Archive for September, 2010


By Nick Gallaudet
It is week 4, and now things are getting interesting.  Byes are going to shake up lineups, and everyone should be getting a sense of what their team looks like.  Now is a key time to assess your strengths and weaknesses and fill in your roster accordingly before the trade deadline passes.  Before we get to the games, the teams with byes this week are Dallas, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay, so here are my top 3 bye week replacements at each position:
QB: Bruce Gradkowski OAK, Sam Bradford STL, QB Chad Henne MIA
RB: RB Kenneth Darby STL, RB Justin Forsett, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK, Jeremy Maclin PHI, Mario Manningham NYG
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF:  With the release of Trent Edwards, the team truly is his and he had a decent showing last week refusing to give up in a high scoring loss to the Patriots.  If you had Kevin Kolb or David Garrard as your QB, Fitzpatrick is a decent option (but Bruce Gradkowski is a better one)
RB Kenneth Darby STL: Steven Jackson went down last week with a groin injury and Darby filled in nicely.  He is going against a stout Seattle run defense this week, but he is still worth a look.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK: He may already be owned in your league, but if he’s not, he is definitely worth picking up as he has clearly matured and is a solid fantasy option with Gradkowski throwing the ball.
Now to this week’s slate of games…
San Francisco: Atlanta does not have the best passing defense, but QB Alex Smith can make bad defenses look great.  Smith only has 2 TDs through the air this year, and won’t get a lot of chances with the Falcons playing keep-away this week with their solid running game.  With Smith at the helm, I just can’t recommend any 49er receivers.
Atlanta: San Francisco has allowed a league high 7TDs through the air this year, and last week QB Matt Ryan again showed that his week 1 performance was a result of the Steelers’ amazing defense and not his own ineptitude.  I like WR Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez this week.
San Francisco: Atlanta has allowed 5.1 yards/carry this year and that’s bad news when you’re going to face a workhorse like RB Frank Gore.  Gore should be the focal point of the offense again this week and should rack up some pretty good numbers.
Atlanta: RB Michael Turner bounced back last week after an injury 2 weeks ago, and faces a marginal SF run defense.  I don’t think he will light up the scoreboard this week, but is definitely worth starting.
Start ‘em:
San Francisco: RB Gore
Atlanta: WR White, TE Gonzalez
Sit ‘em:
San Francisco: QB Smith, WR Michael Crabtree
Atlanta: RB Jason Snelling
Cincinnati: I think it’s official.  QB Carson Palmer is not good anymore.  He doesn’t have the arm strength he once had and he should not be considered an elite QB.  WR Chad Ochocinco has been able to fare admirably, however, with such little production from Palmer.  I think this week Ochocinco could have a decent game, but don’t look for much more from this passing offense.
Cleveland: The Browns have no real passing threat, and there is no one on this team that really has any fantasy value through the air, especially against a solid Cincy defense, so stay away from all Browns receivers this week.
Cincinnati: Cleveland has yet to allow a TD on the ground this year, and Cedric Benson has not looked especially good this year, so I wouldn’t expect more than a 70 yard game from him and there’s a decent chance he won’t score, and on top of that, he’s banged up, so don’t bank on him this week.
Cleveland: RB Peyton Hillis shredded a good Ravens defense last week and should continue to carry the load this week as RB Jerome Harrison is still banged up.  I think Hillis can put up good yardage and find his way into the end zone this week.
Start ‘em:
Cincinnati: WR Ochocinco
Cleveland: RB Hillis
Sit ‘em:
Cincinnati: RB Benson
Cleveland: All WRs
NY Jets: QB Mark Sanchez has turned in 2 consecutive all-star weeks, but he should come back down to earth this week.  Look for TE Dustin Keller to figure prominently into the offense again this week and for Sanchez to have a serviceable week, getting WR Braylon Edwards into the mix as well.  There are definitely points to be had against a poor Bills defense
Buffalo: One of the more surprising things this season is the fact that the Jets passing defense looks vulnerable, ranking 27th in passing defense.  Look for a rejuvenated Bills offense to put up some sort of fight this week and for WR Lee Evans to finally break through this week.
NY Jets: RB LaDanian Tomlinson looks like anew man in New York.  He looks electric and rejuvenated and should have a good week against a Bills defense that got run all over by less-than-intimidating New England ground game.  I like RB Shonn Greene to get back on track in this game, too, but I think Tomlinson will have the bigger game.
Buffalo: RB Marshawn Lynch appears to be the guy in Buffalo, but don’t expect much from him, or any other Bills back against the immovable Jets run defense, especially since the Bills couldn’t do much on the ground against a poor Pats defense last week.
Start ‘em:
NY Jets: RB Tomlinson, TE Keller
Buffalo: WR Evans
Sit ‘em:
NY Jets: WR Cotchery
Buffalo: RB Lynch, RB CJ Spiller
Seattle: By no means is St. Louis good against the pass, but they did manage to somewhat shutdown the Redskins last week.  I think that the Seahawks will not be as formidable away from Seattle, but QB Matt Hasselbeck has simply found a way to score this year.  I think he could have his hand in a couple TDs this week, but I don’t think anyone in the passing game will be too impressive this week.
St. Louis: Seattle is the 3rd worst in the league against the pass, and with RB Steven Jackson hurt, look for the Rams to let QB Sam Bradford loose a little bit.  I think he and WR Mark Clayton could both have good days, and don’t sleep on WR Danny Amendola, who has also been targeted a lot this year.
Seattle: The Rams are not a good defensive team and are allowing over 5 yards/carry, so look for RB Justin Forsett to have a good game this week, especially if you need a bye week replacement at RB.
St. Louis: After Jackson went down last week, RB Kenneth Darby stepped in and took care of business.  Jackson is questionable this week, so if he’s out, I like a fresh Darby to have a good week against a decent Seattle run D.
Start ‘em:
Seattle: RB Forsett
St. Louis: QB Bradford, WR Clayton
Sit ‘em:
Seattle: WR Mike Williams, WR Deon Butler
St. Louis: RB Jackson
Denver: QB Kyle Orton is 2nd in the league in passing yards, but he struggles when he gets to the red zone.  Tennessee also has a good pass defense, so I don’t think Orton will have a very good day.  He could have a good enough day to warrant a start for WR Demaryius Thomas, however, since WR Brandon Lloyd is banged up, Thomas could reap the benefits and is worth a start.
Tennessee: QB Vince Young is dynamic, without a doubt, but he does have fewer passing yards than Seneca Wallace this year.  Young is simply not a good fantasy QB and his WRs suffer as a result.  Denver does have a poor pass defense, but I just don’t have faith in Young at this point.
Denver: The Denver running game could not produce last week against a really bad Indy run defense, and probably won’t fare much better this week against a good Titans defense.  Right now, with RB Knowshon Moreno hurting and RBs Correll Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney splitting carries, there is no real fantasy value here.
Tennessee: Denver has a solid run defense, but they have not really seen a prolific runner yet, so I expect RB Chris Johnson to continue his dominance and put up good numbers this week.
Start ‘em:
Denver: WR Thomas
Tennessee: RB Johnson
Sit ‘em:
Denver: All RBs
Tennessee: All WRs
Detroit: QB Shaun Hill has been a serviceable replacement for Matt Stafford, but the production hasn’t been astounding.  As a result, WR Calvin Johnson’s production has suffered and I don’t expect that trend to get much better against a Packers defense that ranks 3rd in the league against the pass.
Green Bay: Detroit does not have a very good pass defense, and Green Bay has something to prove.  I think the Packers will make sure they play out of their minds this week after their Monday Night implosion, and I expect TE Jermichael Finley to continue tearing up defenses.
Detroit: Green Bay is less effective against the run than the pass, but I expect the Lions to be playing from behind this game, so I don’t think RB Jahvid Best will do much better than his 7 carry, 26 yard performance last week.
Green Bay: RB Brandon Jackson has not been very good replacing Ryan Grant, and RB John Kuhn looks to get the goal line carries, making both backs poor options this week, but I do think Kuhn will punch one in this week.
Start ‘em:
Detroit: None
Green Bay: QB Aaron Rodgers, TE Finley, GB Defense
Sit ‘em:
Detroit: RB Best, WR Johnson
Green Bay: RB Jackson
Baltimore: QB Joe Flacco finally had a decent fantasy week last week, and WR Anquan Boldin has outperformed everyone’s expectations this year.  It’s too bad they play the Steelers this week, because that means they’re going to have to wait until next week to get back on track because the Steelers defense this year has been impossible to score on, and this week shouldn’t be any different. 
Pittsburgh: It’s starting to look like WR Mike Wallace might be for real, but again, he’s going to have to wait until next week to show off again, because he’s going against the best pass defense in the NFL.  I’d hold out a little more hope if QB Ben Roethlisberger was back this week, but this game will be decided by the defenses.
Baltimore: RB Ray Rice has been struggling this year, he’s a little hurt and he’s going against the Steelers this week…sit him.
Pittsburgh: RB Rashard Mendenhall is the only player in this game that has a shot at making an impact fantasy-wise this week.  I personally wouldn’t start him this week, but if you’re going to start anyone in this game, it’s him.
Start ‘em:
Baltimore: None
Steelers: PIT Defense
Sit ‘em:
Baltimore: Everyone
Steelers: Everyone
Carolina: QB Jimmy Clausen looked like he was not ready for his first NFL start, and I don’t think he’ll be able to do much better against a confusing Saints defense.  His leading receiver last week had 47 yards, so it doesn’t look like there is much fantasy value here, sorry WR Steve Smith owners.
New Orleans: QB Drew Brees had a big week in defeat last week against a solid Falcons defense, so look for him to respond with a similar performance this week, but, as always, who knows who is going to benefit from Brees’ production.  This week, I pick WR Marques Colston.
Carolina: New Orleans has the 3rd worst rush defense in the league, so maybe this will be the week the Panthers RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will break out.  Don’t count on it, but I do think Williams will have a serviceable week and should be started.
New Orleans: Carolina has a decent run defense, but RB Pierre Thomas is a great player and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, through the air or on the ground and should be started every week.
Start ‘em:
Carolina: RB Williams
New Orleans: QB Brees, RB Thomas, WR Colston
Sit ‘em:
Carolina: QB Clausen, WR Smith
New Orleans: WR Lance Moore
Indianapolis: Who leads the NFL in receiving yards and TDs? Randy Moss? No.  Reggie Wayne? No.  It’s Austin Collie.  The 2nd year wide receiver is really blossoming this year and should continue to produce at a high level all year, and is a great start this week against the 4th worst pass defense in the league.  QB Peyton Manning has thrown 3 TDs every week and I don’t see why he’d slow down this week.
Jacksonville: QB David Garrard has led his team to the bottom of the pile in the AFC.  The Jaguars have been awful this year, and I think the Indy pass rush will be too much to handle and there will be little value in the Jaguars’ passing game this week.
Indianapolis: Both RBs Donald Brown and Joseph Addai are dinged up this week, as usual, and I don’t expect much from either this week.  Both are a threat to score, but it’s tough to predict who will get the ball in the red zone.  I would look for other options at RB, but if you need to start one of them, I’d pick Addai.
Jacksonville: This is RB Maurice Jones-Drew’s last chance to prove he’s not a fantasy bust this year.  He is facing a poor run defense and needs to step up and carry his team this week, or the Jaguars’ season is over. 
Start ‘em:
Indianapolis: QB Manning, WR Collie, WR Wayne
Jacksonville: RB Jones-Drew
Sit ‘em:
Indianapolis: RB Brown
Jacksonville: QB Garrard, all WRs
Houston: Oakland has the 2nd best pass defense in the league, and WR Andre Johnson has been slowed by a bum ankle in 2 straight games.  QB Matt Schaub has been up and down this season, and I expect RB Arian Foster to be a big part of the game plan this week, so I’m not too sure what to expect from Schaub.  I do think he’ll have decent numbers, but with Johnson hurt, WRs Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones will need to step up.
Oakland: Houston is dead last in passing defense this year, QB Bruce Gradkowski should have a big game this week, and is my favorite bye week replacement this week.  If WR Louis Murphy plays, he should have a huge game, as will WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, both WRs should be started, as well as TE Zach Miller, who had a good game last week.
Houston: RB Arian Foster had a key fumble last week, but he should bounce back against the Raiders’ rushing defense this week.  I don’t think he’ll have an amazing game, but I do think he’ll put up over 100 total yards, and possibly a score.
Oakland: RB Darren McFadden cannot be stopped.  Before the season, I thought the job would be RB Michael Bush’s, but McFadden was given an opportunity with Bush’s thumb injury and has put up the 3rd most yards by any RB this year.  Houston does have the 2nd ranked run defense though, and I expect McFadden to be bottled up this week.
Start ‘em:
Houston: WR Walter
Oakland: QB Gradkowski, WR Heyward-Bey, WR Murphy
Sit ‘em:
Houston: WR Johnson
Oakland: RB McFadden
Washington: Philadelphia has a top 10 pass defense, and QB Donovan McNabb looked a little shaky against a not-so-good Rams defense last week, that doesn’t bode well for this week in Philadelphia.  WR Santana Moss has had a little resurgence now that he has a decent QB, and should be started this week.
Philadelphia: Washington has the 2nd worst pass defense this year and QB Michael Vick seems to be for real.  He’s carved up defenses for 3 straight weeks and it should continue this week.  Look for WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to continue their hot streaks this week.
Washington: RB Ryan Torain was the leading rusher for Washington last week as he split carries with RB Clinton Portis, but most of his yards came on 1 carry.  No one in Washington seems to know who will get the majority of the carries this week, so I would stay away from Redskin running backs this week.
Philadelphia:  RB LeSean McCoy came back down to earth last week, like I predicted, and he put up numbers you will likely see from him the rest of the season.  This is Michael Vick’s offense and will revolve around him as long as he plays the way he has been, so McCoy is not a good option this week.
Start ‘em:
Washington: WR Moss
Philadelphia: QB Vick, WR Jackson, WR Maclin
Sit ‘em:
Washington: RB Portis
Philadelphia: RB McCoy
Arizona: QB Derek Anderson threw 2 TDs last week, but don’t let that fool you.  He is terribly inefficient and is a poor option against a San Diego defense with something to prove.  WR Larry Fitzgerald was shut down for the most part last week, but he should have a better game away from the solid Raiders pass defense.
San Diego: QB Phillip Rivers leads the league in passing yards, and he and TE Antonio Gates seem to be unstoppable.  I like the San Diego air attack a lot this week and think both WRs Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Nannee should be started this week.
Arizona: RB Beanie Wells is still a little hurt, and I don’t think either he or RB Tim Hightower will have much of a game this week against an angry SD defense.
San Diego: RB Ryan Mathews is probable for this week, but I think San Diego will be more focused on the pass game, so I don’t think he’ll have a great game, but he should still put up a good amount of points.
Start ‘em:
Arizona: WR Fitzgerald
San Diego: QB Rivers, TE Gates, WR Floyd
Sit ‘em
Arizona: RB Hightower
San Diego: RB Sproles
Chicago: In one of the stranger primetime matchups of the season, the Bears will look to continue their undefeated start.  The Giants have a decent pass defense, but they have given up some TDs this year.  I think they’ll come out with a little passion this week after being embarrassed 2 weeks in a row, but Cutler should still have a productive game.  I like WR Johnny Knox to get his points, but not a whole lot else from the passing game.
NY Giants: QB Eli Manning will have to take this team on his shoulder this week, since he won’t get much help from his running game against the solid Bears D.  I think Manning will throw a pick or two, but he should have a decent statistical game, and I just have a feeling about WR Mario Manningham this week, so I would start all 3 Giants WRs.
Chicago: RB Matt Forte needs to get his points through the air, because he certainly hasn’t done anything on the ground this year.  I don’t see much through the air for him this week, so I would sit him.
NY Giants: RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are in for a tough night against this stout Bears defense.  The Bears have only allowed 119 yards on the ground all year, so don’t look for much this week.
Start ‘em:
Chicago: WR Knox
NY Giants: QB Manning, WR Manningham
Sit ‘em:
Chicago: RB Forte
NY Giants: RB Jacobs, RB Bradshaw
New England: QB Tom Brady has earned the right to be started every week, but I don’t feel good about t his week.  I don’t think the Patriots will get too many chances to score, since Miami will try and chew the clock by running all over the bad Pats defense.  That being said, I have trouble calling for WRs Wes Welker and Randy Moss to be benched, so unless you have better options, you kind of have to start the Pats QB and WRs.
Miami: WR Brandon Marshall has more targets than any other WR in the NFL, and the Patriots defense is susceptible to the pass.  QB Chad Henne is a decent bye week replacement, as well as WR Brian Hartline, but Miami may not pass the ball a whole lot so be careful.
New England: Miami ranks toward the bottom of the pack in rush defense, but the Patriots do not really have 1 viable running option.  RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis should get the majority of the carries from here on out, but I don’t particularly like this matchup for him this week.
Miami: I think Miami is going to run a lot against New England, and the Patriots haven’t exactly been great against the run this season.  I think RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will both get their share of carries, but as usual, don’t look for either to top 100 yards or score more than once.
Start ‘em:
New England: WR Moss
Miami: RB Brown, WR Marshall
Sit ‘em:
New England: RB Green-Ellis
Miami: None
Starts of the Week:
QB Bruce Gradkowski OAK
RB Frank Gore SF
RB Maurice Jones-Drew JAX
WR DeSean Jackson PHI
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK
WR Roddy White ATL
TE Antonio Gates SD
K Jeff Reed PIT
DEF Green Bay

>By Dylan Davis
Don’t get me wrong; this was a great month for college football. There were some incredible games (Michigan State/Notre Dame, Boise State/Virginia Tech, Michigan/Notre Dame to name a few), some breakout performers (Denard Robinson, Kenjon Barner, Justin Blackmon, etc…) and some shakeups in the polls. With that being said, not much was done to clarify the race for…pretty much anything. The national title race hasn’t gotten much clearer as the weeks have progressed and new teams have been added while some beginning of the year favorites have fallen to the wayside. The Heisman race lost its leader in Mark Ingram before the season started and only Denard Robinson has impressed enough so far this year. Robinson has gotten injured this year and staying healthy may be a struggle, so even he may drop out some point. Ingram has crept back into the discussion with two stellar performances, but he may have missed too much time to win the award.
Even within the conferences, there are no clear favorites except for Boise in the WAC. Parity is great for sports, but having favorites and upsets are even better in the long run, and that’s why I’m ready for October. October looks to clarify a number of conference races and should shake out the contenders from the pretenders before the stretch run begins in November. There are a number of marquee matchups this month, and this upcoming week may be the most loaded. Let’s jump in.

Most Impressive Teams:

  • Miami Hurricanes – The Hurricanes were one of the favorites for the national title at the start of the year before getting humiliated at Ohio State in the second week of the season. It seemed as if much of the country forgot about the ‘Canes, but they kept winning and slinking around the top 20. They inserted themselves back into the national picture in a big way in their blowout of Pitt on national TV in primetime on Thursday night. Their defense put on a clinic as they held Dion Lewis to 41 rushing yards and the entire Pitt offense to 232 total yards. The offense did their fair share as they compiled 350 yards and 31 points. 31-3 is an impressive score against most teams, but at the home stadium of a preseason contender, that’s just downright shocking.

  • Alabama Crimson Tide – I did pick the Tide to roll (I had to put bad jokes somewhere, since I had no puns in my title) by 20 points last week, so in that regard they were actually a disappointment. Anyone who watched this game, however, knows that Alabama showed a lot more in this victory than they could have with a blowout. Ryan Mallett shellacked their defense in the first half and Greg McElroy couldn’t get the passing game going. They fell behind by a score of 20-7 with 5 minutes left in third and all looked lost. The Arkansas crowd was raucous as usual and the Razorbacks defense was playing out of their minds. Then Nick Saban seemed to remember that he had Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. The two backs simply dominated down the stretch and the defense showed it could play at a championship level. The Tide scored 17 straight points to close the game and escaped Fayetteville with the big W. The entire team showed heart and determination on the road against a confident and talented conference rival. I look forward to see how they handle the dominant defense of Florida this coming week.

  • Stanford Cardinal – This is the type of game Stanford is supposed to lose. They were coming off a dominating win at home against Wake Forest and they were going to a desperate rival’s home stadium. Notre Dame needed a win to stay at .500 for the year. Usually the Cardinal would get cocky and lose or freeze up and get blown out of the stadium. Instead, they flashed brilliance on both sides of the ball in cruising to a surprisingly easy 37-14 rout. Andrew Luck had a decent day passing the ball (238 yards and a touchdown) but the running game showed it could carry the day (pun intended) by grinding out 166 yards. Stanford will show us what they really have this week against a red-hot Oregon team Saturday night in Eugene, but for now they can bask in the glow of a domination of their hated rival.

Most Disappointing Teams:

  • Tennessee Volunteers – The Vols didn’t show too much last week in a loss to Florida at home, but they weren’t supposed to. The Gators have far more talent and have the dominated the series as of late. When UAB comes to town, that’s when you’re supposed to take care of business. Sure, the Vols pulled out the victory in double-OT, and usually that shows a team has what it takes to win. But most of the time when that happens, the opposing kicker doesn’t miss five field goals in regulation. That’s not a typo; UAB kicker Josh Zaun missed five field goals without a make in regulation. This is an embarrassing way to win for the Volunteers and they should take nothing positive from this game.

  • Texas Longhorns – The Longhorns not only disappointed their fan-base with a stunning home loss to UCLA, the disappointed everyone hoping for future big games against Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Horns hadn’t looked great on offense the first three weeks of the season, but they were supposed to have a stifling defense that kept them in ball games. To give up 34 points to a team that amassed 27 yards passing on 9 attempts is simply horrible. The previously awful Bruins offense amassed 264 rushing yards with almost no balance. The Texas offense did score one touchdown, but that was with 2 minutes left in the game when it made absolutely no difference. The entire country has been deprived of two potentially great games as the Horns have shown they will put up no fight in either of those games on the offensive end.

  • Pittsburgh Panthers – I went over the Miami/Pitt game above, so I won’t go too in depth, but the Panthers fall from grace has been stunning. They’ve played a fairly difficult opening stretch to start the season, but they’ve looked awful nonetheless. The running game was supposed to be a strength of this team, but it’s been anemic and the passing game has been totally invisible with a new quarterback at the helm. The good news for the Panthers is that the rest of the Big East has looked equally terrible, so they still have a shot at the conference crown.

Best Finish:

  • Arizona vs. Cal – This was a defensive struggle from the start, which was a surprise because Arizona put up points on a great Iowa defense last week and the Bears haven’t stopped anyone good this year. So when the Bears were holding the Wildcats to a mere 3 points with a few minutes left in the game, thy had to feel good. The problem was that they had only mustered three field goals, and a touchdown by the home-standing Cats would lose them the game. Nick Foles took control of the offense with 2:37 left at his own 27-yard line and proceeded to march his team down to the 3-yard line with a little over a minute to play. From there, he hooked up with 6’4” receiver Juron Criner for the winning touchdown to propel the Wildcats to victory.

Best Games:

  • Alabama vs. Arkansas – I went over this game in the section above, so I won’t go too in depth. This game showed why the Tide is the favorite to repeat for the national title. Going into an SEC rival’s stadium is never an easy task, and when that rival is ranked 10th with Ryan Mallett at the helm that margin for error becomes razor thin. The SEC should be a wide-open, exciting race this year, and I expect both of these teams to feature prominently. With that being said, the Razorbacks now have to hope for two Alabama loses in SEC play if they want a shot to play for thee championship in Atlanta.

  • Auburn vs. South Carolina – This game was going on at the same time as Boise State/Oregon State, so many people probably missed it, but it was every bit as compelling as advertised. Cameron Newton was absolutely phenomenal in leading the Tigers to victory. He amassed over 150 yards passing and rushing despite being the target of the Gamecocks defense. Auburn’s offense ground out almost 500 total yards, but two lost fumbles kept South Carolina in the game. Steve Spurrier made a controversial decision to bench Stephen Garcia, his starting QB, in favor of Connor Shaw, an inexperienced backup. The move backfired when Shaw threw an interception on SC’s final drive of the night, killing any chance of a comeback the Gamecocks had.

Best Players:

  • Trey Burton (QB Florida) – A physical, dual-threat, freshman quarterback spells a pass first, pocket passer for Florida and proceeds to score multiple touchdowns against an SEC rival. Stop me if this sounds familiar. No, Tim Tebow is not back in college, but what freshman Trey Burton did against Kentucky was astounding. He ran the ball 5 times for 40 yards, threw for 42 yards, and had 5 receptions for 37 yards. Those stats are decent enough, but what makes it amazing was that Burton scored 6 touchdowns. He scored on all five of his runs and even caught a touchdown from starter John Brantley. This week against Alabama should pose a tougher test, but this was impressive nonetheless from Burton.

  • Mark Ingram (HB Alabama) – The reigning Heisman winner was an absolute beast against Arkansas as he racked up 184 total yards on 26 touches and bulldozed for 2 touchdowns on the ground. The stat-line is impressive, but anyone who watched this game knows that Ingram consistently got good yardage on every rush and almost single-handedly kept the Tide offense afloat.

  • Russell Wilson (QB NC State) – Wilson has been known as a dual threat quarterback for his entire career at NC State, but most of that was because of his dazzling running ability. This past week against Georgia Tech, Wilson showed off his arm to the tune of 368 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also punched in a score on the ground to show he still has the wheels. The upcoming game against a stouter Virginia Tech defense should give a better barometer of his prowess as a passer.

Heisman Watch:

  1. Denard Robinson (QB Michigan) – 731 yards passing and 4 TDs, 688 yards rushing and 6 TDs: Robinson only played about 9 minutes in the Wolverines trouncing of Bowling Green before he injured his knee, but he flashed his wheels to the tune of 129 and 2 touchdowns. If Robinson can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, he should continue to put up huge numbers and lead the Heisman race.

  1. LaMichael James (HB Oregon) – 475 yards rushing and 4 TDs: He ripped off 100 yards against a stout Arizona State defense and his numbers should start to mirror the other top backs as he plays more games (remember he has played one fewer game than most). If he has another big game this week against Stanford in prime time, he could be here to stay.

  1. Landry Jones (QB Oklahoma) – 1,221 yards passing and 9 TDs: The Sooners quarterback posted his second 370-yard performance of the year on the road against Cincinnati. If he can come anywhere close to matching that against Texas this weekend on national TV, he would force himself into the national spotlight.

  1. Kendall Hunter (HB Oklahoma State) – Both Hunter and Blackmon had bye’s this week, look for them to light it up against a bad Texas A&M defense.
  2. Justin Blackmon (WR Oklahoma State)

Last Weeks Predictions:
Of all the games that I said would be good last week, only Stanford vs. Notre Dame was a blowout. All of the other showed us interesting things about contending teams and exposed a few flaws (like LSU’s atrocious offense). In addition, I picked all of the correct victors except for the Stanford Cardinal.
Both Andrew Luck and Ryan Broyles put up good numbers in leading their teams to tight victories. While Nick Foles didn’t have the greatest stats, he did lead his team to a late game-winning score and showed moxie and poise in doing so.
Alabama did not win by 20 points like I predicted, but they did show a ton of heart and Mark Ingram reminded everyone that he’s good (I was shooting for the understatement of the year, think I got it?).

Week 5 Preview
This is when conference play really kicks into full gear and we start to see more ranked teams battle go to battle. There are a number of great games this weekend and as usual, there will be a few under-the-radar games that could be classics.

Games to Watch:

  • Texas vs. Oklahoma – This game lost a little of its luster with Texas’ blowout loss to UCLA, but this rivalry always produces great games and the Texas offense may finally get into gear against a poor Oklahoma defense. The other side of the ball pits Landry Jones against a Texas defense that has smothered spread offenses so far this season. Pick: Oklahoma-24 Texas-20

  • Wisconsin vs. Michigan State – This game is in East Lansing, so I expect the Badgers to have some troubles on the offensive side of the ball. They are getting back a few of their playmaking receivers to complement a John Clay led rushing attack which put up 70 points this past week (against a 1AA team, but still). It will be interesting to see if Mark Dantonio will coach this game, two weeks after his heart attack and what impact that could have on the Spartans as a team. I have almost no feel for this game, as both teams have been a little up and down all season. Pick: Wisconsin-27 Michigan State-17

  • Florida vs. Alabama – This could get ugly. It could also be a great game. That’s just the magic of college football. Alabama looked great on the road against Arkansas, but how much mental energy did they expend? Florida hasn’t had the greatest offense so far this year (another contender for understatement of the year), but their defense has been phenomenal and they’ve made enough plays to win. I expect a defensive battle and a lot of people switching to the Oregon vs. Stanford game at halftime. Pick: Alabama-17 Florida-10

  • Stanford vs. Oregon – Both of these teams have put up mind-boggling offensive stats and have been backed by quietly impressive defenses. I expect this to be the most entertaining game of the weekend and we finally get to see if the Ducks are for real. They’ve had trouble with physical teams in the past, and Stanford fits that mold. I’m gonna go with the upset. Pick: Stanford-35 Oregon-30

  • Penn State vs. Iowa – This is a match up of ranked teams in the Big 10, so it has a chance to be good. If you don’t like defensive battles, you might want to turn away. Both of these teams play smothering defense, but have been spotty (at best) on offense. First to 20 wins. Pick: Iowa-20 Penn State-14

  • UC Davis vs. San Jose State – You think I’m kidding, but I’m dead serious. These two teams met last year and the Spartans needed a late touchdown to pull out the victory. Last week they barely beat 1AA foe Southern Utah and UCD always plays tough with one higher division opponent per year. Look in my wild prediction section for the pick.


  • Austin Pettis – Pettis is the favorite target for Kellen Moore in the Boise State offense and he has had big games all year. Look for him to run free for over 100 yards and a few scores against an overmatched New Mexico State defense at home.

  • Garrett Gilbert – Gilbert has struggled a bit this year, but the perfect remedy is the Oklahoma defense. The Sooners rate in the bottom 25 in total defense and have looked uneven at best throughout the course of the year. Gilbert had developed a better rapport throughout the year with his receivers and I think this is the week it pays off.

  • Kendall Hunter/Justin Blackmon- Texas A&M is terrible on defense and both of these players are amazing. ‘Nuff said.

Wild Prediction:
UC Davis goes to San Jose and wins by a score of 21-17. Trick plays and smash mouth defense will be heavily involved.
That’s all the time we have for this week, tune in next week for a recap of all the exhilarating college football action and a look ahead to week 6. Have a great weekend.

>By Will Robinson
Another week in the books, another TSL NFL post. Let’s get to it!

Not-So-Quick-Hit Thoughtsimages
· I’ve given up on the 49ers. They have looked horrendous. The entire franchise is in disarray now, firing their offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Their talented defense has underperformed, the offense is still too dependent on Frank Gore, and Alex Smith is Alex Smith. On the other hand, Kansas City has looked pretty good so far. Granted, their opponents have a combined record of 1-8, but they have looked very solid thus far. The Chiefs is giving San Diego a run for their money for the AFC West, already up two games.
· The Vikings notched their first win of the year with the best course of action: giving Adrian Peterson the ball. He had a great performance, rushing for 160 yards and 2 TDs on 23 carries. Jahvid Best only had 7 carries and had his game cut short due to turf toe. Brett Favre still looked old, but they didn’t ask him to do as much with his small amount of targets. Solid win to get back on track.
· Things we know from the Patriots/Bills games: New England can put up points, and they can also allow them. My AFC Championship pick is looking worse and worse with New England’s defensive performance and Pittsburgh sheer dominance.
· That was an ugly kick by Garrett Hartley. In fact, ugly is probably too nice of a word. Despite that, props to Atlanta for coming into New Orleans beating the Saints. They destroyed the time of possession battle (45:50-27:15). So far, Atlanta’s only loss came against a very strong Steelers team. The Dirty Birds have things working for them so far, unlike New Orleans. One team is clearly going up, and another is a confused entity.
· The Titans returned to their winning ways, en route to defeating the mistake-prone Giants, 29-10. Vince Young only threw 16 passes, and completed 12 of them and committed no turnovers. Chris Johnson had over 125 rushing yards and 2 TDs. The Giants were penalized 11 times, including five personal fouls. The Tennessee defense prevented Eli Manning from adding a touchdown to his season stats, and picked him off three times. They should be tested next week, as they host the pass-happy Denver Broncos. New York does not get off easy: they play Chicago in the Meadowlands on Sunday night.
· To everyone who had Charlie Batch throwing 3 TDs, leading to a Pittsburgh evisceration of the previously undefeated Buccaneers, I applaud you. Batch threw two 40+-yard touchdown bombs to WR Mike Wallace, who took advantage of an inexperienced Cody Grimm. Rashard Mendenhall ran for 143 yards and a TD, leading the run game to 200+ yards. The defense was dominant once again, allowing 13 points, and bringing their season total to 33 points in three games. I am afraid to see how this team plays once they get “Slim” Ben Roethlisberger back from his suspension.
· Cincinnati won ugly against a terrible Carolina team. Benson had a poor game rushing, but scored both of Cincy’s touchdowns. This is probably the one game I do not want to talk about, so I won’t waste my time.
· You’re late to the party, but we’ll still welcome you back to relevancy Joe Flacco! After I trashed his performance the week previous, he handled the Browns, as a good QB should have. He established a good rapport with new WR Anquan Boldin, with all three of his touchdowns and more than half of his passing yards through Boldin. Peyton Hillis filled in very nicely for Jerome Harrison, rushing for 144 yards and a score. There may be a running back controversy brewing up in Cleveland, which would be nice because there has been no major news out of Cleveland in a while.
· Clutch, important, must-win game for Dallas. They did what they had to do to stop the embarrassment and criticism that was coming in. Roy Williams had a great performance (what?), and the high-octane Texans offense was significantly slowed by the Dallas defense, and the injury of Andre Johnson. Houston ran the ball very well (5.6 YPC as a team, 22 carries), but hurt themselves with three turnovers. I expect them to bounce back strong against Oakland next week. Also, I think Dallas is on the right track to do some damage this season.
· Come on, Denver! Learn to run the ball! That’s how you beat Indy! More on this game later, but I’m not surprised Peyton Manning had a dominant performance, leading his team to a win.
· Congratulations on your first NFL win, Sam Bradford! Bradford led the recently aimless Rams to their first win of the year, against the Redskins. He also won without his best player, Steven Jackson, for most of the game (left in the 2nd quarter). Washington held the lead once this game, going up 16-14 in the 3rd quarter. The Rams may rack up some wins this year (like 2-4 more).
· Newsflash: Michael Vick is BACK! Vick led another dominant performance against a subpar Jacksonville team, but he was phenomenal. Vick posted a 119.2 QB rating, 291 passing yards, 3 passing TDs, and a rushing one. Even though he has only played one half of football against a tough team, he should get his first test next week going up against the Redskins. I am very excited that Vick is back, as he is easily one of the most entertaining players of all time. As many other have stated, he has calmed down and matured as a quarterback, not using his legs unless he absolutely has to. He is now a pocket pass first, rusher second. They have five primetime games this year (SF, Wash, NYG, Hou, Dal) that should all be good matchups, as well as playing Indy. I’m excited to see if he can keep his play up.
· Just like Hartley, Sebastian Janikowski choked and missed a field goal that would have given the Raiders a win. Darren McFadden had a very good day, and the Raiders posted better stats, but the game came down to Janikowski’s missed field goals.
· Seattle’s win was too solid against San Diego. Leon Washington’s two return TDs were great to watch, and Rivers’ almost-comeback was great in itself too. Seattle could win the division with a sub-.500 record, which would be disappointing. But the way the other NFC West teams are playing make this plausible.
· I think I was wrong about the Jets. Their offense has done very well the last two weeks, and their defense has held up. Mark Sanchez looks great (minus the Baltimore game) this season, posting two consecutive 200+ yds, 3 TD performances in a row. If he can keep this up, the Jets could be one of the most dangerous teams in the league (if they are not there yet).
· Despite losing Monday night, I still think Green Bay has to be the favorite in the NFC North. Cutler was good but not great last night, getting lucky on a couple throws that should have been picked off. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, played very well. His only interception was a throwaway Hail Mary to end the first half. Neither team ran the ball well, and Green Bay out-passed the Bears. They got unlucky that James Jones didn’t hold onto the ball near the end of the game.
Most Impressive Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers travelled to Tampa with their new starting quarterback, Charlie Batch. Many people (yours truly included) picked the Steelers to go 2-2, 1-3 with Ben Roethlisberger out of the lineup. This team has proven me wrong. Their defense looks otherworldly. Troy Polamalu really makes an indescribably difference when he is healthy. Pitt could be 4-0 by the team Big Ben is eligible to play, which is a scary thought.
Honorable Mention: Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets
Most Impressive Offensive Player: Michael Vick
Already discussed Mike Vick earlier.
Honorable Mention: Philip Rivers, Kyle Orton, Adrian Peterson, Austin Collie, Anquan Boldin
Most Impressive Defensive Player: DeMarcus Ware
Ware showed on Sunday that he is still one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. Ware sacked Matt Schaub three times against Houston and two tackles for loss. Ware didn’t hit Jay Cutler in week 2 and only sacked McNabb once at the beginning of the year. The Dallas pass rush since to be going up instead of down, and as they enter their bye, they more time to better it.
Honorable Mention: Tamba Hali, Trent Cole
Most Unimpressive Team: San Francisco 49ers
Like I said earlier, I give up. Please don’t make me talk about the Niners ever again! I beg you!
Dishonorable Mention: New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots (beat Buffalo by one score!)
Most Unimpressive Player: Carson Palmer
Please, somebody, ANBODY, put Carson Palmer out of his misery. Yes, Cincinnati did win, but Palmer was atrocious. He completed almost fewer than 50% of his passes, threw 1 TD on a check down to Cedric Benson, and threw 2 interceptions. His average yards per attempt was 5.3, a very poor number. Just leave us alone Carson!
Dishonorable Mention: Clay Matthews (only because he didn’t get a sack, I thought he still played well).
Denver Complaint of the Week
Kyle Orton had a fantastic game against the Colts, throwing for more than 475 yards; however, the run game was atrocious. Just utterly awful. Granted, Knowshon Moreno was hurt, but there is no excuse for being stuffed three times from the one-yard line. Inexcusable. Denver is currently 30th in the NFL in rushing yards. The red zone offense was… wait, was there any red zone offense last week? Five trips to the red zone, no touchdowns. I almost vomited every time they were in the Colts’ 20. This needs to change in order for them to have any success win-wise this season.
Best Game per Time Slot of Week 4 (Excluding Sunday/Monday night, obviously)
10:00 AM PDT
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
I am very excited for this game; however, I will not be able to watch it. The Ravens’ offense will be the best they will face up to this point in the season. I will be interested to see if they can cause trouble for Flacco and Ray Rice. Baltimore will need to shut down Mendenhall and force Batch to beat them through the air. Great matchup.
1:00-1:15 PM PDT
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
As I mentioned earlier, this will be Michael Vick’s first test against a good defense. Even though Washington had trouble stopping the Rams, they are more talented than the Lions or the Jaguars. Donovan McNabb makes his comeback to Philly, the home of his first franchise. I think Vick continues what he has been doing this year, and cements his role as the starting QB for the relatively near future (this season). Shanahan will already be in hot water if the Skins cannot pull out a win here, and I don’t think they can.
Best Game of Week 4
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
Most Interesting Game of Week 4
Washington vs. Philadelphia
Most One Sided Game of Week 4
Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
I expect a Buffalo/GB type result here, especially without Best, but I think the Lions put up more points.
Bounce Back Performances of Week 4
They go to Oakland next week, and even if Andre Johnson isn’t 100%, I like the Texans offense to handle this game.
San Diego
The Chargers travelled to Seattle and lost last week. Fortunately, they host Arizona at home this upcoming week, and there have been no indications that Arizona is any good.
Down to Earth Performance of Week 4
Darren McFadden
Even though McFadden has been a revelation this year, and Houston’s defense has been suspect, the Texans’ run defense has been solid. McFadden may still do well, but not nearly as well as he has been the previous games in the season.
Bold Predictions of Week 4
· The Saints only beat Carolina by 10.
· Joe Flacco throws more TDs for Pittsburgh than Baltimore.
· The Patriots defense does something this week.
Thank you all for reading again, have a good week!

>By Evan Ream
Obviously, with the season not over, it is impossible to choose a Rookie of the Year right now, but I believe we have at least narrowed it down to three main candidates. This year’s rookie class has had some really strong candidates that could have possibly won the award in years past such as Sean Johnson, Tony Tchani, Michael Stephens, Teal Bunbury, and Zach Schilawski just to name a few. This being said, the play of Danny Mwanga, Andy Najar, and Tim Ream has stood far and away above the rest of the rookies. Let’s take an in depth look to see which one deserves it.

Danny Mwanga, Forward Philadelphia Union
20  14    1,212   7   4
Danny Mwanga was the number 1 overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mwanga attended college in Oregon. Mwanga, due to his age of 19, was looked at as being more of a project player when he was originally drafted. However, he has greatly exceeded expectations by scoring the most goals for a rookie since Damani Ralph had 11 in 2003. Mwanga has shown that he is not only a calm and capable finisher, but that he also has the intelligence to set up goals as well. Along with Sebastien Le Toux, Mwanga forms one of the pest forward partnerships in the league. The downside to Mwanga is that in addition to playing for a mediocre at best team, he has actually logged the fewest minutes of any rookie on my shortlist. Mwanga has turned into a first choice starter, but it took him longer than either of the other two on the list.
Andy Najar, Midfielder DC United
23   19    1,713   5   1
Andy Najar is the youngest member of this list (17) in addition to be the only one that was not drafted. Mwanga was the second player (behind Bill Hamid) to be signed from DC United’s youth academy. Even more so then Mwanga, Najar was expected to be a project player due to his age and the fact that he didn’t even play college soccer. Surprisingly, Najar has been one of the lone bright spots for the last place United team this season. Like Mwanga, he has turned into a first choice starter; however, Najar plays on the right side of the midfield instead of up top. His numbers are stunningly similar to Freddy Adu’s rookie season, but I can tell you for sure that Najar is a much better player. For example, Najar actually plays defense. Kidding aside, Najar is actually a great decision maker unlike Adu and it is impressive that just a year out of high school soccer Najar is doing what he is doing.
Tim Ream, Defender Red Bull New York
26    26  2,340    1   0
I’m going to say this just once and I don’t believe I’m exaggerating. Tim Ream is the best USMNT center back prospect since Eddie Pope. Ream isn’t amazing in the air like Omar Gonzalez; he isn’t super athletic like Ike Opara, but Ream has something that in my opinion no USMNT center back has ever had. To fully explain this, you just have to watch him play. He is the most calm and composed defender that I have ever seen. Ream’s distribution skills are off the charts and actually remind me a lot of his club mate Rafa Marquez. Ream has a great soccer brain and that is what this country is missing. Despite being older (22) and falling to the second round in the SuperDraft, Ream is still one of the most impressive rookies this year. He has definitely had his ups and downs, but while he adjusts to the pro level this is to be expected. It’s hard to believe that Ream lasted outside of the top five picks in the SuperDraft.
So, now that you know a little more about each player, it is time for the big decision. It should be noted that this is not who I think WILL win Rookie of the Year, but rather who I think SHOULD win Rookie of the Year.
3. Danny Mwanga
While Mwanga has obviously been impressive and has us hoping he can get his citizenship as early as possible, he simply hasn’t been as amazing as the other two rookies have. He obviously is a goal scoring player, but he hasn’t made enough of a contribution to his team which is mostly been carried by Sebastien Le Toux. This being said, I can still see Mwanga possibly having the best career of the three.
2. Andy Najar
It really is hard to believe that Najar is just 17. Three weeks ago, he would have ranked last but this goal:

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and then of course there was this one as well. I haven’t seen anyone in MLS with that kind of patience and composure since, dare I say it, Jaime Moreno. The fact is that Najar is proving to be a once in a generation player in just his first year.
1. Tim Ream
If Najar is a once in a generation player, then Tim Ream is something that we have actually never seen before in MLS. Despite being a rookie, he has played every single minute of the season up to this point. This is impressive for multiple reasons. First of all, it means that he was ready from day one, and from a performance standpoint, he is obviously one of the best rookies in the league. Second, as a defender, it is amazing that he has yet to be suspended this season. It takes just five yellow cards to be suspended for a game and Ream is sitting at just two with four games yet to play. Additionally Ream has committed just 12 fouls all year or just .46 fouls a game. The Red Bulls have the 6th best goals against average in the league and Ream’s ability to not give away free kicks in dangerous areas seems to be a direct cause of this. Not to get ahead of myself or anything, but I believe that Ream’s career will be what Michael Parkhurst’s would have been had Parkhurst been a little taller and a little more athletic. His ability to read the game is unbelievable as is his distribution out of the back and that is why Tim Ream should be this year’s rookie of the year.

>By The SACK Lunch Staff

Last Week’s/Current Year’s Record:
Dylan:   8-8
Evan:    6-10
Nick:    11-5
Will:     10-6


>By Nick Gallaudet
After a crazy week 1, things have returned to normal a bit, and we are starting to get a feel for how this season is going to shape up. I just wanted to shout out to fellow Sack Lunch writer Evan who ignored my advice last week and kept Jahvid Best on the bench. Hopefully, he’ll listen this week.

WR Demaryius Thomas DEN: He exploded on to the scene last week and had a great NFL debut and looks to be the #1 receiver on an underrated fantasy passing team. Add him.
WR Louis Murphy OAK: This guy needs to be on your team. With Bruce Gradkowski looking like then new Raiders QB, Louis Murphy’s value goes through the roof. Gradkowski is in love with this guy and he put up huge numbers last year with Gradkowski throwing to him for part of the season.
QB Bruce Gradkowski OAK: Gradkowski found a way to win last year for the Raiders and he looks to do the same this year. He’s not the prettiest QB, but he’s fairly consistent and loves to throw deep, so he’s worth a look if you need a QB.
WR Deon Butler SEA: He’s worth keeping an eye on at this point. Hasselbeck went to him early and seems to be emerging as one of Hasselbeck’s favorite target, but be careful; he’s still a Seahawk.
RB Mike Tolbert SD: With Ryan Matthews going down in the first half of their game against Jacksonville last week, Tolbert got a majority of the reps and looked like Maurice Jones-Drew. Matthews hasn’t looked very good thus far, and I wouldn’t recommend starting him yet. But, if you have Ryan Matthews, I’d consider picking him up.
RB John Kuhn GB: With Grant out and Jackson looking mediocre, Kuhn got a lot of carries this week and looked pretty good. He may steal some carries from Jackson and I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a real fantasy threat this season.
On to the games…
Tennessee: QB Vince Young was pulled in Sunday’s game, but he will start this week. The Colts passing game housed the Giants last week, but I don’t expect the Titans to have a huge game through the air. I see the Titans getting back on track by riding RB Chris Johnson, so TE Bo Scaife is the only one I would start in the Tennessee passing game.
NY Giants: The Titans pass defense has been pretty good this year, but I expect QB Eli Manning to have a decent fantasy game. He put up his numbers last week with the game clearly out of reach, but he won’t have to deal with the Colts pass rush this week. He won’t light up the scoreboard this week, but he should be good for a TD or two. I do want to talk about his WRs, though. I think people are going to overreact to the way WR Steve Smith has been somewhat left out of the passing attack this year. His numbers will come back up when people begin to realize WR Hakeem Nicks needs to be covered. Don’t fret Smith owners, he’ll come around.
Tennessee: RB Chris Johnson was shut down last week; however, the Giants are not the Steelers. The Giants gave up 160 rushing yards to the worst rushing team over the last two years. Chris Johnson will get back on track and possibly in a big way this week.
NY Giants: RB Brandon Jacobs threw a temper tantrum last week and was yanked from the game after terrible production. He reportedly will ask for a trade, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw owners will rejoice. It was only a matter time until Bradshaw stole the majority of the carries from Jacobs, and it appears the time has come. That being said, the Titans have been decent against the run, but Bradshaw is worth a start.
Start ‘em:
Tennessee: RB Johnson
NY Giants: RB Bradshaw
Sit ‘em:
Tennessee: All WRs
NY Giants: RB Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham
Pittsburgh: QB Dennis Dixon got hurt, so it looks like QB Charlie Batch’s team until Big Ben comes back, but their passing game was non-existent last week. I don’t think there will be much value in anyone in the Steelers passing game this week, even though we still don’t really know if the Buccaneers are for real yet.
Tampa Bay: The way the Steelers defense has been playing, no one on the Bucs is worth considering at all this week, even though QB Josh Freeman has had a pretty good season thus far.
Pittsburgh: Tampa Bay has been pretty strong against the run, and they should be able to stack against the run against this week, but I’d still start RB Mendenhall because the Steelers defense will give their offense plenty of chances to score.
Tampa Bay: The Panthers stuffed them last week. They may not gain a yard this week on the ground.
Start ‘em:
Pittsburgh: RB Mendenhall
Tampa Bay: None
Sit ‘em:
Pittsburgh: WR Hines Ward
Tampa Bay: Everyone
Cincinnati: Carolina has given up 5 TDs through the air this season, so expect the Bengals to try to score with the pass. QB Carson Palmer proved in week 1 he was capable of putting fantasy numbers up and he should do the same this week. WRs Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco are Palmers two favorite targets and look for them each to haul in a TD this week.
Carolina: The Jimmy Clausen era is officially upon us, and WR Steve Smith is going to suffer. I still don’t exactly know what to expect from the Bengals defense, but I expect them to carry over the momentum from last week and shut the Panthers pass game down. While I’m not too high on Smith this week, he is so dynamic he could make something happen this week.
Cincinnati: RB Cedric Benson does not look like the same back from the last couple of years, and the Panthers have been sneaky good against the run this year, holding opponents to around 3 yards a carry this season. Look for Benson to get 50-70 yards and maybe a TD this week.
Carolina: RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have not produced the way they were expected to, but something has to give. I think the Panthers will look to the run early to take the pressure of Clausen, but the reality is that with both backs healthy, it’s difficult to identify which one will have a big day. Because of that, I would look elsewhere for production.
Start ‘em:
Cincinnati: QB Palmer, WR Owens, WR Ochocinco
Carolina: None
Sit ‘em:
Cincinnati: None
Carolina: QB Clausen
Cleveland: QB Jake Delhomme may miss his 2nd straight start, but it doesn’t really matter who starts, because the Baltimore defense has been suffocating this year, and a poor Browns team is not really the kind of team that will buck that trend so stay away from Browns receivers this week.
Baltimore: QB Joe Flacco has looked like garbage this year. It was one thing to be shut down by the vaunted Jets defense, but the Bengals, who were torched by Tom Brady in week 1, made Flacco look like Trent Dilfer. The Browns have held their own on defense, but they have yet to face an elite passer, but I just don’t think Flacco has the confidence to put up big numbers this week. I’m reluctant to recommend any Raven pass catchers until Flacco proves the first two weeks were just a fluke.
Cleveland: The Browns couldn’t run the ball against the Chiefs, so I don’t hold out much hope that they’ll be able to do so against the stout Ravens run D. That coupled with the fact that RBs Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis are splitting carries makes the Browns runners a poor option this week.
Baltimore: Cleveland gave up 140 yards to the Chiefs last week, and Baltimore will probably try to rely more heavily on the run this week. Expect RBs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to both get a lot of opportunities this week. I don’t expect either to have giant games, but they both look poised to have a big game.
Start ‘em:
Cleveland: None
Baltimore: RB Rice, RB McGahee
Sit ‘em:
Cleveland: Everyone
Baltimore: QB Flacco
Dallas: QB Tony Romo’s fantasy numbers have definitely been down this year, but they’re not as bad as people think. Last week was respectable, but he definitely needs to improve to be considered a top-tier QB. Houston may be just what the doctor ordered, because in two weeks they’ve allowed almost 900 yards passing. Expect Romo to get his share of yards this week, and probably a score or two. That means WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten will get their points, too.
Houston: QB Matt Schaub got back on track in a big way last week. Houston’s offense is so dynamic that they deserve a start every week. Dallas was passed on last week, and that will happen again this week. WR Kevin Walter has turned in back-to-back solid performances and should be started again, as well as elite WR Andre Johnson.
Dallas: The Dallas rushing game has been nonexistent this season. Until they figure out how they’re going to use their three-headed monster, I’d stay away from all three, especially against the Texans’ solid run D.
Houston: RB Arian Foster came back down to earth last week, but still had a good game, gaining 138 total yards. Dallas has done a good job against the run this year, but Foster is still a start because the Texans will put up points.
Start ‘em:
Dallas: WR Austin, WR Bryant
Houston: QB Schaub, WR Johnson, WR Walter
Sit ‘em:
Dallas: All RBs
Houston: None
San Francisco: QB Alex Smith looked good in the second half of the Monday Night game, but I’m still not comfortable relying on him for fantasy points. He used TE Vernon Davis and RB Frank Gore a lot against the Saints and it seemed to work, so look for Davis and Gore to play a big part in the passing game again. I expect the 49ers to ride Gore this week so I don’t see a lot of points for WRs Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree.
Kansas City: QB Matt Cassel is just not producing this year. There is no value in the Chiefs passing game this week. They need to prove they know what they’re doing before I would consider starting any of their receivers.
San Francisco: RB Frank Gore rebounded in a big way against the Saints with over 160 total yards and 2 TDs. Even though KC has been decent against the run this year, they haven’t been dominant and haven’t really faced a team built around a back like Gore. I think Gore will have a similar week and carry the SF offense this week.
Kansas City: One thing the 49ers have been able to do well this year is stop the run. I don’t see the Chiefs being to productive on offense at all this week, including on the ground. So unless you have no other options at running back, I’d leave RBs Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles on the bench.
Start ‘em:
San Francisco: RB Gore, TE Davis, SF Defense
Kansas City: K Ryan Succop
Sit ‘em:
San Francisco: WR Josh Morgan, WR Michael Crabtree
Kansas City: QB Matt Cassel, RB Thomas Jones, RB Jamaal Charles
Detroit: QB Shaun Hill had a big game last week, but that won’t happen again. Minnesota’s defense has been pretty much the lone bright spot for the Vikings this year. WR Calvin Johnson caught his first TD of the season last week, but other than that, was a little underwhelming, and hasn’t really shown us a whole lot this season. TE Brandon Pettigrew had a big game, and could be a weapon this week, and is the only pass catcher from Detroit I would recommend starting.
Minnesota: We find out who QB Brett Favre will be this season this week. After two terrible games, this is Favre’s chance to prove he can still contribute. The Bears and Eagles have carved the Lions pass defense up this year, and the Vikings look to do the same. I personally don’t think Favre will rebound the way people expect him to, but this is a good matchup for him, so he is worth giving one last chance. TE Visanthe Shiancoe is Favre’s only reliable target and is a must-start this week.
Detroit: RB Jahvid Best has 5 TDs in 2 weeks, but don’t let that fool you. He has run for 98 yards in two games. While he has fared better through the air, he’s not going to put up those numbers every week. I expect him to come back down to earth this week against an exceptional Vikings defense, and would look elsewhere for production.
Minnesota: RB Adrian Peterson has really shown me something this year, taking the offense on his back and carrying it well. Peterson should have a huge week against a defense that gave up 120 yards to LeSean McCoy.
Start ‘em:
Detroit: TE Pettigrew
Minnesota: RB Peterson, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN Def
Buffalo: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the start this week… not that that really changes anything for the Bills. The Sanchize did have his way with the Patriots defense last week in the 2nd half, but, as hard as it is to believe, Fitzpatrick makes Mark Sanchez look like Peyton Manning. With as little talent as the Bills have and as mad as the Pats are, there is no real shot at the Bills having any fantasy relevance for a while.
New England: QB Tom Brady is angry and feels like he has something to prove. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is a repeat of last year’s New England/Tennessee game where Brady threw 19 TDs by halftime. Start everyone that has anything to do with the Patriots passing game.
Buffalo: RB Marshawn Lynch was given the bulk of the carries against the Packers and was respectable. If there are any points to be had in the Bills offense, they will most likely go to Lynch and that makes him worth considering.
New England: RB Laurence Maroney is a Bronco and RB Kevin Faulk is out for the season, so the notoriously crowded New England backfield is down to only RB Fred Taylor and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis got the majority of the touches last week, but Taylor got more when they were blowing out Cincinnati. I feel like Taylor will get the carries this week and that he is definitely worth starting, but you never know with The Hoodie.
Start ‘em:
Buffalo: RB Lynch is the only Bill you should even consider.
New England: QB Brady, RB Taylor, WR Randy Moss, WR Wes Welker, K Gostkowski, NE Def.
Sit ‘em:
Buffalo: Everyone not named Marshawn
New England: QB Drew Bledsoe
Atlanta: QB Matt Ryan is tough to get a read on, but the way he lit up the Cardinals was remarkable, even if it was against the Cardinals. It’s given me a little confidence in him, especially the way the Saints defense played against Alex Smith last week. I don’t think he’s going to go for 3 TDs like last week, but he should fare well, and WR Roddy White should benefit.
New Orleans: I have not been impressed by QB Drew Brees this year. He has been steady but has not put up the numbers everyone expected. Owning a Saints WRs is completely frustrating: All of them are capable of scoring big points, and all of them are capable of catching two balls for 33 yards. I’ve given up predicting who will do what, just know that Brees is going to have a decent day and if you have a Saints receiver, like I do, start them and hope Brees hits him.
Atlanta: RB Michael Turner went down with a groin last week, but don’t worry. Even with RB Jason Snelling’s dominant performance, the job is Turner’s and he will be back this week. The Saints could not stop Frank Gore last week, so look for Turner to duplicate Gore’s performance this week, with fewer catches.
New Orleans: RB Pierre Thomas had over 100 total yards last week, and you can put him down for around that every week. The only question, as always with the Saints, is who will score? Tim Hightower tore up the Falcons last week, so I think Thomas could do the same this week.
Start ‘em:
Atlanta: RB Turner, WR White
New Orleans: RB Thomas
Sit ‘em:
Atlanta: RB Snelling
New Orleans: None
Washington: QB Donovan McNabb looked really good last week, and did exactly what the Redskins brought him in to do. WRs Santana Moss and Joey Galloway are finally putting up decent numbers again, and TE Chris Cooley is an especially good option this week against a bad Rams defense. Start McNabb and Moss this week and hopefully Galloway will be able to haul in another bomb this week.
St. Louis: The Redskins have allowed a lot of pass yards this year, and St. Louis will look to exploit it with their rookie QB Sam Bradford. I think Bradford can put up good numbers this week, and look for him to go to his new favorite red zone target WR Mark Clayton (hopefully you followed my advice and used his 2 TDs last week to earn a victory).
Washington: RB Clinton Portis may be on his last legs. He looked awful last week, despite getting 2 TDs (both happened to be from 1 yard out). Darren McFadden ran the Rams all over last week though, so maybe there is hope. I personally wouldn’t start Portis, however.
St. Louis: RB Steven Jackson had a rough game against the Raiders last week, which is not a good sign. The Redskins have also been pretty good against the run this year, but first-round pick Jackson is good enough to warrant a start every week.
Start ‘em:
Washington: QB McNabb, WR Moss
St. Louis: QB Bradford, WR Clayton
Sit ‘em:
Washington: RB Portis
St. Louis: None
Philadelphia: QB Michael Vick looks like he may be for real. He’s turned in a week and a half of solid quarterbacking, and if Phillip Rivers and Kyle Orton are any indication, he’s ripe for another good performance. Jacksonville has had a couple poor defensive weeks, especially against the pass. I like Vick to have another solid day, and look for WRs DeSean Jackson and WR Jeremy Maclin to have good games.
Jacksonville: QB David Garrard made a complete 180 from week 1 to last week culminating in his benching. A bright spot last week was the fact that WR Mike Sims-Walker woke up and had a decent day. Philly has been susceptible to the pass this season and I expect Garrard to rebound a little and look for Sims-Walker to have a good week, too.
Philadelphia: RB LeSean McCoy lit up the Lions defense last week, but don’t count on it again. Andy Reid always runs a pass heavy offense, and even last week, McCoy only had 16 carries. The Jags do have a little trouble against the run, so he could have a decent game, but definitely not like last week.
Jacksonville: Is RB Maurice Jones-Drew a bust? Probably not, but he has not looked very good the first two weeks. It’s only a matter of time until he breaks out and has a big game. I don’t think it will be this game, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did break out this week.
Start ‘em:
Philadelphia: QB Vick, WR Maclin, WR Jackson
Jacksonville: WR Sims-Walker
Sit ‘em:
Philadelphia: None
Jacksonville: None
Oakland: QB Bruce Gradkowski was named starter after QB Jason Campbell was ineffective and it’s a good thing for Raiders fans. Gradkowski just finds a way to win, and WR Louis Murphy will be the main beneficiary. Murphy is Gradkowski’s favorite target and it showed last week, with Murphy hauling in a TD. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is also a good option this week, especially against a struggling Cardinals defense.
Arizona: QB Max Hall saw some action last week (correctly predicted by Sack Lunch writer Will) which is a bad sign for anyone involved in the Cardinals passing game. QB Derek Anderson’s job is not safe, and WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston have no one throwing to them. Nnamdi Asomugha will make it hard for Fitzgerald to put up any numbers this week, so if I were to start anyone in the Arizona passing game, it would be Breaston, but don’t bank on anything significant.
Oakland: RB Darren McFadden has turned in two uncharacteristically good statistical weeks this season, but that could change with RB Michael Bush coming back from a thumb injury. I think Oakland can run the ball well against a defense that the Falcons shredded last week, but I don’t think McFadden or Bush will have a monster week. With that being said, I would start McFadden over Bush.
Arizona: RB Tim Hightower broke an 80-yard run last week, but other than that, the Cardinals didn’t really even give him, or anyone else, a chance to run, totaling 13 carries as a team. RB Beanie Wells said he feels like he’ll play, but I’m not so sure. If Wells does play, Hightower’s value is instantly decreased, but if Wells is out, Hightower is worth a start. Monitor this situation as the week progresses.
Start ‘em:
Oakland: QB Gradkowski, WR Murphy
Arizona: RB Hightower, only if Wells is out
Sit ‘em:
Oakland: None
Arizona: QB Anderson, WR Fitzgerald
San Diego: QB Phillip Rivers took it to Jacksonville last week; throwing for over 300 yards and 3TDs. Seattle was housed by Kyle Orton, allowing 307 yards and 2 TDs. This should spell big day for Rivers, but I urge you to think twice. Seattle was dominant at home against the 49ers, and you can expect the crowd to be just as into this game. I do think Rivers will have a decent game, and TE Antonio Gates will get his points, but I think Rivers will be closer to 200 yards passing and 1, maybe 2 TDs.
Seattle: QB Matt Hasselbeck is tough to figure out. He seems to play poorly, but at the same time turn in serviceable fantasy games, while other times he’ll execute his game plan and have ho-hum numbers. San Diego did make the usually efficient David Garrard into a turnover machine last week, and I think Hasselbeck may be in for the same this week. I don’t think Seattle’s passing game will produce anything noteworthy this week.
San Diego: RB Ryan Mathews has been less than impressive this season, and that was before he got hurt last week. Seattle stuffed Frank Gore at home in week 1. Mike Tolbert has looked pretty good this season. All of this spells poor week for Mathews. I think Tolbert will steal some valuable red zone carries and RB Darren Sproles will be used enough depreciate Mathews value enough to warrant a benching this week on your fantasy roster.
Seattle: RB Justin Forsett has been the guy for Seattle this year, but that title earned him all of 8 carries last week. That, coupled with the fact that San Diego completely shut down Maurice Jones-Drew last week is enough for me to sit Forsett.
Start ‘em
San Diego: TE Gates
Seattle: None
Sit ‘em:
San Diego: RB Mathews
Seattle: RB Forsett
Indianapolis: QB Peyton Manning is a must start, especially with Champ Bailey banged up. TE Dallas Clark and WRs Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie are Manning’s favorite targets and all three should continue to produce the way they have been.
Denver: QB Kyle Orton has had a couple pretty good statistical games this season, and he should be able to put up decent numbers this week. He will take his fair share of hits, but he will have plenty of opportunities to throw, especially if the Colts score as they did last week. Rookie WR Demaryius Thomas emerged as the Broncos top target last week and should not only be added to your team, but he should also be started.
Indianapolis: RBs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown both had good games against the Giants last week. I expect the two of them to split carries evenly again this week, but to have a little less production. I feel better about starting Addai, but I would probably stay away from both of them.
Denver: RB Knowshon Moreno had a tough time against the suddenly impressive Seahawks run defense last week, but should be able to rebound against the porous Indy run defense as long as the Broncos don’t let the game get away and he doesn’t throw his helmet into the stands. I think he is worth a start and should see the end zone this week.
Start ‘em:
Indianapolis: QB Manning, TE Clark, WR Wayne, WR Collie
Denver: RB Moreno, WR Thomas
Sit ‘em:
Indianapolis: RB Brown, WR Garcon
Denver: WR Gaffney
NY Jets: It was a tale of two weeks for the Sanchize to kick of the 2010 season. QB Mark Sanchez had a career-high 3 TDs last week against a bad Pats defense, a week after he had an abysmal week against Baltimore. I think we will see more of the week 1 Sanchez this week against the Dolphins defense that was all over Brett Favre last week. Sanchez won’t have the home crowd support and I think it will affect him and as a result I think only TE Dustin Keller will have any production in the passing game.
Miami: WR Brandon Marshall is really the only player in the Miami passing game worth considering for a start, and with Revis out, he may have a decent game, otherwise. I’d steer clear of the Miami passing game.
NY Jets: Adrian Peterson ran up and down on Miami last week (until that goal line stand in the 4th quarter). I feel like this is where this game will be won or lost, and if RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene can produce, the Jets will win: but that is irrelevant. This is about fantasy, and Tomlinson has looked a lot better than Greene has this year. Tomlinson appears to have some quickness back, and of the two running backs, he looks like he will get the majority of the touches and has a bigger day, but this has defensive struggle written all over it.
Miami: Other than RB Ronnie Brown’s 51 yard run last week against Minnesota, the Dolphins were bottled up by a good Minnesota run defense, and I expect it to be more of the same against the Jets even better run defense. I would look to another running back for points this week.
Start ‘em:
NY Jets: TE Keller…I guess
Miami: WR Marshall? Nobody is going to get points in this game. Start both defenses.
Sit ‘em:
NY Jets: QB Sanchez
Miami: QB Henne, RB Williams
Green Bay: QB Aaron Rodgers is an elite fantasy QB and has reached must start status, especially against a Bears defense that has given up a decent amount of pass yards this season. Rodgers spread the ball around a lot last week, with TE Jermichael Finley putting up the best numbers, and I suspect this week will be similar.
Chicago: WR Devin Hester emerged last week and looked pretty good. QB Jay Cutler and the Bears were able to respond to early pressure from the Cowboys and have a great day, but will they be able to do the same against a good Packers defense. The Packers picked off Cutler six times last season, but this is a new system and I expect Cutler to have a good game, as well as WRs Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.
Green Bay: RB Brandon Jackson was supposed to be the waiver savior last week, but he didn’t do much with his newfound opportunity. Backup RB John Kuhn was much more impressive and ended up splitting carries pretty evenly with Jackson. The Packers were not able to do much on the ground against a bad Bills defense, so don’t look for much this week against a better Bears D.
Chicago: RB Matt Forte has not done a whole lot on the ground this year, but he is putting up great receiving numbers in Mike Martz’s offense. Look for Forte to continue his mediocre ground numbers and be a major contributor through the air.
Start ‘em:
Green Bay: QB Rodgers, TE Finley
Chicago: QB Cutler
Sit ‘em:
Green Bay: RB Jackson
Chicago: WR Aromashodu
QB Tom Brady NE
RB Adrian Peterson MIN
RB Frank Gore SF
WR Louis Murphy OAK
WR Wes Welker NE
WR Andre Johnson HOU
TE Visanthe Shiancoe MIN
K Stephen Gostkowski NE
DEF Baltimore

>By Dylan Davis

Unpredictable. Ridiculous. Amazing. All of these words describe something that happened this past weekend. No, it’s not about the Cowboys losing yet again as the favorite (although that’s also true). No, it’s not the Raiders recent draft history (JaMarcus Russell? Darius Heyward-Bey? A kicker in the first round?). It’s not even the fact that M. Night Shyamalan keeps making movies (How bad does Devil look?). Those words all describe the most recent weekend of college football. Week 2 was hyped up as potentially the most competitive and action-packed weekend of the year, but although it wasn’t terrible, most of the games were letdowns. Week 3 was almost the exact opposite; there was only one game between ranked teams (Arizona vs. Iowa) and that started at 10:30 pm on the East Coast. Then the games started and upsets, classics, and the Michigan State vs. Notre Dame game happened. I had to put that game in a completely different category because…actually, I’ll get to that in a second. Let’s dive right in.

Most Impressive Teams:

  1. TCU Horned Frogs: Later, I’ll touch on the fact that I was absolutely atrocious at my predictions for this week, and the game the Frogs were involved in was a big part of that. They faced a defense in Baylor that had not allowed a touchdown all season and had playmaker Robert Griffin at quarterback. All that was wiped out by the time there was 6 minutes left in the first half. Through the first 24 minutes of the game, the Frogs outscored the Bears 35-3 and completely dominated every phase of the game. They ran for 291 yards. They passed for 267 more. They held the Bears to 263 total yards and held the ball for more than 36 minutes. Only a junk touchdown in the 4th quarter salvaged some pride for the Bears, as they were wrecked 45-10.

  1. Nebraska Cornhuskers: Once again I put my prediction skills to the test by saying the Nebraska vs. Washington game would be not only a close game, but an upset win by the Huskies, and once again I got beaten worse than Rihanna (too soon?). From the opening kick, it was apparent that the Huskers defense was dominant and Taylor Martinez could handle playing in a hostile environment. Jake Locker went into this game as one of the favorites to be drafted number 1 overall in next April’s NFL draft. 60 minutes later the Huskers defense had so thoroughly confused and dominated the senior that his stock may have fallen out of the first round. It wasn’t just the defense, which held Locker to 4/20 passing for 71 yards and two picks and the Huskies to fewer than 250 yards of offense that helped Nebraska dominate. Taylor Martinez, Roy Helu Jr., and Rex Burkhead all rushed for over 100 yards on at least 7 yards per rush. As a team, the Huskers rushed for 383 yards and totaled 533 on offense. Their performance in this game, coupled with Texas’ less than stellar wins so far this year, have made their game against the Longhorns a must-watch and possibly made them the favorites over their conference rivals to the South.

  1. Stanford Cardinal: Most of the country probably missed this domination, and that’s a loss for Andrew Luck and the Cardinal. Against Wake Forest, they completely took over the first half and scored touchdowns on their first 8 drives and 10 out of their 11 chances in the game. Only two-missed PAT’s lost them an opportunity to score 70 after rolling up 41 points in the first half. Andrew Luck was particularly amazing as he had only six incompletions and recorded five total touchdowns. Wake Forest is not one of the best teams in the nation, but they are by no means the worst (I’m looking at you New Mexico) so this game was even more impressive based on the opposition. In the first 29:55 of the game, the Cardinal outscored their ACC opponent 41-7 and the game was pretty much over. The Oregon vs. Stanford match up has looked better and better as the season has gone on and this result solidifies it as a must-watch for all college football fans.

Most Disappointing Teams:

  1. Washington Huskies: After the week one contest between Utah and Pittsburgh, I said that one of the teams looked great and overachieved and one was a major flop. This past week Nebraska and Washington staged a similar type of game. It’s true that Nebraska were favorites in the game and ranked 8th in the nation. However, they had to go one the road and this was supposed to be the year that Jake Locker and Washington contended for a bowl-berth and potentially more. I already gave the details of the wipeout so I won’t go too in-depth, but I do want to point out that Washington has one of the best home fields in the country (everyone watching on TV saw the camera shaking when Nebraska had the ball) yet Washington came out flat and were out of the game almost immediately. This was their chance to show everyone that they were legit and Husky-Nation was back. They didn’t do that; in fact they showed the country that they have a long way to go to be decent. They can still make a bowl, but they will have to put this awful performance behind them first.

  1. Michigan Wolverines: I realize that I have a habit of putting winning teams in this section, but if you’re going to be in the top 20, you need to dominate teams in lower divisions. Michigan was riding high after a great win in South Bend last week and looked set up to cruise for a few weeks until they played Michigan State. I guess no one told them that Massachusetts actually has a football team. They were down 17-7 with a little over a minute left in the first half and only ended up winning by 5 points. To be fair, the offense did show up and Denard Robinson turned in another stellar performance, this time with a little more rushing help from Michael Shaw, but that’s expected. The problem was the Wolverine defense. Giving up 439 yards and 37 points is not good even when playing Ohio State, it’s even worse when UMass is the opponent. If they don’t shore up that side of the ball, RichRod may be placed on the hot seat again by the end of the year.

  1. California Golden Bears: Shane Vereen rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Most of the time when a Pac-10 team plays a WAC team not named Boise State and their starting running back has those stats, they’ll win going away. This was not one of those times. The Bears racked up 502 yards of offense but turned the ball over 3 times and did absolutely nothing against Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada offense. The Wolfpack quarterback accounted for five touchdowns and had over 100 yards rushing, but he probably couldn’t have done much better against Davis High. The Cal defense has a long way to go before their ready to compete against their Pac-10 competition and it showed in this game.

Best Finish:
Clemson vs. Auburn: Although the Michigan State game was more exciting, it was also a better game overall in my opinion, so I’m putting it in the next section. This game wasn’t expected to be much of anything. Auburn was the home team, and ranked SEC teams always seem to play better in home night games. Clemson is an ACC team (if you read my blog last week you know what that means) that has been devoid of playmakers this season and figured to have a rough time slowing down Cameron Newton. Before this game everyone predicted the Tigers would win, then they got serious and specified it would be the Tigers from Auburn that would get the W. Clemson came out fast and the shell shocked Auburn team was down 17-0 with time ticking down in the first half. Wes Byrum nailed a 35-yard field goal as time expired and that seemed to give Auburn a little momentum. The home Tigers then exploded for three third quarter touchdowns and looked on their way to victory in front of a crazed home crowd of 87,000 screaming Southerners. Clemson clawed their way back with a touchdown midway through the final period and neither team was able to put points on the scoreboard before the final whistle blew. Auburn got the ball first in the extra session and booted a 39-yard field goal. Clemson moved the ball and had a 3rd and 5 on the 10 yard-line. Kyle Parker spotted a wide-open receiver and released the ball just as he was mashed by a defensive lineman. That hit probably saved the game for Auburn, as the pass was a few inches past the outstretched hands of the receiver. A 27-yard field goal followed and both teams geared up for a second overtime. Then a flag flew. Apparently, the Clemson center had double clutched the ball when he snapped it and the freshman kicker for Clemson would have to come back out and nail a 32-yarder. With the entire stadium screaming at him to fail, Chandler Catanzaro was not able to complete the kick and the stadium exploded in delight. Auburn was lucky to escape with a win and will need a more complete game if they want to remain among the elites in the SEC. Clemson showed heart and enough all-around skill to make me think they can compete in the depleted ACC.

Best Games:
3. Arizona State vs. Wisconsin: The Sun Devils traveled to Madison as decided underdogs and put together a game plan that they worked to perfection. They bottled up bruising Badgers running back John Clay and kept the game within 7 points the entire game. In the end, they were undone by two plays. The first was after the Badgers scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half. Wisconsin looked to go into the locker room up 13-10, but Kyle Middlebrooks had other ideas. The freshman receiver burst through the Badgers coverage team on the kickoff and looked headed for a go-ahead touchdown until he was brought down at the one-yard line. Time ran out on this play and the Sun Devils were not able to secure any more points. Then with 4 minutes remaining and down by 7, Michigan transfer Steven Threet led a touchdown drive, but the Badgers blocked the point after. Wisconsin rode Clay and the running game for the remainder, as they were able to get a few first downs to burn the clock. Arizona State showed they could play with the big boys and I expect them to pull an upset or two this year.
2. Arizona vs. Iowa: I highlighted this game in last weeks post and it was one of my few correct predictions. The Arizona crowd had an obvious effect on the home-standing Wildcats and a few special teams’ plays vaulted them to a halftime 27-7 lead over the favored, number 9 ranked Hawkeyes. Iowa started to put it together in the third quarter and with 9 minutes left in the game the complexion changed suddenly. Iowa put together a quick-strike drive that ended with a Marvin McNutt (one more great name this year) touchdown and the lead was cut to 6. The very next drive looked like a game changer as defensive end Broderick Binns snagged a Nick Foles pass and raced 20 yards for the score. Iowa missed the extra point and the game was suddenly tied with 8:12 left. Arizona was able to march down and score the go-ahead points on a 4-yard toss from Foles to William Wright. Iowa had one last shot at preserving their chance to play in the national title game but that was snuffed out when Ricky Stanzi was sacked on three straight plays by a furious Wildcat pass rush to end the game. Both of the teams showed they have major upside, but neither is perfect. I expect to see both in major bowls by seasons end.
1. Michigan State vs. Notre Dame: This was one of the best finishes I’ve ever seen, but the game that preceded it was just as entertaining. Touchdowns were traded back and forth and the lead never got higher than 7 for either team. There was scoring in every quarter and the total offense for both teams was only separated by 16 yards. The East Lansing crowd was geared up for this long-standing rivalry and they pushed the Spartans to great heights and an eventual win. Both teams had ample opportunities to score in the second half of the fourth quarter, but both were not quite able to put more points on the board so the game slipped into overtime. Notre Dame got the ball first and was not able to do enough on offense so they settled for a 33-yard field goal. Michigan State did even less; they lost 4 yards, and lined up for 46-yard attempt to send the game to another overtime. I was watching on TV and they showed the traditional camera view from behind the kicker as he was lining up to kick. The ball was snapped and the Irish looked to get a good push up the middle to block the kick. Then the holder stood up and two Spartan receivers broke downfield to receive the pass. At first it looked like both were covered and the game would end on a sack, but the defenders were tangled and Charlie Gantt broke into the clear and was thrown a perfect pass from Aaron Bates with no one around him. He waltzed into the endzone and the stadium erupted louder than it had all night. This was one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen, and Mark Dantonio showed that he plays to win. The fact that no one expected a fake field goal form 30 yards out on 4th and 14 in overtime made this the perfect time to run it. Once again college football showed why it’s the most unpredictable and exciting sport in America.
Best Players:

  1. Brandon Weeden (QB Oklahoma State): Ladies and Gentlemen, this blog has gone big time! If a division-1 college quarterback is reading your blog then you must be doing something right. You may be asking yourself how I know that a quarterback is reading, and the answer is simple. Last week I wrote that Kendall Hunter had a shot at the Heisman, but his quarterback was awful so he would have to run against stacked boxes all the time. Obviously, Brandon Weeden took that to heart as he absolutely tore up this past weekend. After having mediocre stats in the first two games, Weeden exploded on Saturday against Tulsa. He completed 23/32 passes for 409 yards and an amazing 6 touchdowns. Weeden didn’t turn the ball over and led the Cowboys to a blowout win in Stillwater. Hopefully he’ll be posting comments soon!

  1. Taylor Martinez (QB Nebraska): He didn’t have the passing yardage that Weeden compiled, but he had arguably a more impressive game. He finished 7/11 for 150 yards and 1 touchdown with no picks through the air and 137 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. As a freshman quarterback, on the road in a hostile environment, Martinez showed he has poise and could lead the Huskers to a big season.

  1. Ryan Mallett (QB Arkansas): The Razorbacks field general completed 21/33 passes for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns while only getting 53 rushing yards from his teammates in a road win at Georgia. It’s never easy to go between the hedges and get a victory, so Mallett pulling his team to victory with a last minute touchdown pass was extra impressive. He’ll show how good he really is this week against consensus #1 Alabama.

Heisman Watch:

  1. Denard Robinson (QB Michigan) – 671 yards and 4 TDs passing, 559 yards and 4 TDs rushing: Robinson has been amazing all season, maybe not as amazing as this guy but still pretty good. He didn’t have quite as many yards this past week, but he still turned in a balanced performance and was so far ahead of the rest of the field that he was almost assured the top spot on this list. It seems like the Wolverine defense is not the best this year, so that should help Robinson’s candidacy because he’ll have to play longer against bad competition.

  1. LaMichael James (RB Oregon) – 361 yards and 3 TDs rushing: Those stats may not look eye-popping, but remember that James did not play in the first game of the season. James has not had a heavy workload this year and has averaged a whopping 12 yards per carry. I expect great things going forward from the Ducks sophomore.

  1. Ryan Mallett (QB Arkansas) – 1,081 yards and 9 TDs passing: Mallett showed this past weekend that he has not only the arm and the stats to put up a run for the Heisman; he also has the poise and leadership. His last minute touchdown to beat Georgia was a thing of beauty, and if he can help the Razorbacks this weekend, he can creep into the top two.

  1. Kendall Hunter (HB Oklahoma State) – 473 yards and 6 TDs rushing: He did not accumulate very many yards this past week and if he doesn’t pick up the production, he may be in danger of falling off this list completely. The fact that the Cowboys have found a passing game could be a major boost to Hunter since now defenses won’t be able to key on just him.

  1. Justin Blackmon (WR Oklahoma State) – 431 yards and 8 TDs receiving: Dez Who? Hunter’s teammate in Stillwater has put up ridiculous stats so far this year and is the top receiver by stats in the nation. If he can take the pressure of more double teams as the year goes on, I could see him creeping up this list and into the national spotlight.

Last Weeks Predictions:
I really have no explanation for what happened last week. Two of my games to watch were absolutely awful blowouts. None of my game-breakers performed up to expectations. My wild prediction was close, Air Force took Oklahoma to the wire before losing by 3, and the Iowa Arizona game was a good one, but overall I whiffed on pretty much everything. For this, I will be giving myself a 10% pay cut.

Extra Thoughts:
I can’t figure out Oklahoma. One week they barely beat Utah State, then they dominate Florida State, then they have to squeak out a win over Air Force. I want to see some more consistency before I trust them as a legit national title factor.
The Pac-10 really looks like a top-heavy league this year. Arizona, Stanford, and Oregon all look legit and all could challenge for the league title and possibly more. Arizona State, Oregon State and USC both look decent and could beat anyone at any team. After that, it’s a pretty swift drop. Cal looked to be a solid team this year until they were dismantled in Reno. Both of the Washington teams seem too stuck in rebuilding mode and UCLA will be dominated by Texas this week. This league needs to show better balance before the rest of the country takes it as seriously as the SEC.

Week 4 Preview

Games to Watch:

  1. Alabama vs. Arkansas: #1 vs. #10. This is Alabama’s first true test of the season (Penn State put up no fight and everyone saw that coming, so I’m not counting it) at Arkansas and I expect the sparks to fly. Ryan Mallett gets to show the nation what he can do against a top-flight defense and the Razorbacks can show it they’re for real. This game will be the centerpiece of my wild prediction, so look there for my prediction.

  1. Boise State vs. Oregon State: This could be Boise’s last true test of the season until they play Nevada and they need to make it count. The last time most of us saw the Broncos they were squeaking out a win over Virginia Tech. They will need to look a little more dominant this time if they want to stay entrenched in the top five. Oregon State has looked a small cut below most of the top 20 so far this season; I need to see more from their offense than the Rodgers brothers. Pick: Boise State-31 Oregon State-20

  1. Stanford vs. Notre Dame: This is a great measuring stick game for the Cardinal as they travel to South Bend. If they can dominate the Fighting Irish like they did Wake Forest, they can show how good they really are to the rest of the country. Notre Dame desperately needs this win to avoid losing three in a row. Pick: Notre Dame-30 Stanford-28

  1. South Carolina vs. Auburn: This is the first of many ranked SEC matchups this season and it could be special. Freshman Marcus Lattimore gets to showcase his talents to a larger audience with a defense keying on him. Cameron Newton will be looking into a very stout defense that held Georgia to 6 points earlier this year. The key to the game may be Stephen Garcia and the Gamecocks passing game, and I don’t know if they’re up to it against an SEC defense. Pick: Auburn-24 South Carolina-14

  1. West Virginia vs. LSU: This is the night game on ESPN and LSU is almost impossible to beat at night in Baton Rouge. Both of these teams have looked shaky at times this year and the Tigers offense has looked downright Bills-esque, but their defense is solid and they should be able to corral Geno Smith, Noel Devine, and the Mountaineers offense just enough to escape with a win. Pick: LSU-21 West Virginia-17


  1. Nick Foles (QB Arizona): Foles looked composed against a great Iowa defense last week, and this week he gets to match up with a Cal defense that was shredded for 500 yards by Nevada. I think Foles could total 400 yards passing if the Bears can keep it close.

  1. Ryan Broyles (WR Oklahoma): Cincinnati has had some trouble stopping the pass this year, so that should be a perfect opportunity for Landry Jones to find Broyles for a few long touchdowns. Broyles could also have an impact in the return game.

  1. Andrew Luck (QB Stanford): Luck had a superb day against Wake Forest, and he didn’t even play the entire game. The Irish offense should be able to make the game closer, but their defense is ripe for the picking. If Stanford wins a close game, expect a lot of headlines like, “Luck of the Irish!”

Wild Prediction:
Alabama will go to Fayetteville and beat the Razorbacks by 20 points. Last year, Ryan Mallett looked totally overmatched by the Crimson Tide defense and I expect this year to be more of the same. The Alabama offense looks even more potent with the return of Mark Ingram and I expect them to build a big early lead before cruising to a 34-14 victory.
That’s all the time I have for this week, come back next Wednesday for a preview of super Saturday. Have a great weekend.