We are just about one month through the 2015-16 NBA season, and there has been a lot of excitement here in Real Deal. Let’s take a look back at some of the stuff we’ve seen so far.
We are just about one month through the 2015-16 NBA season, and there has been a lot of excitement here in Real Deal. Let’s take a look back at some of the stuff we’ve seen so far.
Crunch time baby! Turkey Day, Trade Deadline, and Judgment Day, all rolled into one glorious weekend! And this year, we have a double. Just as excitingly, there are still 20 of 32 teams with a shot at a playoff berth, 4 of 8 divisions are still up for grabs, and even the games between teams not in contentions are spectacular. Forget the actual NFL and its fake whistles and boring nonsense and predictability (Protip: New England wins). Instead, this weekend your eyes should be on the RDFL!
But first, week #11!
Game of the Week: New Orleans Saints 201, Cleveland Browns 183
With apologies to the Bills and Patriots who had a closer matchup in a divisional rivalry, what set this game apart was the massive playoff ramifications for both teams and the incredibly close finish – driven by a monster Monday night from Rob Ninkovich and a disappointing evening from Karlos Williams in that same Monday night. This game emphasized once again that the Cleveland. Browns. Are. Cursed. Another strong performance that came down to the wire. 55 Combined points between Rob Ninkovich and Damon Harrison. And still another blown opportunity to knock off a high profile team. Cleveland gets another shot this week at Baltimore… but man would it have been nice to have this one. On the flip side, New Orleans keeps pace with Chicago in the NFC in the mad charge for the wildcard – and possibly sets itself up to challenge for the division title.
Oakland Raiders: There was a time, not so long ago, when the Raiders seemed to have been knocked outside of the playoff picture by three brutally close bad luck losses. My have those times changed. After a 216-166 victory over Detroit, Oakland adds another high profile scalp to its belt and possesses an inside track to the wildcard, with a game in hand and only Tennessee and San Diego left on the schedule. A double victory would give the 11-5 Raiders the first wild card spot – which would result in a Wild Card Game against the winner of the AFC South. Exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that is finally healthy, boasts arguably the best Linebacking Corps in the league in Paul Worrilow, Preston Brown, Dontae Hightower and Christian Jones, and can put up 216 on Detroit even on a major off-day for Jordan Matthews.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yeah, the other team in the NFC South. You know, the one that started the year 9-0? The one we haven’t talked much about with Carolina’s obscene point totals and New Orleans’ hard charge at the wildcard? The one that just beat Philadelphia 229-148 to move to 11-3, retake the lead in the AFC South, and put itself in position for a potential bye week? Yeah. The Bucs, baby! 38 from Doug Martin (yep, only 38 this time) and 31 from LaVonte David will do that. But with two offensive goose eggs, this wasn’t exactly a fluke performance. The Bucs get Chicago and Indianapolis in the closing week, and have an ENORMOUS range of outcomes, from #2 seed in the NFC and a bye in the playoffs if everything breaks right to missing the playoffs entirely on a tiebreaker if the chips fall wrong.
New York Giants: Could have gone a few directions here, but I’ll give it to NYG, who put a nice bye week exclamation point on their season to move to 13-1 and basically seal up the NFC’s top seed (with games against Minnesota and Washington to end the year, one loss is unlikely while two is unfathomable). It’s hard to say this team is truly “rising” since they’ve occupied a slot like this most of the year, but coupled with losses by both Detroit and Arizona, this gives the Giants the separation that the standings and statistics have always suggested they had. The fact that the victory was over Pittsburgh and featured another monster DeAndre Hopkins performance is only the icing on the cake.
Honorable Mentions: Washington Redskins (217-194 over Carolina in a spoiler shocker!), the AFC South (convincing wins by Tennessee, Houston, and Indianapolis all in the same week!), Green Bay and Chicago (ah, ah, ah, ah, Stayin’ Alive!), and Cincinnati (How ironic is it that it’s the BENGALS who finally beat Arizona)?
Carolina Panthers: Going into Week 11, the last time the Carolina Panthers had lost was week 4, to Tampa Bay. The last time the Washington Redskins had won in a non-forfeit was week 7 – also, against Tampa Bay. The Panthers were in a tie for the NFC South lead with Tampa Bay while the Redskins were duking it out with Dallas for the NFC East Cellar. The Panthers were 4th in points scored. The Redskins were 20th. Easy win, right? That’s why we play the fantasy games. Five Redskins defensive players scored over 15 points and nobody on the panthers offense besides Cam Newtown did the same. The result? The Panthers surrender the division lead to (you guessed it) Tampa Bay, and now must fight for their playoff lives, only one ahead of both Chicago and New Orleans for the first wild card. Fortunately, Carolina concludes its season with Dallas and Atlanta, a pair of disappointed 4-10 teams who have been even worse lately after giving up on playoff runs. Carolina should be just fine, but it was a tough week nonetheless.
Baltimore Ravens: Mercy. I thought that Keenan Allen injury was going to hurt Baltimore. But I didn’t expect it to hurt quite THIS much. Before the Keenan Allen injury, the Ravens were 8-3 and averaging 195 points per game. Since the Keenan Allen injury, they are 0-3, averaging 146 points per game, and have brutal losses to St. Louis and Jacksonville (as well as Arizona). What was once a promising season is teetering on the brink. Add to that the devastating injury to the Immortan Joe Flacco, and the Warboys are in more trouble than a warlike desert nomad driving a Geo Prism. But! There is a place for redemption. With week 12 matchups against BOTH Pittsburgh and Cleveland, the Ravens can finish strong and win the division with a strong performance. Baltimore is 0-1 against both of its division rivals this year, so a double victory is critical for a playoff spot. And to get that double victory, they somehow need to find a way to score actual points.
Jacksonville Jaguars: For serious? Win three straight to move into contention for a division championship, make a trade, and then not update lineup from the trade for a game with a division rival and so forfeit both the game and pretty much any chance at the division? Yeeouch. Enough said.
Dishonorable Mention: Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers (that trade with Atlanta is looking increasingly painful), Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks
Games of the Week:
Alright, my friends! Let’s let bygones be bygones. Grab some turkey and pull yourself up a chair, because we got some doozies this week! There are 32 games this week. TWENTY-ONE of them matter for playoff purposes. And most of the others are relevant in the just as heated battle to the bottom for the top picks. (BTW – I’ll note it here. DON’T TANK!!! We are watching. We have eyes everywhere. We will see you. We will catch you. We will take your driver’s license, strap you to a chair clockwork orange style with toothpicks to hold your eyes open and force you to watch an hour of soap opera reruns for every point you forfeit. The top pick isn’t worth it. Field your best lineup. It’s the right thing to do, and maintains the integrity of the league.)
Anyway, it’s going to be awesome! Here’s la creme de la creme!
Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs: East vs. West. 12-2 vs. 12-2. #1 and #2 in Fantasy Points Scored in the Season. Last loss by either team: Week 3. Winner takes the #1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage in a prospective AFC title game showdown. Good times y’all. Good times. Best possible outcome? Gronk gets injured again.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns: Biggest game of the week. Winner of this game has a REAL good shot at the second wild card spot in the AFC behind Oakland. Loser has a real good shot at going home. Both teams are scuffling, with Baltimore having lost three in a row and Cleveland having dropped a pair. Cleveland has looked better recently, and this is setting up to break very nicely for the Browns… but the CURSE. By all rights, Cleveland should win with Flacco and Allen on the shelf. And that’s exactly why you wonder if this is the week Amari Cooper pulls an Antonio Brown, Joique Bell runs wild on Turkey Day, or Vinnie Rey takes a pair of pick-sixes to the house…
Chicago Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Another fantastic game, there is a LOT of wildcard juice and implications around this one for both teams. The Bucs seem to have the better resume here and leaking that incriminating picture of Manziel partying on his bye week was a stroke of genius for TB, who now gets Jake McCown back. It’s hard to pick against the Bears, especially when they are playing a GB defense that has been fabulously porous… but it’s also hard to trust Jay Cutler on Thanksgiving. I think Tampa Bay wins this one and puts a serious dent in Chicago’s playoff hopes.
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans: This just in – somebody ACTUALLY has to win the AFC South. Seriously. I know that’s shocking. But seriously. It will actually have a winner after this week. Indianapolis, Houston, and Tennessee are all still in contention, and this is the only game pitting the two teams against each other. Let’s talk tiebreakers. Indy gets Miami and Tampa Bay. Houston gets Tennessee and New Orleans. Tennessee gets Houston and Oakland. Tennessee and Indy have split. Both Tennessee and Indy have beat Houston. Through a bizarre scheduling quirk, Houston and Indy only play once. This means that there is an absurdly large quantity of playoff outcomes depending on who beats who this week and, if there’s a tie, whether it is a 3 way tie or a 2 way tie. Tennessee is in the best shape. Beat Houston and that win probability goes way, way up.
Other Great Games with Playoff Spot Ramifications: Arizona vs. Green Bay, Atlanta vs. Carolina, Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, Carolina vs. Dallas, Chicago vs. Green Bay, Cleveland vs. Kansas City, Houston vs. New Orleans, Indianapolis vs. Miami, Indianapolis vs. Tampa Bay, Jacksonville vs. New Orleans, Oakland vs. San Diego, Oakland vs. Tennessee, Pittsburgh vs. Seattle.
Other Great Games with Seeding Ramifications: Arizona vs. San Francisco, Buffalo vs. Dallas, Detroit vs. San Francisco, Detroit vs. Philadelphia, Minnesota vs. New York Giants, Washington vs. New York Giants
Yep. It’s gonna be fun! Good luck this week everyone – especially those of you with playoff berths on the line!
That was… close. Week 10 was highlighted by a number of close contests and photo finishes, many with playoff implications.
Three games with playoff bearings were decided by less than 5 points, and another two contests were within 25 points of each other. We also saw a few startling upsets that cast the playoff picture into further disarray.
Game of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers 201, Cleveland Browns 197.
Cleveland. Is. Cursed. The Browns had a clear shot to take out their division rivals. Le’Veon Bell on the shelf. Ben Roethlisberger on the shelf. And since the Steelers only had Vick and Roethlisberger on the roster, it was a zero from the quarterback spot for the Beleaguered boys from the Steel City. Instead, out goes Landry Jones in quarter #1. In comes an injured Roethlisberger as an injury replacement. The Steelers are one of about 2% of fantasy football teams in the universe who had him playing… and Ka-blam. Thirty-three fantasy points later and the Steelers are back on top of the AFC’s weirdest division and the Browns face a must win final three against a brutal schedule. Mercy. You know the curse is alive and well when your divisional rival lobs a guy into the QB spot he KNOWS is getting a zero just to have a legal lineup and that guy scores 30 points and is the reason you lose the game – and possibly the season. CURSED.
Combined with the Jacksonville’s startling 3 point upset of the Ravens, the gimpy Steelers move into sole possession of first place in the North. WIth a sure loss (NYG) and a surer win (SEA), the Steelers season-ending matchup with Baltimore looms large.
Oakland Raiders: No team improved its playoff positioning more this week than the Raiders. Sitting as the fourth-ranked AFC wildcard team, the Raiders dodged a NASCAR style crash in front of them as the Patriots forfeited two games and both Cleveland and Baltimore lost in heartbreakers. The result being that the Raiders vault the Patriots and move into a tie with the Browns and Ravens. Once a long shot, the Raiders are now the top pick for the top wild card spot and a Wild Card Date with the AFC South Champion. This team deserved some luck after their well documented misfortunes, and they just got it in spades. With Detroit looming in week 11, this favorite status may be the equivalent of being first in a Republican Primary poll – but it is much better than where Oakland found itself a week ago.
Jacksonville Jaguars: And here come the hard-charging Jaguars with an exceptional three game winning streak! And I do mean exceptional. Sure, the Jags have only beat Washington, the Jets, and Baltimore. And sure 173 points is their highest point total throughout that stretch. But three games is the LONGEST winning streak by ANY team in the AFC South. And at 4-8-1, the Jags find themselves only a half game out of first place. Now the Jags only average 124 points per game, so it is quite a long shot. But stranger things have happened…
Chicago Bears: Speaking of winning streaks from unexpected places, here come Da Bears! Led by Martavis Bryant (38 points), the Bears laid a 219-132 smackdown on the Rams to move into 8-5 and stay tied with New Orleans for the second and final wild card spot. It’s still a tough battle, as Tampa Bay’s win means that it’s likely EITHER New Orleans OR Chicago, not both. Still, that elusive playoff berth is within sight as the Bears get an easy matchup with the Peyton-less Broncos before their big final week chance against Tampa Bay and Green Bay. No guarantees. But “win and in” is a distinct possibility.
Honorable Mentions: Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts
Baltimore Ravens: I’ve already discussed Cleveland, so I’ll leave them out of this conversation. But it was a tough week for Baltimore who lost a game they really needed to win 173-170 to Jacksonville. It’s obvious that the Keenan Allen injury is hurting this team, as his replacement, Chris Gragg, put up a goose egg. Any production from that position and Baltimore wins this game. The loss is tough – as is the fact that it is hard to see where that production is going to come from in the future – barring some sort of major trade, 65 point offensive performances look like they are hear to stay. Still, like many other teams, the Ravens have control of their own destiny. A win against St. Louis would bring them a week 12 chance against both Cleveland and Pittsburgh. A double victory would bring a playoff spot. Still, at this point, its hard to foresee a double victory as the Ravens scuffle towards the finish line.
Green Bay Packers: It was a tough, valiant, resilient season for the Pack, who overcame injury after injury after injury to contend hard for a playoff spot. But man what a brutal year. If you take a look at any other contender and took away their quarterback, best running back, and best wide receiver, I can’t think of a single team that wouldn’t be devastated. Kudos to the Packers. But it wasn’t to be. The injuries caught up with GB in a 212-160 loss to Detroit, knocking the Packers a game back of both Chicago and New Orleans in the NFC Wild Card. With only one slot up for grabs, it would take flawless football for Green Bay to sneak in, though a dual with Chicago looms in the season finale. First, though, a trap game with feisty Minnesota before showdowns with Zona and Chicago. The Pack need a huge Thanksgiving.
Houston Texans: Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you get 1.5 points TOTAL from 4/7 offensive players and fall by three points to the long-since eliminated Cincinnati Bengals, falling into fourth place in the worst division in football as the Jaguars pass you on the outside. Yeeouch. Nobody is out of the race in the South, especially not when your defense can put up 120 a week like the Texans just did. But like Baltimore and fellow AFC South bubbler Indianapolis, its hard to see where the offense is going to come from to make a run – and there are all of a sudden a LOT of teams for the Texans to catch. The Texans need to beat a suddenly tough Jets team (180 points in week 10) and then beat both Tennessee and New Orleans in Week 12.
Dishonorable Mentions: New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, the Practice Squad
Games of the Week: Ok. So I’ll level with you all. Week 11 is going to kind of suck. Not a lot of great games this week. Lots of tune ups and blow outs and trap games. But stick with us. And I promise you the week 12 double games over Thanksgiving are going to be FANTASTIC. The smorgasbord of week 12 rivalry and divisional contender games with huge playoff impacts is massive. So slog through this week. And get ready for a day of turkey and judgment in the week to come!
Cleveland Browns vs. New Orleans Saints: Who done let them dawgs out in the Bayou? This could be a fun wild card survival game as both teams jockey for position in their respective conferences – on their BYE weeks. Mercy. Hard to say which way the bye weeks swing things. It costs Cleveland more overall players – but it costs New Orleans Drew Brees – the gamechanging gunslinger himself. Smart money is on New Orleans, but maybe Cleveland’s got a karma debt from this past weekend…
New York Giants vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Once a Super Bowl preview, injuries have made this one a little less fantastic. This is an opportunity for Pittsburgh – if they can steal a win against the Giants, it will put them into fantastic position going into the Thanksgiving double. But it’s also a big game for the Giants, who, despite their dominance, have not yet locked up a playoff bye and find both Detroit and Arizona slavering at their heels, and Carolina/TB only a little behind. It still looks like the Giants’ conference to lose… but they cannot afford a misstep.
Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: Another game that has lost a little luster, this one looked like a major showdown, particularly after New England seemingly knocked off the Giants. After a double Practice Squad forfeit, the Patriots themselves are fighting for their lives and likely need to win out to have a shot at a playoff berth. Which means they need to beat the Bills. Easier said then done, as the ultra-consistent Bills posted yet another 200 point game and look for all the world like they might run the table clear into the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans: Get ready for this EPIC divisional showdown between two teams with a combined record of 9-16-1! It just don’t get better than this! Why is this game here? Because if the Jaguars win, it is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that they could find themselves in first place. I don’t think it happens – Jacksonville is due for a dud and the Titans are looking hungry for a win – but it could. And that would be hilarious.
Detroit Lions vs. Oakland Raiders: Hooo mama. Speaking of teams who are trying to steal a win before Thanksgiving, this is exactly where the Raiders find themselves. In some ways, this is the mirror image of the NYG / Pitt contest – Oakland is fighting for its playoff life while the Lions are looking to edge out Arizona for that elusive bye. Already possessing the head-to-head tiebreaker, Detroit simply needs to take care of business from here on out.
Good luck this week everyone – and let’s look forward to some week 12 mayhem next week. And public service announcement – CHECK YOUR PRACTICE SQUADS AND FRANCHISE GUYS.
And now we have chaos.
The AFC North is re-knotted in a three way tie for the division lead. Four AFC teams are even at 8-4, and at least one of them will miss the playoffs. Tampa Bay and Carolina are now tied for the AFC South division lead. Chicago, New Orleans and Green Bay have surged past 6-6 Philadelphia into a 7-5 tie for the second NFC wild card spot. It’s even tense in the bad divisions, where Indianapolis and Houston remain within a game of mighty 5-7 Tennessee for the AFC South, and the hard charging Jacksonville Jaguars are making a move on the outside at 3-8-1… LOL. It’s crunch time with four games to go, and we have more races than we can shake a stick at here at the Real Deal Report.
Game of the Week:
Pittsburgh Steelers 217, Oakland Raiders 211: Finally, a game of the week worth its salt. This one had everything. Epic performances by two desperate teams. Drama. Luck. Huge plays. Comebacks and thwarted comebacks. Even a little bit of controversy. The Steelers traded what seemed to some like spare parts for D’Angelo Williams to replace Le’Veon Bell shortly before the game, and D-Willy went OFF to the tune of 47 points. Coupled with yet another brutal early injury to Eddie Lacy, who scored in negative points, and things looked solidly in hand for Pittsbrugh. Or not so solidly. Sunday night catapulted the Raiders back into contention, as Jordan Hicks took a pick six to the house en route for 29 points and Jordan Matthews caught a 41 yard touchdown strike in OT, pulling the Raiders within just a few points. The comeback was not to be, however, as Josh Lambo nailed a pair of field goals on Sunday night to stave off Oakland, and Pittsburgh moved back into a tie for first place.
The only other possible conclusion is that Oakland somehow offended a shaman with mad voodoo skills. The Raiders have now lost three games by a handful of points, all in weeks when Eddie Lacy went down in the first quarter, and that they almost certainly would have won had he finished – or possibly even been injured the day before so he could have been subbed. Instead of a 10-2 record and a possible top seed in the AFC, the Raiders now most likely need to win out to secure a playoff berth.
NFC Wild Card Outsiders: Chicago and New Orleans both took care of business in week 9 to move to 7-5 and pass the Eagles and tie the Packers for the second wild card. New Orleans looked particularly impressive in a 223-159 shelling of the Tennessee Titans. Drew Brees has returned to monster form for the Saints, Jeremy Langford has slotted in nicely, and the defense has returned to that of previous years. While catching Carolina is probably a tall order, New Orleans is looking like the favorite for the last NFC wild card slot.
AFC Wild Card Outsiders: New England and Cleveland are the two most surprising teams in the AFC wildcard picture this year, and both were showing signs of weakness coming into this week, leading some to speculate whether they were falling off the pace a little bit. Not so much. Cleveland dropped 262 points in Cincinnati behind a 145 point offensive day. The trade for Michael Crabtree (35 points) looks inspired, Antwon Blake (24) continues to be an absolute stud in the secondary, and Blake Bortles (31) and Mike Evans (26) both look well worth prices paid for them. The Patriots were also impressive in a 213-128 beating of the Redskins. Delanie Walker won’t put down 32 every night, but Tyrod Taylor’s return and LeSean McCoy’s inaugural start both bode extremely well for the Patriots. Both teams will face a fight to the finish.
New York Giants: Welcome to the land of the clinched, sir. Welcome to the playoffs. With an 11-1 record and an insurmountable 5 game lead over the 6-6 Eagles, the Giants join the Arizona Cardinals as the only two teams to have officially clinched their divisions. And they did it in style, mauling fellow NFC division leader Tampa Bay 273-151 behind 72 – yes, SEVENTY-TWO points from Antonio Brown. On the one hand, one of the best ever RDFL fantasy performances. On the other hand, New York would have beat a 9-2 team by 50 had Antonio pulled an Eddie Lacy. Not sure which is more impressive. In any case, the Giants are still the team to beat in the NFC, and in all of RDFL.
Honorable Mention: Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars (only 1.5 back!), St. Louis Rams, Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ouch. That thud you hear was the Bucs not showing up for a big game and getting smashed. That panicky gasping sound is the Tampa Bay fans realizing that the Carolina Juggernaut just caught them (and is top 3 in fantasy points), the rejuvenated Saints are only two back, and while all four of their final games (Dallas, Chicago, Philly and Indy) are winnable, not one of them is a gimme. It all comes down to which Bucs team we see down the stretch – the one that torched scoreboards on the route to a flawless start, or the recent Bucs who get 5 points combined from it’s QB and 2 RB positions?
Philadelphia Eagles: We’ve already talked about Oakland’s miserable luck. Philly hasn’t been quite so unfortunate, but the effect has been similar. The Eagles posted five zeroes this weekend, lack a quarterback, and just saw Shady McCoy have his best game of the year – for another team. As if that weren’t enough, they ran smack dab into a Dallas unit that just scored its highest point total in weeks. The Eagles are on life support at this point, a game back of Green Bay, New Orleans, and Chicago – all fighting for a single playoff spot. The Eagles do have winnable games with Miami and Washington on the docket, but also face Detroit and Tampa Bay, and probably need to win out to have a chance at a playoff spot. Hard to do without a quarterback.
The AFC South: Anybody want this division? A week after the Titans post a nice win to take control of the division, they fall back to earth in a 223-159 loss to the Saints. It wasn’t a shameful loss. But it simply wasn’t impressive either, and the Titans fail to take any momentum out of their week 8 victory. In the meantime, Indy gets beat 181-157 by the Denver Broncos ( who were 4-7 going into the game) and Houston mustered only 107 points in a bye week loss to Detroit. This riveting 5-7, 4-8, 4-8 race got more interesting though, as the Jacksonville Jaguars mustered a 147-110 victory over the equally hapless Jets to move to 3-8-1. Like Mike Huckabee, they somehow have to be considered a real candidate for the division despite having absolutely no wins anywhere. Mercy.
Seattle Seahawks: Ok. I have to throw this one in. The Seattle Seahawks just set the RDFL non-forfeit record for fewest points in a game at 27.8 points. Twenty INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS outscored the Seahawks in week 9. That’s right. Twenty individual players outscored Seattle’s ENTIRE TEAM. They were: Antonio Brown, DeAngelo Williams, Marcus Mariota, Aaron Rodgers, Sammy Watkins, Drew Brees, Cole Beasley, Michael Crabtree, Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffery, Linval Joseph, Lamar Miller, Julio Jones, Cam Newton, Delanie Walker, Blake Bortles, Tyler Eifert, Jordan Hicks, Adrian Peterson, and Tyler Eifert.
Let that sink in. The entire Seahawks team was outscored by COLE BEASLEY.
Dishonorable Mention: Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers
Games of the Week:
Carolina Panthers vs. Tennessee Titans: It’s hard to pick against Carolina in this one. They have looked spectacular in recent weeks and are 3rd in overall fantasy points, 2nd in offense and 2nd in defense. And they have a full roster against the Titans who will be down at least a tight end.
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers big reward for surviving Oakland, breaking their losing streak and moving back into a tie for first place? Another HUGE game against one of the teams they are tied with – without a QB. Meanwhile the Browns come off their stellar performance and kick off a concluding schedule of hell that includes four consecutive playoff contenders with a combined record of 33-15.
Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Everything is set up for Detroit to clinch the NFC North championship in this game and deliver a major blow to Green Bay’s playoff hopes. The Lions are back from bye and at full strength and catch the already depleted Colts with three starters on bye, including stud receiver TY Hilton. Still, Green Bay’s forte all year has been resilience. They’ll need to cash in on it big time to stay alive in week 10.
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots: Whichever teams make it in from the AFC are going to be battle tested, that’s sure. While Cleveland and Pittsburgh duke it out with each other and Baltimore licks its wounds from a quirky SECOND game against the Arizona Cardinals, New England gets the best team in RDFL in the Giants. Both teams are at full strength… which would seem to favor the Giants.
Remaining Schedules for Playoff Bubble Teams:
New England (8-4): NYG, Buff, Den, NYJ
Cleveland (8-4): Pitt, NO, Bal, KC
Pittsburgh (8-4): Cle, NYG, Bal, Sea
Baltimore (8-4): Jax, StL, Cle, Pitt
Oakland (7-5): Minn, Det, Tenn, SD
Tennessee (5-7): Car, Jax, Hou, Oak
Indianapolis (4-8): SF, Atl, TB, Mia
Houston (4-8): Cin, NYJ, NO, Tenn
Jacksonville (3-8-1): Nope. I can’t. You have to get to 4 wins before you count as a playoff bubble team. I just can’t.
Philadelphia (6-6): Mia, TB, Det, Was
Green Bay (7-5): Det, Minn, Ari, Chi
Chicago (7-5): StL, Den, GB, TB
Tampa Bay (9-3): Dal, Phi, Chi, Ind
Carolina (9-3): Tenn, Was, Atl, Dal
New Orleans (7-5): Was, Cle, Hou, Jax
Safe teams I did not include: Buffalo, KC, NYG, Detroit, Arizona
Wowweee, what a terrible week for injuries. Steve Smith, Le’Veon Bell, Matt Forte and Keenan Allen highlight this week’s list of the lost – and it’s been particularly devastating for RDFL’s contenders, as Bell, Forte, and Allen are all playing critical roles on teams fighting for their playoff lives. It’s mayhem in the standings too, where both wildcard races are absolutely heating up, with nine teams fighting for four positions (only three if Carolina keeps running away and hiding with 280 point weeks). And with only five more games to go, each game counts for a ton. Add in teams like San Diego, Miami and Dallas who have underperformed relative to their records and are gunning to play spoiler, and you have the recipe for Mayhem. Or at least that’s All-State’s stand.
Game of the Week:
New Orleans Saints 212, New York Giants 189: I’m violating my rule of only picking games where both teams scored over 200. The only one that would qualify would be Carolina over Indy, and while Carolina deserves mad props for their win, a 60 point blowout doesn’t qualify as a classic. So enter the Saints over the Giants, notable both for the closeness of the game and also for it ending the chances of an unbeaten season. Ironically, it is the New Orleans Saints (a stat correction away from an unbeaten season themselves two years ago) who knock the Giants from their lofty perch this season behind a monster 58 point performance from Drew Brees and a 23 point Monday night outing from Roman Harper – the difference in the game. Don’t look new, but the Saints have risen to 6-5 and lurk only one back of the Green Bay Gimp Squad for the second wild card along with Philadelphia and the also rising Chicago Bears.
Carolina Panthers: They don’t get the game of the week, but they do deserve props after hanging 281 points on the Colts. Willy Snead and his 30 points were nice, but it was the 156 point defensive effort (I believe highest defensive score this season) that was the truly impressive piece. Nine out of eleven Panther defenders scored in double figures (with rounding) and Luke Kuechly led the way with 34 points in Carolina’s romp. At this point, the Panthers have to be considered the favorites in the NFC South despite their one game deficit to the Buccaneers. They are 4th in RDFL in fantasy points, have the 2nd ranked offense, and the 3rd ranked defense. Moreover, the Panthers appear to be getting better while the Bucs are losing steam. In any case, the fighting Cammies now have a 2 game cushion for a wildcard spot and appear to be getting better and better each week.
Chicago Bears: Don’t look now, but here come Da’ Bears! After a nice 80 point monstering of divisional rival Minnesota, the Bears are now 6-5 and only one game out of it in the Wildcard, trailing their other divisional rival Green Bay. Things have gotten better for Chicago with the return of Jay Cutler, who scored 19 points, and while the loss of Matt Forte hurts, the Bears can feel fortunate that he didn’t sustain a season ending injury. Even more encouraging, the Bears face a trio of very winnable games (San Diego, St. Louis, and Denver) before ending the season with shots at both Green Bay and Tampa Bay. If Chicago can take care of business the next three weeks and get Matt Forte back for the finale, it is very possible this team could finish 10-6 or 11-5 and take the wild card quite handily.
Baltimore Ravens: This was a tough one. On the one hand, the Ravens pulled out a nice 200-142 win over the pesky Chargers and took sole possession of first place in the AFC North. On the other hand, they suffered arguably the most grievous injury of any team when Keenan Allen was placed on injured reserve. While RB losses like Le’Veon Bell and Matt Forte look more damaging on the surface, no player meant more to his team than Keenan Allen – and no player will cause a more drastic drop off in PPGs. Allen averaged a full 25 points per game, and there is just over a full 20 point drop off to the only possible replacement, Eric Weems. This isn’t a matter of nice depth substitution – the Ravens lose a full 20ppg with this injury. And now they get to try to hold onto their divisional lead against the Arizona Cardinals. Still, it was a nice win and nice to be in sole possession of first place in such a tough division. But man, the cost.
Honorable Mentions: New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mercy sakes alive, what a horrible week for the Steelers. Not only do the defending champs mail it in in an uninspired 166-145 loss to the Bengals to fall out of first place, and not only have the Steelers lost three straight in the first time in forever, but they also lost Le’Veon Bell, the hero of last year’s Super Bowl team and one of the very best RBs on the league. The subs behind him are a little better than Baltimore’s, but not by a lot, and this loss hurts. More concerning, though, is that the Steelers have to figure out how to get the rest of their team to play better – and fast. The slide from 7-1 to 7-4 has come with a 145 point performance in a loss to Cincinnati and a 147 point performance in a loss to Arizona. That won’t cut it with the upcoming schedule – Oakland, Cleveland, NYG and Baltimore, with a cupcake finale at Seattle. If NYG is an assumed loss and Seattle is an assumed win, that means that Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes will likely come down to three games against other AFC playoff contenders Oakland, Cleveland and Baltimore. These next two weeks will be critical. A pair of wins and the 9-4 Steelers have hamstrung their wildcard competition. But two bad weeks and the 7-6 Steelers would have to win out (against NYG at that) and hope for some luck.
New England Patriots: Just when everyone was getting ready to believe in New England and hop on the bandwagon, something like this happens. The Patriots get rolled by an energized Miami team looking to play spoiler. The Patriot defense totally dropped the ball in Miami’s 199-157 win, scoring only 68 points with only two double digit performances. That’s been the knock on this team all along, as the Patriots are the 7th rated offensive team in the league, but only the 24th rated defensive team. At 7-4, the Patriots are locked with Cleveland, Baltimore, and Oakland in a four way battle for only two playoff spots. The schedule the rest of the way holds no surprises, though. Games with Buffalo and the New York Giants should be losses, while games with Washington, the Jets, and Denver should be clear wins. This would put the Patriots at 10-6. Enough for a wild card? Hard to say. Best bet would be to knock off one of the juggernauts to rest easy… but easier said than done. New England is a classic bubble team right now.
Philadelphia Eagles: It’s hard to call a team “Falling” after losing handily to the Bills. Everybody loses handily to the Bills. But the Eagles have now lost their last three games, averaged 168 points per game in that span, and just lost their quarterback to benching. The defense is still very competitive, but the offense is a bit of a mess right now, and not only is Philly trailing the Packers and watching Carolina pull away, they are also facing fresh new wild card competition in the likes of New Orleans and Chicago. Things are looking very dicey for the Birds, who need to go at least 4-1 against Dallas, Miami, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. It’s doable. But not easy. Not easy at all.
Edit: Big trade! I have no idea how much it helps or not. But hey, a QB!
Dishonorable Mentions: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins
Games of the Week:
Arizona Cardinals vs. Baltimore Ravens: I don’t even know how to talk about this anymore. Over the past three weeks, Arizona has beaten Cleveland, Pittsburgh and already Baltimore once. Now, Arizona gets Baltimore AGAIN. And they get Baltimore trying to figure out how to deal with the loss of Keenan Allen. On the one hand, the Cards are due to lose a game. On the other hand, they do seem to have the North’s number and this is a shorthanded Ravens squad.
Carolina Panthers vs. Green Bay Packers: A possible NFC Wildcard preview featuring the current #5 and #6 seeds in the NFC, this can be considered a seeding game. On the other hand, though, this could be considered a “let’s sow major chaos in the NFC game.” If Carolina should win (which seems fairly safe based on the Panthers level of play), it has the potential to toss the NFC into a FOUR way tie for the final wild card spot. While injury plagued Green Bay would love nothing more than to knot things up with Carolina, the fan in me says “yes, please!” to the possible mayhem.
New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This game has the look of a pair of powerhouses looking to right their ships. After suffering their first loss, the Giants are trying to get back to their winning ways. And after a rather pedestrian 142-126 win over the trade-depleted Falcons, Tampa is trying to stave off Carolina in the division. Smart money is on the Giants with DeMarco Murray back from Bye and Tampa Bay facing a hole host of problems on offense, from QB McCown’s injury status to Owen Daniels demotion behind Vernon Davis.
Oakland Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: I had this one circled at the beginning of the year, but I thought it might be for a playoff Bye week, not a wild card spot. Oakland pulled off a nice bounceback 222 point performance to beat the Jets last week and stay on pace, but both teams need this win in the worst way, as the loser will likely find themselves on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff picture. We’ve already talked about the loss of Le’Veon Bell for Pittsburgh, but things are looking up in Oakland, where Benjamin Watson looks like a worldbeater at Tight End and Davante Adams is finally back for the Raiders.
Good luck this week everyone! And get ready for Mayhem!