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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday’s Gone: Week 9 #NFL Game Reviews


Tuesday’s Gone: Week 9 #NFL Game Reviews

Week 9 results: 10-3 (wins); 4-9 (v. spread); 7-6 (O/U)
Season totals: 89-43-2 .674 (wins); 62-69-3 .473 (v. sp); 72-61-1 .541 (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).

This week's Thursday Night Football game is a gem, featuring both Bay Area NFL teams with a stellar combined record of 2-13 (.133).

Oakland Raiders 1-6 (+3) @ San Francisco 49ers 1-7 (47): 49ers 24-22 49ers 34-3
Thursday, 8:20 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Clear; high-50s)

Reasons: This is the second week in a row the 49ers play in a putrid game. San Francisco can only be responsible for 50% of that and this week they host the equally terrible Oakland Raiders, who just so happen to reside across the Bay. These poor Bay Area football fans. Not only are Raiders fans losing their team, but these fans are suffering through an unexpected rebuild with a crazy person at the wheel. The 49ers were building a team themselves until Jimmy Garoppolo made the most inexplicable “move” in his career and jeopardized his, and the 49ers, future. These are two of the worst teams in the NFL. The Raiders gain mediocre yard totals (17th) as they desperately try to keep up with their opponents; the 49ers only allow a moderate number of yards (17th). Besides those metrics both teams rank in the bottom 25% of the league in the important metrics from points scored and allowed, to sacks and INTS and turnover ratios. I’d say this game is about as unpredictable as Jon Gruden, especially considering we don’t even know if Beat Hard’s wrist is healed.

Nick Mullins threw three touchdowns against the Raiders to single-handily beat the Oakland Grudens Thursday night. Never heard of Nick Mullins? Neither has anyone else. I wonder if he’s been hitting up Gruden’s cell phone, too?

Chicago Bears 4-3 (-9.5) @ Buffalo Bills 2-6 (37): Bears 24-14 Bears 41-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The Bears are quietly one of the best teams in football, despite their modest 4-3 record, which can largely be explained away by fluky or Patriots losses and wins against teams with a combined 13-18 (.419) record. Regardless, Chicago ranks in the top-10 in total offense and defense, points scored and points against, turnover ratio, sacks, interceptions, 3rd-down efficiency and time of possession. The Bills are ranked high in none of those metrics, except total defense (6th). Buffalo simply can’t score and will send Nathan Peterman to the slaughter Sunday. Normally I’d stay clear of 9.5-point road favorites, but this is a serious mismatch. 

They were who we thought they were. – Dennis Green

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-4 (+6.5) @ Carolina Panthers 5-2 (55): Panthers 28-24 Panthers 42-28
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; mid-60s)

Reasons: The Bucs have gone with early season firecracker Ryan Fitzmagic (13 TDs; 5 INTs) against the Panthers Sunday, benching Jameis Winston (7 TOT TDs; 10 INTs; 4 FUM) for the millionth time in his short career. Tampa Bay averages 28.7 ppg (7th) and has the top-ranked total offense; they’re absolutely awful at everything else. Fitzpatrick certainly gives the Bucs the best chance to win, but Cam Newton (17 TOT TDs) and the Panthers are 4-0 at home this season.

The Panthers put up 42 points on the worst defense in the NFL, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it was interesting to see the Bucs put up 28 on the Panthers great defense, which is Tampa Bay’s average and nearly a touchdown more than the Panthers give up on average. Some won’t blink an eye, as the Bucs can move the ball as well as anyone, but I’m looking towards future games against teams like the New Orleans Saints. Tighten it up, Carolina.

Kansas City Chiefs 7-1 (-8.5) @ Cleveland Browns 2-5-1 (52): Chiefs 33-24 Chiefs 37-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Partly Sunny; high 50s

Reasons: I wish I could say something positive about the Browns, who certainly look better than they have in a long time, yet remain 2-5-1 and in turmoil. Cleveland just fired Hue Jackson, kept Todd Haley and promoted Gregg “Bounty Gate” Williams. Are you effing kidding me? That’s about the worst system you could surround rookie Baker Mayfield with. Cleveland has a winning record at home (2-1-1), but are 1-4 in their last five games, averaging only 21.8 ppg, with a 42-point game against the Raiders inflating things.  It’s business as usual for the Chiefs, who have rolled through every opponent they have faced expect the New England Patriots, who they brought to the brink.

The Browns gave the Chiefs one of their biggest tests of the year, which could’ve been expected as the new look Browns, as far as coaching is concerned, should’ve come out with some fire lit under them. Unfortunately, that test only lasted the first half and the Chiefs came out and dropped 13 in the 3rd quarter alone and never looked back. Fake rookie Patrick Mahomes threw three more TDs in his MVP campaign while the real rookie Baker Mayfield continued through the learning process and was injured, again. 

 This is basically the only picture I can get of Sam Darnold that is licensed for reuse.

New York Jets 3-5 (+3) @ Miami Dolphins 4-4 (45): Dolphins 24-23 Dolphins 13-6
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: 20% rain; low 80s)

Reasons: Both of these teams suck at everything but intercepting the ball (NYJ: 5th; MIA: 2nd) so I would expect plenty of INTs Sunday.

Sam Darnold threw four INTs and made your boy feel like a genius. Just kidding, anyone could’ve predicted that. If not for a 4th quarter touchdown this is a field goal fest.

Pittsburgh Steelers 4-2-1 (+3) @ Baltimore Ravens 4-4 (47): Ravens 27-24 Steelers 23-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny; high 50s)

Reasons: The Ravens have lost three of their last four games and are suddenly .500 after starting the season 3-1, while the Steelers have won three games in a row after starting the season 1-2-1, setting up the potential for Pittsburgh to get within smelling distance of the AFC North lead after a disastrous start. Le’Veon Bell is still a no-show, but that hasn’t slowed the Steelers top-5 offense. The defense has been an issue, but it’s not the Baltimore offense Pittsburgh needs to be worried about – it’s the Ravens defense. The Ravens have the top-ranked total defense and lead the league in points against and sacks. Las Vegas is expecting a defensive battle, which is strange for two teams averaging a combined 54.6 ppg. The rivalry is fierce and therein might lie the answer to a suppressed O/U.

The Ravens have gone from Super Bowl contenders to entering their mid-season swoon where Joe Flacco’s horrible play actually starts to creep in and effect the entire Baltimore team. Flacco failed to throw a single touchdown pass and the Ravens only managed 265 total yards against a mediocre Steelers defense. You can argue about rivalries all you want; this game was about the sudden collapse of what once was a scary Baltimore team.

Detroit Lions 3-4 (+5) @ Minnesota Vikings 4-3-1 (49.5): Vikings 27-24 Vikings 24-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors) 

Reasons: If my cousin hadn’t pointed out I’ve been writing about the Vikings playing in an open stadium for two years I would’ve talked about how the Lions would be out of their comfy confines of their dome and in the Minnesota cold, but alas, it’s the same difference. There’s also not much difference between these two teams, except for on paper the Vikings have a much better defense. The Lions just traded away Golden Tate, which means they could be beginning to think about waving the white flag. The Vikings at home could be a smart place to wave that flag, although the Buffalo Bills won there.

The Vikings have to be happy with the win, especially holding the Lions to nine points after Detroit has averaged 24.4 ppg all season. However, the Vikings still have yet to put up the consistent dominating performances we expected in 2018, or better put, their talent warrants. If not for a Danielle Hunter fumble return touchdown midway through the 4th quarter the Vikings offense would have been exposed, especially considering the Lions are 26th in the league in points against (26.6 ppg). Regardless, the Vikings remain in control of their destiny, which is all an NFL team can ask for.

Atlanta Falcons 3-4 (+1.5) @ Washington Football Team 5-2 (47): WFT 26-24 Falcons 38-14
Sunday, 1:00 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Sunny; high 50s)

Reasons: Don’t look now, but Washington is pretty good. Anchored by Alex Smith the game manager and a resurgent Adrian Peterson on his way to another 1,000-yard season, Washington also boasts a top-5 defense and have the 3rd-ranked turnover ratio. The Falcons are essentially none of those things; in fact, they’re one of the three worst defenses in the league. The Falcons can score points (27.1 ppg 11th), however, and their seventh-ranked offense is efficient (2nd in 3rd-down efficiency) and deadly at times. This is one of the hardest games to call in Week 8, but Washington is on a roll and Atlanta is unpredictable on the road.

You know it’s bad when Alex Smith leads the team in rushing. The score almost seems flipped at first glance, especially considering Washington came into the game with one of the best defenses in the NFL and were playing at home. Such wasn’t the case, and Matt Ryan took advantage of the one weakness the Washington defenses has, their inability to stop the pass, and threw four passing touchdowns to Travis Coleman (2), Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, who continues to crush his rookie campaign. 

DeAndre Hopkins lost fellow wide out William Fuller IV to injury, but got another wide out in Demarius Thomas via trade from the Denver Broncos.

Houston Texans 5-3 (+1) @ Denver Broncos 3-5 (46.5): Texans 24-21 Texans 19-17
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Partly Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The Texans and Deshaun Watson (16 TOT TDs; 7 INTs) are back to playoff form, winners of five straight games after starting the season 0-3. The Broncos are trending in the opposite direction, going 1-4 in the last five games, while trading off one of their best offensive players in wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was traded to, you guessed it, the Houston Texans, who were able to replace the recently injured William Fuller IV. Thomas won’t replace Fuller completely, but will certainly help stretch the field and keep DeAndre Hopkins single-covered. The Broncos are home, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean much anymore with a mediocre defense.

Demaryius Thomas (3 REC for 61 YDs) was traded to the Texans, immediately plays the Broncos in Denver and helped Houston escape with a win after Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal as time expired.

Los Angeles Chargers 5-2 (+1.5) @ Seattle Seahawks 4-3 (48): Chargers 24-23 Chargers 25-17
Sunday, 4:05 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: 70% rain; high 50s)

Reasons: This is one of the sneaky best games of Week 8. The Chargers have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league (6th total offense; 8th points scored – 27.9 ppg), while the Seahawks have climbed back into the ranks of the league’s best defenses (4th PA – 18.7 ppg; 5th total defense) despite missing the Legion of Boom. The Chargers are 2-1 on the road and are coming off their bye, they’re disciplined (6th PEN) and have one of the best turnover ratios in the league (4th) aided by their ball-hawking abilities (8th INTs). All of this should be enough to overcome the 12th Man, where Seattle is only 1-1 so far in 2018.

The Chargers continued to chip away at their place among the elite in the AFC after beating the Seahawks in Seattle Sunday. Los Angeles held the Seahawks to only 17 points, survived a late push from Russell Wilson (235 PASS YDS; 2 TDs; 1 INT) and the Chargers offense kept rolling with Keenan Allen (6 REC; 124 REC YDS) and Melvin Gordon (16 CAR for 113 YDS; 1 TD) under the leadership of MVP candidate Phillip Rivers (19 TDs; 114 RATING), who played in his 200th consecutive game.

Los Angeles Rams 8-0 (+1.5) @ New Orleans Saints 6-1 (60): Saints 31-30 Saints 45-35
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: This game opened with a record-breaking O/U of 60 points, narrowly edging out the then record-breaking opening 59.5 O/U in the KC vs NE game Week 6. You can almost guarantee that O/U will be surpassed, if not obliterated. This game features the NFL’s two offensive juggernauts, the 2nd- and 3rd-ranked scoring offenses in the league separated by a mere 0.4 ppg. The difference in the game will likely be between the Rams stellar defense (6th PA – 19.4 ppg; 8th total defense; 9th sacks) and the Saints home field advantage, which started slow with a loss and a near OT game with the Cleveland Browns, but rebounded with a destruction of the Washington Football Team Week 5. Both teams are relatively healthy and on fire. I expect a shoot out of epic proportions, with the Saints slightly edging the Rams and giving Los Angeles their first loss of the season.

The Saints proved they’re the cream of the NFL crop Sunday, pushing aside the young undefeated Rams and handing them their first loss, and a glimpse of life outside Los Angeles if they don’t secure home field advantage, which will certainly be harder now. It’s interesting that every other star in the league gets a pass for their shortcomings, yet here is Drew Brees, playing without a defense again and the first truly dynamic running back we’ve seen in New Orleans in years (Alvin Kamara: 19 CAR for 82 RUSH YDS; 2 TDs) at his usual All-Pro MVP status. Brees threw four more touchdowns Sunday, his 18th of the year, on 346 passing yards, 211 of which went to Michael Thomas, who paid homage to the old Joe Horn flip phone in the end zone celebration dance with his only touchdown. The game was tied at the ten-minute mark, but 10 unanswered points, including the aforementioned flip phone TD, sealed the game for the Saints.


Green Bay Packers 3-3-1 (+6) @ New England Patriots 6-2 (56.5): Patriots 31*-27 Patriots 31*-17
Sunday, 8:20PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Cloudy; high-30s)

Reasons: The man crushing is over; the psychological mind games have ceased and now two of the best quarterbacks of their generation battle Sunday night in the NFL Game of the Week. The Patriots have silenced all of the haters and Patriots-demise-hopeful critics, winning five straight after starting the season 1-2. The Packers have been toiling in mediocrity all season, and would have a losing record if not for a miraculous 4th-quarter comeback against the Chicago Bears Week 1. Aaron Rodgers (13 TDs; 1 INT) is putting up MVP numbers, but something isn’t the same and it goes beyond his injured knee. Tom Brady isn’t putting up MVP numbers (16 TDs; 7 INTs), but once again has his team in total control and on their way to dominating the AFC again in 2018 after taking down the upstart Kansas City Chiefs Week 6. The cheat sheet is out on these two teams: A dynamic offense (NE ranks 4th in points scored – 29.9 ppg) led by future Hall-of-Famer Brady versus the dynamic offense known as future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers with two mediocre defenses just hoping not to be embarrassed on national television. Soak this game in folks, they don’t happen often.

Damn Packers ruined my two-team over parlay, managing only a putrid 17 points against the team giving up over 23 ppg, despite having the supposed best quarterback in the NFL at the helm in Aaron Rodgers (259 PASS YDS; 2 TDs). The play wasn’t really about the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, though, as the media had obsessed over. No, the game was about coaching and Bill Belichick clearly won it, utilizing a quick pace method that had the undersized Packers on their heels only to abandon the style once the Packers adapted. So much of the NFL is about adjustments and New England simply makes more of the right ones than most other teams, which was on display Sunday night.

The Dallas Cowboys have relied on young stars Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott to varied results, so the addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper via trade with the oakland Raiders should help.

Tennessee Titans 3-4 (+6.5) @ Dallas Cowboys 3-4 (41): Cowboys 20-17 Titans 28-14
Monday, 8:15 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Simply put this game features two of the league’s best defenses against two of the league’s worst offenses. Tennessee ranks 3rd in points against (18.1 ppg) and 11th in total defense while Dallas ranks 2nd in points against and 3rd in total defense. The similarities don’t stop there; neither team ranks higher than 26th in total offense or points scored, hence one of the lowest O/U total of the season not involving the Buffalo Bills. Both teams have been a disappointment so far in 2018, but what hasn’t been disappointing, but certainly surprising, is Dallas’ home record (3-0), which for once could be the difference in the game in their favor. Recently traded wide receiver Amari Cooper could be another difference, but for some reason, I just don’t see it playing a factor…yet.

So much for the bye week. So much for the undefeated home record. So much for giving up a first round draft pick for Amari Cooper. So much for displaying that new toy on the national stage on Monday Night Football. Dak Prescott was abysmal Monday night, committing two critical turnovers that led to 14 Tennessee points. Prescott (243 PASS YDS; 2 TDs) did find Cooper for a touchdown, the first score of the game to be exact, but the thunderous roars of joy turned into a quiet murmur as the game progressed and Marcus Mariota (240 PASS YDS; 3 TOT TDs) torched one of the NFL’s best defenses in their own house. All is not well in Dallas, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better anytime soon.

 BYEs: Arizona; Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; New York (N); Philadelphia 

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

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