I had the experience of attending a friend of mine’s wedding this past Sunday.
That’s right, a wedding…on a Sunday…during football season.
Let me take a second to gather myself before my head explodes. OK, good.
I don’t think there’s a worse thing a man can do to his friends than agree to schedule his wedding during football season. And to do it on a NFL Sunday is sacrilege—especially when it’s the day of a Giants home game and I have season tickets. A couple of years ago I was faced with a similar predicament, only in this case the wedding was in Maryland and the guy had the good sense to schedule his wedding on a Saturday during a Ravens bye week. The following morning, I was able to depart Maryland early enough and speed Smokey and the Bandit-style to the tailgate and subsequent kickoff of Giants/Dolphins at the Meadowlands.
But this time there was no respite. I could only sit in horror at the church while the second half of Giants-Buccaneers went on without me—with the added insult of no access to fantasy scores. No knowledge that my wide receivers decided simply not to show up, that the Eagles offense had their worst game of the season, or that Peyton Manning was pulling a virtuoso performance against me. Wait a minute, wasn’t it a good thing then that the wedding was on a Sunday, because I wasn’t in front of the TV/computer watching my team choke away another big game?
No, because now I have some sort of flu-like symptoms that have made me sweat for the last two days. Hence a Friday edition of the Nuthouse instead of our regularly scheduled Thursday edition. I don’t think the free beer and calamari evens all that out.
So do your friends a favor. When you get married, make sure you set the date in the spring or summer during baseball season. You’ll save them a lot of anxiety.
Onto the storylines, this time in preview-style:
ATL vs. DET: Michael Vick is the hot hand right now, adding three more TD passes. What happened to this team after the Giants game? They went from winning games with a run-based, solid defensive style, to winning the last two in gunslinging shoot-outs. This game should be less of a problem this week. Atlanta’s defense should be back on its game; its superior speed taking advantage of playing in a dome. The same goes for Warrick Dunn. Play your Falcons over the next two weeks, with this game and Cleveland next week. If Detroit can get a power running game going, they’ll stay in this contest—that is how you beat Atlanta’s defense. Regardless, I do see a lot of Kitna, R. Williams and Furrey, so they’re solid plays.
MIA vs. CHI: Can the Dolphins regroup after the bye and pull off the upset like in 1985? Not likely, but giving Nick Saban two weeks to prepare means there’s a chance. The more important question is whether playing Ronnie Brown, Chris Chambers or Randy McMichael is worth it this week. On the Bears side of things, you’ll see Grossman to Muhammad and the Jones/Benson duo. Miami could decide to sell out on stopping the run and make Grossman beat them.
GB vs. BUF: Wow, a third straight possible stinker to start us off. If there was ever a time for Willis McGahee and Lee Evans to get on track, this is it. Green Bay’s defense will give up some points. The Packers offense has been hit pretty hard by injuries at the skill positions. Case in point: Vernand Morency ran for more than 100 yards last week, and he’s out for next two games. Ahman Green and Donald Driver are solid plays here, and maybe even Brett Favre if you need a bye week quarterback. If you want to take a chance on a wide receiver, rumors are that My Man Greg Jennings will return from his ankle injury.
CIN vs. BAL: Ah, finally we get to the good stuff. Are the Bengals the biggest Jekyll-and-Hyde team in the league? They can beat anybody, they can lose to anybody. Chad Johnson can score, he can drop a touchdown. Their schedule doesn’t do them any favors, either—it was ranked the second-toughest behind the Giants—including facing the Baltimore defense twice in five weeks. The problem is that you can’t sit the Cincinnati studs unless you have viable backups. So play Palmer, Rudi, Chad, Housh, probably even Chris Henry for a flex option. I’m still unsure about Baltimore. They beat San Diego by a field goal when Marty went Martyball and Merriman whiffed on Heap. They lost two straight to teams with equal talent (Denver and Carolina), but dominated the Saints last week off the bye. Yes, the defense did score twice and put the offense in a position to score easily. But if they win this game, the division is theirs. You know to start the Baltimore defense and Todd Heap, but maybe you take a flyer on Jamal Lewis this week, too.
DAL vs. WAS: Nothing more fun than a good ol’ rivalry game. I e-mailed an owner in my league this week to send my condolences for the fantasy death of Terry Glenn. It was apparent from when Romo came into the game in the second half against the Giants that he only has eyes for Terrell Owens. T.O.’s value goes through the roof; so does Jason Witten’s as the intermediate option. Goodbye, Terry Glenn, we hardly knew ye. Of course having said that, Glenn will now have 100 yards and score two TDs this week. Provided he can stay on the field, Julius Jones might be the best Cowboy play in the game; the Redskins have given up all sorts of rushing yardage this year. For the Redskins, the questions are abundant. Will Brunell, Portis and Santana Moss play? If so, how effective will they be against the Cowboys defense? Is it finally time for Jason Campbell?
NO vs. TB: How happy is Tampa to be back in sunny Florida? Last week the wind totally blew away the little offense that the Bucs had in the first place. Bruce Gradkowski threw 48 times for 139 yards. That’s unheard of! Cadillac was a nonfactor. Joey Galloway dropped a few critical catches. What’s good for Tampa is that New Orleans is coming off a similar dreary offensive performance against Baltimore. Brees threw picks, Deuce was stuffed, and Reggie Bush got hurt. Joe Horn and Marques Colston got their numbers in crunch time. This week things should open up a little bit more for both offenses. Cadillac will be the man for Tampa, while all the Saints starters should be in play. Joe Horn is the hottest player in this game (three straight 100-yard games), even if he listed as questionable with a groin injury.
KC vs. STL: This game shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. Right now Damon Huard is pulling a Brady on Trent Green. Larry Johnson is balling, so is Tony Gonzalez. Even Eddie Kennison is in on the fun. For St. Louis, it’s the big four: Bulger, Jackson, Holt and Jeff Wilkins. Start every guy just mentioned in these previous four sentences. If you want to disregard Kennison, that’s fine I’ll understand. The rest of the players (with the exception of Huard) should be starting every week, anyway. Bettors might want to look at KC getting 2.5 on the road here as well.
HOU vs. NYG: Second trap game in a row for the G-men, as the hype for the Nov. 12 night game against the Bears starts to get rolling. Houston will be in this game from start to finish. David Carr may have been benched last week, but this week he and Andre Johnson will have plenty of opportunities to make plays as the Giants defense is decimated by injuries. I would still hesitate to use Wali Lundy, though, because the G-Men are still solid against the run. Start the usual Giants suspects, along with Brandon Jacobs. But monitor Plaxico’s back injury, as spasms kept him out of at least one practice this week.
TEN vs. JAX: Even if it was against the aforementioned Texans, Vince Young’s two touchdowns last week is a good sign, especially as Travis Henry continues to churn out the rushing yards. Chris Brown just went and cried himself out of a good free agent deal, didn’t he? The rest of Tennessee’s skill positions are worthless this week. For all the talk about Jacksonville’s quarterback situation, it still shouldn’t matter to fantasy footballers. Two guys get the ball: Fragile Fred (halfway to 1,000 yards) and Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars D is solid if not spectacular, and is a good play this week against the rookie quarterback.
MIN vs. SF: Ugh, do we have to? An uglier game there may not be this week. The story of the game is the running backs. For the most part, Chester Taylor has performed like we all thought he would. If he’s healthy, then he should have a pretty good rebound game here. If he’s not healthy, have Mewelde Moore ready. On the other side, Frank Gore started off sizzling, and every guy that drafted him kept bragging about how great a pick that was. But he has since slowed, and those people have quieted down some. The Vikings play the run well, hence the Patriots run-and-shoot offense last week. If you’re an Antonio Bryant fan, you can take a shot with him. Take a Minnesota receiver only if your league counts drops and injuries.
CLE vs. SD: Cleveland wins! Last week, of course. This week’s game could get interesting, as the Chargers defense continues to lose linebackers. When you have no linebackers, you can be run on—which makes Reuben Droughns an interesting decision this week if you have a running back on bye or a flex position that needs filling. Having pushed Maurice Carthon out the door, the Browns now need to get more out of Braylon Edwards and make sure Kellen Winslow is the #1 red zone option. San Diego should have no problems putting up points via the Rivers/Tomlinson/Gates trifecta. Nate Keading has quietly had a very good kicking season.
DEN vs. PIT: The big storyline in this game is twofold: the switching of the Bells and whether Ben Roethlisberger plays. Denver certainly scored enough to beat Indianapolis last week, their defense just couldn’t stop Peyton Manning. That’s no crime, except if you had them in your starting lineup. This should definitely be a lower scoring game this week, so while a quality start, Mike Bell may not put up great numbers against the Steelers D. You’re taking your chances with Plummer at the helm of the Denver passing game, but Javon Walker seems to have surpassed Rod Smith as Plummer’s No. 1 option. There are a number of adjectives to describe Big Ben’s performance against the Raiders last week, many of them not suitable for print. It looks like he was rushed back to soon, and maybe his confidence is sapped. So while you’ll still see a lot of Willie Parker, unless Charlie Batch starts, you may not see much of Hines Ward (Champ Bailey’s got him) and Heath Miller.
IND vs. NE: The Main Event, backed by countless coverage on ESPN, and countless promotion by NBC. This’ll make any T.O. coverage look like child’s play. How will New England defend the Colts? Flooding the passing lanes with linebackers and defensive backs and let Addai beat them seems to be the sensible course of action. Nevertheless you have to start Manning (on fire), Harrison (regardless of last week’s bad game), Wayne (the new millennium version of Alvin Harper), and Vinatieri (when he’s played, he’s been just as good as Wilkins). Be cautious with Addai if you have other options available. For New England, the formula is simple—run all day. Dillon and Maroney left, Dillon and Maroney right. Colts can’t stop it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play Tom Brady or Ben Watson either, both are must starts.
OAK vs. SEA: This is how we finish the column? Maurice Morris vs. Justin Fargas? Seneca Wallace vs. Andrew Walter? Can you say ratings? With Lamont Jordan in injury limbo again, Fargas will play a lot again and probably gather his usual 70 yards. Randy Moss’ resurgence means he’s a start for now. Jerry Porter? No thanks. On the Seahawks side, it looks like those of you who waited for Jerramy Stevens to return were rewarded with a touchdown this week, along with 20 yards. He may become the go-to option for Wallace. I would talk more about this game, but it frightens me. To think what Mr. Tony and Theismann will talk about during that broadcast…
Well, we smashed through 2,000 words this week, a record for this column. But does this format resemble the Progno too much? I think so. We’ll see what I can conjure up next week.
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