Last week I included a little “What to Watch” question with each game. I started to do the same this week, then I realized that I would mostly be watching the same thing in each game — will the team that had a first round bye week exhibit any signs of rust? Especially the passing games that rely on timing and game experience — will the QB’s be throwing behind crossing routes and overthrowing deep posts?
Saturday 4:30 EST
Arizona @ New Orleans
What’s left to say about Kurt Warner? He’ll occasionally take too many risks against a good pass defense, but then we thought Green Bay was a good pass defense, and he shredded them. Boldin is more likely to play this week, but his presence may actually hurt the available fantasy value here — Breaston and Doucet excelled in Boldin’s absence, but if he plays a significant portion of the game, the looks will be spread out more. Fitzgerald remains a top option. Other than Darren Sharper’s ball-hawking skills, the Saints’ secondary hasn’t been great in the last half of the season, so expect another shootout.
ARI: Warner +1, Fitzgerald +1, Boldin -1, Breaston -1 (+1 if Boldin sits), Doucet 0
The question here, of course, is the same question that applies to any of the teams that enjoyed a Round 1 bye. How rusty will Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense be after taking a full 2 weeks off? The Cardinals defense certainly didn’t shut Aaron Rodgers down, so at least the Saints don’t have a tough matchup. And, those 2 weeks should be enough for players to recover from most minor injuries. Coming in rested and healthy could be a factor against a team that played an overtime game last week.
NO: Brees +1, Colston +1, Meachem +1, Henderson 0, Shockey 0
Saturday 8:15 EST
Baltimore @ Indianapolis
Yeesh. When a team is so committed to (and successful at) running the ball, it makes it hard to rely on their passing game. I think the Colts defense is in much better shape than the Patriots were last week, so I think Flacco will have to pass more than 10 times, but still…it’s clear that the Ravens feel no compulsion to throw any more than they absolutely have to. Heap continues to have issues with his back, so I’d avoid him.
BAL: Flacco -2, Mason -2, Heap -2
Tough call here — the Ravens have been putting up excellent defensive numbers for the last half of the season, and repeatedly forced Brady to throw underneath for limited yardage. I don’t expect them to keep Manning in check like that, but it’s at best an average matchup for the Colts, and probably a mild downgrade is more realistic. My feeling is that Ed Reed will spend more time helping cover Wayne and Garcon and that there may be room for Dallas Clark to rack up some yardage.
IND: Manning -1, Wayne -1, Clark 0, Garcon 0, Collie 0
Sunday 1:00 EST
Dallas @ Minnesota
Romo is rolling right now, and unless Jared Allen and the Vikings line can put a lot more pressure on him than the Eagles did, I expect continued success. I was surprised that Witten wasn’t more involved last week. Miles Austin remains the clear #1 option. Roy Williams was decent but he’s too risky to rely on. Don’t forget that Crayton gets a little boost in return yardage leagues.
DAL: Romo +1, Austin +1, Williams 0, Crayton 0, Witten +1
Hard to argue against what the Vikings did in Week 17, but I’ll try — the Giants were getting worse each week and gave up on that game before it even started, and the Dallas defense has been steadily improving. We know that when Favre is unhurried, he can zing it with the best of them. I’m a believer in the Cowboy’s D-line, though, and I expect at least one or two mistakes from Favre. Slight downgrade.
MIN: Favre -1, Rice 0, Berrian -1, Harvin -1, Shiancoe 0
Sunday 4:40 EST
New York Jets @ San Diego
Cotchery isn’t a bad play in PPR formats, but apart from him, there isn’t much here. There’s basically 2 outcomes for Sanchez right now — failure (which looks like 100 yards and 2 or 3 int’s), or success (which looks like 160 yards with 1 TD and no picks). The difference between those 2 matters a lots to the Jets, but the upside is so limited for fantasy purposes that it’s better just staying away. Keller is a long-shot TE option just for his big play ability as evidenced last week, but don’t be surprised at a 2 catch, 28 yard week.
NYJ: Sanchez -1, Cotchery 0, Edwards -1, Keller 0
The unfortunate situation here is that V-Jax may just get erased by Revis. I don’t see any situation that doesn’t involve a serious cut in his production. Fortunately, Rivers still has Gates (who presents a huge matchup problem for the Jets), as well as Floyd, Naanee, Tomlinson, and Sproles. A mild downgrade just for losing V-Jax as a serious weapon, but don’t feel too bad about it.
SD: Rivers -1, Jackson -2, Gates +2, Floyd +1