Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NFL WEEK 11 WRAP-UP!

WEEK 11 WRAP-UP!

It is a short NFL week this week, and like so many Football fans… it's my favorite week; Thanksgiving Week!
So, here’s a reminder- submit your lineups and punch in your picks by Thursday morning at the latest! Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta will be bangin’ heads while you and yours gnaw upon drumsticks and knock back glasses of Red Wine.

And now… onto “NFL Week 11”
I’ll start with what was THE most highly anticipated match-up....

FEATURE REVIEW

Indianapolis at Cincinnati: "Indy' has a daunting task on their collective hands... or hooves, or whatever; out-score the hi-octane Cin' City O. The Colts DO have an "'edge" on the Bengs, though, and you can bet RB Edgerrin James will run hard and effectively against the 25th ranked Cincy' run D. Edge' has rushed for a C-note or more in 7 of the Colts' 9 games, has 140+ combined yards in 5 games, and has reached the "6 Point Promised Land" in 6 consecutive games (with 10 total TDs). Although Cincinnati, has been able to force turnovers... their run D has been poor. The Bengs' yield almost 125 rushing yards per week. Look for Edge' to bank 25+ touches, 130+ yards, and 1 TD Sunday. Here's my bet: conversely, I expect the Bengals to attack the strength of the Colt D... its speed, by running Rudi Johnson right at both DEs Mathis and Freeney. Will that be enuff'? Will the Bengs' be able to control the clock? I don't think so. The In-D is very good, and the team is far more balanced. While they still have much to prove, beating the offensively powerful Bengals will go a long, LONG way to establishing the Colts has 'Bowl faves'. Peyton Manning has caught fire, plain and simple. ... Opposing D-Coordinators are scheming against James, trying to prevent the Colt runner from beating them single-handedly, (and) the peerless passer is taking advantage of the opportunities provided him. Over the course of the past 4 games Peyton's thrown 10 TDs to only 2 INTs, and has notched a pair of 300 yard games (Ok I lie... last week he had 297 yards. I'm rounding up). ..the Bengs' will be forced to creep up in order to better defend against the (run), and Peyton will be able to dissect the Cincy' Secondary. Or, so says my "Fantasy Magic 8 Ball." I dare not prognosticate numbers... but I WOULD start TE Dallas Clark (who made his first trip to the End-Zone last week)... After a solid game last week, Colt TE Dallas Clark COULD have the break-out game his owners have been longing for. The promising TE has been the biggest let-down at the position this year, but as he did last season... he could have a solid 2nd half."

Wow- this game was a blast to watch and it certainly lived up to the hype! Palmer (335/1/2) and Peyton (365/1/3) combined for 700 passing yards (slightly under ½ a mile) and 5 TDs Sunday! The primary difference between the clubs was, as expected, the strong running of the Colts’ Edgerrin James. But to attribute Indy’s critical (not to mention awfully impressive) win to a single player diminishes the outstanding efforts of their other skill position players. James DID bank 25+ touches Sunday, he recorded 107 total yards, and he crossed the stripe twice. James' success on the ground forced Cincy's Secondary to loosen up, and Indianapolis’s horses were free to blow out of the barn. Manning was brilliant Sunday, and his numbers have been escalating over the last few weeks. Frighteningly enough for the rest of the National Football League… Peyton and pals seem to be peaking! You want talk diggies’? I’ll show ya’ diggies! Since returning from the team’s Week 8 Bye, Peyton Manning has thrown for 983 yards, with 9 TDs and a mere 2 INTs (again, that’s almost 1,000 passing yards in 3 games!). And, for a 5th straight week, Peyton posted a Passer Rating in excess of 104.0. … I digress- back to the contest at hand. As projected, Colt TE Dallas Clark had his break-out game. The speedy TE has a knack for finding the soft spots in zones and getting himself open, and with a proven ability to catch most anything thrown his way- Peyton didn't hesitate to throw him the ball. Clark hauled in 6 passes for 125 yards and 1 TD. Given the depth of the Indianapolis receiving corps, there was really only so much the Cincy’ D-backfield could do. WR Reggie Wayne took another step forward on his path to #1 “pass catcher-hood”; Wayne recorded 5 receptions for 117 yards (23+ YPC) and a touch’. Although Marvelous Marvin Harrison has twice as many TDs as Wayne with 8, Reggie has notched almost 100 more receiving yards with a nearly identical number of receptions; Harrison has 58, Wayne 59 (on the season). At age 33, Marvelous could finally be slowing down; his YPC average of 11.5 is almost 2 full yards below his career average of 13.1. He remains, however, a brilliant route runner, and both he and Manning share a scary rapport. Look for Reggie to supplant Marvin as the go-to guy next season. As for the Bengals… I would venture to say that, as a team, they are where the Colts were 2 seasons ago. The Cincy’ O can make virtually any defense look bad, as evidenced by WR Chad Johnson’s team record setting (8/189/1) afternoon. But the Beng’ defense needs 2-3 more playmakers, and as a team… they must develop a sense of “hunger.” Take a look at the unit Colt coach Tony Dungy has assembled. After developing a system while in Tampa Bay, Dungy finally has “his guys” in place. And how did Dungy do it? Not with big free agent signings, ala’ Oakland, Kansas City and Minnesota. (those defenses are amongst he leagues’ worst). Nope’, Dungy built his defense from the ground up; he drafted his defenders and brought in guys no one else believed in. Now, athletes such as Robert Mathis (’03 5th rounder, projected as a ‘backer by most teams), Dwight Freeney (’02 1st rounder, his height concerned many teams), and Bob Sanders (in street clothes, Sanders looks more like a Special Team’er) head-line a defense that has legitimate SuperBowl aspirations. Once the Bengals secure like talent… the Secondary remains a real liability and they need a couple of Pass Rushers… they too will vie for a ‘Bowl berth. Until then, however, the Bengals will be fun to watch… And speaking of “fun…” Prior to the game, always chatty Cincinnati receiver Chad Johnson was quoted as saying “even I wouldn’t wanna’ cover me.” After setting a team record for receiving yards with 189… Johnson’s body cashed the check his mouth wrote. QB Carson Palmer enjoyed a rock-solid… bordering on gaudy passing day (365/1/2), marred only by his interception. RB Chris Perry is, perhaps, the most dangerous back-up runner in the league. I’ve been touting Perry’s abilities since Week 3 or so, and the Teflon-slick runner is finally starting to draw national notice. Sunday, the former Michigan star ran for 82 yards on 8 totes, added 41 receiving yards on 4 receptions, and averaged 10.3 yards per run… and 10.3 yards per catch. Although Perry and his fellow Bengals have 2 tough games coming up (Baltimore, Pittsburgh), the team finishes the season with games against the Browns, Lions, Bills and Chiefs. I’m telling you- this guy’s unique. With a Wideout’s mitts and a feature back’s running skills, look for the staff to give Perry added touches down the road. Another member of Cincy’s supporting cast enjoyed a solid Sunday as well; WR Chris Henry. Henry has been mentioned previously in this column as well, and he too was productive against the Colts this past Sunday. The #3 (you can bet he’ll be the 2 next season) receiver banked another TD and 31 yards receiving, and has found the End-Zone twice in 2 weeks. The numbers aren’t flashy… but Henry’s productivity can’t be disputed. Opposing Secondaries are forced to double-up on Johnson, and Henry is a direct beneficiary. Palmer, Johnson, Johnson, Perry and Henry are a nearly peerless offensive group and form the nucleus of an outstanding ball-club, and how the team rebounds from Sunday’s loss will speak volumes. This coming Sunday, the Bengs’ look to do battle with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have disappointed on BOTH sides of the ball. Balty’ QB Kyle Boller is NOT a starting caliber Signal Caller, that fact has become painfully apparent, and RB Jamal Lewis continues to be a “3 yards and a cloud o’ dust” runner. Therefore, in an odd twist, the Bengal D I was just blasting is a VERY worthy start this week. The Raven D has been reasonably stout against the run, holding opposing backs below the century mark each week. Ergo, and I don’t get to say “ergo” very often, Beng’ back Rudi Johnson constitutes a very iffy start. The 4th ranked Raven pass D has been pretty solid, with opposing QBs throwing for under 175 each week. But c’mon, are you really gonna’ sit Carson Palmer or Chad Johnson? No, you’re not.

THE BEST OF THE REST!

Arizona at St. Louis: “The Ram D may be awful, but the O is EX-plosive. I like the Rams to out-point the gaudy 'Zona passing game. This game has shoot-out written all over it, and Warner ranks as a rock-solid start against his old mates. Even without the advantage of a run game, WRs Fitz' and Boldin are excellent plays. … Warner may not be the magician of old... but damn- the old guy can still hang gaudy passing numbers! Look for a 250+/2-3 TD afternoon. … This coming Sunday, Bulger will again face-off against the Cardinals… . In their Week 2 tilt Bulger struggled; his line for the day was 216/1/1, with a fumble and 4 Sacks. … With RB Steven Jackson's full complement of skills finally being put to use, opposing Ds cannot afford to play off the line. And, with both WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce relatively healthy and back in the line-up, and #3 receiver Kevin Curtis (40/587/4 on the season) posting numbers worthy of a #1-2 pass-catcher, Bulger is again top-tier fantasy QB.”

The Cardinals put it together and… surprise, surprise, they beat the Rams. ‘Zona’s win may be more attributable to St. Louis’ G-d awful Secondary than anything else however, and as projected… Card’ QB Kurt Warner popped-off for 285 yards and 3 TDs. Warner has enjoyed spectacular line play in recent games, and after a 0 sack Sunday last week… Warner took but a single Sack this week. Again… as we did last week, let’s put our fantasy hands together for the Cardinal O-line. In addition to great line play Warner’s top 2 receivers, Anquan Boldin (back from injury, he was good for 8/105/1 Sunday) and Larry Fitzgerald (stepping up as a top vertical threat, hung 9/104/1), have been playing inspired Football. The Cards’ have been disappointed by their run game all season, but rook’ runner J.J Arrington (11/45/1) is finally showing signs of life. Arrington has been an impatient runner, more inclined to run up his blockers’ butts than waiting for the hole to develop. Those of you who lack back depth… keep an eye on the young Card’. With Warner playing catch with Fitz’ and Quan’, opposing D-coordinators will defend against the pass first… and J.J could find room to roam. As for St. Loo’… their run game hit an inexplicable hurdle this past week, and bullish RB Steven Jackson notched twice as many carries as yards with 12, and lost a costly fumble. Compounding matters, Ram starter Marc Bulger re-injured that balky shoulder of his, and Jamie Martin was pressed back into starting duty. According to Ram sources, there is substantial swelling and damage, and with nothing to play for… Bulger could be out for the remainder of the season. With the team in a 4th Q’ hole the Rams aired it out, and WRs Torry Holt (11/129/1), Isaac Bruce (4/83/1), and Kevin Curtis (9/98/1) all found the End-Zone and enjoyed solid fantasy afternoons. The Ram’s horrendous D (allowed Arizona to roll-up 372 total yards of O) continues to conspire against what could be an excellent offense, rendering it predictable. This coming week the Rams face a Houston team that is setting the bar for utter ineptitude. Although the NY Jets look to steal the Texans’ thunder for a “burst to worst” and the correlating draft pick, Houston’s run D allows a simply unbelievable 160 YPG, and the Air D permits almost 220 per. Ranked 30th in “Total Yardage Allowed” (opponents have hung an average of 380 YPG on ‘em), look for the Ram passing game to exploit a fictitious Secondary (I’d start all 3 Ram receivers)… and RB Steven Jackson should get back on track. Even QB Jamie Martin is a reasonable spot-start. On the other side… Arizona’s task is not quite so easy. The Cards’ explosive passing attack will be met by the Jacksonville Jaguars and their #1 pass defense (ceding under 160 PYG). Even so, Card’ QB Kurt Warner has been SO out of his mind… he’s a “must start” candidate, as are QRs Boldin and Fitzgerald. Boldin, apparently, has made a rapid recovery from his knee injury.

Carolina at Chicago: “No way the iffy Bear O beats the Panthers.”

Ok, I was wrong… and I hate being wrong. QB Kyle Orton (136/1/1) has done an admirable job of minimizing his mistakes, and the Bear run game (T. Jones 85 yards) is plodding along. The fact of the matter is the Bear D, which is statistically superior to the legendary Chi-town D of ’85, has allowed the marginal offense to remain competitive. This past week the Bear front 4 Sacked Delhomme 8 times! That is domination. For the most part ‘Lina was awful on Sunday. RB Stephen Davis was unable to find a groove (4/6) and his carries were extremely limited, QB Jake Delhomme (235/2/0) was uncharacteristically careless with the ball, and WR Steve Smith (14/169) was STILL ridiculous. Foes KNOW the ball is going to Smith… but they remain unable to do anything about it. For now. Without a doubt, these cats need a complementary pass catcher to emerge. I’d look for RB DeShaun Foster (61 yards on 12 touches) to see an increased workload. He had 12 touches this past week, tripling Davis’s total, and is far more explosive. Sunday, DeShaun and Delhomme are on the road to Buffalo. The Bill Secondary was gashed by San Diego slinger’ Drew Brees this past week… but the Panthers don’t have a receiver like TE Antonio Gates. Still, I like WR Steve Smith in this one. To be honest, I like Steve Smith in EVERY one. The Bears tangle with Tampa on Sunday, and I do NOT envy ‘em. Chicago’s D is as formidable as any in history to this point, and short of starting the Chicago D… I see no one worth using.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta: “Here's my biggest reach. The Buccs' have effectively put the clamps on Falc' QB Mike Vick... except at Home. Vick and the Falcs' whipped the Buccs' last year when playing in their Home Dome. Look for the 1-2 RB combo of Dunn and Duckett to play a factor here. Dunn always runs well at home, and has been he Falcs' MVP. Incrementally, the Hot-Lanta passing game has improved. Rook' receiver Roddy White is developing into a credible deep threat, and TE Alge Crumpler remains a top opp' at his position.”

If I told you Sunday’s game saw a 300 yard effort from a QB… you might be more inclined to believe it was Bucc’ Chris Simms. It wasn’t. Falc’ freak o’ nature Michael Vick took another step forward as a pro Signal Caller with a 306/0/2 afternoon! As expected, TE Alge Crumpler (5/49/1) and WR “Hot” Roddy White (4/108) were fantastic against the above average Tampa Secondary, forcing the Buc’ ‘Backers off the line, and the Hot-Lanta 1-2 punch of Duckett (51/1) and Dunn (102 total yards) made excellent use of the space afforded them. Duckett logged his first trip to the ‘Zone since Week 4, and Dunn recorded his 9th 100 yard (combined) game. Tampa Bay Bucca’Back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams found the road again, rolling for 116 yards on 19 carries. It was Caddy’s first 100 yard game since Week 3, and should go a long way towards rebuilding his crimped confidence. The last second(s) loss by a Field Goal hurts Atlanta, and they’re faced with a critical Thanksgiving Day game against the lowly Lions. I’d start ALL my Falcs’, including WR Roddy White. The D-Troit D is D-pleted. Tampa hosts Chicago… and that will be no walk in the park. Although Caddy’ had a rock-solid effort Sunday… it came against Atlanta’s iffy run D. Think long and hard before trotting him out.

Kansas City at Houston: “The Chiefs could lose this game... but ptobably won't. QB Trent Green hasn't been playing great Football... but the Texan Secondary doesn't warrant great play from the position. Look for RB Larry Johnson to enjoy a rock-solid rushing day, and TE Tony Gonzalez should as well. Gonzo's been coming on strong in recent games, and if ANY pass D will allow him his break-out game? It's this one. The Priest Holmes thing has coach Dick Vermeil in umm, tears. Even if Holmes returns to the field of play... he'll be doing it as a member of another team. At 33, Holmes' time in KC is at an end and the Larry Johnson era is just beginning.”

There’s really nothing much to report…. Other than Chief RB Larry Johnson’s “rock-solid day!” Well, what else would you call a 210+ yard, 2 TD evening!?! Johnson was a machine, and he pounded over, around and through the hapless Houston defenders. The truth of the matter is, the Texans tried to arm tackle Lil’ J on more than 1 occasion and that tells me 2 things; it tells me that Houston is a defeated bunch… which was no mystery and is no great revelation, and it tells me that the Texans have ZERO idea of how to tackle. And, seeing as how opposing runners are now averaging 160+ YPG, that is no epiphany either. KC TE Gonzo went off again, and has finally come round. Tony Gonzalez tagged the Houston Secondary for 98 receiving yards on 9 grabs… but the “greatest Tight End of this era” has scored only 1 TD all season. KC QB T.G scored 3 TDs Sunday night, and Green has a very favorable 2nd half slate. Green hung 220 yards on the Texans, and tossed a pick to go along with his Touchdown trifecta. That’s Ok, it’s nice to Green throwing the ball with confidence again… having a 200 yard rusher in the lineup will bolster ANY Qubes’ confidence. Green has, what could be, a patty-cake passing game on the schedule Sunday. The Chiefs host the New England Patriots and their porous passing D Sunday. The worst (31st) Secondary in the league has seen opposing Signal Callers rack up over 260 passing yards per… and both Green and Gonzo are “must starts.” Likewise, the Pat’ run D is a very middling group. Even with LB Tedy Bruschi back in the middle, New England has allowed almost a C-Note 20 a week… and hot off of his 200 yarder, RB Larry Johnson’s a “must start” in EVERY format. The Texans and their G-d awful D-unit will host the St. Louis Rams. The Ram D has been B-A-D bad, and RB Domanick Davis constitutes a sneaky-good start. Davis has posted average yardage, but the Rams permit almost 130 rushing YPG… and the guy DOES have a nose for the End-Zone. WR Andre Johnson is hampered by his QB, David Carr, and the team’s lack of a complementary receiver. Nevertheless, against the Ram defens-SIEVE backfield…a Secondary that has seen opposing passers post almost 245 per… Johnson is a fine “Flex” start.

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