StrategyNovember 20, 2007

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Tuesday Morning Quarterback – Week 11

By Michael Stephens

81 is the new 85. Though Ocho-Uno does not yet have the same ring that Chad Johnson’s nickname does, it soon will. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss are taking the wide receiver position to new heights under the cover of this shared number. Both men grabbed FOUR touchdown passes and topped 125 receiving yards in impressive performances. The similarities stop there, however, as one of their teams won by 46 points and the other had to sweat it out until the final whistle. Coverage of these outings and all of the other NFL games played last weekend will be covered in the following, so sit back and make all the right reads because it’s time to start the Tuesday Morning Quarterback!

• Vikings 29, Raiders 22
When all of the experts projected Chester Taylor as one of the top starts this week no one raised an eyebrow. Of course none of these projections were near the 202 yard, 3 touchdown performance that Taylor made running behind the dominating Vikings offensive line. Taylor is the only Viking worth starting next week against the Giants (and as long as Adrian Peterson is out for that matter), but I would not expect to see the same numbers against a much better defense. Do not buy into Visanthe Shiancoe’s 94 receiving yards – he will not be catching 79 yard wide receiver passes most weeks.

The Raiders are a better offensive team with Daunte Culpepper at the helm, but I would not buy into his 344 yard performance. His team was trailing all game long and they were facing one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Justin Fargas was only able to muster 60 rushing yards against the tough Vikings rush defense. Fargas is likely to have more brutal outings down the stretch with the Chiefs, Packers, Colts, and Jaguars still on the schedule. Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter were able to top 85 yards each and looked like they were in sync with Culpepper. Too bad JaMarcus Russell will be starting in two weeks, which should kill the minimal value that they (and all other Raiders offensive players) hold.

• Eagles 17, Dolphins 7
Brian Westbrook is having a truly amazing season. He has topped 130 total yards in 8 of 9 games this year and is averaging a touchdown per game. Donovan McNabb was completely ineffective before being injured but performed nicely as a cheerleader from the Eagle’s sideline. Westbrook had zero receiving yards (1 catch) for first time this year but was able to gain a career high 148 yards rushing. If AJ Feeley is under center for an extended period of time, look for a decrease in Westbrook’s receiving yards, but he should find a way to get over 100 total yards on a weekly basis. It is hard to trust an Eagles pass catcher at this point with the quarterback position in question and no need for bye week fill-ins.

The most exciting news out of the Dolphins camp involves a player suspension. Even though Jesse Chatman has amassed 348 rushing yards and a touchdown in the last 4 games on this pathetic offense, the eminent return of Ricky Williams is causing a buzz (not that kind of buzz, I’m sure he is over that whole marijuana problem!) in Miami. With rookie John Beck getting a baptism by fire at quarterback and the Patriots coming to town, I would not expect much out of any Dolphin offensive player this week. Whoever starts in Miami’s backfield seems to be worth a flex start but that is it. Ted Ginn, Jr. caught 4 of Beck’s 9 completions and gained over 150 receiving yards, so keep that sleeper eye tracking his progress. With fantasy playoffs around the corner you probably cannot afford to roster him for now though.

• Jaguars 24, Chargers 17
Just when we thought Maurice Jones-Drew would be getting the majority of carries out of the Jacksonville backfield, Fred Taylor received over half the load against the tackling-is-optional Chargers. Both make for decent flex plays this week against the Bills but I would not expect any big things out of either. As they continue to hamstring each others stats, the Jaguars continue to play inspired defense that is keeping them in games. David Garrard has still not thrown an interception this season (though I am sure to jinx him) and is spreading the ball around effectively. So effectively in fact, that no Jaguars receiver is worth starting unless he can find a go-to guy. Is Jimmy Smith still in shape? The league could use one more drug-addicted superstar causing a fracas in the AFC. In the mean time I would keep an eye on Reggie Williams, who has two long touchdowns in the last two games.

• Browns 33, Ravens 30
After allowing 16 unanswered points to a struggling Ravens offense, Phil Dawson had to kick a 51-yard field goal with time expiring that took five minutes to analyze. It looked as though the referees were going to interview fans from the crowd and listen to testimony of eyewitnesses to determine the result of kick. Braylon Edwards overcame an early fumble to post 8 catches for 85 yards. He has not been the beast he was for the first eight weeks of the season but the Browns’ fantasy playoff schedule is now upon us. Now is the time to start any and all Browns until further notice. That means Derrick Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and Jamal Lewis are must starts on a weekly basis. Don’t forget to handcuff Jason Wright to Lewis to ensure a taste of the Browns ridiculously easy schedule in weeks twelve through sixteen.

Even after factoring in that the Ravens were playing a Browns defense that cannot stop anyone, Kyle Boller looks to be the answer under center for the Ravens (I cringe as I say this). Boller threw the ball down field more often than his colleague (Steve McNair) had been doing and was able to hit some big plays to the less-heralded Ravens pass-catchers. Devard Darling has more good games (one) coming out of the slot than Demetrius Williams was able to post in the first 9 tilts this season. The former Washington State Cougar hauled in 4 catches for 107 yards and a score. With Mark Clayton floundering and Derrick Mason failing to impress on a weekly basis, the forgotten man of this receiving corps could have some good games down the stretch if he can stay on the same page as Boller. Willis McGahee has scored in five straight games and is quietly having a very good season for the Ravens – continue to use him as a solid number two back going forward.

• Texans 23, Saints 10
No one saw this outcome in their crystal ball! Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Ron Dayne all outperformed their over-hyped counterparts for the Saints as the Texans posted an impressive home victory. Schuab was able to post 300 total yards and two touchdowns on the way to his best performance of the season. Johnson was on the receiving end of 7 targets and made the most of them with six catches for 120 yards and a long touchdown. Dayne managed 115 total yards and could be posed for a monster game against the abysmal rush defense of the Browns next week. He has posted back-to-back solid outings and Ahman Green will be out for at least another week, so feel free to plug Dayne in as your number two. Owen Daniels should be back on your radar too. He has at least 4 catches in eight of ten games and looks to be a good bet to score this week.

Drew Brees had a decent day yardage-wise (290), but disappointed many of his owners with his 2 interceptions and one touchdown pass against a hapless Texans secondary that was without corner back Dunta Robinson. Reggie Bush looked terrible running the football but saved many PPR owners with his 12 receptions out of the backfield for 70 yards. He fumbled a sure touchdown on the one yard line but still topped 100 total yards. Marques Colston was able to rack up 118 yards on 9 catches and remains a great number two receiver option. The Saints have 5 pretty soft match ups coming (Panthers, Buccaneers, Falcons, Cardinals, and Eagles), so don’t rule them out as contenders for a division crown just yet. As long as their playoff hopes are alive, you should be able to expect decent production out of their big names. All players not named Brees, Bush, and Colston cannot be trusted at this point.

• Buccaneers 31, Falcons 7
The Buccaneer defense pitched a shutout for 59 minutes and dominated the hapless Falcons in Atlanta to open up a 2.5 game lead in the NFC South. Ernest Graham took the majority of the carries and made the most of them by gaining 108 yards on just 18 touches. Michael Pittman looks to water down his value a bit as the third down back, but Tampa Bay’s fantasy playoff schedule is comprised of the Saints, Texans, Falcons, and 49ers, so there should be plenty of love to go around. Graham is a fantastic number two running back option down the stretch and should have more 100 yard games and touchdowns in his future. Jeff Garcia threw only 20 times in managing a game that was out of hand early, but was able to hit Joey Galloway on a long touchdown pass to retain his value as a number two or three receiver. Aside from Graham, the Buccaneer’s defense might be the best player to own down the stretch.

Joey Harrington looked decent in garbage time and was able to break up the shutout, but would have received the same treatment as Byron Leftwich from the Tampa defense had he started. Roddy White is the receiver of the future for this Falcons team and is worth a look in deep keeper leagues, but as far as receivers worth a shot in fantasy games you can do much better than any Falcon this season. Warrick Dunn was completely ineffective and should only be used in match ups where the Falcons are playing an equally putrid team and will be in the game long enough to run the ball 20 times or more.

• Cardinals 35, Bengals 27
Kurt Warner was able to find both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in the right spots and all three had good games against the pathetic Bengals. Each receiver caught a touchdown and topped 70 yards as Warner threw the ball 28 times for 211 yards. Keep in mind that all three would have had bigger numbers if Antrel Rolle would not have run 2 interceptions back for touchdowns (a record third was negated by a silly penalty as well). Fitzgerald is the safer start going forward but Boldin is easily worth a start as your number two or three receiver. Edgerrin James only gained 61 yards against a hapless defensive unit but scored a touchdown to help ease the pain of his owners. He is a match up guy at this point as he seems to produce just enough to warrant starting as a number two or flex option most weeks. Karlos Dansby is a very solid option in IDP leagues going forward.

Fantasy-wise this team could be a dream for offensive production, but in reality they are simply terrible. Carson Palmer completed 8 passes to four different receivers and topped 330 yards passing. Chris Henry and TJ Houshmandzadeh both topped 80 yards and caught touchdowns, while Chad Johnson gained 86 yards without scoring. Kenny Watson was given the majority of the carries and gained 95 yards on his 17 touches. He looks to be the back worth owning on this team. Remember though that he will still be in a timeshare with Rudi Johnson and that this team looks to be behind and passing to catch up in most games. His value is derived from the fact that he is a better pass blocker and receiver and will be on the field more than Johnson. Start all five of these players from now on.

• Giants 16, Lions 10
What looked like a monster game for Brandon Jacobs on paper was in the process of coming to fruition until the fragile Giant pulled his hamstring and was forced to leave the game early in the third quarter. He was able to gain 103 total yards on just 15 touches, including a surprising 49 receiving yards and a score through the air. Reuben Droughns did not make the most of his 14 touches in relief of Jacobs – he gained just 39 yards. Jacobs is doubtful for this week’s game against the Vikings, which might be a blessing in disguise as his owners will not have to debate whether or not to start him. Hopefully his hamstring injury is not serious and he will be ready by no later than week 14. The Giants’ identity seems to be tied to their running game and defense at this point, and it is becoming increasingly hard to rely on any New York receiver on a consistent basis. Plaxico Burress has cooled off significantly and Jeremy Shockey is hit and miss depending on the week. Eli Manning is a decent spot start based on the match ups but he is spreading the ball around too much to warrant a look at his receivers. Consider Burress a number two receiver with considerable upside most weeks and leave it at that…

Will the real Detroit Lions please stand up? It is hard to tell if this team is just hitting a stereotypical “rough patch” of their season or if they are hitting the wall after a hot start. They appear to have forgotten how to run the football as Kevin Jones has only managed 92 rushing yards in the last three games – gross! As soon as he posted consecutive good games and had the Broncos in his sights, people started expecting big things from him in this Mike Martz offense. Instead he is proving that he is again unplayable in all fantasy formats; probably for the rest of the year. John Kitna had a nice game passing the ball but the Lions were killed by Shaun McDonald’s two ill timed turnovers. McDonald caught 7 balls for 113 yards and was joined by Roy Williams who snagged 6 of Kitna’s passes for 106 yards. Calvin Johnson also got in on the act with 45 yards and the lone Lions touchdown of the game. All three receivers are worth looks as your number two, with a slight edge to Williams.

• Packers 31, Panthers 17
A surprisingly balanced offensive attack and dependably solid defensive play allowed the Packers to cruise to victory again against a slumping Panthers squad. Brett Favre topped 200 passing yards and added three more touchdowns to his resume. He has 10 touchdowns in his last four games and will look to throw more against the Lions on Thursday if the injury to Ryan Grant keeps him sidelined. Grant ran the ball well, gaining 88 yards on 20 carries before leaving the game with a sprained ankle. Keep a close eye on his status for this week and be sure to start him if he is healthy enough to go against a porous Lions rush defense. Even if he cannot play on Thursday Grant still has great fantasy playoff value, so don’t do anything silly like cut him. Donald Lee has three scores in the last 2 games and joins Donald Driver and Greg Jennings as good number two options at tight end and receiver respectively.

DeShaun Foster was able to run the ball more effectively than most had thought as he was able to gain 106 total yards on 21 touches. He is the starter for this team for the rest of the season and if he is able to stay healthy, he could take advantage of a soft schedule coming up. The Panthers face the sloppy Saints defense next week and also have the 49ers and Seahawks on the schedule. Other than a week 14 game with the Jaguars, Foster should get strong consideration for a number two running back slot on your team. He is a great sneaky play for your fantasy playoff run. With Steve Smith out, Drew Carter was able to top 130 receiving yards and score for the second time in 3 games. He might be worth a start as your number three or four receiver as he looks to build on his rapport with quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

• Colts 13, Chiefs 10
The entire Colts offense looked anemic in this game that they were able to win solely on the merits of their vastly improved defensive play. Peyton Manning completed only 50 percent of his passes for 163 yards and an interception. He looked lost with only Reggie Wayne and some backup tight ends and receivers to throw to, which could be a continuing trend for the next couple of weeks. Even Joseph Addai was unspectacular (by his standards) in gaining 106 total yards and the lone Colts touchdown. With so much inconsistency at wide receiver and tight end Manning loses much of his value, but I would still start him against a terrible Falcons team. You might actually have to bench the elder Manning after that unless his receiving options improve with the Jaguars and Ravens on the schedule. Freddie Keiaho is a great IDP option when healthy. Get him back into your lineup for next week.

Terrible offensive line play continues to plague this team, but it looks like Brodie Croyle is going to be able to do just enough to keep this team in games and to retain the fantasy value of Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. Bowe caught 7 balls for 64 yards including a nifty 19 yard touchdown pass from Croyle. After I called him out for disappearing he has had two nice games and looks to be safe to install back into your lineup next week. Gonzalez is still worth a start in deeper leagues, though much of his value went out of the door with Damon Huard. Hopefully Croyle will realize his value in the coming weeks and he will regain his must-start status. Priest Holmes was kept right at his 20 touch limit and I think that was the reason for rookie Kolby Smith getting 5 carries to Holmes’ 3 in the second half. Even though this offensive line could not block effectively for Walter Peyton on a consistent basis, the Raiders made Chester Taylor look like a Pro Bowler this week. Holmes is worth a start as your number two back as I see him getting close to 100 total yards and a score with his 20 or so carries.

• Jets 19, Steelers 16
This game was the shocker of the week on so many levels. The Jets won their second game of the year against a team that many people think is the third best in the AFC, and Thomas Jones did something that has not happened against the Steelers for two and a half years. Jones gained 117 rushing yards on 30 carries against a Steelers defense that had not allowed a 100 yard rusher in 35 games and helped the Jets shorten the game just enough to eek out a win. With second year quarterback Kellen Clemens at the helm, Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles take a big hit in their value while Clemens learns the ropes of being an NFL quarterback. Look for the Jets to lean on Jones and for Clemens to spread the ball to his tight ends and slot receivers for a while until he gets more comfortable. Set your expectations for all Jets a bit lower until further notice.

This game represents the third time that the Steelers have tanked a game against an opponent they should have beaten this season or we would have had two 10-0 teams in the AFC. Ben Roethlisberger had his worst game of the season in posting 195 yards a one touchdown, but he looks to be a top 5 starting quarterback going forward. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seemed disgusted with the team’s overall effort and stressed lack of fundamentals on defense and an inconsistent running game as the reasons for the loss. Though the defense played well enough to win, Willie Parker played his worst game of the season. Look for him to bounce back in a big way with Miami and Cincinnati on the horizon but I would not count on Fast Willie scoring more than 3 times for the rest of the season. Consider Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward as merely number two receivers from here on out, as Roethlisberger cannot lock onto a go-to guy on a game to game basis.

• Rams 13, 49ers 9
Many owners were expecting the Rams offense to build on the success of their week 10 victory over the Saints and to absolutely destroy a terrible 49ers team in this game. Instead we were left wondering who is truly the worst team in the NFC west. I think that San Francisco is the clear cut favorite at this point, but the Rams still have plenty of time to snatch the title from them. It is hard to say if this was a regression for the Rams of if San Francisco plays so ugly that they force their opponents into sub-par performances as well. Marc Bulger barely topped 150 yards and his stats were as anemic looking as Steve McNair, even with his 3 yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt early in the first quarter. Holt and Steven Jackson remain the only healthy must-starts on this offense until Bulger can show me more.

Horrible. This team is a cheap punch line, and they even stink at that! Frank Gore had scored in every career game against the Rams and was unable to do so, en route to gaining 63 yards on 20 touches. The 49ers offensive line play is just that, offensive. The quarterback situation for this team is like a really bad trick question with no correct answer. Arnaz Battle is a decent number three or four receiving option with Dilfer at the helm and might be the only 49er worth starting not named Patrick Willis.

• Seahawks 30, Bears 23
Once again the Seahawks are looking like the number three team in the NFC, but will it last? The score does not give justice to the result of this game that the Seahawks dominated for much of the second half. Other than a first-drive brain fart, their defense looked as good and hard-hitting as it has in the past and made all the plays when it mattered. Matt Hasselbeck surprised many with his 337 yards and 2 touchdowns as he is looking like one of the most consistently elite options at quarterback for the remainder of the season. Maurice Morris gained 106 total yards on 19 touches and found the end zone on a nifty draw play from 19 yards out. DJ Hackett turned in a monster performance with 9 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown (oh yeah and he dropped another TD too!). He is clearly the top pass catching option on this team that is now throwing to set up the run instead of vice versa. When Deion Branch gets back into sync, look for Bobby Engram’s looks to suffer, not Hackett’s.

Rex Grossman managed the game and only turned the ball over one time, but did not do enough to give his team a chance to win. Aside from leading an impressive first drive that featured a 43 yard touchdown run by Cedric Benson, Grossman did little other than increase the fantasy value of his favorite target Bernard Berrian. Berrian caught 9 balls for 102 yards and is always a threat to score with the strong yet erratic arm of Grossman under center for the Bears. I would not buy into the 8.1 yards per carry for Benson as he has been putrid all year and everyone runs for a touchdown on Seattle’s defense. He is still no better than a flex option going forward.

• Cowboys 28, Redskins 23
How can a team with so much talent and so many big plays in the second half almost lose a game like this? It is beyond me how the Cowboys allowed the Redskins to stay in this game and even have a chance to win it before a red-zone interception by Jason Campbell with time running down in the fourth quarter. Terrell Owens was pretty much the entire offense for the Cowboys as he accounted for all four Cowboys touchdowns to go along with his ridiculous 8 catches for 173 yards. He has 9 touchdowns in his last 5 games and is clearly the second best receiver in fantasy. Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton look to be afterthoughts in the recesses of Tony Romo’s mind as he is targeting Owens around 11 times a game and hitting him for all the big plays. Marion Barber continues to depress his fantasy owners as he has had three sub par games and only one touchdown over that span. He has a few good games left in him, but the big plays clearly belong to T.O. now.

Jason Campbell furthers my theory about talking badly about players in my piece and having them turn in impressive performances. Campbell has 563 yards passing and 5 touchdowns in the last 2 games and spread the ball effectively to all of his major targets. Campbell completed at least 7 passes each to Chris Cooley, Antwaan Randle El, and Santana Moss (I know, crazy huh?) in this game. Cooley and Moss caught touchdowns and topped 85 yards each, but I still look for Cooley to be the only consistent producer in this receiving corp until Moss, Randle El, and Keenan McCardell can show us some consistency. With a pass-friendly playoff schedule you should definitely keep an eye out for these three, and now might be a good time to buy-low on Moss and stash him away just in case; if it’s not too late.

• Patriots 56, Bills 10
There is not much to say about this game that is not glaringly obvious. The Patriots are the best team in the league, maybe ever; Tom Brady and Randy Moss will break every major passing and receiving touchdown record this season; and the Pats do not need a consistent running game or any backs you have even heard of to utterly dominate every team in the NFL. Talking about this amazing team is getting to be monotonous. Tom Brady threw for 5 touchdowns, 4 to Moss, which extended his NFL record streak of 3+ touchdown games to 10. He is able to spread the ball around enough to make Wes Welker worthy of a number two or three receiver spot and Ben Watson is also a must-start when healthy. Just hope this team doesn’t lose, so you can get 3 quarters of production out of your Patriots come playoff time.

Ah, the poor Buffalo Bills. There is nothing like a 56-10 beatdown and impending games with the Jaguars and Redskins to squelch dimming playoff chances. This team is 5-5 and has something left to fight for, but without injured tailback Marshawn Lynch (who looks to be doubtful again this week), the Bills are too limited on offense to keep their defense off the field. JP Losman looked decent in spreading the ball to his undersized receiving corps, but let’s face it – he didn’t have a chance of success in this game. He has targeted Lee Evans 37 times in the last 4 games and will look to hook up with him early and often for this team to stay in games. Start Evans as your number two or three receiver and leave all other Bills not named Lynch where they belong… on the waiver wire.

• Broncos 34, Titans 20
After a whole team sit-down discussion led by veterans Rod Smith and John Lynch two weeks ago, this Broncos team has been playing inspired football. At 5-5, they find themselves tied for the division lead and smack dab in the middle of the playoff race. Jay Cutler looked impressive in completing over 75 percent of his passes for 200 yards and two scores. He made all the right throws (except for that last one into no man’s land late in the fourth quarter, yikes!) and was able to hit the Brandon’s, Marshall and Stokley, for big touchdown scoring plays. Stokley played a prominent role in the passing game in key spots as Cutler was able to move out of the pocket and make big plays, while Marshall really got involved on the opening drive of the third quarter. Marshall is clearly worth a start as your number two receiver, as more touchdowns and bunches of yards will come. Stokley is certainly worth a number three start with Javon Walker still sidelined. Selvin Young and Andre Hall each showed flashes of brilliance in the game, but were both hobbled by injuries late in the game. Unless you want to fall victim to some Shanahanigans next week, it would be wise to avoid this backfield situation which will be further muddied by the possible return of the nine time father and stoner-of-the-year candidate, Travis Henry.

The Titans power running attack was stifled by a Denver rush defense that should not be taken so lightly from here on out. LenDale White disappointed his owners with 64 yards on 15 touches and threw in a fumble for good measure. Chris Brown was in for most of the critical snaps down the stretch and this backfield looks to be almost as much of a mess as Denver’s. White is still probably worth a flex play as he is a touchdown machine in short yardage, but do not expect much more than 60 yards and a possible touchdown on a weekly basis. The story of this game was Vince Young, who after showing signs of life last week, turned in his best game of the season. He played a near-perfect game through three and a half quarters, only his two ill-timed interceptions could lessen the shine of his 305 passing yards, 74 rushing yards, and 2 total touchdowns. He is a great start next week against the hapless Bengals and has a moderately easy fantasy playoff schedule to take advantage of. He is a second half of the season player in his first two years and is rounding into form at just the right time. I would not trust any of his receivers though, just him.

That wraps up my coverage of the action from Week 11. It’s time to ice down that throwing arm and hit the research until next Thursday (don’t forget about Turkey Day). Hopefully this information will help you lead your team to a playoff birth and beyond. I hope to see you all next week and look forward to your feedback and suggestions. Feel free to email or PM me at any time.

Michael Stephens is an avid fantasy sports enthusiast who writes for the Cafe. He hails from the Pacific Northwest and is a die-hard Seahawk fan to the core! You can find Michael in the Cafe's forums where he actively posts under the name of WaCougMBS.
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