Week 16 NFL & Fantasy Preview

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MVP Candidates, Playoff Picture, Starts & Sits, Eliminator Picks, and more…

While you were watching the amazing game between the Eagles and Giants, I was stuck in the DC market with the Redskins game on Fox, so naturally, I watched the entirety of the Jaguars/Colts game on CBS. After seeing Austin Collie suffer his 3rd concussion in 7 weeks, my first thought was “God damn it, Reggie Ray!” If you’ve never been drunk enough to sit through “Not Another Teen Movie” on Comedy Central at 2:00 in the morning, you frankly aren’t missing much. It’s essentially a less comical spin-off of the “Scary Movie” franchise, but instead of making fun of horror movies, it’s a parody of cheesy films about high school. I only bring it up because there’s a character in the movie named Reggie Ray whose sole purpose in the film is to suffer concussions. Here’s a brief clip from the film. I’ll warn you: the audio isn’t synched properly, there’s some profanity, and there may or may not be some exposed breasts. 

My second thought was that this guy’s career is effectively finished. Troy Aikman and Steve Young had about as many concussions as they had touchdown passes in their hall of fame caliber careers, but when it comes to injury risks, there’s a fine line between throwing the ball and having it thrown to you. Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me; Knock me out of a game three times with head injuries in a span of two months, and I’ll be hesitant to get hung out to dry on any ball ever again. Austin Collie will be back, and maybe even yet this season, but will he ever be as good as he was for the first half of the year? Unless he’s the bravest son of a bitch to ever lace up a pair of cleats, he’s bound to be a little gun shy for the rest of his career, is he not? The shame of the matter is that his multiple injuries have nothing to do with the “headhunter” hits that the league has been cracking down on. There’s nothing that the league can do to prevent these fluke injuries aside from reverting to the 30s, or whenever the hell it was that forward passes were illegal. It’s good to see they’re penalizing and fining the cheap shots, but don’t be surprised if one of these inadvertent knees to the helmet results in a nationally televised death on the field within the next year or two.

MVP Candidates

I need to update the list of MVP candidates that I compiled in my Week 12 preview. Back then, I was able to come up with a dozen guys who could conceivably win the MVP if all the right pieces fell into place. Five weeks later, it might be a stretch to consider more than 2 guys for the award, but I think the following 8 guys still have at least a remote possibility of winning it. The major criterion that I use is that he must be the most valuable player to his playoff team. At season’s end, this one requirement will narrow down the maximum possible number of MVP candidates to 12, and usually single-handedly ends up narrowing it down to 9 or fewer candidates. Is there one player from a team like the Bears, Jaguars, Jets, Giants, or (insert NFC West winner) that ten voters would unanimously agree the team could not win without? I highly doubt it. If you can’t decide whether Julius Peppers or Brian Urlacher is the most important player in Chicago, how can you consider either of them for most valuable player in the league?

Once it’s down to a list of less than a dozen possible candidates, the way to determine the rightful winner is by deciding which team would be most screwed if you replace the MVP candidate with a below average player at his position and put that team on a neutral field against an above average defense. Spoiler alert: all the candidates are QBs, so for argument’s sake, let’s say the QB in consideration is replaced by Carson Palmer and the team is placed on a neutral field against the Miami Dolphins. Whose team suffers the most? Using that logic, I’ve narrowed it down to these 8 guys:

”Game Managers” who won’t win the award, but whose teams would be sub .500 without them

#8. Joe Flacco (280/451, 3395 yards, 23 TD, 8 INT)

When the most recent player news update puts the following spin on him, he’s not exactly the best player in the league, but it’s worth mentioning that he’s had a solid season: “At this point we know what Flacco is; a steady performer who fares much better when he isn’t forced to be the focal point of the offense.”

#7. Matt Cassel (227/383, 2687 yards, 24 TD, 5 INT)

Two years ago, I was furious that we gave this guy a $60+ million contract, and I still wasn’t much of a fan of his until just recently, but Cassel has quietly put together a solid season. The Chiefs had 67 yards of total offense without him a week ago. This past Sunday, 11 days after an appendectomy, he leads them to a 14 point road victory against a team fighting for a playoff spot. It may be a homer pick, but they’re clearly a worse team without him in the game, and he has the 2nd best TD/INT ratio in the NFL.

#6. Matt Ryan (320/510, 3321 yards, 25 TD, 9 INT)

He’s having the type of year I think most of us expected him to have last year, and he’s leading one of the 2 best teams in the league, but I think he’s a fairly average quarterback. His overall stats and consistency are comparable to Josh Freeman’s, which is far from a negative statement, but it’s also far from MVP worthy. If the Falcons weren’t 12-2, he wouldn’t even be in the consideration.

Guys with stats that demonstrate their team’s lack of a rushing attack

#5. Drew Brees (391/571, 4122 yards, 31 TD, 19 INT)

The Saints are nothing without him, but he’s thrown way too many interceptions.

#4. Philip Rivers (309/464, 4141 yards, 29 TD, 11 INT)

I still don’t think he deserves it at all, but if he plays phenomenally in their final 2 games and they get a little help from Kansas City to sneak into the playoffs, something needs to be said for the guy who single-handedly kept them in the playoff hunt while averaging nearly 9 yards per pass attempt. You put Carson Palmer on that team with Malcom Floyd and Legadu Naanee and they’d be 3-11 at best.

#3. Peyton Manning (407/608, 4257 yards, 28 TD, 15 INT)

I saw a graphic during the first half of the Colts/Jaguars game that said Peyton Manning had passed his previous career high in passing attempts for the season. That’s jaw dropping stuff. He’s played in every single game since the start of the 1998 season. He’s thrown for 4000+ yards in 11 of the past 12 seasons. He’s had one of the best regular season careers for a QB in NFL history…and less than 85% of the way through this season, he’s already surpassed his career high in passing attempts. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of Kobe Bryant setting a new career high in field goal attempts during the 69th game of their 82 game season. You expect me to believe that Carson Palmer could effectively replace Peyton Manning in a season where he’s busting his ass like never before? He’s going to finish the season with his lowest passer rating in almost a decade, but if he can carry this broken and battered team into the playoffs again, it might be the most impressive season of his career.

Legitimate Candidates

#2. Michael Vick (208/329, 2755 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT ; 613 rush yards, 8 TD)

Believe me, I know the arguments against him, because before Week 12 I was completely opposed to the idea of him winning the MVP. But I’ve been converted. It’s absurd that every pro-Vick argument has to begin with “If you can ignore his off-the-field issues,” but if we can ignore that Kobe raped that girl in Colorado (2 Kobe references in 1 NFL blog post?), I think we can begin to forgive Vick too. I understand that he’s at the top of your 10 Most Wanted list if you’re involved with PETA or are in any way more obsessed with dogs than you are with the NFL, but he’s made life changes, and from an on-the-field standpoint, it’s impossible to deny that he’s one of the two most valuable players in the league. Before Week 12, I made a list of ifs that Vick had to fulfill throughout the rest of the season in order to even be considered for the award. So long as he doesn’t get injured or completely shit the bed against the Vikings and/or Cowboys, he will have passed all those tests with flying colors. He’ll have only played for 74% of Philadelphia’s season if he finishes it out uninjured, but his 74% has been better than the vast majority of others’ 100%. There’s no chance in hell the Eagles are 10-4 without him.

#1. Tom Brady (299/449, 3561 yards, 31 TD, 4 INT)

As I said 4 weeks ago: “The ideal description of an MVP: Best player on the best team in the league; a team that would probably be out of the playoff picture without him.” Since then, he’s beaten solid pass defenses like the Jets, Bears, and Packers by merely averaging nearly 40 points per game without throwing a single interception. He’s been damn near perfect this season and remains the best candidate for league MVP unless something crazy happens.

Playoff Picture

As I promised at the end of last week’s post, here are the playoff scenarios with 2 weeks to go. Half of the league is very simple, and a good portion of the rest of the league controls its own destiny to make the playoffs, but it’s the 6 teams who basically need to win out and get some help that make things interesting.

Clinched a playoff spot (4):
Atlanta
Chicago
New England
Pittsburgh

Clinches a playoff spot by winning 1 of final 2 games (4):
Philadelphia
New Orleans
Baltimore
New York Jets

Clinches a playoff spot by winning both remaining games (6):
New York Giants
St. Louis
Seattle
Green Bay
Kansas City
Indianapolis

Potential Spoilers (6):
Jacksonville – Win AFC South if they win one game and Indianapolis loses both remaining games OR win both games and Indianapolis loses one game. Also could earn wild card berth with 2 wins, 1 loss by Chargers, and 2 losses by either Baltimore or New York Jets.
San Diego – Win AFC West if they win one game and Kansas City loses both remaining games OR win both games and Kansas City loses one game. Also could earn wild card berth with 2 wins and 2 losses by Baltimore.
Oakland – Must win remaining games AND have Kansas City lose remaining games AND San Diego lose a game.
Tennessee – Must win remaining games AND have Jacksonville lose remaining games AND Indianapolis lose remaining games.
San Francisco – Must win remaining games AND have St. Louis beat Seattle OR Seattle lose to Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay – Must win remaining games AND have New Orleans lose to Atlanta OR New York Giants lose remaining games AND Green Bay lose to Chicago.

Better luck next year (12):
Washington
Dallas
Minnesota
Detroit
Carolina
Arizona
Miami
Buffalo
Cleveland
Cincinnati
Houston
Denver

A Rock and a Hard Place

Here’s a new segment before I wrap up with my eliminator and upset picks. I’ll go through each game on the schedule for Week 16 and suggest one player that’s usually a starter but you maybe consider benching if you have a plethora of options and one player you maybe consider playing if you’re in a bind.

Carolina @ Pittsburgh

Maybe Bench: Jonathan Stewart. The Steelers have the #1 Rush D in the NFL, and no other team is even close to them. I don’t care if it’s Chris Johnson or Arian Foster, you at least consider benching any running back against the Steelers. If you have 2 other starting running backs on your roster, you probably shouldn’t play Stewart.
Maybe Play: Emmanuel Sanders. 13 targets this past week against the Jets? He even had Revis on him for some of those plays. He’s quietly become a Davone Bess type of slot receiver for the Steelers, and considering he used to be a kick returner, you know he’s got the speed to score if he gets the ball in his hands. In 3 of the 4 weeks before they shut down John Skelton, Carolina had been allowing #3 WR options like Houshmanzadeh, Robiskie, and Morrah to put up some of their best numbers of the season, so I like Sanders. For what it’s worth, each of the past 2 weeks, I’ve gone all-in on a wide receiver on Thursday night: Pierre Garcon (6 receptions for 93 yards and 2 TDs) and Vincent Jackson (5 receptions for 112 yards and 3 TDs); and this is where I’m planting my flag this Thursday.

Dallas @ Arizona

Maybe Bench: All Cardinal running back options. You’re probably pissed off at all of them after horrific games this past week against an awful Panthers D, but the Cowboys will stack the box and make Skelton beat them, so I don’t know how they do any better this weekend.
Maybe Play: Tashard Choice. He received slightly more carries and targets than Felix Jones this past weekend, and I think the Cowboys will continue to phase Felix out of the picture in order to make sure he doesn’t suffer some sort of catastrophic injury. And for the record, you want the #1 RB option vs. Arizona.

New England @ Buffalo

Maybe Bench: Deion Branch. You can’t bench Brady or Welker because they’re Brady and Welker, but if you have a flex option comparable to Branch, I would go with him, because against an awful Bills rush D, it should be a Law Firm and Woodhead kind of day.
Maybe Play: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Matt Flynn reminded us that New England’s pass D isn’t all that great, and Fitzpatrick played reasonably well against them back in Week 3.

New York Jets @ Chicago

Maybe Bench: Ladanian Tomlinson. Hasn’t scored a TD since week 6, and Chicago has the 2nd best rush D in the league.
Maybe Play: Greg Olsen. The Jets have allowed a TD to opposing TE in 4 of their past 7 games. It’s not overwhelmingly promising, but I frankly wouldn’t be playing anyone on either of these teams aside from their D/ST if I can help it.

Baltimore @ Cleveland

Maybe Bench: Joe Flacco. He isn’t as good on the road as he is at home, and the Browns have really been shutting down opposing quarterbacks for the past month.
Maybe Play: Ben Watson. He was the most targeted receiver in McCoy’s return, and opposing tight ends have been having their way with Baltimore for the past month.

Tennessee @ Kansas City

Maybe Bench: Thomas Jones. Trust me. He peaked in weeks 2-7 and hasn’t done much of anything since, aside from a few vulture TDs. He still gets tons of touches for unknown reasons, but he’s hardly a viable fantasy option against anything resembling an average rush D.
Maybe Play: Kenny Britt. Collins targeted him 9 times last week and didn’t even look anyone else’s way more than 4 times. He’s got the opportunities and athleticism to make a significant impact in this game.

San Francisco @ St. Louis

Maybe Bench: Steven Jackson. When they played in Week 10, Jackson had one of the best games for a running back against the 49ers this season. However, they haven’t allowed an individual to rush for 100 yards against them yet this season. You’d have to have a few really good options in order to even consider benching him, but he’s maybe the 13th best RB best option this week.
Maybe Play: Danny Amendola. The 49ers are pretty weak against the pass, and Amendola has the most targets and receptions of anyone on the Rams roster by a significant margin.

Detroit @ Miami

Maybe Bench: Brandon Pettigrew. Aside from the major gaffe against Ben Watson and Jake Delhomme, the Dolphins have been fairly solid against TE all season, and Pettigrew’s only received 3 targets in each of the past 2 games.
Maybe Play: Detroit’s D/ST. Chad Henne isn’t very good, and Miami hasn’t been running the ball anywhere near as well as they should.

Washington @ Jacksonville

Maybe Bench: ??? I can’t in good faith recommend benching any regular fantasy starts in this game, since both defenses are awful.
Maybe Play: David Garrard. The Redskins secondary was actually doing relatively well for the past month until Kitna went for 300 yards and 2 TDs against them. Something isn’t quite right with MJD, so the Jaguars should put their playoff hopes on Garrard’s arm on a regular basis against Washington.

Indianapolis @ Oakland

Maybe Bench: Zach Miller. He’s shown signs of life in the past two weeks, but really hasn’t done much of anything since Week 7. I don’t know why owners are constantly tempted to start him.
Maybe Play: Donald Brown. They run the ball less than most teams in the NFL, but he ran it well last week against the Jaguars, and the Raiders rush defense is far from the best.

Houston @ Denver

Maybe Bench: Knowshon Moreno. No guarantees he even plays anyway, but the Texans’ defense has been pretty respectable against the rush this season.
Maybe Play: Tim Tebow. You’d have to be pretty desperate, but playing any starting QB against the Houston Texans is a pretty smart desperation move.

San Diego @ Cincinnati

Maybe Bench: Everyone in Cincinnati’s pass game. Hopefully you’re not dumb enough to start Palmer anyway, but you can’t trust any Bengals wide receivers to do anything this week. The Chargers are allowing fewer than 1 passing TD per game, and have held 8 of their 15 opponents under 200 passing yards. I guarantee there is much better potential on your waiver wire.
Maybe Play: Cedric Benson. I imagine most experts will be down on Benson this week and with good reason. Yes, the Chargers rush defense is solid, but Benson had relatively good games at home against the Steelers and Ravens. He is evidently one of those rare running backs with interesting home/road splits. In 7 games on the road, Benson has rushed for 338 yards (48 per game) and 2 TDs. In 7 games at home, Benson has rushed for 668 yards (95 per game) and 5 TDs. Since the Bengals are playing at home, he might be worth a flex start, or even a #2 RB if you’re hurting.

New York Giants @ Green Bay

Maybe Bench: Eli Manning. Green Bay has been relatively shutting down opposing quarterbacks for 2 months now, and in what is bound to be a frigid game, I imagine the Giants will rely rather heavily on Brahmad Bracobs to carry the load. I just don’t see a whole lot of upside with Eli this week.
Maybe Play: Donald Driver. The Giants have a good pass D, but the yardage that they allow primarily goes to opposing wide receivers. If Rodgers is back, I think Jennings should be a safe play, and Driver is a sneaky one.

Seattle @ Tampa Bay

Maybe Bench: Kellen Winslow. For all their faults, the Seahawks are in the top third of the league in defending opposing tight ends…and it’s not as if Kellen Winslow has been a must-start this season anyway.
Maybe Play: Marshawn Lynch. I think he’s a decent #2 RB option this week against a Bucs rush defense that has allowed at least 88 rushing yards in all but 1 game this season, and that has allowed 180+ rushing yards in back to back weeks against teams in the bottom third of the league at rushing. I think you want the guy getting the bulk of the carries against that front four.

Minnesota @ Philadelphia

Maybe Bench: Both defenses. This seems like another high scoring game, especially for the Eagles. Each defense probably ends up getting negative points.
Maybe Play: Visanthe Shiancoe. Philly has allowed opposing tight ends to haul in 10 TDs this season. He’s been worthless for the majority of the season, but he might do something on Sunday night.

New Orleans @ Atlanta

Maybe Bench: Any and all Saints running backs. I don’t trust any of them to actually get a majority of the carries, and the Falcons rush D is slightly above average anyway.
Maybe Play: Jimmy Graham. With the running backs likely to have a rough day and the Falcons secondary about as pass friendly as Steve Nash, virtually every Saints receiving option is worth consideration, including the tight end that made two touchdown grabs this past weekend.

Eliminator Suggestions

I went 3-1 for what feels like the 7th consecutive week, and I’m now 46-14 for the season. If you’ve been basing your eliminator life on my picks, there’s a remote possibility you’re still alive. If you’ve been making parlay bets based on my picks, I almost certainly owe you a lot of money. Having just broken down the playoff scenarios and determined some starts and sits for each game on the NFL slate, I think I’m pretty well prepared and long overdue for a 4-0 week.

#4. Jacksonville over Washington

Don’t be fooled by Rex Grossman’s performance last week; that was the first time Washington scored more than 20 points since that fateful Monday night that Vick destroyed them. Garrard and Jones-Drew against the Redskins’ last place defense should be more than enough to keep Jacksonville in the playoff picture. Jaguars 31-17.

#3.Philadelphia over Minnesota

Philadelphia fans are getting cockier than Boston/New England fans were from 2002-2008 and I would love nothing more than to see them lose this game, but there’s simply no chance the Vikings win a game in Philly without any real QB. They just don’t have the pieces necessary to outscore Michael Vick. Eagles 41-24.

#2. San Diego over Cincinnati

If the Chiefs win at 1:00, the Chargers will desperately need this win to keep their playoff hopes alive. If the Chiefs lose at 1:00, the Chargers will be playing their asses to try to take over first place in the AFC West with one game left to play. Either way, the urgency on the Chargers sideline will astronomically outweigh the Bengals’ desire to win a game for a coach that won’t be back next season. Chargers 35-14.

#1. Pittsburgh over Carolina

For the 2nd straight week, I’ve got the Thursday night game pegged as the most predictably lopsided game of the week. The Steelers move one step closer to locking up a first round bye with a victory, and the Panthers just won the only game left on their schedule that they had any chance of winning (unless Atlanta beats New Orleans and decides to rest their entire team because they’ll have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and Carolina somehow wins that game 3-0.) On top of what the teams have to play for, Carolina can’t throw the ball and Pittsburgh doesn’t let anyone run the ball. The only question is whether or not the Steelers will cover the 13.5 point spread. Steelers 38-13.

The Commish’s NFL Upset Special

Cleveland +3.5 over Baltimore

So what if it doesn’t meet my 4 point underdog standard? It’s still a significant upset at this point in the season. I like Colt McCoy, Peyton Hillis, and the Browns defense to keep Ray Rice from getting into any sort of fantasy playoff rhythm. It should be a tight, low-scoring game, and for whatever reason, I think Colt McCoy avoids committing the costly turnover. Browns 17-14.

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2010 Week 9 Preview

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Week 9 Analysis that mercifully has nothing to do with Randy Moss!

Everyone who’s anyone in the football world is talking about one of three topics right now: Shanahan’s shenanigans, Dallas’s completely unexpected 1-6 record, or Randy Moss’s pink slip from Minnesota. No one’s even talking about Brett Favre’s penis/chin/ankle anymore, that’s how badly people have tunnel vision for those other three topics. The thing is: no one cares about any of those topics anymore. Already this season we’ve heard about Shanahan in a power struggle with Haynesworth, we’ve heard about Randy Moss surprisingly being shown the door by a team in the middle of a season, and we’ve heard about how the Cowboys are horribly underperforming and that Wade Phillips should be fired. All this news is nothing new, so I won’t bore you with those topics any further than you’ve already been bored. If you really want to hear about any of that, just go turn on ESPN. You might have to wait up to 45 seconds for them to breeze through the segment where they almost pretend to care about the World Series, but you’ll definitely hear about one of those three topics within two minutes. In lieu of and because of those non-issues, I’ll be hitting on some of the topics that are flying under the radar in this week’s intro.

Kansas City and Oakland play in a meaningful game for both teams for the first time since the 5-3 Chiefs lost to the 7-1 Raiders on November 5, 2000, yet 90% of America will either be stuck with Indianapolis/Philadelphia or no game at all on CBS during that 4:00 time slot.
I can’t blame CBS for airing Manning vs. Vick, because it will absolutely get higher ratings than Cassel vs. Campbell, but this is clearly a once in a decade opportunity to see my favorite team play their arch rivals in a season in which both teams might finish .500 or better. I find it difficult to swallow that unless it comes down to the wire or a controversy, this game will get no national publicity before, during, or after it’s played aside from the obligatory “Maybe the (insert losing team) weren’t quite as good as we thought they were which leaves the (insert winning team) as the slight favorite to win a horrible AFC West” comment. I can already hear people trying to creep towards the back of the Kansas City bandwagon so they can abandon ship when my boys inevitably drop this game in Oakland.

There are an awful lot of overrated teams in the NFL right now.
Having just mentioned them, I feel Oakland has been catching the right teams at the right time, but their 4-4 record is nowhere near as hideously inflated as a couple of other teams. Look, I understand that 6 teams from each conference are required to compete in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean we have to pretend their records haven’t been a result of dumb luck, or that we have to pretend they have what it takes to win a Super Bowl. The biggest offenders are the New York Giants. Let’s flash back to the end of Week 3. People were calling for Tom Coughlin’s head after they started out the season with an unconvincing win over the Panthers and 2 beat downs courtesy of the Colts and Titans. They didn’t suddenly become the best team in the NFC over the course of the following 4 weeks, but rather got lucky enough to face 3 teams with the worst secondaries and pass blocking offensive lines in the NFL. As such, their wins over the Bears and the Texans were predictable, and I’m not so sure they beat Dallas if they don’t break Tony Romo’s clavicle, which leaves Detroit as the most impressive win on their resume. No disrespect to the Lions, because they’ve been in every game this season, and in an alternate universe where calls go their way, they’re sitting at 5-2 right now, but when a 1 possession win over a team led by Drew Stanton is the best thing on your resume, I refuse to believe you’re the best team in the NFC. This is precisely why I have them behind Atlanta, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Philadelphia in my power rankings, and I would even entertain arguments that they should be behind the Rams as well. 5-2 is nothing to sneeze at, and despite the fact that Seattle has a reputation for playing well at home, I fully expect the Giants to improve to 6-2 against Seattle’s 29th ranked pass defense and the offensive line that gives up more sacks than any team aside from Chicago, but I still think they’re a fraud. I also give an honorable mention for most overrated team to Tampa Bay, which has a 5-2 record despite a point differential of -27 and a resume which would have “most impressive win” as a 1 point last second win at home against the Rams. They get smacked by good teams, and they will get smacked @ Atlanta this weekend.

Carson Palmer sucks
One more quick point before I jump into the usual parts of my post, because it’s not a full weekend of NFL action if I haven’t spewed any hatred upon Carson Palmer. Did you see his stat line this week? Yes, he somehow got more fantasy points than Tom Brady, which I nauseatingly predicted, but look at his actual stats: 17 of 38 for 156 yards, 2 TD, and an Interception against a decent-to-average Dolphins secondary. It’s not THAT horrible, but it’s not good either. But, if you watch this clip you’ll see that he should have actually had 1 less completion, 1 less touchdown, 37 less yards, and 1 more interception:

Do the math and those are JaMarcus Russell numbers at best. The guy is terrible, but rumor has it he’s been playing with a horseshoe up his ass all season. People don’t get lucky against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As much as I hate them, I have to admit that they’re a solid team, and that when they lose games, they get out-performed, not out-lucked. I’ve been saying it all season, and now it’s time for my prediction to come true:Carson Palmer will set the record for most interceptions thrown in one half on Monday night against the Steelers. I can’t find the actual number anywhere. I know the record in an entire game is 8, but no coach in today’s league would leave a quarterback in there long enough to throw 6. However, I’ve never seen a veteran quarterback benched in the first half of a game for poor performance, and I’m saying he throws 4 picks in the first half. Write it down.

Speaking of picks, that conveniently segues into my Eliminator picks. Despite the season not even being 50% complete, our pool has been drained all the way down to one team. Mr. Dincher will be the proud recipient of $100 and possibly $115 if he ends up with the longest streak of the entire season (as opposed to the longest streak to start the season). That $15 “second place” prize along with my desire to finally see someone survive the entire season is more than enough reason for me to continue making weekly suggestions. This past weekend, I had my worst record of the season thus far by going 2-2. I honestly don’t know why I recommended Dallas, because I ended up actually gambling against them, so obviously I didn’t think they were that great of an option. Still, my top 4 picks on the season are 25-7 and have to at least be worth something considering that on average only 0.875 of my 4 picks are losers. I think this is going to be a pretty easy week, but there’s always one game that doesn’t go according to plan. Try to avoid it.

#4. Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati

Unless I’m unable to fight the urge to gamble for the sake of gambling, I’m only betting on one game this week and you’re looking at it. I’ve got $30 on Pittsburgh -4. If that isn’t enough to convince you, my power rankings have Pittsburgh at #4 and Cincinnati at #30, which is the biggest spread between two teams in a single game since the Ravens needed overtime to beat the Bills. Wait…that isn’t reassuring. Damn. There goes $30. At least I can count on Carson Palmer to play worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick did. I was worried there for a second. Plus, it’s a good thing you aren’t allowed to pick this one anyway since it’s a road team in a divisional game and I would have to kill you for breaking 2 of the 3 eliminator commandments on this game.

#3. New Orleans @ Carolina

What did I just say about road teams in divisional games? Whoops. Hey, did you know the Saints have scored twice as many points as the Panthers so far this season, that the Panthers have arguably the worst rushing attack in the NFL, and that the Saints have arguably the best pass defense in the NFL? That has to be enough for the Saints to come out and stomp the Panthers for giving them a scare earlier this year, right?

#2. Minnesota vs. Arizona

Remember what I said last week about the Bears and Cardinals? No? I’ll remind you:

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.

FYI, it’s Week 9, the Vikings have allowed 47 less rushing yards per game than the Bucs, and the Bean Man was only able to run for 50 yards against them last week. If I’m unable to fight the gambling bug, I might end up taking the under in this game, because I think Minnesota wins by a score of 24-7.

#1. Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay

The Bucs are an unsuccessful 2 point conversion against the Rams away from me being 7-0 picking their games against the spread. This week it’s Atlanta -8, and while I won’t actually bet on it because I probably need to take a Sunday off for the sake of my blood pressure, I don’t see how Atlanta doesn’t win this game by at least 2 scores. They’re better in virtually every aspect of the game except for a slightly worse pass defense than Tampa, which won’t much matter when Michael Turner is running for 150 yards and 2 scores and LeGarrette Blount is throwing right hooks on the sidelines.

The Commish’s NFL Upset Pick of the Week:

Cleveland +4 vs. New England

This line opened at 5.5 and has steadily been crawling in a manner that suggests the Patriots might crap the bed in this game. By putting up a goose egg for 4 quarters, the Jets ruined my theory about teams having their best game of the season after their bye week, but a bye week doesn’t change the fact that Sanchez doesn’t throw the ball as well in cold or windy conditions. Detroit looked good at home after their bye, and I expect similar results from Cleveland. Peyton Hillis has had an extra week to rest a nagging thigh injury, and Colt McCoy has had an extra week of working with the first team offense and should have a decent game now that he won’t be facing one of the top five passing defenses in the NFL, as he had in his first two games. However, all bets are off if Mangini is a giant sack of douche and ends up starting Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme. At that point, I would have to pick Miami +5 @ Baltimore simply based on the weird fact that they’re 4-0 on the road while playing winless football at home. I really don’t like that pick though, so hopefully McCoy gets the nod against the Patriots, who are playing in a classic sandwich game after facing Randy Moss and before going up against the Steelers.

League Standings:

#1. Montgomery’s Rams (7-1) 891.1 points
#2. A’s Bengals (5-3) 933.6 points
#3. Duncan’s Packers (5-3) 951.1 points
#4. Miller’s Chiefs (5-3) 904 points
#5. Nelson’s Steelers (5-3) 833.8 points
#6. Garland’s Giants (5-3) 808.2 points
#7. Meyers’ Cowboys (5-3) 760.4 points
#8. Gideon’s Bears (4-4) 811.7 points
#9. Harshbarger’s Chargers (4-4) 725 points
#10. Dincher’s Dolphins (3-5) 910.4 points
#11. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (2-6) 814.2 points
#12. Travelpiece’s 49ers (2-6) 811.5 points
#13. Yelen’s Texans (2-6) 666.4 points
#14. Damn’s Bills (2-6) 618.5 points

Not a whole lot of change since last week aside from the fact that Montgomery continues to win and Dincher continues to lose. I feel like I should change Dincher’s team to be the San Diego Chargers, because much like the Chargers in the NFL, they might be 3-5 right now, but I wouldn’t ever want to play against them in a must-win situation.

Before I dive into the games of the week, I have to quickly recap my league picks from last week. I had Montgomery winning 114-81 and he actually won 115.8-80.9. I had Duncan winning 106-92 and he actually won 107.2-89.1. I also had Nelson winning by a score of 112-101 and he ended up winning much more convincingly than that, but 3-0 with 2 of the games being almost exactly right is pretty awesome.

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

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

Harshbarger’s Chargers (4-4) over Damn’s Bills (2-6)

Suggested Line-ups:

SD: Freeman, Jacobs, Blount, S. Johnson, Jennings, Welker, Moeaki, Raiders D, Janikowski

Vs.

Buf: Sanchez, Lynch, R. Brown, Evans, Walter, A. Johnson, Olsen, Seahawks D, Kasay

Andre Johnson is hurting and San Diego has a solid defense anyway. Each of the past 2 weeks, there’s been one wide receiver on Damn’s roster who unexpectedly scored multiple touchdowns…and in each of the past 2 weeks, that guy was on his bench. Andre and Chris Cooley are the only semblance of consistent production on this team, and in this particular week, one of those guys is on a bye, and the other one may be playing at less than 90% health. In match-ups like that, I have to support the guy who’s been playing Josh Freeman and Steve Johnson for weeks without fear.

Final: SD 107-72.

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

Duncan’s Packers (5-3) over Montgomery’s Rams (7-1)

Suggested Line-ups:

GB: Cassel, Benson, Mendenhall, Boldin, Austin, M. Williams, Gates, Vikings D, Gostkowski

Vs.

StL: Campbell, Rice, Ivory, Megatron, Ward, R. Williams, Keller, Bears D, Crosby

I feel as if I’ve written about Duncan’s team in just about every week. I suppose I’ve grown attached to this team since I predicted him to win the league. That being the case, I like his chances this weekend of moving within one game of the NFC lead, and here are 5 reasons why:

#1. The absence of Fryle Gorton

If you can figure out a better way to Brangelina their names, power to you, but Montgomery’s top two performers, Frank Gore and Kyle Orton, are both on a bye this week. That duo has been responsible for 36.25% of his team’s fantasy production thus far this season, and as such, they will be dearly missed.

#2. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Cincinnati

This is an analysis John Madden or Jon Gruden could make, but Mendenhall is a much better fantasy option when he scores a touchdown. When rushing for a TD, Mendenhall has scored at least 15.5 fantasy points. When failing to rush for a TD, Mendenhall has failed to score more than 7.7 fantasy points. Fortunately for his owners, he has carried the ball to pay dirt in 5 of Pittsburgh’s 7 games. Fortunately for his owners this week, the Bengals have allowed at least one rushing touchdown in each of their past 5 games. Not to mention, it’s about time the Steelers get back to Steelers football and start pounding the ball with their 225 pounder. Methinks he scores at least one TD, probably two.

#3. Roy E. Williams is In E. Ffective

A lot of people started committing to him again after his 2 TD performance against the Texans, and he had a couple more solid games after that, but the honeymoon is over, the clavicle is broken, and the replacement isn’t looking his way. Roy Williams has 6 targets in the last 8 quarters of football. That’s downright pathetic. In last week’s game against the Jaguars, a game in which the Cowboys were behind from the beginning and were throwing the ball all day, Roy Williams only had 3 targets, good for 8th on Kitna’s hit list behind Austin (12), Witten (12), Bryant (9), Felix Jones (4), Tashard Choice (4), Sam Hurd (4), and the Jaguars defense (4). The latter 4 of those 7 just make it comical to see how much Kitna isn’t interested in throwing to Roy, but the first 3 are indicative of the fact that he feels he has much more reliable targets.

#4. Vikings D vs. Arizona

The Vikings have forced the fewest number of turnovers in the NFC, but the Cardinals have given it away more than anyone in the NFC. The Vikings have the fewest sacks in the NFL, but the Cardinals give out sacks better than Santa Claus. Something has to bend, and I presume it will be Derek Anderson’s neck under the weight of Jared Allen’s body.

#5. Dustin Keller vs. Detroit

If I were Matthew Berry, he would be on my hate list this week. 95% of the time, I love me the Keller, but this isn’t a good match-up for him. You’re probably thinking: “Really? When was the last time that anyone facing Detroit wasn’t a phenomenal match-up? The commish has gone crazy.” No I haven’t, and don’t call me Shirley. Wait, what? The Lions have yet to allow a opposing tight end to haul in 6 catches or 60 yards, and that includes such tight ends as Greg Olsen, Brent Celek, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jermichael Finley, Kevin Boss, and Chris Cooley. And in fact, only 2 of those 6 caught a TD in their otherwise disappointing afternoons.

X-Factor: Will Antonio Gates play?

A projection of 26.8 points? I realize he’s been the #1 tight end by an extremely considerable margin and that his opponent this week is one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL, but the dude is having serious pain in both of his feet/ankles and might not even play this week. Considering he’s only scored more than 21 points in a week once this season, I think the projections should really be scaled back about a dozen points until we actually know for sure he’s going to play. A potential 30 point swing depending on whether or not a guy is going to start is the definition of an X-Factor, and Duncan doesn’t even have a back-up option on his roster in the event that he’s a last minute scratch. Whether or not he plays will determine not only if San Diego wins (I think they don’t) but also if Duncan can win this match-up (I think he does).

Final score: GB 102-90. Add 15 to Duncan’s score if Gates plays at least ¾ of his game.

~~~~~~~Game of the Week (in which someone is going to get screwed)~~~~~~~

Meyers’ Cowboys (5-3) vs. Gideon’s Bears (4-4)

The projected estimates for these teams are way too conservative. Each owner has 5 amazing matchups. First to 130 wins; and whoever loses will probably be pissed that they scored the 4th most points this week and managed to lose. Without having done much more than a quick surface analysis on this one, I think Gideon comes out on top because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and Fred and DeSean Jackson might be weak links this week for Meyers.

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

Miller’s Chiefs (5-3) vs. Garland’s Giants (5-3)

Suggested Line-ups:

KC: Flacco, Forte, Foster, Garcon, Bowe, Fitzgerald, T. Gonzalez, Jets D, Bryant

Vs.

NYG: E. Manning, D. Sproles, R. Williams, Maclin, D. Bryant, Marshall, Hernandez, Ravens D, Dawson

I would like to start off by pointing out that I made these schedules before the 2009 season and haven’t altered them since. That being said, I can’t even pretend to deny the fact that I’m extremely lucky to be facing Garland in Week 9. He’s got 6 guys on a bye, and he’s still going to give me a run for my money. Could you imagine if we were both 6-3 and faced each other next week with both of our rosters at full strength, save for a pair of back-up running backs for the Chargers? It would have to be one of the most intriguing regular season match-ups our league has ever witnessed. As it stands, we’ve still got 2 of the 3 teams I predicted to be at the top of the standings in the pre-season going head to head in an inter-conference game at a point in the season where the winning team takes a giant step towards a playoff spot.

That was an amazing run-on sentence. I think I’m just going to do my entire breakdown in run-on sentences.

Breakdown:

QB: Against a pathetic Seahawks secondary, Eli should have a slightly better day than Flacco will have against a frisky Dolphins team that never fails to impress on the road. Edge: Garland.

RB: Two of the top ten fantasy running backs in the league, one of which is facing the worst rush defense in the NFL, should easily beat two guys ranked in the 30s which are only starting because CJ2K and Steven Jackson are on byes. Big edge: Miller.

WR: Though all six receivers involved are facing difficult secondaries, Fitzgerald, Bowe, and Garcon all appear to be hitting their peaks at the same time and should outscore the trio of an underperforming Brandon Marshall, an unpredictable Dez Bryant, and a decent Jeremy Maclin who becomes a lot better if DeSean Jackson is back on the field. Edge: Miller.

TE: It would appear that Aaron Hernandez has been one of the biggest benefactors from the absence of Randy Moss in New England, but he has yet to score a touchdown, so I’m going to have to give the advantage to the aging Tony Gonzalez who has 3 TDs thus far, despite not having done much in terms of yardage. Slight edge: Miller.

Def: If you didn’t previously know that the Lions are the 6th highest scoring team in the NFL, you do now, and I am concerned enough about the fact that Revis Island has yet to make an appearance this season that I think the Jets defense will play even more poorly than a Ravens defense which hasn’t even remotely been the defense it once was. Slight edge: Garland.

End result: Considering half of his regular starting line-up is on a bye, it terrifies me that this match-up will end up being as close as it will, because it indicates how impressive Garland’s team will be at full strength throughout the rest of the season, meaning that even though he probably loses this weekend, I fear Garland’s Giants are now the team to beat in our league, but I assume that it would only be fair if he won the league after the way he got nothing to show for an amazing year last season. That was definitely the best run-on sentence. 94 words. Guess I’ll give Garland 94 points in this game. Final score: KC 117-94.