Here's what KFFL's inside sources are saying this week.
- Windy conditions are expected in Carolina. Captain Planet, he's no hero. He's gonna take Matt Ryan's completions down to zero. Well, not zero, but the mediocre arm strength of the Atlanta Falcons' QB might hinder him throwing against gusts.
- Don't expect Brett Favre to be disciplined for Crocgate.
- Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers) said he learned a few things while watching Troy Smith from the sidelines, including when to take calculated downfield shots.
- Though the Detroit Lions have nothing to play for, they would probably start Matthew Stafford (shoulder) if he were ready in order to continue his development. It's unlikely that he'll be healthy enough to play this year, though.
- If he can go, the Cleveland Browns might have Colt McCoy (ankle) start the final two games of the year - both at home - in cold weather to try to expose him to some of the elements. It's a hard decision, though, with Jake Delhomme putting forward a decent two weeks of play.
- NFL referees aren't protecting Michael Vick like they do the Bradys and Mannings. Vick, Andy Reid and other Philadelphia Eagles have publicly voiced their worries about the unpunished hits the QB takes. The Eagles' biggest concern: the health and safety of the man who makes this team go. An injury this late in the deal could be devastating. Don't expect a dramatic change, but awareness will rise; look for a yellow hankie or two this week.
The Dallas Cowboys' decision about whether to bring back Tony Romo (shoulder) is no longer strictly a health matter. Dallas wants to pile up W's. If they face a choice between a rusty Romo and a hot-handed Jon Kitna, Romo won't be back. Call it 50-50.
Still not at his Best
- The Arizona Cardinals are extremely uncomfortable having to turn to rookie John Skelton, who has a big arm but had his first eight reps with the first team last Friday. Look out.
- Don't blame Ray Rice and Co.: The Baltimore Ravens' running problems stem from the offensive linemen failing to finish their blocks. That's something they focused on improving this week.
- James Starks should continue being the majority carrier for the Green Bay Packers, with Brandon Jackson in on most third downs. Don't put too much stock in the coaches' spoken desire to use a three-man rotation with Starks, Jackson and Dimitri Nance or John Kuhn.
Last week, however, it was too obvious that nearly every time Starks was in the game, Green Bay was planning to run. They're working on his pass blocking and varying the play call in his offensive sets to avoid tipping their hand.
- With former running backs coach Eric Studesville the interim head coach, the Denver Broncos might go back to the run a little more. They've abandoned it quickly in many games this year. Knowshon Moreno owners should be even happier.
- Maybe he gets 10 to 12 touches if the San Diego Chargers control the clock in Week 14, but Ryan Mathews still hasn't solved the mental aspect of being an NFL player. The Bolts' rookie hasn't responded well to coaching, struggles to find cutback lanes and looks content to be the No. 2 back behind Mike Tolbert at the moment.
- Don't get too excited over Jahvid Best's (toe) improved showing last week. The Detroit Lions were putting him in more beneficial situations; he played only 15 snaps. We'll get a better read when he starts running inside with authority and showing a more complete range. If he gets his health back, he might approach 25 touches per game down the stretch.
- If Jahvid Best (toe) were healthy, he'd probably get 25 touches per game, but that isn't the case. Don't get too excited over his improved showing last week. The Detroit Lions were putting him in beneficial situations; he played only 15 snaps. He's still fast but has struggled cutting.
They plan to give him full work in the long term, but does he run well enough inside to justify that? Our source remains skeptical.
- The San Francisco 49ers are having trouble using Brian Westbrook as a receiver. It's too predictable that they'll pass to him when he's in the game. Anthony Dixon, meanwhile, had trouble on the wet surface last week in Green Bay, and he didn't realize he was wearing the wrong shoes for the conditions. After he changed his kicks, he kicked more butt.
As for San Fran's backfield split, expect Dixon and Westbrook to be almost even in touches. Dixon might be the better play this week; the Seattle Seahawks' interior line has trouble defending the run.
- The Buffalo Bills optimally want to give Fred Jackson around 20 touches and C.J. Spiller around 15, per game. Jackson doesn't lose much value with Spiller's increased involvement.
- Wintry weather is on the horizon for the Bills' home clash with the Cleveland Browns. Keep tabs on meteorology reports before kickoff of the early game. If it's a winter wonderland, expect an iffy aerial game and a holly jolly day on the ground from Jackson and Peyton Hillis, who already has an optimal fantasy matchup.
- Looking ahead: Ronnie Brown will probably go to the highest bidder in 2011 (barring a lockout) because the Miami Dolphins know they can just re-sign Ricky Williams for a cheaper price.
- Expect an ugly, frustrating touch split between the Washington Redskins' James Davis, Keiland Williams and Ryan Torain.
- The Seattle Seahawks' backfield workload will probably be a "whoever's better at the moment" thing. All things equal, Marshawn Lynch will continue as the clock grinder and Justin Forsett as the main back in passing situations.
- Credit the Oakland Raiders' offensive line for controlling things for the run game so well last week. Oakland established productive down-and-yardage situations while possessing the ball more.
Bernard Scott should see a little more playing time for the rest of the season with the Cincinnati Bengals, but Cincy probably won't rely on him full-time if impending free agent Cedric Benson leaves next year. Scott is optimally used as a complementary back.
Being Blount: improve your GL work
- The Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line deserves a lot of the credit for Maurice Jones-Drew's second-half surge. That group takes major pride in getting MJD at least 100 yards on the ground - five in a row now - and they're determined to make sure the streak doesn't end. Greg Jones has become such an explosive fullback and is just flattening people, too.
- The Philadelphia Eagles use the screen pass more and better than any other team. The Dallas Cowboys are good at defending against it, though; they've given Philly fits. The Birds probably won't use it nearly as much, so we might need to temper expectations for LeSean McCoy's reception total. McCoy's maturation in pass protection may also come into play.
- As long as the game goes as planned, the Cowboys should use Tashard Choice about as much as they do Felix Jones this week. For the first time, it also appears that Choice has an opportunity to replace Marion Barber III, too. Don't expect Dallas to pay MB3 $4.25 million in guarantees to return, either.
- Pierre Thomas (ankle) is back, but the New Orleans Saints don't want to halt Chris Ivory's momentum, at least this week. Sean Payton has loved Ivory from the outset. The coach won't hesitate to make a switch in the season's final few games, though, particularly if Ivory's fumbling issues resurface. Expect some sort of hot-hand approach, with Reggie Bush included, to develop in the final few games.
He's big. He's ferocious. But he's not good at the goal line. LeGarrette Blount will probably be working on that aspect of his game much more in practice than in games. In the meantime, expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to utilize what they've had success with already: the talents of Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham and QB Josh Freeman, as well as some creative play-calling on occasion.
- The Carolina Panthers leaned on Jonathan Stewart last week because it was a homecoming game for him, and because Mike Goodson missed significant practice time for the birth of his son. Expect roughly a two-thirds, one-third split this week. Goodson should be more involved if the Carolina Panthers are getting blown out by the Atlanta Falcons.
- Tim Hightower's pass protection has been better than Beanie Wells'. But perhaps a bigger reason the former is getting the rock more often is that he's running extremely well and not making mistakes. He has basically taken the starting gig back. The Arizona Cardinals' offense is on the field so little that it'll be hard for either to establish something, or alter the arrangement.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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