49ers at Chargers
The playoff dreams of two teams hang in the balance tonight as the 9ers travel to San Diego to take on Rivers and the Chargers. Neither team is playing perfect football this season, but each still clings to hopes of a division title and playoff berth going into this game. Rivers has been the best and most consistent QB in the NFL this season and the issues with them have been almost entirely on special teams. There have been a staggering number of special teams turnovers from the Chargers this year and it has almost destroyed the season for the top ranked defense and 2nd ranked offense. The outcome of this game will come down to turnovers and if the Chargers are able to minimize their mistakes and play sound football… then there are VERY few teams capable of beating them. Lower expectations for Westbrook and Crabtree against this incredibly consistent defense and after all the work that Ryan Mathews got late last week, there is little chance of a big game from Tolbert here as well. I still think that Tolbert is the lead back and should see a fair few carries (at least enough that he remains a top 25 RB and a very solid flex starter). Vincent Jackson has come back from his injury and has the potential to explode back to his top 10 form with Philip Rivers throwing the ball, but he is too risky to crack the top 30 at his position. However, if you’re gambling, he is a pretty good risk to take as he still has the pro-bowl talent he had before holding out of his contract. I expect the Chargers to get the win at home, with the playoffs on the line.
Eagles at Giants
The Giants have been the team to come the closest to shutting down the Eagles’ top ranked offense. They pride themselves on pressuring the QB with just their front four and have a wide variety of talent on the D-line. Michael Vick is by far the best QB in the league at evading pressure and making defenses account for every inch of the field. The Giants are another team that has killed themselves with turnovers at times, but their punishing running game has taken over games in recent weeks and the Eagles are without Stewart Bradley. Bradley missed time at the end of last season and the Eagles D was never quite the same, but it looks as if Asante Samuel will return and if Eli Manning can’t protect the football, then turnovers will cost the Giants the division. I personally think that the two-headed monster of Jacobs and Bradshaw will be too much for the Eagles without Bradley… but I do not see the Giants being able to shut down Vick. In order to get the win the Giants will need to control the clock with the run game to limit the chances for Vick, but still be able to stretch the field with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham by using the play action pass. Lower your expectations of LeSean McCoy, but he is still a must start as he is so involved in the passing game and has been such a reliable player for fantasy owners this season. Despite the quality of the opposing defense, Maclin and Jackson are still must-starts as well as Hakeem Nicks.
Jets at Steelers
The Jets offense has completely collapsed in recent weeks and it has been two games in a row without scoring a touchdown. The worst opponent to have when you are struggling on offense is the Steelers, who have allowed an average of 60 rushing yards per game. Every player involved in this game should be downgraded and the only players worth the risk are Big Ben, Mike Wallace and Santonio Holmes… but the likelihood of a big game is very low, so don’t expect it. This should be a game of field goals and I expect the Steelers to win it. On paper, the Jets have little chance of success because they pride themselves on their running game and the Steelers seem to stop the run with little emphasis. Lately, Troy Polamalou has been back to his old game-breaking self and should be able to capitalize on the recently poor decision-making of Sanchez. I expect the Steelers to have the edge and continue the collapse of what looked to be a Super Bowl contender.