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Unconventional Wisdom - Week 4
Fritz Schlottman
September 29, 2006


Minnesota at BUFFALO

The Vikings appear to be this year’s red-headed step-children of the NFL.  No matter how well they’ve played, Minnesota just isn’t getting any love from the public.  The Vike’s had the Bears beaten at home last week and couldn’t close the deal.  Off a stinging loss, I’ll look for Minnesota to bounce-back on the road in this spot.

Minnesota has opened the season with three straight covers in ‘Las Vegas.  The Norsemen’s defense is giving up 16 points per game which is four points better than the average putting Minnesota’s “D” among the league’s best after three games.  The Vike’s first three opponents have rushed for 87 yards per game and thrown for just 200 yards per game, very respectable defensive numbers for a no-name squad.

Buffalo’s offense is only averaging 17 points per game (a good portion of those in junk time last week against the Jets).  Most of the Bills yardage comes on the ground as Buffalo is averaging 124 yards rushing per game.  Buffalo will struggle to get to 100 yards rushing this week unless the Bills passing attack gets on track.  That doesn’t seem likely give that the home team is averaging just 171 yards passing per game and the Viking’s secondary has adapted to the Tampa-Two defense played by the Bears.

I look at Minnesota as a legitimate playoff team, but I can’t say the same for Buffalo.  How the Bills are a slight home favorite is beyond me.  Minnesota covers another ugly low-scoring game.  Other than both defenses, this is probably not the best match-ups for your fantasy teams.

Indianapolis at NY JETS

This is less of an endorsement of the Jets as it is a criticism of the Colts.  Indianapolis has not looked good through three games in two key areas-running the ball and stopping opposing rushers.  The Colts offense is averaging just 81 yards rushing each game while giving up a whopping 162 rushing yards per game.  Don’t kid yourself, being out rushed by a ration of 2-1 spells disaster and those numbers are going to catch up with Indy sooner or later.  Road teams that can’t run the ball and can’t stop the run have historically struggled so this may be one of those spots were the Colts may find themselves in trouble.

The game plan for the Jets is obvious-run the ball, run the clock, and keep the Indy offense off the field.  NY should take their time getting out of the huddle, line-up, pound the center of Indy’s defense, go back and repeat to shorten the game.  So long as QB Pennington is healthy, Indy really can’t load up against the run.  Pennington just doesn’t make mistakes in the red zone and has never thrown an interception inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.

This may be another one in a string of ugly games this week.  I think NYJ can keep this game within a touchdown.


Cleveland at OAKLAND

Ugh!  I have no idea what the Browns have done to justify being a road favorite, so I assume the number put up by the Sports Gods is less an endorsement of Cleveland than it is an indictment of what’s happening in Oakland.

Historically, winless home teams coming out of a bye-week have been gold in the NFL.  The Raiders have heard nothing for the last two weeks but how bad they are, and yes, there’s no doubt that Oakland stinks.  Time to face facts- the Raiders are the worst team in football.  The offense is averaging less than 150 yards per game (63 yards rushing and just 82 yards rushing) so it’s no wonder the media and the fans are ripping this team on sports radio 24 hours per day.  If that doesn’t motive the Raiders this week, nothing will.

Oakland went into the off week completely lost offensively and demoralized on defense.  The coaching staff has had two weeks to put together a game plan to move the football against a very modest Browns’ defense.  If the coaching staff can’t get it done here, someone on the coaching staff should and probably could lose their jobs.

This is a bad spot for the Browns.  Off an emotional loss to the Ravens, Cleveland goes on the road all the way to the west coast to face a bad football team.  Unlike Minnesota, the Browns don’t strike me as the kind of team that bounces back off a loss.  There’s no way the Browns can be up for this game.

This is one of those situations were you have to trust in the numbers, hold your nose, and pull the trigger.  It’s now or never for Oakland, so start your Raiders this week.

San Diego at BALTIMORE

This game features the best rushing team against the best squad against the rush.  San Diego probably wishes their bye week hadn’t been scheduled for the third week of the season.  After their first two games, the Chargers are averaging 33.5 points per game and a staggering 218 yards rushing.  No wonder SD has an average winning margin of 30 points per game. 

On the other hand the Ravens defense makes the Chargers first two opponents (umm…like the Raiders) look like Nancy Boys.  The Ravens defenders are allowing just 34 yards rushing against, 197 total yards against, and less than six points scored against per game, tops in the NFL.

This is one of those unstoppable forces vs. immovable object type of games.  The angle here is that historically teams that go into the bye week on a roll come out of the bye week a bit rusty. 

I don’t like the Chargers in this spot and I sure don’t trust the Raven’s offense to deliver, so this sets up as another slugging match.  Baltimore prevails in a hard-fought, low-scoring game.

Detroit at ST. LOUIS

The biggest disappointment in the NFL so far has to be the Lions (so what’s new?).  Once again, so much was promised and so little has been delivered in the Motor City.  Ask yourself this question, has Detroit done anything through the first three games of the season that would lead you to believe they could win a game on the road?  Sure, they have to play well sooner or later, but to me, the answer to that question is clearly no, not this week. 

The Lions offense is averaging less than 13 points per game and Detroit’s defense is giving up nearly 25 points for a losing margin of nearly two touchdowns per game.  Until the Lions can run the ball (Detroit is averaging just 63 rushing yards per game) there’s no reason to believe Detroit is going to upset a team even as bad as the Rams on the road.

This will be an emotional game for the STL players as their former head coach (Lions OC Marts) makes his return to St. Louis.  The entire city should be jacked-up to lay a big final result on the man that took so much criticism while running the show for the Rams.

I can’t see it any other way…the Rams just flog the visiting Lions this week.  Finally, time to get some quality production from your St. Louis fantasy players.  Enjoy.

Jacksonville at WASHINGTON

Two playoff teams from 2005 meet in what should be an ugly game.  The Redskins finally looked good last week, just in time for struggling fantasy teams.  Washington got RB Clinton Portis back and just pounded the visiting Texans.  When two days older than dirt QB Brunell sets a passing record (straight completions) you know it is one of those Sundays when everything’s going your way.  While the Redskins were impressive in that victory, it did come against the Texans who are giving up nearly 34 points per game and scoring just 16.

Jacksonville is not Houston.  The Jaguars gave the Colts everything they had last week, dominating Indy’s defense in the first half on the ground, but JAX went to the locker room tied.  That advantage in total yards and time of possession never translated to points on the scoreboard and the Jag’s abandoned the running game in the second half after falling behind, eventually getting a late touchdown for the cover.  That said the Jaguars had more first downs (20-14), more 3rd down conversions (9-16 vs. 6-13) and twice the time of possession of the Colts, considered by many the best team in the NFL.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Jacksonville is the better team.  But off a disappointing loss to Indy and playing their second straight game on the road, I don’t expect to see the Jag’s “A” game this week.  A bad spot for both squads translates to an ugly, low-scoring game this week.