NFL Week 8 Predictions: The Undefeated Teams

I was going to save this space for a rant about the bunk that is “does more with less,” but we have some pretty good games worth talking about this week instead.

Packers at Broncos

I thought about doing a formal preview for this game, but there’s just not enough history between the two given they’re in different conferences. You also don’t want to get too wrapped up in the numbers after just six games, which is what I’m probably about to do next.

Clearly, this is a step up in competition for both teams, who both had a bye week to prepare. Green Bay’s offense hasn’t seen a defense like Denver’s. Denver’s defense hasn’t seen an offense like Green Bay’s. I’m not going to make the mistake I made in previewing Super Bowl 48 where I thought the matchup of the lesser unit of each team (DEN D, SEA O) would be the deciding factor. Let’s stick with the strength vs. strength deciding how this game will play out.

These teams actually rank first (GB) and second (DEN) in points allowed with just one point separating them. However, Green Bay ranks seventh in Pts/Dr and 22nd in Yds/Dr. That’s a bit odd, but it’s possible because the Packers allow the third-fewest points per red zone trip. Denver’s offense has struggled in the red zone this season, ranked 30th. Denver may need to hit some big plays or take advantage of some great field position to crack this defense in the red zone. That’s how Philip Rivers turned a 500-yard passing game into just 20 points in GB. They tighten up down there. Surprisingly, the Packers go three-and-out on offense more than just five teams. Unless Aaron Rodgers takes advantage of Denver’s aggressiveness with a ton of hard counts to draw offsides and free plays, I think it’s going to be very hard for Green Bay to rack up points in this one.

Denver’s defense has pretty much shut down every offense its played so far. Only Minnesota was able to crack 20 points, and that included some good field position off of Manning interceptions and a big run by Adrian Peterson on fourth down. Green Bay probably needs more than 20 to win in Denver, but not a lot more. The Packers have been fairly mortal on offense in the last three games. Eddie Lacy hasn’t had a great season by any means. Rodgers doesn’t have the same vertical prowess without Jordy Nelson, and he hasn’t even tried to replace that part of the offense with his other receivers. This passing game is more reliant on YAC. Rodgers is scrambling more than he ever has this season, so he could be a problem for an aggressive Denver defense when he leaves the pocket. Shane Ray is out, but DeMarcus Ware should return to action. The Broncos will need Ware and Von Miller to provide good pressure in this one, but I really do think Rodgers will use his legs a lot if the Denver secondary is doing its job in coverage against the receivers. If Rodgers is holding onto the ball, then Denver will have a good chance to add on to its high sack total (26 in six games).

Denver’s offense has been a mess for various reasons this season. Some of those things are not fixable, because it’s not like they can find a good tight end or experienced slot WR in Week 8. They have to tough it out with what they have, but there’s enough here to be playing much better than they have. I recall an old NFL Films clip of Mike Holmgren saying “He’s gotta know he’s fucking up out there” in reference to a young Brett Favre. Gary Kubiak might be saying the same thing about an old Peyton Manning this year, who has 10 interceptions. Clearly that part can’t continue, and I don’t think it will since so many of the plays are mental and situational more than they are physical problems. Cutting down the picks is one step forward. Another is giving more carries to Ronnie Hillman, who has clearly outplayed C.J. Anderson this season. Demaryius Thomas has to stop dropping big passes, and his track record suggests that should also happen. This offense is close to putting it together, but keeps shooting itself in the foot with mistakes. I expect a sharper performance at home after some time to regroup against a Green Bay defense that you can definitely move the ball against. We’ve seen some productive games on the ground and through the air against them already.

Green Bay has not excelled in this type of environment. Since 2012, the Packers are 1-9 in road games against playoff teams. In case you were wondering, Rodgers started all 10 games as none of those were when he missed time in 2013 (broken collarbone). At 6-0, Denver looks destined for a playoff spot. However, the lone win in that stretch for GB was in Houston in 2012 against a team coached by Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips. Rodgers threw six touchdowns on Sunday Night Football. He’ll be fortunate to get to half that total in this one, but at least that is doable for him. I don’t think the Broncos have played great offensive competition so far, though the reason I like them is because they’re at home. Green Bay’s offense just isn’t that lethal on the road, where they’ve only played twice so far. Unlike last year when the Broncos were so dominant early in the season thanks to playing five of their first seven games at home, this year’s team has been on the road for four of the first six games, including four of the last five. Mile High is always a tough place to win and I think we get a few more points out of this one than expected, but I see Denver closing in the end on defense again.

Final score: Broncos 28, Packers 20

Bengals at Steelers

Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are 5-7 in Pittsburgh and just 2-11 at home against the Steelers. It’s one of those weird splits, but I truly do believe the Bengals get up for these games in Pittsburgh. They have enough motivation for this one to continue their 6-0 start and silence the return of Ben Roethlisberger by dropping the Steelers to 4-4. That wouldn’t lock up the AFC North, but it would damn near come close to doing so on the first day of November.

I think the Steelers have the better offense when everyone’s healthy, which looks to be the case for the first time since the end of last season. However, the Bengals have the better defense, and their offense is humming along very well this year. Andy Dalton has yet to have a bad game and he had his best game against the Steelers yet in Week 14 last season. I think his receivers have very favorable matchups against a defense that will be missing Stephon Tuitt and Will Allen. Pittsburgh’s defense has certainly exceeded expectations, only surrendering more than 23 points to the Patriots. However, I think the Bengals are the best offense the Steelers have seen since the Patriots. Dalton is protected well behind a line that has only allowed six sacks and he gets rid of the ball quickly. Tyler Eifert is giving this offense a new dimension down the seam and in the red zone that it’s lacked in recent seasons. That is somewhere I see the Steelers struggling to defend here, especially with health issues in the secondary. A.J. Green might feast here too.

I never ever like picking the Bengals in a big game, but I just feel like they’re the more complete team, coming off a bye, and they are playing better than the Steelers have this season. They should win. I know I’ve also seen enough games where Roethlisberger has returned form injury and looked rusty. You can’t look rusty when Geno Atkins and company are rushing, and this is the first game Roethlisberger will start with Alejandro Villanueva as his left tackle. He was beat by Tamba Hali for two big sacks in the fourth quarter last week. Sure, Antonio Brown should get back on track, Heath Miller won’t be a ghost again and Martavis Bryant is always a big-play threat, but no one has cracked 24 points on the Bengals yet this season. I think that continues here and they get another quality win.

Final score: Bengals 29, Steelers 22

Colts at Panthers

Maybe I’m just doing a better job of avoiding it, but I’m glad this wasn’t the week where we pretend Cam Newton has always been better than Andrew Luck based on the last two months. We have several seasons to look at and see that Luck is clearly a superior player who doesn’t need as much around him to succeed. This year, he has yet another flawed roster around him despite the offseason additions. The major difference is he’s playing the worst football of his career, and it’s showing in the results for both his team’s record and his statistics. The team’s really in no worse shape than it was from 2012-14, but the difference was Luck played at a level high enough to overcome those flaws. Is it injury? That’s always my first thought when a very good player is playing poorly, and Luck has missed two games with a shoulder injury. Something’s not right, and I don’t expect it to get right against a tough Carolina team.

Simply put, Cam Newton is playing at nowhere near a MVP level, but I’m sure we can focus on that ridiculousness another week. As the 2015 Colts should show, just having “names” around you at the skill positions means nothing for a QB if you’re not playing well yourself. You still have to make the plays. The Colts have been one of the worst offenses in the league, but they have a fighting chance in this one just because the Panthers aren’t good enough to drop one of those 35-45 point games on them. The Panthers are the more physical team and that’s a huge problem, but I like the Colts defense enough in this one to slow them down and keep the game at least manageable for Luck to pull out a GWD. However, I don’t expect it to happen on Monday night. If they want to shut T.Y. Hilton down with Josh Norman, then go ahead, because in theory Donte Moncrief, Andre Johnson and the very quiet tight ends should have matchup advantages. But hell, has this not been the case each week this season for the Colts? The pieces seem to be there, but the results are not.

And it all starts with how the quarterback is playing.

Final score: Colts 16, Panthers 24

2015 Week 8 Predictions

I had the Patriots winning 31-17 on TNF, and they actually spanked Miami 36-7. OK.

Winners in bold

  • Lions at Chiefs
  • Chargers at Ravens
  • Cardinals at Browns
  • 49ers at Rams
  • Titans at Texans
  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Buccaneers at Falcons
  • Vikings at Bears
  • Giants at Saints
  • Jets at Raiders
  • Seahawks at Cowboys
  • Packers at Broncos
  • Colts at Panthers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Season: 68-37 (.648)
Advertisements

NFL Week 7 Predictions

No main theme this week. I’m just going to share a few thoughts straight from the gut on some of the Week 7 games.

Jaguars-Bills in London, Streamed by Yahoo

Even on a Sunday morning, I’d rather stream from xhamster than get up for this game.

Saints at Colts

Well, a repeat of 62-7 would at least get Chuck Pagano fired on Monday instead of after the season. I still think it’s going to happen, but this is a winnable game here. You can’t trust either defense at this point, but the Saints are a bit more trustworthy on offense in 2015. Interesting to see if a Rob Ryan defense is the cure for Andrew Luck’s 2015 ills. This could be the only time Luck and Drew Brees square off in what definitely could be a high-scoring game. I wouldn’t mind watching it live, but I have the next game at 1 p.m.

Steelers at Chiefs

Tell me this doesn’t sound like classic NFL as a Sunday night sentence:

The Steelers got past San Diego and Arizona with backup quarterbacks, yet couldn’t beat the lowly Chiefs, losers of five straight.

The weekly excitement of the NFL lives on twists and turns just like that one. What do you mean Landry Jones bombed in his first start? He was so good off the bench last week.

Yeah, but we’ve seen the hot backup off the bench before. It’s different when teams prepare for you. It’s different when you’re making your first start, have no real track record of being good — Jones was god awful in the preseason again — have a new left tackle, playing on the road against a defense that has talent despite its struggles. This is also exactly the kind of road game where the Steelers tend to struggle offensively. Think the Rams in Week 3. Think the Titans/Jags/Browns/Jets last year. Think about any trip to Oakland recently. If Ben Roethlisberger was playing, I think it’d be a blowout, but don’t expect to see him for another week. Jones got two great efforts from Martavis Bryant on touchdowns last week. He hit Antonio Brown on a back-shoulder throw. He showed confidence in making plays, but he is very dependent on the talent around him making plays. If the Steelers’ skill guys don’t show up big, I think the Chiefs can still this one. Regardless, I see a low-scoring, ugly game. Don’t forget the 2011 Tyler Palko game. Don’t forget the 2012 game where the Chiefs never had a lead all season and went up 10-0 on Pittsburgh. The Steelers never seem to handle their business well against this team.

Final score: Steelers 16, Chiefs 13

Jets at Patriots

It still frustrates me that the lowly 2014 Jets almost beat the Patriots twice last season, while the Patriots had no real problem in beating the Broncos and Colts in three games. The Jets have closed the gap this season and I think this is the game of the week to watch. It’s going to come down to turnovers. If the Jets can win that battle with their defense making some plays, then they have a great shot at the win. If they lose the turnover battle, they’re almost guaranteed to lose in Foxboro. Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t really been asked to win a game for the Jets this year. You could argue the Philadelphia game played out that way, and the results were miserable. Fitzpatrick is surrounded by pretty good talent with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The offensive line is playing very well. Chris Ivory is running great. Fitzpatrick just has to manage the talent around him and not make big mistakes. He’s doing that, but it’s also helped by defenses not cashing in his bad throws for takeaways. The Patriots do tend to capitalize on your mistakes, and that’s what worries me about the Jets in this game. I just expect Fitzpatrick to throw a bone-headed pick at the worst time, just as he did several times with the Buffalo Bills in games that were winnable against the Patriots.

Texans at Dolphins

Read another stat this week that helps summarize the worthlessness of the post-Dan Marino Dolphins. The Texans are 7-0 against the Dolphins. Miami has scored more than 20 points in just one of those games.

Well at least I think that streak ends tomorrow. Maybe it took the firing of Joe Philbin to remind this team that Lamar Miller is an asset in this offense. Either way, I’m just here for the DeAndre Hopkins fantasy points.

Cowboys at Giants

Can this be the most important game of the season for Dallas? I see maybe one win (at TB) without Tony Romo on this schedule. Getting a sweep of the Giants would be huge, but I don’t see it happening. The Giants and Eil Manning will atone for Week 1’s letdown and Monday night’s clusterfvck to beat Matt Cassel and Christine Michael at home. And yes, I refuse to board the Michael hype train until it actually leaves the damn station. Prove something first.

I feel like my Dallas chapter for Football Outsiders Almanac 2014 was written one year too early. It would have been perfect for this year’s team, because with the lack of depth behind the skill players, the results are exactly what was expected. That was the problem in just letting DeMarco go and going with the archaic setup of one standout wide receiver. Dez Bryant is great, but you can’t muster much offense with a corps of Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Devin Street. Those are role players that work better with Bryant on the field. Cassel is an upgrade over Brandon Weeden, but it’s not going to be enough this week.

2015 Week 7 Predictions

I had the Seahawks on TNF, and it was your typical SF-SEA matchup, which means the 49ers couldn’t score. It was the worst thing I watched on Thursday night that wasn’t named Heroes Reborn.

Winners in bold

  • Bills at Jaguars
  • Browns at Rams
  • Saints at Colts
  • Steelers at Chiefs
  • Jets at Patriots
  • Buccaneers at Redskins
  • Falcons at Titans
  • Vikings at Lions
  • Texans at Dolphins
  • Raiders at Chargers
  • Cowboys at Giants
  • Eagles at Panthers
  • Ravens at Cardinals

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Season: 58-33 (.637)

NFL Week 6 Predictions: So the Usual Colts-Patriots Game?

There are three games this week between teams with winning records, but Bengals-Bills and Cardinals-Steelers lose some bite when you sub in EJ Manuel and Michael Vick for Tyrod Taylor and Ben Roethlisberger. That leaves SNF between two familiar AFC contenders.

Patriots at Colts

Hey, did you hear Tom Brady is pissed off and wants to throw for 600 yards and six touchdowns, and the Patriots want to drop 60 points? I guess all the sixes are natural when you’re talking about the devils of the NFL, but that’s been a heavy part of the lead-in to this game. The Patriots are looking to unleash hell over Deflategate.

So uh, remind me which of these teams was fined an NFL-record one million dollars and lost a first-round pick?

Remind me which of these teams was embarrassed 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game last January?

The Colts are the team with the right to be pissed and seeking revenge in this one, yet it hasn’t been written that way at all. I think that’s because no one expects them to do anything but get their ass kicked on Sunday night at home. The Colts have started this season poorly, especially on offense, and Andrew Luck has missed the last two games due to a shoulder injury. He is questionable again, but should start. He has struggled in all four games against the Patriots, which have all been blowout losses in the end.

I don’t think anyone ever second-guessed the outcome in January over deflated balls. The Colts would have been blown out if they played with medicine balls or beach balls. Give LeGarrette Blount anything he can handle without smoking, and he was going to shred that defense. It was always about protecting the integrity of the game.

Before the season, I really did think the Colts would close the gap like they did in 2005 against New England, but that hasn’t happened one bit. The additions have not panned out, leading to an even worse offense and the defense is still as unreliable as they come. Keep in mind the Colts haven’t even played a top-12 QB yet this season. The Patriots are playing much better than I expected from them so far. You knew the offense would be good as long as Rob Gronkowski was healthy, but they’ve been even better than expected while still attacking teams in an unconventional way from the inside, and now even more from the backfield with Dion Lewis looking like a deluxe Shane Vereen. The front seven was expected to be good, and the revamped secondary is more than getting by. It’s not at a 2005 Duane Starks level, and you only expect Bill Belichick to get better play from that unit by season’s end. The same can be said for the offensive line, which had some struggles in Dallas and just lost LT Nate Solder for the year, but the Patriots usually get stronger as the season goes on. Do I see an undefeated team? Not really, but few road challenges exist on the schedule thanks to the Dallas injuries last week and the overall stank (not a typo) of the 2015 Colts to this point.

It would certainly be very amusing for the Patriots to lose this game since they’ve been hyped up like a 21-point road favorite (actual line: 10 points), but I don’t see how that happens here. Luck would have to play one of the best games of his career, and the defense would actually have to keep flustering Brady for a full game unlike the half-game efforts last season.

BradyINDTweet

Even if they slow down Brady, what’s going to stop Lewis and Blount from running all over this defense again? Lewis could gain 9 yards every touch in this matchup. Hell, they can probably trot out Kevin Faulk for 8 yards per draw like he used to do against this defense.

The Patriots have had at least a 17-point lead in seven consecutive games against the Colts, going back to 2009. Peyton Manning made two of those games close, even winning the fourth-and-2 game. Dan Orlovsky lit it up in garbage time to a 31-24 final in 2011. But the Pagano/Grigson/Luck-era Colts have lost by 21+ every time. The gap has only widened between these teams since January.

Final score: Patriots 48, Colts 20

2015 Week 6 Predictions

I fumbled away the TNF pick the way Atlanta threw the game away. The quest for a perfect week of picks continues.

Winners in bold

  • Texans at Jaguars
  • Broncos at Browns
  • Bengals at Bills
  • Dolphins at Titans
  • Bears at Lions
  • Redskins at Jets
  • Cardinals at Steelers
  • Chiefs at Vikings
  • Chargers at Packers
  • Panthers at Seahawks
  • Ravens at 49ers
  • Patriots at Colts
  • Giants at Eagles

I’m trusting the Jags/Jets/Bengals and also Jay Cutler on the road. This probably isn’t going to end well.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Season: 50-27 (.649)

NFL Week 5 Predictions: About That Colts-Seahawks Super Bowl 50…

Exactly one fourth of the regular season is over with 64 games in the books. We know there are a lot of teams with significant flaws, and we know there are a couple of good ones out there. Then there are two teams who fall somewhere in between.

You Fail Me: Colts and Seahawks

(I just wanted to fit a Converge reference into the title, to be honest)

Like a lot of people, I had the Colts and Seahawks meeting in Super Bowl 50 with Seattle winning. On October 10, it’s not like this still can’t happen, but it sure as hell looks less likely than it did a month ago when the regular season kicked off.

Both teams are fortunate to not have a losing record right now. The Colts (3-2) needed a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Tennessee, and needed a kicker to miss twice on Sunday against Jacksonville. The Seahawks (2-2) just had that crazy Calvin Johnson fumble/no illegal bat play on Monday night.

Andrew Luck is hurt and has missed the last two games. Marshawn Lynch is hurt and will miss his second game in a row on Sunday.

The Colts are likely going to get their ass kicked next week by the Patriots. The Seahawks may be walking into a perfect storm of a rare ass kicking at the hands of the Bengals tomorrow.

Where has it gone wrong for both?

That damn offensive line. 

We may have made the mistake of overlooking the lingering problems up front that each team tried to conceal with sexy skill-player additions. The Seahawks traded Max Unger, who wasn’t a great and healthy starter in 2014, for Jimmy Graham, a TE who may as well be a wide receiver because he can’t block, who played in one of the pass-happiest offenses in NFL history. They also drafted Tyler Lockett, who has definitely made his impact felt on special teams. The Colts brought in Frank Gore and Andre Johnson while drafting Phillip Dorsett in the first round.

I spent actual work time this summer trying to figure out how the loaded Colts were going to disperse their targets with all these receivers. I received agreeable tweets that saw the Seahawks as being an unstoppable force in the red zone with so many ways to beat a defense.

Man, these offenses can’t even consistently score 20 points this season. You are not supposed to add all that skill talent and get worse. 

The Colts scored a league-low 21 points thru Week 2. Against the Titans, the offense pitched in 28 points, but got some help from a Mariota interception to set up an 11-yard touchdown drive. The offense only scored 16 points in an overtime game against Jacksonville at home, and were lucky to not lose 16-13 because of the kicker. On Thursday night, perhaps a return to Houston re-animated the corpse of Andre Johnson, and the offense finally perked up against a Texans defense that manages to be terrible despite having the best defender in the world.

The Seahawks scored 31 in St. Louis, but that included two return touchdowns, so the offense only scored 17 points. They scored 17 again in Green Bay before turning the ball over on the final two drives. They had another return TD vs. Chicago, so the offense again was held under 20 points (19). Then on Monday night against Detroit, the offense scored just 13 and even gave up a touchdown on a Wilson fumble. So this offense hasn’t cracked 20 points yet in four games. Scoring 20 has really never been a consistent problem in the Wilson era.

It’s not like these quarterbacks aren’t used to bad offensive lines. Andrew Luck has been the most hit QB three years in a row. Wilson has been the most pressured QB the last two years, including two of the highest rates in FO’s database going back to 2010.

This year, Luck has let the pressure rattle him to the point where he’s throwing more early interceptions in an attempt to just get rid of the ball. Wilson is taking more sacks — already a league-high 18 and an abysmal 12.4% sack rate.

The Colts brought in RG Todd Herremans, but he’s been demoted. They cut RT Gosder Cherilus, which really wasn’t a loss, but there weren’t any significant gains to this OL. The Seahawks continue to struggle up front, and neither guard they drafted in the fourth round is a factor this season.

How are those skill players working out? Andre Johnson really looked like a guy who should retire before this Houston game. Maybe that gets him going. Gore has had two huge fumbles inside the 5-yard line. Dorsett had a big TD in Tennessee, but he’s the fifth-most targeted Colt and was always going to have an uphill battle to relevancy as a rookie. Wilson to Graham has been efficient (18/23 for 174 yards, 2 TD), but not dominant, and the 9.7 YPC is a career-low for Graham. You’re going to tell me they couldn’t get this production out of Luke Willson and save a first-round pick?

Yet myself and many others fell for the skill-player trap. “Oh, these quarterbacks are used to bad OL’s. Give them better weapons and watch them score more.” It’s just not happening that way. To a similar extent, we see what the worst OL of Peyton Manning’s career is doing to his season, but that’s another story for another day.

The trenches are in fact still important with all these athletic defenders out there. They are even more important when you have two quarterbacks who like to hold onto the ball a little longer in Luck and Wilson, while many of the other signal callers are getting it out in under 3 seconds almost every time now. Maybe these offenses just need to adapt, putting the ball more quickly in the hands of the skill players they went out of their way to acquire. On paper, this is the best receiving corps either QB has had in the NFL, yet these are the worst offensive results they’ve experienced so far.

Things still have time to get better, but they may get a little worse this week with the aforementioned matchups to come. We’ll talk Pats-Colts next week, but think about the potential outcome of this SEA-CIN game tomorrow.

It’s a 1 p.m. game, which means a 10 a.m. PST start time for Seattle. The Seahawks are 6-8 in such games since 2012. They are coming off a very emotional and controversial win on Monday night.

The Bengals are playing better on both sides of the ball and Lynch is out. Sure, the Seahawks have been extremely stingy on defense in the two games with Kam Chancellor back, but that was also at home against Jimmy Clausen and the winless Lions. Andy Dalton is 2nd in DVOA and DYAR. No really, true story. Geno Atkins and company should have a good day against that Seattle OL.

The Bengals with Dalton beat Seattle 34-12 in Seattle in 2011. The final score is a little misleading because of two late return touchdowns by the Bengals. Seattle trailed 20-12 and had possession with 4:45 left. That’s why the game is still part of Seattle’s historic 74-game streak that could be in real jeopardy on Sunday (click pic to enlarge)

SEA74

Sure, this is about the point in the season where the Bengals flop hard at home just when people are starting to take them seriously, but what if this year was different? What if the Bengals do drop the Seahawks to 2-3 with a commanding win?

Then we’ll probably start to hear revisionist history about how Cincy has built their team the right way (“in the trenches”) and the Seahawks have overpaid too many star players with egos. But nothing in Week 5 can diminish what the Seahawks have accomplished. It’s just that we’re starting to see the limitations of this roster show up in 2015 to the point where Wilson and this defense may not be able to overcome them anymore.

2015 Week 5 Predictions

Remind me to never pick a team with Brian Mallett (or Ryan Hoyer if you prefer) at quarterback to beat one of the AFC’s perennial winners. I had Houston on TNF.

Winners in bold

  • Rams at Packers
  • Saints at Eagles
  • Jaguars at Buccaneers
  • Bears at Chiefs
  • Seahawks at Bengals
  • Bills at Titans
  • Redskins at Falcons
  • Browns at Ravens
  • Broncos at Raiders
  • Patriots at Cowboys
  • Cardinals at Lions
  • 49ers at Giants
  • Steelers at Chargers

Only three late-afternoon games again? Come on, NFL. And the 49ers in prime time again? With The Walking Dead being a 90-minute episode, I figure you can start watching your DVR recording at about 9:27 p.m. EST and finish commercial-free on time to avoid spoilers.

I was looking forward to the return of Martavis Bryant, but that’s not going to happen on Monday after he tweaked his knee in practice. Looks like I’m getting my DFS target injured early this week. At least this one came early so I have time to swap him out of my lineups.

Philip Rivers is one of the few big-time quarterbacks to not have a history of shredding the Steelers under Dick LeBeau. Oh, he had some good numbers, but a lot of them came in garbage-time moments. The difference with Rivers was that in Norv Turner’s offense, he loved to dump off to running backs or throw deep to his tall targets. That played into the Steelers’ hands and they were able to effectively get pressure on him as he held onto the ball longer. To beat this defense you really need to dink-and-dunk, get rid of the ball quickly and rely on YAC. That’s exactly what Rivers has done under Mike McCoy and especially this year where he is barely getting the ball down the field. That’s why I think he’ll have a lot of success at home on Monday night with the likes of Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Danny Woodhead leading the way. Antonio Gates is also back from suspension. This could have been a really fun shootout with Ben Roethlisberger playing. It still might be, since I don’t trust the San Diego defense yet. However, I expect the Chargers to get the (circadian) win at home.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Season: 41-22 (.651)

NFL Week 4 Predictions: Sit Andrew Luck

First, a moment of silence for Josh Scobee’s career. Okay, that was long enough.

Sit Andrew Luck, Indy

I hate to play doctor for an injury I don’t even know the extent of, but it might be in the Colts’ best interest to sit Andrew Luck this week with a right shoulder injury. They have to think about the hits he takes and the fact that there’s a big game in Houston on Thursday where the Colts can quickly get to 3-2 and back in first place. Luck being listed as questionable, limited in practice and the signing of Josh Johnson are all signs this is not some minor issue. You could see him wincing on the sideline on Sunday after a little celebratory contact from a teammate.

Let Matt Hasselbeck earn that game check. The Colts have only had 12 games with a 20-point lead in the Luck era. Five of those games have been against the Jaguars, so this team is used to dominating Jacksonville, and the game is at home this week. I’m not sure if a few more days of rest is going to make Luck’s shoulder any better, but I know going out there and taking a beating on Sunday won’t help him for Thursday. The Colts have to think ahead on this one.

But the expectations going into Sunday are that Luck will start. Just what does questionable really mean to Indianapolis?

  • 2014: 15 of 26 questionable Indy players played (57.7%)
  • 2014 NFL average: 55.7%
  • 2013: 19 of 30 questionable Indy players played (63.3%)
  • 2013 NFL average: 61.3%

So things really are up in the air on whether or not he’ll play, though the team probably has a good idea tonight what will happen. If Luck sits out, he’ll end his consecutive start streak to begin a career at 51 games. Here’s the list of leaders since 1950 (regular season only):

QBconsst

The ironman thing is cool, but sometimes you just have to recognize when you have a winnable game with your backup and your starter isn’t right. It’s not like Luck has been playing well this season.

Where’s the 18-Hour Football Sunday?

I like to get up around 12:20 p.m. on Sundays after staying up late. A 9:30 a.m. start for a London game does not jive with me. I got up for last year’s Atlanta-Detroit game, and I could have easily slept in during the first half. The Lions sure did.

But when you schedule Dolphins vs. Jets, that gives me even less of a reason to get up early, though I may be up anyway because I don’t have what you’d call a “sleep schedule.” If I had to rank the worst division rivalries since 2002 realignment, Dolphins vs. Jets is right up there because of how boring those teams have been in that time. We’re not getting a Dan Marino vs. Ken O’Brien shootout here. We’re not even getting older Dan Marino vs. NY-era Boomer Esiason and the fake spike game. We’re getting Ryan Fitzpatrick and a coach from Miami who is going to be fired any week now.

If I end up going to sleep tonight, I’ll probably wake up around 11:30 just to catch the ending of this one. If it’s close, I’m not sure how that will shake out since Fitzpatrick will want to throw interceptions and Joe Philbin will try finding some way to blow the game.

I’m surprised the NFL hasn’t tacked on a midnight EST start out west to go for the 18-hour football Sunday. 

And I must say it’s total bullshit to make any team give up a home game for a division game (Miami in this case). That’s the definition of unfair since the other team will be at home when the rematch comes.

Where Are the Good Games?

To the NFL’s credit, we didn’t end up with many better options to ship to London in Week 4. Vikings at Broncos is the only game between teams with winning records. I’m looking forward to that one in the national slot for 4:30 p.m. Both defenses should play very well, meaning it will look like Denver’s other 2015 games. The running game can’t stay this bad all season under Gary Kubiak, right? Denver has rushed for 171 yards at 2.59 YPC. Adrian Peterson has 260 rushing yards in the last two weeks alone.

Denver (and the 2015 Lions) is the 34th team to rush for less than 175 yards through three games since 1970. On average these teams finish with 1,442 yards and 3.69 YPC. Only 9 of the teams cracked 4.0 YPC by season’s end. To the Broncos’ credit, they join the 2007 Packers as the only other 3-0 team on the list. That GB team with Brett Favre reached the NFC Championship Game after finishing 13-3. Ryan Grant really came along for the offense, though there was no running game to speak of in the playoff defeat. Your weaknesses tend to get exposed in the end, but as long as the Broncos have the No. 1 defense and Peyton Manning, every game is winnable. It’s just not going to be pretty.

Final prediction: Broncos 20, Vikings 16

2015 Week 4 Predictions

I followed my worst week in years with one of my best (14-2). Life lesson: the Jets will always screw you over in the end. I originally was going to pick Houston too, but changed to Tampa Bay at the last second. The kicker didn’t help in that one either. The kickers did however help me correctly pick Baltimore over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Winners in bold

  • Jets at Dolphins
  • Chiefs at Bengals
  • Giants at Bills
  • Eagles at Redskins
  • Jaguars at Colts
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Texans at Falcons
  • Raiders at Bears
  • Packers at 49ers
  • Vikings at Broncos
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Browns at Chargers
  • Cowboys at Saints
  • Lions at Seahawks

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Season: 30-18 (.625)