There are a lot of good games in week 14, but frankly, I don’t care. The two games that I’m focusing on are Philly vs New York, and Dallas vs San Diego.
Let’s start with my birds:
Passing Attack: Donovan McNabb has played well this season (2,427-16-6), but the offense did not skip a beat (in fact on some levels it was more productive) when highly drafted backup Kevin Kolb took over for the injured McNabb in the early season. McNabb is still an upper tier QB, but age and injuries have taken away his running game which was a dangerous part of his skill-set in the past and he has been inconsistent at times. When he is on his game this offense flows as well as any unit in the game, but some weeks the passing game just seems out of synch. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are two young emerging stars at WR, and perhaps a move to Kolb will allow them all to grow together. Jackson missed last week’s game after suffering a concussion the week prior, but is expected to return this week –keep an eye on his status. Also note the Giants tendency to allow opposing TEs to have big games.
The Giants beat their rival Cowboys last week but the depleted Giant secondary did not contribute much to that victory. Tony Romo threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs against the Giants who at one point had the top ranked passing defense but have fallen down the rankings steadily for the last several weeks. They are still ranked seventh in passing yards allowed (199.0 ypg), but their 21 TDs allowed in 12 games says that they are easily beaten through the air. They will be best served by trying to keep Desean Jackson in front of them in New Jersey this weekend in order to try and limit big plays or that TD total could grow. I’m not expecting the Gmen to shut down DJack. He was at home last week, and he is ready to explode.
Running Attack: Brian Westbrook may return this week from his post-concussion syndrome, but if he does he will likely be very limited. LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver have been very effective in Westbrook’s absence and should get the bulk of the carries even if Westbrook does play. Like the Cowboys, the Eagles tend to abandon the run early so it may be the second week in a row that the Giants run defense looks good merely because it wasn’t really tested.
New York is ranked 15th in the league in run defense, allowing 102.6 ypg. They have allowed 15 TDs in 12 weeks including long TD runs to both McCoy and Weaver in the Week 8 matchup. Under-rated tackle Barry Coefield doesn’t get much recognition in a defense loaded with bigger names but with fellow “up the middle” players like Antonio Pierce and Kenny Phillips lost for the season, Coefield will be a key to the run defense going forward.
Donovan McNabb: 245 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 5 yds rushing
Jeremy Maclin: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Desean Jackson: 65 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving
On to the GMen:
Passing Attack: Eli Manning peaked during the first five weeks of 2009, but also played well against the Falcons and the Cowboys sandwiched around a stinker against Denver during the last three weeks. Manning is playing with pain in his foot – and it’s well known that December has not been kind to him – but to his credit he has emerged as the leader of this offense. He is largely responsible for making the Giants biggest question mark heading into this season – their WRs – into a true strength of the team. Third year WR Steve Smith is only a handful of catches away from breaking the Giants record for receptions in a season and has been a steady presence for Eli to rely on all year. TE Kevin Boss wasn’t used much earlier this season but has really stepped up his game and has been a factor in recent weeks. Like the Giants the Eagles also have a tough time stopping opposing TEs so consider Boss if your options are limited.
The Eagle defense harassed Eli during the last meeting between these two teams, and have generally fared well against the younger Manning in past years. The Eagles are allowing 205.3 ypg and 18 TDs on the season. While they can be susceptible to big plays at times, this is a team that loves to blitz (33 sacks) and force opposing QBs into mistakes (20 interceptions). Eli will need to be sharp and smart if the Giants wish to beat their second consecutive division rival.
Running Attack: Brandon Jacobs turned short swing pass into a 70+ yard TD catch and run last week against Dallas. In other strange news, it snowed in Dallas last week. Not sure which occurrence is more unbelievable. Ahmad Bradshaw has struggled since injuring his foot but ran hard last week in the Meadowlands and will be needed down the stretch for the Giants playoff run. This offense works best when they can hit opposing defenses with a one two punch in the running game.
On the season the Eagles are allowing only 98.8 ypg on the ground and only 8 TDs, so it’s not an easy matchup for the Giants. Will Witherspoon acquired from the Rams at the trade deadline has helped shore up the middle of the run defense and Trent Cole, known more for his pass rushing ability, has developed into a pretty good run stopper as well.
Eli Manning: 275 yds passing, 3 TDs, 2 Ints.
Steve Smith: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 50 yds receiving
Hakeem Nicks: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Boss: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brandon Jacobs: 60 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 55 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving
My crystal ball says: Giants 24 Eagles 27 (fly eagles fly)
Now, on to dem boys vs the Chargers
Passing Attack: Vincent Jackson presents a difficult match up for any defensive back as he has elite deep speed in a 6’5”, 230 pound frame, but has disappeared the last few weeks much to the dismay of his fantasy owners. TE Antonio Gates has picked up Jackson’s slack during that time much to the joy of his fantasy owners. Jackson has improved each season and is a gifted player. One would have to think that he’ll turn his season back around. Although it’s risky during this important part of the fantasy season to start players that have not been producing recently Jackson seems due for a big game and I’d recommend starting him. Unfortunately I will be facing him in my opening round playoff matchup this week, further cementing his chances for a big game from him.
The Dallas defense ranks 20th in passing yards allowed, allowing 225.9 yards per game this season with 17 TDs. Teams have been able to move the ball through the air against this team despite a talented pass rush and secondary. Expect the Chargers to attempt to exploit this weakness as Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates are all big fast targets that should pose problems for even the physical Dallas secondary.
Running Attack: After a slow return following his ankle injury that caused him to miss a few weeks, LaDainian Tomlinson was buried by many fantasy pundits. However, he has scored 8 TDs over the last 6 weeks. He’s obviously not the same back he once was, but is still effective and his numbers improved once the Charger offensive line returned back to health. Tomlinson is no longer elusive and his burst is not what it was in years past but he still has that nose for the endzone and the Chargers know it. As long as expectations are lowered he’s still a fantasy asset.
Dallas has been a solid run defense this season, allowing 102.5 ypg, and has managed to keep opposing backs from scoring (only 5 rushing TDs allowed). Former Falcon Keith Brooking and veteran line backer Bradie James lead the team in tackles with their relentless pursuit of the football. Don’t expect LT2 to post big numbers against the Cowboys, but perhaps he can take a plunge into the endzone.
Philip Rivers: 285 yds passing 2 TDs
Malcolm Floyd: 40 yds receiving
Vincent Jackson: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Antonio Gates: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 35 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving
LT: 45 yds rushing, 1 TD / 10 yds receiving
Everyone knows that the Cowboys play their best football in December…lets break it down.
Passing Attack: Miles Austin has over 900 yards and 9 TDs on the season, with most of those stats coming in his 8 starts. I hate to admit it, but it’s pretty impressive. Miles is big and fast and has been just what the Cowboys needed (and more) to replace Terrell Owens production. People expect Tony Romo to falter in December but last week’s loss cannot be pinned on him. He’s been pretty consistent over the course of the season, so we’ll see if he can maintain that consistency or be subject to yet another late season swoon…I sure hope he fails.
San Diego’s pass defense is allowing 204.4 ypg and has given up 14 passing TDs on the season. Shawn Merriman’s return to health has helped the pass rush become more effective which has improved the defense as a whole. Romo’s tendency to make mistakes has not been as prevalent this season, but strange things happen in December in Dallas.
Running Attack: The Cowboys seem to have something against running the ball despite having 3 capable backs and an obese o-line. They inexplicably abandon the run almost every week. Barber fumbled early last week and was more or less placed on the shelf while the Boys tried to run Felix Jones on outside sweeps, when they ran at all, despite the Giant injuries to the middle of their defense. San Diego does not have a strong run defense and if the Cowboys once again do not attempt to exploit that weakness, the coaching staff should come under major scrutiny.
San Diego was stunned by the loss of NT Jamal Williams before the season got under way, and their early season run defense suffered. They are still not a great run defense, but have bounced back a little since mid-season. They are currently the 21st ranked run defense, allowing 117.8 ypg and 8 TDs on the season, but have only allowed 1 rushing TD since Week 9.
Tony Romo: 225 yds passing 1 TD, 2 Ints. / 15 yds rushing
Roy Williams: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Miles Austin: 70 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 45 yds receiving
Felix Jones: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving
Marion Barber: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Prediction: Chargers 28 Cowboys 24 (yes…another Cowboys loss in December…no surprise here)