NFL Week 13 Preview: It’s Playoff Push Time!

U-G-A! U-G-A! U-G-A!

How ’bout those dawgs?! Sorry, we know this isn’t a college football site, but come on you have to forgive us for being a bit distracted and excited! Alum and lifelong dawgs here are barking out of their seats. So, for old times sake, gooooooooooooooooooooo DAWGS! Sic’ ’em! Woof woof woof!!!

Yes our dawgs are in the College Football Playoff and as we turn the calendar to December we find numerous teams making late season playoff pushes. This is the time to heat up and go on a run if you want a chance at getting in the dance. Philip Rivers and co. as well as their stadium mates in LA are both making pushes to secure playoff bids. Many others find themselves on the cusp and how they play in December will determine who gets in and who is on the couch come January.

With the lateness of this post and time crunch we ask that you bear with us on the brevity of our previews this week. We do have a treat though as we’ve prepared a graph to help track with our picks again this season. We’ll work to have this out accompanying our preview every week moving forward. Last week we were 10 for 16, and damn proud all things considered. This week shapes up for some nice picks as well so here’s hoping we can make a run at 15 for 15 the rest of the way for this week’s matchups.

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Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Early Games

Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons

Why not kick off our previews with our Dirty Birds defending the new Mercedes Benz Dome? The same dome that hosted its first SEC Championship game that saw our Georgia Bulldawgs topple the Auburn War Cat Birds! (War Eagle and Tigers we know, we know. But seriously, two mascots?! Come on. Pick one and stick with it.) Yes, now our Falcons will host one of the hottest teams in football in the Minnesota Vikings.

Stop. Re-read that last sentence from the first paragraph. The Minnesota Vikings are one of the hottest teams in football. What?! What if I told you they traded their best player and one of the best running backs of all time in the offseason? What if I told you they lost their starting quarterback by week three, and their other starter finally recovered but hasn’t played in over 1,000 days? What if I told you their breakout star rookie running back Dalvin Cook went down before mid-season with an ACL tear? What if I said their star receiver has missed nearly half the games and/or been at 50% health? What if I told you they did all this with guys named Keenum, Thielen, McKinnon and Murray on offense? Yes to all.

What Minnesota is doing this season is unbelievable. Kudos to Mike Zimmer and that staff for not losing heart or faith after last season and the losses to start the season this year. The biggest reason for Minnesota’s dominance though is their elite defense. The matchup we’re most interested in? Xavier “Rhodes” closed covering Julio “Jet” Jones. The “Jet” took off last week to the tune of 250 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In the past three seasons no other wide receiver has more than one game of 200 plus receiving yards. Julio? He has three. As Tevin Coleman put it last year, “He’s an alien!”

Fun Fact: Through his first 90 games, Julio Jones has more catches, 563, and receiving yards, 8,649, than any other receiver in NFL history. Yeah. He’s THAT GOOD.

So what will happen when the league’s best cornerback faces off against the league’s best wide receiver? We can’t wait to find out, but we think the Dirty Birds defend the dome. Matty Ice is heating up and Atlanta gets DeVonta Freeman back this week. Too many weapons for Atlanta with defense that will give Case Keenum fits. Falcons win and cover (-3). 

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I believe he can fly! Image Credit: Julio Jones IG

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans

AFC South rivals, the Houston Texans head to Nashville to take on the division leading Tennessee Titans. That’s right, division leading Tennessee Titans. By hook or by crook the Titans seem to find a way to win football games. As we reminded everyone last week, “You are what your record says you are.” Analysts and skeptics have been critical of the Titans, but we see reason for optimism. It may not always be pretty, but Tennessee consistently hangs tough in ball games and goes toe to toe with the best of ’em.

Consider that Marcus Mariota and Tennessee’s two headed monster of a backfield with Murray and Henry defeated the Seahawks and Jaguars in back to back weeks. That was when both defenses were fully healthy too. Facing a beaten and beleaguered Texans D that has to be on the verge of losing hope for the season we expect the Titans to get up and ground and pound the Texans into submission. (Tennessee covers -6.5)

Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Jets

Oh boy. *Slaps forhead. Kansas City. What is happening out there fellas? From top scoring offense in football with two potential MVP candidates to falling completely flat. We have good news for you! You get to play the Jets!

New York. We know it was a good run early in the season, and you almost took Carolina down, but keeping with your old ball coach’s theme about records, you only have four wins. Robby Anderson has reprised his role as the big play guy on offense, but outside of that most others are non factors. Kansas City has been brutal, so there is some reason for optimism Jets fans, but realistically the Chiefs outmatch the Jets across the board.

New York. We heard you brought back Darrell Revis. That’s nice. Enjoy watching him get burned by Tyreek Hill this week. Chiefs D is due for a good outing and we think they step up in a big way here. Kansas City wins a “get right” game and revitalizes hope for a division championship and playoff bid. (Chiefs cover -3.5).

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Revis may not put receivers on an island anymore, but the old man will give it another go with the Jets again. Image Credit: Bleacher Report

Denver Broncos @ Miami Dolphins

Denver starts Paxton Lynch. Lynch looks terrible and pulls something, injuring his leg. Trevor Siemian returns as starter and leads two touchdown scoring drives to nearly pull off a comeback. Something is wrong in Denver, but good news Broncos fans, something is even more wrong in Miami.

The Dolphins best chance to win is back on the bench as Jay Cutler returns from concussion protocol. Miami did suffer another loss with Damien Williams injuring his arm last week. That may be a blessing in disguise for the Fins as Kenyan Drake is an incredible athlete and worthy of a full allotment of starter level touches at running back. The biggest issue for the Dolphins isn’t their defense, it’s whether they will be able to get anything going offensively. Cutler is such a hit or miss QB. He could show up and light it up, or he could come out and look completely inept. You never know.

We also don’t know which Trevor Siemian we will get, but against a weak Dolphins secondary we expect the better version. With a solid ground game in Denver and an elite defense, the Broncos find a win in Miami and cover. (-1.5)

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars

We’ll keep this one very short. The Colts haven’t hat Andrew Luck all season, and for all of the talk about how much Jacoby Brissett has “grown”, he has lost more games than he’s won. An iffy Brissett against the Jaguars defense? Good luck.

Blake Bortles continued his “Bortling” ways in Arizona, but they may not need that this week. Look for heavy doses of Fournette and Yeldon this week. We love the rookie Dede Westbrook and his upside, but for now the Jags will control the lines of scrimmage and dominate their AFC South rivals. (Jags cover -9.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers

Jameis Winston is expected to start, making his return to the playing field after an extended layoff to allow his shoulder to heal. Usually that wouldn’t affect our pick, but in this case it very well may. The Bucs with Fitzpatrick were difficult to watch. With Winston they at least have some big play ability that gives them a fighter’s chance. Tampa will be without Doug Martin, but they’ll roll out Jacquizz Rodgers who frankly has performed as well this season.

Green Bay lost a heartbreaker in Pittsburgh on Sunday night. 53 yard field goal that had never been made?! Tough pill to swallow for Packers fans who are holding out hope for a wild card spot. *Difficult for my fantasy team too!

Brett Hundley! Hello good sir. Show us something kid. The third year man out of UCLA showed some real improvement last week and for the first time this season had glimpses of looking like a competent QB. Against a Bucs D that ranks near the bottom, we expect more of the same from Hundley sprinkled with heavy doses of Jamaal Williams. Packers win and keep their playoff hopes alive with a Rodgers potential return nearing. (Pack covers -2)

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Hundley will look to build on his strong performance from week 12. Image Credit: Packers.com

Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens

Now this is tough. Arguably the most difficult call of the week. Playoff aspirations will be high on both sidelines in this one and only one team will come away hopeful about their chances. The Lions were dealt a tough loss on Thanksgiving to a good Vikings team, but have the talent and fortitude to turn the ship around. Jim Caldwell has the coaching chops from his days in Indy and Stafford certainly has the pedigree and paycheck!

Detroit’s biggest obstacle will be the defense of their opponents. Baltimore has one of the best front sevens in the game. For the Lions to steal one on the road they’ll need their D to show up in force against a struggling Joe Flacco. Outside of Danny, perennially underrated Woodhead, and Alex Collins, the Ravens have little to no offensive playmakers. If Detroit can string together a few good series they can easily get ahead in this contest and dictate pace of play, which fundamentally alters the outcome and their chances of keeping playoff hopes alive. The Lions have the talent and the balance to hold steady and pull ahead in the end. Detroit covers. (-3)

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills

Division rivals New England Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills. No love lost between these two. The Bills host the defending AFC East and Super Bowl champs. Buffalo returns to Tyrod T-Mobile Taylor at QB against the incomparable Tom Brady. New England has so many weapons. From Gronkowski to Cooks to Burkhead to Lewis. It’s difficult to see anything other than a Pats win.

Buffalo on the other hand is embroiled in turmoil. Is McDermott the man for the job? Does Taylor have what it takes?? The Bills will be without top wideout Kelvin Benjamin. Outside of Shady McCoy it’s difficult to see them generating much offense. As much as we want to pick the Bills in the upset, they don’t have the weapons to counteract the talent on the Pats side. Patriots. (-8.5)

San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears

The one win Niner squad heads to the friendly confines of Soldier field. Neither team is playoff bound, but both are building for an optimistic future. The Bears are continuing to develop Trubisky, whereas the Niners are waiting to see what Garoppolo can do.

The Niners are building but the Bears are a year ahead and already close. Chicago beat the Steelers and should have no difficulty controlling time of possession. Look for Trubisky to have his biggest game yet while the championship becomes mute. Bears win and the Niners are left to re-evaluate at the drawing board. (-3)

Afternoon Games

Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Chargers

Yes! Not exactly the best matchup on paper but so much goodness here! The red-hot Los Angeles Chargers host the revamped Cleveland Browns. Corey Coleman returned and this week the Browns get Josh “Flash” Gordon. That’s right. The man who “never played a game sober” will take the field for the first time since 2014. Reminder, he’s still only 26 years old. Reminder #2, Joshua Caleb Gordon had back to back 200 yard receiving games from the likes of Brian Hoyer. Dude’s got game and we’re excited to see him back on the field.

Other fun stuff to look for will be can Rivers remain red hot and firing on all cylinders with his electric wideout, Keenan Allen? Against the Browns? We’ll go with all signs pointing to yes! The Chargers should be able to win this game, but with Coleman and Gordon on the field don’t be surprised if Kizer and co. strike back with a little firepower of their own. With a revamped offense and better than appreciated defense, the Browns will keep it close, but the Chargers get the W (Browns with points +14 -way too many points for the Chargers here). 

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Is Gordon in football shape? You be the judge… Image Credit: UPI.com

New York Giants @ Oakland Raiders

Ugh. Another one of these games. Unless you’re a Giants fan does this game really matter? Okay, it matters, but not for the game, rather for who isn’t playing. Ben soon to be fired MacAdoo decided he should bench Eli started 210 consecutive games Manning in favor of Geno Smith to quote, “See what we have”. Are you fing serious?! Manning has played through leg, rib, head and hand injuries for years. Arguably one of the toughest guys in the NFL and oh he did QB two Super Bowl champion teams. He’s the only QB to beat Tom Brady in the big dance. But yeah, the prudent move is to bench THAT GUY.

So long MacAdoo. Don’t let the door hit ya’ on your way out there bud.

The Raiders are a mess too, but they can barely hang on to hope of a late season push with a win this week. After this week the Raiders have one of the toughest remaining schedules though so it is crucial they win at home Sunday. Expect Marshawn Lynch to continue in Beast mode, especially with Cooper out and Crabtree sidelined for being an idiot last week against Denver. Lynch will dominate the touches and opponent in a depleted Giants D. Raiders roll covering easily (-8.5). 

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Just like his running style, Lynch gets stronger as the game and season goes on. Unleash the Beast! Image Credit: Arrowhead One

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints

The game of the week takes place down in the Big Easy! Who Dat nation is going to amp’d up to create some separation in this NFC South rivalry and bounce back from a tough loss in LA last week. Cam is back, but so are the Saints and that explosive offense. This has the makings of a shootout. Especially with rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore out another week. The Saints will have their hands full covering Funchess, McCafferey and co.

Another group that will have their hands full is the Panthers top ranked D attempting to slow down the Brees express. With Ingram and Kamara gashing defenses Brees is getting man coverage on the outside as teams account for the rushing attack. There’s no way to stop New Orleans, you merely have to contain as much as possible, hope they slip up once or twice and do your best to keep pace. If the Panthers can hang in there until the fourth quarter they have a shot, especially with Newton’s big play ability with his arm and leg. On the road, in the Superdome we give the slight edge to the Saints, but NOLA doesn’t cover as this comes down to the wire decided by a field goal or less. (Panthers with points +4.5)

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Kamara is your new leading candidate for Rookie of the Year (ROY) after his massive game against the Rams in week 12. Image Credit: USA Today

Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals

Just when you think you know a guy. We all but wrote the Cards off for dead. Enter Gabbert, Blaine and Seals-Jones, Ricky. A journeyman QB and a star rookie tight end have jolted the Cardinals back to relevance. If the Cardinals can pull off the upset they immediately re-enter the playoff picture, as shocking as that sounds.

More shocking than that would be this Cardinals team beating the NFC West division leading Rams. Arizona’s D will give Goff problems, but with Gurley in the backfield the Rams have such a balanced attack that slowing them down will be difficult. Patrick Peterson takes away your #1 receiver so look for Cooper Kupp to have a big game here, and Gurley will be vital to a win for LA. In the end, not enough firepower for Arizona here. Rams win and take a commanding lead in the West (LA covers -7).

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The rook has the Cards in the hunt out West. Image Credit: Arizona Sports

Sunday Night Football

Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks

Oh yeah! Battle of the Birds in Seattle! The incomparable Russell Wilson will be asked to pull yet another Houdini act and will the Seahawks to a win on Sunday night. For as talented and special as this season is for Wilson, he’ll face his toughest test yet against the NFL record best Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz and co. roll into town with an electric offense and a defense that is playing better than just complimentary. The Eagles will most assuredly light up the scoreboard, meaning the Hawks will have to keep pace.

Philly just signed Alshon Jeffrey to a four year deal worth $52 million, and they’ll look to get him the ball against the Hawks beaten up secondary. Once ahead the Eagles have the backs to ground and pound between the tackles as well as the speed to get to the edges. The Hawks don’t have much in the way of running backs since Chris Carson’s early season exit, but they’ll utilize J.D. McKissic as H-back type that will split out wide as much as run from the backfield. The linebackers, Jalen Mills for the Eagles and Bobby Wagner for the Hawks will be key to any strong defensive efforts. Mills will be tasked with chasing Wilson around, but may not keep up. Look for this to turn into a shootout with the Eagles on top. Fly Eagles Fly as they win and cover (-5.5). 

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#17 certainly has 52 million reasons to smile in Philly after signing his massive four year extension. Image Credit: NBC Sports

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

AFC North division rivals in one of the most violent matchups of the past few years headlines our Monday night game in week 13. From Vontaze Burfict late hits on Antonio Brown to former player coaches like Joey Porter getting into scuffles with players, there is no love lost between these two teams. Records don’t seem to matter when these squads get together on the gridiron.

The Bengals have shown signs of life of late with Dalton looking sharp and Joe Mixon finally getting his NFL pro legs under him in his rookie season. Cincy can make a run down the stretch and find themselves in the thick of what is shaping up to be a group of crowded Wild Card hopefuls. Pittsburgh has other plans, and that involves continue their stretch run of dominance. Big Ben is not the old Ben Roethlisberger, but he still has some juice left in his arm and the wit to diagnose a defense on the fly. With Martavis Bryant stepping up in the absence of rookie sensation JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers have yet another weapon on the outside. From the Killer B’s: Ben, Bell, and Brown, to JuJu and Martavis, slowing this offense down is going to be difficult.

Cincy has a formidable D, but they don’t have the talent to contain those freakish athletes on the Steelers. A.J. Green and Dalton will keep this closer than people think, especially if Joe Haden is still out, but it won’t be enough. Steelers win and cover because we think the line should be bigger as Pitt will easily win by a touchdown (-5.5). 

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“Business is Boomin’!” for AB and the entire Steelers squad. Image Credit: USA Today – For The Win (FTW)

What a week! Now’s when it counts and starts to get exciting! Thank you as always for liking, loving, reading and sharing the love. Another week down and we’re gonna keep plugging away with our improvements to the site, picks, and overall content. Thanks again and until next week, happy watching!

TNF Week 13 Preview: Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys – Win or Go Home

Well, well, well. We hope everyone is full, fat, and happy after their Thanksgiving feasts. We had quite a bit shake out of our Thanksgiving matchups and we’ll cover it in more detail in the full preview out later this week. For now, let’s just say star QBs were benched, punches were thrown, and the men have begun separating themselves from the boys. There is one last question in the NFC East that remains unanswered however, and that is which team, if any, will challenge for the final wild card spot? The Giants nabbed one of the spots in 2016, but they are all but eliminated from contention. Will either the Cowboys or Redskins heat up in December and take the final six seed?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thursday Night Football

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys

Let’s start with some facts and figures for ya’ this week.

Fact: The last team to score less than ten points in three straight games in the NFL prior to the Cowboys stretch was the 2009 Cleveland Browns.

That’s right, Dallas has hit new lows in terms of offensive inefficiency since Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension went into effect. Elliott’s suspension not withstanding, that’s an entirely separate column, the ‘Boys in Big D have been downright bad.

Figure: Dak Prescott’s completion percentage on play action pass with ‘Zeke is around 73%, but without it falls to just over 50%, landing around 51%.

Any question as to who the MVP of the Cowboys is should be answered given the above figure. Paging Romo, Tony, paging Romo, Tony?! Since #9’s retirement the Cowboys offense clearly runs through Elliott. When ‘Zeke’s off, the team’s off. The question now is can head coach Jason Garrett right the ship? There won’t be a better test than against a middling Redskins defense that can be scored on and allows opportunistic touchdowns.

Fact: Four of the Redskins last playoff runs began when the team’s record was 5 and 6.

That fact bodes well with the fact that a top Washington offense will take on a struggling Dallas defense. Couple that with the likely absence of linebacker Sean Lee and Dallas’s task got that much more difficult. Admission – TSO loves the ‘Boys, not as much as our Dirty Birds, but definitely a favorite, so watching them struggle this much isn’t easy. Was head coach Jason Garrett deserving of coach of the year honors or was he merely the recipient of elite athleticism? In hindsight it certainly seems like a lot of coaches would win with Dak and ‘Zeke playing complimentary football in their offensive backfield. If Garrett is unable to right the ship, especially being the offensive mind that he is, will he be on the chopping block moving forward? Food for thought as a Cowboys and football fan.

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Is Jason Garrett’s seat getting hot? Difficult to see why not. Image Credit: USA Today – Cowboys Wire

We don’t really love Samaje Perine or the Redskins offense as it is very hot and cold, but we can’t give any offensive edge to Alfred Morris or the ‘Boys the way they’ve performed the past month. As much fun as it would be to see the shootout many predicted this might’ve been early in the season we don’t see that. We see ineptitude offensively, and blown coverages and breakdowns defensively. Washington will struggle to generate a pass rush so Dak will be able to move the ball, but how well is up to his own accuracy and ability. Cousins will continue to target Jamison Crowder and take shots to Josh Doctson deep. Assuming the Redskins get up in this one, they’ll milk the clock and eek out an ugly win on the road in Dallas, keeping their playoff hopes alive (+2).

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#46 Morris and #8 Cousins, once teammates, will now face off as rivals on Thursday Night as Morris will be sporting the Star on his helmet for the Color Rush. Image Credit: SI.com

Thank you for reading! We appreciate the encourage, loving, liking, sharing, and overall support. We hope you are enjoying our work this season and we’ll continue to make efforts to strive toward improving our site and the content. Much love and happy watching!

NFL Week 12 Preview: Division Rivalries & Turkey Day

The most wonderful day of the football year is upon us!

That’s right, it’s Thanksgiving! A time for friends, family and loved ones to gather around, share some laughs, stuff some faces, and watch some incredible football! We’ll begin with a reason for all 32 teams to be thankful:

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Any Given Sunday! Image Credit: NFL IG

This time last year I wrote about my best friend asking me to be his best man. Flash forward one year later that best friend was just hitched. The wedding was incredible with an immaculate view of the New York City skyline. The bride was stunning, and my buddy, dressed to the nines was every bit the adoring groom. I’ve said before how grateful I am for these people in my life, and it was an honor to be such an integral part of their big day.

My buddy and I have played everything from pick up to fantasy football, and what is great about Thanksgiving is that we can come together remembering past experiences and sharing new ones. Thanksgiving games have become a staple of the day, as much a part of the experience as the Macy’s parade.  While everyone settles in to partake of the big bird with the big game on, don’t forget to give thanks for those that make moments like this Thanksgiving special. Oh, and enjoy The Spread Offensive’s take on this year’s Turkey day!

This year’s slate of Turkey Day games pits four division rivals against one another, and sees two wild card hopefuls square off in an intriguing matchup. This is a theme that runs through week 12 as we have completed byes and set up the stretch run for many playoff hopeful teams. After an 8 for 14 showing, we’ll look to build on our good work this week with teams jockeying for playoff position.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Day!

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

The division leading Minnesota Vikings head into the Motor City to take on the Wild Card hopeful Detroit Lions. The Vikings are riding a six game winning streak heading into Detroit. The Lions return home after surviving a scare from the Bears in Chicago. Detroit will look to sweep Minnesota after beating them 14-7 on October 1st. A win on their annual Thanksgiving day home game would go a long way towards their wild card playoff bid.

Case Keenum will once again be under center for Minnesota, even though Teddy Bridgewater is all but ready to step back in and reprise his role as franchise QB. Keenum, as referenced by their record, has been on a role for the Vikings, and thus has earned the starting nod for yet another week. Keenum has not looked sharp, but the talent around him may be some of the best in the NFL. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are arguably the top duo of wide receivers in the league. Even without rookie sensation Dalvin Cook, the Vikes run game hasn’t missed a beat either with Jerrick McKinnon and LaTavius Murray filling in more than serviceably following the rookie’s season ending ACL tear. And we haven’t even mentioned the defense yet.

Linebacker Anthony Barr and cornerback Xavier Rhodes headline a defense that is going to make life very difficult for Stafford and co. Rhodes may not shadow Marvin Jones as Golden Tate may also draw attention, but whoever Xavier finds himself lined up against he will undoubtedly shut him down. With Barr applying pressure and delivering crushing hits to throws over the middle, the Lions will need to utilize Theo Riddick out of the backfield to keep the Vikes from baring down on Stafford.

Minnesota, on the other hand, will need to ensure Case Keenum doesn’t beat them or let them be in a position to beat themselves rather. Keenum has look mediocre to poor at best, and the “good” moments he has had have more been a product of the great team around him and the plays teammates like Thielen are making. While the Vikes have the better all around team they have major question marks at the QB position and find themselves on the road in a hostile environment for week 12. Vikes get exposed losing in Detroit and are forced to face QB controversy down the stretch (Lions with points +3). 

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The Vikes will need more catches like this from Thielen to knock off the Lions at home. Image Credit: The Viking Age

Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys

If you’re eating early, you’ll find yourself setting in for seconds with a matchup between two underperforming teams hoping to claw their way back into the wild card hunt heading into December. The 4 and 6 Chargers head into Dallas to take on the 5 and 5 Cowboys. The Chargers come in after a dominant win over a dysfunctional Bills squad and the Cowboys return home after losing two straight since Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension became official. Not hard to see the impact losing ‘Zeke has had on the boys.

Fear not Cowboys fans. Good news is around the corner on Turkey Day and Dallas fans may find themselves very thankful this Thursday for a couple of big reasons. For starters, Dallas gets starting left tackle Tyron Smith back, which will greatly improve protection for Dak and afford Alfred Morris more running room. Also affording Morris room will be facing the NFL’s worst rushing defense in the Chargers. That’s right, the Chargers allow over 138 ypg on the ground, dead last in the league. Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen hooked up like it was 2013 last week and LA will need more of the same with the chunk plays their D is allowing. In the end, getting their big left tackle back and holding home field advantage will be too much for the Chargers to overcome leading to a much needed win for the ‘Boys (+1). 

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Dallas’s left tackle, Smith, is a BIG reason why the ‘Boys are set for success on Turkey Day. Image Credit: Pro Football Rumors

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

The NFL has to be regretting this scheduling blunder. What they were sure to be billing as a Thanksgiving Day finale between two NFL playoff hopefuls based on last season’s records has ended up in a “bleh” fest between a 2 and 8 Giants team facing off with a 4 and 6 Redskins one. Yep.

To be fair, the Redskins could easily be 5 and 5 were it not for a couple of injuries and blunders late in New Orleans in week 11. Washington had all but pulled off the upset when they suffered late injuries and drops by Vernon Davis and Samaje Perine that opened the door for the Saints to mount a comeback and late game winning field goal. However, as the great Bill Parcells so eloquently put it….

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Image Credit: Designing Sport

So we find ourselves possibly watching or turning the channel as we indulge in deserts and/or thirds or fourths. You do have to feel for the Redskins though as they certainly could find themselves in a better position and have now lost Jordan Reed seemingly week to week, Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley, and Terrell Pryor. And that’s just the big name skill playing starters. Kudos to Kurt Cousins for doing more with less than most other QBs in the league. Washington – pay the man!

The G-Men have the second worst defense in terms of total yards in the NFL. The Redskins, while depleted, have enough weapons and offensive fortitude to pummel the Giants. Washington gets a much needed win to get closer to .500, and gets a much needed long break between games (Redskins cover -7.5).

Sunday, November 27, 2017

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sean McDermott. What in the wide world of sports were you thinking? How’d that Nathan Peterman experiment go? Miss Tyrod Taylor yet? Yeah. Not your best moment their bud. For some unknown reason that we detailed in our week 11 preview, McDermott decided that after the Bills week 10 loss to the Saints that the prudent move for the team would be to bench their captain and starting quarterback, Tyrod “T-Mobile” Taylor. Yes, the Bills, a team that allowed the Saints to run 24 consecutive times on their defense, have a head coach that decided the problem was the quarterback…a player on the offensive side of the ball….looks around….huh?

So the somehow 5 and 5 Buffalo Bills head into Arrowhead to take on the stumbling 6 and 4 Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City in their own right return home reeling after losing 4 of their last 5 games. The once unstoppable offense led by early season MVPs Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt has been halted dramatically. Other than a last second Tyreek Hill blown play by the Cowboys in week nine the Chiefs have struggled to generate those big plays that were their trademark through the first five weeks of the season. Fortunately for KC they host the once surprisingly good, now expectedly below average Bills D that ranks in the bottom ten in the league in total yards allowed.

While KC may not solve all of their offensive woes overnight, they will certainly be able to right their ship a bit. Shady McCoy and Kareem Hunt will both likely have big days on the ground as both defenses are vulnerable to gash plays by the running game. Even with Taylor back under center the Bills are road dogs and too much of a mess to pull off this upset. In an ugly affair, the Chiefs win and cover against a potentially Kelvin Benjamin-less Bills squad (-10). 

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts

A division affair with the Titans heading into Indy to take on the cellar dwelling Colts at Lucas Oil. The Colts have a decent run defense, which could slow DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, but not likely Marcus Mariota himself. Speaking of Mariota, after a very forgettable TNF game against the Steelers last week, Mariota finds himself in a “get right” game against the NFL’s third worst pass defense. Indy allows just a shade under 275 passing yards per game, setting Mariota up for a big game against the Andrew Luck-less Colts.

While the Colts have managed to not look pathetic without Luck there is no denying that they are a shell of themselves without #12 under center. There isn’t much “analysis” needed in this one. The Titans will add to their win total and hope to regain a share of their division leading status dominating an overmatched Colts unit (Tennessee covers -3.5). 

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals

The battle for Ohio football supremacy. Aka our annual reminder that the team coached by Urban Meyer may still be the better squad. Hue Jackson and the Browns head into Cincy in an attempt to get their first win of the season against the Marvin Lewis led Bengals. DeShone Kizer against Andy Dalton. Isiah Crowell versus Joe Mixon. A.J. Green against Corey Coleman…but wait…is that Josh “Flash” Gordon we see?!

Look, we know outside of A.J. Green most of these names don’t spark a ton of intrigue, but the Browns are set to get the phenom Josh Gordon back after he hasn’t played in three years. That’s right, head coach Hue Jackson referred to the return of Gordon to practice as being “like Christmas”. So Corey Coleman returned last week and is a boon to the Browns receiving corps, but an even bigger boost will come in week 13 with the return of Gordon. Cleveland may well be more fun to watch down the stretch in 2017. And as Forrest Gump says, “That’s all I got to say about that.”

This game isn’t difficult to pick. The Bengals are the superior squad with the experience and superior talent. While the Browns may keep it close it’s difficult to see them winning this contest. Jason McCourty may well limit A.J. Green as he did in the teams’ first contest, but with home field advantage, the better QB and defense, Cincy is a heavy favorite. Bengals win but don’t cover (-8.5). 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons

Two words. Ryan, Fitz-magic! Hahaha. Yep. That’s really all the “analysis” we need in this one.

“But, but, but…the Bucs just won two in a row with Fitzpatrick at the helm.”

You are correct fictional contrarian. However, both of those wins were against the Dolphins and Jets. Color us not impressed. Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will have to contend with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford this week. Did we mention that Keanu Neal is a bad man?! Atlanta’s second year safety is building a reputation for being one of the hardest hitting safeties in the game. Neal will make Evans, Jackson, and O.J. Howard think twice before going over the middle. While we are on the topic of O.J. Howard, the ‘Bama rookie, we must mention the second year linebacker for Atlanta, Deion Jones, who is as big and fast and will smother the emerging rookie.

If you can’t tell by now, we believe this isn’t a close game. Atlanta is a matchup nightmare for Tampa’s offense, and the Bucs bottom five D allowing over 383 ypg will have its hands full against the Falcons top 10 offense. Dirty Birds route the Bucs and inch closer to contending for the NFC South division title (Falcons cover -9.5).

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Did we mention that Grady Jarrett (#97) and the Falcons D-Line is stomping the competition Image Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter Falcons Blog – myAJC.com

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots

Hahahaha. I can’t. I just. Can’t. It’s too easy. I mean come on.

Miami. Adam Gase. Jay Cutler. What are you guys even doing out there? Seriously. Play the smaller, slower back Williams over the bigger, faster back Drake. Totally makes sense. You know that big run Williams broke off in the first quarter against Tampa in week 11? Consider the fact that your other back, Drake, is much faster and would have likely housed it for a touchdown, setting the tone for a dominant showing on the ground. Williams on the other hand barely managed ten more rushing yards the rest of the game.

Just what is going on in the Adam Gase coached Dolphins locker room? Nothing positive. Many believe Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills will give the Pats corners problems, but we see it differently at TSO. Gillmore and Butler will shut down Parker and Stills, and Landry will be doubled by a corner and backer over the middle as Belicheck undoubtedly recognizes Landry as Miami’s best offensive weapon. Landry, an underrated receiver who recently surpassed Anquan Boldin for the most receptions in his first four seasons (Landry has 355 currently to Boldin’s 342), will be the focus of the Patriots efforts on defense.

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Landry may find himself matched up against New England’s top corner, Malcom Butler, as the two teams reprise their division rivalry in week 12. Image Credit: Sun Sentinel

Matt Moore is expected to start at quarterback as Jay Cutler recovers from a concussion sustained in week 11. Moore loves to target Stills and throw it deep, and Moore also throws interceptions. A QB who chucks it deep against an improved defense with ball-hawking corners…you do the math. This game sets up a dominant performance by the Pats over a floundering Dolphins team. Get it?! Floundering?! Fins? Dolphins?! Hahaha. Yeah….Pats dominate and cover the ridiculous spread (-16).

Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles

Can you say, “trap game”?! Because that’s what the Eagles week 12 matchup is, a trap game. The Eagles return home flying high at 9 and 1 and facing off against a middling 3 and 7 Bears squad that has disappointed through the first 11 weeks of the season. Chicago boasts the seventh best defense in terms of total yards allowed, giving up just over 300 ypg. The Bears solid defense and impressive rushing attack has not yielded the results that Chicago faithful may have expected. That said, there are reasons for optimism and building blocks in place to challenge for division contention in coming seasons.

Chicago could give Wentz some problems as they have a solid secondary and may squeeze his throwing lanes. Leonard Floyd is able to get pressure on Wentz and force him to get the ball out earlier than he may want, and the Bears have the run game to slow the game down. And that’s where the good news ends. Philly has one of the best run defenses in football, and to beat the Eagles you’ll need a QB able to shred a secondary. While rookie Mitch Trubisky may eventually develop into that quarterback, he isn’t yet on that level. Too much stacked up in Philly’s favor here. Eagles cover, trouncing the Bears (-13). 

Carolina Panthers @ New York Jets

There are the New York Jets we’ve come to know and love. Better record? Better team? Losing to an inferior Bucs team? Yep, yep, and yep. Now one of the ten worst offenses invites in the second best defense in the Carolina Panthers. This isn’t going to be pretty Jets fans. We hope you enjoyed the first half of the season when you were relevant, because if there is any remaining thoughts of playoffs this game will surely squash them.

Newton lit up a poor Miami team two Monday nights ago, but he also showed flashes of his old 2015 MVP self and that spells trouble for opposing defenses. Did we mention that he gets his top target in tight end Greg Olsen back? Ruh-roh! Without Kelvin Benjamin the Panthers have started to open up their offense with more dump-offs to McCafferey and sliding Funchess into the KB role. Now with Olsen back in the fold Newton has one more way to hurt a defense. Did we mention Cam is also the most prolific rushing quarterback since he entered the NFL? Good luck Jets. Panthers dominate and cover (-4.5). 

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With Olsen (#88) back, Newton and the Panthers have reason to celebrate! Image Credit: Bleacher Report

Afternoon Games

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

We tried to tell the Hawk faithful that they were in for a rude awakening last Monday night. Without Sherman, Chancellor and an injured Earl Thomas, the Legion of Boom went bust. That said, Russell Wilson still kept Seattle in the game and he’ll continue to down the stretch. Wilson is putting together an MVP caliber season. The Niners picked up their first win of the season against the Giants in week 10 before their week 11 bye. While this is a rivalry, it hasn’t been much of one since #7 stopped playing QB for the team in red, white, and gold.

There is the heart breaking story of Marquise Goodwin playing two weeks ago just hours after his infant son died due to complications. Goodwin caught a long pass from Beathard, fought off Janoris Jenkins and housed it for a touchdown. After his score Goodwin immediately fell to his knees, in appreciation and reverence for his son.

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Clearly emotional, Goodwin was brought to his knees after showcasing his Olympian speed to honor his son. Image Credit: USA Today – FTW

The Niners have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and while they have played spoiler to the Hawks before, it’s difficult to see them stepping up in this one. San Francisco is rolling with rookie C.J. Beathard for one more week. Not a terrible move as Shanahan has a notoriously difficult playbook to learn and trotting out a mid-season acquisition who isn’t comfortable in a new system against a Seahawks D isn’t ideal. Beathard will need to be mobile as the Hawks will use Wagner, Bennett, and co. to clamp down on the rookie signal caller. Hawks head down the coast and come away with a win (Seattle covers -6.5). 

New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams

The streaking Saints head to LA to face a Rams team looking for revenge after falling to the Vikings in week 11. Easily the most competitive and intriguing game of the week is in LA. Two top five offenses take on middle of the road defenses in what is sure to be a shootout in Tinsel Town. The previously vaunted Rams offense hit a wall against the talented Vikings D in week 11. Not only did the Rams struggle to move the ball, but they also lost their top targeted wideout, Robert Woods, for at least the next few weeks.

The jig may be up in LA. Assuming other teams use the Vikings plan as a blueprint, look for the Saints to put eight in the box to stop Gurley and force Goff to beat them with a depleted receiving corps. There is an arrow pointing up for LA and that is the fact that New Orleans will be without their top two cornerbacks, Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley. Rams wideouts Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins should be able to get open some, assuming Goff is mobile enough to buy time against the Saints solid pass rush.

On the other side of the ball, the Saints offense is set to run all over and have a field day against the Rams defense. The Rams D used to be the one thing you could count on to keep them in games, but these days it’s the offense that is keeping LA in contests. Look for Brees to open it up as well with a lot of quick passes. This might be the first week we see Willie Snead play a prominent role in the slot. Saints pull the upset and we’ll take the points (-2.5).

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Goff will need to start stepping up in big moments down the stretch as the Rams schedule gets much more difficult. Image Credit: SI.com

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Arizona Cardinals

Oh boy. Look away Cards fans because this isn’t gonna be pretty. Jacksonville will be without top corner Jalen Ramsey, and that’s the extent of the good news for Arizona. Good luck Blaine Gabbert. This Jacksonville defense has made better men then Gabbert look like high school scrubs. Considering Gabbert entered the season as the third string quarterback, that doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals or their offense.

The Jags on the other hand are getting healthier entering this contest. Jacksonville may get back wideout Allen Hurns and Leonard Fournette presumably is running an ankle that is another week more healed. Assuming Blake Bortles knows how to throw away from Patrick Peterson the Jags should be able to control clock and milk this game away winning field position and tacking points on when able. It doesn’t make for a sexy game, but it is effective and it works. Jags dominate and cover (-5.5).

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Fournette may be in for a big, high volume day, even against the tough Cardinals defense. Image Credit: USA Today – FTW

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders

Another division rivalry to round out our afternoon games. The Broncos head into Oakland to attempt to knock off a Raiders team still searching for its identity. The Raiders brought in Marshawn Lynch to establish a rushing attack and balance out a pass heavy offense that relied heavily on its quarterback. Turns out that plan hasn’t quite panned out. The O-Line hasn’t generated the push it did last season, and Carr has been asked to continue to do the heavy lifting to keep the Raiders competitive in most games.

Oakland just took a tough loss on SNF to the Pats. After getting exposed in primetime the Raiders will surely want to bounce back in a big way. One problem lies in their way, and that is the top ranked Denver defense. Even after the shellacking the Broncos took from the Eagles, their D still ranks in top five in most all categories. Lynch will struggle to find running room and Carr won’t have very large windows to throw in to.

The Broncos seem to have moved to a committee approach at running back with C.J. Anderson and DeVontae Booker. With Paxton Lynch under center Denver will get a good look at what they have in the second year QB. Lynch comes in with a plus matchup. The new look Broncos head into the Black Pit and come away with the upset (+5). 

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Head coach Vance Joseph says he wants Lynch (#12) to run more, and we’ll get to see if the second year QB heeds the advice Sunday. Image Credit: Denver Broncos Zone

Sunday Night Football

Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers

A game likely billed as the cherry on top to your Thanksgiving dinner prior to Aaron Rodgers’s injury, it now sits as nothing more than the early crowning of the Steelers as kings of the north…again.

Yes, another loss by Green Bay nearly drops them out of Wild Card contention, but with Brett Hundley at QB there isn’t much they can do. Fear not Packers fans, your next two opponents are the Bucs and Browns. So you’re not dead yet!

But as far as your trip to Heinz Field Packers fans….well…good luck stopping this guy:

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Brown pinned this ball to his helmet for one of his three touchdowns last Thursday night. Image Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

And assuming Green Bay figures out how to double AB and contain him, then you have to handle slowing down Le’Veon Bell. Did we mention that Martavis Bryant is a tough man to stop in man coverage? Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster will be sidelined with a hamstring injury, but that doesn’t slow the Steelers explosive offense. The amount of weapons they have and the ways they can hurt you are two major reasons why the Steelers are a favorite to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs in the AFC.

Green Bay is not terrible, but they are a shell of their former selves without Rodgers under center. This is a perfect time for the Pack to finally address their running back quandary. Ty Montgomery is a converted receiver, Aaron Jones is out, and Jamaal Williams looks average at best. Since Eddie Lacy fell off in 2015 and 2016 the Pack have been unable to fill the large shoes he left. We expect the receivers to fall off in productivity from Aaron Rodgers to backup Brett Hundley, and we expect many of those wide receiving numbers to enjoy an uptick in production when #12 returns. The elephant in the Packers locker room is the running game, or lack thereof, and a defense susceptible to big plays. Until those two issues get addressed by Green Bay brass the Pack will continue to get trounced by superior teams with balanced attacks and complimentary defense. Steelers dominate, covering the ridiculous spread (-14). 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens

A Monday night game that may be more fun to watch than some may think. A game headlined by top tier defenses and average to below average offenses. No the Texans aren’t the same offense since losing DeShaun Watson, that much is clear. However, Houston still has enough pieces to move the ball and keep games interesting on the back of their defense. Baltimore isn’t much different, only their weapons and rushing attack are a bit more efficient.

The Texans have a good run D, but getting behind in games will force their D to be on the field more, making them more susceptible to big, chunk plays on the ground and through the air. That’s just the nature of ball and clock control. Part of Watson’s fit and brilliance for Houston is that he is able to extend plays and drives until the Texans talented wide receivers are able to get open. De’Andre Hopkins has crazy ball hawking ability, and Will Fuller V is a great compliment with his speed and size on the outside. Fuller will miss this week, which means Hopkins will be doubled by Baltimore. Micah Hyde will be head hunting for Hopkins.

Houston’s corners, previously a strength of theirs, now are a liability and set Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin up for big games. The linebackers for Baltimore will cause the real nightmare for Tom Savage and Houston’s offense. Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley will clamp down and force Savage into uncomfortable throwing positions, forcing the ball out early if not taking it away entirely. Ravens control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and hold the advantage in special teams. Baltimore remains in the playoff hunt winning and covering at home (-7). 

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Suggs (left #55) and Mosley (right #57) are two of the most dominant at their position. Image Credit: Zimbio

That’s a wrap for our Thanksgiving edition of The Spread Offensive Week 12 preview. As always we appreciate the sharing, liking, love and support! There are some entertaining matchups slated for the weekend and we hope everyone has some down time to enjoy them with their friends, family and loved ones. We found the most apropos way to bid our adieu for this Holiday…

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Happy Turkey Day folks! Image Credit: Matthew Berry “matthewberrytmr” Instagram

NFL Week 11 Preview: What we know and what we don’t (*Hint – not much)

Well well well. As we gather steam heading towards the playoffs it’s a good time to take stock of what we’ve learned after ten weeks of regular season football in the NFL. The question begs, what do we know?

We know nothing.

That’s the best we can surmise of the NFL in 2017. Sure, some of the power hitters are still winning more than losing, but on a week to week basis, we know absolutely nothing. Which Big Ben will show up? Will the Jags sustain their ground game with the rook, Leonard Fournette, or will his splash fizzle? Does Kirk Cousins “like that”? “That” being winning in Seattle but losing at home to Minnesota?

What in the sam hill is going on?!

Again, we don’t know.

One thing we do know is that the loosening of the celebration rules is outstanding and a real crowd pleaser! Keeping it fun in light in the heat of the moment serves the NFL, its fans, and all of us well. Its an entertaining break in the action that also reminds us to dial back the intensity from time to time. From the politics, holdouts, protests, and the like we lose sight of the fact that this is after all, a game.

The most hilarious celebration of the season thus far goes to the Steelers for their re-enactment of A.J. Green’s takedown of Jalen Ramsey from a couple of weeks ago.

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I mean come on. That’s just down right funny. Image Credit: Bleacher Report IG

Kudos to Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster and Le’Veon Bell for a hilarious celebration that reminds us to take a look in the mirror, laugh, and take a chill pill every now and then.

Okay, okay, so maybe we know more than nothing. The point is though, based on our picks and the parity in the NFL this season, we certainly don’t know as much as we think we do. The Pats are still legit. Known. The Steelers are once again one of the top contenders to knock the Pats off of their AFC perch. Drew Brees is great and if ever had a defense the Saints would be favorites to win the…wait…it’s happening!

So again, we do know some about the NFL, but Jacksonville being contenders in the division? We did not know that. The Vikings losing Sam Bradford and leading the division with Case Keenum at quarterback? Didn’t know. How could we? How could anyone? It’s been a very difficult season to predict in the NFL and with that uncertainty we head into our week 11 preview full steam ahead! Let’s predict the unpredictable!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Early Games

Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears

Chicago. Come close. That’s it, bring it in. There we go…comfortable? Good.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH YOU?! *Slaps across face

SERIOUSLY?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! How in the world do you lose to a Brett Hundley led Green Bay Packers team with your defense?

*Hangs head in disgust

I don’t even know what to do with you. Your defense alone should have been enough to beat a shoddy and injured Packers team, yet you completely collapsed. Also, paging Jordan Howard – big time stud players put the offense on their back with a rookie QB and carry the rock over a mediocre run D like Green Bay. Step up son.

*Wipes sweat away from brow

Whew. Now that that’s over, we can get down to business. There isn’t much we need to say in this one other than that the Bears are going to have their hands full with the Lions. Stafford is playing great football, Golden Tate is running all over defenses in the slot, and Kenny Golladay the rookie sensation is back and stretched the field. Did we mention that Detroit’s defense is in the top ten against he run, allowing just over 100 ypg? Good luck Howard. Unless Trubisky can really start to open that offense up this is going to be a long, sad day in the Windy City. Lions win and cover easily (-3).

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cleveland Browns

Oh boy, another one. So the first two games of our preview begin with what we know apparently. What we know. The Bears and Browns are bad. It’s apparently bad to have a “B” at the front of your team name. Take this knowledge, go forth and prosper fellow TSO readers. You are welcome. Nailed it!

Seriously though, the Browns are so bad. In case you missed it, they let DeShone Kizer call a QB draw/sneak within five yards of the endzone, under ten seconds and no timeouts before the half. One guess what happened? *Hint – remember, this is Cleveland we’re talking about and Murphy’s Law usually applies….

Ding ding ding! If you guessed that Kizer ended up short on about the two yard line and time expired before the Browns could stop the clock again or get the field goal unit on the field for an attempt you are correct! The entire play and goal line series was just so….Cleveland.

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That about sums it up. Image Credit: CBS Sports IG

In light of time and saving the analysis for more competitive affairs, we’ll keep this one short and sweet. The Jags D is suffocating, and Bortles is actually playing decent football of late. Combine that with the talent of Leonard Fournette against a poor Browns D and you’ve got a recipe for yet another L in Cleveland. Even if Fournette’s ankle continues to give him trouble, Jacksonville has rookie DeDe Westbrook out of Oklahoma returning from injury. Between Westbrook and Marquise Lee, the Jags can “run by throwing” now more than ever, assuming weather conditions are permissible. Jags dominate covering easily (-7.5). 

Baltimore Ravens @ Green Bay Packers

Ugh. A game with slightly more intrigue than the last two. Slightly. The Ravens head into Green Bay looking to keep pace in the wild card race in the AFC. The Packers find themselves still in the wild card hunt for the NFC and hope to keep pace until their fearless leader can return.

Speaking of returns, do it all little engine that could Danny Woodhead is set to return from his injury at the beginning of the season. Woodhead will likely see limited snaps in his first game back, but he is sure to be a boon to Flacco and the Ravens aerial attack as he is much a pass catching back as he is a running back. And while we’re on the topic of running backs, the Ravens offensive coordinator made it clear this week that Alex Collins would retain lead back duties, even with the return of Woodhead and Terrence West. Neither Woodhead nor West have ever flashed the big play ability and quickness that Collins has. Collins has a ridiculous 17 plays of 10 plus yards or more on the season, tops in the NFL.

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17 plays of 10 plus yards – tops in the league – none other than Alex Collins – Image Credit Baltimore Ravens

In terms of the aerial attack, Baltimore thought it might lose Jeremy Maclin to a shoulder injury after a tough hit in their game against Tennessee. However, Maclin has been removed from injury reports and should have a big day against the poor Packers secondary. Look for Wallace and Maclin to find open spots in the soft secondary of Green Bay, assuming weather conditions permit.

Green Bay on the other hand will likely turn to their third string running back, Jamaal Williams. Williams will have his work cut out against one of the best run stuffing defenses in the NFL since the return of nose tackle Brandon Williams. The Packers are not a bad team, and a team with as much talent as they have doesn’t just fall off of the map. That said, the Ravens are a very solid team that beats lesser opponents handedly, and with Hundley at QB and the Pack ailing, Green Bay is the lesser team. Baltimore is getting healthier and will start their push for playoff contention by taking down the Pack at Lambeau (-2).

Arizona Cardinals @ Houston Texans

Why not just get it all out of the way now? Just throw all the crap games first so we can get a few chuckles in at the ineptitude of each respective team and move on with our lives. The Cardinals and Texans qualify as two of the teams we knew the least about mid way through the season, but just as in years past both teams lost and/or experience starting quarterback difficulty. These QB hardships led to each respective team’s eventual demise. The downfall isn’t always fast at first, rather it builds with a close loss here and close loss there until eventually these teams look at Cleveland on the roster and aren’t even sure they can count that as a W anymore.

Brutal we know.

The Blaine Gabbert led Arizona Cardinals head into Houston to take on the Tom Savage lead Texans at NRG Stadium.

Stop, read that last sentence back again. Now let it sink in. Yep. The Blaine Gabbert led Cardinals square off with the Tom Savage led Texans. Oh brother.

Houston can’t buy a win with Watson out and fell from potential division winners to cellar dwellers with the tear of one single ACL. *Le-sigh ; There isn’t much left to say for the Texans. Here’s to hoping De’Andre Hopkins can make enough big plays to move the ball for Houston. What we know? That isn’t likely. The Cardinals aren’t a world beating team, and “All-Day” face a tough challenge against a top ranked Texans run D. However, what we know is that the Texans are a really bad football team without DeShaun Watson. Cards win and cover but it ain’t pretty (-1).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Miami Dolphins

We promise it gets better after this one! Somehow the awful Bucs, led by Ryan Fitz-magic, ended up pulling out a W against a superior Jets team. Again, we know nothing other than we know nothing in 2017.

This week the Bucs head just a bit further south to face the Dolphins in a make up game from Hurricane Irma that delayed their week 1 matchup. Tampa Bay enters with the sixth worst defense in terms of total yards allowed per game, giving up a whopping 376 yards per game on average. Pathetic. Granted, Dirk Koetter is an offensive minded coach, allowing that many yards is a terrible formula for building on 2016’s nine win season in Tampa.

While we’re on the topic of building on great seasons, the Fins surprised everyone when they reeled off ten wins last season. Miami did lose their starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill to begin the season, but still its hard to not blame head coach Adam Gase for the abysmal performance through the first 10 weeks of the 2017 season. Even so however, with a win in week 11 the Fins will find themselves one game out and in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race. We know nothing.

Kenyan Drake has been a revelation and has flashed his game breaking speed and agility for two straight weeks. However, in true head scratching Adam Gase fashion, the Fins continue to use the both Damien Williams and Drake in an evenly split platoon. Yep. One back is averaging a ridiculous yards per carry and the other can barely get back to the line of scrimmage. So what should we do coach? “Give ’em the same reps!” – says the fictitious Gase. Because that makes so much sense. We’re losing games, why would we ever want to get the ball in the hands of one of our best playmakers more often? It’s no wonder these teams are mediocre. Fins win on the back of a solid defensive performance against a turnover prone Ryan Fitzpatrick (straight). 

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Drake breaking a 66 yard touchdown run against a good Panthers D. Somehow Kenyan only garnered seven carries. Image Credit: AL.com

Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings

Week 11 of 2016 a Case Keenum was replaced at quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams by rookie top draft pick, Jared Goff. Yes. Two quarterbacks that were awful, terrible, unwatchable, meet again in 2017. But wait! There’s more…

Remember when we said we know nothing? Well, what’s even stranger is that this time around both QBs find themselves at the helm of legitimate NFC Super Bowl contenders with solid defenses and 7 and 2 records to boot. Truth is stranger than fiction my friends.

Yes, the Jared Goff led Los Angeles Rams travel to Minnesota to take on the Case Keenum led Minnesota Vikings. What?! No one. I repeat, NO ONE, would have predicted or seen this coming. Improvements? Sure. 7 and 2 division leading records in week 11 with these two QBs? HAHAHAHA. And that is 2017 in a nutshell.

So what do we really have? A very good and improved Rams team taking a Vikings squad that has so little faith in their current starting QB that the head coach just barely ruled out the possibility of Teddy Bridgewater replacing him this week! Yeah, that’s what we know. We know this Case Keenum business is a bit of mirage at best. While Keenum threw four TDs last week, he also threw two interceptions that allowed Washington to crawl back in the game late and nearly mount a comeback, losing by only eight. With a defense as strong as the Vikings and offensive talent abound with the likes of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs that is simply unacceptable.

Given the success of the Rams offense in Goff’s second year, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Keenum struggle and get the hook at the half if he continues to make costly mistakes with the football. Expect the Rams to utilize Gurley by getting him in space with swing passes on the outside where he can outmuscle and outrun linebackers. The key for Minnesota will be if Xavier Rhodes is able to play after sustaining an injury in last week’s contest. If Rhodes plays he likely shuts down either Sammy Watkins or Robert Woods. Considering how hot Woods has been it wouldn’t be a shocker to see Rhodes spent more time locking him down.

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It may be McVay headed for Coach of the Year. Image credit USA Today

Credit to Sean McVey, the NFL’s youngest head coach and leading candidate in TSO’s book for coach of the year. He has come in and completely turned the Rams around. By simplifying the playbook for Goff and giving Gurley to necessary touches and space to be effective, he has taken an offense that looked confused and bewildered and turned it into one of the best in football. All he had to do was play to the guy’s strengths that he had and give them chances to “win” in their individual matchups. Imagine that. How very, Belicheck’ian of him. The Rams will struggle to begin, but with Gurley, potential MVP, and Goff’s improved decision making, it’s hard not to see the Rams winning this one on the road. LA steals one (+2.5).

Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Giants

The last time the Giants played a game they were this big of underdogs they shocked everyone and upset Denver at home running all over the top rushing defense in the NFL. Will the G-Men have another trick up their sleeves this Sunday at the Meadowlands?

Finally! Something we know.

No. No the Giants won’t. New York is in complete shambles and head coach Ben McAdoo is looking and sounding more foolish by the week. After making the playoffs in his first season, could he be let go in just his second year as head coach? We think so. It looks like the entire Giants team has quit, save for Evan Engram and Sterling Shephard. The lone bright spots on the Giants offense will do their best to keep pace with the Chiefs, but they will be no match.

Kareem Hunt has a great shot to get back on track after struggling to get a lot going on the ground the past few weeks. Did we mention Janoris Jenkins and the Giants D seems to have given up? Look for the Chiefs to get ahead early and dominate the entire game in all phases (-10.5).

Washington Redskins @ New Orleans Saints

Now we’re talking! Never mind that we completely blew the Bills upset call last week…COMPLETELY BLEW IT….this week’s Saints matchup is chocked full of intrigue. A Redskins team that upset the Seahawks in week 9, nearly mounted a comeback against one of the best defenses in football in week 10, falling just short 38-30. This week they face arguably the hottest team in football.

The Saints look incredible and their offense isn’t solely running through Drew Brees these days. No, now their two headed monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are making opposing defenses look silly. A role previously occupied by Mr. Brees and Brees alone. That dynamic duo of Ingram and Kamara ran for twenty-four consecutive plays in Buffalo. Twenty-Four. Let that sink in. It’s nearly unfathomable and simultaneously impressive.

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Backfield duo in New Orleans are impressive. Image Credit New Orleans Saints

And don’t look now, but since week three the Saints defense has been one of the best in football. New Orleans D finds itself in the top ten in terms of total yards allowed per game, coming in at number eight allowing 312, for the first time recent memory. The last time New Orleans had a defense remotely this good they won the Super Bowl. Just sayin….

The Redskins on the other hand have been searching for answers all season. With a perennially banged up Jordan Reed, and an injured and struggling Terrell Pryor, Cousins is going back to tried and true weapons in Jamison Crowder and Vernon Davis. Washington also believes Josh Doctson is close to breaking out in a big way, at least based on the number of targets he’s seeing these days. Credit to Cousins who seems to work with a constantly revolving cast and continues to keep his team competitive, as best he can. Pay the man! Washington’s lead back, Rob Kelley will be out, meaning they are going to utilize rookie Samaje Perine and change of pace man, Chris Thompson.

As much as we’d love to pick the upset, we’re taking New Orleans to defend the Superdome and come away with the win. Being that it’s 2017 and everything is upside down however, we don’t think they cover – chalk this one up to something we don’t know. (-8)

Afternoon Games

Buffalo Bills @ Los Angeles Chargers

Remember that part in the Saints preview where we mentioned that the Bills allowed New Orleans to run the football on twenty four straight plays? This week they head across country to face a Chargers team led by the duo of Melvin Gordon and rookie Austin Ekler. Oops it happened again?

Okay, now hold onto that number. Twenty-Four straight run plays. 24. And obviously the problem was Tyrod Taylor at the quarterback position, right? You know, the guy who plays on the other side of the ball and has absolutely nothing to do with a defense that would allow an offense to gain enough yards to be able to run the ball twenty-four consecutive plays in a row. Yeah. Nice move there McDermott. Geez.

So the Bills are benching Tyrod Taylor and starting rookie Nathan Peterman this week, while they are in the midst of a wild card race. Not sure we understand this. True Taylor made some poor plays, and only threw for 56 yards, but in hindsight, the Saints D has been doing this since facing Cam in week 3. New Orleans D is legit, yet Taylor is being punished for doing what many QBs have done against the Saints this season. Now Kelvin Benjamin will be catching passes from his third QB this season, while being covered by Casey Hayward, one of the top CBs in the game. Peterman likes to chuck it deep, so here’s to hoping he keeps away from Hayward’s side of the field.

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Will Hayward make hay against Benjamin on Sunday. Image Credit NBC San Diego

Philip Rivers has cleared concussion protocol and will be on the field come Sunday. That said, it’s the rushing game that stands to pose the biggest problem for Buffalo. When the Chargers get a lead early, they’ll likely turn to their ground game and add to the lead. This will help to eliminate LeSean McCoy’s rushing, but won’t stop him from doing damage out of the backfield and in space. Peterman is the biggest “X” factor in this one. Given the Chargers tough pass rush and good corner play, we’ll stick with San Diego at home to keep pace in the crowded AFC Wild Card chase. (-5.5)

Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos

Oofa! What do we know about these two teams? Well, both have good defenses, or they used to. Both are playoff contenders, or were. Both had their answers at the running back and quarterback positions, or did. So what we’re saying is….you guessed it, we know nothing. The Bengals and Broncos are two teams that were expected to contend for playoff spots and possibly conference championships on the backs of solid defenses and above average running games. And then 2017 rolled around. So much for that. #analysis

Denver is so desperate at quarterback they are continuing to turn to Brock Osweiler as they await a return to health and some sort of credibility of their 2016 draft pick, Paxton Lynch. Lynch, out of TCU, would square off with fellow TCU alum, Andy Dalton, were he (Lynch) to find playing time in this one. Even though the Broncos have a top defense, they’ve been shredded by some stiff competition of late. We shouldn’t fault Denver for giving up points to offenses of Philadelphia and New England’s caliber though, and Cincy will prove much more manageable for the talented D unit.

Dalton and A.J. Green will find the going tough at mile high. They’ll need to bring their A games to have a shot to move the ball. Rookie Joe Mixon could help, but he’s struggled to truly break out in his rookie year. Without a rushing attack that scares you, Denver won’t be fooled or baited by any play action pass and should be able to pin their ears back and get after Dalton. Dalton, a QB who struggles with pressure. Von Miller is licking his chops with this matchup, as well as Talib and Harris Jr. All three Denver defensive studs should have big days in a much needed Broncos win. (-2.5)

New England Patriots @ Oakland Raiders 

En Mejico!

That’s right, for the second straight year the NFL heads south of the border to play a game at the Azteca stadium in Mexico! The Raiders, a beloved team by many in the country, will host the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. This has the makings of an old fashioned shootout south of the border! Two gun slingers, weapons and talented skill positions galore with little to no defense? Sign us up!

Azteca Stadium
Image Credit Sports Illustrated

Here’s to hoping some crazy fan doesn’t get the “bright” idea to go shining lights into anyone’s faces during the game a-la Brock Osweiler last season. Barring any unforeseen tomfoolery, this should be a great game. New England’s D has played better of late, but only against marginal competition. They’ll be tested against a top flight Raiders offense that can hurt you on the ground and through the air. Marshawn Lynch seems to be running much better lately and the timing couldn’t be more crucial. When the Raiders can establish a run they force a defense to commit seven to the box affording Carr more readable defensive schemes. Carr, while good, is not yet great, which means he’ll need his supporting cast to do their part so that he can continue his growth at the position.

While the development and balance is great for Oakland, their biggest obstacle is going to be slowing down an offense that is hitting its stride heading into the playoff push. The Raiders have been gashed by the likes of Jay Cutler, so we don’t see them providing much resistance to Tom Brady. New England will be able to pick the Raiders abysmal secondary apart, and once they do watch them run Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead silly. The Raiders are an up and coming team that can hurt you with Cooper, Crabtree, and now Cook, but they are outmatched and outmanned against the prolific Patriots offense facing little pushback on D. (-7.5)

Sunday Night Football

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

The top seeded Philadelphia Eagles head into Dallas to take on their division rival Cowboys. As much fun as this matchup may be in December, and it’s sure to be a barn burner with ‘Zeke returning, our November edition isn’t quite as exciting. The ‘Boys just got drubbed by my Dirty Birds in the dirty south, and the causes for concern won’t be remedied this week. Adrian Claiborn registered a career best, six sacks, last week against Dallas thanks to the absence of stud left guard Tyronn Smith. Without Smith, Dak has no time and little protection on his blindside. As viewers at home could tell, Dak was running for his life, often seen sweating profusely on the sidelines between possessions.

Things won’t get easier this week with Philly’s strong pass rush. Granted the Eagles can be had through the air, but that’s when the QB has time. With no ‘Zeke to keep the defense honest and no protection to keep Dak safe in the pocket, this shapes up to be a long day for the ‘Boys.

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Wentz lighting it up with a thumbs up. Image Credit Business Insider

On the Eagles side of the ball what is there to say that hasn’t been said about the best team in the NFL at the moment? Wentz is absolutely lighting it up, and he’ll do the same against a mediocre Dallas D with major holes in its secondary. Ajayi could be a game changer for their balance, enabling them to salt games away against stiffer competition (i.e. – see Patriots, New England.) Even if Alshon Jeffrey is unable to go this week, Agholor, Ertz, Burton, and Hollins will provide all the weaponry Wentz needs to dissect Dallas’s D. Eagles dominate and get a crucial win on the road in the division in primetime (-6).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Night Football

Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks

Fun Fact #1: Atlanta’s record in 2016 at this point in the season was 6 and 4.

Fun Fact #2: Atlanta’s record in 2017 at this point in the season is….5 and 4.

Yep. Like it or not the Dirty Birds are still getting down with their bad selves and in prime position for a playoff push. The records aren’t identical due to Atlanta’s week 11 bye last year, but if the Falcons win this week they will match their showing from last season to a T. Let that sink in Dirty Birds haters. They don’t call him Matty Ice for no reason.

The Seahawks aren’t the same ground and pound, shorten the game and your chances team of old. They have no consistent run game to speak of, and are putting it all on Wilson’s shoulders to carry the load. Wilson has been doing just that, looking every bit the MVP candidate many believed he could grow into. He’ll have a decent matchup against the Falcons who, while good, have holes and can be exploited from time to time. Wilson loves to get out of the pocket and buy time, creating plays with his legs. The challenge for Atlanta will be whether Claiborn and Vic Beasley can generate enough pressure to force Wilson into some uncomfortable spots and poor throws.

Speaking of poor throws. Matty Ice will need to be very careful with the ball in Seattle. Lucky for him, the “LOB -Legion of Boom” is all but disassembled. Sherman is lost for the year to a ruptured Achilles, and the Hawks may be without Kam Chancellor as well. Sheldon Richardson and Michael Bennett will attempt to pressure Ryan to get the ball out quick, but without a solid secondary backing them up, Atlanta’s wideouts will have a field day. Even without DeVonta Freeman, sidelined due a concussion, Atlanta has more than enough top tier weapons to put points up in bunches, even against a very good defense. Dirty Birds continue rounding into form and their D steps up in a major way (+2.5).

Fun Fact #3 – Part of the reason the Dirty Birds will continue to succeed.

Falcons Athletes

 

NFL Week 11 TNF: Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Lebeau’s Revenge

Our TNF affair pits two division leaders in an intriguing matchup with a former and heralded defensive coordinating returning home to the Steel City. 80 year old Dick Lebeau has been a defensive coordinator and around the game of football for decades. He is arguably most heralded for his time in Pittsburgh, helping to build the defense of the 2000s that helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls. Lebeau now finds himself in Tennessee, helping to build another dominant defense.

Lebeau is known for scheming up the zone blitz in the late 80s and early 90s where he would send a cornerback or unaccounted safety off of the edge of the zone to add one more defender than the offense could match. Lebeau stated that the purpose of this was to create more pressure on the quarterbacks during the emergence of the run and shoot days of Warren Moon and co. Creating pressure on the quarterback to make a fast decision with the football allowed the secondary to cover for less time, giving receivers less time to get open. The benefit of this is obvious, but it comes with its risks. Zone or “fire” blitz a QB like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers and you’re likely to get burned. QBs who can quickly diagnose a defensive coverage and pick out the man to man matchup will exploit the weakness and pick up yards in chunks.

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Lebeau has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but the legend still brings the same passion as he did thirty years ago. Image Credit: Nashville Sports News

Both the Steelers and Titans pressure the quarterback in different ways, which makes our TNF matchup that much more juicy.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Night Football

Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers

One of the best run defenses heads into Pittsburgh to attempt to slow down one of the best running backs in the NFL. The Titans rank sixth in rushing D, allowing a mere 91.9 ypg, but they’ll face their toughest test of the season against arguably the most dynamic running back in football in Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers on the other hand boast one of the top three pass defenses, but will be without top cornerback, Joe Haden. Tennessee heads into Pittsburgh with their receiving corps returning to health, as Corey Davis nears full health and continues reintegrating himself into an evolving Titans offense.

Another small problem rears its head on the short week for the home team. The Steelers are known for playing down to their opponents, not that the Titans are a team that is all that inferior, but the Titans are seven point underdogs. Pittsburgh barely edged out Cleveland in week one and just last week took it to the wire with Indy before pulling out a last second W. So we have a favored Steelers team hosting a Titans team that has reeled off four straight wins.

This is where things get interesting. The Steelers defense brought pressure more than they have in years last week, but Marcus Mariota comes into week 11 having thrown touchdowns in consecutive weeks against pressure. By contrast, the Dick Lebeau led D will look to bring pressure against Big Ben, taking on a QB who is posting a rating lower than 6 against pressure this season. The perennially clutch QB under pressure is showing some chinks in his armor in his thirteenth season. Not only is Ben folding when pressured, but he’s also overthrowing and missing open targets downfield more often in 2017 than in recent memory.

Pittsburgh would be wise to lean on Le’Veon and the dynamic ability of their playmakers like AB and rookie sensation JuJu Smith-Schuster underneath. The Titans have solid cornerbacks, but their linebacking corps can be had, easily beaten by speed and separation. Pittsburgh will have its own defensive challenges slowing down a Titans team that can beat you on the ground and through the air. Mariota will force the linebackers like Shazier and Harrison to decide to bite on the run and stop Murray or Henry and risk him keeping it and blazing by for 20 and 30 yard chunks. Did we mention Mariota has beaten pressure for touchdowns in consecutive weeks? Pick your poison with the Titans offense. A Steelers team without their top cornerback, Joe Haden, is outmatched and will fall in a disappointing loss at home. Titans have a big day in primetime at Heinz field, shocking the Steelers faithful and solidifying their lead in the AFC South (+7). 

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Hitting on all phases the Titans pull out a team win on the road in week 11. Image Credit: Titan Sized (.com)

Thank you for reading, liking, loving and sharing. We appreciate all of the love and support! Keep it coming as we continue to work to grow our endeavor to provide fun and useful insights to your weekly NFL matchups. Keep an eye out for our full week 11 preview soon!

NFL Week 10 Preview: Mixing it up!

For those that tuned in Sunday for football, you may have thought your eyes were deceiving you and you caught the end of some WWE throw down. Two teams were involved in major fights with numerous others mixing it up over the course of the day.

Yep. That’s A.J. Green putting Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey in a headlock in the top two images. The bottom? Oh you know, just you’re run of the mill injured, poorly playing quarterback, Jameis Winston egging on Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore with a tap on the head. Can’t see Lattimore? That’s probably because we chose to show the aftermath, where Lattimore gave Winston a shove back for his provocation only to be blind-sided and shoved in the back by wideout Mike Evans. That’s Evans in the bottom right in white shoving Lattimore, in black, in the back.

Hey Tampa Bay, taking cheap shots while getting your butt handed to you doesn’t help you change the scoreboard. Maybe focus less on talking trash and more on getting your sh** together. Will Jameis Winston ever take that next step to elite status? Is this the beginning of the end or will he recover from his lingering shoulder injury, study, and come back stronger than ever? Time will tell, but head coach Dirk Koetter’s job and reputation depend on it. And for what it’s worth, depending on Winston to make wise choices isn’t exactly a safe bet given his recent provocation and past behavior….hello crab legs!

Truly though, the most fascinating thing about the two big mix ups was that Evans was suspended, but Green, after putting Ramsey in a choke hold following a late shove, was not. Sure Evans took an unprovoked cheap shot, but choke holding and slamming a guy to the ground doesn’t warrant even a one game suspension when the other does? It’s almost like the NFL is arbitrarily applying its rules as it sees fit, and not in a fair and just manner. Phhhh….nah, not the NFL, they would never….

Speaking of fighting, we took a bit of a hit to our ego after nearly nailing week 8, week 9 wasn’t quite so kind. TSO posted a respectable 8 for 13. Here’s to fighting back for week 10.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Early Games

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

An NFC North showdown in Chicago that boasts one of the NFL’s oldest and closest all time rivarly. Unfortunately this week we’ll be watching fresh licked Brett Hundley take on rookie Mitch Trubisky. It’s not gonna be pretty folks.

If you like offense, competent quarterback play, or anything fantasy football related, you’ll probably want to look away. Outside of the Bears defense there isn’t much else to get too excited about. Brett Hundley clearly hasn’t developed or learned in his three years backing up Rodgers. It would be nice to see McCarthy take the reins off and let Hundley chuck it deep a bit, but based on the past two games that doesn’t seem likely.

So here’s how this is gonna play out. The Bears secondary will pick Hundley at least once, probably twice and the Green Bay QB will have to watch an inexperienced rookie out duel him. We use out duel loosely here, as the main thing Trubisky is gonna be doing is handing off to Jordan Howard. Look for Howard to have a big game with close to 30 touches. Bears get revenge at Soldier field covering the spread (-5).

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With his 102 yard effort in week 8 against the Saints, Howard became the fastest Bears running back to 10 100 yard games, passing Sweetness himself. Image Credit: Chicago Bears Twitter

Cleveland Browns @ Detroit Lions

Let’s just get the stinkers out of the way early eh? Crazy to think that such storied franchises would be the games we want to breeze through. There’s reason for optimism in the Motor City, however, with Matt Stafford’s impeccable play. The NFL’s highest paid quarterback showed everyone why he was deserving of such a large contract on MNF. With pinpoint accuracy and a cannon for a right arm, he threaded the needle on long throws and showed touch on short quick ones to likes of Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. Stafford has done all of that without any real help at running back.

Ameer Abdullah fumbled twice, once near the goal line. *Slaps head!

So with Abdullah looking like a bust, the best thing in the running game for Detroit is a converted wide receiver out of Notre Dame. He’s not even a true running back! Welcome to the number one role Theo Riddick!

Lucky for the Lions they face a team with less balance than them. Not even sure you can call what the Browns are doing balance. Outside of the incredible NFL ironman Joe Thomas, whose record streak of consecutive games played just ended, there isn’t much to write home about. Josh Gordon may come back at some point, so there’s that. Don’t worry about the fact that you, Cleveland, have whiffed on the likes of DeShaun Watson and Carson Wentz, instead opting for DeShone Kizer or Johnny Manziel. Nice. Lions win and cover, but who cares? No, seriously. Lions – woof – or roar! (-12)

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For context…35 years. That’s how backwards and upside down this 2017 season has been. Image Credit: ESPN IG

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts

Oh come on. Do I have to? This is getting to be ri-Gosh-damn-diculous!

Is there really even a question here?

“But, but, but…the Steelers play down to their competition, and lost to the Bears.”

You’re correct dissenting fan, however do the Colts have the defense that the Bears do?

Vontae Davis may miss, who exactly is going to cover AB?

Anyone on that D-line for Indy that can slow down Lev Bell?

No, no, and no? I rest my case.

Steelers are going to beat Indy so bad we may see Pagano fired and Gore released before they even make it out of the showers post game. Martavis Bryant is expected to be back in the fold, not that they need him for this one. You don’t need numbers to tell you what you already know in this one. Steelers dominate (-10). 

Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Finally! A game with some intrigue. Believe me, I’m as shocked to be typing that in regards to these two teams as you are to be reading it. If you told me a week 10 matchup between the Chargers and Jags would be one of the more interesting games I’d have called you crazy. Yet, 2017 and here we are.

The Chargers hoping to keep pace and salvage their season, and the Jags are hoping to create some distance from themselves and the Titans. One team is going to leave Jacksonville extremely disappointed. The only difference between this year and years past is that the disappointed team may not be wearing teal and gold.

This game boils down to what you believe about each team. Both have over and underachieved through the first half of the season. The Jags stomp on the Steelers, yet get hammered by the Titans. The Chargers shutout the Broncos, beat the Raiders, and fall by only two to the Eagles with a missed field goal being the difference. But then, in true Chargers and Philip Rivers fashion they start out of the gate 0 and 3, losing to the Broncos, Dolphins, and Chiefs. It’s extremely hard to tell which Chargers team we will get from week to week. The talent on the Chargers is undeniable, arguably one of the best in the league, but this is the first full season that most everyone from that talent pool has played together. Gelling is a real thing and it’s apparent the Chargers have not.

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Ranked #2 in the league the Jaguars Defense is the Real Deal. Image credit Fantasy Football Calculator

Melvin Gordon isn’t back to full health, and even when he is he isn’t the type of guy who is going to blow by you. He should do some heavy lifting to keep the Chargers in the game, but ultimately to win Rivers is gonna have to pass against the NFL’s best secondary. That’s a scary proposition. With Fournette back from a bit of an odd team suspension, and don’t look now but Blake Bortles possibly playing the best football of his career, we’ll take the Jags to win and cover at home (-5). 

New Orleans Saints @ Buffalo Bills

The Saints D is not improving like they need to and in hindsight, looking at their schedule, the Saints D gave up huge points to good teams. In games NO lost, Minnesota dropped 29 points on them and New England 36. In the game they WON Detroit still posted a whopping 38 points. And while the Buffalo Bills lost to the Jets we all know, and you’ve heard this from TSO plenty this year, all Thursday Night Football (TNF) games are garbage and don’t count. It is not representative of the team you really are.

AND Tyrod Taylor is improving. He is getting better in the pocket. Drew Brees will be Drew Brees but with Tyrod’s improvement in the pocket combined with his mobility and with Buffalo playing at home (and Buffalo is really good at home) it will just be too much. TSO will take Buffalo and the spread (NO -3).

New York Jets @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s being called the ‘revenge’ game. Ryan Fitzpatrick playing his old team and Josh McCown facing his old team- well, one of his old teams. McCown has played for EIGHT (8) NFL teams and let’s just say he is playing great right now. I mean, McCown should NOT be this good. The Jets should not be this good, but they are. Right now they are.

And Tampa Bay is that bad. Right now they are very bad. Head Coach Dirk Koetter may lose his job and maybe he should. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are replete with talent and they are losing games. Granted Jameis Winston is hurt. He wants not to be because he started the season as one of the league’s leading passers but he is hurt. Enter Fitzpatrick – who has played for now his SEVENTH (7th) NFL team most recently the Jets who he will face on Sunday in a Bucs uniform.

But that’s where the drama ends. It’s a tale of a team full of talent that should be good (Bucs) but really isn’t against a team that shouldn’t be this good (Jets) but is doing pretty OK and surprising some. TSO is going to go with the team in less disarray with McCown at the helm. Jets with the win and beating the spread (-2.5).

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins

“…but the dream is still alive.” – Teddy Bridgewater.

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A smiling Teddy Bridgewater happy to be back as the backup QB. Image credit Icon Sportswire

Let’s open this one with a nod to the inspiration of a back-up quarterback. From an injury that still makes us squirm all the way to almost full recovery, Teddy Bridgewater embodies the kind of player we love to root for. He will suit up for Minnesota this week as a BACKUP QUARTERBACK. That makes him happy and we salute him.

While technically, the Vikings may have a better defense and offensive line (and the Vegas spreads are showing as much with Vikings at -1.5) TSO is not sure it will be enough against the Redskins at home, even with injuries. Washington will still roll out Crowder, Dotson and Pryor and Kirk Cousins & Co. know how to play with some grit. Beating Seattle in that weather was no small feat and the Redskins can make a run at a wild card spot if they keep that kind of play up over the next few weeks – starting with this game.

TSO can see this game going one of two ways. It is possible, though we don’t think likely, that the Vikings could win this 23-0. However, we do think though that Kirk Cousins makes enough good decisions and the Redskins play with enough grit at home to walk away with a win. TSO will take the Redskins at home with the point +1.5.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Tennessee Titans

The Cincinnati Bengals have a good defense. Giving up on average only 193 yards in the air per game and 117 yards on the ground, the Cincy D stands at 6th best in the league. And they have A.J. Green, the Damn Good Dog (DGD) who apparently just couldn’t take it (and we have no idea what “it” is) anymore and punched Jalen Ramsey’s helmet repeatedly last week. It was out of character and shocked everyone. What isn’t shocking anyone, however, is that he is accepting the fine and moving one. He was wrong for taking the punches and he is now taking his lumps. One damn good dog (DGD).

But moving on. Cincy has a good D but the Tennessee Titans are an underrated football team and they know how to light up a good defense. (Can you say 33 points against the Seattle D? Well the Titans can.) Mariota is getting healthier by the day and this will be Corey Davis’ 2nd week back in action, giving Mariota a great option for opening up the field. Could the Tennessee Offense be more dynamic? Sure, but home against the Bengals we see this one going the Titans way with a Titan Win that includes beating the spread (TN -4.5).

Afternoon Games

Houston Texans @ Los Angeles Rams

Can we just say it? Without Deshaun Watson the Texans are a mess. Word is that his ACL surgery went great and we wish him well on his path back to good health and peak performance. With Deshaun the Texans were the number 3 scoring team in the NFL. Without Deshaun and with Tom Savage under center the Texans managed to score only 14 points against the Colts (who routinely have given up 20+ points this season).

But all of this is not to praise Jared Goff. TSO is still not buying in to the Jared Goff Hype. What we see as the more likely cause of the Rams success (only two losses this season thus far) is the Sean McVay / Todd Gurley (DGD) factor. As you probably know, Sean McVay at the age of 30 is the youngest NFL head coach in modern history and he is making the most of it. Without a doubt he is getting the most out of the talent he has AND keeping Skip Peete on as the running backs coach of the Rams provided exactly what Gurley needed after a disastrous 2016 – consistency.

TSO sees this one going to the Rams but only because Texas is such a mess. The Rams will get an early lead and Gurley will have a field day in the 2nd half. Rams win but don’t beat the spread (-12).

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons

The ‘Boys and the Falcons are the darlings of TSO’s eye and we have strong opinions about the “Case Against Zeke”. This means we could get emotionally involved in this one. But we will refrain. Let’s just call this one as we see it. Shall we?

First, Dallas:

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Ezekiel Elliott is a game changer and adds a dimension to the playbook for the ‘boys. Image credit True Viral News

Ezekiel Elliott will be OUT on Sunday. He is a game changer and this will matter. He is a running back who opens up the playbook and keeps every defense honest. Other RBs can perform but he is a difference maker and as Zeke goes, so goes Dallas.

Don’t get me wrong, Dak is good. And while Dez is hurt but should play, he is still hurt.

As for the Falcons:

Julio Jones is hurt as well. Julio being injured means other guys have to step up and perform (just like on Dallas to make up for Dez at less than 100%).

The Atlanta Defense is not great. The return of Vic Beasley has helped. But clearly not enough.

The net-net:

Average defenses. Key injured playmaking beasts on both offenses. Zeke being out will allow the Falcons offense depth to do just enough to win. TSO takes the Falcons to win and cover the spread (-3).

Post Script: Ezekiel Elliott is a game changer and the NFL appears to be changing their game to punish him (and ultimately his team). He’ll serve 4 games of the suspension BEFORE a court will hear the case to determine if he should be punished at all. Food for thought on this case – read more here Logic Turned on Its Head in Ezekiel Elliott Case

New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers

Who knows? And does anyone really care? Yes they are major television markets but ugh. The winless 49ers versus the one-win Giants. Woohoo??

TSO’s gotta tell you though. If Eli Manning is not starting/playing the hapless 49ers just might pick up their first win of the season. If Eli plays Sterling Shepard and Mark Ingram could have a huge Sunday because the Niners have one of the worst secondary squads in football. Sad but True.

The Giants are poor but are the better football team. So we’ll take the Giants to win and cover the -2.5 point spread, because really, it just doesn’t matter.

Sunday Night Game

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Let’s go with an application of Occam’s razor on this one. The simplest solution is usually the right one. The New England Patriots roll into Mile High Stadium on a 4 game winning streak to face the Denver Broncos who are on a 4 game losing streak. Hm. Wonder what’s going to happen?

Tom Brady is the QB of the New England Patriots and Brock Osweiler is the QB of the Denver Broncos. I mean, Denver has some excellent players with the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Vonn Miller, but John Elway, Hall of Fame QB, really struggles with hiring a QB for Denver that could be of superstar quality. I mean, what if he hired a QB that had the potential to say break records of any QB who had ever played for the Denver Broncos. That is what he should be doing as the Denver President of Football Operations and GM. No?

I mean I know that he himself holds many distinctions as the greatest QB in Denver history, but there’s no way that could have anything to do with the poor QB selections he has made as GM of the team. But I digress into psychological depths no one wants to wander into.

John Elway the Suit needs to hire a QB like Elway #7 – Image credit NY Daily News/Bronco Planet

The only wrinkle at all is the Denver Defense. #1 in the league. Damn Good Defense (DGD) not to be confused with Damn Good Dog (DGD). But they have stumbled of late with the Eagles scoring 51 points on them last week. Fifty-one. That’s the most the team has allowed since 2010. That’s a lot folks and I’m sure they are questioning themselves especially when they will face an offense that finds a way to win.

But back to Occam’s razor – simplest explanation and all that. NE Four game winning streak. Denver team that struggles to score 20 points. Tom Brady facing a team whose defense just gave up 51 points. Simplest explanation =  Patriot’s dominate in Denver and cover the spread (-7.5)

Monday Night Game

Miami Dolphins @ Carolina Panthers

This game sets up nicely for the Carolina Panthers. But the question this year, and this game will depend on the answer to this, is ‘which Cam Newton will show up?’

When Cam is good, Cam can be very good. If you’re a Carolina fan you want to see the Cam that throws for over 300 yards and 3 TDs and rushes for another 44 yards and 1 TD. If this on-the-field Cam shows up, fans and teammates alike will be happy and maybe the off-the-field Cam will hold off on any other “winning” analogies he may come up.

“These are our expectations. Nobody is even giving us an opportunity. Yeah we just lost a great player, but nevertheless the Titanic still has to go.” – Cam Newton after loss of his leading WR Benjamin in a trade to Buffalo.

Yes. He said that last week. And now TSO will keep going, but not like the Titanic.

Speaking of trades, it appears that the Miami trade of Ajayi is working well for the Dolphins. I mean Kenyan Drake looks good running the ball and the scheme will work well to keep things simple for Cutler. Cutler is decent when he doesn’t have to do too much and that’s the option the Dolphins will try to give him on Monday night.

But here at TSO we think that the Dolphins with the 31st ranked offense in the league just aren’t up to the task against the 5th ranked Carolina defense in Carolina. TSO will take Carolina to be the iceberg in this game and not the Titanic. Panthers win but don’t cover the spread (-9).

Thank you as always for reading, sharing, liking, loving and more! Happy watching and we’ll be back in full force next after another round of exciting games this Sunday!

Thursday Night Football: Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals – Birds in the Desert

And crummy Thursday night football games are back! Just when we though some of the games might bring a bit more intrigue, we get back to back weeks with mediocre divisional games. This week’s installment of Seattle and Arizona is likely to be more of the same in our line of disappointing, turn the channel television.

Even so, there’s a game to preview here and preview it TSO will!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thursday Night Football

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals

Remember when these two teams dominated the NFC West, alternating turns at the top of the division with the runner up typically occupying the wild card? Seems like so long ago now with the injury riddled Cardinals in desperation mode. Things have gotten so bad in Arizona that they have had to bring in a 32 year old running back, and then ride him to victory on a career high in carries against a bad defense.

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Even “All Day” can’t sustain this pace. Image Credit: CBS Sports IG

Adrian Peterson is a freak of nature. One of the most physically gifted athletes we’ve been fortunate enough to witness play the game of football. That said, he is 32 years old, and while his heart may be in it as much now than it was in his younger days, putting that much of a load onto a guy with miles in his 30s isn’t a recipe for success. That said, expect the Cards to do more of the same this week against the Seahawks. Seattle’s biggest defensive weakness is their run D, but will AP be able to get it rolling again against an improved front on a short week?

Bruce Arians clearly wants to take the ball out of backup QB Drew Stanton’s hands as much as possible. The Niners have an awful D and even against them he didn’t trust Stanton to air it out. No way he takes the reins off against the tough Seattle secondary. This could turn into a defensive battle. Who can forget last year’s snooze fest that ended in a tie with only field goals? 6-6 in 2016, that was the barn burner fans were treated to thanks to these two squads just last season. Like we said at the top, have something else queued up.

The Hawks, for all of Russell Wilson’s brilliance, can’t seem to get a head of steam for the life of them. With an awful O-line, the Hawks certainly hope an extra week of study will better integrate Duane Brown and allow them to have more protection and push up front. One week after committing to giving Eddie Lacy the rock, they will turn to Thomas Rawls. Through no fault of Lacy’s own, he was looking sharp and the plan to stick with Lacy appeared to be reaping benefits before he went out with a groin injury. If the Hawks can get any kind of push up front and establish some semblance of a rushing attack, their offense will be dangerous.

On defense the Cards have actually been more vulnerable through the air than on the ground, which bodes well for Wilson and co. Without the threat of an accurate and consistent deep ball from Stanton the Hawks secondary will clamp down, playing tight and leaving eight in the box to bottle up “All Day” AP. Without an effective Peterson, the Cards will be the birds grounded in the desert. Wilson is smart enough to throw the ball away when his protection breaks down, which it has often this season. Russell is also smart enough to avoid throwing in Patrick Peterson’s way. With Peterson shadowing Doug Baldwin for part if not all of the game, look for Richardson, Lockett, and Graham to go to work on the lesser Cardinals defenders. Hawks are the birds that fly high in the desert and cover, but it won’t be pretty (-6). 

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With injuries abound in Seattle’s backfield, Carroll will turn back to the Central Michigan product, Thomas Rawls, to get things going on the ground in week 10. Image Credit: Pro Football Spot

Enjoy the division battle on TNF in week 10, because as history shows, we never really know what to expect in these games. Thank you for reading and don’t forget to like, love, share, tweet, and all that other good stuff. Be on the lookout for our full week 10 preview soon!

NFL Week 9 Preview: Midseason Awards, ‘Zeke & Watson

Well how about that for a jam packed, action-filled, thrilling week eight?! Wowza! So much to cover so little time.

Let’s start with the obvious. The Texans @ Seahawks game was an instant classic between two quarterbacks sure to dominate this league for years to come. DeShaun Watson is the real deal and Russell Wilson may well be the MVP come season’s end. Without any semblance of an O-line, Wilson continues to dazzle and drop 40 on good teams. It’s damn impressive.

Now for the bad following that game. DeShaun Watson lit it up, and showed his mettle. Granted, the Hawks haven’t exactly resembled the Legion of Boom (LOB) of old. They currently rank just outside the top ten this season at the halfway mark, and they have truly only played a couple of top quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Mariota. Mariota dropped 30 on the Hawks, so with Watson’s performance that makes two of the three top QBs that have lit that D up for over 30 points. Couple that with the fact that Watson did throw multiple interceptions, one of which was returned for a pick six, which was the difference in the game. So, for all of the good that Watson brings the Texans, we must call a spade a spade and admit the young man has some growing and learning left to do.

In an effort not to speak ill of the injured, we must mention that Watson suffered a terrible practice time setback, tearing his ACL this week. He’s done for the season, all but eliminating the Texans from legitimate contention. Worse is the fact that Watson was admittedly exciting and fun to watch. He was making football and Texans football relevant and fun again. The young man has amazing character as evidenced by his donation of his first game check to cafeteria workers for the Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey, and he has a great head on his shoulders. It’s awful news and terrible for the game. Here’s to praying that Watson comes back stronger and better than ever.

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High praise for the electric young QB. Image Credit: Sportscenter IG

Wait, two elephants in the room?! Yep. We must discuss the ‘Zeke issue. What in the world is the NFL doing? Jerry Jones said it best that the NFL is punishing ‘Zeke as an “over-correction” of their errors relating to Ray Rice. Let’s just dive into that for a moment. What are the major differences between the Rice case and the Elliott case? There is no evidence of ‘Zeke doing anything, but there is actual video footage of Rice striking his fiance’. The other main point in ‘Zeke’s defense is that he was exonerated and the lead investigator for the NFL stated that she would not suspend, nor did she find enough evidence to indicate Elliott was guilty of anything. The NFL is not a law enforcement agency, nor do they want to begin attempting to wade into such waters. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) must be revised and fun fact, the most recent judge that removed the injunction, which would have suspended Elliott, her husband is an attorney who brokered the CBA currently in place. Conflict of interest much?

Here’s the deal, Elliott appealed, because that’s what you do when you want to clear your name, and he has received a stay until the court can hear his appeal. Elliott will play, and our prediction at TSO remains. Elliott misses zero games this season as this entire legal drama and near witch hunt plays out.

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Elliott’s stay means he can play and has the ‘Boys dancing all day. Image Credit: USA Today

On to our midseason awards. This is going to be fairly quick.

Offensive MVP

Carson Wentz. Halfway through 2017 Wentz has already exceeded his touchdown total from his rookie season and appears to cut his mistakes (interceptions and turnovers) in half. Wentz has thrown 19 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. The second year product out of North Dakota State has been nothing short of spectacular to begin the season. Time will tell if he can maintain this incredibly hot start, but for the time being Wentz runs away with offensive MVP through the first half of the season.

Defensive MVP

Calais Campbell. The NFL offseason’s biggest acquisition, both figuratively and literally, has helped to changed the mentality of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 6’8″, 31 year old out of the U, in his tenth season, is on an absolute tear. Anytime your presence literally changes the team’s official twitter name from Jacksonville to Sacksonville Jaguars, you get noticed by TSO for defensive MVP. Campbell leads the NFL with 10 sacks on a playoff hopeful Jaguars team. Think back. When is the last time you can remember playoffs and Jacksonville even being mentioned by week 9? That’s what Campbell has done for this defense and he’s your midseason defensive MVP.

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Campbell was all smiles after signing the huge contract with the Jags and for good reason. Campbell has the Jags poised for a run at the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Image Credit: Calais Campbell Twitter Account

Rookie of the Year

Kareem Hunt. Okay, this was the most difficult call. Leonard Fournette and DeShaun Watson receive honorable mention, but both lose out in part due to injury. Not only did Hunt burst onto the scene with one of the most impressive performances in his first game in NFL history, he maintained that hot start for weeks on end as well as proved his diminutive size wouldn’t affect his durability. Hunt posted 100 yards from scrimmage for seven straight weeks, and it wasn’t until he faced the all world run D of Denver before he was somewhat held in check. Hunt’s impressive start places him among the likes of Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders. That said, Fournette deserves praise for looking like the second coming of AP, and Watson was setting the NFL world on fire throwing for 19 touchdowns, more than anyone to begin his first seven games as a starter in NFL history. If these rooks are any indication, the NFL has a bright future, but Hunt reigns supreme halfway through 2017.

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Hunt, one of the most difficult backs to bring down, has proved elusive in his rookie campaign. Image Credit: Crain’s Cleveland Business

Coach of the Year

Doug Pederson. This was a close one between Pederson and Andy Reid, but in the end, the Eagles second year coach gets the edge. Both coaches are coaching quarterback candidates for MVP along with teams in contention for the playoffs. Did we mention that Pederson served under Reid as his offensive coordinator in Kansas City? Working against Reid is the fact that many of the skill players and talent has remained, while Pederson has continued to develop a young QB in his second year, as well as bring in new talent and weapons around him. Not only has Pederson managed Wentz’s development successfully, he’s seamlessly integrated new players across the board without any hiccups. A rare feat, especially in football. The Eagles are 7 and 1 and atop league standings. There is a long way to go yet, but Philly fans are flying high with their new coach and QB darlings.

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Pederson and Wentz are enjoying the ride in 2017.  Image Credit: NJ.com

There’s your midseason awards as TSO sees it. Week 8 saw us post our best week yet, missing only one call, going an awesome 12 for 13! We’ll look to keep the good times rolling in week 9!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Early Games

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

Well this went from a stud to a dud. Imagine if we had Andrew Luck and DeShaun Watson squaring off against each other and Watt and Clowney getting after Luck? If only. Instead, due to Luck and Watson’s unfortunate circumstances, we get Jacoby Brissett and Tom Savage. Oh, and sans Watt pressure. Let’s get through this.

The Colts are a mess without Luck, which means they are a mess period. T.Y. Hilton either isn’t getting the ball or Brissett is unable to get it to him, either way it isn’t good. Brissett is doing what inexperienced QBs do and checking down to his tight end a ton. Marlon Mack is the only real consistent play maker for the Colts. Find space and get that man the ball.

For Houston, losing Watson is huge, but shouldn’t cost them this game. Savage is good enough to salvage this game. He should find Hopkins, but Will Fuller V will find it hard to get any deep balls. The Texans don’t protect well, but Indy doesn’t pressure well either, so Savage should be okay. That’s about the best we can say. Texans win on the back of their defense, harkening back to Texans of yesteryear, but Houston doesn’t cover (-7). 

Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Battle of the mediocre cats! The 3 and 4 Bengals head down to Jacksonville to take on the 4 and 3 Jaguars. Neither team has been overly impressive. Each team could easily have better records, but both teams still can’t seem to shake their identities of old. Andy Dalton will have his hands full with the self proclaimed “Sacksonville” defense and their elite secondary. The Jags secondary led by A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey have helped lead Jacksonville to numerous “coverage sacks” and Dalton is likely to be yet another victim.

The Jags get Leonard Fournette back, however Blake Bortles and co. will face a tough test against Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict, and the Cincy D. Were this the Bengals from 2016 Cincy would have the edge. Being that this is 2017, Andy Dalton appears to have regressed, and no Bengals running back has truly stepped up. Much of the same is true of Jacksonville, but they do have Fournette and the slightly better D. Jags win and cover, but it ain’t pretty (-5.5). 

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Fournette showing off his grown man strength and the Jags will need every bit of it in a slugfest on Sunday. Image Credit: For The Win (FTW) – USA Today

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Two teams with top offenses and below average defenses square off in the Superdome for a game with all the makings of a shootout.

Stop me if you’ve heard this as well. Two teams expected to be involved in a shootout down in Nola underperform and leave fans and analysts alike saying, “huh?”.

Both narratives have been true in 2017 for the Bucs and Saints. Tampa was expected to light up the Pats and Panthers, they did neither, and New Orleans was expected to light up their week one primetime game and the Pats, and they too did neither. Even with those duds for the Bucs and Saints, both teams rank near the top in terms of offensive output. The Saints rookie class has impressed, specifically Marshon Lattimore has been a huge boon at cornerback. The question in this one comes down to who do you trust more? Between Ingram and Kamara at running back, and Drew Brees’s otherworldly level of play at home more often than not, we’ll take the Saints. New Orleans wins, but doesn’t cover (-7). 

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Kamara and Ingram are leading the way in a new look New Orleans offense. Image Credit: Sports News Instant

 

Los Angeles Rams @ New York Giants

The surprising Rams head from the West coast to the East, and will appreciate the extra hour of sleep changing time zones as we fall back Sunday. To steal from our Thursday night preview, these two teams have certainly traded places. With the Rams looking like legit wildcard contenders for the playoffs as the Giants were in 2016, and the G-Men scraping by with one win so far, everything that was up in 2016 is down…well, almost everything. *Damn you New England why do you have to be so damn good?!

The Rams bring their top ten offense into New York, specifically they bring one of the top running backs, Todd Gurley III (Damn Good Dawg), to run over a bottom ten rushing defense. Credit Sean McVay for simplifying the playbook for Jared Goff and asking him to do less while allowing him to do more. It’s been an incredible turnaround for a QB that was headed for the dreaded “#1 Bust” status in a hurry prior to McVay’s arrival in LA. On the other side, the home team is chomping at the bit to send head coach Ben McAdoo out about as fast as they brought him in. The Giants brought in some pieces on offense, and their draft pick of Evan Engram out of Ole Miss all set Eli Manning up for success heading into 2017. Then OBJ got hurt in preseason, and again in the regular season, and BMarsh went down, and and and.

New York’s defense has regressed as well, which certainly doesn’t help matters for a team struggling to find any offense. Eli Manning is being exposed for the very average QB that he is without the help and short fields provided by a world class defense. While we’re on the topic of New York’s D, they are going to be without top corner Janoris “Jack-rabbit” Jenkins who is being benched for disciplinary issues. That should help Goff find Watkins or Cupp a bit more. This game is lopsided by the numbers and the Rams actually are built to travel well. They don’t use too many gimmicky offensive tactics, and they have solid special teams to help maintain positive field position and get points when available. Rams go on the road and steal one from the Giants as the G-Men’s fall from grace continues in 2017. (-3.5 Rams cover)

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The potential MVP candidate in LA isn’t a QB, but he is a damn good dawg! Image Credit: Fan Sided

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

A big NFC South battle in Charlotte Sunday will determine who either remains on New Orleans heels or joins the Saints atop the division. Neither team has played up to their potential. The Panthers issues haven’t been defensive, in fact Carolina has the second best defense in terms of total yards allowed. Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, and James Bradberry have been key to the Panthers limiting opponents to under 265 yards per game. Cam Newton has been one of the major issues for the Panthers. Easily one of the most talented and gifted athletes in the NFL, Newton has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. One week he looks like the MVP from 2015 and lights up the Pats, and the next he can’t move the ball up and down the field against a lowly Bucs D.

Atlanta has its share of issues as well. The Falcons D has been good, but not great. The Dirty Birds are very much playing a bend but don’t break style. The rejuvenated health of Vic Beasley should help to return the Falcons pass rush back to form, but they’ll also need improved play from top cornerback, Desmond Trufant. Speaking of inconsistent, Matt Ryan hasn’t been throwing nearly as many touchdowns as his 2016 MVP season, but he’s coupled that with throwing more interceptions. Not a recipe for success for TSO’s Dirty Birds.

Carolina traded away Kelvin Benjamin in a bit of a head scratching move. Look for Devin Funchess to fill that role, and Russell Shepherd and rookie Curtis Samuel to see the field more often as well. The Panthers biggest issue in a matchup with Atlanta is the Falcons defensive speed. Christian McCaffrey won’t be able to outrun Deion Jones or Vic Beasley out of the backfield, which will force the Panthers to either take long shots or face longer down and distances. We don’t believe Jonathan Stewart runs well against Atlanta.

The Falcons will have DeVonta Freeman, but he may take a back seat to Tevin Coleman as Freeman recovers from a nagging shoulder injury. Freeman is set to start, but don’t be surprised if Coleman takes on a larger role in week 9. This game will be decided by who shows up at quarterback for each team. High probability this ends up being a shootout as each squad can put up 30 points. We’re going with Atlanta, but this is the toughest call of the week given the matchup and personnel. (-1.5 Dirty Birds cover)

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Your 2016 – Ryan, and 2015 – Newton, NFL MVPs friendly off the field, frienemies on it. Image Credit: NFL.com

Denver Broncos @ Philadelphia Eagles

Talk about your head scratcher matchups. A good Broncos D heads into Philly to take on the red-hot Eagles offense. This should be fun to watch, but for this matchup only as the inverse looks to be ugly. Siemian has been benched, leading the Broncos head coach, Vance Joseph to announce that Brock Osweiler will start at QB for Denver on Sunday.

*Hangs head

No words.

Yes, the Brock Osweiler has somehow weaseled his way into another starting gig. Being over 6’6″ has its benefits.

That’s all we got folks, because the tape doesn’t lie on the “Brockweiler”. He was not just bad, he was awful in Houston. Awful. Even at 6’7″ he couldn’t see to throw receivers open or even just hit them in stride. Osweiler was one of the most off-target QBs last year, and regularly overthrows his intended receivers. Look for Joseph and co. to limit the ask of Brock, but that could be problematic against one of the few offenses that should find some success against Denver.

Carson Wentz is able to spread the ball around and take advantage of where Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. are not. Look for Ertz to have a big game as athletic tight ends tend to, and Wentz loves him. Also, Agholor or Mack Hollins could have big days as one will not draw Harris Jr., which immediately becomes an exploitable matchup. Fly Eagles fly and it isn’t close (-7.5). 

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans

Hello Alex Collins! Yowza that was an impressive debut on TNF in week 8. Really makes you wonder what the Seahawks were looking at when they decided to cut him? Wonder if they could use a quick footed, speedy and tough back that can get to the edge and power between the tackles? Hmmm…Does Pete Carroll just hate good running backs because they take away from how much he can highlight his darling, Russell Wilson? Food for thought.

Moving on. The Titans return from their bye week at the perfect time. Mariota is reported to be nearly back to full health, which restores his running and escapability in the pocket. Mariota’s running also opens back up their playbook. Speaking of opening up their playbook, first round draft pick, rookie wideout Corey Davis out of Western Michigan University is set to return. Davis reminds us at TSO a lot of Demaryius Thomas in terms of skill set. A large, fast, big bodied wideout with the ball hawking skills to go up and get it, and the speed to leave CBs in the dust. With Davis back in the fold, Mariota’s weapons expand to more than just the running game. Marcus may be without Delanie Walker, his safety valve, but rookie Jonnu Smith should fill in amicably.

Outside of Alex Collins the Ravens are struggling to find any offense. Of the Ravens 20 yard plus plays (15), five of them are from Alex. Great for Collins, but no team wants to be that one dimensional (look away Jags fans). The Titans have too many weapons and can win too many ways, and they are at home. Mariota and Tennessee keep pace at the top of the AFC South (-3.5 Titans cover).  

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Collins is leaving defenders in the dust. Image Credit: Field Gulls – SB Nation

Afternoon Games

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers

Oh boy. The battle for the bottom of the NFC West. Remember when this division was arguably the most difficult in the NFL?

Here’s a fun graphic:

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Just let that sink in for a moment.

We’re no huge Harbaugh fans here at TSO as we believe he got the Alex Smith call wrong. You remember? Benching him for Colin Kaepernick and Sports Illustrated then leading their cover weeks later with, “Shout it from the mountaintop! Jim Harbaugh, you were right about Colin Kaepernick!” Yeah, how does that sit now with ya’ SF fans? Alex Smith is just looking terrible in Kansas City….what’s that? He’s an MVP candidate? Oh. Well he never makes the playoffs. What’s that? Oh, he’s made the playoffs the past two straight seasons and is headed for a third? Well, nothing to see here folks!

In an effort to turn the tide of their fortunes, the Niners GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan made one of the biggest moves at the trade deadline to acquire Patriots backup QB, Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo won’t play this week, but it all but condemns rookie C.J. Beathard to backup duties once Jimmy gets up to speed in a week or two. The Niners will lean heavily on Carlos Hyde, who is in store for a big game with his backup, Matt Breida banged up. The Cardinals will lean heavily on their running game as well, feeding “All Day” AP and limiting what Drew Stanton is asked to do. At home and inspired by a front office that is actively making moves to build, the Niners find their first win of the 2017 season and we’ll take the points (+2.5).

Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks

Lost in the DeShaun Watson hype and news was just how incredible Russell Wilson played against a good Houston Texans team last week. Wilson has to have vaulted himself into MVP consideration. Without him do the Hawks even have a chance to win that, or even half of their games this season? Wilson is the driving force behind that offense with an abysmal line and little to no protection. Wilson’s improvisation, ability to throw every pass, back shoulder, deep ball, you name it is what has the Seahawks sitting atop the NFC West.

The Hawks D is not the dominant D of old. They’ve been lit up a few times this season now, and are revealing some chinks in their armor. The secondary is solid, although they’ll be without Earl Thomas this week, but the rest of their group is left wanting against the very talented teams. Bennett isn’t generating the pass rush he used to and outside of Bobby Wagner, the linebackers aren’t all that imposing. Cliff Avril may have lost a step at 31 and the offseason acquisition of Sheldon Richardson hasn’t been the boon to their D-Line they had hoped for.

Seattle did make one move to improve their O-Line however, bringing in Duane Brown from Houston to help protect Wilson and open some holes for newly declared starter, Eddie Lacy. Carroll committed this week to getting Lacy the ball more in an effort to get him going and TSO applauds this. Lacy is the big, grind you down back. he won’t wow you in the first and second quarters, but he will break off one or two and seal the game in the fourth.

Washington heads into Seattle riddled with injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed break out the past two weeks and both are out with hamstring problems. Cousins will have to rely on an amalgam of Chris Thompson, Josh Doctson, and Terrell Pryor. This game isn’t even fair and we’re taking Seattle to win handedly at home (-7.5 Hawks cover). 

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Will the big man get rolling in week 9? TSO thinks so. Image Credit: Al.com

Kansas City Chiefs @ Dallas Cowboys

The game of the week is in Dallas in week 9. The high powered Chiefs offense heads into Dallas to take on a rejuvenated Cowboys team that is inspired by the suspension and return of their stud running back, Ezekiel Elliott. This should be fun to watch!

The Cowboys DeMarcus Lawrence has been stepping up in a big way and making opposing QBs lives miserable and he’ll need to in week 9 if the ‘Boys stand a chance against the speedy Chiefs. Alex Smith will look to exploit the Cowboys secondary with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Oh, did we mention we get to enjoy watching two of the top running backs go at it? Elliott may be home, but Kareem Hunt still leads the NFL in rushing heading into week 9.

Dallas’s offense has really found its rhythm and part of that has been getting ‘Zeke going the past few weeks. ‘Zeke’s ability to pick up those tough yards and break big runs off of nothing (see five yard out routes against the Niners), are what keep Dak’s reads simple and help him make the right choices with the football. The Chiefs are good, but their D has it’s share of issues as well and Dak and Dez will feast on their secondary woes. With Elliott in the fold, the edge goes to the ‘Boys at home (-2 Dallas covers).

Sunday Night Football

Oakland Raiders @ Miami Dolphins

Oakland headed into Buffalo and got shellacked. Miami headed into Baltimore and took an old fashioned butt whooping. So what do we get from these two mediocre teams in the second half of the season?

The Raiders have some major problems for all the Black Hole faithful that keep viewing their team through rose colored glasses. They lit up a bad Chiefs D at home on a short week. La-de-da. Color us not impressed. Miami is the real Jekyll and Hyde, upsetting teams like Atlanta, but then getting it handed to them by teams like Baltimore. Have we mentioned that 2017 doesn’t make any sense?

The Dolphins traded away their breakout running back from 2016, Jay Ajayi, after an abysmal performance on TNF in week 8. We actually see this as a good move by Gase, who can now deploy Kenyan Drake, the big, speedster out of Alabama and see exactly what he has. The Fins have stated that they will deploy a committee approach, but the majority of early down touches figure to go to Drake, with Damian Williams getting third down and pass catching duties. The Dolphins defense is better than what they showed on TNF and will give Derek Carr and co. some real headaches. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh won’t give up much on the ground and can get to the passer in a hurry.

We believe Amari Cooper’s TNF game was more of an aberration and less of a norm. Against more talented defensive units, Cooper will prove to be less capable. Jay Cutler returns, and after Matt Moore’s ugly showing, it couldn’t be soon enough. In a bit of an upset, we take the Fins to hold home field and show off Drake’s ability out of the backfield. (+3 Fins with points)

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Drake’s big play ability have fans and coaches excited. Image Credit: Pro Football Spot

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monday Night Football

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

Our final matchup has the reeling Lions headed into Lambeau to take on the Packers. The Lions are hoping to trade places for second in the NFC as the Pack has one more win, accrued from the Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay days. Unfortunately for the pack, Brett Hundley is now under center, and their chances of making the playoffs are slipping as fast as their record.

This isn’t going to be pretty Green Bay fans. Detroit has a hellacious defense that just made life difficult on a very good Pittsburgh team. What do you think happens when they take on an inexperienced and overmatched Brett Hundley? We could provide a ton of analysis, but does this game really need it? The Lions will dominate both lines of scrimmage and win a rare road game at Lambeau. (-2.5 Lions cover)

That’s a wrap for our week nine preview. Apologies for the delay but thank you as always for the love and support. Please continue spreading the offense and the good word about us here at TSO! We appreciate all of the likes, loves, shares, tweets, and more! Thank you and happy football Sunday!

TNF Week 9 Preview: Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets – Trading Places

Well how ’bout that for a trade deadline?! 2017’s NFL trade deadline this Halloween was like something out of “Draft Day” with Kevin Kostner. No surprise to see the Pats wheelin’ and dealin’, but it looks like more and more teams are getting into the act.

As far as TSO is concerned…kudos! Keep it up! There’s a reason the Pats are always looking to deal. The minute you become content with your station in the life as an NFL team is the minute you fall flat or worse behind the competition. There’s likely always a move out there than can either a. make you a better team now or b. improve your chances of being a better team in the future. Whether it be trading for stars, like former Panthers now Bills wideout, Kelvin Benjamin, or parting ways with backup QBs, like former Patriot now 49ers QB, Jimmy Garroppolo.

We used to have a saying that “if you’re not growing you’re dying,” and in the NFL it’s true. So again we say, kudos to the teams with the courage and foresight to make moves to improve their odds of making it to the big dance. As fate would have it, all of that maneuvering directly affected the hopes and personnel of one our teams in this week’s TNF preview! Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thursday Night Football

Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

An AFC East showdown between two teams that are more alike than not. Both teams want to dominate with their defense, limit offensive opportunity, and own time of possession. The Jets have been surprisingly impressive with little to no star studded talent, and the Bills have overcome the initial fire sale that kicked off their season to a shocking 5 and 2 start. Just how whacky has this 2017 season been? A Bills team trading away key defensive and offensive pieces, like Sammy Watkins, was thought to be playing for 2018 yet they find themselves at the top of the AFC.

*Looks around, befuddled and confused. -Wait, wait…say what now?

Yes, the Buffalo Bills, with a win on Thursday night, will find themselves in a four way tie for best record in the American Football Conference (AFC) of the NFL. The Bills will find themselves tied with the likes of the Chiefs, Steelers, and division foe, Patriots.

2017 folks. NFL parity at its finest.

Such a drastic turn of fate changed the Bills from sellers at the trade deadline to buyers as they acquired former first round pick and star wideout, Kelvin Benjamin from the Carolina Panthers. This trade came in late and was about as shocking as the Bills season has been. We’ll cover the ramifications for the Panthers and just what it means for Cam Newton in our full week 9 preview later this week, but for now the Bills scored a big wideout for a steal in TSO’s estimation.

Tyrod Taylor will possibly get to enjoy his new weapon, especially in the red zone, while his counterpart will seek to continue building his rapport with his large tight end, ASJ and outside speedster Robby Anderson. Buffalo’s Shady McCoy will find running room a bit more difficult with New York’s Muhammad Wilkerson, but our eyes can often be deceiving. While the Jets seem to bottle up teams, they actually allow over 128 ypg on the ground, meaning Shady and T-Mobile may be able to do damage with their legs. The Bills on the other hand, while lauded for their surprising secondary play, are actually one of the top five defenses against the run. The Jets aren’t exactly the most successful rushing team, but the going will be that much more tough in week nine.

Buffalo desperately needs Jordan Matthews and Charles Clay to return to health while Kelvin Benjamin gets up to speed. Taylor is literally doing it with Shady and rookie Zay Jones. Help the man! Heading into an opponents home field is never an easy task, especially not when that opponent is a division rival to boot. Josh McCown may very well continue his solid play and set the Jets up for success, but the talent lies on Buffalo’s side of the field in this one. Speaking of talent, Micah Hyde, previously of the Green Bay Packers, leads the NFL with five interceptions and very well may be ball-hawking against McCown on Thursday night. Between Shady, T-Mobile, Hyde, and now KB, the Bills are too hot and talented, Buffalo wins and covers (-3.5). 

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Micah Hyde celebrates after the Bills week 1 win over the Jets in Buffalo. Image Credit: Bills Wire – USA Today

That’ll do it for our TNF preview. Please continue liking, loving, sharing, and being generally awesome as you all always are with spreading the love of and for TSO. Keep a lookout for our full week nine preview out soon!

NFL Week 8 Preview: Bye Bye Baby – Trick or Treat Edition

Well how ’bout them apples?! Another week in the books and another round of surprising victories, upsets, and comebacks. Couple that with the “Bye-pocalypse” that sees six teams on bye this week and you’ve got a recipe for quite the unpredictable treat. Seems to fit for 2017, no?

As we approach the halfway point of the season, we find ourselves still working to discern which teams are tricking us and which ones are serving up real treats. It’s that time of year when we start to find out what teams are legit, and which ones pumpkins. Have we spooked you with our Halloween metaphors? One more eerie stat then. Six teams, six, did not score a single touchdown last week. Fact. Scary right?!

Apologies, apologies. We’re just getting into the fall spirit at TSO. With the eeriest of dates upon us, we head back across the pond for our fourth and final installment of the NFL in London. Just like the perfectly timed fog rolling into Foxboro last Sunday night to prevent America from viewing my beloved Dirty Birds getting beat down, what other unpredictable elements will rear their heads in this final jaunt to England in 2017?!

We managed to get back to a respectable 8 for 15 and we’ll look to continue our good work in week 8!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

NFL in London

Minnesota Vikings @ Cleveland Browns

Our first game to kick off Sunday action looks to be more of a trick and less of a treat. The Vikings will bring their top ranked defense to Twickenham to take on the win-less and hapless Cleveland Browns. In an unthinkable turn of events, head coach Hue Jackson opted to start DeShone Kizer, only to pull him in favor of Cody Kessler. The second time this season Jackson has pulled Kizer after promising a “long leash” this year. So much for that.

How exactly is Kizer supposed to learn when you are taking him in and out of football games for lesser talent and not allowing him the opportunity to learn from his mistakes in real time? We understand that you want a win Hue, but you can’t sacrifice your entire methodology just for a W. It makes no sense. The Browns brass has bought into the overhaul. Don’t sellout now. Who would have thought that to begin 2017 we’d be talking about a Browns and Vikings matchup with Kizer and Keenum squaring off and Keenum holding the sizable edge? But that’s exactly what we have in week eight. This doesn’t require much analysis. We’ll take the Vikes to win, but like the Browns with the points (+9.5).

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Kizer and Jackson’s relationship has been a roller coaster in 2017. Image Credit: YouTube

Early Games

Atlanta Falcons @ New York Jets

The 3 and 3 Falcons head to New York to take on the 3 and 4 Jets. Plenty of pundits are teeing off on Atlanta and criticizing the offense, the new coordinator, and the Super Bowl hangover. These are the same pundits that all declared Atlanta the team to beat after starting 3 and 0, including a dominating win over the Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Atlanta finds itself one game back of the division lead with everything in front them. Has Atlanta not met expectations the past three weeks? Yes. Could they also feasibly be 5 and 1, with the only loss coming in the reprisal of their Super Bowl re-match last week? Most definitely. The Falcons boast one of the highest conversion to down rates, which means they create more first downs to give themselves a new set of downs and extend drives more than nearly any other team in the NFL. Doesn’t exactly sound like a team struggling on offense does it?

Are there problems with the Falcons efficiency thus far? Yes, absolutely. My Dirty Birds are going to have to get much more aggressive and scheme much better small wins into their play calling moving forward. However, the talent remains and is undeniable.

The New York Jets on the other hand, well they are quite the different story. You could make the argument that no team has done more with less so far in 2017. A journeyman QB without a stud running back (in his prime), or any star wide receivers, has managed to nearly go .500 through the first half of the season after facing a fairly difficult schedule. The defense has been impressive, and the offense serviceable. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (ASJ) has turned out to be a great free agent find as he’s cleaned his life up. Elijah McGuire has flashed in moments, and Robby Anderson certainly has the potential to be a budding number one speedster, a-la DeSean Jackson of similar ilk. Todd Bowles and the staff have acquired building blocks to be sure. But they won’t keep up with the Falcons superior speed and talent. Dirty Birds get back on track and cover easily, winning in dominant fashion (-5).

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Now we’re talking! An NFC South rivalry that has the makings of a shootout!

The Bucs are the 3rd worst defense against the pass, giving up just under 300 yards per game, whereas the Panthers limit opposing quarterbacks to just under 200 yards per game. Some of that is schedule and some of that is the Bucs fielding an underperforming defense from the likes of Hargreaves and Grimes at cornerback. The Panthers, while much improved against the pass, will be tested against Jameis Winston and the NFL’s top passing offense that averages just north of 312 ypg. Yes, Jameis Winston. Top passing offense in terms of total yards per game on average.

Winston will surely look to spread the ball around to Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and his two big tight ends. Newton will look to get his team back on track after struggling to find anything on offense in Chicago last week. Newton’s top target, Kelvin Benjamin, returns home to Florida and takes on his old college teammate, Winston. KB and Jameis formed a dynamic duo in 2013 to lead the Seminoles to a College Football Championship. Kelvin is playing for more than just his team and home state on Sunday though, as he will remember his mother, Catherine, who passed away earlier this year. KB is dedicating every game this season to her, and she will certainly be in his thoughts in his trip home.

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KB (left) and Jameis (right) now rivals, swap jerseys as they reminisce on their 2013 championship days at FSU as teammates. Image Credit: Panthers.com

This game is so tough to call. The Bucs will be able to drop points on the Panthers, but oddly enough Carolina has played better on the road than at home so far this season. We think that trend continues as Newton will match the Bucs in points and is backed by the better defense. With All-Pro linebacker, Luke Kuechly set to return, Panthers steal one on the road in Tampa and we’ll gladly take the points – what a treat! (+2.5)

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Davis #58 and Kuechly #59 will be key to a Panthers victory Sunday. Image Credit: Panthers.com

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Oh boy. Hey Niner fans. Niner fans? Oh, hey, wait, wait up! Where are you guys going we haven’t even gotten to kickoff yet! Don’t leave now, you’ll miss the best part!

The C.J. Beathard led Forty-Niners will take on the Carson Wentz, best record in the NFL, led Eagles. Yeah. Kyle Shanahan, Niners head coach, will get a good look at what his rookie out of Iowa is capable of as they head into Philadelphia to take on a poor secondary.

Carson Wentz is playing unbelievable football at the moment and if you aren’t tuned into Eagles games as a football fan you are missing out on some incredible plays. Wentz is making plays I haven’t seen since the days of Brett Favre, and with the same sort of gusto. Wentz’s Houdini act where he squeezed through a suffocating pocket to scramble for ten plus yards was unfathomable. And let’s not forget his bomb of a touchdown pass to rookie Mack Hollins, that was the longest throw in terms of air yards in the NFL this season. It’s impressive and “don’t change the channel” worthy.

Speaking of impressive, the second year candidate for league MVP is as good of a man as he is a football player. The “Dutch Destroyer” segment by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi speaks to the character of the North Dakota State product. Wentz and co. roll to victory over an outmatched Forty-Niners team (-12.5 – Philly covers).

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Wentz is running away from the competition so far in 2017. Image Credit: Yahoo Sports

Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints

A very intriguing game is set to scare us straight down in the Bayou on Sunday. The perennial top ranked passing offense of the New Orleans Saints will be tested against a top 10 defense in total yards allowed per game. That’s right, Drew Brees is doing Drew Brees things, passing for over 260 yards per game. Ho hum. What is a bit surprising though is that Chicago finds itself sandwiched in terms of defensive totals. Sandwiched between who though?

Oh, it’s a delicious sandwich. The Bears rank seventh in overall defense, just ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and just behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pretty damn good. Pardon our French, or Cajun considering the environment!

This is a surprisingly good game. Quite the treat indeed. The Saints find themselves atop the NFC South at 4 and 2, while the Bears are oddly in the mix in the NFC North thanks to the Aaron Rodgers injury. Well, the Rodgers injury plus their superb defense. Leonard Floyd is exceeding even his own hype in his second year out of Georgia (DGD), and head coach John Fox is building yet another championship caliber defense complimented by two stud running backs. Sound familiar? Fox does this folks. Every where he goes.

The Saints defense was hyped after a big week six win over Detroit, but they came back to earth a bit in week seven. New Orleans is still in the bottom ten in terms of total defense, allowing over 310 ypg as we near the halfway point of the season. Not exactly dominant. Trubisky should have some fun with his shiny new toy, Dontrelle Inman, who was acquired this week via trade with the Los Angeles Chargers. Between Trubisky having a semblance of an option and Howard’s ability to churn out yards, the Bears will make this a fight in the Superdome.

But there lies the rub. This game is at home, in the Superdome, where Brees, like many great QBs before him, holds a dominant home field advantage. Couple that with the fact that Trubisky joined Tim Tebow as the last quarterback to win a football game by completing five passes or less (Trubisky completed only four), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. This Bears team is going to be good, but this round goes to the home team Saints, although we’ll take the points as Chicago keeps it close (+9).

Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots

One of two things is going to happen in Foxboro on Sunday. The Chargers are going to reel off a third straight win and put the league on notice that they are for real, or the Pats are going to dominate and re-establish themselves as the dominant team to beat, records and streaks be damned.

The Chargers came out and absolutely dominated the Denver Broncos last week, leading many, TSO included to think, “maybe we wrote these guys off a bit too soon?”. Maybe.

Granted, some of the Chargers win was a bit flukey, it still counted as 21-0 shutout of a good Denver team. There is a story in the numbers here, namely that the Chargers, not the Broncos were the defense that pitched the shutout. We’ve talked about Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa since last year, but these two beasts on the defensive side of the ball are starting to show up and in a big way. They’ll have their work cut out for them against Brady who is known for having one of the fastest snap to release times in NFL history. Pressure alone won’t work on one of the game’s greatest.

The Chargers have playmakers to keep pace with a team of New England’s caliber. From Keenan Allen to Hunter Henry to Melvin Gordon, Rivers has a plethora of targets with which to spread the ball around. The real question is, which Rivers will we get? Philip appears to be experiencing a slight decline in skill set, dare we say, due to age? It’s hard to believe, because the guy wearing #12 on the other team never seems to age, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that a guy on the wrong side of his 30s may be losing a bit of his arm and touch. Rivers rarely takes shots deep as he has in seasons past, and when he does he isn’t on target nearly as often. Brady on the other hand is hitting his stride, yet again. Spreading the ball around to Cooks, Hogan, and Gronk, Brady seems to find ways to win no matter who he is throwing the football to. The Chargers are exciting, and a “sexy” upset pick, but there is too much history and evidence to the contrary. Pats win and cover yet again, as Dion Lewis outruns Melvin Gordon because that’s just the sort of thing Belichick would do to a Chargers team coached by a former running back and running backs coach (-7.5).

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Why is Brady smiling? Even at 40 he’s got a lot of haters to prove wrong. It’s good to be TB12. Image Credit: Veritas News (veritas.enc.edu)

Oakland Raiders @ Buffalo Bills

Possibly the perfect Halloween prep. Are the Raiders tricking us with their TNF last second win? Or are they treating us?

How about Buffalo? Are they a legit 4 and 2? A real treat? Or are the Bills simply tricking us like their previously 4 and 2 division mates in Miami who were exposed in a big way in week eight’s TNF matchup?

Trick or treat?!

Amari Cooper went absolutely bananas against a poor Kansas City Chiefs defense that has been exposed by passing inclined offenses all season. Still, 200 plus yards and two touchdowns. Hats off to the ‘Bama product for doing his thing. Derek Carr will surely need it as the Bills are a more difficult test. While we detailed the Bills benefitting from a light early season schedule that inflated their defensive passing numbers, they did give up over 300 plus to Winston and co. in week seven, but they still have some nice pieces in that secondary. Tre’Davious White is playing great football in his rookie season, and the Bills have the offense that can milk clock, keeping opposing offenses off of the field, thereby limiting their opportunities.

It’s rare that the Bills outscore a team, but T-Mobile and Shady McCoy came alive to the tune of 30 points against one of the NFL’s worst defenses in week seven. LeSean “Shady” found the end zone not once, but twice against the Bucs, and Tyrod was efficient throwing to guys like Logan Thomas (a fellow QB he played alongside in his Virginia Tech days). That’s either a. impressive, b. sad for Tampa’s D, c. a little of both. TSO takes C.

This is the perfect test for Buffalo. If their D is legit, and their offense is capable, they will limit Derek Carr and co. and dominate at the line of scrimmage. Granted, the Bills get the Raiders slightly handcuffed thanks to a Marshawn Lynch suspension. Lynch, for some ridiculous reason, decided to leave the bench, strike #1, to get involved in a mix up on the field, strike #2, and then grab a referee, strike #3. It is October, and what happens in the fall classic when you get three strikes? “Beast Mode” struck out. Ironic that Lynch got thrown out for the longest run of his season! Get it? Because he ran further from the bench to the middle of the field than he has on the field all season?! Hahaha.

Even without Beast Mode this will be a tough one for the Bills to pull together. Derek Carr appears to be rounding back into form. Spreading it around to Crabtree, Cooper, and Cook, all it takes for the Raiders to mix up their potion is a little Vitamin C. Raiders win and TSO takes the points, a bit surprised Oakland is even getting points (+2.5).

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“AC/DC”, as they are affectionately referred to, will look to build on their big week heading in to Buffalo. Image Credit: The Mercury News

Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals

*Takes gut punch to stomach…OOFA!

That’s what this game is going to feel like for Colts and Bengals fans forced to watch it. Gut punch.

T.Y. Hilton called out his team’s offensive line after their loss last week, saying they had to play better. They really do. Jacoby Brissett will not be confused for Andrew Luck, but the kid has some game about him. No quarterback can succeed with the type of limited protection being provided to Jacoby currently. It may be for the best that Luck has been out as he would be subjected to some brutal blows at the halfway point of 2017.

Indy heads to Cincinnati to take on a Bengals team that started off hot yet again in week seven, only to fizzle in the second half and watch a temporary lead fall by the wayside. The Bengals are rich with talent on both sides of the ball, but something isn’t clicking this season. Karmic justice? Bad timing? Poor coaching? Outdated philosophy? Whatever the reason, Cincy may be the most frustrating team to watch. They dominated 58 minutes against an Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers in Lambeau, only to blow their lead at the end and in OT. They jump out to a lead against one of the best teams in the NFL in the Steelers, and proceed to do next to nothing in the second half and let the Black and Yellow waltz to victory.

If ever there were a reprieve from the grind, it’s against this Colts team. The Bengals should have their way with Indy. Dalton is in for a big game and the Bengals three headed monster of Bernard, Hill, and Mixon are due for a good game. If Indy can remember they don’t have Luck back, abandon the pro style offense in favor of a ground and pound with Gore and Mack, they have a chance. Any given Sunday. Brissett is fully capable of running an effective option and pistol style offense, and T.Y. Hilton is able to break a big play or two to change field position. Alas, head coach Chuck Pagano likely won’t even consider such an alternative attack, which is part of why he may be one of the first names on the chopping block come firing season. Bengals roll to victory and cover easily (-10).

Afternoon Games

Houston Texans @ Seattle Seahawks

Okay Deshaun Watson truthers out there, this is the game you’ve been waiting for. If Watson is, “for real”, he will have the chance to prove himself squaring off against the NFL’s eighth best passing defense allowing just under 191 ypg. The Hawks are more vulnerable to the run, giving up over 114 ypg. Watson and Texans running back Lamar Miller may find more success on the ground, but they’ll need to get it done through the air as well if they want to keep pace with an effective and efficient Russell Wilson. Wilson and the Seahawks offense is hitting its stride, and will take advantage of a wounded Texans D. Wilson’s mobility limits JadeVeon Clowney’s effectiveness as a pass rusher.

Seattle will be in search of a sound run game, and will likely give Eddie Lacy the first crack yet again. Expect J.D. McKissic to get some run again as they Hawks find them shorthanded in their backfield. Wilson is capable of “running by passing” at this point in his career and can get it done with slants, screens and drags if need be. Houston has a lot to prove in this one, and their job won’t get any easier considering the #12th man factor they’ll being dealing with in Seattle. There are too many ways for this game to go south for the Texans and Hawks light up a decimated Houston D covering the spread (-5.5).

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins

Closing out the two afternoon games, yes only two, we have America’s team heading to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys arrive in D.C. off of their most impressive offensive and complete team performance to date this season. ‘Zeke finally looked like “Zeke” on a 72 yard catch and run TD as well as another 25 yard TD scamper. Elliott displayed the speed, power, agility, and elusiveness that makes him so difficult to bring down.

The Redskins on the other hand, took a body blow with MVP candidate Carson Wentz lighting them up for four TDs in week seven. Granted, the Redskins were shorthanded without the services of Josh Norman, at TSO we aren’t so sure it would’ve made all that much of a difference. Washington has one of the better rushing defenses, allowing under 95 ypg, but they’ll face a different kind of challenge taking on Dak, ‘Zeke, and that Dallas O-line. The good news for Redskins fans is that their franchise tagged, “franchise”, quarterback, Kirk Cousins, should be able to take advantage of a very average Dallas pass defense.

Dallas has a lot more going for them than many realize. The Cowboys are near the league lead in sacks thanks in large part to the effort of DeMarcus Lawrence. Additionally, while Dallas’s secondary may be average, the Redskins has been worse through seven weeks. Washington ranks in the bottom half of the league in pass D. Dak and Dez are licking their chops. If Dez and Norman square off again, this game immediately elevates to “popcorn ready” status! Norman is currently questionable to give it a go in week eight, so we’ll have to wait with baited breath for the time being.

Cousins seems to have found his favorite targets in Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed. They’ll be crucial if the Redskins hope to keep it close. Even with home field advantage, Dallas is looking too strong at the moment. ‘Boys roll up more offense than the Redskins can match and cover (-2.5).

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‘Zeke showed off some nifty moves leaving defenders grasping at air in week 7. Image Credit: Times Record News

Sunday Night Football

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Detroit Lions

One of the NFL’s hottest teams heads into the Motor City to take on a Lions team that has hit the skids of late. These teams don’t exactly matchup well.

Pittsburgh runs the ball extremely well, if not the best in the NFL. The Lions strongest defense asset is their run D. Which one do you think breaks first on Sunday? Ding ding ding ding! If you said the Lions run D you are correct. Even worse for Detroit is the fact that, Mr. 4th Quarter, Matt Stafford takes on the top ranked pass defense in the NFL. Did we mention Stafford will be without top slot man and chain mover, Golden Tate? Yeah. It gets worse before it gets better Lions fans.

The Steelers have benched Martavis Bryant due to his social media rants and recent antics *sic – complaints for more playing time and attention on offense. Not the smartest move by a receiver on a top offense and favorite to end up in the Super Bowl.

Fun fact: when you initially spell Martavis, it autocorrects to “martinis”, which ironically would be more fun to play with through the first half of the season than Martavis has been.

Assuming Big Ben doesn’t wet the bed as he did against Chicago and Jacksonville, this one is fairly easy to pick. The Lions don’t have a ground game to take advantage of the Steelers weakness on D, forcing Stafford to attempt to find any offense through the air. The Steelers have the weapons in AB to take advantage of mismatches in the secondary and Bell is the supreme generational talent to run on even good run defenses such as Detroit’s. Steelers close out Sunday in sound fashion, covering and signaling to the league that they are back in full force (-3).

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Bell is a one of a kind talent that is on a record pace for carries setting up yet another record year. Image Credit: Bleacher Report

Monday, October 30, 2017

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs

The previously unbeatable Broncos defense heads into Kansas City to take on the previously unbeaten Chiefs. What better way to round out our trick or treat edition than breaking down two teams that have both tricked and treated us this season. All one day before Hallow’s Eve!

Truth be told, Denver’s D has remained solid and nearly unbeatable. The problem in Bronco nation is on the offensive side of the ball, specifically at the apparent regression in play from starting quarterback Trevor Siemian. Running back C.J. Anderson hasn’t held up his end of the bargain either, looking slow to and through the hole and ineffective as a runner the past two weeks. Is it time to turn to the second year man out of Utah, DeVontae Booker? If Anderson and Charles meager performances continue, it’s hard to argue against an expanded role for the younger, more explosive and dynamic Booker.

This is the perfect game for Siemian to find his game again as the Chiefs are the fourth worst defense in total yards per game. Heck, this is the perfect treat for all Broncos offensive skill players. The Chiefs have been down right putrid of late and Broncos such as Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Anderson, and DeVontae Booker should have plenty of opportunity to make plays. The problem for Denver is that the Chiefs match up so well against them. KC has the speed in space and the oversized tight end with wheels that can take advantage of their mismatch at Denver’s linebacker position. Did we mention the NFL’s top rushing leader Kareem Hunt? Yeah, he’s pretty good too.

Denver should keep this close and interesting, but Kansas City should be able to distance themselves over the course of the game and in the second half. There’s always the chance that Denver’s D just completely shuts Kansas City out, but Andy Reid tends to find enough gimmicky ways to keep the Broncos off balance on D. Playing at Arrowhead, Chiefs win, but the Broncos keep it close with the points (+7.5).

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Comparisons abound for Siemian (right) to Smith (left), but the former has a ways to go to reach the same heights of sustained success as his opponent on Sunday. Image Credit: Naples Herald

Keeping with our efforts to get these previews out a bit earlier for your viewing pleasure, we’ve manage to afford you an entire weekend to enjoy our breakdowns at TSO. Please use this time to enjoy the read and continue liking, loving, and sharing with family and friends. The support and encouragement does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated. In such heightened times of awareness, we hope this serves as a brief reprieve from the busy-ness and hustle and bustle of every day life. An enjoyable respite. Again, thank you and Happy Halloween!

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Image Credit: Sporting News