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.

 

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2010 Week 9 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4. Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati

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

#3. New Orleans @ Carolina

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

#2. Minnesota vs. Arizona

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

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

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

#1. Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay

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

The Commish’s NFL Upset Pick of the Week:

Cleveland +4 vs. New England

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

League Standings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggested Line-ups:

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

Vs.

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

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

Final: SD 107-72.

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

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

Suggested Line-ups:

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

Vs.

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

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

#1. The absence of Fryle Gorton

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

#2. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Cincinnati

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

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

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

#4. Vikings D vs. Arizona

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

#5. Dustin Keller vs. Detroit

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

X-Factor: Will Antonio Gates play?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggested Line-ups:

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

Vs.

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

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

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

Breakdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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