Saturday, September 8, 2012



This is a rematch of the final game of the 2011 season for each of these teams. Arizona narrowly escaped that game with an overtime victory 23-20. A year later, Kevin Kolb has become Scott Mitchell, and Arizona has decided they aren't going to be Detroit and stick with him. Quarterback John Skelton enters his third campaign, but first as the undisputed starter. He's got good size at 6'6" and can fire the ball with alacrity. However, his accuracy and ability to extend plays limits his usefulness in the new NFL where mobility is becoming chic. You don't have to tell that to Pete Carroll, who shocked his faithful by naming rookie Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin his starter, taking the mobile guy over the one they paid $10 million for. Now the whole northwest is buzzing that Seattle could be a playoff contender, but let's not confuse close losses as being the mark of a good team. Last year the Seahawks ran off five wins in six games by playing good defense and relying on the suddenly sturdy legs of Marshawn Lynch. Yet the teams they beat had a combined record at the time of 21-32, two of those victories at the expense of the hapless Rams. Let's be honest, neither team wants to throw. Beanie Wells missed the last game, and his size and agility will test the Seattle front seven. He'll also have the shifty Ryan Williams returning from a patellar injury. The difference in the game I think will indeed be Wilson, who has the ability to extend plays and create havoc for defense. He should make enough plays to be the difference. Keep an eye on Doug Baldwin, who led the Seahawks in targets and reception despite not being a starter. I'm higher on him than I am on Rice this year, and in this game, he could make some waves with CB Patrick Peterson draped all over Rice. I expect 25 carries from Beanie Wells and 95 yards. Williams could have some PPR value, as Wells is not a good receiver. Larry Fitzgerald is an elite option this week, even with Skelton under center, but he won't make the difference. However, Arizona special teams could easily shake things up, as Pete Carroll's Seahawks gave up five returns for touchdowns and Patrick Peterson is a dynamic playmaker.


The best offense in the league welcomes perhaps the best defense in the league. But let's not forget about the 49ers offense? After off-season drama could have easily left Alex Smith smoking on a bitterness cigar, instead he finds himself now armed with more weaponry than the 49ers have had in nearly ten years. Frank Gore is an aging veteran who can still get it done, and should have a nice day against the Packers, who ceded 111 yards weekly in 2011. He's not got depth in currently injured Brandon Jacobs and speedy, change-of-pace back LaMichael James. James looks to be the guy who'll take away Gore's PPR usefulness, and will be a perfect flat pass option for Smith. The receiving corps is deep and powerful, with free agent veteran Randy Moss trolling the sidelines while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham provide solid hands in the middle of the field. Green Bay won't be daunted by a pass rush or a strong secondary. Aaron Rodgers will be throwing all day to Greg Jennings and all-purpose man Jordy Nelson. Jermichael Finley is a huge load to stop in the middle of the field and will draw coverage from top linebackers like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, who between the two of them had 20 passes defensed, or safety Donte Whitner. Just when you think Rodgers can't find anyone else, FB John Kuhn sneaks out of the backfield for a short TD pass. You can bench Cedric Benson, who may get 10 carries but against the 49ers won't find much movement. In San Francisco it would be hard to see Green Bay winning this one. Either way, there's almost no way this game isn't a shootout. Alex Smith limited his turnovers to just five interceptions last year in 445 pass attempts, joining only three other QBs who ever had that few interceptions with over 400 pass attempts and best ever interception ratio for a 49ers QB. Both QBs are good plays tomorrow, yes, even Alex Smith and this one comes down to a field goal. Definitely take the Niners.

PACKERS 38, 49ers 35


The Panthers dismal defense won't be as dismal this year as Jon Beason returns to health and the center of their front seven. However, neither will Josh Freeman, whose TD: Interception ratio was an abysmal 1: 1.28. For one, he has new running back David Martin in the backfield joining 2011 fantasy disappointment LeGarrette Blount. The team also signed big-play receiver Vincent Jackson to provide a greater downfield presence than Preston Parker or Mike Williams ever could. For Cam Newton, his second year brings all sorts of questions. Namely, is he really going to be able to repeat such a rookie campaign? One thing is for certain, Coach Ron Rivera has to find a way to keep his thoroughbred healthy, and that will likely involve less encouragement when it comes to scrambles, particularly in the red zone. Expect more of those looks to go to Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and full back/running back Mike Tolbert. Considering both Williams and Stewart averaged over 4.5 yards per carry last season, it'd be a wonder if each didn't get 15 carries against Tampa's last ranked rushing defense from 2011. Carolina's defense yielded over 130 yards per game, so expect a lot of Martin and Blount, with Martin getting about a 2:1 ratio. It will be a game of featuring runners, the veterans versus the rookie. I think you have to play Carolina's Steve Smith because though he's an aging receiver he's going up against an aging secondary. Smith will take one deep for certain, and provide a good play against Tampa. But Freeman and company just aren't as explosive as Cam Newton and his propensity for turnovers will likely decide the outcome.