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Steve Geller

"WWL First News" Sports Anchor
Weekdays 5am-10am

"Sports Talk" Producer
Weekdays 4pm-8pm

Twitter: @stevegellerWWL
Email: steve@wwl.com
Posts from November 2013


Who to Keep An Eye On: Saints at Seahawks
Well, the Monday night football schedule makers got it right with this one!  The two best teams in the NFC meet when the 10-1 Seahawks host the 9-2 Saints.  While we all know the huge Dome-field advantage New Orleans has when at home, Seattle’s current run is even more impressive.

The Seahawks are on a 13 home game winning streak and haven’t lost in CenturyLink Field since 2011.  The Saints will need their best game yet to earn victory, and this one has major postseason implications.  A victory would give the Black & Gold the tiebreaker over Seattle and the inside track for the #1 seed with home-field advantage.  

Here are some players I think will be the difference makers in this one:

SAINTS

RB Pierre Thomas

The PT Bruiser has been proving over and over again that he can be trusted as the Saints main man in the backfield, while Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles are nice compliments.

In the last 3 contests Thomas has totaled 325 total yards and has proven to be a force to be reckoned with as he thrives in gaining yards after contact.  That type of physical play will be vital to the Saints’ success on offense against the Seahawks.  I’d like to see PT get at least 15 touches this game.

DT Akiem Hicks

One of the reasons the defense has been better against the run this season has been Hicks’ play up front.  He helped spearhead the Saints containment of San Fran RB Frank Gore in week 11 and a similar shutdown of the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch is top priority.

While Russell Wilson is surging, unlike other sophomore QBs this season, forcing Seattle to pass more often should benefit the Fleur Di Lis D.

WR Kenny Stills

Production from this rookie has been hit or miss from week to week, but the team needs a big hit in this contest.  Sure, Seattle will be down two of their DBs, but Marques Colston and Lance Moore aren’t the threats they used to be and just can’t be counted on to make a big impact.

Enter Kenny Stills.  He has game breaking ability and has been lauded by coaches as well as Drew Brees for his maturity & football IQ.  With “The Legion of Boom” Seahawks secondary only allowing 180 yards through the air per contest, a big homerun ball to Stills could be key to silencing the Seattle crowd.

SEAHAWKS

DE Cliff Avril

Yes, Drew Brees is tough, but it doesn’t mean that I want to see him peeling himself off the ground each week after taking a big hit.  Well, Avril will be looking to do just that to his fellow Boilermaker.

The six year vet is putting together a heck of a season with 6.5 sacks, 4 passes defended and 3 forced fumbles.   The ability to keep the 6 ft. 3, 260 pounder at bay and give Brees time to throw will be a huge challenge.   

S Earl Thomas

I don’t think Thomas gets enough credit throughout the league, but Seahawks fans sure love and appreciate this guy.  He is fun to watch and has really emerged as the leader on this team.  He’s easily one of the best free safeties in football right now and brings the BOOM to the Legion of Boom.

Thomas is known for dishing out punishing hits that strike fear into opposing WRs.  That in turn causes them to drop balls.  This is the guy Kenny Vaccaro molded himself after in Texas, and Saints fans are hoping they’ve got the same kind of player.  

RB Marshawn Lynch

Last, but certainly not least, is this mammoth player.  When Lynch ran back that 67 yard TD against the Saints in the 2011 NFC Wild Card game, Bobby Hebert and I looked at each other with eyes wide open and jaws dropped to the floor.  That was a prime example of why they call him Beast Mode.  Sorry Saints fans, but it is still the greatest run I’ve ever witnessed.

Fast forward to 2013, and Lynch is still dominating the league.  He has 925 yards rushing with 9 TDs and averages 4.4 yards per carry.  He’s also a threat in the passing attack.  He’s caught 24 passes for 303 yards and 2 scores.  Containing the Beast is my biggest key to victory besides not turning the ball over.  Yeah I know, easier said than done.  

MY SAINTS VIDEO OF THE WEEK:

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Fantasy Football Week 13: Sit 'Em, Start 'Em
For many this is the final week of the regular season of fantasy football.  Whether you are clawing for a spot in the postseason or just trying to be the highest seed possible, it's a pretty big week.

Let's pick some winners! Here's my take for this week:

SIT 'EM

Colts QB Andrew Luck

Coming off a blowout loss to Arizona, Luck and the Colts will look to rebound against their division rival Tennessee Titans. Indy's offensive line has been unable to protect the second year star, and he's not being given enough time in the pocket.  That's meant a mediocre fantasy season. The former Stanford quarterback is coming off another bad game.  He threw for just 232 yards and zero touchdowns against the Titans two weeks ago. Fantasy owners cannot expect a huge improvement on those numbers this week, making Luck a risky play in fantasy leagues.

Patriots RB Stevan Ridley

Coming off another fumble, Mr. Ridley cannot be trusted in fantasy leagues. He was benched after coughing up the ball for the second consecutive game, and will likely lead to sitting on the Patriots bench as the playoffs roll around. The former LSU Tiger did not come back into the game following his week 12 fumble, and with Shane Vereen back for the Pats, it is hard to imagine Ridley being trusted in key situations.

Vikings WR Greg Jennings

The Vikings' major offseason signing has failed to live up to his contract. Jennings has been unable to top 100 receiving yards in any game this season.  He has just two touchdowns on the year. Minnesota has been plagued by terrible quarterback play all season long, and there is little hope that they will get it turned around this season. Fantasy owners should give up on Jennings as a starter, and should only be holding on to him as a reserve in deeper leagues.

START 'EM

Bears QB Josh McCown

McCown has been a lot more effective moving the ball than anyone could have hoped for, unfortunately it hasn't turned into as many wins as they had hoped. Last week in his best game of the season and career, he passed for 352 yards and two touchdowns. This week McCown faces a below average pass defense in Minnesota.  The Vikings are giving up the fourth most passing yards per game at 281 yards per game.

Texans RB Ben Tate

Often the best times to start someone is the week after they have a horrible game. Not only do the players want to make up for their poor performance, but the coaches will do what they can to get this guy going. This week, look for that to be Ben Tate.  He is coming off his worst rushing game of the season, gaining only one yard on seven carries. He did at least have five receptions for 26 yards, but he still had a really crappy game and was replaced by rookie Dennis Johnson who was much more effective. Not much to look into here, as Tate ran the ball very well two weeks before when he gained 117 total yards. This week the Texans face the second worst run defense in the Patriots, who are giving up 140 yards per game.

Browns TE Jordan Cameron

After being the toast of the fantasy world the first half of the season, Cameron has come back down to earth as his production has slowed to a near crawl the last four weeks. During that span he has only caught 14 passes for 146 yards and no touchdowns, whereas the first seven weeks of the season Cameron caught 45 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns. A big reason why his numbers might be down the last four weeks would be due to having Jason Campbell at QB, and the two of them not meshing. Well, Brandon Weeden is back at QB, so I expect Cameron to get back on track this week as he faces the Jags

 
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Fantasy Football Week 12: Sit 'Em, Start 'Em

This is the final week we will have to deal with byes, and the fantasy playoffs are just around the corner. Taking a look back at the Saints game, I really thought the offense was going to put up a lot more points.  Sure a win is a win, but that doesn't help my fantasy team!

Here's my take on week 12:

SIT 'EM

Chargers QB Philip Rivers

Rivers has been a fantasy steal this season, racking up some big games. He had somewhat of a down game in week 11, throwing for 298 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a loss to the Dolphins. Now the Chargers will face another stiff test in week 12 as they travel to Kansas City to take on the league's ninth best pass defense. The Chiefs are coming off their first loss of the season, and I expect them to try and tomahawk Rivers and the air attack.  

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington

The impressive rookie seemed to fall back behind Rashard Mendenhall in week 11, as he touched the ball ten times compared to Mendenhall's 16 touches. Ellington is excellent with the ball in space, but if he is only going to touch the ball between 10-15 times, he is an extremely risky play in all fantasy leagues. I would only start him against the Colts if you are desperate for a high risk, high reward option in week 12.

Rams WR Tavon Austin

Austin made his biggest fantasy impact of his young career in week ten, catching two touchdown passes for 138 yards, while also finding the end zone on a long punt return. The electric rookie was picked up in many fantasy leagues after this game, but I would not recommend starting him until he starts seeing the field more on offense. Despite his big fantasy numbers in week ten, Austin played just 15 snaps on offense, a number that will not lead to fantasy success in the future.  

START 'EM

Patrios RB Shane Vereen

Vereen made his long awaited return to the field in week 11 and despite talk of him being eased back into action, that wasn't the case. He played on nearly 50 percent of the snaps, leading the Pats in receptions and yards with eight catches for 65 yards, and he was targeted 11 times. This week Vereen has a very juicy matchup vs. the Denver Broncos, in what will likely be a shootout.

Giants WR Rueben Randle

Man o man is this former LSU Tiger the definition of boom or bust in fantasy this season. He has scored six touchdowns in his last six games played, but during that same span he has only gained more than 75 yards once. Randle is definitely not catching many passes, but when he does he is making them count as he is scoring a touchdown on every 4.8 receptions. This week Randle faces the Dallas Cowboys, which the Who Dat Nation knows very weel is by far the NFL's worst pass defense as they are giving up 313 yards passing per game. Randle's only game this season when he has surpassed 100 yards receiving was in week one vs. the Cowboys and don't be surprised if he does that again.

Packers WR James Jones

After leading the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns last season and with Greg Jennings no longer part of the team, the sky was the limit for James Jones. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case as injuries and three different starting quarterback has made this season a frustrating one. With Aaron Rodgers still injured, Scott Tolzien will start once again. Tolzien hasn't been great, throwing five interceptions and only one touchdown over two games, but he has also passed for 619 yards. This week Jones and the Packers will be playing the Vikings, who are giving up the fourth most passing yards per game through the air this season. Jones should have plenty of chances to make some plays and put up fantasy points.

 
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Who To Keep An Eye On: Saints at Falcons
The Who Dat Nation roasted some Falcon to open the season, and fans are salivating for some leftovers this week.  While the Black & Gold have played fairly consistently and are one of the top teams in the NFL at 8-2, Atlanta hasn't been able to pull out of the tailspin that started in the season opener in the Superdome. 

The Saints know all too well though that even though the Falcons are just 2-8 on the year, they would relish nothing more than to beat their division rival. I expect the outcome to be more like the Saints/Cowboys game then the Saints/Niners match-up though. 

Prediction: Saints 38 - Falcons 20  

Now here's who to watch:

SAINTS

RB Mark Ingram

Since returning to the lineup, Ingram has been putting up solid numbers.  In the last 2 games he has rushed for 170 yards, for an average of 8.5 yards per carry.  I would have liked to see him get more touches against San Fran, where he got just 6 carries.

The Falcons defense has been gashed by the run all year and is giving up a whopping 133 yards per game to opponents.  This would be a great game to give Ingram a truckload of carries to keep boosting his confidence.

WR Marcus Colston

Big congratulations to the Quiet Storm for becoming the franchises' all time leader in yards receiving.  It's also great to see him finally putting up Colston-esque numbers in the last 2 weeks, with a total of 12 catches for 187 yards and a score.

In his career, the receiver has torched the ATL for 944 yards and 7 TDs.  With Dr. Brees reporting for surgery Thursday night against a failing Falcons secondary, Colston could end up with his 2nd triple-digit receiving yards total of the season. 

OLB Junior Galette

Galette has racked up 3 sacks in the last 4 weeks and looks to feast on some Falcon this week.  Besides have a turrrrable defense, Atlanta's offensive line has also failed their franchise QB Matt Ryan.  The Saints sacked Matty Crushed Ice 3 times in the first meeting of the year and has been taken down a total of 19 times this
season.  The Falcons will likely double and triple team Cam Jordan so look for Galette to bring the pain in the Georgia Dome.   

FALCONS

TE Tony Gonzlez

While he's been banged up and missing practice this week, this guy has been a pain in the rear for the Saints ever since signing with the Falcons in 2009.  He's scored 6 touchdowns against the Black & Gold to go along with 60 receptions for 708 yards.

Yes, he may be close to 100 years old and fighting through injury, but Gonzalez is still someone you have to keep close tabs on.  With no Julio Jones in the lineup for Atlanta, and QB Matty Ice running for his life, the future Hall of Fame tight end is a dependable security blanket. 

DE Osi Umenyiora

Osi has played in 6 games against the Saints and has managed to sack the QB 4 times.  He has been one of the only bright spots on their defense this year and surprisingly still has some juice left in the tank at 32 years old.

Umenyiora has tallied 6.5 sacks this season and will draw much attention from the Saints O-line.  He was held to just one tackle in the season opener, but will the Black & gold be able to hold him at bay again?

RB Antone Smith

You may be saying who?  Well I was too watching last week's game against the Bucs when Smith ripped off 88 yards and a score on just 2 carries.  He should earn an increased workload this week, especially since Steven Jackson just isn't the guy he used to be.  Jackson has turned out to be one of the worst free agent signings in 2013.

Smith is 28 years old and went undrafted in 2009 coming out of Florida State. He has just 3 career carries in the NFL, but with the Falcons in desperation mode they could turn to Smith to provide any kind of spark on offense since nothing else has been working.

 
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Fantasy Football Week 11: Sit 'em, Start 'em
Just the Cowboys and the Rams are on a bye this week, so rosters are not impacted too badly.  That being said, there is little room for error now with most fantasy playoffs starting in 3 weeks.  

A lot of folks have been asking me if they should pick up Saints RB Mark Ingram after his bust out 145 yard performance against the Cowboys last week.  I say go ahead and grab him because if your league is anything like mine, there is absolutely nothing decent available right now in free agency.  The running back position is so hard to fill, and while a repeat performance from Ingram shouldn't be expected this week against San Fran, he still may be a guy going forward that could put up decent fantasy numbers if he remains healthy.

Here's my take on week 11:

SIT EM

Ravens QB Joe Flacco

This Super Bowl MVP has struggled this season, throwing 12 touchdowns with 13 picks. He is coming off a poor passing game in which he threw for just 140 yards and two touchdowns, while turning the ball over three times in an overtime win over Cincinnati.

This week the Ravens travel to Chicago, and while the Bears' pass defense has struggled this season, it is not a good enough matchup to consider starting flakey Flacco.

Bills RB C.J. Spiller

One week after breaking out for 155 total yards against the Chiefs, Spiller disappointed fantasy owners once again with a ten touch, 34 yard performance in a loss to the Steelers. His ankle has been an issue and still may be hurting his on field performance. It is tough, really tough to even consider him a starter right now; and facing a Jets defense makes him a definite sit for me this week.

Falcons WR Roddy White

White is back in action for the Falcons but has caught just one pass for 20 yards since Week 5. His amount of playing time is encouraging, as he was in on 55 of Atlanta's' 58 offensive snaps last week, but he is going up against the Bucs. 

That means “Revis Island” and that pretty much insures White will be shut down with no Julio Jones for Tampa to worry about. 

START EM

Texans QB Case Keenum

I got to tell you, I'm in love with this kid.  Sure the Texans haven't been winning of late, but the passing game has seen an improvement with Keenum now running the show. Over the first three games of his career, he has passed for 822 yards and seven touchdowns, as well as rushing for 49 yards. If your quarterback is injured, on bye, or just plain sucks; Keenum might be the guy to help you out this week. Give him a look.

Giants RB Andre Brown

The long awaited return of Brown went much better than could have been expected. The Giants were hoping to slowly ease him back into action, but after an early fumble by Peyton Hillis it was off to the races. Brown rushed the ball 30 times for 115 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season. He should have no issues getting 20 plus touches a game going forward and will be the goal line back.

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin

When Randall Cobb when down with a long term injury, the Packers knew exactly who would replace him in the lineup: Jarrett Boykin. In three of the four games that Cobb has been out, Boykin has been very involved in the offense, catching 21 passed for 304 yards and his first career TD. The one game he didn't produce was two weeks ago when Aaron Rodgers went down with injury, and the whole offense was in disarray. Yeah, he has Scott Tolzien throwing to him but the two appeared to have good chemistry last week.  If you are in need of a WR3 or flex, I would give Boykin a start.
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Who to Keep An Eye On: Saints vs. 49ers
The first thing that pops into my head when I hear Saints vs. 49ers is the NFC Divisional playoff game back in 2012.  The Saints lost in the final seconds.  Alex Smith drove San Fran, a la John Elway, down the field capping it off with a TD strike to Vernon Davis to end the game and the Black & Gold's march towards another Super Bowl ring.  Where is the "Men In Black" mind-eraser when you need it, right?

The Saints have dropped the last two contests against the Niners, and the players are saying that payback isn't on their minds.  The Who Dat Nation, on the other hand, still hasn't forgotten about Donte Whitner's hit on Pierre Thomas that knocked him unconscious early in that playoff fiasco.

My initial gut feeling was that the Saints would win 27-26 over the Niners.  Frank Gore and the San Fran rushing attack definitely scares me along with their defense that is hard hitting and has a knack for creating turnovers.  A big stat from Las Vegas, though, has me changing my initial forecast.

The line is Saints by 3. 

Did you know that the Saints have covered 14 straight games at home under Coach Sean Payton?   That is more than just an anomaly and too hard to ignore.

Now I say the final will be:

Saints 26 -  49ers 20

Here are the players I'll be keying in on in Sunday's big NFC battle royal:

SAINTS

DE Cam Jordan

While he was dominating to start the season, Jordan's been awfully quiet for the last few weeks. Playing with an ankle injury is likely the reason for the drop off in his performance, but the Saints really, REALLY need his presence in this game.   

The Panthers beat the 49ers in a good ole fashioned knockdown, drag out, scrum on the gridiron.  That's exactly what the Saints have to do as well.  Jordan has really come alive as a pass rusher this season, but it's his solid run defense that will really be needed to help stop a San Fran rushing attack that averages 148 yards per game and is ranked 4th in the NFL.

RB Mark Ingram

Marky Mark had a break out game against the Cowboys last week, and now it's time to see if he's really turned the corner going up against a fearsome 49ers defense.  Obviously the offensive line's play was a big factor in last week's game.  They pushed the Dallas d-line around, but you got to give Ingram a lot of credit.  He ran with a lot of emotion and forced several tacklers to miss.

Surprisingly San Fran is giving up 105 rushing yards per game to opponents, so it's really not impossible for Ingram to put together another solid outing.  The key to me will be getting him the carries, so he is able to get into some kind of rhythm.  We'll see if Payton stays committed to the run, even if they aren't having success early.


49ERS

RB Frank Gore

Anyone who thought Gore was washed up better hush their mouth.  This 30-year-old running back remains among the elite in the league and just won't run around you, he'll barrel you over. He is well on his way to his 7th 1,000 yard season.  Gore has racked up 700 yards already this season. 

Gore is also a viable option to catch the ball out the backfield and is really underrated as a pass blocker.  He just might be the best back in the NFL at picking up the blitz.  This guy is the heart and soul of the 49ers offense, and what he is capable of versus the Saints is downright scary. New Orleans is giving up 118 yards a game and 5 yards a carry to the opposition. 

TE Vernon Davis

Without Davis, the 49ers' passing game is non-existent.  No really!  Davis has caught 78% percent of Colin Kaepernick's touchdown passes this season, which is the highest percentage by one player in the NFL. 
The tight end suffered a concussion last week but has been practicing, and you can bet he'll be suited up for Sunday.  The Saints need to focus on neutralizing him to make the Frisco offense one dimensional. 

 
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No new Saints kickers, no Reed and Viccaro spoke too soon
No New Faces:

The Saints worked out a handful of kickers, but none were signed to the roster... at least not yet.  Garrett Hartley remains the lone place kicker on the team despite shanking 4 of his last 6 attempts.  This upcoming game against San Fran could definitely be decided by a field goal, and another miss could have the Saints kicking Hartley to the bench even though Coach Sean Payton says he still has the utmost confidence in the kicker.

Safety Help?:

Besides working out kickers Payton also mentioned they brought in some safeties for a look see.  Rookie Kenny Vaccaro suffered his 2nd concision in the last 3 weeks and posted on Instagram that he is out for Sunday's contest.  He said today though that he spoke too soon and just assumed he was out. C'mon Kenny! Never assume, it makes an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me).  Meanwhile Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper have been battling knee injuries and their status is uncertain.

Still no word on the Ed Reed front.  He did clear waivers and is now a free agent. While the Saints are hurting at the position, Reed's skills have diminished to the point where many believe he is done, put a fork in him.  The St. Rose native is undoubtedly a first ballot Hall of Famer, but father time looks to have won this battle.  The 35 year old still may get a shot somewhere, but it likely will not be in New Orleans.  This isn't another Darren Sharper situation, even though most Saints fans wish it were the case.   

Confident Ingram:

Sunday's boos quickly turned to cheers for running back Mark Ingram. He posted a career day, rushing for 145 yards, while scoring his 1st TD of the season.  He deflected most of the credit to the offensive line for opening up running lanes for him, but can Ingram and the rest of the backs have similar success against the dreaded 49ers defense?  

Ingram feels that as long as everyone sticks to the game plan and executes, everything will be fine.  San Fran is a tough, physical D but ranks middle of the pack versus the run.  The 49ers defense is allowing an average of 105 yards per contest.  If Ingram were to put up more big numbers this weekend, the fans perception of the frequently banged up back could change drastically.   

 
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Could Ed Reed be coming home?
The Texans have handed Ed Reed his walking papers after he said Houston was outplayed and outcoached Sunday in their loss to Arizona.  Instantly, speculation started to run rampant locally about the former Destrehan star coming home and suiting up for the Saints.

The fact of the matter though is that Reed isn't the same player you remember and may not have anything left in the tank.  The 35 year old's role with the Texans this season had been limited before his release, and he has a history of hip and knee issues.

That being said, the Saints just may bring Reed in for a look.  They would only be on the hook for $412, 000 plus $62,500 for each game the future Hall of Famer is active.

Injuries at the safety position make it seem like a great fit for the Saints, and Reed would be a fantastic mentor for rookie Kenny Vaccaro.  Heck, folks said Robert Meachem was done; and while he isn't lighting it up, he is still contributing to the team.  Reed would obviously not be a long term fix, just a Band-Aid.

Maybe playing for a legitimate Super Bowl contender would add some extra fuel to Reed's fire.  He could add to his trophy case as he won his 2nd championship right here in New Orleans last year against the San Francisco 49ers. 

 
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Fantasy Football Week 10: Sit 'em, Start' em
The Who Dat Nation should be happy Monday morning as I am predicting a big win for the Saints over the Cowboys.  That also means big production in fantasy football for some members wearing Black & Gold. 
Here’s my take for week 10 which has a distinct New Orleans flavor to it:

SIT EM
Ravens RB Ray Rice
Rice has been on one of, if not the biggest disappointments of the first half of the NFL season.  He’s performed more like a fantasy reserve than the first round pick he was most likely drafted as (raises hand).
Rice is coming off a 14 touch, 38 yard performance against the Browns and faces a top ten rush defense this week against the Bengals. What is real disturbing is the fact he has rushed for more than 50 yards just once this season, and has just three touchdowns. The Ravens' offensive line is part of the problem, as they have not been able to open many holes for Rice.

Panthers WR Steve Smith
The former star wide receiver has been held in check this season with a season high 69 receiving yards coming in Week 7. Smith has struggled to create separation from opposing corner backs, leaving many fantasy owners disappointed (raises hand again). 
Well, Smith is unlikely to break out of his recent slump this week, as the Panthers travel to San Francisco to take on the league's eighth ranked pass defense.

Colts TE Coby Fleener
The young Colts tight end has been struggling to make a fantasy impact as of late, and this week's matchup with the Rams should only add to the letdown. The Rams have been the second best defensive unit against opposing tight ends this season, giving fantasy owners a good reason to look elsewhere for a fantasy starter this week.

START EM
Saints RB Pierre Thomas
Over the last four weeks, PT has been putting up some decent fantasy numbers.  He has a combined 355 total yards with two touchdowns. This week, he faces the worst defense in the NFL in terms of yards given up.  The Dallas Cowboys are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles, giving up a league worst 419 yard total yards of offense.

Saints WR Lance Moore
After surpassing the 1000 yard receiving mark in 2012 Moore was hoping to build on that, instead this season has been lackluster. Since his return from a hand injury two weeks ago though, Lance Romance has become a bigger part of the offense.
This past week he had six receptions for 70 yards and now that he’s playing against the second worst pass defense in the NFL, I really like his chances to put up bugger numbers Sunday night.  

Giants QB Eli Manning
Yes Eli’s season hasn't gone well, but things have turned around in recent weeks. The G-Men are currently riding a two-game winning streak, and can still get back in the NFC East conversation.

Manning’s opponent this week is the Raiders who were crushed by the Eagles and Nick Foles (who threw seven touchdowns!) en route to an easy win.
Now I don’t think Eli will put up a seven spot, but Oakland's secondary is extremely vulnerable.  For that reason I expect him to turn in one of his best performances of the season.
 
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Who To Keep An Eye On: Saints vs. Cowboys
Did the Saints really lose that game last week….really?  Scary considering only 3 of Jets quarterback Geno Smith's 8 whopping completions traveled beyond the line of scrimmage.  WHAT!?

Anyway, this week the 6-2 Saints get the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys in the Superdome in prime time on Sunday night football.  What's a little odd about this match-up is the home team hasn't won since 2003.  New Orleans is 4-0 in the Dome this year, but that's means nadda.  As you will remember, it was the Cowboys back in 2009 that handed the Saints their first loss of the year when the Black & Gold started out 13-0.

This one looks like it's going to be a shoot-out, but everyone thought the same thing about Dallas vs. Philly earlier this season, and that game ended 17-3.

Here's who I'll be keeping an extra eye on in this one:

SAINTS

RB Pierre Thomas

SOMEBODY GET ME A MEDIC! Sproles went down. Colston went down.  Both have been able to practice this week, but their contributions are still going to be a question mark. That leaves Thomas, at least to me, as the most reliable and vital contributor not named Jimmy Graham on offense.  PT remains the team's best option in the non-existent run game but is also a key factor in the passing attack. 

Dallas' defense is ranked 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL, so Thomas should be able to exploit them for plenty of yards after contact & yards after the catch.  

The Offensive Line 

The entire offensive line is underperforming this season. We've havn't seen the consistency or dominance from the unit that we're accustomed to.

Along with a running game that averages just 80 yards per contest, Brees has been sacked 20 times this season. Each and every one makes me wince. 

The unit now faces a Dallas defensive front getting their main man back in DeMarcus Ware, who has sacked Drew 4 times in 4 meetings.  If there is a ton of heat on #9 on Sunday night, the trend of the away team winning could continue. 

CB Keenan Lewis

This poor soul will likely have the daunting task of matching up against Cowboys WR Dez Bryant since Lewis is the biggest, most physical cornerback on the Saints.  Bryant is 6 ft 2, 225 pounds; while Lewis' measurements are 6 ft 1, 208 pounds. 

Lewis has been pretty solid this year, while fellow corner Jabari Greer has been the one who has really struggled.  This could mean a big night for WR Terrance Williams.

For more on Dez the Destroyer though…see below

COWBOYS

WR Dez Bryant

While much has been made of Bryant's outbursts on the sideline, there is no doubt this kid plays with passion and has the ability to take over a game.  I'm sure you remember last year when he went off on the Saints for 224 yards receiving and 2 TDs. 

Bryant has a rough couple of weeks and now looks to get back to his dominating ways.  He will be challenged against the Saints defense, though, which is top 10 in the NFL against the pass. 

RB DeMarco Murray

The only reason I highlight Murray is because the Saints run defense has been awful.  The Black and Gold are allowing 121 yards on the ground per game to opponents, and Murray is coming into this contest with some confidence.

He missed 2 games with a knee injury, but returned last week and averaged 7.8 yards per carry.  For whatever reason, Jason Garett only handed the ball off to him a total of 4 times, but expect the game plan to be a lot different for Dallas after they saw what Chris Ivory did last week.

LB Sean Lee

Football fans, if you don't know this name, you should.  Lee has made a ton of big plays this season.  He leads the Cowboys with 90 tackles and the linebacker has 4 interceptions, including one for a TD.  He also has racked up four tackles for loss, three quarterback pressures, six pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

He's in his fourth year out of Penn State and has great anticipation.  Getting DE DeMarcus Ware back in the mix will only make his game better, watch out!

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Fantasy Football Week 9: Sit 'em, Start' em
Another tough week for team owners as 6 teams are on a bye.  My one real fail last week was thinking that Saints receiver Marques Colston was going to have a big day against the Bills.  The “Quiet Storm” seems to have been downgraded to a depression.  And speaking of depression, Colston owners are well aware that he has just 44 yards receiving over the last 3 games and hasn’t scored a TD since week 1.  Talk about ice cold.
 
Here’s my take on some other players in week 9:
 
SIT EM
 
Falcons QB Matt Ryan
Yes, Matty Ice threw for 301 yards against Arizona last week, but the Julio Jones/Roddy White-less QB had four interceptions with just one touchdown. Now, Ryan and the struggling Falcons face another tough match-up in Carolina. The Panthers are the league's ninth ranked pass defense and have allowed an average of 222 yards per game. If you have another decent option, I say let Ryan ride the pine.

Patriots WR Danny Amendola
Following his 10 catch, 104-yard performance in Week 1, fantasy owners were anticipating a big season from the former St Louis WR who was signed to take Wes Welker’s role in the Pats offense. Since then though he has been injured and has caught just nine passes for 70 yards. Amendola returned to the field last week, but caught just three passes for 15 yards. The Patriots' passing game has not been in sync all season, and I don’t expect them to get back on track against the Steelers D. 

Saints RB Pierre Thomas
I love me some PT, but this week the Saints face a Jets defense that leads the NFL allowing just 78 yards per contest.  This does not bode well for the Black and Gold’s ground game that averages just 85 yards per game.
 
Thomas hasn’t been lighting it up in fantasy football as is, so even though your roster may be thin due to the bye week, I’d sit the PT Bruiser in NYC.

START EM
 
Raiders QB Terelle Pryor
 
Pryor has a cupcake match-up at him this week against Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are giving up the second most total yards in the NFL at a rate of 402 yards per game. Pryor offers the dual running and passing threat, giving him more opportunity to score fantasy points. With all the quarterbacks on bye and injured, he makes for a very attractive start this week.  I’m even choosing to play him over Tom ‘Not So Terrific” Brady.
 
Rams RB Zac Stacy
 
The St. Louis Rams may have lost the game Monday night, but that shouldn't take away from the coming out party for rookie running back Zac Stacy.  He carried the ball 26 times for 134 yards and looked really good. Stacy showed tremendous power, good speed and great vision against a lethal Seahawks defense.
 
Now he goes up against the Tennessee Titans, who are the league's 23rd ranked run defense and have allowed eight touchdowns on the ground this year. 
 
Chargers WR Keenan Allen
 
The plan in San Diego was to bring this rookie along slowly; but then Diego was hit with injuries and Allen was pushed into a starting role. Over the past four games he has caught 23 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns. 
 
This week Chargers QB Philip Rivers has the pleasure of facing the Redskins, who are giving up 273 yards per game through the air, tied for fifth worst in the NFL. Allen has become one of Rivers' most trusted receivers and fully expect them to continue to gel, meaning consistent numbers every week for fantasy owners.
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Who to Keep An Eye On: Saints at Jets
The 6-1 Saints are sure hoping this isn’t their only trip to Met Life Stadium this season. NY/NJ is the host city for this year’s Super Bowl; and while it may be a blizzard, who doesn’t want to be playing in the big game?  The Jets are 4-4 and have been better than most expected this season.  Head Coach Rex Ryan was thought to be on the hot seat this year, but he is really getting the most out of what he has to work with.

Here are some players I am keying in on in this match-up:

SAINTS

OLB Junior Galette

Galette is a big reason the Saints defense is thriving in the pressure department this year, and his fumble recovery on the first play of the game against Buffalo set the tone for the entire game last week.

He has 4 sacks this season, but they’ve all come at home.  I think the cool, crisp New Jersey air will help add a little more pep to Galette’s step, and that he will have his way with the Jets shaky offensive line.  New York has allowed 29 sacks this season.  That ranks 2nd worst in the league.  FEAR THE BEARD!  

RB Darren Sproles

Now the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets are the stingiest team in the league against the run, allowing just 78 rushing yards a game to opponents, but Sproles isn’t used as a traditional RB in the Saints offense.  

He is 2nd on the team in receiving yards with 366, and I have a feeling he’s going to explode this week after ending up with zero yards on 4 catches last week against the Bills.  

S Raphael Bush

Big questions loom over the safety position for the Saints this week.  Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Vaccaro have missed practice time, while Roman Harper was back on a limited basis.

That leaves Bush as the only for sure thing to be suited up for Sunday.  The undrafted product out of South Carolina State is now in his 3rd year in the NFL and has seen a good amount of playing time this season under coordinator Rob Ryan.  Last year, the real R Bush saw action in all 16 games and managed to finish the year with 20 tackles.  Through 7 games in 2013 he has 27 tackles.  

If Bush is thrust into a starting role due to injuries, expect little to no drop-off as he’s rock solid in coverage.

JETS

QB Geno Smith

As expected it’s been an up & down season for the rookie.  The 7th overall pick in this year’s draft has thrown 8 touchdown passes with 13 interceptions.  He has showed great leadership and poise at times, though, leading his team to comeback victories over Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Atlanta and New England.

Expect the Saints to really give Smith the stress test with a lot of pressure to gauge how the youngster responds.  If the trend of good game / bad game continues for Geno, then he should put up some decent numbers against the Black and Gold in week 9.  The Jets have alternated wins and losses all season.

RB Chris Ivory

When the Saints traded Ivory to the Jets on the 2nd day of the NFL draft this year, you would think he was Deuce McAllister or something.  The big bruising back put up some decent numbers during his 3 years in New Orleans but just couldn’t stay healthy.

This year has been no different.  Ivory has only 230 yards rushing for the Jets and no touchdowns.  Take that Ingram haters!

While Ivory says there is no added motivation to perform well in this game, you can better believe he is looking forward to barreling over some of his former teammates.  I would not be surprised one bit if he finds the end zone for the first time this season and puts up over a 100 yards rushing in the process.

DT Sheldon Richardson

I actually had him going to the Saints in my mock draft this year with the 15th overall selection, but it was the Jets who grabbed the 6 ft 3 294 pound Missouri defensive tackle at #13.  (The Saints took Vaccaro with the pick.)

Richardson has 37 tackles with 2.5 sacks and has been a monster at stuffing the run.  Look for the impact that he and 3rd year man Mohamed Wilkerson have on the Saints O-line that has had issue protecting Brees.  

My Saints Video of the Week:

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