Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2007 [Print without images]

Friday, November 16, 2007
Engel: Believing in Big Ben

By Scott Engel
ESPN.com

Every week, I will share my personal selections and picks in ESPN.com's mini-games, plus feature my lineups in prominent expert leagues that I am participating in this season. I'll explain the reasoning behind many of my choices, in an effort to assist you in making your own decisions or to explain why certain picks may seem risky or unusual.

Gridiron Challenge

QB1: Tom Brady (Value: 8.0)
QB2: Marc Bulger (6.3)
RB1: Selvin Young (4.2)
RB2: Brian Westbrook (7.4)
WR1: Randy Moss (7.2)
WR2: Larry Fitzgerald (6.0)
TE: Donald Lee (3.4)
K: Olindo Mare (3.3)
D/ST: Denver Broncos (4.2)
Total Team Value: (50.0)

Engel's Angles: There are no locked players this week, as I had Brady and Moss locked in until their byes last week, and now have to bring them aboard again at full price. That also forces me to search for some bargains, the best of which is Young, who should get a lot of work this week. Travis Henry has a slightly torn ligament in his knee and his outlook is not good, plus Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is battling a hamstring injury, and the Tennessee run defense will be much less effective if he sits out. Bulger now has most of his offensive options healthy again, and the Rams look like a different team than they did during the season's first half as they take on the sliding 49ers. Westbrook faces a Miami defense that is allowing 149.7 yards rushing per game. Fitzgerald scored twice last week and the Bengals have allowed 20 passing touchdowns, 15th in the AFC. Mare is in the lineup because the Texans are allowing 25.1 points per game. Denver should be able to handle Tennessee and keep them at less than 20 points. The Titans are averaging 19.8 ppg and the Broncos secondary shouldn't have much trouble handling the Tennessee wide receivers, and even if the Titans do run the ball well, their offense will be methodical and conservative.

Eliminator

Pick: Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Miami Dolphins)
Engel's Angles: So far, I have been on target in nine of 10 weeks, and while the Rams and Steelers are both very enticing picks, the Eagles are the closest thing to a lock you will find this week. I think Miami's best chance to win their first game will come on Dec. 2 at home against the Jets, and they will also have a decent opportunity too in two weeks later at home against Baltimore. First, they must take on the Eagles and Steelers, and that means a pretty certain 0-11 mark heading into the Jets game. There is no way the Dolphins will be able to contain Brian Westbrook, especially with linebacker Zach Thomas still dealing with migraines that make his status iffy again. Dolphins cornerback Will Allen is playing well enough, but the rest of the Miami secondary won't be able to contain Kevin Curtis all day, and a now-healthy L.J. Smith gives the passing game more balance. Eagles' linebacker Takeo Spikes will stop Jesse Chatman on key downs, and that will put too much pressure on rookie quarterback John Beck when it counts. Chatman will have a decent day, but won't challenge the Eagles enough to keep the Dolphins close. Stranger things have happened, but I believe there is a better chance of seeing a Vanilla Ice comeback hit than the Dolphins beating the Eagles on the road with a first-year quarterback.

Pigskin Pick 'Em: Vs. the Spread

My selections in CAPS
TAMPA BAY -3 @ Atlanta
CINCINNATI -3 vs. Arizona
INDIANAPOLIS -14 vs. Kansas City
JACKSONVILLE -2 vs. San Diego
Minnesota -5 vs. OAKLAND
CLEVELAND -2 @ Baltimore
GREEN BAY -9 vs. Carolina
NEW ORLEANS 1 @ Houston
PHILADELPHIA 10 1/2 vs. Miami
New York Giants 2 @ DETROIT
PITTSBURGH 9 @ New York Jets
Dallas 10 vs. WASHINGTON
ST. LOUIS 2 @ San Francisco
Seattle 4 1/2 vs. CHICAGO
NEW ENGLAND 15 @ Buffalo
DENVER 2 vs. Tennessee

ENGEL'S ANGLES: The Cardinals are dealing with a banged-up secondary, and that isn't good news against a Bengals squad that now has Chris Henry back and will throw often since they can't depend on the running game. The Chiefs have little hope of sticking close to the Colts with Brodie Croyle and without Larry Johnson. Minnesota doesn't generate enough offense, especially without Adrian Peterson, to dominate in Daunte Culpepper's return. The ex-Viking should play respectably and keep it close. The Ravens won't see much of a turn in their fortunes with Kyle Boller at the helm. The Saints will outshoot the Texans, and the Lions will rebound after a loss to Arizona. The Steelers will trample the Jets in an easy victory. Washington won't be blown out even if they lose. Without Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo has absolutely no hope against New England.

Pigskin Pick 'Em: No Spread

Home team in CAPS
Tampa Bay over ATLANTA
CINCINNATI over Arizona
INDIANAPOLIS over Kansas City
JACKSONVILLE over San Diego
MINNESOTA over Oakland
Cleveland over BALTIMORE
GREEN BAY over Carolina
New Orleans over HOUSTON
PHILADELPHIA over Miami
DETROIT over New York Giants
Pittsburgh over NEW YORK JETS
DALLAS over Washington
St. Louis over SAN FRANCISCO
SEATTLE over Chicago
New England over BUFFALO
Tennessee over DENVER

ENGEL'S ANGLES: The Buccaneers won't have much trouble with the Atlanta offense, and should bottle up ex-Buc Warrick Dunn. The Jaguars will continue to run the ball effectively against the Chargers, and the return of David Garrard will only help. Look for another one-sided Green Bay victory, as the Packers' defense dictates their game against the Panthers. The Lions and Giants will both combine for a healthy amount of turnovers, but Detroit will deliver on offense in crunch time. The Seahawks and Bears will both look inconsistent on offense, with Seattle making key plays late in the game. Rob Bironas should be the difference between the Titan and Broncos.

The GMC Pro League

The ESPN.com Experts League, where I face off against other nine other fantasy staff members. Check out Tristan H. Cockcroft's coverage of the league on our fantasy football pages every Friday.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Frank Gore
RB: Ryan Grant
RB/WR: Maurice Morris
WR: Donald Driver
WR: Reggie Wayne
TE: Dallas Clark
K: Mason Crosby
D/ST: Green Bay Packers
Reserves: Derek Anderson, Adrian Peterson (MIN), Travis Henry, Kolby Smith, T.J. Duckett, Ike Hilliard, Aaron Donald Lee

Engel's Angles: Roethlisberger has stamped himself as an elite fantasy quarterback, and he gets the close nod over Anderson. I tried to deal the Cleveland quarterback a few weeks ago, and didn't get much response from the non-believers. So I will just ride with the luxury of having a top backup. I traded for Gore a few weeks ago and now he gets into my lineup, as does Grant, now that Peterson is out. I think Gore will produce good numbers against the Rams but I need Grant to prove last week was no fluke. I actually dealt away Shaun Alexander to get Gore a few weeks ago, and now may use Morris in his place for the second consecutive week. It's sometimes funny how things swing in my favor when it comes to my favorite team. I still have the guy who will likely start for the Seahawks this week. Clark is expected to return from a concussion this week, which can only help me stay in the playoff hunt. You can see my team is heavily loaded with Green Bay players, but that's simple coincidence, and not a bad thing, either, especially when it comes to the defense/special teams and kicker.

Fanex Football

A long-running, highly prestigious 12-team experts league that has always been tops among seasoned fantasy experts. Four points for passing touchdowns, 0.05 points for each passing yard, 0.1 each for rushing and receiving yards, one point for every reception. Only two add/drops allowed per week, with blind bidding.
QB: Derek Anderson
RB: LenDale White
RB: Willie Parker
RB: Earnest Graham
WR: Reggie Wayne
WR: Brandon Marshall
WR: David Patten
TE: Donald Lee
K: Jeff Reed
D/ST: Minnesota Vikings
Reserves: Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Michael Robinson, Thomas Jones, Ted Ginn Jr., Darrell Jackson, Nate Washington, Nate Burleson, Vernon Davis and Redskins D/ST

Engel's Angles: I'm deep at quarterback, but I will give Anderson the call against the now-shaky Baltimore defense. Thomas Jones has been a major disappointment and faces Pittsburgh, so I will roll with Graham. Yes, Michael Pittman is back, but his presence should ensure that Graham gets more breathers and can be more effective and consistent overall. Patten should have a good game against Houston this week, and Burleson heads back to the bench. With Deion Branch returning and D.J. Hackett re-emerging, Burleson will be less of a factor in the Seattle passing game. Davis had a disappointing outing against Seattle, and Lee is underrated and plays with a better quarterback. Davis can only play well with a healthy Alex D. Smith and his numbers will continue to suffer with Trent Dilfer starting again this week.

Krause Publications Experts League II

From the publishers of Fantasy Sports Magazine, a long-enduring fantasy industry staple. A 12-team league with similar scoring to Fanex, except running backs get .5 points for a reception.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Willie Parker
RB: Fred Taylor
RB/WR: Chester Taylor
WR: Bobby Engram
WR: Wes Welker
WR: Plaxico Burress
TE: Chris Cooley
K: Mason Crosby
D/ST: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reserves: Matt Schaub, Justin Fargas, Kolby Smith, Marvin Harrison, Aaron Moorehead and Lions D/ST

Engel's Angles: I continue to lean heavily on Pittsburgh's two top offensive players, and that it is certainly not a bad thing against the Jets. While I lost Peterson in other leagues, I can now move Chester Taylor into my starting lineup here with added confidence. Injuries can be both good and bad when you play in multiple leagues. Fred Taylor may not stay in the lineup, as I am mulling using Fargas over him. It's good to get Welker back this week. Tampa Bay's defense will certainly allow fewer points than Detroit's. I added Scahub this week, because he also gets Andre Johnson back upon his return, and the pair looked very good together early in the season. Schaub can be a good fantasy quarterback who just needs at least one good weapon to perform well.

Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.