Tag Archives: Green Bay Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl Preview

Nothing is more daunting than a lifetime Bears fan and franchise-long Ravens fan attending the carving up of Super Bowl assignments at GASB headquarters.

In short: which No. 1 hated division rival would you like to analyze and assess more? Thankfully, GASB will always love the game much more than we hate our mortal enemies, so let’s take a hard look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, inarguably one of the greatest franchises in NFL history.

Pittsburgh comes into this game as the only franchise with six previous Super Bowl victories and the only franchise to have won eight AFC Championship Games. This means that in seven prior Super Bowl appearances, the team has only been defeated once.

ROONEY ROYALTY

If it weren’t for loyalties elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Steelers are precisely the type of organization that GASB loves and they certainly run the type of system that other teams around the league should certainly aspire toward both on the field and in the front offices.

Consider that this particular team is still owned and run by the Rooney Family (since 1933) and has tenured a mere THREE head coaches in the modern Super Bowl era.

Rather than take impulsive mulligans or “adapt” to the more corporate Snyder/Jones one-and-done style of modern front office and personal changes, the Steelers get their men and stand by their men.

They consistently build immense teams via the draft and grow their players in a uniquely Steelers system from the ground up. The loyalty pays off: Chuck Noll delivered four rings, Bill Cowher delivered one and Mike Tomlin matched it a mere three years later and is sitting on the doorstep yet again.

One would be hard pressed to find a team with as much talent in the office as on the field, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are unquestionably that team. And as with every Sunday, it will ultimately come down to the men standing on the field executing what they’ve been drilled on since OTA’s and mini camp the preceding summer.

Let’s examine who’s coming charging out of the tunnel.

Quarterback: Love him or hate him, “Big” Ben Roethlisberger is unquestionably in the top three realm of modern quarterbacks.

If we’re talking about one game for all the marbles, Big Ben is right up there with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. All three have demonstrated what it is to be clutch when it counts the absolute most. What makes the Steelers’ quarterback position so terrifying for Green Bay and Packer fans everywhere in this matchup is that they are facing an especially dangerous Roethlisberger coming out of the story arc that was the 2010 season.

IF THIS MAN DOESN'T LOOK INNOCENT OF ALL RAPE CHARGES I JUST DON'T KNOW WHO DOES

Forced to sit for four games (reduced from six) at the front end of the schedule for particularly a scandalous and alarming pattern of offseason misconduct, Ben was faced with a simple choice: shape up now or suffer the fate of former teammate Santonio Holmes (traded to the Jets after a nightclub incident).

Accordingly, Roethlisberger focused in on the difficult road to redemption before him and made massive strides. He recommitted himself to the game and, upon reinstatement, went out to light it up like a man literally playing for his life.

Roethlisberger 3.0 was an absolute monster during the remaining 2010 regular season and playoffs.

His mental and physical toughness were unparalleled while stacked AFC defenses tried to simply break him in all facets from week to week. They smashed and broke his nose across his face. He stayed in. They nearly snapped his ankle. He put a boot on and ran right back out onto the field.

He threw for over 3,000 yards in 12 games, he lowered his head and picked up first downs and touchdowns at will and, while unquantifiable on a stat sheet, he seemed much wiser in his trademark gambling methodology of navigating the pocket.

Yes, Ben Roethlisberger holds onto the ball longer than any QB in the league. This has not changed. What has changed is that he’s seeing the peripheral landscape better and creating many more offensive opportunities than ever in doing so.

Nobody wants this game more than Big Ben. You could argue that nobody needs this game more than Big Ben.

This is an entirely frightening premise if you’re Dom Capers on the Packers sideline.

Offensive Line: Of note and of great significance: reports have emerged that starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will not play in Sunday’s showdown due to an ankle injury suffered in the AFC Championship Game.

He remains listed as “questionable” as of press time. This is a massive blow to the Steelers and will absolutely be a major factor heading in. Pouncey put forth a Pro Bowl effort in 2010 and certainly demonstrated what a modern center in the league CAN be. Doug Legursky has been tapped to step in.

His reward? BJ Raji staring him down from across the line. To quote a legendary canine cartoon, “ZOINKS!”

I JUST LIKE SCOOBY DOO

The good news? The Steelers are absolutely stacked with grizzled and energized veterans on the left and right sides.

Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, and Flozell Adams are household names for a reason. Second-year right guard Ramon Foster is quickly proving himself and earning his keep with the big boys. So while Legursky has his work cut out for him, expect more than a little help from his not-so-little friends.

Anticipate a showdown of epic proportions as the Packers send Cullen Jenkins and Clay Matthews slamming into these Steeler workhorses.

Running Backs: Now in his third season, Rashard Mendenhall has proven yet again that the Steelers know how to draft. Plucked straight from the Big Ten and thrust immediately into the Super Bowl season of 2008, No. 34 was forced to learn the system immediately and be ready when his number was called.

He responded with a 2009 that saw him break 1,000 yards on the ground while stepping into that every-QBs-best-friend role of hovering just outside of the pocket on pass plays for the last option dump off pass. In 2010, he showed improvement across the board — making a case for elite status.

Look for entirely solid and potentially game-breaking plays from Mendenhall under the big lights. Do not count on costly mistakes: Mendenhall only put the ball on the ground twice this season.

BLACK-AND-GOLD BRUISER

Fullback David Johnson will have his work cut out for him alternating between trying to shore up the Pouncey-free line and creating lanes for Mendenhall to bust through.

As he’s proven in the last two seasons, he is ready, willing, and able to do just that when called upon.

Other than that, look for Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman to see some snaps and give Big Ben some options if Matthews and Jenkins manage to get past the O-Line quicker than anticipated.

Tight End: Simply put, Heath Miller is your prototypical AFC North tight end.

Deftly skilled at both blocking and receiving, look for the Steelers to call upon No. 83 in any scenario where the chips are down. His field vision will enable him to pick up and thwart oncoming defenders and, if Charles Woodson plugs up the deep threat, Miller is not afraid to run a route across the middle on any third-down situation.

With a weakened line, Heath will absolutely need to be on point on every down he plays. Count on it. Beyond No. 83, the Steelers could not ask for a better number two guy than Matt Spaeth.

Set your watch to both men executing their assignments with ferocity.

Wide Receivers: Once again, the Steelers prove that they are top-tier genius status when it comes to drafting correctly.

Hines Ward is now in his thirteenth year with the team and is still one of the most explosive and game-breaking receivers in big game situations. He simply grins in the face of opposing defenses as he’s breaking their backs with clutch catch after catch.

WINNIN' RACES, BREAKIN' FACES

Those unfamiliar with the Steelers’ 2010 season might look at the stat line and surmise that No. 86 had a down year. That’s not the case when you factor in Roethlisberger’s newest toy at the No. 2 spot: another draft pick turned gold in second-year man Mike Wallace.

Accounting for over 1,250 yards and 10 TD’s in year two? Welcome to prime time, youngster.

After the monster season Wallace enjoyed, look for him to shine and truly make a name for himself in front of the biggest viewing audience of the year (perhaps all-time).

The Steelers are as balanced as ever at this position and the war chest runs deep receiver-wise. If Hines gets stymied, Monday morning water cooler talk could be all about the rise of the “Young Money Fellas” (more later).

Defensive Line: The Steelers continue to run a 3-4 defense, so look for the 920-pound three-headed dog-from-hell also known as Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Casey Hampton to put constant pressure on the Packers and Rodgers.

Ziggy’s had a bit of a breakout year in only his second year in the league, so definitely keep your eye on him with each snap. It looks like Aaron Smith will not be available for the game, so the Steelers will have to count on Chris Hoke and Nick Eason for support behind the starting three.

GASB expects some major disruptions at the hands of the D line versus the Pack. The timing of these disruptions and how Rodgers adjusts and handles pressure from all sides will be a huge determining factor in this game. Rodgers has seen some exotic blitzes during the course of the season. On Sunday, he will literally see the best the league has to offer.

Linebackers: As we take a peak over the front three, we’re beginning to become a little terrified for Aaron Rodgers and James Starks. Let’s say the Pack pitches a perfect game versus Keisel, Hood, and Hampton. Okay, then what the hell do you do with “LIGHTS OUT. NO SERIOUSLY, LIGHTS OUT” James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior, and LeMarr Woodley wanting to decapitate any and every man attempting to advance the football past them?

THIS MAN PAYS MORE MONEY IN FINES THAN YOU WILL EVER MAKE IN A SINGLE YEAR

GASB would prefer to go to any California State Penitentiary wearing nothing but assless chaps for a day than be asked to stave off the homicidal maniacs that comprise the modern day Steel Curtain for even a single down.

Put it down: all four of these men are going to put their mark on this game. There is not an offensive scheme on the planet that can keep these four from feasting at will. They are going to get to you and they are going to make your internal organs scream. The only way to address the linebacking corps of the Steelers is to attempt to keep their big plays manageable within the context of the entire offensive attack.

In this regard, The Packers will need to hone in on a perfectly balanced attack of both the run and the pass, as we now enter into the third and near-inpenatrable component of the Steelers D.

Secondary: With such a formidable front line and linebacking corps, sometimes the only possible solution is to take your chances on the secondary. Not with the Steelers, man.

You know you’re in deep, deep trouble when the STRONG SAFETY for the other team has more national endorsements than your starting franchise quarterback.

Simply put, you can try testing Troy Polamalu, but he’s going to eat your lunch more often than not. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “how many times?”
How many times are you going to issue a death sentence to your own tight end or receiver by trying to pick up yardage in the middle?

TIP DRILL

How many times is one of those 300-pound giants going to bat a ball up into the air only to see it come down into the hands and fleet-footed blur of hair and black and gold?

And that’s just Polamalu’s impact.
Have you SEEN Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor give interviews lately? Could there be a more cold-blooded, Secret Service-level of assuredness and confidence coming from two men?

GASB thinks not. We’re talking about two men in their athletic primes (nine years in the league for Clark, eight for Taylor) realizing that the window is closing on another ring and wanting absolutely nothing more in present tense. Expect athletic brilliance from both, with Clark making savant-like freelancing decisions and Taylor blanketing all assignments.

If all else fails and Rodgers looks left for intermediate, manageable gains, expect no mercy. Bryant McFadden will be watching. Waiting. Studying. He’s already looked over every tape of every tendency Rodgers has shown in his entire career. He knows how to tackle in the open field (2010 marked a career high 74 solo tackles). He’s absolutely going to get there and, if he sees something he recognizes, it’s going to make for a long day for the men in yellow and green.

Special Teams: This is the one area where the Steelers aren’t exactly as superhuman as the other facets of the game.

Punter Jeremy Kapinos, in spite of being a Penn Stater, hasn’t exactly had the most solid NFL career to date. Four different teams in as many years, and just not many reps. He came over to the Steelers in week eight of the 2010 season and didn’t see consistent action until week fourteen, where he slid into the starter role.

With the exception of a rough game versus the Jets in week fifteen, he’s been “okay” for the Steelers. If SB XLV turns out to be the defensive war it has all the potential to be, field position will be at a premium and Mr. Kapinos will need to back up his Nittany Lion pedigree by putting it back long and in the corner.

Placekicker Shaun Suisham scares the bejeezus out of GASB if this game indeed comes down to defense and field goals. GASB spends a lot of time in the greater Washington, DC metro area, where Suisham was run out of town at the behest of a rather angry pitchfork and torch-wielding mob of Redskins faithful.

While he’s shown decent acumen in his seven-game run this season with the Steelers, history dictates that at some point Shaun Suisham will become Shaun Suisham. For the sake of the biggest game of the year, we sincerely hope it’s not this Sunday.

Finally, in the latter half of the season, the Steelers discovered big-play ability in a young rookie named Antonio Brown. It began with a game-winning dagger of a catch versus GASB’s beloved Ravens and simply did not end there. Accordingly, the Steelers have put 1/3 of the “Young Money Fellas” (the other two being fellow WR’s Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders) back for both kick and punt returns on top of what is quickly becoming his “late-game heroic” status in the offense.

The hope is that his explosiveness and excitement-raising style of play will energize the offense and Terrible Towel-wavers alike heading into each and every series.  We anticipate Brown to deliver at some point, likely when it matters most (think Santonio Holmes in their last SB appearance).

NOPE, STILL NOT LOOKING LIKE A SEXUAL PREDATOR

Side note on Antonio Brown: If you’re looking for a Michael Oher Blind Side-esque backstory to get behind and really pull for for this weekend, GASB highly recommends looking into No. 84’s rise to the NFL. It’s the classic narrative of daunting, oppressively hard times failing to break a human spirit driven to compete at the highest level.

Super Bowl XLV has all of the makings of a game for the ages and this writer wishes a sincerely fantastic and fun-filled viewing experience to everyone in GASB-nation.

– Brent Eyestone

Advertisements

Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Preview

TOKEN PICTURE OF LAMBEAU FIELD

It should come as no surprise to anyone to see the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

They may not have been the NFC’S trendy pick — that distinction would have gone to the Eagles, Falcons or Saints — but they’ve been a picture of consistency through the entire season and it seems a lot of people failed to notice.

This is as Packers team that did not trail by more than a touchdown all season. A Packers team that did not lose a single game by more than four points all season. A Packers team that barely skipped a beat without franchise signal-caller Aaron Rodgers under center.

Now Green Bay is (relatively) healthy and rolling behind the momentum of three straight road playoff wins.

That said, let’s take a position-by-position look at what Green Bay brings to the Super Bowl table.

Quarterback: Coming off three straight road playoff victories, Rodgers has become a hot commodity and is quickly ascending to ‘elite’ status in the NFL.

His performance in four career playoff games is impeccable; Rodgers has accounted for 13 total touchdowns to just four turnovers. His career QB rating in the playoffs is well over 115. More importantly? His record is 3-1, with the only blemish being an overtime playoff loss to the Kurt Warner-led Arizona Cardinals.

It’s clear Rodgers has learned from that defeat. It’s clear that he’s now a better quarterback. The ball is coming out of his hands quicker than ever, he’s fitting balls into windows that barely even exist and he’s evading the rush and moving fluidly in the pocket.

LOOK AT THAT MUSTACHE. NO, SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT IT.

In short, Rodgers is doing literally every thing you could possibly want a quarterback to do.

Runningback: Here is where the Packers are going to have some issues.

When Ryan Grant went down for the season in week one, he left a massive void at tailback. Ryan was the Packers’ every-down, 1,200-yard, chain-moving back. He was dependable and versatile. In his absence, the Packers have employed a running-back-by-committee approach with Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and upstart James Starks.

The problem is that even combined, the trio doesn’t do what Grant could always be depended on for: getting the yard yardage. Kuhn is serviceable as a short-yardage and goal-line back, Starks has the speed and vision to run off-tackle, and Brandon Jackson has some power up the middle, but none of them have the burst and the drive that Grant has.

None of those backs can tear through a hole on second-and-9 and get into the secondary before being taken down for a 15-yard gain. The big-play ability just isn’t there, and against a swirling Steelers defense with some hard-hitting linebackers, the Packers have little to no chance of running consistently.

Wide receiver: Playmakers abound here for the green-and-gold. While Rodgers surely misses his big tight end in Jermichael Finley, he’s got a wealth of speed and play-making ability and the Packers go four deep with it.

Greg Jennings is the man the Steelers will need to key in on, though much easier said than done. Jennings can hurt a defense in a variety of ways — he’s just as likely to take a quick slant up the middle and to pay dirt as he is to torch a safety over the top. Look for him to be double-covered though much of Sunday’s action.

I PUT THE TEAM ON MY BACK THOUGH

If Jennings is covered, Rodgers will likely turn to cagy veteran Donald Driver. While the 12-year pro can’t boast the speed that he once thrilled with, his hands are as sure as ever and he’s a fixture in third-down situations.

If Rodgers needs eight or nine yards on third down, you can bet he’s looking for Driver on a hook or a curl route.

In the slot will be James Jones. A quick receiver out of San Jose State, Jones knows just how to find seams on drag and post routes that drive defenses crazy. It’ll be up to free safety Ryan Clark to keep one eye on Jones at all times to ensure that those 10 or 15-yard gains don’t turn into 30 or 35-yard gains.

Last is the biggest of Green Bay’s wide receiver corps, the 6’3” 217-pound Jordy Nelson. Nelson really came into form late in the season and his size — coupled with the fact that he’ll likely be matched up on by linebackers or the nickel back — will give Rodgers a large target to throw at should his first couple reads break down. Think of Nelson like a large, sure-handed safety valve.

He could be one of the keys to the Packers’ offense should that Pittsburgh pass rush routinely flush Rodgers from the pocket.

Offensive line: What a difference a year makes. In 2009, the injury plagued Packers line could do nothing to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers off his back. Rodgers was sacked a league-high 50 times in ‘09 — tied with the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger — compared to just 31 times in the 2009 season. A lot of that has to do with the improved health of the line, namely when it comes to left tackle Chad Clifton.

On the other end of the line is big-bodied Brian Baluga, who has fought through some early-season growing pains to really be dependable in the right tackle position.

The line will have its work cut out for it with the complex blitz packages gameplanned by Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, so they’ll need to have their best game of the season to give Rodgers the time he needs to find those receivers.

Defensive line: Anchored by former Boston College standout B.J. Raji, who is not-so-quietly having the best season of his young career, this three-man line was part of a unit that was second in the league in sacks during the regular season with 48 and first in the playoffs with 10.

Raji’s ability to command a double team is what opens up the gaps for blitzes from the linebackers, but right end Cullen Jenkins is quite a pass rusher in his own right with seven sacks on the season.

LIKE A BOSS

It’s not just about blitzes, though. Far from it. This Packers front three is plenty capable of stopping the run, especially in the red zone. Green Bay was second in the NFL — behind you guessed it, Pittsburgh — with having allowed just six rushing touchdowns all season.

That staunch red zone defense will have to keep up that level of play this Sunday to force Roethlisberger into poor throws around the end zone.

Linebackers: This is where this Green Bay defense really starts to shine.

When Dom Capers first instituted a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2009, the Packers were a mess. They missed assignments, couldn’t plug gaps, and flat-out couldn’t stop anyone. That’s no longer the case. Led by defensive player of the year runner-up Clay Matthews, this linebackers quartet is as quick, strong and technically sound as any in the league.

It starts in the middle with A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. The two run-pluggers not only lead the Packers in tackles, but combined for 3.5 sacks and six forced turnovers. When the middle of a defense is versatile enough to stop the run, rush the passer and drop back into coverage, and cover all those bases successfully, it opens up the outside linebackers to wreak havoc.

And that’s exactly what Clay Matthews did this season.

His 13.5 sacks were good for fourth in the NFL, but the opponents’ backfield wasn’t the only place he did his damage. Matthews is fast enough to drop back into coverage and get interceptions. He’s a hard hitter that’s going to force fumbles on players coming across the middle. Matthews needs to be accounted for literally every single time he’s on the field.

Secondary: Had you told me that a Green Bay Packers team without Al Harris or Atari Bigby — who combined for six picks and 13 passes defensed last season — was going to be just as dangerous this year as last year, I’d have laughed at you. And then told you to go watch the WNBA.

 

THIS IS WHERE I'D PUT A CLEVER CAPTION IF I COULD THINK OF ONE

Well, then, it seems that the joke’s on me.

The team might not have forced as many interception’s as last year’s 38, but they clamped down on opposing wide receivers for just about every team they’ve played and the interceptions have come at the biggest possible moments. Tramon Williams has emerged as a premier corner and Nick Collins has quietly been one of the best safeties in the NFC this season.

With all the pressure forced by the Packers’ front seven, it allows the secondary to take more chances breaking on balls, as quarterbacks like Matt Ryan all too quickly to find out.

Kicking: Mason Crosby had a pretty average year in the kicking game, and was only 2-of-4 from beyond 50 yards, but he’s made big kicks for the Packers in the past and coach Mike McCarthy should feel comfortable enough with him in any pressure-kicking situation that may arise.

Tim Masthay is a fairly middle-of-the-road punter; the kind of player that’s not often going to pin a team inside their own five but a player that also isn’t going to net just 13 yards on a kick off the side of his foot. We’ll just say he’s no Matt Dodge.

– Jordan Rogowski

NFL Week 10 picks and predictions

Lots to get to this week, I’ll save you some time and cut the intro here. I turned it around last week, going 10-3 to push me to 84-45 on the season.

On with the show…

Chicago (4-4) @ San Francisco (3-5):

Most of the chatter for this game stems from Vernon Davis’ comments that the 49ers are going to “shred” the Chicago defense.

Swiss Cheese

CHICAGO BEARS DEFENSE TEAM PORTRAIT. PHOTO COPYRIGHTED TO VERNON DAVIS.

With the miniatures on the Midway giving up over 24 points per game, it’s hard to argue against Davis’ braggadocio — Chicago looks toothless right now. Only two Bears — Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye — have registered more than one sack and the team has just eight total interceptions. Because Chicago isn’t winning the turnover battle and its not winning the line of scrimmage battle, it’s particularly susceptible to a run-first team like San Francisco.

Frank Gore is running for 5.6 yards per carry and with Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree giving the ‘Niners a vertical passing threat, the Bears can’t key in on either.

San Fran keeps its playoff aspirations alive with a big win at home.

JORDAN SAYS: 49ers 26, Bears 13

—————

New Orleans (8-0) @ St. Louis (1-7):

GASB’s “St. Louis is a UFL team, right? Wait, they’re not?” game of the week!

JORDAN SAYS: Saints 44, Rams 3

—————

Tampa Bay (1-7) @ Miami (3-5):

The Buccaneers provided the NFL’s feel-good win of the season b y channeling the ghost of creamsicles past to beat the Green Bay Packers, but it’s back to reality in Week 10 against a Miami Dolphins team that could easily be 6-2 instead of 3-5.

Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman had a remarkable day for Tampa under the circumstances — no wide receivers, no run game and no offensive line — but the test will be in his ability to repeat that performance. Miami ranks 26th in the league in points per game allowed, so he’ll have his chances.

As will Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.

88972067JM024_GREEN_BAY_PAC

BEHOLD: THE POWER OF CREME

The wildcat has been stifled in consecutive weeks, but Tampa Bay has the third-worst run defense in the league. If Miami can neutralize the ever-present Barrett Ruud, it’ll pull one game closer to .500.

JORDAN SAYS: Dolphins 23, Buccaneers 10

—————

Detroit (1-7) @ Minnesota (7-1):

There’s no way around it; Minnesota is too much for Detroit.

Too much speed, too much Adrian Peterson, too much Brett Favre, too much Jared Allen, too much Wall-o-Williams. Just too much.

And I’ll give the Lions even enough credit to say this would be a different conversation if they weren’t so damn banged-up, but without quarterback Matthew Stafford and linebackers Larry Foote and Ernie Sims (none of the three have practiced this week) the chance of this being so much as competitive is somewhere between an ice cube’s chance in hell and non-existent.

JORDAN SAYS: Vikings 30, Lions 9

—————

Buffalo (3-5) @ Tennessee (2-6):

I could make a fairly long list of reasons that the Bills won’t win this game, including such gems as:

  • Jairus Byrd can (unfortunately) only play one position on the Bills’ defense.
  • Vince Young’s early returns are overwhelmingly positive; from his poise in the pocket to touch on passes, he looks like a new man.
  • Dick Jauron still coaches the Bills.
  • Haywood Jeffries could do a better job at wide receiver than Terrell Owens right now.
  • Dick Jauron still coaches the Bills.

But it comes down to two simple, indisputable truths: Chris Johnson is the league’s leading rusher through nine weeks and Buffalo has the league’s worst run defense.

Checkmate.

JORDAN SAYS: Titans 28, Bills 12

—————

Jacksonville (4-4) @ NY Jets (4-4):

I wonder if Las Vegas even bothers putting a line on Jaguars games anymore. Your odds are better at a roulette wheel than picking for or against Jacksonville — I don’t think I’ve done it correctly once this year.

This week’s matchup isn’t any more clear-cut than the previous eight.

The Jets are coming off a bye after trouncing the Oakland Raiders, and the Jaguars are coming off a three-point win over the Chiefs.

You know what? Screw it. I don’t know. It’s the Jaguars, I have no idea. None.

JORDAN SAYS: Jets 21, Jaguars 16

—————

Cincinnati (6-2) @ Pittsburgh (6-2):

Raise your hand if you thought a mid-season game between the Steelers and Bengals was going to decide the AFC North.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.Ocho Cinco sign

That’s precisely the situation both teams find themselves in, though, with the Bengals already owning a sweep of the Ravens and a victory over the Steelers. So the question becomes, who is it more important to? Is it more important for the Steelers to stave off a sweep, or more important for the Bengals to make a statement?

The teams are strikingly similar — Cincinnati is fifth in points per game allowed, Pittsburgh sixth. Pittsburgh is 13th in points per game scored, Cincinnati 16th. Both teams boast franchise quarterbacks, receiving targets a-plenty and power run games. Both teams have ferocious defensive lines and hard-hitting linebackers.

The game breaker, as he often is, will be Troy Polamalu. The Bengals have no player to mirror the long-haired safety and nobody to match his leadership. In what will be a close game that could later decide the division, Polamalu is the difference-maker.

Or, in the immortal words of the always poignant Dan Dierdorf: “Troy Polamalu is a football player.”

JORDAN SAYS: Steelers 27, Bengals 23

—————

Denver (6-2) @ Washington (2-6):

Some have been quick to write off the upstart Broncos in the wake of back-to-back losses.

But realistically, there’s no shame in dropping a pair of contests to the Ravens and Steelers, and they have all the chance in the world to regain their momentum against a Redskins team still looking for its first victory over a non-winless opponent.

A Redskins team that will be without the services of Clinton Portis, no less.

As I’ve said since the beginning of the year, the way to beat Denver — the way Baltimore and Pittsburgh did — is to get an early lead of two scores or more. A Kyle Orton-quarterbacked team is not a team that is built to play from behind. Orton is one of the best in the game at efficient, short-to-mid-range passes, it’s when he has to routinely go long that he’s picked off as the Steelers took advantage of last week.

It won’t be an issue in Washington; the Redskins have scored just 113 points all year.

JORDAN SAYS: Broncos 33, Redskins 14

—————

Atlanta (5-3) @ Carolina (3-5):

Another thing I’ve been saying all year (god damn right I’ll toot my own horn) is that Carolina is plenty capable of being a 10 or 11-win team so long as it follows a simple formula — less than 20 pass attempts per game by Jake Delhomme and at least 20 rush attempts by DeAngelo Williams.

Surprise, surprise in their last two victories, Delhomme has thrown for less than 100 yards and Williams has run for over 150. In their last two losses, Delhomme has thrown for over 200. Not a coincidence.

DeAngelo Williams

KEEPING JAKE DELHOMME FROM HAVING TO PASS SINCE 2008

And it should be a relatively easy game plan to stick to against a Falcons squad allowing just shy of 120 rush yards per game.

That still might not be enough to secure a win, though, because Atlanta is an offensively explosive team that has finally got Michael Turner running to 2008’s level. Both teams should be using their feature backs to open up play action down the field, with the Falcons getting the edge through the air because unlike his counterpart, Matt Ryan has more touchdown passes to his own team than the opposition.

JORDAN SAYS: Falcons 21, Panthers 19

—————

Kansas City (1-7) @ Oakland (2-6):

The only reason this one isn’t called the Toilet Bowl is because of the Rams/Lions game last week that beat it to the punch. I think you’ll all forgive me for not wasting my time here.

JORDAN SAYS: Chiefs 17, Raiders 6

—————

Seattle (3-5) @ Arizona (5-3):

You could pretty much copy and paste my paragraph about the Jacksonville Jagaurs and sub Kurt Warner’s name in a la Mad Libs.

Five interceptions one week, five touchdowns the next. Such is the life of a forty-something quarterback in the NFL. Jokes aside, that forty-something has the Cardinals playing damn good football lately — winners of four of their last five — and with only one winning team left on the schedule, the playoffs are well within reach again.

Obviously, Warner has his share of weapons in the passing game, but it’s the emergence of Tim “poor man’s Marshall Faulk” Hightower that’s helping this offense move. Despite not posting a single hundred-yard game, Hightower gets the tough yards in short-yardage situations and has been an enormous help in the passing game.

That’s a lot of what separates the Cardinals and Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck has weapons with T.J. Houshmastyfsfefekjhekvsajb and Nate Burleson, but he lacks the check-down guy that can make things happen in open space. Julius Jones and Edgerrin James have been equally quiet in the run game, and that’ll cost the Seahawks against that stifling front seven.

JORDAN SAYS: Cardinals 29, Seahawks 10

—————

Dallas (6-2) @ Green Bay (4-4):

The classic case of two teams headed in opposite directions.

The Cowboys have found themselves as of late, thanks to Tony Romo’s new-found intelligence in the pocket and the emergence of Miles Austin. Even Roy Williams got in on last week’s action with a handful of targets and solid runs after the catch.

Michael Jenkins Cowboys

DOING DEION SANDERS' NUMBER PROUD

The defense is quietly coming on just as strong.

As a unit, they’re seventh in points per game allowed, but its individual performers that are shining through. Cornerback Michael Jenkins has been a terror to opposing wideouts and Terrence Newman has been equally adept with one pick and a team-high nine passed defensed.

Here’s why that’s important: Aaron Rodgers is a glorified crash test dummy behind an offensive line missing both starting tackles. They can’t pass block, they can’t run block, they.. you know, I don’t know what that line can do. Collect paychecks they don’t deserve, maybe.

Rodgers has been sacked 37 times through eight games; the second most sacked QB, Matt Cassel, has only been dumped 27 times. So while Rodgers has one of the best receiving tandems in the league and a solid defense to get him the ball back, he simply doesn’t have time to do anything with it. With the Cowboys blanketing Greg Jennings and Donald Driver downfield, pencil Rodgers in for at least another four sacks.

Music to Demarcus Ware’s ears.

JORDAN SAYS: Cowboys 23, Packers 17

—————

Philadelphia (5-3) @ San Diego (5-3):

I often wonder how the Philadelphia Eagles would look if somebody besides Andy Reid was coach.

If they had competent play calls on third-and-1, or in any sort of fourth-down situations. Alas, that’s not the case, and it’s cost the Eagles two games already this year.

Granted, Donovan McNabb’s piss-poor outing last week didn’t help matters.. but don’t expect him to have that kind of outing again, even against a much-improved San Diego pass defense. Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have to get into the game early to open up the run game for LeSean McCoy since Westbrook’s status for Sunday is uncertain.

The Chargers’ game plan is simple — Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson. Again, and again, and again until Philadelphia can stop it, if at all.

JORDAN SAYS: Chargers 24, Eagles 23

—————

New England (6-2) at Indianapolis (8-0):

I’ll just assume nobody cares about this matchup and move on.

Now with that bad joke out of the way, we can get down to what’s become the most anticipated regular-season matchup of each season. Conference power vs. Conference power. Brady vs. Manning. Offense vs. Offense.

Peyton Manning 3

TWO SECONDS TO LASER-ROCKET-ARM DEPLOYMENT

I could rattle off every statistic or ranking in the book, but the simple truth is it usually comes down to who has the ball last and which defense comes up with the one big play to swing the momentum. Without usuals Bob Sanders, Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel for this go-round, it’s up to somebody new to make their mark in this historic series.

Its up to Manning and Brady to provide some last-minute heroics on the requisite two-minute drill.

And it’s up to the rest of us to sit back and enjoy watching two of the best to ever do it.

JORDAN SAYS: Colts 21, Patriots 20

—————

Baltimore (4-4) @ Cleveland (1-7):

Baltimore is three plays away from 7-1 and it knows it. The NFL isn’t about could-be’s or maybe situations, though. It’s a results-oriented league and the Ravens aren’t delivering them.

That is until the Cleveland “wait, how did they win a game again?” Browns line up across the field.

Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Tim Couch, Bernie Kosar — it doesn’t matter who’s at the helm for this team, they can’t move the football on the air or the ground and they can’t stop it either.

Sometimes, it’s that simple.

JORDAN SAYS: Ravens 32, Browns 0

—————

BYE: New York Giants, Houston.

– Jordan Rogowski

The Week 9 F3: Fantasy Football Forecast

We’ve reached the halfway point of the season, and there are a few things we know for a fact: 1) Roy E. Williams sucks (no matter how the ball is thrown to him), 2) Eric Mangini is no “Man-genius”, and 3) LDT is older than ever before (I guess you can say that about all of us, but he really looks old).

There are a bunch of other things that have become evident, but I don’t want to eat up an entire column on it. I have advice to give, which is far more valuable than my 20/20 hindsight. Here they are kids, my gems for Week 9!

Quarterbacks:

–  Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers

What the? Yes, that Alex Smith, and yes, he is a starting QB. We’re talking about the “future of the franchise” of the past here… I just confused myself reading that.

Alex Smith

THE FIRST (AND PROBABLY LAST) TIME YOU'LL SEE AN ALEX SMITH RECOMMENDATION AT GASB

Things you need to know that substantiate my pick: the Titans are terrible against the pass, so bad that they rank at the bottom of the league in team pass D. Smith might not reach the 282.1 yards they give up on the average, but even if he comes close, he’s helping your squad for sure. With the emergence of Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, Alex Smith should put up “First Overall Pick in the draft”-type numbers.

Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens

The Flacco you want to see this week is the Flacco of last year.  All of a sudden, in 2009, Flacco became a fantasy monster racking up 300-yard games. The Ravens are a smash-you-in-the-mouth, run to set up the pass, defense-first team. Those weeks of Flacco-on-cracko are gone, and the Ravens will be better off for it.

A conservative-but-efficient Flacco is a safe play contrasting the huge QB disappointments we’ve seen in the past few weeks (e.g. Kurt Warner…). I like him to stay in control in a huge game against the rival Bengals, and reward his fantasy owners.

Matt Hasselbeck – Seattle Seahawks

He’s burned me on a few occasions, but pleased me greatly on others. The Lions are second from the bottom in the league, having given up 18 passing TDs through seven games. We’re talking about giving up over 2.5 TDs a game, just through the air. The Seahawks have too many guys to look to, and a QB with too much talent and experience to not exploit this Swiss cheese D.

As you’ll see, I’m particularly intrigued by Carlson, a great pass-catching TE who has yet to show up.

Running Backs:

Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers

And the lucky winner of the “RB running against the Bucs” contest is Ryan Grant! Grant has always been consistently mediocre. I’m expecting much more than mediocrity against Tampa who’s been giving up an average of 162 yards a game to opposing RBs.

I’m thinking the Pack jumps out to a decent-sized lead and plenty of garbage time means points for Grant.

Tim Hightower – Arizona Cardinals

Tim Hightower

AND SHE'S SO HIGHHHHH ABOVE ME... SORRY, I'M DONE

So suggesting you go with an RB who is almost splitting carries against a Chicago Bears D who is less than run-friendly may be a questionable call… just the kind of call I love to make. Especially in PPR leagues, Hightower has value as part of the passing game. He gets a bunch of targets, can run for a little bit of yards, and has done his best to keep Beanie Wells relegated to the No. 2 RB spot. It’s risky, but I like him in Week 9.

Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints

I’m really having a hard time doing this, but I think Reggie is a good play in Week 9 against a lackluster Carolina D.

Not the imposing pass rush we’ve seen before, and by no stretch a lock-down secondary. What’s the best way to exploit both at the same time?

Quick dump-offs to a pseudo-receiver/back, of course! I’m going out on a very thin, and fragile limb here. It could kill you or kill your opponent, but only time will tell…

Wide Receivers:

Santana Moss – Washington Redskins

The only possible threat in a Skins uniform is Santana Moss, and that’s still not saying much. I’m seeing a lot of turnovers created by the Falcon D/ST, but I also see a few big plays that fall through the cracks. Santana’s big weeks have been as a result of big plays, and I think that Week 9 is going to be one of those big weeks.

Nate Burleson – Seattle Seahawks

If you read the Matt Hasselbeck prediction, you know a lot of the reasons why I might like Nate in Week 9. Detroit is pitiful, and Nate should be the WR to exploit them, seeing as how the T.J. Houshmanzdeh deal hasn’t really bore fruit as of yet. I’m just as surprised as you are about that, but I think Nate is the one who does the surprising this weekend.

Derrick Mason – Baltimore Ravens

Ravens Texans Football

DEFINITELY AN OLD SPICE KIND OF GUY

So if deodorant is the only thing that can cover Chad Ochocinco, I’m not sure what Derrick Mason will send the Bengals after he’s the one that is uncoverable. If the Ravens focus on establishing the run with Rice, the passing game should open up enough for Flacco to find Mason via the play action. I’m feeling it.

Tight Ends:

John Carlson – Seattle Seahawks

So it hasn’t happened just yet, but Carlson is capable of blowing up, and I like the chances of it being this weekend. There’s no better time for a coming out party than against the defense that makes nearly everyone appear as the belle of the ball.

If it doesn’t happen this weekend, it’s not going to, and I’ll be the first to withdraw my endorsement, but I’ve got a good feeling.

Jason Witten– Dallas Cowboys

In all honesty, he shouldn’t even appear in a column like this. In ’08, Witten was an animal, and an obvious must-start each week. Until a week ago, that was the consensus.

Jason Witten

TAKING FANTASY FOOTBALL PERSONALLY SINCE 2009

I saw in several articles and various leagues an actual DROP PERCENTAGE!?!? Unbelievable! But because some idiots out there actually decided to drop Witten, I think he takes it personally and goes nuts in Week 9 against the surging Eagles.

Bo Scaife – Tennessee Titans

– Has anyone noticed anything peculiar about the Titans’ offense? I have, its comprised solely of Chris Johnson… I’m guessing I’m not the only one to have noticed this, and I think Mike Singletary does everything possible to minimize the Chris Johnson effect. With Johnson on lockdown, the Titans will have to look elsewhere for some offensive production. Being as underwhelmed as I am with the Titans’ receiver options, I’m giving Scaife the nod, as he produced last year pretty well.

Defense / Special Teams:

Atlanta Falcons

The turnover game is key in this matchup… Washington has been less than protective with the rock this year, and I think the Falcons D/ST hammers the Skins in Week 9. Pick them up and put them in.

Green Bay Packers

­Not too much of a stretch to say you should start the D/ST facing the juggernaut Bucs offense. Just do it, it’s almost a sure thing.

New Orleans Saints

They’ve been picking teams off left and right, and in come the Carolina Panthers… A recipe for D/ST success!

Darren Sharper

CURRENTLY GIVING JAKE DELHOMME PRE-EMPTIVE NIGHTMARES

Kickers:

Week 9 pickups to notch a few points in  your matchup…

Matt Prater – Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jason Elam – Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington Redskins.

Matt Stover – Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans.

Haterade Blog

One part Hate, two parts Kool-Aid, and a dash of inevitable failure:

Cadillac Williams – RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Williams has returned to fantasy relevance, putting up serviceable starting RB numbers, but wait…not so fast my friends! The D/ST I’ve been so high on in the past few weeks boasts not only a strong secondary, but what should prove to be a stifling run D in Week 9. Keep the Caddy in the garage (sorry about the cliché).

Mike Williams – WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

I’ve always been quick to douse the flames of an over-hyped fantasy prospect. Here’s another case of that happening, folks. Don’t buy into it guys. He’s still the No. 3 receiver, and an underperforming Santonio Holmes won’t raise his stock enough for me to join the movement.

Darren Sproles – RB, San Diego Chargers

As you may have noticed, the Chargers are doing their best to bring LDT back to vintage form. It’s really a little bit sad, because its clear to just about everyone else that LDT just isn’t what he used to be. Who pays the price (aside from LDT’s owners)? Yeah, its this guy.

“Big Johnson of the Week”

I’m faced with a very difficult decision here. Tasty matchups are aplenty… Calvin, if healthy, could stand out against the Seahawks. Mr. Ochocinco could slice up the Ravens secondary (as he predicted). Chris may leave Singletary’s Niners with their pants down. But, its Andre who should reign supreme in Week 9.

* Check back on Tuesday for the Fantasy Football Follow-Up to see how my picks panned out and a review of the week’s top fantasy performers. As always, any fantasy-specific questions can be sent to briangrimsley@gmail.com. Best of luck in Week 9!

– Brian Grimsley

NFL Week 8 picks and predictions

Almost halfway there.

The NFL season is still flying by — unless you root for a team from Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Oakland or St. Louis — and there’s some marquee games this weekend that should further help separate the contenders from the pretenders.

There’s also going to a be a few new starting quarterbacks this week. Vince Young was named the starter over Kerry Collins at the behest of Titans owner Buddy Ryan, Alex Smith was named the 49ers’ starter after a three-touchdown performance in a close loss to the Houston Texans, and there’s talk of rookie Josh Freeman getting the nod in Tampa.

It’s sure to be a week full of Dan Deirdorf telling fans “____, well he’s a football player”, Jake Delhomme interceptions and Rex Ryan running off at the mouth.

I took a bit of a hit last week in going 8-5, but I’m holding strong at 68-35.

On with the show…

Houston (4-3) @ Buffalo (3-4):

Both of these teams were absolutely dead in the water two weeks ago, but back-to-back wins have pulled the Bills and Texans back into their respective division races.

The Bills have done it with defense, the Texans with offense.

Jarius Byrd

WE FLY HIGH, NO LIE, YOU KNOW THIS

And while nobody is surprised that a healthy Matt Schaub is shredding defenses thanks to the one-two punch of Andre Johnson (questionable for Sunday’s tilt) and Owen Daniels, the way the Bills are doing things is nothing short of shocking. The injury-depleted Buffalo defense leads the league in takeaways thanks in large part to rookie Jairius Byrd, whose five interceptions — all in the past three games — is good for second in the league behind New Orleans’ Darren Sharper.

The tenth-ranked Bills pass defense will have a much better chance of slowing the Texans’ air assault if Andre Johnson can’t play, especially since the fumble-prone Steve Slaton has yet to eclipse the 75-yard mark in a single game.

If Ryan Fitzpatrick can limit mistakes as he’s done in his past five starts, all of which were wins, Buffalo will pull to .500 at home.

JORDAN SAYS: Bills 23, Texans 20

—————

Cleveland (1-6) @ Chicago (3-3):

The Chicago Bears were absolutely decimated by the Cincinnati Bengals last week. The Cleveland Browns get absolutely decimated by every single time they play.

I think you see where this is going.

It comes down to the quarterbacks; on one hand you have Jay Cutler, a Pro Bowl quarterback with a million-dollar arm. On the other hand you have Derek Anderson a quarterback that would struggle to make most college rosters right now. For all that’s made of Jamarcus Russell being an awful quarterback, which he is, Anderson’s historically bad season seems to be flying under the radar.

Anderson is completing less than 44 percent of his passes, has seven interceptions compared to two touchdowns and is throwing for less than five yards per completion. This is what Eric Mangini gave up on Brady Quinn just three games into the season for?

Chicago is desperate for a win to stay in the NFC North race as it is, so the gift of playing the Browns will not be lost on them.

JORDAN SAYS: Bears 33, Browns 6

—————

Seattle (2-4) @ Dallas (4-2):

I don’t know if 2012 is coming early or what, but Tony Romo has had back-to-back outstanding performances. He’s thrown for over 650 yards and kept his completion percentage above 65 percent while finding Miles Austin (who?) to the tune of 421 yards. Yikes.

Miles Austin 2

HADOUKEN!

Whether it’s out of necessity — Dallas hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher since Week 2 — or because of favorable offensive matchups, the Cowboys have been able to move the ball effortlessly through the air. Seattle has a middle-of-the-road pass defense, so Romo may find success.

Matt Hasselbeck just may, too.

While Romo was lighting up the league, Hasselbeck looked skittish against a bad Cardinals pass defense. He’s got weapons in Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzedah, but a suspect offensive line isn’t protecting his blind side — he’s been sacked seven times in just three games.

What’s going against Dallas the most is this being a classic trap game. Dallas won big over Atlanta last week, and plays at division rival Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football next week so Seattle very well may not get their full attention.

JORDAN SAYS: Seahawks 24, Cowboys 21

—————

St. Louis (0-7) @ Detroit (1-5):

Let’s hear it for GASB’s “This sucks, are there any Law & Order reruns on?” game of the week!

JORDAN SAYS: Lions 27, Rams 9

—————

Denver (6-0) @ Baltimore (3-3):

Baltimore is much better than its 3-3 record reflects and Denver is every bit as good as its 6-0 record reflects.

These teams are polar opposites of where they were a year ago; Denver was a defensively inept offensive juggernaut and Baltimore had a stifling defense with a game-managing offense. No more. Denver is riding its top-ranked defense and Baltimore its tenth-ranked offense.

Ed Reed

PICK-SIXES SOLD SEPERATELY

Something has to give.

And I think it’ll be Denver’s defense. Mike Nolan’s unit is playing fantastic football behind Brian Dawkins and Elvis Dumervil, but Joe Flacco and Co. have had two weeks rest and they’ll be airing it out. Look for the Broncos’ Champ Bailey on the Ravens’ Derrick Mason, as that matchup will determine how effective Flacco will be with the play-action and how much of an impact Ray Rice will be able to have on the ground.

If Baltimore does get out early, forcing Denver to abandon the run game, it could force Kyle Orton into some uncharacteristic mistakes. Ed Reed is always watching.

JORDAN SAYS: Ravens 17, Broncos 16

—————

San Francisco (3-3) @ Indianapolis (6-0):

Peyton Manning did not even throw for even 250 yards last week.

The Colts still won 42-6.

Now, make no mistake — the 49ers are not the Rams. Not by any stretch. But the Colts claim the No. 1 passing offense in football and San Francisco’s three losses came against Brett Favre, Matt Schaub and Matt Ryan. That doesn’t bode well. Nate Clements will be assigned to Reggie Wayne, but Shawntae Spencer is going to have problems trying to collar Pierre Garcon and Patrick Willis, omnipresent as he is, won’t keep Dallas Clark from catching balls across the middle.

So the Colts are going to score their points, which puts the onus on new starter Alex Smith to find rookie Michael Crabtree and last week’s favorite target, Vernon Davis.

Easier said than done.

The traditionally offensive-minded Colts are allowing a scant 12.8 yards per game and are sixth in the league in passing defense. San Fran’s best shot will be playing ball-control offense and running between the tackles with Frank Gore, but with Bob Sanders back for Indy that’s not an easy task either.

JORDAN SAYS: Colts 30, 49ers 17

—————

Miami (2-4) @ New York Jets (4-3):

New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace had some choice words about the Wildcat formation after the Jets’ 31-27 loss to Miami in Week 5:

“I can’t respect that stuff, all that Wildcat. We’re in the NFL — don’t come with that nonsense.”

That kind of whining very well may be heard again in the Meadowlands because the Jets will be without the house of a nose tackle otherwise known as Kris Jenkins for the rest of the season. Without the anchor of their 3-4 defense, the Jets will be hard-pressed to get the quick pressure up the middle needed to stop Wildcat plays.

While the Dolphins will try to move the ball on the ground, New York will try to move it in the air.

Oscar Meyer rebounded nicely from two straight disastrous games with a solid performance against the lowly Raiders, and he’ll look to do more of the same against a Dolphins secondary that will feature two rookie cornerbacks.

It should be another tight game, but a Jenkins-less Jets defense is going to have a lot more problems against the Miami run game than the Miami secondary will have against New York’s passing game, especially with Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene having to shoulder the rest of Leon Washington’s load.

JORDAN SAYS: Dolphins 27, Jets 20

—————

New York Giants (5-2) @ Philadelphia (4-2):

In a game that very well may be for the outright division lead, both teams will need great quarterback play in leiu of top-15 run defenses from both teams.

Which, when talking about Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb sounds like it shouldn’t be an issue, right?

Eagles Giants Football

"MICHAEL VICK? NOPE, NEVER HEARD OF HIM."

But McNabb has just one touchdown and roughly 400 yards in his past two games and Manning has about the same amount of yards but four interceptions to just one touchdown. McNabb’s struggles can be attributed largely to a leaky offensive line and a lack of a run game, but Eli has no such blame to place. He’s making bad reads, throwing behind receivers and putting too much air under the ball.

All correctable issues, for sure, but the hostile environment in Philadelphia is not the best place for that to happen.

Still, I think Eli can get enough balls to Steve Smith and Mario Manningham, and Kevin Boss can exploit a surprisingly weak linebackers corps as long as New York’s offensive line can keep Trent Cole from putting Manning on the ground.

JORDAN SAYS: Giants 30, Eagles 21

—————

Jacksonville (3-3) @ Tennessee (0-6):

The Vince Young era has (re) begun.

Jeff Fisher and the Nashville faithful are hoping for a better go-round than they got in Young’s lackluster 2007 season but the deck is surely stacked against him. Expect the Titans to get Chris Johnson going early against a Jaguars run defense allowing just shy of 100 yards per game so that Young can ease into the game not doing too much.

If that doesn’t work, it’s going to be a long, long day because Kenny Britt is Tennessee’s only receiving threat and even the 31st-ranked pass defense in football is capable of making big plays against a relatively inexperienced quarterback.

Speaking of pass defense… does Tennessee have one? There may as well be cardboard cutouts in the secondary because the gaudy 310 yards per game the Titans are giving up is music to the ears of David Garrard and his 1,464 yards.

How far the Titans have fallen.

JORDAN SAYS: Jaguars 26, Titans 12

—————

Oakland (2-5) @ San Diego (3-3):

The last time we saw these two teams play one another, Louis Murphy had a touchdown catch incorrectly ruled as an incomplete pass and the Chargers escaped Oakland with a 24-20 win.

Don’t expect such a close finish this time around.

Jamarcus Russell

MOMENTS BEFORE THE BALL SAILED THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS

Philip Rivers is dialed-in as of late and even with a non-existent running game, he’s able to move the ball with the help of Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates. But with Chris Johnson having a breakout year at cornerback, he’ll be matched up on Vincent Jackson and Rivers will work in plenty of bubble screens to the ever-shifty Darren Sproles.

The Raiders are, well, the Raiders.

It doesn’t matter if its Jamarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski or Jeff Hostetler throwing the ball, the offense is stagnant and, save Louis Murphy, devoid of playmakers.

JORDAN SAYS: Chargers 31, Raiders 13

—————

Carolina (2-4) @ Arizona (4-2):

Speaking of awful quarterbacks.

Jake Delhomme and the rest of the Carolina “Delhomme to a five year extension? Really? Really?” Panthers are en route to Arizona to battle the 4-2-out-of-nowhere Cardinals and its not a good matchup for them. At all.

Looking at the Cardinals’ schedule, their only two losses were a four-point, season-opening loss to the 49ers and a loss to Super Bowl-hopeful Indianapolis. Not a bad resume.

Kurt Warner is rolling quietly along, completing 66 percent of his passes but the 4-3 Carolina defense may present some problems. They’re the top-ranked outfit in the NFL against the pass and have conceded less than 900 yards in six games thanks to constant pressure from Julius Peppers and Damione Lewis and lockdown coverage by Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall.

What they lack in name recognition they make up for in speed and tackling ability and while they don’t get many takeaways, they keep the big plays from happening.

The same can be said of the top-ranked Cardinals run defense. This suffocating unit is allowing just 67.5 yards per game — bad news for D’Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who had enough trouble penetrating the Buffalo Bills’ defensive line, let alone the Cardinals defense.

Plain and simple — Kurt Warner stands a much better chance of beating the Panthers defense than Williams and Stewart do of beating the Cardinals’.

JORDAN SAYS: Cardinals 19, Panthers 10

—————

Minnesota (6-1) @ Green Bay (4-2):

For some reason the sports media isn’t really paying much attention to it, but Brett Favre is playing at Lambeau Field this week and he’s not doing it in a Packers uniform.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s be clear — records aside, these two teams are very, very close. In their first meeting this season, the Vikings eked out a 23-20 win at home despite sacking Aaron Rodgers 37 times. With the Packers line healthier this time around and with the game being in Green Bay, the tables tilt in the home team’s favor.

Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre are both playing at an exceedingly high level and both have a plethora of weapons, so this game will be won on the defensive side of the ball.

Advantage: Green Bay.

Jared Allen 2

JARED ALLEN AND A BEAR... WAIT, SINCE WHEN DO BEARS WEAR HATS?

The switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 has been a rousing success; the Pack have allowed the second-fewest yards in the NFL and are fifth in points per game allowed. Nick Barnett and Aaron Kampman have been absolute terrors, breaking up passes, sacking the quarterback and tackling anyone in a three-football field radius.

Adrian Peterson — who only has two 100-yard games this season — won’t be able to take the corner with those four linebackers buzzing around the field and the Pack win as a result.

JORDAN SAYS: Packers 24, Vikings 16

—————

Atlanta (4-2) @ New Orleans (6-0):

New Orleans has spent the first seven weeks tearing through the rest of the NFL while barely breaking a sweat, and now it plays its first divisional contest of the season.

Don’t expect them to break the sweatbands out now.

The Saints have won every kind of game. They’ve won shootouts, they’ve won defensive battles, and they’ve won a game where they trailed by three scores on the road. This is the kind of battle-tested squad that goes deep into the playoffs, and that’s the kind of squad that rips apart the 26th-ranked pass defense in football.

To their credit, the Falcons have markedly improved on defense and are only allowing 19 points per game, but they haven’t faced the Drew Brees Demolition Squad. They haven’t had to corral a player like Reggie Bush and Matt Ryan hasn’t had to contend with a ball hawk like Darren Sharper.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of Atlanta keeping this competitive, but I am ruling out the possibility of them leaving the Superdome with a win.

JORDAN SAYS: Saints 38, Falcons 20

—————

BYE: Cincinnati, Kansas City, New England, Washington, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay

– Jordan Rogowski

//

 

//

//

Week 7: The Fantasy Football Follow-Up

Welcome back to the Fantasy Football Follow-Up, my attempt to minimize my mistakes, and maximize my miraculous predictions. In Week 7 we saw some big names live up to their reputations and some sleepers blow up as well, but our focus will be on how my fantasy go-to guys did, and then reflecting on the overall top performers of the week. Let’s get into it…

Nailed It (Great call!):

Phillip Rivers (QB, San Diego Charges): Phil went 18-of-30 for 268 yards (most of which went to V. Jax) and three touches. Really nice week!

Philip Rivers

THIS IS THE ONLY PICTURE OF PHILIP RIVERS I AM EVER GOING TO POST

Thomas Jones (RB, New York Jets): 26 rushes for 121 yards and a TD. He wasn’t even the best rusher on his team! P.S., the Raiders are terrible.

Vincent Jackson (WR, San Diego Chargers): V. Jax lit it up as expected. The Chargers force-fed the ball to LDT enough to open up the passing game for some big plays. V. Jax got them all!

Donald Driver (WR, Green Bay Packers): Outperformed Greg Jennings per my prediction. Interestingly enough, Driver was the big play speedster with less targets… At least I picked him to score!

Packers (D/ST, Green Bay): Yeah, it was against the Browns, but you still got full points for the dominant win.

Bills (D/ST, Buffalo): In an ugly game, the Bills capitalized on turnovers and came out on top of the Panthers. Bad offenses = good defense.

John Carney (K, New Orleans): Kickers on good teams mean fantasy stability.

Jay Feely (K, New York Jets): Kickers on decent teams mean the occasional big week, turns out I called this one!

Got Nailed (Terrible call!):

Jay Cutler (QB, Chicago Bears): Whoa! That was ugly. My sincerest apologies to Jay’s owners, apparently this was the week he did his Rex Grossman impression.

Jay Cutler 2

YEAH, I MAKE THIS LOOK GOOD. AND BY 'THIS' I MEAN THREE-INT GAMES.

Eli Manning (QB, New York Giants): Ok… that’s twice now. Two bad weeks, and while I don’t expect this to be the norm, I’m certainly not happy.

Frank Gore (RB, San Francisco 49ers): Oh, Fragile Frank! Your matchup hath deceived me! Ye olde Texans seemed plunder-worthy, but your “Frank Gore”-ness did prevail! I hate thee!

Chris Cooley (TE, Washington Redskins): Ouch. Not just for him and his owners, but for the Redskins. Around and around swirls the toilet water, dragging the Skins’ season with it.

Heath Miller (TE, Pittsburgh Steelers): Out of my picks at TE, he was the least crappy… but still crappy.

Greg Olsen (TE, Chicago Bears): Da Bears are back! Back to looking like they have for the past few years… Olsen disappointed.

Panthers (D/ST, Carolina): Way to make the Bills look good guys. Oh wait, they didn’t look that good, which made you that much worse.

Wash (Probably didn’t kill you…):

Ronnie Brown (RB, Miami Dolphins): Well, apparently he and Ricky Williams tricked us all with a weird version of “Freaky Friday” (shoutout to Lindsay Lohan). You would have sworn the way Ricky was pounding it into the end-zone (thrice over) he was channeling Ronnie. But Ronnie wasn’t too terrible either.

Dwayne Bowe (WR, Kansas City Chiefs): He scored. And that was about it.

Stephen Gostkowski (K, New England Patriots): I can’t see a week where he really kills you. Worse case scenario, he hangs a 5-spot because the Pats can’t stay out of the endzone.

* (28-22-14, 0.5547) after Week 7. I’m at least 50% right, 100% of the time!

 

Haterade Blog

Pierre Thomas (RB, New Orleans Saints): The hate was deserved! The fantasy freak of 2008 basically laid an egg in Week 7, gaining only 30 yards on the day.

Anquan Boldin (WR, Arizona Cardinals): He actually wasn’t as bad as I expected, and the Giants D/ST certainly fell short of my predictions. He wasn’t great, but didn’t earn his hate.

Flatline

COMPUTER RENDERING OF WILLIE PARKER'S CAREER

Willie Parker (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers): HA! HA! HA! One carry, two yards. Cue the flatliner noise…

* (9-1-2, 0.833) Hating at a serious clip!

“Big Johnson”:

Andre Johnson (WR, Houston Texans): I’m worried, and you should be too. That’s the second Johnson to go lame. The biggest Johnson was Chad “Ochocinco”, but should he really count anyway with the name-change?

* (1-3 0.250) calling the Johnson’s. I feel flaccid.

Week 7’s Top Performers: Fluke or For Real

Quarterbacks:

#1. Carson Palmer – Cincinnati Bengals

FLUKE: I don’t think Palmer ever returns to Pro Bowl form, but he was outrageous in Week 7. Against the Bears… even more impressive. But not so fast my friend! Anyone that counts on Palmer tossing five TDs a week is as crazy as Ryan Leaf. I think he’s a top 15 QB the rest of the way, but not the No. 1.

#2. Tony Romo ­– Dallas Cowboys

FLUKE: You’ve all seen it. One week, he looks great, the next week he looks awful. That’s the kind of pattern that screams fluke to me. I’m not willing to take the risk each week, despite the occasional impressive reward.

#3. Tom Brady – New England Patriots

FOR REAL: For all those experts and commentators who questioned whether or not Tom Teriffic would ever return to form: START EATING CROW. The biggest indication that Tommy is back is that anyone he can’t get on the same page with is shown the door, and fast… (Just ask Joey Galloway).

Tom Brady 2

THANK YOU CARD TO THE BUCCANEERS SECONDARY IS IN THE MAIL

If you didn’t think he was FOR REAL, I question your football fandom and intellect generally.

Running Backs:

#1. Cedric Benson ­– Cincinnati Bengals

FOR REAL: Ummmm, my foot actually tastes better than expected. I hated Benson for a while, but he absolutely ran like a man against a strong Chicago D. I’m ready to concede defeat and label Benson FOR REAL. As much as it hurts.

#2. Shonn Greene – New York Jets

FOR REAL: You know that I love change-of-pace backs. If you’ve been following the column, I don’t try to hide it. Thomas Jones is smashing right now, and with Leon Washington out, I expect Greene to get significant touches, and capitalize on them. If you’re near the top of your waiver order, put in a claim, because he’ll be going this week for sure.

#3. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers

FLUKE: I own him. He’s a value guy. He’s an RB that gets nearly all the carries (rare) but the problem is he never seems to get the TD and the yards at the same time. He did this week, but I think he returns to the Ryan Grant mold. Plus, the Browns always make players outperform their norms. FLUKE.

Wide Receivers:

#1. Miles Austin – Dallas Cowboys

FOR REAL: Roy E. Williams is a joke, Patrick Crayton sucks, and the NFL has caught on that guarding Witten is a pretty decent idea each week. Austin has been making big plays for a while now, and has emerged as the preeminent big play threat on America’s Team. No signs of slowing down as far as I’ve seen.

#2. DeSean Jackson – Philadelphia Eagles

FOR REAL: He was the top WR early in the season, and Week 7 was a great example of why. If you haven’t figured out the Eagles’ personnel mentality yet, here it is… “Get explosive, multi-faceted players that thrive on big plays”. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a “grind-it-out” Eagles team, and DeSean is proof positive that big plays bring wins.

#3. Chad Ochocinco – Cincinnati Bengals

FOR REAL: The man with the gold teeth and the ridiculous celebrations has returned to fantasy dominance. I really think Ocho remains at the top of the WR ranks and is a must start each week regardless of the matchup. Until he shows you that he can’t, expect him to keep a the same fantasy pace.

Tight Ends:

#1. Vernon Davis – San Francisco 49ers

FOR REAL: The numbers don’t lie: seven catches, 93 yards, and three TDs. The scores came from Alex Smith, your new (old) 49ers starting QB. I’ll boldly offer a comparison: 2008 Kansas City Chiefs. It may be premature, but I’m starting to see similarities here… (Crabtree = Bowe, Davis = Gonzalez, and Smith = Thigpen). What do you guys think?

#2. Owen Daniels – Houston Texans

Owen Daniels

GET THIS MAN A BASKETBALL HOOP

FOR REAL: It’s only going to get better folks. With Andre perhaps missing time, and an already evident preference for targeting the TE, expect Owen to keep leading the TE field. He’s looking like a 2008 Jason Witten.

#3. Fred Davis – Washington Redskins

FLUKE: I’m calling FLUKE because I don’t know enough about him. Cooley’s gone, and this upsets me. If Fred can step right in and fill that void, I’ll reconsider. Judging by the path the Redskins season has taken, I’m not counting on it, but he’s worth a flier on the waiver wire. He could be good. Look at all the rhyming.

Defense / Special Teams:

#1. San Diego Chargers

FLUKE: They’re not the turnover machine they once were, that’s clear. Their special teams are enticing, but they won’t play KC each week, so don’t bank on the big score they put up in Week 7. Don’t dump yet though… THE RAIDERS visit Qualcomm in Week 8!

#2. New York Jets

FOR REAL: They’re good. Really good. They looked downright awesome in Week 7. They’re FOR REAL. BUT, Miami shows up in Week 8, so temper any unrealistic expectations you may have following the beating they dealt the Raiders.

#3. Philadelphia Eagles

FOR REAL: Tough matchup next week… that’s for sure. But, the Eagles have shown that they can step it up and create big plays on defense, and the special teamers are as consistent as they come. They’re great in the long term, even if the short term doesn’t prove as fruitful as the recent past.

Kickers:

#1. Nick Folk – Dallas Cowboys

FLUKE: The offense is too streaky for me to endorse. He’ll be great for you some weeks, but I just can’t buy him as being FOR REAL.

#2. Nate Kaeding – San Diego Chargers

FOR REAL: The Chargers will score. If LDT has anything to say about it, goal line stands will be aplenty, which means cheap and easy FGs for Kaeding. Stick with him, he’s FOR REAL.

#3. David Akers – Philadelphia Eagles

FOR REAL: The Eagles are picking up speed folks, and that means Akers’ numbers should stay near the top. Feel free to plug in Akers on the regular.

* Make sure you take a look at the GASB on Friday for the Week 8 F3, where I’ll make my fantasy picks for the upcoming weekend. As always, any questions or comments can be posted here or emailed to briangrimsley@gmail.com.

– Brian Grimsley

The Week 7 F3: Fantasy Football Forecast

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for not getting the Week 6 Fantasy Follow-Up out. While I’m sure noone’s world was shattered by not having my Week 6 picks and the top performers broken down, my apologies to anyone that was even minimally disappointed. What wasn’t disappointing was how my picks fared (11-4-3, a near 73% kill rate) and how dominant my Pats looked in snowy Foxborough. My serving of Haterade was near perfect, with only Reggie Bush looking serviceable, and I nailed Andre as the Big Johnson. With that short recap, and with momentum behind me, here is your Week 7 F3!

Quarterbacks:

–  Phillip Rivers – San Diego Chargers

I love Rivers against the Chiefs in Week 7. I think he’s somewhat of a jerk, but he’s gutsy, and he always seems to rebound after bad weeks. The recipe for Rivers’ success in Week 7 is a heaping helping of LDT, with a dash of Sproles. The run should set up the pass here, and I think Rivers hooks up with VJax and Gates a bunch. He hasn’t been a stud all year, but I’m seeing him light up the Kansas City Fightin’ Chiefs this week.

Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears

Cutler hasn’t been pretty this year, but he’s been effective. Maybe it’s the Bears’ offensive scheme that holds QBs back. Maybe Chicago just isn’t ready for a passer that chucks it up there consistently.

I'M SURE JOSH MCDANIELS IS REALLY REGRETTING THIS DECISION

I'M SURE JOSH MCDANIELS IS REALLY REGRETTING THIS DECISION

Whatever the reason is, I think Cutler overcomes, and looks like the Denver Jake (no, not Plummer). The Bengals’ D is much improved, and I don’t think this game turns out to be a blowout, but I do see Cutler rewarding his owners in Week 7.

Eli Manning – New York Giants

So Week 6 wasn’t what you expected, eh? I can’t fault you for not seeing Manning stumble, because I sure didn’t. The G-Men’s strength on offense is no longer Earth, Wind & Fire, but the passing game. I don’t think Coughlin will allow a pass-happy focus at any point, but the pieces are there for the passing game to excel, especially because of the disappearance of Brandon Jacobs.

I picked Manningham last week, but I’m reverting to my man-love for the “good Steve Smith”. Manning returns to glory in Week 7 (Eli-glory, not Peyton-glory).

Running Backs:

Ronnie Brown – Miami Dolphins

Boy, when it works, its fun to watch.

Ronnie Brown seemingly carves good defenses when the Wildcat gets rolling. Just look at what he did against the Jets. Not a ton of yards, but he figured out how to score twice. You’re either going to get big-time yardage, or multiple TDs, and maybe both. It all depends on how their opponents respond and cover their unique play-calling mentality. They’re up against the Saints, but don’t be afraid to start Brown, I’m thinking you won’t regret it.

Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers

I don’t like Frank Gore.

FAST, FRAGILE AND BRIAN GRIMSLEY APPROVED

FAST, FRAGILE AND BRIAN GRIMSLEY APPROVED

He’s fragile, and for whatever reason, I get annoyed whenever I hear experts talk about him. He gets a pick this week because of his matchup, not because I dig him as a player. Houston gives up a lot on D, and I think Week 7 will be no different. Their offense boasts firepower, but the Texans D is a fantasy green-light. Start him.

Thomas Jones – New York Jets

This is a no-brainer. Sanchez has been pretty terrible of late, and we’re coming off an eye-popping Week 6 showing by Jones. It would really serve the Jets well to focus on the run against the Raiders, whose defensive highlight is a CB that erases great receivers.

Aww, shucks, I guess that means we don’t see too many drops from Braylon Edwards in Week 7. Jones should annihilate the Raiders, so if you have him, get him in.

Wide Receivers:

Vincent Jackson – San Diego Chargers

Play action pass = VJax having a big day. My prediction is that LDT puts in work against the Chiefs, opening up the passing game, which only helps Jackson’s value. I think you get a few big plays from Vincent and a bunch more targets on Sunday.

Dwayne Bowe – Kansas City Chiefs

Bowe has consistently improved, week-to-week, in 2009. I’ve always been a big fan of his, as he usually goes far too late in drafts, and has as much talent as anybody. I think his problem in ’09 has been that he is just too fast for Cassel to handle, but their timing is really getting there. He’s the best player on a bad team, but that usually is a good thing fantasy-wise.

TRYING TO RUN ON TO A BETTER TEAM

TRYING TO RUN ON TO A BETTER TEAM

Donald Driver – Green Bay Packers

Driver, like Hines Ward, isn’t the flashy speedster in his team’s passing game. He’ll get a bunch of catches, probably averaging 8 or 9 yards per, but I really like him in Week 7 against the Browns, more so than Greg Jennings.

We all know the Browns are bad, but Driver should be the one Rodgers looks to when the chains need to move.

Tight Ends:

Chris Cooley – Washington Redskins

I’m a Chris Cooley apologist. I’ve picked him in the past, and I refuse to avoid him despite his being a part of a team that rivals the Raiders in their controversial coaching situations. They’re playing the Eagles, usually a fantasy-don’t. Listen, there’s no reason to think that he does well, which means I think he will. Plus, he’s funny.

Heath Miller – Pittsburgh Steelers

Picking TEs is hard, because there are a few consistently great players, and a bunch of good ones that pop off from time to time. I’m going with my gut, and the fact that Big Ben has been pretty out-of-his-mind thus far. I like Miller to get some catches and hopefully a red-zone look or two. I’d play him if I had him.

Greg Olsen – Chicago Bears

Cutler is one of my QB picks, and Olsen is a big reason why. It’s no secret that the Bears WRs leave a little to be desired. Olsen is pivotal to the Bears offensive success, and I think he steps it up against the formidable (no sarcasm) Bengals.

Defense / Special Teams:

Green Bay Packers

There’s just something about them. Names like A.J. Hawk and Atari Bigby… dreadlocks all over the place. When they’re clicking, they’re all over the place, and the secondary is underrated in my view. I think they make a mockery out of the Mangenius’ Browns.

DREADLOCK APPROVED

DREADLOCK APPROVED

Buffalo Bills

­The Bills are bad. The Panthers are too. With no passing game on either side, and run games that are showing a few signs of life here and there, I think the scoreboard stays dim in this matchup. I like both teams in a low scoring battle with some turnovers likely.

Carolina Panthers

See above.

Kickers:

These kickers should get you something in Week 7. As always, stream your kickers for good matchups: a good week helps, a bad week kills!

Stephen Gostkowski – New England Patriots v. Buccaneers (in Jolly Ol’ London)

Jay Feely – New York Jets v. Raiders

John Carney – New Orleans Saints v. Miami

Haterade Blog

Hello, barkeep! I’ll take 3. These are the guys I can’t stand in Week 6:

Pierre Thomas – New Orleans Saints

No thanks. The Miami run D is legitimate, and with all of the company he has in the backfield,  you could do much better.

Anquan Boldin – Arizona Cardinals

So there’s a lot of talk that you’re dinged up, but you insist you’re playing. Red flag. Even if you were healthy, which I doubt, you’re going up against the Giants, who are pretty solid against the pass (forgetting last week). I’ll pass.

Willie Parker – Pittsburgh Steelers

R.I.P. For those owners who insist on putting Willie in, it’s a mistake. Mendenhall is the guy. Give it up already. Parker does nothing in Week 7. I only picked Willie because I can’t devote a slot here to T.O. each week.

“Big Johnson of the Week”:

I’m going with Andre again, but it’s pretty much a given. With Calvin and Chris on the bye, there’s no way you’re picking Larry or Josh in Week 7. God help me if this isn’t right after the weekend.

* Check back on Tuesday (I promise!) for the Fantasy Football Follow-Up to see how my picks panned out and a review of the week’s top fantasy performers. As always, any fantasy-specific questions can be sent to briangrimsley@gmail.com. Best of luck in Week 7!

– Brian Grimsley