Some random thoughts and musings about this week's slate, things to look for, trends to follow along with, easy and breezy. Share them, dip them, offer your own. Talking football on Black Friday, it sure beats tackling a stranger for the last HD-TV.
Indianapolis at Cleveland: The Colts have morphed into a three-wide offense, which keeps Anthony Gonzalez on the field at all times. He's looked pretty snappy the last month, and he's also an Ohio kid, if that matters to you. If Peyton Manning finishes with a mad rush, he could sneak into the MVP debate. He's not there now, but the schedule is Charmin-soft to finish. Put Jamal Lewis down for, oh, 73 yards or so; the Colts are a little below average against the run this year (4.3 YPC), but it hasn't been ridiculous as in years past. Insert your best Braylon Edwards drop joke in the comments.
Baltimore at Cincinnati: I'm rooting for Le'Ron McClain to emerge in Baltimore, but I'm not risking my fantasy life on it. Joe Flacco hasn't had a Matt Ryan season, but he's far ahead of the normal rookie curve. Cincinnati's defense isn't as bad as you think; it's been a competitive lot in November. I'd take Bailey over Jennifer, really.
Miami at St. Louis: Anytime you're ready, Ronnie Brown. The Wildcat has been a blast and all that, but Miami needs to prove it can run the ball consistently out of normal formations. I hope Marc Bulger and Trent Green both get out of football before it's too late; those hits add up and take a heavy price. If not for turnovers and Brad Johnson, the Rams would be right there with the Lions.
San Francisco at Buffalo: Nice bounce-back from Trent Edwards last week but he's not in my circle of trust yet. Andy Behrens nails it when he calls Shaun Hill a player to occasionally use but never watch. Just once I'd love to see Lee Evans playing on a team like the 2007 Patriots or the 2008 Cardinals. Alas, he's locked up for a long time, and he's in Buffalo/Toronto. Boom and bust, boom and bust.
Carolina at Green Bay: My gut tells me the Pack circles the wagons here and convincingly takes down the Panthers. I don't like a jittery Jake Delhomme on the road, and although Aaron Rodgers had some loose moments in the second half at New Orleans, this is still a very smooth, dynamic Green Bay offense. There's nothing wrong with Jonathan Stewart but you have to admire the way DeAngelo Williams has taken over. If you're a Ryan Grant owner, don't torture yourself - leave the room when Green Bay gets inside the 10.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay: Drew Brees had a perfect game against the Pack, but quarterbacks tend to crash and burn at the Pirate Ship (QB rating - 50.0!). I'm still expecting Brees to be fantasy-useful here, but in stock market games and challenge contests, you slide him to the bench. For the best take you'll ever read on Jeff Garcia's maddening jitterbug in the pocket, check out Greg Cosell's film breakdown here.
New York at Washington: The Redskins haven't gotten the memo about the NFL becoming a pinball league; only 400 points have been scored in Washington games, lowest in the league, and no one has hit the 30-point mark in any Redskins game this year. Jason Campbell hasn't thrown for multiple scores in a game since September, but the 54 rushing yards the last two weeks have been appreciated. How does "Plexico" come from "Plaxico" anyway? Feel free to debate that with your peeps this weekend, but don't start No. 17 - Burress was downgraded to "out" on Friday, paving the way for Domenik Hixon to start again.
Atlanta at San Diego: Matt Ryan is in a touchdown slump but that will end quickly against this secondary. I'm all for Michael Turner, but keep in mind he's ignored as a receiver (four catches). LaDainian Tomlinson's disappointing season is mostly about physical wear and tear, but the Chargers offensive line hasn't had a very good season. Darren Sproles isn't big enough for a major role, but the Chargers don't use him enough on offense. I'm still expecting the Chargers to win the West; they just need to stay within a game of the Broncos, then take the Week 17 finale. Philip Rivers is having the best quarterback year that almost no one talks about.
Pittsburgh at New England: It's hard to throw on the Steelers, but it's impossible to run on them. I'm thinking the Patriots junk the pretense of the run and make this a short-passing day for Matt Cassel. I also expect the Steelers to have an intelligent plan for Randy Moss, something the Dolphins failed at (epically) last week. The set-up is there for Santonio Holmes to have a big day, but I'm gun shy. Discuss in the commentary.
Denver at New York: The Brett Favre MVP talk seems is misguided; this is a very balanced team, and it's at its best when Favre dials it down a bit. New York's also throwing very few deep passes these days, in part because of pass-block problems with both tackles. Jay Cutler is going to have to chuck it 40 times here because there's no way the Broncos will grind it out on the Jets (the best fantasy defense against the run over the last five weeks). The New York coaches were the last to figure out Leon Washington.
Kansas City at Oakland: If the Raiders win here, they're almost in the AFC West race. Think about that for a second. Coincidence or not, the Oakland defense has played very well since DeAngelo Hall was sacrificed. I'll use Tyler Thigpen with confidence in Weeks 14-16 (DEN, SD, MIA), but this is a week to be careful. The Chiefs defense had Jared Allen last year; this year it has six sacks in 11 games. Count those "Mississippis" a little faster, gents.
Chicago at Minnesota: The Bears never take Matt Forte out of the plan, no matter how the game flows; he's logged 19 touches or more in every start this season. The Vikes did a great job on him in Week 7 (2.8 a carry), but he still managed 13 fantasy points. You better be loaded at the position if you're thinking about sitting him. It's so tempting to bury Bernard Berrian, but look at that schedule (CHI, DET, ARI, ATL). His slump will be long-forgotten when he helps you to a title.
Jacksonville at Houston: Maurice Jones-Drew is finally getting the workload everyone's been screaming for, and you have to figure he'll put up a healthy number against the Texans. Someone buy a GPS system for Andre Johnson and type in "end zone." Neither team has much of a pass rush, so both quarterbacks should be able to matriculate the ball down the field.
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