Competition Thursday: 2018 Week 3

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So I had a disastrous time picking last week, clearly over compensating based on the week one results as I mentioned yesterday so I’ll have to refocus and see if I can catch Dan and his dad given that I’m currently bottom of the league.

Dan and I also failed to get the trivia answer again, and it was one of those where I’m really kicking myself now I’ve seen the answer. Remember, the full results are revealed in the weekly newsletter sent out Wednesday evening (UK time) and you can sign up here.

Gee: Week 1 4-12 Overall 15-17
Dan: Week 1 8-8 Overall 17-15

Jets @ Browns (-3.5)

So this is an actual competitive game between the Jets and Brown on Thursday night that I’m looking forward to seeing. The problem is that this makes picking the game more difficult as the Browns should have arguably won both the games they played this season whereas the Jets fell back to Earth last week after their dismantling of a poor Bills team in week one. So which way do I go on this one? I’m going to stick with my Thursday night rule of picking the home team unless there is a compelling reason not to and with Sam Darnold (who looked like a rookie last week) on the road in a short week against a Browns’ defence that is top ten by DVOA despite facing the Steelers and the Saints that doesn’t give me a reason to not to. The points worry me given that the Browns haven’t won since December 2016 but now is not the time for faint hearts and I have to get the points back somehow.

Gee’s Pick: Browns
Dan’s Pick: Jets

I’m struggling to see anything other than a Jets win tonight. They may have looked a bit shaky against the Dolphins on Sunday but I think they have enough to see themselves to a W against the Browns’

Week 3 Trivia

Week 3 Trivia Preview:

‘Last week I want I asked what it is which connects the following teams:

Chiefs, Packers, Raiders, Bengals and Bears.

Well there were some imaginative, if desperate, guesses which resulted in another score of Zero for both. It’s their choice to not use search engines which may make life harder but arguably this may not need Google to solve

Moving swiftly on and hopeful of getting airborne with a simpler one for this week.

Tell me, which is the newest of the NFL Stadiums (in the Lower-48) and when did it open?

Happy Hunting!’

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Reacting to the Reaction

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Obviously the most important thing in the NFL last week wasn’t my terrible week of picks, but I fell into a common enough trap for fans (and boy am I kicking myself as I even referred to it when making picks) so as the dust settles on the week let’s take a look at what we can tell.

The mistake I made was reading too much into the week one scores and I said it was more likely that a team be 1-1 than 2-0 or 0-2 but as I said last week, as far as I’m concerned fans of the Bills, Giants, Lions, Texans, Raiders, Cardinals and Seahawks may now officially panic.

The Seahawks have the excuse of being on the road for both games so far but their offence is really struggling, the defence is changing, and so far the bright spot may be the Australian punter who tried drop-kick kickoff (it was a bad week for kickers as Vikings and Browns fans will attest). Some team’s troubles you could see coming like the Bills and the Cardinals, and there was plenty of talk about the Texans offensive line before they underwhelmed against a Tennessee Titans team quarterbacked by Blaine Gabbert.

Another team who are in an unexpected position is the winless Pittsburgh Steelers who still have Le’Veon Bell holding out and had Antonio Brown tweet out trade me to find out regarding a post about how Ben Roethlisberger had made him and also wasn’t there on Monday. Teams can get off to a bad start but this is not the kind of things you usually see in Pittsburgh and it seems like cracks are beginning to show in that team.

The strains in New England offence are obviously being felt as the Patriots have traded for Josh Gordon after the Cleveland Browns finally lost patience with the troubled receiver, apparently after he hurt his hamstring in a photoshoot. I have no idea if the change of scene and the famously strict Patriot approach will help the player but addiction issues are not simple and on a human level I just hope he finds a way to make use of his talents and be in a good place.

Meanwhile the strain was too much for Vontae Davis who retired at half of the Bills heavy loss to the LA Chargers. It’s not something I’ve seen before and there has been those supporting his decision and very vocal players upset by an action they take as quitting. I actually have sympathy with both points of view as in a sport as dangerous as the NFL that requires a physical commitment if you don’t have it, you don’t belong out there but if you’ve dressed for the game don’t you owe it to your team to get to the end as there are only so many corners.

Looking for more positive stories, the Kansas City Chiefs continue to have the most dynamic offence in the league, unsurprisingly toping the offensive DVOA stat thanks to the explosive skills players they have assembled and Patrick Mahomes’s stellar talent, which has allowed Andy Reid to pretty much do what he wants with the office. Even less expected is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offence is ranked second by DVOA as Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to do his best to keep the quarterback job whilst Jameis Winston is suspended. In Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson the Buccaneers have one of the league’s better receiving duos if their quarterback can get them the ball and if you haven’t seen it, watch the clip of tight end OJ Howard running in a seventy-five yard touchdown. Tight end is one of those positions that due to the complexity it often takes time for young players to adjust, but he has amazing speed for the position and could be the next tight end threat to terrify defences.

The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Patriots without their Pro Bowl running back Leonard Fournette but it was the much maligned Blake Bortles who took advantage of an aggressive game plan to throw for over three hundred and fifty yards with four touchdowns to one interception. If they can maintain a balance of improved offence to go alongside their frightening defence then they could very well go one better than last season and make it to the Super Bowl.

In my drive to document all safeties we had our first of the season when the Kansas City Chiefs visited the Pittsburgh Steelers and it demonstrates why special teams and the phases working together wins football games. The Steelers Jordan Berry sent a fifty-nine yard punt to the Chiefs’ one yard line, pinning them by the goal line that after an aggressive pass play on first down, led to Kareem Hunt being tackled in the end zone. Maybe a small part of me would have liked to see a quarterback get sacked but this is the essence of football, a game of territory where even if you don’t directly score, you created an opportunity that results in two points and you getting the ball back in good field position.

Speaking of sack, and the final thing I will round up this week. I think there’s been a lot of entertaining football so far this season, even if not all of the prime time games have been the ones to demonstrate this, but whilst we have fun offences and potentially good young quarterbacks to enthuse about, there’s also the familiar issues surrounding the rule tweaks. Despite the worry ahead of the season being around the lowering the head hitting rules, these haven’t been called that much or caused that many issues and the two bad quarterback hits I have seen have been in open play when the quarterback slides and the hit to Cam Newton just looks bad. The actual problem call has been the new landing on the quarterback rules. This essentially cost the Packers a game when Clay Matthews was called for roughing the passer despite making a pretty much textbook form tackle of Kirk Cousins. Now I get why after Aaron Rodgers’ injury last season, and given how much the league is hurt whenever one of their marquee quarterbacks get injured, that the league doesn’t want their quarterbacks being driven into the ground by three hundred pound defensive linemen but there’s only so much a defender can do and if we’re going to start penalising tackling as opposed to dangerous play then we are going to see ridiculous scorelines. They won’t change the rule now and I wonder if even the instructions to the refs will change given that I suspect what the league is worried about is keeping the quarterbacks on the field. I hope I’m wrong.

So on to the next week where we’ll get to see if the Browns can finally get that win having been competitive twice, if the remaining undefeated teams can remain so, and I can keep testing my search of pro-football-reference.com that should make sure I don’t miss any safeties this season.

Woah Woah Woah Fitzmagic!

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Well, we’re two weeks into the season now, and I have to say it’s been pretty exciting so far! I’m not sure how much of that is to do with the Dolphins being at 2-0, but I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground in remembering that last time we went 2-0 (in 2013, if you’re asking) we ended up at 8-8. That being said, it’s always nice to pick up a win over the Jets… least of all so I can rub it in to my Jet supporting friend who is affectionately saved in my phone as ‘Flash Gordon’.

Anyway, I think we all got a new hero this week in the form of Ryan Fitzpatrick…

Image Credit – NFL.com

It’s brilliant to see someone enjoying their football (and the spotlight it’s bringing!), especially when you look at the journey he’s had around the league – he’s now at his 7th franchise since he joined the league in 2005. And as well as he’s played in the last 2 weeks, there’s a very real chance that in a couple of weeks time, he’ll find himself teeing up kicks and sitting on the bench once Jameis Winston returns. Personally, I think that would be very harsh, but you just know that once they get their big name back, even if he doesn’t go immediately back into the lineup, it won’t take much of a drop in form for Fitzpatrick to be replaced.

Heading over to the AFC, one of the strangest pieces of news coming out of the league this weekend was the retirement of Bills cornerback Vontae Davis. Now, that isn’t all that strange a story in itself, but the fact that it came at Half Time in their game against the Chargers that caused it to be such a talking point. The 2x Pro Bowler says that reality hit him hard during the first half and as a result, he informed his coaches of his decision, and quietly left the stadium.

How does everyone feel about that? Personally, I’m on the side of his team mates who have said that they feel it was a ‘disrespectful’ move – for me, the least he could have done was to either see out the game, or tell his coaches about his decision, but still head out to the sidelines to be part of the team to see things through. That being said, we don’t know how the conversation went and what was decided above his head. It does go to show though how much of a mess they’re in in Buffalo – I don’t think anyone thought they’d have a season up to the same level as last year, but we certainly didn’t expect them to look this bad!

Image Credit – tmz.com

Elsewhere, the Patriots have a new target for Tom Brady in the form of former Brown Josh Gordon. In what was a bit of an unexpected move, Cleveland announced on Saturday that they were going to be cutting Gordon on Monday, and within hours of that cut taking place, he was signing for Bill Belichick’s crew. I’m not sure how I feel about this. With all of the personal problems that he’s faced over the last few years, it’s difficult not to feel his head perhaps wasn’t ‘in it’ in Cleveland, but that throws up its own questions over his commitment to New England – although I’m sure they discussed that at length with him before signing. As the story goes, he turned up to training late last week, and injured a hamstring while taking part in a photo-shoot. I think we all want to know that he’s well in himself, and hopefully this fresh start works out well for him.

Moving onto matters closer to home, our Fantasy team did pretty poorly this week. I struggled to get a decent replacement Running Back for Marshawn Lynch who looked like he was going to be out injured, so while I left him on the bench, he ended up not only playing but putting up some decent numbers too – none of which I benefited from of course, so we’re now 0-2!

And there’s been some exciting developments with the LA Rams Bet…

Cash out has finally moved up from the initial £5 I put on, and they’re now second favourites on bet365 to win the ‘Bowl this year! Early days yet, I know…!

Oh, and I’ve just realised that I now have this platform to brag about my picking success which I didn’t have last year! I very much doubt he’ll mention it [A slur on my character that I have taken note of – Ed.] but Gee is now bottom of the Pigskin Pickem table. That being said, my Dad is beating us both not only in Trivia (Gee and I are both 0-2 after this week!) but he’s also top of Pick’em, which I must say, he is loving.

So it’s over to you – Which games are you looking forward to this week? How do you think Josh Gordon will fit in in Foxborough? Let’s have a chat on Twitter!

Until next time…

@TWFDan

2018 Week Two Picks

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So here we are, and it’s already week two but before we get down to the second week of picks let’s see if either of Dan or I can actually score a point in the trivia competition so here’s a reminder of the question:

‘This week I want to know what connects the following teams:

Chiefs, Packers, Raiders, Bengals and Bears.’

Now I think that what links all these teams is that they lost their last Super Bowl appearance, so let’s see what Dan thought:

‘This is an absolute guess this week, and resisting the urge to put “They all have an ‘E’ in their name” and being correct on a technicality I’ll say…. Have none of them had the first Draft pick??’ [I happen to know the Bengals have – Ed.]

Panthers @ Falcons (-5.5)

This should be an interesting game between two division rivals but I worry for the Atlanta Falcons as not only did Matt Ryan look off last week, but they lost key players up the spine of their defence in Deion Jones and Keanu Neal. This is the NFL so I’m not saying that the Falcons can’t win this game, and if the years picking games has taught me anything it’s that teams are more likely to go 1-1 than win or lose both games, but this is too many points going against a Carolina Panthers team that looked good on defence last week.

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

‘The Falcons didn’t win last week, but played quite well. So did the panthers, but they were probably helped by the Cowboys not looking great. I’ll go Falcons this week.’

Chargers @ Bills (+7.5)

The Bills looked bad last week and the response is to give Josh Allen his first start, which was not the plan going into the season. This is a big swing in points, but the Bills looked horrible and so I think the LA Chargers will pick up their first win of the season but what worries me is that they are coming across the country to play the Bills in Buffalo and I wonder if this game could be closer than I think. I am tempted by the Bills to cover in a loss, there has to be a reaction to last week’s game in this their home opener and I don’t exactly trust the Chargers so I am finding this one really hard to commit to. In the end this is too many points for me in a game that I don’t have that strong a lean in terms of line.

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

‘If the Bills play like they did last week, they’re going to struggle to get many wins this season, and I don’t envy their rookie QB’s position. I’m going Chargers.’

Browns @ Saints (-8.5)

The New Orleans Saints lost their home opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week in a game where they scored forty but conceded forty-eight. Funny things can happen in divisional games but this week they welcome a Cleveland Browns team who failed to grasp the opportunity to beat the Steelers despite generating six turnovers. The Browns’ defence looks like it will be nasty and Myles Garrett looked every inch the high first round pick that he was, but Drew Brees continues to play other worldly football. I think that Saints bounce back in this one and their defence, which played so much better last season will be determined not to let the Saints go 0-2 whilst I don’t have faith in Hue Jackson at all.

Gee’s Pick: Saints
Dan’s Pick: Browns

‘The Saints will win this one, but I think this will be another close one, so I’m backing the Browns to cover.’

Vikings @ Packers (-0.5)

As I’m writing this we don’t know if Aaron Rodgers will be able to start given his knee sprain from last week, and there’s been plenty of talk that the Minnesota Viking defence is not the unit for Rodgers to face with a dodgy knee. The problem with that is DeShone Kizer completed four of his seven passes and managed a pick six in his limited time leading the Green Bay Packers offence whilst Rodgers was getting evaluated. It’s not often these days that picking against the Packers at home is good pick but the fall off if Rodgers can’t play is dramatic and I think the Vikings are as good a shout as anyone for the best team in the league and so in what is basically a pick’em game I’m backing the Vikings.

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

‘Another close one I’m struggling to pick. With the roar of the Lambeau behind them, I’ll pick Green Bay.’

Texans @ Titans (+2.5)

This game pits two winless teams against each other but the Tennessee Titans are still waiting to see if oft injured quarterback Marcus Mariota can play with the pinched nerve in his elbow that is causing loss of sensation in his fingers, but we do know that both of their starting offensive tackles are ruled out of this game and Delanie Walker is done for the season. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when head coach Mike Vrabel says that they’re anticipating having both Mariota and Blaine Gabbert play. The Houston Texans have injury concerns of their own on an offensive line that was a concern coming into the season, but they were a frequent pick to be one of the teams of the AFC and they need to get back to winning ways quickly if this is to hold true. I don’t have a lot of faith in the Texans but two road games that opens in New England is a rough way to start the season for any team and so I’m not reading too much into the week one loss.

Gee’s Pick: Texans
Dan’s Pick: Texans

‘The Titans are knackered, and the Texans looked ok last week despite a loss against the Patriots, so this is quite an easy one. I’ll go Texans.’

Colts @ Washington (-5.5)

The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Bengals last week in a game where Andrew Luck returned from his long injury layoff and looked good but otherwise this rebuilding team struggled. This week they travel to face a Washington team who won a game very competently against the Cardinals. The experienced quarterback Alex Smith threw for over two hundred and fifty yards and two touchdowns whilst Arian Peterson ran for the ninety-six yards and took three receptions seventy yards. I don’t know how sustainable this kind of production is for Peterson but it does seem that Smith is a good fit for Jay Gruden’s system and it looks like Washington are in position to get off to a better start to this season than has been the case in recent years. I like Washington to run out winners in this one and whilst the points worry me a little, I’m placing some trust in Jay Gruden’s men. I hope I don’t regret it.

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

Colts aren’t going to do well this year – that much seems fairly clear already. Luck will be Lucky(!) to last the season if he keeps getting hit! Redskins for me.’

Chiefs @ Steelers (-5.5)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still without Le’Veon Bell and whilst James Conner was a very competent replacement in the running game, Ben Roethlisberger had a rotten start to the season in week one throwing three interceptions as the Steelers tied with the Cleveland Browns. This week they welcome a Kansas City Chiefs team that looked really good on offence in their first game and looked a bit better on defence. This game could be a real offensive show as I’m not convinced by the Steelers defence these days and I’m definitely going to be watching this one. I’m slightly surprised by the number of points that the Steelers are getting and whilst I expect them to be better and winning the game would hardly be a surprise, I can’t pick them to win by six against this Chief who look explosive on offence.

Gee’s Pick: Chiefs
Dan’s Pick: Chiefs

Picking Chiefs, but Steelers to win the game.’

Dolphins @ Jets (-2.5)

I am really intrigued by this game because the Miami Dolphins ground out a win against the Titans in difficult circumstances thanks to the weather, and this week travel to New York to face a Jets team who easily beat a woeful Lions team. Now, this could very well have made Sam Darnold look better than he actually is, but the buzz around the Jets’ rookie quarterback is incredibly positive and I want to know if the Lions made the Jets look good last week, or if the Jets are going to be a danger in the AFC East. The worry for me in this game is that the Dolphins went 2-6 in the division last season, losing all their divisional games road games and are in fact 2-11 against the spread in their last thirteen divisional road games. I may well regret this but Todd Bowles has at least kept the Jets competitive and with a live arm at quarterback I’m going against Dan in this one.

Gee’s Pick: Jets
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins

‘Of course….’

Eagles @ Buccaneers (+3.5)

This is a curious game for me as the Philadelphia Eagles offence continued to struggle in week one with Nick Foles not looking good and he remains the starter as the Super Bowl winners travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers coming off a win. The history of Ryan Fitzpatrick is not of consistent good performances from week to week otherwise he wouldn’t have moved around so many teams and the Eagles defence at least looked very good last week. There are a number of home underdogs this week and it’s not likely that they’ll all lose, but I have more faith in Doug Pederson and his coaching staff than the infrastructure in Tampa and so whilst I don’t like the points particularly, I think the Eagles will get another win and I just hope it’s by enough to warrant this pick.

Gee’s Pick: Eagles
Dan’s Pick: Eagles

Sorry Bucks fans, but I can’t see them repeating their performance from last week, so Eagles on this one.’

Lions @ 49ers (-5.5)

There are signs that things are really not going well in Detroit with continued rumblings about Matt Partricia coming from the locker room and talk from the Jets that they knew the Lions’ calls and what was coming on offence. Having been so thoroughly dismantled by the Jets they now travel to face the San Francisco 49ers who are coming off their own tough start in Minnesota. However, even against the tough Vikings defence Kyle Shanahan was able to scheme players open and whilst Jimmy Garoppolo no longer has an unbeaten record, this was always going to happen at some point and I fancy them to get back to winning ways. The points in this game do worry me a little, but the Lions look like things could go really wrong for them and I’m not convinced of a turn around this week.

Gee’s Pick: 49ers
Dan’s Pick: 49ers

Something’s telling me that Jimmy G’s team will take this one fairly comfortably. Could be wrong, but I’m picking San Francisco.’

Cardinals @ Rams (-12.5)

This is a horrible game to pick just because of the line. The LA Rams went on the road and ran out convincing winners against the Raiders and this week they welcome an Arizona Cardinals team who got blown out by Washington last week. It was always going to be hard to turn things round after losing Bruce Arians as coach and Carson Palmer as quarterback. They drafted Josh Rosen for the future but right now Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback but I struggle to see them turning things round against a Rams team who invested in their defence in the offseason and who have one of the best young coaches in the game. The problem is that this is a huge line and I feel like I should pick the Cardinals but having got blown out against Washington at home, I don’t see how they will do better against a stacked Rams team on the road. I could really regret this one.

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

This is horrible given the size of the spread. I’ll go Cards, reluctantly.’

Raiders @ Broncos (-5.5)

This looks to be a horrible spot for the currently Oakland Raiders who lost the late Monday night game and now travel to face the Denver Broncos. The Raiders lost badly and the situation with Jon Gruden has the potential to go seriously wrong. This feels like a lot of points for the Broncos to give up, but they have a definite home advantage and got the job done last week despite Case Keenum throwing three interceptions to go with his three touchdowns. In a familiar theme, this feels like a lot of points but I do not trust the road team and so I’m hoping the Broncos build on last week’s win.

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

The Broncos pulled off a bit of a surprise last week in beating the Seahawks. I fancy the Raiders this week though.’

Patriots @ Jaguars (+2.5)

If there is a home underdog that could be the one to go with it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars who host the New England Patriots in a rerun of last season’s AFC conference championship game. The Jaguars look pretty much the same as last year with a dominant defence and a limited offence that will not be helped by Leonard Fournette being questionable thanks to a hamstring injury. The Patriots got their season off to a winning start against the Texans last week and it looked like their defence could be better although the Texan’s offensive line will have helped that. It’s always dangerous to pick against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and I’m really looking forward to taking a look at the coaching tape to see what the Patriots offence schemes up to take on the Jaguars’ defence. I don’t want to pick against all the home underdogs but I can’t quite bring myself to pick the Jaguars with the injuries on offence and it’s not hard to see the Patriots winning this one by a field goal.

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

What a game this will be. I’ll go Jaguars in the hope they stick the first L to the Pats.’

Giants @ Cowboys (-2.5)

This is a straight up battle for the first win of the season between two struggling teams. With Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham in the huddle the New York Giants have talent on offence but weren’t able to generate that much last week against the fearsome Jaguars defence. That said the Dallas Cowboys have continued their struggles from last season and their offensive line is struggling with injuries. I’m not exactly convinced by either team so I’m going to grab the points with the Giants but it really feels like a shot in the dark.

Gee’s Pick: Giants
Dan’s Pick: Giants

Big divisional game here from 2 teams who aren’t their normal selves this year. Giants to win for me.’

Seahawks @ Bears (-3.5)

The Seahawks have got a rough start to the season with two road games and having lost narrowly to the Broncos last week they travel to Chicago this week to face the Bears before they get to play in Seattle. If things weren’t difficult enough for Russell Wilson, his favourite receiver Doug Baldwin injured his good knee last week and is out for this game. The problem for the Bears is that they looked good for a half but can they be consistent for an entire game versus a Seahawks team who are always competitive. It’s a long way to travel for the Seahawks but I can’t quite bring myself to have the Bears win by more than a field goal. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears win as I think they showed a lot of potential in their last game and they could very easily make me look foolish.

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

This is really tough. Really tough. The Bears look really good with Khalil Mack, and the Seahawks lost to the Broncos last week… I’ll go Chicago.’

AAF: Donald and Suh

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In my first amateur adventures in film of the new season I decided to take a look at the LA Rams defence and how they would use their new pairing of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald.

The quick answer to this is flexibly and often not at tackles. I don’t want to read too much into this game as it was the first one of the season, Aaron Donald basically missed all of the pre-season, and who am I to question Wade Philips but I am a little concerned. Generally I think the best coaches mould their system to make best use of the players available but with these two high profile tackles things felt a little forced. In what looked to be their base 3-4 defence ,Suh was playing the nose tackle whilst Donald played end. There were also several times during the first half where in passing situations where they would line up with four linemen and have Suh playing as an end. This seemed to shift in the second half to having both Suh and Donald play tackle but with wide gap between them as they lined up over the offensive guards outside shoulders.

The sum of all this was that Donald flashed the quickness and power that has made him one of the most effective defensive players in the game, but I’m not sure they made Derek Carr uncomfortable enough up the middle. For a lot of this game Carr was able to get the ball out before the pass rush got there and he was often able to step up in the pocket. That said, Carr didn’t exactly play well and the Rams were able to generate three interceptions if only sacking Carr once.

I can’t help but wonder what more of a rotation where Sun and Donald both get to rush from the interior and both in passing downs might truly terrify offences. I would want to maximise the talent the Rams have at defensive line by getting both Donald and Suh closer to the quarterback and pushing the pocket more. I’d want to be more aggressive and not have them read and react but we shouldn’t read too much into the first game. This is one to watch as it develops through the season and I certainly wouldn’t bet against Wade Philips turning the volatile talent he has at his disposal into a fearsome unit. So let’s see how these two players learn to work best together, but right now I find it more of a watching brief than an inspiring start.

Competition Thursday: Week 2

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Here we are, staring at the start of week two and after a bad start I was able to take a two point lead over Dan in the pick’s competition, although not content with stumping us with trivia questions Dan’s dad has actually taken an early lead over both of us in the picks group by getting twelve games right. As usual there’s a couple of games that I lost that were narrow and I’m okay with those results, but as ever there are plenty of teams that I need to take careful stock of but now it’s time to start with the week two games.

Gee: Week 1 11-5 Overall 11-5
Dan: Week 1 9-7 Overall 9-7

Ravens @ Bengals (+0.5)

This is a horrible line as I’m nervous enough about facing the Ravens after their thorough beating of the Bills last week, but they won’t lack for motivation having been knocked out of the playoffs by the Bengals last season. The home teams generally have a better time of it in the Thursday night games but whilst this is a 3.5 point move from the default -3 for the home team, a half point really doesn’t help unless the Bengals manage a third tie in the last couple of season! My usual rule is to take the home team on Thursday unless there’s a very good reason not to, and I’m wary of reading too much into the size of the beating the Ravens gave the Bills but it was no doubt impressive. In the end I’m going to take Dan’s optimistic approach and avoid the emotional hedge but I don’t feel confident doing it, come on Bengals, don’t let me down now!

As for Dan, ‘Sorry Gee, I was impressed with how you looked against the Colts, especially in the second half, but I just can’t see the Bengals winning this one I’m afraid.’

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

Week 2 Trivia

And from Dan’s Dad:

‘In Week 1 I asked which NFL stadium had the 2nd highest elevation at 1070 feet (After Mile High which was just too easy!).

Neither Gee nor Dan troubled the scorers this week. Although Gee’s Mexico idea was very creative as a rule I’m staying within the Contiguous (or Lower) 48. Chicago on the bank of Lake Michigan only manages 591 feet with Buffalo is a little better with 751 feet but there are lots of opportunities to score over the coming weeks!

Moving on to Week 2 then:

This week I want to know what connects the following teams:

Chiefs, Packers, Raiders, Bengals and Bears.’

Take a Breath Before You Panic

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18-09-12 Lions

Image Credit: eu.freep.com

The week one games are in the book and so after this first flurry of games the natural next step is to react and thanks to a combination of modern media and the small number of games ever result is either a triumph or a disaster. So before we continue, remember to take a breath and not to read too much into the result for you team in their first game, unless you need to panic and given that all seven new head coaches lost this week perhaps you might.

Having seen both teams in the pre-season I wasn’t convinced by either the Bills or the Lions but both were on the wrong side of score lines over forty points. I can see how the Bills got themselves into the mess they are in, and they think they have their quarterback of the future so Josh Allen but given the moves they made to get him the young quarterback needs to work out. Poor Nathan Peterman didn’t stand much chance behind the Bills’ reworked offensive line . I’m not going to pretend that I’m a good enough judge of talent to say whether he does or doesn’t belong in the NFL, but he’s had two disastrous starts for the Bills now, and it throws the decision to trade away AJ McCarron into sharp relief as Allen is now starting next week despite not being ready four days ago. The Lions meanwhile managed to lose at home to a rookie quarterback in his first start on the road and this only furthers reinforces the poor impression I got from them in pre-season. It is going to take a number of wins to wipe the memory of that start from the fans who were in attendance.

The reason that they and the other teams who lost in week one might need to panic is that while roughly half of the teams that go 2-0 make the playoffs, only around ten percent of teams who start 0-2 make the playoffs. Now for some being competitive and winning some games (I’m looking at you Browns) would be an improvement in line with expectations as there are plenty of teams who see a return to competitiveness as a marked improvement. The Saints were not expected to lose to the Buccaneers, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick keeps playing like he did in the first game perhaps Jameis Winston won’t walk straight back into the starting role. The defence for the Saints no showed in the home opener against a divisional opponent, which is a real worry for a team that plays decidedly better in their dome so they will be looking to bounce back against the Browns on Sunday.

Now the Cleveland Browns reached peak Browns by avoiding losing their opening game in a tie and failing to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers despite generating six turnovers – plus Myles Garrett looked like a monster. It feels like there’s a lot more talent on this year’s roster but I think everyone is doubting whether the coaching staff can pull it together in Cleveland and stuff like this really doesn’t help.

Another team that will be ruing a missed opportunity is the Chicago Bears who had the Packers on the ropes in the first in Green Bay before Aaron Rodgers pulled off another miracle, firstly by getting back on the field having been carted off and then by leading a comeback from 20-0 down in the third quarter. The Bears will draw a little comfort from the fact that we all know Rodgers is, to quote Robert May, ‘…a f#*@ing dragon!’ but they got conservative in the second half on offence whilst the defence failed to cope when the Packers adjusted and got the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly. This was not helped by the lack of pre-season showing up for Khalil Mack who looked unstoppable early in the game but was on a rep count and couldn’t help late. The question for fans of the Bears is does the promise displayed develop as new head coach Matt Nagy gets used to calling plays for the entire game and how to maximise the offence, but that is a question we will only find out the answer to in the coming weeks.

It’s too early to draw too much from the Kansas City Chiefs win over the LA Chargers but they looked very promising on offence. Patrick Mahomes has a ridiculous arm and didn’t throw an interception although the play calling and skills players had a lot to do with the points scored and the LA Chargers would have been a lot closer if players would stop dropping passes from Philip Rivers. The Chargers are still finding ways to lose games and the number of fans at their ‘home’ games is still a worry, the new stadium that the Rams are building and that the Chargers will be sharing once its open could be very empty and dominated by away fans if the situation remains the same.

The Oakland Raiders failed to win and I will be keeping an eye on them, but the signs are not good for this season and the questions about the Mack trade will only get louder if he builds on the promise he showed in the Bears’ opener. Meanwhile Jerry Jones avoided the media after the Dallas Cowboys opening loss to the Carolina Panthers and without a quick improvement on offence.

Now a lot of teams are in a position to turn around their single loss and I certainly wouldn’t panic if I was a fan of say the Steelers (although the display by Ben Roethlisberger was concerning), but there will be fans all over the league who will be that extra bit nervous during the upcoming games and to them I say this, there is a long season up ahead and 0-2 doesn’t necessarily mean your team won’t make the playoff but if your team loses a second game, well at that point you can definitely panic!

Great Start To The Season… Except For Our Fantasy Team!

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Ok, it’s Tuesday which means it’s Blogging time for me! I’m just back from watching a boring England side in ‘the Other Football’ beat Switzerland in a boring friendly… such a comedown from a great weekend of NFL!

Where to start? Well, the Dolphins I suppose! Good win for the fins this week against a battered and bruised Tennessee Titans – this despite two weather related game breaks meaning the game which started at 6pm over here in England went on to finish just after 1:20am on Monday morning! It’s a good job my boss knows why I’m always knackered on Mondays during the season. On a serious note, I was impressed by Miami – we looked renewed which was nice, and special mentions have to go to Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake (who I can see running through some dirty great holes in defences this year), a debuting Minkah Fitzpatrick (who made some critical defensive stops) and Ryan Tannehill who looked fresh returning from Injury.

Speaking of which, there were a few QBs coming back this week. I got to see some of Deshaun Watson for the Texans and Andrew Luck for the Colts. It won’t be long before Watson is back to his best, but Andrew Luck is going to struggle if his line let him get hit as much as he did by the Bengals in the coming weeks.

Image Credit – nypost.com

Honourable QB mentions should also go to Aaron Rodgers, who lead his team to an incredible comeback victory even with an injured leg, after being down by more than 20 points, and Ryan Fitzpatrick who threw over 400 yards and got himself a couple of touchdowns in the process – hands up who had him in their fantasy team? …anyone?? If he carries on like that, Jamies Winston will struggle to get back in when his suspension is up.

The Browns did the most Brownsy thing they possibly could and when attempting a medium range kick to win their game with the Steelers in overtime, managed to get it blocked and come away with a tie. It means they definitely won’t go 0-16 this year but it would have been nice of them to get one in the W column in a divisional game week one. Le’veon Bell will have been a keen spectator of that game, having not travelled with Pittsburgh for this one due to his ongoing contractual hold-out. I can’t see him leaving the Steelers, but some of their key players will be knocking on management’s door this week trying to get a deal done and get him back in yellow and black.

Image Credit – CBS Sports

And my early pick for the Super Bowl, the Rams, managed a good win on Monday too. Not managed to watch that game yet but I’ll pick that up in the next few days. So, “how’s the odds chart looking Dan?” I hear you cry! Well, like this, I reply:

Odds are down to 10-1 after week one actually making them third favourites – level with the Eagles and behind only the Vikings and the Patriots. Not bad after one game!

The Wrong Football fantasy team didn’t manage to get off to a winning start unfortunately, beaten by 192.5 to 183.4. This disappoints me having gone unbeaten with the ‘Suh Tang Clan’ 2 years ago (I might have mentioned it once or twice on the pod…!!). I’ll be wheeling and dealing in the market this week as I was too late to pick up a good Running back off waivers and Lynch is questionable. The full team looks something like this:

Feedback welcomed, but I can’t promise to listen!!

Anyway, before I go this week, quick shout to Darren Butler (@darrenbutler87) who gave me a great little bit of trivia this week which I wanted to share with you…

“For three years between 1983 and 1986 the Heisman Trophy Winner was not drafted by an NFL Franchise, with all three opting to join the USFL spring series instead.”

Lovely little stat that! In the spirit of our trivia competition, if you’ve got a good bit of NFL trivia to share (useless or otherwise – the more ‘pub knowledge’ the better!) drop me a tweet @TWFDan and you may get a mention here next week!

That’s all for now. Until next time…

@TWFDan

2018 Week One Picks

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So here it is, the first week of picks and having dropped a point to Dan already let’s see if I can pick some points back up again!

Before we get going though there’s the small matter of this year’s trivia competition so here’s a reminder of the week one question:

‘All teams aspire to finish as high as they can so we kick off the new season with a question about the Highest Altitude of NFL Stadia. At 5280 feet the Broncos Mile High Stadium is way too easy as a question but, at 1070 feet, who comes in second?’

So my first thought was that Dan’s dad is just too good at this and I’m betting that I can’t have the Raiders when they play in Mexico City. I mentally went through the NFL divisions and had a couple of thoughts, although my knowledge of American geography is not that strong, and in the end I’m going to plump for the Buffalo Bills. Now I get to check what Dan thought and feel like an idiot…

‘So, I don’t know the answer to this, but to guess I’m between two – one with an element of Logic (Chicago – it’s windy, makes sense that it’s high up) and one because I just have a feeling (Detroit). I’ll go for Chicago I think!’

Remember the actual answer will be revealed in The Wrong Football Newsletter that is sent out Wednesday nights so sign up here.

Bills @ Ravens (-5.5)

I am worried about the Bills’ offensive line and the effect it will have on their young quarterbacks and the Ravens look to be competitive this year with better receivers than they’ve had in recent seasons so I’m going with the Ravens in this one.

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

‘While this could go either way, the Bills are already a bit banged up going into week one, so I’m going for Baltimore’

Bengals @ Colts (-3.5)

I’m feeling good about how the Bengals looked in pre-season and I come into this game relatively confident about how they are going to play. Yes the Colts beat them in pre-season but Andrew Luck has been out for a long time with his shoulder injury and they are still in the process of rebuilding a roster that sorely lacked talent. I think the Bengals are the better team (please don’t let me be wrong!) and so with an extra half point I’m taking the road underdog Bengals.

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

‘Almost everything wants me to go for the Colts here, especially with Andrew Luck being back, but something’s telling me the Bengals are going to do it! Hopefully that doesn’t jinx you mate!’

Steelers @ Browns (+6.5)

This is a bit of a tricky one for me as I think the Steelers are the better team, but they have a nasty habit of playing down to their opposition and they will be without Le’Veon Bell who still hasn’t signed back with his team. I’m wary of the Hard Knocks curse but I thought watching the pre-season games that the Browns were more competitive and this point total means the Browns only have to stay within a touchdown. This game would be a lot easier to pick in a week or two but I think Myles Garrett is going to a real menace to quarterbacks and I’m going to give the Browns a go. Watch Antonio Brown make me look like a fool!

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

‘If Hard Knocks has taught me anything it’s that the Browns will win a game this year. Not this one though. Away Win.’

Titans @ Dolphins (+1.5)

There are so many unknown variables in this one. For the Titans what effect will Mike Vrabel have on his team and will new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur be able to unlock Marcus Mariota’s full potential. Meanwhile, the Dolphins traded or cut their best players on defence and offence whilst quarterback Ryan Tannehill is coming back from a year off with a knee injury and I trust Adam Gase as a head coach. The Titans may well end the season with the better record but in a game I’m not sure of I’m going to grab the points for the home team.

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

‘Dolphins. Obviously.’

49ers @ Vikings (-5.5)

This should be a really fascinating game given that it features the unbeaten Jimmy Garoppolo (it’s just fun to type that so I’m going to enjoy it until it stops being a thing) and the improving 49ers taking on the Vikings with their new quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Vikings had a real home advantage in their new stadium last year and I expect it to be the same this year. The loss of the Jerick Mckinnon to a torn ACL is a cruel blow for the 49ers and so despite the points and my nervousness about the streak, I’m picking the Vikings to cover this one.

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

‘I think this is going to be a good year for the modern day Purple People Eaters this year, and I think they’ll start with a home win. Minnesota.’

Texans @ Patriots (-6.5)

There are enough warning signs in New England that I think this game could be competitive, but the problem is that it is a big could. The Texans defence has all the pieces you could want whilst their offence sees the return of Deshaun Watson who set the league alight last year before his injury. The Patriots come into the season with questions at the skills position and a forty-one year old quarterback but you just know that we can’t discount Belichick and Brady until we actually see it go wrong. However, this is enough points for me to take the Texans and I just hope that I’m not reading too much into the Texans keeping the game within three last season.

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

‘New England are going to have another very New England year. I’ll put them down for a win by a TD.’

Buccaneers @ Saints (-9.5)

This number of points should worry me in an opening game but the fact is that Saints are at home and have everything setup to follow last year’s season with another good one and I’m not at all convinced by the Buccaneers. There’s plenty of potential for the Bucs to make me eat my words but in week one I’m just swinging with my convictions and that says the Saints cover this and win.

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

‘The 9.5 point spread on this one makes it the most difficult line of the week. I think I’ll go with New Orleans but won’t be surprised if I get this one wrong!’

Jaguars @ Giants (+2.5)

This is a trick game for me as the Jaguars look set to continue to have an amazing defence but their offence could still continue to struggle to move the ball through the air given the receiving options available. However, just how much of a turnaround are the Giants capable off and specifically how well can Eli Manning play. This game represents a five-and-a-half-point swing and I’m so tempted by the points but the Jaguars only have to win by a field goal to cover this. I could really regret this but I’m not quite ready to call this one for the Giants just yet as I haven’t seen them.

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

‘Jags for me. They’re going to have another good year this year. I’d like to see them at least make the playoffs again.’

Chiefs @ Chargers (-3.5)

The Chargers have all the players you could need but might have a home disadvantage thanks to their status as LA’s other team and the Chiefs are going to have the offensive capacity to stay in most games. This feels like a real toss up pick and should be a great game but the half point just has me backing the Chiefs to keep this one to at least a field goal, particularly when Andy Reid has time to prepare.

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

‘Struggling to call this one as I could see it going either way. I’ll go Chargers with the home advantage.’

Cowboys @ Panthers (-2.5)

I’m not sure about the Cowboys given the strength of the offence has been shaken by injuries and whilst I feel like in the long run they could be okay, a road game against a Panthers team who are strong at home is not an easy start to the season. The Panthers have their own questions on the offensive line but with them only having to win by field goal to cover then I’m going with the Panthers.

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

‘Road win, but I’ve changed my mind on this line twice since I started looking at it!’

Seahawks @ Broncos (-2.5)

This is a tricky pick for me given that I think that the Seahawks will be more competitive than most seem to think, but they start the season on the road in Denver, which is not an easy place to play. The Broncos have another offensive line that I’m not convince by and this could hamper Case Keenum who had a career year in Minnesota but who also benefitted by having one of the best pairs of receivers in the league so there are big questions about whether he can repeat or improve on that performance. This could turn into a real slug fest and I don’t have a strong opinion either way so given the Broncos home advantage and that they only need a field goal to win I’m reluctantly going with them.

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

‘I could do with the Seahawks having a good year this year, especially with Russell Wilson under centre for our Fantasy team! I’ll back them for week one.’

Washington @ Cardinals (-0.5)

I’m really not sure what to expect from the Cardinals with the change in the coaching staff and them starting Sam Bradford at quarterback but the same basically goes for Washington so who knows? This game is basically a pick’em and given that Washington have not started fast in recent years and are on the road I’ll back the Cardinals and the return of David Johnson but I don’t feel strongly about it.

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

‘Another one that could go either way so is only being called on the basis of Arizona being at home!’

Bears @ Packers (-8.5)

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers back and a new defensive coordinator as they welcome a Bears team that have just acquired Khalil Mack and will be radically different on offence this season. The Bears have generated a lot of buzz this offseason but it is unclear how much Mack will play in this game. This is a lot of points and Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy has a tendency to play conservative with a lead so whilst I’m not saying the Bears will win this game, I do think they can keep it to within nine points.

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

‘Packers are going to win this one, but not by more than a touchdown so I’m going for the Bears to cover.’

Jets @ Lions (-6.5)

I am really not sure about this game as there are lot of changing factors in this game. Todd Bowles kept the Jets competitive despite a roster depleted of talent but they start this season with a rookie quarterback whilst the Lions may have looked bad in the pre-season game I saw them but it was the final game where no starters played. A touchdown win seems too rich for me at first look but I can’t bring myself to pick a rookie quarterback with questionable receivers on the road in his debut so Lions it is…

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

‘J-E-T-S – Lose, Lose, Lose!’

Rams @ Raiders (+2.5)

The Raiders may be at home and getting points but they have a head coach who hasn’t actually coached in nine years and who has just traded away their best player. In the long run it might be a good salary cap move but it is not a move you can look your current team in the eye and say you made them better for this game. This is a tough start for the Raiders and whilst we haven’t seen what tricks Sean McVay has prepared for this season, he has catapulted himself into the discussion of best head coaches in the league after one season and so this is still not enough points for me to pick the Raiders.

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

‘LA win in Monday Night’s game, followed by everyone copying me and jumping on the bandwagon and the odds dropping!!’

Transitioning into the New Season

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18-09-09 Wentz and Foles

Image Credit: sportingnews.com

So I thought I would take this last Sunday without coaching tape to talk about I would write a little about the last Hard Knocks episode and the first game of the season.

I mentioned last week that the timing of the last episode is always slightly off as the cuts, which are the big feature of the last show are problematic to watch as your intruding on very difficult time for the players involved and the tension is often already gone as the cuts are big news so you often already know who has and hasn’t made it. This is even more so here in the UK with our delayed showing so we couldn’t watch episode five until the day of the start of the season.

This week’s episode got to the game more quickly as the ending is focussed around the cuts, but it was interesting to see Rogan Broback go into the game, start tight and then settle in before throwing a sharp touchdown price. However, this year none of the bubble players that have been featured this season made the team with even Carl Nassib getting cut a day later after the Browns were down to fifty-three to faclilitate a roster move and unusually, he was the only player who got picked up by the time the episode was aired or as far as I can tell now. It has to be hard for Nate Orchard who had a pick six interception in the final game to not make the roster or get picked up. We saw Devon Cajuste working on his blocking and keep trying, but whilst he’s apparently had interest from teams, none of them have sought to pick up the converted tight end yet but he could get a look as injuries start to pile up as could Orchard.

We then moved from bottom of the roster moves to the excitement of the new season that didn’t quite take off on Thursday night as the Atlanta Falcons travelled to Philadelphia to face the Super Bowl champion Eagles. If there is a real worry for the NFL office from this game it was the number of penalties in this game and whilst it wasn’t full of leading with the head penalties there were twenty-six flags for a total of two hundred and thirty-six yards.

For the Falcons the frustration was that they moved the ball well and Julio Jones looked really good but they were flat bad in the red zone and how Jones is off the field as often as he seems to be close the goal line I do not know. At least make your opponent cover the most dangerous skills player you have! I was also a little worried by some of Matt Ryan’s throws and he did not live up to the contract he just signed. It’s absolutely not time to panic, if your home record is good you only have to win a few games on the road to get to the playoffs but the Falcons were right there and couldn’t win the game.

As for the Eagles, the defence is still based on a fearsome pass rush and looked good but the clamour for Carson Wentz to get back into the game will only rise after this performance by Nick Foles. However, the team got the win and I’d forgotten what an effect having Darren Sproles has on the offence. They showed flashes and perhaps Foles will always win games where he has a catch but the Eagles will be looking to improve next week.

The important thing in week one never mind the opening game is not to over react but let’s hope there are few less flags flying in the rest of the games as we get going with the rest of the week one.