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Unconventional Wisdom - Week 9
Fritz Schlottman
November 3, 2006


New Orleans at TAMPA BAY

I went against New Orleans off a bye last week, and I’ll pick them to bounce-back on the road this week.

This is a game that will come down to which team can run the ball effectively and which team will stop the opponent’s rushing attack.  Both offenses come into the game in a statistical dead-heat.  The Buc’s are averaging 92.3 rushing yards per game in their last three contests for an average of 4.1 yards per carry.  The Saints have, more or less, the same stats: 91.7 yards per game rushing and a 4.0 yards per carry average in their last three games.  I feel better about the Saints’ numbers because New Orleans is more balanced on offense averaging 271 passing yards per game over the same period while Tampa Bay is only averaging 131 passing yards.  I would expect that the Saints will put eight in the box and dare the Buc’s to throw the football while New Orleans has too many weapons of offense for Tampa Bay to use the same tactic.

The big difference in this game is the rushing defense.  Many of us still have the impression that the Tampa Bay defense is really stingy against the run.  However, the numbers tell us a completely different story.  The Buc’s defense is giving up 141 rushing yards per game over their last three contests which is a staggering number for a defense that has been among the best against the run for nearly a decade.  New Orleans is a little better against opposing rushers, giving up an average of 123 yards per game.

New Orleans needs to get back to playing winning football or the confidence they’ve built over the first half of the season may evaporate.  I look for a big effort from the Saints this week.

Atlanta at DETROIT

This should be a high-scoring game.  Since the first week of the season when Detroit at home held the Seattle Seahawks offense in check, the wheels have come off the Lions defense.  That defense gives up an average of 27 points and 112 rushing yards every week.  The Atlanta Falcons offense rushes for just under 211 yards per game and scores nearly 22 points per game.  Should we be surprised if Atlanta rushes for another 200 yards this week?  I’m guessing no.  At least on paper it doesn’t look like the Lions can do much to stop the NFL’s rushing leaders, and teams that run the ball effective end up winning more then their fair share of games.

However, I think it’s probable that Detroit can stay in this game by passing the ball.  The Falcons defense has fallen apart.  In their last three games, Atlanta has given up an average of 400 yards, 280 per game through the air and 129 on the ground.  Detroit doesn’t have the most dynamic offense, but they are effective throwing the football.  The Lions are averaging 247 passing yards per game.  Do I think the Motor City Kitties will move the football against the Falcons?  You bet I do.

This looks like one of the best fantasy games of the week as far as offensive scoring goes, and should be one of the more exciting for viewers as well.  Detroit keeps this game close and has a shot at an upset in what could be a real barn-burner.


Green Bay at BUFFALO

Green Bay has won two games in a row.  Ok, now let’s get serious for a moment…do you really think this Packers team is going to play three good games in a row?  No, me neither.

Buffalo is very consistent.  When the Bills win the turnover battle, they win the football game.  BUF won the turnover battle against Minnesota at home and won the football game 17-12 and they were plus in turnovers against the Dolphins and beat them 16-6.  The Bills have lost five games this season where they’ve been in the red in turnover stats.  If that’s not a trend, I don’t know what is.

Now here comes the Packers and the NFL’s leading gun-slinger, QB Brett Favre.  Hmm…what do I associate Favre with?  How about interceptions?  Yea, that works for me.  Green Bay has won their last two games by running the football and avoiding mistakes.  Can the Packers do it three weeks in a row?  Nope.

Buffalo isn’t going to let RB Ahman Green run all over them this week.  The Bills will force Favre to make good decisions.  My guess is that Favre will try and force in a couple of passes he shouldn’t while Buffalo plays it safe.  Give me Buffalo in a low-scoring game.

Cincinnati at BALTIMORE

It’s time to start fading the Bengals.  I will give them that they have had more then their fair share of injuries this season, but Cincinnati has scored an average of 19 points in their last three contests, an average of one point less than the Ravens over the same period and it’s not like Baltimore lights up the scoreboard every Sunday.

So what’s the problem?  The most obvious issues is CIN’s inability to rush the football.  The Bengals are averaging just 79 rushing yards per game over their last three contests.  That’s not enough to keep defenses honest and it isn’t going to get any better this week against Baltimore’s defense that is giving up just under 70 rushing yards and a 2.9 yards per carry average in their last three contests.

Cincinnati has lost three of their last four games and looks to be in real danger of dropping another game this week.  From what I’m reading in the papers, the pressure is starting to get to them.  The fans want the offensive coordinator’s head on a stick, and now RB Rudi Johnson and T Willie Anderson are piling on.  QB Carson Palmer has had some of his best games against the Ravens defense, but the team isn’t sounding hopeful this week.

This is a revenge game for Baltimore who were swept last season by a combined score of 63-38.  However, this Ravens team is much better than last year’s squad while CIN has yet to look like offensive juggernaut there were in 2005.  Give me the Ravens.