I’m almost upset to announce that we are at the NFL halfway point come Monday night. We don’t count Week 17 much anymore since this game has become so violent that coaches jump at any chance to pull their players early or bench them altogether. If you’re undefeated (not likely unless your league has 4 teams or you play with peeps that ride the short bus), 6-1 or 5-2, congrats and keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working. If you’re anything else, then you’re likely to be unsatisfied. Each week this blog is going to get a bit more in depth. It will get prettier, but the content is what matters and if you’re 4-3 you need me. Plus, I’m a nice guy…so I’m here for you. Read on, lovers of all things fake.
Let’s discuss Thursday night’s game first. In terms of entertainment purposes, they have been much like Vincent Jackson this year: hot, cold, hot cold. Most of my friends, myself included, don’t like these Thursday games every week. The players are coming off minimal rest, sloppy play, sluggishness at times, they’re EVERY Thursday, we are more traditionalists of Sunday/Monday games with the occasional Thursday “treat” other than turkey day, and most importantly, THE LEAGUE IS ON FX ON THURSDAY. Damn you Goodell! Damn you!!! Other than the Steelers @ Titans game two weeks ago, these games have sucked. Here’s to hoping that tonight is different.
TAMPA BAY: 19
These defenses are just good enough to have both kickers start. Blair Walsh and Conner Barth, don’t ever say I didn’t give you any love. First, for the Vikings, it is all about some AP. He has a nagging ankle injury and he limited his practice time LAST week with this game in mind. He knew, barring setback, that he was going to be healthy, but staying off that ankle is the best medicine. He came out of Sunday’s game unscathed for the most part and he is ready for tonight’s showdown. He may have his toughest matchup yet in a front four that is shutting down the run. T.B. silenced the Panthers rush attack, Jamaal Charles and Demarco Murray. Additionally, as of this afternoon D’Qwan Bowers is playing tonight, his first action since late last year. How much he is used remains to be seen, but let’s just put it this way: On 21 plays where the run was directed directly at him last year, the ypc was 1.7. This front four is about to get better. AP is always unpredictable and is unofficially at full speed post-ACL surgery. He looks great, and he is what determines who wins this game. I’m downgrading him to lukewarm. He’s going to run hard and with attitude, but he’s not going to hit paydirt. He will gets his yards, and I’m predicting 107. Ponder has looked rough his past several games, made some terrible decisions, turned the ball over and in general being ineffective. The Bucs are giving up the 3rd most points in the air in fantasy, the opposite of the run game. If the Vikes want to move the ball tonight, AP can’t do it alone. Percy is in line for a big night if utilized appropriately and often. Kyle Rudolph may look to get back to his old ways of sneaking in at the end of a half with a 3 yd td reception. Look for lots of FG’s and stalled redzone drives tonight from the Vikings.
For the Bucs, their fate rests in Josh Freeman’s arm. He has to make some plays tonight to keep his team in the game and quiet that noisy crowd. This is their first primetime game since ’08. Freeman has looked good this season, managing games better, making plays when he should and taking advantage of shoddy secondaries. The Vikings are no slouch in the pass rush, leading the league in sacks since the beginning of the 2011 season. Going up against one of the better overall offensive lines in football in the Bucs, the men in purple are going to have their work cut out for them. Great matchup to watch between the two lines tonight. Blount is apparently losing touches to Doug Martin who had his first big game last week against the Saints. Shocker. He’s going to have to contribute in moving the sticks because the Bucs aren’t mature enough to win games with a one-sided offense like the Saints do. Vincent Jackson has scored in three straight, so its time for him to be scratched off the ‘start em’ list. Seriously, bench him. Winfield still has what it takes at corner, and if he is assigned solely to him tonight, expect little production, especially on the short week. Mike Williams is a sneaky play, but he may come out struggling as well. In the end, this is going to be a tight football game with lots of hits, punts, field goals and a big play here and there. Both these teams have above average offensive lines (Bucs win that battle) and two of the better defensive lines in the league. Should make for another Thursday night, low-scoring brawler.
YES: Percy Harvin, AP, Barth, Walsh, Vikes D
NO: Ponder, J. Simpson, VJAX, Blount, D. Clark
MAYBE SO: Freeman, M. Williams, D. Martin, Bucs D
SLEEPER: K .Rudolph
This is going to be a blowout. Weather is not an issue today like it sometimes is in Chicago. The issue is Cam. Not only does he need some fashion coaching after that sweater he was wearing in last Sunday’s postgame conference, but he needs some mental coaching as well. He’s not making good decisions on the field and he’s not saying the right things off of it. This team lives and dies with Cam, and until he shows you he’s all there, I’d bench him. I don’t think today will be any different. He and Steve Smith STILL haven’t connected in the endzone this year. They are benching Deangelo Williams in favor of a power running game with Jonathan Stewart. They are getting away from the zone-blocking in hopes of amping up a cold offense. I like Stewart when he gets a lot of carries but in Chicago against a seemingly stout defense? I don’t see this offense competing. For fantasy purposes I don’t like anything about the Panthers. For the Bears, life is good today. Expect their offense to be clicking on all cylinders. After watching them on Monday night it is seemingly apparent that the Bears are officially contenders this year. Barring injury to any major players, expect the Bears to make some noise all the way into the postseason. Cutler is different. Whether he is comfortable with the scheme, the line is getting better at pass-protection (not by much), whatever it is, things in the windy city are different this year. Upgrade Cutler and Co. against a bad, and now injured defense. This isn’t going to be much of a game from the start.
HOT: Cutler, Forte, B. Marshall, Bears Def
COLD: Cam, D. Williams, Car Def
RISK: S. Smith, M. Bush
SLEEPER: J. Stewart
SAN DIEGO 20
The Chargers defense has stepped it up at times this year. No one knows which defense is going to show up this week, especially on the road. I expect this to be a low-scoring game, with both defenses keeping the offenses honest. Rivers and Norv are not on the same page this year and people are starting to talk about Rivers losing the “elite” tag. I have to agree. He doesn’t have any true weapons outside of Gates, and even they have had a tough time connecting this season. I do like Gates in this one but don’t expect much from the rest of the receiving corp. As for the running game, Mathews still isn’t getting all of the love as he has yet to prove he can handle it. Expect more of the same this week. The Cleveland defense is much like their offensive line: underrated. Weeden will continue to look like a second or third year starter. He is improving every week, making better reads and less mistakes. I know their record doesn’t show it, but Cleveland finally has something to work with offensively. Weeden is the guy for the Dog Pound for years to come. Trent Richardson is about as promising as any rookie running back in the last few years. He has not been healthy the entire year but this guy is going to make some noise. As far as today goes, avoid him if possible. He’s got an injury I will discuss in greater detail later in another article that will linger the rest of the year more than likely. He’s going to be a nuisance at times for you. Josh Gordon is a deep threat every week. Again, don’t expect much out of this game, but you can expect it to be close.
WARM: Rivers, Gates, Weeden
COLD: SD Def, CLE Def
RISK: SD WR’s, T-Rich, Mathews
SLEEPER: J. Gordon
This is going to be another close game. I think Seattle and their defense pull out the win on the road at the end. Megatron continues to receive a lot of extra attention and as I mentioned in my article earlier in the week, this is not going to get any better with Burleson going down. Detroit is simply going to have to overcome the pressures if they want to contend. You have a strong-armed QB and the best WR in football. Get off your ass and make it work. If Detroit can do that today against one of the most effective defenses in the league, I’m all about it (especially since I have Johnson in my main league). The run game is nonexistent and that’s Schwartz’s fault. LeShoure can make some noise at times but I don’t expect much against this nasty D. Titus Young and Ryan Broyles, along with Pettitgrew are simply going to have to make themselves into viable threats to take some of the pressure off Calvin. It can, and should happen, but not in this game. Expect another low scoring affair from both teams. Russell Wilson continues to manage the game and get the wins for his team. He has an above average line that he is going to need against that intimidating front four of the Lions. He will be pressured, he will make mistakes as he normally does on the road, but he gets the win. It’s hard to predict any receiver to make any noise consistently for the Seahawks , but Sidney Rice might snag one today. This is going to be all Skittles. Lynch continues to prove that he is worth his contract (and DUI) by making yards after the hit and generally dominating rush defenses. I might be feeling a highlight from him today. This should be a close finish.
HOT: Stafford, Megatron, Lynch, Rice, Seahawks Def
RISK: LeShoure, T. Young, R. Wilson, All other SEA WR’s
SLEEPER: R. Broyles
NEW ENGLAND 27
SAINT LOUIS 13
It’s going to be a football weather kind of day at Wembley stadium in London. 50% chance of showers, winds at 12 mph, overcast and cold. Jeff Fisher continues to prove his worth for this lowly Rams team. They can beat anyone with the right gameplan and a bit of luck, but they are simply not that talented and lack experience on both sides of the ball. For the Rams, I expect Bradford to see a lot of pressure from that NE front seven. His line continues to be one of the league’s worst in pass protection and Sam doesn’t get the job done enough with his receivers to keep a defense honest. Amendola may return today, which is ridiculous considering the nature of his clavicular injury. Upgrade the offense if he plays. Sjax seems to be losing touches consistently the last few weeks mucking up the backfield even more. He never had a consistent nose for the endzone so I’m simply downgrading the backfield entirely. People have been calling this an upset alert, but I simply do not see it happening. The Rams secondary has improved by leaps and bounds this year. This is the ultimate test for the Rams going against Tom Brady and the no-huddle. Hernandez is out. The Patriots won’t really miss him though. B. Lloyd plays his old team so he may be a little extra motivated. The Pats backfield has a bit of a question mark in terms of who is getting the ball. Ridley should be your guy as long as he doesn’t fumble. Belichick has no tolerance for fumbles. The Pats will not explode all over the Rams today but they will get the win and it will not be close as the Pats defense stuffs the Rams.
HOT: Brady, Welker, Gronk, Ridley
COLD: Bradford, Rams backfield, Rams Def
SLEEPER: B. Lloyd, Pats Def
NY JETS 16
Weather is going to be an issue in this game as well. The Jets are struggling and they don’t have a good history with the Dolphins recently, both on and off the field. Expect an upset. The Jets defense is not good against the run but they are improving. They are decent against the pass even without Revis. Bart Scott is not playing today, however, so I expect the Dolphins to win this one on the ground. Upgrade Bush, with Tannehill continuing to improve each week. He won’t score you a bunch of points today but he is becoming startable material based on the matchup in two-QB leagues. Miami’s defense has sleeper status written all over it. For the Jets, their offensive woes will continue. Miami is very strong against the run and not good against the pass. Will Sanchez envelop the role of Jeckyl or Hyde this week? He is so terrible. Ugh. He seems to like Kerley and Keller, so have them on your shortlist. As for Shonne Greene, one of the most annoying backs in the league, you can expect him to do nothing against that front four. Can he sneak in for a 1 yard TD? Sure. But he isn’t going to light it up. He shouldn’t be on your team. None of the Jets should other than in a reserve role. And you thought Testaverde and Coles was annoying…
HOT: R. Bush, Miami Def
COLD: Sanchez, Greene,
RISK: Tannehill, Hartline, Jets D
SLEEPER: Fasano, D. Keller, J. Kerley
This game is going to have rain and wind throughout. Temper expectations. This is not going to be a pretty game for either team I am afraid. Andy Reid is 13-0 all time coming off the bye week. If he loses today, he will be hounded even more by the press. As much as I want to say the Falcons extend their streak and Reid loses for the first time post-bye as an Eagle…it ain’t happening. Vick and co get it together and come out with a win. I like both WR’s in this game and Celek to move the chains. I do not expect too much from Lesean but he could sneak one in. The Falcons defense is not amazing and surely not bad, but they don’t hold Vick in check today as much as you would think. Matt Ryan knows there are plenty of things to fix on his undefeated team. The only question is did they improve on any of them? I like Ryan to do some things against one of the better secondaries in the league. With a new DC in Philly, this is going to be a great test for them. I like Roddy to move the chains and Julio to grab maybe even two scores. Gonzalez continues his amazing career with solid outing and maybe a TD. Turner isn’t really the Burner anymore, and against this tough Philly D I don’t see him doing much at all. Find a better option this week.
HOT: Ryan, Roddy, Julio, Gonzo, Vick, Maclin, D. Jackson
COLD: Turner, ATL Def
RISK: McCoy, PHI Def
SLEEPER: Celek, Douglas
RGIII continues to look unstoppable. Even without a true #1 in Garcon, the guy is making it work. It sure has been a ton of fun to watch. Albert Morris should be commended for his fantasy consistency this year. The offense is finding ways to get points on the board and it starts with Griffin. Fred Davis is out for the year and Cooley is back in the mix. His knees remain in question. This aging Steeler defense won’t keep up with the speedy rookie today and as a result, questions will start to reign down in the steel city after this game. For the Steelers, Big Ben continues to make plays, just not enough of them. Mike Wallace has a terrible game last week so expect him to bounce back against that horrible Washington secondary. Antonio Brown continues to rack up the looks and yardage. He will have a few highlights today considering the lack of talent in Washington. He’s a mismatch for them. I expect a TD from him, possibly two. Jonathan Dwyer is the man stepping up in the backfield but this not a rushing game I like this year. Between the offensive line, the weekly gameplan to air it out more, and the talent, I just don’t want any of that mess. Heath Miller continues to find a TD almost every week so he is a must start as well. In the end, Pitt just doesn’t get it done as the Skins get a well-dserved win. Polamalu makes all the difference in the world.
HOT: RGIII, Morris, Big Ben, A. Brown, Wallace, Miller,
COLD: Redskins D, Steelers D
RISK: Dwyer, Cooley
SLEEPER: S. Moss
GREEN BAY 42
This is not going to be a close game. Jacksonville has no offense to speak of, their star RB is out for an unknown amount of time (and maybe for the year), they have the worst starting QB in the league, no WR’s stepping up, and a defense that can only do so much considering how much they are on the field. Rough times in Jacksonville but they’re used to it. For the Packers, expect them to be clicking on all cylinders even without Jordy if he cant go. I expect a big day from all Packers as I feel Rodgers will spread the ball around. Alex Green is getting the carries and McCarthy had some motivating words for him earlier in the week, so expect Green to answer today. He will score a TD, albeit in garbage time.
HOT: Rodgers, Jordy, Cobb, J. Jones, A. Green
COLD: J. Finley, Gabbert, Jax WR’s, Jax Def
RISK: Anyone wearing a Jacksonville jersey
SLEEPER: R. Jennings, GB Def
Luck continues his excellent rookie season against one of the worst defenses in the league. Look for Wayne to make some serious noise and maybe a little T.Y. Hilton or Avery to mix it up with a score as well. We are still waiting on Fleener as well so maybe today is his day. Don’t rule out any Colts. Still no news on if D. Brown is going to return from his knee scope so we have Vick Ballard in there against a bad run defense that is only going to get worse with their LB injuries. Hasselbeck makes another start and likely makes some noise at home against a porous Indy secondary. CJ2Bust does have another huge game. Sell high if you have him, his schedule gets harder and I don’t see him carrying his success over against real defenses not named the Titans or the Bills. Look for everyone to have some fantasy fun in what is shaping up to be a game that is NOT about defense. Fantasy points abound.
HOT: Luck, Wayne, Hasselbeck, CJ2STAIN, Washington, Britt,
COLD: TEN Def, IND Def
RISK: Cook, Fleener, Hilton, Ballard
SLEEPER: Avery, Wright
KANSAS CITY 13
This is not going to be a pretty game. Both teams are absolutely desperate for a win. Oakland’s defense just isn’t good, and Kansas City’s is on paper, but in reality they are equally as awful. Downgrade everyone on the KC side except for the run game, which gets a slight upgrade in terms of consistency with Hillis back in the mix. For Oakland, we’ve been waiting on Palmer all year to get it going. Maybe today is his day with DHB or Jacoby catching some balls in the endzone. McFadden has to get it going sometime this year, right? Today is the day let’s hope. They’re still tweaking their run game by installing more power running packages to aide McFadden. I think he just needs a bad defense to jumpstart his talents. Sorry I don’t have more to say on this game, but there’s not much to talk about.
HOT: Charles, DMac
COLD: Quinn #gross, KC Def, OAK Def
RISK: Bowe, DHB, Ford
SLEEPER: Hillis, Palmer, B. Myers
NY GIANTS 24
The Cowboys need a big win badly. They have a great record against the men in blue in recent years and Romo should have a big game. I have him scoring more points than Matt Ryan this week if that says anything. Week to week you just never know with Dez. Miles should take advantage of the G-men’s secondary. Witten needs to get his game together and I’m hoping this is his bounceback game. Felix Jones is just not a good rb. He’s injury prone, inconsistent, and not good between the tackles. He’s simply not an all-around back and therefore a fantasy risk every week. The clown I’m playing this week has him starting and benched Doug Martin. I’m still laughing at his ignorance. Glad he doesn’t know about this blog. The Dallas Def will hold their own, pick up a few sacks, an interception, and help to win the game for the Cowboys. For the Giants, Eli should have another strong outing against a solid defense from top to bottom. I believe he has proved what he is capable of and he and Coughlin should never be underestimated. Bradshaw seems very questionable with his chronic foot issues so if he doesn’t go, Andre Brown is decent start every week with how well this offensive line is playing. Victor Cruz is having a huge season and is always capable of breaking off a big play. He’s going to be a star and he’s proven last year was no fluke with his play through week 7. He is so impressive. Nicks says he is better than last week with his injuries, so we shall see what he is made of today at 4. He’s due for a score. Giants Defense does not seem attractive to me this week. They will put pressure on Romo, force him from the pocket, and then he will light them up. This should be an excellent game, per usual.
HOT: Romo, Miles, Manning, Cruz
COLD: Felix, NYG Def
RISK: Dez, Witten, Bradshaw (limited carries if he plays)
SLEEPER: Nicks, A. Brown, DAL Def