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Football Meteorology For NFL Week 3

By Jeff Risdon

This is the last weekend of summer, believe it or not. Nights are getting cooler, and many areas north of the Mason-Dixon line will see their first frost in the next couple of weeks. The leaves are already turning here in West Michigan, where we had a pathetically cold summer; just one day did the temperature top 90, and we had record low high temperatures 11 times between July and August. One of those happened to be a day I took my kids to a water park. Not that I’m bitter…

Last Week: Another 10-6 week, pushing the season forecast to 20-12.

Betting Recap: I really don’t want to talk about it. Wagered $2250. Lost $2000. The little old ladies surgically attached to the slot machine chairs with their portable oxygen tanks on their walkers blocking the path are laughing at me. Sitting at $7250 

Thursday Game

- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-6.5): I’m not sure Atlanta is a touchdown better than anyone at this point, but if they are the most likely suspect is any team coached by Lovie Smith. He must have nightmares about Matt Ryan. The Bucs look badly out of sync on both sides of the ball, with the signing of Josh McCown appearing to be a failed gamble. Tampa cannot throw the ball, period. That’s just what the Falcons need, because they cannot stop anyone from throwing. They’ll be better at home. Heck, they might even get their first sack.

Falcons 27, Bucs 17

Sunday Games

- Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks (-4.5): There has not been a Super Bowl rematch in the following season since 1997. That’s a truly amazing statistic. It doesn’t exactly provide much of a track record in those types of situations.

This contest figures to be a lot closer than the Super Bowl romp by Seattle. Yet the outcome will be the same; Seattle is going to win because Denver cannot handle their pressuring style of defense. The Seahawks underrated linebackers are a problem with their range and headiness. The focus is always on Richard Sherman, but Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are so good at patrolling the 7-15 yard range. That’s where teams move the chains, and Seattle keeps offense off schedule with their three-deep zone looks that limit first down gains and crush teams on 2nd-and-8. The home field advantage is nice, too.

Seahawks 28, Broncos 20

- Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5): Last week the Titans defense really struggled to keep up with Dallas and Demarco Murray. This week they face a similar challenge with Gio Bernard and the Bengals, who have a good offensive line and a dangerous passing game to balance out the attack. Even without A.J. Green, this is still a high-caliber offense with an ever-progressing Andy Dalton.

Tennessee can still win, but it will take Jake Locker being the Week 1 version and not the Week 2 version. He has earned my respect for improving his game, but has not yet earned my trust. The Cincy defense is showing great opportunism, and I see them with a +2 turnover ratio in this one.

Bengals 24, Titans 13

- Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (+1.5): Cleveland is doing a great job of not beating itself. The Browns have yet to turn the ball over, and they rank 6th in penalty yards. Smart and disciplined football gives them a chance in every game.

They will be challenged by Steve Smith in this one. The brash Ravens wideout drew three penalties last week and is notorious for getting under opponent’s skin. He’s also a handful in coverage, and if the Browns think Joe Haden can cover him they’re in for a long afternoon. Haden ranks 94th out of 96 corners in Pro Football Focus rankings. Should Cleveland roll help to Steve Smith, it’s Torrey Smith time. The Browns effective running game will keep it close, but the Ravens notch the divisional road win thanks to Justin Tucker’s mighty leg.

Ravens 17, Browns 16

- Dallas Cowboys at St. Louis Rams (+0.5): The Rams are built almost completely around the ability of their defensive line to dominate games. In drafting Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Aaron Donald in the first round while neglecting the gaping holes in the secondary (and quarterback, wide receiver and tight end) the Rams are relying on that major investment in the front to carry the day.

So when that universally lauded unit has just one sack and one takeaway in two games, it’s a recipe for disaster. Dallas has one of the best offensive lines in the league, which helps blunt St. Louis’ supposed advantage. They also have a great wide receiver in Dez Bryant that the Rams cannot cover and a running back in Demarco Murray who is a mismatch against badly overdrafted LB Alec Ogletree. The Cowboys' own defense is overachieving. I’m not sure they can sustain that long-term, but against this sorry excuse of an offense they’ll keep it rolling.

Cowboys 28, Rams 16

- San Diego Chargers at Buffalo Bills (-2.5): I don’t want to rain on Buffalo’s impressive unbeaten parade, but don’t go buying those playoff tickets just yet. The Bills have missed the playoffs the last four times they started 2-0, making them the only team to accomplish that feat.

Perhaps, to quote Evans Blue, this time it’s different. The Chargers travel across the country for an early kickoff one week after an emotional, physical win over mighty Seattle. The heavy money coming in on Buffalo leads me to follow, too. This game opened with the Bills as a 1-point favorite. It jacked up from 2 to 2.5 from Wed. to Thursday. In a game that seems like a tossup, I’ll swim with the whales.

Bills 24, Chargers 21

- Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-1.5): Every time Aaron Rodgers has played the full game against Detroit, the Packers have won. It’s hard to ignore that inglorious nugget, but I’m going to in this one.

Detroit’s offensive and defensive lines both have major advantages in this game over Green Bay’s editions. The Packers made some nice in-game adjustments to slow down the Jets running game last week, but that was predicated on the defense banking that Geno Smith and Jeremy Kerley couldn’t exploit them with the pass. That won’t work against Matthew Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Detroit had better put the ball in the end zone when they get close, because there is zero confidence in kicker Nate Freese. It’s hard to pick against the Packers here, but I’m doing it with $500.

Lions 30, Packers 25

- Houston Texans at New York Giants (+2.5): The Giants will win at some point, but this is a terrible matchup for them. New York has yet to force a turnover, while their offensive line continues to struggle. Houston has this guy named J.J. Watt you might have heard of. He’s probably the best player in the league regardless of position, and he’s liable to end Eli Manning’s impressive consecutive game streak. The Giants lost their top receiver in Jerrel Jernigan this week, as well as valuable CB Walter Thurmond. Somehow the Texans eclipse last year’s win total by the end of summer.

Texans 23, Giants 13

- Oakland Raiders at New England (-14.5): Things don’t get any easier for Derek Carr and the Raiders, as the rookie QB must travel across the country for an early start against emerging stud Chandler Jones and the Patriots defense. The Patriots' offense has not impressed, but they won’t need to do much here to outscore a toothless Oakland offense, whose best player is probably rookie left guard Gabe Jackson. He’s going to be great, and soon, but that says a lot more about the lack of talent around him at this point.

Patriots 24, Raiders 3

- Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5): No way the Andrew Luck Colts fall to 0-3 by losing to the Chad Henne Jaguars. No freaking way. I’ll bet $1000 on it.

Colts 36, Jaguars 20

- Washington at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5): Something tells me DeSean Jackson is going to haunt his former team. I’m also concerned the Eagles cannot keep falling way behind and rallying back. I believe Kirk Cousins will run coach Jay Gruden’s offense very similarly to the way Andy Dalton did in Cincinnati. I’m not bold enough to predict the outright upset but I do really like Washington getting a touchdown.

Eagles 30, Ethnic Slurs 27

- Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (-10.5): Obligatory mention of Adrian Peterson not being active.

With that out of the way, this game is a real litmus test for the Saints' defense. They’ve been lousy thus far, but last year they were quite stout. If they struggle at home here against Matt Cassel, Matt Asiata & Co., their issues are very real and pervasive. I’m confidently starting Cordarrelle Patterson against them regardless, and you should too. But that’s fantasy talk. In real football, the Saints offense should cruise against Minnesota’s overmatched back seven. 

Saints 34, Vikings 21

- Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers (-3.5): The Panthers were mighty impressive in beating up my Lions last week, a game I’ve extensively broken down throughout this week. The manner in which they did so portends quite well against a Pittsburgh team reeling after getting pounded by the rival Ravens. I can’t see the Steelers OL holding up against Carolina’s impressive front, even sans convicted woman beater Greg Hardy. But the biggest advantage is Luke Kuechly, who will absolutely snuff out Le'Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh running game. He’s pretty darn good in coverage too, as is the underrated Panthers secondary.

Side thought: Steel Panther should play the national anthem and be the halftime show.

Panthers 24, Steelers 14

- Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins (-4.5): This game is strangely the toughest on this week’s slate for me to forecast. My relative clueless nature stems from Miami’s vastly divergent performances in their two games. The good Dolphins from Week 1 will crush the wounded Chiefs in Miami, but the Week 2 version will struggle even at home against Alex Smith throwing to Donnie Avery. Both teams will be without their starting RBs, further muddying the South Beach waters. I can’t see Kansas City’s offense outscoring Miami’s, but defense and special teams might swing the equation the other way.

Dolphins 26, Chiefs 21

- San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (+2.5): If Carson Palmer were 100% I would pick the Cardinals here, but he’s not. Drew Stanton is a capable backup, but you have to be more than capable to beat the 49ers. That SF secondary has shown they are vulnerable, however. The Niners have had Arizona’s number, winning the last four meetings. That includes a December meeting in Arizona when the Cardinals were absolutely rolling. I like the San Francisco ground game to have a big day.

49ers 20, Cardinals 16

Monday Night

- Chicago Bears at New York Jets (-2.5): I really like what Chicago showed in their comeback rally over San Francisco. They proved ready for primetime despite a rash of key injuries that left them either less than 100% (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery) or out (Charles Tillman). Meanwhile the Jets completely wet the bed with a big lead against the Packers. That doesn’t exactly engender confidence in New York. This should be an entertaining matchup, but I really like the road team getting points. $500 on Chicago. 

Bears 28, Jets 20

Gambling summary:

Indianapolis -6.5 for $1000

Chicago +2.5 for $500

Detroit -1.5 for $500


Fantasy Football Week 3 Rankings

By Neema Hodjat

Stars of Week 2

QB: Aaron Rodgers 25-42, 346 yards, 3 TDs 

RB: DeMarco Murray 29 carries, 167 yards, 1 TD

WR: Jordy Nelson 9 catches, 209 yards, 1 TD

Brandon Marshall 5 catches, 48 yards, 3 TDs

TE: Antonio Gates 7 catches, 96 yards, 3 TDs 

All recognizable names for the honor roll this week. Jordy Nelson hauled in roughly two-thirds of Aaron Rodgers’ passing yardage this week, albeit teammate Randall Cobb beat Nelson in TDs by a 2 to 1 margin. DeMarco Murray had a monster game against the Titans, but note that he did lose another fumble, so a small dark cloud on an otherwise fantastic day for him. For those thinking that Ladarius Green would be assuming the mantle of top TE for the Chargers this year? Not so fast, says Antonio Gates. What was especially spectacular about Gates’ performance is that it came against the impenetrable Seahawks’ pass defense. Gates has plenty left in the tank, we all learned on Sunday. Every once in a while we’ll honor two players at the same position with weekly top honors, and this week Brandon Marshall joins Jordy Nelson atop the WR pedestal in light of his courageous performance on Sunday night. Marshall at 75 percent health still beats most starting WRs in the NFL. 

Week 2 Takeaways – A Closer Look 

Each week we’ll take a closer look at a handful of performances and sort out what such performances mean going forward.

- Kirk Cousins 22-33, 250 yards, 2 TDs

Analysis: Injuries served as the overwhelming theme for Week 2. Unfortunately, this includes a serious ankle injury for RGIII. Many Redskins fans had been calling for Cousins to supplant RGIII, and now due to the injury, they will get their wish. Cousins performed very capably against the Jaguars, showing great decision making and hitting his targets with ease. Sure, part of the credit goes to the ineptitude of the Jags’ D, but give Cousins credit as well. While RGIII remains out, Cousins profiles as a mid-level QB2, so if you need QB help, pick him up. Feel free to start Cousins against weaker pass defenses and for bye week coverage. 

- Bernard Pierce 22 carries, 96 yards, 0 TDs

Analysis: Just last week in this space, we discussed Forsett’s ascension into the top chair of the Ravens’ RB group, with Pierce finding residence in the coach’s doghouse. Well, apparently John Harbaugh has made nice with Pierce, as he was the clear lead back against the Steelers last Thursday. While frustrating to be led on by coaches, fantasy players are use to this by now. At least we don’t have to deal with Mike Shanahan anymore. Anyways, the takeaway here is that Pierce, and not Forsett, serves as the lead dog for the Ravens. Forsett will get his share of carries (he had 8 against the Steelers), so he retains some value. But Pierce is the preferred RB to own. 

- Knile Davis 22 carries, 79 yards, 2 TDs

Analysis: In many cases, the idea of grabbing a top RB’s handcuff is overplayed. Whether or not to handcuff depends first and foremost on the quality of the backup, although a strong running team can turn ordinary players into productive ones. With respect to Jamaal Charles’ handcuff, Knile Davis – yes, you want him, because the dude can play. Hopefully Charles’ owners drafted Davis as well, but in case he’s still available in your league, grab him ASAP. Early rumblings indicate a high ankle sprain for Charles, so Davis needs to be on all rosters, and should be starting. As long as Charles remains out, view Davis as a high end RB2. High ankle sprains take quite a while to heal, so expect Davis to get the duties for quite some time.

- Matt Asiata 13 carries, 36 yards, 0 TDs (5 catches, 48 yards, 1 TD)

Analysis: I’ve had to re-write this entry three times because 1) AD was suspended, then 2) reinstated, and finally 3) due to severe public pressure, placed on the exempt list. So if more news comes through, I’ll revise again. Anyways, as we saw last weekend Matt Asiata is the next man up for the Vikings. The reviews on Asiata’s first game as the Vikings’ starter are mixed, as he didn’t generate much production on the ground, but did find the end zone on one of his five catches. We need to see more from Asiata to get a better read on his value, but at this point, he’s in RB3/flex territory until we see more. He should be owned in all leagues.

- Sammy Watkins 8 catches, 117 yards, 1 TD

Analysis: Which team had the best week in the NFL last week? No room for argument – it was the Buffalo Bills. Note that we’re not just talking about on the field. Most importantly, the NFL announced that the Bills would be purchased by the Pegula family and kept in Buffalo long term. Bills fans’ rejoice! Also cause for celebration is the Bills’ 2-0 start, and the breakout performance by Sammy Watkins against the Dolphins. What should we expect from Watkins going forward? No question that he’s got amazing WR tools, so that’s not going to be the limiting factor. Instead, Bills’ QB EJ Manuel will be the one who determines who valuable Watkins will be to fantasy owners. I place Watkins into WR3 territory, with wide swings in performances from week to week. I’m not sold on Manuel yet as a high caliber starting QB, so that’s why I would keep expectations in check. Expect occasional brilliant performances mixed in with some quieter days. 

- Niles Paul 8 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD

Analysis: So Jordan Reed misses the game against the Jaguars and the Redskins don’t miss a beat from the TE position. Niles Paul quietly had a great game in the opening weekend against the Texans, and this week he went off against the Jags. Also promising for Paul’s future production is that he showed chemistry with Kirk Cousins. Paul is another player who passes the “eye” test, and if you need a TE, Paul can certainly help. How helpful can he be? The answer does depend in part on Jordan Reed’s presence in the lineup. Based on what we’ve seen, Paul profiles as a high end TE2 in games where Reed is out, with room to grow. In games with Reed active as well, Paul probably drops to low end TE2 or below. But, the Texans game in week 1 shows that there may be room for both Reed and Paul to be weekly contributors. We need to see more evidence of this though, so let’s wait and see.

Rapid Fire Pickups

Each week we’ll throw out potential free agent pickup from each position, in each case 1) someone who has not been referenced above, and 2) a player available in most leagues. In some cases, you will see players from the prior week listed again, to emphasize that the player should be rostered.

QB: Geno Smith, NYJ

RB: Ahmad Bradshaw, IND

RB: Khiry Robinson, NO *Note that Mark Ingram will be out for a month.

WR: James Jones, OAK

WR: Mohamed Sanu, CIN

TE: Delanie Walker, TEN

TE: Larry Donnell, NYG

Week 3 Rankings

Quarterbacks

1. Drew Brees

2. Aaron Rodgers

3. Matthew Stafford

4. Nick Foles

5. Andrew Luck

6. Peyton Manning

7. Russell Wilson

8. Cam Newton

9. Tony Romo

10. Philip Rivers

11. Jay Cutler

12. Tom Brady

13. Matt Ryan

14. Kirk Cousins

15. Colin Kaepernick

16. Andy Dalton

17. Ryan Tannehill

18. Ben Roethlisberger

19. Joe Flacco

20. Jake Locker

Running Backs

1. LeSean McCoy

2. DeMarco Murray

3. Marshawn Lynch

4. Arian Foster

5. Knile Davis

6. Giovani Bernard

7. Matt Forte

8. Le'Veon Bell

9. Eddie Lacy

10. Alfred Morris

11. Zac Stacy

12. Rashad Jennings

13. Montee Ball

14. Stevan Ridley

15. Joique Bell

16. Andre Ellington

17. Donald Brown

18. C.J. Spiller

19. Terrance West

20. Ahmad Bradshaw

21. Lamar Miller

22. Frank Gore

23. Reggie Bush

24. Darren Sproles

25. Chris Johnson

26. Shane Vereen

27. Bernard Pierce

28. Matt Asiata

29. Pierre Thomas

30. Fred Jackson

31. Khiry Robinson

32. Toby Gerhart

33. Doug Martin

34. Bobby Rainey

35. Steven Jackson

36. Shonn Greene

37. Trent Richardson

38. Danny Woodhead

39. Jeremy Hill

40. Carlos Hyde

Wide Receivers

1. Calvin Johnson

2. Dez Bryant

3. Julio Jones

4. Jordy Nelson

5. Brandon Marshall

6. Antonio Brown

7. Demaryius Thomas

8. Percy Harvin

9. Cordarelle Patterson

10. Randall Cobb

11. Vincent Jackson

12. Andre Johnson

13. Alshon Jeffery

14. Keenan Allen

15. T.Y. Hilton

16. Julian Edelman

17. Mike Wallace

18. Jeremy Maclin

19. Kelvin Benjamin

20. Roddy White

21. Pierre Garcon

22. Michael Crabtree

23. Michael Floyd

24. Larry Fitzgerald

25. Brandin Cooks

26. Marques Colston

27. Emmanuel Sanders

28. Steve Smith Sr.

29. Reggie Wayne

30. DeSean Jackson

31. Victor Cruz

32. Sammy Watkins

33. DeAndre Hopkins

34. Torrey Smith

35. Mohamed Sanu

Tight Ends

1. Jimmy Graham

2. Rob Gronkowski

3. Julius Thomas

4. Zach Ertz

5. Antonio Gates

6. Greg Olsen

7. Kyle Rudolph

8. Martellus Bennett

9. Jason Witten

10. Delanie Walker

11. Vernon Davis

12. Dennis Pitta

13. Niles Paul

14. Travis Kelce

15. Jordan Cameron

- Neema Hodjat is the fantasy sports expert for RealGM.  He can be reached via email at nhodjat@gmail.com and followed on twitter at @NeemaHodjat.


NFL Team Rankings, Week 2

By Christopher Reina

Our NFL Team Rankings are based entirely on the The Trench Counter, which is an objective formula measuring average yards per pass and run on both offense and defense, along with first downs registered and given up, turnovers for and against, and total penalty yards.

Over time, The Trench Counter rankings begin to closely resemble the standings but goes even further to determine which teams are truly the best when on the line of scrimmage.

The chief aim of the Trench Counter is to take the subjective out of the equation and even the somewhat fluky nature of teams actually scoring points, which is of course the whole point on a game-by-game basis.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins climbed to first and second in the rankings after huge Trench Counter differentials in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, are 2-0 while posting a -5.3 and +5.6 in their two games so we're not quite ready to buy their fast start.

The Seattle Seahawks fell to No. 6, but had a +2.3 in their loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks rushed for 8.0 yards per rush, but running 35 fewer plays was a clear issue as was allowing Antonio Gates to score three touchdowns. The Seahawks will be fine though and will win more road games than they lose.

To reiterate, this is not how I would subjectively rank the 32 teams and two weeks of data produce results that are themselves fluky.

Week 2 Rankings

1. Cincinnati Bengals: 10.7
2. Washington Redskins: 8.0
3. Arizona Cardinals: 7.8
4. Chicago Bears: 7.5
5. Baltimore Ravens: 6.9
6. Seattle Seahawks: 6.2
7. Minnesota Vikings: 5.4
8. Philadelphia Eagles: 5.3
9. Carolina Panthers: 4.8
10. Detroit Lions: 3.7
11. Houston Texans: 3.5
12. Miami Dolphins: 3.2
13. Tennessee Titans: 2.9
14. Denver Broncos: 1.8
15. Cleveland Browns: 1.6
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1.5
17. New Orleans Saints: 0.8
18. Green Bay Packers: 0.7
19. Buffalo Bills: 0.2
20. Dallas Cowboys: -1.3
21. San Francisco 49ers: -1.7
22. New England Patriots: -2.2
23. New York Jets: -3.5
24. Oakland Raiders: -3.7
25. Indianapolis Colts: -5.2
26. Kansas City Chiefs: -5.3
27. San Diego Chargers: -5.8
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: -9.1
29. New York Giants: -10.0
30. Atlanta Falcons: -10.8
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: -11.3
32. St. Louis Rams: -12.4



$.10 After Week 2

On all of the most important storylines from the weeks games, including Jay Cutler and the Bears, the Chargers beating Seattle, the Jets losing at Green Bay and more.


Observations From Week 1, NFC

Looking ahead to Week 2 after breaking down the Week 1 wins from the Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers, Falcons, Panthers, Lions, Eagles and Vikings, along with losses by the Cowboys, Packers, Giants, Bucs, Washington, Bears, Rams and Saints.


Football Meteorology For Week 2

The 49ers open up their new stadium against the Bears, along with intriguing Week 2 matchups featuring Eagles/Colts, Steelers/Ravens, Seahawks/Chargers and Lions/Panthers.


Fantasy Football Week 2 Rankings

One week does not a season make, and while there's information to gleam from Week 1. Tony Romo owners, don't jump off the ledge. Instead, channel your inner Tim Duncan and remain pragmatic.


Observations From Week 1, AFC

On the wins by the Bills, Bengals, Broncos, Texans, Jets, Steelers and Titans in Week 1, along with the losses by the Chiefs, Patriots, Browns, Colts, Raiders, Chargers, Ravens and Jaguars.


NFL Team Rankings, Week 1

The Vikings, Lions and Dolphins are surprisingly the top-3 teams in Trench Counter after Week 1 ahead of 2013's top team in Seattle.