What a week last week. Reviewing my top three picks (if I must), the Steelers came through fine.
The Jaguars were behind the entire game until the fourth quarter, only to—soon after taking the lead—give the lead right back on an interception returned for a TD.
Then they got it back. Then with less than two minutes to go, they allowed the Rams to drive 69 yards to set up the game-tying field goal.
Finally, the Jags won in overtime. That is one soft defense to let the Rams do that to them. I hope you did pick the Jaguars and made it through, just for the satisfaction you know that you never have to pick them again.
And for the third pick, my first loser in weeks, the Jets lost in overtime to the Bills. Un-Bill-ievable.
You know, I actually did a last-second edit of the column last week. It went something like, "the only way the Bills win this game is if QB Trent Edwards gets knocked out of the game, Jets' QB Mark Sanchez throws five INTs, the Jets take 14 penalties, incredibly key defensive star Kris Jenkins gets hurt, and they botch the snap on the game-winning FG in overtime." Damn, if only I had kept that in.
The small silver lining was not putting the Eagles in the top three last week, responsible for many a survivor pool exit, but that was more pure luck than anything.
I didn't know what to expect from the depleted Lions against the Packers. Amazingly, the Pack still gave up five sacks in a 26-0 win. Aaron Rodgers may not last the season, which could doom one of my fantasy teams.
All I can say about the most lopsided win of the week is that I just whiffed on the Patriots game. I reviewed the weather, and that didn't play a huge part in shying away from that game.
I mentioned last week having lost complete faith in backing the Titans for a win, but I wasn't quite ready to bet against them as one of the league doormats. I guess it is time.
Okay, enough grovelling, lets get on to this week.
Green Bay Packers over Cleveland Browns (stats )
This pick is less about the Packers and more about just how down and out the Browns are. Remember when head coach Eric Mangini was hailed as the next great football mind? Neither do I.
About all the Browns can hang their hats on right now is Josh Cribbs, KR/PR extraordinaire. The guy does it all. He throws passes, he led the team in rushing last week, lines up at WR and had a 98-yard kickoff return for a TD, the Browns' only scoring of the first half. It wasn't enough, and rarely will be.
The Browns did post their first and only win of the season two weeks ago at Buffalo, 6-3 in a snorefest. As noted above, the Bills are in terrible shape themselves, so that was no great accomplishment. Outside of that, the Browns have lost by double digits four times, although they did have a close three-point loss to the division rival Bengals during their last home game.
Now, the Packers themselves have not been terribly consistent. The offensive line works like a turnstile, and they are only 3-2. Looking down the stats, however, the Packers' offense is more than doubling the point output of the Browns. The defense is above average against the run, pass, and points allowed. The Browns are on the other side of the ledger in all three categories.
This is a big-time mismatch. Concerns? Yes, two in fact. The Packers have a showdown rematch against the still undefeated Vikings the following week, so if ever there was a game to look past, this one against the Browns would be it for the Packers.
The other slight concern is the possibility the Browns do get their running game going with Jamal Lewis. We wouldn't have expected it against the Steelers last week and it didn't happen, but against the Pack, Lewis has the potential to do some damage.
However, as shown in the Bills game, even when Lewis gets a lot of carries and racks up the yards, the team is still not putting up points.
Okay, now I saved the best for last. The Browns have been ravaged by the flu this week. Check the early injury report. A ton of guys missed practice this week, mostly due to being sick. While they are slowly getting players back, how ready can this team be to face the Pack? Not very, I'd wager.
Home field advantage or not for the Browns, give me the Packers this week.
New England Patriots over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (stats )
Tom Brady is back! Well, maybe, maybe not. The Titans rolled out two rookie cornerbacks last week due to injuries to not just one, but both starting corners. There had to be more to it than that, though.
How exactly does a team give the opposition five possessions in one quarter, much less allow a TD on each one? Clearly, the Titans were allergic to the snow or someone spiked their clam chowder or something.
At any rate, Brady did look great, as did Randy Moss, as did Wes Welker, as did Laurence Maroney of all players. Maroney needs to play a more significant role going forward with Fred Taylor already out and now Sammy Morris also on the shelf. We'll see if Maroney can live up to his previously high expectations.
For this week, it looks like he very well could. The Bucs are awful against the run. They allowed over 260 yards to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart last week, marking the third and fourth 100-yard rushers they've allowed this year. Clinton Portis and Brandon Jacobs just missed the cut at 98 and 92 yards, respectively.
Of course, even when a team does not run great against them, like the Eagles in Week Five, the passing game goes to town (McNabb 16-21, 264 yards and three TD). What we are led to believe here is the Pats will essentially be able to score at will against the Bucs. Not 59 points at will (I would hope), but 30+ is very possible.
The Pats' defense has been somewhat better than I expected so far. Not stellar, but still keeping the points against in check even against good teams like the Ravens and Falcons, back-to-back home wins in Weeks Three and Four.
The Bucs' offense is producing under 100 rushing yards per game and under 200 yards passing per game.
They've been better with raw QB Josh Johnson under center, but only marginally. After an early TD last week, the offense produced very little the rest of the way.
The remaining 14 points came via a kickoff return TD and an INT return TD; and this against a Panthers defense that has looked less than stout all season. The Patriots should be able to handle the Bucs' offense.
The good thing about the Pats for survivor pools is that when they are on, they are on.
The team hasn't been overly impressed with its own start to the season. They head into their bye next week, and after that, it is a tough stretch with three division games (Dolphins twice, Jets), the Colts, and the Saints. If you still have the Pats available, lock and load this week.
Oh, and this game is being played in London, England, so it is not technically a home game for the Bucs.
Indianapolis Colts over St. Louis Rams (stats )
The Rams did take it to overtime against the Jaguars last week, showing better spunk than I thought they had in them, but the Colts won't be in a position where the Rams will feel they can steal a win.
The Colts' offense is producing on all cylinders. The additions of rookies RB Donald Brown and WR Austin Collie, and development of WR Pierre Garcon, have kept this train rolling right along without former Colt Marvin Harrison and WR Anthony Gonzalez still out with injury.
They've scored 27 or more points in four straight games, and Peyton Manning has five straight 300+ yard passing games under his belt.
The Rams have only allowed one 300+ yard passer this year, last week to David Garrard, but the reason is because in most games, the opposing team hasn't needed to pass very much at all with the game already in the bag. It is a good bet Manning will extend his streak this week.
The Rams are way below average against the rush and pass, so a balanced offense like the Colts' have should be able to put 30 up on the board.
When I run my weekly stat comparisons, I do a little adjustment, pulling out the high and low number from the prior six weeks. Well, according to those adjusted stats, the Rams have scored just 8.5 points a game, and the Colts have allowed only 13.0 points per game. Wow. That is a huge discrepancy.
We have to discount those pure numbers a little bit. Rams backup QB Kyle Boller accounted for a bunch of those low games for the Rams' output. QB Marc Bulger returned partway through their game two weeks ago and started last week. He looked decent in both outings.
Unfortunately, WR Donnie Avery, aka Mr. Glass, accounted for both Bulger passing TDs in that span, and he got injured (again) against the Jaguars, forcing him to miss some practice this week. He looks like a gametime decision. Considering he is the only halfway reliable receiver on the Rams, this does not bode well for their offense.
The Rams still have RB Steven Jackson of course, racking up yards but not finding the end zone, because of an otherwise stagnant offense. Expect somewhat of the same here.
The Colts statistically are good against the run, but haven't been overly tested, either. Maurice Jones-Drew and Ronnie Brown had big games against the Colts early in the season. Jackson could have a good game, but it still won't be enough.
Of mild concern here is if the Colts come in rusty off their bye week, but playing inside the home of the former Greatest Show on Turf cannot be vastly different than playing on their own home fast track. Take the Colts with confidence.
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 .