Friday, 16 October 2015

NFL 2015 Week 6 preview

Week 5 was a mad slate of games, with tight encounters, overtimes, upsets and teams making statements. None more so than the Cincinnati Bengals who defeated the Seattle Seahawks 27-24 at home to remain at 5-0 and in command of the AFC North, with a career best performance by Andy Dalton along with big days by Giovanni Bernard and Tyler Eifert (90 yards, 2 TDs).

The addition of Eifert back to the roster following his season-long injury last year, has added another dimension to the Bengals offensive output which seemingly was restricted to the two heading rushing monster of Bernard and the now quiet Jeremy Hill, and the down field threat of AJ Green.  With Green getting most of the attention from the Seahawks secondary on Sunday, this allowed Eifert to get some targets and he took advantage. 

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Is Dalton the 2015 MVP?

The victory also showed a grit and desire rarely seen by the Bengals in this Dalton era; they were 17 points down entering the fourth quarter yet there was little panic, the defence got some stops on Seattle who apart from Thomas Rawls (169 rushing yards, 1 TD) failed to get first downs when necessary, Jimmy Graham again restricted to a low day of 30 reception yards.  Seattle fall to 2-3 and have a lot of work to do make the playoffs due to the tough division they are in; yet they need to get more production from Graham, get Marshawn Lynch fit again and firing, and also protect Russell Wilson a bit better so he has time in the pocket, something he could not afford against the Bengals D-line led by Geno Atkins.

Three other undefeated sides, the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons, all had a few slips in wins to maintain their perfect records.  The Broncos won 16-10 in Oakland despite no passing touchdown by Peyton Manning (226 yards) and again no rushing option.  Their defence made the plays with Chris Harris Jr. returning an interception by Derek Carr for a TD, can this defence keep saving Peyton's bacon throughout the season. A tough road test this week versus an equal defence in Cleveland with Joe Haden back is of interest.

Green Bay's victory of 24-10 at home to St. Louis looks convincing but Aaron Rodgers had two
interceptions, his first picks at home in nearly 4 years and the Rams gave Rodgers all he could handle but they won out despite Todd Gurley having 159 yards on the ground, the Rams failure was Nick Foles who had four interceptions on the day. The Packers defence is very unheralded currently.

Atlanta had the closest call needing overtime to defeat Washington at home 25-19, a pick six return by Robert Alford off Kirk Cousins ended the game. The Falcons needed all of Davonte Freeman 153 yards and the TD in the final minute to take the game to extra, but the Falcons survived despite a quiet day for Julio Jones and Matt Ryan who had two INTs. Washington are not as bad as people suspect, but these constant Kirk Cousins turnovers are proving the difference between their current 2-3 standings and being over .500

The New England Patriots came off the bye and rode into Cowboys Stadium and left undefeated with a 30-6 victory over a depleted Dallas Cowboys side.  After initial effort by the Cowboys defence with the now eligible Greg Hardy and returning Rolando McClain, they pressured Tom Brady a lot but once they got the looks right Brady found Edelman (120 yards, 1 TD) and the dimension offered by Dion Lewis in the backfield is proving a difference maker as he scored another TD, one that caused 5 Cowboys defenders to miss him.

Byes: Dallas, Tampa Bay, Oakland, St. Louis
ATLANTA @ New Orleans
DENVER @ Cleveland
CHICAGO @ Detroit
Kansas City @ MINNESOTA
Washington @ NY JETS
ARIZONA @ Pittsburgh
Carolina @ SEATTLE
San Diego @ GREEN BAY
NEW ENGLAND @ Indianapolis
NY GIANTS @ Philadelphia

Match of the Week
Arizona Cardinals (4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
There are a few good games on paper. The division rivalry that is the Giants at Eagles on Monday night; with the Giants seemingly trying to lose games always yet still winning against the now working offence of the Eagles. And the Bengals in another test of their resume versus the Bills in Buffalo; yet I am picking this as my match of the week.

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Will the Bell toll for Arizona?

The Cardinals took no pity in picking on the remaining bones of the Detroit Lions last week going on
the road and winning 42-17 is as dominant a performance as you can imagine. Carson Palmer was the picture of efficiency 11-14, 161 yards and 3 TDs (to Darren Fells, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald).  Palmer even sat out the fourth quarter and the welcome return of Andre Ellington (3 carries, 63 yards, 1 TD) along with the continued resurgence of Chris Johnson (11 carries, 103 yards, 9.4 ypc) means the Cardinals are possibly the best team in the NFC West with a two game cushion over the Seahawks.  Their defence made a regressing Matthew Stafford even worse with three interceptions and restricted them to only 57 rushing yards.

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Palmer's experience is key for Cardinals
That last number is key to this match up as the Cardinals go across country to Pittsburgh who
somehow won at San Diego as time expired thanks to a Le'Veon Bell wildcat touchdown that barely broke the plain to get a 24-20 victory on the road. Bell had 111 yards and that touchdown. The key could be that with Michael Vick still trying to embed himself in this offence, Bell is the staple of the offence and if the Cardinals can keep the bal in Vick's hands perhaps the Cardinals will get the victory; and if they can get pressure to Vick and force him out of the pocket and create mistakes and/or turnovers perhaps they can leave Pittsburgh with a big win.

Upset of the Week
Baltimore Ravens @ San Francisco 49ers

If you are considering an upset this week then consider the 49ers at home to the Ravens one, albeit two 1-4 teams facing off against each other. The Ravens have probably been the biggest disappointment this season - considering I picked them for the Super Bowl - and the lack of deep threat means that Joe Flacco is limited in his play and there is no pass rush due to the season ending injury to Terrell Suggs.

That lack of pass rush gives an opportunity to Colin Kaepernick to continue his return to form, gives him time in the pocket and a chance to make decisions. His deep ball connected well with Anquain Boldin last week and oddly if Kap is in the groove, Carlos Hyde reciprocates.  Last week, the Browns dual threat of Crowell and Duke Johnson had big days so expect more of the same; and for the Ravens to be 1-5, unheard of in August

Fantasy Advice
- Roddy White (Falcons) with injury concerns over Julio Jones and Leonard Hankerson, and in a good match up versus the sorry Saints, is this the week Roddy gets his groove back?
- Anquain Boldin (49ers) the weak Ravens secondary bodes well in this match up
- Andre Ellington (Cardinals) slowly getting back into the line up; the fact he can catch and run provides ample PPR dividends
- LaGarrette Blount (Patriots) in the rematch of DeflateGate, the Patriots will not take their foot off the throttle and Blount can wreck havoc on the poor Indy D-line

(Please note, last week's fantasy advice was Antonio Gates, Larry Donnell, Doug Martin and Duke Johnson - all had double digit fantasy days. Gates was the No.1 ranked Tight End and Martin a Top 5 running back)

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