By Micah Roberts & Jason McCormick
We don’t have any "Game of the Year" type games this week like we’ve had recently, but we do have some very pivotal matchups with postseason implications.
At this stage in the season, in do or die situations, new players step up big and make the difference between playing in the postseason and booking January vacation plans. We all know who the stars are and they’re already likely to be starting in your fantasy league somewhere. So let’s identify a few players that could add some possible depth to your squad.
The "Game of the Week" on paper looks to be the 9-4 Jaguars at the 9-4 Steelers. However, luster is lost in this one because there is something missing from the Jags. They are about as vanilla and pale as a football team can get. All they do is win and play hard, but it’s hard to watch them.
We can’t get excited about their passing game and their committee of RBs have frustrated the fantasy owners of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The Steelers on the other hand are a really fun team to watch with their new passing game. They still play tough Iron City, lunch pail football, but with a little flair. What sticks out most with both of these teams is their short yardage game planning. The Jags like to use a RB that is third or fourth on their depth chart, while the Steelers like to throw the ball and use their backup RB.
Since RBs are so thin around the league, chances are that is an area for improvement on your squad. Najeh Davenport has a great chance of scoring every week when he’s healthy. Davenport is the feature back in any short yardage situation for the Steelers. Don’t look for many points in yardage, but down the stretch as your fantasy team enters the playoffs, every point counts.
The "Game of the Week" in reality is the 7-6 Bills at the 8-5 Browns. Not only will this likely be the most entertaining game of the week but it has the most at stake. The loser will likely be done for the season, while the winner gets to survive another week in the battle for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Titans are also in the mix.
The Bills have turned into a fun team to watch led by their strong running game. The Browns have transformed themselves into one of the most exciting teams in football. Every game the Browns play turns into one of those epic memorable games just like their predecessors, "The Cardiac Kids," did a couple of decades ago.
QB Derek Anderson, TE Kellen Winslow, RB Jamal Lewis, and WR Braylon Edwards are already on someone’s roster, but chances are that WR Joe Jurevicius is available. In 6 of his last 7 games, he has caught at least 4. He hasn’t had a TD catch since Week 4. Look for Jurevicius to get back into the end zone this week. He’s available in most leagues. If your WR positions have been struggling lately, he may be worth a shot.
We can’t help thinking about the last time the Browns and Bills played a real meaningful game, way back in 1990. It was a playoff game that the Browns won 34-30 against a young up and coming Bills squad. We’ll go with the same high scoring affair this week.
The Bills had two RBs run for over 100 yards in the same game for the first time since 1996. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson buried the Dolphins. Surprisingly, many fantasy leagues still have Jackson as a free agent. Lynch didn’t show any affects from a sprained ankle, but it’s apparent that the Bills coaching staff likes the mix that Jackson gives the team. Because we think the game should be high scoring, and with the weak stock of RBs, Jackson could be a nice pickup.
Drew Brees QB (Saints): The Superdome keeps us out of the elements and the Cardinals come to town. No Reggie Bush, No Deuce McAllister so the Saints will turn to Aaron Stecker or Pierre Thomas on the ground. The better bet is to watch Brees take advantage of a depleted Cardinals secondary, which missing two starters and allowed 4 TD passes last week in Seattle. Look for plenty of 5 WR sets featuring Colston, Henderson, Cooper, Patten, and Moore.
Earnest Graham RB (Bucs): Carnell "Cadillac" Williams’ early season knee injury has given Graham a chance to shine. Graham has scored in each of the last five games, including twice last week in Houston. The Falcons will roll into Tampa on a short week. In the first meeting which the Bucs won 31-7 in Atlanta, Graham carried 17 times for 102 yards with a 26 yard TD run. Michael Pittman also had 10 carries for 44 yards but now has a bad ankle. Regardless if it is QB Garcia or McCown, look for Graham to see 25+ carries, 120+ yards, and at least 1 TD. A must start!
Lee Evans WR (Bills): After a 1,200 yard season and 8 TDs in 2006, Evans was a top 15 WR in most drafts this season. However, struggles at QB have made it a rough going on Evans, who has only 768 yards and 4 TDs this year. In last week’s win over Miami in snowy conditions he posted two grabs for 79 yards and 2 TDs. Cleveland’s offense continues to roll up points so expect the Bills to look to pass more than normal against Cleveland’s 30th ranked pass defense and league high 27 TD passes allowed.
Kyle Orton QB (Bears): With last week’s loss at Washington and Grossman out for the season all the pressure is off the Bears. Therefore Brian Griese will not start, giving way to Orton. A return to the Super Bowl and playoff hopes have all vanished. The Bears can come into the Metrodome this week and play care free versus the playoff hopeful Vikings.
In the first matchup, Adrian Peterson rushed 224 yards and 3 TDs as the Vikings won 34-31. No one remembers Brian Griese’s 381 yards passing and 3 TDs. Those stats were earned in a comeback effort. The Vikings defense has been stout of late and this team is sky high right now. The Vikes won’t have to prepare for Griese in this rivalry game.