Pigskin Diaries Week 8: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In 1966, Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly delivered one of the most epic scenes in the history of cinema. The Mexican standoff was wonderfully shot intercutting a mix of long shots and extreme closeups to increase the intensity of the scene. We pay homage to Leone's film in this week's Pigskin Diaries because there has been a lot of good, a lot of bad, and a whole lot of ugly in the National Football League during the past few weeks. The touchdown-less 6-3 game last week in Cleveland is a prime example, but there are plenty of others where that came from.
Indianapolis (+9) @ Tennessee
The Good: Perhaps this was a bad game to start with because there isn’t much good to be found. Both the Titans and Colts quit last week, losing by a combined 89 points. Insane. Right now the only person who’s happy is Chris Johnson — he’s getting $13 million this year to average 2.9 yards per carry.
The Bad: Indy can’t stop the run. That’s why Pat Angerer leads the NFL in tackles by a margin of 15. The Colts are being gouged for over 150 yards per game on the ground, so if Johnson can’t get anything going this week, the Titans can finally hit the panic button.
The Ugly: 62-7? Really, Indy? Peyton Manning is unquestionably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but that score was inexcusable. Jim Caldwell should take most of the blame for this one — Indy would’ve never quit on Tony Dungy. Did you know Caldwell only had a .300 winning percentage as a head coach in college? If he wasn’t Dungy’s close friend, he would never have had the opportunity to coach so poorly in the NFL.
Still, the Titans are far from a juggernaut and shouldn’t be laying nine points to anybody.
Fantasy: Matt Hasselbeck is growing fond of tight end Jared Cook, but Nate Washington is still the most consistent receiver on the team.
Minnesota @ Carolina (-3)
The Good: Rookie quarterbacks. Everybody knows that Cam Newton is running away with the offensive rookie-of-the-year award, but last week, in his first start for the Vikings, Christian Ponder looked impressive. Yeah, he threw two interceptions to Charles Woodson and lost the game outright, but he covered — just like Newton did earlier in the year against Green Bay. Ponder isn’t as physically gifted as Newton, though, and the Vikings offensive line is atrocious. In a stronger system, Ponder could be great whereas Newton can flourish whenever he’s under center.
The Bad: These teams are a combined 9-5 against the spread (ATS), but Minnesota is 1-2 ATS on the road and on grass. If the Vikings are going to win, Adrian Peterson has to have a good game — these two events are mutually exclusive. The problem is Peterson has averaged a yard less per carry on grass because he and the rest of the team are built to play indoors.
The Ugly: This is the worst pass coverage in the history of the NFL.
Fantasy: Ponder’s two favorite targets last week were Visanthe Shiancoe and Michael Jenkins. Let’s see if the trend continues.
Jacksonville @ Houston (-9.5)
The Good: Andre Johnson is back for the Texans after missing three games with a hamstring injury. Houston was 1-2 in his absence, and in their two losses they averaged only 17 points. Johnson is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and his presence alone is almost worth seven points — especially at Reliant Stadium.
The Bad: Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled three times on Monday night against the Ravens, and the Jaguars still found a away to win. Jacksonville gave everything they had on defense against Baltimore, and now they have to turn around and play one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The chances of Jacksonville putting together back-to-back great defensive performances are slim.
The Ugly: Jacksonville is averaging only 12 points per game. They’ve scored six offensive touchdowns (31st in the league, St Louis only has five) while Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown for 12 touchdowns all by his lonesome.
Fantasy: Hang on to Ben Tate fantasy friends. He crossed the century mark for the second time last week, and if Foster goes down then he could explode.
New Orleans (-13.5) @ St. Louis
The Good: Drew Brees.
The Bad: Sam Bradford’s ankle.
The Ugly: Us picking the Rams last week. Embarrassing.
Fantasy: Marques Colston was always the elite receiver you couldn’t trust, but now he’s a legitimate No. 1. Darren Sproles is still the running back you want in New Orleans, especially in point per reception leagues.
Miami @ New York Giants (-9.5)
The Good: Somehow, despite all of their injuries, the Giants have a shot at winning the NFC East. Eli Manning is surrounded by a plethora of weapons, including two emerging targets: Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard. A good passing game can keep even the worst defenses competitive (just ask the Patriots), so as long as Eli is throwing effectively, the Giants should be fine.
The Bad: The Dolphins are inventing new ways to lose each week. We understand that Tim Tebow is the prodigal son, but it’s nearly impossible to squander a 15-point lead with only five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Teams that are 0-6 have a tendency to quit when their backs are against the wall, so if the Giants score first, this could get out of hand.
The Ugly: Somehow Miami will find a way to get the second overall pick in the draft and miss out on Andrew Luck.
Fantasy: The Dolphins will be down, so expect Brandon Marshall to get a ton of targets.
Arizona @ Baltimore (-12.5)
The Good: Monday night was a mess for the Ravens, but they’re a completely different team at home. At M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore is 3-0 ATS, outscoring the Steelers, Jets and Texans by an average of 20 points. That’s impressive.
The Bad: Joe Flacco is not impressive, however. True, Anquan Boldin struggles to stretch the field and Torrey Smith barely knows the route tree, but Flacco needs to get the ball down the field. Ray Rice takes a lot of pressure off the fourth-year signal caller from Delaware, but Flacco needs to improve if the Ravens want to remain relevant. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed can’t play at a high level forever.
The Ugly: Kevin Kolb has less than four months left in his career as a starting quarterback. He will most likely fill his Sundays with moments like this.
Fantasy: Beanie Wells is injured, and Alfonso Smith will start at running back for the Cardinals. This isn’t a favorable match up by any means, but there are only a few feature backs in the league now, and Smith could be interesting going forward.
Washington @ Buffalo in Toronto (-6)
The Good: The Bills offense is for real. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson are all legitimate threats — we will hammer this until you finally admit or realize it. The Redskins defense is tough, but with two weeks to prepare, we trust Fitzpatrick to make big plays.
The Bad: Washington went from being a division leader to the worst team in the NFC East. The decision to bench Rex Grossman was rushed, and now there is no going back. John Beck has to finish the season as the starter, or else Mike Shanahan will completely lose the locker room.
The Ugly: Tim Hightower suffered a season-ending knee injury and Santana Moss is out for two months with a broken hand. Good luck moving the ball, Washington.
Fantasy: Ryan Torain may be the guy right now, but Roy Helu Jr. is the back of the future. We’d rather have him going forward, especially seeing that Torain is injury-prone.
Detroit @ Denver (+3)
The Good: Betting on Tim Tebow. Never before has sinning felt so good.
The Bad: Detroit’s two-game home losing streak. The first loss to San Francisco wasn’t so bad because the Niners are running away with the NFC West, but their loss to the Falcons is going to hurt down the road because both teams are fighting for a wildcard spot. Matthew Stafford’s ankle injury is a concern, especially because Detroit is already without running back Jahvid Best.
The Ugly: If Ndamukong Suh taunted Matt Ryan while he was down, then that’s bush league. No player deserves to be injured, even Tom Brady.
Fantasy: Tim Tebow played horribly, yet still finished the week as a top-five fantasy quarterback. The guy finds ways to produce.
New England (-3) @ Pittsburgh
The Good: Since 2001, the Patriots are 6-2 against the Steelers — and one of those losses came with Matt Cassel at quarterback. New England owns Pittsburgh and should be more than a field goal favorite, even at Heinz Field.
The Bad: Rashard Mendenhall has only run for 70 yards or more once this season, and in that game he broke off a 68-yard touchdown. If you take that one carry away, he’s only averaging 3 yards per carry on the year. That’s not very good. Ben Roethlisberger is capable of throwing the pill, but the Steelers need a running game to protect him and the offensive line.
The Ugly: Bibi Jones regarding Rob Gronkowski: “Nothing happened.”
Fantasy: Antonio Brown has been spotty at times, but he is the clear-cut No. 2 receiver on the Steelers. He should be owned in all leagues.
Cincinnati @ Seattle (+3)
Cleveland @ San Francisco (-9)
The Good: Cities that begin with an “S.”
The Bad: Cities that begin with a “C.”
The Ugly: Picking two NFC West teams.
Fantasy: Braylon Edwards returns for the Niners, giving Alex Smith another weapon. Michael Crabtree remains the No. 1 receiver and a solid WR2 option.
Dallas (+3.5) @ Philadelphia
The Good: DeMarco Murray. Wow. He was fun to watch at Oklahoma, but last week’s 253-yard performance against the Rams was something else. He’s got 2 inches and about a dozen pounds on Felix Jones, making him a much tougher back, and if he can compete fully in consecutive games, it will also make him more durable than the oft-injured Arkansas alum.
The Bad: The Eagles front office for publicly shopping Asante Samuel. After the trade deadline passed and Philadelphia failed to move him, Samuel took a shot at the front office: “They’re playing with a lot of money, playing fantasy football, doing their thing.” So far their fantasy defense has been subpar, and failing to move Samuel won’t help the moral in the locker room.
The Ugly: The battle between Dallas’ No. 1 rush defense (69.7 yards per game) and Philadelphia’s No. 1 rush offense (170 yards per game) is going to be a doozy. LeSean McCoy is a vital part of the Eagles offense, and if they abandon the run early then Michael Vick may be seeing stars for a third time this season.
Fantasy: Murray is at least a flex play until Jones returns to the lineup. Once he does, we can then re-evaluate the situation.
San Diego @ Kansas City (+4)
The Good: Fading the public with the Chiefs who are 4-2 ATS.
The Bad: Philip Rivers’ play through the first seven weeks of the season. He looks like he’s injured out there because he’s missing easy throws and making terrible mistakes, but his name has yet to appear on the injury list. The Chargers defense is suspect at best, and without a healthy, effective Rivers, they’re a once-and-done team come playoff time.
The Ugly: Monday Night Football has the worst lineup ever this season. Did the Worldwide Leader throw darts at the schedule last spring? There are only three intriguing games left on the schedule: Week 12 — Giants at Saints, Week 15 — Steelers at 49ers, and Week 16 — Falcons at Saints. The rest of the games all feature at least one team with a losing record, and some have two. Not cool, ESPN.
Fantasy: Shonn Greene of the Jets has looked terrible all year, except last week against the Chargers. Jackie Battle could definitely have a big game.
Last Week: 5-7-1
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All betting lines are from Covers.com, and are accurate as of 11 a.m. EST