NFL fantasy start 'em, sit 'em
Steelers haven't allowed more than 240 yards passing in a game this year
Thomas Jones missed his third straight 100-yard game by four yards in Week 12
Donovan McNabb has thrown five interceptions over the last two games
With two turkeys scheduled for Thanksgiving's day games, keeping track of your fantasy players in a must-win week will be the only reason to watch the Titans at Lions and the Seahawks at Cowboys. In what is clearly the most important fantasy weekend of the season, here are some ideas of who you'll be thankful you started and who you'd be better off keeping away from the table.
Matt Cassel, QB, Patriots
Fine, it's not really going out on a limb to recommend playing a guy who's on a roll of consecutive 400-yard passing games, but this week's opponent, the Steelers, are the AFC's best team against the pass and haven't allowed more than 240 passing yards in any game this season -- and that was to Peyton Manning. Nobody has thrown for 400 yards against the Steelers since Rich Gannon in 2002, but last Dec. 9, Tom Brady hung a 399 spot on Pittsburgh, and recently Cassel has been doing quite a Brady impersonation. Look for the Pats to pull out last year's game plan and let Cassel play catch with Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney all day.
Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins
Last week against the Patriots, in a come-from-behind attempt, Pennington threw for a season-high 341 yards and three touchdowns. It was his first three TD game since last October and the most yards he's passed for since lighting up Ohio University for 378 yards nine years ago as a senior at Marshall. This week his Dolphins should get back on track against a Rams defense that's given up at least 27 points in each of it's last four games, while opposing quarterbacks in the Edward Jones Dome have thrown to the tune of 234.5 yards and 1.6 TDs per contest -- most of which came against a team that had fewer injuries and greater expectations for the season than the team that will hit the field on Sunday.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs
While he hasn't looked like the LJ of old -- you know, the MVP one -- he has been effective the past two games, having returned from his suspension for off-the-field problems. This week he should look like a Pro Bowl back once more as the Chiefs take on a Raiders team that has given up 100-yard rushing games in four of the last six, and in one of the others allowed the Ravens trio of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain a ground gain of 154 yards.
Thomas Jones, RB, Jets
Jones in on a tear, narrowly missing his third straight 100-yard game by four yards last week against the Titans. Denver is once again notoriously bad against the run, surrendering at least one rushing TD in six straight games (10 total) while giving up 100 or more yards in seven of the last eight contests (and over 150 in five of those.
LenDale White, RB, Titans
After White came straight out and said that he wasn't paying attention to the game in last week's loss to the Jets, it looked as if he might be lost to Jeff Fisher's doghouse for the rest of the fantasy season. However, the two have reportedly cleared the air, paving the way for White to resume the role that has him tied for second in the NFL with 11 TDs on the season, a number that should increase during Tennessee's Thanksgiving Day feast against the winless Lions.
Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals
The Cardinals receiving corps is one of the finest in recent memory, mainly due to the emergence of Breaston, the second-year man from Michigan who is quietly ranked 15th in the NFL in receiving yards. Of course, he's just the third-best receiver on his team, trailing Larry Fitzgerald (2nd in yardage) and Anquan Boldin (7th ). Kurt Warner has thrown for 300-yards in five straight games, and during that span Boldin, Fitzgerald, Jerheme Urban and J.J. Arrington have accounted for nine TD receptions. This week, back in his native Pennsylvania against the Eagles, Breaston will have his turn to hit paydirt.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins
The loss of leading receiver Greg Camarillo is a serious blow to the Dolphins passing game, however it isn't as bad as it may seem right now since Miami has Bess to turn to. Mainly a return man during his rookie year, the Hawaii alum has shown great hands to go along with toughness across the middle and blazing fast speed getting down the field. Don't be surprised to see Miami ambush the Rams by targeting Bess early and often.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles
It's been a tough couple of weeks for the face of the Eagles franchise this decade. After being benched for Kevin Kolb last week, McNabb was unsure of whether he'd start on Thanksgiving night against the Cardinals. Coming off McNabb's first five-interception-in-two-weeks stretch, Eagles fans know there's little reason to believe the struggling offense can turn anything around in just four days of preparation, especially against an underrated Cardinals defense.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
Like all of the other West Coast teams this season, the Niners have trouble when traveling East. In his last two games on the road East of the Rocky Mountains, Gore has gained just 37 rushing yards and 56 receiving yards with no scores. Granted, one of those games was at the Meadowlands against the Giants, but the other was last week in Dallas against a less than spectacular Cowboys front seven. To the Bills credit, they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season and in the last calendar year. Only the Giants (Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs) had a 100-yard runner in Buffalo.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns
Nobody's going to miss Brady Quinn (out for the season with a broken finger) more than Edwards, who connected for 179 yards on 12 catches from the neophyte QB over his last two games. After Derek Anderson replaced Quinn, Edwards was targeted seven times, yet managed to haul in just one ball for a paltry 10 yards against a less-than-stellar Texans secondary. Edwards and Anderson were a great combination last season, but that good chemistry appears to be a thing of the past.