Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
Pittsburgh ended the Vikings long winning streak, and the did it with defense. The Steelers held the Vikings to 3 points and only 197 total yards, while forcing 3 turnovers, in their 18-3 victory. Cleveland was equally impressive holding the Raiders to one Randy Moss touchdown in their 9-7 win. The Browns run defense was suspect giving up 132 rushing yards on 25 carries to Lamont Jordan who was battling turf toe.
This match up has all the makings of Pittsburgh running the ball right down the Browns throat. Cleveland has not been able to stop the run, even though their defense has made great strides vs. the pass. Pittsburgh is getting healthier at RB with Parker and Bettis. The Cleveland Lbs should have excellent games in this match up.
Best Bets – Pittsburgh – LB James Farrior - Cleveland – LB Andra Davis
Solid plays – Pittsburgh – DB Troy Polamalu - Cleveland – LB Ben Taylor
Others to Consider – Pittsburgh – LB Larry Foote - Cleveland – DB Daylon McCutcheon
Buffalo @ Cincinnati
Buffalo was completely torched through the air last week by the Denver Broncos. Rod Smith looked like the second coming of Jerry Rice with 11 catches for 137 yards. The Bills couldn’t cover any WR and QB Jake Plummer put up 259 passing yards and 2 passing touchdowns. Cincinnati got back to its bread and butter, running Rudi and throwing to Chad. The Bengal’s defense abused Jeff Garcia, though late in the game after the victory was secured QB Joey Harrington did go 6-7 for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Another one sided match up with Cincinnati licking its chops at the Buffalo secondary, then running Rudi down the heart of the defense late. Cincinnati LB Odell Thurman is coming of one of his worst games of the season, but that was mostly because the Lions only ran the ball 17 times. Buffalo has to run the ball to keep the Bengal’s offense off the field. London Fletcher is on a tear right now statistically and expect that to continue in this match up.
Best Bets – Buffalo - LB London Fletcher - Cincinnati – LB Odell Thurman
Solid plays – Buffalo - LB Angelo Crowell - Cincinnati – DB Kevin Kaesviharn
Others to Consider – Buffalo - DB Lawyer Milloy - Cincinnati – DL Justin Smith
Dallas @ Carolina
Dallas is coming off its worst loss of the season 35-7, and the cliché it wasn’t even that close definitely applies. Washington for the first time in a decade swept the Boys and most likely ended the Cowboys playoff hopes. Carolina was solid on defense again holding the hapless Saints to 10 points and forcing 6 turnovers.
Carolina is in the drivers seat for the division and needs this game, as does Dallas, If they plan on making any post season plans. Dallas can’t run the ball, but will certainly try over and over, and occasionally go deep with Terry Glenn. This favors the Carolina LB corps. Carolina is very balanced with run and pass, and this will force Dallas to double Steve Smith and play 7 in the box vs. the run.
Best Bets – Dallas – LB Bradie James - Carolina – LB Dan Morgan
Solid plays – Dallas – DB Roy Williams - Carolina – LB Will Witherspoon
Others to Consider – Dallas – LB Scott Fujita - Carolina - DL Julius Peppers
NY Giants @ Washington
The Tiki show was on display last week in the Meadowlands vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. New York was lights out once again on defense, except for 1 minor detail. Larry Johnson got his yards, as this yr behind that OL he has been able to do so vs. any opponent, but the passing game was shut down for the most part, allowing only 176 yards. Washington winning at home vs. the Cowboys was surprising but the way they did it was unreal. The Washington defense forced Drew Bledsoe into 4 turnovers, 3 INT and 1 lost fumble and turned those into 21 points.
A week ago this game looked like a mismatch, but the way Washington played a week ago, they now have the Giants attention. New York will continue to ride Tiki Barber, and Washington will put 8 men in the box to stop him. Eli will be forced to win this game, and Washington FS Sean Taylor expects to cause a turnover to win the game late.
Best Bets – NY Giants – DB Gibril Wilson - Washington – LB Lemar Marshall
Solid plays – NY Giants – DLMichael Strahan - Washington – LB Marcus Washington
Others to Consider – NY Giants – DL Osi Umenyiora - Washington – DB Sean Taylor
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
Atlanta looked flat in their match up with Chicago last week, as if they couldn’t wait to get back on the plane for the sunny skies of Florida. Hardly the look of a team fighting for a playoff spot. The Atlanta secondary only gave up 11 completions but so often they were drive saving plays that kept their defense on the field another set of downs. Tampa Bay was throttled 28-0 to New England and their defense was on the ropes all day.
Two teams fighting for a wildcard berth will give this game a playoff atmosphere, but the team who can run the ball the most effective, and stop the run, will win the game. Both teams are one dimensional, and must run the ball to have any success. Look for both teams to focus on stopping the run, which benefits both teams LB’s.
Best Bets – Atlanta – LB Demorrio Williams - Tampa Bay - LB Derrick Brooks
Solid plays – Atlanta – LB Keith Brooking - Tampa Bay - LB Shelton Quarles
Others to Consider – Atlanta – DB DeAngelo Hall - Tampa Bay - DB Ronde Barber
San Francisco @ St. Louis
San Francisco played very well in a 10-9 loss @ Jacksonville, but Jacksonville is known for playing down to the level of its competition. The 9ers kept the Jags Rb’s in check, but QB David Garrard was able to scramble for 27 yards and a score. St Louis once again had poor QB play and lost Steven Jackson late in their game with Philly and it cost them in a 17-16 loss. The Rams defense was excellent vs. the pass, but much can be attributed to Mike McMahon as the Eagles QB.
Both teams may play their backup running back a great deal in this contest, as Steven Jackson and Kevan Barlow are both questionable. The Rams can actually throw the ball and that will be the difference in the game. San Francisco is playing better on defense, but the Rams offense will stretch them out and burn them deep. St Louis has been very shaky on defense, but with Alex Smith as the 9ers QB, expect turnovers, several turnovers.
Best Bets – San Francisco – LB Derek Smith - St. Louis – LB Pisa Tinoisamoa
Solid plays – San Francisco – LB Brandon Moore - St. Louis – DB Adam Archuletta
Others to Consider – San Francisco – LB Julian Peterson - St. Louis – DL Leonard Little
Detroit @ New Orleans
Detroit fans filled the stadium with orange clothing in protest of GM Matt Millen. As bad a GM as Millen is, the talent and decision making on the field are the reasons this team can’t win games. Cincinnati came into Detroit with eyes on returning in January. The Bengal’s dominated the Lions on both sides of the ball. New Orleans benched QB Aaron Brooks in favor of Todd Bouman, and the results were the same, multiple offensive turnovers that led to opponents points.
This toilet bowl game does have fantasy significance for defensive players. Charles Grant had a huge game a week ago, and could very well continue that hot streak this week. Detroit CB Dre' Bly had 10 solo tackles a week ago, and he too could be in for another big game statistically.
Best Bets – Detroit – LB Earl Holmes - New Orleans - DLCharles Grant
Solid plays – Detroit – DB Kennoy Kennedy - New Orleans - LB Ronald McKinnon
Others to Consider – Detroit – DB Dre' Bly - New Orleans - DL Will Smith
Tennessee @ Miami
Tennessee played well offensively and almost pulled off the upset vs. Seattle who may have been looking past them to this weeks match up vs. Indianapolis. The Titans led most of the second half of the game, but the defense was unable to hold onto the lead in the final quarter. Tennessee is playing inspired football for HC Jeff Fisher, but are lacking the talent to close out these types of games.
Miami is on life support for the playoffs, but QB Gus Frerotte is questionable, which could lead to an even bigger dose of the Dolphins running game. Tennessee is playing for next season, but has not quit and will not quit on the end of this season. Play your Titans with confidence as they will show up for you, and it’s always an unwise decision to ever sit a healthy Zach Thomas.
Best Bets – Tennessee – LB Keith Bullock - Miami – LB Zach Thomas
Solid plays – Tennessee – DL Kyle Vanden Bosch - Miami – DL Jason Taylor
Others to Consider – Tennessee – DB Lamont Thompson - Miami – LB Channing Crowder
San Diego @ Kansas City
Does San Diego have the recipe to beat the Colts, well they did last Sunday. The Chargers defense blitzed and stunted their way to QB Peyton Manning all game, and got to him regularly. San Diego also has a strong running game, and a mismatch at TE vs. any player on their defense. That could be the recipe no other team has. Kansas City lost a game they desperately needed to New York and they made Tiki Barber look like Jim Brown, with all the missed tackles.
This match up pits two great offenses against one another, and 2 of the top 3 running backs in the league over the past 8 weeks. But the story of this game is the Chargers defense, and their ability to get off the field. San Diego is without SS Terrance Kiel this week, but he hasn’t been a factor since getting hurt in week 5.
Best Bets – San Diego – LB Donnie Edwards - Kansas City – LB Kawika Mitchell
Solid plays – San Diego – DB Drayton Florence - Kansas City – DB Greg Wesley
Others to Consider – San Diego – LB Shawnee Merriman - Kansas City – LB Derrick Johnson
Jacksonville @ Houston
Jacksonville did not look like a team playing for the postseason, having trouble beating the lowly 49ers 10-9. Jacksonville was solid on defense, but looks vulnerable to a team that throws the ball down the field. Houston routed Arizona last week for its 2 nd win in 14 games. The Texans gave up huge yards in the air, but were solid vs. the run, holding the Cardinals to 38 rushing yards. .
Jacksonville continues to play to the level of their competition, and Houston made Arizona pay for that last week. Jacksonville is clearly the superior team, and should win this game easily, but the way they let teams stick around late in games, is gong to catch up to them sooner or later. ILB Morlon Greenwood should have another solid outing vs. the running game of the Jags.
Best Bets – Jacksonville – LB Mike Peterson - Houston – LB Morlon Greenwood
Solid plays – Jacksonville – DL John Henderson - Houston – DB Dunta Robinson
Others to Consider – Jacksonville – LB Daryl Smith - Houston – LB DaShon Polk
Philadelphia @ Arizona
Philadelphia looks terrible on offense and their defense hasn’t been spectacular lately either, but they were still able to pull out a win vs. St Louis in week 15. LB Jeremiah Trotter has been swallowed up the past few weeks, and his production has taken a nose dive. Arizona lost starting QB Kurt Warner for the rest of the season, and backup Josh McCown last week, due to the flu. John Navarre hit a few long passes, but was ineffective.
This contest is tough to predict. Arizona doesn’t even try to run the ball, so the Lbs for Philly shouldn’t score well, leaving both safeties helping out vs. the pass, which makes Lewis and Dawkins strong plays. Philly will definitely run the ball, which is good news for Cardinal Lbs Darling and Dansby. SS Adrian Wilson will get his numbers in both run support and in pass coverage.
Best Bets – Philadelphia – DB Michael Lewis - Arizona – DB Adrian Wilson
Solid plays – Philadelphia – DB Brian Dawkins - Arizona – LB James Darling
Others to Consider – Philadelphia – LB Jeremiah Trotter - Arizona – LB Karlos Dansby
Indianapolis @ Seattle
Indianapolis is coming off its first loss of the season and its OL and defense were exposed. The Colts couldn’t stop the run or the pass, and gave up big plays repeatedly. Seattle got a scare from Tennessee, but were able to prevail 28-24. The Hawks defense was also exposed, and looked soft in the middle vs. the run, and is definitely missing CB Kelly Herndon vs. the pass.
Indianapolis is sitting Cato June for the rest of the regular season and SS Bob Sanders is also doubtful to play. With the Colts having wrapped up home field advantage in the AFC, and the perfect season aspirations behind them, most of their starters expect to be riding the pine in the second half, so its difficult to pick best bets for them. Seattle on the other hand needs this game or the one next week to wrap up home field in the NFC, and should win this game easily if the Colts starters do not play after halftime
Best Bets – Indianapolis– LB DB Gary Brackett- Seattle – LB Lofa Tatupu
Solid plays – Indianapolis - DBNick Harper - Seattle – DB Michael Boulware
Others to Consider – Indianapolis– DB Mike Doss - Seattle – DB Grant Wistrom
Oakland @ Denver
Oakland missed 2 FG’s that could have put the game away vs. Cleveland last week. Browns QB Charlie Frye drove his team into FG range in the final few minutes, which was hit giving Cleveland a 9-7. Denver beat up the Bills in a game the Bills players looked uninterested in playing.. Denver held Buffalo to 277 yards of total offense.
Oakland is probably going to be without RB Lamont Jordan who is doubtful with a toe injury, which should lead to the vertical passing game owner AL Davis loves to see. The Broncos are vulnerable deep with the loss of rookie CB Darrent Williams, and Champ Bailey biting on so many pump fakes looking for the interception. Expect a heavy does of the run from Denver and Raiders LB Kirk Morrison should have another solid outing.
Best Bets – Oakland - LB Kirk Morrison - Denver – LB Ian Gold
Solid plays – Oakland - LB Danny Clark - Denver – DB Nick Ferguson
Others to Consider – Oakland - DB Stuart Schweigert - Denver – LB Al Wilson
Chicago @ Green Bay
Chicago brought in its closer after halftime last Sunday night vs. the Falcons and QB Rex Grossman gave the offense a lift it hadn’t had all season. Grossman opened up the vertical passing game, even though he only threw for 93 yards. The Chicago defense was better than advertised containing Michael Vick and slamming the door on the Falcons running game. Green Bay gave up 41 pts to the Ravens offense. Does anything else need to be said?
Chicago is looking to sweep Green Bay and force QB Brett Favre into a few more interceptions this season. The Packers defense couldn’t stop a high school team right now, and the Bears have added swagger with Grossman back at QB. Urlacher and Briggs are not going to put up monster numbers as Green Bay wont run the ball that much in the second half, but if you saw last weeks game, Urlacher can rack up tackles in a hurry in the first half, and get enough to get you by.
Best Bets – Chicago – LB Brian Urlacher - Green Bay – LB Nick Barnett
Solid plays – Chicago – LB Lance Briggs - Green Bay – DB Nick Collins
Others to Consider – Chicago – DB Charles Tillman - Green Bay – DB Mark Roman
Minnesota @ Baltimore
Minnesota was unable to do anything last week vs. the Steelers stout defense. The 18-3 loss was the first since Brad Johnson took over as QB, and could be the final nail in the coffin of their playoff aspirations. Baltimore put on a clinic last Monday night offensively that made one say, Where has this been all season? But then you realized it was against the Packers defense, and that explained everything.
Baltimore is getting its swagger back on defense and LB Bart Scott continues to play well putting up huge stats. DL Terrell Suggs is also proving to be a solid fantasy option with his relentless pursuit of the football. Minnesota hopes to get a pass rush on QB Kyle Boller with DL Kevin Williams, and force him into errant throws to DB Antoine Winfield and Co.
Best Bets – Minnesota - DL Kevin Williams - Baltimore – LB Bart Scott
Solid plays – Minnesota - DB Antoine Winfield - Baltimore – DB Ed Reed
Others to Consider – Minnesota - LB Sam Cowart - Baltimore – LB Terrell Suggs
New England @ NY Jets
New England is starting to hit on all cylinders after routing the Tampa Bay Bucs 28-0. The Pats defense held the Bucs running game in check all day, and confused QB Chris Simms. The return of Richard Seymour has shored up a suspect DL, and has taken blocks off the feet of Lbs Bruschi and Vrabel. New York once again came up short on the scoreboard in week 15, this time to the Miami Dolphins.
New England is a trying to become a balanced offense, and that means more running from Kevin Faulk and Cory Dillon. That along with playing with a lead, should give Jets LB Jonathon Vilma all the opportunities he needs to put up solid stats yet again. DL John Abraham is playing his best football as of late, looking for a new contract next season. He should get to Brady at least once, and be more willing to help out on run support the final few weeks of the season to drive up his tackle numbers. .
Best Bets – New England - LB Tedy Bruschi - NY Jets – LB Jonathon Vilma
Solid plays – New England - LB Mike Vrabel - NY Jets – DB Kerry Rhodes
Others to Consider – New England - DB Eugene Wilson - NY Jets – DL John Abraham