NFL 2012 - Week 2: Small sample sizes

Welcome to week 2 of the 2012 NFL season.  Where every team that won last week is a proven winner and will maintain their success on their way to 2-0.  And every team that lost has some fundamental flaws that will persist as they tumble once again.  Might was well write them out of the playoffs.  I really thrive later in the season with larger sample sizes and usually struggle in the first few weeks as I try to translate last year's team plus offseason changes to this year's team.  One of these years, I'm just going to take every underdog in week 1 on the idea that no one really has any idea how good these teams are and I might as well take the extra points for every game.  Although that strategy would only have gone 9-7 this year, so there may not be much to it.  Are the 49ers the best team in the NFC or are the Packers a little weaker than we thought?  Did Brandon Marshall turn the Bears into an explosive offense or is Jay Cutler still going to throw four interceptions?  Are the Browns a little better than the past or does God hate Cleveland and the Philadelphia Michael Vicks are the same disappointment they were last year? Is the Buccaneers' defense really that good or has Carolina wasted more money on running backs than the money wasted on JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, and Ryan Leaf combined?  Here we go in our quest for 55%...

Chicago (+5) over GREEN BAY:  My actual plan is to keep telling you I picked the Thursday game incorrectly so that you believe I'm honest when I pick the winner after the fact.  It's called a hustle.  I bought into the Bears offense a little and worried that the 49er success against the Packers defense was a decent indicator.  I actually picked the Packers to win outright, but lose against the spread.  I though it would be close.  My bad.
Fantasy: Greg Jennings was announced as out, which helps your planning.  You started Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall, and Jermichael Finley.  Your flex guys are ranked: Michael Bush, Randall Cobb, Cedric Benson, Alshon Jeffrey, and James Jones.  Bush is a legitimate RB2, but don't expect 2 touchdowns.  He'll get you 4-10 points pretty consistently.  Everyone else is just a flex option...and probably not your best option.
Not So Bold Prediction: Jay Cutler throws an interception and makes a pouty face.
Bold Prediction: The Packers run a fake field goal that goes for a touchdown.

Kansas City (+3) over BUFFALO: Really, really close game.  It's easier for me to take the points than to pick the outright winner.  Both teams were beaten handily last week, but I think the Falcons are better than the Jets...which tells me the Bills might be worse than we think.  I really want to call them the Buffalo Mario Williams, but $54,000,000 and 0 sacks means he doesn't get enough media attention.
Fantasy: CJ Spiller, CJ Spiller, CJ Spiller. If your league only starts two RB, don't bother taking your second RB before the 4th round.  Take a QB, RB, WR and then another WR or a TE.  Then draft guys like Steven Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw, the Law Firm, CJ Spiller, Peyton Hillis, Donald Brown, Cedric Benson, and Michael Bush.  You want to have as many of these guys as possible AND a spot to start them.  If you went Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew in the first two rounds, you'll never get a chance to enjoy whoever has the great fantasy season.  CJ Spiller is going to have a great game.  You're definitely starting Jamaal Charles.  If you have another option, try waiting another week on Dwayne Bowe and Peyton Hillis, but don't drop them.  Stevie Johnson's a solid WR2; his expected points are probably close to 8 or 9 with a 40% chance of a touchdown.
Not So Bold Prediction: CJ Spiller leads the game in touches.
Bold Prediction: CJ Spiller and Jamaal Charles both score 18 points.

Cleveland (+7) over CINCINNATI: The Bengals were creamed by the Ravens so bad, their Pythagorean winning percentage after 1 game is 5.5.  That's not projecting to a 5.5-10-5 season, that 5.5%, which projects to a 0.9-15.1 season.  Now, you could argue that it speaks more to how good the Ravens are than how bad the Bengals are, but it's probably somewhere in the middle.  I'll give the Browns credit for playing the Eagles tough.  It's entirely possible that they have a decent defense that can make up for multiple interceptions by their starting quarterback.  At the very least, the difference between these two teams isn't seven points.  The value is on the points.
Fantasy: The Law Firm looked good against a strong old Ravens defense.  He'll do even better against a very Clevelandy Browns defense.  Start AJ Green and click the little flag next Andrew Hawkins, but don't even pick him up yet, much less start him.  If you drafted Trent Richardson, he's probably one of your top two running backs and I would try really hard to go back in time and draft someone else.  But if you're unable to find Doc Brown's DeLorean*, and you didn't draft CJ Spiller or BenJarvus Green-Ellis four rounds later, I guess he'll get 15-20 carries.  That's it.  Don't start anyone else in this game.
*There's a chance we have a 12-year-old sports fan as a new reader.  If so, welcome Hunter.  And let us know if you know what "Doc Brown's DeLorean" is.
Not So Bold Prediction: Brandon Weeden's passer rating is higher than last week.
Bold Prediction: LeBron James shows up trying to get all of Ohio to forgive him.

Minnesota (-1.5) over INDIANAPOLIS: The Vikings are middle of the pack and the Colts are in the bottom third of the league.
Fantasy: If you gambled on Adrian Peterson in your draft, you already won.  Adrian Peterson could be the most valuable fantasy player in terms of his success relative to his draft position.  I'm flabbergasted by how quickly these guys have come back from ACL tears.  I'm starting to think there's an entirely new schedule for recovery.  I avoided Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson in every league.  I only drafted Kenny Britt because he was going in round 11.  I really wanted Percy Harvin, but wasn't able to in any league.  He looked good in week 1 and there's no way I'll be able to trade for him now.  Expect more good things this week.  He'll probably have more rushing+receiving yards than Adrian Peterson, just like he did last week.  Reggie Wayne is another guy already paying dividends for your faith in him late in fantasy drafts.  Wayne led all wide receivers in targets last week and with Austin Collie out with a concussion, expect Andrew Luck to pay even more attention to Wayne.  Start him with confidence.  Donald Brown is another guy I'm glad I drafted, but I don't think I'll end up starting.  There are probably 20 RBs I'd start over Brown, but if you drafted Fred Jackson and Ryan Mathews, Brown is a serviceable fill-in.
Not So Bold Prediction: Jim Irsay tweets before the game.
Bold Prediction: Adrian Peterson scores another 2 touchdowns.

Oakland (-2.5) over MIAMI:  Man, I'm taking a lot of road teams, but this doesn't bother me at all.  Home field advantage is already priced into the lines.  This bet is that the Raider's long snap effectively and the Dolphins start Ryan Tannehill again.
Fantasy: Darren McFadden tied with Reggie Wayne for the lead in targets with 18 in week 1.  He caught 13 passes for 86 yards.  BUT, he only had 15 carries for 32 yards.  It's not the 15 carries that jump out at me.  It's the 2.1 yards per carry.  It's only one game and he did have a -11 yard run in the 4th quarter, but even assuming that went for no gain, that's only 2.9 yards per carry.  He'll still be a stud and a PPR monster, but he may not be the top-five-guy-if-he's-healthy kind of player you were hoping when you drafted him.  Let's see how he does this week after the Raiders build a league against the Dolphins.  I don't think any Raiders receiver is ready to start in fantasy.  They may come up to you and say, "Come on, coach random fantasy owner!  I've rehabbed and dominated practice.  Give me a chance." But you need to be cautious and do what is in the long term interest of the [fantasy] team and wait at least another week.  As for the Dolphins, you're not starting anyone except for the possibility of Reggie Bush, and there you are on your own.  I really tried, but I just couldn't come up with an opinion on him.
Not So Bold Prediction: Darren McFadden has a rush AND a catch.
Bold Prediction: Reggie Bush does nothing to elicit an opinion from me.

NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) over Arizona: 13.5 points?  To cover, the Patriots need to win this type of game 83% of the time, and that rarely happens in the NFL.  But based on how well they dominated the Titans and the fact that Kevin Kolb is quarterback for the Cardinals, I think they win 90% of the time.  Not much value, but I'm picking the Patriots.
Fantasy: Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Lloyd, and Aaron Hernandez are the must starts.  Stevan Ridley is a most likely start, but remember the Patriots have a history of spreading the carries around and throwing the ball 50 times again, leaving 15 rushing plays.  And Ridley isn't Darren McFadden or Jamaal Charles.  I have both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams on my bench in one league.  I desperately want one of them to emerge as a viable fantasy starter.  I hope it's Ryan Williams, who I have in other leagues, but I would happily drop Ryan Williams if it meant I had some clarity.
Not So Bold Prediction: Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass.

Bold Prediction: Tom Brady throws four touchdown passes.

Tampa Bay (+7) over NYG: Accuscore says the Giants barely cover...barely.  I say the Giants are more like the team with a negative point differential than a defending Super Bowl champ.  If I said the Giants were 8-8 last year and looked legitimately inferior in their first game, would you want to be laying 7?
Fantasy: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Eli Manning, and Doug Martin are your definite starters.  Ahmad Bradshaw and Vincent Jackson are your flex guys, in that order.  Personally, I am starting both, but for different reasons.  I want the dependable points 7-12 points Bradshaw provides and the team where I have Vincent Jackson is really strong and could still win when Jackson only puts up 4 points.
Not So Bold Prediction: Hakeem Nicks catches a pass.
Bold Prediction: Hakeem Nicks catches ten passes.

Baltimore (+2.5) over PHILADELPHIA: I honestly can't figure out why the Eagles are favored.  Not because I don't think they can win.  Any NFL team can win on any given Sunday.  But half the betting public actually thinks the Eagles will win by three?  I understand they're at home, but did you see them barely beat the Browns last week?  And the Ravens demolished a playoff team.  By every measure I can put together, the Ravens should be favored by 2.5 or 3, not getting 2.5 points.
Fantasy: Ray Rice will be a top two fantasy player; he'll score plenty of points for you every week, against every opponent. LeSean McCoy will live up to his first round status, but not top three.  Everyone else in this game is in a frustrating flex status.  Michael Vick was your first QB, but you're strongly considering starting your backup.  Wait, don't panic.  There's a reason Vick was your first QB.  Joe Flacco is your backup QB, but you really want to make him your starter.  I would start Flacco over Vick, but no other QB drafted among the top ten.  Wait one more week.  Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Anquan Boldin, in that order, depending on injury status.  But as a flex option, not a genuine starter.
Not So Bold Prediction: Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy both score 10 points.
Bold Prediction: Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy both score 20 points.

New Orleans (-2.5) over CAROLINA: If this was the first game of the season, the Saints would be favored by 6 or 7.  And then the Panthers went out and produced 10 rushing yards on 13 carries.  It almost doesn't matter the opponent.  That's really bad.  I think the Saints bounce back from their loss to the Washington RGIII's and the Panthers still can't run the ball.  Going just off the Pythagorean winning percentage of one game (both teams lost), the Saints should still be favored by 3 or more.
Fantasy: Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Cam Newton, and Steve Smith.  Steve Smith quietly had 7 catches for 106 yards.  He's a definite start for the time being.  Maybe Darren Sproles depending on your team and maybe Lance Moore if you're desperate.
Not So Bold Prediction: A QB throws for 300 yards in this game.
Bold Prediction: 8 different people have at least one rushing yard.

Houston (-7) over JACKSONVILLE: I'll keep riding Wade Phillip's defense.  This spread should be in the 8-10 range.
Fantasy: Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Andre Johnson are your automatic starts.  Don't start anyone else.  Don't start Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson or Cecil Shorts.  Don't start Marcedes Lewis, Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter, Gary Kubiak, Matt Schaub, or Blaine Gabbert.
Not So Bold Prediction: Arian Foster does something good.
Bold Prediction: Arian Foster outscores Matt Schaub.

Washington (-3) over ST. LOUIS: Even if we decided not to overreact to Robert Griffin III's win last week, the Rams were a really bad team last year.  I mean, really bad.  This spread should be 4 or 5.
Fantasy: Keep an eye on Pierre Garcon's injury status.  I picked up Alfred Morris a couple times, but won't be starting him.  I don't like to play with fire.  I drafted Steven Jackson as a RB2 a couple times and will be starting him as such.  I still have faith in Danny Amendola in a PPR, but not standard scoring.  I guess Fred Davis is a start, but you just can't get me to care about him as a TE.  I can see starting RGIII over Michael Vick, but you really shouldn't be starting him over anyone you actually drafted to be your starting quarterback.
Not So Bold Prediction: No one ever feels comfortable starting a Mike Shanahan running back.
Bold Prediction: RGIII RGIII's.

Dallas (-3) over SEATTLE:  I was pretty neutral on both these teams coming into the season.  Either could have out performed their .500+ record from last year and both were capable of disappointing.  So this pick really is based more on last week than any other.  Seattle lost to the Cardinals and Dallas beat the defending Super Bowl champs.
Fantasy: Marshawn Lynch's back spasms.  Don't touch Sidney Rice or Braylon Edwards and leave Russell Wilson stashed deep on the bench in your keeper league.  For the Cowboys, you're starting everyone.  Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten.  Unless by 'everyone' you thought I was including Kevin Ogletree.  You picked him up, but wait to see if he's Laurent Robinson 2.0 or the the Cowboys' fifth option.  You could also be debating between Tony Romo and Matt Ryan.  I would start Ryan over Romo, but this is a choice between the greater of two goods.
Not So Bold Prediction: The announcers mention Seattle's 12th Man.
Bold Prediction: Seattle gets penalized for having 12 men on the field.

Nyj (+5.5) over PITTSBURGH: This is a pretty accurate line.  Not much value.  It just makes sense to keep taking visiting teams.  That's how you get to 55%, right?
Fantasy: Pick up Stephen Hill, but don't start him.  In fact, don't start anyone on the Jets.  And don't even bother claiming Mark Sanchez.  His peak is the 16th best fantasy quarterback.  For the Steelers, start both Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, especially with Darrelle Revis out.  If you can figure out the running back, go ahead and start him too.
Not So Bold Prediction: Tim Tebow gets on the field for a few plays.
Bold Prediction: Ben Roethlisberger throws three touchdowns.

SAN DIEGO (-6) over Tennessee:  Hey, a home team.  This isn't a homer pick is it?
Fantasy: Don't start a Chargers running back.  Don't start a Chargers wide receiver.  That just leaves Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates.  On the Titans, start Chris Johnson again because KC Joyner says so.  Pay close attention to Kenny Britt, but starting him is as big a gamble as starting Adrian Peterson was in week 1.  Is it going to pay off twice?
Not So Bold Prediction: Antonio Gates catches a pass.
Bold Prediction: Antonio Gates catches a touchdown.

Detroit (+6.5) over SAN FRANCISCO: I couldn't figure this out.  Every memory I had was that the 49ers were a dominant Pythagorean team and really impressive in beating the Packers last week.  But every metric I look at says this should be a 3.5 point spread, not 6.5.  I think the 49ers win outright, but don't cover.  And I'm really not confident about this.
Fantasy: Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson.  That's it.  Kevin Smith would be a good option against anyone other than the 49ers defense.  Frank Gore can be a decent flex, but don't expect more than flex-worthy numbers.  Don't start any other receiver in this game.
Not So Bold Prediction: Vernon Davis catches a pass.
Bold Prediction: Vernon Davis dunks the football over the cross bar.

Denver (+3) over ATLANTA: I would pick Atlanta -2.5, but Denver +3.  It's that close.
Fantasy: Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White.  I would start Matty Ice over every QB other than the top four, Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Stafford.  Peyton may be more likely to win, but Willis McGahee will be the beneficiary throughout the season.  Ryan will have more pass attempts and completions.  And with both Julio and Roddy, he will have a ton of red zone passes.
Not So Bold Prediction: Julio Jones or Roddy White score a touchdown.
Bold Prediction: Julio Jones AND Roddy White score touchdowns.


  1. $50 on Baltimore +2.5, New Orleans -2.5.

    $20 on Houston, Dallas -3.5, New England -13.5.

  2. $20 on Houston -7.5, Kansas City +3.5.

  3. $50 on Ravens +2.5; $20 on Chargers -6, Niners -7.

    $5 on me making picks!

  4. Scott already made up his $50 penalty and got into the positive. I have no idea what's going on and lost another $40. Down to $900.

    Although I feel like I started out last year doing the same thing and ended up being the overall winner. Maybe it's all just one big hustle.

  5. I TOTALLY thought I made my $50 pick in favor of Atlanta -3, but I guess I didn't. I am upset. I deduct $50 from myself for my own ineptitude, but I'm not happy about it and plan to appeal this to the commissioner. Me and Vilma, appealin' things.

    Hahaha "I have no idea what's going on and lost another $40" is one my instant all-time favorite FIWK quotes. Hey at least you're honest.

    Other lines I loved this week were SD -6 (less than a touchdown, at home, against a not good team? why wasn't that double digits!), Baltimore +2.5 (oops), and Dallas -3 (wtf is happening there??). So I have no idea what's going on either.

    By the way, the revelation of your 'actual plan' in the Bears-Packers game absolutely slayed me. Well played.

  6. Where am I at? Am I +$40? Who's keeping track of this? Where's Ja?

  7. Scooter you won on all 3, I believe, and therefore you won $90 on the week and are up to $1040. Also, keep track of it yourself, jerk.

    I deducted $50 from myself for ineptitude, and have gone back to $1000. Aaron has no idea what's going on and is down to $900.

    And that's the story so far.

  8. Nice article, looks like most of the picks worked out. How have you been faring this year? I've been betting on teasers instead of against the spread. Adding points makes the games a lot easier to win. This week I added 8 points to Tennessee's line to get them to +10.5. They lost by 6, so I still covered. Hopefully Washington can keep it close (I got them to +17).