NFL Playoff Predictions

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And Then There Were Eight

Aside from the fact that my Chiefs lost, Wild Card Weekend featured a phenomenal slew of games, and I expect more of the same starting this Saturday in Pittsburgh. I went 3-1 last weekend, and probably would have gone 4-0 if the refs had whistled that blatant defensive pass interference against the Jets at the four yard line late in the 4th quarter. My dreams of going 11-0 in the playoffs have ended yet again, but I’ll take a ten win post-season. Here’s who I’m taking this weekend and why:

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3)

Why 2010 says Pittsburgh will win this game:

These teams are virtually mirror images of each other, so I don’t have much aside from a theory that something is wrong with Flacco. I can’t remember him throwing a deep ball in the past month. Just fewer than 50% of his passing yards in the past five games have gone to tight ends, running backs, and fullbacks; and more often than not, you can’t dink and dunk your way to a win over the Steelers. Flacco has taken 34 sacks in the past ten weeks and Pittsburgh is the last team you want to face when you’re already battered and bruised.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger seems to get stronger with each injury he takes. He’s averaging 285+ yards per game with an 11/2 TD/INT ratio in the past eight weeks, and has even rushed for two TDs during that span of time. Combine Ben’s resurgence with Flacco’s drop off and the fact that the Steelers both rush the ball and stop the rush much better than the Ravens, and it just feels like the Steelers are bound to win this grudge match.

Why history says Baltimore will lose this game:

– Since expanding to eight divisions in 2002, there have been ten occurrences of division rivals facing off in the playoffs. The home/road split is 50/50, but the Steelers are 3-0 in those games.

– 27 of the past 32 teams to compete for a conference championship finished the regular season 16th or better in the “sacks recorded” category. Baltimore finished the season tied for 27th in sacks.

– 31 of the past 32 teams to make it past the divisional round forced at least 24 turnovers during the regular season. Baltimore only forced 22 this season.

Everything about this game screams Steelers by one possession, so unless you can get great odds on the Steelers winning by exactly three points, your gambling dollars would probably be better off elsewhere. Final prediction: Steelers 20-14.

Seattle @ Chicago (-10)

Why 2010 says Chicago will win this game:

Before you overlook the season the Seahawks had and just assume they’re riding a “nobody believed in us!” wave in light of last week’s game against the Saints, there are a lot of things you need to consider.

First of all, the Bears are a much better team than they were in October when they lost three out of four games, including a game against Seattle. Since their Week 8 bye when Lovie Smith mixed up the offensive line to finally provide a small amount of pass protection for Cutler, the Bears have gone 7-2, with those two losses coming against likely Super Bowl candidates (Green Bay and New England). In October, Cutler was taking 6.3 sacks per game. Since then, he’s taking 2.7 sacks per game, and it’s not as if the Seahawks’ front four has been shutting down opposing quarterbacks.

The Seahawks were 2-6 on the road this season. Yes, one of those two wins came at Chicago three months ago, but that was when Chicago was at the lowest point of their season, and it was the game following the Seahawks’ bye week.

Fast stats: In games in which Matt Forte has 75 or more yards from scrimmage, the Bears are 8-1. In the Bears’ final three games, Forte averaged 139.3 yards from scrimmage per game. The Seahawks allowed just under 120 rushing yards per game during the regular season. On the road, the Seahawks allowed 29.3 points and 395.8 yards per game to their opponents, each of which would be good for worst in the league if they had had the same porous defense at home.

Why history says Seattle will lose this game:

– Going back as far as 1997 before growing weary of digging up old stats, only six teams in the past 14 years have made the playoffs while allowing more points than they’ve scored, and all six of those teams failed to make it to the conference championship game. Not only did the Seahawks get outscored by their opponents this season, but they were outscored by 97 points.

– 31 of the past 32 teams to make it past the divisional round forced at least 24 turnovers during the regular season. Seattle only forced 21 this season.

– The Seahawks have lost seven consecutive road playoff games.

If this game were being played in Seattle or if it were being played three months ago, maybe this is a different story, but the Bears have grown into a legitimate Super Bowl contender over the course of their past nine games, and should have no problem in this one. Final prediction: Bears 34-13.

New York @ New England (-9)

Why 2010 says New England will win this game:

Have you seen them play?! Since losing to Cleveland in Week 9, they’ve won eight straight and have scored at least 31 points in each of those games. They’re winning those games by an average of three touchdowns. In those eight games, they forced 24 turnovers and had more defensive touchdowns (four) than their offense had turnovers (one). Meanwhile, the Jets have barely looked like a playoff team since the 2010 calendar flipped to December. I don’t even need to be reminded that the Patriots beat the Jets by 42 in Foxboro to know that they are the vastly superior team.

Why History says New York will lose this game:

– The NFL MVP has played on Conference Championship Weekend in 19 of the past 23 years. Is anyone still arguing for Vick, Manning, or Rivers over Brady for MVP? Didn’t think so.

– Five of the past eight teams to lead the NFL in scoring during the regular season made it at least as far as the “final four,” and New England outscored every other team by at least 11 touchdowns.

– Teams that spend more time talking shit in the media and on twitter than they spend preparing for the task at hand end up losing the game at least 125% of the time. It’s a scientific fact.

The only real question is whether or not you should lay the points with the Pats. I would. Final prediction: New England 31-20.

Green Bay (+2.5) @ Atlanta

Why 2010 says Green Bay will win this game:

The whole “Matt Ryan is a Greek God at home” angle is being blown completely out of proportion. Four of the Falcons home games this season were against San Francisco, Cincinnati, Arizona, and Carolina, so let’s go ahead and throw those games out to leave Atlanta at 3-1 at home against legitimate competition.

Their one loss came to New Orleans. If LeGarrette Blount doesn’t get stuffed four straight times, Atlanta loses the game against Tampa Bay. If the Falcons don’t get the benefit of three calls on a last minute game-winning drive necessary to come back against a team that had all of about 17 yards in the first half, Atlanta loses the game against Baltimore. That leaves the three point win over Green Bay, and if you think Rodgers and company haven’t been improving since that game, you’re out of your mind.

Keep in mind that going into the season, Green Bay was one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl (please ignore the fact that Dallas was also one of these so-called favorites.) They are peaking right now and are about as healthy as they have been since the pre-season. This game should be a shootout, and in my opinion, Aaron Rodgers is more well-groomed for that type of game than Matt Ryan.

Why History says Atlanta will lose this game:

– In four of the past five years, at least two home teams have lost in the divisional round, and six seeds have won four of the past five games against one seeds. It’s like the 12 seed corollary in March Madness. More often than not, at least one 12 seed ends up winning, and more often than not, at least one team that played on Wild Card weekend ends up playing for a conference championship. If you’re with me on the first three picks, this is the de facto upset game.

– 27 of the past 32 teams to compete for a conference championship finished the regular season 16th or better in the “sacks recorded” category. Atlanta finished the season tied for 20th in sacks.

– Face it, Green Bay @ Chicago is the game Roger Goodell wants to see. Chicago @ Atlanta has about as much allure as San Francisco Giants vs. Texas Rangers did.

Not only does my gut say Green Bay will win this game, but I think it will be a route. My gambling spidey sense says this game is staying at Atl -2.5 just to convince people to put the Falcons in a three team tease at +7.5 with Chicago (pick) and New England (+1.5)…and the obvious three team teasers always fail. Final prediction: Green Bay 41-24.

If you’re playing in a fantasy playoff scramble, here are the players I see as the 4 best options at each position this week (from best to worst, left to right):

QB: Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Cutler

RB: Turner, Forte, Mendenhall, Green-Ellis

WR: W. Welker, M. Wallace, G. Jennings, M. Williams

TE: T. Heap, H. Miller, R. Gronkowski, T. Gonzalez

Def: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Baltimore, New England

 

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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.