Monthly Archives: November 2010

Football Relativity Week 12

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity tool. We’ll indicate as we go which teams are moving up and down from the Week 11 comparison.

Philip Rivers against the Colts, via

10 – Atlanta Falcons (UP A LEVEL), Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers – We covered the Falcons’ upward flight in Rise/Sink/Float this week. We’ll learn a lot more about the other four teams on this level this weekend, as the Jets face the Patriots and the Steelers face the Ravens in key division battles. We discussed the Patriots and Jets in our Thanksgiving thoughts, so we’ll let those insights stand. The Steelers dodged a bullet in Buffalo, winning 19-16 in overtime against one of the grittier teams in the league. Steve Johnson drop or not, that was still a nice victory to get. The Ravens got another nice victory, beating the upstart Buccaneers 17-10  in a game that shows their defense still has teeth. Thankfully, both of the 10-level games are in prime time so that we can all be witnesses.

9 – Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles – We didn’t move either the Eagles or Packers down after road losses against conference foes this week. The Packers fell in Atlanta 20-17, but that wasn’t a sign of trouble. Neither was the Eagles’ 31-26 loss at Chicago, even though Michael Vick went from immortal to merely superhuman against the Bears’ speedy 4-3 defense. The Bears could well be the worst matchup Vick could face defensively in the NFC playoffs.

8 – Chicago Bears (UP A LEVEL), New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers (UP A LEVEL) – We discussed the comeback wins by the Saints in Thanksgiving leftovers and of the Giants in our Sunday game thoughts. The Chargers put an incredible whipping on the Colts on Sunday night, returning two interceptions for touchdowns and consistently marching the ball up and down the field offensively. San Diego looks primed to make its typical December charge, and even though they remain a game behind the Chiefs, the Chargers are a big-time AFC threat. The Bears have a terrific defense, and that plus Devin Hester returning kicks is a winning combination as long as the offense holds onto the ball. Jay Cutler, Mike Martz and company have done that in recent weeks, which is a big reason that the Bears are charging forward to 8-3. And this week, Cutler made the plays to total four touchdowns against the Eagles (without an interception), leading Chicago to a 31-26 victory over the Eagles. The Bears are real threats to hold off the Packers in the NFC North.

7 – Indianapolis Colts (DOWN A LEVEL), Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Colts fall for the second week in a row after a devastating Sunday night loss against their nemesis San Diego. The Colts will fail to win 12 games this year for the first time in eight seasons. We predicted that things might start falling apart for the Colts last year, and it looks like we might just have been a year too soon. (Of course, we went on to pick the Colts to win the Super Bowl this year, so we get to be wrong twice – hooray.) The Chiefs and Buccaneers are kind of mirror images of each other. Both are young teams on the come who fall just a bit below elite teams but remain solidly in playoff contention. Both teams are certainly headed in the right direction, and it looks like the future is now.

6 – Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams (UP A LEVEL) – We talked about the Jaguars in this week’s game thoughts. The Dolphins rebounded from last week’s debacle against the Bears with a 33-17 road win against the Raiders, and Chad Henne reestablished himself as not just the best future QB option for the team but a solid present-day option now. Sam Bradford of the Rams led St. Louis to a 36-33 win in Denver, and getting a road win is the next step in the progression of a growing team. With trips to Arizona and Seattle and a home game against the 49ers pending on the schedule, the Rams hold the keys to the NFC West in their hands. Our money’s on them to get the job done.

5 – Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – We covered the Titans’ decline in Rise/Sink/Float. The Raiders blew a golden opportunity against the Dolphins, losing a home game that looks costly in the AFC West race. The Texans took advantage of their opportunity, beating the Titans and rookie QB Rusty Smith 20-0. That doesn’t mean all of Houston’s problems are solved, but perhaps that lucky scheduling can lead to a win streak. The Redskins lost a home game 17-13 to the Redskins and remain a mediocre team that plays close every week but rarely gets over the hump.

4 – Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers (UP A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks (DOWN A LEVEL) – We discussed the Cowboys in our Thanksgiving leftovers. The Browns got another win against the Panthers, going up big early and then holding on late for a 24-23 decision. Peyton Hillis is a huge asset for the Browns as they seek to build a solid team. The 49ers controlled the Cardinals en route to a 27-6 Monday night win, but RB Frank Gore suffered a season-ending hip injury. Still, getting that kind of solid effort was a nice sign for the 49ers, who have been better over the last month or so. The Seahawks’ home-field advantage didn’t get them a win against the Chiefs, and the loss puts Seattle in worse position in the NFC West.

3 – Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings – We discussed the Vikings in Rise/Sink/Float. The Bills lost a heartbreaking 19-16 overtime game against the Steelers, in part due to Steve Johnson’s crucial end zone drop. The Joker has had a terrific year, and he wore the hat (to use the expression) and took blame for the loss after the game, which is a good sign. But at some point, Buffalo needs to break through in a close game, because losing – even in overtime for the third time – is contagious. The Broncos fell behind big early at home against the Rams and couldn’t come back. Their passing game is solid, but the defense is so bad it limits what the Broncos can do.

2 – Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions – We discussed the Bengals and Lions in Thanksgiving leftovers. The Cardinals looked awful against the 49ers, and while bad QB play has a lot to do with it, the rest of the team is pretty sorry too.

1 – Carolina Panthers – Carolina showed signs of life in Cleveland and would have gotten a road win had John Kasay made the field goal as time expired. That’s a plus sign, and the fact that Jimmy Clausen got in position for that field goal is a plus as well. Carolina’s light at the end of the tunnel is if youngsters like Clausen, Brandon LaFell, and David Gettis start to develop with the opportunity to play over the final quarter of the season.


Filed under Football Relativity

Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud Week 12

Each week, we sort through the box scores to determine what fantasy football performances we should applaud, and which are merely frauds. As always, we’ll give more details about what each verdict means as we break it down.

In our two game thoughts posts this week, we have already analyzed several players:
Check out the Thanksgiving leftovers post for thoughts on QB Shaun Hill, WR Brad Smith, and RBs Chris Ivory, Maurice Morris, and Felix Jones
Check out the Jaguars/Giants post for thoughts on QB David Garrard, RB Brandon Jacobs, and WR Mario Manningham

Jay Cutler against the Eagles


Sam Bradford, Rams – Bradford threw for 300 yards for the first time in his career and tacked on three touchdowns without an interception in the Rams’ win over the Broncos. However, fantasy owners should remember that the Broncos’ defense is one of the league’s worst, which means Bradford is a questionable play, especially away from home, going forward. Verdict: A fraud

Jay Cutler, Bears – Cutler had a nearly perfect game, throwing for 247 yards on just 21 attempts with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles. The Bears have trimmed the turnovers out of their offense in recent weeks, and Cutler seems to be doing a better job dealing with protection problems in front of him. He’s a borderline top 10 fantasy quarterback who deserves lineup consideration in fantasy leagues. Verdict: Applaud

Toby Gerhart

Running backs

Toby Gerhart, Vikings – When Adrian Peterson went down, Gerhart, a rookie out of Stanford, stepped up with 76 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. If Peterson misses a game, Gerhart is certainly worth a start in leagues of 10 teams or more. If Peterson is limited, then Gerhart would need to stay on your bench. Still, given Peterson’s uncertain status for Week 13, we’re clapping. Verdict: Applaud

Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson, Panthers – Stewart returned from injury and ran for 98 yards in the Panthers’ one-point loss to the Browns. But Goodson still got the start, and he totaled 136 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. Our sense is that Goodson is now a flex play in leagues of 12 teams or more, while Stewart is a flex option only in leagues that are at least two teams bigger. It’ll be interesting to see if both players can remain effective going forward. We’d bet on Goodson over Stewart if forced to pick just one Panther. Verdict: Applaud for Goodson, A fraud for Stewart

Mike Tolbert, Chargers – Tolbert, who has been a scoring machine, had another touchdown with the Colts but perhaps more impressively rambled for 103 yards as well. Whenever Ryan Mathews is out, Tolbert is a must-start, and even if Mathews returns Tolbert can be a solid flex play because of his nose for the end zone. Verdict: Applaud

Jacoby Ford

Wide receivers

Earl Bennett, Bears – Bennett, Cutler’s old college teammate, caught two touchdowns against the Eagles. Bennett is behind Johnny Knox in the Chicago receiver pecking order, but he’s worth a pickup as a guy who can step up as an emergency fantasy contributor. Verdict: Applaud

Davone Bess, Dolphins – With Chad Henne returning to the lineup, Bess immediately returned to fantasy relevance with six catches for 111 yards. Whenever Henne is playing, Bess should be in your lineup. Verdict: Applaud

Jacoby Ford, Raiders– Ford, a rookie receiver out of Clemson, had a monster game against the Dolphins, catching four passes for 108 yards and a score, returning a kickoff 101 yards for a score, and rushing for 13 yards as a little bonus. Ford has now had 100-yard receiving games in two of three games and has two kickoff returns on the year. From watching a lot of Ford’s games in college, we can tell you he has sprinter speed but also football smarts and toughness, despite his slight size. He’s a player on the come, so grab him now and see just how good he can be. Verdict: Applaud

Jordy Nelson, Packers – The Donald Driver injury situation has opened the door for the Packers’ backup receivers to step up, and this week it was Nelson, not James Jones, that was the productive one. But Nelson’s 61-yard day, which included a touchdown, is not something you can expect every week simply because of the Pack’s deep list of options at the position. Verdict: A fraud

Ben Obamanu, Seahawks – With Mike Williams sidelined by injury, Obamanu had a huge game with five catches for 159 yards and a score. If Williams misses next week’s game, Obamanu is worth a start. Regardless, he should be picked up as a potential hot hand going into the fantasy playoffs. Verdict: Applaud

Tight ends

Billy Bajema, Rams – Bajema had two touchdowns against the Broncos, but he had just three total touchdowns. He remains behind Michael Hoomanawanui (who also had a TD catch) and Daniel Fells in the Rams’ tight end depth chart, and that means Bajema isn’t worth a claim. Verdict: A fraud

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November 29, 2010 · 5:36 pm

Jaguars/Giants thoughts

Each week, we focus on one game and share our thoughts on it, both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective. We already focused on the Thanksgiving Day games; now we turn our attention to the Giants’ 24-20 come-from-behind victory over the Jaguars.

The Jaguars, who had won three straight coming into the game, seemed to have this game under their control until a third-quarter interception gave the Giants new life. The win was huge for the Giants, who broke a two-game losing streak and some of the echoes of their recent late-season swoons, and it’s a big lost opportunity for the Jaguars as they try to unseat the Colts in the AFC South. After an extended look at the Jaguars, we don’t know if they’re a good team, but we’re certain they’re an above-average squad that has the potential to win nine games or more.

Mario Manningham scores for the Giants, via

On-field Perspective
*The Giants were playing without WRs Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks, but they still got big plays in the passing game from Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss. Eli Manning has a knack for making big plays in the clutch, and his two second-half TD passes were another example of that. Manning isn’t always clockwork efficient, but he tends to make the right play in the clutch, which is a great trait for a quarterback.
*The Giants didn’t create a massive pass rush for most of the game, although Justin Tuck and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul made some big plays late when the Giants started blitzing heavily. Still, the lack of a consistent pass rush is a question mark, since the Giants’ strong suit is supposed to be its front four. That question mark looms even larger because, by and large, the Giants weren’t able to exploit a Jaguars line playing without both starting tackles.
*Jaguars QB David Garrard is not a consistent passer, but he remains a threat to make plays with his legs, as he did on his incredible second-quarter touchdown. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, Garrard’s consistency waned in the second half, as an errant throw led to a Mike Sims-Walker bobble, which led to a Terrell Thomas interception. Garrard finished just 20-of-35, and he may have suffered a wrist injury on the final drive.
*Jacksonville has a fairly deep receiving corps, but Sims-Walker is inconsistent, and Mike Thomas’ only breakaway play was brought back by a penalty. We wondered why the Jaguars claimed ex-49er Jason Hill on waivers, but given Hill’s size we wonder if they’re trying to replace or at least inspire Sims-Walker to play with more consistency and reliability. MSW had a three-drop game in this one, and that kind of effort from him is far too familiar for the Jags.
*While the Jaguars’ passing game wasn’t sterling, their running game was. Maurice Jones-Drew (21 carries, 113 yards) kept the Jags in front of the chains, and backup Rashad Jennings (7 carries, 53 yards) did a good job, especially in the first half. Both guys are assets.
*As for the Giants’ runners, Brandon Jacobs (14 carries, 87 yards) looked better in this game than we’ve seen him in a while. Still, Ahmad Bradshaw (49 rushing yards, 34 receiving yards) is the breakaway threat who can also move the chains for the Giants, and despite his fumbling issues, we believe he should be getting more carries.
*Antrel Rolle was one of the Giants’ high-profile defensive additions in the offseason, but he was unnoticeable against the run and in pass coverage in this game. He did make a couple of nice plays on the blitz, including one shared sack with Tuck, but the Giants need more out of Rolle given his high price tag.
*Ross Tucker praised Jaguars rookie DT Tyson Alualu’s play, but no other Jaguars defenders really popped off the screen. The most impressive was probably LB Justin Durant, who had seven tackles and two passes defensed and was the one Jaguar we saw winning plays.

Fantasy Football Perspective
*Despite this game, we don’t believe that Jacobs is anything more than a flex option going forward. His 87-yard performance is pretty much the apex of what you can expect from him yardage-wise given Bradshaw’s consistency.
*Garrard isn’t consistent enough to trust as a fantasy QB. He has the potential to have big games, but he’s also going to hang around in this area (162 passing yards, 41 rushing yards, rushing TD) too often to help you win.
*Manningham is a fantasy starter as long as Smith and/or Nicks is out. Right now, he’s the only Giant wideout you can trust in your lineup.


Filed under Football Relativity, NFL games

Rise/Sink/Float Week 12

Each week, we preview teams that are moving up and moving down in our weekly Football Relativity comparison. We’ll analyze all 32 teams on Tuesday.

Atlanta's Michael Turner against the Packers, via

Rise – Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons proved they belong with the NFL’s elite with a 20-17 home victory over Green Bay. In a hard-fought game, the Falcons drove down the field in the final minute for a game-winning field goal. Matt Ryan was incredibly efficient, and Michael Turner also ran well. The defense also limited the prolific Packers to just 17 points. Atlanta has emerged as a complete team and a threat to win the Super Bowl come February.

Sink – Tennessee Titans – The Titans proved punchless with Rusty Smith at the helm, getting shut out 20-0 by the usually porous Texans defense. Chris Johnson ran for just five yards, and the most fight the Titans showed was when Cortland Finnegan got into it with Andre Johnson. The Vince Young imbroglio isn’t to blame, but Tennessee right now has the look of a team that’s collapsing down the stretch instead of making a playoff run.

Float – Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings got a win in Leslie Frazier’s debut as head coach, but a four-point win over the Redskins isn’t reason for great celebration. We’ll have to see how the Vikes build on the success – especially with Adrian Peterson hurting – before we start to ratchet them up the comparison.

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Forever Young, or for now? Week 12 Transactions

Vince Young on the sidelines.

Image by rexhammock via Flickr

Each week we share insights, analysis, and opinions of the week’s transactions. To see previous posts, click this link and start working back.

The most notable move of the week was Tennessee’s decision to put QB Vince Young on injured reserve with a right thumb injury. Of course, the transaction itself is only part of the soap-opry story going on in Nashville. Young hurt his thumb against the Redskins, and he thought he was healthy enough to be able to return to the field. But the coaching staff disagreed, opting for rookie Rusty Smith in what ended up being an overtime loss. Then, all heck broke loose, as Young openly defied head coach Jeff Fisher in the postgame locker room, and Fisher announced that Young wouldn’t be the starter, injury or not. Smith will start until Kerry Collins is healthy enough to take over, and Chris Simms returned to provide depth.

The question now that Young has gone on IR is whether he will ever start for the Titans again. Young has apologized to Fisher, but the head coach has seemingly tired of Young’s rabbit ears, moodiness, and work ethic. That last item is the one that could ultimately keep Fisher from giving Young another chance. One of the big storylines of the offseason will be whether the Titans give Young another chance, and if they do, whether Fisher is part of that decision or uses that choice as an excuse to leave the Titans after a 17-year run that dates back to Houston Oiler days.

In other moves this week…

Redskins (put RB Clinton Portis on injured reserve, promote RB James Davis from practice squad)  – Portis has had an injury-plagued year with just 54 carries in parts of five games, and his latest injury will likely end his Redskins tenure, if not his career. Portis has had a fine career, but he has so many miles on his legs that it’s hard to see him being a major contributor going forward. With Portis down and Ryan Torain dinged up as well, the Redskins promoted James Davis, a former Brown, from the practice squad to complement Keiland Williams.

Dolphins (put C Cory Procter on IR, add C Eric Ghiaciuc) – Procter is the second Dolphins’ center to be forced onto injured reserve. Ghiaciuc, who has bounced around in recent years, provides depth behind replacement Richie Incognito.

Buccaneers (cut DT Ryan Sims, promote DT Frank Okam from practice squad) – The Bucs let veteran Sims, a former top-10 draft pick in Kansas City, go and promoted Okam, who has spent time with Houston and Seattle this year.

Bengals (put DT Tank Johnson on IR, add CB Fred Bennett) – Johnson, who has done a nice job in his two years in Cincinnati, went on injured reserve with a knee injury. His roster spot went to Bennett, a former starter in Houston.


Filed under Football Relativity, NFL Free Agency, NFL Injuries

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Saints/Cowboys, Patriots/Lions, Jets/Bengals

Most weeks, we focus on one game and share our thoughts on it, both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective. But this week, we’re going to present our thoughts on all three Thanksgiving Day games. After we feature the Saints’ 30-27 victory over the Cowboys, the Patriots’ 45-24 win over the Lions, and the Jets’ 26-10 victory over the Bengals, we’ll throw in some Fantasy Football perspective for dessert.

Malcolm Jenkins (27) chases down Roy Williams to make the biggest play of the day. Via


Saints/Cowboys thoughts
*The premiere individual play of Thanksgiving Day was Malcom Jenkins’ forced fumble against Roy Williams late in the fourth quarter. Willams broke free in the secondary with the Cowboys’ leading by four, but Jenkins caught up and ripped the ball out to force a fumble that set up the Saints’ game-winning drive. While some outlets blasted Williams for a boneheaded play,Williams didn’t make a bad play; Jenkins made a great one. There’s an important difference.  So it’s hard to blast Williams for the loss.
*The Cowboys fell behind early 17-0 but rallied, which shows that Jason Garrett has added quite a bit of fight to a team that would have rolled over in that situation a month ago. Despite losing a fourth-quarter lead, that’s a good sign.
*While the Cowboys showed some fight, they had a bunch of mistakes – seven fumbles (even though only two were lost) and an interception. It’ll be interesting to see if Garrett and the coaching staff can eliminate mistakes down the stretch.
*The Saints won largely because they could make deep plays against the Cowboys’ struggling secondary. Devery Henderson’s 57-yard catch set up the first touchdown, and Robert Meachem’s 55-yard streak down the right sideline set up the game-winning score. Drew Brees threw beautiful passes in both situations, and without both plays, the Saints would have been sunk.

Wes Welker breaks free against the Lions. Via


Patriots/Lions thoughts
*The Patriots’ offense doesn’t miss Randy Moss at all. Tom Brady threw four TD passes, two each to Wes Welker and Deion Branch, in a complete dissection of Detroit’s mediocre secondary. And the Patriots’ running game looked good with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Those two runners, though unheralded, bring more punch and explosiveness than veterans Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk did at the beginning of the year.
*I felt bad for former Wake Forest star Alphonso Smith, whom the Patriots absolutely abused throughout the game.  Smith, a former second-rounder, has been a nice addition for the Lions since they dealt a former seventh-rounder (Dan Gronkowski) for him before the season, but this game showed that Smith is a nickelback, not a starting corner.
*While the Patriots’ offense was strong, it was interesting to hear Brady talk after the game about how strong the Lions’ defensive line is. Rookie Ndamukong Suh was especially forceful, recording a sack and wreaking even more havoc. But it was Patriots CB Devin McCourty, not Suh, that was the best first-round rookie on the field. McCourty has developed into an asset for the Patriots’ defense. Now they just need to find a corner who can thrive across from him.
*The Lions went for a touchdown on fourth down (much like the Cowboys did against the Saints). It was the kind of decision that a playoff team can’t make, but for a team trying to establish an identity, we like the move. Jim Schwartz doesn’t have the defense he hopes to one day, but we like the team and the culture he’s building in Detroit.

Santonio Holmes, via

Jets/Bengals thoughts
*Brad Smith isn’t on the top 10 list of Jets you would expect to single-handedly win a game for the team, but he did just that against the Bengals. His 53-yard run and 89-yard punt return were the two biggest plays of the game. Smith is a niche player, but the Jets know that he can help them from time to time if given enough chances. He certainly did Thursday night.
*The Bengals’ offense just isn’t strong enough to hang with a solid team like the Jets. Carson Palmer threw for just 135 yards, and he threw two interceptions, including a key red-zone turnover in the second quarter. Given the targets Palmer has, he simply must do more to keep his team in games.
*The Jets did a good job defenisvely in the game, although they didn’t make a ton of big impact plays. If the Jets continue to get efforts like that one, they will get enough offense from their running game and the Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes combo to be solid playoff contenders.
*While there’s a lot to dislike about the Bengals, we’re bullish on the future of rookie WR Jordan Shipley, who had a TD in this game. Shipley is a Wes Welker type of player who should really make an impact for Cincy in future years. The other hat tip we have is for Bengals NT Domata Peko, who plays hard and makes an impact despite his low profile.

Fantasy Football perspective
*New Orleans RB Chris Ivory scored two touchdowns against the Cowboys, but he likely won’t be a fantasy factor as Reggie Bush starts to get reintegrated into the offense and Pierre Thomas returns. We hope you took advantage of Ivory’s role when he had it, because he won’t be much more than a short-yardage back (at best) going forward.
*Felix Jones had just 44 rushing yards for the Cowboys, but he also had seven catches for 69 yards. Since Jason Garrett took over, Jones has had at least 86 yards from scrimmage in each game. That makes him a fantasy flex play. However, the fact that the Cowboys continue to use Marion Barber and Tashard Choice over Jones on the goal line keeps Jones from being more of a factor.
*Jahvid Best was active but did not play for the Lions, which opened the door for Maurice Morris to score two touchdowns. It’s hard to rely on Best at this point given his injury problems, but Morris is the definition of a journeyman back. Don’t get too excited about his performance.
*With Matthew Stafford out, Shaun Hill remains a decent fantasy option. He threw for 285 yards and a touchdown in this game, and he’s good enough to take advantage of Detroit’s solid cadre of targets.
*While Brad Smith scored twice against the Bengals, he’s not a consistent enough producer to be worth a fantasy football roster spot.


Filed under Fantasy Football, Football Relativity

Pick ‘Em Week 12

It was another middling week last week. We’d be thankful for better results this week.

NCAA picks
Texas A&M -3.5 at Texas
Auburn -4.5 at Alabama
Arizona +20 at Oregon
Boise State -14 at Nevada
Michigan +17 at Ohio State
LSU +4 at Arkansas
Florida State -3 vs. Florida
N.C. State +2.5 at Maryland
Clemson +3 vs. South Carolina
Georgia Tech +13 at Georgia
Oklahoma State -3 vs. Oklahoma

NFL picks
New Orleans -4 at Dallas
Atlanta -2 vs. Green Bay
Jacksonville +7.5 at N.Y. Giants
Chicago +3.5 vs. Philadelphia
Tampa Bay -7.5 at Baltimore
San Diego +3 at Indianapolis

Last week: 3-3-1 college, 4-5-1 pro, 7-8-1 overall
Season: 33-48-2 college, 36-41-5 pro, 69-88-7 overall

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Suicide Pool Suggestions Week 12

This week, we face a dilemma in the suicide pool picks. Do we continue to follow our tradition of picking against the Panthers? Or do we go another direction? Here’s what we decided on to keep our streak going…

Shonn Greene of the Jets

1. Jets over Bengals (Thursday night) – On a short week, we’ll bet on a good team to beat a bad team, especially at home. The Jets have played a ton of close games recently, but the Bengals have such a bad habit of falling behind that we can’t put any stock in them. The Bengals may make it look better in the end, but we believe the Jets will get it done.

2. Browns over Panthers – If you’re looking for an exotic pick, keeping with the tradition of going against the Panthers gives you a good option this week. The only caveat we have against picking the Browns is that Cleveland has made a habit of losing close games this year, and so if this one ends up being close, something crazy could happen. Still, this game deserves consideration.

3. Raiders over Dolphins – Do you really think Tyler Thigpen is going to go into the Black Hole and get a win? The Raiders have been playing too well for that to happen. So go against the banged-up Dolphins on a cross-country road trip.

Traps to avoid – Giants vs. Jaguars, Steelers at Bills – The Giants seem like a good bet at home, but Jacksonville has been playing well recently and should offer a challenge to a banged-up Giants team. The Steelers, likewise, are more talented than the Bills, but Buffalo has won two in a row and puts up a ton of points. We could foresee an upset here, so just stay away.

Week 11 – W Baltimore (at Carolina)
Week 10 – W Tampa Bay (vs. Carolina)
Week 9 – W Green Bay (vs. Dallas)
Week 8 – W Kansas City (vs. Buffalo)
Week 7 – L New Orleans (vs. Cleveland)
Week 6 – L Chicago (vs. Seattle)
Week 5 – L Houston (vs. N.Y. Giants)
Week 4 – L Tennessee (vs. Denver)
Week 3 – W Baltimore (over Cleveland)
Week 2 – W Oakland (over St. Louis)
Week 1 – W N.Y Giants (over Carolina)

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Filed under Football Relativity, NFL games, Suicide Pool Suggestions

Football Relativity Week 11

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity tool. We’ll indicate as we go which teams are moving up and down from the Week 10 comparison.

And since we didn’t do our normal game thoughts this weekend, we’ll give some extended thoughts on what we saw.

10 – Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers – The top four in our comparison stay the same, although there’s little difference between this level and the 9 level. The Ravens handled the Panthers just as they should. This week, they’ll face a much sterner test in the Buccaneers. The Patriots beat the Colts 31-28 at home, and if their offense can score 31 points a game, they’ll be incredibly dangerous down the stretch. The Jets got another late win with a 30-27 victory over Houston. Winning ugly is still winning, and it’s a contagious trait that can keep things going down the stretch. The Steelers handled the Raiders easily, showing that despite their injury problems on both lines, they can still get the job done.

9 – Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers (UP A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles – The Falcons took care of business in St. Louis with the kind of road win that indicates a good team. They are far scarier indoors than out, but if they can seize NFC home-field advantage, they could stay inside all the way to the Super Bowl. The Packers had another convincing win, and their defense is playing even better than Aaron Rodgers right now. That’s saying something. The Eagles weren’t as dominating this week as last, but getting back-to-back division wins in the NFC East is always an accomplishment. These teams are the class of the NFC, and any of them can win the Super Bowl.

8 – Indianapolis Colts (DOWN A LEVEL), New Orleans Saints, New York Giants (DOWN A LEVEL) – As many teams move up the rankings, we pulled the Colts and Giants down despite narrow losses. Both teams are incredibly banged up right now, and that contributes to their decline. The Colts’ offense continues to put up pretty good points numbers, but injuries on defense – especially to Gary Brackett – have really hurt. But even though they have fallen out of first place in the AFC South via tiebreaker, they still should be able to make the playoffs even if they don’t keep their 12-win-season streak intact. The Giants are banged up at wide receiver, and their October hot streak has faded. They’re still threats, but they are now below the Eagles in the NFC East. The Saints had a solid win coming off the bye, and Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are on the way back. They’re still going to have a say in what happens in the NFC in the playoffs.

7 – Chicago Bears (UP A LEVEL), Kansas City Chiefs (UP A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers (UP A LEVEL), Tampa Bay Buccaneers – We discussed the Chiefs’ promotion in Rise/Sink/Float. The Bears also rise, largely because their defense is playing at a terrific level. The Bears’ offense isn’t wonderful, but a good defense could well carry the Bears into the playoffs. The Chargers will have to ride their offense if they’re going to make the playoffs, but Philip Rivers continues to put up major numbers. Now he gets Vincent Jackson back, and Antonio Gates shouldn’t be far behind as he returns from injury, and that makes the Bolts incredibly dangerous. The Buccaneers had a very mature win in San Francisco, and the fact that they could win 21-0 on the road is a statement of just how real the Buccaneers are. Their game in Baltimore this week will be fascinating to watch.

6 – Jacksonville Jaguars (UP A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins (DOWN TWO LEVELS), Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Jaguars move up to this level, which is just below what we believe to be playoff level, with another close win at home. Jacksonville still faces three road division games, which makes us skeptical that they can get to nine or 10 wins, but you have to admire the Jags’ moxie. We covered the Dolphins’ decline in Rise/Sink/Float. The Raiders got blown out in Pittsburgh, but we want to see if they can take care of business against the injury-plagued Dolphins this week before we start moving them down. The Titans lost QB Vince Young (at least physically and maybe mentally), and they’re not going to make a playoff run behind rookie Rusty Smith.

5 – Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins – We explained why the Redskins are staying put in Rise/Sink/Float. The Texans blew another lead late against the Jets and fell two games behind in the AFC South. It’s hard to see this team recovering to make a playoff push this year. The question is whether they can save Gary Kubiak’s job. The Rams were handled by the Falcons in a 34-17 home loss, showing that while St. Louis has potenial, it is far from contender level. Still, they remain just one game behind the Seahawks in the division after Seattle lost in New Orleans. Both teams need to take care of business at home to get to 8-8 and win the NFC West.

4 – Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys (UP A LEVEL) – The Browns lost on a last-second touchdown in Jacksonville. Cleveland has been competing, but they must start getting wins (starting this week vs. Carolina) if they really are going to start on an upswing. The Cowboys won their second straight game and seem to be reenergized under Jason Garrett. It may be too little, too late for 2010, but if Garrett starts to build a culture that players believe in, the second half of the season can still be a success.

3 – Buffalo Bills (UP A LEVEL), Denver Broncos (DOWN A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings (DOWN A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Bills move up after their offense exploded for 35 second-half points in Cincinnati. Now that they have a couple of wins under their belt, they’re dangerous and could pull an upset or two down the stretch. The Broncos didn’t put up much of a fight in a 35-14 Monday-night loss to the Chargers. The ESPN crew did a good job of showing what Josh McDaniels does well – making the blocking on his play-action passes look just like the blocking on runs – but also showed how McDaniels is sometimes too clever by half in his play-calling. The example on which Shaun Phillips wasn’t blocked because the fullback Spencer Larsen couldn’t get across the formation to do so was an example. McDaniels has a sharp offensive mind, but he seems to be doing play-calling for a video-game, not for real players, and that’s a big reason that Denver’s big offensive numbers haven’t resulted in wins. The Vikings cut ties with head coach Brad Childress after a 31-3 loss to the Packers, and now Minnesota’s season seems to have gone down the toilet. It’ll be interesting to see if the Vikings can turn things around over the last six games, or if they have gotten too old on both the offensive and defensive lines to even approximate their 2009 performance. The 49ers were shut out at home by the Buccaneers in a clear sign of which team is ascending and which team is dead in the water.

2 – Arizona Cardinals (DOWN A LEVEL), Cincinnati Bengals (DOWN A LEVEL), Detroit Lions (DOWN A LEVEL) – We realigned this level by moving three struggling teams down. The Cardinals’ quarterback play has scuttled their season, and it’s not going to get better in 2010. Who knows if Matt Leinart would have been the answer, but by this point he would have gotten a shot just for lack of better ideas. The Bengals had a 21-point lead in the first half against Buffalo but ended up losing by 18. They put up some passing statistics, but that’s really just putting lipstick on a pig. The Bengals are horrible, and Marvin Lewis (whose contract is up) probably can’t wait to get away from this motley crew. The Lions are still competitive, but Matthew Stafford’s continued injuries have limited their upside. They just don’t have enough talent to play consistently for 60 minutes.

1 – Carolina Panthers – The Brian St. Pierre experiment wasn’t horrific, but it serves to show that the Panthers just don’t have the offensive werewithal to compete against even decent teams right now. John Fox’s career with the Panthers, which has been pretty good on the whole, is coming to an ugly end.

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Crazy Kicker of Week 11

Mike Scifries at the Chargers' practice on Aug...

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Mike Scifres of the Chargers is a great punter, but he’s had an awful year. San Diego has gone through five long snappers, and as a result Scifres has had four punts blocked this year. But Scifres got his revenge on Monday night against the Broncos, converting a 28-yard pass to Mike Tolbert on a 4th-and-14 play in the first quarter. The play was impressive, because Scifres actually had to wait for Tolbert to break free before he completed the pass up the middle. It’s Scifres’ first career completion in three attempts. For these shenanigans well executed, Scifres is the Football Relativity Crazy Kicker of the Week.

2010 Crazy Kickers of the Week
CFL: WR Dave Stala, Tiger-Cats
Preseason Week 1: P Brett Kern, Titans
Preseason Week 2: PK Robbie Gould, Bears
Week 2: PK/Kickoff Rob Bironas, Titans
Week 5: Punter/holder Dustin Colquitt, Chiefs
Week 7: Punter Reggie Hodges, Browns
Week 8: Punter Steve Weatherford, Jets
Week 9: DT/PK Ndamukong Suh, Lions
Week 10: PK Phil Dawson, Browns
Week 11: Punter Mike Scifres, Chargers

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