Thursday Night Special

NFL_Thursday_Night_Football_logo_1379353641_full

A small new feature this year: pre-game analysis of every Thursday Night contest! Woohoo! Since this is only one game per week, I’m gonna have a little fun with the format. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Green Bay Packers Vs. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle, WA.

My Pick: Seattle 29, Green Bay 24

What I See Happening: The rust is always being shaken off, but as last year’s blowout courtesy of the Broncos showed us, some teams simply show up better prepared from the gate than others. While Green Bay has some real bite to their team, particularly on offense with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, a young and motivated Eddie Lacy and a hungry-for-a-contract Reggie Cobb, I think Seattle’s preseason performance and superior defense will give them the edge in the regular season opener.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB – I’ll take Rodgers over Russell Wilson anyday, but you cannot discount what the young Wilson brings to the table. His ability to evade pressure, extend plays and accurately put the ball in the right spots will give the shaky Packers defense fits…when they’re not trying to stop this other fella who loves his skittles…

RB – Lacy showed some real skill in his rookie season, but I’ll take the proven veteran in Marshawn Lynch, especially considering their opposing defenses. For fantasy owners of Lacy, I wouldn’t be quick to bench him, as key cogs from Seattle’s run defense (Red Bryant, Chris Clemons) from 2013 are no longer in town. I think both runners will have solid performances, but Lynch is going to be the bigger difference maker.

WR – No comparison here. If the Pack want to pull off a good sized upset tonight, they’ll need Jordy Nelson and Reggie Cobb at their absolute best. For Seattle, Percy Harvin is the X-Factor that needs to be monitored closely; if he can quickly regain his early-2012, MVP-caliber form, their offense is going to start looking dangerous. Doug Baldwin is an excellent compliment and gets the job done, but Nelson/Cobb are just a better and more consistent duo right now.

Offensive Line – Not many realized it, but this was more of a weakness for the Seahawks in 2013 than a strength. Their starting tackles were injured for much of the year and the interior of the line struggled at times. Still, they’re retooled and recovered and have some solid bodies. The Packers are in a similar boat, but with less experience across the board and a harder job in protecting Rodgers from the Seahawks’ volatile pass rush.

Defensive Line – Much depends on the ability of their edge rushing linebackers, but the Packers’ defensive line is still a major question mark. B.J. Raji’s season-ending injury is a major concern going forward. Despite their losses, the Seahawks should field the better D-Line in tonight’s contest.

LB – Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, if the latter can regain a bit of his younger self’s capabilities, might be as dangerous a one-two pass rush as any in the NFL this year. I doubt the latter will happen, though, and when you sift through the bounty of edge rushers and overall talent the Seahawks have at the linebacker positions, you realize how much of a vital cog it is to their dominant defense. Edge to Seattle.

Secondary: This isn’t even worth discussing, is it? The best defensive backfield (Seattle, in case you’re reading this accidentally and have zero interest in the NFL) in the league makes any other look amateur in comparison.

Special Teams: Both teams have their strengths, but if Cobb isn’t returning punts for the Packers, and Harvin IS returning them for the Seahawks, the scales tip.

Fantasy Start/Sit

You’re going to want (or have) to start Aaron Rodgers, despite the matchup. Lacy is a guy many will consider benching, but I think the odds are in his favor for a decent night. Out of the two main receiving options for the Packers, Jordy Nelson is the more likely candidate for starting, but only as a low-end #2/Flex option. Green Bay’s defense most likely should be benched.

For Seattle, Wilson isn’t a terrible option but you might find a better one in your free agent pool or sitting on your bench, depending on matchups and the size of your league. Start Lynch without prejudice, roll the dice on Harvin as a flex and start the defense with moderate confidence.

Week Three Primer

Each Sunday morning during the season, I’ll be bringing you my picks for each game and some last-minute fantasy football advice for you league legions out there. As always, enjoy and I hope it helps you with your picks/leagues!

Week 3 Picks

Baltimore 24 – Houston 21

I’m going with my gut on this one, and the gutsy, ugly way the Ravens are capable of winning will likely surface in a game that could easily go either way. These are the games that Baltimore has a better recent history of finding a way to win.

New York 34 – Carolina 28

This has to be the week the G-Men turn things around, right? Eli is facing a secondary that is absolutely riddled with injuries and inexperience, and whether or not the running game gets going, he should slice and dice the Panthers. If the Giants lose this game, the rest of the season starts to look rather bleak.

Green Bay 31 – Cincinnati – 20

The Packers first two games were shootouts where their defense was looking across the field at an unconventional offense, with QBs that could just as easily beat them with their feet as their arms. Against a more conventional, vanilla offense, the pash rush will come to life while Rodgers does his thing against a stout defense.

Dallas 24 – St. Louis 20

In a game the Cowboys could easily lose, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt for two reasons. First and foremost, they’re more potent on offense. Second, home field advantage. But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the talking heads of postgame, halftime and NFL Network start chants of “Same old Cowboys” after this one.

Minnesota  27 – Cleveland 9

Without Trent Richardson, the Browns offense suddenly looks like a disaster area. The Vikings, despite Christan Ponder’s uninspiring play, will handily beat the Browns and kickstart a bit of a revival towards relevance in the NFC North.

New England 20 – Tampa Bay 10

The inevitable collapse of the Buccaneers will continue this week, as they stumble into Foxborough and are taken advantage of by a Patriots defense that feeds off of turnovers. This isn’t the week the Patriots offense suddenly explodes, but they’re winning games the way they did when they used to win Superbowls…and the ‘W’ is all that matters in the end.

New Orleans 27 – Arizona 20

They won’t need the last-minute heroics of Sean Payton and Drew Brees to take this one, but it’ll still be a close shave. The Cardinals aren’t cutting anyone breaks this year, but then again, neither are the Saints.

San Diego 31 – Tennessee – 21

The resurgence of Philip Rivers will continue against a team that just can’t seem to find a balance or an identity. The injuries are piling up for the Chargers, but once again my gut tells me they take to the road and get things done this week.

Washington 38 – Detroit 31

The defense will still look like hammered sh*t by the end of the game, but this is the week for the Skins to begin turning things around. The Lions are going nowhere, and it’s as baffling now as it has been for the past several years…they find a way to get in their own way better than any team in the NFL.

Atlanta 30 – Miami 24

I am a homer, but I have my limits, and my Fins beating the Falcons, despite all of Atlanta’s injuries, is pushing those limits. Would a Miami win surprise me? More than a little, but at the same time, this is the week where we sort of determine where we’re truly heading in 2013. Closer than last year, but still not quite capable of pulling out these kind of wins…that’s my feeling on it.

Buffalo 20 – New York 17

Another bit of last-minute heroics for the better of the two rookie QBs on these teams? Sure, why not? The Jets will mostly limit the Bills defensively, but with a shaky offense and the inevitable C.J. Spiller breaks for big chunks, the Jets won’t have the answers in a close one.

Seattle 31 – Jacksonville 3

If the Seahawks are as good as they decided they were last Sunday, then this game is going to be the 2nd easiest to pick in week 3. Marshawn Lynch fantasy owners, prepare to win your games.

49ers 27 – Indianapolis 21

The Colts won’t make it easy, and the 49ers are starting to show some holes on their defense that simply didn’t exist (or were more easily covered up) last year. Still, the trip into Candlestick will not fare well for the Colts, with or without Trent Richardson. Ultimately, it’ll be the Luck that runs a little too low this week.

Chicago 28 – Pittsburgh 17

Anyone, and I mean anyone, who thinks the Steelers’ woes will suddenly reverse course against this Bears team is simply living in denial of what I’ve been saying since before the season began; Pittsburgh is heading in the wrong direction, and they’re doing it at a speed that is going to cost more than one person a job. Paging Todd Haley…and bring your ridiculous playbook.

Denver 45 – Oakland 20

No doubt the easiest pick of the week, the Broncos will keep on (steam)rolling against the lowly Raiders. Darren McFadden has been a thorn of sorts in the Broncos’ side throughout his career, but that won’t be anywhere near enough to keep up with Mile High Manning ™.

Fantasy Start ’em/Sit ’em

Most ‘experts’ do this by position, but I’m just going to throw up 10 guys for each side that I think will have great/terrible weeks statistically. I’m right more often than I’m wrong, folks! Give me Fabiano’s job.

Start ’em

Jay Cutler – QB – Chicago Bears
Robert Griffin III – QB – Washington Redskins
Marshawn Lynch – RB – Seattle Seahawks
Chris Johnson – RB – Tennessee Titans
Matt Forte – RB – Chicago Bears
Anquan Boldin – WR – San Fransisco 49ers
Eddie Royal – WR – San Diego Chargers
Julius Thomas – TE – Denver Broncos
Matt Prater – K – Denver Broncos
Seattle Seahawks D/ST

Sit ‘Em

Andy Dalton – QB – Cincinnati Bengals
Tom Brady – QB – New England Patriots
James Starks – RB – Green Bay Packers
Maurice Jones-Drew – RB – Jacksonville Jaguars
Dez Bryant – WR – Dallas Cowboys (you almost can’t, but If I had him, I would without hesitation this week.)
Marques Colston – WR – New Orleans Saints
Jermichael Finley – TE – Green Bay Packers
Ed Dickson – TE – Balitmore Ravens
Rob Bironas – K – Tennessee Titans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST