The Game of the Week this week once again features the Patriots, who welcome the Steelers to Foxboro.
Only four games remain for the Patriots to accomplish their undefeated season with only the Steelers and the Giants having a realistic shot of an upset. Their other two games are against the Jets and Dolphins.
Coach Belichick has turned into a Dr Jekyll, who has the whole world against him in own mind. He is likely to not rest any of his stars and pound every team the Patriots face with the unmerciful force of tyrannical dictator. For fantasy football owners that are lucky enough to have a few Patriots on their squad, the tilted coach is the best scenario they could dream of.
When teams go this far undefeated, clinch their division or home field throughout the playoffs, a normal coach like Tony Dungy, Mike Shanahan, or Mike Holmgren takes that opportunity to heal wounds and rest beaten down players so they’re fresh for the games that count. This is the worst thing that can happen for a fantasy owner of team down the stretch when most of the fantasy playoffs start. All of sudden the star and leader of your fantasy squad is expected to have limited play and you’re forced to explore other options.
The 15-point spread over the Steelers this week shows you what the bookmakers think of the Patriots. Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, and even Lawrence Maroney are all players that figure to have their usual impact this week. There will be no letdown this week like we saw against Philadelphia. The Steelers will attempt to hang around for a while and they’ll score a few TDs themselves, but they’ll likely resemble the road team that lost at Arizona, Denver, and the lowly New York Jets.
The top reasons why the Steelers are expected to struggle begin with the running game and then are excelled with the possible absence of Santonio Holmes. The deep threat of Holmes has given the Steelers world-class speed down the field for them and an option not known during the Bill Cowher era.
Bryan Westbrook gave the Patriots all kinds of trouble out of the backfield running the ball and catching the swing passes. Parker could do similar things if that was part of their game plan, but 17 catches all season for a healthy starting back clearly shows they have no intent of throwing Parker the ball. The Eagles could have clearly given teams a blue print of sorts that could force a good team like Steelers to change some things in their schemes that the Patriots have never seen on Steelers film.
The feeling here is that Coach Belichick will raise the alert level to its highest point of the season and use a good team like the Steelers to show the League just how angry and insulted they are for the way they were treated. We’ll go Patriots 42-23, with Brady getting 5 TD passes. Maroney gets a little workout with a rushing and receiving TD. Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward will hook up about nine times with a TD but Ward will likely still be under 100 yards.
This nice matchup in DC is basically a loser leaves town match, meaning the playoffs are not an option. The winner still has a glimmer of hope. Both have been up and down all season, but the one aspect that stands out for both teams coming in is the resurgence of Skins WR Santana Moss.
We have been waiting for Moss to come around all season and he finally has, sort of. In his last three games, Moss has caught 19 passes after barely catching that many in the first nine games while sitting in Joe Gibbs’ dog-house. Gibbs knows it’s now or never and knows Moss can help them win. The best thing about Moss’ possibilities is that he’s been dropped by many fantasy teams and is available in most leagues. His big play possibilities just make him such an up-side player with the risk being he won’t have any big plays, as has been the case all season.
Thomas Jones RB (NYJ): It is never easy to recommend a Jets player but here goes. Jones scored his first TD with the Jets last week against the winless Dolphins and will now look to hit paydirt in back to back games. Jones rushed for over 1200 yards in back to back seasons in Chicago and the Jets paid big money to move him this off-season. The Browns visit the Meadowlands this week allowing on average 131 yards a game on the ground. Look for the Jets to pound the ball with Jones to keep that Browns offense off the field.
Ryan Grant RB (GB): The Raiders come into Lambeau this week allowing 148 yards a game on the ground and a league high 20 rushing TDs. Regardless if it’s Favre or Rodgers under center, expect the rookie RB to see a heavy load with 25-to-30 carries and cross the goal line multiple times. A long trip to the frozen tundra is not what the Raiders need after a huge win over divisional foe Denver. The Packers got some extra rest after playing on Thanksgiving and will look to continue to bury teams at home in December. Grant and the Packers close with OAK, at STL, at CHI, and DET so he’ll be a strong start throughout your fantasy playoffs.
Bobby Engram WR (SEA): Holmgren’s spread offense and an injury to WR D.J. Hackett have increased Engram’s fantasy value. He has hauled in 38 passes over the past five weeks, averaging 81 yards a game. The Cardinals just placed Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson and starting cornerback Eric Green on IR this week so look for Holmgren to continue his aerial attack with Engram hauling in a TD. Hasselbeck also makes a great start this week (check weather forecast) with several top QB’s possibly battling some nasty East Coast weather.
Jon Kitna QB (DET): Kitna and the Lions have been awful of late, losing their last four and dropping to 6-6 after a 6-2 start. The Lions are an unlikely group to stop the high flying Cowboys offense so if they are going to stay in this one it will be with Kitna’s arm. He has some great tools in WRs Williams, Johnson, Furrey, McDonald, and RB Jones, but must eliminate the sacks, fumbles, and INTs that unfortunately seem to be all to frequent. The Lions will need a big effort here to stay in the NFC playoff hunt and may possibly catch the Cowboys napping after a big Turkey day win over the Packers. Look for Calvin Williams to be the big benefactor of the Kitna tosses.
RB Injury lookout
”¡ KC’s Larry Johnson likely won’t play in Denver this week with Kolby Smith getting all the carries.
”¡ Buffalo’s Marshaun Lynch and his backup, Anthony Thomas, will be out again this week leaving Fred Jackson, who gained over 150 total yards last week, as the starter.
”¡.Denver’s Travis Henry took over the carries last week with Selvin Young ailing and Andre Hall out. Henry lost a fumble and caused Jay Cutler to lose another. Be careful because of the Shanahan rath.
”¡ Giants RB Derrick Ward broke his leg last week and it is likely Brandon Jacobs will be back at Philly. Rueben Droughns remains a solid option.
”¡ Titans RB Chris Brown got himself back into the committee last week and could be a nice pickup if looking for a back in deep leagues.