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Games to Watch – Week 7

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 and 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:

Every year, you have some good weeks and some bad weeks. A good week was the one where you went on vacation to Vegas, met a cute bartender who plied you with drinks all week, did a few things that you and your friends agree to never talk about (until next year’s Vegas trip), and you wound up back home with more money in your pocket than you left. A bad week was the one where your significant other left you for your first cousin on your mother’s side, your boss told you that you could keep your job – if you were willing to move to India, and you wound up with the swine flu. Week 7 in the NFL is a lot more like the latter than the former. When we had to seriously consider Dallas against New York, even though Dallas is so far from relevant right now it’s not even funny, you know finding the three “Games to Watch” was tough. But we persevered, pushed through the schedule like a “club kid” in line at Studio 54, and deliver to you the three most interesting games of the week. So sit back in that Barcalounger, order the large pizza and 20 wings you have your heart set on, and fire up the TV.

Pittsburgh
@ Miami
– Sunday 10/24, 1 p.m., CBS

Early in the week at the FantasySharks home office, the day can get a bit boring. There isn’t a whole lot going on (except Vinnie making his collections in the office, sometimes hiring us to “assist” him with visits to “friends” – but that’s another story, and a story that pays well, but we digress). Typically you can find the junior staff writers going over some stats and the regular staff writers throwing in a few discussions on who the next super-double secret sleeper-third string quarterback from the Arizona Cardinals is going to be. But that can only go on so long. By Week 4, a crew (who will remain nameless to protect their macho personas) started taking their meetings to the lunch room. But football wasn’t the discussion anymore. They started watching old 1980s episodes of General Hospital. Now at first, we scoffed at such soppy melodrama, but just like them, the multilayered relationships of Scotty, Luke and Laura (and even Rick Springfield making an appearance here and there), lured us in like a play action pass on 3rd-and-2. Port Charles seemed like such a fascinating place: so much mystery, seduction and scheming. It was a soap opera for the ages. Now, Port Charles doesn’t really exist anymore, and quite frankly, we couldn’t even tell you if General Hospital is still on the air. But what we do know is that there are two teams with ongoing episodes that are filled with their share of NFL melodrama. They happen to be also facing one another this weekend in Miami, as the Steelers take on the Dolphins.

Drama in Miami you might ask? Why did Bill Parcells suddenly clear out his office in Miami’s team complex? Will he be leaving the Dolphins? Can
Chad Henne (1,195 yards, 7 TD, 5 INT) lead this offense to the post season, or even NFL relevance? Which of the running backs is the real workhorse? Is Tony Soprano’s favorite 80’s artist Corey Hart? (Has to be.) Take your pick of storylines; there certainly aren’t any shortages of them in Magic City. The basic script calls for this though: a decent one-two punch at the running back position with
Ronnie Brown (67 carries, 299 yards, 1 TD) and
Ricky Williams (56 carries, 240 yards), a dash of flash at the receiver positions with
Brandon Marshall (37 receptions, 467 yards, 1 TD) and
Davone Bess (26 receptions, 282 yards, 2 TD), and a defense led by
Cameron Wake (16 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble) that ranks in the Top 10 in the league in fewest yards allowed per game. A solid backstory for any team you might agree, but questions still abound – and an AFC inter-divisional matchup with the Steelers is just the catalyst needed to up the drama, win or lose.

The national media has been focused on Pittsburgh like a Doberman on a steak, sometimes for their surprisingly solid play in the face of Ben Roethlisberger’s personal scandal, but mainly for off the field stories this past week. After going 3-1, will
Roethlisberger (257 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) show any signs of rust now that he’s facing a team other than the Cleveland Browns? Will one of the leaders on the lowest scored on defense in the NFL,
James Harrison (40 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles), take out his frustration with the NFL offices (and $75,000 worth of punishment) on the Dolphins receivers? Just like Miami, the boys from Steel City have their share of drama. But just as Miami has some strong back stories, Pittsburgh boasts one of the leagues finest at running back with
Rashard Mendenhall (495 yards, 5 TD) and the tandem of
Mike Wallace (12 receptions, 301 yards, 3 TD) and
Hines Ward (17 receptions, 219 yards, 2 TD) catching the ball. Questions still linger on Pittsburgh, but only about if they are the No. 1 team in the AFC or just one of the Top 5. A bigger test for the “Roethlismonster” and his offense against a solid Miami squad will go a long way to answering that question.

One of Webster’s definitions for a soap opera is: “a series of experiences characterized by dramatic displays of emotion.” Heck, that could describe any NFL game. But it doubly applies to this game, when you consider all the on-the field and off-the-field drama that is being aired this Sunday at 1 p.m. And while we won’t know the end of these teams’ soap operas for a few months, we’ll get some answers to our burning questions this weekend … and more than likely, create some more drama and questions to keep us hooked for the rest of the season.

Philadelphia
@ Tennessee
– Sunday 10/24, 1 p.m., FOX

In this fragile economic environment, every Tom, Dick and Harry has to do what they can to get by. And, in this, Tom and Chris are no different. Chris has taken the ever popular donating plasma route (and to this date, everyone at FantasySharks is thankful it is only plasma he’s donating). Tom took a more unconventional route – the mystery shopper route. Sure, he has to sit though people trying to sell him a mattres (we left the last “s” off for savings), try to see if the popular oil and lube garage asks him to upgrade to synthetic, and even rate the friendliness of the wait staff at places like … well, Friendly’s. But, every now and then Tom gets a gem (which he always tries to include Chris on) – a trip to a sit down chain of restaurants which will remain nameless (but has great burgers). Once a month he has to try one of the local locations and evaluate a specific meal – like this month’s bacon cheeseburger with a side of fries and a side salad. To date, Chris and Tom have been to 13 locations in the area, evaluating the same meal at each of the locations. One word sums it up: inconsistent. At one place, they get a juicy burger and a semi-stale roll. The next, they get a freshly-baked roll, but the wrong cheese; the next, everything completely wrong; the next, everything perfect. Sure it’s the same restaurant chain – but inconsistent meals. That simple word sums it up. Now that word indeed is powerful – and also translates to this “Game to Watch” diamond in the rough. Here we have two great teams, or should we say two great, inconsistent teams. They show flashes of brilliance one week, but look as vulnerable as a teenage girl after her first breakup the next week.

To be fair, the Eagles have been consistent with one thing so far this year: winning on the road. Wins at Detroit, San Francisco and Jacksonville certainly aren’t the toughest contests, but winning on the road is always harder than at home. The in-consistent thing has been winning at home – managing to defeat one of the NFC’s better teams (Atlanta) and playing completely flat games at home to the Redskins and Packers. Currently they have a two-game winning streak, but this will be the Birds first test against a very physical defense. The sole exception being
Dunta Robinson, who laid out
DeSean Jackson (19 receptions, 395 yards, 3 TD) with a monster hit last week. So the Eagles lose their No. 1 wideout, but
Jeremy Maclin (25 receptions, 416 yards, 6 TD) is no slouch, and his fantasy owners will reap the reward. PETA favorite
Michael Vick will likely sit out another week – allowing him to get two weeks of rest when you toss in the bye week. So that leaves
Kevin Kolb (804 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT) to come back in through the revolving door at quarterback and prove that his gem against Atlanta last week was the future, not a fluke. Though banged up
, LeSean McCoy (429 yards, 5 TD) is showing his toughness, and hopes to wreak havoc with the Titans. Defensively,
Trent Cole (31 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble) and the gang have tightened up the loose ends of their previous losses, and look to carry their improved play on defense into their third game in a row.

The Tenessee Titans have one thing going for them consistently as well … their dominance over the NFC, winning 11 straight against them. But to make it 12, the Titans will have to work on their inconsistent play on both sides of the ball. First, the Titans have to contend with how much a sprained knee will limit
Vince Young (745 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT). Beyond that worry, Tennessee’s game plan is simple: give the rock to the man who many consider to be the most dynamic back in the NFL,
Chris Johnson (596 yards, 7 TD, 2 fumbles). Dynamic, but not as consistent as last year for certain – sure, he topped 110 yards in the Titans’ four wins, but in the their two losses he totaled a dismal 87 yards combined on 35 carries (averaging less than 2.5 yards a carry). The play of
Kenny Britt (16 receptions, 209 yards, 4 TD) and
Nate Washington (16 receptions, 227 yards, 3 TD) hasn’t yielded consistent yardage, but they do have a knack for finding the end zone. With their physical defense, and guys like
Jason Babin (24 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 fumble … a former Eagle incidentally) and
Dave Ball (16 tackles, 5 sacks) able to lay out opposing quarterbacks like so much laundry to be folded, Tennessee is positioning itself to stay atop the AFC South.

While both these teams have suffered from bouts of inconsistency on both offense and defense, they are both coming off two-game winning streaks and challenging for their division lead. But no matter how many inconsistencies both of these teams have shown this season, the main reason this is a “Game to Watch” is that they both share one very important consistency … win or lose, mistakes or brilliant plays, they both keep the games they are in interesting.

Minnesota
@ Green Bay
– Sunday 10/24, 8:20p.m., NBC

Ever been lounging around on a weekday night, with nothing on TV except reality shows about vapid housewives in rich areas of the country, some reruns of any one of the Law and Order franchise, a Ghost Hunters show circa 2006 and the kids from Jersey Shore making you wish that humans ate their young? Sure, we’ve all been there. But then you surf the channels a few more times and suddenly you stumble upon an old classic movie you just have to watch. That happened to us recently, and the movie in question was one all of us, and this Sunday night matchup, can identify with – The Bad News Bears. Walter Matthau leads a band of misfit ballplayers whose personalities make them larger than life, and even though watching them can sometimes be a train wreck, you just can’t stop watching until the final pitch is thrown, and the celebratory beers are cracked open.

The Bad News Bears had one kid (Kelly Leak) who thought he was larger than life, the Fonz and Dirty Harry rolled into one, and Minnesota has that same egotistical jerk player leading their team,
Brett Favre (979 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT). We don’t say that just because of Favre’s offseason antics designed to stroke his ego, but his almost singular ability to make almost any game he plays in all about him – good or bad. He’s shown an ability to put his teams on his shoulders and carry them, and he’s proven adept at snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory with costly, ill-advised gambles. Remember Tanner, the wise-cracking little-man who took on the whole seventh grade?
E.J. Henderson (37 tackles, 2 INT, 1 forced fumble) and
Jarred Allen (17 tackles, 1 sack) have that same swagger as they lead one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses. But every team needs their Amandas – steady players who always produce – like
Adrian Peterson (553 yards, 4 TD), and their Ahmads – speedsters who can break a game wide open – like
Randy Moss (9 receptions, 136 yards, 1 TD) and
Percy Harvin (20 receptions, 224 yards, 3 TD). 

Another memorable character on the Bears was Rudi Stein. He didn’t look like he could step up and become one of the teams best hitters, but he did just that – he had just one problem, he hated getting hit. Green Bay sports its own Rudi Stein in the form of
Aaron Rodgers (1,546 yards, 10 TD, 7 INT). People weren’t sure if Rodgers would ever live up to the legacy Favre left when he moved on, but he’s been technically sound, putting up big numbers, even if he does seem to have problems in the big games and in the fourth quarter – and he gets sacked enough that we’re pretty sure he hates getting hit just as much as Stein. The Packers have their share of Joses and Reggies – performers that may not come up big every game, but are a threat whenever they touch the ball – like the receiving tandem of
Greg Jennings (20 receptions, 316 yards, 4 TD) and
Donald Driver (28 receptions, 307 yards, 3 TD). They have their Miguel Agilar – their short but effective backup player who can produce when given the chance to start – aka
Brandon Jackson (305 yards, 1 TD). They have their Engelbergs – solid defensive players – like
A.J. Hawk (49 tackles) and
Charles Woodson (39 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD). Heck, the Packers even managed to squeeze in its version of Lupus – the kid called up from deep on the bench that can come up with a big play in a big game –
Andrew Quarless (5 receptions, 74 yards), who is filling in for the injured Jermichael Finley.

In the end, the Bad News Bears had some good plays, as this game between bitter NFC North rivals is certain to have, and some bad plays – we’re positive you’ll see a few sacks, a few errant throws and an interception or two. But neither team is polished enough right now to really take the championship, just like the Bad News Bears were a work in progress. That doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth watching though. Any rivalry with as much venom as the Bad News Bears/Yankees matchup coupled with the fact that both the Packers and the Vikings have been apt to make late-game errors (which is why both are struggling to get over .500) means that while this one will go right down to the wire, it might not end exactly the way any of us would expect. So grab a beer, Buttermaker, and don’t worry about the outcome – just enjoy what is bound to be a fun “Game to Watch.”

About Fantasy Sharks

FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.