I'm gonna go a bit off the rails to start this post, and go into a topic that's been a hot one this week. Many of you have already heard this, but this past Tuesday the San Antonio Spurs were playing the Miami Heat on national television, and I'm sure a large quantity of eyeballs were disappointed to find out that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had sent home their three star players (and Danny Green) to rest. Commissioner David Stern then released a statement after the game denouncing Popovich's decision, claiming that the Spurs "did a disservice to the league" because they did this in their only trip to Miami without giving the league, the media, and the Heat sufficient notice.
The Spurs were playing their fourth road game in five days, which was going to b followed by a home game against the best team in their conference, their record against which matters when it comes to playoff tiebreakers. Why is the commissioner intervening in a coach's decision to save the recently overworked and aging legs (and Danny Green's) of his players, so that they can be at their best for the playoffs, where there are the most people watching and paying for the product? Clearly, so that the league can maximize TV and ticket revenue by putting a better product out on the court. Doesn't Stern realize that giving the entire world sufficient notice that star players will not play would have caused a truly precipitous drop in revenue? I get it, there is a sense of disappointment bordering on betrayal from some fans that went to see the game because the Spurs were coming, and most of the Spurs didn't play. But wait a second, the Spurs have to give their opponent a couple days' head start on a game plan by telling them their plans for that contest? And what comes next, is Stern going to fine Popovich for calling an isolation play to Manu Ginobili instead of a pick-and-roll with Parker and Duncan in a late-game situation? Let the coaches coach, unless there isn't a clear rationale that would help the team short-term or long-term.
But I digress.
But I digress.
WHAT? San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
WHY? What are the odds that two teams can tie each other twice in one season? Well here's one guy who wants to see it happen. At the very least, it's unlikely that this game will be unwatchable. The Rams are clearly the inferior team, but NFC West teams are 15-7-1 at home and 7-13-1 on the road, and the Rams are 3-0-1 within the division this season, a year after going winless in the NFC West last year.
WHO? Colin Kaepernick has been good (averaging 16-for-24 for 237 yards, 1.5 TD, 0.5 INT with 20 yards rushing), and the team has been scoring 31.5 points per game, but is he really a slam dunk replacement for Alex Smith? Smith was averaging 18-for-26 for 207 yards, 1.5 TD, 0.6 INT, with 16 yards rushing, and the team was scoring 26.6 points per game. That scoring difference is essentially the difference between the 2nd and 12th highest scoring teams, but I should point out that the Niners' defense has scored two touchdowns in Kaepernick starts but only one in Smith starts. Oh, and the team actually has slightly more total yards with Smith at quarterback. Calm down, ESPN.
HOW? Danny Amendola may not play in this game for the Rams, so he should probably kick back and take a nice quick perusal of the NFL rulebook, so that he knows next time whether or not ties are allowed.
WHAT? Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders
WHY? Everyone loves a winner, right? Well, this game will not be much beloved. These teams have combined for just over 10 wins per season since the Raiders made the Super Bowl the year of my Bar Mitzvah (2003, for the goyim / people who don't know me), and are on pace to win less than that this season. They have combined for 12 different head coaches and 15 different leading passers in that time. Eagles fans, take note -- we have it great.
WHO? Very few people outside the fantasy community are aware of what fullback Marcel Reece has been doing in the Oakland backfield in Darren McFadden's absence (which appears to be at an end starting Sunday). With all but one carry this season coming in the past three games, Reece has averaged 16 carries for 75 yards (just under 5 ypc) as the leading rusher for this team, and has thrown in 5 receptions for 58 yards per game as well. McFadden averaged 19 carries for 63 yards (under 3.5 ypc) and just 4 receptions for 27 yards per game in his 7 starts and finishes.
HOW? Buy groceries. Ask for paper. Cut two small holes near and parallel to the bottom on the large side, and one larger one towards the top on the same side. Place on head. Relax and enjoy.
WHAT? Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers
WHY? As a person who had the Chargers to win last week and saw them blow a 13-3 lead after 55 minutes, including a 4th-and-29 conversion on a dump off pass, I'm really expecting the Bolts to lay down in this contest. I have this intuition that teams that have just been ostensibly eliminated from playoff contention experience a deflating following game, and with a hungry Bengals team coming in, this game could set up just like that. Not to mention that the Bungles are cruising, winning three straight by an average score of 31-10.
WHO? As a guy who drafted Ryan Mathews in the top 20 of my fantasy draft, I'm concerned about his underwhelming performance this year. He's averaging just 4.1 yards per carry this season after averaging about 4.7 in his first two seasons, and is on pace for just two touchdowns. His participation in the receiving game has been the same as last year, but after receiving / goal-line back Mike Tolbert left, many people assumed that Mathews' 2012 would at worst be as effective as his mini-breakout in 2011 (when he was a top-10 fantasy RB). Instead, Ronnie Brown (!) has 8 more receptions for over 100 more yards, and Jackie Battle has 10 goal-line carries and 4 touchdowns to Mathews' zero. Ew.
HOW? Vincent Jackson is going to have a hard time watching this game, since, you know, he has a game too, but I'm not sure he would have an easy time even if he were able to catch it on TV. He would just be laughing too hard.