Against all better judgment, I have elected to do another special Employee Of The Month edition of Against The Spread.
I initially rolled out Employee of the Month awards 11 months ago, inspired by a Sopranos episode of the same name. And like Dr. Jennifer Melfi, I quickly found myself appalled by my own selections.
The ink no more than dried last November when nominees Richie Incognito and Justin Blackmon both ran afoul of the NFL’s Personal Conduct policy, and neither has been seen in the league since. Two out of 32, not a bad percentage of falling off the wagon.
So I will give this another shot. My Oakland Raiders representative is Khalil Mack only because he is (at least so far) the one draft pick that hasn’t blown up in the face of general manager Reggie McKenzie.
I really struggled with a Dolphins representative last year, and only selected Incognito out of desperation. This year I will go with his replacement Daryn Colledge, the Dolphins at least are not allowing sacks at the alarming pace of 2013.
The other 30 nominees are announced with my predictions.
Week 4 record: 7-5-1
Season record: 34-26-1
Minnesota Vikings (2-2) +9 at Green Bay Packers (2-2)
Jerick McKinnon was dropped in a lot of fantasy leagues last week. Bad move after he exploded for 152 total yards in Week 4. Coach Mike Zimmer still calls him a “change of pace” back, which is obvious coach-speak. Change of pace means anything but a short-yardage situation. Jordy Nelson has 459 yards on the season, 46 percent of the Packers total passing yardage output.
ATS pick: Vikings
Houston Texans (3-1) +6 at Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
If you’re doing a fantasy draft for the rest of the season, DeMarco Murray would now be the No. 1 overall pick. But for Employee of the Month I’m nominating Tyron Smith, leader of a revamped Cowboys offensive line beginning to resemble its 1990s editions. J.J. Watt would be an obvious Employee of Month selection, but I’m going with DeAndre Hopkins (291 receiving yard, three touchdowns) who is slowly transitioning into Houston’s best wide receiver.
ATS pick: Texans
Buffalo Bills (2-2) +7 at Detroit Lions (3-1)
I can’t go against Fred Jackson for the Bills. At age 33, he has accounted for 322 total yards in four games. With Calvin Johnson banged up more than what was led on, Golden Tate stepped up with 116 receiving yards last week. The best news for Tate is there are plenty of Tim Horton’s and other donut shops in the Detroit area.
ATS pick: Bills
Cleveland Browns (1-2) +2 at Tennessee Titans (1-3)
Joe Thomas rightfully gets most of the o-line pub in Cleveland, but I’m selecting Alex Mack who is graded by many as the best center in the game. Tight end Delanie Walker is up to 317 receiving yards on the year and the one-time 49er is a top-10 fantasy play.
ATS pick: Browns
Baltimore Ravens (3-1) +3.5 at Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
Score a couple for the older set. Steve Smith Sr. is easily the Ravens September MVP, and he has also trashed all of the Employee of Month awards he got from Carolina. All those who thought Reggie Wayne was done after last year’s ACL injury have been proven wrong, he is on pace for over 1,200 receiving yards.
ATS pick: Colts
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) +10 at New Orleans Saints (1-3)
Mike Glennon stepped up last week and proved himself as Tampa’s quarterback going forward. Hard to think of a Saints Employee of Month, I will go with Oklahoma alum Curtis Lofton (26 unassisted tackles).
ATS pick: Saints
Atlanta Falcons (2-2) +4 at New York Giants (2-2)
Julio Jones is my Atlanta pick, he is in the discussion for the best receiver in the game. Giants tight end Larry Donnell propelled many to fantasy league wins with a three-touchdown performance last week. Sadly not Donnell, who did not start himself in his league.
ATS pick: Giants
St. Louis Rams (1-2) +7 at Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)
James Laurinaitis leads the Rams in tackles while preparing for a post-football career as Anthony Schlegel’s tag-team partner. LeSean McCoy is not my Employee of the Month, in fact can I give him a 20-cent tip for his performance the last two weeks? I am going to go with Jeremy Maclin who has made a stunning return from injury.
ATS pick: Rams
Chicago Bears (2-2) +2.5 at Carolina Panthers (2-2)
Jay Cutler is always my Employee of the Month, call him the boss’s pet. Luke Kuechly would never be a bad employee recognition selection, but rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin (239 receiving yards) has lit it up straight out of the box.
ATS pick: Bears
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) –6 at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4)
Antonio Brown gets a slight not for me over Le’Veon Bell, he killed a couple of my fantasy teams last week. Linebacker Paul Posluszny is my Jaguars pick, by all accounts a halfway decent citizen too.
ATS pick: Steelers
Arizona Cardinals (3-0) +7.5 at Denver Broncos (2-1)
This game serves as a referendum on whether the Cardinals are truly for real. I nominate rookie Arizona receiver John Brown, consider stashing him on your fantasy roster now before everyone catches on. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall has overcome his identity crisis while stepping in to replace the injured Danny Trevathan.
ATS pick: Cardinals
New York Jets (1-3) +6.5 at San Diego Chargers (3-1)
Just to go with a D-lineman I will nominate the Jets Muhammad Wilkerson. Tight end Antonio Gates is another veteran who has proven that his career is not quite yet complete.
ATS pick: Jets
Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) +6 at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
I select game-manager Alex Smith for Kansas City, you think maybe he has this game circled on his calendar? In the aftermath of the Incognito incident, Jonathan Martin also found himself on trial in the court of public opinion – is he an introvert? Did he exhibit thin skin trying to get along with the NFL’s version of A.J. Pierzynski? Since then Martin has settled in nicely on the Niners offensive line.
ATS pick: Chiefs
Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) -1 at New England Patriots (2-2)
Tom Brady is now looking over his shoulder, not only did Jimmy Garoppolo excel in garbage time in Kansas City but also has the made man look. It is hard to single out someone for the Bengals as their 3-0 start has been a team effort, I’ll go with No. 2 running back Jeremy Hill.
ATS pick: Patriots
Seattle Seahawks (2-1) -7 at Washington (1-3)
Richard Sherman is not just Employee of the Month, he is the Employee of All-Time, he will tell you himself. Washington outside backer Ryan Kerrigan is looking for his best season yet, the fourth year pro has five sacks on the season.
ATS pick: Seahawks