Dear Carson Palmer, I’m Sorry…Sort Of…

I’ve never gotten the impression that a girlfriend was cheating on me, but if I had such a hunch, there are a number of steps I would take to confirm the suspicion before making such a claim. I suppose I would decide to approach her with an accusation if I felt I had a laundry list of evidence against her after having observed and interpreted her actions and mannerisms and asking friends and family to do the same. If she denied any wrongdoing, I would apologize, but I would also stay on my toes and remain wary until she re-proves herself trustworthy to me over an extended period of time. 

It is with that same skepticism that I offer an apology to Carson Palmer. Since the pre-season, I feel like I’ve been crouched in a closet waiting to jump out with a pointed finger and an “I knew it!” exclamation after catching Carson in an act of indiscretion. I almost made my leap after the Tampa Bay game in which he threw a pick six and two costly late-in-the-4th-quarter interceptions to lose on a last second field goal, but I wanted to wait until I had indisputable evidence of worthlessness. After his pathetic performance against Miami, I brought some friends into the closet with me so I could have multiple eyewitnesses to confirm my suspicions against Pittsburgh. But it didn’t happen. And now I have no case. I could point out that 44% of his yards and 50% of his TDs came in the 4th quarter while Pittsburgh was blatantly playing the Cover 2 defense, which anyone who’s ever played a game of Madden could tell you leaves gaping holes 7-15 yards down the field along the sidelines, but I’ll just admit that he played better than I expected. But you listen here, Carson: you might be able to eke your way through this next week against Indianapolis before torching a Buffalo team that has 1 interception this whole season, but after that – after you play three straight games against the Jets, Saints, and Steelers – I’ll be waiting with an “I told you so” grin from ear to ear.

Aside from the fact that Palmer didn’t throw 4 interceptions in the first half, I had a really solid week’s worth of predictions in Week 9. I was 4 for 4 in my eliminator suggestions, crushed my Browns upset pick, correctly predicted the Chiefs would lose in Oakland followed by people jumping off their bandwagon, nailed all 4 of my fantasy league predictions, and even all of my predictions within the fantasy league picks were good. I don’t usually do anywhere near that well, so I had to brag there for a second.

Since I’m not allowed to rant about Carson Palmer for a little while, I need a new topic. Did anyone actually watch the Cowboys/Packers game? Better question: Did anyone other than me actually think the game would be competitive? The Cowboys are atrocious. I’m sick of seeing them. I’m sick of hearing about them. But we’ve only just begun to watch their demise, because they still have 3 prime time games on their schedule, and those of us without the NFL package know we’ll be stuck watching them on Fox in the afternoon at least 2 or 3 other times as well. I realize they were supposed to be the cream of the crop in the NFC this year, but they clearly aren’t, and I really wish we didn’t still have to be subjected to watching them get destroyed by New Orleans and Philadelphia on national television. The real issue is that they’re getting 6 prime time games this season while there are 6 teams (Tampa Bay, Seattle, St. Louis, Oakland, Cleveland, and Buffalo) who don’t even get 1, and all of them are playing significantly better football than Dallas.

Now that we’re more than half way through the regular season, we have a pretty good idea which teams are good or are at least worth watching, and consequently we should be able to decide which games we want to see in prime time. Why can’t the NFL nominate 3 games for the Sunday night game, 3 games for the Monday night game, and let the public decide what they want to watch? How does this not maximize ratings? (Note: No need to conduct a vote for the Thursday night game since each team needs more than a week’s notice to prepare for the short week a Thursday night game necessitates. Not to mention only 8% of the nation has the NFL network anyway. I would actually argue they should get rid of the Thursday night game altogether and play a late Monday night game featuring West Coast teams if you insist on an additional prime time game, but that’s an argument for another day.) With New England/Pittsburgh and Philadelphia/Washington on the prime time slate this week, I’ll start my complaining with Week 11. Denver @ San Diego on Monday night? Who is voting for that game if it’s going up against some combination of Green Bay/Minnesota, Washington/Tennessee, Oakland/Pittsburgh, Houston/New York Jets, and Indianapolis/New England? The week after that we’re stuck with San Francisco @ Arizona when we could have Minnesota/Washington, Tampa Bay/Baltimore, Tennessee/Houston, Green Bay/Atlanta, or Miami/Oakland. Maybe this voting system results in Peyton Manning or Brett Favre on Monday night 12+ times per season, but I would rather watch the greatest quarterbacks of our generation a dozen times than watch the Dallas Cowboys not even pretend to care half a dozen times.

Moving forward to Week 10, my “teams playing at home following a bye week” theory is back with a vengeance after Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Cleveland won at home after a Week 8 bye. Teams in those situations are now 9-2, with the 2 losses coming in the form of a horrible Cowboys team against a formidable Titans team, and a Jets team that can’t move the ball in cold weather playing against my pre-season Super Bowl pick. I think this is more than just coincidence. So, which teams fit the bill this week, you ask? Denver vs. Kansas City, San Francisco vs. St. Louis, Washington vs. Philadelphia, and Jacksonville vs. Houston. The Chiefs will absolutely lose that game (yet still finish the season 10-6 which will hopefully be enough to hold off the Chargers who will hopefully suffer their 6th loss of the season in Week 12 against Indianapolis), and we’re 2 wins away from the part of the season where I predicted that the 49ers suddenly become the most media-loved 4-6 team in NFL history. So, in my eyes 2 of those 4 games are all but locks, and I see no reason why a bi-polar Jacksonville squad can’t win at home against a bi-polar Houston squad; nor do I see any reason why a theoretically motivated Redskins team can’t beat an Eagles team in the middle of a Colts/Giants sandwich. And then next week, San Diego and New Orleans come off of byes to face Denver and Seattle at home, respectively. By season’s end, we may end up with teams playing at home following a bye recording a 15-2 record, and I hope I still remember that by Week 5 of next season. Unfortunately, none of the 4 teams from this week are underdogs by 4 or more points, so I can’t make any of them my Upset Pick of the Week.

If for some reason you’re only able to dedicate attention to 1 of the 14 games this weekend, might I suggest Minnesota @ Chicago? Trivia time: 3 teams in the NFL have yet to allow an opponent to score 24 or more points in a game this season. Can you name them? The New York Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Chicago Bears. It might be tempting to think the Vikings should easily handle the Bears, who can’t move the ball at all, but both of those teams have been playing in close low-scoring games every single week, so it should be a nail biter. The Bears have the most difficult remaining schedule in the NFL (so difficult that this game at home against the Vikings is the one I think they’re most likely to win, and I don’t even think they’ll win it), so if Chicago wins, it almost eliminates both of these teams’ playoff hopes. However, if the Vikings pull off the road victory, they move to 4-5 and have a chance in the following week to pull within a game of the Packers in the NFC North, and then finish the season with a fairly easy schedule. Considering I bet $25 on Minnesota +700 to win the NFC Championship, this game is by far the most intriguing of the week in my opinion. (Honorable mention for New York Jets @ Cleveland as the Browns have looked like more of a Super Bowl contender than the Jets in the past 3 weeks.)

Eliminator Suggestions:

My 4 weekly Eliminator recommendations are now 29-7 after this past week’s perfect record, however, it’s going to be pretty tough to make 4 picks this week. Of the 11 lines that have been announced thus far, 9 of them feature spreads of a field goal or less, which would seem to indicate a lot of really close games. It never actually plays out that way, but it does mean that it’s tough to make outright predictions. Of the 7 teams I have at the top of my power rankings, 2 are on byes, 4 play each other, and the other might lose in Cleveland. Nevertheless, I think I’ve still got a good quartet for you…

#4 San Francisco vs. St. Louis

I like the Rams. I really do. Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford haven’t been the best fantasy options by any means, but they’ve been perfectly serviceable guys that have kept the Rams relevant beyond Week 9 for the first time in 5 seasons, unless you count ‘They might finish 0-16’ chatter as relevant. But they’re winless on the road thus far this season, and I suspect that won’t change in San Francisco following the 49ers bye. And considering their remaining schedule, I also suspect they won’t win again this season unless they pull a fast one on my Chiefs in Week 15.

#3 New York Giants vs. Dallas

When your team is one of the worst in the league at stopping the run or rushing the passer and you promote your DL coach to Defensive Coordinator, you aren’t even polishing shit, you’re just shitting on shit. In other news, for the 6th consecutive week, the Giants face a team that can’t pass block or defend the pass. Good thing 5 of their last 7 games are against teams that are at least remotely competent in those categories or else they might have gone 14-2 and made a deep run into the playoffs based solely on the self-belief that they’re a great team.

#2 Tampa Bay vs. Carolina

The Bucs at least competed last week against the Falcons, and they’ve been playing well against bad teams this season. Do you even realize who the Panthers will be starting on offense this weekend? Matt Moore’s season is over and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are both banged up. Even with those 3 guys in the line-up, they were averaging 10.1 points per game. No one else is average less than 16. The Colts scored the fewest points in a 16 game season with a grand total of 143 in 1991, and I think the Panthers are a few shutouts away from making a run at that trophy.

#1 Indianapolis vs. Cincinnati

Speaking of the Colts, they have recorded 3 sacks in each of their last 3 games, and they’ve held the last 3 quarterbacks they’ve faced to an average of 225 yards, 1 TD, and 1 Int. Those figures for Carson Palmer, combined with the pedestrian numbers we’ve come to expect from Cedric Benson this season won’t be enough to keep the Bungles within 10 points of a Colts team that’s 44-7 at home since 2004 and hasn’t lost 2 straight regular season games in over 2 seasons (unless you count the end of last season when they weren’t playing their starters…which I don’t).

The Commish’s NFL Upset Pick of the Week:

New England +4.5 @ Pittsburgh

It’s the only game aside from my 4 eliminator picks that even meets the +4 requirement unless the Browns or Redskins slip from 3 to 4 by kickoff, both of which I believe will win their games. Belichick’s teams always bounce back well from losses, having lost consecutive games only once in the past 4 years, and the Steelers will be playing on short rest while New England never even showed up to play this past weekend. The strange thing about these teams is that neither of them have particularly impressive stats aside from a good turnover ratio and a very solid Steelers rush defense. My thought on this one is that the teams are so closely matched (#1 and #3 in my power rankings) that it should come down to the wire, and Roethlisberger has yet to show me that he’s back to his old self enough to finish out a game against a tough team. Hell, against a pathetic Bengals team, he was only responsible for 22 yards and an interception in the entire 2nd half, and they completely took the ball out of his hand after the interception when they needed another score to put the game away. Brady hasn’t been great this year, but I’d rather have him in the clutch right now.

Fantasy League Standings:

#1. Montgomery’s Rams (7-2) 967.4 points
#2. Miller’s Chiefs (6-3) 1027.3 points
#3. Duncan’s Packers (6-3) 1040.2 points
#4. Meyers’ Cowboys (6-3) 935.7 points
#5. Nelson’s Steelers (6-3) 935.6 points
#6. A’s Bengals (5-4) 1028.5 points
#7. Garland’s Giants (5-4) 919.2 points
#8. Harshbarger’s Chargers (5-4) 835.6 points
#9. Gideon’s Bears (4-5) 915.2 points
#10. Dincher’s Dolphins (3-6) 970.3 points
#11. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (3-6) 954.9 points
#12. Yelen’s Texans (3-6) 736.7 points
#13. Travelpiece’s 49ers (2-7) 882.9 points
#14. Damn’s Bills (2-7) 696.5 points

With 5 weeks left to play, there still isn’t anything clear in our standings, although we do finally have 3 teams to top the 1,000 point mark. I predicted that my team and Duncan’s team would win the respective conferences, so I’m not overwhelmingly surprised to see us near the top of the points category. A’s Bengals, on the other hand, have been an unexpectedly consistent point scorer. I think everyone had the Packers D pegged as a fantasy killer considering the Packers were expected to be a run and gun kind of team, consistently winning games by scores of 38-34, but somehow they’re the #1 defense, and Brandon Lloyd is randomly the #4 WR. I guess good things happen when you have Drew Brees on your fantasy team. The only other thing in the standings worth noting is that Dincher lost again, dropping his 6th consecutive game, and 5th straight since the Maurice Jones-Drew trade. Since he stole MJD from me in the 11th hour of trade talks with Damn, I’ve gone 5-0. If nothing else, that’s ironic. It’s not as if Dincher’s team hasn’t been scoring points (this past week’s 60 point effort notwithstanding), he’s just been unlucky with his opponents lately. I think there’s still time for him to turn it around and crack the top 6, but he better start turning soon.

Fantasy Match-ups of the Week

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

Harshbarger’s Chargers (5-4) over Yelen’s Texans (3-6)

Suggested Line-Ups:

SD: Freeman, Blount, Jacobs, Holmes, St. Johnson, Welker, Moeaki, Buccaneers D, C. Barth

Vs.

Hou: Roethlisberger, Bradshaw, Stewart?, Smith 2.0, M. Thomas, B. White, Celek, Eagles D, Feely

Without a #2 RB and with a couple of afterthought wide receiving options, Yelen serves as another sacrificial lamb in Harshbarger’s quest for the playoffs. Whether you view it as an opportunity to control your own destiny or as a bummer of a way to end a fantasy season, Harshbarger’s final 4 games are against 4 of the top 6 teams in our league, and he hasn’t done himself many favors in the point scoring department in order to win any playoff tiebreakers. Nevertheless, by Week 2, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see him sitting at 6-4, but by the time Freeman and Blount have had their way with Carolina, that’s exactly where he’ll be.

Final score: 108-81.

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

Garland’s Giants (5-4) over Meyers’ Cowboys (6-3)

Suggested Line-Ups:

NYG: E. Manning, CJ2K, St. Jackson, D. Bryant, J. Maclin, B. Marshall, Hernandez, Ravens D, Akers

Vs.

Dal: Garrard, Turner, F. Jackson, D. Jackson, D. Bess, T.O., Shiancoe, Lions D, Folk

This could have been the game of the week if I was more confident that the winner of the game of the week could serve as the upset of the week. But I’m not. So let’s find 5 reasons why I think Garland starts making his run towards the top of the NFC standings.

#1. Eli Manning strikes again.

He’s had 6 pretty good games and 2 really bad games, and I’m not sure how this one would fall into the bad category. In the last game against Dallas (which was literally 1 game ago for the Giants?), he threw for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns, and it’s not as if the Cowboys have gotten any better since then.

#2. No Aaron Rodgers.

Some crucial piece of Meyers’ team has been on a bye for what feels like each of the past 37 weeks, and now it’s Rodgers’ turn. Coming off a bye at home against the worst secondary in the NFL, David Garrard could potentially be a top 10 fantasy QB this week, but I’m not buying it. I think the Jags win, but I think it’s the MJD show.

#3. Brandon Marshall is due.

He’s 4th in the NFL in targets and only has 1 touchdown. Only one other player in the top 25 in targets is lacking multiple touchdowns, and I have a feeling Miami will be playing from behind. Translation: Marshall will get a dozen targets, 6-10 receptions, and will break one of them for a score.

#4. Chris Johnson is due.

If I believe in Brandon Marshall, then I sure as hell believe in the best running back in the NFL coming off of a bye week.

#5. Bad week for Turner.

It’s my theory that running backs don’t do very well on short weeks. I have no evidence to support this theory, but I do have evidence that Turner has had his share of poor performances already this season, and I feel as though he’s going to struggle against the Ravens.

X-Factor: Eagles wide receivers

If Maclin outplays Jackson or if they virtually break even, this should end favorably for Garland. My only fear is that Meyers could squeak out a win if D Jax outscores Maclin by 20.

Final: It should be another high scoring affair for both of these teams, but with Garland at full strength and Meyers without Rodgers and the Saints D combining for 60 points, I have to assume Garland pulls it off. Score: NYG 119-107.

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

Gideon’s Bears (4-5) @ Montgomery’s Rams (7-2)

Suggested Line-Ups:

Chi: Brady, McCoy, F. Jones, Nicks, Smith 1.0, Jac. Jones, Winslow, Chiefs D, Bironas

Vs.

StL: Orton, Gore, Rice, Megatron, Thomas, Ward, Keller, Giants D, Reed

If Montgomery wins, he remains at least 2 games on the good side of the playoff cut line with 4 weeks left to play and nearly assures himself a spot in the playoffs while Gideon would move into a situation in which winning all of his remaining games might not even be enough to get him to the playoffs. (Speaking of playoffs, I still need a good nickname for the 6 guys that get to compete in our postseason. Maybe someday my blog will get enough attention that I could get sponsors, because I like the sounds of the Yuengling 6-Pack.) However, if Gideon pulls off the upset, the NFC standings get all muddied up with 5 teams sitting somewhere between 7-3 and 5-5. At least it should be a good game to decide which of those scenarios is in play.

Breakdown:

QB: I think the Patriots and Broncos both win this week, and both teams are going up against good rush defenses, which means if they’re going to win, it’s going to have to be the quarterbacks. I do think Orton will have a slightly better day because Denver throws the ball without ceasing, so he’s bound to rack up more yardage than Brady. Slight edge: Montgomery.

(Sidebar: Did you know Brady is ranked 9th among fantasy quarterbacks and 6th in QB rating? Does that seem high to anyone else based on the lack of love he’s getting this year? Reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated. True, he hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in a game yet this season, but he has thrown for a TD in every game, and has 0 turnovers in 6 of his 8 games. When guys like Bill Simmons overreact to Patriot losses by saying that Colt McCoy (176 yards, 0 passing TDs) outplayed Tom Brady (224 yards, 2 passing TDs), I have to wonder why they don’t put the blame on the lack of a competent defense or running game. New England is the 2nd highest scoring team in the NFL, and yet everyone hates Brady. New England is the bizarro San Diego Chargers where the team is under .500 and people are seriously talking about Philip Rivers for MVP. I don’t understand it. Is it because of Brady’s hair? It has to be, because he’s still a great quarterback.)

RB: For Montgomery, Rice and Gore are both going up against respectable rushing defenses. With the added rest of a bye week and playing in a game I’m pretty sure they should win, I think Gore will have a really solid game. Because he’s facing the better foe on short rest and because McGahee has gotten double digit looks in his last four games, I’m going to assume Ray Rice has a fairly average day. 36 points is my rough estimate for the combo (23 and 13 if I must be specific.) For Gideon, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if McCoy matches or surpasses Gore’s production, but Felix Jones is a fantasy liability. Much like Roy Williams, he showed signs of life for 2 weeks, and has been completely unserviceable since then. But with the last of the bye weeks upon us, Gideon has no other choice but to play Felix in lieu of Brandon Jackson. This could be his death knell. Edge: Montgomery.

WR: With Stafford likely out for the remainder of the season, it should be interesting to see if Megatron is able to still produce at all with Drew Stanton at the helm. Stanton has thrown all of 1 TD in the past 2 years…but it was an 87 yard pass to Calvin Johnson in Week 6. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I think it was an anomaly, and that the entire Lions passing game is going to struggle mightily against a statistically solid Bills secondary.

With Austin Collie out with a concussion and Roy Williams effectively out due to worthlessness, Montgomery is forced to start Demaryius Thomas, who hasn’t done anything since his Week 2 surprise. This basically leaves him to put all his chickens in Hines Ward’s basket, which is a basket that has only contained 6 receptions for 25 yards and a TD in the past 2 weeks. Yikes. This is where Gideon should definitely make up for having to play Felix Jones, because Hakeem Nicks is going to destroy the Cowboys again, and I’m pretty sure the only way Carolina will move the ball on Sunday is by having their third string QB just chuck the ball downfield to Steve Smith, which is bound to work at least once. Anything Jacoby Jones does is just gravy. Big edge: Gideon.

TE: Despite making 3 more receptions than Dustin Keller to date, Kellen Winslow has been pretty worthless this season. I guess that’s what happens when you’re the only tight end in the league with more than 31 targets without a touchdown. He DID have his 2nd best game of the season against the Panthers earlier this season, and the Panthers DO give up a lot of points to opposing tight ends, but Keller is facing an even more tight end friendly defense, so until Winslow actually catches a ball in the end zone, I really can’t credit him too many points. Edge: Montgomery.

D/K: I don’t like the defense or kickers on either of these teams. Play the waiver wire. End of story.

Final: I’m rooting for Gideon and I don’t care who knows it, but it should be a really close game, and Montgomery finds ways to win these tight affairs while Gideon finds way to lose them. Score: StL 112-109.

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