East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Giant Defensive Injuries
Even if you're not a Giants fan, you might be looking forward to the showdown between the NFC's two top teams (the Saints are also 6-2) in the Meadowlands this Sunday night, but neither team is at full strength. The Bears are likely missing deep threat Bernard Berrian and possibly Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher (as well as safety Mike Brown), while the Giants are missing Pro Bowl defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, and could miss starting weak side linebacker Brandon Short, starting cornerback Sam Madison and backup defensive end Justin Tuck. And we all scratched our heads when the Giants drafted pass-rushing specialist Mathias Kiwanuka in the first round, when they already had so much depth at the position, this after they had signed pass-rushing linebacker LaVar Arrington (out for the year) this offseason. Now all of them likely are out except Kiwanuka (who's had two sacks in two starts, incidentally), and Adrian Awasom was signed off the practice squad to start in a game that might determine home field advantage in the NFC. This should be a good game anyway, but it would be a lot more exciting if both teams were closer to full strength, particularly the Giants defense.
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
While Berrian hasn't done that much lately, this could have a cascade effect on the entire Bears offense. My colleague Mike Salfino and I discussed this on Monday's XM show - essentially Berrian's ability to get open down the field forced opposing safeties to play deep, exposing the middle of the field for Desmond Clark, the underneath routes for Mushin Muhammad, and more running lanes for Thomas Jones. If Justin Gage, Berrian's replacement, doesn't make opposing safeties cover down the field, then Clark and Muhammad will be covered more tightly and drilled more quickly when they catch the ball. The Bears could also see more eight-man fronts, limiting Jones and Benson. And, of course Rex Grossman has less areas of the field to attack, and the defense can give him a wider variety of looks, making it harder to read.
Coach Jack Del Rio declared that Byron Leftwich's isn't likely to be 100 percent all season, and in his current state of health, he's relegated to backup duty behind Garrard. As long as Garrard keeps winning, that shouldn't change. Garrard is more mobile than Leftwich and makes less mistakes. But he's also less likely to put up big passing-yardage numbers, and that could be a drag on Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams. That said, we still like Jones, who has uncanny physical gifts, as a player to emerge in the second half now that he's healthy.
Trent Green was slated to come back this weekend, but there's absolutely no rush with Huard performing at a level we would expect from a healthy Green at the top of his game. Consider that Huard has an 11/1 TD/INT ratio is averaging more than 200 passing yards per game and 8.0 per passing attempt. He's having a far better year than Carson Palmer, Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. While Green is due back for Week 11, we can't imagine that Herm Edwards would tolerate too much concussion-related rust with the team in a hunt for a playoff berth and Huard playing at a Pro Bowl level.
While McGahee hasn't yet been ruled out for Week 10's game against the Colts, there's a good chance he'll miss at least a couple weeks. Anthony Thomas, who rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries last week, gets a favorable matchup against the Colts last ranked run defense. The worry here is that J.P. Losman has been so atrocious that Thomas won't see much room to run or get too close to the goal line very often. Still, if McGahee sits as expected, expect Thomas to get 15-20 carries at a minimum, including the goal-line looks.
Below the Radar
Looking at the Yahoo! numbers from Saturday, it turns out that the Jerious Norwoods (4.9 percent) and Michael Turners (6.3 percent) were still not owned in most of your leagues, though they should be - these are the kind of reserves who can win you a title if things (or, more specifically, particular players) break a certain way. Last week's recommendations: Mewelde Moore, LenDale White, Michael Jenkins and Troy Williamson.
Here are a few more:
Williams will return this week and likely spell an ineffective DeShaun Foster at times. Williams is the more explosive back, and the Panthers at 4-4 are in a position where they might decide to shake things up. If Williams were ever to take over the full-time job, keep in mind that Panthers coach John Fox historically likes to run the ball from in close.
At 6-6, 240 and with blazing speed and a 40-inch vertical, Jones, an impossible matchup for opposing defensive backs, is finally recovered from hamstring and groin injuries. If David Garrard can get him the ball, we're looking at a player who has a lot of upside in the season's final eight games, particularly in the red zone.
The first receiver taken in the 2006 draft, Holmes, who has good speed, excellent quickness and good hands, will likely start opposite Hines Ward this week. Holmes had six catches for 58 yards against Denver, and could see more looks against a beatable Saints secondary this week.
Benson's got eight or more carries in all but two games this season, and against the Dolphins, he showed more burst and power than starter Thomas Jones. Jones isn't about to lose his job yet, but Benson's share of the load could grow down the stretch. If Jones were to get hurt, Benson could be a workhorse on a team that's likely to protect a lead in the fourth quarter more often than not.
Beating the Book
We went 9-5 against the spread last week and are now 67-53-8 on the season. We picked the Lions here last week, and they covered easily. We're now 4-4-1 in this forum.
49ers +6 at Lions
Detroit's passing game has looked good of late, and the 49ers secondary can be beat by anyone but Brad Johnson. But we're not ready to back the 2-6 Lions as six-point favorites just yet - their defense played well a week ago, but we're far from sold, and San Francisco hasn't been a complete doormat this year. This is a winnable game for both teams, and as such, the line should be closer to 3.5. Back the 49ers who cover.
Lions 24 - 20
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 10
Last week, Chicago got upset by the Dolphins, while the Giants barely got by on a fourth quarter come-from-behind win. When upsets of that magnitude happen, there's usually some bloodshed. The Chargers were the safest play among the double-digit favorites, and even they were locked in a close game most of the way. Jacksonville rolled to the easiest win.
This week, we'd take the Colts at home against the Bills first, and after that the Pats, coming off a big loss, at home against the Jets. If both of those teams were used up, we'd take the Panthers at home against the Buccaneers, who can't muster any offense.
The full Survivor comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 11/8/06