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Unconventional Wisdom - Week 16
Fritz Schlottman
December 23, 2005


Cincinnati at Buffalo

Cincinnati needs to keep winning to secure a bye and home field in the playoffs and they should get a win against a Bills team playing out the final games of a disappointing season.

Buffalo has lost five straight games. Most of those losses can be attributed to their terrible rush defense. The Bills are giving up an average of 138 rushing yards per game. The bad news is that rushing average against number doesn’t reflect how badly the Bills have been out rushed over the last six games. Denver -103, NE -145, MIA +19, CAR -60, SD -76, and KC -89 five of these six teams have out rushed the Bills by a significant margin. The Bengals are averaging 126 rushing yards per game, so there’s no reason to believe Buffalo will lose the rushing battle again this week. The upside is that it’s a good week to play your Bengals runningback in your fantasy league this week.

Cincinnati needs to keep wining to get home field advantage and an opening bye week. Against a Bills team that averages slightly less than 15 points per game, I can find no compelling reason not to like the Bengals to win this game by a significant margin and put up great fantasy numbers in the process.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland

Another match-up of a team that needs to win against a team playing out the string that’s talking a look at some younger players and setting up their draft board.

The key to the Steelers is their rushing game. If Pittsburgh rushes for more than 100 yards, they win the football game. Because PIT is averaging a pinch less than 130 rushing yards per game, they’re going to be in a lot of football games in the fourth quarter. The Browns give up 134 rushing yards per game, making the odds of Pittsburgh rushing for 100 yards all that much greater. In the last three meetings in this series, the Steelers have rushed for 159, 180, and 179 yards, winning those contests by 13, 14, and 11 points, and scoring 34, 24, and 34 points. Needless to say, it’s a good time to start your Steelers runningbacks in your fantasy league.

Pittsburgh has won nine of the last ten games played in this series and this game looks like another ugly contest in this series. The Steelers have the better team and the more motivated team to boot. Pittsburgh should win by two touchdowns.


Atlanta at Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay owns this series. The Buc’s have won seven of the last ten games played between these two teams and are 3-1 in this series at home.

The Buc’s are in a very favorable spot here. They come off a three game road trip where they beat two divisional rivals ( New Orleans and Carolina) and have won four of their last six contests.

Atlanta has gone into the tank losing four of their last six games, two of the last three games on the road, and hasn’t scored a touchdown in their last two games on the road (3-16 at CHI and 6-24 at CAR). Now the Falcons play the second of back-to-back road games against a motivated divisional opponent that is playing well right now. That is not a very good spot to be in when you desperately need a win to have a shot at the playoffs or with a loss, watch a season where many picked Atlanta to make the Super Bowl go up in flames.

The pressure’s all on the Falcons. Atlanta needed to win last week to have some momentum going into this game. My guess is the Falcons are already dead in the water after the emotional loss to the Bears and Tampa Bay rolls to victory on Saturday.

Detroit at New Orleans

Here’s your ugly game of the week. You would be hard pressed to find two less motivated teams playing in a meaningless game. This should really be a stinker.

Detroit’s bag-wearing, protest-marching, opposing team jersey-wearing fans are in revolt. It’s quite obvious that they want action by upper management to fire their team President (Matt Millen) at the end of the season if not before and get a proven executive that can restore some pride in Detroit.

The current Lions squad couldn’t be happier to get the heck of out town before the locals lay siege to Ford Field with the intent of not taking any prisoners. To say Detroit’s players are tired of the constant controversy in the Motor City would be an understatement. They’ve made the mistake of lashing out at the fans increasing the divide between the team and its supporters.

Joey Harrington has been the focus of fan discontent for a good portion of the season and now he get drug off the bench to be the target for the slings and arrows tossed by fans and sportswriters once again. He’s probably wishing the season would end now so he could skip out of town, but just his luck, QB Jeff Garcia proved ineffectual so Harrington gets the start at quarterback this week.

New Orleans plays another home game in San Antonio Texas. The Saints began to mail it in weeks ago. New Orleans has had one win in their last 10 games and hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a ‘home” game since they lost to Atlanta in Mid-October.


Dallas at Carolina

QB Drew Bledsoe is in the midst of his typical late season fade and his play is taking the Cowboys playoff chances down with the ship. The Pokes have lost three of their last four games and four of the last five road games as well. Bledsoe has had one game is his last six where he has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions. In that six game run, the Cowboys’ signal-caller has thrown for more than one touchdown just twice but has thrown two or more interceptions in half those games. The yardage hasn’t been there either. Bledsoe has thrown for more than 200 passing yards in just two of his last six games. Away games have been especially brutal. Bledsoe hasn’t thrown for over 200 passing yards in a game since Oakland on 10/02 and has four touchdowns and eight interceptions on the road since that contest.

To make matters worse, the Cowboys defense has fallen off as well. Dallas can neither generate a pass rush nor can the stop opponents’ running games.

Carolina is another team that needs to keep winning to get that first round playoff bye. The Panthers have won eight of their last 10 games and have held their opponent to 14 or less points in seven of the last eight contests. With their defense playing well, Carolina has had the luxury being up in games by margin and controlling the clock in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys defense is giving up 130 rushing yards per game so if the Panthers get the chance to run out the clock, they should be successful.

I can’t see the Cowboys getting past 14 points this game. Look for better alternatives rather than starting your Dallas fantasy players this week.