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Unconventional Wisdom - Week 14
Fritz Schlottman
December 8, 2006


Oakland at Cincinnati

This game features two teams going in different directions.  The Bengals are climbing and the Raiders continue their death spiral right into the ground.

Oakland fell to 2-10 after a home field loss to Houston… (Shudder)…despite holding the Texans offense to five net passing yards.  How can you blow a home game to a team that can’t pass the football?  I think the word I’m searching for here is “inept” if you’re being polite and “incompetent” if you’re still pissed off after last week’s offensive meltdown.  The Raiders offense once again failed to score more than 14 points in a game (the fifth straight week and the eighth time this season the Raiders have failed to get to 15 points).  The Bengals aren’t great on defense, but that hardly seems to matter, this Raiders’ offense just doesn’t have any heart. 

The Bengals are finally playing like the Cincinnati Bengals of 2005-2006.  They’ve won three straight games and have look much hungrier in those wins.  The Bengals still have their problems on defense, but their weakness against the pass matches up nicely against the NFL’s worst passing offense in Oakland.

I just don’t see the Raiders playing with any intensity especially if the weather is cold and they get down early.  Cincinnati dominates this game, so start your Bengals and enjoy the show.  Cincinnati by 14 points.

New Orleans at Dallas

This one’s going to be an offensive show.  The New Orleans Saints lost an important part of their defense this week when DT Hollis Thomas was suspended for the remainder of the season for violating the NFL’s steroid policy.  Reportedly, the big guy is claiming he was taking medicine for asthma, but the league isn’t buying it.  He’s gone so the Saints go into a big game without one of their best players on defense.  The Saints have given up 617 rushing yards in their last three games with Thomas in the line-up, so I expect the Cowboys to come out and test the Saints rushing defense. 

Another source of motivation in this game is the significant number of Saints players and coaches that are former Cowboys.  HC Sean Payton and DC Garry Gibbs were on the Cowboys coaching staff and it is the first time they will face former boss and Dallas HC Bill Parcells.  New Orleans LBs Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle, wide receiver Terrance Copper, tackle Rob Petitti and kicker Billy Cundiff all played for the Cowboys a year ago.

Dallas have won five of their last six games, but aren’t out of the woods even after an important victory over the Giants last Sunday.  Parcells will want to make a statement against his former student and set the tome for a possible playoff match-up.  The winner of this head-to-head match-up may well get the home field in the rematch.
I look for a high scoring game as both offenses are very balanced.  The Saints won’t be able to stop the Cowboys running attack and will have to throw the ball to keep pace.  This is a great spot for both offense, start your Cowboys and Saints.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

Expect a huge effort from Indianapolis this week.  The Colts got caught looking ahead against the Titans last week and suffered an embarrassing loss. Off of a loss that has now tied them with San Diego for the AFC's top seed, I expect a fully focused effort from the pissed-off Colts who have the firepower to dominate an opponent.

Jacksonville isn’t in a great spot.  The Jags finally got that elusive road victory last week against the Dolphins ending Miami’s four-game winning streak.  Now they have to back up to play the Colts.  The Jags lost the first meeting this season 21-14, but out-gained Indy 297 to 272 and were especially dominate running the football in the first half.  I expect Jacksonville to be more determined this meeting to rush the football straight at the Colts defense.

Hmm…one team is a dominate rushing team against a soft defense against the rush and the other team has an explosive balanced offense.  Hey? If I didn’t know better I’d say I was reviewing the Cowboys – Saints game all over again.

This should be another great offensive game.  Start’em if you got’em on your fantasy squad.


Minnesota at Detroit

This is the stinker of the week.  Minnesota's 4-2 start is a distant memory as the Vikings now stand at 5-7 and their once bright playoff hopes are quickly fading.  Actually, if you had the misfortune to watch the Bears game last Sunday, fading is being kind.  Minnesota was just brutal on offense last week.  In a game where all they had to do was not turn the ball over, QB Brad Johnson was just dreadful, throwing the football with absolutely no regard for where it was going.  Still, they are just one game behind the four teams who are tied for the two Wild Cards at 6-6. Minnesota has played well enough on defense to hang around as five of their seven losses being by a touchdown or less. 

The Vikings will have to do it without RB Chester Taylor this week.  Minnesota’s 1,000 yard runningback will miss the game with an injury.

Detroit’s played better than expected, even in losing at New England.  Of course the word "better" being a subjective description for a team that lost five turnovers and still managed to keep the game uncomfortably close for the Patriots.  The Lions are playing better than their record, but with a rushing attack that averages just 77 yards per game (two yards better than the woeful Cardinals) there’s too much pressure on QB Kitna to make things happen.

Minnesota’s defense can stop the run, but the Vikings can’t generate any offense of their own.  That points me to a low-scoring game where most of the points score will likely come off turnovers.  This is a good game to start both fantasy defenses, but a bad game for the casual viewer.  I want no part of either team in an ugly, low-scoring game.

New York Giants at Carolina

I keep trying to remind myself that these were expected to be two of the best teams in the NFC this season.  While it’s not too late to turn their seasons around, both squads look to be among the most disappointing teams of 2006.

The Giants have imploded since the Chicago Bears showdown in a game that was expected to be a game for NFC supremacy.  Last week, the G-men played better in a loss to the hated Cowboys and that bodes well for this week.  With that loss, the Giants fell into a four team tie for the final NFC playoff spots, including a tie with the 8-8 Carolina Panthers.

The question is have the Giants learned from their recent misfortune?  Will they continue to take stupid penalties that kill their own drives and make defensive lapses that help opposing offenses score, or will New York finally play disciplined football?  If the Giants avoid penalties they should be able to score.  The Panthers weakness on defense is their secondary and New York has the weapons to take advantage of them if QB Manning has a good game and his offensive line can keep Carolina DE Peppers off their QB.  NYG’s big guys have done the job the last few games, having not given up a sack since the Jaguars contest.  If Carolina can’t force the Giants into mistakes, the Giants should score a ton of points.

On the other hand, the match-up is far less favorable for the Panthers.  Carolina’s weakness on offense is their offensive line.  And with a career bench-warmer likely starting this week at QB for CAR, the Panthers’ front must play better against a very young and talented NYG defensive line, or Carolina are going to struggle on offense.

This is a game that will come down to which team makes the fewest number of mistakes.  The Panther can’t get into a track meet with the Giants, so look for them to run clock.  My best guess is that both teams will be very inconsistent on offense.  They covered for me last week I’m going back to the well.  I’ll take the Giants to upset Carolina.