I had a better time with my picks last week, but it didn’t do me much good as Dan and I had matching records, so I’m still two games behind him, and he is at a respectable 50% overall. I also didn’t get a chance to write up last week’s Thursday night game as I was busy over the weekend. Sadly it was another blow out, and so I don’t feel too guilty as although I enjoy looking at the coaching tape now that I have available to me, it would be nice to get to do it for a close game.
I thought that this week’s DVOA roundup from Football Outsiders (found here), had some interesting things to say on the overall standard of teams this season, and is well worth a look if you get a chance.
There will be a slight change this week as Dan is currently away, I have his Thursday night pick and will give post the rest when he gets back before the games on Sunday. There are not a lot games that I like the lines of, so let’s take a look as it is going to be another interesting week in the NFL.
Gee: Week 4 10-5 Overall 36-40
Dan: Week 4 10-5 Overall 38-38
Colts @ Texans (+2.5)
I was right in suggesting that the Texans would be involved in a close game last week, as they covered in a three point loss to the Cowboys. Their defence kept them in the game, despite Tony Romo spinning away from JJ Watt to complete a 43 yard pass, and Dez Bryant making a catch over Jonathan Joseph despite perfect coverage and Joseph having an arm between Bryant’s hands during the catch. The problem for this team is going to be the offence, and whether they can give the team enough to win. In some games they will, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is a limited quarterback who only had 154 yards and an interception against the Cowboys, and this is likely to be a problem all year.
The Colts on the other hand, have the luxury of having another great quarterback, and whilst he didn’t have his best game last week, he has led his team to the thirteenth on offence by DVOA this season in only his third year. I don’t know what the Thursday night effect will be on the game, and I fear another blow out, but I’m taking the Colts.
Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Texans
Patriots @ Bills (+3.5)
So I didn’t pick the Patriots last week, as their week four loss taught me that to do so just because of Brady and Belichick in a prime time game was a bad reason to pick games that way. Well, they followed up that horrible loss against the Chiefs on Monday night football, by spanking the Bengals in the Sunday night game. I’ll cover the Bengals in the next game write up, but the Patriots came out aggressively and played their best football of the season. Their o- line looked better, and Brady looked like he was having fun, which is easier to do when you are winning. I’m not sure they have answered every question, but the dual tight end attack featuring a rejuvenate Rob Gronkowski, and their late preseason trade piece Tim Wright, caught the eye with 185 yards and two touchdowns between them. Add to this 220 yards on the ground and it was a long day for the Bengals defence. Despite their turbulent start to the season, they have a chance this week to take sole possession of the AFC East with a win over the Bills.
I do not have a handle on the Bills at all. They beat the Lions 17-14, but the Lions kicker missed three field goals and so could have won the game pretty easily. Their defence and special teams are both ranked third by DVOA, but their offence is a sputtering twenty-seventh and whilst Kyle Orton is a stable starter, especially when compared to EJ Manuel, I don’t see them improving dramatically. I have picked the Patriots wrong for two weeks now, so Bills fans could well be happy that I’m picking against them this week, but I see a more familiar shape to the AFC East by the end of this weekend.
Gee’s Pick: Patriots
Panthers @ Bengals (-7.5)
I am not panicking, but I am worried. The Bengals team is still good, and has a lot of talent, but I’m still waiting for the light to go on in prime time. This was another game where Andy Dalton failed to answer the questions that surround him in big games. The Bengals are clearly missing Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert in the passing game, and Hue Jackson’s commitment to the run doesn’t seem to have materialised. I think they’ll continue to be good and make the playoffs, but it really is a playoff win or bust for this team, and I this is the kind of game that makes you wonder if this is the year they turn it round. I am not one of those who questions Marvin Lewis’ record, if you look at the changes he has made over the years to the Bengals, I think there has been tremendous process. I understand that he hasn’t won a playoff game, but the Bengals were a national joke and he has turned that round into a good drafting, very talented team. You don’t throw that away, but I don’t understand why good head coaches, who are not great game managers, don’t just hire someone to this for them. Andy Reid is another really good coach, who could benefit from someone tracking time management etc on game day.
The Panthers proved me wrong last week, beating a Bears team that are up and down and lead their conference with a 3-2 record. Cam Newton is really developing as a quarterback, throwing two touchdowns to tight end Greg Olsen and he is gaining trust in rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The defence is still a worry, ranking twenty-seventh by DVOA and giving up 347 yards last week, but they did get four turnovers. I expect the Bengals to bounce back at home where they have been very good for several seasons now, but I believe that the Panthers will give a good account of themselves so I am wary of this points total.
Gee’s Pick: Panthers
Steelers @ Browns (-1.5)
I’m really not sure where to go with this line. The Steelers continued their win, loss, win, loss pattern by beating the Panthers last week, but they’ve not been convincing for a lot of the year. Not only did the Browns win on the road against the woeful Titans, but they managed the largest ever comeback by a road team, overturning a twenty-five point deficit in the process. I think this game could go either way, but whilst I think the Browns are a tough team to play, I’m not sure that they should be favourites in this game. Neither of these teams’ defences are ranked as well as I would have expected going into the season, but I have more faith in the Steelers’ offence than I do in the Browns’ offence, despite the Browns ranking five places higher at fourth by DVOA, so I’m going with the Steelers.
Gee’s Pick: Steelers
Broncos @ Jets (+8.5)
The Jets are struggling due to a lack of talent. On offence things are going from bad to worse and it looks like I was wrong to say there were signs of improvement in Geno Smith, particularly with stories of him missing meetings and visiting the cinema before a game. In fairness, Michael Vick didn’t exactly light it up when he came into the game. That the Jets are a mess is not perhaps a surprise, but they are also ranked nineteenth on defence as the play of their secondary means that even Rex Ryan is struggling to sort them out. I think this is going to be one season too many for Ryan, who I’m not convinced about as a head coach, but who I would hire in a heart beat as a defensive coordinator, particularly if you have the personnel in place for his 3-4 scheme.
There is not much to say about the Broncos for the opposite reason. They are very good, it’s no surprise that Peyton Manning is playing well, and their defence is ranked second by DVOA, whilst they team overall stands top of both the DVOA and DAVE rankings. It was only in the fourth quarter, when injuries caught up with the Cardinals, that they really pulled away from the visiting team, so I don’t feel bad about picking against the Broncos last week, but I can’t see the Jets doing anything similar in this one.
Gee’s Pick: Broncos
Lions @ Vikings (+1.5)
This is a big game for the Lions if they want to remain in contention in the NFC North. They could have won the game last week despite Calvin Johnson being hobbled, having left nine points on the field through missed field goals. The offence is struggling and I don’t see that changing with Calvin Johnsons being listed as doubtful. However their defence is ranked first by DVOA and this it was this side of the ball that helped them beat the Packers in week 3. They have the Vikings, Saints, and Falcons coming up before a bye, so now looks to be not a bad time to rest Johnson and look to push on later in the season. I think they should be able to compete in this stretch, but it will be a test.
I’m not going to over react to the Vikings’ blow out loss on Thursday night, we only have to look at what the Buccaneers did the week after their horrible loss to the Falcons to see that this does not have to define your season, but I am worried. You knew going into that game that the offence was going to struggle with Christian Ponder starting, but in fairness there were more problems than just him. The o-line didn’t look to be getting much push in the rushing game or giving much protection in pass sets, and even when Asiata had a good run, he fumbled the ball. I’m not sure if Teddy Bridgewater will be back this week as he is still listed as questionable, so I’m not sure if the offence will turn around. The defence got gouged for various plays, but also got a lot of three and outs against the Packers offence and looked good in patches. The Vikings are currently ranked twenty-ninth overall by DVOA, but the blow out will be affecting that ranking and I think they are a little better than that. However, I don’t think that will be enough for them to win this game against the Lions.
Gee’s Pick: Lions
Packers @ Dolphins (+3.5)
The Packers are looking more like themselves over the last two weeks, especially on offence, where Rodgers has thrown for a combined 458 yards, 7 touchdowns and no interceptions. The o-line seems to be holding up better, and Eddie Lacy is looking more like the running back he was expected to be before the start of the season. The defence also looked good last week with six sacks, and a slimmed down Julius Peppers looking good as he ran an interception back 49 yards for a touchdown. As with the Vikings, I wouldn’t read too much into the lopsided nature of the Thursday night game results as we’ve had a lot of these so far this season, but the Packers now sit third overall in DVOA, and whilst I think the defence may fall back from its current ranking of twelfth, I think the Packers are heading in the right direction.
The Dolphins are coming off a bye, having spectacularly taught me a lesson about falling for a team that sounded good in interviews. I still don’t like the way Joe Philbin dealt with his quarterback situation, but Tannehill responded with a good game in Wembley as they solidly beat the Raiders. However, I’m not going to get carried away with this win due to who they were playing. They are good on defence, but the Packers are now looking more like the team we were expecting them to be, and there are still questions around the Dolphins’ offence that makes me think they are losing this one despite being at home.
Gee’s Pick: Packers
Jaguars @ Titans (-6.5)
For me this is a fairly straight forward pick. I suppose you could say that it was good that the Titans built a 25 point lead, but it was a horrible loss to the Browns, and now Jake Locker is questionable with a thumb injury. I do not like this team and I actually think that they might lose to the Jaguars, but even if they do win, I don’t see them doing so by seven or more points when the Steelers only beat the Jaguars by eight. The Jaguars don’t exactly inspire confidence, but I don’t see them losing every game and I think they will keep this game close.
Gee’s Pick: Jaguars
Ravens @ Buccaneers (+3.5)
I hate this line! The Buccaneers have played solidly since their blow out loss to the Faclons in Week three, and look they have something going with Mike Glennon at quarterback, whilst the defence has also being playing better. They beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh and lost to the Saints in overtime, but they are still thirty-first overall by DVOA so I’m not that taken with them.
The problem for me is that the Ravens have looked good for a lot of the season, particularly after shaking off a week one loss against the Bengals, but they don’t seem to be travelling that well. They only beat the Browns by two points in Cleveland and lost against the Colts last week. However, there is a chasm between them in the DVOA rankings and I think that facing Mike Glennon is very different to facing Andrew Luck, so I will take the Ravens to bounce back with a win, hopefully covering the points whilst they are at it.
Gee’s Pick: Ravens
Chargers @ Raiders (+7.5)
The Chargers continue to look good, but the injuries are mounting up for them. This might make me pause over a number this large, but not against the Raiders. Right now Philip Rivers is just playing too well and the Raiders have been rotten. I don’t know why I fell for them in the London game, given that one of my survivor strategies has been picking teams playing the Raiders. I don’t what affect the firing of Dennis Allen will have, but there are also talent issue for this team and until I see something from the Raiders, I’m not backing them, even when they are getting this many points.
Gee’s Pick: Chargers
Bears @ Falcons (-3.5)
This is another line I don’t like. The Falcons are still riding high in the DVOA rankings, but that is mainly because of their game against the Buccaneers. They will be better at home as they always are, but their o-line is a mess and the defence is not looking good. The Bears need this win to stay in contention, and I think they will get it, but I am worried. They’ve not looked good over the last couple of weeks, and Jay Cutler needs to protect the ball more, but they should have too much for the Falcons
Gee’s Pick: Bears
Cowboys @ Seahawks (-7.5)
The Cowboys continued their good start to the season with a close win over the Texans last week, but I’m not so sure of them this week. They needed overtime to get the win, and whilst their young o-line has been playing excellently, visiting Seattle is really going to test them. They made some spectacular plays on offence, which I don’t think they will get against the Seahawks, and their defence will face a tougher test this week.
I think that the Seahawks will win this game. Poor Percy Harvin had three touchdowns called back by penalties against Washington, with James Carpenter giving away twenty-five yards of penalties on two of these plays. I am worried about the points as the Cowboys have been good and the smart play would be to take them, but with that home field advantage I’m thinking that the Cowboys are in for a long day.
Gee’s Pick: Seahawks
Washington @ Cardinals (-3.5)
The Cardinals were keeping it close until the fourth quarter last week, until injuries finally did for them as they lost Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson on defence, as well as losing Drew Stanton to injury, forcing them to play the Logan Thomas at quarterback. They have to keep Thomas on the roster as someone would claim him from the practice squad, but he’s not ready to play yet and this is a real problem for them with Carson Palmer’s injury. The history of nerve issues is not inspiring; as anyone who has followed NBA great Steve Nash’s recent seasons will know, but with Drew Stanton on concussion protocol, quarterback could be a real problem for the Cardinals.
Washington has not been impressive this season, but they have a chance this week. I’m not convinced they can win; their offence and defence don’t rank too badly but their special teams are thirty-first by DVOA. They are another team that I really didn’t like in Thursday night game, but they didn’t do much last week to convince me either so whilst I am going back and forth on this one, I don’t think I can back them this week despite the Cardinals issues.
Gee’s Pick: Cardinals
Giants @ Eagles (-2.5)
The Eagles found a way last week against the Rams, leading the game convincingly until the fourth quarter when they let the Rams back a little. They got another touchdown from a blocked punt, and lead the league in special teams DVOA, but their offence is still struggling compared to where they were expected to be. They are not much healthier on the o-line and LeSean McCoy has not looked like the back he was last year. The defence seems to be holding up better than expected, but overall this team’s 4-1 record includes two three point wins that could have easily gone the other way, and you can only score so many special teams touchdowns.
The Giants on the other hand, have been steadily improving, with Eli Manning now looking really good in the new offence. They have now won three straight games and are actually ranked higher in overall DVOA than the Eagles, as well as ub offensive and defensive DVOA. I fancy them to give the Eagles a hard time this week and I like that I’m getting points as well. This could well be the week there Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys all end up with 4-2 records.
Gee’s Pick: Giants
49ers @ Rams (+3.5)
There are so many stories swirling round the 49ers, and in particular Jim Harbaugh, at the moment, but they have still won the last two games. Their defence is playing well, whilst their offence is stuttering a bit. You would like to see more development from Colin Kaepernick, but they are getting it done and I wouldn’t bet against them this week.
The Rams are thirtieth in defensive DVOA and twenty-third in offence, but whilst Austin Davis did throw for 375 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, the Rams were never really in the game against the Eagles, and only a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter kept the score respectable. I don’t think that they will have such success on offence this week and I think they lose another one.
Gee’s Pick: 49ers.