East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Never Turn Your Back on the Family
Watching the last two Giants games, it's clear to me that Eli Manning was forced into the family business against his will. It was a little bit like Michael Corleone in the Godfather, only Al Pacino's character was unexpectedly good at the job. To his credit, Eli resisted, and when things got bad last season, he considered looking for ordinary work, but then his brother ridiculed every other occupation in national commercials to keep Eli in line. What's worse is that the Mannings refused to let Eli play in San Diego, where Marty Schottenheimer would have hidden Eli's weaknesses by running the ball every play. Eli could have mailed it in as a handoff specialist, while secretly keeping his hopes to do something other than football alive. Instead, the Mannings forced Eli into the largest media market in the country, and the Giants bad turf and poor training staff have ensured enough defensive injuries every year to keep Eli throwing unconscionable interceptions at the worst possible times. Eli, your family might not understand at first, but it's time to make a clean break. And besides, who doesn't want to see 300-pound Jared Lorenzen in the same backfield as 265-pound Brandon Jacobs?
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
As my colleague Mike Salfino pointed out on Monday's XM Show, this just goes to show that you have to stick with highly drafted receivers who are getting regular targets all year no matter what. Receiver production fluctates so much game-to-game, that it's insane to try and "time the market" and decide when one of these guys is going to explode. If you traded Chad Johnson two weeks ago (well, in that case you're probably not reading this because you jumped out a window on Sunday), I'm quite sure you will never forget that lesson.
Tatum Bell's turf toe is a problem, and Mike Bell got the bulk of the carries last week against the Chargers and ran well. Moreover, he was effective from in close, scoring both of the team's rushing touchdowns. Damien Nash will also be in the mix for a change of pace, but going forward, it looks like Mike Bell will get more than half the touches and most if not all of the goal-line work. Of course, that could change by mid-week, and right before I submitted this article, it turns out Mike Bell is being listed as questionable on the injury report.
In McNabb's case, that means the Eagles will start Jeff Garcia or A.J. Feeley, and that's going to hurt Donte' Stallworth, Reggie Brown, Brian Westbrook and L.J. Smith. It's going to impact the receivers especially because McNabb had been so effective in getting them the ball down the field. With Garcia and Feeley, expect more dink and dunks, and expect opposing safeties to play closer to the line and drill the receivers right after they catch the ball. This applies to Westbrook as well who will also have less room to run if opposing teams put eight in the box. Westbrook should still have value, as the team will rely on him more heavily, but then durability becomes a concern.
Jordan's injury opens the door for Justin Fargas, who has been effective in relief duty, to see the bulk of the carries. Zack Crockett might cut into Fargas' looks near the goal line, but at 6-1, 220, Fargas is big and quick enough to be effective in that area as well.
Brees has 1605 yards over his last four games. I looked up Dan Marino's 5084-yard season in 1984, and he didn't average 400 in any four-game span. I didn't look up all of his seasons, nor did I check some of Warren Moon's (4600+ in 15 games), but I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first time in NFL history someone's gone for that much in a four-game span. Keep in mind that Brees' big day against Cincinnati came without Marques Colston (ankle) for most of the day, and that he was without Joe Horn for part of that streak as well. The Saints have a perfect balance of terrible defense, an unreliable running game, an offensive-minded coach who loves to throw and an accurate quarterback capable of finding the open receiver. Brees is on pace for 4982 yards at this point, good for second all-time, ahead of Kurt Warner in 2001. The Saints have three good matchups left, at Atlanta, vs. the Redskins and vs. the 49ers, but keep in mind that Brees put up 383 against the Ravens, so the game situation, and not the defense, will more likely dictate the results. Colston's availability over the next couple weeks will also be a factor.
Below the Radar
Looking at the Yahoo! numbers from Saturday, it turns out that the Jerious Norwoods (3.9 percent) and Michael Turners (5.4 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: Ladell Betts, Tony Romo, Sam Gado and Mark Clayton.
Here are a few more:
With LaMont Jordan done for the year, Fargas will inherit most of the Raiders' carries. Fargas has good size, speed and burst. He might lose some goal-line carries to Zack Crockett, but in this year of the timeshare, any running back capable of getting 15-20 carries is worth a look. Moreover, with the Raiders playing better defense of late, and Aaron Brooks returning, Oakland might stick with the running game more often down the stretch.
Caldwell's had three good games out of four, and at this point, he's surpassed Doug Gabriel as Tom Brady's favorite receiver. Of course, Brady is to his receivers as Mike Shanahan is to his running backs, so don't get too excited about Caldwell - we're merely considering him a good No. 3 receiver in 12-team leagues.
Henderson's a burner, with decent size (5-11, 200), and he's been more reliable as a route runner of late, putting up two big games out of three - 111 and 169 yards. With Marques Colston and Terrance Copper nursing ankle injuries, and Drew Brees is putting up historic yardage numbers, look for Henderson to make it three out of four against the Falcons.
Williams took advantage of DeShaun Foster's minor elbow injury to rush for 114 yards on 20 carries Sunday. While Foster was healthy enough to return in the second half, the team elected to stick with Williams, which means that he should get a significant part of a timeshare at the very least. Williams is quicker, more elusive and more explosive than Foster, so if the two see equal time, Williams could very well make his case for the starting job. Just be aware that John Fox isn't likely to shelve a veteran like Foster entirely, no matter how compelling the evidence - see Dungy, Tony on Dominic Rhodes/Joseph Addai for a good comp. here.
Beating the Book
We went 5-10-1 against the spread last week and are now 85-66-9 on the season. We picked the Jets here last week, and they failed to cover. We're now 5-5-1 in this forum.
Broncos pick 'em at Chiefs
This is a big game for both teams, but Arrowhead's an awfully tough place to play, and now that Trent Green's had a game under his belt, we expect him to play more effectively. Kansas City's defense is good enough to slow down Jake Plummer and a banged-up Denver running game, and Larry Johnson should wear down the small Denver defenders by the second half. Back the Chiefs who win at home.
Chiefs 23 - 20
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 12
I picked the Chiefs here - though, I have to admit, I went with the Eagles in the official article. I suspect that game would have gone like the Kansas City one - with a late home team comeback, had Donovan McNabb not been hurt. But we'll never know, and a loss is a loss.
This week, I like Dallas at home on Thanksgiving over Tampa, and if you've used Dallas, then probably Indy at home against a McNabb-less Philly team. Third, I like the Chargers at home against the Raiders, though I have a sense that the Raiders will make that tougher than most people expect - Oakland's defense is playing better, and Aaron Brooks is capable of playing at a higher level than the inexperienced Andrew Walter.
The full article comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 11/22/06