By Alan Squatrito
Bengals vs. Dolphins
The hot seat can’t get too much hotter for Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals lost their last three games which included a loss to the Cleveland Browns, a loss at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a loss to the Atlanta Falcons in week 7. With the Steelers at 5-1, the Ravens at 5-2, and a tough schedule for the rest of the way, the Bengals are going to be in a huge struggle to make it into the playoffs. They host the Dolphins at home this weekend as the Dolphins are still furious about the refs’ decision to give the ball back to Pittsburgh after a Big Ben’s fumble into the end zone in week 7’s loss to the Steelers. If the refs didn’t give the ball back to the Steelers, it would have been a Miami Dolphins victory. The Bengals are giving up 4.4 yards a carry this year and are banged up in the secondary losing Adam Jones to injured reserve last weekend with a neck injury. Jonathan Joseph (practiced today) and Leon Hall (did not practice) have been missing from the lineup as well but hopefully the rest of the defense is hungry to step up if either one of them aren’t a go this weekend. The Bengals are 9-1 when they run for 100 yards on the ground but this year they have been deviating from their previous game scheme which accustomed to a 50-50 split between running and passing. This is another team that stinks of desperation and I would be surprised if the Bengals found another way to lose at home this weekend. I like a low scoring battle between these two teams with the Bengals getting a much-needed victory at home. If I had Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco, Brandon Marshall, and Davone Bess on my fantasy team, I would start them all. Benson has the best upside for TD heavy leagues.
Broncos vs. 49ers
Once a year each season London hosts an NFL game at Wembley Stadium to show the people in London what the NFL is all about, too bad The Broncos and 49ers have been chosen to do the representation. The 49ers, who lost last weekend against the Carolina Panthers when Alex Smith went down with a shoulder sprain, were the favorites to win the NFC West division before the season started. The 49ers are now 1-6. The Broncos are 2-5 and got destroyed to say the least last weekend as they hosted the Oakland Raiders at home losing 59-14. That game was a game for the record books as the Oakland Raiders have never scored that many points in franchise history. This game may seem like a boring one to watch and it probably will be, but I am interested in seeing Troy Smith play for injured Alex Smith to see what he can do under center. Troy Smith was the Heisman Trophy award winner in 2006 and he is hungry to show the world what he is still made out of. The Broncos seem to be on a decline, despite being 2-5. I see them only getting worse and losing this game in Wembley. I don’t like Kyle Orton in fantasy this weekend and I don’t like Knowshon Moreno unless you are in a ppr league. I think Frank Gore, Troy Smith, and Vernon Davis will all have solid games in a win over the Broncos.
Cowboys vs. Jags
Who cares, the season is over, probably for both teams, but the show must still go on. Jon Kitna will be taking over for Tony Romo and the team is ready to rally around him. David Garrard is back with the Jaguars this weekend but will he give them a chance to win against a deliriously shell-shocked Dallas Cowboys team? I doubt it. Jon Kitna can still get it done, especially against a 28th ranked pass defense and talent up the wazoo all around him. Jon Kitna averaged just about 2.5 turnovers a game for the Lions when he was their starter but considering the circumstance they are in and the talent all around them I still expect a win for the Boys. I actually see the offense having more of an identity going forward as they are in a nothing to lose mode. I see Felix Jones and Marion Barber contributing heavily this game to set up some play action. I like Mercedes Lewis, Maurice Jones-Drew, and even Mike Sims-Walker for the Jags. Consider Marion Barber still a risk.
Chiefs vs. Bills
Jamaal Charles has the chance to explode this weekend against the 31st ranked rush defense and I can only hope Coach Haley feeds him the ball as much as possible. I know Thomas Jones has been producing and is in phenomenal shape but Jamaal Charles is that home run hitter guy and he just has too good of a matchup this weekend at home to neglect. Better yet, Matt Cassel has a 106 passer rating at home and their young talented defense is starting to put it all together. The Bills are still winless and have kept it close against the Patriots, the Dolphins, and the Ravens, but I still have to see it to believe it. Ryan Fitzpatrick has also been playing extremely well but it’s time for him to come back down to earth. Despite the fact that Bills are desperate I still like the Chiefs to play conventional football and get a solid win this weekend. I love Jamaal Charles this weekend and think it could be his best day on the ground this season. If Matt Cassel has a 106 passer rating at home than yes, I also like Dwayne Bowe too. Steve Johnson has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games and I wouldn’t be surprised if had gotten a fifth after this week’s game. Chris Chambers has 7 career touchdowns against the Bills and he has been complaining with his role in the offense this season, or lack of a real role. With Dexter McCluster nursing a high ankle sprain look for Chambers to emerge as a go to guy this weekend. I like Chambers as a flex start if you can afford the risk.
Lions vs. Redskins
Mathew Stafford is finally back with the Lions after missing significant time with a shoulder injury off of a Julius Peppers sack in week 1. Reports have stated that Stafford looked crisp in practice and is looking forward to play. The Redskins are 31st against the pass this season however those stats are very misleading. They played up against Romo, Manning, Schaub, Rodgers, and Cutler thus far with two games going well into overtime. Last week Cutler threw four picks to DeAngelo Hall which ties 13 other defensive backs at number 1 with most interceptions in a game. Anyway, the Lions are better than they are on paper and this will be a tough game for the Redskins who are on their second road game in a row and the Lions are coming off of their bye. As a reminder, the Redskins did lose last year to the Lions in a close game. I like Calvin Johnson in this game because it is just too silly not to. I like Stafford to have a big day, and Jahvid Best can emerge again as a quality start with Stafford back in the lineup. Tony Scheffler should have a solid outing in week 8. Ryan Torain should maintain solid numbers while Donovan McNabb is going to have problems against the Lions front four all day despite that he has a passer rating of 137.9 against them. Shoot, maybe he will have a decent day than. I like Cooley this weekend to have the biggest fantasy impact for the Redskins.
Panthers vs. Rams
Matt Moore has 7 out of 11 wins out of his previous NFL starts. The Rams have been playing very well on defense and Sam Bradford has been showing signs of Peyton Manning. He has been giving no names the ball and turning them into waiver wire pickups during the week. I want to say it’s almost too good to be true and I am going to stay with my gut. How much longer can Bradford keep this up? The Rams have won three consecutive games at home but I think they are due for a letdown this week. With the emergence of rookie receivers David Gettis and Brandon LaFell I like the passing game to open up the running game this weekend for the Panthers despite if Jonathan Stewart gets the full load (averaging only 3 yards a carry this season). Dante Rosario (tight end for Panthers) is someone to keep an eye on. I like the Panthers to win by a field goal in this one.
Jets vs. Packers
Charles Woodson is questionable, Ryan Pickett is questionable, Donald Driver is questionable and Cullen Jenkins is also questionable. These players are all starters and big components to the Packers offense and defense. Aaron Rodgers found a way to win last week by capitalizing on Favre’s mistakes but the Jets don’t have to play that kind of game to get a win. They may play this game a little reserved unless they somehow fall behind early. With the Jets coming back from their bye and Darelle Revis at full strength I can’t picture the Packers getting a win on the road this weekend. Expect the Jets to play run, run, pass and wait until the Packers make a mistake, even if it’s a minor one. I see the Jets defense blitzing as usual but I see that dialed back a little bit more this weekend to see how well they do in their pass coverage. I like James Jones as a flex play this weekend especially if Donald Driver isn’t a go. I like Shonn Greene and Ladainian Tomlinson to have solid games but I picture the Jets defense making the best plays of the day. I see Aaron Rodgers and Mark Sanchez as low number one quarterbacks this week.