Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Ching Pro Football Picks 2013- Week 2

For a primer on the I Ching, how it works and I how I use it to pick games, click here
My picks in bold. Lines taken from ESPN Pigskin Pick’em Game- finished 2012 in top 3% of entrants
(follow my entry here )

Sunday, September 15, 2013
1:00 PM EST

Rams @ Falcons -7.5
Hexagram 26: Holding Together
Dome sweet dome. After a rough division loss on the road to begin the season, the Falcons will be very happy to be heading back to the ATL. Since joining the team in 2008, Matt Ryan has a career regular season home record of 33-5. The Rams and Sam Bradford showed off an impressive spread passing attack against the Cardinals last week, but also had issues on defense in stopping the pass, giving up 304 yards in the air to Carson Palmer and his new team.  If St. Louis again struggles in coverage, they will be in big trouble for this game. Despite all the offseason improvements to their offense, they do not have enough to outgun the Falcons in a shootout, especially on their own turf.

Fantasy Impact Player: Tavon Austin- The Falcons struggled last week covering the slot receiver which led to a big game for Darren Sproles and a couple big plays for rookie Kenny Stills, too. Austin will play this role for the Rams and I expect him to get targets galore with his team likely playing from behind.

Panthers -2.5 @ Bills
Hexagram 1: The Creative
These two teams are similar in quite a few ways heading into their Week 2 matchup. Both rely on a strong running game on offense. Both have highly talented defensive lines that the teams have invested richly in. Both played much better than expected in their openers against quality competition only to lose because their iffy secondaries couldn’t stop the opposing quarterback when it mattered most.  The team that can stop the run will enjoy a big advantage in this game and based on the Week 1 returns, that team will probably be Carolina. While the Bills were gashed for 150 yards on the ground by the Patriots, the Panthers held Beast Mode and the Seahawks to just 70 yards on 26 attempts. The Bills and rookie EJ Manuel will likely be stymied by Carolina’s tough front seven, but Cam Newton and crew should be able to create more opportunities on offense when they have the ball.

Fantasy Impact Player: Steve Smith- The Bills secondary is suspect and this seems like the kind of game where Smith gets behind the defense a couple times for long touchdowns.  

Vikings @ Bears -6.5
Hexagram 4: Youthful Folly
Chicago is no easy assignment for a young visiting quarterback. Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, Cam Newton and Sunday’s visitor Christian Ponder all failed last year in their attempts to beat the Bears at home. This is such a tough matchup for inexperienced qbs because the Bears have a tough, run stuffing front backed up by playmaking corners on defense. Chicago will likely approach this game the same way they did last time Minnesota visited. In that game last November, the Bears loaded the box against Adrian Peterson to limit his production and forced the Vikings to pass. Pass they did, but not effectively, as Christian Ponder’s 43 attempts gained just 159 yards, or 3.7 yards on average per throw. That kind of production is not going to get the job done, so I expect a similar result to the comfortable 28-10 win the Bears got over the Vikings at home last year.

Fantasy Impact Player: Jerome Simpson- I’m kind of buying Simpson’s Week 1 performance not being a total fluke. Jerome has always been an incredibly quick and explosive player which makes him dangerous after the catch. With a quarterback that dinks and dunks almost exclusively and with few other targets, a healthy Simpson may end up with more YAC than Tony Montana by the end of the season.

Browns +6.5 @ Ravens
Hexagram 15: Modesty
After humbling defeats to start the season, both teams will want to get back to basics in this one. Baltimore seemingly has more to prove as they began their Super Bowl defense in one of the most humiliating ways imaginable, but with both teams likely wanting to establish the run and play conservatively, I think this boils down to a hard fought divisional clash. If that’s the case, I think Cleveland has the defense and offensive line to keep up.

Fantasy Impact Player: Marlon Brown- With top corner Joe Haden likely covering Torrey Smith most of the day, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Flacco turn to the undrafted rookie early and often. Brown has the size at 6’5 to play the Anquan Boldin possession role in that offense, and with Baltimore’s depleted receiving corps, he will have ample opportunity to prove he can fill it.

Cowboys @ Chiefs -2.5
Hexagram 38: Divergence
Both squads are riding high after Week 1 wins, but only one team will continue to rise up while the other will falter in this game. Dallas is the more high profile team, but Kansas City did lots of little things good teams do in their opening victory. They did not turn the ball over. They protected Alex Smith well, giving up just one sack and four total hits on the quarterback.  Once in the lead, they were able to run the ball effectively on offense (121 yards on 4.5 ypc) and rush the opposing passer, registering six sacks, while on defense. Given this was all against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but considering the sloppy play the Cowboys showcased in their win over the Giants, coupled with advantage of a home opener at Arrowhead, I like the Chiefs to equal their 2012 win against the Cowboys.

Fantasy Impact Player: Dexter McCluster- The diminutive Dex got a hefty workload in Week 1, catching three of his five targets out of the slot for 43 yards and returning seven punts for 80 yards. I expect him to be a constant presence in the Andy Reid offense. The Cowboys had trouble keeping track of the Giants’ third receiver in three wide sets last Sunday night whether it was Victor Cruz or Reuben Randle, so watch for McCluster to do some damage in this game.  

Redskins +7.5 @ Packers
Hexagram 30: Clinging Fire
The RGIII-led Redskins tend to keep games competitive. During the 2012 regular season, they lost just one game (a 15 points loss at Pittsburgh) by more than one score. Even last Monday night, when everything possible went wrong in the first half, Griffin still clawed his team back to being just a recovered onside kick away from a chance to win in the second half. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack will put up their share of points, but their defense showed nothing in Week 1 to indicate they can shut down the Washington attack. I foresee a shootout in the not yet Frozen Tundra where the team that wins may very well be the team that has the ball last.

Fantasy Impact Player: Roy Helu- If this game does turn out to be the high scoring affair I anticipate, don’t be surprised if Helu is again on the field for more snaps than Alfred Morris. The opportunities for carries may be short, but the former Cornhusker’s speed and pass catching ability makes him a valuable weapon no matter the game situation.

Titans @ Texans -9.5
Hexagram 14: Great Possession
The Titans showed some signs of improvement in their win last week over Pittsburgh. The Tennessee defense shut down Roethlisberger and crew while their offense did just enough to get by the Steelers 16-9. Their defense will certainly be much improved this season, but it’s hard to see them challenging teams like the Texans without a major leap in performance from quarterback Jake Locker.  Houston owned their division rivals last year beating them by 24 at home and then by 14 points in Tennessee. If the Titans can’t get more from Locker and their passing attack, the Texans should again take care of business here.

Fantasy Impact Player: DeAndre Hopkins- The rookie was solid last week in catching five balls for 66 yards in his debut. With the Titans focused on shutting down the Andre on the other side of the field, I think Hopkins could have a big game.

Dolphins +3.5 @ Colts
Hexagram 50: Confinement
To get past the Colts, you must contain Andrew Luck. The Raiders learned this lesson last week. Oakland was five minutes away from a shocking road victory when Luck took off on a critical third down scramble which ended in the game winning 19 yard touchdown. They had done a good job all game of limiting Luck both in the air and on the ground up to this point, but the sophomore quarterback proved once again how dangerous he can be late with the game on the line. However, I think this revamped Miami defense has a good of chance as any in containing Luck and the Indy attack. They have the pass rushers and athletic linebackers to both bring heat on Luck in the pocket and corral him once he leaves it. I will be particularly interested to see how the Colts and their young quarterback react to the Dolphins speed package they unveiled last Sunday against the Browns. On likely passing downs, Miami will bring out three defensive ends, three linebackers and five defensive backs. With all the front six players capable of blitzing or drop backing to cover in space, Luck will have a difficult time deciphering the intentions of the defense preplay. The Colts showed some weak spots last week in their dramatic win over the Raiders, and I think these shortcomings will be exposed to a much greater extent against a faster and more athletic Dolphins defense.

Fantasy Impact Player: Lamar Miller- Ten carries for 3 yards is not an encouraging start, but don’t give up on the speedy Miller. I predict he will have much more room to run against the Colts than he enjoyed (or more accurately, didn’t enjoy) last week against a tough Browns D.

Chargers @ Eagles -7.5
Hexagram 13: Fellowship
The forecast suggests that team unity will play a major factor. If this holds true, Philadelphia should have a big advantage. The Eagles will be flying high after their cohesive blur of an offense blew past the Redskins in Week 1. Watching the body language of the players, it seems obvious that they all have bought into Chip Kelly’s wacky collegiate approach.  On the other side, we have the San Diego Chargers. The Bolts played the late Monday night game, so haven’t had much opportunity to prepare for one of the most unique offenses of recent memory. Furthermore, they will be traveling cross country to play an early kickoff in Philly after blowing a three touchdown lead at home to start the season. Everything seems in order for another seamless performance from Chip’s flock.

Fantasy Impact Player: Bryce Brown- Lesean McCoy will not stay on the field for a hundred plays a game. With the crazy tempo the Eagles want to set, they will have to sub Brown in occasionally to spell their star back. I think under normal conditions Brown could have a decent game, but throw in the possibility of a goal line touchdown or maybe the Eagles blowing out San Diego and sitting McCoy and the backup becomes a high upside play.

4:05 PM EST

Lions -0.5 @ Cardinals
Hexagram 8: Standing Firm
The shifty sands of the desert do not provide for sound footing. On uncertain ground, it will be the team that shows more consistency and perseverance that will triumph. Carson Palmer revived the long comatose Arizona passing game last week, but even at his best was never the most constant guy. The lurking threat of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will never be far from Palmer’s thoughts. The Cards’ shaky offensive line had problems protecting their quarterback last time out conceding four sacks against the Rams. The situation isn’t likely to get any better against Detroit’s overwhelming defensive line.

Fantasy Impact Player: Michael Floyd- Carson Palmer will occasionally get a ball off before the Lions’ pass rush reaches him. Detroit’s secondary is not among their strengths. There will be single coverage aplenty for Floyd to go against with Larry Fitzgerald on the other side of the field. I like him to build off his strong start with another good showing here.

Saints -3.5 @ Buccaneers
Hexagram 58: The Joyous            
New Orleans has a lot to be happy about right now. They have their coach back after Sean Payton served his one year exile. They beat the Falcons at home to kick off their effort to reclaim the NFC South and they got a surprisingly good showing from their defense in the win. There is significantly less mirth going on in Tampa. Aside from losing a very winnable game to the Jets in which the deciding play was a late hit penalty that gifted wrapped the contest for the home team, they also held a players only meeting on the eve of the season to decide if their quarterback was unfairly stripped of his captaincy. Discord can quickly derail even the most talented of teams, so the Bucs need to get everyone on the same page before it’s too late. I think it’s already too late for this game.

Fantasy Impact Player: Lance Moore- When playing against Drew Brees and the Saints, defenses really just have to pick their poison and hope for the best. Stopping Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles will command most of the Bucs’ attention, and I think Moore will be the overlooked guy running wide open all day.

4:25 PM EST

Broncos @ Giants +5.5
Hexagram 32: Duration
Considering how these two teams performed last week, it seems crazy to take the Giants in Manning Bowl III.  Denver annihilated the Super Bowl champion Ravens while New York lost a turnover laden slop fest in Big D. I’m betting here purely on Eli Manning besting his brother. While Peyton has had a better career by almost every measure, little bro has the advantage in the only category that ultimately matters. Eli owns the superior jewelry collection because of his ability to raise his game to unfathomable heights when it’s least expected of him. This line seems like a severe overreaction to the first week of action, and I like Eli and the Giants in any game they have already been counted out of and getting points at home to boot. There’s no question big brother is the far more consistent quarterback, but it’s the younger sibling who has the better track record of raising his level of play in big games. Although early in the season, this game looms giant for the home team.

Fantasy Impact Player: David Wilson- I usually reserve this space for slightly more off the radar guys, but I believe Wilson will have a big bounce back game in this one. If you spent a high draft pick or committed stacks of hypothetical auction money on getting him, you have to roll with him. If you watched him at all last year, you know he’s the ultimate boom or bust back and is inevitably going to have games where he is a total nonfactor. You drafted him because he’s a homerun threat every time he touches the ball on a good offense with no other viable options in the backfield. All of that still holds true today. It can’t possibly go as bad as it did last week.

Jaguars @ Raiders -6.5
Hexagram 36: Darkening of Light
The image of this hexagram is the sun sinking below the earth and darkness ensuing. For a game between two struggling franchises played in a stadium nicknamed “The Black Hole,” this seems appropriate. While the Jags got completely shut down by the Chiefs in their home opener, the Raiders did some good things against a playoff team from a year ago. Before ultimately losing in Indianapolis, Oakland showed that with Terrelle Pryor running the show and a stout run defense on the other side of the ball, they can be a frisky opponent.  Chad Henne may breathe life into the Jacksonville offense, but I still think the dark conditions favor the home side in this one.

Fantasy Impact Player: Oakland Defense- If you’re streaming defenses based on matchups, I think the Raiders are a good play. Last week, the Jaguars got their only two points via a safety and gave up an interception return for a touchdown, meaning that the Chiefs defense actually outscored the Jaguars offense 7-0 for the game.

8:30 PM EST

49ers @ Seahawks -2.5
Hexagram 11: Equilibrium
A lot has happened since these two teams last met. After San Francisco’s run to the Super Bowl, along with their Week 1 throttling of Green Bay, it seems a lifetime ago that they lost in Seattle 42-13 on December 23rd of last year. Not much has changed since. The Seahawks still enjoy the league’s best home field advantage, have one of the few rosters in the league that can match the talent and depth of the 49ers and have a young, dynamic quarterback of their own. I think this game should be much closer than last season’s Christmas Eve Eve dismantling, but I still expect the home team and the 12th Man to come out on top again.

Fantasy Impact Player: Golden Tate- One of the few question marks on this 49er team is their secondary. One starter left via free agency. They lost another to injury in the preseason. The new faces did little to calm these qualms last week as Aaron Rodgers threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns on them. Rodgers is one of the best, of course, but Wilson isn’t far off and has done it to San Francisco before. I think the ‘Hawks will be able to throw the ball, and I see Tate as being the biggest beneficiary.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Steelers +7.5 @ Bengals
Hexagram 56: The Wanderer
Both teams enter this game with a record of 0-1, but have the look of two very different teams. Pittsburgh suffered a mortifying loss in Week 1 in which they failed to score on the Titans defense for the first 58 and a half minutes of the game. They also lost their best offensive lineman for the year in center Maurkice Pouncey and let Ben Roethlisberger get sacked five times. Cincinnati’s loss came by three points in Chicago, but they have to feel encouraged about their prospects despite the defeat. The Bengals enter this game quite possibly having an edge over the Steelers at every single position but one. That one position though is the most critical spot in the game. At quarterback, you have to give the nod to the Super Bowl champion Roethlisberger over Andy Dalton. Behind that patchwork offensive line, Big Ben may be running from the deep and talented Cincy d- line all night, but I’d bet he makes enough plays while doing so to keep this one close. The Bengals will probably win this division, and will still very likely win this game, but I don’t see the Steelers rolling over for the second week in a row, especially against a rival. A close, low scoring game is the norm for AFC North clashes and I haven’t quite seen enough out of the Bengals to expect anything different, yet.   

Fantasy Impact Player: Emmanuel Sanders- Pittsburgh will struggle to run the ball this season, and so will have to throw the ball a ton to be competitive. Sanders was targeted a team high 12 times by Roethlisberger in Week 1. He turned this into only 57 yards, but given the same opportunities you would expect more production is forthcoming.   

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 8-8

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