December 03, 2010

It takes a rare night for the NFL to field the sports landscape's undercard to the NBA, although Thursday was it. But the better game was in Philadelphia, as the Eagles and Texans provided a fantasy-point buffet in the nick of time for owners on the playoff bubble. The Eagles' 34-24 win had something for everyone, including big performances, a back-and-forth final quarter for the non-fantasy Puritan folks and intrigue supreme.

What I loved

Part 1:The Vick-tory tour is back on track. One week after looking like his former fantasy self with a performance that was so 2006 against the Bears, Michael Vick hit the 300-yard mark with two scores and added a third on the ground. As I've written before, Vick's late-season slate will make those who resisted the urge to sell high after the Redskins game happy they stood pat.

Part 2:Arian Foster, hero. The breakout fantasy star of the season continues to just get better. Foster found some tough sledding against the Eagles, but still churned out 83 yards and a TD rushing, while catching a second score thanks to linebacker Ernie Sims' "pass coverage." As the weeks go by, Foster just might be this season's fantasy MVP. He has 10 touchdowns in his last seven games and is a rare workhorse in a season of committee backfields.

Part 3:LeSean McCoy, hero. He's helped the Eagles forget about Brian Westbrook, while playing like the next-generation version of the former Eagles star running back. McCoy, who totaled 130 yards and two TDs, isn't as injury-prone and has the same good hands and speed (as evidenced on his 40-yard burst) that Westbrook ever had.

What I liked

Part 1: Although he's most likely bench fodder in most leagues by now, QB Matt Schaub had one of his better games of the year, going for more than 300 yards and two scores. It was just his sixth game with two TD passes or more as his stats have suffered since the emergence of Foster.

Part 2: Conspiracy theories aside on Andre Johnson's eligibility for last night, the Texans' star laid down a different kind of beating to the Eagles' secondary. Johnson turned Philly's DBs inside-out with 149 yards, and at times made it look easy.

What I disliked

It would have been nice for either one or both leading Eagles receivers, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, to get in the end zone. After a pair of tough outings, Jackson owners got some relief with his 84-yard night although his touchdown drought reached three games. On another note, we saw the latest Jason Avant touchdown drop in what seems to be a weekly routine. From here on out, anytime the Eagles reach the red zone, just wish for the anti-Avant package to enter the game, with No. 81 safely on the sideline.

Expect these prominent fantasy starters to halt their various skids and score some redemption, along with some much-needed points this weekend.

RB Steven Jackson at the Cardinals: Last week was a head-scratcher for Jackson, who failed to get 80 yards rushing on almost 30 carries and got vultured at the goal line against the Broncos. It's been a weird year for Jackson, who only has three TDs and only three games with at least 100 yards despite playing on a much better offense this year. Come Sunday, be ready to forgive and forget because he will go downright nuclear against the 31st-ranked rushing defense of the Cardinals, who have allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns in the league with 14.

TE Dustin Keller at the Patriots: Back in Week 2, Keller toasted the Pats for more than 100 yards and two TDs. While it's hard to forecast another explosion like that, it's easy to say Keller should shake his seven-week scoreless slump and/or put together at least 80 yards against the 32nd-ranked passing defense in the league Monday night.

RB Thomas Jones, Chiefs vs. Broncos: Lately it seems everybody else on the Chiefs has been scoring except for Jones. Unlike the last time Jones played the Broncos, this time the Denver offense shouldn't detonate within five minutes of kickoff, forcing Kansas City to throw 90 times (roughly). Jones, even while splitting the carries, faces the No. 30 run defense in the league, which has given up a league-worst 16 touchdowns.

They might be well-known but seldom used or unknown and ready to use, there are points to be had on the waiver wire or even buried on the bench. Here are three picks to start, that might not be obvious in a special all-running back edition.

RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers at Seahawks: His name might be mud and he is probably on the waiver wire, but don't sleep on this draft day bust. Stewart, finally healthy, showed glimpses of everyone's draft day hopes with a 98-yard comeback outing against the Browns after missing a chunk of the season. Expect Stewart to show more of his vintage self against the Seahawks and their 22nd-ranked defense.

RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks vs. Panthers: This was one I'd like to take back, as once upon a time I thought Lynch would be the feature back Seattle needed. He still might be, but has been the picture of inconsistency and model of frustration for fantasy owners. Either buried on the bench or unclaimed on the waiver wire, this is a tailor-made chance for him to shine. The Panthers rank 25th against the run and are ripe to get run over, but only if Lynch can show up.

RB Tashard Choice, Cowboys at Colts: Thanks to Marion Barber's calf strain, Choice will get a chance to break out against an Indianapolis rush defense ranked 29th. Even if Felix Jones is effective, there should be enough chances to run wild for everyone against a unit yielding 136 yards per game.

The best way to gauge the value of a wide receiver is the number of times quarterbacks look their way, known as Targets. Here are the top 20 leading receivers through 12 weeks.

1. Terrell Owens, Bengals 1242. Reggie Wayne, Colts 1232. Roddy White, Falcons 1234. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 1215. Brandon Lloyd, Broncos 1086. Calvin Johnson, Lions 1057. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals 1037. Andre Johnson, Texans 1039. Hakeem Nicks, Giants 10110. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins 10010. Marques Colston, Saints 10012. Steve Johnson, Bills 9913. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs 9714. Santana Moss, Redskins 9415. Wes Welker, Patriots 9016. Danny Amendola, Rams 8917. Jabar Gaffney, Broncos 8717. Mike Williams, Seahawks 8719. Mike Williams, Bucs 8520. Greg Jennings, Packers 8420. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles 84

Saints at BengalsCowboys at ColtsBroncos at ChiefsRaiders at ChargersPanthers at Seahawks

One less Lion to like

With the news that Lions quarterback Shaun Hill might miss the rest of the season, don't expect much from WR Calvin Johnson. Downgrade him to a mid-range WR3 and keep in mind that with third-stringer Drew Stanton in, and a banged up and ineffective RB in Jahvid Best, it could get ugly again in Detroit. Johnson could always pick up some fourth quarter garbage points, but with Stanton start at your own risk.

Saints' backfield a mystery

Various reports have hinted that Pierre Thomas could be back this week, making the Saints' backfield even more crowded. Fantasy owners already had to deal with a curve ball last week with Reggie Bush's exciting return to the lineup (insert joke here), while Chris Ivory failed to get many yards but still punched in two TDs. The best advice here, is to treat the Saints' backfield like its radioactive -- stay away.

You May Like