7 Down, 7 To Go

I had my most successful gambling week of the season in the most incredibly unpredictable week of the season. I think that pretty much confirms that no matter how much you watch, research, and analyze, you still have absolutely no idea what to expect and sometimes you just get luckier than other days. Buffalo pushing Baltimore to overtime? New Orleans losing by double digits at home against Colt McCoy? Oakland scoring 59 points? Roddy White and Kenny Britt both recording over 200 receiving yards? How do you predict this stuff?! 

(Quick observation while I’m talking about Kenny Britt. The guy was benched for the first quarter of the game for disciplinary reasons and he still had an incredible day. Sound familiar? In Week 3, Braylon Edwards had 87 receiving yards and a touchdown after being punished by sitting out the first quarter. In Week 4, Arian Foster had 131 rushing yards, 56 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns after being benched for most of the first half. I don’t understand it, but henceforth, if someone on your team is being “grounded” for the first 15 minutes of a game, you play him no matter what.)

The most important question to ask in the aftermath of a weekend like we just witnessed is “what did we learn?” Here are a few of my observations…

I’m late to this party, but Jeff Fisher owns the NFC, and should destroy Washington when they play his Titans in week 11. With the Titans roughing up the Eagles this week, we’re down to a handful of teams who have yet to suffer a loss in which they just straight up didn’t play well. In my opinion, this list consists of the Jets, Steelers, Patriots, Titans, and Chiefs. At the very least, we’ve thus far been able to count on those 5 teams to limit catastrophic mistakes and stay in games. Incidentally, they are the 5 top AFC teams in turnover differential. If it weren’t for Flacco’s 4 interception game against the Bengals, the Ravens would be on that list too, and you could easily argue that those are your 6 AFC playoff teams at the end of the season.

Switching conferences, Chicago and Arizona might be the worst teams in the NFC, even though they are 4-3 and 3-3, respectively. At the very least, they have the most anemic offensive attacks aside from Carolina, and if they’re playing against a team that can even remotely stop the run, you can count on them to lose, and should pick up their opponent’s defense in your fantasy league. Too bad Chicago’s on a bye and Arizona is playing against the 2nd worst rush defense in the NFL, so this won’t be applicable information until Week 9.

With the exception of the Cardinals who never play well, and the Cowboys who are impossible to predict, teams coming off a bye thus far this season have played arguably their best games of the season thus far. Not sure what this means in terms of Houston @ Indianapolis, both of which are coming off of a bye, but I’m pretty sure it means the Lions will beat the Redskins and that the Jets will just smother the Packers.

I’ve determined the NFL schedule makers hate San Francisco. When it’s all said and done, the 49ers will have played 5 road games at 10 am PST, 1 “home” game in London at 10 am PST, 2 Monday night games, a Sunday night game, and a Thursday night game. How is this team ever supposed to get in some sort of a rhythm? They might beat Denver on Sunday, and then following a bye week should win 2 straight home games at their normal West Coast time against weak teams at which point they would be 4-6 in a pathetic NFC West and all the talk radio shows will start claiming “The Niners aren’t dead yet!” But they never had a chance to go the 12-4 that everyone thought they would, and they’ve still got at least another 3 or 4 games this season in which they are predestined to come out flat because of their ridiculous schedule. As such, even though Carolina was able to pick up the win in that game, I still have them last in my power ranking.

Speaking of power rankings, I have this week’s biggest risers as Tampa Bay, jumping from 25 to 19, and Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City, Green Bay, and Tennessee each jumping 5 spots from last week’s poll. The biggest fallers were Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Diego each dropping 4 spots. I’ll probably actually post my rankings again after Week 9 or 10, and if you want to see them at any time, feel free to text or shoot me an e-mail (kerry.miller@geneva.edu).

I also learned a few things this weekend about my predictions…

My upset picks within our league have been pretty solid at 5-1. I maintain this is because I spend the most time on those picks. Same with the “Game of the Week” picks, in which I’m 4-2. But my blowout picks are inconceivably 1-5, with that one win being an impressive one in which I correctly predicted the final score. I don’t know how to explain it. I just apparently curse guys who are supposed to be heavy favorites. Guess I better start picking Montgomery to blow people out so he slides back to the pack a little bit. Also, thanks to Damn upsetting Duncan, I no longer get to write about the NFC’s dominance over the AFC in our league. Bummer.

And with my NFL predictions, I’ve determined that I need to stop picking 5 teams for the eliminator. I was looking through my overall record in those predictions and determined that I’m sitting at 24-11, which is pretty bad. However, I also determined that I’m 1-6 in my 5th most confident picks, so I’ve been 23-5 in my 4 most confident games, which is much more respectable. Therefore, in light of the fact that I’ve been eliminated anyway (damn Drew Brees…) I’m only doing 4 picks per week.

Also, I’ve nailed 3 straight NFL upset picks, all of which have involved the AFC West. You may want to listen up, because even in an unpredictable league, my picks have been pretty good, and I at least kept Kauffman from going down with me last week by telling him to take Kansas City.

Eliminator Picks:

#4. St. Louis over Carolina.

Everyone talks about Kansas City being the surprise story of the league this year, but in my opinion, it has to be St. Louis, and more specifically, Sam Bradford. Sure, he was the #1 draft pick, but he lost his #1 wide receiver in the pre-season, and then his replacement #1 wide receiver during Week 5, and he’s still been putting up better than solid numbers for a rookie. The Rams have been winning games at home, and the Panthers have been giving the ball away better than any other team in the league.

#3. Dallas over Jacksonville.

The Jaguars have allowed opponents to score 26+ points in 6 consecutive games and consequently have the worst point differential in the NFL. That can’t possibly be a recipe for success. And who cares if David Garrard plays; wake me up when Maurice Jones-Drew starts actually playing this season.

#2. New York Jets over Green Bay.

In the past 5 weeks, Green Bay has played 2 overtime games, 2 games in which their opponent salted away a lead to the point where they had to sweat out a last second drive, and a game in which they lost on a last second field goal. And now they have all of 5.5 days to prepare to face the best team in the NFL which will be playing on 14 days rest? Puh-lease.

#1. Kansas City over Buffalo.

NFL’s best rush offense against the NFL’s worst rush defense. ‘Nuff said. Hopefully.

The Commish’s NFL Upset of the Week:

NONE!

The single most unpredictable sporting event in the history of mankind is March Madness. Stick with me, because I promise there’s a point beside the fact that college basketball season starts in less than 2 weeks and I’m giddier about it than a 12 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Every March, we know there will be some crazy upsets. We never know where they’re going to come from, but we know that in the first 2 orgasmic days of that tournament, there will be 9 or 10 underdogs who win. However, by the end of the 2nd weekend, things start to settle in and make a little more sense. Maybe the teams who should win in the Sweet 16 aren’t the same teams we expected to win before the tournament started, but after seeing how every team has handled the pressure thus far, we start to get a better grasp on who should advance.

Well, the only thing about the NFL season that has been predictable so far is that it has been unpredictable. However, I think we’re into the metaphorical second weekend of March Madness and the insanity is going to start to settle down a little bit. We’ve reached the point in the season where Vegas is practically begging us to bet on teams like Washington, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Seattle, and Miami by putting them as slight underdogs on the road despite the fact that they have a better record and would be heavily favored if it were a neutral site game. Vegas is always two weeks behind the pro gamblers and two weeks ahead of the common fan. By no means am I implying that I’m a pro gambler, but I’m definitely implying that the common fan has reached the point where they’ll just pick 50% underdogs every week because of how the first 7 weeks have played out. What this tells me is that it’s time to start actually expecting the favorites to win games.

All that being said, and considering there are only 5 games in which a team is an underdog by 4 or more points (Buf +7.5 @ KC, Jax +6.5 @ Dal, GB +6 @ NYJ, Hou +5.5 @ Ind, and Min @ NE which doesn’t currently have a line thanks to the Favre injury, but they will definitely be a heavy underdog) I’m not predicting an upset this week. The first 3 games I have in my eliminator “locks,” I will never, ever, ever predict Peyton Manning to lose in a prime time game and/or at home, and I certainly don’t expect to see Tarvaris Jackson go win a game in New England. If any of those 5 are going to pull off an upset, it’s Jacksonville over Dallas, but even without Romo, I don’t see it happening.

League Standings:

With our season now half way complete (a thought which brings a tear to my eye), it’s about that time to start posting our league standings in each of these posts. Keep in mind that the winner of each conference gets a first round bye, and that playoff spots #3-6 are up for grabs regardless of division. As it stands today, the NFC would get 3 of the 4 “wild card” spots, and considering they’re currently 6-1 in the inter-conference games, that’s exactly the way it should be. Also keep in mind that our tiebreaker is points scored over the course of the season, so I’ve also included that figure in the standings.

#1. Montgomery’s Rams (6-1) 775.3 points
#2. A’s Bengals (4-3) 819.1 points
#3. Meyers’ Cowboys (5-2) 671.3 points
#4. Duncan’s Packers (4-3) 843.9 points
#5. Miller’s Chiefs (4-3) 791.7 points
#6. Gideon’s Bears (4-3) 731.9 points
#7. Nelson’s Steelers (4-3) 715.7 points
#8. Garland’s Giants (4-3) 697 points
#9. Dincher’s Dolphins (3-4) 801.2 points
#10. Harshbarger’s Chargers (3-4) 601.4 points
#11. Travelpiece’s 49ers (2-5) 730.6 points
#12. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (2-5) 704.6 points
#13. Yelen’s Texans (2-5) 614.6 points
#14. Damn’s Bills (2-5) 557.3 points

Every year, there’s one team who ends up scoring in the top 4 in the league but fails to reach the top 6 in the standings, and consequently, there’s usually one team whose point total ranks in the bottom half of the league, yet somehow makes the playoffs courtesy of facing the right opponent at the right time. It may not always be fair, but it’s also not going to be fair when the Seattle Seahawks make the playoffs and the Houston Texans are watching from home. Thus far this year, or at least in the past 4 weeks, Dincher has been the unlucky one in the standings and Meyers has been the one benefitting from not having many points scored against him. That could easily change if Duncan loses another game or two, as he’s sitting at 4-3 despite leading the league in scoring.

*******Games of the Week*******

~~~~~~~Blowout of the Week~~~~~~~

Montgomery’s Rams (6-1) over Travelpiece’s 49ers (2-5)

Despite my earlier claim that I’m going to start putting Montgomery here just because it’s a cursed spot and he needs to lose some games, I swear this pick has nothing to do with an attempted Commish Hex and has everything to do with the fact that Travelpiece has 3 starters on a bye and half a dozen other guys who are questionable to even play this week. Seriously, I couldn’t even make a “Projected line-ups” comparison because I have no idea who Travelpiece is going to play this week.

Final score: StL 114-81.

~~~~~~~Upset of the Week~~~~~~~

Duncan’s Packers (4-3) over Meyers’ Cowboys (5-2)

Projected Line-ups:

Dal: Rodgers, F. Jackson, T. Choice, D. Bess, T.O., B. Tate, V. Shiancoe, Saints D, Prater

Vs.

GB: Hasselbeck, Benson, Mendenhall, C. Williams, M. Austin, M. Williams (TB), Gates, Titans D, Gostkowski

5 Reasons:

#1. Cedric Benson vs. Miami.

I can’t justify it, but I have this really strong gut feeling that the Bengals are going to trounce the Dolphins.

#2. Another patchwork line-up for Meyers.

Meyers was lucky enough to play against someone who only scored 70 some points the last time he had to start Tashard Choice. But without Michael Turner in there, and with Brandon Tate who hasn’t done a damn thing since Moss was traded, I sincerely doubt Aaron Rodgers and Terrell Owens will be enough to carry him to victory.

#3. (Insert starting quarterback) vs. Oakland.

200 yards and 2 TDs. Every week. Good QB. Bad QB. Doesn’t matter; it’s what happens. So, it would appear Matt Hasselbeck will have his best week of the season thus far. We’ll have to wait another week to find out how badly Duncan’s team will miss Romo.

#4. Fred Jackson vs. Kansas City.

With the exception of the week against Arian Foster, the Chiefs have been pretty solid against the run. They’re giving up 23 fantasy points per game against opposing rush attacks, but a significant portion of those points have been the result of running backs catching balls out of the backfield, and Jackson has all of 4 receptions for negative 3 yards so far this season. And I certainly don’t expect or hope to see the Bills running the ball in the last 20 minutes of the game.

#5. I have to keep picking him.

Every year, someone accuses my predictions of being the reason they lose, and every year I continue to pick that person to win almost entirely because of their desire to not be picked to win. This year, that person is Duncan. I only wish my weekly rants had as much appeal for someone with some sway at ESPN as they apparently have voodoo for someone in our league every year.

X-Factor: Cadillac Williams vs. Arizona.

If he’s ever going to have a big game, it’s against the 29th ranked rush defense, but I certainly don’t expect that to happen. His production should really only affect the margin of victory though.

Final score: GB 106-92.

~~~~~~~Game of the Week~~~~~~~

Nelson’s Steelers (4-3) @ Gideon’s Bears (4-3)

Projected Line-ups

Pit: Palmer, McFadden, B. Wells, Greene, Colston, M. Wallace, Witten, Steelers D, Vinatieri

Vs.

Chi: Brady, B. Jackson, F. Jones, J. Shipley, S. Smith (1.0), P. Crayton, K. Winslow, Chiefs D, Bironas

Consider this an extremely abridged version of the post I was expecting to write this week, but this game is really a microcosm of the difference in talent and urgency between the NFC and AFC in our league. If Nelson wins this game, he remains at least in a tie for 1st place, and could potentially be sitting alone atop the AFC leaderboard. If he loses this game, he could still be tied for 1st place in the AFC, but his worst case scenario is a tie for 3rd place with Dincher, just one game behind Kauffman and myself. There are definitely worse situations you could be in with 6 weeks left to go in the regular season. If Gideon wins, his best case scenario is a 3 way tie for 2nd place in the NFC with Meyers and Duncan, 1 game behind Montgomery. He could also win and end up in a tie for 3rd place with Garland. If Gideon loses, however, he could be alone in 5th place in the NFC. Yikes.

Breakdown:

QB: As I said before, I have this strange feeling that the Bengals are going to trounce the Dolphins which, unless their points are going to come from the defense or special teams, will almost entirely come through the air, making Palmer a solid play this week in my book. Meanwhile, Tom Brady has been a terrible fantasy quarterback in his past 3 games. Both guys are facing a secondary which is right in that 10-15th best range, but I would rather have Carson Palmer then Tom Brady this week. And now I think I’m going to go throw up. I really hope Palmer throws 4 interceptions this week so I don’t ever have to talk myself into him again. Edge: Nelson.

RB: I would argue that McFadden’s performance this past week wasn’t entirely an anomaly as much as a breakout performance. He’s been solid when healthy this year, and has always been a significant part of the passing attack. It just so happens that he found the end zone 4 times against the Broncos. I think he’ll have another productive 100+ rushing yards, couple receptions, 1 TD kind of day against the Seahawks. Incidentally, I expect a similar kind of game out of Beanie Wells, except without the receptions. I don’t think either Shonn Greene or Brandon Jackson will do anything worth noting against each other, so they cancel out in my ledger. That leaves Felix Jones to basically single-handedly put up 200+ yards and a few touchdowns against the Jaguars in order to counterbalance Nelson’s production. Not going to happen, but he should at least be good for about 10 points. Significant edge: Nelson.

WR: My bold prediction for this match up (aside from my theory that Beanie Wells is going to run for 100 yards) is that neither Colston nor Wallace makes a TD reception for Nelson on Sunday night, which means he doesn’t get more than 8 points out of either of them. I’ll also boldly predict that if the Panthers score at all, Steve Smith is responsible for more than 50% of those points. My guess is that they score 3 touchdowns and he catches 2 of them. I also think Patrick Crayton continues to play well in the absence of Malcom Floyd, and that if Palmer is in fact going to outplay Tom Brady, Jordan Shipley will get at least a few of those points. In this matchup, this is where Gideon makes his move, if he makes one at all. Significant edge: Gideon.

TE: Jon Kitna will look Jason Witten’s way early and often against a less than mediocre pass defense in Jacksonville. That should be plenty to carry him beyond Kellen Winslow’s production, who has yet to catch a touchdown this season. Edge: Nelson.

Def: Unless they’re scoring a defensive touchdown, the Chiefs haven’t been a favorable fantasy defense, so despite playing this week against the only remaining winless team in the NFL, I have to assume they’ll give up more points than the Steelers, who are likely to also cause more turnovers. Edge: Nelson.

Final score: I just hope Gideon doesn’t end up in 5th place in the NFC, because I fear my favorite Call of Duty buddy is going to come up short this week. Whammy. Pit: 112-101.

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