Competition Thursday: Week Seven

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I had a great picks week despite the lack of time that saw me go 11-3, but I’m still lost with the trivia theme so here are our records:

Gee: Week 6   11-3 Overall   50-42
Dan’s Dad: Week 6   7-7 Overall   44-48
Dan: Week 6   8-6 Overall   43-49

Chiefs @ Broncos (+3.5)

The Kansas City Chiefs have a problem in that the defence they overhauled over the off-season has not improved, in fact their rushing defence ranks thirty-first in the league by DVOA. This is a problem as it opens up a game plan to defeat them by running the ball, dominating time of possession and trying to force the Chief’s offence to be super-efficient. This wouldn’t have worked last season because of how good Patrick Mahomes and the offence was, but with injuries across the offence and Mahomes himself struggling with an ankle injury the Chiefs have lost their last two games. A trip to the thin air of Mile High stadium in a short week is not what the Chiefs need right now and particularly given that whilst the Denver Broncos started slow, their defence is getting somewhere near what you expect with Vic Fangio as your head coach. In fact the Broncos are looking for their game plan to be play good defence and run the ball anyway. I’m not sure whether the Chiefs are actually going to lose three in a row, but I don’t expect them to run away with it and getting three and a half points at home is just too tempting to miss.

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

Week 7 Trivia

‘It would seem that my improvement in the Picks competition last week was a false dawn, and I’ve seen a few of those over 60 years. For much of Sunday I was looking good but late scores by teams including Cincinnati and Miami didn’t net them a win but did close the spread to deny me the points. Clearly my time will come but I’ll have to console myself with another strong Vikings performance, so vital in what is becoming a very tight division that could go all way. Great effort by Gee and Dan anyway!

It was 11 years ago, almost to the day, that Dan and I saw the Bears see off a strong Vikings team in a really high scoring game at Soldier Field. Seeing the number of Peyton 34 jerseys being worn by fans proved the high regard in which this legend of the game was still held.

So, with both Dan and Gee correct this week, as I expected both are tied on 6 points. As a side order on this one I’m reminded of another 34 ( and the shirt I bought for dan on a visit there a few years before) one Ricky Williams of the Dolphins – not forgetting that it would once again be appropriate for Dan come February!

No sign of the theme being cracked here – so here is one clue. Think less about the answers than the root of the question.

OK, we now arrive at week 7 and my question is about the Bengals. With Mr Propeller Head to contend with I needed something testing but not unfair to Dan at the same time.

Here goes:     Which team did Cincinnati Bengal quarterback Carson Palmer get his first win against?

Catch you next week Hup Hup’

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NFL Tankapalooza 2019: Who Wants the Prize?

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We are already a third of the way through the regular season and each conference has only one unbeaten team left, but the league’s two winless teams reside in the AFC as the Bengals join the Miami Dolphins in NFL Tankapalooza 2019. The difference is that the Dolphins were built with this in mind whilst the Bengals were planning to compete before the roster fell apart, but more of that later. For now, let’s make a start on rounding up NFL week six.

What I Saw

The Thursday night game was a bit of an odd one in week six as the unbeaten New England Patriots neat the New York Giants 34-14 but their offence still does not look in sync. In fact the opening score of the game was caused by the Giants’ punter hitting his own player and the Pats recovering and scoring a touchdown, but that said the Patriots’ offence ranks top ten by DVOA through week six and have we not learnt by now not to question Tom Brady? Even if there is no way he should be performing as well as he is this far past thirty-five, yet alone forty. When you pair this institutional success with the number one ranked defence you can see why people are already talking up another Super Bowl appearance for the Pats. There is still a long way to go though. This can also be said for the Giants who on top of starting a rookie quarterback, had a number of skills players injured and were never really going to compete in this one. It will take time to improve the roster and you can still make an argument that Daniel Jones would have been there at pick seventeen, but the Giants would argue that if Jones is a franchise quarterback there is no price too high to pay. It is too early to tell and somehow they are only one game back in the NFC East and whilst I’m really not expecting them to make a playoff push, they will be looking to play spoiler in the division and develop their young talent.

The first game I watched from Sunday was the second London game that saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers become the second team to host at the new Tottenham Stadium as they lost 37-26 to the Carolina Panthers. The big takeaway from this game was that bad Jameis Winston turned up and gave away the ball seven times. He threw five interceptions, lost two fumbles and had a further two recovered by the team. You know it is going to be a bad day when your first pass is intercepted, and Winston managed to begin a second quarter drive with an interception as well as fumbling two plays in a row in another to make sure the opposition got the ball. It doesn’t matter if you throw for four hundred yards if your touchdown to interception ratios is 1:5 and it feels like we have the answer about one of the can’t miss quarterbacks of the 2015 NFL Draft (spoiler alert, the other features later). The steady play saw the Panthers win out eventually as Kyle Allan continues to keep the team in the race as Cam Newton focuses on getting truly healthy. There is already some talk of there being a controversy when Newton is healthy given the Panthers have done nothing but win since Allen got the start. The other things that struck me about the Panthers in this game was the depth of their defensive line as having put Kawann Short on the injury list they still had Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to play in the middle. It might be lazy to suggest that McCoy might have had a point to prove against his old team, but two and half sacks with four quarterback hits is a good day and the team finished with seven sacks.

Having seen that the New York Jets had won the first game of the season and with them being one of the few teams I haven’t seen yet I made a point of watching them heap further problems onto the Dallas Cowboys. It was an impressive turn around for Gang Green with Sam Darnold having his first three hundred yard passing day that included several beautifully placed balls and a ninety-two yard touchdown pass. The Jets are not suddenly a playoff team but it just highlights what a difference a starting quarterback can make and we now have eleven games to more fairly judge where they are as a team. The Cowboys however, will be very worried by a result that doesn’t doom their push for the playoffs but certainly doesn’t help. There seems to be less motion pre-snap to my eyes and Ezekiel Elliott is struggling to get going in the run game. This won’t be helped by injuries to both starting tackles, nor receiver Amari Cooper leaving the game early in the first quarter so you can perhaps expect some regression from the offence, but the defence is relatively healthy and currently ranked twenty-fifth by DVOA. I can’t pretend to have a huge amount of faith in Jason Garrett to turn things around but to do so the Cowboys need to get back to the formula that was working in the first three games,. Whether they can depends on health and coaching, but one to watch in the coming weeks.

The final game I watched this week is the latest loss for the Cincinnati Bengals who started the game with a kick-off return touchdown that sadly represented 41% of the Bengals total points as they lost 23-17 on the road to the Baltimore Ravens. I’m not sure how much this tells us about the Ravens given how the Bengals’ offensive spluttered and how Lamar Jackson is the perfect running quarterback to exploit the issues the Bengals have at the edge of their defence. This season is a lost cause for the Bengals and there are some worrying injuries to the Ravens secondary, which could be a problem for a defence that uncharacteristically languishes in the twenties by DVOA but the Ravens have a two game lead in the AFC North so remain the team to beat in the division.

I have a little addition for this week courtesy of Fran Duffy, an Eagles media employee who does several really good podcasts and watches a lot of film – there was really good breakdown of quarters coverage during this week’s Eagle Eye in the Sky Podcast and a breakdown of the play on this video.

What I Heard

I’ve already mentioned the big news of the weekend in terms of the Jets, but at the other end of the quarterback performance spectrum Jared Goff threw for only seventy-eight yards in the Rams loss to the 49ers. The Rams have reacted to the problems they are having on defence by trading away two first round picks to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey, who should certainly help their secondary. However, the problem with that is the combination of offensive line play and the injury restriction of Todd Gurley is hampering their offensive. This is compounded by the contracts they have given both Gurley and Goff when neither of them are carrying the offence right now. I understand going for it when you have a quarterback on a rookie deal but with the likes of Aarond Donald, Gurley and Goff all having big contracts this could become a real problem, particularly as Gurley’s knee is not going to improve massively given that he is suffering from an arthritic condition. The Rams could really miss those draft picks in the coming seasons.

The other quarterback I should mention is the other 2015 quarterback that will always be paired with Jameis Winston, namely Marcus Mariota who was pulled for Ryan Tannehill on Sunday and who has lost his starting position for this week’s games. This is a timely reminder that high drafted quarterbacks don’t always work out and a quarterback needs a lot of infrastructure around them to succeed. I think you can rebuild a team through a roster reset, but I don’t know it is a sure thing and whilst I like accumulating draft talent through getting more picks – if I was a Dolphins fan I would be worried about the talent that has left and whether one of those high draft picks is definitely going to be a franchise quarterback.

The other big topic of conversation has been the standard of officiating with the end of the Monday night game coming in for particular condemnation, but there was also a flurry of flags towards the end of the Jets and Cowboys. It’s too easy to rip the refs, particularly as football is very complex game to referee and the speed of the game has only got faster but there have been some pretty bad non-calls or ticky-tacky pass interference decisions. That said, it’s not the small calls that really annoy but the egregious ones and it seems pretty clear from the success rate of coach challenges that only those kind of pass interference calls are going to get overturned so can we get a memo to all head coaches to stop throwing the challenge flag unless someone actually got mugged and it was missed.

What I Think

I was glad that Mason Rudolph was able to go straight back to practice and the Bengals have announced today Cordy Glenn has been cleared to practice. These are grown men who are making their own decisions, but as someone who’s had his own issues with head injuries, I really hope they are listening to their doctors and are being duly careful. It seems to be the repeated sub-concussive blows rather than the big hits that cause a lot of the problems, but Glenn has been out for a couple of months now and as a linemen he is exposed to a lot of those sub-concussive blows. The Bengals could really do with a healthy Glenn, but the world could do with a healthy Glenn a lot more.

What I Know

I have really struggled to get to coaching tape this year, and even my re-arranged plan didn’t survive my work week and I have another series of interruptions coming this week. I’m not giving up on getting something done, but hopefully things will calm down in a couple of weeks, but that said I will be down in London to watch the Bengals in week eighth and suddenly we’ll be halfway through the season. Man is it slipping by quickly this year.

What I Hope

There is talk that AJ Green could be coming back soon and it would be really great to see him play live again and for the Bengals to be at least competitive against the Rams. In the meantime I hope that I can stay competitive in the picks competition as it looks like the only football based season win I’m going to get this year.

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.

2019 Week Six Picks

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Apart from work eating my time, I’ve also had a somewhat terrifying memory stick failure so whilst I have rescued over 30 000 words of a novel and pretty much all of my files – I am massively behind so I’m putting up our picks and trivia and will have to try to find time to get back on an even keel during the upcoming week.

‘I’m looking at Chicago who, you will recall have retired the most jerseys (14) but what number did Walter Peyton wear so proudly for the Bears. 2 points available here.’

For once I’m feeling confident about the basic part of the trivia competition because I can see in my mind Peyton running the ball wearing number 34 – although it would be a bit embarrassing if I’m misremembering. I’m still lost on the theme though as I can’t make anything fit.

‘Well, I know the answer to this week’s question is 34 – I remember seeing hundreds of people wearing his Jersey when we went to see the Vikings get heated by the Bears in Chicago almost exactly 10 years ago (sorry Dad!).

But I’m still none the wiser when it comes to the theme. My guess this week is “Things which have nothing to do with each other whatsoever”.’

Panthers @ Buccaneers (+1.5)

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

Bengals @ Ravens (-11.5)

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

Seahawks @ Browns (+1.5)

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

Texans @ Chiefs (-5.5)

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

Washington @ Dolphins (+3.5)

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

Eagles @ Vikings (-2.5)

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

Saints @ Jaguars (-1.5)

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

Falcons @ Cardinals (+2.5)

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

49ers @ Rams (-3.5)

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

Cowboys @ Jets (+8.5)

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

Titans @ Broncos (-2.5)

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

Steelers @ Chargers (-6.5)

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

Lions @ Packers (-4.5)

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

Competition Thursday: 2019 Week Six

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A losing week sees me did back to .500 but holding a narrow two point lead on Dan’s Dad, but there is still plenty of time for changes and Dan is not out of it, although he will be hoping not to make it a third week in a row scoring only six points.

Gee: Week 5   7-8 Overall   39-39
Dan’s Dad: Week 5   9-6 Overall   37-41
Dan: Week 5   6-9 Overall   34-43

Giants @ Patriots (-16.5)

You should never say never, but I have a feeling that tonight’s Thursday night game won’t live up to the previous two as we see the New England Patriots host a New Your Giants team who got something of a reality check last Sunday. In Daniel Jones the Giants may well have a quarterback for the future, but there are still a lot of problems with the rest of their roster and this is obviously not an easy game. The unbeaten Patriots have been ominously good again this season and even though their offence has not looked at its best, and Tom Brady is beginning to look like a forty-two quarterback, it stills ranks in the top ten by DVOA. Even more scary is the Patriots stellar defence that ranks number one by DVOA, which I think is going to limit a rookie quarterback quite easily. This number of points is obviously going to make me pause but given the Pats have beaten several lines like this already this season, I can’t quite bring myself to pick the Giants. I could look very foolish tomorrow.

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

Week 6 Trivia

‘With the season now 5 weeks old, and the bye weeks started, the only things of which I’m certain is that the Picks game is unpredictable, and that Dan and Gee will continue to overthink my devious questions.

It was pleasing that The Dolphins didn’t lose thanks to being on a bye but Dan did wonder what the spread on them would have been for the bye. The Vikings returned to form at the Giants but sadly the Bengals did less well, going down against the Cardinals. Oh well, there’s a long way to go yet.

Right onto this week’s devious question which concerned the Carolina Panthers and asked How many rushing yards did DeShaun Foster run in the 2002 regular season?

Well, I do have a conscience and having set the question I did feel a little guilty as I heard the Random Number Generators being dusted off.

Why? Well while DeShaun Foster was expected to be the elite running back for the Panthers, but never started a regular season game due to injuries. So the answer was a big fat Zero and unsurprisingly both Dan and Gee got the same result.

Yet again we have no sign of either spotting the theme. Better luck in Week 6.

Guilt has kicked in and I’d expect to see 2 correct answers this week where I’m looking at Chicago who, you will recall have retired the most jerseys (14) but what number did Walter Peyton wear so proudly for the Bears. 2 points available here.’

Still Looking For a Win

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Welcome to a look back at week five in the NFL that featured upsets, a horrible concussion and our first coach firing of the year so let’s get started.

What I Saw

The week five slate of games started with a second excellent Thursday night game that saw the LA Ram lose by one point to the Seattle Seahawks costing all three of us a point in the picks competition. This was a back and forth game that saw five lead changes and the Rams could have very easily won it as Jared Goff drove the team into position for a last second field goal but Greg (the Leg) Zuerlein was unable to convert the forty-four yard field goal to get the win. The Rams offence looked pretty good in spurts, with Goff finding his tight-ends and in particular Gerald Everett who led the team in receiving yards but Goff is still prone to throwing dangerous passes and whilst he was only intercepted once in this game, it definitely could have been more. The other problem is that even with more carries this week, Todd Gurley was unable to recreate his form from last season and this is a real problem for an offence built around his skill set and play-action off the run game. That said, if you want strange things, how about the Seahawk’s defence currently being ranked twenty-second in the league by DVOA? I knew that they were not looking as strong as they have historically but I hadn’t expected them to rank quite this low. That said, their offence is ranked third in the league by DVOA and is beginning to look good doing it. This may still be one of the remaining run heavy offences (forty-three carries in this game) but the Russell Wilson is playing really well and is being incredibly efficient in the passing game as well as doing his usual heroics in avoiding the oppostion’s pass rush. In fact both his path and Tyler Lockett’s catch in the first quarter demonstrate at what level of precision this Seahawks offence is capable of. The Rams defence actually has the exact same overall ranking by DVOA right now as it did at the end of the 2018 season so whilst some of the personnel changed, it’s the problems on the offence that are holding the Rams back, but a close loss against the Seahawks is a step in the right direction but they could really regret their loss to the Buccaneers in week four and they’ll want to turn things around soon.

I only managed to watch one other game this week thanks to things going on at work. On Sunday I did get my first Amateur Adventures in Film post of the season up, where I took a look at Khalil Mack’s play against the Minnesota Vikings ahead of the Bears taking on the Raiders on Sunday. You can read AAF: Khalil Mack here, and I will only add that the Raiders got a really good win and the Bears on Sunday but I did check in on the game Sunday and it is a little odd to see a game that so looks like a normal NFL game but played in the UK. The stadium definitely looks like it works, but I’ll have to let others be the proper judge of that.

The only upside of being so far behind on the games watched is that I’ve not had to put myself through the Bengals loss to the Cardinals, which I followed Sunday night whilst at my in-laws.  All I will say now is that it seems there’s a very good chance the Bengals will be 0-7 when I see them in London. That could be a very strange day indeed.

The final game I did see this week was the New Orleans Saints hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a contest that finished 31-24 to the Saints. Perhaps the score line flatters to deceive a little as the Saints led for all of the second half and the Buccaneers didn’t get closer than seven points after the Saints took the lead. It was a better game for the Teddy Bridgewater who finished the game with over three hundred passing yards and four touchdown although he did throw an interception. However, more importantly it appears that Sean Payton is increasingly adapting to his new starting quarterback who threw the ball down field more successfully in this game. There’s not going to be a controversy once Drew Brees is fit again, but it bodes well for the future of both Bridgewater and the Saints that that they have managed to maintain such a strong start to the season without their starting quarterback for three games. The other part of the formula that drove this is that the Saints’ defence looks much better than their ranking of twentieth by DVOA would suggest. They limited the Buccaneers to under one hundred yards rushing and just over two hundred yards whilst sacking Jameis Winston six times and harassing him for most of the game. This was a difficult contest for the Buccaneers who struggled to move the ball and were unable to keep up with the Saints in the second half. In fairness to Winston he didn’t turn the ball over but the Saints outgained them by over two hundred yards. A special mention also ought to go to Bruce Arians’s bad challenges, which is partly do the referees as a whole seeming not to want to overturn calls but five weeks in perhaps you have to adapt when you throw the challenge flag. However, between Arians and his coordinators the Buccaneers already look a very different team to last season and only the loss the New York Giants looks like a bad one. The Bucs have wins against the Rams and Panthers already as well as three road games played so far and whilst I’m not saying they will compete for the playoffs, I feel confident that barring injury they will do better than the five games they won last season.

What I Heard

There have been various discussions going on this week, but I’ve not had the chance to consume as much NFL media as usual. There were two big talking points this week. The first was the firing of Jay Gruden that even in only week five seemed a question of when not if. That said, it is pretty vindictive to call a coach in at five am to fire him, but there were more problems in that building than just the coaching, and it is strange to see how far a franchise that was once the centre of the city’s sportiing life has fallen. They are playing in front of crowds that regularly have almost as many if not more road fans present and given the dysfunction of the franchise I am not sure it will change any time soon.

The second of the headlines coming out of Sunday was the horrible looking concussion suffered by Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph. Having been in denial for a number of years, the league are trying to make the game safer, but it is still a dangerous sport and whuilst it looked like a football play, it is never good when a player is unconscious before they hit the ground. It was the kind of hit that make people tell their sons they are never playing the game. I’m just glad that Rudolph was back at work on Monday but we know the effects of concussions are cumulative and recovery is important so I hope he is given as much time as possible before he plays again.

Speaking of which, the other things I wanted to mention is something I hinted at when picking against the Jets on Sunday, which was just how badly Adam Gase handled his quarterback decision last week. After a scan early in the week showed that Sam Darnold’s spleen was still enlarged, Gase still had him taking reps during the week, but Darnold was not cleared to play and so Luke Falk got the start. I’m not sure if it would have made a difference, but given the nature of Darnold’s injury it seems madness not to get Falk every first team rep possible and wait until Darnold was definitely cleared to play before getting him to practice normally.

What I Think

There are now only four winless teams, and I would say that the Bengals look the most competitive of them but that is not a mycg consolation. The Patriots look pretty ominous at 4-0 despite not playing that great and the San Francisco should definitely be respected given their 4-0 start and a record that has them top the league in DVOA, although we’ll see how that lasts through the next few weeks. I am obviously impressed with all the four win teams, but the Raiders have a winning record despite all the off-season noise and I may well have been wrong about them.

What I Know

That thanks again to work I don’t have time to watch an entire game of coaching tape this week, but I’m working on an idea for an alternative format for a coaching tape feature. I don’t know if it will work, but plans are afoot and I have already been looking at play design applications. I’ll see if it gets past the TWF testing team but watch this space.

What I Hope

I hope that the league’s concussion numbers continues to fall as they did last season and I am interested to see just how long Vontaze Burfict ban stays after his appeal as it is clear that the fines have not stopped his behavior.

If the Bengals could get a win on the road this week that would also be nice.

2019 Week Five Picks

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I know that Dan is hurting about our half-point miss after the Seahawks won by a solitary point Thursday that sees me fall to 1-4 for picking Thursday night games, yet 3D (Dan’s Devious Dad) has fallen to 0-5 for Thursday picks but given he’s still kicking us with his trivia them I don’t want to make too much out of it so let’s move onto this week’s trivia before we start picking games.

How many rushing yards did DeShaun Foster run in the 2002 regular season?

I’ll allow 50 yards either way and there are 2 points for a correct answer

Now, this is a real needle in a haystack question, and my first thought is to guess a big number but I can’t claim to be too familiar with DeShaun Foster’s career and so I’m becoming somewhat hesitant to guess big. In the end I’m going with 666 yards to amuse myself and because I’m running an unofficial who can get closer to the answer in my head against Dan who being an offense guys will likely go big.

As for the theme, looking at the answers for the entire year I’m completely lost, I see championships and expansion teams but nothing seems to fit for all of the answers so far. I’ve got nothing this week…

‘This weeks trivia answer could literally be anything – it seems so random. And as a result, I’ve used a Random Number Generator to decide on my answer. I’ll be guessing at 1039

Anyway, as for the theme, I’m going to guess at Franchise Records? I had thought it could possibly be ‘moments captured on channel 4’ from the days before Sky Sports, but this week’s question threw that out of the window!’

Falcons @ Texans (-4.5)

I have no feel for the Atlanta Falcons at all and the Houston Texans seem to be competitive without truly convincing as they have plenty of flaws. In fairness most teams in the NFL have flaws and I do fancy the Texans to win at home but this is too many points for me to lay on them.

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

Bills @ Titans (-2.5)

The Buffalo Bills almost get credit for a close loss to the Patriots last week but this is a tough road game, particularly as Josh Allen has been in the concussion protocol this week. They travel to face a Tennessee Titans team who seem to be highly variable and Marcus Mariota could really struggle against a tough Bills’ defence. The Bills look like they could be starting Allen but I’m not convinced that he will have been able to prep as he needs to so I’m reluctantly backing the Titans. A stay away game if that was a choice!

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

Bears @ Raiders (+4.5)

The Oakland Raiders came across the country and then flew over to the UK to take on the Chicago Bears in the Khalil Mack revenge game hosted in London at the new Spurs ground. The Raiders have hung in to get to 2-2 but there is a big difference between these two teams by DVOA and it feels like the team who arrives later in the UK have done better than those who have been here a week so even though this is a lot of points to give away, the Raiders aren’t truly at home and I don’t trust them whilst the Bears defence is scary good.

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

Cardinals @ Bengals (-4.5)

This pick is entirely an emotional hedge, although I also think the number is too high given the Bengals are 0-3 but I’m picking the Cardinals and hoping to be proved wrong.

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

Vikings @ Giants (+4.5)

The Minnesota Vikings are suffering from the kind of disruption you might not expect from a team run by Mike Zimmer, but having watched the Vikings’ offence this week for coaching tape, whilst you can’t absolve Kirk Cousins of everything I do feel like the focus on the run is coming from the head coach and that is what could be driving the Stefon Diggs situation. That said, the for all that the New York Giants have won two games with Daniel Jones as their quarterback, they should have lost against the Buccaneers and Washington is falling apart. This is a lot of points and I could regret this, but I don’t trust the Giants so I’m going to back the Vikings to get back to something like themselves this week.

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

Patriots @ Washington (+15.5)

I want nothing to do with this game as the New England Patriots really struggled on offence last week as the Bills had the hoodoo over them, but they didn’t need Brady to win that game. The mess in Washington is systemic and stems from the ownership and front office so I very much expect the Patriots to win, but with the faltering offence of last week will they get the big win? However, Washington lost to the Giants by twenty-one points last week so I kind of have to pick the Patriots even if I don’t want to lay this number of points.

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

Buccaneers @ Saints (-3.5)

This is a sneaky good game as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming of a win against the LA Rams and are 2-2 this season. I haven’t had a great feel for them as I got scared off early, but it does seem like Bruce Arians is getting there with Jameis Winston whilst Todd Bowles has already managed a big improvement to a defence that was bottom of the league by DVOA last season. The question is whether this will be enough to defeat a New Orleans Saints team who are 3-1 despite losing Drew Brees. I like the Saints in this one, but given the matchup of an improve Buccaneers defence against a Teddy Bridgewater led offence the extra half point to the Saints has spooked me. I could be massively overthinking this one but I’m playing a hunch in taking the points.

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

Jets @ Eagles (-13.5)

The 0-3 New York Jets come off a bye but will still be without Sam Darnold whose spleen has still not recovered from his mononucleosis and so it is not safe for him to play. That didn’t stop him from taking some reps in practice this week, but it will be Luke Falk who gets the start again. This is all a way of saying that the Jets’ preparation hasn’t been great, whilst the Philadelphia Eagles looked a lot better last week and Carson Wentz is playing well. This is a lot of points, but I really don’t like the Jets and with CJ Mosely still out with injury, the Jets defence hasn’t played well and so I’m going to risk laying another large points total.

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

Ravens @ Steelers (+3.5)

This is an intriguing game as the Pittsburgh Steelers got their first win of the season last week, but still are not exactly convincing whilst it would appear that there are some real questions about the Baltimore Ravens’ defence for the first time in a long while. I like the Ravens to win this game but it feels really strange for the Steelers to be getting this many points at home so I am really torn. In the end I’m going to grab the points as after a strong start against two poor teams the Ravens have come back to the pack a bit.

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

Jaguars @ Panthers (-3.5)

This is a matchup of backup quarterbacks who have turned round their team’s seasons and one of them is going to get their first loss as a starter this week. I’m not at all sure which way this is going to go, but despite their top five by DVOA defence the extra half point is making me nervous and with the Jaguars seeming to find their feet I’m going to nervously grab the points. I really hate the lines this week.

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

Broncos @ Chargers (-6.5)

The LA Chargers have battled to 2-2 despite the injuries, but basically don’t have a homefield advantage and this week welcome a winless Denver Broncos team who at least got some sacks last week and kept the game close. The Broncos have played a couple of teams close this season, but not on the road and so this leaves me in another quandary. I don’t want to back the Broncos, but this is a lot of points for an injured team I don’t trust, but having lost by picking against them last week with more points I’m going to pick the Chargers. Urgh…

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

Packers @ Cowboys (-3.5)

My worry for this game is that the Dallas Cowboys offence seems to be regressing as they work Ezekiel Elliott back into the lineup after his holdout, but the Green Bay Packers offence is not quite clicking either. There is a big difference between these two team by DVOA ranking, but the Cowboys could actually run the ball on a Packers defence that has struggled against the run. In the end I’m going to take the points with Aaron Rodgers, but once again I don’t feel strongly about it.

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

Colts @ Chiefs (-10.5)

The Kansas City Chiefs are unbeaten for a reason, even if they did have a tough time against the Lions last week, but they welcome an Indianapolis Colts team who will still be missing Darius Leonard and TY Hilton is only questionable. This is a lot of points and the Colts have been competitive, but with their defence’s simple scheme and missing Leonard I think the Colts are vulnerable so whilst I don’t like the points, I’m picking the Chiefs anyway.

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

Browns @ 49ers (-3.5)

The last game of the week is my final chance to say urgh. The Cleveland Browns got back into the division race with a good win over the Ravens last week and it appears that first year head coach Freddie Kitchens is starting to find his way with this team. This week they travel to face a rested and unbeaten San Francisco 49ers team who have looked good on offence thanks to Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and whose defence is currently ranked second in the league by DVOA. I’m not saying the Browns can’t win this one, but I like the 49ers in this spot and we’ll find out over the next couple of games just how real the 49ers are.

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

 

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: Khalil Mack

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For the first time this year I have managed to get through a complete game of coaching tape so I present to you for your pleasure the inaugural 2019 Amateur Adventures in Film post where I decided to cheer myself up after the fourth Bengals loss this season by taking a look at Khalil Mack playing the Minnesota Vikings, just in time for his revenge game against the team that drafted him and then traded him away.

The first thing that really struck me about this game is going to sound odd, as watching Mack the thing that I was most reminded of was a previous AAF post where I looked at the Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. I know it sounds odd to compare a defensive edge player to a left tackle, but the thing that struck me about this game was not Mack’s explosive destruction to the Vikings offence so much as the control and balance he played with throughout the game. That is what brought that particular Joe Thomas game to mind, Mack was playing inside the system, setting the edge, and yes doing things that looked spectacular when the game called for it but the Bears defence is such a good unit that Mack was playing in a controlled way that seemed different to the way say a JJ Watt or Aaron Donald play when they’re wrecking a game. It is also different for an edge player as if you don’t play with discipline then you open passing/running lanes for the defence, where as for Watt/Donald their role in the defence is to cause that chaos from the interior of the line.

That said, there were plenty of moments where Mack went around the offensive tackle with speed or used speed to power to cut in and pressure Kirk Cousins. However, whilst there were longer plays left on the field by Cousins, one of the things about him getting the ball out of his hands quickly to players running shorter routes was he did limit the Bears ability to get to him, yet he still got sacked six times. Probably the biggest of Mack’s plays was at the start of the second half where he dipped under left tackle Riley Reiff’s attempted block and got a free run to Cousins and came swiping in for the strip sack. It is on plays like that when Mack can turn a game for you. In fact, the only time the Vikings moved the ball consistently was on their touchdown drive where they caught the Bears with Mack off the field and took advantage as they were running no huddle for most of the drive. It was also the only time they managed to keep the Bears’ defence off balance and they still relied on under passes to Dalvin Cook as well as Stefon Diggs making plays from the edge.

Throughout the game Mack seemed to move between the left and right edge, rushing from a three-point stance or as an outside linebacker and the Bears mixed up their fronts a lot when not playing in their base 3-4 defence. I came away very impressed, but more at the control and precise application of power. It may not have been the most explosive tape I have watched but it was a lot of fun to look at, and I have a feeling that Mack will be out to do a lot more today against his old team in London. I think those heading to the first of the London games are in the treat – I’m a little bit jealous to tell you the truth and I really don’t understand why you would trade a player of this talent away. Sometimes you have to say to hell with the value you are being offered, this is a cornerstone player, and to my mind Khalil Mack is absolutely one of those players.

Competition Thursday: 2019 Week Five

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It was another tough week of picking that saw me just about stay above fifty percent but only by the skin of my teeth.

Gee:                 Week 4   6-9                Overall   32-31
Dan:                 Week 4   6-9                Overall   29-34
Dan’s Dad:         Week 4  5-10             Overall   28-35

Rams @ Seahawks (-1.5)

This is the second tasty looking Thursday night game in a row as the faltering LA Rams head up to Seattle to take on the Seahawks who got back on track with a win last week. This is a contest that pits the eleventh and twelfth ranked teams by DVOA against each other and it feels like it will be a close game. The Seahawks defence doesn’t quite look the same this year, but their offence is top ten, and they can at least rely on Russell Wilson even if it does feel they could utilise his skills more. Meanwhile the Rams lost to the Buccaneers last week with their defence giving up fifty-five points and the offence hasn’t looked quite right all year. For all the talk of there not being a snap limit for Todd Gurley, his actual carries and targets are not the same and Jared Goff has looked distinctly underwhelming in recent weeks. I’m not saying it is time to panic, but with the changes in their offensive line it feels like a different Rams team this season and with them on the road in Seattle on a short week that’s enough for me to cautiously pick the Seahawks. Of course, I’m 1-3 for Thursday night picks this season which did lead to this exchange with Dan, so you can’t say I didn’t warn him:

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

Week  Trivia

‘The Power of 4.
It’s odd how things seem to coalesce around a point and Week 4 became, unfortunately for me, just that.
I’ll gloss over yet another abysmal picks performance which left me 4 off the pace but stoically I recall being that far back before only to recover.

The question I set was:
In how many Super Bowls did the Buffalo Bills appear during the 1990s?

There was only one winner this week and, coincidentally for Week 4, Gee identified that the answer was also 4
I will admit to running an interference play in specifying the date range but I know how these two are prone to overthinking things so a little misdirection can only add a little spice.

Starting with the first Superbowl to be decided by a single point (20:19) in 1990 the Bills not only played in 4 but these were consecutively from 1990 – 1993.
2 points, therefore, to Gee which levels the scores up at 4 each after this week.

The theme question also failed to trouble the umpires although I thought that someone might have spotted the pattern by now.

For Week 5 I’m looking at the Carolina Panthers but I’m resisting asking about the Bromance that developed between them and Leicester City developed in 2016 when City were winning the Premier League. So here goes.
How many rushing yards did DeShaun Foster run in the 2002 regular season?

I’ll allow 50 yards either way and there are 2 points for a correct answer’

The Unknowable NFL

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All bar the two teams on a bye last week have sailed past the quarter pole of the season and this Sunday sees the first of the four game London series getting played so we can definitely say that the 2019 season is in full swing, but as so often the case it feels like we know less for certain than ever about how the teams are going. Let’s see if I can explains some of that as I take you through my week of the NFL.

What I Saw

Week four started with one of the more entertaining games we have seen this year with he Philadelphia Eagles running out 34-27 winner in Green Bay against the Packers. The game started out as I expected with the Packers defence looking strong and the packers taking an early touchdown lead but in the second quarter three Eagles’ touchdowns saw them take a lead that they would hold until late in the third quarter and retake in the fourth. A strong offensive line performance enabled the Eagles to rush for one hundred and seventy-six yards and not give up any sacks whilst their defence held the Packers to under four yards per carry until the Packers virtually gave up on running that ball. What the Packers were able to do was throw the ball and it was Aaron Rodgers who kept them in the game (despite losing tackle Bryan Bulaga early) thanks to a four hundred and twenty-two yard passing day. The offence may not be clicking yet for the Packers but I think that Rodgers and Matt LaFleur will find a way and the league had better watch out when they do given how the Packers defence has played. The Eagles meanwhile really needed that win to stay in the NFC East race now that the New York Giants have found two wins in the opening four games. They had some players come back from injury but it was good to see the coaching staff get the win despite the players they were still missing.

The first of the Sunday games that I watched was between the Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers who through a defensive game that saw only two touchdowns but nine sacks as the Panthers ran out 16-10 winners on the road. This win was built on the Panthers’ derfence’s ability to contain the Texans offence, particularly in the passing game where Deshaun Watson only threw for one hundred and sixty yards whilst getting sacked six times and harried a lot more. There are still problems with the offensive line (which might be worth a coaching tape look at some point) and Watson has a tendency to hold onto the ball trying to make a play. You can hear him talk about the coverage in this clip that got a lot of people talking about his honesty so it’s worth having a look. Meanwhile the Panthers have got their second straight win since Kyle Allen has replace the injured Cam Newton, but whilst he was efficient enough to get the win he has to work on his ball security/pocket awareness as you can’t expect to fumble away the ball three times and expect to keep winning games. The defence played well, but in this era of multiple offences and running back by committee special mention has to go to Christian McCaffery who played all sixty-eight of the Panthers’ offensive snaps, amassing ninety-three yards on the ground with the teams only touchdown as well as eighty-six yards catching the ball. The Panthers look to be holding things together whilst they wait for Newton to get properly healthy, but they have an awful lot resting on the body of McCaffery at the moment and I just hope he can keep carrying the load until Newton comes back. Meanwhile the Texans are one of the four AFC South teams that are 2-2, which looks again to be a division that will beat each other up all year and then one or two teams will get hot at the end of the season and make the playoffs. The long term concern is the roster construction given the draft picks they have traded away going into the season as it does not appear that they are as close to challenging for the Super Bowl as the trades would suggest they think they are.

The second Sunday game I watched was another low scoring affair (if I wanted offence the Buccaneers @ Rams was the way to go) as the Dallas Cowboy lost a close one on the road 12-10 to the New Orleans Saints. This was a game that only saw one touchdown and that was for the losing Cowboys as both defences dominated the day. For all their early season success the Cowboys struggled to move the ball, particularly on the ground where they were only able to get forty-five yards as the Saints defence new exactly where to be for each run. The Cowboys were not able to get enough done through the air to win the game with Presscott throwing for two hundred and twenty-three yards and an interception. If the Cowboys didn’t quite look like themselves on the road, the Saints look to have a really good defence that is allowing them to win games without Drew Brees. Teddy Bridgewater threw for under two hundred yards in this game with a long of only twenty yards but the offence managed to rush for over one hundred yards thanks in large part to the power and balance of Alvin Kamara. The Saints will be hoping to keep themselves in the hunt until Drew Brees gets back, but I don’t know if they can keep relying on their defence to play like they did in this game. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have to hope that this was a blip road loss, but the offence did not look like it was flowing properly and that’s something to keep an eye on.

I don’t want to write about the final game of the week, but given that the Cincinnati Bengals were playing in the Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers I have no good reason not to cover their miserable 3-27 loss on the road. The problems are perhaps obvious and to an extent predictable as the Bengals kept losing offensive line starters before the season had even started and four games into the season they are struggling to make room in the running game or protect Andy Dalton when passing the ball. The other worry I have is at linebacker and in particular at the edges of the defence and this came to pass as the Steelers used Jaylen Samuels to take direct snaps and touch passes to attach the edges. It’s hard to tell how much of a turnaround this is for the Steelers given how Bengals have played this season but it’s a step. Meanwhile, the Bengals are facing a huge game this Sunday as in only their second home game of the season they welcome another winless team, the Arizona Cardinals and if they don’t win that one then this thing could get really ugly. I’m probably clinging to tightly the fact that two of the games were really competitive and the Bengals have face three tough road games so far but that comes to an end this week.

What I Heard

There has been continuing conversations about the new wave of quarterbacks and backups as rookies Gardiner Minshew II and Daniel Jones got their second wins as starters, Kyle Allen got a second win with the Panthers whilst Chase Daniels came off the bench to help the Bears beat the Vikings in a performance that has drawn comments about how Daniels was able to at least get the ball out where it was supposed to and accurately on the underneath throws.

The Vikings offence has been another source of discussion given it’s focus on running the ball despite Kirk Cousins being in the second year of an $84 million guaranteed contract. Normally you might question the offensive coordinator’s but given his track record with OCs this really sits with head coach Mike Zimmer who is always talking about running the ball, but it doesn’t make sense to be so focussed on that when you have arguably one of the best receiving duos in the league. There’s been plenty of criticism of Kirk Cousins, but to my mind that feels a lot like the criticism of Andy Dalton and no these are not the elite of the elite, but they are good enough to win if you put the right team around them. I agree with the commentators who say that you can compete by paying elite but were you get into trouble is overpaying for talent. This isn’t a matter of who deserves to get paid as a human being but how you build a competitive roster in a salary cap sport and the I don’t think the problem is necessarily in the roster of the Vikings (their o-line could be better but so could most teams these days) but there is a disconnect in paying Cousins what they are and then not utilising him. I respect coach Zimmer and was reluctant to see him leave the Bengals although happy he was finally getting a chance to lead a team, but I do wonder if he has reached his level if he can’t allow his offence to run as the current version of the NFL dictates. I have a feeling he’s stubborn enough to keep the team playing like this and so the Vikings will be competitive but I don’t know that they are going to maximise this year’s team and that is a worry as the defence is not getting any younger.

What I Think

I have watched the transformation of Vontaze Burfict from a tone setting star of the defence who got the team lined up and played up to the line whilst straying over it occasionally to a liability who seems lost in his own mythos as his time on the field got less reducing both his productivity and conduct. The hit that got him ejected from this week’s game is being legislated out of the game for a reason, but almost as bad was the grin as trotted off as if he was proud of himself. There are team mates and coaches for the Raiders who are unhappy but I’m not sure that feeling will be shared around the league and there are plenty who are happy to see him gone for the season. In fact it’s not hard to find people who don’t want to see him play again. There is an argument about taking away someone’s lively hood but the fact of the matter is that in no other industry would a disregard of the rules be tolerated, particularly in a matter of health and safety. It’s not always possible to adjust when players are going at full speed but when you have the track record of Burfict you lose the benefit of the doubt.

What I Know

That after a thoroughly miserable time watching the Bengals this week I am hoping to both actually get to some coaching tape and to cheer myself up by watching Khalil Mack who is once again showing just how bad an idea it was to trade him away. It should be a fun subplot this weekend in London as the Bears take on the Raiders for the first time since Mack was trade to Chicago last year.

What I Hope

That one of Dan and I get put out of our misery and gets our first win and that the NFL continues to be as unpredictable as it was this week, even if it is terrible for our picks…

2019 Week Four Picks

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I feel frustrated that I didn’t find the time to watch coaching tape again this week, but there is only so much time in a day and we’ll have to see if I can protect my blog time better next week. There is time for me to take another quick run through the picks, but let’s start with this week’s trivia question. We were asked:

‘In how many Super Bowls did the Buffalo Bills appear during the 1990s?
To be clear it if for Super Bowls played between 1.1.1990 and 31.12.1999.

For once I am pretty confident about the answer as the Jim Kelly Bills famously lost four straight Super Bowls, and whilst I’m slightly worried that 3D (Dan’s Devious Dad) is trying a sneaky one with the date clarification, I’m sticking with the four that I think were all in the 90s.

As for the theme, I’m still not totally sure but I’m trying that each answer lost their last Super Bowl appearance.

‘I’m completely guessing this week. The very early 90s would have been when they would have had OJ Simpson [OJ played in the 70s so I think Dan is double wrong this week, but in fairness it could be me who is mistaken – Ed.] playing for them, and I think he took them to a Super Bowl so I don’t think the answer is zero. I think I’ll stick with ONE as my answer this week.

No guess on the theme, but I don’t think it’s cleared up enough for Gee to get it either so I’m not too concerned about that!’

One last thing before we get to the pics as I thought this nugget from Dan’s Dad in our group chat was particularly on point regarding picking games:

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Titans @ Falcons (-4.5)

I do not trust either of these teams as the Tennessee Titans are struggling on offence and the Atlanta Falcons seem to be plain struggling so I don’t see how the Falcons should be favoured by this much.

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

Patriots @ Bills (+7.5)

The New England Patriots have started the season very strongly and I expect them to win this game but the Pats have picked up some injuries on offence whilst the Bills defence has looked really good (top ten by DVOA good through three weeks) and so I think this game will be more competitive than this line suggests.

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

Browns @ Ravens (-6.5)

The Cleveland Browns are 1-2 for a reason, their offence isn’t quite clicking and this week they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens whose offence is very much clicking. The Brown do have the kind of receiving talent that could exploit any break downs in the secondary as the Chiefs did to the Ravens last week, but I don’t see the Ravens having failures like that two weeks in a row and for all his presence in the media, the Browns’ Baker Mayfield is no Patrick Mahomes.

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

Chiefs @ Lions (+6.5)

The unbeaten Detroit Lions welcome the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs but only one of these teams have tied a game to the 0-3 Cardinals. In fairness the Lions have been pretty solid and the Chiefs have picked up a couple of injuries on offence but whilst I would usually jump on this number of points for a home team, the idea of picking against Patrick Mahomes is making pick the favourite this time round.

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

Raiders @ Colts (-6.5)

The Oakland Raiders have looked competitive in a couple of games but have not looked good to me and have a lowly DVOA rankings as well as only one win against an even worse Broncos team. This week they take on the Indianapolis Colts who have a very good roster and Jacoby Brissett has done well replacing Andrew Luck so whilst the points give me pause, the Raiders road record seals the pick for me.

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

Chargers @ Dolphins (+16.5)

The Miami Dolphins #FishTank or roster reboot has certainly been effective at losing them games but there are genuine questions about whether an NFL team has ever really competed for a Super Bowl after going through this process. This week they welcome an LA Chargers team who are struggling with injury (a common occurrence for them it feels) who I expect may well win this game but I fancy this as the Dolphins first cover of the season as this is just too many points for me this week.

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

Washington @ Giants (-3.5)

In another universe this may well be a game featuring two rookie quarterbacks but whilst the New York Giants began their new era having got a win with Daniel Jones in his first start, the team from Washington seem to be riven with dysfunction. There are rumours that Dwayne Haskins was an ownership pick rather than one the Jay Gruden believed in, but whatever the case Washington have not looked good. I think the Giants will win at home but I really don’t like the line and whilst the numbers might suggest that Washington is the pick I can’t quite bring myself to do it.

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

Panthers @ Texans (-4.5)

The Carolina Panthers actually looked better last week and got their first win of the season with Kyle Allen playing quarterback, which is more to do with Cam Newton being injured than not being any good, although the Panthers might be concerned about Newton’s long-term health given the number of hits he has taken through his career. This week they travel to take on the 2-1 Houston Texans who are all in for the season but have not truly convinced. The offensive line is still letting Deshaun Watson get hit too much but it’s the middle of the league ranked defence that is surprising. In a game where I don’t really trust either team I’m going to grab the points and this could well be one of the games I watch this week.

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

Buccaneers @ Rams (-9.5)

I absolutely hate this line as the LA Rams are the better team but have not exactly looked great this season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been all over the shop. I love Bruce Arians but he seemed to be making some strange decisions at the end of the game last week and in the process lost to the New York Giants. However, this is a Rams whose defence is top five by DVOA and I don’t trust Jameis Winston at all. This could really come back to bite me, but at home I am going to ignore the numbers and take the Rams.

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

Seahawks @ Cardinals (+4.5)

The Arizona Cardinals have not looked like a good football team despite Kyler Murray flashing and part of that is Kliff Kingsbury is still trying to find his way in the NFL with his offence. The Cardinals welcome a Seattle Seahawks team whose defence is not up to its usual standards but the offence is ranked fifth in the league by DVOA thanks to some good young receivers and the continued excellence of Russell Wilson and so that is where I am playing my trust.

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

Vikings @ Bears (-2.5)

The Chicago Bears may have finally got some touchdowns for Mitchell Trubisky last week, but I still don’t trust their offence as they welcome a strong looking Minnesota Vikings team whose defence looks as great as the Bears. There are questions about Kirk Cousins and the Vikings are running the ball a lot on offence so I suspect this game will be competitive with a tight score line. It’s for this reason that I’m grabbing the points, but I would not be surprised if either team won.

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

Jaguars @ Broncos (-3.5)

This game could be a trap but I’m going to walk into it anyway. The Denver Broncos have not looked good this season and who would have expected a defence with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to have no sacks with Vic Fangio has head coach? Meanwhile, for all the nonsense surrounding Jalen Ramsey the Jacksonville Jaguars might have found something on the other side of the ball in rookie Gardiner Minshew II playing quarterback and so whilst Mile High stadium is still a tough place to play I can’t help but pick the Jaguars when I’m getting this many points.

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

Cowboys @ Saints (+2.5)

This could well be matchup of the week with the unbeaten Dallas Cowboys taking on the 2-1 New Orleans Saints. I was impressed with the Saints team win against the Seahawks last week and Teddy Bridgewater did enough with a week for Sean Payton to scheme things up. However, the Cowboys have been impressive all season with Dak Prescott thriving in the new offence that sees them currently ranked number one in the league by DVOA. This leads to the strange line where the Saints are underdogs at home, which would be an automatic pick if Drew Brees was playing, but he’s not and the Saints can’t have the same luck as they had last week so I’m laying the points. This could well be another trap…

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

Bengals @ Steelers (-4.5)

What a stunning matchup for Monday night football with two winless teams vying to get themselves their first win – watch this game end in a tie. The Pittsburgh Steelers are somehow laying four and a half points in this one despite the offence looking like it’s missing Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell plus the defence is still struggling. The Cincinnati Bengals don’t rank any better by DVOA but they have been competitive in two of their games and I do think they are a little better than their record would suggest. I’m not saying they will get their first win on the road in Pittsburgh this week, but I like their chances of being within five.

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

 

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 on their site.