AAF: Jimmy Garoppolo

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So for this week’s amateur adventure in file I took a look Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start for the San Francisco 49ers against the Chicago Bears.

The quotes from his team mates were glowing after the game, but this is not a set of coaching tape that initially wows you with amazing throws. Partly this is the offence as whilst it is undeniably well schemed, there is a lot more two running back sets and running than you will see from a lot of teams in the league, and partly it is that Garoppolo is an accurate thrower that doesn’t necessary throw darts. However, arm strength is often somewhat over rated and what particularly impressed me the timing of Garoppolo’s passes. Looking at his completions you would see the receiver run their route, turn for the ball and it would arrive as they got their hands up.

One of the reasons the players were open was that the 49ers offence is so well schemed. There is a lot of motion before the snap, helping Guroppolo identify coverages as well as enabling them to move the point of attack for their run depending on what play has been called. On any given pass play there are players running combinations of routes to stretch the defence, and when you have a quarterback capable of reading this then you have an effective offence.

The obvious problem in this game came in the red zone. This is perhaps not surprising given that Garoppolo has only been with the franchise for a month and everything is harder in the red zone as there is so much less room to work in. The 49ers are also a little lacking in talent at the moment, but unless this becomes a trend I would not worry too much and given the offence that Kyle Shanahan co-ordinated last year with the Atlanta Falcons, I would back him to sort this out in the long run.

The big question going forward will be how quickly they can develop this offence, but before that they have to finish the season and get Garoppolo signed up long term, but for the first time in what feels like a very long time the 49ers’ fans have something to get really excited about.

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Week Fourteen Picks

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Colts @ Bills (-3.5)

The Buffalo Bills still stand an outside chance of squeezing into the playoffs, but they need to keep winning and the injury to Tyrod Taylor’s knee seems to make it likely that Nathan Peterman will get a second start this week. I’m not sure it’s possible for Peterman to have a worse game than he did against the Chargers in week eleven but if he plays it throws real doubt on the Bills ability to win. The Indianapolis Colts come into Buffalo having lost heavily against the Jaguars and don’t have a win since week nine. Until last week they had kept their games close but even though it feels like I should pick the Colts to cover this, I can’t quite make myself do it. I could regret this but the Bills have been good at home and I just don’t trust the Colts.

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

Bears @ Bengals (-6.5)

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a very physical loss to the Steelers on Monday and thanks to injury are thin at both safety and corner on defence as well as at running back. They welcome a Chicago Bears team who may only be 3-9 but who have kept the majority of their games close. The Bengals have seemed to have found some more consistency in recent weeks but whilst I can see them winning this game, I can’t pick them to cover given the injuries and how tough the Bears defence has been playing.

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

Packers @ Browns (+3.5)

The Cleveland Browns are searching for a win and welcome a Green Bay Packers who will be desperate to keep themselves in with a theoretical shot at the playoffs as Aaron Rodgers recovers from his broken collar bone. This could be the week that the Browns get a win, but the Packers have something to play for and I’m just not sure what will happen. However, with the Browns getting this number of points I’m going to reluctantly pick them to keep the game within four points.

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

Cowboys @ Giants (+4.5)

The New York Giants might get a lift in the locker room from the firing of a head coach that clearly was not in full control of the locker room, but this doesn’t address the weakness of the roster. They welcome a Dallas Cowboys team who got their offence working a bit better last week and who look to be getting Sean Lee back on defence this week. This is a lot of points to get at home, but it is not enough to tempt me even if the Giants do have a little uptake in performance.

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

Lions @ Buccaneers (+3.5)

Apart from only having a 4-8 record, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been inconsistent on offence and struggled on defence. They welcome a limping Detroit Lions team who have been inconsistent as well despite being in the top half of the league by overall DVOA. It is hard to have much faith in either team and so I’m going to grab the points for the home underdog given Matthew Stafford’s hand injury.

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

Raiders @ Chiefs (-3.5)

The Kansas City Chiefs could get back to winning ways, but their defence has really struggled for a while now and they only have one win in seven games. The Oakland Raiders do not exactly inspire confidence either, particularly with a defence that is ranked last in the league by DVOA. Although Arrowhead Stadium is a famously loud place to play, on their recent form I just can’t pick the Chiefs to win by four.

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

Vikings @ Panthers (+2.5)

This should be an interesting game, but I have a lot more faith in the Minnesota Vikings’ ability to move the ball on the tough Carolina Panthers defence than vice versa. This could be one tough road game too many for the Vikings, but even with the Panthers getting points at home, it’s not quite enough to sway me from backing what could well be the best team in the league, even if the DVOA rankings do only have the Vikings listed as sixth.

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

49ers @ Texans (-2.5)

The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a narrow win over the Bears in Jimmy Guroppolo’s first start and look to have found their franchise quarterback. However, as good as he looked, he didn’t get into the end zone against the Bears and this week they are on the road again facing the wounded Houston Texans team. The Texans have struggled ever since Deshaun Watson went down, and have lost two straight coming into this game. On paper the Texans should have enough to beat the 49ers, and whilst I do wonder what lift Guroppolo will give the 49ers it is just too early for me to back them in this game.

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

Jets @ Broncos (+0.5)

The Denver Broncos have now lost eight straight games and with the issues at quarterback it is hard to see things improving drastically until the offseason. This week they face a scrappy New York Jets team who are very evenly ranked across all three phases of the game by DVOA. Even though only one of their five wins has come on the road, it is hard to look past the Jets given that the Broncos offence ranks dead last by DVOA and whilst the Broncos obviously could win, I can’t pick that to happen.

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

Titans @ Cardinals (+2.5)

The Arizona Cardinals have stayed competitive despite the injuries they have suffered on offence, but with Adrian Peterson still injured and looking to be out for this game it is hard to see things improving for them. They welcome a Tennessee Titans team that have ground out an 8-4 record despite being ranked twentieth overall by DVOA. I don’t think this game will set many pulses raising outside of the Cardinals and Titans’ fan bases, but I expect the Titans to keep the momentum they have gathered rolling.

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

Washington @ Chargers (-6.5)

The line of this game does give me pause, but the LA Chargers are on a three game win streak and really seem to have found their formula now. They welcome a very injured Washington team who are a tough out but there is only so much Kirk Cousins can do behind their current offensive line. The lack of home field advantage the Chargers have since their move to LA does concern me, but their excellent pass rush will likely be terrifying to face for Washington. I do see the Chargers winning but I’m just not convinced they will win by seven yet in the end that is what I am nervously going to pick.

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

Eagles @ Rams (-2.5)

This is another huge game as the LA Rams welcome the Philadelphia Eagles. The LA Rams come into this game on a two game winning streak and will be hoping to stop the Eagles bouncing back from their loss to the Seahawks last week. In a game that pits the top two teams in the league by DVOA against each other I am going to grab the points and enjoy what should be a cracking game.

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

Seahawks @ Jaguars (-2.5)

The Seattle Seahawks got an excellent win last week, but whilst their defence proved it can hold up despite the injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor and should be fine against the Jaguars one dimensional offence, their offence could really struggle the Jacksonville Jaguars’ second ranked by DVOA defence. In particular the scary Jaguars pass rush could have a field day against the Seahawks suspect offensive line. I’m not saying the Seahawks can’t win, particularly after last week, but on the road I’m not sure I can pick it to happen.

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

Ravens @ Steelers (-5.5)

I am sure the Pittsburgh Steelers come into this game with Ryan Shazier very much on their minds, and there will be players paying tribute to the injured linebacker with their cleats in this game. The Baltimore Ravens lead the league in defence and special teams by DVOA and are grinding their way through the season. The play of Ben Roethlisberger is noticeably better at home than it is on the road, and having beaten the Ravens on the road by seventeen, I think the Steelers could cover this line. They showed the mental toughness to come back and win last week after being down 17-0 in the second quarter, but after such a physical game I do wonder if there will be a let-down this week, yet in the end I’m going to back the Steelers to cover.

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

Patriots @ Dolphins (+11.5)

The Miami Dolphins have often played the New England Patriots tough at home, but give the way their season has gone and their recent performances, I just can’t pick them to do it again. I’m sure Dan will be very happy for me to be proved wrong, but in front of the nation I think the Patriots will be too focussed to let the Dolphins have a sniff in this one.

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

Quick Thursday Night Pick

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Only time for a quick pick tonight so here are the results from last night and what I think might happen.

Gee:      Week 13   12-4                   Overall   109-84
Dan:      Week 13   8-8                     Overall   102-91

Saints @ Falcons (+0.5)

I’ve said this about Thursday night games a few times this season, but this really should be a good game. The New Orleans Saints have been transformed this year and stand atop of the NFC South as they welcome their division rivals the Atlanta Falcons who have struggled at various points through the season but are still 7-5 and in the playoff hunt. However, if they are to stay there then the Falcons can ill afford to lose this game and with them being at home as well as desperate I am going to tip the Falcons to edge this one out although I would not be surprised if the Saints won. Certainly that would please Dan.

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

AAF: The LA Rams Offence and Jared Goff

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So this week I got a chance to take a look at the LA Rams offence and the turnaround of Jared Goff as they took on the New Orleans Saints..

So the first think I took away was that Jared Goff looks like a professional quarterback, which given how bad things were last season is not something to be sniffed at. There was interesting footage that came out in the week of the Rams lining up early in the play clock so that Sean McVay could call any audibles before the QB headset could cut out at 15 seconds left on the play clock. I’m sure that in future defences will start switching looks later in the play clock so this will be something to monitor.

However, in this game, it wasn’t so much the play of Goff that stood out as the construction of the offence. The Rams remained committed to the run, even if they did only manage eighty-eight yards from twenty-five carries. However, this was not a slavish insistence on running on first down out of an I formation, in fact most of the time the Rams were in 11 personnel, but was the commitment to the run to establish the basis of their numerous run fakes. They not only used traditional play action, but would motion Tavon Austin across the formation or line him up as the running back with 01 personnel on the ball. Even if these plays did not always succeed, the defence has to account for them and more than once after two run fakes held a safety long enough for a receiver to get behind the play.

Sean McVay also schemed a couple of quick backwards passes to receivers who once tossed the ball for Tevon Austin to run on and on another play, Cooper Kupp threw a horrible forward pass. Still if misdirection ruled the day, they did keep feeding the ball to Todd Gurley in space so that apart from his seventy-four yards on the ground, Gurley picked up fifty-four yards through the air.

The Rams did not have things all their own way. If Goff was unlucky when a ball he threw behind Sammy Watkins bounced off his trailing hand and straight into the arms of a trailing PJ Williams, Goff had no chance of escaping Cameron Jordan when he faked inside right tackle Rob Havenstein and the burst straight past him on the outside to get a quick sack. For Cameron’s first sack I would suggest that Goff shared some of the blame due to holding on the ball whilst Cameron drove Andrew Whitworth up field and then powered inside him to get the sack. There is only so long even the best of tackles can hold up one on one in pass protection.

Still, for the most part the Rams moved the ball well and even whey they didn’t they still didn’t turn the ball over. I am impressed with the turnaround Sean McVay has already produced in LA and will be fascinated to follow the development of Goff as surely after this season’s success McVay and Goff will have a number of years to develop this offence.

Week Thirteen Picks

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Vikings @ Flacons (-2.5)

The Atlanta Falcons have really come on in recent weeks and have almost quietly got themselves to a 7-4 record. Meanwhile the Minnesota Vikings have been playing really well all season and this should be a great game. I’m going to grab the points in a game I can see the Vikings winning despite being on the road but it is not exactly hard to see the Falcons winning.

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

Patriots @ Bills (+8.5)

This is a tricky game to pick as the New England Patriots keep covering huge lines but the Buffalo Bills got their season back on track last week as they ground out a win against the Chiefs. However the Chiefs have been stuttering for weeks now, whilst the Patriots have rounded into form on defence and Tom Brady has been carrying them all season. It’s not that the Bills stand no chance of covering this line but I’m not going to pick it as the most likely result.

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

49ers @ Bears (-3.5)

The Chicago Bears lost heavily to the Eagles last week and only have two more wins than the 49ers. The San Francisco 49ers are starting Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback for the first time and a lot of people are excited about this given how he looked in four plays last week. I’m not sure if this is going to launch a huge turnaround given the quantity of injuries the 49ers have suffered, but I don’t trust the Bears to win by four or more so I’m backing the 49ers to at least keep it close.

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

Broncos @ Dolphins (-0.5)

This is a horrible game to pick as neither the Miami Dolphins nor the Denver Broncos inspire confidence. Both teams have problems at quarterback and the Dolphins are stuck at the bottom of the league according to overall DVOA. I have more faith in Adam Gase as a head coach than Vance Joseph at the moment and with the Dolphins playing at home I am going to pick them but you would avoid picking this game if you could.

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

Lions @ Ravens (-2.5)

The Baltimore Ravens have got themselves to 6-5 thanks to a defence and special teams unit that both lead the league in DVOA and have overcome an anaemic offence. This week they welcome a Detroit Lions team that play tough but have struggled to win consistently. This is one of those games where I find it hard to have a firm opinion on what will happen, but I know what I am getting from the Ravens’ number one by DVOA units and so despite the poor offence, I’m backing the Ravens to grind it out in this one.

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

Buccaneers @ Packers (-2.5)

The Green Bay Packers have been struggling with Brett Hundley as their quarterback, which is understandable but his up and down play makes them a hard team to predict. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not looked like the team many were expecting coming into the season and I’m not sure Jameis Winston being cleared to play clarifies the situation any. I have very little faith in either team so I am going to grab the points but I don’t feel good about it.

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

Texans @ Titans (-6.5)

The Houston Texans have managed a win since rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson went down for the season with his knee injury, but this combined with losing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus from the defence of the Texans ha really hampered them. The Tennessee Titans might not have caught the eye with their play, but they are joint top of the AFC South. I backed the Titans last week and they only just covered against the Colts so this line worries me but in the end I’m going to back the healthier team who still have something to play for.

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

Colts @ Jaguars (-9.5)

So head coach Doug Marone came out last week and said he got greedy at the end of the game that saw the Jacksonville Jaguars lose to the Cardinals. This week they welcome the Indianapolis Colts who are really struggling and on the road I can’t see them beating the Jaguars. My concern though is whether the Jaguars can cover this big a line but having beaten the Colts 27-0 in Indianapolis, I’m going to back them to win big in this one.

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

Chiefs @ Jets (+3.5)

Since starting the season 5-0 the Kansas City Chiefs have really struggled and having lost to the Bills last week they travel to New York to face the Jets. The Jets have struggled in the last five games, only winning one of them so it is hard to know what will happen in this game. I am really tempted by getting the points at home and given these teams respective form that is what I am going to pick but who knows what will actually happen in the game.

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

Browns @ Chargers (-13.5)

It seems strange for the LA Chargers to be getting this many points, particularly given that they don’t have much of a home advantage, but the Cleveland Browns are winless for a reason and haven’t even kept a game to a single digit loss since week seven. Perhaps the addition of Josh Gordon will give them a spark on offence, but the Chargers have played well in the last couple of weeks and with the extra rest coming of their Thanksgiving victory over the Cowboys I’m backing them to win. Can they cover this line? In a case of the Browns being bad vs my rule on double digit spreads I’m falling on side of not trusting the Browns. I could regret this.

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

Giants @ Raiders (-6.5)

I see very little in the Oakland Raiders that excites me, particularly given the injury to Amari Cooper which when combined with the suspension of Michael Crabtree means that Derek Carr has lost both his starting receivers. However, with the New York Giants benching Eli Manning for Geno Smith, I don’t exactly have a lot of faith in the Giants either. In the end I am going to back the Raiders going against a team flying across the country who have just sat their two time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Even if Eli Manning has not been playing well, it doesn’t feel like the situation was handled well and I can’t trust the Giants after this week.

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

Rams @ Cardinals (+6.5)

Who would have thought before the season that the LA Rams would be giving six and a half points to any team on the road, but they have been truly transformed and with their win against the Saints last week the Rams got back to winning ways. I expect them to have too much for the Arizona Cardinals who are down to their third string quarterback but have been competitive thanks to a top ten defence by DVOA, yet I can’t see them keeping up with the Rams.

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

Panthers @ Saints (-3.5)

The New Orleans Saints couldn’t win on the road last week without two corners and pass rusher Alex Okafor lost for the season. However, this week they are at home facing a Carolina Panthers team who have been very up and down on offence but whose defence has played really well. This should be one of the more interesting games of the season, but in the end I think the Saints will run out winners thanks to their balance on offence and defence.

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

Eagles @ Seahawks (+5.5)

I’m not sure I remember a time when the Seattle Seahawks were getting this many points at home, but they face an uphill struggle going against the Philadelphia Eagles without so many members of the Legion of Boon. Not only are Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor gone for the season, but the Seattle offensive line is facing a fearsome pass rush and whilst Russell Wilson is a magician, there are limits to what he can do. I expect this to be a fascinating game, and may well be closer on the field than the scoreboard suggests, but I expect the Eagles good form to continue.

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

Steelers @ Bengals (+6.5)

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off two straight wins and really have to win this game if they are to maintain their slim hopes of the playoffs. The problem is that whilst the Pittsburgh Steelers have played down to the level of their opposition multiple times, they are still 9-2 and I expect them to win this one. That said, getting this many points at home in a game that is often close I am going to back to the Bengals to cover and hope for a win. I do expect to be disappointed come Tuesday morning though.

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

Trying to Make a Plan Stick

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A combination of the Thanksgiving games and an ill-timed support call at the weekend got me thinking about the obsession with routine that many NFL head coaches seem to have.

I think the desire for routine was part of the reason that John Harbaugh was comfortable in complaining about his team’s trip to London earlier this year.

An NFL head coach is used to micromanaging. I’m sure there has to be a degree of flexibility built in, but a coach has his plan for the entire season prepared before it starts in terms of practise, travel, and everything it takes to play a game of football. This is much easier to implement if you are working in a familiar routine, particularly if you have a heavy schedule and any NFL coach, yet alone the one in charge of an entire team works an awful lot of hours.

One of the reasons that Bruce Arian’s is a favourite coach of mine is that he often talks about how important it is to maintain a work life balance and that if he hears of any of his coaches missing an important family occasion then he’ll fire them. However, in the ultra-competitive world of professional sports people are always looking for advantages and with the complexity of tactics that make up an NFL game plan you can see why coaches put in as many hours as they do.

I know from personal experience how if you don’t have a focussed plan, that you can spend a huge amount of time watching the coaching tape of a single game, and comparatively I know nothing about football. Not that I let that stop me from commenting about the game or coaching.

However, I don’t pretend that coaching is easy, and whilst I can and do share frustrations or wonder what was going on, something I heard Michael Wilbon of ESPN say really struck a chord with me.

He was talking about coaching and given how prepared these coaches are, the hours they put in, what interference and distractions must be going on for them to make the decisions they do.

Take for instance the Buffalo Bills. They have a quarterback in Tyrod Taylor that the franchise has not committed to, and with the GM and coaching regime change and apparently there still being no faith you begin to wonder what influence the owners are having. Certainly the decision to start Nathan Peterman ended badly and with Taylor back under centre this last week, the Bills were able to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

I had a lot of time for what Sean McDermott did this season with a team that had move a lot of players on yet was still found a way to win, but for many the decision to sit a quarterback who didn’t turn the ball over for a rookie because Peterman gave them the best chance to win was fireable given how badly Peterman played. However, with a win McDermott at least stabilised the situation and what we don’t know is how many people were involved in the decision, but when it comes to a starting quarterback I wonder how many voices are involved.

Certainly with the announcement that Eli Manning is to have his starting streak of over two hundred games for the New York Giants ended because he is being sat for Geno Smith I start to wonder who was involved in the decision apart from Ben McAdoo. I’m not saying that anyone else told him to do it, but with all that is going on in New York, with the press being less than impressed with McAdoo’s handling of the team – what influenced him? The play of Eli Manning has not looked that great for a while now, and predates the loss of Odel Beckham earlier in the season, but what is he hoping to gain with his two time Super Bowl winner on the side lines.

I wonder how you get into the position to keep making the best decisions. How you have to be in lock step with all the people round you. I know how some approach it as coaches like Pete Carroll or Bruce Arians will write a book or talk about it, whilst someone like Bill Belichick reveals as little as possible.

However, I can easily see how being in the head coach’s office of an NFL franchise could be very different once you’re in there to how even an experienced coaches thought it might be.

And how only a tiny change could derail the best laid but highly complex plans.

So we move to a game featuring a coach who very much appears to be on the hot seat after a quick glance at last week’s results..

Gee:      Week 12   8-8                     Overall   97-80
Dan:      Week 12   9-7                     Overall   94-83

Washington @ Cowboys (-1.5)

The Dallas Cowboys have really struggled over the last few weeks, and the reaction of their coaching staff does not inspire confidence with a lack of creative scheming not helping a group of skills players who have not been getting it done with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspended. It maybe that Washington are so injured that they are going to lose on the road, but with both teams having played on Thursday of last week, I’m backing Washington in this one.

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

Week Twelve Picks

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Sometimes working in IT involves out of hours work even if you’re not supposed to be on support so here’s some hurried picks and hopefully normal services resume next week.

Buccaneers @ Falcons (-8.5)

I think the Atlanta Falcons are the better team and should win this game but I’m not nine points convinced.

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

Bills @ Chiefs (-9.5)

The line worries me as the Kansas City Chiefs have been off in recent weeks but the Buffalo Bills have had no run defence since trading Marcell Darius.

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

Bears @ Eagles (-13.5)

This is a huge line but the Chicago Bears are on the road and Philadelphia Eagles have run up big wins against a number of teams and I don’t see that stopping this week.

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

Browns @ Bengals (-8.5)

I don’t exactly trust the Cincinnati Bengals to cover this line, but having been bitten by the Cleveland Browns two weeks in a row, they are going to have to prove to me they can cover a line before I pick them again.

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

Titans @ Colts (+3.5)

The Tennessee Titans have not exactly been convincing in recent weeks, whilst the Indianapolis Colts have been competitive in their last three games despite what I said on the podcast, but in the end the Titans are just going to have too much.

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

Dolphins @ Patriots (-16.5)

This line is enormous and the Miami Dolphins are undeniably bad, but as good as the New England Patriots are I can’t just pick them to cover this.

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

Panthers @ Jets (+4.5)

The Carolina Panthers are playing so much better now Cam Newton is running more and the New York Jets have struggled in recent weeks.

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

Seahawks @ 49ers (+6.5)

I am tempted by the points given the injuries to the Seattle Seahawk’s defence, but in the end the San Francisco 49ers are just too injured and I think the Seahawks have enough to cover this line.

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

Broncos @ Raiders (-5.5)

The Denver Broncos have been undeniably bad, but I’m just not prepared to back the Oakland Raiders to win by six given the way they have been playing recently.

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

Saints @ Rams (-2.5)

This is a hard one to pick given the LA Rams loss last week, but the New Orleans Saints have picked up some knocks on defence. In the end I’m going to grab the points and look forward to the game.

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

Jaguars @ Cardinals (+4.5)

The Jacksonville Jaguars have won four straight and I would say they are the better team so despite the points I am backing them to cover against the Arizona Cardinals.

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

Packers @ Steelers (-13.5)

With all the injuries to the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers finding their offence last week I can only pick one way despite the line.

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

Texans @ Ravens (-6.5)

The Baltimore Ravens defence is undeniably good, and their three shut outs have persuaded me that against the Houston Texans they can cover this line.

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

Quick Thanksgiving Picks

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I’m having a compressed week for reasons I shan’t bore you with, but I am thankful to Dan for his continued help with this site and producing the podcast. I don’t know where football will be in the coming years, but I still enjoy the games and I am thankful for all this blog has taught me about writing, and reminding me that no one really knows anything. Some may argue that our picks are evidence of this, but at least we both have picked more right than wrong this season.

And so, onwards to the games!

Gee:      Week 11   7-7                     Overall   89-72
Dan:       Week 11   9-5                     Overall   85-76

Vikings @ Lions (+2.5)

This should be an entertaining start to the Thanksgiving games with the Lions welcoming the division leading Minnesota Vikings to Detroit. The Lions have almost quietly got themselves to 6-4 but this will be a sterner test than the Bears offered last week. The Vikings have been good on both sides of the ball, with the emergence of Adam Thielen as a partner to Stefon Diggs giving Case Keenum the receivers he needs to amass a 7-2 record despite starting the season as his team’s backup quarterback. The Lions have a better quarterback in Matt Stafford but I think they are going to struggle in this game as the Vikings really seem to have found their form. I could be caught out as the Lions have won their last three meetings but I think the Vikings should be too good.

Gee’s Pick:          Vikings.
Dan’s Pick:          Lions

Chargers @ Cowboys (-0.5)

The Dallas Cowboys look to have left tackle Tyron Smith back from injury for this game, which they will need if they are to slow down the fearsome edge rushers the LA Chargers possess. The problem is that they are still going to be missing linebacker Sean Lee who has a huge effect on how the Cowboys play defence with his ability to get everyone lined up. I suspect that the combination of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will cause protection issues for the Cowboys offence and combine this with Lee being out and I’m giving the edge to Chargers.

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

Giants @ Washington (-7.5)

I am really not sure what to do with this game as Washington has an enormous injury list, but the New York Giants do not exactly inspire confidence even if they did manage to grind out an ugly win against the Chiefs in horrible weather last week. I’m not sure I can see the Giants winning again, but I have a feeling that it will be a closer game than this line suggests so I’m going to back the Giants for a second week in a row.

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

AAF: Case Keenum and the Vikings Offence

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With the discussions about starting Teddy Bridgewater taking place I wanted to take a look at Case Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings offence in this week’s amateur adventures in film.

I have to say that for me this was a game of two halves as the Vikings played more conservatively in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter where they were very much running out the clock and barely threw the ball.

However, focussing on Case Keenum it has to be said that in this game apart from two throws in the second half Keenum looked a very competent quarterback, but that is the word. It was not a case of the things he did leaping of the screen, but Keenum executing a well-designed offence. There was one occasion where tight end Kyle Rudolph had to wait for a ball to arrive on an out pattern in the first half and it was that kind of ball that caused Keenum’s second interception as DJ Swearinger leapt the route and intercepted the ball for the second time this game. For Swearinger’s first interception Keenum wasn’t able to step into his throw and sailed a ball over his receiver’s head and into the waiting arms of Swearinger. However, for a lot of the game Keenum was throwing to open receivers, with Adam Thielen particularly catching the eye with his route running.

It has to be said that both Thielen and Stefon Diggs impressed me with their all round game, not only with their route running but frequently being motioned near the offensive line and being asked to block on run and pass plays. The Vikings may have only just got over one hundred yards rushing for the game, but they looked very balanced in the first half, with left guard Nick Easton pulling and opening holes for Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. It was only in the second half when they were getting more conservative and running out the clock in the fourth quarter that the run game bogged down.

This was also the second week in a row where I saw the use of unbalanced lines, with the Vikings lining up several times with a tight end playing tackle on one end of the line so that the Vikings’ two tackles could line up next to each other on the opposite side. There were also several occasions where because receivers motioned towards the line on blocking plays, they were also able to run routes stacked or behind tight ends which helped scheme open plays. The tight ends also managed to block down then roll out to catch balls. All of this contributed to a scheme that made life very difficult for Washington in the first half.

It would seem harsh to drop Case Keenum given the record he has amassed with this team and given that Teddy Bridgewater has had very little practice time in the last two years. To my eyes this is an offence that is setup to succeed thanks to an improved line and a pair of receivers that are quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best pairings in the league. The quarterback situation is definitely muddy in Minnesota, but for once I don’t this is going to damage the team.

Week Eleven Picks

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Lions @ Bears (+3.5)

The Chicago Bears lost at home against the Packers, which is pretty worrying with the Detroit Lions coming to visit. The Lions are not quite right on offence, which will happen when you have the thirtieth ranked offence by DVOA and they are going against a pretty tough Chicago defence. I am struggling a little with this game as I think the Lions are more likely to win but I’m just not sure about the points. In the end I’m taking the Bears to bounce back in this home divisional game and keep it close getting points.

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

Jaguars @ Browns (+7.5)

This is a surprisingly interesting game in that I’m not sure how many games in a row I trust the Jacksonville Jaguars to win and the one thing that is truly good about the Cleveland Browns is their rush defence, which is ranked second in the league by DVOA. I’m not saying the Browns are suddenly going to win this game, but with their strength going up against a Jaguars offence predicated on the run I think they may be able to keep this game closer than eight points.

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

Ravens @ Packers (+2.5)

The Green Bay Packers are coming off their first win with Brett Hundley starting as quarterback who demonstrated a little bit more last week as the Packers found ways to get their offence going again. He faces a stern test when facing the Baltimore Ravens’ defence who rank third in the league in pass defence. The Ravens’ issue is that their offence has been pretty woeful this season and so this could be a tight game. This is one of those lines I really don’t like, but I’m going to grab the home underdog as they have been pretty good to me this season.

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

Chiefs @ Giants (+10.5)

The New York Giants are winless at home and have only kept one game close than eleven so it doesn’t feel like a team coming of a ten point loss to the lowly 49ers has much chance in this game. The things that worries me about this line is that although Andy Reid is really good coming off a bye and the Kansas City Chiefs have more than enough offence to win this game, their defence is ranked twenty-sixth in the league by DVOA and they haven’t won a game by eleven points or more since week three. I can’t quite believe I’m doing this but give me the Giants getting ten and a half points at home.

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

Rams @ Vikings (-2.5)

This looks to be game of the week, with a matchup of the high flying LA Rams offence going against the Minnesota Vikings’ tough defence particularly catching the eye. I don’t have a strong feeling either way but the Vikings have a loud crowd in their new stadium and so I’m leaning in their direction but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rams proved me wrong.

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

Washington @ Saints (-7.5)

The New Orleans Saints’ turnaround is great to see, but I’m not sure anyone was predicting that their defence and run game would be leading the way. They face a Washington team who are scrapping away despite the injuries and the fact that their passing game is ranked eleventh in the league by DVOA despite the offseason overhaul at receiver is testament to Kirk Cousins’ ability as a quarterback. However, I don’t think it will be enough against the Saint’s team at home and so ‘m backing the Saints to win big.

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

Cardinals @ Texans (+1.5)

This is a tricky game to pick with the Houston Texans’ season derailed by injuries and the Arizona Cardinals are coming to town starting their third string quarterback. The Cardinals have had a long week to recover after narrowly losing last week’s Thursday night game and Adrian Peterson should look better than he did on three days of rest, but will that be enough for them to win the game. I have more faith in Bruce Arians as a coach, but I’m not sure if that will be enough to see me right in this pick or not.

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

Buccaneers @ Dolphins (-2.5)

I do not like this game, Gee-I-am. I do not like either team’s game plan. But seriously, the Dolphins are ranked thirty-second by DVOA and are coming off a horrible loss to the Panthers. However, they are favoured in this game because the Buccaneers are not exactly playing well this season either. The Bucs are coming off a narrow win against the New York Jets but their defence has been bad all season and the offence has sputtered. They will be getting receiver Mike Evans back from suspension but it is likely Ryan Fitzpatrick will start as quarterback as Jameis Winston struggles with his shoulder. It feels like the Dolphins are heading in the wrong direction but I have more faith in Adam Gase as a head coach than Dirk Koetter and with the Dolphins at home I’m reluctantly backing them.

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

Bills @ Chargers (-4.5)

The Buffalo Bills have been struggling in recent weeks and are electing to hand rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman his first start. Doing this on the road might be considered a risk except that the Chargers don’t exactly have much of a home advantage with their current situation in LA. They will be relieved to have Philip Rivers clear concussion protocol but it feels like they specialise in close losses. The Chargers do not have the run game to take advantage of the Bills’ recent defensive problems and basically, I don’t trust them to get out of their own way. I don’t like taking a rookie QB on the road but apparently that’s what I’m going to do.

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

Bengals @ Broncos (-2.5)

This game pits two misfiring franchises against each other. The Denver Broncos have serious problems on offence without a settled quarterback and a three back rotation that isn’t helping their running game. Even their vaunted defence has slipped and doesn’t look like the dominant unit of recent seasons. They welcome a Cincinnati Bengals team whose defence is playing pretty tough but who are hamstrung by offensive problems that stem from the o-line. I think this could be a very ugly game and I’m not really sure who is going to win so I’ll try a little faith in my team who have at least been competitive in recent weeks.

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

Patriots @ Raiders (+6.5)

The Oakland Raiders are the hosts for this game but it is being played in Mexico City. The New England Patriots have stayed out in Denver to prepare for the altitude of Mexico City having beaten the Broncos heavily last week. This is a game that pits highly ranked offences against lowly ranked defences but I have a lot more faith in the Patriots than the Raiders and fancy them to run out easy winners in this one.

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

Eagles @ Cowboys (+3.5)

The Dallas Cowboy will not have Ezekiel Elliott for the next five weeks as he dropped his legal fight against his suspension, much like the Cowboys dropped their commitment to the running game last week. They also gave up six sacks to one player and tackle Tyron Smith is likely out again this week with his groin issue as well as losing linebacker Sean Lee to a hamstring problem. The Philadelphia Eagles are not a team that you want to be facing with questions about your offensive line and Sean Lee has a huge effect on how the Cowboys defence plays so I expect the team with the best record in the league to run out easy winners in this one.

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

Falcons @ Seahawks (-3.5)

The Atlanta Falcons got a win in Dallas last week and now travel to face a banged up Seahawks team in Seattle. The Seahawks are likely to be without two thirds of the Legion of Boom as well as Cliff Avril and whilst I would expect them to be competitive against the Falcons, in fact they could very easily win, I’m just not confident enough to back them to win by four. The Falcons may be struggling on offence but I hope they have enough in this one.

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