Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears NFL Week 15 Free Picks: The Hawks are playing some pretty good football and the Chicago Bears just aren’t. I think some of it has to do with Matt Forte, his contract situation, and his injury. Everyone on the Bears (and most of the league) know that Forte is one of the better players in the game, and definitely a top running back. He’s been everything to the Bears’ offense since Kyle Orton was wearing that ridiculous facial hair and winning football games in Chicago. It took Cutler a while, but he eventually figured it out as well; he started handing the ball to Matt and checking it down to him in the passing game. If you can make Jay Cutler check it down, your talent is respected. But the Bears didn’t want to pay him like a top running back (despite him being young and very good and the most important part of their offense). Then he sprained his knee a couple weeks ago and everyone in Chicago took a deep breath (other players as well) to consider the situation. I think it’s hard for guys to see that transpire and not think twice about their situation. Thinking twice in football is not a good thing. You add that to the fact that Chicago’s offense is no longer a threat to move the ball down the field (without Jay and Forte) and now defenses can key in on the first 15 yards. The Bears are struggling, and while the Hawks could be a good team to sneak out a win on, they’re playing pretty good football as well.
Seattle’s defense is a very good unit. They are especially physical and big, which is tough for the Bears’ soft little receivers to deal with, and with no Cutler it will be tough to beat them deep. The Hawks front 7 is also legit, as they’ve shut down just about every rushing attack they’ve faced all season long.
Seattle’s offense isn’t pretty, but they can run the darn football and Tarvaris Jackson is starting to form a nice relationship with two young guys that weren’t expected to do anything this year (Golden Tate and underafted rookie, Doug Baldwin). Baldwin has been legit all year while Tate is picking it up of late. The key cog in Seattle is BEASMO (beast mode) Marshawn Lynch. He’s just flat impossible to tackle with the first guy – probably running as well as any back in the league right now. I think the Hawks win on the road, something they don’t do often.
Listen, I fully understand that taking the Seahawks when giving 9 whole points is next to madness – they are by no means an explosive football team – though Marshawn Lynch has done his best impersonation of Adrian Peterson over the last handful of weeks. They don’t throw the ball very well as Tarvaris Jackson has plenty of his own question marks when he’s health – fighting through a torn pectoral muscle takes a little bit more wind out of his sails. But I don’t need to compare the Hawks to the Packers here – they aren’t going against one of the best teams in football. I need to believe they can beat the hapless Rams by double digits on Monday Night Football in front of their home-town Seattle fanbase. Yes, I’m believing.
It’s not so much the Hawks as much as it’s the Rams. St. Louis is 2-10 heading into Monday Night, and they’ll be down to a first time quarterback, their #3, Tom Brandstater, or a hobbled Sam Bradford (who hasn’t played very well this season in the first place). The thing they do best, run the football, should be held in check by one of the better young defenses in the league.
The Hawks have a better team, a much better team. They are playing at home where they have one of, if not the best home record in football since they built their new stadium. It’s Monday Night Football and the excitement in the stands and on the field will be at an all time high for a Hawks team that rarely sees prime time football. Add in the fact that the Hawks got an extra three days rest this week (they played Thursday in Week 13) and what you see is a recipe to cover that nine-spot. Good luck!!
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts (+3)
The Colts have to win a football game, I’m telling you, a team that has won a billion games over the last 10 years doesn’t just forget how to play football because their fearless southern accented quarterback misses the season. If they are going to pull one off, this is a good one. The Jaguars aren’t nearly as good as they’ve been playing and they are just 2-6… Ha. Blaine Gabbert, for being one of “the most NFL ready QBs” in his rookie class sure looks like the runt of the litter thus far. Newton, Dalton, Ponder – all looking real good thus far. Blaine looks scared, his feet are wrong a lot, and the Colts won’t hold back rushing him. Give me the Colts!
Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks (+7)
I don’t know what I’m up to here. The fact that my numbers had me picking the Hawks to play within a touchdown of the physical Ravens had me double checking what it is exactly that I’m looking for. But the Hawks have found a rushing attack here of late, and Tarvaris Jackson is only getting healthier. That Hawks receiving corps is looking more and more dangerous as well, with a solid Mike Williams, a dynamic Sidney Rice, and rookie undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin has also been very impressive. If the Hawks can mix in Zach Miller, they will be very tough. I just haven’t seen much from the Ravens that makes me think “big favorite on the road, good bet” so I’m going against them – plus, lets be honest, they should have lost last week. Teams that should have lost a week ago, always go against them ATS. That’s my rule!
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) @ Seattle Seahawks
Tough for me to go with the Hawks, even in Seattle, after a performance like they put together last week against a decent but not great Browns defense. I mean, it was disgusting. I think Tarvaris Jackson coming back will help the Hawks a lot, but as good as I think he is (I’ve always liked him, look at the history if you want), I don’t know if he’s good enough to turn this Hawks offense into a productive one against a very good Bengals defense.
Also, the Bengals have a young signal caller with shiny read hair that is playing pretty good football of late, keeping mistakes to a minimum, and making reliable throws to keep defenses honest. A big key for his progress are his receiving options who are all big and fast cats. You look at AJ Green and tell me he’s not going to be great. He’s already doing great things. His size and speed and overall goodness is going to give the Hawks’ corners trouble. Jermaine Gresham is also very good and big and talented and again, going to make life tough on the Hawks. Simpson is also big. The Hawks struggle against big receivers. It’ll be close, but the Bengals by a field goal wouldn’t stun me.
Cleveland Browns (+9.5) @ San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are coming off some highs, no doubt, and they are playing good football under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. They’ll be good for a long time, that guy knows what he’s doing for sure. That being said, I think the Browns are a little better than advertised, and this line is the way it is because they are advertised as pretty bad football team. It’ll be close. Anytime perception is wrong, lines should be skewed. Write that down.
Some more road teams covering? You betcha!!!
The Bengals have been a lot better than I thought they’d be, and I guess that makes sense. They were so unlucky last year, losing so man close games, despite having terrible offensive performances week in and week out. This year they aren’t giving the ball away as much, and they are playing really well defensively. The Jaguars, they aren’t as good as they’ve shown, and what they’ve shown hasn’t been great. This is a match-up of two rookie quarterbacks, and I think Dalton is the guy more ready to lead his team to a win.
I loved what I saw from the Hawks last week, at least in the 2nd half. Tarvaris Jackson still throws the ball a little late, but the up-tempo idea gives him a little more leeway, and he needs to have a little more control. He’s better than people think, and with the ability to escape some pressure, he could put up some good yardage against that shaky Giants secondary. I expect a close one, so the points are nice. I know, you’re calling me crazy right now – you might be right.
The Buccaneers sure know how to keep it close. I bet they continue that trend on the road against San Francisco. I also expect them to win a close one, so the 3 points are just added bonus points.
I’m not sure I’d ever bet the house on San Diego – they are a scary team to watch and bet on because you never know what you’re going to get. They always seem perfectly happy keeping it close and not taking huge chances – then again, they could come out and pass on 2nd and 7 late in the 4th, up a touchdown with 2 minutes to go. They are unpredictable. The one thing they do is settle for field goals a lot. That being said and well understood, I still like them against a Broncos team that doesn’t scare me much.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers Point Spread Pick: This is another game I was pretty wishy-washy about. First and foremost the 49ers giving 5 points is frightening in and of itself, but the Hawks have looked nothing good and every bit of anemic this preseason.
I actually liked the addition of Tarvaris Jackson for the Hawks, figuring his position in teaching the offense would allow him to step to the plate as a leader, the guy with knowledge, and therefore play with a new kind of confidence that would do wonders for his game. But so far he hasn’t taken many chances, the line hasn’t blocked well, and the running game has been nonexistent. It looks bad in Seattle, and maybe, just maybe, they’re shooting for Andrew Luck and a win or two.
But anything’s possible still, the season hasn’t even started. The Hawks are the defending champs of the NFC West (if there is such thing as a champ of the worst division in football) and I think they’re better this year. The 49ers have a good coach that is more thorough and x’s and o’s smart that their last head guy, Mike Singletary, who, by the way, is my favorite player of all time. I just expect a little more from the 49ers this year, a good season out of Braylon Edwards, and some big time plays from Frank Gore. Franklyn has a history of stepping on Seahawks.
Back at it again. A week of emails have come in and I continue to answer them with my best foot forward – whatever the hell that means. I wish I could answer them with my best back forward – I’d trade a couple retirement checks for a best back right about now. Anyway, below are some answer to some email questions. Feel free to join in on the fun and question the king of the fantasy realm – me and Tolkien, right? Get to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll get back to you as prompt as possible.
DBM in one of the Dakotas asks, “How will Marshawn and Sydney Rice do in Seattle this year?”
I think the Seahawks will be much better offensively, and it all centers around the offensive line. James Carpenter is a good RT prospect that does everything pretty well, he’s not a liability in pass or run blocking, and is above average at both. Robert Gallery is a great addition as well, probably the best OG on the market. The Hawks had the worst offensive line in football last year, and now with rookies and 2nd year guys, plus a big FA addition, they’ll be better. I like that Tarvaris Jackson comes over as a leader, one of the most knowledgeable players on the team about the offense they’ll be running in Seattle (because, like him, it came from Minnesota). As a leader, and teacher, he’ll have much more confidence to what’s going on, and I think that will help him a ton – because remember, he was always the guy they dumbed down the offense for when he was in – that does nothing for your confidence. You ask little of someone, you get little in return. I don’t know where Rice is going in drafts, but as my #3 receiver I like his upside. He’ll lead the Hawks in receiving this year.
David in Minnesota writes, “I am in a keeper league and I can keep up to 4 players.If I keep 4 – I will lose my first 4 picks, if I keep 3 then I will lose my first 3 picks etc. Next bit of info I will be drafting 11th in each round. It is a snake draft without reversing. Here are the players I am trying to figure out who to keep and how many. What do you think? (Brady, MJD, Bradshaw, Best, Sid Rice, Stevie Johnson, Colston, Welker)
I would probably only keep 2, maybe 3 guys on your squad. The only reason I would keep 3 is because your pick is so late in Round 3 – but so early in Round 4, so you have to take a chance and hope you can get a better 4th player. Brady and MJD (unless you trade for Charles) are sure thing keepers, obviously. They are both Top 2 round players, and so you keep them. After that, I don’t see any given there. I think Best is your next best upside player, and while I ranked him as a 4th round guy prior to LeShoure’s season ending injury, he might be a nicer risk as a 3rd rounder now. I would consider Colston over Best, if you think the draft will be more RB heavy than WR heavy – they are both very close to me, but I’d go with Best without knowledge of other rosters. Welker, maybe, but he’s limited in non-ppr leagues, and I think he’s right around Colston’s grade, with not as much upside. Because you’re one of the highest 4th round picks, take a chance and see if you can’t upgrade at WR. Good luck!
David gets another questions off in a lengthy email… “Would you think of a trade for Jamaal Charles, giving up MJD and one of my receivers? A guy in our league has no receivers…”
It’s pretty well documented that I picked Charles as the #1 back in fantasy for the upcoming season. Since I don’t think you should keep any of your receivers, I’d say yeah, jump in and make that deal. Lucky says “no don’t do it, MJD is more consistent” but hey, he says it’s close, and my feeling has always been my feeling, and since this isn’t “Ask Lucky Lester” I’m pretty sure I’m gonna say what I want. Charles has the upside and the offensive line to be the best running back in fantasy. He’s lightning quick and doesn’t take big hits. MJD doesn’t have his upside, if you can get him and all it’s really gonna cost you is MJD (who I rank behind Charles, Peterson, C Johnson, Foster, and Ray Rice) then do it!
This is wild! This is crazy! This is an entire summer of free agency in a couple days. They should hold out every year…. Okay, maybe that’s a little much, but the wait has certainly paid off as we are getting an influx of interesting moves, from big name trades to stupid owners refusing to trade people because they’re stubborn idiots without any sense that they aren’t the guy who runs the planet. Yes, this is awesome. Football wise, we’ll see how they all turn out, but what do the big moves mean for the fantasy fire power? I attempt to answer that right now!
Devin Aromashodu: Interestingly enough, this move was announced prior to Sydney’s addition in Seattle. Well, it means a whole heck of a lot more now. The outcast from Mike Martz’s over-coaching will get a chance to be a #2 target in Minnesota behind Percy Harvin. It should be interesting, but I’d say his upside is worth a look late in deep leagues.
Steve Breaston: Breaston in Kansas City is interesting. One wonders if it was Todd Haley (old OC and now current HC in KC – look at all those C’s) that made Breaston a promising big speedster, or if it was Kurt Warner. If you believe it was Haley (and maybe Haley thinks that) then you should grab Breaston late. If you think it was Kurt, and that Cassel’s touchdown-happy second half of the season was flukey, then stay away. Either way, KC is a run-first offense with Dwayne Bowe and 1st Round pick Jon Baldwin, not to mention the wild card Dexter McCluster – so keep your projections for Breaston low, he loses value fleeing Arizona. Early Ducet moves up, though, as he likely gets the nod at #2 opposite Larry Fitzgerald.
Reggie Bush: My good Doctor, Dr. Zarrabi, says that Bush has gained the most value in free agency thus far – I’m not so sure, but I can see where he’s coming from. Bush moves to Miami where he becomes “the guy” or so they say. I don’t know how he’ll ever stay healthy enough to be the guy anywhere, but he’ll definitely help the Dolphins open up their offense, as he’s certainly a game breaker. I’m wondering what role he’ll have in comparison to Daniel Thomas who I project as a better true running back. Taking his talents to South Beach, though, it could get wild! I recently picked Bush in the last round of a fantasy league, so I’ll agree, his stock shoots up – no way he lasts that long after this trade.
Jabar Gaffney: Traded to a place where wide receivers go to die, so no, I don’t expect him to do as much as he did last year which means, he’s not draftable.
Bruce Gradkowski:I guess Bruce is on the list for those of you who are interested in Andy Dalton being the sure-thing starter – I don’t know. I’m not sure if Bruce will every be draftable, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be starting some games in Cincinnati this season – and you know what else? Carson and the Owner will be starting the same amount of games as well.
Matt Hasselbeck: This pretty much squares up the whole “Jake Locker as the starter” situation in Tennessee, if by squares up you mean squashes. Jake was hardly ready to start at UW last season. Hasselbeck is certainly on the downside of his career, but a much better offensive line, a more talented wide receiver, and Chris Johnson instead of a Marshawn Lynch/Just Forsett duo – yeah, I’d say Hass’s stock goes up in Tennessee. I think he’s better than Kerry Collins, and I think he stays healthier by staying off his back in Tennessee.
Santonio Holmes: Holmes likes what he sees in New York, with Mark Sanchez and a talented group of players – I’d trust him with this one. Sanchez will improve, he’s still so very young, and with him will go Holmes who was one of the most talented free agent position players in football this season. He didn’t move, but him leaving money on the table in Washington to stay in NY should tell you a lot about both teams.
Tarvaris Jackson:While Hasselbeck’s stock goes up from last season, so to does Tarvaris Jackson – he’ll probably end up being the starter in Minnesota, and with him comes Sydney Rice to help with the transition. Also, Seattle is looking to have a much improved offensive line. THey’ll move Max Unger to center, where he’ll be above average. Rookie RT, James Carpenter is a solid bookend opposite Russel Okung. Robert Gallary, one of the best OGs on the market, is also signing with the Hawks – but most importantly, maybe, is the addition of Tom Cable as the O-line coach – that will be great for a sour-puss offensive line from last year. I’ve always seen something in Jackson, lets hope I’m not wrong about this guy like I was about Maroney.
Vincent Jackson: I know Vincent didn’t move teams, and he can’t be too happy to be sticking around, but he became a multi-millionaire by signing his tender, and at least by signing his franchise tag he comes into camp on time and gets to play with one of the best young QBs in the league for an entire year (though I hardly see him fighting through injuries). Regardless, he becomes a Top 10 WR and he hasn’t been going as such.
Chad Johnson: He wasn’t a free agent, and neither was the other new Patriot, Albert Haynesworth – in fact, both Ochocinco (I feel dirty even writing that) and Big Al were problem children for their former teams, but the Patriots felt it benefitted them to pay very little for two supremely talented players that could very easily make the difference in a Championship season. Chad is no Randy Moss, don’t get it twisted – he is unlikely to spend much time going over the middle, and he is a high profile wide receiver, hey, he might even take some plays off, but don’t expect Chad to come in and toy with Randy’s touchdown record like Moss did when he got traded to New England. But does he add something big to the Patriots? You bet! I wouldn’t be surprised if he led the team in receiving yards. Al’s the big win here. The Patriots will almost surely find a way to get him to play up to his potential, even if they don’t switch to a 4-3. Remember, he was ticked that the Redskins were playing a 3-4, and he’s going to a perrinial 3-4 squad in New England – but it’ll almost surely be different, and we’ll all learn how you’re supposed to coach a guy like Al.
Kevin Kolb: I think Kolb’s stock goes up the most, obviously – but Arizona should be a great place for him. There are a few backs that are solid in Arizona, Beanie and Ryan Williams both have the upside to be great – if they put it together, and Larry Fitz is a Top 3 receiver in football, if not the best in the game. Kolb is a good player, don’t get it twisted. Sure, the Eagles seem to know when to get rid of players, but this is a different case – this Kolb guy was the kid that Andy Reid chose to start over Mike Vick last season. There’s great upside here, I think he’s a Top 15 QB.
Donovan McNabb: With Rice gone, I’m not sure McNabb is a Top 15 WR. I love Percy Harvin, no doubt, and Percy’s stock has to go up from where it was heading into free agency. McNabb could really use a great run game from the Vikings, he doesn’t have the skills to throw it 35 times like he used to in Philly during his star days, but he still has a very strong arm, and Minnesota might be just the place for him to put an exclamation point on a very impressive career. I hope he does so.
Sidney Rice: I think Rice was the best skill position player on the free agent market, and thus I think the Hawks were very wise to grab him. He instantly becomes their best game breaking talent, and a guy that will stretch the field and dominate 1 on 1 coverage if defenses stack the line of scrimmage. Mike Williams is a decent running partner, even though he is a heavy (meaning light, actually, just more weight) version of Rice. Neither player wins with their elite speed, but Rice is faster, and big/tall like Williams. Tough match-up problems in Seattle. If Jackson can get the ball there (or Whitehurst I guess).
Brad Smith: This is an interesting move for the Bills, I have to be honest. With Stevie Johnson and Lee Evans, there’s not too much room for pass catching options, and with CJ Spiller rocking the return game (for the price of a 1st round pick 2 seasons ago) I’m not too sure the “need” is there.
Donte Stallworth: To Washington… John Beck? Rex Grossman? I don’t know what Washington is up to, but I don’t think I’d put many hopes on Donte.
DeAngelo Williams: Williams didn’t move, but his staying in Carolina might hurt both his and Jon Stewart’s stock, at least a little bit. But I think Carolina has always like DeAngelo more than Stewart, and they paid Williams like he’s the surefire #1 guy. I think Carolina is a better offense than many pundits are expecting. They have an awesome wide receiver, a young QB that can run, and thus make defenses respect his legs, and thus open the running game a little. Jordan Gross is back, and he is their best lineman. Healthier and stronger up front, I expect Williams to break 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings Monday Night Football Pick: It’s amazing when you can look at numbers and hardly recognize which team is 9-4 and which team is 5-8. Obviously, this isn’t just a game of statistics or the Chargers would only have a couple losses – but Chicago scores just 2 points per game more than the Vikings and they give up just a few points less. The average point-differential for the Bears is just +2 – but I’m sure that was skewed down a bit after the Patriots went ballistic on them last week. But it’s outside of obvious stats like points against where the difference is harder to explain. The Vikings gain more yards and allow fewer yards than the Patriots. They hold the ball longer and take fewer penalties. You wouldn’t think they’d be better in all those categories, but the numbers are there. The numbers obviously lie from time to time, but they are there.
This game is without a line because nobody wants to give the game a spread when they know the Vikings are almost an impossible bet. They will almost surely be putting rookie quarterback Joe Webb in as their starting quarterback (unless Brett Favre makes a miraculous recovery). Tarvaris Jackson is on IR and Brett’s career is in the ER.
The Bears have been lucky with injuries, keeping most of their core alive and well through the first 14 weeks of the season. They only have 2 players on IR, both of which were IR’d before the season. Desmond Clark and Marcus Harrison are questionable and Pisa Tinoisamoa is out for the regular season. So they have one regular guy not playing this week. The Vikings have 6 guys on IR, a couple guys out, and a few more questionable.
I just don’t find a reason to go with the Vikings – the game is even suited to better fit the Bears, as it will be an outside game because the Vikings’ dome is all out of air.
If the Vikings are without Favre, I don’t know, I’d take the Bears -7 (there offense isn’t good enough to go much further than that, and even 7 is scary). If Favre plays, I might take the Vikings +4. So it’s a tough one. Hope that helps!
Cleveland Browns @ Buffalo Bills Free Football Predictions: The Browns are the huge public favorite in this one, taking 63% of the bets at one “betting statistics” spot I look and over 80% of the bets at another. What’s to like about the Browns? Well, despite their 5-7 record, they can run the crap out of the ball. Peyton Hillis is carrying bettors to the books in this one, as they see a great mismatch for one of the worst run-defense teams in the league.
But I see another mismatch, and that’s the Browns shaky defense going up against an explosive Buffalo offense that was held pretty well in check last week against the Vikings. Too many mistakes killed Buffalo last week, and I just don’t see them playing like poo for two weeks in a row. Remember, they have played very good football for about 6 straight weeks before getting trounced by the Tarvaris Jackson-led Vikings. They’ll get back on the saddle in this one.
The Biggest thing is that Cleveland’s defense has made some mediocre to bad offenses look pretty good, and I think Buffalo’s offense is underrated. With Fred Jackson doing work and Steve Johnson and Lee Evans trying to break big plays, I thin Ryan Fitzpatrick has a good chance to put up big numbers in this one.
But I’m mainly betting on the Bills because there is no way Jake Delhomme doesn’t have an interception fest in this game. Talk about playing poker with Houdini (I suspect he had some good card tricks, but I’m not positive), Jake threw the ball 34 times against the Dolphins and didn’t get intercepted one time. If Eric Mangini actually wanted to keep his job, he’d limit Jake to less than 20 pass attempts per game – but sine he was 0-32 (in interception chances) last week, he’s definitely throwing multiple balls to Buffalo’s defensive backs this week. Take Buffalo at home.