And down the stretch they come!
The Thanksgiving Day games provide not only an extra day of football, but serve as a reminder that the season's end is fast approaching. For most leagues, there are 2-3 matchups remaining before the start of the playoffs. And that means that every game counts in jockeying for seeding.
I've poured through hundreds of questions this week, with many of them focusing on crowded backfields, inconsistent receivers, and quandaries at QB. Let's get after it.
Given his fumble problems and the return of Tony Fisher, you can safely rule Gado out. That leaves you with Droughns versus Johnson. Of the two, I like Droughns' matchup against Minnesota better, particularly because there isn't a second option in the Cleveland backfield. Droughns has topped 99 total yards in five straight games and will top 20 carries per week without question.
Johnson faces the Ravens defense which allows fewer than 100 yards per week and has surrendered but six touchdowns on the ground all year. Additionally, Johnson will continue to be spelled by second-year back Chris Perry, who has come but inches away from pilfering several of Johnson's touchdowns this year.
Of your three options, I believe Curtis stands out as the top play. Shockey faces a stingy Seattle defense that plays quite well at home, and I fear that the bruised chest will continue to limit his play. Though he found the end zone in Week 11, it was his only catch on the day. As for Brown, the Green Bay pass defense has rebounded nicely from a poor start and is keeping teams out of the end zone of late.
That takes you to Curtis. St. Louis has a favorable matchup against the Texans, and even with Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt fully healthy, Curtis remains a fixture in the passing game. Additionally, the insertion of Jamie Martin into the lineup means more opportunities for Curtis, as the two had developed a strong rapport on the practice field. I believe he's your strongest option.
I'm still alive to win the regular season pool but the next two weeks are must wins. Pick three receivers out of this list (1 point per 20 yards, 6 points per TD): Marvin Harrison, Drew Bennett, Eddie Kennison, Ernest Wilford, and Bobby Engram. – J.R. in Winchester, VA
Obviously, you cement Marvin into your starting lineup. Though he didn't get into the scoring parade last week, he still tallied 13 Looks in the game and will continue to capture the attention of Peyton Manning. Besides, who doesn't like to lay the hammer down in the Monday night game?
As for your other two plays, I love Kennison's matchup this week against the Patriots. Trent Green got him involved last week for two scores, and they face a New England defense that has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in eight of 10 games this year. I look for more of the same this week.
Finally, I'd insert Wilford into the third spot. Both Bennett and Engram figure to be big parts of their respective offenses and to pile up yardage and receptions, but Wilford is your best bet for a score. The Jaguars face the Cardinals, who have allowed three TD passes in two straight games.
Who should I start at RB this week? I have Fred Taylor, who says he will play this week vs. a terrible run defense. I also have Steven Jackson, who also plays a horrific run defense, but who was held to six yards rushing last week? – Justin in DuBois, PA
Though Taylor is in a strong spot against the Cardinals (the team that limited Jackson to six yards), the recurring injuries problems and tremendous play of Greg Jones leads to me to recommend Jackson as your starter for this week. Houston is giving up an absurd 160 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per week, and was absolutely shredded by Larry Johnson last week. Arizona sold out last week in the hopes of stopping Jackson and succeeded, allowing Marc Bulger and Jamie Martin to pass at will (though Arizona did win the game). I expect Jackson to be a bigger part of the attack this week against the Texans, as he has found great success in past games against much stronger run defenses in Seattle and Jacksonville. Though Martin and the passing game will certainly light it up, I look for Jackson to approach the century mark this week.
I've gotten great pointers from you in past weeks, and hope this week will be the same so I can clinch first place. Byron Leftwich or Kurt Warner? I know they're both coming off great weeks, so who do you think will be a better start this week? – Edward in Camillus, NY
Though Warner has played tremendously the past three weeks, the matchup against the Jaguars is not conducive to another top scoring day. I expect for him to move the ball well between the 20s with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, but for the Jaguars defense to firm up in the red zone. Leftwich is a much stronger play in this game, going directly against the Arizona defense. Arizona has surrendered back-to-back three-TD performances from opposing quarterbacks (Joey Harrington was one of them). Leftwich is as hot a quarterback as there is in the game right now, working Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford into the mix alongside veteran Jimmy Smith.
All my receivers this week play against weak secondaries and have chances at big games. Which will actually be able to exploit their matchups though? I have to fill two receiver slots and I have: Andre Johnson, Drew Bennett, Isaac Bruce, Matt Jones, and WR for the 49ers [gasp] Brandon Lloyd. – Ralph in Brooklyn, NY
As I've mentioned throughout this piece, Jones and the other receivers in the Jacksonville receiving corps are strong plays against Arizona, so he's one play. I'd look to Isaac Bruce as the other player against the Texans. Bruce is fully recovered from his toe injury, and figures to see 8-10 Looks again this week. The Texans allow 217 yards and 1.7 touchdowns through the air each week.
Andre Johnson hasn't found the end zone just yet this season, and the Texans offense is still difficult to expect big dividends from (even against St. Louis' secondary). And, as good as Brandon Lloyd is, there's no guarantee of production in that San Francisco passing attack.
Ben Watson continues to evolve as a tremendous option for Tom Brady and caught a season-high four passes for 66 yards in last week's win over New Orleans. Obviously, Brady and the Patriots passing attack are in a strong position this week against the Chiefs (241 yards and 1.8 touchdowns per week). However, Daniel Graham is expected to get back into the lineup after missing Week 11 with a shoulder injury. His presence limits the Looks in Watson's direction.
Cooley is a strong play this week against the Chargers, a defense that allows 237 passing yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game. Cooley averages seven Looks per game, and has caught 18 passes for 225 yards in the past three weeks. With both James Thrash and David Patten out of the lineup, look for Mark Brunell to turn to his TE with great frequency this week.
I've got Mark Brunell and Jake Delhomme in at QB (my league has two spots), and I want to know if I should pick up Jamie Martin, who is playing the weak Texans defense, or stay with my two now. – Adam in California
Of the two quarterbacks currently on your roster, Delhomme has the more disadvantageous matchup against the Bills. Despite being shut out of the end zone three times in the past four weeks, I still anticipate a solid game this week against the San Diego pass defense. The Chargers' strong run defense will likely be able to contain Clinton Portis, which will force Brunell to the air.
If you can afford the roster spot, I'd look to acquire Martin for this spot play against the Texans and sit Delhomme against the Bills. Yes, Drew Brees had a strong game a week ago, but the receiving options are far less numerable for the Panthers. Despite a difficult schedule to end the season, I would be hesitant to cut Delhomme, as Martin may be a two-week player. In a league starting two quarterbacks, it's unlikely that there are very many viable options out there, so you can't release a sure-fire starter.
It's a very pivotal week in our league and each decision is crucial. I'm trying to fill my last WR position and I'm looking for some advice. I've got Eric Moulds, Kevin Curtis, and the Eagles' rookie Reggie Brown to choose from. There's an additional twist in that K.C.'s Eddie Kennison is an available free agent in our league. I'm looking for the most solid option down the stretch. – Jim in Austin, TX
I love Kennison in the matchup against the Patriots, but I'd stand pat and place Kevin Curtis into your final starting spot. He's performed well week-to-week and will continue to be a major factor with Jamie Martin under center. Last week, he tallied 98 yards and a score even with Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt back in action. Take advantage of the strong matchup against the Texans.
Here's hoping you had a restful holiday weekend. It's time to get back to work for the playoff run. Good luck!