Daily Archives: September 11, 2009

Suicide pool suggestions – Week 1

Each week, I’m going to give you three suicide-pool suggestions that you can use in your eliminator pools. These, of course, are the pools in which you pick one team a week to win. If your team loses, you’re out for the season, and you can only use a team once. This is one of the more interesting NFL prediction games out there, and it’s easy to do, so you may want to join an online league if you want. (In fact, I’ve created a competition on ESPN.com, in case you want to compete against me and Football Relativity readers.)

I’m providing three to give you options in case you have used teams before, but I’ll only keep my record on my No. 1 pick. I won’t repeat teams in the No. 1 spot, just to keep to the spirit of the game. I’ll also try to identify the trap game to avoid each week to help you avoid the landmines that kill you in a suicide pool.

1. New Orleans over Detroit – The Saints, at home, take on a winless team that’s starting a rookie quarterback. That’s as secure of a suicide-pool formula as there is. I don’t buy the Saints as much as many people do this year, so I like the idea of using them early and saving teams higher in our Football Relativity comparison for later. (Team management is a key test in this game.)

2. Baltimore over Kansas City – The Ravens at home against the Chiefs are a very solid pick – especially if Chiefs QB Matt Cassel can’t play.

3. New England over Buffalo or San Diego over Oakland – In both Monday night games, the home teams are riding 11-game winning streaks over their opponents. I’d prefer to save the Patriots and Chargers for later, because I think they’ll be good. San Diego will have more good shots in-division, and New England is a great team to save because they’re so powerful. But if you want a sure-fire pick to start the season, either one of these will work.

The trap to avoid: Seattle over St. Louis – The Seahawks traditionally have a big home-field advantage, and the Rams were terrible last year. I don’t like the Seahawks as much of a bounce-back team this year, in large part because they’re missing two starting offensive linemen to start the season. St. Louis’ defense is better, even if its offense stinks. Seattle should win, but I could see the Rams’ defense getting going and making this a headache of a game for Seattle. So don’t get cute and take the Seahawks here.

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Titans/Steelers thoughts

A few thoughts on last night’s season opener between the Titans and the Steelers, both from an on-field perspective and from a fantasy football perspective.

On-field
*I feel better than ever about including Tennessee among the top four teams in the league in our first Football Relativity comparison. Even without DT Albert Haynesworth, the Titans have a lot of pass-rush ability in their front four, with Jason Jones and Tony Brown providing it inside. This is a team that’s rock-solid on both lines and that has enough pieces elsewhere to be a tough team. Even though they lost, I’m even more convinced that this will be the best team in the AFC South.

*Pittsburgh is not a perfect team, but it’s a really tough team. This team went through the schedule gauntlet last year and found ways to win even when they’re not at their best. They did it again last night, and it goes to show that they’re never going to go down without a fight. Ben Roethlisberger is the microcosm of his team – always better at the end of the game than at the beginning.

*The injury to Troy Polamalu makes Pittsburgh’s defense less scary while he’s out. While Ryan Clark is a big hitter at safety, he’s not nearly the playmaker that Polamalu is. Without Polamalu, the Steelers will give up more big plays and make fewer, and that will hurt. The defense will still be good, but it won’t reach the special level that it can with Polamalu running around like a man possessed.

*Bo Scaie is really good. He’s the X-factor for the Titans offense. If Scaife can do every week what he did last night, the Titans offense will be a lot scarier. He’s not just a dependable third-down receiver; he’s also a threat to grab a 20-yard chunk at any time. Rookie Jared Cook isn’t going to replace Scaife this year (maybe in 2010 if Scaife leaves as a free agent), but the combo of Cook and Scaife on the field at the same time could be very interesting. Given how well-done Alge Crumpler is at this point, that has to be an option the Titans will explore.

Fantasy Football
*We saw the downside of both Titans running backs last night. Chris Johnson should get at least 50 yards each week, even against the toughest defenses, because he’ll bust at least one big play each week. (Last night it was a 32-yard run.) LenDale White, on the other hand, has very limited fantasy value unless he scores a touchdown. He’ll score his share of touchdowns this year, but against tough defenses he should be benched in most leagues because he’s not going to be a big yardage guy.

*Santonio Holmes has arrived. (This is a real football thought too.) Holmes is a legitimate No. 1 receiver from a real football sense, and he’s starting to take over for Hines Ward in that capacity for the Steelers. On my draft board, I had Holmes in the 20s among receivers, but this performance reminds me of his playoff run enough to say that Santonio is going to be a top-20 fantasy receiver this year. If you drafted him, you got a good deal. I thought Ward’s numbers, on the other hand, were a little higher than they will usually be. He’s more of a fantasy backup in most 10-12 team leagues this year. 

*Scaife is probably going to end up being between 10 and 15 on the tight end chart this year. I don’t count on him scoring a lot of touchdowns, but if you’re in a yardage-heavy leage or even a point-per-reception league, Scaife has more value. He’s not an elite guy, but he’s going to be productive.

*We saw last night what Kerry Collins is as a fantasy quarterback – 200-250 yards and a touchdown most weeks. Those are backup numbers. Roethlisberger’s numbers (363 yards and one TD) will probably fluctuate from week to week, but he does have some fantasy upside this year because he has better targets than he’s had in past years.

*I have two guys in my office who executed the strategy of drafting both Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall for their fantasy teams this year. That’s a dangerous strategy with this team. Although both will play, you can’t start both because you could end up 25 total rushing yards, as they did last year. Parker is the starter, but he’s not going to have a ton of 100-yard games this year, I don’t believe. He’s a borderline fantasy starter. I’m falling off the Mendenhall bandwagon. At one point, I had him as a top-75 player, but I don’t like his running style, and he just hasn’t looked special to me either in this game or in the preseason game I watched this year. He was playing a terrific defense last night, so I don’t want to overreact, but it is time to sound the bust alarm on him.

*I don’t buy Kenny Britt yet, but if he continues to play as a starter, he could end up being worth a spot on your bench. Justin Gage, on the other hand, is probably worth a pick-up in 12-team leagues and bigger. Gage is the No. 1 wideout, and he’s healthy (which he wasn’t last year). He probably ends up as a top-40 wide receiver, which makes him ownable.

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Football Relativity: 2009 predictions

A few days ago, we launched our 2009 Football Relativity Season Preview. Now we’re going to use what we learned to make our 2009 predictions. We aren’t just listing teams in order of our comparison; rather, we’re also considering strength of divisions, schedules, and other factors.

Division Winners:
AFC East – New England Patriots
AFC West – San Diego Chargers
AFC North – Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South – Tennessee Titans

NFC East – New York Giants
NFC West – Arizona Cardinals
NFC North – Green Bay Packers
NFC South – Atlanta Falcons

Wild Cards:
AFC: Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars
NFC: Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers

Championship games:
AFC: Patriots over Chargers
NFC: Packers over Giants

Super Bowl 44:
Patriots over Packers

League MVP:
QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Defensive MVP:
S Ed Reed, Ravens

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