Hello fellow Sharks! From now right up through Week 17, we’ll be giving our insight as to which games are the ‘games to watch’ each week. This is a heavy burden, as we know a lot of you have Sunday Ticket, too much free time, and an addiction to premium brews like Natty Lite or Yuengling. A lot of you know us from our weekly podcast on this site (the Fantasy PRE-Wind podcast), and our “Side Lines” sport-toon (every Mon, Wed, Fri), or maybe one of our posts in the Tank. We’re just like you, though. We love a good football game, no matter who’s playing. All times Eastern:
It doesn’t matter if you watch “Lost”, “House”, or “The Office” – all of them are successful shows. Why? Well, we’re not TV executives, but if the blue collar watcher in us has anything to say about it, it’s because they all have pretty good storylines and even better sub plots. Will the people on Lost save the island? Will House ever truly be a happy person? Will Michael on The Office stop sleeping with Pam’s mom? All of them keep us wanting more, which quite honestly is no different than a show we can see this Sunday live from Pittsburgh. No, not “How to Make a Primanti Bros. Sandwich” on the Food Network, but a great ‘Game to Watch’, featuring a plot of the battle for the #1 spot in the AFC North. But see how these sub-plots grab you: two great teams with only four losses between them; two teams that like one another about as much as a cobra and a mongoose; two great storylines on how they got here. And don’t even get us started on the sub plots on the players.
The Cincinnati Bengals truly have the cast of characters from a TV show. You have the veteran leader fighting back from injury with something to prove in
Carson Palmer (1832yd/14TD/7int), you have the written off outcast in his new home looking for redemption in
Cedric Benson (837yd/6TD) and the comic relief, just to keep the storyline light, with none other than
Chad Ochocinco (639yd/44rec/5TD). By themselves, they are nothing; together, they put on a show week after week. Defensively, (get this) they are SECOND in the league in rushing defense. Guys like
Dhani Jones (52tkl) and rookie
Michael Johnson are taking pretty much a no-name group on defense and holding teams to under 17 points a game, which is the 5th best in the entire NFL.
The Steelers were made for Prime Time, and have been there the past few years for sure (if prime time means playoffs and a shot at the Super Bowl). There are very few weaknesses in their show, led under center by
Ben Roethlisberger (2295yd/14TD/7int), the emergence of
Rashard Mendenhall (573yd/4TD), and the recently rated #1 dirtiest player in the NFL,
Hines Ward (646yds/49rec/4TD). By the way, that rating isn’t mentioned as a bad thing – in fact, fear by opponents is something we admire. The story of this team includes no surprises on defense, where its #1 ranked rushing defense looks to stop anything opponents keep on the ground. Well known names like
James Harrison (48tkl/8sack) and recently recovered
Troy Polamalu (3int) are the stars one this side of the ball, and consistently live up to any hype given.
To make even more of this show theme, don’t forget this one is actually the second part of a two-part episode. You see, in week 3 a last-minute touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Andre Caldwell gave Cincinnati a wild 23-20 win. The same result this time will hand the division driver seat squarely over to the Bengals. If the Steelers can up-end Cincinnati, the division becomes a footrace between these two clubs. What will happen Sunday? Stay tuned, because this isn’t a ‘Game to Watch’ you will want to miss.
Many of you don’t know this, but our degrees are from a certain Big Ten school – not that that says very much (other than we know our way around a tailgate). But when we weren’t celebrating on Saturday mornings and afternoons, we were studying, believe it or not. (Honestly, we don’t believe it either, but go with us here) You may have thought our degrees would have been in English, or even journalism but you would have been wrong. How does mathematics garb you? Yep, we met over square roots and algorithms, not wings and Smithwicks (that came later). Our love for football was at the top, of course, and dating co-eds came a close second, and Brothers Pizza was right up there at third but numbers were in the mix in a distant 4th. Anyway, it didn’t take us long in sharing homework assignments that we both agreed that football is a numbers game; points, yards, uniforms, rosters, salary – it’s flat out numbers any way you look at it. And looking at numbers, it’s the only way to explain why we chose this dog of a game to be featured as a ‘Game to Watch’. How about “101”? That’s the amount of times these two fierce division rivals have faced one another. Want another number? “120”, that was the amount of seconds that
JaMarcus Russell (1000yd/2TD/9int) needed to drive his team downfield in week two to shock the Chiefs 13-10 with time expiring shortly after. One more number you say? “44” – that’s the amount of dollars collected in the office pool here at FantasySharks daring us to explain how this game could possibly be a ‘Game to Watch’. Heh, child’s play!
So it pains you to watch Raider Nation fail so miserably on a weekly basis? Listen, you have to look at the numbers to realize things aren’t so bad. Granted, the offense is lackluster, but fan favorites like RB
Justin Fargas (263yd/1TD) and TE
Zach Miller (421yd/28rec/1TD) are blue-collar players who grind it out week after week. Yes, Raider fans indeed PRAY for the offense, but find PRAISE for the defense. Don’t forget that this game marks the return of RB
Darren McFadden (146yd/1TD) from injury, too. Ranked 13th against the pass (true fact, believe it or not) the Raiders can cause problems for opponents. Players like
Richard Seymour (4sack/1fum) and
Greg Ellis (4sack/1fum) like to mix it up in the offensive backfield, and CB
Nnamdi Asomugha and FS
Michael Huff (3 INT) are considered some of the best at their position in the league. Hey, it’s easy to kick the Raiders when they’re down, but when you look at the fact the teams they have lost to so far have a record of 30-20 combined – it’s not like they are playing slouch teams on a regular basis. Their schedule so far hasn’t been easy.
For the first time in seven years, Kansas City will play a game without
Larry Johnson (358yd/0TD) on the roster this Sunday. The Chiefs released their longtime running back on Monday and will be forced to rely on other talent for the rest of the season, like backups
Jamaal Charles (152yd/0TD) and
Kolby Smith (17yd/0TD). Yes, you read that last one right. just 17 yards. But maybe their lack of rushing prowess just makes the passing game more interesting. QB
Cassel (1256yd/10TD/5int) truly hasn’t been a bust at all in the backfield and has just as many TD’s as big name stars like Donovan McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck – and even more than up and comers like Kyle Orton, David Garrard, and Mark Sanchez. Even at the receiver skill position, it seems that KC finally has a receiver worthy of being drafted in your fantasy league, with
Dwayne Bowe (375yd/27rec/4TD) getting his share of the fantasy points.
When it comes to numbers, this game might not top your list at number 1. But, let’s be honest… Would you rather watch a Tyson beat up on a no-name or two equal boxers with some spite between them scrap it up. EXACTLY! Well, that is this game. Trust us, no one is going to mistake either one of these teams for real NFL franchises anytime soon, but that’s part of the appeal of this game, think of them like two of the Three Stooges going at it in a no-holds-barred, eye-gouging, face-slapping, fist-on-top-of-the-head kind of game. (Another quick number: times we used a hyphen in that last sentence: 11.) Neither of these squads will sniff the playoffs, but motivation they have a-plenty. Don’t flip on by this game; believe it or not, it certainly is worthy of being a ‘Game to Watch’!
Sometimes we pour over the NFL schedule and we decide what games will electrify the viewer, or will come down to a wild 4th quarter ending, or have the most media hype or even have the most fun cast of characters to watch. Then we diligently research their numbers, come up with a little back-story to keep you entertained, and then write out exactly why you should watch that particular game. Sometimes, however, we don’t need to resort to clever similes or pop culture references to add some entertainment to a game and make it easier to write, and we don’t even have to stretch out our write-up to make you want to tune in to that match-up. Sometimes, the game writes itself, and we don’t even need to throw in some joke about Michael Lohan and John Gossling starting up a Hollywood ‘Divorce Club to keep their names in the tabloids or a jab at Madonna for having all the acting range of a piece of furniture. This is one of those games.
New England hits you with one of the NFL’s most electrifying offenses, lead by signal-caller
Tom Brady (2364yd/16TD/5int). Toss in two of the NFLs very best receivers in
Randy Moss (712yd/49rec/5TD) and
Wes Welker (568yd/55rec/4TD) and you have a ticking time bomb waiting to explode all over the scoreboard. But maybe the Pats rise back to prominence in the NFL firmament has as much to do with their resurgence on defense as it did with the return of Brady from injury in 2008. The Patriots are ranked 7th in over-all defense (4th in passing defense) and are allowing just 14.4 points a contest, second best in the entire league, and a major feat when you consider the rules in the NFL are based on making offenses the main show. The Pats secondary has become one of the best in the NFL this season, with Safeties
Brandon McGowan (54tkl/3forced fum) and
Brandon Meriweather (45tkl/1forced fum/2int/1TD) locking down opponent’s aerial attack, while guys like LB
Jerod Mayo (33tkl/1forced fum) worry about their opponent’s rushing attack (once they figure out passing against the Pats isn’t easy). Dominant on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to find another NFL team with the talent to stand up to them.
New England may be one of the NFL’s best, on both sides of the ball, but that doesn’t have the Indianapolis Colts quaking in their boots. The undefeated Colts are on an absolute TEAR through the ranks of the NFL this season, and
Payton Manning (2545yd/16TD/5int) hasn’t looked this good or efficient since his 49TD year in 2004 (not that he’s exactly been a slouch in-between). What’s more impressive about Manning’s passing this year is that he’s doing it without a full compliment of receiving weapons. We guess you don’t need that many weapons when the ones you do have, like TE
Dallas Clark (703yd/60rec/3TD) and WR
Reggie Wayne (753yd/59rec/6TD) are at the top of their game. Oh, note to fantasy pundits around your league, the demise of RB
Joseph Addai (399yd/5TD) was greatly exaggerated. Sure, the Colts want to get youngster
Donald Brown (212yd/2TD) involved, but Addai still gets the lion’s share of the carries, and helps keep the opposition honest. Defensively, Indy ranks just behind the Pats in total defense (8th), but ahead of them in scoring defense allowing a league-low 13.5 points a week. Considering the offensive-heavy NFL, that’s no mean feat. John Madden favorite DE
Dwight Freeny (19tkl/9.5sack/1forced fum) can send fear into the hearts of opposing QBs, and LB
Clint Session (56tkl/1int) can make any running back wish he was home soaking in the tub.
Even if you missed the hype about this game being a battle for the AFC championship, or somehow escaped hearing ESPN salivate over the Brady / Manning match-up, or even mentally checked out when the NFL Network was telling you why these two defenses give opponents fits, you still knew this would be a good game. Heck, microbes on Mars would have known this game was going to be good. But forget the talk of undefeated records, dominant QBs, and the NFL’s typical over-hype of any remotely good game. You know this one is a ‘Game to Watch’ without anyone giving you any other reason than you are going to see some of the best football on either side of the ball than you’ve seen in a long, long time. Enjoy.