Trick or Treat?

Welcome to Red Red Ryan’s weekly “Trick or Treat” section, where I, Red Red Ryan, break down some of the performances from the previous week and tell you whether or not you are being tricked or if you can expect the same treat the rest of the way.

Joe Flacco: 24 year-old Joe Flacco had the best game in his young career last Sunday. He set career highs in attempts (43), yards (307), and touchdowns (3). The most important stat that leads me to believe you can expect top 15 fantasy QB numbers this year are those attempts. Joe attempted an average of 26 passes a game last year. Baltimore has said they are opening up the playbook and the entire field to Flacco, and that already shows in Week 1. This means more passes to the middle of the field to Todd Heap, opening up more big plays to the sideline. Heap already matched his high catch game from 2008, and had more receiving yards in Sunday’s game than any time last year. Baltimore has been more of a traditional running team in the past, but I think those days will stay there. Expect great numbers from the young QB the rest of the year.
Judgement: TREAT!

Julius Jones: First I will start off by saying it is always a treat to lineup against the Rams if you are an RB. The rams were 4th worst in the NFL last year in rush defense giving up 154 yards a game. Last year in week 3 at home at Quest Field Julius Jones ran for 140 yards and a TD, very close to his Week 1 total (117 and a TD). The 140 yard performance was Jones’s best game of the year in 2008 and I hate to say it, but his latest game against the softest defense in football might be his best of the 2009 season as well, at least until he plays against the Rams again in Week 12. I do expect Jones to have a better season this year than last. A new run scheme should help Jones and the Hawks offensive line stretch the field. But I believe he is still at best a #3 RB. Keep playing him in good match-ups, just like you should with most of your non-elite players.
Judgement: TRICK!

Tim Hightower: This was more of a difficult call for me. It is much tougher making a prediction for me on a young player, especially a young player with new offensive coordinators. Tim didn’t have a great day rushing the football, only 8 rushing attempts for 15 yards. However, he caught 12 balls for 121 yards. Before Sunday’s game against the 49ers Tim’s career high in receptions in a game were 6 and his previous high for receiving yards: 34. The Cardinals trailed for majority of the game and the 49ers played great defense forcing Kurt Warner to check the ball down to Hightower. I don’t see too many defenses shutting down Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and I don’t see the Cardinals playing too much catch up this season. This means you have to rely on Tim running the football. Something he hasn’t been able to do on a consistent basis yet in his career averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, and oh yeah, they drafted a beast of a running back named Bennie Wells who averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his first NFL game. I don’t see Tim getting majority of the hand offs for too long. I see his role turning more into a Chestor Taylor type role, catching passes out of the backfield on third down and getting every 5th series to rest the teams real horse.
Judgement: TRICK!

Carson Palmer: This may surprise you. Carson Palmer is better than 247 yards 0 TD’s and 2 INT’s. It’s tough to only be able to throw the ball to one side of the field. That’s what happens when you play against Champ Bailey. Not only was Carson playing against one of the toughest cover corners in the game he was playing without his favorite target now playing in Seattle. Expect Carson to target big bodied Chris Henry more this week, to take over for TJ as a possession receiver. One big thing I take from Week 1’s game against the Broncos that shows me Carson is just a couple of games away from returning to his fantasy stud form are is his completion percentage. Carson’s 63.6 CMP% match his career mark of 63.7 CMP%. This tells me that Carson is just as efficient now against a difficult pass defense as has been throughout his career. Now what I see is that he is going to have to throw the ball a lot for Cincy to have a shot at winning games, those two things together make last week’s poor fantasy output a trick, he’ll be just fine.
Judgement: TRICK!

Santonio Holmes: Santonio is quickly becoming Big Ben’s favorite target. He may not need to be Ben’s #1 WR this year to still score lots of fantasy points, and make those that have believed in Holmes since coming out of “The Ohio State University” 4 years ago, look like a genius. I, being one of the aforementioned. The fact is Pittsburgh is having a difficult time rushing the football and have now lost one of the best defensive football players in the NFL.

More points given up + A bad rush offense = More passing plays
I hope you all could follow my math. This means good things for the sticky fingered Holmes. He has already proven he can be a big play guy, leading the NFL in yards per reception already once in his career. But in the last two games the Steelers have played, Holmes has been the most targeted receiver in both cases. Expect a career year and a top 12 WR at seasons end.
Judgement: TREAT!

Free Week 2 NFL Football Picks

11-5 in Week 1, now that’s a nice start to the season. Week 2 has some promising games as well, and from the looks of it my thoughts pin me against the public in almost every game. I never try to go one way or another, but when I’m all said and done, and I look at my bets in comparison to what the actions is looking like, it’s always nice to see most of my games on the other side. Does that mean I’m going to have a huge week? Maybe another double digit wonder winner? It’s possible. A little value, a little luck, (even a lot in some cases) and you never know what can happen. Here’s to hoping I’m painting a picture of perfection…

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Carolina Panthers (+6) @ Atlanta Falcons: Call me crazy, but the Panthers are pretty good, historically, on the road. They are also usually pretty good as a dog, but to believe that you’d have to forget their opening day dog performance last week. Regardless, the Panthers aren’t as bad as the score from last week’s game. The Eagles are tough, but some big time mistakes got Carolina out of their comfort zone which just led to more mistakes. This NFC South game should be a lot closer, and I think the Panthers will play much better after one of their worst performances in a long time. Jake Delhomme should bounce back, I like the Panthers to cover in Atlanta.

St. Louis Rams @ Washington Redskins (-9.5): At first glance this one is tough for me to stomach. Take the Rams, a team I have claimed to be the worst in football, or the Redskins, a team favored by 10 that has shown very little ability to put the ball in the end zone with Jason Campbell at the point. But I believe in the Redskins offense. They played very poorly last week and still finished within a score of the Giants, a much better football team than the Rams. Campbell will be better, and the Skins will lean on the run against a run defense that gave up lots of rushing yards to a Hawks team that was without two starting offensive linemen in Week 1. I don’t see the Rams running with much success against the Skins newly revamped run D, led by Albert Haynesworth. Ten points is a lot, I’m not comfortable with the spread, but of the two choices, I think Washington is the better pick.

Houston Texans (+8) @ Tennessee Titans: From what I saw from the Titans last week, they have a very good run defense. But they have holes in that secondary if the offensive line withstands that immediate surge. I think the Texans were terrible last week, but not a terrible football team. So things have to even out. The Titans should have won against Pittsburgh, but some missed field goals kept the Steelers in the game. The Titans are solid, and should run the ball well against Houston, but the Texans are closer to the Titans than 8 points. This is a divisional game, and both teams should come in with a lot to prove. That usually keeps the outcome closer, I’ll take the points.

New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles (-1): I don’t think this is a safe bet, but I’m taking the Eagles. Drew Brees will have more trouble finding open receivers in Week 2 than he did in the opener against the Lions, but the Saints will still put up points. The Eagles might be without their leader, Donovan McNabb, but in that case I think they might run the ball a lot more. With two solid running backs and a mediocre run defense across from them, that ball control style might help them more than hurt them. They are obviously better with McNabb under center, and he still might play, but I wouldn’t write them off if Kolb was the guy on Sunday. All things considered, the Eagles are the more complete team, and New Orleans offense plays right into Philly’s strength as Philly’s secondary is legit. McNabb in or out makes this game a big question mark, so unless you know what you’re getting into, I might stay away from this game. I have no choice though, so even if Kolb is the man, I’m riding the Eagles bandwagon in Week 2.

New England Patriots @ New York Jets (+5): I don’t like taking a team that played poorly, should have lost, and won last week. So I’m not going to do it. The Jets do lots of little things right, and their defense is stout. I’m not sure the Patriots will be able to stop the run with Seymour stuffing the line of scrimmage in Oakland and Jarrod Mayo out for a few weeks. The Jets have a very solid offensive line, and I think they’ll be coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder. The Patriots usually make rookie quarterbacks look silly, but Mark Sanchez might just be the exception. Sanchez doesn’t get in trouble with his feet, keeps very square, and shouldn’t feel overmatched by the Patriots mediocre secondary. I expect more short passes to Leon Washington, and Thomas should get close to 100 yards. The Jets secondary will be tested, but this game should stay close. 5 is too many for the home team.

Oakland Raiders (+4) @ Kansas City Chiefs: I’m sticking with the Raiders this week. I don’t think the Chiefs, despite last week’s very solid performance at Baltimore, are a good favorite to bet on. I’m getting 4 points early with the Raiders, and I think that is great value. Oakland runs the ball very well, which should keep the ball in their possession. I think JaMarcus Russell will feel a little more comfortable under center this week, and he’ll show what just a couple more accurate throws can do for an offense. He was consistently high on his deep passes last week, but through one hell of a ball on 4th and 15 with the game resting solely in his hands. That has to be a confidence builder. I know KC put up some points on Baltimore, but some of that was fluky. The Raiders are better than people give them credit for, so I’ll keep taking them with points and value.

Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-3): I like the Jaguars by just three at home. It’s a long way for the Cardinals to go, something they showed they didn’t like doing last season. The Jaguars will be better as their offensive line gels, and should be tough for the Cardinals to handle on the ground – something they did very well last week against the 49ers. I also think Garrard will have a better day. This game seems like a high scoring affair to me, with lots of big plays. But I don’t like what I’ve seen from Arizona, and I think they fall to 0-2 in Jacksonville.

Cincinnati Bengals (+9) @ Green Bay Packers: I hate to do this, because I think the Packers are a lot better than they played last week, but I can’t take a team that played poorly last week, pulled out a win anyway, and is now favored by 9 over a defense that looks much improved. I think the Bengals offense will improve every week, and from Week 1 to Week 2 will be no difference. People will look at this game and say, the Bengals suck, they lost to the terrible Broncos, but I don’t see it that way. I don’t think the Broncos are bad, they just aren’t great. And it took a pretty big fluke for the Bengals to get ousted in Week 1. Nine is a lot of points, and an improved Bengals defense should keep it closer than that. A couple big plays from Palmer and Chad, and this could be a big upset in Week 1. Survivor players, steer clear!

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Minnesota Vikings (-10) @ Detroit Lions: Hopefully for the Lions, they’ll figure out that Stafford shouldn’t be starting after this week and give the players a chance to win by putting in Culpepper. They’ve lost too many games in a row, and Stafford just isn’t ready. Every time he steps onto the field, pre or regular season, he’s shown me that he’s not ready. The Vikings walk in with a lot of confidence, and for good reason. Brett should throw a little more in this game as certainly the Lions will come out and force the old man to beat them through the air. That means quicker scores for the Vikings, because contrary to popular belief, the old man can still wing it. And I don’t know if 11 Lions in the box could stop Adrian Peterson completely. That guy is a super hero amongst men. I know the public loves this bet, and I’m rarely a fan of double digit favorites, but if I have to lean, and picking every single game, I do, I’ll take the Vikings in this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5) @ Buffalo Bills: Give me the Bucs! They have a stellar running attack. Byron is a winner (despite losing in Week 1) and I only think they’ll get better as the season goes forward. The Bills took a tough one on the chin last week, and the Bucs played pretty well in a loss, too. The Bills have a little bit of a home field advantage here, but I think Tampa keeps this within a field goal, if they don’t just win outright.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers (-1.5): I think the 49ers just play a tougher brand of football that makes a tough match-up for the Hawks. Frank Gore’s running style seems to eat up the smallish Hawks front 7, and especially with Leroy Hill out, Seattle should have trouble preventing Gore from averaging less than 5 yards a carry. I think San Fran will feed the man the ball, and that should be enough to pull a home win in Week 2. I like the Hawks, I just think on the road against a physical team is a tough match-up for them after playing the worst team in football. Nothing like playing against a softy before a physical team, that’s always tough.

Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos (-3) : I thought the Browns played pretty well last week against the Browns, but just couldn’t hang on late as Adrian Peterson decided to go god mode cheat code on them. Cleveland will be better than I expected, but the Broncos are what I expected, and that’s a competitive team that is already playing tougher than they did the last two years under Splinter. Josh McDaniels had to get some confidence going after a miracle finish, and I expect Brandon Marshall to just come out and do good things this week. I think the Browns are more of a question mark through the air than Brett and the Vikings showed us, and I think Kyle Orton and company will take advantage of that with short passes and a couple double move deep balls. I know, I know, Kyle can’t throw the deep ball. We’ll see, I expect a couple long scores out of the Broncos and I think they cover at home.

Baltimore Ravens (+4) @ San Diego Chargers: The Chargers did not look good against the Raiders. They were outplayed much of the night. Now, it was the Raiders, so of course they ended up winning anyway, but San Diego won’t find life quite as easy against the Ravens. I like the Ravens to run the ball early and often and keep the Chargers from putting up much more than a couple touchdowns. Two scores won’t be enough to cover this spread, so I’m taking Baltimore.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Chicago Bears (+3): Everything about this game tells me to pick the Steelers… Besides this: The Steelers’ offensive line is pretty bad, just ask Willie Parker and his 19 yards on 13 carries last week… They played a poor game and should have lost last week against the Titans, but Tennessee kept pooping the bed every time they got into the red-zone area. So, they played bad and got the win, that’s almost always an auto-bet-against game for me. Chicago will make mistakes against that Steelers defense, but Cutler also has the ability to make some big plays too, and a couple big plays could be enough points to beat the Steel City. There’s no doubt in my mind that Cutler will be better in his second outing, and while the Steelers are very tough defensively, their offense isn’t strong enough to blow a solid team out. Chicago is a good team. Chicago has some big play threats, and Matt Forte will get more looks in the passing game this week. I think this one is close, but I’m going against the defending champs here. I want to take Pittsburgh, but last week’s slip-by and poor outing from their offensive line has me going the other way.

New York Giants (+3) @ Dallas Cowboys: At first glance I was thinking New York. They have great lines, and a very good secondary. And with that, they should be better than everyone. So, I’m not going to overthink this one and I’m just going with my gut. Sure, Tony Romo pulled some passes out and iced the Bucs last week, but I don’t think he can do the same against New York. I would consider the Boys if they didn’t allow a butt load of rushing yards to the Bucs. I know Tampa has a solid running game, but they were running over Cowboys in Week 1. New York can really run the ball, and they will against Dallas. I don’t like Eli Manning and the Giants receivers aren’t scary – but that group gets the job done. The three points make a nice cushion just in case.

Indianapolis Colts @ Miami Dolphins (+3): The Dolphins didn’t impress me at all last week, but they are a lot better than they played, at least that’s what I think. I see them coming back and laying one on the Colts pretty good on Monday Night. I think they’ll run the ball very effectively, and upset Indy. The Colts had a lot of big numbers last week, but just barely snuck by the Jaguars. Now, that’s what the Colts do from time to time, but I think it’s because Indy just isn’t as powerful as they once were. Basically, I expect the same Colts I saw last week and a much better Dolphins team than the one that lost a pushover to the Falcons.