NFL Week 5 Preview: Pink, Outliers, and He’s Baaaaack!
“Guess who’s back, back again.
Guess who’s back, tell a friend.
Guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back, da-na-na!
I’ve created a monster, ’cause nobody wants to see Jimmy no more, they want Brady, he’s chopped liver. We’ll if you want Brady it’s what I’ll give ya’!”
Oh yeahhhhhhhhh. He’s back ladies and gentlemen. A quick recap of his extended unpaid leave:
- Played “catch” with Wes Welker (former pro-bowler)
- Spent time with his children and supermodel wife, Gisele
- Went on vacation where he was caught nude sun-bathing in Italy
How were your last four weeks?
To top it off, he comes back and his team is 3 and 1 and leading their division. I can’t take a week off from work without all hell breaking loose and coming back to dozens of emails. He comes back to news that his team is leading and he’s getting his best weapon back to full strength? Dude’s literally living the dream.
There is a lot more to cover, but I’m not one to bury the lead. Patriots love-fest over, for now. Two important pieces of injury news involve the Chicago Bears and the San Diego Chargers. This may be the “some guys get all the luck” year. I mean, it certainly seems to be shaping up such that the teams in need of good news are met with worse and worse, and teams without any need happen upon a trove of good fortune. Consider that the Bears and Chargers, one win each at the bottom of their respective divisions, just found out this week that integral playmakers on their teams are likely out for the remainder of the season. Ooph! Meanwhile, the Pats get Brady back and the Steelers are reassured of their backfield after Le’Veon proves he hasn’t missed a beat. Cleveland loses a top flight receiver, Green Bay gets one back. Lions and Bears lose starting running backs, Chiefs and Falcons have multiple. Whoever said life was fair never played football.
Speaking of unfair. While I feel for the Bears losing Kevin White to a leg injury, yet again, he was still an unproven commodity and will remain so until 2017. I hope, for his sake and the team’s, he can bounce back and we aren’t witnessing a Marcus Lattimore situation. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be the first, first round pick to bust due to injury and he won’t be the last. On the other hand, the Chargers, after coming off of a crushing loss where Travis Benjamin phantom fumbled, get another body blow out of nowhere. Underrated and shut down corner, Jason Verrett, is lost for the season to an ACL tear. For you fantasy football fans, he’s the reason you were scratching your head after your top receiver was shut down when you rolled him out against San Diego thinking, “weak defense, great matchup!” Yep, except Verrett, who has made a habit of quietly bottling up and limiting opponents number one receivers to little to nothing over the past two years. A really tough loss for a Chargers team who is currently blowing 4th quarter leads at a historically unprecedented rate.
Enough of the sad news though. Week 5 has a lot in store and we’ve still got much to cover. For starters, we’re already a quarter of the way through the season! Crazy huh?! I haven’t been very numbers heavy in the previews thus far and that is partly intentional. In football, I don’t like relying on previous seasons’ numbers to predict future seasons’ performances. Basic statistics and sampling dictate that your sample size for a 16 game season is already very small, which inherently lends itself to the potential for variance, sometimes extreme. Nerd talk I know, but what does that mean?
Bear with me here, because this is worth it. Hopefully this enhances the way you watch games and helps to filter what you hear from “analysts” and pundits alike. Understanding that each season/sample is small, this variance increases the probability that a team produces numbers (wins) that may differ greatly from an expected median or mode that a larger data set might predict. In other words, in the NFL, more so than the other “big three” American sports, there is a higher likelihood for teams to produce “outlier” seasons. Stat heads summarize this variance as outliers, the NFL prefers to call it parody, gamblers (fantasy players) call it skill, and The Spread Offensive calls it pure entertainment. To put it very simply, the reason “there’s a chance” for your team every year is because the season is only 16 games!
From Wikipedia, Outlier defined:
“In statistics, an outlier is an observation point that is distant from other observations. An outlier may be due to variability in the measurement or it may indicate experimental error; the latter are sometimes excluded from the data set.”
Outliers happen, just ask Malcolm Gladwell. Predicting them is difficult, but each and every football season there’s a chance your team, (yes YOU!) and your beloved, love-able losers, could turn it around and find lightning in a bottle! Now, understand, it’s not an advisable strategy for building a franchise, but it could and does happen. Rams fans know what I’m talking about! RGIII seasons happen, and for all the hell that comes from the inevitable crash back to earth (that’s what larger samples do to outliers), I’m sure no one in that fan base would trade it for the rush of joy and excitement it produced that year. Am I right Washington fans?!
However, we are now a quarter of the way into the season, with 25% of this season’s statistics available. With at least some indicators available, we’ll begin sprinkling in more supporting data with predictions. That said, we’re dealing with small data sets here people, so take the numbers as you choose, just understand there is still a great deal of randomness that won’t be eliminated – which is why we love this game in the first place right?! I’ve successfully “geeked up” the article enough for one week.
One last note before jumping into previews. It is October and that means we’ll be seeing a lot of pink this month across all things NFL. Time to raise money and Save the Tatas! To help raise awareness I’ll be providing links all month, like the one previously, and others to charitable groups that support research and raising awareness for breast cancer. It’s also Domestic Violence awareness month, and I’ll be leaving cookie crumbs for my wonderfully charitable readers to follow to donate for this cause as well. I’ll personally be donating to One Love. Domestic violence is all too often a silent killer, and while we’ve come a long way, its effect can be lasting. I encourage all readers to donate. Other organizations supporting awareness for these two noble causes are: Susan G. Komen and No More. So donate. Do it now. I’ve provided the highlighted hyperlinks above. All you have to do is click and maybe take one or two less trips to Starbucks this month, or spend a little less on that Halloween costume. I promise you won’t regret it and you will have helped worthy organizations who are making a positive difference in the world.
Week 4 saw me post a respectable, albeit surprising, 9 for 15. Week 5 features 4 teams on a bye with the Jaguars, Chiefs, Saints, and Seahawks all getting the week off.
Early Games, October 9th
New England Patriots @ Cleveland Browns
Why not?! We already discussed it at the top so let’s just dive right in. Cleveland. Oh boy. “Some guys get all the luck.” Eh? After the Patriots looked downright abysmal last week, the way everyone thought they might trotting out Jacoby Brissett in week 3 against the Texans, they get Brady back just in time to right the ship. Remember what I said about life not being fair? While the Patriots continue to cement their legacy in the annals of football history, the Browns might be marching toward history of their own! Yeah, probably not the kind you wanted or envisioned to start the season eh Cleveland? Or maybe, it is Cleveland after all…you guys didn’t think the winning in basketball carried over did you?
Jokes aside, Cleveland has a few nice pieces in place, but they are building for the future. This is Brady’s first full week to practice with the team since preseason, and yes, that could be cause for concern for most quarterbacks. But this is Tom Brady we are talking about. He’s been doing this for so long, in this system, he could probably run this offense with his eyes closed. Let’s not forget, he also gets the Browns. The NFL’s 23rd ranked defense giving up 378 yards per game, and 28.8 points per game through the first four weeks. That’s not good y’all. I’m not going to get into the minutia of this one. Suffice it to say I think Brady knocks any rust off, makes some nice throws and the Patriots start to look like the Patriots again offensively. Something to keep an eye on, with Edelman dealing with a foot issue, however minor, we may see Chris Hogan get more involved. Also, I expect both tight ends, Bennett and Gronk, to showcase the tight end threat Belichick started to build with Hernandez and Gronk a few years ago. Patriots win going away. He’s baaaaaaaack!
Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions
Some things never change. Haters gonna hate, players gonna play, and the Detroit Lions find ways to lose (see – underperform). Am I right T. Swifty?! No? Detroit fans? Bueller?
How do you lose to the Chicago Bears trotting out a rookie running back and Brian Hoyer?! How?! I forgave you the last two minute debacle against Tennessee earlier this year, but come on! A game is 60 minutes fellas. Finish. The. Drill. Here’s an idea for a slogan, “Detroit: Where great talent goes to die!” Or how about, “Detroit: Killing elite talent since the 90s!” Is it not enough you wasted the greatest back of the 90s in Barry Sanders, then forced the best receiver of the 2000s, literally nicknamed for a Transformer (Megatron) due to his sheer domination, to retire early? Now, you are on the verge of wasting the best quarterback to ever come out of my alma mater (Go Dawgs!). Seriously. Get your sh** together!
I feel my blood pressure rising. For something completely different, talk about a franchise that, early on, appears to have nailed it. Carson Wentz! Show me something son. North Dakota State, producing winners since 2016? Philly fans, insufferable though they may be, will certainly take it. At the risk of being redundant, he is legit. The dude is mobile, big arm, and reports of him studying tape on a date are most definitely corroborated by the way he made mince meat of the Steelers in week 3. Wentz is going to experience growing pains along the way, we have enough data to predict that, but what I’m more interested in is how good is this defense?
Through four weeks, three games due to Philadelphia’s bye in week 4, the Eagles are ranked third in team defense allowing a measly 274.3 yards per game and an even more paltry average of 9 points per game. Granted, other than the game against the Steelers, Philadelphia has not yet been truly tested, but do you really think the Lions present a tough test? Based on Detroit’s subpar performance thus far this year, the likelihood they have to start Theo Riddick at running back again, and their one weapon in Marvin Jones is banged up, I wouldn’t bet on the Lions putting up much of a fight against an Eagles team that is clicking on all cylinders early this season. It’s still early, and I’m far from anointing Wentz or the Eagles, but what head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz have done has my attention. This is also a return to Schwartz’s old stomping grounds where he was head coach from 2009-2013. Eagles keep the good times rolling in the Motor City.
Chicago Bears @ Indianapolis Colts
There’s always one isn’t there? Ugh. This isn’t even directed at Chicago because, let’s be honest, we all know the reasons for that dumpster fire. No, my disgust is actually directed at Indianapolis. Oy vey. You know, for a guy who loves the sound of his own voice and carries himself with the pomp and circumstance that Jim Irsay does, you’d think he’d at least understand how to protect an investment. So Jim, you sign Luck to a record breaking deal, for roughly $80 million dollars guaranteed, and then you send him out to to take snaps behind that offensive line? Do you enjoy wasting money or is this just an ego thing to show how much money you have? Sort of a, “Mine’s bigger,” type deal? Really, I want to know, because from the outside it makes no sense.
So Indianapolis, by all accounts a tremendous fan base, is left with this. Arguably the most gifted quarterback in the past decade, both physically and mentally, is surrounded by virtually zero talented skill players outside of maybe T.Y. Hilton (and that’s just a maybe), and is protected by an offensive line that wouldn’t even be second string on some teams in the league. However Irsay made money, I can’t believe it was with strategies like this one. Who knows, maybe it was. After all, “Some guys get all the luck!”
All of that coupled with a ridiculous loss across the pond and I yet I find my hand back in the cookie jar. Maybe I’m not giving Hoyer or the Bears enough credit. Rookie Jordan Howard looks poised to take the starting gig from the injured Jeremy Langford and run with it, but plenty of good running backs labor away on losing teams. Right Carlos Hyde?! I just can’t believe Luck doesn’t at least find a way to will his troops to a victory on their return home to Lucas Oil. Colts. Award for most hilarious tweet goes to…
Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins
First, thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Matthew this weekend. I know Red Cross does incredible work with victims of natural disaster and I encourage everyone to visit and donate to assist victims impacted by Matthew.
Second, as sad as it is, there is a game to play. Third, it is not made any better by the fact that both of these teams have looked awful through the first quarter of the 2016 season. As detailed in The Spread’s week 1 preview, we sort of expected this from Miami, but Tennessee, expected more of you. The Titans have seemingly been “in” all of their games this year, but for whatever reason can’t seem to get over that hurdle. Other than a win that was gift wrapped by Detroit gaffes, they haven’t been able to make game changing plays that extend drives and shift momentum and thus the game in their favor. I guess I’m sort of attempting to explain why this is happening because I really liked their upside to start the season. The running game is nice, we know that. Ultimately though, Mariota is going to have make a few big time plays to put his team over the top. You weren’t a top draft pick for nothing Marcus.
Things don’t get any better moving over to Miami’s outlook. Arian Foster likely out another week, as well as Jordan Cameron. Tannehill has good receivers, not great, but good. The defense has big names, but they aren’t getting any younger. The Fins D-Line is their strength, but their secondary was just destroyed by A.J. Green (DGD). Miami will piece together a few wins across the year, but not many. I’m still taking the upside of Tennessee putting the pieces together. Titans.
Washington Redskins @ Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore! How did you keep Oakland down for so long and then fall apart defensively at the end?! Credit to Flacco for his attempts at a last minute game winning drive, but Baltimore should’ve never been in that position to begin with. I’ve detailed the Ravens cupcake early season schedule, but soft schedule or not, they currently boast the league’s #1 ranked defense allowing 256 yards per game and 18 points per game. Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle don’t get the acclaim of some of the “stars” of the league on defense, but don’t let Carr’s big day fool you. Carr made a couple of great throws, and without those his day becomes very pedestrian for likely under 200 yards passing and maybe 2 touchdowns.
Carr and Crabtree may have found something against Baltimore, but I doubt Washington is capable of repeating it. Jordan Reed is talented enough to take on a receiver role, and often he does, so he would be the best bet to benefit from the tape on the Raiders vs. Ravens game. Washington does have other weapons they could use to attack Baltimore, namely running back Matt Jones. Matt Jones has improved his yards per carry this season from last, and I think he could get to the edge and break a tackle for a big gain. I also like Kirk Cousins, but this is probably the most difficult defense he has faced this season. Weddle should be a ball hawk and will be making plays all day when Washington falls behind. Baltimore is the better team. Ravens.
Houston Texans @ Minnesota Vikings
Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you!
Who remembers that song?! It’s okay if you don’t. I know I’m dating myself a little, but how apropos.
Two teams following a very similar model. Texans 5th overall defense, Vikings 7th. Good running games, Minnesota’s formerly great prior to AP injury, and above average quarterback play. Offenses built to take advantage of short fields provided by their defenses and milk clock once they have the lead. This is one of the games on the Texans schedule where I really wish Watt was healthy. Heck, for that matter, it’s also a game I wish AP was healthy too. What a matchup that would be! Best defensive player against best offensive player. Oh what might have been.
As it stands now we still get two good teams looking to distance themselves from the pack in their respective divisions and conferences. Don’t expect many fireworks in this one. Possibly a 17-10 or 20-17 type of game. Whichever defense wins the field position battle will likely determine who wins this one. After the performances of Griffen, Barr, and Rhodes on Monday Night, I don’t know Houston moves the ball. Stefon Diggs may be out for the Vikings, removing yet another playmaker from that offense, but I’m not sure it matters. Those three studs mentioned above on Minnesota’s D won’t offer much running room for Miller and should pick off a turnover prone Osweiler. Vikings win a defensive battle.
New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Two teams headed in different directions. For the Jets, after a week one close call in Cincy, and dominating performance on a short week in Buffalo (game wasn’t as close as final score indicates), it seemed like they would compete in the AFC East again. Based on what I’ve seen and Fitzpatrick’s league leading 10 interceptions, I’m not so sure about Bowles’s Jets anymore. The Jets defense is still good enough to make a few plays here and there, but they aren’t the defense that could literally shut an offense down no matter the opponent.
The Steelers, after taking one on the chin in Philadelphia in Week 3, gave new meaning to the phrase “bounced back”. They bounced back and then some in Week 4 against the Chiefs. Any and all detractors were quickly reminded why this team, especially with all skill players healthy, was a preseason Superbowl favorite by many. The defense has a linebacking corps most would love to have with Jones, Timmons, and Harrison, and the offense may be the best in the league when Big Ben is right. Both teams stop the run, allowing 70.2 (NYJ) and 78.2 (PIT) yards per game respectively, which doesn’t bode well for the Jets. New York will be without Decker yet again, and he may be headed to IR, and while Marshall and Enunwa are capable 1s and 2s, they don’t compare favorably to AB, Bell, and Pittsburgh’s aerial attack. Steelers win at home and make it look easy.
Atlanta Falcons @ Denver Broncos
Julio. Jones. Sometimes I get these calls wrong, it happens. Sometimes I make bold calls and it completely backfires blowing up in my face. But sometimes, just sometimes, I nail it and it feels oh so good. How many doubters are there now that the Falcons are legit? Remember that spill about outliers? Did you really think the Panthers would dominate the South again and go 15 and 1? P.S. – That one loss came from my Dirty Birds by the by. The Falcons were in the middle of the hunt last season at the halfway point when they suffered a highly improbable string of losses. The Panthers started hot and experienced another improbable run of good fortune with career performances from guys like Tedd Ginn Jr. Now we’ve added four more games to the Panthers record and the larger data set give us a better idea of where they are as a team. The same is true of the Falcons.
Unfortunately, the same is true of the Broncos. I say unfortunately, because, unfortunately for my Falcons the numbers don’t look great in this specific matchup. Believe me, I’m reveling in this bounce back year for Matt Ryan and career year for Julio, but I’m not naive. Some of this hot start is credited to an early season schedule that included two of the worst defenses in the league in Oakland and New Orleans. Denver presents the exact opposite challenge. The Broncos sport arguably the best defense in the league. Hands down. The Falcons defense, not so much.
The Falcons secondary has proved quite capable, but that’s about the extent of defensive compliments I can pay my team. Some are calling this the game of the week and rightfully so. This should be one of those tests of the age old adage “defense wins championships”. The League’s current #1 offense against its #1 defense. The Broncos haven’t lost a game since December 20th last year against the Steelers. That defense has carried this team, but what’s more, they aren’t too shabby offensively. If anything, based on Peyton’s nearly career worst year in 2015, the Broncos have improved with the play of Trevor Siemian. Their skill players in Demaryius (Bebe -pronounced “baybay”) Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and C.J. Anderson are some of the best in the league. Siemian did suffer an AC joint injury to his non-throwing shoulder against Tampa last Sunday, but what’s even scarier is that first round pick Paxton Lynch came in and looked damn good. Siemian certainly seems to be the guy this year for the Broncos, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they give him the Osweiler treatment at the end of the season and hand the reigns to Lynch in 2017.
Credit to John Elway for building a powerhouse and returning Denver to prominence. Credit also to Arthur Blank for sticking with Dimitroff after a down year and seeing some of his moves begin to pay dividends. Denver will be without pass rusher DeMarcus Ware again this week. In a bit of a twist, reports are now out that say rookie Paxton Lynch will be getting the start Sunday with Austin Davis backing him up and Siemian inactive for the game. I’m not really sure what to make of this as the news broke on Saturday. As I mentioned above, Lynch looked good in limited work and has a bigger arm than Siemian. He also flashed some mobility and on paper would appear to be an upgrade were it not for his rookie status.
Worth noting, Atlanta’s other top running back not named Freeman, Tevin Coleman may be limited due to his sickle cell trait and the affect it can have at higher altitude. I really want to pick my Birds this week, but I can’t ignore the dominance Denver has displayed thus far this season. Matt Ryan will need to execute nearly flawlessly and Julio will face his toughest test all season against Talib and Harris Jr. Falcons will put up a fight and should make some big plays, but their defense won’t slow the Broncos down at all. Denver remains undefeated.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Dallas Cowboys
Okay, enough is enough Cowboy fans. I know I support you too, but this talk of Dak taking over for Romo is absolutely nuts. Romo is still one of the best quarterbacks in football. Have you forgotten how dominated not two years ago and had the Packers on the ropes? He makes throws that Dak has shown no ability to make yet, and he is still one of the best at escaping pressure and making unbelievable throws that not many guys in the league can make. Dak has beaten a bad Bears team and what, the Niners? Did you see what Drew….DREW STANTON just did to the Niners? San Francisco is the worst defense against the run and Dallas leaned on Elliott just as the Cardinals leaned on Johnson to exploit the matchup. That in no way qualifies Dak as anything near capable of replacing Romo. In fact, I’d be willing to bet Romo beats the pants off of the Giants in week 1, and the game against Washington and San Francisco wouldn’t have been close either with Tony under center. So just stop with the nonsense.
Whew, I feel better. Had to get that off of my chest. It’s absurd. Speaking of absurd, did you see what A.J. Green did to the Dolphins on Thursday night in week 4?! Damn good dawg! I think Cowboy fans will be coming back to reality rather quickly after this game. Cincinnati is able to score early and often, which is going to force Prescott to play from behind and air it out. Air it out without Dez Bryant too, which doesn’t help matters offensively. Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict and co. won’t afford Elliott the running room he’s grown accustomed to the past three weeks. Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam “Pacman” Jones will get the chance to break Prescott’s streak of attempts without an interception. Side note – opening rant aside, Prescott’s streak of consecutive passing attempts without an interception to start a career/as a rookie being second only to Tom Brady is very impressive. It does bode well for future prospects.
Jason Garrett has the ‘Boys playing disciplined, tough football. Dallas’s defense is likely the liability in this one. I don’t think they are able to contain Green and Jeremy Hill could be in store for a big day. Proud of the Cowboys for their work early on without Romo, but this week some of that hype comes to an end. Dallas is also possibly without Dan Bailey, statistically the best kicker in football, this week due to injury. In a game that could come down to field goals add that to the list of things not going in the ‘Boys favor. Bengals win a close one and remain in the hunt in a very tough AFC North.
Buffalo Bills @ Los Angeles Rams
How is Los Angeles 3 and 1? How?! After that embarrassing week 1 performance even I was prepared to declare them all but dead. Wonder what odds were in Vegas that at the quarter mark, after week 1, the Rams and not the Niners would be the 3 and 1 team? Speaking of surprising, Buffalo! Where in the heck has this defense come from? Apparently all I had to do was bash Rex’s brother and that D went all shut down Superbowl favorites on us. Granted, one of those performances came against Jacoby Brissett, but still. After getting blown out by New York in week 2, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
So we have a 2 and 2 Bills team against a 3 and 1 Rams team. At least the records look good, even if the play hasn’t. Buffalo has big problems offensively, especially after losing Sammy Watkins. Goodwin, Woods, and Charles Clay are going to have to step up in a big way. Shady McCoy will do his part, but Tyrod Taylor is going to need some help to get it done this week against a near elite defense. Matchup wise the best thing going in Buffalo’s favor is their defense against that atrocious Rams offense. Buffalo’s D should be able to limit if not change field position very quickly in their offense’s favor. Case Keenum still doesn’t scare me and I fully expect the Bills to stack 8 in the box against Gurley. It shouldn’t shock anyone to hear this will be a defensive battle. If Rex Ryan does anything, it’s win on defense. Bills in a slugfest.
San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders
Shootout out West! AFC West may be the toughest division in football this year. Even the 1 and 3 Chargers are still a really good football team. Oakland and San Diego both played 1 point games against the New Orleans Saints. Both were games that could have gone either way at the end, which tells you these two teams could be 2 and 2 as easily as they are 1 and 3, and 3 and 1 respectively. Oakland ranks worst in the league giving up an average of 460 yards per game, and San Diego ranks 21st allowing 371.5 ypg. That stat is a little misleading as Oakland had to face two of the best offenses in football in the first two weeks against New Orleans and Atlanta, but it helps prove a point. Don’t expect a lot of defense in Oakland Sunday. *Particularly surprising for Oakland as Jack Del Rio made his bones as a defensive minded coach before becoming a head coach.
David Carr made some incredible throws against Baltimore last Sunday and he continues to improve. I also love Jack Del Rio coached teams. Remember folks, Del Rio, a guy who made a playoff team with David Garrard at QB. That’s impressive I don’t care who you are. The Raiders have a lot to like offensively with Carr spreading it around to Crabtree, Cooper, and Walford. Not so much in the running game. Latavius Murray will be out, but that backfield hasn’t been producing much as is. Their numbers are a bit skewed with games against the bad defenses from the NFC South, but otherwise the Raiders have looked very pedestrian running the ball. Good news for the Raiders is that Verrett will be out, which means Carr should find plenty of open receivers in the Chargers secondary.
Philip Rivers has to be frustrated. He’s playing good football, but his team keeps losing. It doesn’t help not having his top receiving option in Allen. Melvin Gordon has and should continue to help ease the burden with his good play. The yards per carry have been middling, but he will break a few runs in Oakland. Rivers needs Inman or Williams to step up as a new number one in Allen’s absence. This is more of a gut call as the numbers suggest Oakland could light it up, but I like San Diego to win in a shootout and dictate pace of play on the ground against a bad Raiders defense. Chargers finally finish.
Sunday Night Football
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
Can we please cut it out with the psycho-over-analysis of Odell Beckham Jr.? Seriously. It’s ridiculous. He was hit nearly 3 yards out of bounds by Xavier Rhodes. He had a right to be upset. If anything, it should have been a penalty on Rhodes, and the fact that the NFL is fining Beckham only reinforces that the league’s punishments are completely arbitrary. The league doesn’t truly care about doing what’s right. Goodell’s mission is simple and apparent. He wants to establish his authority over everything and everyone that wears an NFL logo. His dictatorial style has helped led to some referring to NFL as the “No-Fun-League”, and they would be right. Individual autonomy helps shape and form a team identity, which allows fanbases to differentiate themselves from others. This is tribalism at its finest. We all live and work in community, and attempting to squash out the personality of the players in this league, in a way, is an attempt to silence the fans and consumers that help make the league possible in the first place.
OBJ is one of the most gifted receivers in the league, and he plays with passion. No more passion than I’ve seen guys like Rodgers and Luck display at times, so stop with the “he can’t control himself” narrative. It’s baseless. Yes, he had a bad moment against Norman last season, but to expect these young men to be perfect is also unrealistic. He hasn’t done anything to cost his team a game, in fact, quite the opposite. He makes plays that only a handful of receivers can make and gives his team a chance to win with his big play ability. DeSean Jackson dropped a ball at the one yard line….twice! We’ve seen players make all sorts of knuckle-headed plays over the years, *coughs – Leon Lett, but OBJ hasn’t done anything nearly as egregious. Do we really want these guys to be comfortable with being hit late or losing? Are we okay when our kids, just because they are undersized or different get bullied? No. Then why are we okay, and if anything, demanding OBJ to conform instead of looking at the reasons this has happened? Odell is going to continue being Odell, and until I see or hear about him doing something that truly hurts his teams chances of winning football games, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Coincidentally, the NFL is dealing with a slight ratings decline, primarily because of weak primetime games and the 2016 presidential election coverage. Week 5’s game should help boost ratings some, even if it goes up against a town-hall style debate. This should be a good game. Unfortunately for the Giants things don’t get easier this week as they head into Lambeau to take on a rested Green Bay team. I firmly believe OBJ goes bananas in this game, and the G-Men will need it. Sam Bradford looked pretty good on Monday night, but now the Giants get Rodgers. Woof.
Rodgers doesn’t rank that well through 4 weeks in terms of passing, although the Pack had a bye last week. Really though, week 1 was his first week back with Jordy Nelson on the field, and week 2 Minnesota’s defense happened. I don’t need to remind you how they’ve made every opposing team and quarterback look thus far. The Giants, for their part, have the 8th best run defense. Eddie Lacy is going to find tough sledding through the front line. You could do worse than putting the ball in an MVP’s hands. Olivier Vernon and JPP will try and contain Rodgers, but he is one of the best at rolling out and throwing on the run. I like the Packers at home in a game that should see some big plays through the air.
Monday Night Football, October 10th
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
Woah how the mighty have fallen. I am typically a Cam Newton defender, but last week in the Dome, what were you doing Cam? Celebrating before you were in? Really bro? Get in the end zone or get hit. Even your coach didn’t defend you on that one. I like Newton and he is a one of a kind talent, but he has got to start playing smarter football. I’m not even talking about reading defenses or anything. He’s shown he can light just about any defense up, but he needs to be smart with his body. What the Panthers can’t afford is him trying to extend plays that don’t need extending and sacrificing his body on plays that won’t win a game, but may cost the next one or two. Andrew Luck has had to learn the same thing. Get down when you need to get down, and understand that when you are the best athlete on the field you have to play with your head on a swivel. Guys will be coming to knock you out…literally.
Speaking of being knocked out, it seems that’s just what happened to Newton. The Panthers will be turning to backup Derek Anderson. The only good news for the Panthers is they get to face Jameis Winston. And might I add….hahahaha. For all of those “experts” out there that were declaring Jameis Winston as having “arrived” after his week 1 performance against the Falcons. I laugh at you. Eight interceptions later with an ugly 1:1 TD to INT ratio, how ya’ liking that call now Mr. Expert? Whereas Newton need only refine a few parts of his game, Winston has a long, long, looooooong way to go. He isn’t reading defenses, at all. Even in his week 1 performance one of his TDs came on a throw into triple coverage that was ill-advised, but he got lucky. Not the makings of great quarterbacking decision making.
Good news for the Bucs is that they get a Panthers secondary that was literally shredded by my man Julio. Mike Evans is no Julio, but he can ball hawk with the best of them and should be licking his chops. Not even poor Winston throws should slow him down. The Panthers have already cut Bene Benwikere, and may be rolling out 3 new players in their secondary. Truly, this matchup could not have come at a better time for the Bucs who need all the help they can get to attempt to get back on track. The Bucs are dealing with injuries of their own with both Doug Martin and Charles Simms out. They’ll be handing off to Jacquizz Rodgers who head coach Dirk Koetter has liked since his days in Atlanta. Due to the Panthers injuries this could be a very evenly matched game. The last and toughest call of the week. Panthers win with Anderson putting on a clinic on how to get the ball out fast.
That’s a wrap for the week 5 previews. I hope you enjoyed it! Our social media buttons are active now as we are up and running on both Facebook and Twitter. Please feel free to like, follow, and share with us. Don’t forget to like and share this post as well, and don’t forget to donate to a few worthy causes this month! Thank you as always for reading.
TNF Preview Week 5: Cards @ Niners -Someone has to win, right?
Thursday Night Football, October 6th
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
You won’t find a more competitive game than Thursday night’s duel between the two 1 and 3 powerhouses of the NFC West. Coughs Nothing like these world beaters rolling out Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert Cough cough to lead these unstoppable offenses. Yeah…Another Thursday Night Football game and another primetime matchup that makes you go, “meh”. Upside, there is a bit of news to cover regarding both of these teams.
We’ll start with the news that Carson Palmer, currently in the NFL’s concussion protocol, has been ruled out on a short week traveling to San Francisco. As if this underperforming Arizona Cardinals team wasn’t already disappointing, now they’ll have career backup Drew Stanton back there slinging it around the field. Okay, you’re right, he’ll probably handoff 30 plus times. Can’t say I blame him either as it seems the only consistently reliable player for Arizona is David Johnson. I keep thinking he will get bottled up, not break one of his big runs, and start to statistically regress, but thus far he’s been matchup proof. Although, with Stanton behind center, the 49ers would be wise to stack 8 in the box and force the Arizona interim QB to beat them. If that does happen, give me Eric Reid with a pick or two by the end of the night.
While we’re on the topic of the San Francisco 49ers defense, they took the larger of the two injury blows last week between these two teams. Palmer should be back on the field in short order for Arizona, but San Fran losing Navorro Bowman for the season to an achilles injury is a tough pill to swallow. He was undeniably the heart of this defense. The news for the Niners seems to go from bad to worse since the start of the season. Let’s not forget they pulled this mirage on us last year beating a playoff bound Minnesota Vikings team week 1 only to be revealed for the cellar dwellers we’ve come to know since Harbaugh’s departure following the 2014 season. Fool me once San Francisco…
In case you were wondering, that was me quickly jumping off of the 49ers bandwagon as quickly as I was prepared to jump on after my foolish week 3 pick of a San Francisco upset over perennial NFC West powerhouse Seattle. Of course, with news that Palmer will be unavailable, the outlook for a clear cut winner is muddied greatly. Yes, Arizona sports the more talented and proven playmakers on both offense and defense. No, Arizona does not have a quarterback capable of utilizing said playmakers on the offense and limiting turnovers to help the defense. Then again, Carson hasn’t exactly been doing such a bang up job with that either. Without the concussion though I think this is a fairly easy Cardinal victory.
Someone has to win this game, right? I really want to lean on the talent of Arizona to best a San Fran team searching for an identity. At the same time, it is so very hard to imagine the Cardinals looking much better this week with Stanton dropping back every third play. Additionally, it isn’t far fetched to think the Cardinals will struggle traveling and playing on the same day. Ugh. I’m torn. I’m taking the talent in this one and banking that Arizona finds just enough offense to squeak out a win. Something to watch for in this one, if Gabbert throws a couple of picks in the “no-fly” zone (see Peterson and Mathieu), we may get our first real look at Kaepernick in the Chip Kelly offense. Could be fun? Will be entertaining if nothing else. Cardinals win a sloppy one on the road.
In other news, we’ll be adding links (possibly buttons) where you can donate to two different causes during the month of October! I’m not certain if the NFL will be incorporating pink with their “color rush” TNF game, but you will be seeing a lot of pink come this Sunday for sure. That’s right, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. Save the Tatas! For the remainder of October, there will be a link to the Susan G. Komen fund where you may donate. It’s also the Domestic Violence Awareness month and there will be a link to donate to One Love. Again, I’ll cover both of these topics in full later this week, but for now check the sites out here and here.
But wait, there’s more! The Spread Offensive is now social, complete with Twitter and Facebook pages. Please check them out and like and share with your friends! Both Facebook and Twitter buttons are now active. That wraps up the TNF coverage. Thank you for reading. What are you waiting on?! Get to liking and sharing already!
Week 4 Preview: Bye Bye Bye
Ah yes. The “Bye” weeks are upon us! Anytime you can work an N’Sync classic throwback pun into a relevant title, I think it’s a win win. Am I right JT fans?! Yes, this is me pandering to a completely different audience. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have no shame.
Week 3 was quite the doozy. Not my best week, not my worst. Well, technically my worst statistical week, but I’ve made worse predictions before I started this site, trust. 9 for 16. I’ll take it in a week where the Pats pulled out a big win, the Cards offense looked completely out of sync and Carson Wentz went all, well, Carson Wentz! Seriously, the dude is legit. Cleveland, what the hell?! What scout decided to pass on this guy? He just made mincemeat of a very legit Steelers defense. Paul DePodesta, it’s still early, but I have my questions.
Who would’ve guessed the only Watts taking the field this weekend would have been these two…
Yeah, me either. I was sad to hear that Watt re-injured his back with another herniation of the same disc. Personally, he’s a fun player to watch because he really does get after it out there, and in case you didn’t notice I used his “It’s Time” picture twice already this year. Still badass. I also may or may not have had the Texans defense on my fantasy football team this year, so yeah that sucks. Watt left a note on social media regarding his latest setback, which you can read here. Truly wouldn’t expect anything less from the man. He is the heart of that team and won’t be replaced, but I don’t think the Texans will completely fall off either.
Watt’s injury does help to explain some of the Texans lackluster performance against the Pats last week as he clearly wasn’t 100%. Additionally, I’m no medical profesional, but it certainly seems like he came back to the field a few weeks too soon. In turn, this is why teams like the Pats and Chiefs take the comebacks of star players slow sometimes. You’d rather have Rob Gronkowski and Jamaal Charles at the end of the season when the games count than rush them back and risk being without for an extended period of time.
There was one more bit of particularly interesting news that sprang up this week. Former star receiver, Josh Gordon, is entering himself into rehab. With the news the Browns have made plans to release the previously promising and extremely talented wide receiver. For full information regarding Gordon’s latest time away from football, you can find more details here. It’s a truly sad situation for a receiver that could easily be a top 5 wide receiver in the league on talent alone. I’m proud of him for having the courage to do what is right for himself and his health. Addiction comes in all shapes and sizes. For Gordon’s sake I hope he finds a way to make it back to the field before his window of youth and opportunity are up, but more than that, I hope he finds a way to finally wrestle his addiction to a place where he feels he can be the best and most healthy and productive version of himself as possible.
I know, not the same fun and vigor as last week’s intro, but I promise there will be some entertainment along the way! With the first bye week the Packers and Eagles get the weekend off.
London Game, October 2nd
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
That’s right! The NFL continues its attempts at spreading “football” to Europe. Get it? Football? Not to be confused with the much more internationally popular “futbol” – aka soccer as we Americans know it. Yeah, so I’m still not sure where I stand on this. From what I can tell the league is committed to making it happen. I think feedback seems to be somewhat positive, if you can take that as a compliment? It’s definitely kind of cool if you are an NFL player to get to travel to London and play in the famous Wembley Stadium. At the same time, I don’t think Brits as they were really care too much. It definitely has some unnecessary costs associated with flying two teams “across the pond”. Rounding out the hilarity is the fact that the NFL committed, of all teams, the Jaguars as a core representative for the League abroad. Putting your best foot forward eh Gooddell? If only Roger had had more time to review such a contract before it went into effect…it’s almost like he was involved in some ridiculous, frivolous lawsuit or something.
As it stands now we have the oh so impressive, world beating Jaguars traveling to London until 2020. Great. Glad we decided to send a franchise with a proven track record of success. I almost want to pick the Jags out of mercy in this one. No, no I don’t. Hey, Jaguar fans. Wait, is there such a thing as a Jaguar fan? Hey, fan of the team that plays some Sundays and keeps the field in Jacksonville in shape between The World’s Largest Annual Cocktail Party takes place one Saturday in the fall every year. Yeah, you guys! (Go Dawgs!) Anywho, I really would love for you guys to put it all together. You’ve got some real studs out there. Bortles has the talent, Robinson is legit, and I love Chris Ivory. Dante Fowler Jr. needs to come back and lead that defense, but it still has some holes even if he does. You are still a year or two away from making waves, but if you want any hope of an 8 and 8/500 season your boys need to start putting it together soon. Good talk.
Hey Colts fans! Great news! You get to go to London.
Colts: “Yeah?! Cheerio!”
Oh and I have more good news.
Yeah! You get to play the Jaguars!
Colts: “They still have a team in Jacksonville?!”
Hey now, be nice. But yeah, you’re right. They still do, so why don’t you fellas pack up, “hop across the pond” as they say, and enjoy a nice little Eurotrip. Oh, you’ll want to be at Wembley on Sunday, but that shouldn’t be too bad. Enjoy the long weekend!
In all seriousness, international games have been known to produce some odd outcomes, but I think this one is pretty clear cut. The Jags just don’t look like they’ve made that jump we thought they might this year. The Colts do need a defense and this could turn into a high scoring affair. Chris Ivory played well in London last year, and if he’s back to full health, he could rip off a big run or two, but it won’t be enough. Luck shreds the Jags at Wembley. Colts with a spot of tea!
Early Games, Sunday, October 2nd
Oakland Raiders @ Baltimore Ravens
Man oh man how quickly things can change in the NFL. After the offensive output in weeks 1 and 2, I was prepared to say the Raiders offense has arrived and would be a force to be reckoned with by defenses across the league. Then they Raiders headed to Nashville. Being that the only defenses Oakland has lit up so far has been the Saints and Falcons, I’m not so sure Carr and that O is as potent as we might have been led to believe. That worries me here against a good Baltimore D.
On the other hand. Speaking of unproven, Baltimore has played some cupcake match ups to put it nicely in the early going this season. This will be the first time both teams get tested. Flacco may be under pressure facing Khalil Mack, but then again, Mack hasn’t generated the pass rush he came to be known for last season. The Raiders D can be had though so I do think Flacco connects on at least one or two deep balls to Wallace and/or Perriman.
This is a very interesting matchup that should help give us a more accurate measuring stick for both teams. Neither team sports impressive ground games, which means most damage will be done through the air. Rumor has it Kenneth Dixon has some nice skills, but he won’t be back for Baltimore for at least another week. Elvis Dumervil, however, nominee for coolest name in the NFL, and best pass rusher under 6 feet, does return for Baltimore this week. He is 32 now, but he still will make life difficult for Carr in the pocket. I like Flacco to make more big plays against a lesser defense. Ravens defend their home turf.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
Who would’ve thought Marvin Jones would make Detroit fans forget about Megatron so quickly? Granted, all of Jones’s big plays last week, 205 receiving yards and two touchdowns for those keeping count, didn’t get Detroit the win, but they still made quite the impression. Just how legit is his hot start? At least for this week, against a middling to poor Bears D, it seems it will continue.
Detroit and Chicago both lost last week. Chicago also lost Jeremy Langford, and Alshon “constantly battling injury” Jeffrey is…you guessed it…battling another injury? How’d you know?! You guys are so smart. With Cutler still out and Brian Hoyer, well…Brian Hoyer, there isn’t too much to be excited about in the Windy City in regards to football these days. I was a believer in John Fox. Hell, he had a great track record of winning from his days in Carolina and then Denver, but these days he has me starting to question how much he was responsible for the strong teams around him. The Bears lone bright spot this week will be rookie, Jordan Howard. Howard should have room to run against a porous Lions defense.
Detroit nor Chicago have very good defenses, but the Lions clearly sport the much more explosive offense. Howard will likely showcase his skills, but I think the other rookie running back, Dwayne Washington for Detroit, has a nice outing as well. Detroit will get up early in the first half and cruise to a win against a bad Bears team. Lions win and make it look easy.
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
Will the real Carolina Panthers please stand up? Early season NFC Superbowl favorites find themselves behind the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons to start the season. Okay, I had to get that jab in while I could! Truth be told, Carolina likely faced the two best defenses in the league in the first three weeks. Cam isn’t likely to be under that much pressure the rest of the season. My dear Falcons on the other hand, well, they seem to have had one of the more generous schedules to start the season. There, I finally said and admitted it. The fact that the Falcons aren’t 3 and 0, based on schedule, is really more of a statement of how bad their defense has been than how good their offense has been.
However, in case you missed it…Atlanta’s offense has been good. Really good. Bad defenses, easy match ups or not, the Dirty Birds have been lighting it up. You still have to execute at the end of the day, and through three weeks no one has been more efficient than Atlanta. If New England had done what Atlanta has through three weeks, would people point to the “weak defenses”? Didn’t think so.
I expect this to be a very good game. Carolina’s defense, while good, isn’t going to be able to slow down Atlanta’s potent offense. Atlanta certainly hasn’t shown the ability to stop offenses as prolific as the one they will face against Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and company. I expect Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis (DGD) to make life difficult in the middle and up front for Atlanta. If the Falcons want to win they are going to have air it out and let Julio Jones take advantage of the inexperienced Panther cornerbacks. This may be a bit of a homer pick, hell it is, but Atlanta was the only team to beat Carolina during the regular season last year. An upset win on the back of an incredible Julio catch I might add, and I like the Falcons again this season. Dirty Birds defend the Dome in an upset (to some).
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
Not a big, but another interesting game here. The Titans haven’t seemed to be able to make that jump to truly competitive team quite yet, but they do seem very close. I can’t help but thinking they are a few plays away from Mariota getting “it” and becoming a nightmare for opposing defenses. They are running the ball great, which means if Mariota does put the pieces of the puzzle together, they could become a scary team. The D is already solid so an offense that can put points on the board would instantly inject them into the mix as division contenders.
That’s my theory as to why I continue to believe in the Titans, but in the NFL you don’t play with “could’ve” or “would’ve”. In the NFL, more so than most any other professional sports league, you live in the now. Right now, Tennessee isn’t quite there. Houston did put up an abysmal performance during week 3’s TNF game, but again, that’s not the now. I think Watt was clearly not at full health, which didn’t help matters, and I doubt they find a way to fumble two kickoffs allowing amazing field position to the opponents. The Texans D also gets Brian Cushing back, which should help to soften the blow from losing Watt. Get it? Cushing? Like cushion. Soften the blow. Get it?!
Seriously though, the Houston Texans defense is still solid and will make the going tough for the Titans offensively. Osweiler has to stop throwing INTs, but regardless I think he makes enough plays to extend drives and let Lamar Miller wear Tennessee down. Texans win a ground affair.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
Buffalo Bills shock the Arizona Cardinals! Was that a headline from last week’s game in Buffalo? I’m not sure, but it could have been. The Bills put on quite an impressive performance shutting down what many believed to be one of the best offenses in the NFC. Can’t say I saw that coming, but props to Rex, his brother, yes, even his brother, and that defense. So what does Rex Ryan do after pulling off a big win? Talk with his team about maintaining that us against the world underdog mentality? Mention how important it is to remain low key before surprising a team? No no no. Now, if you said make an ass of himself and give Belichick even more bulletin board material (as if he needed any more), with which to fire up his team against a division rival…then you’d be correct!
In case you missed it, Rex decided to jokingly hop on a conference call Bills reporters were having with Julian Edelman, under cover of an alias, and ask if Edelman intended to play quarterback this weekend for New England. Funny? Eh. Rex certainly thought so, but not the brightest move to play games with a team known for making other teams pay for such gaffes. Am I the only one that gets the feeling Edelman throws a touchdown in this game now? Just sayin….wouldn’t surprise me and would be a total “Evil Genius” Belichick move.
Whether it was instant, unrelated, or just general karma, not long after Rex’s prank went public we also caught news that Sammy Watkins will be out for Buffalo for at least 8 weeks. Ouch. Tough blow for a team searching for offense. I’m sure the Pats aren’t shedding any tears as they are dealing with quarterback injuries and questions of their own. If the Pats win this game, they will have somehow managed to go 4 and 0 to start the season without Brady and mostly without Gronkowski too. Just let that sink in. It’s quite incredible. How does that song go? “I fought the law and the law won?” It would appear the Pats march to the beat of their own drum and have essentially stuck it to Goodell and “the law”. C’mon, you know deep down Goodell is hating this. Secretly he had to want this to hurt New England more than it has. No matter the outcome of this week, the Pats already won 3 straight and get Brady back next week. Game. Set. Match. Patriots.
No really. Patriots. New England’s defense is better than people realize, and LeGarrette Blount has been running like a man among boys out there lately. Something tells me Belichick game plans to stop Shady McCoy, Buffalo’s only real offensive weapon outside of T-Mobile’s legs, and forces Taylor to beat them through the air. So, really, Patriots. Patriots win at home in Foxborough and do the unthinkable, moving to 4 and 0 to start the season…without Tom Brady. Damn.
Seattle Seahawks @ New York Jets
This game could go either way. I picked against the Hawks last week and was burned. That said, I think their opponent this week, the Jets, are bit more formidable than the 49ers. Not making the mistake of drinking that Chip Kelly Kool-Aid again! Of course, as I say that Ryan Fitzpatrick was busy throwing another pick! Geeze! 6 picks last week. Really Fitzy? He really is Fitz magic! Every other play a cornerback was saying, “look what I found!”
Terrible week 3 performance aside, the Jets are still a good team. They will be without one of their key weapons though with Eric Decker sidelined at least one week with a shoulder injury. The Seahawks are without Thomas Rawls, however, the way Christine Michael has been running might not hurt so much. Speaking of hurting, Russell Wilson took another tough hit threatening to sideline him again last Sunday. I continue to believe Russell is simply trying to or even being asked to do too much. No one should be questioning his toughness at this point. The fact that he has stayed in games so banged up and continues to rehab like a mad men to see the field each week speaks to his toughness; however we have to start to ask why at some point don’t we?
I watch Wilson and I have visions and flashbacks of Steve McNair and his “Air” McNair days. Another extremely talented quarterback who often times put too much of the offensive weight on his shoulders (and body), and took a beating each week from opposing defenses to show for it. Wilson is arguably even more talented and gifted than McNair was, but so far this season the comparison is at least fair. Wilson plays with a gift and a curse. To remain healthy and upright he is going to have to start learning how to better toe the line of using his athleticism and living to fight another day. When he extends plays he makes amazing, highlight reel plays possible, but he also dramatically increases his risk for exposure to season ending hits and injuries. I, for one, love to watch him play. For Wilson’s sake and Seattle’s I hope they either, a. find a way to give him more protection (running more effectively or bringing in an extra tight end to block), or b. work with him on when to throw it away, and when to extend for the win.
Enough about Seattle though. The Jets will be facing a tough defense, and Fitzy is going to have to settle down if New York wants a chance to win. I expect Richard Sherman to possibly shadow Brandon Marshall some in this game, but only once Marshall burns them and they realize they have to pay him the attention a #1 receiver deserves. I am either going to be very right or very wrong with this pick. A good Jets D shuts down an immobile Seahawks offense and Fitzy does enough for his team to win. We’ve already seen how difficult the west coast team heading east can be with the time zone changes. Jets knock off the Hawks on a difficult cross country matchup.
Cleveland Browns @ Washington Redskins
Show me something Washington! Thought the game last week against New York would be close, but didn’t think Washington would pull out the W. There was some of that Kirk Cousins grit we’ve come to know and love. I’m sorry, what was that? Kirk? Did you have a question? Something you wanted to share with the people?
Ahhhhhh….And there it is. I could probably just end the column here to be honest. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The man’s got moxie, I’ll give him that. P.S. – Sprinkle moxie in when referring to football players and quarterbacks specifically whenever possible. P.S.S. Cousins sort of reminds you a bit of old Johnny Moxon doesn’t he?! Good ole’ Varsity Blues. Still a classic.
Cleveland. Well, you may have just witnessed the Browns best chance for a win all season. Tough loss. Missed field goal. Rough. Get it?! B/c of their dog mascot? Rough like ruff? I’ve digressed enough. Terrell Pryor did look incredible. He literally did it all. The dude passed, ran, and caught like it was a high school game. Oh, and for good measure he played safety to knock a ball down. Literally, everything. And that’s about the only bright spot eh Cleveland? Gonna be a long season…the Browns could make history. You know, the history where they join the 0 and 16 2008 Lions and ’76 Bucs as the only teams to not win a game during the course of an entire NFL season! Sorry, that’s not exciting is it? I tried.
Jokes aside, Kessler looked formidable at quarterback and Hue Jackson was doing his damnedest to give Miami different looks with Pryor to confuse the defense. Browns should be able to put some points up, but I doubt they slow down the Cousins train. It’s a difficult one to slow down with a defense that shows as little resistance as the Browns. Washington gets an important win at home.
Denver Broncos @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Things don’t get much easier this week for the Bucs in Tampa. For all that I got wrong last week, I like to think I got the Rams call over Tampa right. Sure Winston put up better numbers than what I predicted, but it was in a comeback/losing effort. Ask Jags and Bortles fans how much those inflated numbers matter in garbage time or how much they help with the bottom line of generating wins for the franchise. Just sayin’. Sorry, but I’m just a tad passionate about this because I’ve seen it time and again, and then everyone in the media (the experts, analysts, former coaches and players the like) forgets. It’s as if they get amnesia so they don’t have be held accountable for such outlandishly ridiculous hyperbole they tout early in the season or career. In short, they create these monsters.
What am I referring to in my last tirade? The automatic anointing of Jameis Winston as a first ballot hall of fame stud who has arrived after one week of big throws and catches against a middling to bad defense. That’s what. It’s absolutely absurd. Winston puts up a similar stat line against the Rams, last week, only this time the Bucs lost and now, for some reason, no one seems to be mentioning it. Funny huh? “Experts” my a**! Sorry, it’s just ridiculous.
Wanna guess who is going to be made to look foolish this week? One guess. Pretty sure it’s all you will need. Ding ding ding! You got it. Mr. Jameis Winston! I expect him to be fully exposed for how underdeveloped and raw he still is at quarterback against the league’s best defense. He’s welcome to prove me wrong, but if I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on it. I fully anticipate the Broncos dominating this game from start to finish. On the exact opposite end of the spectrum we have the unheralded Trevor Siemian who just lit up a good Bengals defense. Would not be surprised to see Siemian and Demaryius Thomas and/or Emmanuel Sanders to hook up for a few more big plays this week against a bad Tampa secondary (ironic I know – Dungy can not be proud). Broncos will get up early and give CJ the rock late. Broncos in a blowout and learning lesson for premature Bucs fans learning that seasons are not won in the first week.
Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
Still haven’t gotten used to typing Los Angeles in front of Rams yet. The Rams did me proud last week though and my dawg Gurley got off the snide for two TDs! Rams are division leaders in the NFC West. Remember what I said earlier about things changing quickly in the NFL? We’ll get to see how improved, or not, the Rams are since their week 1 embarrassment in San Francisco.
Arizona is looking to bounce back from an ugly loss in Buffalo last week. As I’ve said, definitely did not predict that, but can’t say there weren’t signs I chose to ignore. Carson Palmer has not looked as good this year. His receivers, outside of Larry Fitzgerald, the ageless wonder, have not performed to the caliber most expected. The numbers say David Johnson keeps making plays each week, but my eyes tell me if he doesn’t break that one big run or two, his O-Line isn’t winning any battles up front to help the Cardinals win on early downs. Defensively, the Cardinals still look very sound and capable of winning turnover battles. That may be all they need against a Case Keenum led Rams offense. No reason Arizona doesn’t stack 8 in the box to stop Gurley and man up with their more gifted, physical corners to force Keenum to beat them. Cards get back on track with a statement win showing the Rams they still have a long way to go before they reign in the NFC West.
New Orleans Saints @ San Diego Chargers
I feel for Drew Brees. I really do. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know me that I love the guy. Love what he stands for, love how he goes about his business on and off the field, and how, by all accounts, he conducts himself as nothing short of a gentleman in every way. A true leader on his team, to his family, and a role model in his community. He finally got a contract before his current one was up, first time in his career mind you, so I get that no one is going to feel bad for him. He wouldn’t want them to. But damn if I don’t wish he had a better defense. Imagine what Sean Payton, Drew and this team could have accomplished all of these years?
I gush all of that to say this, the fact is the Saints defense is so bad it brings down the chances of their team being any good. I know that’s difficult for the loyal “Who Dat” nation to hear, but in their heart of hearts they know it to be true. They gave up something ridiculous like 100 plus rushing yards to my Falcons on Monday night before….BEFORE contact. That’s absurd! 100 plus yards before anyone laid so much as a finger on a Falcons running back. Quite simply, it’s a recipe for disaster.
As bad as that sounds, the Chargers situation doesn’t look much brighter. Their first round pick, and potential future defensive menace, Joey Bosa, remains out. They generate little to no pass rush and outside of shutdown corner Jason Verrett, there isn’t much defensively that inspires confidence. San Diego, like New Orleans, sport a sound if not explosive offensive led by Rivers and complimented by 2nd year breakout Melvin Gordon. The most intriguing matchup that might determine the outcome on Sunday will be between the Saints, Brandin Cooks, and Chargers, Jason Verrett. From the same draft class three years ago the two are stars at their respective positions and will face off, likely one on one quite often. They also happened to have forged a friendship since being drafted.
While it may be tough for the friends to take each other on, there certainly won’t be any love lost between Brees and Rivers. For those who may not know, Rivers was drafted to essentially replace Brees. Drew isn’t a spiteful guy, but something as personal as being told you aren’t “the guy” and being let go in favor of your replacement has to give Brees yet another chip on his shoulder. He may not admit or even show it openly, but you know anytime Drew gets to go back to San Diego with a chance to prove he is the better quarterback and he is, in fact “the guy” he’s going to bring that little bit of extra passion to help put his team over the top. Saints finally win a shootout full of family ties that bind.
Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers
If this were the 90s I might spend an entire post breaking this game down. Alas, it is in fact 2016 and the glory days of “America’s Team” versus the West Coast Offense are long gone. As it were, we have two teams still searching for their respective identities. Again, I made the mistake of drinking the Chip Kelly Kool-Aid last week and boy oh boy was I wrong. Reports out of San Fran say Gabbert and that offense “aren’t far off”, but I will believe that when I see it. No really, last week proved I’m willing to believe.
The Niners do sport a formidable D led by Navarro Bowman. And beyond that, I’m not sure there is much else to get excited about for San Fran. Correction. Carlos Hyde. Behind a better offense he could be a stud. Speaking of Ohio State running backs, the Cowboys have the better of the two though with Ezekiel Elliot. Fun fact. Elliott has the most rushing yards, through three games, of any rookie running back in Cowboys history. For those playing at home, that’s incredibly good company including the likes of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith.
As much fun as the Dak Prescott hype train has been, it has gotten a bit out of hand. He has not displayed anything close to the ability Romo has to lead the team. Stop it Dallas fans. Just stop. The ‘Boys may be forced to see what Prescott can really do with his arm this week as early injury reports indicate Dez Bryant may be out for a few weeks with a hairline fracture in his right knee. However, even if Bryant misses time, I expect Dallas to keep to the ground game in San Fran. The imposing Cowboy O-Line should be able to impose its will on the Niners, opening plenty of holes for Elliott and Prescott to run through. Cowboys win in a game that may see Kaepernick take the field in a meaningful way if it gets out of hand.
Sunday Night Football (SNF)
Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Welcome back Le’Veon! Ring the bell! Get it? Bell? As in Le’Veon Bell?! Last corny joke of the column, but I promise the Steeler fan base didn’t mind. They are too busy being crazy excited about Bell’s return after the shellacking they took in Philadelphia last week. I mean holy crap! Where in the heck did that come from? Wentz had a coming out party like no other picking apart a good Steeler D. Pittsburgh definitely wants to get out to a fast start and put that ugly performance in the rear view.
There’s another running back that could be returning for this primetime affair as well. That’s right, Jamaal Charles is expected to make his return. Unlike Le’Veon we aren’t as certain if Charles will be afforded a full snap count, but either way his return is welcome on a Chiefs team in need of offensive weapons. The Chiefs have the better of the two defenses and should make life difficult for AB and Big Ben. Peters likely continues his great play picking off at least one Roethlisberger throw. Without Justin Houston though, the Chiefs will still struggle to generate enough pressure to rattle Big Ben. This might be the best SNF game yet and it would not surprise me if it is a back and forth affair. Unless the Chiefs D steps up in a big way, I’m afraid KC doesn’t have the health or weapons to keep up with Pittsburgh. Steelers win a tit for tat game that comes down to the end.
Monday Night Football (MNF), October 3rd
New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings
Pretty good game here on Monday night. Giants definitely reeling from a loss they easily could have won in Washington, and Minnesota rolling after knocking off NFC powerhouses, Green Bay and Carolina, two weeks in a row. Food for thought. Which defense has been more impressive, Denver or Minnesota? One more. Which defense is more imposing, Denver or Minnesota? Was your answer the same? Was it different? I’m all aboard the Broncos bandwagon, but through the first 3 weeks, for my money, Minnesota’s performance has been the most impressive and imposing. Consider that they’ve done this with an offense whose quarterback is still learning the playbook and backup running backs! That’s not a recipe for an offense that will sustain long drives and keep the D off the field. For that reason and the sheer dominance of Everson Griffen (the dude was all over Cam Newton last week), I think the Vikings have the scariest defense thus far. Sorry Von!
Offensively, Minnesota’s running back woes have been well documented, but the Giants have some concerns of their own. Looks like the ground games will sport Orleans Darkwa for New York and Jerrick McKinnon for Minnesota (a personal favorite and Georgia native!). We know what the Giants have with OBJ, Cruz and Shepherd, but I’m more impressed with Bradford has done with Diggs and Rudolph thus far. The G-Men have improved up front, and could decide to test and force Bradford to beat them. I don’t think that’s the best strategy, but it may be their preferred method of attack. Either way, while competitive and chocked full of talent for a primetime game, I don’t think this shapes up to be the most entertaining of MNF games. In a game with only a few big plays that comes down to who can grind out a win, I’ll take the Vikings to move to 4 and 0 at home in primetime.
That’s a wrap for this week 4 preview. As always thank you for reading. Please continue to spread the word and share. Also, feel free to reach out to connect or provide any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be working to setup our social media presence on facebook and twitter so please be on the lookout for that and feel free to like, follow, tweet, share, connect and all of that other fun jazz! Thank you and happy week 4 watching!
Week 4 TNF: Will the Fins Find Another Win?!
Week 3 continued a great start to the NFL season with more hold your breath finishes and shocking upsets that we’ve come to know and love from this league. What might week 4 have in store? We’ll kick it off Thursday with a game that doesn’t exactly conjure up much excitement. But don’t worry loyal readers, come back later in the week for my full week 4 preview!
Thursday Night Football, September 29th
Miami Dolphins @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Dolphins pulled out a nail biter at home against the hapless Browns. I actually found myself rooting for Cleveland simply because, when else will they have a chance as good as last week for a win this year? No. Seriously, check out their schedule, when? Poor guys. Let’s think what this says about Miami, who, seemingly surrounded by more talent, barely squeaked out a win. Miami fans, remember that discussion we had early this year about your track record of poor decisions? (See my week 1 Dolphins preview for reference) Yeah…it’s gonna be long season in Miami.
Consider the Bengals, a team that 10 years ago was all but a joke of the NFL, oft referred to as, “The Bungles”. Cincinnati decided to rebuild from the ground up and brought in a defensive minded coach who built a D to compete each year. Marvin Lewis then surrounded himself with offensive talent that gives them a chance to win against the most explosive offenses. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to team building in the NFL, but there are lessons to be gleaned and a blueprint that can help lead to success. Miami seems to ignore all of that and take a patchwork approach that hasn’t worked for the past decade.
Okay, rant over. In terms of the game this Thursday, Arian Foster is out and I can’t say I’m surprised. This is what happens when you pick up an injury riddled 30 plus year old running back Miami! Confession: I’m an Arian Foster fan, but even I can admit his days of carrying the load as a workhorse back are all but gone. Foster is still very talented as a runner, seemingly “gliding” through the defense at times. At his age though, he needs plays off by a complimentary bruiser or even change of pace speed guy out of the backfield. Unless Miami moves to more of a timeshare, Foster won’t finish this season. Another bit of injury news is that the talented Jordan Cameron is out with a concussion. This is very sad because Cameron has a history of concussion issues and this might lead to some Wes Welker, career shortening, discussion in Cameron’s camp. Unfortunate for the talented tight end.
The Bengals have taken a couple of tough losses against the Steelers and Broncos the past two weeks, but they have much more to look forward to than their week 4 opponents. For one, apparently all I had to do was bad mouth Jeremy Hill and he decides to go off to the tune of 97 yards and two touchdowns. Yeah, got that one wrong. Tales of Hill’s demise have been exaggerated. Truthfully, I still don’t think he’s living up to his full potential as most of that total came on one big 60 yard run. He may have a good week against an average Miami D, but he won’t sustain the impressive efforts against more talented teams. The Bengals do get to add Vontaze Burfict back to the middle of their defense as he returns from suspension. This makes an already good defense even better. Andy Dalton and AJ Green (DGD) get back on track this week and rip the Dolphins D for multiple TDs. This shapes up to be a long night for the Dolphins. Bengals in a blowout.
Week 3 Preview: Ouch!
I’m a bit of an old soul at times and I was raised on some of the classics. One of those being Jim Croce’s, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”. Such a great song. The lyrics go something like this:
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,
You don’t spit into the wind,
You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger,
And you don’t pick against Bill Belichick on a short week at home in Foxborough.
Okay, so maybe not exactly like that, but the point is clear either way. There are certain things you just don’t do. Bill is a bad man ladies and gentleman. He just won a game against a very good Texans team with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback….I’ll let that sink in. Say it to yourself again for affect. Jacoby Brissett. Granted the Texans shot themselves in the foot over and over, particularly on special teams, but the point remains. Even without Tom Brady, Belichick is simply one of the greatest coaches, if not the greatest, of this generation. Let’s be sure we all take a moment to remove any prejudices or predilections we may have about the man or the team and simply appreciate how remarkable what he has done is.
I know I jumped ahead, but I felt obliged to pay homage to one of the greats. Reviewing week 2, I went a respectable 11 for 16. We’re not picking spreads here, at least not yet (fans/readers I await your feedback), but those are still pretty good odds. And now that I’ve opened my mouth watch this week bomb. The biggest takeaway from week 2 wasn’t from any one specific game. Remember when I talked about preseason injuries and football, like life, being tough? Well, I’m sure you all may be aware of tragedies in Tulsa and Charlotte, and as eerie as it sounds, there were also severe injuries on the football field. I am in no way comparing the two events in terms of social impact and significance. Quite simply, there is no comparison. I am using it to highlight how oddly coincidental the timing is, and how much of a football impact the injuries that did occur this week are to their respective teams and future opponents.
Let’s not bury the lead…
The Vikings pulled off an incredible Sunday Night win against a good Packers team, but not without paying a very high cost. Adrian Peterson (AP) went down and Vikings fans everywhere had to be thinking, “not again”. Not only not again for AP, but not again for this season. First, they lose Teddy Bridgewater, now this? How many big body blows can a playoff caliber team take in one season without losing heart? 2016 will certainly tell us a lot about not just this team, but the entire Vikings organization. If ever there were a coach built to coach through adversity it is Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, mind you, a coach who faced a ton of adversity in his own right. Minnesota fans, tough blow, but Bradford and Diggs provide a ton of hope, and I’ll give you a few more points that should help you remain optimistic later in the column.
Let’s see…injury #2
Sticking with the running back theme for a moment, Woodhead, a sort of utility, RB/WR, do-it-all, type guy who made his bones as a scrub for the Jets, and then integral player on the Pats was lost for the season Sunday. Tough blow for the Chargers as Woodhead has proven to be a playmaker with great hands and a veteran knowledge of blocking schemes that QBs can trust. The Chargers have brought in Dexter McCluster to help, but Chargers fans still have Melvin Gordon so I think they’ll be just fine. The Keenan Allen loss from two weeks ago probably still stings the most to be honest.
We don’t have time to recap all of the injury filled week two, but to highlight some of the bigger ones, let’s see if we can’t reel off names. Continuing with the notable running back blows, Doug Martin (TB), Ameer Abdullah (DET), Arian Foster – oh boy, here we go again -(MIA), and Jonathan Stewart – again, see Foster, Arian – (CAR). For a more complete list of big name injuries ESPN has a pretty good list, though offensively focused it is (thanks a lot fantasy). The really big defensive name that must be mentioned is DeMarcus Ware. The injury isn’t considered to be too severe, but it will be tough to account for the age-less edge rusher, and could be a difference in the game this week when Denver takes on a tough Cincinnati team.
Early Games, Sunday September 25th
Arizona Cardinals @ Buffalo Bills
So which teams do we get in week 3? Should we expect an Arizona team that dominated every facet of the game against Tampa Bay, or one that looked good, but not great in a disappointing loss to first time starter Jimmy Garoppolo and New England in week 1? For Buffalo, oy vey do I have questions. Does firing Greg Roman answer any questions on the offensive side of the ball for Rex Ryan? P.S. Rex, you might have fired the wrong coach. Last I checked, T-Mobile and Shady McCoy put up 31 points against a tough Jets D. You may want to reconsider the hiring of that other Buffalo coach with the last name Ryan? *Note, I’m going to drive this story into the ground if I have to – you’ve been warned. I think most coaches would be happy with an offense that put up 31 points. Call me crazy, but maybe, just maybe, giving up 38 points on defense isn’t the best strategy for winning football games? What Buffalo team shows up this week?
Buffalo really does have a lot of nice pieces in place, and that defense is not as bad as the 38 point Thursday Night Football game indicated last week. The Bills being at home is very nice and needed for this team too. My biggest concern for Buffalo is that I’m not sure Tyrod Taylor is adept enough at precision passing to find throwing lanes against a supremely talented Arizona secondary. If Sammy Watkins is hobbled at all then who for Buffalo is good enough to get open against the likes of Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu? “Honey-Badger don’t care!” I expect the Bills to come out fighting mad after two one score losses in a row, and they may even punch Arizona in the mouth to start the game with a surprising opening drive or score, but this Cardinals team is simply too talented. Bruce Arians has this team well coached and I think week 1 proves to be a bit of a fluke. Cardinals win going away and start to find a rhythm that should scare other teams, especially in what has looked like a weak NFC West early on this season.
Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers
Here we go! This should be a good one. A Vikings team that surprised some people, myself included, last week against the Pack, and a Panthers team that bounced back against the 49ers in week 2. Two good defenses and I’ll say what most are not, two good offenses. Yes, everyone knows how good Carolina’s offense is behind the arm and legs of reigning MVP Cam Newton, but what most experts and analysts are overlooking is that the Vikings have proved formidable in the first two weeks despite the big offensive blows dealt early on this season. The reason for optimism in Minnesota isn’t grounded in the front line, obviously the line has been the point of concern, but look around at the remaining evidence. Tennessee just held an explosive Detroit offense to 15 points, and Minnesota put up 25 against them, granted with a healthy AP. Minnesota then goes and beats Green Bay behind stellar performances from Sam Bradford and Stefon Diggs.
I’m not saying the Vikings are an explosive offense, especially without AP, but I am saying they are a good one. Stefon Diggs is breaking out at just the right time. With “All Day” likely out for the regular season, teams now have to be concerned with how to slow down Diggs who reminds me of OBJ and his breakout season. Also, Bradford looked better than I have ever seen him look, has better weapons than he has ever had, and is essentially playing for his career in the NFL with nothing to lose. That makes him a scary man. This is not to mention that I believe Jerrick McKinnon, the Georgia native, Georgia Southern and Sprayberry High product, is grossly underrated. He isn’t AP, but he’s a fast, elusive runner who will fill in admirably during AP’s absence.
The Panthers lit up the scoreboard, but then couldn’t finish off the 49ers until the end of the game in week 2. This week they will face a much more difficult test as this Minnesota defense is good, really good. Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd won’t allow much running room in the middle, which is problematic for fill in plodder Cameron Artis-Payne and the Panthers. Vikings cornerbacks, Terrance Newman, having a resurgent season to relevance, and Xavier Rhodes will make life difficult on Cam when the Panthers turn to the air and Barr, Kendricks, and Greenway are all athletic enough in the middle to limit Newton’s ability to hurt Minnesota with his legs. This Vikings team continues overcoming adversity and surprising people with another upset win, this time on the rode in Charlotte, and Mike Zimmer gets my early season vote for coach of the year.
Denver Broncos @ Cincinnati Bengals
Now we’re rolling! Another matchup between two good teams. This time, however, I’d say the defenses a tad bit better than the respective offenses. That is to say nothing about both offenses being extremely efficient at capitalizing on the opportunities presented by short fields and turnovers generated behind the work of such impressive defensive units. Both of these teams are built to win up front and dictate pace of play. This is arguably the toughest call of the week. Cincy possesses a slight offensive edge behind the Dalton to Green connection, but only slight as their ground game is nowhere near as effective as Anderson and Booker on the Denver side. Speaking of ground game, Jeremy Hill. Man, oh man, he just has not developed into the running back everyone thought he might be and that he showed glimpses of with a great run in 2014. I’m not sure he ever will. By all accounts he’s a good guy, but the flashes of talent, size and speed, just haven’t been there since two years ago.
This game, like many in the NFL, will come down to defense. Denver is without Ware this week, which certainly doesn’t help on the road. I’m really torn on this one. My head tells me Cincy at home pulls out a gritty matchup, but my heart tells me this Siemian continues surprising people. My eyes actually tell me Denver’s D dictates time of possession allowing C.J. Anderson enough touches to go to work and wear down the Bengals D. I think Cincy’s task, scoring against Denver, is marginally more difficult than Denver’s. Give me the Broncos to move to 3 and 0 in a slugfest that could easily be decided by a field goal.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
Another game where we aren’t quite sure which teams we are getting early in the season. It’s only been two weeks, and Aaron Rodgers reminded us to “R-E-L-A-X“. Sage advice from the now 31 year old vet…damn I feel old. Doesn’t it seem like just the other day he was replacing Brett Favre and Stafford was coming into the league as the up and comer gun slinger? Ughhhh. Anyway, on to the game preview. Detroit looked impressive in week 1 against Indy, but then collapsed and didn’t “Finish The Drill” against Tennessee. Green Bay on the other hand looked great offensively against Jacksonville week 1, only to look discombobulated against Minnesota on Sunday night. So which one is it NFC North foes?
Let’s also not forget this was one of Rodgers’s two Hail Mary games last year! Who can forget Aaron letting it fly to watch Richard Rodgers come down with the ball for the improbable win in Detroit last year?! Sorry Daniel Dopp! Okay, okay, I’ve digressed enough. The point made though is, both of these teams do have talented quarterbacks, fueling what I believe to be still very potent offenses. That coupled with the fact that both defenses, while good, are not great, means we may have the ingredients for a shootout in this one. Detroit losing their top pass rusher in Ezekiel Ansah only adds their injury woes and my expectation of a ton of points being put up on the scoreboard.
On the offensive side of the ball, losing Abdullah (mentioned above), hurts, but I think Detroit is deep enough that it shouldn’t hurt too bad. I expect Rodgers to be on point after looking off Sunday night, and we should see a bigger dose of thumper Eddie Lacy. Packers have a few more weapons and a few less injuries, and are back home in Lambeau. Home opener is the tie-breaker for me. Pack at home move to 2 and 1.
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Hmmm…who knows? Better question. Who cares? Certainly not me, and I’ll venture to guess not many viewers on Sunday. Jacksonville has reminded us that they are still Jacksonville. Hey, I hear St. Louis is in the market for a team! Baltimore is nothing more than the beneficiaries of possibly the softest early season schedule. For the sake of avoiding a stinker, I hope Jacksonville shows up and makes this one competitive. The Browns managed to in the first half last week against Baltimore, why not you Jacksonville?! Please? Seriously, all of those weapons on offense, you’ve got to do something. Of course, that’s what we said last week against a less talented San Diego defense so I’m not holding my breath.
Jacksonville does get Chris Ivory back, albeit in a limited capacity. He is a much better running back than T.J. Yeldon. Whaddya’ know?! Another Alabama running back underperforms in the pros?! Go Dawgs! Sorry, I had to…I’ve resisted until now, my longest streak yet. Took one on the chin against Ole Miss though. I digress. Ivory should help take some pressure off of Bortles who has to start finding Allen Robinson more often. The Ravens are probably the most difficult defense the Jags have faced though and I think that makes all the difference. Bortles apparently still has some maturing to do at the quarterback position. It’s only year three for him so relax Jags fans. That said, Dennis Pitta is reviving his career, which is great to see, and Mike Wallace if finally relevant again. Ravens continue to do what John Harbaugh coached teams do, play good defense and make enough plays behind Joe Flacco’s arm to beat you. Ravens in an ugly one.
Cleveland Browns @ Miami Dolphins
It can’t get any worse than the last game…right?
They say ripping the band-aid off is sometimes the best strategy so if I have to preview this game, let’s take that approach. I don’t wanna preview it and you certainly don’t wanna spend any more time than necessary reading it. Cleveland loses last week in the most Cleveland way possible. They also lose another quarterback to injury, adding to their extensive list of no name starting quarterbacks since they’ve returned to Cleveland. Maybe Derek Anderson wasn’t so bad after all eh? Seriously, that link may be the most entertaining part of this game preview…highly recommended if you’re looking for a shake your head chuckle. Where was I? Oh right, Cleveland losing. See a theme here?
Miami continued their path to irrelevance in the AFC East losing to a banged up Pats team last week. DeVante Parker showed some promise and has likely replaced Kenny Stills as the #2 wideout for the Fins. Yeah, I’m done previewing this one. Dolphins beat a Browns team rolling out rookie, USC product, Cody Kessler (continuing the tradition of underperforming USC quarterbacks not named Carson Palmer).
Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
“Just when I think you can’t get any dumber, you go and do something like this…and totally redeem yourself!!!” Dumb and Dumber
Finally! Another game to get excited about. In case you forgot, how could you because it literally consumed the sports news cycle for nearly a week last year, but still…just in case…The last time OBJ and Josh Norman met we got this…
To be fair to Odell, Norman has a history of finding himself in scuffles, lest I remind readers and viewers who are quick to throw OBJ under the bus for his talkative ways…
It’s easy to throw audacious receivers who aren’t afraid to flaunt their talent under the bus, but history proves Norman is either a. gifted at getting under talented players’ skin, b. talks a bit more than he should, or c. a combination of both a and b. Based on his own rise to relevance in the ranks of elite corners, I’ll take c. With the news that Norman will be shadowing OBJ, after not shadowing AB in week 1, we are sure to see some action when these two clash. Last year the Panthers beat the Giants, but OBJ still had six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Norman finds himself on a less gifted Washington team this season and I think OBJ reaps the benefits.
This will be a good game. Washington isn’t as bad as their 0 and 2 record would suggest, and New York isn’t as good as their 2 and 0 start. The Giants D has improved, which doesn’t take much considering the low bar they set last year, but it has. I usually think defense wins most tie-breakers because history tells us defense does in fact tend to win championships. The defenses in this one though are very evenly matched, good but not great. I think this game comes down to who can get the ball to their play makers more often. Both defenses can be had. Give me the weapons at Eli’s disposal compared to Cousins. G-men in a back and forth affair.
Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans
Oh yeah! Here we go. I like this game a lot more than most I think. Two young, talented and burgeoning teams on the brink of equally impressive breakouts. Raiders lost a tough one to my Falcons (who were underrated heading into that game), but they still looked great on offense. Titans pulled out a win somehow against a good Lions team. Carr and Mariota are future stars at the quarterback position. Carr has more weapons to throw to with Crabtree and Cooper, but Mariota has a great one-two punch in the backfield with Murray and Henry that compliment his skill set tremendously.
Oakland’s defense hasn’t come on as well as some predicted in the preseason. By the end of the year I think Del Rio begins to shift that tide. Tennessee on the other hand has limited opponents more than many “experts” expected to start the season. Mike Mularkey clearly recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of his team and is working to put Mariota in the best position to win every down. The Titans want to limit chances for big plays and give their offense the chance to grind you down in the running game. They aren’t expecting or even wanting a shootout as much as they want to win the war of attrition. This is a smart move for a team lacking explosive weapons in the passing game. The Raiders are the exact opposite on offense, which works out well, since their defense clearly gives up points. I think Tennessee takes a step forward in this one and starts to flex a bit of their muscle in what some might consider an upset, even at home. Titans, but I very well may regret this if Derek Carr goes off.
San Francisco Forty-Niners @ Seattle Seahawks
Gonna just start with this. The biggest determining factor in this game is going to be the health of Russell Wilson and his ankle. Yep, he’s that important to what the Seahawks want to do offensively and setting a rhythm and capitalizing on the good work of their defense. This won’t be an easy test either. The NFC West is a bit overrated and being exposed in the early part of the season, but they do have tough defenses across the board. I know Carolina lit up San Fran, but Cam and crew is going to light up many a good D this year. Only the elite of the elites, Denver for example, will be able to slow that machine down. The Niners are better than some people expected, but they are not yet elite.
Why is it so important that Russell Wilson’s ankle be healed? To re-establish Wilson’s mobility and threat to run, because quite frankly, the running backs in Seattle can’t seem to replace this guy…
Russell has to be able to move around and extend plays with his legs for his speedy receivers to create space in the secondary. It’s that simple. Teams aren’t afraid of either Christine Michael or Thomas Rawls (possibly injured) breaking a tackle and gaining chunks of yards at a time like Lynch did so they don’t mind sitting guys back in coverage. This creates a problem for Russell because it means he is going to have to wait longer for his guys to get open, which gives even four man rushes more time to get after him and disrupt what the Seahawks want to do offensively.
For the Niners, I’ve been quite impressed with what I’ve seen out of Chip Kelly’s offense. They are able to score quick and Gabbert looks like a different guy from the one who played in Jacksonville. They do need more weapons offensively, but McDonald, Smith, and Hyde are no slouches. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’ve seen Chip do more with less. See Foles, Nick. I was honestly fairly confident in taking the Niners in a semi upset, semi as the Hawks lost to LA last week, but reports are Russell has healed nicely and appears much more mobile this week. This is such a tough call. This could become a war of attrition. These defenses are going to beat each other up. With Rawls and Baldwin already injured, and Wilson hobbled, I think San Francisco is better prepared for the battle. Navarro Bowman is worth mentioning as well as he will wreak havoc on a less than 100% Wilson. Niners in an upset win that shocks the NFC West and leaves Hawks fans nervous about their prospects this season.
Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Woof! Another ugly one. Although, you’d have thought after Jameis Winston played week 1 the “experts” were prepared to crown him league MVP. So ridiculous. I believe I said it, but it’s worth saying again. Were it not for two incredibly athletic catches on two average throws, the Bucs lose week 1 and we’re talking about an 0 and 2 Tampa team, versus two 1 and 1 teams. Oh, and one of those guys that helped Jameis out isn’t even on the team anymore. Don’t drink and drive kids.
Jeff Fisher and the Rams continued their tradition of being a bad team, but somehow upsetting the Seahawks. It’s quite hilarious at this point. It makes no sense, but they manage to do it year in and year out it seems. This is a matchup of two bad teams that finish at or near the bottom of their divisions. Both teams do have talent on each side of the ball. Mike Evans is a ball hawk who high points with the best of them, and Gurley is capable of breaking a tackle or two or three and taking one to the house at any moment. Defensively, Ogletree is a stud in the middle for the Rams. That’s right, two Damn Good Dawgs (DGDs) on the same team!
Gurley and the Rams find the end zone for the first time this season (that just sounds ridiculous even typing it). Bucs are down two weapons, Sefarian-Jenkins (off team due to DUI), and Martin (hamstring injury), and the Rams benefit for the second week in row from an injured offense. I’m shocked to even pick this, but Rams, even going to the east coast, pull off the upset in Tampa.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles
The fight for home state bragging rights in Pennsylvania. Veteran, battle tested QB versus hot starting rookie. Unfortunately, I don’t think this one will be as good as some in the media are attempting to bill it. Philly has beaten bad Browns and perennially underperforming Bears teams in the first two weeks. I don’t want to completely take the air out of your sails Eagles fans. I’ll let Tomlin and that Steelers D do that the way they did to Cousins and Dalton. Wentz has looked good though and you definitely have hope for better things to come.
That concludes the compliments for Philadelphia as I see this being all Steelers all day. DeAngelo Williams needs a measly 63 yards to tie or break Walter Payton, yes Walter Payton’s record for rushing yards in the first three weeks for a running back 33 years old or older. It’s just ridiculous what he is doing. Eagles D has no chance of slowing this Steelers offense down. Huge days for AB and D. Will. Wentz is also going to be tested with the toughest D he has seen, and I expect a few rookie mistakes and turnovers to lead to short fields for Big Ben and co. Steelers in a route that tempers Philly’s expectations.
San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts
I don’t know whether to be excited or scared for this one. There’s always one. Always one incredibly juicy offensive matchup that promises fireworks the entire game. The only problem is, last week, with the shootout of all shootouts, it wasn’t. Saints and Giants was supposed to be it. The offensive showdown to end all showdowns. Big play after big play. Then…boom! Defensive battle. WTF?! This game shows similar promise. Sure, San Diego’s D looked better last week against a Jags team attempting to find an offensive identity, but still. By all accounts both of these offenses should shred the average to poor defensive opponents, and so I’m nervous. Gun-shy if you will, pun intended. Get it? Because of the shotgun. Get it?! Aw, you get it.
For the sake of brevity I’m going to keep this one very simple. Both teams score, and probably score quite a bit. Even without Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, I think Rivers, Gordon, and the Chargers unit outscores Luck’s Colts. The Chargers D will get enough pressure on Luck behind a terrible offensive line that gives San Diego the edge. San Diego in a fun game to watch, but tough pill to swallow for Luck and his reeling Colts.
New York Jets @ Kansas City Chiefs
Possibly the toughest game to pick in week 3 as both teams are so evenly matched. Jets barely lost in week 1 to Cincy, and KC could’ve easily played cleaner football to beat the Texans in week 2. As is, we have two 1 and 1 teams with good defenses and efficient offenses. It is sounding like Jamaal Charles is going to be out at least one more week, which is probably the smart play long term for Kansas City. That leaves Spencer Ware carrying the rock for the Chiefs and Forte showing he can still get it done on the ground for the Jets. The Chiefs D is still working to get healthy, but should put up a better fight than Buffalo did last week against the Jets.
Speaking of health, we aren’t sure if Brandon Marshall suits up for this one and it sounds like a game-time decision. I think they need him to spread out and pick on KC’s corners. They can and have been exposed this season. Someone else who has been exposed…paging Mr. Revis…Darrell “no longer an island” Revis. Anytime a guy wants to switch to safety is a sign. He’s lost a step in terms of speed and is no longer capable of keeping up with the elite receivers in the league. Yet another example of Belichick letting go of a guy while he can still get top value for him, but his ability will never improve. Evil. Genius.
The Jets could put up points quickly in this one, similar to what San Diego did to the Chiefs in week 1. The Chiefs will certainly need to control clock with their ground game, and may even need some more of that week 1 Alex Smith fire. Arrowhead is always, always tough to play on the road. In what may be the closest matchup this week, I like Smith’s fire to beat Fitz’ magic. Chiefs in a tight one.
Sunday Night Football (SNF)
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys
Hahahaha….okay, I’m sorry. I had to get that out for a second. It’s very popular and common knowledge to “hate on” (I don’t actually hate), but to point to how bad or at least underwhelming Jay Cutler is and has been throughout his career. The only thing is, I’ve always felt this way dating back to his days in Denver. I never, never thought he was a winner. I know by most accounts he’s overcome quite a bit personally. That’s awesome. I don’t want to take away from that. As an NFL quarterback and player though, he’s just not good. So many coaches and teams have ooed and aahhh’d over his arm, but they did the same thing for Jeff George. Me = not impressed. I don’t want to be mean with this, even though it already kind of is, but Cutler is a loser. He is a loser in that he loses games. He just never seems to have that fire or will to win that separates guys from good to great.
Okay, my Cutler “hating” is done for now. For the record, I don’t know and thus don’t hate him. I just don’t think he plays with enough heart, passion, or emotion to win games in the NFL. So the Bears are likely looking at Hoyer at QB this week, but it’s actually not much of a downgrade in my opinion. Hoyer is a gamer with less arm talent, but a knack for getting the ball to the studs on his team. He found Hopkins in Houston last year and I don’t doubt he’ll find Jeffrey with Chicago.
One problem for the Bears though is my ‘Boys are looking a lot better than people expected and could easily be 2 and 0 to start the 2016 season. Dak has found a rhythm with Dez and the D in Big D has performed better than expected. Ezekiel Elliot has to work on curing his fumbling ills, but he has been serviceable in his rookie campaign. Bryant could have a big day. Cowboys win and buy another week for Romo to heal while remaining in the hunt in a wide open NFC East.
Monday Night Football (MNF), September 26th
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
Speaking of shootouts! My Dirty Birds head down to New Orleans to take on Who Dat Nation. Only problem for the Saints is, “Dat”, be everyone so far. Had to get that dig in against our long time rival. As a football fan this game is great and perfect for MNF! As a Falcon fan I’m nervous. The Saints have lost two close games that could have gone either way, and by recent memory Brees has a tendency to light the Falcons up. I don’t see that changing on Monday night as Brees should have a big day. Hell, he had a “bad day” in New York and he still threw for 263 yards with a touchdown and no picks. That’s a “bad day” for Drew.
The Falcons, in their own right, bounced back last week, as predicted I might add, on the road in Oakland. As close as the week 1 Raiders and Saints game was there should be no doubt this one could come down to the wire as well. The Falcons should get a boost on defense with rookie standout Keanu Neal returning from injury. The Saints on the other hand are struggling mightily to overcome early season injury woes in their secondary. P.J. Williams, Delvin Breaux, and Damian Swann (DGD), are all out with injury, and while Sterling Moore, De’Vante Harris, and Ken Crawley performed admirably in New York last week, they will have their hands full again in week 3.
Without much fanfare, Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense has started off hot yet again. They also found a ground game with a nice share of touches for both Coleman and Freeman last week. No real reason to think that won’t continue in week 3. For the Saints, Brees and company have been solid as expected on the offensive side of the ball, even without good performances from free agent signee Coby Fleener, or running back Mark Ingram. This is really just more credit to how freaking talented Brees is than anything. This week, Brees may be down another weapon with reports of Willie Snead possibly missing due to injury. Matt Ryan has loved targeting tight end Jacob Tamme early this season, but to come away with a W in New Orleans he’ll need to find Julio early and often.
It feels like Brees and the Saints are due to catch a break, especially with this weekend being the 10 year anniversary of the famous Steve Gleason block. Brees and the Saints have been known to ride momentum to victory better than most. Ultimately, I think the Falcons light up a beleaguered Saints secondary and are too much to keep up with offensively, even for an inspired Saints team at home in the Superdome. Falcons in a shootout.
That does it for this week 3 preview. My schedule evens out a bit in the coming weeks so I hope to be able to make some more improvements to the site and get the picks and previews out and up a bit sooner. As always, though, thank you for reading and sharing! Feedback is welcome and appreciated. Here’s to another great week of football!
Week 3 Thursday Night Football Preview: Texans D & A Rookie QB
Week 2 certainly didn’t disappoint with tight games and fireworks in abundance. I can’t wait to cover it all in my weekly preview out later this week – that’s called a teaser kiddos and no, no I’m not above it. The matter at hand, however, is a Thursday Night Football game pitting two 2 – 0 teams against each other in an intriguing matchup.
Thursday Night Football, September 22nd
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
A potential AFC Division or even Conference championship preview. Yep, I said it. Only, one of the teams will look very different than the one that is taking the field in Foxborough this September. Yes the Patriots will be rolling out Jacoby Brissett. If you are asking yourself who, you aren’t alone. Peter King’s website recently featured an article focusing on the 23 year old North Carolina State product. Jenny Vrentas’s piece on Brissett can be found here. There are some rumors that Garoppolo could play, but with an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder I’m not counting on it.
With all due respect to the genius that is Bill Belichick and “The Patriot Way”, this may be one blow too many. I have no doubt Belichick and his staff will implement the “next man up” philosophy better than most this week and have young Brissett as prepared to play as possible. That said, the Pats are going to be rolling out a rookie quarterback against arguably the best defense in football this season thus far. Brissett didn’t stretch the field much during his fill-in duties last week, and I doubt the Pats open the entire playbook for the inexperienced QB.
I’m sure there will be the true blue Pats believers out there that think the Pats can pound the rock, limit Brissett’s exposure, and come away with a win (I’m looking at you Mom). After all, look what happened in week 1 against a very good Cardinals team and D right? It’s an argument that has some merit, but falls short when considering the very green QB against such a menacing front line of Houston sporting the likes of Clowney and Watt. “What about Blount?!” I hear you Pats fans, but need I remind you that Houston has allowed a whopping three…yes, THREE yards rushing in the second half so far this season? It’s going to be tough sledding against that Texan D, even with home field advantage.
I truly believe Belichick and staff are comfortable writing this short week off as a learning and team building opportunity while their team heals. Gronk likely sits one more week and Garoppolo lets the shoulder heal in the hopes of giving it one more go week 4 before Brady’s impending return. One caveat, Osweiler has to cut back on an early season penchant for untimely interceptions. The Pats will most certainly take advantage of such youthful mistakes. A healthy Patriots offense may put up a better fight, but in the NFL you play the matchup at hand, and this Pats offense isn’t striking fear in a ferocious Texans D. The Texans are the more healthy of the two teams with the better defense. Wilfork clogs the middle against his old teammate Blount while Watt and Clowney continue to provide the one-two punch that is starting to give NFL QBs nightmares. Lamar Miller probably breaks off a few big, exciting runs too. Texans in an uncharacteristic blowout of the “evil empire”.
Thank you as always for reading and sharing! Please check back in for my week 3 preview later this week. We’ll also be making some minor adjustments and what we hope you see as improvements to the site in the coming weeks so look forward to that and the rest of what has been an exciting season so far!
NFL Week 2: Don’t Call It A Comeback
Wow! What can you say?! Week 1 in the NFL had everything you could have wanted. Nine, count ’em, (I did) nine, fourth quarter comeback wins! Incredible! Also, a complete debacle on the part of ESPN’s fantasy website and app. In case you missed it, the entire site and application, across all platforms crashed during prime hours of the first set of early games. Rolling Stone summarized it thusly. And if you are looking for a good laugh, check out some of the tweets about the app crash, here’s a sample:
“I’m glad the ESPN Fantasy app crashed so I can go back to enjoying football the old fashion way… by gambling on the point spread.” -Rod @rodimusprime
Anyway, back to the actual football. Week 1: 10 of 16 correct picks. Can’t complain considering a few of those games could’ve gone either way, but I’m looking at you Kameron Canaday (Arizona Cardinals rookie long-snapper). Not only do I have Chandler Catanzaro on my fantasy team, but that snap to my fellow bulldog alum was rough (pun-intended).
Okay okay, enough of my crying. There were a few other notable plays and comebacks though that are worth mentioning before we head into week 2 predictions and picks. Cincy came back to beat the Jets with A.J. Green lighting up “Revis Island” to the tune of 12 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. Damn good dawg (DGD). Alex Smith went all beast mode and led KC to a comeback win over what looked like a Charger blowout win early. A hobbled Russell Wilson mustered just enough offense to beat an impressive Miami d-line. Matt Stafford proved me wrong and reminded me to not pick against my dawgs if I can help it, out dueling Andrew Luck and the Colts. Side note, Stafford exuded some real leadership in the absence of Megatron (Calvin Johnson), and Detroit fans may have an offense worth watching this year. Oakland with one of my personal favorite head coaches, Jack Del Rio, and Derek Carr and company found success on a gutsy late game two point conversion over the Saints in the Superdome. This won’t be the last time Raider nation upsets some teams this year. Denver looked damn good against a very tough Panthers team. Siemian is going to keep getting better and CJ Anderson is in for a career year. The Texans gave up an early lead, but clamped down in the second half and didn’t give up another point. Expect a lot more of that sort of shut down D from Houston this year. The G-men salsa’d their way to a win over the Boys down in Big D with a last minute Victor Cruz TD. Great to have him back.
Finally, what recap would be complete without a Bill Belichick comeback against all odds and adversity. Indulge me for just a moment if you will. This man, this team, this “system” is simply unbelievable. Myself, and many many others, including “experts”, thought this was a sure win for the Cardinals and sure loss for the Pats. Not only was New England without Brady, but they also found out Nate Solder and Rob Gronkowski would be out week 1 as well. Behind a first time starter, without his full compliment of receivers, and new receivers that you would think need time to gel, the Pats went out and beat a preseason Superbowl favorite in Arizona. I just, I don’t know what else to say about how impressive this Belichick era of Patriot football is and has been other than, we should all know better by now than to doubt “The Evil Genius”. We are witnessing one of the greatest coaches in the modern era of football. Love him or hate him, let’s make sure we take a moment to appreciate how great and incredible he has been.
Early Games, Sunday September 18th
San Francisco Forty-Niners @ Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton got beat up last week. I think the league really does have to be more vigilant with enforcing roughing the passer penalties, because if any of those hits were laid on quarterbacks named Brady or Luck they’d have been flagged immediately. I understand Cam can take off and run at any point, but you simply can’t have such a dichotomy of enforcement by the officials. I think some of that changes this week. That said, the Forty-Niners D-line will present another difficult test and Navarro Bowman may not be Von Miller, but he’s pretty damn good. Also, Blaine Gabbert looked better than expected in that Chip Kelly offense on Monday Night against a good Rams defense (let’s not talk about the Rams offense -woof!). I do think the Panthers bounce back in this one, but the game may be closer than some people think. The Niners will play hard and fast, a Chip Kelly staple, but the Panthers are simply much more talented on every side of the ball.
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
The Cowboys almost came away with an impressive win against the Giants last week. I picked the G-men, but the game was much closer than even I expected. Washington on the other hand looked bad against a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team. Where does that leave us in this division rivalry game? It’s tough to say, because I think Dak and Ezekiel have a lot of growing and learning to do, but their talents were on display for brief spurts and is undeniable. Kirk Cousins will likely bounce back and have a better performance than he did on Monday Night. Washington has problems on defense though and Dallas’s young rookies are good enough to exploit them. Dez Bryant doesn’t have to beat Breeland or Norman in Washington’s secondary for the Boys to ground and pound, dink and dunk to beat Washington. I don’t think this game is particularly fun to watch, but the Cowboys pull out a close one on the road against a rival by winning up front, controlling the line of scrimmage.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Yes! Yes, yes, yes!!! The rematch from last year’s playoffs! This is the game of the day in my opinion. So many big hitters on both sides of the ball. Atkins, Burfict, Harrison, Heyward, J. “The Predator” Jones, A. “Pacman” Jones, and the list goes on and on. Who can forget the Joey Porter, coach on the field, moment from last year after the head hunting hit by Burfict on AB?!
Both offenses are explosive sporting very strong aerial attacks, while the Steelers have the stronger of the two ground games. AB and A.J. are going to put on a clinic in receiving. I don’t think that is the deciding factor in this one though. This game is going to be hard hitting and hard nosed football at its best. It’s going to become a war of attrition. Cincy would love to get up early and wear that big Steeler D down with their bruising back, Jeremy Hill, but I don’t see it going that way. Pittsburgh is so explosive they will get a lead and let D. Williams go to work. Side track, have you ever seen a 33 year old running back look so good? I mean he should be starting all season somewhere running the way he is right now. Pitt wins the war in the trenches and continues the hype train for their 2016 Superbowl run.
New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants
Rough loss last week for my boy Drew Brees. Man that had to be tough to swallow. He even drove them back with only seconds on the clock for a long field goal attempt. Brees is in for another huge, if not career year, even in his mid-30s. He will need it as that defense appears to be struggling to find an identity at the moment. Brees finds himself in another shootout in New York with Eli and the G-men. OBJ had somewhat of a down week last week, but I think he bounces back in a big way and shreds a Saints secondary that can and will be had. A lot of fireworks through the air, with little in the way of exciting ground games on either side. Brees will get it out so fast the new and improved Giants line will be rendered ineffective. Brees bounces back in yet another shootout. Saints in a close, high scoring game.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Okay Miami fans. You slightly impressed me. Your defense did anyway. Holding the Seahawks and Russell Wilson to 12 points last week was no small feat. Those old fellas up front turned the clock back and made your D relevant. On the offensive side of the ball…
The Kenny Stills drops say it all. The Dolphins come out and have a chance to shock the Seahawks at home, in Seattle. And like many good things that come Miami’s way, they find a way to fumble it away. Personally, I like Kenny Stills, the gritty Oklahoma wideout who found a way to overcome his small stature and become a skill player in the NFL. But drops like the one last week just can’t happen on a team desperate and searching for any kind of offense. This week the Dolphins go up against a very tough Patriots team. While I will back off slightly from my harsh criticism of the Fins from last week, this week doesn’t get any better for Miami in New England. With or without Gronk, Garoppolo, Mr. GQ, proved last week he can use the weapons at his disposal to get the job done. Also, newsflash, the Pats D is good. Carson Palmer and the Cards are a very good offense and the Pats held them to 20 points. This Patriots defense is going to be tough on many an unsuspecting offense this season. Garoppolo keeps the Pats fans in their “dreamy” state of mind for another week while they wait for Brady to come back. Pats.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans
Oh man, two teams I love! Chiefs and Texans. Unfortunately, I think this matchup would be much more fun to watch in a few weeks when the Chiefs are fully healthy, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Justin Houston and J.J. Watt going at it would be incredible. Two of the sack leaders for the past two to three years. I still think the Chiefs find a way to hang close in this one behind the gritty performance of the perennially underrated Alex Smith. By the way, how often is a #1 draft pick at quarterback underrated? It’s crazy to think, but in Smith’s case it is oh so true.
Last week the Texans looked a little shaky early, letting Cutler and the Bears score in the first two quarters. I’m not sure who said what, or Watt – get it?! After the half the Texans came out and didn’t give up another point. That doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs who clearly showed their own deficiencies against the Chargers last week. The Chiefs can’t let themselves fall too far behind too early in this one, because Lamar Miller has finally been freed and man does it look good! Only 100 yard rusher on Sunday. Jadeveon Clowney seems to finally be rounding into form, and though Houston will miss Cushing while he is out, Clowney and Watt are going to make life hell for opposing QBs. I don’t think Smith recreates the comeback magic this week as he’ll be under fire all game long. Texans in a tough one.
Tennessee Titans @ Detroit Lions
Titans and Lions. Two teams I think we still don’t know enough about. Stafford looked impressive in his shootout with the Colts, but the Detroit D still got lit up by Luck and co. Tennessee had a rough go against a tough Vikings D. Mariota certainly didn’t impress as I thought he might, but again, that was a very tough defense in Minnesota. Detroit doesn’t sport quite the defense that Minnesota does, and life should be a little better for Mariota this Sunday. The Titan ground game also looked pretty impressive and I expect that to continue. Derrick Henry will be making noise before you know it. In the meantime though, I think Stafford and the Lions simply outgun a young Titans team. Lions will put up more points than the Titans are able to match, but this week should give us a better idea of where each of these teams stands.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns
The “what was that” game!?! Baltimore, last week, 13-7 against the Bills, what was that? Cleveland…oh boy, where do we begin. What the heck was that? Carson Wentz certainly has to have Podesta second guessing his decision to trade that draft spot to Philly. Poor Cleveland though. Poor, poor Cleveland. Eh whatever. You guys just won an NBA championship! Your football team on the other hand….yeah….about that…
There really isn’t much to say about the Browns at the moment other than that they are not very good. McCown may provide some stability at QB for them, but that’s about the most positive thing I can say. The Ravens won a defensive battle against the Bills last week, but that whole game just seemed a bit off. The Bills obviously found their firepower again Thursday night, putting up 31 points against a good Jets D, so I’m not really sure how good the Ravens D is or how much that game was working out week one kinks on both sides. The Ravens get to continue their good start by playing Cleveland and I’m sure, given the injuries sustained last season, no one in Baltimore is complaining about the soft early season schedule. Ravens reel off two in a row to open the season, but again, this one isn’t all that pretty.
Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles. What…I mean…how….I don’t….it just doesn’t….I mean what the hell was that?! I though it would be at least a defensive battle, but damn. That was simply awful. I knew it would be ugly, but not that bad. How does Jeff Fisher keep getting to coach in the NFL? I love Todd Gurly, DGD, but I’m not legitimately worried he may waste away on a mediocre team for his career a-la Barry Sanders. Ugh. And Case Keenum, what in the world son?! You have your one shot before this kid Goff takes over and you put up that performance? I can’t even fathom how that product gets put on a professional football field. It doesn’t even matter if Russell Wilson is hobbled. I know traditionally the Rams have played Seattle close of late, but this LA version has a lot of work to do to win any good graces. Seattle needs to find and establish a ground game, but this week it won’t matter. Wilson to Baldwin and Lockett will be enough to out duel the very weak Rams offensive output. Seattle, like Baltimore, seems to benefit from a soft early season schedule.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Arizona Cardinals
Alright Tampa fans, calm down. Jameis did have a good game against my Falcons, but he isn’t all that and a bag of chips just yet. Two of his touchdown throws could have easily been broken up or even dropped. They were simply the product of good athletes making incredible plays and less a product of Jameis throwing “dimes” as some “experts” seem to be saying. I think the Bucs are in for a rude awakening against a Cardinals team that is going to come out fighting mad. The Cards got surprised and upset by a well coached Bill Belichick team. Dirk Koetter, you definitely have that offense humming, but sailing won’t be as smooth heading to unfamiliar territory in Arizona. I think Arians has the Arizona offense flexing its muscle in this one with weapons all over the field making big plays against a Tampa D that Atlanta proved can be had. Arizona bounces back and Tampa has temper expectations just a bit before that bandwagon gets too full.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Diego Chargers
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Talented quarterback. Big receivers. Fast receivers. Solid running backs and ground game. No defense and an offense than can never seem to put teams away? If you thought I was talking about Jaguars and Chargers you’d be right! Admittedly that could have been the story of the Raiders and Saints, but for the sake of this preview, let’s focus on this week’s matchup at hand. Both offenses are explosive. We know this. Both quarterbacks can light up a scoreboard. I do give an edge in the running game to the Chargers as both Woodhead and Gordon looked impressive last week against a good Chiefs team. It was also nice to see this guy get into the end zone finally…
It’s clear the Chargers want to pound the rock, especially if they get a lead. Jacksonville is going to need to put up points early, otherwise the Jags may be seeing a whole lot of Mr. Gordon running like he did against the Chiefs. Side note, for fantasy players, I personally think Melvin is a post-hype sleeper this year who could have a very big year. Talent is there, and now that he is healthy with a year of experience he could break out in a big way this season. Losing Keenan Allen definitely gives Jacksonville an advantage at the receiver position with the Allen boys, but I think Rivers and co. come out mad after last week’s OT loss and puts it on the Jags at home in San Diego. Home field may make a difference in what could be a high scoring game. Chargers in a close one.
Atlanta Falcons @ Oakland Raiders
Ughhhhh…..Falcons. Why do you do this to me?! It looked bad, very, very bad. I had a feeling Devonta would come back to earth, and I liked what I saw with Coleman, but still. Letting Jameis light you up like that? At home. In the Dome? What ever happened to Defend the Dome?! Matt Ryan did look good, but not getting Julio the ball until the second quarter? When you lose by one touchdown, not getting your number one playmaker involved until midway through the second quarter is poor game planning, poor coaching, and just simply poor play. The game against Tampa could have broken the other way, and football in the NFL is tough, but boy oh boy do I need to see more this week against Oakland before I start hyping you guys as a sleeper to win the NFC South.
Oakland, on the other hand, you guys have to be loving life at the moment! I mean how gutsy, how gritty, how exciting?! Going into the Superdome and knocking off Brees and the Saints?! Show me something Oakland, I see you! Now that first half and that defense…I mean…But you guys are legit and I love it. I’m trying not to be a homer and give the Raiders their due. At the same time, I think Raider nation may be in shock after the Falcons head into Oakland and knock off an very hyped Raider team. The running game in Oakland won’t do much, and I don’t think Dan Quinn lets his secondary give up the circus catches they did last week. Julio will likely shred Oakland’s secondary a-la Brandin Cooks, especially now that Mo Sanu has proven you can’t ignore him on the other side. Until Khalil Mack and that D start to make bigger plays on defense, the Raiders will find themselves in many a shootout. Exciting? Yes. A path toward making the playoffs? Maybe not so much. Dirty birds in another shootout.
Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos
Denver! Show me something boys! I should’ve never doubted Kubiak and Elway. The Broncos are going to be tough to beat this year ladies and gentlemen. Siemian providing better quarterback play than last season when they won 12 games. CJ Anderson looking every bit the part of workhorse, stud running back. Weapons on offense and ferocious defense. I don’t know who beats them. Now, it was good to see Luck back out on the field and the Colts definitely need him. Indy could go into Denver and shock some people. I don’t put it past Luck from playing out of his mind again this week and finding a way to win – he seems to have a knack for that. However, truth be told, for all of the “soft” matchups I’ve referred to, Indy has a very tough early season set of games that doesn’t get easier this week in Denver. Andrew isn’t going to have much time, and whereas most teams can run to help mitigate a tough pass rush, the Colts have no such luxury on offense. It’s going to be tough sledding for Indy, and while I think they still have a good season, it doesn’t get turned around this week in Denver. Broncos.
Sunday Night Football (SNF)
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Heyoh! There’s the MVP QB and offense we’ve come to know and love! How good did it feel to see Rodgers doing his thing last week?! I mean, when healthy and humming, Green Bay may well have one of the most fun offenses to watch week in and week out. I know all of the talk was about Jordy, but Randall Cobb and Davante Adams certainly seemed to enjoy not drawing all of the attention as well. Jordy certainly adds another element to the Packers attack and makes them very difficult to defend in the passing game. Minnesota pieced together a win as they continue to piece together their offense since the loss of Teddy Bridgewater and acquisition of Sam Bradford. I was surprised we didn’t see Bradford last week, but I think we will this week. I don’t think the Vikings have a choice. Peterson was effectively shut down because the Titans simply didn’t respect the threat of the passing by Shaun Hill. Bradford will add another thing for Green Bay to have game plan against not named Peterson.
This is a division rivalry game and a good one; however, much like the Chiefs and Texans game, I wish it was happening a bit later in the season. I think the Vikings are still in gel mode and haven’t found their rhythm yet. It may take a few more games before they start punching some teams in the mouth the way they can with that defense and strong ground game. This week, against a revitalized Packers offense, the Pack proves to be the well oiled machine and keeps the good times rolling reeling off two in a row to start the season.
Monday Night Football (MNF), September 19th
Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears
Slow your roll Philly fans. We know Wentz threw the first touchdown of the NFL season and looked every bit the part of first round stud QB draft pick. At the same time, it was Cleveland. I’ll say it again because your fans don’t seem to hear me, Cleveland. Hey, whadddya’ know?! Another stinker to keep the crummy MNF games rolling! For the viewers’ sakes I hope Wentz and the Eagles are even better than advertised, otherwise I think this may be a tough one to watch. Wentz likely doesn’t find life in the NFL to be quite so easy this week against a formidable John Fox coached Bear defense. Chicago fans rejoice! You don’t play this guy again…
Jay Cutler finds life a bit more bearable against the Eagles and uses his numerous weapons to light up an untested Philadelphia team. Odds are high Chicago benefits from some rookie mistakes and turnovers as well. Bears on Monday Night.
Apologies for the delay this week. On a bit of a mini-vacay, but as always, thanks for reading and sharing! Let’s hope week two produces as many fireworks as week one! Thanks again and if you liked it please share. If you have any feedback, please email @ email@example.com.
Until next week, enjoy week 2!
Week Two Thursday Night Preview: Jets v. Bills – Ryan’s Revenge
I don’t even know where to start this. I’d love to cover everything that happened during a fantastic week 1 of games, sans that last stinker (called it by the way). I know there were something like 9 fourth quarter comebacks and a few other records approached for an opening weekend of football. All of that and more will be covered in my full week write up out in a few days, but for now the business at hand is our upcoming Thursday night game.
Thursday Night Game, September 15th
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
Ryan’s Revenge! Ryan Fitzpatrick returns to Buffalo where he played four seasons to play Rex Ryan’s Bills, former head coach of the Jets. A double entendre, if you will. This game is replete with story lines. The two teams were the first live stream game in NFL history last year and helped launch the “Color Rush“. The Bills have won the last five games between these two teams, and the Jets are the only AFC East foe they hold a winning record against. And that is where the good news ends for Bills fans.
On the opposing sideline you have a Jets team that barely missed the playoffs last year, and a team that took a very good Bengals team to the brink last week, losing by one at home to Cincinnati. Yes, the Jets will be on the road this week, but by all accounts they appear to have the stronger team.
Both teams sport strong defenses and intriguing, if not interesting, quarterbacks. Mo Wilkerson of the Jets is going to clog the middle and force Shady McCoy and T-Mobile to do their work on the outside. I think the Bills do find some success running this week, I mean, they have to right? I can’t handle another Rams offensive output from week 1. Oy vey.
Anyway, the Bills played a good Ravens team and will bounce back a bit on offense. However, with Sammy Watkins slightly hobbled, and few other weapons outside of Shady McCoy and maybe Charles Clay, the Bills will struggle to keep up with the Jets. Rob Ryan was terrible in Cleveland, Dallas, and New Orleans. Fitzy, BMarsh, Decker, and Forte will be the first offense to begin exposing this well known truth about the Bills Assistant Head Coach. Unless Rex has found a way to mask his brother’s defensive deficiencies, the Jets weapons present too many matchup problems for a talented, but young Bills D. I believe the Jets break the Bills winning streak, leaving Buffalo to wrestle with some difficult early season questions about the direction of their team. I’m most excited to see if Fitzy has started growing back out his mountain man beard yet, but if you’re curious about the new unis for the game, or see your team’s, you can check them out here.
As always thank you for reading and please check back for my full week of takes and predictions in a few days. Until Thursday night’s kickoff, I’ll be like…
NFL 2016 Week 1: Suspensions, Dispensaries, & Injuries Oh My!
Welcome! It’s the inaugural Spread Offensive 2016 NFL kickoff preview. The goal of this site is to provide a weekly breakdown of every NFL game, infused with my personal take and twist on various topics throughout the league as the season unfolds. I’m grateful for everyone who has taken the time to check out and share the site. So please, read some, read all, only read the teams or parts you want. I aim to please, inform, and hopefully provide a few laughs along the way. So again, welcome. Come on in, kick back and enjoy.
The 2016 NFL season is almost underway, but where oh where do we begin to recap the dumpster fire that was the 2016 NFL off season? I often say that sports can serve as a microcosm for life, and this offseason only reenforced this theory. Power hungry leadership wielding executive power at unprecedented levels, the marijuana industry continuing to attract more high profile “supporters” or “interested entrepreneurs”, and a litany of injuries (societal fractures) that cause us to continue to rethink how we play this game called life and football.
Is it just me or does NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, remind you of the characters from Game of Thrones that keep saying, “Winter is Coming….winter is coming, winter is coming,”? Goodell was finally able to impose his will by suspending Tom Brady, simultaneously punishing the Pats. Of course, just like Jon Snow, I fully expect Brady to come back to life Week 5 and unleash the fury only a bastard son of the NFL can. Oh but Roger, (Rog? Rog-meister? The Rog?), wasn’t done yet. Like any upset dictator, Goodell attempted to continue flexing his muscle with the recent PED related investigations and subsequent interviews of James Harrison, Clay Matthews, and Julius Peppers. All players were cleared of any wrong doing. Shocking considering the league had zero evidence and the only cause for investigation was a previously recanted Al-Jazeera report. Is it too early to start the 2016 #fireGoodell train?
Speaking of “performance enhancing drugs”, I’d be remiss to not discuss League’s policy as it relates to Miss Mary J. While I understand having rules in place to hold players accountable for showing up to their random drug testing, I still can’t quite reconcile how marijuana is on a banned substances list and considered a “performance enhancing drug”. Anyone with the League able to explain what part of a player’s performance marijuana enhances? Anyone? Bueller? Either way, Le’Veon Bell is suspended three games for missing his test and rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott flirted with disaster during a preseason trip to Seattle stopping in to check out a local dispensary. Must be a Big Ten thing eh fellas? Puff, puff, pass?
Meanwhile, injuries in the NFL continue to pile up. While there is a parallel to be drawn between injuries on the gridiron and victims of senseless crime across our country, I don’t believe this is the right platform to tackle such complex and complicated issues. There isn’t the time or adequate space allotted to do justice to such sensitive subject. Working on this article however, I am reminded of just how difficult this game is on the players’ bodies. As I type I read breaking news that Teddy Bridgewater may have a leg/knee related injury that could be quite severe. *Note-This turns out to be a season ending injury, that ultimately involves a big name trade, which will be touched on during the match up portion.
Numerous players are coming back from concussions or have already been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin the season, Dez Bryant and Justin Houston to name two. Ben Watson, fellow UGA alum and gentleman of the NFL, was lost for the season to an achilles injury. Tony Romo, the poster child for NFL injuries, has had over seven different severe injuries or fractures since 2008. This list only covers a few of the superstar players at the skill positions, but there are numerous practice squad guys and lesser known lineman that sustain various bumps, bruises and contusions throughout the season that remain unknown to the general public. These unknowns are not unlike the numerous victims of gun violence in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles that don’t always garner attention due to what has become an unfortunate numbing effect.
Football, like life, is tough. Football, like life, is also exhilarating and brings us together around a common goal. It’s with this goal in mind that we’ll begin previewing the week 1 matchups for the 2016 NFL Season.
Starting from the top.
Thursday Night Game, September 8th
Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos
Thursday night has a gem in store to kickoff the 2016 season with a Super Bowl 50 rematch! Not exactly a rematch though as both teams have undergone significant changes this offseason. The Panthers lose Josh Norman to free agency, which isn’t the best news for their secondary, but they do gain Kelvin Benjamin (KB). KB certainly provides a boon to their offense and a receiving corps that was headed last season by, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, Ted “Fu*%ing” Ginn! Yes, Ted “Fu*%ing” Ginn…Matthew Berry would be proud.
For the Broncos, they did lose quite a bit of depth on the defensive side of the ball with the departures of Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan; however, and I can’t believe I’m typing this either, but they very well may have improved on the offensive side, most notably at the quarterback position. Peyton Manning is one of the greatest of all time, and I am obliged to give him his due, but last season was, both statistically and by the eye-test, one of his worst. It was tough to watch, even for Peyton fans. That said, even a very green Trevor Siemian should well exceed Peyton’s 2015-16 numbers.
So where does that leave us in this early season rematch? I don’t put it past Kubiak to limit Siemian’s exposure, pound the rock, and let Von Miller and co. wreak havoc on Cam and the Panthers O. Hell, Kubiak made a living doing that in Houston with lesser talent and he certainly seems to have the tools in place to repeat. This week though, I’m going with the Panthers. They seem to have remained the most intact and certainly have the most to prove after a somewhat embarrassing defeat in the Super Bowl. Even without Norman, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis Sr. (Go Dawgs!), and the rest of the Panthers D will be too much for a Denver offense finding its rhythm. Cam, with more weapons at his disposal, will make enough plays against a tough D to pull out a win and put the league on notice that last season was no fluke. The Panthers are for real.
Now, for our full slate of Sunday action and when the games truly begin.
Sunday, September 11th
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Bucs head to the Georgia Dome to take on my home town Falcons. Dirk Koetter will be returning to one of his old stomping grounds in Atlanta where he served as offensive coordinator from 2012-2014, only this time he’ll be on the opposite sideline as head coach of the Buccaneers. Koetter certainly has weapons in place that will test Dan Quinn’s improving, but still raw defense. With the loss of stud rookie, Keanu Neal, for the early part of the season, the Falcons’ secondary will have their hands full covering the likes of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. My dirty birds are at home though, and I think the dome is rocking, making it difficult for Jameis to execute. The fan base in Atlanta has learned to not get their hopes up, especially given last season’s incredibly fast start and subsequent collapse. The 2016 Falcons are bit more polished on offense and get the win at home against an under-rated Bucs team that is going to surprise a lot of teams this year.
Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens
Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills head to Baltimore to take on John Harbaugh’s Ravens. The Bills put together a pretty good season last year all things considered, although, like any Rex Ryan coached team there was always a bit left wanting. Just my opinion, but for whatever reason it just never seems like Rex gets the most out of his players or his teams. I know, I know, he goes into fledgling systems and makes them legitimate contenders in their respective divisions for at least a season or two. But is that all you want? To contend? Doesn’t every fan base ultimately want that championship team? Even if only for a season. I know he has gotten their as a coordinator, but as a head coach he just can’t seam to get over that hurdle.
I digress. Onto the matchup. I do think the Bills present a difficult test for a Ravens team that is still recovering from injuries across the board. I’m also not sure who the Ravens will be starting at running back given the news of their release of Justin Forsett. Apparently, despite any glowing reports from camp, they must have seen enough from Terrance West and/or Kenneth Dixon to feel they no longer required Forsett’s services. Bills fans continue to be excited about this team and rightfully so, as the likes of Sammy Watkins, LeSean “Shady” (best nickname in football by the way) McCoy, Tyrod Taylor, and Charles Clay can light up a team like a Madden video game. That being said, I’ve learned to never doubt a John Harbaugh coached team. In a lot of ways he’s just the opposite of Rex Ryan. He seems to get more out of less and undervalued players. I think this season is no different and Baltimore rebounds from a lost season in 2015 to put a hold on the Bills excitement to begin the 2016 season.
Chicago Bears @ Houston Texans
Okay, I like this matchup…a lot. The Bears seem to have improved and candidly, I think John Fox is a tremendous coach. While it is true I am no fan, and never have been for the record, of Jay Cutler, I think the team as a whole could perform quite well this season. I mean, if not now, when? Cutler has weapons all over the place with Alshon Jeffrey, Kevin White, Jeremy Langford, and Zach Miller all looking poised to improve on last year. The D for Chicago is solid and John Fox always seems to make a D just a tad bit better. The J.J. Watt led Texans could end up being last year’s Broncos, with the same QB mind you…these stories honestly write themselves sometimes. In all seriousness though, by all reports Clowney is finally looking like the #1 pick he was drafted to be, and the Texans seem to have improved on every “need” they had this offseason.
This may be my favorite game to watch for opening weekend only because I don’t think any other game will tell as much about each team as this one might. If Houston has made that leap from good to elite status, then I expect to see a defense that swarms and makes what I believe will end the season as a top 10 offense look like a JV team in the Bears. Offensively, the Texans likely limit the early season playbook for Osweiler (spelled that right first try without the help of Google…impressed myself, not gonna lie), but that’s okay, because I fully expect Bill O’Brien to employ the ground and pound game. Fantasy players everywhere will finally be able to put to bed their “#freelamarmiller” hashtags, and Dolphins fans will be left to wonder why the football gods hate them. Texans win and the 2016 hype begins.
Green Bay Packers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Hey hey! Whaddya’ know? Another game that could tell us a little something about each team in week 1. The Packers, a team that struggled to find any real identity last season on the offensive side of the ball with the injury to Jordy Nelson and a poor, middling performance by previous stud Eddie Lacy. The Jaguars, an offense that broke out in a big way last season with career years from Blake Bortles, and the Allens’ (Robinson and Hurns). I’ve been a big Blake Bortles fan since he was drafted out of UCF and think last season was no fluke. He definitely has the tools to become elite. The Packers are still the Packers though, and I think it’s an unfortunate week 1 matchup for a revived fan base in Jacksonville.
I want to talk to Jacksonville fans for a moment. I know, you are probably feeling a little let down. The wind taken out of your sails? No bite behind that Jaguar “rawr”? Green Bay probably just lit your defense up didn’t they? There is good news. A-aron makes a lot of good teams feel this way…you’ll still have a good…well average season. At least now we can all be honest. You can still go 8-8 or even 9-7. Promise. Good chat.
As if there were any doubt after my Jaguar fan base soothing, I like a healthy and revived Packers team in this one. I do think Bortles and co. at least keep pace offensively, but with all of his weapons back in Green Bay, Aaron reminds us why he is constantly in MVP talks year in and year out. I expect Rodgers to show off his “move(s)” early and often this year.
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Chargers and Chiefs. A game that should be fun to watch. Two good teams with potential to be even better. Two first round quarterbacks with weapons in both the passing and the receiving game. Two coaches looking to make the jump from good to great. Clearly I think both teams are talented, but I don’t think this one is fair as Andy Reid has been doing it longer, has a very, very good defense, and has home field advantage. Even without Justin Houston (fellow Dawg – woof woof!), a big blow actually, I think KC still sports the better defense. I don’t doubt Rivers ability to score, and I think Melvin Gordon breaks out in a big way this year (I’m a big fan and think last year was simply growing pains for the former Badger), but I don’t think the Chargers have improved enough on the other side of the ball to stop Andy Reid’s game planning. Even if Jamaal Charles isn’t 100% yet, I’m not worried with a very capable Spencer Ware getting the bulk of carries while Alex Smith and Jeremy Maclin make mince meat of a questionable secondary. I’m taking the Chiefs in this one, with one caveat…there is always the off chance Rivers has one of his once in a blue moon performances where he lights the world on fire with a rejuvenated Keenan Allen and an improved Melvin Gordon. I don’t think this is likely, but every now and then Rivers shows flashes of his former MVP caliber self. Just sayin’.
Minnesota Vikings @ Tennessee Titans
I could write all day about these two teams! Love this game and all of the intrigue it presents. I might have loved it even more if Bridgewater didn’t go down. While losing Teddy is certainly a tough pill to swallow, it seems the Vikings management is going all in on this season, pulling off a deal to bring in Sam Bradford for week 1. I can’t remember ever seeing anything like this this late in the preseason. It will either end up being brilliant or completely foolish. Most of the “analysts” aren’t convinced this does enough, but I think there is something to be said for a management team making a move letting its team know they are going all in to win that season.
Tennessee is also very exciting because it seems everyone, myself included, is expecting big things from Marcus Mariota this season. Mike Mularkey and his staff certainly seem to have assembled a team to complement what Mariota did best during his Heisman days at Oregon. The Titans appear to have a one-two punch with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry that will wear down even the most formidable of defenses. Those two backs will definitely be tested against a Minnesota D line that brings the pain in its own right. Shariff Floyd and Lindval Joseph will clog up the middle at times and that means some of the relatively unknown Tennessee wideouts will have to make a few plays if Mariota hopes to stand a chance against the stingy Vikings D.
As far as the Vikings offense, they don’t call him “All Day” for no reason. What else are the Vikes gonna do? Let Bradford, with less than a week to learn an entirely new playbook throw it? Haha. Adrian Peterson is the best running back of a generation, and while he may be getting up there in age he is still a genetic beast and a once in a lifetime talent. This is the same man who defied logic and returned from ACL surgery only to set records in rushing. The “30 year old drop-off” simply doesn’t apply to AP. But just in case anyone has any remaining doubts as to Mr. Peterson’s physical prowess, I submit the below for consideration.
Two tickets to the gun show? AP may fall off and be forced to pass the torch as best running back in the NFL to Gurley (Damn Good Dawg), but it won’t be in 2016. Okay, okay, I’ve plugged my Dawgs shamelessly enough, just kidding, it gets worse before it gets better. I have covered enough in this game though. Tennessee shows they have made strides this offseason, but in the end Minnesota wins with a Blair Walsh field goal. Did I mention Blair is a former bulldog? I told you it gets worse! I have no shame.
Cleveland Browns @ Philadelphia Eagles
Why not. Republican and Democratic National Convention city sites respectively. Two teams headed in the entirely opposite direction from our previous matchup. Also, a lot like this election, two teams no one is entirely excited about this year…am I right?! Just saying….
Speaking of Sam Bradford though, with the Eagles trading their starting QB to the Vikings, they are said to be turning to their #1 draft pick, North Dakota State product, Carson Wentz. We’ve just gotten used to Andy Dalton, aka, Big Red. Are NFL fans ready for two ginger QBs?! I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. Both of these teams are attempting to build for the future. I find Cleveland’s recent fire sale of nearly any and all remaining talent particularly intriguing. I’m most curious to see how the remaining Browns players and fans respond.
Cleveland’s chief strategy officer is Paul DePodesta. This guy…
Okay, not really Jonah Hill, but the brainiac played by Jonah Hill in the movie, Moneyball. DePodesta is one of the architects behind the Billy Beane, Oakland A’s, Bill James baseball analytics revolution. DePodesta made his name in baseball, but now he’s brought in to turn things around in Cleveland and based on his offseason moves he’s clearly up to something. Searching for value in different, and yet to be seen potentially innovative ways, he’s brought in the likes of Robert Griffin III, while dealing proven playmakers like Alex Mack and stockpiling draft picks at an unprecedented rate. RG3 and Josh Gordon could revive their careers in Cleveland and prove to be integral building blocks for the future at a discounted rate. Just the sort of value DePodesta made a living uncovering in baseball. At worst they don’t pan out and the Browns aren’t any worse off than they were with the likes of Brandon Weeden throwing passes to Josh Cribbs (no disrespect Josh).
Apologies, all of this team building talk distracted me from the game at hand. Before the Bradford trade, I was prepared to pick Philadelphia, but with the news that they are starting the rookie Wentz, I’ll take the Browns in a discombobulated affair of misfits and castoffs. Here’s to hoping RG3 finds some of that 2012 magic. Just for good measure, the real Paul DePodesta pictured below.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets
Bengals and Jets. This should be a good one. These are two teams capable of making the playoffs depending on how their respective seasons’ break. Andy Dalton seems to have made that next step and is fully in sync with A.J. Green (woof woof!). Ryan mountain man Fitzpatrick, (seriously, did you see the beard he grew this offseason?!) got a deal done and will look to continue his good work with stud wideouts Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker from last season. Both teams have questions at running back, albeit for different reasons. Does Matt Forte still have juice in the tank after taking on the bulk of the work during his time in Chicago? Will Jeremy Hill take that next step and realize the promise he flashed from 2014?
While this game does feature exciting offensive players, it’s the defense, especially of Cincinnati that has the potential to be game changing. The Cincinnati linebackers may be the nastiest in the NFL. Led by Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga and Karlos Dansby are no slouches either. The Jets don’t tout quite as an impressive list of names through the middle, but they do still have a lock down secondary led by Darrell Revis that will make life difficult for Dalton and Green. Both teams are very evenly matched and this is probably the toughest call yet. I’ll take Cincy in a nail biter, but it could go either way.
Oakland Raiders @ New Orleans Saints
The last of our early games features the rapidly improving Oakland Raiders offense against the perennially high scoring Drew Brees led New Orleans Saints. Can you say shootout? If you like offense this is the game for you. Most all of the excitement in this one is on the offensive side of the ball, but I’d be remiss to not at least mention the best kept defensive secret in Oakland’s Khalil Mack. He very well may end up being the best LB in football by the end of the season. There are weapons all over the place in this one and I hope at some point we see a 50 yard bomb from Carr to Cooper only to be matched by another 50 yard bomb from Brees to Cooks. Outside of Seattle, Oakland may be one of the most explosive offenses on the west coast. Unfortunately for them, they play one of, if not the, most explosive offenses of the past decade. Saints win a close one.
Miami Dolphins @ Seattle Seahawks
Oh boy. Is it me or does it feel like at the beginning of every football season you hear some story about some exciting new development out of Miami that is going to help put them over the top and return them to the prominence and glory days of yesteryear? It just feels like it’s always this new rookie, or this second year guy, or some new system or player they’ve brought in that will change their fortunes and South Beach will once again be restored to the dominant football powerhouse of old. The only problem is it never happens!
Here me out Miami fans. I’ll do my best to be gentle…no, that was I lie, no I won’t. Here’s the deal, Tannehill isn’t the answer. What made you think a former Texas A&M wide receiver convert would be able to transition to the NFL and compete with the likes of Tom Brady? Don’t get me wrong, the Pats draft QB converts too. Julian Edelman was a fine collegiate QB. The only difference is now he is a receiver. Sure, they might run a gimmick or trick play here or there, a-la Antwaan Randle El and the Steelers back in the day (another collegiate QB convert mind you). But they certainly don’t win one game based on a novelty throwback, coughs*, wildcat, coughs again*, offense, and say, “Yeah! Let’s just draft a receiver!” Or hey, I know! Let’s draft a crazy fast, big, athletic running back only to use him sparingly for the three to four seasons he is here and instead bring in an older, injury riddled version of the guy we just let go. Oh no, wait, I’ve got it! Let’s bring in a bunch of big name defensive guys who have seen their best days, overpay them based on name value, and declare to the league we’ve got the most ferocious defense assembled since our last dynasty. Did you guys forget to ask Dan Snyder how well that worked out for him in Washington? This franchise is so far removed from reality I don’t know how, who, or what will ever bring them back to earth. Maybe their 2016 #1 draft pick will help?! You remember, this guy….
Kind of speaks for itself doesn’t it? I opted to focus on Miami for this, because really, other than the retirement of Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, what else is there to say about the Seahawks that hasn’t already been said? I expect the Russell Wilson led Seahawks to dominate the Dolphins in every facet of the game. Seahawks in a blowout.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
I’ve already discussed the numerous Romo injuries, but regardless of the Cowboy QB being out for what sounds like at least the first month, this should be a good game between two teams that I expect to battle for the NFC East division this year. The fans in Big D are going to be pleasantly surprised with the output they get from both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. The game is also being played at Jerry World (AT&T Stadium), but I’m not sure home field advantage stacks the deck enough in Dallas’s favor to stop Eli and a loaded receiving corps from ripping a very mediocre Cowboy secondary to shreds.
I grew up in the 90s loving and supporting the Cowboys dynasty with their “Big Three” of Irvin, Smith, and Aikman. This is 2016 though, and I expect big things from Eli and that Giants offense this year. In fact, if David Wilson wasn’t lost to his unfortunate injury history, you might have a new “Big Three” with the G-Men. Eli could have his best year as a pro yet and there’s no reason to think Odell couldn’t have another career year as well. I know it’s difficult to fathom, but let it sink in because I truly believe you may see the Giants light it up all season long.
For starters, Peyton retired, so Eli isn’t playing in that daunting shadow anymore. Secondly, he just witnessed big bro win a Super Bowl on the back of an incredible defense so now that monkey is off of his own back because Peyton did it too right? Okay, I realize there will always be some comparisons that exist due to the sheer brilliance of Peyton’s play and records. However, Eli has arguably the best receiving corps in the league this year. Between an always explosive Odell Beckham Jr. (OBJ), Oklahoma standout and rookie sensation, Sterling Shepherd, and a finally healthy Victor Cruz blazing his own comeback trail, I can’t think of a group of three better wide receivers on any team. Dallas also doesn’t have the best, most fully formed defense at the moment. All of that, coupled with what you know is a secretly burning desire to capture just more ring than big bro, could lead to big things for the youngest Manning this year.
Dallas could hold serve at home. It won’t be pretty if they do, and will require a ton of carries for Elliott and Morris, while limiting Prescott’s exposure. I do see a way the Cowboys come out, pound the rock and dictate pace of play the entire game. More than likely though, as much as it pains me to say, I think the stage is a bit too big for Dallas’s inexperienced rookies in week 1. Without Romo at the helm or Peyton’s shadow in the way, I think Eli leads the Giants to an important early season win and sets the stage for a big year in New York. After all, Eli is one of the lead ambassadors for the “Little Brothers Program“. “Are you Eli Manning?” “Nope. I’m your worst fu*%ing nightmare!”
Detroit Lions @ Indianapolis Colts
I don’t know. Really. I usually have an opinion or some sort of inclination as to the way a game might fall or what it might hinge on. Okay, so I do have an opinion, but I don’t really feel all that strongly one way or the other as to how this game is going to shake out. These are two playoff teams from just two years ago that appeared to be on the rise. Now, both suffered injuries and underperformed in 2015, and still have major question marks leading into the 2016 season. Do the Lions lose a lot of offensive efficiency or a little without the skills of Calvin Johnson? Will Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Eric Ebron be able to make up the difference? Will Andrew Luck return to his 2014 MVP caliber self or is his true ability somewhere just short of that? Who will run the ball for either team? Will they begin to resemble the strong defenses they were in 2014 or was that simply because they caught some good breaks? See! So many questions, so little time. I’m taking Luck and the Colts because I think they are a better team, but I really don’t know. Also, I think this is the first time I’ve picked against one of my big name, star Bulldogs…I’m sorry Matthew! I hope you prove me wrong!
New England Patriots @ Arizona Cardinals
And the first beneficiaries of the off-season Goodell Games are? Drum roll…? You guessed it! The Arizona Cardinals! How’d you know?! You guys are so smart. I’d venture to say I have the smartest readers. Pandering maybe. Goodell witch hunt potentially affecting the outcome of the NFL playoff picture? Most definitely. Look, I don’t want to take anything away from the Cardinals. I think this very well may be their year. The only receiving corps that might challenge the Giants in terms of talent would be this one, and they have what might be the best running back not named Peterson in football. No disrespect Mr. Todd Gurley III sir!
Seriously though, I think the Pats probably win this game with Brady, but without, Carson Palmer, Fitzy, David Johnson and co. prove to be too much for a Jimmy Garoppolo led offense. The Cardinals also have a nasty secondary that is tough for any QB, much less a four week fill in taking his first meaningful snaps as a professional. There will be time throughout the season to get into the nitty gritty of Goodell’s witch hunt and how talented these teams are, but for now, suffice it to say Cardinals win in a slanted Sunday night matchup that could have been a Super Bowl LI preview were it not for Goodell’s personal vendetta.
Monday, September 12th
Monday Night Football Double Header
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Washington Redskins
This is a tough one for a Washington D.C. fan base that is legitimately excited about their prospects behind Kirk Cousins. Washington has explosive play makers on the offensive side of the ball no doubt, but I’m not overly impressed by their defense. Additionally, they drew the short straw and face one of the, if not the most impressive team from last year’s playoffs. The Steelers, like the Cardinals look poised to dominate some teams and games this year. With a defense led by the seemingly age-less James Harrison, and offense with the best chance of forming the 2016 “Big Three” in Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell, the Steelers are going to be a tough matchup for any opponent week in and week out. Steelers win the first of two Monday night games and put the league on notice that they are a force to be reckoned with this year.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco Forty-Niners
It seems like we always get a stinker like this that the league either throws in to ride the bump in viewership opening weekend or simply plans very poorly for expecting there to be more excitement around teams clearly in rebuilding mode. Whatever the reason, we wrap up week 1 in the NFL with a game that won’t do much to hold viewers attention for very long. I am looking forward to one of the announcers being forced to say something to the effect of, “A matchup between the Case Keenum led Rams and the Blaine Gabbert led Forty-Niners!” I know, I know, they’ll dance around it by focusing on the running backs featuring my man, Todd Gurley III and Carlos Hyde, or even the coaches in Mr. “8-8” (credit to Matthew Berry for that gem) Jeff Fisher and Chip Kelly. Seriously though, that is what we are dealing with in this week one finale.
Both teams may be good in a few years, but the NFL is a league of now and what have you done for me lately. I will do my best to watch this otherwise unwatchable game in the hopes that we get a Dave Chapelle, “When keeping it real goes wrong,” moment from one or both coaches where they just throw their hands up, say “F it,” and put Goff and Kaepernick in the game. Now that would be great television! Guaranteed increase in ratings. I’m taking the Niners at home in this one, but it won’t be pretty.
Here’s a very loosely related fun fact: Tim Tebow had a top selling jersey and now so does Colin Kaepernick. Kaep’s jersey sales have spiked to top five on NFL.com based on a recent report from CBS Sports. Yes, it’s related to his recent “stance” or lack thereof in this case, and in a way, so too was Tebow’s spike. Why do I mention that? Well, for one what am I going to do, write about the Rams and 49ers? Hah! Secondly, to say that as much as I love people, I do. Sometimes I see reports and I read things that make me wonder, “why?” Just why? You see, for the longest time I wondered if I could provide entertaining and useful analysis that would rival those of the “experts”. But then, I realized something incredible. Those same “experts” were the ones who roundly declared Alex Smith to be a bust and applauded Jim Harbaugh with this…
Can you read that subtext? “Shout it from the mountaintop, Jim-You were dead on about Colin Kaepernick.” Really? Was he? Wonder if the 49ers will feel the same way when Smith is leading the Chiefs into the playoffs yet again, as they watch their team suffer through another less than impressive season? I’ve never been a flash in the pan, new fad, gimmicky type of guy. Personally, I don’t think it works and it certainly doesn’t last. Very few things do for that matter. But if we are to view sports as a microcosm of life, then there are a few things I hang my hat on, and chiefly among those is hard work.
I’m not saying Kaep doesn’t work hard or can’t learn to grind to get to that next level, but he came into this league with a bang. He had a big arm, speed and size rarely seen at his position. He also came in without any meaningful coaching on how to read defenses, how to set his feet, and a knowledge of when to use his athleticism and when to fight another down. For his, as well as the 49ers sake I hope Kaep puts in the hard work to develop, but it will be a humbling process for him. A process that takes a very rare level of maturity not often seen in athletes as talented as himself.
Rare talents like Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Leaf, or even Michael Vick often have been so supremely gifted that they didn’t need to worry about the details as much as other, less talented players did to succeed early in their careers. Their gifts alone carried them through their amateur and collegiate days. It often isn’t until they became professionals that hard work and attention to detail made much of a difference. Once we enter the professional, working world however, most all professionals in any field worth its weight in salt will tell you, the difference between good and great comes down to work ethic and attention to detail. Peyton Manning had it. Tom Brady has it. Russell Wilson has it. Cam Newton appears to have learned it during his time in the league. Ray Lewis had it and defined it this way, “Greatness is a lot of small things done well. Day after day, workout after workout, obedience after obedience, day after day.” Slightly redundant I know, but true.
And with that…let’s see who is meticulously, mind numbingly dedicated to making themselves and their team great this season, and who can’t quite hack it. Here’s to a great 2016 season and thank you for reading! As Mr. Watt said…”It’s Time.”