9:48: Welcome, welcome. Although we're not in snowshovel conditions yet in Boston (they are like everywhere else though...2 million without power?...ouch, that sucks bro), I have to tell you that the snow just doesn't do it for me at all. I'm an outdoorsman...but I'm not a winter outdoorsman...see what I mean? Born and raised here, but I have the thinnest blood because when I was a kid, I was fat and lazy and didn't go outside, like, ever in the winter, so now I'm really feeling the effects of that, especially after being down south from '03-'08. Anyway, the weather has me a little down (Fall lasted for one week...one!...how the f*ck am I supposed to pick apples when there's six inches of snow on the ground!), but I'm feeling good about this week, and heeeeeeeeeeerrrrreeeeee's why...
It seems like a month since the Pats played against Dallas (upon further examination, apparently it's only been two weeks), but if any really good team needed a bye, it's us. We're 5-1 right now, and really, who is beating Buffalo at Buffalo ever? Amazing game against the Cowboys though. We held the 'Boys to 16 pts., but I have to say that their running attack was in shambles after Felix Jones went down (more on the Dallas running game later...DEMARCO!!!), and Romo threw for over 300 yards. I just wish we weren't so "bend not break." I mean obviously in that scenario, you would rather bend, but I still want to believe that we have the personnel to really dominate an opposing offense.
This is where the Steelers come in. Now before I get into belittling them, which I kind of will, I'll say that they really do have a good team. Mike Wallace is an animal, and there are significant odds he will scorch us for a big play/TD today. However, their line sucks to be blunt about it. Maurkice Pouncey can't play all five line positions, so there are going to be areas the Pats need to focus on exploiting. Jerod may be back in there today, but even if he isn't, the Pats should let Andre Carter and Jermaine Cunningham loose on Big Ben, and definitely throw in some Patrick Chung safety blitz action. The Steelers can move the ball on the ground, but considering there is a real possibility that the middle 4 starting today will consist of Mayo, Spikes, Haynesworth, and, of course, Vinnie Wilfork, I'm more than confident about slowing Mendy, Redman, and Mewelde down.
The big play is the out for the Steelers. They will be looking to exploit our secondary now that Leigh Bodden has been released (I really liked him if you've read any of my material, but I guess he may not have been the same player coming back from a season-ending rotator cuff surgery, not to mention the groin injury he sustained this year. Couple this with Ras-I being placed on IR, and clearly, we're thin at the CB position. The man of the hour will be Kyle Arrington, who has shown flashes of brilliance like another #24 (Ty Law), but can he put it all together and help this team march towards a Super Bowl? This will be a great game to kind of see into that snow globe of the future.
The Steelers' D you obviously know about. Will they make big plays? Most likely. Will they bring constant pressure on Brady? Without a doubt (although they will be playing without James Harrison, which is just huge for us). Once again, the running game is going to be absolutely critical for us. We went away from it against Dallas, and it nearly cost us the game. I just don't understand how the combo of The Firm/Woodhead/Mr. Ridley does not get at least 30 carries a game. If we're passing every time on second down, wouldn't there be reason to believe that the defense knows this, and will be blitzing and pass rushing every time? (DeMarcus had three sacks last game, and, yes, he nearly Reggie White'd us like I predicted). I'm hoping they just get the run game going immediately, make the crowd put their towels in their pocket, and just dominate like we should do up front.
Outside of the "Ty Law broken leg/end of the 21-game win streak", and the regular season we had with them two years ago, we have dominated this team, with most of its part in tact (Mike Wallace, Mendenhall, and Lawrence Timmons we haven't seen a whole lot from in fairness, and they're all really good). The game comes down to the recognition of the zone blitz, and right now, there are two guys who are money in that situation, and like you probably suspected, they are Aaron Rodgers, and your two time MVP and two time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. Sure, everyone in New England gushes about Tom Brady...you would too if he was your quarterback. Brady has shown through the years that he can carve defenses up. I would be stunned if the same didn't happen today.
I think a factor that can't be overlooked is the "what have you done for me lately?" factor. The Pats are coming off a bye after beating Dallas, a team many have winning the NFC East and potentially taking on Green Bay in the NFC Championship. Pittsburgh is coming off a game against arguably the worst non-winless team in the league. With Mayo and potentially Sebastian Vollmer returning (Vollmer has played one game this year...ONE!), I will really be surprised if the Steelers can pull this one out. They have beaten one .500 team this year (Tennessee), and the rest have been sub-.500. In addition, they get Baltimore on Sunday night next week...I know we're the shit, but some of those players have to be already mentally wanting to play them at home next week.
As if this was obvious enough, the Pats just have to get out to a fast start. The way to do that is to show the Steelers that even though they have Polamalu and Woodley, we own the middle. The Steelers have great defensive personnel, but they're totally getting WHONKed anyway (WHONK= Welker + Hernandez + Gronk)...no one in the league can figure it out, and I really hope they continue to have no clue because damn is it fun to watch these guys tear it up every week. Again, a medium to heavy size dusting of the Firm and whoever else you want to run at these guys, and we should blow them out. Will we? Ehhh...50/50, but definitely expecting a big game from the offense with Harrison out.
10:33: So, we have that one game covered pretty well, so on that note, it's time to get into gambling advice time (I know I said ya probably shouldn't take much of this into consideration, but with that being said, I've torn up three out of the last four weeks, so let's keep this train rolling).
What'cha Know About Tom Brady and Us? (-2.5) vs. Pittsburgh: Potentially the all-around offense's coming out party.
Indianapolis (+8.5) vs. Tennessee: I do realize that it's probably not the brightest idea to be banking on a team that just lost by 80 points (or whatever it was) last week, but I also believe it's not the brightest idea to be banking on a team that simply can't run the ball for some reason, and Matt Hasselbeck looking more and more like Carson Palmer sans the emotional outbursts (which may come...you never know).
Jacksonville (+10) vs. Houston: Apparently a lot of people are expecting a let down game from the Jags, but they played Pittsburgh tight on the road two weeks ago, then beat the Ravens in what my chef deemed "the ugliest game I have ever seen in my life"...there may be something to the Jags. We'll find out.
Carolina (-3.5) vs. Minnesota: I love All Day, but I'm looking at Christian Ponder, and I just don't know. I know what I have with the Panthers. Cam is going to bomb the ball to Steve Smith, which he will be able to do because the Vikes don't really have a good secondary. Otah should be able to at least slow Jared Allen down a little of the corner, and the Panthers are loaded with playmakers on their secondary, a perfect recipe for a 250 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs line from Ponder.
New Orleans (-13) vs. St. Louis: The Saints scored 62 points last week, the Rams almost gave up the single-game all-time rushing record last week...the Rams are going to have to pray for a letdown of epic proportions to keep this close (let's not forget that A.J. Feeley is their QB).
Baltimore (-12.5) vs. Arizona: I will be stunned if Arizona scores in this game...stunned.
Miami (+10.5) vs. The G-MEN: After what happened against Seattle, why not take a shitty team playing the Giants at the Meadowlands?
Buffalo (-4.5) vs. Washington: This is one of those trap spreads that I cannot get around. Why would you ever take John Beck on the road in perhaps the most hostile home field we've seen this year? Also, why would you bet against Fred Jackson ever?
Denver (+3) vs. Detroit: Here's my theory on Detroit: The Jim Schwartz flip out after the Niners game has created an "Emperor With New Clothes" situation in which they looked terrible down the stretch of the SF game, then the flip out, then they looked terrible (at home again mind you) against Atlanta, now they travel to Denver, where Tebowroo is in full effect (I hope Tebowroo sticks...I dunno...it probably has a better shot of surviving than WHONK though). The Tebow home effect is still applicable to the pros (I'm pretty sure he only lost the one game at the Swamp to Ole Miss, and outside of that he never lost...not saying Denver is like Gainesville for him, but they made freggin' billboards to get this guy to play...I think they like him).
San Francisco (-9) vs. Cleveland: I think once the Browns can figure out how to use the Hardesty/Hillis combo, or once they are both fully healthy, Cleveland might be okay. However, I'm looking at San Fran's D at home, and I'm thinking the Brownies won't get into double-digits today.
Seattle (+2) vs. Cincy: I never thought I would say this, but because Tarvaris Jackson is playing, I really like Seattle's chances (that and the crowd...actually it's mostly due to the crowd...who is enjoying the NBA lockout more than people in Seattle by the way?..."feel our pain for a year everyone!"...and then when they start playing next year, they will turn into a pumpkin again).
Philadelphia (-3) vs. Dallas: This is easy enough...if the Eagles lose, their season is finished. That enough motivation for ya?
Kansas City (+4) vs. San Diego: It could be let down city for the Chiefs, but they have to realize that even without Jamaal Charles and getting off to an incredibly slow start, they are actually still vying for a division title at 3-3. Also, Chargers: 3-0 at home, 1-2 on the road...yeahhhhh.
11:11: And now, probably my favorite thing to do in the world right now: Handicapping who is the shittiest team in the NFL...
The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes:
- Miami (3/2): Who honors the QB who is playing against you? It's like Tebow was sucking, then they did the halftime ceremony with the '08 Gators, and he turned back into the hero in the second half. Who would possibly do that unless they were trying to lose every game? Kudos Miami, you're halfway there.
- Indy (2/1): The Colts took a markedly good approach by losing by 55 points in New Orleans on Sunday to jump into the 2-spot. Again, it looks as though the infrastructure of their team alone would be worth 4-5 wins alone, but if they continue to play as disheartened as they did on Sunday, they could play a major factor down the stretch.
- St. Louis (5/2): While the Rams fell back one spot, they have time to make up ground this week with a potential blowout at home coupled with two perhaps winnable games from Miami and Indy. Also, the Rams getting Brandon Lloyd...I'm puzzled by that. There is no way they will win the division thanks to San Fran being who they thought they were (and yes, I just crowned their asses), and no way of stealing a wild card...why get better? There's not going to be a lot of guys that have their own sweepstakes columns, why not strive for futility? I think the fans might actually get it. Imagine a scenario where the Rams have Miami's first round pick for the next three years, including their own awesome pick because they will probably suck for a while...could they not turn that franchise around with five first round picks, including three or four in the top 10? And there's a rookie wage scale? Come on St. Louis, you're better (worse) than that.
- Arizona (6/1): The Cards continue to inch closer and closer to the top 3 after an abysmal performance against Pittsburgh at home. Now, they're on the road against Baltimore who, as I mentioned before, will probably shut them out (I'm feeling 23-0...I dunno, that score is sticking out to me right now). Kevin Kolb is looking like a backup, which, hey, he probably should be right? Shouldn't you have to earn your starting QB stripes on merit? The guy got concussed by Clay Matthews, benched for Michael Vick, and then gets a giant contract. That's like a 16-year old kid wrecking a Pontiac, and then once they're ready to get back on the road, you give them a Benz...it stunk from the beginning, and it's really stinking right now.
- Minnesota (8/1): It's a dogfight right now between the Vikes and Seattle to get on the board. Based on the predictions for today, I'm going with Minny here, but Seattle could put up a stinkeroo against Cincy at home and climb back into the hunt. Drrraaaaaaaammmmmmaaaaaa!!!
12:22: Got the cheap rum and the passion fruit. It's 35 degrees in Boston...so ya might as well consider me dead to the outside world now (unless I get food...there's always that 10-15 min. possibility of undeadness).
12:35: Watching an episode of Family Guy. Can you remember a show that has been more wildly hit and miss than this one? It was just amazing comedy for years and years, then all of a sudden, there was a big emphasis on the graphic upkeep and having guest stars, and it kind of went to shit after that. Don't get me wrong, they still have amazing moments and episodes (the "Brothers and Sisters" episode, when Adam West marries Lois' sister stands out in recent history), but you can tell they phone a lot of it in...in fact, at the beginning of the third Star Wars spoof, they literally said they were phoning this in...and they were right...actually that was the funniest part of the entire episode. It has to be tough to stay completely hysterical for this length of time...I'm lucky to get a half hour out a week too.
12:58: We're in countdown mode. I just benched Larry Fitzgerald...that's called bold. He was I think #11 in receivers and top 20 overall...I'm going with Delone Carter...think about it like this: If I think a team will not score a point today ('Zona), should I really start their receiver no matter how good he is? Carter, meanwhile, likely gets the majority of both carries and red zone/goal line touches...hey, sometimes you need to take a chance (man do I wish I had DeMarco back on this team...I dropped him when it looked like Choice supplanted him to #2 behind Felix Jones, now Jones is hurt, Choice is off the team, and the name DeMarco Murray was probably in the top 10 google'd sports related names last Sunday...my how three weeks can change everything).
1:04: NFL record for touchbacks in one year is going down today...it's still Week 8 right? They have nine more to go, and the record for touchbacks is already going down? Goddell, dude, put the kickoffs back at the 30. This is totally ridiculous.
1:06: Kevin Kolb just went down for an 18-yard sack...again, expect that to be something of a recurring theme.
Minny had a huge kick return on a rare non-touchback, then goes 3 and out, misses a FG, Ponder got sacked on 3rd down too. Not quite what we had in mind to start.
1:08: Houston is rocking those slick red jerseys today...I'm a fan. Inside the 20 right now after two straight to Kevin Walter...the other 83.
1:12: Rams are rocking the "these were ugly back in the day but now they look amazing" throwback blue uniforms...this has to be the only chance they have against the Saints...it's their "orange jersey"-like go to.
1:14: Dolphins looking realllllllly fired up. Call me optimistic, but I'm really liking where that prediction's heading.
Rams again continue to look good early (again, you have to say "early")...someone's putting their first W on the board today.
1:17: Baltimore's offense looks atrocious again. What is happening with Joe Flacco right now? Not so bueno, esp. on the last attempt to Boldin.
We're gonna have 1st and Goal for the 'Fins at the 1 on a pass interference call. I have to say, just really, I have no reason to like either team, so I'll pull for the winless.
1:20: Steve Slaton punches it in for Miami. If you started him in fantasy today, you should automatically win this week regardless of what anyone else on your team does.
Fitzgerald with a huuuuggggggeeeee catch. Now they announce he's donating $10,000 for every TD to breast cancer research...even if he's on the bench, gotta love him. Kolb gets sacked on 3rd down. Baltimore's 3rd sack already...I'm totally bummed, they may actually score and get a FG.
1:24: Ooohhhhhh shit, Blaine Gabbert got worked after he slid in Houston. Cushing just crushed him. Probably one of those personal foul fines upcoming for him. Gabbert is out, Luke McCown in...wow did the dynamics just make a sharp left there (or right, whatever your preference is).
1:35: Cam is again getting it done on 3rd down, and end-around to Steve Smith for another first plus a 15-yard facemask on the play. Panthers in business to tie up the Vikes (also, Capt. Munnerlyn with a sack on Ponder earlier...Gamecocks bitch!...most likely coming to a top 10 near you).
1:37: Baltimore is inside the two after a pass to Boldin. Ricky Williams had a huge run earlier, and Ray Rice was moving the chains afterwards. Flacco needs this game for a little confidence boost with the Steelers looking for revenge (and most likely coming off a loss) next week.
1:41: Man Steve Smith made another amazing TD catch (review pending). Elsewhere, Blaine Gabbert is back in the game...you gotta love it. Nothing like a guy who wants to be in there to be in there.
1:43: Feeley gets sacked inside the 2 for the Rams, and it turns out Steve Smith was short at the 1. On first down, they go to Stewart who lost yardage...I would go to Olsen or Shockey here.
1:46: Shockey for 6.
Dare I say, vintage Reggie Bush. Huge run followed by the rare combo of unnecessary roughness with a horse-collar tackle out of bounds. Miami is inside the 5.
1:50: Oh Miami goes for it on 4th down, they run the bootleg to absolute perfection. Matty Moore is in. That is another six for Miami. Wow, 14-3 in Jersey.
1:56: Wow the Colts are really bad. Delone Carter, give him the rock!!!
Annnnddddd the punt gets blocked in the end zone for six. Well...that means more Delone...give him the freggin' rock baby!
1:58: Beanie Wells puts it in for 'Zona. They've got 10 now...okay I'm impressed.
2:00: Cam throws another strike to a TE, this time to Greg Olsen for a score. 14-7 Carolina.
2:08: Ammmmaaaaazzzzzziiinnnngggg return by Patrick Peterson on a punt return for the touchdown, and then Flacco throws a pick...WOOOOOWWWW. 17-3 Cards with the ball inside the Raven 25.
2:12: Kevin Kolb to Early Doucet for six. 24-3 Cards...if you are a shitty team, chances are you're doing quite well right now.
Speaking of which, Captain Munnerlyn (Gamecock!), who was previously fighting with Percy Harvin on the sidelines 15 mins. ago, just stole the ball from him on a reception. First down Carolina.
2:48: Alright, quick food break, and again, if you've been sucking, you're doing amazing today. Ravens got a FG right before the half on 'Zona though, and now they have the ball at the 1 after a pass interference penalty. Ray Rice just exploded in for 6. Here we go.
2:59: Houston goes with goal line formation from the 8 twice in a row, they get stood up, but Schaub somehow fits it into Joel Dressien for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Kevin Kolb gets sacked again. Oh Arizona I feel it all just slipping away for ya.
3:04: Steven Jackson rolls in for another TD. 110 yards rushing and two scores. 24-zip Rams...that's what they call a letdown game for New Orleans.
Cam Newton with three passing TDs today, but Carolina is forced to punt. Minnesota is hanging in there.
3:11: Baltimore is beating Kolb senselessly right now. Zona is going to punt again. They are just opening the door wide for a comeback win. Flacco seems out of sync outside of their TD drive, but he'll have plenty of chances it seems.
3:17: All Day in for his second score ties the game up in Carolina. It continues to be the Anquan Boldin show in Baltimore. He's got three 20+ yard receptions on this drive. Finally, Zona just put Patrick Peterson on him, but Peterson was just flagged in the end zone for pass interference. First and goal Ravens in Ray Rice territory.
3:20: And Rice is in for the score. 24-20 Cards. G-Men w/ a FG to make it 17-13. Jon Vilma w/ a fumble recovery in the end zone to put New Orleans on the board (most interesting stat of the day thus far: Drew Brees has never been shut out in his professional career...ever).
3:24: Kolb throws another pick thanks to contact from Terrell Suggs. It's just a matter of time now. Zona went from climbing out of the Luck Sweepstakes to perhaps entrenching themselves even further. Another pass interference penalty coming on Anquan in the end zone. It's first and goal Ravens at the 1...time for #27.
3:29: As if there was ever a doubt. Ray Rice puts it in for his third score of the game. Vontae Leech, who was on Houston last year when Arian Foster won his rushing title, has been one of the more unheralded signings of this season, making a nice close-off block on Rice's TD.
3:35: Victor Cruz is perhaps better than anyone, maybe even Victor Cruz could imagine. After the catch, he shakes two tackles and makes it into the end zone for six. G-Men out front for the first time.
Arian Foster is in to the end zone in Houston. A bow to you. 21-7 Houston. Kolb just was sacked, fumbled, and Baltimore recovered, but holding on the defense negates it all. First down Zona over midfield.
3:39: Yet another Raven turnover (this time an Ed Reed pick) taken off the board because of a defensive penalty. You do realize Zona is just giving this game away, yet Baltimore for some reason wants no part of it.
3:42: Nate Washington is in for six, and that effectively ices the game for Tennessee. Indy will once again be in the Luck mix, but will they be #1? Zona, who is also very much in the mix, goes for it on 4th down and gets it inside the 30. First down Cards with less than 10 left down 3.
3:47: Feely ties the game for Zona at 27. Ponder continues to lead the Vikes down the field with passes to Aromashadu and Harvin. All Day continues to be ruthless on the Panther defense. First down Minny. Miami has the ball at their own 40, but Moore was just sacked by Umenyiora.
3:51: Minny falls short of the TD, has to settle for a Longwell FG. 24-21 w/ 3 mins. left. It's Cam time.
3:53: Matt Moore throws a pick to seal the fate of the winless Dolphins, but they covered, and if you cared about any aspect of this game, that was it.
3:55: Two minute warning in Charlotte. First down after a quick screen pass to Jonathan Stweart...it's happening Minnesota.
3:59: On fourth down, Cam unloads a 44 yard completion to Brandon LaFell. Unbelievable, yet very believable at the same time. Rams just picked Drew Brees, and it, is, ovah. Considering teams scoring 60 points in an NFL game are now 2-6 in their next game, probably should have seen that coming.
4:04: Wowwwwwwwwww. Olindo Mare missed a real short FG that would have tied the game. Minny escapes with a win. 10 minutes until the Pats!!!
4:07: Haha the Buffalo game is in Toronto? Whoooppps. Well that shows you how much I'm gambling on this stuff (big big fat zero).
4:10: Kevin Kolb rushes for the first down to get them out of inside their own 10. The Colts inexplicably threw four times on two separate occasions to end the game inside the 10...no running at all? Really? I mean I have Delone Carter (who was vultured inexplicably by Donald Brown on a goalline TD today), but really, what were they thinking?
4:14: Baltimore gets the ball back at midfield w/ a minute left in a tie game. I would just be going to Ray Rice all day, but Flacco goes deep, and Torrey Smith hauls it in inside the 5! First down Ravens...it looks like this comeback may happen.
Tebow nearly had a TD to Decker but apparently Decker couldn't get his 2nd foot down...that woulda helped me out on a lot of different fronts.
4:18: We're underway in Pittsburgh. This just in: You can pass on the Pats.
4:20: Three in a row to Miller. Wow we need Jerod Mayo in there big time.
4:22: Now four to Miller. Literally no one up the middle. This is what happens when you ask for Mayo at Heinz Field.
4:24: D looked horrendous on the opening drive, as the Steelers strike with Mewelde Moore on a quick slant. Elsewhere, apparently covering Titus Young results in some kind of penalty. He was wide, wide open for six. Then, the man known as Scott Chandler catches a TD for the Bills north of the border.
4:30: Captain Faulk is back!!!!!!! Over a year since he last played. Awesome to see him back. Farrior and Harrison are not playing today for the Steelers, but they force a three and out. Antonio Brown smartly makes a fair catch despite not having anyone within 15 yards of him. Thanks buddy!
4:35: I can't believe the Steelers got Jericho Cotchery...I thought I was done with this guy! Heath Miller gets yet another reception...this is getting ridiculous.
4:46: Mendenhall running all over us, but on 1st and goal, Big Ben needs a timeout because he is not feeling it...what "it" is, we shall see...probably never like seeing your starting QB just shaking his head his entire trip to the sidelines though.
4:49: And he's definitely not feeling any better after getting whacked by Vinnie Mac! (the rhymes do come unrehearsed)
Charlie Whitehurst is in at QB for Seattle? ABORT! ABORT!!!
4:55: Kevin Faulk is back! A rush and a reception, then a first down rush. Captain Faulk moving the chains!
4:59: William Gay called for groping, and a false start on us...here's momentum, and there it goes...and Wes just dropped an easy one for someone named Wes Welker.
5:01: Yup, Brady had Welker open, didn't throw it to him, that resulted in an incomplete. Then, Brady gets bumrushed by Lamarr Woodley...yikes.
5:15: Neon Deion in for Six! Steelers with the ball...they continue to hound us over the middle. Also, a bad luck play with the corner slipping resulted in a 20 yard pass play to Sanders.
5:34: The fake bad snap play to Kevin Faulk! It's like they're playing his greatest hits list. My request is the bubble screen! Do the bubble screen!!! Haha. Gostkowski for three.
5:38: Cincy looking great with their Dalton/Green combo. So, yeah, I guess I have to continue to apologize to A.J. about saying Julio was better than him...as of right now, advantage A.J., and worth the #3 pick.
6:04: Mendenhall making it happen. Again, the middle of the field...what is happening there? Third and long upcoming for Pittsburgh.
6:05: Wow...another third down conversion...over the middle...wow.
6:14: Settle for the three...I hate saying that...why are we settling for anything. Meanwhile, Tebow is now getting annihilated, San Fran dominating, and Seattle and Cincy? No idea.
6:19: Pats come out w/ a first down to Gronk, then a unnecessary roughness call brings it up another 15. Neon Deion with a first down. Pats really perking up right now...we need points desperately here.