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updated: 11/18/2010 2:27 PM

It's time to take advantage of struggles by Steelers, Ravens

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  • Much like in Baltimore, the Pittsburgh pass defense is having difficulty shutting down receivers. Quarterbacks against the Steelers and Ravens have averaged more than 300 yards per game over the last five games.

      Much like in Baltimore, the Pittsburgh pass defense is having difficulty shutting down receivers. Quarterbacks against the Steelers and Ravens have averaged more than 300 yards per game over the last five games.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Steelers and the Ravens.

With their ruthless, hard-hitting, make-you-work-for-every-inch defenses, these are two teams that make us cringe when our fantasy football players go up against them.

Many seasons have crumbled because your stud faces Pittsburgh or Baltimore at the wrong time.

Suddenly, though, things are different. These iron-fisted defenses are melting before our very eyes, and opposing players are enjoying breakout games of absurd proportion.

To wit:

&bul; Over the past five weeks, quarterbacks are averaging 307 passing yards with 10 total TDs vs. Baltimore. Kyle Orton (314 yards), Ryan Fitzpatrick (382) and Matt Ryan (316) all abused the suspect secondary.

&bul; The Steelers are no better, having given up an average of 301 passing yards with 7 TDs the past three games.

&bul; If you own a No. 1 WR that faces these teams, don't hesitate to play him. In the last five games, Baltimore has allowed 112 yards per game and 6 TDs to No. 1 WRs (9 TDs if you include Lee Evans). Over the last three games, Pittsburgh has allowed 101.7 ypg and 3 TDs to No. 1 WRs.

"Definitely it's a concern," Steelers safety Troy Polamalu told reporters after Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski caught 3 TD passes in New England's 39-26 victory last week. "We'll see how we react to this. It's incredibly humbling. And it's a good thing, I guess, that we may need right now."

Making matters worse for Pittsburgh, Polamalu has a strained right Achillies tendon. If he misses significant time, look out.

In Baltimore, second-year cornerback Ladarius Webb was torched by Atlanta's Roddy White last week to the tune of 12 catches for 138 yards and 2 TDs.

"I haven't been here 10 years. I didn't even play my full rookie season," he said. "I played what, five games at corner? They're going to go after the young guys. It's all part of the game."

These defenses still do a good job at stopping the run. Opponents' top tailbacks are averaging just 52 yards per game with 1 TD against both teams over our sample size stretch (Baltimore, 5 games; Pittsburgh, 3 games).

Until further notice, let the air raid sirens sound and have no fear playing QBs or WRs agaist these suspect units.

Vick's day: /B>

In standard scoring leagues, Michael Vick's 6-TD performance on Monday ranked third all-time in terms of fantasy points. The No. 1 game belongs to Clinton Portis, who ran for 218 yards, had 36 receiving and had 5 TDs with Denver in 2003. Coming in second is Shaun Alexander's 5-TD game against Minnesota in 2002. He had 139 rushing yards and 92 receiving.

My teams:

It's been an odd year. In my unit league, I won 59-53 and now have the best record (8-2) despite having the sixth-most points in a 12-team league. In the regular league, I fell 102-67 and I am 5-5 despite an all-play record of 52-38.

Good bets

&bul; Bills RB Fred Jackson at Cincinnati. Take out his 8-carry, 16-yard stinker against the Bears and Jackson is averaging 86 yards on the ground the last four games. With C.J. Spiller injured, Jackson is great to have down the stretch.

&bul; Bengals RB Cedric Benson vs. Buffalo. It's been an ugly season for Benson and he probably belongs on most fantasy benches after this week when Cincy takes on a weak Bills run defense (167 yards per game allowed).

&bul; Jets WRs Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards vs. Houston. The reeling Texans have given up 31 points a game the last five, and no team has scored fewer than 24 in a game all season.

&bul; Colts WR Pierre Garcon at New England. Despite a combined 7 catches for 52 yards the last two games, I'm going with a gut feeling here. Yes, Austin Collie may be back ... but I still say Garcon finally gets loose.

&bul; Browns TE Benjamin Watson at Jacksonville. You have to pick your spots with Watson, and this is a great one.

&bul; Chiefs QB Matt Cassel vs. Arizona. Who is the top fantasy quarterback over the last five weeks? Yes, it's Matt Cassel. He has 12 TD passes over that time, and now he gets a defense that allowed 333 yards to Matt Hasselbeck and 446 to Brett Favre. Giddy-up!

&bul; Chargers RB Mike Tolbert vs. Denver. If you are in a TD-heavy scoring league, Tolbert is your guy against a defense that has allowed a league-high 14 rushing scores.

&bul; Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Indianapolis. With productive fantasy days in six of his last seven games, it's tough to give the red light to Green-Ellis.

&bul; Dallas defense vs. Detroit. I say that beat-down of the Giants wasn't a one-week abberation. The Lions will be whimpering by game's end.

Bad bets

&bul; Seahawks WR Mike Williams at New Orleans. He's coming off an 11-catch, 145-yard game, so this prediction may make you cock your head in confusion. But look closer: Willams has three good games this season (two against Arizona, one against the Bears). Other than that, he's averaging 32 yards a game with no scores. With Seattle facing the top-ranked pass defense, you'll see why Williams should be on most benches.

&bul; Giants QB Eli Manning at Philadelphia. Despite gaudy fantasy numbers last week, Manning clearly struggled without Steve Smith, who may not be back until December. Manning's not a must-sit, but the Eagles, who lead the league with 16 interceptions, will make it tough Sunday.

&bul; Texans QB Matt Schaub at New York Jets. I just don't trust this guy anymore.

&bul; Bucs RB LaGarrette Blount at San Francisco. Not a terrible play, but he'll have a tough time finding the end zone against a team that has allowed just 5 rushing scores.

&bul; Redskins RB Ryan Torain or Keiland Williams at Tennessee. Titans will throttle whomever gets the call.

jdietz@dailyherald.com

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