Look who's back... 'Dre could be a huge play this week against the shaky Saints pass defense.
With bye weeks over with in the NFL this season, setting your lineups for the HoustonTexans.com Home Team Challenge should be less of a frenetic hair-pulling experience from now on. Of course, injuries to numerous marquee players have stuck a fork in that notion, so here's my weekly advice column to help you out.
This week, a Texans football autographed by Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Matt Schaub, Anthony Weaver, Ahman Green, Amobi Okoye and Dunta Robinson goes to the winner of this free fantasy football challenge. Here are my picks, starting with one you probably saw coming from a mile away:
SIGN ME UP WR Andre Johnson, HOU, 20 (vs. NO):I'll start with the risk – although Johnson will start this week and go without any limitations, there's no telling the amount of snaps or production he'll have as he returns from injury. But then there's the reward – he only costs 20 points, and you're in for a big return on that small investment if his production comes anywhere near his early-season exploits. Through two games, Johnson was among the top receivers in the league with 262 yards and three TDs, and those numbers came against pass defenses in Kansas City and Carolina that are markedly better than the Saints'. Both teams rank in the top-18 in passing yards allowed, while the Saints are 29th. Better yet, Carolina and Kansas City have combined to allow 17 passing TDs this season – the same number surrendered by the Saints alone. I was an English major so I can't exactly do the math there, but I'm pretty sure that means there's some scoring in store for Johnson this week.
RB Chester Taylor, MIN, 19 (vs. OAK):The "vs. OAK" part is pretty important – the Raiders are 29th against the run and have allowed 100-yard rushers in five of their last six games – but that's not all Taylor has going for him. He's now the starting running back on the top-rated rushing attack in the league. Sure, that distinction was earned with rookie phenom Adrian Petersonin the lineup, but let's not discredit the Vikings' offensive line that has paved the way for more than 170 rushing yards a game. It's not like they'll all of a sudden forget how to block with Taylor in the lineup. If you need proof, there's the 1,216 yards Taylor ran for as the Vikes' starter last year, or the five yards a carry he's averaging on his 61 carries (304 yards) this season. Doesn't sound too bad for a guy who only costs 19 points.
WR Kevin Curtis, PHI, 30 (vs. MIA):This may seem like a good idea because the Eagles are going against the winless Dolphins and Curtis is Philly's top receiver, but don't be deceived. Aside from his 40-point outburst in Week 3 and 18-point effort in Week 6, Curtis has totaled no more than seven fantasy points all season – averaging about 4.1 points in those seven games – and has zero TDs. The Dolphins have given up 15 passing TDs, so Curtis could explode once again, but Miami does rank fifth against the pass in terms of yards allowed. And it's their run defense that has been putting up atrocious numbers (30th in the NFL). If there's any Eagle you want, it's Brian Westbrook. Not Curtis, who hasn't scored a TD since Oct. 14.
Alternatives: Larry Fitzgerald, ARI, 35 (@ CIN); Hines Ward, 26 (@ NYJ)
RB Kevin Jones, DET, 27 (vs. NYG):I started Jones two weeks ago and he's one of those guys I love to grab for the value – his price tag had been very low considering his stretch of strong performances that began in October. But this week, I wouldn't play Jones if he were free after what happened in Week 10. Even though Jones mustered a TD and nine fantasy points, he only carried the ball four times for -4 yards against a middle-of-the-road Cardinals run defense. He seems likely to play through the pain of his injured foot, but that's not certain. Even if he goes, the Lions may be cautious with him with their upcoming game on Thanksgiving giving Jones a short week to recover. Can I mention again that he only ran four times last week? Four. I certainly wouldn't play him against the ninth-ranked Giants' defense.
Alternatives: Steven Jackson, STL, 31 (@ SF); Brandon Jacobs, NYG, 28 (@ DET)Haven't signed up yet? It's not too late to *register for the Home Team Challenge. Make sure to set your lineups by Sun., Nov. 18 at 10:00 a.m.*