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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Week 3: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL EDITION


2018 NFL SEASON
  
Week 3: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 2 results: 11-4-1 (wins); 8-8 (v. spread); 8-8 (O/U)
Season totals: 20-10-2 .625 (wins); 15-17 .469 (v. sp); 17-15 .531 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

The days of wearing bags over their heads to games may be over for fans of the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets.

New York Jets 1-1 (+3) v. Cleveland Browns 0-1-0 (41): Browns 24-20
Thursday, 8:20 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Partly cloudy; low 70s)

Reasons: After beating the Detroit Lions 48-17 in Sam Darnold’s NFL debut the New York Jets came crashing back down to Earth versus the Miami Dolphins last week, in part due to Darnold’s poor play (2 INTs). The Cleveland Browns, on the other hand, remain winless, but could just as easily be undefeated; that’s something Browns fans haven’t heard in decades. Cleveland is a Zane Gonzalez mistake signing away from being 2-0 all the while playing two of the better teams in the league in the Pittsburgh Steelers (home) and New Orleans Saints (away). Having said that, Cleveland remains one of the worst teams in the league, statistically, although not much can be taken from the first two games of the season, which segues beautifully into my point about the Jets. New York has a top-5 defense so far in 2018, and the offense, led by the rookie Darnold, is middle-of-the-pack. That Detroit Lions game skews the numbers, however, so if the Browns can keep the Jets running game under control we could be in line for Cleveland’s first win in 20 games.



Stay tuned for the remaining Week 3: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Sunday!
 


 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Tuesday's Gone: Week 2 #NFL Game Reviews

2018 NFL SEASON
  
Week 2: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 2 results: 11-4-1 (wins); 8-8 (v. spread); 8-8 (O/U)
Season totals: 20-10-2 .625 (wins); 15-17 .469 (v. sp); 17-15 .531 (O/U)

 

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).


The Cincinnati Bengals have a fierce defense, anchored by two of the best defensive linemen in the NFL in Carlos Dunlap (96) and Geno Atkins (97).


Baltimore Ravens 1-0 (-1) v. Cincinnati Bengals 1-0 (44): Bengals 23-20 Bengals 34-23
Thursday, 8:20 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Partly cloudy; low 70s)

Reasons: Both teams are coming off Week 1 victories, but both quarterbacks will see much different defenses Thursday night. Joe Flacco won't have as easy a time against the Bengals front line as he had against the Bills front line last week and the same could be said about Andy Dalton versus the Ravens defense after facing the Colts Week 1. Both teams managed only two sacks against our Thursday Night Football starters, and were only hit a total of five times. By comparison the Bengals hit Andrew Luck nine times; the Ravens sent Nathan Peterman and rookie Josh Allen to the ground nine times as well, but their hits resulted in six sacks. Essentially what we have here is the first game of the season on a short week between two teams that won their opening games, but were probably expected to win those games considering their inferior - as in two of the worst teams in the NFL - opponents. Considering the jury was still out on these two teams coming into the season I would say this is anybody's game.

Andy Dalton hit AJ Green for three quick touchdowns in the first 17 minutes of the game and it was over with three minutes left in the half after Dalton's fourth touchdown pass. The same couldn't be said for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who was sacked four times on his way to throwing two INTs and losing a fumble. 

Carolina Panthers 1-0 (+5.5) @ Atlanta Falcons 0-1 (44.5): Falcons 24-20 Falcons 31-24
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Falcons nearly beat the defending champion Eagles on the road, but it wasn’t because of their supposedly explosive offense. Instead it was the Atlanta defense that shined, holding the Eagles to 232 total yards; but they lost. The Panthers are no slouches on defense, themselves, and they’ll need every bit of their defensive prowess to contain the Falcons on the road, but not because the Falcons are juggernauts at home – Atlanta averaged less than a ppg at home v. the road in 2017. No, it’s because the Falcons are home and can’t start the season 0-2, but 5.5 points is crazy. Both teams are already decimated on offense though, and neither team scores to their offensive ability, so the under is a great play.

The Falcons found the end zone from the red zone, scoring on four of four opportunities a week - and an entire 2017 season - after not being able to capitalize on any red zone opportunities. Cam Newton outplayed Matt Ryan, from the pocket no less, but it was the Falcons that were able to spread the field more and get the running game going. Rookie Calvin Ridely scored his first NFL TD and gave the league a glimpse of what the Atlanta wide receiving corps could have in store the rest of 2018.

Los Angeles Chargers 0-1 (-7.5) @ Buffalo Bills 0-1 (43): Chargers 27-17 Chargers 31-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)
Reasons: Despite the Chargers consistent terrible injury luck I’m not sure the Bills can beat Los Angeles at home, especially considering this is Josh Allen’s first NFL start. Add that to the fact it’ll be sunny and in the low 80s and suddenly the Chargers feel at home against a team with far more questions than answers. This is one of those rare games when a road team is favored by more than a touchdown and it isn’t a bad idea.

This was a 31-13 game until Josh Allen hit Kelvin Benjamin with a 3-yard pass in the end zone with 38 seconds left in the game. The game belonged to Phillip Rivers (2 TD passes) and Melvin Gordon (3 total TDs), who helped make it a 28-3 game by the two minute warning in the first half. 

Minnesota Vikings 1-0 (-1) @ Green Bay Packers 1-0 (46): Vikings 23-21 TIE 29-29
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: This might sound like the most obvious statement ever made, but the game completely depends on Aaron Rodgers, specifically whether he plays. The last time these Vikings came into town and Rodgers wasn’t playing due to injury Minnesota won 16-0; the reason Rodgers was hurt was because the Vikings knocked him out for the season 10 weeks prior. The Vikings are for real and haven’t lost a step with Kirk Cousins at the helm. Even if Rodgers plays he won’t be 100%, which is what he needs to be for the Packers to have any chance at beating this defense. 

Not again. For the first time since 1971 the NFL suffered two ties in consecutive weeks to open the season. I'm not sure if two rookie kickers missed two potentially game-winning field goals in those 1971 games, but it happened this season with the Browns and now the Vikings. You'll be shocked to know both kickers are without jobs as I type this. Kirk Cousins (4 TDs on 425 passing yards) continues to justify his huge off-season contract, but it was surprising to see Minnesota surrender 29 points to a hobbled Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings need to pieces these games together if they want to dominate as advertised. 


Aaron Rodgers managed to stay upright most of the day Sunday and willed his team to a tie.
 

Houston Texans 0-1 (-2.5) @ Tennessee Titans 0-1 (44.5): Titans 21-20 Titans 20-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: 40% rain; low 80s)

Reasons: The battle of the Bill Belichick coaching tree sets off Sunday in Nashville and it could be a wet one. Both teams lost their opening week games and in the past 10 years fewer than 10% of teams that go 0-2 make the playoffs. Both teams have young mobile quarterbacks with the ability to explode or implode if the pressure of going 0-2 gets to be too much, which one might assume would be the less talented Titans – that’s if either quarterback even plays, because both are questionable. My bet is on the outdoor home team in the questionable weather.  

The Titans went up 14-0 early via two TD passes, neither of which came from quarterback Marcus Mariota. No, these touchdown passes came from safety Kevin Byard on a fake punt and then backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but it took two 4th quarter Ryan Succup field goals, the second with exactly a minute remaining, to beat the Texans at home despite being out-gained by over 150 totals yards.  

Cleveland Browns 0-0-1 (+9) @ New Orleans Saints 0-1 (49.5): Saints 35-24 Saints 21-18
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Cleveland Browns announced plans to release Josh Brown as I type this, days after listing him as a starting wide receiver. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s not a sign that stability has taken over the Browns. The Saints, on the other hand, will be looking for exactly that Sunday – stability. New Orleans understands the position they’re in if they lose Sunday, and the Browns simply don’t have the fire power to keep up with the Saints in any venue, especially at the Superdome. The Saints could easily cover and probably come close to the over on their own.

The only thing speedy about former Browns kicker Gonzalez was how fast he was fired after missing two extra points and two field goal, but it was Zane-y the way this dude squandered two opportunities to win the Browns first two games after Cleveland had lost 17 straight dating back to their last win v. the Chargers (20-17) in Week 16 of the 2016 season and then tying the first game of the 2018 season. I'm a little shocked the Saints struggled so much at home, but the Cleveland defense is much better than even I give it credit for, and I've been saying it for, well, since the beginning of the season. 

Miami Dolphins 0-1 (+2.5) @ New York Jets 1-0 (43.5): Jets 23-20 Dolphins 20-12
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: Divisional games between two mediocre teams are difficult calls to begin with, evidenced by the 2.5 points the Jets are getting, despite being home in great weather. New York thinks they may have found their savior in Sam Darnold, while, well, the Dolphins are still looking regardless of what their cap sheet tells you. I wouldn’t take much from New York’s Week 1 win versus an overwhelmed Matt Patricia, but the Lions have similar weapons with a similar quarterback and look what the Jets did to them. I don’t have much hope for the Dolphins, or the over. 

Ahh, the ol' regression to the mean. Sam Darnold threw two INTs and the Jets lost an additional fumble to a feisty Dolphins defense and the Dolphins led 20-0 at the half and never looked back. In fact, I don't think anyone went back to this game after the half, it was terrible.

Kansas City Chiefs 1-0 (+4.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 0-0-1 (52.5): Chiefs 28-27 Chiefs 42-37
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Partly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Chiefs haven’t had much luck in Pittsburgh in recent years – or decades - but something about these two teams feels different. Maybe it’s because this Kansas City is run by  the rookie gunslinger in Patrick Mahomes Ben Roethlisberger used to be and Tyreek Hill has become the show stopper Antonio Brown used to be. The Chiefs are lightning in a bottle offensively, but their defense is nothing like the past several years. The Steelers could score in bundles, but they’ll need to if they want to keep pace with these new Chiefs. 

The Chiefs are rollin' with Mahomes, amirite? This kid is unbelievable. On Sunday the rookie, and likely consecutive AFC Player of the Week award winner, Patrick Mahomes II broke the all-time NFL record for TD passes in the first two games of any season (10) for any player, let alone a rookie. Mahomes threw six touchdown passes in Week 2 to the loaded Chiefs team, including scores to Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce (2). Kansas City scored three first quarter TDs, but Pittsburgh scored three touchdowns of their own in the second quarter, before the Chiefs blew the game open 21-7 in the second half. A late safety and subsequent Steelers score late in the fourth quarter display a close score that misrepresents the final as the Steelers were thoroughly dominated for three quarters of the game.


 Carson Wentz was cleared for contact this week and will start Week 3, which is music to Philadelphia fan's ears.


Philadelphia Eagles 1-0 (-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-0 (44): Eagles 24-23 Bucs 27-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Partly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: Eagles fans probably scoffed when they saw this was the first road game on the schedule, which might have been misinformed anyway, and that was before Captain Fitzpatrick came to the rescue. What is with the Ryan Fitzpatricks and Matt Flynns of the world? Overachieving quarterbacks who periodically come onto our television screens to set a game or two on fire, get a giant inexplicable contract, and then disappear for a time, only to reappear and begin the cycle anew. The Eagles get to face that recycled Fitzpatrick on the road Sunday, but lucky for them they face a Bucs defense already facing attrition. The same could be said about the Eagles offense, however, so what we have is a evenly matched game most likely won by Philadelphia’s defense.

Oh, oh, it's Fitzmagic. Holy cow, will this dude supplant Jameis Winston as the Bucs starting quarterback? I can already see Winston squinting. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four more TD passes (8 total on the season) on over 400 yards passing...again. Fitzpatrick became only the third quarterback in NFL history to start the season with consecutive 400+ yard passing games (Tom Brady 2011; Cam Newton 2011), and has developed a great rapport with DeSean Jackson, right down to borrowing his track suit and bling and wearing them out to the post-game press conference. Clearly the Bucs are feeling themselves after a 2-0 start, including this huge win at home against the struggling defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. 

Indianapolis Colts 0-1 (+6) @ Washington Redskins 1-0 (45.5): Washington 26-21 Colts 21-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: 50% rain; high 70s)

Reasons: The weather could be an issue Sunday, which would also be an issue for the climate-controlled Colts. Assuming left tackle Moses Morgan is healthy, Washington should be able to control the pace of the game and clock, while the weather limits Andrew Luck and the one-dimensional Colts. 

Suffice it to say it didn't really rain and apparently I don't really know anything about either of these teams. 

Arizona Cardinals 0-1 (+13) @ Los Angeles Rams 1-0 (45): Rams 31-17 Rams 34-0
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Los Angeles Memorial Stadium, Los Angeles, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The largest spread (13) of the week is such for many reasons, but quite simply the Rams are at home in great weather and light years more talented then the Arizona Cardinals

Suffice it to say I did a much better job analyzing this game then the previous game. 

Detroit Lions 0-1 (+6) @ San Francisco 49ers 0-1 (48): 49ers 24-20 49ers 30-27
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny; mid-70s)

Reasons: The Lions fell flat in rookie head coach Matt Patricia’s debut, but they head to the Bay Area to face Jimmy Garoppolo, the man who faced Patricia’s Patriots defense in practice for years. One could argue that match up either way but suffice it to say Las Vegas and the betting public certainly have feelings about the direction they think the game will head. Both teams are equally banged up along their offensive lines, and both former Patriots employees failed to impress on opening day of the 2018 season, so it’ll probably come down to who best retained Bill Belichick’s advice on how to rebound from a terrible game. My bet is Kyle Shanahan gets revenge for the Super Bowl loss he suffered to Patricia while coaching the Falcons. 

The Lions outgained the 49ers in total yardage, gained more first downs, possessed the ball longer and sacked Jimmy Garoppolo six times, but turnovers rule the NFL and the Lions had the only turnover of the game, a Matt Stafford fumble. Stafford also threw three TD passes, but it wasn't enough to overcome Garoppolo's two passing touchdowns and Matt Breida's 138 rushing yards.


 Khalil Mack is no longer with the Oakland Raiders and the effects have been felt for two straight weeks to open the season.

Oakland Raiders 0-1 (+6) @ Denver Broncos 1-0 (46): Broncos 24-17 Broncos 20-19
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Partly cloudy; high 60s)

Reasons: The Raiders are down a few defensive tackles, Chucky is already blaming quarterback Derek Carr for misreads, and Khalil Mack is never coming back. Both quarterbacks threw three INTs in their opening game, but only the Broncos have the skill players to take advantage of those types of opportunities, should they arise again. AFC West divisional games are always battles, and therefore relatively tough games to call at any point in the season, but something just doesn’t seem right in Oakland; Las Vegas clearly feels the same way considering the 6-point spread. Maybe it’s the fact that just like the Chucky doll horror film series, the game has simply passed by Chucky the coach…by like 20 years.

Oakland led 12-0 at the half, their second such lead at some point in the first half of both of their games to open the season, but once again the offensive guru without a defense in Jon Gruden couldn't hold the lead and the Raiders ultimately lost. Maybe it's because they traded the NFL's best defensive player days before the season started. Never mind. A relatively evenly-matched game, Oakland led 19-7 with 21 minutes remaining, but the Broncos kicked a field goal, scored a touchdown and then kicked another field goal in 19 of those minutes scoring 13 unanswered points on drives of 10 plays, 12 plays and 10 plays, respectively. Those drives took nearly 12 of those remaining 19 minutes and sealed the game.

New England Patriots 1-0 (-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-0 (45): Patriots 27-23 Jaguars 31-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 90s)

Reasons: Running backs will be at a premium Sunday, as the Patriots will be without three of theirs while the Jaguars will be without their star Leonard Fournette. That means New England will be airing it out versus one of the best secondaries in the NFL, a group whose talent is only surpassed by their trash talk. We’re going to see many Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski connections Sunday, and assuming everything stays clean and healthy, even these Jaguars will again struggle to contain them. The much-discussed hot weather shouldn’t be a factor considering the Patriots have been experiencing 90-degree heat all summer, so if anything slows the Patriots down, it’ll be up to the Jaguars defense again, which evidently will include Myles Jack.

Bill Belichick said it best: [PARA] "We didn't do anything in any phase of the game good enough to beat this talented and well-coached [Jaguars] team." 

New York Giants 0-1 (+3) @ Dallas Cowboys 0-1 (42): Cowboys 23-21 Cowboys 20-13
Sunday, 8:25 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The injuries and subsequent shakeups to the Cowboys offensive line and a lack of wide receivers were highlighted Sunday and the results were simple: contain Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys don’t move, let alone score. The Giants suffered a similar fate in their opening game, but both could be written off considering both teams played stellar defenses (Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively). Neither team has a stellar defense coming into Sunday night’s game, so perhaps we see fireworks between two teams with plenty of fire power to set off, from the aforementioned Elliot to the Giants’ young star in the making in Saquon Barkley. The low O/U reflects how dysfunctional Las Vegas considers these two teams, because any game with Elliot, Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. must be worth 45 points alone.

The Cowboys don't exactly inspire their fans with their play, especially considering how bad their offensive line looks relative to the past few seasons, but the New York Giants are absolutely awful. Speaking of offensive lines, or just plain offensive, the Giants "pass protectors" gave up six sacks, and it seemed like 60. Eli Manning was under duress all night, barely getting out the three measly passes to Odell Beckham Jr. he did manage to release, and rookie sensation Saquon Barkley continued to impress making first tacklers miss, but that's more because these dudes were in the backfield the second Barkley got the ball. There is no way this Giants offense is sustainable, whether from a healthy Eli Manning perspective to OBJ losing his mind and imploding. The Cowboys aren't much better off so far in 2018, but I'd rather be a Dallas fan...for now. 

Seattle Seahawks 0-1 (+3.5) @ Chicago Bears 0-1 (43): Bears 21-17 Bears 24-17
Monday, 8:25 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Partly cloudy; low 70s)

Reasons: The clearest example of two opposite trending defenses, Seattle’s Legion of Boom terrorized teams for half a decade until the locker room became so divided over the past year the Seahawks had to ship most of the members out. The Bears, on the other hand, had been the pillar of defensive stability for what seemed like their entire existence until the past few seasons, when the Bears ranked among some of the league’s worst defenses. Chicago got better through the draft, and then capped it off with a blockbuster trade this off-season that sent Khalil Mack their way. Now the Seahawks are rebuilding while the Bears have already begun terrorizing their opponents, nearly beating the explosive Packers on the road Week 1. Russell Wilson will be running for his life all night Monday, but it’ll be up to Chicago quarterback Mitch Trubisky to make sure he doesn’t squander another solid defensive effort. 

Russell Wilson was hit seven times and sacked six times as the ferocious Bears chased Wilson all night, forcing two fumbles and taking a Wilson INT to the house for a pick-6. This game belonged to the Bears defense, as Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense struggled, managing fewer than 300 total yards, while Trubisky threw two INTs of his own despite not being under duress (2 sacks; 2 QB hits) nearly as much as Wilson. Chicago's defense is something to watch as the season progresses, but if the Bears want to advance when it counts they're going to have to start scoring points. The Seahawks, on the other hand, should be figuring out how to keep Wilson from getting killed while they figure out how to score points before they've already lost the game.



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


 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The 2018 #NFL Season: Kneel You Sons of Bitches!

2018 NFL SEASON

T U E S D A Y ’ S   G O N E:
NEW SEASON, SAME SHITTY PRESIDENT 

The NFL is back for their 99th season, and with it the anthem protests, back for their 3rd season, complete with misinformed tweets from our supposed commander-in-chief. We're not overly political at ProFootballMedia.com, so I digress, but even without the president's nonsensical tweets we'd have much to ponder this coming season: 

Is the New England Patriots dynasty over? Sure seems it. 

Did Jon Gruden already punch his ticket out of Oakland/Las Vegas before the season even begins by trading Khalil Mack? Sure seems it.  

Will the 2018 quarterback draft class live up to the hype? Only one rookie quarterback is slated to start Week 1 and he's a Jet. Yikes. 

Will the reduction of practice and contact under the new CBA continue to hurt the on-field product? If you were a Cowboys or Rams fan would you be psyched that your star running backs and quarterbacks hardly played at all in the preseason, if even one snap? 

Will people with agendas continue to tell us the NFL is failing, despite every metric telling us otherwise? Yes. The aforementioned CBA combined  with new technology are the likely culprits for any perceived dip in interest in the NFL, but "everything in life is one's perception" (Gregory Bateson). When Green Bay Packers fans lose Aaron Rodgers Week 9 they seem less interested in the NFL; and in a 24-hour news cycle, combined with people's ability to access any game in HD, information and/or highlights in seconds, Neilsen ratings seem far less relevant. The NFL is thriving, don't let crusty old white men tell you different. 

Perhaps with the domestic abuse and anthem protest issues largely behind us, at least in the sense that reports of domestic incidents seem to have gone down and the fact that many NFL partner broadcasts have refused to show the anthem at all, we can get back to the game of football. 

One thing new to Tuesday's Gone will be the length of the previews and reviews. Per request of my few readers and my family the articles will be considerably shorter, sometimes containing just a few sentences (Note: Following Weeks 1-4, which allows for short 2018 team reviews during the real preseason period). The analysis will not suffer and will be based on the same metrics; I just won't be so long-winded about every game. Thanks for reading and let's try to enjoy the 2018 NFL season!
  

Week 1: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 1 results: 9-6-1 (wins); 7-9 (v. spread); 9-7 (O/U)


Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN).


 Much has been made about the potential demise of the New England Patriots dynasty, especially the relationship between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Guess who has the best Super Bowl odds?
 

Atlanta Falcons 0-0 (+1) @ Philadelphia Eagles 0-0 (44.5): Eagles 23-20 Eagles 18-12
Thursday, 8:20 PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: 80s; 80% thunderstorms)

Reasons: The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles didn't waste any time reloading in the off-season, signing DL Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata, and bolstering their already stout defense, ranked 4th in 2017. The only problem is the Eagles are still dealing with quarterback Carson Wentz's knee injury and Philadelphia just lost WR Alshon Jeffery for the first few games of the 2018 season. Combine all of that with back-up QB Nick Foles' preseason struggles, the off-season loss of RB LaGarette Blount and head coach Doug Peterson losing his mind and you have all the makings of a terrible home opener against an Atlanta Falcons team that suffered their own sort of Super Bowl hangover to start last season. The Falcons are better than people probably remember, finishing 2017 with a top-10 offense (ranked 8th) and defense (ranked 9th). The Falcons lost some of their edge on defense in the off-season, but gained an offensive lineman (Brandon Fusco) to compliment their recently resigned left tackle Jake Matthews and drafted Calvin Ridley (Alabama) to compliment their other superstar Alabama WR, Julio Jones, who until this week hadn't reported to camp. Things will change quickly in the first few weeks, but as far as Thursday Night Football is concerned, the Eagles normally high-flying offense won't quite be in sync in the rain, but the house bird Falcons will struggle just as much, especially with key guys like Jones not playing a single snap in the preseason. If it rains as predicted this game could be one for the birds; if the rain holds off, however, look for the Falcons to steal the game and the Eagle's season opening celebration.

It was like the 2017 NFC Divisional game all over again. How can Matt Ryan not find Julio Jones in the end zone in crucial moments? And how can the supposedly offensive juggernaut Falcons keep flying into glass windows when they need offensive production most? Meanwhile the defending champion Eagles seem to be making a habit out of squeaking out wins with their backup quarterback in a system that's sure to be sustainable. 


Buffalo Bills 0-0 (+7.5) @ Baltimore Ravens 0-0 (40.5): Ravens 23-17 Ravens 47-3

Sunday, 1:00 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: 70% rain; 70s)



Reasons: The Bills added their future quarterback in the draft (Josh Allen), but he won't help the Bills against the Ravens stout defense in the driving rain.

The Josh Allen began quicker than some expected Sunday as Nathan Peterman continued to prove Colin Kaepernick's collusion case against the NFL as the rain fell hard on the field and on the Bills Opening Day parade.



Jacksonville Jaguars 0-0 (-3) @ New York Giants 0-0 (43.5): Jaguars 23-20 Jaguars 20-15
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: 30% rain; mid-60s)

Reasons: The New York Giants are supposedly back, resigning Diva Beckham Jr. and drafting hyper talented running back Saqoun Barkely from Penn State. The problem is they face the league's best defense to open the season. Let's see if OBJ can keep it together v. Jalen Ramsey.

Rookie Saquon Barkely lived up to the Opening Day hype versus arguably the best defense in the NFL, gaining 126 yards from scrimmage. Odell Beckham Jr. added another 111 receiving yards in his first game back in what seems like several seasons, but alas, it was Myles Jack and the Jaguars defense that once again stole the show and carried Jacksonville to victory. 

Pittsburgh Steelers 0-0 (-4) @ Cleveland Browns 0-0 (44): Steelers 21-18 TIE 21-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, OH (Weather: 100% rain; mid-60s)

Reasons: Le'Veon Bell still remains a hold out, which could hurt the Steelers in the driving rain, but luckily for the Steelers the Browns don't have the offensive firepower to match their surprisingly good defense. 

Bell's absence didn't seem to have much of an effect through three quarters of the game as James Connor's 135 rushing yards and two TDs will attest, but it was that crucial Connor fumble that'll have Steelers fans wondering if they're really the same player. Of course they're not, and any Steelers team would have trouble overcoming three Roethlisberger INTs. The Steelers fell flat in the second half allowing the Browns a better record in 2018 through Week 1 than they had all of 2017.

Cincinnati Bengals 0-0 (+3) @ Indianapolis Colts 0-0 (48.5): Bengals 24-20 Bengals 34-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Luca Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Andrew Luck is back. We think.

He is. Luck threw for 319 passing yards and two TDs on 39-53 passing, but it was Andy Dalton's show at the end as Dalton threw for three TDs in the final 19 minutes of the game to steal the win from the Colts.

Houston Texans 0-0 (+6.5) @ New England Patriots 0-0 (51): Patriots 24-21 Patriots 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; mid-60s)

Reasons: Tough sledding to open the season for the team that everyone in America outside of New England would love to see flop. I'd bet on Bill O'Brien doing that before Bill Belichick.

Once again Tom Brady (26-39 for 277 yards passing; 3 TDs) connected with Rob Gronkowski (7 receptions for 123 receiving yards; 1 TD) and the NFL's most dangerous quarterback-receiving tandem one strange injury from collapsing again took advantage of an inferior regular season opponent and disguised the fact they are dangerously thin at the skill positions, especially after losing RB Jeremy Hill for the year to a torn ACL.  

Titans Tennessee 0-0 (-1.5) @ Miami Dolphins 0-0 (45): Titans 27-20 Dolphins 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: 40% t-storms; high 80s)

Reasons: The weather and nightlife continues to be the best - and only - part of Miami.

A 10-3 game entering the 3rd quarter, all looked good for those taking the under in a game that got sloppy at times. Then both teams exploded for a 34-point 4th quarter and destroyed all of that, capped by Jakeem Grant's 102-yard kickoff return that broke the tie and sealed the victory for Miami.

San Francisco 49ers 0-0 (+6.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 0-0 (44.5): Vikings 28-24 Vikings 24-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The 49ers are rapidly on the rise like an early morning fog bank, but there is no fog like the Vikings defense. Add that top-tier defense to a talented offensive unit led by off-season acquisition Kurt Cousins and we might have the best team in the NFL.

In hindsight I'm not really sure why I thought the 49ers would score 24 points against the Vikings other than Jimmy G. sellers remorse. However, an early injury to Marquis Goodwin took Jimmy G's security blanket away and suddenly the world ate Jimmy. Kirk Cousins threw two TDs in his highly anticipated debut, but let's get real, this is a team built of defense. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-0 (+1) @ New Orleans Saints 0-0 (49.5): Saints 30-20 Bucs 48-40
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes Benz Stadium, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: I would be shocked if this game was even close.  

What in the Ryan Fitzpatrick? Fitzpatrick threw for four TDs on 417 passing yards and stole the show on the road from the mighty turf Saints. Even a furious 16-point 4th quarter by the Saints, led by their own 439-passing yard and three-TD performance from Drew Brees, wasn't enough. 

Kansas City Chiefs 0-0 (+3.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers 0-0 (48): Chargers 24-21 Chiefs 38-28
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Stub Hub Field, Carson City, CA (Weather: Clear; mid-80s)

Reasons: The Chargers once again enter 2018 one of the most talented teams on paper, but as we've already seen this off-season, the Chargers cannot stay healthy. The Chiefs appear the same way on paper, but the defense is no longer there.

Phillip Rivers threw for 439 passing yards and three TDs, but it was the rookie Patrick Mahomes who stole the show with four of his own passing TDs, including two to the acrobatic but domestically despicable Tyreek Hill. The offensive - no pun intended, Tyreek - future of the Chiefs looks bright while the future of the Chargers looks as confusing as ever.

Washington Football Team 0-0 (+1) @ Arizona Cardinals 0-0 (44): Cardinals 21-17 WFT 24-6
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Both of these teams employed Adrian Peterson the past two seasons, which should tell you something about their position in the league.

Adrian Peterson looked like it was 2015 again, gaining 166 yards from scrimmage in his debut. Fellow newcomer Alex Smith had two passing TDs on 255 passing yards in his debut giving the Washington Football Team some hope...for this season. The Arizona Cardinals, however, don't have much hope for any season based on what we saw Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys 0-0 (+3) @ Carolina Panthers 0-0 (42.5): Panthers 28-27 Panthers 16-8
Sunday, 4:25PM PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: 50% t-storms; low 70s)

Reasons: Perhaps the best game of Week 1, both of these teams come into 2018 with serious talent across the board, but both teams come in with even bigger questions from the leadership right up to the ownership. 

The game many thought would be the Week 1 Game Of The Week turned out to be the dud of the week. The Dallas Cowboys looked stagnant without any wide out threats and the Carolina Panthers, save their stout defense, was even worse. The Cowboys scored eight points and led all game leaders in passing, rushing and receiving yards. That's awful if you're Cam Newton, the Panthers, or Norm Turner, but it turns out they probably won't even need to score more than 16 ppg if their defense continues to play this way. 

Seattle Seahawks 0-0 (+3) @ Denver Broncos 0-0 (42.5): Seahawks 21-20 Broncos 27-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Cloudy; low 60s)

Reasons: The Seahawks are no longer the Legion of Boom and will officially start the Russell Wilson era against the Broncos, which have suffered their own quick demise of late.

The Seahawks looked like shells of their former Seahawk eggs Sunday, giving up 27 points to Case Keenum and the formerly snail-paced Broncos. Keenum threw for 329 yards and three TDs while Russell Wilson ran for his life from Von Miller, who sacked Wilson three times and forced a fumble. These are two teams trending in opposite directions. 

Chicago Bears 0-0 (+7.5) @ Green Bay Packers 0-0 (47.5): Packers 24-23 Packers 24-23
Sunday, 8:25 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Clear; low 50s)

Reasons: Normally I'd laugh at this game, even with the Bears much improved defense, but that was before Chucky murdered the Raiders and sent the best defensive player in the league in Khalil Mack to the Bears, instantly making the Bears one of the best defenses in the league.

The only thing worse then calling a game perfectly is being in the Wynn Casino sports book and not actually betting on the game. That's a story for a memoir, not a football blog, so I digress. Truth be told this game was a tale of two halves, one staring Khalil Mack and one starring Aaron Rodgers. Mack became the first player since 1982 with a sack, touchdown, INT, forced fumble and fumble recovery in a half and then Rodgers became the first player I can remember to seemingly tear all three knee ligaments in his plant leg and throw three touchdowns in the 4th quarter to come back from down 23-3 to win the game. 

New York Jets 0-0 (+6.5) @ Detroit Lions 0-0 (45): Lions 24-17 Jets 48-17
Monday, 7:10 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: This game should be nice and terrible.

Matt Patricia had a nightmarish debut as the Lions head coach, which seems to be par for the course for both the Detroit Lions and the Bill Belichick coaching tree at this point. How fitting they would find each other in a sea of mediocrity. I've never trusted any Belichick disciple to take the helm, nor have a I trusted any Lions team to win significant games. Trouble is, I thought the Jets would be a welcome mat to Patricia's NFL head coaching debut. It almost happened, but then Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold took lemons with his first NFL pass being a pick-6 and made lemonade with two passing TDs and a victory in his first NFL game. Hold the HOF talk, but we might have a Jets QB finally.

Los Angeles Rams 0-0 (-4) @ Oakland Raiders 0-0 (49.5): Rams 35-20 Rams 33-13
Monday, 10:20 PM, Oakland Stadium, Oakland, CA (Weather: Clear; low 60s)

Reasons: The NFL awaited this opening week Monday Night Football game before the aforementioned Chucky detonated the Raiders defense. Now I can't imagine a scenario in which the Raiders can score enough points to keep up with these high-flying Rams, and that's not even considering how difficult it'll be to move the ball on the Rams in the first place.

For a quick half it looked like Jon Gruden hadn't made the worst trade in NFL history and had made the best decision to come coach Derek Carr and watch him throw to Jared Cook (180 receiving yards). Then the Rams preseason ended after the first half and Derek Carr threw three INTs, one a pick-6 to Marcus Peters, and Los Angeles outscored Oakland 23-0 in the second half. The Raiders defense looks abysmal and I can see Gruden being gone before the Raiders even make it to Las Vegas, Chucky mascot for the Vegas Raiders or not. 
 
 


Stay tuned for Week 2: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Saturday!