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Intelligence Report
David Epstein
November 19, 2007
EPSTEIN'S THEORY ON The Home Stretch
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November 19, 2007

Intelligence Report

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EPSTEIN'S THEORY ON
The Home Stretch

THE REGULAR SEASON is almost over for most fantasy leagues, so stop talking smack about how you drafted Randy Moss a round after Reggie Brown. With trade deadlines looming, it's time to steel your roster for the playoff drive, and that means dealing for players whose teams have soft opponents in Weeks 12 through 16.

The most appealing schedule belongs to the Browns. In those critical weeks Cleveland faces teams with three of the six worst scoring defenses in the league: the Texans, Jets and Bengals. The Browns' other two games are against the Bills, who are 29th in yards allowed, and the Cardinals, whose middle-of-the-pack D could almost qualify as a "stiff test." Even a second-tier skill player like Joe Jurevicius (below) will have a chance to produce.

Look at the list of Cleveland's opponents, and you'll find even more attractive offensive players to pick up for the stretch run—in part because the Browns, through nine weeks, have given up a league-worst 412 yards per game. The Cardinals shape up particularly well: In addition to taking on Cleveland in Week 13, they meet the 49ers, Seahawks, Saints and Falcons, and each of them has a defense ranked in the bottom half of the league. Then there are the Bengals, who face the Browns in Week 16—for many, title-game week. Leading up to that game, Cincinnati hosts St. Louis and then visits San Francisco, both bottom-third defenses.

Need more rosters to scour? Start with the Buccaneers. After Washington in Week 12, Tampa Bay won't face any defenses in Weeks 13 through 16 stiffer than the 15th-ranked Texans. The Packers should also put up big numbers against the Lions, Raiders, Rams and Bears—only the Cowboys in Week 13 have a top defense. And here's a tricky but tempting proposition: The Dolphins are slogging toward a potential 0--16 record, but in Weeks 13 and 14 they face the Jets (30th-ranked defense in the league) and the Bills.

Teams to avoid? How about the Eagles and the Chargers. Philadelphia sees three top 10 defenses in Weeks 12, 14 and 15; San Diego, meanwhile, faces the Ravens (third), Chiefs (13th) and Titans (second) in Weeks 12, 13 and 14. Those aren't the kind of D's you want to see with your season on the line.

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