Friday, October 30, 2009

NFL Week 8 Preview/Fantasy Thoughts

More bye-weeks means fewer wins for the Comedy Corporation. 7-6 last week and I'm at 23-18. That would be a fine record for an NFL head coach. Depending on the success rate of the previous coaching regime in your organization you might even be hailed as a genius. In terms of prognostication, however, 23-18 means you're probably hemorrhaging money, depending on how you are placing your bets. You're a loser. Deal with that. I'm getting sick of losing in football and job-hunting so regularly. I'm a decent guy, right? Good lord I should be writing my assignments that pay instead of this thing. Well, I want to be good at sportswriting and I want to be interesting/entertaining so I'll keep plodding down this path a while. I meant to write an NBA preview issue of Comedy Corp. but I've always felt basketball season doesn't count until January anyway, so I've got time. Somehow the Blake Griffin injury really bothers me.

I don't have much to offer in terms of terrible entertainment news/reactions/predictions so I'll leave that aspect alone this week. My over-arching fantasy themes for the week are: a) at what point does Miles Austin fail completely, b) is the Jamaal Charles gravy train really off and rolling, and c) how much "arm" does Alex Smith really have? Let's get on with it then. Purple always wins:

Houston at Buffalo - Houston is the better team, with the better coach and an actually discernible scheme. Steve Slaton will go bonkers this week. Marshawn Lynch will make some advancements, as well. Look for Lee Evans and perhaps Roscoe Parrish or the newly forgettable Fred Jackson to end up with better numbers than they should because Houston still has a defense that is willing to get burned. Matt Schaub seems like a dome guy to me. There is no research allowed in my predictions so I can't cross-check this but I'm expecting Houston's passing game to have bigger problems this week than even an Andre Johnson injury will justify. Owen Daniels will be OK but I'm not counting on anyone else involved in throwing the ball or catching the ball for the Titans.

Cleveland at Chicago - Cleveland coaches are starting to reprimand Cleveland fans. It always worries me when a team's players or coaches start worrying about the fans. It means the team, or at least that individual, is cracking up from the inside. And Cleveland is starting from a precarious place to begin with. The coaching staff on hand has done a poor job of preparing their players for the games they are going to play and Brady Quinn's career is probably irreparably harmed. I'm fine with that because I've never had any faith in him to begin with but a good organization should have gotten Eli Manning level production out of him (their physical skills and mental make-ups, from what I can tell watching them on TV, are similar). The Browns have turned him into an Andre Ware style has-been that never got a legitimate chance. I don't expect a Jim Plunkett style career re-birth/awakening. Brady's got money for life and will just ride off into the sunset. This game? Both coaches will be fired by the time next season rolls around but Lovie Smith is at least safe until next week. The Browns might as well cut their losses now. Mangini is a terrible fit for them. Well, let's give him a draft and see if he has a plan but I'm going to make a bold proclamation based on what I saw from him in New York (hubris) and what I've seen so far from him in Cleveland (even more hubris splayed on top of a flaming train wreck): Mangini has no idea what the fuck is good for a team as a whole. He is too busy jerking off to his own image in the mirror. He's got great tits, I'll give him that, but a man who is drawn in by tits alone is going to sleep with some very ugly women or turn out to be gay. Tits are window dressing and one needs to examine the full picture before making an assessment. Give Cutler a shot this week. His TDs should outnumber his turnovers and he'll get some yardage for you, at the very least. Jonny Knox and, um, the Bears other... receiver... Dammit, who's good on the Bears again? Matt Forte is a shit-bomb but this might be a good week for him. His lack of talent overwhelms my expectations for a good game even here. Greg Olsen might get some numbers for you. He went to Miami so he's a pretty good tight end. Watch Forte get hurt and Garrett Wolfe go the fuck off. That would be classic. If that happens avoid the urge to pick up Garrett Wolfe. He's an even bigger piece of shit RB than Matt Forte.

Seattle at Dallas - You know what? Julius Jones will probably be alright here. The Seahawks shouldn't throw a lot or they will get ambushed. The Cowboys are vulnerable to big plays but you have to be able to soften them up. If Jim Mora (a somewhat stupid coach) has paid attention to the Cowboys defense he will run 40 times and take the 250 yds of passing that are available to his team pending 30 or fewer pass attempts. I'm guessing Seattle will throw 40 times and paradoxically short-circuit Matt Hasselbeck's fantasy value in this game by exposing him to 10-15 hits and several turnovers. The Cowboys are a mystery to me. Romo should be fine and Witten is a safe play at TE. The kicker will be OK as far as kickers go (is it still Nick Folk there?) and one of the running backs will score a TD or two. But everything is a roulette with them. If Romo locks onto Miles Austin this game will go down in flames. Austin could get some big plays but Dallas should do the same thing that the Seahawks should do: run the ball a lot.

St. Louis at Detroit - I think St. Louis wins by way of attrition. Actually, the Rams stats do not match their talent on offense so this is a good chance at a correction for them. I'm going out on a limb and predicting decent to good numbers for Danny Amendola and Donnie Avery. Each one shocks me at how piss-poor their production has been so far but here is a great chance to even things out. Steven Jackson will rock it this week. Kevin Smith will do some good things for the Lions but I'm still unsure of MegaTron's health and the QB position for the Lions is a joke for now. I would like to add that I'm not a staunch believer in Matt Stafford's long-term potential. Mark Bulger might be good for one good fantasy game this year. If so, this is going to be that one.

Denver at Baltimore - Uh, ummm, hmmm, ah, I want Baltimore to win. I sort of root for them and the Saints in the same way. Meaning I'd like them more if I perhaps lived in an area conducive to being a fan of theirs but I am in an area that doesn't entirely believe that either team actually exists. Baltimore's defense is falling apart due to age and coaching changes. The Broncos are congealing quite well so far this year. They are the Patriots Lite. I don't like the NFL because I don't feel the product delivered is consistently entertaining or even of high value on its own terms. Meaning, the NFL plays the worst brand of football available to the American public. The production values are high but I now understand how much a basketball fan from the 70's must have felt watching the NBA bog down under its own popularity in the 90's. Football is not played fundamentally well on the NFL-level and every second of the programming is an attempt to reach out to a non-traditional audience. I'm a believer that the NBA is being saved from its own worst impulses by coaches like Mike D'Antoni that took their teams and re-instilled strong fundamentals while playing up-tempo. The NFL needs a coach that is willing to tell his defense that they need to learn to tackle again because every single player in the NFL is constantly trying to blow up his opponent rather than focusing on wrapping up the ball-carrier and stripping the ball. That's it. That's what the NFL needs. Strong, fundamentally sound defensive football. It's more entertaining when the game is played well and truly talented players rise above the level of everyone else. There are very few players in the league today that make plays consistently. Adrian Peterson is god right now because he plays football well and he is strong and he is fast. You know who else is consistently awesome? Brandon Marshall. Look, the guy's an asshole who probably could justifiably spend some time in prison but the only positive contribution he can make to society as a whole right now is to play football in an entertaining way. Get it? I was getting around to this game in particular but needed to make that point here because the Baltimore Ravens defense is embodying for me right now what has gone wrong in the NFL. They get caught up in their own hype and forget how to tackle and end up giving up a big day to Cedric Benson. I firmly believe that Ced Benson is the biggest one-season fluke in the league since Christian Okoye. The Ravens helped build up this 16-game myth and now they deserve to lose. But I am not a firm believer in the propensity of the Broncos defenders, chief amongst them Champ Bailey, to maintain their desire and technique through the rigors of a full NFL season. I'll take Brandon Marshall in this game because he is the most-talented and thoroughly sound receiver in the game today when he is on the field. He is good in every aspect on a football field. I'll take Todd Heap in this game because he is a solid threat to score in this game. Either kicker could be a good play. I am not sticking my neck out on Kyle Orton but he could have a good game. I don't buy it with Joe Flacco yet and I probably never will. All the running backs in this game are a crap shoot because neither one of these teams is going to split up the rushing duties evenly or consistently from week to week. Why would I choose the Ravens to win? Because the NFL is making it's living these days on the fluky bullshit that passes for entertaining football and I happen to like Baltimore as a city better than I like Denver. Purely out of misplaced sentimentalism.

San Francisco at Indianapolis - No, I'm not picking the Niners. Indianapolis will lose at some point this year but I'll make my guess now that it will be an outdoor game played away from home. Alex Smith should be able to continue his work with Vernon Davis to some extent this week but he should probably start making a habit of looking towards Michael Crabtree right now. Because Crabtree is the key to a sustained passing attack for this team. He is the game changer. Davis is talented and plays well but he is a fringe guy in terms of impact. In a fantasy sense. Teams don't have to take him away to beat the 49ers. Frank Gore will struggle here, I think, so Alex Smith has to find Crabtree. Indy? If you've got any Indy players, you should know the drill by now. If you're sitting Peyton Manning at this point you'd better have Phillip Rivers and/or Drew Brees on your roster because no other QB is more reliable under any circumstances than Peyton Manning. If this Manning has a bad game this year, it's a one-week fluke. You aren't here to figure out which Colts to start. There is no borderline. You trust them or you don't and you've had them all year by now.

Miami at NY Jets - The Jest beat the Raiders last week. That's nice. Chad Henne has a stronger arm than Mark SanCHEZZZ and a better supporting cast. Ricky Williams, following the pattern of distribution that the Dolphins have followed for the last couple of years, will produce 9 yds rushing and about 16 yds receiving this week. Ronnie Brown will somehow be integral to the Dolphins win and help absolutely nobody win their fantasy week. The Dolphins will shut down the Jets running game and get some turnovers. The Dolphins and the Saints are doing their part to actually keep me entertained by pro football but it's an uphill battle.

NY Giants at Philadelphia - You know who cares about this game? Everybody in New Jersey. ESPN spent 30 minutes or so telling us this last year. I trust Brandon Jacobs, LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek in this game. I would not trust anybody else unless they are my only option. For instance, if my roster included Donovan McNabb and Eli Manning on the same team, I might start Alex Smith over either one of them. He's probably available and, even though one of these guys will have a better game than him, you don't know which of these two will be the victor. Oh, yeah, Steve Smith is pretty consistent. So play him every week. If you need me to tell you that you probably have missed every football reference in this column so far.

Jacksonville at Tennessee - Oh, good lord. The Titans have to become good again on some level, don't they? This sort of thing, going from 13-3 to 0-6 used to be allowed pre-merger but I'm stunned by the Titans this year. Albert Haynesworth might have needed them and they obviously needed him. His threats to kick linemen in the face when they are lying on the ground must somehow ring hollow in the Redskins locker room. Tennessee has apparently given up on blocking this year. I'm not serious. The run blocking is there. But Kerry Collins can't get rid of the ball fast enough and I'm not counting on Vince Young to do much better. But he will help them run the ball because the perception in the league is that he's still a threat to run. This may or may not be the actual case but the threat is still there. So VY will loosen things up Johnson & Doughboy. Jacksonville has MJD, David Garrard and Mike Sims-Walker. That should really be enough to win 10 games this year. It probably is not, though, because Mike Del Rio is even more overrated and below average as a coach than he was as a linebacker. Still, if you have those 3 guys go ahead and play them. I'm siding with Tennessee because they are overdue and coming off a bye week. Other than that they probably still have amnesia when it comes to playing good defense.

Oakland at San Diego - A lot was made earlier when these two teams played about the fact that Oakland was still in the game late. Zach Miller is a threat to go wild on San Diego this week but other than that I'd be surprised if Oakland keeps it within 30 this time around. San Diego is a vastly superior team in terms of talent and they're terrible defense might actually bother to show up this week. Any Chargers on your team should be starting this week. Rivers could go for 400 yds if the coaches let him. They should because this team needs to put their foot to the throttle for the rest of the year. Norv Turner is not great with the rhythms of head coaching so I wouldn't be surprised to see a 24-0 halftime turn into a 30-17 finale. Except for the part where the Raiders score 17 points. That's always a little surprising.

Carolina at Arizona - I am praying for Arizona to give Beanie Wells 30 carries this week. I'm telling you right now, Cardinals coaches, this will result in 150 yd+ performance. Don't get nervous and start giving the ball to Hightower, he knows the schemes and all that but has no chance to be a gamebreaker (seriously, how has he not been converted to FB yet? He should be the second coming of Lorenzo Neal by now). Don't go on auto-pilot and throw 57 passes this week. It seems easy because Carolina is a bad pass-defense but don't do it. The future of your season and perhaps your franchise rests on the idea that Beanie Wells is a legitimate threat to take over a football game. We all know that Larry Fitzgerald and FSU's best QB since Charlie Ward are gamebreakers at receiver. Most of the NFL, if not all of its fans, probably realizes that Steve Breaston is the best Michigan product playing receiver in the league right now. What teams probably don't realize is that a) your line actually a good run-blocking unit and b) Matt Leinart will be just fine when Kurt Warner goes down to inevitable injury. Get the adrenaline out of Matt Leinart now so he doesn't fuck you up in a crucial situation later and get Beanie Wells a lot of work starting this week. I am not going to say the Cardinals will blow the Panthers out because I actually think more highly of the Panthers coaching staff (Jake Delhomme's oddly defensible presence as the starter notwithstanding) than the Cards staff but there is that potential in this game. Only start DeAngelo Williams and, yeah, I'm saying it, Steve Smith for the Panthers.

at Green Bay - Favre will throw about 20 passes this week. If he throws another game winner I will puke. Brett Favre deserves no mention in the MVP debate. None. He's a final piece, not the center-piece. Is anybody reading this that can help get the word out? Remember 5 months ago when the Vikings seemed like a potential Super Bowl contender when they had Tarvaris Jackson listed as their starter? Brett Favre is an upgrade from that but so would be Brady Quinn and Jamarcus Russell. Tarvaris Jackson was drafted behind those guys and everyone that had him pegged as a 4th rounder or lower was right. The Vikings fucked up on that pick. Sidney Rice? That was justifiable. He's still no Randy Moss but he also isn't as much of an asshole as Randy Moss. Adrian Peterson deserves MVP votes. He's the guy making this offense work. A really great RB will always do that for you. I can't fathom that the Colts never won a Super Bowl with Edgerrin James and I hope AD does not suffer the same fate. The Vikings should trade for Kevin Kolb in the offseason. Aaron Rodgers is a legitimate MVP pick if the Packers end up with 11 or more wins. He's a good start this week. So are Donald Driver Greg Jennings, James Jefferson and Ryan Grant.

Atlanta at New Orleans - Dangerous game for the Saints but I bet they come out fired up. Atlanta gave up some big plays to the Cowboys last week and the Saints play the same offense as the Cowboys but 4 years more advanced. Drew Brees is Tony Romo x3. And I count myself as a Romo defender. He needs some valium before big games but the Romo backlash is even dumber than the Romo deification was 2 years ago. He might be Danny White in the long run but Danny White was better than most people remember. And better than 90% of 1st rounders at QB. I'm taking Shockey, Colston, Pierre Thomas, and Meachem in this game. Matt Ryan is one of those guys that bothers me because I'm never sure when he will have a huge game but he's a threat every week. The Saints D has lived on turnovers more than 3 and outs so far this year. The Falcons don't turn the ball over much usually but their run game has been horrible this year. Keep Gonzalez, White and Ryan in your starting line-up but don't reach for any sleepers on this Falcons team. Not this week, at least.

Have fun, Happy Halloween and go see some scary movies this weekend. There have been some good ones this year.