’t get excited about Rex Grossman or this offense in general. Marshawn Lynch is the only player I’d think about using in Seattle since Tarvaris Jackson continues to play hurt and isn’t that good when he’s healthy. If you want to take a flier on Sidney Rice because of Washington’s secondary issues, be my guest, but know he’s been dealing with knee problems all week.
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles
Vince Young was a serviceable QB last week because he didn’t try to do too much and just ran the offense. Sure, he had a couple of picks and looked off at times, but he also didn’t play at the frenetic pace that Michael Vick does. With Vick throwing, but not practicing at all this week, it looks like Young will be the starter again and while he should have DeSean Jackson (foot), he probably won’t have Jeremy Maclin. That didn’t matter too much last week with Riley Cooper stepping up. I’d be fine rolling with Cooper this week going against the shaky Patriot pass defense. New England should be able to pick apart the Eagle defense, especially if they don’t have Nnamdi Asomugha, who was injured in Thursday’s practice and is questionable to play. Not like they were using him the right way anyway, but he’s still a possible huge loss going against the multi-faceted Patriot pass attack. We know you can start a Patriot receiver if you have them, but with Chad Ochocinco and Deion Branch banged up, might we finally see Taylor Price get some significant time? He could be the downfield presence they’ve lacked.
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
I’d probably call Tim Tebow the #15 QB every week in fantasy for the rest of the season. We know exactly what they are going to do with their offense and it’s up to Tebow to hit one play downfield or run one in. The Chargers have struggled against the run and really need LB Shaun Phillips to come back from his foot injury. The Chargers can be beaten down the field, but if you take a shot with Eric Decker, you are taking a huge risk. I admit to trading Ryan Mathews away this week since I already had a decent RB group, but I still have him on a few other teams and don’t feel good about it. San Diego’s OL is a complete mess and Mathews can’t hang on to the ball or stay on the field long enough to contribute. He’s definitely a high-end talent, but I can’t say anything else positive about him or his situation right now. Vincent Jackson continues to drive fantasy owners nuts, but this doesn’t look like a good week for him going up against Champ Bailey. That should open the door for Vincent Brown with Malcom Floyd, surprise, surprise, out yet again.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
One more week with Tyler Palko? It certainly looks that way with the team claiming Kyle Orton off waivers. Todd Haley said the team wouldn’t be handing Orton the starting job, but if you saw the way Palko threw it last week, you know the Chiefs have no chance with him under center. For guys like Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston, at least Palko was able to get the ball to them against a bad Patriot defense, but will he be able to do that against the Steeler defense? I think not. While I don’t think the Steelers will get totally away from the pass with Ben Roethlisberger dealing with the broken thumb, this does set up as a nice week for Rashard Mendenhall to see an increased role against a beatable Chief run defense. Antonio Brown is now officially a starter opposite Mike Wallace and it’s about time. Wallace has shown much improvement this season, but Brown still might be the better all-around receiver. Kansas City might be a physical defense, but Wallace should be able to utilize his speed to run by their secondary, which can be beaten deep.
New York Giants at New Orleans Saints
The Giants are in the midst of a brutal stretch of games, and it looks like they’ll have to play another one with Ahmad Bradshaw. I’ve been pretty clear about my dislike of Brandon Jacobs, but I would certainly consider using him against the vulnerable Saint run defense, which could be without LB Jonathan Vilma (knee) yet again. The Giants may be a pass-first team, but they need to be able to run it with some success so they don’t get out of balance. Their passing game should be just fine, even if the OL isn’t because the Saints don’t have a good pass rush unless they scheme it and that could hang the secondary out to dry against the deep Giant receiving corps. Hakeem Nicks might be the most talented Giant WR, but Victor Cruz might be the most active and he’s got the trust of Eli Manning. With Michael Boley unlikely to play, the Saints should be able to run the ball well, unlike their last game back in Week Ten against the Falcons. However, this is a pass-first team and guys like Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham should continue to cause matchup nightmares. For the Giants to have a chance, they’ll have to match points with the Saints and hope their pass rush can get to Drew Brees before he gets rid of the ball.
Feel free to leave any questions below or Tweet me (@TheMattCamp). On a programming note, “In the Loop” will be back next Wednesday and all of our podcasts will be back to their regularly scheduled days. Thanks for reading and good luck in Week Twelve.