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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday's Gone: Week 13 #NFL Game Reviews


Week 13: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 13 results: 12-4 wins (season*: 106-59; .642); 9-7 v. spread (season*: 80-83-2; .485)

Washington Football Team 5-6 (-1.5) @ Dallas Cowboys 5-6 (45.5): Washington 24-21 Cowboys 38-14
Thursday, 8:25 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The game started as a pick and slowly morphed into the Washington Football Team being by 1.5 points, which on the road means they’re really favored by almost five points. The pick probably made more sense because these teams could not be more evenly matched, at least statistically. Not only do these teams share the same losing record, both teams are ranked within five teams of each other in points, points against, yards gained, yards allowed and yards per play and are even close to each other in turnover ratio. In fact, statistically Washington “loses” games by an average score of 23.5-25.1; Dallas “loses” games by an average score of 22.5-24.5. As you can see, both teams have similar point differentials, too. The teams are also dealing with similar attrition issues, which is the main reason both teams have played so inconsistently. That doesn’t change tonight as Dallas could be without three starting offensive linemen to accompany two missing linebackers, including their best defender in Sean Lee. Washington is dealing with issues on defense, but will that even matter against this shambled Dallas offense?

The answer to that last question was apparently ‘yes’, because the supposedly stagnant Cowboys offense dropped 38 points – with a little help from their special teams - on Washington. Dak Prescott (11-22 passing for 102 yards; 2 TDs) didn’t impress, but Alfred Morris (27 carries for 127 rushing yards; 1 TD) did in place of the legally troubled Ezekiel Elliot. The Cowboys defense impressed, too, forcing four turnovers, three by Kirk Cousins (2 INTs; 1 FUM), who the Cowboys sacked four times. Washington actually gained five more yards than Dallas did in five fewer minutes of possession, but it clearly didn’t work.

Minnesota Vikings 9-2 (+3) @ Atlanta Falcons 7-4 (47): Falcons 23-21 Vikings 14-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes-Benz Dome, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The last time the Vikings lost, Week 4 to the Detroit Lions 14-7, and since then Minnesota has won seven straight by an average score of 27-17, which would put them near or at the top in point differential over those seven weeks (Minnesota currently ranks 6th at 6.9 ppg for the season). The Falcons are on their own little three-game winning streak, including wins vs. Dallas and at Seattle. The Falcons, normally safe at home, are only 3-2 on the year so far this season, however, and only four of their wins came against teams with a shot at the playoffs, and those teams include Green bay and Detroit. To boot, only two of Atlanta’s four losses have come against quality teams (NE; CAR). Regardless, the Falcons feel due, for whatever that’s worth. Julio Jones is coming off his best game of the season and the Vikings trying to make a quarterback controversy out of nothing when the team has been playing great is concerning.

All hail Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings defense shut down Julio Jones the Falcons, and Minnesota outgained Atlanta in yards and first downs, yet those Falcons held a 9-7 lead early in the 4th quarter. I wish I could go all in on the Vikings, but you can see why that’s not easy, despite their record; even Coach Zimmer doesn’t totally buy into his own quarterback.

New England Patriots 9-2 (-9) @ Buffalo Bills 6-5 (48.5): Patriots 27-21 Patriots 23-3
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: The Bills are still alive in the AFC and the Patriots have had issues traveling to Buffalo late in the season in the past, but all that really tells me is the Patriots won’t cover, but I’ve said that most of the season and I’ve been wrong. Buffalo’s offense is a disaster in November, but the Patriots have serious attrition issues on defense, so maybe the Bills score more than the 17.75 ppg they averaged in November.

The only things worth noting in this game were Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit on Tre’Davious White, the sadness of Tyrod Taylor playing through an injury to avoid the bench, just to be injured far worse, and that Rex Burkhead (2 TDs) was the difference in what was shaping up to be a close game - one of Tom Brady’s worst of the season.

San Francisco 49ers 1-10 (+3) @ Chicago Bears 3-8 (41): 49ers 21-20 49ers 15-14
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Soldiers Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Sunny; high 50s)

Reasons: I’m such a homer I’m taking Jimmy G on the road vs. Chicago in an early afternoon game over a hapless Bears team led by rookie Mitch Trubisky, who I wouldn’t taker over Jimmy G if my life depended on it.

The Jimmy G era has officially begun. I might have said that last week, but Garoppolo won his first start for the 49ers, and the former Patriots backup and gift to Kyle Shanahan for throwing the Super Bowl, threw for 293 yards on 70% passing, although he did throw an interception. The 49ers have found some hope, although it came at the expense of the Bears, so…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-7 (+2.5) @ Green Bay Packers 5-6 (45): Packers 24-20 Packers 26-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: Aaron Rodgers was seen flinging the football all over the place this week and the one consensus coming out of practice in Green Bay was, “We wish we hadn’t put Rodgers on IR…” Ohh, shucks. The Packers won’t get Rodgers back until at least Week 15, but they could be out of the playoffs by then considering the woeful Buccaneers have nearly the same chance of making the playoffs.

I don’t know whether to be more proud of the Packers or disappointed in the Buccaneers. On one hand the Bucs came back from a ten-point deficit to force overtime, but on the other hand that was against an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team to begin with. Brent Hundley (13-22 for 84 passing yards; 1 INT) was atrocious once again, but Jamal Williams (21 carries for 113 rushing yards; 1 TD) and the Packers running game picked up the slack for an offense that was outgained and held the ball for almost ten fewer minutes.

Houston Texans 4-7 (+7) @ Tennessee Titans 7-4 (43): Titans 23-17 Titans 24-13
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Sunny; high 60s)

Reasons: The Texans are 1-3 since they lost Deshaun Watson for the season and have only averaged 17 ppg in that same span. To make matters worse Houston is dealing with a much attrition of any team in the league. The Titans are 5-1 in their last six games, their only loss coming to the Pittsburgh Steelers, perhaps the AFC’s best team. Tennessee is also 4-1 at home (Houston is 1-4 on the road) and don’t have a misinformed Twitter mob led by the insufferable Clay Travis bringing pitchforks and torches to protest outside the game, either, so there’s that.

Tom Savage threw 49 pass attempts in this game, but it only amounted to one touchdown pass and 13 total points, which wasn’t enough to beat a Titans team that has now won six of their past seven games. Marcus Mariota (15-23 for 150 passing yards; 1 TD) was once again pedestrian in the win, and the Titans only led 17-13 before Derrick Henry’s 75-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds remaining in the game, but the win is all that matters until the playoffs when Tennessee will face real competition.

Denver Broncos 3-8 (-1.5) @ Miami Dolphins 4-7 (40): Dolphins 24-23 Dolphins 35-9
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: The Denver Broncos were once the most feared defense in the NFL, so why are the Dolphins favored? Well, technically they’re not, being 1.5-point “favorites” at home, but Denver has become atrocious, and they’ll be missing their best secondary defender in Two Chainz to suspension. The Broncos have lost seven straight games and have only managed 14 ppg in that stretch; the Dolphins have their own five-game losing streak going, and have only managed 16.4 ppg in their own putrid stretch. By my calculations that just over two point per game, and the spread is 1.5 points. Imagine that.

Holy cow the Denver Broncos are awful, and man is Jay Cutler petty. Where the hell has this Jay Cutler been? Maybe this is the Jay we get around the holidays; after all, the guy is from Santa Claus, IN. Just kidding, he was terrible, but he did throw two touchdowns – and two INTs – and lead the Dolphins to their most lopsided win of the season. The game really belonged to running back Kenyan Drake (23 carries for 120 rushing yard; 1 TD), the Dolphins special teams (safety) and the their defense, which not only forced three Trevor Siemian INTs, but also returned one of them for a touchdown.

Kansas City Chiefs 6-5 (-3.5) @ New York Jets 4-7 (43.5): Chiefs 24-21 Jets 38-31
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Overcast; high 40s)

Reasons: Things have become so bad in Kansas City, losers of five of their last six games after starting the season 5-0, that the Chiefs found Darrelle Revis in the junkyard and convinced themselves he was worth it. Revis is no Eric Berry, so Chiefs fans can just put those hopes right back to bed. The funny thing is they signed Revis the week they played the Jets, which is funny enough in itself, but also makes me wonder if the Chiefs were as fooled by the Jets air attack as other teams have been this season (234.5 passing yards per game off the arm of Josh McCown). The Jets have also lost five of their last six games, but no one expected anything from that New York this season. What an awful game this is going to be.

I guess I was wrong, but do you smell that? It’s the AFC West. The shit is so clogged in that division that the Chiefs have managed to drop their sixth game in seven tries and are STILL tied for the division lead.  The Chiefs shot themselves in the foot again Sunday, committing critical errors in the Red Zone to allow their opponent myriad chances to steal the win from them. It happened against division rival Oakland several weeks ago and now it happened again Sunday, this time leading to a miraculous Jets victory. Alex Smith (19-33 passing for 346 yards and 4 TDs; led team with 70 rushing yards) did his best to silence critics, but Kansas City once again couldn’t put together a complete game, which is a polite way of saying their defense melted down both strategically and emotionally in the 4th quarter, leading to 11 unanswered points and another loss.

Indianapolis Colts 3-8 (+9.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 7-4 (40.5): Jaguars 24-17 Jaguars 30-10
Sunday, 1:00 PM, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: The Colts are so bad it’s hard to see how they’ve won three games, but such is the NFL, the sport with the most parody, according to the NFL. That’s probably why the same four teams have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl the past 20 years. I digress. The funny thing is I would actually take the Colts quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, and put him on the Jaguars if such things were up to me, because Blake Bortles could handicap this Jaguars team. I hope Eli Manning gets released by the Giants and is reconnected with Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville so Eli can get another cheap Super Bowl late in his career like his older brother did.

The poor Colts got through a protective fence and were immediately devoured by the Jaguars. The animals’ owner could not be reached for comment, although he was seen slumped over in a reclining chair, drooling, with a $500,000 guitar that he reportedly can’t play draped across his lap, suggesting he was saddened by the incident and undoubtedly recovering in his own way.

Detroit Lions 6-5 (+3) @ Baltimore Ravens 6-5 (43.5): Ravens 21-20 Ravens 44-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The Lions were a few plays from tying the Vikings on Thanksgiving, but ultimately came up short against one of the league’s best defenses. The Ravens are 3-1 since losing to those same Vikings Week 8 (24-16) and have allowed fewer than 10 ppg in that stretch, technically making them one of the hottest teams in the NFL over the past four games, at least defensively. The Lions have given up nearly 24 ppg over their last four games (3-1), including that exact amount to both the Bears and the Browns over that stretch. The Lions just aren’t very good, so even the 32nd-ranked Joe Flacco, backed by one of the best defenses in the NFL, can beat them.

A lot happened in the 4th quarter of this game. The Ravens turned a close 20-13 game into a blowout, several Detroit turnovers led to that blowout, and Matthew Stafford left with a hand injury.

Cleveland Browns 0-11 (+14) @ Los Angeles Chargers 5-6 (44): Chargers 27-17 Chargers 19-10
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Stub Hub Center, Carson, CA (Weather: Sunny; high 60s)

Reasons: Don’t look now but the Chargers are, well, charging. Los Angeles is 5-2 in their last seven games after starting the season 0-4, and the two losses in those last seven games came against New England (21-13) and Jacksonville in OT (20-17). Phillip Rivers is heating up and the defense has now allowed only 18.4 ppg on the season, let alone those seven aforementioned games (15.6 ppg allowed). The Cleveland Browns are winless and that’s really all you need to know about them.

The Cleveland Browns are nothing to brag on, but the Chargers have to be pleased with themselves getting to .500 (6-6) after starting the season 0-4. What a difference two months makes. At the end of the first month of the season the Chargers were 0-4 and the Kansas City Chiefs were 4-0; now they sit tied for the division lead at 6-6 and the Chargers are clearly the better team. Phillip Rivers (31-43 passing for 344 yards; 1 TD) has been on fire and the defense continued their hot play against the Browns Sunday, allowing only 10 points and 291 total yards, while forcing two turnovers and sacking rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer three times.

New York Giants 2-9 (+8.5) @ Oakland Raiders 5-6 (41.5): Raiders 24-20 Raiders 24-17
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: The Giants were “supposed” to have a top-five defense in 2017, yet the Raiders defense, as bad as anticipated, has allowed 0.6 fewer points per game than the Giants. Let’s not even get into these two offenses, please; they’re offensive. Sorry. But I’m not as sorry as these two teams, easily two of the biggest underachievers in the NFL this season. The Giants doubled down this week by benching quarterback Eli Manning, who was in the midst of a 210-consecutive game playing streak, the longest active streak in the NFL until the Giants rudely placed the 2-9 record blame squarely on his shoulders, despite having a terrible head coach and a defense that imploded, to put it politely.

Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese were fired as I started writing these game reviews, and Eli Manning was named the Week 14 starter by the time I wrote this review of the Giants v. Raiders game. What a mess. The Raiders held the Giants to 265 total yards, sacked Geno Smith three times and forced him to lose two fumbles, a Smith specialty. No wonder the Giants wanted to see what he was capable of, because apparently they didn’t see how much he turned the ball over in the same stadium for the Jets all those years.

Carolina Panthers 8-3 (+5) @ New Orleans Saints 8-3 (48.5): Saints 27-21 Saints 31-21
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Both teams come into the game tied for the NFC South lead with 8-3 records. The Panthers come into the game allowing only 18.8 ppg, good for a top-ten defense; the Saints come in scoring 29.3 ppg, good for a top-four offense. Something has to give and I’m guessing it’ll be that top-ten defense on the road in New Orleans. Carolina’s inconsistent offense is on the mend again, and Cam Newton will have a lot more trouble moving the ball on this Saints defense (12th points allowed; 15th yards allowed, many coming in garbage time) than in previous years.

As expected Drew Brees (25-34 passing for 265 yards; 1 TD) picked apart this stout Panthers defense at home, but perhaps less expected was the one-two punch of the Saints running game, sparked by the rookie superhuman Alvin Kamara (9 carries for 60 yards; 2 TDs) but anchored by the veteran Mark Ingram (14 carries for 85 yards; 1 TD), although 72 of Ingram’s yards came on one run. The Saints proved they’re the class of the NFC South and will be tough to beat going forward with the defense playing well and the offense as dynamic as it’s ever been.

Los Angeles Rams 8-3 (-7) @ Arizona Cardinals 5-6 (44.5): Rams 28-20 Rams 32-16
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix, AZ (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The last time these two teams played (Week 8) the Rams won 33-0. Expect the same result with a slightly less lopsided score.

Suffice it to say I called this perfectly.

Philadelphia Eagles 10-1 (-5) @ Seattle Seahawks 7-4 (47): Eagles 24-21 Seahawks 24-10

Sunday, 8:30 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Cloudy; high 40s)
Reasons: The Eagles come into this game healthy and on fire. Their second-year quarterback Carson Wentz is an MVP front-runner leading the league’s top offense (31.9 ppg) and the Philadelphia defense is one of the best in the league, allowing only 17.4 ppg (3rd points allowed; 6th yards allowed). The Seahawks defense is right up there (8th yards allowed; 9th points allowed), although they’re not nearly as intimidating as in years past, but that’s due to attrition more than anything else. Seattle’s offense, anchored by Russell Wilson’s magical ways, is suddenly a top-ten offense (8th yards allowed; 10th points scored). You read that right; Seattle has nearly identical ranks on both sides of the ball in respective categories, which is not only weird, but indicative of a great team, certainly better than their 7-4 record would indicate. I bet the Seahawks get up for this game and…cover.
Russell Wilson (20-31 passing for 227 yards) threw three touchdown passes and the Seahawks never trailed this matchup of two playoff-bound teams, beating the Eagles soundly at home to improve to 8-4. Carson Wentz (29-45 passing for 348 yards; 1 TD; 1 INT) played well, but Philadelphia’s offense managed only 10 points against Seattle’s stingy defense (3 sacks; 2 take-aways; 3.8 yards per rush), which remains one of the toughest in the league to beat at home, despite multiple injures to key players.

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-2 (-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 5-6 (43): Steelers 21-17 Steelers 23-20
Monday, 8:30 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Sunny; high 50s)

Reasons: On paper the Steelers destroy the Bengals, but this game won’t be played on paper, but rather on a bloody field in southern Ohio. These two teams hate each other, which marginalizes statistical analysis to the point where it’s almost point-less. Truth be told the Steelers are a much better football team that really hasn’t even reached their offensive potential, although the one respectable aspect of the Bengals team is their defense (10th points allowed: 19.5 ppg), so there’s a chance it may not be reached in Week 13, either, especially with Antonio Brown questionable. The Steelers should continue their six-game winning streak Monday night, but it may come with a price.

The Bengals completely dominated the first half 17-3, but the play on the field was overshadowed by Ryan Shazier’s condition off of it after the Steelers linebacker was taken to the hospital after a head-on collision that appeared to injure his back early in the 1st quarter, leaving him motionless on the field. It was a tale of two halves as the Steelers, down 17-3 at the half, returned the favor by winning the second half 20-3, highlighted by 13 unanswered points in the 4th quarter, before kicker Chris Boswell’s 38-yard field goal sealed the game. The Battle of Southern Ohio will go down as one of the bloodier games of 2017, and the most penalized in Bengals history. Let’s hope Ryan Shazier isn’t seriously hurt.

Stay tuned for Week 14: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday mornings.

*minus two weeks due to technical difficulties 

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