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NFL Week 10 Mission Briefing

For the first time in three weeks (since losing Alex Mack), the Browns were able to run the ball. Against Cincinnati’s 31st-ranked run defense, the rushing yards came pretty easy as all three of Cleveland’s back found success. Whether you had Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, or Ben Tate on your fantasy team, you came out alright.

If you were stuck with A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, or, Lord help you, Andy Dalton, it was not such a great night, to say the least. Good news though: I can help you rebound. Read on!

As always though, we’ll start with the few of you still in your survivor pool(s). (Though if you’ve made it this far, you probably have not done so by listening to me.)

Sure Bet: The Browns’ Thursday night game against Cincinnati was quite possibly the first in a series of lopsided games this week, but the time has come when your survivor options are probably beginning to dwindle. You have probably already chosen the Patriots, Broncos, Colts, Seahawks, Packers, etc., and the choices are only going to get tougher and riskier.

This week, one good option might be the Baltimore Ravens. Unreliable up to this point, the Ravens get to play the hapless, Mettenberger-led Titans in week 10. The Titans might be the worst team in their division, and considering they play in the same division as the Jaguars and Texans, that is pretty darn sad.

If you still have them as options, you could also bet on Dallas (over Jacksonville in London), Arizona (over St. Louis at home), and Denver (over Oakland on the road). If you can do none of these, consider Green Bay to make it 11-of-12 against Jay Cutler, or the Philadelphia “Sanchise” to best Carolina at home.

Not So Fast: My upset pick for the week is the Miami Dolphins to go into Ford Field and take down the Detroit Lions.

Let’s face it, the Lions should be on a two-game losing streak. They pulled off miracle wins against New Orleans and Atlanta in consecutive weeks, but also lost to Buffalo not so long ago. You might say, “Well, they didn’t have Megatron.” To which I ask, “How did they lose to Carolina then?” Detroit’s only truly impressive win came in week three against Green Bay—a result for which I still have no explanation.

Miami, meanwhile, is hot—and I am not talking about the city; I am talking about the Phins. The Dolphins shut down and shut out a good San Diego football team last week—this on the heels of consecutive wins against Jacksonville and Chicago, and a tough, close loss to Green Bay. Miami has won four of their past five games (with the three-point loss to Green Bay being the outlier), and in that stretch have outscored their opponents 153-68.

Look for a defensive struggle in this game, as the top-ranked Lions defense meets the No. 3 Miami unit. I like Miami on the road.

On a less confident note, don’t sleep on Mike Vick and the Jets hosting Pittsburgh either.

Surprise Performer: It has been a while since I spotlighted a tight end in this section of the mission briefing, so how ’bout this: Owen Daniels is my surprise performer this week.

Daniels rebounded uncharacteristically quickly from a knee scope a few weeks ago that cost him week eight. Returning in week nine, Daniels posted six receptions for 53 yards in a bad loss to Pittsburgh, but also played on 52 of 67 snaps. Not bad for a notoriously injury-prone player coming off a knee scope at age 32!

Tennessee’s defense is bound to spend a lot of time on the field with Zach Mettenberger operating the offense; that translates to Daniels getting plenty of opportunities, especially considering Gary Kubiak’s tendency to feature tight ends. With only Crockett Gilmore behind him, Daniels has exclusive rights to that pass-catching tight-end role in the Ravens offense.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: This just in: don’t start any Bengals players!

Too late for that, but you can cut your losses by benching Michael Crabtree this week.

Crabtree has not scored since week six, and has a season-high of 82 yards, posted way back in week two. Since then, the 49ers offense has plummeted to 18th in the league, with the passing game settling in at 21st overall. The play-calling does not benefit Michael Crabtree, and he has not had more than five catches since week three.

Another poor start is any Rams running back. Arizona’s run defense is terrifyingly good. They are unrelentingly consistent, limiting opposing offenses to just over 79 rushing yards per game—good for third in the NFL. They are the only team thus far to keep DeMarco Murray under the century mark (holding him to—you guessed it—79 yards), so they should not have any trouble with Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy, or whatever tailback Jeff Fisher rustles out of the bushes.


NFL Week 9 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson

I was lucky enough to have a ticket to Thursday Night Football in Charlotte. From my third-to-last-row seat in Bank of America Stadium, I settled on three conclusions: one, the best burger in Charlotte can be found right outside the stadium at The Burger Company (in case you are ever in the neighborhood); two, the Panthers are becoming the latest NFC South team to fail to defend their championship from the previous year (it has never been done); and three, the Saints, after all, are still a threat in the NFC. Watch out.

As for the other 24 teams playing this weekend, there is still much to learn. Before the games kick off, let’s go over the usual items.

Sure Bet: For the sake of variety, I am not going to go with Oakland’s opponent here. Let’s say you have already played your Seattle card in your survivor pool; who else has a lock on a ‘W’?

First off, I like the Eagles. As long as Ryan Fitzpatrick is their quarterback, the Texans will not be able to compete with the top half of the league. Andre Johnson is hardly a factor due to his age and Fitzpatrick—and Arian Foster, with his fragility—cannot and will not do it alone.

The Texans have a very talented defense, but if the offense cannot sustain drives (which they can’t against good teams), it makes little difference. The Eagles, meanwhile, are regaining the health of their offensive linemen. Theoretically, this should give LeSean McCoy and the run game an overdue boost. More reliably, the Eagles play well on the road, and are unlikely to lose two games in a row. They should overpower Houston assertively.

I also like the 49ers to sweep the Rams. Losing Jake Long and Brian Quick for the year is just awful for the Rams. Two huge blows coming in one game. They were sorely outmatched by San Francisco at home with a healthier team. To expect things to improve on the bay this weekend with the injuries the Rams have sustained is ludicrous.

For the record, yes, I also like Seattle over Oakland.

Not So Fast: This, as usual, is a bit tougher. It does not seem like a huge upset or anything, but I am going to go with the Ravens to win in Steel City. Despite the loss to Cincinnati this past week, I still believe Baltimore is the best team in the AFC North—maybe not the most talented necessarily, but they are playing the best ball. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is difficult to trust even after their resounding victory over the Colts to the tune of 500 yards through the air. This team, after all, lost to Tampa Bay and struggled mightily with Jacksonville.

This rivalry is always hard-hitting and hotly contested. It is usually a pretty even competition too. Ben Roethlisberger’s career stats against Baltimore are not great. Terrell Suggs loves to hit him. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has quietly been one of the year’s best defensive rookies. The Ravens D is, as always, a ferocious one. After a tough division loss against the Bengals, they will be out for blood against Pitt.

Surprise Performer: Offenses have had their ways with Oakland all season, so there is really no knowing who is going to be the one(s) to make plays against the silver and black. The Oakland game might be a great opportunity for Russell Wilson to get straightened out as a passer. Aside from the final drive, Wilson was ineffective and lousy in Carolina, and a matchup with the soft, beat-up Oakland secondary might be just what the doctor ordered. The Seahawks also seem intent on being free of their previous dependency on Marshawn Lynch.

The benefactor of all of this is Doug Baldwin. With Percy Harvin gone, the Hawks no longer have to worry about feeding him the ball. Baldwin is now the undisputed No. 1 receiver in Seattle. He has been the team’s consistent leader in yards and targets all year, but it never really translated to fantasy success until the Week 7 loss to St. Louis.

Clearly, Baldwin will have his looks, and no defense offers as much opportunity as Oakland’s. Now is the time for Doug Baldwin to break out for good.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: I’m not crazy about Demaryius Thomas this week. He is every team’s favorite Broncos receiver to attempt to shut down, and it is showing in the targets that have been recently deferred to Emmanuel Sanders—even in the red zone. Thomas can expect to see a lot of Darrelle Revis this weekend, and that, too, does not work in his favor. Revis leads a New England secondary that ranks second in the league in pass defense.

In all of the many times that Peyton Manning has battled Tom Brady, I cannot recall a time when both defenses were this good. It could be a surprisingly low-scoring affair, with lots of handoffs and field goals. If Thomas is going to have a good game, he almost has to get in the end zone. The Pats eliminate big plays, and there is no way Thomas breaks the century mark against Revis.

Happy Halloween, and happy week 9, folks!

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1

A Turning Point For the New Orleans Saints

By Omar Rodriguez

The Saints seem to have bounced back.  After a tough one-point loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 7 and bringing them to a 2-4 record, they put on quite a show against the tough Green Bay Packers and their quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The win for New Orleans was the team’s best performance in the season thus far. The Saints were able to pull away from the Packers in the second half after a dominant performance from both their offense and defense.

Then on Thursday Night Football they secured first place in the NFC South after defeating the Carolina Panthers 28-10.

In the second half against the Packers, the Saints were able to force two Rodgers interceptions.

Drew Brees and the offense scored four more touchdowns in the 44-23 win.  Brees finished 27-of-32 for 311 yards and three touchdowns.  When the third quarter started the game was tied at 16 apiece.

The only touchdowns were scored in the beginning of the game by each.  The rest of the points came from a barrage of field goals.

It looked like it was going to be a rough Sunday Night Football game after the Packers were able to score on a 70-yard touchdown from Rodgers to wide receiver Randall Cobb on the opening drive of the game.

With the win the Saints were able to show the potential of a playoff team, despite their on and off again defense.

Luckily for the Saints they are in the struggling NFC south and are now tied with the Carolina Panthers for first place with a record of 3-4.

After the win against Carolina, the Saints are back to even at 4-4. The NFC South had no team with a winning record, until the Saints’ win yesterday.

It has the 1-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2-6 Atlanta Falcons, and the now 3-5-1 Panthers.  So even with an even 4-4 record the Saints are now the first in the division.

The offense was firing on all cylinders. This was one of their best overall offensive games, both in the air and on the ground.  Brees, who had a rough beginning to the game after a fumble and an interception in the first quarter, was able to brush it off as the game went to lead them to the win.  Leading New Orleans to scores on four out of five drives.

Mark Ingram had a superb game as well. Ingram ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns. This was his second consecutive 100-yard game after nabbing 157 in the win against Green Bay.

Ingram is starting to become the Saints go to running back after two solid performances back-to-back.

Brees went 24-of-34 for 297 yards against Carolina.  He was able to connect with Jimmy Graham for a touchdown even though Graham is battling a shoulder injury.

Despite this, he seems to be getting better as the season goes.  He was able to nab 83 yards in the game. Drew Brees also scored his first rushing touchdown of the season to put the Saints up 21-7.

New Orleans had not won a game on the road this season (0-4), before taking care of Cam Newton and the Panthers.

The Saints defense was able to sack Newton four times last night and also forced two turnovers.

Now, Cam Newton’s offensive line was missing three of its starters. As a result, Newton was only able to pass for 151 yards.  His receivers were not much help either.

For the second straight week rookie Kelvin Benjamin dropped a pass in the end zone. Jericho Cotchery also dropped a pass inside the 10-yard line in the first.

Also, Newton threw a perfect pass to Brenton Bersin that was jumbled and ultimately intercepted.  To say that the Panthers had a rough game is an understatement.

After forcing two turnovers, they were unable to capitalize on either of the turnovers from the Saints in the first quarter. The win is the Saints’ second in row.  The NFC south finally has a team that does not have a losing record.

The Saints are looking better than they have all season after these two great wins.  One win came against one of the best teams in the league, and the other win an away game against their division rival.

Next is a tough San Francisco 49ers matchup in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 9th.  The 49ers (4-3) are coming off a bye week after a dismantling at the hands of the Denver Broncos, 42-17.

Omar Rodriguez is a writer for Scouts Alley.