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Games to Watch – Week 9

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:

Week 9 of the NFL 2010 season brings with it the chilly air of November, an NFL league office desperate to fine defenders for doing what the league has marketed them for doing, and the promise of more excitement than a caffeine-addict on a Redbull binge. We’ve got a battle for NFC South supremacy, a tangle between two division leaders and a battle of wits between proverbial heavyweight Peyton Manning and actual heavyweight Andy Reid. Trust us, if you missed any of these three games, you’re likely to slap yourself silly … and then Roger Goodell would probably end up fining you.

Bay at Atlanta – Sunday 11/7, 1 p.m., FOX

Remember when you were back in Junior High? It was during fifth period, rumor was getting around that two 150-pound dudes, fighting over a girl, were going to meet behind the gym and throw down to show who was more of a “man” after the “bell rang.” Probably 60 people showed up to watch the two duke it out, and no matter who won, there was a heck of a story about it at school the next day. Maybe Person A beat the heck out of Person B. Maybe Person B never showed and forever will be called a “wimp.” Or maybe Person A decided to get a towel full of chloroform and wrap it tightly around Person B’s head. (OK, that last one isn’t too likely, but it sure would have been effective.) The point is this – no matter what happened between the two combatants, you couldn’t stop talking about it the next day.

Well, Monday right around 9:20 a.m. at water coolers, cubicles, and even the smoking areas, this is that game that will be talked about. Because the bottom line is this – with Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, Roddy White, Mike Williams, etc., you just don’t know what is going to happen. Statistically, Ryan is 16-1 at home. At the same time,  Freeman has won five consecutive road games. Put that together with the fact that the winner of this matchup becomes the NFC South’s “Top Dawg,” even though neither of these two teams is the overhyped New Orleans Saints, and this game that was once a yawner on the NFL schedule, suddenly has a lot of meaning.

Most pundits predicted Tampa to have just 2-4 wins on the *season* back in August. Well, here we are just a few days past October and they already have five underneath their belt. Sure, their wins haven’t always been against quality opponents, but that only underscores the need for the Buccaneers to step up and get a “W” to put under their belt and make a serious run at a playoff berth.
Josh Freeman (1,533 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT) is a face most fans couldn’t pick out of lineup, but as far as a football field goes, it’s one opponents are starting to recognize. In his second year, he has found his “go-to guy” in rookie
Mike Williams (32 receptions, 470 yards, 4 TD), who leads all rookie receivers in the league with his 32 catches. Speaking of unrecognizable players, you might not see
LeGarrette Blount (222 yards, 3 TD) on any cereal boxes, but last week he rumbled for 120 yards and two scores. On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers aren’t the fiercest in getting to the opposition’s quarterback, but it doesn’t seem like they have to worry about that much as they have intercepted an incredible 14 passes so far this season with
Aqib Talib (21 tackles, 5 INT, 1 TD) leading the way in aerial thievery.

It’s very difficult for gamblers (Vinnie and Betbot, we’re looking in your direction) to bet against
Matt Ryan (1,714 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT), especially at home. When he isn’t passing the ball to the likes of
Roddy White (54 receptions, 747 yards, 5 TD) or
Tony Gonzalez (29 receptions, 292 yards, 3 TD), he’s handing the ball off to
Michael Turner (587 yards, 3 TD) and solidifying their sixth-ranked NFL total yard average. Being well-rested after a bye week, it makes one believe that the “Dirty Bird” offense would come out guns-a-blazin’, but it should be noted that they don’t rely solely on their potent offense to get things done.
John Abraham (15 tackles, 6 sacks) and
Curtis Lofton (58 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles) lead a defensive unit that holds the opposition to under 19 points a game. Heck, the only subpar thing about the Falcons is their fair-weather fan-base – and if they keep trotting talent like this onto the field, maybe a few Georgians will take a break from college football and give one of the NFL’s best squads a look.

Although many will see this game as one-sided, don’t be too quick to judge. Every week the sports writers have Tampa crashing back to earth, but somehow they seem to manage to keep themselves in the hunt for the NFC South crown. And don’t forget that even though the Falcons sport a tough defense, they managed to let the last two teams they faced put up 32 and 31 points, respectively. Keep in mind this is also a division rivalry and both teams know what is at stake – division leader and a nice healthy dose of respect. See you at the water cooler Monday at 9:20 a.m.; you can tell us all about it.

New York
Giants at Seattle – Sunday 11/7, 4:05 p.m., FOX

Welcome to GTW 101. It’s that time of year again for you high-school-senior-fantasy-football-aholics. It’s the final chance to take the SAT. Hopefully, you’ll nail that 1600 and you’ll be getting that call from Princeton or Stanford, but more realistically, you’re probably not the Rhodes Scholar you mother wishes you were. In any case, we’re going to give you a multiple choice question as a warm up for your final shot at the SATs or ACTs or whatever standardized test is going to determine your net worth for the next 30 years.

Reasons to watch the Giants at Seahawks this weekend:

A)  They are the only two division leaders squaring off this week.
B)  It’s only the 14th time the two have met.
C)  To see which one of the two (or both or neither) are contenders or
      pretenders for their division.
D)  It’s going to be interesting seeing the team with the most sacks
     (Giants) play the team that is the third-worst (Seahawks).
E)  All of the above.

If you chose E, awesome! It’s not really an indication that you are prepared for the SAT (in fact, you’d probably be better off hitting any book at your library), but you can consider yourself at the top of the class in GTW 101 (that’s “Games to Watch” for the remedial group auditing this course).

The Giants typically do things in a *big* way – win or lose. (No pun intended with “giant” and “big.”)* When they win, it’s typically been by 14 or more points, when they lose, they’ve done it by a minimum of 19. As of right now though, they have a potent offense, and a powerful defense.
Eli Manning (1,785 yards, 14 TD, 11 INT) has found his new best friend in
Hakeem Nicks (45 receptions, 525 yards, 8 TD), and the ground game keeps churning up yards with the tandem of
Ahmad Bradshaw (708 yards, 3 TD) and
Brandon Jacobs (282 yards, 5 TD). Defensively, the Giants are making it a regular habit of knocking opposing quarterbacks out of games, putting five starting quarterbacks out of the game in their last seven matchups. Couple that with Seattle’s troubles last week (Oakland teed off on them for a whopping eight sacks), and
Osi Umenyiora (18 tackles, 8 sacks, 7 forced fumbles) and company look to spend a good chunk of the game in the Seattle backfield. Oh, and with the Giants already forcing 16 fumbles this year, expect a ball or two to end up out of Seattle’s hands and on the carpet in this one as well.

*[Editor’s Note: I am sure they did intend the pun, and I didn’t laugh any more than you did. I don’t get paid enough for this job … seriously.]

Seattle aims to be a front-runner in a division that is ripe for the taking.
Matt Hasselbeck (1,411 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT) has played solidly behind a suspect offensive line and is the epitome of “spreading the ball around,” having six receivers with 100-plus yards. Unfortunately for Seattle, Hasselbeck (like many NFL quarterbacks this season) has been bitten by the concussion bug. That leaves
Charlie Whitehurst to the tender mercies of the Giants’ pass rush in his first-ever NFL start. Ouch. The ground game has gotten a recent boost with the addition of
Marshawn Lynch (140 yards, 1 TD) and should improve upon their 27th ranked rushing game now that he’s paired with
Justin Forsett (334 yards, 1 TD). And while statistically the team looks suspect against the New York Giants, some critics and experts are actually picking Seattle to win the game – which could be a result of its Top 10 defense against the rush as well as points allowed per game. Twelve players have at least one sack on the unit, led by
Chris Clemmons (25 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble).

The Giants were on the upswing before their bye; does it continue? With Hasselbeck out and an offensive line as porous as Lindsay Lohan’s liver, is Whitehurst the answer? Are the Giants the best team in the NFC? Are the Seahawks truly the team to beat in the NFC West? GTW 101 says this is a good test for both teams, and you don’t have to be in the National Honor Society to enjoy it. No matter how you score it, this one is a 1600 for football fans.

at Philadelphia – Sunday 11/7, 4:15 p.m., CBS

Webster’s defines a “paradox” as “a true statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition.” To put it even more simply, when you look at some problems, the numbers just don’t add up. There are every day paradoxes, like when one cheese steak place says the have the “world’s best cheese steaks” and one just down the road says they have the “best cheese steaks in Philadelphia.” Something just doesn’t add up … one of them *might* be right, but the other most certainly is wrong. But there is one paradox that is better known than any other … What happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object? Well, when the Indianapolis Colts tangle with the Philadelphia Eagles, we might finally get an answer to that paradox.

The Indianapolis Colts’
Peyton Manning (2,184 yards, 15 TD, 2 INT) is the living embodiment of the “unstoppable force” – at least as far as the NFL is concerned. Just listen to these Manning numbers: No. 2 in touchdown passes, No. 2 in passer rating, No. 1 in fewest interceptions, No. 4 in passing yardage, No. 1 in fewest sacks … and that’s even with
Dallas Clark out for the season and guys like
Austin Collie (44 receptions, 503 yards, 6 TD) and
Joseph Addai (406 yards, 3 TD, 2 fumbles) looking like they’ll miss another week. Sure, Manning is missing some of his best weapons this year, but honestly if the Colts lined up Chris in the slot, Tom out wide, and Vinnie as the tight end with his bag on sideways … Manning would still be one of the best. But those numbers alone aren’t why Manning plays the part of the “unstoppable force” this weekend. The main reason is that Manning has been perfect against the Eagles in his career (3-0), completes nearly 70 percent of his passes against Philadelphia, and has completely embarrassed them every time they’ve faced each other. Manning isn’t without help in his quest to keep alive his perfect streak against the Eagles –
Reggie Wayne (49 receptions, 641 yards, 3 TD) is still one of the NFL’s best, and
Pierre Garcon (21 recpetions, 292 yards, 1 TD) is better than some teams’ No. 1 wide receiver. The biggest stumbling block for Manning might be the
Dwight Freeney (11 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) led Colts defense.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ coach Andy Reid is the living embodiment of the “immovable object” – and not just because he never met a sandwich he didn’t like. Reid is a perfect 11-0 as a head coach after the bye week. Criticize Reid’s clock management, his playcalling, or even his short-lived stint as pitchman for L.A. Weight Loss, but the guy is perfect when he’s given two weeks to game plan for an opponent. It certainly doesn’t hurt Reid that
Michael Vick (799 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT) steps back in as the starting quarterback this week – especially since his feet might prove to be the difference maker against a Colts defense that simply can’t stop the run. It doesn’t hurt that
LeSean McCoy (477 rushing yards, 5 TD; 38 receptions, 293 receiving yards)  gets to face that same weak run defense. And while
Jeremy Maclin (30 receptions, 458 yards, 6 TD) is topping the Eagles receiving charts,
DeSean Jackson (10 receptions, 395 yards, 3 TD) has been cleared to play and would be a huge addition to the lineup if Reid wants to use him. If Reid doesn’t want to get pushed into the loss column, he’ll need
Trent Cole (36 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble) and the Eagles defense to really put some pressure on Manning.

So what does happen when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Well, we can’t say for sure – but we know that either Reid or Manning will still be perfect, and the other will be slightly less so. But no matter who wins or loses, the answer will be the same for all of us football fans – a “Game to Watch” that promises to have plenty of offensive punch.

About Fantasy Sharks 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.