Last Week -- 9-7
Overall -- 150-106 (59%)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- 10-6
Overall -- 131-115-10 (53%)
Last Week -- 0-1
Overall -- 16-11-2 (59%)
Okay, so now the real season begins. Ninety percent of
fantasy leagues are over with for the year, although a
few diehard stragglers out there hold postseason pools...
so I'll continue to contribute some fantasy opinions as
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
TENNESSEE at BALTIMORE - Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Records: Titans 12-4, Wild-card, No. 5 seed; Ravens
10-6, North Division champs, No. 4 seed
Line: Ravens favored by 1 1/2 points
Key Injuries: Titans: WR Tyrone Calico (ques).
Ravens: LB Peter Boulware (prob).
Fantasy Take: QB Steve McNair will be ready to
go for the Titans after sitting out the regular season
finale, a 33-13 romp over Tampa Bay. The running game,
anchored by Eddie George, isn't likely to have much success.
McNair will throw early and often to WRs Derrick Mason
and Justin McCareins, but don't expect any lofty numbers
from anyone on either side. For Baltimore, RB Jamal Lewis
will get plenty of work, of course, but the Titans' run
defense is fairly stingy. The Ravens' passing attack is
average at best. Both defenses will stand out.
Summary: If both teams play good defense, who
might the difference be? McNair? Absolutely. I don't know
about y'all, but I like McNair versus Anthony Wright...
not just because of talent but, more importantly, postseason
experience. The Ravens will enjoy modest success running
the ball - they always do - but the Titans won't be blown
off the line of scrimmage. On the flipside, Baltimore has
won three straight over the Titans including a 13-12 decision
at home in November of 2002. Still, in a battle of defenses,
I like the team that's better on offense.
Prediction: TITANS, 16-13
DENVER at INDIANAPOLIS - Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EST
Records: Broncos 10-6, Wild-card, No. 6 seed;
Colts 13-3, South Division champs, No. 3 seed
Line: Colts favored by 3
Key Injuries: Broncos: QB Jake Plummer (prob),
RB Clinton Portis (prob). Colts: None.
Fantasy Take: In the first meeting two weeks ago,
Denver's defense was amazing and their rushing game didn't
miss a beat even with RB Clinton Portis sidelined. This
time around, I envision both defenses stepping up... and
the Denver ground game will remain effective with Portis
returning and getting most of the work. There are many
who believe Colts QB Peyton Manning is destined for a career
of near-misses, but I simply believe he is due. I like
Manning to put up decent numbers, which will also be reflected
by WR Marvin Harrison and TE Marcus Pollard, and RB Edgerrin
James is finally all the way back from his knee surgery.
He's again a force, potentially on every down. The Broncos
passing game will be adequate - QB Jake Plummer has three
legit targets in TE Shannon Sharpe and WRs Rod Smith and
Ashley Lelie. But I still like the defenses, especially
Indy's, to keep things mostly in check.
Summary: It is very difficult to beat a team twice
in the same season, let alone accomplish it twice in a
three-week period on the road. Colts coach Tony Dungy
is among the best in the business - no way he goes into
this one unprepared. So the question is whether Denver
coach Mike Shanahan can successfully counter Dungy's counter.
On second thought, that won't really matter. The Colts'
defense keeps it close, and Manning and company make some
big plays late to get it done... at last.
Prediction: COLTS, 27-20
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
DALLAS at CAROLINA - Saturday, 8 p.m. EST
Records: Cowboys 10-6, Wild-card, No. 6 seed;
Panthers, 11-5, South Division champs, No. 3 seed
Line: Panthers favored by 3
Key Injuries: Cowboys: None. Panthers: None.
Fantasy Take: Defense, defense. Both teams have
it, and both D's are certainly worthwhile plays. On offense,
there are no definite plays because of the matchups, but
certainly there are some reasonable options. For Dallas,
WR Joey Galloway is a big-play guy. He might get only two
or three receptions and still put up worthy numbers. The
Panthers have RB Stephen Davis, who is reportedly relatively
rested and ready. The passing game will find the going
rough against Dallas' excellent group of defensive backs.
Summary: The consensus is that the Cowboys did
themselves a favor by losing at New Orleans last week because
it saved them a trip to Lambeau Field and having to mess
with the charmed Green Bay Packers. And I concur. At this
point, in my opinion, winning at Carolina is much more
feasible. The defense is excellent... almost as good as
the coaching. Hey, I realize there are many who are guilty
of gushing about the prowess of Bill Parcells, but look
at the results. Truth is, I can see either team winning
this one. It will be close. And by a nose, I'll take the
Prediction: PANTHERS, 17-10
SEATTLE at GREEN BAY - Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
Records: Seahawks 10-6, Wild-card, No. 5 seed;
Packers 10-6, North Division champs, No. 4 seed
Line: Packers favored by 7
Key Injuries: Seahawks: None. Packers: None.
Fantasy Take: The Packers are on such a roll,
you have to bank on QB Brett Favre and RB Ahman Green before
so much as inhaling before talking about anyone else. Of
the receivers, wideout Javon Walker seems to be the best
option but Favre simply uses too many to rely on anyone
fantasy-wise. Green Bay's defense is playing much better
of late - in the cold at Lambeau, that unit is a decent
play. For the Seahawks, good players like QB Matt Hasselbeck
and their receivers are unlikely to put up big numbers.
RB Shaun Alexander is a must-play, but anyone else wearing
a white jersey is risky at best.
Summary: Seattle obviously would love to go into
coach Mike Holmgren's former haunts and win one for their
gipper, but I suspect the Seahawks really are just thankful
to be in the playoffs. Favre is on a different level right
now, with everything he touches turning to gold (or, at
least, Packer Yellow), as if the fates have decided that
losing your father is reason enough to tilt the scales.
The Pack defeated Seattle during the regular season at
home, 35-13, and that's when the team wasn't playing all
that well. Seattle might keep it close, but an outright
Prediction: PACKERS, 34-24