2018 Week Six Picks

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So let’s hope I can do a little better this week than the last one, we shall see, but first the proof that Dan’s dad is doing so much better at setting trivia questions that we are at answering them.

‘I don’t remember asking any questions so far about College Football yet its popularity is huge. Just this once I will allow the use of Google just this once:

Which college has produced the most Hall of Famers in pro football?

OK so here comes the promised Week 6 BONUS and this one is for 2 points so we can get the scoreboard ticking:

Who holds the in-game record all time FG distance and what is it?

Okay, so this is a pair of interesting questions. I have a couple of theories on the first one, I think Miami Hurricanes have a lot because of their history on defence, and USC have a bunch as well but I think the college with the most is actually not one you might think of now because Notre Dame used to be huge as a football team (I’ve heard this thanks to listening to Tony Kornheiser) so that’s what I’m nervously going for.

The kicking thing is going to drive me round the bend whilst Dan is obsessed with it so think he’s going to beat me but my guess, and it is a shot in the dark, is Sebastian Janikowski but it’s a guess… Let’s say sixty-four yards as Gano’s last week was sixty-three.

I’m taking a decent lead here in the Trivia after a slow start!

So question 1, I am stuck on. I don’t watch and don’t follow college football, so I’m going to go with Texas A&M as one of the only ones I can name off the top of my head!

And for question 2, I think dad’s snookered himself here, because I think Graham Gano’s kick was the joint longest as it goes! So I’ll say along with him, Adam Vinatieri, and 63 yards.’

Buccaneers @ Falcons (-3.5)

This is a strange game in that the Atlanta Falcons are really struggling as the injuries reached a critical mass early, particularly on defence and so whilst the offence is ranked eleventh, they haven’t been able to overcome the problems on defence. This week they welcome a Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming off a bye but they were last been seen getting dismantled by the Chicago Bears. They are returning with Jameis Winston as the starter and a defence that ranks dead last in the league by DVOA. The up and down nature of the Bucs play doesn’t inspire confidence but neither does the Falcons, so how do you pick? The two teams are ranked next to each other and whilst the Falcons are at home and do have a better quarterback, the extra half point just makes me worry yet I can’t find it in myself to put my trust in the Buccaneers. I could be really wrong on this.

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

Difficult pick straight off the bat here. I’ll go with Atlanta as I think they’ve got enough to win this one, especially with Home advantage.’

Bills @ Texans (-7.5)

This line makes me nervous as the Texans have not exactly been convincing. Bill O’Brien failed to co-ordinate a lot of points in the red zone last week and got Deshaun Watson hit too much and his defence, whilst looking good in the front seven has problems in coverage. This week they welcome a Bills team who compete and have somehow managed to win two games despite the deficiencies in their roster and this is making this game and absolute nightmare to pick. I think the Texans are more likely to win than not, but the Bills have twice pulled an upset and the fact that the Texans need to win by eight points to cover is definitely worrying me. In the end I can’t quite back the Texans to do that, but I could look very silly by the end of this evening.

Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Bills

The Bills have looked a different team to that of the first couple of weeks of the year. That being said, the Texans look good too, but given the size of the spread, I’ll go with Buffalo.’

Bears @ Dolphins (+2.5)

The good news for the Miami Dolphins is that Laremy Tunsil has cleared the concussion protocol and is expected to play against the Chicage Bears. The bad news is that the Bears defence is currently ranked first in the league by DVOA and Khalil Mack has been an MVP candidate through the first four weeks of the season. Coming off their bye the Bears will be rested and looking to build on the offensive performance of their last game where Mitch Trubisky threw for six touchdowns. This is not the team that the Dolphins will exactly have chosen to try to arrest their two game losing streak against, but it’s not the worst either. The points at home are tempting but the injuries to the Dolphins worry me and with Tannehill dealing with a shoulder injury and the Bears having a week to consolidate on the best performance by Trubisky so far I’m plumping for the Bears.

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

Even with the possibility of no Tannerhill, leaving us open to the return of Brock Osweiler…!’

Steelers @ Bengals (-2.5)

I’m really not sure about this game. The Bengals have scraped several wins this season and I’m still waiting to see how the Bengals offence holds up minus Tyler Eifert long term and whether the defence can really solidify. They host a Steelers team who got a good win against the Falcons last week and who have generally had the better of the Bengals in this bitter rivalry. The offence is top ten by DVOA and the defence looked better last week and given the history of this game I am going to make the emotional hedge of backing the Steelers and hoping to be proven wrong.

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

The Steelers are a bit of a mess at the minute… and if the Bengals can play how they did for the second half of last week, they should do this fairly easily.’

Chargers @ Browns (+0.5)

This should be an entertaining game as the LA Chargers and their third ranked offence by DVOA travel to face a two win Browns team and their second ranked by DVOA defence. I can see why Hue Jackson is trying to keep his team grounded but it’s just good to see the long suffering Cleveland fans excited about their quarterback. This is not an easy journey for the Chargers who seem to specialise in close games but are traveling cross country to play an early game and in front of an energised stadium I’m tempted by the Browns but there is a huge gap between them in rankings and Philip Rivers just has me backing the Chargers. I think…

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

They’ve kept it close all season in Cleveland. I think they’ll win this week.’

Colts @ Jets (-2.5)

This is a strange game for me to pick as the New York Jets have been up and down all season and last week rookie Sam Darnold throwing three touchdowns as the Jets beat the Broncos. This week they face an Indianapolis Colts team coming off a long week following their Thursday night loss to the Patriots. Andrew Luck continues to look good as the Colts continue to compete every week and have several times made the games closer than the scores might suggest. As a consequence, I’m finding this one a little hard to pick but with the Jets at home and only needing a field goal to win I’m going for the Jets and let’s see how I do.

Gee’s Pick: Jets
Dan’s Pick: Jets

This is close. Tough pick…. I think I’m going to go with New York purely because they’ve got the home advantage.’

Seahawks @ Raiders (+2.5)

The Seattle Seahawks may not have got back to winning ways at home last week, but they made the LA Rams really work for their victory and are definitely beginning to look like they are establishing Pete Carroll’s old template of tough defence and running the ball. This may not be your legion of boom defence but I like them going against an Oakland Raiders team who have not looked good this season and who look slow on defence. I could be wrong, particularly as the fact that this game is the first in London this year throws the home/road situation into flux, but I just fancy the Seahawks to keep themselves in the playoff mix with a win this week.

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

Unfortunately for the Raiders, I think they’re going to go 0-2 at Wembley here. I’m going for the Seahawks, but as with all of the Wembley games, it really could go either way.’

Cardinals @ Vikings (-10.5)

The Minnesota Vikings got back to winning ways last week and now host an Arizona Cardinals team who got their own first win. In fact the Cardinals have a top ten defence by DVOA and have quietly only lost the two games before that by two and three points. I don’t think they can suddenly turn the Vikings over on the road but this is too many points for a team that are still righting themselves after a difficult start, even if they do have a genuine home advantage.

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

The Vikings will win this one, but I don’t think it’ll be by more thank 10.5 points, so I’ll go with the Cards.’

Panthers @ Washington (-1.5)

In something of a theme for this week I am really unsure about this game. We last saw Washington getting thrashed by a New Orleans Saints offence that seemed to have exactly the right mix of deception and skill on offence to expose their defence. It was bad enough that Josh Norman got sat but the Panthers are a different team on offence and this season have a surprisingly lowly rated defence. They had a tough time last week, needing a sixty-three yard field goal to beat the struggling Giants and so I really have no idea on what I can rely on in this game. That said I have more faith in what Norv Turner and Cam Newton are building on offence and with Thomas Davis coming back from a PED suspension for the defence I’m going to grab the points.

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

Hmmm… I really don’t know which way to go here… I think I’m going to call it as a Panthers win, but I don’t feel confident about it.’

Rams @ Broncos (+6.5)

So having had a tough time on the road in Seattle, the LA Rams now roll into Mile High Stadium to take on the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks demonstrated a formula for beating the Rams, even if they couldn’t pull off the upset and the Broncos actually have the number one ranked rush attack by DVOA so they have half of the Seahawk’s formula down. The problem is that this is not the Denver defence of recent seasons and can Von Miller get enough pressure to disrupt the rolling Rams offence? The Rams seemed to cope with two of their starting receivers leaving the game with concussions last week but both Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp have cleared concussion protocol and will play this week. The question is can they beat this big line, which they have done four times already this season, but on the road in Denver I do wonder if they might come unstuck but given that this pits the league’s third ranked team in points scored per game versus the twenty-second ranked team in points allowed per game, I’m going to back the Rams.

Gee’s Pick: Rams
Dan’s Pick: Rams

Rams are going to continue their unbeaten run this week, going 6-0 against the Broncos.’

Jaguars @ Cowboys (+2.5)

The Dallas Cowboys lost last week in overtime and this week they welcome a Jacksonville Jaguars team whose third ranked defence by DVOA has the players to make life very difficult for a static offence who asks its receivers to win one on one matchups and whose offensive line and run game are not dominating as they have in recent years. What gives them a chance however is that Blake Bortles has pretty much been peak Bortles this year, with up and down performances that can’t be helped by Leonard Fournette’s injuries. I think the Jaguars are the better team but coming off a difficult road loss to the Chiefs but I do wonder if a second road game might suffer the same problem yet I can’t quite bring myself to back the Cowboys pulling off the upset despite getting points at home.

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

Another close one, but I think the Cowboys will do this. Zeke’s back on form so I think he’ll have a good one this week.’

Ravens @ Titans (+2.5)

So the Tennessee Titans are back home this week and facing a Baltimore Ravens team having lost on the road to the Buffalo Bills the week before. Last week I argued that the Titans’ offence looked to have turned a corner but that didn’t hold true and this week they face a Ravens’ defence that are top five in the league by DVOA, which they have paired with a mid-ranked offence and slightly lower special teams ranking than usual. The Ravens may have lost to the Cleveland Browns last week, but they are used to the scrappy games the Titans have been playing all season but there are six home underdogs this week and so far I have backed the road favourite in each game. I have a feeling not all of those are going to come in and the Titans look to be the best bet to cover for me so I’m going to grab them at home and hope…

Gee’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Pick: Titans

Other than the Dolphins game in week one, Tennessee sound like they’re doing some good things this year. I’ll go for them this week against Baltimore.’

Chiefs @ Patriots (-3.5)

I am really excited about this matchup that pits the Andy Reid’s high flying unbeaten team against a Patriots that turned the corner at the beginning of October and who have won two straight pretty convincingly whilst scoring thirty-eight points. They need to do this given that their defence ranks nineteenth by DVOA but that is positively stratospheric compared to the Chiefs’ ranking of twenty-eighth. Something has to give and it just feels more likely that the Chiefs will end up 5-1 than the Patriots falling back to 3-3 despite the fact that the Chiefs won this very game last season, although that was in week one and the Patriots went on to the Super Bowl. I’m backing Brady and Belichick with revenge on the mind although I don’t feel that confident about it.

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

Wow, this should be a good one. Unfortunately for Kansas (and everyone fighting to keep up in the AFC East!) I think they’re going to get their first loss this week. I’m calling Patriots.’

49ers @ Packers (-9.5)

This game looked a very different fixture when the TV games were selected, but whilst CJ Beathard has not been a terrible replacement quarterback for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, it is hard to see the 49ers getting much on the road against the Packers. The question though is can they keep this game to within ten and that is trickier as Aaron Rodgers has been pretty unimpressed with how the offence has been playing as he fights the knee injury that has hobbled him for most of the season. The Packers are coming off a loss to the Detroit Packers, who interestingly now have three straight wins over the Packers but we have to go back to 2015 for the last time these two team faced each other and 2012 for the 49ers to be making a trip to Lambeau Field. A big part of last week’s Packers loss was Mason Crosby missing four field goal attempts and an extra point and that is likely to be on his mind in this nationally televised game. I’m really not sure how the Packers are going to look this week and whilst I expect them to win, the ten points require this feels like too many even if they are at home. I’m going back and forth but I’ve kept getting bitten by big lines this season but the 49ers just lost by ten points to the Cardinals at home and so I’m risking the Packers.

Gee’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Pick: 49ers

I just cant back the Packers by 10 points here. It’s too much of a big spread, even with the 49ers not being great.’

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AAF: Chiefs’ Offence vs Jaguar’s Defence

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This week’s amateur adventures in film has me looking at another offence (I know, what has happen to me?) as I was just too tempted by the matchup of the Kansas City Chiefs high flying offence going against the Jaguars vaunted defence.

Having looked at Matt Nagy’s offence last week, you can see the relation to what Andy Reid is doing as they share the extensive use of Jet Sweep motion, i.e a receiver coming in motions and either being given the ball or a handoff is faked. This is particularly effective for the Chiefs given Tyreek Hill’s speed as he is often the motion man but Sammy Watkins also runs several plays. The Chiefs use a lot of motion anyway, mainly utilising a mixture of 11 and 12 personnel, although Travis Kelce may be listed as a tight-end but he plays more like a difficult to match up to receiver.

The Chiefs like a lot of the best offences run groupings routes designed to challenge the defence at multiple levels rather than relying on a receiver winning their matchup, but they faced an interesting problem against the Jaguars formidable defence. It was a strange game in that the Chiefs won convincingly and with a score line of 30-14 it looks fairly straight forward and yet the offence didn’t have things their own way. The running game was contained for most of the time and may have finished with one-hundred and twenty-six yards off thirty carries, giving an average of 4.2 yards per carry, but if you remove Kareem Hunt’s long run of 24 yards that average drops to 3.5. However, this commitment and number of carries established balance and that is one of the things that I think is key in running a successful offence. I think the days of establishing the run our long gone, but I think it is important to challenge the defence by having a credible threat of using both run and pass plays and play-action is very definitely a quarterback’s friend.

Speaking of which, this wasn’t exactly a bad game for Patrick Mahomes but it was one where he threw two interceptions and didn’t have a touchdown pass even if he did gain over three hundred yards. There were one or two balls where the receivers were covered yet he threw it anyway. I also don’t remember seeing the Jaguars’ defence run as much zone coverage as they did in this game before, with them sometimes playing cover three. One of the nice pickups that the Chiefs had was on one of the rare occasions where the Jaguars sent an extra linebacker to rush the passer and Mahomes was able to find Travis Kelce in a soft part of the zone before the safety could get up to him and Kelce was able to wrong foot the would be tackler and get a nice pickup before he was finally stopped.

This was the big thing in this game, the cat and mouse between offence and defence and it produced a really interesting competition between these two units. It was inevitable that Mahomes would not be able to maintain his stellar opening to the season in all games but he still made good plays and there were almost casual throws that were right on the money. However, there were also interceptions where he trusted his arm to make the play and was wrong, although the Jaguars defence will do that to many a quarterback. Still, the Chiefs won comfortably despite his turnovers thanks to those of Blake Bortles and the Chiefs’ offence moved the ball effectively even if they had more trouble than usual in this particular game. I shall resist making any big proclamations, but it was definitely fun tape to go through. It may be time to get back to a defensive player or unit though, given my focus on offence and quarterbacks so far this year. I don’t know what has come over me…

Competition Thursday: 2018 Week 6

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Well, I managed to drop another point back in the trivia competition with Dan and just about managed to stay ahead of him in the picks competition whilst slipping back into a losing overall record. Time to re-evaluate my process but just because I was wrong doesn’t necessarily mean the picks were.

Gee:     Week 5   4-11              Overall   38-40
Dan:    Week 5   7-8                Overall   36-42

Eagles @ Giants (+2.5)

So the week six Thursday night game pits two divisional foes against each and both are struggling for different reasons. The Giants offence continues to struggle with Eli Manning unable to turnaround his form of recent seasons despite the moves over the summer and the defence currently ranks down in the twenties by DVOA. The Eagles were struggling with injuries even before they lost Jay Ajayi for the season with an ACL tear and whilst their defence is holding in with a ranking of eleventh by DVOA, the offence has not found a rhythm and is currently ranked twenty-fourth.

My first instinct is that the Eagles will find a way to win this game but what makes me hesitate is that the Giants put a very credible effort up against the Panthers, are at home on a Thursday night, and are getting points. I think this game is too important for the Eagles to lose having already lost two straight and with them only needing a field goal to cover I’m going to back them on the road, but with the way things have been going I would hardly be surprised if the Giants managed to cover or win.

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

Week 6 Trivia

‘In Week 5 I asked who kicked the longest field goal of the 2017/18 season.

Good answers all round, I can see the logic in both but this time the point goes to Dan.

Strangely when Panthers’ Graham Gano slotted a 63yd game winning FG against the Giants in Week 5 he eclipsed last season’s best kick and notched one of the longest in history (in a game NOT practice). I feel a BONUS question coming on!

Eyes down for Week 6 then:

I don’t remember asking any questions so far about College Football yet its popularity is huge. Just this once I will allow the use of Google, just this once:

Which college has produced the most Hall of Famers in pro football?

OK so here comes the promised Week 6 BONUS and this one is for 2 points so we can get the scoreboard ticking:

Who holds the in-game record all time FG distance and what is it?

A Quarter of the Way Through

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So I have learnt through several attempts that even a couple of lines per team soon adds up to a lot of work on a league wide survey post so I’m breaking this down into sections and still planning to hit each team as I work my way through this quick check now that every team is at least a quarter of the way through their season.

The Conference Leaders

The top tier of teams so far this season contains two teams who have made themselves stand apart by dint of their unbeaten records. Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the LA Rams have high flying offences with young quarterbacks and defences that are between suspect (Rams are injured and you can run on them) and plain bad (the Chiefs improved a little last week but still rank 28th by DVOA). We have a long way to go but right now these two teams are the front runners and everyone else is scrambling to keep up.

The Real Contenders

My next tier of teams contains a mixture of teams with one or two losses except for one team with three. The one loss teams include the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, and the Carolina Panthers. The two loss teams are the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, LA Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Washington. The final team I’m throwing into the mix are the Philadelphia Eagles, which I’ll explain in context as there are some really interesting divisional battles going on here, which is how I’ll break this tier down.

The AFC East looks like it will come down to either the Dolphins or the Patriots, and with how the last two weeks have gone it looks like the Patriots will resume their usual place atop the division in the coming weeks. The return of Julian Edelman helped their offence and we have already seen glimpses of what Josh Gordon might be able to do with Tom Brady. The Dolphins have lost their last two games, which were on the road but they are also about to welcome the fearsome Bears defence and stopping Khalil Mack with two offensive linemen on IR and Laremy Tunsil in the concussion protocol will not be easy. I like a lot of what Adam Gase has done but the wheels could be coming off again for him, much as it pains me to say it although they still have plenty of team speed.

In the AFC North the Bengals have an offence transformed from last season and defence that is a work in progress and whilst not always pretty, they keep finding ways to win late. The Baltimore Ravens have looked good this year with an improved offence thanks to better receiving options and the usual defensive excellence but have dropped divisional games to the Bengals and Browns already. Finally, we have the Pittsburgh Steelers who are really struggling for a team who are usually contenders and have been in the headlines all year thanks to Le’Veon Bell’s holdout and problems on defence. It’s possible they will drop a tier but I have too much respect for the infrastructure and the competitiveness of this team to do it quite yet but they do not look good.

Right now, despite them having the same record as the Tennessee Titans, I’m only listing the Jaguars from the AFC South in this tier. This is for the simple reason that as Jekyll and Hyde as Blake Bortles has been, the defence is ranked third in defence by DVOA and I expect them to get back to the playoffs. Plus the Titans get a big demerit for losing to the Bills this week…

The LA Chargers are already two games back on the Chiefs in the AFC West and have made life difficult for themselves already, but their offence is ranked third in the league by DVOA and will get a real boost on defence once Joey Bosa gets back from injury so will be hoping they can stay in the race.

The NFC East is a division in flux right now and I have picked the first and third teams as they currently stand. Washington are 2-2 and stand atop of the division right now by dint of having one less loss through already having had their bye week. I can’t discount them as they are top of the division and they did beat the Packers in week three but they just got blown out by the Saints and they could easily slide down a tier but the state of the division might keep them in this tier. The other team I’m putting here are the Eagles who are off to a slow start thanks to injuries and things not quite working out. That said, they can get back to even with a win against the genuinely flawed Giants Thursday night and I can’t rule out them turning things round. It is worth noting however that they lost a lot of coaches on the offensive side of the ball in the offseason and this combined with the player injuries may have contributed to the slow start.

The Chicago Bears offence is ranked first in the league by DVOA and are spearheaded by Khalil Mack who has been on fire since being traded from Oakland. The offence has done enough for three wins and time will tell if their six touchdown performance in week four was Matt Nagy taking advantage of a predictable Bucaneers’ defence or if it was something of a breakout for Mitch Turbisky. They currently stand atop the NFC North but both the Packers and the Vikings are lurking one win back. The Vikings have had a strange up and down start to the season where the defence hasn’t quite looked the same as recent seasons but Kirk Cousins and new offensive coordinator John DeFillippo seem to be forming a good partnership even if the DVOA ranking is not living up to last year. I have faith that with average injury luck that Mike Zimmer will have them be competitive at the end of the year. Similar things should hold true for the Packers, as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy they’ll be competitive at the end of the year, but they need to get some road wins under their belt as they’ve lost both games so far and have games against the Rams and Patriots on the horizon. It certainly looks like they have work to do to stay in with a chance in this competitive division this year but I wouldn’t rule them out just yet.

The NFC South looks like it is going to be between two teams this seasons. The Panthers may have needed a last minute field goal to win against the Giants on Sunday, but win they did to maintain their unbeaten record at home. The defence is uncharacteristically out of the top ten by DVOA but they look like a tough team who are setup to compete all year, even with Greg Olson battling foot problems. The New Orleans Saints have picked up where they left off on offence, helped this week by the return of Mark Ingram from suspension. The defence started slowly, but looked better against Washington on Monday and special mention should go to Taysom Hill who is doing a bit of everything for this team from read-option quarterbacking to special teams. Oh yes, and Drew Brees is really good and is now the NFL’s all-time passing yards leader!

And that’s it for this tier, the NFC West don’t get a mention and you’ll find out why in a second.

The Outside Chances and Earnt Respect

So this is where I’m going to separate the rest of the two win teams I can see might do something from those who won’t, which should make some sense once I run through them. Oh yes, and there’s the minor matter of the only three-win team I haven’t mentioned yet.

The Seattle Seahawks are another team like the Bengals who had three road games in their opening four and they may have lost their second home game against the Rams last week, but they made them work for it. The defence is still top ten by DVOA and although they have struggled on offence, they are just outside the top ten in the rush attack and that combination can make you competitive even if you are already three games back in the division. I’m concerned I’m over valuing past performance but they have a definite home advantage and I don’t expect them to go quietly into the night.

Dallas are not even one game back in the division but have not looked good. A combination of unimaginative play calling, injuries/decline in the offensive line and a lack of options in the passing game has hurt their offence but the defence had looked better and there’s an outside chance they can remain competitive in a poor division but they need to get their act together and I’m not convinced their coaching staff are setup to do that.

Jumping conferences, the Tennessee Titans are the first team that leaps to mind given they have three wins. The problem is that they have to grind all of those out, and just when I thought that Marcus Mariota and the offence are turning things round, they lay an egg against Buffalo. It is Mike Vrabel’s first year as head coach and with a defence just out of the top ten by DVOA and a special teams unit that is top five, he only needs the offence to come together a little better for them to push on. It wouldn’t surprise me if he can pull them up but I can’t predict it just yet.

The Houston Texans are only a game back from the Jacksonville Jaguars, but need to build on their two game win streak. The defence’s front seven look to be coming together but they look to have problems in coverage, whereas the offence looks okay until they get to the red zone. Bill O’Brien needs to stop getting Deshaun Watson hit so much and figure out a way to get into the end zone, but they could yet drag themselves into contention, which O’Brien has managed before with worse quarterbacks than Watson.

Finally a special mention in this tier are the Cleveland Browns who could credibly have been 5-0 this season, and have not lost by more than three points this season. They look to have finally found a quarterback in Baker Mayfield that this reboot of the franchise has never had whilst the defence ranks second in the league. For all the strangeness that seems to swirl around Hue Jackson, it feels like the Browns are going to be a difficult team to face all season.

The Special Cases

So I’m leaping down briefly to my first two 1-4 teams because whilst there are teams with more wins, I feel secure in saying there’s something extra about these two.

I’m surprised the Atlanta Falcons offence only ranks eleventh by DVOA as their problems are not on this side of the ball, but with the injuries up the spine of their defence they only have one win and need to be nearly perfect on offence as a result. It was a bad loss against the Steelers on Sunday and whilst I don’t expect them to go quietly, it’s going to be hard to do more than act as a spoiler with how they are looking at the moment.

I like where new head coach Frank Reich has the Indianapolis Colts heading even if they haven’t had the wins to back it upvso far. It doesn’t look like Andrew Luck has all the zip we’ve seen in the past just yet, but he’s looked good and the defence is thirteenth by DVOA. There was a lot of work to do on this roster so it’s probably a season early for them to be in contention, but I don’t think they’re far away and they’re just that bit ahead of where the next teams are.

I Just Don’t Know

I’m really not sure what record these teams are going to finish with and it seems like often we don’t know which team is going to turn up. The Denver Broncos have an advantage early in the season at home and have two wins as a result but the defence is not the same and I’m not trusting of the current coaching staff. The New York Jets have managed a couple of wins where Sam Darnold has looked really promising but he is very much a rookie quarterback and this team feels like they are in transition. The Buffalo Bills have a young quarterback who’s shown flashes and could be difficult to face in Buffalo but the roster needs work and who knows how they’ll finish? The Detroit Lions beat the Patriots and the Packers at home for their two wins but lost narrowly to the Giants on the road. They could drag themselves up a tier if they play well but I just don’t know with a first year head coach if they can make a nuisance of themselves or not. The up and down of the Tampa Bay Bucaneers’ offence got them two wins, but their defence ranks last in the NFL by DVOA and it’s easy to see how things could get rebooted in the offseason.

Finally, the Oakland Raiders sneak into this group because I don’t think they belong in the final group, and maybe Jon Gruden can turn it round but things are certainly not off to a good start and I’ve been wrong before.

It’s Going to be a Long Season

The San Fancisco 49ers were expecting to build on the promise they showed at the end of last season, but the set back of losing their stating running back in pre-season was compounded by a season ending knee injury to Jimmy Garoppolo and with one win it looks like a long season in purgatory until they can regroup.

The good news is that we have no winless teams this season, and the Arizona Cardinals look like they could have another young quarterback with the potential to play well if some of his receivers could reduce their drops. However, there is a lot of work to don on the roster and it looks to be a long season for their fans.

The final team of my lightening survey of the league are the New York Giants. They have one win but a defence that ranks twenty-fourth, two generational talents at offensive skill positions but a thirty-seven-year-old quarterback who hasn’t played well in two years and an offensive line that can’t protect him or make holes for Saquon Barkley. They may well be picking early again next year, and with the moves they made in the offseason this was not the plan.

Week 5 – the Week of the Kicker

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We’re well over a quarter of the way through the season now – seems far too early for that to be the case, but it is! There are two teams still undefeated, and unfortunately, since I last wrote, the Dolphins are no longer one of them.

I won’t go into the Patriots game, as I’ve somewhat moved on since that drubbing, but what will take me a while to get over is the loss in this year’s ‘Wrong Football Bowl’ against the Bengals. When I was messaging Gee on Sunday night, I used the word ‘Angry’ to discuss how I felt about how things went down, and while there’s definitely an element of that, 24 hours removed from the game, I think it’s more a feeling of disappointment and one of being more than a little let down.

So for those of you who don’t know, the Dolphins went 17-0 up just after half time, and with the help of one pick six and one returned fumble TD, the Bengals scored 27 unanswered points and won the game. Yes, there are definite positives in how the Dolphins are doing things, but it’s seriously frustrating to give up a 3 score lead in less than a half of football. I’ve seen a lot of people on twitter putting the blame squarely at Tannehill, and it’s easy to see why. Where in the last few weeks he has been making some great throws, this week he seemed a bit clumsy, was taking too many risks, and held onto the ball too long at times. But for me, the injury to Tunsil was more of a turning point – when he went off, he was replaced with rookie Sam Young, who really struggled to give Tannehill the time in the pocket that he needed. [It also doesn’t help that Tunsil is the third offensive linemen of the Dolphins to pick up an injury – Ed.]

Also, too many 3rd and Long situations… that’s never good.

On the plus side, the run game was pretty good again this week, and Jakeem Grant is just born to return kicks, which is always useful. And I must say, all of this takes nothing away from the Bengals, who had a great second half – I know Gee was worried specifically about the absence of Tyler Eifert, but he didn’t need to be on this performance. Oh well, to paraphrase Boring Bill, it’s on to Chicago next week!

But enough about the Dolphins, what has been happening elsewhere? Well, one thing that caught my eye was the situation in the Blue half of New York where the Giants haven’t had the start to the season that they wanted, and now sit at 1-4. Before this week though, Odell Beckham was asked about how he felt about things – more specifically the Quarterback situation. He said that he ‘didn’t know’ if there was a problem under centre, which of course meant that some facets of the media decided that they hated each other. During their game this week though, Mr Beckham got chance to show what he could do with the ball and threw a 57 yard Touchdown! They lost the game in the end, courtesy of a last second Panthers field goal, but keeping it close will have helped their confidence a little.

For those of you who have followed us for a while, you’ll know that I have a lot of respect for the kickers of the league, so I can’t really sign off this week’s post without at least a brief look at Mason Crosby in Green Bay. He’s missed a few crucial kicks over the last couple of weeks, including 2 potential game winners against the Vikings the other week, but this weekend he missed a PAT and 4 Field Goals… I’ve mentioned it before, but the world of the kicker is a cut-throat one, and it often doesn’t take much for a kicker to find themselves on the sharp end of the cut. With figures like this, I worry that it won’t be long before he’s out of a job, so lets keep an eye on the situation there.

And on a similar note, I almost missed the opportunity to bring up Graham Gano’s incredible 63 yard field goal winner for the Panthers – amazing to think kickers can make them from that far out!

Oh yes, and you’ve not had an update on my LA Rams Super Bowl bet for a couple of weeks have you! Don’t let me hold you back any longer…

I’ve had chance to watch a couple of their games recently, and I am REALLY impressed! I couldn’t think of a better team to have my money on at the minute which is always a positive.

But who is your money on? What odds would you give your team of making the Super Bowl this year after 5 weeks? Give me a shout on Twitter and lets have a chat!

Until next time…

@TWFDan

2018 Week Five Picks

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Well despite dropping points to Dan and his dad on Thursday I don’t actually feel bad about my pick, particularly given Adam Vinatieri hit the post with a field goal attempt but I can’t drop too many more as we head into the rest of the week five picks. However, first I have to try to get myself back level with Dan in the trivia question comptition so here’s a reminder of this week’s question set by Dan’s Dad, who will also be offering his thoughts on this week’s games with Dan being on holiday:

Which NFL player kicked a 62-yard field goal, the longest of the 2017/8 season?’

Now I feel relatively confident about this questions as if I’m right, the Bengals drafted this kicker last season, placed him on the practice squad so I had to watch him be picked up by the Eagles, kick a sixty yard field goal and win a Super Bowl so I believe that the player is Jake Elliott.

I seem to remember us covering this kick on the pod last year, what with me being a kicking aficionado – it was The Mexico game, and the kick was made by Stephen Gotskowski (I googled him, but only to check how to spell his name, I promise!) for the Patriots.’

Falcons @ Steelers (-3.5)

This game is a huge one for both teams who each only have one win and can’t really afford to lose. Neither team are exactly playing much defence although the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defence is ranked significantly better at nineteenth by DVOA as opposed to the thirtieth ranking of the Atlanta Falcons who have lost yet another starter. The Falcons’ offence on the other hand have been playing really well and are ranked top ten whilst the Steelers have not quite jelled so far. This should lead to an exciting game, but does not make it easy to pick as the form book does not offer much help yet with the Falcons on the road and really suffering through injuries I’m leaning Steelers for the win. However, the extra half point is making it a really awkward pick for me but in the end I’m going to back the Steelers against a dome team on the road.

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

‘I’ve changed several times on this one so there’s a 50-50 chance I’ve ended in the wrong camp but I think the Falcons have something to prove and even away I’m picking them.

Dan’s Dad Says FALCONS’

Titans @ Bills (+3.5)

I have been impressed with the Tennessee Titans’ ability to grind out wins over the last few weeks and after beating the Eagles in overtime they travel to Buffalo to face a Bills team that crashed back into their bad season last week with a shutout loss to the Packers. With the hope from the Vikings win quickly fading for the Bills I feel like they face a Titans team on the up. I thought that Marcus Mariota looked much better last week and the new offence seems to be showing signs of where Matt LaFleur wants to take them so whilst I could be wrong, I think the Titans will win and cover this.

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

‘This isn’t sour grapes based on a fluke result in the Twin Cities but I think the Titans form tells me they will more than match the modest spread here.

Dan’s Dad Says TITANS’

Dolphins @ Bengals (-6.5)

So here we are then, the big Wrong Football rivalry game that sees Dan’s Miami Dolphins travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dolphins will be looking to bounce back from the hammering they took in New England last week. I think the Dolphins are a better team than they showed in that game but I like how the Bengals are playing this year. The loss of Tyler Eifert is big for the offence and the defence desperately needs to improve on third down, although they welcome back Vontaze Burfict this week. I think the Bengals are more likely to win this game than not but this line feels high, and whilst that could be because I’m something of a nervous fan I’m not backing the Bengals to win by seven and will hope to be proved wrong.

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

‘Quite a week for Dan to disappear but he would without doubt gone Dolphins. I, however, can be a little more objective and a good score in the ‘for’ column, despite a higher than average against count still puts me in the Cincinnati camp

Dan’s Dad Says BENGALS’

Ravens @ Browns (+2.5)

The Baltimore Ravens passed one test last week when they beat the Steelers but they now face a different divisional test as they travel to face a Cleveland Browns team that you could argue should be 4-0 this season. Certainly they were unlucky last week and in Baker Mayfield they look to have finally found someone who could be the franchise quarterback this reboot version of the Browns has never had. However, the Ravens have really looked good so far this season with an offence that is much improved and a defence that is once again top five in the league by DVOA. I think the Browns will really give the franchise their fans hate for leaving Cleveland a hell of a game, but with the options that Joe Flacco now has to throw to and the not so secret weapon of kicker Justin Tucker I like the Ravens to win by at least a field goal. I could live with being wrong though…

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

‘In the 1st of 5 divisional match ups this week I can’t see the Browns repeating the success against the Jets in Week 2. As that leaves just one team I’m going Baltimore

Dan’s Dad Says RAVENS’

Broncos @ Jets (-0.5)

Both of these teams have lost their last two games but in very different manners as the Denver Broncos really pushed the Chiefs whilst the New York Jets have not looked the same since their week one win over the Lions. The question is can the Broncos win on the road despite the horrid time slot for them and a short week, but given how the Jets have played over recent weeks I have to think the answer to that is more likely than not yes.

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

‘Much as I have a lifelong (well since 1972) affinity to Joe Nameth and the Jets I do see the Broncos breaking their 2 game losing streak although this is one which I wouldn’t be surprised sliding the other way.

Dan’s Dad Says BRONCOS’

Packers @ Lions (+1.5)

I really don’t have a good handle on the Detroit Lions as after what looked to be a turn the corner win against the Patriots they followed that up with a loss to the struggling Dallas Cowboys. This week they welcome a Green Bay Packers team who shut out the Bills last week, but who Aaron Rodgers described as, ‘terrible on offense’ in what I’ve seen spun as creative tension between him and head coach Mike McCarthy. The points are really tempting, but I just don’t trust the Lions who haven’t even worked out that rookie Kerryon Johnson should be their primary running back and in my experience it seldom pays to bet against even an injured Aaron Rodgers unless you are very sure of the team he is going against.

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

Another divisional game I think this one will go the way of the streaks, particularly with a very small spread. It sticks in my throat but I’m going Green Bay.

Dan’s Dad Says PACKERS (spits and considers taking up alcohol again to take the sour taste away)’

Jaguars @ Chiefs (-3.5)

This game includes the matchup of the week in my opinion as we get to see this season’s break out star Patrick Mahomes running Andy Reid’s highflying offence go against the Jacksonville Jaguars vaunted defence (even if they are second in the league by DVOA to the Chicago Bears) in what should be a cracking game. The Chiefs have paired their offence with the league’s now second worst defence so all of their games have been entertaining and certainly at points this season the Jaguars’ offence has demonstrated the capacity to take advantage of this defensive weakness. However, most of whether they will or not falls on the combination of how the Jaguars approach this game and which version of Blake Bortles plays. He does have the capacity to play really well and were this game in Jacksonville I might feel another way but Mahomes and the Chiefs have so far kept finding a way to win and in front of their vociferous fans I’m going to back the Chiefs to do so again.

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

‘I already have the feeling that the free scoring Chiefs could go all the way this season and with home advantage and a low spread it has got to be the Chiefs. I expect the Jags though to make the playoffs and be in the shake up come January.

Dan’s Dad Says CHIEFS’

Giants @ Panthers (-6.5)

The New York Giants lost again last week and in pretty straight forward fashion at home against the Saints. The offseason overhaul of their offence doesn’t look to have worked and this week they travel to face a rested Carolina Panthers team coming off a bye and a 2-1 start. The Panthers’ defence may be an uncharacteristic rank of twenty-fourth by DVOA but their offence is rolling with Norv Turner as their new co-ordinator despite the injury to Greg Osen and I think this should be a relatively straight forward game for them. I have a slight pause about this laying this number of points but I don’t think the Giants have enough going at the moment to cover this line on the road.

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

‘Nothing I was measuring really gave me a solid clue here but I think that the Panthers are probably more together so the spread was more a nudge than a clincher

Dan’s Dad Says PANTHERS’

Raiders @ Chargers (-5.5)

This will be another of the strange home games for the LA Chargers where there will be more away fans than home fans and I suspect it will be particularly bad for this game given the Raiders historic ties and popularity within LA. It has been an up and down start to the season for the Chargers, although having to face the Rams and Chiefs in the first four weeks is a pretty tough start. They welcome a Raiders team coming off their first win of the season who have looked better since the week one loss to the Rams. I’m still not convinced about the Raiders long term plans and trading away Khalil Mack, but Marshawn Lynch has somehow managed to maintain his fearsome playing style at thirty-two. I’m not sure the Raiders will win this game but I like them to keep it closer than six points against a Chargers team who frequently don’t seem to be able to get out of their own way despite the excellent play of Philip Rivers.

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

‘The 3rd divisional game this week brings together two very closely matched teams and choosing was not easy. Until I saw the spread I was edging towards Raiders but the spread and home field advantage left me ticking the Chargers

Dan’s Dad Says  CHARGERS’

Rams @ Seahawks (+7.5)

The LA Rams are rolling even with multiple injuries at corner, thanks in no small part to their league dominating offence. This week they travel to Seattle to face a Seahawks team who are 2-2 despite playing three games on the road but the Seahawks also had to work hard to beat the Cardinals last week and lost Earl Thomas for the season with a broken leg. Despite having Russell Wilson their offence ranks twenty-seventh in the league by DVOA and it is hard to see them winning this game even with their famous home field advantage. The difficulty in this game is that as it is divisional so you could see it being closer than normal for the Rams but I just don’t think this iteration of the Seahawks will keep up and the Rams stay as aggressive against anyone so whilst the Seattle crowd does make me pause, they also had to watch their team lose by thirty-five points last season in this fixture and I think it will be big differential again. Watch the Seahawks now keep it close!

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

‘Yet another divisional game and at last one where I thought it would be easy. Two teams that are on winning streaks but the Rams 4 on the spin and +73 point net for me is why even with a 7 point spread away from home I cant see past them

Dan’s Dad Says RAMS’

Vikings @ Eagles (-3.5)

This is an important game for two teams who have not looked quite right so far this season. This is strange for the Minnesota Vikings as the combination of new offensive coordinator John DeFillippo and quarterback Kirk Cousins looks to be working really well, but only has them a ranking of nineteenth by DVOA and apart from losing to the Rams and drawing with the Packers despite Aaron Rodgers knee injury, they found a way to get beaten convincingly by the Bills. This week they take on a Philadelphia Eagles team who just don’t look right even with the return of Carson Wentz who lost an overtime game to the Titans last week. The vaunted pass rush of last season doesn’t look to be the same although the defence has remained top ten by DVOA but the offence ranks twenty-fourth. I find this a hard game to predict and I thought it was interesting that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he could be over coaching the defence so in the end I’m going to grab the extra half point for the road team as I’m really not sure how this one is going to play out.

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

‘This would normally be seen as a competitive game and indeed it may well be one but both are unusually on losing streaks. Who has something to prove, well both really but a modest spread and home advantage I think plays to the Eagles. That said against the Rams Mike Tice seemed to have started a turn round – and the time since Thursday night will have given him time to work on things. My fear is that there is a lot to work on and the Vikings’ defence are not the wall they were last term. Sorry to say, it’s the Eagles (but if I’m wrong I will be happy !)

Dan’s Dad Says EAGLES’

Cardinals @ 49ers (-4.5)

The Arizona Cardinals didn’t win last week, but Josh Rosen kept them competitive after Sam Bradford did the same the week before against the Bears. However, they still don’t have a win and this week they travel to face a San Francisco 49ers team who managed to keep the game competitive against the Chargers despite having to start CJ Beathard at quarterback. This looks to be one of the better chances for the Cardinals to get a win this season as there is only a solitary win between both these teams through week four, but it’s hard to see it happening on the road for the Cardinals. That said they have kept their last two games to within four but as this is their second road game of the season I do think the 49ers will win but in the end this is too many points for me to give away with a backup quarterback starting and the list of injuries the 49ers have.

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

‘The last of this week’s divisional games sees 2 teams well in the mire. The Cardinals are not scoring but shipping points which is not a good combination, hence looking for a 1st win of the season. So will that spur them on? Well at home possibly, and with a spread perhaps, but neither is there for them so I’m going for the 49ers

Dan’s Dad Says SF 49ERS’

Cowboys @ Texans (-3.5)

The battle of Texas sees the Cowboys travel from Dallas to Houston to face the Texans in what is kind of an intriguing game. Both teams are coming off wins but the Cowboys have been struggling on offence all season, particularly throwing the ball, and they have lost both of their road games so far. The Texans may have only got their first win last week but Deshaun Watson is beginning to look more like himself and the front seven of the Texans is starting to look strong as the various players who were injured last season start to look like their olds selves. The Cowboys look ill equipped to take advantage of the problems the Texans are having in coverage whilst also missing Sean Lee on defence again. I don’t have a strong feel for this game and I’ll likely watch it this week as I’ve only seen Cowboys’ highlights, but I fancy the Texans to win their second game and so I’ll reluctantly back them to cover this one.

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

‘When teams are 2-2 and 1-3 and with similar scoring profiles a lot comes down to gut feel and spread. Both have 1 game winning streaks and the spread is not helping but that along with home field advantage and I’ll go Texans

Dan’s Dad Says TEXANS’

Washington @ Saints (-6.5)

I’m really looking forward to seeing the Monday night game this week as the New Orleans Saints welcome a rested Washington team that has a top ten offence by DVOA and a defence that ranks twelfth. The Saints meanwhile have been rolling on offence but have really struggled on defence, essentially making them the NFC Chiefs but without the unbeaten record. However, the consistency of Drew Brees has to be admired and the offensive production is why the Saints are seen as such heavy favourites in this one. The issue for me is the up down nature of a Washington team that has paired convincing wins against the Cardinals and Packers with a bad home loss to the Colts. Sure the rest will help with them coming of a bye but will they be competitive against a Saints team in a dome? I’m going to suggest that with that week’s rest and going against the twenty-ninth ranked defence in the league that Washington can keep this game to within seven. Whether they will or not is a different matter but that’s why they play the games.

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

‘On the one hand both teams are on winning streaks, and are better than .500 so far. The Saints have home field and are scoring strongly, but conceding too. Will they win by 7? Possibly thanks to playing at home so I’m picking them this week.

Dan’s Dad Says SAINTS’

AAF: Bears’ Offence Scheme

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For this week’s amateur adventures in film I decided that rather than take a look at an individual player I would take a look at the Chicago Bears’ offence and specifically how Matt Nagy and his staff and schemed up the open receivers that allowed Mitch Trubisky to throw for six touchdowns.

Now I am cheating a little as I heard Greg Cosell talk about this a little in the week and so I know that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play  a relatively straight forward zone defence where they tend to only rush four and when watching the tape it quickly became apparent how much the Buccaneers were playing with a single high safety. This was what most of the big passing plays took advantage of but I shall get to that in a minute.

The Bears used a few different personnel groupings, but it wasn’t easy to keep track of them as the all twenty-two film was shot from a surprisingly low angle to what I’m used to as so identifying numbers etc were not always easy to see but they were not afraid of using heavy sets with three tight-ends on the field as well as the frequent eleven personnel in shotgun formation. They also came out multiple times with two running back with Jordan Howard in the backfield and Tarik Cohen lined up in the slot. What was also obvious was the way they frequently lined up with lopsided receiver sets and then used these groupings of receivers to attack multiple levels of the defence and this is how they kept springing long plays. Multiple times they would force the high safety to play one or two players attacking deep that allowed a player to run a combination or under route to catch the ball in space and pick up a lot of yardage or score. I thoroughly enjoyed watching how the routes of the receivers interacted, particularly as there were often several other players kept in to protect the quarterback. It’s not every week that my long suffering partner here’s me muttering about how clever a coach is

The other thing I noticed, which I believe is happening more across the NFL these days, is that apart from your classic play-action or the quarterback initially looking one way before turning to where the play is designed to go, I the use of multiple fakes and consistently using them on the majority of plays. This was also present in the read-option run plays where Trubisky would run even if he’d handed off the ball, but in the passing game the Bears would say start with a standard play action fake handoff, then fake a receiver screen throw before turning to actually throw the ball to the other side of the field. There is so much more deception going on and this puts the single safety in a real bind, which the Bears were able to take advantage of as they kept asking the difficult question of the Buccaneers’ high safety who did not have an easy adjustment to make to solve the issues that were being caused.

So did Trubisky look like a quarterback capable of throwing six touchdowns? Well the flippant answer is yes because he did. However, it was not all simple throws to open receivers. He also threw balls with timing and made some difficult throws even if there were also misses and he is far from the finished product. Yet Trubisky did throw six touchdowns against the league’s worst defence by DVOA and was able to execute the plan that Matt Nagy laid out and that is all you can ask of a quarterback. There will be more difficult tests for both Nagy and Trubisky, but this is a hopeful sign that the Bears could really compete this year and with the various options available to the offence they have the chance to do so given the way their defence is playing.

Competition Thursday: 2018 Week Five

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So a couple of better weeks picking has seen me overhaul Dan’s dad’s lead at the top of our picks league. However, my trivia game is not as on point as you will see at the bottom of this week’s post. However, I have Dan and his dad’s pick for tonight so let’s look at what could be a tasty Thursday night game.

Gee:     Week 4   11-4              Overall   34-29
Dan:    Week 4   6-9                Overall   29-34

Colts @ Patriots (-10.5)

The Indianapolis Colts record maybe 1-3 but they’ve run three teams close and beaten Washington who themselves are top of the NFC East. I start with this because yes the New England Patriots got back on track with a big win last week, yes they are at home, yes it’s October and yes the Patriots are very good against the spread even when giving away large numbers of points. However, whilst the Colts can’t run the ball at all, their defence is currently ranked tenth by DVOA and Andrew Luck is coming off a game where threw for a career high yardage last week. My default pick for the Thursday night game is take the home team unless there’s a very good reason not and in this case, I think an eleven point win is too many points when the teams are next to each other in the overall DVOA rankings. I could well be gifting a point to Dan and his dad but my evaluation is Colts to keep this within eleven and I’m sticking to it. That doesn’t mean I feel great about it…

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

Not only are the Pats at home they have also started to get the formula running. Bill B doesn’t let issues hang around for long and while the Colts have been given a serious boost in the spread I think momentum and home field will bring this one in.

Dan’s Dad Says PATRIOTS’

Week 5 Trivia

Last week I asked Who Captain Fear was and which team he supported. I think we got as far as this being a Mascot and Dan managed to bring the ship home.

Dan 2, Gee 1 on aggregate. 

This week is, I hope, straightforward:

Which NFL player kicked a 62-yard field goal, the longest of the 2017/8 season?

Quarterbacks and Injuries

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Image Credit: milehighsports.com

Here we are, preparing for week five after which all the teams will have played four games and I can try to run through the entire league in a panic at the quarter pole post, but we are already beginning to get a bit more of a feel for how the league is shaping up.

Of the young quarterbacks that seem to be the story of the league so far this year, Patrick Mahomes traveled to Denver Monday night and struggled comparatively for him so far this year but still found a way to get the win for the  Kansas City Chiefs against the Broncos, whilst Mitch Trubisky threw for six touchdowns as the Bears thumped the Tamps Bay Buccaneers. I have only seen the highlights of the Bears game and yes there were a lot of wide open people catching the ball, but I thought Trubisky looked good in terms of his footwork and whilst you can’t expect this every week it is a promising sign that Matt Nagy can find a way to keep his team competitive in the division with Trubisky as his quarterback.

Speaking of the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers pitched a shutout against the Buffalo Bills who reverted to type and were bad in this game. This leaves them one game behind the Bears but one ahead of the Minnesota Vikings who could not keep up with the LA Rams on Thursday night but then no team has this season. With quarterbacks on the mind I should also mention that one of the reasons the Rams look so good is that Jared Goff is absolutely thriving in Sean McVay’s office and threw some absolutely amazing balls to beat the Vikings coverage. The Detroit Lions lost a close game to the Dallas Cowboys who managed to find some offence this week, which is not how the Lions and Matt Patricia will have wanted to follow up their impressive win against the Patriots.

I hesitate to do this, and it is perhaps lucky that Dan is on holiday this week as the Miami Dolphins got demolished in New England. There is a reason why everyone was hesitant to write off the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and this was it. They ran for one hundred and seventy-five yards and got themselves back to 2-2 before Julian Edelman comes back next week. Things could well still go wrong but it would surprise no one if come December the Patriots are once again top of their division.

The other perennial contender that is struggling at the start of this season were not so lucky as the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to win their second division game as they lost at home to the Baltimore Ravens to go 1-2-1. We have seen dips of form before with the Steelers, but with the Le’Veon Bell situation rumbling on and a defence that is not the kind we usually associate with this franchise there could be real problems. They face the Atlanta Falcons next week in a game that will very much be decided by who can score the most points as the Falcons are struggling to stop anybody on defence. In week four this benefited the Cincinnati Bengals who squeezed out a 37-36 win game despite losing Tyler Eifert to a season ending injury for the third straight year. This was heart breaking as Eifert had finally had a healthy offseason and it was a horrible ankle break, but at least it wasn’t connected to his previous back/ankle injuries. Eifert has so much talent and it’s really sad he’s so seldom been able to make the most of it or get to that lucrative multi-year second contract given what he has produced when he has been on the field.

The other big injury from the weekend was to Earl Thomas who had been playing well for the Seattle Seahawks despite hardly practicing in protest at the Seahawks refusal to trade him after not giving him a new contract. The middle digit he offered to the bench was a sign of the frustration a player must feel when what he feared materialises, but a broken leg is at least an injury that shouldn’t affect him next season. That may not be that much comfort to a safety going into his thirties though, particularly given the lack of activity in signing veteran free agent safeties this off-season and this is exactly why Le’Veon Bell is holding out as he fears a similar injury when running backs are treated with even more scepticism as they approach thirty.

I think I will end this week’s round up though with a team who may not be playing pretty football week to week, but have got themselves a winning record despite multiple injuries. In week one the teams with new head coaches went 0-7 but rookie head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff have now won three straight games despite Marcus Mariota sustaining a nerve injury in week one that has led to numbness in the fourth and fifth fingers of his throwing hand as well as grip issues, and his backup Blaine Gabbert being lost to a concussion in the opening quarter of their week three game against the Jaguars. The Titans may only be ranked twenty-sixth on offence by DVOA and fifteenth by defence, but they are top ten in special teams and are finding a way in win games. It also helped that Mariota looked better in this week’s overtime win against the Philadelphia Eagles where Mariota played with a modified glove on his throwing hand where the first and second fingers had been cut off so he could feel the ball but the glove could help his week fingers/hand. I’m sure this is not what offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was not expecting to have to deal with this when he joined the staff, but the Titans have remained competitive in the AFC South and will be looking to build on this solid start. This is a pretty impressive achievement for Mike Vrabel who does not have that much coaching experience compared to a lot of coaches yet alone experience running a team. Let’s see how sustainable this is.

2018 Week Four Picks

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These are not a nice set of lines as we head into week four of the regular season, but first there’s the matter of our trivia competition:

So, now we move onto Week 4 where I want to know Who is Captain Fear and which team does he support?’

I’m going to have to take a complete shot in the dark here and suggest he founded the Black Hole fan group and therefore supports the Oakland Raiders.

‘It’s back to guessing again this week for me, but I think the word ‘Captain’ is the giveaway – I think Captain Fear is the pirate mascot of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bengals @ Falcons (-5.5)

This is an important game for the Bengals as they will want to keep the pressure on the Ravens in the AFC North and they will want to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Panthers. They were in the Panthers game until the fourth quarter even if their run defence was bad, but the turnovers weren’t really Dalton’s fault and this week they travel to face an Atlanta team that keep losing starting players. The Falcon’s offence found its scoring mojo in last week’s crazy game with the Saints but the Bengals defence is a very different unit. I’m not definitively predicting the Bengals to win, but I absolutely feel like they will be within six points by the end of the game and I’m hoping for the win.

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

‘I actually think Bengals could end up doing pretty well in this one. Not only do I think they’ll cover, I think they’ll win!’

Bills @ Packers (-10.5)

The Green Bay Packers went to Washington and got thumped so I’m a little surprised that they are giving eleven points in this game. I’m not saying that everything is suddenly fixed for the Bills, but they got a tough road win and whilst there could be a let-down, this is too many points for me to give when Aaron Rodgers is not fit and the defence of the Packers is ranked twenty-seventh in the league by DVOA

Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Bills

‘This is REALLY difficult to pick. A week ago I’d have said easily Packers, but with that spread, and with their performance last week against the Vikings, I’m going to go with the Bills.’

Buccaneers @ Bears (-2.5)

This is a truly fascinating game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly managed to pull back their Monday night game against the Steelers after a disastrous first half where Ryan Fitzpatrick kept throwing interceptions. Given that he was the first NFL quarterback to throw for four hundred yards in three straight games it feels like he has to come back to earth a little. Particularly against a Chicago Bears defence that currently ranks number one by DVOA and boasts the early candidate for defensive player of the year in Khalil Mack who is making every Raiders fan sad about the strange trade that sent him to the Bears. The problem for the Bears is that as well as Matt Nagy’s offence looks to be schemed, the instinct of Mitch Trubisky is to tuck and run, which right now looks as if it could hold back this team. I’m not confident about this, but in the end I’m going with the quarterback that I have a little more faith in and the thing that he seems to have going with his co-ordinator Todd Monken calling the plays.

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

‘Could we see the return of Jameis Winston? Probably not. Buccs win.’

Lions @ Cowboys (-2.5)

This is a fairly straight forward pick to me, which probably means I’m about to get this horribly wrong but the Dallas Cowboys look to be in trouble. The offence just isn’t working as they haven’t replaced either Jason Witten or Dez Bryant and so Dak Prescott is lacking options in the passing game just when the offensive line has some injuries and isn’t the dominant unit it has been in recent season. If things weren’t bad enough, the defence’s talisman Sean Lee is out and so I don’t fancy them at all against a Detroit Lions team who seem to have been improving week to week and who I fancy to get a win on the road in this one.

Gee’s Pick: Lions
Dan’s Pick: Lions

‘Fourth game in a row I’m going for the road team! Lions for me in this one.’

Eagles @ Titans (+3.5)

This is very much a strange game to pick given that the Tennessee Titans have won the last two games by a field goal despite the nerve injury that is hampering Marcus Mariota who didn’t even start the last game and they have an overall ranking of twenty-fourth by DVOA. The Philadelphia Eagles are having a difficult start to the season thanks to the injuries they have but at least Carson Wentz is back behind centre. Thanks to the points I’m really undecided about this one so in the end I’m going to grab the points for a home underdog.

Gee’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Pick: Eagles

‘Make that 5! The Titans haven’t actually looked as poor as I thought they might after week one, and have won their last couple. That being said, I think the Eagles have a good feel about them and will want to really establish themselves with Wentz back. Eagles win.’

Texans @ Colts (-0.5)

This is a really important game for the 0 – 3 Houston Texans who have really struggled thanks to an offensive line that is not getting the job done and problems in their secondary. This week they travel to face an Indianapolis Colts team who have looked competitive all season as Andrew Luck works his way back from his long term shoulder injury and the defence quietly has improved to just outside the top ten by DVOA through three weeks. I’m trying to balance up the desperation of the Texans to finally get a win vs the clear problems they are having and a line that is giving me no help whatsoever. This is another game I don’t have a hugely strong feel for so I’m going to grab the home team and hope.

Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Texans

‘Difficult one to call, but I think the Texans will do this.’

Dolphins @ Patriots (-6.5)

I find this a curious line because as difficult as it is to see the New England Patriots losing three games in a row there are real problems with both the receiving options and the balance of the offence as well as the defence. The Miami Dolphins however have hugely benefitted from having Ryan Tannehill back from injury and look to have impressive speed on offence whilst the defence has played tough all season and the Dolphins are currently ranked second in the league by DVOA. I’m not saying the Dolphins will definitely win but I they are more likely to be within seven than not.

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

‘Miami to win at Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2008.’

Jets @ Jaguars (-7.5)

I am going to resist reading too much into the Jaguars loss last week as divisional games can be funny but they will want to get things back on track this week as they host the New York Jets who have very much struggled since their opening win against the Detroit Lions. I find it hard to predict that Sam Darnold (who is going through the usual rookie difficulties) suddenly having an easier time against the Jaguars defence. The Jets were competitive with a poor roster last season but on the road I see them struggling yet this number of points worries me. However, in the end I can’t quite bring myself to pick them. I may well regret this.

Gee’s Pick: Jaguars
Dan’s Pick: Jets

‘New York will want to get back to winning ways after losing to the Browns, and while I don’t think they’ll do that this week, they won’t lose by more than a touchdown I wouldn’t have thought.’

Browns @ Raiders (-2.5)

The Cleveland Browns travel to Oakland to seek their first consecutive wins in four years with the Baker Mayfield era definitely started. However, it will be a different test coming in as the starter but Mayfield made such a difference to the way the Browns’ offence operated whilst their defence has been better all year. That said, whilst I don’t exactly trust them, the Browns face a Raiders team who are winless this season but there are signs that the Browns won’t have it all their own way. The Raiders have been competitive for the last two games and having started the season against the juggernaut Rams they have been on the road for those two games as well. The Raiders will be desperate to get their first win and I find it just too hard to predict a Browns win two weeks in a row.

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

‘Can’t see the Browns winning this week. The Raiders didn’t look too bad last week and I think they’ve got enough about them to win here.’

Seahawks @ Cardinals (+3.5)

I thought the Arizona Cardinals would have a tough season but they have truly struggled and have now made the move to start rookie quarterback Josh Rosen but he faces an uphill task. That said the Cardinals did manage to get out to a fourteen-point lead last week until they succumbed to a Chicago Bears comeback. However, whilst the Seattle Seahawks have not exactly looked good, they have been competitive and are coming off their first win of the season. I don’t have a strong feel for this game, which has recent years has been a tense close battle between divisional opponents and in the end I’m going to grab the points and not feel confident at all.

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

‘Can’t really decide on this one, but seeing as I’ve got to, I’ll go Seattle.’

Saints @ Giants (+3.5)

The New York Giants got their first win last week on the road going against a poor Texans team and this week they welcome a New Orleans Saints team whose offence is top five by DVOA and whose defence is bottom five. There is a big difference for the Saints when Drew Brees is on the road outdoors than in a dome but the bad weather has not truly hit yet and I have so much more faith in the Brees led offence than what Eli Manning is producing at the moment. I might really regret this but I’m backing the Saints in this one.

Gee’s Pick: Saints
Dan’s Pick: Saints

‘They might have needed overtime to get the win last week against Atlanta, but I think they’ll settle this one fairly comfortably this week. Saints to win.’

49ers @ Chargers (-10.5)

This is a tricky game for me in that yes the San Francisco 49ers have lost Jimmy Garoppolo for the season but I mentally have a picture of the LA Chargers struggling to win games by a lot However, they have managed a win by eleven already this season and totalled five such wins last season and so now I swinging back and forth on this one. In the end this feels like too many points for a team that I don’t entirely trust so I’m reluctantly picking the 49ers to cover against one of the worst home advantages in the league but I’m not convinced.

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

‘It’s tempting to pick the 49ers given the 10.5 spread, but I’m going to say LA because the 49ers are a bit broken.’

Ravens @ Steelers (-3.5)

This should be a cracking game that sees the Baltimore Ravens facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in a huge divisional game where the Steelers will be looking to get their second win of the season. The Ravens got back to winning ways last week having paired an improved offence with their traditionally strong defence. I like them to keep this game close and given the issues the Steelers have on defence and how I don’t expect Flacco to turn the ball over with the same rate as Fitzpatrick did on Monday I think this will be a close game and the extra half point has me backing the Ravens to keep this within a field goal if not win.

Gee’s Pick: Ravens
Dan’s Pick: Ravens

‘This could really go either way. I’m going to call Ravens but I won’t be overly surprised if I don’t get this one.’

Chiefs @ Broncos (+5.5)

The Denver Broncos have improved on offence this year but their defence also looks to have taken a step back and as much as they have a good home advantage, particularly early in the season, they face a Kansas City Chiefs team with the best offence in the league right now. Andy Reid will be very comfortable with his trading away of Alex Smith given that Patrick Mahomes has thrown for thirteen touchdowns and no interceptions through the three games of this season. Even with their home advantage the Broncos have not beaten the Chiefs since 2015 but the question is whether they can keep this game with six and that still has me struggling to make up my mind given the Chiefs bottom of the league defence. I expect the Chiefs to win this game but on the road for the third time in four weeks against a divisional opponent I’m nervously going to grab the points.

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