It has been a fairly hectic week so having finally got a close Thursday night game, I had to abandon the coach’s tape half way through this weekend, and missed another write up which is pretty frustrating. Losing another game to Dan was even more frustrating, and changing your mind on the Browns and then watching them hammer the Steelers was down right infuriating.
I can just about live with the Giants just getting blown out by the Eagles; and I should have know that the Seahawks would not win by eight, even if I wasn’t expecting them to lose; I missed on the Packers by half a point; but that Browns win is bugging me as the signs were there and I second guessed myself. Worse than all of that though is how my team is playing since their bye week. It feels like the Bengals are faltering, and whilst they are beaten up at certain spots on the roster, I’m becoming increasingly worried that the playoff win drought is going to continue for another year.
So on to the week 7 games, and the lines are horrible. As I write this introduction there are three games that I have actually picked a side on so let’s write them up and see how things go. The only thing I can take solace in is that I keep hearing professional NFL commentators say they don’t know what’s going on this season either.
Gee: Week 6 10-5 Overall 46-45
Dan: Week 6 11-4 Overall 49-42
Jets @ Patriots (-9.5)
So last week the Thursday night game was decided by five points, but I don’t see that happening this week. The Patriots got themselves going against the Bengals at home, and then followed it up with a very solid win away at Buffalo. Tom Brady threw for over 300 yards for the first time this season, getting four touchdowns and making use not only of Gronkowski, but Brandon LaFell who led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. There were some notable injuries to linebacker Jerod Mayo and Steven Ridley, but the top of the AFC East looks a lot more familiar this week.
The Jets continue to struggle and I don’t see it changing this week playing in New England. Their offence is still sputtering and their defence is in danger of dropping out of the top 20 by DVOA. The only bright spot by the numbers is their special teams ranking of sixth, but in the introduction to the almanac, Football Outsiders gave a ratio of importance for the three phases as 4:3:1 in order of offence, defence, and special teams. They did lead their game for one quarter, and the defence gave Peyton Manning some problems, but having got themselves back into the game at 17-24. Geno Smith threw a pick-six and the game was over. They also could ill afford to lose another member of their secondary with Dee Milliner tearing his achilles. Having beaten the woeful Raiders in week one, they have lost by seven or more points for the rest of the season. The amount of points in this week’s spread does give me pause, but in the end I’m backing Patriots on a Thursday night game, which could get ugly.
Gee’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Comments: – Horrible. Patriots will win, but it’s difficult to predict by how much. I’ll pick them though this week.
Falcons @ Ravens (-6.5)
This is one of the few relatively straight forward picks this week. There are only so many ways you can write that the Falcons are too injured. They still have talent on offence, but they are ranked thirty-first on defence by DVOA and are not a good road team. The Ravens on the other hand are currently ranked second overall by DVOA, are ranked top ten in all phases of the game, and are playing well. I don’t think Flacco will be throwing four touchdowns in a quarter again, but I’m happily taking the Ravens. Now watch them lose…
Gee’s Pick: Ravens
Dan’s Pick: Ravens
Dan’s Comments: – So the Bears pretty much took the Falcons apart week 6, and similarly the Ravens tore the Bucks a new one (arguably not difficult!). Comfortable Ravens win.
Vikings @ Bills (-4.5)
I don’t know what I am meant to do with this game. I haven’t had a handle on the Bills all year, but in last week’s game, the defence that has been so solid was somewhat porous against the Patriots. Kyle Orton has looked okay in parts, and is certainly a step up from Manuel, but he can’t throw interceptions if the Bills want to win.
The Vikings had a horrible loss against the Lions. In a game they have traditionally done well in, they struggled as their rookie quarterback threw three interceptions against the Lions. That said, the blame shouldn’t all be placed on Teddy Bridgewater, he was sacked eight times as the Lions pass rush harassed him so frequently that it is hard to imagine anyone thriving under those circumstances. They are thirtieth in overall DVOA and thirty-first in offence. In a week that requires them to go against another good defence I think they will struggle again. The points worry me, but I think the Bills keep themselves in the hunt in the AFC East with a win and that’s where I’m going.
Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Vikings
Dan’s Comments: – Vikings aren’t scoring much, but Buffalo’s defence has been shaky recently. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be Minnesota’s week this week though.
Dolphins @ Bears (-3.5)
The Bears needed the win last week to stay competitive in their division, and they got it on the road against the Falcons. It was good Cutler in week six, who threw for 381 yards, a touchdown, but more importantly no interceptions. Their defence somehow jumped up eight places in defensive DVOA despite them beginning the game without all three of their starting linebackers. The question is how much of their win in the last game was them playing better, and how much was the Falcons playing badly.
The Dolphins seem to be playing solidly, and only narrowly lost to the Packers. They are mid league in overall ranking and offence by DVOA, horrible in special teams, and top five in defence. There are two big bits of news coming out of their weekend game. The first is the continued questions surrounding their coach Joe Philbin, who took a horrible time out with thirteen seconds on the play clock, giving Aaron Rodgers of all people a chance to take stock and prepare the game winning touchdown, which he duly got on the next play. I’ve mentioned before about the apparent dysfunction in the way this team is run, and this doesn’t seem like great game management, although there is more to being a head coach than just that. Of more significance perhaps is the loss of Knowshon Moreno, who is done for the year with an ACL tear. However, Lamar Miller has been doing well this season, and I was impressed with rookie Damien Williams in pre-season so they hopefully can cope.
I am going back and forth on this game, but I see it as another close one for the Dolphins, and whilst I don’t know if they will win, I’ll take the points and see how I do.
Gee’s Pick: Dolphins
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins
Dan’s Comments: – Picking Dolphins again this week, partly through blind hope, and partly because I know it’s annoying Gee! Sorry mate!
Gee’s Reply: – I’m only annoyed at being three games behind to someone who is blindly picking their team, but the fault is really mine…
Bengals @ Colts (-2.5)
It may be the influence of Ross Tucker in the way he talks about ties on his podcast, but the last two games since the bye feel like losses and it seems weird to keep seeing them listed above the Ravens who have one more win. The Bengals could have won it on the last play of the game, but Nugent missed the filed goal. The offence is continuing to find ways to get points despite Andy Dalton losing more targets, and Marvin Jones has just been moved to IR and won’t be coming back this season. The defence seems to be getting gashed in the running game, and are struggling against the pass as it doesn’t matter how good your secondary is if your pass rush can’t get to the quarterback. It is too early to hit the panic button; the Bengals need to get Green back healthy and find some stops on defence, but I’m not sure this is the game to do it. It’s also worth noting that things didn’t improve on defence with the return of Vontaze Burfict, who announced his return by appearing to twist at the ankles of Greg Olsen and Cam Newton, which has to be dealt with. He is a player who plays on the edge, but there are fouls and then there is intentionally trying to injure someone. We’ll see how the league decides to deal with it, but the Bengals need him playing well and making tackles, playing the right way.
I was really impressed with both Andrew Luck and TY Hilton when I watched them last week. I also really liked the onside kick that was easily recovered to get them an extra possession. They were seventeen points up in under ten minutes and twenty-four up by the end of the first quarter. However, the Texans did manage to make a game of it and get themselves back into the game. I was fairly impressed with the Colts’ defence, but I’m not sure how much of that was the o-line and patchy nature of the Texans. In this game I like them to do well, AJ Green is out at least another week, and I’m wary of how much time Andrew Luck is going to get in this game. I’ll happily drop a win to Dan if it means the Bengals win, but I think they would need Green back to keep up in this game. I hope I am wrong.
Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Comments: – To make things worse, I’m going to pick the Colts. They’re starting to roll and I think the Bengals may struggle.
Browns @ Jaguars (+4.5)
The Jaguars can’t quite seem to find a way to win. They moved off the bottom of the rankings by DVOA, but they had a chance to win their last game with an end of the game field goal but had it blocked. The defence seems to have improved a little, but Blake Bortles is getting very little blocking from his o-line, and whilst there are times when he holds on to the ball for too long, a lot of the time the defence is getting to him without having to blitz. I think they are going to be kicking themselves about this loss as it was an opportunity for them, one that I don’t think they are going to get this week.
I’m still kicking myself about my Browns pick last week, and it is not as if they only just squeaked by the points spread. The surprising thing to me is not what they are doing, but how they are doing it as the defence is only ranked twenty-ninth by DVOA and their offence is ranked number two, with Brian Hoyer at quarterback and without their star wide receiver. I don’t see anything in the Jaguars that makes me think that the Browns won’t cover this spread.
Gee’s Pick: Browns
Dan’s Pick: Browns
Dan’s Comments: – Not a difficult pick this one. Jags aren’t looking great, although they got agonisingly close to their first ‘W’ last weekend.
Saints @ Lions (-2.5)
The Saints were on a bye last week, but I’m not sure how much that is going to help them unless Rob Ryan has done some serious self-scouting and has a new plan for his badly misfiring defence. In fairness, the offence hasn’t been what you would expect and it will be interesting to see how they do this week against a Lions team that leads the league in defensive DVOA. They could turn it round and go on a run, but right now I need to see something from them before I will believe it.
The Lions are doing it with defence. They are struggling on offence, and look like a different team with Calvin Johnson sidelined with his ankle problems, but it’s probably best to sit him now and try to get him healthy for the home stretch. The defence not only leads the league in DVOA, but looks like it is playing that well too. They gave poor Teddy Bridgewater no time to work with last week, and having stifled Aaron Rodgers earlier in the season, I think they will do enough to win this game for their offence.
Gee’s Pick: Lions
Dan’s Pick: Lions
Dan’s Comments: – Tricky. I think the Lions will just about have enough to overcome New Orleans.
Panthers @ Packers (-6.5)
I’m really not sure what to make of either of these teams. The Packers got a win against the Dolphins because Aaron Rodgers is really good at football (with apologies to Bill Barnwell), and they are well ranked in DVOA, but they did only just beat the Dolphins who are very up and down. The Panthers are lower ranked than the Dolphins, but beat the Bengals who are one place above the Packers, and seem to be up and down themselves. I’m a confused mess when I watch these teams. I feel like the Packers should win, and have more faith in them than I do in Carolina, but do I have seven points worth of faith? I really don’t know, so I’m falling back on taking the points, and my first pick as if the Packers win, fine I was wrong, but I’ll kick myself if the Panthers keep it close, which I think they might. I think…
Gee’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Comments: – Another difficult one. Packers will win this, but not by a touchdown, so I’ll pick Carolina.
Titans @ Washington (-4.5)
So Washington lost to the Cardinals, with Kirk Cousins falling to 0-3 as a starter this season. He threw for 354 yards, two interceptions, and three picks, which explains why they lost again. The problem seems to be accuracy, as he has good moments, but he can’t seem to protect the football. The defence is keeping them in games and this could be the game that they get one back in the win column. I’m not sure how good the Titans should feel getting that a win against the 0-6 Jaguars, given that they could have lost it. Still, all wins count the same and they did block the Jaguars’ attempt at a field goal. However, I think that Washington will be a sterner a test and that the winning feeling will be a short lived one in Tennessee.
Gee’s Pick: Washington
Dan’s Pick: Washington
Dan’s Comments: – This is the pick I’ve been struggling with most this week. I think Washington will start to turn it round this week.
Seahawks @ Rams (+6.5)
So the big result in week six was the Seahawks losing at home to the Cowboys. The Seahawks look like they lack a little bit of depth on defence this year, even before they lost Byron Maxwell to a calf injury (he is currently listed as doubtful for this game), and are not quite the same dominant team as they were last season, although they are still pretty damn good. However, Russell Wilson has proven himself to be an excellent quarterback, and it took a fine overall performance and game plan from the Cowboys to defeat them. However, I do think that they will bounce back against the Rams, whose defence is not playing up to the level that I expected and whose offence is struggling. It was always going to be a long season for the Rams after Sam Bradford went down and I don’t see that changing here. They are at the wrong end of the DVOA standings in all three phases of the game and although I have a slight pause at the points, I don’t think they cover in this game.
Gee’s Pick: Seahawks
Dan’s Pick: Seahawks
Dan’s Comments: – Finally an easy pick. Rams are looking pretty terrible.
Chiefs @ Chargers (-4.5)
The Chiefs are the other team coming off a bye this week, and I’m not sure that I’m happy to see them back. This is strictly because I really haven’t got a handle on how to pick this team. I saw them several times in preseason and was impressed, they have some good attacking talent and Alex Smith may not be a flashy QB, but he wins games. They are ranked in the middle of the league for everything by DVOA, and have a blow out win against the Patriots on Monday Night Football as well as loss to the generally woeful Titans. I think that they are a sold football team, but that this won’t cut it in a division with the Chargers and the Broncos.
The Chargers are playing brilliantly at the moment, but injuries might be catching up with them. The Raiders were the first team to stop the Chargers covering this season, but Philip Rivers is still playing as well as any quarterback in the league, leading the offense to a ranking of sixth by DVOA despite having no running game to support him. Now the Raiders have occasionally shown some signs of life, and they could have been buoyed by their new head coach, but I don’t want to read too much into this game. I may regret this, because as usual the points total worries me, but I’m learning my lesson last week and I’m not second guessing myself.
Gee’s Pick: Chargers
Dan’s Pick: Chargers
Dan’s Comments: – Chargers by 10
Giants @ Cowboys (-6.5)
The Giants ran into a brick wall against the Eagles. Their improving offence was shut out whilst giving up eight sacks, and their defence was gouged for 203 yards rushing, including LeSean McCoy’s first one hundred yard game of the season. The Giants currently are 3-3 and haven’t finished a game within a single score all year. I’m not sure what to make of their overall DVOA as a loss like this will send you into freefall, but dropping from eighth to twenty-first was pretty spectacular. So the question is what team is going to turn up this week, and the honest answer is I don’t know, but given the horrible injury to Victor Cruz I think they could struggle on offence.
Their opponents however, have done if not the impossible, then the very difficult in beating the Seahawks in Seattle. I should have given them the credit that they would cover, but I don’t feel bad about being unsure if they could win. This was the test that everybody wanted to see if the Cowboys were for real, and it appears that they are. DeMarco Murray has started the season with six one hundred yard rushing games, the only other running back to do that is Jim Brown, and any time you get mentioned with a name like that you know that something is going right. The knock on Murray has been his durability so I do wonder if they are going to lighten his workload as he is currently on pace for over four hundred carries this season, but the line is playing great, and the offence is currently top ten by DVOA. I think the Cowboys will continue their good record this week, and I just hope they cover.
Gee’s Pick: Cowboys
Dan’s Pick: Cowboys
Dan’s Comments: – The Cowboys are impressing a lot of people I’m talking to at the minute. May that continue into week 7!
Cardinals @ Raiders (+3.5)
It is possible that Bruce Arians is doing the best coaching job in the NFL right now. He’s had a revolving door at quarterback and the team have suffered various injuries, yet somehow they have a 4-1 record. Their defence is ranked sixth by DVOA despite the offseason losses and current injuries. They took care of Washington last week and I expect them to do the same to the Raiders.
The Raiders played better last week, staying with the Chargers throughout the game, but ultimately couldn’t get their first win. David Carr has a really good looking arm, but was inaccurate throwing the last deep ball that was intercepted and is going through typical rookie growing pains. The problem is that in week three the Raiders hung tough with Patriots and the following week they were walloped by the Dolphins in London. It’s possible that they could play the Cardinals close this week, but I’m not prepared to back them doing it just yet.
Gee’s Pick: Cardinals
Dan’s Pick: Cardinals
Dan’s Comments: – Cardinals’ll be fairly comfortable this week against the Raiders.
49ers @ Broncos (-6.5)
This is probably the game of the week. The Broncos head up the DVOA rankings with an offense ranked number one and a defensive rank of two, and it has often felt like they haven’t hit top gear yet. This could very well be the game that Peyton Manning gets the record for the most touchdowns thrown by a quarterback.
The 49ers took care of the Rams in the second half of last week’s game, ultimately running out handy winners with an impressive defensive performance and some high powered plays on offence. How their defence is ranked number three by DVOA given the injuries and suspensions they have on that side of the ball is something of a question. However, with Patrick Willis now looking doubtful with a toe injury, I wonder if this is a game too far for this team. I’m going with my gut this time as the 49ers were playing the Rams last week.
Gee’s Pick: Broncos
Dan’s Pick: 49ers
Dan’s Comments: – Two pretty well matched teams. I’ll pick SF because of the Spread.
Texans @ Steelers (-3.5)
The Steelers look like they might be the worst team in the AFC North. The big surprise for me is that they have one of the best receivers in the game in Antonio Brown, a running back that looks really good in Le’Veon Bell, yet somehow their offence has only managed ten points in their last two games. I didn’t think their o-line looked bad when I watched the coaching tape a few weeks ago, but something is clearly not working. When you couple that with a defence that is struggling, it got gouged for 158 yards last week, and is ranked a poor by Pittsburgh standards twenty-third by DVOA, you have a recipe for a disappointing season.
The Texans are so much better than last year, but they aren’t quite there yet. I’ve frequently declared my love for JJ Watt, but Arian Foster is also playing well this season, and Andre Johnson continues to be a threat. The problem is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is streaky and the team seems to be playing in the same manner. They did really well to get back into the game last week against the Colts, but you’re not going to win many games by going down twenty-four points in the first quarter. I just have a feeling that with the Steelers struggling, the Texans might be able to take advantage and even if they can’t, I’m not sure the Steelers are going to win by a lot. Cue a Steelers blowout, but that’s not what I’m picking to happen
Gee’s Pick: Texans
Dan’s Pick: Texans
Dan’s Comments: – Texans in this one, I think.