Coming off a solid week of picks (9-5), dominating my main fantasy league (I'm 6-1), and the Yankees missed the World Series. And the Heat lost last night, scoring only 9 points in the 1st quarter.
Things are great right now in the world of sports.
The Pistons start their season tonight with a blank slate and a date with the new-look Nets. Excited to watch Greg Monroe. Not excited to watch Stuckey, Rip, Prince, Gordon, T-Mac, Wallace, Villanueva, or Wilcox. Mildly depressed just thinking about it. Let's go back to football.
Redskins (4-3) @ Lions (1-5)
Predicted Line: WAS by 3
Actual Line: DET by 2.5
Wow. This marks only the 10th time since 2006 that the Lions have been favored; they're 2-7 in those 9 games. This line indicates that the Lions and Redskins are equal, despite the fact that Washington's quarterback has won more than 80 games in his career, and Stafford has more career injuries than wins. Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't quarterback a pretty valuable position?
Well, here's the thing: Washington's defense is bad. Like, really bad. As in, they rank dead last in yards allowed and are on pace to allow 4,672 passing yards, an NFL record. That explains the strange line, but it begs the obvious question: Is Washington's defense really that bad?
I don't think so.
Look at who they've played - Dallas, Houston, Philly, Green Bay, Indy, and Chicago. Six of their seven games were against pass-heavy offenses and quarterbacks who amass yardage like it's their job. How is any defense supposed to play against Romo, Schaub, Kolb, Rodgers, Manning and Cutler and not give up close to 300 yards per game?
It should also be noted that despite giving up a league-worst 406 yards of offense per game, Washington allows only 19 points per game, which ranks in the top 10. They're tied for second in the NFL in takeaways with 17. They're 4th in the NFC in sacks. In terms of third-down percentage, they are the fourth best defense in the NFL.
So are they truly awful? The surface stats say yes, but the deeper look says no. They give up yards in bundles, but they are stout when it matters and very opportunistic. They have an elite safety in Laron Landry (he leads all defensive backs in tackles) and a middle linebacker in London Fletcher who has the 5th most tackles in NFL history. They've got a sack master in Brian Orakpo, and they've got a lockdown cornerback who just set an NFL record with 4 interceptions last week.
So how bad is the Washington defense, really? I mean, you've got to realize that Stafford is by far the worst quarterback they've faced this season, so isn't it entirely possible that this line is bogus?
Well, as long as Stafford can replicate what Shaun Hill has done over the last 5 weeks and effectively dink and dunk to the tight ends and running backs, he should be effective. As long as Jahvid Best carries the ball early and often and doesn't leave Stafford in 3rd and long situations, the Lions should move the chains and avoid turnovers. And as long as Jeff Backus can keep Orakpo from karate chopping Stafford's arm and separating his shoulder for the fourth time in 2 years, we won't have to see Drew Stanton anytime soon. Add it all up, and our offense should be productive. I'm thinking Stafford's stats look like this: 21-37, 255 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. We should be able to hang 20 or 24 points on them and that would be a success.
But I haven't touched on the Redskins' offense at all yet. Their quarterback, a future Hall of Famer, is quietly having the worst season since his rookie year. Donovan's career passer rating is 87; this season, it's a measly 76. His completion percentage is down, yards-per-attempt is down, and interceptions-per-attempt is way up. In fact, going into this season, McNabb ranked as the best quarterback in NFL history in terms of fewest INTs per attempt - 96 INTs on 4,588 attempts for a 2.09% rate. But this season McNabb has been intercepted 7 times on 247 attempts, a 2.83% rate. What's changed? Is he aging, or lacking receivers, or simply missing the Andy Reid offense? How about: all of the above.
Mostly, I blame Mike Shanahan. McNabb mastered the West Coast offense for 11 years and then was asked to learn a completely new offense under a new coach. He's having a bad season by his standards ... but could it be possible that a date with the Lions' secondary could cure all ills?
I expect Washington to run the ball early and often with Ryan Torain, who has proven over the past two weeks that he's no fun to tackle. Torain has very little speed but tons of power, and those kinds of running backs typically murder the Lions. He'll put McNabb is favorable situations all day (2nd and 3, 3rd and 1, etc) and that means McNabb can throw deep and use the play-action. Between that and McNabb's mild ability to scramble and buy time in the pocket, it could be an awful day for the Detroit secondary.
Santana Moss isn't overwhelming, but he had the best game of his career last year against the Lions (10 catches, 178 yards) and that's especially ugly when you consider that Moss has played in 134 games. Anthony Armstrong is the other receiver and possible deep threat. He'll probably have 2 catches for 90 yards and a long TD. Chris Cooley should have his usual 6 catches for 70 yards or so.
This is one of the few winnable games for the Lions, but it's tough to trust the defense considering how well Torain has been playing lately. Penalties and turnovers will probably be significant, and that's always bad news for the Big Blue Idiots. Special teams are a strength for the Lions, but we can't expect Logan to score again. If he can just bring the kickoffs to the 30 that would be fantastic. I expect a lot of 3-and-outs from Stafford and I don't think our defense is good enough to force Washington to do the same.
This game could easily be ugly early. Which would lead to the inevitable Lions patented 'dramatic comeback followed by heartbreaking loss.' Or, this game could be competitive early, which would lead to the inevitable Lions patented 'collapse and/or crucial mistake which leads to heartbreaking loss.' Either way, the Lions should not be favored, and I expect my heart to be broken.
I'll take Washington and the points. I'm a fan, but I'm not a fool.
Dolphins (3-3)@ Bengals (2-4)
Predicted Line: CIN by 2
What I think the line SHOULD be: MIA by 5
Actual Line: CIN by 2
Ha! I nailed that line. And no I'm not cheating and looking ahead. I just figured that Cincy is routinely overrated and Miami continues to get no respect from the oddsmakers. Just because this game is in Ohio doesn't mean that Carson Palmer will suddenly be good again, unless he finds a time machine. Miami got screwed last week by the refs, and will be out for vengeance. I like everything about Miami in this game. I'll take the Fins and I'll temporarily make it the Upset of the Week.
Jacksonville (3-4) @ Dallas (1-5)
Predicted Line: DAL by 5 (remember, Romo is out)
Actual Line: DAL by 6.5
Hmm ... the line seems a little high for Jon Kitna, but perhaps it's a reflection of how bad Jacksonville is on the road. Their secondary is a joke, and they can't stop the run either. Dallas is beyond due for a big win. And I think this is the perfect week to bet big on them. Because once they go up, they're going to pour it on and win by 30 in an effort to shut up all their critics. At least that's what I see happening. I'll take Dallas +6.5 and I will make it a Lock.
Bills (0-6) @ Chiefs (4-2)
Predicted Line: KC by 8
Actual Line: KC by 8
The road to 0-16 continues, but is 8 points too high for an inconsistent offense led by Matt Cassel? I think so. I'll take Buffalo and the 8 points in another garbage-time, backdoor cover.
Panthers (1-5) @ Rams (3-4)
Predicted Line: STL by 3.5
Actual Line: STL by 3
I'm not surprised the Rams still aren't getting any respect. They were awful for 5 years and now they've won 3 games. We're supposed to make them 7 point favorites? No way. I think this line is totally fair. Carolina isn't as bad as their record indicates.
Okay, maybe they are. They have the league's worst offense ... and a pretty terrible defense.... but still. Aren't they due for a surprise win? And isn't St. Louis due for a letdown? I know this should be an obvious pick for the Rams given the surprisingly low line, but I actually like Carolina. Maybe not an outright win, but I think a 24-23 loss would be entirely possible. Especially with Steven Jackson questionable. I'll take Matt Moore and the pathetic Panthers. Yeesh. Why did I just do that?
Packers (4-3) @ Jets (5-1)
Predicted Line: NYJ by 4.5
Actual Line: NYJ by 6
As much as I would love Green Bay to win, I don't see it happening. With Finley and Grant and Lee out and with Driver limping, the offense is limited to Greg Jennings and a couple scrubs. Jennings will be blanketed by Revis, and unless James Jones has another 100 yard game, I don't know how the Packers are going to move the ball. Rodgers hasn't looked like himself the last 3 weeks. And the Jets are pretty dang good at rushing the passer.
And despite the fact that Green Bay is returning 3 injured starters on defense, I think New York's elite offensive line will carry LT to another solid game. It's only a matter of time until Sanchez has a 3 INT stinkbomb, but I don't think this is the game. So all that to say ... I think the Jets will win.
But what about the 6 point spread? Isn't that too high against an elite QB? Perhaps, but I think Rex Ryan is a definite run-up-the-score kind of guy, so perhaps not. I'll roll with the Jets. I guess. *EDIT* Upon further consideration, I think 6 points is too high and I've decided to switch to the Packers. Final score: Jets 31, Pack 27
Broncos (2-5) vs. 49ers (1-6) in LONDON
Predicted Line: DEN by 4
Actual Line: Pick Em
I feel bad for England. They get to watch David Carr get sacked 7 times and throw 3 INTs. I'll take Denver. **EDIT* Troy Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner, is starting for San Fran, not Carr. That means fewer sacks and possibly fewer turnovers, but still an abysmal passing attack. Frank Gore should have a great game, but this line would have to be at least DEN by 3 for me to consider taking the Niners.
Titans (5-2) @ Chargers (2-5)
Predicted Line: TEN by 2
Actual Line: SD by 3.5
Surprising line, but it doesn't make me want to automatically take the Titans. It's do-or-die time for San Diego, and Gates is a little healthier, and Rivers is playing absolutely beautifully. Plus the Titans are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games on the West Coast. I will go with the Chargers. Why not?
Bucs (4-2) @ Arizona (3-3)
Predicted Line: TB by 2
Actual Line: ARZ by 3
Some really curious lines this week. Since Tampa is clearly the better team and they're getting 3 points, I'll go with them. Next.
Vikings (2-4) @ Patriots (5-1)
Predicted Line: NE by 6.5 (Is Favre playing??)
Actual Line: NE by 5.5
Well this is more like it. After the TB-ARZ game and the STL-CAR game and DEN-SF game, I was starting to wonder why I give a crap about the NFL. But this game - Randy Moss at Foxboro, Brett Favre against Tom Brady, Brett Favre against his own coach, Brett Favre against his own reputation, Brett Favre against sexual harrassment - promises to be another awesome and drama-filled Minnesota Vikings game.
Doesn't it just seem like whoever the Vikings play, there are 15 soap-opera storylines? Between Favre and Moss, aren't they the most interesting/distracting/polarizing QB-WR duo in NFL history? And meanwhile they've got arguably the best player in the whole dang NFL in the backfield and nobody even notices him. Oh by the way ... did you know that Adrian Peterson is on pace to rush for 1,824 yards?
This line makes it perfectly clear that Vegas, like me, expects Favre to play. There's no question; he'll play. That streak means everything to him.
But will he play like a hobbly senior citizen, or like an actual athlete? That's the all-important question. If Brett Favre had to run a mile right now, could he do it in under 10 minutes? Would he be able to run the 40 yard dash in less than 7 seconds? Those are honest questions. Is he even an 'athlete' anymore, or should we just refer to him as a professional 'icon?' It's kind of like Jack Nicholson. We still refer to him as a professional 'actor,' but he stopped acting 5 movies ago. Now he's just in movies, being himself. That's Favre. Going through the motions. No longer an athlete. Just a sad shell of his former self. Just retire already you bum!
Hmm ... while it is very tough to pick the Vikings after watching them suck last week, it's also hard to imagine them going 2-5 with AP and so much talent on defense. This game means everything to them, and it doesn't mean much to the Patriots. New England's defense has quietly been terrible this season (30th in pass yards, 32nd on 3rd downs) and Randy Moss should give 100% effort for the first time in about 8 years in a major revenge game. He might even change his name to Edmond Dantes this week.
If Childress is smart enough to give AP plenty of carries and give Brett plenty of 3rd and shorts, this could be a solid game for the Vikings' offense. Tom Brady just hasn't looked good without Moss. I don't know for sure that Minnesota will win, but I'm confident enough that I'll at least pick them to cover the 5.5 points.
Seahawks (4-2) @ Raiders (3-4)
Predicted Line: OAK by 3
Actual Line: OAK by 2.5
Despite winning by 45 last week, it's still tough to trust Jason Campbell and the Raiders. But I hate the NFC West and don't want to live in a world where Seattle is 5-2. Gotta pick Oakland.
Steelers (5-1) @ Saints (4-3)
Predicted Line: PIT by 2
Actual Line: Pick Em
This was the hardest line to predict, and I should have figured it would be a pick. Unsurprisingly, 82% of the Vegas action is on Pittsburgh, after the Saints got blasted by the Browns. But the Saints are still at home, and maybe they lost to the Browns because they simply overlooked them. I don't think Drew Brees will overlook the Steelers vaunted defense, especially on a national TV game in primetime.
I'm torn because my heart says Brees will bounce back and play great and win at home, but my head screams: "Madden Curse! Madden Curse!"
The truth is, curse or no curse, Brees has to figure out what to do against a defense with no less than 6 Pro Bowlers and no less than 2 All Pros. The Saints running game won't have a chance and that's really going to hurt. I don't think Drew throws another 4 INTs, but it's probably a 22-44 game for 310 yards and 2 TDs and 1 INT. And that's probably not going to be enough because Pittsburgh should be able to score more than 2 touchdowns.
So the pick should be Pittsburgh.
But when you combine the Homedog thing with the elite QB thing, it's just too much hesitation, so I'm going to go with New Orleans. They really need this win, and I really hate the Steelers.
Texans (4-2) @ Colts (4-2)
Predicted Line: Indy by 5
Actual Line: Indy by 5.5
By my count, there are three GREAT games this weekend - Vikings-Patriots, Steelers-Saints, and this one. Then there are two decent games - Green Bay-Jets and San Diego-Tennessee. The other 7 games are utterly terrible.
But for a Monday nighter, it doesn't get much better than this. Division rivals, elite teams, high-octane offenses, and a dash of revenge after the Texans whipped the Colts week 1.
On one hand, Manning has had 2 weeks to prepare for the league's worst secondary, and he never loses at home, and he especially never loses at home at night.
On the other hand, Manning just lost his favorite target, Dallas Clark, and also is without Collie and Gonzalez. And Houston plays Indy like it's their Super Bowl, and built their team specifically to compete against the Colts. These games are always close.
I'm certain that Manning will get the win, but I wish the line was a tad lower. I'd bet Indy if it were 3, or even 5; but 5.5? Ugh. That's just too many points to give against a team with such a good offense. I guess I'll take Houston to cover.
That's it for the picks. Now how about a week 8 fantasy football bonanza?
Week 8 Start Em and Sit Em
With Romo and Favre hurt, Ryan/Flacco/Cutler on byes and Brees & Rodgers playing against the league’s two best defenses, this will be another interesting and potentially strange week for fantasy QBs. Here are my rankings and such:
#1 option - Peyton Manning
He’s had 2 weeks to prepare for the league’s worst secondary. That is not fair.
Rounding out the top 5 –
2. Matt Schaub – trying to play catchup with Peyton Manning has led many a QB to fantasy glory.
3. Phillip Rivers – another desperation game against a lackluster secondary means yet another 300 yards and 3 TDs.
4. Donovan McNabb – it’s almost impossible to not to score 20+ fantasy points against the Lions.
5. Jon Kitna – at home against an awful secondary with tons of weapons and tons of motivation and an offensive coordinator who persistently forgets to run the ball. Kitna is on major sleeper alert for week 8! Pick him up now!
Matt Stafford – he’ll have a good fantasy game in his return as he tries to keep up with the Redskins. Except about 20 fantasy points.
Tom Brady – don’t love him but wouldn’t bench him. I’ve got him ranked 9th.
Kyle Orton – despite the debacle last week I think you’ve gotta keep rolling with the neckbeard.
Aaron Rodgers – playing the rested Jets in New York. I don’t like this game at all for Rodgers. If you have any other options, at least consider it.
Drew Brees – the combination of Madden Curse and Steelers defense means beware.
Brett Favre – he’ll play, of course, but he won’t be very effective. You can find a better option on the waiver wire.
Carson Palmer – he keeps putting up amazing fantasy numbers on hail marys and in garbage time, but eventually that’ll stop. I think a pissed off Dolphins defense will hold him to less than 200 yards this week.
Platoons are infesting the league right now worse than ever. Guys who we thought were immune, like Jones-Drew and Ray Rice, are being vultured. It’s madness. Here are my week 8 rankings and such:
#1 option – Frank Gore
It’s yet another must win for San Fran, and Denver gave up 43 fantasy points to McFadden last week. Gotta think Gore racks up at least 150 total yards and a score.
Rounding out the top 5 -
2. Chris Johnson – he’s due for a 100 yard game and should score against the Chargers.
3. Arian Foster – last time he faced the Colts he had, what, 270 yards and 3 TDs?
4. Ryan Torain – see McNabb, Donovan.
5. Adrian Peterson – the only thing holding back AP from being the best fantasy player alive is Favre. Hopefully Favre's ankle issues allow AP to run more.
Jamaal Charles / Thomas Jones
Against Buffalo, you’ve got to have both of these guys in your lineup.
You can’t expect another 43 points, but you can’t bench him either. Expect a more modest 80 yards and 1 score.
Tampa can’t stop the run (157 yards per) and Beanie should get 20 touches.
All running backs against New Orleans are pretty much must-start.
I think it’s about time the Jets move to a LT/Greene platoon.
To quote the great Jack Johnson, “it seems to me that maybe, it pretty much always means no.” That’s how I feel about players deemed ‘questionable.’ Don’t count on SJax playing. And don’t try to be cute with backup Kenneth Darby.
It’s Stafford’s triumphant return which means too much punting and too many turnovers, and less than 80 yards for Jahvid unless he breaks a big play.
Miami is stout against the run and Cedric is pretty much running on fumes right now. He’s very close to washed up.
Three of the best fantasy receivers – Andre, Calvin, and Reggie – were on byes for week 7. This allowed Roddy White and Kenny Britt to go buck wild while other goofballs – like Lee Evans and David Gettis – also had huge games. This week, things should move back to a little more normalcy.
#1 option – Reggie Wayne.
With Dallas Clark out, Manning should throw to Wayne 15+ times. The Texans can’t afford to double team him. 100 yards and 1 TD is a minimum.
Rounding out the top 5:
2a. Andre Johnson – obviously you’ve got to play him every week.
2b. Roddy White - ditto.
3. Larry Fitzgerald – Tampa really struggles to stop the pass and Fitz might finally have a worthwhile game.
4. Miles Austin – he’s been atrocious lately (40 yards the last two weeks) but against Jacksonville he’s a sure thing.
5. Pierre Garcon – with Clark and Collie out, Garcon is the #2 option for Peyton. And he’s a better deep threat than Wayne. He’s a definite must start.
Never underestimate the impact of revenge.
Not in the top five because it's a tough matchup against the Bengals, but he's a must-start.
Against Buffalo. Enough said.
Indy's new 3rd receiver. It's a shot-in-the-dark for sure, but I think it's a pretty good shot.
With Floyd still out, Crayton should be close to 100 yards.
Sidenote: so far this season, receivers named Steve Smith have outscored receivers named Mike Williams, 88 to 86. Stay tuned for updates on this epic battle. Incidentally, receivers named Roddy White have scored 102 fantasy points.
He'll be double teamed and Stafford stinks. I've got him ranked 16th.
I think Mike Wallace is much more valuable right now.
Two words: Revis Island.
He's not in my top 20. I don't despite him, but let's not get carried away either.
This is by far the most volatile position in fantasy football this year. 2 of the top 4 TEs drafted (Clark and Finley) are both out for the year. Gates, Davis and Cooley have been hurt. Celek, Witten and Gonzalez have all disappoined. Zach Miller and Dustin Keller have been diamonds in the rough.
#1 option - Antonio Gates.
For lack of a better option. He's not 100%, but he wasn't last week and he had 11 fantasy points.
Rounding out the top 5:
2. Zach Miller - Seattle stinks against the pass.
3. Chris Cooley - tight ends love playing the Lions.
4. Vernon Davis - Despite David Carr, he'll probably have 50 yards or so.
5. Jason Witten - only because it's Jacksonville.
Tony Moeaki - he catches at least 3 balls a game, which is more than you can get from a lot of so-called starters
Dustin Keller - Sanchez really seems to love him.
All tight ends except Gates, Miller and Cooley are risky this week.
#1 option - Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, the same dorks who gave up 500 yards last week. I have zero faith in David Garrard and frankly didn't have a better option with the matchups.
Rounding out the top 5:
2. NY Jets - against Green Bay, they'll give up points but probably have several sacks.
3. Pittsburgh - Brees very rarely gets sacked, but I can't rank the Steelers any lower than 3.
4. Redskins - you know by now how I feel about Matt Stafford.
5. Green Bay - Sanchez is due for some mistakes or at least some sacks.
KC - you've got to love the Bills matchup, even though they carved up Baltimore last week.
Denver - the key to playing the matchup with DSTs is to pick on bad QBs. David Carr qualifies.
Tennessee - They're being started in 82% of ESPN leagues despite playing against Phillip Rivers. That's odd.
Really, every defense is risky because every game is totally unpredictable. Just ask the Saints.
And on that ambiguous note, enjoy week 8 folks. Go Lions, and Go Pistons!!