Last week, the Cowboys' season was basically on the line. And who did they turn to in the fourth quarter?
None other than Marion "The Barbarian" Barber.
All Barber did was have 114 yards rushing with a touchdown and six catches for 39 yards. The guy had 76 yards in the fourth quarter alone!
On a crucial 4th-and-1 play in the 4th, the Cowboys decided to try to nail the coffin shut on the 'Skins, and guess who they turned to?
Barber had a three-yard gain for a first down to seal the Dallas victory.
Dallas and Barber now face two sub-.500 opponents in San Francisco and Seattle at home.
The Niners give up 106 rushing yards per game, while Seattle gives up 115.
But after that, the schedule starts to tighten up. Dallas goes on the road to face Pittsburgh (69 rushing yards per game), then returns home to take on the Giants (91) and Baltimore (79), two of the better run defenses in the league. The season finale is on the road against the stingy Eagles (99 rushing yards per game).
Now might be the perfect time to trade Barber and see what you can get for him, because come crunch time, that's one of the toughest schedules for fantasy running backs.
On to the predictions:
Thurs: CIN @ PITT Prediction: CIN 7 PiTT 16
This game might be a snooze-fest with the way both teams are playing on offense. The Bengals have been fighting for Marvin Lewis' job and have been competitive, but that might not prevent the Pittsburgh defense from shutting them out.
I see this game being closer than most people think.
Fantasy Boom: Willie Parker/Hines Ward
"Fast Willie" is back and healthy and should have a huge game here, since the Bengals give up 131 rushing yards per game. Prediction: 130 rushing yards; three catches, 27 yards
Hines Ward, one of the best overall receivers in the game, has been on a roll lately and should have a field day. Prediction: Eight catches, 100 yards
Fantasy Bust: Cedric Benson/Ben Roethlisberger
As I mentioned before, the Steelers only give up 69 rushing yards per game, which spells trouble for Benson. If you have a better option here, use it. Prediction: 40 rushing yards; two catches, 20 yards
Ben Roethlisberger: People expected a big game out of McNabb last week against Cincy, but he ended up having fou turnovers. Big Ben hasn't been throwing well as of late, and again, if you have a better option (Brady Quinn?), then sit him this week. Plus, the Steelers are going to run more in this game. Prediction: 178 passing yards, one TD, one interception
HOU@CLE Prediction: Hou 21 Cle 30
The Browns always blow games and Monday night was no exception. But that doesn't mean there aren't great fantasy options.
This is a fantasy owner's dream matchup, similar to last week's New Orleans/Kansas City game; two poor defenses ( Yeah, Cleveland had three picks, but I could've caught some of those INTs) and many fantasy options.
Boom: Brady Quinn/Steve Slaton
Quinn struggled Monday night, but he started to establish a connection with Braylon Edwards. Start him with confidence against one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Prediction: 290 passing yards, three TDs, 0 INT; 20 yards rushing.
After seeing Marshawn Lynch roll over the Browns poor run defense, Slaton should have another huge game after last week's explosion against Indy. Prediction: 130 rushing yards, one TD; five catches, 50 yards
Bust: Nobody, play all Browns and all Texans this week
SF@DAL Prediction: SF 17 DAL 31
"The 'Boys are back in town," as the song goes. The cowboys finally showed signs of life with the return of Tony Romo and Terrence Newman last week. The offensive line also played better and opened various holes for Barber. Play all your Cowboys and Frank Gore for SF, but stay away from any other Niners this week.
Boom: Terrell Owens/Marion Barber
Owens has struggled as of late, but he will explode this week against his former team. Expect a line like eight catches for 120 yards and one TD.
Marion Barber: Expect a huge game—160 rushing yards, one TD; seven catches, 70 yards, one TD.
Bust: Shaun Hill/Niners defense
Hill may have had a big game last week against the lowly Rams, but, heck, anybody can have a huge against that defense. This week, the Cowboys will blitz Hill like the Cardinals did two weeks ago and force him into turnovers. He will struggle: 170 passing yards, one TD, two INTs, one fumble.
And in case you were thinking of starting the San Francisco defense this week, forget about it. The cowboys are an offensive machine and will light it up this week.
TB@DET Prediction: TB 21 DET 14
The loss of Earnest Graham will be very costly for the Bucs. Warrick Dunn is having a decent year and will benefit from the injury. Expect the Bucs to also use Cadillac Williams and Clifton Smith (who?).
Dunn should have a huge game here as will all of the Bucs. Although I expect great stats from the Bucs offensively, the Bucs have struggled on the road this season, which is why I expect the Lions to keep it close. The Bucs lost to Brad Johnson, for goodness sakes!
Culpepper will throw a costly INT or fumble to pave the way for a Bucs victory, but think of this game like the Bucs/Chiefs. The Lions may not win a game this year, but they aren't going to tank it like the St. Louis Rams, either.
Boom: Warrick Dunn/Antonio Bryant
As I said before, Dunn should get the majority of touches at running back with Graham's injury. Expect 88 yards rushing, one TD; six catches for 60 yards receiving
If there was ever a week to play Bryant, this is it. Expect him to explode and give Garcia a nice connection throughout the game to work with. Expect nine catches, 150 yards
Bust: Calvin Johnson
The Bucs will use the Cover-2 defense and try and take "Mega-tron" out of the game. This will benefit Kevin Smith, who should have a decent game. Expect four catches, 60 yards, 0 TDs.
NYJ@TENN Prediction: NYJ 17 TENN 21
I expect the Jets to shut down the Titans' run game, for the most part, with potential defensive player of the year Kris Jenkins to keep things close. Jenkins can stop the run just by being there; he's like a brick wall.
I like Kerry Collins in this one after seeing what Matt Cassel did to the Jets last week. I'd stay away from Favre this week despite having a nice game versus the Pats.
Boom: Kerry Collins/Thomas Jones
Like I said, Cassel threw for 400 yards last week and Collins has been on a roll lately. Teams are forcing the Titans to pass, and Collins has made them pay for it. Expect 290 yards, two TDs, one INT.
You can't afford to sit Jones at all, not even against a top-tier run defense. Maurice-Jones Drew ran for two TDs last week. Expect 88 yards, one TD; three catches, 20 yards.
Bust: Lendale White/Brett Favre
White' done virtually nothing the past 3 games. He did have 77 yards against Green Bay, but the Pack struggles against the run. The Jets will stuff the run game. White may sneak a TD in at the goal-line, but other than that, don't expect much. Expect 40 yards, one TD.
Yes, Favre had a nice turnover-free game versus New England last week, but this is a different and much better defense. The Titans give up only 187 passing yards per game, and only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have had good games passing against Tennessee.
Expect Favre to struggle a bit and the Jets to emphasize the running game. Favre will probably throw a costly INT for the Jets, too. Expect 180 passing yards, one TD, two INTs.
BUF@KC Prediction: Buf 27 KC 30
My upset special of the week.
The Bills have been reeling and, after Monday night, are seeing their playoff dreams dwindle before their very eyes. KC is much better at home than on the road, and should've had a victory or two more. I like all fantasy players in this one because both defenses struggle. If you had to play one defense, play the Bills because of their special teams returners.
Boom: Marshawn Lynch/Dwayne Bowe
Going against one of the worst defenses in the NFL against Cleveland, Lynch got going in a big way. Kansas City is one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Expect 130 rushing yards, one TD; six catches, 60 yards, one TD.
Bowe has been surprisingly very consistent and has a great connection with up-and-coming Tyler Thigpen. Expect eight catches, 100 yards, one TD.
Bust: Trent Edwards
I wouldn't play this guy at all for the rest of the year, unless you don't have a good backup. He threw three INTs Monday night versus the Browns...THE BROWNS!
Sit him even in a favorable matchup. Plus, they are going to run like crazy with Lynch and Fred Jackson.
CHI@STL Prediction: CHI 28 STL:10
Wow, you talk about a cupcake after a disastrous game in Green Bay last week. This is exactly what the Bears need.
Matt Forte has been great, no matter the matchup, and will thrive in this one. The Rams are struggling big-time and have basically tanked it the last 3 games. I would stay away from all Rams if possible and play all your Bears.
Boom: Matt Forte
Forte has been on a roll all season and will continue it against the worst team in the NFL. Expect 120 rushing yards; eight catches, 60 yards.
Bust: All Rams
Even though Donnie Avery is having a nice rookie season, you have to sit him, even in a favorable matchup. The Rams can't get anything going and will be without both Steven Jackson and Orlando Pace.
NE@MIA Prediction: NE 17 MIA-21
How the mighty have fallen. The Pats saw first place disappear last week in a huge game against the Jets at home. The Pats have struggled on the road and have numerous injuries to overcome. In the past, they have overcome them, but they had Tom Brady and a better defense then. Now they have neither.
Expect the Dolphins to throw as much trickery as possible at New England and for Pennington to have a big game versus a pass defense ranked near the bottom half of the league.
Boom: Ronnie Brown
How can anybody forget Brown's huge five-TD game in their last meeting? Play him with confidence, considering what Thomas Jones and Leon Washington did at New England last week. Expect: 80 rushing yards, one TD; five catches, 40 yards
Bust: Sammy Morris
The Dolphins rank ninth against the run and will make Cassel beat them threw the air. Morris has only been back for one game, and he didn't do anything against the Jets. Sit him here.
MIN@JAX Prediction: Minn 14 JAX 17
This is the second of back-to-back road games for the Vikings. They lost a heartbreaker last week at the Tampa Bay and did nothing in the second half.
I expect the Jags to stack up the line against the run and make Gus Frerotte beat them. We all know Gus will have a few turnovers as usual, even though he didn't have any last week. I like the Jags, but I'm not confident with either team right now.
Boom: David Garrard
He hasn't had a breakout season like many expected this season, but that's also because of the injured, weak offensive line. The Vikings struggle against the pass, and unless the Williams' tandem gets suspended this week, they will stop the run. Expect: 250 passing yards, two TDs, one INT
Bust: Maurice Jones-Drew
He's had back-to-back big games, but one was against the lowly Lions and the other was against the Titans, whose run defense has just been average as of late. The Vikings are No. 2 against the run, and even though it may be tough to sit him, I would if I had a better matchup on my bench.
PHI@BAL Prediction: PHI 14 BAL 17
This is a huge game for each team and could make or break the season. After seeing both teams struggle last week, I'm going with the Ravens. The Eagles looked lost against the Bengals in a mind-boggling tie, and this is their second road game in a row.
The Ravens will return home, and you can expect Ray Lewis and Co. to be fired up to stop McNabb and Westbrook. Much like last week, McNabb will have a few turnovers, although they will come against a much better defense.
Boom: Both team defenses/special teams
I expect both Flacco and McNabb to have a few turnovers in a low-scoring game. Play either one if you have them. Expect: BAL-three sacks, two INTs, one fumble recovery.
PHI- four sacks, one INT, one fumble recovery
Bust: Donovan McNabb
Something hasn't been right about the Eagles in back-to-back weird games. McNabb hasn't had a great season and last week had four turnovers. I expect Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs to make this a nightmare for McNabb. Expect: 200 passing yards, one TD, two INTs.
OAK@DEN Prediction: OAK 21 DEN 30
Both defenses stink and I expect The Raiders to play well this week. They played well last week against the Dolphins and always play the Broncos tough in a rivalry game.
Likewise, Jay Cutler and Co. should have a field day against a bottom defense. Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and even Peyton Hillis should have big games. Justin Fargas, Jamarcus Russell, and Sebastian Janikowski should have big games here, too.
Boom: Peyton Hillis
You may not have heard of him, but only he, Tatum Bell and P.J. Pope are healthy for the backfield. Hillis had two TDs against a decent run defense in the Falcons. Oakland is one of the worst run defenses in the league. Expect: 80 rushing yards, one TD; four catches, 40 yards, one TD
I like all Raiders and Broncos in this game, but don't expect to play the Broncos defense at all, even in a favorable matchup.
CAR@ATL Prediction: Car 14 ATL 17
This is a big game for both teams, but I'll take the team that plays well at home (ATL), rather than a team that struggles on the road (CAR). Carolina has been great at home, but has struggled mightily on the road. Against Oakland, Jake Delhomme threw four INTs. I would sit Delhomme if I had a better option. He's been playing awful lately.
Boom: Michael Turner
He's been great in home games and it's tough to sit him. Carolina is 17th in the league against the rush, so Turner should have a good game. Expect: 90 rushing yards, one TD; two catches, 30 yards.
Bust: Jake Delhomme
As I said before, he's struggled lately and should be a starter only if you don't have a better backup. Atlanta doesn't have a great secondary, but neither does Oakland, and he threw four picks against them. Expect: 230 passing yards, one TD, two INTs.
NYG@AZ Prediction: NYG 27 AZ 21
Kurt Warner has been on fire lately, but the Giants defense makes almost every offense struggle. You have to play your Cardinals but don't expect a big game out of any of them this week. The Giants have shown they are matchup proof, which means you have to play all your Giants against a middle-of-the road defense in the Cardinals.
Boom: Giants RBs (Brandon Jacobs, if he plays through an ankle injury, and Derrick Ward)
The Giants' running game has been unstoppable this year, and even Ahmad Bradshaw has played a key role. I wouldn't play him unless Jacobs sits, but Derrick Ward should have a huge game. Expect: Jacobs- 77 rushing yards, two TDs; Derrick Ward- 50 rushing yards; five catches, 50 yards.
Bust: Kurt Warner/Tim Hightower
You have to play him because he's having an MVP-type season. However, expect him to struggle a bit against the Giants scary pass-rush and surprisingly good pass defense. Expect: 290 passing yards, two TDs, two INTs, one fumble
Hightower has been invisible the past few weeks, and worse yet, he hasn't scored, which has been his specialty all year. Sit him against the eighth best rush defense in the NFL.
WAS@SEA- Prediction: WAS 27 SEA 17
I like the Redskins to bounce back this week after back-to-back losses, especially if they have a healthy Clinton Portis. Seattle has been awful all year, and even the return of Matt Hasselbeck can't save their season. Seattle has too many injuries on defense and the offense can't get going.
I like all Redskins, but if you must play a Seahawk, I'd go with Deion Branch or John Carlson.
Boom: Jason Campbell/Santana Moss
Even though he's had back-to-back poor games, Campbell's still having a good season. Plus, the Seattle defense is a mess right now. Play Campbell with confidence. Expect: 290 passing yards, two TDs; 20 rushing yards.
The Cardinals' WRs ripped apart the soft secondary of Seattle, and Moss is ready for a breakout game after being quiet in the past two. Expect: eight catches, 90 yards, one TD.
Bust: Matt Hasselbeck/Julius Jones
I wouldn't play Hasselbeck until he proves worthy. He looked rusty last week and threw some bad INTs. Expect the Redskins to contain him. Expect: 180 passing yards, one TD, two INTs.
Jones hasn't done much since the return of Maurice Morris and only has 2 TD on the season. The Redskins defense is fifth against the run, so sit him this week. Expect: 60 rushing yards; one catch, 10 yards.
IND@SD-Prediction: IND 34 SD 31
The Chargers' season has taken a tumble and needs this game in the worst way. Unfortunately for San Diego, so do the Colts.
I like Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, and Company to have huge games against a poor defense that has missed Shawn Merriman badly. The Chargers just aren't the same team this year and haven't really shown signs of turning it around.
Fantasy-wise, I like all players but neither defense.
Boom: All Colts and All Chargers
Expect the studs to deliver (Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates). It will be a high-scoring game, so play all guys you have on both teams.
Bust: Both defenses
Neither defense has been fantasy-worthy this season, anyway, so there's no reason to play either one in this scoring fest.
GB@NO Prediction: GB 35 NO 27
After seeing the Packers hand the Bears their worst defeat in years, the Pack look like they're back, especially Ryan Grant.
Grant ran for 145 yards and one TD against the Bears, who had just shut down the Titans' monster running attack. Grant has looked better every week, and he should come up big in another important game for the Packers.
The Saints need this game badly, but they don't have the defense to keep up. Reggie Bush's playing status also comes into play. Saints' head coach Sean Peyton said Bush's status is still "up in the air." Don't expect a decision on Bush until late in the week, as he may be a gametime decision. I'd sit Bush unless it was certain he was playing.
Boom: Ryan Grant/Aaron Rodgers
Like I said before, Grant has come on in the last few weeks and the Saints are ranked 19th against the run. Expect a big game. Expect:130 rushing yards, one TD; two catches, 20 yards.
Rodgers is a no-brainer to start this week after carving up the Bears for 227 yards and two TDs. The Saints are 27th against the pass and lost starting cornerback Mike McKenzie for the season. Rodgers will thrive. Expect: 300 passing yards, three TDs, one INT; 20 rushing yards.
Bust: Marques Colston/Deuce McAllister
Colston will be facing one of the best cover corners in the league in Al Harris, and has been way too inconsistent to be counted on right now. He had a great game against the Falcons but was blanketed for three catches and 30 yards a week ago.
I expect another let-down game, so if you're going to play a Saints receiver, play Lance Moore, because he's been the better receiver all season.
When you look at the matchup, you see that the Packers haven't stopped the run all year. There are many things against Deuce in this game.
First, he may get suspended after testing positive for an illegal substance. Second, Reggie Bush might return, which hurts his value. Third, Pierre Thomas looked good last week and may take over as the primary back if Bush can't play.
I would sit Deuce and would even consider dropping him if there's somebody like a Peyton Hillis available.
There are my predictions, and it should be a great weekend for football. Good luck to all fantasy owners in a crucial week before the upcoming playoffs.