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.
Every year it happens. But go ahead and calm down. So what! You’re 2-3, big deal. It’s funny; the world kept on functioning even though you’re under .500.
Last night your hopes of moving to 3-2 were dashed with the Seahawks D doing absolutely nothing, or Alfred Morris putting up a stinker, or Percy Harvin having three touchdowns called back because of penalties. But your season is not over. Even if you’re 1-4, there’s a reason they play the games (if you’re 0-5, I think fantasy hockey is starting up this week so there’s always that).
The NFL is unpredictable; you never know what’s going to happen week to week. In the majority of fantasy football leagues, a record over .500 will get you into the playoffs. So look at your 1-4 or 2-3 record and imagine the smile on your face when you’re sneaking into the playoffs with that 7-6 record. So keep reading this article, make the appropriate waiver wire claims, and keep using the same formula you have been. It will all level out over a full season.
With that, it’s on to everyone’s favorite section: You’re Welcome/Sorry About That…
· Justin Hunter- My prediction: 6 catches, 71 yards, and a TD Reality: 3 receptions for 99 yards and a TD (15 fantasy points)…You’re welcome
· Steelers D- My prediction: Pick them up and expect double digit points Reality: 16 fantasy points…You’re welcome
· Joe Flacco- My prediction: 315 yards, 2 touchdowns Reality: 235 yards, no touchdowns…Sorry about that
· Darrin Reaves- My prediction: 18 carries for 67 yards and a TD Reality: 11 carries for 35 yards…Sorry about that
· Jace Amaro- My prediction: 6 catches for 63 yards Reality: 3 catches for 19 yards…..Yeah I’m really sorry about that
Free Agent Finds
Quick reminder, these guys are free agents for a reason, don’t expect a miracle from them. Secondly, the Chiefs and Saints are on bye this week so set your lineup accordingly
· Jake Locker (owned in 2% of leagues)
o I’m giving Locker one more shot to prove himself, and the Titans may feel the same way. With a proven backup in Charlie Whitehurst and a rookie they want to see in Zach Mettenberger, Locker needs to improve his play or risk losing his job. The young QB suffered a bruised thumb in Sunday’s loss to the Browns, but assuming he plays, he’s facing a very fantasy friendly defense in the Jaguars. Locker’s got a pretty solid arm and also picks up valuable rushing yards with his feet so he’s someone who could definitely fill in if you’ve got Brees or Alex Smith as your normal starter. Start him this week and pray he finally lives up to the expectations. Prediction: 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 INT
· Carson Palmer (6%)
o Palmer is pining to get back into the action this week as he recovers from a shoulder injury. And if he does in fact get the start, he couldn’t be coming back into a better situation. RB Andre Ellington is looking like the electric spark he is in the backfield and the Redskins, ranked dead last against the pass, are coming to town. Palmer is an excellent option if he is cleared to play. But if you do go with the veteran, make sure you’ve got a backup ready in case he’s listed as inactive Sunday. Prediction: 273 yards, 2 touchdowns
· Branden Oliver (1%)
o Have we seen the second coming of Darren Sproles? It may be a little early to say that, but Oliver certainly looked the part on Sunday taking 19 carries for 114 yards and catching all four of his targets for 68 yards. And don’t forget the two touchdowns he sprinkled in as well. The shifty RB was moved into the starter’s role with Donald Brown going out with a concussion. With Ryan Matthews out for the year and Brown presumably out of the game this week, Oliver looks like a surefire bet to get 20 touches. And with his speed and agility, 20 touches should be plenty to prove his fantasy worth. Facing an Oakland run defense ranked 3rd to last, Oliver has a shot to help out potential MVP Philip Rivers in a game that could be decided at halftime. Prediction: 15 carries, 68 yards and 5 receptions for 43 yards plus one TD
· Rueben Randle (50%)
o In three of his last four contests, Randle has either had a touchdown or at least 80 yards receiving. The Giants passing offense is confusing at times with Victor Cruz, Larry Donnell, and now Odell Beckham Jr. all in the mix, but Randle may be the one constant. Through 5 weeks he’s had 40 targets and has had at least 4 receptions each of the last 4 weeks. In week six, Randle gets a matchup with the league-worst Philadelphia Eagles secondary that he will be looking to exploit. In what could turn out to be a high scoring game, Randle figures to be heavily involved. Prediction: five catches, 61 yards and a TD
· Dwayne Allen (11%)
o Allen may be fantasy’s most touchdown-dependent option. In the 4 games he’s had a touchdown this year, Allen has averaged 10 fantasy points a game. But he also had the no-show performance in week 2 where he didn’t even catch a pass. Coby Fleener is going to get more looks and is the starter in Indy. But when Luck is looking for a short yardage/red zone pass catcher, it seems more and more that he’s looking Allen’s way. The young tight end is actually only 1 target behind Fleener on the year so his future seems bright, as he gets more involved. Again, you’re betting on a touchdown if you start Allen and that may be tough against a Texans D that has only allowed 1 touchdown to tight ends this year. However, I see the Colts attempting to establish the middle of the field with their tight ends and running backs on TNF, so an Allen TD isn’t out of the question. Prediction: 3 catches for 32 yards and a TD
· Packers D/ST (8%)
o My sneaky steal of the week is the Packers defense. Coming off a dominant TNF performance, Green Bay’s defense will be well rested and have had plenty of time to study Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is going to draw up some interesting looks against the young A&M product and I think the defense really, really succeeds. The Miami O-line has already given up 9 sacks in 4 games (They had their bye week last week). Expect that number to keep shooting up. Prediction: 14 points against, 3 sacks, 2 INTs
· Titans D/ST (1%)
o The Titans have this week’s lovely matchup, facing the hopeless Jaguars. Fantasy defenses have feasted on the Jags so far this season, scoring double digits all 5 weeks. The trend is likely to continue Sunday in Tennessee. Although they haven’t looked stellar thus far, the secondary has collected 6 interceptions in 5 weeks, including 3 in week 10 against the Chiefs. Rookie QB Blake Bortles has thrown 2 interceptions in three consecutive games. All this adds up to the perfect storm for the Titans. Prediction: 17 points against, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble, 3 sacks
· ***Staying ahead of the curve***
o Pick up the Browns D if you have an extra roster spot. Playing against the Jaguars next week, the Browns will be projected double points in every league. So if you’ve got the space, be sure to make this add this week and you can thank me next week.
Feel free to send in your lineup questions, waiver wire worries, or trade help to FantasyDecisions@gmail.com
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had not been known for stopping an offense run by Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly.
In fact, the last time these two went head-to-head was just a year ago at the collegiate level, when Kelly’s Oregon Ducks scored a whopping 62 points against the University of Southern California defense led by Kiffin. USC surrendered 730 yards and nine touchdowns in that game alone, which both set school records. Moreover, in three games against Kiffin’s defense, Oregon averaged 601 total yards and never scored less than 35 points.
Sunday was a different story at Lincoln Financial Field as Kiffin’s defense gave up a mere 278 yards, and in an unforeseen defensive battle, the banged up Cowboys defeated the Eagles 17-3 to gain sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Even without three starters on the defensive line, the Cowboys held Eagles quarterback Nick Foles to just 80 yards passing before knocking him out of the game after three quarters with a head injury. Rookie quarterback Matt Barkley played in relief but was far from effective, throwing three interceptions in three drives.
On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Tony Romo threw for 317 yards and one touchdown in his 100th career start. Wide receiver Terrance Williams had a solid game contributing 71 receiving yards and a touchdown.
For the first time this season, the Cowboys went on the road and got a victory. While the win may have been ugly, the Cowboys will take it seeing how they have been devastated by injuries. Obviously the team has things to work on, but maybe not as many things as the rest of the division.
The most important thing to take away from this game is that the Cowboys are now 3-0 in the division for the first time since 2007, when they won the division.
The Cowboys remain on the road as they prepare to face the Detroit Lions in Week 8, a team coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The last time these two teams faced each other was Dec. 9, 2007, when the Cowboys escaped with a 28-27 victory.
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
Week 8 of the fantasy season is now complete, so here are a few players that knew how to compete and those whose expectations they did not meet.
1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Quick: Name the NFL’s leading rushing team? Done guessing? Well I’m willing to bet that none of you chose the Eagles, a historically pass-happy squad that has had a change of heart in 2011, averaging a 179.9 yards on the ground. The bulk of those yards have been gained by a lightning quick second-round pick from Pittsburgh, LeSean McCoy. McCoy had been the best running back in football this season, averaging more than 100 yards a game, even before this weekend’s performance. He cut through the top-ranked Dallas run defense like butter for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
2. Maurice Morris, Detroit Lions
Jahvid Best is hurt and that means someone has to get the carries in the Motor City. That person is Maurice Morris, who had a good game on Sunday as Best’s replacement, rushing for 58 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Morris, who is available in 86 percent of ESPN fantasy football leagues and should continue to see touches even when Best comes back to keep him healthy, is a solid pickup.
3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have always been known as a run-first offense, but they have an All-Pro quarterback behind center and they have decided that throwing the ball is the best way to win ball games, which makes Pittsburgh receivers viable fantasy options. While you will not be able to pick up the Steelers No. 1 option, a solid No. 2 is still available in Antonio Brown, who has had more than 10 points in each of the past two weeks and is the Steelers’ most targeted wideout. He is still available in 76 percent of leagues and is a solid wavier pickup this week.
1. John Beck, Washington Redskins
Whenever your team gets shut out, it will be a rough week for the quarterback. For one that is competing for his job, it could be devastating. This is exactly the situation Beck is in after the Bills shutout the Redskins 23-0 on Sunday. Beck threw for only 208 yards and added two interceptions. After that performance, it remains to be seen if the quarterback carousel in the nation’s capital comes back to Rex Grossman this coming Sunday.
2. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Rookies will take their lumps and Gabbert took his on Sunday against the Texans. He threw for only 97 yards and two interceptions on a 10-of-30 passing performance in a 24-10 loss. The Jaguars’ league-worst offense was held to only 174 yards in this game.
Printed on Tuesday, Novemeber 1, 2011 as: McCoy runs over Cowboys, remains top fantasy player
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Vince Young laughs as he is introduced to the media after the morning session of NFL football training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., on Saturday.
The days of him doing a Heisman pose with a crystal ball, leading comeback after comeback and playing in Pro Bowls seem like a distant memory after the turmoil and controversy that have characterized Young’s career recently. All fans seem to remember now is Young getting hurt too often, throwing his pads into the stands and never getting along with his coach, Jeff Fisher.
Young’s days in Tennessee are over, and he gets a fresh start in Philadelphia, where he will try to replicate the turnaround Michael Vick has enjoyed there. The former Longhorn was released by the Titans last Thursday and signed a one-year deal for up to $5.5 million with the Eagles two days later. It was one of many masterful moves made by Philadelphia, who also acquired defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (a member of last year’s Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers), along with cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, who was considered the finest member of this year’s free agent class.
Both sides should benefit from this agreement for many reasons. First, Young may only be in Philadelphia for one season but should be comforted by the drastic improvements Eagles quarterbacks have made before him. Donovan McNabb was booed by Philadelphia fans the day he was drafted and he was a revered Eagles legend by the time he left. Kevin Kolb went from an unproven system quarterback to being handed the reins to the Arizona Cardinals offense. Remarkably, Vick has gone from a loathed dog-killer to a redeemed gun-slinger.
Reid and his coaching staff will also be more supportive of Young and his playing style than the Titans’ staff was. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow never seemed to realize trying to make Young a pocket passer was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Fisher never even wanted Young. Titans owner Bud Adams’ desire to draft Young trumped Fisher’s wish to get USC’s Heisman-winning quarterback Matt Leinart. Reid won’t mind Young scrambling to move the chains, because he’s seen it work for Vick. He won’t call the cops on Young because he mistakenly thinks he’s going to kill himself, and he certainly won’t throw him under the bus the way Fisher did.
Michael Vick is the most electrifying starting quarterback in the NFL, but he’s also the most injury-prone. At 6’0”, 215 pounds, Vick runs like a gazelle but doesn’t absorb hard hits like other, bigger quarterbacks do. The Eagles’ front office is aware Vick is more susceptible to injury than most and knew they needed a quality backup after sending Kolb to Arizona. That’s why they got Young. With skill players like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy, Young not only has a chance to play, but to play well.
That being said, this isn’t a move that will only benefit Young. There aren’t many teams who have a backup quarterback who’s been to two Pro Bowls, won over 60 percent of their starts and been Rookie of the Year. If Vick gets hurt, not only will they have a proven winner still taking snaps, but they won’t have to change their offense much because the way Young and Vick play is so similar. Vick is as good as it gets when it comes to quarterbacks, but if he gets injured, the Eagles will still be left with one of the league’s most talented signal-callers.
Young had his ups and downs in Tennessee, but it was time for him to go. His last few months there were filled with injuries, controversies and scandals. The Titans didn’t want him anymore and Young had nothing left to gain from them. They felt they needed to go in a different direction (even if it meant starting from scratch again with veteran Matt Hasselbeck preparing rookie Jake Locker). Bottom line: Tennessee was no longer a good fit for Young. Philadelphia is.