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Games to Watch – Week 11

Hello fellow Sharks! From now until 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 Week in Review podcast), our new “Sine 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’s an earlier edition of the “Games to Watch” this week, as we include a great divisional match-up tonight (Thursday) with the Jets and Pats. It wasn’t easy coming up with this stuff a day early; we had to completely change our lifestyle. We didn’t get to participate in the weekly FantasySharks buffet (which basically is a bunch of leftovers from various Sunday football tailgates, frequently well-beyond their recommended freshness date – but we don’t make enough money to be too choosy. (Our compliments to the chef on the fried calamari. Bravo, Mrs. Pauls!) And we weren’t able to go watch the 3rd Annual FantasySharks Powder Puff football game (although it did make us wonder, are there are there any women on this staff? What kind of game was this?!?). Regardless, our sacrifice is for you – our loyal readers. It’s ok, you don’t owe us anything… we are just doing our jobs. Just make sure and tell Tony Holm what a bang-up job we’re doing – staff evaluations are coming up soon and we have our eye set on a 2 ½ % raise, and the cubicles closest to the windows over-looking the yoga studio next door. Anyway, without further ado (is there any other kind of ado?), we give you this week’s “Games to Watch”…

New York

Jets @ New England – Thursday 11/13,

8:15pm

OK – enough about people complaining they can’t get the NFL Network. If you don’t have it, you either have to get a dish, chain yourself to your cable company’s corporate office entrance, or head out to a local pub. The easiest, and most preferred, is probably the third option. Now that you’ve found a way to see the Thursday night game, what can you expect? Well, once again we have another division where even the team in last place has a winning record and only sits one game behind the leader. This week, the Pats and Jets go at it to be the sole holder of 1st place in the AFC East. We saw these two teams face one another in week two, and both teams were struggling to get to know their opponent, as well as THEIR OWN quarterback. Now it is week ten and both teams have found a rhythm, know what their own team is capable of, know the limitations and the ability of their signal callers, but maybe most valuably – they are very aware of what their opponent can do.

The Jets struggled to get going offensively during their first meeting with the Pats – which was less than a month since their man under center, Brett Favre, joined the club. Fast forward to week ten and you find a Jets team that set a franchise record for margin of victory against the Rams – and a defense that has been putting points on the board. Favre (1979yd / 16TD / 12int) has been what Jets fans have hoped for; a leader to push the offense in the right direction. He is also what we have seen in his last few seasons – a QB that can dominate a game when he is let loose, and can just as easily throw multiple picks if he has an off day. RB Thomas Jones (750ru yd / 8ru TD / 104rec yd / 1rec TD) is on pace to crush his career TD record for a season. Favre’s targets, WRs Jericho Cotchery (510yd / 3TD) and Laveraneus Coles (487yd / 5TD), are sharing the wealth in the air and any scuttlebutt of Coles being critical of his new quarterback seem to have been quieted. While the offense is the attention getter for the Green Machine franchise, the defense is putting together a notable season. On average, they allow less than 300 yards total a game, and they hope to bring that average even lower with the (VERY) recent addition of former Pat, former Jet, and former Chief, defensive back Ty Law.

There are many critics reading this who thought that with Brady going down during week one, it would put the Pats at the bottom of the division. Granted, New England is NOT the same team they were last year, but they are still the team to beat in the race of the AFC East. The Patriots won a difficult divisional contest last week against Buffalo and would like to notch another divisional victory this week. With Brady out for the season, QB Matt Cassel (1800yd / 7TD / 7int), has had a few rough games, but he has led this team to a 6-3 record, more than many thought possible after seeing him in action in the first week or two this season.. Although without shockingly good TD numbers, WRs Wes Welker (66rec / 610yd / 1TD) and Randy Moss (43rec 589yd / 4TD) are both on pace for a 1000-yard season. On the ground, with the absence of RBs Sammie Morris (who is seeing some limited practice time) and Lamont Jordan, we have seen the re-emergence of Kevin Faulk (281yd / 2 TD) as a viable ball carrier. The defense has stepped up their game a little bit this season, since they are unable to relax with the titanic leads Brady built for them in 2007. They are tied for 6th in scoring defense, allowing a paltry 17.8 points a game on average, and in the top half of the league in both run and pass defense – even with their aging cast of notable characters.

It may be a short week on them for practicing, but this game won’t be short on excitement. To the NY fans, you have Favre and company facing a team they have not had great luck against, but need to get by if you ever hope to claim the AFC East. To the NE fans, you have a team who might not be as dominant as last year’s team, but are winning the tough games and are still the team to beat in your division. To the NFL fan, you have a game on your hands that has one thing we haven’t mentioned – quite a bit of spite and history. Remember – no more crying about the NFL Network; you sound like your girlfriend during “Steel Magnolias”… just get to a place to watch this game, you won’t want to miss it.

Denver

@

Atlanta

– Sunday 11/16,

1:00pm

We just couldn’t pass up picking this one as one of the “Games to Watch”. This one has a little bit of everything; one of the top 3 QBs in passing yardage, one of the top 3 RBs in rushing yardage, two of the top 6 WRs in receiving yardage, and two defenses that give up gobs of yardage. This game is gonna’ be like an amusement park water slide – at the end of the ride you might make a big splash or you might just end up all wet, but the ride itself is always exciting. Denver is one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and leads their division, but they are 5-4 and can’t keep the opposition off the scoreboard. Atlanta is surprising lots of opponents with their much improved offense this year and sport a very solid 6-3 record, but are 3rd in their own very tough division this year, and are fighting every week to stay in the playoff hunt.

What isn’t to like about Denver’s offense, especially fantasy-wise? These guys have it all this year… well, almost everything. They don’t have a single running back in the top 38 in the league (yikes), and with both Michael Pittman and Selvin Young injured, they were forced to re-sign ex-Bronco Tatum Bell to head up the run game. Thankfully for Mike Shanahan and the Broncos, they don’t need to rely to heavily on a run game with the passing game they have perfected this season. QB Jay Cutler is 3rd in the league in both passing yards (2,616) and passing TDs (18). If he can cut down on his 11 interceptions, he would be one of the NFL’s best passers. WRs Brandon Marshall (57rec / 714yd / 4TD) and Eddie Royal (52rec / 625yd / 4TD) are both in the top-10 in the league in receiving and six other Denver players have at least 1 receiving TD. Heck, even youngster kicker Matt Prater is in the top 10 among kickers in scoring – notching 72 points so far this season, including a perfect 5 for 5 FGs from beyond 50 yards. Oh, just one other small thing Denver’s team as a whole lacks – any semblance of a defense. Their defense is so bad this year that they rank in the bottom 5 or 6 in every major statistical category. News flash for Denver, if you keep giving up 27.9 points a game while scoring just 24.9 each contest, you won’t keep that winning record for long. Thankfully they are in the pitiful AFC West this year, which means everyone else’s defense is just as bad (or worse) as theirs.

Atlanta looks solid this year, and are well above .500 at 6-3, but are just 3rd in their own division with both Carolina and Tampa Bay ahead of them right now. (Tampa ahead on tie-breaker.) And while Atlanta might not have faced the toughest schedule in the NFL so far, they are doing what they need to do to end up in the playoff hunt. QB Matt Ryan (1909yd / 11TD / 5int) has surpassed many critics’ expectations this year, and is the 11th ranked signal-caller in terms of passer efficiency. RB Michael Turner is 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards (890yd / 7TD), but has only topped the 100-yard mark in just 4 of 9 games – it’s been feast or famine for Turner fantasy-owners this year. WR Roddy White (53rec / 801yd / 6TD) has been another pleasant Atlanta surprise, and is currently tied for 2nd in both receiving yards and receiving TDs.and WR Michael Jenkins (24rec / 395yd / 3TD) has been decent when White faces double coverage. RB Jerious Norwood (365ru yd / 2ru TD / 21rec / 395rec yd / 1rec TD) has been a threat in both the passing and running game so far. Atlanta’s D is the very definition of a “bend but don’t break” defense – giving up lots of yardage (ranked 23rd in the NFL in overall defense), but tightening up admirably near the goal line – allowing just 19.3 points per game (9th in the NFL).

So there you have it. Two teams who have been piling up the offensive yardage facing two teams that can’t stop opponents from moving the ball. We expect more scoring in this game than Fonzie did at “Inspiration Point”. So climb to the top of the NFL week 11 schedule, lay back, and slide into one heck of a great NFL match-up between these two offensive powerhouses – if you miss it, you’re all wet.

Minnesota

@

Tampa

Bay

– Sunday 11/16,

1:00pm

Sometimes you get a game that has all the glitz and glamour of Oscar night; Pitt and Jolie posing amidst popping flash-bulbs on the red carpet; Jack Nicholson grinning like an axe-wielding maniac as he passes out the Best Supporting Actress Oscar; Johnny Depp looking to you like your slightly “special” cousin Chuck, while your wife or girlfriend tries to tell you how sexy he is; even Morgan Freeman looking almost as dignified in his tux as he did when you only knew him as “Easy Reader” on Electric Company. Other times you get a game that has all the flash and pizzazz of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Scientific and Technical Awards, sporting a bevy of characters that look more like your weird Uncle Frank the mustache aficionado, or that kid from the AV Club in high school. Well, Sunday’s battle of the Purple vs. the Pewter is a lot more like the latter – but the prize for winning is still valuable; a step closer to claiming their division title or possibly a Wildcard berth.

Tampa finds itself in the same place coming out of a bye week that it has for the majority of the season; in a dogfight for the NFC South with Atlanta and Carolina. At age 38, QB Jeff Garcia (1363yd / 5TD / 3int) finds himself leading a team that has been a bit inconsistent on offense; one week beating Carolina by 24 points, and another week needing OT to squeak out a win against Kansas City. In the air, Garcia typically seeks out WRs Antonio Bryant (45rec / 566yd / 2TD) and Ike Hilliard (33rec / 281yd / 3TD). But the air is not where the magic is for Tampa’s Top-10 ranked offense. Sharing the rushing game duties are RBs Earnest Graham (560yd / 4TD) and Warrick Dunn (423yd / 1TD) and soon to join them for the first time this season is Carnell “Cadillac” Williams – who upon the announcement of his return, head coach Jon Gruden stated, “It’s like Christmas around here”. Defensively, Tampa ranks in the top four teams in the league, allowing a hair above 16 points a game, and in the top eleven in both run and pass defense. (Keep your eye on LB Barrett Ruud, who more than doubles the tackles of his closest teammates, with an impressive 71 so far this season to go with his 2 sacks and 2 interceptions.)

Minnesota is in its own dogfight with Chicago and Green Bay atop the NFC North. They have been forced to settle on the leadership of aging vet QB Gus Frerotte (1619yd / 10TD / 11int), who is on pace for as good of a season as he had in 2005 with his quick stint with the Dolfins (which isn’t saying much, by the way). As the journeyman holds down the fort in the air looking for WRs Bernard Berrian (30rec / 621yd / 4TD) and Bobby Wade (36rec / 387 yards), the strength of this team is on the ground with stud RB Adrian Peterson (1015yd / 7TD). Peterson comes off of a game where he rushed for 192 yards and a TD to boot. In fact, Peterson has had 6 100+ yard games so far this season, but may have a real test this weekend. The opposite side of the ball holds a very impressive stat of holding opponent’s rushing yards to a mere 70 a game. Jarred Allen, playing hurt mind you, continues to bolster that defensive line, and had a sack and his second safety of the year, this past Sunday for the Vikes.

So while this game might not sport big names like a parade of Oscar nominees, these guys are no less talented than the technical wizards that make the big names shine on screen. Let’s face it, with the exception of Adrian Peterson, there is a very limited amount of glitz in this game. However, if you like north/south football and not an aerial display, this game is all the glitz you (and the “Nerd” Oscar winners) need.

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