The triumphant return of Thursday Night Football! I always thought the Thursday night games were stretching it. We already have college games on Tuesday and Thursday, if you are really feigning—granted they aren’t the most interesting games, but there is a football on a green field with guys in helmets going after it.
Why do we need the NFL crowding up in our grill for three nights out of the week?
In reality, it’s all just an elaborate scheme to trick people into not setting their fantasy football rosters on time. The NFL figures right about now is when winning teams might get a little cocky and switch into autopilot. Well, here’s a Thursday game to screw you, buddy.
There are several very good things about the NFL on Thursday nights that I have to admit. For one, you have an excuse to be a lazy bum and sit at home with a sixer on a Thursday night. Leave the going out to the Brady Quinns and Matt Leinarts of the world—don’t people understand that we’re tired from reading all that fantasy football analysis?
Second, if one of your players scores big on Thursday, you get to hang it over your opponent’s head for almost a full five days if he is unfortunate enough to still have a chance going into the Monday night game. It’s so glorious that you might run out of trash talk and one-liners before Sunday morning—start prepping now.
And C (because who likes numbers that much anyway), if you go up big on Thursday, you know you can sleep late on Sunday with no concerns about who takes the early lead. You have the lead, and thus, you get to sleep through the headache and just watch your opponent try to creep up on you Sunday afternoon. Now, isn’t that nice? I guess Thursday games might be awesome after all.
There are a lot of players worth starting this week. Byes are ending, and most of your studs are back for a full tour of duty. I’ll run down a few matchup plays, but if you got a good thing going on, don’t let me screw it up, fool. Do what you have been doing. For example, start Kurt Warner until he dies (or gets injured).
David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Lions — I won’t bore you with lots of details. He plays the Lions, he can run, and the Jags have him throwing the ball like a big-boy version of Carson Palmer these days.
Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Raiders — Steve Smith might be smothered by Asomugyourguy (that’s his name, I swear), but Delhomme should have free reign over the rest of the field now that DeAngelo Hall is on the streets. Oakland is just ditching people to save money at this point, and the secondary was suspect even with Hall on the field.
I expect Steve to slip away for at least one big play, and after that, Delhomme will have to put on the guise that they’re still trying to mix the run and the pass against a team that all but forfeits each week.
Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Broncos — It’s a short week and a rough-around-the-edges, new starting quarterback against a defense that cannot stop the run. No math required. As long as Quinn doesn’t grease up the ball with his hair gel and Brute and create turnovers, Lewis will go off for a few.
Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. Colts — The Colts' run defense is still a little suspect, even with the return of Bob Sanders, and the Steelers' offense, even under the command of Byron Leftwich, can get the ball down the field. I like Parker to have a score in this one.
Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Patriots — That terrible Patriots secondary keeps putting it together, but the Bills are desperate for this win now that they have lost the winning pace they had to begin the season. Evans should get his just like Donnie Avery did against the Pats in Week Eight.
Derrick Mason, WR Ravens vs. Texans — Flacco loves to target this guy (almost double-digit throws per game), and the Texans’ secondary is likely to let him take one to the house.
Greg Camarillo, WR Dolphins vs. Seahawks — The Seahawks are flying across three time zones and the entire United States to face a hard-hitting Miami team. Assuming he sees the 11 targets that he had last week or close to it, Camarillo makes a borderline No. 2 receiver, who could easily go for 100+ yards or a score this week.
Kevin Boss, TE Giants vs. Eagles — He has scored in each of the Giants’ last two games, and the Eagles have admitted to having a problem with stopping opposing tight ends.
Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Seahawks — Behind Camarillo, Fasano should may see his fair share of targets as well, and last week, he managed to separate himself from David Martin by catching two passes to Martin’s zero.
In fact, Martin wasn’t even targeted in Week Nine. Moving forward, Fasano could develop into a starting fantasy TE (as some thought he would early in the season), but this week, he’s at least a great matchups play.
Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Seahawks — Joey Porter is a sack monster, and the Seahawks haven’t been able to get the ball moving without Hasselbeck. Next.
Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Titans — He’s definitely a questionable start this week, so you might want to consider looking elsewhere, but he’s been too reliable against tougher run defenses in the past this season. One has to think that they might lean on Forte more than Grossman in this one, no? And anyone if given enough carries—say 50—can produce against the Titans.
Ryan Torain, RB Broncos vs. Browns — Reports say he will have his first start this week, with Selvin Young’s hamstring still bothering him, but how much can you trust a rookie that got just one yard on three carries last week? I believe he could be a solid back for the Broncos in the future, but I’m not sure he’s this season’s Ryan Grant just yet. Starting him this week isn’t necessarily something I wouldn’t do, but I would do a LOT of things if given the chance.
Billy Miller, TE Saints vs. Falcons — How much does Jeremy Shockey eat into Miller’s value? Shockey had the bye to rest up, but much like Colston, who came along slowly in his return from injury, Shockey might do the same. Miller could still be a borderline TE start this week, especially considering how productive he’s been through this Shockey-less stretch.
Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Browns — Even if he returns this week, it’s questionable where he now ranks in the offense. Prior to his injury, the argument could made that he was the No. 2 target and a prime red-zone threat, but Eddie Royal may have passed him up in his absence.
Either way, I’d sit him again this week in a not-so-great matchup to see how he does, but I don’t blame you for putting him in your lineup if you’ve been waiting on him.
Marc Bulger, QB Rams vs. Jets – While they’ve been torched in the past, I have serious doubts about whether the Rams’ line can protect Bulger enough for him to attack the Jets secondary. If the Rams are without Steven Jackson and Antonio Pittman this week, the Rams are starting Kenneth Darby at RB, formerly of the Atlanta practice squad.
I’d doubt he’ll fare well against the Jets run defense, and that should allow the Jets and possibly the most dominant nose tackle in the NFL right now, Kris Jenkins, to put pressure on Bulger all day.
Rex Grossman, QB Bears vs. Titans — It scares me if you are contemplating this start. Grossman will have a hard time making waves against the Titans' pass defense, even though the secondary has been exposed a bit over the last couple of weeks (Colts and Packers).
Grossman makes bad decisions too frequently, and it’s a stretch to think his decision-making skills have improved on the bench this season. He’ll either play conservatively in this one or play terribly, so even if you picked him up, you’d be smart to let him ride the bench for a week.
Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Vikings — A tough run defense and his own weak performance makes me doubt he’ll be productive in this one. The most owners can hope for is a short-yardage score, but it’s hard to say whether that will happen with Rodgers throwing into the Vikings’ secondary. There are worse risks you could take this week, but I wouldn’t put money on Grant.
Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Dolphins — With Morris back from injury, the two RBs in Seattle are now scrounging for carries. Jones is on the losing end and going up against a top-10 run defense after flying through three time zones. Yup, he’s a sit.
Justin Fargas, RB Raiders vs. Panthers — The Oakland rushing attack has fallen on hard times. While Carolina isn’t a top-10 run defense in the league, it’s hard to see Oakland sticking to their running game if Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme put a lead on them early. Fargas is a risky flex play, and I’d let him sit until he shows that the completely terrible Week Nine performance isn’t what to expect from here on out. At least you have Week 12 to look forward to for Fargas.
Rashied Davis, WR Bears vs. Titans — I’d be worried to start any Bears’ receivers with the change to Rex Grossman, and the Titans' defense shouldn’t make it any easier for the backup to succeed. I’d sit all the Bears receivers if it came down to a close call, but if forced, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are the only two worth taking chances with this week.
DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Giants — Last week’s two catches for 20 yards is sign of what’s to come. With Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown back in the lineup, Jackson slides back into his rookie role as the No. 3 wide receiver.
You have to figure Westbrook into that, and if Brent Celek starts at TE, he might get looks ahead of Jackson. That makes him the No. 5 receiving option overall. He’s likely to have a quiet day unless he makes something happen, but the Giants could always forget he is on the field. New York’s pass rush won’t let McNabb sit back to let a long play develop. Is he all you have got?
Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs. Packers — You may have been starting the Vikings every week outside of their bye after drafting them as the assumed No. 1 defense. While they’ve had their big days, this game shouldn’t be one of them against a Green Bay passing attack that put up numbers against the Titans secondary.
They could be without Jared Allen as well, which downgrades their pass rush a bit. You might not be carrying two defenses, but it might be in your best interest to seek out a matchups play for Week 10.
Shaun Hill, QB 49ers vs. Cardinals — It’s no secret that the Cardinals allow you to score through the air, and the 49ers have had two weeks to prepare. Plus, in the three games he played last season, Hill was very smart with the football and minimized turnovers. After two lost fumbles in his first game, Hill had just one INT and one fumble that was recovered in his final two.
Tyler Thigpen, QB Chiefs vs. Chargers — The Chargers are another QB-friendly team, and Thigpen is on a hot streak. If he can link up with Dwayne Bowe or Tony Gonzalez, he’ll be able to give the Chargers a run just like he gave the Bucs; however, I’d worry what might be up the new San Diego defensive coordinator’s sleeve...
Peyton Hillis, RB/FB Broncos vs. Browns — With Shanny, you never know. Even though Ryan Torain is getting his first start (supposedly), we know from past experience that “starting” for Shanahan doesn’t always mean you’re the best back to play in fantasy.
Hillis could easily take third-down snaps, and that might allow him to run some passes into the end zone. It’s a dangerous play, but isn’t that what you use a sleeper for?