Welcome my fantasy brethren to another edition of The Prognosticator. May it be your 42.
Week 9 Fantasy Forecast
Don’t look now but LaMont Jordan just passed Shaun Alexander as the #2 fantasy back in football. His 35 receptions for 314 yards pushes him over the top as Alexander doesn’t do much receiving. I know the word on the street is that the KC corners are suspect but expect the Chiefs to be up for this division game in their house. The Raiders have been playing better as of late, but don’t expect a repeat performance by Jerry Porter or an explosion by Randy Moss this week. They will play well as a unit and all these guys make serviceable starts but temper your enthusiasm. Out of the bunch, LaMont Jordan is the one with the biggest potential.
The Chiefs will be able to run well on the Raiders so Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson in a pinch make good starts though check the injury status of Priest Holmes. If he can’t go, Larry Johnson makes an excellent start and this is why I drafted him in every league I could get him in. As promised, Eddie Kennison was a good start last week, this week he slides back to normal. Tony Gonzalez is back and those teams that drafted him early are finally receiving the pay back.
Prediction: Chiefs 27 – Raiders 24
San Diego Chargers at New York Jets Sunday 1:00p
It seems everyone is expecting LaDainian Tomlinson to shred the Jets on Sunday. Not so fast. We all know Tomlinson is great but you have to wonder if he’s hit a rough patch as the Jets have a lot of good game film over the last two weeks to mimic. The challenge for the Chargers will be to see if they can change their game plan enough to get Tomlinson back involved in a big way. The Jets actually have some talent on defense, it’s their offense that is suspect.
The Jets are going to surprise a little and have success up top. Look for a shocker from a country not often heard from this season, Laveranues Coles, as he’ll step up in this one.
Prediction: Chargers 27 – Jets 20
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins Sunday 1:00p
Look, the formula is pretty simple for the Falcons. Run the ball, run the ball and run the ball some more. Warrick Dunn is having a tremendous season and there is no reason for him to stop now.
The Dolphins enjoyed their running success last week but it will be tougher going against the Falcons who have a stout run stop D. The Dolphins will be forced up top if they aren’t too stubborn with their ground game and will have some success.
Prediction: Falcons 32 – Dolphins 21
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday 1:00p
We all know by now that Steve Smith is a machine and he is bringing Jake Delhomme along for the ride. The Panthers throw and throw then let Stephen Davis pound it in. The formula is simple and repeatable. The going will be a little harder against the Buccaneers but last week should have been a tougher one for the Panthers and that didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
The Bucs have lost their identity on the ground but in the passing game, Joey Galloway has come alive and seems to really enjoy Jon Gruden and company. Now that Galloway has repeated his amazing success with Chris Simms it is official, he’s a bona fide fantasy WR stud.
Prediction: Panthers 27 – Bucs 21
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Sunday 1:00p
The Lions won’t have a big day but they will bring balance to the field and will be able to do a little of this and a little of that. Joey Harrington may make an appearance for the hobbled Jeff Garcia and it’s do or die for the guy, as he is knocking on the “lifetime backup QB” door. Look for Harrington to not win the game for his team, but not lose it either. In other words expect him to look his same pedestrian self.
If the Vikings can rebound after losing Daunte Culpepper, arguably the only player in their offense with any talent, I’ll be first in line for Mike Tice’s autograph. The Lions have gathered some resistance on the ground and expect them to focus on Mewelde Moore a little and challenge Brad Johnson to shake off the rust.
Prediction: Lions 24 – Vikings 17
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Sunday 1:00p
The Bengals aren’t as good as they thought they were and the Ravens may be a little better than they think they are. The Bengals are going to have a lot of trouble on the ground against the Ravens so don’t expect too much out of Rudi Johnson. Carson Palmer to Chad Johnson will be fine though Chris McAllister does present a problem. Expect another decent day from T.J. Houshmandzadeh as the Bengals try to point away from McAllister.
The Ravens will be able to run on the Bengals and as I’ve been saying for 6 weeks now, the better choice is Chester Taylor. Again, Taylor took a few more reps but the Ravens are reluctant to commit entirely too him because of the contract situation that both he and Jamal Lewis have. Both are up for renewal and the Ravens like them both. They really like Chester Taylor and his price tag and they actually may want to not inflate the price of both runners so that they can afford them both.
Prediction: Bengals 20 – Ravens 17
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday 1:00p
Historically the Texans have owned the Jaguars, though this season both teams smell a little differently. The Texans smell a little on the ripe side and the Jaguars have the Old Spice smell to them. Nothing classy, fancy or expensive but it gets the job done with a cheap date.
The Texans will feature Domanick Davis as usual and he is worthy of a start as he is the offense. They sure have been baby’ing Andre Johnson back from his calf injury. They must be saving him for the playoffs, yeah that’s it, playoffs.
The Jaguars are a little stronger, just about everywhere. They’re a little stronger on the ground with Fred Taylor (who makes a solid start) and they are a lot stronger in the air. The Texans have been putting up a better fight as of late, so I do not expect this game to disintegrate into the Jaguars trying to run the clock out the entire 2nd half. As a result, guys like Ernest Wilford will have a chance to shine and Wilford has all the potential and opportunity to do exactly that. Not to mention he is a prototypical Progno Wide Receiver and the two guys in front of him have issues. One is getting old and appears to have lost a step while the other is still waiting to blossom while nursing a concussion.
Prediction: Jaguars 24 – Texans 20
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns Sunday 1:00p
Call me a glutton for punishment but even the Titans have to be able to dispatch the Browns? Right? The Titans have the one benefit of having a running game from time to time and they will be able to run well on the Browns.
Play someone from Cleveland. Go ahead, I triple dog dare you. Though remember the notes the past few weeks in this column about Braylon Edwards? You’re running out of time.
Prediction: Titans 20 – Browns 17
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Sunday 4:05p
The Seahawks are going to be hot-hot-hot in this one as they play well in just about all facets of their game. Shaun Alexander of course along with Joe Jurevicius both make nice plays. TE Jerramy Stevens may have a few tricks up his sleeve as well.
The Cardinals are making the switch back to Kurt Warner as stated last week. We knew that the Cardinals losing the game would be just enough for a QB switch and here it is. The Cardinals lose this one too but Kurt Warner puts together a fairly solid day and keeps the job another week because of the perceived progress the offense made. It’s just smoke and mirrors and we will see Luke/Josh/Steve/Chad/Jim McCown again as the Cardinals are going to hit a tough patch in their schedule. Look for Larry Fitzgerald to pick up some of the slack with Anquan Boldin out 2 – 4 weeks with a bone bruise.
Prediction: Seahawks 27 – Cardinals 24
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints Sunday 4:05p
Them Bears play D and well. I had a tough choice earlier in the season where I had the Bears and the Colts D and had to get rid of one of them to fill a bye week problem. I mulled that over for days. Both had extremely attractive schedules and short term, the Colts the easier group of teams, but looking at a D for the entire season, the Bears looked like gold to me. So I dropped the Colts, the #1 fantasy D and decided to ride with the Bears. The Colts are still #1 in my league and the Bears are #2 but the gap is now negligible. With the Saints and then the 49’ers the Bears should propel themselves into #1 shortly. The rib injury for Thomas Jones sounds minor and expect Jones to run like a freight train against the Saints. Remember what I’ve said about the Bears RB’s since the preseason. They both were worth the gamble as whomever took the lead would be one of the better RB’s in football and both Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson were going very late in drafts. Do not toss Cedric Benson over the wall yet. If you were paying attention in 2004 you’d realize this Bears season is thus far a mirror image of last and these little battle scars on Jones are starting to mount up, just like last season. Cedric Benson will likely be a guy you’ll be starting in your playoffs.
The Saints are bad, though I’m surprised to see Aaron Brooks still putting up just serviceable fantasy stats. Just barely serviceable. It will be interesting to see what impact a fully healthy Joe Horn will have but against these Bears, best o’ luck to ‘ya.
Prediction: Bears 20 – Saints 17
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers Sunday 4:05p
I’m a little worried about this game primarily since Eli Manning is away from the confines of Giant Stadium and the world expects him to torch the 49’ers for big gains. I’m worried that it may be a little too much expectation for the young QB on the road and that will have an even more detrimental effect on his still fragile psyche. The numbers say, “BOMB’S AWAY!” but there’s something nagging at me.
The 49’ers are going to keep this a lot closer than anyone is giving them credit for. The Giants smothered the Redskins, I understand that, but watch the 49’ers actually put together some semblance of a running game. I still would really like to see Frank Gore a little more but I expect Kevan Barlow will actually have a good day for a change. You want to stay a couple of states away from this 49’ers passing game. That Tim Rattay trade was pure genius I tell you. I mean, why keep Rattay when you have such fine talent as Ken Dorsey? Who’s next on the cart? Cody Pickett?
Prediction: Giants 24 – 49’ers 23
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Sunday 4:15p
The Steelers were a little shocked by the Ravens on Monday Night but after a hard fought battle, were able to kick the game winner. I’m going to say it because it’s true, if the Ravens put Jamal Lewis on the bench and ran Chester Taylor all game, the Steelers would have lost that game but the Ravens apparently aren’t playing for the W anymore. The Steelers will get back to basics, especially since Ben Rothlisberger can’t go, and will run Willie Parker to the left and to the right with Hines Ward spending more time run blocking than pass catching. The problem for the Steelers will be that they are going to be forced into playing catch up and since Big Ben can’t go, they will have trouble keeping pace.
The Packers are simply going to surprise the Steelers and their fan base. Brett Favre is coming off a tough game which is bad news for the Steelers as Favre tends to bounce back high after difficult games. Expect a whole lot of passing in this as Favre works over the strength of the Steelers D and hits multiple targets all day long. Favre has been throwing a ton to the TE’s lately and expect that to continue here.
I’ve had a number of questions regarding Reshard Lee and my comments in this column. I sometimes drop one liners that are laced with suggestion intentionally. I don’t always have the room to explain fully why I drop a name here or there (see Ernest Wilford above). So let me explain the rational so you can apply it individually to your free agent scouting. I stated that Reshard Lee was the guy to get in the Packers backfield and not Tony Fisher and that rings true today until Tony Fisher erupts for a C-note and a couple of scores. Stating that Lee is the guy to get doesn’t necessarily mean that Fisher is going to stink up the joint. I look at team situations, player history, their size and other performance data to pigeon hole a player into a category. When the Packers were left with Lee and Fisher as their two choices, I did that and realized that the ideal situation for the Packers based on all the data would be for Lee to be the starting tail back and for Fisher to come in on 3rd downs. You have to think like a coach and dream along with them to predict where they want to go with the team to give them the greatest chance of success. If you do it enough, you get to know the tendencies of each coach in the NFL, their general play book style and you can start to pick up trends that you can apply to help you forecast hidden gems in your free agency pool. To me, a Tony Fisher is worthless because he is not an every down back as he is a 3rd down back in the NFL. I would rather have a Reshard Lee who is capable of being the guy, burning a hole on my bench pulling zoots each week than a guy who I know will get me 50 yards every week. For me, it’s 100% all about the potential and that is one trick to my trade. An example is Antonio Chatman for the Packers. A lot of people are recommending you pick him up and I expect him to post some OK numbers while Robert Ferguson nurses himself back to game shape but he is not on any of my teams. Why? Because he’s a hair taller than a smurf. Now an Ernest Wilford in Jacksonville, a 6’4” receiver brimming with potential, now that’s more my speed. Chatman isn’t a long term answer for the Packers and the best you are going to get is a stop gap receiver for a week or two. We may never hear from Ernest Wilford again but his potential to be a starter in the NFL past this season exists and therefore, he has the greater potential of playing time and me riding him into my playoffs. So that is why Reshard Lee is the guy to get in the Packers backfield.
Prediction: Packers 32 – Steelers 24
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins Sunday 8:30p
Are the Eagles on some greased skids and headed in the wrong direction? It looks like it as they can’t run the ball, their QB is hurting and it shows, their start K is down to one leg and Terrell Owens now may not play? If TO doesn’t play you can kiss your Eagles goodbye. The Eagles have been getting Brian Westbrook involved a lot in the passing game to try to get the ball into his hands which is a wise move but it begs the question, what’s wrong with the offensive line and run blocking? Is FB Josh Parry really getting it done? The Eagles have taken some shots on Defense, primarily on the right side though with Jevon Kearse getting hurt that takes care of the left and the middle too. Ironically, the only healthy unit is the O line and they can’t run block worth a darn. The Eagles are a good team throughout and like the Patriots, can absorb a lot of injuries and sustain a lot of damage and still be in a football game but, it’s starting to show.
The Redskins were on fi-re until the debacle last week. They were the hottest team in the NFL and coming back home against a banged up Eagles team will be just what the doctor ordered. I picked a conservative score as you always have to respect what the Eagles bring to the table and if they bring Eagles football the Redskins will only eek this one out. If the Eagles bring less than that and the freak and the other freak don’t play, the Redskins could lay down a solid blow out type beating with fine days from Clinton Portis, Marc Brunell and Santana Moss.
Prediction: Redskins 27 – Eagles 24
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots Monday 9:00p
It’s time. This irrational argument about Peyton Manning in Foxboro/Gillete against the Patriots and Bill Belicheck is old. If anyone really thinks Peyton Manning is not capable of winning in New England then they need to take off their Patriots jersey. The Patriots are a very, very good team and are starting to regain some much needed health, but the Colts are built this year. Stacked to the teeth and ready to do battle like never before. They filled all the holes that were preventing them from attaining the ultimate prize by plugging the major holes in their D. Allowing Dwight Freeney to focus on disrupting the passing game will be the key to the Colts Superbowl win and not Peyton Manning. This is going to be a great Monday Night game as the two best teams in the NFL meet. I don’t care who ranks who where in whatever poll. I’ll tell you here and now that while the Broncos are having a fine season, as are the Chargers, Giants, Steelers and Seahawks (Bengals purposely left off the list). The team to still get through to get to the playoffs is the Patriots and you’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see it. Record won’t matter much in December as long as the Patriots are sitting atop the AFC East and when everyone is sitting at 0-0, then the games begin.
Prediction: Colts 37 – Patriots 31