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Eyes of the Guru

Many of you are wondering what happened to the column last week so for those of you who don't frequent our message board I wanted to copy this post I left there late in the week.

"I want to apologize to everyone for not getting the EOTG done this week. Unfortunately reality reared its ugly head in my life. For those of you who don't know, when I am not writing about football I own and manage a collision repair center East of Cincinnati. On Thanksgiving night there was a fire at my shop. It wasn't a burn to the ground situation but it did require my full attention to get us back operational by late Wednesday afternoon. Then in the wee hours of Thursday morning I awoke to a phone call and received word that my father had lost his battle with cancer. It has been a tough stretch to say the least and football hasn't been on my mind much for a few days".

I certainly appreciate all the kind words that many of you sent my way. Time is the great healer and the best thing to do is to move foreword and get back to it. With that in mind, I have a lot of catching up to do and it's the eve of the playoffs so lets get to work.

San Francisco 49ers
If you are down to micro-managing your lineup or are in need of a boost at DB take a long look at Niners youngster Ben Emanuel who slid past Keith Lewis on the depth chart a few weeks back. Emanuel's 6-1-0 in week 13 was the best production of his short stint as a starter but it could easily be topped over the next two weeks with high potential match ups against the Seahawks and Jaguars in weeks 14 and 15 respectively. Emanuel isn't likely to be a long term answer for anyone so dynasty owners with eyes to the future, need not apply... It's noteworthy that the Niners just signed street free agent Marques Anderson who could rob a few snaps from Emanuel down the road but Anderson isn't likely to have much of a role (other than maybe special teams) for at least a couple of weeks... Derek Smith has been a disappointment most of the season but he did manage a season best 9-2-0 against Arizona in week 13. He's a guy you just can't start on a weekly basis but this match up is a tough one to pass on. Smith was a solid 6-2-0 the first time these clubs met.    

Green Bay Packers
I've mentioned Packers FS Nick Collins before. He's a player I have been high on when it comes to dynasty consideration but he's starting to step up now and could be a solid late season addition for any league. Over the past three weeks Collins has totaled 19-4-1 with an interception and has strung together three very solid box scores. The remainder of the schedule isn't exactly packed with offensive juggernauts but then his previous success has come against some offensively challenged opponents in the Vikings, Eagles and Bears).   

Chicago Bears
FS Chris Harris left the week 13 game with a sprained knee and was not able to return. As of Tuesday night there has been no further word on the severity of the injury but it looks like Mike Green may get his first start since losing the job at the beginning of the season. Green doesn't have a great deal of upside but the Bears face tough opponents in Pittsburgh and Atlanta over the next two weeks so keep him in mind if you're in a pinch. 

Miami Dolphins
When Zach Thomas went down everyone expected rookie Channing Crowder to step up large and take Thomas's place in the box scores. Unfortunately that hasn't happened. Instead Crowder's numbers have slipped and everyone wants to know why. I don't have a sure answer on this one but just maybe we can pin the blame on the rookie wall. I didn't get to watch any of the Dolphins week 13 game and can't say if there is something the Fins are doing that has affected Crowder's numbers but one thing is for sure, he's not a guy you can afford to start at this point. The club still contends that Thomas will return before the season ends. He may try to practice late this week and play against San Diego but I wouldn't count on that. Between the shoulder and the ankle putting Thomas in your lineup would be Russian roulette. No matter who takes the field Miami's remaining schedule isn't exactly favorable beyond the week 14 match up with the Chargers. They have the offensively inept Jets in week 15... Jason Taylor was helped off the field twice on Sunday as he continues to fight a bad shoulder. Taylor has proven that he can play with the injury so even after his 1-1-0 flop against the Bills you have to keep him in the lineup. Just remember he had the same injury in week 12 when he piled up 3 sacks against Oakland. 

Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are finally admitting what I have suspected for a few weeks. Ray Lewis had further tests on his injured hamstring that revealed a partial tear that may require surgery. Lewis may be shut down for the season very shortly. While this is bad news for Lewis owners, it's a gift for those of us who scooped up Tommy Polley. Polley has been rock solid since the Lewis injury and is in line for another strong outing with a week 14 match up at Denver. Baltimore finishes out with Green Bay, Minnesota and Cleveland, none of which are offensive powerhouses but the Ravens lack of scoring will keep all of them close so Polley becomes an every week starter the rest of the way... WLB Bart Scott moved into the lineup at WLB when Lewis went down and has made the best of his opportunity. Scott is a very strong 37-12-4.5 in his 6 starts with at least half a sack in 4 of the last 5 games. Dynasty owners should consider that Ray Lewis will be 31 next season but he has a lot of miles on him. Stash Scott's performance away in your memory for future reference, we may see him again... Baltimore did get some good news with the return of Ed Reed but keep in mind that Reed wasn't very productive even before the injury. He's not managed more than 5 tackles in any of the 6 games he has started and has yet to make a single big play. 

Arizona Cardinals
Anyone in a league that requires corners may want to consider a late move for Eric Green. His monster 15 tackle game in week 11 got everyone's attention but he's been very strong in two of his three starts including Sunday's 6-3-0 and his first career pick. If he can do that against the Niners anemic offense, he should fare well against the Skins, Texans, Eagles and Colts over the next 4 games. 

Houston Texans
The Texans have been searching desperately for a pass rush from their OLB positions and they have to be pleased with the recent production by Shantee Orr who has 4 sacks in the past two games. Former #1 pick Jason Babin has been a total bust partly due to injuries but even when healthy he hasn't gotten the job done. If Orr can keep up the production he could play his way into a full time job opposite Antwan Peek... C.C. Brown got another start in week 13 but it wasn't at his usual SS position. Starting FS Marcus Coleman was inactive for the game due to disciplinary reasons. Coleman hasn't played well this year and the coaches liked what the saw from Brown. Rumor has it Brown could continue as the starter until further notice. Coleman will likely not be with the team next season but then chances are neither will the coaching staff... Corner Demarcus Faggins is expected practice this week and will likely return to the lineup in week 14.     

Kansas City Chiefs
Rookie OLB Derrick Johnson got all the press heading into the season and early on it looked like he was deserving. Unfortunately the bottom has fallen completely out for him and his owners. Like Crowder in Miami, Johnson may be experiencing the proverbial rookie wall. His 4-1-1 in week 13 was his first productive game since a 6-2-0 in week 8 against San Diego. Dynasty owners shouldn't panic but starting Johnson at this point is a big risk despite the run of strong match ups over the final 4 weeks... Sammy Knight wasn't expected to play at all against Denver due to an ankle injury. He didn't have much impact in the box score but was able to play without aggravating the injury and should be able to go against Dallas this week. With Knight at less than 100%, Greg Wesley's value gets a little boost... The Chiefs finally have DT Ryan Sims back in action. He didn't start against Denver but played a significant role and should be back in the starting lineup in short order. He'll likely bump Lionel Dalton to the bench. If you are in a league that required tackles this could be a strong late season addition.

Dallas Cowboys
Bradie James hasn't stepped up the way I thought he might but the situation continues to be a very interesting one. James flopped hard in week 12 despite what should have been an excellent match up with Denver then came back with a solid 5-4-0 in week 13. The interesting development here is Dat Nguyen being placed on IR and considering retirement due to his neck injury. Between that and Scott Shanle fighting an ankle injury, James has a golden opportunity to shine over the final month of the season. The Cowboys have the Chiefs, Redskins and Panthers over the next three weeks. All of which are strong match ups for an inside linebacker... As a rookie Roy Williams was a stud DB but he had struggled to return to that form in the box scores. It looks like he may finally be backs. Over the last 9 games only once has he failed to total 6 solo stops or make a big play... There are reports that coach Parcells is running out of patience with corner Anthony Henry who continues to miss time with a groin injury. The situation could get even more intense heading to week 14 as Henry's replacement Aaron Glenn will spend the early part of this week in a walking boot after injuring his ankle on Sunday. Glenn toughed it out and kept playing and the club hopes he will be able to go this week. 

New York Jets
Despite being one of the best defensive end tandems in the game John Abraham and Shaun Ellis have become completely unstartable (is that a word?) in fantasy terms. The Jets D isn't playing horribly but their nonexistent offense makes every opponent a running team. There simply aren't many opportunities to rush the passer and the record seems to have spawned a lack of intensity. Dynasty owners who are sitting on these guys and especially Abraham, should be patient if you can afford the roster space. There will be a great deal of change in New York before next season and there is an outside chance Abraham could even be playing elsewhere.  

New England Patriots
The injuries just keep coming for the Patriots at safety. Pretty soon they are going to have fan tryouts before the games. Michael Stone was active for week 13 and played on special teams but his ankle injury forced the club to turn to backup corner Artrell Hawkins at SS against the Jets. Hawkins is a journeyman backup who has never played safety in his NFL career. The club expects to have Stone back for week 14 but keep an eye on the injury report if he's a guy you have been playing. 

Pittsburgh Steelers
If someone had told you before the season that FS Chris Hope would have more tackles this season than Troy Polamalu would you have laughed at them? With 9-1-0 against the Bengals Hope pulled ahead of Polamalu in week 13. In fact over the past three games Hope has been very productive with a mark of 20-5-0 compared to Polamalu's 13-1-0. Over the years Steelers safeties have rarely been among the leagues leading tacklers at the position and much of Polamalu's anticipated value was based on big play ability. Unfortunately those big plays have been too few and far between. After a hot start that included 3 sacks and an interception in the first two games, all he has contributed over the last 10 games is a pair of fumble recoveries and one pick. The remaining schedule is a list of offensive have nots so the tackle numbers probably won't get any better. On the other hand match ups with the Bears, Vikings, Browns and Lions should improve his chances of making some impact plays. Personally I prefer to build around tackle production and don't like to gamble during the playoffs.   

San Diego Chargers
Clinton Hart got the start Sunday at SS for Terrence Kiel who was inactive with a sore ankle. Kiel is expected to return this week but don't just dismiss Hart's solid relief performance (3-2-0, INT, FF, TD). I believe this guy can be a starter somewhere. He played well over an extended relief stint for the Eagles in '03 as well. Keep an eye on him this off season. He might lands somewhere that he could make a splash.  

Tennessee Titans
Don't let last weeks vanishing act by Kyle Vanden Bosch keep you from starting him in week 14. Vandy goes from the leagues toughest match up in week 13 (Colts) to the target rich environment of a game with the Texans this Sunday. Adam Sandler (The Water Boy) could get to David Carr at least once a game and a quality player like Vanden Bosch is likely to land multiple sacks in this one... Travis LaBoy sat out last week with an elbow injury and is questionable this week. Antwan Odom got the start against Indy and will likely do so again this week despite being slowed by a turf toe. There will be plenty of sacks to go around in this one so keep an eye out late in the week to see who will get the start.

New Orleans Saints
Will Smith appears to have finally moved past Darren Howard into a starting job. Back in week 8 Howard missed some practice time with a sore finger but played through it. There has been no noise made about the situation but Smith has started all three games since the team returned from their week 10 bye. Smith has 5 solo stops and a sack in each of his three starts and has emerged as the Saints best defensive fantasy option down the stretch. Get him in your lineup. Don't be surprised if Howard is in a different uniform come '06. He has been shopped by the club for the past two offseasons... MLB Courtney Watson was placed on IR last week and Rookie Alfred Fincher is in the dog house after being suspended in week 12 for breaking team rules. This leaves only over the hill veteran Ronald McKinnon to handle the MLB duties. McKinnon is past his prime but finds himself in a golden situation. He has at least 5 solo stops in each of the past 5 games and faces the leagues top rushing attack this week in the Falcons. The upside is limited but McKinnon should make a very solid #3 starter the rest of the way.  

Detroit Lions
It looks like Bracy Walker will get the call at FS for week 14. Terrence Holt landed on IR with his elbow injury and Jon McGraw is having shoulder problems yet again. McGraw is a guy who has a ton of potential but hits too hard for his own good. His career with the Jets was littered with quality games followed by extensive time in the trainers room. If he can ever stay healthy he is a starter quality player. Walker is a solid veteran backup with limited potential. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes but neither does he make any special plays. You're best bet is to avoid this situation all together at this point... Boss Bailey missed practice on Wednesday with the ankle injury that has been bothering him. He started against Minnesota but didn't last long and was ineffective. Recently signed Nate Wayne is also fighting a sore ankle but is expected to play and likely will start this week.  

Minnesota Vikings
Kevin Williams is likely at least a week away from returning to the field as he recovers from a sprained knee but the Vikings don't need to rush him back. Rookie 6th round pick C.J. Mosely brings fresh legs and a hunger for the game to the huddle and has made a strong showing in his two starts. The rookie has a 7-3-3 mark to show for his efforts and has the attention of the coaching staff. In two games he has 2.5 more sacks than Williams who was slumping all season before the injury... The Vikings have gone back to the 4-3 base defense in recent weeks and it's working well for them despite the injuries along the DL. Erasmus James has yet to show off the pass rush skills that got him drafted so high but he has played better versus the run that anticipated. Kenechi Udeze may have a tough time getting his job back.

St. Louis Rams
The coaching staff benched Chris Claiborne in week 12 and promoted Trev Faulk to the starting job at MLB. Faulk opened Sunday's game as the starter but was unable to finish when flu like symptoms forced him out of the game. Claiborne returned to the lineup after a couple of series and it looked like the benching had build a fire under him. He went on to lead the club in tackles for the game. The question now is did Claiborne win his job back? Throw in the extra factor of the season ending injury to Dexter Coakley and there are more question than answers at this point. Either Faulk or Brandon Chillar will step into the vacancy but there could be a shuffle of positions. With the Vikings, Eagles and Niners on the docket over the next three weeks, chances are none of the Rams linebackers are going to make much of an impact anyway... Adam Archuleta was held out of week 13 due to the concussion he sustained in week 11 but he has been cleared to practice this week and is expected to go on Sunday.   

Carolina Panthers
The Panthers defense is littered with banged up stars heading to week 14. Both Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers are questionable with ankle injuries. Dan Morgan continues to miss time with an ankle injury and will wear a shoulder brace when/if he does play. Early in the week it isn't looking good for any of them. Al Wallace and Kendall Morehead would be the likely replacements at end while Chris Draft has replaced Morgan for the past three games and has produced surprisingly well. Wallace is a pretty good player who could be productive but I wouldn't trust Draft enough to be considered as a fantasy option. He just has too much negative history to take the chance in a playoff game... Rookie Thomas Davis saw his most extensive action in week 13 since being demoted from the starting job at the end of the preseason. It should come as no big surprise that he lined up at SLB. This is a crushing turn of events for those of us who spent an early pick on him in our dynasty leagues. The situation suggests that the club may have given up on using him at safety all together, and if they make him play on the strong side he could be a complete bust. Keep your fingers crossed and stick it out until next season before giving up but if someone offers you anything in trade jump on it.    

That's a wrap for week 14. I wish everyone the best of luck in your titanic struggles this weekend. Enjoy the competition and play to win but if you come out on the wrong end, keep in mind it's never too early to start working on next year so be sure to check out the rest of the year's EOTG reports and especially week 17 when I will turn my attention to those diamonds in the rough that could shine after an offseason of polishing.  

Our main weekly ranking that come out on Thursday are driven strictly by our projections which don't allow for such considerations as confidence in a particular projection or the difficulty in predicting such things as fumble recoveries etc. This cheat sheet is not projections driven and takes into consideration everything I know about a all the players. Players with a * are risky due to injuries and those with a ** may move up due to injuries to other players. Keep in mind that this is usually done prior to the release of the Wednesday injury report.

RNK POS DEFENSIVE LINE TM OPP RNK POS LINEBACKERS TM Opp RNK POS DEFENSIVE BACKS TM Opp
1 DE Kyle Vanden Bosch Ten vs Hou 1 MLB Mike Peterson Jac vs Ind 1 SS Adrian Wilson Ari vs Was
2 DE Aaron Schobel Buf vs NE MLB Jonathan Vilma NYJ vs Oak SS Kerry Rhodes NYJ vs Oak
DE Derrick Burgess Oak at NYJ 3 MLB London Fletcher Buf vs NE FS Greg Wesley KC at Dal
DE Michael Strahan NYG at Phi MLB Brian Urlacher Chi at Pit 4 SS Roy Williams Dal vs KC
5 DE Osi Umenyiora NTG at Phi WLB Cato June Ind at Jac SS Mike Brown Chi at Pit
DE Dwight Freeney Ind at Jac 6 WLB Keith Bulluck Ten vs Hou 6 FS Nick Collins GB vs Det
7 DE KGB GB vs Det 7 MLB Tommy Polley Bal at Den 7 SS Michael Lewis Phi vs NYG
8 DE Will Smith NO at Atl 8 ILB Donnie Edwards SD vs Mia 8 FS Darren Sharper Min vs Stl
9 DE Aaron Kampman GB vs Det 9 MLB Jeremiah Trotter Phi vs NYG 9 CB Antoine Winfield Buf vs NE
10  DE Robert Mathis Ind at Jac 10 WLB Demorrio Williams Atl vs NO 10  SS Gibril Wilson NYG at Phi
11 DT Rod Coleman Atl vs NO 11 ILB Andra Davis Cle at Cin 11 SS Adam Archuleta * Stl at Min
12 DE Adewale Ogunleye Chi at Pit 12 WLB Derrick Brooks TB at Car 12 FS Bob Sanders Ind at Jac
13 DE Patrick Kerney Atl vs NO 13 MLB Nick Barnett GB vs Det 13 SS Sammy Knight KC at Dal
14 DT John Henderson Jac vs Ind 14 MLB Lofa Tatupu Sea vs SF 14 SS Troy Polamalu Pit vs Chi
15 DE Jason Taylor * Mia at SD 15 ILB Derek Smith SF at Sea 15 CB Darrent Williams Den vs Bal
16 DE Justin Smith Cin vs Cle 16 MLB Odell Thurman Cin vs Cle 16 CB Ronde Barber TB at Car
17 DE Terrell Suggs Bal at Den 17 MLB Gary Brackett Ind at Jac 17 FS Kevin Kaesviharn Cin vs Cle
18 DE Simeon Rice TB at Car 18 WLB Kirk Morrison Oak at NYJ 18 SS Dwight Smith NO at Atl
19 DE Alex Brown Chi at Pit 19 WLB Ian Gold Den vs Bal 19 FS Erik Coleman NYJ vs Oak
20 DE Orpheus Roye Cle at Cin 20 MLB Kawika Mitchell KC at Dal 20 SS Kenoy Kennedy Det at GB
21 DT Cormelius Griffin Was at Ari 21 MLB Keith Brooking Atl vs NO 21 SS Ben Emanuel SF at Sea
22 DT Shaun Rogers GB vs Det 22 OLB Shawne Merriman SD vs Mia 22 SS Renaldo Hill Oak at NYJ
23 DE Jarred Allen KC at Dal 23 MLB Channing Crowder Mia at SD 23 SS Michael Stone NE at Buf
24 DE Julius Peppers * Car vs TB 24 ILB Morlon Greenwood Hou at Ten 24 FS Stuart Schweigert Oak at NYJ
25 DE Antwan Odom  * Ten vs Hou 25 MLB Ronald McKinnon NO at Atl 25 FS Josh Bullocks NO at Atl
26 DE Jevon Kearse Phi vs NYG 26 ILB Bart Scott Bal at Den 26 FS Mike Adams SF at Sea
27 DE Lance Johnstone Min vs Stl 27 ILB Bradie James Dal vs KC 27 FS Bryan Scott Atl vs NO
28 DE John Abraham NYJ vs Oak 28 MLB Antonio Pierce NYG at Phi 28 CB Dre' Bly Det at GB
29 DT Vonnie Holliday Mia at SD 29 ILB Ben Taylor Cle at Cin 29 SS Nick Ferguson Den vs Bal
30 DE Mike Rucker  * Car vs TB 30 MLB Danny Clark Oak at NYJ 30 CB Terence Newman Dal vs KC
31 DE Chike Okeafor Ari vs Was 31 ILB Tedy Bruschi NE at Buf 31 FS Brian Dawkins Phi vs NYG
32 DE Trent Cole Phi at NYG 32 WLB Lance Briggs Chi at Pit 32 FS Ed Reed Bal at Den
33 DE Erasmus James Min vs Stl 33 ILB Mike Vrabel NE at Buf 33 SS Lawyer Milloy Buf vs NE
34   DE James Hall Det at GB 34   ILB James Farrior Pit vs Chi 34 CB Charles Tillman Chi at Pit
35 DE Grant Wistrom Sea vs SF 35 ILB DaShon Polk Hou at Ten 35 SS Terrence Kiel * SD vs Mia
36 DT John Browning KC at Dal 36   WLB Derrick Johnson KC at Dal 36 FS Eugene Wilson NE at Buf
37 DE Leonard Little Stl at Min 37 WLB Angelo Crowell Buf vs NE 37 FS Dexter Jackson TB at Car
38 DE Charles Grant NO at Atl 38 SLB Karlos Dansby Ari vs Was 38 FS Sean Taylor Was at Ari
39 DE Raheem Brock Ind at Jac 39   WLB Brian Simmons Cin vs Cle 39 CB Nate Clements Buf vs NE
40 DE Greg Spires TB at Car 40 WLB Will Witherspoon Car vs TB 40 CB Deltha O'Neal Cin vs Cle
41 DE Shaun Ellis NYJ vs Oak 41 SLB Adalius Thomas Bal at Den 41 CB DeAngelo Hall Atl vs NO
42 DT Darnell Dockett Ari vs Was 42 WLB Daryl Smith Jac vs Ind 42   CB Demarcus Faggins * Hou at Ten
43 DE Phillip Daniels Was at Ari 43 WLB Leroy Hill Sea vs SF 43 FS Lamont Thompson Ten vs Hou
44 DE Anthony Hargrove Stl at Min 44 MLB Shelton Quarles TB at Car 44 CB Chris Gamble Car vs TB
45 DE Richard Seymour NE at Buf 45 WLB Mark Brown NYJ vs Oak 45 CB Champ Bailey Den vs Bal
46 DT Rocky Bernard Sea vs SF 46 MLB James Darling Ari vs Was 46 SS Glenn Earl Hou at Ten
47 DT Gerard Warren Den vs Bal 47 MLB Al Wilson Den vs Bal 47 FS Brian Russell Cle at Cin
48 DE Trevor Pryce Den vs Bal 48 MLB Lemar Marshall Was at Ari 48 SS Mike Doss Ind at Jac
49 DE Marques Douglas SF at Sea 49 ILB Brandon Moore SF at Sea 49 CB Tory James Cin vs Cle
50 DE Chris Kelsay Buf vs NE 50 OLB Julian Peterson SF at Sea 50 CB Jason Webster Atl vs NO
51 DT Kendrick Clancy NYG at Phi 51 WLB Pisa Tinoisamoa Stl at Min 51 SS Chris Crocker Cle at Cin
52 DE Eric Hicks KC at Dal 52 SLB Marcus Washington Was at Ari 52 CB Ellis Hobbs NE at Buf
53 DT Ryan Sims KC at Dal 53   WLB Lavar Arrington Was at Ari 53 SS Ifeanyi Ohalete Cin vs Cle
54 DT Pat Williams Min vs Stl 54   MLB Sam Cowart Min vs Stl 54 SS Mark Roman GB vs Det
55 DT Marcus Stroud Jac vs Ind 55 SLB Akinola Ayodele Jac vs Ind 55 SS Corey Chavous Min vs Stl
56 DE Justin Tuck NYG at Phi 56 WLB Derrick Pope Mia at SD 56 FS Mike Furry Stl at Min
57 DE Kalimba Edwards Det at GB 57   OLB Scott Fujita Dal vs KC 57 CB Nathan Vasher Chi at Pit
58 DE Aaron Smith * Pit vs Chi 58 SLB Boss Bailey * Det at GB 58 FS Brent Alexander NYG at Phi
59 DE Bobby Hamilton Oak at NYJ 59 OLB Demarcus Ware Dal vs KC 59 SS Deke Cooper Jac vs Ind
60   DE Courtney Brown Den vs Bal 60 OLB Clark Haggans Pit vs Chi 60   CB David Barrett NYJ vs Oak
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