November is the month when teams start to distance themselves while making that playoff push. We really start to see what teams are made of. Injuries are piling up and teams that have the most depth and best coaching manage to not miss a beat. Meanwhile, others who throw all their eggs in one basket begin to fall back with the rest of the pack. Simply put, it isn't about who has the best 22 players; rather, who has the best 53.
Last season provided a perfect example of this old adage. Pittsburgh and Green Bay were both riddled with injuries at key positions yet made the Super Bowl. The Saints suffered a rash of injuries and still managed to go 11-5 and make the postseason. Turning our attention back to this year, we've seen a few surprise teams get off to a great start. A few have started to fall to the back of the pack after incurring bumps and bruises to their key contributors. Do they have the depth and coaching to get it figured out in time to make that push?
Which teams do you believe in? Which teams have you lost faith in? And which do you need to see more from? Sunday will probably answer some questions, as those teams with playoff hopes like San Diego, Tampa Bay or Buffalo look to get off the snide and back on track. Will they? We'll see.
For Yahoo! fantasy leagues that utilize the confidence point system, my confidence rating is listed after the team names. For Sirius leagues with best bets, my 5 highest confidence choices are my best bets. Any time I pick the underdog to win, I call it an upset.
Season Total : 94 wins, 52 losses
Last Week: 8 wins, 8 losses
Average: 9.5 wins, 5 losses
Last Year: 157 wins, 99 losses
Best Year: 170 wins, 86 losses
This Week's Picks:
Jaguars over Browns - 1 -- Upset # 1 -- I give Cleveland the edge at QB, though it is hard to say who has the advantage at wide receiver or tight end. Jacksonville clearly has the better running back while Cleveland is just running on fumes. Both have a very good defense. The game is in Cleveland however I believe Maurice Jones-Drew is the difference.
Seahawks over Rams - 2 -- Upset # 2 -- My gut tells me St. Louis with Steven Jackson and my heart tells me the Rams. So why am I picking Seattle? Because every time I pick either of these teams to win, I lose. So I'm doing the opposite of what I'd normally do and hope I win. This is not reverse juju. That would be like picking the Falcons to win and hoping that dooms them to lose. Pete Carroll pulls a rabbit out of his hat from time to time, and we haven't seen Bradford look comfortable yet. Perhaps Jackson and Brandon Lloyd give Bradford what he needs, but I'm taking Tarvaris Jackson and Marshawn Lynch instead.
Dolphins over Bills - 3 -- The oddsmakers must know something, because Miami is favored in this game. Buffalo is one of those teams that got off to a good early start then lost key players. The lack of depth is showing. When Kyle Williams went down with injury, their rush defense reverted back to last year's form. Their top two WR's are quetionable, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been turning the ball over with Romo-like frequency. They lost thier center, and I'm not sure how well they'll be able to make line calls and in-game adjustments. Miami, on the other hand, has played tough in every game, and they seem to have it figured out the last few weeks. I'll go with the hot team while Buffalo is on life support.
Bears over Chargers - 5 -- The Chargers used to be loaded with depth. I'm not a fan of A.J. Smith, though I admit to having a soft spot for Norv Turner. However, Philip Rivers leads the NFL in turnovers and San Diego is playing with half their offensive line and a few pretenders at running back. The Bears are playing well in all three phases of the game. I like the now healthy Earl Bennett and Jay Cutler combination, and I like an angry Matt Forte. I'm thinking more dysfunction in San Diego.
Ravens over Bengals - 6 -- Doesn't Baltimore make you want to scratch your head? After a big emotional victory, they lay an egg against an inferior opponent. Well, at least after laying an egg, they play like playoff contenders, and for that reason I'm picking Baltimore. I can't say enough good things about the Bengals, but A.J. Green is banged up and I'm not sure who quarterback Andy Dalton goes to after that. I'm concerned that Ray Lewis will be out, which may show its ugly head on the goaline. Someone will have to pick up the slack and make in-game adjustments. Ozzie Newsome is one of my favorite GM's and the Ravens have great depth the average fan hasn't heard of, so I'm taking the Ravens.
Raiders over Vikings - 7 -- What a difference a week makes. I was one of those Saints fans pining for Michael Bush and was upset when Oakland drafted him (the Saints tried to trade up, wound up doing so but after Oakland's first pick of that round and settled for Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman who didn't beat out PT Cruiser). I've always hoped the Saints would pursue a trade for Bush, but I think that chance is gone with the drafting of Ingram and emergence of Bush over the last two years. It's really simple Oakland: give the ball to your RB's and only let Carson Palmer throw 20 times. Minnesota has too many questions at WR and a young QB still learning the ropes. Their defense is getting old and the lack of depth is showing. I think the Raiders can dominate this game, but the Vikes can keep it close with Adrian Peterson for a half.
Giants over Eagles - 8 -- Philadelphia is the more desperate team, but their ship has sailed. Vick is hurt, but not according to one of his teammates. At least the Giants don't throw each other under the bus and play like a team. New York is banged up too, but they don't make the same kind of mistakes that characterize this Eagles team. I think the Eagles playoff ship has not only sailed, but it's on fire and sinking fast. They lack leadership and accountability, something New York doesn't lack. I'll take the better coach and QB (or at least the ones I believe will do what it takes to win).
Lions over Panthers - 9 -- I feel this is a really dangerous pick, but Detroit simply needs this win more. Their defensive line will cause havoc, and Megatron will have a megaday. I think this will be a close game, especially because Carolina can run the ball and Detroit can not. Detroit wins ugly with a field goal and if it weren't for Carolina getting ***** slapped by the Titans, I might have gone the other way.
Falcons over Titans - 10 -- Remember when I spoke of reverse ju-ju? Here it is.
Cowboys over Redskins - 11 -- This is a big rivalry, or so they say, but anyways, weren't the Cowboys the team that sent Rex Grossman to the bench? Here's the key to winning for Dallas: lock Jerry Jones in a cabinet and throw away the key. No seriously, run DeMarco Murray. Then play-action pass. Don't try to pass to all your toys first, you hear me Jason Garrett? And tell Jerry to shut up and let the coach decide who starts, who returns, ect. Mike Shannahan, you may be losing more than your reputation.
Packers over Buccaneers - 12 -- I don't think Green Bay can continue at this pace, but I won't pick them to lose until the short week, to a division rival come Turkey Day. Josh Freeman must follow the same offseason plan as Mark Sanchez, because he's taken a few steps back this year. Tampa's offense looks out of sync and their defense is suffering from a lack of quality depth at key positions. I'll take the more focused team.
Niners over Cardinals - 13 -- I believe in San Francisco. I trust Alex Smith more than Skelton (Kolb?) and the Niners rushing attack (even without Gore) over that of the Cards; it's more to do with what they're running against. San Fran is starting to open up their offense subtly, and Crabtree/Edwards are starting to build something with Smith. I think the Cardinals are well coached, but the Niners have the better roster and are equally well coached. I simply have no faith in Arizona.