A pair of 10 win teams square off in the 45th annual Chick-fil-A Bowl. The LSU Tigers take on the Clemson Tigers in the Georgia Dome.
LSU came into the season with national championship aspirations, but those dreams came to an end after heartbreaking losses to SEC rivals Florida and Alabama.
Despite those two setbacks, the Bayou Bengals had an impressive year against nationally ranked opponents, defeating Texas A&M in College Station, as well as South Carolina and Mississippi State in Baton Rouge. LSU is 22-20-1 all-time in bowl games, including 5-2 under Les Miles.
Clemson also began the year with high expectations and was able to live up to the hype, with its only two losses coming at Florida State and at home versus South Carolina in the regular season finale.
LSU has won both previous meetings against Clemson, including a 10-7 victory in the 1996 Peach Bowl.
The LSU offense has had its share of ups and down in the treacherous SEC, but it finished the regular season averaging an impressive 30.2 points per game and 387.2 yards per contest.
In his first season as a starter, QB Zach Mettenberger completed less than 59 percent of his passes for 2,489 yards, with just 11 touchdowns. It was obvious he went through some growing pains as a signal caller, but for the most part, took care of the football with just six interceptions. As a matter of fact, Mettenberger’s completion to interception ratio is the best in school history.
Leading a stable of talented running backs is Jeremy Hill, who owns team-highs in attempts, yards and touchdowns. The freshman totaled 130 carries for 631 yards and 10 scores. Kenny Hilliard racked up 456 yards rushing with 6 TDs. Michael Ford gained 393 yards and 3 TDs. Spencer Ware earned 358 yards on the ground with 1 score.
In addition to catching 40 passes for 673 yards and two touchdowns, Odell Beckham Jr. is also a threat on special teams with a pair of scores on punt returns. Jarvis Landry is the squad's leading receiver with 52 catches for 536 yards and 4 touchdowns.
All those offensive numbers are nice, but we all know that the biggest reason for LSU's success has been its outstanding defense. The D ranks 11th in the nation - allowing just 16.9 points per contest and ranking eighth in yards given up per outing, with 296.2.
The unit is anchored by a trio of AP All-Americans in safety Eric Reid (81 tackles, 2 INTS), linebacker Kevin Minter (111 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss) and defensive end Sam Montgomery (12 tackles for loss, 7 sacks). Tharold Simon and Craig Loston are active in the turnover battle with a combined 7 interceptions, and the team has forced 31 takeaways on the year, tied for eighth most in the FBS.
Clemson has managed to put together one of the nation's most potent offenses, as it leads the league in scoring with 42.3 points per game… while gaining 518.3 yards per contest.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd has been fantastic this season. He has completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. Boyd is more than just an elite passer however; he has rushed for 492 yards and 9 scores.
Andre Ellington is a great complement in the backfield, as he has racked up 1,053 yards on 201 carries. He has also added 197 receiving yards and scored 9 total touchdowns.
DeAndre Hopkins has emerged as Boyd's favorite target, and he has logged 69 receptions for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns, with nearly a third of his catches going for 20 yards or longer. Sammy Watkins is also strong in the receiving game with 57 receptions, 708 yards and 3 TDs.
The Clemson defensive unit has been nowhere near as strong as LSU's, but it has played well enough to win in the ACC. It allows opponents to score fewer than 24.9 points per game.
Jonathan Willard and Spencer Shuey lead the way with 88 tackles apiece, while Rashard Hall has picked off 4 passes. Although Vic Beasley has just 18 total tackles, he is one of the conference's strongest pass-rushers with 8 tackles for loss and 8 sacks.
The head-to-head battle between Clemson's high-powered offense and LSU's stout defense is bound to be one of bowl season's most intriguing matchups. Boyd and company will certainly put some points on the board, possibly more than LSU is used to giving up, but in the end, LSU will find a way to win the turnover battle and come away with the victory.
I figured I put out one final Sit 'Em , Start 'Em feature... just in case any of you out there happen to be in a league whose championship is this week.
I am very proud to announce that my Action Jacksons squad took home the Super Bowl title for the 2nd straight year. I thought Bobby Hebert was going to knock my head off when I leapt out of my chair for both of Dez Bryant's 58 yard touchdown grabs versus the Saints. Sorry folks, I am loyal to my fantasy team, especially when it is for the Super Bowl.
I hope you have a very happy new year, now here are my picks for the final week of the regular season:
Sam Bradford: Quarterback, St. Louis Rams
I had "Sam I Am" on my start list last week, but after he completed less than 50% of his passes for less than 200 yards with two TDs and one INT vs. a weaker opponent in Tampa Bay, there is no way I can recommend him vs. Seattle. The Seahawks defense is giving up the least fantasy points to QBs this season and is extremely dangerous. Keep Bradford on your bench...matter of fact; keep all Rams on your bench. See below...
Steven Jackson: Running Back, St. Louis Rams
Jackson faces a solid and consistent Seattle defense at home this week. In Week 4 he gained 55 rushing yards and grabbed one short yardage reception against them. The Seahawks have ranked in the top five defenses limiting the run this season. Jackson had a long streak where he was scoreless this season, but of late he has found the end zone in two of his last three games. With Jackson scoring double-digit fantasy points in each of his last five games, it is hard to sit him... but given the match-up this week, and the fact that Bradford will be limited too, he is just not looking good.
Larry Fitzgerald: Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Fitz finally came around again and scored some solid fantasy points for his owners in Week 16. The surprise was that QB Ryan Lindley was benched for Brian Hoyer. Hoyer made sure to throw the ball Fitzgerald's way, and it paid off. My caution this week surrounds the match-up vs. San Francisco, and the fact that this defense gives up the third fewest points to wide outs. Facing the Niners on their home turf is not an appealing match-up. Just because Hoyer and Fitz connected last week does not mean they are going to connect for over 100 yards this week or find the endzone.
Tony Romo: Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Romo was a damn good start last week vs the Saints, and had his best fantasy performance of the season. I know he is easy to dislike, BUT he now has 757 passing yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in his past two games. Romo is ready for a rematch with the Redskins. In Week 12 against Washington, he passed for 441 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Look for Romo to finish the year on a high note, as he is just 315 passing yards short of 5,000 yards.
Shonn Greene: Running Back, New York Jets
Despite his team falling apart around him, Greene continues to post solid fantasy numbers. While he had only 38 yards last week aginst the Chargers, he did manage to score two touchdowns. Greene now has double digits in fantasy points in three of his past four games. He played well against the Bills in Week 1 - with 27 carries for 94 yards and a score. Buffalo has allowed a running back into the endzone in each of the past three games. Greene should have the chance for another quality outing as the lone Jets offensive player to trust.
San Diego Chargers Defense
The Chargers D put on an amazing performance in Week 16 at the NY Jets. They had a punt return for a touchdown, 11 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. As a reward, they get to face Matt Leinart at QB in the season finale with Carson Palmer out. Diego's defense has actually played well all year, and has scored double digit fantasy points in three of the past four games. Look for the Bolts to feast on Leinart who still looks like a deer lost in highlights.
This is it! Week 16 is the Super Bowl of the Fantasy Football world, and I am proud to say my squad has made it to the big game. My opponent is none other than WWL First News producer Jordan Fiegel. He handed me a beat down back in week 10. Well, now it's time for some pay back on the biggest stage…THE WWL BOWL.
Here are some of my picks for this championship week:
Josh Freeman: Quarterback, TB
Freeman has appeared on many fantasy lists as a starter over the past few weeks. I thought he would be a solid option against a reeling Saints defense, but went on to complete 26 of 47 pass attempts for just over 275 yards with four INTs and a fumble loss. This week he faces a St. Louis defense that is ranked in the top 15 vs. the pass. Freeman's middle of the season surge seems to have dwindled, and his performance of late does not warrant a fantasy Super Bowl start.
Jordy Nelson: Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
Nelson has sat out Green Bay's last two outings with a hamstring injury. It appears he may start this week vs. Tennessee though. It may seem like an appealing match-up, but consider Nelson's stats. He has only recorded four double-digit fantasy weeks this season. QB Aaron Rodgers has targets and will spread the ball as needed. I do not expect much from him this week if he does start.
Jermaine Gresham: Tight End, Cincinnati Bengals
This guy has been up and down this season in terms of his production. Gresham has the ability to step up his game and perform better, especially since he has chemistry with Andy Dalton and sees more targets than just about anyone on his squad. This week he is up against a Pittsburgh defense that is ranked second against tight ends, allowing an average of 5.7 fantasy points per game. Look for Gresham to see his targets, but be held to 3-4 receptions for less than 40 yards.
Sam Bradford: Quarterback, St. Louis Rams
Despite being on his way to setting career highs in all passing categories, Bradford has been very inconsistent so far this season. Don't expect that to be the case again this week. He is coming off his best game of the season in a loss to Minnesota, passing for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. Count on him to build on that this week when he faces the worst pass defense in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who are giving up a disgusting 310 yards per game through the air). Facing the Bucs has become every QB's dream this season, and this week will be no different.
After a very slow start to the season, this rookie has really come on since week 11. Just last week he had 6 receptions for 93 yards. Sadly, he had another 2 catches and 52 yards with a TD called back due to penalties, holding him back from a very big day. This week the Jags are in a tough spot, as they face an angry Patriots team that will most likely take out their frustrations from last week on poor Jacksonville. This means the Jags will be down early and have to rely on passing for most of the game, and that's a good thing for Blackmon. It means many targets against a defense giving up 270 yards per game through the air. SWEET!
Dennis Pitta: Tight End, Baltimore Ravens
While he won't be confused with one of the top TEs, Pitta has been very solid since week 10. His best week was last week thanks to no Torrey Smith in the lineup, as Pitta went off for 7 catches, 125 yards, and 2 touchdowns. It is very possible Smith doesn't play this week as he recuperates from a concussion, leaving more opportunity for the tight end. The Ravens are also facing the fifth worst pass D in the league in the NY Giants, so Pitta is a very attractive start.
Just one more game till the Super Bowl of Fantasy Football, and hopefully your squad has carried you this far. I know you’d hate for your team to choke the game before the “BIG ONE.” So, here’s my advice for this crucial week of play.
Tony Romo: Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
So far this season some of the better pass defenses have kept Romo and his receiving core at bay. Dallas is working to stay in the playoff hunt and take on Pittsburgh this week. The Steelers’ run defense is not quite as solid as their pass defense, so I expect to see DeMarco Murray let loose this week. As for Romo, he faces the number one ranked defense vs. QBs, allowing an average of 11.5 fantasy points per game to the position. He is going to have his work cut out for him, so I would definitely keep him on the bench.
Michael Turner: Running Back, Atlanta Falcons
Turner has now scored a TD in each of his last four games. The unfortunate issue that his owners must consider is the additional playing time of Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers is receiving more and more of the workload each week and last game was on the field for just under 50% of snaps. Turner, on the other hand, played about 30% of snaps. This increase in playing time for Rodgers is likely best explained by his ability to factor into the passing game. This week the ATL faces a Giants defense that is ranked fourth in fantasy points allowed to running backs.
Stevie Johnson: Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Stevie Johnson collected six receptions in each of his Week 10, 11, 12 and 14 games. The good news is that it does not appear that his hamstring injury is that limiting to his production. The bad news is his matchup this week. Despite being Fitzpatrick’s favorite target, Seattle's defense will take Johnson out of plays. The Seahawks rank third against wide outs so this is not the week to take a flyer on Johnson, given his productivity of late.
Josh Freeman: Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a very promising 2010 season, Freeman took a big step back last year. 2012 was going to be a make or break year in his young career. To help, the Bucs signed free agent WR Vincent Jackson and drafted Doug Martin in the first round of the 2012 draft. Both have been huge helps and are major reasons Freeman is on pace to set career highs in both yards and touchdown passes. This week Freeman makes for a great start as Tampa faces the Saints in a game that will likely be a shootout. Last time he played New Orleans, Freeman passed for 420 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Look for much of the same this week.
David Wilson: Running Back, New York Giants
If you started David Wilson last week, consider yourself a genius. It took the rookie three quarters of the season, many weeks in the dog house, tons of work and some injuries to other players. He is finally starting to show the promise that the Giants thought they were getting when they drafted him in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. With starting RB Ahmad Bradshaw nursing some nagging injuries, the G Men have finally given Wilson more playing time, and he showed them that he is capable of making plays. He put up 327 all purpose yards. If you didn't start him last week, don't make the same mistake again against the Falcons.
Rod Streater: Wide Receiver, Oakland Raiders
Streater will never be confused with one of the top fantasy receivers. What he does have going for him is the fact that he plays on a horrible team that is usually losing early on in the game. That has forced them to pass constantly, which allows the Raiders receivers many more opportunities to put up some fantasy points. Over the past two weeks, Streater has caught 7 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown. He will be looking to build on that this week. He has a very solid match up vs. the Chiefs in a meaningless game between two of the worst teams in the NFL.
It's week 1 of Fantasy Football playoffs, and I hope you're team is clicking as we enter the most important part of the season.
Many won't be happy that there are some pretty big names on my sit list this week. Here goes...
Reggie Bush: Running Back, Miami Dolphins
Bush and his team are not playing well enough of late to make him a viable start. This week he faces an extremely stingy San Francisco defense that is ranked first against the run. We saw New England's solid front pose issues for Bush last week, and you have probably noted his inconsistent play if you have tried to start him. Over the first eleven games of the season, San Fran has only allowed about 12 fantasy points to RBs per game. If Bush splits any time with Thomas, which is highly likely, his value drops significantly in this scenario. Bush has received more of the workload recently, but this does not mean much in a struggling offense.
Larry Fitzgerald: Wide Receiver Arizona Cardinals
Fitzgerald is still a stud, unfortunately he's fallen victim to a quarterback shuffle that is not going well. Kolb, Skelton and now Lindley have not provided much opportunity for Fitz to get his game on. The last few weeks have been awful. Now Lindley faces Seattle's number two ranked defense against wide outs. Seattle allows an average of 17 total fantasy points to wide outs per game. Lindley is struggling to get the ball anywhere. He threw 10 completions of 31 passes for 72 yards and an interception vs. New York. Seattle is going to have a field day this week. Fitz grabbed one of seven targets last Sunday for 23 yards.
Vernon Davis: Tight End, San Francisco 49ers
Hopefully you dealt Davis away before your trade deadline or never drafted him to begin with. He has wreaked havoc on many a fantasy roster this season. After a three game slide, Davis finally threw some points his fantasy owners' directions in Week 11. He then turned around and did nada in Week 12, with a big fat goose egg. He only gained 15 yards on two receptions last week. This week the Niners play Miami, who are is middle of the pack defensively vs. TEs. Sorry to say if you're hoping that Davis is your answer for week 1 in the playoffs, he is not. Four of his five TDs came in Weeks 1-3.
Knowshon Moreno: Running Back, Denver Broncos
When Willis McGahee went down with injury, most people thought that the Broncos would give rookie Ronnie Hillman and veteran Lance Ball the first crack at McGahee's touches. Well, that never happened. Denver activated former first round pick Knowshon Moreno, and he has carried the load the last 2 games, rushing for 154 yards and catching 8 receptions for 40 yards. Not eye popping numbers, but you would be hard pressed to find another running back on your bench or waiver wire getting more touches than this. Add to that the fact that he has a good match-up this week vs. the Raiders.
Riley Cooper: Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
With DeSean Jackson done for the season due to injury, Riley Cooper was given the start last week and played the most snaps of any receiver. He caught 2 passes for 31 yards and a touchdown. Cooper will continue to start and continue to see targets, especially this week as the Eagles face Tampa Bay (the worst pass defense in the NFL, giving up 309.4 yards per game through the air). Foles and Cooper seem to have built up a good rapport from when both were practicing with the 2ndunit. Now they are both playing with the first unit. Watch Foles use Cooper as his go-to guy.
Dennis Pitta: Tight End, Baltimore Ravens
Tight end is always a tough spot to figure out who should start. Once you get past the Elite guys, the rest are basically a toss-up from week to week. This week Pitta has one of the best match ups, facing a Redskins defense giving up the 2nd most passing yards per game (299 yards). If you take away the two match ups vs. the Steelers, where he only caught 1 pass each game, Pitta has been fairly consistent. He has been putting up solid fantasy numbers on a week by week basis. While they won't blow you away, you can guarantee you will get some fantasy points; and with a match up like this, don't be surprised if he puts up a very big game. Just look at Martellus Bennett, who faced the Skins last week and put up the best numbers of the season, 5 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.