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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tuesday's Gone: Week 9 #NFL Game Review


Week 9: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 9 results: 8-5 wins (season: 72-47; .605); 7-6 v. spread (season: 60-59; .504)

Buffalo Bills 5-2 (-3) @ New York Jets 3-4 (42.5): Bills 23-17 Jets 34-21
Thursday, 8:25 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Cloudy; low 60s)

Reasons: The Bills are 5-2 and only a half game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East, which is a pretty big deal through Week 9. The Jets aren’t nearly as bad as advertised, but they’re still 3-4 with no real intentions of accomplishing anything. So it’s a funny thing when one looks into these two teams statistically and sees many similarities (time of possession, yards per play, yards gained, points), especially along the offensive side of the ball, but even with yards allowed (BUF: 22nd; NYJ: 25th). Yards allowed is where the defensive similarities between these two teams end and the two-game separation becomes clear. Buffalo has the 3rd-ranked scoring defense, allowing only 16.4 ppg (PIT allows 16.4 ppg, but has played 8 games), and the Bills lead the NFL in the most important statistic in football: turnover ratio (+14). 

Tyrod Taylor was sacked seven times and the Bills lost three fumbles as Buffalo fell to 1-3 on the road, just when a win would have given Buffalo a share of the AFC East divisional lead. Maybe be more alarming was Buffalo gaving up 34 points and allowed 194 rushing yards on 4.7 yards per carry.

Baltimore Ravens 4-4 (+3.5) @ Tennessee Titans 4-3 (43): Titans 21-20 Titans 23-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Partly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Ravens don’t turn the ball over much (7th TO ratio) and posses a top-10 defense (5th point allowed; 10th yards allowed), but that’s the only reason they’re 4-4, because the Baltimore offense, led by the very un-elite Joe Flacco, cannot gain yards (31st) and are one of the worst 3rd-down efficiency team in the NFL (28th). The Titans are right there in 3rd-down efficiency (27th), but are the opposite of the Ravens in points allowed, meaning they’re one of the worst (24.7 ppg allowed; ranked 26th). One then has to wonder why the Titans are still favored by more than the customary home three points, because Tennessee is a supposedly much better team at home, but they’re only 2-1; the Ravens are 2-2 on the road this year. This will be a close one.

The Ravens never led in the game as the Titans came off of their bye to win their third-straight game to keep pace with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-5 (+7) @ New Orleans Saints 5-2 (52): Saints 28-23 Saints 30-10
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints come into Week 9 one of the hottest, if not the hottest team in the league, but the most surprising aspect of that unexpected surge is the Saints defense, the laughing stock of the league for much of the past decade, is suddenly 12th in the league in points allowed, and have only allowed 16 ppg over their five-game winning streak, which would place them second in the league overall by mere tenths of a point over that span. The Buccaneers are trending in the opposite direction, as the team that many had winning the NFC South is struggling with injuries and consistent play from quarterback Jameis Winston (10 TDs; 6 INTs).

The Saints routed to Buccaneers with an efficient game from Drew Brees (22-27 for 263 passing yards; 2 TDs), but the low-light for Tampa Bay was when their immature leader Jameis Winston (2 sacks; left game with a shoulder injury) instigated a fight with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (4 tackles; 1 PD), which led to Mike Evans (1 reception on 6 targets for 13 yards) launching at Lattimore, earning him a one-game suspension. It's no wonder the Buccaneers are 2-6.

Los Angeles Rams 5-2 (-4) @ New York Giants 1-6 (42): Rams 27-20 Rams 51-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: 60% rain; low 60s)

Reasons: Theoretically the Giants have no shot, which usually means the game will be close or even that the underdog wins out. That probably doesn’t happen here. Not only is the Giants season essentially over with the attrition they’ve dealt with, but the Los Angeles Rams are for real. Even with second-year quarterback Jared Goff still finding his way (59%; 9 TDs; 4 INTs) the offensive line and running back Todd Gurley (627 rushing yards; 4.3 ypc; 5 TDs) have literally paved the way for an offense that ranks 9th in yards gained, 6th in yards per play, 2nd in points scored (30.3 ppg) and 1st in 3rd-down efficiency and point differential (10.6 ppg), which is to say nothing about the Rams stellar defense. New York is none of those things.

This game was a microcosm into two quarterback's trending careers, one who threw four touchdown passes on a young team on the rise (Jared Goff), while the other threw another interception trying to force the ball to a rookie tight end  because he has no weapons or desire left (Eli Manning). Attrition notwithstanding, it's hard to believe the team many had as a sleeper to win the NFC is 1-7 and looking towards rebuilding.

Denver Broncos 3-4 (+7.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 7-1 (43.5): Eagles 21-17 Eagles 51-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: 40% rain; low 60s)

Reasons: The Broncos are reeling, losers of three straight by an average score of 24-10. What’s worse is Denver hasn’t won on the road yet this season, while the Eagles haven’t lost yet at home. That’s not a good sign for Denver, which is losing because they can’t score points, although the 24 ppg the Broncos have allowed in those three games is nearly a touchdown (5.5 ppg) more per game than they were allowing during their first four games, a stretch that produced a 3-1 record. The Eagles, on the other hand, are flying high with the best record in the NFL and a top-10 ranking in every crucial statistic with the exception of yards per play (12th), which can be explained away by several Philadelphia takeaways that led to short yardage TDs and a poor running game earlier in the season. The Eagles just traded for Jay Ajayi (465 rushing yards; 3.4 ypc), so the running game should be fine.

Carson Wentz has the fourth-worst passing percentage (60.5%) of quarterbacks with a minimum of 100 pass attempts, putting him ahead of the likes of CJ Beathard (50.9), Deshone Kizer (52.1), Blake Bortles (59.1) and Jared Goff (60.2%); he's 12th in passing yards per game (251.3) and is only 8th in yards per attempt (7.8). Wentz also leads the NFL in wins (8) and touchdown passes (23), however, and he just put up 51 points on the league's top defense. Wentz isn't the best quarterback in the NFL, but he's one of them, and the Eagles aren't the best team in the NFL, but...are they?

Atlanta Falcons 4-3 (-2) @ Carolina Panthers 5-3 (42.5): Panthers 21-20 Panthers 20-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: I’m not quite sure why, but the Falcons just played the AFC East in four straight games and came out of it 1-3, barely beating the New York Jets to finish to with a division they’ll be glad to avoid for four years. The Panthers haven’t been much more consistent, going 2-2 in the same span, while also dealing with Cam Newton’s fragile and complicated mind, which tends to cause major distractions for Carolina. The Panthers defense (2nd points allowed; 4th yards allowed) is the only reason this team is 5-3, and the offense just lost a huge weapon in Kelvin Benjamin, traded to the Buffalo Bills for draft picks, so the defense will continue to be the only reason they win. Nothing has gone right for the Falcons since they started 3-0, and that trend will likely continue Sunday.

Cam Newton led the Panthers in passing and rushing again Sunday, and again only managed 223 total yards, but instead of losing again, the Panthers found a way to squeak out the win against the formerly good Falcons. Anyone who says the Panthers are "back" or that they're suddenly Super Bowl contenders because they're 6-3 and the defense is playing great is delusional. As for the Falcons, I love being right (refer to my preseason predictions).

Cincinnati Bengals 3-4 (+5.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 4-3 (39): Jaguars 24-17 Jaguars 23-7
Sunday, 1:00 PM, EverBank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: The Jaguars are suddenly one of the best teams in the NFL, at least statistically, and are an OT loss to the New York Jets away from a 5-2 record. I only mention this because Jacksonville is much better than their record would suggest, ranking in the top-10 in yards per play (9th), points (8th; 26.1 ppg), yards allowed (6th), time of possession (5th), turnover ration (3rd), point differential (2nd) and lead the NFL in points allowed. The only thing the Bengals possess is a dominant defense (5th yards allowed; 9th points allowed), meaning we’re probably in store for a low-scoring game.

This game featured Leonard Fournette being benched for insubordination before the game even began, a shouting match between Blake Bortles and Doug Marrone, and a hilarious fight between AJ Green and Jaguars rookie Jalen Ramsey that had Green punching Ramsey's helmet as he tried to get on injured reserve to save the embarrassment of being on the field with the Bengals the rest of 2017. What this game didn't feature was any offense from Cincinnati, which only managed eight first downs and a measly 148 total yards.   

Indianapolis Colts 2-6 (+7) @ Houston Texans 3-4 (46): Texans 24-21 Colts 20-14
Sunday, 1:00 PM, NRG Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: What a bummer. Deshaun Watson was well on his way to shattering the rookie record for TD passes (26), held by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, because he already had 19 touchdown passes through 5.5 games, but the football gods did smite owner Bob McNair for his racist comments regarding his and other NFL players and poor Watson was lost for the season to a non-contact knee injury.  The Colts also lost their franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, for the season, which was more denial than karma, but the Colts are a joke anyway (-13.0 point differential). So basically what we have Sunday between these two teams is a bitter, broken AFC South match up.

Watch as the Texans ship continues to sink but they don't sign the one quarterback that not only fits their system, but could turn their season around: Colin Kaepernick.

Arizona Cardinals 3-4 (-2.5) @ San Francisco 49ers 0-8 (39.5): 49ers 24-20 Cardinals 20-10
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: The 49ers don’t seem like the worst team in the NFL, but they are this week because the other, worse, 0-8 team, the Cleveland Browns, is on a bye. They could be the worst team, in general, because they’re not only win-less, but the 49ers are the only team other than the Indianapolis Colts that ranks in the bottom 25% of every major statistical category (e.g. even Cleveland ranks in the top-30% in yards allowed), and the 49ers rank just above the Colts in point differential (-10.8). For the record, the Browns rank just below the 49ers in point differential (-10.4). Guess who ranks just below the Browns? The Arizona Cardinals (-10.3), who are sinking faster than a cardinal who just spotted a much bigger bird coming to eat it. 

Adrian Peterson rushed for 159 yards on 37 carries (4.3 ypc) and was the lone old highlight in a game that featured Drew Stanton v. CJ Beathard in a sport where people are wondering why the ratings are down.

Washington Football Team 3-4 (+7) @ Seattle Seahawks 5-2 (44): Seahawks 27-21 Washington 17-14
Sunday, 4:05 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: 50% rain; low 40s)

Reasons: The Seattle Seahawks are mudders, and Sunday is going to be a mudder kind of game. Washington has to play in the driving rain for the second week in a row, but it wasn’t 42° last week. Washington hovers around mediocrity while the Seahawks have turned a slow start into a 5-2 tie for the division lead with a Seattle team that would rank in the top-10 in every meaningful category if not for a 41-38 battle with potential Rookie of the Year Deshaun Watson last week. I don’t like Washington’s chances anyway, especially traveling to Seattle in the cold rain.

Seattle is inconsistent offensively to say the least, with quarterback Russell Wilson (347 total yards; 2 INTs; 2 TDs) leading the team in passing and rushing, again, but their defense is so dominant that Seattle was 5-2 coming into the game, and it almost won them another game Sunday. Sound familiar? It should, except Russell Wilson isn't the headcase Cam Newton is. Washington took the ball down the field and scored the game-winning touchdown in the final minute to stun the Seahawks at home.

Kansas City Chiefs 6-2 (+2.5) @ Dallas Cowboys 4-3 (53.5): Cowboys 28-27 Cowboys 28-17
Sunday, 4:25 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The game of the week is a confusing one, because this spread was originally a pick, which would make sense if Ezekiel Elliot was playing, but he wasn’t when this spread was released at the start of the week. That would’ve made sense because Elliot is a running force and the Chiefs can’t stop the run. Now Elliot is playing, thanks to the most annoying and confusing court proceedings known to man, so the spread makes a bit more sense with Dallas instilling enough confidence in bettors to give the 6-2 Chiefs 2.5 points. The Cowboys are home, have their star running back, at least again for this week, and the Kansas City defense isn’t even good (19th points allowed; 30th yards allowed), let alone the dominant defense we all expected. The Chiefs offense is a juggernaut, however, and the Cowboys will have a tough time slowing them down. Both teams are 2-2 in their last four games, and Dallas has lost their last two home games, although those losses were to the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers, before they lost Aaron Rodgers, but Elliot is feeding off the domestic violence accusation distractions, and Dak Prescott’s dismissals, and starting to carry this Cowboys team.

The Chiefs have now lost three of their last four games and have gone from the league's best team to a team that only beat the best teams in the NFL their first two games (NE; PHI). At least people will be talking about the Hill Mary for years. The Cowboys are a week-to-week drama so of course suspended-until-the-last-hour Ezekiel Elliot (93 rushing yards on 27 carries) scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter, and was basically the difference in the game.

Oakland Raiders 3-5 (-3) @ Miami Dolphins 4-3 (44): Dolphins 23-21 Raiders 27-24
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: 20% rain; low 70s)

Reasons: This game will not be pretty. The Dolphins once dominant defense is slipping (7th yards allowed; 15th points allowed), having given up 68 points the past two weeks, but they’re still good enough to stop an Oakland offense (20th overall) that has underperformed to say the least. The Dolphins offense is record-breaking abysmal (32nd points scored; 32nd yards gained), managing only 13.1 ppg, so the hapless Raiders defense (23rd points allowed; 26th yards allowed) won’t have to worry about stopping anyone. Getcha’ popcorn ready, but don’t cook it on the stove in case you fall asleep.

Jay Cutler threw for 311 yards and three TDs on 75% passing, and even threw a touchdown to bring the Dolphins within three points with under two minutes to go in the game, but the Raiders won out by overcoming two turnovers and on a pair of rushing touchdowns from Marshawn Lynch. 

Detroit Lions 3-4 (-2) @ Green Bay Packers 4-3 (43.5): Lions 24-20 Lions 30-17
Monday, 8:30 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Freezing; low 30s)

Reasons: Is any game featuring the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers worth watching? It reminds me of the famous philosophical question about the falling tree making a noise in an empty wood. That’s how I picture the Packers on Monday night: Falling trees making no noise with no one watching. Having said that, I’m putting my trust in the indoor Detroit Lions of all teams, at Lambeau Field, in freezing temperatures. Why do I feel like I’m going to regret this?

The Green Bay Packers look a little different without Aaron Rodgers, and the other Aaron - Jones, the supposed only hope for any Rodger-less success - was held in check for the first time since he burst onto the scene a few weeks ago. The Lions took advantage of the wounded Packers and jumped all over the chance to be 4-4, in a year in which all of a sudden .500 could win the division.

Week 9 #NFL byes: Chicago Bears; Cleveland Browns; Los Angeles Chargers; Minnesota Vikings; New England Patriots; Pittsburgh Steelers

Stay tuned for Week 10 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday mornings!

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