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Sunday Soap Opera

Most television viewers tune into daytime soap operas like “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital” for their dose of drama. Primetime shows may include “Housewives” of (fill in the city) and an assortment of acronymic law enforcement and legal dramas. It is now time to add the NFL to the list of award-winning dramas as Week 8 had its fill of heartbreak, disappointment, violence, deception and even a tragic breakup.

After playing from behind all game, the Minnesota Vikings had nearly caught the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter. However, their heroic efforts took a turn for the worse as Brett Favre was sacked and knocked out of the game. Although Tarvaris Jackson was able to soften the blow by finishing the drive with a touchdown and two-point conversion, the defense was unable to halt the Patriots’ next charge.

 After this painstaking loss and injury to Favre, the Vikings’ drama took an unexpected twist. Following an awkward post-game interview and alleged disparaging remarks against the team’s catering vendor, Moss was “waived” by coach Brad Childress. Although the Moss acquisition was orchestrated by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who traded a third round pick for the receiver, Childress took the initiative of throwing Moss off the Vikings’ sinking ship. With Favre and Percy Harvin injured, the Minnesota Vikings sit at 2-5 without Moss for the rest of the season.  

In the Motor City, another drama was unfolding between the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions. In a fourth-quarter shootout, Washington found themselves down by six with 1:45 left in regulation. As Redskins’ fans prepared to watch their new quarterback lead his team downfield to victory, coach Mike Shanahan threw everyone a shocker by yanking Donovan McNabb and sending backup Rex Grossman onto the field. Grossman, who had not taken a snap since Week 13 of last season, was immediately sacked and lost a fumble to Ndamukong Suh, who ran in for a touchdown. The plot thickened as Shananan has changed his explanation for the substitution by claiming McNabb was unprepared for a two-minute drill, and then alleged that he lacked the “cardiovascular endurance.” Another excuse came from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, head coach Shanahan’s son, who stated the decision was due to concern for McNabb’s nagging hamstring injuries. With a bye next week, it will be intriguing to see the next episode of this drama in Week 10.  

Sit on your sofa, grab some popcorn, and read Week 9’s “Dive.”

Matt Ryan – Which NFL quarterback has the best home record over the last three seasons? If you said Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, try again. Although it is difficult to include Brady in this conversation due to his season-ending injury in 2008, the answer to my trivia question may surprise you. Ryan has not lost in the Georgia Dome since Nov. 16, 2008. Much of this success is due to the fact that Ryan’s career passer rating at home is 95.2, where he has accumulated 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In fact, he has thrown at least two touchdowns in three home games this season. The Atlanta Falcons’ signal caller should soar again this weekend with an attractive matchup against the divisional rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a battle for first in the NFC South. Although the Buccaneers have been a pleasant surprise thus far, they have given up 12 passing touchdowns this season and recently allowed more than 300 total passing yards to Arizona’s “not so dynamic duo” of Derek Anderson and Max Hall.

Ryan will hope that history does not repeat itself as his career numbers against Tampa Bay are far from flattering with only two touchdowns and six interceptions since 2008. However, Ryan has matured this season with more weapons than ever before. Therefore, I predict 250 passing yards and two touchdowns versus his Week 9 prey.  

Jamaal Charles – I hope that you decided to take a chance on Charles because I did not. I feared Thomas Jones threatened his workload and chose to shy away from last year’s running back wonder. After torching opposing defenses in the second half of 2009, Charles was projected to be a first-round draft pick until Jones arrived. Faithful Charles fans are now grinning with satisfaction as he received the bulk of carries and totaled more than 200 yards from scrimmage last weekend.

Charles will face off against the Oakland Raiders’ 26th ranked run defense this weekend. Despite their lack of defense against the run, the Raiders’ run defense has been very effective recently as they have allowed less than 100 rushing yards in three of the last four games. As much I want to project Charles for another monster week, Oakland’s defense does not seem just improved, but rather transformed. It is also still difficult to predict how coach Todd Haley will divvy the workload.

If I had Charles on any of my teams, I would certainly start him. However, Oakland’s defense now seems legit and I see the Chiefs’ running back finishing with a modest 75 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards and no touchdowns. This line would be impressive for most, but not for “Sir Charles.”

Mike Williams – Let’s revisit the Atlanta at Tampa Bay matchup. Although it seems like the NFL’s elder Williams of the Seattle Seahawks has received more attention, Tampa Bay’s rookie wide receiver has been more consistent and leads all rookie receivers with 470 receiving yards. Apparently, the Buccaneers’ “rebuilding” project has been accelerated as they are fighting to stay atop the division against the Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

If you are in a deep league, Williams was likely either drafted or picked up from the waiver wire early on. However, snag him if he is still available or consider trading a bigger, less productive name for him for these reasons. First of all, Williams plays better on the road, where he averages 86 yards receiving and scored in each game. Second, the Falcons’ secondary has played more like hummingbirds as they are tied for third worst in points allowed to wide receivers and are ranked 27th against the pass. Williams should have another solid outing away from home with 100 yards receiving and a score.

Brent Celek – Many expected a breakout season from Celek. However, 2010 has been a huge disappointment for Celek owners as the tight end has not been able to build chemistry with either Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb. At this point in the season last year, Celek had already posted two triple-digit receiving games. The Eagles tight end is only averaging 32 yards per game compared to last season where his production was nearly double with 60 yards per game. He has not helped his cause by leading all NFL tight ends with seven drops.

With Vick at the helm next week against the Indianapolis Colts, Celek certainly will not break out this week. The Colts’ pass defense may not be the strongest in the league, but it has been an absolute nightmare for opposing tight ends as they have only allowed 23 receptions, 179 receiving yards and one touchdown against that position this season. On Monday, the Colts displayed their dominance by holding Houston’s tight end Owen Daniels to just an 8-yard catch. Before you think this may simply be a fluke, please note that the Colts also led the league last season in guarding tight ends. Don’t expect Celek to improve this week as I predict 25 receiving yards and no scores.


New York

Giants Defense – After looking quite “tiny” in the first few games, the New York Giants’ defense has significantly improved especially after sacking Jay Cutler nine times in Week 4. The Giants have 18 sacks in the last four games. In fact, they have even scored a few more fantasy points than the “other” highly sought after New York defense. One reason for their success may be their reputation as quarterback killers. In seven games, New York’s defense has knocked Cutler and Todd Collins, Carolina’s Matt Moore, Detroit’s Shaun Hill, and most notably Dallas’ Tony Romo, out of their respective games. This week’s contender is Matt Hasselbeck, who has thrown for more than 200 yards only once in the last four games. Although he plays much better at home, he is not the most durable and should fear this week’s matchup. The Seahawks have struggled both passing and rushing, especially in last weekend’s debacle against the Oakland Raiders. Since Seattle plays better at home, I am not predicting a another blowout, but I do see the New York Giants’ defense bruising Hasselbeck and winning a low-scoring game.

Good luck in Week 9. I will certainly need it!

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