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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Unconventional Wisdom - Week 14
Fritz Schlottman
December 9, 2005

FAVORABLE CONDITIONS

Miami at San Diego

Miami has shown they haven’t quit on their season. To come back from a three touchdown deficit to win the Buffalo game showed a lot of heart. I expect them to go out swinging again this week when they face the Chargers in San Diego.

QB Gus Frerotte should be back from his concussion to start this game. The Dolphins are going to need him as the Chargers seem to be able to score a will in recent weeks. This may be a running game as each team’s strength is running the football. On the other hand, the Chargers have the better rush defense having given up over 100 yards to only two running backs all season. The Dolphins need this game to stay in the AFC East hunt and should come out with a great effort. Look for Miami to open up this football game early if they want to hang around. Miami has a history of getting behind in games in the first half and then coming on strong. If the Dolphins spot San Diego three touchdowns this game is going to be over.

I think Miami has enough heart to keep the game within the two touchdowns line set by Las Vegas if they are aggressive early. Look for a more wide-open game than may expect.

UNFAVORABLE CONDITIONS

Chicago at Pittsburgh

There’s a good chance that this game will be played in bad weather. The forecast calls for heavy snow in Pittsburgh and bad weather will just add to the difficulty both teams may have moving the football.

Chicago has built its record by beating up on the dregs of the NFL. Since their opening day loss to Cincinnati, the Bears have beaten Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Carolina, San Francisco, New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, and Minnesota. There are only three winning teams in that group and the Vikings were a pretty sorry football team early in the season when they last met the Bears. Needless to say that the Bears will be stepping up in class this week against a very motivated and formidable Steelers squad. The Bears were out-gained significantly by the Packers last week, but converted GB turnovers into easy scores to cover the number. Look for another conservative game by Chicago this week.

This looks like a great spot for the Steelers. They’ve lost three games in a row ( Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati) but were without their starting QB in the first contest. The Steelers out-gained the Bengals last week, however mistakes and turnovers ruined their chances. Pittsburgh has also won the last four games played in this series.

Conventional Wisdom says the play is on the Steelers. Pittsburgh have moved up the board accordingly, opening at just over a field goal favorites and now stand at nearly a touchdown. But something isn’t right with this Steelers squad, and it isn’t the quarterback (although his bruised thumb is a concern with a cold and slick football). The Steelers haven’t been as dominate on either the offensive or defensive line as last year. Pittsburgh has been out-rushed in the last three games. If the Steelers continue to make mistakes and get out-rushed there’s no reason the Bears shouldn’t be live dogs here. Give me the Bears in a low-scoring game.

Baltimore at Denver

Not that many of will have any Ravens on your fantasy team, but if Baltimore gets to 10 points this week, I’d be surprised.

The Ravens average just 275 yards in total net offense and 13 points per game which is less than some quarterbacks in this league. No matter whom Baltimore has thrown in at quarterback, it hasn’t seemed to make a difference. On the other hand, the once mighty Ravens defense has been felled by injuries this season. Baltimore is giving up more than 20 points per game which is average at best, while the Denver offense averages over 25 points per game.

I don’t see the Ravens offense keeping up with a Denver team coming home off a road loss in Kansas City. The Broncos look to be in the better spot here and should win this game easily.

Oakland at N.Y. Jets

Two bad teams that look to be playing out the string just to get out of their miserable seasons doesn’t usually inspire me, but the Jets are just so bad that even a team as bad as the Raiders are favorites in New York.

The Jets offense has score more than a field goal just once in their last four games. New York has been so bad that they’ve made Baltimore’s offense look electric in comparison. QB Brooks Bollinger has a 65 quarterback rating, and that’s decent for a third-string quarterback forced into a starting duty, but it’s not going to get you on many fantasy teams either.

New York has been out-rushed in each of their last six games. Not surprisingly, the Jets have lost five of those contests by significant margins. I would not be a bit surprised if they weren’t out-rushed again this week as Raider RB Lamont Jordan has something to prove against his former team.

I hate looking to Oakland as a favorite against any team, but the Jets may be the exemption. The Raiders play a decent game on offense and win by a touchdown.

Cleveland at Cincinnati

QB Charlie Frye’s gets his first start on the road this week. Frye will be without WR Braylon Edwards who will miss the rest of the year after being injured last Sunday, and he will be sorely missed. Without another piece of the offense to support him, the Browns rookie quarterback will be under even greater pressure this week.

The Browns only shot to upset Cincinnati is to run the ball and limit their mistakes. That might work if Cleveland’s defense can keep the Bengals offense from putting up three quick touchdowns. Unfortunately for Cleveland, that may be wishful thinking. No team has shutdown Cincinnati’s offense and I’d be surprised if the Browns succeeded where better teams has failed. Playing from behind with a rookie QB is a formula for disaster as the Bengals ball-hawking defense will be jumping all the Browns routes.

Looks like another blow-out to me. Bengals roll on for an easy win.

Detroit at Green Bay

More bad football for your viewing pleasure. If the Lions were going to show some life, last week was the game. Coming off an embarrassing Thanksgiving Day loss to Atlanta the Lions should have been motivated to play well. Well, they didn’t (getting lit up by the Vikings on an opening play bomb for a touchdown) and there’s no reason to think they will be any better this week. The Lions new head coach was run out of Chicago for his conservative play-calling so there’s little hope Detroit will be opening up the offense on the road this week. Given how poorly their quarterbacks have performed, I’m not entirely sure that’s not the right way to go for a while.

Green Bay is in full self-destruct mode as they lost another game they should have won last week. The Packers outplayed the Bears but lost when Chicago converted GB mistakes into points off turnovers. The Lions defense isn’t in the same class as Chicago, but they’re decent enough to come up with a couple drive-killing interceptions this week.

No reason to think this game will be anything but ugly. First team to score two touchdowns wins.