Don’t tell part 1, but the better part of the NFL week 15 schedule is the second half of the slate. Yesterday I broke down last night’s game, tomorrow night’s game, and some of the early games, but in today’s version I get to write about Tebow v Brady, Steelers v Niners, and even Browns v Cardinals (o, wait, scratch that last one…). For each game I’ll give you my pick against the spread and players that should be upgraded or downgraded due to opportunity, matchup, or injury. Here’s what you can expect from the second half of the games this coming weekend with spreads taken from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em and home teams in all caps.
GIANTS -7.5 over Redskins
Analysis: The Giants offense is playing extremely well scoring 37, 35, and 24 in their last 3 games. Oddly, the Giants have struggled this season at home to a 3-3 record, but after last week’s big road win they’ve got this game, the Jets, and the Cowboys all in NYC and if they win out they’ll be in the playoffs as NFC East champs. The Redskins on the other hand have struggled losing 8 of their last 9 and scuffling on both sides of the ball. This is an NFC East rivalry and is sure to be a tough, physical game, but I don’t see the Skins offense being able to keep up with Eli Manning and the on-fire G-men offense. Look for NY to win 34-17.
Player Notes: Neither of these 2 teams run the ball effectively. In fact they rank 31 and 32 in rushing yards per game. They make up for it though through the air ranking 4 (NY) and 12 (WSH) at moving the ball through the air. Now part of that was the fact that both rushing attacks looked bad at the beginning of the year and with Ahmad Bradshaw back from injury and Roy Helu now the starter they’ve looked better recently. Still though, most of the damage in this one will be through aerial assault. Look for Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Jake Ballard to have big games and even Mario Manningham (as 3rd WR) could have a solid week against the Redskins who have allowed 34, 34, 27, and 20 in their last 4 losses… On the ‘Skins offensive side of things, expect them to go pass-heavy like they did last week against a Giants secondary that ranks 29th against the pass. Rex Grossman makes a high-side QB2 and Santana Moss will be targeted early and often and Jabar Gafney will get most of the run opposite of him making both of them viable plays if you need them. Roy Helu had a nice game last week and now gets the Giants D who give up over 120 on the ground per game. He’s a low end RB1 in this one and could catch a bunch of passes as well.
Panthers +6.5 over TEXANS
Analysis: The Texans proved last week that they’re still a goot team even without their top 2 QBs as they beat a good Bengals team on the road. This week they return home to face the Cam Newton show as the Panthers roll into town. Carolina was way out in front of Atlanta last week, but in the second half allowed the Falcons to secure the come-from-behind win. The Panthers have typically started out fast and Houston may struggle to come from behind with their rush-heavy offense. Cam Newton started out the year with a bunch of late covers and this feels like another one. I think the Texans will win this game at home, but 6 points is a lot to give. I’ll say Houston 20-Carolina 17.
Player Notes: Besides Cam Newton it’s hard to recommend many Panthers agains the Texans defense that ranks #3 against the pass and #4 against the run. Steve Smith is startable, but with the backfield split and yards hard to come by seek other options for other Carolina players…On the other side of the ball, it looks like an awesome matchup for Arian Foster and Ben Tate. They get to run against the #24 ranked Panthers defense. TJ Yates is a servicable QB, but will be asked to manage the game as much as possible by handing off to his workhorse backs which is the way that Houston’ll score enough to win but not cover.
Lions -1.5 over RAIDERS
Analysis: The Raiders showed some promise after adding Carson Palmer and looked to be headed toward the AFC West title, but then this guy named Tebow came in and looks to be riding off with it (more on him in a minute). The Raiders have gotten handled quite easily in their last 2 games by a combined 80-30 score, and will still be without Darren McFadden in this one. The Lions meanwhile are in the last NFC playoff spot with the Cowboys and Bears chasing them. They won last week since the refs let them facemask Joe Webb on the last play, but shouldn’t need those kind of dramatics to stop the Raiders. I think it’ll be high-scoring and relatively close, but the Lions will win 31-27.
Player Notes: Calvin Johnson has disappeared recently but will look to get back on track against the Raiders 17th ranked pass defense. Aaron Rodgers tore them up last week, but that’s to be expected from the Pack QB. Johnson’s still a WR1 but not the #1 like he was earlier in the year. Matthew Stafford should be able to throw the ball effectively against Oakland especially if Kevin Smith can return and offer some balance. Smith is a solid RB2 against the 29th ranked rushing D. He’s a risky play since he has reinjured himself before when he’s come back, but the payoff could be huge against the Raiders who allowed Ryan Grant to eat ‘em up last week… For the Raiders, Michael Bush has been struggling but the 27th ranked Lions’ run defense might help that out. He’s a RB2 as well. Carson Palmer has struggled to find consistency, but that is largely due to his WR’s inability to get and stay healthy.It looks like Darius Moore may be ready to return this week, but stay away from this passing game if you can. The Lions get after the passer and rank 9th overall against the pass. You should be able to do better than one of these guys…
CARDINALS -6.5 over Browns
Analysis: The Browns are one of the most luckless franchises in the NFL but weren’t bad enough this year to get Luck-y in next year’s draft. They’re the team I almost feel bad for picking against, but then I remember they get paid big bucks and still can’t get anything positive going. Cleveland’s 4-9 record is misleading, but not in the way you’d think. They’re actually much worse than that but are too unlucky to lose all their games. They’ve beaten Seattle (6-3 in one of the most painful games to watch of all time), Jacksonville (14-10 in another eye-killer), Miami (at home by 1), and the even worse than them Colts (27-19 in their most successful game of the year). Last week they messed up a concussion diagnosis on the sidelines, and who knows how they’ll figure out a new way to blow this game. They’ll be rollin’ with their backup QB Seneca Wallace due to the aforementioned concussing. Which is kinda likenwhat Browns fans have in store for them again this week…cussing… On the other hand, the Cardinals have had an up and down year to be sure, but are showing some signs of promise. They’ve won their last 3 at home (4-2 on the year) and have beaten Dallas and San Francisco in consecutive weeks in the desert. For dessert they get the Cleveland Creme-puffs, and even though they’ll probably be going with their own backup QB John Skelton has proven that he can win games and at least find Larry Fitzgerald enough to get the Cardinals the win in this one 28-13. P.S. I’m not a Browns hater. I would actually love to see them do well. I’m not a Browns fan, but I work closely with one and Cleveland deserves better than this team is playing right now. I home Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur get things turned around. I hope they somehow get a great young QB in this draft replete with them and get this Cleveland bus turned around. That’s what I want, but that’s not what I see on the field.
Player Notes: Seneca Wallace makes the passing game a complete unknown fantasy wise since we have no idea who he’ll throw to. It looks like Peyton Hillis is going to be able to take more and probably most of the work at RB, but is a risky flex play against a tough Cards run defense (lately) when there’s still a possibility he shares the load… John Skelton is a low end QB2 against the Browns secondary that ranks 2nd in the league in yards allowed. The Browns defense isn’t bad, except against the run (31st in the league), so look for Beanie Wells to remind Ohio fans how good he was at OSU by leading the rout of the Browns this weekend. He’s definitely a RB1 and a top option this week. Larry Fitzgerald is a low WR1/high WR2, but try to stay away from the Cardinals receivers otherwise.
Patriots -6.5 over BRONCOS
Analysis: The game with the most hype this week is the Tebow-led Broncos hosting the Brady-led Patriots. It’s crazy how much this has become about off-the-field stuff with both of these guys at times in their career so for fantasy football purposes (and for our own sanity) we’ll keep it to on-the-field results. Brady and the Pats haven’t met a defense yet that can stop them, and their defense hasn’t found anybody they can stop yet (see Orlovsky, Dan and Grossman, Rex). They should be able to stop the Tebow that normally shows up in the first 3 quarters and the Pats will be able to get a big enough lead that even 4th quarter Tebow won’t be able to bring the Broncs all the way back. The question to me is whether he gets them close enough to cover and I’ll go with no, as the Pats will win 31-21 after being up 28-0 going into the 4th quarter.
Player Notes: From a fantasy perspective, Tim Tebow should have a great day. If Orlovsky can bring the Colts back scoring big points in the 4th, Tebow can surely do the same. Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas, and Erik Decker all get slight upgrades because whether the Broncos stay close the whole game or just get close in junk-ball time, the Pats defense is very beatable. You want anyone in this game (think last week’s Washington game)… For the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, and Wes Welker are no-brainer starts, and Aaron Hernandez and BenJarvus Green-Ellis startable as well. Stay away from Deion Branch since he’s dealing with injury and Chad Ochocinco since he’s no been no good yet this year. This one will be an awesome game to watch and all the stars should put up very good numbers.
EAGLES -2.5 over Jets
Analysis: The Eagles host the Jets as they look to win games in consecutive weeks for the first time this year. The Jets have been flying high lately and have won their last 3 games, but have struggled to a 2-4 record on the road. They’ve scored high numbers of points in their winning streak, but their offense still hasn’t convinced me. They haven’t had long drives and while I applaus the opportunistic defense and the offense taking advantage of short fields, I do wonder if they can keep winning that way. Phily meanwhile, should have all their pieces back as Jeremy Maclin, Michael Vick, and LeSean McCoy lead an offense that has been able to move the ball fairly well throughout the season. I think this one will be a good game, and it’s really more of a gut call for me on this one, but I think the Eagles desperately need a home win and get it here winning 24-20.
Player Notes: Both defenses rank around the league average in most categories except for the Jets pass defense which is slightly better than average. If Darrelle Revis shadows DeSean Jackson expect Jeremy Maclin to have a good game, but if Revis shadows Maclin look for Jason Avant and Brett Celek to get the passes thrown their way. Either way, Michael Vick should be a QB1 and LeSean McCoy should add to his NFC rushing yards lead with a solid game… Shonne Greene has been a big part of the Jets latest winning streak and the Eagles have been gashed by similar runners in the past so I expect another solid game out of him. Mark Sanchez seems to be playing over his head so I expect a small correction this week as his numbers return to normal levels. Santonio Holmes worth starting this week but will probably have to contend with Nnamdi Asomugha. Plaxico Burress might even be worth a flier since the Eagles CB’s are a little bit smaller and he may be able to use his size for a TD or some quick receptions which can help you in PPR leagues.
CHARGERS +2.5 over Ravens
Analysis: Two of the hottest teams in the league meet on Sunday Night Football as the Ravens go west to visit the Chargers. The Bolts suffered through a miserable 6 game losing streak but still have a shot at the playoffs if they can continue to play the way they have the last 2 weeks. They’ve thumped the Jags and Bills and have seemed to regain the offense that had been absent during the skid. They’ll face a much stiffer test when the Ravens D comes to town this Sunday. It shapes up to be a great game since the Ravens are on quite a streak of their own winning their last 4 in a row. The last 2 have been over Cleveland and Indy, so not the greatest competition for them either. This game should have a playoff atmosphere and should be a great one, but I’ll take the home-team Chargers to pull it out 23-21.
Player Notes: The Ravens offense, and thus this game, rise and fall on Ray Rice. Rice should have plenty of yards against a Chargers D that gives up almost 130 a game. The Ravens still have the troublesome tendency to bog down in the red zone and this feels like a game where that may come back to haunt them. Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, and Ed Dickson can be used as you normally would… The Chargers all get slight downgrades since the Ravens D ranks 2nd against the pass and 5th against the pass but Antonio Gates has looked revitalized over the past 2 games and with him as a weapon Philip Rivers has flourished. Both of them, along with Vincent Jackson, are strong #1 starts and Ryan Mathews is still a good RB2. Mike Tolbert‘s roll has decreased the last 2 weeks, but his punishing run-style may be needed this week to help wear down the Ravens D. It’s another one of the great matchups of the week to be sure and should be a fun night-cap.
49ERS -1.5 over Steelers
Analysis: The big question here is whether Ben Roethlisberger will be available for this Monday Night matchup. After watching him gut it out agains the Browns, I don’t see him not playing in this big AFC-NFC game. The Niners will be looking to bounce back after dropping a tough one in Arizona and at home I think even with Big Ben, Jim Harbaugh’s Niners will take down the Steelers. It’s going to be a tough, defensive struggle and if Charlie Batch gets the start the Steelers will be in even more trouble against the tenacious Niners. Yards and points will be tough to come by but I see San Fran winning this one 17-12
Player Notes: The key to the Niners success has been plenty of Frank Gore. It’s good news for them that he’s been putting in full practices and seems to be full speed ahead as we near the playoffs. This week though temper your expectations slightly since the Steelers run defense ranks 6th in the league in fewest yards allowed. The only person in for a harder time putting up yards and points might be his teammate Alex Smith as he goes against Pittsburgh’s top-rated pass defense…Rashard Mendenhall will also find it tough going since the Niners are the top rated defense against the run. Try not to wait for Ben Roethlisberger if you’ve got other options since he may not play and even if he does he’ll be limited against a top defense. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are startable, but don’t expect much as this game will not provide many fantasy points to anyone. A great game-it should be; a compelling game-to be sure; but I don’t see anybody getting over 20 points in stadard scoring leagues and the defenses will be the stars of this one.
so far this week: 1-0
record last week 10-6
record for the year: 117-89