NFL Week 8 Predictions: Sleep In Sunday

As I look at the Week 8 schedule, I don’t see a whole lot of quality in the early slate.

Vikings vs. Browns – should be the lowest-rated London game yet. You like football more than I do if you get up at 9:30 A.M. EST for this kickoff. I might roll out of bed a little before noon for this one’s ending.

Raiders at Bills – somewhat interesting, and a game I would expect to cover in Clutch Encounters this week.

Chargers at Patriots – what’s the latest tragic loss Philip Rivers can suffer at the hands of Brady and Belichick? He’s 0-6 against that duo. Should put up some yardage at least.

49ers at Eagles – I guess San Francisco kicking ass in this game would be payback for the 1994 regular-season meeting won 40-8 by the Eagles. It would almost be that weird of a result with the 49ers still winless this year.

Panthers at Buccaneers – there isn’t a result you could predict that would surprise me with this one. Two very inconsistent teams.

Colts at Bengals – Both have two wins, but Bengals are a better team and should take care of business.

Bears at Saints – can you complete fewer than 10 passes and win in the Superdome? I’ll take Drew Brees at home.

Falcons at Jets – probably our most interesting one just because of the train wreck the Falcons have been, and the surprising competitiveness of the Jets this year.

It’s not until we get to the later games that we have some standouts.

Texans at Seahawks – how will Houston’s players perform after being at odds with comments made by their owner? This is an interesting matchup on paper with Deshaun Watson leading a sudden scoring juggernaut into one of the toughest venues to play in the NFL. Seattle hasn’t looked like the dominant team we have come to expect, so I would give Houston a good chance in this one.

Cowboys at Redskins – both teams are 3-3, but both have played a lot of good football this year. Washington just tends to fade in games, while Dallas has struggled defensively. The NFC is too wide open to count anyone out yet, but it is a very important game with neither wanting to drop to 3-4. I just think Dallas has a slight edge with more consistency on offense (translation: Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott should make plays while you don’t know if Chris Thompson or Vernon Davis will rip off a 40+ yard reception again) and Washington’s defensive injuries hurting the depth.

Steelers at Lions – probably the right pick for SNF, I think Pittsburgh’s offense could have a strong showing with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell leading the way again. They’ve benched Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster has played well, and the offense is getting the ball into the hands of its best players at a high volume again. Detroit has a lot of the same issues with running the ball and defending, and we know the Lions almost never beat a team destined for the playoffs. Pittsburgh isn’t performing anywhere near at peak level yet, but should be good enough to win this one on the road.

Broncos at Chiefs – someone is losing three in a row on Monday night, and there’s no way I’m picking the Chiefs to do that. The offense is way better than Denver’s, they’re at home, and while the defense is struggling right now without Eric Berry, the Denver offense hasn’t hit 17 points since Week 2.

2017 Week 8 Predictions

Of course I had Miami losing on TNF, but 40-0 was very unexpected. Still, is it really that much of a reach after this team should have lost 20-0 in back-to-back weeks to the Jets and Saints? Throw in a few late pick-sixes from the third -string QB and there you go.

Winners in bold.

  • Vikings vs. Browns
  • Raiders at Bills
  • Chargers at Patriots
  • 49ers at Eagles
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Colts at Bengals
  • Bears at Saints
  • Falcons at Jets
  • Texans at Seahawks
  • Cowboys at Redskins
  • Steelers at Lions
  • Broncos at Chiefs

Last week was my best all season, and I feel good about this week being right up there.

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Season: 59-47
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NFL Week 7 Predictions: Island Game Gold

Making an NFL schedule months in advance isn’t easy, but things really lucked out for the schedule makers this week. TNF was a great choice between the Raiders and Chiefs, and SNF (ATL-NE) and MNF (WAS-PHI) are really the other highlight matches of Week 7. Will the games actually be worth a damn to watch? We’ll see, but it’s a perfect prime-time lineup.

Cardinals vs. Rams

I thought this might have also been an island game (London), but it’s actually being played at 1 p.m. EST. Figures, they finally get a somewhat decent London game and it’s lumped together with the other early-afternoon slate. The fact that this is a division game is pretty wild, and definitely not fair to the Rams who will have to go to Arizona for the rematch in Week 13. Maybe that game should have been scheduled for Mexico City just to make things even and not rob one team (Rams) of a true home game.

Adrian Peterson balled out last week in his Arizona debut, but I think the defenses will stiffen in this one and he won’t have nearly the same success. Ditto for Carson Palmer through the air. Aaron Donald should feast on that line. I think some of the shine has come off Jared Goff again, but he did play the Seattle and Jacksonville pass defenses. Still, throwing a lot of off-target passes and relying on superior field position and YAC this year. Not a long-term formula for success. Still, I cautiously side with the Rams to pull this one out due to protecting the QB better than I expect Arizona will. Rams have also been playing well on special teams while Arizona remains one of the worst.

Saints at Packers

Very interesting one after the Aaron Rodgers injury. Yes, Saints defense has played better after the first two weeks, but still not a good unit by any means. I want to give Brett Hundley and Mike McCarthy a good shot here at home before I bury the Packers for 2017. Back in 2010, Rodgers left a game in Detroit with a concussion and Matt Flynn came off the bench in a 7-3 loss. With a week to prepare as a first-time starter, Flynn came out in New England and tossed three touchdowns in a competitive 31-27 loss. Hundley was a better college prospect than Flynn, and he’s had a few years in the system and got a lot of preseason experience (similar to Tony Romo in 2006). I like to think McCarthy can prepare Hundley to play well in an offense that still has good receiving talent. I think I’m actually going to back the Packers in this one, because the Saints haven’t been as explosive on offense this season as usual, and I think they’ll rally behind Hundley to play a strong team game without Rodgers.

Falcons at Patriots

Ah yes, the Super Bowl LI rematch. I wasn’t fooling around when I said the other day that these could easily be 1-win teams right now.

Falcons beat GB comfortably, but the Bears were inches away from a game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds in Week 1. The Lions were inches away from a touchdown (Golden Tate) on the final play in Week 3 that would have won the game. Atlanta just blew two home games to the Bills and Dolphins, including another 17+ point lead. So there’s your inches away from a 1-4 start.

As for the Patriots, their only comfortable win was in New Orleans. They really should have been 1-3 after Tom Brady had a fumble and dropped interception on what became the game-winning drive against Houston. Stop and think about that one for a second. Deshaun Watson might be the MVP front-runner right now if his safety held onto a Brady pick and the Texans would be 4-2. Something not even in his control. Ugh. But that’s 1-3, then we’ve seen the Patriots skate by the Buccaneers (two Nick Folk missed FGs and Jameis Winston’s last pass was terrible to win the game) and Jets (blew a 14-0 lead, awful calls went against NY, and yes the ASJ fumble was weak).

The point is these teams aren’t playing very good football this season, records be damned. They were both on hot runs going into SB LI, but I’m not impressed with what we’ve seen this year. The Patriots give up a 300-yard passer every week, but have still kept the points down on defense in the four wins (20, 26, 14 and 17). Yards don’t really matter if you’re not turning them into points, and with Atlanta, we see the offense No. 1 in yards per drive, but third in points. Last year it was 1 and 1 for the Falcons. Matt Ryan’s had some pretty awful luck with tipped INTs (4 of his 6 picks hit his receiver). Julio Jones has been very quiet, but I think he’ll come alive in this one. Still, I can’t possibly trust the Falcons to go on the road and win this one even if the Patriots look vulnerable enough to drop several home games this season. The Atlanta defense still isn’t good enough at getting stops, and the Patriots are still doing a fine job offensively this season.

Redskins at Eagles

In a season without any real great teams, these two are quietly in the top 6 in DVOA right now. This is a rematch from Week 1, won 30-17 by the Eagles, but that final score is a bit misleading. There was a late fumble-six that really should have been ruled an incomplete pass with Washington still having time to win the game with a touchdown. Earlier in that quarter, Kirk Cousins threw one of the worst interceptions of anyone this season when he panicked against a blitz and missed a wide-open receiver in the red zone in a 2-point game. Cousins has only tossed one INT since then, and that was a bomb on third-and-long that served as a punt. He’s played well, but he has to be sharper against the Eagles. I think the injuries on defense (Josh Norman and Jonathan Allen) leave the Redskins too short handed to deal with all of Philadelphia’s weapons, and the Eagles also are one of the best special teams this year. I’ll take Philadelphia at home.

2017 Week 7 Predictions

I actually had the Chiefs by 6 points on TNF, so I would have been fuming if I went through with that bet after the 31-30 loss on the final play(s).

Winners in bold.

  • Panthers at Bears
  • Jaguars at Colts
  • Jets at Dolphins
  • Cardinals vs. Rams
  • Buccaneers vs. Bills
  • Titans at Browns
  • Saints at Packers
  • Ravens at Vikings
  • Cowboys at 49ers
  • Seahawks at Giants
  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Broncos at Chargers
  • Falcons at Patriots
  • Redskins at Eagles

I think you could put Seattle and Pittsburgh on upset alerts. Long travel for the Seahawks against a good secondary when the passing offense hasn’t been too hot yet. Bengals play the Steelers tougher in Pittsburgh than they do at home. Also point out how close the 49ers have been to a win, and they gave Dallas about all it could handle last year too. Not a lot of games I feel confident in here, but it’s just been that kind of season. I mean, look at this awful track record I’m putting up in 2017:

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Season: 48-43

NFL Week 6 Predictions: B-B-B-Bunny and the Jets

It’s Week 6 and I’m already reusing title ideas, but the fact that the 2017 Jets are still relevant at this point is incredible.

Patriots at Jets

A battle for first place in Week 6? Really? This is the Jets’ Super Bowl this year. A home game with their hated rival for first place, and a chance to extend to a four-game winning streak. Sure the Jets haven’t beaten a good team, but the Patriots haven’t been playing very good football this year, so it’s still interesting. I’m still going to take the Patriots, because I can’t trust Josh McCown with a limited cast and the defense against a multi-faceted NE offense, but if Todd Bowles can win this game, put him at the top of the list for Coach of the Year race.¬† And for the record, the Jets almost beat the Patriots at home a year ago when New England was better than this current version.

Packers at Vikings

I’m a bit stunned that Case Keenum ranks so high in DVOA and QBR right now, and he should have been the starter on Monday night against Chicago. The Vikings really botched that quarterback situation with Sam Bradford’s health, and now Stefon Diggs is out as well, a big loss. I think with Diggs (and Dalvin Cook), the Vikings have enough offense at home to outscore the Packers, but it’s just too much of a loss now. Aaron Rodgers seems to be in one of those zones again, and while Mike Zimmer’s defense has fared adequately in the past against him, I think he’ll do enough on the road to get this win and take some early control of the division.

Giants at Broncos

Christ, where is that flex scheduling when you need it? The Giants are one of the worst rushing offenses in the league, and now Eli Manning is down to Sterling Shepard and some nobodies against the best secondary in the league. He should get double yardage credit for any completion to a wideout to make this one interesting. Trevor Siemian turning the ball over for points is the only way the Broncos are losing this one at home. And seriously, how did Denver get four home games out of five to start the year?

Steelers at Chiefs

This is still a very interesting one. The Chiefs can take out some revenge after losing twice to the Steelers a year ago. They’ve really beaten every other contender in recent years. Beat the Patriots in 2014 and Week 1. Beat the last three NFC Super Bowl teams (Carolina game was in 2016, but still). Beat the Colts with Luck last year. Swept the 12-4 Raiders last season. Swept the defending champion Broncos, and gave Peyton Manning the worst game of his career in 2015. This team has done great things the last few years, except in the playoffs. The only contender they really haven’t beaten is Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger (not Landry Jones like in 2015) at quarterback.

And of course, Roethlisberger is coming off one of the worst games of his career. I think the “maybe I don’t have it” quote is troubling, but he also said something smart in that if you play QB long enough in this league, you’ll have a day like this (5 INT). It’s true. And when two of those picks are tipped for touchdown returns, and a receiver falls down on another one, you’re bound to have some bad stats against what’s become a very strong pass defense in Jacksonville. The Chiefs look a bit vulnerable on defense post-Eric Berry, and we’ve seen quarterbacks make some big plays against them. It’s just that the Chiefs have the No. 1 offense with Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt having huge years so far, and that’s going to be a problem for the Steelers, particularly at stopping Hunt, who has gone over 100 yards every week. Pittsburgh’s run defense has looked very shaky at times this year. They haven’t been tested much by a passing game, but this will be the most efficient one they see yet.

I think Roethlisberger redeems himself and plays his best game of 2017, and the Steelers do have a tendency to show up for big games. Only the Patriots have a better record against winning teams since 2014. I don’t think I’d pick the Steelers to flat out win this one, but I do expect a competitive effort.

2017 Week 6 Predictions

I had the Panthers on Thursday night, so 0-1 already. Maybe I just don’t have it anymore.

Winners in bold.

  • Dolphins at Falcons¬†
  • Packers at Vikings
  • Patriots at Jets
  • 49ers at Redskins
  • Browns at Texans
  • Lions at Saints
  • Bears at Ravens
  • Rams at Jaguars
  • Buccaneers at Cardinals
  • Chargers at Raiders
  • Steelers at Chiefs
  • Giants at Broncos
  • Colts at Titans

I’m assuming Marcus Mariota is good to go this week.

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Season: 42-35

NFL Week 5 Predictions: Pick and Choose

I didn’t have a good title this week, so I literally typed “Pick and Choose” right after hearing the lyric “pick and chews” from the song White Out by Joan of Arc, which is playing on my Spotify right now.

So far, this has been a season of “pick and choose.” If you asked me what’s a great team right now and what’s a terrible team, I would have some answers, but all I’m confident in is that they’re still close together in quality.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Jacksonville’s defense ranks No. 1 against the pass, but No. 32 against the run. Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been hitting the deep balls and has only topped 300 yards in the AFC Championship Game going back 13 games. All logic would tell you this is a big Le’Veon Bell day, who finally got it going in Baltimore last week. Yet the craziness of the NFL might just lead to a big day for Roethlisberger instead, as he’ll definitely want to get back on the same page with Antonio Brown, Jalen Ramsey be damned. Either way, I like the Steelers at home, and I can’t get over how little this defense has been challenged by opposing passing games so far. Blake Bortles on the road? Yeah, give me that fantasy defense.

Carolina at Detroit

Let’s focus on the football first. Detroit’s defense and running game have stepped up, and will need to again with a tough, but still heavily flawed Carolina team. I was surprised at how well Cam Newton played in New England, and no, it’s not just about the defense there, because we saw Drew Brees and Jameis Winston struggle to put up points on that defense (and they weren’t up in Foxboro). I just think for this matchup, Darius Slay can take on Kelvin Benjamin and the loss of Greg Olsen is still a big factor. I don’t expect Newton to play that well, and I think Matthew Stafford snaps out of this little funk at home and uses his plethora of weapons against a secondary that’s still not great to me.

I was leaning Detroit even before Cam Newton embarrassed himself this week with his belittling of females covering sports. I thought about what a female reporter could ask that would make Cam’s smirk and response logical, and all I could think of was “jock itch.” “It’s funny to hear a female talk about jock itch.” Yeah, that works. That line’s not going to cause a media shitstorm. Though I guess women can get jock itch too, and I suppose a yeast infection might present a similar discomfort, but we’re getting really off topic now. So yeah, the next time you’re asked a football question by a reporter, male or female, just answer the damn question like a professional. She earned her way into that job and has had it for several years. That should buy some respect from Cam to the local media. I don’t know why “route tree” is being brought up so much, because she didn’t even ask about any specific route or question the play design. It was just about a wideout running his routes physically. No big deal, but here we are because Cam said another stupid thing at the podium. I doubt it will be the last time either no matter how hard he worked on his apology video.

Chargers at Giants

It’s a little hard to believe these teams are 0-4, and one will be 0-5, but they have played like 2-2 teams to be honest. It’s just the kind of things we expected: Giants would regress in close 4Q games (blew a late lead the last two weeks) and the Chargers continue to lose close games at rapid pace. Give me the Giants in a 10:00 a.m. body clock game for the Chargers. I also just think the Giants have the more balanced team, and Eli Manning has gotten closer to on track the last two games.

Buffalo at Cincinnati

Interesting one since the Bengals have improved offensively after the OC change, but they’re going from playing arguably the worst defense (Browns) to the best (Bills) in the league so far. Andy Dalton has his work cut out for him here, but he still has more weapons than Tyrod Taylor. If the Bills can get LeSean McCoy going, then I think they have enough to keep the score down and win on the road, but I’m skeptical. Frankly, the Bills getting to 3-1 after some good fortune (Von Miller penalty, bogus fumble-six in Atlanta and injured Julio/Sanu) reeks of this team being a bit of a fraud like some past first-quarter teams that started hot (think 2011 Bills, 2012 Cardinals, 2012 Eagles, 2016 Eagles, 2016 Rams) record wise, but weren’t actually good teams in the end. But a win by the Bills would look really good here if the Patriots are to be seriously challenged in the AFC East.

Seattle at Rams

We’ll see if Sean McVay prepares for the Seahawks the way Jeff Fisher did, treating it like the Super Bowl. Very interesting game, because the Seahawks have shown some cracks on defense, and Cliff Avril is out. We know Aaron Donald is going to dominate the offensive line for Seattle, but Russell Wilson has had some big games recently. The Rams aren’t quite as stout defensively as we expected, and the offense has been way better than I think anyone could have imagined. But this is a great test for the team at home, and I really think I have to lean on the Rams making this look legit and getting to 4-1. I might regret that pick, because I would point out the Rams have had the 2nd-best starting field position this year to help out the offense, and Jared Goff’s low ALEX strategy isn’t likely to keep converting third down at such a high rate. Seattle’s still a contender too, so it’s really a toss up.

Green Bay at Dallas

I don’t think much has changed since the playoff game, though Jordy Nelson is much healthier this time around. His teammates, including Davante Adams (concussion) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) — not so much. Both teams can score, but can they defend? I think with some banged up skill players for Green Bay, Dallas might have the edge at home. Demarcus Lawrence against Green Bay’s banged up offensive line? Good matchup for Dallas. And really, a big sack on third down or two might be enough to tilt the difference in this one.

Kansas City at Houston

Is it too soon to totally rethink Houston’s chances and style this year? Led by Deshaun Watson’s prolific numbers the last two weeks against division favorites, the Texans look dominant on offense right now. This is closer to the type of impact I thought Watson had a chance to make on the Texans this year, and it would be great for the league if he can keep this up. Imagine, a Wild Card Saturday where the Texans aren’t a total bore to watch. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are the last unbeaten at 4-0, but another tough prime-time game after Monday’s close call. Despite the 4-0 record, the Chiefs have needed three game-winning drives and two 10-point comebacks so far. The late touchdowns in each game skew just how tight those games were, though I will add that the Chiefs have played arguably the toughest schedule so far. Maybe I’m just focusing too much on the last two weeks, but I think Watson can continue his success to put up 27+ in this game at home, and J.J. Watt can get his first sacks (yes, plural) of the season from an always welcoming Alex Smith, who is still the patron saint of ALEX.

2017 Week 5 Predictions

I had the Patriots on Thursday, though didn’t quite get the spread right.

Winners in bold.

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

I’m going to assume that Marcus Mariota is gimpy and not 100%, and the Dolphins start to score some points or that whole situation is about to blow up. I also just gave the Browns win, not because I think they’re better than the Jets right now, but if they don’t win this game, when do they steal a win this year? I can’t faithfully predict 0-16.

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Season: 36-27