2018 Week Eleven Picks

Here we are at week eleven and I have another week with only a little time so with a great Monday night game to look forward to and some truly really horrible lines it’s time to make some picks, but before facing them there’s the important matter of this week’s trivia question.

‘For week 11 I’m offering a bit of a curved ball, if that’s not too muffled a metaphor. I want to know now many of the 32 teams do NOT have a Professional Cheerleading squad.

Is it      A, 0 – 5;           B, 6 – 10;         C, 11 – 15;       or D, 16+’

Now, I’m searching my memory banks on this as I know there are a few teams that haven’t got cheerleaders. Certainly the Bears don’t have any, nor I believe do the Steelers and Browns, or the Packers for that matter and I have sneaky feeling about the Giants but is that it and have I even got those ones right? I’m going to select B and plump for six to ten as an informed guess, but I just hope my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.

‘I think it’s going to be very few, and I’m worried Dad is up to one of his tricks and trying to catch us out on wording, specifying ‘Professional’. I don’t pay all that much attention to the cheerleaders during the game (honest, your honour!) but they tend to show them coming back from at least one ad break most games, so I’m going to go very low and say A 0-5.’

Cowboys @ Falcons (-3.5)

By DVOA the Falcons are better in two phases of the game, it is just that their defence is the worst in the league whilst the Cowboys are coming off a good win in Philadelphia. They are next to each other in overall DVOA and whilst the Cowboys have been inconsistent all season, the Falcons have won three of their last four games. I really hate this line and so I’m going to grab the extra half point and hope – so much for being quick!

Gee’s Pick:      Cowboys
Dan’s Pick:      Cowboys

Bengals @ Ravens (-3.5)

The Bengals have been bad in recent weeks, not helped by injuries across the team but the Ravens have also lost three straight and there is a possibility that Lamar Jackson will start at quarterback for the Raven. The Ravens rate as a much better team by DVOA and their losing streak can be attributed to playing the Saints, Panthers and Steelers and I have a nasty feeling about this one. Hoping to be proved wrong, I’m picking the Ravens in this one.

Gee’s Pick:      Ravens
Dan’s Pick:      Ravens

Panthers @ Lions (+3.5)

The Panthers may have got thoroughly beaten by the Steelers last week on Thursday night, but they are a much better team than this iteration of the Detroit Lions and I fancy that they re-assert that this week.

Gee’s Pick:      Panthers
Dan’s Pick:      Lions

Titans @ Colts (-2.5)

This is a cracking matchup between two teams who are fighting for relevancy in the AFC and the Titans caught many people’s eyes with a great win against the Patriots last week. However, there is just 0.3% difference in their overall DVOA and with the Colts at home I’m going to back Andrew Luck given how good he’s been and I’ve got half a point back.

Gee’s Pick:      Colts
Dan’s Pick:      Titans

Buccaneers @ Giants (-0.5)

I am really not sure what to do about this one with the Buccaneers generating five hundred yards but just three points on offence last week, and the Giants winning on Monday night football against the 49ers. However, with the Giants being 10% better in DVOA and only giving up half a point at home I’m going to back them, even though another win won’t help them in their search for a quarterback in next year’s draft.

Gee’s Pick:      Giants
Dan’s Pick:      Buccaneers

Steelers @ Jaguars (+5.5)

The Steelers have really asserted themselves as AFC challengers after a faltering start and this week travel to a Jaguars team who are imploding after last season’s success. I’m pretty sure the Steelers will have revenge on their mind after last season’s playoff loss at the hands of the Jaguars. This is a lot of points to be giving away on the road, but frankly given the Jags haven’t won since week four this doesn’t look to be the spot for them to turn it round.

Gee’s Pick:      Steelers
Dan’s Pick:      Jaguars

Texans @ Washington (+2.5)

This is a horribly tricky line for me as the Texans have won six straight and are coming off a bye whilst not being wholly convincing and travel to Washington to face a team winning despite a raft of injuries and a solidly average set of DVOA rankings. However, the Texans only need a field goal to cover this line and I can’t believe that Washington can keep producing wins from out of nowhere. Can they?

Gee’s Pick:      Texans
Dan’s Pick:      Texans

Broncos @ Chargers (-7.5)

I really like this LA Chargers team and I expect them to win this game, but they don’t exactly have a great home advantage and the Broncos have kept themselves in a lot of games this season, including against the Chiefs in their last road game and divisional games can always be funny. However, the Broncos also traded away Demaryius Thomas before the trade deadline and so I’m really in two minds about this one, but in the end this line is just too big for me to lay the points.

Gee’s Pick:      Broncos
Dan’s Pick:      Broncos

Raiders @ Cardinals (-3.5)

This is an interesting line given that the Raiders are actually 0.6% better in overall DVOA ranking than the Cardinals but it is a testament to the five straight the Raiders have lost and how bad they have looked since they beat the Browns. I think it likely the Cardinals get the win but this line feels too big but I really don’t want to back the Raiders and so I’m taking the radical step of not doing so as I think the Cardinals are in a much better place right now.

Gee’s Pick:      Cardinals
Dan’s Pick:      Raiders

Eagles @ Saints (-8.5)

The Saints have been sweeping all before them whilst the Eagles have lost their last three home games and may have won two home games sprinkled between those losses, but they were against the Giants and imploding Jaguars. This a huge line and makes nervous, but in the last three weeks the Saints put up fifty against the Bengals and beat the Vikings and Rams by ten points so I don’t see the Eagles changing things.

Gee’s Pick:      Saints
Dan’s Pick:      Saints

Vikings @ Bears (-2.5)

This is one of the matchups of the week and if you are giving me points to take the Vikings that is what I am going to do despite Chicago’s recent success. I don’t think the Bears have been fraudulent, and they could very easily win the game, but I think the smart play is to take the points until we’ve seen Trubisky really compete against a better defence than the Lions, Bills, or Jets.

Gee’s Pick:      Vikings
Dan’s Pick:      Vikings

Chiefs @ Rams (-2.5)

This is the game of the week and one that everyone is looking forward to. It has been moved back to LA from Mexico City after complaints about the state of the pitch from both teams. The Rams have looked a little wobbly in recent weeks and have just lost Cooper Kupp for the season to an ACL tear but it is the defence that really worries me. The extra half point is really tempting for the Rams, but as good as Sean McVay is, Andy Reid is no slouch either and I just fancy that getting points the Chiefs are the side to play. Regardless of the result we should all be the winners unless there’s a bad injury so here’s hoping the game lives up to the hype and both teams get through healthy as this really could be a Super Bowl preview.

Gee’s Pick:      Chiefs.
Dan’s Pick:      Rams

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Competition Thursday: 2018 Week 11

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I have managed to pull a game back on Dan’s Dad, but he is still leading the way in the picks competition. However, I might just have had an idea for a prize for the victor. The logo colours for The Wrong Football have always been based on the Bengals colours, but we could add a little spice and from next year have them in the colour of last year’s regular season picks champion’s favourite team, be they Dan or his Dad which would give us the teal and orange of the Dolphins or purple and yellow of the Vikings. Now there are some stakes for you, but for now let’s get to the matter of tonight’s game given that neither Dan or I got the trivia question right last week.

Gee:     Week 10   7-7              Overall   75-73
Dan:     Week 10   6-8              Overall   70-78

Packers @ Seahawks (-2.5)

Looking at the standing it feels like there is more at stake than just another Thursday night game as both these teams will be thinking that they could make a run at the playoffs but neither can afford to lose. The front office of the Packers seems to be looking further to the future with the moves they made at the trade deadline but Aaron Rodgers certainly won’t want to wait as he turns thirty-five next month. The Packers have not been known for the kind of run game balance they showed on offence last week, but their near two hundred yards on the ground last week was in fact bettered by the Seahawks, who ran for over two hundred and fifty in their close loss to the Rams.

These teams are within a percentage point in the overall DVOA ranking and we know that Aaron Rodgers can win anywhere but so can Russell Wilson. In fact I am finding it incredibly hard to pick between these two teams. Given the extra home advantage I believe the Seahawks should get and the fact the line is set at -2.5 I feel there is a sliver of value in picking the Seahawks at home on a Thursday night so I’m going to grab that, but honestly, this game as much as any could be a coin toss.

I just hope the football lives up to my expectations of what it could be.

Gee’s Pick:       Seahawks
Dan’s Pick:       Packers

Week Ten Trivia

‘Week 10  11/11               

This week I asked about stadium altitudes and after the overtly obvious 3 feet high Saints Superdome who is 2nd and what ‘altitude’ are they? The guys have certainly had their grey cells working and I have enjoyed the logic behind their effort. Firstly, well done to both for identifying that the lowest altitude is likely to be coastal, just as the highest would normally be found in the centre of the continental land mass.

Right, to the answers, Tampa actually sits at the dizzy heights of 54m so, sorry Nul Point there Gee. Dan, however, spotted that there may be 2 at equal second place, but they weren’t West coast I’m afraid. So the 2 answers are the Giants and Jets at the Met Life in East Rutherford NJ along with the Jaguars EverBank Field each at 7 feet. Bragging rights are marginally Dan’s but neither should ever fly a plane!

Week 11

For week 11 I’m offering  a bit of a curved ball. if that’s not too muffled a metaphor. I want to know now many of the 32 teams do NOT have a Professional Cheerleading squad.

Is it      A, 0 – 5;           B, 6 – 10;         C, 11 – 15;      or D, 16+ 

Recover that Fumble   ’

Super Saints go Ballistic, Bengals are Atrocious

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Nothing much really happened in week ten of the NFL so maybe we should all just prepare ourselves for the upcoming Monday night matchup between the LA Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs? Not buying that… okay I guess there’s only one place to start for me so let’s do this.

The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t just get beat, they had a fifty burger put up on them by a rampant New Orleans Saints team. I told you I was scared about this game! There wasn’t just one thing but there never is in a game like this, it was a combination of factors that produced an absolute thumping. However, for about sixteen game minutes things were okay and looked vaguely competitive. Yes the Saints marched down the field and scored on their opening drive but the Bengals were able to start with a touchdown drive of their own and even pulled a Saints move with their backup quarterback Jeff Dreskel taking a snap with Andy Dalton lining up as a receiver. However, whilst the Saints continued the pattern that would dominate the game, i.e. moving the ball without any trouble and scoring on every drive bar the last on, the Bengals were unable to keep their offence moving consistently. There were flashes from Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd but the offence sputtered and were not able to match the Saints’ machine like efficiency. The Bengals having to punt on their second and third drives was one thing, but then when they did move the ball Andy Dalton threw an interception on a play that snapped with twenty-four seconds left in the half that was returned seventy-eight yards and just like that the Saints had time to squeeze in another touchdown to go into the half 35-7 up.

You could argue the second half was better as the Bengals only gave up sixteen further points and scored another touchdown with Jeff Driskel in the game after Dalton had been pulled, but clearly not. The Bengals have a lot of injuries in the back seven of the defence, but there has also been a lot of talk about grey areas in the new defence scheme and clearly there is something to it as defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been fired and Marvin Lewis is doing something he has always been reluctant to do, and that’s call the defence himself. How this is going to work I don’t know, but just to throw extra murk into the waters, or possibly improve the juggling of game day, Hue Jackson has been rehired – this time as special assistant to the head coach. The players have been saying it’s not time to panic as their destiny is still in their own hands, but if ten is the magic number of wins that nearly always gets you into the playoffs, then they would have to go 5-2 the rest of the way including two games against the Browns and visits to the Chargers, Steelers and next week the Ravens. I keep hearing that you know how good your team is by how they travel and the Bengals are 2-2 on the road but have had two bad losses already and three divisional road games coming up. I’m not calling them done just yet but I think it’s more likely than not that things don’t get much better.

Oh yeah, and the Saints right now are the best team in the league.

Can I stop now?

Good.

So, the fluid nature of teams and the small sample size continue to confuse those of us picking game but it does entertain us. The New England Patriots lost to a Tennessee Titans team who have had two solid wins after the bye and whilst it is too early to hit the panic button if you are a Patriots fan, they are outside of the top ten in DVOA in the second half of the season for the first time since 2005 with Tom Brady as the quarterback and since 2008 when Matt Cassel led the team (this has been taken from Aaron Schatz’s weekly update that you can read here). In the absence of time to watch coaching tape this week (life just keeps getting in the way) I may well try to just watch this game to get a better idea of how it happened.

Other notable results were the Buffalo Bills scoring forty-one points after Matt Barkley made his first start in two years and his first for the Bills, which has led to the release of poor Nathan Peterman and who knows if he will get another shot with a team. The Pittsburgh Steelers put up fifty points against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night whilst both the Chiefs and Rams won their games ahead of the matchup. Interestingly both teams has asked to play the Broncos in Denver before their Mexico city game but the league was smart enough to deny both teams and in a twist of fate with fears about the safety of the pitch in the Azteca stadium the game has been shifted back to LA. The Chicago Bears ran out easy winners against the Detroit Lions but the real test comes next week when they face the Minnesota Vikings coming off their bye.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to put up five hundred yards of offence and only come away with three points, which just should not be possible and is the kind of thing I deserve for picking them. Washington continues their improbable run atop the NFC East but their coaching staff should get credit for finding a way to win despite the raft of offensive line injuries. Things got even better for them when the Dallas Cowboys went into Philadelphia and beat the Eagles meaning that Washington are now two games ahead at the top of the division. However, not only did the Cowboys defence continue to look pretty good and have moved away from their reliance on Sean Lee, but there were signs of their offence evolving. It’s not as if they are suddenly the Saints, Rams, or Chiefs, but with more motion before the snap, the addition of Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott catching some balls out of the backfield to complement his one hundred and fifty yards on the ground there is a chance the Cowboys could make a nuisance of themselves.

The other contender for game I would still like to see is the Jacksonville Jaguars continuing their losing streak, this week to an Indianapolis Colts team who have dragged themselves to 4-5 record with Andrew Luck continuing to shake off the worries about his return to the game. We are a long way from him being subbed out for a Hail Mary play.

Finally, the Cleveland Browns separated themselves from the 49ers and the Giants with their third win of the season that also likely scuppered the Falcons unlikely recent playoff surge and the Oakland Raiders are officially the worst team in the league thanks to the Giants win over the 49ers on Monday night that leaves the Raiders as the only single win team. I’m sure the schedulers were thrilled about how these two once mighty franchises were faring going into this week’s prime time game, but at least it was competitive. Right now I’d take that from the Bengals…

Never has a team needed a Bye week so badly!

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We’re 10 weeks into a pretty good season now, and everyone’s left with just 6 or 7 games remaining. Bye weeks are often a bit of a distraction from football (even a pain in the arse if you’re running a fantasy football team!) but let me tell you – never have a team needed a Bye week more than the Dolphins do this coming weekend. Even last year when our Bye Week was effectively in week one due to the hurricane in Tampa, we didn’t look as beat up as we do now at any point during the season.

This week saw the Dolphins take a trip up-north to the frozen tundra that is Green Bay (ok, it’s not that bad, I know) and struggled to warm up all game. We went into the game battered and bruised, but with a surprising winning record, and unfortunately returned back to Miami even more battered, but without that winning record, so… not a great week if I’m honest!

As we know, Brock Osweiler has been under centre since Week 6 due to Ryan Tannehill’s injured shoulder, and he definitely didn’t have a good one this week. He was sacked 6 times for a loss of 50 yards throughout the game. Now, that wasn’t all his fault – the O-line was patchy at best, but what doesn’t help is his huge tell – when he’s under pressure, Brock always steps out to his right. Seriously, go back and watch the tape – he does it every single time. So the Packers knew that all they had to do was put some pressure on him down the middle, and then sweep him up after he rolled out to his right.

He’s also quickly running out of targets too. He was already without Albert Wilson (WR) and MarQueis Gray (TE) going into this one, but during the game, both Jakeem Grant and DeVante Parker left the field in a bad way with Leg and Shoulder problems respectively. Adding to that a shoulder issue for Kenyan Drake at Running Back, and it’s difficult to see where the points are going to come from. What I will say, is that Frank Gore is more than picking up the slack at the RB position, adding another 90 yards to his season tally on Sunday. [I have to add that at age 35 I find Gore’s productivity this season a feat that should be more celebrated – Ed.] And it’s not just on Offence we’re struggling – I commented on Sunday that I felt particularly bad for Bobby McCain (CB) who looks like he could have picked up a bad concussion. So, I think you can see why we badly need a week to heal up!

Strangely, we actually moved the ball fairly well. It was just the final product that we struggled with. I lost count of the number of times we got to within 10-15 yards [According to ESPN zero out of three red zone visits], but couldn’t finish it off. This lead to us only picking up 4 field goals during the game.

Here I go again, not giving our opponents the credit they deserved. The Packers looked good – it took them a little while to get going, but when they did, their game really came together. Aaron Jones (RB) was devastating, finding some huge holes in our Defence, including one especially long run at 67 yards. They fully deserved their win, and I don’t think anyone who watched that game would think anything otherwise.

What was really nice was connecting with an old school friend (and Cheesehead) Andy, now living in Australia while watching the game. He was surprised at how well the Green Bay Defence did, having had what he described as a ‘truly awful’ season to this point. The NFL really is a great connector!

I feel I’ve suitably rambled on about our game now, so lets have a look what happened elsewhere.

You’ll know by now that I have something of a fascination with the Kicking game. Well, Chicago kicker Cody Parker had a difficult week this week. Not only did he miss 2 extra points (something almost unthinkable a few seasons ago!), but also a couple of Field Goals, and all four hit the goalpost, which he couldn’t do again if he tried. I’ve said before that I feel for kickers as it doesn’t take many misses to find themselves on the chopping block, so I can’t imagine it’s a particularly nice week for him in training this week!

The Rams are marching on, with another win, making the Betting chart look like this:

They’re really making it look more and more like there’s a 2 horse race in the NFC. I caught the majority of the Bengals game this week, and while I will leave the majority of the coverage to Gee, in short, the Saints absolutely took them apart. It was a difficult watch to be honest, so I know how much Gee will have struggled with it.

And elsewhere in the pick’em competition, I’m 5 points away from Gee, and 6 from my Dad (I can’t even call it beginners luck for him this year!) which is annoying me. I feel like it’s too big a gap to catch at this late stage, but I’m sure there are some surprises still to come which may help me along.

But that’s it for me this week. Speaking of surprises, my Twitter topic this week will be surprise packages of the season – who’s not having the season that you expected them to have this year, good or bad? Drop me a line on Twitter and lets have a chat!

Until next time…

@TWFDan

AAF: Steelers Offensive Line

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So after repeatedly hearing about how good the Steelers offensive line is I thought I would take a look at them for this week’s amateur adventures in film.

The first thing I’ll start with is talking about the difficulty in looking at this as there is no grouping that stresses the amateur in the series of posts I do on film like the offensive line. You can tell something about how good a player by their balance, and if they get beat but the nuances are something that I’m going to have to research more in the offseason as it just isn’t coming naturally. However, what you can see is that this group is used to working with each other and more than once I spotted defensive linemen being picked up on stunts as they came around the line and I don’t know how the player knew to do it.

So to start with the basics, the Steelers played the majority of the game I watched against the Baltimore Ravens in 11 personnel and from the shotgun formation. Left guard Ramon Foster, a giant of a man amongst large men is obviously the player tasked with checking on when Ben Roethlisberger is ready and giving Maurkice Puncey the nod to snap the ball.

On passing plays the line generally leaves it’s tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert to block on their own whilst the guards and centre double team defensive tackles and handles other defenders coming up the middle. That said the Steelers will often keep a tight end or running back in to help block and it was not unusual for them to keep both in to help out. Ben Roethlisberger made his name extending plays and being difficult to bring down and he’s still not exactly an easy sack, but with the receiving options available to him and his experience he gets the ball out pretty quick these days and it took a combination of coverage and a Ravens defender beating a single matchup to get pressure, which happened occasionally but mostly the ball was gone or Roethlisberger would move. The tackles look balanced and as I said in the intro this is a unit that flows well in unison.

The predominant use of the shotgun formation means the Steelers don’t exactly run the ball with power but they are still effective, and you will see the line mostly using David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey as pulling lineman to open up holes, although they will pull Foster every now and again but he does not have the athleticism of Pouncey or DeCastro and so he doesn’t find it as easy to get to the second level of the defence.

The offence of the Steelers is clearly playing well with James Conner capably standing in for Le’Veon Bell at running back and if the offensive line only ranks eleventh overall according to football outsiders, it is the first in the league for pass blocking. A lot of credit for this should also go to Mike Munchak who has really solidified this unit since joining the Steelers and now I have run out of things to say about the offensive line. As I say, I will be studying more in the offseason.

I will however leave you with this point, every year the Steelers seem to have some kind of wobble early on but round into being competitive and we have just seen them blow out a good Carolina Panthers team on Monday night football. I’m sure that Mike Tomlin would like to have got to more Super Bowls but I like him as a coach and at 6-2 they stand atop of the AFC North and I’m pretty sure no one is looking forward to playing them. I’m certainly dreading the Bengals’ week seventeen visit. This sounds a lot like the formula that we see the Seahawks and Patriots praised for and so I shall make sure the Steelers get put in the same list as they are doing it again.

2018 Week Ten Picks

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I’m not sure I could have been more wrong about the Thursday night game, but I’m still not sure the pick was wrong with what we knew but the Steelers ran away with the game and I have a nasty feeling they will be extending their lead at the top of the AFC North this week. Anyway, before that I have the minor matter of a trivia pick to get wrong.

This week we have the reverse fixture from week 1 when I asked you which was the Highest stadium of the 31 in the NFL but this time I want to ask about the lowest. As with Mile High being the highest the Saints Superdome at just 3 feet would also be too easy so who is 2nd and what ‘altitude’ are they at? I’ll offer UP TO 2 points for the right answers this week. Is that, I hear you ask, a clue?

It’s a Fair Catch’

So I’m really struggling this week as I don’t have that great a knowledge of American geography but the lowest stadium is going to be on the coast somewhere and if the New Orleans stadium is the lowest I’m going to with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium and guess it is four feet above sea level.

I’m pretty confident I’m picking up the points this week, and that’s largely based on the giant clue that Dad has given us! I think the answer is Los Angeles (two points – two teams…).’

Having seen Dan’s answer I’m now feeling particularly dumb…

Falcons @ Browns (+4.5)

So on the face of it this is a horrible game to pick. However, the Browns have now lost four straight and have no settled infrastructure around a rookie quarterback whilst the Falcons have found a way to win three straight. The home underdog points are always tempting, but with the Browns having lost their last two games by a combined thirty-one points I think the Falcons might be able to run up the score again and I am going to need more points than this to pick the dysfunctional Browns.

Gee’s Pick:      Falcons
Dan’s Pick:      Falcons

Bills @ Jets (-7.5)

This seems like a lot of points to be laying by a New York Jets team who are struggling to move the ball. I am not prepared to give up on Sam Darnold but with the injuries at receiver and with a defensive minded head coach I don’t see things changing much this season and now that he is injured we have Josh McCown starting. However, whilst the Jets offence is bad, the Bills’ offence is historically putrid, although Matt Barkley is expected to make the start this week, but the only thing we can really trust is that we have a matchup of two top ten defences. This is not a recipe for points and so I’m going to hold my nose and pick the Bills in what is likely to be a pretty awful watch. I would love to be proven wrong, and I may well get the pick wrong given the flux at quarterback, but I doubt this game will set many pulses racing.

Gee’s Pick:      Bills
Dan’s Pick:      Jets

Lions @ Bears (-6.5)

I am really interested in seeing this game as it pits two divisional rivals against each other with the Chicago Bears riding high off their second big win and are hosting the up and down Detroit Lions. The Lions are something of an enigma to me as they have a couple of good wins but overall they seem to be heading in the wrong direction and the front office appears to be making long term decisions, which won’t help them win right now. This feels like a lot of points but given the Lions have lost their last two games by more than eight points and the Bears have won it this either means the trend is set to continue or due for a change. I’m going to back the better team in this one but I don’t exactly feel happy about it.

Gee’s Pick:      Bears
Dan’s Pick:      Lions

Saints @ Bengals (+4.5)

This game really scares me. The hope is that we get some bad weather that hinders Drew Brees, but with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram running the ball against the Bengals suspect run defence they might not need Brees to be at his best. This is without even considering how the Bengals offence will function minus AJ Green. I am hoping to be proven wrong, and will gladly lose the point but I don’t think I am.

I always wanted to take a moment to mark Dez Bryant tearing his Achilles having signed for the Saints, which is just a horrible thing to happen for a player trying to find a way back into the league after not finding a team during the offseason and could be potentially career ending.

Gee’s Pick:      Saints
Dan’s Pick:      Saints

Patriots @ Titans (+7.5)

This is another intriguing game, but given the New England Patriots recent form it is hard to see them not covering any points spread. The Tennessee Titans have been grinding through the season with their new coaching team but the offence has not been turned around under Matt LaFLeur as people were hoping and with a DVOA ranking of twenty-sixth that goes with a defensive ranking of twentieth they have done well to be 4-4. Given the Patriots have rounded into form as they usually do I’m going to back them even if they are on the road.

Gee’s Pick:      Patriots
Dan’s Pick:      Patriots

Jaguars @ Colts (-2.5)

The Jacksonville Jaguars have lost four straight and coming off a bye they are hoping to get Leonard Fournette back from injury, which they will be desperate for as the offence just hasn’t functioned without him. The strange thing with this team has been the lack of discipline and this week we’ve had AJ Bouye rule himself out with injury to the press, which was news to head coach Doug Marrone. They travel to face an Indianapolis Colts team who have the same 3-5 record but they are heading in the opposite direction after last season and it will be interesting to see what the result is. I’m struggling with the line in this one as if Fournette can re-establish the power run game that would help the Jaguars control he clock and have a functional offence then they might be able to look more like the team who went to the playoffs last season, but there are a lot of unknowns. I’d like to stay well away from this game, but seeing as we can’t I am going to back the team with the better DVOA ranking who only need to win by a field goal to cover but I don’t exactly feel great about it.

Gee’s Pick:      Colts
Dan’s Pick:      Jaguars

Cardinals @ Chiefs (-16.5)

The Arizona Cardinals are coming of a bye and face a ridiculously difficult game going against the buzzsaw that is the Kansas City Chiefs at home. There seems to be a lot of positive feeling about Byron Letwich who has taken over as offensive coordinator for the Cardinals and their defence is actually rated top ten by DVOA, but defence isn’t exactly a predictor of success in the NFL with six of the top ten defences by DVOA belonging to teams with losing records and the Seahawks are 4-4. This is way too many points to give and looking at the Chiefs they have only managed to win by the required seventeen points once, and yes that was against the Bengals and so I’m going to guarantee they do it a second time by backing the Cardinals to cover.

Gee’s Pick:      Cardinals
Dan’s Pick:      Chiefs

Washington @ Buccaneers (-2.5)

This is such a tough spot for Washington after the cluster of injuries on their offensive line they travel to a warm muggy Tampa who are a dangerous 3-5. The Buccaneers have huge problems on defence but can at least move the ball on offence through the air and stand a fighting chance with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback. I’m going to nervously back the Buccaneers given the flux in Washington on the line of an offence that only ranked twentieth before this happened, but this is another shot in the dark.

Gee’s Pick:      Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick:      Washington

Chargers @ Raiders (+9.5)

The lines this week all seem to be horrible, and now we head into a run of nine and a half point lines. The first is given to the Raiders at home because they have been awful. Despite this being a divisional matchup I strongly fancy the Chargers to win but this is a lot of points. That said the Raiders have to look back to their week four win over the Browns for the last time they managed not to lose by more than ten points and I don’t see where a magical turnaround is coming from so the Chargers it is.

Gee’s Pick:      Chargers
Dan’s Pick:      Chargers

Dolphins @ Packers (-9.5)

The Miami Dolphins are still in the hunt for the playoffs despite their up and down play but they have not been good on the road and Green Bay is not exactly the easiest of places to play. That said, the Packers are on something of an iffy run themselves although losing to the Rams and Patriots is hardly a horrific drop in form but at 3-4-1 they are in desperate need of wins. They have the ninth best offence by DVOA despite having arguably the most talented quarterback in the league and I think they will win this game but this seems like too many points for a team whose only big win was against the Bills. I’m going to back the Dolphins to keep it closer than ten points and hope I don’t jinx Dan’s team too badly.

Gee’s Pick:      Dolphins
Dan’s Pick:      Dolphins

Seahawks @ Rams (-9.5)

The Seattle Seahawks travel to face a now defeated LA Rams team but losing on the road to the Saints like the Rams did last week is hardly something to be embarrassed about. There are still some wobbles in the Rams’ play but I think they have more than enough to beat a Seahawks team who are one of the few teams who are still managing to win with the formula of defence and running the ball. This is line is too rich for me given the Rams’ recent run of form against teams that are not the 49ers and so I’ll back the Seahawks to keep it within ten even if I think the Rams get back to winning ways and can seal a playoff berth with a win.

Gee’s Pick:      Seahawks
Dan’s Pick:      Seahawks

Cowboys @ Eagles (-6.5)

I am curious enough about this game that I’m going to watch it given the ongoing mess that is going on in Dallas, but more because I want to see the Eagles and in particular how Golden Tate will be worked into the offence. Given the Eagles are coming off a bye and really need to push on if they are going to make the playoffs they really need a win and I expect them to get it but this is another big line. However, the Cowboys have lost all of their road games so far this season and having lost to the Titans by fourteen points I’m going to back the team with the coaching staff I have more faith in, although with the now standard caveat that I’m not happy about it.

Gee’s Pick:      Eagles
Dan’s Pick:      Eagles

Giants @ 49ers (-2.5)

I’m wary of reading too much into the 49ers win against the Raiders last week, but Nick Mullens is to get his second start and a rested 49ers team will face a New York Giants team coming off a bye but how much of difference will that have made? They may next to be each other in the overall DVOA rankings but I have more faith in the 49ers coming off a win and generating something than the Giants who were moving out pieces from their defence at the trade deadline.

Gee’s Pick:      49ers
Dan’s Pick:       Giants

Competition Thursday: 2018 Week 10

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I’m very happy to have got back to a winning record picking games as well as extending a lead over Dan in the trivia competition, although I don’t think that is going to hold up against the question this week as I have no idea about the heights/depths of NFL cities. But before I fret over that anymore there is a very tasty looking Thursday night game to consider.

Gee: Week 9 9-4 Overall 68-66
Dan: Week 9 6-7 Overall 64-70

Panthers @ Steelers (-4.5)

The Carolina Panthers are visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers in a brilliant looking fixture considering that the Panthers are 6-2 and should give a Steelers team in better form a real test. In fact, I’m not sure this line isn’t overly generous to the Steelers given that the Panthers are ranked third by overall DVOA with a top five ranked offence. I’m really looking forward to getting another look at what Norv Turner and Cam Newton have cooked up together without being on the receiving end and I’m backing them to keep it closer than five points even if they are on the road on a Thursday night.

Gee’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Pick: Steelers

‘Can’t see anything other than a big Steelers win this week!’

Week Ten Trivia

‘In Week 9 I posed a question about Owners. That this came in the week that Leicester City’s owner left us is a pure coincidence as all of the questions I use were prepared and sequenced prior to the start of the season. It’s strange how these kind of events crop up but the impact that it has had on soccer has been stunning and I wonder how many owners of any sporting team would illicit such an outpouring of genuine adoration tinged with grief?

The question was which owner was the most recent to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. I can report that Gee correctly scored on both counts currently identifying Dallas’ Jerry Jones was honoured in 2017.

This week we have the reverse fixture from week 1 when I asked you which was the Highest stadium of the 31 in the NFL but this time I want to ask about the lowest. As with Mile High being the highest the Saints Superdome at just 3 feet would also be too easy so who is 2nd and what ‘altitude’ are they at? I’ll offer UP TO 2 points for the right answers this week. Is that, I hear you ask, a clue?

It’s a Fair Catch’

The Battle of the Big Guns

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I had a serene Sunday with the Bengals on a bye, although I have a creeping dread more worthy of the Halloween that just passed about the upcoming game as the New Orleans Saints are visiting Cincinnati and that bodes ill for the rested but injured Bengals team.

Still, before we get to the future outlook of the team there’s the minor matter of this week’s games to contemplate and the interesting results that occurred.

The obvious place to start would be the pretty amazing run of late games that I think entertained everyone. Although watching back later, I saw two games in sequence before circling back to the best game of the week once the UK Gamepass blackout had cleared. The first of these was the LA Chargers going into Seattle and demonstrating the faith I had placed in them was not misplaced with a relatively comfortable win against the Seahawks. It could have been even more comfortable had Caleb Sturgis not missed two extra points and a field goal, which also resulted in a missed two point conversion attempt by the Chargers trying to get back the original missed extra point back. Unsurprisingly the Chargers have moved on from Sturgis and reinstated Michael Badgley who was also on the roster, but that still means they have had seven kickers in the last three years! At this point surely some question are surely being asked about the special teams evaluation process of the front office as the Chargers have also had four people punt for them during this period.

Moving on from the special teams’ conundrum that is the Chargers, we saw this week’s contender for the best game of the season when the New Orleans Saints hosted the LA Rams and ran out 45-35 winners. The Saints built a big lead only to see the Rams close the gap back to 35 all in the fourth quarter before the Saints extended the lead once more for the win. It was an entertaining game, even if someone like me would have liked to see a little more defence, and that could be the Achilies heel of the Rams. It seemed like Marcus Peters was being picked on in the continuing absence of Aqib Talib who is seen as likely to return from IR in week thirteen. However, whilst the Rams defence has some very high profile names on it, including Dante Fowler who joined the team via trade on deadline day, doesn’t look to have quite gelled yet and are currently ranked only sixteenths by DVOA. The ranking against the run of twenty-fourth by DVOA showed up as Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram did the work on the ground whilst Drew Brees threw for four touchdowns and three hundred and forty-six passing yards. The Rams and Jared Goff were not quiet able to match this efficiency in the air whilst Todd Gurley finished with a modest sixty-eight yards on the ground and now the jockeying at the top of the NFC will get really interesting.

Finally, on Sunday night we had the battle of the 12s as the Green Bay Packers visited the New England Patriots but whilst keeping it relatively close for a lot of the game, the Packers were ultimately done for by the Patriots better consistency. The use of Cordarrelle Patterson as a makeshift running back in this game was effective enough that we might see more of it going forward even when Sony Michel comes back from injury whilst Josh Gordon caught five balls from ten targets to go over one hundred yards for the first time as a Patriot. What this game really showed however, is that so much of a quarterback’s success depends on the infrastructure around them and you get the feeling that there could be a coaching change in the works for Green Bay given the moves the newly installed GM is making.

Other notable things around the league include the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Browns convincingly and the Chiefs have one of the best offensive DVOA ratings ever. Conversely the Buffalo Bills have an historically bad offence, with their offensive DVOA of -53.9% putting them in the bottom ten of offences for the last thirty years. The Chicago Bears beat the Bills to stay atop the NFC North and now have two forty point blowout wins this season. The Carolina Panthers continue their quiet challenge for the playoffs with a big win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to take them to 6-2 whilst the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to do the double over the Ravens to stay atop the AFC North. The wheels came off for Washington when they lost both starting offensive guards to injury against the Atlanta Falcons and got beat badly. This could give Washington real problems going forward although they stay a game clear at the top of the NFC East whilst the Falcons have now won three straight and still have an outside shot of pulling themselves back into playoff contention. Speaking of streaks, the Houston Texans have now won six in a row while the Denver Broncos continue to struggle.

Finally, it is my mission to bring you every safety of the season and whilst we did not have any this week, we had three in week eight that I didn’t bring you because I was rushing off to London. That’s a total of eight so far this season and the 28th of October was second Sunday in a row where we had three safeties.

The first I’ll mention is a classic of joined up football where an LA Rams’ punt pins the Green Bay Packers up against their goal line and on their first down of the drive running back Aaron Jones gets met in the hole by Mark Barron and stopped for the safety. The second is combination of comedy of errors and situation awareness as on 3rd & 7 on the eight yard line, the Arizona Cardinals’ Josh Rosen starts in a shotgun formation and drops back to pass into the end zone, and whilst getting tackled tries to throw the ball away and gets called for intentional grounding, giving up the safety anyway. You can’t hold on to the ball in this situation and once again this is what happens to an offence when pinned against its own goal line by a punt. The final safety was again after a punt but this time it was a holding penalty called against Desmond Harrison of the Cleveland Browns in the end zone that results in the safety, and if you seek out the play from the week eight game against the Steelers you will see that it wasn’t exactly a marginal call.

Speaking of which, is it me or have the rule changes settled down over the last few weeks even if the defences to seem to be really struggling to contend. Anyway, I’m off to worry about this weekend’s game, the awful lines we’ve got this week, the trivia question I’m utterly stumped on, and to get on with this week’s newsletter.

Bring on Thursday night football, which looks to be a cracker of a matchup!

Back To My Old Self!

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Firstly, I just want to say thank you to everyone who read my post last week – it was my highest viewed post since I’ve been contributing, but more importantly, it was REALLY cathartic to write.

With that said, I’m back to my old self this week, and luckily for you I’ve watched some football! Although, that’s a fairly loose term for what I saw during the Dolphins/Jets game on Sunday night. It was one of the most boring games I’ve watched for a long time, which was highlighted especially as I fell asleep while watching the game for 10 play clock minutes in the third quarter, and missed absolutely nothing! Seriously… I’ve been back and watched it… nothing happened!

That being said, I can imagine Gee would have found some positives in it. The Defences were both pretty strong, helped along by two particularly poor offences. Jets’ rookie quarterback Sam Darnold looked… well, very much like a Rookie. He seemed a bit off the boil, and very much a different player to the one I watched in the Away fixture in week 2. He definitely wasn’t helped by a Centre with a broken finger who was providing him with dud-snaps all game, but to throw 4 interceptions in one game is pretty unforgivable.

On the Miami Offence, one thing that baffled me a little was Frank Gore out snapping, and out running Kenyan Drake by 20 attempts to just 3! I’m not sure if there’s more to it than meets the eye here, but it’s a strange choice to allow the veteran 35 year old more carries than the up and coming potential future of the team’s Running Game who is just finding his feet in his third season in the league. Osweiler wasn’t great either. He’s said he wants to make it impossible for Adam Gase to put Ryan Tannehill back into the lineup when he returns to fitness, but if he wants to do that, he’s got to try a LOT harder when he has the opportunity – his deep passes over the last few weeks have been woefully poor, and his accuracy even at mid-range isn’t where it needs to be.

But, a win is a win as they say, and next week it’s on to… oh no… Green Bay.

Speaking of the Packers, they visited the Patriots on Sunday night [The clue is the big Gillette in the above photo – Ed.] , in what (barring an increasingly unlikely meeting at the Superbowl) looks like it’ll be the last meeting of the 12’s before Brady hangs up his cleats. It was a good game too and had a bit of everything including a nice trick play with Julian Edelman completing a pass for 37 yards. What is really encouraging is that Josh Gordon seems to be finding his feet in New England and is connecting well with Tom Brady. Especially nice to see given the knowledge of his off-field problems which have hindered much of his career.

Elsewhere, the Rams took their first loss of the season, meaning there are now no unbeaten teams. They’ve done well to get this far though to be fair, and the Saints are looking equally good in recent weeks. We could very easily see this being a pre-cursor to the NFC Championship game in January – you heard it here first people! Oh, and that had a slightly negative impact on my bet too, which means the chart now looks like this…

I don’t think Gee or I have mentioned yet that London will be hosting 4 games next year, between Wembley and the new Tottenham stadium. Good news all round, I think. There’s only 3 teams who are yet to play in London, so I would expect at least 2 of the Packers, Panthers and Texans to make the trip over the pond. Selfishly, I really hope the Dolphins come over again, but assuming there are no teams playing here more than once next year, a quarter of the league will be visiting London, which is great! This year’s games were a really good advert for the league too, and caused a lot of people to catch games who wouldn’t normally… although most people seem just to be talking about the toll that 3 games in 3 weeks had on the Wembley turf!

What’s your favourite game that we’ve seen over here in London? And what’s your usual pre-match routine when you visit Wembley? Get in touch on Twitter, and lets have a chat!

Until next time…

@TWFDan

2018 Week Nine Picks

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So after a much more successful pick than I was expecting Thursday night, we turn to the weekend’s game and let’s hope the chasing round this week that is definitely taking its toll doesn’t cause me to have a bad week. Or at least I do, but first let’s get to this week’s trivia question.

‘Having opened the door recently to College Football this week I’m turning to the Owners. It is a matter of record that 13 have been inducted into the Hall of Fame but WHO was the most recent and WHEN was this? 1 point for each.’

So I don’t think there was one this year so I’m relatively confident that the most recent was Jerry Jones who was inducted before last season in 2017.

‘Well, from absolute confidence last week to an absolute guess this week. I wouldn’t even know where to start with a name as I don’t pay attention to team owners outside of the current obvious ones so I’ll guess at the ‘When’ part and say 2012.’

Falcons @ Washington (-1.5)

So Washington are solidly mid-table on offence and defence whilst the Atlanta Falcons have managed to keep themselves top ten in offensive DVOA despite the injuries, but their defence is ranked thirty-first. Washington have been good at home barring a loss to the Colts and at the head of the NFC East I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt at home against one of the most injury plagued teams in the league.

Gee’s Pick: Washington
Dan’s Pick: Washington

Bears @ Bills (+8.5)

I do not like this line. The Chicago Bears should be favourites against the Buffalo Bills, but their offence is not completely reliable with Mitch Trubisky yet, and the Bills play tough defence if nothing else. However, they are also having to start Nathan Peterman and that fills me with no confidence either. This feels like too many points but with the Bills on a short week I’ll nervously back the Bears.

Gee’s Pick: Bears
Dan’s Pick: Bills

Chiefs @ Browns (+8.5)

The talk will be of a response to the change of coaching, but I cannot trust a team who have lost two offensive minds in both Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, with a rookie quarterback, and they will have a running backs coach calling plays for the first time. The injury to Tyreek Hill is a worry but the Chiefs are so much better that I’m going to back them to cover this and hope I don’t get bitten by two big lines this week.

Gee’s Pick: Chiefs
Dan’s Pick: Browns

Lions @ Vikings (-4.5)

The Detroit Lions made two moves that would seem to make sense in the long term, but right now it doesn’t do that much to help them and this week they are on the road against a Vikings team who are just about keeping themselves in the playoff hunt. The Vikings were actually closer to the Saints last week than the final score indicates and I’m backing them to bounce back in this game. Cue a Lions’ win as I haven’t got them right much at all this season.

Gee’s Pick: Vikings
Dan’s Pick: Vikings

Jets @ Dolphins (-3.5)

The Miami Dolphins have really fallen back to earth over the recent weeks, not helped by the shoulder injury to Ryan Tannehill. With another season of injury hindering him it feels like the Dolphins will have to find a new quarterback in the offseason but Brock Osweiler won’t be the solution despite starting this week. The New York Jets look to have their quarterback of the future but right now they have a lot of injuries to their receivers but their defence is ranked tenth by DVOA. With the Dolphins so injured and relying on Brock Osweiler the extra half point makes me nervous so I’m striking out with the Jets in a move I could really regret

Gee’s Pick: Jets
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins

Steelers @ Ravens (-2.5)

This is a big game for the Baltimore Ravens who have fallen back to 4-4 and really can’t afford any more losses in the division. The Steelers are coming off a bye and head up the division but in what is usually a close game I fancy the home team to sneak a win given they have already lost to the Steelers and these teams often split their series.

Gee’s Pick: Ravens
Dan’s Pick: Steelers

Buccaneers @ Panthers (-6.5)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defence is playing better and Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting, but I don’t think this is enough for them to beat a Carolina Panthers team who are quietly keeping pace with the best teams this season. Their offence is top five by DVOA as is their overall team and I think they roll in this one at home.

Gee’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Pick: Buccaneers

Texans @ Broncos (-2.5)

This is a slightly tricky game for me as the Texans have got their season back on track and the offence is playing better but the injury to Will Fuller is going to hurt their chances. The trade for Demaryius Thomas as replacement receiver makes sense but he won’t have had much time to acclimatise. Meanwhile the Broncos defence may not be the same, but in Von Miller they have someone who can absolutely cause havoc given the Texans poor offensive line. However, despite being better at home there is quite a lot wrong with the Broncos at the moment and so expecting them to win by a field goal is what is causing me hesitation. I haven’t felt strongly about many games this week and in this one I’m going to grab the points for what I think is the better team.

Gee’s Pick: Texans
Dan’s Pick: Texans

Chargers @ Seahawks (-1.5)

This looks to be a cracking game and a real test for the LA Chargers who have been impressive but travel to the always difficult to play in Seattle. The Seahawks have quietly dragged themselves into playoff contention off the back of defence and running the football but the Chargers have been playing well and are coming off a bye. I’m really looking forward to this game but I hate the line as I feel it’s a toss-up but in the end I fancy the Chargers to continue their good run, even if this is a better opponent.

Gee’s Pick: Chargers
Dan’s Pick: Seahawks

Rams @ Saints (-1.5)

This the next in a series of great games as the unbeaten Rams travel to the face the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have been playing really well, but will miss rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport as the defence has not been great unlike Drew Brees and the offence. The Rams have not looked great in recent weeks but have kept finding a way to win and this feels like a game where whoever has the ball last is likely to win. I’m finding it hard to pick but given that the Saints are at home and the Rams are unlikely to go the whole season unbeaten I’m going to stick my neck out and back the Saints. I could very easily be wrong but this is going to be such a good game I probably won’t mind anyway.

Gee’s Pick: Saints
Dan’s Pick: Rams

Packers @ Patriots (-5.5)

The billing of this game is going to be Aaron Rodgers vs Tom Brady, but really it is the New England infrastructure against Aaron Rodgers and I fancy the Patriots to win given the moves the Packers made at the trade deadline. They could well pay off in the next couple of years but right now it makes things harder for Rodgers, but this is still too many points to give him and so whilst I expect the Patriots to win, I think Rodgers will keep it closer than six.

Gee’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Pick: Patriots

Titans @ Cowboys (-6.5)

I’m not exactly sure what to expect in this game, but given the problems the Cowboys have had on offence I’m not sure that parachuting Amari Cooper in last week via trade will solve them against a Titans team who so often muddy up the game. The Cowboys defence has been much better this year and it wouldn’t surprise me if the home team did get the win, but I’m not backing them to win by seven.

Gee’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Pick: Titans