Welcome my fantasy brethren to another edition of The Prognosticator. May it light your holidays with cheers of victory. As the season winds down, many of us are gearing up for a run at the championship.
I think I’m in 17 leagues this season, to be honest I’m not really sure and would have to consult with fellow shark Doug Coutts to verify. I partner on a lot with Doug, possibly six? We’re in four experts leagues (three redraft/one dynasty) and two dynasty leagues that I can remember. Pat Smith helps run the Kahuna Sports Frenzy team, and Doug, Mike Rumsey, Pat Smith, Doug Gaskell and Greg Allen all help with the HAFAX team. Ron Anish and Ben Ice both represent the site in experts leagues. I’m in a handful of leagues that are no maintenance like Fantasy Index’s experts draft and the FanEx FAD Draft.
Then there are the teams that I manage completely myself. The FFL! FFL! FFL!, FanEx, TDL, and the FantasySharks Great White. This doesn’t include contests like our Swim with the Sharks and Pick ’em as well as the Losers Challenge at Fantasy Online Sports.
To stay sane I do have to prioritize the leagues in importance of how much they mean to me as you can well imagine, I often have many players in a game at once. The list changes but this year I’ve prioritized like so:
1) FFL! FFL! FFL!: Made up of guys I used to work with and many contribute to the site. Status: Looking good but not buttoned up.
2) FanEx: The first experts league created with a sizeable audience. I like to make an impression and am an ex-commissioner of the league. Status: Was division leader two weeks ago but in a dogfight to the finish in this one. Tom Walls posted in the forum how both FantasySharks teams in FanEx were leading their divisions. You know the rest.
3) Great White: This league means a lot to me and I got whacked early with RB injuries that I never completely recovered from. Had some good games but doesn’t look like it’ll be enough for a playoff spot.
4) Insanex: I really want to show well here. We will either just scrap into the playoffs or just miss them. We were a playoff team last year and it would be nice to continue that trend. I’ve got a good feeling about this one though, a good feeling.
There are other leagues that we’ve already qualified as the division winner. In fact, there are only two teams that are co-managed (The Kahuna Frenzy team and The Dirty Dozen Expert’s League that we inherited part way through the season as the team was dead) that aren’t for sure going to the playoffs. The rest of them are in or are knocking on the door. A great season all around and I couldn’t do it without all the help. Thanks guys for making it possible. Now, let’s finish the job.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Sunday 1:00pm
Let me first set the context as I think it’s important you know. I’m taking the Bears to upset the Vikings, Chad Hutchinson and all. This may come as a shock but the Bears Defense also knows that Chad Hutchinson is starting for them and they know full well that if it’s going to be, it’s up to them. They will come to play. Everyone hates to lose at home and the Bears will be playing very aggressive D as they know they need to force turnovers to have a chance, which is exactly what they will do.
Daunte Culpepper is sure glad to have Randy Moss back as Moss can make anyone look bad. The Vikings have settled on Onterrio Smith finally, the guy I picked out of that four headed machine back when it had four heads. It’s about time Minnesota. Look for a decent day from the Vikings but the Bears will put a good road block in their way.
Thomas Jones the play of the contest though as he will get decent numbers both on the ground and in the air. The Vikings D is terrible.
Prediction: Bears 28 – Vikings 21
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions Sunday 1:00pm
What a scary place for the Cardinals to be going into. It’s not Detroit I’m talking about but their new QB and RB at the same time unhappy place. If I’m on the Cardinals, I’m very much in that unhappy place. Dennis Green once again proves that there is no hope for the Cardinals till they get someone (Hi) in there to analyze and modify their operations. Once we get operations figured out and upgrade some of the facilities, heck, you’re in Arizona, how much can a mini players resort cost to attract talent to the desert? Great weather, golf year round, come on, who wouldn’t want to play here? Yet? Stay away from your Cardinals.
The Lions will run Kevin Jones the majority of the day because they can. Quiet day for the rest of the Lions.
Prediction: Lions 17 – Cardinals 14
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams Sunday 1:00pm
Insanity reigns supreme in The Progno this week. The 49’ers got their pick axes beat the last few weeks and many have written this franchise off. Not so fast says I. This is the time of year when some teams, the younger teams in particular, start to play better because they want to spring board next season off a solid close and guys start playing for their jobs. Older teams full of veterans who have been losing leading into crunch time, tend to unravel easier as they know they’re coming back next year.
Look for a surprisingly decent game for Kevan Barlow even though he has been losing a little time. Look for Barlow to be one of those players that responds this time of year.
The Rams will be hot up top and a solid day is in store for Marc Bulger and Isaac Bruce. Steven Jackson may start this game and will play well if he does. 49’ers in a nail biter though.
Prediction: 49’ers 21 – Rams 20
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Sunday 1:00pm
The Bills have been playing solid football lately with their only bump in the road, the Patriots. As so many games have gone before him, so shall this epic struggle between divisional foes, Willis McGahee will run hard and run well on the Dolphins. Stay away from your Bills passing game though someone may catch a lucky TD after McGahee got them to the goal.
The Dolphins will not be able to run on the Bills so will be forced to throw a lot. Not to mention they will be playing a lot of catch up ball. Chris Chambers will check in with a solid day at the office.
Prediction: Bills 28 – Dolphins 21
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday 1:00pm
Michael Vick has really come into his own lately as a fantasy QB. His running numbers are a rarity as most NFL QB’s are starting to shy away from running the ball. It’s a trend in the NFL and a disturbing one for fantasy football owners. Rushing yards for QB’s has been on the decline and has taken a dip this year. The self preservation stance more and more teams are employing, is to have the QB throw the ball away before tucking and running. This will have a big impact on the fantasy QB class of 2005. Michael Vick will make a strong case for being at the top of that class due to the increased rarity of what he brings to the show. The Falcons will run Warrick Dunn early but look for TJ Duckett to get extra carries and have extra success with them.
The Buccaneers will win because they will be able to throw on the Falcons which will open up their playbook dramatically. The Buccaneers have trouble winning against teams with good secondaries. Once they can open up the air game that opens up Michael Pittman both on the ground and in the passing game. Look for some decent numbers from Michael Clayton and Michael Pittman since Pittman seems to be THE offense these days.
Prediction: Buccaneers 28 – Falcons 24
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Sunday 1:00pm
Panthers are making a late season playoff push and this will help them achieve that goal. The Panthers will look good against the Saints and the entire offense will be along for the ride. Jake Delhomme, Mushin Muhammad, Keary Colbert, and even Nick Goings all make good starts. Nick Goings in fact rushes for his third straight 100 yard game.
The Saints will counter with a whole pile of Joe Horn. If you have Joe Horn, make sure he is in your lineup as he will be busy on Sunday. Aaron Brooks makes a good start here too.
Prediction: Panthers 31 – Saints 24
New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns Sunday 1:00pm
I’m going to be nice and give the Browns a couple of TD’s just in case someone gets lucky and returns one on special teams or Corey Dillon fumbles on the Patriots 10 yard line. But come on now people. The Browns are starting rookie Luke McCown for the first time out of necessity against the overwhelming best defense in the league. Luke McCown hasn’t slept in days. If he comes out of this game with the majority of his limbs he should count it as a win.
Expect a heavy dose of Corey Dillon as Dillon should be one of the top fantasy RB’s of the week. The Patriots in fact will run Corey Dillon, Patrick Pass, Kevin Faulk and yes, even the elusive one, Cedric Cobbs (who has 1 yard on 1 attempt against the Steelers) will get a carry or two.
Prediction: Patriots 24 – Browns 14
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Sunday 1:00pm
The Bengals are playing very good football and have been for a month now. What’s important is they are playing sound, fundamental, disciplined, smart football and that has been paying off. The Bengals are actually a lot better than many think and it will show this weekend as they step out into the limelight a little after this Sunday. We’ll hear and read a lot more about the Bengals and we’ll get to know Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson a little better next week. Rudi Johnson the better play this weekend. I know that flies in the face of reason as the word is that you can pass on the Ravens but Ray Lewis bottles up the middle. The Patriots appeared to have little problem running the ball due to their blocking schemes that the guards employed. I think the Bengals will learn a little something from that.
The beating the Ravens took last week will damage Kyle Boller’s confidence for a week or two and it will show. With the starting RB position up in the air again that will hamper practice and preparations for the #1’s. That too will have a negative effect on Kyle Boller.
Prediction: Bengals 27 – Ravens 23
Houston Texans at New York Jets Sunday 1:00pm
The Texans have a good football team. Not a great team, not a bad team, but a good one. Nice job fellas putting the team together. The problem is they’re not complete enough to handle some of the looks the Jets can throw at them with their personnel. The Jets D is still underrated and they will have plenty to handle the Texans. No real recommendations from the Texans bench.
Expect a solid day from Curtis Martin as he runs well here.
Prediction: Jets 24 – Texans 17
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts Sunday 1:00pm
Here we go again. Can anyone stop the Colts? Well the Patriots have but can anyone else? I’m not seeing it. The Colts will emphasize their passing game and will have success. Trying to pick which Colts WR is the big benefactor is like trying to guess how many jelly beans in a jar so you just start them all, every week, without question. Edgerrin James won’t put in a big performance but he will play well.
The Titans will have some fun with the soft Colts middle and Chris Brown will check in with a solid day. The Titans will make some plays in the air as well and will put up a decent football score. It will be a lot smaller than the Colts score but it will be decent none the less.
Prediction: Colts 37 – Titans 23
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers Sunday 4:05pm
I’m really scared to start Reuben Droughns this week. I know if you have him he has been as automatic a start as you can make one but you really need to stop and think about him this week. The Chargers are very tough on the ground and have stopped everyone that has tried. Expect a big day from Jake Plummer, Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie as all get into the game and play upper echelon style ball.
The Chargers will answer with some fireworks of their own. In case you’re not aware, it is a good idea to start LaDainian Tomlinson. Heck, while you’re at it make sure you have Drew Brees, Antonio Gates and Keenan McCardell in your lineup too. Champ Bailey can’t cover both Gates and McCardell and the Chargers will take advantage of it.
Prediction: Chargers 37 – Broncos 27
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Sunday 4:05pm
Another big fireworks affair. The late games are both going to start out with some savage scoring. The Chiefs are going to tear the Raiders secondary apart and Trent Green is in for a nice day. Tony Gonzalez will be open a lot and there will be plays to be made to the WR’s. The Chiefs will also be able to run the ball and it really won’t matter who, Derrick Blaylock or Larry Johnson. I suspect that the Chiefs are going to start running Larry Johnson a lot more and this will be his start to lose. The talk will be that both will be splitting time but the reality will be, if Johnson runs well in the first half, maybe even first quarter, he will hold the rock and he will start next week. The Chiefs know Priest Holmes is their RB and like we’ve been hinting for weeks here, it is very unlikely he is coming back. When he does come back for 2005 they know Blaylock is their backup RB, they already know that and by running Blaylock they gain some, but little. The NFL is a business first, always a business first, never forget it as that is what makes decisions at every level. The Chiefs want to run Larry Johnson, even give him the remainder of the season so they can get something for him that is worth more to them than giving Blaylock a few extra reps.
There’s one small kink in the Chiefs plan though. The Raiders are going to play the same lights out, balls to the wall, freak show style of football that will have Kerry Collins, Jerry Porter and even Ronald Curry punching their time card with another solid day. The more I see of Ronald Curry the more I like what I see. Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry have the potential to be really good and if the two of them can give us some glimpses this year, and they’re both playing together next year, there’s solid opportunity for both to grossly overplay their relative draft position next year. In other words, shhhh, sleepers for 2005. If Kerry Collins stays put, the Raiders don’t draft a QB in the 1st round and Collins remains the starter, put him in your back pocket next year as a guy you’ll be able to draft as a backup but will end up as your starting QB.
Prediction: Raiders 28 – Chiefs 27
New York Giants at Washington Redskins Sunday 4:15pm
Things are going to be tight in this game and the only player worth a start is Tiki Barber. Look for Tiki to have an average day with the potential for a good day. If you’re rewarded for receptions then his start looks better. Stay away from the Giants passing game till we endorse it and we’re not handing over a seal anytime soon.
The Redskins are threatening to start Ladell Betts and I think the crazy racecar guy actually means it. At first I thought it was just a motivational move but you know what? I’m really starting to think he’s that desperate. If he really goes through with this, you could do a lot worse than Ladell Betts against the Giants and he will get both scores to boot. If Clinton Portis plays the game then he’ll get at least one TD.
Prediction: Giants 17 – Redskins 14
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles Sunday 4:15pm
When I saw the line on this game I thought, “What a slap delivered to the Packers.” The Eagles are 6 point favorites and the money has gone a little extra favorably in the Eagles direction. Meaning, more folks right now are betting on the Eagles beating the Packers by more than 6 points than are betting on the Packers to cover, or for the Packers to win or not lose by more than 5 points.
Poppy-Cock! I say. The Packers will hold this game close because they will be able to run the ball with authority and will pass with very little resistance. Brett Favre and company are all in for very good days. If Ahman Green starts then run him. If Najeh Davenport starts and Green doesn’t dress, start Najeh Davenport. If Green is supposed to “get some touches” then stay away from both unless you’re desperate.
The Eagles have a problem at RB and that will slow them till they figure it out. Look for a lot of action for Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Todd Pinkston. This week, TO gets back on track.
Prediction: Eagles 28 – Packers 27
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday 8:30pm
The Steelers will want to do one thing in the game. Establish a running game and run it for 4 quarters. If there is credible news that Duce Staley gets the start, do not be bashful about jumping right back with him. Look for both Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley to put up good numbers. If all the numbers are for one guy, those are going to be stacks of numbers. Please note that I now get all my game time injury news from our Shark Tank. I have never seen current news on a Sunday morning hit anywhere faster from a vast array of qualified and collaborated sources than our forum. If it’s news you need to know, it’s there with alternate opinions. Be sure to check it before your lineup deadline.
The Jaguars seem to come and go with the tide, never managing to get on a roll and that inconsistency hurts them more than anything. They desperately need to put a string of wins together to build some confidence. Too bad it doesn’t start here. Although Fred Taylor has been solid lately (as promised) this is one start that you need to dig around your bench for a possible replacement.
Prediction: Steelers 24 – Jaguars 17
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks Monday 9:00pm
Note to ABC and Monday Night Football. Put in your diaries for next year that we really don’t want to see a Thanksgiving Day team so close to Monday Night. Pick someone we didn’t just see.
If the truth be told, both these teams are not good. I have no real interest in watching either one of these teams play, though from a pure football perspective, this will be a good “game” to watch. I just wish it was two different teams. This will go down as a battle between two coaches and it will play out to be exactly that. Fantasy wise, if you’re looking for a #2 or #3 RB or a #3 or #4 WR, it’s OK to look here. Someone send me an Email on Tuesday and let me know who won OK?
Prediction: Seahawks 21 – Cowboys 17