2021 Week Seven Picks

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Given that Teddy Bridgewater was dealing with a foot and quad injuries whilst the Browns were down to a third string running back and backup quarterback, it’s perhaps not surprising that Thursday night was not a high scoring affair. However, Browns’ running back D’Ernest Johnson took his prime-time opportunity to show exactly what he could do, running for one hundred and forty-six yards and torturing the Broncos run defence all game. In fact, the Broncos’’ defence struggled all evening, not helped by Von Miller exiting the game late in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. Even though the numbers were not spectacular, Case Keenum ran the Browns offence effectively and in the first half it looked like the Browns were going to win by a lot, but the Broncos finally got going in the second half and were able to turn the contest into a close game that they ultimately lost 14-17. This was the Broncos’ fourth straight loss after a strong start to the season and they really need to find something in this long week to turn things round. I was really impressed with the quality of the Browns’ performance given the injuries they are dealing with and the Browns are at very least going to be a difficult team to face all year and are still in the hunt in a competitive AFC.

As I turn my attention to picks it looks like a week of lines I really don’t like but in my infinite wisdom I didn’t give Dan and I the options of staying away, which is definitely what I want to do with a large chunk of these picks.

Early Games:

I was already looking at the Bengals visit to the Baltimore Ravens as the matchup of week, and in a slightly unusual moment it seems the American media agree with me. The Bengals at 4-2 remain in contention for the division, which is not what I was expecting from them and although the offence is somewhat boom or bust, the defence is ranked fifth by DVOA and the Bengals have been in every game this season with their two losses coming by field goals. However, the Ravens have the best record in the AFC and looked truly terrifying against the Chargers last week. The defence is only ranked fourteenth, which is a little surprising, but the offence is top ten and Lamar Jackson looks better dropping back to pass and has been less reliant on his ability to amaze running the ball. I’m really hoping that the Bengals can keep this one competitive on the road and whilst I would be delighted with a win, it would be a big surprise, but the Bengals have been a surprise package so far this season and that in of itself is a positive step given their recent record.

The next game I want to discuss is not exactly the matchup you would have thought looking through the schedule before the season started, but the Titans hosting the Chiefs has the potential for a fun offensive contest given that the Chiefs’ defence ranks thirty-first in the league by DVOA and the Titans’ is a lofty twenty-eighth. It’s hard to see the Chiefs’ defence stopping Derrick Henry who continues to prove himself a statistical outlier immune to the usual rules of workload for running backs and somehow was the fastest player carrying the ball last week while being two-hundred and fifty or so pounds. However, while the Chiefs struggled last week, they may have found something late in their game against Washington using 12 personnel to improve the protection of Patrick Mahomes. This game has the potential to be a great shoot out, except if the Chiefs get rolling I’m not sure Derrick Henry is the right player to keep up with the Chiefs explosive offence despite his capacity to take the ball to the end zone on almost any given play. I’m looking forward to watching this one, but I’m not enjoying picking it at all!

Points from the rest:

  • The vaunted Washington defence from last season is currently ranked twenty-ninth by DVOA and the offence is not exactly a hung amount better so the big question in this game is likely to be whether the Packers can cover this line unless Washington show some rapid improvement.
  • The Dolphins come back from London having lost to the Jaguars and with a swirl of rumours about a potential trade for Deshaun Watson. The Falcons are coming off a bye having won their own London game and while neither team are good right now, the Dolphins were meant to be competing this season but haven’t looked like it for much of the season. However, there is something in the line, and I really didn’t think Tua Tagovailoa played that bad last week and with trade rumours swirling I’m sure the embattled QB is looking to prove his worth in this one.
  • The Patriots look to have their replacement for Tom Brady, and the Pats have competed in some big games this season but so far they have only two wins so the seven and a half points they are laying looks troubling. That is until you remember the Pats have already blown out the Jets on the road and Bill Belichick’s record against rookie quarterbacks. I do wonder if this line is too high, but backing the Jets as underdogs has bitten me too often over the years to back them in this one.
  • The Panthers have a top ten defence by DVOA but are a very mixed bag on offence and have slipped to 3-3 from a 3-0 start. However, the Giants are both bad and injured so I can’t back them even getting points at home given the Panthers have a genuine strength to gameplan with.

Washington @ Packers (-9.5)

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

Chiefs @ Titans (+4.5)

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

Falcons @ Dolphins (+2.5)

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

Jets @ Patriots (-7.5)

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

Panthers @ Giants (+2.5)

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

Bengals @ Ravens (-6.5)

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

Late Games:

There isn’t really a great game in the late slate of games, although there could be some interesting narratives.

The Raiders won their first game after the Jon Gruden resignation, but now we must see if they are coalescing as a team or if that was a one-week bounce. I have heard some commentary that the Raiders have been finding themselves in a position where people are able to get on with their jobs rather than having Gruden involved as he was to an unusual amount across the franchise before his very public fall from grace. The Eagles are not a good football team but are coming off a long week having lost on Thursday night and then trading Zach Ertz to the Cardinals. I like the Raiders to win this game and the line definitely concerns me but given how the Eagles have been playing I’m going to reluctantly back the Raiders.

The LA Rams game is all about the narrative given they swapped quarterbacks with the Lions in the offseason and Matthew Stafford has looked great running Sean McVay’s offence. The Lions up to last week had kept all their games close and were a tough team to play, but the Bengals of all teams beat them comfortably enough that head coach Dan Campbell came out and said he needed more from Jared Goff. It must be so disorientating for Goff, who went to the Super Bowl with the Rams in 2018 but hasn’t looked the same since and now finds himself on a rebuilding Lions team. Goff looks to be the kind of quarterback who needs everything around him to be right rather than a player who elevates those around him. This line is enormous, and it will be telling if the Lions get blown out again, but I can’t back all of the big favourites this week and something about Goff facing his old team has me taking the points.

Points on the Rest:

  • The Cardinals are 6-0 and should have more than enough to beat a Texans team who beat the Jaguars in week one and been competitive in exactly one game since against the Patriots. The line makes me incredibly nervous given how easy it would be for the Cardinals to take the Texans too lightly but having lost by twenty-eight to the 2-4 Colts I can’t bring myself to back the Texans.
  • The Buccaneers should have no problem in beating the Bears, but with Antonio Brown out injured alongside the slew of corners and the Bears having a top ten defence by DVOA I think the Bears can keep this one within two touchdowns.

Eagles @ Raiders (-3.5)

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

Lions @ Rams (-15.5)

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

Texans @ Cardinals (-16.5)

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

Bears @ Buccaneers (-13.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Colts @ 49ers (-3.5)

I am intrigued about this game and will definitely be watching it even if it does see the 2-4 Colts visiting the 2-3 49ers coming off a bye. The 49ers will have Jimmy Garoppolo back at quarterback, which they need with rookie Trey Lance being out with a knee sprain. The Colts have put together good performances the last two weeks and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how they do against a 49ers team who are ranked tenth overall by DVOA despite all the injuries. It may not be a great sounding matchup given their records, but there’s plenty to take away from this one.

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

Monday Night Football

Saints @ Seahawks (+4.5)

Here we are, Monday night and the big quarterback matchup is Jameis Winston versus Geno Smith. Perhaps more worrying for the Seahawks given that Smith has given the Seahawks competent play at quarterback, is the problems they are having on defence, ranked as they are twenty-second by DVOA and built around a safety in Jamal Adams who is a liability in coverage and who costs them multiple first-round picks in a trade. The Seahawks ranking of ninth overall and sixth on offence must surely slip by the time Russell Wilson returns from the finger injury on his throwing hand. That said, the Saints are a hard team to read this season as they are alternating wins and losses before going on bye last week. The familiar on the field up and down play of Jameis Winston has not disappeared under Sean Payton but the defence is ranked an impressive third by DVOA and you feel like the Saints should win this one. The line does make me nervous given Winston’s history, although I should say he has a four to one touchdown to interception rating but a 60.3 completion percentage. Part of me wonders if the Seahawks can keep it close, but I feel like Sean Payton is going to be able to find too many things against this Seahawks defence, which combined with his own defence going against Geno Smith means I’m going to eventually back the Saints.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

Competition Thursday: 2021 Week Seven

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We are a third of the way through the regular season, and after a bad week Dan has reeled in what was a five point lead to tie up the picks competition but there is still a long way to go.

Gee:Week 6:  5 – 9Overall:  48 – 46
Dan:Week 6:  7 – 7Overall:  48 – 46

Broncos @ Browns (-3.5)

The Broncos strong start to the season has tailed off as the opposition has got tougher whilst the Browns are dealing with a multitude of injuries on offence and a defence that ranks thirteenth by DVOA in spite of the hopes many had for it coming into the season. For all that Baker Mayfield is toughing out the shoulder injury in his non-throwing shoulder, with both of their top two running backs out, the Browns are really struggling and a short week is not exactly what they need. The Broncos really need to halt their slide and get back to winning ways, but if you look at their schedule the run does make sense. I know that Dan has gone back and forth multiple times on this one but settled on the Broncos, which matches what I’m seeing in the lines and so he’ll at least have company if the Browns do overcome the injuries to get the win.

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

Survivor Competition

I was surprised that Dan went with the Dolphins against the Jaguars last week and him falling a further point behind is very much the least of his concerns surrounding football at the moment, but he has changed tack this week by picking against a new team, this time going against the winless Lions as they are visiting the Rams. There are a number of large lines this week that offer up possible survivor picks, and the Cardinals are tempting, except at 6-0 they might be due a loss at some point even if you don’t expect it. Anyway, I’ve settled on the Buccaneers hosting the Bears so here’s hoping they don’t let me down.

Current Score

Gee: 5
Dan: 3

Week 7 Selection:

Gee:    Buccaneers
Dan:    Rams

Bold Prediction of the Week

So I always find this difficult and was clearly feeling the pressure whilst recording the podcast as my bold prediction this week is the Bengals to beat th Ravens… What was I thinking?

As the Season Takes Shape

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In a week of mixed fortunes for Dan and my teams I am wondering what trends are going to hold as divisions begin to stabilise, and which are shaping up to be competitive as we get a better idea of who is good, bad and somewhere in the middle.

What I Saw

The first game played on Sunday that I saw was the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting the Miami Dolphins, which was a closer contest than some expected as the Jaguars eked out a 23-20 win thanks to a pair of late fifty-yard-plus field goals. For all the criticism of Tua Tagovailoa, he put in a solid performance working his way back from fractured, albeit with a bad interception and a poor third down incompletion where he could have simply scrambled for third down. What both Tagovailoa and the Dolphins most need right now is for him to get a run of games so he can settle and the team really find out what they have. As for the Jaguars, one win does not convince me that Urban Myer is going to make a success of the pros, and it’s probably more useful to remember the thin margins between the best and worst teams in the NFL. The whole idea that on any given Sunday any team can beat another one is a cliché for a reason and in a now seventeen-game season where scheduling plays a part and you don’t get to play every team home and away, random things have much less of a chance to work themselves out.

The other two games I watched this week blend into each other in week seven. I wrote on Sunday that if the Bengals want to build on the winning first quarter of the season, then they will need to beat the Lions. I was worried about the game given that the Lions had played everyone tough so far this season and we are really not very early into the experience of the Bengals under Zac Taylor having a winning record. It turns out that Dan’s faith in the Bengals was a better judgement in this case than my caution, as the Bengals ran out 34-11 winners and even had backup quarterback Brandon Allen in the game for the fourth quarter where he threw a solitary pass that added a touchdown to the score. The Lion’s head coach Dan Campbell had some interesting thoughts on quarterback Jared Goff, which were more nuanced than the, ‘I feel like he needs to step up more than he has. And I think he needs to help us just like everybody else.’ quote that most of us got a small digest on. There is an good blog post on that here if you are interested. The Lions rebuild was always going to be a long project and Dan Campbell has been something of a quote machine, but if his team responds to this first big defeat then they can still get something out of this season, but the longer the losing streak goes on the more pressure there is going to be, particularly as it’s not so long ago that the Lions had a winless season.

The final game I watched was the Ravens ominous 34-6 demolition of the LA Chargers. Now, watching this game with the Chargers on the road I thought a lot of the problem was that this was Justin Herbert’s first time playing the Ravens’ defence and they very strike me as a team that you can watch all the tape you like, it’s just different in the game. As long as the Chargers bounce back, then this is an understandable bump for a team who are 4-2 with a second-year quarterback and a rookie head coach. I generally like Brandon Staley’s aggressive approach to fourth down, and I understand the argument about needing to go for the win and be aggressive, but there where one or two occasions where the Chargers were deep enough in their own side of the field that punting surely had to be a better option. As for the Ravens, they have shown they can beat teams in multiple ways and are probably looking forward to hosting the Bengals this week in a contest that I hope the Bengals keep close, but I wouldn’t bet much more than that right now.

What I Heard

It’s been something of a scattered week for me, so right now I am feeling the opposite of what usually happens for this section. Rather than having heard things on the podcasts that I’ve noted down to write about or found things today that inspired me I’ve hit this section and gone blank on what I have listened to.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to write about as there’s a new podcast that has hit my rotation this season that is not directly NFL related but is really interesting. The pod is called Make Defence Great Again, which setting political reference aside is very on brand for my football interests and it is fascinating to listen to the detail of coaching defence at the high school and college level. It’s this pod and it’s host Coach Vaas that has me rethinking how I am going to approach my offseason and diving into coaching tape or  perhaps some clinics/courses. That said, there is something for just listening to different people’s approaches even if I don’t have much of the vocabulary or technical knowledge getting to hear what both drives coaches or keeps them up at night is a lesson in of itself. If any of that sound of interest have a look at the host Coach Vass’ site for more details.

What I Think

Now we are into the second quarter of the season I am curious to see how the teams develop in the coming weeks. The Indianapolis Colts have had a rough start to the season, but are only two games back from the Titans (who are beginning to accrue injury concerns themselves) and while I’m not predicting that the Colts will definitely fight back to win the division, they are not as out of it as the 2-4 record might have you believe. The Detroit Lions may be the worst team in the league by wins and losses, and ultimately, they are what counts as the NFL is a results business, but their DVOA ranking of twenty-sixth is not nothing either and I wonder how they might progress over the coming weeks.

As for the winning teams, the Bills wobbled on Monday night, leaving the AFC race slightly murkier, whilst the NFC has four teams with five wins who are trying to keep up with the unbeaten Cardinals. No one knows what injuries, Covid-19 or flat bad luck could derail any team’s chances but if feels like in the NFC at least we are getting a sense of who the real contenders are.

What I Know

There will be focus on Jared Goff’s return to LA with the Lions, and I don’t think anybody will expect the Lions to win. It does appear to me however, that Goff is a quarterback who needs the right elements around him to succeed. That shouldn’t be sniffed at as he has played in a Super Bowl – but the difference in the Rams this season amply demonstrates why teams are so desperate to find not just a good quarterback, but a real difference maker.

What I Hope

I really hope the Bengals can make it competitive against the Ravens this week. I can live with a loss if they play well, and with the Bengals ranked a lofty thirteenth by DVOA a fan can at least dream of winning this weekend, even if they dare not hope for a win.

2021 Week Six Picks

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Week six started with a game that didn’t look that competitive on paper as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travelled to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, and when the Bucs went up 28-7 in the third quarter it certainly looked ominous but in the final twenty minutes the Eagles got some stops on defence and scored a couple of touchdowns to ultimately lose by one score 22-28. Part of the reason that happened was because head coach and play caller Nick Siranni suddenly remembered that running back Miles Sanders could actually run the ball. Previous to that the offence had only revolved around Jalen Hurts running and taking deep shots that seemed to be more effective at getting penalty yards than actual passing completions. The Eagles are not a good team right now, and I would question the way they are trying to run their offence, but there are glimmers of something there.

As for the Bucs, they are looked ominously good on offence for three quarters but seemed to bog down for the final quarter, although to the surprise of no Tom Brady was able to close out the game with a clock killing drive. There will be sterner tests of the injured Bucs’ secondary, but the rush defence was excellent and against even a slightly slower quarterback Shaq Barrett would have had multiple sacks. It may be that the injuries sink the Bucs at some point but right now they are still managing to look like Super Bowl champions thanks to the play of their offence.

So with that said about the Thursday night game let’s turn our eyes to the Sunday matchups.

Early Games:

We get our second and last London game of the season this week, but I’m not sure it’s going to be a great contest. The Jaguars are 0-5 for a reason and Urban Myer really hasn’t convinced in the pros so I find it hard to believe that he will outcoach Brian Flores, even if the Dolphins have really struggled so far this season. I’m hoping for Dan that the Dolphins play better and Tua Tagovailoa gets the start and elevates the team even though the betting lines haven’t moved with Jacoby Brissett as the starter. The sad truth is that right now the Dolphins are ranked only one place higher by the DVOA than the Jaguars and are actually ranked three places lower than the league’s other winless team the Detroit Lions. At this point there might have to be questions about how the draft picks of the recent Dolphins regime is working out even if the process of accumulating them was well done. While the Dolphins shouldn’t be in full panic mode yet, this is probably the first time Flores will be dealing with genuine criticism of his tenure so it will be interesting to see how he and his team react in strange surroundings.

As for the six o’clock games, the oldest rivalry in the NFL is being played again as the Packers visit the Bears, but the matchup of this window must be the LA Chargers visiting the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are coming out of a game where they had to work hard to get the overtime win but where Lamar Jackson completed thirty-seven of forty-three passes for four hundred and forty-two yard and four touchdowns. This doesn’t answer all the questions about Jackson in the passing game as the Colts played him in a particular way, but that was likely his best game as a drop back passer. The Chargers have a different defensive philosophy, but a lot of the excitement is based around the continued development of quarterback Justin Herbert in his second season and this meeting of two 4-1 teams looks to be a great contest that has the potential for real fireworks.

Points from the rest:

  • The Packers have well and truly moved past their bad opening week but had to work hard to beat the Bengals last week and it will be interesting to see how they do against the Bears, where Matt Nagy has a 31-22 overall record but generally gets coverage that sounds like he’s doing a lot worse. That is because the Bears are not really that convincing at 3-2 but let’s see what Justin Fields and the offence can do this week.
  • The Bengals had an okay showing last week, but if they want to build on the winning first quarter of the season, they will need to beat a Lions team who have not looked far away from their first win and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions did get that this week.
  • The Colts looked better last week, with Carson Wentz looking as good as he has for a long time, but they need to rediscover their winning habit and whilst hosting the Texans looks like a good opportunity to do that, the number of points they are laying seems excessive and I can’t back them to cover that kind of line when they are 1-4.
  • I’m not sure what to expect from the Giants, as even when things show some promise, injury gets in the way and it’s hard to see them getting one over the Rams, even if it is a long way from LA to the east coast. However, this is a big line and with Daniel Jones cleared to play I’m just wondering if the Rams will cover this one or if they will be happy to just get the win.
  • Washington are simply not anywhere near the team from last season and whilst the Chiefs are struggling on defence, they has so much more offence than the Football Team that even with this high line I am going to back the Chiefs to get back on track.
  • The Panthers have been struggling in recent weeks and placed running back Christian McCaffery on IR yesterday after he suffered a setback earlier in the week, which explains the four point swing from laying one and a half points to getting them if you look at the consensus number so I have to go for the Vikings.

Dolphins @ Jaguars (+3.5)

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

Packers @ Bears (+4.5)

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

Bengals @ Lions (+3.5)

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

Texans @ Colts (-10.5)

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

Rams @ Giants (+10.5)

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

Chiefs @ Washington (+6.5)

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

Vikings @ Panthers (-1.5)

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

Chargers @ Ravens (-3.5)

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

Late Games:

The best game of the late sets sees the 3-2 Cleveland Browns hosting the 5-0 Cardinals having lost to the Chargers last week. The Browns have beaten the teams they should have but come up short against Chiefs and Chargers. More worryingly the Brown’s injury list is begging to grow. The Cardinals are top ten in all three phases of the game but are on the road without their head coach after Kliff Kingsbury caught Covid-19. I have numbers that contradict each other, but with the Browns at home with their head coach available I’m going to reluctantly back them even though I really don’t have a feel for what is likely to happen in this one other than what looks to be a really good game.

Points on the Rest:

  • I don’t know how the Raiders will react to the Jon Gruden situation, whether they rally round to win one for themselves or struggle with motivation, although I have heard that Derek Carr has really stepped up this week in his leadership role. The Broncos have struggled the last two weeks and the extra half point makes me nervous so whilst my numbers are saying one thing, I’m going to grab the points and hope.
  • The Patriots struggled last week against the Texans, so even though they are getting four and a half points at home, which is pretty incredible given Belichick’s coaching record, I find it hard to believe the Pats will keep up with the Cowboys given how both teams are playing at the moment. I would stay well away from this one if I had the choice as I don’t fancy picking against Belichick by this many points but as I don’t have that option I’m going to nervously back the Cowboys given the Pats are the twentieth ranked team by DVOA and the Cowboys are the second.

Cardinals @ Browns (-2.5)

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

Raiders @ Broncos (-3.5)

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

Cowboys @ Patriots (+4.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Seahawks @ Steelers (-4.5)

The Sunday night game has a completely different feel now that the Seahawks have Russell Wilson out injured and are starting Geno Smith at quarterback. To be fair Smith didn’t exactly look bad when he came into last week’s game, but the Seahawks’ defence is ranked a lowly twenty-fifth right now so it is a lot to ask Smith to come in and maintain the Seahawks current ranking of fifth on offence by DVOA with so little support from the defence. I am not entirely sure I trust the Steelers turnaround on offence after one week, but under the circumstances facing a backup quarterback I’m leaning their way even if I’m not totally convinced.

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

Monday Night Football

Bills @ Titans (+5.5)

I guess the big question in this game is will the Bills have any kind of let down after the huge win against the Chiefs last week. They are on the road for a second week, this time facing a Tennessee Titans who may have the lead in the AFC South, but who have a 3-2 record and who are ranked twenty-sixth by overall DVOA. The Titans offence has not really clicked this season and the defence continues to struggle, whilst the Bills are the top team by DVOA thanks to the number one ranked defence by DVOA and an offence that is still potent even if Josh Allen’s performance has slipped a little from last year’s amazing efficiency. I feel like with the Bills on the road I could get bitten by this line under the circumstances, but looking at the Titans schedule so far this season I think I still have to back the Bills given the large difference in the DVOA rankings.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

Competition Thursday: 2021 Week Six

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Dan closed the gap to two points in week five of our picks competition but as we turn our attention to game six, which is the first of the season to feature teams on a bye, we also have what looks to be a distinctly one-sided Thursday night game.

Gee:Week 5:  7 – 9Overall:  43 – 37
Dan:Week 5:  10 – 6Overall:  41 – 39

Buccaneers @ Eagles (+6.5)

The Philadelphia Eagles are currently ranked sixteenth overall by DVOA, but are undeniably limited on offence despite occasionally flashing glimpses of what they could be. The Eagles did beat the Panthers last week, but you would feel that even with the Buccaneers’ cluster of injuries at corner, that the Eagles’ passing game is not efficient enough for them to get the win. Even Tom Brady dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing hand is not enough for me to back the Eagles to cover given that the consensus line is +7 and I’ve seen others higher than that. The Eagles could very well make me look like a fool but for now I can’t look past the Bucs in this one, even if they are on the road.

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

Survivor Competition

I don’t know how closely Dan was following the game on Sunday as it was happening, but the Patriots were made to work to get their win against the Texans but his plan to pick against the Texans just about held. However, he has transferred his plan to pick against the Jaguars, which I understand except he’s placing more faith in his Dolphins team than I have! That said, the Ravens could have easily lost against the Colts so I can’t be too confident in my own selections. Looking at the teams this week I’ve gone for the Rams against the Giants, even if they are on the road, the Giants have enough injuries and struggles this season to make me think they’ll struggle to keep up with the Rams.

Current Score

Gee: 4
Dan: 3

Week 3 Selection:

Gee:    Rams
Dan:    Dolphins

Bold Prediction of the Week

I was really struggling for a bold prediction this week, but I was eventually allowed to back the Bears to cover getting four and a half points as they host the Packers on Sunday.

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measuring a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

Will the NFL Step Up?

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I am playing with the order this week as given the news there’s only one place to start, although I will get to what I saw of the week five games

What I Heard

Dan and I discussed it on the pod, which will go up tomorrow, but the headlines and discussions over the last couple of days have understandably focussed on the racist, homophobic, and misogynistic emails of Jon Gruden that were discovered as part of the investigation to the Washington Football Team.

The NFL informed the Raiders late last week, but it seems it took the new stories in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times revealing leaked information for Gruden to resign stating that he didn’t want to be a distraction. Given the makeup of his locker room, including the first openly gay player to play a regular season game, it is hard to see how he could have possibly led the team.

At this point it is hard to be surprised that a middle aged straight white male might have these views, though that is bad enough in its own right, but that he had the confidence to email such things over a corporate email system displays pretty amazing entitlement. Even in his short statement he hasn’t addressed the nature of what they contained but tried to defend himself.

The way the NFL has and hasn’t reacted to the contents of the Washington investigation (which haven’t been published) raises its own questions given so far the only person to be held accountable and lose their job is Gruden. The NFLPA are petitioning for all of the emails to be released and this is important because Gruden not only wrote such bigoted things but felt comfortable enough to do it to Bruce Allen’s team email. Who else in the league is enabling such behaviour and why does the NFL seem so set to protect the Washington Franchise’s owner Dan Snyder given what we know of the culture he fostered there?

I do not know what happens next, but all the inclusivity campaigns and gestures will ring hollow if the league doesn’t act. However, given the league’s history it is hard to have faith that will happen in a timely fashion.

What I Saw

I saw some of the Falcons hosting the Jets in London, and I had forgotten just how much the Spurs stadium looks like an NFL stadium when it is configured for American football. Personally, that makes me a little sad as I like the idea of seeing the game look different and knowing it is in London, but it also is a commitment to having football in the UK and so I’m not going to complain too much. I am looking forward to watching the progress of Kyle Pitts over the coming years, and that he should have a breakout game with the Falcons top two receiver not playing is obvious in hindsight. I also overestimated the progress of the Jets, which doesn’t mean the glimmers I saw in their week four win were not there, but I was naïve to think they could suddenly push on and win in London, where rookie QBs are now a grand 1-11. I’m sure Dave would have mentioned the 1-10 stat if we had recorded a pod last week and that would have saved a point in our picks competition but I should know better. The Jets came back late in the game, but 20-27 is a score that is closer than the game really was.

The next game on Sunday that I watched was the Bengals overtime loss to the Packers that finished 25-22, which includes the Packers’ Mason Crosby missing three chances to seal the game before he finally got the winning field goal. The Bengals next step is to win a game against this level of opponent and beat the teams around them, but Burrow needs to learn what risks he can and can’t get away with (he’s on a voice resting regimin having had a bruised throat that saw him taken to hospital after the game as a precaution). Still, the connection between Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase has been ridiculously productive already and if the defence keeps playing at their current level then the Bengals can hopefully stack productive quarters of the season together. I’m not saying playoffs, but there is at least some things for fans of the Bengals to base hope on. As for the Packers, they might not quite look like the team of the last two seasons, but they’re 4-1 so it’s hard to complain too much and you have to assume they will be in contention later in the year.

I don’t feel like I got the best of the Cardinals this weekend, but that was in part due to the play of the 49ers defence yet the Cardinals ground out a 17-10 win to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. The training staff were working on Kyler Murray’s arm in the fourth quarter, which obviously didn’t help the Cardinals but the 49ers’ defence played well and gave them a chance to win. Unfortunately, Trey Lance demonstrated why Jimmy Garoppolo was the starting quarterback for the 49ers until he picked up a calf strain as whilst Lance looked dangerous running the ball, he is a raw passer with only one speed of delivery and so the 49ers struggled against the Cardinals top five ranked defence by DVOA. I’m not sure that the Cardinals are the best team in the league, but they have established themselves as contenders so far this season and the question going into the second quarter of the season is can they maintain this challenge in the NFC West.

Probably the actual best team in the NFL right now are the Buffalo Bills, who apart from being the number one ranked team by DVOA, handed out a 38-20 beating of Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have real problems this season as they still are the number one ranked offence by DVOA, but they are also the last ranked defence and that combination doesn’t make for winning football. Yes they are missing defensive tackle Chris Jones and pass rush is a real problem, but for all they rebuilt their offensive line in the offseason, right now it’s the defence that’s letting them down. The Bills put pay to the idea of this being just another game by running Josh Allen eleven times, and right now the Bills look like the team to beat in the AFC while it’s hard to see the Chiefs challenging that unless a lot of things improve quickly.

What I Think

I am treating the first five weeks of the season as the first quarter, and teams are beginning to settle into some tiers. That the Jets, Texans, Jaguars, Giants and Lions are in the bottom tier is hardly a surprise, but to see the Dolphins with only one win is a genuine surprise. I knew the Colts had a difficult run into the season with Carson Wentz, but to see them also with only one win is also a bit of a surprise.

In the middle tier, there are a lot of teams who could go either way. The Broncos have to prove that they are more than their 3-0 start against struggling teams, and the 49ers are wrestling with health and starting quarterbacks again. I wonder if the Steelers’ win in week five is a blip or if they are going to drag themselves back into contention and I’ve already mentioned the Bengals positive start.

As for the top teams who are over one win above five hundred, the Buffalo Bills weren’t a given but it’s not that surprising that they are 4-1, nor is it a surprise to see the Buccaneers get to four wins despite their slew of injuries at cornerback. The Ravens have not always looked pretty but are competing as always. It’s perhaps not a surprise that the Cowboys are top of the NFC East, but with the development of their defence they have to be considered as potential challengers in the NFC and I wasn’t expecting that. I don’t think anyone predicted the Cardinals to be unbeaten through five games and they are probably the biggest surprise in a tough division as right now they have a one game lead on the 4-1 LA Rams. You could see the potential of Mathew Stafford in McVay’s system, but it has very much lived up to expectations so far in LA. Finally, in the AFC part of LA the Chargers have also got off to a fast start under Brandon Staley and now it’s just a case of if they can build on this momentum or if the things that seem to so often go wrong for the Chargers resurface.

What I Know

I am looking forward to hearing about Dan’s experience at the Spurs stadium this weekend and as ever, there are plenty of questions at stage of the season. I’m looking forward to getting back to football, but we can’t take our eyes of the governance and the wider issues of the NFL.

What I Hope

I truly hope that the Dolphins are inspired by Dan’s presence in London and he gets to see a win, or even just Tua return and play well. I want no repeats of him having to witness a shutout in person.

2021 Week Five Picks

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It was an interesting start to the week five games on Thursday night with the LA Rams managing a nine-point win against the Seahawks in Seattle despite a mixed performance from Matthew Stafford and Geno Smith leading the Seahawks on a ninety-three yard touchdown drive after he had to come into the game for the injured Russell Wilson. It really was a strange game that if anything saw the defences of both teams win out in the first half, and Stafford not quite connecting on his passes. However, the Rams kept pushing at it and eventually started to hit the long ball, like when Stafford connected with DeSean Jackson for a sixty-eight yard year completion but it was Robert Woods who after a quiet start to the season was fed the ball the most in the passing game finishing with twelve catches for one-hundred and fifty yards. Having gone into the half with a lead, the Seahawks struggled in the third quarter and with Wilson’s injury never were quite able to challenge the Rams again despite Smith’s competent display as the backup quarterback. The Seahawks look like they will be the first team to fall properly out of the playoff hunt in the AFC West given the losing record and that Wilson will be out for weeks as he recovers from the surgery on his finger, while there are questions about the Rams defence but they will definitely be pleased with the early returns on the Stafford trade.

It feels like I got a bit lucky on the first pick of the week, and I’ve already written up the London game so now it’s time to get into the rest of the week five games.

Early Games:

At the risk of being self-interested, the most interesting of the early games to me is the Green Bay Packers taking on the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are an unexpected 3-1 on the back of a top five defence by DVOA and an offence that is doing enough. Rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase has looked every bit the first-round pick despite the rough pre-season and Joe Burrow hasn’t just returned from his knee injury but is scrambling and looking to build on the promise of his rookie season. I’m still not totally convinced by the offensive line, but Jonnah Wilson has been healthy and getting some plaudits at left tackle. However, the Bengals did make a little bit of a meal of beating the Jaguars last week and face their sternest test of the season as they welcome the Packers who may well rank seven places belove them by overall DVOA, but Aaron Rodgers is as dangerous as ever and the offence is top ten by DVOA. Apart from the strange loss in week one, the Packers have looked good for the rest of the season and with Rodgers at the helm I find it hard to predict a Bengals win, but it has the potential to be a cracking game and I do like getting the points at home.

Points from the rest:

  • The Vikings have had one of the weirder starts to the season losing to the Bengals and a Cardinals team who look like serious contenders so far this season. Their solitary win of the season came against the Seahawks before they lost to the Browns last week, but the division rival Lions should give them an opportunity to get back on track.
  • The Steelers are stuck in the twenties in all three phases of the game by DVOA ranking, and this week face a 3-1 Broncos team who have enough injuries (including a concussion for Teddy Bridgewater that means his questionable to start) that I think I’m taking the Steelers at home. Though for a franchise that I always respect there are a lot of problems in Pittsburgh right now.
  • The Dolphins season has gone horribly, with everyone questioning the decision to take Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert last season, and a trip to face the Buccaneers is not really what they need to get back to winning ways. The Bucs have enough injuries at corner that I’m going to take the ten and a half points, but the Dolphins must hope that Tagovailoa can show something once he gets off the IR list but it’s going to be a while before that happens.
  • The Saints have been so up and down this season, proving that even Sean Payton can’t win with every quarterback. The Washington defence has not lived up to expectations, but Taylor Heinicke has given enough of a spark at quarterback that the Football Team are 2-2 and I’m not sure they should be getting points to this version of the Saints at home.
  • The Carolina Panthers could not keep up with the Cowboys last week, but the trade for Stephon Gilmore shows they are committed to this season and the defence so if the offence can keep doing enough they hope to keep the pressure on the Bucs in the NFC South. The Eagles have shown flashes of potential but have not been consistent and whilst the points scare me and the numbers point in the other direction, I can’t back them on the road based on a week one win against the Falcons
  • The Patriots take on a Texans team who are trying to ape the Patriots success, but are at the very beginning of the process and are down two starting quarterbacks for very different reasons. Poor Davis Mills was never meant to start this season, and it is hard to see anything but a Pats win in this one, even if this is a lot of points.

Packers @ Bengals (+3.5)

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

Lions @ Vikings (-7.5)

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

Broncos @ Steelers (-1.5)

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

Dolphins @ Buccaneers (-10.5)

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

Saints @ Washington (+1.5)

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

Eagles @ Panthers (-4.5)

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

Titans @ Jaguars (+4.5)

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

Patriots @ Texans (+9.5)

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

Late Games:

There are two interesting late games this week, so it is kind of hard to pick a best matchup.

The Cleveland Browns have kept rolling even if Baker Mayfield is dealing with an injury in his non-throwing shoulder that is limiting his play, but a stellar defence is keeping them in games, but will they have enough to limit a Chargers offence who looked very good as they ran out easy winners over Las Vegas last week. I feel like I must go with the Chargers at home right now, but the Browns could very easily win this one.

The Arizona Cardinals are the sole unbeaten team left in the league and welcome a 49ers team who are starting rookie quarterback Trey Lance for the first time thanks to another injury to Jimmy Garoppolo. Going against the sixth ranked defence by DVOA is a tough first start for Lance, and on the road it will be interesting to see what game plan Kyle Shanahan has in place for his rookie quarterback. For some reason I like getting the points in this game, and I am definitely watching this game as I look to fix the huge oversight of not having watched the Cardinal yet.

Points on the Rest:

  • The Bears have finally named Justin Fields as the start after a much better showing last week, which was helped by a game plan that actually looked designed to take advantage of his skill set. However, the Raiders will prove a tough opponent even if they couldn’t find their way on offence until too late to really challenge the Chargers last week. I expect the Raiders to win, but I wonder about the points total.
  • The Giants against the Cowboys could be a good contest if things break right, with quarterback Daniel Jones ranking tenth by DVOA. However, the Cowboys look to have found enough on defence to throw themselves into the elite of the league with a competent defence to compliment the flying offence with Dak Prescott showing no signs of issues coming back from his ankle injury of last season.

Bears @ Raiders (-5.5)

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

Browns @ Chargers (-1.5)

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

Giants @ Cowboys (-7.5)

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

49ers @ Cardinals (-5.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Bills @ Chiefs (-2.5)

The matchup of the week has top billing Sunday night as the Buffalo Bills trying to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. The talk out of Buffalo is that this is just another game, but it’s hard to see how that can be the case when the Bills are trying to push for the Super Bowl and are taking on the team that beat them in the conference championship game last season. Josh Allen may not have been able to sustain the numbers he put up last season, but having scored forty points for the last two games he must be looking at the Chiefs’ last ranked defence by DVOA with a real sense of opportunity.

The Chiefs are not suddenly a bad team, but the offence has not always been able to overcome the problems on defence this year, yet they will still be the toughest team the Bills have faced all season. I’m not sure what to make of either team just yet, but I am very much looking forward to watching this one.

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

Monday Night Football

Colts @ Ravens (-6.5)

The Colts got their first win of the season last week, but it’s hard to trust them coming into this contest with a 3-1 Ravens team who as usual are there or there abouts. Thanks to the vagaries of the AFC South the Colts are only one win behind the division leaders despite the poor start that may not have sunk them yet, but the Ravens are top ten by DVOA yet again thanks to the usual combination of tough defence and diverse running attack. I wonder if on Monday night the Colts can make this a contest but it’s hard to see anything other than a Ravens win at this point.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.

New York Jets @ London Falcons

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I don’t know if it just because of everything else I’ve been doing but it feels like it’s been a slightly understated build up to the return of the NFL to London. The really odd thing for me is I’ve been talking to Dan about really looking forward to watching these games at the Spurs stadium, as if the ones in 2019 didn’t happen, which I guess is a function of there being no London games in 2020. I am looking forward to finding out what Dan makes of the stadium when he goes next week, but let’s focus in on the early early game that is kicking off our week five Sunday where the Atlanta Falcons adopt London as their temporary home.

Jets @ Falcons (-3.5)

‘Could not be more Falcons if I tried’

So I know which way Dan is going, and I look at the number and the situation and I simply do not agree. That doesn’t mean that I am right, but the Falcons will be without their number one and two receivers in Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. Right now the Falcons rank thirty-second by DVOA, a massive 20.4% behind the Jets even if they are only ranked two places above them. It might be because I saw the Jets win their first game last week, but there were definite glimmers of progress in this young roster, and Zach Wilson made some lovely throws although I think he could get himself into trouble at times as he’s not afraid to trust his arm. Still, I’ve seen nothing from the Falcons that makes me think that they should be giving up more than a field goal in points so I’m going to grab the points and hope not to be disappointed.

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

Competition Thursday: 2021 Week 5

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Dan and I had matching 8-8 records in week four, so I maintained my five-point lead, but I’m still frustrated at some of my picks knowing that the continuations of so many unbeaten or winless streaks was likely to end and yet still not fully taking that into account. We’re also beginning to get an idea of which teams are more trustworthy than others so let’s take a look at the start of week five.

Gee:Week 4:  8 – 8Overall:  36 – 28
Dan:Week 4:  8 – 8Overall:  31 – 33

Rams @ Seahawks (+1.5)

There can be no complaints about the quality of the Thursday night game this week as we get the mouth-watering NFC West contest between the LA Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. I’m very much looking forward to watching the game but feel much more ambivalent about having to make a pick with this line. The Rams are coming off their first loss of the season and I’ve even heard some suggest that they are a front running team this season. They certainly have taken a step back on defence under Raheem Morris but they also have the second rank offence by DVOA with whole new sections of the playbook unlocked by Matthew Stafford’s arm.

The Seahawks on the other hand have kept themselves in the race for the division with a 2-2 record, but a top five offence has been paired with a defence that ranks twenty-fifth by DVOA and having not watched a full game of theirs yet this season I am just not sure how they will fare in this game. The Seahawks have to play three of their opening five games on the road and with the crowds back in Seattle for this contest, I can see the upset, and it is always hard to go against Russell Wilson. but the way season has gone so far has me going with the Rams. I just don’t feel confident about it

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

Survivor Competition

I made the mistake of backing the up and down Saints last week and it yielded my first loss of the season whilst Dan picked up another point by going against the Texans with the Bills, a tactic he’s repeating this week but this time with the Patriots on the road against the Texans. I can see where he’s going with that one, but as usual I will try not to simply ape Dan’s pick and so  I’m going for the Ravens against a Colts team that I don’t trust, even if they are coming off their first win of the season.

Current Score

Gee: 3
Dan: 2

Week 3 Selection:

Gee:    Ravens
Dan:    Patriots

Who Gets What Chances?

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In any other year I would writing that we were past the quarter pole of the season, and it was time to take stock, but that is not quite true with the extra regular game we now have. I am intending to treat the first five games as the opening block (roughly 29% if you’re determined to be overly precise) and then take the rest of the season in four game blocks. I only mention his because despite a respectable 8-8 week picking games, I am definitely annoyed with some of my pics as we had five winless and five unbeaten teams going into week four and that was never sustainable. I should have known that. We now have just a single unbeaten team in the Cardinals and two winless franchises in the shape of the Lions and Jaguars but as usual, before we get too far ahead of ourselves let me run you through what I watched in week four.

What I Saw

Having watched the Bengals win and correctly picked the Jags to cover on Thursday night, I had some flexibility in the games I watched from the weekend but given the irresistible narrative of Tom Brady’s return to New England with his Super Bowl winning Bucs team let’s step out of the constraints of chronology and start with the Sunday Night game.

Bruce Arians and Tom Brady were able to eek out a 19-17 win against a Patriots team that are rebuilding but look to be heading towards a familiar formula. To some there is no such thing as a good loss, but the Patriots defence constrained the Bucs offence, though the absence of both Rob Gronkowski and Giovani Bernard definitely aided the Pats as Brady missed two of his better short area receiving targets. However, Mac Jones continues to be the 2021 rookie quarterback with the most early success and certainly doesn’t look lost leading the Patriots offence. In fact, given there was a minute on the clock it was somewhat surprising that Belichick decided to try a fifty-six-yard field goal with Nick Folk who came into the game dealing with a knee injury to his plant leg. In the aftermath I’ve heard people talk of different models giving different answers on the win percentage call on going for it on fourth and three as opposed to kicking the field goal so it might not be that clear cut, but a minute is a long time to give Brady to get into field goal range himself. This is something Belichick would know all to well, but from the head coach who noticed the Seahawks in turmoil and left the clock running in a Super Bowl, it does surprise me a little that he didn’t go for it. It might not be the rookie display that Justin Herbert had last year, and it is too early to be totally sure, but the initial signs are good that the Pats have found their next quarterback and whilst that might not be what the fans in New England expect if the team only win seven to nine games this season, it’s a positive place to build from.

As for the Buccaneers, the injuries are really piling up in the secondary with Richard Sherman pressed into more service than would have been expected given he’s only just joined the team. As for any NFL team, a decent percentage of your success is determined by injury luck, particularly if you have clusters at a particular position. Through four games the Bucs have looked every bit the Super Bowl champions they are, and Brady is still not showing any signs of falling off, but with thirteen games to go there is a lot of time for things to change for the worse as the corner back injuries pile up. So far, so good. The Bucs just hope there’s no so what caused by a losing streak in their future.

I’m now going to jump back in time Sunday to the other game I watched, which when I learned that the Jets had won their first game I had to take a look, particularly as I don’t think I’ve watched the Titans yet (makes mental note that I really ought to track which teams I watch). This game ended up in an overtime decided by a field goal made for the Jets and a forty-nine yard miss by Randy Bullock that saw the final score as 27-24. The game started as a tight contest where the Titans couldn’t score touchdowns and so kicked three field-goals as they clearly missed receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones. Worse still, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson found a bit of groove and led a touchdown scoring drive in the second quarter, so the Jets went into half time only two points behind. Despite Derek Henry continuing his high-volume production the Titans fell behind in the fourth quarter and even though they tied things up at the end of the fourth quarter, eventually lost in overtime.

For the Titans the loss is part of a patchy start to the season that thanks to the state of the AFC South sees them top of the division at 2-2, but a loss to the rebuilding Jets is a warning sign that things far from where they would have expected. The Titans are currently ranked twenty-seventh by overall DVOA, which is pretty impressive for a team leading a division. They face the even worse Jaguars next week but welcome both the Bills and then the Chiefs in the following two weeks so they need to improve quickly if they are to solidify their hold on the division and do something in the playoffs, which was surely their plan coming into the season.

As for the Jets? There were bits of defence that showed some definite promise, and whilst the offence is ranked a troubling thirty-second, this was always a big project and Wilson threw some nice long passes and didn’t look too lost in this game. I still thing there’s a way to go but four games into a new coaching regime and there could well be glimmers of hope for the Jets. Just don’t get too excited yet, and for the record, I prefer the uninforms they just stopped using again, but it appears for this franchise at least the uniform go in cycles.

The final game I watched this week was the Las Vegas Raiders vising the LA Chargers in the transient franchise bowl. Unfortunately for me in the picking competition the Raiders were pretty comprehensively beaten 28-14 despite the fourteen-point rally in the third quarter. The Raiders were held scoreless in the first half and were never able to get the run game going as the Chargers defence held them in check. It felt like the Raiders defence was doing an okay job of slowing down the Chargers offence, but in the end the Raiders were outgained by one-hundred and sixty-seven yards and solidly beaten. In fact, right now, the Raiders are in the strange position of having their defence rated higher by DVOA than their offence, but you would expect that to correct as we get further into the season. I shall repeat my boring but relevant mantra of it still being early and with both teams at 3-1 they are part of a three way tie at the top of the AFC West that sees the 2-2 Chiefs bottom of the division. I don’t think this is a terrible result for the Raiders, but it does feel like thanks to the early returns of the Brandon Staley hire that the Chargers have a higher ceiling. Let us see what the next five games bring.

What I Heard

At the risk of boring everyone by returning to Tom Brady (I’m sure Dan will be up for not discussing Brady at all on next week’s pod), I found it really interesting listening to Peter King’s podcast that Brady and the other backup quarterbacks did extra film study this week, deliberately going back years to see what Belichick did against big name quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees etc as they were sure that Belichick would have wrinkles that you wouldn’t’ find in the last few games.

What I Think

I’m up against the clock a little this week (what’s new there?), but there’s a couple of things I want to discuss.

It’s been interesting listening to people talk about their takeaways from the early season and as ever quarterbacks feature heavily in that discussion. There was some praise that having traded for Sam Darnold in the off-season, and whilst it is obvious he needs a certain amount of structure, the 3-1 start for the Panthers at least says there could be a level of success with Darnold as the quarterback in Carolina, even if the Cowboys beat them by eight points this week.

However, the idea of how many chances a quarterback does or doesn’t get has been on my mind since the start of the season. I’ll start with a comment from someone I know:

‘I’m heartbroken that my team decided to replace our legendary quarterback

with a ****ing ****-bag ***** and that’s why I won’t be watching any games this year.’

The quarterback in question is Jameis Winston and one of the reasons this discussion stuck in my mind has nothing to do with his up and down play on the field over the course of his career, which has continued this season with the Saints. I remembered the, ‘character issues’ from when Winston was drafted, but I did not remember him settling a lawsuit with a woman who accused him of rape. He was drafted after my first season blogging about the NFL, but I didn’t write anything in the off-season or about the draft so I have no way of checking the receipts, just the vagaries of my memory and so it was really jarring when it came up.

You would like to think that if such a thing took place today that it might have more affect but given the record of college sports I wouldn’t like to bet on it. There is a genuine discussion to be had about justice, reform and punishment, but what penalty did this man actually face? There’s been talk that he’s a different player and a more mature presence as well as the charitable work he did in Tampa. That is fine, but he also was suspended in 2018 for three games for alleged sexual assault on an Uber driver who didn’t press charges but did release a statement after Winston apologised for his behaviour. Again, this has gone away and what has been said? It would be one thing if he came out having genuinely engaged with the issues, shown contrition, and tried to work with advocates and charities to affect change, but there’s been no such effort that I’m aware of.

I own my own silence on this. I cannot double check from when Winston was drafted, but 2018 is too recent for me not to have the facts to hand. It’s not like I have any power in this situation, but I know people affected by sexual violence and by the statistics you do too. Even if no one has felt ready to confide in you, someone you know has something ranging from sexual harassment to an actual assault.. We can’t change this if we just blindly allow certain perpetrators to get away with it because they have a skill or talent that is valuable to someone. Even if a perpetrator can never truly atone for what they did, they should spend the time trying to make amends.

What I know this week is that there is no segue from this topic to the rest of my usual mid-week football posts.

I don’t actually think there should be. You might be feeling jarred, but I promise that is intentional.

Sports can be a power for good but also is a reflection of society because it is a part of society. I am wary of lionising people who just happen to have the right level of talent to be very good at sport. They are still people. I have also written before that it’s important not to other those who perpetrate such crimes. Not to excuse what they have done, but because the truly scary thing is they are not monsters but peope. They too have gifts and troubles. No one commits such crimes should get a pass whatever talent the market has decided is desirable enough to overlook such things, a formula that too often gets skewed by the money in sports.

I don’t have the answers, but at the very least I can be thinking about the questions and make sure such matters aren’t ignored.