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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday’s Gone: Week 14 #NFL Game Reviews


Tuesday’s Gone: Week 14 #NFL Game Reviews

2017 NFL SEASON

Week 14: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 14 results: 8-8 wins (season*: 114-67; .630); 5-11 v. spread (season*: 85-94-2; .470)


New Orleans Saints 9-3 (-1.5) @ Atlanta Falcons 7-5 (53.5): Saints 27-24 Falcons 20-17
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Mercedes-Benz Dome, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints survived a divisional showdown with the Carolina Panthers last week to claim sole possession of the NFC South, and despite the Falcons hot hand (Atlanta had won three straight before a Week 13 lose 10-2 Minnesota), I don’t see Drew Brees relinquishing that lead considering how tight the NFC South is and how tight the NFC playoff race is in general. The Falcons have won and lost in chunks this season, and have played eight games decided by six or fewer points (4-4), which basically means the only thing Atlanta is good at is keeping us guessing. The Falcons don’t give up many yards (8th yards allowed), but their defense stays on the field a long time, which plays right into the hands of the Saints (6th in time of possession), which also just happens to be one of the three best offenses in the NFL (2nd yards gained; 3rd points scored), not to mention the most dynamic (Alvin Kamara) and most explosive (1st yards per play).

The Saints held a 17-10 lead until nearly halfway through the 4th quarter before the Falcons scored 10 unanswered points between the 10- and 4-minute marks of the 4th quarter to make it a 20-17 game for a Drew Brees (26-35 passing for 271 yards; 2 TDs; 1 INT) special 2-minute drill for the win. Such did not happen as Brees was intercepted by Deion Jones, and despite Matt Ryan’s (15-27 passing for 221 yards; 1 TD) three interceptions, the Falcons squeaked out a win and stayed with the Saints and Panthers in the NFC South.

Indianapolis Colts 3-9 (+3) @ Buffalo Bills 6-6 (39.5): Bills 21-17 Bills 13-7
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Snow; low 30s)

Reasons: Both teams come into Sunday 1-4 in their last five games, but at least the Bills have the excuse of having played the Saints, Chargers and Patriots. The Bills used to have one the top defenses in the league, but the Colts were good once, so the past means nothing. Regardless, the Bills are still alive and the Colts are aiming for a top draft pick. The Bills playoff hopes are riding on Nate Peterman., though, so...

This was one of the coolest games I’ve ever seen. The snow fell at rates of a few inches per hour, and at one point there was over 6” of snow on the field. Nate Peterman threw a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin in a game with no offense as the first half expired to go up 7-0 (Peterman was injured in the game, which whites out any hopes of the Bills making noise in the playoffs if they end up making it), but the game was decided in the final 1:33 and overtime. The Colts scored on a 3-yard Jacoby Brissett toss to tight end Jack Doyle, with 1:33 remaining, only to have the two-point conversion called back on a penalty. The Colts had no choice other than to kick the extra point, so Snow God Adam Vinatieri punched in the nearly 30-yard kick to tie the game 7-7. The Bills were subsequently intercepted, giving Vinatieri the chance to be the hero again; it didn’t happen and the game went to overtime. That’s when the other Snow God LeSean McCoy (156 rushing yards on 32 carries), the king of blizzard conditions, scampered 21 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Chicago Bears 3-9 (+6.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 5-7 (38.5): Bengals 21-20 Bears 33-7
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Sunny; mid-30s)

Reasons: It’s funny that in a week when nearly every game has playoff implications we get this stinker. The Bears and Bengals are almost identically terrible at possessing the ball, 3rd-down efficiency, and gaining yards or stopping their opponents from gaining yards. The Bengals are coming off a short week after a brutal battle with the Steelers, so I wouldn’t expect much out of them, even against the hapless Bears.

The Bengals clearly hadn’t recovered mentally from that Monday Night game against the Steelers, because the Bears came in and whooped the Bengals, as the Chicago offense and rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky (25-32 passing for 271 yards; 1 TD) had their best games of the season. That doesn’t bode well for a Cincinnati team that was barely hanging on to the string wound by their defense. The Bears possessed the ball for nearly 39 minutes and the defense forced two Bengals turnovers, as the Bengals kissed another season goodbye. Don’t worry, Marvin Lewis will be back. He’ll always be back.

Oakland Raiders 6-6 (+4) @ Kansas City Chiefs 6-6 (48.5): Chiefs 24-21 Chiefs 26-15
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, KS (Weather: Sunny; mid-50s)

Reasons: The last time these two teams played they were miles apart in the standings; then the Chiefs gifted the game to the Raiders after committing several penalties in the Red Zone and end zone to give Oakland myriad undeserved chances to win, which they eventually did 31-30, and Kansas City began their pre-humous tribute to Tom Petty (Free Fallin' for all you slower folks). Fast-forward seven weeks and everyone is locked up at 6-6, the Raiders are treading water and the Chiefs are falling apart. This should be interesting. 
The Chiefs held the ball for nearly 37 minutes, outgained the Raiders by 140 yards, forced three Oakland turnovers and shut them out 26-0 until Marshawn Lynch scored on a 22-yard run with just under nine minutes remaining and began the Raiders late campaign to make a blowout not look like one.

Dallas Cowboys 6-6 (-3.5) @ New York Giants 2-10 (41.5): Cowboys 24-17 Cowboys 30-10
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; high 30s)

Reasons: I think Eli Manning is starting this game. How big of a shit show have the New York Giants become? In other news, did you hear about Derek Jeter pulling the biggest heist in Major League Baseball history? Fear not New York, you’re relevant once again.

Eli Manning was starting again; the Giants wore their old school uniforms and the home crowd roared on their champion quarterback. Then the fans, and Eli alike, returned to Earth and Manning (2 INTs) returned to his mediocre self as the Cowboys went to MetLife Stadium and secured an important, although relatively easy, divisional road win. Dak Prescott (20-30 passing for 332 yards; 3 TDs) returned to form, Sean Lee didn’t leave the game hurt, and despite the quality backup play, Ezekiel Elliot’s return is on the horizon. The Cowboys are fast becoming a team the NFC doesn’t want to face.

Detroit Lions 6-6 (-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-8 (43.5): Lions 24-23 Lions 24-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Sunny; high 50s)

Reasons: Matthew Stafford is questionable, which means if he doesn’t play, the Lions can basically kiss this game goodbye. Not because the Buccaneers are any good, but because the Lions without Stafford are like the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers.

Well, Matt Stafford played, but he threw two interceptions; he also set up the game-winning field goal to keep the Lions alive in the NFC. This was a pretty ugly game, which despite featuring 834 combined yards and 49 combined first downs, also featured eight combined turnovers (DET: 3; TB: 5).

Minnesota Vikings 10-2 (-2.5) @ Carolina Panthers 8-4 (40): Vikings 23-20 Panthers 31-24
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; low 40s)

Reasons: The Vikings getting the three points the Panthers should be getting at home tells you everything you need to know about people’s confidence in Minnesota relative to Carolina. Both teams come into Sunday with top-ten defenses, the Vikings ranking 2nd in points and yards allowed, and each team chews up the clock, which means the game could come down to a few throws, and believe it or not, the smart money says you’d probably rather have Case Keenum make those throws, at least this season.

The Panthers have to be the most interesting teams in the NFL. Only Carolina would lean on their defense most of the season, but give up 24 points, just to have Jonathan Stewart (3 TDs) run all over one of the best run defenses in the NFL to help secure the late season win over arguably the best team in the NFC at home, where they’d only been 3-2 up to that point.

Green Bay Packers 6-6 (-3) @ Cleveland Browns 0-12 (39.5): Packers 23-21 Packers 27-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Snow; low 30s)

Reasons: The Packers will be right at home in the snow, and despite their Aaron Rodgers-less woes, Green Bay has developed quite a nice little running game, which will also play well in the weather. Imagine a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers being favored on the road by three points? That’s how bad the Browns are. Word on the street is they’re looking for a quarterback in this year's draft. “The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round…”

This one really has to hurt. The Browns were home, rookie DeShone Kizer (20-28 passing for 214 yards; 3 TDs; 1 INT) had played perhaps his best game of the season, Josh Gordon looked great and the defense had held the packers to seven points through three quarters. Then it was as if the ghost of Aaron Rodgers impending return arose and performed an early holiday miracle, as Green Bay scored 20 unanswered points in the 4th quarter and overtime, including two Brett Hundley to Davante Adams connections, to steal the win from the still winless Browns.

San Francisco 49ers 2-10 (+2.5) @ Houston Texans 4-8 (45): Texans 24-21 49ers 26-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, NRG Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The 49ers come into the game with their shiny new toy, but unfortunately for the Texans their own new toy is on the shelf for the rest of the season and beyond. Such has made for rather boring and sad seasons, respectively. Perhaps the Texans are still alive mathematically, but both of these teams are looking towards the draft at this point.

DeAndre Hopkins is so nice he stole the show in a loss. Hopkins gained 146 yards and scored the Texans only two TDs on 11 catches, but it wasn’t enough to beat Jimmy Garoppolo (20-33 passing for 334 yards; 1 TD; 1 INT), who threw for a career high as he led the 49ers to their second straight win.  

New York Jets 5-7 (-1) @ Denver Broncos 3-9 (41.5): Jets 20-17 Broncos 23-0
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Clear; low 50s)

Reasons: The Jets are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive when they face the Broncos on the road Sunday. You have to read that a few times and then Google it so see if it’s even true, then scratch your head at the reality.

Just when you start having faith in the New York Jets, or none in the Denver Broncos, the betting gods laugh and give you something like we saw in Denver Sunday. Truth be told, I was hesitant to pick the Jets on the road, and considering I can’t pick a score that reflects the spread, I decided three points was nice and pretty; however, I almost picked the Broncos several times before posting the article. What I didn’t expect at all was the Jets offense to collapse, which wasn’t just shut out, but only gained 100 total yards and six first downs. Jeez, this wasn’t even the snow game.

Tennessee Titans 8-4 (-3) @ Arizona Cardinals 5-7 (46.5): Titans 24-20 Cardinals 12-7
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix, AZ (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: It’s hard to believe that during the Titans 4-1 stretch following their bye week that Marcus Mariota (10 TDs; 12 INTs) would be the worst part of it. Luckily for Tennessee they have two of the best running backs in the league in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Cardinals aren’t so lucky, and haven’t been all season, as Arizona will now be without Adrian Peterson for the game. I’m not buying Mariota throwing the ball on this Cardinals secondary, so I suppose it comes down to that Titans one-two punch.

The Titans offense was so bad Sunday that four second half Phil Dawson field goals was enough for the Cardinals to beat them. Both teams were terrible, gaining a combined 465 total yards, but Marcus Mariota (16-31 passing for 159 yards; 2 INTs) was atrocious. It has become clear the Titans don’t possess consistency or the quarterback play to challenge other playoff teams from the AFC, so Tennessee needs to do something other than remain in the AFC South, because power running backs don’t stay fresh for years.

Washington Football Team 5-7 (+6) @ Los Angeles Chargers 6-6 (46.5): Chargers 27-23 Chargers 30-13
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Stub Hub Center, Carson, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Chargers are 6-2 in their last eight games, after starting the season 0-4, and those two losses came to the 10-2 Patriots and the 8-4 Jaguars, two of the top teams in the NFL. The Chargers are firing on all cylinders, finally, with an offense to match their top-ten defense. Washington is an interesting team; they scored 3o and 31 points against two of the best defenses in the NFL (MIN; NO), respectively, yet only managed to score half of that total against two of the worst defenses in the NFL (NYG;DAL). Washington is capable of beating anyone on any given day, but that won’t be the Chargers Sunday. 

The Chargers remained hot Sunday scoring 30 points, largely on the arm of Phillip Rivers (18-31 passing for 319 yards; 2 TDs), while holding Washington to 201 total yards while forcing a Kirk Cousins interception.

Philadelphia Eagles 10-2 (+1) @ Los Angeles Rams 9-3 (48): Rams 27-24 Eagles 43-35
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA (Weather: Sunny; high 80s)

Reasons: You can’t script this stuff. The two top picks in the 2016 draft are leading the two best teams in the NFC in a battle that might decide the conference’s top seed. Philadelphia and Los Angeles are so evenly matched that they’re tied as the league's top scoring offense (30.1 ppg) and have the 6th and 7th-ranked scoring defenses, respectively. The Eagles also have the largest point differential in the league; guess who’s second? Buckle up.

Take the Brandon Graham fumble return from the desperation lateral chaos away and what we have here is a situation in which the Eagles won the battle 37-35, but may have lost the war considering they lost their MVP-candidate quarterback in Carson Wentz (23-41 passing for 291 yards; 4 TDs; 1 TD) for the season to a knee injury. Philadelphia possessed the ball nearly twice as long (39+ minutes) and the Rams turned the ball over twice, yet the Eagles essentially won by kicking two unanswered field goals to go up 37-35 after the Rams took the lead on a Todd Gurley (13 carries for 96 yards; 2 TDs) touchdown run early in the 4th quarter. This game didn’t disappoint, and it’s likely we could have a rematch in the playoffs, although, unfortunately, that game won’t feature Wentz

Seattle Seahawks 8-4 (+2.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 8-4 (40): Jaguars 21-20 Jaguars 30-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: Russell Wilson has single-handedly kept the Seahawks offense from being a laughingstock, and he’s done it largely running for his life. It’s about to get a whole lot worse Sunday, as the Jaguars come into the game with the league’s top defense and their specialty is getting after the quarterback. The problem is the Seahawks are no slouches on defense themselves, and the Jaguars are led by Blake Bortles, literally the opposite of Russell Wilson. It’s time for the Jaguars to show us they’re for real.

The Jaguars led 27-10 deep into the 4th quarter, but then MVP Flavor of the Week Russell Wilson turned a nightmare game (3 INT) into what was almost a game by throwing two of his three touchdown passes in the 4th quarter to make it a 30-24 headline barnburner, which in reality was a domination by the new kid on the block. The Jaguars crowd proved they weren’t ready for the new role, however, as Jacksonville fans threw drinks at Quinton Jefferson as he was escorted off of the field, ejected for an on-field fight that led to no suspensions, and sparked the player-fan interaction debate once again. Here’s what I know: You’re not throwing those drinks at Jefferson in a face-to-face situation.

Baltimore Ravens 7-5 (+4.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 10-2 (43.5): Steelers 23-20 Steelers 39-38
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Cloudy; mid-20s)

Reasons: I’m not sure I can handle another AFC North game right now after what we witnessed Monday night.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards, the third time Roethlisberger has thrown for 500+ yards in his career (no other NFL quarterback has more than one), on his way to setting up 10 unanswered 4th quarter points, leading the Steelers to a comeback win over the rival Ravens. A divisional game usually known for big hits and little offense, and for a game that just happened to feature two of the top defenses in the NFL, you’d never know it; the two teams combined, relatively evenly, for 77 points, 958 total yards and 57 first downs. Baltimore led by as much as 38-29 with less than seven minutes remaining in the game before Roethlisberger and the Steelers willed the spirit of Ryan Shazier and snatched the victory from the Ravens at home.

New England Patriots 10-2 (-11) @ Miami Dolphins 5-7 (47.5): Patriots 27-17 Dolphins 27-20
Monday, 8:30 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Clear; mid-50s)

Reasons: There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Patriots this week, which means Belichick circled the wagons and got to business during the workweek, especially with planning to play without Rob Gronkowski, suspended for his dirty hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. We’re all well aware of the Patriots abilities (3rd points scored; 8th points allowed), but you might not know the Dolphins are statistically one of the worst teams in the league, despite their 5-7 record. These late season AFC East road games have been tough for the Patriots, historically, but I don’t see any issues here. Tom Brady takes his media frustration out on the Dolphins, so long as they keep Cameron Wake away from him.

Two parts of those last two sentences were true, but unfortunately for Tom Brady and the Patriots, it was the “late AFC East road games have been tough” and the “So long as they keep Cameron Wake away from him” part. New England led at one point, but it was early, and it was only 7-6. Besides that the Dolphins dominated, save for a 4th quarter desperation 10-point outburst by the Patriots to make the score look respectable. Brady threw two interceptions and was sacked twice and hit six times as he was under pressure most of the night.

Stay tuned for Week 15 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday mornings.

*minus two weeks due to technical difficulties

 


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