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Against the Odds (2011) – Week 1

Picking games is an interesting task when Week 1 rolls around. Game lines tend to be on the conservative side, with little for experts to go on beyond preseason games and/or games from the previous year. Take heart, though. Vinnie’s got you covered.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans (-3):  The absence of Peyton Manning will make all the difference, with this game’s line in mind. The enormous amount of resources Houston’s organization has spent to address defensive needs doesn’t guarantee a shutout of the Colts or anything like that, but it does point to Kerry Collins having a challenge before him. The Texans running game’s owning of Indy’s defense was well chronicled a year ago, and while Arian Foster isn’t a lock to play this time around, one would think Derrick Ward and Ben Tate could get the job done if called upon. Indy’s pass defense also doesn’t match up so well against Matt Schaub, a cohesive and underrated Texans offensive line, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels.

Gimme the Texans minus the points.

Philadelphia Eagles @ St. Louis Rams (+5):  While many are just about ready to hand over the Lombardi trophy to Andy Reid and the Eagles, St. Louis is in prime position to splash ’em with a cold dose of reality. There will be no Philly rout, much to the chagrin of Michael Vick fans and fantasy owners. In fact, what better coach to whup up on his old team than Steve Spagnuolo? The Rams defense is up to the task of manhandling Philly’s shaky offensive line, and will give Vick all he can handle. Steven Jackson in particular, meanwhile, is in line for a very productive day running the football.

Gimme the Rams plus the points.

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins (+6.5):  Say it with me – all Brady, all evening. Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall have demonstrated some chemistry, nice for Dolphins fans, and Miami’s defense can be disruptive to an opponent’s running game. No problem. With Miami’s pass defense looking vulnerable and considering all the weapons Tom Brady has to throw to, expect the Patriots to have a lot of success passing. Oh, and don’t bother expecting much from Reggie Bush, who will find very little room to maneuver with the ball in his hands.

Gimme the Patriots minus the points.

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5):  Not a division rivalry, but one of the more intriguing games on the slate for this weekend nonetheless. Expect the visiting Lions to perform well offensively, big plays resulting from both running and passing plays. Doesn’t Jahvid Best stand out as potentially an elite fantasy play in this one? If given ample time to set up and scan the field, Josh Freeman will have a field day versus Detroit. But he won’t have ample time, if we assume the Lions defensive front will likely outmatch Bucs blockers. In fact, don’t be surprised when LeGarrette Blount is stifled by a much improved Lions linebacker crew.

Gimme the Lions plus the points.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns (-6):  On the one hand, Colt McCoy is continuing the positive momentum that began with his surprisingly solid play as a rookie and continued into training camp and the preseason. Cleveland’s running game, led by Peyton Hillis, will probably once again be its greatest asset. The Browns defense is switching back to a 4-3 scheme, which can mean a transition of two or three years in some cases, but includes some very good players who can make an impact on any given Sunday. On the other, Andy Dalton is as green as any highly touted rookie quarterback this year, yet finds himself leading the Bengals into Cleveland Browns Stadium and in front of the Dawg Pound.

Gimme the Browns minus the points.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins (+3):  Yes, yes, Eli Manning versus Rex Grossman. What more do we need to know, right? Well this may have a lot to do with why New York is favored despite going on the road to play the hated Redskins, but consider the rash of injuries the Giants are working through right now (especially on defense). Pinch yourself if you must, but it isn’t a dream that Tim Hightower happens to be a great fit for the type of running back Mike Shanahan likes to emphasize in his playcalling. And the Redskins defense can hang with any team in the league, by itself giving this team a much more legitimate shot at a win/loss record approaching .500 than the average fan realizes.

Gimme the Redskins plus the points.

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