Saturday, September 7, 2013

DaoDeSam I Ching ProFootball Picks Kickoff Special: Team by Team Previews, Week One Picks and Fantasy Tips

For a primer on the I Ching, click here
2012 Record: 139-117
Thursday Night: 1-0

Sunday September 8th, 2013
1:00 PM EST:

New England @ Buffalo
Patriots I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 17: Following
Expect the Pats to be no less than their usual excellent selves this season. Some notable names are gone, but they have been here before. They won Super Bowls long before Wes or the Tight End Who Shall Not Be Named arrived in town. Belichick will adapt to his new personnel, as well as to the current league trends, continue to stay a step ahead of the pack (through legitimate means or otherwise) and put his team right back in the position where a bounce of the ball can mean the difference between a Lombardi Trophy and back to the drawing board.
Bills I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 6: Division
This is a team with some majorly talented pieces, but do not yet add up to a cohesive whole. CJ Spiller seems poised for a monster year, but they’re starting a rookie quarterback and let their best offensive lineman walk in free agency. The defensive line looks ridiculous on paper, but they have thus far failed to live up to their billing. Jarius Byrd has been one of the best safeties in the league at causing turnovers the last couple years, but he’s unhappy about being tagged and now reportedly dealing with the dreaded plantar fasciitis. Coach Doug Marrone is going to have to get those formidable parts working much better together for Buffalo to see significant improvement in 2013.
The Pick
Patriots -6.5  @ Bills
Hexagram 37: The Family
The last time the Bills beat the Patriots was September 2011. The second to last time the Bills beat the Pats was TEN YEARS AGO today! They play twice a year! The Patriots own this division and to an even bigger extent own their little brothers, the Buffalo Bills.   
Fantasy Impact Player: Danny Amendola- If you have him, you better start him.

Atlanta @ New Orleans
Falcons I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 22: Grace
The birds of Atlanta will again be soaring high in 2013. With the arsenal of weapons at Matt Ryan’s disposal, their no huddle offense will be nigh impossible to stop especially when they’re in their dome, sweet dome. The issue will be stopping opposing offenses. They lack a reliable pass rusher and will have to manufacture quarterback pressure in other ways. This will put even more strain their secondary, which is solid at some spots but unproven at others. Their offense will likely be good enough to carry them through to the postseason, but there has to be some resolution to these issues if they hope reach the final game in New Jersey.
Saints I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 31: Influence
The biggest addition to the 2013 Saints is the return of Head Coach Sean Payton. His presence should put New Orleans right back in the thick of the hunt for the NFC South crown. They, like their division rival, prefer to play at home, indoors and on offense. Drew Brees still holds an edge over Matt Ryan, despite Ryan having the superior receivers. Ultimately, I think the chip on the shoulder mentality from the BountyGate backlash pushes the Saints over the top
The Pick
Falcons @ Saints -2.5
Hexagram 44: The Meeting Place
 In the Super Dome with two high octane offenses, bright lights will shine. But, not all will go completely according to plan. In a game where each team will be trying to match the other point for point, a defensive touchdown or long return could swing the game. With this element in play, I’ll take the home team.
Fantasy Impact Player: Darren Sproles- This game has the all the makings of a shootout. If Payton decides come out throwing, or If Atlanta goes up early, Sproles could be the only back getting significant touches out of the New Orleans backfield.    

Cincinnati @ Chicago
Bears I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 46: Pushing Upward
The Bears improved significantly at their most dire position of the need this offseason in luring tackle Jerome Bushrod away from the Saints and drafting preseason superstar Kyle Long, yes, of those Longs. After years of trying to patch their offensive line with Replacement Level Veteran Y, the Bears finally took bold steps toward shoring up their line. It won’t be the best unit in the league, but if they can be an upgrade over last year’s poor group, Chicago might have an offense to match their still very stout defense.
Bengals I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 28: Possibility of Greatness
The Bengals have all the makings of a legitimate contender. An elite receiver in AJ Green, an intimidating defensive line led by the best defensive tackle in football (Geno Atkins), great depth in the secondary, a solid offensive line. Well, they have almost all the makings. The fate of this team comes down to quarterback Andy Dalton. If he can prove himself an above average NFL starter this year, there is no ceiling for this team. If he shows no progression in his game, this talented team will go down in flames along with their fiery haired leader.
The Pick
Bengals @ Bears -3.5
Hexagram 15: Modesty
It’s odd to put modesty and Jay Cutler in the same sentence, but bear with me. I think the Bears offensive line will be better this year. I think if they do their job and Cutler isn’t under constant duress, maybe Jay will chill out a little bit. A Jay that is relaxed, not worried about getting drilled every play and content to run the offense and throw the ball to Brandon Marshall at will would be good news for Chicago. As unlikely as this scenario may seem, I still trust Cutler more than Dalton in this game between two teams that otherwise seem pretty even.
Fantasy Impact Player:  Giovani Bernard- The Bengals will not be able to gain much ground running the Lawfirm straight into the line. Considering that the Bengals may also be trailing for much of this game, look for the shifty rookie to get the majority of the chances. 

Miami @ Cleveland
Dolphins I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 24: Return to Start
On the heels of a disappointing 2012 campaign, Miami decided to reboot its roster. Gone is much of the core of the recent Dolphins team. Jake Long, Reggie Bush, Sean Smith and Davon Bess are among those now employed elsewhere. They wasted no time on spending like a drunken sailor to get new pretty names to replace them, but it’s far from certain that the new-look Dolphins will be any better than last year’s edition.
Browns I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 45: Massing Up
The Browns, like their instate rival, are solidly built along the lines and feature exciting young players at the skill positions. They also have a massive question mark under center, but brighter days seem ahead in Cleveland, as absurd as that might sound. From the last three drafts, the Browns have netted Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Jordan Cameron, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Josh Gordon, Mitchell Schwartz and Barkevious Mingo. That’s quite a haul.
The Pick
 Dolphins @ Browns +0.5
Hexagram 8: Holding Together
I see a lower scoring game where every yard is fought for in the trenches. I give the edge to the team that I think will be able to keep its composure under adversity, and that team in this case is the home Browns.
Fantasy Impact Player: Jordan Cameron- Norv Turner has always featured the tight end in his offenses, and the big and athletic Cameron should see plenty of balls thrown his way.

Minnesota @ Detroit
Vikings I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 27: Nourishment
The Vikings will be all about feeding the ball to Adrian Peterson and he will carry the team on his back as far as he possibly can. With Christian Ponder at quarterback and a defense that is not only getting older but also lacking any promising young talent outside of safety Harrison Smith, there is no other recipe for victory in Minneapolis. What AP did last year was downright miraculous, and the Vikings will undoubtedly give him ample chance to replicate his transcendent performance.
Lions I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 5: Waiting
Last year was a rough time in Detroit (and it was for the Lions football team too, baaazzzzing), but sometimes it’s just not your time and you have to wait for your turn to come around again. Between the injury woes, the Titus Young saga, a loaded division and little moments of awful luck at critical junctures, it seems that four win performance was about the absolute worst case scenario for a team with that kind of talent. Watch for the Lions to put themselves back in the playoff picture in 2013.
The Pick
Vikings @ Lions -3.5
Hexagram 23: Splitting Apart
I see these two teams moving in opposite directions this year, and it starts with this game. I feel last year the Vikings pretty much maximized what that team as currently constructed can do. Even if (when) Adrian Peterson submits another superhuman effort, it’s not very likely that he can do enough to make this team a winner. The Lions have nowhere to go but up, and I feel they have the much better team when both are at full strength.
Fantasy Impact Player: Matt Stafford- With the emergence of the young quarterbacks and the Lions’ down year, it was easy to forget about Matt Stafford in fantasy football drafts this fall. Easy, but not forgivable. This is the guy who set the record for most pass attempts in a season last year and has a receiver nicknamed Megatron to throw to.  He’s going to have a huge year.

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh
Titans I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 3: Difficulty at the Start
This team knows it has a ways to go, but I like what they did in their offseason. By signing Pro Bowl guard Andy Levitre and drafting stud Alabama guard Chance Warmack in the first round, they helped insulate their young quarterback, gave a boost to the prospects of Chris Johnson and their running game and overall, made their team better while assuming very little risk of a total bust. Smart teams build from the lines out. Finding out if Jake Locker is the answer behind the line seems like this team’s most pressing obstacle ahead, but it’s always easier if you got big guys to help you push.
Steelers I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 29: The Abyss (Or the Pitt maybe?)
I think this is the year the Steelers finally drop off after a solid decade of competing year in and year out. That defense was always terrifying like a Korean slasher flick; menace and irrational violence lurking around every corner, but now it seems closer to the cheesy Hollywood remake. The plot is similar. All the characters are there. But, that guy in the wig just doesn’t play a very convincing Troy Polamalu. Take away the intimidating defense, and you’re left with an offense driven by a getting up there quarterback who has taken about a million hits (estimation) in his career, with a chronically shaky offensive line blocking for him,  a ho hum running game and a receiving corps that lost its only game breaker in free agency. Maybe they can replace those guys like they always seem to, but their drafts of late have been far from their normal brilliance. The talent level is a little depleted on this roster and the division has gotten deeper and stronger.
The Pick
Titans +6.5 @ Steelers
Hexagram 21: Gnawing Through
I don’t think either of these teams comes storming out of the gates in 2013. However, I like the Titans chances upfront against the Steelers and I don’t think either team wins here by more than a touchdown. One of these teams will do just enough to win, but I can’t guess who. A tie wouldn’t surprise me to be honest. 
Fantasy Impact Player:  Kenny Britt- Britt caught four balls, including the game winning touchdown, in the Titans’ upset victory over the Steelers last season. As long as he’s healthy and on the field, I like his chances to have a big day.

Oakland @ Indianapolis
Raiders I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 51: Shock
The Raiders are largely considered to be the league’s worst team coming into this season. They will be bad, but I don’t think they will be boring. The Terrelle Pryor/ Darren McFadden backfield has to potential to be explosive at times this season. I anticipate that they will be overlooked by teams at times on the schedule and will pull off a few shocking victories at some point this season. I don’t have much else to say about Oakland mainly because my mom taught me if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then I shouldn’t say anything at all.
Colts I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 40: Deliverance
The Colts tried to upgrade their roster after an ahead of schedule playoff berth in 2012, but I’m not convinced how successful they were. They made some head scratching free agent signings and didn’t draft many players that will immediately be able to contribute.  Getting the head coach back for a full season is a big deal to this team, but are they even getting an upgrade here from 2012 to 2013? Now, while I would never argue that ChuckStrong wasn’t a huge part of the Colts’ team and he was obviously the inspiration behind their run, but is Pagano a definite improvement at coach over departed Interim Coach of the Year Bruce Arians? With what Arians pulled off last year, that would be hard to imagine. In trying to keep up with the pack, I feel like the Colts mainly just treaded water this offseason. However, if the Colts regress, it won’t be (mainly) because of missed free agent signings. This team needs sophomore wunderkind Andrew Luck to cut down on the turnovers and take the next step in becoming an All-Pro quarterback. That’s the only way they make it back to the playoffs. If he makes the leap and becomes a truly elite passer, they will be contending again. If he stagnates, the team will stagnate with him.
The Pick
Raiders +6.5 @ Colts
Hexagram 34: Great Strength
The Silver and Black don’t have many strengths, but it’s hard to find one specific area where the Colts are decisively better than their opponents (other than quarterback, of course). Indy will have to shut down the run for this to become the blowout everyone thinks it will, and I don’t have confidence their defense will be able to.  The Raiders may waste no time in providing their first shocking result of the season.
Fantasy Impact Player: Terrelle Pryor- If you’re desperate for a quarterback, I think you could do a lot worse than Pryor this week. He flashed some potential at the end of last season, and I think will find some open lanes in the air and on the ground against this suspect Colts defense.

Kansas City @ Jacksonville
Chiefs I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 50: The Cauldron
Something besides awesome barbeque is cooking in Kansas City. For a team that won just two games last year, they have some delectable ingredients for new Head Chef Andy Reid. Start with a roster that sent six players to the Pro Bowl last year, add in a big upgrade at quarterback and head coach, and then mix in the #1 overall pick onto the already solid offensive line.  After 17 weeks in the pressure oven, you just may get a challenger to the Broncos’ AFC West supremacy.
Jaguars I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 44: Coming to a Head
Things may look bleak now, but the Jaguars are moving in the right direction. The new management abstained from the annual Jacksonville tradition of throwing money at other teams’ average players. They took the best player available after the Chiefs and also ended up with a bookend tackle hopefully for the next decade. They are beginning to accumulate talent, but a decision must be made concerning the future of the quarterback position. This year will likely be Blaine Gabbert’s last chance to prove the can be the guy for Gus Bradley and the new Jags. With the uncertainty under center and their dearth of pass rushers, this team isn’t likely going anywhere this year, but they will be moving, if imperceptibly, in the right direction.
The Pick
Chiefs -2.5 @ Jaguars
Hexagram 48: The Well
The person who must be happiest about the arrival of Andy Reid and Alex Smith in KC must be running back Jamaal Charles. Coaches always struggled to use find the best way to use Charles effectively and the terrible quarterback play has allowed teams to routinely stack the box against the lightning fast back. The presence of a competent quarterback should open up more space and Charles should settle very nicely into the Brian Westbrook/ Lesean McCoy role in Reid’s attack. Watch for Reid to turn to his back again and again, not unlike drawing from a well.
Fantasy Impact Player: Cecil Shorts- Shorts showed last year that he has the speed and ability to make big plays at any moment no matter who was throwing him the ball or how many points they were already down by.

Tampa Bay @ New York Jets
Buccaneers I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 61: Reflection
This team seems to have enough talent to warrant being deemed the sleeper pick to win the NFC South. They have strong lines on both sides of the ball, impact players in the secondary and explosive players at the skill positions. The question that remains is ‘Who is Josh Freeman?’ Or maybe ‘Why is Josh Freeman?’ ‘When is Josh Freeman?’ If Good Josh from 2011 shows up, this team will be a pass rush away from being a major player. If it’s the Josh that closed out the season on an awful slump in 2012, this team will finish under .500 in a division stacked with exceptional quarterbacks.
Jets I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 6: Fissure
For all you have heard to the contrary, the Jets will not be the worst team in football. Mohammad Wilkerson is a true diamond in the rough on the defensive line. Antonio Cromartie has become a lockdown corner in his own right. Mangold and Ferguson are still manning the offensive line. All that said, the Sanchize era is over and I think everyone involved might be better off if they could just break up and go their separate ways. This not being an option, the Jets will suit up and play football this year, and might even play decent football at times, but it won’t be enough to stop a total tear down and rebuild after another dismal offensive campaign.
The Pick
Buccaneers -.1.5 @ Jets
Hexagram 63: Already Complete
I’m not sure which Josh Freeman will show up for this game, but with the team he has around him, I think even Bad Josh would be good enough to get past the Jets here.
Fantasy Impact Player: Mike Williams- With Cromartie busy chasing Vincent Jackson around all game, there will be openings to exploit for the Bucs’ number two receiver.

Seattle @ Carolina
Seahawks I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 4: Youthful Folly
I remain skeptical about this year’s trendy Super Bowl pick. Last year, they were their usual dominant selves at home, but just a so so road team until Russell Wilson went on a tear down the stretch. I have my doubts as to whether the young quarterback will be able to beat defenses over the top this year when opponents stack the box against the run and are at least slightly more prepared for the read option. Now, to be clear, they have a great team and are silly with talent all over the roster, but it only takes a couple bad breaks (like the one they dealt the Packers last year), or a couple injuries at critical spots to turn a potentially great season into a merely good one into a disappointing one. Losing Percy Harvin for a big chunk of the season was already a big blow to suffer before the season even started. Even if they take a step back like I think they might, the ‘Hawks could still very well sneak into the playoffs and even win it all in the end, but I don’t foresee them having a dominant regular season.
Panthers I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 43: Breakthrough
After a couple years of growing pains, this is the year the Cam and the Panthers start to put it all together. They ended 2012 the winners of four straight, they have a tough front seven on defense with a breakout star candidate in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and a young franchise quarterback that can do it all. They can get after the passer, they will run the ball and Steve Smith can still stretch a defense. I think Cam brings the Panthers to a winning record this year, but narrowly misses out on making his first postseason.
The Pick
Seahawks @ Panthers +2.5
Hexagram 42: Increase
With increased expectations comes increased pressure. This is the kind of road game the pre-Wilson Seahawks would have struggled in. On the road, against an offense you have to match points with, in front of a pumped up crowd, cross country; you wouldn’t have given them much of a chance. Now after a year of the cool, collected presence of young Russell at the helm, they are road favorites. It will be on his shoulders to manufacture drives and points while dealing with Carolina’s pair of athletic pass rushers and The Terror That Is Kuechly wreaking havoc all over the field. Lacking any dynamic receiving options, I think he will struggle in this game and the Panthers will become this year’s Seahawks by beating the Seahawks who just so happened to be last year’s Seahawks.
 Fantasy Impact Player: Deangelo Williams- Despite a lack of opportunities, Williams was still one of the more elusive backs in the league last year according to Pro Football Focus. I think a less crowded backfield and a larger emphasis on the running game by the Panthers will make Deangelo fantasy relevant again for the first time in five years.

4:25 PM EST

Green Bay @ San Francisco
Packers I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 47: Oppressiveness
The story line for the 2013 Packers is pretty much just same old Packers. Aaron Rodgers will lead a well oiled aerial assault and there will be concerns about how well their offensive line and defense can hold up over the course of the schedule. The offense will overwhelm inferior opponents and they will probably coast to a playoff spot. However, the games that will define their season as a success or failure for Green Bay will be the ones played against the other members of the NFL’s elite. Like this one.
 49ers  I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 36: Covering Light
I anticipate that the Niners will be a very good team this season, but I don’t buy that Colin Kaepernick and that offense will score a ton of points. I think they are more likely to go back to their more usual run heavy conservative game plan, especially in this contest. They will do so because their offensive line gives them the advantage at the line of scrimmage on just about any day, and they love picking on smaller defenses built on speed. They will also do so because the Packers just spent the whole offseason learning how to stop the read option and it would be just too perfect if Harbaugh decided to mothball it for this game. I picked the Pack to beat the Niners last opening night and watched Green Bay get mauled all over the field on both sides of the ball. It wasn’t pretty, and it won’t be many times this season. Considering the lack of explosive pass catchers, the 49ers may need to go back to winning games on the back of their defense and running game this season.
The Pick
Packers @ 49ers -4.5
Hexagram 3: Slow to Start
This game will not be an offensive explosion. The 49ers will play to their strengths and make this game about the battle up front. If the offense can get some push on the ground, and the Smith Brothers (side rant: Isn’t always putting quotes around the “Smith Brothers” racist? Even if they were the same skin color, that doesn’t mean they actually have to be brothers as far as sports nicknames go. Is it so absurd for these men to be described as brothers just because of their difference in pigment? Do we have to be reminded every time that although they are both named Smith, one is white and one is black?) are getting to Rodgers, then we will see a similar result to the last two times these teams played.  
Fantasy Impact Player: Vernon Davis: With the San Francisco receiving cupboard about bare, Davis will probably spend more time split out and in the slot this year. I’ve never been a huge proponent of Davis in fantasy football, but the possibility of your tight end being his team’s number one receiving option is enticing.

Arizona @ St. Louis
Cardinals I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 57: The Wind
This team seems like it should be better than last year’s affair, but at a closer look, is there any substance to them? What about them really scares you? Sure, there’s Larry Fitzgerald getting his best quarterback partner since Kurt Warner rode off into the desert, and we know Patrick Peterson is electric in the rare situations he has the ball in his hands. Besides those two, no one else really stands out to me on this team. None of the members of the running back stable inspire much confidence. Their blitzing demon of a middle linebacker Daryl Washington is suspended the first quarter of the season. Tyrann Mathieu has the potential to be a disruptive force in the secondary, but it’s yet to be seen if his unique skill for playmaking translates to the pros. Even Carson Palmer, who does represent a serious upgrade over what the Cards have recently had at the position, is by no definition a long term answer. You look at this Arizona team and want to think it looks better than it is, but if you squint into the desert sands hard enough, you will see it’s all just a mirage.  
Rams I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 26: Harnessing the Great
Jeff Fischer has the reputation of being a good NFL coach. Sam Bradford has the reputation of being an ok if not great starting quarterback. If these assumptions hold true at all, I see the Rams making huge strides this season. Fischer has a defense with two premier pass rushers, an exciting rookie linebacker in Alec Ogletree and wild card Janoris Jenkins behind them. Bradford has a dizzying array of weapons at his disposal from slot speedster Tavon Austin, to deep burner Chris Givens to human mismatch Jared Cook. If the Rams’ coach and quarterback can effectively utilize their uber athletic playmakers, I think they will be fighting for a playoff spot come season end.
The Pick
Cardinals @ Rams -5.5
Hexagram 48: The Well
Hampered already by suspensions and injuries, I don’t think the Cardinals have the talent or depth to keep up with the Rams on either side of the ball, nor do the red birds have the tackles required to prevent Chris Long and Robert Quinn from reaching Palmer.
Fantasy Impact Player: Chris Givens- Givens tallied five straight games with a 50+ yard reception during one stretch last year as a rookie. I think he gets loose for at least one bomb in this one.

8:30 PM EST

New York Giants @ Dallas
Giants I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 9: Power of the Small
The Giants are in the process of an identity change. Their old strengths don’t seem as pronounced as they once did. The defensive line that was so overpowering didn’t live up to expectations last year. Jean Pierre-Paul will still be a fierce pass rusher, but with Osi Umenyiora gone and Justin Tuck coming off a down year, they no longer seem so deep and invincible at defensive end. The offensive line that drove the power running game also looks diminished, and the G-Men will have to make up for it in other places if they wish to succeed. Eli and the Giants do a good job at identifying what the guys they have do well and utilizing them to their maximum effect. The Giants will have to embrace a more open offensive scheme to be competitive this year and I think two of their next up and coming players will benefit from this transition. David Wilson and Reuben Randle will be the next Giants to step up into a prominent role and I expect both to be keys to their success this season.
Cowboys I Ching Season Outlook
Hexagram 62: Consideration of the Small
As a Redskins fan it kills me to admit it, but the Cowboys are a pretty frightening team at first glance. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, even Tony Romo all scare the hell out of me because I’ve seen how fast they can move the ball and put up points when they’re clicking. The idea of that team looks great on paper, but with the Cowboys there are many smaller concerns and cracks in the foundation that lead me to think that this will be the season that broke the Garrett’s back. Some of these concerns (or hopes for me) include the mess of an interior offensive line, a defense switching to a 4-3 and trying to force many round pegs into square holes in the process, the disappointing rookie season of last year’s highly touted first round pick Morris Claiborne and the possibility that Dez is long overdue for a total meltdown.  With the Cowboys, anything is in play. There is a lot that could go wrong with this team, so just don’t be surprised if they let their fans down in a much more prompt manner than usual this year.
The Pick
Giants +2.5 @ Cowboys
Hexagram 13: Doppelgangers
I think these two division foes match up very evenly on paper. They both have proficient passing attacks led by a high risk/high reward quarterback. They both have defenses with undeniable talent, but glaring holes as well. To me, the biggest mismatch will be when New York hands the ball off to David Wilson and lets him run at a defense that will be playing their first game in a new system and missing their best run defender in the PUP-ed DT Jay Ratliff. If the ‘Boys D can’t find a way to contain the explosive Wilson, Tony Romo might not even get the opportunity to blow this game.

Fantasy Impact Player: Brandon Myers- I think it’s worth noting that Martellus Bennett scored a touchdown against the Cowboys in the opening game last year. Eli Manning likes to attack the middle of field with his tight end and that’s an area where Dallas can be hurt. I think the ex-Raider gets a score in this game. 

1 comment:

  1. MNF picks will be published with my Redskins preview Monday morning.