Thursday, December 18, 2008

No use crying over shattered playoff dreams

Got a sob story from a Week 15 playoff loss?

I know of at least one matchup that was decided on that controversial Pittsburgh Steelers “touchdown” late Sunday afternoon.

Pass the Kleenex.

Or perhaps you started a seemingly fool-proof lineup consisting of some or all of the following: Eli Manning (191 yards, zero TDs, two INTs), Marion Barber (eight carries, 2 yards), Reggie Bush (46 total yards), Anquan Boldin (six catches, 34 yards), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (five catches, 19 yards) and Jeremy Shockey (one catch, 11 yards).


And what about yours truly? One of my playoff teams (the other had a first-round bye) put together its second-lowest point total of the whole season at the absolute worst time and got bounced. My decision to bench Tyler Thigpen (one TD passing, one rushing) in favor of Matt Ryan (zero TDs) at the last minute because of the poor weather forecast in Kansas City didn’t help my cause, but even that wouldn’t have been enough to save my team from its fate as an also-ran.

Just goes to show you that no one is exempt from bad luck, bad timing and bad decisions, even at playoff time. Those who are lucky enough to still be playing this week should keep this in mind as they try to dial up one more victory.

As you prep for your Week 16 showdown, consider the following:

g The Minnesota Vikings’ Tarvaris Jackson threw only 11 passes Sunday, and four of them went for touchdowns against what the Arizona Cardinals are calling a pass defense. I’m not advocating starting Jackson this week against the Atlanta Falcons, but I am giving New England Patriots QB Matt Cassel (above) my full seal of approval against a Cards D that gives up an average of two passing TDs a game, worst in the league. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are must-starts too.

g Tony Romo is a relatively safe play at QB (assuming his sore back feels better), but don’t go overboard with your expectations. The Baltimore Ravens have not allowed a quarterback to throw for more than one TD against them since Derek Anderson did so in Week 9.

g Two very sneaky RB choices that will get lost in the matchup of Drew Brees’ high-flying New Orleans Saints vs. the lowly Detroit Lions: Pierre Thomas (eight total TDs in his past five games) and Kevin Smith (212 total yards and a TD in his past two games). Both would be nice No. 2 RBs or flex players this week.

g Is it a coincidence some of the most productive running backs in recent weeks have been those with younger, fresher legs? Marshawn Lynch, Steve Slaton (above), Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew all fit that category — and all face suspect run defenses this week.

g It doesn’t really matter who starts at quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — his priority will be getting the ball downfield to Antonio Bryant, who’s caught four TDs in his past three games. He has a good shot at another one against the San Diego Chargers, who’ve allowed the third-most scores through the air in the league.

g Just for old time’s sake, you may want to start the San Francisco 49ers’ Isaac Bruce (26 catches, 333 yards and two TDs in his past four games) as he returns to his old stomping grounds, the home turf of the St. Louis Rams.

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