Wednesday, November 16, 2005



Minnesota at N.Y. Giants: "Minny' found a passing rhythm with backup QB Brad Johnson at the helm last week... but it's hard to believe he's the answer. ... the Purple peeps' have been better against the run, but the passing attack remains their Achilles heel; especially with CB Fred Smoot out. This week, Tiki and Co. draw a soft Minnesota Viking team. The Vikes' are coming off of a win, but that win came against a weak Detroit team. Meanwhile, Minnesota has more holes than the Titanic; they cede almost 130 rushing yards per tilt, and the pass defense is consistently riddled by opposing Signal Callers. Tiki's found the End-Zone at least once in 5 of 8 contests, has 4 games of 100+ total yards, and I'd expect yet another 135+ total yard/1-2 TD game. ... if you're in a pinch- WR Amani Toomer should be a solid "Flex" WR start. ...The Giants are peaking at the right time."

Perhaps it would be more apt to say that the Giants have "peaked?" Sunday's home loss against the bottom-feeding Vikings is proof-positive that the Giants, and their fledgling signal Caller, are a team in flux. As good as the young "Mann" has looked in prior games... was as bad as he looked Sunday. The Vikes' had Eli confused all day long; they shifted coverages, they executed D-Line stunts, and Manning finished the day with a line of 23/48 for 291, no TDs, 4 INTs. But the loss cannot be placed upon Manning's shoulder-pads alone. Aside from Tiki Barber's brilliant effort, (206 total yards and a TD on 31 touches) New York was unable to execute in ANY phase of the game. Curious coaching decisions, turnovers, foolish penalties, and horrendous Special Teams play all contributed to Big Blue's sorry day. The Vikes, with an 0-4 Road record this season, became the 1st team in NFL history to return a Punt, a Kick-off, and an Interception for a TD in the same game. The most telling statistic? Minnesota rolled up a scant 137 total yards of offense (compared to the Giants' 405 yards of O), did NOT record an offensive score all afternoon, and STILL walked away with the win. How bad was the Viking offense? Minny' notched a ridiculous 6 TOTAL yards of O... then broke for Half-Time. It was really the re-configured Purple D and their Special Teams work that won the day. With Eli Manning apparently unable to recognize that Safety Darren Sharper plays for another team, Sharper was able to pick-off a trio of Eli's passes and return a 2nd Quarter INT 92 yards for a score. The Vikes received credible, but not special play from QB Brad Johnson (17/30 for 244/0/0). With RB Mewelde Moore recovering from a sprained wrist and limited to return duty (he recorded a 71 yard Punt return for a TD), former Viking feature back Michael Bennett was allowed out of the dog-house and received the starting nod. With more carries (19) than yards (16) Bennett did not impress, would probably have preferred to remain IN the dog-house, and his Viking life-expectancy is most likely limited to the end of this season. The Viking 2ndry DID manage to keep a lid on both WR Plaxico Burress (3/50) and TE Jeremy Shockey (5/55), but WR Amani Toomer (8/61/1) managed to snatch a score. The Vikes' get a "breather" next week when they visit depleted Green Bay, and given the Packs’ injury-thinned D… QB Brad Johnson might be a marginal "Flex" QB start if you're in dire Signal Calling straits. Check his status, but RB Mewelde Moore's expected back... and should he return, he'd be a legit' start against a poor run defense.
The Giants have one the those "all-important" NFC East match-ups against a desperate Eagle team. After Manning's fiasco this week, I'd be reluctant to start him. I would not, however, hesitate to start either Plax' or Shockey, and against Philly's 21st ranked Run D (allowing almost 120 YPG)... RB Tiki Barber remains a top op'. *NOTE: Although they won the game, MikTice's ce’s troubles continue to mount. To add “injury to insult,” the beleaguered Viking coach suffered a torn MCL… while standing on the sideline.

Washington at Tampa Bay: "If the Skins are for real... today's game will prove it. I like the Washington D, a D that has struggled to force turnovers, to control QB Chris Simms and Co. TE Chris Cooley and WR Santana Moss are the only legit' Washington pass catchers, but Clinton Portis does just enuff' on the ground to keep the passing game effective."

With several crucial match-ups sitting on the Week 10 slate, who'd have figured that this one would turn out to be one of the most exciting of the bunch? With both teams down but not out in the NFC East and South respectively, this game was played as if it were a playoff game. And, given their highly competitive divisions... this game may well have Post-Season implications. Washington, at 5-4, is now in 3rd place and a mere 1 win behind the first place G-Men (6-3). Meanwhile, the NFC South is wound tighter than a schizophrenic on a caffeine high. Tampa's 6-3 record has 'em tied for 2nd with Atlanta, and the surging Panthers are also 1 win ahead of both clubs. With Washington coming off a hard-fought Week 9 win against Philadelphia, they may have looked past the Bucs' and their young and inexperienced QB. Foolish mistake; a long-standing NFL axiom is to NEVER look past ANY opponent! But the young Bucc’ (Chris Simms) outplayed his veteran Redskin (Mark Brunell) counterpart in impressive fashion, and the Redskin D suffered a collapse. Chris Simms was drafted in the 3rd round of the '03 draft as the "future of the franchise," but Gruden soured on him... perhaps unfairly. But, once QB Brian Griese went down with a season-ending knee injury during the Week 6 tilt… Gruden was left with few options, turned to “Simms Jr.,” and he hasn’t been disappointed by the results. Son of legendary Giant QB Phil Simms (and unforgettable SuperBowl hero), the younger Simms enjoyed a career-best game Sunday, throwing 3 TDs, no INTS, and for 279 yards on 15 completions. Simms and greybeard pass catcher Joey Galloway clicked harmoniously Sunday, and with Simms at the helm… Galloway retains value over the seasons’ final third. Galloway snared 7 for 131 and a score. Simms’ youth was tempered by Mike Alstott’s experience at the Running Back position. Which brings us to this critical point. Rookie Bucc’a’back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams started the season off in hi-gear… but after suffering a foot injury, and essentially being run into the ground by his coach, Williams has struggled since returning to the lineup. Prior to his foot injury Caddy’ had rolled-up 3 consecutive 125+ yards games, he’d notched scores in 2 of the 3 games, and had ripped off runs of at least 25+ yards in each affair. Now, back in action and off the Trainer’s Table… we see a different Carnell Williams. Cadillac is NOT running with confidence, he’s not cutting on a dime like he had in Weeks 1-3 (though team observers claim otherwise during practices), and he seems to lack burst. Again, a telling stat’; before his foot injury… Caddy’ rolled for an average of 4.9 YPC. Now? Caddy’s got a flat; dude’s running for less than 2 yards per tote. That, my fantasy friends, is a dramatic drop-off in production. In Williams’ stead Sunday stepped veteran of many a Tampa war, the aforementioned RB Mike Alstott. Alstott, no stranger to injury himself (he’d suffered a career-threatening neck injury), lowered his head and won the game when he successfully crossed the money-stripe on a crucial 2-point conversion. Alstott was an effective G-Line runner all afternoon, and certainly warrants a Waiver Wire look. With Williams struggling and Pittman floundering, Gruden WILL turn to his veteran runner. The 250 pound Fullback is about as easy to stop as an Oil-Tanker, and Alstott recorded scores on earlier rumbles of 2 and 1 yards. Initially, Gruden and his band o’ Buccs’ were content to kick the EP’ and play for OT. But, when the over-zealous ‘Skins leapt off-sides in their attempt to block the kick… and the ball was placed half-the-distance as a consequence, Gruden simply couldn’t kick a gift-horse in the mouth. In came Alstott, 2-point conversion successful, game over. The resurgent Buccaneer defense deserves much credit. Although the unit is aging, they can still get after the QB (Brunell was Sacked twice) and force big plays. The Tampa D forced Bru’ to fumble on both Sacks and they picked him off twice, as well. This coming Sunday, Washington has a date with a potentially potent Raider offense. The Black and Silver D is, however, a very middling group. Oakie’ has lost 2 straight and 3 of their last 5. With Portis churning out a 4th 100+ yard rushing effort (actually, C-Port ran for 144 yards and 1 TD) this past week, he’s a rock-solid start against a Raider run D that allows opposing backs almost 120 per. I’d also start WR Santana Moss. Although TE Chris Cooley (also a credible fantasy start) is the only other legit’ ‘Skin receiver, Moss could break one or 2 against a pass D that permits almost 220 passing yards per week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will cross swords with the Atlanta Falcons and their very iffy run D. Although RB Carnell Williams should start in most formats as the Falcs’ cede 115+ ground yards FB Mike Alstott should again see Red-Zone work. Hot-Lanta also fields a 16th ranked Air defense… and, if you’re feeling lucky, plucky Chris Simms could enjoy a 225/2 afternoon. Given the rapport QB and receiver seem to be developing; WR Joey Galloway is a reasonable “WR 3” start.

Kansas City at Buffalo: "With Holmes' career in jeopardy, Larry Lil' J." Johnson IS the back of the future. If you managed to handcuff yourself at the season's start... bravo! Johnson has been breathtakingly productive. If not... and you're in a "Keeper" league, try and trade for him. Relatively durable and as slick as Teflon, Johnson has more wiggle than a bowl of Jell-O. (playing) Buffalo (and their awful run D) this week, LJ's a "Must Start." The Bills just don't have enough firepower to out-point the surging Chiefs, who've won 3 of their past 4. Look for DE Jared Allen to make life VERY difficult for Bill QB Kelly Holcomb, and Bill back Willis McGahee is the best of the Bill skill po' players today. ...keep in mind that the Chiefs' 26th ranked pass defense surrenders a butt-load of passing yards each week (to more precisely define "butt-load," it's almost 261 passing YPG), thus QB Kelly Holcomb and Wideouts Lee Evans and Eric Moulds should help ease some of the offensive load placed upon the Buff' back"

Well here was a largely unexpected outcome. After Bill QB Kelly Holcomb left the game after suffering a 2nd Quarter concussion, 2nd year Signal Caller J.P Losman reclaimed his position over Center. Losman was furious at his early season demotion, but given the quality of his play... one could hardly blame the Bill brass for benching him. After a solid Week 1 (170/1) outing against lowly Houston, Losman's play plummeted; J.P recorded consecutive Passer Ratings of 33.8 (Week 3 Atlanta) and 34.0 (Week 4 New Orleans). With an entire season in jeopardy, the Bills trotted out QB Kelly Holcomb. The more experienced Holcomb immediately rendered WRs Eric Moulds and Lee Evans relevant, and made RB Willis McGahee far more dangerous by legitimizing the pass. This past week... SWEET REDEMPTION! Losman clearly benefited from his benching. An arrogant, over-confident QB left the field Week 4 after connecting on a scant 7 passes for 75 yards with a pick, and a more poised, more prepared QB assumed the field Sunday. The Bills never doubted Losman’s ability… they simply felt the man-child needed more time. And, if Sunday's 2+ Quarters (9/16 for 137 with 2 TDs and no turnovers) of work are any indication, Losman is finally ready to direct this offense. WR Lee Evans was pleased with his QBs play; Evans snatched 2 TDs and accrued 66 receiving yards. RB Willis McGahee (20 totes, 66 yards, a lost fumble) was not, however, the fantasy factor his owners hoped he’d be. His Chief counterpart, however, RB Larry Johnson, was UPS personified; "Larry delivered." Last week, against Oakland, Johnson's strong running (155 total yards/2 TDs) and waning moments score earned him a hero's celebration. This week, Johnson (178 total yards, 0 TDs) again ran with power, balance, and speed, he again posted solid fantasy figures, but was unable to single-handedly pull out a "W." Chief Field General Trent Green saw his career-best streak of 159 consecutive passes without an INT snapped; Buffs' tuff' secondary picked Green off not once... not twice... yeah-boy, thrice (3)! Green had a butt-ugly day, taking a whopping 6 Sacks, losing a fumble, tossing those picks we discussed, and posting a ghastly-bad Passer Rating of 41.7. Not helping matters? KC's sloppy play. The Chiefs were penalized 8 times for 65 yards. Unlike Chief fans, fantasy buffs are able to walk away from this game appreciating the following; hangin’ 4 solo Tackles, 2 Sacks, and forcing a fumble, DE Jared Allen WAS a one-man wrecking crew. Likewise, TE Tony Gonzalez has regained his fantasy value. Due to KC's iffy O-line, Gonzo’s been forced to stay home and block. Over the past 3 weeks, though, the prolific pass catching TE has hauled in 20 passes for 248 yards and a touch'. As he has been for so many seasons, Tony Gonzalez is a lethal receiver and a nightmare to cover. Looking towards this coming week, KC has a cake-walk of a game as they visit Houston. The Texans boast a terrible pass defense, are terrible against the run, and EVERY Chief skill po' player is worth starting. Buffalo, on the other hand, has a VERY tough game against a San Diego team that hopes to visit MoTown in January. While the Bolts’ brag the #1 ranked run D and are holding foes under 80 ground yards per… their pass D leaves something to be desired. It's that whole "Yin and Yang" thing as the Chargers' Secondary allows almost 250 passing per, and is ranked 30th. If you're thin at the receiver position, young WR Lee Evans is a decie' vertical threat, and Eric Moulds is as savvy as can be.

Dallas at Philadelphia: "Philly's season is ON THE LINE. ... Coach Andy Reid has eschewed the run game in favor of the passing game, but if the boys from P.A are to win... it'll be because RB Brian Westbrook played a considerable role. Look for Reggie Brown to emerge as a credible receiving threat... and D-Nabb' to put forth a heroic effort. Still, I look for the Dallas D to control the tempo of the game, RBs Marion Barber and Julius Jones to control the clock, and the 'Pokes to escape with a 3 point W."

C’mon… I was close. The 'Boys split town with a 1 point win. It was, though, a stunning victory to be sure. The Cowboy win also underscores the point that, no matter what you do, and no matter how you play the game, NEVER count an opponent out until the game clock reads 00.00. It was a timely S Roy Williams interception that cooked the Eagles' goose, so to speak. With 2.43 left in the 4th, McNabb threw an ill-advised pass that Williams returned 46 yards to pay-dirt. Why the Eagles, exactly, were throwing the ball at that point in the game is a question better left for Philly' coach Andy Reid. Even Roy Williams couldn't believe an obviously hernia hurtin' McNabb was dropping back to pass. For 4/5 of this tilt, the Eags' controlled the tempo of the game and dictated its pace. They finally gave the ball to versatile RB Brian Westbrook, and Westy' (86 rushing yards and a TD, 32 receiving yards) didn't disappoint on his 21 touches. But, alas, the Cowboys scored twice within the space of 21 seconds (WR Terry Glenn scored on a 20 yard TD pass), and Philadelphia dropped its 3rd straight the first time they've dropped 3 consecutive since the '99 season. After being roundly criticized for their obviously lop-sided, pass-heavy offensive scheme (prior to this game, the Eagles threw the ball on 72% of their plays) the Eagles ran successfully on the Cowboys; in addition to Westbrook's solid game, the bigger RB Lamar Gordon recorded 57 rushing yards. Further, the Eagles controlled the pace of the game for 55 or so minutes. In the end, though, the Cowboys got to ride off into the sunset of this all-important divisional Monday Night Football match-up. As mentioned in my "Pick 'em" blurb, Philly's (in last place in the NFC b'East) post-season hopes are on life-support. This Sunday the Eags’ lock up with the NY Giants. The G-Men are stinging from their own last-minute loss to the Vikings this past week, and make for a mean and ugly opponent. McNabb, already hobbled and hampered by his hernia, will have DEs Osi Umenyiora and Mike Strahan breathing down his neck all day long. RB Brian Westbrook is a solid start, however. Check the IR McNabb might sit this one out, though I doubt it. Dallas, lucky to have escaped with this W, has a date with D-troit in their Home Dome Sunday. The Lions looked… good, frankly, this past week, and they always play tough at home. With the NFC East knotted-up, coach Parcells will have his 'Boys ready to play, however. QB Drew Bledsoe and WRs Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn are decent starts against Detroit's 16th ranked Air D. Likewise, RBs Julius Jones and Marion Barber could find room to run against a run D that permits 105+ per game.

New England at Miami: "Brady calls out his team; they're not motivated, they lack fire, etc. They respond with a nice effort. The Phin O has clearly benefited from the presence of Coordinator Scott Linehan…. That being said, Miami QB Gus Frerotte lacks touch and frequently over/underthrows open receivers… RBs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have formed a nice 1-2 punch, with Williams enjoying his best game of the year last week. The 'Phins have dropped 4 of their past 5 including last weeks' game against Atlanta, wherein Falc' Field General Mike Vick did his best Johnny U. impersonation. If the 'Phins allowed Vick and his sub-par pass-catchers to ignite, then the Patriots deeper corps could blow. Both TEs Watson and Graham could play a role in this one, and while each can catch the ball... Graham seems to be the better pass catcher of the 2. Just check the IR, he's got a banged-up shoulder. Look for a rock-solid Sunday from New England from Tom Terrific... the sole concern? The run game. With Dillon nicked-up and Pass hobbled, issues abound."

There was a subtle thread of intrigue that ran through this game... a thread that may have escaped the casual fan. This game was tantamount to a chess match. Friends for 23 years, the experience and proven NFL brilliance of Patriot coach Bill Belichik was pitted against the moxie and "forward-thinking" of college prodigy and NFL newcomer Nick Saban. Belichik pulled-out all the stops and proved utterly resourceful Sunday. Without RBs Corey Dillon or Patrick Pass to turn to, Belichik ran Heath Evans out onto the field. Heath... Evans? Evans, a virtual no-name, was good enuff'... 111 combined yards good, and good enough to keep the 'Phin defenders back on their heels. Here's the irony, though; Heath Evans was cut by... you guessed it! Miami's new coach Nick Saban. Clearly, Evans had an axe to grind. With a reasonable but not gaudy run game to rely upon, Brilliant Brady had an iffy (21/36 275/2/2) but again... a "good enough" game. Good enough to guide his Patriots to a much-needed W. After losing the Week 9 game to the Colts by double diggy' points, Brady called his teammates out onto the carpet and stated that they "lacked fire." An injury-riddled (4 Offensive starters were sidelined, and the Defense has obviously been weakened by S Rodney Harrison's loss, amongst others) Patriot team responded to their leader's challenge. Indeed, a Patriot TE played an integral role in the much needed win, New England's 21st Divisional win of the last 25 Divisional games. With TE Daniel Graham sidelined with a shoulder injury, TE Ben Watson stepped-up and caught 3 passes for 37 yards and 2 TDs. The Dolphins were in this game until the very end. With less than 3 minutes remaining in regulation, Miami was actually up by a point with the score 16-15. This was the score after a failed 2-point conversion. Coach Nick Saban, figuring that a 2 point lead was as worthwhile as a 2 legged-stool, opted for the conversion that would afford them a Field Goal lead. But the conversion failed, "Brilliant Brady" got his hands on the ball, and needed only 2 plays to claim a lead. The "closest thing to Joe Montana" hit WR Tim Dwight for a 59 yard gain, and followed that up with a 17 yard scoring strike to TE Ben Watson (his 2nd TD reception of the day). Miami wasn't finished yet, though. Frerotte drove his fellow Phins' downfield and actually forced the Pat' D back to their own 5 yard line. The New England D stiffened like cement at that point, and Saban will be 2nd guessed for opting to pass on 4 straight downs. One of Gus's passes, the 3rd down attempt, resulted in RB Ronnie Brown getting dropped for a 5 yard loss. Why Saban didn't try to pound Brown, who averaged over 4.5 YPC Sunday, across the Stripe is curious. This week, the Pats' face a New Orleans franchise that has dropped 4 straight, and a semi-ridiculous 7 of 8. "Semi-ridiculous" because, well, they ARE the 'Aints. Look for that team to give rookie 5th-round pick QB Adrian McPherson a look sooner rather than later. Athletic but bisquit-headed QB Aaron Brooks is like the girl with the curl. When Brooks is good... he's very good, and when he's bad... he's VERY bad. Back-up slinger Todd Bouman's also been around the league and does not possess a starter's skills. McPherson is, however, an intriguing talent. The Dolphins will oppose the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. Cleveland has dropped 4 of their last 5 games, and has been bludgeoned by opposing Running Backs. The Browns yield over 130 rushing yards a week, and both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are solid starts. Brown (18 touches to Ricky's 12 this past week) is slowly emerging as the lead back and will probably be the better start. But, seeing as how Cleveland apparently can't stop a toddler from waddling into the 'Zone, Williams constitutes a reasonable "Flex" start.


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