The second half of the fantasy football season is underway, with teams vying for playoff positions and championship glory. There's still plenty of time left to make a run, and with six teams on the bye week - the waiver wires will be heating up. Be sure to check out the surprise players primed for a big week, and as always, remember to come back to Spike.com for the Sunday morning injury report.
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Andre Johnson put in a full day of practice Friday and is expected to play today.
Calvin Johnson likely will not play, but Matthew Stafford will start
Mario Manningham suffered an injury during practice late in the week, and will not suit up for the Giants' game against the Eagles.
Mushin Muhammad is officially out with a knee injury.
Donald Brown is out this week with a shoulder injury.
Brian Westbrook is likely out against the Giants.
Reggie Wayne is expected to play.
The Cincinnati Bengals will get the week off to celebrate their victory over the Bears, so sit Carson Palmer, Cedric Beson, Chad Ochocinco, Andre Caldwell, and Chris Henry.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a week to figure out what they hell they're doing, so give Larry Johnson, Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, and Bobby Wade a rest.
The New England Patriots will let Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney, Randy Moss, Ben Watson, Julian Edelman, and Sammy Morris enjoy the week off.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking a breather to gear up for a second half run with Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, and Heath Miller off this week.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't get their first win this week with Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward, Kellen Winslow, Antonio Bryant, Josh Johnson, and Josh Freeman off.
The Washington Redskins will have some extra time to figure out how to fire Jim Zorn, but in the meantime Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley, Santana Moss, and Antwaan Randle El will have some time to contemplate what winning a game might feel like.
Start – Now that the Tennessee Titans have taken a historic nosedive down the AFC cellar, the Houston Texans have positioned themselves perfectly to become the team that finishes right behind the Colts in the AFC South standings. Thanks to Matt Schaub, who leads all NFL quarterbacks in yards and touchdowns (including eight scores in his past three starts) and the improved play of Steve Slaton (three touchdowns in his past two games) – the Texans rapidly improving offense should be able to move the ball well against the Bills. Owen Daniels (over 75 yards in each of his last three games and three touchdowns over that span) and Kevin Walter should help make up for the potential loss of Andre Johnson – who is battling a chest injury. For the Bills, start Marshawn Lynch against the Texan’s 21st ranked defense. He’s not going to receive as many catches out of the backfield with Captain Checkdown, Trent Edwards on the bench with an injury, but he is getting the bulk of the carries now in Buffalo- averaging a shade over 17 rush attempts in his last three games. Lee Evans is worth a look in flex leagues against the Texans’ weaker pass defense, or for people who drafted him high and looking for an excuse to finally get him off the bench. Steve Slaton is averaging nearly 20 fantasy points over his last three games and should excel against the Bills.
Sit – Ryan Fitzpatrick is sort of like Vinny Testaverde of backup quarterbacks. It honestly feels like this guy has been around forever. I feel like I remember watching games in the late '70s with him holding a clipboard as various broadcasters mention how he went to Harvard 13-14 times per game. Not that it matters, because as a starter he’s not exactly Kurt Warner circa 2000 ready to make a legendary fantasy run. In two games this year, Fitzpatrick hasn’t broke 125 yards or multiple touchdowns and is a marginal “bye week filler” if St. Louis doesn’t sign a grocery store clerk off the street again (which let’s be honest, is not a bad idea at this point.) Oh, and speaking of players that haven’t been effective since 2007 – sit Terrell Owens. Fun fact; he has four times as many rushing attempts as he does touchdowns this year. Give Fred Jackson a seat, too. Zero touchdowns all year and five rushes for two yards last week sealed his season’s fate.
Start – Not technically a bye week for the Bears, but about as close as they’re going to get without breaking the golf clubs out. The Browns are coming off a relatively impressive performance, having actually gotten close enough to kick a field goal in a 31-3 loss against the Green Bay Packers (a classic case of raising fans expectations a little too high). This week, it will be Chicago’s turn to pick on the AFC’s version of the asthmatic fat kid when Cleveland takes the short bus to the Windy City to lose to the Bears. Great news for a recently struggling Jay Cutler who will need to take advantage of Cleveland’s 24th ranked pass defense that surrenders nearly 250 yards per game and Greg Olsen – a serious red zone threat against a terrible scoring defense. And for people looking to get a little loco, try Devin Hester against the Browns secondary. He’s had 80 plus yards in his past two starts and is due for a long touchdown. Matt Forte should also have a good fantasy performance. When Chicago had to become a passing team after trailing the Bengals 14-0 what seemed like 17 seconds into their week 7 game, he only ended up with six rushing attempts. That shouldn’t happen against this Browns’ defense.
Sit – With Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox battling for the number two receiver spot it’s impossible to predict which of them will show up Sunday. One of them will have a good, not great, fantasy day – but it’s a risky proposition committing to either. And as for the Browns:
Fact: They have 23 points in their last three games.
Fact: Derek Anderson has been benched approximately 37 times in his career and hasn’t broken a 42 completion percentage in three weeks (which really tells you the kind of faith they have in Brady Quinn).
Fact: I feel like the Browns are getting very close to accepting my trade offer of $28, three Spike interns and a promise to watch at least three of their games for Quinn and a fourth round pick.
Fact: Jamal Lewis will struggle against the Bears sixth ranked rush defense.
Fact: It will be difficult for any Browns receiver to do any damage until they start a promising Spike intern at quarterback.
Start – Watching Jerry Jones celebrate Miles Austin like he just struck gold in a third world nation after giving up a handful of draft picks for Roy Williams (still battling both injury and mediocrity) could not be more infuriating. It’s sort of like when that guy who invests all of his money in GM loses it, gets a government bailout and then starts giving lectures on money management. Austin is a stud (over 400 yards and four touchdowns in his last two starts) and has emerged as the number one threat for a now resurgent Tony Romo (five touchdowns in his past two games). Both should do nicely against a struggling Seahawks defense along with Marion Barber - the now clear number one starter in Dallas. Jason Witten has been disappointing this season, but still a consistent starter averaging nearly six receptions per game in his last four starts. Nate Burleson is the best option to start for the Seahawks. The Cowboys give up a lot of fantasy points to opposing number one receivers and Burleson should be no exception.
Sit – The only guy not smiling in Dallas right now is Tashard Choice. After many pundits claimed he would see the bulk of the Cowboys’ carries, he end up being a complete non-factor last week. Felix Jones is back in the line-up, but only had eight carries last week as he continues to get healthy and Patrick Crayton still isn’t a starter. Matt Hasselbeck has had two great games and two Derek Anderson ones this year. It’s probably unlikely that he’ll have an exceptional game with the Dallas pass rush in his face all day. Along with TJ Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson, bench Hasselbeck against a Cowboys’ secondary that held Matt Ryan under 200 yards last week. Julius Jones is also a poor choice against a steadily improving Dallas rush defense. The Seahawks are only averaging 18 points per game against non-St. Louis Rams teams, and may not see the end zone at all if they can’t get things going early.
Start- Wow… this game is actually happening. I guess it’s kind of like when two morbidly obese people have sex. It’s ugly, embarrassing for everyone involved and something absolutely nobody wants to see. The only intriguing aspect of this game is that for the first time in three seasons somebody is going to select the Detroit Lions in an elimination league. Kevin Smith should help make up for a passing game that may be missing Calvin Johnson (reportedly still “iffy” for Sunday) and Matthew Stafford (likely out) against the Rams 27th ranked rush defense. And speaking of running backs, Steven Jackson has to be the runaway leader for the NFL charity work award. While most Americans spend their Sundays cussing out Marc Bulger, Jackson helps a group of special needs football players in St. Louis. He gives an inordinate amount of effort and even rushed for 134 yards last week through a nine man box in a game the Rams lost 42-6. Despite never making his way into the end zone, he’s had double digit performances every game since week 2 and is due for a breakout day against the Lions’ 20th ranked rush defense. Donnie Avery might also be worth a look after notching two touchdowns in his last three games.
Sit- If Daunte Culpepper wasn’t coming off of a 48-yard, one interception day against the Packers it would have been his turn to go wild against St. Louis. But as long as Brandon Pettigrew (one double digit fantasy performance all season), Bryant Johnson (less than seven fantasy points in each of his last three starts) and Dennis Northcutt (who has played a lot like Dennis Northcutt this season) are underperforming, it’s just not worth the waiver move to pick any of these guys up. Marc Bulger has one touchdown and three interceptions in his last two starts and Randy McMichael (two fantasy points last week) still sucks. And now Sam Bradford doesn’t seem like a possibility to start week 1 of 2010 thanks to a recent shoulder injury.
Start – Peyton Manning had one of his more pedestrian days this season with a 253-yard, three touchdown performance. No, I don’t need to tell you how great Manning is, but it seems worth noting that if you have him or Reggie Wayne (touchdowns in all but one game this season and reportedly feeling fine despite getting an MRI this week for a sore groin) there’s no real need to sit them unless they have a game scheduled against the 1985 Chicago Bears. With Anthony Gonzalez still injured here, Austin Collie will resume his role as the teams’ number two receiver and continue to build on his three-game touchdown streak. The only counter-punch the 49ers have is Vernon Davis (six touchdowns in his last four games).
Sit – As hot as the Colts passing game is, it doesn’t seem like a smart coaching move to run the ball against the 49ers sixth ranked rush defense. Sit Joseph Adai and Donlad Brown. Also keep Pierre Garcon on the bench. After a hot start he’s had just six total fantasy points in his last two games. And even though Alex Smith (part of the NFL’s first overall draft bust club) will be excited to get a start on the field, he should take a seat on the fantasy bench. The Colts sixth ranked pass defense and quarterback pressure should keep him off the scoreboard with his top receivers Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree and Isaac Bruce. Frank Gore (six total fantasy points in his last two games) has struggled to regain his form after returning from an injury.
Start – Assuming the stench of Miami’s second half collapse against the Saints doesn’t follow them to New York, this should be yet another memorable one between two AFC East rivals. In their week 5 showdown, the Dolphins put up 31 points thanks to Ronnie Brown’s 20-plus point fantasy performance and the start of Ricky Williams’ impressive resurgence (three touchdowns last week). Braylon Edwards, despite heading to court for beating up a club promoter, will have a nice day after getting the better of the Dolphins’ secondary in October for 64 yards and a touchdown after being on the roster for less than seven days.
Sit – Thomas Jones had two touchdowns the last time these two teams played, but both were inside of three yards and the result of the passing game’s success. Jones only rushed for 42 yards on 13 carries and will struggle against Miami’s fourth ranked rush defense that surrenders 87 yards per game. As for Chad Henne, last time the Dolphins had the element of surprise and fooled the Jets’ defensive line with Wildcat formations. This time the Jets will be ready to attack Henne, so expect him and Ted Ginn Jr. (who won’t need to bronze his hands if they ever make the Hall of Fame because they’re already made of stone) and Greg Camarrilo (scoreless all season) to have much of an impact. Mark Sanchez will also try to slow down the pace of this game and shouldn’t see the end zone more than once. Dustin Keller is now officially useless – less than six fantasy points in every one of his last five games.
Start – Brandon Jacobs is starting to find his grove after a difficult start to the season and should have a nice fantasy day against an Eagles’ defense that he had 92 yards on 19 carries against last time they played. Hakeem Nicks hasn’t looked spectacular this season, yet seems to find his way into the end zone every single game. He’s scored in each of his last four games and I’m not prepared to bet against him until an opposing defense keeps him off the scoreboard. Mario Manningham is also getting a lot of throws his way and may find himself in the end zone. The Eagles will counter the Giants’ big play receivers with DeSean Jackson, who will see at least two deep balls thrown his way and some rushing attempts to help make up for the injured Brian Westbrook and help ease the load of LeSean McCoy (who should do well against a Giants’ team that’s given up 10 rushing touchdowns this season). Brent Celek will also become a valuable weapon as a possession receiver, so give him the start despite a tough week 7 performance.
Sit - Not only does Eli Manning look like a scared child that lost his favorite nightlight at quarterback camp, but he’s actually starting to play like one. He has two touchdowns and four interceptions in his last two starts and will be facing the Eagles’ top 10 pass defense that embarrassed him in the 2008 playoffs. Ahmad Bradshaw should struggle against a bigger Eagles’ defensive line as the effects of an injured foot seem to still be keeping him from playing 100 percent. Steve Smith is the only Giants’ wide receiver to sit along with his troubled quarterback. Smith, along with Kevin Boss, has not notched a touchdown in three weeks and may struggle against an Eagles scoring defense that allows 19 points per game. Donovan McNabb has put up pretty modest numbers recently, and in big games tends to be more of a conservative, calculating quarterback. The Giants held Kurt Warner to under 250 yards and one touchdown last week, so McNabb should put up similar numbers. With Brian Westbrook likely out of the line-up he won’t have any checkdown points either. Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant aren’t consistent enough to start and Kevin Curtis may not play due to injury.
Start – Anybody who thought the Denver Broncos would be the undefeated team when these two met is either a filthy liar, Josh McDaniels’ grandmother, or a scorned Vanderbilt co-ed that Jay Cutler dumped after an unapproved weight gain. This Broncos team is using smoke, mirrors and a little defense to get the job done and may actually win this week. If Kyle Orton can take advantage of the Ravens’ 23rd ranked passing defense and have his fourth straight multiple touchdown game with the help of Brandon Marshall (15 plus fantasy points in three of his last four starts) – Denver could continue their march to 16-0. Or at the very least, a playoff birth after last season’s collapse. Tony Scheffler (coming off of a 20-plus point fantasy game) is also a nice start. If Baltimore wants to do what Tom Brady and six other teams couldn’t – Joe Flacco is going to need to duplicate the 385-yard, two touchdown performance he had against the Vikings. The Broncos’ defense hasn’t given up too many big performances, but with the bye week that Flacco had to prepare and the two aerial touchdowns they surrendered to Brady, it seems likely that Flacco will have a respectable day. Derrick Mason (20 plus fantasy points in three of his last four games) should also perform well with tight end Todd Heap.
Knoshown Moreno and Correll Buckhalter have been splitting a lot of carries, meaning that this communistic approach will have neither notching big numbers against the Ravens’ seventh ranked rush defense. Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokely continue to be too inconsistent. Ray Rice has looked very impressive lately, but he may finally meet his match when he faces the Broncos third ranked rushing defense that gives up less than 80 yards per game (Bad news for Willis McGahee as well). Also give Mark Clayton a seat.
Start – There is no reason that the Tennessee Titans should be taking away negative attention from the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams. They actually have a reasonably respectable roster filled with players that my sources tell me do practice tackling on a semi-regular basis. So the fact that they have the NFL’s worst pass defense (by a long shot) is dumbfounding. David Garrard had 300 yards and three touchdowns last time these teams met, while Mike Sims-Walker (coming off a monster fantasy day last week) had a pair of touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew should also have a nice game, as the diminutive back is averaging over five receptions per game in his last two starts and is coming off a near-40 point fantasy performance. Marcedes Lewis is also a start based solely on the level of ineptitude of Tennessee’s secondary. As they often do, the Titans will rely on Chris Johnson to help carry the load. He’s had 80-plus yards in four of his last five games and had double digit fantasy points earlier this year against the Jags.
Sit – This may be the only time anybody gets the sit call against the NFL’s second worst pass defense (yup the two worst secondary’s in football both play in Peyton Manning’s division for those keeping an eye on the record books), but Kerry Collins hasn’t thrown a touchdown in two weeks and actually had negative seven passing yards last week, which is why Vince Young will get the starting job this week. I can not, in good conscious start Young or his receivers until he shows the ability to complete a pass for positive yardage. Torry Holt hasn't found his way into the end zone this year, and may not break that trend this week.
Start – Don’t look now, but the Oakland Raiders came within 38 points of tying the New York Jets last week, and almost scored points on three different occasions! And people say the “Tom Cable for coach of the year” talk ended when he assaulted his assistant. The Raiders, who are now tackling at a third grade level, may not duplicate last week’s success against the Chargers, though. Phillip Rivers has seven touchdowns and is averaging over 250 yards in his last three games, while LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles are finally starting to coexist productively. Vincent Jackson (142 yards and one touchdown last week) and Antonio Gates (double digit fantasy points in every game this year) should both get into the end zone against a Raiders team that let the Jets walk all over them. As per usual, Zach Miller is the only Raider worth starting or looking directly in the eye.
Sit – If his career were a television show, the JaMarcus Russell series would have jumped the shark the minute people started making Ryan Leaf comparisons. This is sort of like when an actress agrees to do a soap opera cameo or turns 40. Things are pretty much all downhill from here. Sit his receivers, and the adorable little running back by committee they’ve formed with Justin Fargas, Michael Bush and an injured Darren McFadden.
Start – The Arizona Cardinals are quickly reaffirming themselves as a legitimate Super Bowl threat (well, playoff ones anyways) with four wins in their last five games thanks to the superb play of Kurt Warner (touchdown passes in all six starts) and Larry Fitzgerald (over 250 yards and three touchdowns in his past three contests). And now that Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower will have the chance to help the already potent passing attack get some help on the ground against the Panthers’ 26th ranked rush defense, this could be the most complete game Arizona plays all year. For the Panthers, Steve Smith should benefit from playing Arizona’s 29th ranked pass defense after snagging six receptions for 99 yards last week. Let that be a lesson kids – if things aren’t going your way, whine to the media until it gets better.
Sit – DeAngelo Williams has come on strong lately, but will struggle against the Cardinals top ranked rushing defense that is allowing just 67.5 yards per game. (Bad news for Jonathan Stewart too). The trio of Carolina tight ends are also killing each other’s fantasy value so stay away from Jeff King, Dante Rosario and Gary Barnidge. For Arizona, it’s time to sit Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston against the Panthers’ top ranked passing defense. Warner and Fitzgerald will find a way to get some points, but that should be it. Oh, and don’t even ask about Jake Delhomme. If it wasn’t for Derek Anderson and JaMarcus Russell, he’d win the annual “who has the most garbage on their front lawn” quarterback contest. Mushin Muhammad is likely out of the game.
Start – Oh, come on! Do we really have to sit through a week of “Brett Favre is going back to Green Bay?” I feel like John Madden is going to have to change his pants during this one by halftime. Well, as previously stated, Favre rarely passes up an opportunity to be a complete and total prick – so look for him to duplicate the success he had when he beat the franchise he turned his back on earlier in the year (270 yards and three touchdowns). He and Adrian Peterson (double digit fantasy points in ever game this season) will once again be the focal points of the offense and the bane of Packer existence. Visanthe Shiancoe is also a start thanks to his ability to get into the end zone and solid fantasy performance last month against the Packers. Sidney Rice – who has emerged as Favre’s favorite target, has had two straight big games and will get some deep balls thrown his way. Favre’s heir apparent, Aaron Rodgers will have a second opportunity to go head-to-head with the guy who refused to mentor him and will take his four straight multiple touchdown games into this battle. If he wants to emerge victorious, he’ll need the help of Donald Driver (who’s looked great lately) and Ryan Grant (100 total yards against the Vikings last month).
Sit – JerMicahel Finley is out with a knee injury this week and Greg Jennings has looked absolutely awful lately. Make sure to sit them both in this one. In Minnesota, try to stay away from Percy Harvin. The lure of his big plays is tempting, but the chances of him doing it every week are so minimal that it just doesn’t justify a start. Bernard Berrian is questionable for this one, but won’t make an impact anyways.
Start – The Atlanta Falcons have the 26th ranked pass defense in the NFL and gave up 37 points to the Dallas Cowboys. The New Orleans Saints have Drew Brees and scored 36 points in the second half against the Miami Dolphins. How do you think this one is going to go? Marques Colston has touchdowns in two straight games, Devery Henderson is coming off of a big day and is a deep threat against a Falcons team that gives up big plays and Jeremy Shockey will play a Falcons’ secondary that has allowed 80 plus yards to the last three tight ends they’ve played. The opposing quarterback, Matt Ryan is a start this week, as the Falcons may need to play catch-up and start airing it out – meaning that Ryan’s run of three straight multiple touchdown games should continue. He and Michael Turner (touchdowns in every game since week one) and Roddy White (three straight huge fantasy days) should do well on Monday night.
Sit – Reggie Bush has become a non-factor in the New Orleans rushing game (15 rush attempts in his past three games) and has just 30 total receiving yards over that span. Sure, he’s getting some goal-line love, but that’s not enough to warrant a start. Lance Moore also doesn’t get enough looks to become a starter yet. Bench Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, too. New Orleans allows the second least fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Jerrious Norwood is still injured.