Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Week Three Wrap Up

Only two unbeaten teams remain: Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. You might think the Bears are 3-0, but if you watched their first game you know they are actually 2-1.

Five teams are yet to win a game: Carolina, San Francisco, Cleveland, Buffalo, and of course the Lions, who are technically 1-2.

Week 4 we'll see Pittsburgh against Baltimore in Charlie Batch's farewell party; Chicago is on the road against the Giants; and the unbeaten Chiefs enjoy a bye week. Which means that going into week 5, there's a good chance KC will be the last undefeated team. So... the '72 Dolphins can go ahead and celebrate.

Among the winless teams, we'll see Carolina traveling to New Orleans (ouch), Detroit going to Lambeau (double ouch), Buffalo hosting the Jets, Cleveland hosting the Bengals, and the 49ers going to Atlanta. There's a very solid chance that all 5 of those teams will continue to be winless.

So anyhow ... onto my week three picks.

I was 10-6 against the spread, which brings me to 27-21 on the year. Very happy with that.

(There may be viciously untrue rumors about me changing and unchanging picks at the last minute, but those are simply rumors created to destroy my credibility. Either that or I decided to just stick with my original picks and never try any kind of last-minute switcheroo again. It's my blog and I can do whatever I want dangit!)

I whiffed on my Upset of the Week (Jags -Eagles) but nailed my Lock of the Week (Pittsburgh over Tampa) as well as the Lions game, which was just easy money. Whatever the line is for Detroit at Green Bay next week, it won't be high enough. The line could be Green Bay by 28 and I'd take Green Bay. But it'll be more like 13. Easy, easy money.

Two weeks in a row Jacksonville has screwed me. I'm officially off their wagon. This will be David Garrard's last season as a starting quarterback. They signed Trent Edwards yesterday. On to the games ...

Lions - Vikings

So I spent Sunday in Detroit, at Comerica Park, watching the final Tigers home game of the year. It was a microcosm of the season. Cabrera hit a homer, Jackson had a couple hits, but the bottom of the order (Inge, Laird, Sizemore) was worthless. But we won 5-1 thanks to Rick Porcello's best game of the season.

But the season as a whole was a disappointment. We should be in the playoffs, and we're not. It all comes down to one play, one ill-advised slide into home plate. It was July 24, against the Blue Jays, bottom of the 3rd inning. Two men on, Cabrera at the plate, and here's what happened, courtesy of ESPN's play-by-play:

M Cabrera doubled to deep center, A Jackson scored, M Ordonez thrown out at home.

It sounds so innocent. M Ordonez thrown out at home. But in the process of sliding, Magglio shattered his right ankle, forcing him to miss the rest of the season, and consequently ruining the Tigers offense. Teams started pitching around Cabrera and forcing the rest of the offense to beat them. It didn't happen. The Tigers scored more than 6 runs in only 1 of their next 21 games. Magglio's injury effectively ended the season.

I'm barely even excited about next season. Our pitching staff is falling apart and the bottom of the order is beyond bad. But we do have the Rookie of the Year and a guy who will finish either first or second in MVP voting. So those are exciting things.

Anyway, that's my story about why I didn't watch the Lions loss to the Vikings. It wasn't a game worth watching. I saw the highlights, read through the play-by-play, and looked at the box score. Just ugly. I've seen enough Lions games to know exactly how it all went down.

In fact, when the guy behind me at Comerica eagerly announced to his family "Touchdown to Scheffler! The Lions are up 7-0!", my first reaction was a pained chuckle.

'Of course they did. That just makes it worse. I hate them. Stupid Stafford ...'

We muffed a punt, had a couple of very costly penalties that negated turnovers, and allowed an 80 yard play (the touchstone of the Lions defense), and just like that you have a 24-10 win for Minnesota, despite an ugly game from Old Man Favre.

Favre threw two interceptions and would have had 3 if not for a penalty. He is all kinds of washed up. It's very sad. Reminds me of when Karl Malone played for the Lakers, or overweight Shaq on the Cavs. Or that pitiful season when Jerry Rice was on the Seahawks.

Come on Brett. It's time. Go back to Mississippi, hop on your tractor, and wear those Wranglers with pride. You've done well, but it's time. Football will be fine without you.

On the Detroit side of things, I can't believe I'm saying this ... but we gotta get Stafford back soon. Not next week - no sense in bringing him back for a Lambeau loss. But the week after that, against the Rams, Stafford better be out there. It's a should-win game, and a Stafford-Bradford clash will be very fun to watch. Consecutive #1 picks. Franchise quarterbacks. Some devilish part of me wants the Rams to win that game so everyone can see that Bradford is better than Stafford. But of course, I still want Stafford to be good. I really do. I just don't think it'll EVER happen.

But Shaun Hill, against the Vikings, was just brutal. He's in way over his head. The running game just isn't there to support him. No offense to Jahvid Best, but his first two games were a fluke. When I saw he was projected to get 18 fantasy points week 3 against the Vikings, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Come on, you really think he's going to score on another 75 yard screen pass? I would have projected about 6 points. He got 3. Nothing against Best. He's a great talent. But this is still the Lions.

Calvin Johnson needs to start catching more than 6 passes a game. He's underperforming. Double team or whatever, we built the offense around him and he's just not producing. It's frustrating. I would say Burleson's injury made a difference, but Burleson has yet to do anything this season. It's just a bad offense with a bad coaching staff. Calvin will be gone soon, and I'm sure he'll set the league on fire somewhere in the AFC. The season is going down the drain in a hurry. Jim Schwartz is 2-17 as a head coach, soon to be 2-18. That will be the worst 20 game start in Lions coaching history. Geez.

I don't even want to talk about the Packers-Lions game when it comes time to make the week 4 picks. All I'll say is, whatever the line is, I'll take the Packers. And I'll be watching the game in a dark, damp room with a wet towel on my forehead and one of those stress-relieving squishy pillows in my hand. And most likely, I'll be laying naked on a cold concrete floor. Or at least that's what it will feel like.

Ugh. On to the rest of week 3.


I almost made this my Upset of the Week, and should have. Tennessee whooped them 29-10. At least that's what the final score indicates.

But if you just look at the box score, this game will confuse you. New York outgained the Titans by over 200 yards. Vince Young had just 10 completions. The Giants had more first downs, more time of possession, and gained an average of 6.7 yards per play compared with 4.7 for Tennessee.

But 3 turnovers and 11 penalties were the only numbers that mattered. As well as 2 missed field goals.

On one occassion Eli Manning threw a 43 yard pass from his own goal line, but a chop block penalty erased the gain and resulted in a Tennessee safety. On the Giants next possession, they marched 89 yards down to the Titans 4 yard line, where Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled.

New York outplayed, outgained and outmuscled the Titans. But Tennessee outcoached them and outsmarted them.

I'm not worried about either of these teams moving forward. They both look at least 8-8ish, with the possibility of catching fire and making a playoff run.

Panthers - Bengals

Losing two straight home games is a difficult task, even for a team like the Lions or Rams. But Carolina just did it against two straight below-average teams. Their season is officially in the tank.

Carson Palmer had his third straight downright awful game (his QB rating is 71.3 so far, worse than his rookie season), but Jimmy Claussen was equally bad. Cincy's superior defense won them the game, along with 2 TDs from Cedric Benson.

Neither QB had a rating of more than 53 in this game. Yuck. I can't wait to check this one out on ESPN Classic.

Steelers - Bucs

This was my Lock of the Week and it couldn't have been an easier call. You've got one of the best teams in the NFL against one of the worst. And a line of 2.5. Some things are just too easy.

There's no question that Pittsburgh has the best defense in the NFL, or any question that Polamalu is the best defensive player.

Here's the stat of the game: 25% of Charlie Batch's completions went for touchdowns.

Patriots - Bills

The Pats offense scored 38 points, enough to win comfortably. The offense was good. Brady, Moss, Welker all chipped in, but they had help. Both rookie tight ends caught 6 passes apiece and the running game surpassed 200 yards! This might actually be the best offense in the NFL.

But the Pats defense ... well they allowed 375 total yards of offense to Ryan Fitzpatrick. And that just sucks. Their defense could be their Achilles heel this season. Either that, or maybe they just weren't interested in playing Buffalo. We'll find out soon enough.

Ravens - Browns

Despite missing the game against the spread, I made a great call last week when I said:

"Anquan Boldin was matched up (week 1) against Revis and then Leon Hall (week 2), both elite cover corners. This week … he gets Sheldon Brown."

And against Brown and the Browns, all Boldin did was catch 8 passes for 142 yards and 3 scores. All that talk about Flacco being overrated was clearly overblown.

Interesting thing is that Cleveland actually had a chance to tie this game up at the end. It was 3rd and 4 with 2 minutes remaining. Baltimore had the ball on their own 37, was going to run up the gut, then punt and the Cleveland offense would have had about 1:20 to go 80 yards. Not likely, but possible. Instead, the Browns defense jumped offsides on 3rd and 4 and Baltimore ended the game on kneel downs.

Eric Mangini's firing is long overdue.

Chiefs - 49ers

For Peter's sake, what is going on. How are the 49ers 0-3? How are the Chiefs 3-0? I just don't get it.

But give credit to the Chiefs defense. They held San Fran to just 4 first downs in the first half, and OLB Tamba Hali (quietly making a case for Defensive MVP) had 3 sacks. Actually, I'm not sure if the credit should go to the Chiefs defense, or if Alex Smith is just really bad. We will find out sooner or later.

KC gets a bye, but then they go to Indy. So they're 3-1. Then they go to Houston. So they're 3-2. But after that, their next 7 games are extremely winnable. So they could be in the neighborhood of 8-4 by week 13. San Diego (1-2), on the other hand, faces a tougher schedule and will be lucky to go 5-3 in their next 8 games. They might still be trailing KC as late as 12 games into the season, setting up a potentially huge game when the Bolts host the Chiefs on December 12. Hmm...

In other news, San Francisco fired their offensive coordinator just 3 games into the season. San Fran ranks 20th in total offense and 31st in points scored. They promoted the quarterbacks coach to OC. The NFC West is still their division to lose, even if they go 7-9.

Cowboys - Texans

I thought this game would be close. But, I also thought Houston's secondary was good. So clearly I was misinformed. They allowed Roy Williams (yes, Roy Williams, who shouldn't even be on the field) to catch 5 balls for 117 yards and 2 TDs. After the game, Williams instructed Dez Bryant to carry his shoulder pads, and they had this exchange:

Williams: "Hey Rook, carry 'dem pads, I'm off the heezy, I done score twice!
Bryant: "I ain't carryin' yo pads, you ugly ass bald mofo"
Romo (on the phone with Miley Cyrus): "Guys! shutup, I can't hear my girlfriend!"

The story of this game was really Houston's left tackle, Duane Brown, who missed the game due to a substance-abuse suspension. DeMarcus Ware took full advantage, racking up 3 sacks and forcing Schaub to hurry his passes and not make his reads. Ware proved why he's the best pass-rusher in the NFL, and was the biggest reason why Dallas is not 0-3.

Houston will be without Brown's services for 3 more games. In those games they face Richard Seymour, Justin Tuck, and Tamba Hali. No one as good as Ware, but 3 pretty good pass rushers. Fantasy owners who have Schaub might want to panic just a little bit. Or look into some free agents. Just a suggestion.

Falcons - Saints

Atlanta played exactly the way you should play against New Orleans - they ran the ball 44 times. They kept Brees on the sidelines. They dominated time of possession by over 18 minutes. And they even forgoed (is that the past tense of forego? or is it forewent?) two field goals in order to convert fourth and short.

Mike Smith is making a case for Coach of the Year. That's just smart coaching. You need touchdowns, not field goals, to beat Drew Brees. Teams should be going for 4th and 1 every time against New Orleans. Same for Indy, New England and the Packers.

Drew Brees played this game as well as he could. 30 completions on 38 attempts, for 365 yards and 3 scores. Lance Moore played the role of Reggie Bush just fine. The Saints offense was a machine. But a costly fumble by Chris Ivory on 4th and 1 essentially kept the Falcons in the game, and allowed them to force overtime. And that's where we find this week's ....

Goat of the Week!

This is a new weekly segment where I disgrace and disdain someone for making a detrimental mistake and causing his team to lose. This week's Goat of the Week is none other than Saints kicker Garrett Hartley, the Super Bowl hero.

Hartley wins the award for missing a 29 yard field goal - a total chip shot - in overtime which effectively gave Atlanta the win and now both teams are tied at 2-1. If Hartley makes a routine kick, something he's paid $24,375 per game to be able to do, the Saints are undefeated and have a full two-game lead over their primary division foe. Instead, the teams are tied and Atlanta has confidence. This missed field goal might be the worst play of the season yet, for anyone.

Here's what happened: in OT, Atlanta received the ball and quickly went 3 and out. An incomplete pass, a 3 yard run, and a sack. New Orleans defense was pumped. The crowd was pumped. Drew Brees was pumped. The Saints took over at their 32, and Brees went 4-4 on the drive for 56 quick yards. On 1st and 10, from the Atlanta ELEVEN YARD LINE, Hartley was sent out to end the game on a routine, easy, indoor-stadium field goal with no wind, no weather, and no oppositional noise. Absolutely perfect, serene conditions. And he wasn't even close.

It would have been smarter for New Orleans to just run the ball a few times, or let Brees keep the momentum going and throw a TD pass. A field goal is supposed to be the safer option. And thus Hartley is the Goat of the Week.

Rams - Redskins

Dangit, I knew I should have picked St. Louis! Arggh!

Amazingly, Washington has now lost to the worst team in the league two years in a row. Last season, they lost to 0-16 Detroit, giving #1 overall pick Matthew Stafford his first NFL win in week 3.

This year, they lost to previously 1-15 St. Louis, giving #1 overall pick Sam Bradford his first NFL win in week 3.

That's eerie.

This game was all about Steven Jackson, and the Rams running game, or maybe the faultiness of the Redskins defense. Jackson ran for 58 yards on 10 carries, then got hurt and Kenneth Darby ran for 49 yards on 14 carries. The Rams won time of possession by 10 minutes. I wonder if having an All Pro defensive tackle would help Washington stop the run?

In a completely unrelated story, Albert Haynesworth missed this game with an "ankle" injury.

Eagles - Jaguars

You know what. I'm sick of hearing about Vick, and sick of picking the Jaguars and looking stupid. So I have nothing to say. Except that next week's Eagles-Redskins game is going to be awesome.

Colts - Broncos

Predictably Peyton Manning destroyed a below average defense. Here are his stats: 27-43, 325 yards, 3 TDs, no picks. And here's the best part: his QB rating, 109.2, was the LOWEST he's had yet this season. Unbelievable. His worst game of the season is 325 yards and 3 TDs.

I give Denver a lot of credit for keeping this game somewhat competitive. In the wake of the tragic suicide of receiver Kenny McKinley, they could have just been drained and given no effort. But they gained more than 500 yards of offense, highlighted by receivers Lloyd and Gaffney combining for more than 300.

The Broncos employed the same strategy as Atlanta did against New Orleans - in the red zone, facing fourth and short, they eschewed the field goal and went for it. The difference was, they were unsuccessful.

On one occassion in the second quarter, on 4th and goal from the 1, Laurence Maroney got the carry and the call on the field was a touchdown. But it was reviewed, overturned, and a turnover on downs. Later, on a 4th and 3 and trailing by just 7, Kyle Orton's pass was incomplete on the Indy 12 yard line. Peyton took over, went 88 yards in 4 minutes, and the game was basically over.

Bottom line: Indy's defense came through on big plays and kept the game from being too close. But either way, Manning was going to find a way to win.

Oh, one last thing. I watched about 40% of this game and while Peyton Manning obviously stood out, the second best player in the game was Denver LT Ryan Clady. He's back. And better than ever. He completely eliminated Dwight Freeney from the contest.

Cardinals - Raiders

Do I really have to say anything. What an ugly fest.

Sebastian Janikowski finished a close second to Hartley for Goat of the Week honors. He missed three field goals in this game (from 41, 58 and 32 yards), including a 32 yarder as time expired that would have given Oakland the road win. The 58 yard miss is completely excusable. But how can you miss a 41 yarder and a 32 yarder in the same game?!

Here's the crazy thing. I picked up Janikowski in the A league for a one-week start. I loved his matchup. And he made me look brilliant with 13 fantasy points, tied for the most among kickers. But imagine if he had nailed the two gimmies and had 19 points. OR, if he made all 3 attempts and scored an insane 24 fantasy points. That would have been awesome.

Anyway, there's not much to take away from this game. Derek Anderson was very bad (12-26 for 122 yards, sounds like a Lions quarterback to me) and Larry Fitzgerald was completely shut down by Nnamdi Asomugha (2 catches, 26 yards - didn't I predict that?). Beanie Wells finally played and looked healthy; hopefully he'll finally make a difference for me.

Bruce Gradkowski is not an incredible quarterback by any means, but somehow he continues to keep Oakland competitive. They would have won this game if Janikowski had done his job (for which he is paid $125,097 per game - the highest paid kicker in NFL history). Bruce should be considered a force to reckon with when it comes to covering spreads. I won't be picking against Oakland (against the spread) as long as he's the quarterback.

Arizona is just bad, bad, bad. They might be the worst 2-1 team in the NFL, and that's saying something.

Seahawks - Chargers

This was brutal. San Diego played 5 million times better than Seattle. Phillip Rivers threw for a Chargers record 455 yards, with 109 to Gates and 97 to Floyd. Both guys scored; both guys were on my fantasy team. Woot woot!

But San Diego lost the same way they always lose on the road: fumbles and special teams. It was a clone of the week 1 game in Kansas City. Giving up a kick return TD (they actually gave up two to Leon Washington). Coughing up a fumble in the red zone (Mike Tolbert, again).

This is one of the very few times where one team DOUBLES the other team in passing yards and yet loses. Despite the loss, I'm actually more impressed with San Diego than I thought I would be to this point. They are proving that they really don't need Vincent Jackson. Now if they would just fire their special teams coach and stop fumbling in the red zone, they'd be well on their way to 10-6.

Jets - Dolphins

Breaking news: the New York Jets have surpassed Denver and Pittsburgh as my least favorite NFL team for the 2010 season. I still hate Steelers fans; I still hate Denver's decision making, but the whole suicide thing makes it hard to cheer against them. But Rex Ryan is just intolerable. He's just the worst. The worst figure in the NFL right now. Everything about him - the way he talks, walks, looks, coaches, and especially the way he engages in trash talk with opposing players. I just think he's a nasty guy and an easy guy to cheer against. Wait until you've done something before you start running your mouth.

Whatever. The Jets just beat the Pats and Fins in back to back weeks and unfortunately, they're really good. Sanchez is playing out of his mind all of a sudden, and he's really the only reason why New York isn't 0-3.

Without Revis, Brandon Marshall caught 10 balls for 166 yards. The Jets obviously need Revis to stay competitive. You can't five up 363 passing yards to Chad Henne and call yourself the league's best defense.

From here on out, I'll root against the Jets above any other team.

Packers - Bears

Didn't watch it, don't care that the Bears won, sick of hearing about how the Bears are a top 5 team and Jay Cutler is a top 5 quarterback, not even going to waste my time pointing out how obvious it is that the Bears suck, Cutler sucks, Martz sucks, Lovie Smith sucks, and the Bears lost to the Lions week 1 and would have lost to the Packers if not for 17 penalties and questionable officiating. They may be 3-0 in the standings, but they are not a playoff team. You can write that down as a guarantee. No possible chance. The Packers, on the other hand, are going to win at least 10 games, and likely more.

This game has spawned a classic ESPN overreaction. I've seen the Bears as high as 2nd on people's power rankings. It makes me want to gag. How can a team with a D- secondary , a D+ offensive line, a C- quarterback, D+ receivers, and a C- coach be ranked above the Colts and Saints? It's absurd. The Bears suck. Bah!

Fantasy Wrap Up

For the second straight week, I score 130+ in the A league behind Peyton Manning's brilliance.

I lost in the B league; my Ravens defense really let me down, as did Andre Johnson's injury.

In the other 10 leagues, I went 8-2. It probably helps that I have Michael Vick in about 6 of those leagues.

For the second straight week, Morgan Massacre eclipsed 200 points. I also scored 200 in Yahoo league 3, where the Morgan Machine was led by Flacco & Boldin, plus Michael Turner, Dustin Keller, and that Steelers defense.

But the game of the week was Yahoo league 5, where I beat Sketchy Metal 353-347.

That league allows big bonus for yardage (20 point bonus if your QB throws 300 yards, 15 point bonus if your RB or WR goes over 100, plus it's a PPR league) so I was led by three receivers who combined for 118 points (Boldin, Wallace, Santana Moss) and a tight end who had 27 points (Gates) plus Michael Turner (28) and Matt Ryan (45). Anytime you score 353 points, you know you're in an awesome fantasy league.

In the A league (the money league) I'm now 2-1 and leading all teams in scoring. And I have a great week 4 matchup - my foe has Romo, Bryant, and Harvin all on byes.

Stay tuned for week 4 picks, hopefully they'll be up tomorrow.

Go Lions!