2016 NFL Conference Championship Predictions

An offensive-driven team is going to win the Super Bowl this year, but the defense that plays the best over the next two games is still going to be the one holding the trophy. I would expect a game-changing turnover to highlight this weekend.

Green Bay at Atlanta

Both games are rematches, but I think this one is more likely to resemble the first matchup, a 33-32 shootout won by the Falcons in Week 8. I think both offenses and quarterbacks are going to be very good, but I do have some concerns with the health of Green Bay’s receivers; Jordy Nelson in particular. I also think in a game with two bad defenses, Atlanta should be able to run the ball better with the duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman compared to Green Bay with Ty Montgomery. This isn’t going to be a game where one defense surprises everyone with a dominant performance. Both offenses are going to move the ball and score frequently. It’s just a matter of situational stops, like on third down, forcing a field goal attempt or coming up with an unexpected fumble recovery. If the Packers get the hot start they so need like in Dallas last week, Matt Ryan can’t afford to press and throw a terrible pick like he did to Tramon Williams before halftime in his last playoff meeting with the Packers. But that was a long time ago, and Ryan is playing the best ball of his career. He’s been the MVP this season. Aaron Rodgers has been on an incredible hot streak, but this is the time of year where I start looking at how teams have done against good teams. With Green Bay, you’re talking about a team that’s 9-18 on the road against teams with a winning record since 2011. There was a 2-15 stretch going there before these last two wins in Detroit (31-24 in Week 17) and Dallas last week (34-31). Last week was the first time Rodgers won a game in his career as an underdog when Green Bay allowed more than 26 points. He was 0-17 before that. The Falcons are favored at home and have scored at least 24 in every single home game this year. Similar research also led me to this crazy stat.

Packers are 0-35 with Aaron Rodgers at QB when trailing by more than one point in the fourth quarter against a team with a winning record.

ar035

We knew Rodgers had the 10-34 record at 4QC opportunities, but I was reminded this week that only two of the 10 wins came against teams with a winning record (2014 Cowboys in Dez Caught It game, 2015 Seahawks), and both of those were 1-point deficits erased early in the quarter. Throw out a 2008 Minnesota game where he only trailed by 1 late (28-27 loss after long FG missed by Mason Crosby) and a 2008 loss in OT to the Bears in which he only had the ball in a tied game, and that’s how you end up with 0-35. Matt Flynn led GB’s only win in this situation against the Lions in 2011 (his 6 TD game).

It’s very important for Atlanta to start hot. You might recall Ryan had the Falcons up 17-0 in his last NFC Championship Game (2012 against the 49ers), but that lead was blown and the Falcons came up 10 yards short of the Super Bowl, or maybe Harry Douglas keeping his feet away from the big game. This time is the last game in the Georgia Dome. I think the crowd will understand the magnitude of this one and help the home team to victory in another high-scoring game.

Final: Packers 28, Falcons 34

Pittsburgh at New England

I already cranked out over 4200 words on this one at FO, so please read that. I rarely read my own articles, but I read this one on Friday evening and thought it came together very well. If you know me well, you know that I am sometimes not truthful in my game predictions in big games involving the Patriots. I always pick them anyway, but it’s hard to tell when I honestly believe them to win or I’m just conjuring up a reverse jinx. I think the first paragraph in my outlook for this game subtly hints at my real feelings about this one on Sunday night. But as I wrote back in Week 7, Tomlin vs. Belichick is like checkers vs. chess. If Tomlin wants to win this game as an underdog, he’s going to have to make some ballsy calls, whether it’s a fourth-down attempt at midfield or a two-point conversion try to win the game. And when Antonio Brown drops the game-winning 2PC in the final 20 seconds, maybe I start looking for work in a different field on Monday. But I think Brown will play well, Bell will play well, and Roethlisberger usually plays well against the Patriots, but not good enough to overcome the defense. Still, the loss of Gronk should be felt in this one, and I still believe the Patriots defense is vastly overrated and can be exposed by a top quarterback. We just need to see top QB play from Pittsburgh again, and it’s rarely been there even during this winning streak.

Go figure, I like the home teams, both of which I picked to get to the Super Bowl a few weeks ago.

Final: Steelers 21, Patriots 28

Season recap

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Week 13: 10-5
  • Week 14: 9-7
  • Week 15: 12-4
  • Week 16: 9-7
  • Week 17: 11-5
  • Wild Card: 4-0
  • Divisional: 3-1
  • Season: 166-98
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2016 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

I always say the divisional round is my favorite weekend of the NFL year. My past reasoning was that we get four playoff games matching the (typically) best teams of the season against four teams coming off a playoff win. However, it is a round where home-field advantage is the strongest, with the home team winning over 71 percent of the time compared to 63 percent in the Wild Card and 66 percent in the Conference Championship Game.

This week I figured out the real reason I think I love this weekend: the despair. While 2017 has gotten off to a pretty incredible start for me personally, I am a pessimistic person. So the cynic in me just loves to focus on the games where the home team choked in the divisional round. The dream seasons that died in an instant. While the other rounds have so many notable classic playoff moments, the divisional round is probably best known for epic home chokejobs. Think of Red-Right 88, 1996 Jaguars-Broncos, 2005 Steelers-Colts, 2007 Giants-Cowboys, 2010 Jets shocking New England, Rahim Moore on Jacoby Jones, etc. You remember the moments when the home team did not come through.

You can pretty much count on one home team to lose this weekend, but I think we have three fantastic games that could go either way, and one piece of shit to endure.

Seattle at Atlanta

Maybe he’s not dominating the headlines just because he is Matt Ryan, but I don’t think any other player is under more pressure to perform well this week. Ryan’s 1-4 in the playoffs, and the lone win was a home game against the Seahawks in 2012. That came on a late game-winning drive after Atlanta blew a 27-7 4Q lead. The Seahawks are tough, and #AllRussellWilsonGamesEndUpCloseEventually. Of course, you don’t know which Seattle team will show up anymore, and the offense has really struggled on the road. I still think Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin, combined with Wilson’s scrambling and playmaking are enough to give this Atlanta D some fits. I also think C.J. Prosise could be a big boost if he makes his return from injury, because receiving backs have been very productive against the Falcons’ young defense this season. But this game is really about Ryan continuing his MVP season — at least 7.91 YPA in every game — against a defense that dearly misses Earl Thomas. It’s also a scheme that Dan Quinn knows well, and it’s a defense that Ryan has had some of the best success against over the last six years.

I really wanted a rematch of this one after the Week 6 game ended, a game where I think DPI was clearly missed on Seattle that could have led to a Matt Bryant game-winning field goal. The fact that Atlanta hit big plays and got Julio Jones heavily involved in Seattle with Earl Thomas active is a good sign that the Falcons can have success again on offense. They’ll have to I think, because I see Wilson putting up at least 24 on this D in what could be the highest-scoring game this weekend. The Seahawks will be thankful for the start time not being 10:00 A.M. PST, but I think Atlanta gets off to a good start and puts the pressure on Seattle to play from behind, which can help Vic Beasley and the pass rush get through Seattle’s known weakness: the OL.

Final: Seahawks 24, Falcons 30

Houston at New England

Usually when you watch a playoff game, you can at least think of a feasible way for the underdog to win. In this one, I can’t think of any way Houston wins this game that wouldn’t involve a total fluke or some massive chokejob by the Patriots. Bill Belichick is not going to have his team put up a no-show performance either. This isn’t so much about New England’s greatness, because I don’t think this team is better than the 2014 and 2015 versions, especially without Rob Gronkowski available, but this is about how bad Houston is.

9-7? DOESN’T MATTER, BRIAN. YOU PLAYED IN THE AFC SOUTH

PLAYOFF WIN? DOESN’T MATTER BRIAN, YOU GOT THE OVERRATED RAIDERS WITH CONNOR COOK PISSING HIS PANTS

But you can see how this would satisfy the requirements to be the biggest NFL upset since the 1970 merger if Houston did win.

HOW DO YOU LOSE TO A TEAM THAT JACOBY BRISSETT BEAT 27-0 IN HIS FIRST START?

Oh, it would be hilarious to see Brock Osweiler move to 2-0 against Tom Brady, knocking him out at home before he turns 40 in what looks like a cakewalk Super Bowl year for this team. But how the hell does it happen? Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus would have to completely dominate this game and get multiple turnovers from Brady much the way the Ravens did in the 2009 AFC Wild Card game. I doubt that happens. I also don’t see how Houston scores more than 14 points, and that might be kind. They were already shutout in this building once this year.

I expect the Patriots to lead by 17+ points at some point in this game, but I’m not sure they cover. Garbage-time scores count too, folks.

Final: Texans 16, Patriots 31

Green Bay at Dallas

Reminder: the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team, has not been to the NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season.

I don’t think that changes this year either. I’ve been picking nothing but home teams this postseason, but this is where I go with the road team. Out of all the matchups, this is the one where I worry most about momentum vs. rust. Some might view it as early mediocrity vs. rest, and Dallas already beat GB convincingly on the road this season. But the Packers have been in playoff mode since starting 4-6, and Aaron Rodgers is back to playing high-caliber football that few QBs could ever match. The Cowboys haven’t tried to win a game since the day after Christmas, and this is the first playoff start for rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. I don’t think the situation will be too big for them, but you never know how a player will respond to that pressure. Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t fare too well a week ago in a matchup he should have been able to dominate against Green Bay’s battered secondary.

The loss of Jordy Nelson is significant, but you should know I don’t put too much credit on star wideouts. The Cowboys were able to score 30 in Green Bay without Dez Bryant, and I would have said Bryant was more valuable to Dallas than Nelson was to GB due to the presence of Randall Cobb (great last week) and Davante Adams (Cowboys fans remember him well from two years ago). This is also a good matchup for Jared Cook, and someone like Geronimo Allison can be the Jeff Janis this year for the PAckers and step up in Nelson’s absence. The Packers still have weapons, and they still have an OL that can allow Rodgers to move around forever before finding an open receiver. The Cowboys are healthy on D, but simply have not been a SB-caliber unit at any time this season. They give up too many completions and don’t get enough pressure or takeaways. I was surprised at just how many bad plays Rodgers made in Week 6 in watching the game again Friday afternoon, but he has been playing much better since that point. I also noticed some DB’s falling for Green Bay on Dallas completions. It was a sloppy game.

I think the game will be lower scoring than expected, and I do see some struggles coming for Prescott in his playoff debut. Leaning on Elliott will be crucial, and I’m sure Bryant would love some revenge for the catch call two years ago, but I like Green Bay here.

Final: Packers 27, Cowboys 21

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

I wrote about 4300 words on this game at FO, so please check that out. Basically, if the Le’Veon Bell has a big game and Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t turn the ball over, Pittsburgh should be in good shape to win. However, I just think the Chiefs are going to get those takeaways to win a close one, and that Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are way more involved with the offense than they were in that Week 4 disaster at Pittsburgh. The change of venue will matter, and I think moving the start time to night because of weather will rile up the crowd even more under the lights, putting more pressure on Pittsburgh to communicate effectively in the no-huddle offense. This should be a great game.

Final: Steelers 17, Chiefs 20

Season recap

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Week 13: 10-5
  • Week 14: 9-7
  • Week 15: 12-4
  • Week 16: 9-7
  • Week 17: 11-5
  • Wild Card: 4-0
  • Season: 163-97

2016 NFL Wild Card Predictions

It’s playoff time, so let’s start crushing bad narratives and picking winners.

Oakland at Houston

Okay, so maybe the playoffs don’t actually start until Saturday evening. We have to spend three hours watching one of these teams line up to be slaughtered in New England next week. Seriously, this is not the caliber of playoff game we have come to expect, and it’s certainly the worst on paper that I can ever recall. Of course, injuries to three different quarterbacks in the last two weeks is how we’ve gotten to Connor Cook (first start!) against Brock Osweiler. I’d like to think we’ll see a lot of DeAndre Hopkins and Amari Cooper bailing out bad throws, but I frankly doubt either quarterback hits 250 passing yards. This needs to be a Lamar Miller game if you’re Houston, and a Khalil Mack game if you’re Oakland. Mack sacked Osweiler five times in Denver last year and had a big strip-sack in the end zone. He needs to create a splash play like that again to get some points for his team in what should be a low-scoring game. Frankly, I thought Houston should have won the matchup in Mexico City, but Bill O’Brien coached a horrible game and the referees didn’t help either. So I already think Houston, one of the worst playoff teams since 1989, had a decent shot in this matchup to begin with, but should be able to get the home win by relying on its defense against a complete unknown in Cook. Oakland’s offensive line and running backs are certainly good enough to carry Cook to a 13-10 win should that be the case, but I just feel like Oakland’s defense is not reliable enough to keep the score that low. Osweiler might also be surprisingly not horrific, and hell, he can’t be any worse than what Brian Hoyer did in this spot a year ago, right? Fuck, why are we always starting the playoffs with the Texans?

This is all Indianapolis’ fault.

Final: Raiders 13, Texans 20

Detroit at Seattle

Most of us have been trained to expect the Lions to lose this game. They already have the longest playoff losing streak in NFL history, and Seattle has clearly been one of the premiere teams in recent seasons, especially at home. However, I give Matthew Stafford a fighting chance after seeing him have a few successful moments against the Legion of Boom, which is just not the same without Earl Thomas. What do I tend to say beats Seattle? Short, quick throws combined with a willingness to make the big play down the field. That about sums up Stafford to a tee in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. Yeah, he’s gone to a more dink-and-dunk attack, and Calvin Johnson is no longer there for the spectacular catch, but Stafford has done well to get more receivers involved and he’ll still make the occasional side-arm throw or risk that most passers won’t take. So he’s the right quarterback against Seattle without Thomas, and Eric Ebron needs to really step up since you figure Golden Tate will against his former team, and Anquan Boldin usually seizes these opportunities well. The white running back may not make much traction, but the Seahawks will respect him, including Michael Bennett.

Meanwhile, it’s really a matter of the Seahawks being able to flip the switch or not. The DVOA dynasty is dead. Seattle finished 9th in DVOA after leading the league four years in a row. Russell Wilson’s early injuries hampered his play, but the offense has still continued to sputter on the ground all year, and the recent loss of Tyler Lockett hurts. The defense has gone without Michael Bennett at times, and now Thomas is done. It’s just not going to be the same team when the superstars are not healthy. That’s just a fact of the game. So while I think Seattle should win at home, an upset wouldn’t shock me one bit. The competitive streak died at 98 games this year. The Packers completely blew this team out already. And yeah, Detroit likes to hang around in the fourth quarter, though the eight comeback wins are a little misleading. Seven of Detroit’s comebacks have been from a 1-4 point deficit, and only one was a 7-point deficit (Rams). If Seattle can get up double digits, it’s likely over, but can you really count on this offense to do that right now? Sure, the Detroit pass defense just allowed the worst completion percentage in NFL history, but you can always get Wilson to go off script and hold onto the ball, opening up the potential for sacks to stall drives. I see a pretty competitive game here, and I know the illegal bat penalty that was missed a year ago is going to be on some Lions’ minds, but I’m still going Seattle.

Final: Lions 16, Seahawks 24

Miami at Pittsburgh

I already put 3700 words down on this game for my FO preview, so please check that out. Basically, I think Pittsburgh has too many weapons for Miami to shut the offense down (unless they injure Roethlisberger again). It does sound like Ladarius Green might not play again, but the point still stands that the Steelers are at home and they’re finally healthy, so the pressure is on them to perform. As for Miami, I wouldn’t count out Matt Moore playing well, but I think Adam Gase needs to show trust in him. If the Dolphins come out trying to establish Ajayi early and often, then I think that plays into the strength of the Pittsburgh defense, and if the offense is doing its part, then the Dolphins could see things snowball quickly on the scoreboard. They have to start well and stay balanced. Pittsburgh just needs to protect the ball better and should get this win, but I sure as hell wouldn’t bet them with the 10-point spread. After all, this is a Mike Tomlin team in a game it’s expected to win comfortably. No thanks.

Final: Dolphins 17, Steelers 24

New York Giants at Green Bay

This is the most interesting game of the weekend. One that can go many different ways, and I honestly believe this could be the most pivotal game of the 2016 postseason. The winner here just might go all the way. Lambeau Field lost its postseason mystique years ago, and the Giants are a big reason for that. You know damn well Eli Manning won’t be bothered by the situation, but we have no idea how someone like Odell Beckham Jr. will handle his first playoff game. Does he go off like a Steve Smith or turtle up like a Marvin Harrison? The matchup is certainly good with Green Bay’s damaged secondary, but all year we have wondered why the Giants aren’t scoring more despite the talent on offense. This team brings the best defense to the playoffs, and the Giants’ DVOA variance is the smallest of any team since 1989. It’s basically always a close, low-scoring game where the defense has to hold on at the end. The Giants are 11-2 in close games this year. If you’re just a football fan, you’d love nothing more than to see Aaron Rodgers with the ball late in a 4-6 point game against this defense. But the Giants have to get to that lead first, and it’s certainly doable with the standouts in the secondary (Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie). These guys can cover Green Bay’s receivers, and they already forced Rodgers into one of his worst games of the season, at home nonetheless. Of course, Rodgers can still buy time and no matter how good your secondary is, receivers will get open. This pass rush is not on the 2007 or 2011 Giants level when they had guys like Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. This is more of a coverage defense, so Eli better bring some points to the table.

My line on Eli has been that he’s only able to make the playoffs when his team is good, and only able to win there when his team is playing great. The Giants are 0-3 in the playoffs when they haven’t gone on their two miracle SB runs. This is also Ben McAdoo rather than Tom Coughlin putting the team in position to go on a run, and I think that’s a negative. Not that Mike McCarthy is great, but you have to give a coaching edge to Green Bay here for experience. But hopefully this is a good game that comes down to the final possession. I really have wanted to pick the Giants, but I just don’t see the points coming in this one.

Final: Giants 16, Packers 20

Full Playoff Predictions

I figured I’ll go through my whole playoff predictions before things get started.

Wild Card:

  • Raiders at Texans
  • Lions at Seahawks
  • Dolphins at Steelers
  • Giants at Packers

Divisional:

  • Texans at Patriots
  • Steelers at Chiefs
  • Seahawks at Falcons
  • Packers at Cowboys

Conference Championship:

  • Chiefs at Patriots
  • Packers at Falcons

Super Bowl 51:

Patriots vs. Falcons

Super Bowl MVP: Matt Ryan

I regret picking almost all home teams, but this is an unusually crappy playoff field this year, and no regrets on this final pick. I think Matt Ryan is having his 2006 Peyton Manning season.

Do I think the Steelers can win in KC and NE? Absolutely, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it. Just like how I think the Giants could rip through all of these top offenses to get back to another SB, but that’s just not going to be my pick. My preseason pick was Seahawks over Patriots, and while it wouldn’t shock me if we ended up there again, I don’t have enough trust in this incarnation of the Seahawks. Finally, after such a shaky regular season, I hope we do see a great postseason filled with exciting finishes and upsets. If so many of these teams are unusually flawed, then it’s safe to say the top teams are flawed too. No one is that much of a juggernaut that they can’t go down in any given week.

Season recap

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Week 13: 10-5
  • Week 14: 9-7
  • Week 15: 12-4
  • Week 16: 9-7
  • Week 17: 11-5
  • Season: 159-97

NFL Week 16 Predictions: Christmas Edition

For family reasons, I’m not too much into the Christmas spirit this year, so I welcome a weekend of important NFL action as a distraction.

San Diego at Cleveland

No one wants to lose to an 0-14 team on Christmas Eve, but I’d put an upset alert on San Diego here. Traveling across the country for an early game against a team trying to finally win a game at home in its last opportunity this season. We’ve seen Philip Rivers and the Chargers lose an ugly 7-6 game in Cleveland in 2012. A pick parade is never out of the question, and it’s a tough game to not have Melvin Gordon for, because he would have had a huge fantasy day most likely. I’m still going to pick San Diego, but this game is a little more interesting to me than the last few Cleveland massacres. I’m saying there’s a chance…

It’s not like Jets at New England where the Jets really have no chance.

Atlanta at Carolina

I think the “Ron Rivera and Cam Newton know how to finish strong in December” thing is overblown, and it begs the question why their Sept-Nov. seasons are usually poor. But this is going to be a tough game for Atlanta, which lost 38-0 in Carolina a season ago. In Week 4, Matt Ryan kind of put a stamp on the 2016 Panthers in showing it was going to be a long year with a 500-yard passing game, including 300 yards for Julio Jones, who should be back from injury this week. The Falcons have the No. 1 offense, Luke Kuechly is still out with a concussion, but I think you’ll see the Falcons struggle on the road here. Hopefully one so-so or even bad game from Ryan doesn’t detract away from the outstanding MVP season he’s had to this point, but you know how moronic voters can be with this stuff. The Panthers are the last real challenge from Ryan finishing strong and leading the Falcons to a division title. This is my top game for the 1 p.m. slot. MIN/GB isn’t bad, but not really that interested in seeing those teams again.

Indianapolis at Oakland

I’m probably going to jinx them, but you know what hasn’t been happening this year? The Colts haven’t been getting blown out early and losing games by huge margins like they usually do several times a season under Chuck Pagano. In fact, the Colts have won four road games in a row, two blowouts, and scored 31+ points each time. They’ve even won in Green Bay and Minnesota in impressive fashion. So can Andrew Luck outduel Derek Carr in Oakland? I don’t see why not. You could argue that Luck has been better overall than Carr this season, but the Colts have still lost to the Jaguars and swept by the Texans to be at 7-7 instead of in first place. Meanwhile, just about every fourth-down decision (and penalty call) has gone Oakland’s way late in games this year, and the Raiders are the only team in 2016 not to have blown a fourth-quarter lead. From Twitter, I’m a bit scared that multiple people have thought that an 11-3 team hasn’t had many fourth-quarter leads to blow, but common sense should tell you they have. They just make the necessary plays to end games, and have seven 4QC wins now (one shy of Detroit’s new record). This should be a fun, high-scoring game, but I’ll take Oakland just because of Khalil Mack’s potential to wreck damage against the offensive line whereas Carr should have better protection. But an Indy win would come as no surprise, obviously.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

The AFC North is basically going to be decided on Christmas afternoon in Pittsburgh, making this low-key one of the biggest games of Mike Tomlin’s career. Because if the Steelers lose this one at home to drop a fifth straight game to Baltimore, then the playoffs are likely not happening. And this is a season where just about anything could happen in the playoffs due to the down year in competition. So I’m a little surprised that the Steelers are a 6-point favorite. Baltimore usually plays them tough, and it’s going to come down to if the offensive line for Pittsburgh can play at a high level. The Ravens tend to contain Le’Veon Bell, and do a good job on Antonio Brown. They also seem to get a deflected pick from Ben Roethlisberger every contest now, and Terrell Suggs has a long history of sacking him in this rivalry. On the other side, the Pittsburgh defense has not allowed more than 20 points during this five-game winning streak, but check the offensive competition: Browns, Colts (no Andrew Luck), Giants, Bills and Bengals (no A.J. Green). Not exactly a bunch of juggernauts, or even average offenses there. Of course, you could say Baltimore fits right into that this year, but I wouldn’t discount Joe Flacco from playing well in this one. I’m going to pick the Steelers, obviously, but I don’t feel confident about it. If they look flat early, look for Baltimore to win and go on to take the division.

2016 Week 16 Predictions

I even knew I should have picked the Eagles on TNF, but still trusted the Giants defense. Well, the Giants did allow fewer points (17) than the Eagles (19), but that early pick-six was a killer, as was the final interception of the night for Eli Manning.

Winners in bold:

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

Looks like another big week for the home teams, or a very wrong week for me coming up.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Week 13: 10-5
  • Week 14: 9-7
  • Week 15: 12-4
  • Season: 139-85

NFL Week 13 Predictions: Life Without Gronk Edition

There was a point earlier this season where the Patriots looked capable, if not likely, of running the table to finish 18-1 (the good kind of 18-1, not the embarrassing type). But seasons change quickly, and a big pop by Earl Thomas on Rob Gronkowski in Week 10 has seemingly turned this season in a much different, much more open direction. Gronk is now on injured reserve after undergoing back surgery, and Seattle showed that the Patriots are beatable in that game. In fact, I expect the Patriots to lose a couple of more times this season now. The health of Gronk has often been a huge determining factor in just how successful their seasons are. Last year, I thought Gronk leaving the Denver game with an injury (and the Patriots subsequently falling in overtime) was a huge turning point for the 2015 season. New England also lost its next game (Week 13 against the Eagles), and Denver was eventually able to secure the No. 1 seed and keep that AFC Championship Game in Denver.

This year, there are still good reasons to keep the Patriots as the favorites in the AFC, but now not likely the Super Bowl with no possibility of a Gronk return. For one, Martellus Bennett is a very capable backup, and would be the TE1 on more than half of the teams in the NFL. The other big part is that the AFC lacks contenders. This injury news is great for Oakland and Pittsburgh, two teams who would really have to outscore the Pats in January. That gets a little easier if Gronk isn’t there. Oakland especially could get a boost here with the No. 1 seed in sight, and the fact that Khalil Mack is starting to play at an All-Pro level again. Pittsburgh lacks that type of dominant pass rusher, but at least the defense wouldn’t get killed by Gronk again. Meanwhile, Denver and Kansas City were always going to try beating the Pats by holding Brady to 21 or fewer points. That gets easier with Gronk gone, but they’ll still have to find a way to manufacture points in Foxboro. Or maybe not. While the Patriots get a third weak opponent in a row (Rams) this week, those road games in Denver (Week 15) and Miami (Week 17), two places Brady-Belichick have had their share of struggles, look more daunting now, making a 12-4 finish probable. That may only be good enough for the No. 2 seed this year.

Gronk probably should go down as the best TE ever, but his back was an issue in the draft, and his physical style does take its toll on his body each season. We may have already seen him at the best he’s ever going to be, and the Patriots can only wish they would have gotten to see more of him over the years.

Giants at Steelers

This is the highlight game of Week 13, and I’m not just saying that because it involves the Steelers and I usually cover their games here. This is a nice matchup on paper between one of the best offenses (PIT) and one of the best defenses (NYG). However, much like how I felt about DAL-PIT a few weeks back, I don’t think the Giants have been tested by anything like they’ll see from Pittsburgh here. When you have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell on the field together, especially at home, it’s usually dynamic stuff. The Giants haven’t seen an offense to this level since maybe the Saints in Week 2, and we know New Orleans isn’t the same on the road. So I expect to see the Steelers play up to the competition here and put on a good offensive performance. The key matchup is really on the other side. Eli Manning has not had a great season, but he hasn’t been bad either. Odell Beckham Jr. seems poised for a monster day against this secondary, so that could help this one reach a shootout level or at least a very competitive game into the fourth quarter, which has been the case in all three career meetings between Ben and Eli (a 4QC in each with Ben getting two). The Giants have been squeaking by opponents all season. Records be damned, I think Pittsburgh is a more dangerous team and will get the home win.

Final: Giants 22, Steelers 28

2016 Week 13 Predictions

I had the Cowboys on TNF, and that was a little close for comfort, but an 11th straight win nonetheless.

Winners in bold: 

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

Might be warming up down the stretch (Finally). And something is totally fvcked if Lions-Saints isn’t a very high-scoring game.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Season: 108-69

NFL Week 11 Predictions: Well, It’s Football Edition

How great was Week 10 in the NFL? I’m not just playing it up either because of the shit week that preceded it. The best games (DAL-PIT, SEA-NE) were the best games — only games with seven lead changes this season — and we had a season-high 10 games decided with a fourth-quarter score. I doubt the next seven weeks will be able to top that one.

I feel very certain that the Week 11 slate is going to pale in comparison. In fact, this might be the weakest week yet this season, with not much standing out other than the DVOA Title Match between the Eagles and Seahawks. Of course, I expect Seattle to prevail at home in that one by forcing Carson Wentz into mistakes, but that could be a tight, low-scoring affair for sure.

I think the turnaround of Tennessee’s offense has been very unexpected, and good for the league, but I also think the Colts will play better off their bye week and find a way to win yet another one against the Titans. Andrew Luck has yet to lose to that team.

Baltimore at Dallas is interesting only in the sense that how will Dak and Zeke perform against a pretty solid defense? Otherwise, it just seems like the Ravens won’t be able to score enough on the road to really make that a great game.

Buffalo at Cincinnati almost feels like a no-brainer game I’ll have to cover in Clutch Encounters on Tuesday, as a game between two evenly-matched teams this year. Might be a sneaky good fantasy game as well with the way Buffalo has been defending big plays/No. 1 WRs right now.

Vikings-Cardinals was one of my absolute favorite games to watch and write about in 2015. This year, the teams are just not as good, and I expect some pretty subpar QB play in that one.

The Rams are finally going to start Jared Goff, which should have been the case since Week 1. Not sure how two months of sitting will have made a difference, but Goff will make his debut in the 10th game of his career. I don’t expect much at all from him this week, but at least it’s something fresh to watch, even if it does reek of that Jeff Fisher 7-9 bullshit.

Packers-Redskins: I’m frankly just tired of watching Green Bay this season. Think I’ve seen them play live seven times this year, and it’s just not the same well-oiled machine we used to see on offense, and the defense has been poor with too many corners and Clay Matthews out. I think the Redskins have been getting quietly better on defense and balancing the offense with the run game, and should be able to get this one at home. Of course, for as long as I’ve been watching the NFL (post-Joe Gibbs 1.0), trusting Washington to come through in a fairly big moment (home SNF game) is asking for trouble.

And I’m definitely not all that interested to see Brock Osweiler try to play QB again on Monday night. The Texans sure have gotten a tough draw on the road schedule (NE, MIN, DEN), but at least this one is more like a neutral field in Mexico City.

I left out the Steelers-Browns until now, because you figured I would talk about that one in more detail. Yes, I absolutely think the 0-10 Browns can win this game. It would be a defining moment for the “Mike Tomlin’s team plays down to the competition” story. After all, this team struggled like hell with a 2011 Colts team that started the season 0-13. They went down 10-0 and had to win in OT against a 2012 Chiefs team that was 1-7 at the time. Tomlin has another loss to a 2-14 team in the 2014 Buccaneers at home. This would not be that shocking at all, especially if the weather gets nasty. The Steelers were not able to run the ball at all in two games against Cleveland last year. Hue Jackson knows this team very well from his experience in the division. Cody Kessler has not been great, but at least he has protected the ball, and should respond to his weird benching in the previous game. Isaiah Crowell has gone MIA in recent weeks after a good start, but that was more about game script and the opponents faced. Pittsburgh is a bad defense, and it just lost arguably its best player (Cam Heyward) for the season, which should make the run D even worse. While everyone has been able to beat the Browns, they were at least competitive in five games with 5 failed 4QC attempts. Pittsburgh isn’t anywhere near good enough to walk into this game lightly and expect a win. Ben Roethlisberger will have to play very well, and he usually does in Cleveland, but like I said, you have the potential for a one-dimensional offense here. Matchup wise, he should have a field day with Antonio Brown (Steelers are thin at WR otherwise), but if the passing game is hampered at all, then Cleveland will have a good shot in this one at home.

Pittsburgh’s season really hangs in the balance this week. A loss at Cleveland would be devastating, but there’s also a game in Indy on Thursday night. For a team that was largely considered the non-NE favorite to reach the Super Bowl, this has to be the week to get on track, or it’s over.

2016 Week 11 Predictions

I went with the Panthers on TNF, and they barely hung on in 2015 style for the win. Still a very disappointing season from that team.

Winners in bold:

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

Bloody hell, I was even going to pick the Rams, but figured this was already too many home teams for the week. Upsets to the rescue I guess.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Season: 84-63

NFL Week 10 Predictions: Make the NFL Great Again Edition

“It’s the heart of nuclear winter and I’m scared as hell.” – Glassjaw

Before we get into the preview, I’d like to get personal in what has been a trying week. Some events are too important to just remain silent. So skip down if you must, or if you need a sports-only rant, I ripped Tom Brady’s top games pretty good here.

This week, I’ve had the livelihood of my career threatened due to some behind-the-scenes issues with the rights of NFL data that you guys don’t need to know the details of (we’re working through it). I’ve felt a lack of safety in my own home this week after the threat of a gas leak that has thankfully been fixed on my street. On Friday, my community faced the threat of a crazy man who stabbed six people in a nearby mental facility (SWAT team took him down). That actually used to be a hospital years ago, and I remember going there one time as a kid after a late-night accident that required stitches and has left a little scar on my chin.

Yet I don’t think anything that happened this week is a bigger threat to scar this nation than the absurd election of Donald Trump as president. What more can be said about this scumbag that hasn’t already been said? Well, apparently we needed more, since we just elected him despite his long history of hatred, racism, misogyny, allegations of sexual assault (including child rape), that he has a total lack of experience, thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax, wants to build a wall (that Mexico won’t pay for), and the fact that he only cares about himself. “Make America Great Again” is nothing more than code for “I want wealthy white men to rule this country, and believe me, they will all know that I am the greatest supreme ruler, daddy-o.”

Charlie Chaplin made one of his finest films, The Great Dictator, back in 1940 as a satire on Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. His speech at the end of that film is one of the finest ever written, and it still resonates as much today as it did during World War II. Please take a few minutes of your time to watch this if you have never had the pleasure before.

People uniting to help each other — what a novel concept. That’s why I never cared about the Republican vs. Democrat aspect of this election. It never should have been about that as long as Trump was involved.

This was supposed to be an election for the lesser of two evils, but evil won.

What does it say when the KKK is so openly happy about Trump’s win? It’s one thing for a hillbilly in a white coat to be brazen in their racism, but Trump has empowered hatred throughout this country. Now as a straight white male, I’m not a target of the Trump movement, but what about the black community that I live in? What about my best friend who is half-black, half-Spanish, or my Jewish boss, or my Mexican relatives? How much more bullshit will they have to put up with now? You’ve already seen the stories from state after state this week of what Trump supporters are doing to innocent people. I’ve never seen the phrase “Go Back to Africa!” as much as I have this week. These feelings of hatred are deeply rooted, but it’s downright scary that the election of Trump has given so many a reason to act out, and it will likely only get worse. I thought we were going to hit a racial boiling point after the police shootings in Dallas this summer, but I really do fear what’s to come. As I said, as a white male, I’m not going to be personally affected too much by a Trump presidency, though the fear of nuclear war certainly endangers us all. But from a more realistic standpoint of what Trump will be allowed to do, I have real concerns with health care. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I might not be here right now. After I lost my health insurance after college, I was denied coverage for a pre-exiting condition: hemorrhoids. Yes, a minor case of hemorrhoids over nine years ago denied me health care coverage. My doctor apologized before laughing about that, because he had never heard that one before. Now that I have had some serious health problems (a pulmonary embolism and sleep apnea this year), I worry about losing coverage again. While Obamacare has its issues — and those price hikes likely led to some Trump votes — it at least has helped people get covered.

Was this election the litmus test for drawing a line between stupidity and common sense? I already kind of figured that I generally don’t like many (most?) human beings, but I just want to thank the 60,265,858 Trump voters for helping me to put a number on it. I would love to know what percentage of that number actually voted for Trump because they support him as a person vs. how many were just voting for the Republican party. The two-party system is a joke in this day and age. It’s like a fan who roots for his team no matter what player is wearing the jersey. Sometimes, you need to read the name on the back too, and think about what kind of person you are supporting. If Trump ran as an independent without the backing of a major party, would he have ever gotten this far? Highly doubtful.

Did I vote this week? No, I’ve voted one time in my life, and that was 2004 (Kerry over Bush) when I turned 18. Hillary won my county, but perhaps she would have won Pennsylvania if people like me weren’t so apathetic towards this particular election. And I’m sorry, but if you voted for Gary Johnson, or anyone not named Clinton or Trump, then you wasted your vote. Voting for someone who you know has ZERO chance of winning is a fvcking waste of time.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Hillary was a terrible choice for the Democrats. I just thought it was painfully obvious that she’d make a better president than Trump, as would the dildo thrown on the field in Buffalo, but the votes still went the other way. I listened to a relative slam Trump over and over on Friday afternoon, and yet she still voted for him. Figure that shit out. She voted for Obama in 2012 too, and usually votes Democrat. We underestimated the amount of people who took a “they both suck, but I don’t want another Obama in there for four years” vote. And while change can certainly be a good thing, just remember that you are voting for a Giant Douche.

I look for a good week of NFL action (read: not Browns-Ravens) to take my mind off of the problems ahead, but as long as Trump is going to be president, there will be constant reminders of just how divided we are as a nation. And you can’t even really root for Trump to fail miserably, because a failed POTUS is bad for all of us. It might be funny to joke that he’s a puppet for Putin, but that is actually a terrifying thought. So thanks to Trump, we can’t even get schadenfreude out of this. I don’t think Trump will make it to 2020, one way or another, but I just hope the rest of us do.

Sometimes I like to end on a quote, so here’s that ending to the Chaplin speech from The Great Dictator.

“You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power.

Let us all unite.

Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill their promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people!

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!

Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

We can still learn more from The Tramp than we ever will with Trump.

NFL Week 10

We are now just past the halfway point of the 2016 NFL season. Week 10 has some really interesting games, but I already wrote a full preview of Seahawks-Patriots at FO, so be sure to check that out.

Broncos at Saints

At what point does a unit sustain too many injuries to be considered a different unit from the team’s norm? I’m not saying the absence of Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe makes it impossible for the Broncos to play well in New Orleans, but it certainly makes things a little easier on Drew Brees and the offense. This is not the usual Denver defense at its best. If the Saints were without Drew Brees, we wouldn’t consider that the usual Saints offense, while we probably would if Brees was playing without his LT and a starting wide receiver. That’s just the importance of the quarterback position. For a defense, no one player has that type of impact, as even the Houston defense is still functioning about as expected without J.J. Watt. Again, this is more of a philosophical point than something specific to this particular game, but I am interested to see how the Broncos fare on the road against a team capable of scoring. Trevor Siemian will have to be much sharper, and while the Saints defense has the reputation it does, it hasn’t been scorched earth like last year. I feel iffy about picking New Orleans here, especially when I can see a good rushing performance coming from Denver, but I think I like Brees at home here against that depleted Denver D. He has rarely been pressured this season, and that’s how Denver thrives with Von Miller & Co.

Falcons at Eagles

Yes, we have the Eagles still first in DVOA, even though they’re the worst team to ever be No. 1 at this point of the season. Realistically, the Eagles are about a 5-3 team trapped in a 4-4 team’s record, with some really dominant wins and a few close losses. If it’s a close game, give me Matt Ryan any day over Carson Wentz, who has yet to prove he can win a game late or win a high-scoring affair (sound familiar?). However, I think the Eagles rebound in this one at home and play very well on defense to get the win. Ryan has historically seen a big dip in his production on the road, and I think the Eagles can contain the run and Julio Jones enough to keep the score down. Also, every team but Denver has scored at least 26 points on Atlanta’s defense, which could be susceptible to all the short passes in a YAC-based passing game like the Eagles have. Maybe I’m banking on DVOA too much here, but I just think the Eagles have a good game in them this week, and that the Atlanta D is still a major hurdle for the Falcons to do damage in the playoffs.

Cowboys at Steelers

I don’t know what kind of odds I could get on that, but I’d probably drop $50 on it happening without any concern. I just think this is a bounce-back week for the Steelers at home. The Dallas defense has been kind of smoke and mirrors, not allowing more than 23 points in any game this season, but I expect a 34-27 type of game where Pittsburgh exposes them with its talented offense. Remember, Morris Claiborne and Barry Church are out, so that’s two big injuries in the secondary. Don’t forget about Sammie Coates and his weekly 40-yard reception when he was healthy. The good news from last week’s game was that Ben Roethlisberger looked fine physically by the end of it. The struggles were more about rust/lack of practice time, a bad game plan, and too much familiarity against a good Baltimore defense. The Cowboys are an unfamiliar opponent, and for whatever reason, the Steelers home/road splits are massive in recent years. You saw how they destroyed the Chiefs on SNF a few weeks ago. I don’t think they can do that again just because of how efficient the Dallas offense is, but I see a shootout here with Ben having one of those special games. Think 2009 Packers or 2013 Lions or 2006 Saints. Yes, I ended up picking all NFC home games there. Roethlisberger is 18-4 at home against NFC opponents. The Cowboys are about due for a defensive letdown, and what better offense on the schedule to do that to them than Pittsburgh?

Besides, this will just set things up perfectly for the Steelers to take this huge win into Cleveland next week and lose to the 0-10 Browns.

2016 Week 10 Predictions

I had the Ravens on TNF, and I fell asleep on the game, but apparently they did win big.

Winners in bold:

  • Chiefs at Panthers
  • Bears at Buccaneers
  • Vikings at Redskins
  • Falcons at Eagles
  • Rams at Jets
  • Texans at Jaguars
  • Packers at Titans
  • Broncos at Saints
  • Dolphins at Chargers
  • Cowboys at Steelers
  • 49ers at Cardinals
  • Seahawks at Patriots
  • Bengals at Giants

Alright, no ties last week. That’s good.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Season: 77-56