By: Al Squatrito
Ravens vs. Saints
The 10-3 Saints travel to take on the 9-4 Ravens who just toughed out a win against the Texans in overtime in week 14. The Ravens seem to have a well-balanced offense passing the ball around 33 times a game and running it around 29 times, but this Sunday they are going to have to take a different approach. The Ravens are averaging 3.6 yards a carry this year and are a little less explosive on the ground in 2010 opposed to 2009, however Joe Flacco is carrying more weight on his shoulders and that is the main reason why they have a 9-4 record. The Saints rank 5th against the pass this year and although they haven’t had as many takeovers on defense and pick 6 touchdowns this year, they are still getting off the field on third downs and playing solid defense. The Saints are giving up 4.3 yards a carry on the ground while the Ravens have given up 44 passing plays that have gone over 20 plus yards. Drew Brees is hot right now and is going to be very tough to stop despite that the Ravens are at home. Brees is averaging 41 pass attempts a game and with the Ravens giving up such big plays all season I don’t expect that number to go down. If the Ravens want to win this game they will rely heavily on the run and be creative with going back to the run all game. They are going to want to keep Drew Brees off the field all game and this should be Ray Rice’s best game of the season. Also, the cold weather calls for ground and pound and Ray Rice only has two touchdowns on the season. I like the Ravens to keep it close until late in the fourth. The Ravens were gassed last week in Reliant Stadium and allowed Matt Schaub to throw all over them. Drew Brees has a quarterback rating of 93.6 while last year it was 109, I don’t think Drew has lost a step I just think he has some catching up to do. I like the Saints in this game 31-24.
Panthers vs. Cardinals
The 1-12 Carolina Panthers host the 4-9 Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium this Sunday and this game is going to be brutal. This is probably the worst game to watch this weekend unless you are fan of not seeing your team make the playoffs.The Panthers have a run game that tends to get hot at the end of regulation while the Cardinals are giving rookie quarterback John Skelton the nod at quarterback here on out. Skelton did not turn the ball over at all in last week’s win at home vs. the Broncos and Larry Fitzgerald seemed to have had some chemistry with him as well. The Cardinals don’t rank that well against the run but have a better job against it lately. Maybe they can keep it going into week 15. I highly doubt that however and I expect Jonathan Stewart to have a solid game on the ground, even if the Panthers lose, the run game is the only thing they have going for them. I consider Larry Fitz a number 2 wide receiver this weekend. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since week 11 and some people would say he is due. I like the Cardinals to upset the Panthers at home 20-17.
Bengals vs. Browns
The Bengals will not lose 11 straight games in a row. It just isn’t going to happen. Oh yeah, they play the Browns in week 15 and they are at home so they can’t lose! Can they? The Bengals are literally emotionally and physically defeated headed into week 15 and this is the only reason why they can lose yet another game. Colt McCoy is getting the nod to start this weekend with Jake Delhomme serving as the Browns number 3 qb. If Jake was starting I truly wouldn’t believe in the Browns this weekend but Colt McCoy has been playing well and knows how to win. The Browns are ranked in the bottom half of the league against the run and pass and the Bengals have an advantage at home. The Bengals need to run the ball for all four quarters and not shoot themselves in the foot. Oh yeah, Carson Palmer has to pretend like he is an elite quarterback again and lead his team to a win. For the fans sake, for the Coaching staff, and for rest of the team, the Bengals need to win in week 15. I like Peyton Hillis as a solid number one running back this weekend while Terrell Owens and OchoCinco shouldn’t have any problems busting the game open through the air against the Browns pass defense. This is a game of revenge as the Browns upset the Bengals early on in the season contributing to their horrendous losing streak! I like the Bengals to beat the Browns up at home 28-17.
Cowboys vs. Redskins
The Cowboys handed the Redskins a win at Fed Ex Field in week 1 this season but the chances of that happening again are slim. Especially if Rex Gross starts, excuse me, Rex Grossman. Coach Shanahan is actually considering starting Rex Grossman this weekend because he truly believes (?) he gives the Redskins a better chance to win than Donovan McNabb? Give me a break Coach. The Cowboys pass rush is one of the best in the game and the Redskins offensive line is one of the youngest/worst in the game. Oh wait, Rex Grossman is not as elusive as Donovan McNabb inside or outside of the pocket. The Redskins don’t have the best weapons to throw to either. Coach Shanahan truly has to put these variables into consideration before benching McNabb. I know they aren’t going to the playoffs and there have been a lot of distractions inside that locker room, but what kind of a mess will you create or add to if you bench Donovan again this season. Swallow your pride Coach Shanahan. Rex doesn’t need any more evaluations he has truly earned his backup spot as a qb in the NFL, and now Coach, you are starting to earn your backup spot! I like the Cowboys to win this game at home because it is hard to lose two against a division opponent and the Cowboys are playing well together as of late. It is key to note that if Rex plays you can assure that Ryan Torain’s value will go down significantly along with the rest of the offense. Roy Williams (questionable) is a sleeper this week as a number 3 wide receiver and loves making plays against the Redskins defense. I think the Cowboys win this game 21-17 against Donovan, 28-10 against Rex.
Colts vs. Jaguars
Matt Millen calls the Colts/Jags game the game of the week this week; despite the fact that he may not know how to make a solid draft pick he may be right about this game being the game to watch in week 15. The Colts lost to the Jags earlier in the season and it was Josh Scobee who beat the Colts with a last minute field goal at the end of the game. The truth of the matter in this game is that the Jaguars have a great running game while the Colts are hit and miss with their run game. The Jags can clinch the division with a win against the Colts but they can’t shoot themselves in the foot. David Garrard will have to take extreme care of the football if they want to win this game. This game should be a shootout all day and the Colts offensive line has to open up big holes for their running backs by committee. I like the Colts in this game because they are home and I would be way too impressed with the Jags if they went on the road to stop one of the most competitive professional quarterbacks of all time, it is possible, I wouldn’t be too surprised, but I still don’t see it happening. MJD and Reggie Wayne should dominate your fantasy opponents this weekend or possibly your team if you are going against them. Jacob Tamme is also a brilliant start this weekend. I like the Colts to win this game by a field goal, a bunch of points should be scored in this game but then again, the Jaguars have a run game that can take the clock out so this game may not hit the 20’s. We shall see comes Sunday.
Dolphins vs. Bills
It is funny when analysts come up with the stat, when so and so rushes for a 100 yards their team has a great chance of winning. Really? I didn’t know your chances of winning skyrocket if your offense manages a 100 yards of rushing on the ground. Thanks for the knowledge. Fred Jackson is averaging 4.5 yards a carry, the Dolphins are giving up 3.6 yards a carry, and they are 1-5 at home this season. These are interesting stats when trying to predict the outcome of this game, but the truth is no matter what the stats are these two teams play each other well, they know one another. This game is going to be a close game regardless. I would be surprised if the Dolphins lost another home game and the Bills are the worst rush defense in the game. I expect Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown to dominate the ground game and surprise us with a running back option as we have seen from Ronnie Brown in the past. The Dolphins should bring back the wild cat a little more in this game and dominate the clock. I like the Dolphins chances of winning this game, and Lee Evans is out so it will be tough to see Steve Johnson do it all by himself. I like the Dolphins to win at home, 17-10.
Giants vs. Eagles
I know Matt Millen said the Jags/Colts game will be the game of the week, but what the heck does he know? This is the game of the week in reality. The Giants lost to the Eagles earlier in the season but this game will be played at home for the Giants. The Eagles have won their last 12 of 13 December games and the Giants are coming off of a short week but that shouldn’t be too much of a factor considering that they manhandled the Vikings last week and didn’t get too beat up. Asante Samuel may be back for this division rivalry game and Eli may suffer because of it. The Eagles have let up 26 passing touchdowns this year which gives Eli a vote of confidence but it has been the Giants run game that has been winning them games as of late. Eli needs to step up in order to give their team a much needed win. The Giants pass rush is probably the best in the game because not only are they second in sacks with 39, they are the true definition of quarterback killers! They just added Tavaris Jackson on that list as he is now on injured reserve. If I were Michael Vick, this is the only team I’d be nervous about because of this stat. This is the game of the week and you know the outcome of this game is going to be based on one or two key plays of the game. I don’t think Desean Jackson is going to be a huge factor in the game in terms of putting up big numbers. The Giants should key in on him all game and prevent a 200+ yard outing like he did last weekend against the Cowboys. I think the Giants matchup very well against the Eagles and have a slight edge at home this weekend to even up the score for the division. I like every athlete on both sides of the ball to get your fantasy team some fantasy points. I love Kevin Boss this weekend and think he will find the end zone, while I see Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin having the bigger day out of the Eagles wide receiving core. Shady McCoy should have a solid game as well. I like the Giants to win this game by a field goal 24-21.
Rams vs. Chiefs
The Rams have been playing well at home all season where they are very tough to beat. However I think Sam Bradford is going through his rookie slump at this point and time during the year. The Chiefs know all about the Chargers and the rolls that they go on in December and will not take that fact lightly going into St.Louis this weekend. With Jam Chaz averaging over six yards a carry it won’t be a tough game for them to stay in, despite that they are away. I picture Sam Bradford shooting his team in the foot despite that they will still love him afterwards. Matt Cassel knows his game needs to stay at its best and will look to rebound from being out a week ago and keeping that connection between him and Bowe going. I like the Chiefs to pull out a win on the road 19-13.
Buccaneers vs. Lions
The 3-10 Lions will go on the road to face the 8-5 Buccaneers who are looking to make the playoffs in 2010. The Lions can be the spoilers of the week as Shaun Hill just may start in this game. The Buccaneers placed Quincy Black on injured reserve this weekend, cornerback Aqib Talib is out for the Bucs and has 6 picks on the year. Last but not least, first round draft pick Gerald McCoy was also placed on injured reserve. The Lions have nothing to be conservative about and hope they can only spoil opponents’ chances of making the playoffs. I believe the Lions will go into Tampa roaring and get Calvin Johnson the ball in space, early and often. I think Arrelious Benn will have the better day of the Tampa receiving core because of reports I have read earlier in the week on how great he is looking in practice and how fresh he seems to be. Blount should be a solid number two running back this week but even a better flex start. Calvin Johnson seems to be the only person on the Lions to give the nod to for fantasy purposes while Jahvid Best is still nursing turf toes. Maurice Morris seems to be the better start going forward for the rest of the way. This should be an interesting game fought in between the 20’s. I like the Lions to upset the Buccaneers on the road if Shaun Hill does in fact get the start. The Bucs have a lot of injuries to overcome and it will be tough to win even at home. I like the Lions to win 21-20.
Titans vs. Texans
Last time these two teams faced off the Texans shut out the Titans 20-0 but good old third string qb, Rusty Smith was behind center for the Titans. Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan fighting was the only thing exciting to watch last time they played while neither player got suspended for brawling towards the end of the game. I am excited to see them face up against each other post first fist fight! Matt Schaub is finally doing what we know he can do. This is the best 5-8 team I have ever seen and with Owen Daniels back in the lineup and feeling fresh, I like the Texans to sweep the Titans this year and go on the road to do it. The Titans defense isn’t what it used to be in 2007 and 2008 while teams can run and pass on their defense with ease. Kerry Collins isn’t called a statue for nothing and the Texans defense is finally starting to gel and make plays. I think the Texans will be too much for them in week 15. I consider every Texan a great start this week including Owen Daniels. The Titans have led up a lot more passing touchdowns (16) than rushing touchdowns (7) so I consider this trend to remain but that doesn’t mean Arian Foster won’t find his way into the end zone somehow this weekend. I like Chris Johnson this weekend of course but I don’t think he will carry his team to a win unless he starts returning kickoffs and punts. I like the Texans to win 24-17.