Archive for November, 2006

Week 13 Lineup Rankings

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

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The list and tiers are Dalton’s rankings, while Robby’s are in parenthesis afterward.


1. Peyton Manning (2)
2. Drew Brees (1)
3. Tony Romo (5)
4. Carson Palmer (7)
5. Matt Hasselbeck (8)

6. Michael Vick (4)
7. Tom Brady (3)
8. Marc Bulger (6)
9. Philip Rivers (15)
10. Rex Grossman (9)
11. Matt Leinart (10)

12. Jake Delhomme (19)
13. Brett Favre (13)
14. Chad Pennington (14)
15. Ben Roethlisberger (11)
16. Jay Cutler (20)

17. Eli Manning (17)
18. Aaron Brooks (16)
19. Jon Kitna (12)
20. Steve McNair (18)
21. Trent Green (23)
22. Joey Harrington (21)
23. Alex Smith (22)

24. Charlie Frye (28)
25. Jason Campbell (27)
26. Vince Young (24)
27. David Garrard (29)
28. Jeff Garcia (25)
29. David Carr (26)
30. Bruce Gradkowski (31)
31. J.P. Losman (30)
32. Brad Johnson (32)

Robby Says: I still consider Bulger a top-level option against the Cards. Drew Brees is the best QB in fantasy, bar none. I’m anxious to see what Cutler can do this week but expect Shanahan to keep him reigned in.

Dalton Says: Baltimore is playing incredible, physical defense, but Cincy’s offense is finally clicking on all cylinders – should be interesting to see who wins that battle. Matt Leinart is all of a sudden a legit fantasy option, especially this week against the soft Rams’ secondary. Is there anything Tony Romo can’t do?

Running Backs

1. LaDainian Tomlinson (1)
2. Larry Johnson (2)

3. Steven Jackson (3)
4. Frank Gore (4)
5. Willie Parker (6)
6. Brian Westbrook (7)
7. Tiki Barber (9)
8. Shaun Alexander (8)
9. Joseph Addai (5)

10. Deuce McAllister (12)
11. Ladell Betts (11)
12. Laurence Maroney (13)
13. Rudi Johnson (15)
14. Tatum Bell/Mike Bell (if Tatum starts – 19.5, if Mike starts – 13.5)
15. Kevin Jones (check status) (10)

16. Travis Henry (14)
17. Edgerrin James (16)
18. Maurice Jones-Drew (20)
19. Ahman Green (19)
20. Marion Barber (25)
21. Julius Jones (21)
22. Jamal Lewis (17)
23. Corey Dillon (18)
24. Willis McGahee (22)
25. Fred Taylor (26)
26. Thomas Jones (30)
27. Chester Taylor (24)
28. Reggie Bush (23)
29. Wali Lundy (29)

30. Carnell Williams (28)
31. Warrick Dunn (27)
32. DeShaun Foster/DeAngelo Williams (30.5 each, Foster out, Williams – 14.5)
33. Justin Fargas (30)
34. Brandon Jacobs
35. Cedric Houston/ Leon Washington

36. Dominic Rhodes
37. Cedric Benson
38. Samkon Gado
39. Jason Wright/Reuben Droughns
40. Jerious Norwood
41. Sammy Morris

Robby Says: Steven Jackson has turned into a PPR monster. This is a big week for Joseph Addai owners. Don’t look for much success running the ball in Soldier Field this week. I have Julius Jones, Marion Barber and Tatum Bell and no idea which two of them to start. “Trust me, Julius Jones is USELESS against the 3-4 defense, pull him out of your fantasy lineup!”

Dalton Says: I’d officially rather start Marion Barber and especially Maurice Jones-Drew than I would their teams’ starters. FWP is in store for a huge game this week. There really aren’t that many great starts after the top-nine options this week. I really, really hope Laurence Maroney breaks out Sunday.

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith (1)
2. Terrell Owens (2)
3. Chad Johnson (3)
4. Larry Fitzgerald (7)
5. Anquan Boldin (8)
6. Reggie Wayne (6)
7. Marvin Harrison (4)
8. Marques Colston (check status) (10)
9. Donald Driver (9)
10. Torry Holt (5)
11. TJ Houshmandzadeh (15)
12. Darrell Jackson (13)
13. Andre Johnson (12)
14. Roy Williams (11)
15. Plaxico Burress (14)

16. Javon Walker (16)
17. Terry Glenn (19)
18. Joe Horn (22)
19. Laveranues Coles (17)
20. Deion Branch (19)
21. Bernard Berrian (20)
22. Lee Evans (18)
23. Chris Chambers (21)
24. Greg Jennings (26)

25. Braylon Edwards (23)
26. Joey Galloway (24)
27. Devery Henderson (31 or 14.5 if Colston sits)
28. Jerricho Cotchery (27)
29. Reche Caldwell (22)
30. Chris Henry (30)

31. Santana Moss (25)
32. Muhsin Muhammad (29)
33. Keyshawn Johnson (32)
34. Marty Booker (33)
35. Mark Clayton (39)
36. Isaac Bruce (28)
37. Derrick Mason (35)
38. Donte Stallworth (38)
39. Santonio Holmes (34)

40. Arnaz Battle
41. Reggie Brown
42. Drew Bennett
43. Michael Jenkins
44. Mike Furrey (40)
45. Matt Jones
46. Antonio Bryant (36)
47. Randy Moss (37)
48. Wes Welker
49. Eric Parker
50. Eddie Kennison

Robby Says: Peyton Manning should throw Marvin Harrison some makeup passes this week. Torry Holt should break out any week now, really. Lee Evans should get a lot of targets this week as Buffalo tries to come back against the Chargers. If Colston is out or limited, Devery Henderson makes an excellent play.

Here are some RB=WR reference points for those of you trying to figure out your flex.

Dalton Says: I really don’t see a huge difference between any of the top-10 options this week. I concur with Robby, Harrison is going to blow up against the Titans. Randy Moss’ demise is underrated – seriously, what is the story there?

Tight Ends

1. Antonio Gates (1)
2. Todd Heap (2)
3. Tony Gonzalez (6)
4. Kellen Winslow (3)
5. Ben Watson (4)
6. Alge Crumpler (8)
7. Jeremy Shockey (7)
8. Chris Cooley (5)
9. L.J. Smith (9)
10. Jason Witten (10)
11. Randy McMichael (11)

12. Heath Miller
13. Jerramy Stevens
14. Bo Scaife (12)
15. Desmond Clark

Team Defense

1. Chicago (1)
2. New England (2)
3. Pittsburgh (3)

4. Carolina (10)
5. San Diego (5)
6. Baltimore (6)
7. Kansas City (4)
8. Indianapolis (7)
9. Jacksonville (13)
10. Dallas (14)
11. Atlanta (15)
12. New Orleans
13. Miami (11)
14. Oakland (9)
15. Washington (12)

Denver (8)

Robby Says: There are not a lot of favorable defensive matchups this week as a lot of bad teams play at home. How did Dalton leave Denver off?!

Dalton Says: After the top-three, I think a lot of the matchups become very debatable. I could be talked into ranking Denver D higher, especially since they are at home, but they have a better real life defense than fantasy defense – not enough sacks or turnovers, and I really think Seattle’s offense is coming around, despite Hasselbeck’s atrocious first half back in action.

Bets of the Week

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

This week I like teasing the Colts (-7.5 @ Tennessee) and Steelers (-7.5 at home against the Bucs) as well as the Dolphins (-114), Falcons (+113) and Seahawks (+161) moneylines.

Unless you’re in the rare league that still allows trading (like ours) there is really nothing left to do this fantasy season other then to make sure you have all your top guys in the starting lineup and don’t leave any points on the bench. So, starting tomorrow, and for the next few critical weeks, RotoScoop will give extra attention to position rankings, including tight ends and defenses, and cross referencing running backs and wide receivers for that tricky flex position.

Also, in case anyone was interested, our fantasy league has been the most competitive it’s been since we started playing in 1998, with seven teams either 7-5 or 6-6. I can just as easily garner a #2 seed (and coveted first round bye), as not make the playoffs, and the same goes for Dalton. Basically, the fantasy playoffs start this week for us…

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, November 27th, 2006

If loving Joseph Addai is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

There isn’t a bigger feast or famine player in the NFL right now than Rex Grossman.

The Michael Vick for LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees trade has to go down as one of the most lopsided in the history of the game.

Let me get this straight, not only did Detroit ignore Miami’s request to announce its defensive unit, the PA announcer played Elton John’s “Piano Man” when announcing Joey Harrington’s name – clearly mocking the QB’s affinity for tickling the ivories. Now that’s good stuff.

I sure hope the Cowboys/Colts Super Bowl matchup is better than their Week 11 game.

I’m going to go ahead and endorse the Jay Cutler move. While it’s unlikely Denver goes deep into the playoffs with a rookie QB, it was a certainty they wouldn’t with Jake Plummer. At least there’s some upside with Cutler, and at worst they’ll be ahead of the curve for next year.

The Vikings might very well have the best run defense and worst pass defense in the NFL.

It’s become clear that Jake Delhomme is a decidedly average quarterback.

You’ve got to watch out not to overrate these type of things, but the new FieldTurf should really benefit Laurence Maroney, who played on the same surface in college. Bill Belichick likes to use Corey Dillon when it’s muddy.

Rarely do my two favorite bets of the week (Saints and Bengals) come through so convincingly. Vegas was insane effectively ranking Atlanta and New Orleans as equals.

First off, let me state that Michael Vick is a very good fantasy QB, but the next time I hear someone call him “the most explosive player in the game” I will gouge my eyes out. The last I checked, the ball travels faster through the air than in someone’s arms.

I guess the Jaguars aren’t a very good road team.

For all his indiscretions, Pacman Jones is a very good football player.

Did all this BCS talk fire up Matt Leinart and Vince Young, or what?

Folks, there isn’t anyone playing worse football right now than Eli Manning. I’m not ready to give up on him, but to say he’s inaccurate would be a gross understatement. Can’t wait to see 300-pound Jared Lorenzen, aka the Hefty Lefty, aka the Pillsbury Throwboy, handing off to 275-pound Brandon Jacobs next year.

Is it possible that Brian Westbrook is even more valuable without Donovan McNabb?

Marvin Harrison is going to have a monstrous game next week.

Something is clearly wrong with the Rams’ offense. Steven Jackson owners certainly wouldn’t agree.

If you have LaDainian Tomlinson on your team and don’t make the playoffs in your fantasy league this year, you either have extremely bad luck, or were extremely drunk during your draft.

What’s up with defending champs these days? The Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Heat look awful this year.

How do you go from surrendering 1,000 yards of offense over the last two weeks to pitching a shutout this week?

The Inconvenient Truth – When not injured, Frank Gore is the best running back in the NFL not named LJ or LT.

Deep Thoughts

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Major League Baseball gone crazy – Not sure what is more ridiculous, the MVP award winners or the insane contracts being handed out recently. Since the writers get it wrong more often than not, I’m going with the cash giveaways. Let’s start with the awards:

Ryan Howard beats Albert Pujols for NL MVP – Howard did play in 16 more games, but how obsessed are people with home runs? Pujols beat him in average, OBP and slugging percentage, while striking out 131 fewer times. He plays a far superior defense, is more of an asset on the basepaths, hit in the weaker lineup and led MLB in game-winning RBIs by a sizeable margin. With RISP, Pujols had a 1.337 to .942 OPS advantage. Everyone says Howard carried the Phillies’ lineup, but that’s exactly what Pujols did into the playoffs.

Justin Morneau wins AL MVP – I actually don’t have as big of a problem with this one as most, mainly because I didn’t love any alternatives. Sure, Morneau was only the third most valuable player on his own team, but no way did Derek Jeter unanimously deserve this; after all, the Yankees would have easily made the playoffs without him.

Juan Pierre signs a 5-year, $44 million contract – He has a .328 OBP and five home runs over the last two seasons. If you take the 37 times he was caught stealing into account, his OBP drops even further. This isn’t fantasy baseball – his steals aren’t all that valuable. No one in baseball produced more outs last year than Juan Pierre.

Gary Matthews Jr. signs a 5-year, $50 million contract – Someone did tell the Angels that he’s 32 years old and coming off by far his career-year, right? By the way, he did it while playing in Ameriquest Field. He does play good defense, but A’s fans are rejoicing.

Carlos Lee signs a 6-year, $100 million contract
– I guess sabermatricians underrate the ability to knock in runs at times, and this is something Lee has a knack for. Still, he’s never even posted a 900 OPS, and his body type doesn’t exactly point to him aging gracefully. I get that there is a lot more money to throw around in MLB these days, but these signings just aren’t very smart.

K-Mart Special – Never again should Kenyon be referred to as K-Mart. Kevin is the most-improved player in the NBA this year and a future All-Star. Although he sports the third ugliest shot in the game (barely behind Josh Childress and Desmond Mason), this kid is legit.

The Seattle Sonics don’t play any defense. Rarely do people play matchups in fantasy basketball, but if a tough decision ever comes up, go with the guy facing Seattle.

If the season ended today, the 5-9 Knicks would be in the playoffs.

Almost everywhere I look, the Atlanta Falcons are the unanimous pick this week. While I agree in theory (they’ve dropped three straight, playing at home and desperate), I can’t shake just how much better football New Orleans has played this year. When the Saints “upset” Atlanta on Monday night earlier this year, I was shocked and thought I had underestimated the re-opening of the Superdome; on Sunday, I’m taking the 3 points.

It’s ironic that Michael Richards is, in fact, crazier than Kramer.

Not sure what’s wrong with the Bulls, but Ben Wallace is clearly far from his former self. I still think they’ll be fine. Luol Deng is the best player no one talks about.

Orlando’s hot start should come to the surprise of no one; Detroit still looks like the Eastern Conference favorites to me, and the Heat are the worst defending champs ever.

Hope you got great odds on Utah when I gave you them before the season. 12-1?! This team is for real, too.

The Southwest may be the best division in the NBA, but there isn’t a more exciting one than the Pacific.

Al Harrington might not be a bad guy to try to buy low right now; he isn’t off to a great start, but just became center eligible in Yahoo leagues – go float some offers.

Call me crazy, but I thought “Casino Royale” was good. Admittedly, I’m no Bond fan and had my doubts about Daniel Craig, but he came through, and it was some good action fun.

Game Capsules

Friday, November 24th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

Arizona (+6.5) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: After ending an eight-game losing streak last week, Arizona now travels to face a Minnesota team in the midst of a four-game losing skid of its own. Matt Leinart had his best game as a pro last week (8.0 YPA) and could begin a run of nice statistical games with Anquan Boldin and a healthy Larry Fitzgerald at his side. Pitted against a Vikings team vulnerable through the air, expect the Cardinals to try to beat them with the passing game. As for the ground game, it’s weakness against strength, as Edgerrin James leads the NFL’s worst rushing attack against Minnesota’s top-ranked run defense, which surrenders just 59.6 yards per game. James hasn’t broken the century mark rushing once this year, something that figures to continue Sunday…Although reeling, Minnesota should be extra hungry against an Arizona squad winless during its last six road games. That is assuming Brad Johnson can have even a modicum of success throwing the ball downfield, something glaringly missing from his repertoire this year. Still, against Arizona’s porous secondary, there should be opportunities to exploit this week. It’s Chester Taylor (neck, probable) and Minnesota’s ground game, however, that’s likely to be the focal point of the offense once again. Since Arizona surrenders nearly 120 rushing yards per game, look for Taylor to turn his weekly 25 touches into a big game, helping end the Vikings’ losing streak…Arizona has no major injury concerns, while Minnesota lists Artis Hicks (ankle, questionable), Napoleon Harris (wrist, probable), Marcus Robinson (back, probable) and Pat Williams (knee, probable) on the injury report…Minnesota is 5-1 in its last six games when playing Arizona.

Predictions: Matt Leinart throws for 230 yards and two touchdowns, with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald being the recipients. Edgerrin James is bottled up and held to 50 total yards. Brad Johnson counters with 240 yards and a touchdown toss to Travis Taylor, while Chester Taylor runs for 110 yards and two scores, putting the home team back into the win column. Vikings 24-17.

Carolina (-4) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Losers of five out of its last six games, Washington enters without its original starting quarterback, running back and possibly wide receiver. Jason Campbell had a solid first ever start last week but now faces a Carolina defense becoming a force of late. Bad news for new ball carrier Ladell Betts, who figures to remain a big part of the passing game. If Santana Moss (hamstring, questionable) is again unable to suit up, expect this offense to struggle Sunday. Still, this will actually be the Panthers’ first road tilt since Week 7, possibly opening the door for Washington to hang around…Jake Delhomme has been up and down this year but should excel against a Redskins’ secondary giving up almost 240 yards per game. DeShaun Foster (questionable) says his elbow injury is minor, but he hasn’t practiced all week, possibly opening the door for rookie DeAngelo Williams to earn a more significant role in the Panthers’ backfield. Foster was having a nice day last week before exiting with the injury, but once Williams stepped in, an element of explosiveness was finally added to the Panthers’ running game. Although coach John Fox figures to at least partially stick with veteran Foster when healthy, Williams is clearly the team’s future at the position. Whoever totes the ball Sunday should have a successful game against a Washington team struggling to stop the run…Troy Vincent (hamstring) is questionable to play for Washington, while Jon Jansen (calf), Casey Rabach (shoulder) and Chris Samuels (knee) are probable. Ken Lucas (thigh) and Mike Wahle (shoulder) are questionable to play for Carolina… Washington is 6-1 in its last seven games when playing Carolina.

Predictions: Jason Campbell turns the ball over a couple times, but he does find Chris Cooley in the end zone. Ladell Betts puts up 80 combined yards, along with a rushing score. Jake Delhomme counters with 250 yards and TD strikes to Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson. DeAngelo Williams gets the bulk of the carries for Carolina and rushes for more than 100 yards as a result, as the road team prevails. Panthers 20-17.

New Orleans (+3) at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: When New Orleans beat Atlanta earlier in the year, it was chalked up as a pure emotional victory in the re-opening of the Superdome. Since then, it’s become clear that New Orleans may have the better team after all. After hot starts, both clubs enter with losing streaks, but the Falcons’ three-game skid has been the most concerning, as they have fallen to Detroit and Cleveland in recent weeks. While Atlanta may be more desperate at this point, it’s hard to find much to like with its offensive play of late. Setting career-highs in carries in each of the last two seasons may have finally caught up to Warrick Dunn, who hasn’t topped 75 rushing yards since Week 6. After completing the best two-game stretch of his career, Michael Vick has turned in three straight lackluster passing efforts. That inconsistency is a microcosm of Vick’s uneven career. There’s still no denying his rushing ability, however, as he’s on pace to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards this season. John Abraham (groin, questionable) returned to practice this week and would be a nice addition to an injury-riddled defense, but this is a team going in the wrong direction…When not playing the AFC North, New Orleans is 5-1 this year. While the defense has been giving up points in bunches lately, the Saints’ offense has become potent, leading the NFL with 305 passing yards per game, an area where Atlanta’s defense is specifically weak. Possibly missing rookie sensation Marques Colston (ankle, questionable) could hurt, but Drew Brees has proven the ability to effectively pass to all teammates this year, evidenced by his remarkable 8.1 YPA. Look for Brees and company to put up more points than Atlanta can counter with Sunday, effectively making the NFC South a two-team race…New Orleans lists Terrance Copper (knee, questionable) and Fred Thomas (thumb, questionable) on the injury report, while Atlanta does the same with Grady Jackson (knee, questionable), Jonathan Babineaux (foot, questionable) and Jimmy Williams (ankle, questionable).

Predictions: Michael Vick has his best passing game in weeks, resulting in 230 yards and a TD to Michael Jenkins. He also rushes for 70 yards and a score as well. Warrick Dunn doesn’t have a great yardage day, but he does reach paydirt. Drew Brees answers with yet another big performance, passing for 300 yards and TD strikes to Joe Horn and Terrance Copper. Reggie Bush gets 80 combined yards, while Deuce McAllister adds 70 rushing yards and a late score, helping New Orleans pull off the upset. Saints 24-21.

San Francisco (+5.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: These two teams couldn’t be going in more opposite directions. San Francisco has won three straight, including an upset over defending NFC champs Seattle last week, while St. Louis has lost five consecutive games, highlighted by getting shut out for the first time since 1998 last week. It’s fair to say the loss of Orlando Pace has taken a significant toll on the offense. Adam Timmerman (ribs, questionable) struggled badly protecting Marc Bulger’s blindside, so Todd Stuessie is expected to replace him at left tackle this week. Coming off back-to-back clunkers, Bulger and the rest of the Rams’ offense better hope the line improves fast, because San Francisco’s defense is getting better each week. However, Shawntae Spencer (ankle, questionable) looks unlikely to play, so look for the Rams to attack a very beatable Sammy Davis in San Francisco’s secondary…Sharp-dressed coach Mike Nolan is winning with defense and pounding the football; a formula likely to continue Sunday, as the Rams are ceding 153 yards per game on the ground. Alex Smith has been doing a nice job “managing” games, but this offense belongs to Frank Gore, whose play can only be criticized right now by pointing to a fumbling problem. The second-year back is punishing defenders, while also flashing speed and elusiveness in the open-field. During his last 46 carries, Gore is averaging more than 8.0 YPC; expect another huge game Sunday against St. Louis’ soft front seven. Arnaz Battle (hand, probable) has surpassed Antonio Bryant as the most likely 49er wideout to score each week, while linebacker Brandon Moore is quietly having a big impact. Since being inserted into the starting lineup three games ago, Moore has racked up 29 tackles and 3.0 sacks, helping rejuvenate the 49ers’ defensive unit…San Francisco has won four out of the last six meetings between these two teams.

Predictions: Marc Bulger bounces back from a couple of rough outings, putting up 270 yards and a TD toss to Torry Holt. Holt also cracks 100 yards receiving for the first time since Week 6. Steven Jackson uses 25 touches to produce130 total yards, while also rushing for a score. Alex Smith answers with another conservative performance, resulting in 210 yards and a scoring strike to Arnaz Battle. Frank Gore rumbles for 160 yards and a TD, while Michael Robinson also takes one in from the goal-line, continuing both teams’ streaks. 49ers 24-23.

Green Bay (+9) at Seattle, Monday 8:35 p.m.

Comments: Brett Favre (elbow, questionable) has started 231 consecutive games, 251 including the playoffs. While he claims not to be worried about being able to go Monday, he hasn’t practiced all week and still feels tingling in his arm due to nerve damage in his elbow. Since he’s so tough, and the backup quarterback is rookie Ingle Martin since Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending foot injury, Favre is likely to give it a go, but don’t be shocked if this injury affects him a bit more than anticipated. Either way, expect Green Bay’s game plan to center around Ahman Green, as Seattle has been getting shredded on the ground recently, exemplified by the 262 rushing yards allowed last week. Green, however, is coming off back-to-back poor efforts and wearing down is always a concern with him. It’s likely Vernand Morency (back, questionable) sees at least a handful of touches this week as well…As for Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck (knee, probable) is expected to return to the lineup and faces a team giving up more than 240 passing yards per game. Offensive linemen Sean Locklear (ankle, questionable) and Robbie Tobeck (hip, questionable) may also return to the field, helping to finally stabilize the offensive unit. Shaun Alexander is another key part of the offense now back in action, and although his numbers were poor last week, he says his foot feels fine. It may take a while to get back into game shape, however. With Deion Branch proving to be more than a nice complement to Darrell Jackson, this Seahawks offense has the chance to be a force down the stretch…Green Bay lists Nick Barnett (hand, doubtful), Cullen Jenkins (ankle, questionable) and Charles Woodson (shoulder, questionable) on the injury report, while Seattle does the same with Rocky Bernard (foot, questionable) and Bobby Engram (illness, probable)… Green Bay is 4-1 in its last five games when playing the Seahawks, but Seattle is 14-1 in its last 15 games at home.

Predictions: If Brett Favre plays, he should be able to throw for 240 yards and a TD strike to Donald Driver. Driver adds 120 receiving yards as well, while Ahman Green rushes for 80 yards and a score. Matt Hasselbeck integrates himself back into the offense nicely, throwing for 240 yards and touchdowns to Deion Branch and Darrell Jackson. Shaun Alexander has his best game of the year, rushing for 110 yards and a score, as Seattle pulls away late. Seahawks 27-17.

Coaching Strategies

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

I’m not a big fan of many bets this week. I’m probably going to tease the Colts (-9) at home in a bounce back special against a devastated Eagles squad with the Vikings (-6) at home against the awful Cardinals. Wish me luck.

Now, a few things I wanted to touch on. The only time I can remember a team letting another team score a touchdown was in Super Bowl XXXII. Despite the criticism that Mike Holmgren endured, the so-called “concession touchdown” is completely underutilized in football. To wit, last Sunday night, the Denver Broncos tackled LaDainian Tomlinson not once, but twice, when they should have allowed a “concession touchdown.” Instead of getting the ball back with nearly three minutes down eight, the Broncos had to drive the length of the field with no timeouts and 1:10 on the clock. (4th Quarter play-by-play) Even if they had held the Chargers to a field goal, the Broncos would have had less than 30 seconds to get downfield and line up for a field goal with no timeouts. At least one coach recognized this scenario, as Marty Schottenheimer called for Drew Brees to take a knee on second and goal. Well played.

Other things that I would like to see coaches or players do more:

1. A running back intentionally drop a pass that is thrown to them well into the backfield and has “five-yard-loss” written all over it. Or, a running back throw a ball out of bounds when they are bottled up on a run for a big loss. In fact, I have always been a big fan of the throwing running back. My one major gripe is that it has always seemed to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. If the running back is supposed to throw it, well, he’s going to throw it, regardless of downfield coverage. How about a fake pass every once in a while and then a 5-10 yard scramble. I could see Michael Vick doing this a lot next year with Matt Schaub under center. Watch out!

2. I would also like to see a team down by a wide margin (three to four touchdowns) actually go for it early in the forth quarter instead of punting and basically conceding defeat. You would rather keep the score respectable than have a shot, however so slight, at actually winning the game? Really?

3. Lastly, and this is my personal favorite, I would love to see a team down two touchdowns late in a game (less than four minutes left) score a touchdown and go for two to try and cut the lead to six. Now, hear me out on this one. If, for example, the Falcons had scored late last week to cut the Ravens lead to a touchdown, they would have needed to get the ball back and score another touchdown to tie and send the game to overtime. Well, why not go for two after that first touchdown? If they convert it, then a touchdown wins and if they don’t, then they still have a chance to score, go for two again and send the game to overtime. Simply put, if the chances of converting for two once outweighs the chances of not converting for two twice (which it virtually always does) then teams would be best suited to go for it.

NFL 2-point conversion rates hover around 43%. Using this figure, the chances a team will be unsuccessful on conversions twice in a row is calculated as 32.48% (.57 * .57). So, using this strategy, a team would have a 43% chance at winning, a 32.5% chance at losing, and a 24.5% chance at sending the game to overtime, as opposed to a 100% chance of sending the game to overtime. Also, this assumes that an extra point is a given, while the actual conversion rate is 94%, which only helps to bolster my argument.

Game Capsules

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Miami (-3) at Detroit, Thursday 12:30 p.m.

Comments: Not exactly an intriguing Thanksgiving matchup, with Joey Harrington’s return to Detroit being the main headline. The teams enter going in opposite directions, as the Lions have dropped two straight against weak competition, while the Dolphins have won three straight contests with strong defensive play. Missing both interior linemen and Kevin Jones (ankle, questionable), Detroit also comes in quite depleted. With unproven Arlen Harris taking over at running back, and a little Aveion Cason mixed in, look for Mike Martz to become even more pass-happy than usual. While all those attempts may turn into decent yardage production, Jon Kitna has been unable to translate them into touchdowns recently, having thrown for just two scores over the last three games. His 11/12 TD/INT ratio on the season leaves a lot to be desired. Kitna has also been guilty of holding onto the ball too long, evidenced by him being sacked 10 times during his last three games. With no running game against a fast improving defense, more sacks and turnovers should be expected Thursday…Joey Harrington hasn’t played any better for the Dolphins than he did with Detroit, but he certainly is winning more. Harrington never won three straight games with the Lions, but he already has with the Dolphins in just six starts with his new team. Amid boos in Ford Field, expect Harrington to have a rather successful return against a suspect Lions’ secondary. As for Miami’s ground game, last week saw them produce one of the worst rushing performances in NFL history, gaining just 4 yards on 13 attempts against Minnesota. This week, however, life gets much easier, as an already beatable Detroit run defense will be without Shaun Cody (toe, doubtful) and Shaun Rodgers (knee). Expect a nice bounce back effort from Ronnie Brown (groin, probable) this week. Just like last year, this Miami team is playing at a much higher level during the second half of the season…Randy McMichael (shoulder), Wes Welker (ankle) and Channing Crowder (hip) are all probable to play for the Dolphins, while Keith Traylor’s (knee, probable) return to the lineup will be a nice boost to their run defense…Miami has won the last three matchups between these two teams.

Predictions: The Lions all but abandon the rushing attack, giving Jon Kitna plenty of opportunities to reach 260 passing yards, while also getting picked off twice and tossing TD strikes to Roy Williams and Mike Furrey. Arlen Harris is stymied, failing to even reach 50 rushing yards. Joey Harrington has a solid game in his return to Detroit, throwing for 250 yards and touchdowns to Chris Chambers and Marty Booker. Randy McMichael also chips in 80 receiving yards, while Ronnie Brown gains 120 total yards. He also reaches paydirt, helping Miami win its fourth straight. Dolphins 21-17.

Tampa Bay (+11) at Dallas, Thursday 4:15 p.m.

Comments: While Tampa Bay enters in the middle of a lost season with any playoff hopes shattered, Dallas has far greater goals, as no team has been more impressive once Tony Romo took the reigns. The Buccaneers did get a win last week, however, thanks in large part to an increased workload by Carnell Williams. Even while inexperienced, coach Jon Gruden had previously been relying heavily on rookie Bruce Gradkowski. Last week saw him attempt the fewest amount of passes since taking over the starting quarterback job, which resulted in his best effort yet (8.5 YPA). Williams, meanwhile, gained 122 yards on the ground on a season-high 27 carries, just his second 100-yard effort on the year. It was also just the fifth time all season he was given 20 touches in a game. Don’t expect similar numbers from Gradkowski and Williams Thursday, however, as Dallas’ defense has been playing at an elite level recently…Coming off an emotional win over previously undefeated Indianapolis during a short week could spell a letdown for Dallas, but this is a pretty sizeable mismatch on paper. Look for the Cowboys to attack Tampa Bay’s suspect run defense, as both Julius Jones and Marion Barber are having successful seasons. It’s undeniable that Romo has been a huge upgrade over Drew Bledsoe at this point; Romo’s been sacked nine fewer times (16 to 7) than Bledsoe was in the same amount of playing time. During the second halves of the last two games, Romo has completed a remarkable 20-of-21 passes. While Dallas may have a hard time getting up for this game, it’s Nationally televised on Thanksgiving, and Tampa Bay’s offense might be the worst in the league, making it difficult for them to even hang around…While Dallas reports no significant injuries, Tampa Bay lists Juran Bolden (shin), Shelton Quarles (knee) and Alex Smith (ankle) as questionable on the injury report. Simeon Rice (shoulder) was just placed on injured reserve, ending his season…Tampa Bay has won the last three matchups between these two teams but has dropped its last five road games.

Predictions: Bruce Gradkowski is held in check, managing just 160 yards, while throwing two interceptions and a TD to Joey Galloway. Galloway also adds 80 receiving yards as well. Carnell Williams is also relatively shut down, getting just 60 combined yards. Tony Romo picks apart the Tampa two defense, throwing for 220 yards and TD strikes to Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn. Owens also goes for 120 receiving yards on the day. Julius Jones gets 90 yards on the ground, while Marion Barber picks up an additional 50 and a score as well, as Dallas continues to roll. Cowboys 27-13.

Week 12 Lineup Rankings

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

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1. Peyton Manning
2. Drew Brees
3. Carson Palmer
4. Marc Bulger
5. Michael Vick
6. Tony Romo
7. Jake Delhomme
8. Matt Hasselbeck
9. Philip Rivers

10. Eli Manning
11. Brett Favre
12. Ben Roethlisberger
13. Charlie Frye
14. Tom Brady
15. Rex Grossman
16. Jon Kitna

17. Joey Harrington
18. Chad Pennington
19. Matt Leinart
20. Trent Green
21. Jake Plummer
22. Alex Smith

23. Aaron Brooks
24. David Garrard
25. David Carr
26. Brad Johnson
27. Jeff Garcia
28. Steve McNair
29. Bruce Gradkowski
30. Vince Young
31. J.P. Losman
32. Jason Campbell

Running Backs

1. LaDainian Tomlinson
2. Larry Johnson

3. Steven Jackson
4. Frank Gore
5. Tiki Barber
6. Brian Westbrook
7. Chester Taylor
8. Rudi Johnson
9. Ronnie Brown

10. Shaun Alexander
11. Willie Parker
12. Ahman Green
13. Joseph Addai
14. Julius Jones
15. Thomas Jones
16. Deuce McAllister
17. Warrick Dunn
18. Fred Taylor
19. Tatum Bell/Mike Bell/Damien Nash

20. Ladell Betts
21. Travis Henry
22. Corey Dillon
23. Marion Barber
24. Maurice Jones-Drew
25. Reggie Bush
26. Cadillac Williams
27. Wali Lundy
28. DeShaun Foster/DeAngelo Williams

29. Laurence Maroney
30. Jamal Lewis
31. Edgerrin James
32. Cedric Houston
33. Leon Washington
34. Anthony Thomas
35. Brandon Jacobs
36. Jason Wright/Reuben Droughns

37. Samkon Gado
38. Justin Fargas
39. Dominic Rhodes
40. Arlen Harris

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith
2. Torry Holt
3. Terrell Owens
4. Chad Johnson
5. Reggie Wayne
6. Marvin Harrison
7. Donald Driver
8. Darrell Jackson
9. Roy Williams
10. Andre Johnson
11. Plaxico Burress
12. Javon Walker
13. Joe Horn
14. TJ Houshmandzadeh

15. Chris Chambers
16. Larry Fitzgerald
17. Anquan Boldin
18. Braylon Edwards
19. Laveranues Coles
20. Hines Ward
21. Deion Branch
22. Lee Evans
23. Greg Jennings
24. Joey Galloway

25. Terry Glenn
26. Donte Stallworth
27. Devery Henderson/Terrance Copper
28. Keyshawn Johnson
29. Muhsin Muhammad
30. Reche Caldwell

31. Jerricho Cotchery
32. Arnaz Battle 
33. Bernard Berrian
34. Joe Jurevicius
35. Mark Clayton
36. Marty Booker
37. Isaac Bruce
38. Reggie Brown

39. Mike Furrey
40. Eddie Kennison
41. Travis Taylor
42. Michael Jenkins
43. Santonio Holmes
44. Drew Bennett
45. Chris Henry
46. Derrick Mason
47. Wes Welker
48. Matt Jones
49. Antonio Bryant – Check Status
50. Randy Moss

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, November 20th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I’m going to go ahead and say it again – The Atlanta Falcons’ three best skill position players start the game on the bench. Can’t wait to see what Matt Schaub, Jerious Norwood and Roddy White do next year.

Anyone who says Jamal Lewis is back didn’t watch the game. That Atlanta defense is ruined by injuries, and it’s not like he was all that effective away from the goal line. With the Hat Trick fresh in mind, go sell high.

I would say Chicago has no chance to go to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at the helm, but who in the NFC is going to beat them in Chicago in January? I say Dallas.

I refuse to accept Cincinnati’s mediocrity. I know, I know, “defense wins championships,” but no one wants to watch one and done Jacksonville in the playoffs over them, unless maybe you’re an AFC team. Like last year’s Pittsburgh, no team wants any part of the Bengals in the playoffs this year.

Drew Brees is the best fantasy player no one is talking about. Dude threw for more than 500 yards without his best playmaker and a clearly aging Joe Horn. Devery Henderson is two shades of awful. Terrance freakin Copper?! Brees is legit.

The “flex scheduling” wasn’t supposed to work like this. It’s Football Night in America – starring, Jeff Garcia!

Apparently the Minnesota Vikings have a pretty decent run defense.

Let me get this straight: Lee Evans, who wears No. 83, caught not one, but two 83-yard touchdowns Sunday?! Coincidence? I think not – this kid is special, you might want to roll a safety his way. The only thing preventing superstardom is J.P. Losman. A big obstacle, admittedly.

Nick Saban – The best coach during the second half of seasons in NFL history.

Good thing New England won’t have to worry about playing at that pesky “Gillette Stadium” come playoff time.

Aaron Brooks looked dangerously close to competent Sunday; too bad that helps zero fantasy options in Oakland. At this point, you’re more likely to see Randy Moss on a milk carton than you are catching an NFL pass.

I’m too young to have watched Jim Brown, but I’ve never personally witnessed a more physical running back than Larry Johnson.

When everyone compiles their top-10 fantasy wide receiver list next year, Braylon Edwards will be on it.

FOSTER: Australian for injury.

Am I crazy, or is Jeff Fisher doing one of the better coaching jobs in the NFL this year?

The Inconvenient Truth – Frank Gore is a top-5 running back in the NFL.

It’s impossible to explain the Chargers’ offense being so potent, yet Antonio Gates being so irrelevant.

Can’t wait to see which running back Denver selects in the first round of next year’s NFL draft.

Remember when Mike Vanderjagt criticized teammates for not being clutch? Good times. Drinking before interviews is one thing; Vanderjagt should probably start refraining before games.

Game Capsules

Friday, November 17th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: It should be clear by now that New Orleans is a good football team, while Cincinnati is a decidedly mediocre one. Still, the Bengals’ offense makes them dangerous enough to beat anyone. Their defense, however, makes them susceptible to losing to anyone, evidenced by last week’s 42 points surrendered in just one half of football. With Drew Brees coming off a career-high 398-yard passing effort, expect New Orleans to move the ball with ease Sunday. Marques Colston’s year has been the biggest surprise in the league, as he’s currently having the best rookie season a wide receiver has ever had through 10 weeks of play. Joe Horn (groin, probable) is likely to return, but Colston is the clear-cut No. 1 option in the passing game these days. Reggie Bush finally ran with some decisiveness last week, resulting in his first career rushing score. He and Deuce McAllister face a very favorable matchup this week against a soft Cincinnati run defense…While the defense has been putrid, the Bengals’ offense finally woke up last week, totaling 545 yards of offense. It’s likely Carson Palmer won’t be back to full strength until next year, but his mechanics sure looked fine last week. He stood strong in the pocket until the very last second and still possesses the best deep ball in the game. To the surprise of no one, Chad Johnson’s production spiked mightily after complaining about his role in the offense all week. He was targeted 12 times for the fifth time this year, but it was the first time he translated those looks into big production. Expect Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (head, probable) to have big games against a beatable New Orleans secondary…The Saints list Fred Thomas (hamstring, questionable) on the injury report, while the Bengals do the same with Dexter Jackson (Achilles, questionable), Levi Jones (knee, questionable), Deltha O’Neal (shoulder, questionable), Willie Anderson (shoulder, probable) and Rudi Johnson (thigh, probable).

Predictions: Drew Brees continues to pick up big yardage through the air, throwing for 320 yards and TD strikes to Joe Horn and Marques Colston. Colston also adds 130 yards receiving. Reggie Bush gets 80 combined yards, while Deuce McAllister runs in two scores. Carson Palmer counters with a big effort himself, resulting in 330 yards and three touchdowns, with Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry being the recipients. Rudi Johnson runs in another, while a late field goal makes Cincinnati winners in a shootout. Bengals 31-28.

New England (-6) at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: The Patriots lost two consecutive games for the first time since the 2002 season last week. This week they travel to face a Green Bay team that’s won three out of the last four weeks and is far from the doormat many expected them to be. Much of the team’s success is sill tied to Brett Favre (ankle, probable), as Green Bay is 0-4 this season when Favre throws an interception and 4-1 when he doesn’t. The good news for the Packers is that the Patriots’ secondary will be missing Rodney Harrison (shoulder), while Ellis Hobbs (wrist, questionable) and Asante Samuel (knee, questionable) are banged up. Getting Greg Jennings (ankle, probable) closer to full strength makes the offense much more dynamic, as it becomes difficult to roll extra coverage Donald Driver’s way. Vernand Morency (back, questionable) is expected to suit up and may take some touches away from Ahman Green (knee, probable)…The Patriots are having success with the ground game by evenly splitting the work between Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney, but Sunday may see Tom Brady (shoulder, probable) take the game over against Green Bay’s worst ranked pass defense. Brady’s favorite receiver seemingly fluctuates from week-to-week, but Reche Caldwell has been the most consistent of late. He appears to be the No. 1 option in the passing game, for now at least. It’s safe to say this New England squad isn’t without its problems, but they will get back on the winning track Sunday…Green Bay lists David Martin (shoulder, questionable), Al Harris (illness, probable) and Charles Woodson (knee, probable) on the injury report. New England labels Richard Seymour (elbow), Steve Neal (shoulder) and Ty Warren (shoulder) as questionable.

Predictions: Brett Favre throws for 240 yards and touchdown scores to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. He’s also picked off, while Ahman Green is held to just 70 rushing yards. Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon both surpass 50 yards on the ground, but it’s Dillon who gets the score. Tom Brady responds with a nice game, resulting in 260 yards and TD strikes to Reche Caldwell and Chad Jackson, helping to seal it for the road team. Patriots 24-20.

St. Louis (+7) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Even while scoring almost 24 points a game, the Rams have lost four straight weeks. Still not out of the playoff picture, St. Louis now travels to Carolina, who hasn’t exactly looked like the Super Bowl contenders everyone envisioned them being this year. Still, the Rams are going to have to win with offense Sunday, because Carolina should have an easy time scoring against St. Louis’ defense. Expect Marc Bulger to bounce back from his worst game of the year last week and start getting Torry Holt more involved. After a huge Week 6, Holt has been held scoreless for three straight games, while never eclipsing 75 receiving yards. He was targeted 11 times last week, so bigger numbers are sure to come. No one has been involved in the Rams’ passing game lately more than Steven Jackson, who has racked up 19 catches over the last two games. He’s also scored a touchdown in four straight, highlighted last week when he carried multiple defenders on his back into the end zone. He’s fast becoming one of the most consistent, and well-rounded backs in the league. The loss of Orlando Pace (triceps) for the year, however, could be significant…Jake Delhomme has had an inconsistent season, but the St. Louis secondary is beatable. Steve Smith should be in store for another big day, as he’s simply the hardest wide receiver to guard in the NFL. The Rams’ biggest defensive weakness, however, is their run defense, surrendering more than 143 yards per game on the ground. Still, the next tackle DeShaun Foster breaks this year will be his first, and DeAngelo Williams had an unimpressive return to the lineup last week as well. Despite the Rams’ problems up front, expect only a modest running game out of Carolina this week…The Rams are healthy, while the Panthers list Jordan Carstens (illness, out) Justin Hartwig (groin, questionable) and Ken Lucas (thigh, probable) on the injury report.

Predictions: Marc Bulger throws for 260 yards and finds Torry Holt in the end zone. Holt also gets 120 receiving yards. Steven Jackson remains heavily used in the passing game, helping him reach 120 total yards to go along with a rushing score. DeShaun Foster gets the brunt of the carries for Carolina, resulting in 75 yards and a TD run. Jake Delhomme gets 230 passing yards, with a scoring strike to Steve Smith. Smith goes for 140 receiving yards as well. Brad Hoover runs in a short score late, as St. Louis loses its fifth straight. Panthers 24-23.

Tennessee (+13) at Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Since a rough start to the season, Tennessee has played nearly every opponent tough this year, but with the Eagles’ No. 1 ranked offense playing at home against the Titans’ last ranked defense, things could get ugly. It hasn’t always been pretty with Vince Young so far, but he was able to get 8.4 YPA against a tough Baltimore defense last week, flashing signs of downfield ability previously missing from his arsenal. Facing an Eagles’ defense finally at full strength, expect another bump in the road for the rookie signal caller, although the early-season fierce pass rush from Philadelphia has been missing in action lately, with only three sacks over the last four games. LenDale White’s future is still unclear, as he hasn’t been able to unseat average veteran Travis Henry, who will look to attack a rush defense ceding 120 yards per game…Tennessee’s run defense, however, has been even worse, allowing an NFL worst 150 yards per game. With offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg calling the plays, the Eagles featured more runs than passes last week for the first time this season. Expect a more balanced attack again this week, as Brian Westbrook (knee, probable) is feeling healthy and primed for a huge afternoon. Getting Donte Stallworth back into the lineup makes the Eagles that much more difficult to defend. McNabb, who is getting 8.5 YPA on the year, has more than enough offensive weapons at his disposal. Tennessee is simply outmatched to hang around with this Philadelphia squad…The Titans list Rod Bironas (groin), and Reynaldo Hill (ankle) as questionable, while the Eagles list Shawn Barber (stinger) and Reggie Brown (hamstring) as probable…Tennessee is 1-9 in its last 10 games on the road.

Predictions: Vince Young is virtually shut down, throwing for just 160 yards and turning the ball over twice. Travis Henry gets a pedestrian 60 yards on the ground, but he does reach paydirt. Donovan McNabb toys with the Titans’ defense, throwing touchdowns to Reggie Brown, Donte Stallworth and Brian Westbrook. Westbrook also adds 120 yards on the ground and a TD run, paving the way for a Philadelphia rout. Eagles 31-10.

Washington (+3) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Two of the most inept offenses meet in a battle of untested quarterbacks. Ironically, it’s the rookie with more experience, as Bruce Gradkowski is already entering his seventh game as the Bucs’ starting signal caller. Washington’s defense has been one of the worst in the league, but the Gradkowski led Buccaneers’ offense may be even more pathetic. Gradkowski’s 4.7 YPA is by far the worst in the NFL. Joey Galloway has still proven capable of breaking the big play, but getting the ball to him is the difficult part. Carnell Williams, averaging just 3.6 YPC, looks nothing like a “Cadillac.”…In the middle of a 3-6 season, Washington has decided to turn the keys over to Jason Campbell. Not only is this his first start, it will also be his first game action ever; in fact, Campbell hasn’t even been active for an NFL game before. Still, he’s not a rookie, so the hope is that the learning curve won’t be quite as steep. While Tampa Bay’s defense has looked nothing like years past, Monte Kiffin won’t make it easy on Campbell, who will also be playing without Clinton Portis (hand) and a banged up Santana Moss (hamstring, questionable). Expect a low-scoring affair, with the underrated Ladell Betts carrying the Redskins to victory…Jon Jansen (calf) and Shawn Springs (groin) are probable for Washington, while Juran Bolden (hip), Shelton Quarles (knee) and Simeon Rice (shoulder) are questionable for Tampa Bay. Rice may have to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery soon.

Predictions: Bruce Gradkowski is again lackluster, throwing for only 180 yards. He does, however, find Joey Galloway for a score. Carnell Williams gets 80 rushing yards but again fails to reach the end zone. Jason Campbell has an uneven first career NFL start, resulting in 160 yards passing, an interception and a scoring strike to Chris Cooley. Ladell Betts touches the ball nearly 30 times, resulting in 130 total yards and a TD run, helping the road team win it. Redskins 17-16.

Detroit (+2) at Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments: Arizona’s losing streak has reached eight games now, but Detroit hasn’t won a road game all season long. In a battle between two of the NFL’s worst teams, Jon Kitna enters coming off a disappointing effort against the 49ers. His completion percentage and 7.3 YPA are solid, but his 15 turnovers are killing the Lions. Still, he should have a productive day against a suspect Cardinals’ secondary. The same goes for Roy Williams. Kevin Jones’ rushing year has been inconsistent, but his involvement in the passing game has countered that, as he’s gotten more than 100 combined yards in each of his last four games…After such an impressive start to his career, Matt Leinart has reeled off three consecutive poor outings. All of those games, however, have come against solid pass defenses, something Detroit doesn’t possess. Expect Leinart, who has Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring, probable) back, to have a successful day Sunday. If there ever is a good week to use Edgerrin James in fantasy leagues, this one is it. Fitzgerald’s return to the lineup saw Anquan Boldin’s targets drop sharply last week to just six, with Fitzgerald receiving 11 looks. Expect Boldin’s opportunities to creep back up, but it appears Leinart has eyes for Fitzgerald. In a tightly contested battle, home field is the difference…Neither team has any major injury concerns… Detroit has won the last three meetings between these two teams.

Predictions: Jon Kitna gets 260 passing yards, while also finding Roy Williams and Mike Furrey in the end zone. Williams also adds 130 receiving yards on the day. Kevin Jones gets 120 total yards, while also running for a score. Edgerrin James answers with 90 yards and a score, while Matt Leinart throws touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, helping Arizona win for the first time since the season opener. Cardinals 24-21.

Seattle (-4) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments: Seattle hasn’t been devastated by the losses of Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander, while the 49ers enter coming off back-to-back victories. Defense has been key in San Francisco’s consecutive wins, holding its opponents to just 16 total points over the two-game span. Still, it was a unit that had previously been one of the worst in the league, so although improvement is likely, this defense is still very much beatable. As for the offense, Alex Smith has been decidedly mediocre, while Frank Gore (concussion, questionable) has carried the offense on his shoulders, averaging 5.0 YPC. He is expected to play Sunday and should have another productive day against a Seattle team that has allowed big games from running backs in recent weeks…Hasselbeck (knee, questionable) has practiced this week, but there’s still a good chance Seneca Wallace gets one more start at quarterback. Shaun Alexander (questionable, foot) has also returned to the practice field and says he feels good, but X-rays still show a small crack in his foot, so expect him to split carries with Maurice Morris this week. The prospects of Alexander becoming 100 percent healthy at anytime this year are looking grim. Still, as long as he feels good and is out there playing, he can’t be benched in fantasy leagues. The 49ers are no cakewalk playing in San Francisco, but the Seahawks have beaten them six straight times, and Seneca Wallace has proven more than capable of running the offense. Expect a close game, ultimately won by the road team…Vernon Davis (fibula) is questionable to return to action this week.

Predictions: Alex Smith throws for 200 yards and a long TD strike to Antonio Bryant. Frank Gore suits up and contributes 120 total yards of offense, with a TD run mixed in as well. San Francisco also scores defensively, when Brandon Moore forces a Seneca Wallace fumble and returns it to the house. Wallace responds with an otherwise solid day, finding both Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch for scoring strikes. Maurice Morris takes away some carries, but Shaun Alexander gets all the goal line work, punching in his first score since Week 3, ending all hope for the home team. Seahawks 24-21.

Indianapolis (-1) at Dallas, Sunday 4:15 p.m.

Comments: Odds are the Colts lose a game this year. Still, it’s a little surprising to see Indianapolis as such small favorites this week. Dallas is a better team than the 5-4 record suggests, especially since Tony Romo took the helm. Once defensive coordinators have a bigger sample to dissect him on game film, there might be some bumps in the road. Until then, it’s hard not to like the way Romo’s playing right now, combining big time arm strength with pinpoint accuracy. It’s a wonder what took Bill Parcells so long to make the switch; Romo’s 8.8 YPA dwarf Drew Bledsoe’s 6.9, and he’s thrown more touchdown passes in 41 fewer pass attempts. Plus, Romo’s already figured out that a happy Owens means a productive Owens, something Bledsoe never did. Speaking of backups, Marion Barber is simply outplaying Julius Jones right now. Few running backs are tougher to take down on first contact. Expect the carries in Dallas to start being divvied up more evenly…The Colts have shown the propensity to let inferior teams hang around, but it’s doubtful they take Dallas lightly, meaning something resembling their A game should be expected Sunday. The Cowboys’ defense has been stingy, but it’s doubtful they hold Peyton Manning and company in check. In a perceived bigger game than last week, expect Joseph Addai to dominate the carries, as he’s vastly outplaying Dominic Rhodes. While the Colts’ run defense is an obvious concern and could be missing Bob Sanders (knee, questionable) again, the NFL is a passing league…Indianapolis lists 14 players as questionable, but none have any major fantasy significance. Terry Glenn (quad, probable) is the only injury issue for Dallas.

Predictions: Tony Romo is able to put points on the board for Dallas, throwing two touchdown passes to Terrell Owens. The Cowboys try to keep Indy’s offense off the field by running the ball, with the Julius Jones and Marion Barber tandem combining for more than 125 yards on the ground and Barber punching one in from close. Peyton Manning counters with 270 yards and TD strikes to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, while Joseph Addai uses more than 20 touches to amass 100 total yards and a score as well. Given a chance to get back at his old teammates, Mike Vanderjagt misses a potential game-tying field goal, ensuring Indianapolis keeps its record perfect. Colts 27-24.

Power Rankings

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

A few random thoughts and then off to the abridged power rankings. . .

I’m one loss away from winning my total wins bet for the Arizona Cardinals (over/under 8 ).

The fact that Rutgers can go undefeated in a BCS conference with two wins over top-10 teams and still have no shot of playing for the national title is an absolute travesty (footnote: Joey Goldman).

The Borat Movie is over-hyped and not as funny as the show. That said, it’s still one of the best comedies of recent memory.

So this Matsuzaka guy must be pretty good. I’m sure he’ll enjoy pitching in the AL East.

Mario Lopez is a way better dancer than Emmit Smith. It’s not even close. Shame on you America.

Apparently Ohio St. is playing Michigan this weekend and, get this, they’re ranked #1 and #2! I had no idea.

OJ Simpson’s hypothetical novel about how he would have gone about killing Nicole gives me the idea of writing a book about how I might hypothetically go about killing OJ Simpson.

Don’t go Barry!

Top-10 Power Rankings

10. Panthers – The Cowboys, Jaguars and Falcons could all be in this spot as well, but Carolina still has the best shot at making some noise in the postseason.

9. Saints – All right, these guys are for real. Drew Brees has cemented himself as one of the elite signal callers in the league, and Marques Colston is the greatest free agent pickup in the history of fantasy football, especially in leagues where he can be used as a tight end.

8. Giants – The G-Men really missed out on a golden opportunity Sunday night.

7. Seahawks – Now that Hasselbeck is back and God has finally answered Shaun Alexander’s prayers, the Seahawks will be improved, but remember, this was a flawed team before they went down.

6. Eagles – The second best offensive team in football is going to have to earn their way into the playoffs with a brutal stretch schedule.

5. Chargers – The Phillip Rivers hype machine is in full force but meets a tough test this week at Denver. The defense needs Merriman back.

4. Broncos – Denver’s unimpressive wins keep piling up, and they’ll be hard to stop at home in the playoffs. That said, I can’t see them winning at Indy, and they’ll need another AFC team (Chargers or Pats) to hopefully knock them out.

3. Patriots – The Patsies are down but don’t count them out.

2. Bears – It’s going to be hard to win at Chicago come playoff time.

1. Colts – The Colts have been the best team in football for a few years now. Maybe this season it will actually lead to a ring.

Week 11 Lineup Rankings

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

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1. Carson Palmer
2. Peyton Manning
3. Donovan McNabb
4. Drew Brees
5. Marc Bulger
6. Jake Delhomme
7. Tom Brady
8. Jon Kitna
9. Ben Roethlisberger
10. Seneca Wallace/Matt Hasselbeck

11. Tony Romo
12. Philip Rivers
13. Brett Favre
14. Michael Vick
15. Rex Grossman
16. Matt Leinart

17. Damon Huard
18. Steve McNair
19. Jake Plummer
20. Eli Manning
21. David Garrard
22. Joey Harrington
23. Alex Smith

24. Charlie Frye
25. David Carr
26. Bruce Gradkowski
27. Vince Young
28. J.P. Losman
29. Chad Pennington
30. Brad Johnson
31. Jason Campbell
32. Andrew Walter/Aaron Brooks

Running Backs

1. Larry Johnson
2. LaDainian Tomlinson

3. Brian Westbrook
4. Kevin Jones
5. Willie Parker
6. Steven Jackson
7. Tiki Barber
8. Frank Gore
9. Deuce McAllister
10. Maurice Morris/Shaun Alexander
11. Rudi Johnson

12. Julius Jones
13. Joseph Addai
14. Ronnie Brown
15. Thomas Jones
16. Chester Taylor
17. Ladell Betts
18. Anthony Thomas
19. Tatum Bell
20. Wali Lundy
21. Marion Barber
22. Fred Taylor
23. DeShaun Foster

24. Edgerrin James
25. Corey Dillon
26. Ahman Green
27. Maurice Jones-Drew
28. Reggie Bush

29. Jamal Lewis
30. Carnell Williams
31. Warrick Dunn
32. Travis Henry
33. Brandon Jacobs
34. Laurence Maroney
35. Reuben Droughns

36. LaMont Jordan
37. Samkon Gado
38. DeAngelo Williams
39. Kevan Barlow
40. Leon Washington

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith
2. Marques Colston
3. Roy Williams
4. Torry Holt
5. Darrell Jackson
6. Terrell Owens
7. TJ Houshmandzadeh
8. Chad Johnson
9. Javon Walker
10. Larry Fitzgerald
11. Andre Johnson
12. Marvin Harrison
13. Reggie Wayne
14. Anquan Boldin

15. Donald Driver
16. Hines Ward
17. Chris Chambers
18. Plaxico Burress
19. Donte Stallworth
20. Deion Branch
21. Joe Horn – Check Status
22. Reggie Brown
23. Lee Evans

24. Joey Galloway
25. Muhsin Muhammad
26. Braylon Edwards
27. Keyshawn Johnson
28. Greg Jennings – Check Status
29. Bernard Berrian – Check Status
30. Chris Henry
31. Mike Furrey
32. Terry Glenn/Patrick Crayton

33. Mark Clayton
34. Isaac Bruce
35. Laveranues Coles
36. Matt Jones
37. Drew Bennett
38. Reche Caldwell
39. Eddie Kennison
40. Randy Moss
41. Santana Moss
42. Derrick Mason

43. Antonio Bryant
44. Joe Jurevicius
45. Kevin Curtis
46. Marty Booker
47. Wes Welker
48. Eric Parker/Malcom Floyd
49. Arnaz Battle
50. Brandon Jones

Weekly Bets

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Betting on road teams in the NFL has not been good business this year. The temptation to ignore the homefield advantage and wager on the better team is an urge I’ve succumbed to many times. Well guess what? I’m going to go ahead and do it again this week. With the exception of the Broncos (-1 -123 at home v Chargers), I like a number of road teams in moneyline bets this week. The Colts (-111 @ Cowboys) are due for a fall, but with Peyton Manning at the helm, they always seem to play well enough to get the win, or the cover in this instance. By now I should realize that the Saints are good and the Bengals are bad. That said, I wouldn’t mind putting a little on the Bengals (+165 @ New Orleans) in a very winnable game. The Lions (+122 @ Cardinals) and the Falcons (+195 @ Ravens) both have a good shot at pulling off minor upsets this week as well. I also like the Patriots (-6 @ Packers) to get off the schneide and love them in a teaser, although I can’t find any good matchups to pair them with.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, November 13th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

So much for Carson Palmer’s mechanics being out of whack. He hung in the pocket strong until the last possible moment and still throws the best deep ball in football. Expect the Cincy passing game to be one of the elite from here on out.

Is it just me, or is Joseph Addai’s running style remarkably similar to a young Edgerrin James? Now, if only the Colts would stop wasting carries on Dominic Rhodes.

The Redskins haven’t forced a turnover since Week 4. That’s not very good.

Marion Barber is simply outplaying Julius Jones right now. Few running backs are tougher to take down on first contact. Expect the carries in Dallas to start being divvied up more evenly.

Baltimore may be 7-2, but I’d argue that they are only the third best team in their division.

Mark it down, the Colts are winning the Super Bowl; after all, they won’t have to face the likes of Tennessee and Buffalo in the playoffs.

Start warming up, Jason Campbell.

Looks like back-to-back seasons of career-high carries have caught up to Warrick Dunn.

No team’s schedule sets up better against the pass than Green Bay’s over the rest of the year. Enjoy, Donald Driver owners.

At this point, the Jaguars would rather face the Colts than the Texans.

The Dolphins are really playing some tough defense right now.

How did Marques Colston fall to the seventh round of the NFL draft?

There isn’t a slower running back in the NFL than Corey Dillon.

The only thing consistent about Michael Vick is his inconsistency.

Hard to believe that there will be a more entertaining game this year than the Cincinnati vs. San Diego shootout.

Who calls a seven-step drop on third-and-goal from the one-yard line? Tom Walsh, that’s who.

If I’m the Bears, the one team I don’t want to meet in the playoffs is the Eagles.

Meet LaMont Jordan – member of a running back by committee.

I don’t want to overrate the skill positions, but it’s becoming harder and harder to justify the Raiders drafting a safety over Matt Leinart or Jay Cutler. Although I must admit, the Raiders’ defense really is playing well this year.

Is there anything more frustrating than owning a Denver running back? Next up, Cedric Cobbs.

The next tackle DeShaun Foster breaks will be his first this year. Don’t forget about DeAngelo Williams.

If you drafted Shaun Alexander over Larry Johnson or LaDainian Tomlinson, step off the ledge – Alexander should be back any month now.

Leonard Little and London Fletcher are having the best seasons no one is talking about.

There wasn’t better coaching done this weekend than Eric Mangini.

Put a fork in Randy Moss – he’s done.

It sure would be nice if LaDainian Tomlinson scored a touchdown every once in a while.

Game Capsules

Friday, November 10th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

Cleveland (+8) at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: After a couple steps forward for Michael Vick the passer, it was one step back last week. It seems consistency will remain a problem for Vick, and therefore, this Atlanta team. Cleveland, however, has been consistently bad this year, having just two wins on the season. The defense hasn’t been a pushover, despite being ravaged by injuries. The offense, however, has been one of the worst units in the league, ranking close to the bottom of the NFL in nearly every offensive category. Charlie Frye (thumb, questionable) has regressed from last year, having already been responsible for 16 turnovers just halfway through the year. Locking on to receivers for too long is the most glaring problem, even when Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow (knee, questionable) and Joe Jurevicius (back, questionable) form a solid trio of options in the passing game. Winslow has had an especially impressive year, as his 51 receptions lead all NFL tight ends by a rather wide margin. Atlanta’s secondary is not only banged up but also surprisingly susceptible, so expect Cleveland to try to beat them through the air Sunday…Michael Vick is likely to bounce back from last week’s mistake-filled effort with a big game Sunday, taking advantage of a defense yielding 142 rushing yards per game. With Jerious Norwood (knee, questionable) looking unlikely to play, Warrick Dunn could be in for a big afternoon as well, as he’ll be asked to carry most of the load on the ground. Dunn hasn’t eclipsed 70 rushing yards since Week 6, but look for that to change Sunday. One Falcon who has been successful of late is Alge Crumpler (ankle, questionable), who will continue to be a focal point of Atlanta’s offense…Like most members of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, Romeo Crennel takes liberty with the injury report, listing 14 players as questionable, but all key fantasy players are expected to play. Atlanta lists John Abraham (knee, out), Jason Webster (groin, out), DeAngelo Hall (ankle, questionable), Ed Hartwell (knee, questionable), Grady Jackson (knee, questionable) and Ashley Lelie (groin, questionable) on its injury report.

Predictions: Charlie Frye continues to be turnover prone, but also throws for 220 yards and a TD strike to Joe Jurevicius. Both Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards are heavily involved in the offense, with each approaching 80 receiving yards. Reuben Droughns turns in another unimpressive outing, gaining just 50 yards on the ground. Warrick Dunn, on the other hand, runs for more than 100 yards and a score, while Michael Vick adds another 70 yards and a score on the ground as well. Vick also finds Michael Jenkins in the end zone, en route to an easy Atlanta victory. Falcons 24-13.

Green Bay (+5.5) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Brett Favre had last year’s interception problem seemingly under control until he threw a pair last week. The Packers better hope it was a one-week blunder, because Favre will be asked to carry the Packers’ offense Sunday against a defense that is extremely difficult to run on. Ahman Green (knee, probable) has reeled off three straight 100-yard rushing games, but will struggle to make it a fourth with Pat Williams (knee, questionable) and Kevin Williams (ankle, probable) expected to play. Minnesota has shown weaknesses in its pass defense, however, so Favre and company should at least be able to keep this game close, especially if Greg Jennings (ankle, questionable) is able to suit up…While the Vikings’ defense has excelled, its offense has really held the team back, scoring just 10 points total over the last two games, both resulting in losses. Much of the blame can be directed toward Brad Johnson, who has turned the ball over six times while throwing zero touchdowns in the two losses. The only reason Minnesota isn’t having a major quarterback controversy right now is because the team has no quality alternatives to turn to. After such a heavy workload this season, Chester Taylor (calf, questionable) had to sit out practice this week with general soreness. Still, expect him to be relied upon heavily once again Sunday, resulting in a big day statistically, as the Vikings bounce back from last week’s embarrassing loss to the 49ers…Green Bay’s Charles Woodson (knee) is questionable to play, while Minnesota’s Napoleon Harris (wrist) and Marcus Robinson (back) are also questionable.

Predictions: Brett Favre gets 240 passing yards, while also connecting with Donald Driver and David Martin for touchdowns. Ahman Green is relatively shut down, managing just 60 yards on the ground. Brad Johnson has another lackluster day passing, mustering just 180 yards. He does, however, find Travis Taylor in the end zone. Chester Taylor remains a big part of the offense, combining for 130 yards and a TD run, putting Minnesota on top for good. Vikings 20-17.

San Francisco (+6) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: After a solid start to his sophomore season, Alex Smith has looked like he did as a rookie over the past two games. Facing Detroit’s secondary is a good way to get back on track, however. Antonio Bryant has also faded after a promising start to the season, having managed more receiving yards in his first two games than he has combined since. Frank Gore may have been shut down by the Vikings’ run defense last week, but he’s still having one of the more productive years of any NFL running back. Some more touchdowns would be nice, as Gore has been stuck on three since Week 2. Expect that to change Sunday, as San Francisco is able to move the ball effectively on offense…Facing one of the few defenses even worse than their own, the Lions figure to light up the scoreboard this week. Mike Martz’ influence on the offense has been abundant, as it’s made Jon Kitna relevant in fantasy football, and relative unknown Mike Furrey is on pace for more than 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards. The shift in offensive philosophy has also allowed Kevin Jones to do a Marshall Faulk impression, as the third-year back already has more receiving yards this season than he did in his previous two years combined. Roy Williams has always had the talent, and he’s quickly becoming one of the premiere wideouts in the league. He should shred the shaky 49ers’ secondary Sunday…San Francisco lists Vernon Davis (fibula, doubtful) and Walt Harris (hip, questionable) on the injury report, while Detroit does the same with James Hall (shoulder, out) and Shaun Cody (toe, questionable)… San Francisco is 10-2 in the series since 1984, but both losses have come while playing in Detroit.

Predictions: Alex Smith is able to move the offense, with 230 yards passing and a TD strike to Antonio Bryant. Frank Gore goes off for 130 total yards and scores as well. Jon Kitna answers with a big effort, resulting in 280 yards and touchdown tosses to Roy Williams and Mike Furrey. Williams also adds 140 receiving yards on the day. Kevin Jones gets 140 yards combined, while also reaching paydirt, as Detroit prevails in a shootout. Lions 28-20.

Washington (+7) at Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Coming off a bye week and three consecutive losses, the Eagles haven’t won a game since Week 5. Expect this team to be hungry and prepared. Washington, on the other hand, needs to guard against an emotional letdown after last week’s thrilling last second, game-winning field goal against Dallas. Even Joe Gibbs has admitted it will be difficult to avoid a letdown, but Mark Brunell’s recent play is encouraging. Coming off two games in which Brunell has played well, he now travels to Philadelphia to face an Eagles’ defense that is rested and healthy, with no member in danger of missing the game. As for the Redskins’ offense, Santana Moss (hamstring, probable) returned to practice this week and hopes to play Sunday. If Washington has any hope of winning, Clinton Portis will need to have a big day…Facing a defense that has struggled all year, especially against the pass, expect Philadelphia to move the ball with ease, as the offense is finally at full strength. Donte Stallworth doesn’t even appear on the injury report, while Brian Westbrook (ankle, probable) is practicing without limits and had an extra week of rest to get his knee back to health. Donovan McNabb, who’s still getting 8.3 YPA this year even after Jacksonville shut him down, should have his way with Washington’s defense, as Philadelphia has too much offensive firepower for the Redskins to contain…Washington’s Chris Cooley (shoulder), Jon Jansen (calf) and Carlos Rogers (thumb) are probable to play, as are Philadelphia’s Mike Patterson (hand) and Lito Sheppard (hand)… Philadelphia is 7-0 after its bye week under Andy Reid.

Predictions: Mark Brunell is unable to elude Philadelphia’s pass rush, getting dropped for numerous sacks and never able to get the ball downfield. As a result, Brunell passes for a modest 160 yards but does find Chris Cooley for a TD. Clinton Portis gets 90 yards and a rushing score as well, but its Donovan McNabb who puts up the biggest numbers, throwing for 300 yards and three scores, with Reggie Brown, Donte Stallworth and L.J. Smith being the recipients. Brian Westbrook is active in both the passing and running game, gaining 140 yards combined while also scoring, as Philadelphia wins in a rout. Eagles 31-17.

Dallas (-7) at Arizona, Sunday 4:15 p.m.

Comments: Considering where they rank both offensively and defensively among the NFL, Dallas’ 4-4 record is very disappointing. Arizona has become accustomed to disappointing seasons, with this year being no exception after dropping seven straight games since winning the season opener. Matt Leinart has looked like a typical rookie quarterback after getting off to a hot start and faces a Dallas defense that hasn’t been easy to move the ball on. Still, Arizona has played fairly well at home this year, losing three games by a combined six points to quality opponents (St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago). Getting Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring, probable) back into the lineup certainly helps, even if he’s only slated to play half the snaps in his first game since Week 5. Edgerrin James is leading the league in futility, getting just 2.8 YPC on 185 totes this year…One would assume the offense would be scaled back with a first time starter at the helm, but with Tony Romo’s sudden emergence, that hasn’t been the case. Romo is getting 8.2 YPA, while also providing better mobility. No one on Arizona can stop Terrell Owens, who has formed a tremendous rapport with Romo, even if he’s suffered from a bad case of the drops. Julius Jones has played well, but it’s Marion Barber who’s been the most effective Dallas ball carrier, consistently breaking tackles and never easy to bring down. After losing a heartbreaker last week, the Cowboys get back into the win column…Arizona has no major injury concerns, while Dallas labels Terry Glenn (quad) as probable. However, there’s a very good chance Glenn is unable to play, with Patrick Crayton replacing him…Dallas has lost its last four games played in Arizona.

Predictions: Matt Leinart has an up-and-down game, but he does find Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald for scores. Edgerrin James again is stymied, rushing for only 50 yards. Tony Romo continues to impress, tossing scoring strikes to Terrell Owens and Jason Witten. Owens has a productive game, ending with 120 receiving yards along with the score. Julius Jones gets 110 yards, while Marion Barber adds another 50 and a late TD run, sealing it for the road team. Cowboys 24-20.

St. Louis (+3.5) at Seattle, Sunday 4:15 p.m.

Comments: After an impressive start, the Rams have suddenly lost three games in a row and now travel to face a Seattle team extremely tough at home. Albeit a Seattle team still playing without Shaun Alexander (foot) and Matt Hasselbeck (knee). St. Louis will look to avenge a home loss to the Seahawks in Week 6 and will again rely on the strong play of Marc Bulger, who has been one of the league’s very best quarterbacks this season. Bulger has surpassed 300 passing yards each of the last four weeks, is getting 7.9 YPA and has thrown 13 touchdown passes to just one interception this season; that sole interception, however, was picked off by this very Seattle team. Torry Holt has been quiet for two weeks now, so look for him to be heavily involved Sunday. Steven Jackson caught a remarkable 13 passes last week, continuing a season-long trend of increased activity in the passing game. Jackson has already eclipsed 1,100 total yards this season…As for Seattle, Seneca Wallace has capably filled in for injured starter Matt Hasselbeck, using his legs to escape and make plays out of the pocket. While he’s proven he can throw at least somewhat effectively, there might not be a faster quarterback in the league than Wallace. Wallace targeted Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch an equal number of times last week, and each should have rather productive games Sunday. Maurice Morris finally showed some promise last week and has another easy matchup against the Rams’ soft front seven. In a game that comes down to the very end, home field is the difference…St. Louis lists Pisa Tinoisamoa (hand) as questionable and Leonard Little (knee) as probable, while Seattle names Sean Locklear (ankle, doubtful), Nate Burleson (foot, questionable) and Bobby Engram (illness, questionable) on the injury report.

Predictions: Marc Bulger throws for 300 yards yet again, while also finding Torry Holt for a score. Holt also adds 120 receiving yards. Steven Jackson gets 120 yards combined, with a TD run mixed in. Seneca Wallace counters with a solid effort himself, resulting in 220 passing yards and TD strikes to Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch. Maurice Morris runs for more than 100 yards on the ground for the second week in a row, but this time also adding a touchdown as well. Seattle wins it on a late field goal. Seahawks 24-23.

Chicago (+1.5) at New York Giants, Sunday 8:15 p.m.

Comments: Injuries have somewhat dimmed a battle of arguably the two best teams in the NFC. In a very important showdown, Chicago enters with Bernard Berrian (ribs) out and Brian Urlacher (toe, questionable) banged up, while New York will be missing Michael Strahan (foot), Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor) and Amani Toomer (knee). If that wasn’t enough, Plaxico Burress (back), Sam Madison (hamstring) and Brandon Short (quad) are also questionable to play. Injuries aside, both teams enter with strong defensive units and fighting for home field throughout the playoffs. Getting Plaxico Burress back into the lineup will be huge for New York, as the team was completely different without him last week. Along with criticizing the Chicago secondary, Burress adds a dimension to New York’s offense that will help get Eli Manning out of his recent funk and also help open running lanes for Tiki Barber, who finally scored his first touchdown of the year last week…Rex Grossman has alternated big weeks with awful performances over the last month, and missing Berrian won’t make life any easier Sunday. The Giants missing key cogs on its defensive line, however, most certainly will. Without Berrian as a deep threat, look for little running room for Thomas Jones, as the Giants will employ its safeties closer to the line of scrimmage. Expect a defensive battle, with the Bears ultimately beating the shorthanded home team.

Predictions: Chicago’s defense comes out fired up after last week’s loss, getting constant pressure on Eli Manning. Manning mixes in a couple of turnovers with a scoring strike to Plaxico Burress, while Tiki Barber manages 90 yards on the ground. Brandon Jacobs once again gets the goal line work, punching one in from close. Rex Grossman has an erratic day, leading the Bears into the red zone multiple times, but asking Robbie Gould to do most of the scoring. Muhsin Muhammad is the only Bear to score a touchdown, but in the end it’s enough. Bears 16-14.

Tampa Bay (+9.5) at Carolina, Monday 8:30 p.m.

Comments: Coming off two straight losses and then a bye, Carolina enters with something to prove. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, enters just hoping to avoid a blowout. Just when it seemed its defense was beginning to improve, Tampa Bay was scorched for 31 points last week. The offense may be even worse, ranking near the bottom of the league in both passing and rushing offense. Although Bruce Gradkowski has thrown just one interception in 186 attempts, he’s getting a paltry 4.6 YPA, good for last in the league. It’s been boom or bust for Joey Galloway each week, while mostly just bust for the once promising Michael Clayton. Carnell Williams has had one of the most disappointing seasons in the NFL this year…Jake Delhomme has had an uneven year himself, but Tampa’s secondary has proven to be a real weakness this year. Expect a heavy dose of Steve Smith, who has broken the century mark in receiving yards each of the last three times he’s played the Bucs. Now that DeAngelo Williams is back, expect him to slowly start taking carries away from an ineffective DeShaun Foster, eventually leading to a much bigger role. Foster simply hasn’t proven the ability to break tackles this year, routinely going down on first contact. All signs point to an easy Panthers’ victory here, but Carolina hasn’t been able blowout any opponent this season…Juran Bolden (hip), Michael Pittman (shoulder), Shelton Quarles (knee) and Simeon Rice (shoulder) are questionable for Tampa Bay, while Justin Hartwig (groin) is doubtful and Ken Lucas (groin) is questionable for Carolina…Jake Delhomme is 6-1 in his career against the Buccaneers.

Predictions: Bruce Gradkowski gets picked off for the second time in his career and never finds the end zone. Carnell Williams scores the Bucs’ lone touchdown, as he also takes over third down duty for an ailing Michael Pittman. Jake Delhomme counters with two touchdown tosses, with Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Smith being the recipients. Smith also contributes 130 receiving yards. DeShaun Foster loses some carries to DeAngelo Williams, but he does reach paydirt, continuing the Buccaneers’ misery. Panthers 21-13.

Late Season Trading Strategies

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

With most leagues’ trading deadlines right around the corner, it becomes increasingly important for owners to take stock of their teams and make smart trades based on a few key strategies. I’ve outlined my favorites below.

1. Trading for the Playoffs

I’ve discussed this strategy before. If your team is headed to the playoffs then you should be looking to acquire guys with favorable matchups those weeks. You should go as far as to set your lineup for those crucial weeks and see where there are holes. Then you can trade for a good QB matchup in Week 16 or a solid defense in Week 15 accordingly.

2. Trading for the Rest of the Regular Season

If you’re still scrambling just to make the playoffs, then you need to focus on the next four weeks as the most important of the season. Treat them as your playoffs and look to maximize good matchups.

3. Weakening Your Opponent

If you have a big game coming up, see if you can give that owner a player with a bad matchup that week for someone with a favorable matchup, thus greatly increasing your chances of getting a key win. This can also be a very effective tactic in the playoffs if you can anticipate who you’ll be playing there.

4. Weakening Your Rival

If you’re competing for a top seed or playoff spot with another team, see if you can make a trade that will strengthen their opponent during a particular week and hopefully hand your rival a key loss.

Week 10 Lineup Rankings

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

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1. Donovan McNabb
2. Peyton Manning
3. Michael Vick
4. Marc Bulger
5. Jon Kitna
6. Tom Brady
7. Carson Palmer
8. Tony Romo

9. Philip Rivers
10. Drew Brees
11. Ben Roethlisberger
12. David Garrard
13. Jake Delhomme
14. Brett Favre
15. Eli Manning
16. Damon Huard

17. Rex Grossman
18. Matt Leinart
19. Seneca Wallace
20. Jake Plummer
21. Alex Smith

22. Chad Pennington
23. Mark Brunell
24. Charlie Frye
25. Steve McNair
26. Joey Harrington
27. Brad Johnson
28. Bruce Gradkowski
29. J.P. Losman
30. David Carr

31. Vince Young
32. Andrew Walter

Running Backs

1. LaDainian Tomlinson
2. Larry Johnson

3. Kevin Jones
4. Brian Westbrook
5. Steven Jackson
6. Chester Taylor
7. Ronnie Brown
8. Willie Parker
9. Mike Bell – If Tatum doesn’t suit up
10. Clinton Portis
11. Frank Gore
12. Julius Jones
13. Fred Taylor
14. Joseph Addai
15. Rudi Johnson
16. Tiki Barber
17. Ahman Green
18. Warrick Dunn

19. Corey Dillon
20. Maurice Morris
21. Thomas Jones
22. Maurice Jones-Drew
23. DeShaun Foster
24. Jamal Lewis
25. Wali Lundy
26. Anthony Thomas
27. Deuce McAllister

28. Marion Barber
29. Laurence Maroney
30. Cadillac Williams
31. Edgerrin James
32. Leon Washington
33. Reuben Droughns
34. LaMont Jordan
35. Reggie Bush
36. Brandon Jacobs
37. Travis Henry
38. DeAngelo Williams
39. Ladell Betts
40. Jerious Norwood

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith
2. Torry Holt
3. Roy Williams
4. Terrell Owens
5. Marvin Harrison
6. Reggie Wayne
7. Anquan Boldin
8. Javon Walker

9. Donald Driver
10. TJ Houshmandzadeh
11. Andre Johnson
12. Hines Ward
13. Chad Johnson
14. Darrell Jackson
15. Marques Colston
16. Plaxico Burress

17. Chris Chambers
18. Lee Evans
19. Laveranues Coles
20. Reggie Brown
21. Donte Stallworth
22. Joey Galloway
23. Deion Branch
24. Larry Fitzgerald – Only supposed to play half the snaps
25. Muhsin Muhammad

26. Terry Glenn
27. Braylon Edwards
28. Keyshawn Johnson
29. Greg Jennings – Check Status
30. Joe Horn – Check status
31. Mike Furrey
32. Randy Moss
33. Matt Jones
34. Mark Clayton

35. Doug Gabriel
36. Isaac Bruce
37. Eddie Kennison
38. Eric Parker
39. Joe Jurevicius
40. Marty Booker
41. Antonio Bryant
42. Michael Jenkins
43. Derrick Mason
44. Kevin Curtis
45. Keenan McCardell

46. Reche Caldwell
47. Jerricho Cotchery
48. Wes Welker
49. Rod Smith
50. Drew Bennett

* Note – If Santana Moss plays, consider him a tier 4 option.

Bets of the Week

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

This week is great for teasers as a number of NFL teams are favored by around a touchdown.  The Eagles (-7 at home against the Redskins) and the Lions (-6 at home against the 49ers) make for a very appealing 6-point teaser, while I like pairing the Eagles with the Falcons (-9 at home against the Browns) in a 7-point teaser.  If you want to get crazy and throw in a few more teams, the Ravens (at the Titans) and the Cowboys (at the Cardinals) are both 7-point favorites and while both teams should win those games, they are also somewhat susceptible to road upsets, so be wary.  On the college front, my beloved Stanford Cardinal are only 19-point underdogs at Washington, where Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham should have no problem running up the score on his former team.  Give the points.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, November 6th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: While many fantasy sites charge membership fees or ask for donations via PayPal, we realize that we don’t exactly have enough content to merit such methods. That said, we are all quite broke and ask if you, our loyal base of readers, could periodically click on and briefly check out our google ads and sponsors located within this post. Just one a day would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

O.K., I admit it. I haven’t been taking Baltimore seriously enough. Their defense is legit.

Drew Brees has to be mentioned in MVP talks at this point. In the last three weeks, he’s thrown nine touchdown passes against the likes of Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Baltimore. His 7.8 YPA on the season is also remarkable. It’s been mentioned from time to time, but Nick Saban’s decision to go with Daunte Culpepper over Brees is proving to be a franchise-crushing one.

I’m usually against players losing their roles because of injury, but Damon Huard simply cannot be benched at this point.

When all is said and done, Larry Johnson’s name will be brought into the greatest running backs of all-time conversation.

Just when we think Michael Vick has turned the corner, the Falcons can’t win the game they are supposed to. Still, it’s hard to argue with Vick’s fantasy production, even in losing efforts.

Jamal Lewis is having a mini-resurgence with Brian Billick calling the plays, but call me when he breaks 4.0 YPC in a game.

I was always under the assumption Bill Parcells was a good coach, and therefore, smart. His excuse of “the chart said so” is laughable regarding his decision to go for a 2-point conversion in the first quarter of a game. It’s easy to second-guess these things after the fact, but I was doing it during the fact; it’s amazing how shortsighted coaches can be sometimes. There’s a 99.9 percent chance of making the extra point, and a 40 percent chance of making the 2-point conversion, with endless possibilities of score combinations left in the game being played.

Tatum Bell owners should be worried. Not only is turf toe an injury likely to linger, as we’ve all heard by now, but even Mike Shanahan recently admitted that it’s Mike Bell who fits Denver’s system better. Even once he regains his health, a time-share looks likely here.

Go ahead and consider Jon Kitna a top-8 fantasy quarterback option.

I’m convinced Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber and Jerious Norwood could all be stars when/if given the chance.

Chad Johnson is finally openly complaining about his involvement in the offense. Expect that to directly result in more catches in the ensuing weeks, as there’s often a causal relationship with complaining and production. I still have high hopes for this offense too. That said, I’d rather own T.J. Houshmandzadeh on my fantasy team.

Where did that come from, Ronnie Brown?

It’s repetitive at this point, but Peyton Manning is playing football at a different level than everyone else right now.

Tony Romo is a top-15 fantasy quarterback from here on out.

R.I.P., Minnesota Vikings – Brad Johnson is taking you nowhere.

I was very critical of Minnesota taking Troy Williamson over Mike Williams; looks like we were both wrong.

Who would have thought that the Saints would be 6-2, and Reggie Bush would be having one of the most disappointing seasons in the NFL? The fact his teammate is the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year just makes it that much more ironic.

The Giants are proving they can win ugly and when not playing well – a very good sign. Next week’s tilt against a fired up Bears squad should be a good one.

What an anticlimactic Steelers’ season – no 2-6 team has ever made the playoffs. When not throwing interceptions, Ben Roethlisberger is actually playing extremely well. Yes, I realize that was contradictory.

Good thing I had to face Steven Jackson this week. If only the Rams started to involve him in the passing game, then he’d really be a valuable fantasy back.

Sorry Carnell, I won’t be calling you “Cadillac” again anytime soon.

And finally, I’ll leave you with an actual quote John Madden said during last night’s game: “The best thing would be a touchdown. The worst thing would be a turnover. And the next best thing would be a field goal.” I officially give up.

Game Capsules

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: The following is written for RotoWire’s weekly “game capsules;” I cover the NFC home games.

Atlanta (-5.5) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: It’s unclear if Michael Vick’s newfound passing success is permanent, but it is the surest sign of progress shown in quite some time. Likewise, Jon Kitna has had success with Mike Martz’s system, throwing for 264 yards a game. While that has yet to translate into wins for Detroit, it at least shows that the offense is moving in the right direction. Coming off a bye, look for Kitna and Roy Williams to expose an overrated DeAngelo Hall, while Kevin Jones remains a big part of the passing game…If Michael Vick continues to look downfield while scrambling, he’ll basically become indefensible. Expect another big effort from Vick against a mistake-prone Detroit secondary. Alge Crumpler is getting healthier after offseason knee surgery, as he now has four touchdown catches over the last two games. He’s back into elite status among tight ends in the league. Jerious Norwood will continue to get more involved in Atlanta’s offense, combining with Warrick Dunn to help pad its league-leading rushing stats, as the Falcons have too much firepower for a lackluster Detroit defense…Atlanta will be without John Abraham (groin), while Ed Hartwell (knee) is questionable to play. Detroit will be missing Shaun Cody (toe), while James Hall (shoulder) is listed as questionable.

Predictions: Jon Kitna puts another 280 passing yards on the board, along with a pair of interceptions and touchdowns. Mike Furrey catches one of the TDs, while Roy Williams hauls in the other, along with 120 receiving yards. Kevin Jones gets 100 yards combined but doesn’t reach paydirt. Michael Vick doesn’t slow down, tossing for 220 yards and TD strikes to Alge Crumpler and Michael Jenkins. He also adds another 50 yards on the ground. Warrick Dunn gets 90 rushing yards, but Jerious Norwood runs in the score, helping Atlanta win its third straight. Falcons 24-20.

Dallas (-3) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: A bye week may have gotten Washington healthier, but it remains to be seen if its other ills have been cured. Despite some rumblings of the Jason Campbell era beginning, Mark Brunell (ribs, probable) remains at the helm for a struggling Redskins squad that’s dropped three straight games. It won’t be easy with the team’s top playmaker, Santana Moss, looking unlikely to play. He missed practice all week and was shut down the last time he faced Dallas, so don’t expect a big outing from Moss even if he’s able to suit up. Clinton Portis (ankle, probable), meanwhile, has used the extra week of rest to get back to health and figures to be a prominent part of the game plan Sunday. Against a run defense allowing just 80 yards a game, the task will be difficult. Chris Cooley has become more involved in the offense as the year has progressed and should be one of Brunell’s top targets again Sunday…Not only is Dallas’ defense fast improving, but Tony Romo has made this offense an interesting and potentially dangerous one. His ability to elude the pass rush has given a previously stagnant offense a much-needed shot of adrenaline, with Jason Witten and Terrell Owens being the biggest beneficiaries. Owens was targeted a staggering 16 times last week, leading to a season-high in both catches and yards for the suddenly happy wideout…Dallas is 15-3 in its last 18 games against Washington.

Predictions: Dallas’ physical secondary forces Mark Brunell to check down early and often, resulting in a modest 160 passing yards. He does, however, connect with Chris Cooley for a touchdown. Clinton Portis gets 90 yards and a rushing score as well. Tony Romo answers with another solid day, as he finds both Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn in the end zone. Owens has another big game, catching eight balls for more than 100 yards with the score. Julius Jones breaks the century mark on the ground, but Marion Barber once again pilfers the touchdown, as these two teams are moving in opposite directions. Cowboys 24-17.

Houston (+13) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Despite completing 71 percent of his passes, David Carr was pulled from the game last week after a terrible interception thrown into quadruple coverage and two fumbles lost. While no longer leading the league in passer rating, Carr is still having a rather solid season, which is why he will return as Houston’s starter this week, despite backup Sage Rosenfel’s impressive job filling in. Andre Johnson was targeted a league-high 18 times Week 8, bringing his total to 81 on the year, good for third in the NFL. His 56 catches and 669 receiving yards, however, lead the entire league, showing just how big of a step the fourth-year wideout has taken this year. A model of consistency, Johnson hasn’t caught fewer than eight balls or 75 receiving yards since Week 2. It looks like Houston has finally found its feature back in Wali Lundy, who totaled 149 yards on just 23 touches last week, marking his second straight strong effort. Expect a productive second half of the season out of the rookie…Winners of four straight, the Giants need to be careful not to look ahead to next week’s big game against Chicago. New York’s defense has improved each week of the season, exemplified by holding Bruce Gradkowski to a pathetic 2.9 YPA last week. Expect another strong pass rush from its front seven, despite the absence of Osi Umenyiora (hip, questionable). Eli Manning could pick apart Houston’s weak secondary, but the Giants’ running game may be the dominant force come Sunday…Houston lists Ephraim Salaam (ankle, questionable), Anthony Weaver (knee, probable) and Mario Williams (foot, probable) on the injury report, while New York does the same with Sam Madison (hamstring, questionable), Brandon Short (quad, questionable) and Plaxico Burress (back, probable)… Houston hasn’t won a road game since 2004, having dropped its last 11 games played away from home.

Predictions: David Carr is again faced with constant pressure but bounces back with a decent game, with most of his stats coming in garbage time. Andre Johnson catches 10 passes for 120 yards and a score, while Wali Lundy gets 90 combined yards and a touchdown of his own. Eli Manning counters with 240 yards and scoring strikes to Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey, while Tiki Barber adds another 140 yards on the ground. Once again, Brandon Jacobs gets the goal line score, as well as another 40 yards to help run out the clock. Giants 24-14.

Kansas City (+2.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Damon Huard is having one of the most underrated seasons in the NFL. He’s not just winning games, he’s doing so while completing 65 percent of his passes, getting 7.8 YPA and sporting an 8/1 TD/INT ratio. While coach Herm Edwards is adamant about Trent Green returning as the starter once healthy, for now, the Chiefs remain in the solid hands of Huard, who has a fine matchup against a shaky Rams’ secondary Sunday. Since getting off to a solid start, St. Louis’ passing defense has really regressed, so expect big days out of Eddie Kennison and Tony Gonzalez. Larry Johnson may eventually wear down given his heavy workload (his 41 touches last week were the most by any player in a game so far this year), but it’s hard not to like the way he’s running right now. There simply isn’t a player more difficult to bring down on first contact than Johnson…For all its defensive shortcomings, St. Louis still possesses a potent offensive attack, especially in the passing department. Marc Bulger is having his best season yet, with 7.8 YPA and a 12/1 TD/INT ratio. Kansas City hasn’t been especially easy to pass on overall this year, but its secondary has allowed multiple touchdown passes four straight weeks, including three by first time starter Seneca Wallace last week. Ty Law looks washed up, which means another huge game from Torry Holt is in the cards…Neither team has any significant injury issues… Kansas City has won its last three games when playing St. Louis but is just 1-4 during its last five road games.

Predictions: Damon Huard throws for more than 260 yards and a score, which Tony Gonzalez hauls in. Larry Johnson again terrorizes the defense, getting 140 total yards and two rushing scores. Marc Bulger responds with 300 passing yards and fires two scoring strikes, with Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce being the recipients. Steven Jackson approaches 100 yards and also finds the end zone, as homefield is the difference in the shootout. Rams 27-24.

Miami (+13.5) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Joey Harrington hasn’t turned into the savior Miami needed, and it’s becoming apparent that it’s a lost season for the Dolphins. Since taking over for Daunte Culpepper, Harrington has gotten 6.2 YPA and thrown seven interceptions compared to just three touchdowns. Facing the best defense in the NFL Sunday, things could get ugly. Chris Chambers has had a largely disappointing season, suffering from too many drops. Randy McMichael, however, has greatly benefited from the switch at quarterback, as he is prominently featured in the passing game again. Wes Welker has had a surprisingly solid year, but don’t forget about Marty Booker, who is back to health and received 13 targets during Miami’s last game…Rex Grossman bounced back with a strong game last week but faces a defense that hasn’t been as easy to move the ball on as its record suggests. It’s a secondary that has, however, allowed 12 touchdown passes already. Good news for Desmond Clark, who has turned himself into quite the receiving threat. Cedric Benson continues to remain involved, but Thomas Jones gets the carries that matter most…The Dolphins list Channing Crowder (foot), Travis Daniels (knee) and Jeno James (knee) as questionable, while the Bears list Tank Johnson (shoulder) as probable…Chicago is 10-1 in its last 11 games at home.

Predictions: Joey Harrington’s season only gets worse, as he turns the ball over three times while never getting his team into the end zone. Ronnie Brown manages 70 total yards, but it’s only field goals for Miami’s offense. Rex Grossman throws for 250 yards and TD tosses to Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad. Thomas Jones adds 80 yards and a score, maintaining Chicago’s undefeated record. Bears 27-6.

New Orleans (-1) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.

Comments: Coming off a near 400-yard performance in a losing effort, Drew Brees looks to continue his strong season (7.5 YPA) against a Tampa Bay team that has been difficult to pass on lately. While the run defense is still ranked toward the bottom of the league, the Buccaneers have also shored up that part of its defense in recent weeks as well, so Deuce McAllister’s day doesn’t figure to be an easy one. Reggie Bush’s rookie year hasn’t been bad, in fact, his mere presence has presented many opportunities for the offense. Still, the fact remains he’s only averaging 3.0 YPC. Seventh-round draft pick Marques Colston is having the bigger rookie campaign…Bruce Gradkowski seems to only get worse the more he plays, but it would help if his receivers didn’t drop so many passes. Michael Clayton’s brilliant rookie season seems like it was a decade ago. Cadillac Williams has at times disappeared but has a nice matchup this week against a soft Saints’ front seven. Despite what the records might indicate, Tampa Bay is no doormat at home, making this a game that isn’t decided until the very end…New Orleans lists Jammal Brown (ankle), Reggie Bush (ankle) and Joe Horn (groin) as questionable, while Tampa Bay does the same with Shelton Quarles (knee) and Simeon Rice (shoulder).

Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 240 yards and a TD to Joe Horn, while Deuce McAllister runs for 70 yards and an additional touchdown. Reggie Bush is relatively shut down, gaining a modest 50 total yards. Bruce Gradkowski doesn’t have a big statistical day, but he does find Joey Galloway for a score. Alex Smith is also featured in the passing game, but it’s Cadillac Williams who scores the Bucs’ other touchdown. Matt Bryant is again heroic, nailing a field goal at the buzzer to win it for the home team. Buccaneers 20-17.

Minnesota (-5) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments: Both teams enter coming off losses in embarrassing fashion. Alex Smith had a terrible day against a tough Bears’ defense and is now pitted against a solid Vikings unit. Minnesota’s secondary enters with something to prove after Tom Brady picked them apart on Monday Night Football. The run defense, however, is the best the league has to offer, so Frank Gore may have to do most of his damage in the passing game. The status of both the Vikings’ key interior linemen, Kevin Williams (ankle, questionable) and Pat Williams (knee, questionable) will be key here…It’s starting to become apparent that the Vikings were winning despite Brad Johnson, not because of him. Still, Minnesota has no better options to turn to, so the team will go as far as Johnson can take them. His 6.5 YPA and 4/7 TD/INT ratio show there’s a lot of work to be done. San Francisco’s porous secondary is a great place to start, but expect a heavy dose of Chester Taylor, who should be in line for a big performance Sunday. Minnesota is the clear favorite on paper, but they are traveling during a short week, and the 49ers are far from pushovers in San Francisco…Vernon Davis (fibula) is doubtful for the 49ers, while Matt Birk (knee), Napoleon Harris (wrist) and Marcus Robinson (back) are questionable for the Vikings…San Francisco is 5-0 in its last five games when playing at home against Minnesota.

Predictions: Alex Smith throws for 230 yards, while finding Antonio Bryant and Frank Gore for scores. Gore also adds 90 yards on the ground. Brad Johnson has an efficient day, resulting in 220 yards and a touchdown to Troy Williamson, who finally ends his long scoring drought. Chester Taylor uses 30 touches to gain 150 yards and a TD run, while the Vikings’ defense returns an Alex Smith pick to the house to seal the game for the road team. Vikings 24-20.

Oakland (+8) at Seattle, Monday 8:30 p.m.

Comments: Seneca Wallace proved he’s capable of moving Seattle’s offense last week but faces the league’s No. 1 ranked pass defense Monday night. While Oakland’s defense has been surprisingly stingy, its offense counters with a passing attack that ranks dead last in the league. Andrew Walters is responsible for 14 turnovers already and completed a remarkably futile five passes during last week’s victory. LaMont Jordan (back, questionable) is likely to return, but it’s unclear just how much of a reinforcement he will provide, as his year has been a disappointing one. Randy Moss faces a beatable Seahawks’ secondary, but he’s dropping as many balls as he’s catching these days…Expect a low-scoring affair Monday night, as Seneca Wallace attempts few downfield passes, especially with Darrell Jackson (foot, probable) nicked up. While getting Floyd Womack back is a plus, Sean Locklear (ankle, questionable) missing practice time all week certainly is not. It’s an offensive line that hasn’t run blocked well all year, so don’t expect a huge game from the still subbing Maurice Morris. Still, with Oakland coming off two consecutive wins and Seattle back-to-back losses, expect the home team to prevail in the end…Oakland lists Michael Huff (shoulder, questionable), Justin Fargas (shoulder, probable) and Warren Sapp (hip, probable) on the injury report, while Seattle names Marcus Tubbs (knee, doubtful), Bobby Engram (illness, questionable) and Chris Spencer (knee, questionable)… Seattle is 12-1 in its last 13 games at home.

Predictions: Andrew Walter again directs a lackluster passing attack, resulting in just 180 yards and no scores. LaMont Jordan doesn’t pile up big yardage numbers, but he does reach paydirt in his return to the lineup. Darrell Jackson suits up and catches a TD pass from Seneca Wallace, while Maurice Morris gains 75 yards on the ground. Mack Strong punches one in from close, abruptly ending the Raiders’ winning streak. Seahawks 20-13.