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Inside The Matchup: Divisional Playoffs

One of the best tools that FF Today provides is the fantasy football points vs. feature and, more specifically, the remaining Strength of Schedule. Using this feature, it is my hope to augment these features and refine them even further. Over time, it should be proven in this column that different styles of players score differently against different opponents. For example, perhaps a possession receiver makes for a better play against a certain defense as opposed to a burner despite the fact that the defensive back guarding him is considered slow. Given the high number of committee running backs and teams without a clear-cut #1 receiver in the NFL, I feel this analysis will help owners with roster decisions throughout this season.

QBs: (1 pt per 25 yds passing; 6 pts for all TDs, -2 pts/INT or fumble)
RBs/WRs/TEs: (1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 6 points per TD)

Note: Teams that have a fantasy relevant TE will be included.

SEA @ GB | JAX @ NE | SD @ IND | NYG @ DAL

Seahawks @ Packers
Matt Hasselbeck/Deion Branch/Bobby Engram/Nate Burleson/DJ Hackett
Shaun Alexander/Maurice Morris (vs. GB)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Packers this season: N/A
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Packers this season: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 13.4/16.5
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 20.4

Passing Game Thoughts: There are not too many times that “opening up” an offense is a bad thing, but if Lambeau Field lives up to its playoff reputation, the Seahawks may have to hope their WRs can turn back the clock a little bit. What do I mean by that? Branch (New England), Burleson (Minnesota), Engram (Chicago) and Hackett (University of Colorado) all had to play in cold-weather cities a lot earlier in their careers. And if the possible chill isn’t enough, the Packers still have two of the top CBs in the league to contend with (Al Harris, Charles Woodson). What makes this matchup intriguing to me though is that Seattle is one of the few teams that can go deeper with quality WRs than Green Bay can with quality corners. So assuming wind is not a major factor, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Engram and/or Burleson are the standouts this week. Engram, who had the quietest 94-catch season in recent memory, should work out of the slot a lot in this game and Burleson will likely draw Jarrett Bush or Will Blackmon – both fine reserve CBs – but not quite in Burleson or Engram’s class. Obviously, I’m not counting out Branch or Hackett, but the matchup strongly favors Hasselbeck going to his #3 and #4 WRs much more. The Packers finished seventh-best in fantasy points allowed to WR’s but just 13th in points surrendered to opposing signal-callers. In short, I won’t run away from Hasselbeck just because of the possible weather concerns or the tough Green Bay pass defense, but I wouldn’t exactly make him my first choice in a playoff league either this week. He was average against an average Redskins defense in the Wildcard Round and shouldn’t be expected to fare much better against a more stout Packers’ unit. The best play from this unit – in my mind – is Engram. He is Hasselbeck’s most trusted option, is healthy and, best of all, has been consistent for most of the season.

Running Game Thoughts: There are just too many average options coming out of the Seahawks’ backfield right now to seriously put any one of them into a #2 RB slot. Leonard Weaver may be running the best of the group and he is supposed to be the fullback. Alexander saw the most work last week, but has only been the most productive Seattle rusher fantasy-wise twice since Week 9. Morris probably is the best play from this group, but he will lose too many touches to Alexander and Weaver to be trusted. Green Bay can be run on, but only two of the last five teams to face the Packers (Rams, Bears) were able to get their lead RB more than 7.8 points.

Matt Hasselbeck: 255 pass/2 TD/1 INT
Deion Branch: 50 rec
Bobby Engram: 75 rec/1 TD
Nate Burleson: 40 rec/1 TD
DJ Hackett: 65 rec
Shaun Alexander: 35 rush
Maurice Morris: 50 rush/20 rec

Brett Favre/Donald Driver/Greg Jennings/James Jones/Koren Robinson/Donald Lee
Ryan Grant (vs. SEA)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Seahawks this season: N/A
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Seahawks this season: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 22.5/24.9/9.2
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 18.9

Brett FavrePassing Game Thoughts: Much like the Seahawks WRs above, the Packers receivers will be getting a pretty stiff test from one of the toughest pass defenses in the league – at least they were for most of the season. Todd Collins finished the season impressively, but he was the second career backup QB that had a fair amount of success against the ‘Hawks. Mind you, I don’t put a lot of stock into meaningless Week 17 performances, but Chris Redman tossed four TDs against this unit. He joined Collins and Kurt Warner (in Week 14) as the second of three QBs to throw for multiple scores against this defense in four weeks; this after Seattle had permitted just one multi-TD game to a QB in the first 13 weeks of the season (Drew Brees). As such, I would be a bit cautious about trusting the Seahawks’ ability to keep Favre from continuing the stretch of solid play by opposing QBs. With all that said, Seattle still allowed the fewest QB scores in the league, so it would be foolish to put a ton of faith into Favre delivering a monster game. With CB Marcus Trufant likely following him everywhere, Driver doesn’t figure to be a good play. This should leave the door open once again for Jennings to have a solid statistical game. When success has been had by Seahawks’ opponents, it has usually come from the split end side, something I would expect Green Bay to notice as well and use their best deep threat to exploit. Of course, the team has also been pleased with Robinson, who possesses the most deep speed at the position. Don’t be surprised to see him turn in a good line. Jones has seen very little action over the last four contests and does not figure to play a prominent role. Surprisingly – considering their strong LB and S play, the Seahawks did allow five TE scores this season. I’m not predicting big things from Lee, but Seattle did not exactly bottle up the league’s best TEs when they faced them this season. (Alge Crumpler, Kellen Winslow and Heath Miller were the best of the bunch and all scored at least 10.4 points.)

Running Game Thoughts: I’m not overly enthusiastic about many of the RB matchups this week, but I think the best one resides with Grant. He finished the season on a six-game scoring streak and really was only contained yardage-wise by one of those defenses (Rams). I’m not sure where he stands right now on other owners’ charts in terms of where he will be drafted next season, but assuming the personnel doesn’t change much, I think he should land in the first round in 12-team leagues. Green Bay compares him to Dorsey Levens and his numbers are rather eye-popping when you consider just how much trouble the team had rushing the ball before his emergence. While Seattle did a fine job vs. Clinton Portis last week, their defense on the road has not been good in this campaign. The lowest total the Seahawks kept a leading RB to away from Qwest Field this season was 12 points, with half of those performances totaling 16.5 points or more. By comparison, Grant – since becoming the full-time starter in Week 9, has surpassed 16.5 points in a game in five of his seven contests.

Brett Favre: 270 pass/2 TD/1 INT
Donald Driver: 50 rec
Greg Jennings: 75 rec/1 TD
James Jones: 20 rec
Koren Robinson: 45 rec/1 TD
Donald Lee: 55 rec
Ryan Grant: 110 rush/1 TD/20 rec

Jaguars @ Patriots
David Garrard/Dennis Northcutt/Reggie Williams/Ernest Wilford
Fred Taylor/Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. NE)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Patriots this season: N/A
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Patriots this season: Cowboys
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 11.2
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 17.7/17.1
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 13.9

Passing Game Thoughts: I expect to get called out on this one, but the Patriots are a flawed “perfect team”. Perhaps their offensive precision was disrupted somewhat by Brady and Moss chasing their positions’ respective records. Perhaps the team felt the weight of 16-0 near the end of the season. Whatever the case is/was, they will need to play one of their best games of the season on offense and defense to move on to the AFC Championship. Surprisingly, it is New England’s defense that I find to be the most likely culprit for a potential downfall, although the Jags will have to do much better than complete 9-of-21 passes this week as they did vs. the Steelers in the wildcard round to pull the upset – and they should (be more efficient in the passing game). Just as any outdoor game at this time of the year, the weather (and especially the wind) will play a large role in determining how the game is played. Despite possessing the home field advantage, New England would be very happy to see Jacksonville-like weather and the Jags wouldn’t mind playing in the elements. Even though the Pats showed they can win ugly in poor conditions, Jacksonville could very well be the best bad-weather team in the league this season. With all that said, Garrard will need to recapture his caretaker ways (three INTs during the regular season). I don’t expect much from any player from this passing game outside of Garrard though, although I have to believe Jacksonville will look to use their size advantage on the outside (Williams, Wilford, even Matt Jones) to get them the big plays they need so New England will not continually load up the box to stop the run.

Running Game Thoughts: For most of the season, I have been suggesting the Patriots can be run against. Now, it looks like I will have an opportunity to be proven right. There is no doubt an ideal scenario for Jacksonville would be for each back to get 20 touches in a winter wonderland-type of affair. Unlike the Seahawks’ situation mentioned above, Jacksonville is committed enough to the run and knows it will need to stay that way if it hopes to beat the Patriots. (In fact, if it weren’t for Ryan Grant, I may consider using both Taylor and MJD as my backs this weekend.) New England finished in the top fourth of the league with the fewest points allowed to opposing RBs, but over the last five weeks of the regular season, I believe the real Patriots defense was revealed, as they allowed the 12th-most to a decent, but not entirely impressive schedule of run offenses (Ravens, Steelers, Jets, Dolphins, Giants). Jacksonville possesses the best running game New England has faced since Indianapolis in Week 10 and most of us remember just how good Joseph Addai was in that game. And for the Jags to win in Gillette Stadium, it may be take a repeat of that performance to knock off the Pats.

David Garrard: 200 pass/1 TD/0 INT/25 rush
Dennis Northcutt: 40 rec
Reggie Williams: 45 rec/1 TD
Ernest Wilford: 50 rec
Fred Taylor: 90 rush/1 TD/20 rec
Maurice Jones-Drew: 55 rush/1 TD/30 rec

Tom Brady/Randy Moss/Wes Welker/Donte Stallworth/Jabar Gaffney/Ben Watson
Laurence Maroney (vs. JAX)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Jaguars this season: N/A
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Jaguars this season: Saints
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 27.8
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 15.6/13.2/10.1
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 23

Tom BradyPassing Game Thoughts: As stated several times already, weather has shown that it can make all the difference in the New England offensive attack. However, the Patriots may catch a break if all of the big defensive tackles that help make the Jaguars’ defense a tough unit to move the ball against (Marcus Stroud – IR, John Henderson and Grady Jackson – both far from 100%) cannot go. While that figures to benefit the running game more than the passing game, there is little doubt that minimal push up the middle will only allow Brady more time to find his playmakers, no matter what the weather does. While CB Rashean Mathis will likely follow Moss wherever he goes, Moss is one of the few WRs in the league who can still get his numbers with an All-Pro CB draped on him. Moss belongs in just about every lineup this weekend. Brady, I’m not so sure about. My advice would be to find out what the forecast is for the Northeast on Saturday and make your determination then as to whether you should pony up the cap room for Brady or settle for a “lesser option” like Peyton Manning, Favre, etc. (As silly as it sounds talking about a 50-TD QB, I would not make him my play of the week at QB if Foxborough’s conditions are less than stellar – there are just too many other good options going at the position this week.) With that said, Jacksonville hasn’t exactly stopped elite QBs from posting fantastic numbers when they have faced them. In five games against Manning (2), Ben Roethlisberger (2) and Drew Brees, Jacksonville surrendered 20 or more points in every game. I’ve already spoke about Moss, so I will just say that Welker is a matchup nightmare for the Jags in any kind of field/weather condition. I would not be the least bit surprised if he had a 10-catch game. While Stallworth and Gaffney will get some looks, I don’t expect either one to steal an appreciable amount of thunder from the top two WRs previously mentioned. I am intrigued, however, by Watson this week. The Jags gave up the fourth-most points to the TE position and have permitted five TDs to the position since Week 13. Matchup-wise, you could do a lot worse than Watson.

Running Game Thoughts: With the Jags’ interior line in shambles, this matchup may not be as bad as some would suspect. Of course, as I have already repeatedly stated, I believe it will take a windy snowstorm to make the Patriots turn significantly away from the right arm of Brady. It should make for easier running for Maroney either way as a result, making him a worthy #2 RB play for owners this week. I wouldn’t be entirely thrilled about using him, but he did finish the regular season scoring four times in his last three games. Without Jacksonville’s stout interior, Maroney goes from afterthought to possible decent play. Any weather issues would then take him from decent play to a low-end #1 RB performer, so if your league allows you to do so, take this decision into Saturday.

Tom Brady: 300 pass/2 TD/0 INT
Randy Moss: 90 rec/1 TD
Wes Welker: 90 rec
Jabar Gaffney: 40 rec
Donte Stallworth: 25 rec
Ben Watson: 20 rec/1 TD
Laurence Maroney: 65 rush/1 TD/10 rec

Chargers @ Colts
Philip Rivers/Vincent Jackson/Chris Chambers
LaDainian Tomlinson (vs. IND)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Colts this season: Chargers
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Colts this season: Chargers
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 5.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 5.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 17.2
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 15.1/19.4
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 17.2

Passing Game Thoughts: With Antonio Gates likely out for this game, the combination of Chambers and Jackson that stepped up so much in last week’s playoff game vs. the Titans will need to produce once more against one of the league’s best pass defenses. Quite honestly, I’m not sure there is a worse opponent for the Chargers to face than the Colts without a healthy Gates. It’s not as if Jackson and Chambers lack the talent, but Indy has kept even the most proficient passing games in check for the most part. And one doesn’t have to go back very far (Week 10) to remember it was Darren Sproles’ two return TDs that gave the Chargers most of their points. Quite honestly, I would be surprised if a Gates-less team did not struggle mightily this week. Indy allowed the third-fewest points to QBs and second-fewest to WRs in 2007, so suffice it to say I don’t expect much to change on Sunday. I just don’t see how either Jackson or Chambers will be worth a start in the playoffs for fantasy teams, thereby making Rivers a poor start as well. While Gates may play, keep in mind that his injury is a toe injury, meaning that planting his foot will be a challenge for him. Even if he does go, it will likely come down to how effectively he can deal with the pain, meaning I don’t expect him to be all that productive.

Running Game Thoughts: Gates’ likely absence even extends to the best player in football, Tomlinson. Expect him to be the target of more passes than usual to compensate for the loss of Gates. LT produced 97 total yards and a score in the team’s Week 10 showdown in San Diego, numbers that will have to improve if San Diego is to advance to the AFC Championship. The Chargers will likely find out early on their passing game will be kept quiet, meaning a greater burden than usual will fall on LT and the defense. In addition to their stellar pass defense numbers, the Colts finished as the seventh-best unit fantasy-wise vs. opposing RBs. Therefore, it would be hardly surprising if San Diego’s offense is rendered mostly ineffective.

Philip Rivers: 190 pass/1 TD/2 INT
Vincent Jackson: 50 rec
Chris Chambers: 60 rec
LaDainian Tomlinson: 80 rush/1 TD/40 rec

Peyton Manning/Marvin Harrison/Reggie Wayne/Anthony Gonzalez/Dallas Clark
Joseph Addai (vs. SD)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Chargers this season: Colts
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Chargers this season: Colts
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 24.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 28
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 8.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 15.8
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 11.8/9.1/7.4
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 13.6

Peyton ManningPassing Game Thoughts: While any observer can say a six-INT game by any QB is a fluke, for someone of Manning’s ilk, that is even more the case. That being said, the Chargers didn’t need that Week 10 contest vs. the Colts to claim the INT title – they already had it. Suffice it to say then that San Diego is just pretty darn good at forcing picks. One of the more intriguing things for me this weekend will be the impact Harrison’s return will have on this offense. Can he make a seamless transition? Will he be limited or will he be a clear #2 behind Wayne? Will Gonzalez and Marvin split snaps? Those and many other questions come to mind, but it’s clear that Manning will not have a repeat of Week 10 and can only be helped by the return of a Hall of Fame receiver. While I would be somewhat leery of recommending Manning over every other QB this weekend based on just how he has struggled against 3-4 defenses recently, the fact of the matter is that his effectiveness is limited by those units because the ones he has faced recently (Steelers, Patriots come to mind) are able to rush and cover more than it is because of the alignment. If it were not for his playoff history, I would be higher on Harrison, but he has scored just twice in 14 playoff games (and both of those were in the same game in 2003). In fact, he hasn’t even topped 60 yards receiving in any of seven postseason games since 2004. Thus, we turn to Wayne, who put up a robust line of 140 yards and one TD in the regular season matchup. He was the target of 18 Manning throws in Week 10 and when CB Antonio Cromartie wasn’t collecting one of his three INTs that day, Wayne was routinely beating him in the short and intermediate game. Gonzalez and Clark were both absent from the first matchup as well, but I believe the duo stand to gain the most from Harrison’s return in this contest. The Chargers allowed the eighth-most points to the TE position this season and there is little reason after his postseason run last season why Clark won’t be heavily involved this time around. Gonzalez didn’t see much action over the final two weeks of the regular season, but it is clear Manning started trusting him as the season progressed. There is no reason that should change when he starts facing the opponents’ #3 CB on a regular basis, as opposed to the #2.

Running Game Thoughts: San Diego finished right in the middle of the pack in the number of points allowed to opposing RBs this season. As a result (and assuming that Indy doesn’t fall behind quickly again), Addai should be in pretty decent shape to improve upon his 72 total yards from Week 10. He is a solid enough option and with his involvement in the passing game, he will be a better bet than most of the RB options available this weekend. If Harrison is indeed back for this game, there is no chance that the Chargers will be able to load up to stop the run. All in all, Addai is my choice for the second-best RB play of the week behind Ryan Grant.

Peyton Manning: 270 pass/2 TD/1 INT
Marvin Harrison: 40 rec
Reggie Wayne: 70 rec/1 TD
Anthony Gonzalez: 55 rec
Dallas Clark: 55 rec/1 TD
Joseph Addai: 80 rush/1 TD/35 rec
Kenton Keith: 25 rush/10 rec

Giants @ Cowboys
Eli Manning/Plaxico Burress/Amani Toomer/Kevin Boss
Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. DAL)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Cowboys this season: Giants (2)
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Cowboys this season: Giants (2)
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 24.3
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 25.3
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 12.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 19.3
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 16.3/19.8/3.5
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 17.3

Passing Game Thoughts: Burress goes off in the season opener, Jeremy Shockey blows up in the second meeting, so I guess Toomer is in line for the honors this week. The one thing that has remained constant though in the first two meeting vs. the Cowboys is Manning, who has enjoyed a great deal of statistical success against Dallas in his career. Yes, he has been picked at least once in all but one of his seven career starts vs. the Cowboys, but he has thrown for two or more scores in four of those contests as well, including a four-TD game to kick off the 2007 season. While I don’t think Manning is the best play by any stretch of the imagination this weekend, he has been about as good as he has ever been the past two weeks and has scored less than 15 points only once against Dallas in his career. My feeling about Manning (and his overall numbers) could be buoyed if Burress continues his miraculous late-season recovery. Burress has been alternated between great and mediocre numbers over the past seven games and last week was a poor showing. To his credit, he has scored in three of his last four games vs. the Cowboys and will look to avenge the one game he did not, the Week 10 showdown in Giants Stadium. Burress appeared to be nearly impossible to guard in Week 17 before running into the pass defense of the Bucs, so look for a rebound in this contest, somewhere right in between his 2.4-point performance midway through the season and his 32.4-point windfall to open the campaign. Toomer may be in decent shape to fulfill the prophecy at the beginning of this paragraph, as he is receiving a steady 6-7 targets per game. With that said, he is the clear #2 option in this passing game and really only merits play as a low-budget #3 WR in playoff leagues this week. Dallas was ranked in the top half of the league in terms of fewest fantasy points surrendered to opposing TEs, so even though Boss has shown himself to be a worthy reserve, I don’t like his chances all that much for greatness this weekend.

Running Game Thoughts: I have certainly enjoyed the maturation of Jacobs this season from a bruiser to a patient back who has shown surprising hands and speed. Yes, he has dealt with injuries, but none that I can remember have come from his running style and/or size. Since he was injured in the first game, I will blanket this statement by saying that New York RBs have piled up the yards against Dallas despite the fact the Cowboys haven’t been the easiest team for opposing rushers to face. Ahmad Bradshaw has clearly taken over the change-of-pace role and may be a bigger influence on the amount of fantasy points Jacobs will post than the defense. The good thing if you plan to use Jacobs this weekend though is that the Giants are still a running team first and seem more determined to get their big back into the end zone lately rather than letting Reuben Droughns steal his thunder. There is little chance – outside of injury – that Jacobs is held to 50 total yards like he was last week because New York will definitely try to pound away at the Cowboys defense.

Eli Manning: 240 pass/2 TD/1 INT
Plaxico Burress: 80 rec/1 TD
Amani Toomer: 60 rec
Kevin Boss: 30 rec
Brandon Jacobs: 80 rush/1 TD/25 rec
Ahmad Bradshaw: 40 rush

Tony Romo/Terrell Owens/Patrick Crayton/Sam Hurd/Terry Glenn/Jason Witten
Julius Jones/Marion Barber (vs. NYG)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Giants this season: Cowboys (2)
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Giants this season: Cowboys (2)
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 34.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 41.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 13.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 15.6
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 18.9/20.2/7.1
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 27.2

Tony RomoPassing Game Thoughts: I know my plea will not stop it from happening, but can we go a day without hearing about how Jessica Simpson is ruining Romo? (Imagine the scrutiny he’d be facing if he decided not to date her…) Any good athlete worth their salt isn’t going to be affected one iota over who is in the stands watching his performance or by who he is dating, so can we drop the issue? I’m going to…Let’s start with Owens. Much like Antonio Gates, I’m not going to go crazy over spending the money necessary to secure his services of a player that is going to be a game-time decision in the last game of the week. (I do believe Owens has more of a chance to be effective than Gates this week, for what it is worth.) We all remember TO’s return from injury to the big stage of the Super Bowl a few years ago, so he has proven he can do it. And if he does return at nearly full health, he will get the chance to abuse the Giants for a third time this season. He posted 24.5 and 20.7 points in his two meetings against New York in 2007 and accounted for four TDs in the process. However, one has to think he will be slowed somewhat, which leads me to Romo’s most trusted receiver, Witten. He had a dud in the November matchup, but sparkled in the season opener and would be targeted a lot if Owens is unable to go at full speed. As for Romo, he makes a great play based on his season history against the Giants, but one has to wonder why the offense fizzled over the last four weeks of the regular season. Two of his four 4-TD games in 2007 came against New York, so it would pretty hard to say that he doesn’t have them figured out just a little bit. If the Giants miss CB Sam Madison again this week, it is safe to say that Romo may very well shine once again, with or without TO. Owens’ absence/lack of availability would obviously trickle down to Witten – as I have already addressed – as much as it would to Crayton, Sam Hurd and Terry Glenn. I would not be surprised to see any, if not all, of these WRs have a great deal of success. The Giants finished right at or around the middle of the pack in defending opposing QBs, WRs and TEs this season and, without Madison, shouldn’t be expected to improve against a slumping, but still very dynamic offense like the Cowboys’.

Running Game Thoughts: To absolutely nobody’s surprise, the Giants finished right in the middle of the pack vs. opposing RBs. I’m never going to claim that I can figure out just how much teams like the Cowboys and Jaguars will divide the carries between their stud RBs, but I do get the feeling that Barber is in good position to succeed this week. Barber did not post a very good game in Week 10, but was lights out in the season opener, collecting 15.4 points on just 12 touches. As good as the Giants were at containing Earnest Graham in the Wildcard Round, one should expect Barber to be at least as effective as he was. Take into consideration that Tampa Bay was never really able to get much separation and you will see why I do believe he will have a shot to do well this week. If Owens is in fact limited, this will leave Barber as the No. 1 TD scorer on the field for the Cowboys. I won’t predict 20 touches, but he could get that kind of load if Dallas has the game in hand entering the fourth quarter.

Tony Romo: 275 pass/3 TD/1 INT/20 rush
Terrell Owens: 50 rec/1 TD
Patrick Crayton: 40 rec
Sam Hurd: 25 rec
Terry Glenn: 50 rec/1 TD
Jason Witten: 75 rec/1 TD
Julius Jones: 35 rush
Marion Barber: 80 rush/1 TD/30 rec