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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday's Gone: Week 8 #NFL Game Reviews


2017 NFL SEASON

Week 8: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 8 results: 11-2 wins (season: 64-42; .604); 6-7 v. spread (season: 53-53; .500)


Miami Dolphins 4-2 (+3) @ Baltimore Ravens 3-4 (37.5): Dolphins 20-17 Ravens 40-0
Thursday, 8:25 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Clear; low 50s)

Reasons: The Dolphins come into Thursday night’s game winners of three straight, despite losing Jay Cutler (7 TDs; 5 INTs), because Matt Moore might be a better fit anyway.  The Ravens have lost two straight, and four of their last five, although one of those loses came in OT (27-24 to CHI) and three of those four losses have come against three of the best defenses in the NFL (JAX, PIT, MIN). Now Baltimore faces their fourth top-10 defense in five weeks as Miami comes into the game ranked 10th in yards allowed and 6th in points allowed; the Dolphins also happen to have one of the worst offenses in the league (31st points scored; 32nd yards gained), which makes the Ravens task not as daunting. Baltimore isn’t the same team anymore, though, and their polarizing leader Terrell Suggs is questionable, meaning the Ravens defense that yields over 145 rushing yards a game could let the Dolphins and running back Jay Ajayi (442 rushing yards; 3.5 ypc) run wild.

I don’t mind being wrong, but being so wrong on the first game of the week was tough; not quite as tough as Joe Flacco had it on a penalized, but not dirty, hit by Kiko Alonzo, but tough. Flacco was concussed in the first half attempting to gain a first down when Alonzo hit him in what ended up being the head area. After the dust settled and John Harbaugh gave out his weekly Bush League Award the Ravens went about destroying the Dolphins on national television and making your boy look foolish.

Minnesota Vikings 5-2 (-9.5) @ Cleveland Browns 0-7 (38): Vikings 24-17 Vikings 33-16
Sunday, 9:30 AM, Twickenham Stadium, London, England (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Normally I’d crack a joke about hoe we’ve given London the worst slate of games imaginable, but the truth is, the London games have been pretty exciting, at least from the standpoint of scoring. There not be much of that Sunday morning (in the United States, anyway) as the Vikings come into the game with one of the most feared defenses in the NFL to accompany to pretty good offense, with or without Sam Bradford. The Browns, on the other hand, are hopeless.

The Browns held a 16-15 lead towards the end of the 3rd quarter, but 17 unanswered points by the Vikings, mostly on the arm of Case Keenum, gave anyone who wasn’t watching the game the impression it was probably a Minnesota blowout from beginning to end. In a way it was a blowout. The Vikings held the Browns to only 276 yards on just over 22 minutes of possession, forcing two turnovers and sacking struggling rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer three times.

Oakland Raiders 3-4 (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills 4-2 (45.5): Bills 21-20 Bills 34-14
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Field, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Chance rain; high 40s)

Reasons: The Raiders are slowly climbing back into existence, just when their division became clogged, but unfortunately for them they run into the buzz saw known as the Bills (4th points allowed) Sunday. Buffalo is no offensive juggernaut, but they only average two fewer points and 12 fewer yards than the Raiders, who supposedly are one.

The Raiders returned to struggling on both sides of the ball again Sunday, perhaps because they were missing Marshawn Lynch after Lynch’s suspension appeal failed. That obviously wouldn’t explain Oakland’s defensive struggles, but LeSean McCoy could (27 carries for 151 rushing yards; 6 receptions; 1 TD). The Bills defense shut the Raiders offense down, forcing four Oakland turnovers, including two interceptions by Derek Carr. Remarkably there were no sacks from Oakland’s Kahlil Mack or one of the league’s best defenses in Buffalo. The Bills are actually for real. Maybe.

Indianapolis Colts 2-5 (+10.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 2-4 (41.5): Bengals 27-17 Bengals 24-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: It’s hard to believe the Bengals have nearly the same terrible record as the woeful, Luckless, pun intended, Colts. Then again, nothing is hard to believe with the most unpredictable team in the NFL the past decade. This one shouldn’t be too hard to predict, though, as Cincinnati is home and Indianapolis is one of the three worst teams in the league, statistically and eye-test speaking.

Originally I had this game 24-20, but at the last minute I decided the Bengals were at home and their offense was good enough to score an additional three points against the woeful Colts, but the Bengals offense was barely good enough to even beat Indianapolis, which led 23-17 11:21 into the 4th quarter until Carlos Dunlap returned a Jacoby Ellsbury pass at the 16-yard line and took it to the house for the game-winning touchdown.

Los Angeles Chargers 3-4 (+7) @ New England Patriots 5-2 (48.5): Patriots 27-24 Patriots 21-13
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Heavy rain; low 60s)

Reasons: New England is 2-2 at home through their first four games for the first time in a long time, and Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winners of three straight. That doesn’t mean my money is on the Chargers to win, per se, but the Patriots getting seven points considering the aforementioned information seems a bit excessive. Perhaps the people in charge of such things are looking at the radar and seeing a game won on the ground, of which the Patriots gain 31 more yards per game, the same amount the Chargers defense yields to opponents, relative to the Patriots.

The weather was terrible and the Patriots did what they do best, adapting to the conditions and taking the opponent’s best player(s) out of the game. It doesn’t hurt – the Patriots anyway – when your opponent’s best skill player, Travis Benjamin, inexplicable muffs a punt in the end zone for a safety, which set a subsequent New England field goal, one of four on the day for embattled kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Chicago Bears 3-4 (+9) @ New Orleans Saints 4-2 (47.5): Saints 28-21 Saints 20-12
Sunday, 1:00 PM, SuperDome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints actually are the hottest team in the NFL, and although the Bears have certainly shocked many people, especially with a rookie quarterback throwing less than 50% of the tiny amount of pass attempts the Bears allow him, mainly because he’s played top defenses (BAL; CAR), but the Saints are home and Drew Brees is locked in.

The Saints have now won five straight games, their latest win against the Bears coming without a touchdown from Drew Brees. I guess the Saints, in genera, are locked in, except Mark Ingram, apparently (2 lost fumbles). The New Orleans defense took advantage of the one-dimensional Bears, managing nine tackles for loss, while giving rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky fits, defending eight of his passes, knocking him down seven times and sacking him twice.

Atlanta Falcons 3-3 (-6) @ New York Jets 3-4 (45.5): Falcons 24-21 Falcons 25-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Heavy rain; low 70s)

Reasons: The Falcons have lost three straight, after winning their first four, and all three of those loses have come against the AFC East - all of them. What’s worse is the high-flying Falcons have managed fewer than 14 points against all the AFC East opponents (BUF, MIA, NE). There are answers: The Dolphins and Bills possess two of the best defenses in the NFL and the Falcons had the unpleasant task of facing the team that humiliated them in SBLI in the thickest fog people could remember in 25 years. The Falcons have a great chance to redeem themselves with a solid running game against a scrappy, but inconsistent Jets team, but the weather could have the most impact.

The Jets took a 17-16 lead several minutes into the 4th quarter, putting the NFC Champion Falcons in danger of being swept by the AFC East in 2017, which just happens to be the division owned by a certain New England Patriots team. Then the 2016 MVP Matt Ryan found Mohammed Sanu in the soaking wet end zone for the game-winning touchdown, avoiding that fate.


San Francisco 49ers 0-7 (+12.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 6-1 (46.5): Eagles 24-17 Eagles 33-10
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Heavy rain; low 70s)

Reasons: This is your classic trap game, with the winless 49ers coming across the country to play an early afternoon game against the best team in the NFC, but if we’re being realistic, the only trapping part of this game is the spread, which, even given the remarkable circumstances, is a little ridiculous at 12.5 points. The Eagles are missing their left tackle in Jason Peters, gone for the season, so although the Eagles managed to win big last week, it’ll be interesting to see how Philadelphia handles the absence going forward.

49ers quarterback CJ Beathard led the team in passing and rushing and only managed 207 total yards, so that about summed up San Francisco’s chances against the NFC-leading Eagles. Philadelphia’s defense impressed again, holding the 49ers to 238 total yards in over 27 minutes, intercepting Beathard twice and sacking him four times. The Eagles proved the can still dominate even when their offense isn’t clicking and the 49ers were beat hard. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Carolina Panthers 4-3 (+1.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-4 (46): Buccaneers 21-20 Panthers 17-3

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: I don’t trust the Carolina Panthers or their mentally fragile quarterback at all, even with an arguably equally mentally fragile quarterback across the field. Of course both observations could be characterized as passionate and misunderstood, but there’s a reason the NFL wants the head of their proverbial snake to be both cerebral and simultaneously calm under any type of pressure, whether that be on or off the field. Both quarterbacks seem to struggle with both at times, which is why both teams struggle at times. Cam Newton might thrive on pressure, but he’s been under pressure for two years now and the results have been mixed at best. Meanwhile, the chip on Jameis Winston’s shoulder from a recent benching is so big it could feed the greater Tampa region. Don’t we all want just a little bit more from two number one overall draft picks who both won Heisman trophies and both won National Championships? What, did you forget about all that?

The return of linebacker Luke Kuechly (8 tackles; 1.5 for loss) set the stage for another dominating performance by the Carolina defense, the team’s saving grace for much of the time Cam Newton has been quarterback, masking his myriad mistakes and the reason behind much of Newton’s success. Newton was mediocre at best, although he led the team in passing and rushing, accounting for only 198 total yards and a touchdown to go along with the Panther’s lone turnover (INT); the other former Heisman-winning quarterback opposite the field, Jameis Winston, was even worse, throwing two interceptions and only 210 passing yards on 38 attempts.

Houston Texans 3-3 (+6) @ Seattle Seahawks 4-2 (45.5): Seahawks 24-21 Seahawks 41-38
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Century Link Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Clear; mid-50s)

Reasons: Rookie quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson is about to get his first dose of true NFL reality Sunday afternoon as the Texans face the league’s top scoring defense (15.7 ppg), also top-10 in the league in yards allowed (8th). The Texans are a relatively average team statistically, with the exception of scoring offense, where they rank 3rd but a few tenths of a point, but that surge has come mostly on the arm of the aforementioned Watson, who will be under duress most of the day.

Rookie quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson threw for 405 yards passing and four TDs to go along with 67 yards rushing on eight attempts as he continued his meteoric rise to NFL stardom, giving him 19 passing TDs on the year, seven short of the rookie record held by Peyton Manning and one Russell Wilson, Watson’s opponent Sunday. Wilson just happened to throw four touchdown passes himself, to go along with 452 passing yards; Wilson also led his team in rushing, albeit with only 30 yards. Teacher beat pupil/idol on an 18-yard seed to tight end Jimmy Graham with only 21 seconds remaining, just over four minutes after Watson himself thought he had thrown the game-winning touchdown. Watson’s three INTs played into the Seahawks hands, and will certainly be a learning experience going forward, but the likely 2017 Rookie of the Year had the NFL’s best defense on the ropes until the last minute, literally. This is a mid-season candidate for 2017 Game of the Year.

Dallas Cowboys 3-3 (-2) @ Washington Football Team 3-3 (49): Cowboys 24-23 Cowboys 33-19
Sunday, 4:25 PM, FedEx Field, East Landover, MD (Weather: Heavy rain; high 50s)

Reasons: The most evenly matched game of Week 8 will decide who is still at least two games behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, but more importantly, will be decided by Mother Nature, who will be raining heavily upon the field throughout the game. That means the team with the best ground game most likely wins, which is clearly Dallas, and that running game compounded with Dak Prescott’s dink-and-dunk skills, we have a recipe for a Cowboys win.

I was feeling pretty good about my prediction when Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins finally got the ball to Josh Doctson in the end zone with just over four minutes left, because I believed Washington would get the ball back, drive down the field, score a touchdown, and then miss the extra point to lose the game 26-25, making me look smarter than I really am. The funny thing is, that exact scenario played out, except Cousins threw the ball to Byron Jones and Jones plays for the Cowboys. Jones returned the interception for a touchdown and we have what looks like a blow out. If you were going by Ezekiel Elliot’s stats, it was. Elliot exploded again, this time for 150 yards rushing and two TDs on 33 carries, but the good news quickly dissipated with the bad news that the appeals court once again upheld Elliot’s suspension. And around and around we go…

(Note: Cowboys kicker Mike Nugent lost a try out to be Washington’s kicker the week before this game. Nugent ended up signing with the Cowboys and then kicked five field goals in a 33-19 game that theoretically would have otherwise been 19-18 without him.)

Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2 (-3) @ Detroit Lions 3-3 (45.5): Steelers 28-27 Steelers 20-15
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Steelers are hot and might have the best overall defense in the NFL (2nd points allowed; 3rd yards allowed), but the Lions have Matthew Stafford and are completely inconsistent, so you never know what to expect. Detroit started the season 3-1 with a defense yielding 16.5 ppg; since then they’re 0-2, both against the questionable NFC South (NO; CAR), and now their defense is yielding more than double that per game (39.5 ppg). Regardless, it’s hard to bet against Matt Stafford, especially getting three points at home.

JuJu Smith-Schuster found his bike all right, in the form of 193 receiving yards and a touchdown the same week he reached social media and Internet infamy because of the aforementioned stolen bicycle. One would’ve thought Matt Stafford (453 passing yards) was throwing him the ball, but Stafford was just throwing another gaudy statistical passing game in a loss, something Stafford has grown accustomed to with Detroit. His high school teammate Clayton Kershaw was doing the same thing that night in Houston in their hometown state of Texas: playing at the highest level in his perspective sport while taking a loss.

Denver Broncos 3-3 (+7) @ Kansas City Chiefs 5-2 (43): Chiefs 27-21 Chiefs 29-19
Monday, 8:30 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Partly cloudy; high 30s)

Reasons: The Chiefs went from the best team in the NFL to unpredictable in four days last week, and the Kansas City defense, considered perhaps the best in the league at one point in the season, is now ranked 29th in yards allowed and 19th in points allowed, not exactly fear-inspiring. The Broncos, however, are a mess. The Denver defense remains top notch (1st yards allowed; 9th points allowed), but the offense is becoming atrocious. Since their Week 2 win against Dallas Cowboys, in which they scored 42 points, the Broncos are 1-3 averaging 10.5 points per game, with each game producing fewer points then the last. It’s on the shoulders of Trevor Siemian to make things right, which means Denver is in trouble.

The Chiefs got back on track Monday night after losing two games in four days last week to go from the league’s unquestionably best team to JAT (Just Another Team), beating the flailing division rival Broncos. Nobody lit up the score boards, despite Kansas City’s 29 points, because this was a contest between two of the best defenses in the NFL, even if the Chiefs don’t stack up statistically. We saw that defensive battle Monday night when Kansas City forced five Denver turnovers (3 INTs; 2 fumbles), and Denver held Kansas City to field goals on five possessions. The only standout in the game, offensively, was Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who reeled in 133 of Alex Smith’s 202 passing yards and his only touchdown. The defense had plenty of highlights, most notably Marcus Peters, whose fumble return for a touchdown not only helped the Chiefs win Monday, but helped them gain ground in the division by helping get his cousin/friend/whatever Marshawn Lynch suspended this week.


Week 8 #NFL byes: Arizona Cardinals; Green Bay Packers; Jacksonville Jaguars; Los Angeles Rams; New York Giants; Tennessee Titans


Stay tuned for Week 9: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday morning!


 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Week 8 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) THURSDAY NIGHT EDITION




Joe Flacco is starting to get that Eli Manning look in his eyes, the one when he realizes even restructuring his bankrupting contract won't do the trick.



2017 NFL SEASON

Week 8: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 7 results: 12-3 wins (season: 53-40; .570); 9-6 v. spread (season: 47-46; .505)


Miami Dolphins 4-2 (+3) @ Baltimore Ravens 3-4 (37.5): Dolphins 20-17
Thursday, 8:25 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Clear; low 50s)

Reasons: The Dolphins come into Thursday night’s game winners of three straight, despite losing Jay Cutler (7 TDs; 5 INTs), because Matt Moore might be a better fit anyway.  The Ravens have lost two straight, and four of their last five, although one of those loses came in OT (27-24 to CHI) and three of those four losses have come against three of the best defenses in the NFL (JAX, PIT, MIN). Now Baltimore faces their fourth top-10 defense in five weeks as Miami comes into the game ranked 10th in yards allowed and 6th in points allowed; the Dolphins also happen to have one of the worst offenses in the league (31st points scored; 32nd yards gained), which makes the Ravens task not as daunting. Baltimore isn’t the same team anymore, though, and their polarizing leader Terrell Suggs is questionable, meaning the Ravens defense that yields over 145 rushing yards a game could let the Dolphins and running back Jay Ajayi (442 rushing yards; 3.5 ypc) run wild.

Minnesota Vikings 5-2 (-9.5) @ Cleveland Browns 0-7 (38): Vikings 24-17
Sunday, 9:30 AM, Twickenham Stadium, London, England (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Normally I’d crack a joke about how we’ve given London the worst slate of games imaginable, but the truth is, the London games have been pretty exciting, at least from a scoring standpoint. There may not be much scoring Sunday morning (in the United States, anyway) as the Vikings come into the game with one of the most feared defenses in the NFL to accompany a pretty good offense, with or without Sam Bradford. The Browns, on the other hand, are hopeless.

Oakland Raiders 3-4 (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills 4-2 (45.5): Bills 21-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Field, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Chance rain; high 40s)

Reasons: The Raiders are slowly climbing back into existence, just when their division became clogged, but unfortunately for them they run into the buzz saw known as the Bills (4th points allowed) Sunday. Buffalo is no offensive juggernaut, but they only average two fewer points and 12 fewer yards than the Raiders, who supposedly are one.

Indianapolis Colts 2-5 (+10.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 2-4 (41.5): Bengals 27-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: It’s hard to believe the Bengals have nearly the same terrible record as the woeful, Luckless (pun intended) Colts. Then again, nothing is hard to believe with the most unpredictable team in the NFL the past decade. This one shouldn’t be too hard to predict, though, as Cincinnati is home and Indianapolis is one of the three worst teams in the league, statistically and eye-test speaking.


 Bill Belichick seems to have found something in his defense, which might've included benching their top free agent acquisition, cornerback Stephon Gilmore.


Los Angeles Chargers 3-4 (+7) @ New England Patriots 5-2 (48.5): Patriots 27-24
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Heavy rain; low 60s)

Reasons: New England is 2-2 at home through their first four games for the first time in a long time, and Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winners of three straight. That doesn’t mean my money is on the Chargers to win, per se, but the Patriots getting seven points considering the aforementioned information, seems a bit excessive. Perhaps the people in charge of such things are looking at the radar and seeing a game won on the ground, in which the Patriots gain 31 more yards per game, the same amount the Chargers defense yields to opponents, relative to the Patriots.

Chicago Bears 3-4 (+9) @ New Orleans Saints 4-2 (47.5): Saints 28-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, SuperDome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints actually are the hottest team in the NFL, and although the Bears have certainly shocked many people the past two weeks, especially with a rookie quarterback throwing less than 50% of the tiny amount of pass attempts the Bears allow him, likely because he’s played top defenses (BAL; CAR), but the Saints are home and Drew Brees is locked in.

Atlanta Falcons 3-3 (-6) @ New York Jets 3-4 (45.5): Falcons 24-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Heavy rain; low 70s)

Reasons: The Falcons have lost three straight, after winning their first four, and all three of those loses have come against the AFC East - all of them. What’s worse is the high-flying Falcons have managed fewer than 14 points against all those AFC East opponents (BUF, MIA, NE). There are answers: The Dolphins and Bills possess two of the best defenses in the NFL and the Falcons had the unpleasant task of facing the team that humiliated them in SBLI in the thickest fog people could remember in 25 years. The Falcons have a great chance to redeem themselves with a solid running game against a scrappy, but inconsistent Jets team, but the weather could have the most impact.


San Francisco 49ers 0-7 (+12.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 6-1 (46.5): Eagles 24-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Heavy rain; low 70s)

Reasons: This is your classic trap game, with the winless 49ers coming across the country to play an early afternoon game against the best team in the NFC, but if we’re being realistic, the only trapping part of this game is the spread, which, even given the remarkable circumstances, is a little ridiculous at 12.5 points. The Eagles are missing their left tackle in Jason Peters, gone for the season, so although the Eagles managed to win big last week, it’ll be interesting to see how Philadelphia handles the absence going forward. 


 Cam Newton needs to get his head straight before the most talented football athlete of our generation wastes another season of his great, but polarizing career.

Carolina Panthers 4-3 (+1.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-4 (46): Buccaneers 21-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: I don’t trust the Carolina Panthers or their mentally fragile quarterback at all, even with an arguably equally mentally fragile quarterback across the field. Of course both observations could be characterized as passionate and misunderstood, but there’s a reason the NFL wants the head of their proverbial snake to be both cerebral and simultaneously calm under any type of pressure, whether that be on or off the field. Both quarterbacks seem to struggle with both at times, which is why both teams struggle at times. Cam Newton might thrive on pressure, but he’s been under pressure for two years now and the results have been mixed at best. Meanwhile, the chip on Jameis Winston’s shoulder from a recent benching is so big it could feed the greater Tampa region. Don’t we all want just a little bit more from two number one overall draft picks who both won Heisman trophies and both won National Championships? What, did you forget about all that?

Houston Texans 3-3 (+6) @ Seattle Seahawks 4-2 (45.5): Seahawks 24-21
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Century Link Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Clear; mid-50s)

Reasons: Rookie quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson is about to get his first dose of true NFL reality Sunday afternoon as the Texans face the league’s top scoring defense (15.7 ppg), also top-10 in the league in yards allowed (8th). The Texans are a relatively average team statistically, with the exception of scoring offense, where they rank 3rd by only a few tenths of a point, but that surge has come mostly on the arm of the aforementioned Watson, who will be under duress most of the day.

Dallas Cowboys 3-3 (-2) @ Washington Football Team 3-3 (49): Cowboys 24-23
Sunday, 4:25 PM, FedEx Field, East Landover, MD (Weather: Heavy rain; high 50s)

Reasons: The most evenly matched game of Week 8 will decide who is still at least two games behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, but more importantly, will be decided by Mother Nature, who will be raining heavily upon the field throughout the game. That means the team with the best ground game most likely wins, which is clearly Dallas, and that running game compounded with Dak Prescott’s dink-and-dunk skills, we have a recipe for a Cowboys win.

Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2 (-3) @ Detroit Lions 3-3 (45.5): Steelers 28-27
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Steelers are hot and might have the best overall defense in the NFL (2nd points allowed; 3rd yards allowed), but the Lions have Matthew Stafford and are completely inconsistent, so you never know what to expect. Detroit started the season 3-1 with a defense yielding 16.5 ppg; since then they’re 0-2, both against the questionable NFC South (NO; CAR), and now their defense is yielding more than double that per game (39.5 ppg). Regardless, it’s hard to bet against Matt Stafford, especially getting three points at home.


 Matt Stafford is about to become the highest paid player on a team with no other highly paid players, which means if he wants to win, he'll end up not being the highest paid player. 


Denver Broncos 3-3 (+7) @ Kansas City Chiefs 5-2 (43): Chiefs 27-21
Monday, 8:30 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Partly cloudy; high 30s)

Reasons: The Chiefs went from the best team in the NFL to unpredictable in four days last week, and the Kansas City defense, considered perhaps the best in the league at one point in the season, is now ranked 29th in yards allowed and 19th in points allowed - not exactly fear-inspiring. The Broncos, however, are a mess. The Denver defense remains top notch (1st yards allowed; 9th points allowed), but the offense is becoming atrocious. Since their Week 2 win against Dallas Cowboys, in which they scored 42 points, the Broncos are 1-3 averaging 10.5 points per game, with each game producing fewer points then the last. It’s on the shoulders of Trevor Siemian to make things right, which means Denver is in trouble.


Week 8 #NFL byes: Arizona Cardinals; Green Bay Packers; Jacksonville Jaguars; Los Angeles Rams; New York Giants; Tennessee Titans


Stay tuned for Tuesday’s Gone: Week 8: #NFL Game Reviews coming Wednesday morning!


 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tuesday's Gone: Week 7 #NFL Game Reviews

Ohhhh yeeeaaahhh. The Kool Aid Man has the Kansas Chiefs rolling and the best team in the NFL has Super Bowl aspirations in a league turned on its head in 2017.


2017 NFL SEASON

Week 7: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 7 results: 12-3 wins (season: 53-40; .570); 9-6 v. spread (season: 47-46; .505)



Kansas City Chiefs 5-1 (-3) @ Oakland Raiders 2-4 (46.5): Chiefs 24-23 Raiders 31-30
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: 40% rain; high 50s)

Reasons: When I wrote our NFL preview this preseason I never imagined this Week 7 AFC West divisional game would feature a 2-4 Raiders team, but here we are. Seems like a mismatch, right? I want to break down the game statistically, but then I’d have to tell you the hapless Raiders defense is actually statistically better than Kansas City’s vaunted defense (OAK: 12th scoring defense/23rd yards allowed; KC: 13th scoring defense/29th yards allowed). That’s how whacky this 2017 NFL season has been so far. The problem is Oakland’s defense is better then their own offense (18th scoring; 30th yards gained), which is a problem considering the Raiders are actually supposed to be an offensive juggernaut. On the other side, we can’t hold the Chiefs Week 6 loss to Pittsburgh against Kansas City too much, as the Steelers not only possess one of the best defenses in the NFL (Note: The Steelers rank 1st in points and yards allowed for teams having played all 6 games in 2017), they haven’t lost to the Chiefs in a while. Kansas City’s offense should travel well in the rain on short rest and comes into the game ranked in the top-7 in time of possession (7th), 3rd-down efficiency (6th), turnover ratio (3rd), yards (2nd), yards per play (1st), and scoring (1st), but also come in with key injuries on the offensive line. Look for the Chiefs to rebound, but on a short week with attrition, I wouldn’t expect the Chiefs to roll.

The Thursday night game excitement continues. Just when the NFL was considering ditching these games they've blown up into must-see television. While we're talking about what could have been, how about the Chiefs losing two games in four days and going from the league's best team to tied with the Bills and Dolphin in the loss column? The Chiefs led 30-24 going into the 4th quarter, but the Raiders kicked a field goal to make it 30-24 with 3:54 left in the game; then Oakland benefited from two defensive holding calls with 0:00 left on the clock, the most bizarre ending to a game I can recall, allowing the Raiders to score the go-ahead touchdown with time still expired. Marshawn Lynch was ejected for running onto the field and bumping an official, but he made it the stands to finish the game and then joined Raiders fans on the BART on the way home.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-3 (+3.5) @ Buffalo Bills 3-2 (45): Bills 21-20 Bills 30-27
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Field, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: A recent benching could light a fire in Jameis Winston, if he makes it onto the field, but unfortunately for Winston and the Buccaneers they face the league’s top scoring defense in the Bills. Adding to the game intrigue is the fact the Buccaneers have yet to win on the road, while the Bills have yet to lose at home. 

Jameis Winston not only made it onto the field, but showed the league he didn't like being benched, throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns against the mighty Buffalo defense. It wasn't enough, however, as the Buccaneers turned the ball over three times, including a Winston interception, and gave up 10 unanswered 4th quarter points to the Bills allowing Buffalo to steal the win from Tampa Bay. 
 
 Carolina Panthers 4-2 (-3) @ Chicago Bears 2-4 (41): Panthers 24-17 Bears 17-3
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: 50% rain; low 70s)

Reasons: The Bears are one of only two teams in the NFL (Cleveland Browns) that are among the league leaders in yards allowed (6th), yet in the bottom quarter of the league in points allowed (25th), which means they won’t give up many big plays to the Panthers, but they’ll give up plenty of points. It’s hard to believe the Panthers, which ranks in the top-10 in both said defensive categories, will lose to a rookie quarterback with mixed results in his only two starts.

The Carolina Panthers are becoming the most unpredictable team in the NFL, and they might've taken that title from the Chicago Bears, the very team that just beat them with a rookie quarterback that went 4-7 passing for 107 yards. 

Tennessee Titans 3-3 (-6) @ Cleveland Browns 0-6 (45.5): Titans 27-24 Titans 12-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Sunny; mid-70s)

Reasons: Remember the Browns? We just talked about them. They’re awful, but the Titans aren’t exactly barnburners. That’s not a William Faulkner joke, nor am I related to him, despite my witty football prose. The Titans give up the second-most points in the NFL (27.3 ppg), but the Browns are bad at everything, except for that wacky yards allowed stat (8th), and the Titans have actually something to play for. Get your tickets fast; there are only 3,000 left and they start at $6.

68 minutes of trash, which in this case means 553 yards of total offense and 35 combined first downs. The Browns even tuned the ball over three times and it still took the Titans 80% of overtime just to kick a go-ahead field goal. The Titans are no where near where they need to be.


Marcus Mariota leads the Tennessee Titans into Cleveland to face the win less Browns.



New Orleans Saints 3-2 (-4) @ Green Bay Packers 4-2 (47.5): Saints 27-24 Saints 26-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: 70% rain; high 50s)

Reasons: Don’t look now but the Saints might be the hottest team in the NFL, winning three straight games after dropping their first two games big while looking miserable. The Packers, on the other hand, just had their head chopped off.

The Aaron Rodgers-less Packers led 17-16 shortly into the 4th quarter largely due to the Aaron Jones-more rushing attack, which produced 131 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, but Drew Brees went Drew Brees and led the Saints to the big road win, albeit against one of the worst teams in the NFL now that the best player in the NFL is on injured reserve. 

Jacksonville Jaguars 3-3 (-3) @ Indianapolis Colts 2-4 (43.5): Jaguars 30-20 Jaguars 30-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Jaguars are sneaky good. They’re actually very good, but who trusts the Jaguars? You probably should, especially against these Colts, statistically one of the worst teams in the NFL. Additionally, the Colts only two wins have come against the Browns by three points and the Cardinals in OT. The Colts are the worst scoring defense in the NFL, giving up six more points per game than the 30th-ranked New England Patriots; to find the next 6-point differential from New England one would have to venture into the top-10 defenses in the league, a separation of 20 teams. The Colts are really bad.

The Jaguars were firing on all claws Sunday, even the oft-mocked Blake Bortles (330 yards passing; 1 touchdown), which makes them one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL. TJ Yeldon (9 carries for 121 yards; 1 TD) ran well in place of Leonard Fournette and the Jacksonville defense had 13 tackles for loss, hit Colts quarterback Jacoby Brisette 21 times, and sacked him a franchise record-tying10 times, shutting out Indianapolis, their first time being shutout since 2003.

Arizona Cardinals 3-3 (+3) @ Los Angeles Rams 4-2 (45.5): Rams 28-24 Rams 30-0
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Twickenham Stadium, London, England (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: I’ve given up trying to predict these London games accurately, especially at a place called Twickenham, which sounds like a wizard could fly into the stadium thinking he’s going to witness actual rams and cardinals battling and destroy the place in disappointment. Assuming that doesn’t happen, London is about to get a dose of the young hot Rams.

London got to see the Cardinals season implode within the forearm of quarterback Carson Palmer while Todd Gurley (22 carries for 106 yards; 1 TD) and the Rams defense continued to dominate.

New York Jets 3-3 (+3.5) @ Miami Dolphins 3-2 (38): Dolphins 20-17 Dolphins 31-28
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: 20% rain; low 80s)

Reasons: Move along, nothing to see here. The Dolphins were probably excited to sign Jay Cutler at some point, but I imagine that excitement has waned. Miami comes into the game with the worst scoring offense in the league, and it almost seems like all-time (12.2 ppg). They also gain the fewest yards (243 ypg). The Jets aren’t much better, but they're better than a three-point spread. 

The Jets led 28-14 deep into the 4th quarter before Matt Moore came into the game in relief of an injured and apathetic Jay Cutler and threw two touchdowns to even the score before the suffocating Miami defense forced a Jets turnover, one of two on the day, leading to Miami's game-winning field goal with 22 seconds remaining. 


 Ndamukong Suh leads the Miami Dolphins 3rd-ranked scoring defense against the division rival New York Jets Sunday.


Baltimore Ravens 3-3 (+5.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 4-2 (38.5): Vikings 21-17 Vikings 24-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: Word on the street is Teddy Bridgewater is back at practice. Suddenly the Vikings have a good quarterback problem, one that involves a record-breaking season (Sam Bradford) and a toss-away backup who threw for 300+ yards (Case Keenum). Of course that has nothing to do with this game, but the Vikings defense (5th yards allowed; 5th points allowed) will have plenty to do with it.

The Vikings won this game doing what they do best, running the ball (Latavius Murray: 18 carries for 113 yards; 1 TD) and with great defense (BAL: 208 total yards).

Dallas Cowboys 2-3 (-6) @ San Francisco 49ers 0-6 (48.5): Cowboys 24-20 Cowboys 40-10
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny; high 60s)

Reasons: If only it were 1994. It isn’t, but this game won’t be nearly as lopsided as people might have imagined a few weeks ago. Ezekiel Elliot has escaped suspension again, but you have to assume the constant flip-flopping has to be mentally taxing, and it seems to be. Then again, defenders watch tape and Elliot’s predictable decline is probably more a function of defensive game planning and Dez Bryant’s sudden disappearance act. The Cowboys need this one, but it won’t be as easy.

The second-year stars shined once again, as Dak Prescott (234 yards passing; 3 TDs) and Ezekiel Elliot (219 total yards; 3 TDs) dominated the 49ers.

Seattle Seahawks 3-2 (-4) @ New York Giants 1-5 (39.5): Seahawks 21-17 Seahawks 24-7
Sunday, 4:25 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: This is a battle to see who has the worst offensive line and the Football Gods wouldn’t have it any other way than to make it such that the battle would also feature two of the league’s most feared defensive fronts, which is funny considering both teams rank in the lower third of the league in sacks. Regardless, this could be an ugly game. The Giants finally won their first game last week, and it came with barely any offense and none of their original starting wide receivers. That won’t fly with these Seahawks.

This was the 10-7 defensive battle many people could've imagined when they saw this game on the schedule until Russell Wilson (334 yards passing ; 3 TDs) threw two touchdowns in the final 9:34 of the game to take the win on the road. The Seahawks defense allowed only 177 total yards, but the real fireworks came on the sidelines when Doug Baldwin, frustrated with his offense and the NFL apparently, shoved offensive line coach Tom Cable during an altercation on the sidelines.

Cincinnati Bengals 2-3 (+5.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 4-2 (40.5): Bengals 20-17 Steelers 29-14
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: All of a sudden the dust has cleared, the Steelers love each other again, and they’re coming off a monumental win against the NFL’s best Kansas City Chiefs. However, the Bengals have won two straight after dropping their first three and boast the leagues top overall defense (2nd yards allowed; 2nd points allowed). The Steelers haven’t won consecutive games since Week 2, and the Bengals once woeful offense just dropped 20 on the league’s top scoring defense (Buffalo Bills), so I’m taking a chance on the league’s best overall defense, especially getting nearly a touchdown.

This was a battle of two of the best defenses in the NFL, a staple between these two AFC North teams, but it was the Steelers defense that dominated Sunday, holding the Bengals to 11 first downs and 179 totals yards (3.5 ypp), while forcing two turnovers and sacking Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton four times. Add all of this to the fact the Steelers were 1-6 in the Red Zone and the Bengals got completely dominated. 


 The Los Angeles Chargers were once 0-4, but have won two straight games and look to continue their streak against the Denver Broncos Sunday.

Denver Broncos 3-2 (-1) @ Los Angeles Chargers 2-4 (48.5): Chargers 21-20 Chargers 21-0
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Stub Hub Field, Carson, CA (Weather: Sunny; high 80s)

Reasons: What a difference a few weeks makes. Two weeks ago Denver was 3-1 and looked like world-beaters kicking back on their bye week; Los Angeles was winless and looked as if all hope was lost. Now the Chargers have won two straight and are suddenly 1.5 games behind the Broncos in a division that just became very competitive. Denver remains the better team statistically, by far actually, but there’s nothing like momentum in the NFL, and the Chargers are humming.

I told you the Broncos were in trouble. Lucky for them the entire division is up for grabs after the once 5-0 Chiefs lost two games in four days, one of those to the Oakland Raiders. Only two games in the loss column separate first and last in the AFC West, but the Broncos have no shot if quarterback Trevor Siemian and the Broncos offense (3 TOs) doesn't play better. The Chargers got a punt return touchdown from Travis Benjamin, meaning the Broncos defense only gave up 14 points, and they actually gave up fewer yards (DEN: 251; LAC: 242) than the Chargers, pointing out the Broncos offensive deficiencies even more. 

(Interesting note: In 2017 so far Denver has scored 21.6 ppg and has allowed 19.4 ppg; Los Angeles has scored 19.3 and allowed 21.8. Statistically speaking this game should theoretically end DEN 21.7 – 19.35 LAC)

Atlanta Falcons 3-2 (+3) @ New England Patriots 4-2 (56.5): Patriots 28-27 Patriots 23-7
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: A rematch of Super Bowl LI, both teams have come into 2017 major disappointments. The Patriots look like a shell of their former team, while the Falcons have dropped two straight games, both to other AFC East opponents, coincidentally, one of which, the Miami Dolphins, is terrible. Did I mention these losses came at home? New England is firing on all cylinders again on offense (1st yards gained; 5th points scored), but is poised to have a record-breaking defense in 2017 - record-breaking as in terrible. The Patriots give up the most yards in the league (441 ypg) and allow the 5th most points (26.5), which should play well into the hands of an offense that gains lots of yards (5th) and gains them in bunches (2nd yards per play) and a team that is 9-2 against the spread in their last 11 games. Regardless, look for that SBLI hangover to linger.

FogGate is in full effect for all of the loser NFL fans that can't quite grasp the Patriots dynasty, especially with the ageless avocado wonder Tom Brady at the helm (21-29 passing for 249 yards and 2 TDs). The Falcons looked as if they were still stunned from there Super Bowl LI loss, and Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian won't last long with the play calling he's churning out (343 total yards), as Matt Ryan (233 passing yards; 1 TD) has regressed to his pre-MVP Matty Ice-Cold. The Patriots defense can't be considered "back" after the thick fall Atlantic fog made it difficult to throw downfield, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.


Washington Football Team 3-2 (+4.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 5-1 (49): Eagles 27-21 Eagles 34-24
Monday, 8:30 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny; mid-70s)

Reasons: The Eagles are about to play their fourth game in 22 days. That seems wild to me. This game is also the second time these two teams have played in the first six weeks of the season. This feels like déjà vu, and considering how badass this defense has become over the past several weeks, not to mention the return of the mighty Fletcher Cox, I imagine things will go pretty much the same as they did Week 1.

The Eagles exploded for 34 points against a solid Washington defense after the oddest start to a game I can recall ever happening. After Washington's first possession, which ended in a field goal, the Eagles started at their own 25-yard line after a touchback, only to be penalized four times in a to go from 1st-and-10 to 1st-and-33 at their own 2-yard line. Philadelphia quickly recovered and Carson Wentz ended up throwing four touchdown passes in a big win for the NFC-leading Eagles, but the key to the game might have been the loss of left tackle Jason Peters, which could have catastrophic effects going forward. 


Week 7 byes: Detroit Lions; Houston Texans


Stay tuned for Week 8: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday!