Necessary Roughness, Week 9: The Peyton Manning of Old is Back
It looks Denver may have, at least for the time being, silenced any critics (including myself) who thought their undefeated record was a lucky anomaly, and that Peyton Manning was a fossil of his former self. Man, what a difference a game can make. The Broncos went from the most clowned undefeated team to perhaps the most unbeatable undefeated team. Peyton looked like a badass again, and the Broncos defense held Aaron Rodgers to just 77 more yards than my grandmother had. It’s going to take another game or two of signature Manning performances to convince me that he’s back on track, but Denver fans have to be encouraged by what they saw last Sunday. Aaaaand… they just picked up Vernon Davis from the Niners, which gives them another option in the passing game. I can’t imagine Davis will be comfortable in that complex offense immediately, but I think he can contribute, particularly in red zone situations.
I won’t spend much time talking about it because, quite frankly, I can feel my blood pressure climbing exponentially whenever I do. But the Panthers somehow remained undefeated on a messy MNF game where they did everything they could to give the game away. The Colts struggled for most of the game, so much so that they canned offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and replaced him with veteran playcaller Rob Chudzinski. But in the 4th quarter Andrew Luck actually looked like the QB prodigy that he’s been hyped up to be, and he damn near stole that game from a Panthers team that seemingly stopped trying to win. This sets up an interesting contest for both teams in Week 9. The Panthers will have the redemption-minded Green Bay Packers coming to town, and I’m already nervous as hell. As for the Colts, they have to face off with Denver. It will be interesting to see if both Luck and Manning can carry forth some positive momentum from their Week 8 performances.
Is anybody else surprised by how legit the Vikings are this year? They just keep winning games. Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs are growing into a highly effective duo, and Adrian Peterson is on pace for another 1300 yard season. If they can win at home against a really solid Rams team, and the Packers lose in Carolina, we will have a tie atop the NFC North. So halfway through the season, not only is Minnesota in wild card hunt, but they are actually in contention for a division title. If you live in the twin cities, go to Pizza Luce and gorge yourselves on the Mock Muffeletta in celebration of your team’s improbable and unexpected success so far this season.
There are a couple other games this week that I’m interested in. I can’t wait to see the Raiders/Steelers game. Two iconic franchises that have been built on pride and toughness will square off at Heinz field. I love this matchup. With Leveon Bell done for the year with a torn MCL, and Big Ben coming off of a putrid Week 8 showing, it will be interesting to see how the Pittsburgh offense performs. Deangelo Williams will be tasked with taking the bulk of the carries, but you have to expect that Roethlisberger will have to throw the ball at a fairly high clip for the Steelers to win. And if his accuracy is as bad as it was last week, the Raiders will be foaming at the mouth. In particular, 39-year old Charles Woodson. Old boy is leading the league with 5 interceptions. On the offensive side for the Raiders, the emergence of Derek Carr and rookie wideout Amari Cooper has become a serious concern for opposing teams. Carr has thrown for 15 TDs this year, with a staggeringly low total of only 3 INTs. I know it’s still early, but Raider nation can legitimately talk about the possibility of a playoff appearance.
Even though neither team is having the season that most folks expected, the Cowboys/Eagles matchup will be a fun one to watch. This is one of the great divisional rivalries in the league, and the Eagles will be looking for revenge after a Week 2 loss to the ‘boys where Demarco Murray was absolutely stifled for only 2 yards rushing. Things might play out differently this time around; Murray has hit his stride, Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles have had their roles become more involved, and Philly will be well-rested coming off a bye week. The Cowboys will have Dez Bryant back, but they don’t have anybody to throw the ball to him. Matt Cassel is awful, and until Tony Romo comes back, this team will struggle to score points. I expect the Eagles to go down to Dallas and sneak out a win.
In closing, here’s a few fantasy picks to consider:
Deangelo Williams, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers. As I mentioned, Leveon Bell is out for the year. Williams becomes the #1 running option and he will be effective. He’s a veteran guy who is accustomed to taking on a sizable workload, and he will be given lots of touches with Roethlisberger still adjusting after missing so much time injured.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills. I like him at home against the Dolphins. He’s cheap, he takes care of the ball, and I think he will be able to put up some points against a Cameron Wake-less Miami defense.
Defense: Philadelphia Eagles. It’s hard to imagine Dallas putting up big numbers with Matt Cassel under center, and the Eagles have the fourth most interception in the league.