Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Charles Tillman, David Johnson, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Josh Norman, Kelvin Benjamin, Navorro Bowman, New England Patriots, NFL, Paxton Lynch, San Francisco 49ers, Tom Brady, Trevor Siemian
Our picks have not been pretty over the last two weeks, despite me building a five point advantage over Dan, but in a way the failures highlights why I love the NFL and there is a reason we keep picking games.
One of the characteristic things about the NFL is through a combination of deliberate attempts to foster parity like the Draft and salary cap, and the unpredictable nature of a game with such large rosters and high injury rates, it is incredibly hard for a team to remain consistently good from season to season.
The Carolina Panthers, who last year went 15-1 in the regular season on the way to the Super Bowl have got off to a 1-3 start with Cam Newton picking up a concussion in the fourth quarter of their week four loss to the Atlanta Falcons. They Panthers were already well behind when Newton left the game as their defence that was such a strength last year gave up over five hundred yards of passing with Julio Jones accounting for three hundred of them as he caught twelve passes from fifteen targets and scored a touchdown. Some of this is likely down to the loss of not just Josh Norman, but Charles Tillman and the addition of two rookie corners, but team have not been in synch on offence either despite getting Kelvin Benjamin back from injury. The worry would be for me that one player was able to get so many yards individually and that the coaches didn’t adjust, but there appears to be a real problem in Carolina.
The Arizona Cardinals who played so well last season are, struggling as their offence is misfiring, and they have a fallen to a 1-3 record despite having one of my favourite head coaches in the league. Things are not clicking for them on offence in the passing game, although David Johnson looks to be continuing on from his excellent rookie season last year. However, a stumbling offence and a defence that hasn’t gelled yet do not win football games, and so it is now less surprising that the Patriots were able to beat them in week one despite Tom Brady being suspended.
Meanwhile, to counter this point the Denver Broncos are 4-0 despite losing Payton Manning and a number of defensive starters. The defence is still playing to a very high standard, whilst the offence is getting improved results from a very inexperienced starter in Trevor Siemian, and continued to do enough a win when he hurt his should and Paxton Lynch came into the game. They look to be up there again this season, and it certainly seems that John Elway has a clear idea of what he wants and this has been delivering results so far for him.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule model of consistent success for the last decade has been the New England Patriots. They have started the season 3-1 despite Tom Brady’s suspension, but even the best teams don’t win all of their games and they came a cropper this week as having beat the Texans 27-0 in week three, they lost to the Bills 16-0. I wouldn’t bet against them this week with Brady returning, but we get these kinds of results fairly regularly and so it kind of makes a mockery of picking games each week.
There is a reason that I do it though, and not just because it gives me a something to write about. I don’t really like making predictions in terms of it proving one way or another that someone knows what they are talking about, it’s a standard requirement of covering sports, but at the end of the day if the outcome was so predictable there would be no reason to play the games. I like writing about what I have seen, what happened, and why I think it did.
However, picking games against the spread gives me a framework to look at each team, and helps highlight which teams I need to watch more. Of course you always tend to be interested in certain games each week, but by looking at what might happen, it keeps you focussed across the entire league and encourages sharpness, or in the last couple of weeks, distinctly dull. That said, I doubt many people were expecting for the Bills to beat the Patriots in the way they did, and that was far from the only surprise result.
So despite the poor record, we’ll keep ploughing on and hopefully things will improve, but you can never guarantee anything in the NFL.
Gee: Week 4 6-9 Overall 27-36
Dan: Week 4 4-11 Overall 22-41
Cardinals @ 49ers (+2.5)
The Cardinals are in real trouble, with Carson Palmer not playing well even before he got a concussion and on a short week he shouldn’t play. Against almost any other team with the start they have had, this would strongly tempt me to pick against the Cardinals despite by admiration for Bruce Arians, but even though they are on the road in San Francisco, I can’t bring myself to pick the 49ers to win, especially after losing Navorro Bowman last week on defence.
Gee’s Pick: Cardinals
Dan’s Pick: 49ers