East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
A lot's been written about this game already, but my perspective was a little different. I made the Cardinals my best bet against the spread last week (They were getting 10.5, and the line went up as high as 12.5 by kickoff), and my only interest was in seeing them keep the game reasonably close. I made them my best bet after seeing the Bears annihilate the Seahawks and Bills in consecutive weeks, figuring that no one in his right mind would want to back the Cardinals. Whenever no one in his right mind would back a team, that's precisely the team I want to back. The majority of people who pick football games do so poorly, but their minds work exactly the way mine does. So if I can't see how the Cardinals would cover, that's who I'm taking. Sure enough, several readers told me they liked some of the picks, but that I was way off with the Cardinals - the Bears would win big. When I read that, I felt even better about it. Finally, the Cardinals were a big home dog on Monday night against the best team in the NFL. There was no way they wouldn't get up for this one. It was a lot like the Falcons-Saints game when the Superdome re-opened. So watching the game unfold just as I said it would (though I still didn't expect it to) was a thrill. I used reason to reject reason, took the Cardinals on faith, so to speak, and was rewarded. This was beating the spread as a spiritual experience.
That the game eventually became close, and, in some sense, a good game was an afterthought. I wanted the Cards to win - who doesn't pull for the underdog? - but whether the Bears' defense and special teams were able to pull off three miraculous plays was of minor consequence to me. The Bears can say they got the win, Denny Green can understandably flip out, but the game was what it was. The top team in the NFL was hanging by a thread against a non-contender. Whether the kicker makes or misses the last second field goal is beside the point even though it counts for everything.
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
Below the Radar
- Blue Chips Come Through
For five weeks of the season, early round picks were scarcely more reliable than players you rescued from the waiver wire, but in Week 6, LaDainian Tomlinson had four touchdowns, Torry Holt scored three times, Terrell Owens scored three times, and Steve Smith, Tiki Barber, Ronnie Brown, Jeremy Shockey and Antonio Gates all had their best games of the season. Meanwhile, Bernard Berrian (who just missed another big play), Marques Colston, Jerricho Cotchery, Michael Turner and Rex Grossman did very little. This is a good reminder to stay patient with your stars, and not trade or bench them lightly for players on a hot streak.
- Philip Rivers and Matt Leinart Break Out
Granted Rivers' put up his numbers against the 49ers, and Leinart averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt against the Bears. But Rivers has shown good touch on his passes, has a variety of targets to throw to and perhaps the best red zone receiver in football in Antonio Gates. Leinart faces two beatable defenses the next two weeks in Green Bay and Oakland, is likely to throw a lot given the inability of his line to run-block and like Rivers has shown good poise in the pocket and touch on his passes. Our money's on third-year man Rivers to be the more consistent NFL quarterback going forward, but Rivers will occasionally spend extended stretches handing the ball off under Marty Schottenheimer. Leinart is likely to make more mistakes, especially as defenses key on the pass, but he should have a few games with 45-plus attempts, and when Larry Fitzgerald comes back, he'll have the best tandem of receivers in the league. Both players could be consensus top-10 quarterbacks at next year's draft.
- Ben Roethlisberger Back on Track
After three subpar games, Roethlisberger played extremely well Sunday, averaging a whopping 12.5 yards per attempt against a Chiefs defense that had been fairly stout until that point. The Steelers have traditionally run the ball so much that Roethlisberger wasn't much of a fantasy option despite his big per-play numbers, but that could change if the team's defense takes a step back, or if Willie Parker and Najeh Davenport struggle to stay effective or healthy. In the short term, Roethlisberger's return to form boosts the stock of the entire Pittsburgh offense, from Parker to Hines Ward to Heath Miller.
- Rex Grossman Comes Back to Earth
This shouldn't affect your opinion of Grossman too much. The Cardinals defense played inspired football in front of a national audience, drilling his receivers as soon as the ball got to them, and tackling very well, eliminating yards after the catch. Grossman just missed Bernard Berrian deep early in the game, and we expect the Bears to continue to attack down the field to Berrian and underneath to Muhsin Muhammad. Grossman still deserves consideration as roughly the 10th best fantasy quarterback, Monday's poor game notwithstanding.
Looking at the Yahoo! numbers from Saturday, it turns out that the Jerious Norwood
s (6.6 percent), LenDale White
s (13.0 percent) and Michael Turner
s (11.7 percent) were still not owned in most of your leagues, though they should be - these are the kind of reserves who can win you a title if things (or, more specifically, particular players) break a certain way.
Here are a few more:
Beating the Book
- Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants (9.6 percent owned)
Jacobs will get virtually all of the Giants' short-yardage and goal-line carries, which means he's a threat to approach double-digit touchdowns on the year, and he's capable of racking up 40 or 50 yards per game spelling Tiki Barber when the Giants have fourth-quarter leads. If the Giants ever get a massive lead, Jacobs is the type of back who could rip off big runs in garbage time.
- Wali Lundy, RB, Houston Texans (1.8 percent owned)
Lundy could get back into the running back mix this week, as Ron Dayne and Sam Gado have struggled, and Dayne is also nursing a knee injury. While you might scoff at the idea of the Texans' running game ever having value, the same could have been said about the Titans' running game and Travis Henry a couple weeks ago, who we incidentally recommended as well. Don't forget that coach Gary Kubiak tabbed Lundy his starter for Week 1 because of his "one-cut-and-go" running style that seemed to suit the team's zone blocking scheme.
- Jon Kitna, QB, Detroit Lions (27.6 percent owned)
Only Donovan McNabb and Marc Bulger have thrown for more yards than Kitna this year, and with Shaun Rogers out for four games, the Lions might find themselves being forced to come from behind even more often going forward.
We went 6-6-1 against the spread last week, but won our best bet, the Cardinals. We're now 44-36-7 on the season and 3-2-1 in this forum.
Broncos -4.5 at Browns
We like the Browns at home getting points and coming off a bye week against a team with a struggling offense. Denver defense is good, but they've managed to keep teams out of the end-zone without completely dominating the line of scrimmage. We think Cleveland will put up a good fight. Back the Browns.
Browns 19 - 17
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 7
Well, I was divided between the Broncos and Cowboys, and it wouldn't have much mattered which I went with, except that I changed my mind mid-week, and took the Redskins... I wish it were a joke, but it's not. Some of my readers were upset, and I feel bad for them, but truthfully, you wouldn't want me to be infallable. If that were the case, then everyone would use my picks, and that would be the end of Survivor. So given that I can make the wrong pick, you've got to use your own judgment as to whether I'm right each week... It's just disappointing to lose in a week where there were so many easy choices.
For this week, I don't like anyone particularly. I could see both the Colts and Jaguars losing, and also Denver, Seattle, New England and Philly. For now, if forced to choose, I'd probably take Jacksonville, but I don't like taking road teams against division rivals if I can help it. Our full Survivor Column comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 10/18/06