New England at Kansas City
This should be a high scoring game as you have two offenses that can move the football and two defenses that struggle.
The Chiefs have been unpredictable on offense. They couldn’t get anything going in upstate New York against the Buffalo Bills where KC was held to a field goal but the Chiefs scored at will in the first 30 minutes at Houston last Sunday night, blowing out the helpless Texans. That Jekyll and Hyde personality makes the Chiefs a challenge for fantasy players. KC has a habit of alternately not showing up when you expect them to perform and then putting up big numbers when the situation is against them. Fortunately, I think conditions favor a pretty good offensive game this week.
KC has the balance on offense that gives the Patriots defense fits. The Patriots do not have enough defensive backs to double TE Gonzales and keep a safety over the top of their cornerbacks. At some point, the Patriots will have to choose between defending the run, doubling Gonzales, or leaving their corners on an island. Kansas City should be able to get some shots down the field or play jump ball in the end zone (a tactic that has worked well for several weeks now) and QB Trent Green should get at least a pair of touchdowns.
If New England is going to stay in this game, they’re going to have to turn this into a track meet. Without a running game, QB Tom Brady is going to have to throw the ball 30-35 times in this contest. Fortunately, the Chiefs defense hasn’t show that they can consistently shut down opposing offenses. I would expect Brady to put up impressive numbers as well.
Not a lot of big time fantasy players in this contest outside Brady and Gonzales. However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the supporting cast of receivers on both teams had decent games.
Miami at Oakland
Two more unpredictable teams get together in this game. The balance tips in Oakland’s favor based on some of the quotes coming out of the Dolphins’ locker room. Dolphins coach Nick Saban more or less tossed in the towel by saying.
“The record doesn't really matter, the result doesn't matter and the score in the game doesn't matter. Does that make sense to anybody besides me?”- USA TODAY
Gee coach, that sounds a lot like quitting on your team to me. Even though Saban rephrased his sentiments, the quote was played again and again on ESPN.
With the Dolphins struggling, the last thing the players needed to hear was their coach tossing in the season. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if that sentiment was carried into this game. Oakland should be able to put up some points this week.
Chicago at Tampa Bay
Vegas can’t put up a number low enough on the Bears. Nothing in the NFL has been as consistent this year as Chicago playing a low-scoring game. During Chicago’s six game winning streak, the opposing teams have scored 3, 6, 13, 17, 9, and 3 points. You know a defense is playing well when they’ve given up two touchdowns in a game just once in the past six contests and haven’t given up any touchdowns in half those games.
Would you expect anything different here? Probably not as the last three meetings in this series have totaled less than 31 points.
Tampa Bay used the same strategy (running the ball and playing defense) to start the season to good effect. Through the first month of the season TB were pounding RB Cadillac Williams and playing good defense. The Buc’s have gotten away from that the past several weeks as the team has gotten comfortable with QB Sims running the show. Tampa Bay has won their last two contests scoring 30 and 36 points but giving up 27 and 35 points in those games. Doubtful TB will put up that kind of number in this game.
The question, simply stated, is whether you believe that Sims will avoid mistakes against Chicago and be able to move the chains against the NFL’s number one defense? I’m not a believer in Sims until he shows me he can move his team against this kind of defense in this kind of game. Time to give your Buc’s players a week off as Chicago wins another low-scoring game.
Cleveland at Minnesota
When QB Daunte Culpepper went down with a season-ending injury, I had thought that the most significant change would take place on the Vikings offense. And while Minnesota has run the ball much more since Brad Johnson became the starting QB, the biggest change has occurred on Minnesota’s defense.
The Vikings have changed from a 3-4 to a 4-3. This move coincided with the loss of Culpepper and it has worked far better than HC Tice could have dreamed. Minnesota has won their last two games while holding the N.Y. Giants and the Green Bay Packers to 21 points or less on their home fields. To contrast, on the road prior to the Giants game the Vikings had given up 38 points at Carolina, 28 points at Chicago, 30 points at Atlanta, and 37 points at Cincinnati. I would expect an even better result at home (where the Vikings play very well) against a Browns team that struggles to score touchdowns in any venue.
The Browns have turned up their offense lately. After scoring more than 20 points just once through their first eight games of the season, Cleveland scored 21 in a loss to Pittsburgh and 22 in a road victory over the Dolphins. However, this is the Browns second straight road game so I don’t expect them to be sharp as they both change climates and playing surfaces while traveling the length of the country (north-south) this week.
I expect this to be a lower-scoring game as both offenses have a pretty good chance of coming out flat this week. Unless this is a turnover-filled game, both teams should struggle to score more than 17 points.