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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Week 3: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

The Los Angeles Rams and running back Todd Gurley travel to Silicon Valley to face the San Francisco 49ers to bore us to death in another Thursday Night Football game


Week 3: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 2 results: 10-6 wins (season: 20-11; .645); 8-8 v. spread (season: 13-18; .419)

Los Angeles Rams 1-1 (-3) @ San Francisco 49ers 0-2 (40): Rams 21-13
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Partly cloudy; 60s)

Reasons: These aren't the teams to be playing on short notice, and both teams are coming off of a tough loss. So I guess we should expect another terrible Thursday Night Football game. The NFL needs to get rid of these games. That's not happening any time soon, so tonight we'll see an offense that has surpassed early expectations (33 ppg; 362.5 ypg) and a defense that has largely met early expectations (18 ppg; 331.5 ypg) in the Rams against a defense that has allowed fewer points per game (17.5), but has only managed an average of six points per game on offense in the 49ers. This game will come down to one defense on the rise against one already established defense ready to take the next step against two running backs with the same motives in Todd Gurley (LAR) and Carlos Hyde (SF). Unfortunately for San Francisco their defense is already dealing with attrition, like many teams in this latest Collective Bargaining Agreement era. The Rams don't have to travel far to beat the 49ers, but don't expect the game to be exciting.

Baltimore Ravens 2-0 (-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-1 (39.5): Ravens 23-20
Sunday, 9:30 AM, Wembley Stadium, London, England (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: No team wants to travel to London to play at 9:30 EST, especially to play the London Jaguars at home, but the Jaguars come into the game a little banged up. I’m being facetious, because the Jaguars remain terrible despite winning their opening game, while the Ravens are one of only eight remaining undefeated teams. Still, the defense widely considered one of the best in the NFL, the Ravens, gives up 5.5 fewer yards per game then Jacksonville, but the Jaguars come in limited at cornerback, meaning Joe Flacco could abuse them in the air since Baltimore is limited at running back. The Ravens are not limited in the secondary, as they lead the NFL in INTs (8). In fairness, the Jaguars lead the NFL in sacks (11), so maybe Flacco doesn’t air it out. These London games are like TNF games, where we never know what to expect, but they’re usually bad games* due to their travel logistics and general irregularity.

*(61% of games were decided by one score [eight points], but the average score over 18 games is 31-18)

Cleveland Browns 0-2 (-1.5) @ Indianapolis Colts 0-2 (41): Browns 20-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Browns are favorites on the road for the first time since 2014, but it’s not because they’re good; it’s because the Colts are atrocious. Indianapolis is averaging 11 ppg on 273 total ypg, and it’s even worse from the defensive side (398 yards allowed per game). The Colts are already on their second quarterback (QB Jacoby Brissett) in the continued absence of Andrew Luck, but the Browns rookie quarterback has also struggled, throwing four INTs already. Cleveland is still a bad football team, but they’re not so bad they’re giving up more than 136 than they’re gaining per game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2-0 (-7.5) @ Chicago Bears 0-2 (44): Steelers 24-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Hot; 80s)

Reasons: The Bears have a tough match up at home Sunday afternoon hosting one of the best defenses in the league to compliment a dynamic offense that hasn’t even started clicking yet. Mike Glennon will be under fire all day under the Sun and against a Steelers defense with nine sacks in two games, while allowing only 13.5 ppg, and to make matters worse, running back Jordan Howard was limited all week. Pittsburgh is dealing with some injuries themselves on defense, but nothing that won’t prevent the Steelers from rolling. 

 It's the New York Jets fan's turn to wear the paper bags on their heads this season.

Miami Dolphins 1-0 (-6) @ New York Jets 0-2 (42.5): Dolphins 21-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Hot; low 90s)

Reasons: The unusually hot fall weather across the country could affect several games, but no 90-degree game will make the visiting team more comfortable than the Miami Dolphins will feel in northern New Jersey Sunday. Miami is only playing their second game because of Hurricane Irma, but we have plenty on the Jets to know how terrible they are. It’s still hard to imagine a team that has given us less confidence in recent years being favored by nearly a touchdown on the road. The Jets are that bad. The Dolphins should cruise, but Cutler’s weapons could be limited Sunday.

Denver Broncos 2-0 (-3) @ Buffalo Bills 1-1 (40.5): Broncos 24-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Field, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Hot; 80s)

Reasons: This is a battle of two of the top defenses in the NFL to start 2017, both with ball-hawking defensive backfields that intercept passes. The Bills also get after the quarterback (3rd in the NFL with seven sacks), which could rain on Denver signal-caller Trevor Siemian’s early parade. The Broncos are also away, which means they won’t benefit from the stifling noise of their crowd on opposing offenses, but it’s possible they won’t hear any crowd noise Sunday.

Houston Texans 1-1 (+13.5) @ New England Patriots 1-1 (44): Patriots 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Texans are a bad offensive football team (10 ppg), which doesn’t play well against a New England Patriots team that can drop 40 points using players you’ve never heard of. So teams like Houston rely heavily upon their great defenses with monster defensive fronts to beat the Patriots, except even that hasn’t worked for the Texans, who are 1-8 all time against New England, having lost six straight since 2012 (by an average score of 34-16) . The Patriots will continue to tweak their defense as the season goes on, which means you can’t really rely on statistics to tell you a solid story in this game.

New Orleans Saints 0-2 (+5.5)@ Carolina Panthers 2-0 (46.5): Panthers 21-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank Of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; 80s)

Reasons: The Saints enter Bank of America Stadium to play the Panthers, but they should probably secure a loan for some defensive players after allowing over 500 yards per game to start the season. That should be refreshing news for Carolina’s offense, except tight end Greg Olsen is on IR, center Ryan Kalil is out and Cam Newton has been dealing with nagging injuries. The game will come down to a suffocating Panthers defense and their ability to stop a desperate Drew Brees and Sean Payton.

 The Carolina Panthers would like to see less of this and more of Cam Newton protecting himself, especially with safety net Greg Olsen set to miss 6-8 weeks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-0 (+1.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 1-1 (41): Buccaneers 24-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: 20% rain; 80s)

Reasons: The Buccaneers came away with a win in their first game of the season last week, but it also came with some injuries, all on defense, something every team is facing earlier than ever due to the changes in collective bargaining between the players and owners. The Vikings will be without quarterback Sam Bradford again Sunday, which means the game could fall on the shoulders of rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who’ll have to take advantage of key absences across the field for Tampa Bay.

Atlanta Falcons 2-0 (-3) @ Detroit Lions 2-0 (50.5): Lions 28-27
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: This game is an incredible reminder that although these two teams feature two of the best statistical quarterbacks in the NFL, their level of play is still relatively marginal compared to their older contemporaries like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning, who combined with Manning’s retired older brother Peyton, have played in 14 of the past 16 Super Bowls, four of those games featuring two opposing quarterbacks from that list. It should be noted that Matt Ryan just lost to Tom Brady in this past Super Bowl, but the point is that consistent statistical success has looked great on paper for Ryan and Matt Stafford, but it hasn’t materialized into many playoff wins for either team during their franchise quarterback’s reign. The Falcons could feel at home on the Ford Field turf, but the Lions defense is playing too well to let Ryan steal the show from Stafford at home.  

New York Giants 0-2 (+6) @ Philadelphia Eagles 1-1 (42.5): Eagles 21-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Hot; low 90s)

Reasons: The Giants offense looks historically bad, especially along the offensive line and it doesn’t get any better Sunday on the road versus a division rival without T/G Bobby Hart. The Giants defense has the chance to be historically great, but not if the offense can’t score more than 20 points, which has been their m.o. the past half season. The Eagles are trying to find balance on offense, but until they do they’ll rely on the young arm of Carson Wentz, who’ll be hoping Janoris Jenkins can’t go Sunday afternoon. All eyes will be on the blonde drama king Odell Beckham Jr., whose ankle assessments have only been matched in wackiness to his behavior on and off the field. The Giants struggles continue Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks 1-1 (+2.5) @ Tennessee Titans 1-1 (42.5): Titans 21-20
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Hot; high 80s)

Reasons: The only offensive line in the NFL worse the New York Giants might be the Seahawks. Fortunately for Seattle their quarterback is mobile, but that doesn’t mean Russell Wilson enjoys running for his life, or that it’s a sustainable approach. The Seahawks offense will struggle again on the road, especially with tight end Jimmy Graham questionable, and the defense will have a hard time bailing out their offense after traveling east twice in three weeks to start the season. The Seahawks could luck out if DeMarco Murray can’t go, but young battering ram Derrick Henry has proven a worthy, if not better, alternative to Murray. Regardless, the Titans have a string defense themselves, and will look to take care of business in a tough early match up at home.

 Phillip Rivers has his work cut out for him to prevent the Los Angeles Chargers from starting the season 0-3 in the tough AFC West dividsion.

Kansas City Chiefs 2-0 (-3) @ Los Angeles Chargers 0-2 (47.5): Chargers 27-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Stub Hub Center, Carson, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Chiefs could be the best overall team in the NFL right now, but the Chargers are certainly the most talented 0-2 team in the NFL. Los Angeles can’t lose their first three games to start the season, especially in the tough AFC West, and they just might pull it off with Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston was limited in practice all week and center Mitch Morse has already been ruled out. The Chargers will probably need Melvin Gordon to go to beat this very good Chiefs team, but Los Angeles is desperate, and I would never bet against a desperate Phillip Rivers.

Cincinnati Bengals 0-2 (+9) @ Green Bay Packers 1-1 (46): Packers 28-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Hot; 80s)

Reasons: Believe it or not the Bengals have one of the league’s best defenses through two games, but you’d never know it because of all the screaming about how bad the offense, and therefore, the Bengals are. Cincinnati is 0-2, but considering Cincinnati played Baltimore and Houston, we should probably pump the brakes on the Bengals demise. In addition, the Packers possess one of the league’s worst defenses, which plays right into the Bengals hands, although those stats are skewed having played the Falcons in Atlanta. Unfortunately for Cincinnati the Green Bay offense is prolific, and they’re at home, which means they’re going to be tough to stop no matter how good the Bengals have been playing on that side of the ball.

Oakland Raiders 2-0 (-3) @ Washington Football Team 1-1 (54.5): Raiders 30-24
Sunday, 8:30 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Hot; high 80s)

Reasons: The Raiders are feeling pretty good about themselves. Oakland’s leading rusher from last year leaves the Raiders and gets replaced by the legendary Marshawn Lynch, who appears, early in the season, not to have lost a step. Oakland’s star 2015 first round draft pick wide receiver Amari Cooper isn’t even their top receiver so far this season. On the other side of the field you have Washington, who certainly always seems to feel good about themselves, but seemingly without much reason. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has looked awful and now could be without tight end Jordan Reed again, leading rusher Robert Kelley is hurt and star cornerback Josh Norman is questionable against the best young quarterback in the NFL. Look for the Raiders to pillage a win in the Mid Atlantic.

Dallas Cowboys 1-1 (-3) @ Arizona Cardinals 1-1 (47): Cowboys 21-20
Monday, 8:30 PM, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Cowboys enter Monday night having faced their third top defense in as many weeks to begin the season (NYG, DEN, ARZ). That’s a tough test for the Cowboys sophomore stars, especially one (Ezekiel Elliot) under emotional duress for off the field activities, and more recently, on the field apathy. Dallas and Ezekiel Elliot look to get back on track after they both suffered one of the worst defeats of their football existences, and what better offense to get on track against than the hapless Cardinals. It could be a depressing game for some Arizona fans watching Dallas take the field with a young bright star as their former quarterback star fades. Speaking of fading stars, all eyes will be on Dez Bryant as he tries to salvage his top wide receiver status against one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL. 

Stay tuned for Tuesday's Gone: Week 3 Game Reviews coming Wednesday!  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Week 2: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

  P     R     O     F     O     O     T     B     A     L     L     M     E     D     I     A     .     C     O     M  

Odell Beckham Jr. returns to action Monday night for the New York Giants versus the Cleveland Browns...we think. 


Week 2: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 2 results: 10-6 wins (season: 20-11; .645); 8-8 v. spread (season: 13-18; .419)

Houston Texans 0-1 (+6.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 0-1 (38): Bengals 21-16 Texans 13-9
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Sunny; 80s)

Reasons: Both teams suffered embarrassing losses Sunday, but only one team had to replace their starting quarterback. Houston benched Tom Savage for rookie DeShaun Watson in the second half of their game versus Jacksonville, but the damage had already been done against a good Jaguars defense. The Bengals also have a good defense, similar to the Jacksonville, and it’s not as if Watson turned many heads in replacement of Savage. The more alarming thing for the Texans might have been the total absence of their supposedly dominant defense, and linebacker Brian Cushing is now out with a concussion (until he's out for much longer due to PEDs...again).  You could chalk Houston’s lose up to the lingering effects of Hurricane Harvey, and rightfully so, but it doesn’t get any easier on the road versus Cincinnati. The Bengals are dealing with their own concussion issues on defense (DE Michael Johnson), as well as the absence of guard Trey Hopkins to deal with. The Bengals were shut out against a great Ravens defense Week 1, and face another supposedly great defense at home Sunday, but Cincinnati’s supposedly great offense should do just enough to win against a hapless offense already dealing with their own injuries and led by a rookie quarterback. This is an otherwise-great-on-paper-but-probably-still-terrible Thursday Night Football game.

We returned to the boring Thursday Night Football games Thursday with a Texans 13-9 win over the offensively challenged Bengals. Cincinnati only gained 295 total yards and committed the game’s only turnover when John Ross fumbled his only carry and Jadeveon Clowney scooped it up like a walnut and ran it back 50 yards. The Texans didn’t end up firing their offensive coordinator like Cincinnati did, but weren’t any better statistically. Houston gained only 266 yards themselves, but because of the young legs of rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson (67 rushing yards; 1 TD), and the erratic play of Pac Man Jones (2 pass interference calls; 3 passes defended), the Texans were able to squeak by with the win that only seemed mildly entertaining because of a crushing JJ Watt tackle to end it.

Cleveland Browns 0-1 (+8) @ Baltimore Ravens 1-0 (39): Ravens 24-20 Ravens 24-10
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MT&T Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: There’s no rest for the weary as the Browns take on their second tough divisional opponent in as many weeks to start the season. Cleveland surprised many people Week 1, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 18-14 after Pittsburgh returned a blocked punt early in the 1st quarter. The Ravens didn’t surprise anyone, but that’s about as neutral a statement one could make, because that means the defense played well and the offense fell flat. Expect more of the same Sunday as rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer (222 passing yards; 1 TD; 1 INT) takes the Browns on the road for the first time against a Ravens defense that only allowed 77 rushing yards and zero points versus the Cincinnati Bengals Week 1. The Ravens are already hurting on defense, but that shouldn’t mean much against the rookie quarterback.

DeShone Kizer was brought back to Earth Sunday after a decent showing in his NFL debut against the Steelers Week 1. Kizer threw three INTs and lost a fumble before being lost to a migraine headache. Kevin Hogan threw a touchdown in replacement of Kizer, but it was already over. Joe Flacco threw for two TDs and Terrance West ran for another, but the Ravens offense was otherwise as underwhelming as you could imagine against the Browns defense. The Ravens defense dominated for the second straight week, forcing two fumbles, three sacks and four INTs, and remains the only reason Baltimore is 2-0.

Buffalo Bills 1-0 (+7) @ Carolina Panthers 1-0 (43): Panthers 27-21 Panthers 9-3
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Mostly sunny; 80s)

Reasons: This game could get hot in more ways than one as two of the grittier teams in the league take the field Sunday in a game that could reach the high-80s. Both of these teams have a run-first mentality and both teams have stout defenses that allow few rushing yards. The Bills allowed only 12 points and 38 rushing yards to the New York Jets Sunday; the Panthers held the San Francisco 49ers to three points and 57 yards rushing. This game will feature two highly athletic quarterbacks, two dynamic running backs (one being Carolina rookie Christian McCaffery) and teams with defenses built to stop both. All eyes will once again be on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s continued recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.

The Buffalo Bills sacked Cam Newton six times and held the Panthers to 2.8 yards per carry on 28 carries, but the three field goals they gave up were too much for Tyrod Taylor and the Bills hapless offense. The Carolina defense played a great game as well, sacking Taylor three times, twice by Julius Peppers, and forcing two fumbles, but the Bills were shut out through three quarters and only managed three points by games end. The real story was the loss of tight end Greg Olsen to a broken foot, a brief injury scare with Cam Newton, and rookie sensation Christian McCaffery gaining only 44 yards on 12 touches, including only 10 rushing yards on eight carries, although Cam Newton sailed a wide-open touchdown to him.

Arizona Cardinals 0-1 (-7) @ Indianapolis Colts 0-1 (44): Cardinals 28-20 Cardinals 16-13
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Luca Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons:   It’s not looking good for Indianapolis in the short- or long-term. Andrew Luck appears still weeks away at least, and in the meantime, the Colts are still dealing with backup Scott Tolzien and a cast of players that really only seem good when Luck is making it look that way. It gets a lot worse when you consider key pieces will be missing for the Colts defense Week 2 (S Vontea Davis; CB Darius Butler). Lucky for Indianapolis, the Cardinals star running back David Johnson is lost for the season, and Chris Johnson, recently signed off the street, is not the same Johnson. The quarterback play looks to be awful again Sunday for these two teams, so they’ll both roll out star running backs from the aughts in Johnson and Frank Gore. Look for the Arizona defense to feast in this game, and they’ll have to, because their offense is terrible.

It took a flurry of 10 points in the 4th quarter just to tie the game and an OT field goal for one of the best defenses in the NFL to beat one of the worst teams in the NFL Sunday, who was also starting Jacoby Brissett. The Colts led 13-3 11:42 into the 4th quarter, even though they only gained 266 total yards on offense, before a 45-yard pass Carson Palmer to JJ Wilson brought the Cardinals within three, before eventually kicking a field goal with over three minutes left to tied the game. Brissett threw an interception in OT, setting up the Cardinals to kick the winning field goal. Chris Johnson looked OK in relief of David Johnson, but Carson Palmer has never looked worse throwing for 332 yards.

 Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans will be looking to rebound after a tough outing versus the Oakland Raiders opening week.

Tennessee Titans 0-1 (-1.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-0 (42.5): Titans 24-21 Titans 37-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Chance storms; low 80s)

Reasons:   The Jaguars beat up on a defeated city with serious quarterback issues Week 1, which ranged from “not serviceable” to “has never played in the NFL”. The Titans lost a tough battle to an Oakland Raiders team playing for a Super Bowl title this season. It doesn’t get much easier for Tennessee Sunday because Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette looks to be for real, and the Titans are already running thin on defense, with three defensive backs out or questionable. The same could be said about Jacksonville’s offense, but their attrition comes in the air and Blake Bortles can’t throw anyway. As long as the Jaguars have their star rookie running back and a beat up Titans defense to face they should be OK; they won’t be.

The Titans put on a clinic in the second half of this game, scoring 31 of their 37 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters, and scored 30 unanswered points after the Jaguars went up 3-0 early. Jacksonville’s offense struggled mightily again, turning the ball over three times, two coming on interceptions from embattled Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, despite Tennessee’s secondary attrition issues. Top draft pick Leonard Fournette, who claimed the NFL was “easy, gained only 40 yards on 14 carries, while Tennessee’s second year running back Derrick Henry, who also had 14 carries, went for 92 yards. Both scored touchdowns. Tennessee was clearly the more physical team, as evidenced by Tennessee’s 179 rushing yards to Jacksonville’s 99, but it was turnovers and Blake Bortles play that did the Jaguars in again.

Philadelphia Eagles 1-0 (+5.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs 1-0 (47): Chiefs 27-24 Chiefs 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, KS (Weather: Chance storms; low 80s)

Reasons: Las Vegas and bettors alike have piled on to the Kansas City Chiefs Week 1 4th quarter success over the New England Patriots, because why else would they be nearly 6-point favorites over Philadelphia after the Eagles dismantled Washington this past Sunday? Both quarterbacks put on a clinic Week 1, but Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz won’t be facing the Washington defense this week. The Chiefs are undoubtedly one of the best defenses in the NFL, but they’re going to miss safety Eric Berry immensely. Kansas City could also be without other key members on defense (Parker, Pierre-Lewis, Ragland), meaning the Eagles should be able to move the ball on Kansas City, but probably not enough to keep up with the skilled Chiefs. Look for Tyreek Hill and rookie Kareem Hunt (rookie record for yards from scrimmage Week 1) to continue to help Alex Smith fend off rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes Week 2.

Rookie sensation Kareem Hunt stole the show again Sunday after again getting off to another slow start. Hunt had nine yards on six carries before breaking out a 53-yards run for a touchdown late in the 3rd quarter to take a 13-10 lead back from Philadelphia. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz played well (333 passing yards; 2 TDs; 1 INT) but Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith came back to Earth with his efficient, underwhelming self (21-28 for 251 passing yards; 1 TD) in one of the better games on the Sunday afternoon slate. Kansas City won handily, however, as they led 27-13 late in the 4th quarter on Hunt’s second touchdown before Philadelphia made it a 27-20 game as the 4th quarter expired. The Eagles outgained the Chiefs 406 to 344 and had 11 more first downs (27 to 16), but two Eagles turnovers and the Chiefs running game, from Hunt to Travis Kelce, decided the game.

New England Patriots 0-1 (-6.5) @ New Orleans Saints 0-1 (56): Patriots 31-27 Patriots 36-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Patriots looked as if to be on their way to demoralizing the Kansas City Chiefs to open the 2017 NFL season last Thursday, but then the 4th quarter happened and New England was facing 0-1 with many questions heading into this matchup against the Saints. The Saints are facing their own issues, as they were embarrassed in Minneapolis Monday, both on the field, and off of it with Adrian Peterson making a “private” spat about his displeasure over playing time public. These teams combined to give up 1,028 yards of offense Week 1, 553 of those yards by New England, which was a New England record under Bill Belichick. The offenses also combined for 742 yards, so we should expect another barn burner especially as the Patriots are already dealing with several issues on their defense and the Saints defense is just awful. New Orleans is missing two of the offensive tackles, however, so the playing field remains relatively even. Both teams are well coached with great starting quarterbacks, but New England just doesn’t lose two games in a row in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.

Last Thursday night Tom Brady broke a personal record. For the first time in 109 games Brady lost a game at home going into the 4th quarter with a lead. The media had Brady finished. The Hall Of Fame was already constructing his bust. Brady’s haters were pouring champagne. Brady broke another personal record Sunday when he threw for three TDs in the first quarter. Brady finished with 447 yards and three TDs on 77% passing and silenced the critics for another week. The Saints, although usually dangerous at home, were coming off a short week and still have a historically bad defense, which showed. Drew Brees was his normal stellar self (27-45 passing for 356 yards and two TDs), and Mark Ingram gained 56 yards on only eight carries, although half came on a late meaningless carry, but the rest of the Saints were JAGs, including the quickly fading Adrian Peterson. The Patriots won big, but it didn’t come without losses. New England suffered injuries to Rex Burkhead, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Rob Gronkowsi, who was just beginning to look like the Gronk people are used to. Reports of Brady and Gronkowski’s demise may have been premature, but all eyes will be on the Patriots attrition, especially at wide receiver, going forward.

Minnesota Vikings 1-0 (+6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 1-0 (44.5): Steelers 24-21 Steelers 26-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Vikings looked great Monday night. The Steelers, on the other hand, looked awful. Loaded with talent on offense, the Steelers managed only 14 points against the hapless Browns Week 1, and super star running back Le’Veon Bell looked terrible. The Steelers vaunted offense gained only 19 more yards (298) then their defense gave up (279). The Vikings probably couldn’t have looked better with quarterback Sam Bradford throwing for 346 yards and three TDs on 27-32 passing and rookie running back Dalvin Cook rushing for 127 yards, a Vikings record for debut rushing yards (with Adrian Peterson watching). Both teams are dealing with nagging injuries already, but the Vikings seem to have the most concerning ones with Bradford, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Xavier Rhodes all questionable for Sunday’s game.

The Steelers got a break, we assume, by the pre-game yanking of Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford, who is now facing knee issues. I think we may have forgotten how injury-prone this guy is, which is unfortunate considering he’s finally living up to his Heisman Trophy hype. The offense looked lost without him with backup Case Keenum managing only 167 passing yards. The lone bright spot may have been Dalvin Cook’s impressive running (64 yards on 12 carries), but he needs the ball more to have serious impact. The Steelers didn’t light it up either, but they played well enough to win. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell were pedestrian, but the Pittsburgh defense continues to improve and get back to their Steel Curtain persona with two sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, six passes defended and seven quarterback hits, although, again, it was a team led by Case Keenum.

  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Jameis Winston play for the first time in 2017 after losing Week 1 to Hurricane Irma.

Chicago Bears 0-1 (+7) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-0 (43): Buccaneers 21-20 Buccaneers 26-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Chance storms; low 80s)

Reasons: The Buccaneers will be opening their 2017 season at home versus the Bears Sunday after having their season delayed by Hurricane Irma, which was forecasted to wipe Tampa Bay off the map, so this game is a symbol of a lot of things, some greater than football. The Bears fought their own storm Sunday in the form of a bitter Super Bowl loser, and they almost came out with a win. The Bears are poised to be bad this season, but they almost beat the defending NFC-champion Atlanta Falcons Week 1, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off the most turbulent, no pun intended, few weeks most of them have probably experienced in their lifetimes (see Houston, Week 1). The Buccaneers should win their first game of 2017, but it won’t be by seven or more points.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out firing Sunday in their first game of the 2017 season, having scored enough points by the end of the first quarter to win the game. Quarterback Jameis Winston looked good, although he didn’t pad the stat sheet (18-30 passing for 204 yards; 1 touchdown), as did Jacquizz Rodgers in replacement of the suspended Doug Martin (67 yards on 19 carries; 1 touchdown). The story for the game was the Buccaneers defense, which held the Bears to 310 totals yards, including only 20 yards rushing on 16 carries (1.3 ypc), and returned a Mike Glennon pass for a touchdown late in the second quarter. Mike Glennon actually played well (31-45 passing for 301 yards; 1 touchdown), but his two INTs were key. The rest of the Chicago Bears didn’t play any better.

Miami Dolphins 0-0 (+3.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers 0-1 (45.5): Chargers 21-17 Dolphins 19-17
Sunday, 4:05 PM, StubHub Center, Carson, CA (Weather: Sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: The poor Miami Dolphins began their trek around the world Sunday, their first stop being in beautiful Carson, CA to play the Chargers. Los Angeles looked dead Week 1 against the Broncos until 8:10 in the 4th quarter, when the defense and Phillip Rivers combined to bring the Chargers within an iced, and subsequently blocked field goal off the foot of rookie kicker Younhoe Koo’s foot. The Dolphins…have not played yet because of Hurricane Irma. It probably won’t be pretty for Miami, whose terrible 2017 season began when they lost franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill over the summer. All of this makes me wonder how the Chargers are really technically only half-point favorites at home, but Los Angeles’ first three quarters against Denver could provide clues.

This game sounded like it was being played in Miami, Florida, but that was just Dolphins fans out-cheering Chargers fans at a soccer stadium in Carson, CA two hours away from their real home in San Diego. This game featured 704 yards on offense and 561 of those yards came in the air from the two quarterbacks. Phillip Rivers went 31-39 for 331 passing yards and a touchdown, but got no help from anyone else besides Keenan Allen (9 receptions; 100 receiving yards), save one rushing touchdown from Melvin Gordon (9 carries for 13 yards). The Dolphins offense looked great in their opening game, with replacement quarterback Jay Cutler throwing for 230 yards and a touchdown and running back Jay Ajayi rushing for 122 yards on 28 carries. Ultimately the game belonged to the two defenses, which played exceptionally well, with both teams combining for 18.5 tackles for loss (12 by LAC). The game once again came down to kicker Younhoe Koo’s rookie foot, and for the second straight week the rookie “failed”.  Perhaps the highlight of the game was Phillip Rivers being picked up by the on-field microphoness trying to trick the Dolphins defense with a sneak that never materialized.

New York Jets 0-1 (+14) @ Oakland Raiders 1-0 (43.5): Raiders 30-17 Raiders 45-20
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: I almost refuse to acknowledge the New York Jets, which isn’t difficult considering they practically don’t acknowledge themselves. In a way I can’t blame New York having seen Sam Darnold play football at USC, but then I can blame them because counting on a sophomore from USC having the time of his life to leave school early to join one of the worst teams in NFL history is exactly the kind of thinking that creates one of the worst franchises in the NFL. The Raiders are trending in the opposite direction, with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, a star quarterback, exceptional skill players, a solid veteran running back and a defensive stud (Khalil Mack) that is just skilled enough to take on the entire Jets offense by himself.

As expected this game was all Oakland. The Raiders ran for three TDs, from three different running backs, or from the running back position anyway, and gained 180 yards on 6.7 yards per carry. Derek Carr was 23-28 passing and threw three TDs to Michael Crabtree. The Raiders defense held New York to 271 total yards, forced two fumbles, sacked Josh McCown four times and had 7.5 tackles for loss in what became a total domination of the Jets. Josh McCown did throw two TD passes, both to Jermaine Kearse, but that was the extent of New York’s success. The Raiders are as loose as Marshawn Lynch was dancing on the sidelines Sunday and should be a dangerous opponent for anyone going forward.

Dallas Cowboys 1-0 (-2.5) @ Denver Broncos 1-0 (43): Cowboys 28-27 Broncos 42-17
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Mostly sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: The Broncos had to ice a rookie kicker and then block his second attempt to fend off a charging Los Angeles Chargers team they had dominated for three and a half quarters. The Cowboys, on the other hand, dominated the short-handed Giants from start to finish. The paths to the same outcome were vastly different for the two teams, which is interesting considering both teams gained about the same amount of yards (DAL: 397; DEN: 359) while giving up the same amount of yards (DAL: 255; DEN: 256). Both teams are dealing with significant injuries on defense, but only the Cowboys could be missing a key piece on offense (WR Terrance Williams). The Cowboys grind out a win on the road in the high altitude in one of the better Week 2 games.

I never fail to account for the weather or fundamental anomalies in a playing environment, like the noise at Kansas City or the altitude at Denver. The problem I often make is not accounting enough for one or both. Weather wasn’t supposed to be an issue, but these storms come off the Rocky Mountains and can be largely unpredictable. The altitude never changes and it has a serious effect on players, especially those coming from 600 feet elevation. The weather delay and altitude conspired to defeat the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night in what was otherwise supposed to be the showdown of the afternoon. It was more of a shutdown of the Cowboys offensive line by the Broncos defensive front four, which stagnated the running game and put the game squarely upon the shoulders of Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant, which failed because Denver’s secondary might be the best in the NFL Aqib Talib was too much Dez Bryant and his 16 targets. Trevor Siemian looked good, throwing four TDs passes (Emmaneul Sanders 2, CJ Anderson, Virgil Green), and CJ Anderson looked great, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Don’t be fooled though, this game belonged to the Broncos defense.

 The Dallas Cowboys and their two star second-year players will be looking to continue their early season success on the road against the Denver Broncos.

Washington Football Team 0-1 (+2.5) @ Los Angeles Rams 1-0 (45.5): Rams 27-24 Washington 27-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA (Weather: Sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: The Rams are not nearly as good as their 46-9 Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but even if you take away the two pick-sixes, the Rams still scored a respectable 32 points, good enough to lead the NFL in 2016. We must take this win and these points with a grain of salt, however, as the Colts looked like the league’s worst team Sunday. Washington is exactly what we assumed they’d be - mediocre with flashes of Kirk Cousins brilliance mixed in with head-scratching moments. Los Angeles should continue their success Sunday, but because Washington is as awful as their owner's sensitivities, not because I believe in any early-season hype. This just happens to be another game in which this young, relatively inexperienced Rams team plays an equally terrible opponent, as evidenced by Washington getting less than three points on the road.

Washington led 13-0 early before the two teams starting trading ground game punches. Todd Gurley looked great, although he did fumble, accounting for 136 total yards and two TDs. This game was more about the Washington ground game, which coincidentally lost its top guy in Rob Kelley to injury, but gained 229 yards on a bruising 39 carries (6.5 ypc) over 36 minutes. Neither quarterback had a serious impact on the game besides Jared Goff throwing a late INT to seal the game for Washington.

San Francisco 49ers 0-1 (+14)@ Seattle Seahawks 0-1 (41.5): Seahawks 24-13 Seahawks 12-9
Sunday, 4:25 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Chance rain; low 70s)

Reasons: I give the 49ers no chance to win this game, but I have a hard time giving any team a chance giving 14 points. The 49ers will also be with out their best player, arguably, in rookie linebacker Rueben Foster. The Seahawks looked pedestrian on offense last week against the Green Bay Packers, but their defense looked great, despite giving up 395 yards. If not for terrible officiating, Seattle might’ve won the game on the road in Green Bay. The 49ers only defensive bright spot is out for the game and their offense has no chance against this Seattle defense.

This game looked like the NFC Championship battles of the Colin Kaepernick days, when the 49ers and Seahawks not only had the two best defenses in the NFL at the time, but arguably of all time. Seattle still possesses such a defense, on display Sunday, but San Francisco, despite missing their best young player on defense (Rueben Foster), held their own. Before we get too excited it should be noted that the 49ers might end up with one of the worst offenses in the league by years end, but the Seahawks aren’t much better, despite the optical illusions known as Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham. Seattle looked awful Sunday and the league’s worst offensive line had Wilson running for his life. The 49ers held a 9-6 lead with under four minutes to go in the game, based largely on Carlos Hyde’s 124 rushing yards before Wilson – running for his life – evaded multiple sacks to find Paul Richardson for the go-ahead touchdown with seven minutes remaining. The Seahawks missed the extra point, which meant the 49ers only need a field goal to tie the game, but the Seahawks defense shut them down to seal the victory.

Green Bay Packers 1-0 (+3) @ Atlanta Falcons 1-0 (56): Packers 30-28 Falcons 34-23
Sunday, 8:25 PM, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: A rematch of the 2016 NFC Championship game, the results should be much different this time around, as well as in 14 weeks when the Packers are playing the game in Seattle and the Falcons are at home watching. I’m getting ahead of myself. The Packers should’ve lost last week to the Seattle Seahawks (See Tuesday’s Gone: Week 1 #NFL Game Prediction Reviews) and the Falcons almost did lose to the Chicago Bears. Green Bay played well on defense versus the Seahawks (287 yards against), but the Falcons are no Seahawks, in Nature or the NFL. The Falcons are also no good at stopping people, and the Packers are the closest thing offensively to Atlanta in the league, which is a far cry from the Chicago Bears. Expect a shoot-out in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but expect the Packers to be on the winning side of it.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback, and 2016 MVP, Matt Ryan, maybe the most overlooked player in the NFL, threw for 252 yards (19-28 passing; 1 touchdown) and continued his streak of consecutive games with at least 200 yards passing (56). Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had a much better night on paper (33-50 passing for 354 yards; 2 TDs; 1 INT), was under duress most of the night; his only two turnovers (fumble and interception) led to 14 points and was the difference in the game. The Falcons were balanced on offense and their defense played great, hitting Rodgers seven times, sacking him three times and forcing the two key turnovers. The Falcons are another team at home on their turf and it showed Sunday night against the Packers.

Detroit Lions 1-0 (+3) @ New York Giants 0-1 (42.5): Giants 23-21 Lions 24-10
Monday, 8:30 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Mostly sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: The Giants were absolutely lost on offense without Odell Beckham Jr. and if he isn’t back to at least 75% on Monday night the Giants will be lost again versus the Lions. New York’s defense gave up 397 yards Sunday, but to a multi-dimensional offense, not one mostly predicated on their passing game, which could be without one of their key offensive pieces themselves (Golden Tate). If Odell Beckham Jr. is healthy enough to play Detroit will be facing a similar team in the Giants as they saw in Arizona, except this game is on the road and there is no equal to Odell Beckham Jr., even at 75%. The Giants inch back towards form Monday night, as do the Lions.

The Giants struggled from the start Monday night, most notably the offensive line, which might have become the leagues worst (Seattle) after Monday’s display. The game starts in the trenches, so talk of Eli Manning or Odell Beckham Jr.’s play is meanlingless if the line can’t protect their quarterback. Neither Manning nor Beckham were factors in the game, and Eli was under so much duress he even went down on a phantom tackle, a la Brett Favre for Mike Straham (which gave Strahan a contested season sacks record). The other quarterback, Matt Stafford, didn’t light it up, throwing for only 122 passing yards, but he threw two TDs (Marvin Jones Jr.; Eric Ebron) and showed glimpses of Aaron Rodgers, scrambling for several large gains throughout the game (23 rushing yards). The Lions defense played well (5 sacks; 8 tackles for loss), but how well do you to play to beat the Giants right now? New York only gave up 17 points (Detroit blocked and returned a punt for a touchdown), and sacked Stafford three times, but it won’t matter how well New York plays going forward it the Giants can’t score points. Monday night was the eighth straight game New York has scored fewer than 20 points; the Giants record is 1978-79 17 games without scoring at least 20 points. Ben MacAdoo also became the first coach in Giants history to start a season 0-2 losing by 14+ points each game. All is not well in Gotham.

Stay tuned for Week 3: #NFL Games and Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday!