Last week I returned to respectability, going 8-8 despite missing out on two games by only half a point. Unfortunately, due to these two games and me underestimating the Bears, I’ve dropped a game behind Dan in our competition so I will have to redouble my efforts or he’s going to win the blog from me. You may notice some more stats from the Football Outsiders creeping in, although it will be another week until their DVOA stat starts including the adjustments for opponents, so I’ll be using their modified DAVE stat overall ranking as this includes adjustments for preseason/early season comparison, alongside their DVOA stats for offence, defence and special teams. As well as these advanced stats I’ll be using traditional stats, blind luck, observation, and reading the entrails of a ritually slaughtered Steelers fan.
Gee: Week 3 8-8 Overall 21-27
Dan: Week 3 9-7 Overall 22-26
Giants @ Washington (-3.5)
So the Thursday night game this week is between two teams that I picked wrong last week. The Giants beat the Texans pretty convincingly, with Eli having a very solid day gaining 234 yards from 21 completions out of 28 attempts, two touchdowns and no interceptions, a running game that gouged the Texans for 176 yards by Rashad Jennings, and the Texans giving the ball away four times. I don’t feel too bad about not seeing this turnaround coming for the Giants, but the Texans were on the road for a second straight week and I might have got carried away by how good JJ Watt is. However, although I had mentioned that Kirk Cousins looked more comfortable as a drop back passer than RG3, I hadn’t realised how much better their offence seemed to run. They only narrowly lost to the 3-0 Eagles, have the third ranked defence according to DVOA, and I think they are going to be too much to handle for an improving Giants team.
Gee’s Pick: Washington
Dan’s Pick: Giants
Dan’s Comments: – I’ve changed my mind twice on this one. Giants looked pretty good against the Texans (who themselves were strong in weeks 1 and 2), so I’m going to go with them.
Bills @ Texans (-2.5)
The Bills are ranked ninth overall by the DAVE stat; and are ninth on offence, eleventh on defence, and second on special teams by DVOA. They lost to a good Chargers team last week as I thought they would, but they have made themselves a real contender in the AFC East. I’m still worried about EJ Manuel and whilst they look like they might improve on last year’s 6-10 record, it is early and the Bills have a recent history that doesn’t inspire confidence. Not only did the Texans lose last week, but their defence gave up 193 yards on the ground and Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions. It has been a feature of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career that every few games he has a stinker, and so I’m not expecting a repeat performance, but for me the Bills have the edge in this one. And I’m getting points!
Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Texans
Dan’s Comments: – Back to winning ways this week for the Texans
Packers @ Bears (+0.5)
I’m not sure if Aaron Rodgers telling fans to relax will help or not, but I don’t think that he is particularly to blame here. The o-line hasn’t being playing great and as a result the offence is not firing on all cylinders, and whilst I don’t think they will necessarily stay ranked twenty-first as they currently are, for me this is where their problem lies. This is interesting as I expected the defence to be the issue, but at eighteenth by DVOA, the defence should be good enough for them to win if their offence was playing up to expectations, so it all depends on if they can turn things around on offence. This should be good news as the Bears defence was the worry in preseason, however they’ve been holding up surprising well so far. There are questions about their run defence, but I’m not sure that the Packers as currently constituted are the team to take advantage of this. I think this is going to be a close game but I fancy the Bears to win at home.
Gee’s Pick: Bears
Dan’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Comments: – This always makes for a good game. Packers by a touchdown for me.
Lions @ Jets (+1.5)
This is the first game the Dan and I agree on. The Lions had a really good win against the Packers last week, are looking more disciplined and won with defence. It must be hard to lose Stephen Tulloch to the year with a torn ACL that he sustained celebrating a sack, but they are ranked second in defence by DVOA, and linebacker DeAndre Levy is really making a name for himself with his good play. The Jets are still playing well on defence and Geno Smith has improved from last year, but I have the feeling that the Lions are good and the Jets are not going to be good enough to win this one, even if they are at home.
Gee’s Pick: Lions
Dan’s Pick: Lions
Dan’s Comments: – Easiest pick this week!
Titans @ Colts (-7.5)
The Titans did not have a good day against the Bengals, and the early talk of Jake Locker improving has cooled after he threw two interceptions last week. I don’t know if they have anything they can hang their hat on as an identity, Jake Locker is on the injury list, and so I don’t think they’re going to be winning this one. The Colts came out last week and did what they needed to in beating a poor Jaguars team. We expect Andrew Luck to be good, but even Trent Richardson showed something last week and having finally got their first win of the season, I think they will beat the Titans at home. I’m a little worried about the points, but I think they will cover.
Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Comments: – This will be a close one, so I’m taking the points.
Dolphins @ Raiders (+4.5)
This is the first of the international series games being played at Wembley this year. The Dolphins beat a Patriots team that look like they’re struggling in week 1 and then have lost against the Bills and Chiefs. Their coach has not exactly been backing their young quarterback, and whilst the Raiders are already over in the U.K., the Dolphins are not flying in until Friday. I don’t like this strategy for travelling and I hate the approach to the quarterback question. Tannehill has only had three games with a new coordinator and it’s much too early to be making a judgement about him. I also don’t like that there are reports that the players on defence hated the game plan against the Chiefs. This does not strike me as a well run football team. The Raiders are 0-3, lost against the misfiring Patriots, and so they are rightly underdogs against the Dolphins on a neutral site. But their performance improved last week, and I just have a feeling about them. I could regret this, although I don’t want Dan to watch his team lose live at the stadium, but I think the game is going the wrong way for him in London this weekend.
Gee’s Pick: Raiders
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins
Dan’s Comments: – A good day in London for the Dolphins (I wonder how much of it I’ll remember on Monday morning!)
Buccaneers @ Steelers (-7.5)
The Buccaneers were awful last week. You hope they have a chip on their shoulder after being humiliated on nationally televised game last week, but there is a lot of work for Lovie Smith to do. I thought that Mike Glennon looked better than the injured Josh McCown last week, and so that might help, but I’m not sure when they might pick up a win. The odds say they don’t lose every game this year, but looking down their schedule I don’t fancy them against anyone. The Steelers got an impressive win against the Panthers last week, and Le’Veon Bell is looking really good. The banged up linebacker group worries me and I still think they might be a step behind the Ravens in the division, but the AFC North once again looks to be one of the tougher divisions in the NFL and I’m happy that the Steelers will beat the spread in this game.
Gee’s Pick: Steelers
Dan’s Pick: Steelers
Dan’s Comments: – Even with the spread, I can’t see anything other than a Steelers win this week.
Panthers @ Ravens (-3.5)
Steve Smith has been heavily featured by the Ravens and is playing well as they welcome his former team to M&T Bank stadium. The Ravens have done pretty well on the field this year, but losing Dennis Pitta to a second dislocated hip could cause them problems. However, Owen Daniels looked good when I saw him and knows the system and the defence is good so I think the Ravens will continue to do okay. The Panthers really got gouged in the running game last week against the Steelers, and whilst they look much better than some of us were expecting, they just lost to a team that got beaten by Ravens pretty handily. I’m not worried about the Browns running the Ravens close last week as I think they’re going to do that to a lot of teams and I’m taking the Ravens despite the points.
Gee’s Pick: Ravens
Dan’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Comments: – Another close one, but I think there’ll be more than a field goal in it.
Jaguars @ Chargers (-13.5)
The Jaguars are bad, and it’s going to take double digit points for me to pick them again this year unless they show me something. I still stand by my week one pick, but we know more now and I don’t see the Chargers having a problem continuing their good start to the season this week.
Gee’s Pick: Chargers
Dan’s Pick: Jaguars
Dan’s Comments: – The Jags (despite being 0-3 so far!) are a team on the up. They’ll still lose, but not by 2 touchdowns.
Falcons @ Vikings (+3.5)
The Teddy Bridgewater era starts in Minnesota and I think in the long term he is going to be good, but losing Peterson has hurt this offence and the line doesn’t seem to be playing that well either. I think the defence will be okay under Zimmer, but it’s going to be a long season. We shouldn’t overreact to the Falcons performance against the Bucs last week, but they are good on offence, and I think they will have too much for the Vikings, even away from home.
Gee’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Comments: – OK, I changed my mind – this is the easiest pick.
Eagles @ 49ers (-5.5)
I think the 49ers are in the same place as I did last week, their depth is being tested and whilst I don’t think they’re bad, the defence is really struggling (twenty-first in DVOA) and indiscipline is costing them too. I wasn’t surprised at their loss last week to a Cardinals team that I think are going to keep contending this season (as ever, health permitting) and I am a little surprised that they’re getting so many points, even at home. The Eagles are 3-0 but I did love the line on the Grantland NLF Podcast, “…Sports sciene 0, regression to the mean 1,” when talking about their injuries. I think they’re the better team in this game, and whilst it’s definitely possible that this game could be one they lose, I don’t see them getting beaten by six points.
Gee’s Pick: Eagles
Dan’s Pick: Eagles
Dan’s Comments: – Eagles to continue their run this week. Philly win.
Saints @ Cowboys (+3.5)
The Cowboys got a win last week, but before we get ahead of ourselves, it was against the Rams who are really struggling. The running game helped them counter the back issues that still seem to be affecting Tony Romo’s game, and they certainly the offensive line to do it. Their defence did enough, but I don’t know if it will be able to cope in this game. The Saints were meant to be challengers for the Super Bowl this year, but their defence isn’t living up to last year’s improvement and their offence has been surprisingly out of sync, or at least that is the narrative I’ve heard, but by DVOA they are ranked number one. They are moving from one dome to another, so I don’t think there woes on the road will be as pronounced as some expect and I see them following up their first win with a second against the Cowboys.
Gee’s Pick: Saints
Dan’s Pick: Saints
Dan’s Comments: – I picked Cowboys the last 2 weeks, but I think they’ll struggle this week.
Patriots @ Chiefs (+3.5)
The Patriots seem to have undergone a switch in identity with their defence ranked number one by DVOA and an offence that is struggling. Their offensive line is not giving Tom Brady the protection he is used to, and there are signs that father time is catching up with one of the all time greats. In fairness, if you look at the weapons he has to work with now, compared to a few years ago, this is not perhaps surprising but it also something that isn’t going to change any time soon. I liked the Chiefs going into the season, and whilst I thought they would regress this year, I didn’t expect this. They beat the Dolphins last week, but I think the Patriots and the Dolphins are heading in different directions and I can’t see the Patriots losing on Monday night football. That’s a really bad reason to pick a team but I’m going with it for now.
Gee’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Comments: – While they beat the Dolphins this week, I wouldn’t say they were particularly good, and I can’t see them being too close to the Patriots this week.