Last week we focused on the fantasy dead. This week, it's the afterlife.
Three NFL games this weekend feature a pair of teams already eliminated from the playoff race. Considered meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but certainly not from a fantasy perspective.
Cowboys at Cardinals
You need look no further than last week's Cowboys-Redskins game to project what figures to transpire in Arizona. Two bad defensive teams with no incentive against two collections of stat-driven, offensive players. The Cowboys have been terrible against the pass, and the Cardinals are awful against the run. We should try to take advantage of that for fantasy purposes.
John Skelton hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in his two starts, so that has to be a concern. But he hasn't faced a pass defense as poor as the Cowboys, either. I know you're playing Larry Fitzgerald (and Jay Feely) this week, but I'm also recommending Steve Breaston. Remember, this is a defense that allowed four touchdowns passes to Rex Grossman and 100 yards to Anthony Armstrong last week.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys should be able to run all over the Cardinals, just as the lightweight Panthers did last week (177 yards) en route to their second win of the season. The problem with the Cowboys' running game is that it just got more complicated with the possible return of Marion Barber. He now enters the mix along with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. It's possible that any or all of them could scorch the Cardinals this week, but identifying the best starter of the group is difficult. I'm taking my chances on Jones in this matchup, along with Miles Austin, Jason Witten, David Buehler and even Sam Hurd.
Lions at Dolphins
As is the case with the Dallas-Arizona game, one thing that inspires a fantasy-worthy performance at this time of a lost season is good weather. We should see it in Miami this weekend.
The Lions have a nice thing going offensively, even without emerging quarterback Matthew Stafford and with Jahvid Best not up to speed. Drew Stanton is making good things happen in the passing game, which bodes well against a defense that just saw Ryan Fitzpatrick throw for 223 yards and two scores without Lee Evans This is a good opportunity to get Nate Burleson in the lineup and cash in on the touchdown catch you probably missed with him last week.
The Detroit defense has vulnerable this season, to say the least. Heck, you could do worse than to give Chad Henne a shot, especially if your quarterback options are grim. We saw the Panthers, Cowboys and Titans all come up big in their final home games last week, so expect the same from a Miami team that must endure a trip to New England next week. Brandon Marshall, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Davone Bess and Dan Carpenter are all capable starters.
Texans at Broncos
This should be a fun game to watch, unless of course your opponent has you outnumbered with Texans and Broncos players. It also features a real nice sleeper who could be your finals MVPs. The Broncos offer as little resistance defensively as any team in the league these days, so Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and, yes, last week's pain in the butt, Arian Foster, are no-brainers. But the list doesn't stop there. Neil Rackers, Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter and even Derrick Ward, who could end up with more carries than Foster against the league's worst run defense, are guys you'd could have in your lineup.
But here's my tip of the week: Grab Lance Ball off waivers and watch him run, even if he begins the game as Knowshon Moreno's backup. Moreno, who missed most of last week's game, still isn't 100 percent. Just the threat of Tebow taking off -- as he did eight times last week against Oakland -- should open even wider running lanes than normal. That would give Ball a chance to have the kind of day that made Jerome Harrison (148 rushing yards and a score) a fantasy hero in Week 16 of last season.