Drew Brees: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
1. Pierre Thomas is more lethal than RB Reggie Bush, no matter the playing surface: I'm ashamed to admit this, but in one of my standard-scoring playoff leagues, I actually chose Bush over Thomas and Ryan Grant in Week 15 -- and man, did I pay dearly for that move! Thomas (146 total yards, 2 TDs) was the sole reason the Saints had any chance of winning this clash at c-c-c-c-cold Soldier Field ... and he'll probably be the primary reason for Detroit dropping to 0-15 next week. He's a must-start in Week 15, regardless of who sits atop your fantasy depth chart.
2. Drew Brees is a top-5 fantasy QB, even on Gus Frerotte-like nights: The official game log says Brees completed 24-of-43 passes on Thursday ... but I could've sworn he went the entire first half without a completion to anyone not named Bush or Thomas -- he was that medicore! Too-short tosses, too-long tosses, off-center tosses, fastballs to guys wearing the blue jerseys ... you name it and Brees did it. But alas, he gathered himself at halftime and finished with a reasonable bang (232 passing yards, 2 TDs), acceptable stats that can easily be forgotten once he carves up the sad-sack Lions next Sunday. (Do you sense a theme here?)
3. Barring injury, Marques Colston should be a top-5 WR in 2009: Sure, you had to love the 6-catch, 84-yard, 1-TD night against the ball-hawking Bears. But I was actually more impressed with Colston's attitude and resiliency after all the Brees incompletions early in the game. He just kept battling and battling ... until it was obvious he could get open at any point during crunch time. And come the '09 season, he'll undoubtedly experience a Roddy White-like breakout -- and one worthy of a Round 2 draft pick.
4, Don't be shocked if Bush sits out the remaining two games: At 7-7, it's time to be realistic about the Saints' playoff chances. Even at 9-7, they'd still need John Nash (Russell Crowe's character in A Beautiful Mind) to figure out all the mathematical permutations of a playoff berth. Hence, I just cannot envision New Orleans execs putting Bush through the rigors of de facto preseason games on a repaired, yet balky knee. Of course, this is great news for Pierre Thomas owners ... but also a crushing blow -- if BenJarvus Green-Ellis is your best backup fantasy back.
Here's why fantasy football is equal parts exhilarating and maddening during the postseason: On Thursday at 8:03 p.m., just minutes before the New Orleans-Chicago kickoff, our friend and colleague Lonny Krasnow was debating the merits of either starting the Bears D/ST or Dolphins D/ST for the semifinals of the SI.com & Friends league playoffs. His first -- and second -- inclination was to play the Bears, given their opportunistic defense and immense potential with Devin Hester returning kicks. But, saddled with a few minutes to kill before gametime, which usually leads to classic overthinking, Krasnow deliberated and deliberated before making the knee-jerk switch of moving Miami into his lineup. Well, as luck (or reverse karma) would have it, immediately after Lonny had mentally and physically committed to his decision, Chicago's Danieal Manning took the opening kickoff 83 yards for a score. D'oh!
If history has taught us anything ... the Titans-Texans game at Houston will be a shootout on Sunday. Since 2003, no club has failed to score at least 20 points, with each team racking up 30-plus points twice during this run of offensive proficiency. In fact, the median score betwixt the teams is Tennessee 29, Houston 26. Of course, it helps that both teams are powered by fantasy-friendly stars like Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Steve Slaton, Matt Schaub for the Texans and Kerry Collins, Chris Johnson, LenDale White, Justin Gage for the Titans. Let's hope, for Johnson's sake, that ol' LenDale can keep his "vulturing" of TDs to a minimum.
Never say never, of course, but I have zero plans to own Joseph Addai in fantasyland again. From the moment I traded for him in Week 6 -- as part of a 3-for-1 swap, where I surrendered Roy Wiliams, Tim Hightower and all-world TE Tony Gonzalez -- I have watched every Colts game, with bated breath, eagerly waiting to see the occasional breakout (Week 11 vs. Houston) ... but more importantly, consistency for the stretch run. Yes, I know Addai (540 rushing yards, 5 TDs in '08) has been nicked-up this season and he's had to fight for reps with Dominic Rhodes, but I am at a loss at how ordinary he looks on a real-time basis -- as opposed to just watching SportsCenter highlights. Sure, Addai should be a solid fantasy contributor for the next 8-10 years, but he's just not the home-run hitter I had envisioned -- kind of like Chris Johnson is right now and Darren McFadden will be next year.
1. Minnesota @ Arizona
2. Seattle @ St. Louis
3. Tennessee @ Houston
4. Detroit @ Indianapolis
5. N.Y. Giants @ Dallas
Fifteen years from now, NFL historians will revere the RB Class of '08 in the same way the QB Class of '83 has been deified. We're talking 10 potential franchise backs -- Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart, Rashard Mendenhall (out for the season) and Jamaal Charles, to name a few. Here are some Week 15 projections for the '08 class, courtesy of Pigskin Addiction:
Chris Johnson, Titans: 130 yards, 2 TDs
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: 70 yards, 1 TD
Steve Slaton, Texans: 110 total yards, 1 TD
Darren McFadden, Raiders: 60 total yards, 1 TD
Matt Forte, Bears: 120 total yards, 1 TD
Tim Hightower: Cardinals: 60 yards, TD
Kevin Smith, Lions: 70 total yards, 1 TD (my own personal prediction, since Snake refuses to even acknowledge the Lions)
1. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Minnesota
2. Marques Colston vs. Chicago (6 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
3. Steve Smith vs. Denver
4. Terrell Owens vs. N.Y. Giants
5. Reggie Wayne vs. Detroit
6. Greg Jennings vs. Jacksonville
7. Dwayne Bowe vs. San Diego
8. Braylon Edwards vs. Philadelphia
9. Andre Johnson vs. Tennessee
10. Wes Welker vs. Oakland
11. Deion Branch vs. St. Louis
In every Wednesday Clicks, I faithfully list the Targets -- the number of times per game a receiver or tight end gets thrown to. But, as a reader recently pointed out, I never release Target information with running backs -- which is an unpardonable sin on my part since Reggie Bush and Chris Johnson are carrying my teams in both of my Point-Per-Reception (PPR) leagues. So, without further ado, here are the Top 20 running backs in Targets (per game) from Weeks 11-14:
1. Reggie Bush, Saints (8.9 Targets)
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (7.3 Targets)
3. Kevin Faulk, Patriots (6.5 Targets)
4. Marshawn Lynch, Bills (6.3 Targets)
5. Brian Westbrook, Eagles (5.8 Targets)
6. Joseph Addai, Colts (5.7 Targets)
7. Marion Barber, Cowboys (5.5 Targets)
8. Matt Forte, Bears (5.0 Targets)
9. Chris Johnson, Titans (5.0 Targets)
10. Warrick Dunn, Bucs (5.0 Targets)
11. Derrick Ward, Giants (4.8 Targets)
12. Mewelde Moore, Steelers (4.8 Targets)
13. Ray Rice, Ravens (4.8 Targets)
14. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers (4.5 Targets)
15. Leon Washington, Jets (4.5 Targets)
16. J.J. Arrington, Cardinals (4.3 Targets)
17. Darren McFadden, Raiders (4.0 Targets)
18. Steven Jackson, Rams (4.0 Targets)
19. Maurice Morris, Seahawks (3.8 Targets)
20. Dominic Rhodes, Colts (3.8 Targets)
Matt Schaub: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Zachary from Bradford, Ohio says: Which one of these three QBs do I start this week: Shaun Hill at Miami, Big Ben vs. Baltimore or Matt Schaub against the Titans? I also have Brian Westbrook but have to start another RB out of Warrick Dunn, Steve Slaton or Maurice Morris.
Answer: Here's how I'd rank the QBs: 1) Schuab 2) Hill 3) Big Ben; and here's how I'd rank the RBs in Week 15: 1) Slaton 2) Morris (you could make a case for him at No. 1) and 3) Dunn.
The bottom line is this: Tennessee's defense, whille still impressive, has shown more than a few cracks in recent weeks -- and the Texans are rolling.
Terry in Cleveland says: This is my Super Bowl week. I need two of the three running backs -- Steve Slaton, DeAngelo Williams, Steven Jackson. And I also need two of these three wide receivers: Steve Smith, Terrell Owens, Dwayne Bowe. Please help.
Answer: You may not want to hear this ... but I don't think you can fail either way with your choice of the three backs or three pass-catchers this week. But since you asked, here is what I'd do: Go with S-Jax and DeAngelo at running back. And for receiver, the safe route is Steve Smith and T.O. ... but I LOVE Bowe's matchup with the Chargers enough to bench Smith (as shocking as that may be).
Ed in Hotlanta wonders: I need to win to get to our league's Super Bowl and have to start one of two: Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings' D (against Arizona) scares me, along with Warner's so-so play lately (read: INT's out the ying-yang).
Answer: I couldn't envision a better QB trio in fantasyland this year. But since Brees' game has already come and gone, let's just focus on the better option for the other two -- Warner. Minnesota certainly has a solid run defense and forces a lot of turnovers, but I would hardly characterize their pass defense as anything close to "scary." I fully expect Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston to pull down at least six catches for 80 yards -- with one having an absolutely huge game. Bottom line: I wouldn't be surprised to see Warner throw for 350 yards against the Vikings' boom-or-bust secondary (just my guess). So, unless you think Rodgers will fare better than 350 yards and two TDs against Jacksonville ... I'd roll the Super Bowl dice with Warner.
Mel from Rhode Island demands to know: Why do you have Larry Johnson listed as a RB "lock" for 120 Total Yards and/or 2 TDs? Isn't the strength of the Chargers its run defense? San Diego hasn't allowed a rushing score since Week 8, and it completely bottled up Johnson's Kansas City fill-ins back in Week 10. Also, I need to choose the best two of the following: Steve Slaton, Larry Johnson, Dom Rhodes.
Answer: Instead of getting into a long-form debate over the merits (or negatives) of Larry Johnson compared to the goodness (or "average-ness" -- I just invented a word ... and a poor one at that) of the Chargers' run D ... I'll just leave you with LJ's last five outings against San Diego:
148 total yards, 0 TDs
161 total yards, 2 TDs
93 total yards, 0 TDs
83 total yards, 0 TDs
179 total yards, 2 TDs
I'd go with Slaton and Johnson on Sunday (although I wouldn't be afraid to sub-out Rhodes for either one -- if Joseph Addai is scratched from the Lions game).
Jamie, all the way from Germany pleads: Help! I have Brandon Jacobs, Sammy Morris, Steve Slaton and Tatum Bell at RB and can start only two (and Morris is one of the starters, given his great matchup with Oakland). But with Jacobs hobbled and possibly not starting, who's my #2? I was thinking of going with my bread and butter, Slaton ... or maybe I'll pick up Seattle's Mo Morris.
Answer: It's not my nature to convince someone of doing a 180 in the playoffs, Jamie. But Sammy Morris ... really? Are you willing to put your playoff life in the hands of a Patriots running back -- a club notorious for playing musical chairs with ball rushers? If this were my team, I'd go Slaton and Jacobs, assuming Brandon's healthy? And if not, Mo Morris would be the safer pick in Week 15.
Jamie in Jefferson, Maine says: Who should I start in my fantasy playoffs at running back: Thomas Jones, Steve Slaton, LaDainian Tomlinson? I've been going with Jones and Slaton lately, and they have been good for me. The problem is, LT just doesn't seem to have any big games in him this year; I went with him last time San Diego played KC and he did nothing. Do you think he'll do better this time?
Answer: As much as I love Slaton's accomplishments this year ... there is NO WAY I could recommend, with a clear conscience, that you sit LT against the NFL's worst defense. I definitely see 100 total yards and maybe, maybe one touchdown in his immediate future. I say roll the playoff dice with Thomas Jones and LT. Good luck!
1. Ben Roethlisberger (against the Ravens ... enough said!)
2. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (I'm having chest pains writing this)
3. Roddy White (I own him in three leagues ... ugh!)
4. DeAngelo Williams (in the context of 100-110 yards but ZERO scores)
5. Antonio Gates (I sense something's amiss ... perhaps a toe re-aggravation)
It's not everyday a tight-end dilemma gives me cause for pause -- but I've had the same debate raging inside my head for two leagues: Denver's Tony Scheffler or Green Bay's Donald Lee? At first blush, Lee appears to be the more prudent choice, given his recent success (14 catches, three TDs in his last four games) and Scheffler's immediate history of nagging injuries. But I just cannot shake the feeling that Lee -- as crazy as this sounds -- is a better cold-weather pass-catcher than a warm-weather one ... and as luck would have it, the Packers are making the lovely trek to Jacksonville this weekend. So, how did I solve this mini-crisis? Well, I could've tabbed Scheffler on the basis of 12 catches and 151 yards in his last two games ... but I ended up choosing him because that's what the coin flip, or coin flips, dictated. How's that for scientific method? (For the record, Scheffler won the best-of-3 coin-flip battle, 2-0.)
1. WR Muhsin Muhammad (vs. Lions)
2. WR Anthony Gonzalez (vs. Texans)
3. TE Robert Royal (vs. Browns)
4. RB Leonard Weaver (vs. Cardinals)
5. RB Chester Taylor (vs. Bucs)
There's nothing like a second chance in life, and the same thinking applies to fantasy football, as well. SI.com presents the ultimate fantasy game for owners whose dreams of a fantasy title went unfulfilled in the regular season, or the greedy owners who simply covet two championships in the same year: Facebook's Postseason Fantasy Football.
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