Week Six Primer (2014-2015)

camPretty Pretty Morning!

Cam Newton is primed. How about you?

Week Six Picks

Cleveland 27 – Pittsburgh 24

With Pittsburgh fresh off a bye and Cleveland coming off a narrow victory in Tennessee, I want to think momentum and morale will play a small part in a Browns victory. These Browns aren’t that great, but their trajectory is clearly upward. The exact same thing could be said about the Steelers, so in this tight contest, a bit of bye week rust, a bit of comeback win confidence and home field advantage are the deciding factors.

New England 23 – Buffalo 17

The Patriots have, historically, had a hard time against the Bills. For some reason, I see the trend continuing, even though New England are coming off of the type of win that can change the entire forecast of a season. Buffalo are also riding a victory into this one, and are playing host, but I think some of the fight is back in the Pats, and these are the games they need to win to take a weak division.

Cincinnati 30 – Carolina 20

Last week had to shake up the Bengals who, for the first month of the year, were playing like the best team in the NFL. Maybe it serves as a reminder. Maybe it serves as motivation. Maybe it’s just on to next week, on to Carolina (to paraphrase the Hood). The Panthers bring a resilient team to town, a team that isn’t lying down in the face of injuries and inconsistency. This is going to be a hard-fought win for whomever takes it…I’m putting my money on the Bengals. From here on out.

Jacksonville 28 – Tennessee 24

Sooner or later, the Jaguars are going to put a full game together and beat someone. While it’s hard to think they’ll be able to do it on the road, the Titans are just the team to take advantage of right now. A loss is a loss is a loss, but the way Tennessee lost last week, combined with injuries to key players (Jake Locker, Bernard Pollard), is most likely going to take more of the small glimmer of hope they had. Now, the Jaguars must pounce, for pride if anything else.

Green Bay 34 – Miami 25

At some point, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were bound to find their stride. The past few weeks, I think, have seen this happen. Now, as they take a long trip into a home situation that rarely seems to motivate this particular home team, I think they’ll continue to accumulate solid wins. The Dolphins will fight, and may even be able to keep this close for awhile, but I cannot see them pulling off an upset of this magnitude.

Minnesota 29 – Detroit 20

No Calvin Johnson? Check. Teddy Bridgewater is back? Check (I think…might want to actually check). Either way, I like the Vikings at home, and there are many reasons. The foremost? I just checked, and Bridgewater is set to go. If he continues to play like he did in his first start, he’s the answer the Vikings have been looking for at the most important position. That, in and of itself, gives this underrated team the ability to compete. Detroit, while playing great defense, are offensively stunted with injuries, and those injuries are going to hit them the hardest when Megatron takes the bench.

Denver 40 – New York 10

Traditionally, Rex Ryan somehow finds a way to make these games competitive. The Jets struggle, lose to lesser teams, then they show up big time against big time opponents. Only, this Jets team is so void of discernable talent and so shaky even where they’re supposed to be strong that I don’t think they have it in them to put Ryan’s inspirational tactics into action. Denver has a long trip, but they’ll enjoy the flight home.

Baltimore 26 – Tampa Bay 21

Oh, you don’t know how badly I want to reverse this one. This is exactly the type of game the Ravens seem destined to struggle in; the type where you see little reason for them to struggle in. They’ll struggle, but I’m going to say they still win, if not for their own efforts then for the lack of effort of their opposition.

San Diego 41 – Oakland 17

What’s to say? It probably will be a bit closer, but if anyone thinks Tony Sparano (or any other possible head coach in all possible scenarios in all possible universes) is going to turn this ‘team’ around, they’re simply delusional. The worst ‘team’ in football will be lucky to win a game this year. This won’t be their lucky game.

Atlanta 33 – Chicago 21

The Falcons are the epitome of the dome team; great under their own roof, good under other team’s roofs, average the rest of the time. If the Falcons are great, there aren’t many teams that can keep up with their offensive attack. I think the Bears might be able to…but then again, they’ve barely been able to maintain their own attack in the face of injuries Jay Cutler’s old bad habits resurfacing.

Seattle 27 – Dallas 17

No, I won’t pick against the Seahawks at home. If this was in Dallas, you could flip the prediction for me, but it’s not, so this is what it is. The Cowboys are playing so well that, if they keep this as close as I think they will, I’m actually…kinda…almost…willing to concede a patented Jerry Jones ‘moral victory’ in their loss. And you don’t know how hard it is for me to concede anything to that man.

Arizona 20 – Washington 10

Redemption. The Cardinals went through the ringer last week, and so did the Redskins. But only one of these teams is accustomed enough to it that they were overheard laughing and generally being in high spirits in the locker room afterwards. I’ll give you one guess on which team that was. I think Washington makes a game out of it, but if Carson Palmer gets the start, I’d tack on another touchdown or two to the final tally.

New York 28 – Philadelphia 24

When two solid offenses and suspect defenses meet on the same field, the easy projection is ‘fantasy football heaven’, ‘scorefest’, things like that. Only, these two teams are going to be so fired up that those suspect defenses are going to make things tough for the first half or so. Then the lid should come off, and in the end, I’m going to go with my gut and say the Giants pull off an upset that will have the analysts talking about them all week.

San Fransisco 31 – St. Louis 23

I can’t figure either of these teams out. The 49ers, by now, should be a clear-cut contender…they’re not, but they’re heads above the Rams in that category. The home field might shine some positive light on St. Louis’ chances, but the experience and skill of San Fransisco should win out. Maybe this game will help he get a bead on either team…but I doubt it.

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start ’em

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Andrew Quarless, TE, Green Bay PackersBlair Walsh, K, Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings D/ST

Sit ’em

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (Tough call…make a switch if you have a better matchup elsewhere)
Matt Asiata, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears (one more week…one more week…he’ll be back)
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
Niles Paul, TE, Washington Redskins
Robbie Gould, K, Chicago Bears
Baltimore Ravens D/ST

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TMD-B (Late Edition)

Okay, now it’s all starting to make sense.

No, really. It is. The picture is coming into focus. The fog is clearing. The light is rising.

Just don’t think about Tampa Bay. Or New Orleans. Or New England, Buffalo, Washington, Carolina, Philadelphia.

Ignore all that.

Go Fins Go!

Far above my expectations, the Dolphins were at home in London and the Raiders were…well, there. I can’t take too much from this game beyond the W and some renewed confidence in Ryan Tannehill. Also a nice little caveat that we were the team to force the first head coach firing of 2014. Too bad that doesn’t count in the standings, too.

It Makes Sense

So, these apparent upsets? These games where the better team isn’t better for a game? Well, I’m starting to figure them out. After four weeks of truly unexpected outcomes in around half of the games, I’m on the case. Here’s how this week’s ‘upsets’ break down:

Pittsburgh Loses, Buccaneers Can’t Refuse Win

Head honcho Mike Tomlin summed it up perfectly during his post-game press conference. You cannot expect to beat anyone when you’re penalized so often. This only tells a small part of the story, however. This is a team in Pittsburgh, much like all the good-but-not-great teams that make up the vast middle of the pack of the NFL, that has a hard time balancing themselves out from one week to the next. Riding the high of the victory over Carolina, the Steelers were not only undisciplined, but simply unprepared to take a game they held by a thread for 58 minutes. The great teams will seal that deal, even if it is at the last second. The good teams will often find a way to lose their grip. I love the look of the Steelers right now, but I would expect them to lose four or five more games in similar fashion before the year is out. They’re getting there…

…and the Buccaneers are getting nowhere. Despite my claim of them being as bad as they appeared, they managed to win against a superior opponent. But, mark my words, this team is a handful of plays from disaster every single week. The margin for error is so slim that, save for a few pivotal defensive plays, they would have lost whether or not Pittsburgh tried to hand it to them.

Missing Pieces For Panthers, One Fits Nicely In Baltimore

First, and as usual, I’d like to admit I was wrong about Steve Smith this week. I couldn’t look past my gut feeling when it comes to hype and how it almost always leads to a letdown.

If, by ‘blood and guts’, Smith meant ‘yards and touchdowns’, he delivered both in ample quantities.

Smith’s invaluable assistance in balancing the Ravens’ offense is just one piece of their overall improved team this season. Likewise, Smith’s absence, while visible in a receiving corps that features rookie Kelvin Benjamin and not much else, is just one factor of the Panthers’ decline.

Looking at it in-depth, the defense just isn’t the same without The Kraken (Greg Hardy) on the line. I think the gaps in their defense run deeper, but they’ve been out-muscled and outplayed the past two weeks on that side of the ball, and you can only look at what they’re missing from last year to explain why this year is any different. Still might be an illusion, a hiccup, but I’m starting to doubt it.

The Saints…or the Aints?

This is tough to figure out. I predicted an upset at the hands of a Cowboys team who, I assumed, hadn’t forgotten the shelling they took in New Orleans last year. But, by the end of this game, it didn’t feel like an upset.

It felt like the better team had won.

I’m not sure I believe that, but what other choice do we have but to? Dallas is playing smart, efficient football, a revelation that suddenly seemed to dawn on them. The truth is actually much more simple: they’ve drafted and cultivated a formidable offensive line, which in turn is allowing DeMarco Murray to shine and Tony Romo has more room to operate. It’s a beautiful domino effect that may or may not be allowing the previously suspect defense in Dallas to play far above expectations so far.

Take all that, and compare it to what the Saints have done.

For starters (and perhaps in closing, too), Rob Ryan’s defense is not what it was last year. It isn’t even close. Why? I don’t know. Overcomplication, more of the same, new pieces not coalescing, young players not maturing. The reasons are not evident, but the results are plain as day depressing. On the other side, Drew Brees has no excuses. The offense looks almost exactly the same as 2013 (minus Darren Sproles, which I don’t think is enough of an excuse to justify their recent struggles). The running game is there, the offensive line is decent enough, just…I don’t know. It’s starting to make sense that the Saints are a poor road team. Hell, we’ve seen that for years now. But they can’t expect to be blown out of the water when they’re away from home and still achieve their long-term goals.

Doug Marrone Plays Politics, Achieves Nothing

There is zero justification for the benching of E.J. Manuel for Kyle Orton. Zero. In his second year, Manuel has made his share of mistakes…but he’s also made some excellent plays as well. This sort of balancing act is what most teams come to accept from young signal callers, as long as they see progress. We see progress, and so do they.

New ownership is shaking the system up at the worst possible time for Buffalo: when they’re close to being relevant again.

Marrone has taken responsibility for the QB change, but his reasons are ridiculous. Behind the scenes, I can only assume that Marrone and the management are concerned about their jobs, believe that winning now is the only way to keep them, and think Orton has more potential to make that happen. I think he does, too, but what happens when/if he doesn’t?

This is a bad situation that just didn’t need to happen. They’ve lost two in a row, but they’re still growing. They may have just stopped the growth of their most crucial piece.

Kirk Cousins…Cam Newton…Nick Foles…Oh no.

Three young, promising, talented QBs.

They all lost this week. Their teams helped, but not one of them helped tip the scales in the opposite direction.

Cousins looked the worst, throwing four interceptions, three of which were blatantly his fault.

Foles and the Eagles offense did less against the 49ers’ banged up defense than anyone could have predicted. It brought to mind last year’s shaky performance from Foles against Dallas. It’s something you don’t expect to trend, but hate to see. Unless you’re a 49ers fan.

Newton is so banged up right now, especially after this week’s game, that I’m not sure he should be taking the field. If the RB corps wasn’t a M.A.S.H. unit, I think the Panthers would be able to win without him. As it is, I don’t know if they can win much either way.

Patriots. Haha.

Let’s just hope it continues this way, shall we?

Alright. All bias aside, what’s going on in New England needs clarification. A week or two more of similarly terrible performances will clear things up. As it stands, I’m not ready to sign off on this team, and nobody else should be, either. They’re the high standard of NFL adaptability, and until they show otherwise, you can’t count them out.

But you can want to. You might have even wanted to for the past thirteen years of your life. Like some of us…

😦

First Quarter Power Rankings Coming This Week!

Yep, it’s that time already. First month of the year is in the books, and now we take stock of where the teams sit based strictly on what they’ve done so far. So, just for clarification and also an early taste of the rankings, don’t expect to see the Seahawks sitting at #1. They haven’t been the best team in the NFL so far this year. That much should be clear to anyone.

Oh, and kudos to the teams that won this week. Particularly the Packers, who needed it in the worst way and got it in the best way; within their division. R.E.L.A.X.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: The NFC North doesn’t like to share, but Aaron Rodgers and Teddy Bridgewater both deserve it this week. The young Bridgewater looked excellent in his debut start, and Rodgers looked like Rodgers; the best QB in the NFL.

RB Of The Week: Welcome back, Jamaal Charles. It’s amazing how one man can plug a leaking ship, isn’t it?

WR Of The Week: Mr. Blood and Guts. Good show, old man.

Offensive Line Of The Week: The Cowboys might have the best offensive line in football. They certainly continue to put their stamp on opponents, doing it in particularly efficient fashion against the Saints this week.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Many teams won on the strength of their D this week, but no team needed a better performance, and received it, than the 49ers. The Eagles went nearly the entire game without a single offensive snap on their opponent’s side of the 50 yard line.

Goat Of The Week: As if it was all Dennis Allen’s fault. He left the team in better shape than they were when he arrived, and sitting at 0-4, that’s saying something. Tony Sparano is going to celebrate field goals until he’s out on his ass, and if anyone actually thinks Jon Gruden is coming back to town at this point, they’re as delusional as Mark Davis is in not firing his GM.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: The Brothers Harbaugh share it this week. John laid out the perfect plan against the Panthers, and Jim inspired his team to a huge victory. The fact that Jim is actually being accused by some idiot who used to be a great football player (unnamed source who I can only refer to as “21”) of losing his locker room, after that kind of victory, is so laughable that I cannot believe media outlets have run with the story and were dumb enough to start questioning Niners players about it.

Who’s got it better than Jim? Noooooo….uh….somebody. Or somebodies. I don’t like the guy, but please, do us all a favor and…

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What’s Next?

Tomorrow, the Vikings and Packers will meet up for the year’s best NFC North divisional matchup to date. Believe me, it’s going to be a good one.

Can the Panthers right the ship with the Bears coming to town? Can two ships be righted in one game?

Philadelphia should be able to bounce back smoothly against a struggling Rams squad. They damn well better, because my plate is full trying to figure out all these upsets and poor performances from (apparently) strong teams.

Same deal with New Orleans hosting the Bucs. You don’t lose at home against lesser talent, New Orleans. Don’t you dare…

I’m somewhat intrigued by the Texas bowl, being played in Jerryworld. I want to see if J.J. Watt can single-handedly stop what has been the best offense in the NFL for the past few weeks.

I don’t doubt it.

Ravens. Colts. Big stuff. Tune in.

Cardinals. Broncos.
Bengals. Patriots.

The winners of these two will instantly change perceptions and/or cement their standing. Bigger stuff.

Early condolences to Redskins fans.

kirkmanning

Week Four Primer (2014-2015)

tom_brady300Tom Brady is…smug. But also primed. Get primed like Brady! Just don’t get smug.

Nobody likes smug.

(Kevnote: Sorry about missing the Thursday Night Special again. I’m not big on picking up new habits quickly.)

Week 4 Picks

Baltimore 26 – Carolina 17

This is extremely tough to call. The Ravens’ last two outings were solid, while the Panthers are coming off of an entirely unexpected rout at the hands of the visiting Steelers. There was a real lack of discipline in the Panthers’ gameplan last week, something I don’t expect will plague them too often as it hasn’t in the recent past. However, I think this is a team in Carolina that are still trying to find their footing, while the Ravens are further along that path. I’ll take Baltimore at home.

Green Bay 30 – Chicago 28

I can’t help but think that, with the Packers typically slow out of the gate, that they’re going to come around any week now and hit their stride. But, then I remind myself that this team isn’t all that good where it counts: at the line of scrimmage. That deficiency can make problems for anyone, including the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews Jr. I see a nail-biter, that comes down to Jay Cutler making a costly mistake and Aaron Rodgers capitalizing for the close win.

Houston 24 – Buffalo 16

The Bills are discovering their identity, something they’ve been questing for since their last Superbowl loss. It really has been that long since this team was formidable. Now, however, they’re going to find a team in Houston that, despite injuries and several holes in their depth chart, has a team geared to beat an attacking defense. A hefty dose of a healthy Arian Foster coupled with a stout defense should give the Texans a quality home victory.

Indianapolis 31 – Tennessee 20

The Colts are the wild, one-punch boxer of the NFL: they’re either going to land it or whiff so bad that they leave themselves wide open for a counter shot. Coming off of a rout of the lowly Jaguars, Indianapolis gets another chance to pad their record against a banged up and mostly inferior Titans squad. Charlie Whitehurst is apparently starting for Jake Locker, which does nothing for Tennessee’s chances but lowers ’em.

Detroit 24 – New York 10

After the performance Detroit showed against the Packers, I’m starting to feel more comfortable with them as a team. While their offense struggles, their defense appears (finally) ready to step up and take some of the slack. Against Geno Smith and the Jets offense, their capitalization on mistakes will give them the edge. While Rex Ryan’s defense will probably force the Lions to abandon the run early, it won’t matter when the Jets’ offense can’t move the ball themselves. Also, who is covering Megatron? Who indeed.

Miami 20 – Oakland 10

The jet lag of a trip across the Atlantic will take its toll on both of these struggling franchises, but I’m simply going to chalk this game up to which team has the better roster. That edge goes to Miami, despite their inability to get out of their own way. They would have to hand this game to the Raiders, and despite all the distraction talk, it’s nothing they’re not used to after 2013’s bullying fiasco.

Pittsburgh 37 – Tampa Bay 17

Yes, I fully believe the Buccaneers are as bad as they showed us against Atlanta last week. And, yes, I think the Steelers are as good as they appeared in Carolina. Lovie Smith has a long, long way to go to put the pieces together in Tampa Bay, where the pivotal talent is either injury-prone, nullified by poor scheming or chemically inbalanced. It’s a clusterfu…well, it’s not good. The Steelers should roll this one up smoothly.

San Diego 33 – Jacksonville 14

A game that has blowout written all over it. One of the worst teams in the league, traveling two time zones into the house of a team who has the look of a postseason contender. A matchup nightmare for the lesser team. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers end up over 40, but I’ll play the conservative role mostly because they need to prove they can balance their offensive attack with the rash of injuries (Ryan Matthews, Danny Woodhead, Nick Hardwick).

Atlanta 31 – Minnesota 27

The Vikings, I think, will hang with the Falcons in this one. Neither team will be fully accustomed to their environment, but the Falcons are riding a really nice high while Minnesota is just trying to figure themselves out. Still, Atlanta will have to do more than the standard to beat this resilient Vikings team. They will.

Philadelphia 30 – San Fransisco 24

No doubt the game of the week, two of the NFC’s best will make headlines in San Fransisco with a tightly contested matchup. I’ve broken this one down in every way imaginable, and I think what it’ll come down to is actually quite simple: Nick Foles is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick, and has a better gameplan behind him as well. If Philadelphia can continue to mask their defensive liabilities with smart coaching and playcalling, there isn’t a team in the NFL they can’t keep up with.

Dallas 35 – New Orleans 31

I called this one last week, and I’m not backing down from it. The Cowboys were embarrassed mightily by the Saints last year in New Orleans. Now, the Saints are coming to Jerryworld, and their defense will simply not be able to stop DeMarco Murray and the limited-effective Tony Romo from controlling the game. The flip side? Dallas, while stigmatized for having a porous defense, are playing better than advertised on that side of the ball, clamping down in key situations. The return of CB Orlando Scandrick will do them good. Beating the Saints will do them even better.

Kansas City 23 – New England 20

The rationale behind this pick? Miami beats New England. Miami loses to Kansas City. Kansas City, therefore, beats New England. But, really, this comes down to what I saw last week from both teams. While the Patriots struggled to beat the Raiders (and came one holding penalty from losing), the Chiefs buckled down, found a way past their injury concerns and hit the efficient stride that took them to the playoffs last year. That efficiency should be enough to pull this upset, but I think it’ll hinge on a handful of plays that decide a very close contest.

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start’em

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Blair Walsh, K, Minnesota Vikings
Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST

Sit’em

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Any Baltimore Ravens RBs (wouldn’t be shocked if each got 10 carries)
Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens (in my experience, this much hype usually leads to letdown. beware.)
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Garrett Graham, TE, Houston Texans
Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots (as long as you call pull a waiver wire kicker with a better matchup)
San Fransisco 49ers D/ST

TMD-B

What is going on? Seriously, what? Go to sleep, NFL. You’re drunk.

NO Fins NO!

I really have no words for what I’m seeing here. The Chiefs essentially beat us with 5 yard passes. They didn’t have to do much of anything else; we provided the poor offensive effort, the lack of motivation on defense, the poor coaching. The embarrassment of losing to a team on the ropes in our home stadium is still settling in. Hopefully it passes by the time we’re beating the Raiders in London.

Did I just jinx us?

Bench Tannehill. Maybe it’ll wake him up. Too much potential (and time in the pocket) to be performing so poorly.

What is going on?

So much. So little of it makes sense. September in the NFL is essentially 32 auctions being played out…all at the same time.

The chaos. The madness. The stuff we live for.

As it was happening, you almost couldn’t believe how good the Falcons were on Thursday night.

Until you realized how bad Tampa Bay were, and are. In that context, 56 doesn’t necessarily seem like a ridiculous score. But it is, and was.

Kudos to Devin Hester, a record I don’t think we’ll see broken for a long time. Especially if he pads it a little more before he hangs it up.

Sunday provided me so many “wat.” moments that I haven’t been able to keep tabs on them all. These stick out:

-The Bills losing. I know they’re good enough to beat the Chargers, they just didn’t play like it.

-Baltimore beating Cleveland. How many more games before the fight is kicked out of the Browns? And how are the Ravens going to handle not having Dennis Pitta for another season?

-Green Bay scores seven. I don’t care if they’re playing the Seahawks in Seattle, this isn’t an offense you expect to play like that. Aaron Rodgers seems to be calling out the playcallers and gameplanners in post-game comments, and for good reason; but as I’ve been saying all along, this isn’t a great team and most people can’t seem to understand that. I just thought the defense was the sole reason why…

-Did the Raiders really come one bad holding call from beating the Patriots?

-Expected outcome in New Orleans, but did my fantasy TE (Kyle Rudolph) need to end up injured? There’s voodoo in that city. Nobody wants to talk about it, but it’s there.

-Whatever happening in the Giants-Texans game, makes no sense. None of it. Except Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing three INTs. That makes perfect sense.

-Redskins have their franchise quarterback. A steal in the 5th round.

-St. Louis are now officially bottom-dwellers in the NFC West. No more talk about how much fight they have. You can’t close out the Cowboys? You can’t win any moral victories. Ask Jerry Jones, he knows.

-What is wrong with the 49ers? Is it just the injuries? I can’t tell.

-Broncos-Seahawks. What a game.

-Really, Carolina? Really?

Jets. Haha.

Weekly Awards

Sike! You thought that was all I had to say?

What else is going on?

Well, the way things are shaping up, no team is really making a strong claim for being the best in either conference.

Except for the Bengals.

Yes, the Bengals. After three games, they’re averaging somewhere around 28 points for and 11 points against. Their defense held those 56-point Falcons to 10. They’ve manhandled teams, outperforming them in all three phases. I want to see what better competition does against ’em, but right now, Cincinnati hosts the best team in football.

What’s that, Seahawks fans? Well, you can’t lose on the road. It’s not beneficial. You’re still the team to beat in the NFC if I was forced to pick one, but there’s this team in Philadelphia who haven’t lost yet…

What’s that, Broncos fans? Well, you’re not nearly as dominant as you were in 2013. Not yet. Once your defense starts to click (which is happening more and more each week) and your offense finds balance and the ability to dominate like they can, you’ll be in good shape. Great shape, actually. Superbowl shape. But if the Bengals are for real…you’ve essentially got the Seahawks of the AFC in your way. That defense is no joke.

What’s that, Patriots fans? You just came a play from losing to the Raiders. I don’t want to hear anything out of you.

What’s that, Eagles fans? Play four quarters and put a better defense on the field, and then we’ll talk. Still, 3-0 is 3-0.

What’s that, rest of the NFL? Good luck.

Why Doesn’t Kev Speak On The Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson/Roger Goodell/Non-football situations in the NFL?

Because I’m not qualified, and neither are 90% of the people doing so. I have opinions, but I choose to reserve them to conversations. This is a format for discussing the game, not the mistakes, smart choices, etc, of NFL employees away from the game. But, if you want a quick summary, I’ll give it to you. Just this once. Probably just this once.

-Ray Rice should be in jail. Let him back in the league after he serves his time and shows Michael Vick-level repentance.

-Adrian Peterson should be in jail. Let him back in the league after he serves his time and shows Ray Rice-level repentance.

-Roger Goodell should be in…his house, watching someone else doing his job. I’m talking a temporary leave of absence, self-imposed, to allow league executives to format a better disciplinary policy without his interference. These decisions should never rest with one man. Especially not this man. He’s proven his incompetency numerous times, so let’s just call it like it is and do something about it. Sound good? Of course not. Makes too much sense.

Weekly Awards

For real.

QB Of The Week: Captain Kirk (Cousins). Sharing it with his opposite, Nick Foles. Both played their hearts out and solidified their positions as their team’s starting QB going forward. I just think Kirk did a little more, considering his situation.

RB Of The Week: Nobody ran harder than Rashad Jennings did for the Giants. 170+ yards is tough against a solid defense, and he was the catalyst (along with Houston’s turnovers) in giving the Giants a rare and needed win.

WR Of The Week: Andy Dalton. Hey, did you see that catch and run for a touchdown? Yeah, yeah. I know, it was one play. But we’re allowed to have a little fun here, aren’t we? Otherwise, this goes to Julio Jones, and that is boring in comparison.

Offensive Line Of The Week: If you saw the Steelers game, you know who gets this award. Dominant against a dominant defense. It’s easy to give props to the Giants, whose patchwork line managed to mostly maintain to the point of attack against a strong Texans front seven. Honorable mention to the Chargers’ front five for doing much of the same against the Bills.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Whatever the Packers did or did not do on their way to one measly touchdown, the Lions’ D were all over the place. Watching LB Stephen Tulloch tear his ACL while celebrating gives them a bit of comedic edge in this category, as well. Good job, brah.

Goat Of The Week: Officiating crew, Jets-Bears. They absolutely took a win from the Jets. This sort of performance deserves more than back-room reprimands and a drop down some list nobody ever sees. It deserves demotion.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Mike Tomlin and the rest of Pittsburgh’s staff had to right the ship after a bad loss against division rival Baltimore, and they called a wonderful game against the superior Panthers. It starts with gameplanning, and the Steelers had as good a plan as any this week.

What’s Next

Giants-Redskins will be better than most Thursday Night games. Tune in.

Packers are struggling. The Bears are banged up. Who wins? Who indeed.

Things will get violent in Baltimore as the Panthers come to town. Steve Smith has been ready since he left Carolina.

Dolphins lose, and I’m writing them a very stern letter. Wouldn’t be the first time.

San Fransisco better put their game face on. Seriously, this time. I mean it. Time to be one of the best teams in the league, fellas.

Because one of the best teams in the league is coming.

I’m on the record early: The Cowboys will upset the Saints.

On A Side Note…

I’m still playing fantasy football. I remember talking about this last year, so here’s my roster right now:

QB: Matthew Stafford (Lions)
RB: Monte Ball (Broncos), Trent Richardson (Colts), Khiry Robinson (Saints)Darren McFadden (Raiders), Bernard Pierce (Ravens)
WR: Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Julian Edelman (Patriots), Vincent Jackson (Buccaneers), Andre Johnson (Texans)
TE: Kyle Rudolph (Vikings), Ladarius Green (Chargers)
K: Dan Bailey (Cowboys)
DEF: Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons (Bye-week replacement)

Analysis: I’m 2-1, losing this week due almost exclusively to Matthew Stafford blowing it against the Packers. On the surface, this roster is a mixed bag. Looking deeper…it’s a mixed bag. So far, Bryant has been my most consistent performer. He and Edelman give me a solid 1-2 at the position. Obviously, my RBs leave something to be desired, and I’ll be looking to make a trade here this week or next. Rudolph’s injury leaves me weak at TE for the immediate future, so I may have to scour the waiver wire there. Otherwise, I like this team. I wasn’t able to draft it, so I have to pat the nfl.com auto-draft system on the back. A better RB option instead of Andre Johnson/Vincent Jackson would have been nice, though.

Until next week…I leave you as I was left at the end of Week 3:

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Week 3 Primer (2014-2015)

JJ WattJJ Watt is primed! Your turn!

Week 3 Picks

Buffalo 27 – San Diego 20

A long trip across the country to a city that is suddenly hostile territory…disadvantage: San Diego. While the Chargers have proven themselves capable, and not everyone is buying the Bills’ fast 2-0 start, I think the travel time and atmosphere in Buffalo will be the tipping points in this close matchup.

Cincinnati 30 – Tennessee 7

There isn’t a defense in the league playing better than the one in Cincinnati so far this year, and the Titans just don’t have the firepower to do anything about it. Meanwhile, a balanced offensive attack will continue to pay dividends for a Bengals team who looks to maybe, just maaaybe…taking the next step.

Cleveland 23 – Baltimore 16

Three divisional games to start the season is rough, almost too rough. While the Ravens have broken even throughout the first two, they now head into Cleveland for their third. The Browns have been tough so far, and if they put up the same fight in this game, I don’t think Baltimore will match it.

Green Bay 34 – Detroit 31

Games that smell like shootouts, look like shootouts, are as often not as they turn out to be as they appear. This game, however, I’m willing to bet on being a high-scoring affair. If the Packers want to maintain course in a crowded NFC North, these are the games they must find a way to win; road divisional matchups. I think they can, but that has more to do with the inability of the Lions in closing out tough games.

Indianapolis 34 – Jacksonville 24

Now we’re beginning to see how borderline the Colts really are. Andrew Luck can work miracles, but this team is going to struggle going forward if they can’t find balance across the lines and defensive playmakers. Still, the Jaguars should be a good rebound for the more talented Colts.

New England 38 – Oakland 13

Raiders fans will reminisce on happy memories of the Tuck Rule game because, hell, at least they were competitive back then. Dennis Allen is on his way out in Oakland, and whoever comes in is going to inherit a mess.

New Orleans 35 – Minnesota 23

For the 0-2 Saints, a home game is looking to be just what the doctor ordered to salvage their season before it slips away. For the Vikings, they just have to hold on and hope Matt Cassel can limit the four-turnover mistakes he made last week. Or, maybe they don’t have such hopes, and want rookie Teddy Bridgewater out on the field ASAP. This game could be the catalyst for such a change.

Houston 28 – New York 10

The Texans are playing smart football so far, running the ball and holding strong on defense. This formula will work against the lesser teams in the league. Teams like the Giants.

Philadelphia 24 – Washington 23

Nobody is paying much attention to how well the Redskins have been playing defense so far, but the Eagles will get a course in it this week. Granted, Philly could easily add 10 points to my projected score just by giving Darren Sproles a few more touches, but I like this one being close all the way to the end. I just don’t think Washington is ready to win this sort of game.

St. Louis 23 – Dallas 17

DeMarco Murray will see his numbers increase steadily this week, but the Cowboys’ offense could be rendered one-dimensional with the Rams’ pass rush and a handful of turnovers courtesy of Tony Romo. Given 3rd string QB Austin Davis’ successes against a decent defense last week, I think he’s more than capable of beating what Dallas will line up in front of him.

San Fransisco 31 – Arizona 24

This is a statement game in the NFC West. While the Cardinals have overcome a wide variety of adversity (off-field issues, injuries, etc) to start strong at 2-0, the 49ers have been definitively inconsistent at 1-1. I’m putting my money on the team with the better track record of recent successes, but this one is going to be a battle and worth watching.

Miami 30 – Kansas City 20

I think Knile Davis, in place of Jamaal Charles, is going to have some success in Miami this week. I don’t think, however, that Alex Smith will. As Kansas City continues to deteriorate, the Dolphins can bounce back with a strong home showing after losing in all phases against a divisional foe last week.

Seattle 34 – Denver 28

A lot of people have been talking about this game. Not sure why. Superbowl rematch or some such hullabaloo. All jokes aside, the Seahawks are the better team right now, so I’m picking them. It’s as simple as that. If Peyton Manning manages to find his groove against the defense that borrowed it for four quarters back in February, it could go the other way. I think the real key here is how much more explosive Seattle’s offense is becoming, and how the Broncos much-talked-about revamped defense isn’t quite ready to keep up.

Carolina 27 – Pittsburgh 9

The Panthers are looking very strong after two games. The Steelers, not so much. In Carolina, on Sunday Night, the Panthers will show up looking to make a statement. Lately, when they do this, the results are in their favor.

New York 24 – Chicago 21

I don’t like all the injuries the Bears are accumulating. This is the blood in the water that the Jets can and, I think, will use to their advantage on Monday Night. Remember, they (the Jets) were a confusing timeout away from possibly upsetting the Packers last week. So long as Rex Ryan and his sideline don’t step on their own feet, they have as good a chance to upset the Bears.

(That wasn’t a Rex Ryan-likes-feet pun. At least, it wasn’t intended to be. Was it?)

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start ’em

Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers (Or Johnathan Stewart, flip a coin)
Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans SaintsMike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphiins
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears
Caleb Sturgis, K, Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots D/ST

Sit ‘Em

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cody Parkey, K, Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks D/ST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week One Primer (2014-2015)

It’s that time! Time to get primed!

riversface

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phillip Rivers is primed! Your turn!

Week One Picks

New Orleans 34 – Atlanta 20

This game has all the ingredients for a battle royale, including a team with Superbowl glimmers in their eyes (New Orleans) and a return to relevance in their minds (Atlanta), within the same division and with a notoriously shaky road team (New Orleans) having to travel. Look for the first half to be tight as the Saints dust off their deep playbook and the Falcons put up a strong fight, and then look for New Orleans to run away with it in the 3rd quarter.

Baltimore 23 – Cincinnati 17

One of a few upsets I feel good about in week one, the Ravens are capable of knocking off last year’s divisional winning Bengals at home, and head coach John Harbaugh will not hesitate to emphasize the importance such an early victory would have now and down the stretch. Cincy’s defense is going to be a tall order for Flacco and co. to score against, but I’m banking on an underrated Ravens D to create some opportunities for their offense and kicker extraordinaire Justin Tucker.

Chicago 36 – Buffalo 24

The Bills have plenty of question marks, but I expect them to make a bigger splash this year than most other pundits do. They won’t, however, hit the water in week one, as they travel to Chicago to stare down an offense that looks like it could actually pace the best in the league so long as QB Jay Cutler stays healthy…and stays consistent.

Washington 20 – Houston 17

I read an article today on the mystery factor of this game, and the points made are all tantalizing to imagine: will RG3 regain his form? Will JJ Watt and hyped rookie Jadeveon Clowney begin terrorizing offenses right off the bat? Can the Redskins’ defense kick it up a gear? Can Houston’s offense, under the command of the underwhelming Ryan Fitzpatrick, make the Redskins’ D have to kick it up a gear? Hopefully we get some clarity with this game. Oh, in case you were wondering: I see both teams struggling, but the offensive firepower in Washington tipping the scales for a close victory.

Kansas City 24 – Tennessee 10

So many are doubting the Chiefs, with their offseason losses and little to balance that particular scale. Yet, the bulk of one of the most intimidating defenses in the league is still there, and Alex Smith, content under a new contract, has the ability to make a so-so Tennessee defense look worse than they are. Of course, his throwing options will be limited, but you know that guy…oh, what’s his name…Jamaal Charles? He’ll take care of things. In a big way.

Miami 29 – New England 27

HOMER ALERT!? No, no. These are, traditionally, the games the Dolphins somehow find a way to win; early-season home contests against teams that are clearly better. The south Florida weather will help a Dolphins defense more accustomed to it keep the rest of the team on track, and Tannehill will likely find enough time to get the field goal machine rolling. Gonna be close…unless New England shows up ready to make an early statement. Then the word ‘close’ won’t apply to anything in this game.

New York 23 – Oakland 13

The Jets are going to have a hard time of it this year and make no doubt about that, but if there was ever a team to get off to a good start against, it’s this year’s Oakland Raiders, who are tying their hopes to a rookie QB and a patchwork of newcomer veterans who have minimal tread on their tires. Watch the workload of Chris Johnson and backup Chris Ivory; it could be an indicator of how the Jets’ offense will run going forward.

Philadelphia 30 – Jacksonville 24

You look at this matchup, in Philly, and you start having thoughts of 40+ points and Lesean McCoy lapping a team who has struggled for so long nobody can remember when Tom Coughlin led them to an AFC Championship game. However, the Jaguars are ascending, and despite their hesitation to start preseason darling Blake Bortles over Chad Henne, should put up more of a fight against Chip Kelly’s Green Machine (TM) than you might expect. Just don’t expect them to win.

Pittsburgh 24 – Cleveland 14

Where’s the firepower in Cleveland? On defense. When/if Johnny Football is on the field, and when/if he plays up to expectations, the Browns are going to struggle to keep up with anyone despite their strong (and growing stronger) defensive play. The Steelers are reportedly preparing for Manziel and Hoyer, so I don’t think it’ll matter much if Browns’ OC Kyle Shanahan decides to use the ol’ switcheroo at QB during this one; Pittsburgh will not go quietly this year, and Cleveland will be their first showcase of that.

Minnesota 20 – St. Louis 10

Both offenses will face tough sledding. The Vikings, simply because of the defense across the field from them. The Rams, simply because Sam Bradford is no longer playing QB and nobody can guess how effective new starter Shaun Hill will be with limited reps and prep time. This pick is also being made with the prognostication that the Vikings are going to be a scary team this year, with the progression of young up-and-comers and the stabilizing presence of key veterans to go with a revamped and much improved coaching staff.

Dallas 32 – San Fransisco 28

Shot in the dark. So much seems to be against the Cowboys this year, particular on defense, but I have confidence enough in picking them for the biggest upset of the week. Why? Tony Romo to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The 49ers pass rush is going to struggle until Aldon Smith is back, and their secondary isn’t exactly a strength at the corners. Plenty of 3-4 receiver sets, with a balancing bulk of DeMarco Murray touches, can give the Cowboys what they’re looking for. At least at home against a team whose offseason looks like a police blotter.

Tampa Bay 21 – Carolina 16

Hey, I’ll bite on occasion. The Bucs, coming off of a stinker of a 2013, are as revamped a team as any in football. What few seem to realize, however, is that the nucleus of a competitive team has been simmering in Tampa for a few years now. Meanwhile, Cam Newtown is iffy to start and regardless of the QB, who the starter ends up targeting is anyone’s guess. The Bucs will field a quality defense this year, and will hold off the questionable Panthers’ offense at home this week.

Denver 44 – Indianapolis 31

Sunday night is, in my estimation, going to be exactly what the NFL wants it to be my setting this game in the primetime slot; a shootout of memorable proportions. Peyton Manning gets another shot at his former team (whom he is 0-1 against as a Bronco so far), but this time it’ll be on his mile-high field, with a defense that certainly looks better on paper and an offense that, regardless of Wes Welker’s short absence, is to be deeply feared. The Luck of the Colts (TM) will not be pulling off any late-game heroics in this one.

Detroit 34 – New York 14

I’m not one to let a preseason dictate my thoughts of a team once the games matter, but the Giants look shaky on the field and off of it. The Lions can look however they look and still fall apart, but a home opener on the national stage Monday Night should be more than enough motivation to take a suspect Giants team to the cleaner’s.

San Diego 27 – Arizona 24

The last game of the week, late Monday night, is going to be worth staying up for. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being the most enjoyable game of the week. These two teams match up incredibly well, and there are questions aplenty about both. If San Diego wants to continue to improve upon 2013’s surprise playoff appearance, they’ll have to get past an Arizona team with an offense that is on the cusp of something special. The Cardinals defense, with the losses of Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett, may not be the same, and this should give San Diego the wiggle room to pull off a last-minute type of well earned victory.

Fantasy Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em

Remember this? Here, I give ten fantasy starts and ten sits, and try to avoid the obvious names in favor of my guesses at underdogs/relative unknowns or those solid starters who you may be questionable towards because of unfavorable matchups, injury concerns, etc. Roll the bones.

Start ’em

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins (Might seem obvious to some, but I’ve heard speak of concern about one of the best fantasy backs in football, and I’m here to set you all straight. He’s still a must-start, every week.)
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Caleb Sturgis, K, Miami Dolphins
Baltimore Ravens D/ST

Sit ’em

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Chris Johnson, RB, New York Jets (give him a week, but start him if you’ve no other decent option on your bench)
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons (tough call, but you might get better performance out of someone with less question marks this early in the year)
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers (watch this situation in San Diego; I believe Ladarius Green is the TE to own on the Chargers)
Greg Zuerlein, K, St. Louis Rams
49ers Defense/ST