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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Unconventional Wisdom - Week 5
Fritz Schlottman
October 6, 2006

FAVORABLE CONDITIONS

NY Jets at JACKSONVILLE

I have been on the Jets a lot this year and they have rewarded me so far.  This week I’m off NY expecting the Jaguars to bounce back from a tough game in Washington.

The Jets have been a surprise thus far as the change in administration has brought this franchise seemingly back to life (I’ll let the reader fill in the blanks as to how that reflects on ex-coach Herm Edwards). I don’t love their backfield by committee approach to the running game, and if I don’t love it I’m not alone, the loathing out there in the fantasy football community is palpable.  The J-E-T-S are averaging 88 rushing yards per game which is statistically inadequate to support their scoring average of 24 points per game.  Meanwhile the JETS have allowed their last three opponents to run for at least 147 rushing yards.  A revitalized Pennington appears to be the key to the Jets offense.  Still, with the team giving up 52 more yards per game then their opponents don’t look for the Jets to continue outscoring other teams (insert sense of foreboding).   Sooner or later the opposing defenses are going to start teeing off on the Jets QB if New York can’t get their running game together.  I think that starts with this game.

Jacksonville is coming off two road loses to two 2005 playoff teams (Indianapolis and Washington).  That should put the Jags in a foul mood for this contest in what looks like a get well game.  New York is the weakest foe faced by the Jaguars this season giving JAX the opportunity to pound an opponent and feel better about their season.  I expect a big game out of the Jacksonville runningbacks.  The home team wins this one going away.

Dallas at PHILADELPHIA

T.O. Bowl I.  The much awaited (or not) return of the NFL’s most petulant child to the city of “Brotherly Love” (and oh, my is T.O. going to get some “love” from the home fans) is here at last.   I expect that the personalities in the game will generate much more media coverage than the game itself lending itself to an opportunity here. But looking past T.O. and the Eagles’ obvious motivations in this game, Philadelphia looks to be the hungrier side.

 In the very competitive NFC East all four teams are still in the running and it looks like the playoff chase will go down to the last week of the season.  The Cowboys appeared to be reasonably organized and motivated off their bye week last week while the Eagles were taking turns running up and down field unmolested against a pathetic Packers secondary.   That’s all good for Philadelphia…except the Eagles really haven’t been challenged so far this season.  Aside from the blown game against the Giants, against the NFL’s cupcakes, the team is averaging nearly 30 points per game and giving up just 18.  Dallas will be the strongest team Philadelphia has faced all season (unless you’re a Giants fan).  What will be forgotten in all the T.O. hype is the fact that the Eagles had won seven games in a row in this series on their home field before last year’s game which included a good dose of the turmoil and injuries.  The Eagles are more or less healthier (at least healthier than last year) and something tells me they have been pointing to this game all season (just a guess).

Philadelphia already has a home divisional loss and with two of those the Eagles will have to start thinking about the Wild Card race.  In a must win situation, with plenty of motivation, give me Philadelphia to win a shoot-out.

UNFAVORABLE CONDITIONS

Tampa Bay at NEW ORLEANS

Let me be clear at the commencement-Tampa Bay needs a win.  Off a bye week, the Buc’s have had two weeks to get rookie QB Gradkowski ready.  He will be starting for an injured QB Sims who had emergency surgery after taking a shot to a non-vital organ in the latest Tampa Bay loss.  Given that this is Gradkowski’s first start (and on the road no less) I expect that HC Gruden will play conservatively-keeping the game plan simple and opting to run more than pass on offense.  That should give rise to a low-scoring game or an easy Saints victory given how badly the Buc’s have run the ball this season (43 rushing yards per game).

New Orleans gave Carolina all they could handle last week and the Saints have been much better than anyone expected this season.  Critics (including myself) had panned their coaching staff and defense, but after the first month New Orleans have been creative on both sides of the football. And yes, I was wrong.  But the Saints haven’t yet shown me they deserve to be nearly a touchdown favorite against a very talented Tampa Bay football team (ok, maybe it’s just the TB defense that’s talented).  The Buc’s haven’t lost by more than six points to the Saints in 14 seasons/meetings.  Too many points to give up to a team motivated to get their first win of the season.  The Buc’s pull the upset in a low-scoring game.

Kansas City at ARIZONA

Arizona is another team that needs a win.  Let’s face facts, since their opening week victory the Cardinals season has gone straight down the crapper.  The offensive line has been terrible, RB James can’t get the running game going and former starting QB Warner couldn’t hold on to the football.

After pussy-footing around the issue last week, Arizona finally made a change at QB half way through last week’s loss.  Warner goes to the bench where he can practice gripping the football and Matt Leinart takes over.  If this doesn’t spark the Card’s it may be another very long season in the desert.

KC has looked better on defense since the arrival of HC Edwards.  But given what the Jets offense has done without Edwards, it looks like Herm is more or less an anchor on offense.  Given that this is the Chiefs first game on the road with a new quarterback, I expect KC to run the ball, shortening the game, and more or less look like they are towing an anchor this week.

Looking at what’s happening at the quarterback position for both teams, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cardinals get a home win in what should be a low-scoring game.

Miami at NEW ENGLAND

Wow!  Talk about your turnarounds the Fish have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in one month.  Just a month ago people were picking Miami to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and now they are getting 10 points from New England and the public’s pounding the Patriots.  Gees, Jane Fonda gets more love in a VFW convention than the Dolphins are getting in this game.  I guess this is my week to support the unloved orphans of the NFL because I like Miami to keep this game competitive.

New England comes off a big game against the Broncos.  The Patriots are easy to figure out-if they can run the ball against the opposing defense they win the game.  If the Pats can’t run-they struggle on offense.  Miami really hasn’t played a decent team all season, which makes me nervous, but they definitely have the talent to give NE a run for their money (Miami has had a decent run defense this season).  The big question is motivation.  To say that the Dolphins have underperformed this season is an understatement.  If a game against the Patriots can’t light a fire under this Dolphins team, it’s time to pack it in for the season. 

I think the pros in Las Vegas are overcompensating here.  Miami can’t be that bad and New England can’t be as good as they looked last week.  I’m taking the Fish this week.

St. Louis at GREEN BAY

This is purely a motivational play.  The Rams are coming off an emotional home victory over the Lions and their former HC Marts and the Packers looked just horrible in the second half of Monday Night massacre in Philadelphia.  That should set up a home upset by Green Bay this week.

If GB has any magic left in their home field, this is the spot for it.  Up in till a year or so ago, if your team had to travel to the frozen tundra, you pretty much knew they were leaving town on Sunday with a loss.  Under a younger Favre, the Packers were almost unbeatable on their home field.  That magic has gone away in the last season or so and teams no longer fear that road trip…except maybe the Rams.

St. Louis’ M.O. has been they win at home and in domed stadiums and look awful outdoors on the road for seasons.  A lot of the blame for this can be laid on the doorstep of Mike Martz who never liked his running game enough to have it sharp when the team needed it outdoors.  One season removed from his leadership, I’m not quite sure the Rams have figured out the whole running when the wind blows and it rains or snows thing quite yet.

Green Bay should be ready for this game.  As bad as that defense looked against the Eagles, there should be a lot of nasty hitting going on in practice this week.  As long as I’m on the rest of the NFL’s red-headed step-children, I might as well take the Packers.