Chad Pennington is out for the season and in comes the youngster Chad Henne to show everyone he’s better than he played in relief last week. Henne has a better arm and can throw the deep ball better than Chad, but will he play mistake free enough to keep the starting gig? Tyler Thigpen was sent to Miami to be Henne’s back-up, and I truly think that was the Dolphins’ intentions. I think Henne keeps the job and ends up helping out a guy like Ted Ginn Jr…. Darren McFadden fumbled the ball three times, doesn’t see the hole that well, and has 11 guys focused on trying to tackle him as soon as he gets the ball. I’m not saying dump McFadden, in fact, I think you could get the guy for next to nothing and he’s worth the risk, but I don’t think I’d start him unless you are desperate or he does some actual damage (though this week he has a pretty decent match-up if you want to gamble)…. Speaking of JaMarcus Russell, can a guy be any less confident throwing a football than he is? He can’t even seem to connect with Zach Miller anymore. After ending the season on a very high note, winning a couple games, completing a respectable percentage, and throwing 6-2 TD to INT, many thought Russell would take the next step. If the next step was all rotten and dropped off into a hot lava pit, that was right on the button….. Eli Manning has been very good. That’s hard for me to write down, but what more can I say? I thought teams would be able to stack up against the run, but you just can’t do that to Eli anymore. His receivers are better than anyone thought, and maybe he’s worth all that money the Giants invested into him after all. That makes me sick to my stomach, or maybe that’s just the burgers…… Jake Delhomme may be just about done, but I have to blame the play calling for the Panthers’ complete demise. DeAngelo Williams had 11 carries for the love of god. 11. And the Panthers were on top and or tied for quite some time. Not only did he not get the ball enough, but in 11 carries he totaled over 60 yards. That looks good to me. Seems like if you did a lot more of handing him the ball you’d win a game or two….. Aaron Rodgers has not looked good through the first three games. He still has decent fantasy numbers, but for the majority of game time he’s been overthrowing receivers, picking the wrong guy, and just flat out looking rusty. He’ll be fine, don’t worry, but how often does this kind of thing happen? A guy walks through the pre-season completing every pass he throws only to struggle out of the gates. It’s weird….. Game smarts: where have you gone? Seneca Wallace, special teams players, NFL coaches – I feel like the first three games have been an interview for new reality show titled “Dumb is the new Fun”. How can quarterbacks run out of bounds 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage when all you have to do is throw the ball into the freaking stands? How can a kick return guy run out of bounds only to sprint in front of his teammates on a rolling punt and be the first to touch it? How can Jim Mora call a 2 yard out to Julius Jones on 4th and 3 with 29 seconds to go? How can Chad Pennington run a QB sneak for a first down on 3rd and 1 with a minute left in the game when he needs a touchdown to score? These first few weeks have been crazy, but somebody needs to teach these guys some rules. Good lord!….. Matt Forte, ugh. 21 carries for 66 yards, against the Hawks? At least Jay Cutler checked it down to him a couple times, but this was supposed to be the game that Forte stepped up his production. Needless to say, that wasn’t really the case….. LenDale White might not be getting enough carries to be fantasy worthy, but Chris Johnson won’t hold up with 25 touches a game all season. As much as I love Chris’s game, White is going to get an opportunity, and he’s going to run with it. He’s run well despite limited looks. Keep your eye on the big guy….. How does Tampa bench Byron Leftwich? I know they are struggling and 0-3 and young and maybe want to see what one of their young guys can do, but Byron was only good through the first two weeks. The Giants were in his face every snap last Sunday, but Byron’s numbers were goo prior to that. I don’t think Josh Johnson will be as good as Lefty, and Josh Freeman is not ready either. Interesting move, not a good sign if you own Kellen Winslow, Antonio Bryant, or even a running back. Not good if you own Byron either.
I haven’t had a big winner yet with my free NCAA picks, so it’s bound to happen this week. I’ve had a tough time with big dogs so far this year, so I’m taking at least a one-week hiatus from those options. I’ve eliminated all my super-fades until I get a better hold on what the state of Washington is up to, but am hoping to find some great value headed in to Wednesday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, Friday Night Football, and of course the fantastic weekend to come. I know it looks like road-team galore… but here’s a dozen big ones for you… Enjoy!
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Lousiana Tech Bulldogs (-3.5): On the road for the Warriors isn’t that bad this week as they haven’t played since the 19th. However, I’m still on Tech here. They’ve played pretty well against equal competition, which I think the Rainbows are. Giving up a little over a field goal at home on Wednesday Night seems like a good value pick to me. The favored team has won this battle in all but one occasion in 7 meetings since 2000. The home team has covered in 6 of the last 7.
Colorado Buffaloes (+17) @ West Virginia Mountaineers: I know I said I was big with BIG DOGS, but I promised a reader I’d pick this game, and after looking into it I have to take the Buffaloes and all those Thursday Night points. The Buffs have had nearly 2 weeks to prepare for the Mounties spread offense, and the same goes for WV against Colorado’s rushing attack.This game won’t be as high scoring as expected, and the points look like a hot brunette with light eyes… Sexy. I’ll take ’em!
Pittsburgh Panthers (-6.5) @ Louisville Cardinals: The Panthers finally got over the Louisville hump last season when they rocked the Cardinals 41-7. That marked the first time in the last 20 years (8 total meetings) that Pitt won this match-up. I think they make it a steak against a Louisville team that just doesn’t do the program much justice. Pittsburgh can really run the ball, and they’re making fewer mistakes than in recent years. That helps in a short week.
Michigan Wolverines (pk) @ Michigan State Spartans: I’ll be the first one to tell you that I don’t think Michigan is as good as people give them credit for being. But the Spartans are worse. And if Forcier is playing, and it’s said that he’ll be just fine for this one, I have to give a pick-em nod to the Wolverines. A team that is better on the ground and defensively. They have better athletes and a better coach (though he’s kind of a donkey), and they just win this game.
Florida State Seminoles (-4.5) @ Boston College Eagles: Smoke BYU, then come out like you own the world only to lose to South Florida – but then walk right on out in an ACC match-up and ice the 3-1 Boston College Eagles… Yeah, I’m predicting that last one. BC isn’t a 3-1 team, they don’t really do anything exceptionally well despite being 3-1 thus far. I like them to get closer to the .500 team they are destined to be by losing to the Seminoles this Saturday.
Alabama Crimson Tide (-17) @ Kentucky Wildcats: The Tide have really beat up on everyone thus far. Their closest game was a 10 point Week 1 win over Virginia Tech where the Hokies needed lots of fluke happenings to keep it close. They’ve dominated thus far, and it’s because they have bigger badder players than most other schools in the country. What was the last game Kentucky played like that? Last week’s 41-7 blitzing at the hands of the Gators. I don’t think it will be that bad, but ‘Bama runs the ball too well, and makes too few mistakes not to hand it to the Wildcats.
LSU Tigers (-2.5) @ Georgia Bulldogs: The Tigers aren’t the 4th best team in the country, I’ll tell you that is one sure thing I know: and you might think that might make them an upset candidate heading into Week 5, but I don’t think Georgia has it in them. They aren’t a Top 15 team in my opinion. I know both these teams play in SEC land where every team is better than every team in other conferences (please) but there’s something about really close wins over Arizona State, Arkansas, and South Carolina that just don’t say 14th in the Nation to me. The Bulldogs won’t be able to put up the points they’ll need to win this one. I’ll take the road favorite in this SEC showdown.
Washington Huskies (+17) @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish:(Again, a pretty big dog, what can I say they just attract me) I don’t see the Irish covering against the big Husky dog in this one. WA had a tough match-up last week, a dominant running team that doesn’t make mistakes. That’s not Notre Dame. This one should be tough, and I don’t think the Huskies will come out in a lull like they did last week. Something about going to Notre Dame with a chance to upset the Irish that has me taking the Dogs here. I think they have a good chance to not only cover, but pull the upset, so I’ll take all those points.
Oklahoma Sooners @ Miami Hurricanes (+7): I think Miami has the kids to play with a team like Oklahoma. They are playing at home, in front of a crowd that will be nuts, getting hyped for a huge chance to prove themselves once again after they really tumbled in last week’s game against Virginia Tech. A little slap in the face to show you that you may not be everything you think you are usually does a team good, and I think last week’s loss will have that effect on the Hurricanes. Since their loss to BYU, the Sooners haven’t had a tough game to show me what they are really made of, as Idaho State and Tulsa don’t really do it for me. I’ll take the home dog here, even if Bradford gets cleared.
Ohio State Buckeyes (-17) @ Indiana Hoosiers: The Hoosiers played a real tough game last week, many think they should have won, but they fought really hard only to get their hearts broken by Tate Forcier and company. This week the Buckeyes come to town, and I don’t think they’ll be feeling bad for the Hoosiers. Ohio State can beat up on some mediocre Big 10 teams in a hurry. I think they do exactly that in Indy this weekend.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-4.5) @ Mississippi State Bulldogs: They Yellow Jackets may have figured it out last week. However, I don’t think I’d be taking them here anyway if it wasn’t for the great match-up they have against a team that struggles to stop the run. That being said, I think the Jackets are a lot like Auburn, and I see 350+ rushing yards getting fed to the Bulldogs defense this weekend. Gotta take the road favorites here.
USC Trojans @ California Golden Bears (+6): Apparently it’s hard to win against a physical team when you’re looking forward to next week’s huge battle. Fortunately for the Bears, the battle this weekend had some pressure relieved when they got trounced by the Ducks. They are no longer an undefeated top ranked powerhouse heading into a huge game against a Trojans team that always beats them. Nope, they are now in the same boat as USC, 3-1 on the season, one loss to a team that isn’t as good as they are, and looking for redemption against the toughest opponent they’ll have all season. USC’s offense doesn’t impress me, and they aren’t as tough defensively as they’ve been. Jahvid Best has a stigma where he just can’t get yards against top ranked foes, I’m willing to be he pops that bubble in Week 5. This one could go either way, that’s why I’ll be taking the Bears and the point at home.
Washington State Cougars @ Oregon Ducks (-31): Fade the Cougars… even after two big wins. I stayed away from WSU last week, as they stayed close to the Trojans, so good for me. But they are terrible, and Oregon has figured out what they’re doing. If they don’t put up 50 on the Cougars I will be surprised.
Ugh… I struggled with my NFL Week 3 free picks, had some tough luck in some games and floundered while riding some big dogs. They say, let the big dog eat, well this week the big dog got eaten and I was there as desert. I had a tough time with Week 3, most definitely, but when I win big I take some credit, and when I struggle I own up – so here’s my review for 2009’s first loosing week.
Cleveland Browns (+13) @ Baltimore Ravens: (LOSS) The Ravens did revert back to running the ball a lot more in this one, unfortunately for the Browns that just meant a slower death. Cleveland did nothing, nothing at all. Brady Quinn was brutal, but Derek Anderson was even worse. I think being forced to coach Cleveland was a perfect punishment for Mangini’s failure to keep running the ball while heading up the Jets. I was thinking that Cleveland would get some big plays through the air, as Baltimore’s defense had been giving those up over the first couple weeks, and Baltimore’s running game would slow the game down, keeping this relatively close. Nope. The Browns got slaughtered and I started out with a loss.
New York Giants @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7): (LOSS) The Giant are a million times better than the Bucs, and I think I’m going to have to give up on my “The Bucs aren’t that bad” assessment. The Bucs can run the ball, and I thought Byron could throw the rock (and he did in the first couple weeks) but what Tampa can’t do is stop any offenses in the NFL. If they can’t do that, they’re going to really struggle to win a couple games.
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) @ St. Louis Rams: (WINNER) “Marc Bulger is bad – the Packers put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the Rams are missing their first round pick starting offensive tackle, and they are the worst team in football despite those things.”Okay, so I don’t think it was fair that Marc Bulger went down early in this one, that luck of the draw alone gave them a chance to upset the Packers. St. Louis went all in against the run, and the Packers needed some really big plays to end up covering this one. I’d take this bet again though, you can bet on that. It’s not every day that the Rams get lucky and lose Marc Bulger to injury.
Kansas City Chiefs (+9.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles: (LOSS) I really thought the Chiefs stood a chance in this one. I know Kolb has been winging it, but I thought KC could control the clock a bit on the ground and beat the Eagles in some blitzes – however, it seemed like Philly had their way from the get go, rather it was running or throwing with ease, and despite completing most of his passes, Cassel finished with under 100 yards passing. Weird. Another loss started the worrying. Penalties will kill a football team, just ask the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots (-4): (WINNER) Neither team played really well, Tom Brady struggled with some throws, and his receivers struggled to catch some of them. Still, the Patriots found a way to move the ball, it’s this crazy idea called handing it off. Yes, Fred Taylor burst onto the scene, picking apart the Falcons porous run defense to the tune of a 100+ yard game and a touchdown. That extra threat allowed the Patriots to get in a better flow, and they won the game with relative ease.
San Francisco 49ers (+7) @ Minnesota Vikings: (WINNER) The 49ers deserved this game but Brett pulled a laser out of his bag of tricks and Greg Lewis had one of the best last second catches I’ve seen in quite some time to get the win for the Vikings. Brett’s throw was amazing, and the Vikings did just enough, in just enough time, to get the 49ers. Both these teams are very good, and like I said, very similar, which is why that 49er cover was good value.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans (-3.5): (LOSS) This game was disgusting to watch. It was 31-24, which may make people think there was some good football being played, but when it comes right down to it the Texans and Jaguars were just about equal parts mediocre on Sunday. The Jaguars had this guy named Maurice though, and he produced 3 touchdowns. The Jaguars fought like a team that didn’t want to see 0-3 while Houston played like a team that expected to win without trying. Houston as a favorite, always a scary thing apparently.
Washington Redskins (-6.5) @ Detroit Lions: (LOSS) “I want to take the Lions, I really do,” Yeah, I was a bit worried about this one, but I just didn’t think Matt Stafford could get it done. In fact, he really didn’t, and the Lions were lucky to see Al Haynesworth go down really early so they could run some what effectively with Kevin Smith. The Redskins had the ball inside the five on numerous occasions, but they couldn’t punch it in, getting stuffed on 4th and goal from the 6 inch line twice. Detroit gets a win, I get a loss, that combination hasn’t happened in a long time.
Tennessee Titans (+3) @ New York Jets: (LOSS) Mark Sanchez just climbed to the Top 5 in my favorite player lists when he lowered his head at the goal line willing himself in for the score. Stud. But even after some freak stuff, a fumbled kickoff return, etc, the Titans found a way to be up 17-14. But New York found a way to win, and they sent the Titans to 0-3, and idea I thought would propel the Titans to victory. Wrong again. Tough week.
New Orleans Saints @ Buffalo Bills (+6): (LOSS) “This game is very hard for me. I know, everyone says ride the Saints, but I really don’t think they are as good as they’ve been playing – they are missing Pierre Thomas (or at least he’s not healthy) and the same can be said for Mike Bell. Reggie Bush is not a runner. Now I know everyone thinks that Brees can just throw every down and be putting up 50 points, but what has been so great about the Saints offense this season is that threat to run.” Pierre Thomas ended up blasting through the Bills defense, but if you didn’t watch this game, you have to understand how close it actually was. The 20 point win was actually a tough-nosed game. The Saints were up just 10-7 with 11:20 left in the 4th quarter and the Bills had a 3rd and short. 27-7, sure, I know, what and idiot for taking the Bills – but I was feeling pretty good about my selection to start the 4th – but I should have recognized in Game 1 against the Patriots, the Bills aren’t much of a closer. Still, they played pretty darn well against a pretty solid team, and I think they’ll have nice value moving forward.
Chicago Bears (-2) @ Seattle Seahawks: (WINNER) The Bears shouldn’t have won this game. Seattle played better everywhere, gaining more yards, making bigger plays, and they did it all with many starters out. Still, the Bears found a way to win, and that was with a couple big plays and just enough grind it out to get the job done. I needed this one.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals (+4.5): (WINNER) “The Steelers’ offensive line is still brutal. The Bengals defense is a lot better than most people give them credit for.” That was enough for me, and it was enough for Cincinnati to get a big upset over the defending champs. This win was another good one. It always feels good when everyone you know calls you crazy for taking the Bengals at home against the Steelers, and not only do they cover, but they get the W. The may have needed a last minute touchdown, but they got the W regardless.
Denver Broncos (+1.5) @ Oakland Raiders: (WINNER) The Broncos have a good coach. They will beat teams they should beat. It’s a team that will get a lot scarier as soon as Orton gets on the same page with one of the more talented WR duos in the league. Eddie Royal hasn’t gotten involved, and Marshall is still limited by Orton’s dink and dump style, but I think the Broncos will get more and more offensive as the season moves forward. 3-0 sounds good Denver fans, huh? You ready to run Josh McD out of town now?
Miami Dolphins (+6) @ San Diego Chargers: (LOSS) I know injuries are part of the game, but they screwed me this week. I thought Bowe would be big against the Eagles, and he didn’t suit up last minute. Andre Johnson got hurt right before halftime and though he stayed in, he was obviously effected as he didn’t catch a pass the rest of the game. And then there was this game, it was tied when Chad Pennington went down, and the Dolphins kicked a field goal to go up 6-3. With Chad Henne at the Q, the Dolphins couldn’t get anything done and his mistakes ate up field position and opportunities, making life a lot easier on the Chargers. I’m not saying I would have won all the games if guys didn’t get hurt, but I am saying it makes covering tougher. Another loss broke my bowling units.
Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals (+2): (LOSS) This game was a joke. The Cardinals fumbled and threw this one away. I didn’t even want to watch the second half, but I did anyway, just long enough for Kurt and company to give me hope before doing dick after scoring on the first drive. Inside the 10 twice, and two turnovers and no points to show for it kind of grossed me out. Let me tell you what I saw in Indy, a team on a short week flying home to Indy then back accross to the country to play a Cardinals team that needed a win. But that didn’t matter because Peyton Manning does a lot with gifts, and Arizona was in the giving mood. Even after the tough start to the week, I thought I was going to get back to 8-8 when AZ was at the 7 yard line about to go up 10-0. But then the Cardinals happened, and of course then this next thing happened, and good bye to 8-8, hello to 6-10…
Carolina Panthers (+9) @ Dallas Cowboys: (LOSS) I LOVED my chances at a cover in this one, even late in the 4th after Dallas went up 13-7. All Carolina had to do was try to score and NOT turn it over deep in their own zone. Jake Delhomme (and mainly Steve Smith’s crappy route) one-upped me; not only did Jake turn it over with a pick deep in his own zone, but Terrence Newmann took the interception to the house for what was basically a sure thing loss for me. The Panthers were doing everything they could not to cover. DeAngelo Williams was running with ease on the Cowboys and they started throwing. They were holding and pushing off and all that good stuff, but they were still going to cover and get me a win anyway. Too bad, so sad, Jake’s bound to throw one pick-six, I should know that. This tough week got even tougher with this one, I thought I was on the right side, and the funny thing is, that doesn’t even make me feel better. Lets get back to winning, this REVIEW is DONE!
5-6 yet another yawner, and I didn’t even get a push. The Husky game really surprised me in how much of a lopsided battle that was. Historical close games didn’t repeat in Week 4, as there were some big blowouts. Tim Tebow got blasted, hospitalized, and the Gators still romped over the Wildcats… Here’s how the games went…
Mississippi Rebels (-3.5) @ South Carolina Gamecocks: (LOSS) This was Thursday Night, so only crazy could happen – but still, when you consider how poorly Mississippi moved the ball on the Gamecocks, and how poor a very good quarterback played, to be a 6 point game at the end is just crazy. South Carolina came to play and dominated a pretty good offensive line. I started off with a loss.
North Carolina Tar Heels @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-2.5): (WINNER) Yet another example of what rankings mean: The Tar Heels busted into the Top 25 last week, and Georgia Tech got pushed out… Yet here they were, favored, and pummeling the Tar Heels on the ground. Accruing fewer penalties and rushing for 317 yards on the Tar Heels. Easy win for me, and the Jackets.
Indiana Hoosiers (+21) @ Michigan Wolverines: (WINNER) “Michigan’s one win over Notre Dame makes them a 21 point favorite? That’s a little much for me. They are bigger, faster, and stronger than Indiana, no doubt, but the separation between these two teams isn’t three touchdowns,” and I was right on the button there. Michigan has the athletes, but these two teams were very even, close enough for Michigan to need a score with 2 minutes left to finally pull ahead for good. The Hoosiers lost by 3, I won by 18…
Miami Hurricanes @ Virginia Tech Hokies (+2): (WINNER) “Hokies as an underdog at their own place seems like enough for them to play with a chip firmly planted on their shoulders. That should be enough to hand Miami their first loss. I almost always, always, bet on the lower ranked favored team, but nothing is always right, and I think this one goes the other way.” When the feel of the game gets you to bet against your own little kind-of-system, you just have to go and do it. Sure enough, the Hokies came out and were riled up, using that excitement to beat up on the Canes in every facet of the game. Hokies win big, Miami comes back to reality a little bit.
TCU Horned Frogs @ Clemson Tigers (-2.5): (LOSS) This was one heck of a battle, and it could have gone either way. C.J. Spiller was a beast, leading the team in rushing and receiving. What finally got the Tigers was their trouble to convert on 3rd and 4th downs. They were up heading into the 4th, but failing to get it done on three consecutive 4th downs was too much in the end, and the Horned Frogs kept their stellar season going.
Arkansas Razorbacks (+17) @ Alabama Crimson Tide: (LOSS) The Razorbacks played pretty well against Alabama’s rushing attack, holding them to 3.3 yards per carry, a pretty low number for the Tide. However, the Razorbacks shot themselves in the foot early, and after they cut it to 14-7 early in the 3rd, the Tide tossed an 80 yard touchdown pass that really broke those Razor-backs, as Bama went on to cruise.
Akron Zips (+16) @ Central Michigan Chippewas: (LOSS) “This game is actually a nice little rivalry between a couple solid small college programs. I still think these two teams always play it close, and I like that to stay the same this weekend.” What can you say, I was wrong here. This game was all Chippewas from the outset, dominating on offense and keeping the Zips from gaining any sort of yards. SOB!!!
Kentucky Wildcats @ Florida Gators (-21.5): (WINNER) “I know, the flu is going around Florida’s squad, and things are looking slowed down a bit after Tennessee played them close, but Kentucky isn’t going to run clock, and Tim Tebow doesn’t have sickness, he’s made of antibiotics. I think Florida wins by four scores, proving a point this week after a mediocre performance against the Vols.” The Gators won easily, and Tebow may be made of antibiotics, but he’s not immune to getting concussed on a huge blind side hit, I know that for sure. Florida didn’t miss a beat when Tebow headed to the hospital, as they dominated the Wildcats to the tune of 41-7.
Boise State Broncos @ Bowling Green Falcons (+17): (LOSS) Boise State is just too good. I keep waiting for them to slow down, but their new #5 ranking shows what the polls think of them. I might have to agree, this defense is way better than I ever thought they’d be, and they are led by one hell of a quarterback talent. Moore has amazing touch. Still, I thought I was sitting pretty after the 1st quarter as the Broncos had yet to score and the game was tied at 0. Silly, me, it was 28-0 after the first half and 4 2nd quarter scores – I had lost my spread by halftime.
Iowa Hawkeyes (+10) @ Penn State Nittany Lions: (WINNER) “Iowa has taken out the Nittany Lions 6 of the last 7 meetings, that’s gone past coincidence in my book, so I have to go against my gut and hopes and heart and take Iowa.” As a Penn State fan (as much as I’m a fan of any football team), this one was tough to stomach. But I certainly got into this one in the right way, the Hawkeyes did the Lions dirty for the 7th time in the last 8 meetings.
Washington Huskies (+7) @ Stanford Cardinal: (LOSS) I still can’t believe this was a 34-14 beating. The Huskies aren’t that bad and the Cardinal aren’t that good. Maybe I just underestimated the effect Stanford’s great offensive line and running attack would have on the Huskies poor rush defense. I think that is obviously the case as Toby Gerhart ran for 200 yards and the Cardinal put up 320+ on the Huskies.
Welcome back for my next installment of Thing 1 and Thing 2. If you followed my advice last week you got comparable (and in some cases better) production from your lesser-owned fantasy players. The lone exception was due to Kellen Winslow’s breakout game and Robert Royal’s disappearing act. You can’t win them all I guess but four out of five ain’t bad. As the weeks go on it will get tougher and tougher to uncover those hidden gems so staying active on your league’s waiver wire early can really pay off as the season wears on. Who should you be paying attention to as week 3 approaches? … Let’s get after it.
Thing 1: A much-hyped rookie coming out of college, this kid has loads of talent but hasn’t looked ready for the NFL early in his career. He is currently the sexier pick in a RBBC offensive scheme but his production has yet to match his 95% ownership in ESPN leagues.
Thing 2: A career backup that has had some injury troubles but has always done the most with the chances that have been given to him. He is currently being overlooked as a fantasy contributor but his production on the field warrants much more consideration than his 38% ownership suggests.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Knowshon Moreno and Thing 2 is Correll Buckhalter. The running back situation in Denver will likely be fluid all season long, but don’t miss out on the cheap production you can get from a guy like Buckhalter, especially early in the season. Moreno will finish the season with more touches, but I think Buckhalter will score more TDs for the Broncos due to his big play ability and slightly larger build.
Thing 1: This QBs upside is marginal but he does have a talented group of wide receivers and young, imaginative offensive mind calling the shots. That said, his decision-making has always been a huge question mark and I am amazed that he is currently owned in 78% of ESPN leagues.
Thing 2: This QB came into the season undrafted in all but the deepest of leagues but is steadily making strides toward fantasy consideration. He does turn the ball over more than he should but early in the season his yardage and TDs are more than making up for it. He is currently owned in just 12% of leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Kyle Orton and Thing 2 is Byron Leftwich. Orton is the prototypical “game manager” and has the potential to post more consistent stat-lines than Leftwich, but the upside of the sluggish-armed Tampa QB is intriguing. He has shown a good rapport with TE Kellen Winslow early in the year and a defense on the decline could have him playing a lot of catchup. Ask Jay Cutler how that worked out for his fantasy stats last year.
Thing 1: This WR is an extremely gifted route-runner and has some of surest hands in the NFL. Due to some off-season changes to his supporting cast, his early-season production has taken a major hit. I still like the kid a lot, and he is becoming a good buy-low candidate, but he is currently owned in 90% of ESPN leagues.
Thing 2: This young WR has blazing speed and his big-play potential has caused his team to try and find more opportunities to get the ball in his hands. A big jump in his ownership percentage this past week means owners are starting to take notice so this may be your last chance to go get him. He is currently owned in 20% of leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Eddie Royal and Thing 2 is Johnny Knox. Royal’s loss this past off-season has been Knox’s gain in the form of Jay Cutler. A strong-armed QB with decent accuracy, Cutler is able to fit the ball into tight spots for Knox to work those shallow crosses and sideline routes that made Royal a household name last year. As their chemistry grows expect to see more of the speed merchant from Abilene Christian.
Thing 1: This physical WR uses his body extremely well to make tough catches in traffic. He has a rookie signal-caller tossing him the rock and over the first two weeks of the season they have shown decent chemistry. He has yet to get into the end zone, but this productive wideout is currently owned in 96% of ESPN leagues.
Thing 2: This second-year WR won a preseason battle for the #2 role on his team. Although his play was inconsistent in his rookie season, he has shown flashes of big-play potential and has developed into a good route-runner. He won’t produce as a fantasy starter every week, but there is value here and he is owned in just 12% of leagues.
Reality Check: Thing 1 is Jerricho Cotchery and Thing 2 is Chansi Stuckey. I like what I have seen from Stuckey and his rookie QB thus far. Mark Sanchez’s lightning-quick feet and superb vision mean he will be able to keep plays alive longer than his aging predecessor, allowing his receivers to work toward open space. I think Stuckey has big-time sleeper potential in an offense that looks to be much more balanced than anyone thought heading into the season.
Welcome to Red Red Ryan’s weekly “Trick or Treat” section, where I, Red Red Ryan will break down some of the performances from the previous week and tell you whether or not you are being tricked or you can expect the same treat the rest of the way.
Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal:
Does a quarterback make the wide receivers? Or do the wide receivers make the quarterback? In my opinion the quarterback make the wide receiver, and that spells trouble for Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. I’m not saying that they are bad receivers, I think they are elite receivers, however they have a terrible quarterback throwing them the ball. In 2008 with Jay Cutler locking in on them Marshall caught 104 passes for 1265 yards and 6 TD’s and Royal caught 91 passes for 980 yards and 5 TD’s. After two weeks in the 2009 season Marshall and Royal are on pace for less than half of their stats from 2008. Marshall is on pace for just 56 receptions and Royal for only 40. These numbers are very close to Devin Hester’s 51 receptions for 665 and 3 TD’s, who was Orton’s number 1 receiving target from 2008. Meanwhile in Chicago; Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, and Devin Hester all have more receptions than Marshall and Royal. You are going to get what you’re getting, no trick here.
Tough going so far in 2009 for second year running back Matt Forte. In Week 1 he rushed for 55 yards on 25 carries and for the first time in his career he went without a catch. Matt had a bit of a bounce back game in week 2 catching 5 passes for 33 yards while rushing 13 times for 29 yards. It was nice to see Forte getting some touches in the passing game after the Week 1 loss. I think we will see Lovie Smith’s influence by seeing more passes to their playmaker out of the backfield. As for Forte’s lack of rushing yards, I think we see a big change in the Week 3 match-up versus the Seahawks. I expect Forte to get back on track this week against a beat up and generally soft run defense, and carry that momentum with him for the rest of the season.
Which quarterback has the 5th most passing yards in the NFL? That’s right, it’s Eli Manning. Thus far in 2009 Eli has sliced and diced his way through 2 top 7 passing defenses from the 2008 season. I know it’s early, and history shows he’s bound to have a 3 INT game in the next 2 weeks, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen this year. And now, I couldn’t find any crazy red headed stats to back me up, because the truth is he usually goes interception happy. But if you look at the Giants schedule coming up they play against some pretty bad pass defenses, and unless the “G-men” can get the ground game going Eli will be throwing early and often to his underrated group of young wide outs.
Woo Hoo!! Cedric Benson is 6th in the league in rushing. Nice middle round pick taking the last starting running back available. Time to get some return from Cedric while his value is at his highest. Yes, his highest. So far Cedric has rushed for 76 yards against the Broncos and 141 yards against the Packers. Both teams in the bottom 6 rush defense from a year ago. The real test will be over the next 7 weeks when he faces the Steelers and Ravens twice, with the Bears in between. I believe Benson is a #3 RB and should only be started in a good match up. So if you can sell high on him, and buy low on a guy like Steve Slaton, I think you will be better off at seasons end.
I’m old. I’m tired. I’m grumpy. My ass hurts from sitting in this chair. Where can I get one of those soft little pillow doughnut things to sit on anyway? Note to family: get my ace a nice chair for Christmas or you’re not getting any inheritance. I’ve had questions screaming in this week, people wondering which guy to start, who to trade, who to target in trades. These are the questions and answers I picked out to share.
Dennis in and out of the US asks, “I have a couple guys that I think are overachieving, and I know there are some players out there underachieving. Of these four guys (Percy Harvin, Cadillac Williams, Cedric Benson, and Santonio Holmes) which ones would you try to trade, and are there any guys you’d try to grab while their value is down?
Red Red Ryan makes a pretty good point about Cedric Benson, but I think he’s still a solid guy to have on your squad, he and the three other guys you mention should all have solid years, but you’re right in assessing their value right now, it’s probably higher than it should be. I would probably try to move Benson, Harvin, and Williams and keep Holmes, if you can get some good value. I think Holmes might be a treat for fantasy owners that paid the price for his services this season. He’s getting tons of targets on a Steelers team that doesn’t run the ball well, and is going to throw a lot more this season. Plus, he’s a playmaker. But like I said, all four of these guys are solid, I just think Holmes holds onto his value all season long, while a couple of these guys will fall off. In a trade, I would try to acquire Matt Forte, Steve Slaton, Clinton Portis, Steve Smith (Carolina), Ryan Grant, Knowshon Moreno, and Daren McFadden. All of those guys have pretty low value considering their ability, and all look like they are going to gain some value this week. I think all of them will have pretty solid seasons. Forte and Slaton have begun the season with really tough match-ups. Portis has an easier schedule coming up. Steve Smith’s value is still suffering despite being heavily targeted early in the season. Ryan Grant will get more rushing attempts from here forward. Moreno is dynamic and will only get better as he gets used to the speed of the game. And McFadden is still a superior talent. If you can trade some guys flying high for a couple guys that haven’t impressed owners, I think it’s a good move.
David from Minnesota asks, “Would you trade LT away to get Ray Rice? How about Leon Washington and TJ Houshmanzadeh moving to get LT and Donald Driver or Percy Harvin? Thanks in advance!”
David, thanks for the questions. These must be different leagues as you’re trading away LT in one, and getting him in another. On the first half, Yeah, I think so. I think LT will be fine. But Ray Rice is solid too – tough call, but I’d probably go with LT if I had the choice. On the second question, It just depends what you think about the Hawks and their recent string of injuries to start the season. I personally think they’ll get healthy here very soon, and TJ Housh will be huge, especially in PPR leagues – so I would much rather have him than Driver or Harvin, even though he’s firmly behind them in rankings thus far. Leon looks like he’s getting at least 20 touches per game, which should lead to some big days. ON the other side, as much as I love LT, I’m not sure he’s going to be getting much more than 20 touches the rest of the way. The Jets have a stellar offensive line, better than the Chargers if you ask me. If I had to choose, between LT and Leon, I would go with LT, like I said – but I don’t think I’d give up Housh to do so – his value is still high on my board.
Pretty Patty in Seattle asks, “Weims, having trouble picking my starters this week. Who do you like this week between these guys. (Need to pick 3 to go with my other two starting receivers, colston and manningham) Thanks! (Steven Jackson, Darren Mcfadden, Leshon McCoy, Braylon Edwards, Johnny Knox, Nate Burleson) PPR league…
Pretty, McCoy would be a sure thing if, and only if, you’re sure Westbrook isn’t playing. He should get lots of carries against the Chiefs porous run defense, and if it’s a PPR league I’m sure he’ll get a handful of catches as well. Steven Jackson is one of the three no matter what. The Packers have been terrible against the run, and I’m sure Jackson will be a huge part of the Rams game plan as they try to trick the Packers out of a win. Bulger can only throw 10 yards accurately, which puts Jackson in his range most of the time. Plus, he’s just flat out the best player in this group, and you have to go with your horses. I think another guy would be Braylon Edwards. Surprisingly, the Ravens have been pretty terrible against the pass, as Brodie Croyle of all clowns, had a good outing against them in Week 1, and Rivers torched them to the tune of one billion yards in Week 2. The problem with the Ravens is they are so good against the run, and they’ll likely be up early, so the Browns will probably have to throw a lot. I usually don’t like Cleveland offensive players, but 7 catches and 100 yards from Edwards wouldn’t surprise me. If Westy is going to play, and from what I read, it looks like he will, I think I’d go with McFadden. Now this one is a little tricky because Denver has been great against the run this season, but then again, you have to look at who they’ve played. Cincinnati and Cleveland aren’t two rushing attacks that strike fear into my heart. So I’m not sure they’re as good as they are lucky to have been scheduled to pissy running attacks to start the season. The Raiders can really run, and McFadden should get the ball more this week. JaMarcus Russell has been a joke (he’s barely batting .350 through the air, gross) so Denver could stack up against the run – but I still think they don’t have elite front 7 power, and McFadden should have his best yardage output of the season. If you don’t want to go with McFadden, take a chance on Nate or Knox. Nate’s been getting targeted lots of times, and obviously a dynamic touchdown threat, he could get to the house against a Bears secondary that doesn’t really have the speed to cover elite WRs. Nate might not be elite, but his speed and touchdown play potential is definitely amongst the games best. Knox is looking like one of Cutler’s favorite targets, and the Hawks secondary isn’t an exciting shut down group at the moment. I just think the Bears will run a lot more this week against a D-front that doesn’t look powerful after Frank Gore had his way with them. So I’d side with Nate, but just barely. Hope that helps, Patty. Good luck!
Week 3 fantasy football is upon us, and here we are, dancing around some tough plays this coming weekend. The match-ups are in, the staff has been polled, and we have all the predicted rankings heading into Week 3. I’ve taken the top spot (Lucky Lester) each of the first two weeks, but it’s close, and I know I have some guys out to take my crown. Once again, I’ve listed my 4 levels of plays, elites, solids, sleepers, and no-nos, I hope they help. Josh, Papa, Red Red Ryan, and I have our rankings further down the page. I hope you enjoy it all!
Elite Starters: Guys picked early that I love this week…
1. Maurice Jones Drew – I don’t think the Texans can stop MJD, ala Chris Johnson last week.
2. Andre Johnson – That being said, I’m not so sure the Jaguars can stop the Texans either, I’ll take AJ.
3. Drew Brees – He has to come back to earth one of these days, dude can’t throw 72 touchdowns. Not this week.
4. Matt Schaub – Two weeks in a row at the top? You bet.
5. Brandon Jacobs – It’s been a slow start for the beast, enter the Buccaneers as unlucky opponent in Week 3.
Solid Starters: Guys picked in middle rounds that should outplay their ranking/draft position this week…
1. Ray Rice– I think Ray will be the top scoring back on the Ravens team this week against Cleveland.
2. Ryan Grant – The Packers haven’t been dedicated to the run this year, I think that changes this week.
3. Larry Johnson– Questions surrounding Larry, I think he has a nice game this week.
4. Dwayne Bowe – Big nasty receiver going against the Eagles, and I think KC will be down – I like this pick.
5. Braylon Edwards – Drop a couple, catch a couple, he’ll have plenty of opportunities down early.
Sleeper Starters: Guys ranked low, drafted low or not at all, but I still like them this week…
1. Mario Manningham – Yeah, I like what I saw, me and every other guy.
2. David Garrard – I’d take him a lot of weeks, should be real good against Houston.
3. Trent Edwards –Both teams should have lots of snaps and score lots of points. Even in a loss I like Trent.
4.Fred Jackson– If he’s a beast one more week, does he keep the starting job when Lynch comes back?
5. Jabar Gaffney – The Raiders will take away the top guys, but Gaffney should find room. Good sleeper pick.
Sit ‘Em Son: I don’t care where they were drafted, I don’t like these guys starting this week…
1. Joseph Addai – The Cardinals are very tough against the run, shutting down two studs in Gore and MJD.
2. Cedric Benson – His style versus the Steelers is not a good match-up for his fantasy owners.
3. Willie Parker – I don’t know if Willie will have too many more big games, the Bengals are tough on the run.
4. Bernard Berrien – Is he even the #1 receiver anymore, either way, Nate Clements should shut him down.
5. Chris Johnson – Can you sit this guy? Probably not, but if you have other options I’d suggest it.
PS – Don’t start injured or suspended players, it makes you look dumb.
Week 2 Fantasy Rankings
Josh Arsenault Ryan Kauffman Papa Weimer Lucky Lester QBs---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.Drew Brees 1.Drew Brees 1.Peyton Manning 1.Drew Brees 2.Tom Brady 2.Aaron Rodgers 2.Tom Brady 2.Matt Schaub 3.Phillip Rivers 3.Matt Schaub 3.Drew Brees 3.Peyton Manning 4.Aaron Rodgers 4.Peyton Manning 4.David Garrard 4.Tony Romo 5.Carson Palmer 5.Trent Edwards 5.Aaron Rodgers 5.Tom Brady RBs----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.Michael Turner 1.Maurice Jones-Drew 1.Adrian Peterson 1.Maurice Jones-Drew 2.Maurice Jones-Drew 2.Brandon Jacobs 2.Steve Slaton 2.Brandon Jacobs 3.Adrian Peterson 3.Ronnie Brown 3.Maurice Jones-Drew 3.Adrian Peterson 4.Matt Forte 4.Matt Forte 4.Fred Jackson 4.Matt Forte 5.Clinton Portis 5.Steven Jackson 5.Clinton Portis 5.Ryan Grant WRs----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.Randy Moss 1.Andre Johnson 1.Larry Fitzgerald 1.Andre Johnson 2.Larry Fitzgerald 2.Reggie Wayne 2.Reggie Wayne 2.Randy Moss 3.Reggie Wayne 3.Randy Moss 3.Steve Smith (NYG) 3.Reggie Wayne 4.Andre Johnson 4.Greg Jennings 4.Andre Johnson 4.Steve Smith (CAR) 5.Steve Smith (CAR) 5.Santonio Holmes 5.Calvin Johnson 5.Jericho Cotchery TEs----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.Chris Cooley 1.Jeremy Shockey 1.Dallas Clark 1.Antonio Gates 2.Tony Gonzalez 2.Tony Gonzalez 2.John Carlson 2.Dallas Clark 3.John Carlson 3.Dustin Keller 3.Tony Gonzalez 3.Jason Witten 4.Antonio Gates 4.Dallas Clark 4.Owen Daniels 4.Chris Cooley 5.Jason Witten 5.Owen Daniels 5.Jason Witten 5.Tony Gonzalez DSTs----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.Ravens 1.Ravens 1.Bears 1.Ravens 2.Redskins 2.Broncos 2.Steelers 2.Packers 3.Packers 3.Giants 3.Eagles 3.Broncos 4.Broncos 4.Bears 4.Packers 4.Redskins 5.Vikings 5.Redskins 5.Redskins 5.Eagles Kickers------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The three other guys would rather kick Lucky than rank kickers, so no dice on the K rankings!
I’ve had a good start with my free football picks this season, no doubt about it, but now it gets tougher in the NFL. After giving all you readers some impressive picks over the first two weeks, I have a bit of a reputation to uphold, and of course, I’ll do my very best. I had one or two go my way last week, but a couple did me dirty as well. I see some lines looming large in Week 3, I’ll try to get my hands on them and see what I can do. A lot of tight games that could go either way this week, I’ve felt that way and gone 5-11, and I remember feeling that way when I submitted my perfect week a few years back. I’m taking 11 dogs this week, and I’m not sure if that’s such a good thing. I’m not trying to fade the public, even though it looks like that in a lot of instances. I just happen to see some inflated lines because of early season play, and some disrespect for some teams that have played pretty well despite ending up on the wrong side of scoreboards. Week 3 could be huge – going for three big winners in a row… Good luck to all!
Cleveland Browns (+13) @ Baltimore Ravens: This game will be closer than two touchdowns. I like what the Ravens have done, opening up their playbook for Flacco and company, but I think we’ll get a pretty good performance out of the Browns, as the first two weeks have shown you can find lots of open spaces in Baltimore’s secondary. That should help Brady Quinn and company. Plus, I see the Ravens reverting back to their grind it out style, clock destruction mode, here. That helps this big spread stay covered. We’ll see, but give me the Browns.
New York Giants @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7): There’s no doubt in my mind that the Giants are good, however, they played really poorly last week and won anyway. That’s a red flag for me, as always. They also haven’t stopped the run as well as in the past, another red flag against a Bucs team that runs really well. This game could go either way, but if the Bucs start out running well enough, I don’t think the Giants will take as many big chances. Both teams should run the ball a lot, taking time off the clock, and keeping this one closer to the spread. If Tampa loses they go 0-3, so there’s a lot to play for at home for the Buccos. Tough call, but I have to take the dog in this one.
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) @ St. Louis Rams: Marc Bulger is bad – the Packers put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the Rams are missing their first round pick starting offensive tackle, and they are the worst team in football despite those things. You can run against the Packers, and I see the Rams attempting to do that early and often. But the Packers lost last week, a loss here would put them at a discouraging 1-2 to start the season. More running game, more blitzing, more cowbell – the hat trick puts me on the Packers in St. Louis.
Kansas City Chiefs (+9.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have trouble with big receivers like Dwayne Bowe, just ask Marques Colston. They also don’t play as mistake free without McNabb. The Eagles heavy blitz system should actually be a benefit to Matt Cassel and his quick decision, precision passing style of quarterbacking. If the Chiefs just put the ball in Larry Johnson’s hands early and often, I think they can take full advantage of the Eagles’ porous front 7. These things and that big spread, have me on the Chiefs to cover in Philadelphia. I know the Eagles are the better team, but KC has played two pretty tight games to start the year. Todd Haley will keep these guys competitive.
Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots (-4): I think the Patriots come back strong after everyone starts counting them down and out after last week’s loss. They definitely haven’t played well to start the season, and I’m not sure this defense will be right all year, but I like Tom to get better and better as the season goes forward, and Atlanta has shown me that they can’t stop your best pass/catch option, even if they know it’s coming. I think Tom and Randy have a big day, bigger than Steve Smith last week. New England knows how to walk with a chip, and I think they play much better at home this weekend.
San Francisco 49ers (+7) @ Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are good, but they are getting too much love after kicking around 2 of the bottom five teams in the league. The 49ers should be a good test. They are very physical, play mistake free football, and can bring it on both sides of the ball with an effective attack. Shaun Hill somehow manages to limit his mistakes despite locking onto receivers and generally throwing the ball into scary places. I think this game stays pretty low in the scoring department, and a 14-10 contest wouldn’t surprise me. Add that up and you get a cover – either way – I’ll take it.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans (-3.5): I’ve been a huge Jaguars fan for sometime, I like their style and always think they are about to break out. In fact, I think MJD will be huge this week, but not huge enough. Last week the Texans got pretty lucky to get a late fumble, but they were by no means out of that game, and likely would have forced a kick on a 3rd and long situation. They did get the fumble, then got the field goal, then won the game. If Jacksonville can stay in this game early, it might be tough to Houston to pull away – but Houston is always just a play away from taking it to the house, and I think Jacksonville’s defense could end up on the wrong side of a couple late scores. I know Houston doesn’t play it safe late, going for the jugular when they get the chance – I like that to happen this week in a game that should see lots of offensive action.
Washington Redskins (-6.5) @ Detroit Lions: I want to take the Lions, I really do, but they are still starting Matthew Stafford, and they intend to do so all season long. Should be a long one for Detroit fans. I still like the Redskins despite them getting me a loss last week as they failed to get into the end zone. They have some dynamic players, they have to break through sooner or later. I’m betting on sooner.
Tennessee Titans (+3) @ New York Jets: Can the Titans keeps losing games by a field goal? I don’t know, possibly yes, but it’s tough to go against them here. I like the Jets a lot, I’ve said that since my season preview came out, but the Titans come into Week 3 winless after playing pretty solid football in Weeks 1 and 2. Going 0-3 is really tough, and I usually see a little extra fight from 0-2 teams, something I’ll expect to see this week from the Titans. A little urgency if you will. The Jets are coming off a huge emotional win against the Patriots, after they invested everything into that game. I expect a little bit of a let down in Week 3, just enough to get the Titans their first win.
New Orleans Saints @ Buffalo Bills (+6): This game is very hard for me. I know, everyone says ride the Saints, but I really don’t think they are as good as they’ve been playing – they are missing Pierre Thomas (or at least he’s not healthy) and the same can be said for Mike Bell. Reggie Bush is not a runner. Now I know everyone thinks that Brees can just throw every down and be putting up 50 points, but what has been so great about the Saints offense this season is that threat to run. They need it to be dominant. So, that being said, I’m going with the Bills. I think Buffalo has the right combination of accurate passing, and a solid rushing attack, and even a defense that is pretty solid. I think the Bills stun everyone and keep this game close. But like every Saints game, this one could get very ugly very fast.
Chicago Bears (-2) @ Seattle Seahawks: Seattle is too beat up everywhere, again. I don’t know what’s going on with the Hawks, the Northwest is a nice place, not too much action to get you injured, not too much sun to get you sunburnt, yet these guys are going down like dominoes. The Hawks do have a couple stud offensive linemen coming back, Walter and Spencer, but I still think the Bears will be too much for them. Defensively, Chicago won’t allow the Hawks to gain too much on the ground, and I’m not ready to count Matt Hasselbeck in on Sunday. This game should be close, not the blowout people are expecting, but I still think Chicago by 3 to 7 points is likely. Anything in that area is a cover, so I’ll take the Bears.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals (+4.5): The Steelers’ offensive line is still brutal. The Bengals defense is a lot better than most people give them credit for. Last week’s win over Green Bay wasn’t a fluke, this team is pretty solid. Carson looked good last week, and the Steelers secondary has given up a lot of yardage early in the year, getting thrown on a lot by the Titans and Bears, of all super passing attacks. This is a great rivalry, and I like 4.5 points at home. The Steelers haven’t shown me that they are a team ready to blow opponents out, so giving up that many points on the road seems like great value to me.
Denver Broncos (+1.5) @ Oakland Raiders: I have taken the Raiders two weeks in a row, and they have set me free giving me victory after victory. The problem is, I think the Raiders get a tough assignment this week, a Broncos team that hasn’t given up much on the ground and can really take advantage of some mis-thrown balls by Mr. Russell, a guy that hasn’t completed even 40% of his passes this season. Kyle Orton doesn’t make big mistakes, and while that might be frustrating fantasy owners of guys like Eddie Royal, this isn’t a fantasy column, and I only see wins and losses. Orton can win. He can definitely win against an offense that needs freebies to stay close. The Raiders have a decent rushing attack, but the Broncos have the guys to put 8 in the box and still shut down the pass. I think they go to 3-0, as crazy as that sounds.
Miami Dolphins (+6) @ San Diego Chargers: I don’t know what’s more likely to happen, the Dolphins starting 0-3 or the Chargers falling to 1-2, at home, to a team that has to fly across the US. The Chargers defense doesn’t look like a team ready to shut down the Dolphins rushing attack. Chad Pennington doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, which should keep this game close. The Dolphins should have won last Monday Night in Indy, and while that really means nothing, you might see the ball bounce their way a little more in San Diego. This game should have lots of action, but I think it stays close, giving the value to the team getting nearly a touchdown.
Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals (+2): You all know, by now, how I feel about teams that should have lost last week only to pull out a win. Enter Indianapolis. The Colts not only did this last week, but they played like piss only to beat the Jaguars by 2 in Week 1. That’s two weeks in a row where they played mediocre at best, only to be undefeated walking into Week 3. Kurt Warner was back in action last week, completing just about every single ball he threw. I know the Colts don’t give up a lot through the air, but I think Kurt and company find a way to make that work at home this week, handing the Colts loss number one on the season.
Carolina Panthers (+9) @ Dallas Cowboys: It’s Monday Night, and while I think the Cowboys are a good team, I don’t know if they are 9 point favorite good, even against a Panthers team that hasn’t looked up for the test since the season started. Dallas has looked good against the run, but everyone’s been able to throw on them, and a couple big plays from Steve Smith should cover this game right up. Monday Night always seems to have close games, and Dallas really hasn’t looked brilliant in any game this season. Taking the points!
Needless to say I’m not happy about my performance over the last couple weeks with my College football free picks. 5-5 is my best outing for Alf’s sake. That’s right, I’m resorting to Alf, of all freaking weird individual made up creatures, for my inspiration this week. Am I desperate? Yes, I might as well be asking the muppets for help. I’m not one to quit, that’s for sure, so this is my attempt to get back on top and produce a winner in Week 4. I’m taking eleven games here, four favorites and seven dogs – lets go get a winner!
Mississippi Rebels (-3.5) @ South Carolina Gamecocks: Road favorite on Thursday Night is scary. I just think Mississippi is that much better than South Carolina. You never know what can happen on these Thursday games, but I think the history of these things, the upsets that have happened, have at least gotten the attention of good teams, and most are ready to rumble these days. The Rebels have yet to be tested this season, while South Carolina has gone toe to toe with some solid teams. Still, this line is too close, and Mississippi is better than the Gamecocks.
North Carolina Tar Heels @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-2.5):Georgia Tech saw what happens when you go backwards on stupid penalties. That kills this team, and I’m willing to bet they don’t go through that type of problem for the rest of the season. The Tar Heels are solid, but Tech is better. They can really run the ball – if they can just stop from going backwards, and I think they clear that up this week, they should win this game by a couple scores.
Indiana Hoosiers (+21) @ Michigan Wolverines: Michigan’s one win over Notre Dame makes them a 21 point favorite? That’s a little much for me. They are bigger, faster, and stronger than Indiana, no doubt, but the separation between these two teams isn’t three touchdowns, not in my opinion. The Irish aren’t that amazing and Indiana isn’t Eastern Michigan or Western Michigan. They may not be great but this is a big kickoff to conference schedule, and I think Indiana will have a few big plays that keeps them within three scores of the Wolverines.
Miami Hurricanes @ Virginia Tech Hokies (+2): The Hurricanes are very talented, and they’ve played well beyond what most people expected. I’ve taken them a few times early, and won because of it, but I’m going against them in this one. Va Tech is very tough at home, and I think these two teams are pretty similar. Hokies as an underdog at their own place seems like enough for them to play with a chip firmly planted on their shoulders. That should be enough to hand Miami their first loss. I almost always, always, bet on the lower ranked favored team, but nothing is always right, and I think this one goes the other way.
TCU Horned Frogs @ Clemson Tigers (-2.5): The Tigers are very tough in the trenches, NFL talent all over the board, I think they take down the 14th ranked Horned Frogs is what would supposedly be an upset. However, as you can tell, Vegas doesn’t think it will be much of an upset.
Arkansas Razorbacks (+17) @ Alabama Crimson Tide: Arkansas has a lot of talent. Alabama can really run the ball, and they play tough defense, but the Tide will allow a couple big plays to Mallet and company, and probably end up winning this game 24-13 or something like that. I just smell a cover.
Akron Zips (+16) @ Central Michigan Chippewas: This game is actually a nice little rivalry between a couple solid small college programs. The Zips have had a tough start to the year, playing tough competition right out of the gate, and Central has a nice win and has played well overall. I still think these two teams always play it close, and I like that to stay the same this weekend.
Kentucky Wildcats @ Florida Gators (-21.5): I know, the flu is going around Florida’s squad, and things are looking slowed down a bit after Tennessee played them close, but Kentucky isn’t going to run clock, and Tim Tebow doesn’t have sickness, he’s made of antibiotics. I think Florida wins by four scores, proving a point this week after a mediocre performance against the Vols.
Boise State Broncos @ Bowling Green Falcons (+17): I think Bowling Green comes to play in this one, and keeps it close. They play the Broncos tough defensively, and at home for the first time I think they’ll be ready.
Iowa Hawkeyes (+10) @ Penn State Nittany Lions: Iowa has taken out the Nittany Lions 6 of the last 7 meetings, that’s gone past coincidence in my book, so I have to go against my gut and hopes and heart and take Iowa. I think Penn State will be pretty focused on redemption for last year’s late season loss – that will probably get in their way a bit, and Iowa will keep it close. I like the Lions to pull it off, but 10 points might just be enough.
Washington Huskies (+7) @ Stanford Cardinal: I think Stanford is solid, and UW is coming off a huge emotional win at home against the USC Trojans. They can’t get any higher. So obviously they are vulnerable here. However, I still think this line is good value and I can’t pass it up. Jake Locker is too good, too much of a freak to just let his team get smashed after a big win. I have to believe he keeps the Huskies close.