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Week 5

Our tribute to Matthew Schiff (FFToday’s freshly retired Last Man Standing guru) continues this week. The eight participants who remain in the contest to replace Schiff are (in alphabetical order): Michael Bode, Anthony Catalano, Spencer Coffey, Jeff DuBransky, Walt Kindelberger, Doug Lecorchick, Marc Mondry, and Scott Morrison.

LMS picks for the Week 5 games from all eight participants appear at the bottom of this column. Readers who care only about the picks themselves should scroll down to the final section of the column, but those who are interested in the men behind the picks will want to see how our contestants responded to the “Spotlight Questionnaire” I submitted to them last week.

This week’s column features the responses of the last four contestants (Kindelberger, Lecorchick, Mondry, and Morrison) to the questionnaire. For the responses of the first 4 contestants (Bode, Catalano, Coffey, and DuBransky), please see last week’s column.

Question #1: Who the heck are you, and what experience/qualifications do you have to suggest that readers should pay any attention to you anyway?

Spotlight on Walt Kindelberger:

So this is what it feels like to have my name up in "internet lights"? Let’s hope the spotlight captures my best side. I sure hope Mike Krueger is as good a stonewaller [of creditors] as reported.

I am a thirty-something life-long football fan—particularly pro football, and more specifically the Steelers. I figure that admission alone will start the hate mail, but so be it. I started playing fantasy football in the "Beer Book" days; you got the rules at the distributor when you bought a case of beer (or when your "of age" friends bought a case of beer). I have been playing ever since, and have done pretty well over the years in the various types of games, from traditional FFL, to Pick 'em pools, to FFTOC, etc.

The reasons to pay attention to me are sound logic and sheer entertainment value. I will provide readers with well-considered, logical, and insightful picks each week free of charge. Included in the price will be between 3 and 30 seconds of stress-reducing levity. I do not, however, have or offer any of the following: a magic formula, insider information, a credit line in Vegas, a crystal ball, a full head of hair, any warranty or guarantee, insurance to cover your potential losses, the names of any bookmakers, Jessica Simpson's phone number, etc.

I am likely as worthy as most other football "experts" on the internet, which means I probably rank somewhere between your bartender and your lawyer. I will let you determine which of them offers the more reliable advice.

Spotlight on Doug Lecorchick:

I am a Son of a B . . . bookie that is. My whole life I watched money being put down on teams that were all ‘sure wins’ and have seen a lot upset people. I learned the hard way that sentimental picks, trends, and popular teams don’t have a place in handicapping. I use a tier unit system and rank weekly picks accordingly (more on that in the following answers).

Spotlight on Marc Mondry:

Quite frankly, I’m nobody as far as the fantasy football world is concerned. I’m a first-year law student at GW law. I have no journalism experience whatsoever, and have only been seriously involved in fantasy football for 4 years.

So – why listen to me? I was talking to my buddy about this writing contest, and he said “Wow, this is your calling!” Now, I’d like to think that my aspirations in life are slightly grander than writing a fantasy football column—perhaps becoming a great lawyer, making money, and being a fantastic future husband and father. On the other hand, what could be more important than providing an avid fantasy football community with the best information, advice, and comedy that (literally) no money can buy?

Which brings me back to my first point – why listen? Because I am about as obsessive about fantasy football (and thus as knowledgeable) as anyone else. Fantasy is not a one-day-a-week deal for me, but rather a seven-day affliction. I spend hours every day [soaking up football information]. Now what is the benefit of this? I flat out know my ****. You may not agree with me, but you’ll certainly make a much more informed decision after listening.

Spotlight on Scott Morrison:

I'm the past founder and sole content writer of, which offered fantasy football articles and pro football picks. On a weekly basis I posted predictions and analysis for 3 to 5 selected games per week against the spread, with a decent amount of success in spotting underdogs with outright win potential. I like to consider my eye for underdog selections as "Trap Game training" for LMS.

I've been playing fantasy football since the pre-Web era (what the heck did I do with my time back then?), and the first internet league I joined was actually run completely via e-mail. I can't forget the time-consuming process of creating my "pick lists" of players to send to the commissioner after he'd e-mail out the team picks one or two rounds at a time night after night. As for skeletons in my FFL closet, I once drafted Redskins mega-bust QB Heath Shuler for my team ... I guess my FF existence could only improve from that point forward.

Question #2: Matthew Schiff and Mike Krueger will be the judges of this contest. You may address them both in this space as sycophantically as you like. Alternatively, you can take the high road by reviewing the Week 3 column and explaining which of your competitors seems to you to be the strongest candidate.

Spotlight on Walt Kindelberger:

I can't imagine how a "job" that offers the benefits that this one does (see Week 3's Q&A column for a refresher) shouldn't have me on my knees offering to do dog tricks for Mr. Schiff and Mr. Krueger. However, since that is a visual that no one wants to contemplate for too long, I will instead take the high road and tell you why Jeff DuBransky appears to be my strongest competitor.

Jeff did a good job with his week #3 picks. The bonus trap game call of Jacksonville over Indy was a great one. It would have been easy to pick Indy in that contest. They were at home; they needed a win in their new building; the Jags got manhandled by the Bills the week before, etc. But as Jeff said, the Jags have been playing the Colts tough lately. Jeff's other trap game call didn't work out as well, considering San Diego walked all over the Jets, but his reasoning was sound. Can any of you truly say you would trust a Norv Turner team in that situation?

The reasoning behind his other picks was also sound. At the time the picks were due, Tavaris Jackson was still starting for the Vikes, and he made the call that he wouldn't be long for the job, so give him a pass on that one. Atlanta and the G-Men were solid calls, although the Bengals almost made us all look silly.

Lastly, I found Jeff to be the most entertaining read of my competitors. When such phrases as “kills a misguided seagull,” “more player issues than Burt Reynold's team,” and “Chris Henry for NFL Man of the Year,” all appear in a 5-paragraph span, something interesting must have been said.

Spotlight on Doug Lecorchick

Matt/Mike, Thanks for what you continue to do with FFToday! But to get down to business, I went 3-1 on my Week 3 picks, and my explanations were dead on. I called the trap game and even the final score, plus I blew up on my #3 and #1 locks. I am waiting to hear from you guys about putting a small section on point spreads. I would love to help in any way I can with that! That is my forte.

As for others in Week #3; Walt Kindelberger has a solid day, and he also called a nice trap game. I think he was the most accurate on the board in Week #3.

Spotlight on Marc Mondry:

I’m going to take option number 3 and address Matthew and Mike without performing metaphorical fellatio. I have a suggestion for how I think this column should turn out.

I don’t think it should be a one-writer column. I think it should be multiple writers, ideally 3. There are several reasons for this suggestion.

1. Most readers won’t fully trust the opinion of one random guy you select to write the column. More writers = more information = necessarily better. Along those lines, why do we trust 99% of the stuff written on fantasy football websites. [Heck,] I am picking equal or better than 80% of the ESPN staff; most of them are barely above average. See my soap box.

2. You could do a lot of creative things with multiple writers...

a. Have each writer fill an archetypal role (conservative picks, aggressive early season picks, ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ picks, etc.);

b. You could have writers respond to each other—e.g. submit picks Wednesday, and by Friday have each writer draft a paragraph response/counter to each of the other writers – more days of info, and certainly more perspectives;

c. All kinds of other fun stuff I don’t have time to think of right now.

Spotlight on Scott Morrison:

Specifically in honor of Matthew Schiff, one of the greatest LMS prognosticators ever to grace the pages of a website, I took it upon myself to model his "dumpy #2 pick" genius of 2007 with my selection of New England in that spot in Week 3. He's taught us that real LMS experts make their mark with superb picks in the 1 and 3 positions. And speaking of experts, we can all point to Mike Krueger, elite FFL-er extraordinaire and founding father of FFToday (the web's best FF resource) as a conqueror of feats that we mortals can only deem 'heroic'.

Question 3: The two strategy points that Mike Davis stresses in the LMS portion of the column are 1) to avoid divisional matchups; and 2) to concentrate on favorites playing at home. Do you buy into those guidelines, or are they misleading oversimplifications?

Spotlight on Walt Kindelberger:

K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) is a fabulous principle to keep in mind. These points are not oversimplifications; they are excellent starting points for evaluation of the games, and often all that are needed. A look back at week #3 will show you how successful a simple strategy can be. Picking based solely on these two guidelines would have yielded either an 8-1 or 9-1 record (I don't know whether Minnesota was favored in their game). Week #4, however, exposes the limitations of such a simple strategy. Week #4's slate offers many fewer opportunities that fit the strategy criteria. So even though those will still be good guidelines to start with, we will have to dig deeper to find the safest picks.

Spotlight on Doug Lecorchick:

In short they are misleading; division matchups are teams more familiar with each other than any other teams, hence giving handicappers more components to determine in regard to the spread. Although we are not talking about spreads, the same applies to eliminator picks. Favorites playing at home are decent guidelines, except for teams like the G-men. Some teams seem to play better on the road. I wouldn’t put my money on guidelines though.

Spotlight on Marc Mondry:

1. As for divisional matchups, I 100% buy into this guideline. I’m a Giants and a Mets fan, and I have seen more upsets in the NFC East and the NL East than I can care to remember (most of them not in my favor). That being said, I [you sometimes have to resort to divisional contests] out of sheer fear of most of the other matchups.

There are way more elements of the game that come into play with divisional matchups, most of which are much harder to gauge than personnel (including history between coaches and coordinators). Also, some teams just play well against certain division opponents, e.g. Dolphins vs. Pats and Jags vs. Colts.

2. And as for favorites with home field advantage, I buy into this one about 50%. Yes, favorites at home are usually good picks, but I think people put a tad bit too much emphasis on home-field advantage.

In an eliminator competition, home field advantage is very helpful for deciding between two close calls, but how often do you really want to be making close calls in an eliminator? Down the stretch this is much more important, assuming you haven’t planned out your picks for each week.

Spotlight on Scott Morrison:

Those are solid guidelines, and I typically aim to abide by them with all but the very best or very worst clubs. Teams that are tracking to 12-4 or better are capable of road wins versus most opponents. Likewise, a club tracking to 4-12 or worse will often lose anytime, anywhere. However if I am going to select a team that runs counter to either of those strategy points (as in Week 4, when I took 2 division matchups), I'll also want to find matchup positives in the strengths/weaknesses between the opponents.

Question #4: Is there another strategy point (aside from the divisional matchups/home-field advantage points discussed above) that you would want to stress in your LMS projections?

Spotlight on Walt Kindelberger:

Another strategy point that I look at is the "Hunger Factor". In the parity-filled modern NFL, one team's desire, or lack thereof, can often be a telling factor in who wins, or at least how competitive a game might be. This is not a strategy that can be applied to every game, but it will be in play every week. The following teams all had the "Hunger Factor" on their side in week #3: Minnesota, Cincinnati, Miami, San Francisco (Mike Martz's revenge), Cleveland, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, and San Diego. Those teams all wanted or needed a win badly, and they went a combined 6-2. I ignored the "Hunger Factor" last week in the Giants - Bengals game because I thought Cincy had quit on Marvin Lewis, but clearly that wasn't the case and they came ready to play and almost pulled the upset.

Spotlight on Doug Lecorchick:

Into the mind of Doug Lecorchick III . . . hmmm, where to start? In eliminator style picking, exploit the running game! Weak run defenses vs. strong running teams always catch my eye. Teams that keep the rock on the ground for most of the game usually find that clock management falls on their side as well as turnover ratios. I love sitting on a dog with a strong run game.

Spotlight on Marc Mondry:

I always stress defense paired with a strong running game. These are your bread and butter eliminator teams. That’s why the Titans are going to be picked over and over again this year. High flying passing attacks (Denver, New Orleans) carry with them an inherent variability that you don’t usually see with overpowering defenses and strong running games. (See New Orleans vs. Washington, Week 2.)

Teams that perennially fit into this mold (New England before Moss/Welker, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Jacksonville, New York Giants) generally make for solid, low-risk eliminator plays when they have favorable matchups. They control the game and keep opposing offenses off the field. And they generally win championships. Look at the last 10 Superbowls and ask yourself, “Did that team have a strong running game? Did they have a strong defense?” The answer is almost always yes to both questions.

There are going to be some teams this year that didn’t always fit the defense/running game mold. Atlanta immediately comes to mind – they’re not a “powerhouse” team, but they will make for great plays at times. Look at what that defense and running game did to Kansas City. There was no way Atlanta was coming out of that game with a loss, and it was all because of running and defense.

Spotlight on Scott Morrison:

Without a doubt I would emphasize the concept that a team's most recent performances MUST carry an inordinate amount of weight in predicting winners in the LMS format. The competitive balance in the NFL is so delicate that a key team injury (or conversely, the unexpected rise of a young player at a formerly weak position) can completely change a team's competitiveness for a number of weeks. Look at what the early offensive line injuries have done to the Colts and Jaguars. Both were considered Super Bowl worthy before the season began, but they have been mediocre thus far this year. I try to ensure that I am closely tracking each team's recent performances.

Question #5: Pick your soapbox. Get up on the soapbox of your choosing (as long as it relates to football in some way), and give us an insightful or entertaining taste of your writing style and reasoning process.

Spotlight on Walt Kindelberger:

So many soapboxes to choose from and so little column...

Do I target Phil Simms and other stodgy media types for not getting on the Fantasy train? No, Bill Simmons covered that extensively in his Sports Guy column on last week.

How about targeting the Sports Programming Executives who still can't grasp the concept that their events will all draw more viewers if not scheduled against each other? It was almost criminal that we had to choose between the final day of the Ryder Cup or NFL Football last week. No, it seems ungrateful to complain about too much sports coverage on TV.

How about taking aim at, who decided not to have Matt Waldman compete in the FFTOC this year? This one is compelling since I would be providing unasked for and likely unwanted ombudsman-like comments, while being able to hide them in a column under someone else's byline. Alas, the damage has been done there and won't be helped by my pointing out that the FFTOC is the fairest fantasy competition available, and that Matt's comments on it were very well done. So, no.

My soapbox of choice is making the case for Football as an Olympic sport. The NFL should have lobbyists working on this full time. What else would increase the international interest in the sport faster than making it an Olympic event? If water polo, team handball, and field hockey all make the grade, why not football?

The bonus is that the U.S. would dominate for at least the next 10 Olympics, and probably longer, before ever being challenged. Which one of you wouldn't watch Team USA featuring Brady, Moss, Owens, Tomlinson, Gates, etc. rolling it up against a team from France? They would have to institute a mercy rule. We need to get this done. Canada would be all for it since they would be almost guaranteed the silver for the next 10 Olympiads.

Realistically though, this has no chance of happening. The greedy owners and players would never be able to agree on how to split the newly found revenue streams, not to mention that pesky little Olympic rule that outlaws performance enhancing drugs in a meaningful and enforceable way. Alas! Those are soapboxes for another day.

Spotlight on Doug Lecorchick:

Everybody loves lists, so to make some money, be entertained and earn experience in capping football games, follow my top 5 list on How to Survive Capping Football:

1. Use a 4-team tier system each block. (4 early games / 4 late games);
2. No parlays or teasers on Sunday;
3. Place weights on the tiers and bet units relative to the weight;
4. Bank roll half of the winnings from the previous block;
5. Read Doug Lecorchick III’s blog on FFToday…I will win with you or sink with the ship.

Spotlight on Marc Mondry:

You know what really grinds my gears?

People that read fantasy websites and assume that everything written is channeled through the writer directly from the mouth of God. Wake up! These “experts” don’t know anything more than the avid fantasy football fan. Half of the ESPN Fantasy Editorial Group is picking games against the spread at the 56th percentile or lower. That means that 44 percent of all the crazies that are picking games against the spread on ESPN are picking better than HALF of the “experts”. These people get paid to be average – sweet job.

Don’t get me wrong; fantasy football websites and articles are great. They occupy a large chuck of my life every single day of the football season.

HOWEVER, don’t take them as gospel. Learn from them, gather information, compare perspectives, and make an informed decision for yourself!

There is an absolute treasure trove of information on fantasy websites – accompanied by a whole bunch of garbage opinions, with very few exceptions (the staff here, for example J).

You know this game. You’ve spent hours poring over computer screens, looking at statistics, agonizing over trades, willing out that 2 point victory. Read, learn, decide for yourself, and win.

Back to you, Tom.

(Those of you that got the Family Guy reference before now, thank you for being you).

Spotlight on Scott Morrison:

Why is the NFL still using first-down measurement chains? This sports league is the clear leader in using technology to improve the game and the fan experience -- NFL films, the coaches’ headsets, instant replay, the in-helmet mikes, the NFL Network -- and yet we're determining if LT gets a crucial playoff first down with gear that could have been borrowed from your kid's Midget League game. Hey, metal chains are great for securing prisoners in a feudal lord's dungeon or to help deflect a nasty whack from the next medieval battleaxe that you encounter, but they've got no place in the NFL in 2008. Other than being sideline fodder for those "chain gang bowling" blooper clips, when do you enjoy watching this clunky crew? An insightful football commentator once called the ball spotting and chain stretching routine “a very precise measurement of a completely arbitrary ball placement.” Bingo. The entire process is akin to having your carpet installer guesstimate the room measurements by looking in your windows, then cutting the rug with a laser accurate to a thousandth of an inch. Not so effective.

How do we reach the end of our chains and bring about improvement? Use 20-year-old grocery store technology. Embed a chip or an RFID tag in the lining of the ball and, wire up the length of the field with those electronic finish line beams that are used in track and field. Beep! It's a first down or maybe that critical TD at the goal line. No beep means no dice. Everyone is spared the chain stretching ceremony (not to mention 75% of the lengthy challenge-replay ordeals). And think of the viewer possibilities ... crank up the beep sound ("to eleven!") for the crowd at the stadium and auto-splash "First Down" on the scoreboard. Let the networks match it up with that yellow TV first-down line and watch the stripe turn first-down green on the big screen! Then -- and only then -- will the NFL break free from the chains that bind us all.

I hope that readers have enjoyed getting to know our contestants as much as I have. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out which contestants will gain ground (and which ones will lose ground) as the Week 5 games play out.

If readers of this column want to make a case for the prognosticator they think is best suited to take over for Matthew Schiff, I’ll be happy to include some reviews from readers (as long as they aren’t the parents, spouses, or children of any of our contestants) in next week’s column.

Whether you have a favorite contestant or not, you will want to consult next week’s column to find out which of our participants will survive the upcoming “Krueger cut.” Mike Krueger has given me no indication of how drastically he will reduce our number of competitors. Theoretically, he could put all 8 names on the short list that will be submitted to Matthew Schiff, but I know Krueger a little bit, and I wouldn’t count on it.

The eight writers who have made it this far all have my gratitude for their willingness to share their football savvy as well as their dedication to this rather lengthy audition. Please take what you can from their predictions for Week 5 below.

Last Man Standing

Michael Bode's Picks:

Trap Game: Atlanta over Green Bay
Most readers will think this pick is based solely on the fact that Rodgers is banged up, but that is only part of the reason. Green Bay's defense is allowing an atrocious 5.2 yards per carry, which will allow the Falcons to keep to their strengths (the legs of Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood). If Matt Flynn has to start, then Ryan Grant is going to have to find a way to play through his hamstring injury better if the Packers are to pull this one out.

Trap Game II: Detroit over Chicago
Tampa Bay showed that the way to beat Chicago is through the air as the Bears struggle to put pressure on the QB, which puts undue stress on their secondary. Detroit's strength is their WR corps, but they struggle to protect Jon Kitna. If Detroit can manage to protect him, Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams should be able to find openings. The Lions, however, are horrible at defending the run, so they must do everything in their power to stop Matt Forte and hope they can prevent Kyle Orton from beating them. Basically, Detroit is the home team in a divisional matchup in which their strength (passing the football) meets up with their opponent’s weakness (defending the pass). It is the same formula that the Chiefs used last week to beat the Broncos.

Jacksonville over Pittsburgh (Past picks: minnesota; philadelphia)
This game is part of a burgeoning NFL rivalry after last year’s two games, both of which were won by the Jaguars in Pittsburgh. This game, however, is in Jacksonville. That’s one bonus for the Jags; another is that Parker and Mendenhall are likely out for this game; a third is that Roethlisburger is still nursing assorted injuries. The Jaguars should be able to shut down the Steeler running game, which will allow them to pin their ears back and attack Roethlisburger. On offense, the Steelers have been allowing just 2.9 yards per carry, but Garrard knows how to take advantage of the over-aggressive nature of the Dick Lebeau defense by rolling out and using Maurice Jones-Drew on screens.

Carolina over Kansas City (Past picks: BUFFALO; JAX)
Not only did the Chiefs just win their Superbowl by taking it to the Broncos, but the Panthers have allowed just 1 TD. On the other side of the ball, Jonathan Stewart is in line for a big game against the Chiefs’ 2nd-worst NFL running defense (5.3 yards per carry). This is the exact type of game for which John Fox lives.

Dallas over Cincinnati (Past pick: NYG; denver)
The one area in which the Bengals have done well this year is defending the pass. Unfortunately for them, the Cowboys have vowed to rededicate themselves to the ground, but the Cowboys have so many weapons in the passing game that the Bengals will have trouble keeping up with them there too. Moreover, even if Palmer plays, the Bengals’ OL has struggled to protect whoever is throwing for them, and DeMarcus Ware figures to have a big game.

Anthony Catalano’s Picks

What a week! Denver and Dallas (both big favorites) suffered upsets. It goes to show you anybody can win on any given weekend, and unpredictability is one of the things I love most about football. That's what makes picking these games week in and week out so difficult; it is no easy task for anyone.

Trap Game: San Francisco over New England
New England comes in as a 3-point favorite, but the Pats are traveling across the country. They are not the same team without Tom Brady. Against Miami they didn't even attempt one deep pass. Will SF use the wildcat offense that Miami used? JT O'Sulivan has been playing well under Mike Martz, and Frank Gore could lead the league in yards from scrimmage this year. This could be a close game at the end.

#3 Green Bay over Atlanta (Past picks: new england, denver)
Keep an eye on Aaron Rodgers’ injury. All indications out of Packer camp are that he should be ready to play. He and Greg Jennings are finding a nice groove. Jennings leads the league in receiving yardage (482) and got in the end zone twice this week for his first scores of the season. Look for Ryan Grant to finally get going in this game as Atlanta is giving up over 130 yds on the ground. Michael Turner for Atlanta has been solid at home on turf, but has struggled on the road on grass. He has only rushed for 42 (at Tampa) and 56 yds (at Carolina).

#2 Chicago over Detroit (Past picks: BUFFALO, SAN DIEGO)
Kyle Orton has played well the last 2 weeks against 2 good defenses (5 tds and 477 yards with 4 picks). Look for this productivity to continue against a Lion team that is is dead last in defense (giving up an average of 430 yds per game). Matt Forte has been a nice addition, averaging almost 4 yds per carry. The Lions have shown on offense they can put up points, but Kitna has been erratic (throwing 5 picks in 3 games). It looks like Rudi Johnson has taken over the starting role at RB for them, and this should help their running game. It still won't be enough to win this game.

#1 New Orleans over Minnesota (Past picks: NYG, dallas)
Drew Brees has thrown for over 1300 yards and 8 tds through the first 4 games. It appears it doesn't matter who his receivers are (as they are all catching the ball). Minnesota has only 2 picks all year; they are giving up 220 yards in the passing game as well as giving up 8 plays of 20 yards or more. I look for the Saints to try and stretch the field and go for the big play. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson (one of the top RBs in the game), but they won't be able to keep up with the scoring. They don't have the passing game the Saints have, and if they fall behind they will be forced into throwing the ball more than they would like, which does not bode well for them.

Spencer Coffey’s Picks:

Trap Game: Seattle over NY Giants
The Giants seemed a little off despite their OT win over Cincinnati two weeks ago. Seattle has won its last four games over NFC East opponents and ignoring the "due" theory. Tom Coughlin is 0-4 against the Seahawks in his career.

#3 San Diego over Miami (Past Picks: DENVER, TAMPA BAY)
All of the play makers for the Chargers are starting to strut their stuff, and it will be on display in Miami this week. This should be an easy win, but there are better opportunities to make them the number one pick in November and December.

#2 Jacksonville over Pittsburgh (Past Picks: kansas city, BUFFALO)
Although no team gets truly healthy during the regular season, here is a case where the Jaguars have had a few games to adjust to their injuries and the Steelers are going into this game with two straight weeks of key losses to their starting offense and defense.

#1 Green Bay over Atlanta (Past Picks: SF, CAROLINA)
If you want to stay standing, this is the week to pick the Packers. With a bye week in the middle, three of their next four games are on the road. Even if Aaron Rodgers doesn't play, the Packers are the better team and will prevail at home.

Jeff DuBransky’s Picks

Trap Game: Detroit over Chicago
According to news coming out of Detroit, the Lions are reportedly feeling like wrongly-convicted prisoners who have finally been freed after seven years in jail. If they've ever had a reason to come out fired up and ready to play, it's this week. In come the Bears (who are average at best on offense). And on defense, though Chicago may be stifling against the run, the Lions don't run anyway, and the Bears have already been beaten badly through the air twice. Kitna, Roy Williams and the rest of the liberated Lions will feed off the joy of the city of Detroit and get their first win.

#3: Carolina over Kansas City (Past picks: ATLANTA, BUFFALO)
OK, the Chiefs pulled off the shocker at home, against the even more pathetic than originally thought defense of the Broncos, and because of four ugly turnovers by Denver. This week Kansas City is on the road (bad news), the Panthers have the eighth-rated defense in the league (worse news), and Carolina has only four turnovers all season (the worst news). Welcome back to a season of double-digit losses, KC.

#2: Indianapolis over Houston (Past picks: Carolina, Dallas)
Coming out of a bye week that allowed his team to refocus and get a little more healthy, there is absolutely, positively, no way in the world Peyton Manning will allow his team to come out of this week with a 1-3 record. Fortunately for Peyton and the rest of the Colts, the Texans just won't have a whole lot of say in the matter either (25th in the league in points per game with 18.7 and 3rd to last in points allowed per game with 33).

#1: Dallas over Cincinatti (Past picks: NEW YORK GIANTS, Denver)
T.O.'s whining has Romo a little shaken, and the pressure will be there to satisfy Owens with 35 or 40 looks this week, since 20 wasn't enough last week. Many teams would be able to use this knowledge to devise a defensive strategy that would result in a nightmare for Dallas. Luckily for Romo and the Cowboys, in come the Bengals with a dinged-up Palmer and their bumbling defense. Cincy is more than capable of helping T.O. find his happy place again.

Walt Kindelberger’s Picks:

As I warned, last week was a rough one to say the least. The Dallas and Denver games took down a lot of good players, so a big "Congratulations" to you if you were one of the survivors. My call of Houston in the Trap Game last week was a good one, but beyond that things were ugly. The next 3 or 4 weeks look considerably more attractive, with fewer divisional games and some attractive matchups to look forward to.

Trap Game: Detroit over Chicago
Chicago has looked solid this year, so this pick is not so much a knock on them as it is a knock on Matt Millen. Having the weight of Matt Millen and the debacle that the last 7 years has been finally lifted off the shoulders of the Lions should give them a lift. Detroit is not devoid of talent (particularly on offense), so the Lions should be able to keep pace with a Chicago team that (let’s face it) is still led by a less than solid Kyle Orton. Look for the upset in this one.

#3: Carolina over Kansas City (Past picks: ATLANTA, dallas)
I like all of this week's picks better than any of last week's picks, so even though Carolina lands here in the #3 spot, I still like this pick a lot. Kansas City is still a young, bad team. They just got lucky last week at home and caught a defenseless divisional rival on a bad day. Look for Carolina's offense to impose its will early and often against an overmatched Kansas City defense. It feels about time for Steve Smith to have one of his patented big games.

#2: Dallas over Cincinnati (past picks: BUFFALO, cincinnati)
Both of these teams let me down last week. Dallas inexplicably decided not to run the ball or even let Felix Jones touch it, and Cincinnati was done in as soon as Carson Palmer surprised everyone by not playing. This week I think Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett get the Dallas offense back on track and run it up against a defense that has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Palmer plans to play, but there remains a lot of concern regarding his elbow. The inflammation that had him out last week has not receded, so there is every chance that even if he starts he won't finish the game.

#1: Green Bay over Atlanta (Past picks: NYG, denver)
Atlanta has looked good at home this year, but going on the road, especially to a place like Green Bay, with a rookie QB is an altogether different story. Indications are that Aaron Rodgers’ shoulder will not keep him off the field. His presence is vital to this pick and Green Bay's season, and if they were really concerned with his shoulder you would be seeing veteran QBs in for work outs this week in Green Bay. Atlanta will likely exhibit their strong rushing attack and hit a big play, but it won't be enough to keep up with Green Bay in their own house. I look for Green Bay to win this one going away.

Doug Lecorchick’s Picks

Trap Game: Washington over Philadelphia
Washington can slow the pace of a football game down enough to put opposing offenses into a coma, and that is what the game plan will be against the Eagles. Portis should be able to gain a decent showing, and that should open up some lanes for Campbell. Philly plays best in fast-paced contests, and this will not be one of them.

#3: New York Giants over Seattle (TENNESSEE, NEW ORLEANS)
The Gmen will apply constant pressure on Hasselbeck testing his freshly-recovered-from-injury receiving corps of Branch and Engram. I look for the Giants to win the turnover ratio roughly 3:1. I don’t see how Seattle will be able to hold the Giants from scoring on each possession. The Giants should dominate through the air and finish it off with the big man Brandon Jacobs. Go G-men all the way in this one.

#2: Arizona over Buffalo (cleveland, SAN DIEGO)
I know the Cards gave up huge points to the Jets. I know Boldin is hurting. I know it was a pick fest last week. Still the Cards will defeat the Bills by a touchdown. Warner should be able to rest a little in the pocket and start to pick the D apart. The Bills won’t be able to move the ball on the ground as much as they would like, forcing them to air it out which screams, “Pick Baby.” The Cards should jump ahead early and stay there.

#1: Pittsburgh over Jacksonville (DALLAS, denver)
The Steelers should be able to attack Garrard from all angles and test him with a stingy defense. Davenport may be running the ball for Pittsburgh, and Big Ben may be banged up a bit, but I see Pittsburgh in a landslide over the Jags here. Troy Polamolu should be blitzing once every set of downs, and this is how the Steelers have been successful thus far. I don’t think Jacksonville will be able to get a lot of momentum going, and the Steelers can ground and pound once they establish a lead. Go Pittsburgh!

Marc Mondry’s Picks

Pick your favorite four letter expletive. That’s probably a word I could use to describe my Sunday. I was eliminated from my LMS competition. The only silver lining, if you can call it that, is that my second pick would have been Dallas – a team I watched get absolutely dominated from a prime seat in a Redskins bar. To add further insult to injury, my beloved Mets were just embarrassing to watch. Ok, no more whining, I promise.

Trap Game: Atlanta over Green Bay
There are a lot of possible trap game picks this week. Miami over San Diego is a “sexy” pick. I like Washington over Philadelphia, and even Houston over Indianapolis. But I’m going with Atlanta over Green Bay – it’s the 3rd most popular pick on the ESPN LMS this week. Everything about this game scares me enough to stay away from Green Bay. Turner the Burner has been bad against good rush defenses (CAR, TB), but spectacular against bad rush defenses (DET, KC). Green Bay, allowing 5.3 yards per carry, is safely in the category of ‘bad rush defenses.’ Add Aaron Rodgers’ shoulder injury, Ryan Grant’s complete ineffectiveness (<200 yds, 0TDs, 4 games), and the possibility that untested rookie Matt Flynn might actually see the field, and this game could very well be a blowout in Atlanta’s favor.

3. New York Giants over Seattle (Past picks: SEATTLE, JACKSONVILLE)
I have to roll with my Giants this week, even without Plaxico Burress. They are coming out fresh off a bye week (just like Seattle) and have had two weeks to figure out how to best stop the Seattle offense. Wait a second! That probably took them 15 minutes – stack the box, stop the run, and get pressure on Matt Hasselbeck. Seattle will have a miserable time in East Rutherford trying to stop a dominant Giants rushing attack that is averaging over 5.7 yards per carry. This game could be very one-sided. Hasselbeck is going to be forced to throw and throw often. The only way they keep this close is for the Giants’ much maligned secondary to blow coverage repeatedly. Such a development is possible, but unlikely, and would probably result in a hole in my apartment wall (as well as my suffering severe head trauma).

2. Chicago over Detroit (Past picks: TENNESSEE, dallas)
Every week there seems to be one or two spreads that I just do not understand. This week, it’s that Chicago is only a 3.5 point favorite over Detroit. The Lions have many troubles, with Millen fired (actually not a problem at all, but there will likely be an adjustment period), Rudi Johnson installed as the starting RB, and a defense that could not stop my sister from scoring. The Lions are giving up over 400 yards a game, and allowing their opponents (average offensive teams: ATL, GB, and SF) to score an average of 38 points per game. On the other side, since when does Kyle Orton throw TD passes (3 in the first half, against the Eagles no less, the team that made Ben Roethlisberger look like Ryan Fitzpatrick in week 3). The Bears’ victory Sunday night was flat out impressive against a solid Philadelphia squad. Look for a repeat performance on the road in Detroit.

1. Carolina over Kansas City (Past picks: BUFFALO, denver)
Picking against the Chiefs after the week that they ruined my LMS season seems like it might be tempting fate. That being said, Denver and Carolina are totally opposite teams. Denver needs to score 30 points to win and lives and dies by Jay Cutler’s arm, and Carolina wins with defense (Top 10, if not Top 5, in most statistical categories) and a very strong RB tandem. (See my strategy tip in spotlight this week – if I could only remember my own advice.) Again, as I said last week, to beat Kansas City you have to stop Larry Johnson. Carolina at home is well equipped to stop him—certainly better than Denver at Arrowhead. The Panthers have only given up 1 rushing TD in four games.

Scott Morrison’s Picks:

Whooooshhh! That giant sucking sound that you heard last Sunday was the vacuum left behind as a huge number of entrants were bounced from Survival Pools across the globe. It was "D for Disaster" as the Denver (selected by a stunning 41% of Yahoo entries) and Dallas upsets hit the masses hard. Having successfully avoided both of those toxic choices in my selections last week, I'm ready to tackle Week 5.

Trap Game: Lions over Bears
The woeful Lions actually played a quarter and a half of good football versus Green Bay in their only home game of the year. They led the Packers 25-24 in the 4th quarter. The problem was that in the next 7:41 they gave up 24 points. Ah, but I say that those were the Matt Millen era Lions that rode that collapsing horse. Do you remember the home-tough (but road-soft) Wayne Fontes Lions? After a tumultuous two weeks that pleased the fans, I expect the Lions to come out strong here. Tampa Bay proved two weeks ago that the Bears can be beaten through the air. This may be the case if the Lions can jump out to a lead and not go pass-only early in the game, as has happened to them in 2008 thus far.

#3: Tennessee over Baltimore (Past picks: BILLS, packers)
The Titans are quietly pummeling opponents in early 2008 like a grind-it-out (pre-Moss) Belichick Patriots team: solid defensive line, solid running game, opportunistic defense. OK, Kerry Collins is not exactly Tom Brady (on the field or in a mirror), but he has played well and kept a deep pass threat in the offense. On the other side of the slate, what have the 2-1 Ravens really proven to NFL nation? The wins they own are over the Bengals and Browns in the first two weeks - but that's likely a combined 0-8 pair if they hadn't played each other in Week 4! Albert Haynesworth and the Titan defense will prove to be too tough for even a poised rookie like Ravens QB Joe Flacco.

#2: Carolina over Kansas City (Past picks: patriots, JAGUARS)
Carolina comes off a solid home win over the Falcons in which the defense consistently stuffed centerpiece RB Michael Turner (18 carries, 56 yards) to set the tone. On offense, Jake Delhomme proved he could pass the Panthers to a win on a day when the running yards were tough. Muhsin Muhammad re-emerged as a threat, too. That run/pass offensive versatility will prove to be too much for the Chiefs, who can't count on scoring like they did last week against the Denver defense. KC will attempt to establish the run with their centerpiece RB Larry Johnson, but expect that the Panther defensive line will keep LJ in check. Bonus prediction: Tony Gonzalez will break the all-time TE receiving yards mark in this game, but Shannon Sharpe still will claim that he's better.

#1: Dallas over Cincinnati (Past picks: GIANTS, PANTHERS)
I know what you're saying: (a)Carson Palmer may play this week for the Bengals, and (b)they gave the Giants all they could handle in Week 3, but the bottom line here is that the matchups in the trenches are strongly in favor of the Cowboys. Look for Marion Barber III and Felix Jones to run often and well in this one. The Cowboys' defense was shown to be a bit vulnerable last week in the loss to the Redskins, but key pieces of the Bengals offense starting with QB Palmer and WR Number-Number (thought I'd translate) are not in the best of physical shape. That's not to say that the Bengals won't put up some points here. I believe they will score, but unless they strike a deal for Shawn Springs and 5 other defensive studs this week, I don't they think they can maintain pace with the Cowboys.

For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your LMS picks, please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.