I agonized last week about what order to put my three picks in. Each team—Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks—held the top spot for a moment, but ultimately I put the Packers on top.
They were the best offense of the bunch. They were the only team playing against a previously winless team. That team was rolling with their third string QB out of training camp for his first career NFL start.
The Packers blew it. They gave up a blocked punt returned for a TD in the first half and squandered a 28-17 lead in the fourth quarter, handing the Tampa Buccaneers their first win of the season.
Nice job Pack. Way to show that killer instinct.
Not unexpectedly, pass protection and QB Aaron Rodgers holding the ball too long were big problems. The Packers were playing a team getting torched weekly against the run and with well below average pass rushers, and still they allowed six sacks against. That’s terrible.
The Packers are now firmly on my list of teams that can’t be trusted, right along with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Hopefully you went with one of the other two picks. The Falcons made quick work of the Washington Redskins, and the Seahawks disposed of the Detroit Lions.
One small silver lining about the Bucs' win is the race for the top draft pick next April heats up a little. Like I said, “small” silver lining.
If you’re still alive in your survivor pool, then let’s look at some teams to consider for Week 10.
Baltimore Ravens over Cleveland Browns (stats )
Does the return of QB Brady Quinn (to the starting lineup, not that he really went anywhere), in front of a home crowd on Monday Night Football give some sliver of hope for a Browns upset win? Call it sliver of hope or grasping at straws or whatever, it isn’t going to happen.
How did the Browns get a Monday night game anyway? That question is tougher than predicting how this game is likely to turn out.
The Ravens are going to feed the ball to RB Ray Rice, who could enjoy his best game of the season as Ryan Grant did against the Browns back in Week Seven. Matt Forte also had a good one in the Browns' last game two weeks ago prior to their bye week.
The Browns placed LB Eric Baron on injured reserve since that previous game, joining LB D’Qwell Jackson already out with a shoulder injury. This leaves them very thin at the inside linebacker spots. If the Ravens can open holes to allow Rice to get past DT Shaun Rogers, then there could be ample yards to gain before getting tackled. It is not as if the Browns are known for having quality roster depth.
Browns RB Jamal Lewis is on his farewell tour, having already announced his retirement at the end of the season. What a way to go out.
The former Raven may be motivated to put it to his former team in prime time, but instead Lewis said this week he believes head coach Eric Mangini is pushing the players too hard and wearing them out. It is highly doubtful he is the only one who feels that way, and it's one more indication why the Browns are so flat. They are not playing for their coach.
Back to the Browns offense: Lewis is going to have to face DT Haloti Ngata, who was very close to playing but inactive for the Ravens last week. This is a boost for the Ravens run defense, so don’t expect much from Lewis this game.
The Ravens defense overall has not been the defense we’ve come to expect in recent years. Teams are passing on the Ravens, which, with a limited rushing attack by the Browns, puts this game in the hands of Brady Quinn.
There really isn’t a right answer for the Browns at this point, Quinn or Derek Anderson. Neither of them is very good, and particularly with a subpar group of receivers, neither of them can expect much success at all.
In five games this season the Browns have failed to score a touchdown, and this could very well be game No. 6. The Ravens offense has been up and down, but they’ve faced a difficult schedule, and outside of the Bengals games they’ve topped 20 points every time out.
This one should be all Ravens, and you can probably even get to bed early on Monday night.
Minnesota Vikings over Detroit Lions (stats )
The Vikings are coming off their bye, which gave them two weeks to celebrate the big win at Lambeau Field over the Packers. Assuming they don’t suffer an extended hangover, they should be able to handle the Lions for a win Sunday.
The Lions actually jumped out to a 17-0 lead over the Seahawks last week, but things went downhill quickly after that, with QB Matthew Stafford throwing five interceptions and questions raised about his relationship with star WR Calvin Johnson. Johnson later stated, "There is no problem with us. People are just blowing that out of proportion."
I’ll buy that, and the two may put more emphasis on trying to connect on the field this week, but the Lions offense is just in over its head here. The Lions are allowing sacks way above the league average, and the Vikings are getting sacks way above the league average. Stafford is going to have a tough time staying vertical long enough to get the ball to Johnson more than 10 yards down the field.
Lions RB Kevin Smith was questionable but played last week, which is a plus, but against the Vikings' strong run defense, expectations are low for him this week.
In terms of the Vikings offense, their low output for the season was 17 points at Pittsburgh, but otherwise they've scored 27 or more, including 30 or more in four of their last five games.
Surprisingly, RB Adrian Peterson has only topped 100 yards twice this season. The Lions held him to 92 yards on 15 carries in their first meeting this season back in Week Two. I’ll take the over this week for Peterson to top 100.
Can I actually do a Vikings game preview without mentioning QB Brett Favre? I guess not. Essentially, the Vikings have a lot of talent across the board, but unlike prior years the QB position is a big positive for them instead of a negative, and they are playing sound team football.
I still haven’t forgotten Favre’s potential for him to throw up a complete stinker of a game and get intercepted at inopportune times, but at this point it looks like the Vikings are just too much for the Lions.
History says the Vikings have beaten the Lions in all but two of their 19 head-to-head games this decade. Chalk up win No. 18 of 20 this week.
New Orleans Saints at St. Louis Rams (stats )
I do think RB Steven Jackson is going to have a good game against the Saints. The Saints are getting exposed against the run in recent weeks. Since losing DT Sedrick Ellis, the Saints have given up 151 yards on 20 carries to Michael Turner in Week Eight, and followed that up with 149 yards on 21 carries to DeAngelo Williams last week. Ellis has not practiced this week.
Usually when a team has a good chance to lose the rushing battle, you don’t want to put too much faith in them winning the game. Usually. The rest of this game is so lopsided in the Saints' favor, expecting anything less than them being 9-0 at the end of the day is a shot in the dark.
Against top offenses, and some not so top offenses, the Rams are allowing 30-plus points per game. Only the Lions and Washington Redskins have been held under 20 points. As we are well aware, the Saints are a—if not the—top offense. They’ve scored 30 or more six times and 45 or more four times.
The Saints are using a balanced running and passing game to move the ball almost at will. They started slow out of the gate in each of the games against the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins in recent weeks. There are just too many options for QB Drew Brees to call upon for the Rams defense to account for. If the Saints score under 30 here, it will be a big surprise.
When the Rams have the ball, Jackson is the focus, but it took him eight weeks to finally find the end zone their last game for the first time, securing a win over the Lions. WR Donnie Avery is expected to play, which is a plus since he is the only halfway reliable receiver on the Rams.
The Saints' front four are getting good pressure on opposing quarterbacks though, and the opportunistic defense now has seven touchdowns on the year. The Rams offense has allowed five such touchdowns. If we took just the Rams offense scoring against the Saints defense scoring, I wonder what an appropriate point spread line would be? It might be close to even.
The Saints still have some weaker teams in the upcoming schedule, so consider them a possible save candidate for survivor, but if you’ve already used the Ravens and Vikings and want to play it safe, lock up the Saints for a win this week.
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 FFToday.com and MyOfficePool.ca. Mike owns and operates MyOfficePool.ca.
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