Matt Pitzer

Halftime Adjustments

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Weather Permitting

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Well, that was ugly. And a couple of days later, the sting still hurts from one of the worst and most unusual fantasy football weekends in recent memory.

It certainly has made for some unexpected championship matchups this week. If you were lucky enough to beat a Tom Brady- or Tony Romo-led team, you are cautiously optimistic about your chances -- probably because you didn't expect to reach the final anyhow.

If you won despite Brady or Brian Westbrook flopping on you, congratulations. Your luck cannot possibly be that bad two weeks in a row. If you lost because Randy Moss did nothing, nothing I write will make you feel better. Those guys picked the worst time to have their worst games and were about as useful as a kick in the groin.

One thing that became clear is the effect bad weather can have, from helping to shut down the Patriots to high winds throwing the Seahawks' passing game for a loop and further hampering the Giants' so-called passing attack.

Weather must be on everybody's minds this week. And with your only thoughts about making sure you field the best starting lineup in the championship game, let's take a look at some of the potential bad-weather games this weekend. Ignore the forecast at this moment because the weekend is still relatively far off. Focus on the actual forecast late Friday and Saturday, with a final check on Sunday morning. And then do what's below if things look bad.

Cleveland at Cincinnati. Both of these defenses have had their problems so let's hope the weather is clear. If it is, this could be another shootout - though not one along the lines of the Browns' 51-45 win in Week 2. If things are bad, Jamal Lewis is the one great play. The Bengals have been so shaky on offense the past three weeks that any sort of adversity is enough reason to try to bench Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. And as good as Derek Anderson has been this year, last week proved that the Browns aren't going to drop huge numbers in a blizzard.

Green Bay at Chicago. You really shouldn't be playing any Bears to start with. And if things get hairy, don't even think about playing either of the receivers or tight ends, the last remaining Bears who might be slight factors. The Packers are trickier. Ryan Grant is a must-start. But how bad do things have to be to sit Brett Favre or Greg Jennings?

Given Favre's experience in the cold and his season-long consistency, I would want things to be substantially miserable before sitting them. Weather in Soldier Field also can change dramatically, and quickly. The good news for the Packers is that the Bears are bad enough that this game was not moved to the late-afternoon slot for TV, which will help the weather odds.

Miami at New England. First, do not start Greg Camarillo. And then root for, at minimum, acceptable weather because horrible weather clearly has the potential to shut down Brady and Moss. The Dolphins' defense does not, no matter how much they want to defend the honor of their 1972 brethren.

But in anything short of miserable weather, the Patriots should be fine. They have performed well in bitter cold (vs. Philadelphia, vs. Pittsburgh) and in reasonable wind (at Baltimore). It would take a storm at least on par with last week's before I start thinking about sitting anybody out of the norm.

Giants at Buffalo. You should be afraid to start anybody in the Giants passing game other than Plaxico Burress. Jeremy Shockey is down and the possible replacements (Kevin Boss, Michael Matthews) are long shots. Eli Manning, Amani Toomer and others all are unreliable, especially in Buffalo, where chances of good passing weather in late December are slim.

Buffalo, like Chicago, is one of those places where weather can change dramatically, multiple times, during a game. Wind is a virtual lock and Brandon Jacobs figures to be the best play. Same thing for Buffalo's passing game: Don't start Trent Edwards or Lee Evans. Marshawn Lynch is the only reasonable Bills play, although he will have trouble against a defense that plays well on the road.

Dallas at Carolina. Wind was a problem last week but is unlikely to be a big issue again. If it howls again, you would want to sit Steve Smith. Tony Romo's status depends on his health, not the weather.

Baltimore at Seattle. The Seahawks have played well at home in all kinds of weather. It would take something especially bad to think about sitting Matt Hasselbeck. Against a spotty Ravens secondary, he and any Seahawks receivers you usually start should be great plays.

A few other non-weather items on my mind this week:

The Colts. I don't buy what Tony Dungy is selling about the Colts' starters playing a regular amount this week with nothing on the line. Too often in recent years, the Colts have sat Peyton Manning and others when they have nothing to gain. Maybe they play one half instead of one or two series. I'm not ready to say definitely bench Manning or Joseph Addai, but I would love to have other great options.

The Texans also catch a big break. Sage Rosenfels, with five total TDs in two weeks, could see some backup defenders and is a solid play, as are Andre Johnson, Ron Dayne, Owen Daniels and maybe even Kevin Walter.

Steelers defense. This unit is reeling, having allowed seven TD passes and 63 points over the past two weeks. Maybe DE Aaron Smith should get some MVP votes after the Jaguars took advantage of his absence to run for 224 yards. That is the good news for the Rams, who -- for all of their problems this year -- have weapons in Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson and Torry Holt. Jackson especially is running well and should remain in your lineup.

Bulger and Holt also figure to have better-than-expected opportunities. The short week will not help the Steelers figure things out, though they are playing indoors and will not have weather concerns for the first time in about a month. The Steelers also have never won at the Rams, either in Cleveland or Los Angeles, although they did beat the Cardinals in St. Louis in 1979.

Kolby Smith. I haven't been a big backer of his after he had a big first start against the Raiders, yet if you have been holding onto him, be sure to play him here. The Lions' run defense has crumbled recently, allowing 192.3 yards and three TDs a week over their past three games. Yes, Detroit has been one of this season's most maddeningly inconsistent teams, but this trend does not show signs of stopping with how the Lions are bumbling toward the finish.

Kurt Warner. Quit trying to find reasons to bench him or thinking that Trent Edwards will be a better play. He has been one of the most reliable fantasy quarterbacks for the past six games with either two or three TDs in each. Yes, the Cardinals have problems and they are left playing for pride, again. But you can't knock the offense, especially with a home matchup against a Falcons defense that has allowed 21 passing TDs. Choosing between Warner and Drew Brees is tough; choosing between Warner and Donovan McNabb is a no-brainer.


Matt Pitzer writes about fantasy football for USAToday.com.
Email :Matt Pitzer



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