Jets @ Dolphins (+2.5)
The first London game of the year sees the 0-3 (edit – as Dan has pointed out, the Dolphins are in fact 1-2, it just feels like 0-3!) Dolphins as the home team. It has been a horrible start to the year for a team that most of us were tipping to make a push for the playoffs in the offseason. However, I wrote that the winners of the offseason are frequently a let down when it comes time to play the games, and this has certainly been the case so far. Despite the expensive addition of Suh that was expected to turn around the defensive line, but in fact this unit seems to have continued its bad play from the end of last season and so there is more to worry about that Suh’s six tackles and absence of sacks. The struggles the Dolphins are having on offence is less of a surprise to me, although I wasn’t expecting it to be so pronounced, but I did notice through both free agency and the draft that the Dolphins front office hadn’t addressed the offensive line that was not good last season so it should not be a surprise that they can’t run the ball this year and are not exactly protecting Tannehill very effectively. Given that I am sure Joe Philburn kept his job more because they wanted to give Tannehill a second year under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor after the improvements he made last season, Philburn will have to turn things round very quickly if he wants to keep his job.
With all of that said, the Jets are probably not the team that you would want to see this week. Their already good front seven now has a secondary worthy of it and first year head coach Todd Bowles has moulded them into an effective unit. They may have lost last week with one of the most Jets-like plays they’ve had in a while (what Brandon Marshall was thinking when he attempted that lateral pass I do not know, I suspect he hasn’t’ been watching the rugby world cup), but they have been solid so far. They will need Ryan Fitzpatrick to protect the ball better than he did against he Eagles as this team can’t win if he throws three touchdowns, but if the offence can run the ball and control the turnovers like they did in the first two game, then with their defence the Jets are going to be a tough team for any team to face.
I think this is a case of the wrong team at the wrong time for the Dolphins, and whilst I hope I’m wrong as Dan is going to Wembley with a Jets fan, I fear this is not going to be his favourite trip to Wembley.
Gee’s Pick: Jets
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins
Texans @ Falcons (-6.5)
The Falcons have got off to a strong start to the year, making a case to be considered one of the best teams in the NFC. Their defence is improved under first year head coach Dann Quinn from a unit that finished 2014 at the bottom of the Football Outsiders defensive DVOA, and whilst they may not exactly be intimidating they are doing enough to keep the team in the games. Meanwhile, the offence is flying with Julio Jones demonstrating his extraordinary talents in every game, and the stirrings of a running game.
This week they welcome a Texans team that just don’t appear to be very good. They have some very good individuals on defence, but it is not quite gelling yet, but of that has to be the stuggles on offence. The Texans cannot get their running game going, and are still waiting for Arian Foster to come back from his pre-season groin injury, whilst their quarterback play has been suspect so the only player who has caught the eye has been DeAndre Hopkins. It could be that the Texans are picking a high round quarterback in next year’s draft if they don’t turn around their season.
I do not think the Texans have the offence to keep up with a soaring Falcons on the road, and I don’t think they will be able to cover here.
Gee’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Pick: Falcons
Gaints @ Bills (-5.5)
The Bills bounced back from a horrible loss to the Patriots with an incredibly sound beating of the Dolphins. Their defence returned to their aggressive selves, stifling the Dolphins whilst the offence racked up over four hundred yards. If Tyrod Taylor can protect the ball in his first season as a starter then there is a good chance the Bills can be in contentions for the playoffs at the end of the season.
The Giants got the win last week, but their offence has to become more efficient in their opponents half for them to win consistently. They kicked far too many field goals last week, and the fact that they hosted a number of receivers for workouts this week indicates that they are not happy with their depth at receiver. The defence stood up to Washington’s run game last week, but there was very little pass rush and their only sack came on a six man blitz and a lot of their other pressure was more situational as Washington was forced to throw to get back into the game.
It will be interesting to see if the Bills can establish the run in this game, but I have a feeling that it is going to be a long day for Eli Manning against the Bills defence and so I’m backing the Bills to cover in this one.
Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Bills
Raiders @ Bears (+2.5)
It would appear that the Bears are already giving up on this season, with trades of both Jared Allen and Jon Bostic for draft picks echoing baseball’s tradition of selling players when it’s time to rebuild. They managed to avoid turnovers on offfence, with ten punts and no points as they were shut out by the Seahawks. There are very few bright spots for this team and they will be picking very early at the next draft.
This week the Bears welcome a Raiders team who broke their road losing streak in Cleveland, and who are clearly on the rise. The burgeoning partnership between Derek Carr and Amari Cooper is already beginning to look how the Raiders would have hoped when they drafted Cooper back in April, and Khalil Mack got his first sacks of the year from his new position of defensive end.
It still feels slightly surreal to be doing this, but I am actually going to back the Raiders to get a second win on the road against the Bears.
Gee’s Pick: Raiders
Dan’s Pick: Raiders
Chiefs @ Bengals (-3.5)
The Bengals continue to make me hopeful despite some questionable tackling at times on defence, but Andy Dalton led the comeback when I was getting nervous, and AJ Green had a monster game. If the defence can continue to hold up and the offence stays looking this good then Bengals might do more than just get their first playoff win in an eternity, but before we get ahead of ourselves, they are about to start a nasty stretch of games welcoming the Chiefs and the Seahawks before visiting the Bills and Steelers. There are worse road games to come, but the Bengals need to win enough of these games to stay atop the AFC North, however starting the season with two away wins help.
I think the Chiefs are better than their 1-2 record suggests. They have one of the game’s best running backs in Jamaal Charles, and a tremendous pair of pass rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Those pass rusher though did not help them against an otherworldly Aaron Rodgers as their secondary couldn’t keep do enough to slow the Packers down. Meanwhile, although Alex Smith is a very solid quarterback, he is not going to get you multiple explosive plays.
I am worried about this game, the Chiefs are a solid team and I really respect their pass rush. I’m hoping that a combination of the Bengals’ good offensive line can hold up to give Andy Dalton time to find the myriad of players he has available to him, and that the defence can bottle up Charles but they will have to tackle better. Still, I am hopeful in this game, and the Bengals have been very solid at home in recent season so I will nervously back them to go 4-0.
Gee’s Pick: Bengals
Dan’s Pick: Bengals
Jags @ Colts (-9.5)
The Colts finally got a win last week in a very up and down game against the Titans. They were 14-0 up in the second quarter, 14-27 down in the third quarter, before finally running out 35-33 winners after the Titans failed a two point conversion. The changes to their offensive line helped them establish a rung game with Frank Gore getting a pair of rushing touchdowns and eighty-six yards, but Andrew Luck still threw two interceptions, and was sacked three times. Their defence also gave up over four hundred yards, so whilst the away divisional win was important for them, I’m not sure how many of their problems were truly fixed given that it mostly surrounds the talent on the roster and what is going on with the front office.
However, if you are trying to sort out a team, then playing two of your AFC South rivals back to back might not be the worst thing to do. The Jaguars are still missing a lot of players, and there are still a lot of questions about Blake Bortles, but at least Allen Robinson is back this season and managed a bit play against the Patriots, but they really weren’t ready to compete in that game.
I really think that this is too many points for the Colts to be getting against the Jags, but I can’t bring myself to risk the Jaguars on the road again so I’m reluctantly backing the Colts to break even thanks to the state of the division they play in.
Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Colts
Eagles @ Washington (+3.5)
Washington started the season looking solid against a Dolphins team that we now know are struggling, got a win against the Rams, but struggled against the Giants away on the Thursday night. The limitations of Kirk Cousins really showed themselves last week, and if Washington can’t establish their running game, or get behind then I think they will really struggle on offence. Their defence line has improved and they have been stouter against the run so far this season, but they are still suspect in the pass game, and losing DeAngelo Hall for a few weeks will not helpt.
The Eagles finally got their first win last week, and it is a sign of the state of the NFC East that they by no means out of the running to win the division, but they still need to improve. On offence Sam Bradford still does not look comfortable, and the lack of a receiver that can get themselves open without the scheme is causing issues, but more worrying is the problems they are having running the ball as that is what Chip Kelly’s offence is predicated on. They did better against the Jets, but their line still doesn’t seem to be playing that well and it will be interesting to see what they can do in Washington. Their defence front has looked pretty good so far this season, but their secondary is asked to do a lot of singe man coverage, and has not held up well until last week. They were however facing a quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who can be streaky, but given they are facing Cousins this week, this might be another week where they improve.
There are still problems with the Eagles, and there are a few moves in the offseason that Kelly made that worried me, but they have their first and things may be coming round. This might be a bad pick given that they are on the road, but Washington are not as good as the Jets and so I fancy Eagles to get back to 2-2 from their shaky start.
Gee’s Pick: Eagles
Dan’s Pick: Eagles
Panthers @ Buccaneers (+3.5)
The Buccaneers bumped back down to 1-2 against the Texans last week as they continue to go through the growing pains of having a rookie quarterback. It is too early to tell how he will in the long run, but they were shut out in the second half and continue to struggle, The defence also seems to be up and down, only generating one turn over last week, and it does appear to be another long year in Tampa.
The Panthers are a limited team on offence, but are good on defence despite missing the great linebacker Luke Kuechly to concussion, and have made the best of a run of winnable games to remain unbeaten. Their offence has centred around Cam Newton and his ability to run as well as pass, with Greg Olson living up to the billing of number one receiver that was enforced by the injury to Kelvin Benjamin.
We will know more about the Panthers later in the season when they have to face the likes of the Seattle and Green Bay, but this week I think they will have more than enough to take care of the Bucs on the road.
Gee’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Pick: Panthers
Browns @ Chargers (-7.5)
The Chargers have struggled after a promising opening game, and got thoroughly beaten on the road to the Vikings last week. The suspension to Antonio Gates isn’t helping, but more worrying was the pressure the Vikings got with four sacks and thirteen quarterback hits. The offence is the dominant side of the ball for this team, and they will need to do a better job of protecting Philip Rivers if they are to get back to winning ways as their defence has been struggling, and is currently ranked twenty-third by DVOA.
The Browns are a hard team to read, with a defensive head coach that only has his team ranked in the mid-twenties, questions at quarterback, and problems with their skill players. An NFL head coach has to win as many games as possible, but I’m not sure what the Browns are gaining by playing Josh McCown at his age when they really need to find out if they have something in Johnny Manziel. I suspect not, but they are not going to find out with him holding a clipboard on the sideline, and whilst they came back late to make the score look respectable, they seem to be holding station with how they finished the season last year, whilst the Raiders team they were playing are on the rise.
I am very much worried by the points, but I do not trust the Browns travelling to the west coast and playing a team that if nothing else, has an elite quarterback.
Gee’s Pick: Chargers
Dan’s Pick: Chargers
Vikings @ Broncos (-6.5)
I am trying to resist the boom and bust reaction that Peyton manning is generating after every game the Broncos play, but he at least more comfortable as the Broncos settled into a more familiar offence for him. The questions will remain about his arm because he is thirty-nine and he was never the most physically gifted of quarterbacks, but he was always so smart and still has enough to be effective in bursts and that is all this team needs to win at the moment. Their defence is playing so well that Broncos are 3-0 despite the bumpy start they have had on offence, and as long as the Broncos can keep this formula going they will win more games than not.
The Vikings had a very good win last week, with their defence looking very good as they got so much pressure and Adrian Peterson is beginning to look much more like himself. The Vikings are now getting him the number of touches he needs, and he appears to have shaken off the rust that was holding back in the first couple of games. With Mike Zimmer’s double a gap pressure, there is a distinct possibility that the Vikings have the tools to really exploit the problems the Broncos on offence as although Peyton has always been exceptional against the blitz, the Broncos line has been questionable at guard and I have a feeling that the Vikings could well exploit this.
With the Broncos defence playing as well as it is, and Teddy Bridgewater not yet convincing, you can see the Broncos committing to stifling Peterson in the run game and daring Bridgewater to beat them with his arm. However, whilst the Vikings may well struggle on offence, I have a feeling that this good young defence is going to cause the Broncos problems, and I see a close game that is nip and tuck. I often get stung by road underdogs with lines in this range, but that’s not going to stop me from backing the Vikings to get a sneaky cover.
Gee’s Pick: Vikings
Dan’s Pick: Broncos
Packers @ 49ers (+9.5)
There isn’t so much to write about in this game. In Jim Tomsula they have a head coach who will keep the team unified, but they simply lost too much top level talent in the offseason and Colin Kaepernick has not developed as a quarterback and threw a pair of pick sixes to start the game, and finished with four interceptions and a grand total of sixty-seven yards.
The Packers on the other hand have a quarterback who is otherworldly, matching his physical skills to his experience and a great understanding of the game. They have not missed a beat despite losing their top receiver in the preseason, and their defence is doing enough, although there do still look like they are weak against the run.
I can only see this game going one way, even if Rodgers is not quite as good on the road as he is in Green Bay.
Gee’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Pick: Packers
Rams @ Cardinals (-6.5)
The Cardinals have got off to a great start to the season, and whilst they may not have faced the cream of the NFL, they have won in a convincing fashion against the teams put in front of them. Carson Palmer has looked excellent whilst Larry Fitzgerald has excelled in the slot and leads the team in both yards and touchdowns. Their defence has also looked good, and should have more than enough to cope with a Rams team that once again looks challenged on offence.
The Rams seem to be having the same season again. They have the scary front seven on defence, an offence that isn’t quite working, and they will play some teams tough whilst generally losing. They were unable to beat a Steelers team despite knocking Ben Roethlisberger out of the game, and I worry about their ability to generate offence.
This is one of those games where I could regret picking against the Rams as they always have the ability to generate a surprise in a divisional game, but I don’t expect them to have enough to cope with a soaring Cardinals team on the road.
Gee’s Pick: Cardinals
Dan’s Pick: Caridnals
Cowboys @ Saints (-4.5)
This is likely a matchup of backup quarterbacks, and superficially Luke McCown didn’t look too bad for the Saints as he completed thirty-one of thirty-eight passes for over three hundred yards, but he didn’t throw any touchdowns and did throw a pick. More worrying for the Saints, there appears to be no turn around on their defence, which was bad last season and doesn’t appear to have improved this one. Gone are the days when the Saints dominated at home and so you worry about them in this game.
The Cowboys really struggled in this game, with the absence of Dez Bryant really causing a lot of their problems as the Falcons were able to stack the line against the run as they didn’t fear Brandon Weedon exposing them in the passing game. If you look at the Football Outsiders defensive rankings, you well expect the Cowboys to have similar problems this week against the Saints, except the Falcons are trending up on defence, and I really have no confidence in Rob Ryan’s unit.
This is another of those games that is hard to pick, but I really don’t like the Saints, particularly with Drew Brees either sat on the bench or playing with his rotator cuff issues.
Gee’s Pick: Cowboys
Dan’s Pick: Cowboys
Lions @ Seahawks (-9.5)
The Seahawks looked much more like themselves last week on defence, despite Kam Chancellor playing limited as he makes his way back to game shape, but going against the Bears in their current state will help you. However, the Lions have not looked good so far on offence so you can see the Seahawks defence’s improvement to continue this weekend. The offence however still worries me, Marshawn Lynch doesn’t look like himself, although we don’t know if this is age catching up with the running back, or the state of Seattle’s offensive line, but either way they are not running the ball as in season’s pass. Nor do they seem to be turning around a passing game that has not historically been that high powered, although Jimmy Graham did get more touches and a touchdown last week.
The Lions have had an awful start to the season. On offence Matthew Stafford has had rib issues, which perhaps is not surprising given that their line doesn’t appear to have improved. They are not running the ball well, and it is not often that you hear a player tell the media that the opposition knew their plays as Golden Tate did this week. If this weren’t bad enough, the defence has also struggled to find their way, not helped by losing their outstanding coverage linebacker DeAndre Levy on top of the rest of the turmoil this unit had in the offseason we the high profile shake up on the line.
The Lions really seem to have hit a wall following last season, and I can’t see them going into Seattle and turning this round against a Seahawks team who really need to get themselves back in the playoff hunt.
Gee’s Pick: Seahawks
Dan’s Pick: Seahawks