Competition Thursday: 2019 Week Eleven

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So Dan and I were broadly in agreement in week ten, and the places where we disagreed cancelled each other out, whilst 3D struck with a nine point week to grab the lead. I need some points in a hurry, but I’m determined no to panic and stick to my system. At least for now…

Dan’s Dad: Week 10:   9-4 Overall:   81-67
Dan: Week 10:   6-7 Overall:   80-68
Gee: Week 10:   6-7 Overall:   74-74

Steelers @ Browns (-2.5)

I’m really looking forward to this game as I want to take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers defence and it was only that this game taking place that stopped me watching the Steelers’ game against the Rams last week. The Cleveland Browns offence is not exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment, but the Browns did win their first game since week four on Sunday. I am curious to see the Browns again, but I have a lot more faith in Mike Tomlin and the Steelers so I’m picking with points, even if the Steelers are on the road.

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

Week 9 Trivia

Even if you didn’t see the games this week, just looking at the numbers proved that the run in to the post season has started to ignite some fires in the bellies of those with something to achieve. In the simplest analysis we saw 10 of the 13 match-ups finish with 7 or fewer points advantage and an amazing 7 games finishing within 4 points including the final game on Monday night where the Seahawks triumphed over the 49ers in overtime.

In our Pick-‘em league some of the spreads made us think but it is fair to say that we have a run where everyone is in with a chance. After last week’s comeback I was able to continue this with a pleasing score of 9 while Dan and Gee ran out with 6. What the season has told us though is not to count chickens and that comebacks are 10 a penny.

This week’s trivia question asked what achievement Peyton Manning and Brett Favre share that no other QB has.

There were some interesting and creditable guesses around reaching Divisional and Conferences but this week I was looking for them being the only 2 QB’s to have recorded wins against all 32 teams. An interesting fact but sadly no points here.

However, I can report movement on the theme front where Dan not only identified the link but proved it by predicting the teams for the next 2 questions. Followers will remember that we started Wk 1 with a question on the Arizona Cardinals, then onto the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens. So the link has been, drum roll please, The full titles of the featured teams have been in alphabetical order. Which gives Dan 3 bonus points to open a lead of 12 to 9 over Gee.

And onto the next stop which is, as predicted, The Detroit Lions. So in Motown this week’s question is:

What highly touted player spent his entire 9 year career with the Detroit Lions after he was selected as the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft?

Now it’s up to you – until next week then. 3D’

Dragging Themselves into the Playoff Race

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If the season in the NFL has been characterised by a few teams with good records and some with very bad records who are already turning their eyes to next season, then my season covering it has been one of scrambling to get posts out, and occasionally getting coaching tape watched. This week I find myself further behind in my process than I would like to be so let’s see what I can get out this evening.

What I Saw

The first game of week ten saw the Oakland Raiders host the LA Chargers and run out narrow 26-24 winners to get themselves into the playoff hunt despite a five week streak of road games that including them hosting the Bears in London. It was not a spectacular team performance, but Josh Jacobs gained one hundred combined rushing and receiving yards as the rookie running back continues to impress as the centre of Jon Gruden’s offence. I also through that Derek Carr looked sharp and in control of the offence, but with a total of only two-hundred and seventy-eight yards it was the team performance that got the win. The LA Chargers actually out gained the Raiders in total offence and rushed for one hundred and forty-six yards but the Raiders were able to get five sacks as they got pressure all game and picked off Philip Rivers three times with another voided by a holding penalty. That voided interception would have been Eric Harris’s third, but he still got over one hundred return yards and a touchdown from his two picks that counted. The Chargers have been competitive for a lot of their games despite their injuries but at 4-6 they would need a spectacular closing run to make the playoffs and I struggle to see them winning five or six of their remaining games to get to the nine or ten wins they’ll likely need to get to the post season.

On to the Sunday games and I’ll start with the Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Baltimore Ravens, which was no contest and there’s really not a lot I can say further about the Bengals. There wasn’t much difference in result for the Bengals, although Joe Mixon got a hundred yards off the back of thirty carries as the offensive game plan was rejigged for rookie quarterback Ryan Finley’s first regular season start, who was not great and threw a couple of interceptions but wasn’t awful. The defence is awful though, but the worst part is that I love the Ravens setup at the moment, Lamar Jackson is a special player to watch and the spin move he pulled off in this game is going to be on many a highlight reel. In fact Jackson has the eleventh most rushing yards in the league as well as being top ten in passer rating so it’s no surprise that he is in the discussion for league MVP. I also want to mention Patrick Ricard who is playing both ways for the Ravens, lining up as a three hundred pound full-back and playing on the defensive line, picking up a couple of solo tackles and a sack in this game. There really a lot about the Ravens that the TWF team are enthused by, I just with they weren’t in the same division as the Bengals!

Speaking of the TWF team, the other Sunday game I watched was Dan’s Miami Dolphins taking on the Indianapolis Colts and recording their second win of the year. It wasn’t a pretty game, and the defences did most of the work, but despite all the roster turnover and being bottom of the DVOA rankings, Brian Flores has made the Dolphins competitive for several weeks and now has two wins. It may not be what they wanted in terms of draft position next year, but I think they have a coach that is going to maximise the influx of talent is coming. As for the Colts, they were also competitive and the roster is still playing well, but the injury to Jacoby Brissett was a quarterback injury too far and they will be hoping that Brissett will be there for the run of three division games that are coming up. They are not out of the playoff hunt, but as the situation muddies in the AFC this is a loss they could come to regret.

Finally, the Monday night game lived up to its top billing as the Seattle Seahawks won in the last seconds of overtime with a field goal separating them for the now beaten San Francisco 49errs. It was a topsy-turvy game where the 49ers looked the better team at the start with their defence halting the Seahawks and the 49ers taking a ten point lead that held up until half-time. However, the Seahawks took a lead in the third quarter that despite getting level multiple times, the 49ers were not able to regain and the worry for the 49ers is that when it really mattered, it was Russell Wilson who got his team into a position to win and got them over the line. It could well be different the next time these teams play, but Jimmy Garoppolo could have thrown a couple more interceptions in the second half if Seahawks defenders were able to hold onto the ball and that is a worry for the 49ers. We get a rematch in week seventeen and I am already looking forward to it!

What I Heard

I don’t have big central point to expand on here, but there’s several snippets that spring to mine. One is that the volatility of the league was on full display, and that’s not an excuse for another poor week picking.

The Atlanta Falcons beat the New Orleans Saints, which I’m not sure anyone saw coming, although the points should have been tempting in this divisional game where both teams were coming off a bye. The interesting thing from my point of view was the talk of the Falcons pass rush chasing Drew Brees around, which is surprising as the Falcons pass rush has been struggling this season and the Saints offensive line is one of the better units in the league, so I’ll be taking a look at that on coaching tape if the opportunity arises.

What I Think

I am not ruling any team with five wins out of the playoff hunt, but there are a couple of those five win teams who have really pulled themselves back into contention rather than are still hanging on. The Raiders have won two weeks in a row to take second place in the AFC South, but the team who have caught my eye are another AFC North team, and not the Cleveland Browns. The Pittsburgh Steelers started the season 1-4, lost their franchise quarterback, and I was as surprised as anyone when their response was to trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick and not stock up picks and prepare for a high draft pick next year. In stead Fitazpatrick has helped the Steelers defence turn into the third best unit in the league by DVOA, and it is this defence and not asking backup quarterback Mason Rudolph to do too much that has enabled the Steelers to win four straight games and drag themselves back into the playoff hunt. I’m not saying they’ll get there, but the Steelers stand more chance than the Browns and that is thanks to some really impressive coaching by Mike Tomlin and his staff, plus the work done by the Steelers’ front office.

What I Know

I am still enjoying the NFL season despite the woeful performance of the Bengals, and I’m not feeling the grind as Dan and I have in the past back when we were podcasting, but it would be nice if work calmed down a little bit so I could dig in more. Sadly, I suspect that is unlikely and this is going to be the shape of the 2019 season. I shall make the best of it as I can, we are now past the halfway point of the regular season and before we know it the Thanksgiving games will be here and we’ll be staring at the playoff schedule.

What I Hope

I’ve not been able to settle on a singe NFC team to embrace to counteract the Bengals losing, but thanks to covering the league there’s plenty of intrigue and things to watch – but I hope the Bengals get a win at some point. It’s one thing for a season to go wrong and to get the first pick in the draft, controlling the whole might be exciting when we get there, but I wouldn’t wish a winless season on any player yet alone those playing for the team I support.

2019 Week Ten Picks

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Time for me to get back on the horse and see if I can get; myself back into contention in the picks competition, but first there’s the minor matter of trivia competition.

‘Bronco’s Peyton Manning along with Brett Favre are the only 2 QB’s to have achieved what?’

So this is a trickier question, but I think the answer is that they are the only two quarterbacks to get to the Conference Championship game with two different franchises, with Farve doing it with the Packers and Vikings, whilst Manning managed it with the Colts and Broncos.

It is my week to be flummoxed but the trivia theme, I’m sure I’m going to kick myself when we finally find out what it is. As for Dan:

‘Absolutely wracking my brain trying to work out the link between Peyton Manning and Brett Favre – I really feel like I should know this but nothing is coming to mind at all. I’m going to say “they’re both players who I wish I’d seen live” and that way there’s no way I can be wrong!

On the theme, the only thing I have noticed is that the questions are all about different teams running alphabetically – i.e. with this week’s being Denver, I’m sure next week’s question will be about the Detroit Lions, and the following week will be the Green Bay Packers… etc. Let’s go with that!’

Falcons @ Saints (-12.5)

It looks like the Atlanta Falcons will be getting Matt Ryan back from his ankle sprain but even with them being rested coming off a bye it is hard to trust this 1-7 squad, particularly with the defence being ranked thirtieth by DVOA. Given the Saints are coming off their own bye and have been beating teams for fun I’m going to take the Saints.

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

Bills @ Browns (-2.5)

The Cleveland Browns inspire no trust at the moment and so whilst I have been hesitant in the past about the Buffalo Bills’ offence, when I’m getting points I’m going to back the team I think is definitely better. On any given Sunday anything can happen, but I feel comfortable this is the more likely result.

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

Lions @ Bears (-2.5)

The Chicago Bears are really struggling, and I have learned my lesson from last week. The Bears probably can’t help but gain more yards this week, but with the quarterback situation being what it is I have to go with the Detroit Lions, even if they are struggling to win, they have always been competitive.

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

Ravens @ Bengals (+9.5)

I’m hoping that the Cincinnati Bengals’ offence shows something this week with Ryan Finley getting his first NFL regular season start, but I have no faith in the defence being able to contain the Ravens’ running game. There has been some talk of a let down game for the Ravens having beaten the Patriots last week, but in this division matchup I fear that things won’t get much better for the Bengals.

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

Chiefs @ Titans (+3.5)

It looks like the Kansas City Chiefs could get Patrick Mahomes back this week, but I trust Andy Reid to keep the Chiefs competitive whoever lines up under centre. I can’t quite say the same for the Tennessee Titans, who look to have a more functional offence with Ryan Tannehill starting at quarterback but I’m not sure they have enough to win this game. I have seen the line as high as six points to the Titans so I’m going make a value play on the better team and hope.

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

Giants @ Jets (+2.5)

It is a strange world where the New York Giants are giving points on the road against anyone, except this the home stadium for both teams and the New York Jets are currently imploding. I don’t really want to pick at all in this game, but I am reluctantly going to back the Giants as they only need a field goal to cover this and the Jets lost to the Dolphins last week.

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

Cardinals @ Buccaneers (-4.5)

This is a sneaky intriguing game as the Arizone Cardinals have been relatively competitive in Kliff Kingsbury’s first NFL season, and it looks as if the pairing of him and quarterback Kyler Murray have a future, but the roster still needs a lot of work. The Buccaneers have played well in stretches, but Jameis Winston just cannot seem to stop himself from giving the ball away in clusters. This line feels a little high considering that the Bucs are 2-6 so I’m going to grab the points.

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

Dolphins @ Colts (-10.5)

Nevermind the Miami Dolphins getting a win last week, they have been competitive for a few weeks now and with the Indianapolis Colts missing Jacoby Brissett due to an MCL sprain and continuing to have kicking problems I am going to grab the points. I’m not saying the Colts can’t win or beat this line, the Dolphins are after all resetting their roster, but this is too many points for me to be laying with the Colts.

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

Panthers @ Packers (-5.5)

The good news for the Carolina Panthers is that Kyle Allen bounced back from his awful performance against the 49ers and they got the win last week. The good news for the Packers is that they are back in Green Bay and they have a chance to get back to winning ways after an awful performance in LA against the Chargers last week. I still think the Packers are going to make trouble in the playoffs, and I can see them winning this game but I think this is too many points to be laying against the Panthers.

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

Rams @ Steelers (+3.5)

I do not trust the LA Rams, who are having a difficult season that largely look to be down to problems on the offensive line and although they have stabilised over recent week, they have a tough schedule coming up. This week they travel to face a Pittsburgh Steelers team who have got themselves back to 4-4 having lost their opening three games and four of their first five. I’m not sure how much I trust the Steelers given their injuries on offence but getting this many points at home feels like a good spot to me, even if the Rams are coming off a bye.

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

Vikings @ Cowboys (-2.5)

The Minnesota Vikings could have won last week, and certainly should have covered if it were not for a missed extra performance, but the play of Kirk Cousins concerns me as he threw wayward passes for a lot of that game and once again will be missing Adam Thielen after he reaggravated his hamstring injury. The Dalla Cowboys have seemingly struggled to put everything together at the same time, and their defence doesn’t seem to be living up to expectations but they are fourth in the league by DVOA for a reason and I like them in this spot.

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

Seahawks @ 49ers (-6.5)

This is definitely the game of the week for me, as the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers welcome a Seattle Seahawks team who are only one win behind them in the division. The Seahawks have managed this mostly on the back of excellent play from Russell Wilson who has been excelling in making things happen in the passing game, in fact he’s been doing so well that they lead the league in passing offence DVOA. The weakness however is the uncharacteristically poor Seattle defence who are currently twenty-seventh by DVOA. The 49ers sit atop the over DVOA rankings, have the second best defence according to DVOA, and Jimmy Garoppolo had a great game last week. I think this game should be really competitive and I think this line is too high. I could be proven spectacularly wrong as either team could win big, but I’m going to back the Seahawks to keep this contest within a touchdown.

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

 

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: 2019 Week 10

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I had a truly awful run of picking games in week nine, I think as bad as I remember and it has seen me fall to the bottom of the table as Dan consolidated his lead from last week and 3D started his own climb back to the top. With eight weeks to go there is plenty of time to claw back the advantage, but I can’t afford too many more weeks like that last one!

Dan: Week 9:   9-5 Overall:   74-61
Dan’s Dad: Week 9:   11-3 Overall:   72-63
Gee: Week 9:   3-11 Overall:   68-67

Chargers @ Raiders (+1.5)

This is an interesting divisional game that pits two teams coming off a win. The best theory I’ve heard about the LA Chargers beating the Packers last week is that getting Melvin Ingram back and healthy meant that teams could no longer just focus on Joey Bosa and this transformed their defence, but they are still one of the most injured teams in the league. They face an Oakland Raiders team who beat the Lions last week having lost to the Texans and Packers in the previous two weeks. The Raiders have been one win above or below .500 all season and have been more competitive than I thought going into the season. I’ve been struggling with Thursday night games all season, but the combination of home teams and points is too tempting to resist even if Dan agrees with me.

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

Week 9 Trivia

‘What I said a few weeks ago about the unpredictability we see weekly has come back with a vengeance particularly in the Picks competition. Thinking back Dan and I have tended to trail in Gee’s wake and were reliant on a well-timed closing run to overcome him. This year Dan has built up a head of steam and thanks to an uncharacteristic 3-11 for Gee and took the lead on his own – for, as I recall it the first time in 2 seasons. This demonstrates what has become a very consistent run but I, having seen my chances falter, turned in my own 11-3 and we have a true 3-way competition.

On the field the Vikes suffered a late loss to the Chiefs but with all 4 teams in the division losing the playoff hopes are alive with the Vikes hosting the Packers and Bears in weeks 16 and 17. Bring it on. For once we can report that the Bengals didn’t lose thanks to being on a Bye but, shock horror – the Dolphins overcome the Jets. It might be a little late, but it will have gone down well.

In the Trivia, for week 9 we were in Dallas and I asked Which Dallas quarterback was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006?

I said you would know the name of Troy Aikman and I was right. He played his entire career for Dallas from 1989-2000 and was a first round, first pick for the Cowboys in the 1989 draft. After 12 consecutive seasons as starting QB he is better known now working for Fox TV

So that’s 2 points each to Dan and Gee leaving them tied on 9 points but the theme remains unsolved.

Right, its Week 10 and we find ourselves in Denver to look at the Bronco’s and my question is:

The Bronco’s Peyton Manning along with Brett Favre are the only 2 QB’s to have achieved what?

That’s enough from me – and in the words or Robin Williams who appeared as a Cheerleader  at the Mile High in an episode of Mork and Mindy – Na Nu Na Nu’

Separating the Merely Bad from the Truly Awful

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With week nine over we have one unbeaten team left, another year of London games completed, and Adam Gase continued to cause the Miami Dolphins problems by being so bad with the New York Jets that they lost to a Dolphins team who are not actually trying to win this year as they reboot their roster. So let’s take a swing through the NFL and what they have coming up.

What I Saw

The Thursday night game was more competitive than I was expecting as the Arizona Cardinals marched down the field in the opening drive and scored a touchdown then late in the game managed to claw their way back into contention but ultimately lost to the visiting San Francisco 49ers. Sadly for the Cardinals, the stretch from the end of the first quarter to early in the fourth allowed the 49ers to build a big enough lead to win. The plus points for the Cardinals were Kyler Murray’s continued improvement, posting a quarterback rating of 130.7 in this game and new acquired Kenyan Drake running for one hundred and ten yards on only fifteen carries as he managed to find creases in the 49ers normally excellent front seven. That said, the pass rush of the 49ers is very impressive and whilst only generated the three sacks, they seemed to be causing problems on most plays with Dee Ford catching the eye opposite rookie Nick Bosa. The 49ers offence was just as impressive with Jimmy Garoppolo posting his own quarterback rating of over 130 as well as four touchdowns and over three hundred yards of passing, all whilst the rushing attack had to use thirty-one carries to get to one hundred and one yards. There are definite signs that Kyler Murray can be productive in the NFL and find his way, but this was always going to be a building year for the Cardinals, whilst after several of their own building years it looks like Kyle Shanahan’s plans are finally coming to fruition as the 49ers remain the team to beat in the NFC, if not the league right now.

The first game played on Sunday was the last of four London games that saw the Houston Texans beings hosted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. I was expecting the Jaguars who are used to the trip to London to perform better than this, but they were never able to get anything going on offence, although it wasn’t until late in the game when Gardner Minshew was trying to make things happen to catch-up that he started turning the ball over repeatedly. It has to be said that the Texans’ offence didn’t look to be running that much better than the Jaguars, but the ability of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Watson to make spectacular plays was the thing that really separated these two teams and it looks as if the Texans will be competitive to the end of the season, although I’m not sure they are good enough to maximise the all-in moves they have made in managing this roster. It’s not going to hurt them this season, but with all the draft picks they have given away they could have issues going forward. The Jaguars meanwhile, are sliding back in the race for the post-season and the question will be what they do at quarterback now that Nick Foles is near to being healthy, and whether either quarterback can get the team into the playoffs.

The next game I saw was the Minnesota Vikings losing a close game to the Kansas City Chiefs 26-23 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are know to have a home field advantage and it certainly sounded loud on the TV. This was a close competitive game that I’m sure will be frustrating to Kirk Cousins as he missed a lot of throws and was not at all up to the level of play we had seen in October, although receiver Adam Thielen did have further problems with the hamstring injury he has been dealing with for a number of weeks. That said, the Vikings were held to under one hundred yards rushing at 3.5 yards per carry, which is pretty good for a rush defence that is currently ranked twenty-eighth in league by DVOA. If the plaudits should go anywhere though, it is to Andy Reid, who has kept his team winning despite losing Patrick Mahomes to a dislocated kneecap and starting Matt Moore at quareterback in his stead, and more was coaching high school football a month ago. Moore may only be 1-1 as a starter this season, but he also contributed to a win when he stepped into the game against the Broncos and it gives the Chiefs the luxury of not rushing Mahomes back. They may not look at their best right now, but they could look good come the playoffs, whilst the Vikings also looked competitive, but there will still be questions about Cousins in big games until he wins more of them.

The final game of Sunday was the match-up of the week for most people, and it was certainly a good game but in the end the Baltimore Ravens ran out 37-20 winners as they hosted the now beaten New England Patriots. Ran out is definitely the right turn as the Ravens amassed over two hundred rushing yards where they got up early on the Patriots and never relinquished that lead. The Patriots did steady the ship after going down 17-0 by the start of the second quarter, but even if they slowed the Raven’s rushing attack, they never really contained Lamar Jackson and needed turnovers to get themselves into scoring positions. The Ravens were able to take advantage of the Patriots offensive line to pressure Tom Brady and limit the Patriots’ running game. It is only one loss, and the only one the Patriots have had this season so it would be unwise in the extreme to write off the perennial contenders, but their looks to be less of a gap between the Pats and the other contenders in the league this season. For the Ravens, I see them having no problem beating up on the Bengals defense next week given their problems at the edges of the front seven, and whilst there are tough games against the likes of the 49ers, Texans and Rams, as well as a not easy game in Buffalo in the coming weeks, the Ravens have two more AFC North games and host the Jets so I find it hard to see them not winning the division and the question is whether they can get a bye for the first round of the playoffs.

What I Heard

There are plenty of people who are happy for the Miami Dolphins’ players as they got their first win, but anyone who was surprised by the result had not been paying attention to how the Dolphins had played since putting Ryan Fitzpatrick back in as quarterback. There were some who greeted his signing in the off-season as not being fully aligned with the rebuilding project that was clearly taking place as he might win them too many games, and he has certainly had a positive effect on their offence in recent weeks. However, the real story is that the New York Jets were major players in free-agency and were meant to be kicking on this season and have done anything but. In truth, this is a franchise in a deep funk that has problems in the front office, on the roster, and the coaching staff so it is not surprising that their franchise quarterback looks to be regressing rather than improving this year. The real problem here is that there is no overall plan and the GM who drafted Sam Darnold is no longer there whilst the team have gotten worse since the firing of Todd Bowles. There is plenty of blame to go around and New York is not an easy media market to function in, but you have to wonder who is going to survive this at the end of the season.

I did hear an interesting discussion around the Trent Williams holdout and the reason why Williams is not happy with Washington’s medical staff. His grievance is about a growth he had for a number of years that turned out to be cancerous, and I thought that doctor David Chao did an excellent job of walking you through the medical side of things so if that sounds of interest then I recommend you take a look at this tweet and go from there.

What I Think

I want to take a quick look at a few of the losing teams because despite there being four teams with one win and the winless Bengals, I do think there is a difference between the bad and the truly awful. The first place to start in the separation is the Miami Dolphins, who for years have been suffering in mid-table mediocrity as they were to good to get elite players in the draft but weren’t making the playoffs every year. Losing was the plan this season, not as an aim in of itself, but in rebuilding with young players through next year’s draft and so whilst we don’t know if things will turn around the results this year are not a disaster but a calculated consequence of their method of rebuilding.

The rest of the teams are meant to be competing but there are perhaps extenuating circumstances for some. The results are of course going to be a worry for the Atlanta Falcons, and I don’t know if Dan Quinn is going to keep his job, but there is a lot of talent on this roster, but it is not deep and they have struggled with developing both lines. There is talent and a franchise quarterback so the right person might be able to turn this things around but it will likely require a change of approach by the front office if not new leadership.

The Cincinnati Bengals were pretty much sunk before the season started and my concerns quickly came to fruition. The loss of three starting lineman to injury and or retirement before the season was the precursor to their problems protecting Andy Dalton and I was always concerned about the hire of Jim Turner given his chequered history, but the loss of AJ Green to an ankle injury at the first practice o a high school field that the team should never have practiced on is particularly galling. I can’t help but wonder if a more experienced coach might have stopped the event when he saw the field. The Bengals were once a laughing stock, but Marvin Lewis brought respectability and Mike Brown has invested in the largest coaching staff the Bengals have ever had and renovated the building as they committed to Zac Taylor’s vision. It has done anything but pay off so far, but I’m not sure previous regimes would have turned the offence over to the rookie quarterback who looked promising in training camp to see what they have in him. They could have given more time for Dalton to try to find another team once they decided to bench him, but they probably want Dalton to be a mentor for Ryan Finley and it sure looks like we’ll see him in a different uniform next season.

However, this is where I think the extenuating circumstances end. The Jets as I said earlier were meant to be competing but their dysfunction starts with ownership and how they have approaches solving their problems in recent years and until they find the right GM to establish a culture and commit long term to its implementation they will continue to struggle.

The final team are the Washington no-names, who have an argument to have one of the worst owners in American sports. It’s not like Dan Snyder hasn’t spent money but he has presided over a mess in the front office and I’m not sure what Bruce Allen has achieved as president to earn such loyalty. Snyder bought the team in 1999 and since then Washington have had six winning seasons if you count 2016 8-7-1 and haven’t won a playoff games since 2005. Not only has the on-field performance been bad, but the franchise has gone from being the preeminent part of the Washington sports seen to a team that regularly sees more away fans than home in the stadium.

All of these teams need a lot to go right to turn them round next season, but I really do fear for the Jets and Washington.

I would also like to give a bonus mention to the Cleveland Browns who can’t get out of their own way and I’m not sure the Denver Broncos are truly going to compete until John Elway can find another quarterback.

What I Know

I had a terrible week in the picks competition last week, but what I know is that sometimes you modify your numbers by gut and your right, and sometimes you get led astray but it’s the over-correction in the following week that you have to watch.

If I put as much thought as I do into just picking games, I know that the staffs on these losing teams will be working as hard as they can to improve their team’s situations. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, no one is trying to lose and what I hope is that they learn from this situation and improve.

After five years of blogging about the entire league I spend my time wishing success for people – I want things won through skill and clever strategy and for players to be as healthy as they can when they get out.

What I Hope

I really hope that Ryan Finley gives the Bengals a spark and that if the tean are to move on from Andy Dalton, that they can take best player available or even drop back and pick up some extra picks in next year’s draft. After all, as we have had ample proof recently, there really is no such thing as guaranteed franchise quarterback just because they were selected in the first round.

2019 Week Nine Picks

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I’m running a little late today so I need to rush through the picks and trivia a bit. Firstly we were asked:

‘Which Dallas quarterback was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006?’

Now, I think this one is relatively straight forward as I believe it is quarterback turned commentator Troy Aikman.

As for theme, I’m having a thought from something that Dan’s Dad mentioned in his weekly write up that posted on Thursday – so I’m going to go with all time records. I haven’t got time to go through every week’s answers but the Bears have the all time number of wins for a franchise, the Dolphins are the only team to go undefeated and win a Super Bowl, Jim Kelly has the most Super Bowl losses as quarterback and so on…

‘Ah, the first one in a few weeks which I have some degree of comfort in! I believe the QB inducted back then was Troy Aikman. That’s my guess anyway.

And still nothing on the theme!’

Texans @ Jaguars (+2.5)

Our final London game of this season sees the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting the Houston Texans at Wembley and given the Jags’s experience at playing in London and the Texans coming off a week where they lost JJ Watt I’m going to grab the points.

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

Washington @ Bills (-9.5)

I don’t like this line as whilst I like the Bills, I don’t trust their offence whilst Washington have managed to cover the last two weeks, but one of them was only thanks to the weather. Still, Washington have some extra rest coming into this game and so I’m nervously going to back Washington to cover the big line.

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

Bears @ Eagles (-4.5)

What do I do with the Chicago Bears getting these many points against a Philadelphia Eagles team who played better and got the win last week? The answer as they are fairly close by DVOA is grab the points and hope.

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

Titans @ Panthers (-3.5)

I was not expecting the Carolina Panthers to give up fifty-one points to the 49ers last week, so they will be looking to get back on track against a Tennessee Titans team who are on their own two game winning streak having switched to starting Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. I can see this being a competitive game but I’m leaning towards the Panthers getting things back on track.

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

Colts @ Steelers (+1.5)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won two games and three out of the last four, but two of the teams they beat don’t have a win yet this season and the Chargers are riven by injury. Meanwhile, despite their franchise quarterback retiring in the off-season the Indianapolis Colts are 5-2 and I’m so impressed with the job Frank Reich and his staff have done that I’m backing them in this one.

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

Vikings @ Chiefs (-2.5)

This is a straightforward pick for me as the consensus seems line for this looks to be Minnesota Vikings (-4) so to get two and half points is a bargain. With the Kansas City Chiefs unlikely to start Patrick Mahomes a couple of weeks after dislocating his knee and having activated Chad Henne I’m going to grab the points for the team who I think is playing much better right now.

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

Jets @ Dolphins (+5.5)

Given the disfunction surrounding the New York Jets and how the Miami Dolphins have covered for two weeks in a row with Ryan Fitzpatrick back as the quarterback I’m going to say that the Dolphins lose close or maybe even fall into a win in this one.

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

Lions @ Raiders (-2.5)

This is a tricky one for me as the Oakland Raiders have been competitive despite being on the road for five weeks even if they did have a bye after their London game, but they welcome a Detroit Lions who have also been competitive and neither team exactly inspires confidence. There’s only 3.9% between them in DVOA and as the better team are getting points I’m going to grab the Lions but I don’t feel great about it.

Gee’s Pick:        Lions
Dan’s Pick:        Raiders

Buccaneers @ Seahawks (-6.5)

This is an awkward line for me as the Seahawks, famed for their home advantage with the twelves in Seattle have already lost two games at home and only just beat the lowly Bengals. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are incredibly inconsistent thanks to Jameis Winston’s propensity to give the ball away. There’s a couple of factors that tell me that this line is to high so I am going to pick the Bucs based on that, but it would not surprise me if the Seahawks make this pick look foolish.

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

Browns @ Broncos (+2.5)

I so want to say away from this game, that sees the Denver Broncos starting rookie quarterback Brandon Allen go against a dysfunctional Cleveland Browns team who are not handling adversity well. If I had Joe Flacco I might well pick the Broncos but in this one I’m going to hold my nose and pick the Browns.

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

Packers @ Chargers (+3.5)

The LA Chargers have no home field advantage at the best of times, but the Green Bay Packers are one of the best travelling fan groups already and are playing so much better that I’m going to back the Packers to cover this one.

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

Patriots @ Ravens (+3.5)

This should be one of the most interesting matchups of the week, and the Baltimore Ravens have always given the New England Patriots problems. The Patriots have been covering lines for fun all season and so despite the fact I’m seeing this as a good number for the Ravens, I’m still going to pick the Patriots. I can’t wait to see how Bill Belichick tries to keep Lamar Jackson quiet.

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

Cowboys @ Giants (+7.5)

When the Dallas Cowboys have won this season they have won big, but they also have a loss against the New York Jets, although that was at the height of their injury problems. The New York Giants got a boost when they put rookie quarterback Daniel Jones into the starting lineup, but that only lasted two games and they have now lost four straight. The Cowboys are coming off their bye week, but the Giants won’t want to be embarrassed in front of the nation on Monday night football. I want nothing to do with this line, but I’m seeing this line as an extra point to the Giants and so I’m reluctantly going to grab them.

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

 

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.

AAF: Cooper Kupp

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Thanks to having a gig on Halloween I knew that I was going to be short on time to look at coaching tape this week, but I knew I wanted to find a way to keep looking at some tape on these weeks when that was the case so I’m trying something a little different this week for my Amateur Adventures in Film. I was at the Bengals at Rams London game last Sunday and so I decided to look at Cooper Kupp’s seven catches for two hundred and twenty yards to find out what went wrong as the dirty secret is that when you are at a game, it’s still not possible to tell exactly what is happening on the field and all I knew was that Kupp kept turning up in the middle of the field wide open.

Having gone through those catches and several of his drops the quick answer is what happened a lot of the time was the Bengals’ defence. Now, I don’t mean to diminish Kupp who is a shifty receiver who leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns and clearly played well, but whilst there were a couple of plays where he beat coverage and another when Jared Goff made a hell of a throw deep, most of the time he was open because a combination of offensive scheme and defensive play.

Now, the communication in the Bengals’ secondary that seemed to be a problem early in the game looked to smooth out a bit later in the game, or at least there wasn’t the obvious communication between the Bengals’ secondary players, but Tony McRae who seemed to be following Kupp all game had problems all the way through. Now in fairness, a lot of the time McRae was struggling because of natural picks set up in the Rams offensive plays. You are not allowed to block a defender down field as a receiver, but one the things that makes the Rams offence tick is the bunches of receivers running routes that takes one defensive player into the other or forces the player to go round the first receiver to get to the second. In the plays that I watched from this game, Kupp was moved around the formation a lot and was also motioned pre-snap. This allowed Kupp to get away from McRae and find lots of space in the Bengals secondary. Despite McRae seeming to follow Kupp around the field, the Bengals looked to be often using zone concepts and Kupp kept finding gaps between the second level defenders and the deep safety.

The two exceptions to this in terms of big plays by Kupp were very different in execution. The first one that obviously leaped out of this game was a vicious double fake play towards the end of the second quarter that was a league wide highlight. It sill feels a little like overkill for me as the Rams were moving the ball well enough already, but to be fair the teams were level at this point and it was this game that got them the lead. It was a beautiful play as the Rams lined up with 11 personnel (one running back and one tight-end) in a singleback formation. Cooper Kupp ran a jet sweep motion across the formation from the left before the snap and took a hand-off from Goff before tossing the ball to Robert Woods running a reverse behind the formation so taking the ball back behind the line. The clever bit was that Kupp kept running and turned up the right side line so when Woods tossed the ball back to Goff, Kupp was wide open as the Bengals’ defence had reacted to the reverse with BW Webb dropping into a second high safety. Kupp catches the pass to him in space, helped by Webb turning the long way round to get back to Kupp and slipping over as tries to get back enabling Kupp to fly up the sideline and score the touchdown. Now William Jackson III came across the field  from the opposite corner position and if he’d committed to the tackle straight away he might have saved the touchdown, but high speed tackles when a receiver in space is not easy and the damage had already been done before his hesitation allowed the score. In fairness, this is the second week in a row where I have seen a player involved in play-action fake end up catching the ball, and it is devastating as whilst the defence can react to the play, it is very hard to do so and keep account of the player involved in the first fake action. It was this beautiful play design that manufactures the opportunity to score, made all the more so when you can watch the all twenty-two and see how it worked out.

The other big play that I wanted to mention was a forty yard in the Rams’ final touchdown scoring drive on third and ten where the Rams had 11 personnel on the field but this time in a shotgun formation. Once again Kupp motioned across the formation to line up as the inside slot of three receivers on the left of the formation, only this time he ran a simple post that saw him followed buy McRae (although he was behind for most of the coverage) but also doubled by safety Shawn Williams and yet Goff was able to drop the ball over the pair of Bengals’ defensive backs for Kupp to make the deep catch and keep the drive alive. For all the talk of Goff’s pay this season, this was a really nice throw.

As I said, the main thing I took away from this game was the way Sean McVay used route combinations to get his receivers open, which Cooper Kupp really benefited from as well as taking advantage of the problems the Bengals had in coverage, which is not surprising given they are ranked thirtieth in the league in pass defence DVOA. It is still frustrating to see your team lose, but at least I now know what happened and the fake reverse flea flicker as I’m calling that spectacular play that yielded a sixty-five yard touchdown for Kupp was a thing of beauty.

Competition Thursday: 2019 Week Nine

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Dan had an exceptional week eight, pulling himself back level with me, whildy his Dad continues to lurk behind but we are not quite half way through the season yet and there still plenty to play for.

Dan:

Week 8:   12-3

Overall:   65-56

Gee:

Week 8:   9-6

Overall:   65-56

Dan’s Dad:

Week 8:   8-7

Overall:   61-60

49ers @ Cardinals (+9.5)

I am so lost with Thursday night games that I am tying myself in knots. The 49ers are coming off a game that saw them score over fifty points against the Panthers and are taking on a Cardinals who I can’t see winning. The pick the home team unless rule didn’t work, and I have heard people talk about not backing big lines on a Thursday so maybe the Cardinals can cover at home, but once you start second guessing yourself its hard to know what to do. I’m going to put my faith in the unbeaten team wanting to keep their good run going but I do not feel confident about this one.

Gee’s Pick: 49ers
Dan’s Pick: 49ers

Week 9 Trivia

‘Well the season rolls on and I now realise that Dan has clearly stolen my lucky pin having recovered from a position even he thought impossible to reach the top (equal top to be honest) but he could hit a wave of sleepless nights so that could soon change.

While only 4 points adrift I know that there is still time, but I have been considering whether I would prefer to lead the trivia league or have a chance of making the playoffs. I know where I stand but I am reminded of the performance 2 years ago in the playoffs by Stefon Diggs. This week he racked up 7 catches and 143 yards to give him a 3 game average which eclipsed that of the Hall of Famer Randy Moss. (452 tards as compared to 446 if you want to know). Franchise records, now there’s a thought.

Anyway in Week 8 we dropped into Cleveland and asked What did Browns coach Paul Brown invent?.

There was some thought put into the answers this week but the key word was ‘invent’ so things such as 40 yard dashes probably, as Dan thought, don’t quite hit the spot. However I like the references to Shoulder Pads and also ‘in helmet communication’ so I’m going to be generous and award 1 point each as what I had in mind was in fact – The Face Mask.

Brown is credited with a number of American football innovations, including the modern face mask, the practice squad and the draw play but ‘invent’ was the key but it leaved them both on 7 points.

Week 9 brings me to Dallas, interestingly 3D can reveal that there are only 3 teams starting with D – so we are now in 3D Territory.

The question is, therefore’ Which Dallas quarterback was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006?

And you will know the name.

Guess what – the theme,,,,,, not even close. Who knows when one of them get it, maybe by then their team’s fortunes will change. Nah, not going to happen.

Let’s see where they go next!’

Adjusting to the Adjustment

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There seemed to be more running around than usual to get there, but I definitely don’t take for granted the opportunity to get to see my team play a game at the weekend, even if they have fallen to 0-8 but more of that later as I go through the results in week eight of the NFL and some of the results.

What I Saw

Week eight started with a professional looking if unspectacular win by the Minnesota Vikings over the visiting Washington team. The things that really struck me were that Dalvin Cook might be one of my favourite running backs in the league, and he is so deadly with just a little space thanks to his spread. The Vikings were efficient all game between the twenties but if there is a concern it is that they only scored one touchdown, although the margin of victory could have been bigger if the Vikings had not run clock out in the fourth quarter in a drive that took eight minutes but yielded no score as there was no attempt to pass the ball. I think one of the easy things to forget is that the margins between teams are not that great and whilst Washington are not suddenly a good team under Bill Callahan, they do at least look more competitive and the defence played its part in limiting the Vikings. Even the return of holdout left tackle Trent Williams is unlikely to help turn the team’s fortunes round and the important decisions will be made in the off-season, but until there is an overhaul of the front office I’m not sure when the team might look competent on the fired. Meanwhile the Vikings are improved to 6-2 and look a very dangerous proposition for any team to face.

The game I watched on Sunday was obviously the game I was at, as the Cincinnati Bengals lost 10-24 to the LA Rams hosted at Wembley. The start of the game saw both teams match scoring drives up un to 10-10 but then the quality differences really began to show in the second quarter. It was not that the Bengals couldn’t move the ball, they gained over four hundred yards of offence, but it was often a struggle and couldn’t be accurate enough in the red zone when it really matters. There were a couple of great plays, Auden Tate made a spectacular catch but too often plays were left on the field, including some open ones that Dalton admitted to after the game. The sign that things are different -this year under Zac Taylor, apart from the losing is that Andy Dalton has been benched and so Ryan Finley, the rookie who looked so good in pre-season will get the start against the Baltimore Ravens in week ten. More of that nearer the time, but back to this game, if the offence was a frustrating nearly performance, the defence was bad again. You don’t give up over two hundred yards to one receiver if you are a good team. One of the dirty secrets of watching a game live is that you don’t always get the best view and so I don’t know how Cooper Kupp kept popping up open in the middle of the field, but it kept happening. This week I have limited time for coaching tape and so because I’m a glutton for punishment I’m going to look at Cupp’s catches along with the incredible double-reverse flea-flicker that netted the Rams an impressive touchdown, helped by BW Webb falling down. The only thing I will say is that it seems a bit odd to be using such a cool play against a team that you were pretty obviously better than. The Rams record has stabilised a bit over the last couple of weeks, but there are going to be much tougher tests to come.

Whilst waiting for the morning rush hour to go so I could head home, I watched the Tennessee Titans hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which I had seen on the stadium screen had been competitive and the Titans are one of those teams that I don’t have a feel for yet. It has to be said, I’m not wholly sure about them now as their offensive stats were not that impressive and they benefited in the opening quarter by starting with two short fields thanks to turnovers. It’s not a surprise that Jameis Winston turned the ball over for the Bucs, but a day that saw him throw two interceptions and lose two of his three fumbles wasn’t even his worst in the last two weeks. I can see how the talent that allows him to make the spectacular plays is intriguing, but by now we know what kind of player he is and whilst he may well get another chance somewhere else, it is hard to see him staying with Tampa. For the Titans, whilst Ryan Tannehill is not exactly a future solution, he at least looked to be getting the ball out on time and executing the offence. The Titans looked competitive but given the turnovers and the problems the Bucs have I wonder how they will fare against tougher opposition. They are 4-4 so should be respected, but again I wonder what might happen for them at the quarterback position over the off-season.

The final game I saw this week looked like one of the best matchups of the week, but turned out to be a demonstration that yes the San Francisco 49ers are for real as they hosted the Carolina Panthers with a fifty burger – winning 51-13. There were a couple of performances that leapt off the screen for the 49ers. A strong candidate for rookie defensive MVP, if not league wide is Nick Bosa who finished the game with three sacks and interception he got leaping into the air having been cut by an offensive lineman. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the 49ers offence looked deadly with their chunk plays coming in the running game thanks to impressive speed of Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert. You don’t expect a team to run for over two hundred yards in any game, yet alone a Carolina Panthers team who have looked good all year. This kind of thing can happen when you are on the road, and Kyle Allen was not going to go all season without throwing an interception but the Panthers will need to rebound quickly, and we shall have to see if they can do that next week against the Titans. Meanwhile as one of the two remaining unbeaten teams, the 49ers will be hoping that Emmanuel Sanders affect will increase his production as he gets used to the offence but they already have established themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.

What I Heard

One of the interesting bits of commentary I heard was actually from the back end of last week when Robert Mays talking on The Ringer NFL Show was discussing a conversation he had had with a coach regarding young quarterbacks and the important thing to consider was not their strengths but their weaknesses. If a quarterback cannot adjust to counter their weakness they are not going to last in the NFL and you can see some of this already floating around this season’s performances and I’m going to take a quick look at three players to explore this.

There are a number of problems affecting the Cleveland Browns, but part of the problem is that over the off-season enough coaches put in time studying Baker Mayfield whose completion percentage has dropped by 6.2 percent so far this season. Additionally, having played half the number of games that he did last year, Mayfield is twenty-one touchdowns behind his season total of twenty-seven but only two interceptions behind his 2016 total of fourteen, effectively reversing his 2:1 touchdown to interception. Now, it is far too early to say that Mayfield can’t turn it around, particularly with a first time head coach in Freddie Kitchens who seems to be calling a different style of game than what was successful for this pair last season, but if Mayfield can’t adjust to what he’s seeing then he could well be another NFL quarterback who was able to flash but not maintain success.

Meanwhile, an almost classic example of somebody who has never been able to adjust to his weakness is a quarterback I mentioned earlier. Jameis Winston has never learnt to look after the ball, and is this failure more than any other that hampers him. It feels like this could be his final season in Tampa Bay as he is an unrestricted free-agent and I don’t know if the Bucs will franchise him or if they feel that he’s just not going to change as a player and there are plenty of people who will argue that if Bruce Arians can’t turn him around then who will.

Finally, we have Lamar Jackson who turned the Baltimore Ravens season around last year and who has continued that into this year with the Ravens currently standing 5-2 at the top of the AFC North. No one is saying that Jackson is suddenly picking apart teams with surgical passes, but his completion percentage is currently up by 5.1% and he’s has thrown five more touchdowns in his seven starts this season than he did in his seven starts last season. More importantly, there appears to be no sophomore slump so whilst we can’t pretend that he won’t be found out or that he will definitely adjust when he’s astonishing athletic ability begins to fade, he passed the tests asked of him so far and it looks like the Ravens are set at quarterback for a while yet.

What I Think

As I mention earlier, the Bengals have announced that for the first time in his nine year career Andy Dalton is missing a game that is not due to injury as he has been benched for rookie Ryan Finley. This does make sense given that the Bengals find themselves at 0-8 and need to find out what they have ahead of next season. Interestingly, despite many commentators suggesting otherwise, the Bengals were not sellers ahead of the trade deadline and they will be hoping that with a good off-season they can turn things round if Finley doesn’t give them a start. He certainly looked good in pre-season but you can’t trust that so it makes total sense to give him half a season to see what he can do. The timing for Dalton makes less sense as the announcement being so close to the trade deadline precluded any trade options for him and he will have to spend the rest of the season in limbo with a year left on his contract but no guaranteed money next year.

What I Know

To my eyes, the game between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens looks to be the marque game of week ten and for a week I don’t have to worry about the Bengals losing another one.

What I Hope

The I’m always hoping for is success for teams and players and the difference between them being one reaching a higher peak so I’m hoping the Browns turn it round, that someone else in the AFC joins the six teams with a winning record, and that we get exciting games, starting with tomorrow’s contest between the 49ers and the Cardinals – stranger things have happened!

Week Eight Picks

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So it’s the day of my trip to Wembley, but I just have time (I hope) to get up my picks for week eight and have a stab at the trivia question.

‘What is Browns’ coach Paul Brown credited with inventing?’

Now, as a Bengals fan, who were the second NFL team founded by Paul Brown, I’m aware of a few innovations that Paul Brown was responsible for including team building with being the first coach to use timed forty yard dashes, the first communication to a player’s helmets, but I think what 3D is after with an in invention with the Browns is the creation of the draw play.

As for the theme, we’re still floating round early NFL, but I’ve already tried TWF teams, pre-merger, and the centenary year – I’m blanking on a new one and I am sure I’m going to kick myself when one of us eventually get it right or we get put out of our misery. It might well be the latter at our current rate.

‘I’m thrown by the word ‘Invented’ in this question, and the fact that he’s specifically said that it’s a question about the Browns. My first instinct is to say ‘the Cincinnati Bengals’ as I think he founded them but again, the word ‘invent’ doesn’t really apply. But that’s pretty much all I know about the fella so it’s going to be a guess… Did he invent shoulder pads or something like that? I’ll go with that.

Only possible idea at the minute for theme is first round draft picks, so I’ll go for that too.’

Seahawks @ Falcons (+4.5)

The Seattle Seahawks will be looking to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Ravens and this is the perfect spot to do it as the Falcons were struggling before Matt Ryan got injured and so with Ryan sitting out this game and the Falcons having the league’s twenty-ninth ranked defence by DVOA – I am going to pick the Seahawks in this one.

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

Eagles @ Bills (-1.5)

I am a little confused by this line as the Philadelphia Eagles lost badly last week to the Cowboys, are on the road in Buffalo to face a Bills team who have only lost one game so far this season. Now to be fair, the Eagles do actually rate as the better team by DVOA even after their loss to the Cowboys dropped them from eighth to fifteenth, whilst the Bills rank twenty-first, but I fancy the Bills to edge this one out given the Eagles injuries.

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

Chargers @ Bears (-4.5)

This is a tough game to call because the Chargers are really struggling with injuries and had to find whole new ways to lose a close game to the Titans last week. They take on a Bears’ team who are struggling due to the apparent failure of Mitch Trubisky to develop, although they are 3-3 so it’s not a disaster. The Bears are only 6.4% better by DVOA and I’m not sure they should be giving away this many points so I’m going to grab them, but I don’t exactly feel great about it.

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

Bengals @ Rams (-12.5)

So I will be at this game, which is still an exciting thing to say even if the Bengals have been anything but competitive this season. They face an LA Rams team who are struggling but not out of the playoff race at 4-3 and are coming off a twenty-seven point win against the struggling Falcons. The Bengals may be 0-7, but only two of their losses have been by thirteen points or more, so whilst my concern is that Zac Taylor runs the same scheme as the Rams and was on their staff last year plus defensive coordinator Wade Philips is a better coach than anyone on the Bengals staff, I’m going to pick the Bengals to keep it within thirteen. I really hope it is more competitive than that!

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

Broncos @ Colts (-6.5)

I am not sure if I underestimated the Colts as a whole or merely overestimated how injured they were and how good the Texans are, but the Colts got the win to stay atop the AFC South last week. The Texans host a rested Denver Broncos team who having looked like they were pulling things together for a couple of weeks got thumped last Thursday by a Patrick Mahomes-less Chiefs. This is a big line though, and only one of the Colts’ wins has been by seven points or more. I’m hesitant to do it, and the lines suggest I should go for the Broncos but after last week’s performances I can’t bring myself to do it.

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

Giants @ Lions (-6.5)

Oh, how I hate this line! I am perfectly comfortable saying the Lions are a better team than the Giants, but they have now lost three games straight and so are not exactly trustworthy. That said the Giants are on their own three game losing streak after the two game bump that starting Daniel Jones created and the Giants lost to the Cardinals last week. This feels like too many points and I want to run away from this game, but as I have to make a pick I’m going to hold my nose and grab the team whose quarterback was the fastest to forty thousand yards and who are 14.5% better by DVOA.

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

Buccaneers @ Titans (-2.5)

This is another game that I really don’t know what to do with as the Tennessee Titans got themselves a win against the Chargers last week and looked a bit better with Ryan Tannehill running their offence. However, I don’t have strong feeling for them and they welcome a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team who are coming off a bye week following their awful performance in London. That said, given the number of times that Jameis Winston gave the ball way, an eleven point loss to the Panthers was not that bad. I really want to stay away from this game as well, but in this one I’m going to grab the Titans at home and hope that the 15.2% difference the other way by DVOA doesn’t make me look stupid,

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

Cardinals @ Saints (-9.5)

This is a big line, but the New Orleans Saints continue to play well with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and have a top ten defence by DVOA. The welcome an Arizona Cardinals team who have actually won their last three games but the Saints are a very different proposition to the Bengals, Falcons or Giants and given that I have seen this line as high as -12.5 I think -9.5 is good value.

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

Jets @ Jaguars (-5.5)

The New York Jets got embarrassed on Monday night, their offence getting shut out in a 33-0 loss to the Patriots. This week they travel to face a Jacksonville Jaguars who got back on track last week thanks to facing the Bengals, but I’m not sure how good they actually are. That said, I do think they are better than the Jets who have only been competitive in two games this season and so I’m going to reluctantly back the Jaguars.

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

Panthers @ 49ers (-5.5)

This is one of the matchups of the week in my eyes as it sees the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers host the 4-2 Panthers who haven’t looked back since they sat Cam Newton to get him healthy. However, it’s not the play of backup quarterback Kyle Allen that is driving this record but the Panthers defence and Christian McCaffery’s astonishing offensive production. As good as the 49ers have been, and they added Emmanuel Sanders by trade this week, I think this line is too high in what I think will be a very competitive game so I’m grabbing the points.

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

Browns @ Patriots (-12.5)

What do I do with the Cleveland Browns? They have the potential to cover this line and are coming off a bye but only their win against the Ravens looks like a quality result and there are a whopping sixty-nine point one percentage points between them and the Patriots by DVOA. The Patriots have been great against the spread this year despite it frequently being this high. I hate to do it, but I’m going to back the unbeaten Patriots who have only failed to win by thirteen points or more once this season.

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

Raiders @ Texans (-6.5)

This is tricky game to pick as the Oakland Raiders have been competitive for a lot of the year and won as many games as they have lost. This week they travel to face the Houston Texans, who looked to have found something but lost receiver Will Fuller last week to a hamstring injury and he was doing a great job of balancing the Texans’ passing attack. I do think the Texans are the better team but there’s not that much difference between them by DVOA so I think this line is a little high. I’m going to grab the points and hope…

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

Packers @ Chiefs (+4.5)

This is a really tricky game to pick as the Kansas City Chiefs are obviously going to miss Patrick Mahomes, but their defence played much better than it had all season last week and they are coming off extra rest having won their Thursday night game against the Broncos. They welcome a Green Bay Packers team who have only lost once this season and last week put up an offensive performance to match the defence that has been playing well all season. Given the problems the Broncos have had this season I’m not ready to say the Chiefs’ defence is fixed, and although this could be recency bias as I have watched the coaching tape of the Packers offence from last week – I’m going with the Packers in this one.

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

Dolphins @ Steelers (-14.5)

At the start of the season the Miami Dolphins were losing badly enough that teams were covering some ridiculous spreads against them, but having put Ryan Fitzopatrick back in the game against Washington the previous week, the Dolphins started him against the Bills last week and so covered the spread for a second week in a row. The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a bye and so look likely to get Mason Rudolph back from his concussion this week, but let’s be honest, the Steelers have not looked good this season. Their wins have come against the Bengals and Chargers and only against the Bengals have they managed to win by a margin to cover a line this big so whilst I expect the Dolphins to continue their spotless tanking record – this line is too much for me given the Steelers’ play this season.

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

 

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.