Here it is Ladies and Gents, the Ground Game Preview for Week 7. One thing I would like to reinforce about our “rating system,” which I have blatantly stolen from Mark, is that when we upgrade or downgrade a player we’re always doing so within the context of their value. Our goal is to give you the best possible tools to make decisions with.
Let’s recap how the system works here: start with your basic ranking of players, and then consider -1 and +1 ratings to move the player to the bottom or top of their current tier. A -2 and +2 rating bumps them into the tier below or above their normal position. A new addition from last week is the team’s ranking in rush defense (measured in prushing yards allowed per game) in parentheses.
1 PM games
Green Bay (16th) @ Cleveland (30th)
I have been down on Ryan Grant for some time but it’s tough not to love him in this game. The Packers offense should have their way with the Browns and light up the scoreboard. Even if he doesn’t rack up huge yards Grant should get some goal line opportunities. I’m not sure how many carries Brandon Jackson will get but he’s one of my top stashes right now.
Packers: Grant: +3, Jackson: +2
Now that Jamal Lewis is in there ruining everything I have no reason to get excited about Cleveland. Odds are they will fall behind in this game quickly and be forced to put it in the air. Jamal Lewis should be a start by force only. Unfortunately you can’t throw Jerome Harrison out there either but I still love his upside
Browns: Lewis: -2, Harrison: -1
San Diego (27th) @ Kansas City (25th)
The Chargers should have no problems moving the football and putting up points against the Chiefs. Tomlinson actually looked really good on Monday Night Football. I see Sproles as a serviceable flex start right now.
Chargers: Tomlinson +2, Sproles +2
Their defense has been a colossal disappointment this season. They did lose their stud nose tackle but still there’s no excuse for how bad they’ve been. Look for the Chiefs to try and pound the ground game to keep Philip Rivers and company off the field. Relative to value I love both Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles in this one.
KC: Johnson +3, Charles +3
Indianapolis (14th) @ St. Louis (26th)
The Colts are the one team in the NFL that don’t seem to adjust their game plan all that much based on their opponent. Basically whatever you try to do, Peyton Manning will exploit you the other way. There’s no reason the Colts shouldn’t put up a lot of points against this team which is good for both Addai and Brown.
Colts: Addai +2, Brown +2
The only chance the Rams have of winning this game is by shortening it. Expect a heavy dose of Steven Jackson in this one. I see no reason why he won’t be able to put up respectable fantasy numbers. The nice thing about Jackson is even if they go to the passing game he stays in there and catches balls.
Rams: Jackson +2
Minnesota (9th) @ Pittsburgh (2nd)
This is going to be a great game. If anyone will be able to have success against Pittsburgh it’s going to be Adrian Peterson. This is a matchup you’re not looking forward to if you own him but there is no way you can sit him and respect yourself. Chester Taylor is a definite no-start.
MIN: Peterson: -3, Taylor: -5
The Steelers passing game is so dynamic right now that its forcing teams to game plan them differently. This is great news for Rashard Mendenhall. The Vikings aren’t a great matchup for him necessarily but I think he should have a decent game. I would be very hesitant about putting Parker or Mewelde Moore in there.
PIT: Mendenhall -1, Parker -3, Moore -3
New England (20th) @ Tampa Bay (31st)
The Patriots should treat this as a scrimmage, much like their game last week against the Titans. So far Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris have gotten injured, leaving Laurence Maroney as the only horse in the stable. He should rack up some yards again this week. Kevin Faulk is nothing more than a pass receiver (see- Keith Byars) and he never will be.
Patriots: Mauroney +5, Faulk +2
The Buccaneers can’t run the ball or pass it. The Patriots have given up some yards on the ground this season but I foresee them keying in on Cadillac Williams. There’s really nothing to like in this game about the Bucs backs. I’m done with Derrick Ward at this point, he’s dead to me.
Buccaneers: Williams -1, Ward -3
San Francisco (7th) @ Houston (24th)
Frank Gore is returning this week which makes Glen Coffee bench material. Gore is a must start here, especially against this soft defense. If you still own him now hopefully he has a few good games and you can get something for him in a trade. I think you’re crazy if you hold on to him the whole season.
49’ers: Gore +2, Coffee -3
The Texans offense is a lot of fun to watch. They will finish the season as one of the top scoring teams in the NFL. Steve Slaton was on my list of players who are due to break and he did this past Sunday. I view him as must-start in every format regardless of opponent. Ryan Moats at this point is just someone to hang on to unless Slaton gets hurt.
Texans: Slaton -1, Moats -3
4 PM games
Buffalo (32nd) @ Carolina (29th)
You have to love this matchup for the Bills rushing attack. The controversy all season has been what would happen once Marshawn Lynch came back from injury. Fred Jackson has taken over the kick and punt return duties as of last week so that means you can expect Lynch’s touches to increase more. I see Lynch as a must start for the week and Jackson as a flex start if you need someone.
Bills: Lynch +3, Jackson +1
Well the Bills have taken over the crown of “worst rushing defense in football” despite their victory against the Jets. DeAngelo Williams should be able to let loose and finally have a big game; he’s due.
Carolina: DeAngelo Williams +2, Stewart +2
New York Jets (21st) @ Oakland (28th)
The formula for beating the Raiders is pretty simple- run it down their throats. The Eagles decided instead to throw the football all over the field which was the reason they lost. Expect a heavy dose of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington with a little bit of Shonn Greene sprinkled in during 4th quarter junk time.
Jets: Jones +2, Washington +2, Greene +3
You actually own Raiders players? Must be you’re in a 20 team league. It is difficult for me to have anything positive to say about Justin Fargas or the rest of their “alleged” running game. One HUGE impact on the Jets was the announcement that they have lost Kris Jenkins for the season. Why is this so important? Because in the 3-4 scheme that they run the nose tackle is far and away the most important player. Kris Jenkins is one of the top nose tackles in the NFL and without him it’s difficult to predict how much their defense will regress. Listen I hate the Raiders as much as you do but I would probably start Justin Fargas this week and Michael Bush if you’re desperate.
Raiders: Fargas +1, Bush 0
Atlanta (23rd) @ Dallas (17th)
Michael Turner is on his way to being such a bust this season. He has been disappointing so far but I think he’ll ultimately be even worse. I am telling everyone to sell and him now while people still think he was worth a first round pick. Jerious Norwood has also been an enormous disappointment for me this year. For this game you have to start Turner but beyond that I wouldn’t even consider it in the deepest of leagues.
Falcons: Turner 0, Norwood -2, Snelling 0
A lot of people were drafting Tashard Choice in the later rounds and I thought it was such a reach at the time to give up anything for a #3 back. Barber and Jones just can’t get/stay healthy and Choice just keeps running strong. I love him in this game to give you a solid start against a mediocre defense.
Cowboys: Choice +2, Barber -1 (not sure what his health status will be)
Chicago (6th) @ Cincinnati (11th)
Matt Forte hasn’t delivered on his first round status either. I do like the Bears offense though and if he can run effectively in the red zone there might be some opportunities for him. Cincinnati’s defense isn’t anything special although they are better than they get credit for. Keep an eye on Garrett Wolfe going forward; he continues to play more and more and will be a big scorer if Forte gets hurt.
Bears: Forte 0, Wolfe 0
“Runnin’ for money!!!!!!!” Keeps those legs churnin’ Cedric Benson! I predicted that he would have a slightly down week after ripping up the Ravens. I’m going to go double or nothing on the predictions with him- he is going to light the Bears up like a unity candle; 2 touchdowns, 120+ total yards (rushing and receiving). Our regular readers know I’m not the predicting type but I’m on a roll with “runnin’ for $” and there’s no reason to stop now. Keep your eyes on Bernard Scott in case Benson gets hurt.
Bengals: Benson +1, Scott -1
New Orleans (5th) @ Miami (3rd)
Is there anything the New Orleans offense can’t do? The only thing that kills their running backs is that there are three of them, they are all good, and they all specialize. Pierre Thomas is your straight up runner so he tends to get most of the raw yards. Bell comes in and vultures his touchdowns. Reggie Bush snakes most of the receptions (and subsequently, yards) out of the backfield. So it is difficult to say which of them is poised for a big day. Against Miami’s stout defense Thomas and Bush are flex starts if you need them to be and Bell should stay on the bench for this matchup.
Saints: Thomas -1, Bush -1, Bell -3
I think there’s a conspiracy at ESPN. See, Sean Salisbury used to make outrageous statements, declaring a new team “the best in the NFL, a sure bet to win the Super Bowl” every single week. What I think happened is they fired him so they could all do that. I’m not saying the Saints aren’t the real deal, I’m not saying they aren’t a great team. What I am saying is that it’s mid-season. Remember how “unbeatable” the Cowboys have been early on in recent memory? So when I see that the Saints defense is 5th against the run I don’t buy that they’re that good. I think the Dolphins can run the football on this defense. I’m not sure if their defense will be able to reign in Drew Brees and his minions but I just think this is sort of a trap game for the Saints.
Dolphins: Brown 0, Williams 0
8 PM game
Arizona (1st) @ New York Giants (18th)
The Cardinals don’t see much reason to run the football unless it’s 3rd and 1. They actually do try to stay a lot more balanced than you would think but they are a pass-oriented team and will be all season. I love what Tim Hightower does for you, receiving out of the backfield and getting all the goal line touches. Beanie Wells I’m not so enthused by and without opportunities to get in the end zone I can’t justify him as anything more than a stash at this point. Considering how the Saints were able to carve up the Giants D last week you have to think the Arizona will be able to move the football and score points. That bodes well for Hightower.
Cardinals: Hightower +1, Wells -1
The Cardinals shouldn’t be ranked 1st overall against the run for long. Expect a heavy dose of Jacobs and Bradshaw this week as they try and keep the ball out of Kurt Warners hands and give their defense time to rest. I can’t give the dynamic duo a positive rating for this game- in fact I have to downgrade them slightly. But I have this sneaking suspicion that the G-men are going to try and ram it down their throats all game and might be successful.
Giants: Jacobs -1, Bradshaw -1
Philadelphia (15th) @ Washington (22nd)
As a die hard Eagles fan last Sunday was one of the saddest days of my football life. But you get what you deserve. That’s what happens when you don’t run the football, that’s what you get when you overlook a team no matter how bad they are. I like the Eagles to come out in this contest inspired and motivated. Look for Brian Westbrook, in particular, to have one of his patented 150+ all purpose yard performances. I think LeSean McCoy warrants a flex start in all leagues 12 team or deeper.
Eagles: Westbrook +2, McCoy +1
Clinton Portis is about the only thing the Redskins have going for them right now. He continues to defy all logic and post solid performance after solid performance. That offense is a disaster right now but he’s an obvious must start. I have been touting Ladell Betts as a stash in case Portis gets injured due to the excessive workload but in this game he’s not an option to start.
Redskins: Portis -1, Betts -3