Thursday, November 27, 2008

Touchdowns and turkey: Perfect together

The NFL’s Thanksgiving Day games aren’t all that intriguing, but fantasy players won’t complain. We get three midweek matchups, all seen on national TV (by those of us lucky enough to get the NFL Network, anyway) and all with a fair share of fantasy-relevant stars involved.

The holiday slate features a battle of the birds (Eagles vs. Cardinals), and quite a few turkeys (Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, the 0-11 Detroit Lions). We’ll all be watching the games - between naps, of course - and trying to get our teams off to a good start in Week 13. So in that spirit, let’s break down the matchups from a fantasy perspective:


Kerry Collins, NFL MVP? I’m warming up to the idea.

Kerry Collins, fantasy starter? I’ll buy that too, at least for this week.

If there’s ever a time to start the old-timer, this is it. He’s coming off his three best efforts of the season, statistically speaking (six TDs in his past three games), and he’s facing a Lions defense that’s given up 18 scores through the air. Collins and top receiver Justin Gage are pretty decent options this week.

Even better options: The Titans’ dual rushing threat of Chris Johnson and LenDale White, going up against Detroit’s league-worst rush defense (166 yards allowed per game). Rising rookie star Johnson is an obvious must-start, but don’t let White’s one-carry, minus-one-yard, one-temper-tantrum effort last week scare you off. Coach Jeff Fisher will make sure White keeps his attitude in check, and the best way to do that is give him the rock early and often against a soft D.

As for the Lions, I like rookie Kevin Smith as a No. 2 running back this week since the Titans aren’t as good against the run as you might expect. They are, however, great against the pass, but I’d still start Calvin Johnson (a TD in six of his past seven games) and cross my fingers.


The Tony Romo Comeback Tour continues. Remember when America’s favorite advocate for the homeless tossed five TDs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2006 Turkey Day game? It wouldn’t surprise me if he came close to matching that against the Seahawks’ secondary. Romo and Terrell Owens (213 yards, TD) are clicking right now, so expect fireworks.

Marion Barber will find room to run, so start him with out hesitation. His Seahawks counterpart and former backfield mate, Julius Jones, will start and should have a little extra motivation, but I wouldn’t use him as anything more than a No. 3 RB or flex player if I could help it. And I’d avoid Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks receivers.


Speaking of extra motivation, McNabb should be out to prove his detractors wrong, and I’m expecting big things against a Cardinals defense that:

g Has allowed a league-high 22 passing touchdowns

g Has been burnt by the likes of Shaun Hill (two TDs) and Eli Manning (three TDs) in recent weeks, and

g Is traveling cross-country with a short week of practice.

Sounds like a recipe for a Thanksgiving treat from McNabb. I’d consider DeSean Jackson too if I’m short at wide receiver, and I’d take a long, hard look at a seriously banged-up
Brian Westbrook as one of my RB options.

On the flip side, Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are on an absolute tear and cannot be benched. Steve Breaston is still getting looks but remains a fantasy No. 3 in most leagues. And Tim Hightower has been a boom-or-bust proposition in recent weeks, so start with caution.

Photos by The Associated Press

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