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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday's Gone: Week 1 Game Prediction Reviews

The New England Patriots raise banner number five at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA Thursday night as they kick off the 2017 NFL season on Thursday Night Football versus the Kansas City Chiefs.

Week 1: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
(Week 1 results: 10-5 W/L; 5-10 v. spread)

Kansas City Chiefs (+9) @ New England Patriots (48.5): Patriots 30-20 Chiefs 42-20
Thursday, 8:30 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Clear, low 60s)

Reasons:  The Patriots started 2017 winning their 5th title by way of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and continued the year with arguably the greatest off season any NFL team has enjoyed, let alone a returning champion. The Kansas City Chiefs are no slouches themselves, but losing Spencer Ware could hurt considerably, especially with a (suddenly hyped) rookie Kareem Hunt in the wake. The Patriots suffered their own devastating injury to leading receiver Julian Edleman, but have enough to weapons returning and from their bountiful off-season to weather any storms. The name of this game will be the same old story - a still formidable Chiefs defense trying with all their might to rush the ageless Tom Brady and fend off the perennially best offense in the NFL at home on banner night. 

The Patriots were a very bad defensive pass interference call against Malcolm Butler and a broken coverage touchdown to Tyreek Hill from… losing 28-27. New England entered the 3rd quarter leading 27-21 before letting the Chiefs run all over them in the 3rd quarter for three rushing TDs, two by rookie Kareem Hunt, who coincidentally fumbled his first carry ever in the NFL after never having fumbled once in four years at Toledo (800+ carries). Hunt stole the show, breaking the rookie record for total yards from scrimmage (246). Danny Amendola’s concussion stifled the Patriots offense and linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s injury put New England's defense in shambles, as evidenced by the 3rd quarter. Tom Brady looked awful, losing the first game he had led at home going into the 4th quarter in over 100 such situations, and oft-injured Rob Gronkowski looked old and slow. The only New England highlight was wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who was mauled the entire night. The New England low-light was the awkward pregame ceremony, which was a disgrace, and likely fired up the Chiefs.

New York Jets (+9.5) @ Buffalo Bills (40): Bills 20-13 Bills 21-12
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Field, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Clear, low 60s)

Reasons: What a terrible game. The Bills will start quarterback Tyrod Taylor after a concussion scare, otherwise the Bills would've started rookie Nathan Peterson, actually giving New York a chance. The Jets want no part of any wins this season. Buffalo wins one of the ugliest games of the 2017 season Week 1 and will be in first place in the AFC East for at least a week.

This game lived up to the hype as one of the worst games of Week 1. The Jets offense was anemic and the Bills offense wasn’t as so anemic with LeSean McCoy rushing for 110 yards on 22 carries and Tyrod Taylor throwing two TDs on 28 passing attempts (Tolbert; Clay).

Atlanta Falcons (-7) @ Chicago Bears (49): Falcons 30-17 Falcons 23-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Clear, low 60s)

Reasons: The Falcons are probably dying to get back on the field after the most embarrassing Super Bowl defeat in history, and what better team to beat up on than the hapless Bears. Chicago will gain some ground yards, but the Falcons should be able to get to Mike Glennon, who doesn't have many weapons anyway. Matt Ryan should be able to pick apart the Bears if he stays away from Quintin Demps. Expect the Falcons to roll on the road.

Mike Glennon was sacked four times and hit ten total times, but Jordan Howard and Co. rushed for 119 yards on 22 carries (6.6 ypc), keeping the Bears in the game. 2016 MVP Matt Ryan got off to a slow start but threw for over 300 yards and a TD. The Bears had their chances late, which mean the Falcons might have more of a Super Bowel LI hangover than they thought.

Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ Cincinnati Bengals (48.5): Bengals 24-21 Ravens 20-0
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Clear, 60s)

Reasons: The Bengals begin 2017 with their star linebacker Vontaze Burfict suspended for being a dirty player and their most promising player on offense a rookie known best for his issues punching women in college. 2017 promises to be like every other year for the Bengals. That means they win a bunch of games, but have the character of a rabid dog, so no one expects anything of substance from them. Fortunately for Cincinnati the Ravens roll into town with a hobbled Joe Flacco and no real weapons at wide out for the first time in several years. This is one of the few games worth watching in the early afternoon, and could turn into a defensive battle.

Baltimore returned to their 2016 form to begin 2017 by forcing five turnovers, including four INTs by Andy Dalton, shutting out the Bengals 20-0. The Ravens offense didn’t look much better, with Joe Flacco only completing 7 of 19 passes, including a TD and an INT. Terrance West provided the other touchdown and lone offensive bright spot for Baltimore, rushing for 80 yards on 19 carries. The Ravens will rely on their defense a lot this season just as they did Sunday.

The Cleveland Browns still suck.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+8.5) @ Cleveland Browns (47): Steelers 28-17 Steelers 21-18
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Clear, 60s)

Reasons: The Steelers barely have to travel far to make short work of the worst team in the NFL Week 1, as their improving defense takes on rookie DeShone Kizer, Cleveland's 26th starting quarterback since the Browns became a football team again in 1999. Consider: 26 quarterbacks in 18 years. By comparison, Pittsburgh has had six starting quarterbacks in the same time frame, and that's if you count Charlie Batch as a starter throughout Roethlisberger's myriad injuries. Three of those quarterbacks also started during the Age of Kordell Stewart Denial. I could keep picking, but I digress.

The Steelers began the game blocking a punt and taking it to the house fewer then three minutes into the game, but things got hairy from the there. The Browns outscored the Steelers 18-14 the last 57 minutes of the game. DeShone Kizer looked great in his rookie debut, including the touchdown pass late in the 4th quarter to bring Cleveland within three points, but in the end, the Browns Browned and the blocked punt ended up being the difference in the game.

Arizona Cardinals (-1.5) @ Detroit Lions (48): Cardinals 24-21 Lions 35-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: One of the few great games of the early afternoon on paper, the Cardinals make the dreaded "cross-country" trip for the early game, and Detroit is just talented enough for that to make some difference. Fortunately for the Cardinals it's only Week 1. The Cardinals will be on the road with limited weapons and an aging quarterback against a solid defense, while the Lions are facing one of the best defenses in the league, especially against the pass, Detroit's one advantage otherwise. This game could turn into a defensive battle.

Matthew Stafford signed a $135 million contract extension late in the off-season and then immediately threw a pick-six in his first series of the 2017 season. Stafford more than made up for the early mistake by throwing four TDs. The Cardinals looked absolutely awful on offense, from Carson Palmer being sacked five times and throwing three INTs to David Johnson’s 23 yards on 11 carries capped off by a serious wrist injury. Early reports suggest Johnson could miss up to 6-8 weeks. Arizona came into the game and the season with the more highly touted defense, but it was the Lions defense that made noise Sunday. Arizona’s problems at quarterback could mount quickly.

Jacksonville Jaguars (+5) @ Houston Texans (40): Texans 21-17 Jaguars 29-7
Sunday, 1:00 PM, NGR Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: It's the moment we've all been waiting for: Leonard Fournette's debut. Let's see how easy the game really is for the former LSU star once he faces a dominant Texans defense, anchored by a healthy JJ Watt and the backing of the spirit of millions of Houstonians. Texans fans have been through hell, but are inching back towards normal, in part due to the $30+ million raised by Watt. What better way to start the NFL season then at home against the Jaguars! Jacksonville isn't a total joke, but their quarterback is, and the Texans front seven isn't. It's possible the stress of Hurricane Harvey lingers, but even if that's the case it's probably not enough to lose to Blake Bortles. Leonard Fournette will learn a valuable lesson Week 1, even if just in the context of difficulty.

I had a feeling the Texans would lay an egg two short weeks removed from the worst natural disaster in Houston’s history. Even local hero JJ Watt couldn’t have expected to snap right back into the football frame of mind after just having helped raise over $30 million up to, through, and beyond the game. Blake Bortles played terrible as expected and rookie Leonard Fournette merely lived up to some of the hype rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. This means the Jaguars defense actually lived up to the small amount of hype they’ve received from local fans and a few football pundits, sacking the Texans quarterbacks ten times, four by off-season acquisition Calais Campbell, forced and recovered three fumbles and intercepted Tom Savage once. Notice I said “quarterbacks”? That’s because the Jaguars chased Tom Savage right out of the game.

The league's most insufferable defensive superstar has become a national hero after raising more than $25 million for the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey 

Oakland Raiders (+2.5) @ Tennessee Titans (50.5): Titans 27-24 Raider 26-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Clear, low 60s)

Reasons: Two future faces of the NFL play each other Week 1 Sunday as Derek Carr faces Marcus Mariota, but for me it's more about a guy whose face we haven't seen in a year, Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode returns to the gridiron after a year of retirement, but before you ask the most misunderstood man in the league why, just appreciate his presence. He'll be needed Sunday because the Titans secondary will keep Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree grounded, especially after signing John Cyprien and drafting Adoree Jackson. This Titans squad runs with plenty of clout themselves, so expect a physical game and a tough first test for both teams.

The Titans clearly have some ground to gain if they’re going to compete with the elite teams of the AFC, as evidenced Sunday v. the Raiders. A relatively clean game, neither turned the ball over and both team committed only five penalties for exactly 49 yards. Marshawn Lynch picked up right where he left off, looking lean and mean, rushing for 76 yards on 18 carries; Derek Carr returned to pre-injury form, throwing for 262 yards and two TDs.

Philadelphia Eagles (-1) @ Washington Football Team (47.5): Eagles 24-21 Eagles 30-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Clear, low 60s)

Reasons: It's funny, the WFC runs a three wide receiver set yet they barely have two threats at wide receiver. Washington signed Terrelle Pryor to a one-year contract, but after letting Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson go, the WTC will rely heavily upon him and a hobbled Jamison Crowder to overcome a weak running game. Speaking of hobbled, the WTC will need Jordan Reed's availability to match his ability if they're going to beat the Eagles Week 1. Philadelphia and second-year quarterback Carson Wentz have a few new toys on offensive (LeGarrette Blount; Alshon Jeffery) and the Eagles defense is stout enough to snatch the chip off Kirk Cousins shoulder and eat it.

If the NFL weren’t loaded with laughable quarterbacks from the first week Kirk Cousins could have been the Monday morning joke, even if he did lead Washington in rushing. (That was a joke). That’s how bad it got for the WFC, but it’s not as if the Eagles soared. A late fumble by Cousins and returned by Fletcher Cox made an otherwise 22-17 game with the WFC driving down the field into a 30-17 Eagles victory. Still, the Eagles defense looked good, sacking Cousins four times while forcing three fumbles and an interception, but also suffered a serious blow losing cornerback Ronald Darby to an ugly ankle injury.

Indianapolis Colts (+3.5) @ Los Angeles Rams (41.5): Rams 20-17 Rams 46-9
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Weather: Stormy, 70s)

Reasons: If it weren't for the Bills/Jets game this would be the worst game of Week 1. The Rams are a talented young team without much experience and the Colts are like a ship without its captain. Hopefully a bunch of celebrities show up to the game and the broadcasters divide their time equally between pointing them out and speculating on Andrew Luck's return.

The Rams returned two of Scott Tolzien’s passes for TDs, dropped him for a safety, and sacked him four times as the Colts learned just how terrible they are without Andrew Luck. The Rams offense didn’t really inspire much against the Colts, either, but their defense sure did. Actually, maybe not, considering how terrible the Colts are. This was a great confidence booster for the young Rams, and it just may continue with games versus Washington and San Francisco the next two weeks before they quickly return to Earth to face the Cowboys and Seahawks to begin October. 

 The city that cared marginally about the one team it had off-and-on for years now has two other NFL teams to not care at all about.

Seattle Seahawks (+3) @ Green Bay Packers (51): Packers 24-23 Packers 17-9
Sunday, 4:20 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Clear, high 50s)

Reasons: We're getting a potential preview of the NFC Championship game in Week 1 as the league's best quarterback takes on the league's best defense. Jordy Nelson is healthy and Davante Adams seems to have figured it out, meaning Aaron Rodgers will have all three of his wide outs (Randall Cobb) healthy and primed, with recently signed tight end Marcellus Bennett waiting in the flat. The problem is, Bennett's twin brother Michael is on the other side of the ball, hunting down one Aaron Rodgers, and he just got some more help in Sheldon Richardson. Huh?! As if this Seahawks unit needed more help on a defensive unit stacked with All-Pros! With Russell Wilson healthy the sky is the limit, although they get one of their toughest tests of the season right out of the gate.

According to the box score Packers fans have much to be excited about, but if you watched the game you know three things: Cliff Avril did not block Aaron Rodgers in the back, which nullified a Seahawks pick-six, Bobby Lane did not throw a punch, which led to Lane’s ejection, and Jimmy Graham was interfered with, which took another four points off of the Seahawks board. In other words, the Packers really won 17-13 if you don’t count the Wagner nonsense, but do count the Graham nonsense, or the Packers tied the Seahawks 17-17 if you count both examples of nonsense. I’ll take it one further: If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t pull a Peyton Manning and catch the Seahawks with 12 men on the field as the scrambled to get their defense set and throw a surprise TD to Jordy Nelson, the Packers really won 10-9, and that’s without considering any of the aforementioned nonsense. In other words, the Packers didn’t even really win the game. Add that to the fact the Seahawks defense was on the field for 40 minutes and still held the Packers to 17 bush league points.

Carolina Panthers (-5.5) @ San Francisco 49ers (48): Panthers 27-17 Panthers 23-3
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Clear low 70s)

Reasons: The Panthers are traveling across the entire country and they're still nearly 6-point favorites. That should tell you how terrible the 49ers are. Carolina's defense isn't what it was a few years ago, but it will still manage to stifle this weak 49ers offense. The real intrigue will be health of Cam Newton's surgically repaired shoulder.

The Panthers defense sacked Brian Hoyer four times and forced him to fumble and throw an interception in this dominant win over the 49ers. Carolina’s offense didn’t blow anyone away, and hyped rookie running back Christian McCaffery fumbled away one of his 13 debut carries, but the Panthers scored enough to set the stage for their defense to thrive. Carolina won’t play the 49ers every week, but Cam Newton’s shoulder should improve, and with it perhaps some accuracy.  

New York Giants (+4) @ Dallas Cowboys (48): Cowboys 31-28 Cowboys 19-3
Sunday, 8:30 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Only the fireworks off the field could match the fireworks on the field during the Sunday Night Game of Week. The Ezekiel Elliot situation has everyone anxious and confused (spare me the legal justifications) and the Giants most electric player, for better and worse, is doubtful to even play. Whether Odell Beckham Jr. plays or not the game will be plenty entertaining, highlighted by the Dez Bryant/Janoris Jenkins match up. Will Dak Prescott hit the sophomore slump? Will the off-the-field-distractions overwhelm Dallas? Will OBJ create major distractions without even stepping foot onto the field? Will Jerry Jones announce his lawsuit against the NFL at halftime via descending midfield microphone as if he's announcing a boxing match? This game has it all.

Who knew the Giants offense relied on Odell Beckham Jr. this much? Apparently not the Giants as coach Bob MacAdoo emphatically stated that New York’s offense would be just fine without him. Maybe he was serious and “fine” to him meant one INT from the most overrated quarterback in NFL history or 16 rushing yards on seven carries from Paul Perkins. The Giants looked so bad Sunday Beckham could literally hold New York contract hostages and the Giants would have to meet every demand, up to and including footing the bill for the kicking net’s dress. The Cowboys, on the other hand, looked great against this stout New York defense, which only managed to knock Dak Prescott down three times. It must’ve infuriated Giants fans that Odell Beckham Jr. sat on the bench injured via cheap preseason hit while the Cowboys running back, who was supposed to be suspended, danced and smashed for over 100 rushing yards. The Cowboys defense looked great, too, albeit against the hapless Giants offense, sacking Manning three times and forcing an interception. Dallas may have ended up with the steal of the 2017 draft, too, as second year linebacker Jaylon Smith (7 total tackles) brought young energy to the team after returning from a gruesome knee injury two years ago.

For the second consecutive season the NFL botched an investigation resulting in the lengthy suspension of a superstar to start the season...or maybe not.

New Orleans Saints (+3.5) @ Minnesota Vikings (48): Vikings 24-21 Vikings 29-19
Monday, 7:10 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Cloudy, low 60s)

Reasons: Adrian Peterson steps onto the field at US Bank Field in Minneapolis as a Saint. That might sound normal to a Vikings fan without a TV or the internet, but to those of us who know Peterson was traded to the New Orleans Saints, the situation is weird...and awesome. You can't make this stuff up. Peterson will be looking to show the Vikings they made a huge mistake, but the second Adrian sees Dalvin Cook blow by him on the sidelines he'll understand. The days of Drew Brees breaking records are waning, but there's still enough gas in the tank to score plenty of points. That won't be easy against this Vikings defense, however, as Minnesota gave up the 6th fewest in 2016. In fact, I'd be surprised if Brees accomplishes much on Sunday.

Adrian Peterson argued with his new head coach about football philosophies while rookie running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries to break Peterson’s Vikings rookie rushing record in Minneapolis. It wasn’t a great homecoming for Ol’ Switch. Sam Bradford silenced critics with an amazing 27-32 (84%) passing performance for 346 yards and three TDs. Drew Brees was efficient himself, but even New Orleans 10-point 4th quarter was matched by Minnesota, and wasn’t enough to even compete with the Vikings at home. The post-Adrian Peterson era has arrived in Minnesota and it looks like Dalvin Cook.

Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) @ Denver Broncos (43.5): Broncos 24-21 Broncos 24-21
Monday, 10:20 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Possible storms, 60s)

Reasons: The Chargers are one talented team, but relatively young. That poses a big problem against such a formidable veteran defense, and is really the only reason Denver stands a chance. Still, youth could overcome altitude, and when Denver has resorted to resigning Brock Osweiler you know the quarterback situation in Denver is shaky at best. It takes a quarterback to win in this league, but having stellar defense doesn't hurt.

The Broncos held the Chargers to fewer than 140 total yards through the first three quarters and led 24-7 midway into the 4th. Then the Chargers defense took over. Adrian Phillips picked off Trevor Siemian and 2:27 minutes later Phillip Rivers hit Keenan Allen in the end zone to make it a 21-14 game. The very next series Jamal Charles fumbled, the Chargers recovered, and 22 seconds later we had a 24-21 game by way of another Rivers touchdown. Denver continued to unravel, missing a 50-yard field goal, setting up Chargers rookie kicker Younghoe Koo to attempt to tie the game in his NFL debut. His initial kick attempt went right down the middle, but was iced by the Broncos head coach. Koo's next attempt was blocked and my week ended on a perfect call.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Miami Dolphin: Good luck, Tampa Bay and Miami. 
POSTPONED (Weather: Hurricane)

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


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