Friday, October 30, 2009

NFL Week 8 Preview

Week 8 features five fantastic games: divisional rivalry games, battles between playoff favorites, bad blood.  And then there are the rest: likely blowups, bad teams playing bad teams, likely naps.  Sadly, Fox and CBS are sticking L.A. viewers with probably the worst two games Saturday morning.  Fox chose the potential blowout that is San Francisco at Indianapolis over a playoff rematch that also happens to be a division rivalry with bad blood, which also happens to feature the same two cities that are meeting in the World Series later that day (Giants at Eagles). CBS is sticking us with the potential blowout that is Oakland at San Diego rather than either Denver at Baltimore, or Miami at the Jets.  So as if you needed a reason to go to a sports bar on Sunday, watching the good games on satellite should give you all the reason you need.

Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-2) 1:15 PM - Fox
Apparently at some point, the Vikings quarterback used to be in the Packers' franchise, so this is a sort homecoming for home or whatever.  We'll see if that story get any media attention, but perhaps a more important story is that fact that the Vikings stranglehold on this division will wither considerably with a loss to the Packers.  The teams are both very good and very evenly matched, and weather should not play a significant rolle, so the game will likely swing on who takes care of the ball.  Green Bay's turnover margin is +10 this season, while Minnesota's is +7.  So no solid hints there either.  When in doubt, go with the home team.  Prediction: Packers win , Vikings cover (+3.5)

Miami Dolphins (2-4) at New York Jets (4-3) 10 AM
Rex Ryan's aggressive, blitzing defense had huge problems with the Dolphins' wildcat offense in their earlier matchup this season in Miami.  The Dolphins ran all over the Jets.  But they still were only able to scrape together a 3-point win in their own building.  You can expect Ryan to have made a few changes to the Jets' defensive attack, and you can expect the Jets to split the season series with Miami with a win in New Jersey.  Prediction: Jets win and cover (-3.5)

Denver Broncos (6-0) at Baltimore Ravens (3-3) 10 AM
A few weeks ago, both of these teams were undefeated and this game looked like it might surprisingly play an early role in the AFC playoff home field chase.  Baltimore has been snake-bitten since, but the Broncos' luck hasn't changed yet.  The Ravens' Ray Rice will be pitted against the league's best run defense and he may have to win this one on his own.  Denver's Kyle Orton has been nearly perfect this season (just 1 interception) and while he is a fine quarterback, you would have to expect that his and the team's luck has to end sometime.  When?  Against this defense is as good a guess as any.  Prediction: Ravens win, Broncos cover (+3.5)

New York Giants (5-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) 10 AM
The Giants beat up on their weak, early season opponents, but have lost two in-a-row to perhaps the Conference's two best teams.  This week they fight to remain on top in the NFC East against the team that ended their Super Bowl defense in the playoffs last season.  The Eagles have been quite inconsistent this season and there is no telling which team will show up.  Injuries plague both teams, but if the Giants can run and ball and put pressure on Donovan McNabb (which are supposedly this team's strengths), they will get revenge on the road.  Prediction: Giants win and cover (+2.5)

Atlanta Falcons (4-2) at New Orleans Saints (6-0) Monday 5:30 PM
Atlanta allows teams to move the ball all over the field - they're in the bottom 10 in yards allowed.  But they are in the top 10 in points allowed.  So the question Monday night is, how far can the Falcons bend before Drew Brees breaks them?  And keep in mind that the Saints have tended to make just about everyone break this year.  In fact, they have punted the second fewest times in all of football this year.  So if they get the ball, they're gonna score.  It will be up to Atlanta's Michael Turner to make sure the ball is in his hands, and not Brees.'  Prediction: Saints win and cover (-9.5)

Houston Texans (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-4) 10 AM
The story here is the Bills' defense.  They have picked off 9 passes in their last two games, but they are also 32nd against the run.  So the game will probably be put into Steve Slaton's hands, and lately that has been a good thing for Houston.  Buffalo's offense is a complete mess, with their quarterback spot wide open, thus wasting Lee Evans fine work at receiver.  And they also have some other receiver leading the league in drops, which isn't helping the quarterback stability.  Prediction: Texans win, Bills cover (+3.5)

Cleveland Browns (1-6) at Chicago Bears (3-3) 10 AM
This week's sign that parity is dead in the NFL: The Bears are 3-3 and favored by 2 touchdowns...and that's not the biggest spread this week!  Matt Forte has been terrible running the ball for Chicago this year, but fanstasy owners across the nation can rejoice as he gets to face the Brown's defense this week (2nd worst against the run).  As long as Jay Cutler is only throwing to the guys in the same colored shirt as him, the Bears will roll.  Unfortunately, he's thrown to the others guys the second most in the league this year (10).  Prediction: Bears win, Browns cover (+13.5)

Seattle Seahawks (2-4) at Dallas Cowboys (4-2) 10 AM
If you think the Cowboys have played at home every week this season, you're wrong.  They also had a bye.  Actually they've split home and away this year, but with all the talk about the Bigger-In-Texas Dome, it just seems like it they're there every week.  They are in Week 8 and allegedly so will the Seahawks.  But the Seahawks haven't shown up for most of their games this year so as long as the Cowboys run the ball a lot and keep it out of Tony Romo's skilled but somewhat turnover-prone hands, they will win.  Prediction: Cowboys win and cover (-9.5)

St. Louis Rams (0-7) at Detroit Lions (1-5) 10 AM
Suppose for a moment that you were playing a team that was 0-16 last year.  And they've only won once this year.  And their starting quarterback and franchise wide receiver are likely out.  You'd figure you were a favorite, right?  Nope.  No matter what Steven Jackson does, the Rams cannot find the endzone and the Rams look like serious contenders for worst team in NFL history (5-34 in last 39 games, 17 straight losses).  So again, when you can't tell the difference between two teams, pick the home team.  Prediction: Lions win, Rams cover (+3.5)

Lock of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (3-3) at Indianapolis Colts (6-0) 10 AM - Fox
Former franchise player/new starter Alex Smith took over at quarterback last week and seemed to begin to turn the ship around (though he ran out of time in Atlanta to win that one).  It would be a much nicer story if he could take them out and win this week, but the scheduling gods dumped a Giants pile of Peyton Manning on his doorstep.  The only way San Francisco keeps this close is if everything goes their way.  Manning needs to be off his game, Smith needs to be on his.  Frank Gore needs to dominate on the ground, and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis need to dominate downfield.  Don't hold your breath for any of those five things.  Prediction: Colts win and cover (-9.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (0-6) 1:05 PM
This game is further proof that the teams will play every game on their schedules, whether anyone cares or comes to the games or not.  Vince Young is back at quarterback for the Titans, and really it can't get worse than losing every game, so why not?  Despite their record, Tennessee is actually top 10 in run defense (and you figure they see a lot of running since they're always trailing), so if they can stand up and stop Maurice Jones-Drew, they could get up off the mat finally.  It's not good when you are the underdog to a team that is 0-6, but David Garrard will manage this one just well enough to pull off the massive upset.  Prediction: Jaguars win and cover (+2.5)

Oakland Raiders (2-5) at San Diego Chargers (3-3) 1:05 PM - CBS
The Chargers opened the season by scraping together a narrow win in Week 1 in Oakland.  A loss at home to the Raiders in Week 8 could basically end their season, but with this being the largest point-spread of the season thus far, that shouldn't happen.  The Chargers are 3 games behind Denver and already lost at home to the Broncos, and play five potention playoff teams in their final 8 games.  Oakland's pass defense is decent but they are awful against the run (30th: 169.7 yards per game), so if LaDainian Tomlinson can find some of his old magic, he may keep the Chargers alive in the AFC West race for at least one more week. Prediction: Chargers win, Raiders cover (+16.5)

Carolina Panthers (2-4) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2) 1:15 PM
Arizona hosts a bad team that they should crush, sandwiched between an impressive win at Giants Stadium and another huge test at Soldier Field next week.  That officially labels this one as a trap game for the almost-champs, but then when you run the ball as badly as the Cardinals do, they're all trap games.  Jake Delhomme's recent bout of interception-itis (13 this season in 6 games) began last year in a playoff loss to the Cardinals.  Carolina's defense seems ready to take on the Cards' passing game - they allow the fewest yards per game of anyone.  But they've also faced the fewest passing attempts and are one of the worst in completion percentage allowed.  Kurt Warner will test them, likely throwing close to 40 times, and he is certainly known for his efficiency.  Prediction: Cardinals win and cover (-9.5)

All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only. See this website for what's airing in your area.

Season Predictions: 55-48 against the spread, 69-34 straight up
Last Week: 7-6 against the spread, 10-3 straight up

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NFL Week 7 Hangover

Week 7 Scores
Arizona Cardinals 24 - New York Giants 17
Houston Texans 24 - San Francisco 49ers 21
Green Bay Packers 31 - Cleveland Browns 3
San Diego Chargers 37 - Kansas City Chiefs 7
Indianapolis Colts 42 - St. Louis Rams 6
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 - Minnesota Vikings 17
New England Patriots 35 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
New York Jets 38 - Oakland Raiders 0
Buffalo Bills 20 - Carolina Panthers 9
Cincinnati Bengals 45 - Chicago Bears 10
Dallas Cowboys 37 - Atlanta Falcons 21
New Orleans Saints 46 - Miami Dolphins 34
Philadelphia Eagles 27 - Washington Redskins 17

Big Winners
-The Arizona Cardinals (4-2) won their final regular season game at Giants Stadium, where they'd been 2-15 in history, and now sit alone atop the NFC West thanks to San Francisco's loss.
-Odd-on favorites went 11-2 (the Giants and Panthers lost), and covered the spread in 10 of 13 games (Houston won but didn't cover the spread).
-Fans of blowouts must have been thrilled in Week 7 as only two games were decided by under 10 points, and six were decided by 28 or more!
-The Steelers' defense held the previously undefeated Vikings to just 17 points, scored two touchdowns, and held NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson under 70 yards.
-NFL fans have not had to see or hear much from Terrell Owens since he was banished to Buffalo.  Owens had three catches for 27 yaaaawwwn.
-All teams with higher draft picks than the Panthers can expect some trade offers before Draft Day as Carolina will likely want to trade up and get a quarterback. The Panthers current quarterback, Jake Delhomme, has thrown 4 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the season.
-Bengals runningback Cedric Benson felt that the Bears had mistreated him during his time in Chicago.  So he took it out on them by out-rushing Chicago's new star runningback by 165 yards (Carson Palmer's 5 touchdowns didn't hurt either).
-The New Orleans Saints were down 21 points on the road in a city where they've never won.  But that just gave Drew Brees an excuse to stop pretending to want to use the running game.  New Orleans won thanks in part to a 22-0 fourth quarter.

Big Losers
-The Oakland Raiders (2-5) followed up a shocking upset of Philadelphia by getting shut out at home by a team that had been struggling to stay afloat for their last three games (the Jets). 
-Top Fantasy Runningbacks have generally been a disappointment this season, and that held true in Week 7.  The top 8 in most drafts this year averaged 3.6 yards per carry and combined for only three touchdowns and one concussion (Peterson, Turner, Jones-Drew, Forte, Westbrook, Williams, Tomlinson, and Gore). 
-49ers quarterback Shaun Hill lost his starting job after starting out 6 for 11 and guiding the 49ers to a 21-0 halftime deficit.  Backup and former #1 over all pick Alex Smith then entered the game and led the team to three touchdowns in four possessions. 
-Chiefs runningback Larry Johnson has another dismal performance on the field (16 carries for 49 yards), and then followed it up by badmouthing his coach and using a homosexual slur to refer to a fan on Twitter.  Johnson apologized Monday afternoon, but not before referring to members of the media with the same slur Monday morning.  But I'm sure the apology was sincere.
-The State of Missouri is 1-13 on the season and has been outscored by 16.2 points per game (KC and St. Louis).
-The United Kingdom had to endure watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up close in the NFL's misguided third annual trip to Wembley Stadium.

Fantasy Studs - The 10 Most Valuable Players of Week 7
1 - Miles Austin (WR-Dal) 171 yards recieving, 2 touchdowns, and was probably still available last week
2 - Vernon Davis (TE-SF) 93 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns
3 - Ricky Williams (RB-Mia) 80 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns, and was probably still available as well
4 - Shonn Greene (RB-NYJ) 144 yard rushing, 2 touchdowns, and was definately still available
5 - DeSean Jackson (WR-Phi) 67 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 69 yards receiving, 1 touchdown)
6 - Carson Palmer (QB-Cin) 233 yards passing, 5 touchdowns
7 - Cedric Benson (RB-Cin) 189 yards rushing, 1 touchdown
8 - Chad Ochocinco (WR-Cin) 118 yards, 2 touchdowns
9 - Tony Romo (QB-Dal) 311 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, 31 yards rushing
10 - Ryan Grant (RB-GB) 148 yards rushing, 1 touchdown

Fantasy Thuds - High Expectations...Dismal Results
1 - Frank Gore (RB-SF) 32 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving
2 - Pierre Thomas (RB-NO) 30 yards rushing, 14 yards receiving
3 - Jonathan Stewart (RB-Car) 25 yards rushing, 20 yards receiving
4 - Marion Barber (RB-Dal) 47 yards rushing, 1 yard receiving
5 - Matt Forte (RB-Chi) 24 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving
6 - Tony Gonzalez (TE-Atl) 37 yards receiving
7 - Brett Favre (QB-Min) 334 yards passing, 1 interception, 1 fumble
8 - Donovan McNabb (QB-Phi) 156 yards passing, 1 touchdown
9 - Andre Johnson (WR-Hou) 62 yards receiving
10 - Eli Manning (QB-NYG) 243 yards passing, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions

The Front Seven - The NFL's 7 best teams through Week 7
1 - New Orleans Saints (6-0, 1st NFC South) Total Offense: 1st (427.3), Total Defense: 11th (306.7), +18.5 ppg
2 - Indianapolis Colts (6-0, 1st AFC South) Total Offense 4th (402.5), Total Defense: 9th (291.7), +17.0 ppg
3 - New England Patriots (5-2, 1st AFC East) Total Offense: 3rd (406.0), Total Defense: 6th (285.7), +14.3 ppg
4 - Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2, T-1st AFC North) Total Offense: 7th (383.0), Total Defense: 8th (291.0), +5.4 ppg
5 - Denver Broncos (6-0, 1st AFC West) Total Offense: 9th (368.7), Total Defense: 2nd (262.5), +11.2 ppg
6 - Minnesota Vikings (6-1, 1st NFC North) Total Offense: 12th (353.6), Total Defense: 17th (330.0), +8.3 ppg
7 - New York Giants (5-2, 1st NFC East) Total Offense: 6th (391.3), Total Defense: 1st (262.0), +7.4 ppg
Also published on  Check back Friday for a look ahead at Week 8.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NFL Week 7 Preview

Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) 10 AM - Fox
The Steelers have been pretty unstoppable in the air, and the Vikings are ranked 24th against the pass, so Ben Roethlisberger may have a huge day.  Rashard Mendenhall has been banged up in practice this week, meaning Pittsburgh's run game will be even weaker than usual.  If Brett Favre is careful with the ball and Adrian Peterson keeps Roethlisberger off the field, the Vikings will stay undefeated.  Prediction: Steelers win, Vikings cover (+4.5)

San Diego Chargers (2-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) 10 AM - CBS
LaDainian Tomlinson has been terrible this season and he had the flu early in the week - like he needs an excuse to mope around on the sideline all game long.  But the Chargers don't need any kind of running game to beat the Chiefs; they just need Philip Rivers to have time to find the many, many open receivers there will be.  If the Chiefs get to Rivers, they can win.  Prediction: Chargers win and cover (-4.5)
Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-5) 10 AM
You know parity is completely absent in the NFL when a slightly-better-than-average team like the Packers is an absolule lock to win on the road.  Cleveland has no idea who to put at quarterback and that may be their deepest position.  But the good news for Browns fans is that the players reportedly have no confidence in head coach Eric Mangini.  Oh wait, that's bad.  Prediction: Packers win and cover (-7.5)

Sleeper Game of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (3-2) at Houston Texans (3-3) 10 AM
The 49ers are coming off a bye week which forced them to think about that 1000 point loss at home to Atlanta two weeks ago (or at least it probably felt that way), so they'll be motivated.  They had better be because Matt Schaub and the Texans are 3rd in the NFL in passing yards per game.  Both defenses are middle-of-the-pack against the run and pass.  Frank Gore has to have a huge game to keep the Texans' offense off of the field, so basically it comes down to Gore vs. Schaub/Andre Johnson.  Prediction: Houston wins and covers (-3.5)
Lock of the Week: Indianapolis Colts (5-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-6) 10 AM
Give Peyton Manning two weeks to prepare for just about anyone and he's gonna win.  Against the 0-6 Rams?  Yes.  Manning is averaging over 300 yards per game this season, so as long as he doesn't turn the ball over and give the Rams free-chances and short fields, the Colts will roll.  Prediction: Colts win and cover (-13.5)
Lock of the Week, Vol. II: New England Patriots (4-2) "at" Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) 10 AM
The only real question in this one is if the scoreboard at Wimbley Stadium (normally a soccer stadium) will have enough space for whatever score the Patriots put up.  The crowd could play a small factor in this one, seeing as the British people probably won't be very fond of a team called the "Patriots," and also since the Bucs are owned by the owner of Manchester United.  But the fans don't understand the game enough to know what difference they might make.  And it wouldn't matter anyway.  Prediction: Patriots win and cover (-14.5)
Buffalo Bills (2-4) at Carolina Panthers (2-3) 1:05 PM
Jake Delhomme is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10 and the Bills picked off 6 balls last week.  That doesn't bode well for Carolina, except that he may never be called on to throw a ball.  Despite that impressive defensive show, the Bills also gave up 318 rushing yards to the Jets last week as well.  And while Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are very good, the Panthers' DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are better. Prediction: Panthers win, Bills covers (+7.5)
New York Jets (3-3) at Oakland Raiders (2-4) 1:05 PM
Mark Sanchez inexplicably threw five interceptions last week, despite that the Jets running game completely embarrassed the Bills.  Sanchez seemed to struggle with the windy, cold conditions at the Meadowlands (get use to that!), and will likely find it easier to take care of the ball in sunny, warm Oakland.  Especially since the Raiders are averaging less than a pick per game, and 220 yards passing allowed per game.  If Rex Ryan's defense can stop the Raiders' running game, the Jets win because JaMarcus Russell isn't beating anyone with his arm.  Prediction: Jets win, Raiders cover (+6.5)
Chicago Bears (3-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) 1:15 PM
Jay Cutler may be able to celebrate his new contract extension with a huge day since Cincinnati will be without Antwan Odom for the rest of the season.  That will hurt the Bengals' pass-rush considerably.  Cincy's Cedric Benson (4th in the NFL in yards per game: 88.5) would probably like nothing more than to have a huge game as well, in order to stick it to the Bears for dumping him in favor of Matt Forte (23rd: 55.8). Prediction: Bears win and cover (+1.5)
Atlanta Falcons (4-1) at Dallas Cowboys (3-2) 1:15 PM - Fox
The team whose running game controls the clock wins.  Dallas seems to be viewing this game as a statement game to show what they're all about, but they seem to have those games every few weeks, which means they clearly don't know the answer.  At this point it seems clear that Tony Romo is simply not Troy Aikman and the Cowboys need to get the ball out of Romo's hands, commit to being a running team so Flozell Adams can stop getting beaten by pass rushers every play, and ride Marian Barber and Tashard Choice into the playoffs.  Prediction: Cowboys win and cover (-3.5)
New Orleans Saints (5-0) at Miami Dolphins (2-3) 1:15 PM
The Saints have never won in Miami.  But there's a first time for everything.  Both teams allow around only 80 yards rushing per game, so don't expect much on the ground in this one.  The difference is that if the Dolphins are forced to throw it, they're not really playing to their strengths.  If New Orleans is forced to throw, they could score 100.  Prediction: Saints win, Dolphins cover (+6.5)
Game of the Week, Vol. II: Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at New York Giants (5-1) 5:20 - NBC
Arizona is the best in the league at stopping the run, which is what the Giants like to do most on offense.  New York is the best in the league at stopping the pass, which is what the Cardinals like to do most on offense.  So unless one strength wears down the other, the question may end up being: whose second option is better?  Do you like Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells against the Giants' front 7 or Eli Manning, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham against the Cardinals' secondary?  Prediction: Giants win and cover (-7.5)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) at Washington Redskins (2-4) Monday 5:30 - ESPN
Not only is Philly fighting to stay in contact with the Giants in the NFC East, but they're also out to show that last week's embarrassing loss to the Raiders was an anomaly.  Last week Eagles' coach Andy Reid chose not to test one of the worst pass-defenses in football, and called passing plays on just 20% of the snaps.  Imagine how lopsided the play-calling will be this week against the league's third best pass-defense in Washington!  Speaking of play-calling, the Redskins took that duty away from head coach Jim Zorn and hired a new coach out of retirement to take over 5 days before a divisional game.  That can't end badly, right?  Prediction: Eagles win and cover (-7.5)
All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only. See this website for what's airing in your area.

Season Predictions: 48-42 against the spread, 59-31 straight up

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Aikman Awards For Sports-Journalistic Incompetence

This is probably a post that could be written daily, but as you watch and listen to sports, read about it, and listen to sports-talk, you stumble across spectacularly stupid people.  And I'm not talking about Troy Aikman's command of the English language.  Well, I am.  But not only that.

--Listening to local L.A. guys on ESPN radio on Sunday just before Cliff Lee took the mound for the Phillies against the Dodgers in Game 3 of their NLCS in Philadelphia, they were all arguing the same point that the Dodgers may actually have an advantage over the Phillies in the fact that they do not have an ace.  The argument was that if you reply on an ace and he loses, it is a great psychological blow.  But if you have no ace, you can't ever experience that let-down.

This is a ground-breaking concept that can be applied universally!  Why keep your body in good condition?  Rather, we should all get a little pudgy and try to eat fatty foods so that if we have a heart attack someday, we will not be disappointed because we knew it was likely.  Don't study or work hard because if you do not reach a career goal, you will have seen it coming. 

So GM's out there: don't go after the best players possible.  Sure guys like Cliff Lee will win 18-20 games a year and keep their ERA's under 3.0.  But think of the psychological impact in those 4-5 games a year that they don't win!  Always aim for mediocrity so you won't be surprised when you get it.

Incidentally, Lee threw 8 shutout innings and allowed 3 hits and no walks in that game.  The Phillies won 11-0.  The Dodgers threw two non-"ace" starters onto the mound that night and they combined to allow 8 earned runs in 4.2 innings.  What's the psychological impact of that?

--These same radio guys went on to debate what has wrong with Manny Ramirez since he had "returned."  They delicately avoided the elephant in the room, deciding that his problem was one of three things:
1) He is not confident in his game plan.  Despite his aloof image, Manny had always been a well-studied hitter and always had a plan when he stepped into the box.  "Something" has affected his belief that his plan will work.
2) He has lost his swagger.  "Something" has made it so pitchers are not intimidated by him anymore.  They are attacking him more.
3) He is getting fooled.  "Something" has changed and he is no longer guessing right on pitches.  He is often not getting the pitches he expects in certain spots.

Not once did they mention what it was that he had returned from - a performance enhancing drug suspension.  Not once did they even mention performance enhancing drugs at all.  Manny is the poster-child for what happens after you stop using.  It is one thing to be a fan of a team and be blind to your heroes' faults.  But these guys are journalists.  You can be a fan and a journalist, but when you are working, put down the foam finger and tell it like it is!  As they say, "no cheering from the pressbox!"

--I heard earlier this week that Sasha Vujacic cut his hair short and had an interesting, non-fashion-related reason.  Vujacic believes that as a rookie (with short hair), he did not get calls from refs because he was too baby-faced.  So he grew his hair longer and grew out some stubble for a few seasons so that he would look a little older.  Now that he is a more established player, he feels that he will get more calls even if he is still pretty baby-faced with his new short-haircut. 

There is some logic in that.  Vujacic did look older with his grubby-look and does look very young again now.  The problem is that he is failing to see that the reason that refs may have treated him like a rookie was that he was one.  And the reason that he will likely get some veteran treatment by refs now is because he is one.  All that hair really did as make him look like an idiot for a couple of years. 

--When the Phillies beat the Dodgers on a walk-off triple in Game 4, Chip Caray gave a great "exciting-game-ending-play-at-the-plate" call.  The trouble was, there was no play and Caray was basically just reading from a script.  Jimmy Rollins hit the ball to the game and Carey went right into the script including the obligatory "Ruiz rounds third; here's the throw to the's not in time!  Phillies win!"  There was no throw.  The ball was cut off and Rafael Furcal was actually shown carrying it with him off the field. 

This is just a week after Caray blew the biggest call in the Twins-Tigers playoff game.  Bottom of the 10th inning, 1 out, runners on first and third.  Here is Caray's call: "Line drive, base hit...caught out there.  Runner tags; here he comes.  Throw to the plate...on target and in tiiiiiime. A double play ends the 10th.  Rayburn evens the ledger."

Here's what happened: Nick Punto lined out to left fielder Ryan Rayburn.  And it wasn't a diving play or anything.  Rayburn just kinda stood there and the ball was hit right to him.  The runner from third tagged up and Rayburn threw home.  The throw was way right, but the catcher caught it and dove back at the plate to get the out at home.

So the call was dead on except that it wasn't a base hit (which, by definition, couldn't have been caught anyway), the throw wasn't close to the target, and Rayburn didn't "even the ledger" because the game was already tied. 

So he's blown the call on the biggest moment of two of the last 10 games he's worked.  Not to mention a million other gaffs along the way.  He gives incorrect stats.  He calls line-drive outs "base hits" somewhat regularly.  He is a chronic exaggerator.  He seems surprised and impressed by the most obvious common knowledge "trivia."  He makes factual and game-play errors constantly.  And if I have to hear him say again that Sandy Alomar, Sr. used to say that you don't "watch" the game, you should "observe" it, I am going to lose it.  He says it every game, usually out of context.  In Game 4 of the NLCS he said it after Ron Darling pointed out that pitchers in the bullpen way out in center field have a hard time seeing the exact edges of an ump's strike zone. 

From USA Today:
"This was heard from Caray during [a] Twins-New York Yankees American League Division Series game: 'A quality at-bat for (Minnesota shortstop) Orlando Cabrera.'
"But Cabrera struck out with two men on, his team down 6-2 to end the top of the seventh inning and batting champion Joe Mauer on deck."
So not only is he incompetent, but he is he a grown man who wants people to call him "Chip" even though his name is Harry.  But I'm sure he's paid really well and has lots of people who tell him how good he is.  (There was a fantastic fake-Chip Caray account on Twitter that got taken down after being highlighted in a post on Deadspin.  So you can't see the Twitter anymore, but see some highlights here.)

Perhaps this post should be the Aikman-Caray Awards?

--And finally, I am not sure if I blame ESPN and Joe Schad for reporting this story, or if I blame the high school coach for being a moron more.  But Terrelle Pryor's high school football coach thinks Jim Tressel isn't using Pryor properly.  I'm sure Tressel (and most Div. I college coaches) love taking strategic advice from high school coaches.  I'm sure Tressel will take it to heart and change his system because a guy who used on know one of his players thinks he's doing it wrong.  Pryor's kindergarten teacher reportedly thinks he should be allowed to nap during defensive series because Pryor often looks cranky on the sidelines.

NFL Week 6 Hangover

New Orleans Saints 48 – New York Giants 27
The formerly #1 ranked Giants defense allowed the Saints to score touchdowns on five of six first half possessions, gaining over 300 yards in the process. And though the Giants kept them in check for most of the second half, this one was never in doubt once Drew Brees stepped on the field in the 1st quarter. Put the topic to bed; the Saints are the NFL’s best team.

Fantasy Studs: Drew Brees (23/30, 369 yards, 4 touchdowns), Hakeem Nicks (5 receptions, 114 yards, 1 touchdown), Marques Colston (8 receptions, 166 yards, 1 touchdown), Lance Moore (6 receptions, 78 yards, 1 touchdown), Robert Meechem (2 receptions, 70 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Saints (5-0) at Dolphins (2-3), 1:15 PM; Cardinals (3-2) at Giants (5-1), 5:20 PM

Minnesota Vikings 33 – Baltimore Ravens 31
At halftime this game was something like the bruising, defensive battle we all expected (17 total points). Then in the second half the teams combined for 47 points, scoring on 7 of the last 9 drives before Baltimore’s Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to preserve Minnesota’s undefeated season.

Fantasy Studs: Joe Flacco (28/43, 385 yards, 2 touchdowns), Brett Favre (21/29, 278 yards, 3 touchdowns), Ray Rice (10 carries, 77 yards, 2 touchdowns, 10 receptions, 117 yards), Adrian Peterson (22 carries, 143 yards), Sydney Rice (6 receptions, 176 yards), Derrick Mason (7 receptions, 97 yards, 1 touchdown), Ryan Longwell (4/4 XP’s, 4/4 FG’s – 40, 22, 29, 31)

Next Week: Vikings (6-0) at Steelers (4-2), 10 AM; Ravens (3-3), bye 

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 – Cleveland Browns 14
So much for the smash-mouth Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 400 yards and the Steelers beat the Browns for the 12th consecutive time. The Steelers’ backfield questions went unanswered as Rashard Mendenhall got the majority of carries (17-7), but Willie Parker had a slightly better yards-per-carry average (3.7-3.6), with each losing 1 fumble on the day. Troy Polamalu had 4 tackles and an interception in his first game since being injured in Week 1 as the Steelers only allowed 1 scoring drive all game.

Fantasy Studs: Ben Roethlisberger (23/35, 417 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 1 fumble lost), Hines Ward (8 receptions, 159 yards, 1 touchdown), Santana Holmes (5 receptions, 104 yards), Heath Miller (5 receptions, 80 yards, 1 touchdown), Steelers’ defense (14 points allowed, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions)

Next Week: Vikings (6-0) at Steelers (4-2), 10 AM; Packers (3-2) at Browns (1-5), 10 AM

Carolina Panthers 28 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
This is more like the Panthers we expected to see. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for over 250 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and the defense only allowed 1 touchdown drive. However, they also gave up 5 yards per carry and Jake Delhomme added two more interceptions to his league-leading total. On the other side, quarterback Josh Johnson was sacked 4 times and fumbled five times (losing only 1).

Fantasy Studs: DeAngelo Williams (30 carries, 152 yards, 2 touchdowns), Jonathan Stewart (17 carries, 110 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 fumble lost), Cadillac Williams (16 carries, 77 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Bills (2-4) at Panthers (2-3), 1:05 PM; Patriots (4-2) at Buccaneers (0-6), 10 AM

Kansas City Chiefs 14, Washington Redskins 6
The Redskins have not faced an opponent win a win at the time of the game all season, and they’re probably lucky to be 2-4. The Chiefs earned their first win of the season, and first of head coach Todd Haley’s career, largely by default. The closest either team got to the end zone was a safety, as no touchdowns were scored. Neither team made it past the opposing 20-yard line in the first half, and only twice in the second half. Ticket-holding fans are not expected to be reimbursed, however.

Fantasy Studs: Ryan Succop (4/4 FG’s – 39, 46, 46, 24), Chiefs’ defense (6 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 interception, 1 safety, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery)

Next Week: Chargers (2-3) at Chiefs (1-5), 10 AM; Eagles (3-2) at Redskins (2-4), Monday 5:30 PM

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 – St. Louis Rams 20 (OT)
For the first time this season, the Rams were not losing at the end of regulation. But they were after the overtime. The Rams scored a season-high 20-points, but had no answer for Maurice Jones-Drew on defense (not many teams do) and gave up a 36-yard field goal on the opening possession of the overtime.

Fantasy Studs: Maurice Jones-Drew (33 carries, 133 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 fumble lost), Mike Sims-Walker (9 receptions, 120 yards), Torry Holts (5 receptions), 101 yards

Next Week: Indianapolis (5-0) at St. Louis (0-6), 10 AM; Jacksonville (3-3), bye

Houston Texans 28 – Cincinnati Bengals 17
Matt Schaub had seen the Bengals win one tight game after another this season and he decided to put this one away early. Shaub threw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns as the Bengals ran out of 4th quarter magic. Their three 4th quarter possessions resulted in a punt, a fumble, and an interception.

Fantasy Studs: Matt Schaub (28/40, 392 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception), Andre Johnson (8 receptions, 135 yards), Steve Slaton (6 receptions, 102 yards, 1 touchdown, 10 carries, 43 yards, 1 fumble lost), Owen Daniels (7 receptions, 78 yards, 2 touchdowns), Chad Ochocinco (5 receptions, 103 yards)

Next Week: 49ers (3-2) at Texans (3-3), 10 AM; Bears (3-2) at Bengals (4-2), 1:15 PM

Green Bay Packers 26 – Detroit Lions 0
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers jumped out to a quick start and then threw it into autopilot for the final three quarters. Rodgers threw two first quarter touchdown passes, but the Packers did not get back into the end zone for the rest of the day. Green Bay’s defense had little trouble with Detroit’s back-up quarterbacks and held them to just 105 yards passing in 25 combined attempts. Detroit gained only 149 total yards all day.

Fantasy Studs: Packers’ defense (0 point allowed, 3 interceptions, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), Aaron Rodgers (29-37, 358 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 1 fumble lost), Ryan Grant (24 carries, 94 yards), Donald Driver (7 receptions, 107 yards), Mason Crosby (2/2 XP’s, 4/4 FG’s – 46, 28, 31, 26)

Next Week: Packers (3-2) at Browns (1-5), 10 AM; Lions (1-5), bye

Arizona Cardinals 27 – Seattle Seahawks 3
The Seahawks probably saw this game as a chance to make a statement in the relatively weak NFC West. They made one: “We’re not going to win.” The Seahawks managed just 128 total yards (14 rushing!) against the resurgent Cardinals and Kurt Warner moved into a tie as the fastest quarterback to 30,000 yards in history. The Cards are out to prove once again that they can win without any semblance of a running game.

Fantasy Studs: Kurt Warner (32/41, 276 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), Larry Fitzgerald (13 receptions, 100 yards, 1 touchdown), Steve Breaston (7 receptions, 77 yards, 1 touchdown), Cardinals’ defense (3 points allowed, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception, 5 sacks)

Next Week: Cardinals (3-2) at Giants (5-1), 5:20 PM, Seahawks (2-4), bye

Oakland Raiders 13 – Philadelphia Eagles 9
Is there such a thing as momentum in sports? The Raiders had lost their last three games, scoring a total of 16 points. The Eagles had won their last two, scoring a total of 67 points. Philadelphia had more yards of offense in Week 5 than Oakland had had in Week 4 and 5 combined. And yet, here we are with the Raiders winning despite JaMarcus Russell continuing to be awful and the Raiders continuing to have no running game. The Eagles ran only 12 running plays against the leagues 4th worst run defense.

Fantasy Studs: Zach Miller (6 reception, 139 yards, 1 touchdown), Justin Fargas (23 carries, 87 yards), DeSean Jackson (6 receptions, 94 yards), Brian Westbrook ( 9 receptions, 91 yards), Raiders’ defense (9 points allowed, 6 sacks)

Next Week: Jets (4-2) at Raiders (2-4), 1:05 PM; Eagles (3-2) at Redskins (2-4), Monday 5:30 PM

New England Patriots 59 – Tennessee Titans 0
One might wonder why Tom Brady threw 34 times in a 59 point blowout, or why he was in the game to start the second half…and still throwing. But this isn’t pee-wee football, and it is up to the defense to stop them if they don’t like it. Brady was nearly perfect for the Pats, while Vince Young was 0-2 with an interception in just over one quarter of work.

Fantasy Studs: Tom Brady (29/34, 380 yards, 6 touchdowns), Chris Johnson (17 carries, 128 yards), Lawrence Maroney (16 carries, 123 yards, 1 touchdown), Wes Welker (10 receptions, 150 yards, 2 touchdowns), Randy Moss (8 receptions, 129 yards, 3 touchdowns), Patriots’ defense (0 points allowed, 6 fumbles forced, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions)

Next Week: Patriots (4-2) at Buccaneers (0-6), 10 AM; Titans (0-6), bye

Buffalo Bills 16 – New York Jets 13 (OT)
Mark Sanchez is starting to look more like Matt Leinart and less like Carson Palmer. Sanchez is now tied for the league lead in interception, after five of his passes ended up in the hands of guys in the wrong colored shirts. The Jets’ win over New England and 4-0 start seem like distant memories as they now sit just ½ game ahead of Miami for third in the AFC East, already having lost to the Dolphins head-to-head. Buffalo’s 2nd win of the season could best be described as an accident after they stumbled on offense all game and their defense allowed over 300 yards on the ground.

Fantasy Studs: Thomas Jones (22 carries, 210 yards, 1 touchdown), Leon Washington (15 carries, 99 yards), Bills defense (13 points allowed, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack), Rian Lindell (1/1 XP’s, 3/4 FG’s – 33, 25, 47)

Next Week: Jets (4-2) at Raiders (2-4), 10 AM; Bills (2-4) at Panthers (2-3), 1:05 PM

Atlanta Falcons 21 – Chicago Bears 14
The Bears turned the ball over 3 times inside the 10-yard line, once on downs with under one minute to play. Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan traded fourth quarter touchdown drives however and it looked like Cutler might have one more in him to tie it up, but a false start penalty on Orlando Pace turned a 4th-and-1 into a 4th-and-6 with under a minute to go, and Cutler couldn’t convert. Cutler led the Bears in rushing as Matt Forte was quieted once again, and held to 23 yards on 15 carries, with 2 fumbles.

Fantasy Studs: Jay Cutler (27/43, 300 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions)

Next Week: Bears (3-2) at Bengals (4-2), 1:15 PM; Falcons (4-1) at Cowboys (3-2), 1:15 PM

Denver Broncos 34 – San Diego Chargers 23
If their offenses aren’t going to get the job done, Eddie Royal and Darren Sproles will take things into their own hands. Royal had a punt and kick returned for touchdowns and Sproles took back a punt as well. LaDainian Tomlinson was ineffective once again and the Chargers’ entire offensive hopes fell on the shoulder of Philip Rivers. Kyle Orton was his typical unspectacular self, and did what he seems to always do – win.

Fantasy Studs: Kyle Orton (20/29, 229 yards, 2 touchdowns), Philip Rivers (20/33, 274 yards, 1 touchdown), Tony Scheffler (6 receptions, 101 yards, 1 touchdown), Eddie Royal (8 total returns, 235 yards, 2 touchdowns), Darren Sproles (8 total returns, 226 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Chargers (2-3) at Chiefs (1-5), 10 AM; Broncos (6-0), bye

Originally published on October 20 on

Friday, October 16, 2009

NFL Week 6 Preview

Game of the Week: Giants (5-0) at Saints (4-0) 10AM - Fox
The undefeated Saints and their high powered offense are just 3.5 point favorites at home, after a bye week, against a quarterback with a bad foot and a secondary missing most of its starters, so either the odds makers aren't sold on New Orleans, or they're over-sold on New York. Possibly a bit of both, but the 5-0 Giants have played one average team (the Cowboys) and beat them on a last second field goal. The other 4 wins came against the Redskins, Buccaneers, Chiefs, and Raiders...not exactly a solid test. But that weak early schedule has given the new receiving group to gel with Eli Manning. This week we will find out for sure if either or both of these teams are for real (answer: yes and yes). Winner: Giants

Game of the Week, Vol. II: Ravens (3-2) at Vikings (5-0) 10AM - CBS

Minnesota's defense is good. The Ravens offense is good. So that's a nice little matchup. But the marquee outside of the Metrodome won't be flashing "Joe Flacco vs. Jared Allen." This is a matchup of the game's best runningback vs. its best run defense. And it is a matchup of one of the game's all-time best quarterbacks vs. one of its all-time best safeties. The Ravens may be able to slow down Peterson. And they may be able to stuff Favre. But can they do both? Winner: Vikings

Texans (2-3) at Bengals (4-1) 10AM

Cincinnati doesn't win big, but they just keep winning. Carson Palmer seems to be fully recovered from the elbow injury that basically cost him the 2008 season, and Chad Ochocinco is thriving because of it. Houston gives up a lot of big plays on defense, but they if they can get to Palmer and keep the Bengals from lighting it up, Houston's offense is certainly good enough to carry them. Winner: Bengals

Lions (1-4) at Packers (2-2) 10AM

The Packers were supposed to be serious contenders for the NFC North crown and they already find themselves a head-to-head loss and two games behind the Vikings. The Lions have been considerably better than last year, but Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson haven't practiced much this week and Dante Culpepper gave the ball away too many times last week. The Packers are favored by 2 touchdowns and that might mean then only need to score 20 points to cover. Winner: Packers

Panthers (1-3) at Buccaneers (0-5) 10AM

Cadillac Williams is leading the Bucs in rushing, and he is averaging a little under 10 carries per game. No wonder it's been so tough on their quarterbacks! But the Bucs have shown some signs of life with new quarterback Josh Johnson, who seems to be in sync with Kellen Winslow. If Williams or Derrick Ward starts carrying their share of the offense on the ground, the Bucs could be decent. Winner: Buccaneers

Chiefs (0-5) at Redskins (2-3) 10AM

Much has been said about the Redskins not playing a team with a win through the first six weeks. I'm not sure if the saddest part is that they're only 2-3, or that people keep expecting them to lose. Kansas City looked solid last week against Dallas (well, against all of Dallas except Miles Austin). Winner: Chiefs

Rams (0-5) at Jaguars (2-3) 10AM

Because every game on the schedule has to be played whether anyone is watching or not. Winner: Jaguars

Lock of the Week: Browns (1-4) at Steelers (3-2) 10AM

Derek Anderson was once a Pro-Bowl quarterback. He's not anymore. And while the Browns insist they're not shopping golden boy (who isn't apparently very good) Brady Quinn, Quinn is reportedly shopping his Cleveland-are house. Troy Polamalu returns to the Steelers this week and the way their offense is playing, they might win this game 40-0. Winner: Steelers

Cardinals (2-2) at Seahawks (2-3) 1:05PM

Despite what most people around the NFL might have heard, the NFC and AFC West do still exist and this game is proof. This game could go a long way towards determining which of these two will rival the 49ers for divisional supremacy, especially if the Cards can steal one on the road. Winner: Seahawks

Lock of the Week, Vol. II: Eagles (3-1) at Raiders (1-4) 1:05PM

84.8% of the people playing ESPN's Pigskin Pick 'Em game picked the Eagles to cover the spread in this one. So 85% of fans think the Raiders will lose by at least 15 at home. Watching the Raiders play last week, I don't even think it matters who the opponent is for that to be true. Winners: Eagles

Bills (1-4) at Jets (3-2) 1:15PM - CBS

Despite what it may seem, the Jets really aren't relying on Mark Sanchez to do that much for them to win. They are babying him so he can get some experience under his belt before they lay the franchise on his shoulders for real. Proof? In Monday's grudge match with the Dolphins, which turned into a shootout in the fourth quarter, Sanchez only had 24 pass attempts. For the season, he has thrown the 19th most passes of all quarterbacks, the fewest of any full-time starter with 5 games under his belt. Winner: Jets

Titans (0-5) at Patriots (3-2) 1:15PM

At some point the Titans have to show up again, right? They can't be this bad after being that good last year, right? After Kerry Collins got benched last week there was some question whether he'd lost his starting job. Apparently he hasn't but he has thrown the second most passes in the league so far, and has the 29th best passer rating. Winner: Patriots

Bears (3-1) at Falcons (3-1) 5:20PM - NBC

Jay Cutler has been a far more patient quarterback since coming over to the Bears and besides his Week 1 meltdown, he's been a much better one as well. The Falcons' offensive balance could give the Bears defense trouble, with Matt Ryan having options all over the field particularly with Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Michael Turner. Winner: Falcons

Broncos (5-0) at Chargers (2-2) Monday 5:30PM - ESPN

This game could mark the official changing of the guard in the AFC West if Denver can go in to Mission Valley and beat the Chargers. LaDainian Tomlinson has the 30-year-old-runningback-blues, and the Chargers defense is allowing over 25 points per game. I can't say I am a huge believer in the Broncos or Kyle Orton yet, but the guy has won 2/3 of his career starts, and they are 5-0. Winner: Broncos

All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only. See this website for what's airing in your area.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Before, During, And After Manny's Supension

When Manny Ramirez went on his maternity leave early in the 2009 season, I thought it might be interesting to note some of the main offensive stats for the team and then see what kind of effect Manny's absence would have. At the time, the team was off to an incredibly fast start both with the bats and on the mound. I then recorded the same set of stats at the time Manny returned, and then again at the regular season's end. I wrote down a few hypotheses about what would happen and while a few were supported by the numbers, but I was somewhat surprised by others.

-All offensive statistics will dip dramatically in Manny's absence. Upon his return, they'll improve but overall the team will lose ground down the stretch after extending themselves to wait out the suspension.
-Andre Ethier will experience the most dramatic dip and then increase in stats since he has been hitting in front of Manny in the lineup and will miss that protection.
-Juan Pierre's numbers will experience a dramatic downturn regardless of Manny's presence (Pierre is hitting .346 at the time of the suspension). Playing every day will hurt him and he will not finish the season over .300.
-The pitching staff's hot start will come to a screeching halt as the offense struggles and puts more pressure on the pitching.
-Manny's post-suspension numbers will not dip dramatically upon his return. He will struggle initially after the lay-off, but eventually regain his form.
-The Dodgers' 6.5 game lead at the time of the suspension will initially be extended, but be erased by the end of the season. They may win the West, but not by more than 3 games.

None of my predictions were particularly ground-breaking. The common assumption was that absent of Manny's bat in the middle of the line-up, opposing pitching staffs would not be afraid to pitch to or around the other players when called for. When Manny returned, he might have rust to shake off, but he'd eventually become the fearsome hitter he's been for years. While some of this proved correct, there were some surprises.

-Juan Pierre held up far better than expected. Prior to the suspension, he batted .346 in limited, back-up duty. As an everyday starter for those 50 games, he batted .322 with 37 runs scored and 24 RBI in 245 at bats. He struggled a lot more coming off the bench after Manny came back (.281, 20 R, 7 RBI in 135 at bats) and finished the season at .308. But his numbers during the suspension probably saved the season for Los Angeles.
-Matt Kemp had a solid season over all, but his power was far better with Manny in the lineup. Kemp hit .275, 17 R, 17 RBI, 3 HR in the first 29 games. During the suspension, but he improved his batting average to .302 but only hit 7 homers in his next approximately 200 at bats. Then when Manny returned, Kemp's power numbers took a huge leap, surging from 10 homers in his first 291 at bats, to 16 homers in his final 315 at bats.
-Andre Ethier did struggle greatly in Manny's absence. Pre-suspension: .317, .76 runs/game, .93 RBI/game, about 15 AB/HR. Without Manny: .257, .38 runs/game, .52 RBI/game, 31.1 AB/HR. Post-suspension: .285, .63 runs/game, .65 RBI/game, 19.8 AB/HR. Even with Manny struggling after his return, Ethier was likely seeing much better pitches to hit, and hit them he did!
-Orlando Hudson's red hot start came to a screeching halt, but that probably had as much to do with the law of averages as it did Manny Ramirez. Hudson hit .342 prior to the suspension, .292 during it, and just .364 afterwards to finish the season right at his career average of .281.
-The team averaged 5.55 runs per game before, 4.40 runs during, and 4.81 runs after the suspension for a season average of 4.81 as well. Their margin of victory went from +1.90 (wow!) to +.58 to +1.02. They were +1.04 on the season.
-The pitching staff did not see any great change despite the increased pressure put on as the offense dipped. In fact, the staff ERA dropped from 3.72 before to 3.46 during the suspension. And if you think that could be attributed to the better defense that Pierre provided over Manny in left field (though Manny's potential errors would only lead to unearned run and not affect ERA), the staff ERA dropped to an amazing 2.75 over the final 83 games of the season! The season ERA was an ML leading 3.41.
-The team did struggle during the suspension, going from an over all winning percentage of .724 to .580. They were only 28-21 during the suspension after starting out 21-8. When Manny returned, the winning percentage continued to dip despite the amazing pitching and the fact that the batting average and runs/game all improved. They were 45-38 (.542) after Manny returned and finished 95-67 (.586).
-Their NL West lead was 6.5 games when Manny went out. It actually stretched out to 7.5 games when Manny returned, and shrunk all the way down to 1 game in the final weekend before stretching back out to 3 games at season's end.
-While Ethier had the biggest slide with Manny out (70 points), Rafael Furcal had the worst numbers. Furcal hit just .240 during the suspension. Furcal hit .293 when Manny returned, but finished the season a disappointing .269 with just 57 runs scored despite playing a full season (150 games played).
-Besides Pierre, Casey Blake was the team's biggest savior during the suspension. 33 or Blake's 79 RBI came during those 50 games. He hit .286 during the suspension (.264 before, .274 after).
-Russell Martin's superstar status seems to be a thing of the past. While he is still becoming known as a great game-caller, his offensive numbers are not good. He struggled before and during the suspension (.246 total BA with 1 HR in 248 at bats). He improved slightly after the suspension, hitting .253 with 6 homers in his final 257 at bats.

And finally, there is Manny Ramirez. Pre-suspension, Manny his .348 and hit a homer every 15.3 at bats. Upon his return, his batting average dipped 79 points (.269), and his homerun average dropped to 1 every 20 at bats (still impressive). With three times the at bats after the suspension as before it, he barely scored and drove in twice the runs.

The slugger's post-suspension numbers were nowhere near the astronomical numbers he had put up in his first nearly full-season with the Dodgers. His struggles have been attributed various things, like being upset that he was being booed for his steroid-related suspension, being distracted by the circus around the suspension, being slow to get back into the groove, etc. Announcers keep saying that Manny is almost all the way back and that any day now, he will take over.

It's been nearly 90 games since the suspension. It's not rust. He was booed for a decade before this drug suspension. It's not his fragile emotions. He's been in the center ring of his own circus his entire career. He's not distracted. It is pretty clear that Manny struggled after coming back from a performance enhancing drug suspension because performance enhancing drugs were not enhancing his performance anymore.

Maybe I am not so upset that the Mets didn't sign him, and that the Dodgers are stuck with his $22 million dollar contract for a 38 year-old defensive liability who'll be lucky to hit .275 and 25 homers next year.

NFL Week 5 Hangover

Miami Dolphins 31 – New York Jets 27

The Dolphins and Jets seem to have a knack for making memorable Monday Night games and this one was no different. It was a battle of two of the league’s up-and-coming franchise rookie quarterbacks. It was a battle of the Wildcat vs. Rex Ryan’s blitz schemes. And for three quarters, it was a battle of two of the league’s best defenses. Then the gloves came off and they traded fourth quarter touchdown drives with the Dolphins only winning because they basically had the ball last. Oh, and Braylon Edwards is back.

Fantasy Studs: Chad Henne (20/26, 241 yards, 2 touchdowns), Ronnie Brown (21 carries, 74 yards, 2 touchdowns), Thomas Jones (13 carries, 42 yards, 2 touchdowns), Braylon Edwards (5 receptions, 64 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Buffalo (1-4) at New York Jets (3-2) - 1:15 PM; Miami (2-3), bye

New York Giants 44 – Oakland Raiders 7

It is rare when a 37-point game is not as close as the score indicates. This game was one of those times. The Giants kicked three field goals from inside the red zone, and the Raiders’ lone score should not even have counted. A few plays before it, the Giants forced a fumble and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown, but the referees blew the call, saying forward progress had been ruled despite that replays clearly showed the whistle was not blown until after the fumble was being returned. Raiders’ head coach Tom Cable has reportedly not physically abused anyone one his staff in a few weeks, though making JaMarcus Russell play every week is pretty cruel.

Fantasy Studs:Eli Manning (8/10, 173 yards, 2 touchdowns), Ahmad Bradshaw (11 carries, 110 yards, 2 touchdowns), Giants’ defense (7 points allowed, 6 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries), Lawrence Tynes (5 PAT’s, 3 FG’s – 25, 33, 37)

Next Week: New York Giants (5-0) at New Orleans (4-0), 10 AM; Philadelphia (3-1) at Oakland (1-4), 1:05 PM

Cleveland Browns 6 – Buffalo Bills 3

Derek Anderson may hold the dubious honor of playing the worst game by a winning quarterback in NFL history. Anderson completed just three passes in 17 attempts, and one of them was to a player on the Bills. So how badly does coach Eric Mangini think of Brady Quinn if he didn’t get put in there to relieve Anderson? Cleveland had just one drive of more than 23 yards.

Fantasy Studs: Browns’ defense (3 points allowed, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 2 sacks), Bills’ defense (6 points allowed, 1 interception, 1 sack)

Next Week: Cleveland (1-4) at Pittsburgh (3-2), 10 AM; Buffalo (1-4) at New York Jets (3-2) - 1:15 PM

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 – Detroit Lions 20

The Lions are back in familiar territory – a losing streak. Pittsburgh just barely pulled out a win in Detroit thanks to Ben Roethlisberger’s three touchdown passes, James Harrison’s three sacks, and Calvin Johnson missing most of the game with a knee injury in the first quarter. Pittsburgh’s defense stalled Detroit in the game’s final moments as Dante Culpepper tried to drive them in for a game-tying score.

Fantasy Studs: Ben Roethlisbereger (23/30 277 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception), Rashard Mendenhall (15 carries, 77 yards, 1 touchdown), Hines Ward (7 receptions, 85 yards, 1 touchdown), Dennis Northcutt (5 receptions, 70 yards, 1 touchdown), Steelers’ defense (13 points allowed, 7 sacks, 1 interception, 4 forced fumbles)

Next Week: Cleveland (1-4) at Pittsburgh (3-2), 10 AM; Detroit (1-4) at Green Bay (2-2), 10 AM

Dallas Cowboys 26 – Kansas City Chiefs 20

Tony Romo had huge numbers and two clutch fourth quarter touchdown drives, but most it had a lot less to do with the guy throwing the ball as it did the guy catching it. Or perhaps the guys not tackling him. Miles Austin dropped relatively easy touchdown passes early in the game, but he made up for them late, turning two seemingly insignificant pass plays into game-changers with huge runs after the catches.

Fantasy Studs:Tony Romo (20/34, 351 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 fumble lost), Matt Cassel (23/41, 253 yards, 2 touchdowns), Tashard Choice (8 carries, 92 yards, 1 touchdown), Miles Austin (10 receptions, 250 yards, 2 touchdowns), Dwayne Bowe (5 receptions, 74 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Kansas City (0-5) at Washington (2-3), 10 AM; Dallas (3-2), bye

Minnesota Vikings 38 – St. Louis Rams 10

Days after his 40th birthday, Brett Favre showed no signs of slowing down with yet another blowout (the Vikings have the third highest margin of victory in the NFL). The Rams actually piled up more total yards on offense but gave the ball away four times (fumbling twice inside the Vikings’ 5-yard line, and throwing one interception from the Vikings 9).

Fantasy Studs: Adrian Peterson (15 carries, 69 yards, 2 touchdowns), Donnie Avery (5 receptions, 87 yards, 1 touchdown), Vikings’ defense (10 points allowed, 4 fumbles forced, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 2 sacks, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Baltimore (3-2) at Minnesota (5-0), 10 AM; St. Louis (0-5) at Jacksonville (2-3), 10 AM

Philadelphia Eagles 33 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14

Tampa Bay’s new starting quarterback is often compared to Donovan McNabb, and this week Josh Johnson got a look at McNabb up close and personal. He apparently did not see the Philadelphia secondary very well, throwing 3 interceptions. McNabb played a near perfect game in his return to the field after breaking his ribs earlier in the season.

Fantasy Studs:Donovan McNabb (16/21, 264 yards, 3 touchdowns, 30 yards rushing), Josh Johnson (26/50, 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 40 yards rushing), Jeremy Maclin (6 receptions, 142 yards, 2 touchdowns), Kellen Winslow (9 receptions, 102 yards, 2 touchdowns), Eagles’ defense (14 points allowed, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 safety, 2 forced fumbles)

Next Week: Carolina (1-3) at Tampa Bay (0-5), 10 AM; Philadelphia (3-1) at Oakland (1-4), 1:05 PM

Carolina Panthers 20 – Washington Redskins 17

Midway through the third quarter, the Panthers found themselves in the familiar position of looking up at their opponents. They’d only managed two points (on a second quarter safety) and Washington had just scored a touchdown to go up 17-2. But Carolina woke up and Jake Delhomme engineered three scoring drives for 18 unanswered points to put Carolina up for good.

Fantasy Studs: Panthers’ defense (17 points allowed, 1 safety, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery)

Next Week: Carolina (1-3) at Tampa Bay (0-5), 10 AM; Kansas City (0-5) at Washington (2-3)

Cincinnati Bengals 17 – Baltimore Ravens 14

Cedric Benson became the first player to rush for 100-yards or more against the Ravens in four seasons and Carson Palmer carried the Bengals to their third straight 3-point win. The Bengals’ five games have all be decided by a touchdown or less, and they now sit atop the AFC North with wins over all three divisional rivals. And if Ray Lewis hadn’t complained about officials enough before, he can’t have liked the unnecessary roughness penalty called on him for a cheap shot he threw on Chad Ochocinco that kept Cincy’s last minute scoring drive alive.

Fantasy Studs:Carson Palmer (18/31, 271 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception), Cedric Benson (27 carries, 120 yards, 1 touchdown), Ray Rice (14 carries, 69 yards, 7 receptions, 74 yards, 1 touchdown), Chad Ochocinco (7 receptions, 94 yards)

Next Week: Baltimore (3-2) at Minnesota (5-0), 10 AM; Houston (2-3) at Cincinnati (4-1), 10 AM

Atlanta Falcons 45 – San Francisco 49ers 10

Just when you thought it was safe to call the 49ers and sure-thing NFC contender, they come out at home and allow 14 unanswered points to open the game, and 31 more to close it. Roddy White and Michael Turner lived up to their billing as fantasy stars, while the 49ers defense completely crumbled in the face of Atlanta’s balanced attack.

Fantasy Studs: Matt Ryan (22/32, 329 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), Michael Turner (22 carries, 97 yards, 3 touchdowns), Roddy White (8 receptions, 210 yards, 2 touchdowns), Falcons’ defense (10 point allowed, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 3 sacks)

Next Week: Chicago (3-1) at Atlanta (3-1), 5:20 PM; San Francisco (3-2), bye

Seattle Seahawks 41 – Jacksonville Jaguars 0

First of all, yes. The Seahawks and Jaguars are still in the NFL. Many fans may not have been aware of this fact, and apparently neither are the Jaguars. Matt Hasselbeck returned to the Seahawks after breaking ribs earlier in the season and torched the Jags’ defense, while Seattle’s defense stopped Maurice Jones-Drew in his tracks. Seahawks fans finally got a good look at the multi-syllabic touchdown combination they were hoping for between Hasselbeck and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Fantasy Studs:Matt Hasselbeck (18/30, 241 yards, 4 touchdowns), Nate Burleson (6 receptions, 98 yards, 2 touchdowns), T. J. Houshmandzadeh (5 reception, 77 yards, 2 touchdowns), Seahawks’ defense (0 points allowed, 1 touchdown, 2 fumbles recovered, 5 sacks)

Next Week: St. Louis (0-5) at Jacksonville (2-3), 10 AM, Arizona (2-2) at Seattle (2-3), 1:05 PM

Arizona Cardinals 28 – Houston Texans 21

The only thing more potent than the combination of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald in the second quarter of this game was that of Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson in the fourth. As expected, these two offenses put on an airshow Sunday, but the story wound up being the defense. Arizona held from their own 1-yard line three times in the final minute to stone the Texans and preserve the lead that they earned on a 4th quarter interception returned for a touchdown.

Fantasy Studs: Matt Schaub (35/50, 371 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), Kurt Warner (26/38, 302 yards, 2 touchdowns), Andre Johnson (8 receptions, 101 yards, 2 touchdowns), Larry Fitzgerald (5 receptions, 79 yards, 2 touchdowns), Anquan Boldin (7 receptions, 81 yards), Owen Daniels (8 receptions, 94 yards)

Next Week: Houston (2-3) at Cincinnati (4-1), 10 AM, Arizona (2-2) at Seattle (2-3), 105 PM

Denver Broncos 20 – New England Patriots 17

Kyle Orton had a huge fourth quarter to give the Broncos their fourth come-from-behind win of the season. New Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels beat his former mentor Bill Belichick in his first game against him. But the real winners Sunday are those who did not see the Broncos’ throwback uniforms.

Fantasy Studs:Kyle Orton (35/48, 330 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), Tom Brady (19/33, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns), Wes Welker (8 receptions, 86 yards, 1 touchdown), Brandon Marshall (8 receptions, 64 yards, 2 touchdowns)

Next Week: Tennessee (0-5) at New England (3-2), 1:15 PM, Denver (5-0) at San Diego (2-2), Monday 5:30 PM

Indianapolis Colts 31 – Tennessee Titans 9

When you haven’t won a game yet and everything seems to be falling apart, it is just not fair to have to face Peyton Manning, who can make even the best of teams look like the J.V. Manning is now one of two quarterback to ever start a season with 5 consecutive 300-yard passing games, and the Colts have a 14-game regular season winning streak.

Fantasy Studs: Peyton Manning (36/44, 309 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception), Austin Collie (8 receptions, 97 yards, 2 touchdowns), Colts’ defense (9 points allowed, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery, 1 sack)

Next Week: Tennessee (0-5) at New England (3-2), 1:15 PM; Indianapolis (5-0), bye

Originally published October 13, 2009 on

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NFL Week 4 Hangover

New Orleans Saints 24, New York Jets 10

You didn’t really think Mark Sanchez was going to lead the Jets to an undefeated season, did you? Sanchez’ perfect start to his NFL career came crashing to the turf and it sounded a lot like the sound made when the Saints score two defensive touchdowns on returns after Sanchez' own turnovers. That said, the Jets held the undefeated Saints’ offense to just 10 points and are still the leaders of the AFC East.

Fantasy Studs: Pierre Thomas (19 carries, 86 yards, 1 touchdown), Saints’ defense (2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery)

Next Week: New York Jets (3-1) at Miami (1-3), Monday 5:30 PM; New Orleans (4-0) – bye

Chicago Bears 48, Detroit Lions 24

The Lions' winning streak was cut short (at 1 game) by a second half surge by the Bears. Jay Cutler seems to have completely shed the weight of his Week 1 disaster, as well as some of the gun-slinging mentality that led him being run out of Denver with an “Underachiever” tag pinned to his jersey. The Bears running attack took it to the Lions, with three different players scoring touchdowns and Matt Forte having a breakout game.

Fantasy Studs: Matt Forte (12 carries, 121 yards, 1 touchdown), Kevin Smith (19 carries, 30 yards, 2 touchdowns), Jay Cutler (18/28, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 carries, 8 yards, 1 touchdown), Calvin Johnson (8 receptions, 133 yards)

Next Week: Pittsburgh (2-2) at Detroit (1-3), 10 AM; Chicago (3-1) – bye

New York Giants 27, Kansas City Chiefs 16

Steve Smith is likely the best receiver in the NFL right now, just not the Steve Smith you think. He added to his NFL-leading reception and yardage totals as Eli Manning continued his best season at quarterback, picking apart the suspect Chiefs secondary. This was the Giants 2nd consecutive game where the starters sat for the fourth quarter, and they’ll likely have another next week (hosting Oakland). Defenses had better beware of a very well-rested Brandon Jacobs as the season roars on.

Fantasy Studs: Eli Manning (20/34, 292 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, 1 fumble lost), Steve Smith (11 receptions, 134 yards, 2 touchdowns), Giants’ defense (16 points allowed, 5 sacks, 5 fumbles forced)

Next Week: Oakland (0-4) at New York Giants (4-0), 10 AM; Dallas (2-2) at Kansas City (0-4), 10 AM

Cincinnati Bengals 23, Cleveland Browns 20 (OT)

The artist formerly known as Chad Johnson didn’t get the ball much, but he made it count when he did, scoring 2 touchdowns on 3 catches, one in spectacular fashion with 1:55 in the fourth to tie the score. The Browns were amazingly able to block that extra point to preserve the tie, but weren’t able to pull off the trick again on Shayne Graham’s short game-winning field goal with four seconds left in overtime. Cleveland coach Eric Mangini passed up a potential game-winning 57 yard field goal late in the fourth, choosing to punt instead.

Fantasy Studs:Jerome Harrison (29 carries, 121 yards, 1 fumble), Chad Ochocinco (3 receptions, 24 yards, 2 touchdowns), Mohamed Massaquoi (8 receptions, 148 yards)

Next Week: Cincinnati (3-1) at Baltimore (3-1), 10 AM; Cleveland (0-4) at Buffalo (1-3), 10 AM

Indianapolis Colts 34, Seattle Seahawks 17

Peyton Manning continued his methodical dominance this season, helping Indianapolis jump out to a big lead early and forcing the Seahawks to throw the ball the catch up. Missing their starting quarterback, that was not in the game plan for Seattle, and they never could get their running game going, though Seneca Wallace did have another decent game behind center.

Fantasy Studs:Peyton Manning (31/41, 353 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (8 receptions, 103 yards), Dallas Clark (8 receptions, 80 yards), Reggie Wayne (6 receptions, 74 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Jacksonville (2-2) at Seattle (1-3), 1:15 PM; Indianapolis (4-0) at Tennessee (0-4), 5:10 PM

Washington Redskins 16, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

There aren’t many former I-AA football players in the NFL. Even fewer from non-scholarship programs. Far fewer ever get to start a game, but that is exactly what former San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson did Sunday for the Bucs. Johnson, the NCAA career passer efficiency leader played well but came up just short as Jason Campbell and the ’Skins found just enough left in the tank to pull out an ugly win.

Fantasy Studs:Clinton Portis (25 carries, 98 yards), Santana Moss (2 receptions, 74 yards, 1 touchdown), Chris Cooley (5 receptions, 65 yards, 1 touchdown), Redskins’ defense (13 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery), Buccaneers’ defense (16 points allowed, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery)

Next Week: Washington (2-0) at Carolina (0-3), 10 AM, Tampa Bay (0-4) at Philadelphia (2-1), 10 AM

Jacksonville Jaguars 37, Tennessee Titans 17

The Jags jumped out to a 10-0 lead through the first quarter, and continued to outpace the Titans in the second, going into halftime up 27-3. Tennessee’s nightmarish season continued with a blowout loss in Jacksonville. The Titans had a decent offensive day, but their defense was simply no match for David Garrad and Mike Sims-Walker in the air.

Fantasy Studs:David Garrard (27/37, 323 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 fumble lost), Kerry Collins (29/48, 284 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 1 rushing touchdown), Mike Sims-Walker (7 receptions, 91 yards, 2 touchdowns), Nate Washington (7 receptions, 66 yards, 1 touchdown), Marcedes Lewis (4 receptions, 76 yards, 1 touchdown), Josh Scobee (3 PAT, 3 FG – 22 yards, 50 yards, 33 yards)

Next Week: Jacksonville (2-2) at Seattle (1-3), 1:15 PM; Indianapolis (4-0) at Tennessee (0-4), 5:10 PM

Houston Texans 29, Oakland Raiders 6

The good news for Raiders fans is that the season is one-quarter complete. The bad news is that starting runningback Darren McFadden needs knee surgery and could miss four games, and head coach Tom Cable may be arrested and would likely be done for the season, if not longer. Cable’s expected arrest will come because of an incident in which he allegedly broke the jaw of an assistant coach, not because his coaching is actually, literally criminal.

Fantasy Studs:Steve Slaton (21 carries, 65 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 receptions, 24 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 fumble lost), Texans’ defense (6 points allowed, 1 safety, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 sacks)

Next Week: Oakland (0-4) at New York Giants (4-0), 10 AM; Houston (2-2) at Arizona (1-2), 1:15 PM

New England Patriots 27, Baltimore Ravens 21

Mark Clayton dropped an easy pass late in the game that would have kept alive a Baltimore drive, but as the ball slipped away from Clayton, so the game did from the Ravens. Tom Brady seems to be regaining his Tom-Brady-ness, and still without any running game to speak of, the Patriots are working themselves back into the chase for a top spot in the AFC. Ray Lewis and other Ravens complained after the game about perceived favoritism from the officials towards New England, but the most complained about play was one in which Raven Terrell Suggs took two falling steps forward after a play ended, and dove head first into the knees of Tom Brady, throwing his arm into Brady as he fell. That’s illegal.

Fantasy Studs: Tom Brady (21/32, 258 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 rushing touchdown, 1 fumble lost), Joe Flacco (27/47, 264 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), Ray Rice (11 carries, 103 yards), Derrick Mason (7 receptions, 88 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Cincinnati (3-1) at Baltimore (3-1), 10 AM; New England (3-1) at Denver (4-0), 1:15 PM

Miami Dolphins 38, Buffalo Bills 10

No Chad Pennington? No problem for the Dolphins who rolled to an easy win over divisional rival Buffalo behind Chad Henne, making his 1st career start at quarterback. Henne’s main job was to hand the ball off and get out of the way (8 Dolphins had at least 1 carry, totalling 250 rushing yards), but he was efficient and effective when called on the throw as well (8 Dolphins had at least 1 reception).

Fantasy Studs: Ronnie Brown (20 carries, 115 yards, 2 touchdowns), Ricky Williams (16 carries, 85 yards, 1 touchdown), Dolphins’ defense (10 points allowed, 6 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 1 forced fumble)

Next Week: Cleveland (0-4) at Buffalo (1-3), 10 AM; New York Jets (3-1) at Miami (1-3), Monday 5:30 PM

Denver Broncos 17, Dallas Cowboys 10

All seems well in Denver as Brandon Marshall seems to have been able to put his off-season grumbling behind him as easily as he put the Cowboys’ secondary behind him in his game-winning, fourth quarter, globe-circumnavigating touchdown run. Denver and new coach Josh McDaniels have roared out to a 4-0 record and basically clinched the AFC West already thanks to the Chargers stumbling out of the block and the Raiders and Chiefs not really being NFL-caliber teams.

Fantasy Studs: Kyle Orton (20/29, 243 yards, 2 touchdowns), Brandon Marshall (4 receptions, 91 yards, 1 touchdown), Broncos’ defense (10 points allowed, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 5 sacks)

Next Week: Dallas (2-2) at Kansas City (0-4), 10 AM; New England (3-1) at Denver (4-0), 1:15 PM

San Francisco 49ers 35, St. Louis Rams 0

St. Louis did a decent job of keeping the 49ers offense quiet, but their own offense simply couldn’t move the ball and couldn’t keep their hands on it either. The 49ers forced three turnovers and returned all three for touchdowns. Vernon Davis continues to impress at tight end with his 3rd touchdown in two games.

Fantasy Studs: Shaun Hill (14/24, 152 yards, 2 touchdowns), 49ers defense (0 points allowed, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries, 5 sacks), Vernon Davis (3 receptions, 43 yards, 1 touchdown)

Next Week: Atlanta (2-1) at San Francisco (3-1), 1:05 PM; Minnesota (3-0) at St. Louis (0-4), 10 AM

Pittsburgh Steelers 38, San Diego Chargers 28

When one team controls the ball for over 2/3 of the game and at one point has a 28 point lead, you wouldn’t expect that game to be a nail-biter, but that’s just what this one was. Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall were nearly perfect all night as Pittsburgh jumped out and made this one look like a laugher (as evidences by Hines Ward laughing after every single play), but Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates didn’t seem to get the joke. The Chargers, without any help from LaDainian Tomlinsonwho was nowhere to be found once again, roared back into the game late but simply didn’t have enough time (or defense) to catch up.

Fantasy Studs:Ben Roethlisberger (26/33, 333 yards, 2 touchdowns), Phillip Rivers (21/36, 254 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 fumble lost), Rashard Mendenhall (29 carries, 165 yards, 2 touchdowns), Mewelde Moore (1 passing touchdown, 1 receiving touchdown), Antonio Gates (9 receptions, 124 yards, 2 touchdowns), Hines Ward (8 receptions, 113 yards), Heath Miller (8 receptions, 70 yards, 2 touchdowns)

Next Week: Pittsburgh (2-2) at Detroit (1-3), 10 AM; San Diego (2-2) – bye

Originally published October 5, 2009 on