The Breakdown: Thanksgiving edition
(Note: Christopher's commentary on the Sunday and Monday games will be available this Friday.)
Green Bay is the better team here, and it should show early and often. But if the Packers can't cover better than the Giants did against Detroit Sunday, this could at least be a Thanksgiving fantasy feast. Credit Jon Kitna for standing in all year with a crummy O-line and perhaps the worst right tackle in football (George Foster, who'll be replaced by Jonathan Scott Thursday). Kitna's fantasy owners sure liked the 43 pass attempts and 377 yards. I have no doubt the Pack will rack up points, and therefore Mike Martz will almost certainly air it out again.
Fantasy Up: The Lions would love to be the Patriots and throw downfield every play, but they don't protect the quarterback well enough. Heck, they rarely have more than five blockers in a formation. That's why I love the Green Bay defense this week. Sure, the Lions might put up some points, but they'll also make their requisite mistakes, allowing sacks and turnovers. I have no regrets about my switch from Donald Driver to Greg Jennings; Driver caught five passes for 83 yards and looked sharp, but once again, Brett Favre looked to Jennings in the red zone. Roy Williams has shaken his slump. Despite battling what looked like some form of hand injury, and dropping a couple passes, Williams was open all day on the Giants' corners. Also, it was nice to see Calvin Johnson score his first touchdown since Week 2, but as frustrating as ever to see Martz insist on using Shaun McDonald more. Maybe Johnson's back really is constraining him, but is there any reason McDonald should have 61 targets this season (in 10 games), while Johnson has 38 in nine games?
Fantasy Down: Ryan Grant left the Carolina win with a sprained ankle, and certainly doesn't benefit from the short week. Monday, Mike McCarthy said he thought Grant would play, but if I'm counting on Grant, I'd go pick up Brandon Jackson as an insurance policy. Vernand Morency is likely to stay Green Bay's third-down back. Kevin Jones had a second straight disastrous outing, and the Lions gave up on running way too early in a competitive game Sunday. There's speculation his surgically repaired foot is bugging him, but Jones is supposedly OK to play Thursday. T.J. Duckett, who was reportedly slated to share some of the load against New York but had zero carries, could get some touches in Week 12.
The Jets blew their fourth double-digit lead of the season Sunday against Pittsburgh, and played before what some said was a hostile crowd of Pittsburgh fans in the Meadowlands, but at least they won for the first time in a couple months. And they rushed the passer impressively against what was supposed to be one of the premier O-lines in the game. Last week, I told you the Jets had nine sacks all season. Well, they registered seven against the Steelers. The Jets had been terrible against the run. Well, Willie Parker converted 21 carries into 52 yards. I wish I could say I believed that this represents a new beginning for New York. But I think the Jets will get steamrolled Thursday.
Fantasy Up: Tony Romo and Terrell Owens are the Tom Brady and Randy Moss of the NFC. Yeah, I know. I just thought that up all by myself. I got a lot of anti-Marion Barber sentiment in my Monday morning chat. He got 15 carries (to Julius Jones's nine) but turned those into only 43 yards, and he's gone two games without a touchdown. But listen: Washington's secondary was devastated by injuries, making the air an easier way to attack, and the Giants are a team you throw against, too. Last week notwithstanding, Barber gets on track against a bad Jets rush defense Thursday. If Jerricho Cotchery can get himself matched up on Jacques Reeves Thursday, watch out. Reeves was personally responsible for a sizable chunk of Santana Moss's breakout game. While Cotchery didn't do much on the stat sheet against Pittsburgh, he did have seven targets, and broke a streak of at least four catches in 15 straight games. If you've been using Patrick Crayton, be concerned. Crayton is highly questionable with a sprained ankle, and sounds like a game-time decision. If you can get confirmation he's not starting by roster-decision time, Sam Hurd makes a fine flex play.
Fantasy Down: Thomas Jones was the first back in 35 games to eclipse the 100-yard mark against Pittsburgh (though he failed twice on the goal line to get his first touchdown), but I still wouldn't start him if I had other alternatives. On the season, the Cowboys have now allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers, and they clamped down on Clinton Portis for 36 yards. Flozell Adams, who's played great at left tackle, scared the bejeezus out of Cowboys fans, going down late against Washington. He says it was a stinger, and he'll be OK, as will guard Leonard Davis, who didn't miss a snap with his high ankle sprain. Laveranues Coles caught one pass Sunday, a big 56-yarder, but suffered a high ankle sprain, and sounds doubtful for this game. Brad Smith got eight targets after Coles left Sunday's game, and would be a deeper sleeper if, as anticipated, Coles can't go. Kellen Clemens showed poise Sunday. But you can't start him.
Wow, is the Colts' offense stuck in neutral. I know everyone's making injury excuses for Peyton Manning's poor production, but I think Manning would be the first one to raise his hand and say he's not playing well. Frankly, I don't put as much stock in missing Marvin Harrison as everyone else seems to; Harrison is a great player, but it's not as if Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are chopped liver. More importantly, I think, Manning has never been a guy who's very good with defensive linemen around his feet, and that proved true against Kansas City. So I guess missing Tony Ugoh at tackle is legit. Either way, it seems pretty unlikely Indy will suddenly eclipse half-a-hondo on the scoreboard like New England every week.
Fantasy Up: I know Joseph Addai hasn't been as explosive the past couple weeks, but rest assured he'll have a big game Thursday. Rod Coleman hurt his triceps and hand against Jacksonville, and is out; with Coleman sidelined and Grady Jackson cut, there's not a lot left in the Atlanta D-line cupboard. I'd probably start the Indy defense, too, despite the fact that it mustered very little pass rush against a suspect Kansas City O-line. Freddy Keiaho was awesome playing linebacker and these corners continue to be the surest tacklers in the business. Tastiest of all is that the Colts will be facing one of those NFC South offenses that just doesn't scare you, also known as one of those NFC South offenses.
Fantasy Down: Dallas Clark played. That's the good news. But should he have? Clark looked dreadful, dropping pass after pass, then clutching his helmet in disbelief. The easy answer is he was concussed. But Thursday he'll have had only four days to get un-concussed. Byron Leftwich played so poorly Sunday, you wonder if it's the last time he starts an NFL game. (I said that about Daunte Culpepper a few weeks ago, so take it with a grain of salt.) Every throw he needed to make, he couldn't. Both interceptions were his fault, and he fumbled twice (losing one). The Falcons haven't scored an offensive touchdown in four of their 10 games. Joey Harrington (16-for-20 in relief) will start in this one, but obviously, you want no part of him, either. Roddy White, fantasy darling, was hopping up and down wide open in the end zone early Sunday, but Leftwich was busy getting thumped on a sack, which led to a pick. The saga of tackle Todd Weiner's health continued Sunday; he's out after re-aggr avating his knee, and Quinn Ojinnaka was awful replacing him. Protection was a major problem against Tampa, as were holes for Warrick Dunn. Bench him.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Cockcroft: Stolen base strategy
- Tardy: Hoops Forecaster for March 17-23
- Sleeper stolen base options for 2014
- Fantasy Hockey Forecaster: Week 22