NFL Week 17 Predictions: Fitting 2017 Finale

So this NFL season has kind of sucked.

I’ve been pretty consistent in saying that throughout a year that has put far too many great talents on the injury list. There was way too much attention and misinformed angst over the player protests, or anything involving Papa John’s, the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, or any stupid thing a stuffy old white owner had to say.

I’m sad that the Colts seemed to have botched Andrew Luck’s career. I’m sad that Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone derailed Green Bay’s season. I hate watching DeShone Kizer blow every cover for the Browns, though watch him come through tomorrow since I put money early in the week on the Steelers before they decided to sit stars. I’m tired of John Fox and conservative coaches like him, or that Jeff Fisher might return in 2018 just because of how many jobs are expected to be open. I can’t stand Oakland’s wasted talent on offense, or that Miami thought bringing Jay Cutler out of retirement was a good idea, or that Buffalo benched Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman. I hate watching the Colts blow every halftime lead or watch the Titans make sure every game is an insufferable slog for 60 minutes. I’m so disappointed that Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston didn’t help their teams take the next step this season. I can’t believe how much the Giants and Broncos have fallen off.

That’s not to say everything has been bad. The Vikings may have something special here with the Super Bowl in Minnesota. The return of the NFC South (minus Tampa Bay) has been good, as will seeing Drew Brees in another postseason. Jacksonville’s talent on defense is finally paying off. Alex Smith actually hit some deep balls and threw for 4,000 yards this year. Sean McVay has totally transformed the Rams into watchable TV again and should be Coach of the Year. It’s exciting what Jimmy Garoppolo has done for the 49ers after a late-season trade.

But overall, this thing has kind of sucked, and Week 17 is a pretty fitting end to this regular season. While it is New Year’s Eve on Sunday night, the NFL still couldn’t find a great matchup with deep playoff implications that was worthy of a prime-time slot. The closest thing we have to a game where both teams give a damn because it matters is Carolina at Atlanta. The defending champions need to win to get in, but the Panthers still have an outside shot at the NFC South if the Saints slip up in Tampa Bay. Crazier things have happened, and let’s face it, Tampa Bay is known to ruin things anyway.

The race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC is basically over. It’d take an act of God for the Jets to win in New England with Bryce Petty at quarterback. I still think it’s a big mistake for the Steelers to blow off the Cleveland game with resting stars. I’d play a half, go up big like last week and then rest. You have the bye week to rest. Don’t rest an additional week too. You’d have to piss off the football gods something fierce to lose Ben and Bell to injury in this game.

Otherwise, I’d like to see Baltimore get the No. 5 seed and the Chargers get the No. 6 seed. I just don’t want to see the Titans, who haven’t won since I said they were arguably the worst 8-4 team ever, get in this year. I also think it would be so fitting to be able to say that the 9-7 Bills missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker because they started Nathan Peterman over Tyrod Taylor. Sure, the game may have still been a loss with Taylor, but it wouldn’t have been that brutal as The Five Pick Man’s performance.

In the NFC, I’d honestly rather see Seattle get in than Atlanta, just because I think Russell Wilson and the remaining talent on defense are more capable of putting a run together than these Falcons, who easily can be anywhere from 3-12 to 13-2 right now.

I wasn’t going to comment on the MVP race now, but why not? It’s 2017 and we’re all miserable anyway. The race itself is a microcosm of this lousy season.

Tom Brady: The Default MVP

Tom Brady is probably going to win the 2017 NFL MVP by default, because he’s the only legitimate candidate who managed to make it to Week 17. He’s certainly not finishing in style based on the last month of play. Now I think it’d be hilarious if he threw a couple of picks against the Jets, but the Patriots still won 16-3, and he’d get the award anyway. That could even happen, because who else would you vote for? Check the timeline.

1. We start with the fact that a lot of teams never even really had a viable MVP candidate. Here’s looking at you Miami, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Jets. I could piss off more fanbases by listing more names, but you get the point.

2. Andrew Luck couldn’t even get on the field in Indy this year.

3. David Johnson couldn’t make it through Week 1 for Arizona before injury ended his year.

4. We lost a superstar wideout in Odell Beckham Jr. to injury and Ezekiel Elliott to a six-game suspension while he was the league’s most valuable rusher.

5. Aaron Rodgers was off to a strong start in carrying a flawed team, but his collarbone broke in Week 6 and so did Green Bay’s season.

6. Deshaun Watson was a rookie phenom who made the Texans a scoring juggernaut, but a non-contact torn ACL in practice ended his season after 6.5 games.

7. The only quarterback this year who can really come close to the dramatic shift in his offense’s success than Watson is Jimmy Garoppolo, but you’re not going to vote for him for a 5-0 stretch to end the season on a bad team. But it is so intriguing for the 49ers next year.

8. How about Matt Ryan for repeat MVPs? That died around mid-October when his receivers tipped more interceptions in a couple of games than any other quarterback’s had in a full season in years. That’s continued all season for Ryan and Atlanta in an offense that is nowhere near as good as 2016’s incarnation.

9. Alex Smith actually had a good case, but the GWDs allowed by his defense against the Raiders and Jets in games he played so well killed him. Then he had the offensively inept losses against the Bills and Giants, and people were just ready to write off KC entirely. Don’t do that, but yeah, no one’s going to vote for Alex Smith as MVP.

10. Just like how no one will actually vote for Case Keenum, because he’s Case Keenum. He still has a shot to finish No. 1 in passing DVOA, which is just incredible given his career to this point. Minnesota’s third quarterback of the year and he just may be leading the NFC’s Super Bowl favorite.

11. Of course, the Eagles were that Super Bowl favorite, but then Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14. Nick Foles has gotten credit for two pretty soft GWDs since then, and also threw four touchdowns against the Giants in a win. I don’t think you can possibly argue Wentz for MVP based on his 13 games, but I expect he’ll get at least a vote so it won’t be unanimous.

12. Russell Wilson could lead the NFL in touchdown passes if he throws at least two more to get to 34 and surpass Wentz (33). He’s had a very interesting season for Seattle. I think the “absurd percentage of team’s offense, leading the Seahawks in rushing by 300+ yards, and setting the NFL record for touchdown passes in the fourth quarter in a season” are all sexy MVP arguments. He’s clearly very valuable, but he hasn’t always played that well this season. He’s had some bad turnovers early in games (namely losses to ATL and JAX) that hurt. He didn’t pull out the GWDs in those games. He had the huge fumble in Green Bay in Week 1. He just got a win in Dallas where he threw for 93 yards. It’s a flawed offense this year, and sometimes Wilson is part of the problem. Seattle may not even make the postseason, so I just can’t get behind his MVP case this year. If he had his 2015 finish this year, then yes, but that’s not the case.

13. Todd Gurley has been finishing real strong, and sometimes that’s all you need as a RB to win MVP. Finish strong and get those flashy numbers. Adrian Peterson took away a sure MVP from Peyton Manning in 2012 just because he reached 2,000 yards rushing and helped the Vikings make the playoffs in Week 17. Unfortunately, Gurley isn’t even going to suit up for the Rams tomorrow. He’s resting for the playoffs, so he’ll finish with 2,093 yards from scrimmage, which is appealing, but not as appealing to voters as 2,000 rushing yards for some reason. And he’ll have 19 touchdowns instead of a shiny 20. No chance for Gurley to finish really high and jack up those league-leading YFS and TD numbers, and it’s not even his fault. He’s helped the Rams back to the playoffs, which is of course going to have a lot of the credit go to rookie coach Sean McVay. But Gurley has had a great year and I think he’ll at least take home Offensive Player of the Year, or the Stat Whore’s Consolation Prize as I like to call it. Okay, that probably sounds more disrespectful than it needs to be, but that’s basically what the award has turned into.

14. There is a big problem with Week 17. Not only will Gurley sit out, but so will Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and of course Antonio Brown. So Brady will play against the lowly Jets and basically have no pressure from anyone else adding to their cases.

15. Brown was probably Pittsburgh’s best mainstream MVP candidate, but oh yeah, he was injured in the second quarter of that huge game with the Patriots in Week 15. That game really decided the MVP as far as I’m concerned. Had the Jesse James touchdown not been overturned, and had Ben Roethlisberger not had that awful decision to force a fake spike into traffic for a game-ending interception, then I actually think Roethlisberger would take over as the MVP favorite. He’d still be top 3 in DYAR, he’s had 29 TD to 13 INT, he’d lead the league with 4 4QC and 5 GWD, and he’d still be near the top in passing yards for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. That’s another game-winning touchdown pass in a huge game everyone was watching after game-winning drives in prime time against the Packers, Bengals, and Ravens in recent weeks. The five-pick game against Jacksonville was a disaster, but check out the numbers since that point and he’s been as good as he has been in years. That reversal and pick wrapped this regular season up for the Patriots.

16. Then you have Brady himself. The numbers, as I show below, are good enough to fit the profile of an MVP QB season. Cam Newton’s weak 2015 win aside, Brady’s numbers are on the lower end of these seasons, but good enough when you add the caveat of being 40 years old. But the 29.3% passing DVOA would only rank as Brady’s 8th-best season in his career, and he hasn’t been too good down the stretch here. When you have a stat like “first time he’s thrown an interception in five straight games since 2002”, you are hearing Father Time coming.

MVPQBStats

Anyone making the argument that Brady is carrying a bad D this year is not looking at the numbers properly. When NE’s defense stunk early in the season, the Patriots were very fortunate to be 2-2. They couldn’t beat the Chiefs and Panthers when the D was lousy. Against Houston, Brady did give up a touchdown on a fumble-six in that game, and he got away with a game-ending pick on the game-winning drive. Then the Patriots didn’t allow more than 17 points in eight straight games, almost unheard of in this era. Bad day in Miami and it was another loss. Not a great day defensively in Pittsburgh, but the Patriots got the ball back for Brady, and they again came away with the biggest interception of the NFL season with that unbelievable Roethlisberger decision at the end. You don’t have to call the New England defense good, and it certainly has benefited from multiple touchdown calls getting reversed this year. But don’t act like Brady has had to overcome this defense to get to another 13-win season. He’s had to overcome some risky throws he made himself more than anything, and the D has done well at keeping the score down the rest of the year.

So basically, Houston dropping a game-ending Brady INT in Week 3, then the end of the PIT-NE game is what’s going to bring this one home for Brady. If he implodes against the Jets in the upset of the year (after already losing in the upset of the year in Miami), then I don’t know what voters will do, but maybe just giving it to Gurley is the right thing at that point. Hell, I might just vote for Deshaun Watson anyway if that happens.

I think Brady won MVP by default in 2010 too, and this happens from time to time when no one just dominates from Week 1 to Week 17 in a special year. 2008 Peyton Manning was a default MVP too. But this 2017 race is the gold standard for a default case. It’s also just a reminder of how everything that looked so great at one point this year often ended in disaster with injury or things falling apart.

Maybe that happens to Brady too in the postseason. No one has won the regular season MVP and the Super Bowl in the same season since 1999 Kurt Warner.

2017 Week 17 Predictions

2017Wk17

  • 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
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
  • Week 14: 6-10 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 15: 14-2 (Spread: 7-6-3)
  • Week 16: 12-4 (Spread: 7-8-1)
  • Season: 152-88 (Spread: 52-51-5)
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NFL Week 16 Predictions: Bah Humbug

After basically every favorite won in Week 15, I just can’t help but feel that something really weird is going to happen this week. Weird as Buffalo winning an important game in New England? Probably not, but something has to give here. There are so many matchups where one team is clearly superior to the other, and there is something on the line for that team as well. Yet we know upsets happen all the time even if recent weeks have been pretty upset free outside of NE-MIA.

Something weird would definitely involve Cleveland winning to avoid 0-16, because I don’t see how they win in Pittsburgh in Week 17 when the Steelers almost certainly will have to win that one to keep a first-round bye. The Bears are a lousy team too, so I think this one is possible, and I’d almost expect it if the game was at home. But in Chicago, the weather could be bad, leading to another evenly matched game a la Colts-Bills. The Bears love to run the ball too, and it’s literally the only thing the Browns do well at stopping. So I think the matchup is favorable here, but then I just know DeShone Kizer will have some stupid turnover late and the Browns won’t even cover the spread again.

Speaking of the spread, I still see the Steelers at 10-point favorites in Houston. The Steelers are 1-8 ATS under Mike Tomlin when favored by 10+ on the road. That includes 3-point wins in Cleveland and Indy this year. After last week’s emotional and lingering gut punch, the loss of Antonio Brown, the danger of DeAndre Hopkins against this defense, and the fact that it’s a road game people expect the Steelers to roll through all has me thinking the Texans are going to make this extremely difficult.

Otherwise, I’m not sure there’s much to look forward to this week. I wan to see how Jimmy Garoppolo does against the best pass defense in the league, and how Blake Bortles fares on the road. The Jaguars have already lost to the Jets and Cardinals on the road this year.

Saints-Falcons is usually good, but I think the Saints get this one at home. Alvin Kamara shouldn’t get concussed on the first drive again, and I think Drew Brees will make up for the terrible pick last time. The Atlanta passing game still isn’t clicking on all cylinders.

The marquee game is Seattle at Dallas, an elimination game for teams we expected to make the playoffs. Now maybe just one gets in, and neither has played competent football for any extended stretch this year. But a potential shootout between Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson with Ezekiel Elliott returning from suspension? Yes, I’ll watch that.

2017 Week 16 Predictions

2017Wk16

(Note: MIA ATS, KC SU)

  • 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
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
  • Week 14: 6-10 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 15: 14-2 (Spread: 7-6-3)
  • Season: 140-84 (Spread: 45-43-4)

NFL Week 15 Predictions: The Showdown

A pivotal weekend for sure, Week 15 should have a major impact on the direction this season is headed. Not only do we have the game of the year in Pittsburgh, but there are other big headlines like the Eagles moving forward without Carson Wentz, the return of Aaron Rodgers in a must-win game at Carolina, and a rematch between the Rams-Seahawks where Seattle can really take control of the NFC West again.

But if you know me, you know exactly where I’m focused this week.

Game of the Year: Patriots (10-3) at Steelers (11-2)

This is arguably the NFL’s biggest regular-season game this late in the year in a decade. You may recall that epic 2007 season when the undefeated Colts and Patriots met in Week 9, and later when 10-1 Green Bay visited 10-1 Dallas. This is definitely on that level with the No. 1 seed and inside track to the Super Bowl in the AFC on the line.

It’s fitting to mention that 2007 NE-IND game, because that is really the last “big” road win for the Patriots, over 10 years ago. They have controlled the AFC East so much, and have had a lock on a first-round bye since 2010, so the Patriots are only 0-2 in road playoff games since 2007 (both losses in Denver). So they don’t have a road playoff win, and they have 9 other road wins over teams who made the playoffs. That includes some pretty soft competition like the 2011 Broncos (8-8 Tebow squad), 2014 Colts (the one-man team), 2015 Texans, 2016 Dolphins, and the 2016 Steelers with Landry Jones at QB.

In fact, the only 12-win team the Patriots have beat on the road since the 2007 Colts was the 2010 Steelers (12-4) at midseason when they were 6-2. Maybe the 2017 Saints, who the Patriots beat in Week 2, will get to 12-4 as well, but clearly they weren’t playing that well to start the season, especially on defense. This year’s Pittsburgh team should be able to go 13-3 at minimum, even if they rarely look the part.

So this is a much bigger road test than usual for the Patriots, who have failed such matchups before like in 2009 (Indy and NO), 2011 (Pittsburgh), 2014 (Green Bay), and 2015 (Denver).

We know the Steelers play much better at home on offense, and that’s where the offense has scored at least 26 points in every game this season except for that 9-point clunker against Jacksonville’s No. 1 pass defense. The Patriots do not have Jacksonville’s defense, but we know that this matchup hinges largely on what the Pittsburgh defense that has made Brett Hundley and Joe Flacco look great in recent weeks will do against Tom Brady.

What more can you say that the numbers can’t? Brady is 10-2 against the Steelers with 29 touchdowns to three interceptions. It doesn’t matter if the Patriots run the ball or not in these matchups, because they can always control the flow of the game with the quick-passing game. They also know when to pick their spots for deep shots against the Steelers, including some trickery like the throwback pass from Randy Moss to Brady in 2007, and a version of that last year in the AFC-CG.

Unless Father Time is smelling blood in the water with Brady, there’s no reason not to expect he will shred this defense again. The Patriots almost never drop two games in a row, so I’m not sure if the shocking Miami loss wasn’t some purposeful half-assed effort with the main focus always being on this important game for home-field advantage. New England also gets Rob Gronkowski back, and that obviously makes a big difference for Brady and everyone. Pittsburgh has had a hell of a time with him (eight touchdowns allowed in five games), and not even covering him has been a problem in the past.

This could also be a game where Danny Amendola and the receiving backs (Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James White) get a lot of catches. I doubt we’ll see many runs from the Patriots. Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks are more manageable for the Pittsburgh secondary, though they made Hogan look like Steve Largent in January and Cooks could add to the long list of 50+ yard touchdowns allowed by this defense, which misses Joe Haden. Yes, Ryan Shazier is a big loss, but the Patriots do a good job of making the linebackers irrelevant in this matchup by getting rid of the ball so quickly and into the slot. Keith Butler has his work cut out for him more than usual this week.

That’s why this game is really on Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to deliver. Control the game like they did in 2011, the last time the Steelers beat New England. That day the Steelers have five drives of 10+ plays, and held the ball for 39:22 in a 25-17 win. They also pressed the receivers on defense to make things more difficult on Brady, who still didn’t have a lousy game by any means. He just had fewer opportunities, which is why Roethlisberger has to be lights out on third down and in the red zone. He’s been very good in recent weeks, so I think he can deliver against the ultimate bend-but-don’t-break defense, but converting third downs and red-zone trips into touchdowns is paramount here. Mike Tomlin also can’t be settling for 50+ yard field goals, or sub-20-yard FGs, and punting inside the NE 40 in this matchup as he’s done before. If you can’t acknowledge that you’re playing the New England Patriots instead of the Cleveland Browns, you’ve already lost.

The return of JuJu Smith-Schuster gives Roethlisberger another option that he’s been more successful with as opposed to Martavis Bryant this year. Jesse James has also come along at tight end in recent weeks. Le’Veon Bell is putting in a ton of receiving work in recent weeks. There’s also a guy named Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh has more than enough weapons to move up and down the field all game long in this one. Just have to score touchdowns and play from ahead early. These games are almost never close between these teams. I’m not sure there’s been a real close game since the 2005 matchup, won 23-20 by the Patriots.

Roethlisberger has to be patient in this matchup and take what the defense gives him. Basically, be like Brady, which he did in 2011 and he did against the Ravens last week with another 500-yard passing game. Don’t force the deep ball on third-and-1 like he did to start the AFC-CG. Just extend the drive and keep Brady off the field. Easier said than done, but I’d be really surprised if the Steelers couldn’t score at least 27 points in this one.

For as difficult as a task as New England is for the Steelers, this might only be the first of two times they have to beat them to get back to the Super Bowl. I just don’t see another AFC contender standing in these team’s ways. In fact, it’s extra important for the Steelers to get the No. 1 seed so that they should only have to face one of Jacksonville and New England instead of both. The worst realistic outcome would be for the Steelers to finish as the No. 2 seed and have to host the No. 3 Jaguars in the divisional round. The Jaguars are a really tough matchup for Pittsburgh this year. Then of course if they won that one, they’d have to go to Foxboro where they play this team even worse every time. So winning this game is absolutely critical.

Is beating New England twice in the same year reasonable? The 2005 Broncos, 2006 Colts, 2011 Giants, 2012 Ravens, and 2015 Broncos all did so. The 2010 Jets went 2-1 against them, and even turned around from 45-3 in December to that stunning playoff upset. So it can be done. But the Steelers first need to show us they can hang with this team at home in a massive game. If they can’t do it this year, then I really don’t see this Killer B’s era team ever getting past NE.

You probably think I’m leaning towards Pittsburgh in this matchup, and honestly, I think I am too. However, I just can’t overlook the way the Steelers are squeaking out last-second FG wins over the Colts, Packers (without Rodgers), and Ravens. Or how the D is suddenly giving up big plays every week, and giving up 33 PPG at home to Hundley and Flacco. Now they get their arch nemesis when he’s in his “Angry” mode after a loss and has Gronk back? Not to mention the chess (Belichick) vs. checkers (Tomlin) coaching matchup.

I simply can’t do it. Not this time.

Final: Patriots 34, Steelers 27

2017 Week 15 Predictions

Aside from Saturday’s games, I’m going pretty vanilla with favorites this week. Just think there’s a lot of easy calls, which means we’ll probably have a ton of upsets and I’ll be bitching on Twitter about them.

2017Wk15

  • 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
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
  • Week 14: 6-10 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Season: 126-82 (Spread: 38-37-1)

NFL Week 14 Predictions: The Best Week?

Week 14 just might be the best schedule the NFL has on paper all season. There are six games between teams with at least a .500 record. Maybe more importantly, there just aren’t any real “gimme games” where you can feel very confident that one team is just going to roll over the other. I’m going to quickly go through the remaining 15 games this week to show my concerns with picking a winner.

IND-BUF: Sure, the Colts stink, but they’ve blown five fourth-quarter leads and we don’t know if Tyrod Taylor is good to go. Nathan Peterman and his turnovers could be the key to an Indy win on the road, unless he turns into Rob Johnson vs. Indy.

CHI-CIN: I’d be worried about the Bengals having blown their emotional wad vs. Pittsburgh on Monday night. Chicago is bad, but good enough to pounce on some mistakes for return touchdowns/short fields.

SF-HOU: I can see the headlines already. “49ers 2-0 in close games with Garoppolo at QB.” This would be an interesting game if, you know, Tom Savage wasn’t the Houston QB.

OAK-KC: Trust the Chiefs these days? Impossible, and they already lost a game they should have won against the Raiders this year. Throw in a suspension to Marcus Peters, the return of Michael Crabtree, and I’m hesitant as hell about going with the Chiefs.

DAL-NYG: I believe in teams getting a boost the next game after a major firing, such as getting rid of Ben McAdoo. Add in the return of Eli Manning at quarterback, home field, and the fact that Dak Prescott has struggled to score points on the Giants in three tries. I don’t trust Dallas period these days, but this is a matchup I especially would not trust them in.

DET-TB: I think Matthew Stafford will be fine health wise, but you know I already suck at predicting Tampa Bay games. I can say fade Mike Evans in fantasy (DFS), and he’ll probably go off for 140 yards and 2 TD.

MIN-CAR: I feel oddly confident about the Vikings like I did last week when they won in Atlanta, but Carolina has shown some real quality play at times this season. Just don’t know which Cam will show up, and everyone seems to be waiting for Case Keenum to have that fall back to Earth game, which is certainly possible on the road against a decent defense. But MIN should win.

GB-CLE: Hey, I think this might be the week for the Browns to avoid 0-16. Another big firing (GM Sashi Brown) took place here, and it’s really just a good matchup for Cleveland. The Browns should be able to stop the run, forcing Brett Hundley to throw more. He hasn’t been that consistent or sharp. Meanwhile, Josh Gordon could feast on the secondary. The only concern here is DeShone Kizer, who continues to make crippling turnovers for this offense. But I could already see the headlines for this one too. “Packers expecting a win with Aaron Rodgers coming back next week suffer a huge loss in Cleveland; playoffs much in doubt.” Not my preferred narrative, but just something that I could see happening.

NYJ-DEN: Do you really want to start trusting Josh McCown and the Jets? Sure, they have no doubt been playing better than Denver this year, but doesn’t the losing streak have to stop eventually? The Jets aren’t the Eagles or Patriots. and Mile High is one of the best home-field advantages in the league. I could see some McCown turnovers helping out the struggling Denver offense. Not a game I’d want to bet on.

WAS-LACH: This is another one with a probable narrative. “The Chargers had been playing so well, but choked away another late lead to a Washington team that has now won twice in LA this year, as well as in Seattle.” Redskins had a long time to rest after that shitshow in Dallas. Not sure what we’ll get from them, but they’ve played pretty solid football outside of that game.

TEN-ARI: The Titans are one of the worst 8-4 teams in NFL history, and Arizona can still be competitive at home even with Blaine Gabbert. Bruce Arians should know Dick LeBeau’s scheme well. I’m sure I’ll have to write about this game in Clutch Encounters either way.

SEA-JAC: Oddly enough, this might be the game I feel the best about this week. I just think Seattle will go in there, like the Rams earlier this year, and win the game by making Bortles play bad and cough up turnovers. The Seattle defense is still very good. Not better than Jacksonville’s this year, but I was impressed with the way the Seahawks handled Philadelphia’s front last week to allow Russell Wilson time to make things happen. If they can do that on the road, and it’s not a 10:00 AM body clock game, then they should win this one, underdog status be damned.

PHI-LARM: The game of the week, I suppose, but still a lot of things for both teams to prove. I think Jared Goff’s stats are still as misleading as anyone’s this year, and he’ll have to play well against a very solid defense. Carson Wentz has to clean up the mistakes from last week on the road again, but I think this is a game for the Rams defense to remind us how good they can be too. I’ll take the Rams in a close one at home, but obviously the Eagles winning wouldn’t be any surprise.

BAL-PIT: The Steelers can’t really overlook their main rival for their main obstacle (NE) to a Super Bowl, plus this game is to clinch the AFC North. We know the Steelers play much better at home on offense, especially in prime time. Jimmy Smith being out is a huge loss for the Ravens, which should give Antonio Brown a better chance at a huge night. He might need it with the suspension of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Obviously the loss of Ryan Shazier is big too, and the losses in the secondary (Joe Haden most notably) are troubling for a defense that has started to give up many big plays. If Joe Flacco can throw the ball like he did against Detroit, then we definitely have a game here, but I think the Steelers will take care of business at home. I just don’t feel overly confident about it, because these teams love to split and play 3-point games. The Steelers aren’t going to keep winning every one-score game either.

NE-MIA: I’d say it’s the lock of the week, but no Rob Gronkowski makes things interesting. Not to mention we’ve seen NE go down to Miami and lose when no one expected in 2004, 2006, and 2013-15. Yeah, you say Jay Cutler, but don’t forget about A.J. Feeley (2004) and Joey Harrington (2006). Weird things happen to NE down there. Plus I’ll probably have a ton of money at my fingertips on parlays waiting for the Patriots to give me a Merry Christmas, and they’ll screw me like they always do.

2017 Week 14 Predictions

The Saints quickly ended my dream of a 16-0 week, not like I ever had a shot at that in this particular week.

2017Wk14V2

  • 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
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
  • Season: 120-72 (Spread: 31-28-1)

NFL Week 13 Predictions: The End of an Era

Pour one out for Eli Manning as his streak of consecutive starts ends at 222 games including playoffs. That’s third all time among quarterbacks behind only Brett Favre (321) and Peyton Manning (227).

I love constants in the NFL, because they help make the most unpredictable league just a little easier to predict. For the better part of 14 seasons, Manning was a constant in New York no matter how erratic his play was. You knew you were getting a volume passer who didn’t take many sacks, could lead the offense to a reasonable amount of points (until recently), and fourth-quarter drama was often high with Eli. I used to say he’d start games like Archie, but could still finish like Peyton. His A game was quite good, but we just never saw it often enough. Fortunately, he brought it against the Patriots in the best moments. It’s for that reason that his Hall of Fame debate is going to rage on for years, but I’m not interested in talking about that right now. This is about the end of an era in New York, because I don’t see how the Giants, who are in full collapse mode, can ever go back to Eli after the way this unfolded.

So which exciting, young quarterback prospect do the Giants have to turn their fortunes to? Oh, it’s Geno bloody Smith, a turnover machine in an era where many turnovers look like bad bounces more than anything. That’s not going to accomplish anything for this team this year, so here’s hoping the Giants find a new head coach and a new quarterback for 2018 to quickly turn this thing in another direction. Manning deserved a better ending than this.

Another era that begins this week that may have some staying power is Jimmy Garoppolo making his first start for the 49ers. Similar to the Giants right now, the 49ers don’t have much going in the way of a supporting cast, so I wouldn’t expect much, though beating the lowly Bears isn’t out of the question. I’d avoid that game in bets this week. There are quite a few I’d avoid actually, but also some teams I really like (Patriots, Steelers, Rams, Jaguars to name a few).

Vikings at Falcons

I think it’s safe to say that this is the top game on paper this week. Both teams have been playing well as of late, though I think the Vikings have been a bit better all season long. Minnesota is just as good as the other NFC teams that get a lot of attention this year (Eagles, Saints, and Rams). I think the reason Minnesota gets less attention is the quarterback situation. Drew Brees’ name speaks for itself, while the typical “build up a young QB into a superstar ASAP” is at work for Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

People don’t want to believe in Case Keenum, but it’s December and he ranks No. 1 in DVOA thanks in large part to the way he’s making plays under pressure and avoiding sacks. The latter is certainly a quarterback skill that is highly repeatable, and the fact that Minnesota’s OL is holding up enough for him speaks wonders about the turnaround job they’ve done after 2016’s terrible unit let the team down. Not only are Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs the best WR duo going this year, but Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray have formed a pretty solid backfield after the team lost rookie Dalvin Cook so early. This is an impressive offense and the defense under Mike Zimmer is one of the best units in the league. This team is very balanced. I still think Atlanta is too offensive dependent, and Matt Ryan is still taking big sacks that kill drives. While Julio Jones went off last week, this isn’t Tampa Bay. He’ll see plenty of Xavier Rhodes in a good matchup. Meanwhile, I think the injuries in the secondary for Atlanta are big for Minnesota to take advantage of.

I like the Vikings in a close one.

Eagles at Seahawks

I’m honestly not sure this game will be that good to watch on Sunday night. More interested than anything in what the final margin ends up being given that the Eagles have won four in a row by 23+ points, and Seattle just almost never gets blown out. The Seahawks haven’t lost a home game by more than 7 points since a 2011 game against Cincinnati (pre-Russell Wilson). The Eagles haven’t been tested much, especially on the road. Five of their last seven games have been at home actually, so this is a step up in competition. It’s just that Seattle isn’t quite the same when there’s no RB/running game, and no Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor or Cliff Avril on defense.

That’s why Wilson has a pretty strong MVP case if he can finish well with a tough schedule ahead. He has to do so much for this team right now, and that’s why I think this is a bad matchup for the Seahawks since I think the pass rush is going to rack up a lot of sacks in blowing past this offensive line. No one really runs on the Eagles this year to begin with, and Seattle has the worst non-QB rushing of any team this season. So you pin a low point total to the Seahawks, maybe some turnovers that give the Eagles more good field position, and I think Philadelphia takes this one on the road.

2017 Week 13 Predictions

Well, Washington shit its pants on Thursday night. I wasn’t confident about picking that game either way, but that was a really poor performance all around from the Redskins. And to think some people on Twitter scoffed when I said Dallas would score 16 points (scored 38).

2017Wk13

  • 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
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Season: 109-67 (Spread: 21-22-1)