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:
Ahhhh….October; the crisp autumn air, leaves gently falling and rising on the breeze, and teams falling and rising to the bottom and top of their divisions. A month ago as the season was about to get under way, Rams fans were talking playoffs, Tom Brady was going to begin leading the Pats to another Super Bowl, and Tennessee had a starting quarterback without any alleged mental problems. Wow – what a difference a month makes. This week we have games we never would have thought much of at the beginning of the season…..but sure enough, they come on as favorites in Week 5 of “Games to Watch”. And oddly enough, we don’t think we’re crazy when we tell you that this weekend’s games look better to us than a Clint Eastwood western movie marathon with an all-you-can-eat buffet.*
*[Editor’s Note: An interesting fact about buffets is that some are listed as “all-you-CARE-to-eat” and some are listed as “all-you-CAN-eat”. In the former, you can eat as much as you like and can stop whenever you wish. In the latter, you are duty-bound to gorge yourself until you are forced to remove your belt and unbutton your pants in order to make room for one more helping. Some states enforce all-you-CAN-eat buffets under the local law enforcement code.]
– Sunday 10/05,
Ok – we admit it, we are always looking for a way to line our wallets. That’s why we decided that it was time to put together our first screenplay based on football (after all, there hasn’t exactly been a glut of good football movie dramas since “Any Given Sunday”). Anyway, we came up with the storyline of two quarterbacks on opposing teams; one near the beginning of his career, while one is nearing his NFL twilight; with a story culminating in what they learn about the game, their teams, and themselves during the course one suspenseful game. We thought we hit jackpot – we figured you weren’t going to be seeing a show like that on any network that thinks “Grey’s Anatomy” is the epitome of high drama. Little did we know that the NFL sabotaged our chances once again at a shot of Hollywood glitz and glamour, by scheduling that very program in week 5 of their NFL programming. –sigh– But we’ll paint the broad strokes for you, anyway, so we feel like we get a little use out of our screenplay before it lines the recycle bin in our cubicle at FantasySharks.com.
Scene One: The Rookie
QB Joe Flacco (450yds / 1TD / 2ints) steps into a position where he has an extreme amount of pressure put upon him. A once proud franchise, who has struggled as of late, puts the rookie in the position to return them to greatness. Learning as he goes, he realizes that he must trust his teammates to help him achieve that goal. Men like youngster RB Le’Ron McClain (215yds / 3TDs) and injured vet RB Willis McGahee (106yds / 1TD). Still feeling out his own abilities in the air, Flacco carefully chooses his targets, finding a mentor in the crafty veteran WR Derrick Mason (16 catches / 223yds / and 1 stolen TD on a bad call last weekend), who gives the rookie every opportunity to succeed. TE Todd Heap (just 3 catches for 37yds – and a fumble) was supposed to be the rookie’s outlet-valve, but his own nagging injuries have left the rookie without a safety net. However, the ‘rook’ isn’t left alone in his pursuit of NFL playoff glory – he has a great foundation of men who try and take the pressure off of him in the form of a defense that allows less than 190 total ypg from opponents (#1 in the NFL), 117ypg passing (also #1 in the NFL), as well as the #2 rushing and scoring rankings. They are making the rookie look good – and they relish the opportunity to help him out. LBs Ray Lewis (23 tackles / 1 forced fumble), Terrell Suggs (13 tackles / 3 sacks / 1 forced fumble), and Jarret Johnson (14 tackles / 1 sack / 1 forced fumble) are the best linebacking corps in football right now, and maybe one of the best all-time. FS Ed Reed and CB Chris McAlister are no slouches in the secondary, either. Are the stingy defense, the youthful RB, and the craft vet wide-out enough of a supporting cast for the rookie to come up big? Or does the pressure overwhelm him, leaving him wishing for gentler times spent along the Dewey Beach shoreline?
Scene Two: The Veteran
The Titans are led by QB Kerry Collins (577yds / 2TDs / 1int), who once achieved stardom mid-career taking another team to the Super Bowl, but loses in the big game. After a bout with his own personal demons, he gets another chance to lead a team to greatness after an injury and alleged mental distress took its first option down. (Honest folks, even we can’t write Hollywood copy this good…) Although his physical skills may have diminished in the intervening years, he intelligently uses his other options, headlined by a duo of backfield friends played by RBs Chris Johnson (337yds / 2TDs) and LenDale White (161yds / 5TDs). The vet signal-caller also selectively uses the abilities he has to lead an air assault using the likes of a new member to the team who is feeling his own way played by WR Justin McCareins (7 catches for 127 yards in the last two games). Another set of sure-handed receivers assists him when he uncoils his arm – WR Justin Gage (12 catches / 176yds / 1TD) and TE Bo Scaife (13 catches / 153yds / 1TD). Like the rookie across the field from him, Collins isn’t forced to shoulder the entire load himself. He gets backing from a veteran group of 11 individuals that refuse to allow opponents more then 11.5 ppg on average, ranking them first in the NFL. That’s right, the NFL’s #5 ranked overall defense is behind Collins – and their 12 takeaways are the NFL’s best by far (8 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries). DT Albert Hanyesworth leads the pass rush with 5 sacks already this season, and CB Cortland Finnegan’s 4 interceptions are better than 15 NFL
teams this season. If they aren’t as good as the Ravens D, they sure as heck aren’t far behind. Can the grizzled vet with a second chance lead the Titans to five wins? (Their 4-0 start is the best in team history.) Or does he falter when the chips are down, driving him back to the bottle?
Scene Three: The final Gun
Well, we don’t want to ruin the show for you, so if you want to see how this one winds up, you’re going to have to just watch it for yourself… and trust us – this one is a definite “Game to Watch”.
Well, there you have it – our great idea, STOLEN from us by the NFL. I guess we’ll just have to dust off the reality TV show idea we had involving two guys who write witty articles on a fantasy football website as they try to evade the poison pen of their editor – but honestly, we don’t think prime time is ready for it just yet. (We’ll wait until Survivor has its final run, which will probably be either Survivor Bouvet Island or Survivor North Brooklyn.)
– Sunday 10/05,
Washington and Philadelphia… these two teams like one another about as much as the American public and a $700Billion Wall Street bailout. Heck, even Philly and Washington residents don’t like each other – both share the northeast corridor and vie for historic sites, but both have an inferiority complex when it comes to New York. In fact, about the only thing anyone from these two teams or cities agrees on is that they are both ashamed to be stops on the “New Kids on the Block” reunion tour.
Washington showed they can hang with the boys last week – Cowboys that is. The teamed tabbed by most to win the NFC East (did people forget the Giants actually won a Superbowl by the way?) and dominate the NFC in general, was held in check last week by division foe Washington. QB Jason Campbell (878yds / 6TDs) is proving he’s up to the task of learning his fourth offensive scheme in the past 3-4 years by running the new ‘west coast’ offense put in place by new head coach Jim Zorn. The best part about the ‘West Coast’ scheme is that we get to see Washington utilize some of their most exciting players even more – WRs Santana Moss (27rec / 421yds / 3TDs) and Antwaan Randle El (18rec / 185yds / 1TD). Chris Cooley (17rec / 179yds) is one of the NFL’s (and fantasy’s) best TEs, which doesn’t hurt either. That doesn’t mean the ground game is dead, however. The Redskins sport one of the league’s more colorful characters in RB Clinton Portis (369yds / 3TDs) who has racked up the second highest tally of carries (86) of any NFL rusher. Defensively, again without the services of DE Jason Taylor, the ‘Skins come off of a big win against Big D where they held the Cowboys to just 44 yards rushing on the day, and a host of 3 and outs. If the Eagles don’t live up to their 6th ranked overall offense, it could be a very long day with guys like LB London Fletcher and CB Shawn Springs breathing down their necks.
The City of Brotherly Love hasn’t lived up to its name when it comes to the NFC East. We haven’t seen a lot of love in the eyes of fans who like their divisional opponents about as much as Santa Claus interrupting their valuable drinking time. Although the Eagles are currently at the bottom of the NFC east, their last place position doesn’t match the power that this team actually has. QB Donovan McNabb (1100yds / 6TD / 2int) is showing his old form with his trademark fast-paced game. And even though hurt, his partner in the backfield, RB Brian Westbrook (161yds rush / 46yds rec / 5TD) is one of the most versatile weapons in the entire NFL. In the aerial attack, everyone has been chipping in on a receiving corps plagued by injuries, from outstanding rookie WR DeSean Jackson (22rec / 327yds / 1 TD) to players deep on the depth chart like WR Hank Basket (13rec / 207yds / 1TD). Defensively, the team has rebounded to its old form – giving up a mere 54ypg on the ground, and leading the league with 17 sacks. The Eagles will need players like LB Omar Gaither to play like he did last week (9 solo tackles in week 4), and a secondary led by FS Brian Dawkins (17 tackles / 1 sack / 2 forced fumbles), CB Asante Samuel (8 tackles / 2int), and DE Trent Cole (17 tackles / 2 sacks / 1 forced fumble) to bounce back from a week where they made Kyle Orton look like an all-pro. (*shudder*)
You don’t have to be a fan of either team to know that this is going to be a good football game. Whether it’s on offense or defense, both teams are going to what they have to in order to get a division win in the heralded NFC East. That alone almost makes this a “Game to Watch”. But toss in the fact that the NFC East has been involved in some of the best games of the season so far, and that the Eagles are forced into a must-win situation (having already lost to Dallas once and already in the division cellar even though they are 2-2 and sport the NFL’s #6 ranked offense and #3 ranked defense), we expect another bang-up game along the lines of PHI/DAL or DAL/WAS that we’ve already seen this season. Buckle the chin-straps on tight for this one and tell Michael Wilbon to watch out for those tear-gas toting Washington fans, this one’s gonna’ get ugly – but in a good way.
– Sunday 10/05,
You ever get in line to grab some fast food and you get that person in front of you does everything in line except actually figure out what they want to eat? They scroll thru their iPod a while, take a cell call or two, text their ex about that Yaz album they swear they still have, and contemplate getting a manicure; anything but the business at hand. When they finally get up to the cashier, they take about an hour and a half to peruse the less than extensive menu, finally settling on the ever-popular Combo Meal #6. Well, the point is that they might be annoying, and they aren’t really paying attention to anything around them, but somehow they still stumble onto a good thing at the end of the line. Just like our final “Game to Watch”.
If you haven’t been paying attention, you probably would have landed on this game anyway when flipping through the games this weekend. You might have expected a tough Tampa Bay team with solid defense, but little offense, to be butting heads with a strong Denver rushing attack, bolstered by a solid defense. And you would have been treated to a great football game. Of course, your reasoning would have been totally wrong, but you’d end up satisfied.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not the team you remember from the last few years. Sure, their defense is still solid, but not dominant like it has been. Ranked 13th in overall defense, with a solid run D, they are uncharacteristically soft in their secondary this year, giving up 216.5ypg through the air, ranking them in the bottom third of the NFL. CB Ronde Barber (18 tackles / 1 sack) is still solid, but after 12 years in the NFL you can’t expect him to have the wheels he once did. And LB Barrett Ruud (30 tackles / 1 sack / 2int) is an absolute monster, but defense isn’t what is winning them games this year. The Bucs offense has been surprising to say the least. QB Brian Griese (716yds / 4TD / 6int) took over the starting spot when Jeff Garcia played poorly in the season opener. Griese hasn’t been great, especially with the 6 interceptions, but he’s given the team an offensive spark that has pushed their offense to #7 overall in the NFL this year. RB Earnest Graham (337yds / 2TD) is averaging 5.9ypc – 4th best in the NFL. And RB Warrick Dunn (197yds / 1TD) returns to his old team to add a change of pace. The WR corps have been the nicest surprise this year, especially considering Joey Galloway has been injured and Mark Clayton has been playing poorly. WRs Antonio Bryant (17rec / 220yds) and Ike Hilliard (18rec / 164yds / 2TD) have come up big and have Tampa Bay looking like a possible playoff team at this point in the season, and tied for the NFC South lead at 3-1.
The Broncos aren’t the team you remember, either. Their once solid D is anything but this year. They are giving up 408.8ypg – an absolutely atrocious #30 in the NFL. Their secondary is near non-existent; giving up a whopping 276ypg (only the Chargers are worse at 276.3ypg). Don’t forget the near 30 points a game this team manages to give up every week. Yikes! How does a team playing this badly on D sit atop the AFC West (3-1), especially after making Kansas City’s 1-3 offense look like the 2007 Patriots? Simple, they aren’t the hard-running Broncos anymore, either. They have become the aerial aces of the NFL, #1 in overall offense (435.5ypg) and #2 in passing (314.3ypg). QB Jay Cutler has already thrown 102 receptions for almost 1,275 yards with 9 TDs and just 4 interceptions. This ramp up in production in Cutler is making the Broncos the offensive powerhouse in the AFC. Of course, it’s not hard to improve when you have receivers like WR Brandon Marshall (31rec / 398yds / 3TD) averaging a whopping 132.7 yards every week, not to mention the outstanding play of rookie wide-out Eddie Royal (27rec / 298yds / 2TD). The Broncos Running-Back-By-Committee approach isn’t making fantasy owners too happy, but you can’t argue the success of the trio of Selvin Young, Andre Hall, and Michael Pittman combining for 439yds and 5TDs. Face it – the Broncos’ defense may not be the same, but it might not matter when their offense is THIS good.
Now you know the REAL reasons this is going to be a “Game to Watch”. But, in the end, does it really matter if you haven’t been paying attention to the NFL this year, and you ended up watching this week’s Bucs / Broncs game due to some misguided info based upon what these squads have looked like in years past? Not really – you’re still gonna’ see one HECK of a game this weekend. Just do us a favor, and don’t stand in front of us the next time we’re trying to get our KFC on. 😉