Detroit Lions

NFL Thanksgiving Preview

I can’t begin to start listing the things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family, my incredible fiancée, my amazing friends, and the many dogs in my life. And you know what? I’m thankful for football on Thanksgiving.  It’s fun watching the men in my family hover from their plates to the TV trying to catch a glimpse of the game. On a day we spend so much time with family, we also spend time with our pals Calvin Johnson, Tyron Smith, and Matt Forte.

This particular turkey day gives us three in-division matchups with huge implications in the standings. The Bears travel to the Motor City for a matchup with Matthew Stafford and the Lions. Two 8-3 teams in the Eagles and Cowboys square off with a division lead in their sights. And finally in the nightcap, the defending NFC champion Seahawks take a trip South to San Fran to meet up with Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers.

Let’s take a minute to break each down (obviously with an eye towards fantasy) and get a better taste of what’s to come this Thursday.

***At the bottom of the article, I’ve listed some fantasy D’s to keep an eye on when looking towards playoff matchups.***

Email me at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com with any questions you may have or any lineup help you need. I’m the expert tool at your fingertips

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

            For the visiting Bears, this matchup is very fantasy unfriendly and reality-unfriendly as well. The Lions may be coming off a beating at the hands of one Tom Brady, but don’t think for a moment that they’re going to lie down for this game. They know it’s going to take their best effort to beat the Bears and keep pace with the in-division rival Packers. The Lions rank as the 3rd, 4th, and 9th toughest defense, respectively, against QBs, WRs, and RBs. With such a tough matchup, I’m not a fan of Jay Cuter this week. While he has great receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Cutler has struggled recently (failed to reach 10 fantasy points in three of the last five weeks). Temper expectations for your Bears pass catching options. As for Forte though, he’s an automatic play and you hope he can continue his momentum from last week’s two-touchdown performance. If Chicago is going to have a chance, it’s key for them to get the ground game going early.

            As for the Lions, this game sets up picture-perfect for Stafford and his receivers. Megatron (Calvin Johnson) could easily go off for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns on this weak secondary that’s been getting lit up week after week. I could see the Lions jumping out to an early lead on the arm of the Georgia product. Therefore, I really like the potential of Joique Bell this week. I think they’re going to try to control the clock and force Cutler to sling it around on the other side of the ball. If Reggie Bush is announced as being inactive, Joique moves to top 15 RB status for me. And for one last note on the Lions: I really like Matt Prater. You won’t catch me talking about kickers too frequently but this matchup is the best you can hope for at the position. The Bears have allowed the most points to kickers on the year and Prater has a booming leg. And a booming leg inside Detroit’s cozy dome spells fantasy success.

Prediction: Lions 27 – Bears 17

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

            For the Eagles, this game is a chance for them to stake their claim as the best team in the division and a legitimate super bowl contender. Their warp-speed offense under Chip Kelly will look to showoff on the national stage. A couple guys to note in this fast-paced frenzy are Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, though, I’m afraid Maclin is really going to struggle this week. For as much as they were criticized for their awful defense last year, the Cowboys have patched together a very formidable group. Before getting torched by Odell Beckham Jr. Sunday night, the Cowboys secondary had only allowed three touchdowns to receivers in the past seven weeks. Since Mark Sanchez has taken the reins, Maclin has taken a hit, having only accumulated 23 points over the past three weeks combined. However, Eagles fans, there is hope. And that hope is in the form of one shift RB named LeSean McCoy. After seemingly being primed for a big game all year long, McCoy finally put the yards and touchdowns together last week against the Titans, going for 130 yards and a touchdown on only 21 attempts. And I think “Shady” continues his success in Big D. The Boys have given up five rushing TDs over the past four weeks and RBs are averaging better than four yards a carry as well. This screams big game for one LeSean McCoy.

            As for “America’s Team”, this game against the Eagles presents one huge, huge mismatch and I fully expect the Cowboys to exploit it. Over the past five weeks, the Eagles have given up nine touchdowns to WRs. Dez must be getting his “Throw up the X” celebration ready. I think he might absolutely go off. I’m not doing rankings this week, but he would probably be my top option at the position. The Eagles are not only the worst in the league against receivers, but they’re the second worst against QBs as well. The Romo-to-Dez connection is going to be visited frequently Thursday and I expect a smashing success. But, no Cowboys preview is complete without mentioning the league’s leading rusher, Mr. DeMarco Murray. The Eagles are giving up an average of 18 points to RBs over the past four weeks, and I think Murray makes that number even bigger. Do me a favor, please start your Dallas studs, not that you weren’t already. Dez and DeMarco are as automatic as can be, and I think Romo should be an absolute start unless you have Luck, Manning, Rodgers, or Brady.

Prediction: Cowboys 31 – Eagles 20

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

            For the Seahawks, this looks like a bad, bad matchup on almost every level. Russell Wilson is a “sit” for me this week going up against the number one fantasy passing defense. I could be wrong, but I just have a feeling Russell really struggles. And to make matters worse, Marshawn Lynch has some tough sledding as well. The 49ers have been the fifth toughest run defense on the year and will look to slow down “Beast Mode”. Having given up only one touchdown in the past 4 weeks, San Francisco has been stout when it matters. However, Marshawn remains a must start, and there is some light in the situation. Four of the last seven RBs to face the 49ers have had at least 100 yards rushing. While I think Lynch’s ceiling may be somewhat limited this week, I think he gets enough yards to make you comfortable starting him. 

            Much the same for the team by the bay, this looks like a defensive struggle in the making. Colin Kaepernick is going up against the second toughest team against the pass, and his receivers are going up against the top rated secondary in football. With only one passing touchdown allowed in their last three games, this is the week to bench your 49er passing options. And the news doesn’t get much better for the backfield. Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde will have a tough time finding many holes against a defensive front that has allowed a 100 yard rusher only twice through week 12. Both backs are touchdown-dependent anyways so play at your own risk.

Prediction: Seahawks 17 – 49ers 14

Best Defensive Matchups in Playoffs (Week 14-17)

Week 14

1.     Texans

2.     49ers

3.     Lions

4.     Vikings

5.     Rams

Week 15

1.     Cardinals

2.     Ravens

3.     Lions

4.     Chiefs

5.     Seahawks

Week 16

1.     Eagles

2.     Bills

3.     Titans

4.     Dolphins

5.     Packers

Week 17

1.     Dolphins

2.     Texans

3.     Seahawks

4.     Colts

5.     Broncos

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

Before Sunday’s intriguing matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, teams with a minus-four turnover margin in a single game had a 43-663 record since the 1970 merger. Now bare with me here because I am no mathematician, but if I were not mistaken, that would give the Cowboys about a 94% chance of winning, if in fact the Lions were to commit four turnovers against them and the Cowboys were to take care of the football for an entire game.

Those are pretty good odds of winning, but the likelihood of a banged up Cowboys defense causing a talented Lions offense to turn the ball over four times did not seem too high.

Sunday’s game went against all odds, though, and despite turning the ball over four times, the Lions rallied late to defeat the Cowboys 31-30 in dramatic fashion. 

With just 29 seconds left in the game and the clock ticking after Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had hauled in a Matthew Stafford pass down to the one-yard line, Stafford hurried his teammates up to the line and fooled everyone by hurdling over his offensive line to score the sneaky game-winning touchdown. 

This heartbreaking loss was a similar result to the one the Cowboys suffered Week 5 to the Denver Broncos, in a sense that, well, they blew it.

Some may argue that the offense for the Cowboys played not to lose near the end of the game, trying to run out the clock by handing the ball off to running back Joseph Randle. But the defense collapsed, and “Megatron” had a mega game and was too much to handle for Brandon Carr and the rest of the Cowboys. 

Johnson tore up the Cowboys, beating any type of coverage that was brought his way and was just seven yards shy of breaking Flipper Anderson’s NFL receiving record with 329 yards. He also was able to find the end zone once. And for all the fantasy players out there, Johnson could have had even more points for you, but he was stopped inside the 5-yard line four times.

On the other side, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, whom everyone was comparing Johnson to heading into the game, scored two touchdowns on 72 yards receiving. Despite the solid stat line, Bryant still managed to damage his image for most. 

Bryant was caught on camera throwing multiple fits, yelling at coaches and teammates. Some are saying it is because he was not getting the ball enough and that he is still an immature punk. Bryant said after the game, though, it was just passion.

No matter what the reasoning behind Bryant’s outbursts was, it is unacceptable as a professional athlete in the NFL. Bryant needs to harness his emotions better and gain more control of himself in situations similar to those which happened Sunday. 

Bryant is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, and he has a long career ahead of him. Having said that, this should be addressed within the Cowboys locker room and have people help him along the way if he wants to achieve a good image. I have no doubt this won’t be a problem going forward, and Bryant will have continued success and even has a chance to become one of the all-time greats when it is all said and done. 

On a positive note, rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams from Baylor University continues to improve every single week. Williams scored a touchdown for the fourth straight game against the Lions, setting a franchise record for most consecutive games with a touchdown reception. 

Oh, and how about Sean Lee? The linebacker seems to be everywhere for the Cowboys’ defense, intercepting two of Stafford’s passes Sunday and racking up a team-high 10 tackles. That extension the Cowboys gave him is being well earned.

With the loss, the Cowboys are back to a familiar .500 record, sitting at 4-4. But I believe this is what the Cowboys are: mediocre. 

The teams they have beaten are the: Rams, Giants, Redskins and Eagles, who currently all have losing records. Even though they “could” have easily won against the Lions and in multiple games earlier in the season, the bottom line is they did not.

Aside from all the drama the Cowboys will go through Sunday and all of the criticism the team will face this week, they are still in first place in the NFC East. 

The Cowboys return home in Week 9 and will take on the Minnesota Vikings from AT&T Stadium.

 

With fantasy contenders beginning to emerge in many leagues, the emphasis now is on staying competitive and not falling behind in the standings. Whether the goal is to remain in first place or climb out of last, it only takes a few key lineup modifications:

Players to start:

1) LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are an anomaly for a number of reasons, one of them being their inability to consistently get the ball to the explosive McCoy. However, with Michael Vick struggling to hold onto the football and the Eagles facing a Lions defense that has allowed over 100 rush yards per game this season, “Shady” McCoy should have a solid week. Expect him to get plenty of touches and reach the end zone.

2) Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
After looking practically invisible the first two weeks of the season, Fitzgerald has emerged as the fantasy stud people thought he would be, averaging just under 90 receiving yards over the past three games. With a weak Buffalo Bills defense coming up Sunday, Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb will be looking in Fitzgerald’s direction any chance he gets.

3) Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
While everyone has been talking about another Redskins rookie, Morris has quietly put together a very solid season. Morris has been the model of consistency, topping 89 yards rushing in all but one game this year, including back-to-back 100-yard games the past two weeks. Whether quarterback Robert Griffin III plays or not Sunday against the Vikings, look for the Redskins’ offense to lean on Morris.

Players to sit:

1) Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans
After a big game against the Detroit Lions three weeks ago, Washington has been held in check and out of the end zone by opposing defenses. Much of this can be attributed to the absence of starting quarterback Jake Locker, who injured his shoulder against Houston in Week 4. With Matt Hasselbeck under center for the Titans and the Steelers defense coming to town, Washington cannot be considered a reliable fantasy threat.

2) Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
After his debacle against the Bears on Monday Night Football a couple of weeks ago, can we really trust Romo again? Yes, he has had dud games like that throughout his career and has been able to bounce back from them, but this year’s Cowboys are much less explosive offensively. With a weak offensive line to protect him from the Ravens’ tenacious defense, Romo will have to improvise early and often, which will lead to some mistakes.

3) Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Prior to last week, Ponder was playing mistake-free football for the Vikings. He faltered Sunday against the Dolphins, however, tossing his first two interceptions of the season. True, he is set to face a Redskins defense which has allowed big games to several quarterbacks this year. However, Washington looked better last week against the Falcons’ high-flying pass attack, and Ponder does not have the offensive weapons Matt Ryan had.

Printed on Thursday, October 11, 2012 as: McCoy a slick pick in fantasy this week