Hits and Misses: Turkey Day Edition

turkeyHappy Thanksgiving! For the Thanksgiving holiday, I figured I’d do an early Hits and Misses article around the games that will be taking place as you stuff your face (and wonder why Detroit is on TV every friggin’ Turkey Day!) Anyways, over the past few weeks, it appears to me that the perfect storm has been brewing…and that storm is what the Titans running backs are going to do to the Lions defense tomorrow. Last weekend Tennessee finally got a dose of reality against the Jets when they realized that they can’t rely solely on the arm of Kerry Collins to carry them to victory and that they’re going to need their running game performing at a high level if they want to go anywhere in the playoffs. Lucky for them, they play the worst run defense in the NFL, the Detroit Lions, so this could be a perfect time to get back to the basics. So let’s get into more from that game and the rest of the action that will be taking place while you try your hardest to ignore your family members…

Tennessee @ Detroit

Hits

  • Chris Johnson, RB, Titans – While Johnson started off the season with a bang, over the past few games he has seen his average yards per carry drop dramatically as opposing defenses have begun stacking the box and daring quarterback Kerry Collins to throw the ball. While it worked for a bit, their loss to the Jets should have made them realize that in order to beat the best, they’re going to have to do what they do best…run the ball. Expect a huge dose of Chris Johnson on Thursday against a Detroit defense that is giving up 167 yards per game on the ground (at a rate of 4.9 yards per carry) and has allowed 18 rushing touchdowns through their first 11 games.
  • LenDale White, RB, Titans – Even though White can be credited with making one of the dumbest comments of the year (read it here in case you haven’t already), I still have a feeling that he’s going to see the ball a lot in the Turkey Day game. Coach Fisher will want to make sure everyone is on the same page and playing at a high level as we approach the playoffs and the easiest way to do that is to let them all share in the wealth that will come from playing the Lions defense.
  • Kevin Smith, RB, Lions – As with the Titan’s running game, their defense started the year as one of the most dominant units in the league, but a near 200 yard effort from the Jets recently proved that there are ways to beat it. Smith has been running great as of late, averaging nearly five yards per carry in the past three games. Expect the Lions to limit the turnovers from the quarterback position by handing the ball to Kevin as much and as long as they possibly can.
  • Justin Gage, WR, Titans – While the team should be back to their running game roots, it should allow Kerry Collins to utilize the play action and hit Gage deep a few times. The Lions are not that great anyways against the pass, as they’ve given up 18 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks (versus only two interceptions!) so a big day could be in order for Justin.
Misses

  • Daunte Culpepper, QB, Lions – While the Titans have shown that their run defense can be exploited, the pass defense is still one of the best in the NFL, only giving up seven touchdowns this year to quarterbacks while intercepting 16 passes. While you’re hopefully not starting Culpepper if you have any dream of making the playoffs, this is just some more incentive not to…

Seattle @ Dallas

Hits

  • Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys – Even as a Patriots fan, I find it amazing the impact that Tony Romo has on the Cowboys success. Now that he’s back from his injury, he has the team running on all cylinders, as displayed last week when he threw for three touchdowns and over 340 yards. This week he gets an even softer pass defense as well, as Dallas welcomes the Seahawks into town…a Seahawks team that is allowing nearly 260 yards per game through the air and has given up 16 touchdowns via the pass so far this year. Expect a big game from Romo tomorrow as he tries to show the world why his team should be featured on Thanksgiving every year.
  • Terrell Owens, WR, Cowboys – No one can be happier about Tony Romo’s return than T.O., who racked up a ridiculous 213 yards last weekend. While he probably won’t break the 200 yard mark this week, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect 100+ yards and a touchdown or two.
  • Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys – While their pass defense is downright awful, the Seahawks run defense isn’t a whole lot better, having allowed 122 yards per game on the ground at a rate of four yards per carry. I would be amazed if Barber can’t break the century mark with a score in this one.
Misses

  • Julius Jones / Maurice Morris, RB, Seahawks – Although Julius Jones’ average per carry this season (4.5) isn’t something to complain about, he isn’t getting enough carries to make him a consistent fantasy football factor. He could get an extra boost from playing his old team, but the Cowboys are the 10th best team against the run this season, allowing under 100 yards and a score per game. Maurice Morris got his 15 minutes of fame last weekend when he rushed for 103 yards…don’t expect a repeat performance on short rest.

Arizona @ Philadelphia

Hits

  • Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles – After being benched last week, McNabb will return to his starting role this Turkey Day, as coach Andy Reid realizes he made a stupid mistake by sitting him in the first place. However, what Donovan should realize now is that he’s no longer playing for the Eagles respect…he’s playing for a new contract somewhere else, as the team is obviously going to wash their hands of him in the off-season. This should equate to a solid performance against a less-than-spectacular Cardinals secondary that has allowed a whopping 22 touchdowns this year to opposing quarterbacks.
Misses

  • Brian Westbrook / Lorenzo Booker, RB, Eagles – Westbrook is beat-up and if he doesn’t play, Lorenzo Booker will get the call with backup Correll Buckhalter already injured, but I don’t think it will matter all that much. Arizona is solid against the run, allowing just 90 yards per game and only giving up eight touchdowns on the ground this season. If Philly wants to win this one, they’re going to have to go pass-for-pass with the MVP of the league, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner…which means less running and more blocking for the Eagles tailbacks.
  • Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals – While I’m not going to sit here and tell you to bench Kurt Warner, or even to tell you that he’s not going to have a relatively decent game…just don’t expect normal Warner-esque numbers. Philadephia is great against the pass, holding opponents to under 190 yards passing per game, so this could be one of Kurt’s below average performances. That being said…leave him in your lineup unless your alternative is Drew Brees or Tony Romo (or Matt Cassel?)
  • Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals – Even with a decrease in numbers from Warner, it’s nearly impossible for me to say that either Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald will have off days. What I will say though is that the third wheel, Steve Breaston, could be in for a quiet afternoon. If you have an alternative, you might consider subbing him in this week and saving Breaston for a better matchup.