Each week, Dave presents a preview of several of the week’s most interesting contests, offering his take on fantasy performances, potential sleepers and, of course, the game’s outcome.
Michael Vick: In the past couple weeks, it has been evident that the Atlanta coaching staff has allowed Vick some leeway in the West Coast offense, allowing him to escape the pocket and run more often when things break down. Vick has run for at least 60 yards in each of his last three games, a feat he accomplished only twice in his first six contests. This new freedom to scramble has helped Vick to bounce back from his slump and elevate his fantasy status, which was rapidly declining. He faces yet another stingy pass defense this week, so expect him to be on the run again. Vick will go 12/22 for 160 yards, a TD and an interception. On top of his passing yardage, be prepared to see Vick run for 50-70 yards and possibly another score.
Warrick Dunn/TJ Duckett: Dunn owners have been disappointed in recent weeks, as his touches have declined and Duckett has taken a firm hold on the goal line carries. Duckett has also taken some carries between the 20s, as he has been more effective lately. I am presuming that they will continue to split carries, so neither of these backs is a great start. If you have no choice but to start one of them, go with Duckett since he has a better chance of tasting the end zone in this game. Dunn will finish up with 65 yards on 15-17 carries, and he will add 15-20 receiving. On the other hand, Duckett will put up 10-12 carries for 40-50 yards and a possible touchdown.
Atlanta WRs: As usual, these receivers are not worth a start in your league. With the bye weeks behind us, there is no reason for any of these WRs to be in your lineup unless injuries force you to start Price. Price looked to be emerging in week 8, when he registered 59 yards and two touchdowns in Mile High. However, he followed that up with his usual two-catch, 20-yard performance against Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, owners forced to play him should expect no more than 50 yards and no scores due to the inconsistency that has plagued him since his arrival in Atlanta. Dez White, on the other side of the field, has a whopping 175 yards this season. His totals mirror those of Atlanta fullback Justin Griffith, who is notorious for his lofty receiving totals. White will go for another 20-25 yards in this game. Brian Finneran, once Vick’s dependable slot man, has been hampered by nagging injuries and has been seldom used this year, recording only 119 yards on ten grabs. Since he is listed as questionable, I’ll say he will have 10-20 yards, but don’t be surprised if he ends the game without a catch.
Alge Crumpler: Crumpler is by far the most valuable player in Atlanta’s receiving corps. He had his first career 100 yard game last week on only three grabs, and is on the cusp of being considered one of the top three or five tight ends in the league (if he isn’t already). With 35 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns, he has become Vick’s go-to guy, a role that Peerless Price was supposed to fill this season. However, Price’s abysmal season has created room for Crumpler to flourish. Assuming that the Giants will not worry about Atlanta’s wideouts, Crumpler could actually see coverage from the Giants’ primary corners and safeties. This could be a concern for his owners, since the Giants secondary has performed well this season, allowing a measly 6.56 yards per attempt. Alge could have a tough time finding open spaces, but he remains a must start in all formats. He should still gather about 40-50 yards and a TD.
Defense: Except for a few mid-year hiccups, this defense has carried the Falcons for the majority of the season. Patrick Kerney has had a banner campaign in the new 4-3 defense, recording 40 tackles and eight sacks. Kerney should be licking his chops this week, because he faces the much maligned New York Giant offensive line. Expect four tackles and at least a sack or two from Patrick. Keith Brooking, Matt Stewart and Jason Webster will see high tackle numbers, especially since Tiki Barber should see the ball 25-30 times in this one. In the secondary, your best bet is Bryan Scott, who is second on the team in total tackles and has a knack for being around the ball. As for the team defense, one might expect a game full of turnovers with rookie Eli Manning making his first start. However, I do not see this as being the case. Barber, who has solved his fumbling problems, will handle the ball most of the game. And when Manning fades back, look for him to either dump it off to Shockey and Barber or hit Amani Toomer with some quick strikes. Owners of this unit will not be disappointed, however, because the Falcons will add to their 27 sacks with a bit of help from the Giant’s weak O-line, which has allowed 40 sacks. The Falcons will have 3-4 sacks, but probably only one turnover at most.
New York Giants
Eli Manning: Manning picked the right day to make his debut. He will be in front of the home town crowd facing a defense that allows 7.82 yard per pass attempt. To counter the Giants’ makeshift offensive line, Tom Coughlin will employ play action to avoid sacks and several screen plays to take the pressure off his young quarterback. If Coughlin can execute this game plan, Manning will have a decent first game. He should wind up with 205 yards, a TD and an interception.
Tiki Barber: Barber owners may look at Atlanta’s stingy run defense (allowing only 3.6 yards a carry) and worry that he will not produce this week. On the contrary, he will still come through with a great day due to his running and receiving prowess. Also, the insertion of Manning at QB means that Barber will get more touches on the ground and through the air. He might have a tough day running the ball, but he will still be good for lofty numbers. Tiki will have 20 carries for 65-80 yards, six or seven grabs for 50-70 yards, and one or two TDs.
New York Giants WRs: Surprisingly, none of the Giants WRs are worth a start in this game. Amani Toomer, once one of the most consistent fantasy wideouts in the game, has seen his production decline. Although he has respectable catch and yardage totals (39 catches for 536 yards on the season), he has yet to score, a stat unheard of for a player of Toomer’s caliber. Until he starts seeing the end zone, owners have no choice but to sit him. Toomer will have another quality day yardage wise, but he will once again be kept out of the end zone despite 60-70 yards receiving. Ike Hilliard has all but disappeared from this offense in the past couple of weeks, registering less than ten yards in two of his last three games. I will say that he breaks out of his slump here. Hilliard will double his recent totals with a 20 yard performance.
Jeremy Shockey: After a slow start that had fantasy owners regretting taking him early, Shockey has quieted those complaints by performing well of late. His yardage totals are not spectacular, but the touchdowns are starting to come (he has four of the Giants’ six receiving TDs). He should see more looks than usual as Manning looks to adjust to the Giant offense. Shockey will have 30-40 yards with yet another touchdown.
Defense: The Giants have been an average defensive unit this year, but their team offers several valuable IDPs this week. Michael Strahan, Fred Robbins and Osi Umenyiora each have four sacks, so they warrant a start in certain formats. As for the linebacking core, there are no particularly promising starts, although Carlos Emmons is worth a look if you are desperate. In the secondary, Brent Alexander and Will Allen are good plays if you are hoping for tackles and turnovers. As a unit, the Giants will have a modest day. The Falcons themselves have given up 30 sacks, so 2-4 sacks isn’t out of the question, but owners shouldn’t hope for any more than one turnover.
Michael Jenkins: Jenkins is definitely a deep sleeper here, seeing as he only has one catch for 46 yards on the year. However, with Price, White and Finneran underperforming, Jenkins has gradually seen more playing time, sneaking his way into a couple three- and four-WR sets. Vick could look to Jenkins for some long balls here, and he could even be involved in a trick play or two. Regardless of Jenkins’ performance in this game, he is definitely a guy to look at for owners in keeper and dynasty leagues over the next couple of years.
Gibril Wilson: I am not sure if he can be considered a sleeper anymore, but I am sure there are a fair share of owners who have yet to hear of him. Virtually unknown after being drafted out of Tennessee with a fifth round pick, Wilson has played in eight games this season, and has seen a dramatic increase in playing time due to the year-ending injury to Shaun Williams. His stat line to date is staggering. Not only does he lead the team in total tackles (56), solo tackles (49), and interceptions (3), but he also has three sacks and a fumble forced. Pick him up immediately if he is still lingering on your league’s waiver wire. Wilson is listed as questionable with a neck injury, but if he plays, look for another six tackles and maybe a turnover as he begins to get some attention for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
This is the only matchup of the week that pits two winning teams against each other. Although their records can be partly attributed to playing in the weak NFC, this game still holds great significance. Both teams are fighting for playoff spots, and this Sunday marks Eli Manning’s debut. The Giants have been the picture of inconsistency this year, but I like them here at home coming off painful losses to Chicago and Arizona. Atlanta comes off a win against Tampa Bay in which their defense carried them a majority of the way. I am also not convinced of Vick’s grasp of the game yet. Expect the Giants to jump back into the thick of the playoff race in Manning’s first start. Giants 24, Atlanta 17.
Dave McGrath is a freshman at LaSalle University, and will be previewing several games in this way each week. He can be found posting as dave416 in the Cafe forums.
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