By Eric Pehowic
The Daily Item
— CASH: Dennis Johnson, RB, Texans
NFL players need opportunity to perform. All the talent in the world means nothing if a running back is only getting five touches or a receiver is only getting two targets.
Conversely, a less-talented running back who gets 30 carries can provide a fantasy football game-changing performance. Ask any owner who advanced to the championship game last week with Matt Asiata in their flex slot. Asiata finished with just 51 yards on 30 totes, an absurd 1.7 yards per carry. He also scored three TDs and caught a couple passes to finish as the second-highest scoring running back in fantasy football last week.
This week, the Houston Texans' Ben Tate joined Arian Foster on injured reserve, leaving Johnson as the top back in the backfield. Weeks ago there was speculation Johnson might overtake Tate on the depth chart.
While I don't think Johnson is as talented as either of those other backs, he's a better back than Asiata and he should get in the neighborhood of 20-25 touches as the lead back.
He's a value play in daily fantasy and could very well still be available on your waiver wire -- he's available in 78% of Yahoo leagues as I write this.
TRASH: Players, all position, New York Giants
Oh, man, Victor Cruz is out. That means Hakeem Nicks could catch his first touchdown. Rueben Randle is going to be relevant again, Jerrel Jernigan or Louis Murphy could catch a TD as the ... Stop. Just stop.
Eli Manning is having a horrifying season. Everything he touches turns to dust. Manning has 16 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Unless he goes on a Peyton-like tear, he will finish the season with more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time since his rookie year in 2004. If -- more like when -- he throws one more pick, Eli will have more interceptions than he's ever had in one season.
Things could turn around here this week, sure. Eli could have a big game and Andre Brown could get 25 carries. But on championship weekend we have to look at these players' floors, the absolute worst they could perform, and consider it. The Giants have no motivation. Their heads are already in the offseason. Look elsewhere on championship weekend.
SHOOTOUT OF THE WEEK: Bears at Eagles, 8:30 p.m. Sunday
Not surprisingly, sportsbooks are picking the Broncos to lead the NFL in points this week. You're starting them if you have them in your championship game.
Las Vegas is also predicting the Bears-Eagles tilt Sunday night is going to be a high-scoring affair, 29.5-26.5 in the Eagles favor. That's a lot of fantasy points to go around to a lot of great fantasy players.
Based on fantsy points allowed per position, it should be an excellent matchup for Bears receivers and their quarterback, Jay Cutler, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. It is a poor matchup for Nick Foles, but on championship weekend you can't bench one of the most consistent and surprising stars of 2013. He got you to the final, you need to start him.
The same can be said for Matt Forte, who has a middle-of-the-road matchup agains the Eagles.
MORE HIGH SCORES: Chargers, Lions, 49ers, Cowboys
It's championship weekend so the 3-and-out cheat sheet gets expanded again. This time I want to tell you about a few other teams expected to score big numbers this week according to the betting lines.
The Lions are slated to score 29 points against the Giants. The Chargers are expected to post 30 points against the Raiders. The 49ers and Cowboys are each on the board for 28 points against the Falcons and Redskins respectively. The Cowboys-Redskins game is expected to be close -- Dallas is favored by three points. Meanwhile, the Lions, Chargers and 49ers are expected to win relatively easily, meaning their running backs could get some extra carries late and their opponents could be in line for some garbage-time passing numbers.
Congratulations and good luck this week.