Sunday, October 2, 2011

WEEK 4 PREVIEWS and TOP 5s

WEEK 4 PREVIEWS


First of all, we mourn the passing of Mike Heimerdinger, offensive coordinator for most recently the Tennessee Titans, and send his family regards.
After watching a historic week of baseball close the 2011 season, can Sunday football be anything but a letdown?  I don’t think so.  Cross conference matchups carry seeding weight for the playoffs, and inter-conference matchups always make for unpredictability as these are unfamiliar with the other as it may have been three years since their last meeting.  The suddenly relevant Raiders have a game Chargers fans have to be thankful for, hosting a New England team coming off a loss at Buffalo.   The Jets head to Baltimore Sunday night for what is likely to be the most physical matchup of the week, and there are a few trap games that reek of an upset.


THE 1PM DOCKET

CAROLINA @ CHICAGO

Chicago’s 1-2 start may be a surprise to some, but to me, that’s surprise in itself.  While Jay Cutler has been a lot more careful with the football, it’s hard to be labeled as turnover prone when you’re being run over constantly.  Cutler has been sacked 14 times, tied for most in the league, and is without a running game.  With the Chicago line deteriorating, Matt Forte and company bring the 31st ranked rushing offense, averaging a measly 53.7 yards per game and has yet to score a rushing TD.  Last year, Forte had his best ground game in Carolina, carrying for 166 yards and two scores as the Bears were without Cutler.  He was aided by an ineffective Jimmy Clausen completing just 9-of-21 for 61 yards and an interception.  On the opposing side of the ball, a mirror-image Panthers team has also been unable to impose any ground game on anyone.  DeAngelo Williams has 61 total yards on 27 attempts, and a finally healthy Jonathan Stewart hasn’t been able to extract much more with at 3.9 per touch.  Carolina lose MLB Jon Beason for season leaving a giant hole to be filled by fourth year man Dan Connor.  This should give Forte more room to run, and I expect his first rushing TD and a passing score to boot..  Chicago’s pass defense is ranked 26th, but in fairness, they’ve faced two exceptionally strong passing teams in New Orleans and Green Bay.  Expect a better day from Cam Newton, as well as Greg Olsen, who will be out to show his old team they let him go too early.

PANTHERS 24,   BEARS 21


BUFFALO @ CINCINNATI

Can the Cincinnati defense slow down a powerful Buffalo offense?  If you consider that Cincinnati is currently fifth best in passing defense, you might think so.  However, their competition so far has been Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco, anemic offenses that still left the Bengals 1-2.  Last year’s showdown between these two teams provided viewers with an 80-point onslaught with no defense anywhere.  The Bills’ job will be to stop Cedric Benson and push the Bengals to rely on Andy Dalton to provide a spark.  Expect nine to ten men in the box, forcing Dalton’s hand.  Benson should still be in your starting lineup as opposing rushers average 116 yards against the Bills.  The Bengals meanwhile have given up two scoring passing plays of greater than 50 yards, and have been unable to contain more than one receiver.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked a league low twice, and the Bengals 10 sacks are seventh best.  So the Bengals will attempt to pressure Fitzpatrick into some turnovers, because if they don’t, Steven Johnson and David Nelson will continue to have their way with the secondary, while Fred Jackson adds 75 yards and a score.  Dalton can put up some numbers as he’s an accurate passer, but it won’t be enough to keep Buffalo from moving to 4-0.

BILLS 31, BENGALS 17


DETROIT @ DALLAS

I don’t think Detroit has quite enough command of their offense to squeak this one out if Dallas is healthy.  The problem is, though Tony Romo will be a week healthier, Miles Austin is out and Dez Bryant is nursing a bad this bruise.  Even with Bryant on the field, he won’t be at full strength.  That leaves Jesse Holley, Kevin Ogletree and Laurent Robinson to feed off the scraps.  Felix Jones should start adding some tallies to against this 21st rushing defense of Detroit.  This should have been a game for Romo to find himself as a top tier fantasy quarterback again, as the fifth ranked Dallas defense will contain Jahvid Best, forcing decent field position for the Cowboys.  Jason Witten is a no-brainer, as he’s the top target with 32 so far this year.  I expect his first TD here.  Detroit has no one of significance expected to miss out, and if Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew can provide enough variety to keep Dallas off balance, Calvin Johnson will wreak some havoc has been a beast on the road with 13 receptions, 196 yards and 4 TDs.  This one will come down to turnovers, and while Romo will figure out his center, his tendency to take risks makes it likely Dallas comes out on the bad end.  NOTE: If Dez Bryant goes, Dallas wins this game.

LIONS 16,  COWBOYS 13 w/out Dez

COWBOYS 24, LIONS 21 w/ Dez


PITTSBURGH @ HOUSTON

The Steelers will attempt to prove that the lack of off-season and not age is what has made this team appear slow and many times sloppy.  Ben Roethlisberger will be facing a Houston defense which has slipped in the rankings due to a shootout with New Orleans, but don’t let that fool you.  Antonio Smith has been eating offensive linemen for lunch, and the Steelers line, now missing left tackle Jonathan Scott, and starting right guard Doug Legursky, the line will be patch work at best.  Rashard Mendenhall will find the day miserable, as his 3.0 ypc is likely to drop further, and Pittsburgh will be forced to rely on their air game, giving plenty of yards to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, but little else.  Arian Foster starts in the backfield, but I’m still not trusting he’ll get more than 10-15 touches. Ben Tate should split the load, and their success will allow Matt Schaub to take his shots down the field to Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels.  The Texans have allowed 12 red zone possessions this year, but are tenth best in keep teams out of the end zone, allowing just five scores. 

TEXANS 24, STEELERS 16


MINNESOTA @ KANSAS CITY

If only a game were just 30 minutes.  If this were the $25,000 Pyramid, the subject would be, “What a Minnesota Viking fan would say.”   Kansas City advertises the 28th ranked rushing defense.  Do you hear that Leslie Frazier?  28th.  You own Adrian Peterson, you know, the most consistent runner for the past three years.  Expect Peterson to add a 100-yard game and two scores, as Frazier isn’t about to let his offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave forget this in KC.  For his career, Donovan McNabb is 2-2 versus the Chiefs and has posted a QB rating over 100, his second best rating against an opposing team.  However, the Chiefs secondary has been stout, and McNabb hasn’t been able to find star wide out Percy Harvin as often as he’d like.  Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is a game-time decision with his ankle problem and is crucial to the success of KC’s defense. WR Dwayne Bowe should figure in big today, as Matt Cassel has actually been protected to the tune of just five sacks. Matt Cassel should have his best game, and Steve Breaston should finally provide some offense.  Cassel has never faced Minnesota.

CHIEFS 17, VIKINGS 14


WASHINGTON @ ST LOUIS 

This has all the makings of a trap game, especially since Washington’s running game, currently ranked ninth just isn’t that potent.  Tim Hightower should be able find openings in a Ram’s front seven which has allowed 174 yards a game.  However, Roy Helu may start to see more carries since he’s averaging over two more yards per carry.  The rule for Washington would appear to be to avoid James Laurinaitis and everything else is cake.  The beat up Rams get back Steven Jackson, who should see a majority of the work after pulling his quad Week 1, and Jackson’s last two games have resulted in 27 attempts for 152 yards, a 5.6 ypc and 1 rushing TD.  Sam Bradford’s biggest hope may be the surprisingly questionable status of Danny Amendola, the little slot man he lost in Week 1.  However, this game is about the ground, and Bradford, who carries the league worst passer rating will ride Jackson to his first victory of 2011.

RAMS 23, REDSKINS 20


TENNEESSEE @ CLEVELAND

Three surprising stories out of Tennessee this year:  the Titans defense has quietly worked itself to the league best (rushing 9th, passing 1st) and Chris Johnson has managed 2.1 yards per carry since the ink dried on his new contract.  Matt Hasselbeck has played inspired football and has been sacked near a league low four times, but he’s now minus his star receiver Kenny Britt. Today is Johnson’s day (didn’t I say that last week) as Cleveland’s young secondary is tied for third best in the league.  Colt McCoy hasn’t been awful considering his weapons, but he’s made veteran tight end Ben Watson a fantasy consideration again, and this game should be no different.  Montario Hardesty is starting to get into the groove, as his yards per carry surpassed Peyton Hillis after Hillis’ absence last week.  The Browns get back Tony Pashos, which should give the ground game an added boost.  But I’m taking the road team here in a big game for Johnson and for Nate Washington.

TITANS 31, BROWNS 21


NEWS ORLEANS @ JACKSONVILLE

The Saints have never won a game in Jacksonville, losing their last meeting in the confines of Alltel Stadium after a miracle pitch-and-lateral touchdown play with no time left was thwarted by Saints kicker John Carney, who missed the point after.  Blaine Gabbert gets his second start, and the fact his 12 completions went to five different receivers last week would be impressive if more than one of them was a wide receiver.  Expect heavy doses of Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis as the Jaguars attempt to keep Drew Brees and company off the field.  Brees has thrown eight touchdowns versus zero interceptions against Jacksonville for his career, and he’ll spread the ball around the field today.  It won’t be as high scoring as it should be, and the return of Marques Colston gives Brees a bevy of weapons for Jacksonville to consider.  Ranked seventh against pass, the Jags secondary led by Rashean Mathis will have their hands full.  Brees adds another 300 –yard game to his stats for 2011.

SAINTS 24, JAGS 10


SAN FRANCISCO @ PHILADELPHIA

Frank Gore is supposed to start and his bad ankle has been named the culprit for his incredibly slow start.  Kendall Hunter will see some carries in an attempt to spell Gore, and keep him healthy, but this game will come down to Alex Smith, and his improved 69% completion rate.  The Eagles lines may be beaten up, but their secondary is yielding less than 200 yards per contest and Smith isn’t up to this task on the road.  After the embarrassment by one Victor Cruz last week, the secondary will hold firm.   LeSean McCoy will try to take the pressure off Michael Vick and will do so as a top PPR option this week.  Michel Vick finds himself with a hobbled Jeremy Maclin, so expect him to take a few shots downfield to DeSean Jackson early, and then let McCoy hold the lead.

EAGLES 31, NINERS 14


THE 4PM DOCKET


NEW YORK GIANTS @ ARIZONA

How can you not like the Giants on the road today?  Eli Manning threw for four touchdowns last week, and gets back Mario Manningham.  The Giants are still beaten up, in the front, though Osi Umenyiora is listed as questionable and could be a game-time decision today.  But this is the kind of game the Giants have become infamous for.  Coming off a big win against a passing defense that is yielding 275 yards per, they should Beanie Wells is expected back for the Cardinals, and he could be the difference maker.  Wells puts up his best game as a pro, and the Kevin Kolb led Cardinals take one in a Giants’ letdown.

CARDINALS 21, GIANTS 19


ATLANTA @ SEATTLE

Roddy White has been battling the same type of thigh issue Dez Bryant has, and was listed as questionable this week.  Both quarterbacks have been sacked more than a small English village.  Sidney Rice had a big week in his first action back from injury, even with Tarvaris Jackson under center.   Last year, Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes en route to a 34-18 win over the Seahawks in the great northwest.  This year, things won’t be much different, as the tenth-rated Seattle defense gets a taste of a much better team.

FALCONS 21, SEATTLE 10


DENVER @ GREEN BAY

Just as Ryan Grant was kicking into gear he finds himself on the pine with a bruised kidney.  The beneficiary is James Starks, facing the improved 14th ranked rushing defense of the Broncos.  Denver might be without Champ Bailey, which could make things even harder.  Kyle Orton should have a big day today, as his team is likely behind from the outset, and he’ll be throwing a lot and quickly to avoid this top-rated pass rush.  Knowshon Moreno returns for Denver and should figure into the passing game, as should Brandon Lloyd as the already struggling Green Bay secondary could be without Charles Woodson.

PACKERS 34, BRONCOS 28


NEW ENGLAND @ OAKLAND

It’s never good when teams travel 3000 miles for a football game.  The good news is, that going West has never had as devastating effect as heading East, and the Patriots haven’t lost back to back games once since 2002.  Belichick will take away Darren McFadden as the one thing the Patriots have been able to do is take away the run.  They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this year, and I expect Belichick’s crew to put the onus on Jason Campbell and his lack of deep threats to beat them.   And while the Raiders are fierce in the short zone and have allowed only 58% of passes completed against them, ninth best in the league, they’ll be tested today by Tom Brady and company, who dropped 49 points on them in the Oakland Coliseum in 2008 under the leadership of one Matt Cassel.

PATRIOTS 30, RAIDERS 22


MIAMI @ SAN DIEGO

Daniel Thomas has 100 yards in this game, and Chad Henne shocks the inconsistent Chargers with a big day to Brandon Marshall.  Philip Rivers is without his stalwart tight end Antonio Gates, and should find Vincent Jackson for a couple of big plays against a terrible Dolphins defense.  However, it’s the Dolphins in a stunner.

DOLPHINS 23, SAN DIEGO 20

NEW YORK JETS @ BALTIMORE

The Jets rush defense suddenly appears suspect after Darren McFadden’s clinic last week, and the Ravens are 6-1 all time against the New York.  The Jets ate Ray Rice last year in a 10-9 snoozer.  This year Rice won’t fair much better, and neither will Shonn Greene, who brings an anemic 3.3 yards per carry to the table.  The game will come down to the quarterbacks, and Mark Sanchez’s improved 63 percent completion rate and wider receivers simply outdo this Ravens defense.  Dustin Keller may disappear under Ed Reed’s tutelage this week, but the combination of LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress is too much.

JETS 17, RAVENS 14


MY FANTASY TOP FIVES

QB
Tom Brady
Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees
Kevin Kolb
Cam Newton


RB
Chris Johnson
Adrian Peterson
LeSean McCoy
Steven Jackson
Beanie Wells

WR
Andre Johnson
Vincent Jackson
Hakeem Nicks
Nate Washington
Dwayne Bowe

TE
Jermichael Finley
Jason Witten
Owen Daniels
Greg Olsen
Tony Gonzalez

DEFENSE
TENNESSEE
TAMPA BAY
BUFFALO
PHILADELPHIA
GREEN BAY

KICKERS
Sebastian Janikowski
Stephen Gostkowski
Josh Brown
Dan Bailey
Neil Rackers