2020 Week Six Picks

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So thanks to the schedule changes this week, competition Thursday has merged into Sunday picks and maybe the change up in schedule will breathe life into a season where I’m four games behind evens and a whopping eleven points behind Dan. First things first though, I’ll run through the late things from Thursday and then roll into games.

Gee:Week 5:  7 – 8Overall:  35 – 43
Dan:Week 5:  9 – 6Overall:  46 – 32

Survivor Competition

Not content with bad picks, I jinxed the Chiefs into a loss against the Raiders last week so Dan is now evens with me in this competition and I’ve wasted the Chiefs so we shall have to see how things go. I am really struggling to have a strong feeling on this one while Dan is still riding the whoever is playing the Jets strategy, but I’m not going to be scared off by last week’s mishap and I have been very impressed with the Ravens so even if they are on the road that’s where I am going.

Current Score

Gee: 3
Dan: 3

Week 6 Selection:

Gee:     Ravens
Dan:    Dolphins

Bold Prediction of the Week

My not very bold but I was really struggling prediction this week is that the Giants are going to get their first win of the season this week against Washington.

Early Games:

The split between the early and late games is even more lopsided than usual, but the pick of the early games for me is the divisional clash between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the Steelers’ re-arranged non-resting bye in week four caused by the Titans Covid-19 outbreak, the Steelers maintained their unbeaten start to the season against the Eagles, but this week’s game is probably the Steelers’ sternest test so far. That said, Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield is nursing a shoulder injury and so we don’t know how well the Browns offense will play. The Browns will be pitting their fourth in the league by DVOA rushing attack against the Steeler’s league leading by DVOA rush defense and with Mayfield’s health being a questions I am leaning towards the Steelers in this one.

The other really interesting game for me sees the 3-2 Carolina Panthers hosting the 4-1 Chicago Bears. This is a game that will see Chicago’s strong defense led by Khalil Mack try to keep them close enough that an offence now helmed by journeyman if Super Bowl winning quarterback Nick Foles can do enough to win. The Panthers already seem to be building something in Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach and whilst I don’t have a strong lean in this game, I think the matchup of the Bears’ defense against quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Panther’s top ten offence should make for a fascinating game.

As for the rest of the early games:

  • I don’t know what kind of reaction the Falcons will have with Raheem Morris taking overt as head coach, but it feels like there are structural problems at the franchise, where as the Vikings have something to build on even if a 1-4 start does not inspire confidence
  • The Colts are 3-2 but there have been rumblings about the form of Philip Rivers. I don’t see them having a problem with the Bengals this week, but I have been wrong a lot this year and I’d love to see some signs of progress from the Bengals after last week.
  • I am not wholly sure what will happen with the Patriots hosting the Broncos given more players have gone on the Covid list for the Patriots and a Denver coach has also tested positive. The Patriots in theory should win this one but given all that has happened for both teams in the last week I would not rely on anything too much.
  • I am not sure what the Lions have done to be laying points on the road against the Jaguars. Both teams’ defenses are ranked in the thirties by DVOA and the stand out unit is the Jaguars offence so whilst I can see this being a close game and maybe the Lions do win, to win by four seems a little off to me.
  • The Houston Texans may have a got a win last week, but the Tennessee Titans came roaring back from their Covid-19 situation with a big win against the Bills and I have a feeling will do well against the Texans.
  • The whole situation with Washington’s quarterbacks feels odd, but this week they must take on the New York Giants. It’s strange to see the teams right next to each other in overall DVOA when Washington’s defense is top five, but I’m leaning towards the Giants and will be watching this game out of curiosity to see what is going on for myself.
  • The Ravens travel to Philadelphia looking for another win and the line reflects the problems the Eagles have had at the start of the season. I don’t see much changing for the Eagles in this one but there’s always the chance for a surprise.

Falcons @ Vikings (-3.5)

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

Bears @ Panthers (-2.5)

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

Bengals @ Colts (-7.5)

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

Browns @ Steelers (-3.5)

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

Broncos @ Patriots (-8.5)

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

Lions @ Jaguars (+3.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Jaguars
Dan’s Pick:      Lions

Texans @ Titans (-5.5)

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

Washington @ Giants (-2.5)

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

Ravens @ Eagles (+7.5)

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

Late Games:

The pick of the late games is the Green Bay Packers taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but with no home crowd to make life difficult for the Packers offence I have a feeling that Aaron Rodgers is still going to be okay against a Buccaneers’ defense who ranks second in the league by DVOA. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was competitive, but with Rodgers operating so well in his second year of running Matt LaFleur’s offence I think the Packers are the more likely to win, especially given the penalties that the Bucs can give away.

The Jets face a Dolphins team who are coming off scoring forty-three points in a big win against the 49ers last week and whilst I think it is unlikely the Dolphins repeat that feat, the Jets have given no indication that they can spring a surprise in this one. You cannot rule it out completely given that this is a divisional game, but with a dearth of positives to take from their first five games I think it is a pretty small chance for the Jets on the road in Miami.

Jets @ Dolphins (-8.5)

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

Packers @ Buccaneers (+1.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Rams @ 49ers (+3.5)

This is an odd game for the LA Rams who seem to have been travelling back and forth across the country in the opening five weeks and who are taking on a 49ers team beset by injuries. This divisional game still has the capacity to spring a surprise as the 49ers have been competitive in every game bar the last one, but they also have played four teams who currently have losing records and if the Rams cannot repeat the Dolphins success, you would expect their fourth ranked by DVOA offence to have enough for them to run out winners in this one.

Gee’s Pick:       Rams
Dan’s Pick:      Rams

Monday Night Football

Chiefs @ Bills (+3.5)

Once again, we are treated to two Monday night games and this looks like a tasty matchup between the Bills and the Chiefs. The Bills finally played the Titans on Tuesday having had several postponements, but it can’t have made preparations easy and they had a bad loss. The worrying thing is how many problems quarterback Josh Allen had against zone coverage and it will be interesting to see what the Chiefs’ defense can do a week after their loss to the Raiders. Last week was the Chiefs’ only loss in fourteen games dating back to last season and including the playoffs so it is certainly not time to panic, but neither team will want to lose two in a row and this could well be the matchup of the week if both teams can bring their A game. I think you would always back the team with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, but I certainly feel like the Bills could be able to compete at home in this one.

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

Cardinals @ Cowboys (+2.5)

Week six finishes with an intriguing game that sees Andy Dalton get his first start for the Dallas Cowboys after Dak Prescott’s gruesome displaced ankle fracture last week. With the experience Dalton has the Cowboys probably have the best backup quarterback in the league, but if Dak playing brilliantly was having issues keeping the Cowboys’ in games thanks to their awful defense, I do wonder if Dalton will be able to do the same. However, although the Cardinals beat the Jets comfortably on the road last week, this is their third game in a row on the road and with losses to the Panthers and Lions so far this season I do wonder if this game might be closer than the line suggests.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

Who Needs a Schedule Anyway?

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Well ,week five finished with an unexpected result that I called wrong in the picks competition, which is becoming a worrying trend, but at least the Titans are back playing games and the NFL looks like it can keep to its scheduling plan for now. Meanwhile, the Bills after facing two scenarios about who they were playing have to move on quickly as they face the Chiefs on Monday night.

That said, I feel all over the place with the site at the moment, and having spent a chunk of time yesterday dealing with how our dynasty league would managed the waiver wire this week given that we were still locked in week five, I delayed this post by a day as there is no competition Thursday this week as we have no Thursday night game.

So let’s take a look at what happened in week five.

What I Saw

The week five Thursday night game was a ragged affair that I still found entertaining thanks to the two good defences on display, but it was frustrating to get my pick wrong as my assessment of the Buccaneers ability was fairly spot on but it was their indiscipline on offence that cost the Bucs this game. The Bucs actually went up by ten points in the first quarter of the game as the Bears struggled to move the ball consistently but kept themselves in touch thanks to their defence. The Bucs finished this game with three-hundred and thirty-nine yards of offence, ninety-six yards more than the Bears were able to generate but the Bucs also were flagged eleven times for a loss of one hundred and nine yards. This was forty-three more yards in penalties than the Bears and the combination of penalties and the Bears defence meant that after the first quarter the Bucs were only able to kick field goals for the rest of the game. That said, despite being streaky, Nick Foles managed to complete more passes that Tom Brady, even with Bucs corner Jamel Dean seeming to wage a one-person battle on the Bears’ passing attack at the end of the game. The Bears were able to do enough on offence against a Bucs defence that was regularly getting pressure to eek out a one point lead at the end of the game, but with how tight the game was the key play might have been when Bucs’ running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn caught a short pass and fumbled the ball setting up the Bears offence with a short field and that led to their second and last touchdown of the game in a crucial burst of point scoring in the second quarter. This is a game that I feel the Bucs really could have and probably should have won, but they need to clean up the penalties if they are to reach their potential. Meanwhile, if the Bears can keep getting enough production from Nick Foles on offence then their defence is good enough that they will keep winning games even if they likely won’t maintain their current twelve win pace or compete with the best teams in the NFL.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the Bengals this week as they were very poor, but the problem remains the offensive line and I’m now getting really worried about Joe Burrow operating behind it. In fact, I have a wider concern, Zac Taylor is a young head coach, hired due to his relationship with Sean McVay and the Bengals stressed how much they committed to his plan with rearrangements of both the practice facilities and offices, as well as hiring Taylor the largest staff they have ever had, but the offensive line is a good representation of my wider worry. Taylor’s choice of Jim Turner as o-line coach didn’t sit well with me from the start. Turner not only tolerated the bullying in his position group whilst at the Dolphins, but the investigation into the resulting scandal implicated him in taking part. Not content with this, when he returned to Texas A&M he was involved in another scandal involving inappropriate jokes at a football clinic for women. It’s one thing for a person to make a mistake and learn from it, but I have no patience for bullies or people who clearly have no interest in reforming their ways. The o-line has been a problem since Andrew Whitworth was let go, and the lead in to last season was undeniably tough with injuries and retirements, but it doesn’t feel like anything is changing or that players are developing and if the head coach can’t see this then I have to wonder about their judgement. It is appears I lied about spending too much time on the Bengals, but moving on to the Ravens – the blip against the Chiefs aside the Ravens are clearly a very good football team who will meet far stiffer challenges over the rest of the season and likely emerge victorious from most of them.

The other early game Sunday game I watched this week was the Carolina Panthers winning their third straight game, beating the still winless Atlanta Falcons. It was not a spectacle of a game, but the seventeen points the Panthers scored in the second quarter was enough for them to comfortably beat a Falcons team who have continued to struggle and that ultimately led to both GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn being fired. The Falcons have been trending this way for a while, but it had to be a difficult decision as a lot of the basis for the team that went to the Super Bowl is still there, but they have just not been able to recapture that form. Meanwhile, the Panthers have quietly got themselves to 3-2 despite losing Christian McCaffery to injury in week two, but could very well still be in contention by the time he returns from IR and that is a lot more than I was expecting of them coming into the season. The rest of this year will be strange for the Falcons as both players and coaches will be trying to prove they belong in the league, but it is going to be a long time before the Falcons as an organisation can do anything directly in terms of replacing their GM and head coach. That said, if the head start in the background checks the Falcons get by making the decision now leads to a similar result as what the Panthers have got so far with their new head coach having made an early change themselves last season then they will be very happy.

The final game I got to watch in week five was the closely fought contest that the Minnesota Vikings narrowly lost 27-26 to the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings scored thirteen unanswered points to build a halftime lead, but came roaring back in the third quarter with three touchdowns and were taken to the wire by the Vikings. The big talking point coming out of this game was the Vikings decision to go for it on fourth down on the Seahawks’ six yard line with two minutes on the clock rather than kick a field goal. There may well be a statistical argument for doing what they did, both in terms of if they made the first down and in turning the ball over with under two minutes left on the clock on the opponents six yard line, and I would usually totally support the decision if that was the case. However, there are a handful of quarterbacks that you feel could execute a ninety-four yard drive in that time and Russell Wilson would be very much near the top of that list, particularly with the form he is in this season. The Seahawks did precisely that, scored the winning touchdown but failed on the following two-point conversion. The same conversion they would have needed to take the game to overtime if the Vikings had just kicked the field goal and taken an eight point lead. It is easy to be wise in hindsight, and I would normally support the maths, but this is one of the few times where I would countenance taking the safe option.

What I Heard

I am going to have to start taking better notes as I have heard lots of interesting things and couldn’t immediately bring a lot of it to mind. However, one thing that did stick is that whilst looking for what coaching tape to watch, I decided to look at the Football Outsiders DVOA stats for offensive line and have a look at the best team. Well, according to the site the team with the best adjusted line yards were the Cleveland Browns (closely followed by Dan’s Dolphins [the real NFL franchise, not his dynasty team]) and this was not wholly a surprise. Unlike the Bengals, who many people have commented on as being poor (although not in adjusted line yards where they rank a lofty twenty-six despite conceding the most sacks in the season so far), I have heard several people talking about how good the Browns’ offensive line is, and how impressive this was given they had a new coaching staff that had to install their offence during a Covid- shortened pre-season. A lot of credit has brrn given to their o-line coach Bill Callahan, and whilst I don’t know enough to evaluate him or the praise, it does make sense and I am looking forward to getting a head start on the coaching film this week with no Thursday night game.

What I Think

Despite the situation with the Titans, the NFL has as yet not lost a game from their schedule and they will be hoping the problems in Tennessee were an outlier and not a foreshadowing of what is to come. The NFL are continuing to adjust their protocols and re-enforce existing ones with talk of restricting the roles of those who are found to have been close contacts of players who have tested positive. I am still pretty impressed that the season has run as well as it has so far, but we are now heading into autumn with the weather becoming more favourable for the virus so soon we shall know if this start was the positive beginning of getting the season finished, or the warning signs that things are about to get a lot tougher.

What I Know

I know the Bengals o-line is bad, that the Panthers are better than I thought they were and that I am looking forward to seeing what Andy Dalton can do with the Dallas offence this week. It may not seem like much, but with everything going on at the moment I’m clinging to the small things and hoping the rest falls into place. I just hope the NFL have planned more carefully than that!

What I Hope

There is only one possible thin I can hope after the week five games, and that is both that Dak Prescott make a full and speedy recovery from his horrible injury sustained on Sunday and that it is a long time until we see anything similar.

2020 Week Five Picks

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We have two more rescheduled games this week, including a Tuesday night game that may or may not see the Titans return to action depending on if there are any further positive tests. I would like to think that there will be no more unofficial workouts by the Titans’ players and this might go part way to explaining the number of positives the Titans have had compared to the other teams. That said, the positive test of Patriots’ corner Stephon Gilmore who apparently had dinner with Cam Newton, and the number of the close contacts Newton had is again a demonstration that no one can take the Covid-19 protocols lightly and we will have to see if the current plans will hold, or if things will need to change.

Anyway, having fallen a further point behind Dan in the picking competition thanks to a Bears win on Thursday, I hope to stop the bleeding a little over the rest of week five.

Early Games:

There are various games that look interesting to me in the early slot, but not a lot of obviously compelling watches.

The nearest we have to a competitive matchup according to the lines is the Carolina Panthers taking on the winless Atlanta Falcons, with the Falcons laying three and a half points to the Panthers who are coming off two straight wins. I will be watching this game as I haven’t had a chance to catch either team yet and I want to take a look at what Matt Rhule is building as well as what is going on with the Falcons and in particular their defence..

The other game that is catching my eye is a little self-serving, but the Bengals are coming off their first win with Joe Burrow and travel to take on the Baltimore Ravens. The AFC North is always a competitive division, at least amongst the top team and the Bengals have had a tendency to play the Ravens close so with Lamar Jackson dealing with a knee injury during the week I think this is likely a closer game that the line suggests and has the potential to be one of those division games that could give us a surprise result, even if it is merely a closer loss for the Bengals than expected.

Other things of interest:

  • The Kansas City Chiefs are heavy favourites, which is understandable to an extent as the Raiders have not won in Arrowhead stadium for seven years and with the Raiders’ defence still ranked in the thirties I like the Chiefs to continue their win streak but it could be a challenge to cover this line.
  • The LA Rams should win in Washington, except the Rams have been back and forth across the country at the start of this season so perhaps the Football Team can spring a surprise off the back of a different quarterback starting.
  • The Arizona Cardinals have fallen back in their division after two straight losses but will be hoping to get things back on track against a Jets team who will be without struggling quarterback Sam Darnold thanks to the AC sprain in his throwing shoulder. There will be some serious questions to answer if the Cardinals lose a third straight game.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles coming of their first win of the season travel to face the Steelers in a game that I think the Steelers are likely to win given the strength of their defense and the problems the Eagles are having on offence, but this game has the potential to get interesting if the Eagles defensive line can get going or if Carson Wentz finds some form.
  • There will be some who think the Texans will get a new coach bounce, and whilst that is possible, I don’t see it being a huge factor as their roster has structural issues thanks to letting Bill O’Brien make short terms moves as GM over the last couple of season. The Texans may well get their first win of the season, but this line is too high for me and the Jaguars offence may have success against a Texans defense centered around an ageing JJ Watt and not a huge amount more.

Panthers @ Falcons (-3.5)

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

Bengals @ Ravens (-13.5)

Gee’s Pick:          Bengals
Dan’s Pick:          Bengals

Raiders @ Chiefs (-12.5)

Gee’s Pick:          Chiefs
Dan’s Pick:          Raiders

Rams @ Washington (+8.5)

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

Cardinals @ Jets (+6.5)

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

Eagles @ Steelers (-6.5)

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

Jaguars @ Texans (-6.5)

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

Late Games:

The matchup of the late Sunday games is the Indianapolis Colts taking their league leading by DVOA defense to Cleveland to face a Browns team who have won three games straight. The injury to lead running back Nick Chubb is a blow for the Browns, and the Colts will prove a lot sterner test than the miserable Cowboys defense last week. The Browns are getting points at home this week, but I think this is a close matchup and I think could be one of the more competitive games of the week.

The Dolphins could not keep up with the Seahawks last week and now face a trip across the country to face a 49ers team who are staying competitive despite their extensive injury list. I like the 49ers to win this one, but I think this game could be closer than the line suggests, and I would not be surprised if the Dolphins managed an upset.

The Dallas Cowboys simply cannot afford to lose this game, although no one is looking that capable of winning the NFC East. However, the Giants have the easiest offence the Cowboys have faced this season so this could be a chance for them to find something and it won’t take much of a defensive effort for the Cowboys to win given how well their offence is playing.

Dolphins @ 49ers (-8.5)

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

Colts @ Browns (+2.5)

Gee’s Pick:          Browns
Dan’s Pick:          Colts

Giants @ Cowboys (-9.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Vikings @ Seahawks (-7.5)

I sometime worry that I am turning into Dan as I am really looking forward to this game as after a slow start the Minnesota Vikings are finding their feet on offence, and they will need every yard of the passing game to keep up with the Seahawks. That said, the Seahawks defense is not good and plain bad against the pass, ranking twenty-ninth by DVOA. I think this should be a fun game to watch given the offensive battle, and while it may be closer than eight points, it’s hard to see Russell Wilson losing this game given how well he is playing.

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

Monday Night Football:

Chargers @ Saints (-7.5)

The LA Chargers have named rookie quarterback Justin Herbert their starting quarterback and he has definitely shown promise, but the Chargers only win came against the Bengals with Tyrod Taylor getting the start. The New Orleans Saints might not look quite like themselves, but with talk that receiver Michael Thomas could return and the Chargers looking decidedly average I find it hard to see them springing an upset on the road, even if the Saints are missing their passionate crowd. This line might be too big to cover, but I will be surprised if the Chargers do manage to get the win.

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

Rescheduled Games:

Broncos @ Patriots (-10.5)

The first game of the Monday night doubleheader sees the Patriots host the Denver Broncos coming off their Thursday night win over the Jets. It is hard to know how the disruption of the last week will have affected the Patriots, but they will miss Cam Newton and so whilst I think that Bill Belichick will be able to lead his team to the win, I doubt they will cover this line. I could be wrong, but double-digit points after a disrupted week of preparation that sees the Patriots going against a well-rested Broncos team is too rich for me.

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

Bills @ Titans (+1.5)

After all the positive tests and the apparent out of facility workouts the Titans are currently scheduled to retake the field this Tuesday night, which sees the Bills game against the Chiefs that was supposed to happen two days later put back to the Sunday. No one truly knows if the Titans will be in a position to play this game, or how they will look when they finally do return to the field. I think the Bills should win if this game does get played, but a Tuesday night game puts the Bills in a situation no team will have seen to prepare for their Sunday night game against the Chiefs. We knew that this season would not be fair, and so it will be even more impressive if the Bills come out of their next two games with a win or two.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

Competition Thursday: 2020 Week 5

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I had a terrible week four picking games and have yet to record a positive score and having fallen 9 points behind Dan so I’m beginning to wonder if I need to completely overhaul my process or be even more trusting of the numbers, and this game is doing nothing to help me make up my mind.

Gee:Week 4:  4 – 11Overall:   28 – 35
Dan:Week 4:  9 – 6Overall:   37 – 26

Buccaneers @ Bears (+5.5)

I am really looking forward to watching this game as I haven’t seen the Bucs since their underwhelming opening game against the Saints, or the Bears at all, but I absolutely hate this line which sits right that awkward zone between points around a field goal win and a touchdown win. Given the consensus number I’m getting an advantage for the Bears from this line, and a fairly sizeable one at that, but the Bucs have won three straight, are the best team by overall DVOA, have the second ranked defence and Tom Brady. I don’t trust the Bears offence as they shuffle quarterbacks and even with tight end OJ Howard going down I feel like the Bucs have too many players that can hurt the Bears defence. This might be the wrong move right now, but given how previous methods have failed me I’m trusting my gut on this one.

Gee’s Pick:      Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick:      Bears

Survivor Competition

Well we are finally scoring some points and I’ve managed to maintain my slender advantage, but the combination of games and who we’ve already picked is making this a tricky week or at least that’s how it feels to me. Dan is rolling with his plan to pick against the Jets and hoping the Cardinals break their two-game losing streak whilst I’m finding it really hard to find a team that convinces me. There’s a couple of options, but given I don’t like this week I’m going to throw in one of the better teams and hope it doesn’t bite me later in the season.

Current Score

Gee: 3
Dan: 2

Week 5 Selection:

Gee:     Chiefs
Dan:    Cardinals

Bold Prediction of the Week

Sorry all, but with Dan on holiday and podcast taking a week off I’m not doing something I don’t like without the evil producer pointing me in that direction.

Reality Bites

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We are through week four with a rescheduled bye week for the Covid-19 infected Titans and their week four opponents the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as first in week game delay. Before all teams are even through a quarter of their season, we have had our first coach firing of the season, there are six unbeaten teams though that is slightly inflated with the Steelers Titans matchup being postponed, and four winless teams that led to the first coach firing.

There’s a fair amount to get through and the NFL is not the only ones having disruption to their routine so let’s get writing whilst I still have time!

What I Saw

Week four may have started with questions still surrounding the Titans and Steelers game, but we got a surprise of the pleasant variety Thursday night when the less that enticing on-paper matchup of the winless Denver Broncos taking on the winless New York Jets turned into an enjoyable game. It was a relatively comfortable 37-28 win for the Broncos in the end, but a close first half saw a truly special run from Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold opened the scoring with a forty-six yard touchdown, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Jets have been unable to build a team around him their third year quarterback to truly evaluate him. Darnold had to leave this game for a short period having been thrown down on his right shoulder, and whilst he made a go of it on the night, he is now on the injury report with an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder and it is not known if he will be available on Sunday. It feels like only a matter of time before the Jets move on from Adam Gase, who has never really convinced as a head coach, but with the state of roster I don’t know whether they will try to rebuild around Darnold or if they will try something more drastic. The Broncos looked competitive in this game, but we know they were facing a struggling team and it is not too often a quarterback can throw three interceptions and still win the game. Their defence, which ranks twelfth by DVOA gives them something to build off, and Brett Rypien showed some good flashes when he wasn’t getting picked off by Pierre Desir. This was a surprisingly fun game to watch but hasn’t stuck in the memory so let’s move on to the weekend’s game.

Before the Cleveland Browns kicked off in Dallas against the Cowboys, Cam Newton had tested positive for Covid-19 and the Patriots visit to the Chiefs had been postponed in the hope of further testing allowing the game to play. The Browns started off by taking the lead with trickery as Jarvis Landry threw a thirty-seven yard touchdown to his fellow receiver Odell Beckahm and it looked like we could have ourselves a real contest as the Cowboys offence answered with a touchdown drive of their own and then took the lead. However, their defensive frailties started to show themselves at the start of the second quarter as the Browns equalised and as the Cowboys gave the ball away, the Browns quite literally ran away with the game, scoring twenty-seven unanswered points as the Cowboys failed to score until early in the fourth quarter. The pretty startling stat is that the Browns finished with over three hundred yards of rushing in this game and that’s with their starting running back Nick Chubb going down early with an MCL sprain. It is quite remarkable that the Cowboys’ managed to within three points with three minutes to go before a fifty-yard run on a reverse from Odell Beckham sealed the game 49-38. It was quite remarkable touchdown as by all rights Beckham should have been stopped well behind the line of scrimmage, but he managed to escape and got the distance. The Cowboys clearly have a potent offence, but they need the defence to step up so they can win games without the offence being perfect. They are 1-3 for a reason and could just as easily be 0-4. It is somewhat remarkable that are still second in the division and only a tied game by the Eagles from being top but they need to improve fast if they want to make anything of this season as it appears only one team will be coming out of the NFC East this year. As for Cleveland, they have a built a team who looks to have an identity and who can compete. I don’t know that they will push into the playoffs, but they are developing an offence that puts Baker Mayfield in position to succeed and not drive success and they are going to be a handful for anyone.

The other early game I saw was the Jacksonville Jaguars visit to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a game the Jaguars ultimately lost 25-38. The Bengals were fairly comfortable for a lot of this game with Joe Mixon having a productive game and Joe Burrow looking as good as he has done all season. Things seemed to have cooled off for the Jaguars after a positive opening that encouraged me after their first two games, but if there are some bright flashes from parts of the roster, they look a long way from promising I thought. The Bengals look to be changing generations at receiver and have some talent on both sides of the ball, but the offensive line has to improve as does the defence overall but in a season where I was only looking for hope, Burrow as show me at least that he could be the real deal. I’m just not as sure about Zac Taylor and I wonder if he is going to be hamstrung by his choice of offensive line coach.

The final game that I saw this week was the late game between the Buffalo Bills visiting the Las Vegas Raiders, which was not quite the contest I was hoping for with the Bills running out 30-23 winners and were another team who looked comfortable for a lot of the game. I was really impressed with the scheme of the Bills offence and the difference the addition of receiver Stefon Diggs made. If it were not for several drops Josh Allen could have had an even more impressive day throwing the ball, but Allen still throws some very hard passes at times so there’s still some touch to be developed. Still, the Bills really look like they have taken another incremental step forward with Josh Allen relying on his arm now instead of his legs to make the offence purr and the defence possibly rounding into shape so if they can keep things together they look like they could do more than just make the playoffs this season. Meanwhile, the problem for the Raiders is the same one they have had since Jon Gruden took over, which is that the offence can do as well as it can in the last two season, and is currently ranked tenth in the league by DVOA, but until their defence gets out of the thirties in defensive ranking then the Raiders are not going to be able to get where they want to go. Particularly sharing a division with the Kansas City Chiefs and their duo of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. Derek Carr might not be the elite quarterback you dream of, but the offence helmed by him is good enough to win if they had more help from the other side of the ball.

What I Think

I have a minor case study in how disruptions can affect your routine and throw you out of sorts. I’m not saying being away for the weekend is the reason my picks were so bad in week four, but it didn’t help, and I have been off kilter all this week for one reason or another.

I mention this not to look for sympathy, but because I am not an elite athlete competing with the world’s best in their field. That is what the NFL is asking of its players in the middle of the pandemic and we really began to see the consequences of that as that reality began to bite.

As of writing we do not yet know what lessons need to be learned about the outbreak in Tennessee, and the early hope of several days without positive tests and the facility opening have been dashed by two more players testing positive. If there is good news to be taken from the Titan’s situation it is that no Vikings seem to have been infected and so it is working in close quarters with team mates and contact outside of the field of play that looks to be driving infection and not the action on the field. However, that will be tested with other teams having positives.

While the Titans are paying the price for this problem with an early week four bye and will now have to play thirteen games straight, whenever they can actually get back to playing. The Steelers who had to deal with uncertainty for a lot of last week ended up with an unscheduled bye week where they were not recovering but preparing for a game that did not take place. They will also face a thirteen-week streak of games for no other reason than a quirk of the schedule. Whether there will be further outbreaks that require move rounds of games I do not know, but even with the other game delay we are asking a lot of the players.

I heard it suggested that one of the reasons the Patriots game was delayed was not because they had lost a quarterback, but because they were the first travelling team to have a positive test at the weekend. In fact the team travelled in two planes to separate the close contacts with Cam Newton from the rest of the team. However, the Chiefs are now being asked to play three games of football in a remarkably short ten days have been moved to this Monday, play again on a short week on Sunday against the Raiders before travelling to face the Bill on the following Thursday night.

If that were not enough, the news broke today that Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore has now tested positive for Covid-19 have played at the weekend and was seen embracing Patrick Mahomes after the game Monday. Mahomes could well be safe, but it is clear that there is still room for improvement in teams facilities for protecting the players from the spread of Covid-19 and it may well be time for the NFL to be more flexible in the approach to scheduling games and stricter on how it isolates teams with positive tests.

What I Hope

I wanted to write about coaches and culture in the wake of the firing of Bill O’Brien in Houston having listened to Peter King interview both beat reporter John McClain on the situation for the Texans, and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule after the Panthers got their second straight win in Rhule’s first year as head coach in the NFL.

It is a hell of a season to be building a new culture when you haven’t done it before and I was impressed by his approach, but with the current situation I cannot focus in on that like I would want.

What I really hope is that we can learn to live with this virus until there is a game changing treatment or a vaccine.

That applies to everywhere and not just to the NFL, and right now we have to take the solace where we can find them. I hope that football can continue to be that in some form, but just like everything else in the world at the moment, it won’t be the same form for a long tiem.

AAF: San Francisco 49ers Offence

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After two weeks of false starts it is quite a relief to finally write my first Amateur Adventures in Film post of the 2020 season.

There was an interesting discussion I listened to recently that was discussing the similarities between the Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan offences despite the personnel and formations being different, and with the 49ers being one of the teams I hadn’t seen yet this season, who beat the Giants soundly in week three I thought I would take a look at their offence with backup Nick Mullens as their quarterback.

The 49ers offence is ranked eighth by DVOA despite starting Mullens last week and having a number of injuries at receiver and running back as well as missing probably the best tight-end in the game right now in George Kittle. However, the 49ers are not a team that rely on a single running back and use 21 personnel and 12 personnel a lot and so certainly coped against the Giants’ eighteenth ranked by DVOA defence.

What I enjoyed was the way they switched personnel groupings and formations so that they frequently had two running backs on the field but would line up in shotgun or flex a running back out as a receiver. There was also nearly always motion before the snap to help Mullens identify what the defence was giving him, but this motion would also be used to present multiple actions out of the same look. The 49ers are also a team who run more out of shotgun formation than any other team I remember. The lack of motion pre-snap also was not a tell that a pass was coming, and I loved on their final touchdown run that tight-end Ross Dwelley (who was the player who probably moved most pre-snap all game) came across the formation in a jet motion but then blocked to allow running back Jeff Wilson to squeeze into the end-zone for a touchdown.

The commitment to the run was a foundation of how the 49ers offence was run, even if it was not necessarily that efficient as it only generated ninety-three yards off thirty-five carries, but the 49ers used this to keep the Giants’ defence guessing what was happening as well as scoring three touchdowns on the ground. For this offence there is very creditable threat that they are going to run the ball with a near 50-50 split of pass and run plays, which makes their play-action all the more convincing. This meant that despite no-one leaping off the screen in terms of a dominant player, the 49ers generated four hundred and twenty yards and four touchdowns whilst possessing the ball for nearly forty minutes of this game. This is no small feat with a backup quarterback but Mullins if unspectacular, looked efficient running an offence designed to put him in positions to succeed. The Giants defence would stuff a run every now and again, with former Jet defensive lineman Leonard Williams catching the eye multiple times against both the run and pass, but the 49ers always seemed to have answers.

It took some time for Kyle Shanahan and his hand picked GM John Lynch to build the franchise how they wanted, but after a couple of seasons they made the Super Bowl and have built a team good enough to compete despite and injury list that would have felled many a team in the NFL. I don’t know if they can maintain this throughout the season, but a well schemed offence that is running this well despite the current situation looks like it will go a long way to giving them a chance.

2020 Week Four Picks

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If one game being postponed was not enough to make clear the realities of playing this season in the middle of a pandemic, the positive test of Cam Newton and the delay of the Patriots game against the Chiefs as a backup quarterback on the Chiefs also tested positive is another reminder.

None of this is a surprise. Once the decision had been made that it was too impractical to bubble the NFL for the season, then the league knew that there would be positive tests and the protocols were designed to manage this situation. If there is good news to be had out of the situation in Tennessee where eight players and eight staff have now tested positive, it is that as yet there have been no positive tests at their opponents last week the Vikings or with the game staff. My concern is still that we are not yet out of the incubation period of the virus but we can hope that things hold and that there is not a lot spread amongst the now three other teams with positive tests.

Early Games:

It’s not a slate of games that instantly leaps out as containing classic games but there are interesting things about many of the games.

The two games that grab the attention first as the Cleveland Browns taking on the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints taking on the Detroit Lions.

The Browns trip to Dallas gives them a chance to build on their last two wins and with a top ten defense and an offence beginning to find a way they have a formula to be competitive with the Cowboys. However, the Cowboy’s offence has a lot of talent even if it hasn’t been able to convert fantasy points and yards into wins, but I am curious about whether the Browns can do enough to get the win or the Cowboys can back to 2-2 with an eye to pushing on in a division where all four teams have loosing records. The Cowboys are having real issues on defense so it is a good job their offence has been playing so well.

The Saints offence has struggled without receiver Michael Thomas who is missing for another week and Drew Brees not looking himself in the passing game. Their loss to the Raiders might be considered surprising but the Packers look to be a force to be reckoned with at the moment so last week’s loss is understandable. However, a trip to the Lions is a good test of how deep the problems for the Saints are. The Lions might be coming off a win but they are still not that convincing and with Alvin Kamara playing well for the Saints they will feel like they should win this game. The line reflects a similar confidence, but I can’t help but feel that things are going to be more complicated than that.

Other things of interest are:

  • I’m not sure why a team with no wins like the Bengals are giving away an extra half point to the, although this line was set early enough that they wouldn’t be aware of Joe Mixon turning up on the injury report.
  • I’m curious to see how well the Dolphins can compete with an explosive Seahawks offence and if they can make a game of it, or if the Seahawks will just keep rolling.
  • The Houston Texans have had a tough start to the season, so to come home and face a fellow struggling team like the Vikings presents an opportunity to turn their season around. The Vikings might be thinking something similar and although I’m not impressed by either team, I can at least see what the Vikings were planning but if the defensive struggles can be understood by the off-season overhaul, the offensive woes might have sunk their season already.
  • The Cardinals stumbled last week, and Kyler Murray had a bad game so it will be interesting to see if they can get back on track this week and keep pushing for the playoffs, or if the Panthers coming off their first win under Matt Rhule can build some momentum.
  • The Buccaneers hosting the Chargers looks to be a game that the Bucs should win. The Bucs defense ranks second in the league by DVOA and with Tom Brady’s experience on the other side of the ball it should be enough to see them past a Chargers team who have been close in every game but have only managed the one actual win.
  • The Ravens will be desperate to bounce back after last week’s loss to the Chiefs, and it is doubtful that Washington will be able to truly compete. They may have the fourth best defense in the league by DVOA, but I doubt they will be able to exert the scoreboard pressure the Chiefs did last week and it could be a very long day for Ron Rivera’s team.

Jaguars @ Bengals (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Jaguars
Dan’s Pick:       Bengals

Browns @ Cowboys (-4.5)

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

Saints @ Lions (+4.5)

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

Seahawks @ Dolphins (+6.5)

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

Vikings @ Texans (-3.5)

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

Cardinals @ Panthers (+3.5)

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

Chargers @ Buccaneers (-7.5)

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

Ravens @ Washington (+13.5)

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

Late Games:

The game that leaps out to me in this matchup is the Buffalo Bills taking on the Las Vegas Raiders. I definitely want to watch this one as I haven’t seen a game at the Raiders new stadium and the Bills have started the season strongly, with Josh Allen looking to have taken another step forward. I think this is a game that the Bills could and possibly should win, but the Raiders have had a strong start themselves so I think this could be a really spectacular game.

The other game that could be competitive is the Indianapolis Colts visiting the Chicago Bears, but to me that depends to what extent Nick Foles can run Matt Nagy’s offence better than Trubisky has done so far this season. The Colts stumbled out of the gates, but have put together two very solid wins so I am curious to see how this game shapes up.

The Rams should have no problems in beating a winless Giants team travelling across the country to face them. It’s always possible for a team to stumble, particularly when both Dan and I have selected them as our survivor pick, but I think it unlikely.

Giants @ Rams (-12.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Rams
Dan’s Pick:       Rams

Bills @ Raiders (+2.5)

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

Colts @ Bears (+2.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Eagles @ 49ers (-6.5)

This is a slightly strange national game given that the 49ers are dealing with a series of injuries but have been good enough to go 2-1 and beat the Giants by a lot last week, whilst the Eagles have really struggled this season having started the season 0-2-1. This might be a trap, particularly as I’ve seen numbers that suggest picking the Eagles, but with them travelling across county to face a better coached team and the Eagles getting under seven points, which is what I’m seeing as the consensus pick I’m grabbing who I think are the better team.

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

Monday Night Football

Falcons @ Packers (-7.5)

This is a tricky game for me as the Packers have been the much better team this season, but the large line and the numbers all tell me to pick the Falcons. I am choosing to trust my process even though I’m exactly even, but the extra half point over seven is a key number so let’s see if the Falcons can at least keep this one close even if they can’t get their first win this season.

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

Postponed Game

Patriots @ Chiefs (-6.5)

We don’t know right now if this game will be played Monday or Tuesday or if this will become the second game to be postponed this season. The Chiefs were already favourites and the move of Cam Newton to the Covid-19 list only confirms this. If the game goes ahead with a backup quarterback, the Patriots will do well to keep this game competitive. I think that’s possible, but the numbers still give me value with the Chiefs and as the better team I will give them a pick, but we shall have to see if there are more positive tests and if this games even goes ahead.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

Competition Thursday: 2020 Week Four

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I am trying not to push the panic button, but it seems like Dan has inherited his dad’s picking pin this season as he has now opened up a four point lead as I have consistently gone 8-8 through three weeks. I am trying to incrementally adjust my process and I think there are lessons to be learned, but if I don’t improve soon it is going to be very hard to catch Dan, although there is a potential for the pair of us to have a terrible week at any moment.

I have to trust the process and hope that in this marathon season I can turn things around at some point.

Gee:Week 3:  8 – 8Overall:  24 – 24
Dan:Week 3:  11 – 5Overall:  28 – 20

Broncos @ Jets (+2.5)

Dan and I were talking on the podcast about my interest in all games in the NFL, and I will say that whilst the Jets hosting the Broncos is not the most enticing matchup, I am genuinely interested to see what is going on with both teams. The Jets have been in trouble for a while now and it seems Adam Gase is not going to be able to turn that around whilst the Broncos are floundering with injuries in Vic Fangio’s second season so there is not much that we do not know for certain.

The interesting thing for me is that there is a very clear play according to the numbers I use for picking games as both have the Jets giving points and yet I am getting points at home so given what I have written at the start about trusting the process, I’m going to back the Jets.

Dan is never going to let me hear the end of this if I am wrong…

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

Survivor Competition

For the first time both Dan and I scored points in week three and it appears that we are beginning to follow a similar method for picking teams as we are both going for the Rams beating the Giants this week.

Current Score

Gee: 2
Dan: 1

Week 4 Selection:

Gee:     Rams
Dan:    Rams

Bold Prediction of the Week

Dan is still insisting on making me do this, even after my prediction about the Falcons failed thanks to a fourth quarter Bears comeback powered by Nick Foles.

A scan through the week four games whilst recording the podcast led me to suggest the Lions beating the Saints, which truthfully I’m not sure where it came from other than Dan is forcing me to do the segment because he knows I hate doing it. There is a scenario where this could happen as the Lions are at home and we don’t know the status of Michael Thomas (though he is back in practice) so we shall have to see how things go but I am not exactly confident…

Testing the Protocols

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This week’s midweek post is writen in the unusual position of being published later than our podcast as we were racing the news.

After a solitary Falcons’ player testing positive on Saturday turned into eight positive tests for the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday, including three players, events have led to the closing of both the Titans’ facility and that of their opponents on Sunday the Vikings.

According to ESPN the three players are from disparate position groups – a starting nose tackle, the long snapper and a practice squad tight-end, but now everyone holds their breath as we see if the cases spread amongst the Titans players and staff, or to anyone with the Vikings.

It is not unexpected for there to be positive tests, but this is the next true test of the protocols agreed by the NFL and the NFLPA and I certainly have been checking for news updates more frequently than normal. What I’m hoping for is that the outbreaks remain in small numbers and that no one has a life changing version of the illness. There are plenty of those who would say that these players get paid enough money to take this risk, but many players earn nothing like the millions the stars do and they only have one body and one life to use it in.

We are living in an uncertain world, and this is yet another stark reminder of that fact. I just hope the plans are up to facing the reality of playing a season in the middle of a pandemic, because just writing that sentence feels ridiculous.

And with that said, I suppose I had better get back to my usual in-season mid-week post…

What I Saw

Week three started with a one side affair in Jacksonville that saw the Miami Dolphins run out comfortable winners 31–13 over the Jaguars. Dan is still annoyed he forget to put the followingin the podcast last night so he would like to say:

‘It was good to see that they allowed the Jags to run at about a third capacity, which actually means that attendance at TIAA Bank Field is up on last season!’

The Dolphins were able to move the ball consistently with a balanced attack, whilst the Jaguars who I praised coming into this game struggled with the Dolphins’ defence playing more zone defence and with the absence of DJ Chark. Undrafted rooking running back James Robinson still looked good for the Jaguars, but wasn’t able to drag the team into contention. It was obviously good for the Dolphins to get the win and Brian Flores has already established a culture with the Dolphins and what they are looking for this season is progress from last year. The only concern is that the future of this franchise lies in the hands of Tua Tagovailoa and as fun as it is to watch Ryan Fitzpatrick play quarterback, the Dolphins are not building towards the future with the thirty-eight year old journeyman and the wonder has to be when Tagovailoa to play. To be fair, we have just seen with Patrick Mahomes that the old way of sitting a quarterback for a year can still work as they learn how to be a pro, but we shall have to see if that is the plan or not. The Jaguars need to get back to winning ways, but a long week before travelling to take on the Bengals might be the very tonic they need.

On Sunday the Bengals decided to tease me with their third tie since 2014 and I was there for the 2016 tied game in London. The Bengals defence looked like it might have coped a little better with the Eagles, but the offensive line is still struggling so Joe Mixon is having to work very hard for his yards and Joe Burrow is still looking poised as he searches for his first win. There was a nasty moment when Burrow was force out of the game after a hard hit and I hope there are not too many more of them and the line begins to come together but I’m not convinced, although some of the young receivers are beginning to get more involved inthe game.  As for the Eagles, there are some very recognisable names on the roster, but things are not working for them right now and they are beginning to look like a bad football team. It is not as if the Bengals are a good team, they haven’t won away from Cincinnati since week four of the 2018 season, so dropping to 0-2-1 when facing a road trip to the 49ers and Steelers makes the Eagles’ prospects look pretty bad, particularly as their week six game is against the Ravens. This is a franchise who need to find some kind of consistent formula to move the ball on offence as their eighteenth ranked by DVOA defence doesn’t looked equipped to lead the way, particularly as their ranking drops down to twenty-third against the pass.

If the Eagles are having a disastrous start to the season, the New Orleans Saints are having a difficult one that saw them lose 37-30 to the Green Bay Packeers in the Sunday Night prime time slot. I actually thought that the Saints offence moved the ball more consistently than the Packers, with Alvin Kamara leading the way on the ground but Drew Brees if not actually bad, is not up to his usual standards though the absence of receiver Michael Thomas still hobbled by injury will not help. However, off-season acquisition Emmanuel Sanders looked to be building some chemistry with Brees in this game. The problem is that whilst a 2-1 start is perfectly fine, the Packers are looking pretty good at 3-0 right now and whilst their defence only ranks twenty-eighth by DVOA, that doesn’t really matter when Aaron Rodgers is looking so comfortable in his second year running Matt LaFleur’s offence. Even without favourite receiver Davante Adams, Rodgers was able to generate big plays with Allen Lazard getting deep multiple times on a day when he finished with one hundred and forty-six yards and touchdown. The Saints home field advantage is lessened by not being able to have their loud fans, but playing in a dome is still preferable to having Brees at forty-one playing in Green Bay in January and that looks a step closer with this loss. There’s plenty of time to make up ground and a lot can change between now and then, but that is definitely the kind of stakes these two teams are playing for so this is a loss that could come back to haunt the Saints..

Finally, the much heralded (including by me) Monday night game saw the Kansas City Chiefs roll into Baltimore and hand the Ravens a 34-20 loss. The Chiefs were able to get a lead and build upon it with their versatile offence, as the defence also managed to contain the Ravens offence. It seems that Ravens still have problem throwing the ball when this is obviously necessary, and so as good as this team are, they have limits when playing against a similar level of opponent right now. This game also served a timely reminder of just how good Patrick Mahomes is, as well as how electric Lamar Jackson is running the ball. We could be in the early stages of what ccould become a spectacular rivalry, but for that to happen Jackson and the Ravens need to find a way or a receiver capable of getting them receptions when the defence knows they have to throw the ball. This matchu cannot be a rivalry if one team always plays a team close but never wins. If there is a franchise that is capable of taking this step then it is the Ravens, but they must stop this narrative taking hold and becoming fact.

What I Think

I think we have been lucky for things to go so smoothly through the pre-season and early weeks of the season, but we are about to find out how difficult it is going to be to get through to the end. Since I wrote the introduction to this post, the game between the Steelers and Titans has now been postponed (perhaps to Monday or Tuesday) and no one knows if something will have to happen with the Vikings at Texans game. Every NFL team and fan is currently holding their breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The NFL has plenty of resources to throw at the problem, but like everyone else it is a non-sentient virus that’s is driving the decisions whether we like it or not.

What I Know

In our dynasty league it is the first TWF showdown between Dan’s Dolphins and Gee’s Tigers and perhaps we need to work on our franchise names.

On the field the matchup I am most looking forward to is Andy Reid’s offence going up against Bill Belichick’s defence.

Off the field, the NFL have issued another strongly worded warning to coaches who won’t wear face masks on the side lines, threatening suspensions and loss of draft picks. With players testing positive, and other players being spotted without masks at a charity event with members of the public, the NFL will want to get hold of the situation because we are beginning to see how the current solution that has worked so far is not that far away from falling apart.

It’s going to take real discipline and a lot of effort to get through the season.

What I Hope

What I hope this week is that we find a way through, if not to the end of the season then without a life changing infection for someone.

That is something that could be said of any season in the NFL, but their is added complexity to it this years. Let’s see what the week holds.

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measuring a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

2020 Week Three Picks

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It’s been an tough week, but Dan will be cheered a little by the Dolphins getting their first win of the season. I know that one team will leave the match of the Bengals and Eagles with their first win of the season, but I wouldn’t like to say which. In theory there should be more 1-2 or 2-1 teams that winless or lossless teams, but I’m not sure how easy that will be to pick this week once the lines are in place.

My other concern is that we have our first positive Covid-19 test of a player since the season started, and now that games have been for long enough to be through the incubation period of the virus we shall see truly how the Covid protols hold up.

Early Games:

I think there are two stand out games in the early slate of games, although there is still plenty of interest in all games.

The Buffalo Bills host the LA Rams, which is a fascinating matchup of the Sean McVay’s rejuvenated Rams’ offence against a the Bills defense who have slipped out of the top ten by DVOA so far this season, but should provide an interesting matchup. I’m also curious to see if Josh Allen can continue his streak of throwing for over three hundred yards thanks to off-season addition of Stefon Diggs and a possible further improvement in the young quarterback’s play. I’m not looking forward to picking the game but I definitely think this is one to watch.

The other game that leaps out of the early slate is the 2-0 Las Vegas Raiders travelling to take on the New England Patriots. The Raiders offence looks promising, but as I said in my preview, the Raiders won’t be able to take advantage of this development if their defense doesn’t improve markedly and whilst a ranking of thirtieth by DVOA is technically an improvement on last season, it won’t be enough for them to be serious contenders. I think this is where they get a dose of reality as the New England Patriots may only just be top ten in overall DVOA but boy Cam Newton looked good last week in their close loss to the Seahawks. I trust Belichick and his staff to make a good enough defense by mid-season for them to be competitive and I think both teams leave this game with a 2-1 record.

Other things of interest:

  • I am curious to see if the Atlanta Falcons get their season turned around and it feels to me more likely that the Falcons will get their first win than both team’s current streak continues. That said, the Bears top ten defense might contain the Falcons offence, whilst the questions around Bears’ quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will not be answered by his performance against the Falcons’s twenty-eighth ranked defense.
  • The Eagles may well get their first win this season, but asking them to win by a clear touchdown against a team that has kept both games within a touchdown as Joe Burrow impresses early.
  • The Browns got a good win last week, but this is another line where I’m not sure it’s really justified. The Washington Football Team are not good, but whilst I only saw a quarter of the Cardinal’s offence going against the Football Team’s defense, I was impressed with what I saw from the Cardinals and Washington’s defence is ranked first by DVOA. I was also impressed by what the Browns did last week, but I think the Browns are going to have to prove it to me before I start picking them with this kind of line.
  • This might be a trap, but with a defense that is ranked twentieth by DVOA and an offence that seems to have real problems I am really not sure that the Vikings can turn it round. The Titans may have been in two close games, but they have won them both and I have a feeling they will run out close winners. However, there are both numbers and record reasons to think that the Vikings might do something in this game, if nothing else because the question is are the Titans really good enough to start the season 3-0. I’m really not sure.
  • The 49ers are having all kinds of injury problems and still are favourites to beat the New York Giants. Even though they will be missing Saquon Barkley I like the Giants to keep this one closer than five points at home.
  • I have a feeling the Texans might just be bad this season. The offence is struggling without DeAndre Hopkins and the defence hasn’t inspired. I think the depth the roster has lost through trading away draft picks is hurting this team and that GM Bill O’Brien has let down coach Bill O’Brien. It’s not impossible that the Steelers will have a let down this game, but at home I like them to win and cover a line where the half point scares, except the consensus is another half point higher. I would stay away from this game if I could but I can’t.

Bears @ Falcons (-3.5)

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

Rams @ Bills (-2.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Rams
Dan’s Pick:       Bills

Bengals @ Eagles (-6.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Bengals
Dan’s Pick:       Bengals

Washington @ Browns (-6.5)

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

Titans @ Vikings (+2.5)

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

Raiders @ Patriots (-6.5)

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

49ers @ Giants (+4.5)

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

Texans @ Steelers (-3.5)

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

Late Games:

There’s several interest contests in the late games this Sunday, but the pick has to the Dallas Cowboys taking on the Seattle Seahawks. This is going to see two teams powered by their offence do battle and it could well be this game is decided by who has the ball last. The interesting thing is that the disparity between offence and defense is actually biggest for the Seahawks, but Russel Wilson is playing so well that I’m confident that this will be a great game, but very possibly another close one for the Cowboys and I very much doubt that the best special teams in the league by DVOA through week two will gift them anything on special teams like the Falcons did last Sunday.

Notes from the other late games:

  • The Jests are such a mess that this line is massive, and is actually higher by consensus, which means there could be value in picking the Colts. I’m really not sure where to go in this game as although I expect the Colts to win, are they going to be dominant for a second week in a row?
  • The Panthers are still looking for their first win of the season, but with the Chargers giving the Chiefs a tough game last week despite being forced last minute to start rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. However, the injuries are still piling up for the Chargers again so whilst I like them to win this game, I think the Panthers could well keep this one close.
  • The Bucs are my survivor pick of the week, based on the injuries that the Broncos currently have and chasm between them by overall DVOA. The Broncos have played tougher than I expected, but wile I think the Bucs will win this game the line worries me. I want to stay away but as I can’t I’m going to grab the points at one of the few places where there is still a definite home field advantage, or at least early in the season.
  • I’ve seen a quarter of one game of the Cardinals offence so I really can’t draw any firm conclusions, but I did lke what I saw and it does feel like the Cardinals have enough to beat a Lions team who seem to be the same again under Matt Patricia. I will be curious to see if the Lions can be more competitive this week.

Jets @ Colts (-10.5)

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

Panthers @ Chargers (-7.5)

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

Cowboys @ Seahawks (-4.5)

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

Buccaneers @ Broncos (+5.5)

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

Lions @ Cardinals (-5.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Lions
Dan’s Pick:       Cardinals

Sunday Night Football:

Packers @ Saints (-3.5)

I think I have to say that I was wrong about the Packers. I thought they were prime candidates for regression after last season and the lack of receivers they added to the offence, but they have come out and scored forty points each week and looked dominant against the Lions in week two. There are questions surrounding the Saints at the moment and Drew Brees in particular. This could well be the beginning of the end for the forty-one year old quarterback, but any offence is going to miss a piece as important as Michael Thomas is to the Saints and so whilst I don’t think it is time for them to panic yet, the extra half point has me leaning the other way as without the noise of their home fans I expect the Saints to struggle or possibly even lose to the Packers.

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

Monday Night Football

Chiefs @ Ravens (-3.5)

This might be the matchup of the regular season yet alone the week. The Kansas City Chiefs had a bit of scare last week against the Chargers, but like most good teams found a way to win and certainly a team with Patrick Mahomes always has a chance. However, the Baltimore Ravens are top five by DVOA in all three phases of the game and their offence is coming off a week that saw them put up thirty-three points against the number one ranked defence in the league by DVOA. I also think that the Ravens’ strength in running the ball matches up well with the Chiefs’ defensive liability against the run (twenty-sixth in the league by DVOA) so whilst the Chiefs offence might well be explosive enough to keep them in the contest, I fancy the Ravens to win this one, and could do so well.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.