Archive for category Thursday Night football

49ers – Bears Friday Recap

Due to some wild work crap, this is up a ton later than expected but despite that, here are my thoughts on the Chicago/San Fran stumble from Thursday night.

It was indeed a stumble – it was too lackluster to be called a ‘tumble’, ‘matchup’ or ‘brouhaha’.

I could have almost called it a yawn.

Jay Cutler must miss Denver. Not so much the city, coaching staff or even the AFC West – although that last one would be a lot more fun to play in.

No, Cutler is probably missing a good offensive line and competent wide receivers.

Most likely the offensive line. If you don’t believe me, take a peek at Matt Forte’s statline. His yards per carry is pretty abyssmal, although his overall stas are good thanks to the Bears finally using him in the pass game.

I suck at math but if I used the calculatron correctly, 20 carries for41 yards is a horrific 2.1 yards per carry average. 

I made a joke on twitter last night wondering if Forte was finally back from vacation and was gently reminded that it isn’t really him so much as his offensive line.

However, the counter point to that which – of course – I only just thought of is that guys like Steven Jackson and LaDainian Tomlinson have at one time or another (or in Jackson’s case continue) to produce with shoddy offensive lines.

I guess all that means is, if you were ready to crown Forte as the next great running back after a fantastic year one, slow your roll. Doesn’t mean he’s not very good – it might indicate he isn’t great. Either way, it’s too early to call it, so let’s not.

Back to Cutler – apparently he cursed out a journalist in the hallways near the 49er lockerroom last night when said media dude said that forget fove interceptions, Cutler could have easily had seven.

I’m sure it’s not what you want to hear but honestly, was the guy wrong? Cutler made some poor decisions (for example interception number one) and floated some awful passes that could have been picked off, but weren’t.

No run game and poor blocking by the offensive line have put Cutler in a position where he feels the need to press and that’s not a good thing.

Especially when Devin Hester would make a nice number two wide receiver but isn’t quite in Brandon Marshall’s league. Or Brandon Stokley’s. Or Eddie Royal’s.

I see a trend.

Cutler needs to stop pushing so hard. He also needs more help.

Speaking of offensive lines, a better effort on the part of the San Francisco line than in recent games. I’ll point to the running back position again as partial support of my point.

Frank Gore’s 104 yards and touchdown on the ground added up to a very solid 4.2 yards per carry. 

Despite that, there is still work to do. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked twice and did throw a pick, but more telling was the fact that he looked like a skittish deer in the pocket.

He doesn’t seem to have much confidence in that offensive line right now. Not good.

The 49ers didn’t repeat last week’s mistake of putting Smith in the position of having to throw 45 times and that’s a good thing given his propensity for interceptions.

Still, 118 yards and no touchdowns is too few for both stats and the 49ers need to do something about it. Getting him back to the confidence level he seemed to have his first game or two is a must.

Despite the better play on the defensive side of the ball and the good ground game, the Niners didn’t take this game over or impose their will on the Bears.

At some point they may fall behind an opponent and at that point they need to find a way to move the ball through the air.

We can argue Smith’s long term viability as the starting QB for this franchise (I don’t think he has one, unfortunately) but he has had a turnover in every start and the more he throws, the scarier it seems to get.

Where did Vernon Davis go? If the Bears did one thing well, it was shut the up-until-last-night red hot tight end down. Meanwhile Greg Olsen has found his stride and his seven catches for 75 yards was a real bright spot.

Back to Forte for a second – 120 yards on eight catches is pretty sick. In reality, throwing to Forte would be the other thing the Bears did well.

Johnny Knox is pretty fast. I mean, there is speed and then there is NFL speed. Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com mentioned how impressed he was to see the speed he and the guys at Draftguys.com saw at Texas vs. the Nation still effective against NFL level players.

There’s a huge difference between College and NFL play – Knox seems to have shifted pretty well from one to the other.

So has Michael Crabtree for the most part. He stumbled on the smith interception and perhaps a more veteran wideout and a more confident quarterback might have adjusted on the fly to the huge cushion Crabtree had but neither did.

Crabtree still looks much better than expected though and I think he’ll succeed in the league, a relief to Niner fans I am sure.

Overall, this game was hard to watch. Neither team really seemed to want to win it, and there was a lack of intensity that marred what I expected to be a hard fought game.

Both teams needed this win badly. The 49ers stay in contention for both the Wild Card and the NFC West title with the win while the Bears are heading the wrong way and will have a fight on their hands for a slot in the playoffs if they don’t figure out how to fix what’s wrong and soon.

It sure wasn’t a case of ‘who wanted it more’ though – more like a case of ’who played slightly more competently’.

Not exactly what I was looking for during the first week of Thursday Night Football.

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Thursday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers

Here is the first half where we broke down the Chicago Bears. Again you can find the audio of this at Blogtalkradio.com if you’d like or over at ITunes.
 
As I have mentioned before, I feel this is a critical game for both teams. The 49ers have to keep pace with the Bears and Green bay Packers for a Wild Card spot and the Cardinals for a potential Division Title. The Bears are also vying for a Wild Card spot, as it is unlikely they will overtake the 7-1 Vikings.
The loser makes life MUCH harder for themselves.
And so without further ado – the San Francisco 49ers. 
 
Alex Smith
I don’t think Alex Smith is as bad as last weekend – I mean, if you throw 45 times against a Tennessee secondary that is finally healthy, you will turn the ball over. He made some bad decisions, yes, but the reason they plugged him in is that he can stretch the field which is something Shaun Hill couldn’t do.
 
All that being said, he should make you nervous. If you’re in a bind, he faces a defense with a myriad of linebacker and secondary issues coming off a game in which they got roughed up. He’s got a solid wide receiver in Crabtree, a great back in Gore and a red hot tight end in Vernon Davis. He’s risky as hell but if you have injury/bye week issues, he’s start-able and has some upside.
 
I’d avoid him if I could though.
 
Frank Gore
Gore didn’t let a sharp poke to the eye slow him down against Tennessee, compiling 158 total yards and a touchdown. At the beginning of the season, I was thinking they needed to work in Glenn Coffee more to preserve Gore for later in the season. Amazingly, they’ve gone too far the other way, with Gore only rushing the ball 41 times in three games. That’s not enough, especially when your overall offense has struggled a bit.
 
The Bears have allowed over yards per game in the last month including a 117 effort by Cleveland.
 
Folks THIS is a good match-up. I expect Gore to top 100 total yards and a touchdown tonight against a struggling rush defense while the 49ers try to control the clock and limit the overall passes Alex Smith has to make. 45 throws is too much when you have Gore on your roster.  
 
Michael Crabtree
Sure, Crabtree had a poor game last week, blanketed by a pretty effective Titans defense. As he has played more, teams have more tape of him and will adjust to account for his strengths and take advantage of his weaknesses.
 
All that said, he has still looked very good for a rookie who not only missed camp but a chunk of the season. Is he safe each week? Debatable. But he’s playing well and in a PPR alone has been pretty consistent. If you are looking for 5-10 points, I think he will get you that. As a WR3 or 4, he is pretty safe and should put up some yard points with the possibility of a touchdown as well.
It’s a little risky but I think it is well worth the roll of the dice.
Josh Morgan
Morgan has continued to be very much up and down. Now that Isaac Bruce is essentially out of a job, Morgan might be a tempting play. But unless you are very thin at wide receiver right now, I would avoid him. He could have a game like he did week seven against Houston but he is just as likely to repeat the last two weeks of frustration.
Vernon Davis
I said it in my article at Bleacher Report, but if someone told you in 2008 (or even early 2009) that Davis would have a career year and be one of the top producing tight ends in the game you might have checked them into rehab.
 
And yet, he’s tied for second overall in receiving touchdowns (with Miles Austin, Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald), second in targets amongst tight ends and 14th in targets overall. While other owners were falling all over themselves trying to reach for Witten, Gates and Gonzalez if you got Davis late, you got a huge value.
 
Smith looks for him early and often, frequently in the red zone. With this match-up, there are very few tight ends I would put in ahead of Davis and I expect him to continue to be an outstanding option from here on out. 

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Thursday Night Football: Chicago Bears

In what is a pretty important matchup for both teams, the San Francisco 49ers welcome the Chicago Bears to Candlestick Park for the kickoff of NFLN’s Thursday Night Football Series.
 
As always for a Fantasy Football Owner it’s a blessing AND a curse. On the one hand, early football = YAY! On the other, make a mistake by starting a player you shouldn’t and you put yourself in an early hole.
 
Every Thursday we’ll break down both teams to make sure your Thursday night is more ‘Yay’ then ‘Crap’. If you prefer audio, check out the podcast from Wednesday night and we have you covered as well (or go ahead and download via ITUNES and carry it wherever you go).
Let’s start with the visiting Bears.
 
 Jay Cutler
Cutler faces a 49ers team which has allowed over 250 yards and a TD over their last four match-ups while only generating an average of .5 INTs a game. Cutler has been over 200 yards in every game but one (ironically against Detroit) and has scored multiple touchdowns in five out of eight games. Against this defense, I expect to see another 200+ game (I’m guessing 250 plus) and a pair of touchdowns this week.  
 
Matt Forte
Forte definitely heads the list of ‘guys who have busted hard’ this season. He has struggled behind a shaky offensive line and been ignored quite often in the passing game. Also he has flat out just not looked great this season. All that said, I think he’s an ok start this week as a RB2 or flex, moreso in a PPR league. Last week against the Cardinals, the team finally got him consistently involved in the pass game and I think that continues this week against a weak pass defense.
 
Is he a great start? No, he’s nowhere near consistent or safe enough. Is he an OK RB2 or flex? Yes, I expect good, though not great, production tonight.
 
Devin Hester
I was thinking on my comments from last night’s show and I think I underrated Hester a bit. Sure, he’s not hitting the end zone nearly enough.
Since week 6, Hester has had more than 80 yards and between six and eight catches each week.
 

That’s not perfect but it has become pretty consistent. He has been playing well and seems to be flirting with WR2 status. I’d rather assume WR3 numbers but against this defense – which has been struggling – he could be a nice start in a PPR. Less so if you just get yards.

 
Johnny Knox
Knox has cooled considerably although he is consistent in that he has caught about 4 passes a game for around 40 yards the last few games. I don’t expect big things from him this week, though the match-up is nice. As a flex or WR4 with upside Knox has potential but look your roster over and if you have more reliable, more productive or higher upside guys, go with them.
 
Greg Olsen
Olsen is not having the season people envisioned in back in August and there are a bunch of reasons for that. Bottom line though is he has been a disappointment. He FINALLY performed well last week with five catches for 71 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Mind you, the last pair was in a desperate fourth quarter when Arizona had eased back the throttle a bit.
 
Still, I think Chicago remembered they had a great receiving tight end to play with and he should see a slight uptick in production. Still, I don’t expect him to have another huge game so I would start him only if I am struggling at the position and don’t have a ton of options. I’d like to see some more from him consistently before I automatically plug him in.
 

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Thursday Game Breakdown – Colts at Jaguars (Jaguars breakdown)

David Garrard – A bad matchup to be sure, the Colts are only allowing 190 yds per game. Does it get worse? Yup – only a meager 5 TDs through the air while snagging 14 INTs – good enough for 9th best total in the league. Garrard has been up and down all seasojn – I wouldn’t want to throw him out there in my Championship week against this defense.

Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD is THE MAN now in the backfield and faces a nice matchup. The Colts allow 127+ yards a game on the ground and 16 Tds to date. Not only will MJD get a lot of carries, he’ll get some targets in the pass game as well. While he has under-produced for chunks of the season, I think this week he rolls off a very nice game.

Dennis Northcutt – Looks like he gets Garrard’s love with Matt Jones out. Can I trust him? Probably not, certainly not as more than a 4. As I expect a bad game from Garrard, you can’t depend on Northcutt all that much.

Reggie Williams – Williams consistently confuses the heck out of everybody and while he can put up the occasional big game I don’t think this is a matchup I would risk it.

Mike Walker – Nope – I want to see him play I think he has potential but it hasn’t been realized – or evident – since he hasn’t been on the field.

Marcedes Lewis – A shaky guy at best, not in the top 10 TEs this week, but if you are in a Hail Mary situation, you’re likely going to get maybe 20-40 yards and 3-5 catches. So not pretty, and barely passable.

Thursday Game Breakdown – Colts at Jaguars (Colts breakdown)

Peyton Manning – Jacksonville is ranked as the 14th team against the pass allowing only 208 yds per game, but actually have given up the 4th most TDs in the league with 22. Manning has had a pair of great games the last two weeks against Cinci and Detroit, both of which normally hurt QBs because they can be run on so effectively. However, the Colts love to throw the ball and will probably do it often enough to where Manning should be a solid start once again.

Dominic Rhodes – Rumor has once again told us that Addai will certainly, maybe almost for sure could be dressed for the game. Whee – I love certainty! I don’t think this hurts Rhodes all that much but it could hamper the overall numbers a tad. The Jags are ranked a mediocre 17th in the league allowing 110 plus yards in the ground and 11 TDs. Not great not bad. I think Rhodes could get the lions share of the carries – if the Colts might make the playoffs then perhaps a healthy Addai may be worth riding Rhodes for now. I think he could get some decent yards and he’s a better start without Addai than with. I expect TDs through the air, not on the ground though so shoot for yards with a Rhodes start.

Joseph Addai – Even if he can play, do you want to roll with him? Even when he has played, he’s been a streaky. He’s had some good games (week 12 and 11) but far more shaky games. Even if he does go, I don’t know how well he will play. I think you take your championship life in your hands if he is in your lineup.

Reggie Wayne – Wayne hasn’t been as outstanding as we had hoped he might be. He’ll have a few big games in a row and then sort of fade away. Three of the last four weeks have been less than good – he gets targets but until last week vs Detroit had actually been a rather bad play. However the Jags give up yards, as I mentioned with Manning, and a ton of TDs. I think you can expect one of his better games this week, rather than worry about a down week.

Anthony Gonzales – A bump up since Harrison doesn’t play so Gonzalez might be a decent 3 or 4. He’s a shaky 4 most weeks, but could get some work across from Wayne when the coverage shifts that way. Has some nice upside, but I’m not in love with him as a start this week.

Dallas Clark – Does the Pro Bowl snub get a big game from him? Do Manning and Dungy try to prove a point? I think Clark could be an excellent start this Thursday because I think the Colts were as shocked as we were that Gates made it when Clark was outplaying him the whole year. 142 and a touch like last week? Probably not. But a bunch of catches and 50 or so yards – with maybe an accompanying TD? I think it’s very possible.

Thursday Game Breakdown – Saints at Bears – Bears Breakdown

BEARS
Kyle Orton – Isn’t knocking it out of the park but has played all right since he came back from injury. This isn’t an awful matchup – the Saitns are 16th vs the pass, and have given up 20 TDs and only have 11 INTs. So he won’t turn the ball over (not really his problem most weeks) and will probably throw for @ 200 or so yards again. But he won’t blow your opponent away and unless this is your best matchup and QB, I would rather pass on him. But it depends on your alternatives and Orton won’t lose you the game which might be important.

Matt Forte – Why are you even wondering? START HIM. Lock him into your RB2 (maybe RB1 depending). The Saints give up 112 yds per game and have allowed 10 TDs on the ground. Oh and he catches – if Orton has a TD, it is likely Forte catches it. Should have an excellent day as he is involved even if they trail as he catches the ball well.

Chicago WRs – You can stick any one of them in, but Hester is getting the most targets of late. Has the best chance as a flex or WR3/4 but don’t hold your breath.

Greg Olson – Olson is very much up and down – there are more stable TEs – BUT do you own them. He can get some looks from Orton and is a risky play. Depends upon who else you have, but I’m not sold that he will add that much to your fantasy team.

Thursday Game Breakdown – Chargers vs Oakland

Oakland

JaMarcus Russell –

This might be a better than average start for Russell, but does it matter when the average is this bad? You can’t start him unless you are in the deepest of trouble. Yes, the Chargers are a fantastically awful 31st vs the pass. But Russell has struggled too early and often to count on in the fantasy playoffs.


Justin Fargas – The run defense here is just good enough to have me worried (15th with only 6 TDs allowed). Michael Turner did get 120 yads but that was Turner and with a good offense. Fargas is not as good and lacks that good offense portion of the formula. And he may split carries with Darren McFadden. A flex? Maybe but a risky one.


Darren McFadden – Boom or Bust with DMac2 – he can put up some numbers but is splitting carries with son of Huggy Bear and having to run with no real threat of passing offense behind him – it could be tough. Again, the Chargers aren’t great against the run, but good enough and McFadden may put up a little of this, a little of that and not enough to be worth the start. He might be an early flex or real low end #2. He is a Hail Mary early in the week and I hate those.

OAK

WR core – no thanks. Seriously.




Zach Miller – Miller has been the only somewhat stable thing in the offense for a while and given how shaky many TEs are, he will be a decent though not fantastic start most weeks.

CHARGERS




Phillip Rivers - A few weeks ago this looked like a much better matchup than it does now. But the oline in SD has actually gotten worse and allowed Rivers to get massacred last weekend against Atlanta. And turns out special teams player Chris Johnson (whom I admit to having less than stellar opinion of) is a pretty good CB. With him opposite Nnamdi Asomugha they might keep the passing offense and Rivers on their toes. Check that – they WILL. If I can avoid Rivers this weekend, I would.


Ladainian Tomlinson – Sure he hasn’t been himself this year. And yes the oline has been sub-par and losing Lorenzo Neal was unfortunate. Still, he is facing the 29th run D and on his own with the same bad oline scored 2 TDs and had 100+ yards. They will key on him and I think – while it will be meh for LT – he will have a good enough day to warrant starting him in all leagues – no lower than the #2 and more than likely worth at least a low level RB1.

Chris Chambers – While he is getting more targets than Jackson, he’s still not impressing me and isn’t doing anything much fantasy-wise. I wouldn’t trust him if I could avoid it, there are better #3s and a few #4s I might like more – including his teammate Jackson. Toomer, Hixon, Ginn are all guys I would rather start.

Vincent Jackson - Jackson is not getting as many targets as he had in the past but the ones he gets are red zone targets. If Chambers could play a little better, opposing secondaries wouldn’t be able to blanket Jackson and he would have more room. But he gets some redzone love and between that and his more reliable hands, I don’t mind having V-Jax in my lineup as a 4 depending upon other matchups.

Antonio Gates - Gates has not had a very good season, didn’t play great last time out (though was the only guy with a receiving TD) and struggled last week. If the Chargers cannot protect Rivers, Gates is in for a long day. I can only hope he plays well – this is almost a bench-worthy matchup right now – with a lesser TE it would be. But Gates can go off – so it will be hard to find someone you trust more often and can count on.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals – Bengals Breakdown

Ryan Fitzpatrick – Against the top pass defense in the league I would rather avoid the Harvard QB. It’s too risky most weeks to roll him out much less this week. But what to do if you have a whole bunch of question marks? I would still try to avoid him. He might not turn the ball over a lot, and the Steelers only have 10 INTs (some might claim 11 after the blown call against the Chargers) but they are tied for the league in sacks with 36. And oh yeah – The Bengals have given up 38 sacks thus far and the left side of the oline is out. Yeah, I would bench him.

Cedric Benson – At times, Benson has played very well though never great. Against the number 1 rush defense, I cannot stress enough how bad an idea it is to start him. Less than 69yds per game? Check. Just 4 TDs the season? Check. Bench for Benson? Check.

TJ Houshmandzedah – In a PPR league Housh has been money almost every week. They will still try to get him the ball and he’s probably one of your better WRs right now. He is the one person I might start on this squad. I’m still nervous and you cannot expect a ton, but he should get some catches and in a PPR league he is probably going to be a good start there, while nonPPR is a really tough matchup and it may not be worth your time to start him, though again, you may not have a whole heckuva lot of choice.

Chad Johnson – Has just been announced as inactive – don’t know why, doesn’t matter. get him out.

Chris Henry – Will get the start in Johnson’s place. Still not worth a start unless you are very desperate.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals – Steelers Breakdown


Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben has been able to put yards up lately, but he hasn’t been able to get the ball into the hands of his WRs for a TD – however, he HAS been able to get the ball into the hands of the opposing secondary, throwing 8 INTs in the last 5 games, and only 3 TDs. He faces a Bengals team that has steadily – though slowly – gotten better as the weeks have gone on. They have been able to limit passers to just over 200 yards a game but are not getting a ton of pressure on the QB (just 11 sacks) and aren’t forcing too many turnovers (just 8). They have also given 14 TDs up to date and while many of those were earlier in the season, they do give them up regularly and this could be the week that Roethlisberger’s TDs end up better than his yards. I think he’s a fine start, depending on your matchup.

Willie Parker – One reason Big Ben might have a subpar passing game yardage-wise could be a large game from Willie Parker. Parker came out firing on all cylinders in a sloppy game against the Chargers last week, and is looking a defense giving 131+ yards a game, and a dozen TDs right in the face. Parker is a good start this week, a nice RB2 or flex at least and maybe more depending upon your matchups.

Hines Ward – Ward has been pretty darn streaky this season, but is on a two game tear with over 100 yards per game. Roethlisberger is certainly looking at him a ton the last few games – and while Parker will probably control things on the ground, Ward is often Big Ben’s go to guy on short and tough crossing routes. A decent WR3 or flex depending on your roster and he should put up ok yards. He might get a TD in the redzone, but no guarantees.

Santonio Holmes – Holmes has had, for the most part, an awful year. Between his one game benching and the subpar receptions, he’s been a shaky start. Could he light up the Bengals? Yup. Do I want to risk it this early? Probably not. He is a borderline WR4 – until he can prove to me he can be even a little consistent I’m not partial to him going into your lineup.

Nate Washington – There was time during the earlier part of the season where they were using Washington to stretch the field. But that time seems to have past. Like Calvin Johnson, he’s surviving on one or two long bombs most weeks – unlike Johnson he does not have the pure physicality and ability to make more out of less. Washington is just not a safe play – he did have a TD last go-round against the Bengals but unless you have to go 4 Wr and/or are in a bind, he should be on your bench.

Mewelde Moore – Moore might have some very thin value in an emergency but with Parker running the way he did this weekend, it looks grim. Moore was part of the pass game to the tune of 5 catches for 33 yards so in a PPR league he has Kevin Faulk value, but it’s risky and unless you have a real problem at RB this weekend, sit him. He might get garbage yards but on a thursday I would rather not risk it.

Heath Miller – Fresh off an injury I would hate to have to start him but let’s face it – the TE position has been a real pain in the rear in FF this year. I would rather sit him but if you have a rotating group of donuts each week, he’s worth a flier. He practiced today and so he should play.

SAMMY MORRIS ACTIVE

I don’t know how much he will play but it certainly adds another level of difficulty for Law Firm tonight. Benjarvus Green-Ellis may have less carries against a very tough run D.