The Austin Chronicle

'The NFL Beat': It's Playoff Time

By Alex Dunlap, December 8, 2011, 4:56pm, The Score

This is the NFL Beat and these are the fantasy football playoffs. If you made it in: Congratulations. If you did not, you are clearly a loser. This column is for winners and Week. 14. Is. Upon. Us.

Browns (4-8) @ Steelers (9-3)
Browns QB Colt McCoy takes his crew to Pittsburgh, as they try to take care of that goose-egg in his 0-7 record against AFC North opponents. Browns CBs Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown are nightmare matchups for opposing WRs, but the Browns are terrible against the run, giving up the second-most fantasy points in the league to opposing RBs over the last five weeks. It has been hard to depend on Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall this season, but I like him to go big on Thursday night.
On the Waiver Wire:
Steelers RB Isaac Redman. It’s a reach, but he was getting involved last week, gaining 51 yards in a blowout win.

Saints (9-3) @ Titans (7-5)
This has “trap game” written all over it, and Saints QB Drew Brees knows it. He will pick on Titans CB Jason McCourty who is the third most-burned defender in the league this season. The key will be avoiding turnovers. No turnovers = no trap game.
On the Waiver Wire:
Titans RB/FB Ahmard Hall. The former Longhorn and Marine has been getting involved in a utility-back mode similar to how the Raiders have been using talented FB Marcel Reece. It’s a copy-cat league and a versatile fullback that can line up anywhere gives opposing defensive coordinators fits with their down-and-distance personnel groupings. I see Hall’s role in the Titans offense continuing to expand.

Colts (0-12) @ Ravens (9-3)
This should be a real snoozer. Expect Ravens RB Ray Rice to follow up last week’s 214-total yard, 1 TD monster with another big game against an absolute garbage run defense.
On the Waiver Wire:
Ravens RB Ricky Williams. Hopefully you listened last week when I recommended Williams as a waiver-wire target. If you didn’t and need help this week, now is your chance. He went for 76 yards and a TD on 16 carries last week and faces the third-best matchup against opposing runners this week in Indy.

Eagles (4-8) @ Dolphins (4-8)
Eagles QB Mike Vick and WR Jeremy Maclin seemed poised to make a Week 14 return to their reeling squad as they face a suddenly hot Dolphins team fighting for HC Tony Sparano’s job.
On the Waiver Wire:
Dolphins QB Matt Moore. If you lost a QB like Matt Schaub, or have been depending on someone like Josh Freeman or Matt Hasselbeck – you may want to kick the tires on Moore. He has averaged a very serviceable 17 fantasy points a game in standard leagues over the past three weeks. The Eagles are a Top 11 QB matchup and the league’s best WR matchup over the last five weeks.

Falcons (7-5) @ Panthers (4-8)
Panthers RBs Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will see their recent run of production end this week against a stifling Falcons run defense. Falcons RB Michael Turner is struggling with a groin injury, but has racked up almost 700 yards and 11 (eleven) (eleven?!) TDs in his last six games against Carolina. If he is healthy (and he says he is) expect a monster.
On the Waiver Wire:
Falcons RB Jason Snelling. If Turner experiences any setbacks this week or if the Falcons decide to “ease” him in, Snelling would be the beneficiary of meaningful production against a completely depleted and terrible Panthers defensive line.

Bucs (4-8) @ Jaguars (3-7)
This is a crap game, but it has produced my favorite quote of the week. Bucs HC Raheem Morris called Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew a “rolling ball of butcher knives.” Perfect description. I love it.
On the Waiver Wire:
Jaguars WR Jarrett Dillard. My old man will be very happy I am recommending a fellow Rice Owl. I hate the Jaguars passing offense and hate buying stock in them even more, but Dillard is an exceptionally talented athlete and has averaged six targets a week in his last two games. If he can have one play pop – that could be all you need.

Texans (9-3) @ Bengals (7-5)
Texans RB Arian Foster is such a stud that he is reaching “matchup doesn’t matter” status with me. Dude produces week in and week out and is simply a pleasure to watch.
On the Waiver Wire:
Texans TE Joel Dreesen. Lost Fred Davis? Take a look at Dreesen. I have been saying it all year.

Vikings (2-10) @ Lions (7-5)
Division games are never easy, but this game will be easy. The Lions desperately need a statement game, and it should result in lots of fantasy points for QB Matt Stafford and WR/Robot Calvin Johnson.
On the Waiver Wire:
Vikings WR Devin Aromashodou. He led the Vikings with 15 targets last week resulting in 90 yards, and is only owned in 1% of standard leagues.

Patriots (9-3) @ Redskins (4-8)
I was wrong about Redskins RB Roy Helu. This is a meaningless game, and may go to garbage time early, but Helu does not come out of the game in garbage time like 85% of No. 1 RBs in the league. The last time he was in a game when the Redskins deserted the run he caught 14 balls against a brutal San Francisco defense. I love him this week and moving forward (until Mike Shanahan does the inevitable and screws everyone).
On the Waiver Wire:
Redskins TE Logan Paulsen. With starting stud TE Fred Davis taking a small chronic break, Paulsen is literally the only TE left on the Washington roster.

Chiefs (5-7) @ Jets (7-5)
Jets RB Shonn Greene was last week’s fantasy MVP with a three-TD, 30-point monster. That is a once a year anomaly, and hopefully you are OK with that.
On the Waiver Wire:
Look elsewhere.

Bears (7-5) @ Broncos (7-5)
Bears starting QB Caleb Hanie and starting RB Marion Barber travel to Denver to face the streaking Broncos, led by probable All-Pro QB Tim Tebow. Exactly like we all imagined preseason, right?
On the Waiver Wire:
Bears RB Kahlil Bell. The Bears offense doesn’t know what the hell they are doing after the devastating Week 13 loss of elite RB Matt Forte. Marion Barber is the biggest beneficiary of the injury, but Bell looked awesome last week on four runs, averaging almost nine yards a carry. He’s worth a look.

49ers (10-2) @ Cardinals (5-7)
An NFC West snoozer. It could only be more boring if they put the golf commentators on to call the game with their soft, low voices and rich-people sweaters.
On the Waiver Wire:
Cardinals RB LaRod Stephens-Howling. The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 34 games or a rushing TD this season. Beanie Wells will be getting stuffed, and Stephens-Howling is who Cardinals HC Ken Whisenhunt turns to for a change-of-pace back.

Bills (5-7) @ Chargers (5-7)
Both teams have shown a tendency to get slashed by speedy, versatile runners. While I don’t particularly love either for various reasons, I do expect big games this week out of Bills RB C.J. Spiller and Chargers RB Ryan Mathews.
On the Waiver Wire:
Bills WR Brad Smith. I have been saying it for three weeks now. He is still available in a vast majority of standard leagues and should be owned.

Raiders (7-5) @ Packers (12-0)
After getting demolished by the Dolphins last week, the Raiders now tuck their tails and head to Lambeau to face a juggernaut.
On the Waiver Wire:
Raiders WR Chaz Schilens. The Raiders are a team that has seen more playmakers lost than almost any other this season. Schilens has had two consecutive 50-plus-yard games filling the shoes of WRs Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. He was targeted seven times last week, and the Packers Achilles' heel defensively is their vulnerability to exploitation by the WR, ask Vincent Jackson.

Giants (6-6) @ Cowboys (7-5)
What will you be doing Sunday night? I can tell you with confidence I will be ignoring friends, loved ones, and real-world responsibilities to watch this crucial NFC East matchup.
On the Waiver Wire:
Giants TE Travis Beckum. We know that the Giants are going to pull out all the stops in this one to try and keep Cowboys DC Rob Ryan on his toes. Beckum was only targeted twice last week, but hauled in one reception for a dazzling 67-yard TD. Giants HC Tom Coughlin indicated this week that Beckum’s Week 13 performance was enough to earn the young burner TE more reps.

Rams (2-10) @ Seahawks (5-7)
Hey, you had other stuff to do Monday night anyway, right? Unfortunately it is my job to watch. I fully expect Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch to continue his amazing run this week at home against a terrible, Swiss-cheese Rams run D.
On the Waiver Wire:
Seahawks WR Golden Tate! (With an exclamation point!) Tate has filled Sidney Rice’s role as the new No. 1 WR in Seattle, and it is not a bad offense to have a little bit of stock in, especially when they play at home. He should be owned in all leagues.

[Alex Dunlap is the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of, and a featured expert contributor to the network.]

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