The key line around this week's Travis Henry's injury is this: "Even if Henry dresses Sunday, McGahee is expected to get more playing time because he's the healthier running back." Also, Eric Moulds speaks out about opening up the passing game more too.
Other Bills news is that Lawyer Milloy has returned to practice this week. He's unlikely to play against the Dolphins, but expect an emotional boost for whatever game he returns to the team for.
The Jets will be using backups at both guard positions and a center who will be snapping with his left hand (you hear that Bagwell?). One of these weeks, the Jets will have to pass more to win a game.
Stephen Davis said to be improving. More on Joey Harris (who's finally on waivers for Yahoo leagues).
Ahman Green returned to practice Thursday. Listed as probable.
Michael Bennett sighting in Minnesota. He won't play this week, but I may add the Vikes to my picks. There's something dangerous about a home dog against a poor defense though. Mike McKenzie should be starting for the Saints.
A good defense-101 article from a local St Louis article, also focusing on how the Bucs have been able to contain the Martz's offenses over the years.
As this story points out, even though the Broncos have the #1 defense in terms of yards allowed, they are tied for 30th in takeaways (three). They're good, but they're not the best. I don't think they've faced a team with any kind of depth at WR whatsoever. KC, Jax, SD, TB, and Car. Mike Shannahan has killed the Raiders lately though.
Keary Colbert has only played in 3 games, but still has 200 yards and 2 TDs. Facing the Eagles this week should be a good test for him.
Jason Wood over at The Football Guys has a neat stat table about running backs goal line converstion %. It's a pay feature, so I can't really cut and paste it, but no one RB really stood out as being more effective than others. The leaders were Shaun Alexander, Jamal Lewis, Jerome Bettis, Eddie George, Thomas Jones, and Priest Holmes. What is interesting, but not surprising, is that Edgerrin James has had 15 goal line carries but has only scored on 4 of those chances. His 26.7 conversion % is among the worst. The Colts have had goal line difficulties for some time now.
The Eagles haven't won by less than 10 points all year. The line is 8.5 for the Carolina game this week.
Brandon Lloyd was a preseason favorite. He's missed two and a half games this season due to injury. But in the two games he's played in, he was targeted 14 in each, which is usually a high number.
Bills vs. Dolphins (-6) - This line is a little large, but I'm gonna roll the dice and say that Buffalo will want to use this game to show the league that they're better than 0-4. Miami took both (1, 2) games of this series in 03 and Bledsoe was absolutely horrible in both. But if you look back to the last time the Bills were good (2002), they at least showed they could move the ball against the Dolphins defense (1, 2, 3). Drew has 18 career starts against Miami with only average numbers. There's no question that Buffalo's defense should be able to handle the Dolphins on offense, so if the Bills offensive line can give their quarterback time to throw, I like my chances here. And this is a statement game for Buffalo. They need to win by 7 to prove their season is not over. Yeah, and to cover their own bets too. Yahoo - ESPN
Bengals vs. Browns (+3) - I touched on this game yesterday. I'm going with the Bengals just because I see them being determined to win this week. The Browns faced a rookie QB last week and couldn't put enough pressure on him to force mistakes. Cincinnatti really needs this win and will hopefully come ready to play. That's all I've got. I'm giving advice on a hunch. Great. Yahoo - ESPN
Seahawks at Patriots (+4) - I can't believe I'm going with the Seahawks on the road. They are 2-0 this season there but those wins were against the Saints and the Bucs. I also touched on this game yesterday. I think it's a much bigger game for Seattle than it is for New England now that the record is broken. Holmgren's team should be bitter from their poor second half against the Rams. If the Pats were healthy, I'd probably just stay away from this one, but there are just so many injuries on offense in New England I don't think they'll be able to squeak out a close one here. While I'm not giving the Seahawks the NFC Championship just yet, I am giving them a week 6 victory.Yahoo - ESPN
Texans at Titans (+6.5) - Buy this up to 7. My theme of this week is going with teams who have more to play for than their opponent. The Texans fought hard to come back against the Vikings and are probably starting to understand that they can play with these kinds of teams. And I just don't think this Titans team is as good as most believe. They don't have a lot of options on offense and the only two teams they have defeated so far are Miami and Green Bay. Screw buying this one to 7, I'm taking the Texans to win and the +250. Yahoo - ESPN
Raiders vs. Broncos (+2) - Oakland can get to .500 with a win. But more importantly, the Broncos are not as good as their 4-1 record and have scored only 23 totals points in their first two road games this season. As much as I like the Denver defense this season, I think the Raiders have the kind of offense that can score some points on them. Collins missed two easy TD passes to Doug Gabriel last week against the Colts and there's no way Kerry can have three straight bad games is there? John Lynch is great and all, but he does have one weakness these days and that is he can get beat deep. So Champ can't cover Porter, Curry, and Gabriel at the same time, I think if Collins can deliver, the Raiders should hit some deep plays and win this one for the freaks at home. Yahoo - ESPN
UPDATE - Sunday morning and I've watched the Buffalo line fall to -5 now. I still think they'll win, but asking for a touchdown may be a little too much. The only teams I'm still high on are the Seahawks and the Texans. Also, the Chiefs look like a good pick today too.
- posted by jrf @ 10/15/2004 03:01:00 PM
Most of the baseball news is easy to find during the playoffs, but I do have one thought today. For as long as Jeff Bagwell hasn't been able to throw, why doesn't he just teach himself how to throw left-handed? It's really not that hard.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt has a nice write up covering week 6 here.
Bill Parcells gushes over Ben Roethlisberger. Sure Ben's 3-0 and has looked pretty good, but the Steelers are using 25% of their offensive playbook and the Steelers have to eventually lose a game right?
After having Skip Hicks and Stacey Mack work out with the team, the Panthers have decided to sign Joey Harris off their practice squad. He could actually play this week which is amusing because he doesn't exist in the yahoo fantasy player pool and espn just put him in today (off waivers on Sat). Read the whole thing, he's got some decent college numbers at Purdue.
The Eagles look to kick the Panthers while they're down.
Andre Johnson missed practice yesterday but will still probably play.
Check out this CIN/SF box score from last season. Jeff Garcia is playing in Cincinnatti again this week. I was leaning towards the Bengals here, but in looking at this and also remembering that the Bengals were the team that Lee Suggs went absolutely crazy on last season, maybe I'm not picking this game after all. But on the other hand, both of these games were during the great Bengal collapse of 03.
There's still no line posted for the Bills-Dolphins game, but it's hard to see how the Bills won't take this one. Not even talking about how bad Miami is, Buffalo's 0-4 record is just so misleading considering they lost by 3 to Jacksonville, 3 to Oakland at Oakland, they played pretty well against the Pats, and almost beat the Jets in New York last week. Now, they haven't looked particularly good in any of their games, but this team is much better than their winless record. Who knows how the line will be set, Vegas is obviously waiting on the QB decision in Miami, but I'll be taking Buffalo to win. I'm sure everyone else will be too, so as long as the Bills players don't 'gimmie' themselves the game before it's played too, everyone should be happy.
David Carr threw for a lot of yards against the Titans last season (here and here) but this Sunday I expect the Titans to gameplan around stopping Andre Johnson. Still, favoring Tennessee by 6.5 points seems to me to be a little too much.
The obvious game of the week is the Pats/Seahawks showdown. I've been hesitant to give Seattle the 'dominant' status that some have, but at the same time, the only game the Patriots have looked real good in was their first game, against the Colts. The 'Hawks secondary is talented enough to hold down New England, especially considering the Patriots are putting UPS workers at WR. For week 6, the Seahawks are the team with the better players, but the Pats are the team with the better plays. I would like to think that Holmgren and Ray Rhodes will pull out all the whole playbook for this one, so it should be as good as advertised.
I heard on Cold Pizza this morning that Belicheck has been coaching for 30 years straight. Can that even be right?
Yesterday was the AFC, today is the NFC Running Back run down.
Emmitt still seems to have life to give. I've heard a number of times that Coach Green will eventually use both Smith and Troy Hambrick. This story also talks about the 35 year old Emmitt is still finding success. The Cards are on their bye this week and then have to face some tough defenses in Seattle, Buffalo, Miami, Giants, Carolina, and the Jets. All in a row. Yikes.
Warrick Dunn hasn't really been totally healthy since some time mid-last season. But he's still a perfect fit for this Falcons offense and is running behind a much improved offensive line (thanks to coach Alex Gibbs, formerly the Broncos OL coach during their Super Bowl runs). I haven't yet heard Duckett say anything bad about not playing. Dunn has been a consistent performer this season, but he's had to leave games early because of minor injuries. This is a tough call, but I have some doubts about him making it through the year. That said, I also have doubts about Duckett in this offense. Does he have the speed to hit those cut-back holes?
The auditions have begun in Carolina. Foster is out 6-10. Rod Smart won't play this week. Stephen Davis hasn't played since week 1 and is still uncertain about this week. Nick Goings carried most of the load last week. He had a few big games a couple of years ago when the Panthers were still playing Tim Biakabatuka. But this will obviously be Stephen Davis' job once he returns. Until then (and thereafter) this offense will have to throw more to be effective, and that's not a good thing. What you're seeing with the 2004 Panthers is a clear case of the thing that rules "whatever happens to teams the year after they overachieve to a championship." The injuries are killing them, they're not tackling well, and a few early season losses have seemed to have stolen some of that hunger they promised they'd still have this year.
The biggest issue here isn't who, but how well will Thomas Jones and this Bears offense do without Rex Grossman? Jones only had 32 yards in his first game after Grossman's injury. The Bears remaining schedule isn't terribly difficult so fearing the Bears will be losing every game by 20 doesn't play into this one. I think, if anything, the Bears will really have to lean on Jones more- ala Jamal Lewis- since they have to keep things close and don't have a quarterback they trust to make plays on his own. Of course Jones isn't Jamal, but he's good enough to make plays. He's got a nice offensive system built around his strengths, a good fullback (subsc), and an offensive line that is getting healthy.
Coach Parcells admitted that his best skill players are at WR and TE. Losing Julius Jones sort of took any hope of a running game out of this team. Eddie George has been Eddie George, but Reshard Lee has added some quickness and change of pace to their backfield. Don't expect Parcells to trust anyone but George with the pass protections and with most of the carries. I don't watch a lot of the Cowboys, but I don't think I've missed much this season either.
Here's the deal with the Lions. They have an offense that uses a system of short passes to make up for a below average running game. They have a defense that will stop the run and will therefore be competitive in most games this season. Their coach has a history of not using a primary running back and they don't have anyone who deserves that title. Artose Pinner will get the start this week. Shaun Bryson will back him up. Kevin Jones is out. And even when Jones gets back later in the season, just assuming he'll be real effective because he's healthy isn't prudent.
The whole Ahman Green thing is getting talked (written) to death. This was always an issue, but now they're losing. The best thing Green can do now is see how Tiki Barber has completely changed the way he holds the ball. Coach Sherman said last week that he won't bench Ahman, and I agree with that. The running back is not why this team is falling. That said, I pity anyone who used a first round pick on Ahman Green.
The team I've been riding ever since the preseason of 2003 has been my fantasy angel. The Vikings have a large, talented offensive line that has stayed pretty healthy until only recently. Daunte Culpepper's ball handling has gotten better as he's matured and the team knows how to draft talented football players. Mewelde Moore's week 5 performance exemplified everything that Minnesota does right in the world of fantasy football running backs and wide receivers. Looking ahead, I expect Moore to play a lot again this week. He went to Tulane, so he's returning home in a prime time game. Bennett and Smith are still out and while Moe Williams will probably play a little this week, I think the Vikings will go with Mewelde. I'd almost say he's a better long-term option than Onterrio Smith at this point because Moore takes better care of the football.
This team is a mess, but at least Duece McAllister returned last Sunday. The Saints just signed Fred McAfee to help Aaron Stecker with the backup duties. I did notice in Duece's return that the Saints were using more I-Back sets and were getting some decent holes open for McAllister. He's a superstar on a team of stars that just can't seem to figure out how to play a winning football style. Duece has lost a fumble in each of his three games this season. The Saints finish the season with four of six games on the road, and three of those are divisional matches.
NEW YORK GIANTS
I can't link enough "Tiki Barber is great" stories to show my surprise and admiration for a guy who was basically told he was going to be replaced, and instead decided to fix his number one flaw, keep his mouth shut and play. He's the league's leading rusher after five weeks and is as secure as anyone in his position. Just google news him.
To say one player makes the difference between winning and losing is usually oversimplifying. But I do think the Eagles could be defending Super Bowl champs had Brian Westbrook not missed the NFC Championship Game. He's not irreplaceable, but for the same reason the Falcons are better with Dunn instead of Duckett, the Eagles are better with Westbrook getting 20-30 touches a game. The only thing that is troubling, however, is that there is no Duckett on this Eagles team. After Correll Buckhalter was lost for the season, the Eagles don't really have anyone they can comfortably put into the game to spell Westbrook. And some where down the line, Philadelphia will pay for it. They will either suffer when resting Brian, or they'll suffer when he gets hurt.
Kevan Barlow has waited a long time to be the featured back of the 49ers. And this is what he waited for? He is the starter, but his chances have been limited.
Shaun Alexander scores touchdowns. He's playing in his contract year for a team that probably won't keep him. His backup is capable and his team is a favorite to win their division. If you have Alexander, you should have Morris and feel lucky that you have one of maybe four RB situations that has delivered as promised and remains relatively headache free.
There's not much going on under the radar here. Faulk is getting old, Jackson is a different, but talented running back. Mike Martz coaches too fast and too furious.
Michael Pittman's return brings some stability to the Bucs running game. Tampa had a chance to keep Thomas Jones, but it would have cost them more money than they had and Jones isn't the best fit for a Gruden offense. The Bucs really use Pittman's superior route running to their advantage. He's a strong runner but still goes down after contact and he has been plagued by the 'lack of field vision' reputation. Still, he'll get yards but few scores.
A lot has been made public about Clinton Portis' struggles (subsc) with the new Redskins offense. I haven't seen or read anything about what is going to be changed to make this offense better. I don't think they have the offensive line to run these traps schemes they're trying. Their best game was the Monday Nighter against Dallas. But even counting that night, they still haven't scored more than 18 points in one game. Someone at Fanball seems to think he'll turn things around, and I feel that Portis is one of those kinds of talents that can succeed in almost any situation.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were supposed to be raising their Stanley Cup Championship banner tonight. I just thought I'd mention that. And John Buccigross spends a great deal of electronic ink on the lockout here. He says the game will be back by January 28.
The obvious news is that Jamal Lewis will be gone for the next three weeks (bye plus 2 game suspension). Everyone is calling Chester Taylor the starter (subsc) now because he's the one that has come in to spell Jamal throughout the first five games of this season. But is he the starter now? Has Brian Billick ever said that? Here's a direct quote from Coach Billick:
"I'm not real big on the label "starter," but I can tell you that both of those players (Taylor and Smith) will see substantial time in the backfield. We also want to continue to work B.J. Sams into our offense."
The Ravens website had Smith listed as the third back behind Lewis and Taylor. The Ravens offense just isn't any good, but Billick says he's got a plan. I'd almost say B.J. has the best chance to score some points because of how good that Ravens punt return is. It should be interesting.
Travis Henry has averaged 3.4 yards per rush this season and hasn't scored in seven straight games dating back to 2003. Willis McGahee came in last week and put up 42 yards on 8 carries (5.3 average) but if you take out the one long run he broke (21 yards) it leaves him for the day with 7 carries for 21 yards (3.0 average). There is definitely something missing from the Bills offense. It looks as if they've made no improvement since the second half of last season. That's hard to explain considering they brought in a new coaching staff for 04. I don't think Henry will lose this job unless he can't play due to injury. But this offense needs their players to start making plays.
The Bengals are 1-3 and are coming off their bye week. From what I've seen of them, losing Peter Warrick to injury has really hurt this offense. But Rudi Johnson has put up decent numbers and will continue to as the weather gets cold in the AFC North. The Bengals decided not to give Rudi a contract extension before the season which probably means they were waiting to see if he could produce for a full season too. Johnson's best season at Auburn was 2000 when he had 1500 yards and 13 TDs and was mentioned in Heisman talks that season. He's a legitimate NFL running back. The only downside is that he is often removed on obvious pass downs.
Lee Suggs or William Green? Butch Davis can't decide and that means trouble. I've heard something about the Browns not wanting to demote Green because of his fragile state of mind, but I can't find where I saw that now. I believe it though. After Green was suspended last season he was taken in by the Browns owner and nursed back to... whatever. This franchise wants William Green to succeed.
Flavor of the week is Rueben Droughns but Coach Shanahan is reluctant to name a week 6 starter. Not much more can be said than that. This Denver team is defense first these days, so whoever is running the ball for them will be a factor. Right now, the choice seems to be Reuben.
The thing that strikes me here is that Dominick Davis was questionable all week, and at game-time was declared eligible to play. He carried the ball 14 times against Minnesota. Wells and Hollings had zero carries and zero catches (Davis had 4). So what this tells me is that the Houston Texans feel starting Dominick Davis at running back gives them the best chance to win games.
Edgerrin is the starter, no doubt. But around the goal line, the Colts have used James Mungro twice to score from 1 yard out (I watch a lot of Colts games, they were identical plays) and I've seen Dominic Rhodes get some chances too. But James is the guy here, he's in a contract year and the Colts are the best or second best team in the AFC.
Fred Taylor comes first, but there are many options. Greg Jones seems to be an Alstott type option at fullback. There's also Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, who scored this past week. LeBrandon Toefield is getting better too and the Jags haven't really done much on offense unless they are spreading it out and throwing it. Taylor has put up a decent amount of yards, but the offensive line and tight ends have many injuries and Fred's touchdowns will probably be lacking all season.
1) Priest Holmes, 2) Derrick Blaylock, 3) Larry Johnson.
Why even bother? Brock Forsey and Leonard Henry are in a duel for the top spot until Travis Minor gets healthy. Minor has the most ability, but this team has so far to go before I start really paying attention.
After Corey Dillon, the Pats have some real concerns about their running game. But assuming Dillon stays healthly, they've got their man. All the injuries at WR gave New England a chance to ride their big back this past Sunday and we saw what he does best. How can you not expect a good fall from Corey Dillon?
NEW YORK JETS
Curtis Martin has been the man. This season has reminded me a lot of Curtis' previous best season, 2001. Martin had 1513 and 10 TDs that year. He carried the ball 333 times. After four games this season, he has 107 carries. That translates to well over 400 for a 16 game season. To be fair, he's still averaging 4.7 a carry and that would translate into a 2000 yard season. The Jets have already said that Lamont Jordan will see increased action as the year goes along and there's no way Curtis gets 400 carries or 2000 yards, but I don't see why he can't approach his 2001 numbers. Pete Kendall and Kevin Mawae are both injured, so things may get tough in the next few weeks. Maybe they should let Lamont get beat up by the Pats (week 7), the Bills (8), and the Dolphins (9) so Curtis can stay fresh.
Wheatley is out for who knows how long. Maybe a week, maybe four. I'm sure the Raiders would love to see what Justin Fargas can do but he's had turf toe and now has some sort of leg injury that he suffered against the Colts. Amos is the short term here, but at some point I expect Oakland to see what they've got in Fargas.
Duce Staley is having a great season running the ball. Bettis is the goal line and short yardage guy and the team has also said it wants to get Vernon Haynes involved more. But with a rookie QB in a city that wants a tough, winning team, I would expect 20-25 carries a game for Duce for close to 100 yards all year long.
LT had only a groin strain and was happy to see his backup hit 100 yards against the Jags. Tomlinson started slow last year and ended up with some huge games.
Chris Brown looked great again last night. I still stand by my prediction that he won't be healthy for the fantasy season playoffs. I looked around for a predraft bio on him and found this. It's pretty accurate except when talking about his straight ahead speed. I've also thought since the beginning of the season that the Titans would be lucky to end up above 8-8.
One of the sad things about being away from technology from early Friday morning to late Sunday night is now I don't expect anyone to believe the picks that I had for the weekend. I liked San Fran at home against a Cards team that may have been a little overinflated after a blowout win against the Saints. I liked the Bucs in the first game of the Chris Simms era. I didn't think the Ravens would lose two prime time games in a row, and I was unimpressed by the Jets win in Miami last week and thought the Bills would get their first victory yesterday. 3-1 straight up (and the Bills at least covered- but I don't believe in spreads for Pro games). I swear it to be true.
PFBW's Whispers are out for this week. I particularly like the rumors about a skinny, bearded, bald, and barefoot Ricky Williams roaming the sidelines in San Diego.
Tim Rattay has played against Atlanta, Seattle, and now Arizona. Those first two teams have proved to be top defensive units this season and yesterday's 400 yard performance came against one of the poorest. This 49er offense has some talent in the skill positions with Eric Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Rashaad Woods, Curtis Conway, and of course Kevan Barlow. Their defense is just terrible though, and they just lost their franchise linebacker. Kevan Barlow wants to run the ball more, but I expect San Francisco to be playing catchup for most of the rest of the season.
Brian Griese will start on Monday Night in St Louis.
The Chiefs didn't play this week, and there's no story linked that backs me up, but it looks like this Chris Horn character is going to be sticking around for a while. I think I just forgot to mention it last week.
Peter King points out that Daunte Culpepper is on pace for 52 touchdown passes and 5,364 yards.
The Seahawks defense showed it wasn't the world beater its stats made it seem to be. That unit started real hot last year too, and then got picked apart as the season went on because they have a real simple system.
When the Jaguars pass rush just their front four, they are all just too big and too stiff to put consistent pressure on any half mobile quarterback. And I think one of the reasons San Diego gave them so much trouble yesterday is because the Jags defense didn't really know who the go-to guy was for the Chargers. Jacksonville seemed a little lost, a little punch-drunk on defense.
BIll Simmons points out an interesting point that I noticed happening at the beginning of last season too. As a can remember, this trick only works for the first six or seven weeks:
Underdogs are 31-26-3 [against the spread] heading into Week 5, with 24 of those 31 covers doubling as Outright Wins. Even if you include the Week 4 Bucs, that's still 75 percent (24-8) through four weeks. If you wagered $1,000 on every underdog money line last week, you would have lost half of your bets ($7,000, with no vig) and still made a tidy $3,800 profit. That isn't just significant; it's the kind of development that eventually takes down casinos and leaves us all wearing gold-plated diapers.
Not yet having lived through tonight's game, my records for this week (omitting the Bal/Was and the Ari/SF games because they were even lines, but still including the Mia/NE game even though it was the most obvious favorite of the year) have underdogs 7-4 ATS and 5-6 straight up. That's still far enough over even money to make it worthwhile.