Let the Real Fun Begin

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Prepare For a Wild Wild Card Weekend

After a roller coaster of a season, we’ve reached the part of the year which makes 99% of would-be prognosticators hang their heads in shame: looking back on pre-season NFL predictions. I’ve discovered that if I had just repeated my 2009 pre-season NFL predictions as my 2010 pre-season NFL predictions, I would have gotten eight of the twelve playoff teams correct, including five of the division winners.

Instead, I went and made new predictions at the beginning of this season and got seven of the twelve playoff teams correct, only two of which were the correct division winners (Indianapolis and Kansas City). Of the teams that received a first round bye, New England was the only one I even had making the playoffs, and I had them as a wild card team behind the Jets. I could still technically get my Super Bowl prediction right (Green Bay over Indianapolis), but it doesn’t look promising. What an embarrassment. Good thing I don’t have to stick with the picks I made in August, because it’s going to be difficult for Dallas to make it to the NFC Championship game.

Every year, I have lofty aspirations of going 11-0 against the spread in the playoffs. If memory serves correctly, I’ve never even made it through Wild Card weekend unscathed. Last season, I lost the first game of the playoffs, even though I had Bengals (-3) over Jets pegged as my lock of the weekend. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot since last January, and I’m ready to start this year off with four winners.

Saturday 4:30 ET: Seattle (+10.5) vs. New Orleans

In 4 of the past 5 seasons, there has been at least one division winner generally perceived as un-deserving of a home game against a superior team that ended up winning that game. In 2006, a 12-4 Jacksonville team went into 10-6 New England and got slaughtered. In 2007, Dallas went into Seattle and Romo’s career as a holder for field goals abruptly ended. In 2009, Saturday proved to be quite a shocker as 9-7 Arizona and 8-8 San Diego held serve at home against 11-5 Atlanta and 12-4 Indianapolis, respectively. And last year, the Cardinals did it again with a somewhat surprising home win over Green Bay. Statistically, none of these games made any sense, and comparatively, this potential upset makes less sense than any of them, but I’m confidently filing this pick under “crazy shit always happens on wild card weekend.”

Score: NO 24-21.

Saturday 8:00 ET: Indianapolis (-2.5) vs. New York

I’m going to throw a lot of stats at you, but here’s the point: the key to the Jets’ success is getting pressure on the quarterback and keeping pressure off of Sanchez.

1) In the four games this season in which they’ve allowed 21+ points (2-2 record), the Jets have averaged just two sacks per game and allowed 2.5 passing TDs per game.

2) Peyton Manning was only sacked once every 43 passing attempts, best among starting QBs, and only trailed Tom Brady in terms of passing TDs this season.

3) Prior to Week 17’s game against Brian Brohm and Levi Brown, the not-as-good-as-advertised Jets pass defense had been allowing three pass TDs for every ball it intercepted.

4) Since starting the season on fire, Mark Sanchez has had a TD/INT ratio of 8/13; and those numbers would be significantly worse if he hadn’t had the luxury of facing the Texans in Week 11.

5) Among the 31 starting quarterbacks who qualified, Mark Sanchez had the 27th best passer rating. Even I don’t know how to calculate passer rating, but when you’re sandwiched between guys like Chad Henne, Matt Hasselbeck, Derek Anderson, and Jimmy Clausen, it can’t be a good thing.

6) The Jets allowed 13.4 points per game at home, but allowed 24.6 points per game on the road.

I could go on, but the moral of the story is that the Jets defense has been over-rated since the day it signed Antonio Cromartie, it has been over-matched on the road, it struggles against QBs who don’t take sacks, and it doesn’t have a quarterback competent enough to make up for its shortcomings. Also, you never bet against Peyton Manning

Score: IND 31-17.

Sunday 1:00 ET: Kansas City (+3) vs. Baltimore

As a Chiefs fan, this is the match-up I was hoping for. Lest you think I’m full of shit and have only in the past few hours talked myself into this pick, here’s the twitter dialogue I had going on December 26th with the only other Chiefs fan I know in the world:

Alex: @kerrancejames for some strange reason, I have a really good feeling about us in the playoffs. Unlike ’03 when we got blasted

Me: @ppbbww I think our best path to the Super Bowl is as a 4 seed against BLT in 1st round and NE in the semis. We can’t run on PIT or NYJ.

Me: @ppbbww But we definitely have some 2007-08 Arizona Cardinals “why not us?!” potential going on. No one will be giving us any chance.

Alex: @kerrancejames if pit is w/o Troy I wouldn’t mind them, but I agree. #chiefswill

Me: @ppbbww there’s no way Troy won’t go in the playoffs, especially if they get a first round bye. I think they’re the best of the AFC 6. #gag

I only added that last tweet as foreshadowing for next week when I pick the Steelers over the Colts regardless of the line.

I like the Chiefs for four major reasons:

1) In games against teams in the top half of the league in rushing yards, the Ravens have allowed over 100 yards per game. Only one of those teams ranked in the top six in rushing (NYJ – 116 rush yards vs. BAL in Week 1), and the Chiefs had the top rushing offense in the NFL by a somewhat considerable margin.

2) Despite getting smoked by Oakland in Week 17, the Chiefs finished the regular season with a home record of 7-1 and an average score of 24 – 14.75. Despite getting to play @ Carolina, the Ravens finished the regular season with a road record of 5-3 and an average score of 21.1 – 17.25.

3) He’s had a great passer rating since starting out the season with a TD/INT ratio of 1/5, but if he’s been on your fantasy team or you live within 50 miles of Baltimore and have been forced to watch all their games, you’ve probably noticed that Flacco hasn’t been as good as his numbers and has taken a lot of sacks leading up to a game against the AFC’s sack leader, Tamba Hali.

4) ESPN will undoubtedly try to sell you on the fact that Cassel has never played in the playoffs and that Flacco has won three road playoff games in his brief career, but he certainly wasn’t responsible for any of those wins. In five career games in the playoffs (all on the road), Flacco’s numbers are 57 completions on 120 attempts (47.5%) for 660 yards, 1 TD, and 6 INT.

Ray Rice has had two amazing games this season and a whole slew of mediocre performances. If the front four can hold him in check, the Chiefs should be able to win a game that may very well have 70+ rush attempts and fewer than 40 pass attempts.

Score: KC 20-17.

Sunday 4:30 ET: Green Bay (+3) @ Philadelphia

After all the stats I’ve been throwing around, this one is just a gut call. I really think it should be a PK, so I’m taking the points. Just for good measure, I’ll add one stat that makes me lean towards Green Bay: Since Week 8, despite losing three games, the Packers have an average margin of victory of 13 points per game, and have held opponents to just 11.6 points per game. Of course, only one of those games was against a team that can score in bunches like the Eagles (New England), but I think the Packers pass D is good enough and opposing teams have been figuring out Michael Vick well enough that they’ll be able to stay in this game just long enough for Aaron Rodgers to do something horribly un-clutch, such as his OT sack/fumble last year in the playoffs.

Score: PHI 28-27.

Fantasy Suggestions

In case you’re doing a playoff scramble (Gridiron Playoff Challenge with ESPN), I’ll let you know who I see as the 5 best options at each position for Wild Card Weekend.

In order from best to “worst”

QB: P. Manning, D. Brees, M. Vick, A. Rodgers, M. Cassel

RB: P. Thomas, J. Charles, L. McCoy, L. Tomlinson, R. Rice

WR: G. Jennings, P. Garcon (Wayne on Revis Island), M. Colston, S. Holmes, D. Bowe

TE: J. Tamme, J. Graham, T. Moeaki, T. Heap, D. Keller

DEF: New Orleans, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Baltimore, Kansas City

 

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Week 14 NFL & Fantasy Preview

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Which Type of Fan Are You?

By my count, there are seven groups into which you can categorize every sports fan. Most fan bases tend to oscillate between several of these states from week to week or season to season, but they ultimately fall somewhere on this spectrum: 

Apathetic / Know-Nothing Party
It bothers me that I even have to include this group on my list of fans, yet we have to reserve a spot for the people who claim to have an infatuation for a certain team when they’re doing well but couldn’t even tell you who their starting quarterback is if you held a gun to their head. I respect the people who tell you up front they don’t really follow the sport intensely and they simply support a specific team for their geographic location or the color of their jerseys in the same manner that I respect the girl at the bar who confesses to being in a committed relationship before you start pumping drinks into her. But I have no respect for the guy who acts like the biggest fan of a team but couldn’t even contribute to a conversation about said team. If I ever open my own sports bar, you’ll be required to pass a sports IQ test in order to qualify for prime seating.

Eternal Optimist
This is the group you just have to feel bad for. They tend to say things like “If we win out and the Patriots lose the rest of their games…” or “If our kick returner gets it going…” or “Just wait until next season when…” or “Clausen looked great in the pre-season!” These are the fans that keep track of moral victories and don’t understand the concept of rooting for draft position. But God bless them, because without the eternal optimists, the Lions, Browns, Panthers, and Bills wouldn’t have sold a single season ticket in the past decade.

Rational Realist
Commonly and incorrectly labeled as pessimists, these are the fans that recognize their team’s strengths and weaknesses and formulate their expectations accordingly. What separates this group from the optimists and the pessimists is that they hope for the best for their team, whereas the others can’t help but expect either the best or the worst. In my experience, this is the group that tends to know their team in and out and at the very least is capable of carrying on a conversation about a number of the key players on other teams throughout the league. While they inevitably waver between optimism and pessimism, these are the fans you would want to strike up a conversation with at a sports bar, which is convenient, because most of the regulars at your local sports bar would fall into this category.

Uber-Pessimist
You may know them as Doomsday Theorists, but this is the group that always expects something to go wrong. Scholars have yet to agree upon the source of this wide-spread self-flagellation. It seems most prevalent among teams with a history of playoff futility and stomach punches (Scott Norwood, Earnest Byner, Gary Anderson, Kevin Dyson, Tuck Rule/Immaculate Reception), but it has also been known to inexplicably afflict fan bases of successful franchises, such as the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees. Whatever the cause of their pain, watching a game with these fans is more insufferable than talking to a recently heartbroken friend. All they want to talk about is how things went horribly wrong, how they should have seen it coming, and how they’ll never know true love again. Until their favorite team makes it through an entire season without losing a game or giving up a point, they’ll always expect the worst.

Loose Cannon
These are the fans that decide every September “I’m going to allow 53 grown men to dictate what frame of mind I’ll be in on a week-to-week basis for the next 17-22 weeks.” If you’re reading this post, I think we can agree we all get a little too involved in something we ultimately have no control over, but I’m talking about the people who are still pissed off at the world on the Thursday following Week 4 for a bad call at the end of the 3rd quarter. I can’t believe we chastised Stevie Johnson for being upset about being the person who actually dropped that ball two weeks ago, but we don’t put people into rehab for some of the things they would do on a weekly basis if they rooted passionately for the Panthers this year. I’ll be the first to admit that I get fired up over sports and video games way more than I should, but give me five minutes and a beer to relax and I’ll do just that. Some of these fans literally terrify me.

Superstitious Supporter
Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, so long as you don’t fall in the Know-Nothing Party, we all have a little bit of this in our blood. I wear the same Dante Hall jersey every week and only wash it after the luck has run out (and after 3 straight wins, it’s probably getting a little gross). If my team is on a hot streak, I would wet my pants before I got up to use the bathroom, because we all know that would ruin their mojo. I’m sure there are other things I’ve done out of superstition, but this is the first season in a while that has been worth rooting for, so it’s difficult to remember. And I think I’m relatively low-key with my superstitions compared to others. Some people in this category are out of control. I’ve known people to perform the exact same ritual for weeks on end to the point that they were unwilling to watch the game with me or even invite me into their home on game-day because it isn’t part of their routine. Did I mention that these people have absolutely no control over what happens on the field? Don’t tell that to them though. They’re the reason their team has a winning record, and you can’t prove otherwise.

Conspiracy Theorist
We’ve all made jokes about refs with an agenda or the league being fixed, but most of us don’t actually believe any of that. However, it seems that every year there’s one team whose fan base legitimately believes that the NFL wants nothing more than to see them fall apart at the seams. This year, those fans reside in Western Pennsylvania.

The irony of the matter is that going into this season without their star QB, many fans in Pittsburgh were in uber-pessimist mode despite winning 2 of the last 5 super bowls. Now we’re 75% of the way through the season, they’re somehow sitting at 9-3, and all their fans can talk about is how unfair it is that Harrison gets fined and no one else does. Before the most important win of their entire regular season had even drawn to a close, the texts and tweets demanding fines and suspensions for Ngata and McClain were already flying in. I’m sick of hearing statements that start out “If Harrison had made either of those hits…” because if Harrison HAD made either of those hits, Ben would have a concussion and Heath Miller would be dead.

It seems as though Harrison has finally started to turn a corner, though, because he made a perfectly legal hit on Flacco on Sunday night. It was textbook. And I guarantee the people who dole out the fines were watching it like a proud papa who handed out plenty of spankings as his kids were growing up. He still has some headhunter tendencies, but if he continues to play how he has the past few weeks, the fines should stop rolling in. But even if they don’t stop, they really aren’t having any effect on his bank account. $125,000 out of $13,357,280 isn’t exactly a life-altering penalty. Maybe they are making an example of Harrison, but maybe they’re doing it because he can handle it.

Should the hits on Roethlisberger and Miller have been penalties and/or fines? My honest opinion on the matter is that Ben brings it upon himself by being so resilient. You have to beat the hell out of him in order to sack him, and the refs know that. They can’t treat him the same way they treat a guy like Peyton Manning who trips over his own happy feet on the way to a sack sometimes. Just look at how difficult it was to bring Ben down on that 1st and goal play when he was wrapped up but got away from Suggs and flung the ball away. That’s a sack on any other quarterback in the league…not just because any other quarterback would go down, but because any other quarterback would have been whistled down before then. On the Broncos’ last drive against the Chiefs on Sunday, Kyle Orton was wrapped up and was able to fling the ball out, seemingly from behind his back before he went down. Moreno caught the ball and was on his way to some legit yardage before the refs whistled the play dead and ruled it a sack. I’m almost positive they don’t blow that play dead against the Steelers, because if the refs are biased towards the Steelers in any fashion, it’s that they give Ben the benefit of the doubt with his ability to get out of a defender’s grasp. Inevitably, he’s going to take shots to the head and the refs are going to miss them.

Regarding the hit on Heath Miller, that’s a solid, legal hit if Miller can keep his feet under him, but because he was falling to his knees as the hit was coming, he ended up taking a shot to the helmet. That’s the ridiculous thing about trying to enforce these rules. Especially on the quarterbacks, the defenders are limited to such a small allowable target zone, and that zone is constantly moving and changing. Remember when Anquan Boldin had his nasal cavity destroyed by a helmet to helmet hit because he was falling down as the defender tried to hit him in the chest? Shit like that just happens. It certainly was a vicious shot though. Did you see the way Baltimore immediately signaled for someone on Pittsburgh’s sideline to come to Miller’s aid? His capa was damn near detated from his body. In honor of the recent Harry Potter movie’s release, henceforth, I propose we refer to him as Nearly Headless Heath.

One quick aside to the Steelers conspiracy theorists before I jump into my picks for the week: if you honestly believe the NFL is out to get you and that Goodell wants nothing more than to see Pittsburgh fail, I dare you to propose your theory to fans in Seattle (Super Bowl XL) or Miami (Roethlisberger’s fumble in week 7).

Eliminator Suggestions:

The really disappointing thing about my eliminator suggestions from last week is that my straight predictions were 12-3 on the week, but 2 of those 3 losses were among the 4 games I suggested for the challenge. I can’t believe the Colts have lost 3 straight games. Has that even happened since Peyton’s rookie season? And how do the Chargers get swept by a team that scored a total of 20 points in the previous 2 weeks combined? And both of those teams lost at home? Unheard of. I hope you all took the Eagles with me. After that pathetic week, I’m now 40-12 on the season, and my number one pick went down for the 2nd time. Guess I’ll have to give better justifications for my picks this week in order to regain your trust.

#4. Saints over Rams

They’ve had their share of last second victories, they’ve allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the league, and after their impressive playoff run last season, they’re in position to win the whole thing this year. No, I’m not talking about the New York Jets. Has a 9-3 defending Super Bowl champion ever gotten less publicity? When the Jets win last second games, everyone worships Sanchez; when the Saints win last second games, everyone talks about defenders biting on hard counts, wide receivers fumbling balls, and cornerbacks who should’ve just taken a knee after their interception. It hardly seems fair. The irony is that if the Jets were playing the Rams at home, they’d be the consensus #1 pick, but as it stands, the Saints barely crack the top 4. With games left against Atlanta, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay, the Saints absolutely need this game, because 9-7 isn’t going to cut it, and I’m guessing Tampa Bay is the only team left on their schedule that they’ll beat. Saints by 4.

#3. Chargers over Chiefs

They lost to the Raiders last week because they were thinking about this game, and you can’t convince me otherwise. So long as they have a playoff pulse, I’m legally obligated to assume the Chargers will find a way to make the playoffs, and if they lose this game, they’re officially eliminated. Ergo, Chargers by 7.

#2. Jets over Dolphins

The Jets held Carson Palmer to 135 yards, a TD, and 2 interceptions on Thanksgiving, and that’s arguably the only terrible quarterback they’ve faced thus far. Can’t wait to see what they do against Chad Henne in the aftermath of his 3 interception day against the Brownies. I’m only mildly concerned about this being a trap game in between road battles with the 2 best teams in the AFC. Jets by 13.

#1. Steelers vs. Bengals

Remember when the Bengals were 2-1? Wow. You know you’ve reached rock bottom when I don’t even recommend a 10-2 team playing against a 1-11 team and yet think that your loss is the most inevitable thing of the entire weekend. What are the odds that T.Ocho starts just bringing reality show cameras into the huddle with them and/or that Marvin Lewis gets fired during halftime. Steelers by 20

The Commish’s NFL Upset of the week

Minnesota over New York Giants

Teams I’m recommending in this segment (which have to be underdogs by at least 4 points) have now won outright in 7 of the past 8 weeks, and would be 8 for 8 if Stevie Johnson hangs onto that ball. At the very least, I’m on an 8 game winning streak of teams covering the spread.

There isn’t a line on this one yet because of the Favre injury, but I have to assume it’ll be Giants by 4.5. The Giants victimize teams that can’t pass block and can’t defend the pass and they struggle against teams who are at least average in those categories. In fact, the only teams that they’ve beaten that are in the better half of the league in sacks allowed are Detroit and Dallas, and both of those games ended up being wins most likely because they knocked the opposing starting quarterback out of the game. Even at that, Drew Stanton damn near pulled that game out, and Jon Kitna beat them the next time they faced off. Well, even with Favre taking stupid sacks, the Vikings are still 12th in the league in sacks allowed, and their passing defense is in the top half of the league as well. Leslie Frazier has rejuvenated this team, and playing at home against a shorthanded Giants passing attack, I think the Vikings and Adrian Peterson should be able to pull off the upset.

Fantasy League Standings:

#1. Miller’s Chiefs (9-4) 1607
#2. Garland’s Giants (9-4) 1327.4
#3. Nelson’s Steelers (8-5) 1398.3
#4. Montgomery’s Rams (8-5) 1371.4
#5. Meyers’ Cowboys (8-5) 1369.7
#6. Duncan’s Packers (7-6) 1421.8
~~~~~~~~~~Playoff Cut Line~~~~~~~~~~
#7. Gideon’s Bears (7-6) 1388.1
#8. Harshbarger’s Chargers (7-6) 1286.9
#9. A’S BENGALS (6-7) 1446.3
#10. O’NEILL’S BUCCANEERS (5-8) 1399.1
#11. YELEN’S TEXANS (5-8) 1114.6
#12. DINCHER’S DOLPHINS (4-9) 1441.2
#13. TRAVELPIECE’S 49ERS (4-9) 1304.3
#14. DAMN’S BILLS (4-9) 1064.8

Clinched Playoffs
ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFFS

Since I was unable to outscore Harshbarger this past weekend, there are still mathematical possibilities that get him into the playoffs, but they are highly unlikely. That being the case, it effectively all comes down to one game:

The Most Important Regular Season Game in the History of Our League:

Duncan’s Packers (7-6) vs. Gideon’s Bears (7-6)

Projected Line-Ups:

GB: Cassel, MJD, Mendenhall, Mi. Williams (TB), Welker, Knox, Gates, Vikings D, Rackers

Vs.

Chi: Brady, B. Jackson, McCoy, Nicks, Smith 1.0, Ford, Winslow, Chargers D, Bironas

There’s only one game of importance this week, and the shame of the matter is that it won’t even be a close one. When I started writing this post, this was looking like a pretty intriguing game, as each owner was going to have 3 or 4 real question marks / weaknesses. But now, in light of recent garbage trades (which have 110% convinced me that the trade deadline needs to be at least 2 weeks earlier next season), Duncan is down to one weakness and one questionable starter which would become a weakness if he doesn’t play; meanwhile, Gideon worked hard all season through trades and free agency to put together a playoff worthy roster to the point that he was unable to capitalize on the late deadline and will inevitably fall just short of the playoffs, as always seems to be the case for him.

Since this is the only game I’m breaking down, I’ll give you 10 reasons why this will be a cakewalk for Duncan.

#1. MJD.

The hyphen is only projected to get 20 points, but I find that laughable. At home, where he’s tallied 3 games of 25+ fantasy points this season, against a horrible Raiders rush defense…I don’t see how he goes for less than 28. Dude had 19 points this past weekend and didn’t even score a touchdown. You can count on him for 2 this weekend.

#2. James Starks.

You would think having a running back against the 30th ranked Lions rush defense would be a great omen, but Brandon Jackson has apparently been replaced by James Starks. Considering he lost Ryan Grant to an injury and he’s been losing Jackson to John Kuhn and now James Starks all season, I think we have a pretty good idea of the luck that Gideon has had this season.

#3. Mike Williams.

The stats on the Redskins secondary aren’t as pathetic as they were a week ago, considering they allowed the Giants to run all over them and Eli barely had to throw the ball, but they’re still really bad. Mike Williams has had at least 4 receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown in each of his 4 games against the notably awful secondaries of Atlanta (31st, twice), Cincinnati (26th), and Arizona (22nd). Considering Tampa Bay lost some offensive linemen this week and probably won’t be able to run the ball much, I’m sure they’ll be throwing most of the day. Washington (28th) won’t be able to contain him or Jaash Freeman.

#4. Hakeem Nicks.

Even if he plays, he’ll be a little gimpy, and it’s not as if the Vikings have a horrible secondary.

#5. Anquan Boldin.

The Texans have given up at least 30 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in all but 3 games this season, and in 2 of those games, Rusty Smith and Bruce Gradkowski were throwing the ball. It’s going to be a great day for Flacco and Boldin owners.

#6. Jacoby Ford.

1 reception for 4 yards last week? Yes, it was a touchdown, but this guy is completely unreliable, especially in a league that awards no points for kick return yards.

#7. Wes Welker.

Not that I necessarily expect all that much out of Welker against the Bears, but considering Gideon will be starting Tom Brady, it’s like Welker’s points have a 2x multiplier, because it essentially erases some of Brady’s numbers…and he’s certainly been looking Welker’s way a lot in the past 4 weeks.

#8. Rob Bironas.

The Titans haven’t been scoring at all in the past 2 weeks, so why would you want their kicker on your team?

#9. Rashard Mendenhall.

Dude ran at will against the Bengals in Week 9, and with Ben banged up and it getting much colder in Pittsburgh, I’m sure they’ll rely on him to carry the load again this time around.

#10. Prognostication.

I predicted Duncan to win the league in the pre-season. And I mean, there’s no way he doesn’t win this game, so he’s well on his way.

Final: GB 179-84.

Week 12 NFL & Fantasy Preview

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On the 12th Week of Football, My True Love Gave To Me….

Another weekend of football has come and gone, and so has another week’s worth of (insert player coming off of a great victory) for MVP discussions. I’ll never understand why the media insists on attempting to give out end-of-season awards well before the season has ended. Remember back in September when we started engraving the offensive rookie of the year award with Jahvid Best’s name? He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2 and his average YPC for the season is worse than all 45 qualified running backs not named Chester Taylor. With an extra two months of watching games under our belts, I’m still not sure whether the Offensive ROY award should go to Sam Bradford, Mike Williams, or Dez Bryant; but I do know it shouldn’t go to Jahvid Best.

If there’s anything that the BCS does right, it’s that it doesn’t come out until the season is more than 50% complete, giving it a theoretically large enough sample size to pass accurate judgment. The NFL coverage certainly didn’t wait that long to begin its revolving door of well-publicized MVP candidates. After Week 7, the talking heads started worshipping Eli Manning and the 5-2 New York Football Giants. The following week, the Giants had a bye, and everyone shifted their love and adoration to Darren McFadden. In Week 9, the Packers crushed the Cowboys on Sunday night and Aaron Rodgers was thrust into the MVP discussions. Heaven forbid we forget about last week’s bid by Michael Vick to apparently become the greatest player in the history of the world. And now today, I go to espn.com to see a front page story advertising Philip Rivers as the new MVP candidate. I think it’s about time the NFL comes up with some sort of committee or computer system to rank the candidates for the end of season awards, because this is getting out of hand.

Rather than writing ad nauseum about why I don’t think Rivers deserves it, I’ll simply state my major grievance: too many losses. I hate to admit it, but I like Philip Rivers, and if you want to argue that he should be the offensive player of the year, I would at least put him in consideration at this point with Arian Foster and Roddy White. But I simply can’t support Rivers for MVP, especially since they would have fewer losses if he would have played like an MVP candidate at the end of games against Kansas City, Seattle, and Oakland. You can blame the special teams all you want, but if Rivers were really an MVP, he wins at least one of those games, if not all three. You can have the passing figures that come from playing from behind, but I’ll take the game winning drives by Josh Freeman or Mark Sanchez over the back-breaking 4th quarter debacles by Rivers.

The last time the NFL MVP’s team suffered more than 4 losses was in 2002. The Chargers lost 5 of their first 7 games and still have a couple of difficult games on their schedule. However, If they win out to get to 11-5, and he continues to put up Marino-like numbers, there’s at least a viable possibility he gets the award; but as was my case last week with Vick, let’s reserve judgment until the end of the season to see if things play out the way they almost need to in order for him to be a real candidate.

Lest you think I simply hate on anyone who plays well, I’ll give you my list of players on the teams with 3 or fewer losses who are legitimate MVP candidates.

Off the board: Chicago (7-3): Julius Peppers or Brian Urlacher?

Their MVP sure as hell isn’t Jay Cutler or Matt Forte. It probably isn’t worth thinking about because even if the Bears inexplicably win out, the award would almost certainly go to a representative from another team, but it’s worth noting for the 3rd consecutive week that the Bears haven’t allowed an opposing team to score more than 23 points in a game yet this season, and now stand as the only team which can make that claim. The irony is that they allowed an average of 23.4 ppg last season, so you almost have to give the credit to either the big defensive end free agent acquisition or the face-of-the-franchise linebacker who missed 98% of last season with an injury.

#10. Baltimore Ravens (7-3): Joe Flacco – 206/330, 2433 yards, 16 TD, 7 INT.
#9. Tampa Bay (7-3): Josh Freeman – 177/290, 2099 yards, 14 TD, 5 INT. 236 rushing yards.
#8. New York Jets (8-2): Mark Sanchez – 185/336, 2306 yards, 15 TD, 7 INT.

One of these teams is bound to finish with 12 wins, which means one of these quarterbacks is bound to be an MVP candidate. Let’s deal with Tampa Bay first. They still have games against Baltimore, Atlanta, and New Orleans, so multiple losses are likely. Unlike Chicago, however, if Tampa Bay were to win out against a very difficult schedule or even win the NFC South with a 12-4 record, I think you absolutely have to consider Freeman. I doubt many people even expected the Buccaneers to win 4 games, yet Freeman has already orchestrated 4 game-winning 4th quarter drives and came up just short of a 5th on the road against the Falcons. I still don’t really believe in Tampa Bay, because only one of their 7 wins has come against a team that currently has more than 3 wins, and that was a miracle win against the 4-6 Rams, but if they do the unthinkable down the stretch, Bill Simmons and I will be chanting “Jaaaash Freeman for MVP!”

Everyone was expecting the Ravens and Jets to do well this season, so Flacco and Sanchez don’t have the underdog appeal that Freeman has, but they have similar stats and have similarly been leading their teams well in the 4th quarter of close games. Playing in New York and coming from USC, Sanchez obviously gets much more publicity than the other two guys, but I lump these three guys together as one under rated quarterback who is probably going to finish top 4 in the MVP voting despite not making the Pro Bowl.

#7. Philadelphia (7-3): Michael Vick – 120/191, 1608 yards, 11 TD, 0 INT. 375 rushing yards, 5 TD.

If he plays well against the Bears this week…
If he tears up the Texans next week…
If he stays healthy…
If he doesn’t start throwing interceptions…
If the Eagles win at least 4 of their final 6 games…

He’s like the bizarro Boise State Broncos in that he’s significantly behind other people in the “standings,” but he really controls his own destiny. There are a lot of ifs, but that game against the Redskins last week apparently put him in such good favors with everyone in the league that as long as he doesn’t crap the bed one week and plays well in the games that he should, he’s got a good shot. I just don’t think there’s any way that happens.

#6. Pittsburgh (7-3): James Harrison – 69 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 INT, 5 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
#5. Green Bay (7-3): Clay Matthews – 36 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 1 INT (TD), 1 forced fumble

A defensive player hasn’t been given the MVP award in 24 years, but neither of these teams is 7-3 if not for these game-changing linebackers. Harrison’s numbers are a little better, but since the refs are out to get him and because he has Polamalu also wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks, I like Matthews better. There are a handful of guys on defense who single-handedly command your attention whether you’re a player, coach, or spectator, and these are two of them.

#4. New Orleans (7-3): Drew Brees – 290/417, 2969 yards, 22 TD, 14 INT.

If it weren’t for all the interceptions, he’d be higher on the list, and the Saints would be at least 9-1. Unfortunately, he isn’t, and neither are they.

#3. Atlanta (8-2): Matt Ryan – 212/338, 2265 yards, 16 TD, 5 INT.

Another Flacco/Freeman type of guy whose numbers won’t blow you away, yet he simply carries his team to victory. This is what we all expected from him last year with the addition of Tony Gonzalez, but with Turner banged up for much of the season, opposing defenses were able to focus on stopping the passing game. With Turner staying healthy thus far, the entire offense has looked healthy enough to mix it up and move the ball at will. I’d rather have Flacco or Freeman, but Matty Ice is the one who will most likely finish the season on a 12-4 team.

#2. Indianapolis (6-4): Peyton Manning – Stats don’t matter (286/438, 3059 yards, 20 TD, 7 INT.)

He’s the only person in NFL history with 4 or more MVP awards, so he’s automatically a top 5 candidate, even if the team already has 4 losses, and the whole “He’s never done more with less!” argument is really gaining steam. If the Colts can overcome the heartbreakers they’ve already suffered and finish the season 5-1, I think it’s infinitely more likely that an 11-5 Peyton Manning wins the MVP than an 11-5 Philip Rivers.

#1. New England (8-2): Tom Brady – 215/329, 2362 yards, 19 TD, 4 INT.

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.

One last thing before I jump into Eliminator picks: I apologize if you played Randy Moss this past weekend, but I still think he’s a buy-low candidate for the rest of the season. Rusty Smith is going to be starting this weekend against the worst pass defense in the NFL, and he threw it in Moss’ direction on 3 of his first 4 attempts on Sunday. Bad QBs continuously throw balls to good wide receivers; it’s why Owens, Fitzgerald, Marshall, Ochocinco, and Calvin Johnson are each in the top 10 in the league in targets. I’m pretty sure he’ll keep trying to force the ball to Moss, and while he might get picked off in the process, if you force something long enough, you’ll eventually score. Just ask Roethlisberger.

Eliminator Suggestions:

Dincher lost his bid for perfection last week by blatantly refusing to read my post and picking the Bengals over the Bills, even though Buffalo was my upset pick and he still had the Chargers available to use. Very disappointing. At least my roommate is still one of the 7,850 people still alive in the ESPN Eliminator Challenge. I hope he keeps it up so I have an excuse to keep making suggestions. I lost my #4 pick last week in the form of the Tennessee Titans and fell to 35-9 on the season. It’s going to be a tough week…

This week’s picks brought to you by Paul Rudd:

#4. New England @ Detroit

“You nicknamed me Pistol, and I just called you…’Joben’…it means nothing…I don’t…I’m drunk…I’m gonna call a cab.” – Peter Klaven. I can feel myself wavering on this pick, but I can’t stop myself from going with it. According to my power rankings, it’s the best team in the league against the 29th best team in the league. That should be the easiest pick ever. So why am I worried about picking the road team in a short week game? I’m just going to lock this in and run away.

#3. New York Jets vs. Cincinnati

“Of course it’s horrible. It’s suffering and it’s pain and it’s…You know, you lose weight and then you put back on weight…but that’s just love.” – David in 40 Year Old Virgin. I think that pretty much sums up how every die hard Jets fan has felt by the end of each of their past 6 games, but Mark Sanchez has found ways to win most of those games. Meanwhile, I would imagine most Bengals fans are thinking: “I dated this woman…wait. Let me rephrase that. I dated this whore for like two years…and then she stomped all over my heart.” It’s been a long, long time since 2005 and 2006 Carson Palmer was in town. I’ll take the most clutch QB of the season over the least clutch QB of the past 4 seasons every time.

#2. Indianapolis vs. San Diego

“They’ve done studies you know. 60% of the time it works every time.” – Brian Fantana. Peyton Manning after a loss + home + night game = a Colts win.

#1. Cleveland vs. Carolina

“Why did you put ‘presence’ in quotes? Are you implying that we aren’t here?” – Danny in Role Models. I legitimately think Oregon could beat the Panthers right now. I can’t wait to see what Peyton Hillis does in this game.

The Commish’s NFL Upset of the Week:

Buffalo +6 vs. Pittsburgh

I can’t decide if this line is deceptively high or deceptively low, but either way, I feel pretty good about Buffalo for the 2nd consecutive week. In their past 5 games, the Bills have won twice, lost twice in overtime to potential playoff teams, and somehow lost a game in which both teams had 3 touchdowns, no safeties, and no field goals. They haven’t lost by more than 3 points since Week 5, and Fitzpatrick and Johnson have connected for at least 8 receptions and 137 yards in 3 of their past 5 games. Are you really going to bet against a team on a hot streak at home? Not to mention I’ve nailed 6 consecutive upset picks. If I had actually bet those games on the money line, I would be buying much nicer Christmas gifts this year.

Fantasy League Standings:

#1. Miller’s Chiefs (8-3) 1317 points
#2. Montgomery’s Rams (7-4) 1185 points
#3. Meyers’ Cowboys (7-4) 1169 points
#4. Garland’s Giants (7-4) 1166 points
#5. Duncan’s Packers (6-5) 1248 points
#6. Nelson’s Steelers (6-5) 1184 points

~~~~~~~~~~Playoff Cut Line~~~~~~~~~~

#7. Harshbarger’s Chargers (6-5) 1056 points
#8. A’s Bengals (5-6) 1258 points
#9. Gideon’s Bears (5-6) 1138 points
#10. Yelen’s Texans (5-6) 961 points
#11. Dincher’s Dolphins (4-7) 1221 points
#12. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (4-7) 1175 points
#13. Travelpiece’s 49ers (4-7) 1119 points
#14. Damn’s Bills (3-8) 902 points

Don’t look now, but Mr. Yelen has taken 3 straight weeks against the lowest scoring team in the league and turned them into an accidental late-season playoff push. Realistically, I think Damn, Travelpiece, O’Neill, and Yelen are finished. I’m not giving up on Dincher’s team yet, though. Of his remaining games, 2 of them are against teams standing directly in between him and 6th place in the standings. If he’s able to beat me this week he’s still got a shot (and let’s face it, I owe him one…ever since I beat him by 0.3 points, I’ve been undefeated and he hadn’t won a game until this past week.) He doesn’t quite control his own destiny, but he’s 4th in the league in scoring and would probably be 2nd or 3rd after 3 straight wins, which would almost assure him the edge in a tie-breaker. There are several games in our league this week that will go a long way to determine whether or not 7-7 is a viable playoff record.

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

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

Montgomery’s Rams (7-4) over Harshbarger’s Chargers (6-5)

Suggested Line-Ups:

StL: Orton, Gore, Rice, Hightower, Megatron, Ward, Keller, Bears D, Crosby

Vs.

SD: Freeman, Blount, Jacobs, St. Johnson, Jennings, Holmes, H. Miller, Raiders D, Scobee

Harshbarger put up serious numbers last week, but they came almost entirely from his wide receivers (100.5 of his 137.4 points). You can’t count on that kind of production from wide receivers. If you don’t believe me, go ask Dincher: his wide receivers looked great at the beginning of the season, but nowadays he can barely buy a receiving touchdown. And it’s not as if Harshbarger can expect much production out of Freeman or Blount against the Ravens this week, so he’s going to have to rely on Steve Johnson to bail him out and keep his playoff hopes alive again. That isn’t exactly promising. Still, I’d like this pick a lot better if Montgomery could upgrade from Hightower to anything, but at the moment, that’s his best option. Final: StL 129-89.

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

I don’t like to write about the same team in back to back weeks. You would think this severely limits my options, but until this week, it wasn’t a problem. Last week I said my team would be upset (I was wrong) and I said O’Neill’s team would beat Dincher’s team in the game of the week (also wrong), so even though I definitely think Dincher will upset me and that O’Neill will upset Meyers, I’m going to have to talk myself into another game altogether. Being that I’ve already picked my Blowout and have my Game of the Week in mind, I’ve only got 3 options left, and I’m not convinced there’s an upset in any of them. In light of this fact, I will do 2 games of the week, with one in the traditional breakdown style, and the other in the 5 reasons & an X-Factor Upset style.

~~~~~~~~Game(s) of the Week~~~~~~~~

Duncan’s Packers (6-5) vs. Garland’s Giants (7-4)

Suggested Line-Ups:

GB: Cassel, Mendenhall, Benson, TB Williams, Boldin, Rice, Gates, Titans D, Rackers

Vs.

NYG: Eli Manning, CJ2K, S. Jackson, Bryant, Maclin, Crabtree, Hernandez, Rams D, Akers

The loser certainly isn’t out of it, but I think this is a Win And You’re In type of game between the 2 teams I predicted to finish atop the NFC in the preseason.

Breakdown:

QB: If you’re Garland, I don’t care what the projections say, you have to go with Eli. I’m sure the experts are afraid he’ll be less effective with Manningham and Hagan as his top options, but playing against the 29th ranked defense should help significantly. Regardless of who he’s throwing to, he’s still going to throw it 30+ times like he has in 9 of his 10 games thus far this season. Regardless of what my upset pick says, you have to realistically assume the Bills will struggle against one of the best teams in the NFL. At least for Duncan there’s no dilemma. With the way Cassel has been playing the past 3 weeks and the way the Seahawks have been defending the pass all season, he’s a borderline must-start even if your second option wasn’t on the IR. My gut says Cassel has a better day than Manning, but it won’t be by much. Slight edge: Duncan.

RB: This is no contest. Mendenhall should do well against the Bills, but Benson is going to be eaten alive on Thursday night by the Jets D. For Garland, if Steven Jackson is ever going to have a top tier running back type of game, this is the week against the hapless Broncos. And if the Titans are going to try to control the ball in any way, shape, or form, Chris Johnson is going to get at least 25 touches…unless he cuts a few drives short by breaking them for long scores. I imagine Jackson outscores Mendenhall and Benson by himself, so Duncan is basically going to have to make up elsewhere for what Chris Johnson does here. That’s no small task. Huge edge: Garland.

WR: In my suggested line-ups, I omitted Miles Austin from Duncan’s squad and Brandon Marshall from Garland’s, and this wasn’t a mistake. As far as Austin is concerned, the Cowboys are playing against New Orleans, which is easily the worst thing you want to see as a fantasy wide receiver. Put it this way: the Seahawks wide receivers scored 44.6 fantasy points against them last week and they’ll STILL the #1 defense; that’s how good they’ve been against the deep ball to this point in the season. Combine that with the fact that Kitna just hasn’t been looking Austin’s way as much as you would hope, and I think Duncan would be better off without him in the line-up. Some people would kill for Austin right about now, but when you can start Mike Williams, Sidney Rice, and Anquan Boldin and still have Johnny Knox on the bench, who needs to play a struggling wide receiver against the best fantasy secondary? For Garland, I like benching Marshall for two reasons: the obvious being that he’s been pitiful lately and is questionable to even play, the not so obvious reason being that it gives him the opportunity to play Michael Crabtree…on Monday night. Duncan keeps finding ways to lose on Monday night, so if you’re capable of playing someone in the last game of the week against him, you have to do it. Oh by the way, Duncan’s wide receivers should outscore Garland’s by about a dozen.

TE/Def: Duncan has 2 injured Charger tight ends and a Titans D that is likely to get blown out by Houston this week. Ick. I’ll lean towards the Ravens. Edge: Garland.

Final: It’ll come down to how much Chris Johnson can do, but seeing as how I think he’ll have a great game, I think Garland ekes this one out and takes over 1st place in the NFC. NYG 117-112.

Nelson’s Steelers (6-5) over Yelen’s Texans (5-6)

Suggested Line-Ups:

PIT: Vick, McFadden, Wells, Washington, Colston, Wallace, Witten, Steelers D, Vinatieri

Vs.

HOU: Roethlisberger, Bradshaw, Woodhead, Thomas, White, Massaquoi, Z. Miller, Eagles D, Feely

I think more than any other game this week, this game dictates whether 8-6 or 7-7 will be good enough to advance to the playoffs. If Nelson wins, there will be at least 5 and possibly even 7 teams in our league with at least 7 wins, which makes it incredibly unlikely that a .500 record will cut the mustard. If Yelen wins and a few other games fall into the right places, we could conceivably be heading into next week with 4 teams at 8-4, 6 teams at 6-6, and Dincher lurking at 5-7, and from there it’s anybody’s ball game…except for Damn…his ball game is long gone. Come to the draft next year. Douche.

Allow me to give you 5 reasons why I think 8-6 is our playoff cut line once again:

#1. Mike Wallace nullifies Roethlisberger’s scoring.

Ben has 12 touchdown passes this season: 6 of them have gone to Mike Wallace. Your hopes of winning are significantly diminished when you can’t really count on your quarterback to outscore one of your opponent’s wide receivers.

#2. Yelen’s token white receiver won’t do anything.

Rumor has it Collie is out again this weekend, so Blair White is probably a sexier option than Brian Hartline, but neither guy can be counted on for more than 6 points this weekend.

#3. Darren McFadden will bounce back.

He struggled in his past two games against Pittsburgh and Kansas City, but he will be heavily relied upon to carry them to victory against the Dolphins.

#4. Mohamed Massaquoi isn’t going to play that well.

If a guy like Calvin Johnson or Roddy White goes down with an injury, it’s safe to assume that some other receiver on the team will see a significant increase in targets. When a guy like Josh Cribbs who was 5th on his team in targets goes down with an injury, it’s silly to assume the guy who was 4th on the team in targets is going to put up significantly better numbers than he has all season. Cleveland is going to win, but it’s going to be because of Peyton Hillis.

#5. Marques Colston will terrorize Dallas.

The Cowboys may be winning games now, but they still aren’t doing much to slow down opposing wide receivers. Big turkey day for Marques.

X-Factor: Michael Vick. Duh.

Final: Yelen’s streak of only needing 80 points to win will come to an abrupt halt. Pit: 111-87.

 

Week 11 NFL & Fantasy Preview

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Ron Mexico for MVP? Really?

Everybody needs to calm down about Michael Vick. He is a special talent and a unique quarterback who is playing his type of game better than anyone since Randall Cunningham, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you he didn’t have a great game or that he hasn’t been having a much better season than anyone could have possibly expected. However, there are a few things we need to think about before everyone hands him the NFL MVP, if it isn’t already too late: 

#1. The Redskins secondary is terrible.

Matt Stafford threw for 4 TDs against them. Matt Schaub threw for 500 yards and 3 TDs against them. The only reason opposing quarterbacks aren’t averaging a QB rating of 100+ against them is because of the time Jay Cutler threw the ball to DeAngelo Hall 4 times. Even if the Redskins had a remotely respectable defense, it was raining all night which makes it even more difficult for the defense to find the footing to react to quick moves by guys like Vick and Jackson. Even Jerome Harrison ran for 10 yards per carry and over 100 yards against them. They just weren’t keeping up with anyone in green and white.

#2. Look at who he’s played against.

I don’t particularly like to play the “look at who they’ve played against” card when trying to determine power rankings and whether or not an entire team is better than another entire team, but with individual offensive players, it’s a little more legitimate to take a look at the defenses they’ve competed against. When looking at the Eagles’ schedule, make sure you look at who Michael Vick actually played against, because his ribs injury got him out of playing against the likes of Atlanta and Tennessee. The best team he’s played an entire game against was the Colts in Week 9, they aren’t even in the top 50% of the NFL against the pass, and he had a relatively mediocre game. If he can put up respectable numbers against the Giants and the Bears in the next 2 weeks, I will do a complete 360 and at least say he’s probably worth the hype this year, but let’s wait until he plays more than a couple of full games and plays them against decent teams before we name him Top Dog (abuser) in the NFL.

#3. It was just the capstone to a statistically crazy week.

Prior to this weekend, there were a total of 13 performances by quarterbacks in which they scored 30 or more fantasy points (based on my league’s scoring system), which averages out to 1.44 per week. This weekend there were 9 such games. Every team scored at least 12 points, which hadn’t happened in a week yet this season. In Week 1, there were 585 points scored. Even though there were 4 teams on a bye this week, there were 727 points scored. That’s insane. Last year the average amount of points scored in a game was just over 42, whereas this past week the average was just under 52. I mean, come on: Troy Smith threw for 356 yards and Matt effing Cassel threw for 469 yards and 4 TDs. It was just one of those crazy stat-padding weeks across the board where all the right strengths matched up with all the right weaknesses, culminating in one of the top 5 QBs in the NFC going up against the worst secondary in the NFC on Monday night.

In light of all the hoopla over the Sunday and Monday night games, here are a few things I realized on Sunday afternoon which really flew under the radar:

The Cleveland Browns are possibly the best 3-6 team in the history of the league.

8 of their 9 games have come against potential playoff teams, and they’ve played all of them tough except for one game where they just came out flat and never really had a shot on the road in Colt McCoy’s first career game against a Steelers team coming off a bye and celebrating the triumphant return of their persuasive messiah. The Vikings and 49ers are sitting at 3-6 as well, but they have just been absolutely disappointing, whereas the Browns have played more competitively than any of us expected. If they continue to play with the vigor that we’ve seen thus far, they might be sitting at 8-6 after a 5 game stretch against some very average opponents.

Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman continue to find ways to win games.

The Jets have not looked good since Week 4, but they’ve managed to go 4-1 since then. Josh Freeman hasn’t thrown for more than 280 yards in a game yet this season, but the Bucs are somehow 6-3. If you’re starting a new franchise today, these guys are going somewhere in the top 6 with Rivers, Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco, and yet they’re both behind Kyle Orton and Carson Palmer in fantasy point production? If there are 2 changes that need to be made to the quarterback position in fantasy football, it’s that you need to be credited points for wins and that throwing a pick six needs to count against you big time. I say a win is worth 7 points and that the yardage and touchdowns coming from interceptions should count against you just as much as passing yardage and touchdowns count for you. I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Sanchez and Freeman each have 6+ wins and half a dozen or less interceptions, and there is no way they should be ranked behind Carson Palmer’s 2 wins and 11 interceptions, 3 of which have been returned for a TD.

Randy Moss had 1 catch for 26 yards.

In a week where virtually every team had an amazing offensive game, I just wanted to point out what a pathetic game he had in his first affair with the Titans. If you need help in a fantasy league, see if you can’t buy low on Moss, because 4 of his next 5 games are against Jacksonville (29th against the pass), Washington (31st against the pass), and 2 games against the Texans (last in the NFL against the pass). He’s going to have multiple games with multiple touchdowns and 125+ yards in the next few weeks. Having him on your team may be the difference between winning your league and finishing in 8th place.

Power Rankings

It’s been several weeks since I posted my power rankings, so here they are without any commentary. If you’d like to argue my rankings, that’s why you’re allowed to comment, and I encourage it.

Hopelessly out of it:
32. Carolina
31. Cincinnati
30. Buffalo
29. Detroit
28. Denver
27. Dallas

Would be hopelessly out of it if they were in the AFC:
26. Arizona
25. Washington
24. Seattle
23. San Francisco

Definitely going to win a few more games:
22. Cleveland
21. Houston
20. St. Louis
19. Minnesota

Surprisingly still contending:
18. Chicago
17. Kansas City
16. Tampa Bay
15. Jacksonville
14. Miami
13. Tennessee
12. Oakland

They always find a way:
11. San Diego
10. New York Giants
9. Indianapolis

One of them has to make the Super Bowl:
8. New Orleans
7. Green Bay
6. Atlanta
5. Philadelphia

One of them has to win the Super Bowl:
4. Pittsburgh
3. New York Jets
2. Baltimore
1. New England

Eliminator Suggestions:

With those power rankings in mind, let’s see if I can’t recommend some good ones this week. I missed the Cowboys/Giants game last week, but who didn’t? At least I had them at #3 and was able to sell most of you on Tampa and Indy. After last week’s performance, I’m now 32-8. Not half bad. I’ll try to get it up to 36-8, though.

#4. Tennessee vs. Washington

As I said 3 weeks ago: ”I’m late to this party, but Jeff Fisher owns the NFC, and should destroy Washington when they play his Titans in week 11.” It helps that Washington played like a JV squad on Monday night and will also be playing on short rest for this game. This is definitely one of Moss’s aforementioned huge games.

#3. Pittsburgh vs. Oakland

This is me still not buying into Oakland. This is the start of their slide into a 7-9 season. This is a West Coast team playing a 1:00 game. This is Rashard Mendenhall against a pathetic rush defense. This is Pittsburgh wanting to prove they’re a dominant defense regardless of Sunday night’s performance. This is Nnamdi Asomugha playing through pain and trailing Mike Wallace by a step on a couple of deep balls. This is Roethlisberger’s return to excellence. This is not Sparta.

#2. San Diego vs. Denver

I could try to continue to sell you on the fact that home teams following a bye week are now 12-3 this season, but instead I’ll just tell you that as a fan of an AFC West team who’s been forced to watch San Diego win the division for what feels like 67 consecutive seasons, I know that this is a game they will not lose. Everybody else in the gambling world has been struggling immensely with the AFC West, but I’ve been absolutely nailing it since Week 4, including 3 of my 5 upset picks, and not only will San Diego win this game, but they’ll cover the 9.5 spread. Seriously, they’re going to win this thing like 42-17.

#1. New Orleans vs. Seattle

I cannot make heads or tails of this Seahawks team because their performance from week to week is the flip of a coin. What I do know is that they run the ball poorly and they are terrible against the pass. If they have a strength, it’s either when Hasselbeck decides to play well or when Leon Washington returns multiple kickoffs for touchdowns. Unfortunately for Seattle and fortunately for anyone who still has New Orleans available to choose this week, those special teams plays are completely unpredictable and the Saints are one of the best teams in the league against the pass. They are also one of the most proficient passing teams in the league, so they should be able to stop Hasselbeck; the Seahawks run game should stop itself; and Brees should be able to pick apart the defense at will. Did I mention New Orleans is a home team following a bye week?! I won’t get to use that line for another 46 weeks, so enjoy it while it lasts. FYI: New Orleans eliminated me several weeks ago and is more than likely responsible for the eliminator deaths of more people than any other team in the NFL, but if you can ignore the fact that they inexplicably lost to Arizona and Cleveland and damn near lost at home to Carolina, you have to go with them. They’re getting hot and they’re well rested and I wish I had saved them until now.

The Commish’s NFL Upset of the Week:

Buffalo +5.5 @ Cincinnati

Bill Simmons has taken credit for the “Law of Gus” as of late, but I actually tweeted him about it back before Week 2: “A word to the wise, including @sportsguy33 and @MatthewBerryTMR, Gus Johnson is announcing the Jax/SD game. +7.5 sounds pretty good.” Now, I was wrong, and San Diego beat the pants off of Jacksonville, but the games he’s been announcing the past several weeks have all come right down to the wire. I remember turning on the Bills/Chiefs game maybe 2 minutes into the first quarter and realizing that not only was Dexter McCluster not playing, but Gus Johnson was announcing the game. Had I known those 2 things 10 minutes earlier, I would’ve bet many many dollars on Buffalo +7.5. Oh well. If you don’t know who Gus Johnson is, you should be ashamed of yourself, and you should watch at least these 3 clips, if not every single Gus Johnson clip on youtube:

If that shit doesn’t get you pumped about college basketball, especially the 3rd one when Crawford hit the 3 at the end of the 1st overtime, you just don’t have a pulse and probably shouldn’t read anything that I have to write between January and April.

Well guess what? Gus Johnson is announcing this game, so it’s all but guaranteed to be a nail biter. Even before I knew that, I was strongly considering making this my upset pick just because of how much I hate Carson Palmer. But then I was thinking this might be a classic game for Carson Palmer to pad his stats against a bad team to somehow end the season as a top 6 QB in the AFC. But I gotta go with Gus. I can already hear it: 15 seconds to play…Fitzpatrick’s going to have to hurry…he drops back…fires…for the end ZONE…AND STEVE JOHNSON MAKES THE LEAPING GRAB!!!…The Bills take a 3 point lead with 7 seconds to play!…*insert Gus Johnson cackle*

Fantasy League Standings:

#1. Miller’s Chiefs (7-3) 1173.2 points
#2. Montgomery’s Rams (7-3) 1081 points
#3. Duncan’s Packers (6-4) 1144.6 points
#4. Nelson’s Steelers (6-4) 1057.1 points
#5. Garland’s Giants (6-4) 1050.6 points
#6. Meyers’ Cowboys (6-4) 1047.4 points

~~~~~~~~~~Playoff Cut Line~~~~~~~~~~

#7. A’s Bengals (5-5) 1136.5 points
#8. Gideon’s Bears (5-5) 1037.2 points
#9. Harshbarger’s Chargers (5-5) 919 points
#10. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (4-6) 1062.5 points
#11. Yelen’s Texans (4-6) 841.9 points
#12. Dincher’s Dolphins (3-7) 1089.2 points
#13. Travelpiece’s 49ers (3-7) 1013.5 points
#14. Damn’s Bills (3-7) 823.2 points

Four games left in the regular season, and the last place team could still technically finish in first place. As is usually the case for us at this point in the season, it’s looking like 8 may be the magic number to get into the playoffs, so even if you’re sitting at .500, you’re still in pretty decent shape. Since we’ve reached the point in the season where every game is critical for everyone, I thought about doing the same thing as I did last year by adding 1 game to each category, but I’m going to wait 1 more week.

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

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

Duncan’s Packers (6-4) over Travelpiece’s 49ers (3-7)

Projected Line-ups:

GB: Young, Benson, Mendenhall, M. Williams, Austin, Boldin, Gates, Titans D, Rackers

Vs.

SF: Kitna, Best, Green-Ellis, Mason, Ochocinco, Lloyd, Boss, 49ers D, Gould

He’s not going to be happy with me for picking him to win the blowout, especially since the person I predicted to win the blowout last week ended up scoring 21 less points than anyone else in the league, and also since I decided to pick him here only because I have to pick a blowout game and this is the one I hated the least, but this pick is all about the match-ups. Each of Travelpiece’s 3 wide receivers are going up against a top 7 defense while Duncan’s quarterback and 2 running backs are going up against defenses that can’t stop anyone. If Gates is able to go this week, I’ll feel an awful lot better about this pick, but either way, I’m fairly confident Duncan’s team should win comfortably.

Final score: GB 129-102.

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

A’s Bengals (5-5) over Miller’s Chiefs (7-3)

Projected Line-ups:

Cin: Brees, Tomlinson, Addai, Wayne, Harvin, R. White, V. Davis, Packers D, Longwell

Vs.

KC: Flacco, Foster, Moreno, Garcon, Bowe, Fitzgerald, Gresham, Jets D, Bryant

It’s not just in the NFL that my Upset picks have been incredible this year; my upset picks in our league are 8-1 thus far, so either my 6 game winning streak or my recent roll with upset picks is going to come to end. Here’s why I think it’ll be the former of the two…

5 Reasons:

#1. Drew Brees vs. Seattle.

I’ll even leave Jay Cutler’s below average performance in this statistic, but if you take out the games against Alex Smith and Derek Anderson/Max Hall, because counting them as quarterbacks is like counting fruit by the foot as a daily serving of fruit, Seattle is allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 323.5 yards, 1.83 TD, and 0.5 INT per game. Brees still hasn’t had one of those amazing fantasy games we came to expect from him once in a while last season and I’m starting to wonder if we’ll see any games like that this season, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see him go for 330 yards and 4 TDs this weekend.

#2. Dwayne Bowe can’t possibly keep this up.

He’s averaging 90.8 yards and 1.8 TDs per game for the past 5 weeks, but I really don’t think he’s THAT good. Last week’s game against Denver was an anomaly, and as a Chiefs fan, I sincerely hope we never see Matt Cassel’s number of passing attempts more than double the team’s rushing attempts again, though I’ll certainly be thankful if last week’s garbage time performance causes teams to actually respect the passing game and open up the rushing game. I realize Arizona has been pretty pathetic against the pass, but considering KC only has one legitimate wide receiver, I suspect the Cards will have Rodgers-Cromartie blanket Bowe while Antrel Rolle provides support over the top. If my boys are going to win, they’re going to have to take advantage of a Cardinals rush defense that’s 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed and tied for 30th in the league in rushing touchdowns allowed. If there’s any passing attack at all, I assume it will come in the form of Tony Moeaki and screen/short passes to Charles and Jones. Long story short, Bowe will have a mediocre game at best.

#3. Reggie Wayne vs. New England…and Austin Collie?

Wayne hasn’t missed a game since 2003, so I’m not too concerned/hopeful about his questionable designation at this point in the week. Similar to what I wrote about Tom Brady last week, reports of Reggie Wayne’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. He’s 2nd in the league in receptions, 4th in targets, and 5th in yards. The main thing that determines whether or not he plays well is whether or not Austin Collie is on the field. Jeremy Maclin plays much better when Desean Jackson is on the field, and the same is the case for Reggie Wayne when Austin Collie is on the field. He hasn’t exactly had a fruitful career against the Patriots, but if Collie is back in action, I expect big things from Wayne this weekend.

#4. Joe Flacco vs. the Panthers.

Believe it or not, Carolina has not allowed an opposing QB to register 25 fantasy points in a game yet this season, and I just don’t feel good about this match up. Flacco has been very Freeman-ish in that he doesn’t lose games for his team (except for that 4 interception game against the Bengals), and he doesn’t win games for your fantasy team so much as he consistently puts up slightly above average numbers to at least give you a chance to win. Well, Freeman didn’t exactly light up the Panthers in his 2 games against them, and the Ravens are much more of a run first team than the Buccaneers, so I expect Flacco’s numbers will be even less stellar than Freeman’s 22 point games against the Panthers have been.

#5. Roddy White.

Do I really need to say anything else? Dude’s been amazing.

X-Factor: Can Joseph Addai “shoulder” the load?

With the exception of Addai, everyone in Kauffman’s starting line-up is ranked in the top 9 at their respective position, including the #1 defense, #1 kicker, and #2 tight end; a trio which is a much bigger deal than most would give it credit for since it virtually handicaps him 10-15 points in any given week in the QB/RB/WR match-ups. The last time Kauffman and I faced each other, Addai and Tomlinson each had what still stands as their best performance of the season, and the Addai performance really came out of nowhere considering he didn’t even score 5 points the previous week. Well, it’s now been over a month since Joseph Addai was even on the field, so it would really be a surprise if he plays and has a great game. If he gets on the field, Addai has averaged 57 rushing yards, 31 receiving yards, and 1 TD in 5 career games against the Patriots, and in most of those games, the Patriots rushing defense was much more formidable. If Addai misses his 4th consecutive game with a shoulder injury, Kauffman will either have to play Jerome Harrison or try to pick up and play Keiland Williams, neither of which could possibly perform as well as they did this past Monday.

Final score: With expected poor performances from Flacco and Bowe and with my best running back playing against my only defense, there’s almost no chance I have another type of week that has led me to the top of our standings and the top of the points scored category. Meanwhile, Kauffman’s team should score in bunches whether or not Addai plays. Score: Cin 141-106.

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

Dincher’s Dolphins (3-7) vs. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (4-6)

Projected Line-ups:

Mia: Manning, Peterson, Jones-Drew, M. Williams, Floyd, Gaffney, Heap, Browns D, Carpenter

Vs.

TB: Rivers, Charles, Hillis, Edwards, R. Moss, S. Moss, Tamme, Falcons D, Tynes

Two teams in the Bottom 5 in the standings? Why the hell is this the game of the week? I’m glad you asked. These guys are at the bottom of the standings, but they’re #4 and #6 in points scored, respectively. One of these 2 teams is going to win out and make the playoffs. It happens every season in our league, and I would strongly prefer not to face any of them in a one and done format. Not only do I suspect the winner will make a run to the playoffs, but it’s pretty apparent that the loser is all but eliminated from contention, so this is a huge game (as opposed to the other battle between 3-7 and 4-6 teams, which is basically a battle for last place).

Breakdown:

QB: How am I supposed to choose between Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers? You might as well be asking whether I’d rather have a million dollars or a million dollars. I’ll take Rivers because he’s the guy at home in a prime-time must-win game, but it’s possible that both quarterbacks put up 35 points this week. Slight edge: O’Neill.

RB: (I’ll start out with a tangent. Thomas Jones is terrible. As Chiefs fans, O’Neill and I got whiff of this fact several weeks before most people, including Todd Haley and Charlie Weis. He continues to play because he’s loved in the locker room for his work ethic and his leadership skills, but it’s become apparent at this point that Jamaal Charles is the significantly better running back, and would probably be a top 3 fantasy guy if he were getting more than 45% of the touches, kind of like Beanie Wells vs. Tim Hightower last season. But until it becomes more obvious to more people that Charles is in charge, O’Neill feels an obligation to begrudgingly keep both guys in his line-up for fear that Jones gets the goal line touches (and inevitably gets stuffed 4 times in a row). Personally, I would start the Moss posse at WR and Braylon Edwards at the flex and put Thomas Jones on the bench. I understand it’s safer to play both running backs because you know that Jones is going to get his touches and there’s no guarantee that Edwards even gets a target. Here’s my view though: if Thomas Jones has a terrible game and you start him, it kills your fantasy team and probably your favorite team as well. If you bench him and he has a great game, at least you can take solace in the fact that the Chiefs should win the game. Back to the breakdown.) I love Jamaal Charles against the worst fantasy rushing defense in the league, and Peyton Hillis is a fucking monster. He’s the only back in the league to score 12 or more fantasy points in every game this season. Meanwhile, Dincher has two of the three running backs who were most coveted going into the season and are still among the best running backs in the league, but they’re going against a pair of tough rush defenses. Peterson and MJD have each had 3 really solid performances in their past 4 games, and they are arguably the most consistent fantasy running backs of the past few seasons, so I suspect they’ll more than hold their own against the tough defenses, but in this particular week, I’d rather have the guys who aren’t necessarily household names. Edge: O’Neill.

WR: Dincher has three no-name guys playing against really good pass defenses, while if he takes my advice, O’Neill would be playing a couple of Mosses and a Braylon Edwards, 2 of which are going against awful pass defenses. I’m going to argue that since I think Washington, Denver, and Seattle will be playing from behind all game, their receivers should get a lot of looks and will at least put up numbers that are comparable to Randy Moss’s and Braylon Edwards’s huge games. Edge: O’Neill.

TE/Def: Jacob Tamme is the best tight end in the league since taking over for Dallas Clark, and I expect the Bears and Dolphins to score under 40 on Thursday night which bodes well for the Dolphins D. Todd Heap has been one of the best tight ends in the league in the past 5 weeks, but I think the Browns/Jaguars game is going to be one of those weird slugfests that we see every now and then between two teams who aren’t considered offensive juggernauts, so I can’t feel too good about Dincher’s defense. Edge: O’Neill

Outcome: Looks like I have O’Neill winning in every category, and considering he’s a game ahead of Dincher in the standings, he was already the favorite to make a late season run to the playoffs, so look out NFC: between Garland and O’Neill making late season runs, the top 6 teams in that conference are going to really be beating each other up to the point that a third AFC team might be able to sneak into the playoffs, even though it is clearly the inferior conference. Final score: TB 137-108.

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.