Guest Post: 2009 NFL preview from a fantasy outsider

This guest post comes to Fantasy Football Fools from Eric Amzallag of sports pick site UnlockedSports.com. Rather than stay in our fantasy bubble this season, I thought taking a look at the playoff picks from a relative fantasy outsider would be a nice jump start to the conversation — since, inevitably, my Super Bowl and playoff picks would be largely influenced by what players I have invested in this season.

I think Eric makes some interesting calls that should get us talking, but keep in mind that Eric sent these to us this offseason before much of the news had been made.

Feel free to share your own playoff predictions on this glorious Sunday of football in the comments. We’ll give greater cred to those who post before their picks destroy opponents in their opening game this week. Now on with the show…

Now that football season is quickly approaching, fans, poolers and bettors are eager to gather as much information as they can to make some informed sports picks in the upcoming season.

Every single year, we seem to come into the NFL season with all eyes on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win it all. There is nothing wrong with that. The Patriots always have a great team surrounding arguably the best quarterback of our time.

But times are a-changing, and this season we will see some new teams in the running for the Lombardi trophy. With a relatively painless offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to repeat and have a good chance to do so.

Don’t count out these playoff contenders from the AFC:

  • Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning! With Peyton behind center the Colts will always be contenders.
  • Oakland Raiders: The AFC West is the worst division in football right now, and the Raiders are the only team with promise and a good, young core of players. This year will be the season they break out of the funk.
  • Buffalo Bills: Although some people disagree, getting T.O. was huge for the Bills. Not only will their offense be hard to stop with two star receivers, a promising young quarterback and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, but they are well-coached and poised to have a breakout season.

The NFC is another beast altogether. The Arizona Cardinals will be good but not as good as they were last season. The Dallas Cowboys may have dropped some baggage, but this year will be a make-or-break season for Tony Romo.

In the NFC, watch for these teams to make an impact this season:

  • Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White! ‘Nuff said.
  • Dallas Cowboys: Do or die! If the Cowboys are going to stay in the title contender picture they will need to come together. This season will be the one that defines them, and I think they will come through.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Kind of a sleeper pick here, but I am sticking with it for one reason, Mike Singletary’s first full season.
  • Chicago Bears: Although the defense was suspect last season, this year everything is going to come together for Chicago. Not only will the defense get back to its stingy ways, but with Jay Cutler in the offense, this team could be scary!

So those are Eric’s picks, made right around the time of the NFL draft this offseason. Who do you think is going to win it all this year? You can check out more from Eric and UnlockedSports.com.

As always, the comments are yours.

Best Bets for NFL Week 17

My debut last week wasn’t the greatest, and it isn’t going to get any easier entering week 17 of the regular season. Hopefully, I’ll step my game up and come through in the clutch like a certain Tennessee QB needs to do this weekend–and I’m not talking about Erik Ainge.

Last week’s record: 6-9

Here are my picks for Week 17:

NEW ENGLAND (-14.5) over New York Giants
Giants will be resting starters with their playoff spot locked. New England will be playing for their undefeated season. Look for New England to make a statement heading into the playoffs.

ARIZONA (-7) over St. Louis
Both teams would like to end on a positive note, but I give the advantage to Arizona playing at home for a chance at .500.

Seattle (+2) over ATLANTA
I just can’t not take Seattle and points verse the Atlanta Falcons. I think back-up running back Maurice Morris is playing better than Shaun Alexander anyways.

TAMPA BAY (+2.5) over Carolina
Carolina looked decent versus a Cowboys team trying to lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Bucs don’t want to enter the playoffs on a two-game skid. I like the Bucs at home in this one.

Cincinnati (-3) over MIAMI
I was impressed by the Bengals win over the Browns last week. A win this Sunday might keep Marvin Lewis around for another season. At least you didn’t go winless this year, Miami.

San Francisco (+11) over CLEVELAND
Cleveland choked last week, and they know it. San Francisco has been playing well with Shaun Hill at the helm. I like San Francisco to keep it close and have the fourth quarter decide the winner.

GREEN BAY (-4) over Detroit
The Pack has its playoff spot secured thanks to the no-show they pulled last week versus the Bears, but I think the team plays hard under the leadership of Aaron Rodgers, perennial backup as long as ironman Brett Farve is around.

Jacksonville (+4) over HOUSTON
Jacksonville will want to keep their win streak alive, and Quinn Gray is fairly capable at QB having gone 2-1 in his three starts this season. Houston got spanked by a team that had nothing to play for last week.

Minnesota (-3) over DENVER
Minnesota needs this win for a chance to make the playoffs. I thought Denver rolled over for the Chargers on Monday night. Expect Adrian Peterson to get more than the nine carries he had last week.

CHICAGO (+2) over New Orleans
Chicago got a boost of confidence last week, and it wasn’t even because of Devin Hester. Something tells me the Saints aren’t tough enough to grind out a bad weather game in the Windy City.

Kansas City (+6.5) over NEW YORK JETS
Herm Edwards will want to win this game badly. The Jets just want this season to end so they can start thinking about their high pick in next year’s draft.

PHILADELPHIA (-8) over Buffalo
I think Buffalo over-achieved a little this year, and the Eagles underachieved. I like the Eagles to end on a positive note and, hopefully, quell the rumors about Donovan McNabb’s departure.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) over BALTIMORE
I think both teams will play hard in this division game, but in the end, the Ravens extend their league high losing streak to ten.

San Diego (-8) over OAKLAND
JaMarcus Russell will get the first start of his young career in Oakland this weekend. Too bad it’s against a San Diego team that is peaking at the perfect time.

INDIANAPOLIS (+3.5) over Tennessee
Vince Young was clutch throughout his college career with the Longhorns. I expect him to come through in the clutch for the Titans, but I also expect the margin of victory to be a field goal or less.

Dallas (+9.5) over WASHINGTON
I don’t think Dallas wants to see this team in the playoffs, and they will try and knock them out right here. T.O. won’t be playing. Romo will be limited, but backup QB Brad Johnson holds a grudge against the Redskins. I like Dallas in this one.

Are you a betting man?

Oh, fantasy fools, I thought I would never see you again.

This giant Okie snagged me in an alley this week and kept me in a cage listening to Jessica Simpson albums on loop. He fed me only popcorn, and only let me go because I promised to post his best bets for this weekend.

I only wish I had enough information to file a police report. Oh yeah, he told me his name is Nick.

Check out Nick’s “Best Bets” post.

Best Bets for NFL Week 16

Some of us need more reasons to watch the NFL besides love of the game and fantasy football. That’s where sportsbooks come in. I started betting on NFL games this year and have decided to share my weekly picks with you. I’ll keep track, and post my record as the season goes on. Home team is in caps. Here are my picks for Week 16 in the NFL:

Pittsburgh (-7.5) over ST. LOUIS
Pittsburgh will come back with a vengeance after losing their last two games. Cleveland nipping at their heels for the division title provides extra motivation.

CAROLINA (+13) over Dallas
I like Matt Moore’s enthusiasm, and I don’t like T.O. pouting on the sidelines for the past two weeks. Dallas better hope Romo’s thumb heals or they are going to lose all the momentum they worked so hard to build this season, not to mention home field advantage.

ARIZONA (-10.5) over Atlanta
Both teams will be a little deflated with Arizona officially out of the playoffs and the Petrino hangover still hovering around the Falcons. Arizona is at home though and should easily beat a team that had more turnovers (5) than completions (4) last week.

Green Bay (-9) over CHICAGO
This is a simple question of motivation. Green Bay still has a chance to claim home field throughout the playoffs, and the Bears have…a chance to develop Kyle Orton?

CINCINNATI (+3) over Cleveland
Cleveland isn’t used to games that matter at the end of the year, and I’m betting they show their inexperience by letting this away game slip through their fingers.

Kansas City (+4.5) over DETROIT
Detroit is on a six-game losing streak and wondering what happened. Kansas City has some young players like Brodie Croyle and Kolby Smith who are still fighting to make a name for themselves going into the offseason. I like Kansas City in this one.

Houston (+8) over INDIANAPOLIS
This will be an interesting game. The Colts will be resting most of their starters in an attempt to get healthy for the playoffs. The Texans are playing well right now and would relish any chance to beat their annual tormentors, the Colts, even if they aren’t playing all their starters.

JACKSONVILLE (-13) over Oakland
Jacksonville is looking very good right now, and Oakland will be without Justin Fargas, their lone bright spot on a dismal season. Look for a heavy dose of Fred Taylor and a JaMarcus Russell sighting once the Raiders fall behind early.

MINNESOTA (-6.5) over Washington
This pick was a tough one. In the end, it came down to Minnesota’s defense and whether or not Todd Collins could exploit a defense that will be geared up to stop the run. I suspect he can’t.

NEW ENGLAND (-22.5) over Miami
New England just seems like a team that would enjoy stomping Miami right after their first victory of the season. Tom Brady is still chasing Manning’s single season TD record. I expect no less than 5 TD passes from him this weekend.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Philadelphia
I really like the Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, but the Saints will be fighting for a playoff birth and are at home. McNabb won’t be taking any risks as he contemplates where he’ll be playing next year. New Orleans rides Drew Brees and Marques Colston to victory.

BUFFALO (+3) over New York Giants
I like Buffalo in the battle for New York. When I look at the Giants, I just see a mentally soft team. The only Giant who might have some huevos would be Shockey and he is out for the season with a broken leg.

Tampa Bay (-7) over SAN FRANCISCO
Shaun Hill had a good game last week, and I’m happy for him. But there is a big difference between the Bengals and Buc’s defense. Welcome to the real NFL.

New York Jets (+9) over TENNESSEE
Is it a moral victory when you cover the spread and don’t get beat by 24 points? Vince Young looked good last week–too many dropped passes by his receivers though. Titans win but in a close one.

SAN DIEGO (-9) over Denver
Was that really Phillip Rivers completing 27 out of 30 passes last week? San Diego is peaking at just the right time. Getting the ball to LT might have something to do with it.