Five weeks in and one team is still undefeated in the BFL. With the top two teams remaining unchanged, there are two meetings of teams with .500 records this weekend. The league’s longest running rivalry also continues for potentially the final time this season. The middle of the deck will become clearer this time next week. With Anderson .Paak’s superb record “Malibu” playing in the background, The Dope is dreaming of California sunshine as the temperatures begin to drop. The Dope’s divinations follow…
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Dezzy Does Dallas (4-0) @ Maesteg SheepSkins (1-3)
Although the Winos at least made a good show of it last week, the Dezzys continued their incredible winning run that stretches back to Week 13 of 2015. Christine Michael and Jerick McKinnon, replacements for more established running backs, are carrying the team’s workload exceptionally well. Demaryius Thomas and Greg Olsen continue to produce week in, week out. Michael Crabtree’s 3 TD performance last week is the mark of a veteran showing the way to his younger teammates. The Dezzys should continue to monitor Cam Newton’s health this week – after leaving the game with concussion symptoms last Sunday, he has not been seen at practice this week and considering the league’s concussion protocol, it would be highly critical of the league to allow Newton to start given the lawsuits regarding head injuries in recent years. Brock Osweiler is pencilled in as QB2 at the moment and it could be a tough act to follow last year’s league MVP.
With the momentum going against their opponents last weekend, the SheepSkins were highly fancied to win, but the manner of their victory would surprise even the likes of PTI’s Michael Wilbon, who is never surprised. The Dope has previously expressed his sorrow that A.J. Green and Julio Jones are no longer together, but the degrading performance of the Rage could have been worse with both. The 3x Pro Bowler’s astonishing stat line – 12 receptions on 15 targets for 300 yards, including a touchdown, saw him gain the highest points performance of the season so far. The SheepSkins gained their first Hyundai Player of the Week award and Jones deserves the credit for his sensational performance. As team players, Cameron Heyward (6 solo tackles and 3 sacks) and Zach Brown (18 total tackles and 1 sack) would be delighted with the victory, but should also be given a nod as their incredible defensive effort solidified the SheepSkins victory.
The Dope’s Prediction: Regardless of Cam Newton’s situation, expect the Dezzys to roll on in a close game.
Shotgun Shenanigans (1-3) @ Dallas Sucks (3-1)
A reliable source told me that the Shanny’s team bus has banned Disturbed’s popular cover version of “The Sound of Silence”, as history seems to repeat itself. A similar start last year was put down to an ineffective QB and RB connection. That certainly isn’t the problem in 2016 – leading back DeMarco Murray is doing the job, trading for A.J. Green has paid off as he has slotted into the team’s leading wideout with ease. There was an uncharacteristically slow performance from Von Miller last week, which set the tone for the defense to have another off week. Although he is among the league’s elite, every player can have an “off-game”, but how they bounce back from such games defines them – so Von should lead the defence to bounce back this week.
Dallas Sucks certainly did not live up to their name last week, with another convincing victory over caustic rivals the Clowns. Although the Clowns were certainly not at the races, you can only beat the teams put in front of you. Matt Jones did the business on offense – 117 rushing yards, 21 receiving yards and both a rushing and receiving TD – whilst Luke Kuechly continues his young career with another commanding defensive performance – 12 total tackles and a sack. Rob Ninkovich looks set to play this week and make his season debut, which will be good news for his GM – Ninkovich scored 6.5 sacks and 52 total tackles in 2015 and that kind of production will help a team that is keen to make sure it enters the playoffs.
The Dope’s Prediction: A strong defensive performance sees the Shannys get a W to stop the rot.
Waterton Winos (1-3) @ Maryland Cookies (2-2)
(Overall series tied, 1-1)
Sick of being the running joke in the BFL for several editions of this publication, the Winos have made changes to their line-up this week that has raised some eyebrows. Dak Prescott, the impressive rookie QB, is in at QB, and the injured players that have still been in their line-up in recent weeks are now on the bench or IR. For several owners this is routine, but an achievement for the notoriously weary Winos GM. With the Winos GM keeping one eye firmly on his baseball team in the MLB playoffs, there is little hope for the suffering alcoholics at Waterton to believe the team could pull off a “worst-to-first” turnaround, but, any team with the talents of C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley are certainly capable.
Cookies are back on the menu. Big Ben Roethlisberger, as The Dope predicted last week, had a magnificent game (300 passing yards, throwing 5 TDs) and The Dope is predicting that whilst another performance with those kinds of numbers is unlikely, there is good reason to believe that Roethlisberger will be in the ballpark for those figures this week too. Ezekiel Elliott is being overshadowed by other, perhaps more stunning, rookies for offensive rookie of the year balloting so far, but the last two weeks have shown he is more than capable of becoming a leading running back in the league in the years to come. Carlos Dunlap lead the defensive performers with 2 sacks, 5 total tackles and a forced fumble as the Cookies had one of the most complete performances of the season so far.
The Dope’s Prediction: The Winos changes are not enough to overhaul a Cookies team that is looking to cruise into the playoffs.
Cleveland Clowns (2-2) @ Orlando Rage (2-2)
(Rage lead season series, 1-0)
(Rage lead overall series, 2-1)
An interesting note – last year’s highest scoring team are, as of week 4, bottom of the BFL in points scored so far this season. But, are still at .500. Like the Shannys, last week the Clowns defense was too busy putting pies in people’s faces – including that of the team’s GM – rather than playing the game. Offensively, the Clowns didn’t do too badly. The return of Le’Veon Bell did not yield any touchdowns, but his 144 yards is a good start and now he has some game time under his belt, expect his numbers to kick on in the weeks to come. Isaiah Crowell, picked up on waivers, has continued the pattern of being a 100+ yard rusher in odd weeks, but in even weeks, reverting back to the mean. But, for the Clowns’s issues, it could be a lot worse.
Exactly a year ago, the Rage were unquestionably the #1 team in the league. If ever you wanted proof that a lot can change in a year, this is it. The team are in free fall. Waiver wire pickup Kevin White is now on IR with an ankle/fibia injury and defensive stud, NaVorro Bowman (who was averaging 15 points a game), is done for the season after rupturing his Achilles. Mood around the Rage camp is, understandably very low – losing two weeks in a row to previously winless teams is the cause for much embarrassment among the roster and whilst they are determined to right the ship, with the way injuries have been falling into their laps, the confidence is not expected to rise, even for a game against their oldest rivals.
The Dope’s Prediction: The Clowns continue to cause pain and misery for the Rage, who are seeing their playoff chances fall out of their grasp.
The Game of the Week is presented by Advance Auto Parts, the official automotive replacement parts supplier of the BFL. Service is our best part…
Team Jones (2-2) @ The Super Touchdowners (2-2)
For The Dope getting his Big Ben prediction right, it is worth noting that Stefon Diggs did not deliver the goods for Team Jones last week. Although five of the front eight averaged just under 15 points each last week, the remaining three members combined for the same total. Much of the team that had impressed in previous weeks were on an early bye week. But with those players now available for selection once more, Jones will look to get back to winning ways. Rookie wideout Sterling Shepard, who was among the Dope’s pre-season choices for rookie of the year, could have his breakout performance this week according to The Dope. The Dope also anticipates that David Johnson will have a very strong game this week. There is plenty for Team Jones to feel confident about going into this week’s game.
Matt Ryan, who started was traded from Team Jones to the Super Touchdowners – is the consensus league MVP through four weeks. Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards, throwing for a team-record 503 last week. But, that’s only good enough for the bench. Is that Tom Brady’s music? You bet it is. You Know Who is back after his four week suspension and his highly anticipated return has got everyone talking. Is this the Tom Brady Revenge Tour? Are we all just living in Tom Brady’s world? Is this the story about a lovely lady? The Dope believes that whilst Brady is elite, it will take him a week to get back into the rhythm of the game – you can practice throws to your supermodel wife all day long (and frankly, who wouldn’t), but that isn’t exactly brilliant preparation for an NFL defender aiming squarely for the bullseye on your chest. There is no denying Tom Brady’s ability, but The Dope believes that you ride the hot hand, especially at QB and that it might be worth keeping Ryan as starter for one more week before putting You Know Who back in. But The Dope also reminds everyone exactly what is name is and that he is often wrong on such matters.
The Dope’s Prediction: The Super Touchdowners go back down to earth after two straight wins, Team Jones rolls onto 3-2.
The Dope’s Week 4 Predictions: 3-2
The Dope’s Overall Predictions: 12-8
From the Commish’s Desk…
* This week’s Pigskin Pick’em and Eliminator Challenge updates…
** The top seven in the Pigskin Pick’em are separated by only 5 points. Matthew and Dai are currently tied for first on 38, with Pete and Lewis just 1 point behind, Rhys 3 points behind and Nathan 5 points behind. Again, all it takes is one good week and you could be in with a shout of taking the lead!
** With the Lions loss last week, there are now only two players who are still alive in the Eliminator Challenge – Rhys and Nathan.
* Thanks to Simon, Richie and Paul for putting up with me on Sunday at Wembley – a good divisional game (Chargers-Saints is still the best International Series I have seen in the flesh). Hopefully the two upcoming London games can be as entertaining.
As always, good luck to everyone in week 5’s games!