East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
The Big Three
Through eight weeks, the Bears, Colts and Pats are the easy picks for the league's top three teams, but who's fourth? Denver, who beat the Patriots in New England? The Giants who are 5-2, despite a schedule that had them as underdogs in five of the first seven games? What about the Chargers whose only loses were on final plays against the Ravens and Chiefs? Anyone else qualify? The Ravens lost to Carolina and in Denver, but they came very close to losing to Cleveland as well. I can't buy into the Saints yet, and Atlanta lost badly to the Giants in Atlanta. Carolina, Cincinnati, Philly and Jacksonville all have some upside, but none has won more than four games. I think the Giants and Chargers are fourth and fifth right now, but I'm not sure in which order. I'd put Denver at sixth because they don't have as much balance on both sides of the ball. Finally, would you rather have the big-three or the field in an even-money bet on the Super Bowl winner? Normally, I'd take the field over any three teams after Week 8, but in this particular season, I think I'd take the Colts, Pats and Bears.
Incidentally, I'd be shocked if the Bears come through their three straight road games in Weeks 10-12 undefeated. Not only has Chicago had problems in Arizona and Minnesota already, but two of those games are at New England and at the Giants. If they do get through, the '72 Dolphins might want to put out the hex. Still, the Bears would have five more games, and even if we give them an average chance to win of 90 percent for each (a very generous number in the NFL), over five games that's just 59 percent.
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
Below the Radar
- Mike Bell gets back into the Denver running back mix
Just when you thought the Denver running back situation was settled, a turf toe injury limits Tatum Bell, and Mike Bell rushes for 136 yards and two scores Sunday. What does this mean? For starters, it's hard to remember too many turf toe injuries that didn't linger. Secondly, Mike Bell was coach Mike Shanahan's choice originally because he's the "one-cut-and-go" type back that has success in his zone blocking scheme. In this respect Mike Bell's season parallels Wali Lundy's in that he was originally the starter, lost the job entirely, and now seems to be back in part due to injury (Ron Dayne) and in part because his coach realized that his style fits the team's scheme better anyway. If Tatum Bell were 100 percent healthy, this might be a roughly even time share with Mike Bell getting the goal line carries. If Tatum's toe injury continues to bother him, Mike could get 60 percent of the carries or more.
- Joseph Addai pulls away from Dominic Rhodes
For the second straight week, Addai vastly outproduced Rhodes, but this time, Addai did it by getting 85 percent of the running back carries (17 to Rhodes' three). Eighty-five percent is essentially full-time duty, as no running back gets all the carries to himself each week, and it's telling that this extreme split came in Denver against the toughest defense the Colts faced all season. Even though coach Tony Dungy vows to continue the timeshare, and Addai might not get 85 percent of the carries against the Patriots this week, anything less than 60 percent would surprise me. If Addai approaches 70 percent the rest of the way, we could be looking at a top-10 back over the second half of the season in that offense.
- Michael Vick has another big passing game
Two weeks ago, Vick had never thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game, and now he's done it twice. And forget his four touchdown passes against the Steelers, and his better-than-average 7.7 yards per attempt, Vick averaged a whopping 10.4 yards per attempt against Cincinnati, and didn't throw any picks. What are the odds after two strong games in a row that Vick will go back to being an inconsistent quarterback who commits to the run too early when the pocket breaks down? I don't know. Remember Mark Brunell's seeming four-game resurgence last season? It went away as suddenly as it arrived, so we shouldn't jump to conclusions. I will say, I caught the game on NFL Short Cuts, and Vick looked very sharp, both in terms of accuracy and his decision-making - there were a number of times that he looked downfield after a scramble rather than tucking the ball and running prematurely. At worst, Vick is showing he's capable of greatness, but will revert to his old feast-or-famine self for stretches. At best, he'll turn into Steve Young 2.0. I'd bet on something closer to the former, but I'd still take it.
- Tony Romo locks down the Dallas quarterback job
Romo had a strong game in Dallas' comeback win over the Panthers in Carolina, and the job is now his for the foreseeable future. Romo's added mobility means that Jason Witten won't have to stay in and block, that Terrell Owens will be targeted further down the field. Terry Glenn, who had a nice rapport with Drew Bledsoe is likely to lose targets in the short term, but that's not set in stone, either. If Romo can learn to go through his progressions and throw to whoever's most open, Glenn could benefit from a more dynamic passing game as well. Of course, Romo's already thrown four picks, and once defensive coordinators look at the film and game plan for him, Romo will probably have his share of mistakes. But even that can be a positive fantasy-wise, as he might be forced to pass the Cowboys out of the holes he digs for them, like Drew Brees did against the Ravens on Sunday.
Looking at the Yahoo! numbers from Saturday, it turns out that the Jerious Norwood
s (4.8 percent) and Michael Turner
s (7.2 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. Last week's recommendations: DeAngelo Williams
, Chris Perry
, Matt Jones
and Chad Jackson
Here are a few more:
- Mewelde Moore, RB, Minnesota Vikings, (.52 percent owned)
Moore was the only player on the Vikings who had a good game Monday night, returning a punt for a touchdown and catching four balls for 91 yards. Moreover, starter Chester Taylor left Monday's game with a shoulder stinger. If Taylor can't go, Moore would likely get the start against a 49ers defense that's yielded the most points per game (33.6) by far of any team in the NFL this year.
- LenDale White, RB, Tennessee Titans, (10.4 percent owned)
White had seven carries for 35 yards against the Texans Sunday and looked far more effective than starter Travis Henry. While no change is imminent, we have to think that the non-contending Titans will want to increase White's role as the year goes on to see what they have.
- Michael Jenkins, WR, Atlanta Falcons, (18.7 percent owned)
If Vick turns the corner as a quarterback by buying time to look downfield, Jenkins, who goes 6-5, 215, stands to benefit as much as anyone. While Jenkins doesn't have the speed of Ashley Lelie or Roddy White, he's Vick's most reliable wideout and the one best qualified to make plays in the red zone (not counting tight-end Alge Crumpler).
- Troy Williamson, WR, Minnesota Vikings, (10.1 percent owned)
Williamson returned from a concussion to catch a team-high five passes for 44 yards Monday. While that's nothing to get too excited about, we have to think coach Brad Childress will be more aggressive looking down the field, given the way the team's offense has stagnated of late. If Chester Taylor is out for any length of time, the team could rely even more heavily on the pass, and Williamson has the speed to get behind defenders and make big plays, provided, of course, that he holds onto the football.
Beating the Book
We went 6-8 against the spread last week and are now 58-48-8 on the season. We picked the Seahawks here and lost on a late two-point conversion by the Chiefs. We're now 3-4-1 in this forum.
Falcons -5.5 at Lions
Atlanta just won two big games in which they were underdogs against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and we expect a letdown in Detroit against the Lions. That might seem crazy, but it's no crazier than the Chiefs losing 45-3 to Pittsburgh then beating the Chargers outright at home. The NFL is just like that, and home dogs are usually the right play, especially the ones that no one wants. Back the Lions who keep it close and make us wonder why Vick couldn't keep it going against one of the worst defenses in the league.
Falcons 23 - 20
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 9
Last week, Chicago and the Giants were easy, and so there's not much credit to be taken in that.
For this week, use whichever one of those two you didn't use last week, as Chicago has a home game against the Dolphins, and the Giants are home against Houston. If I had to pick, I'd probably take Chicago because they've been so tough at home, and it's hard to see Joey Harrington having any success against that defense, but both are strong plays. If you've used both of those teams already, I'd go with the Chargers who host the Browns.
The full Survivor comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 11/1/06