Hello fellow Sharks!
From now until 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 other articles, the Betbot, or the Last Row, or our myriad posts in the Tank. We’re just like you, though. We love a good football game, no matter who’s playing.
As running backs are the lifeblood of a fantasy football team, our Week 3 Trifecta of games to watch all have interesting subplots in the backfield. All times Eastern:
New England @ Pittsburgh – Sunday 9/25, 4:15
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
The Eastern time zone late game is a true mixed blessing for football fans. If you are attending the game, it’s a full day of tailgating followed by 3-4 hours of football, at which point it’s almost 8:00 at night and you probably have an hour or so to fight through traffic and get home. That’s a long day. On the other hand, how can we complain about a marquee game like this AFC championship rematch? Curl up on your couch and enjoy two of the elite teams in the NFL beat the tar out of each other. It’s time to find out if Pittsburgh is the real deal after laying waste to the Titans and the Texans who, to be completely frank with you, might not appear in this column for the rest of the season. Ben Roethlisberger gets another shot to prove that he doesn’t get the yips when a tough D rolls into town. Of course, you realize that if New England loses they’ll be 1-2, right? This is just about the worst thing that can happen for the rest of us football fans, as all insecure Patriots fans will start moaning about their ridiculously tough schedule. For those normal Pats fans out there who look at the schedule as an appropriate challenge, please tell the whining faction of your fan base to kindly shut up. Regardless of the outcome, this game promises to be one of the best games of the year from two serious Super Bowl contenders.
Game within a game – An interesting late game twist for those of you with significant others that, ahem, don’t like football – try to time dinner so that the table is set just as halftime begins. Fifteen minutes is more than enough time to scarf down your meal and still feign interest in the little chit-chat your relationship requires without missing one second of action on the gridiron. My marriage counselor says relationships rely on communication and compromise – uh hunh. Not when Sunday dinner interferes with football, mmkay Doc? Besides, it’ll be Steelers fans calling in sick to work on Monday, not us, right?
RB subplot to watch – Corey Dillon vs. Willie Parker – Fantasy managers all across the country are starting to worry about the dismal 2.7 ypc Dillon is sporting these days. Sure the two TDs are nice, but Dillon owners will be watching this one to find out if Corey is booked on the breakdown train headed to futility. Population, Eddie George. Parker owners, on the other hand, will be on the edge of their seat trying to figure out if Parker is a product of lame TEN and HOU defenses or if Steamboat Willie is the real deal.
New York Giants @ San Diego – Sunday 9/25, 8:30
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, CA
I don’t know Eli Manning but he sure does look like a smug punk, doesn’t he? I’m sure Chargers fans would love to wipe the smirk off his face after he thumbed his nose at the organization before the 2004 draft. The only thing missing from his phoney-baloney act after San Diego picked him number 1 was if he would have taken the #1 Chargers jersey and hat, lit them on fire, and then put the fire out with his own urine. If Joe Buck wildly overreacts to Randy Moss fake-mooning Packers fans, would his head explode if he witnessed NFL players acting like pro wrestlers? “This is disgracef—–BOOM!”
As for the actual game, who expected the Giants to be 2-0 and the Chargers to be 0-2 as this game approached? As in Pittsburgh, this gives us the opportunity to see if New York is for real after they won easily against Arizona and New Orleans teams that aren’t projected to be very good. San Diego, on the other hand, has looked decent at times in both of their losses – the primary reasons for their losses were just a few bad plays. Against Dallas the Chargers defense kept several Cowboys drives going with some ridiculously bad timing on defensive penalties, and against Denver Drew Brees threw that limp out pattern to Champ Bailey for a TD. So there’s a sense right now that San Diego is better than their record indicates. We’ll find out on Sunday night. New York’s cornerbacks can be beaten, but can Brees and co. open up the passing game?
Game within a game – Oh, the Sunday night ESPN broadcast team, how many ways do I loathe thee? Try to keep track of the following annoyances
– Mike Patrick overreacts to a simple play – “A BRILLIANT 4 yard run by Tiki Barber!”
– Paul Maguire uses the phrases “You wanna’ talk about….” and “Let me tell you about…”
– Joe Theismann speaks.
– Theismann or Maguire try to look smart by guessing at penalties (all they are doing is looking at referee body language that isn’t being televised)
– Suzy Kolber blathers on about some puff piece instead of reporting why Barber is on the sideline with an ice pack on his knee
If you can get this game on radio, I highly recommend it.
RB subplot to watch – LaDainian Tomlinson: 3.3 ypc and 0 receptions. Does that sound like a #1 overall pick? Maybe, if the TDs keep piling up, but LT2 owners will be watching to see why their franchise back hasn’t busted the long one this season. Bonus subplot – if you haven’t seen Giants RB Brandon Jacobs, you are in for a real treat – keep an eye open on kickoff returns and short yardage situations, he’s #27. If you are familiar with Christian Okoye’s work in Tecmo Super Bowl, you’ll enjoy Brandon Jacobs.
Kansas City @ Denver – Monday 9/26, 9:00
Invesco Field – Denver, CO
This is some nice old school AFC West rivalry here, and in prime time to boot. The Chiefs defense has looked great the first two weeks against the Jets and the Raiders, two teams with some pretty good and sometimes great talent on offense. This week KC goes on the road to face Denver in the thin air, and who can tell exactly what’s going to happen? Last year I’m pretty sure that this game would have been labeled a shoot-out 2 days before kickoff, but the Chiefs and Broncos have played some great defense lately. One thing I’ll be looking for is who the Broncos play on Tony Gonzalez – if Champ Bailey is covering him again can Trent Green exploit the rest of Denver’s secondary?
With San Diego and Oakland scuffling – there’s a not insignificant chance that both the Chargers and Raiders will be 0-3 by Monday – this game could go a long way towards establishing an alpha male in the AFC West. The Chiefs could be 3-0 and 2 games up with a win. It won’t be easy, though – Denver has a tremendous home field advantage at 5000+ feet, the Broncos are 62-18 during regular season play under Mike Shanahan. Just for fun, here’s the denverbroncos.com bio page for Shanahan, including a picture of Shanny looking like Christopher Lee in Count Dracula. Eddie Kennison may want to think twice before running that fly route in front of Denver’s sideline on Monday – after all it IS a night game.
Game within a game – What is the over/under for carries by any one running back in this game? 5? 10? Which leads us to….
RB subplot to watch – No playing time arrangement frustrates fantasy coaches like the running back by committee. Players cannot score if they are not on the field, and the current RBBC situations in KC and Denver are two of the worst in the league. It’s not just that every RB in Monday’s game will be sharing time, it’s that we KNOW if an RB emerges from the pack they are going to be fantasy gold in those offenses. Every fantasy team with Tatum Bell or Larry Johnson on the roster is going to be watching this game closely to see if any player can separate himself from the pack. The most dangerous wolf could be ex-Giant Ron Dayne who has turned in 5 years of the sucks before signing on with the Broncos. If Shanahan can turn Dayne into a solid RB, let alone another 1000-yard rusher, taking Denver’s 3rd string RB might be a viable draft strategy while the Prince of Darkness remains in charge.