Denver Broncos (+3.5) @ Baltimore Ravens Free NFL Pick: The Broncos are 6-0, undefeated, just like the Colts and Saints – yet they’ve only been favored twice all season long. They were favored at home against the Cleveland Browns (by 3) and in Oakland against those always powerful Raiders (by 1). 6 games down, 6 wins in the bag, and just two times they’ve been favored to do so, and those were against a couple of the worst teams in football – amazing. And here they are again, going up against a physical Ravens team, be them 3-3, and Denver is once again a Dog. Does the fairytale have to stop? I’m not so sure, but this game should be one hell of a rough and tumble affair. But getting just a hair more than a field goal, I have to like that in a game that almost promises to be tight. Combined, these two teams are a bettor’s dream, 10-2 ATS on the season. Baltimore has played in 5 close games so far this season. Their only blowout, the Browns. Even Kansas City hung tough well into the 4th. 3 of Denver’s 6 wins have come by a touchdown or less. It’s just in their blood, they play tough, they limit mistakes, they tackle well, they cut down on the big play. It’s Broncos or nothing here, that’s where my value-meter stands.
Houston Texans (-3) @ Buffalo Bills: The Bills have feasted on opposing quarterbacking mistakes – but I’m sorry, Matt Schaub isn’t a rookie and he’s definitely not Jake Delhomme. Also, the Texans don’t need to pass the ball to win, and the Bills can’t focus their defense on one thing the Texans do to win. Houston can win a lot of ways, and they have a lot of weapons. If you haven’t noticed, Matt Schaub has become one of the better QBs in the NFL. He can throw the ball against anyone, and he has. The Bills’ defense still has a lot of people either missing from or questionable in Sunday’s game. They have an offense that is limited at best. Despite Houston’s history they have been better defensively of late. Sure, the 49ers got back in the game in the 2nd half last week by finding Vernon Davis for 3 touchdowns, but the Texans shut down one of the better rushing attacks in the league, and have shown the ability to make opposing offenses do something they don’t want to do. In a shoot out, the Texans get the nod. In a close game, the Texans have the ability to make that big play that wins the game. They are favored by a field goal on the road, something that has been scary for Texans’ backers for a long time. But this team is a little different. I expect them to battle for a playoff spot, they know this one is important with some big games against solid teams coming up – they have to beat the teams that they are supposed to beat. I’m taking the Texans by a field goal and expecting them to win by a touchdown, maybe two.
Cleveland Browns (+14) @ Chicago Bears Pick and Preview: I know, big dogs have been suicide all season long, and this very well might be another one of those, lord knows the Browns have it in them – but at the very least, Cleveland has been a defense that forces opposing quarterbacks into bad throws, and if you don’t think Jay Cutler is prone to interceptions than you have been smoking the good stuff. The Browns can, at least, run the football. They have a powerful offensive line, a very underrated unit, and a couple running backs that can get 4 yards a pop. The Bears can be run on, they are beat up in the front 7, they need to commit to helping in the secondary (because they struggle there) and the bottom line is there’s space to run in Chicago. Sure, the Browns have a brutal run defense, sure, they’ve gotten blown out a few times this year, but I think they can stick with the Bears. Chicago will have to show me one heck of a lot more before I take them as a two touchdown favorite this season. They make mistakes on offense, they allow big plays on defense, and they are prone to quick offensive series – that won’t take advantage of Cleveland’s biggest weakness. Always tough to take the Brownies, but the value is with them on the road.
Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys (-9.5) Free Pick: I really want to pick the Seahawks, and at first that’s exactly the directions I was going to go, then I thought about it a little more and though that if Matt Hasselbeck has no time to throw against a physical and athletic defense in Dallas, I don’t see the Hawks making many big plays. Earlier in the year, Dallas was struggling to attack the passer, but it’s hard to imagine that being the case against this make-shift offensive line Seattle has been forced to put together. And now the Cowboys are bringing pressure with ease. Not only that, but Dallas’s offense, a group that had been struggling to find an identity, has seemingly figured it out over the past couple weeks, finding a young receiver named Miles Austin to be the playmaker down the field. With Marion Barber and Felix Jones getting healthier by the day, and Tony Romo seemingly back at his confident place, the Cowboys looks as scary as people expect them to be. The Hawks have only played well against the league’s lesser teams, and while Dallas might not be Super Bowl bound, they are definitely a team fighting for a playoffs spot this season. All things considered, I just think Dallas’s pass rush will be too much. I’ll take Dallas at home.
This is Papa Weimer, back again for some fantasy football question and answer action. I had a couple tough calls last week, even going so far as to advising a fantasy reader to sit Ricky Williams (80 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns) for Tashard Choice (0 carries, 1 catch for 23 yards) but man, guys, how am I supposed to predict something like Choice getting shut out on the ground and Ricky dicing up the Saints stellar run defense for the most touchdowns in one single game of his entire career??? Shoot, sometimes I miss, but I always take a shot. So, feel free to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll be here to try and steer you away from carrots and ketchup, and get you closer to apples and cheese – yes, the latter is better than the former… Here’s this week’s early emails….
Brad from the internet writes in, “I have a trade question. I currently have a trade offer, I have Steve Slaton and I have been offered Matt Forte for him. Slaton has been doing pretty good for because the Texans have been using him as a receiver but his rushing has not been so good. I’m a Bears fan so I need some advise!! LOL. I really want to make this trade cuz I believe Forte will turn around or am I just being a fan?? Thanks for your help!”
Brad, I hope I can steer you in the right direction. Here goes nothing. I’d stick with Slaton, at least for now. I love Forte’s game, he’s tough, he’s got great feet, and when you give him enough chances to succeed he usually does. The problem with the Bears is that they just aren’t a team ready to give a running back good fantasy numbers. Jay Cutler has a great arm, and his style over his short career has meant a couple things. His teams will score fast. That’s good for offensive numbers, but not really great for running backs. The faster the score, the fewer plays it takes, the fewer chances your RB gets to get break one. He also doesn’t check down. He’s been known for locking onto receivers and throwing it regardless of coverage. Look at it, he seeming choses a play for a player, like in Madden 2009, and just goes there not matter what you do. This is a problem for a couple reasons. Interceptions and incompletions also cause for a shorter offensive series. Also, when you don’t check down, your RB with great hands and receiving skills rarely gets catches. Now, unless this changes, I think Matt continues to struggle. This is why I was warning you Bear fans about getting so happy with the addition of Cutler. Great arm, not always the decisions you need to win football games. Then you add in the schedule over the next 5 weeks. Forte’s value might even go down from here. This week is a great match=up, sure, the Browns come to town to give Forte plenty of chances to up his fantasy stock, but what about after that? 4 Top-10 Rush defenses go up against the Bears, the Cardinals (1), the 49ers (6), the Eagles (11) and the Vikings (10) – and the Vikings are probably much better than any one of those. That’s a tough 4 game stretch where you’ll be looking for a playoff spot. You compare that to Slaton playing just 2 Top 10 defenses for the rest of the season (Titans-10, Dolphins-4) and I think you see why i’d stick with Steve. I think Forte will have some solid numbers late, but after this week it doesn’t look so bright. Good luck in either way you decide.
William Bad-Ace from Beaver Falls, PA asks, “What is your best pick for survivor this week? I no longer have the Colts, not that they are a sure thing this week against San Fran anyway, I’m basically deciding between Chicago, San Diego, and Houston – any thoughts?”
Sure Billy, I got some advice for your Ace. I like the teams you listed, all could be a decent option. And yes, you’re right, Indy is far from a sure thing against a tough Niners squad. When’s the last time Indy played a physical football game anyway? Arizona in Week 3 or Miami in Week 2. That’s a long time ago. I’d steer clear from that game in survivor action. Of your choices, I’d rank San Diego #1, Chicago #2, and Houston #3. I think San Diego should slap Oakland around, but the Chargers are a little bit like the Eagles in that they rely heavily on the pass, and that can always come back to haunt you. Chicago plays Cleveland, but I’m not 100% here either, the Browns have a good offensive line and the Bears defensive front got blown out of the water by Cincinnati’s rushing attack last week, this could be more interesting than people expect. Houston should win, but Buffalo hangs around in a lot of football games, and that secondary can pick it with the best of them. If Houston runs, I like them to walk here, but they are no guarantee to keep it on the ground for too long. My favorite pick this week is actually one you didn’t even list. I like the Cardinals to absolutely slap the Panthers around like a JV team. Arizona beats up opposing rushing attacks and that’s all the Panthers can really do. I see a long game for Jake Delhomme, if he’s even the guy at QB in this game. The match-up favors Arizona so much that they are my biggest sure thing of Week 8. Hope that helps!
Ryan from Seattle asks, “Who do you start this week, Ryan Grant against Minnesota, Knowshon Moreno against Baltimore, or Donald Brown against San Francisco? Yeah, tough spot, appreciate any help you got. Non-PPR….”
Ryan, you are in a pickle. But I think the answer is Ryan Grant. The Packers got away from the run last time out, but there is, at the very least, some evidence that says Grant could do solid things against that ferocious Vikings defensive front. The Steelers gave their starting running back just 10 carries last week, but he plowed away for 69 yards in limited chances. Ryan got just 10 carries against the Vikes last time out, he went for 50 on those looks. The Packers have decided to keep Grant more involved, and it’s been a good thing, dominating the last two games where Grant carried 20+ times (24 in Detroit, 27 last week), and if they know what’s good for them, they’ll commit to him again this week. I don’t know if I see a touchdown, but 80 yards or so could be in the cards if the Pack has removed their offensive play calling from the pass-happy garbage can. Hope that helps, good luck!