Week 7 - Double Dipper Games of Week
I'm going Baskin Robbins style today with two scoops of pure deliciousness! It was just too hard to settle on one game of the week, so I'm breaking down two games in week 7 for the AFC North. Both match-ups square off at 1pm on Sunday, so get your Tivo ready and prepare for some great football!
In the first game we have the Carolina Panthers coming to Cincinnati to play the Bengals. In Week 6 the Panthers also played an AFC North foe, and if you recall I correctly predicted them to pull off the victory at Baltimore. Cincinnati is coming off two losses in a row after winning their first three games of the season and they are in serious need of a jolt on offense. Defenses have been putting pressure on Carson Palmer all year long and he needs a secure pocket for him to be at his best. It doesn't help that Levi Jones (LT) is injured and will not be playing on Sunday. Not to mention, Carolina will line up the best pass rusher in the game in Julius Peppers. Expect Cincinnati to double team Peppers on every single pass play. Every single pass play! Marvin will not to let Peppers get to his prize QB. What this will cause is one-on-one match-ups across the offensive line for the Bengals and Mike Rucker (DE) will give problems to this patchwork unit. What we'll see on passing plays from the Bengals is a 3 WR set with Rudi Johnson staying in to help protect Palmer. The Bengals will be susceptible to blitzes from Carolina and while the Panther don't typically need to blitz I expect that they will bring pressure in 3rd and long situations. Cincinnati can have success with the hurry-up offense and some 3-step drops, but they will have to execute the plays to perfection and the receivers can't be dropping balls. The key to the Cincinnati O vs. Panthers D is that the Panthers will be able to diagnose if the Bengals are going to pass or run by looking at how they block Peppers. If Peppers has a one-on-one match-up it means that Cincy is going to be running the ball and Carolina knows this. During the game watch how Cincy blocks Julius Peppers. The Bengals have to get the passing game going first in order to open up some running lanes and expect the Panthers to stuff the Bengals running game in the first half. With all the injuries on the O-line for the Bengals it will take a superior effort by the backups to keep the pressure off Carson Palmer.
Once again we have THE premiere WR in the game in Steve Smith facing a porous Bengals Defense. Steve Smith will have an absolutely huge day! But it won't be with long passes down the field. The LB core for the Bengals is full of reserves and Smith will be in motion pre-snap and will run crossing routes all afternoon. If the Bengals do make the proper adjustments they'll have to bring up a safety for support on Mr. Smith which will leave one-on-one match-ups for Keyshawn Johnson and Drew Carter. Carter is a burner and I expect him to be thrown to deep at least once in the first half. The impact that Steve Smith has on how a defense plays the Panthers offense cannot be understated and it's proven by the Panthers record this year when Smith is in the game at (4-0). With the LB and Safties paying special attention to Mr. Smith, DeShawn Foster will have 120+ yards and at least 1 TD. This includes multiple runs over 20+ yards. I can't tell you one player on the Panthers O-line, but it doesn't matter because they get the job done. Cincinnati doesn't have much of a pass rush to begin with and for them to have chance at stopping the Panthers offense they will have to get pressure on Delhomme. I've got Delhomme in fantasy and he's a must start today! The only thing that can derail the Panthers offense is turnovers, and it will take a lot of them for Cincy to stay close.
Going into the analysis for this game I was torn at who would win because of the home field advantage for Cincinnati. After putting some time and thought into it, it is apparent that the Panthers are the better team right now and will dominate this game on Sunday. Bengals fans will be crushed on Monday with a record of (3-3) and I expect Paul Brown stadium to start emptying out half way through the 4th Quarter. Wouldn't be surprised is Chad Johnson cries and Housh leaves the game with another injury.
For the 2nd scoop I'll have a helping of the Pittsburg Steelers at the Atlanta Falcons. In this game the NFL is featuring two of its top rushing teams and this should be a smash mouth football game with a few big plays.
The Steelers Offense finally got on track last week against the Chiefs and did they ever show what they can do against a veteran unit in K.C. Don't expect Pittsburgh to have this kind of offensive output every week, but now defenses have to respect the passing game and can't just stack the box for the run. However, this is what Atlanta is going to do. They are going to make Roethlisberger prove that last week was not a fluke. With a cover corner like DeAngelo Hall, Atlanta can match him up one-on-one to any of the Steelers Wide-outs and the match-up will favor the Falcons. I'm not sure if John Abraham will suit up (questionable), but with a groin injury he will be gimpy and ineffective. While the Steelers are known for their dominant running game they are actually about 50/50 - run/pass in the first half of football games or until they get a 10 point lead. None the less, Lawyer Milloy (SS) will be in the box until the Steelers can prove their ability to pass the football with consistency. I'm looking for the slot receiver (Washington/Holmes) or tight end (Miller) to have a big game. Bringing a safety in the box creates a lot of holes deep down the middle of the field over top of the linebackers. Atlanta safties will have trouble covering Miller (TE) and the LBs for Atlanta won't be able to stay with the Steelers WRs. One match-up that could play favorable for Atlanta is LB Demorrio Williams covering TE Heath Miller. Williams has 4.5 speed and has the ability to turn his hips and run, but Miller is 6'5" and that's why the Steelers will target Miller over the top of the Linebackers. The speed of the Atlanta linebackers also plays well to neutralizing the speed of Willie Parker, but the problem is that Pittsburgh's front five is playing at a very high level and Willie will be 5-6 yards downfield before the LBs get to him. Once the run is established, the play-action will be leathal. Expect to see a heavy dose of N. Davenport in the 2nd and 4th quarter to really beat up the Falcons D.
When Atlanta has the ball we are looking at strength on strength, a Run oriented offense vs. a Run stopping defense. Michael Vick will have to prove that he can pass the ball to the Wide Receivers for the Falcons to be successful. The Steelers secondary matches up very well to the passing game of the Falcons because Vick is consistently late on delivering the ball to his receivers. With the Zone coverage that the Steelers employ the opposing QB has to anticipate holes in the Defense and this is one of Vick weakest points as an NFL QB. You will see a lot of tipped passes from the Steelers secondary and I expect a couple of interceptions if Vick is forced to throw the ball over 20 times (Clark/Taylor with the picks). Troy Polamalu is one of the best DBs at anticipating where the QB is going with the ball and he's having a monster year despite being injured for a 3 game stretch. When he's on the field he demands so much attention from the opposing QB and the Falcons will have to come up with something to try and slow down Troy (if it's possible). I also expect to see Troy shadowing Vick when it's a running situation for the Falcons. Polamalu will have 10 tackles. The threat that Warrick Dunn poses will be a challenge for the Steelers defense. If Dunn can break a couple of big runs in the first half it could cause the Steelers to modify their defensive game plan. As always against the Falcons it is important to keep Vick in the pocket and limit him on rushing. The Steelers have the edge in this match-up because they are disciplined in their lane assignments and have so much speed on defense, Vick won't be able to pop any 20+ yard runs.
This will be a telling game for both teams. Which team is a contender and which is a pretender? Who is the elite QB, Big Ben or Michael Vick? All-around, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the more complete team, but a hot start by Atlanta could get the crowd in the game and give the Falcons an edge.
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