NFL Week 3 Predictions: Statement Games

I have always thought Week 2 was the hardest to predict in the NFL season, because you end up instinctively relying too much on what happened in Week 1.

The 49ers and Vikings were polar opposites from Week 1 to Week 2. Were the Titans really that good and were the Buccaneers really that bad as in Week 1? No. Are the Jets really that good on defense and are the Colts in some trouble on offense? Maybe. Week 1 isn’t worthless and it’s definitely important, but it is still just one data point.

This week I want to see which teams build off a good start and which ones turn around a poor beginning, because there are some really interesting names sitting at 0-2. History suggests some of those teams are not going to be successful this season. Only 24 of 199 teams to start 0-2 since 1990 (12.1%) have made the playoffs. At least one team from the hyped group of the Seahawks, Colts, Eagles and Ravens is probably not going to turn things around.

Some teams are in position to have a statement game where the winner could really put the loser in a huge hole. Those are the games I’m most interested in for Week 3.

Bengals (2-0) at Ravens (0-2)

Come on, Cincinnati. This is exactly the spot where people expect the Bengals to fall flat on their faces as they always do. They swept the Ravens a year ago, but Baltimore is at home for the first time in 2015 and will pretty much have to play with the intensity and importance of a playoff game at 0-2. With a trip to Pittsburgh looming on Thursday, the 2015 Ravens basically have their fate on the line early. You’re likely not coming back from an 0-3 or 0-4 start. The Bengals have looked good with Andy Dalton playing clean, efficient football and Tyler Eifert emerging as the team’s best weapon behind A.J. Green. I’m not sure why Jeremy Hill hasn’t been able to get things going yet, but the offense has been good and so has the defense. This team certainly has looked better than the Ravens, who had no offense in Week 1 and no defense in Week 2. I think the Bengals can limit Steve Smith’s damage and simply have too many weapons for the Ravens, who aren’t getting much pressure now without blitzing. While I think it will be another close game decided in the fourth quarter, I actually like the Bengals to pull this one out.

Colts (0-2) at Titans (1-1)

We always expect the Colts to clean up in division games (won 13 straight), but what happens if they lose? Chuck Pagano’s seat just gets that much hotter and I have to say this has been the worst 3-game stretch of Andrew Luck’s career going back to the 2014 AFC Championship Game. I’m not sure any other QB takes 0 sacks vs. 11 hits like he did in that Jets game, but the hits and pressures were still very effective at forcing him into turnovers. I think the Titans are improved on defense, though still not very good, but good enough to cause some trouble again for the Colts. Indy has won seven in a row against Tennessee, but this is a big one on the road. I have really no great reason for picking the Colts other than they need the win more, which is a scary thought for where this team is currently situated in the AFC. Can Marcus Mariota tear up a defense with a limited pass rush and several of its top corners out? Absolutely. I think Mariota has been pretty impressive so far through two weeks. This won’t be an easy game by any means for the Colts.

Steelers (1-1) at Rams (1-1)

Really not a statement game; I just feel like mentioning it briefly. The Rams are inconsistent as hell and the Steelers are getting Le’Veon Bell back. Both defenses seem pretty susceptible to having a blown coverage down the field, so this one could be very high scoring. So given it’s the NFL, expect a 13-9 game. I still worry about the Steelers in road games following a big week like the masterclass performance Roethlisberger put on against the 49ers last Sunday. Let’s see this offense sustain the good offensive line play, precise vertical passing and now the added element of Bell as a runner and receiver. The Rams have a talented front seven even if it doesn’t show up for long stretches. Bell didn’t exactly dominate good defenses on the ground in 2014. This game is very interesting as I can see 34-31 just as likely as 13-9. You never know what you’ll get from Nick Foles.

Broncos (2-0) at Lions (0-2)

Not sure it was a good idea to schedule the Broncos and Chiefs, Week 2’s TNF game, for road prime-time games in Week 3 too. With Denver all eyes will be on Peyton Manning, but I expect the Denver defense to play well against a struggling Detroit offense. This could have been a  high-scoring game in past years, but I just am not seeing it this year. With Manning, we’ll get another dose of seeing him deal with the Gary Kubiak offense versus doing what actually works (the shotgun and no-huddle offense with him calling the shots). My biggest fear all summer was Kubiak being the only coach too stubborn to let Manning do his thing, and we’ve seen glimpses of that so far. Plain and simple, I don’t think Manning has the foot speed anymore to run Kubiak’s offense from under center, then combined with the piss-poor OL, by the time Manning completes his drop he’s getting pressured or he’s throwing the ball away immediately without setting his feet. That’s why it’s not working out and he needs to be in shotgun. And let’s dump the bootleg pass with Manning going to his left. This isn’t 2006 anymore. If Kubiak can’t adjust to his players’ strengths, then he is just the shoddy coach I’ve always expected he was from Houston.

2015 Week 3 Predictions

My streak of non-losing weeks came to a crashing halt with a 6-10 finish in Week 2. I had the Giants on TNF, so let’s rebound here.

Winners in bold

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

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Season: 16-16 (.500)
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A Ray Lewis Super Bowl Tackle and the NFL’s Need for Offensive Line Stats

Jonathan Ogden was elected to the Hall of Fame in a rather easy choice this past weekend on his first ballot attempt. Ogden was a mammoth of a man and had all the proper accolades you would expect from a HOF left tackle.

But how much do we really know about his domination? Offensive linemen do not have stats the way skill position players or even defensive players have. Most of their value is based on Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections, which are proven to be heavily influenced by draft status. If Maurkice Pouncey was a 2nd-round pick for the Carolina Panthers, played the exact same way he has for Pittsburgh, then he would not have a single Pro Bowl in his career.

Ogden’s teammate Ray Lewis of course earned his second Super Bowl ring on Sunday, but it was hardly for his on-field play this season. Here is one of the tackles Lewis was credited with an assist on. Watch San Francisco RG Alex Boone (#75) pull to the left and miss the block entirely.

aboone

No wonder this offense struggled in the red zone. This is why some running plays gain three yards instead of seven. You would have to watch every play for every linemen to come up with statistics like stops, pancakes, sacks allowed, etc. But there are sites (Pro Football Focus) and people (KC Joyner) who have proven to be willing to do so. I currently do not have access to the premium section on PFF, but when I did, I honestly cannot recall if they had such stats for individual linemen.

We’re going to need them if people ever want to truly figure out which players are blocking well, and which keep tackling Manti Te’o’s girlfriend.

Super Bowl XLVII Predictions and Preview

For the last time (allegedly) in his life, Ray Lewis will take the field and deliver his pre-game “What time is it? (GAME TIME!)” song. For the first time in my life, I cannot wait to hear it.

Is it because I am getting sentimental over the final game for Ray?

Not at all. I just want this f*cking game to start already. I cannot stand the two weeks of hype before the Super Bowl, and this is even for a game where I do not have a strong, personal rooting interest like I have in recent years. Sure, I want San Francisco to win, but I really don’t care if they don’t. Just get this game going.

I really can’t even write anymore about it, so here is a collection of links including thousands of words and hours of solid research previewing this game.

Super Bowl XLVII Preview

49ers by the Numbers – David Akers’ history in the clutch, how Colin Kaepernick actually keeps the ball in the zone-read option, how he runs, and why he’d rather have Crabs than VD

Ravens by the Numbers – The timeline of Baltimore’s improbable run, Lewis leading the best playoff defense ever, and Flacco’s unconventional success, including third down.

Is Joe Flacco Underrated in the Clutch – Might as well present the facts before the MSM kills the story, using Sunday night’s game result to decide if Flacco is clutch or not. He’s better than you probably think.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to Super Bowl XLVII – Putting the data together to look at the matchups, and what should decide this game.

NFL Quarterbacks: Career Playoff Drive Stats (2013 Edition) – More of a general article, but a lot of focus on Flacco’s improvement this postseason, and some amazing numbers from San Francisco in the last two playoff games.

You still have about 8 hours before this thing gets going. So you can read some of this, or watch Dan Marino’s body language on CBS. If there’s a downer to tonight, it would be having to listen to Phil Simms and Jim Nantz call one more game this season.

But at least the Patriots are not involved.

Super Bowl XLVII Predictions

Coin-Toss Prediction: Heads

First Score Prediction: Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal

Colin Kaepernick’s Rushing Yards: 53 yards

Joe Flacco’s Passing Yards: 267 yards

Final Score: Ravens 23, 49ers 20

Super Bowl MVP: Joe Flacco

 

The year never ends for me, as at least three articles will be written every week this year. Will I find enough to talk about in the dog days of March, or May thru July?

Probably.