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Thursday, September 6, 2018

The 2018 #NFL Season: Kneel You Sons of Bitches!


T U E S D A Y ’ S   G O N E:

The NFL is back for their 99th season, and with it the anthem protests, back for their 3rd season, complete with misinformed tweets from our supposed commander-in-chief. We're not overly political at, so I digress, but even without the president's nonsensical tweets we'd have much to ponder this coming season: 

Is the New England Patriots dynasty over? Sure seems it. 

Did Jon Gruden already punch his ticket out of Oakland/Las Vegas before the season even begins by trading Khalil Mack? Sure seems it.  

Will the 2018 quarterback draft class live up to the hype? Only one rookie quarterback is slated to start Week 1 and he's a Jet. Yikes. 

Will the reduction of practice and contact under the new CBA continue to hurt the on-field product? If you were a Cowboys or Rams fan would you be psyched that your star running backs and quarterbacks hardly played at all in the preseason, if even one snap? 

Will people with agendas continue to tell us the NFL is failing, despite every metric telling us otherwise? Yes. The aforementioned CBA combined  with new technology are the likely culprits for any perceived dip in interest in the NFL, but "everything in life is one's perception" (Gregory Bateson). When Green Bay Packers fans lose Aaron Rodgers Week 9 they seem less interested in the NFL; and in a 24-hour news cycle, combined with people's ability to access any game in HD, information and/or highlights in seconds, Neilsen ratings seem far less relevant. The NFL is thriving, don't let crusty old white men tell you different. 

Perhaps with the domestic abuse and anthem protest issues largely behind us, at least in the sense that reports of domestic incidents seem to have gone down and the fact that many NFL partner broadcasts have refused to show the anthem at all, we can get back to the game of football. 

One thing new to Tuesday's Gone will be the length of the previews and reviews. Per request of my few readers and my family the articles will be considerably shorter, sometimes containing just a few sentences (Note: Following Weeks 1-4, which allows for short 2018 team reviews during the real preseason period). The analysis will not suffer and will be based on the same metrics; I just won't be so long-winded about every game. Thanks for reading and let's try to enjoy the 2018 NFL season!

Week 1: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 1 results: 9-6-1 (wins); 7-9 (v. spread); 9-7 (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).

 Much has been made about the potential demise of the New England Patriots dynasty, especially the relationship between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Guess who has the best Super Bowl odds?

Atlanta Falcons 0-0 (+1) @ Philadelphia Eagles 0-0 (44.5): Eagles 23-20 Eagles 18-12
Thursday, 8:20 PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: 80s; 80% thunderstorms)

Reasons: The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles didn't waste any time reloading in the off-season, signing DL Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata, and bolstering their already stout defense, ranked 4th in 2017. The only problem is the Eagles are still dealing with quarterback Carson Wentz's knee injury and Philadelphia just lost WR Alshon Jeffery for the first few games of the 2018 season. Combine all of that with back-up QB Nick Foles' preseason struggles, the off-season loss of RB LaGarette Blount and head coach Doug Peterson losing his mind and you have all the makings of a terrible home opener against an Atlanta Falcons team that suffered their own sort of Super Bowl hangover to start last season. The Falcons are better than people probably remember, finishing 2017 with a top-10 offense (ranked 8th) and defense (ranked 9th). The Falcons lost some of their edge on defense in the off-season, but gained an offensive lineman (Brandon Fusco) to compliment their recently resigned left tackle Jake Matthews and drafted Calvin Ridley (Alabama) to compliment their other superstar Alabama WR, Julio Jones, who until this week hadn't reported to camp. Things will change quickly in the first few weeks, but as far as Thursday Night Football is concerned, the Eagles normally high-flying offense won't quite be in sync in the rain, but the house bird Falcons will struggle just as much, especially with key guys like Jones not playing a single snap in the preseason. If it rains as predicted this game could be one for the birds; if the rain holds off, however, look for the Falcons to steal the game and the Eagle's season opening celebration.

It was like the 2017 NFC Divisional game all over again. How can Matt Ryan not find Julio Jones in the end zone in crucial moments? And how can the supposedly offensive juggernaut Falcons keep flying into glass windows when they need offensive production most? Meanwhile the defending champion Eagles seem to be making a habit out of squeaking out wins with their backup quarterback in a system that's sure to be sustainable. 

Buffalo Bills 0-0 (+7.5) @ Baltimore Ravens 0-0 (40.5): Ravens 23-17 Ravens 47-3

Sunday, 1:00 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: 70% rain; 70s)

Reasons: The Bills added their future quarterback in the draft (Josh Allen), but he won't help the Bills against the Ravens stout defense in the driving rain.

The Josh Allen began quicker than some expected Sunday as Nathan Peterman continued to prove Colin Kaepernick's collusion case against the NFL as the rain fell hard on the field and on the Bills Opening Day parade.

Jacksonville Jaguars 0-0 (-3) @ New York Giants 0-0 (43.5): Jaguars 23-20 Jaguars 20-15
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: 30% rain; mid-60s)

Reasons: The New York Giants are supposedly back, resigning Diva Beckham Jr. and drafting hyper talented running back Saqoun Barkely from Penn State. The problem is they face the league's best defense to open the season. Let's see if OBJ can keep it together v. Jalen Ramsey.

Rookie Saquon Barkely lived up to the Opening Day hype versus arguably the best defense in the NFL, gaining 126 yards from scrimmage. Odell Beckham Jr. added another 111 receiving yards in his first game back in what seems like several seasons, but alas, it was Myles Jack and the Jaguars defense that once again stole the show and carried Jacksonville to victory. 

Pittsburgh Steelers 0-0 (-4) @ Cleveland Browns 0-0 (44): Steelers 21-18 TIE 21-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, OH (Weather: 100% rain; mid-60s)

Reasons: Le'Veon Bell still remains a hold out, which could hurt the Steelers in the driving rain, but luckily for the Steelers the Browns don't have the offensive firepower to match their surprisingly good defense. 

Bell's absence didn't seem to have much of an effect through three quarters of the game as James Connor's 135 rushing yards and two TDs will attest, but it was that crucial Connor fumble that'll have Steelers fans wondering if they're really the same player. Of course they're not, and any Steelers team would have trouble overcoming three Roethlisberger INTs. The Steelers fell flat in the second half allowing the Browns a better record in 2018 through Week 1 than they had all of 2017.

Cincinnati Bengals 0-0 (+3) @ Indianapolis Colts 0-0 (48.5): Bengals 24-20 Bengals 34-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Luca Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Andrew Luck is back. We think.

He is. Luck threw for 319 passing yards and two TDs on 39-53 passing, but it was Andy Dalton's show at the end as Dalton threw for three TDs in the final 19 minutes of the game to steal the win from the Colts.

Houston Texans 0-0 (+6.5) @ New England Patriots 0-0 (51): Patriots 24-21 Patriots 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; mid-60s)

Reasons: Tough sledding to open the season for the team that everyone in America outside of New England would love to see flop. I'd bet on Bill O'Brien doing that before Bill Belichick.

Once again Tom Brady (26-39 for 277 yards passing; 3 TDs) connected with Rob Gronkowski (7 receptions for 123 receiving yards; 1 TD) and the NFL's most dangerous quarterback-receiving tandem one strange injury from collapsing again took advantage of an inferior regular season opponent and disguised the fact they are dangerously thin at the skill positions, especially after losing RB Jeremy Hill for the year to a torn ACL.  

Titans Tennessee 0-0 (-1.5) @ Miami Dolphins 0-0 (45): Titans 27-20 Dolphins 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: 40% t-storms; high 80s)

Reasons: The weather and nightlife continues to be the best - and only - part of Miami.

A 10-3 game entering the 3rd quarter, all looked good for those taking the under in a game that got sloppy at times. Then both teams exploded for a 34-point 4th quarter and destroyed all of that, capped by Jakeem Grant's 102-yard kickoff return that broke the tie and sealed the victory for Miami.

San Francisco 49ers 0-0 (+6.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 0-0 (44.5): Vikings 28-24 Vikings 24-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The 49ers are rapidly on the rise like an early morning fog bank, but there is no fog like the Vikings defense. Add that top-tier defense to a talented offensive unit led by off-season acquisition Kurt Cousins and we might have the best team in the NFL.

In hindsight I'm not really sure why I thought the 49ers would score 24 points against the Vikings other than Jimmy G. sellers remorse. However, an early injury to Marquis Goodwin took Jimmy G's security blanket away and suddenly the world ate Jimmy. Kirk Cousins threw two TDs in his highly anticipated debut, but let's get real, this is a team built of defense. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-0 (+1) @ New Orleans Saints 0-0 (49.5): Saints 30-20 Bucs 48-40
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes Benz Stadium, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: I would be shocked if this game was even close.  

What in the Ryan Fitzpatrick? Fitzpatrick threw for four TDs on 417 passing yards and stole the show on the road from the mighty turf Saints. Even a furious 16-point 4th quarter by the Saints, led by their own 439-passing yard and three-TD performance from Drew Brees, wasn't enough. 

Kansas City Chiefs 0-0 (+3.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers 0-0 (48): Chargers 24-21 Chiefs 38-28
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Stub Hub Field, Carson City, CA (Weather: Clear; mid-80s)

Reasons: The Chargers once again enter 2018 one of the most talented teams on paper, but as we've already seen this off-season, the Chargers cannot stay healthy. The Chiefs appear the same way on paper, but the defense is no longer there.

Phillip Rivers threw for 439 passing yards and three TDs, but it was the rookie Patrick Mahomes who stole the show with four of his own passing TDs, including two to the acrobatic but domestically despicable Tyreek Hill. The offensive - no pun intended, Tyreek - future of the Chiefs looks bright while the future of the Chargers looks as confusing as ever.

Washington Football Team 0-0 (+1) @ Arizona Cardinals 0-0 (44): Cardinals 21-17 WFT 24-6
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Both of these teams employed Adrian Peterson the past two seasons, which should tell you something about their position in the league.

Adrian Peterson looked like it was 2015 again, gaining 166 yards from scrimmage in his debut. Fellow newcomer Alex Smith had two passing TDs on 255 passing yards in his debut giving the Washington Football Team some hope...for this season. The Arizona Cardinals, however, don't have much hope for any season based on what we saw Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys 0-0 (+3) @ Carolina Panthers 0-0 (42.5): Panthers 28-27 Panthers 16-8
Sunday, 4:25PM PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: 50% t-storms; low 70s)

Reasons: Perhaps the best game of Week 1, both of these teams come into 2018 with serious talent across the board, but both teams come in with even bigger questions from the leadership right up to the ownership. 

The game many thought would be the Week 1 Game Of The Week turned out to be the dud of the week. The Dallas Cowboys looked stagnant without any wide out threats and the Carolina Panthers, save their stout defense, was even worse. The Cowboys scored eight points and led all game leaders in passing, rushing and receiving yards. That's awful if you're Cam Newton, the Panthers, or Norm Turner, but it turns out they probably won't even need to score more than 16 ppg if their defense continues to play this way. 

Seattle Seahawks 0-0 (+3) @ Denver Broncos 0-0 (42.5): Seahawks 21-20 Broncos 27-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Cloudy; low 60s)

Reasons: The Seahawks are no longer the Legion of Boom and will officially start the Russell Wilson era against the Broncos, which have suffered their own quick demise of late.

The Seahawks looked like shells of their former Seahawk eggs Sunday, giving up 27 points to Case Keenum and the formerly snail-paced Broncos. Keenum threw for 329 yards and three TDs while Russell Wilson ran for his life from Von Miller, who sacked Wilson three times and forced a fumble. These are two teams trending in opposite directions. 

Chicago Bears 0-0 (+7.5) @ Green Bay Packers 0-0 (47.5): Packers 24-23 Packers 24-23
Sunday, 8:25 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Clear; low 50s)

Reasons: Normally I'd laugh at this game, even with the Bears much improved defense, but that was before Chucky murdered the Raiders and sent the best defensive player in the league in Khalil Mack to the Bears, instantly making the Bears one of the best defenses in the league.

The only thing worse then calling a game perfectly is being in the Wynn Casino sports book and not actually betting on the game. That's a story for a memoir, not a football blog, so I digress. Truth be told this game was a tale of two halves, one staring Khalil Mack and one starring Aaron Rodgers. Mack became the first player since 1982 with a sack, touchdown, INT, forced fumble and fumble recovery in a half and then Rodgers became the first player I can remember to seemingly tear all three knee ligaments in his plant leg and throw three touchdowns in the 4th quarter to come back from down 23-3 to win the game. 

New York Jets 0-0 (+6.5) @ Detroit Lions 0-0 (45): Lions 24-17 Jets 48-17
Monday, 7:10 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: This game should be nice and terrible.

Matt Patricia had a nightmarish debut as the Lions head coach, which seems to be par for the course for both the Detroit Lions and the Bill Belichick coaching tree at this point. How fitting they would find each other in a sea of mediocrity. I've never trusted any Belichick disciple to take the helm, nor have a I trusted any Lions team to win significant games. Trouble is, I thought the Jets would be a welcome mat to Patricia's NFL head coaching debut. It almost happened, but then Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold took lemons with his first NFL pass being a pick-6 and made lemonade with two passing TDs and a victory in his first NFL game. Hold the HOF talk, but we might have a Jets QB finally.

Los Angeles Rams 0-0 (-4) @ Oakland Raiders 0-0 (49.5): Rams 35-20 Rams 33-13
Monday, 10:20 PM, Oakland Stadium, Oakland, CA (Weather: Clear; low 60s)

Reasons: The NFL awaited this opening week Monday Night Football game before the aforementioned Chucky detonated the Raiders defense. Now I can't imagine a scenario in which the Raiders can score enough points to keep up with these high-flying Rams, and that's not even considering how difficult it'll be to move the ball on the Rams in the first place.

For a quick half it looked like Jon Gruden hadn't made the worst trade in NFL history and had made the best decision to come coach Derek Carr and watch him throw to Jared Cook (180 receiving yards). Then the Rams preseason ended after the first half and Derek Carr threw three INTs, one a pick-6 to Marcus Peters, and Los Angeles outscored Oakland 23-0 in the second half. The Raiders defense looks abysmal and I can see Gruden being gone before the Raiders even make it to Las Vegas, Chucky mascot for the Vegas Raiders or not. 

Stay tuned for Week 2: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Saturday!

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