Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, we had Thanksgiving Day games this week yet I am still writing my survivor picks on Friday as usual.
You can bet I would have had the heavily favored (and rightfully so) Green Bay Packers over the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys over the Oakland Raiders amongst my top picks, but writing the article prior to Friday just doesn’t fit into my schedule.
In the pools I’m running (one , two , three ), between 18 percent and 35 percent had Green Bay or Dallas, and they can sit back and enjoy the weekend, cheering for upsets galore. As for the rest of us, we have some work to survive another week.
Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a huge disappointment losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. The Steelers give up way too many kick return touchdowns, and they did just that, but they should have been capable of spotting the Chiefs seven points and still win the game
The team was without star safety Troy Polamalu, but we knew that going in. It is not like they are not used to playing without him from earlier in the season.
People think that Kansas City is a tough place to play. It isn’t really, not in recent history. Prior to this game, the Chiefs were 3-17 at home since the start of the 2007 season.
So what happened? Near as I can figure, the Steelers just blew it. Fortunately for them, the Bengals also blew their game against the Raiders—a game I was leery about and therefore kept it out of my top three picks —but unfortunately, the Steelers loss led to a fair number of survivor pool exits last week.
If you used the Bengals last week, then you probably aren’t reading this article. The Raiders pulled their second survivor pool “gotcha” of the year (recall Philadelphia Eagles, Week Six) scoring 10 points inside the final two minutes to upset the Bengals.
The Bengals were coming off huge divisional wins in back-to-back weeks over the Baltimore Ravens and Steelers, so a flat game travelling to Oakland was not that much of a surprise. There is enough body of work this year to indicate the Bengals are, in fact, for real (for right now) and the Raiders game was a one-off rather than exposing the Bengals as a fraud.
The Bengals are playing excellent defense, and the offense is clicking well with the running game and distributed passing by QB Carson Palmer. They just aren’t putting up many points in recent weeks. Short of the 45 they dropped on the Bears, the past five of six games are all under 20 points.
One reason is because they are a ball control, grind it out running offense. A small silver lining that came out of the Raiders game is that, even without bruiser Cedric Benson in the lineup, the Bengals appear to have a player in rookie RB Bernard Scott. Scott handled 21 carries plus three catches for 150 yards. If Benson cannot go again this week, then Scott should be able to fill in admirably.
Given the state of the Browns defense, as witnessed in the dramatic loss to the Detroit Lions last week, can we expect the Bengals to be closer to 20 points or 45 in this one? I’d say, closer to 45. Palmer should have his way with the Browns.
As for the Browns' offense against the Bengals' defense, yes, Brady Quinn did have a career day last week tossing four TD passes. As the Thanksgiving Day early game helped us keep Matthew Stafford’s Week Eleven performance in perspective with, “well, that was against the Browns,” we can similarly expect that last week Quinn’s stats were highly influenced by, “well, that was against the Lions.”
Last week was not an indication that the Browns have turned the corner on offense, and what we can expect to see is a sub-100 yard rushing, around 150 yard passing day by the Browns, resulting in 14 or fewer points.
The Browns did play the Bengals pretty tough earlier this season, a 23-20 overtime win by the Bengals at Cleveland. The Browns suffered multiple key injuries since then, and rookie WR Mohamed Massaquoi isn’t going to sneak up on them this time.
Mark down the Bengals for the win.
Another division game, which is in general a no-no for survivor pools, but one in which the game seems lopsided enough in the home team’s favor that we’ll buck the general rule and pick the Eagles for the win.
The Redskins did just about knock off the Cowboys last week, losing 7-6 with the Dallas TD coming very late in the fourth quarter. Plus, the Redskins won the prior week at home to the Denver Broncos, 27-17 on the strength of a great rushing day by Ladell Betts and after knocking Kyle Orton out of the game.
The Redskins have since lost Betts for the year, and Clinton Portis doesn’t seem any closer to returning to the lineup. Special-teamer Rock Cartwright filled in admirably last week off the bench but can he pull that stunt again? I have my doubts.
The Redskins' offense is short on talent and scheme, that posting average points is a struggle. They’ve been sub-20 points nine times this year, and given the Eagles' defense is fairly stout, holding opponents to 20 or less seven of eight times since their bye, bank on the Redskins scoring under 20.
As for the Eagles offense against the Redskins defense, the Eagles could (I say could) have a little trouble. The Redskins are pretty good defensively, while the Eagles rely on the big play since their young guys are, not unexpectedly, rather inconsistent. If the big plays don’t happen, the offense could struggle a little.
Still, the Eagles showed more commitment to the run last week than their typical m.o., giving LeSean McCoy 20 carries and he delivered with 99 yards and a TD. I’m not sure this is a sign of things to come, but it is a positive if they get more run-pass balance. They even seem to have figured out how to use Michael Vick better than earlier in the season.
The Eagles should be able to control this game by shutting down the Redskins' offense and putting their own offense into good field position to score. Furthermore, this game has to mean a lot more to the Eagles at this point than to the Redskins, who continue to walk around wondering who their new coach is going to be next year.
The Eagles need to keep pace with the Cowboys, who won Thursday and currently hold a one-and-a-half game edge over Philly. If Philly loses and falls two full games back at this late stage of the season, they might have to kiss the division title goodbye.
Count on a strong Philly performance and win on Sunday.
Mike MacGregor created the Cheatsheet Compiler and 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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