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Mike's Mailbag: Title Implications

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Happy holidays, everyone. Enjoy the couple days of relaxation, conversation, and reminiscing of good times … like that 30-point win over your brother-in-law back in Week 6 that sent him into a tailspin. Ahhh, good times.

This week, I'm going deeper into the mailbag and rolling through more sit/start decisions. I'll be more concise to get through additional questions, as the mailbag has been positively overflowing with requests for another set of eyes on rosters. I've checked the list twice and made my lists of good, bad, and ugly for Week 16.

Let's read some mail.

Which quarterback is the best bet to start in a Week 16 championship game: Josh McCown, Steve McNair, or Rex Grossman? – Mark in Damascus, MD

Mark –
All three have opportunities to make decent fantasy impacts, but I'd be reluctant to hand the reins to Grossman in his first start of the year for your championship hopes. Yes, the Packers allowed three TD passes to Kyle Boller a week ago, one of those games that went south on them in a hurry. I don't suspect you get the same effort, or lack thereof, from the Packers in a rivalry game with the Bears. As for McCown, you know that he's going to rack up completions and yardage. With Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in tow, the Cardinals will be able to move the ball on the Eagles. However, as we saw with Kurt Warner on a weekly basis, the team struggled in the red zone (no running game) and multiple TD strikes were a rarity.

That leads me to Steve McNair. McNair has thrown the ball well of late, going for multiple TD passes in three of his past five outings and topping 200 passing yards in all but one start for the year. He'll effectively utilize Ben Troupe and the now healthy Drew Bennett to work on a Miami defense that has allowed multiple TD throws in three straight games.

I am trying to decide if I should play Shaun Alexander this weekend. I am worried that since the game is meaningless to Seattle that he may not be very productive. I have DeShaun Foster on my bench ready to go in his place. My second question is: Amani Toomer vs. Washington or Brian Finneran vs. Tampa Bay? This is for all the marbles. Thanks for your help. – Derek in Colorado Springs, CO

Derek –
The Alexander question came up a lot this week as I read through hundreds of emails. The game is meaningless for Indianapolis so far as playoff seeding, but that's not true for Seattle. They need to take care of business this week in order to avoid a possible road game for the NFC Championship (should they get there). So that, plus the desire to get Shaun Alexander the single-season TD record, will keep him on the field long enough to do some damage. I like Foster's matchup against Dallas (four straight games allowing 98 or more rushing yards to opponents), but you have to dance with your leading man this week. He won't hit the sidelines until the game is decided.

As for your receiving question, I'm not a huge fan of either matchup. Both Toomer and Finneran find themselves down the chart as far as the options their respective teams employ, and they're both facing stellar teams against the pass. With all of that said, I would look to Toomer this week over Finneran. He's scored in four of the Giants' past six games, and has topped 50 receiving yards in all but one of them. In the last meeting with Washington, he caught two balls for 43 yards, but he wasn't exactly needed in the 36-0 blowout.

I need to choose two RBs from the following: Reuben Droughns, Ryan Moats, Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee, and Zack Crockett. Please give me your opinion, and thanks for all the advice throughout the season. – Jason in Parma, OH

Jason –
Thanks for your support. I truly appreciate it. In your RB situation, I'd be looking to Moats in the first slot against the Cardinals. He's shown tremendous breakaway speed since assuming the starting role, sprinting to three touchdowns in the past two weeks. Arizona allows 113 yards and nearly one-and-a-half touchdowns per game on the ground, making him the best of your options.

As for the remainder of this lot, I'd be hesitant to start Crockett in the top slot. I expect Kerry Collins to be unleashed without LaMont Jordan in the backfield and for the passing game to take over against Denver. Of the remaining three, Droughns has been the most consistent, but he's battling a knee injury that may limit his Touches this week. And that leaves us with McGahee and Lewis. Of the two, I'd look for Jamal Lewis to post a second consecutive solid performance. He faces a Minnesota defense that allows 114 yards and a rushing TD per game. While I don't see this game getting out of control like the Monday night game, McGahee's nagging injuries and smallish workload over the past two weeks gets him a seat on the bench.

I've got Drew Brees and Matt Hasselbeck. Both are putting up good numbers, but who's the best bet in Week 16? – Mark in Dallas, TX

Mark –
I believe Brees is the better play this week against Kansas City. Coming off of the big win at Indianapolis, they'll be airing it out in the fight for their playoff lives. Additionally, with LT available for action, albeit at less than 100 percent, Brees and the passing game will be front and center. Kansas City surrenders 243 yards and one-and-a-half touchdowns per game through the air.

Hasselbeck will put up numbers (just look at the efficiency of the past three games), but this week's game against Indianapolis is very hard to read. Seattle needs to win to secure home field advantage, so you know they'll bring their "A" game, but the Colts are playing for pride and for their coach. As such, I'd lean on Brees in a potential shootout.

Alright, I'm facing my arch rival in the playoffs this week. He's handed me all of my losses. I have two QB slots to fill with any combination of Drew Brees, Drew Bledsoe, or Michael Vick. Who should I play? – Andy in Philadelphia, PA

Andy –
As I wrote above, I love Brees' matchup against KC, so he's definitely a starter this week. The second starter spot is difficult between Bledsoe and Vick. Bledsoe has been awful in his most recent road efforts, turning the ball over nine times against just three TD passes while absorbing 13 sacks. Carolina will bring the heat this week, so though he isn't a terribly strong play. Vick gets the nod here.

Vick has been erratic of late, but I believe he can repeat his strong performance of Week 11 against the Buccaneers. No, he won't throw for over 300 yards, but 225 yards with a pair of touchdowns (via the air and ground) is certainly doable. Atlanta has re-dedicated itself to the running game. Jon Gruden believes T.J. Duckett will end his recent slump, which is not coincidentally when this difficult stretch for Atlanta began. Vick gets the nod over Bledsoe.

I'm playing for the championship and a perfect season this weekend. We play three wide receivers, and I'm blessed to have Chad Johnson and Torry Holt in two of those spots, and also lucky enough to be choosing between Darrell Jackson, Jimmy Smith and Terry Glenn for that last spot. I'm stuck between Jackson and Smith, and was going to opt for Jackson against the Colts if he comes back to practice this week. Thoughts? – Alexis in Los Angeles, CA

Alexis –
Jackson failed to practice all week, so it's unlikely that he suits up on Sunday. I'd opt for Jimmy Smith this week against Houston. He's averaging 12 Looks per game over the past five contests, and has tallied at least 70 receiving yards in four of those five games. As I mentioned before, Bledsoe has struggled of late away from Texas Stadium, and I'm not banking on a rebound at Carolina. Glenn rides the pine this week.

Three questions: 1. Would you start the Patriots defense or the Pittsburgh defense this weekend? 2. I am in the finals in my league and Peyton Manning is my QB. Based on everything I've read, I went out and got David Garrard. Can he take me to the promised land, or is there another QB I should go after, like Rex Grossman? Lastly, Ricky Williams or Ryan Moats? – David in Stamford, CT

Davis –

  • 1. I love both matchups, but I'd run with Pittsburgh against Cleveland. The Browns' top option, Reuben Droughns, is banged up. And that means a shift in the play-calling and opportunities to get after Charlie Frye. I believe you'll see a few sacks and a couple turnovers to help your bottom line. As for New England, I love what the front seven are doing right now in stuffing the run. However, they'll likely build a lead on the Jets and put Bollinger to the air with some frequency, meaning that they may score some backdoor points.
  • 2. I'd go with Garrard this week against Houston. Houston doesn't force many turnovers (only six INTs) and have allowed one-and-a-half TD passes per game. Grossman may make some things happen, but those looking for a repeat of Boller's huge Monday night game are dreaming.
  • Finally, I'd run with Ricky Williams this week against Tennessee. Ronnie Brown will likely be unavailable to the Dolphins, meaning that Williams gets his first full game as the feature back. The Titans allow 113 yards on the ground, and the holes in the pass defense (29 touchdowns allowed) will put Williams in great position to score. Moats is a great home run threat, but I'd look to Williams to grind out a huge game this week.

I need help. It is the league championship, and LaMont Jordan is probably not going to play. I think Frank Gore, maybe Greg Jones, or Jerome Bettis are my best options. But, Jonathan Wells and Cedric Houston are also out there. I have to get at least a TD. What do you think? Bragging rights for the year are riding on this. – Josh in Athens, GA

Josh –
Frank Gore will get the start with Kevan Barlow sidelined this week. I like him this week against a St. Louis defense that allows an average of 136 yards and one-and-a-quarter touchdowns on the ground. With the continued struggles of Alex Smith, I expect San Francisco to use Gore with great frequency this week on the fast track.

Mr. Harmon, I need your opinion badly. I feel you are the only one I can trust! I am the Cinderella story of my league, the only guy with a losing record to make it into the playoffs. Being one win from the big game, I need every point I can get. Do I start Jerramy Stevens from the super Seahawks, or the Pittsburgh rookie of the year, Heath Miller? Help! Thanks, and happy holidays! – Nic in Plymouth, WI

Nic –
Happy holidays to you as well. And many thanks for your kind words and support. In your TE decision, I'd look to Jerramy Stevens against the Colts. As I've stated in a couple other responses related to Seahawks' starters, they've still got work to do this week. The Colts will likely rest starters on both sides of the ball, opening the middle of the field for Matt Hasselbeck (and maybe Seneca Wallace late) to find Stevens. Miller has been less of a factor of late, having gone scoreless in seven straight games. Even though he did contribute two catches for 58 yards last week, his role is too ill-defined right now to give him the nod.

I have Eric Moulds, DeShaun Foster, Andre Johnson, Kevin Curtis and Michael Turner to fill two spots. Who should I use? – Matt in Daphne, AL

Matt –
I'm taking the two right off the top. Moulds is a favorite target of Kelly Holcomb, who will be under center this week against the Bengals. He was targeted 12 times in last week's loss to Denver, and will likely approach those numbers again. As for Foster, I love the matchup this week against Dallas. He's a week further removed from his shoulder injury and faces a Dallas run defense that has allowed at least 98 yards to the last four backs they've faced. In a home game with possible home field advantage on the line, John Fox gets the ball in Foster's hands at least 20 times this week.

I am in a Championship game this week. It's the Super Bowl of fantasy football and I have a real WR quandary. My current WR corps consists of Chad Johnson, Bobby Engram, Donald Driver, David Givens, Deion Branch and Ashley Lelie. Chad is a no-brainer, but I have two other slots to fill. Who should I go with? – Jay in Orange, CA

Jay –
I'd run with Bobby Engram and David Givens this week. Engram continues to pile up receptions and yards, so you get a solid base of performance. Additionally, Darrell Jackson likely won't suit up, and that means that Engram should continue to see action in the red zone. Tom Brady and David Givens have established a great chemistry on the field, as evidenced by the two huge throws last week against Tampa Bay. I believe that combination hooks up with great frequency against the Jets this week. Deion Branch will draw Ty Law in coverage, leaving Givens with space to operate.

Eli Manning or Josh McCown? (If it makes any difference, I have both Anquan Boldin and Plaxico Burress as WRs) Thanks! – Dave in Illinois

Dave –
Swing for the fences! (OK, I should use an appropriate football euphemism.) Anyway, I like the combination of McCown and Boldin. The matchup is infinitely better – the injury-decimated Philly secondary versus the surging Washington defense. The Cardinals still don't have a running game, meaning that Arizona quarterbacks have averaged over 40 pass attempts per game. Boldin is averaging seven receptions per game and has topped 100 yards eight times. Run with that combination this week.

Pick two RBs for the finals:

I'm leaning towards Cadillac and Jackson – Dan in Montreal

Dan –
I like your first option, but you'll need to revisit the second. Williams stands to post a huge day against an Atlanta run defense that has gotten worse by the week. In the past four weeks, Atlanta has surrendered 138 total yards and a TD per game to opposing backs. Back in Week 11, he piled up 129 total yards and a score on the Falcons.

As for Jackson, a late report from St. Louis indicates that he's now a game-time decision against San Francisco. Marshall Faulk stands as a great pickup for this week against the 49ers if Jackson is unable to go. Faulk racked up 108 yards on 19 Touches last week.

However, short of hitting the waiver wire, Wells is a decent start here against the Jaguars. Jacksonville doesn't surrender many scores on the ground (only four thus far), but they do allow 104 yards per game on the ground. Domanick Davis missed practices this week and will be a game-time decision.

Hey, Mike –
I am in the playoffs and desperate for your opinion. Edgerrin James is not playing this week as you know, and my running backs include Ryan Moats, Cedric Houston, Julius Jones, and Marion Barber. Pretty lame, I know, but who do you think I should start. – Jesse in Woodbury, NY /I>

Jesse –
You'll need to go with the non-Dallas players in this one. Run with Moats and his big play abilities against Arizona and Houston, even though he's facing the Patriots. The Cowboys matchup against the Panthers is not conducive to big days from either back, and Drew Bledsoe's inconsistency on the road will make things difficult. Also, if you look to Jones' performance a week ago, the 78 rushing yards is somewhat reassuring. But, take away a 51-yard run late in the blowout, Jones rushed 11 times for 28 yards. That's not exactly championship dream material, and Barber is there to pilfer work as well. His role fluctuates greatly from week-to-week, so he's a bench player this week.

Thankfully, I didn't need a big night from Samkon Gado and survived to play another week. This week I have a question at WR/TE. My options are Marvin Harrison, Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey and Darrell Jackson. Will Harrison play enough to get more points than either of my TEs? I can start three. What's your opinion? – Kevin in Palm Harbor, FL

Kevin –
The practice field appears to have answered your question late in the week. Jackson was unavailable to the Seahawks for the final workouts of the week (check the Game Day Calls page to see if he suits up), but even if he is to play, I'd take my shot with the other receivers in the mix. Gonzalez is in a great matchup against the Chargers pass defense. Shockey, though not in a great matchup, is still a top target for Eli Manning and will post several receptions and some yardage at the very least. And, Marvin is Marvin. Unless he's ruled out before kickoff with his finger injury, expect stats from him before he sits down.

First off, thanks for all the advice throughout the season! Championship game this weekend! My question is at quarterback. My starter all year was Tom Brady … clinched a playoff spot last week, and playing the Jets this week. How much will he play? Second option – Drew Bledsoe versus the Carolina defense … Third option – Michael Vick versus Tampa Bay after last week's embarrassing loss – Nick in Lincoln, NE

Nick –
I appreciate the love. It was certainly a fun and exciting ride. Here's to finishing the job with a title for you this week. Clearly, I'm no Drew Bledsoe supporter this week, as you've read above. So, you need to decide whether you believe Bill Belichick when he says that Brady and company will play as normal. I don't believe he'll play the full game against the Jets, it's just a matter of what the score is and how they got there when he departs. And I'd gamble that he does enough in that half to warrant starting him over Vick.

There you have it, a super-sized mailbag for the glorious championship week. I wish you and yours the very best of holiday seasons, filled with happiness, happy gatherings and, of course, the hoisting of championship hardware to go alongside the latest gadgets you receive.

Happy holidays, and continued dominance. For those whose championship game falls in Week 17, see you next week.

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