Thankfully, those of you who followed my Panthers advice survived the week and don’t have to use the Panthers again.
I may never recommend them again. Going into the season, we expected teams like the Panthers and Titans to be much better than their current record.
I’ve tried to be patient to not discount my preseason expectations too quickly. These teams are better than they have shown, and should be desperate for a win and ready to turn it around.
Or at least that is what I’ve been telling myself. We’re now five weeks in and some of these teams continue to look lost, a shell of their former selves. The Panthers and Titans fall squarely into this category.
Confidence is low backing either of these teams, so until they put up a string of better games, stay away, no matter who they are playing against.
Now let’s get to the picks for this week.
I’m still baffled reviewing the stats from Cleveland’s 6-3 win over the Buffalo Bills last week. It doesn’t help I’m a Bills fan. Baffled is the tamest of many adjectives I can think of to describe what transpired in that game.
QB Derek Anderson completed just two passes in 17 attempts. Two! Even in a blizzard we would expect more than two completions, or at least fewer attempts. It is amazing that they won the game thanks to the Bills’ own ineptitude.
I was a little leery about backing the Steelers last week, which kept them out of my top three. They did win the game over the Lions in Detroit, but it ended as a one-score difference and the Lions kept scrapping through it to the end.
Here is the thing: the Lions are a lot more dangerous team than the Browns. With all due respect to a now healthy RB Jamal Lewis, the Browns’ offense is a mess, managing less than 10 points in three of their five games.
Anderson will continue as the starter. Braylon Edwards was shipped off to the Jets, leaving the Browns with a receiving corps maybe just a slight notch above the weak group wearing silver and black out in Oakland.
The Steelers defense hasn’t been as stout as we’re used to, but they should be able to feast on Cleveland. One potential trouble spot for the Steelers is that they lost DE Aaron Smith for the season.
Ah, but ace safety Troy Polamalu returns this week. His presence puts them head and shoulders above the defense averaging 20 points against this season.
In terms of the Steelers offense against the Browns defense, this is also a big mismatch. Prior to Buffalo, the Browns allowed 23 or more points every game. With the inept offense, how can the defense possibly keep the points against number down?
They can’t. The Steelers have scored 20 or more for three straight games, as the passing game in particular is looking good.
While it is possible the Steelers could look past the Browns with the Vikings up next for them, that isn’t something a quality coach like Mike Tomlin is going to let happen.
It is a division game (normally an avoid situation for survivor pools), but in this case the matchup looks so lopsided, the Steelers are a strong play.
The Steelers have won 11 straight against the Browns. Chalk up No. 12 this Sunday.
New York Jets over Buffalo Bills (stats )
We hit one half of the Cleveland-Buffalo train wreck from last week; time to pick on the team that actually lost the game, the Bills.
The Bills’ offense can’t get itself going with QB Trent Edwards refusing to throw the ball more than 10 yards down the field. Fans are rightfully calling for head coach Dick Jauron to get fired sooner than later. It very likely will happen. It is just a question of when.
The Jets generated a lot of excitement early on by winning their first three games, including a 16-9 win over the Patriots in week two. However, things are cooling off as the Jets have lost their last two games against the Saints and Dolphins.
It isn’t that the Jets played poorly in those games, but they made some mistakes and lost to two good football teams.
So who do I think they are going to take their frustration out on? The Bills are standing in the way, ready to get run over.
Buffalo is averaging just 13.7 points a game, while the Jets defense is giving up only 16.7 per game. The average points per game scored across the NFL is 21.2, so we’re looking at a big advantage to the Jets here.
The Jets will bring pressure on Edwards, resulting in check-down passes faster than you can say Marshawn Lynch. Otherwise, Edwards is going to get roughed up, thanks to poor protection from his offensive line.
Expect the same as we’ve seen so far, which is little or no passes to outside threats Terrell Owens and Lee Evans. Jets star CB Darrelle Revis’ talents may be wasted in this game.
Except for the Saints game, rookie QB Mark Sanchez has done well to protect the ball and do just enough to keep defenses honest from keying on the running game.
Jerricho Cotchery is out this week, but the arrival of Braylon Edwards paid immediate dividends against the Dolphins, a game in which he barely had time to prep and learn the offensive terminology.
One thing that does help the Buffalo defense this week is the probable return of S Donte Whitner and MLB Paul Posluszny, although the Bills did lose LB Kawika Mitchell for the season last week.
Another division game, but another lopsided affair with the Jets more skilled on both sides of the ball, and more fire from their coach to get back in the win column. Take the Jets.
How does one decide to support a team that lost its game 41-0 a week ago? Well, a few reasons apply here.
First, the Jaguars unexpectedly deactivated their best receiver, Mike Sims-Walker, last week less than an hour before kickoff for breaking a team rule. There is some motivation for Sims-Walker to redeem himself this week.
After that dismal performance in Seattle, Maurice Jones-Drew went on a tirade about the poor play of the Jags offense, including how he was used as little more than a high-priced decoy. Think he’ll see some significant workload this week?
Put up or shut up time for Jones-Drew, and good timing, because facing the Rams' soft defense should result in a big game for Pocket Hercules.
Third, QB David Garrard has been remarkably better at home this season than on the road. Sure it is a small sample size, but in two home games he has over 600 yards, 5 TD and 1 INT compared to just 524 yards, 0 TD and 0 INT (1 rushing TD) in three road games. Whatever the reason, Garrard is a lot more comfortable at home.
Fourth, we have former Ram and current Jag Torry Holt, likely keen to have a big game against his former team.
Call that last one a hunch, but with the Rams defense allowing 35 or more points in each of their last three games, this all adds up to what should be a good rebound game by the Jaguars offense.
As for the Rams offense against the Jags defense, the Rams did replace Kyle Boller with Marc Bulger at QB last week, and Bulger will start this week. That is a boost to the Rams.
The receivers are still weak overall on the Rams. WR Donnie Avery showed some life last week finishing with 5 receptions for 87 yards and a TD (from Bulger), but the game was already out of sight at that point. As long as the Jags neutralize Avery, there really is no receiving threat on the Rams.
The Jags defense has been good against the run, and they will need to be as RB Steven Jackson continues to be the Rams biggest offensive threat.
Jackson keeps grinding out the yards but has yet to find the end zone yet. If Jags LB Justin Durant, currently questionable, does not play, then that helps Jackson.
Overall though, this one points to the Jags. They have a near complete statistical advantage over the Rams, with home field advantage and motivation to wipe the Seattle loss from their memories.
The Jaguars are generally a team I don’t have a ton of confidence in for survivor pools, but this week looks like a good time to take them and get them out of the way.
Mike MacGregor created the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy fantasy football and fantasy baseball draft tools, plus he developed various features and sports pools found at FF Today.com and MyOfficePool.ca. Mike owns and operates MyOfficePool.ca .