Viewers Guide  

JCPenney (American Living)  

Lions would give their kingdom for a workhorse running back

Thankfully (and that's the last post-Thanksgiving mention of that word) we have a much better slate for Week 13's Viewer's Guide than we did in Week 12. And I'm ready to go heavy with movie analogies to make my points about the best games of the weekend. We begin with the team that has the NFL's version of Spinal Tap drummers at one position. At least no one has spontaneously combusted yet like Mick Shrimpton.

THE GAME IN WHICH WE MAY SEE BILLY SIMS PLAY RUNNING BACK: Lions-Saints. First, Mikel LeShoure tears his Achilles in training camp. Then Jahvid (we believed in you all along, Jahvid, drafting Leshoure was just, I don't know, a gag!) Best gets sidelined with concussion problems and is out for the season. Maurice Morris had a hand injury, so Kevin Smith had to be re-signed, and he had a phenomenal debut before getting hurt against Green Bay. The Lions were rolling until Best got hurt, and since he went down Detroit is just 2-4. They absolutely, positively have to run the football to succeed, and right now we have no idea if they can. Neither do they. Detroit's not deep enough in the passing game to throw it exclusively and win. So how will this one play out? In "A Few Good Men," Kevin Bacon tells the jury how Tom Cruise is going to present his side of the code-red case: "He'll have no evidence, mind you, none. But it's gonna be entertaining." Oh, there will be a lot of points on the board, and some breathtaking plays, but all that magic will not obscure the fact that the Saints are the better team, and they'll win. These are the facts of this game, they are undisputable.

Fantasy hero: Calvin Johnson. After a blip on Thanksgiving, he's in the end zone twice and over 100 yards receiving.

THE GAME IN WHICH WE MAY SEE DAN PASTORINI PLAY QUARTERBACK: Falcons-Texans. The T.J. Yates era has begun, which could make way for the Kellen Clemens era. Seriously, how have the Texans not driven a dump-truck full of money to Hattiesburg to get Brett Favre? This is THE season for the Texans to get to the AFC title game and maybe even the Super Bowl. They've never been better. The window is short, and you can only win ugly for so long nowadays before eventually coming upon a team that can throw the football really well. This week will be a sneak preview of that end-of-season scenario for the Texans. Matt Ryan is red-hot and the Texans defense, while statistically great against the pass, has done so playing against Blaine Gabbert (twice), Kerry Collins, Chad Henne, Jason Campbell and Colt McCoy. And just an oh-by-the-way on Favre -- when his name came up this week in connection with a job in Houston he revealed that he hasn't thrown a football since Nov. 4. Wait, what? He was still throwing a football in November? Yeah, he doesn't have the itch to play anymore.

Fantasy zero: Michael Turner. Houston's D is terrific against the run and with the Falcons passing at will, he'll be under 7 points.

THE BEST FINAL 2:00: Bengals-Steelers. Didn't these teams just play like a week ago? (OK, Week 10.) In Cincinnati's favor is that Ben Roethlisberger has been downright awful against them the last three years -- and that was when the Bengals were really bad; now they're actually good. A.J. Green was on his way to a big day against Pittsburgh in that first game before getting hurt. Mike Wallace has not produced in a while, and the Bengals aren't giving up points in the fourth quarter. That sounds like a lot for Pittsburgh to overcome, but Cincinnati's a young team that's had a rocky road since early November, only beating the Browns thanks to yet another bad snap on a potential game-winning field goal. Is it possible for a long snapper to be in a slump? (For the record, Ryan Pontbriand says yes. I guess you have to spend extra time at home trying to snap the football through windows of moving cars.) Points will be at a minimum here, and Roethlisberger will do just enough down the stretch to set up Shaun Suisham for the game-winner.

Fantasy hero: Cedric Benson. He finds a way to produce against the Pittsburgh defense, and he'll be near 15 fantasy points.

THE GAME FEATURING THE 2011 NFC EAST CHAMPION: Cowboys-Cardinals. Dallas fans Elliot Harrison (who on Sunday wore a pair of Butch Johnson's underwear that he bought on eBay) and Michael Fabiano (who has superimposed a picture of DeMarco Murray on his driver's license) tell me I'm crazy. Their glasses are always half-empty. But with each passing week, I believe more and more that the Cowboys are going to win the NFC East by at least two games. I'll do even better: This team will be in Lambeau Field playing in the NFC Championship Game. Dallas isn't hot, this is who they are. They've won in dominant fashion and they've pulled games out in the final 2:00 -- who would've thought that would ever happen with Tony Romo? They run it extremely well, and surprisingly their passing game is still elite without Miles Austin and with Dez Bryant disappearing after halftime like Dan Marino after an Isotoner commercial in "Ace Ventura." Watch them this Sunday. They're getting machine-like. You keep waiting for Dallas to slide? You're going to wait a long time. Laces out.

Fantasy hero: DeMarco Murray. Back over the century mark and in the end zone after two weeks away from both.

THE GAME AFTER WHICH WE'LL QUOTE DENNIS GREEN: Packers-Giants. We'll find out that the G-Men are who we thought they were. They're a fun club that throws the ball extremely well and is capable of beating elite teams, but they're in the midst of a brutal stretch of the schedule. Eli Manning really is Top Five Eli, cutting down on his picks to become one of the best signal callers in the game. But overall they're just not consistent. Their defense has tightened up in recent weeks (last week excluded), but they still have trouble running the football when it counts, and overall it just seems like the Giants have a missing intangible that stops them from becoming great. You think this is the week the Packers stumble? I direct you to "The Untouchables," when Sean Connery berates a villain for bringing a knife to a gun fight. The Packers have all the guns (Connery did get shot afterward by that actor who looks like Dwight Yoakam, but you get my point).

Fantasy hero: Jermichael Finley will be in double-digits in fantasy points. Just ask Jimmy Graham how the Giants cover elite TEs.

See Jason Smith on "NFL Fantasy Live," airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the NFL RedZone channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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