Following a week in which Tim Tebow proved that a passing game is not necessary to win a football game, we’re going in the opposite direction. This week’s starts are a quarterback, wide receiver and a tight end. It’s time to take flight.
Week 10 delivered its fair share of surprises. Jason Snelling, Le’Ron McClain, Jericho Cotchery and Damian Williams all reached to the end zone. This weekend, it’ll be a different type of twist – a throwback Sunday, if you will.
All three of my starts this week look like an advice column from 2007. But after you read on, you’ll see that sometimes the best way to go is old school.
Last week, Dwayne Bowe caught two passes for 17 yards (seven targets), but really was only the recipient of the Champ Bailey treatment. The same goes for Santonio Holmes on Thursday, when the Jets travel to Mile High for a mid-week showdown against the Broncos.
Despite Bailey’s stellar coverage, the rest of the Denver secondary has proven to be vulnerable. The Broncos allow the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, including double-digit totals in six of their past nine contests.
Last week, Jackie Battle led the Chiefs in rushing against Denver, but was limited to 61 yards. If the Broncos aim to shut down Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson, the Jets will be forced to use their passing attack. And it’s been a common theme for No. 2 receivers to excel.
Among receivers to torch the Denver secondary, Jacoby Ford topped 100 yards with a score, A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson combined for 260 yards and a touchdown, Nate Washington hauled in eight passes for 92 yards and a score, Calvin Johnson and Titus Young both reached the end zone and Malcolm Floyd went deep against them while Bailey covered Vincent Jackson.
With the focus likely being devoted towards Holmes, Plaxico Burress is in store for a lot of targets. It’s not 2007 anymore, yet Burress is tied for third among wideouts with six touchdowns and is leading the Jets in targets this season. He’s also the main threat when the Jets reach the red zone. So with New York facing a must-win game, start Burress with confidence and expect him to find the end zone.
It’s time to party like it’s 2007, and that means starting the best receiving tight end in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons tight end has been on fire as of late, scoring twice in the past two games.
The loss of Julio Jones will allow for Matt Ryan to look to his dependable tight end more often. When Jones missed three games in October, Gonzalez was targeted 19 times, second only to Roddy White (24 targets). And on short to intermediate routes, where Matty Ice has tossed 10 of his 14 touchdowns to this season, five have gone to Gonzo.
The Falcons are hosting Tennessee in the Georgia Dome this week. The Titans are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year,
including five touchdowns on the season and 22 receptions for 299 yards and two scores over the past four contests.
Tennessee has held opposing running backs to less than 80 yards in their last three games and will surely focus on stopping Michael Turner. And since their bye week, the Falcons have proven they are not afraid to throw the ball more, as Ryan is on pace to attempt more passes than in September or October. Gonzo is bound to stay hot against the Titans.
Call me a prisoner of the moment, but I was taken back last Thursday when Carson Palmer took us back to his prime, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns against San Diego. Palmer found a comfort zone with rookie Denarius Moore, who led Oakland in targets (seven) which resulted in 123 yards and two long touchdowns.
Moore has regained the team lead in targets despite a three-game stretch where he appeared absent on the field. With Palmer at the helm, Moore has nine receptions for 184 yards.
This tandem may be special, and I’m betting on the two to maintain their momentum in Week 11 against Minnesota. The Vikings secondary took a huge hit Monday night with the loss of Antoine Winfield, the team’s best cornerback, for the rest of the season.
The loss doesn’t help a secondary that has already been struggling. The Vikings have allowed opposing passers to complete 67 percent of passes against them, the second-most in the league. They have also allowed the second-most passing touchdowns (18), and quarterbacks have averaged 295 yards and three touchdowns the last four games.
Given the fact that offensive-minded head coach Hue Jackson has been allotted nine days to gameplan for the Vikings, who conversely are going to play following a short practice week, expect Palmer to continue impersonating Stella and getting his groove back.
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Have you heard that Tim Tebow and the Broncos won Sunday by running the ball 55 times and attempting just eight passes?
Well, I can guarantee there won’t be a repeat of that Thursday night.
The Broncos host the New York Jets, the 15th-ranked rush defense. That statistic, however, is a bit deceiving. Gang Green limited the Bills’ Fred Jackson and New England’s backfield to 156 yards the past two games after a Week 8 bye. In the teams’ last four games, the Jets have allowed 21 fantasy points to opposing backs, compared to the 79 points they allowed the first five weeks.
If Denver wants to move the chains, Tebow is going to have to kick it old
school – err, throw it, old school.
It doesn’t help that Willis McGahee is iffy for the game, and with Knowshon Moreno out for the year with a torn ACL, Lance Ball might end up being the leading ball carrier. Ball had a season-high 30 carries for 96 yards with McGahee and Moreno sidelined against Kansas City, but if Jackson – who entered the Bills-Jets matchup as the NFL’s leading rusher – couldn’t find holes in the revamped Jets defense, how do you expect Ball to?
John Fox cannot expect to be able to run the ball 55 times again. Rex Ryan will load the box and force Tebow to beat Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, something we’ve yet to see him do. Bench Tebow, who will face the most complex defense he’s seen thus far, as well as McGahee and Ball.
San Diego and Chicago are two teams going in different directions. The Chargers, losers of five straight, will travel to the Windy City to take on the Bears, fresh off back-to-back victories over Philly and Detroit. And what’s been propelling the resurgent Bears? Defense, of course.
Da Bears have allowed opposing running backs to reach the end zone three times this season, two coming from LeSean McCoy in one game. Over their past four games, they’ve allowed a total of 211 yards. That spells trouble for Ryan Mathews.
Against Oakland, Mathews split carries evenly with Mike Tolbert, though the backs combined for just 13 total carries. For the majority of the game, it was Tolbert in the backfield, as the Chargers were playing from behind and Tolbert is the team’s premier third-down back.
There’s also the notion that Mathews has yet to recover from his groin injury that held him out Week 9 against Green Bay. He will have extra time to rest coming off a Thursday night game, but it’s something to keep an eye on heading into Sunday.
I’m very dicey about Mathew’s prospects this week against this Bears defense. The Monsters of the Midway are on a hot streak, and given the Chargers’ recent struggles, I believe the risk outweighs the reward.
The Lions were demolished last week. But on closer examination, it wasn’t exactly their defense that cost them the game.
Jay Cutler only threw for 120 yards against the Lions’ secondary, the ninth straight time this defense has held opposing quarterbacks to under 175 passing yards this season (every game). Detroit’s fourth-ranked pass defense has been the third-best defense against opposing quarterbacks and the eighth-best against wide receivers.
Sorry, Cam, this might not be the bounce back game you’re expecting.
Cam Newton came out flat after the Panthers’ bye week against Tennessee. He was sacked five times, and despite eight targets, Steve Smith was shadowed in coverage and limited to five receptions for 33 yards.
The secret to overwhelming a rookie quarterback, of course, is pressure. Detroit, conveniently, ranks sixth in the NFL with 26 sacks, complements of the ferocious defensive line unit led by Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nick Fairley.
Coming off a humiliating loss at home to a division rival, expect the Lions to come out firing against Carolina. Jim Schwartz, a former defensive line coach, is going to send everyone but the kitchen sink at Newton, and Suh will probably want to make him aware of his presence. The Panthers should be able to run the ball against the Lions, though, so Cam and Jonathan Stewart may be viable options in that regard, but don’t expect too much in the passing from either him or Smith.