Friday, October 28, 2011


As we reach the halfway point of the season, now comes the time when the pretenders reveal themselves and the contenders strut their stuff.  Several games this week will verify or nullify the power rankings of many experts.  For fantasy owners, you’ve got six more games to get your team situated for a playoff run.  It is crunch time.


Both teams are coming off two horrendous losses, Indianapolis because of the score differential, Tennessee because of the importance of the game.   The Titans offense is just struggling.  Since WR Kenny Britt went on the I.R., Tennessee is averaging less than 200 yards passing per contest.  Chris Johnson has seen his yards per carry totals plummet this year, perhaps a hangover from the lockout and subsequent holdout.  However, it might be more than that.  Anyone who has watched Johnson knows that this year he’s looked like he’s lost a step.  His recognition and acceleration to the hole has been awkward at best.  After signing that huge $53 million deal, you think there’s going to be some heat on Johnson if he doesn’t perform this week?  Perhaps even more disconcerting about the Titans, there is only one team with less total plays run in the league and that team is the San Francisco 49ers.  Problem is, the 49ers had a Bye week.  The Titans haven’t yet.  What that means simply is that Tennessee has very few sustained drives, as they ranked 30th overall in time of possession.  If this isn’t the week to right that ship, none is.  The Colts defense was simply obliterated by the Saints to the tune of 61 points and 557 yards of total offense.  Tennessee doesn’t quite have the weapons that New Orleans does, but Donnie Avery was signed for games like this.  For the first time, Avery has his health, and with Damian Williams suffering from a concussion, Avery could play a key role in stretching out the Colts 23rd ranked pass defense.  For his career he’s averaged 12.6 yards per reception.  If you own Johnson, you’re playing him because he’s got probably his best matchup of the season, as well as Javon Ringer, who will no doubt spell Johnson if he doesn’t start reeling off some big gains.  Curtis Painter had been improving steadily until he came up against tough road games against the Bengals and Saints defenses.  Pierre Garcon will no doubt see a bunch of deep targets.  Delone Carter might appear like a solid play against the Titans 24th ranked rushing defense, until you realize that they were ranked 10th until they face Houston.


Coming off a huge defensive victory at home, the offensively challenged Jaguars head to Houston, now the sole leader of the AFC South.  Go back three years and this game might have been dubbed a shootout of sorts.  Now, two top ten defenses are going to try to clamp down on two superior offensive lines and two marquee running backs.  Jacksonville pulled a huge number on the Ravens offensive front, holding Ray Rice to 28 yards and causing his first fumble since 2009.  Now they’ll be challenged by Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the first running back tandem in Texans history to each tally 100-yards rushing in a single game.  The Texans allowed Foster and Tate a total of 40 carries, and were rewarded with 219 rushing yards.  For the Jaguars to win, they’ll have to find a way to shut down Foster and place the impetus on QB Matt Schaub to win the game.  It’s very possible, as the Jags have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season.  Schaub is coming off his best game this season, where he garnered a QB rating of 147.7 and could have Andre Johnson on the field, though it's doubtful.  He’s a game-time decision.  For the Jaguars offense, Mike Sims-Walker has returned to his previous franchise and in his second week back could make an impact if he and Blaine Gabbert can find the same page.  Jason Hill had eight targets last week and seems to be Gabbert’s favorite target, but Sims-Walker is by and far the biggest red zone target Gabbert will have besides TE disappointment Marcedes Lewis.  Maurice Jones-Drew will see at least 20 carries and should have a decent shot at 100 yards.  He’s not scoring touchdowns but has been very consistent averaging around 97 yards a game.  If this game was in Jacksonville, it might be a different story, but on the turf surface of Reliant, you can rely on the Texans.


The Cardinals would probably opt for facing a pack of unfed lions rather than head into Baltimore after the Ravens dropped a game where they were physically mashed.  The Cardinals are about to become the Ravens punching dummy.  Ray Rice will get a lot more carries than the eight he got last week, but the Arizona front seven has held its own, particularly against weaker offensive fronts.  Only one rusher has over 100 yards against them and that’s Adrian Peterson.  Baltimore is pretty strong up front, and Bryant McKinnie has made a lot of difference this year at the left tackle spot.  The difference in this game could be Joe Flacco and how he rebounds afternoon other subpar performance and growing perception he’s not able to lead this team.  I expect Rice will see a lot of short passes in an attempt to get Flacco on an early roll, before he tosses his share of strikes to Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.  Woe to Kevin Kolb, who can’t be excited about having to play this game without Beanie Wells.  Wells is again unlikely to play, and against the Ravens would have it rough anyway, but a balanced attack could delay some of the Ravens blitz tendencies.  If there is a weakness to Baltimore, it may be their secondary, and if Kolb can get some time, there’s always Larry Fitzgerald to cause problems downfield.  Of the four passing touchdowns the Ravens have allowed, half have been for strikes of over 30 yards.  Regardless, this should be a great day for the Ravens defense and Ray Rice.|


How is it that a team with Steven Jackson as their primary runner is rushing the ball only 36 percent of the time?  This may underscore one of several problems St. Louis has.  Jackson hasn’t exactly been the measure of NFL durability, and perhaps that explains his lack of a 20-carry game yet this season.  So even though he’s averaging 4.9 per carry, he’s seeing less rushing attempts.  This combined with the fact St. Louis has given up the second most sacks in the league, no doubt also a reflection of their lack of wide receiver threats (Brandon Lloyd’s six catches last Sunday gave him over one-third the total tally of any other receiver on the team), makes for another one-sided affair.  The Rams will attempt early down passes to assist backup quarterback A.J. Feeley from having to stare down the Saints blitz package, and will try to involve Jackson as much as possible.  However, if the Rams are going to score, it will likely be through the air as New Orleans has allowed just five rushing TDs verus 12 passing scores.  While  Drew Brees’ hasn’t been nearly as good away from home, the Edward Jones Dome will feel very close to it.  Brees hasn’t throw a single interception indoors this year, and on turf, his ratio is 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions.  Pierre Thomas is a nice play here with Mark Ingram sitting the pine after bruising his heel, and Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham should make their mark.  However, I think it’s Thomas who surprises with a big rushing score and a TD reception.  He would be my sleeper play of the week.


This is another one of those games that seems fit for Adrian Peterson to go off on a running binge.  Well slow down one second there, son.  Adrian Peterson averages nearly a yard less per carry on the road this year as well as on grass.  The last time Minnesota visited Carolina was 2009 and surprising 11-2 Vikings got beaten 26-7, yielding 20 points in the final quarter.  Peterson managed just 35 yards on 12 carries, though he did score a touchdown.  Of course, Christian Ponder isn’t Brett Favre, and this Carolina defense isn’t quite as good as that one was.  Peterson will certainly tally more than 12 carries and should get his second road touchdown of the year.  However, Carolina’s pass defense has improved to 12th on the season, and my guess is that they’ll be willing to risk man coverage against the likes of Ponder if it means preventing Peterson from consistently churning out yardage.  Cam Newton continues his impressive rookie season, but his October has been a little chillier than September.  His QB rating has dropped from 85 to 81, and he’s thrown one more interception than touchdown in October.  Where the difference has come in is Newton’s ability to run.  The problem is that his style of play has come at the expense of two very strong running backs, neither of which has had a game of 15 carries or more.  Only DeAngelo Williams has 100 yards from scrimmage in a game this year, but he doesn’t have a single carry inside the ten-yard line.  Newton will throw early and often to try to score early and take Minnesota away from their own ground game.  He should have no problem finding Steve Smith open yet again.  However, he’ll have to look away from the middle of the field as Minnesota has given up just one touchdown to a TE and that was last week to Jermichael Finley.  Expect more targets to Legedu Naanee and Brandon Lefell this week.  The game will come down to Christian Ponder, who will take advantage of a Panthers secondary that has been scorched for four passing touchdowns over 45 yards.  Michael Jenkins and Percy Harvin will both see paydirt this week as Minnesota shocks the Carolina faithful at Bank of America Stadium.


Five minutes does not make a football game, unless of course you’re the Miami Dolphins and you’re up against the Denver Broncos new wunderkind quarterback.  Things can’t get much worse for Tony Sparano’s group, as Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush have still been limited in practice, as has.  Matt Moore has sore ribs from being sacked eight times in two games.  The Dolphins would prefer to try to run against the Giants front seven, which is expected to welcome back Justin Tuck, as the Giants are giving up over 127 yards per game on the ground.  For the Giants, Eli Manning, for all of his inconsistency, he is the fourth rated QB in the league.  He’s thrown 11 touchdowns against five interceptions, and in his last two starts has tallied over 700 yards passing, three touchdowns and three interceptions.  Jake Ballard has become the one consistent target he looks for besides Hakeem Nicks, though in the past two games Mario Manningham has 17 targets and 10 receptions.  Cold weather has never suited the Dolphins, who are another team in for a long day in the Meadowlands.  Ahmad Bradshaw, coming off a career best 3-touchdown day, will again see the workload on the ground as Brandon Jacobs continues to deal with a swollen knee.  It’s a nice day for Bradshaw, but even a nicer day for Manning.



This might be a game the Steelers might prefer not be at Heinz Field.  Tom Brady has is 6-1 all time against them, including two AFC Championship wins in the Steel City.  The last time Pittsburgh beat the Patriots with Brady was in 2004 after scoring 21 points in the first quarter.  There’s no doubt this is a quarterback friendly game.  Both QBs make their teammates better, but the truth is Brady doesn’t need a stud receiver to lift his offense on his shoulders.  In the past names like Troy Brown, Jabar Gaffney and David Givens had factored in against the Steelers, and even with their league best pass defense, the Steelers have been so predictable to Bill Belichick that the games have hardly seemed fair.  The Patriots defense, ranked near the bottom this year, has found ways to confuse Roethlisberger, who is 2-4 against the Patriot,s but whose regular season numbers against them aren’t shabby: 96 of 166, 10 touchdowns versus two interceptions.  However he owns a 58 percent completion rate and just 7.02 yards per attempt.  The Patriots blueprint is simple; spread the Steelers out and pick them apart in favorable matchups.  This time, I believe they do that and actually run Sunday.  Averaging 124 yards per game, the Patriots rushing offense will do what they do best; provide the Steelers with any extra weapon they can to cast doubt in their minds.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis will get more attempts than expected, and Wes Welker, who is virtually un-coverable, may draw man coverage, leaving Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to draw favorable matchups.  The Steelers will pass a lot against this league worst pass defense in an attempt to open up the box for Rashard Mendenhall.  The Steelers will likely be without Hines Ward, so Antonio Brown, who is quickly rising on the targets list, should be in for a good game.  If the Steelers can get on top early they can access their blitz package.  Thus I expect a big toss early to Mike Wallace to test the safeties of the New England secondary.  Everything has to go right for the Steelers to win, and it likely won’t.


John Beck wasn’t stellar in his debut as the Redskins starter, but he played strong, and without Tim Hightower for the rest of the season, he’ll have to step up again.  The Bills defense, though ranked 30th against the pass and run, has been one of the most opportunistic in the league.  They are plus-11 in turnover ratio and second in the league with 12 interceptions.  Safety George Wilson has been a possessed man, appearing all over the field, leading the team in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed.  The Redskins backfield now turns again to Shanahan favorite Ryan Torain, with Roy Helu sprinkled in for good measure, particularly after Ahmad Bradshaw ate the Bills rushing defense for three scores and over 100 yards.  Surprisingly, only Bradshaw and Cedric Benson have earned 100-yard status against Buffalo, even though the Bills are yielding almost 138 yards per contest on the ground.  Without Santana Moss, the Redskins will target Jabar Gaffney outside, and team receiving leader Fred Davis.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has three interceptions in the past two games, and against the Redskins secondary that has just four interceptions all year, his job is to protect the football and get quick short passes away while avoiding the pass rush of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo.  Thus, Fred Jackson should get a decent number of looks in the passing game, as well as Scott Chandler, who has had just two catches in the last two games.  Unfortunately, for the Redskins, Beck will have to make some plays, and the Bills secondary will lure him into a key turnover late.


The Lions have showed some cracks in the armor, and that includes another chink to Matthew Stafford, who limped off the field again Sunday.  The problem with the Lions, besides the fact they lost Jahvid Best a week after having his best game as a pro, is that the offense continues to play lousy in the first quarter.  Though Stafford actually completes over 61 percent of his passes in the first, his passer rating is an abysmal 62.1 while he averages just 4.79 per pass.  Now they head to Denver, the home of a rejuventated Broncos franchise with Tim Tebow at the helm.  The Broncos rushing offense has improved greatly with Willis McGahee directing it.  However, he is out this week, leaving Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball the opportunity to get more playing time.  This could be Moreno’s last shot, before Denver invests elsewhere, because The Lions rushing defense has made first string runners stars the last three weeks to the tune of 64 carries, 373 yards (a 5.8 average).  If Moreno is a no-show on Sunday, he’s have to do more than Tebowism to continue in his coach’s good graces.  John Fox is likely to rely on the rush, including some by Tebow himself to move the chains.   Daniel Fells will likely be a bailout target for Tebow, with an occasional target to Demaryius Thomas.  I like Denver’s chances to surprise the reeling Lions, especially with a wounded Stafford.  If Tebow protects the ball, expect a shocker.



This has all the makings of an offensive dud.  Peyton Hillis reported being sore post practice Wednesday which means we could see another day of plodding from Montario Hardesty. The receiving threats on Cleveland are already limited as both Mohamed Massaquoi and Ben Watson are still feeling the ill effects of lingering concussions.  Coming off the Bye week, the 49ers defense has to be licking its chops at seeing a Cleveland team that averages just 3.3 yards per carry and a league worst 5.5 per pass attempt.  In return, Cleveland’s strong pass defense faces an Alex Smith-led offense that would rather put the ball in the hands of Frank Gore against the Browns 19th ranked rush defense than throw on a secondary tied for best in the league.  Thus, Gore is the key for the 49ers, and he’s coming off three straight games of over 120 yards rushing.  Delanie Walker has become a new red zone target of Smith, as he has two scores in the last two games.   His last TD was in the final two minutes of the 49ers upset win over Detroit, so he could figure in as well.  Gore will stake the 49ers to a lead, and that’s all they will need because Cleveland has just one game where they have won coming from behind.

49ERS 17, BROWNS 7

With Cedric Benson finally serving his one game suspension, Bernard Scott was a league- wide fantasy pickup.  Yet Scott is averaging just 2.8 per carry this year and the Seattle defense has been squashing teams to the tune of a league best 3.1 yards per touch.  Where the Seahawks falter is on offense.  With injuries now abounding at crucial skill positions – Tarvaris Jackson at QB, Marshawn Lynch at RB – they are in the bottom five in their down efficiency at just over 30 percent.  Lynch may return Sunday, and he’ll be crucial to the Seahawks ground game.  Charlie Whitehurst hasn’t taken many strides forward, and against Cincy’s fifth rated pass defense, it probably won’t get much better.  Andy Dalton should have some good field position to deal with but Seattle is in the top ten in defensive red zone efficiency.  So my bet is Mike Nugent gets a lot of opportunities, and A. J. Green adds a big play touchdown.


SUNDAY NIGHT – 8:20 pm

The story of this game should be the Dallas defense, which has steadily improved and nearly took one from the Patriots in Gillette stadium just a few weeks ago.  They held Tom Brady to his second lowest tally of the season, while handcuffing the New England running game to 101 total yards.  Meanwhile, Dallas may have an invigorated rushing attack in the form of DeMarco Murray, who reeled off a record 253 yards on the ground.  He gets to go up against Philadelphia's 23rd ranked rushing defense as a bonus.  On the flipside, Eagles DE Trent Cole returns, and that in itself could help some of Philadelphia's defensive issues up front.  Cole has averaged over 50 tackles per season the past five years and almost 10 sacks per season.  He had three sacks before injuring his calf in Week Four against the 49ers.  The quarterbacks of both teams have been turnover prone, but Vick has elevated the Eagles to near equality of their Pennsylvania rival Steelers as one of the worst in the league.  So whichever QB limit bad decisions and costly mistakes will likely win this one.  Jason Witten has been as consistent a target as Romo has ever had this year, leading the team with 36 receptions.  He thrives against the Eagles, having scored four touchdowns in their last four matchups while hauling in 24 passes for 234 yards.  Romo's chemistry with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin has been inconsistent, but might not matter if Murray can pull an encore performance of their game against St. Louis.  Sooner than latter I expect Bryant to break out in a huge way.  LeSean McCoy has played only three games against the Cowboys and has never scored, but his tally in last year's foray was 16 carries on 149 yards.  Taper expectations this time around, but expect him to get his share of targets. Jeremy Maclin has been heating up with 26 targets and 18 receptions in the last three games.  However, Dallas has caused six turnovers in the past two games, Romo has been a better quarterback away than at home, and the Eagles defense is still a question mark.


MONDAY NIGHT – 8:30 pm

The Chiefs have won three straight, and have rushed for 103 yards, 194 yards, and 139 yards respectively in those three victories, lifting their rushing offense's rank to 7th best in the league.  They've caused seven turnovers (six against the Raiders alone) while turning the ball over just twice.  Matt Cassel hasn't quite found a groove this year except perhaps for the game against Indianapolis, though in the last three games he has connected with Dwayne Bowe for 18 receptions, 315 yards and three scores. Jackie Battle now has the starting job, and is averaging 5.2 yards per attempt, though most of that came in one game, and he is sharing time with Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster.  Also, Le'Ron McClain got his first goal-to-go touchdown run last week.  They'll face a Chargers rush defense that has slipped to 21st overall, giving up 121 yards per game.  San Diego has won three of the last four at Arrowhead, though the games haven't always been easy.  Last year, the heavily favored Chargers traveled Midwest in the first weeks of the season and were upset 21-14.  Speculation has begun floating that something is wrong with Philip Rivers.  He has tossed nine interceptions versus seven touchdowns, and the turnovers have come at costly times.  His yards per attempt which had been close to nine per throw has dropped to under eight, the lowest since 2007.  Scary enough, he’s completing almost 65 percent of his passes and still that’s his lowest tally also since 2007.  He now comes off his worst game of the season where he posted a QB rating of 51.4. Antonio Gates is going to be limited the rest of the season with his foot problem, and the Chiefs secondary is no slouch.  Mike Tolbert remains questionable with his hamstring, and the Bolts have lost starting guard Chris Dielman to a concussion.  All this adds up to is a bad scenario for San Diego.  The Chiefs picked Rivers off twice in the Week Three game in San Diego, so Ryan Mathews becomes crucial for them to have a chance, and he’s behind a banged up line.  KC won’t let them escape this time.


Are there any words?

Game 7, Tonight!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


There isn't a more damning reaction to Terrell Owens' comeback attempt than the fact his quarterback of yesteryear, Carson Palmer, has no desire to reunite with him in Oakland.  When you consider the Oakland Raiders' receivers this is what you see: Darius Heyward-Bey has vastly improved this year over last, but still isn't considered an elite talent, at least not yet.  Jacoby Ford has great speed but is small and an injury hazard, something that also plagues Louis Murphy (also, mediocre hands) and Chaz Schilens.  Then there's Denarius Moore, who has shown glimpses of great talent, but is still a rookie.  Yet Palmer was willing go on the record on radio and say he likes the guys he's playing with in Oakland.

"The problem is that for him to get here there's not anybody that we could let go." 

It doesn't take much to read between those lines to know he isn't about to support the fallen receiver, even though he was his top target last year.

As follow-up to the blog I wrote the other day about Terrell Suggs and his comments, this should be fair warning to young players in the NFL.  If you choose the path Owens did, wherein you make yourself bigger than everyone else around (even if it's deserved) and withdraw your team's goodwill,  then when the time comes where you want to call in that favor, even if you're the best talent out there, you might find your coffer empty.

Owens was reported as saying, "I only need one team," Owens told the NFL Network on Tuesday. "I only need one chance."I have a feeling he's had one chance too many. 

You can view the entire article on

To date, the one phone call he reportedly received came from the Chicago Rush of the Arean Football League.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Is there any way to put a gag order on all NFL players.  I mean, really, we didn't sign on to the NFL season to hear your interviews.  We didn't get the NFL package to hear your thoughts about your team's coaching.  We signed on to watch your talent as it is displayed on the gridiron.  Since when did we ever care about what you thought about coaching?

Terrell Suggs decided to publicly question his coach John Harbaugh and his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after Monday's unexpected loss to the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars. 

"I don't really know what the game plan was," Suggs said. "When I have a Pro Bowl running back, and he's not getting his touches, I'm going to feel some kind of way about it. He wants the ball. And I think we should feed him. Ray Rice is a phenomenal player. You have to use your phenomenal players. I have to question how many touches Anquan [Boldin] had. We've got guys on this team that can do some great things. We have to use those guys. It's that simple."

Really?  You didn't know what the game plan was?  You had a whole week of practice installing the game plans for both the offense and defense.  Your job was to keep points off the board.  You did a decent job of that but not a perfect one.  Your offense failed to execute the game plan, but was it because it was a bad game plan?  Or was it that they just got beaten up by a more physical Jaguars team on that particular Monday night.  And how would you know if you didn't really know what the game plan was?

You see, the problem with Terrell Suggs' comments is that not only do they contradict themselves, but they serve no one's purpose.  They don't serve Suggs because last time I saw, Suggs plays defense.  He should concern himself with keeping the Jaguars from moving the football, which they did most of last night.  Had the Jags gotten out of their own way, the night would have been a lot more lopsided than it was.  Second, it doesn't serve Cam Cameron.  First, he put it out there in the public spotlight that he, not the Ravens defense, but that he, Terrell Suggs, disagrees with his offensive coordinator.  Publicly criticizing your coach may get your voice heard but won't win you any fans among the administrative staff in the process.  Third, it doesn't serve the Ravens locker room or higher ups to worry that Suggs will run his mouth whenever he might feel it is appropriate.  This means that come contract time, they have to be careful about what gets said when Suggs is in the room.  It puts a question in their minds, albeit a small one, but still a question, of whether they can trust him.

You think Terrell Owens has the trust of anyone he speaks with these days.  He might be in great shape, and might even be ready to play for all we know, but the first question every GM and every Head Coach will ask is do they want a guy they can't trust playing as one of their own.  So far, the answer has been clear.

Terrell Suggs needs to do what a lot of professional players need to do.  First, worry about your game.  Second, worry about your teammates and remind yourself that what you do and say reflects not only you, but them as well.  Third, protect the sanctity of your fraternity that is the happenings inside your team's locker room by keeping them private, for your sake and the sake of your team.  And last, and I say this most respectfully, shut up and play football.


In a week that saw early injury alter the outcomes of several games, the JABO blog still had a pretty solid day in picking the top five fantasy players in each category. Of course, we also miffed on a bunch of predictions, including the one involving Arian Foster, who I said would have a good dose of pass opportunities, but never foresaw the Titans rolling over the way they did on the ground game. Foster was a beast, and admittedly, I'm feeling a little sheepish (baaa!) I said this past week I thought DeMarco Murray looked like a rising star that was ready to break one and he wasted no time against the Rams in showing what he could do by posting 253 rushing yards, a Cowboy record and ninth best single game tally in league history. Those who drafted Felix Jones just witnessed his value get cut in half.

Admittedly, when I wrote the previews last week I placed Baltimore right up there among the top defenses of the week. And they played well. But prior to Monday’s game, I told a friend of mine that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jacksonville not only cover, but win the game. Joe Flacco just hasn’t been getting it done, and was an abysmal 7-for-17 in the first half. He finished 21-for-38 in the game, but if I’m the Ravens, I have to be worried that Flacco’s first game of the season might have been his best. They took apart an unprepared Steelers defense in Week 1 and looked as formidable as any team in the league. Since them, Flacco has thrown three touchdowns against a depleted St. Louis defense, and has had zero touchdowns against both the Jets and Houston. He managed one late against Jacksonville, but the game was just about out of reach at 9-0. This blogger pointed out Ray Rice’s inefficiency this year on grass, and he delivered 3.5 yards per carry Monday night on the Everbank Stadium surface. The Jacksonville defense has now played six straight quarters of solid football. They shut out the Steelers in the second half and kept the Ravens scoreless almost the entire game. If Blaine Gabbert can develop into a more effective passer such as to complete a few more big plays a game, the Jaguars have enough rushing offense to pose a real threat to the AFC South.

What a difference one play makes. If Curtis Painter completes his first pass to Pierre Garçon, the Colts lead 7-0, and the game might have taken a different path. Instead, a miscue by offensive linemen Joe Reitz, Center Jeff Saturday and Painter led to a botched snap, and Drew Brees wasted no time taking the Saints down and delivering Marques Colston the first of his two touchdown grabs. Three notes in this game – still impressed by Curtis Painter. He’s picked up the Colts offense in a few weeks, made some incredibly tough throws, and sans that first pass which maybe could have been thrown a little deeper, looks in command of this offense. He still has things to learn, but Painter looks like he’s got a future as an NFL starter. When you consider he has little protection up front, had his starting runner Joseph Addai for just one series, and saw himself leading a team down 21-0 at the start of the second quarter, you can't make too many fair observations. Rookie Delone Carter, besides a early fumble, turned in a respectable performance. Second note is that the Saints trust Darren Sproles a lot more than San Diego did. He was second in carries to Mark Ingram with 12, had six receptions and two touchdowns. For his size, Sproles was effective running the football, didn’t go down after one or two hits and appears to be getting better every week. Third, the Indianapolis secondary is pretty bad. Veteran Antoine Bethea completely missed Pierre Thomas on an early screen play and ended up grabbing his facemask. Cornerback Kevin Thomas was absolutely schooled by Lance Moore on an out route, where Moore juked while catching the ball, and simply ran by him. Simple mistakes like these made smaller gains larger ones, and kept the Saints momentum rolling forward in the first half. The Saints punted once all game, and that was on their final drive of the fourth quarter.

Ninety-eight yards stood between Christian Ponder and a legendary moment. With 5:26 left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings trailed by just six, and had the ball on their own two yard line. However, they could only move the ball 34 yards, and after being forced to punt, James Starks went to work sealing the game. Perhaps the biggest surprise wasn’t that Adrian Peterson got so many carries with Ponder making his first start, but that he could run up 175 yards on a top five Packers unit that was yielding 75.8 yards per game. The Vikings line allowed a couple of sacks, but for the most part protected Ponder, and though his numbers weren’t pretty, he played well and provided an offensive spark. It’s even more damning evidence against Donovan McNabb that this team was one big play away from beating the NFL's best team this deep into the fourth quarter.

Some might have asked why this blog would rank Ben Roethlisberger so high and not have done so for Rashard Mendenhall, particularly after Mendenhall had his best rushing game of the season. Easy, the Steelers offensive line isn’t healthy. Maurkice Pouncey played on Sunday, but is battling an elbow issue. The Steelers lost tackle Jonathan Scott and Willie Colon. These players weren’t strong as it was. Now second year man Chris Scott and Max Starks are handling Roethlisberger’s blind side and rookie Marcus Gilbert is playing right tackle. The big difference for the Steelers is the unmatched speed of Mike Wallace. Rarely in the league, if ever, has this kind of speed been matched with such great hands. He recorded his sixth straight game with a catch over 40 yards. He slightly tweaked his hamstring, so he’ll be limited in practice this week, and the Steelers lost Hines Ward to an ankle injury. The Cardinals may have lost Beanie Wells for the next game with a sprained knee, and as has been the fear for Wells’ owners, the injury bug has struck Wells again. Questions are likely to arise again as to whether he can carry a team for an entire season.

There wasn’t much doubt that Dallas would take this game, particularly after getting the news A.J. Feeley would be under center. Ironically, Feeley’s only interception came on an attempt to the Rams newest member, WR Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd appeared to cut short a route and Feeley didn’t notice in time and fired one right to CB Michael Jenkins. Tony Romo wasn’t pretty, but he didn’t need to be as DeMarco Murray launched himself to player-of-the-week status with a 253-yard rushing performance that started on his first carry and didn’t stop until 60 minutes later. If you heard his interview Monday on Jim Rome, you also witnessed a star player in the post game as well. Murray was nothing but class, and should give a few lessons to Terrell Owens, DeSean Jackson, Santonio Holmes and many others. Jason Witten caught his third touchdown in as many games. The lone highlight for St. Louis was Steven Jackson, who finally looked healthy on his 40 yard TD scamper.

This game changed the moment Darren McFadden left the game. The loss of Jason Campbell was crushing enough (and perhaps surprising to the Raider faithful how much it mattered), but the air left the Raiders tires the moment number 20 left the field. It’s hard to make a case for why Kyle Boller is on an NFL roster right now. He was so ineffective that he posted one of the lowest ratings I’ve ever seen for a game, that of 22.3. His long balls were short, his short balls weren’t thrown hard enough. It was as if Boller has never left the college speed of the game, except that he’s not a youngster. Boller is 30 years old. He’s way to experienced to still look like a deer in headlights facing a team like the Chiefs in a divison matchup. Matt Cassel looks like he’s returned to health as he threw the ball better than he had in awhile, but he still ended up with two interceptions.

As if the Redskins weren’t fighting the injury bug enough, they added Tim Hightower to their IR candidates, Santana Moss to the 'out' list for several weeks, and London Fletcher with a hamstring pull to the questionable list. Everyone’s favorite coach Mike Shanahan ran Ryan Torain all of two times for negative five yards. Roy Helu fared only marginally better. John Beck seemed to do his best work in the no-huddle, but he rarely got help from his receivers, who seemed to drop everything they could. Cam Newton continues to prove that with him under center Steve Smith will continue to put up sick numbers. And by the way, Newton has been a Top Five quarterback five of seven weeks.

So what if Tim Tebow’s release takes more time to wind up than an ancient Roman catapult, when it came to crunch time, and that was with about 5:23 left, the Broncos QB delivered all that was necessary to send the Dolphins to 0-7. Up to that point, Tebow had completed just four passes, had managed only two drives of longer than five plays, had netted just 158 yards of total offense and had lost a fumble. All appeared lost. Was it divine intervention? The Broncos final two drives totaled 136 yards, and resulted in 15 points to send the game into overtime. One Matt Moore fumble later, the game was over. The Dolphins employed a no-huddle offense in an attempt to get more from their scoring unit, but it didn’t help. Daniel Thomas wasn’t completely healthy for this game, as he’s been nursing a sore hamstring.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m now buying what Matt Forte is selling. If you’re a defensive coordinator, and you’re defending the Bears, who are you worried about besides Forte? Maybe Devin Hester or Johnny Knox, and even that’s a maybe. So even though coordinators have been planning for and trying to stop Forte as top priority to beating the Bears he is still putting up offense in droves. Forte had 25 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown, a blueprint for success for any Bears win. He added two catches for 38 yards. The Buccaneers' biggest concern, besides the fact Chicago ran all over them, is that Josh Freeman continues to turn the ball over. Freeman added four interceptions to his tally, giving him 10 for the year in just seven games. Some might make the case that he lost Earnest Graham in the first quarter, and Tampa Bay’s ability to run the football was severely compromised by Kregg Lumpkin. Lumpkin was picked up in 2008 by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, mostly due to his injury history. He had a terrific pre-season in 2008, leading the Packers with 38 carries for 153 yards and touchdown, but by October he was out for the season with a hamstring injury. Lumpkin now is the only running back on Tampa Bay’s roster besides injured LeGarrette Blount.

I wrote earlier this week how Philip Rivers had handled the football this year like it had a case of herpes and he didn’t want it anywhere near he or his team. Well, Rivers continued his turnover-laden ways with two more interceptions, both in the second half, sealing the Chargers doom. Vincent Jackson never got off of Darrelle Revis Island, and the San Diego running game was surprisingly ineffective, managing just 96 total yards on the ground. Antonio Gates saw the field for the first time in four weeks and had plenty of action; seven targets, five catches, 50 yards and a touchdown. We can all welcome Plaxico Burress back to the league. Three touchdown passes for the day, and suddenly he is relevant again. It certainly didn’t hurt that Shonn Greene contributed his first 100-yard game by a Jets runner this year. For many fantasy owners, seven weeks was too long to wait.

As I mentioned above, I find it hard to believe anyone saw coming what Arian Foster did to the Titans defense in their own stadium. Foster outgained the entire Tennessee offense. Problem for Tennessee is it didn’t stop with Foster. Ben Tate added 100 yards of his own on just 15 carries. Meanwhile, the Titan offense since losing Kenny Britt seems to have sunk back. In their three wins the Titans offense averaged over 24 points per game. In their losses, and they’re coming off two straight, they’ve averaged just 12. Damian Williams has done his best to step up, but no Tennessee receiver has had more than six receptions and none has surpassed 100 yards. Jared Cook was the closest with two receptions for 93 yards against Cleveland.

With all of the talk coming after the game, a lot of people have forgotten the fact that Matty Ryan got up from his injury; Matthew Stafford didn't.  Ironically enough, Detroit got decent performances from fill-in runners Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams, both of whom averaged better than 4.9 yards per touch. Why there wasn’t more running from Detroit only Jim Schwartz and company knows. Roddy White got his red zone target and made the most of it with a fingertip grab that was a thing of beauty. Other than that, he was once again a victim of efficient running by Michael Turner and another 6.4 yards per attempt average by Matt Ryan, who ended up playing through a sprained ankle. Don’t look now but Detroit has lost two straight and could be in real trouble if Stafford can’t go next week against a rejuvenated Broncos team.

Marshawn Lynch went down and with him went the Seattle offense. How Pete Carroll still holds an NFL coaching job is beyond me. This is the guy that left the USC program in shambles and not a moment too soon, and his first act as new coach of the Seattle Seahawks was to trade for Charlie Whitehurst. Well Whitehurst got the start on Sunday and was able to post 12 completions on 30 attempts for 97 yards. His quarterback rating of 35 was bad until you compare it to Kyle Boller’s. However his 3.2 yards per attempt average almost makes them pray they had Kyle Boller. I mean, did anyone think Seattle would actually be praying for Tarvaris Jackson to return? Before being hurt, Jackson had posted his two best QB ratings of 96.3 and 86.6 against Atlanta and New York respectively, and the offense seemed to be finding some rhythm. Now they’re back to having numbers like this – Leon Washington's four catches were best for the team for Week 7, though Sidney Rice led in yardage with 38. Washington also led in rushing with seven attempts for 39 yards. Defensively, Seattle did its job, blocking two kicks and ranking in the top five for the week. Montario Hardesty got his first start and managed just 95 yards on 33 carries. Hard to believe a Cleveland back could get 33 carries in this game which totaled nine points while Seattle’s back Washington got all of seven. At least we know Phil Dawson is tough. He kicked two 50-plus yard field goals with a thigh bruise that saw him limping after the game.  You go Phil!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees
Tony Romo
Ben Roethlisberger
Matthew Stafford

Darren McFadden
Michael Turner
Adrian Peterson
Matt Forte
Ryan Mathews

Miles Austin
Mike Wallace
Calvin Johnson
Greg Jennings
Marques Colston

Jason Witten
Owen Daniels
Jimmy Graham
Fred Davis
Dallas Clark

Conor Barth
Billy Cundiff
Nick Novak
Nick Folk
Matt Bryant

Green Bay
New York Jets

Friday, October 21, 2011


The Tim Tebow era begins, bringing the NFL savior Denver fans have been crying for...maybe?  Certainly, it's a good week for him to be a savior.  But if we're going to pray for good charm, let's do so for James Harrison, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor during his physical earlier this week.  Here's wishing you a quick and speedy recovery!


Let's begin with the game everyone is talking about.  Tim Tebow takes the 1-4 Broncos and the hopes of the entire Denver faithful into Sun Life Stadium against the wishes of the experts and perhaps even his own coaches.  If there ever was a game to start this era, this is it.  Set in South Florida, nearby home of Tebow's alma mater, in addition to coming off the Bye Week, it may not matter that Tebow will complete around 50 percent of his passes.  His ability to run and extend plays could give the Dolphins' already taxed 28th-ranked pass defense fits.  However, the Broncos trade of Brandon Lloyd takes away the most reliable hands  Tebow had, and he'll likely have to throw, as the Dolphins run defense is now ranked 12th.  Denver has managed just two rushing touchdowns, and one of those was by Tebow last week.  Miami will send Daniel Thomas into the Denver line early and often, and try to take the pressure off Matt Moore and his unreliable wide receivers.  Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush practiced Thursday, giving the Dolphins a chance to put up some points.  Eddie Royal returns for Denver at a crucial time, and the perpetually injured DeMaryius Thomas might play as well.  However, if I was betting on a receiver, it would be Eric Decker, who will reassure fantasy owners faith he can maintain his new WR1 status.  Tebow ends up a top ten fantasy QB this week and pulls out the victory.

Both teams are looking to regain their grip of the AFC South lead.  Both teams feature top flight running backs which have had their seasons hampered in one way or another.  Both teams lost their top receiver to injury.  For the Texans, Arian Foster comes off two subpar rushing games, averaging just 3.1 yards per attempt.  The last time he was in Tennessee, Foster managed just 15 yards on 11 carries in a game that dropped the Texans out of playoff contention.  The Texans have lost two straight, and it’s no secret their offense hasn’t been the same since Andre Johnson’s hamstring injury.  Foster’s season has been injury-plagued, between his hamstring and now aching quadriceps, and the last two games, one against a lowly Raiders rush defense have shown he’s not healthy.  The Titans will key on stopping Foster, so although he’ll get opportunities, he won’t be a top runner this weekend.  The Titans have yet to give up a pass play of longer than 45 yards, and have yielded just one rushing score.  Look for a heavy dose of Foster, especially in the passing game with Kevin Walter getting his share of underneath routes.  However, Owen Daniels should be a big play, as he's tied for most targets on the team and the Titans have given up three touchdown receptions to tight ends the last two games.   The Titans will push to give Chris Johnson as many touches as they can and take advantage of the void left by DE Mario Williams  and S Dominique Barber by making Nate Washington a deep target.  Considering Baltimore had two passing plays longer than 50 yards, Washington should have a big day.  Jared Cook could figure more in the passing game, but he's not considered an every down TE, so taper expectations.  Craig Stevens could vulture a red zone TD.


The Browns are preparing for Charlie Whitehurst to make his first start of the season in Cleveland, which should be music to their 4th ranked secondary's ears, particularly after reading Mike Sando's blog on ESPN.  For his career, Whitehurst has completed just under 58 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and three interceptions.  Doug Baldwin leads the Seahawks in receiving yardage and passing plays over twenty yards.  In the one and one-half quarters Whitehurst played against New York, he targeted Baldwin six times, which included a 27-yard TD strike.  Marshawn Lynch should be a top ten play with the Browns giving up nearly 130 rushing yards per game.  He hasn't surpassed 20 carries for a game yet this year, but with Whitehurst under center, expect him to come close this week.  Cleveland's Montario Hardesty will likely see the most carries of his short career, as Peyton Hillis suffered a hamstring pull against the Oakland Raiders.  He'll find the road tough going as Seattle is now yielding less than 100 yards per contest and the Browns have yet to spring a runner for a play longer than 24 yards.  Colt McCoy certainly has a nice TD/INT ratio, but he's also completing just 55 percent of his passes.  You'd like to think that Mohamed Massaquoi could take advantage of the Seahawks losing CB Marcus Truffant to the IR, but the Browns have just one play longer than 50 yards, and just eight longer than 20.  Even on the road, across the country, at a 1pm start time, the Seahawks take this one fairly easily.


John Beck gets his first start since 2007, when he went 0-5.  Nothing he's done since then has been remarkable, except having been named to be in the hunt for making a team here or there.  Even though Washington is on the road, if there was a first team a QB like Beck would want to face, it could be the Panthers.  Injuries have robbed them of their once stout defense, and the offensive line recently lost one of their best linemen in Jeff Otah who was placed on IR.  The Panthers, once a bastion of running excellence, are now ranked 13th in rushing offense and most of that ranking has been obtained by Cam Newton’s scrambling ability.  Both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have under 50 attempts for the season, pushing them into afterthought status even with both of them gaining over four yards per attempt.  This puts a lot of the onus on Newton to make plays, and his October has perhaps seen him trying to do too much.  His QB rating has slipped to a 71 for the month and he’s added five interceptions against three touchdowns.  Either way, he’s facing a Redskins defense ranked sixth overall in yards given up per game, and third in points allowed (16.6).  The pass rush of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan has delivered 17 total sacks in five games, and only one quarterback has posted a QB rating above 80.  Ryan Torain should be a shoe-in for 100 yards and a score except that Tim Hightower practiced Thursday so it’s possible Torain gets a majority of the carries except on third down and in the red zone where Hightower could vulture some attempts.  Fred Davis no longer has the competition of Chris Cooley, as Cooley is fighting just to stay off of the IR.  Davis is likely a huge target of Beck this week, as is Tim Hightower because Beck averaged 5.22 per pass attempt the last time he saw any action.  Granted, he was a rookie, but he’s not known for having a cannon arm.  He won’t need it much this week, and as long as he protects the ball, Washington wins this one on the road.


Detroit has lost Jahvid Best for the foreseeable future, no matter how much Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan frame it.  You might remember his college career was cut short by a massive concussion, so there’s little doubt in light of the NFL’s recent focus on treating concussions more dutifully that Best will be held out this week at least.  With the discovery that James Harrison has a brain tumor, the Lions RB depth is thin, and they will turn to Maurice Morris who is no stranger to stepping in for teams.  He’ll be used mostly to keep some balance, as the Lions throw at a 63 percent clip, among the highest in the league.  The Lions will attempt to jump out early against Atlanta’s 28th-ranked pass defense in order to take away Atlanta’s running game.  This means Calvin Johnson will get back to his scoring ways, as both Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes give up nine inches of height in their matchups with Johnson.  The task will likely be Grimes’, reputed to be one of the most physical corners in the league.  Though time of possession hasn’t been a concern of the Lions due to their big strike ability, this game it should be.  The Lions gave up 203 yards rushing to the 49ers in their first loss of the season, and Atlanta, likely minus rookie Julio Jones, will attempt to follow that blueprint.  Michael Turner will get another day of 20-plus carries, and along with Jason Snelling, pack a potent one-two punch that can bleed the clock and allow Matt Ryan to use play action to buy some extra time against the Detroit pass rush.  Roddy White should see a red zone target or two.  One telling stat: in Atlanta's three wins, only once has Matt Ryan attempted more than 30 passes.  In all of their losses he did.  And although Turner is averaging almost a yard less per carry on the road, he’ll post top five numbers this week.  I don’t think it will be enough to beat Detroit.  Lions win at home in a squeaker.


The last time these two teams met, Shonn Greene ran for 128 yard in a 17-14 playoff win nearly two years ago.  San Diego, probably the healthiest they’ve been since Week 1, is expecting Antonio Gates back even though he has yet to practice this week.  However, in all likelihood, Norv Turner will likely opt for a strong ground attack, led by Ryan Mathews and bolstered by bruiser Mike Tolbert as the game wears on.  The Jets have faltered stopping the run, and are now ranked near the bottom allowing 128 yards per game.  At the same time, their secondary and pass rush are among the best, and thus their fifth ranking.  The Chargers have also been careless with the football, particularly Philip Rivers, who sports an uncharacteristic seven interceptions versus six touchdowns.  Still, the Jets face no small task stopping a San Diego offense that has yet to be held under 20 points, while their own offense was outscored 98­-62 during their winless three-game road trip before dismissing the Dolphins.  Jets Coach Rex Ryan gave the Chargers plenty of bulletin board material this week, and the Chargers will come in determined to make a statement.  Mathews should put on a nice display, making him a strong candidate for the top five this week.  With a divided locker room, Mark Sanchez will have to take charge and push New York to a win against the fourth best defense in the NFL.  The only reasons that San Diego won't run away with this game is the travel and their propensity to turn the ball over.


This will be the fifth NFL regular season NFL game played overseas in London.  The last time Tampa Bay traveled to London was in 2009 and they were stomped 35-7 by a far superior New England Patriots team.  For the Bears, this marks their first time traveling to London since 1991, and their first trip to the UK since 1997.  Matt Forte has kicked things into high gear for the Bears since their Week 3 loss to the Packers, averaging 6.4 yards per carry since that first game.  In each of the Bears’ wins, Forte carried the ball 16-plus times.  In their losses, he only carried above 10 times once.  On the flip side, LeGarrette Blount is out with a knee injury, relegating the starting duties to Earnest Graham.  Graham was effective last week against the Saints to the tune of 6.4 yards per carry.  Josh Freeman put in his best QB rating of the season as well, and faces a Chicago pass defense floundering at 25th.  Freeman also recorded his longest play from scrimmage this year, a 65-yard TD strike to Arrelious Benn.  However, Freeman owns more interceptions than touchdowns, and before intercepting Drew Brees three times last week, the Bucs were a -1 in the give/take column.  Surprisingly, Jay Cutler has protected the ball well this year, yielding a 2:1 ratio in touchdowns to interceptions.  With both these teams in the bottom third of the league on defense, people are expecting a shootout.  I expect otherwise.  Only one team has been penalized more than Tampa Bay and that’s the Oakland Raiders.  The Bears aren’t far behind that as only four teams beat them out for more penalties.  With the travel involved, I expect a far from neat contest.  Yes the Bucs defense was gashed by the likes of Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore, but Michael Turner managed a pittance against them, and so did the likes of Jahvid Best and Mark Ingram.  Solid line play appears to be the difference, and Chicago’s line has been pretty good in terms of helping Forte succeed.  The Bears will rely on him again on Sunday, and he could be the difference, but they'll have to overcome their inefficiency on third down (just 30 percent).  With two jetlagged teams trying to hold time of possession, Freeman and his ability to improvise will be the difference in a game of mostly field goals.



A second Carson Palmer era begins in of all places Oakland.  Palmer has had about six whole days to swallow the Oakland play book, and will likely have just the basics to choose from.  The last time Palmer faced the Chiefs, he was at Riverfront, leading the Bengals to a 17-10 victory where he completed 17-of-25 passes for 139 yards, two scores and an interception.  The Chiefs will be looking to push Palmer to the forefront because the Raiders have league-leading Darren McFadden heading up the charge, and he’ll be facing the 21st ranked rushing defense, yielding 119.6 yards per game.  The Raiders rushing defense mirrors Kansas City, as they are also yielding over 110 yards per contest, and will face newly promoted Jackie Battle, who is coming off what could be a breakout performance against the Colts.  His 19 attempts in Week 5 were more than half his total attempts for his career until that point.  Battle should get plenty of shots at the Oakland defense, which will likely be focused on taking away Dwayne Bowe, who has fared decently against them in the past.  This time he’ll matchup with Sanford Routt, who had a big interception return for a touchdown against Matt Cassel last year that sealed the Raiders 31-10 victory at Arrowhead.  I still like Bowe to have a big day.  However, if Palmer can show even the slightest command of the offense with even one deep strike to the likes of Darius Heyward-Bey, that alone will give the Chiefs reason to worry.  At home, Oakland takes this one, but not by much.


The last times these two teams met in Arizona was September 2007 and the Cardinals delivered the Steelers a 21-14 loss.  The Steelers have been a Jekyll/Hyde team, playing physical football at home and running over their opponents, while getting slapped around on the road.  Ben Roethlisberger’s QB rating is just over 70 away from the confines of Heinz Field, a stark contrast to his 116 rating at home.  The same goes for their rushing attack, averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt versus over five when home.  Ken Whisenhunt promised this week the Cardinals offense would improve, and my expectation is that Beanie Wells will be an important part of the offense but only after Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals utilize what Whisenhunt knows of this Steelers team.  Don’t be surprised if he tries to spread out the Steelers defense and isolate good matchups to attack the number one rated pass defense.  This might be limited by the loss of Todd Heap, who may sit this week with his bad hamstring.  Expect a few early shots downfield to Larry Fitzgerald to get Kolb going, with Wells cleaning up on shorter second and third downs.  Early Doucet could play a key part in the goal line offense, as the Steelers yielded touchdowns to both Jason Hill and Damian Williams, the alternative options for both the Jags and Titans.  The Steelers should make Rashard Mendenhall a solid play as Arizona is ranked 20th in both rush and pass yards per game, and on the road, the Steelers will want Ben to do less and control the game.  If the Cardinals can stop Mendenhall, they’ll be able to focus on blitzing the banged up Pittsburgh line, and possibly turn Pittsburgh back toward their early season turnover ways.  I think Mendenhall has another big day, and this game does its best to resemble last week’s Steelers victory against Jacksonville.


Just a few years ago, this was a marquee matchup, pitting the old master Brett Favre against his young Jedi apprentice, Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers has since supplanted his mentor, tossing 17 touchdowns in the first six weeks, and is one of only six quarterbacks to tally that number or higher to start a season.  He also has yet to garner a passer rating under 111.  Last year, in what was likely the final matchup between Favre and Rodgers, Rodgers threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-3 blowout.  The only thing that will be different this year is Christian Ponder under center, and the unknown entity that he is.  If there’s something to be said about Ponder that could make this game interesting it’s that in the two fourth quarter drives he commanded last week, both went eight plays or more and he targeted eight different receivers.  The common denominator in all of his completed passes – most were short throws under 10 yards.  The Packers defense excels in the one area Minnesota’s offense has had success: against the run.  The Minnesota defense is weakest against the Packers’ strength: the pass.  Adrian Peterson will get you an average day of yards simply because of opportunities.  Expect Visanthe Shiancoe to see a number of balls come his way as well.  Green Bay’s biggest worry is the loss of Chad Clifton to injury, leaving Marshall Newhouse matched against Jared Allen.  Nevertheless, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones will be featured quite often as the Packers improve to 7-0.  This may be the first week Jermichael Finley isn’t a top fantasy tight end.  The Vikings have not given up a passing score to a tight end all season. 


The only thing in common between these two teams is that they are finding ways to lose.  The difference is Dallas has a ton of talent, a line that can protect Tony Romo, an emerging talent at running back in DeMarco Murray, and a wide receiver group that should eventually brag another 1,000 yard receiving duo.  What Dallas does best is passing, and at home expect Jason Garrett to come out firing and try to remove all hope the Rams have of making Steven Jackson a primary weapon.  Murray is likely the starter as Felix Jones is out with a high ankle sprain, and although Murray averaged just 3.2 yards per carry against New England, he appeared poised to break one at any moment.  The Cowboys now get the Rams, who can’t stop anyone from running anywhere.  If they give Murray 15 carries or more, there is no reason he shouldn’t put up solid fantasy numbers, 75 yards and a first rushing TD.  A. J. Feeley will start this week, as Sam Bradford also has a high ankle sprain, and although he’s the first to throw to new Ram Brandon Lloyd, the Cowboys defense is best against the run, 14th against the pass, and Feeley’s last success came almost 10 years ago.



What was supposed to be a ratings spectacle is now little more than a passing glance.  However, it might surprise you that Curtis Painter has a QB rating of 93, better than Matt Schaub, better than Ben Roethlisberger, better than Philip Rivers and better than Michael Vick.  No, the offense isn’t great, but it’s the defense that is dismal.  Undersized and speedy has served the Colts to the tune of 136.7 yards per game allowed rushing, third worst in the league, and 256 yards per game in the air (18th).  The Colts can’t run the football, tallying only 100 or more total rushing yards just once this season.  Painter has a bevy of weapons, with Pierre Garcon being his favorite, but passing the ball is not what Indianapolis would prefer to do here.  Drew Brees has too many ways to score, and although he’s been turnover prone this year on the road which has led to the Saints being a minus seven for the year in the give/take, a healthy Marques Colston and a slightly hobbled Jimmy Graham provide enough weaponry against the Colts before they start to worry about before you add Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and deep threat Devery Henderson.



For the second week in a row, Blaine Gabbert leads the Jaguars up against an AFC North foe known for their defense.  This time he’s at home, but that will matter little.  After taking the first eight meetings between these two teams, the Jags have won just one game in the last eight.  The Steelers sacked Gabbert five times, and Baltimore has 15 sacks in just five games.  If anything, the difference this week will be whether Baltimore can become more efficient on offense.  They are ranked 29th in offensive red zone efficiency by Pro Football Weekly, six spots behind the Jaguars, converting only 37 percent of those possessions into touchdowns.  However, a closer look at the numbers also reveals that Jacksonville has had just seven red zone possessions all year long.  Things won’t get much better.  In his only game against Baltimore, Maurice Jones-Drew managed only 78 yards on 23 carries, and he may find even less success here.  Blaine Gabbert is completing under 50 percent of his passes, and has just four TD passes but just two interceptions.  Keep an eye on Jason Hill, who Gabbert has found in the end zone the past two weeks.  Hill is leading the team in average yards per reception at 17.1 and has the second most yardage.   Ray Rice has never faced Jackonsville, but considering his line is stronger, he’s more involved in the offense -- he’s second in receiving yards, third in targets -- there’s reason to think Rice has a big day.  However, Rice has struggled on grass, averaging 3.3 yards per carry this year and last.  As a note, TE Ed Dickson is now second on the team in targets with 35, though he’s only been able to haul in 18 of them.  The Steelers Heath Miller was target a team high six times against Jacksonville and caught four balls.  Dickson should get some nice opportunities Sunday.  Baltimore takes this one because of their defense.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WEEK 6 T&R (thoughts and revelations)

This week's thoughts and revelations are brought to you by ….me.

Six weeks in and there are QB changes aplenty. Christian Ponder, John Beck and a newly initiated Carson Palmer will all make debuts this week. Other QBs probably wish they could sit down for a break i.e. Sam Bradford and Matt Moore. Matt Moore and Sam Bradford; are there any two quarterbacks in worse situations? There are three no-win teams, but only these two have the feel of no-win seasons. Miami and St. Louis are nearly interchangeable – dropped passes at crucial times, penalties that extend opponents' drives but shorten their own, and bad pass protection all add up to pain. The former got some good news this past week with the Rams acquiring Brandon Lloyd. It finally dawned on someone in St. Louis that none of their receivers can make plays during crunch time. For Lloyd, this is what happens when you loudly pledge loyalty to a quarterback that loses his job. He could spark the attention of opposing defenses, assuming his attitude doesn't falter.

The inconsistency of Mark Sanchez is baffling, even if he's dealing with a line that can't run block and has trouble occasionally with protection. However, there were plays Monday night where he had four and five seconds and still couldn't find anyone open. Plaxico Burress had one reception and dropped several others. Santonio Holmes had three. Four receptions between their top two receivers, with TE Dustin Keller chipping in two more, you have to wonder how this Jets offense could become so dismal so fast. This was against the Dolphins. Yes Yeremiah Bell still commands respect as a safety, but he's 33, and he can't cover for the youth of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, as well as their limited pass rush. The Jets won the game, but they can't feel like they won the war, considering they gave Miami every chance they good for the Dolphins to take over.

I'm not sure how anyone can explain Jahvid Best tearing up the Bears for over 160 yards rushing and Adrian Peterson managing fewer than 40. The line play is different for certain, but did Chicago take some umbrage at Detroit's beating? More likely those numbers are a referendum on the play of Donovan McNabb, who has become such a liability that the Bears defense stacked the box and challenged McNabb to beat them. He couldn’t. Percy Harvin had his best day so far as Minnesota’s top receiver and all that got him seven receptions for 78 yards. From this point forward it’s Christian Ponder, who even on his first drive was able to move Minnesota 59 yards. Lastly, Devin Hester who is the most dangerous special teams player since Desmond Howard, has developed a nice chemistry with Jake Cutler. He had his second straight game of seven targets and five receptions and had his first touchdown reception of the season. Assuming his bruised ribs don’t keep him out this week, look for Hester to be used more and more on deep passing situations if Cutler can get the protection necessary to get him the ball.

For the first time in two years, the home team held serve and won the game. Perhaps the suddenly turnover-prone Drew Brees was uncomfortable with the offense because early in the first quarter, Sean Peyton suffered a broken leg and torn MCL and left the game. LeGarrette Blount’s questionable status turned sour Sunday, leaving Earnest Graham the opportunity for his first 100-yard game in three years. He’ll continue to be the go-to back if Blount’s knee keeps him off the field. The key to this game was successful first and second down passes for Josh Freeman, something they weren’t able to do against San Francisco. For New Orleans, if you’re having questions about the pecking order in the receivers group, there were 33 passes divided equally between TE Jimmy Graham, WR Marques Colston, who may finally be back to full health, and RB Darren Sproles. Sproles continues to be incredibly valuable in PPR leagues, though his carries were tapered this week.

Felix Jones had a shot fired across his bow in the form of DeMarco Murray. Murray looked every bit an NFL runner, as he made quick decisions and ran hard. Jones has not been the explosive guy the Cowboys were expecting, and his bevy of injuries has opened the door for other players to step up. Murray has good size at 227 pounds, though he’s going to have to find a way to move the pile better than he did in the red zone this past Sunday if he wants more opportunities. Jones sprained his ankle Sunday, leaving him questionable for this week. The only good thing about this game is that no one seems to be blaming Tony Romo for this loss. Perhaps the fans will blame Miles Austin for two huge dropped passes on early fourth quarter drive that would have extended the offensive position into New England territory. Maybe they’ll levy some heat on Anthony Spencer. Spencer had a nice game until with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, he ran into the Patriots’ punter. Fortunately, the Cowboys stripped Aaron Hernandez a little further along the way, but the loss of time and field position was crucial after a big defensive stop. By the way, the Dallas defense caused the Patriots first two fumbles of the year.

With no true deep threat to pressure the Ravens secondary, the Texans again came up short. Since Andre Johnson’s injury, Schaub has had two mediocre passing performances, with QB ratings of 72 and 83.2. Ben Tate’s chances of more carries will not be enhanced by his fumbling problems. He put his second ball on the carpet during an end zone plunge which was luckily recovered by his teammate Wade Smith. Arian Foster has yet to cough one up this year. On the other side of the ball, the Baltimore offense continued to be anemic, settling for five Billy Cundiff field goals, however they did improve their TD percentage slightly by taking two scores in out of three chances.

If you’ve been sleeping under a rock you have no idea that the Carson Palmer is now an Oakland Raider. This was a direct result of the collarbone injury Jason Campbell sustained while scrambling Sunday. Kyle Boller ended up with less passing TDs than Shane Lechler, which was frightening enough that the Raiders sought out Palmer. Palmer has struggled the last few years, and it appears he’ll be working a limited playbook the first couple of weeks or so. However, for now he gives defensive coordinators a lot more to worry about, which keeps Darren McFadden as big a threat as ever. Palmer will have to prove he can continue to make Darius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore useful and involved. He has the talent to do so as he is coming off a season where he threw the most passes of his career and had his third most passing yards, and third most touchdown passes. He also tied his 2007 season for the most interceptions of his career. It’s surprising to say, but he actually joins a less troubled Oakland team than in Cincinnati, though both teams are 4-2 and have expunged some of their aberrant personnel. If the Raiders make the playoffs, they will end up giving Cincinnati two first round draft picks in consecutive years.

Rex Grossman reminds me of my tennis game; he gets worse and worse the more he plays. The same confidence and bravado that Rex had when he declared the Redskins were this year’s future NFC East champions was handed some humble pie as the Eagles secondary showed up in a big way, intercepting the Redskins’ quarterback four times. That was all it took for Mike Shanahan to bench to Grossman this week for John Beck, who’ll get yet another chance to be a starting QB somewhere. With Grossman’s QB rating falling like the stock market, it’s hard to argue the move, though Beck’s career QB rating is a 64 (it’s important to note the worst rated QB right now is Kerry Collins who owns a 65.9). With choices like that, and a two game losing streak, it’s not a surprise Shanahan is trying bail out the ship as it takes on water.

There’s a lot being made about the Chargers winning ugly, but the Steelers seem to be emulating that model as well. The Steelers built a 14 point lead at halftime and then sat back and nearly squandered it. However, it was the first time the Steelers didn’t turn the ball over this year and that alone made the difference. Rashard Mendenhall ran most decisively, perhaps owing his reminders of how to do so to Jonathan Dwyer after he embarrassed Mendenhall by becoming the first Steelers’ back to gain 100 yards in a game this season. Maurice Jones-Drew rolled off 96 yards, but Blaine Gabbert was able to complete just 12 passes, and Mike Thomas had four of them.

The Giants abilities to win a big game or lose a minor one is the one consistent thing to be said about them this year. Eli Manning didn’t throw a single touchdown pass, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Several drops prevented Manning from pleasing fantasy owners, so Ahmad Bradshaw stepped up in the way some of us (ok, me) thought he would this year. He was the top fantasy running back of Week 6. The Bills chances of continuing their early season success will be contingent on their defense, the same defense that couldn’t hold the Giants from a nine play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a late field goal with 1:32 to go.

In what figured to be a game Aaron Rodgers would have to do little, the Rams held both James Starks and Ryan Grant to under four yards per carry. So Rodgers stepped up, fired three second quarter touchdown passes, and the Packers held on from there. Sam Bradford has his second 300-yard performance of the season, and that bodes well for newcomer Brandon Lloyd, who’ll bring a better set of tools to the Rams offense than they have in Denario Alexander, Greg Salas or Brandon Gibson. If the Packers do have an Achilles heel, it’s their passing defense, which allowed the 29th ranked Rams offense to pile up 424 yards of offense. This defensive weakness has been masked by their incredibly efficient offense. However, after the Bye in Week 9, the Packers will face a San Diego offense in the top ten that have a healthier Antonio Gates.

Has Alex Smith grown up enough to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance? That question is a legitimate one as the 49ers disposed of the undefeated Lions in their house. Smith completed just 17 passes, but one of them was a clutch fourth quarter strike to Delanie Walker, Walker’s third TD of the year. Frank Gore continues his resurgence since his ankle healed, Ted Ginn Jr. continues to be a special teams gem, and perhaps the most important factor of the game, the 49ers kept Calvin Johnson out of the end zone. All eyes will turn to San Francisco’s Thanksgiving contest with the Baltimore Ravens as yet one more test for this young team, which could conceivably be sporting a 9-1 record heading into that game.

The Bengals are 4-2. No, that’s no typo. The Bengals kept the clock on their side, and Jerome Simpson led all receivers with six receptions and 101 yards, his second 100-yard game this season. Andy Dalton continues to be efficient and put in arguably his most complete game at quarterback this season. Curtis Painter threw his first interception in four games, but it was after leading the Colts back from a 20-7 deficit. However, Pierre Garcon did his best Ronnie Brown impersonation, and for some reason felt the need to lateral his reception to a teammate, and the result was a disastrous defensive touchdown for the Bengals putting the Colts in the hole again. Garcon’s been known for some dropped passes in the past, but usually it’s not after the completion.

Michael Turner proved that whether you’re a shifty quick-stepping back or just a mean old brawler, the Panthers can’t stop good runners from piling up yards on the ground. Carolina’s loss of Jon Beason is the rest of their opponents gain, as Carolina now is ranked 31st in rushing yards per game allowed, averaging 140. On the other side of the ball, Carolina and Coach Ron Rivera are still trying to find their identity. A week after rushing DeAngelo Williams for 115 yards, Cam Newton led the Panthers in rushing. Jonathan Stewart got only seven carries but made the most of them with 48 yards and a score. Matt Ryan delivered a banal 14-for-22, 163 yards and one TD performance. Ryan ran one in as well, but Roddy White was held to just two receptions though he was targeted a team high five times. It’s been an incredibly disappointing campaign for both Ryan and White in general, but particularly when it comes to fantasy owners. And in the beast of a division the NFC South is turning out to be, it seems unlikely to get a whole lot better unless Ryan becomes more decisive and his offensive line gives him some extra time. The Falcons rank in the bottom third for sacks allowed.