Last week’s recap: Chargers—check. Bengals—check. Steelers—uncheck.
Did I say the Raiders were a bit dangerous for the Steelers to face last week? I did, but come on, the Raiders? The Pittsburgh Steelers, at home, lose to the Oakland Raiders. What’s next? With their season on the line they’re going to lose a primetime game to the Cleveland Browns? Er…
I lost fewer people in my survivor pools due to the Steelers inability to shut the door on the Bruce Gradkowski to Louis Murphy hookup than expected. The poll last week had a healthy 20 percent of the votes backing the Steelers.
That is one of those games where you’ve got to love the unpredictable NFL, yet as a Steelers fan or survivor pool player, you’ve got to hate the NFL. Expect the unexpected, I always say. That is what keeps us coming back for more.
And assuming you are still alive in your survivor pool and debating your pick for Week 14, here are the ones I recommend you consider.
The Titans really had their chances against the Colts to if not ultimately pull off the win, at least make it a lot tighter throughout and down to the wire.
They drove to the Indy two yard line early but settled for a field goal. A first-and-goal from the one netted no points in the second half and they came away empty on another second half drive into the red zone. Some ill-advised fade passes by Vince Young instead of pounding the ball sealed their fate.
The point is this is still a team to be reckoned with. And given their early season struggles, if you are still alive in your survivor pool there is a good chance you have the Titans available to you.
I was optimistic the Rams would beat the Bad News Bears last week. It didn’t happen, as the incredibly predictable offense mustered a mere nine points. Steven Jackson continued to churn out the yards with 112 on 28 carries, but the lack of a passing threat courtesy of QB Kyle Boller and a sad sack compliment of receivers make the team too easy to defend and keep off the board.
As for the Rams defense, they are down another starter, and a good one. They lost S Oshiomogho Atogwe for the season with a shoulder injury. This hurts their already questionable pass defense, not that teams need to pass on them.
In the past six weeks the Rams are giving up an adjusted average of 160 yards per game on the ground. Expect not just a good day but a monster yardage day by Chris Johnson that could go a long way in determining if he will or will not approach 2,000 yards on the season or Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2,105 (131.6 per game). Johnson currently sits at 1,509 (125.8 per game)
With the Browns recording their second win of the season last night, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stand in the way of the one-win Rams getting the first pick in the NFL Draft. The Titans playoff hopes are slim but still alive.
After a loss to the division rival Colts last week, expect a rebound game for the Titans as they beat up on the Rams.
Similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but perhaps not to the same degree, the Ravens are not very impressive this year. In fact, given the Steelers struggles of late, the recent 20-17 overtime win by the Ravens over the Steelers kind of sends up a red flag that the Ravens are not as good as public perception.
The biggest difference is the defense is not as dominating as we’re used to seeing. Whether that is because of the loss of Rex Ryan, or key players are getting older like Ray Lewis, or the recent injuries such as Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed. I would suspect a combination of all three, and the injury bug hit them again last week as LB Jarret Johnson got knocked out of the game and hasn’t practiced this week.
The offense is not firing like it did early in the season, relying too much on Ray Rice and then Derrick Mason as the only consistent receiving threat, although Kelley Washington is playing well converting third downs.
They’ve essentially beaten the teams they were expected to beat, like the Browns twice. They did keep it close against the Colts, losing 17-15, but they’ve alternated wins and losses for the past seven games. Fortunately, this is a “win” week and they are facing a team they are expected to beat.
Daunte Culpepper will start for the Lions this week and he definitely has something to prove after getting unexpectedly snubbed out of his start on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately for Culpepper, he doesn’t have the supporting cast to really help him much, outside of Calvin Johnson.
The Ravens are still a good rushing defense and Kevin Smith is not as dangerous as he was his rookie season. His yards per carry is down to 3.5 from 4.1 in 2008. Don’t expect much in the running game, leaving it in Culpepper’s hands.
While Culpepper to Johnson may have some success, the Ravens should be able to limit those opportunities and the Lions points. Outside of the wild game against Cleveland, the Lions have only hit 20 points once since Week Six, and had double digit losses in five games.
The Ravens offense will have a good opportunity to bolster their stats, particularly through the air where the Lions are allowing an adjusted average of 300 yards per game against a league average of 224.
The Ravens may not be as good as expected this season, but between an advantage on offense, defense and likely in turnovers, they should have more than enough to dispose of the Lions.
Still dumbfounded by the back-to-back losses by the Steelers, I’ve mentioned them in almost every section of this article. Okay, let’s keep going.
Are we sometimes slow to react to change when a great team becomes good, and then average to poor? Things happen fast, and I think it definitely is a difficult balance between not wanting to put too much stock in recent performance, and recognizing the trend of a once former great team fallen on hard times, or certainly harder than it used to be.
One example is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Another is, perhaps, the Patriots.
The Pats have lost three of four and blew a 21-10 lead to the Miami Dolphins last week, all very un-Patriot like. The once comfortable AFC East division lead is a little more tenuous at this point, sitting only a game up on the Dolphins and New York Jets.
A sign of things further hitting the fan, head coach Bill Belichick sent home four players from practice this week after they were late for a team meeting.
The players were Randy Moss, Gary Guyton, Derrick Burgess and Adalius Thomas, who was, “dumbfounded ” by the move. I wonder if Thomas will be similarly dumbfounded if he finds himself inactive on Sunday after airing this in the media.
Sunday, right, there is still a game to play. From a pure statistical and talent standpoint, the Pats should be able to record a win over the visiting Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers won just 16-6 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week and that is with the help of five interceptions by Bucs QB Josh Freeman. That was not an inspiring win by the Panthers.
DeAngelo Williams was out so Jonathan Stewart shouldered the load, admirably so, and Williams should be back this week. The Patriots are generally good but not great against the run and this facet of the game should be an interesting battle.
Where the Patriots are getting torched lately is through the air. Recent games against the Saints and Colts will tend to do that to your defensive stats, but they also allowed 335 yards passing to Chad Henne last week.
Panthers coach John Fox has been noncommittal about who his starter will be this week, Jake Delhomme or Matt Moore, who made his first start last week since 2007. Either way, advantage Patriots against the Panthers passing game.
On offense, outside of recent more moderate scores against the Saints and Dolphins, the Patriots are still putting up points. Their big guns, Tom Brady to Moss and Wes Welker, are churning out the yards. The running game is adequate even though they are getting stymied in short-yardage situations.
The Patriots have big point potential and the Panthers have not really faced a top quality offense since the Saints dropped 30 points on them back in Week Nine. Brady is reported to have some minor injuries he’s dealing with, not to mention probable lack of sleep from his newborn.
Similar to last week, I’m going to drop the Patriots into my third suggested pick spot. I’m not in love with the pick, but between the talent disparity, home game and division title on the line for the Patriots, they should be able to secure a win over the Panthers.
Not to mention I’ve committed this column to three picks per week and I’m not seeing any others that are really jumping out at me. Go with the Pats if you’ve already used the Titans and Ravens.
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 .