Welcome once again to our breakdown of the NFC West - the division for NFL fans who hate fantasy football, the NFL, and most of all, themselves. Last week's predictions went a bit better than Week 1's did, as I was almost spooky accurate in my forecasts for the Rams and Cardinals, and not so much on the 49ers and Seahawks. This wouldn't be so upsetting if I didn't cover the 49ers for a living, so yes, I did spend a part of my Sunday night pounding my head against the desk.
Frank Gore is good now? Who could've possibly seen that coming? Didn't the Seahawks watch film of how the Cardinals worked him at all? Or were they too overconfident on the heels of that 28-0 curbstomping they gave the Rams?
I should've known not to put any faith in Seahawks coach Jim Mora. Coming from an insider, trust me: the guy's a prick. I know a lot of people are picking the Seahawks to win this woebegone division - mainly due to the fact that the competition is so weak and not anything special about the Seattle - but trust me, Mora will singlehandedly lead them to ruin. He's an awful, awful coach.
I'm not sure yet if the Cardinals or 49ers will win the NFC West, but the Seahawks won't. They just won't. They will not, is what I'm trying to say.
Anyway, you don't particularly care who wins the division. You just care about your fantasy team. As well you should, because your team BLOWS. At least it does if you've got too many NFC West guys in your line-up. Honestly what were you thinking?
Ordinarily this division is slim pickings as it is, but particularly in Week 3, when three teams are squaring off against the NFC North (the good kind of NFC North, not the Detroit Lions kind) and the other one has to face the Colts? That, mis amigos, is time to abandon ship.
As an academic exercise and nothing more, we will go through the previews anyway, but I'm telling you now: Don't expect much this week from this division.
San Francisco at Minnesota
We'll start with the division leaders, my hometown 2-0 Niners. Those two wins didn't come against the Lions and Rams, kiddies, but against honest-to-goodness almost not terrible teams in the Cardinals and Seahawks, so they deserve your respek.
Just not this week.
The Vikings had the best rush defense in the league last season, and while they've tailed off a bit in the early going so far ("tailing off" for them being only 15th in the league as opposed to first), their pass defense has been out of its mind, shutting down a couple of young quarterbacks in Cleveland's Brady Quinn and Detroit's Matthew Stafford.
Frank Gore is not going to go crazy two weeks in a row, and the Vikings are the rare team that can shut down a running game without having to commit an eighth man into the box, which means that San Francisco's already crummy passing game - 30th in the league - is likely to get crummier.
If you do have Gore on your squad, all hope is not lost. The Vikes have shown a weakness in covering tight ends and backs, so he might get some points in the pass game. Also, since he has all four touchdowns for the Niners so far, there's a good chance he can poach another, regardless of what kind of game he's having overall.
The match-up I'm really excited about is the 49ers defense. They held Adrian Peterson to a career-low three yards on 14 carries the last time they faced him, in 2007, and since then their run defense has only gotten better, with the addition of DE Justin Smith and ILB Takeo Spikes. They have a couple of solid run-supporting CBs in Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer, so the sweeps and tosses won't be there for Peterson either.
Minnesota's offense had the worst yards-after-catch production on passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage last year, so screen passes to Peterson or his backup, Chester Taylor, shouldn't expose the 49ers LBs in pass coverage, and QB Brett Favre has yet to show that he still has the deep arm to exploit the 49ers safeties.
Why I really like San Francisco's defense, however, is because of Minnesota's awful coverage units, especially on punts. Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs took one back to the house on them in Week 1 and San Francisco's Allen Rossum popped one against the Seahawks last week, only for it to be called back on a questionable holding penalty. If your league counts return yards towards defense, you'll need to pick up the San Francisco D this week, because Rossum is in line to have a big day.
Projected Score: Vikings 20, 49ers 16
Green Light: San Francisco Defense, ILB Patrick Willis (for defensive player leagues), RB Frank Gore
Yellow Light: TE Vernon Davis, QB Shaun Hill
Red Light: WR Isaac Bruce, WR Josh Morgan
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks
Jay Cutler, the Sultan of Sulk, leads his fellow Bears into Qwest Field against a banged up Seahawks team that's in all likelihood going to be missing four defensive starters in MLB Lofa Tatupu, OLB Leroy Hill, DT Brandon Mebane, and CB Josh Wilson, and a couple of other guys are questionable.
Meanwhile on offense, they're probably down to their third left tackle, some schmo named Brandon Frye, and of course they're probably going to be forced to start Seneca Wallace at QB because Matt Hasselbeck's back collapsed in on itself like an accordion last week.
Can Seattle's "12th Man" possibly compensate for all those injuries and Mora's crappy coaching?
You just want the fantasy lowdown.
The Bears 31st rated run offense squares off against Seattle's 26th rated run defense. Which of those two will break out? I'm betting on the former, for two reasons. First of all, the Seahawks, as I said, are beat up in their front seven and Gore treated them like extras on "Oz" last week. Secondly, I think the Bears will want to keep the game simple on the road for the easily-rattled Cutler and won't open it up for him unless they have to. Matt Forte's bound to show up eventually.
Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp specialized in the run game when he ran Atlanta's crew, and with Wallace under center, they're likely to play it close to the vest as well.
Two teams running the ball will mean less sacks, less picks, less turnovers, and less opportunities for defensive points.
Meanwhile, the loss of Brian Urlacher has already been felt by the Bears defense, as the Steelers, who aren't exactly known for their running attack these days, churned out 105 yards on just 22 attempts, for 4.8 yards per carry.
My colleague, Tab, has covered this game from the Bears' angle, and he is even less pessimistic about the Seahawks prospects than I am. Mountain Dew, meanwhile, sees some upside in T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Projected Score: Bears 23, Seahawks 16
Green Light: TE John Carlson, RB Julius Jones
Yellow Light: Seahawks Defense
Red Light: QB Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seneca Wallace, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams
Today's math lesson: 0 points at Seattle in Week 1 + 7 points at Washington in Week 2 + Pissed off Green Bay defense in Week 3 = Stay the hell away from everyone on the Rams.
Seriously, don't do it. You just have to trust me on this one, it's going to be ugly. I mean, you could always hope and pray that Marc Bulger will throw for some meaningless yards and some garbage time touchdowns to Laurent Robinson or Donnie Avery, but honestly, he's just as likely to throw it to the Packers Charles Woodson or Al Harris.
The Packers 3-4 defense hasn't quite gelled yet and they *did* allow 141 yards to Cedric Benson, of all people, last week, so I suppose Steven Jackson wouldn't be the worst play in the world, but honestly my advice would be to trade him while you can. Jackson actually had a decent game last week and his value might never be higher than it is now. The guy is gonna either get hurt or realize the futility of his plight any second now, and you don't want him on your roster when it happens.
Projected Score: Green Bay 34, St. Louis 13
Green Light: RB Steven Jackson
Yellow Light: WR Laurent Robinson
Red Light: QB Marc Bulger, WR Donnie Avery, TE Randy McMichael, Rams Defense
Indianapolis at Arizona
Here's an interesting concept: An NFC team that can throw the ball! To quote Joey Russo, "Whoa."
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Peyton Manning can throw it too, and the game's on at night time, so taking the Cardinals defense is an absolute non-starter right away.
The good news, as last Monday night's game between the Colts and Dolphins proved, is that it won't take them very long to score, so that means plenty of opportunities for Kurt Warner to piss off Larry Fitzgerald's English-impaired brother.
Indy's defense should be a veritable smorgasbords of points for the entire team. The Colts are 30th in run defense, so even the Cardinals backs should be able to move the chains on them, provided that Beanie Wells doesn't put it on the ground again.
As for the passing game, don't be fooled by the Colts top ranked pass defense. Their first two opponents, the Jaguars and Dolphins, have one good athletic receiver between them, and Miami's Ted Ginn had no problem getting open and putting up numbers, even with all those run attempts out of the Wildcat the Dolphins ran.
Really, it's hard to dislike anyone here, and I'm the kind of guy who hates everybody.
Alex Olson, meanwhile, is predicting big things for everyone on the Colts, including, I think, Edgerrin James, who hasn't even been on the team since 2006. If we're both right, it'll be a 54-51 game, so obviously you should bench everyone in your lineup on both teams and bet the "under" at Vegas.
Projected Score: Cardinals 34, Colts 31
Yellow Light: RB Tim Hightower, RB Beanie Wells
Red Light: Cardinals Defense
Good luck in your match-ups everyone, and as always, if you root for one of these teams, I'm so very, very sorry for you.
/looks at ground
//slowly shakes head in pity