Daily Archives: December 12, 2010

Patriots/Bears 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. This week, we tuned into the snow spectacular between the Patriots and the Bears.

Deion Branch celebrates in the snow for the Patriots, via espn.com

The Patriots jumped out to a 33-0 halftime lead in bad weather en route to a 36-7 victory. With the win, the Pats clinched a playoff spot, and coupled with the Jets’ loss, New England now is firmly in the driver’s seat in the AFC East. The Bears fell to 9-4, but with the Packers’ loss in Detroit and Aaron Rodgers’ injury, Chicago still has a great chance to make the playoffs.

On-field thoughts
*Wes Welker, who had eight catches for 115 yards, is the perfect receiver for bad weather and snow games. He is so effective in short spaces that high winds don’t affect his targets, and when he gets rolling he’s tough to tackle on a slippery track. If you wonder why the Pats have been so effective in the snow, Welker is a prime reason.
*While Welker had a great game, Tom Brady’s was even better. Brady starred with 369 passing yards, including an impressive down-field throw to Deion Branch at the end of the first half that went for a 59-yard touchdown. Brady is great in bad weather, which makes the Pats even more dangerous if they lock away home-field advantage in the AFC.
*BenJarvus Green-Ellis was equally tough to bring down on the bad track. He has developed into a physical runner who may not break a lot of big runs but who keeps the chains moving regularly. He’s a weapon the Pats haven’t had in the running game since Corey Dillon’s early days as a Pat.
*Devin McCourty, the Pats’ first-round pick, has emerged into a play-making corner. His forced fumble against Johnny Knox in the second quarter broke the game open, because Gary Guyton picked it up and returned it for a touchdown. McCourty has six interceptions this season and is a prime contender for defensive rookie of the year.
*DE Eric Moore, whom the Patriots added after the UFL season this week, had a sack, another tackle for a loss, and a forced fumble. Moore had a terrific training camp for the Panthers this season but lost out to several young players and draft picks. He could be an incredible late-season find for the Pats.
*We haven’t focused much on the Bears in this post, and that’s because they looked awful in the bad weather. While the Patriots rose to the occasion, the Bears fell flat. Jay Cutler threw two interceptions, and the Bears lost two more fumbles. Meanwhile, when Chicago had chances to make plays on defense, balls bounced off defenders’ hands. For the Bears to truly contend against the league’s best teams, the defense will have to make some of those plays.

Fantasy Football perspective
*We’ve said it before, but Green-Ellis should be starting for your team every week. Branch, who has scored three straight weeks and who had 151 receiving yards in this game, joins Welker as a regular starter as well.
*None of the Bears had a good fantasy game, but Cutler is still a weekly starter in most leagues, as is Matt Forte. Johnny Knox is worth starting many weeks as well.

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Rise/Sink/Float Week 14

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.

Rise – Indianapolis Colts – The Colts’ offense rebounded nicely on Thursday night against the Titans, and even if the defense nearly surrendered a big early lead, the 30-point output was a sight for sore eyes. The Colts still trail the Jaguars in the AFC South, but the offensive explosion lets us know that Indy will at least be in the conversation down the stretch.

Aaron Rodgers injured. Photo courtesy msnbc.com

Sink – Green Bay Packers – You can’t really blame the Packers for losing a game in which superstar QB Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the game, but if Rodgers has to miss next week’s game with a concussion, the Pack will undoubtedly take a step back. Matt Flynn simply isn’t good enough to put up major offensive numbers, so even if the defense plays well (as it did in the 7-3 loss at Detroit), Green Bay is in trouble. And with a trip to New England next week, followed by home games against the Giants and Bears, the Pack needs Rodgers to help them to some wins lest the playoffs slip away.

Float – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – It wasn’t pretty, but Josh Freeman led the Bucs to another come-from-behind victory that was punctuated by a botched extra point to clinch a 17-16 win in Washington. The Bucs aren’t an elite team, but they’re good enough to take care of business against mediocre squads, and the schedule sets up for another two or even three wins down the stretch. That would be enough for a playoff berth. Whether or not it happens, the Bucs have taken major strides forward this season.

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Filed under Football Relativity, NFL games, Rise/Sink/Float