It's crunch time on the fantasy gridiron. Owners are making those final tweaks to their lineups to assemble the perfect squad that will master the elements and lead them to glory.
And, that means a heaping pile of emails to rival the cards and letters slowing down the USPS this holiday season. We've got questions about veteran quarterbacks, crowded backfields, and seemingly untouchable receivers possibly being sent to the bench. The slate offers great matchups and opportunities for new fantasy heroes to emerge.
Let's answer some mail.
Sitting Randy Moss sounds criminal to me, but with his recent lack of production and a QB change in Oakland, is it worth looking to the bench at Isaac Bruce or Andre Johnson? – Mark in Trabzon, Turkey
As bad as it may feel to slap the "Bench" on Moss in your drop-down menu this weekend, I believe it's the right move. Moss had his second biggest yardage output since Week 4 with seven catches for 74 yards against the Chargers, but he goes against a much more difficult pass defense this weekend in New York. He'll draw Ty Law in coverage with Marques Tuiasosopo under center and may get hit with icy, snowy, and windy conditions on the road.
I'd be looking at Andre Johnson this week against the Tennessee secondary. I know that this means putting faith in David Carr to get you to the promised land, but I believe that it can be done against a Titans defense that allows 210 passing yards and over two passing touchdowns per game. Since returning from his calf injury, Johnson has been targeted nearly 12 times per game, averaging seven catches and 82 yards. Last weekend, he let one bounce off his chest in the end zone. It won't happen again. Play Johnson with confidence this week.
Hi Mike, I need advice on who to start for WRs this weekend. My usual starters are Torry Holt, Donald Driver, and Eddie Kennison, but I recently picked up Eric Parker and Koren Robinson. I have three slots to fill. What do you think? – John in Richmond, VA
I believe Holt and Driver have to be in your lineups. Even with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for the Rams, Holt is such a big part of the attack (almost 13 Looks per week) that he's always a threat to find the end zone. Holt has scored in seven of the 10 games in which he's played and has not caught fewer than four passes in any game.
With all of the injuries to the receiving corps in Green Bay, Driver has been the one constant. Brett Favre looks in his direction 10 times per game and he has recorded 50 or more receiving yards in nine of 12 games. He even piled up eight catches for 64 yards against the Bears last week. I like the Packers to put up some points on the Lions (allowing 22 PPG on the road and multiple TD passes in each of the past two games).
For the third slot, I'm advising to run with Koren Robinson. His role in the offense continues to evolve, and he has shown the game-breaking ability that made him a star in Seattle. I expect another solid effort out of Brad Johnson and the Vikings this week against the Rams secondary, and Robinson will be key to their success.
I'm slightly concerned about weather becoming a factor in Philadelphia, but I believe that Manning and the Giants will rise above it against the Eagles. I'd play Manning in this spot, despite Johnson's strong matchup versus the Rams. The Giants are looking for a bounce-back game in Philly after a rough offensive showing against the Cowboys (not surprising against the eighth-ranked pass defense). I suspect that their fortunes will be much better on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles have allowed 207 yards per game via the air and better than 1.5 touchdowns. Look for 250 and two scores out of Manning this week as the Giants look to create separation in the NFC East.
It's a tough call, as both players have strung together an extended scoreless streak. I enjoyed the hot start Stevens got in Monday's game, as Matt Hasselbeck turned to him frequently in the opening drive. Unfortunately, the game got out of reach, and Seattle quarterbacks began doing the hand-off two-step. Though San Francisco gave them a scare a few weeks back, I suspect that this game gets out of hand, much in the same way that last week's contest did. As a result, I'd sit Stevens this week and look to Miller.
On paper, there's not much to point out offensively in this matchup. Defenses will rule the day. The Steelers are confident that they'll be able to cause some turnovers of their own and set up short fields for Ben Roethlisberger and company. With a sloppy field on tap for Sunday, the Steelers will look to establish the ground game and short passing games with Miller being a big target. He hasn't scored in five weeks, but I believe that this streak ends on Sunday at home in a must-win game.
Hey, Mike. I have both the luxury and the curse of having several mid-level running backs to choose from this week. I just lost Brian Westbrook for the season, and I need to fill the gap. Who would you start between Willie Parker, DeShaun Foster, Samkon Gado, Ronnie Brown, and Ryan Moats, who appears to be Westbrook's replacement? – Matt in Indianapolis
I'm going to assume you're starting two players this week, so I'm looking at Samkon Gado against the Lions and DeShaun Foster, despite the tough matchup against Tampa Bay. I need to see Moats perform well before inserting him, and he faces a tough task against the Giants. As for Parker, he faces a tremendous test against the dominating Bears defense. The key there is that he loses the goal line touches to Jerome Bettis. Finally, Ronnie Brown's PT has been reduced with the re-emergence of Ricky Williams, and they face a tough run defense in San Diego.
Gado has scored in four of the fives games that he's started, and has been absolutely brilliant in each game (except for that embarrassing performance against the Vikings). He had more than 20 Touches and topped 70 yards in each of those games. I like Gado and the Packers offense at home in the spotlight.
Foster doesn't have the strongest matchup this week against the Buccaneers, but it's tough to argue with the numbers he's put up recently. Foster had 53 Touches in the past two weeks and rolled up 278 yards of offense. Stephen Davis ran for 48 yards and two scores in the first matchup against the Bucs. I expect Foster to finish in the neighborhood of 80 yards with a score at home.
I would like to know if I would be wise to bench Jay Feely of the Giants since he will be at Philly – outside, snow/ice, windy/cold , and go with John Kasay of Carolina, who will be at Tampa Bay – warm, probably sunny and dry? I need the points and have to go for broke. – Craig in Toledo, OH
Given the arctic blast hitting the East Coast, I'd shift away from Feely this week and head to Kasay. The decision becomes easier if you get dinged for missed attempts, as the wind figures to wreak havoc in the Eagles-Giants contest. I'd start Kasay against the Bucs this week. The weather forecast indicates sunshine and temperatures in the mid-50s for this one. Kasay has attempted the same number of PATs and six fewer FG attempts.
As a result, I'd turn to the Panthers' kicker where the footing will be more sure and that the weather won't impact it. I expect the defense to set the Panthers up with a couple short fields in terrorizing Chris Simms, and that means opportunities for Kasay.
OK, I'm nearing the end of my patience with Worthless McGahee, I mean Willis McGahee. Should I take a chance on him ending his scoreless streak? Pick two out of here, please: McGahee, Samkon Gado, DeShaun Foster, and Fred Taylor (if he starts). Thanks Mike, and keep up the good work. – Joseph in Fort Worth, TX
I can't recommend Fred Taylor, even if he does get the nod on Sunday against Indianapolis, because I still expect Greg Jones to split the workload. Foster will have a decent game, as he's now the true starter in Carolina, but the matchup against Tampa Bay is no gimme.
That leaves Gado and McGahee. I back Gado in the solid matchup against the Lions, who are looking ahead to the holiday parties and a long offseason. I expect the Packers to put forth a strong effort at home on national television to put the debacle against Chicago in the rear-view.
I like McGahee in the game versus New England for a couple reasons. First, we've already talked about the weather for the East this weekend. That means heavy workloads for running backs featured in those contests. Second, McGahee rolled up 157 yards of offense on the road at New England back in Week 8. McGahee was issued a challenge by Mike Mularkey to back up his boastful comments of a few weeks ago and responded with 99 yards of offense last week. I'm calling for him to break the six-week scoring drought this weekend at home.
I am currently top seed in my league at 10-3. I am playing the No. 4 seed, and she has been blazing up the charts lately. I need to know if Michael Vick is the guy to go with, or is Drew Bledsoe going to awake from his coma? Also, I have Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson, Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry. Who are the two that will help me stay the No. 1 seed and get the bye? – Jill in Nampa, ID
Bledsoe is certainly in a solid matchup this weekend against a Chiefs defense that has allowed 20 TD passes and 242 yards per game. However, he's tossed for multiple scores only once in the past seven games and has started to turn the ball over more frequently. Despite the presence of a tough KC run defense, I expect Bill Parcells to continue to pound the ball with Julius Jones this week. I think he gets to 200 yards and two scores, but that turnovers will erode those positives.
Therefore, I'm turning to Vick. The numbers for the New Orleans pass defense are somewhat deceptive, as they rank third in yards allowed at 172 per game. However, they've allowed 16 passing touchdowns against only seven interceptions. The porous run defense (136 yards per game) sets things up nicely for opposing quarterbacks. I expect Atlanta to get back to basics, racking up massive yardage on the ground between Warrick Dunn, T.J. Duckett, and Vick, and setting Vick up for a pair of short scoring strikes in this Monday night matchup.
As for your RB question, I'd ride the hot hands with Portis and Johnson. Chris Perry would be a sneaky play if you were running with lesser commodities at the position, but there's no need with this batch. Portis has been on a roll, scoring in three of his past five games, with five straight games above 75 total yards. He rolled on St. Louis last week and has a great shot to repeat this week against Arizona.
The second spot goes to Rudi Johnson. He ripped off 126 yards and a score in the season opener against the Browns, and now gets to reprise that performance at home this week. In the past four weeks, Johnson has scored seven touchdowns and topped 100 yards of offense in three of those games. You'll get to celebrate at least one more Johnson TD this weekend.
My QBs are Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe. Deciding between these two has driven me crazy all season long. – Jonathan in Hamilton, Ontario
I like the matchup for Bledsoe, as I indicated above, but I'd run with Favre this week. He's looking to rebound from a sub-par performance against the Bears at home on the national stage against a quitting Detroit team. Favre has tossed for more than 200 yards in 10 of 12 games this year and averages 38 attempts per contest. I'm looking for a great effort this week, aided by the injuries that have plagued the Detroit secondary. The Lions have allowed multiple TD passes in two straight games. Favre will no doubt throw one or two "huh?" passes during this one, so expect a turnover or two. But, I'm looking for the positives to dwarf those decisions this week.
Here's to a productive and winning weekend on the virtual gridiron this week. If you're traveling this weekend, here's hoping for safe and on-time arrivals. And, if you're delayed, that they don't call your row in the final two minutes of a close game.
Good luck, all!