Real Deal (Football) Report – Super Bowl Preview

I have a mixed opinion personally on last week’s results.  On the one hand, I went 2-0 and totally nailed who was going to the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, it means that the Super Bowl now consists of two teams that I picked to miss the playoffs and finish either 3rd (Dallas) or last (Pittsburgh) in their own divisions.

In one, minor way, last week validated my awesome predictive powers.  In another, deeper way it pointed out just how terrible I am at this.  So keep that in mind as we move into prediction mode.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Super Bowl Preview

First, last weeks results.

Pittsburgh Steelers 202, Buffalo Bills 183

This game ended up being closer than it seemed.  Pittsburgh decisively won the offensive matchup 115-53 behind big games from Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Jarvis Landry, and Markus Wheaton.  Buffalo responded with defensive dominance, winning 109-61.  With special teams about even, Buffalo’s defensive dominance just wasn’t quite a match for Pittsburgh’s offensive advantage.

The thing that looms largest over this game, though, are the men who didn’t play – Mr. Nicholas Foles and Mr. Julio Jones.  The Bills got 4 points from Kyle Orton at the quarterback position, and 4.5 points from Philly Brown at the W/R flex spot.  If Foles and Julio Jones both play and get 15 points (league average for a QB and well below Julio’s per game average), The Bills are advancing to the Super Bowl.

Here’s the other thing that looms large, though.  ALBERT WILSON.  He contributed a key ten points and a million intangibles on the way to a Pittsburgh victory.

I’ll say more about Pittsburgh in predicting the Super Bowl, but want to congratulate Buffalo on an outstanding season and some aggressive trading to put themselves in position to almost make a Super Bowl.  Congrats Buffalo!  I selfishly hope you’ll regress next year… but kinda doubt it!

Dallas Cowboys 226, Green Bay Packers 159

I didn’t think this one was going to be close.  And it wasn’t.  Though in this case, it wasn’t really Green Bay’s fault, but a stroke of severe misfortune that Aaron Rodgers was inexplicably stymied for the first time all year by a Buffalo Bills defense that didn’t allow him a single touchdown.  It was a game effort by the Packers, but when Aaron Rodgers and Jamaal Charles combine for 11.5 total fantasy points and not a single player scores more than 20, it’s going to be hard to when too many games.  Just a bad time of year to suffer an inexplicable dud from their studs.

Dallas, meanwhile, cruised to the win behind a 138 point offensive outburst featuring franchise man Dez Bryant and much maligned off-season trade Devin Hester.  Congratulations to Green Bay for waiting until the NFC Championship game of year two to suffer their first ever elimination, and best of luck to the Packers next year – given the stars on this team in their prime, I’m guessing they’ll be back and be a force for a long time to come.

Onto the Super Bowl… For both Pittsburgh and Dallas, these championship games were coronations of sorts.  Both teams have been clearly the best teams in their respective conferences going back to week one.  Dallas faced some stiff competition from the New York Giants, while Pittsburgh surrendered the #1 seed to the Bills down the stretch, but at the end of the day, both the eye test and the points scored metric labeled these two teams as the best in their conferences.  Both squads are loaded with playmakers on both offense and defense, and just as importantly, both teams have risen to play their best fantasy football in big games.  This will be a spectacular Super Bowl, and I can’t wait to see how the dust settles.

Onto the predictions… I’ll go position by position and pick my edge…

Quarterback:

Tony Romo vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Edge: Pittsburgh

Both of these guys are good, and it is hard to bet against Romo, particularly after what he just did to the Eagles, and particularly with DeMarco Murray out and against a relatively porous Colts pass defense (Roethlisberger, for what it is worth, gets the Chiefs).  I think, though, that we encounter a familiar frenemy on Sunday in the old Tony Romo.  Consider – he’ll be at home in December with a playoff berth on the line and with DeMarco Murray out.  Who really thinks he’s not going to throw a ton of interceptions?  I think Big Ben has a tough day in KC throwing downfield, but gets his points on checkdown passes to Le’Veon “I think I might go for 50 again” Bell.

Running Backs:

Lamar Miller vs. Le’Veon Bell

Edge: Pittsburgh

Oooof.  This should have been a battle of superstar running backs.  Le’Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray have been the best RBs in the league all year – and it is not surprising that the two biggest stud backs are the biggest reasons these two teams are here today.  But with DeMarco almost certainly out with a screw in his hand, Dallas will have to turn to Lamar Miller, who has been decidedly inconsistent.  Miller does not have a 100 yard running game yet this year, and has not broken 20 points a game yet this year.  Le’Veon, on the other hand, has broken 20 more often than he has not and has not gone for less than 30 points in a game since LeGarrette Blount was released.  Make no mistake, the step down from DeMarco to Lamar is huge, and this is Pittsburgh’s biggest advantage.

Wide Receivers:

Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon, Devin Hester and John Brown vs. Markus Wheaton, Jarvis Landry, Doug Baldwin, and Albert Wilson

Edge: Dallas

Whatever edge Pittsburgh gains from the Running Back spot, Dallas gets back in the passing game, as Bryant, Garcon and Hester are all capable of going off for huge games on any given day.  Even John Brown is averaging 10 points a game, and is capable of breaking one deep – though Ryan Lindley will almost certainly prove a giant wet blanket filled with led weights to his value.  On the Steeler side of things, these receivers have been some of Pittsburgh’s greatest surprises.  Everyone knew that Roethlisberger and Bell were going to be good.  But nobody expected (or at least not me!) that Markus Wheaton, Jarvis Landry and Doug “I define unremarkable” Baldwin would do what they have (combined to average over 40 ppg together).  And, of course.  ALBERT WILSON.  He’s the wild card.  He affects gravity.  Physics and Math stop working when he’s around.  Dez Bryant might catch 6 touchdowns and still score fewer fantasy points than Doug Baldwin – even if Baldwin only catches one pass.  These are the sorts of things that happen around Albert Wilson.

But, if normalcy holds, the WR position is a big strength for Dallas, who futures current superstars compared to Pittsburgh’s future ones.

Tight End:

Delanie Walker vs. Larry Donnell

Edge: Dallas

Larry Donnell has been a very good Tight End this year.  But he has also been a very touchdown dependent tight end this year.  More to the point, it has been five full weeks since he has scored in double digit fantasy points – coincidentally, the last time he caught a touchdown.  Delanie Walker, meanwhile, has produced whenever he has been healthy, and faces a very nice match-up this week.  Once again, I expect the current star to outperform the future one.  Of course, Donnell could catch three touchdowns again…

Defensive Line:

Chris Clemons, DeMarcus Ware, Andre Jones, Sen’Derrick Marks vs. Tyrone Crawford, Datone Jones, Jurrell Casey, and Kyle Williams

Edge: Pittsburgh

Both teams play a 4-3, an interesting point not lost on me as I consider roster construction for next year.  And neither team has a tremendously strong front four.  Pittsburgh’s squad is very strong in the center with Jurrell Casey and Kyle Williams eating up tackles, but weaker on the sides where Crawford and Jones combine to average only 10 points per game.  Dallas is a little bit more well-rounded, but even Sen’Derrick Marks lacks the potential upside and stud potential of Casey and Williams.  If Williams plays, that is.  Pittsburgh cannot afford another goose egg from him here – he must make his presence felt.

Linebackers

Thomas Davis, Sio Moore and Daryl Smith vs. Alec Ogletree, Prince Shembo and Lawrence Timmons

Edge: Dallas

This is if Sio Moore plays.  Dallas very quietly put together a ravenous and rapacious group of tackle mavens who have combined to average 35 fantasy points per game – and combined for 291 tackles.  291.  Already.  On the other side of the ball, Alec Ogletree and Lawrence Timmons have largely matched them on the outside, though their tackle counts have not been quite impressive.  But Prince Shembo does not yet have a starting role, and the 7-8 point drop off between Shembo and Moore gives the edge to the Cowboys – if he plays…

Secondary

AJ Bouye, Bradley Fletcher, Tony Jefferson and Antrel Rolle vs. Antoine Cason, Darrin Walls, Mike Mitchell and Troy Polamalu

Edge: Dallas

The Cowboys have hit on the secret to an effective secondary – draft a bunch of crappy cornerbacks who are going to get thrown at a lot – and reap the rewards of the tackles.  Then, grab some hard-hitting, fast-talking safeties who can hawk the ball and take off a guy’s head.  These guys aren’t the best group in the league, but they are good for 40-45 points per week, and combine with the other parts to give the Cowboys a consistent bajillion tackles a week and 100+ fantasy points.  The scary part about the Cowboys defense is that, since it is so tackle-heavy, it is not as subject to the big-play vicissitudes that other defenses encounter.  Instead, it is a consistent force for evil in our fallen world.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has a patchwork, bend and hopefully don’t break defense cobbled together from aging veterans like Polamalu.  Many of these guys don’t even start, but get sufficient coverage time to log significant points.  Antoine Cason is a classic example – listed as a third stringer by Fantrax (well done, Fantrax, well done!), Cason averages ~11 points a game for a league minimum salary.  It is on the backs of such plebeians that Pittsburgh has built its empire.  But once again… the Steelers are no longer facing the goblins of the AFC – now they face the dragons of the NFC.  And the faithful citizens with pitchforks may get eaten alive.

Special Teams:

Dan Bailey and Tim Masthay vs. Shaun Suisham and Drew Butler

Edge: Pittsburgh

Both of these teams have similar situations – strong kickers (their teams score a lot) and questionable punting situations.  Dallas, in fact, lost one of its few games this year because Masthay dropped a goose egg.  And that’s why the edge goes decisively to Pittsburgh here.  There are games where Green Bay simply doesn’t punt.  And following their humiliating offensive performance against Buffalo, I expect this to be one.  And on the other side, I expect the Cardinals to play a field position game (that’s a nice way of saying “play terribly and punt a lot”) with Ryan Lindley getting the start.  Butler will simply get more opportunities

PREDICTION: Dallas Cowboys 208 over Pittsburgh Steelers 193

Even without DeMarco Murray, I have the Cowboys.  I think they have a decisive edge on the defensive side of the ball and should win that battle by a good 20-25 points over the Steelers patchwork defense.  The two teams are evenly matched on offense, but while I see Le’Veon Bell having a very good game against Kansas City, I don’t see him having a great game.  And without a 40 pointer, I just don’t think it will be enough to overcome the Dallas defense and passing game.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Albert Wilson can turn the tide of a lot of things, and Murray’s absence makes this a much closer game than I would have predicted.  But I think the best team in the league proves it one more time, and the Dallas Cowboys take home a Super Bowl – while the Steelers grab pole position to win it all next year with its young stars one year older.

Good luck to both teams this weekend, and congratulations for making it this far!

 

 

 

Real Deal (Football) Report: Conference Championships

Chalk.  Chalk.  More Chalk.

Four games and four top seeds advanced.  No upsets.  No surprises.  The only painful thing is that we say goodbye to the New York Giants, a team who by any objective measurement, deserved to be here.  Beyond them?  I have no quibble with any of the teams in the final four.  No flukes.  Everybody left belongs.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Conference Championships

The divisionals didn’t have much drama this time – but they did have some seriously explosive performances.  Here’s hoping for more of those – and maybe some more drama.  As Cleveland GM Jeff Hemlick noted “I am really excited about these matchups and I’m not even playing!”.

If we learned anything this week, it is the importance of the big player in playoff games.  A team of decent players can go far, particularly over the course of the regular season when consistency matters.  But the story of these divisional playoffs was the explosive player.  You can chart the wins and losses by the players who went off – and those who didn’t.

Observe:

Buffalo (Julio Jones 64 and A.J. (#)$&#(&$. Green 56) over Indianapolis (Julian Edelman 38)

Pittsburgh (Le’Veon Bell 59) over Kansas City (none)

Dallas (DeMarco Murray 48) over New York (none)

Green Bay (Jordy Nelson 42) over Philadelphia (none)

Every winning team had at least one player go off for more than 40. No losing team did.  More than anything, it was franchise explosions that dictated games this week – and after Jamaal Charles carried Green Bay to a Championship last year, I’m sensing a trend.

On to what happened in the divisionals:

Buffalo Bills 277 over Indianapolis Colts 208

This, my friends, is why you make blockbuster trades at the end of the season and why you give up massive amounts of future potential to win it all now.  Buffalo gave up a king’s ransom in picks and future players for Julio Jones and Arian Foster.  Want to guess how many points those two put up this week?  90.  A combined 90.  Replace those two guys with bad performances by replacement players… and this could have gone a different way.  It’s also worth calling out the value of trades in general.  A.J. $#)(&*&#(. Green + Julio Jones combined for over 120 fantasy points on 22 catches, 480 yards and two touchdowns.  Neither A.J. #$)&#(*$. Green nor Julio Jones was on the Buffalo Bills one year ago.  Ironic.

The Colts also got some outstanding performances from big time players, with Julian Edelman going for 38 to make a game of it on Sunday night.  It was a “fall back to earth” moment for the rest of the offense, though, which mustered only 26 points aside from Edelman and Andrew Luck.

Pittsburgh Steelers 254 over Kansas City Chiefs 191

Every year, I pick somebody in my pre-season predictions to do poorly.  Every year, that team knocks me out of the playoffs in a vengeance game.  Last year it was the Colts, who took exception to my characterization of their defense.  This year, it was the Steelers, who I picked to finish 4-12.  Next year, it could be you…

This time, it was franchise guys Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger who paced the Steel Curtain, combining for 91 points.  Ironically, they only had a combined 19 by halftime of their game, doing 72 points of damage in the second half and putting this game on ice early on Sunday.

The Chiefs got a breakout game from Tavon Austin and a characteristically solid performance from Randall Cobb, but simply lacked the defensive big plays to keep pace with Le’Veon Bell’s explosion.

Dallas Cowboys 207 over New York Giants 179

Well.  It wasn’t what I was hoping for.  But it was enough.  I was expecting a titanic clash with both teams finishing in the upper 200s in a fantasy football contest that would set a gold standard for the ages in terms of drama and performance.  Instead, Dallas barely eclipsed 200 and the Giants didn’t even get there, in a somewhat sloppy game that never quite lived up to its billing – and was never quite in doubt.  DeMarco Murray and his 40 total touches and 48 fantasy points put the Cowboys ahead big on Thursday – and the Giants never got within spitting distance after that.  The Giants defense fell off big-time, posting only 71 points, and while the offense still scored over 100, it just didn’t get the explosive, 40+ point performance that carried all of our playoff winners.  The Cowboys did, from their main stud all year, and move on to the conference championship game with a relative dud out of the way.

Green Bay Packers 206 over Philadelphia Eagles 158

This was a back and forth dogfight in the cold that eventually revolved around the big player – just like every other playoff win.  It started off in Green Bay’s favor, as Jamaal Charles went off for more than 20 points and two touchdowns in the first half of his game.  It tilted back towards Philadelphia as Andy Reid forgot JMail existed in the second half and nobody else on Green Bay’s team did much of anything, while the Philadelphia defense put up 90 points, catapulting the Eagles into a decent lead.  It all came down to how many points Green Bay could score on a Monday night showdown against Atlanta.  And score Green Bay did, netting a 42 point performance from Jordy Nelson to go along with 33 from Rogers and 24 from Morgan Burnett.

This game was closer than the score appeared, but has to count as a massive disappointment for the Philadelphia Eagles, who struggled across the board and managed only 53 offensive points.  Green Bay actually struggled in similar fashion, but was bailed out by the Fantasy Rodgers to Nelson connection.

 

Conference Championship Picks

Pittsburgh Steelers over Buffalo Bills

So the danger with lightning is that it is hard for it to strike two weeks in a row, and even harder for it to strike three weeks in a row.  Buffalo’s stars detonated in the divisional round, and if they do that again, obviously they will advance.  But I don’t think it will happen.  Julio Jones may be slowed with an injury, and will almost certainly be quadruple-covered.  A.J. #($)&&#*$ Green gets the equally immortal Joe Haden, who has proven to be the one man who can really slow him down and take away his expletive.  And while Julius Thomas is back, Denver’s ability to get it to him against San Diego’s defense is a question.  I think the Bills score a lot of points (Kerwynn Williams is under-rated and they really do have a lot of guys who could go off, including Arian Foster), but I also think Pittsburgh is a fantastic team that can win without those explosions.

Besides.  Pittsburgh has an Albert Wilson.  And the first rule of fantasy is that you never pick against any team that has an Albert Wilson.  Ever.  More than that, Pittsburgh finished the year with an average of over 200 points.  This team has a great offense, a great defense, and is very very hungry.  I think Buffalo’s stars fall back to earth, and that while the game is high-scoring and close, I think Pittsburgh advances… on the shoulders of Albert Wilson.

Dallas Cowboys over Green Bay Packers

Much as I hate picking against the defending champs, I have no choice here.  I don’t think this game is close.  Dallas is coming off an uncharacteristically mediocre performance.  And I think this team has saved something.  I think Dallas absolutely explodes this week.  I’m predicting 250.  And Green Bay… well, the question there is the Charles factor.  Green Bay has staggered around a bit, struggling on defense and struggling with offensive depth.  Jordy and A-Rod bailed them out last week, and I think those performances will remain good, if not spectacular.  Really, I think it comes down to this.  If Jamaal Charles goes for more than 40 (which he is prone to doing in championship games), Green Bay pulls the pseudo-upset.  If he does not, it’s Dallas all the way.

In truth, my gut is screaming that it’s going to be Dallas and it is not going to be close.  Perhaps that’s because I think it is only fitting that the best team all year in both leagues gets to play for the title.  But more because I just feel the anticipation in the air and think this is a week for the ages.  I think DeMarco, Tony and Dez avenge themselves against a reeling Eagles team.  I think Devin Hester takes one to the house.  I think the real Delanie Walker returns to the tune of ten catches against Sexy Rexy’s pack of goons.  And I think Dallas takes it to the house on defense at least once.

But you can never count on JMail and those Packers…  They’ve never lost a playoff game yet…

Good luck everybody!!!!

 

 

Real Deal (Football) Report – Divisional Round Playoff Predictions

And then there were eight.  Four games.  Four winners.  Four go home.  But now things change.  Now the big boys come out to play.  Well, NYG was already playing.  But now Dallas, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay come on the scene.  No more flag football.  No more of that plastic basketball hoop five feet off the ground nonsense.  No more bumper bowling. Now it gets REAL.

I was 2-2 last week.  That’s better than I usually do – so I hope to go 2-2 again.  Always set your goals high, kids.  When you’re predicting, you always want to do exactly as well as random chance.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Divisional Round Playoff Predictions

So last week’s games:

Kansas City Chiefs 225 – Oakland Raiders 180

Oakland’s hot hand carried the Raiders to another respectable performance – but not quite a victory, ending a strong late-season run.  It looked like things were going to be different when Jordan Matthews was catching everything that moved early on Thanksgiving, but the offense slowed down enough to allow the Chiefs to squeak through.   Big plays on defense turned out to the key in this one, as the Chiefs defense blocked punts, scored multiple touchdowns, and had 4 defensive players achieve nearly 20 points days.

Indianapolis Colts 194 – Denver Broncos 137

Thud.  It happens to all of us.  And it always sucks.  Always.  No exceptions.  It’s the worst feeling to play strong all year – and then lay an egg in round one of the playoffs.  Sympathy cards to the Broncos.  The Broncos only got moderate performances from sometime studs Manning, Welker, Thomas, and Boldin.  But it was their defense that really let them down, turning in only a pathetic 35 point performance in which only one player scoring more than 5 points.  Brutal.  On the other side of the ball, Indiana cruised to the win with a 41 point explosion from Andrew Luck and a workmanlike day-at-the-office from everyone else.

Philadelphia Eagles 250 – Seattle Seahawks 151

This was a good old-fashioned ham-smacking!  I don’t even know what a ham-smacking is, but you have to admit, it’s a pretty darn applicable term for this one.  Put in more descriptive language, Philadelphia played really well, Seattle played bad.   The Eagles scored over 100 points on both offense and defense, despite a combined 4.5 points from Colin Kaepernick and Shane Vereen.  Coby Fleener lead the way with 35, and 3 other players on the offense averaged over 20 points.  On Seattle’s side of the ball, it was just a very blah performance.  Big time players step up in big time games… and simply nobody stepped up, as the Seahawks did not produce a single 20 point game.  Eric Decker (4), Jason Witten (1.5), and the entire Defensive Line (5 points combined) were the true goats.

New York Giants 281 – New Orleans Saints 214

HULK SMASH!!!!!  Welcome to the playoffs, New York Giants.  They’ve been good all year.  But this week the offense ripped off its shirt, turned into a giant green monster, and literally dismembered a solid Saints quad limb-by-limb.  Mercy.  The offense scored 192 points behind an insane 61 points by DeAndre Hopkins, who went off for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  The obliteration was so bad that Heath Miller’s 20 point performance seemed positively mediocre.  Highest point total on offense EVER, and highest point total by any team this season.  The Giants have announced their arrival with an incredible game – and as a reward, get a rematch with the archrival Cowboys.  The Saints actually played quite a strong game featuring a 28 point defensive explosion by Cameron Jordan and breaking the 200 point barrier easily.  But against New York this week, there was simply no chance.

Divisional Round Predictions:

Buffalo Bills over Indianapolis Colts

So a couple weeks ago, I would have said something different here.  Buffalo hasn’t quite been the same team the second half of the season, and came into the playoffs scuffling a bit.  But then they pulled off a blockbuster trade, brought in Arian Foster and Julio Jones, and gave themselves a needed shot in the arm.  I don’t think they have enough to get over the top at Pittsburgh.  But I do think Julio and Arian perform well enough to get past the Colts, who beat a scuffling Broncos team on a Luck explosion.  I think the Colts play better as a team than they did last week.  But I think Luck turns in only a good game (18 or so) and think Julio and Arian turn out to be blockbuster in the playoffs as the Bills advance.

Pittsburgh Steelers over Kansas City Chiefs

This is a total vengeance game for the Steelers, after I picked them to go 4-12 and chill in the basement all year.  Pittsburgh, led by Le’Veon “I am ridiculously insane in a PPR league now that LeGarrette Blount has gotten kicked off his 84th team” Bell, is an absolute juggernaut.  The defense is strong.  Young players like Markus Wheaton and Jarvis Landry have had time to develop.  And this team is not rolling over for anybody.  Until New York or Dallas rip their arms off.  The Chiefs made it past Oakland on the strength of big plays and defensive touchdowns.  That doesn’t happen two weeks in a row.  This one might be close, but Darren Leung and the Steel City move on.

New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys

My God, what a game.  This should be the Super Bowl.  They should just stop the season and agree to award the title to the winner of this one.  It is an absolute travesty of justice that the two best teams in the league meet in the quarterfinals.  These two teams have easily been the strongest all year, and it hasn’t been close.  So many studs.  So many big players.  So many points.  An intra-division rivalry.  This one is going to be CLOSE.  And it is going to be high-scoring.

I’ll be honest, I have no clue who wins it.  Anybody, and I mean anybody, on either team’s offense is capable of going off for 50 points on any given night, like DeAndre Hopkins just did.  Here’s the thing.  You can’t pick against somebody who just threw down 281 points.  So I’m picking the upset, DESPITE the fact that Dallas is playing the Bears and Romo and DeMarco will almost certainly bounce back.  And EVEN DESPITE the fact that Eli Manning is playing Quarterback for the Giants.  The Giants are just so hot right now.  They are hotter than Zoolander.  I could easily be wrong.  But WHAT.  A.  GAME.

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles

So I picked against Philadelphia last week when signs pointed to them winning.  And so, of course, they won.  Well, I’m doing it again.  You don’t pick against the champs.  Somebody has to beat the champs.  Here’s what I think.  Jamaal Charles is going for 50 this week.  Just like he did a year ago.  And the Eagles come off their big win at Dallas with a huge thud against Seattle.  Maclin catches nothing.  Shady gets stuffed.  And Russell Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over.  I still think its close.   But I think Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson against a suspect Falcons secondary brings Green Bay within a game of back-to-back Super Bowls.

Good luck everybody!!!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Playoff Predictions

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  A little late, but still timely, I hope!

First, a recap of some of last weeks key game action to get us where we are!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Playoff Predictions

Dallas Cowboys 248, New York Giants 231: How many games of the week this year have included one of these top two teams in the league?  And how much do you want to bet that these two teams meet in the NFC title game?  Delanie Walker returned with a bang for the Cowboys, scoring 30 points, to lead a well-rounded 142 point offensive performance for the Cowboys and overcome a 41 point explosion by Justin “didn’t he used to suck for the Seahawks a while back” Forsett.  This game wasn’t terribly meaningful except as a bragging rights game, but congratulations to the Giants and Cowboys for their sheer consistency this season.

Oakland Raiders 220, Kansas City Chiefs 179: On to games with real playoff implications.  A huge game for Oakland which has now won 3 straight to claim the final wild card spot, and seems to be looking stronger every week.  In fact, this week 12 performance was Oakland’s highest point total of the year.  The Raiders young offensive players are all turning it up at the right time, with Jordan Matthews capitalizing on the Eagles QB change, Andre Holmes and De’Anthony Thomas scoring consistent points, and Josh “Arma-Gordon” returning with a resounding 31 points on 16 targets.  Oakland did all this despite a terrible 2 point ball-drop by Mike Vick, who was promptly replaced by Shaun Hill for the play-offs.  This team is going to be a super hard out having gotten hot at exactly the right time.

Denver Broncos 229, Miami Dolphins 176: And look who else appears to be rounding into shape at exactly the right time?  The flying geriatric Peytons have been surprisingly mediocre much of the year despite their 11-5 record, finishing only 15th in total points.  But this 146 point offensive performance wasn’t surprising.  It wasn’t even out of character.  This offense can have this kind of game just about any time – and if they do in the playoffs, they will be a hard out.

On the other side of the football, its a game of inches.  A game of inches.  After this drubbing by Denver, Miami fell to 9-7, losing out on the wild card spot to Oakland.  But let’s keep in mind that Miami lost a pair of games, each by less than 2 points early in the year.  One of those games was a week five loss to those same Oakland Raiders, 141-140.  One point.  You reverse that one, single, week 5 point and Miami is in the playoffs.  Fantasy Football can be a cruel, cruel game.

Onto our playoff predictions (which come, it should be noted for honesty, in the midst of the Lions / Bears game):

AFC:

#3 Kansas City vs. #6 Oakland:

Prediction: Oakland

Always ride the hot hand.  And avoid the injured one.  Oakland comes rolling into the playoffs on a streak, and has strong matchups for key players, including Jordan Matthews, Eddie Lacy, and Josh Gordon.  The Chiefs, on the other hand, have red flags on Jordan Cameron, Jordan Reed, and Eric Berry, and big question marks around other underperforming offensive players.  I predict this one will be very close, and that Josh Gordon won’t score 31 again – but that in the end, Oaklandh as enough firepower to win their fourth and move on.

#4 Indianapolis vs. #5 Denver:

Prediction: Indianapolis

Let me tell you a little secret about the Washington Redskins Defense.  I’ll whisper it for you: “It’s not very good at stopping pass plays”.  Andrew Luck is mad.  He’s cranky.  He’s playing Washington.  He’s going to throw for 8 billion yards.  And he’s going to do it to TY Hilton.  Indy is also due – it’s been a rough last three weeks – and I just have a feeling that this week looks like an explosion for the Colts.  Meanwhile, Denver just had its explosion.  I predict a regression to the mean for the Broncos offense (which is still good, but not 140 points good), and Indy knocks Denver out of the playoffs for the second straight year.

NFC Playoffs:

#3 New Orleans vs. #6 New York Giants:

Prediction: New York Giants

Seeding and tie-breakers are so weird.  The New York Giants finished as the #2 scoring team in RDFL this year – and it wasn’t close.  They scored 3453 points.  By contrast, Oakland (lowest scoring playoff team) scored only 2674.  But the Giants have the #6 seed in the NFC by virtue of playing in the same division as Dallas and losing both Head to Heads to Philadelphia.  And the team that is most upset about that?  New Orleans.  What a reward for fighting off the Falcons and winning their division.  Look, this game could go either way.  New Orleans is a fantastic football team and that offense is finally completely healthy.  But I can’t pick against NYG.  At least I can’t until they play Philly or Dallas again.

#4 Seattle vs. #5 Philadelphia:

Prediction: Seattle

So this is the pick I feel least comfortable with.  The Seahawks have absolutely backed into the playoffs at 8-8 and just lost to the Arizona “We tried SO HARD to tank this year and just couldn’t quite make it work” Cardinals.  And they face a very tough matchup with the real football 49ers this week, which should further depress player values.  And the Eagles, on the other side, are playing well and just picked up Colin Kaepernick to further improve their team.

But I have a feeling.  This is the sort of game that screams Philadelphia.  And it reminds me of that game a few years again where the 7-9 NFC West winning Seahawks got a home game against the Saints and beast-moded them into the ground.  I think that happens here.  I think Seattle gets some great efforts this week, and knocks off Philadelphia – simply because absolutely everything says they should not.

Good luck this week everyone, and Happy Turkey Day!!!

 

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 11 Recap

And then there was one.  Only one more week left to go in the regular season.  But it’s going to be a fun one!  Why do I say that?  Fully 10/32 teams will be playing meaningful games this week, and that is aside from those who have already clinched a certain seed and those duking it out for an early pick.  It’s never a bad thing when fully half of the teams in a league are still alive in the final week of the season.

On to our penultimate recap!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 11 Recap

Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers 223, Philadelphia Eagles 184

So I’m a smart-ass.  But let this post prove that I don’t let my smart-assery get in the way of at least mediocre fantasy sports journalism.  Had I been, I would have selected Jacksonville 98 – NYJ 85.  And I’m also not a sadistic person who delights in the pain and misfortune of others.  Had I been, I would have selected Carolina 181 – Atlanta 177, a brutal elimination game for the plucky and rising Falcons.

But I am neither of those things.  I’m bona fide.  Damn right.  So I choose this one – a meaningful NFC game with nice performances from both teams.  My take-away from this game is that the Trifecta of Rodgers / Nelson / Charles is going to be really hard to beat.  The trio combined for 98 points, overshadowing a thoroughly mediocre effort from the rest of the offense which included a -2 from the likely soon to be cut Marcus Thigpen.  On the other side of the ball, despite disappointing performances from Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Robert Griffin the Benched (Esquire), the Eagles actually lost this game on the defensive side of the ball with 62 points.  Losing DeMeco Ryans may prove to be a significant blow to this team.

Stock Rising:

Oakland Raiders: How about them Raiders?  9-6 with Josh Gordon coming back for the final game of the season, and their two wild card rivals, Miami and Denver, squaring off across the way.  If Oakland wins and Denver can beat Miami, the Raiders will sneak into the playoffs and be looking very good.  Add in Mark Sanchez’s infatuation with rookie Jordan Matthews (65 combined points in the two games Sanchez has started), and the Raiders are going to be a very tough out.

Dallas Cowboys: Can their stock really rise?  The answer is absolutely yes.  Any time a team clinches the conference’s top seed and a playoff bye with a week to go, it counts.  It particularly counts in the ultra-tough NFC East, a conference that still looks almost certain to send three teams to the playoffs.  So long as the Cowboys can avoid injury to Romo and DeMarco Murray, they will enter the playoffs as the odds-on favorite in the NFC.  Absolutely no quit in this team all year long, and an admirable run of consistency.

Chicago Bears: Remember how at the beginning of the year, I thought the Bears were going to be outstanding?  And how I thought they were going to give Green Bay and Detroit a run for their money?  They didn’t so much show up over the first half of the season, and their playoff hopes were done early.  But LOOK AT THE LAST TWO WEEKS – a Combined 449 points across two weeks.  That pace across the season would have WON the NFC North.  So what’s happened?  The DEFENSE has showed up, with two consecutive hundred point weeks led by the suddenly immortal Chris Borland.  The Bears will return this core last year – and these last two weeks have set the rest of the league on notice that this will be a contendah next year!

Honorable Mentions: New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns

Stock Falling: Hearbreaking section this week… I’m sorry guys 🙁

Houston Texans:  Ouch.  A game effort by the Texans all year has kept them within striking distance of the AFC South crown, and a loss by Indianapolis to the suddenly rising Patriots left Houston’s window of opportunity wide, wide open.  But the Texans ran into a Browns team revved to play spoiler, and lost by 40.  With both tie-breakers with Indy going against them, it was an elimination game for Houston, who will now try to parley Andre Johnson into some young guys who can get him over the top in 2015.

Atlanta Falcons:  Another team with a loss they couldn’t afford, the Falcons didn’t QUITE get enough from Zach Mettenberger to put them over the top, losing by four to the spoiler Panthers.  Due to a brutal tie-breaker draw, the Falcons are on the outside looking in this year despite some impressive wheeling and dealing to turn around last year’s brutal squad.  Even more galling for the Falcons was two defenders posting goose eggs, an ill-timed injury to Arian “Australian for Running Back” Foster, and a kicker bye-week that probably proved the difference between a win and a loss.  Brutal luck, but the Falcons will be back strong next season – provided Foster and Roddy are too.

Seattle Seahawks: Hard to put a team with an inside track to the playoffs in this camp, but a 50 point dud of a week 11 loss has left the door open for divisional rival San Francisco to make a move.  There are a couple of saving grace’s to this particular rough spell, though.  First, the loss happened without Jason Witten, Eric Decker, and Percy Harvin, all of whom are back next week.  More to the point, the Seahawks only need to win at Arizona to clinch the West (or not get outscored by SF by 60) – so that playoff door is not actually all that open…

Dishonorable Mentions: Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints

Games of the Week:  For all that it is the last week of the year and elimination games abound… most of them are not very good.

Miami Dolphins vs. Denver Broncos – Now THIS is a playoff game.  Denver is almost certainly already in, and Miami can get in with a win.  But playoff seeding is at stake, and if Miami loses, they will need to hope and pray for an Oakland / KC win.  There’s a softer element at play for both sides too, as neither have put together a truly strong performance for a few weeks, and while sometimes a team goes crazy in the playoffs after backing in, you always want to have a little momentum on your side.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders – The other big game in the AFC, this one is huge for Oakland and irrelevant for the Chiefs, which have locked up the #3 seed in the playoffs regardless of what happens in this one.  For Oakland, though, a win, coupled with a Miami loss, would put the silver and black in the playoffs.  Just as important, Oakland needs to see how Josh Gordon will return, and whether or not Jordan  Matthews and Mike Vick can continue to put up the numbers.  Oakland could be out by Friday morning.  Or they could be in the Super Bowl.  We’ll see!

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants – Does it matter for the playoffs?  Not all that much.  But does it matter for bragging rights?  ABSOLUTELY!  If this was College Football circa 1980, this would be the Orange Bowl, and we’d be voting on a national champion coming out of this one.  The Cowboys have the most points in RDFL this year with 3,234.  The New York Giants are second, EXACTLY TWELVE POINTS BEHIND.  NUTS.  This could become one of the craziest rivalries in RDFL, and I for one can’t wait to see round #2!

Good luck everyone – especially those of you still fighting for playoff spots!

 

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 10 Recap

I’m back, after a work-driven week 9 hiatus.

My first reaction after checking this week’s scores: I should have taken a week 10 hiatus.  My goodness, we SUCKED this week.  Almost all of us.  League wide.

14/32 teams scored under 150 points, compared to just 5/32 who went over 200.  Multiple teams scored a season LOW in points.  And it wasn’t just eliminated teams – playoff hopefuls like Indianapolis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, Denver, Houston and San Francisco all underachieved badly.  Here’s hoping we can do better as a collective league in week 11!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 10 Recap

Game of the Week: New York Giants 192, Seattle Seahawks 178.

So I have to tell you – it really does gall me to select a game of the week where neither team scored over 200 points.  But this was the closest, most impactful game of the week.  What other choices were there?  Dallas plastering a teetering Jacksonville team?  The Packers played well in a well-fought 232-207 win over… the Bears.  New Orleans beat San Francisco in another meaningful game… by 85.

No, this game had both the importance and the drama we look for in a game of the week – just not the massive point outputs.  The story of this game was simple – Beast Mode can’t play no defense!  Marshawn Lynch single-handedly kept the Seahawks in the game with a 46 point explosion.  And the defense eleven-handedly fumbled the game away with a rather pathetic 51 point effort.  The Giants, meanwhile, struck gold in pick-up Justin Forsett (25 points) and won the defensive battle handily (89 points) to provide the difference.  Put in another way, Ryan Mundy, Jerry Hughes, and William Gay outscored the entire Seahawks defense.  Ouch.

The win allowed the Giants to keep pace with Dallas and gain a game on the Eagles, while the Seahawks also kept pace in the loss column with the 49ers.  What the game did accomplish was effectively eliminate the NFC West from wild card contention, making Atlanta the only non-NFC East team still in contention for a wild card spot.

Stock Rising:

– Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers: The top two seeds in the AFC are now officially etched in stone, and they can rest their players in preparation for a well-deserved bye week.  The Bills rode back-up quarterback Kyle Orton (who looks like a very shrewd pick-up) and a massive game from TE Julius Thomas (26 points) past Kansas City, while the Steelers continued their dominating run with a 220-95 obliteration of the Jets.  At 12-2 and with both holding a head-to-head tiebreaker over the 10-4 Chiefs, the AFC’s top two seeds have officially and scientifically clinched.  A big congratulations to Darren Leung and AJ Sisneros for their outstanding performances this season!

– The NFC East: Yes, Philadelphia suffered a tough loss at the hands of Carolina during what equated to a second bye-week.  Who cares?  With losses by Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco, it looks ever more likely that the NFC East is going to get three teams into the playoffs, all with double-digit wins.  In terms of fantasy points scored, Dallas and the Giants are 1st and 2nd in the entire league, while the Eagles come in at a very respectable 6th.  And while you’re marveling at the accomplishments, keep in mind that each of these three had to play each other twice, and the Giants had easily the most difficult schedule in all of football this year.  Dominating performance from start to finish by the NFC East, and I would not be shocked to see two Eastern teams square off in the NFC Title Game

– New Orleans Saints: Remember a few weeks ago when the Saints had dropped two in a row and looked to be in real danger of losing their stranglehold on the NFC South?  Yeah, i don’t really believe that happened either.  It feels like back when we didn’t have a national debt.  New Orleans blasted San Francisco 244-163 this week to reclaim sole possession of 1st place in the South, and as good as they looked on Sunday, it is hard for me to believe they’ll relinquish that spot.  The Saints were led by an outstanding 143 point offensive performance, keyed by the return of Jimmy Graham (32 points), the emergence of Preston Parker (22 points), the continued under-the-rader fantasy awesomeness of Golden Tate (26 points), and the special teams electricity of Darren Sproles (23 points).  Oh, and some guy named Brees got involved too.

Put it this way – the Saints offense alone outscored 12 teams.  Not a team anybody wants to see in the playoffs.  Even if they play in the NFC East.

Honorable Mention: Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions

Stock Falling:

– Atlanta Falcons: Some days are like this.  You have a decent chance to wrest full control of your division away from your rival.  You have an easy game.  He has a tough game.  The mystical forces of the universe are all lining up.  And then you drop a 147 point stinker and lose to last place Tampa Bay by 30.  And your rival crushes its competition.  Oof.  The problem was simple.  Guys who played offense for the Falcons (Roddy White and Julio Jones – 46 combined points) or defense for the Broncos (TJ Ward and Brandon Marshall – 35 combined points) showed up.  Everybody else… didn’t (66 points from the other 16 guys combined).  The Falcons have winnable games against Carolina and Cleveland to finish out the season.  But now they need some help – both from their own role players, and from their wild card competitors.

– Denver Broncos – Another team that dropped the ball in a stars-aligning moment, the Broncos went into Monday night in a perfect situation.  With Kansas City having already lost to Buffalo, the Broncos held a lead over Oakland into MNF.  Had they held on, the Broncos would have moved into a tie for first place in the division and held the advantage with an easier schedule to finish out the year.  Instead, Jordan Matthews went OFF to the tune of 40 points, demonstrating his incredible (and potentially shameful) chemistry with Mark Sanchez, while DeAngelo Williams managed nothing more than a few yards in a pile of dust.  Even more sour for the Broncos, Denver started only eight defensive players.  The Broncos are likely still headed to at least a Wild Card spot, but need to take care of business against St. Louis and Miami to hold off Nick Tomanelli’s hard-charging Raiders squad.

– Miami Dolphins – Another wild card team that could have used a better game, the Dolphins were crushed by the Detroit Lions.  While there is no shame in losing to the Lions, scoring 111 points is not ideal for a team with playoff aspirations.  Even worse for Miami, it leaves them with no cushion to guard against the Raiders and Texans, both 8-6.  The schedule makers did the Dolphins no favors either, giving them the hardest remaining slate of any AFC Wild Card.  Observe:

MIA: Buffalo, Denver

HOU: Cleveland, Cincinnati

KC: Seattle, Oakland

OAK: San Diego, Kansas City

DEN: St. Louis, Miami

IND: New England, Jacksonville

The Dolphins need at least one win… and may need to win both of two very difficult games to feel safe.

Dishonorable Mention: Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers

 

Games of the Week:

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins: See the above.  The Dolphins need this game badly.  The Bills don’t.  But the Bills are 12-2 – and are entirely unlikely to take it easy on their divisional rivals.  If the Dolphins can somehow pull this game out, the Wild Card playoff picture may end up simple.  But if the Bills can knock them off, the AFC Wild Card picture could get muddy indeed!

Green Bay vs. Philadelphia: What the heck?  A marquis NFC showdown that doesn’t involve Dallas or the Giants?  What on earth is going on?  The Packers can clinch with a win.  Frankly, so can the Eagles.  The loser will have to sweat out the uncertainty of a final week.

Kansas City vs. Seattle: Another game with major playoff implications.  Seattle can put away the NFC West with a win this week, but will have to do it with Decker, Harvin, and Witten all on bye.  On the other hand, a win by the Chiefs would also clinch a playoff spot – but a loss would potentially force a week 12 showdown with Oakland for the division. Who saw THAT coming?

New York Giants vs. San Francisco: You know what really sucks?  When you play New Orleans and they hang 244 points on you.  And then you turn around and find the New York Giants waiting for you – particularly when you already played them just a few weeks before.  New York has no sympathy, nearing the end of its abominable schedule in very good shape.  This is a must win game for both teams, though the Giants have a bit more margin for error than do the 9ers.

Good luck to everyone in week 11 – except for Seattle, Oakland, and Denver!

Week 8 Recap

Hello all,

Sincere apologies for what will almost undoubtedly be a shorter post this week – the professional side of my life is NUTS!!!

That said, weird week in a lot of ways.  Oakland and New England scored over 200 points.  Detroit and Jacksonville also scored over 200 points, but LOST.  San Diego beat Denver on stat corrections by less than half a point.  Buffalo scored only 135 in a brutal divisional loss.  And the New York Giants, despite having so many players on the IR that they had to start the team doctors at skill positions, scored the most points of the week and absolutely waxed the 49ers.  Very strange.

Finish Reading: Week 8 Recap

Game of the Week: Atlanta Falcons 224, Detroit Lions 204.

The first game of the double-header did not disappoint at all, with both teams going over 200 points.  The Lions younger players really showed up for this one, with both Brandin Cooks and Cordarelle Patterson going over 25.  However, Detroit absolutely missed its superstars. With both Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush on the bench, Detroit got only a combined 18 points from Kenny Stills and Jonas Grey.  While a healthy Megatron and Reggie Bush might not have made up the full margin of victory, they sure would have helped.  The Falcons also had to overcome some adversity, weathering an epic, career-ending Geno Smith meltdown (-4 points) by getting monstrous games from Arian Foster (46 points) and Larry Fitzgerald (38 points) on the way to a 138 offensive performance.

By the way, how lopsided does the Arian Foster for Stacy and Mettenberger look right now?  Foster has scored 68 points in the last two games, while Zac Stacy has exactly 7, and the Falcons stole Mettenberger back – and will now be starting him at Quarterback after his bye week.  Unfair – until Arian injury-tweets again.

Stock Rising:

Miami Dolphins: Now THAT is how you go after a playoff spot.  The Dolphins put together their best game of the season against wild-card rival Jacksonville, pulling off a 226-212 victory behind 104 points from their defense and a cool 50 from Gronk.  The win leaves Miami in a tenuous position within the AFC wildcard.  Any team that can throw down 226 points against a rival is going to be a legitimate wild card threat.  But after a winnable date with San Diego, the Dolphins finish their season with three games against Detroit, Buffalo, and Denver.  2-2 would probably be good enough to secure a playoff spot.  But 1-3 may not.

Oakland Raiders: So… uhhh… guys… the Raiders are 7-5.  7-5.  How is this possible?  And not only are they 7-5, they are riding a four game winning streak, just scored 224 points, and are about to get Josh Gordon back from a suspension.  The young receiving core of Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, and Andre Holmes looks good, Eddie Lacy is a stud, and the defense is holding its own despite some difficult injuries to the linebacking core.  The Raiders are also well-positioned for a run – after a game against Seattle, Oakland finishes with three games against divisional opponents – and plenty of chances to make up ground.  A 3-1 finish with wins over KC and Denver would put the Raiders at 10-6 – with a very real shot at a playoff.  Why oh why didn’t somebody buy all his veterans in week 3????

New Orleans Saints: How do you stop a slide?  By smashing the reigning Super Bowl Champions by 40 and looking good while doing it.  This is the Saints squad we’ve expected for weeks.  27 from Brees.  38 from Golden Tate (poetic as well as impressive).  107 from the defense (led by 25 from rising stud Anthony Barr).  And all this with Darren Sproles inactive and putting up a goose egg.  It is going to be an exciting race to the finish in the NFC South – and after this week, I have to give the slimmest of edges to the Saints.  Experience counts in fantasy, ya know.  It’s not all about the numbers.

Honorable Mentions: New York Giants, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots

 

Stock Falling:

Denver Broncos: Rough week for the Broncos.  Anytime a team loses to a divisional rival by less than half a point after a stat correction, you have to feel for them.  Of course, when they only score 151 points on a non bye-week, it’s hard to feel THAT sorry for them.  It was an overall sluggish week for the Broncos who got less than 20 points combined from all offensive personnel not named Peyton or Demaryius, and an average of less than THREE points from their seven linemen and linebackers.  The secondary was strong, as was the characteristic Bronco connection – but the Broncos need more from their supporting cast.  Even the schedule looks a little darker for the Broncos.  New England, Oakland, St. Louis, and Miami would have looked like a cruise a few weeks back, but looks much more challenging now.  It’s all still in play for Manning’s crew – everything from a first round playoff bye to missing the playoffs.  We’ll see which Denver squad shows up.

Buffalo Bills: So at first glance, this game for the Bills (a 155-135 loss to the Jets) appears to an anomaly of epic proportions.  A blip in the space-time continuum.  An isolated and irrepeatable aberration on par with Roger Goodell making a politically sensitive decision (although… the man is brilliant.  That whole Ray Rice thing?  And the cover up?  Nobody cares anymore.  HOW?!?!?).  But this isn’t the first time for the Bills.  If you scroll back through an impressive series of wins and crushing performances that have given them their well-deserved best in the AFC record, you also find week 4 – where the Bills managed only 131 points in a similarly perplexing loss to the Texans.  The consistent theme in both of those games?  A complete no-show by the offensive supporting cast.  In week 4, Trent Richardson went off for over 20, but the rest of the offense together managed less than 25.  In week 8, Kyle Orton managed 25, but with Richardson out, the rest of the offense put together less than 20.

Is it a huge concern?  Not really.  Particularly once Trent and A. J. Mother. (#$&)#*(. Green. comes back, I fully expect this offense to put up huge points and continue to dominate.  But it is a concern.  It only takes one egg in the playoffs…

The Race to the Bottom: I thought about a bunch of teams for this third spot… but I couldn’t really bring myself to select any of them.  San Francisco got obliterated by NYG… but it was a bye week.  Indy got shelled by Pittsburgh… but everybody does.  Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Detroit’s playoff hopes took major hits, but we picked on Tennessee last week and both Jacksonville and Detroit scored over 200.

So instead, I want to honor our competitors in the race for the bottom, and their outstanding accomplishments over the last couple of weeks.  Over the past two weeks, Arizona, Chicago, Minnesota, the Jets, St. Louis, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Washington have combined to go 4-14, with only two of those wins (NYJ over Buff and Washington over Tennessee) over non-bottom teams.  Ouch.  There’s some drama in the race for #1, not just the race for the playoffs!

 

Games of the Week:

So I’m not going to lie.  It’s NOT a great week for drama.  There are very few epic showdowns, as most playoff teams are facing non playoff teams and seek to hold their ground.  There could be a couple of gems though… and this is the week that a couple of bizarre upsets could really throw a wrench into the playoff race!

Indianapolis vs. NY Giants: Those crazy Giants.  So far their hell stretch has looked like: ATL (W), PHI (L), DAL (W), SF (W).  Their reward?  An angry Indy squad fighting to retain control of their division.  And oh, by the way, the Giants long-term injured list right now is a whose who list of studs: CJ Spiller, Victor Cruz, Jerod Mayo, Justin Durant, and Rashad Jennings.  Meanwhile, this is Indy’s final true test before a final three weeks that are all winnable.  A win here would go a long way to locking up their title defense.

Detroit vs. Atlanta: Round two.  FIGHT!  If Atlanta wins, we could see a “Finish Him” sequence worthy of old school Mortal Kombat.  With a likely Green Bay win, another Detroit loss would push the Lions to three back with three to go – and pretty much spell the end of their season.  This is going to be a bizarre week for both teams, however, as both times face a rather ridiculous bye week.  Detroit relies more heavily on its franchise core (Bush, Megatron, Stafford, and EIGHT players on Defense).  Atlanta is just as hamstrung, losing fewer franchise stars (Julio, Roddy, Kroy Biermann), but losing other bye week stars as well, including Martellus Bennett, Zach Mettenbergerer, and DeAndre Levy.  Weird week.  Weird doubleheader.  Weird game.

Houston vs. Philadelphia: What the hell are the Texans?  They are in!  They are out!  They are great!  They are terrible!  Who is this team, really?  At this point, they are tied for the AFC South lead – but have to face a strong scoring Philly team that intends to make a push for the NFC East now that RG III is back.  The Texans roster is talented, but very young and inconsistent.  But the Eagles are finally healthy.  Finally playing.  And I think it’s about to get CRAZY up in the NFC East.

Oakland vs. Seattle: Didn’t expect this one to be a game.  But it should be one of the week’s best.  This was the stretch where the Seahawks were supposed to ride a weaker schedule to separation from the 49ers.  So far so good.  But Oakland is not the slouch they originally appeared to be, and have actually outplayed the Seahawks the last few weeks.  A win keeps the Seahawks in the driver’s seat in the West.  But in some ways, a win for the Raiders would be more interesting, as it would set them up at 8-5 at most a game out of the wild card, with three divisional games left to play, and a playoff spot there for the taking…

Good luck this week, everyone!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 7 Recap

Separation Week.  Most weeks, the Real Deal Football universe is a terrifying place, replete with upsets.  Good teams go down, bad ones startle and surprise.  It’s the chaos of fantasy football and we experience it every single week we play.

Except this one.  Week 7 was like March Madness without the Mad.  Chalk.  Worst bracket ever.  Let’s examine:
Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 7 Recap

The favored team went 13-3 in week 7 – and the only exceptions were barely exceptions:

  • The New York Giants (a trendy Super Bowl pick in week #1) knocked off the Dallas Cowboys.  It’s a divisional rivalry game between two great teams.  It’s going to happen.
  • The Detroit Lions (my Super Bowl favorite in week #1) knocked off the New Orleans Saints.  Another major NFC showdown with no clear favorite – but a desperate Lions squad.
  • The Washington Redskins upset the Tennessee TItans (an anti-super bowl favorite in week #1).  This one legitimately qualifies as an upset – or as legitimately as it can when the team being upset is 5-5.

So it was a boring week.  But it was a SEPARATING week.  When the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, playoff races take shape.  By my calculation, only 9 teams in the AFC and 9 in the NFC remain in contention for the 12 available playoff spots.   The story of the next five weeks will be to determine which 3 teams are tough luck pretenders from each league – and which twelve will keep fighting for the Super Bowl.
Game of the Week: New York Giants 253 – Dallas Cowboys 214

Is it just me, or is the game of the week always between the Dallas Cowboys and whoever they play?  What gives?  The Cowboys (who, by the way, are 9-2 with the most points scored against them in the league – nobody else is allowed to complain about strength of schedule), kept their streak going, to go over 200 points for every single game this year.  The story of this game, though, was not the Cowboys, but their archrivals, the New York Giants.  The Giants bounced back from last weeks dud against the Eagles to salvage an NFC East contender split with a Monday night comeback victory over the East leaders.  A week after losing Victor Cruz for the season, the Giants proved that their WR corps was not going to be in trouble – or perhaps it is exactly the kind of trouble they were hoping for!  Sammy Watkins, Torrey Smith, DeAndre Hopkins, and Antonio Brown combined for a whopping 104 points (26 point average) and the outcome was never really in doubt.  It is very possible that the East could end up with three teams in the playoffs – although the Giants face a brutal stretch run of contenders.

Stock Rising:

Indianapolis Colts – A week after losing their hold on the South, the Colts put in a workmanlike effort against the Bengals to reclaim it with a Texans loss.  Strong games by Andrew Luck and Ahmad Bradshaw overcame a Reggie Wayne injury and a lackluster defensive performance to notch the win.  If the Colts can survive the next two weeks (brutal tests against Pittsburgh and the Giants), they come home with winnable games against the Vikings, Patriots, and Jaguars.  A 3-2 record should be enough to secure the South title at 10-6 – can they get there?

Pittsburgh Steelers: Don’t mess with Pittsburgh.  Just don’t do it.  You don’t know how they will win.  But you know they will put up points and obliterate you.  On the flip side of the Southern ledger, the Houston Texans ran into a buzzsaw in the Steelers, who answered the challenge by obliterating the Texans by a solid 100 points.  It was a great game for Le’Veon Bell (29 points), Doug “Percy who?!?  Child, Please” Baldwin (31), and a crushing defense (115 points) that received over 50 points from an always solid linebacking core.  Pittsburgh’s magic number is exactly ONE, with 5 games left, and the only question the Steelers are asking is whether or not they can hold off Denver and Buffalo for one of the two AFC byes.  What a year for the Steelers.

Detroit Lions: When a good team gets down, you have to step on their neck.  Hard.  Repeatedly.  And with prejudice.  Otherwise, you might miss your chance.  It happened to the AFC with Denver.  And the NFC had better watch out for Detroit.  Once left for dead in a competitive division, Detroit has followed up it’s “get well” victory over the Vikings with a much more noteworthy victory over the Saints.  At 6-5, the Lions are hardly beating the world – but a weird scheduling quirk gives them back-to-back opportunities against fellow Wild Card contender Atlanta, and close out games at the end of the year against New England and Arizona.  A playoff spot is not out of the question quite yet.

Honorable Mention: Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks

 

Stock Falling:

Houston Texans:  Owwww….. Nothing like fighting your way into a tie for first place only to get obliterated in a potential game of the week.  Make no mistake, this was a nightmare outing for the Texans, and every element of the offense came out totally flat.   Derek Carr and Carlos Hyde regressed on their way to a 36 point performance – half of which came from Andre Johnson.  But most worrisome for the Texans?  Zac Stacy didn’t even sniff the field, as Tre Mason started and finished.  The Texans have to hope that this is a temporary development, particularly while Arian “Australian for Running Back” Foster is posting 22 point games.  The Texans certainly have hope – but they need to put this game behind them quickly, and get the ball back in the end-zone.

New Orleans Saints: Bye weeks suck.  They simply do.  Anything can happen (and usually does), on a bye week, as the nearly traumatized Philadelphia Eagles almost discovered.  So the Saints bye week loss to the Chiefs wasn’t anything to worry about.  But this was not the bye week.  Jimmy Graham WAS in the lineup.  And the Saints still managed only 157 points in a lackluster loss to the Lions, to drop back into a tie for the division with the Falcons.  It’s even worse – more than 25% of the Saints total points (40 of them) came from a career game from Golden Tate, meaning the other NINETEEN guys scored only a total of 117 points, including a combined 0.5 point from Khiry Robinson and Jimmy Graham.  Up next is a very tough game against Green Bay.  Can the mighty New Orleans Saints really lose three in a row?  It’s possible.

Tennessee Titans: Speaking of AFC South teams with tough letdowns, the Titans had fought themselves back into divisional contention with some nice wins.  But a brutal 139 point stinker of a loss to the woeful Redskins may have undone all the recent good work the Titans have accomplished.  At 5-6, they are now two full games behind the wild card and divisional leaders – but much more dangerous, every team in the division is between them and a playoff spot.  The Titans probably need to win out from here to have a realistic shot – and Green Bay, Philly, and Pittsburgh all loom in their final five.  Even finishing at .500 might be a stretch.

Dishonorable Mention: Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets

 

Week 8 Games of the Week:

Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans – Can you say elimination game?  Both teams have put forth very strong efforts this year, but both are also reeling from brutal, non-competitive, bubble popping losses.  The resilient team will have a shot to put together a playoff run.  The loser is, in all probability, out.  Who has a short enough memory to shake off week 7 and rebound?

Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions – In the immortal words of Ernie Banks “Let’s play two”.  In a bizarre scheduling quirk, the Lions and Falcons play back to back non-divisional games in weeks 8 and 9.  To make this even more interesting, both of these teams are fighting for a coveted NFC playoff spot, and these two games will go a long way towards determining who gets it.  Both teams are looking good, but also vulnerable, with the last 200 point performance by either team several weeks back.  This will be a fascinating game to keep tabs on, particularly to see if Arian Foster can duplicate his inaugural effort and how Calvin Johnson looks, should he return.

Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints – In a battle of two heavyweight competitors moving in opposite directions, the Packers have put their early season inconsistency behind them and gone into cruise control, mounting a solid two game lead over Detroit behind a series of impressive offensive performances.  The Saints, on the other hand, are struggling offensively, have lost two straight, and find themselves tied with the aforementioned Falcons.  Can the Packers keep the Saints slide going, or will the Super Bowl champs bring out the best in their NFC rivals?

Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – It’s always a good game when division leaders clash, and this time it is Indianapolis’ chance to take on the surprise Steelers.  Pittsburgh has eviscerated all comers, and will bring their “A” game in an attempt to take another step towards an AFC bye.  But Indianapolis needs this game to stay ahead of the competition in the South.

Miami Dolphins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – In the under-the-rader wildcard game that nobody is talking about, both Miami and Jacksonville are mounting a nice push for the 2nd AFC wildcard spot.  The Jaguars are very quietly sitting only a game back of the Colts in the South, and the Dolphins have a nice 7-4 record that could very easily be 9-2.  The winner of this game has a real nice shot to take home a playoff spot in the AFC – while the loser will face an uphill climb.

New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers – A lot of good games this week!  In the East vs. West edition, the Giants are two games into their ridiculous gauntlet of doom closing schedule.  Their reward for a tough loss to the Eagles and bouncing the Cowboys?  The first of two dates with the 49ers, who suffered a tough, come from ahead loss to Denver when Peyton and Demaryius went nuts on Sunday night.  Every game counts for these two NFC powers, both of whom are in a dogfight for a playoff spot.

A huge good luck to everyone this week!  It’s starting to get really fun!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 6 Recap

Another week, another bunch of big games in the books. This is the time of year when the season really starts to heat up. The contenders are identified. Practice Squad eligibility is ending. And there are somehow only SIX games lost in which to make a move. It’s now or never, people!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 6 Recap

Game of the Week: Houston Texans 227 over Indianapolis Colts 197.

There were a few possible choices this week, from Chicago’s one point stat-correction squeaker over Atlanta (who knew Desmond Bryant was good enough to score the game-winning points 36 hours after his game was over? That dude is CLUTCH!) and Dallas’ continued assertion of NFC dominance.

But I think Houston’s victory over Indy was the game of the week because of the fascinating playoff picture it creates in the AFC South. Coupled with rapidly rising Tennessee’s win over Jacksonville, all four teams in the AFC South are within one game of each other – and within one game of the Wild Card – setting up a drama-filled final four weeks of the season.

The game itself featured characteristically strong Quarterback play from the Colts (25 for Luck) and an also characteristically strong defensive effort (96 points). Julian Edelman continued his excellent play also with 23, and the Colts put up a very nice effort.

This game, though, belonged to the big play Texans, and featured the re-emergence of Arian “Australian for Running Back” Foster (31.5), the best game of Derek Carr’s young career (matching luck with 25), and a 15 tackle, 28 point performance from Jonathan Cyprien. But the biggest came of all came from the Texans biggest stud, the possibly immortal JJ Watt, who threw down an unheard of 40 point game behind 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 passes defensed and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

While the NFC East is clearly the strongest division, the AFC South has become the most intriguing down the stretch.

 

Stock Rising:

Carolina Panthers: This team has gotten no publicity and no buzz this year (my fault!) and has flown very far under the radar. But following a 217 point win over the Bengals, the Panthers have won three straight, hit .500 and are the #10 team in the league in Fantasy Points Scored. Even more surprisingly, the Panthers have very quietly become the #3 ranked offense in the league behind the likes of Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Steve Smith, Robert Woods, Zach Ertz, LeGarrette Blount, and Eddie Royal. The defense will have to improve for them to truly make a run in a very tough NFC South – and the schedule is tough, with back-to-back-to-back games with Green Bay, New Orleans, and Seattle. But if the Panthers can win 2 out of 3…

Pittsburgh Steelers: Man it must be nice to be the Steelers. Darren Leung’s team has absolutely run away and HID from the rest of the AFC North. If the AFC South boasts the bests divisional race in football, the AFC North boasts the worst. With a 206-160 thumping of the Browns, the Steelers have moved to 8-2 and taken a four game lead in the division, which would be damn near impossible to lose.

I couldn’t have been more wrong on the Steelers, who I picked for a miserable 4-12 finish in the pre-season, and now seem to have a first round bye on lock-down. The Steelers are riding a strong defense (2nd in the league) and getting outstanding contributions from young receivers Jarvis Landry (31 points against Cleveland) and Markus Wheaton, who join Le’Veon Bell as young building blocks for a team on the rise.

San Francisco 49ers: Who is that all alone in first place in the NFC West? That’s right – it’s the Niners – fresh off a 227-106 obliteration of the Saint Louis Rams. San Francisco now leads the West in wins, in fantasy points, and in divisional record (4-1). More encouraging, QB Colin Kaepernick is picking up the pace, Vernon Davis is back (and making Vance McDonald drop touchdowns in the back of the end zone) and Alshon Jeffery is rounding into form, giving this team a formidable offense. The 49ers don’t have a very easy schedule the rest of the way, though, with games against Denver, New Orleans, and the Giants twice, interspersed around what should be easy wins against Washington and St. Louis. A 4-2 finish isn’t out of the question, and would give the 49ers a 10-6 season and a likely playoff berth.

Honorable Mentions: Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Stock Falling:

Miami Dolphins: After a nice 6-2 start, the Dolphins have suddenly dropped two straight, wasting a 30 point performance by TY Hilton to fall to the Packers. Worse, the Bills have just continued to win, and the Dolphins now find themselves 3 back with 6 to go – a lot of ground to makeup. Their record places them on the cusp of the AFC Wild Card, tied with the Indianapolis / Houston loser for the 2nd AFC Wild Card. It should be noted that Miami is the tough luck team of the year, with 2 1 point losses. Take those away and the lovable aquatic mammals are 8-2. The good news for Miami is that they don’t play another team with a winning record until a week 11 rematch with the Bills in the penultimate game of the year. The other plus for the Dolphins is that they have stayed pretty healthy, with only one IR player and nagging injuries to Stew Beef and Perry Riley to mar their starting lineup.

New York Giants: Not a great week for the erstwhile East Rutherfordites. It’s one thing to have a flat game here or there. It’s another thing to come out dead flat in a prime time game against a divisional rival that may well determine a playoff spot. No way around it, the Giants offense let it down hard against the Eagles, scoring only 57 points. The Victor Cruz injury also hurts, but the Giants have always had pretty spectacular WR depth, and still boast a rather stunning WR corps of Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Torrey Smith, and Antonio Brown. More concerning for the Giants is that they are now tied for the final NFC Wild Card spot, with the hardest schedule in football remaining: Dallas, SF, Indy, SF, Seattle, Dallas. That’s a brutal schedule with which to make up ground.

St. Louis Rams – Thud. Led by an emergent Knile Davis, the Rams went on a tear to start the season, racing out to a surprising 4-4 start with some nice victories to their name. This was a team that appeared to be way ahead on a rebuilding project, and one that could even contend for a playoff spot. Back to earth. Back to reality. Back to the 80’s. Whatever. 121 total points. Only 34 on offense. Against a division rival. Not even on a bye week. The Rams fall to 4-6 and are absolutely trending the wrong direction. Sure, Knile Davis will be back this week – but a second string running back won’t be enough to get St. Louis back to the playoffs. It was a nice and hopeful start that galvanized the Rams faithful to believe in a promising future – but the season is officially breaking the way it was expected to.

 

Games of the Week – Week 7:

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants: Murderers row continues for the Giants, and it couldn’t have come in more challenging fashion. The Cowboys scored under 200 points for the first time all year in week 6, but still won comfortably and come roaring into this divisional showdown with a chip on their shoulder, looking to extend their lead in both the division and the conference. The Cowboys strength has been their franchise players, with the triumvirate of Romo, Murray and Bryant putting up stunning numbers. The Giants, on the other hand, really need a win to keep pace in the NFC Wild Card chase, and must get a bounce-back performancefrom Eli Manning to compete.

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers: A pair of western teams with the upper hand in their respective division races, something has to give when the 49ers and Broncos square off this week. It’s a case of conflicting styles as well – the Broncos boast a very strong offense (6th), but are very mediocre on defense (28th). The 49ers are only middle of the road on offense (17th), but boast a top ten defense.

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: This one could be a heavy-weight shootout. The Lions mustered a much needed win in week 6 to return to .500, but need to keep a good thing going against the mighty Saints. The Saints, on the other hand, suffered a disappointing bye-week loss and only a late stat correction kept them in front of Atlanta in the division. Both teams could really use a win, and both teams will have to get it without their best players, as both Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham are expected to miss this game. Which team’s supporting cast will come up big in this pivotal week?

Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: No rest for the weary Texans, who come off an emotional win over division rival Indianapolis to get the 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Texans can’t afford a let down, as the victory over the Colts was enough to put them into contention – not enough to buy them a break. The Steelers, meanwhile, will look to extend their winning streak and improve their record against teams outside of their division (Pittsburgh is 4-0 against the AFC North, only 4-2 outside). A win for the Texans puts them in the drivers seat of their playoff fate. A win for the Steelers further establishes them as a team to beat in the AFC – and brings them closer to a playoff bye.

Great week! Good luck everyone!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 5 Recap

This week, the world mostly returned to normal.  Mostly.  We still had two games decided by a single point (Carolina over Chicago and Oakland over Miami), a 1-7 team knocking off a 7-1 team (Tampa Bay over New Orleans), and the Tennessee Titans with the week’s second largest margin of victory (83 points).

But by and large, week 5 restored a modicum of sanity to a crazed, confused RDFL.  Don’t worry – there’s no way it’s gonna last.

Onto the recap!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 5 Recap

Game of the week: Carolina Panthers 182, Chicago Bears 181.

This one doesn’t win for most points scored, or most relevant playoff outcome – but frankly, there was not and obvious candidate for game of the week this week, and this one was just so darn close!  The Bears had only four offensive players who played a snap, but made the most of them, as Forte, Cutler, Wright and Marshall combined for over 87 points.  Ex-Bear Julius Peppers popped in 29 on defense, and the Bears looked to be on their way to an early romp, particularly with Cam Newton playing a merely pedestrian game.  Greg Olsen through in 27 points, however, and Luke Kuechly was his normal, monstrous 18 point self.  In the end, I don’t have a clue what the difference in this game was – when you’re separated by 7/10ths of a point, there really isn’t much.  But if the Bears had had even 5 players on their offense get a point…  Now it’s time to look at next year, as 2-7 is near mathematically impossible.  The Panthers stay alive, albeit on the outside looking in, at 4-5.

Stock Rising:

Tennessee Titans:  Don’t look now, but the commish’s team might be getting good ahead of schedule!  The Titans have won three of their last four, and have point totals of 207 and 197 sandwiched around a stinker in Indianapolis.  Tennessee is getting extremely balanced production from a young and still growing offensive that is loaded with upside.  Against Cleveland, the starting 7 of Jake Locker, Jeremy Hill, Justin Hunter, Mohamed Sanu, Dwayne Allen, Odell Beckham and Kenny Britt all combined for 115 points, with everyone scoring at least 10 and nobody scoring more than 20.25.  Just as important, the Titans find themselves only two games off the pace in the AFC playoff race, and are a team that should continue to improve as the season progresses and the younger guys find their legs and gain more opportunities.

Denver Broncos: This was the Broncos team we all expected.  The one we saw last year.  The one we were all terrified off.  The Broncos have sputtered through the first part of the season, maintaining a hold on first place by pulling out close victories against a weak schedule.  Even after Sunday’s 257 point outburst, the Broncos still rank only 23rd in the league in Fantasy Points scored.  Sunday’s explosion must have felt wonderful for a team that had to have wondered about it’s mojo.  Led by a ridiculous 104 points between Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos obliterated the Cardinals by almost exactly that margin, posting the week’s highest point total and maintaining a tie for the division lead in the AFC West.  With 5 of their next 6 games against teams with losing records and their bye week behind them, one has the feeling that the Broncos are about to round into form – and that the other AFC contenders should have struck while they had the chance.

Seattle Seahawks: Another struggling contender who got a nice lift in week 5, the Seahawks were mired in mediocrity, sitting with a .500 record, a middling spot in the point standings, and some rather unpleasant losses to their credit.  While a solid 206-160 win over the Redskins won’t solve everything, crossing the 200 point plateau is never easy (unless you’re Dallas, in which case it’s damn near impossible to do anything but) and is the sign of a quality team.  Even more, the Hawks did it with Eric Decker putting up a goose egg, riding Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson to a nice win.  Dallas looms next week, but is followed by three very winnable games with St. Louis, Carolina, and Oakland.  If the Hawks can go 3-1, they’ll bring an 8-5 record into the final three and be well positioned for a playoff berth.

Honorable Mention: Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers

 

Stock Falling:

Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s hard to fall too far when you have a three game lead in your division and have already sent your extended family their playoff tickets.  But after a gangbusters start to the year, the Steelers are falling off the pace a little bit, losing 2 games in the last three weeks after a 5-0 start.  The first loss was a Game of the Week quality 228-217 loss to a playoff caliber team in the Falcons.  This loss?  Less understandable, as the Steelers got their lowest point total of the year (160) by far, and fell to a .500 Jacksonville team.  More concerning than the simple 163 point total is the trend – the Steelers have scored fewer points each week of the season, starting off with 224 in week 1, 218 in week 2, 217 in week 3, 198 in week 4 and 163 in week 5.  None of those scores are anything to scoff at, but the trend itself is a concern.  Has Darren Leung’s squad already played it’s best football?

Miami Dolphins: This is a team that has earned the right to be a little bit bitter.  At 6-3, the Dolphins are a solid wild card team.  However, they have now lost two of their three games by a combined total of 2 points, with one point losses to both the Chiefs and Raiders.  Miami is a good time, and on a playoff track, but the Fins have now lost 2 of 3, and are sitting at 6-3 instead of a very easy 8-1.  More alarming, Miami is only 21st in total Fantasy Points scored and is facing an alarming lack of defensive production.

NFC North: At the beginning of the year, I highlighted two divisions that I thought would be the class of Real Deal – the NFC North and the NFC East.  The East has held up its end of the bargain.  But the North has not, and suffered through another 1-3 week as it fades into what might be the worst division in the NFC.  The Packers have held their own in the singles, posting another nice win to improve to 6-3 and open up a two game lead in the division.  But the Lions, Vikings and Bears (insert obligatory “Oh my” comment here) have combined for an 8-19 record, including a combined 2-10 in the past three weeks.   The Bears, a playoff contender at the beginning of the year, are much closer to the #1 pick now, and if the Lions can’t turn it around, the North may well be a one bid league.

Dishonorable Mention: AFC North, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints

 

Week 6 Games of the Week:

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles – The NFC Wildcard is shaping up to be quite a battle, with Philadelphia, the Giants and the Falcons sitting at 6-3, with the 49ers/Seahawks loser sitting only a game back at 5-4 and the dangerous Lions still sitting within striking distance.  Only two of those teams can make the playoffs – and this game will raise one team into the relatively safe ground of #1 WC, while the other will be cast back into the muck and the struggle.  Big, big Sunday night game.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks – East vs. West.  New Money vs. Old Money.  Hot shot upstart vs. Last Year’s big news… Aside from a week of Punter trouble, the Cowboys have crushed all competition this year and seem the odds-on Super Bowl favorite at the midway point.  The Seahawks, one of the early favorites, sputtered out of the gate but seem to have righted their ship.  Can they keep it going against the Cowboys?  Or will Dallas add yet another scalp to its NFC domination belt?

Green Bay Packers vs. Miami Dolphins – Almost forgotten amidst some of the other great games is this scuffle, featuring two 6-3 teams.  A win by Green Bay allows the packers to maintain a 2 game lead in the North with only 6 more games to go.  A win by Miami keeps the Dolphins in the lead for the AFC wild card.  More importantly, a win against Green Bay would go a long way towards proving that the Dolphins aren’t pretenders.  And for Green Bay, another solid week without a meltdown would help reassure a still jump fan base of the team’s consistency.

Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts – Somehow, despite winning what seems like every week, the Colts find themselves only a single game ahead of the Texans in what looks like the most meaningful Thursday night tilt we’ve yet seen.  If the Colts win and Tennessee beats the Jags, Indy will have a comfortable two game lead as they look to take their second division title. But it is also possible that week 6 could result in a three way dogfight.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans – Do teams with a combined record of 9-9 really deserve a game of the week spot?  Yes.  Both of these teams are coming off legitimate wins with legitimate point totals, and the winner of this one will be poised to make real noise in the AFC South.  The Jaguars are a much older, veteran squad, while the Titans are an up and coming bunch.  Which one will make itself a player as the season progresses?

Good luck this week everyone!