Like many of you out there in fantasy land, even an expert or two finds oneself in the unenviable task of a must-win situation with just three or four games to go in the regular season. What makes matters worse is if it appeared just two weeks ago the playoffs were a lock. Count this “expert” in that group.

I’d like to follow my own advice not to panic, but really how can we not trim those fingernails down to the nub with our front teeth?

Who could have seen all these average quarterbacks go down in one week with concussions? Why did we draft so many players with byes in Week 11? How in the heck did Eli Manning have another lackluster week? How did I lose a game by TWO YARDS that cost me first place in my division and put me in danger of missing the playoffs?

Yes, these are all questions I asked myself as I tried to fall asleep Sunday night. I guess this is why my wife tells me so often to “get a life.”

So now, it’s time to refocus, and cheer on Calvin Johnson, who appears to be on the right track to better health. Yep, we can survive Eli, Marshawn Lynch and Ahmad Bradshaw (I curse you) off this week, because we’ve got those stud backups Josh Freeman, Daniel Thomas and Titus Young to fill in as we play the team we had a three-game lead two weeks ago over that has dwindled to one. I’m stubborn, so I’ll use David “Cough Cough” Akers over Shayne Graham again because I like having someone on Monday night. And sure, I think Dustin Keller and Denarius Moore will make me look like a genius.

Yep, I’m as confident as ever. And just in case, I bought some toxic clear fingernail polish for Sunday so my nubs can recover from last week.

LOVE

QUARTERBACK
Carson Palmer,
Raiders vs. Saints (31st vs. pass)
While you missed the boat if you didn’t pick him up a few weeks ago, those who were smart enough to stash Palmer will reap rewards once again this week. The boys in Black and Gold should win, but they’re due for a letdown after an emotional win over their enemy last week. Meanwhile, it looks like the Raiders will once again be without Darren McFadden, which means pass, pass, pass.
Honorable mention: Sam Bradford, Rams vs. Jets (Only because Amendola is back and well)

RUNNING BACKS
Chris Ivory,
Saints at Raiders (21st vs. run); Justin Forsett, Texans vs. Jaguars (28th vs. run)
Ivory had pulled off one of the most impressive runs over the past few seasons in last week’s big win and at the same time showed why many think he should be the starter. Could have 15 carries, and has an excellent shot at scoring once again. He’s still available in one-third of CBS leagues, although that percentage is probably much less in New Orleans. … When the Texans have this one well in hand, and that should be early, expect Forsett to get plenty of the sprinkles on this cupcake. Could be a great choice for those in a 12- or 14-team league and need a deep sleeper.
Honorable mention: Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers vs. Ravens (Lots of ground game with Leftwich at QB); Shonn Greene, Jets at Rams (Time to wipe off the dust)

WIDE RECEIVERS
Titus Young,
Lions vs. Packers (20th vs. pass); Brandon LaFell, Panthers vs. Bucs (32nd vs. pass)
You can bet Calvin Johnson will be doubled (nothing unusual, but tell that to the Vikings), and this is the perfect scenario for Young to come through big as he did three weeks ago with 100 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle. … Steve Smith won’t be able to catch them all, as Cam Newton should be able to show flashes of the Superman rookie he once was. Also, the Bucs are extremely tough against the run, which will force Newton to go to the air.
Honorable mention: T.Y. Hilton, Colts at Patriots (Luck will throw 50 passes); Josh Gordon, Browns at Cowboys (Showing signs of life)

TIGHT END
Brent Celek,
Eagles at Redskins (30th vs. pass)
With a rookie quarterback guiding the team, Celek should be a prime target, especially in the red zone. Is there any more desperate team in the NFL than the Eagles?
Honorable mention: Dwayne Allen, Colts at Patriots (Did I mention Luck will be passing a ton?)

KICKER: David Akers, 49ers vs. Bears (Field-goal game in the works for Monday night)

HATE

QUARTERBACK
Joe Flacco,
Ravens at Steelers (1st vs. pass)
Certainly one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks over the past few seasons just doesn’t play that well against stiff competition. Can’t see how Flacco will have a good game here against a team that knows it must bring it’s A game defensively to have any shot without Big Ben.
Not-so-honorable mention: Andy Dalton, Bengals at Chiefs (Don’t be fooled; K.C. pass defense not bad)

RUNNING BACKS
Willis McGahee,
Broncos vs. Chargers (2nd vs. run); Matt Forte, Bears at 49ers (7th vs. run)
Two of three 100-yard performances have come against horrendous defenses (Oakland and New Orleans), and the other came against below-average Atlanta. Expect Peyton Manning to be airing it out from the start, while McGahee’s number of carries likely will be in the teens. … While not quite as stout against the run as last season, the 49ers still are particularly stingy. They’ve allowed just three TDs on the ground this year, and Forte has had some struggles finding the end zone. Gonna be an offensive struggle.
Not-so-honorable mention: Mikel Leshoure, Lions vs. Packers (Most damage will be done through the air); DeMarco Murray, Cowboys vs. Browns (Should be ready for Thanksgiving game)

WIDE RECEIVERS
Wes Welker,
Patriots vs. Colts (15th vs. pass); Jordy Nelson, Packers at Lions (9th vs. pass)
Welker has missed two days of practice with a bad ankle, and while this isn’t concerning as it used to be, he’ll likely be a game-time decision. And since Bill Belichick is one of the worst in divulging injury information, if you have to make an early decision, you might want to look elsewhere. … While he’ll probably play, not only is he still banged up, but Nelson has become just too unreliable if you have anyone else serviceable to use.
Not-so-honorable mention: Julio Jones, Falcons vs. Cardinals (Saints gave him a beating); Brandon Marshall, Bears at 49ers (No Cutler, poor matchup, no thanks)

TIGHT END
Antonio Gates,
Chargers at Broncos (11th vs. pass)
Last game a few weeks ago, Gates embarrassed Denver, going for two touchdowns. You can bet your sweet bippy the Broncos remember and will have more than a linebacker on him for most of this one.
Not-so-honorable mention: Vernon Davis, 49ers vs. Bears (Has this guy disappeared?)

KICKER: Garrett Hartley, Saints vs. Raiders (His services will only be needed for four or five extra points)

 

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