East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Don't Mess with the Raiders Defense
The Raiders defense ranks seventh in the league in yards allowed, and first overall in passing yards allowed. Of course, Oakland allows less total passing yards in part because its offense is so poor that opposing teams are typically running out the clock rather than passing downfield late in games. But consider that the Raiders are seventh in YPA allowed (6.37) which means that teams struggle when they do throw against them. Combine a very tough defense with a terrible offense, and the Raiders are one of the worst passing-game matchups you can have. The likelihood of a shootout is minimal, and instead the game is likely to be an ugly war of attrition. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is the son of defensive whiz Buddy Ryan (the architect of the '85 Bears defense), and was also the Patriots linebacker coach under Bill Belichick for two of the team's Super Bowls, so he's learned from two of the masters. And his brother Rex is the Ravens' defensive coordinator - and you already knew not to expect too much from your skill players against that defense.
Of course, you shouldn't overplay matchups - for instance, we wouldn't sit Andre Johnson this week against Oakland - but to the extent that you consider who your players are up against, Oakland is right up there with Baltimore and Chicago as teams you'd rather not have your quarterbacks and receivers face.
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
I'm not sure 40 carries was really necessary in his second game back - after 32 or so, we got the point that Alexander was okay. But this is big news both from a real life standpoint - we have to take the Seahawks seriously again (especially given Matt Hasselbeck's play in the second half Monday night) - and a fantasy standpoint, one of the greatest touchdown machines in NFL history looks good as new. Curiously, Alexander didn't get into the end zone Monday because the Seahawks uncharacteristically threw the ball from in close several times. I say "uncharacteristically" because last season they almost always ran it from in close, but in years past Holmgren has mixed in plenty of pass plays, so this might not be a one-game anomaly. Under Holmgren in Green Bay, Brett Favre was such a great fantasy QB in part because Holmgren threw so much from in close. Either way, Alexander is certainly a top-10 fantasy RB, and if he gets 100-plus and a touchdown this week in Denver, he's No. 3 beyond any doubt.
I should also a little credit to RotoWire's Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Stephania Bell who has been steadfast all year in predicting that Alexander would be his old self as long as his foot was allowed to heal completely. While many wondered whether this was the beginning of the end for 1800-carry back, Stephania didn't see the fracture (a totally random injury not related to wear and tear) as a sign of that.
You got to love a guy you draft late in the first round, who scores one touchdown in nine games, then returns unexpectedly against the league's fifth-ranked rushing defense, i.e., in a situation where you could never consider starting him, to score two on 12 carries. A friend of mine who owns McGahee called and said: "It shouldn't be called 'fantasy', it should be called 'suicide' because it makes you want to commit 'suicide'." Whatever we want to call it, or whatever we want to call McGahee, his ribs are merely sore after the game, and he should receive the bulk of the carries going forward, though it's not clear whether Anthony Thomas (ankle) will still be in the mix to ease him back.
Tony Romo's a third-year player, so he doesn't count, but Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards and a touchdown, while Vince Young had 249 yards and two touchdowns through the air and another 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Going forward, Young's the safer bet because those 40-50 rushing yards per game and a possible rushing score, give him a nice fallback if the passing numbers aren't there, but if you still think Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are top-10 receivers, and I do, Leinart's got to get his share of passing yards more often than not.
Someone's got to do it, and it's certainly not going to be Philip Rivers. If you're a Gates owner, you've got to love seeing Tomlinson throw because that means someone else has to score. The problem for Rivers, Gates and the receivers San Diego spreads the ball around to is that the team runs so often from in close, there's very little left to go around. As long as it's effective, and it has been so far, there's not a huge reason for Marty Schottenheimer to tinker with the formula. If teams sell out to stop Tomlinson, Gates and Rivers could see a surge in scoring down the stretch. If you're a Gates owner, be patient and remember Chad Johnson three weeks ago. If you're a Rivers owner, you might want to sit him depending on your other options and the week's matchup - you need more week-to-week reliability from your quarterback than your tight end.
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: Justin Fargas, Reche Caldwell, Devery Henderson and DeAngelo Williams.
Here are a few more:
We touched on Leinart briefly above because he threw for over 400 yards on Sunday, but there's a lot to like here. Not only does he have arguably the best tandem of receivers in football, but the team's line can't run block, which means that he could air it out (Dennis Green's comments about running the ball a lot vs. the Rams, notwithstanding) as much as any quarterback in the league from here on in. Moreover, Arizona's 30th ranked defense will provide opportunties for shootouts and valuable garbage time like it did against the Vikings on Sunday.
Ronnie Brown will almost certainly miss one week, and possible several more, so Morris is the starter on a suddenly resurgent Miami team. Morris played well on Thanksgiving, netting 91 yards on just 12 carries, but keep in mind that came against a Lions squad missing key run stoppers. At 6-0, 225, Morris has good size, but he's not especially shifty and hasn't been more than a backup for any significant length of time throughout his career. Still, as the No. 1 back on a team with a good defense and some leads to protect, Morris is worth a look.
I know he's been in the intro to this section all year, and this is why you should have owned him already, so you wouldn't have to scramble to pick him up now. There's no guarantee that Norwood will cut further into Warrick Dunn's role, but Norwood was the more effective back Sunday, and given the Falcons struggles from inside the five, it makes sense that they'd give the slighly bigger Norwood some looks from in close. Norwood also has blazing speed, so he's a home run threat from anywhere on the field if he gets a little daylight.
This is speculative as Davis is a rookie who missed much of the season with a broken leg, but he's completely healthy now and figures to play a bigger part in the offense down the stretch. Davis, who goes 6-3, 254 with blazing 4.38 speed, will be a matchup problem for anyone if he shows he can run a route.
Beating the Book
We went 8-8 against the spread last week and are now 93-74-9 on the season. We picked the Chiefs here last week, and they covered. We're now 6-5-1 in this forum.
Chiefs -5 at Browns
The Chiefs are a good team this season, with an improved defense and tremendous running game, but five is a big number to part with on the road. Cleveland's defense is tough against the pass, and the beating they took against Cincinnati last week probably served to inflate this line. Take the Browns who stay in this one and possibly win outright.
Browns 20 - 19
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 13
Dallas against Tampa last week was like candy from a baby, and Indy's win against the Eagles was similarly easy. Our third choice, the Chargers, had to grind it out, as we predicted, but they still delivered for survivor purposes.
This week, we like the Pats at home against the Lions - New England has played poorly at home at times this year, but it would really be a shock for the Lions play well enough for 60 minutes to pull off the upset. If New England's unavailable, we'd take Pittsburgh at home against Tampa - we expect the Steelers to shake off last week's embarrassment by the Ravens. If both of those are gone, we'd go with the Bears, whose offense we don't trust against the Vikings, but who should still pull it out at home.
The full article comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 11/28/06