2016 has been a strange year. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals. Leicester City won the Premier League. The Chicago Cubs (FINALLY!) won the World Series. Wales made the semi finals of a major international football tournament somewhere other than my Football Manager saves. The Dallas Cowboys might actually be the best team in the NFC. Could we see the Waterton Winos complete a worst-to-first comeback? Not likely.
There are two games that feature meetings of two better than .500 record teams this week, as well as the second rematch from the 2015 Bridgend Shiva Bowl final. The Dope has taken an extra day to recover from the shock of the World Series result but is back to make the predictions that matter to the BFL audience.
Week 9 NFL Bye Week Teams: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington
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Waterton Winos (1-7) @ Orlando Rage (6-2)
(Rage lead overall series, 3-0)
After actually changing their line-ups last week didn’t result in a victory, the Winos continue to dwell in the basement in which they have grown accustomed.
Meanwhile, the Rage entered the BFL Power Rankings at #1 this week for the first time in just over a year with an unexpected victory against the Shotgun Shenanigans. Big Daddy Drew Brees continues to further enhance his Hall of Fame credentials with every game and he has a favourable match-up this weekend against a porous pass defence that ranks among the worst in the league. 18th Round draft pick Chris Hogan (no, not that Hogan) finally came good last week with 91 yards and a touchdown – the Rage GM told me this week that he is hopeful that Hogan can continue to produce good stats every game. Will Compton’s interception drew some attention, meaning perhaps he could excel in two categories, but he has been a solid performer in terms of number of tackles per game this season – although his bye week means we must await whether this can be proven true. With both usual starting DTs back this week, it’s the turn of starting DEs to be out, although the Rage have picked up good cover that should be enough to boost their points total in the event of a tie break later on this season.
The Dope’s Prediction: Don’t expect to see the Winos put a 1 on the other side of that 3 in the overall series.
Maesteg SheepSkins (2-6) @ The Super Touchdowners (4-4)
The SheepSkins had a rough weekend. Despite being one of only two teams this season to get over 300 points in a game, last weekend’s effort was their lowest points total of the season to date and summed up a terrible performance all round. Julio Jones is a feast or famine player – he has many games this season with under 30 yards receiving as he does over 130 yards (for those keeping score, that’s 3). Outside of The Usual Suspect on offense and the magnificent Zach Brown on defense, the SheepSkins couldn’t stop a cold. Already this week, Julio Jones has put up some good numbers to get the SheepSkins off to a good start, but the Dope doubts that the rest of the team can keep up with the momentum, especially as such usually good performers miss this week due to their bye weeks.
The Super Touchdowners were almost going to be given the Winos treatment after The Dope heard through the grapevine accusations regarding his abilities, but The Dope is in a forgiving mood this week. Tom Brady’s Revenge Tour™, the hottest concert in American pop music at the moment, was back on schedule after a brief derailing and wasted no time in getting back up to speed. Shady McCoy remains a doubt for a consecutive game as his hamstring issues continue to hamper him. Theo Riddick stepped up to the plate and carried a significant workload last week in both passing and rushing terms – his 133 all-purpose yards and 1 touchdown added to the Touchdowners’s victory. Matt Ryan, in for the Brady Express (which is on a bye), has already done well and the rest of TST’s offense could potentially put up some big numbers this week. TST’s GM boldly proclaimed this week that his team will win out the rest of their schedule and that claim could very well be validated if this game is anything to go by.
The Dope’s Prediction: An en fuego TST offense puts them in the playoff hunt.
Dallas Sucks (6-2) @ Shotgun Shenanigans (3-5)
(Sucks lead season series, 1-0)
In the closest game of week 8, Dallas Sucks were upended at home. The offense put in one of their weakest performances of the season, bailed out by great games from Luke Kuechly and Cliff Avril (no surprises there). Khalil Mack seems to have put his slow start to the season behind him and had a tremendous game last week – five sacks in as many games and his first multiple sack performance of the season. With the Rage breathing down their necks and the Cookies and Dezzys not too far behind, the league leaders will be welcome to see Jay Ajayi return from a bye week. Brandin Cooks is tipped by The Dope to have a good performance this weekend as the WR faces a pass defence that couldn’t catch a fly.
The Shannys struggled on defense, as well at WR last week and that’s what cost them against the Rage. T.J. Ward managed to steal some well-earned spotlight away from his more illustrious defensive team mate, Von Miller, with 10 tackles, a sack and interception last weekend – his versatility as a hybrid linebacker/safety makes him a constant threat to opposing offenses. Speaking of which – whisper it quietly, but Russell Wilson is struggling. No touchdowns recorded in 3 games. Only five touchdowns thrown in 2016. Only 44 rushing yards for the previously terrifying mobile QB. He’s still the best the Shannys have got, but The Dope hasn’t much confidence in him this week. The Shannys GM will hope that Wilson can either show signs of his former self, or whether the rest of the offense can bail him out.
The Dope’s Prediction: Dallas Sucks return to firing on all cylinders and stay on top of the table.
Dezzy Does Dallas (5-3) @ Team Jones (4-4)
(Dezzys lead season series, 1-0)
When these two teams first met in week 2, the Dezzys were just starting their initial unbeaten run. Now, the Dezzys are showing signs of “doing a Winos” by losing three games on the bounce. It’s certainly time to panic in Dezzyland – the previously unassailable position they were in is now long gone, and a defeat this week would could potentially put them out of the playoff picture as things stand. No pressure then…
The Dezzys poor form is best demonstrated by an offense that averaged just 9.3 points last weekend. The nearest any player got to 20 points was Chris Baker’s 17.5 contribution. The usually brilliant Chandler Jones had his quietest game of the season so far. 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton, like Russell Wilson, is showing signs that he is not in the best form of his career – which is extremely disappointing given not only his superb 2015 season, but the expectations that he set himself this season. The Dope is mindful that most times that doom and gloom is predicted, it never comes to pass, so the Dezzys should be confident that their season may turn back around soon.
But maybe not this week. Team Jones, who have been fêted for their offense in this publication in recent editions, got the job done last week on defense. Kwon Alexander’s campaign to be Defensive Player of the Year continued rolling with 14 solo tackles, including one for a loss. The sophomore was on his way to recording similar numbers already this weekend, but left his game early with a stinger – early signs are positive that he will not miss any game time, which comes as a huge relief to Team Jones, as he remains the anchor of the team’s D. Tyrone Crawford had his best game of the season as well, adding to the already impressive performance. Stefon Diggs was back to his normal self last weekend, whilst T.Y. Hilton disappointed. The electric David Johnson, the Team’s MVP so far this season, takes a well earned week off through a bye week. The Dope does feel however that Team Jones has covered for the loss of Johnson this weekend well.
The Dope’s Prediction: Team Jones get above .500 with a victory, whilst the Dezzys, if they weren’t panicking before, should be aware of the emergency exits on the hype train.
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…
Cleveland Clowns (4-4) @ Maryland Cookies (5-3)
(Clowns lead season series, 1-0)
(Clowns lead overall series, 5-0)
If you had to guess which of our Bridgend Shiva Bowl finalists would be coming into their second (and potentially, final) meeting of the season as the team with the better record – you would have picked the Clowns, wouldn’t you? But, it’s the Cookies who come into this game with only one defeat since their previous meeting in week 2, whilst the Clowns have lost 3 of their last 5 games.
Coming out of their bye week, the Clowns welcome back Le’Veon Bell from a bye week and there are rumblings that Bell will finally explode in his next game with the kind of stats that would justify taking him so high on draft day. Matt Forte is certainly worth a punt as a Comeback Player of the Year selection at this point – Forte currently stands 9th overall in rushing yards, joint 4th in rushing TDs and 4th overall in touches of the pigskin. Forte is being projected to run rampant this weekend on a dreadful rushing defence that will certainly give the Clowns hope of keeping their 100% record against their adversary. League sack leader, Lorenzo Alexander, is dealing with a hamstring issue that the player himself doesn’t consider to be major, but all signs point to him not making the Clowns team on Sunday, which will be a blow to their chances.
The Cookies finally got what the GM had been craving all season long – a Hyundai Player of the Week award. It was thoroughly deserved. Whilst The Dope’s prediction that Aaron Rodgers would not hit 300 passing yards last week came true, A-Rod’s 4 TD game was only his second of the season. It looks like the old Aaron Rodgers is back. And a good thing too – he is projected to carry the Cookies offensive load into this weekend’s grudge match against their nemesis. Amari Cooper’s magnificent performance in week 8 is unlikely to be repeated this weekend as he faces a far more stingy D, but his week 8 numbers are worth a tip of the cap. Captain Consistency continues to lead the defence that last week was helped out by an above-average performance from Jason McCourty – his season-high 11 tackles was unexpected and certainly helped the Cookies smash the Dezzys last weekend.
As always between these two teams, they are close and entertaining affairs. The Cookies are desperate to keep the winning run going and ending their long running hoodoo against the defending champions would be a great way to continue the momentum from this week. The Clowns, meanwhile, have their record of zero defeats to the Cookies to keep going – a loss here just might be enough to mean that the team should plan for something else to take pride of place in the trophy cabinet next season.
The Dope’s Prediction: The Clowns continue to some how, some way, keep this unbelievable winning run against the Cookies alive. The only certainties in life are death, taxes and Clowns beating Cookies.
The Dope’s Week 8 Predictions: 2-3
The Dope’s Overall Predictions: 22-18
From the Commish’s Desk…
* In the Pick’em challenge – despite a poor week from Matthew, he still leads the way on 74 points. There is now only three points between first and third, with a gap emerging between third and fourth, and fifth and sixth. But as I have said all season, all you need is one good weekend where you pick some upsets and bam, you are back in the hunt.
* In the Eliminator Challenge – Rhys and Pete both had incorrect picks last week (GOD DAMN YOU BEARS), so remain on 6 points.
* Apologies for the delay in getting this here publication up – had a busy last 48 hours and when I did sit down to write it, my PC decided to do everything it could to try and slow me down. But, it’s here now. As always, if anyone fancies contributing a paragraph (or maybe more) to this, please let me know and I will be delighted. I’m always so taken aback by the response this has got for the past season and a bit – I wasn’t sure when I started whether me writing about fantasy NFL would a) be worth it and b) people would read it, so you fellas seem to like it. If not – just let me know and you can just see how (little) ESPN do.
* The NFL trade deadline has been and gone and the only notable trade was Jamie Collins being punted into the wilderness. As things stand, the BFL trade deadline falls on Thursday, November 24, 12PM ET – which is Thanksgiving Day. I am considering extending it one more week if there’s enough requests for it – there are three games on Thanksgiving day, but I don’t want to leave it too late or else there is no point in having a deadline.
As always, good luck to everyone in week 9’s games. This week, I end with a plea to my brothers and sisters across the Atlantic. Don’t elect that orange goblin into the White House. BTW, if Obama is free from January, can we take him over here?
Much love, your friend and beloved Commish, Better Than Goodell.