NFL Week 11 Predictions: “Tire Me” Edition

This easily could be an epic rant about the MVP race, or the Patriots/Eagles in general, because I like to do that from time to time on here. 140 280 characters on Twitter just doesn’t do it sometimes, especially when people take one part out of context and jump into something they don’t understand.

However, you can even try to have a conversation about these things and still get stuck in the mud. Yes, I went on WEEI in Boston on Thursday, and instead of getting a debate about where things stand in 2017, I felt like I never left 2003 when Patriots fans started using W-L record to justify Tom Brady’s greatness. It’s been 14 years of lousy “count the rings/wins, ignore the individual performance” arguments ever since, and it does get tiring at times to keep reading them. I also had a busy week with an ALEX update and another FiveThirtyEight article.

Just like how I don’t really read my articles after I write them, I don’t listen to my radio appearances. All I know is after it was over, I didn’t understand why I was accused of jumping all over the place when my point was the same beginning to end. Brady has not given the Patriots an edge at quarterback since 2001 that would be any greater than if a handful of his peers were in his position and provided the same advantages and breaks he’s had. The key to NE’s success is that the gap between Bill Belichick and the other coaches remains the largest in the NFL, and it only seems to have increased in recent years. It’s a plug-and-play system in NE. You provide a Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees with the best coaching, the best clutch kicking, the hardest team to score 30 points on, the hardest defense to crack in the fourth quarter, a sad division that can’t find a worthy rival at QB/HC, and you damn well should expect similar, if not greater success.

But I’m going to stop right there, because it’s not like these stories are going away any time soon this season. This could be 2004 all over again with the Patriots, Eagles, and Steelers as the top three teams.

To be continued.

There are actually a few games I’m interested in looking at this week.

Jaguars at Browns

Really, this one? I’ve designed a career (recap close games, preview big games) where I can avoid covering games like this one that are crap on paper, but I can’t help but smell an upset here. While I gave the Browns this win before Week 1 when I picked the whole schedule, it is clear that Cleveland has been worse than imaginable and the Jaguars are better.

However, I like the matchup. Cleveland’s offense doesn’t really match up with any defense in the league, let alone one we’ve been calling the best in the NFL this year. But look at the contrast of styles here. The Jaguars shut down the pass, prefer not to pass with Blake Bortles, and are 30th in DVOA against the run. The Browns’ best trait is stopping the run, would like to run the ball on offense, and you can always get some takeaway opportunities from Bortles, who really cheated the football gods last week when he threw two picks after the two-minute warning and still got the win in overtime. Sure, the Jaguars have kicked some ass at times this year, but they’ve had their asses kicked too. Hell, Jacksonville already lost on the road to the Jets this year, albeit an overtime game. Cleveland lost by just 3 to the Steelers in Week 1 and played better than the final score suggests in Detroit last week.

The Browns are at home, and do you really want to pick an 0-16 season when there’s only been one in NFL history? A shaky, turnover-prone QB on the road with an injured crew of weapons sounds tempting to me. The fact that Jaguars are saying they’ll win in a shutout can’t sit well with the Browns. Hue Jackson needs a win in the worst way to save face.

Sure, the Jags may win 30-6 when it’s all said and done, but I like my gut enough on this one to go with Cleveland.

Rams at Vikings

This is the “Jeff Fisher Can’t Coach Bowl.” Case Keenum and Jared Goff had a terrible time in the Los Angeles offense a season ago, but give them real coaching and teams that understand how to use their talent, and both are in the top 5 in DVOA right now. This is a cool battle of 7-2 teams that probably no one expected to be 7-2 at this point.

I wrestled a lot with a winner in this game. In the end, I’m going with the Rams for arguably their most impressive win yet this season. I think Keenum is heavily dependent on Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, while the Rams can use a larger variety of weapons. Both defenses are really good, and haven’t been playing the best of offenses, so it’s a step up in competition for both. Admittedly, the two games I focused most on with Keenum this year the two losses (Steelers and Lions), so I’m probably looking at him in more of a negative light than someone who would have focused more on his two huge games against the Bucs and Redskins. But even last week he had a couple of picks in the second half, and I guess I’m rooting for some chaos where putting Teddy Bridgewater back at QB1 is a reality.

I will say that this is a game where Goff needs to show us something good. He’s getting MVP consideration after shredding the Giants and Texans the last two weeks, but he’s really been given an “EASY” button this year. He has the best starting field position, the highest play-action rate, doesn’t have to throw into tight windows, and gets the most YAC of any QB. If he can play some great games down the stretch I’ll change my mind, but he has probably the most misleading stats of any QB this season. I’m just glad he’s shown he can play competent football after last year, but I wouldn’t go all in on him being MVP caliber right now. He struggled with Seattle and special teams did much of the damage in Jacksonville. Let’s see how Goff does with this good road test this weekend.

Patriots vs. Raiders

I guess for six months I assumed this was a Monday night game, because that’s when Oakland played Houston in Mexico City last year. But it’s a 4:25 start, and it’s not nearly as interesting as we thought it would be for Oakland. Sure, the Raiders can prove something with a win, but I give the No. 32 pass defense that still doesn’t have an interception little chance here. The Patriots are starting to roll again offensively, and the defense hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in any of the last five games. You’d like to think Derek Carr can move the ball in this one to keep it close and exciting, but his red-zone performance has been brutal this season. You can’t win by settling for field goals against the Patriots. Brady tears up Jack Del Rio defenses regularly, but this is one of the weaker units yet that he’ll see. With losses already to Buffalo and Baltimore, Oakland slipping to 4-6 is just another step closer to an irrelevant rest of season.

Eagles at Cowboys

This should be a much bigger game, but things have gone really sour recently for Dallas. Never mind the Jerry Jones saga that is amping up. Actually, that could be uncomfortable this week with Dallas in high-profile games (SNF and Thanksgiving). But let’s not worry about that. On the field, Dallas could be without three of its very best players in Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, and Sean Lee. Hell, kicker Dan Bailey being out is a problem too.

This is why it’s annoying to hear the “Dak can’t score without Zeke” narrative when clearly there is far more missing than Elliott. Last week, Adrian Clayborn had six sacks with Smith out. He even admitted to having “one move” after the game, and Dallas failed to adjust for that. Regardless of who is on the field, a quarterback needs better protection than that, and the Dallas defense really struggled with Atlanta. It was a 10-7 game at halftime, but while Dallas missed a field goal in the third quarter, the Falcons added two long touchdown drives to take a 24-7 lead and blow that one open.

Philadelphia comes in  hot, fresh off a bye, and with one of the better defenses in the league at getting to quarterbacks. It’s a really tough matchup for Dallas, and I don’t expect the Cowboys to win this one. It would have been tough even with those players available.

2017 Week 11 Predictions

So I started picking against the spread last week. I went 6-8 compared to 12-2 straight up. This is a weekly thing now from me, and hopefully better weeks to come. Off to a good start with the Steelers impressing on Thursday night.

2017Wk11

  • 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)
  • Season: 89-57 (Spread: 6-8)
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NFL Week 10 Predictions: The Upside Down

A year ago, Week 10 was incredible in the NFL. It was the week that left us stunned after the election, and Sunday’s hyped games even managed to exceed the hype with Cowboys-Steelers and Seahawks-Patriots. We needed that so badly. I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed a football Sunday as much as that one in the year since.

When I look at this year’s Week 10 lineup, much like last week, I struggle to find a game to get excited for. Steelers might flirt with disaster in Indy, or it might be a blowout for the fourth year in a row (third year in a row where Andrew Luck won’t suit up for Indy). Sure, Tom Brady may not have a big game in Denver per usual, but he doesn’t have to when he’s playing against that Denver offense in the night game.

Game of the Week (?): Saints at Bills

I much rather would have preferred to see Saints-Bills flexed to SNF. At least that game is interesting on both sides of the ball. Drew Brees has dinked and dunked his way to a very efficient, but not quite as spectacular passing season. The running game has picked up since the Saints realized Adrian Peterson had no place in this offense, and rookie Alvin Kamara deserves more touches with Mark Ingram. The Bills play very opportunistic defense and get a lot of takeaways. New Orleans’ road struggles are well documented. But we also know that Buffalo struggles to manufacture scoring offense with a limited cast around Tyrod Taylor, though all eyes will be on Kelvin Benjamin in his team debut. Oh yeah, the Saints are actually playing defense too, which has really carried this impressive 6-game winning streak.

I feel like I’m leaning on old trends here, but I’m going with Buffalo at home, because I think the defense will get those turnovers that swing the game into their favor. Good day for LeSean McCoy so Tyrod doesn’t have to match score for score with Brees.

Cowboys at Falcons

Glad it looks like the Ezekiel Elliott suspension is starting. I just want that story to go away. It also presents an opportunity for Dak Prescott to gain traction in the MVP race and silence some critics that Elliott is driving their success. No, great QB play has been the biggest change in Dallas over 2015 when the passing game was terrible with Tony Romo injured. The running game was still top 10 that year, but so what? You need the QB first. I think they’ll run the ball just fine without Elliott too, but it’s about the defense keeping the score down. Dallas has allowed 30+ in every 2017 loss. I keep saying the Falcons could be 1-7 just as easily as 7-1, so they’re a dangerous team, both to opponents and themselves. I think Julio Jones rebounds from last week’s horrible drop with a big game and Atlanta gets on track at home. For Dallas, it’s not just Zeke’s suspension, but Tyron Smith is out and Dez Bryant might be gimpy.

This won’t stop anyone, especially those from the other side of Pennsylvania, from blabbering on about “Dak ain’t shit without Zeke”. Hey neanderthals, you have 280 characters now. No excuse not to add “Dak ain’t shit without Zeke, Tyron Smith, and a healthy Dez.”

(Yes, Week 11 will be lit.)

Jets at Buccaneers: REVENGE

This game is crap, but I just wanted to point out all the revenge options here. Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick have both played for the Jets and Buccaneers. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was supposed to be Tampa Bay’s TE1, but they found two better players in Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. I guess that’s more revenge on New York’s side, but man, the big story is that Fitzpatrick has schemed his way into starting another game.

Fitzpatrick is so ready for this revenge game that he even shaved his fucking beard off. I know he went to Harvard — it’s true, if you haven’t heard — but I never hear what his major was. Alchemy? Dark arts? How else can you explain how a QB this bad can start a game 10 years in a row? I almost have to pick Tampa Bay even though I know the Jets have played better football for two months now.

2017 Week 10 Predictions

I told you this was the upside down edition, so here’s something brand new that I’ve never done in all these years. I’m going to start giving you my picks against the spread (ATS) every week in addition to the straight up (SU) picks I always deliver. I’m using Bovada’s lines on Saturday afternoon and I’m never going to bother updating them for any pre-kickoff changes. You get what you see.

2017Wk10

I know this is just going to annoy me more each week when so many spreads are determined by one play, like the late touchdown in SEA-ARI on Thursday night, but some have asked me for years to show my spread picks. I don’t have experience doing this, so we’ll just see how it goes. This is not my ideal season to start this (just look at my SU picks), but if not now, then when?

  • 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
  • Season: 77-55

NFL Week 9 Predictions: The Seven-Year Itch

The Seven Year Itch was a 1955 film famous for Marilyn Monroe’s white dress blowing up over a subway grate. The psychology behind the seven-year itch is that seven years into a marriage, the quality of marriage declines and you lose interest with your significant other.

This is my seventh season as a full-time NFL writer, and 2017 is really wearing me down to the point where I’m starting to wonder if I’m feeling the seven-year itch myself with this league.

Maybe it’s just the quality of this particular season that is bugging me, or what’s going on in other areas of life in 2017 has wore me down too, but something hasn’t been right since Week 1. The Week 9 slate in particular isn’t doing me any favors to get my interest back up. I fell asleep for most of Jets-Bills on Thursday, exhausted from the day’s events, and ultimately bored by the product on the field that night. I don’t feel bad about it either, just as I don’t feel bad about waking up late for Browns-Vikings in London last week when it was already 30-16 in the fourth quarter.

The only game I’d even really want to talk about this week is Chiefs-Cowboys, and that’s partly thanks to this frustrating Ezekiel Elliott story. Great, he’s playing again, and he’s been on a tear. But I was really hoping to see him miss this one actually just to see if the running game could stabilize itself without him as it did in 2015 (without a QB that year too), and if Dak Prescott could carry the load, which I think he can. The Cowboys still have some great players minus Zeke, and I think this has shootout written all over it with the two defenses present. It should be a fun game with Tony Romo on the call, and I look forward to that part of my Sunday afternoon, but the rest of the week looks like a bust to me.

Since the 2006 season, I have collected torrents of NFL games. I haven’t kept up with it as much lately (mostly due to NFL Game Pass, when it works, and a lack of hard drive space/laziness to plug in the externals), but I have a pretty big collection. My weekly routine started with, as you may have guessed, getting the full game for the Steelers, Patriots, and Colts. Any other really good game with other teams may have been added as well, and I got a high-quality copy of every playoff game. By 2012, I added Denver to the weekly rotation because of Peyton Manning, and kept the Colts because of Andrew Luck. I was also getting every Green Bay game, usually the condensed version unless it was a great game, to keep a catalog of Aaron Rodgers’ prime. I also started doing Seattle for Russell Wilson.

At the rate things were going this year, I may have started getting Houston games for Deshaun Watson, who has had one of the greatest 7-game starts in NFL history. Even though the Texans were 3-4, I thought I might be arguing later this season that Watson is deserving of the MVP award for the impact he’s had on Houston’s offense.

Then Thursday came.

I saw this tweet a little before 5 p.m. about Watson being limited in practice because of a sore knee.

No big deal, right? He should be fine. Then I get an email from an editor about my FiveThirtyEight article. (Yeah, I’m writing there now too, and here’s the first article). It says that we need to change a paragraph now that Watson is injured. I start replying “Oh it’s just a limited in practice situation, he’ll be fine.” Before I can send that, I get a tweet from my long-time editor:

Then I saw the breaking news reports over and over: Watson tore his ACL on a non-contact injury in practice. His season is over. It’s not like I never considered this could happen, but you don’t actively think about it happening.

I was shocked and really sad in a way that I usually don’t feel over countless other NFL injuries. Most of my favorite players have been great at avoiding the long-term injury, or if it did happen, it wasn’t some practice injury during the season. It was an odd situation from the offseason like Peyton Manning in 2011 or Andrew Luck this year. Hell, we just had the news on Thursday afternoon that Luck wasn’t going to see the field in 2017, and that was bad enough. You add Watson on top of this, and it’s just about the worst season for quarterback injuries that I have ever seen.

With Watson, it just feels different because of how new and exciting he was, and how quickly he’s been taken away from this season. I actually gave a damn about watching Houston Texans games for a change. This is like getting a puppy or kitten, enjoying the hell out of them for 7 weeks, and one day they just get ran over by a car.

Watson’s not dead, and he’s already come back from one ACL injury, but it’s just not fair. He’ll never be able to finish what could have easily been the most historic, record-breaking rookie QB season in NFL history. I can only hope he returns 100% and makes Houston a contender immediately next season. I just hate that we have to wait until September 2018 to give a damn about Houston again.

But getting back to the torrents. With Week 9 in particular, the Steelers and Patriots are on a bye week. The Colts may as well be on a bye every week this year. I stopped collecting Denver games after Manning retired, and wouldn’t want to waste my hard drive with that offense (now featuring Brock Osweiler). Green Bay is on Monday night, but Rodgers won’t be playing. There’s really no special interest for me this week, and that kind of sucks.

I said recently that this has been the most depressing season, and the events of the last few days have only gone on to deepen that for me.

I’m still watching, writing, researching, and tweeting, because it’s my job after all. But to say I’m having a lot of fun this season would be a lie.

2017 Week 9 Predictions

Can I just say I hate Tampa Bay? I was one game short of my first perfect week of picks ever, and the Buccaneers just had to ruin it with a dud at home against Carolina. Granted, the Bucs were the only favorite to not win last week, but can’t we have one week where the team everyone expected to win actually won? That’d be fine, but apparently that never happens. It wouldn’t have been an impressive 13-0 perfect week, but it still would have been a perfect record. Thanks for nothing, Bucs. And I’m almost willing to pick them to win this week even though it would make no sense with the way the Saints have played in a five-game winning streak. But nothing is supposed to make sense with the Jameis Winston-era Bucs, apparently.

The quest for perfection ended immediately this week. I had Buffalo and we know the Jets owned that second half on Thursday, even if I was out cold for most of it.

Winners in bold.

  • Buccaneers at Saints
  • Ravens at Titans
  • Colts at Texans
  • Rams at Giants
  • Broncos at Eagles
  • Falcons at Panthers
  • Bengals at Jaguars
  • Redskins at Seahawks
  • Cardinals at 49ers
  • Chiefs at Cowboys
  • Raiders at Dolphins
  • Lions at Packers

I am amused with the SNF game between Oakland and Miami after I called them two of the worst 12-4/10-6 teams ever last season. Both are struggling this year, with Miami being the worst 4-3 team ever (outscored by 60 points). Incredibly, the Raiders don’t have an interception on defense in eight games. That’s never been done before. I’m going to say they get at least one and win this game. While Derek Carr is overrated, he’s still better than post-retirement Jay Cutler. This would have been a good game to keep Jay Ajayi around for, but the trade deadline is what it is.

  • 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
  • Season: 71-48

 

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

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