Lineup calls: Can Grant be played?
Depending on your perspective, the first and last games of Week 14
ranked among the greatest – or worst – of the 2009 NFL season. No,
I won’t turn back the clock to the Buffalo-Cleveland game
from earlier this year. That doesn’t help anybody’s
The Pittsburgh offense (save
Santonio Holmes and his 93 receiving yards) was terrible
Kurt Warner finished with negative points on Monday night
against the 49ers. I don’t know that I need to rehash all of
the individual stat lines from those games. If you lost, I just
caused you to explode your “World’s Best (insert line
here)” mug against the office wall. If you won in Week 14,
you can only smile and hope for better performances this weekend as
the playoffs move to the next level. With that as a backdrop, and
while I clean up my own mug following thoughts of the
Cardinals’ failures, let’s get rolling on this
Top 10 Quarterbacks
(Not named Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers,
Philip Rivers, Brett Favre or Kurt Warner)
Matt Schaub at St. Louis
Schaub played through a shoulder
injury in Week 13, and his status for Week 14 was in jeopardy for a
short spell early last week. He silenced any questions very quickly
against the Seahawks by connecting with
Andre Johnson for a long touchdown pass. Schaub went into
halftime with 300 passing yards. With
Arian Foster and some combination of
Chris Brown and
Ryan Moats running roughshod over the pathetic St. Louis run
defense, Schaub will have his shots downfield against the middling
Rams pass defense. We’ll still keep waiting for the day he
gets to lead the Texans in a real-life playoff game. In the
interim, enjoy the fantasy fireworks.
Donovan McNabb vs. San Francisco
DeSean Jackson returned to action in Week 13, and the
long-distance touchdown heroics began once again for the Eagles.
McNabb passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns, his third
multi-touchdown performance in his past five starts. He should face
pressure from the 49ers this week, but he’ll connect with his
deep ball threats if the pass rush and blitzes fail.
Tony Romo at New Orleans
The Cowboys might be in the annual
December slide, but Romo’s been performing nicely for fantasy
owners. He’s thrown multiple touchdowns in three consecutive
games while averaging 316.7 passing yards. The Saints rank in the
middle of the pack against the pass, surrendering 235.6 yards and a
touchdown per game. We’re likely to see one or more turnovers
caused by an aggressive New Orleans defense, but they’ve also
had a number of lapses and have surrendered big plays in recent
Jason Campbell vs. New York Giants
more comfortable and fluid in the pocket in recent weeks.
He’s registered three consecutive multi-touchdown games and
has passed for at least 222 yards in four straight starts.
I’m definitely encouraged by the progress of this offense and
the development of
Devin Thomas and
Fred Davis. Both will play huge roles this weekend. The
Giants defense has struggled mightily, as we’ve seen, and
will be tested by the Redskins at home. The record doesn’t
show it, but this team has performed much better in recent weeks.
Matt Hasselbeck vs. Tampa Bay
Hasselbeck’s down one
option this week with the news that
Nate Burleson’s been sidelined by an injury. However,
we did see
John Carlson pop back up on the radar last weekend to join
T.J. Houshmandzadeh and
Deion Branch as viable receiving options. Hasselbeck’s
performed well at home this season, averaging 231.8 yards and two
touchdowns per game, and the Buccaneers have surrendered 24 passing
touchdowns this season.
Kyle Orton vs. Oakland
Orton performed nicely against the
Colts, connecting 21 times with
Brandon Marshall en route to a 277-yard, two-touchdown game.
He’ll receive tremendous support from
Knowshon Moreno and
Correll Buckhalter in the ground game, thereby allowing
Marshall and perhaps even a secondary target to get involved. Look
for the Broncos to take care of business this week against the
Charlie Frye-led Raiders.
Alex Smith at Philadelphia
Smith didn’t dominate the
Arizona defense, as the 49ers worked a balanced offense and ran
Frank Gore and
Glen Coffee. He did take advantage of the wealth of
turnovers to record his sixth multi-touchdown effort in eight
appearances this season. This weekend’s matchup certainly
isn’t a layup, as Philly can bring the heat. However, the
Eagles secondary has been susceptible to big plays (218.6 yards and
1.62 touchdowns per game), putting the onus square on the San
Francisco offensive line.
Eli Manning at Washington
This isn’t the best of
matchups for Manning, as he’s struggled against the Redskins
during his career. In fact, he’s tossed only eight touchdown
passes in 10 career starts against Washington, and this pass
defense is fairly strong. The key here for Manning will be to
Mario Manningham or
Hakeem Nicks early to stretch the field and create space in
the zone for
Kevin Boss and
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Green Bay
numerous fantasy owners and all of Steeler Nation down in Week 14.
Naturally, he wasn’t aided by the howling winds, but the
short passing game was invisible as well. He should have
opportunities to connect downfield (see
Jay Cutler tape from Week 14), but he’ll also face
big-time pressure off the edges. I expect to see
Heath Miller and
Hines Ward much more involved this week.
Jay Cutler at Baltimore
Cutler produced two touchdown
passes last week against the Packers. Of course, he paired those
highlights with two more interceptions. I’m not calling on
him to register a monster day here by any means, but the Baltimore
defense has been torched for big plays with some regularity this
season. Don’t compare this squad to Detroit, even with as bad
as they’ve looked at times. There are playmakers downfield.
Brady Quinn at Kansas City
Quinn was listed in this spot
last week for the Thursday tilt against the Steelers. Of course,
that listing occurred before heavy winds rolled into Cleveland and
left the passing game flat. I believe he’ll receive stellar
support from the three-headed run game of
Chris Jennings, Jerome Harrison and
Josh Cribbs in this game, thereby affording him time to look
downfield against a poor secondary.
Matt Cassel vs. Cleveland
I understand the reticence to
climb aboard the bandwagon here. Cassel’s been a turnover
machine of late. However, he’s getting a solid weekly effort
Jamaal Charles, and
Dwayne Bowe returns in some capacity to help against the
injury-riddled Cleveland defense. It’s a roll of the dice, to
be sure, but Cassel could be a surprise multi-touchdown performer
in this one. Could we see CLE-DET, PART II?
Carson Palmer at San Diego
Palmer left fantasy owners flat
for yet another week against the Vikings. He’s produced only
one multi-touchdown game since Week 7, which was four weeks later
when he ran for two touchdowns against Chicago. He’s thrown a
touchdown pass in three consecutive games, but it’s difficult
to see him doing much better on the road against a San Diego
defense that’s getting healthier.
David Garrard vs. Indianapolis
Garrard’s been a
fairly solid yardage contributor to fantasy lineups this season,
but would you believe he’s only thrown 10 touchdowns all
season? Interestingly, he produced three multi-touchdown games. In
any event, he completed 50 percent of his attempts (14-for-28) for
122 yards with 14 rushing yards and a sack in the opener against
Indianapolis. I’ve heard all the upset talk about
Thursday’s game, but running the numbers and watching games
backwards, forwards and sideways, I’m really left wondering
what those scribes and pundits are seeing.
Top 10 Running Backs
(Not named Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson,
Frank Gore, Chris Johnson, Joseph Addai, Ray Rice or DeAngelo
Jamaal Charles vs. Cleveland
Charles has made the starting
role his own and has proven his worth for the 2010 season.
He’s averaged 114 total yards and a touchdown the past five
games. Now he sets his sights on the horrible Cleveland run
defense. Don’t read too much into that one-game blip on the
radar against the Steelers. The return of Dwayne Bowe should help
the downfield passing game (can it save Matt Cassel?) and open
lanes for Charles.
Thomas Jones vs. Atlanta
Jones has been one of the most
consistent tailbacks in the game and ranks among my contenders for
Fantasy MVP. He’s rushed for at least 75 yards or scored in
10 consecutive games. He’s averaging 89.8 rushing yards per
game. We’ve seen the Jets turn to Jones (and
Shonn Greene) with great frequency in the second half of the
season, and I expect the song to remain the same this weekend.
Kellen Clemens won’t be trusted to try and stretch the
field, and the formula won’t change much even if
Mark Sanchez is cleared.
Ricky Williams at Tennessee
Williams has been an absolute
terror since taking over the role of primary tailback for the
Dolphins. He’s registered four 100-yard games in his past
five starts and has already scored 12 total touchdowns this season.
Tennessee represents a difficult proposition for him, as the Titans
rank seventh in the NFL against the run. However, his sizable
workload and growing confidence of
Chad Henne in the passing game has me opportunistic that
Williams continues his phenomenal campaign.
Knowshon Moreno vs. Oakland
Moreno’s assumed the top
role in the Denver backfield, although we continue to see a steady
diet of touches for Correll Buckhalter. The rookie from
Georgia’s averaged 91.8 total yards per game in his past five
games with three touchdowns. He’s a veritable lock for a huge
week against the pathetic Oakland run defense that’s been run
over for 154.2 rushing yards and 1.54 touchdowns per game.
Joseph Addai at Jacksonville
How much do you trust Jim
Caldwell? If you take him at his word, then Addai shoulders a
sizable load and performs well against a weak Jacksonville
defensive front. He’s averaged 80.8 total yards per game this
season and has scored 12 touchdowns. He logged 22 touches and 77
total yards with a touchdown and his lone lost fumble of the year
in Week 1 against Jacksonville.
Laurence Maroney at Buffalo
Bill Belichick continues to
lean on his fourth-year tailback. Maroney rebounded from a sub-par
Week 13 performance against the Dolphins with a strong game against
Carolina (94 rushing yards and 17 receiving). Remember, he’d
scored in six consecutive games prior to the smallish effort
against Miami. I won’t recount all of the top-tier
performances we’ve seen against the sieve-like Buffalo run
defense. Suffice it to say we’ve seen opposing runners gash
through the tackles time after time after time. Forget about all
the off-field issues and speculation. The Patriots will be able to
run the ball in this contest, and I expect to see Maroney cash in
on a goal-line plunge.
Beanie Wells at Detroit
Wells joined the turnover festival
in Monday’s atrocious Arizona loss to San Francisco, but he
still amassed 103 total yards and scored a touchdown. I don’t
know how much needs to be said here. The Detroit defense is
terrible, and Arizona’s motivated to rebound from a horrific
display and seal off the division. Wells has gained Ken
Whisenhunt’s confidence and will play a huge role this week.
Pierre Thomas vs. Dallas
Thomas didn’t exactly
dominate the Falcons as we’d expected in Week 14, but
it’s hard to argue with his 100 total yards (47 rushing, 53
receiving). My expectations are lowered somewhat this weekend
against the Cowboys for a couple reasons. First, we see
Reggie Bush is back in Sean Payton’s good graces to
some degree (was the Week 13 a motivational thing?). Second, the
Dallas run defense is strong. Despite those factors, Thomas still
ranks among the game’s top options for this week as part of
the high-octane New Orleans offense. The Saints have scored at
least 24 points in every game this season.
Quinton Ganther vs. New York Giants
Ganther stepped into
the lead role for the Redskins last week, the fourth player to do
so, and produced a strong effort against the Raiders. He rolled to
50 rushing yards on the ground with two short touchdowns and caught
three passes for 43 yards.
Rock Cartwright was relegated to the role of bystander, and
I don’t expect much more of him this week against the Giants.
Fred Jackson vs. New England
Jackson’s become the top
option in the Buffalo backfield in recent weeks and has become a
nice plug-in RB2 to replace the countless injured starters. His
ability to catch the ball out of the backfield also aids owners in
PPR leagues. He’s averaged 97.7 total yards and 19.7 touches
per game the past three weeks. We’re looking for more
late-season heroics this week against New England, against whom
Jackson piled up 140 total yards in the near-upset in Week 1.
Running Back Sleepers
Arian Foster at St. Louis
Chris Brown ripped your hearts
out in Week 13 with an interception toss from the five-yard line.
He and Ryan Moats have also had trouble impressing Gary Kubiak
while putting the ball on the carpet. Therefore, the rookie from
Tennessee is likely to see the lion’s care of the workload
this weekend against the pathetic St. Louis run defense. Foster
carried the ball 13 times for 34 yards while adding four receptions
for 54 yards in the blowout win over Seattle.
Julius Jones vs. Tampa Bay
Amid a sea of fresh faces, Jones
certainly isn’t a sexy option this weekend. However, Jim Mora
remains committed to giving the veteran back a sizable workload so
long as he’s healthy. He’s amassed 30 carries in the
past two weeks and should be a big part of the game plan alongside
Justin Forsett against a terrible Tampa Bay squad.
Chris Jennings at Kansas City
I’d envisioned Jennings
to become the lead option in Cleveland in Week 13, but we watched
Jerome Harrison produce a top-notch effort instead. He got
his chance last week instead and posted a season-high 20 carries
for 73 yards and a touchdown against the stout Pittsburgh defense.
The Chiefs rank 28th in the league against the run and surrender
148.1 rushing yards and a touchdown per game.
Running Back Flops
Rashard Mendenhall vs. Green Bay
Mendenhall failed fantasy
owners miserably to start the strange week that was Week 14.
He’s been fairly consistent in terms of yardage in recent
weeks, averaging nearly 98 total yards over his past seven games.
However, he’s found the end zone only twice during this
period. Might the Steelers return to the franchise’s storied
history and try to run the ball this week as the playoff
aspirations swirl down the drain? It’s possible they try, but
picking up traction against the league’s second-best run
defense will be difficult.
Ryan Grant at Pittsburgh
Grant opened Sunday’s game
against Chicago with a 62-yard touchdown run, putting owners in a
very good position early. He finished with 137 rushing yards and
scored twice. Obviously, things get a lot tougher this weekend
against the top-ranked Pittsburgh run defense playing for its
playoff life at home. The Steelers have surrendered only four
rushing touchdowns this season.
Matt Forte at Baltimore
Forte had at least been
contributing 80-90 total yards on a regular basis, but the
disastrous play of the offensive line and the frequent squandering
of red zone chances by the turnover-prone Jay Cutler has lowered
his ceiling in ‘09. The Baltimore defense has had its issues
this season, but the
Haloti Ngata-led line still ranks sixth against the run.
Top 10 Wide Receivers
(Not named Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin,
Marques Colston, Roddy White, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Vincent
Jackson, Sidney Rice and Wes Welker
Miles Austin at New Orleans
Austin’s charmed season
continued with a six-catch, 71-yard game against the Chargers that
included his 10th touchdown reception. He’s scored in three
consecutive games and has caught three or more passes in nine of
his past 10. We’ve seen many a lapse in the New Orleans
secondary in recent weeks. As such, we can reasonably expect one of
our candidates for Fantasy MVP to continue his hot streak.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Tampa Bay
been sidelined by an injury, thereby leaving Houshmandzadeh as the
top option against a miserable Tampa Bay pass defense. He’s
been a steady, albeit quiet, contributor to owners in PPR leagues
with an occasional big game tossed into the mix. He’s
averaging five receptions and 55 yards per game. Matt
Hasselbeck’s been quite productive in front of the home
crowd, and I suspect he delivers a strong effort on Sunday.
Houshmandzadeh will need to be a factor with Burleson sidelined.
Antonio Bryant at Seattle
As expected, Bryant was shut down
in Week 14 by
Darrelle Revis in the Buccaneers’ blowout loss to the
Jets. His matchup is much better this weekend against a soft
Seattle pass defense, even with
Marcus Trufant back in the mix. Bryant had averaged 3.7
receptions and 82.3 yards in the three games prior to his battle
with Revis. He’s definitely worthy of a look-see at the third
receiver slot in deeper leagues.
Terrell Owens vs. New England
Owens caught only two passes
for 15 yards in Week 14 against the Dolphins, but as we surmised on
the FOX Fantasy Football radio show Sunday morning, he scored.
He’s been more involved in the passing game in recent weeks,
and I expect to see him targeted frequently as the Bills look to
stymie the Patriots’ playoff aspirations. The New England
secondary has been beaten for big plays fairly regularly, thereby
putting Owens on the map for a big outing.
Santonio Holmes vs. Green Bay
Holmes has been the
Steelers’ top option since the Week 8 bye, having caught six
or more passes in six consecutive games with at least 74 yards in
each (two touchdowns). His consistent play has moved him into third
place in the NFL in receiving yardage. I expect to see him active
downfield this week against Green Bay. The Packers rank third in
pass defense and have been more active in attacking opposing
quarterbacks, but have surrendered 24 passing touchdowns.
Attempting to overload on Roethlisberger could create one-on-one
Pierre Garcon at Jacksonville
Garcon posted his most meager
effort since Week 7 in last weekend’s win over Denver. He
caught just two passes for 39 yards in a tough one-on-one matchup
Dallas Clark cleaned up over the middle instead. He’d
posted at least 50 receiving yards in six straight games (two
100-yard efforts) before last week’s shutdown. He should
feature prominently into the game plan early in Week 15 against the
pathetic Jacksonville pass defense, though.
Greg Jennings at Pittsburgh
Jennings has obviously ranked
among the more disappointing fantasy options this year. He’s
still catching passes at a rate of 4.3 per game, but the big,
explosive plays have been few and far between (three 100-yard
games). He’s a solid play against the weakened Pittsburgh
secondary, provided that the Green Bay offensive line continues its
recent solid play.
Steve Smith (NYG) at Redskins
Smith hasn’t found the
end zone since the Giants’ Week 10 bye, but he remains a
top-notch receiving option. Consistency is king in this topsy-turvy
world, and Smith has still averaged six receptions and 83.5 yards
during this four-game scoring drought. He caught six passes for 80
yards in the first meeting with Washington, and I suspect he hits
the mark again.
Robert Meachem vs. Dallas
Go figure. The seemingly hopeless
Atlanta pass defense was the unit to stop Meachem’s five-game
scoring streak. Still, he wasn’t shut out altogether and gave
owners in PPR leagues a decent four-catch, 57-yard day. He’s
on the radar this weekend against the Dallas secondary. The Cowboys
have been better in recent weeks, but remain susceptible to
surrendering big plays.
Derrick Mason vs. Chicago
Mason made one of the top plays
in Week 14, with his catch, collision and sprint to the end zone
against the Lions. He’s topped 60 receiving yards in four of
his past five starts with two touchdowns. He’s now caught
multiple passes in 12 of 13 games this season. The Chicago pass
defense has played fairly well, but Mason will still be able to
pile up receptions and yardage.
Wide Receiver Sleepers
Dwayne Bowe vs. Cleveland
Bowe appears on the sleeper list
this week, because his role is a huge question mark and many
fantasy owners probably don’t realize his suspension has
finished. He returns from his four-game suspension and should
contribute immediately to the passing game. His return certainly
can’t hurt Matt Cassel, who’s been erratic and
turnover-prone in his absence.
Devin Aromashodu at Baltimore
Aromashodu was impressive
during training camp and finally got a shot as a downfield option
against Green Bay. He caught eight passes for 76 yards and a
touchdown in the Week 14 contest and represents an intriguing deep
sleeper option against Baltimore. He stands 6-foot-3 and has the
ability to out-leap defenders.
Greg Camarillo at Tennessee
Camarillo posted his best game
of the season, a seven-reception, 110-yard effort in the Week 14
win over Jacksonville. It was his second straight solid effort
(four catches for 61 yards in Week 13), and I expect to see him on
the radar as a solid PPR contributor this weekend.
Davone Bess injured his ankle in Week 14, and his status for
this weekend’s tilt with Tennessee is unknown. Camarillo
isn’t going to post many huge plays, but he can aggregate a
nice, consistent effort and tally receptions and yardage.
Austin Collie at Jacksonville
Collie’s only topped 45
receiving yards once in the past six games, but he carries a modest
two-game scoring streak into Thursday’s game at Jacksonville.
He’s caught multiple passes in all but two games this season
and could feature prominently in this contest. I still question how
long the Indianapolis starters play.
Wide Receiver Flops
Mike Sims-Walker vs. Indianapolis
Sims-Walker remains the
top option for David Garrard, but his calf injury is mighty
disconcerting. He was a huge question mark for fantasy owners in
Week 14, as conflicting reports about the calf injury surfaced on
game day. In the past three weeks, he’s produced just six
receptions for 64 yards.
Chad Ochocinco at San Diego
Ochocinco’s scored in
back-to-back games and remains the top and – at times – only viable
receiving option for Carson Palmer. This is a tough matchup against
the top-10 San Diego pass defense. The unit’s surrendered 19
passing touchdowns, so there may be red zone opportunities coming
Cedric Benson’s efforts on the ground. He’s a
third receiver, but I’m not expecting huge output.
Calvin Johnson vs. Arizona
It’s unknown whether
Matthew Stafford will be available for Week 15 against
Arizona (he probably should be shelved). His absence certainly
impacts the downfield passing game and makes Johnson a difficult
play against the Cardinals. Calvin was targeted 12 times in Week 14
against Baltimore, but amassed just four receptions for 37 yards.
Obviously, he’s a red zone target and has a shot at a
touchdown. However, those owners looking for big points out of
receptions and yardage might be left wanting.