Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The Eagles fly to the northwest, hoping that in facing one of the league’s worst offenses, their defense might shore up the ship and make it fly right.  Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin have been ruled out for this game, once again leaving the onus on Vince Young and DeSean Jackson.  Jackson hasn’t been up to the task, as he dropped three balls last weekend, two that would have been touchdowns.  The speedy receiver now faces Seattle’s secondary, one that is 14th best at giving up least fantasy points to receivers, and has allowed just 14 passing touchdowns on the year.  LeSean McCoy is a strong play again, as the Seahawks allowed Washington RB Roy Helu 108 yards on 23 carries, as well as 54 receiving yards on seven catches in Week 11.  Keep an eye also on TE Brent Celek, who in Young’s two starts has 11 catches for 135 yards.  The Seahawks lost Sidney Rice to the injured reserve with a concussion, taking a good portion of their offense with him.  Thus, Marshawn Lynch will get many opportunities to try to keep the Eagles offense off the field.  He has three 100-yard performances in his last five games, and has scored in four of those.  With the Eagles yielding 110 yards per game (ranked 15th), Lynch will be key to the Seahawks game plan.  Tarvaris Jackson has just three touchdown passes in his last five games, and until last week, had gone five games without multiple touchdowns in a week.  Seattle receivers  Ben Obamanu and Doug Baldwin will attempt to help the passing game, but keep in mind Baldwin leads the team with just 37 receptions and two touchdowns.  I like the Eagles to win, but not to cover.


Saturday, November 26, 2011


My apologies to my readers but the previews will return next weekend.  Wrapup will appear as usual by Tuesday.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


So this week for your reading pleasure, I've added spreads to see if I'm as good, as bad, or just somewhere in the middle.  Happy Turkey Day everyone.

From 1993 until 2001, no matter what kind of season the Detroit Lions were having, they were a lock to eat some opponent alive on Thanksgiving Day. The team that ended that win streak was none other than the Green Bay Packers. Since then, Detroit has won one game in their last nine Thanksgiving tries. They would like to offer up some payback. This game will truly come down to one key statistic. At present the Packers are converting their third down attempts over 52 percent of the time. That number is second best behind only the Saints. Detroit's defense allows just 28 percent of third down conversions for the season. On the flip side, Green Bay allows almost a 50 percent conversion rate while Detroit is converting at barely 30. The ability to sustain drives and run the clock will factor huge. It will also determine whether Green Bay's quick-strike offense is on the field. Matthew Stafford is a must play at home on Turkey Day, but he must cut down the mistakes if Detroit is to prevail. Kevin Smith was an obvious waiver-wire pickup but don't get so excited about him posting a great game against Carolina. Carolina's run defense has been abysmal all year long, particularly when it has come to holding leads. Smith's injury problems of the past, as well as serious acceleration problem always made me hesitant on him. He's fresh now, but against Green Bay, the road will be tougher. Green Bay will focus on slowing down Calvin Johnson, who has scored more touchdowns against them than any other team he has faced (eight). Remember what Vincent Jackson did to this secondary just a few weeks ago? On the other side, Detroit's 27th ranked rush defense make Ryan Grant a great flex play with upside. For his career, Grant has a 4.30 YPA against the Lions, and has gained 435 yards on 99 attempts with two touchdowns. He's also managed 15 receptions for 113 and two scores. He put up over 100 total yards against them in Detroit the last time he played, which was 2009, but hasn't scored since 2007. The Packers are aware of their run problems and may try to establish something here. You're starting Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley as tight ends have found the end zone 30 percent of the time against Detroit on passing touchdowns. However, your biggest concern is his decrease in targets recently. With four days rest, expect Green Bay to enlist some more names like John Kuhn and James Jones for touchdown looks. Another note if you're considering the Green Bay defense/special teams: Detroit has allowed five returns for touchdowns and Randall Cobb has taken two to the house. After a tight game, Green Bay closes it out in the fourth quarter for the victory. Give the points, take the Packers.


You know, if you were on Mars for the last few months and checked in on the NFL season the past few weeks, you'd think the Dolphins were contending for the AFC East division title. Both teams have won three straight and have quarterbacks performing well, even though Miami has actually provided better protection for Matt Moore than Dallas has for Tony Romo. Moore has six touchdown passes in the last three games against one interception. He's thrown three touchdowns in two of those games. The biggest beneficiary of the new Moore regime is Anthony Fasano, who has three touchdowns in during those three games. Keep in mind though, that's in just nine targets over that same span. So if you play him, you're angling that he gets another red zone target. The Dolphins line will also have to keep Moore upright against DeMarcus Ware, who leads the league with 14 sacks.  Also, even in their three wins, Miami has barely managed over 100 yards rushing per game.  Meanwhile, Romo has gone three games without an interception, while tossing eight touchdowns, making some Southern Baptists in Dallas start hoarding water waiting for the Apocalypse. Miles Austin is still out with his leg issues, so Dez Bryant will once again be the focal point of the Miami secondary, which has given up just 206 yards passing per game in their last three matchups while stealing four interceptions and not allowing a touchdown. Jason Witten will provide linebacker Cameron Wake or safety Yeremiah Bell a stiff challenge as he is the second most targeted tight end in the NFL behind Jimmy Graham. DeMarco Murray faces the seventh best rush defense in Miami now, which over the last five weeks went from being ranked 20th down 13 spots. If this game were in Miami, I might consider the Dolphins, who may have won three but had put together a string of five really good football games. The difference maker besides Ware could be Laurent Robinson, who his having himself a career year, and has four touchdowns the last three games, including three inside the red zone. I'm taking Romo over Moore because it's still November and he's at home, but if you're going spread, I'd actually take the Fins and the seven.


The Harbaugh dinner table certainly would be an interesting one to dine at after this one. Some would say this is a matchup of Ray Rice versus Frank Gore, but I'm dubious that either can do much besides take some flat passes and inside screens for some yardage. Keep in mind San Francisco hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown this year, and though they've faced just one top notch back this year in LeSean McCoy, they bottled him up for 18 yards on nine carries. The Ravens are coming off two games where their rush defense allowed 119 yards, and three rushing touchdowns. They had allowed just four ground scores prior to that. If Gore is healthy, he's running behind a strong offensive front that may give him the upper hand, particularly if LB Ray Lewis can't go. Still, this game is likely more about which quarterback is ready to lead his team in crucial games for a deep playoff run. Joe Flacco has been inconsistent as of late. When he's good, he's been nearly sensational. When he's been hurried or just off, he's been painstakingly disjointed. Alex Smith has been amazingly consistent this year, doing nearly everything right when he's needed. Last week, it was two timely third quarter touchdown throws to Kyle Williams and Vernon Davis that locked away the game. The week prior, it was a fourth quarter, 31-yard strike to Davis that put the pressure back on the Giants, who then turned it over. Smith is completing over 62 percent of his passes; that's a number that makes his seasonal 58 percent something stat hawks will point their attention. Is this elevated rate a sign of growth, better talent around him or just a fluke? The 49ers secondary is the biggest question here, and with newest deep threat Torrey Smith haunting defensive backs in the last two Raven's wins, expect that he'll be crucial in helping the Ravens early on. Ed Dickson has only three touchdowns this year, and Dennis Pitta has zero, but they're crucial chain movers who will be tested by linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman who are strong pass defenders. If Alex Smith can continue to avoid turnovers (he has just four interceptions overall, lowest of any NFL starter) and they can slow the Ravens in the first quarter, San Francisco can run the table on their East Coast schedule. The other element that can't be ignored is special teams – Baltimore has allowed four to go for scores, and Ted Ginn Jr. has taken two to the house, and has a knack for making big returns when you think he's disappeared. It's Harbaugh versus Harbaugh, so pick one, and cross your fingers. I'm going with Harbaugh, you know, the one with the points.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I was 12-1 this weekend, and 12-2 total in terms of predicting the winner.  Believe it or not, I don't check point spreads before I write these things -- I don't like to be swayed by anything.

For a quarter there it looked as if Todd Haley might outcoach Bill Belichick, as the Chiefs offense looked poised and full of surprises. They moved the ball within the 20’s with what seemed to be little effort. They ran the wildcat, shifted formations, and moved into the hurry-up. The defense did its part too, sacking Tom Brady four times in the first half, once stripping him of the ball. And they managed just three points. From that point forward, Tom Brady led his offense to 34- unanswered points. Deion Branch was lost due to a hamstring problem, so Brady turned to his trusty tight ends to keep the team moving. Rob Gronkowski had just four receptions, but two resulted in big touchdowns and he gained 96 yards. Running back Shane Vereen joined the NFL season in Week 11, getting his first eight carries, which resulted in 39 yards and a touchdown, but don't go relying on any Patriots running back too soon. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still the dominant runner, and I use the word dominant lightly, by nearly a three-to-one margin. One thing that is clear, the Patriots are missing having a deep threat guy like Randy Moss around, and with Deion Branch as inconsistent as ever, this offense is finding it harder to be the chain movers they once were. The Patriots were just four of 13 on third down conversions, and have now had four straight performances where they've converted less than 40 percent on third downs.  Tyler Palko outgunned Brady in terms of yards, and at least that's good news for Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston owners.  Haley isn't putting the reins on Palko in terms of letting him sling it.

Though he wasn’t Einstein in the pocket, and he did make some ill-advised throws, Vince Young was a rock, playing through his mistakes and leading the Eagles past the Giants. Eli Manning is getting a lot of grief for being just seven of 17 in the first half even though drives were consistently stymied by dropped balls and a torrid pass rush that forced Manning to rush throws all night long. Jake Ballard just had one of those games where for some reason nothing in the coordination department was working. He dropped three balls that hit him in the hands, and during one route he slipped on a crossing route, planted his arm and injured his elbow. Victor Cruz remains Manning's most solid threat. He put up 162 yards receiving and a score. That’s his third 100-plus yard performance and combined with three other performances of 90-plus yards, he’s now the top Giants receiver in yards, and in fantasy points. For the G-men, these are the kinds of losses that worry Giants fans and should. Unable to run the ball for any considerable yardage, while adding another RB to the injury report (D.J. Ware), Kevin Gilbride’s offense was stifled over and over. The Cowboys have closed the gap fast, so mark December 11 on your calendars for the first meeting of these two teams with major implications division implications.

San Diego’s defense did what they could to keep the game close, but three second half turnovers, including two interceptions by Philip Rivers again in the fourth quarter undid any chances for the Chargers to upset the Bears. However, the loss took a toll on the Bears too, who lost Jay Cutler for the rest of the regular season to a broken thumb. Cutler will have surgery this week. That means Caleb Hanie from this point forward, who for his career has attempted 14 regular season passes, completing eight. Last year in the NFC Championship, Hanie had to step in for the injured Cutler , and he brought the Bears to within seven points of the Packers with just minutes left in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Hanie’s two interceptions ended the chance for a Super Bowl run. Now the team will have to rely on the third year pro again. With the defense playing so well, there’s a chance Hanie can get away with a few extra novice mistakes. However, he’s going to have to make better decisions and understand his limitations to keep the Bears competitive. Ironically, there's a QB in Denver that knows their system, and the Broncos are going to get nothing for him in the off-season.  Does Chicago dare call Kyle Orton? Probably not, as the pain on both sides with his departure was palpable, but the reasoning is there. With Hanie, Earl Bennett’s fantasy value is likely to take a hit, as the chemistry between he and Cutler was clear. Matt Forte becomes even more important, as does Marion Barber and tight ends Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis. For San Diego, Vincent Brown disappeared in the offense this week, as rookies often do, with just one catch on four targets. However this also could signify that Antonio Gates’ health is improving as he was again a top fantasy tight end this week.

Arizona quarterback John Skelton visited San Francisco for the second time as a starter and for the second straight time at Candlestick he was picked off three times and benched for Richard Bartel. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for him returning to the great northwest again anytime soon. The 49ers are 9-1 and are all but assured a lock on the NFC West with a five game lead over nearest division foe Seattle who sits at 4-6. If the 49ers, in their fourth trip across the country, can deliver a Thanksgiving win at Baltimore, they will have won a share of the division title for the first time since 2002. Beanie Wells managed over four yards per carry, which was impressive against the 49ers league-best rushing defense considering his knee problem. Oddly enough, Arizona attempted just 11 rushes, even though they were down just 9-0 at halftime. It’s understandable that you might not want to run into the mouth of the Lion, but to put your offensive game plan so heavily reliant on the Skelton is to be a deer who stands and grazes right in front of him. For Alex Smith, this was his first game this year where he attempted over 35 passes, and his 53 percent completion rate reflected the fact that this game was not the style of football that suits him. In fact, in the 10 games prior to yesterday, when Smith had attempted more than 35 passes, the 49ers were 1-9. However, he did win this game, and averaged seven yards per pass, something that may signify that Smith is beginning to reach the promise once shown him. Either way, the 49ers need Frank Gore to be fully healthy again and soon.

Matt Hasselbeck’s elbow sprain allowed the Titans fans their first look at Jake Locker, and Locker didn’t disappoint. Down 23-3 in the middle of the third quarter, Marc Mariani set the Titans up with their best field position of the day at the Falcons 48-yard line and just two plays later Locker delivered a 40-yard strike to Nate Washington to cut the deficit to 23-10. Two drives later, after Michael Turner lost a fumble, Locker drove the team 84 yards for a second score. He didn’t get to take the field again. Mike Munchak has already quelled any idea of a quarterback controversy, but Tennessee is 2-4 in their last six. At 5-5, yes they are still in the race, but with Chris Johnson proving once again that this isn't a fluke of season but a really bad one, and the Titans still committing penalties galore, is there really hope this team can pull itself out of this .500 funk? I mean, Hasselbeck was struggling prior to the injury and finished with a QB rating under 50. He's been a huge part of this team being competitive, but since their big win against Baltimore, Tennessee hasn't come close to defeating a team over .500 until yesterday, and close doesn't really describe this game. Hasselbeck's elbow will determine most if Locker is to keep playing, but a new shot of enthusiasm and youth sometimes does wonders. It has for the Broncos.

Summing up this football game is like trying to summarize a plot-less television show like Saturday Night live. Marshawn Lynch continued to run well and the Seattle defense continued it's strong showing, holding Steven Jackson to 42 yards on 15 carries. The defenses combined for nine sacks and five turnovers. Neither team sustained more than one drive longer than six plays, and the longest completion was thrown by WR Sidney Rice. Tarvaris Jackson threw two ugly interceptions, which led to the only seven points St. Louis could manage, but other than that, the Rams ceded possession by 10 minutes, and managed just 3.7 yards per pass. Brandon Lloyd managed five receptions for 67 yards and a score, which wouldn't be so bad if he hadn't been targeted 14 times. Seattle improved to 4-6, and their schedule is slightly favorable, as the next six games they face teams with a combined record of 28-32. Marshawn Lynch remains a back to target if you're trade deadline hasn't passed.

Earlier this year, word on rookie Torrey Smith was that not only was he dropping balls, but he was having trouble grasping the playbook. Well, this is why you should never judge a team too early in the season. Smith has grown into not only a viable weapon, but his 20.3 yards per reception has him ranked second in the NFL behind only Malcom Floyd. His five receiving touchdowns have him tied with names like Jermichael Finley, Victor Cruz, and Steve Smith (CAR). He might be even more valuable if he wasn't on the Ravens, a team that's rarely going to have someone like Joe Flacco attempting 35 passes a game. Nevertheless, it's safe to assume if he continues to pull in balls like he has been, he'll be targeted heavily next year by fantasy owners. Cedric Benson put up two rushing touchdowns on Sunday, a third of the entire total now allowed by the Ravens rushing defense. Some of this might be attributed to Ray Lewis missing in the middle for this game. Andy Dalton has proven he'll keep the Bengals competitive in any game, but the rookie in him reared its head as two second half interceptions led to 14 points for the Ravens. Jerome Simpson had his third 100-yard receiving performance of the year, and is now the most targeted receiver on the Bengals with 70. One has to think had A.J. Green been active for Sunday's contest the outcome might have been different.

The Bleacher report marked the day that Jessica Simpson showed up to a game wearing her pink Tony Romo shirt as the Number Four worst moment of his career. I actually believe it was his worst, because that’s when all the hate for him seemed to start. Well, he almost added another one Sunday. However, this time Mike Shanahan bailed him out. In overtime, Romo nearly pulled his best imitation of former Michigan star Chris Webber, requesting a timeout he didn’t have. Had Mike Shanahan not called a timeout also, the Cowboys would have been penalized 15 making a 39-yard field goal attempt 54 yards. Looks like Christmas came early for the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray may not have cracked the 100-yard barrier, but he led the team in receptions with six. He’s becoming an all-purpose fantasy back and his draft value for next year is on the rise. Of course the fact that I’m talking about the 2012 values of fantasy players might fall under those people that need to get a life according to Jabar Gaffney. I’m not going to kill myself though. Gaffney’s season-best game was marred by his Twitter messages, yet his value does get a boost with Rex Grossman under center. Tony Romo is now 18-2 in November, making him only the second quarterback to mark that record for his first 20 games in November. The man he joins is Otto Graham.

For three quarters the Oakland Raiders played defense. It was the fourth and final one they had trouble with. Darius Heyward-Bey’s concussion seemed to coincide with a sudden shakeup, and before they knew it, Minnesota was knocking on the door down 27-21 and with the ball. With Carson Palmer at the helm, any mistake made by the Vikings turned into points the other way. Michael Bush continues to rumble his way to his best season yet, and the only time Chaz Schilens seems to turn up in the box score is when he’s catching a touchdown. Keep in mind if you have Bush without Darren McFadden, you should be looking to deal him (and should have been). His carries are likely to be about one-third of what they are when McFadden returns. The Vikings lost Adrian Peterson to a high ankle sprain, and that means he’ll likely miss at least two games, maybe more. That means Percy Harvin is likely to see even more carries and Toby Gerhart suddenly becomes worth owning again.

For the third straight week, Miami’s defense kept the opposing offense without a touchdown. And for the third straight week, Miami won. This week’s victim was the Buffalo Bills, who have gone from vaunted consistent offense to injured, hapless and panicky offense. With offensive line woes already well known, the Bills added to their second half misery Sunday when Fred Jackson went down with a calf injury. With all the injuries to their wide receivers, I expected David Nelson to perform. He didn’t, getting blanketed for one catch in for attempts. Meanwhile, Matt Moore had thrown three touchdowns to three different receivers by halftime. Reggie Bush continued his second half surge with another red zone touchdown run even though Daniel Thomas led the team with 50 yards on 15 carries. Anthony Fassano caught his third touchdown in as many games, and still no one will think any differently about it if you don’t grab him off the fantasy waiver wire. The Bills have fallen hard, a lot of which can be attributed to injuries to a once stalwart offensive line that gave Ryan Fitzpatrick lots of time, and what appears to be Fitzpatrick’s inability to deal with the pressure that came with a big contract. Up until his October 28 signing, Fitzpatrick had thrown six interceptions all year. In the four games since then, he’s throw eight.

Here I thought division rival Minnesota would show up just a few weeks ago in Green Bay and give them a real challenge, and Tampa Bay meanwhile would arrive frustrated and watch the Packers simply add to that. Well, Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount were full of surprises Sunday, as Blount ground out 100-plus yards on the ground, including an incredible 54-yard run where he was hit by every Packer on the field, including those on the bench, and still scored. Wide receiver Mike Williams decided to make just his second appearance in the end zone since Week 1, while Kellen Winslow put up 132 receiving yards on nine catches. Freeman tossed another couple of interceptions, bringing this year’s tally to 15. He’s on pace to break his career high of 18. Green Bay seemed to be celebrating some sort of holiday where no-name players get opportunities to score. B. J. Raji, Tom Crabtree, John Kuhn and Jordy Nelson score the Packers’ five touchdowns, while Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and even Mason Crosby just watched in dismay. Fine, maybe they weren’t dismayed but a lot of us who own them were. Aaron Rodgers was harassed most of the day and ended up fleeing the pocket five times to the tune of 28 yards and added his 10th straight game with a QB rating over 100. One thing to note is that the Packers may have lost James Starks for a few games with a knee injury. That means Ryan Grant will suddenly take on a larger role, and against Detroit’s 27th ranked rush defense, he has a very favorable matchup.

Kevin Smith outdid everyone’s expectations, and perhaps he should thank Keiland Williams for it. Williams got one rushing attempt which he used to remind the Detroit coaching staff of his fumbling problem, and next thing you know, Smith was rushing for 140 yards and two scores making the Detroit fan base forget whatever that running back's name is with the concussion problem. While Maurice Morris was relatively ineffective, Smith rattled off runs of 43, 19 and 13 yards, and crossed the goal line for two scores. Matthew Stafford’s busted index finger was all but forgotten after two early interceptions as he rebounded with five touchdown passes, none to Calvin Johnson. Johnson, who leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns, went his second straight game without a score, meaning you should feel like trading him to me. Cam Newton had a respectable game despite throwing four more interceptions. Steve Smith was targeted ten times and caught five for 42 yards and touchdown. Jonathan Stewart hauled in all six of his targets for 87 yards. He now has 10 receptions in the past two games, giving him 33 for the year. Greg Olsen had nine balls thrown his way but converted only three to catches, disappointing when you consider Jeremy Shockey did not play.

Maurice Jones-Drew had 87 yards rushing and scored a touchdown, but in the end, was outshone by Chris Ogbonnaya, who managed 115 yards on a Jacksonville front seven that shut down Ray Rice. For the second week in a row, Greg Little led all Cleveland receivers with targets, yardage and receptions, but he still has yet to find the end zone. The Cleveland pass defense held Blaine Gabbert to just 5.1 yards per attempt, most of which went to Marcedes Lewis, who finally joined the party this week with a team-leading seven catches on 11 targets. Gabbert had a shot to win the Jags the game but his final pass into the end zone to Mike Thomas was broken up as time expired. Monitor the Browns’ injury situation to assess whether Ogbonnaya will get the start this week, but against the Cincinnati defense, you might consider a different matchup. Jacksonville welcomes division foe Houston.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NO ANSWERS FOR TEBOW - Thursday Night T & R (thoughts and revelations)

Do we dare call this game a ‘miracle’?  For all the noise and hype surrounding the new vogue move of ‘Tebowing’, every fourth quarter for the Denver Broncos brings more unexplainable phenomenon surrounding their unique quarterback. Tim Tebow doesn’t falter in the face of his critics.  In fact, he almost appears to embrace them, bringing such affability to an NFL post game press conference it’s sometimes hard to believe that we just watched teams of grown men return from the only legal form of assault.  In our current media-driven societal desire for heroes and goats, Tebow has become the face of the Denver resurgence, yet it would seem that there isn’t a single scout, coach or NFL executive who would be ready to hand him the credit for it.  Not even Tebow himself attempts to lay claim to being the reason the Broncos are 4-1 with him at the helm.  How could he?  For every person judging future NFL talent, these numbers would sit somewhere between practice squad and out of football:  56 completions in 125 attempts, for 709 yards in eight games, five of which he started.  Yet Tebow has accounted for seven passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns while turning the ball over just once.  Two times those touchdowns came in the last five minutes of the game, and rescued his team from certain defeat.  Against Miami, Tebow engineered drives that delivered 17 unanswered points, 14 of which came in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and pushed the game into overtime.

Watching Tebow score the game-winning touchdown this past Thursday night, the camera found John Elway, a former scrambling quarterback himself, standing and applauding.  Never can I remember seeing a more confounded look grace a GM’s face after winning a ball game.  His first-round quarterback, who managed just nine completions in 20 attempts and a measly 104 yards, outshined the Jets first-round quarterback, who put up 252 yards of passing offense, but was picked off for the most essential touchdown of the game.  Mark Sanchez looked hapless, shaken, had happy feet and couldn’t get a sustained drive going most of the game.  Tebow looked confident, unflappable, and in the final minutes unstoppable.  Yet in Elway’s mind he has to be wondering what happens if the new Dennis Allen defense collapses.  All game long they tortured and harassed Mark Sanchez, kept both Santonio Holmes and  Plaxico Burress from making big plays, and forced two turnovers.  It might have been three had Jets offensive lineman Matt Slauson not noticed Bilal Powell’s fumble laying on the one yard line first. Von Miller has been a man possessed lately, and one Tebow certainly won’t try to exorcise the demons from.

Come draft season can John Elway and John Fox reason that this offense could ever win a game against a team like the Patriots or the Steelers?  Can they deny conventional knowledge and scouting reports because they are winning and stick with Tebow through years of below average play if he can deliver nine or ten wins.  If they don’t draft a quarterback, they’ll be doing just that, and pinning their jobs on Tebow’s intangibles.  If they do draft a quarterback, and he can’t win football games, they’ll look like fools for impeding the growth of a kid who has done nothing but win all his life.
Rex Ryan stood at the microphone post game and could barely put into words what was going on in his head.  Sure, having to go to Denver and play in that altitude on four days rest stinks.  Losing your starting running back to a rib injury didn’t help his game plan.  But he wore a look of a defeated man, the kind coaches usually wear at the end of their long tenures, when they decide the game has passed them by.   He had no answer for how Tebow beat his vaunted Jets defense into the ground nearly single-handedly on that final 95 yard, clock-bleeding drive. 

And that made him no different than any of us.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Week 11 is here, and I'll have my thoughts on the Thursday night 'Miracle on Mile-High Street' later. Four teams are on the Bye this week, including the Houston Texans, who received about the only news worse than a car crash containing both Arian Foster and Ben Tate. There is a strong likelihood it will be up to Matt Leinart to lead Houston to the promised land. In this case, the promised land would seem to be their couches in mid January.

Occasionally you come across a game such as this and the word ‘blowout’ is so clearly emblazoned upon it that it almost scares you. Have you overlooked the potential of an upset? Is there some corner of this matchup’s world you haven't dusted? This is one of those matchups. The Green Bay Packers are coming off a 45-7 bludgeoning of the Minnesota Vikings Monday night, and the short week won’t make one bit of difference. Green Bay’s offense is clicking on all cylinders, putting up 90 points in their last two victories. Tampa Bay is struggling with creating a pass rush and has seen their rushing and passing offense regress. The only way the Buccaneers can win this game is to have LeGarrette Blount carry the ball over 20 times. He's done so only two times this year, both victories, but is facing a Packers rush defense that limited Adrian Peterson to 51 yards. Kregg Lumpkin, now the backup behind Blount, led all Tampa Bay receivers last week with five receptions, pointing the fact that either Josh Freeman is getting a bit gun shy with his injured thumb, or he now thinks Lumpkin is the second coming of Kevin Faulk. I’m going with the former there, as two of the last three games Freeman averaged under six yards per pass. Freeman has faced Green Bay just once back in 2009. During that game he went 14-for-31 for 205 yards and three touchdowns, while the Bucs’ defense forced three interceptions and a blocked punt. In the past three weeks, the Tampa Bay defense has forced three turnovers and allowed 88 points. They have yielded six rushing touchdowns and eight scores to running backs. I like James Starks to actually find pay dirt this week, in addition to Aaron Rodgers eating up the 28th ranked Tampa Bay defense.


Both teams are coming off important losses. Cincinnati’s was important because it came at the hand of their AFC North rival Steelers. For Baltimore, they were the second high profile victim of the Seattle Seahawks, and for the third time this year had a giant let down after a big victory. Last week, Joe Flacco attempted 52 passes while Ray Rice got just five carries. Not sure what goes into a game plan for John Harbaugh these days, but just five carries for Rice doesn’t seem like a plan – it seems like an improvisational sketch. Rice did throw his first touchdown though, which at least kept fantasy owners from having a stroke and provided defensive coordinators with one more thing they might have to consider when Baltimore sets up in the red zone. For either team, controlling time of possession and mistakes will determine this game’s winner. They split their season series last year and not surprisingly, whichever QB turned the ball over more lost the game. Ray Rice averaged about 82 yards per contest and scored once against the Bengals in 2010. You’re never going to bench Rice period, but against this Bengals defense, his most likely contribution could be passes out of the backfield. Cedric Benson was a bust against Baltimore in 2010 but a boom in 2009. Don’t expect a lot from him as Baltimore will likely push hard to stop the run after Marshawn Lynch lit them up, preferring to let Andy Dalton beat them. The bad news for the Ravens is that they managed just one sack against Seattle and one against Pittsburgh. Dalton’s line is much better than both those teams, having given up 13 sacks all year. Though the Ravens have only yielded four passing touchdowns for the season, three have come in the past five weeks. If the Bengals can keep Dalton upright, and A.J. Green plays (he’s questionable as of this writing) the Bengals could take this one. Green has just two receptions against AFC North opponents this year. However, both are for greater than 30 yards and both were touchdowns. This week, I’m defaulting on the side of the Ravens at home, with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta playing solid roles, and Rice putting up over 100 yards of offense.


The Cowboys have won two of the last three games they played in Washington, all of them low scoring. In only one of them, the 2008 game, did they produce a 100-yard rusher. Enter DeMarco Murray, one of the reasons the Cowboys find themselves in the playoff hunt again, and perhaps an indirect reason for the offense looking playoff ready. Since Murray became the full-time starter, Romo has thrown eight touchdowns versus one interception. In the previous five games he had thrown eight touchdowns but six interceptions. My thought is Dallas’ play-action is being taken more seriously. The Washington rush defense has faltered over 10 spots in the rankings during their five game losing streak, while the pass defense has been pretty stout. In fact, during the five game slide, no team’s top receiver found the end zone. The five passing scores broke down as follows: three scores went to TEs, one to a fullback and one to No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell, the only wide receiver to score at his position. Jason Witten should be a top target this weekend, while the Redskins focus on holding Dez Bryant in check. Meanwhile, the one highlight to Rex Grossman’s return was the play of rookie Leonard Hankerson, and he was lost for the season with a labrum tear right after he delivered his first 100 yard receiving day. The Redskins aren’t finding much luck, and you aren’t going to be able to predict which running back Shanahan favors this weekend.


The once ‘playoff bound’ Bills head to Miami at probably the worst time as the Dolphins have won two straight on the play of their defense, Matt Moore and Reggie Bush. What seemed like an easy win for the Bills just a few weeks ago now has significant meaning if they hope to stay in the playoff race. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown eight interceptions in just four weeks. Steve Johnson has been all but absent around the goal line and word is his ailing shoulder could actually sideline him this week. That leaves just David Nelson and Naaman Roosevelt as the healthy receivers on this team. Perhaps even more problematic is the loss of staring center Eric Wood for the year. With starting LT Demetreus Bell and his backup Chris Hairston both uncertain for Sunday, the Bills line shakeup has made things all the more ambiguous for a team that had a clear identity their first five weeks. Fred Jackson's impact will be important, though he's likely to get less rushing yardage and be an increased threat in the passing game. Expect the lack of receivers to augment Scott Chandler to a decent TE play if you've had underperformers like Marcedes Lewis at that spot. For Miami, Brandon Marshall has 20 targets the past two weeks, resulting in 204 yards and score. With the Bills secondary likely missing S George Wilson this week, Moore will be looking downfield quite a bit Sunday. Anthony Fasano may play a bigger role but he's not a guy to rely on even with increased targets. Reggie Bush has been getting the ball inside the red zone more often (two touchdowns in two weeks) but keep in mind that last week was the first time since late October that Daniel Thomas outpaced Bush in attempts 17 to 14. That will likely continue, and as Thomas' hamstring returns to full health, he'll likely cut into Bush's red zone carries too. Bush will still be a great PPR option and against the Bills will serve you well again. The Dolphins are on a high, and still a struggling team on third downs and in the red zone, but with the Bills offense and defense both hobbled, they should run their win streak to three.


The Oakland Raiders find themselves back atop the AFC West after their offense trounced the San Diego Chargers. Carson Palmer looks poised to take this offense to new levels, and Michael Bush has picked up where Darren McFadden left off, with Oakland ranked fourth in rushing offense. However, for as many yards as they gain, they give up. The Raiders rush defense has struggled, though they've only allowed 100-yard performances to Fred Jackson and Willis McGahee. Part of that has to do with the fact that Oakland has been tied or led going into the fourth quarter in six of their nine games. The Vikings have been blown out three times, and led three of their first four games going into the final fifteen minutes only to see the game squandered away by an offense that has managed just two fourth quarter touchdowns.  The addition of Palmer has matured Denarius Moore into a star in the making, and  Besides Adrian Peterson, few have made plays when they've been warranted. Christian Ponder has faced the Super Bowl Champs two of his first three starts, hardly a body of work to judge a rookie on. But except for last week's game, he's looked pretty good. Michael Jenkins had been one of his top targets, but surprisingly tied with him in the last three weeks is Devin Aromashodu. No one has been able to understand why Aromashodu, a 6' 2", 201-pounder hasn't made more waves in the NFL. Of course, of his 30 targets, Aromashodu has hauled in just seven, making his receiving percentage the worst on the team at just 23 percent. In this matchup, Peterson should top 20 carries, and should also see more receptions out of the backfield. The Vikings RT Sean Loadholt got eaten alive by Clay Matthews, who registered two sacks in the game. He'll have to contend with Oakland's SLB Kameron Wimbley, who has five sacks in the last two games. Oakland's line which has kept every QB they've had upright, now faces off against Jared Allen, who will challenge second year man Jared Valdheer in one of the key matchups of the game. Whoever protects the ball the best and keeps their ground game going should hold on for the victory. I'm giving Palmer a slight edge with his veteran leadership, and his receiving corpsand even though I expect Peterson to get 100-plus yards and score, I think this game goes the Raiders.


Wow could this one be a yawner. Maurice Jones-Drew comes to Cleveland fresh off his second 100-yard performance in three games, and third one for the year. To say he is the only thing that makes this team run is a bit a 'pun-ny', but Blaine Gabbert and the passing offense are averaging an abysmal 122 yards per games, and now face a Cleveland defense that is the NFL's best against the pass. Cleveland's Colt McCoy led the Browns into field goal range and what appeared to be a victory over the St. Louis Rams, only to watch Phil Dawson shank a 22 yard field goal wide left. The Browns faithful might not even care so much about a victory anymore as getting to see a touchdown. The last home touchdown the Browns offense scored happened prior the Week 5 Bye. Both teams are even in the give/take column at zero for the year, and with hardly any running game to speak of, McCoy can be expected to shoulder the load. He's coming off his best game this year, where he completed 20-of-27 passes for 218 yards, but failed to throw a TD pass against one of the lesser defenses in St. Louis. This was because he was just 2-of-5 in the red zone with one fumble, and didn't take one shot into the end zone on their closing drive. Think the coaching staff are being extra cautious? Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi will be a welcome return, though Greg Little has filled in nicely since his injury. Though there's a possibility you'll see Montario Hardesty, most likely it will be Chris Ogbonnaya again in the backfield, and he won't muster much against the Jacksonville front seven. McCoy isn't the best passer, but Jacksonville's loss of CB Rashean Mathis means Will Middleton will have to keep Massaquoi or Little in check. Jones-Drew should have a big day, but Jacksonville has won just one road game (against Indy) and Gabbert won't be able to do enough against this defense should the Browns stop Jones-Drew.


What once was projected to be a high-scoring aerial show has turned into what would seem to be a ground matchup. Matthew Stafford owners should be worried as the fracture in his right index finger appears to be hampering his throws. The two interceptions he threw Sunday that were returned for touchdowns just didn't get to their targets with any zip or accuracy. When you consider that Jahvid Best isn't yet ready to return, this would appear to be a good time to highlight Maurice Morris, who is averaging 4.6 yards per attempt in his last four games. Naturally, Stafford's hand problem didn't prevent his coaches, which currently call the least amount of rushes in the NFL (just 36 percent of the time) from allowing him to attempt a career high 63 pass attempts anyway. A telling number from this game was that Calvin Johnson had caught over 63 percent of the pass attempts throw his way by Stafford this year. On Sunday, he caught just seven of 19 passes, or 37 percent. Again, accuracy might be an issue. For Carolina, Cam Newton was diagnosed with shoulder fatigue. Not exactly a shocking diagnosis for a rookie who is on pace for over 550 attempts and would have been near the end of his season already last year. DeAngelo Williams leads all Carolina rushers with 83 attempts, but it is Jonathan Stewart who has seven rushing touchdowns and a 5.4 yard per carry average. With both rush defenses ranked 27th and 28th respectively, the difference will be who can stop the other team's measly ground game, without turning it over. The difference is Detroit is a plus-9 for the season and their pass defense has stepped up to fourth best.



Why should you be optimistic about Sam Bradford if you’re a Rams fan? Here’s why. Prior to his injury, he had only one game where he had averaged over seven yards per pass and hadn’t gone a single game completing over 60 percent of his passes, that is, if you don’t include the actual Green Bay game when he got injured. Since his return from injury, Bradford has two straight games of over 60 percent completions with one of those topping seven yards per attempt. What this means is Bradford has either gotten better protection, or he’s learning how to release the ball quicker for more yards down the field. Either way, his wide receivers are nothing to write home about sans Brandon Lloyd, so you can hope they get him a decent offensive lineman and wide receiver for Christmas. Seattle comes to town after another shocking upset, one in which they dismantled the Baltimore Ravens on both sides of the ball. Marshawn Lynch has two 100-yard performances this year, which he saved for two of the toughest running defenses on their schedule. This leaves fantasy owners and experts alike with furrowed brows and shrugged shoulders when asked what Lynch come the trade deadline. This week seems to be a no-brainer that you’re starting him, especially considering he’s up against the worst rushing defense in the league, and the Seahawks as a team average better than a yard extra per carry on the road. Then you look at the fact that their passing game averages almost two yards less per attempt on the road (7.6 to 5.9), the line has given up 21 sacks away from Century Link Field, and that besides the Houston Texans, the Seahawks are the NFL's worst team in terms of time of possession. Essentially, that gives you an idea of how Seattle game plans on the road; they emphasize the run, and try to get the ground game going, only to commit penalties that put them in longer third down situations forcing them to look further downfield, which in turn results in sacks on the quarterback. The difference here is the Rams have allowed 32 sacks and earned 22, and have only two interceptions on the year. They also just added starting CB Al Harris to the IR with a torn ACL. Both runners are smart plays this week, but Seattle’s defense is playing better and have never allowed Jackson to rush for 100 yards against them in 14 attempts. Marshawn Lynch leads the way.


John Skelton is 2-0 as a starter this year, which has me stuttering as I write, which I d-d-didn’t th-think that was p-p-p-possible. Kevin Kolb still has been limited with his bad toe and foot, so it appears Skelton will be under center Sunday at Candlestick. Skelton has thrown for over 530 yards in two games and three touchdown passes, but he’s also been intercepted twice and fumbled once. Beanie Wells is still fighting through the swelling in his knee, but started practicing again Thursday. He’ll face an uphill challenge Sunday, as San Francisco yields 73.2 rushing yards per game. That likely means he’ll be used to keep balance, but expectations will be placed on Skelton to move the ball. Larry Fitzgerald has erupted like a small volcano since Skelton took over, posting 11 receptions of 25 targets for 186 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, both Early Doucet and Andre Roberts have become fantasy useful again, with Roberts garnering two straight games with 55 yards receiving and 14 targets. Doucet has 10 targets, with eight receptions, 102 yards and a touchdown. However, Skelton’s experience in San Francisco last year was less than hospitable, as he tallied just 14-of-25 for 92 yards, a touchdown, one interception and was sacked four times before abdicating his position to Richard Bartel. On the other side of things, San Francisco has swept the season series the past two years, allowing no greater than 16 points in any of the four games. Alex Smith posted his second best QB rating in the 49ers home victory against the Cardinals, throwing for 276 yards and two touchdowns, and has shown real growth this year in his understanding of what he needs to do to win football games. Frank Gore is expected back for this game, though he may share more carries with Kendall Hunter because of his sprained knee. Gore only had five carries against Arizona last year, but ran for a whopping ten yards per touch. If that’s any sign of what could happen Sunday, plan on Gore wracking up good yardage against Arizona’s 21st ranked rush defense, but taper expectations for a full workload. While Michael Crabtree leads all receivers in targets, seven of Smith's 11 passing touchdowns are nearly evenly divided between Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. Only Davis is worth playing in terms of consistent fantasy points. Special teams could play a huge role as both Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie Patrick Peterson have returns for touchdowns. The San Francisco defense will make Wells life tough, and though Skelton might have a good passing day, time of possession with go San Francisco’s way, and so will the game.



Michael Turner has faced the Titans only twice, both times when he was a member of the San Diego Chargers. Since his days as a backup at San Diego, Turner’s gone on to a rather illustrious career, starring as the Atlanta battering ram. Though Turner failed to get his most important yard in overtime last week against the Saints, he’s averaging 4.4 yards per attempt and has seven rushing touchdowns for the season. He’ll be pitted against a Titans defense that has clamped down on the likes of Cedric Benson and Ray Rice, then also gave up 100-yard performances to Arian Foster and Ben Tate (same game) and Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers third string running back. In Atlanta, Turner will be set to try to control the game and keep the Tennessee's minimal pass rush at bay. That means more first down passes from Matt Ryan (his largest number of attempts are on first down) with Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers mixed in. Keep in mind, Matt Ryan has already been sacked 20 times this year. That’s more sacks registered in the Atlanta backfield on Ryan than he had all of his rookie and sophomore years, and last year, he was sacked a total of 23 times. So expect a lot of those short early passes to be aimed at Tony Gonzalez. Matt Hasselbeck, on the other hand, has been dropped just 13 times. It certainly won’t hurt him that Chris Johnson has two straight games averaging over 4.5 yards per carry, including 130-yard performance last week versus Carolina. The Titans offense hasn’t quite been the same since the loss of Kenny Britt, but Damian Williams has started to make his claim to the top receiver position, adding nine receptions in the past two games for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Williams has led the team in targets during that time with 14. Johnson will try to find his groove, but he’s much more likely to be effective catching out of the backfield as the Falcons haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all year. Most likely it will have to be Hasselbeck, Williams and Jared Cook, who had eight targets just two weeks ago. Atlanta’s defense is too tough, and the Titans commit too many penalties to take this one on the road.


This is the time of year the Bears relish warm weather teams coming into town. However, in this case, they might reconsider. Over the course of his career when Philip Rivers has traveled to weather-related cities in November, December, and January, he is 10-4, with two of those losses being during the playoffs in January. The margins of victory were closer, but Rivers plays better the more the year moves on…..usually. Forget blaming the Chargers woes on just Rivers. The offensive line could qualify for veterans benefits. Kris Dielman is now on the IR after being knocked silly last week. Marcus McNeill is out, as is Louis Vasquez. Against Oakland, the Chargers managed just 75 total yards rushing; this is Oakland mind you, a rush defense who has laid out the red carpet for most rushing offenses to the tune of 140 yards per game. On the other side of things, the Bears appear to be hitting their stride. While Matt Forte was finally held under 100 total yards of offense, it was more because he had less opportunities. Jay Cutler has found old Vanderbilt friend Earl Bennett a trusted soldier, giving him two straight games of five or more targets and over 80 yards receiving. But give credit to a vastly improved Bears defense, which just the past three games has nine interceptions, three fumble recoveries, four sacks and 21 passes defensed. Cutler needed to complete just nine passes of 19 attempts to beat Detroit handily. This week, they face a patchwork line that allowed Rivers to be hit on 30 of his 47 pass attempts. Forte will star again at home, as San Diego’s pass defense is their strength, so expect a higher dose of carries, and a stronger PPR game than in Detroit. If Rivers gets time, the Chicago secondary can be exposed, as they were by Calvin Johnson and Devery Henderson earlier in the season. Both had touchdowns of 70-plus yards. This makes Vincent Jackson still worth playing as he is a huge deep threat, as is rookie WR Vincent Brown. The two Vinces could give the Bears secondary a rough day if the Chargers play to Rivers strength, which is getting rid of the ball quickly on short quick routes. Expect more running plays too, making Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert mid-range fantasy options. What is likely though from this reorganized line is chaotic running lanes, Julius Peppers exacting some pain on Philip Rivers, and Chargers mistake prone offense struggling. Eventually, the San Diego defense will wear down from being out on the field too often.



There was a headline a some point regarding the Eagles that stated, “Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen.” I’d venture to say that to fall you had to have gotten up in the first place. The Eagles just never got up. Michael Vick is nursing broken ribs and could likely give way to Vince Young. Young has thrown one pass this year and that was an interception. Jeremy Maclin has hamstring and shoulder problems and might help the team more by resting and getting healthy. Neither are guys you’d want to chance this week from a fantasy perspective. LeSean McCoy has already put up 100 yards rushing against this defense in Week 3. Sure, it stinks when as a coach both teams know who should generate your offense, but in this case, if Andy Reid doesn’t highlight McCoy and steps to the podium to take the blame for another loss, most of the reporters in the room might simply agree with him. Young has only faced the G-men once, and that was in Tennessee back in 2006. At that time, Young dined on the Giants defense for 269 yards passing with two touchdowns, and an additional 69 rushing yard with a score. Decision-making has plagued Vince Young’s career, and if Andy Reid can get him to run whenever there’s a question about throwing a ball into coverage, he has the ability to make this game interesting. DeSean Jackson has something to prove, but then again, he’s had that all year long and has been a liability as often as an asset. As for the Giants, remember when I wrote that Eli Manning’s passer rating might decline some but that it didn’t really matter, I was keeping him. Well he’s still in the top five in passer rating, has added 561 more passing yards, four touchdowns, three picks and while posting a passer rating somewhere in the mid 80’s. He’s also thrown 79 more times, something I love in my fantasy quarterbacks. With Ahmad Bradshaw out and Brandon Jacobs still struggling to make four yards per carry, expect Manning to attack this vaunted Eagles secondary again through the air. In the Week 3 matchup, Manning threw four touchdowns, two of which found Victor Cruz. Danny Ware should again be good for eight to ten rushes making him a viable Flex play in deep leagues against an Eagles rushing defense giving up 120 yards per game. Though I never like betting against a desperate team sporting a new QB, barring Vince Young becoming Albert Einstein in the pocket, the Giants will force Young to make a few ill-advised turnovers and that’ll be the difference in this one.



Tyler Palko is starting for Matt Cassel, who was lost for the year last week. He’s never started a game and has a career total of 13 pass attempts. Their starting rusher, Jackie Battle has begun ceding carries to Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs pass rush is almost non-existent with only nine sacks, the lowest tally in the NFL. The Chiefs secondary is their strength, but both Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers were limited at practice this week and aren’t 100 percent. Start every Patriot you own, and even go out and find some people to put on the field in Patriot uniforms and then draft them for your fantasy team. The only thing Palko has going for him is two huge targets in Dwayne Bowe, and freshman Jonathan Baldwin, who had one of the best catches of the season negated last week due to off-setting penalties. New England's secondary is terrible, so expect Palko to at least try to take some deep shots down the field. Tom Brady has faced the Chiefs four times and is 3-1 against them. However, the last game he saw this team resulted in a season ending knee injury thanks to safety Bernard Pollard. Brady won’t have forgotten it, and with the Pats set to take command of their division, this one won’t be close on Monday Night.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The Jets have seen the last of Tom Brady picking apart their defensive backfield, at least for this season.  Now they’ll get to see a Denver Broncos unit that all of four weeks ago barely managed 100 rushing yards per game and now is ranked second in the NFL with a weekly average of 158.  That could be labeled the “Tebow Effect” to be catchy, but this week’s Denver backfield will unveil journeyman Lance Ball as the starter and second year practice squad regular Jeremiah Johnson in a rushing situation that hasn't been stable since the days of Clinton Portis early last decade.  Names like Mike Anderson, Rueben Droughns, Mike Bell, Selvin Young and Peyton Hillis have all graced the Denver lineup, all with pretty decent success.  Willis McGahee, one of the surprises of the 2011 campaign, tweaked his hamstring Sunday, but was supposed to practice Tuesday, making him questionable for the game.  The Broncos are minus-5 in turnover ratio but since becoming the starter, Tim Tebow has a 7:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.  John Fox has been open-minded enough to revamp his offense back to a college-style option offense, which had 55 rushing attempts Sunday against Kansas City.  The Jets have won just one road game for the year, and will be coming off a short week, having to fight the fatigue of just four days rest and the mile high Denver altitude.  Nevertheless, sitting at 5-4, this is must-win contest for the Jets, after having been swept by the Patriots.  The Jets rush defense has improved seven spots to 16th, and knows that the Broncos aren’t likely to attempt more than 20 pass plays for the entire game.  The Jets will try to get their own ground game going, minus LaDainian Tomlinson and his sprained MCL, meaning he’ll be out this week and maybe a few more.  That means Shonn Greene will see more carries, which will make his disappointed fantasy owners happier, but does not necessarily ensure more success.  The Jets line has struggled all year, and allowed five sacks against New England.  Mark Sanchez will have to fire up the Jets passing attack, though it’ll be minus Jerome Kerley who is also listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game with a knee injury.  Fatigue and inertia aside, this is the Jets game to lose.  Jets CB Darrelle Revis is fourth in the league with passes defensed and tied for fifth with four interceptions.  He should be able to take away Tebow’s favorite target Eric Decker, leaving the Jets front seven to shut down Tebow’s running attack.  It also means Demaryius Thomas could be a sleeper play this week for all three targets he'll see.  McGahee is likely out, and though Ball has earned the yards he gets, he isn’t a breakaway threat the Jets should fear.  The question mark is Johnson, who could be featured in the option, but is green enough that Bart Scott and David Harris shouldn’t have too many problems with him.  On offense, the Jets have too many weapons, and should emphasize Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller (all of whom should get high consideration for your lineup) early, forcing Denver to play from behind, and then get Greene his share of carries.  Though Denver has garnered one quarter of all their sacks in the past two weeks, it has been against the likes of K.C. and a fresh-off-the-bench-led Carson Palmer/Kyle Boller Oakland offense.  Meanwhile, the secondary has managed just six interceptions this year.  Also to note, the Jets have won all but one game where Greene carried the rock 16-plus times, so expect 20 touches for 80 yards and his third score of the year.  Tebow sure knows how to win football games, but I'm taking' Sexy Rexy' on the road.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

WEEK 10 T & R

I was 9-5 on Sunday, 9-7 overall this week.  Though I saw the Seattle game as an upset possibility, I just couldn’t believe the Ravens defense would let that game slip away.  And while I made a case for a Minnesota upset on Monday, it was, well, wrong!  It was bugly (bad and ugly) and Minnesota did what I thought Seattle would do against Baltimore, get in their own way…over…and over…and over.

When the season ends, the Oakland Raiders’ fans might miss Al Davis, but they won’t be upset he wasn’t around to stop Hue Jackson from acquiring Carson Palmer.  It took three games, but Palmer has begun to look like the Palmer of old, and certainly the pre-elbow concerns Palmer that couldn’t get any mustard on the ball.  Denarius Moore made the leap from hopeful Raiders draft steal to bona fide professional receiver with a finger tips bomb grab and two scores.  Michael Bush continues to show why the Raiders have kept faith in him, but the true kudos go to the Raiders offensive line.  They’ve given up just 11 sacks on the season.  They’ve pushed the line of scrimmage forward and opened up gaps such that their rushers are averaging 4.97 yards per attempt.  Just two years ago, that was 4.1 yards per touch.  Meanwhile, San Diego once again finds themselves as a team full of talent fighting injuries that has disappointed again.  The Chargers offensive line is now in tatters, and Philip Rivers is struggling to get any of their usually efficient downfield passing attack going because he has no time.  This is going to make San Diego running backs less helpful down the fantasy stretch with teams like Chicago, Jacksonville and Baltimore forthcoming.

Mike Smith is certainly in the conversation now but not the way he wished to be.  I have to agree with what Eric Mangini said on ESPN: First Take on Monday.  It might have been a gutsy decision, but if you actually succeed in gaining that one yard, you don’t ensure victory.  This isn’t a drive that is stalling on the Saints 43 yard line putting a field goal try in question.  This is on your own 29 yard line and does nothing but ensure the Saints as the winning team if you fail.  Robert Meachem did come through with 69 yards and a touchdown as I had predicted though he had just two catches.  Don’t expect that he’s going to ever compete for time with Marques Colston or Jimmy Graham, and Devery Henderson will occasionally take some targets away too.  The Saints biggest Achilles heel is still running the football, and that could make a difference down the stretch against weaker run defenses like Detroit and Carolina who are much more easily beaten on the ground.

I still believe Andy Dalton is rookie of the year, and that Cam Newton’s numbers, while impressive, come with a surrounding cast that Dalton could only pray for.  However, the Steelers veteran defense made the plays when they had to.  Pittsburgh can thank the incredible maturation and play of one William Gay, who I admit to losing faith in after last year.  Gay was involved in not just the game clinching interception, but caused the first pick as well with a solid defensive play, deflecting the ball to Lawrence Timmons.  The Cincinnati defense is also for real.  They’re fast and make plays and it’s clear this team is not far away from being a playoff contender, if they aren’t right now.  A.J. Green left this game early, and that is a crucial cog in this wheel.  Keep an eye on his status forthcoming, because he really is a difference maker if the Bengals are going to compete in December. 

Colt McCoy completed 20-of-27 passes for 218 yards but zero touchdowns, and the game can be summed up by red zone inefficiency, particularly by Cleveland.  Penalties and lack of execution led to four Phil Dawson field goals but that wasn’t enough.  Greg Little finally had the kind of game that you want to see from a developing receiver. Although it still isn’t resulting in touchdowns, he caught a 52-yard bomb from McCoy and finished with six receptions for 84 yards on six targets.  This is a solid WR3 for your fantasy team now, and could be on the rise soon.  As for the Rams, Steven Jackson put up his third straight 100-yard performance, yet was unable to find pay dirt, and Sam Bradford was mediocre, with a 6.1 YPA.  To be fair, a lot of this falls on the Rams offensive line, which has allowed a league high 32 sacks.  For this reason alone, when you’re the Rams and you find yourself set up deep in Cleveland territory in the fourth quarter, you have got to feed Jackson the ball and find a way to take the onus off of Bradford.  The fact that they got only three points after being set up at the Cleveland 27 with nine or so minutes to go, made it possible for even Cleveland to drive down the field to win the game.  Most teams would have scored the touchdown. 

One of the two early season surprises, the Buffalo Bills are being dealt a dose of reality in the NFL.  Seven wins does not an NFL season make, nor does an early 4-1 start.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has now posted two incredibly shaky performances on the heels of signing one heck of a contract.  His last two games have seen him average 153 yards passing, while tossing just two scores against five interceptions.  Bigger news was that the Bills lost safety George Wilson early in Sunday's game and that all but put the Bills defense on the back burner.  Fred Jackson averaged 8.8 per carry on 13 tries, but down 21-0 early in the second quarter, the Bills seemed to abandon the running game altogether.  A healthy Tony Romo tore the Wilson-less Bills secondary apart to the tune of three touchdowns.  Romo connected with former Rams burnout Laurent Robinson twice, giving Robinson four touchdowns in his last 12 receptions.  Miles Austin isn't likely to return until Week 12 or Week 13, so keep Robinson in your lineup as the Cowboys schedule includes the likes of Miami, Washington and Arizona the next three weeks.  Meanwhile, DeMarco Murray is putting his stamp on a ROTY bid.  Considering Murray wasn't even second string not too long ago, he's now delivered three 100 yards performances in four games, as well as two touchdowns.  More importantly, the Cowboys have won all three games he's started and received 20 carries or more.  He's averaging a sick 6.7 yards per carry, and his addition to the starting lineup has elevated this offense to an elite level.  They have a running threat that can take it the distance every time, a feeling you didn't get anymore with Felix Jones.  Linebacker Sean Lee did play on Sunday and managed four tackles. 

If you're really a Colts fan hoping for Andrew Luck, guess what?  You've separated yourselves from the rest of the pack and your goal is in sight.  Maurice Jones-Drew delivered 114 yards on the ground (and 23 receiving yards) with a score to pace the Jaguars to a 17-3 win.  Jarett Dillard (Jarett who?) caught his first touchdown pass, just his eighth reception of the year.  The Colts offense remained inept, even after the Jaguars lost cornerback Rashean Mathis early in the second quarter with a torn ACL.  He'll miss the rest of the season.  TE Jacob Tamme starred for Indianapolis in the place of the injured Dallas Clark, if you can say "star" and six receptions for 75 yards in the same sentence.  Curtis Painter made it to the fourth quarter but was again replaced by Dan Orlovsky.  Painter may not get many more shots at this, and whether Orlovsky is a positive for the offense has yet to be seen.  He last started a game back in 2008 for Detroit, and completed 56 percent of his passes and had an 8:8 touchdown/interception ratio in 10 games.

Matt Cassel managed only 3.3 yards per attempt, as he was harassed and hit all day long, mostly by rookie sensation Von Miller, who had 1.5 sacks, seven tackles, two tackles for loss, and four other QB hits.  Still the question has to be asked how you lose a game where the opposing quarterback only threw eight times and completed just two?  Tim Tebow managed one touchdown toss to Eric Decker, but supplied just 113 yards of total offense.  Yet Tebow is 3-1, and the question will continue to be thrown out there: can Tebow running an offense as unconventional as Denver's will become with him at the helm continue to win football games?  So far, the answer is yes.

John Beck or Rex Grossman?  Rex Grossman or John Beck?  And does it matter?  Probably not.  Those of you who were in love with Roy Helu this week watched Shanahan pull a “Shana”nigan giving Ryan Torain 11 carries to Helu’s six.  I’m sure some of you have a six-shooter near your computer with five empty chambers because every time you have to play a Washington running back, it’s like playing Russian Roulette with your team. The only positive note for the Redskins was rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, who posted eight catches and for 106 yards…and then got hurt.  So before you go to the waiver wire, you might want to check if he’s able to play with his newly strained hip.  Matt Moore wasn’t quite as good as he was last week though he did complete 20 of his 29 attempts.  However, Reggie Bush was solid again for the second straight week.  He delivered over ten fantasy points again, this time scoring twice in the red zone.  For the record, Daniel Thomas is running again, and when at full strength again, likely will regain the starting nod.  Another thing to note, and it is shocking, but the Dolphins scored more than 20 points just once in their first seven games and that was in their first loss of the season.  In their last two victories they’ve scored 59 points.

Hearing that DeSean Jackson was being deactivated for this week’s game after he slept through a meeting didn’t make me feel any more warm and fuzzy about this game, but it certainly didn’t make me believe Arizona could waltz into Philadelphia and find any way to come out with a victory.  After all, John Skelton was still the QB, and though he wasn’t awful last week, the Philadelphia pressure defense would give him more than he could handle, wouldn’t they?  Turns out that was a big no, and he was better than Michael Vick, who continued his regression back to his days when he was behind center for the Falcons.  Vick’s 32.5 passer rating was his worst of the year, and he added another injury as well, some broken ribs.  Larry Fitzgerald put up the kind of gaudy numbers we’re used to seeing regularly, with a 146 yards receiving and two touchdowns, making him the best fantasy receiver of the week.  It makes me believe he’d like to see Skelton under center again.  Beanie Wells appears to be still struggling on that knee, as he managed just 2.7 yard per carry against what has been a porous Philadelphia front.  Where the Eagles go from here nobody knows.  Jackson has apologized publicly, which is a start, but it’s clear this team has some major chemistry issues that might have been fixed had there been an off season.

See the intro to the Buffalo-Dallas game to get my take on the Lions.  There’s no doubt Matthew Stafford is having big problems delivering an accurate pass with his broken finger.  Stafford’s two interceptions in the Lions’ first two drives of the second half went back for touchdowns and neither of the passes were even close to his targets.  Charles Tillman, who has struggled over the last year or so, shut down Calvin Johnson, holding the prodigious receiver to 81 yards and no scores.  The Bears defense also forced three fumbles, recovering two, leaving Jay Cutler little to do.  Earl Bennett continues to be his favorite target not named Matt Forte, and though the Bears continued to be hapless in third down conversions, Robbie Gould was able to pick them up from almost everywhere in Lions territory.  The Lions now find themselves in a tie for second place, and have to find some answers to their offensive woes early in games.  Perhaps newly added Kevin Smith, who was out of football until this past Sunday, can be a spark to help add some balance.  Remember Smith had eight touchdowns and 4.1 yards per carry his rookie year in 2008.  He got four carries for 19 yards on Sunday as well as two receptions for 10 yards.

We knew at some point the stinker game would come.  It had to.  Cam Newton had been almost too good to be true, and by no means does this game void any others.  Newton spread the ball around, gave Greg Olsen 11 targets and Steve Smith eight, but was unable to exact the big play as he had in the past.  He also added 55 yards rushing, in addition to his 219 passing yards.  The sad part is the season continues to be an oddity for Carolina runners.  Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams had twelve combined carries for the game.  Not only is that bordering on ridiculous considering what the two are being paid (Williams signing bonus alone was 16 million this summer and Stewart is owed 1.31 million this year) but considering how bad Carolina’s defense has been you’d think Ron Rivera would want to employ any strategy that might lead to winning time of possession.  The two have been relatively absent, and one has to wonder if this is part of the reason they’ve won just two games.   To be fair, the Tennessee defense was a big part of the story here, causing two turnovers, registering five sacks and eight QB hits.  Meanwhile Chris Johnson hit Carolina where they are weakest, in stopping the run, putting up his first genuinely strong performance for the year: 130 yards and touchdown to go along with 44 receiving yards.   It’s hard to put too much stock in that kind of performance against Carolina, but should Johnson repeat it against the Falcons next week, then we’ll be able to announce CJ2K is back.

It’s a tradition on most Jewish holidays to take time to remember and commemorate things that are past as well as to celebrate.  This game feels like Jewish holiday for the Texans. Right after a resounding win at Tampa Bay where they dominated just about all facets of the game the announcement came Monday that quarterback Matt Schaub is lost for the season.  This means Matt Leinart will now take over under center, and without standout wide receiver Andre Johnson helping Leinart’s limited field of vision and play recognition, the news is about as bad as it comes.  Leinart has never managed to throw more touchdowns than interceptions, and as a starter never completed better than 57 percent of his passes overall.  If there is a silver lining it is in the Houston running game.  Neither Arian Foster or Ben Tate could be stopped this past Sunday, with Foster adding 102 receiving yards and a second touchdown.  They’ll continue to dominate the Texans landscape in the near future.  For Tampa Bay, Kregg Lumpkin led all receivers with five grabs and Josh Freeman tossed another three interceptions, giving him 13 for the season.  Remember, he is playing with a bad thumb, but this is a problem that has pervaded and defined a lot of the Tampa Bay season now.  Freeman has just three games without being picked off, and has only three games where he threw more touchdowns than interceptions.  LeGarrette Blount’s less than stellar season continued, with 3.4 yards per carry on 10 carries, but he’s likely still suffering through his knee issue.  Tampa Bay gets Green Bay next week, meaning this three game skid is likely to hit four.

The Seahawks are at it once again.  Just a few weeks after upsetting the New York Giants in front of the Meadowlands crowd, Seattle gave their home fans one to remember with a rather decisive pounding of the Ravens.  They held Ray Rice to under 100 total yards of offense, and Joe Flacco attempted a career-high 52 passes.  How sad is it that Flacco completed 29 of those for only 255 yards while Tarvaris Jackson completed 17 passes of 27 attempts for 217 yards?  Twenty-five more attempts by Flacco equated to only 38 more yards.  Jackson was sacked just once, and hit only a handful of other times, while delivering an unexciting yet efficient performance.  Marshawn Lynch followed his offensive line for his biggest output of the year, 109 yards rushing and another 58 receiving for a 167 total yards and a touchdown.  Lynch becomes a back worth getting as four of the next seven games come against subpar rushing defenses in Philly, Washington, and St. Louis twice.  Then there’s Arizona, whose rushing defense is in the middle of the pack. The Ravens have now allowed over 100 yards to a single rusher in their past two losses, and both of those teams were pretty one-dimensional teams that had to run to win.  Baltimore gets to lick their wounds for only a short time as division contender Cincinnati visits M&T Bank Stadium this coming weekend.

The 49ers continue to play tough defense while running the ball well.  Kendall Hunter replaced the injured Frank Gore and delivered 40 yards on six carries, including a 17 yard touchdown run.  Eli Manning threw two interceptions, one of which was not fault, as Mario Manningham cut off his route while in man-to-man coverage, leaving Manning’s pass to go easily undisturbed into the hands of Carlos Rogers.  That fourth quarter pick proved to be very costly as the next play Hunter delivered his TD.   Hunter owners shouldn’t get too excited as San Francisco has Arizona and Baltimore the next two weeks before getting St. Louis.  By that time, it’s possible Gore will return.  Delanie Walker is now third on the team in targets and fourth in yards.  He’s become and Alex Smith favorite, particularly in key situations.

Rob Gronkowski continued his monster season, and was the best tight end of the week with 113 yards and two scores. Deion Branch also delivered 68 yards and a touchdown, and Chad Ochocinco had his first big play for the Patriots though it didn’t result in a touchdown for him.  Known for their secondary, the Jets defensive backs were scorched for 17 passing first downs.  And just when they seemed to have things in check, Danny Woodhead would appear for a solid run to keep the Jets honest.  Mark Sanchez had a chance to prove he belonged in the conversation with the NFL’s best quarterbacks, but failed to take advantage of the worst ranked pass defense in the league.  Instead LB Rob Ninkovich made Sanchez’s night miserable, including returning an interception for a touchdown.  Sanchez also called a timeout at the end of the first half that left Tom Brady 1:20 on the clock after Jets took the lead.  This was enough time for Brady to engineer the Patriots first touchdown drive and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.  All of this resulted in Rex Ryan actually venting that Sanchez isn’t an elite quarterback.  How Sanchez responds to that will be evident quickly in the forthcoming games against Denver and division rival Buffalo.  Believe it or not, I had Sanchez in my top five this week, and he finished sixth in fantasy points with 19.

Well, I have to eat crow on this one.  I still believe that had Minnesota gotten out of its own way early, they might have had a chance, and certainly could have covered the spread.  After all, they pressured Aaron Rodgers all first half, and though they were credited for only two sacks, they hit and hurried Rodgers and had six tackles for losses.  Yet Rodgers would not be outdone, and four touchdown passes and 250 yards later, he was sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter, still the best fantasy quarterback of the week.  However, I’d give the ball to the Green Bay defense in this one.  This was the same defense Christian Ponder picked apart just three short weeks ago.  Ponder was rushed to no end, while trying to get any rhythm with his wideouts.  The Vikings have to be looking for a right tackle come draft time as Phil Loadholt showed me once again how big of a liability he is in the pass rush.  He gave up at least two sacks by himself, and the only reason this game wasn’t a shutout was because of Randall Cobb’s muffed punt return.  Adrian Peterson had his fair share of runs, but the Packers defense smothered him, and made him nothing to worry about.  The secondary played young and rejuvenated, particularly Charles Woodson.  All this means is that even when the Packers manage just 90 total yards rushing, they can still blow an opponent out.  That’s bad news for Green Bay foes, and Rodgers is not showing any sign of slowing down, nor having any problem distributing the ball.  Ten different receivers caught passes for the Packers on Monday.  Next up are the Buccaneers for the Pack, while the Vikings draw the Oakland Raiders.  These are two teams couldn’t be headed any further in opposite directions.