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Games to Watch – Week 2

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 Monday, Wednesday, Friday), 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:


@ Cincinnati
– Sunday 9/19, 1 p.m.

Any bartender worth their tips knows how to whip up your favorite cocktail. First, they take the right ingredients in just the right amounts (like 1.5oz Seagram’s 7, 3oz seltzer, a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of lemon juice to make a “Seventh Street Glory”), shake them up a little bit, and then you sit back and enjoy. Well, a great football rivalry is just like making your favorite drink. First, you mix up the right ingredients (two divisional opponents, a team built on offense, a team built on defense and a dash of animosity), shake them up a little bit (with the addition of big-name wide receivers on both squads), and then we all get back to sit back and enjoy an AFC North battle between the Ravens and Bengals.

Baltimore may be a team built on defense, with guys like
Ray Lewis (four tackles),
Haloti Ngata (four tackles, one sack), and
Terrell Suggs (six tackles, one forced fumble, half a sack), but the offense received some much needed attention in the offseason.
Ray Rice (43 yards) should improve on his Week 1 performance against a tough Jets defense, and
Joe Flacco (248 yards, no touchdowns, one interception) looks to hit paydirt against a Bengals team that allowed 38 points to the Patriots. He’ll have help from a much-improved wide receiver corps now featuring
Anquan Boldin (seven catches, 110 yards, one touchdown) and
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (one reception, 27 yards). Toss in the fact that the demise of tight end
Todd Heap (six receptions, 72 yards) has been greatly exaggerated, and the Ravens are dangerous on both sides of the ball – as they already showed by dispatching the media-darling pick to win the AFC, the New York Jets, in Week 1.

has had offensive talent for years, but last year they showed their defense could be a factor, finishing as the No. 4 overall defense in the NFL. Ex-Eagle
Dhani Jones (nine tackles) was a force in 2009, and cornerback
Leon Hall (two tackles) was no slouch, either. But with weapons like the arm of
Carson Palmer (345 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), the feet of
Cedric Benson (43 yards, one touchdown, one fumble), the hands of
Chad Ochocinco (12 receptions, 159 yards, one touchdown), and the addition of the ego of
Terrell Owens (seven receptions, 53 yards) this is a team that wins more often by putting points on the board. Of course, that’s easier said than done against the Ravens – but that’s one of the great sub-plots of the game.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how odd the combination of ingredients seems as long as they all blend together to make for an enjoyable experience (try 2oz gin, 1oz of your favorite juice, 2 teaspoons of honey, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, add ice, shake and strain, and you’ll see what we mean). So for our first “Game to Watch” this week, we have no doubt that this AFC North clash will be enjoyable from the first sip to the last drop.


@ Washington
– Sunday 9/19, 4:15pm

We’re going to start this one with a quick multiple choice question:

Why does Chris like going over to Tom’s house?

A) To raid leftover deep dish pizza from Tom’s refrigerator.
B) To avoid the $5.95 fee for downloaded movies and have it charged to Tom’s cable bill.
C) To catch a glimpse of the female neighbor Chris remembers from high school, but doesn’t quite remember her being quite so “hot”.

As much as “A” and “B” are attractive alternatives, it’s “C” that’s really the truth. Chris and (we’ll call her) ”Rachel”, know one another from high school. They were friends, but only that. As Chris got older, he started recognizing her for the woman that she was – not the “dude-ette” that was one of the gang. Chris started visiting Tom regularly. It started with picnics, then Sundays for football and then every Saturday – even offering to do yard work for him, just hoping to catch a three-minute conversation with Rachel. And while Rachel might not be the flashy woman you might cast your eyes on, she certainly has her moments, and (at least with Chris) a solid fan base. Which leads us to one of our favorite matchups of the week; two teams with a lot in common with Rachel – rabid fan bases, teams that might not be the “sexy” pick to make the playoffs but are generating a lot of interest after week one in the NFL.

Time was, that when you said “Houston Texans,” people immediately thought of
Andre Johnson (three receptions, 33 yards), but while Johnson is still one of the NFL’s biggest threats, people just can’t stop thinking (and talking) about
Arian Foster (231 yards, three touchdowns). To be fair, there is plenty of offensive talent in Houston to go around.
Matt Schaub (107 yards, one touchdown) is a “Top 10” quarterback in the NFL, and
Jacoby Jones (two receptions, 29 yards) is poised for a breakout year. Throw in a defense with defensive end
Mario Williams (four tackles, one sack) that kept Indianapolis to only 44 yards on the ground last week, and you have a team that is making a good argument to be at the top of the division in the AFC South. It finally looks like the Texans could break the Colts’ stranglehold on the division, and make a real playoff push.

The Redskins made as much noise in the offseason with the hiring of new coach
Mike Shanahan as they did trading for former Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback
Donovan McNabb (171 yards, no touchdowns). But even with the strong arm of McNabb, the Redskins have always been a run-first regime, but with
Clinton Portis (63 yards, no touchdowns) looking a little long in the tooth, Washington desperately needs to cultivate a passing attack. With
Santana Moss (six receptions, 77 yards) and
Chris Cooley (six receptions, 80 yards) both being targeted nine times each, expect McNabb to look for experienced receiving hands rather than any of the Washington youngsters. The strength of Washington’s win over division rival Dallas last week came from the “X”s though, not the “O”s. The defense capitalized on opportunities and mistakes, and currently are ranked second in the league in points against, holding a potent Dallas offense at bay last week.

Look, maybe you’re the type who likes the “sexy” picks – like picking Green Bay or the New York Jets to win it all in 2010. But these two teams are giving a good argument, to be taken seriously by opponents, and are beginning to turn heads. Just like “Rachel” currently has a fan base (alas of one), the Texans and Redskins might each have a few more, with a great performance in week two.

New York

Giants @ Indianapolis
– Sunday 9/19, 8:30pm

As like many of you, we love Madden football. We create rookie players named after ourselves, we draft teams and, above all else we love matching wits and playing head-to-head against each other. Oh yeah – a six pack of Pumpkin Ale, some “House Special” fried rice and that Xbox 360 controller in our hands make us feel like we’re kings of the gridiron, or at least kings of the sofa. Every now and then (because we randomly pick from the conferences) we get a memorable matchup – and speaking of memorable matchups, the NFL serves one up this week in a rematch of the 2006 “Manning Bowl,” as Eli and the Giants visit older brother Peyton at Indianapolis.

None of us can picture the Colts going 0-2, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen – especially if the Colts defense manages to give up another 34 points. What a lot of the Colts faithful are hoping for is the typical air attack we’ve seen over the last decade, as
Payton Manning (433 yards, three touchdowns) airmails touchdowns to the likes of
Reggie Wayne (seven receptions, 99 yards, one touchdown),
Dallas Clark (11 receptions, 80 yards, one touchdown) and
Austin Collie (11 receptions, 163 yards, one touchdown). Help from the ground game led by
Joseph Addai (44 yards) would take a bit of pressure off of the elder Manning, as would a few more sacks by guys like
Robert Mathis and
Dwight Freeney. Don’t start folding up the stadium seat just yet though, there still is plenty of time for the Colts to hold onto the AFC South dominance it has had the last 10 years – and just because the Texans finally managed to beat the Colts in a single game doesn’t mean the Colts won’t recover after this early-season-stumble and go the distance.

The New York Giants looked like rock stars
* last week, led by a defense that allowed only 237 total yards last week (fifth in the NFL) and
Eli Manning’s (263 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions) new favorite target in the red zone
Hakeem Nicks (four receptions, 75 yards, three touchdowns). Expect
Steve Smith (five receptions, 43 yards) to get his looks as well. Coming off that big opening day win, the Giants look to be in mid-season form, and will be firing on all cylinders with the resurgence of a ground game with
Ahmad Bradshaw (76 yards, one touchdown and
Brandon Jacobs (44 yards). Will they look as good this week? Peyton isn’t the Panthers’ Matt Moore (even if they both did throw three picks in Week 1), but no one can argue that both of Tom Coughlin’s starting units were pretty sharp in the season opener.


[Editor’s Note: We believe the guys were referring to *actual* rock stars and not what passes for “rock stars” on the Video Music Awards these days, like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.]

Incidentally. after we wrote this article, Chris fired up the Xbox to Madden 11 – he taking the Giants, Tom taking the Colts. Who won? Well, we just don’t feel right about telling you how our computer simulation came out, because we feel like we’d be stealing some of our buddy the Sin City BetBot 6000’s thunder. Let’s just say, Chris ended up buying the wings and beer – but not by much.

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