Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 8 Recap

For a week that had a lot of big games, week 8 sure ended up chalk.  There was not a single game in week 8 where a team with a worse record beat a team with a better record.  Not one.  Not a single upset.  The folks fighting upwards broadly missed chances to get back into contention, while the dominant simply reasserted themselves for yet one more week.  While it does lead to a dearth of drama, it also helps to crystallize a rapidly forming playoff picture.  To the games!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 8 Recap

Game of the Week: Detroit Lions 236, Pittsburgh Steelers 210

While an argument can be made for Arizona’s bubble victory over Green Bay as more relevant to the playoffs or Kansas City’s Monday night comeback over Denver as more dramatic, the Lions and Steelers game was the highest scoring game of the week played by two division champions, and featured just enough drama and playoff implications to give it the nod.

After a series of wins that didn’t quite live up to their exacting standards, the Lions will take this one, exploding out of the gate with 27 from Matthew Stafford and Tyler Lockett, 24 from Marvin Jones, and over 100 points from the defense yet again.  Much more exciting for Detroit is that who did the scoring.  On a day when Tyreek Hill and Brandin Cooks combined for only 13.5 points, and they got a goose egg from TE Charles Clay, it was secondary offensive players who carried the Lions, including a nice 18 point game from ascendant Colts RB Marlon Mack.  Cooks and Hill will get theirs.  If guys like Mack and Lockett can keep it up, look out.

For Pittsburgh, it was a better effort but still a frustrating defeat.  Juju “Tour de France” Smith-Schuster explored for 44 – only to see Jarvis Landry and Le’Veon bell fall off their MVP paces and the bottom of the offensive lineup continue to not perform.  You won’t ever argue with 210 points, but Pittsburgh would have loved a win here and fall back to within a game of the “we might not be great, but we never ever go away” Bengals.

One interesting note – no defender on either side scored over 20 points, but both defenses passed the century mark.  I think that might be a first!


Teams Rising: Tough to find a lot of risers and fallers in a week where all the favorites won and the underdogs did not, but when have we at the Real Deal Report ever shied away from a challenge?

Cincinnati Bengals: They down.  They up.  They back.  They forth.  Come see the amazing “what the hell are they doing”?  crazy unpredictable Cincinnati Bengals!  After blowing multiple chances to pass Pittsburgh and laying a relative egg during their rivalry game with the Steelers, the Bengals respond not by folding, but by crushing Indianapolis 178-84. The offense continued its putrid stench for Cincinnati with only 41 points, but the defense played nicely, putting in 114 points and led by an 18 point night from Geno Atkins.  Coupled with Pittsburgh’s loss, the Bengals somehow find themselves only a half game back yet again, and with another (gulp) opportunity in week 9.

Denver Broncos: Denver has had a rough year.  Marshawn Lynch hasn’t really worked out as hoped.  Paxton Lynch and Tom Savage both looked like potential starting QBs and then neither were.  Dion Lewis has been eclipsed in New England by Mike Gillislee, and the Denver host franchise hasn’t really put up the points.  Even McManus has missed field goals.  And yet, Denver has been surprisingly competitive, only 43 points back of the Raders for the season.  They showed it this weekend.  Explosive performances from Jack Doyle (36), DeAndre Washington (22), and Adrian Phillips (22) pushed the Broncos well over 200 points.  There are two types of teams with rough records in this league – the “gimme games” who are not competitive at all, and the talented teams that have a great chance to win every week.  Denver is in the second category – and are a quarterback and a couple pieces away from being playoff ready.

Buffalo Bills: It’s hard to rise when you are 11-0 and tops in the league.  There’s no where to rise from when you are already at the top.  But in a week where the favorites all won, it only seems appropriate to honor just how dominant the Bills have been and just how easy they have made it look in cruising to an 11-0 record and clinching the AFC East title in week 11.

The Bills have scored over 200 points every single week except for week 1.  With the exception of two games that were within 15 points (one against the Jets and one against Cincy), Buffalo has won every single game on their schedule by 50 or more points, and most by over 75.  They lead RDFL with 2634 fantasy points (almost 200 more than second place Detroit), and have both a top 4 offense and top 4 defense.

It’s not easy to dominate as smoothly and easily as the Bills have done this year.  It’s unprecedented in our league.  Can they go undefeated?  Their remaining schedule includes the LA Chargers (should be an easy win), New England (same), those pesky NY Jets, the New Orleans Saints (how ironic would it be if NO knocked them out of the ranks of the unbeaten?) and a week 12 showdown with Alex Smith and the Chiefs.

My prediction: Buffalo goes undefeated.

Honorable Mentions: The NFC South not named Tampa Bay, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals

Teams Falling:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Stop me if you’ve heard this theme before.  Tampa Bay loses a game they really needed while the entire rest of the NFC South wins.  This isn’t the first time this year, and it’s backbreaking.  The quarterbackless Bucs offense, hampered by bye weeks, shut down entirely for a 25 point output that did not feature a single double digit performance as the Bucs were smashed by divisional rival Carolina 190-149.  The defense, led by Halloween sensation Jadeveon Clowney (24), put up a game fight, but it wasn’t enough.  Tampa now finds itself at 5-6, 4 out in the division and two back of both Atlanta and New Orleans for the wild card.  They aren’t quite eliminated.  But it’s close.  Might be time to pack it up again in Florida.

Houston Texans: There is just no way the Texans should be 2-8-1.  I still don’t understand it.  That team has so much talent.  So many good players.  I thought they would be Buffalo’s chief rival for the AFC championship.  And quite frankly, if I were picking today, I think I might still go with them.  That team just looks so good.  And yet, somehow, they can’t quite win games.  The latest in the disappointing chapter is a 190-172 loss to Seattle where Jameis Winston regressed to 4 points, no single player scored more than 17, and the defense put in 67 total.  Blech.  Seattle wasn’t much better, but got a combined 110 points from the combination of Russell Wilson, Ezekiel “Is he suspended or not” Elliott, and Travis Kelce.  Seattle bounces back from a brutal stat correction loss to the Giants, while Houston continues to wonder what the hell is going on.

Tennessee Titans: Just two short weeks ago, Tennessee was tied with Jacksonville atop the AFC South with a scintillating 7-2 record and a couple of convincing victories.  As the old reliable good team in the division, it seemed quite likely that they would outrace Jacksonville for the South and potentially contend for a first round bye.  Two weeks later, and the Titans would simply take a playoff berth.  It wasn’t so much that they lost to the Giants in week 8 (everybody loses to the Giants).  Instead it was how they lost.  Under 50 points on offense with Case Keenum as the only double digit scorer.  85 points for the defense which would have been much lower if Jimmy Smith hadn’t taken advantage of the hapless Dolphins for a 50 yard pick six in London.  Two straight weeks under 140 points.  And only a 1 game cushion now over Oakland and Cincinnati in the Wild Card race.  Tennessee can get things back on track.  But they are closer to missing the playoffs than they are to a division title at this point.

Dishonorable Mentions: Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns


Week 9 Games of the Week: So fair warning – this week’s games kind of suck in RDFL.  Good weekend to check out and take advantage of some family time, because there ain’t much to see in week 9’s slate.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers: Probably the best game of the week, this one pits a pair of rivals against each other.  Carolina has a two game lead over both the Falcons and Panthers at this point.  With a win this week, that lead would remain a minimum of two over New Orleans and three over Atlanta with only four to go.  Put another way, Carolina can come close to clinching this week.  A win by Atlanta, however, puts this division right back in reach.  Kelvin Benjamin in Buffalo, Jay Ajayi in Philly and Willie Snead back from the dead provide some interesting question marks for key playmakers that will be worth watching also.

Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens: As mentioned, Tennessee is trending the wrong direction.  Baltimore, while just about dead, is only two games out of the wild card.  A win by Baltimore would put them back at 6-6 and within a game of the wild card.  The Vikings bye is going to leave Tennessee without a quarterback for this week, but Baltimore will be starting a concussed and ineffective Flacco in addition to other bye week challenges.  This should be a slog fest – and one I predict to see Tennessee emerge from.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: And what an obvious set up for the pattern to repeat itself.  The Bengals have a chance to take over first place yet again from the Steelers – and failing that, to grab hold of a wild car spot in the AFC.  To do so, they have to beat the Jaguars, who suddenly have a pair of QBs.  It’s going to be tough.  Jacksonsville is at full strength, playing great, and in a position to place the AFC South on lockdown.  In the meantime, the Steelers have a winnable game with New England.  If the pattern holds, the lead will be extended again.

New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Desperation time for Tampa, contention time for New Orleans.  This is a big game for the wild card, and possibly a big game for the divisional race.  Thank goodness for the wild and wacky NFC South to provide big games on a week with a major dearth of them.  New Orleans will have to adjust to a third string role for Wendell Smallwood, while the Bucs have to get that offense on track and face serious questions about famous Jameis.  I hate to say it, but I’m guessing this officially makes the NFC South a three team league.

Good luck this week, friends!

Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 8 Recap

Well, well, well things are starting to get interesting!

Week 8 brought an influx of upsets and surprising results, with a full 7 games that could reasonably be classified as upsets. As a result, both the NFC and AFC wild card spots are getting fascinating.  With just 5 games to go in the season, fully 22 teams remain in striking distance (within 2 games) of a playoff spot, and with the exception of the undefeated 11-0 Bills, not a single one of the divisional races is cleanly decided  It’s going to be fun from here on out!

Game of the Week: Arizona Cardinals 165, Carolina Panthers 160

With apologies to Dallas’ narrow 186-182 squeaker over a suddenly injury ravaged Philadelphia Eagles squad, this one makes the cut both because of how tight the game was, and how substantial the playoff and seeding implications could be in the competitive NFC.  Both teams nearly hit the century mark on defense, didn’t break double figures on special teams, and cruised to disappointing 50something performances on offense.  The difference?  A Practice Squad Poach.  Earlier this week, Devontae Booker was hanging out on the Vikings Practice Squad.  The Cardinals snared him and flipped him into the starting lineup, where he scored 18.5 points.  On a week when Shady McCoy, Richard Rodgers, and Michael Floyd all put up zeroes, Devontae was the difference.  Watch the Practice Squad folks.  It can make or break you!  As a result, the Cardinals move into sole possession of first place for the first time all year while the Panthers fall back into a tie with the hard-charging Falcons.

Teams Rising: 

Dallas Cowboys: Ok, you don’t get game of the week.  But an upset like that deserves a shoutout.  The Cowboys rode 20+ points from Carson Palmer, Davante Adams, and Allan Hurns to barely overcome a 50 point explosion on Carr.  It’s the Cowboys first win since Washington in week 2, and provides some hope that the young core of players that the team has put together via trade this year will make a solid foundation moving forward.

Oakland Raiders: Well now.  This is what happens when Oakland finally gets healthy, eh?  Dez is back.  Tyler Eifert is back. Jonathan Stewart is back.  Aaron Rodgers seems to have recovered from whatever funk was plaguing him early on. The result is a 230-164 obliteration of Tampa Bay, which would have been worse had the Raiders even remembered to start Eifert.  Oakland has very quietly won three straight to move to 6-5 and pull within 1 game of the wild card and 2 games of the division lead in the West.  The Raiders could continue to make some hay with games against Denver and Indy coming, before a brutal stretch of Houston, Buffalo, and Carolina to close the season.

Houston Texans: The Texans are tied for first place.  After a bipolar start to the year, the Texans have now put together four straight victories against decent competition to tie for the AFC South lead.  Their latest win, a 212-184 triumph over the Lions, was no joke either.  Detroit’s a division leader and had a great shot at a playoff bye before this setback.  Even more encouraging, ever player on the Texan offense scored in double figures, and contributions came from a variety of players who had been huge lottery ticket question marks before the season began.  If Mike Gillislee, Austin Hooper, Chris Hogan, Kerry Hyder and John Simon can keep putting up double figure scores for the rest of the season, Houston could be very hard to beat.  Opportunity looms again in week 9 in the form of a showdown with fellow AFC bubbler Cincy.

Honorable Mentions: New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints.
Teams Falling:

Philadelphia Eagles: Yeeouch.  One week after pulling to within a game of the Giants, the Eagles had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week 8.  A four point loss in what should have been a gimme game against the Cowboys.  A significant arrest for Josh Huff.  Derrick Henry outshining DeMarco Murray.  And the Honey Badger out for the rest of the regular season at least.  All that combined with wins by the Giants, Falcons and Saints, and the Eagles are no longer thinking about the division. They are thinking about their wild card life.  On tap, of course, is just what the doctor ordered.  A date with the newly revitalized Giants.

Tennessee Titans: Adversity.  It’s where the stars shine.  It’s where you find out what men are made of.  It’s where heroes are born and goats are immortalized.  It’s where the Tennessee Titans suddenly and unhappily find themselves.  Coming off a vigorous week 6 shelling of the Cleveland Browns, the Titans had a 7-2 record, a 2 game lead in what appeared to be a mediocre division, and with two very winnable games against Indianapolis and Jacksonville coming up.  A two-seed and playoff bye appeared to be clearly in sight.  Ouch.  Two painfully mediocre defeats later, the Titans are now 7-4, tied for first, have not broken 200 points (other than 201 against Cleveland) since week 2, and are only 7th in the AFC in points scored.  The good news for the Titans is that the next three games are against San Diego, Green Bay, and Indianapolis, all below .500 teams, so there’s time to recover.  The bad news is that so were their last two.  We’ll see.

Los Angeles Rams: What’s the best way to follow up a stunning victory over the New York Giants where the whole team shows up and plays well?  A lackluster, uninspired 98 point performance in a total beatdown.  A goose egg from six players who did play and a number of others on bye.  Not a single player hitting 20 and only 5 hitting double digits.  Yeeouch.  Sometimes big wins are catapults.  Sometimes they are flukes.  This one looks like a fluke.

Dishonorable Mentions: Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions.

Oh, and a special dishonorable shout-out to Denver and Green Bye.  Come on guys.  Can you at least try to start a legal lineup on occasion?


Games of the Week: 

Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears: It’s bye week Mayhem for the Bears and Cards!  Arizona is on a hot streak after beating the Panthers, and look to keep it going against the Bears.  After pulling off a trade for Landry Jones, the Bears remain in spitting distance of both the Lions and the NFC Wild Card – but really need a win in week 9 to pull it off.  The bye looks a little more damaging for Zona than for the fighting Butkuses, but injuries may play on even larger role in the outcome.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Despite seemingly losing every single week, the Bucs have scored the 7th most points in the NFC, and could ostensibly mount a run.  If so, it has to be now.  The Falcons are looking very good, riding a winning streak and a 245 point performance.  This is their chance to both deep six Tampa Bay’s season and move into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: This rivalry game has lost a little luster as the Steelers have struggled to maintain a legal lineup at times this year, and have had major bad luck with suspensions and injuries at others.  Still, this is a team that is much better than 5-6, and can play anyone tight.  Heck, they can dominate anyone on any given week.  Baltimore is no slouch either, having knocked off the Giants and quietly kept pace with Cleveland and Cincy in the better than expected AFC Norris.  Both teams should be near full strength, which should be a treat for us.

Buffalo Bills vs. Seattle Seahawks: What an utterly bizarre situation this is.  The Buffalo Bills are 11-0, have the AFC East locked up, are cruising towards the #1 overall seed, and have barely even been challenged.  The Seahawks, after a schedule-boosted 6-1 start, have lost four straight to fall to 6-5, and plummet.  Easy, right?  Well, except that the Bills get killed on the bye week.  DeSean Jackson, AJ Green, Rob Gronkowski, Alshon Jeffery, Mason Foster, Deion Buccannon, Tracy Porter, and George Iloka among others are ALL on bye.  The Bills players on bye are better than most TEAMS.  The Seahawks do lose a few players themselves, but nowhere near THAT.  The result being a Fantrax projected Seahawks victory.  How bizarre would that be?

Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Another great matchup that will be heavily influenced by the bye week, the 7-4 and tied for first place Texans square off against the 8-3 and also tied for first place Bengals.  Hard to say who the bye week hurts more, as Cincy loses their QB and some huge defensive pieces, while the Texans keep their QB, but lose David Johnson, Jordan Howard, and some solid defensive pieces in their own right

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles: It’s a week to week league, right?  The Eagles need to hope so.  This is NOT what the doctor ordered for an injured team.  A week ago, Philly might have welcomed this as a chance to knock off the suddenly vulnerable Giants.  Not now.  Now Philly just wants a win to keep pace with the wild card – and will have to do it with no Honey Badger and facing the Giants full lineup.  It’s possible.  But my money is on the Giants.
Good luck this week everybody!  Enjoy game 7!

Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 8 Recap

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.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 8 Recap

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!

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!