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Scott Pianowski

Monday Brunch: Can Eli Manning do it by himself?

Scott Pianowski
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It should be a glorious time for you, Eli Manning(notes) owner. Your slinger has 16 touchdown passes in his last six games and he's given you multiple scores in eight of 10 starts. He's posting 259.5 yards per game, a career best. A couple of horrendous secondaries are on their way – Jacksonville in Week 12 and Washington in Week 13. Get out the calculator, let's add up some fantasy points.

But is Eli Manning good enough to drive a passing offense on his own? How much can he do without help on the outside? We're about to find out.

Manning has been without Steve Smith (the good one) over the last two weeks, and the bigger domino fell Monday: superstar receiver Hakeem Nicks(notes) has a knee problem. Nicks is down for at least three weeks.

Who is left for Manning to throw to? Mario Manningham(notes) is a respectable player, but the Eagles erased him rather easily Sunday night. Can Derek Hagan(notes) be Smith-light for the next few weeks? Anyone want to stump for Duke Calhoun(notes)?

I've got Manning in a key league and I was using him without a caddy; no backup quarterback. Now I feel forced to look at possible QB alternatives in Week 12. Here are some players worth considering over Manning next week; try to keep an open mind, gamers.

-- Shaun Hill(notes) versus New England? Volume is your friend. Calvin Johnson(notes) can take a sad song and make it better.

-- Jon Kitna(notes) versus New Orleans? Another Thanksgiving starter, lots of weapons to work with.

-- Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) versus Pittsburgh? The weakness of the Steelers is, after all, the secondary.

-- Matt Cassel(notes) at Seattle? At least he's got a good thing going with Dwayne Bowe(notes).

Let's talk through it, Manning Mafia. Can Eli get numbers throwing to lawn chairs the next few weeks? Is this someone we can trust as we get ready for winning time in the fantasy football season?

Let's not kill Tyler Thigpen(notes) for the mess against the Bears. The Chicago defense has quietly morphed into a nasty matchup in 2010, and Thigpen hardly had any time to prep, into a short week. That latter issue probably hurt Thigpen more than it would have a more conventional quarterback. I'll be very curious to see what sort of Thigpen-friendly stuff Tony Sparano cooks up for the Raiders this week.

No need to fret over Darren McFadden's(notes) nightmare in Pittsburgh – the Steelers rushing defense is out of this world, and it's not like the threat of Jason Campbell(notes) took any pressure off McFadden. Assuming Run DMC can stay healthy for the fantasy playoffs, he'll be an asset for us. Lying in wait are the Jaguars (Week 14, 4.2 YPC allowed), Broncos (Week 15, 4.4) and Colts (Week 16, 5.0).

As much as I love Mike Wallace's(notes) game, it's amazing that he's had three catches or fewer in eight of his starts this year (not to mention eight scores on just 33 overall receptions). Generally I tend to mistrust any receiver with a high TD-to-catch ratio – it's difficult to keep that sort of thing afloat – but the Steelers do a fantastic job designing big plays for Wallace, and Ben Roethlisberger's(notes) arm and improvisation also fit the suit perfectly. I can't see how the Bills will be able to stop Wallace next week.

I've got nothing against Chris Johnson, but you could make a legitimate case for him not being on the AFC's Pro Bowl roster. Arian Foster(notes) is on another planet right now, Peyton Hillis(notes) absolutely deserves a spot, and Jamaal Charles(notes) and McFadden have to be considered. (Charles 2010 reminds me of Michael Jordan 1984 – the only coach who can stop him is the guy in his locker room.)

If I were game-planning against the Jets offense, stopping Santonio Holmes(notes) would be my first priority. Say what you want about the existence of clutch performers; Holmes sure looks like a dynamite money player to me. The last four weeks combine for a strong argument, or you could look back at his tape from Super Bowl XLIII.

Why do offensive coordinators love the jumbo package so much at the goal line? A lot of puzzling things happen when you go that route: you take dangerous skill players off the field; you invite more defenders to the point of attack; you restrict your running lanes; you limit your playbook options. The Chiefs, Bengals and Cowboys all had similar experiences with the jumbo package early on Sunday – two snaps that failed to get a touchdown, followed by a spread formation and an instant score.

I wonder if coaches like the jumbo package because it eliminates most of the downside from the equation; you'll open up more negative plays if you go spread. But I'll never sign off on removing your best talent, or making your play call easier to predict.

Jimmy Graham(notes) could be the next receiving star at the tight end position. Drew Brees(notes) and Sean Payton are going to have a ball with this pup.

What have the Bills had against Fred Jackson(notes) all these years? He's capable of running inside and out, he's been productive for years despite his crummy offensive line, and he's got enough thickness to handle a heavy workload. First the Bills held Marshawn Lynch(notes) in Jackson's way, and then they drafted C.J. Spiller(notes) in April's first round, ignoring all the other holes on the roster. Jackson has a tricky rushing schedule to negotiate – Pittsburgh and Minnesota the next two weeks – but his pass-catching skills should be enough to keep him in our fantasy lineups.

Carolina's Mike Goodson(notes) reminds me a little bit of Jackson – they've got similar builds and they're both making do despite the blocking problems in front of them. Goodson's going to have trouble scoring touchdowns on that Panthers offense, but collecting 151 yards from scrimmage against a Ravens defense that had no one else to worry about gets my attention. Goodson is up against Cleveland and Seattle the next two weeks.

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